Sunday, August 19, 2007

Char and Dave's Visit

Char and Dave brought their kids, Madeline, Henry, and Grace to visit us. They came on Wedneseday. John, Sophie, Stella, Donna and I were out at the end of the driveway watching the neighbors harvest their grain. Through the dust and chaff drove in Char and Dave. Everyone made a bee-line for the house to greet them. Char and Dave are our kids' godparents. And, though they are not related, they are our family.

Mary had spent some time earlier on Wed. in Fosston to correct the information on Donna's Birth Certificate and her Social Security papers. I spent the time with the kids getting the house ready for guests.

Char and Dave's visit was a bit of opportunity. Dave had a short window of time off. And we are grateful that they could stay with us. They stayed through Sunday service at Oak Park so they could take part in Donna's public affirmation of her Baptism.

The days went so fast. We were so busy visiting and getting reacquainted with their children: playing with them and watching each of our kids play together.

Madeline and Louisa are the same age, as are Henry and Sophie, and Grace and Stella.

We had a multiple-birthday gift exchange the evening after they arrived.

That reminds me, we have one of Madeline's shirts, one of Henry's rockets (we're looking for another rocket-fin) and Grace's toy camera. We'll send them and anything else we find in a week or so.

Thursday we spend more time visiting. I worked on some SS/WS preparation and sermon writing. There were a few pastoral calls to deal with on Thursday as well.

Thursday evening was OP Ladies' Aid. They threw a shower for Donna. I held opening devotion, Dave held down the fort. Char came to Ladies' Aid and Mary brought Donna as the guest of honor. Someone went to a bit of work to make a nice cake for the occasion. Barb's mother came along to visit. It was nice to have her there as well. I hope she and Char enjoyed the meeting.

After devotion I cut out to go help Dave with the rest of the kids. Char, Mary, and I scarfed our supper down to get to the meeting in time.

At the meeting, Connie needed to talk to me. Her daughter-in-law had a miscarriage this afternoon. They had conceived twins. The first twin died a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't told about this at the time. And tonight, Thursday, the second twin died. This is Nate and Sara's third miscarriage. They have one daughter, Maya. She survived, but her twin and younger siblings did not. No one should ever take the birth of a child for granted.

It is amazing how interwoven, twisted, warped, and strange emotions can turn. I am so overjoyed by Donna's birth and so overwhelmed by Nate and Sara's loss. It is so comforting to know that God has all these things under His divine control. May God grant them healing through this difficult time. Please keep Nate and Sara in your prayers.

Friday I did more work on my sermon for the weekend. The girls were complaining that it was so hot, we should go swimming down at Lengby. I put them off till Saturday. Perhaps we should have gone on Friday, because Saturday turned out much cooler. But I needed to finish the sermon and have it memorized by Saturday morning.

I made some jambalaya for dinner. Jambalaya is a Creole word that means "In one pot." The full meaning is "left-overs." So I grabbed the black bean-dip Mary made for yesterday, cooked some rice, put in left-over sausage, added some spices with a pinch of curry, and some shrimp. Even Henry asked for seconds. Now that is high praise indeed.

I grilled Fajitas for supper. Not much remained of those either. But I must say that Fajitas are an extremely labor intensive dish when one considers serving 12 children: Tortillas, beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes, olives, salsa, sour cream, etc. Dealing with two tables and all the kids meant a lot of passing dishes throughout the whole meal. Next time I'll do something else. They tasted good, though. And grilling the peppers and onions over real charcoal added that je ne se qua to the flavor that made it more appealing.

Dave and I played a bit of guitar together and learned a few tunes today. (Warning, sarcastic self-deprecation follows:) Some day we're going to take the world by storm. Dave has these rockabilly roots, I've got these classical and heavy metal roots. Think of the money we could make if only we could get the notoriety that we deserve from the big recording giants. (Think "Spinal Tap" plus Buddy Holly, plus "The Folksmen" of "A Mighty Wind" and you get the idea of where we might end up). The problem is that we have to wait for our kids to get old enough to accompany us on our tours, and by that time we'll be 60 years old. We might be just as successful as Pat Boone's foray into heavy metal.

Friday night the kids watched Spiderman. The grown-ups talked.

Saturday I had worship, Sunday school and Confirmation class at Mt. Olive. Mary made a wonderful turkey dinner today. Not much was left.

Edwin O. called me soon after I got home. I needed to go to the hospital in TR right away. Mable H. (Edwin's mother-in-law) was diagnosed with an advanced stage of liver cancer last evening. The family was in a quandary about how to tell her. I met the rest of the family and we discussed the issue. Then we met with Mable in her hospital room. Here is pretty much what I said:

"Mable, your children and grandchildren are walking on eggshells right now. They are very afraid of the news they have for you. They love you very much, but they are afraid that what they have to tell you is so sad that you might be overwhelmed. This is what the problem is, Mable. You have a serious case of cancer, and it will probably take your life in the next few months. Your children and grandchildren all love you, but they don't know how to bring this news to you. They are so overwhelmed with sorrow that they cannot express how sad this makes them. Do you understand what I just said to you?"

There was a pause of about 10 seconds.

"Yes, I understand," she said. There was about 15 seconds of pause while she absorbed this news. She was on pain killers and that affected her reaction time. Usually Mable responds right away. But after the short wait she said something like, "They worry too much."

There was a great deal of conversation after this. Then Mable's doctor met with the family down in the chapel to discuss what should be done. Her cancer will probably take her life within a few months. She is a wonderful, and strong, woman. Please keep her and your family in your prayers.

I took Donna along so that Mable could see her. She'd asked about Donna the last time I visited her. I went to see the others in the nursing home attached to the hospital to inform them about Mable and to show Donna to them.

All in all this was a very hard time. But Mable has such a vibrant and strong faith. I hope to God I that He grants me as much confidence as He has given her in this time of adversity.

Donna and I got home a bit late. Dave, Char, Mary and our families had finished dinner (noon meal). Mary saved some turkey and pineapple for me.

After the turkey and the hospital visit we went to Lengby so the kids could swim. We stopped first in Fosston to get some supplies. It was 68 degrees in Fosston. The sky was very cloudy.

When we got to Lengby I started the charcoal with the wood shavings from my woodworking on my bows. Ash wood shavings are better than lighter fluid for starting charcoal. The coals catch on faster, there's no petroleum smell. It's wonderful.

While the charcoal was getting started, everyone went to the beach. We had it to ourselves. After all, the temperature was under 70 degrees. Any sane person would know that it would be too cold to swim today. But we are not sane.

I went off to do some fly-fishing. I caught about a dozen pan fish. I did catch and release. John and Dave came over while I was fishing. When the coals were ready, Dave started grilling the brats, sausage, and hot dogs.

As I said earlier, Friday actually would have been a better day to go to the beach. The very young kids touched the water and came back shivering. The young kids went into the water, splashed, and had their lips turn blue. The older kids enjoyed their time in the water, but kept stealing the towels and blankets from the others when it was time to eat. All in all, it was a great time together. And we enjoyed it.

We got home around 8pm. Some of the kids wanted a snack before bed. Char, Dave, Mary and I visited until pretty late. Of course, I had three services in the morning. I try to get to bed by 11:30 on nights before church. Oh well. We only get to meet each other once or twice a year. I got to bed at 1:30am.

I should interject a note on Betty B. here. Pr. Stafford visited Betty this week. She had some difficulty in normal conversation with her memory. But as soon as Pr. Stafford started devotion, Betty remembered everything. He gave her the Sacrament of the Altar. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to memorize and repeat the liturgy. Even if old age, disease, injury, and distress affect us to a great degree, what we have memorized and repeated, relived, and exercised will come back to us in the times of our frailty. Please keep Betty, Henry, their children, grand-children, and great grand-children in your prayers.

Sunday I decided to cancel this afternoon's Parish Board meeting because of good weather. The farming season is very short at our latitude. And good weather at this time of year means that the farmers must harvest their wheat and oats. The farmers work around the clock to get the harvest in. The parish board meeting can wait for a couple of weeks.

I had worship at St. Petri, Nazareth and Oak Park. At Oak Park we had Donna's Baptismal Affirmation. Mary held Donna. Jeremy served as witness with his mother and me. Dave and Char stood up as sponsors/guardians for Donna. During the service I asked that Mary, my kids, Char and Dave and their kids sit up in the front two rows. 15 people of various ages were up there. My young children are used to the back row where they are able to move around a bit, fall down, and actually be kids.

Christ's church is for all ages. This means that everyone in attendance knows that there will be some distractions during the service: crying babies, active toddlers, etc.... Well, my son John: he leaned too far forward and fell off the pew onto his head. He didn't cry too much. But he did look funny. And he began to laugh. Stella lay down on the floor between the pew and the organ. All in all it went pretty well. I try to write my sermons with enough varied repetition so that such distractions can be overcome and the parents and those around them can benefit. I'm not sure how successful my writing and delivery style are on this account. But I look forward to feedback from my members.

After service we had a hasty dinner so that Char and Dave could get on the road to go home. Grace was very nice in kissing Donna. I asked her to do it again and again so I could catch her in a picture. After each photo she had to come to look at the photo on the camera's display. This one was the best I got of the kiss to show Grace's face. Char and Dave's children are so sweet.

After Char, Dave and their children left our kids were bouncing off the walls. Full of energy from the visit, and full of sadness that the visit had come to an end they ran Mary and me ragged for quite a while. We finally got them to nap and play about 4pm. Mary and I watched "The Bourne Identity." We liked it.

I made supper: Slabs of left-over jambalaya broiled with onion and cheddar, topped with a bit of steak. It was a pretty good success. After devotion I came over here to post.

It took quite a while to write this post. I know it's long. Remember that it covers several days and quite a bit of joy and tragedy.

God be with you all.

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