July 30, 2010

Never a dull moment

Along with fishing, scoping the Farmer's Market, bargain shopping, eating at fabulous restaurants, catching up with old friends, organizing family reunions, lounging at poolside picnics, watching movies on the big screen, and riding in speed boats, the good times in Michigan this month have included:

The beach...ahhhh, the beach...
Flying kites in the park...
Riding in the golf cart with Grandpa...
Reading the morning paper with Grandpa (the funnies, to be exact)...
Eating burgers, corn on the cob, and Grandma's cherry pie in the back yard...
Being a child...
Learning to farm at Little Farmer's Camp...
Making giant bubbles at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum...
Baking "Love Cake" with your mama...
Eating "Love Cake" with your brother, in your Pullups, just before bedtime, with no plates...
Playing with Play-doh on Grandma's coffee table...
Wrestling with Daddy at the fireworks show...
Swinging on the swings with your cousin, JJ...
And ever so much more.  Never a dull moment here in Michigan.

July 23, 2010

The end of the tunnel

As our time here in the land of rotisserie chickens and humming dishwashers draws to a close, we are beginning the detaching process again.  I am talking candidly with my little brother about his plans for his future.  "Are you going to find yourself a good church?", I ask.  He nods.  "With a good singles ministry?", I prod.  He shifts his weight from foot to foot, that word single still so unfamiliar.  I walk through his house, the home they built, remembering the soap dispenser from the registry because I almost bought it for them but decided on two towels and a wash cloth or something like that.  I always buy the towels, probably because they are softer than the whisk and more likely to actually get used than the banana hanger.  Some people buy the hamper and fill it with goodies.  That stands out too much on the gift table if you ask me.  Some people even buy the trash can. That one never tempts me.

Daniel's sister and her husband are making plans for their extended stay in Little Rock.  No doubt they are getting familiar with the area, figuring out which restaurants are worth going to every weekend, and which mall has the best play place to take their three-year-old on a rainy day.  Daniel will leave them on Sunday, before our niece has had her first surgery.  We will see her one more time, two weeks from now, hooked to a web of tubes, before we leave the country for another two years.  Daniel will kiss his sister's forehead and bid her all the love a minute can hold before saying goodbye again.

She will spend the two hardest years of her life without him.

I drove away from my little brother's house today, amazed at how grown up he is.  At 27 years old, he is learning what it means to start again.  We have all learned a lot this summer.  We have learned that hearts keep beating, no matter how much they hurt, or how hard they tried, or how many ventricles they have.

The question is posed in times like these, "Is there light at the end of the tunnel?"  I saw a plaque, 5 feet tall and 8 feet wide, erected in the park in Grand Rapids today.  On it is engraved the words When the power of love overcomes the love of power, there will be peace.  I couldn't agree more.  The Power of Love promised us He would come back, and I believe He will with all my heart.  He is the Light of World, and the light at the end of the tunnel.

July 22, 2010

Glory! Hallelujah!

Glory Danielle Morton was born today, and she was crying and breathing on her own!  That is a huge praise.  Daniel said she was 6 lb 9 oz., but that is coming from a very involved brother and uncle who had a lot on his plate tonight so don't hold him (or any of us) to the details at this point:)

What is important is that she is here and she is apparently beautiful (of course) and looks a lot like her sister, Eliana, who was playing at the park today with her Nana (Philip's mom).  What is also important is that she still very much needs your prayers, along with Kerry and Philip and the rest of the family.  The extent to which her health is challenged is still unknown, as many, many tests continue to be run.  She is stable right now and they are doing all they can to find out as much as they can about her insides before operating.  It has been verified that her heart is missing the left ventricle, just as they thought, and right now she is on a medication that is keeping the hole(s) in her heart from closing up, which is keeping her alive, while they investigate the esophagus issue.  They are currently scanning her intestines for air bubbles, which would indicate that at some point her esophagus and trachea are connected.  Hopefully and prayerfully that is not the case. 

When we have the results from the intestine scan, I will post that.  I am also promised some pictures at some point, which I will also post.  Daniel was able to get close to Glory this evening with a camera and get some real precious shots.  He said that her color looks good and she is plump and looks great.

I am sure that my sweet husband was a great help and comfort to his big sister today, and I am so glad he was able to be there.  I could hear the love in his voice over the cell phone as he spoke of Kerry, and how awesome she did.  That is a rare pair, the two of them.

Thank you for all of your prayers.  Please don't quit praying now.  The journey has only just begun!

Her birth day

This morning, my very pregnant sister-in-law, with her whole family at her elbows, will be wheeled into the hospital in Little Rock for the birth of Glory.  I am in Michigan, my cell phone in my pocket, waiting for Daniel to call me with news.

July 20, 2010

My mother's side of the family

My mother's side of the family gets together every summer.  This summer we were actually present, which was a huge treat for us!
My grandmother, who is recovering from her recent radiation treatment, was able to make it out to the event, along with her husband, Don, to enjoy their family. 
Relatives, other than ourselves, who live far away were able to make it, too, like my Uncle Randy from New Mexico.
All of the kids had a ball.
And my Dad, as usual, was serving behind the scenes to make sure his wife had a great time with her family. 
We all had a great time!

July 18, 2010

The family farmer.

Uncle Kody is the family farmer, and he fits the bill.  Kody was one of the few kids at Holland High School who drove a pickup truck, and you can be sure every single one of his radio stations was programmed to Country Western.

And he hasn't changed a bit.

If Kody isn't bailing hay, he is feeding horses.  If he isn't doing that, he is herding sheep.  If he isn't doing that, he is helping a group of preschoolers hold and handle rabbits.  If he isn't doing that, he is planning his next agricultural endeavor (that, or his next children's book).

He is one cool uncle.  Just ask my sons. 

July 15, 2010

The line will hold

Through the brokenness that has marked my family's redemptive journey, we have sought sanctuary in fishing.  When we were fishing, we were calm (unless the boat motor wouldn't start and then my Dad was not so calm) and we were quiet, except for the crack of a diet coke can being opened or the grinding of a fishing reel with a fighting crappie on the other end.  We all enjoyed it, even the dog, and we were together.
And now we are teaching the new generation how to cast the line, how to cut a worm in half between two fingernails, how to set the hook, and how to take hold of a fish from the head down, sliding the hand firmly in the direction of the scales.  They will lie down to sleep and see bobbers behind their eyelids, shimmering in the sun.  They will learn how to filet a fish and how many fish need to be caught for a family fish fry.  They will learn how big a bass must be to keep it, and how sunburned one can get on a still lake in Michigan in the middle of July.
But most of all, they will learn that some things, like fishing line and families, are stronger than they look.

July 13, 2010

Me and my girls

Introducing the foursome of Holland High School, class of 1998. Friends like crazy then, friends forever now.  There is ever-steady Emily on my right, 26-weeks pregnant with her first child and beaming with the joy of being smack-dab in the middle of the prime of her life.  I am standing there like a goob in my hat because I have three kids and can't remember the last time I laid eyes on a blow dryer.  Kathy, with her heart of pure gold, is on my left, radiating beauty as usual.  Kati is on her left, the one who continues to teach us all about what really matters when it comes right down to it.

In a phrase, I love these girls.  In a lifetime, I can't believe I am fortunate enough to have them.
p.s.  The cute girl to Kati's right in this fantastic photo is Sarah, our favorite member of the class of 1999 :)

July 10, 2010

It don't get much better than this

Our forearms are tan.  We may never get all of the sand out of Brave's ears.  The boys haven't eaten a vegetable in who knows how long.  We live out of plastic sacks, dashing between our little place in Hamilton, my parents' old folks home nice new condo in Zeeland, and the motorhome (which we affectionately call "Harvey the RV").  Our guts have adjusted to the astronomical amounts of red meat that we have been consuming, and our kids have adjusted to car seats (finally).

We are well past halfway through our furlough, and embarking on our 2nd week in Michigan.  Every now and then we think about our home in the far east, and we dream of the days when each day leads seamlessly into the next.  For now, however, we are trying to absorb every rich minute with the ones that we love, and the places that have shaped who we are.

My mom is a grandmother out of a story book.  Wherever her grandkids are, whatever they are doing, she is right there with them, swimming in the lake, rolling in the grass, or making watercolor coffee filter hats.
My dad is the world's best grandpa.  How do I figure?  He will grab a stinky baby and wisk him off to the other room to change his poopy diaper, without notifying the nearest able-bodied woman to take care of it.  Name one other grandpa who will do that!  Not to mention the way he relates to even the youngest of his brood.  Brave and Grandpa have a little thing going.
My little brother, Jack, who I had not seen in two years, has turned into one heck of a man.  He is presently in one of life's proverbial valleys, but he still manages to crack a joke and flash his handsome smile whenever we get the privilege of his company.  My big brother, Kody, has been a touch MIA due to the busyness of the farming industry this time of year, but we are hoping to catch an evening of fishing with him tomorrow and I can't wait!
Bright and his 6-year-old cousin, Jack Jr. (J.J.), are kindred spirits.  Both are just the right combination of sweet, smart, and tough.
My niece, Sharlet, is the darling of my heart.  I had not seen her since she was 4 weeks old, but the second she saw/met me, she reached for me with her tender little arms.  I melted and haven't been able to stop kissing her since.
Though our first furlough experience has been a bit weighted in the family crisis department, we would not want to be anywhere else this summer.  It don't get much better than this.

July 04, 2010

For life.

My reunion with my dear Lou on Saturday was as sweet as the smile on her new baby's face.
Her new baby, by the way, is 3 1/2 months old and weighs nearly 18 lbs (and is almost as long as our 1-year-old)!  Her name is Cadence Bella.  Her hair is chestnut with Dutch-blond growing in behind it (courtesy of her daddy, Brian Sharda, who is as Dutch as it gets).  Her eyes are country blue and her cheeks are rosy and plump and beg to be kissed repeatedly.  I love her very much.

Lou and I went to the Farmer's Market, one of Holland's many delights, 
followed by a poolside afternoon at Brian's parents' place, complete with spicy grilled burgers, thick wedges of bright red watermelon, and Michigan blueberries.
Needless to say, it was not Zion's idea to go down the waterslide.

The longer I am friends with Liz Sharda, the more I fall in love with her.  I look forward to years of days just like Saturday, even when (and especially when) those days include our teenage kids flirting in the shallow end of the pool, and when they include our daughters tossing bouquets, and when they include purses full of pictures of our grandkids.  A life-long friendship like the one I have with Lou is better than Dutch chocolate.

July 03, 2010

Happy up here.

When you begin to talk through your upper sinuses again, you know you are well into your first week back in Michigan.

Ah, Michigan, the land of my beginnings.  I might make a mean chocolate cream pie and a perfect pitcher of sweet tea, but I am still a northcountry girl, through and through.

What strikes me this time is the beauty.  Michiganders are from Northern Europe, primarily, and though I've never been there, I've heard that it is a place of cleanliness and pride.  You will certainly see a lot of both here in West Michigan, nearly everywhere you look.  The North proves that everything, including life, is better after a good long winter.

The other thing that strikes me is the warmth of the people.  I never would have used "warm" to describe my home culture, especially after spending so much time in the pinch-you-on-the-cheek and slap-you-on-the-rump South.  But we are warm people, where it really counts and when it really counts.  Just the other day, we got to pull two teenagers in a red, vintage, Dodge 2-wheel drive pickup, freshly littered with hay, out of a puddle on a two-track in the woods (they flagged us down, Philip, we were not muddin'). We were late for lunch, and Uncle Philip's truck got a country makeover, but we were glad to teach our kids about helping their neighbors.

Though we have no internet access in our cabin in the corn fields of Hamilton (the land of large, blonde, farm people with perfect lawns), nor do we have cell phone service, we are as happy as flies on cowpies and sleeping like we haven't slept in years (probably because of all of the cool, fresh air, sunshine, and fatty grilled meats).  Blogs will be few and far between, however, so we will have to treasure up as many memories in our hearts as we can.

I did have my camera with me during my day with Lou today, but I will save her for another blog.  She deserves the spotlight.

It sure is good to be up here.  There is no where else like it in the world.

You can lie in the grass without chiggers!