All posts in Slice of Life

Earning a Living, or Leaving a Legacy?

Earning a living or leaving a legacy? Currently, I’m not doing either.

Our farming business isn’t earning the millions I thought it would. Neither are my value-added products. For a while, i thought I’d be a famous writer, but that’s doesn’t look too promising. Plus, I’m applying for jobs, and haven’t even gotten my first interview.

I feel useless so I’ve been useless since I’m not earning a living.

So what am I doing?

Pouting. Playing solitaire.

Pitiful.

Being lazy is one thing–and I have definitely played that role. But patiently waiting on the Lord–that’s a whole different story.

I’ve been asking myself a few questions. Maybe you have, too. Do I really believe God is sovereign? Do I really believe He provides for His children? Do I really believe He is good?

Yes, to all of those…in my mind. My heart sometimes answers differently.

Years ago, I wrote a few articles titled, “Go Back to the Rocks.” They were about how in the Old Testament, when the patriarchs had an encounter with the Almighty, they piled up a few rocks. Not my style, but obviously it was all the rage then. The picture is that the rocks reminded them of God’s faithfulness.

In those articles, I mentioned that if I piled up rocks everywhere the Lord answered me, there would be a small quarry in not only this house, but my houses in Florida.

Funny thing about rock piles, they’re just like dust,…you get used to seeing them and pretty soon, you don’t remember they are there.

So for today, I am going to remember the rock piles and God’s faithfulness to me.

And be glad.

A life verse for me is Isaiah 30:15, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Repentance happened in my time with the Lord this morning. Now I just need to shut up and trust.

How about you? Do you want to share any “rocks” in your life? Do you need to look back and remember?

Let me know, I’d love to hear.

Don’t be Legacyless…

Is There Baseball in Heaven?

“Next year,” I remember hearing as a young girl. And I wondered about that.

Always this phrase came on family vacations while lounging around a campfire, perched on rickety lawn chairs, or makeshift  stools fashioned out of logs. I’d be sitting alongside my childhood friend, Jimmy Shiels, who was like the little brother I never wanted.

Our parents remained best friends throughout our childhood, so we vacationed together. We would either camp at a state park, or stay at a camp for our furlough from our parents’ ministry as Salvation Army Officers. Camp Lake, or Army Lake became our desired destination, both located near the Chicago area.

And I loved it.

Jim and Nel Shiels were my godparents and my favorite people over thirty.  They were very different from my parents. My father, Ray Wert, would rather fish or hunt or be outside while Jim Shiels would rather pick up a good book and tease his best friend, Ray. Mom came across as tribal leader but in real life, she followed my boisterous father along, listening and  occasionally adding her opinion. Aunt Nel could have taught camping. She cooked the best roast I think I’ve ever had, and she did it in a heavy pan, buried beneath the ground, covered with hot coals. I can still remember the taste.

So when I overheard snippets of conversation between the adults about the Cubbies, I took notice.

“The Cubbies aren’t doing so well this year, are they Raymie?” Uncle Jim would interject.

“Nope. Maybe they need to replace their manager,” my father would add.

“Or maybe the whole team,” Nel would add. And they’d all laugh. I’d laugh, too, although I didn’t understand it. I just knew the Cubs were as much a part of our family as my unwanted little brother.

Usually, while vacationing at an Army camp, we’d participate in a softball game. Or at least most of the Clan would. Jim held the prestigious position of commentator. He would position himself in a shady spot and advise Raymie on his batting stance, or how he should have swung at a high pitch.

Those were the best times of my young life.

Fast forward a few decades. Instead of Mom and Dad lounging in lawn chairs, they rested in the matching lift chairs that adorned my living room. The Cubs game blared on their outdated TV set while I cooked or cleaned up after dinner. Eventually, I joined them not only in the living room, but as a bonafide baseball fan. Then Tom began to join us. First, we cheered for the Cubs, and when Joe Maddon joined the Rays, we cheered for both. The Shiels lived hundreds of miles away and the Clan could no longer vacation together, so the Werts had to “settle” for watching the game with the Hyltons.

Aunt Nel joined the heavenly choir first, followed by my father. Uncle Jim was promoted to glory after having to listen to the Cubbies game rather than watch it since in his last years, he lost his eyesight.

Only mom remained. When she turned 95 last September, we had hope that “next year” for the Cubbies would be “this year.” 

But it wasn’t in the baseball cards.

Mom died in my arms on March 22nd of this year, during spring training.

I mourned the loss not only of my parents and godparents, but of a simpler time. A time when baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet were all we needed. A time before “selfies” and social media. Before cell phones and reality TV.

Remembering those happy times, I wonder if there is baseball in heaven. Are Jim and Nel and Ray and Pauline sitting around a heavenly campfire commentating on the game? I hope so.

In fact, I’ll cast my vote for baseball in heaven.

Watching the World Series is impossible for Tom and me since we no longer have a TV. So each evening, we listen to the Series on Tom’s iPad while lounging on our couch. And Joe Maddon as the Cubs manager ? Now there’s Divine Intervention for you. It’s a match made in heaven.

And who knows? Next year may be this year.

Amen. So be it.

 

Dead or Alive

“Pauline!” I smiled as Mom’s caregiver had to shout to get her attention since she can’t hear out of her right ear. Tom and I sat on the couch, getting ready to go into town.

“Pauline!” I heard again, this time with a tinge of panic in her voice.

“Do you mean me?”

“Yes. And come now!”

Running into her room, I searched Mom’s face. It was a combination of fear and panic, then as I watched, her eyes glazed over.

“Quick! We’ve got to get the food out of her mouth! Pull her up and hit her on her back!”

I complied—numb.

Tom ran in, climbed on the back of mom’s bed and tried to pull her up. Her body slumped back like a ragdoll. Her lips were blue as were her fingernails.

We continued to beat on her back.

“I can’t feel her pulse!” Tonya said.

We raised her arms as Tonya continued to try and unlock Mom’s mouth.

“I think she’s seizing! Let’s turn her on her left side,” Tonya shouted.

As she lay on her side, I thought This is it. Ninety-five years on this earth and it will end in a matter of minutes.

Then I remembered the Living Will Mom and I had filled out. She’d answered yes when the social worker had asked her if she’d like her family to hold her hand, play music, and express their love while she was dying.

“Tom, put on Christmas music.” I pulled a chair close to her good ear and stroked her hand. “Mom, I love you,” I said over and over again as tears coursed down my cheeks.

I cried out to God. I’m not even sure what I said. Then Mom gasped. Her eyes, which were dull and unfocused flitted and stared at me.

I sobbed.

A few minutes later, she moved her arm.

The Hospice nurse arrived to check Mom over. We’re not sure what happened, but whatever it was, it was quick.

It’s hard to catch your breath after that.

It’s not that I’m afraid of my mother dying. I know she’s going to heaven. By God’s grace and His Son’s sacrificial death, heaven is my eternal destination, too.

It just made me think.

For a while, my mother was suspended between heaven and earth—and it all happened so fast.

The Bible says this, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

So according to the Bible, we are all dead spiritually. It’s God who makes us alive in Christ.

We do need to do something. Cry out. Admit that we have trespassed or sinned against a holy God either in thought, word, or deed.

Romans 10:13 says, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

This Christmas season, I’m grateful that the Lord heard my cry for my mom and I get to hang out with her a little while longer.

But I’m eternally thankful that God heard my cry for salvation.

And just like that, I became spiritually alive.

How about you?

(The above picture was taken in 2008 with three generations…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Baby

“I’m nervous about the first week,” Sarah confided. Expecting her first baby, she googled everything. I didn’t know I should’ve been nervous since google hadn’t been invented.

I’m glad.

But here we sit in the Starbucks courtyard of UNC Hospital with the prospective grandparents and google or not, we’re nervous. Nervous about the first week and month and year and lifetime of our grandson.

And happy, too.

I’m nervous about being a grandma. I mean, I wasn’t the best mother. Often I yelled. Sometimes I slacked off. Many times I failed my daughter. Yet, here I am.and my little girl going to be a mother.

Who knew almost 28 years ago as Tom and I circled Crest Lake Park in Clearwater, waiting for my water to break that this day would come.

She came into our lives and we were never the same. In the quiet of the night as I nursed her, I marveled at her tiny lips and  small hands that grasped my finger. At three years old, she pursed her lips and defied me, feet spread apart, arms crossed. I remember stating, “Will you just grow up!”

And she did.

Only after she built a playhouse with her dad, and dressed up her little brother in a nightgown and put a fake crown on his head. After she excelled in school and put me to shame. After she stood up to me again one night, calling me to repentance over sin in my life.

And then she transferred to a different school to finish her major and our relationship changed. Softened.

Healed.

Then she married a fine man from an excellent family.

Now she’s going to be a mother.

So David’s parents and Tom and I sit at a hospital Starbucks both nervous and excited.

None of us knows what it’s like to be a grandparent.

I know it’s important.

And worthy.

I think it’s gonna be fun. And heart-wrenching, and amazing.

When I tell someone I’m gonna be a grandma. They drop whatever they’re doing and look my square in the face.

“You’ll never be the same.”

I believe them.

And I don’t even need to google that.

A Tail of Two Puppies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The asparagus popped and so did the bugs. We built a pond for irrigation and it leaked. Farmers markets began and we were behind the eight ball–again.

Tom and I drove home separately from our first market of the season. We’d made a little money and practiced setting up our booth so we considered the day a success. Tom texted me this message:

I’m on the way to the vet. Found a puppy. You’ll be impressed.

I met him at the vet. Cuddled in his lap lay a tiny brown and black bundle with a pushed in nose. “He ran across the road in front of me. I got out of my car and he came right to me. You see his back paw, it’s mangled. Looks like it was wrapped in barbed wire.”

My sweet husband held the puppy securely as we waited for the vet.

After we’d spent over half the money we’d made at the market, we took him home to the farm and our Cracker-Barrel-Sized front porch. It’d been a few years since adopting a puppy and we hadn’t made any preparations, so through the first few days of howling, crying, and general mayhem among our other animals we got almost no sleep.

“What shall we name him?”

We decided on Barnabas. He’s a character in the Bible whose name means Son of Encouragement.

That was a step of faith.

Within a few days we heard another howling in our yard. A second puppy moved onto our porch. We named him Cooper.

Puppies are almost the best thing on God’s green earth. Tails wagged each time we came to the house or visited the porch. The terrible two terrorized our three rescued cats and annoyed our standard poodle, Sam.

After a hard days work, Tom and I would lie on our backs in the front yard and let the puppies lick our heads and jump on our chests. it was by far the favorite part of our day.

Since we’d made no money in a very long time, we tried not to spend much money on them. But puppies needs collars and medicines and shots. We kept them in a pen on the front porch, but as time went on, we’d let them run in the yard as we worked. One day the dogs disappeared. After frantically calling and searching for hours, all three of them ran up from the pasture in front of our house.

It looked like a scene from Homeward Bound–Sam leading the way with Cooper nipping at his heels. Barnabas limped behind, barely keeping up, all three wagging their tails with smiles on their muzzles.

There were several of those days where one minute all dogs were accounted for and the next minute they were gone. We spent half of our time farming and half of our time running after dogs and half our time caring for my mom. (I know there are too many halves–you get my gist.)

I’d planned a weekend trip at the end of May with my daughter. Sure, I’d miss my family, but most of all I knew I’d miss those puppies. A few days into my trip Tom called.

“Cooper is sick. He can’t hold anything down. I don’t know what to do.” Tom tried feeding him rice and water from a dropper.

A holiday weekend, we didn’t even know if we could get our vet and we knew we couldn’t afford one. I tried to call, but another vet in a different city was on call and we didn’t know him.

Cooper died. Tom buried him in our yard wearing his bright red collar. The deed was done before I arrived home.

Sadness fell on our farm. But somehow Barnabas still made us smile. Often, he’d hide under the porch–refusing to come when called. Eventually, he’d obey. And as he loped onto the porch and into our lives, we developed a warm spot in our hearts just for him.

Barnabas continued to grow and fill out. He got to almost 30 pounds and began to look like a shepherd. He chased Sam and chewed on our cat, Brie.  (Who by the way likes it…) Often, we’d take Sam over to our other field where our chickens, pigs, and livestock guardian dogs Molly and Lacey lived. We decided to let Barnabas ride along, too. Letting them loose with our “girls” Molly and Lacey was the highlight of their little doggy lives.

One day, as we drove along our dirt road on the way to feed the livestock and visit the “girls,” we heard yelping. Barnabas decided to jump out of the truck and we ran over his legs. Gently, Tom picked him up and cradled him in his lap as we drove to the vet for an emergency visit.

“The back leg is broken, and this front paw may have permanent nerve damage. He’ll need to stay here for the night and we’ll get a good look at it in the morning.”

We drove home in silence. That night, the lack of whining and general porch mayhem kept us both awake.

The next day we picked up our puppy. One back paw mangled by barbed wire, one in a cast. His front paw wouldn’t work. He had only one working front leg. Each time we looked at him, our heart hurt.

The vet encouraged us to keep him quiet, so we confined him and administered medications and watched and waited.

An amazing thing has happened. Barnabas is adjusting. He’s running and smiling and chewing on Sam’s ear and Brie’s neck.

And he’s wagging his very big tail.

He’s gonna make it. And he’s happy about it.

So are we.

Farming is hard on the body. Caregiving for my mom is hard on the heart. And then there’s Barnabas. So many times I’ve been so discouraged I’ve not only wanted to quit, I didn’t even care if I quit. Not just farming, but life.

I think the Lord sent us those puppies. Because through loss and gain we experience both deep love and profound grief.

And joy.

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, has lived up to his name.

And that is a tale of a tail of two puppies.