Remember and Celebrate

October 5, 2015

When “Remembering” Doesn’t Seem to Be Enough

OR
When I Am Afraid I’m depending Too Much on Others As If God Isn’t Enough

(This is the first is a series of posts entitled “No Easy Answers” which will also be included in  the Memoir I am writing for my family.

 

Psalm 77 has long been one of my favorite Psalms. Opening with a desperate cry to God for help, the writer pleads to be heard.  Losing hope, he wonders “How long, Lord, how long.”  Finding comfort elusive, in desperation he says, “I will remember the deeds of the LORD:  I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

Hope returns.  He is comforted. The chapter that began with lament turns to a psalm of praise – for God’s leading, his protection and guidance.

I have found comfort in this Psalm over the years. I have believed the truth of remembering.  To remember we need to record God’s activity in our daily lives. I did this. I taught others to do the same.

So why didn’t it work for me anymore – to “remember the deeds of the Lord” and then praise him as I remembered. The changes and challenges seemed too hard, too big. And by this time I knew things don’t always “work out” – whatever that meant. (By the way, please don’t say “it will work out” to those walking in the dark; it minimizes the grief and pain they are experiencing.)

I wished for more faith, felt guilty I didn’t seem to have it. I leaned hard on my friends. They prayed when I couldn’t. They believed for me when I didn’t.  They hugged me when I was sad, while encouraging me to embrace the grief and not run from it.  My younger pastor friend, who was the age of my brother read everything I wrote, encouraging me to share my story with others and offered to let me be his sister. (I forthwith adopted him). Others made me feel special when I was so unsure of myself by the encouraging words they spoke.  One had lost her brother and I knew she knew. They offered no easy answers, because there were none.

They were God to me – God with skin. Yet the question remained, why couldn’t I remember what God had done for me in the past and have it be enough?

And then I noticed the last verse.  I had read it many times before, but I saw something new:


Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron”

God led them. He did great deeds.

And . .   

God’s leading included the people he sent to them. 

Suddenly it all fell into place. Instead of feeling shame at the niggling thought I should have been more faith-filled, not so dependent on others, I read with gratefulness this reminder – even thousands of years ago, using people was one of God’s ways of meeting the needs of his people.

We are not meant to walk this faith journey alone. We need each other. We bear one another’s burdens.  Neuroscience has proven we are wired (created) for relationships, for connection with others.

When we remember what God has done and it doesn’t seem enough, let us remember the “deeds of the Lord” include the resources he has given us and often those resources include people.

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linking with:  Kelly Chripczuk and “Small Wonders”  Community

15 Comments

September 21, 2015

My writing Process or How I write

Dear Family,

I am going to include this in our family memoir.  Maybe  those reading this here on my blog will also enjoy learning more about these things that make it easier for me to sit down, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard as I tell you my story.

“A practice is an act that helps you to engage with the process.”
                                                              (Vinita Wright, The Soul Tells A Story)

Most Important:  Our Family Photo:

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You are why I am focusing on Memoir Writing.  If what I write does not speak to you, it won’t matter if it speaks to others. You are the precious people God has given to me. To do the work of capturing stories and lessons and insights to share with you, I sit at my desk with five key elements. This is how I write.   

Five Key Elements:
A Mug, a Candle, a Glass Heart, a Journal and a Pen with a Message.

writing process

A Mug:  The coffee mug, cracked, but still usable, reminds me WHY I write.  Etched into the pottery are the words from Psalm 78:6 “ . . . that the next generation may know.”   (See Why I Write – click HERE)

A Candle:  Striking the match and lighting this candle is my way of inviting the Holy Spirit into my writing process, for I see my writing for you as collaboration with GodMy candle of choice is a crackling, Woodwick Candle® Fireside Scent. (I wish I could add a “scratch and sniff” feature here.) I bought my first one in Red Lodge, Montana and think of them as Montana candles. Much of my blog writing and memoir project is shaped by the Nov. 8, 2005 event in the Montana wilderness. The friendly cracking sound and the scent say “Write, so others will know what happened here and what happened to you as a result.”

A Glass Heart: A few years ago, my friend Karen and I each made a glass heart at Patterson Glassworks  as a celebration of our friendship.  This heart reminds me to write from my heart. I also remember whose who stood by me during a dark time in my life.

A Journal:    Writing first drafts by hand quiets the inner censor and keeps me from editing as I go.  It keeps my ADHD mind going somewhat in a linear fashion because it slows me down.  Rabbit trail thoughts become starred items in the margin for safe keeping and future reference.  Thinking without writing sends me in endless circles.

Inserted in the front of my journal is a message with these words from a friend, to remind me of my calling:  “I see you as a courageous writer . . . courageous because you are . . . Writer because you love to write.  It is part of who God has made you to be.  You are learning to tell and honor your story.” 

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I will never forget Fall 2012, wrestling with the decision to retire from my 25 year career with a direct sales company.  I spent weeks agonizing about this, wondering what I should do when, in one day, a dear friend and later that day, my counselor asked, “What do you want to do?” I could only answer softly, tears in my eyes, “I want to write.”

That evening, telling your dad about it, I looked down at the pen I had been twirling around in my hand.  And there they were, the words:  “Pursue YOUR Passion.”  I didn’t know what to say, so we kept talking.  Finally, holding out the pen to him, I said, “Look.”  He looked at me and said “I think you know.”  I did.

This pen resided on my kitchen window sill the next two years after retirement,  as  life took a different turn and writing took a back seat.  Now the pen is on my desk.

With the photo of you, my precious family in front of me, reminding who I’m writing for, and these five elements close at hand to help me stay focused and centered, I begin putting down the words, one after another.

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Linking up with Lisha Epperson and Give Me Grace Community  (following links like this took me to blogs where I ended up making friends

 

 

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August 30, 2015

An Open Letter to my Family on Why I Write

I’ll be focusing on Memoir Writing in the coming year as I Remember and Celebrate.  Here’s why:

Psalm 78:6

An Open Letter to My Family on Why I Write

Psalm 78:1-8 a Loose Paraphrase
(Scripture in Bold Italic)

Listen to me, hear what I am saying. I am going to tell you stories and will share things I have heard and know, things that my ancestors told me. I do not want to hide them from you –

Not that I would hide them from you intentionally.  And yet neglecting to share the stories of what God has done in my life isn’t much better than hiding them.  The motivation is different – the result, the same: You won’t know unless we tell you. Don’t fret – your Dad and I have no deep dark secrets to reveal. I do, however, want to share things I have heard and known—things my ancestors told me and things I’ve learned during my own years of walking by faith.

I have an intense desire to tell you, my children and the children you are having (who will have more children), the “glorious things God has done.” 

Much of my life has been “glorious” and the very existence of you and the people you have brought into our lives as grandparents is the most beautiful thing about you. I can’t wait to tell you the “glorious thing” God has done in my life, teaching me, changing me, counseling me throughout events and people he has brought into my life.

You’ll see in the pages ahead testimony of the “glorious things God has done” in my life, but I’ll be honest. Not everything feels glorious. I have had much loss in my life and none of it felt good then or feels good now. There are times I doubted God’s goodness toward me, yet even now, while I remember these dark times – and I get a bit teary as I write this – I still believe God is good and he is present. Everything is for his glory; our job is cooperating with him, even in suffering.  More than anything else I do in the remaining years I have, I want to spend this part of my life making sure you know of God’s work in my life through the years, especially in the years since my brother Gordon died and my world turned upside down.

He told my “fathers
1st Generation: Harold L Longenecker and Esther Ella Hertzler

to teach their children
2nd Generation: Carol Jean, Gordon Eugene, Ronald Verle and Brenda Jane

so the next generation would know them
3rd Generation: Gregory Scott, Gerald Lee and Todd Eugene

and they would rise up and tell them to their children
4th Generation: Jacob Thomas, Cole Michael, Nathan James, Mason Carlos, Ella Grace, Emily Joy, Elliot James, Charles Alexander, Brooke Marie

And the reason they are to do this? – So they would set their hope in God and not forget his works. They would keep his commandments.

When God commanded this, their fathers before them had been a “stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”  As you already know, our family has been the opposite of stubborn and rebellious. To the contrary, on both sides, I come from a long line of faithful, godly people.

My Grandfather, Samuel Longenecker, became a prison chaplain at age 65 with the steadfast support of his wife, Annie. This was after a life of ministry within the church while being a salesman, a painter and a farmer. My maternal grandfather, Owen Hertzler, a faithful, godly Mennonite farmer, and his wife, Alta, supported my parents when they left the Mennonite Church and moved 1000 miles away to south Alabama as home missionaries.  My Dad, Harold Longenecker, was a pastor and involved in church-related ministries all his life, with my Mother, Esther, whose primary role in ministry was to create a home and support my dad in his ministry. Galen and I have been involved in various leadership ministries. My greatest longing is that you know and follow God and continue to lead and leave a legacy of faith.

When I look at the above scenario, I see myself in that lineage and realize it’s my turn to place my name in the top spot, Generation #1, so my story extends to my great-grandchildren.

I will not always be here to do the telling, so I write.

Psalm 78:6
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Joining with Lisha Epperson and Give Me Grace Community
and @ A Small Wonder

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July 19, 2015

To my Sons

A letter written to my sons on Mother’s Day.

my three sons

Yeah, I know it is July and way past Mothers’ Day.

Family Photo Shoot

Today, May 9, 2015,  I celebrate my 33rd Mother’s Day.
Three sons
Three Daughters in Law
Ten  grandchildren
And one husband who started it all with me.

“Be a mother” was #3 on my dream list.

#1 was “Get Engaged.”
Solitare diamond with gold band required

#2 was to “Get Married.”

wedding party

It was all about a summer wedding with bridesmaids standing beside me in pastels, except we got married in December and the pastels turned into dark avocado green velvet and lemon yellow chiffon.  Not to worry.  It was 1970 and we were in style.

#3 on my list – I wanted to be a MOM.  I could hardly stand the wait for G. to get out of seminary.

And on May 13, 1973, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day.

Scott, you made me a mother.   Amazed by you, I simply sat and looked at you in between wondering if you were eating enough (you were) and figuring out if I should rock you when you ate. Grandma said it was OK.  (It was.)  And my love was deep and strong and fierce.

Gerald, you were born only 19 months later because Jeanie and Lee Williams (Iowa) said it was good to have your kids close together.  I forget why.  It turned out to be a good idea for us.  I was afraid I didn’t have enough love for two babies.  You taught me I did..  And my love for you was deep and strong and fierce.

 Todd, by the time you were born, I already knew my fierce mother-love was not limited by the number of children I had and I loved you deeply, strongly and fiercely.  I was more relaxed  by this time and early on your brothers entertained you.

Sometimes I was afraid.
What were we doing, bringing you into such a confused world.  “Perhaps  they will grow up to be people who make a difference,” your Daddy said.

He was right.  You are making a difference.
And I love you with a fierce love.

There was one more big dream.

# 4 – be a Grandma

You grew up,  became husbands and fathers and fulfilled my dream.


ff 2

And I was pretty sure the same fierce mother-love, unlimited by the number of children I had, would be enough for being the grandmother of how ever many grandchildren I would have.

 It is.
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Fierce:  (of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity)
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I am linking this week with
Lisha Epperson and Give Me Grace Community
 and
Kelly Chripczuk and Small Wonder Community 

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June 2, 2015

Summer Camp, A Tree, A Lake & A Knowing

It seems I have taken an unintended Sabbatical.  (You can read my last post by clicking HERE.)  I am excited to be back here in this writing space.    

lake opeka

Recently my counselor suggested I remember a time/place where I felt Jesus present with me and to stay in that place.  I knew right away what it would be.  So I took myself to my lake, sat under my willow tree  and wrote as I remembered (because if I don’t write –I’d soon be making to do lists)

Summer Camp, A Tree, A Lake & Knowing
written May 21, 2015

I remember all of it.
The campground tabernacle
Up on the hill behind me
The tree where I sat
The lake with the pier
The wooden floating raft beckoning me
I had to pass a swimming test
Before I could answer the call.
(which I passed with my
flailing arms/kicking legs
never-letting-my-head-go-under-water
lungs-running-out-of-air
self-taught technique.)

“Find a quiet place
to be with God
alone”
my camp counselor said to us. .

Being a lover of nature,
it’s not surprising I soon found
my pony-tailed, 6th grade,
first-time-at-camp self
under the tree
by the lake.

Bible beside me
study guide in my lap
pencil in hand,
filling in the blanks.

And suddenly God was real
I knew that I knew
It was all true, all of it.
God sending Jesus.
Jesus dying
Jesus rising from the dead
For me.

Mostly I remember Jesus’ presence.
And a knowing
Under the tree,
By the lake.

* * *

And today, my 67-year-old, grown-up self makes a connection I have never made before.

I have always remembered this summer camp experience as the summer of 6th grade

And it was in the spring of 6th grade my little brother died
one morning
at home
with no warning

And if God met me then.
And it was all true then
It’s true now.

Tears come as I sense your presence
Leaning into your strength
Your gentleness
I put my head on your shoulder
as my grown-up 67-year-old self
relaxes in your love
sitting under the tree
with a journal
and a pen
beside the lake.

*****

Linking with

“A Small Wonder” & “Give Me Grace Community”

 

37 Comments

December 16, 2014

Missing Baby Jesus

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Last year we started the tradition (doing it the second time makes it a tradition, right?) of hiding the Baby Jesus from the nativity sets I have around the house and having the children find them, bringing them back to the Nativity set. 

Then the children listen to Grandpa “read” the Luke 2 Christmas story. 

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I say read in quotes because no one can paraphrase a story quite like grandpa, complete with mis-information to make sure the little ones are listening and they always are, happily correcting him!

This year Grandpa was helping set up the nativity sets and didn’t realize this one didn’t have a baby at all.  

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Having a Nativity set without a Baby Jesus would be a good reminder for us, we thought, of what the world might be like if Jesus had never come. We left it up.  

That evening as we celebrated an early Christmas, we challenged the grandchildren think about it. 

Their faces were sober.
One of them pronounced it “Bad.”   

Seemingly unable to bear the thought,
6 ½ year old Ella
grabbed one of Grandpa’s hats
loudly proclaiming
“I think it would be great if a cowgirl
 walked came into the room.”

 

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And soon everyone had joined in the fun.

 

joined the fun hats

 

At first I thought,
“Hey. . .This is serious stuff, kiddos.”

And then I smiled:
They believe.
Without  hesitation they
accept the Story of God
entering into our world.

Immanuel,  God with us.

And I prayed they would always believe the importance of HisStory and why He came. 

 *******

P.S.  When Grandpa read the story, he “read” there were Cowboys watching their cattle  by night. . . . . Busted!

 

Joining a little late with
Lisha Epperson, GiveMeGrace community
& Beth Hess with  Unforced Rhythms

 

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November 8, 2014

The most wasted of days is the one without laughter!

Remembering my brother,
Gordon Eugene Longenecker,
on the 9th anniversary
of his death at age 49.

Nephew Scott and his wife, Jill and Nephew Todd laughing about what was probably one of those “Gordonion” moments, things that could only happen to or be said by or done by Gordon

 Nov. 6th I wrote about The Gift of Fall in a Season of Grief.
Today I continue the remembering with smiles.  

It’s been  nine years since losing him and it seems like a good time to remember the Gordon we all loved and who drove all of us slightly crazy at some time or another.

Over 500 people attended the memorial service  to  remember and honor their friend.  The photos in this post were taken the day before his memorial service as we made a list that would be the basis for what Galen would  share the the Memorial service as a family tribute.

 

gordon stories
As we gathered with our families, Galen asked us to think of the words that come to mind as we thought about Gordon and these are some of the words we thought of!

*  Stitches, of the Emergency Room type.   (LOTS of them)

*  Comfortable with people and engaged easily with them.  (He never met a stranger)

*  Interested in everything and had an opinion about it all.

*  Very verbal and gregarious with a wacky sense of humor

*  Loyal –   Lois Jones, his Mother-in-law elaborates:    “He’d see things that needed fixing and  would do them for me, but often got the wrong thing from the store first, before he actually got the right thing and fixed it!”

*  When he needed to figure out a job, he’d lay on the couch with a pad of paper and pencil and stare at the ceiling until he figured it out.

*  He insisted on doing things right and wanted things to be visually pleasing, taking the extra time it took.  He wasn’t a duct tape kind of guy!

Wife Carol and Daughter Megan, Bob, Carol’s brother and nephew Gerald


Accident prone

*  Got a fish hook caught in his eyelid, sitting in his truck, trying to get it out of the seatbelt, where it had gotten caught!

*  Fell off a ladder while he was at work when Carol was pregnant with their daughter Megan, and needed stitches on his head. Drove himself to the hospital and then called her to tell her!

*  A window fell on top of him and he called his mother from the ER, (after he drove himself there) to tell her he’d get to use that hospitalization she had just signed up for.

*  Broke his leg the first time he went skiing

*  Broke his arm playing in one of his first Little Guy Football games.

*  And one of the funniest “accidents” –   One day he was cleaning a fish over the kitchen sink with the disposal running so it would grind up the scales as he cleaned it…However, when he dropped the fish, down it went into the running disposal – fish fillet!

Jokes

NO ONE loved a joke and a good laugh more than my brother and he had one  for every occasion, every phone call with the family and anytime he was with a friend.  My  dad told me the morning of his death he would miss those phone calls, which always ended with a joke, often lame, but you just had to laugh.  for example:

*  Two cannibals were eating a clown. The one cannibal said to the other: “Does this taste funny to you?

*  A man went to a psychiatrist and said “I’m a wigwam. I’m a teepee. I’m a wigwam. I’m a teepee.”  And the psychiatrist said “Relax! You’re too tense (tents!)”. I can just still hear Gordon telling that joke. It was one of his better ones! Shared by Carol, his wife

 

A few of the things Gordon would say and do:

*  “I understand, but I disagree with you!” He had unique phrases for every situation – always a new one, so they never got old.  He loved telling  a story and every time he told it, the story was longer and more elaborate.

*  Loved to learn and talk about anything, especially off-the-wall topics, cell phones, his GPS, computer, how to paint (he was a painting contractor) and sports of any kind.

*  He loved his church and his church  soft ball league. He and one of this friends were the “old guys and he had recently started to play squash with a new friend.

*  Galen, his brother in law, said when they played golf together, Gordon never got upset by a bad game because each hole was a new adventure and a chance to redeem his game.  He rarely kept score.

Living out and communicating his faith:

One of the things I loved most was hearing  how Gordon communicated his faith.  One of his friends, Keith, added these comments a few years later as Carol and I visited with him at a coffee shop in Billings:

“When talking to me about God before I was a Christ follower (and I am one because of him)  he never preached, or quoted scriptures.  He told stories.  And would often play devil’s advocate.  He would ask questions like “what if. . . why . . . have you ever thought . . .”  and then he’d jump up and say “I’ve got to go,” again, leaving you thinking.”  For over two years Keith said Gordon  was his “spiritual mentor” and it is because of him he is a Christian husband, father, business man.”

* * * * *

I miss you.

I am beyond grateful God answered my seven year-old prayer for a baby brother.

I”ll always love you, Little Brother.

 

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November 6, 2014

The Gift of Fall in a Season of Loss

fall low res this one

“First you pursue us with blood maples and tease with your decadent, hazy light. Then you weave through the woods like the scent of decay that surrounds us with every step. Light bathes from above, so plentiful that not even the blood maples or the honey oaks can soak it all up before it overflows the canopy, spilling priceless gold onto the crunchy floor.”  Kelli Woodford, Chronicles of Grace, Oct. 20, 2014 – read it here– A Fall Song

These words of Kelli Woodward, a blogger I read regularly,  paint a picture of my favorite season, helping me connect two things I know to be true about me in the fall.  Until now I just viewed them as two unrelated facts.

1.  I am and have always been enchanted by the beauty of fall. Sometimes it takes my breath away, leaving me speechless with it’s beauty.
2.  For me, fall is a season of remembering, sometimes with tears of sorrow,  sometimes with tears of joy

As  you can see in the pictures below,  many of my family  anniversaries and/or birthdays come in the fall.

family fall

I made the following comment on her blog that  day  and  I began to see the connection between the two things I know to be true about me int he fall.

I wrote:

“The burst of beauty makes fall a bitter sweet time for me.  I have always loved it and it is also a season of remembering those I have lost as most of the anniversaries/birthdays are in the fall season, starting August through Christmas Day (my mom’s birthday).  Gratefully I still love it.  I am beginning to see a gift in all of this.  A season of remembering which sometimes brings times of sadness is also a time of great beauty. I hadn’t thought of it before that way before.  I like this thought.  I will ponder this gift.”

And so I pondered over and over these last two weeks.  And over coffee the other day, my friend Denise and I talked about how Fall coinciding with a “season of so much loss” is God’s grace and sweet gift  to me in this season of contrasts.      Sorrow and joy mingle, and I am not left with only sorrow in the Fall.

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Today, nine years ago today, at 9:30 pm, I received the news that my brother, Gordon, failed to meet his hunting partner as they had planned and he was missing.  Thirty four hours later I would learn he was found, but had succumbed to hypothermia.

And I remember amid the waning  beauty of this season.

 

christmas mountain

Linking with Kelli Woodford and Chronicles of Grace

Linking with Lisha Epperson and GiveMeGraceCommunity

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October 22, 2014

The Sun vs. The Fog

sun does it's magic

May the Light of Your Son 
pierce
through the fog 
that forms
for me
and for those I love.

*******

Linking this week with
Kelli Woodword and Unforced Rhythms
Lisha Epperson and Give Me Grace Community




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October 12, 2014

Reflecting…

My friend asked  me to pray for her that she would be a blessing to the people she was going to be with today.

Praying for her as I arrived at the lake, this sight greeted me.  I snapped a photo and sent it to her with the following message:

The “stiller” you are, the more you will reflect His presence.

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As always, your comments are welcome here

Linking with .Lisha Epperson and “Give Me Grace”
Kelli  Woodford and Unforced Rhythms

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