Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Things That Make You Go "WHAT?"

Enough of these sentimental, thought-provoking blog posts. It's time to lighten up.

Those kids to the left, our youngest two children, are the cause of a lot of laughter in our family, as well as some head-scratching moments when we sit back and say, "What?!" This past Sunday was a good example...

We've recently found ourselves in a position of freedom on Sundays. In the past few years, Nate has been serving as interim and transitional pastors at different churches, and thus our Sundays are always planned out. However, since he just finished his latest transitional pastorate, we've found ourselves with the unique opportunity to decide what we want to do each Sunday.

We've enjoyed the chance to visit a few different churches and relax more. This past Sunday - we made a rare choice to visit a large church in Columbia. Not since attending Second Baptist Church of Houston do I remember visiting a really large church - and that was many years ago. This was less than half the size of that Houston church, but for us, it was still huge. I was anxious to see what my younger kids thought of it - since they've never experienced anything other than our small, rural congregations.

Thus, after we left the church's second of three services and were heading out for a Sunday afternoon drive (with the freedom of not having to make it back in time for committee meetings or evening services) I asked my youngest kids, "So, what did you think of that church service? Kind of different?"

Right away, the eleven-year-old chimed in, "The best part was when everyone stood up all together, and then sat down all together!"

"YEAH!" shouted the nine-year-old in agreement.

What??!  No mention of the extremely cool and talented worship band - the theater type seats - the dual large screens - the skinny-jean-clad pastor - the bookstore - the coffee shop?
Just people standing up and sitting down???

"But we stand up and sit down during our smaller church's worship service," I felt compelled to explain.

"I know - but when ALL those people stand up together, it looks really cool and it makes a loud noise," was their simple clarification.

I love kids' fresh and unique take on things. Theirs, however, made me wonder if King Solomon should have added just one more item to his famous Ecclesiastes 3 passage.  I can just see it now, perhaps right after "a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;" he should have added this little addendum for my kids' sake, "A time to stand up, and a time to sit down." Or it could have been, "A time to make a lot of noise while standing & sitting, and a time to refrain from making a lot of noise."  

Yup - someday in Heaven I'll ask Solomon why he neglected to add that little tidbit.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Mom Ramblings in a Big World

It's been another one of those days. You know the kind - you've just sent a child off somewhere, and you're feeling those melancholy mamma moments. I think it must happen to every parent in varying ways and at various times. That first day of kindergarten. Their first sleep-over. Their first week away at camp. Then things get bigger, and before you know it you're sending them off for a few weeks at a time on trips that woo your fledglings to try out their wings and make those first faltering flights farther from home.

Ah, but then there's college. Near or far - sending them off to college has to be one of the biggest, hardest, "cutting the apron strings" events.  That is, until the wedding day takes place. Wouldn't you think that once the wedding occurs and they've got a home of their own, that would be that and a parent would become accustomed to not having their adult child near-by? Perhaps...until they decide to take off to the other side of the world for a couple of years, then you get hit all over again...a bit like that first day of school times 1000.

Aug. 2012 - Sending Lydia off
to England until December
I feel as if I've witnessed the view to the left a few too many times. Herding everyone into an airport, so that one (or two or three) can head off to another land - often half a world away.

I think I can say it all began in 2001. Granted, Nate did a few mission trips before that - but in January of '01 all of us went to India for three months. That was the beginning of our children developing globe-trotting habits and a heart like their father's (and Father's.)

Before I knew it, before that year was even over, Nate and two of the girls headed off to Guatemala. The next year, two of the girls headed to Ecuador - only 13 and 15 years old and their first mission trip without mom or dad along for the ride. The year after that - I think two of them went to Mexico. It all gets a bit blurry after that point...a total of three different trips to Mexico and Guatemala, and a few more India trips interspersed amongst trips to places like Rwanda and Nicaragua.

That was just the mission trips. A couple of years ago, the "semesters abroad" began...first India, and now two different ones in England - including some travel to Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland and Scotland. Soon - the "Journeyman" trips begin - two year commitments to serve overseas.

Am I complaining? Good golly, NO! Fantastic opportunities, unforgettable experiences and blessed days of serving the poorest of the poor - who could begrudge any of that? But there are many moments when my sighing heart says very, very loudly, "The world is a very big place, and my child on the other side of it is so very, very small."

Thus, in the midst of my heavy heart and melancholy, I have to remind myself that God is a very big God. No matter how big the world is and how far away my child is - it is HIS world and that child is HIS child. I'm just the minuscule tool that had the wonderful, brief opportunity to mold and shape that life. Thus, I need to allow God to lift my spirits with faith in the fact that He's now using my children as the tools that shape the lives of others.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." --Hebrews 11:1,6

Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you."    --Jeremiah 32:17

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Aging Gracefully

Is it possible to age gracefully? Or should we kick and scream and fight against it as long as possible? Do we sit back and say, "Okay, I'm done...someone else take care of me now." Or is it possible to make the most of every moment of life - even those future moments when we'll be arthritic or feeble, disoriented or disabled?

I've heard a few of my friends discussing one of the big challenges of our current "middle-age" time in life...caring for aging parents. It can be such a touchy and difficult issue. Most likely, our parents don't want to be taken care of anymore than we want to be taking care of them. How can that all be dealt with gracefully?

Mercy, perhaps? Showing mercy when they repeat a story for the fifth time, and simply saying, "Oh really? That's interesting." Mercifully allowing them to do something themselves - even though you see they didn't do a very good job at it. With great love and mercy...remembering all the times they provided for your daily needs without a word of gratitude from you, wiped your nose, cleaned up your messes and "oohed and awed" over your sloppy crayon drawings as if they were masterpieces.

Mercy is simply remembering that it's not all about YOU. When we take ourselves out of the center of everything - life suddenly becomes more merciful and gracious.

Mercy is one of those things that you don't just "get" and then you're all done. It's not a mathematical equation that always works just right as long as you get the variables and numbers right. Mercy is a moment by moment choice and decision on our part. Sometimes you'll get it right ("Oh, that's okay - I didn't like that old vase, anyway.") Other times you'll fail miserably at it ("You did WHAT???!!!")

I believe the key to aging gracefully is getting mercy right more often than we get it left. Or left more than wrong. Right?  Excuse me while I go take a nap...did someone make my arms shorter, because I can't seem to hold this thing far enough away to read anymore.  ;-)

"Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone."  Psalm 71:9

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Little Reflecting

My Grandma and Grandpa Cox - 1930s
Another Memorial Day celebrated and gone. As we visited the first cemetery to decorate a young 18 year-old's grave, then headed to another one to decorate my father and grandparents' graves - I couldn't help but be reminded of the brevity of this thing called "life." We passed the graves of two babies - our friends' children who were both only months old when they passed on. Yet there were my grandparents...my Grandpa Cox was blessed with over 90 years of life before his death. It's human nature to question why some lives are cut so short and others are long and full. Are we all born into some grand game of chance?  I'm not much of a believer in chance - but I do believe that no matter the span of our lifetime here on this revolving rock, it is a gift from God. More than anything, it's a gift to each and every person touched during that lifetime, no matter its length. And in the grand scheme of things - the history of all mankind - even a 100 year-old lifetime is merely a breath, a heartbeat, a wisp of wind when compared to all of eternity.

That fact is never more noticeable than in a cemetery. Strange as it may be, I've always enjoyed wandering around the older portions of the cemeteries, where the stones are weathered and beaten and sometimes broken. There are rarely any flowers here - any who would have known the dearly departed are long-since departed themselves. Thus, I squint and stoop and rub and do my best to read the gravestones. In my small, minuscule way I feel as if I'm honoring this life - recognizing the fact that this was a living, breathing, human being full of hopes and dreams, not unlike myself.  Yet here, merely a century later, sometimes less than half a century later, that life is already forgotten.

For instance - those three brothers, all dead before the age of 20 and with graves marked simply by a small square of concrete in the ground and names scrawled in a rough hand. What's their story? An even bigger question for me as a mother - what was their parents' story? Obviously too poor to purchase "professional" headstones to mark their sons' resting places. Did they feel shame in that fact? Or did they take loving pride in kneeling there on that hallowed ground and creating their own hand-crafted memorials to their sons? How did they go through the remainder of their lives - full of sorrow and bitterness? Did they let their brokenness take hold of their lives, or were they able to move on - scarred, but with hope for a future eternity?  I'm sure I think and ponder amongst those old graves a bit too much - and yet, who else will reflect? I always feel that it's the least I can do - to pause for a moment, read a name, a couple of dates, and realize that yes, life is short and that person died a long time ago - but he also lived. And that life was a blessing to many people.

"While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal."  II Cor. 4:18

Friday, June 01, 2012

Living Life Full-Throttle

About 30 years ago, I found myself falling for this guy who could make me laugh more than anyone I'd ever met. (Being a person who's always taken life and myself much too seriously - this was highly attractive to me.)  Not only that - but he didn't really care about things like image or "being cool" or trying to be a part of the popular crowd. He simply lived life - full-speed ahead, and the rest of the world could take him or leave him.

My insecure, people-pleasing self really liked that about him, and so I chose to take him.  It was on this day, 27 years ago that I said "I do" to the biggest blessing of my life. He's still smart, cute, faithful and all that good stuff, but one of the things I most appreciate is the fact that he's still making me laugh everyday.

Barring the poor quality of the footage (my 9 and 12 year olds filmed it) this little video shows just a bit of what I'm talking about. My kids captured on video a portion of a very fun evening spent with our friends the Lutz's.  Nate and David decided to try out our "Abba You Can Dance" game on the Wii. These guys grew up listening to Abba and all that other good music of our generation...but could they dance to it?  Ummmm...you'll have to decide that for yourself. The dancing skills (or lack thereof) matter not to me. I just love the fun-loving exuberance here.
(David and Nate, remember -- you care about me very much and you will not hold anything against me, seek revenge or anything of the sort, correct? ;-)

Last but not least...they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, when I saw this humorous picture and caption a few months ago, I couldn't help but laugh. If I had to use one image to try and describe all the crazy adventures, frustrations, surprises, out-of-my-comfort-zone occurrences and FUN that have been a part of being married to Nate Kohl over the past 27 years...this would be the picture.

Happy 27th Nate - here's to many more years of happy flying (and dancing!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Driver's Ed Car

Taking a three hour road-trip recently in our little 17-year-old Subaru caused a bit of reflection on my part. The flash backs started within minutes of home, when I pulled over to the post office to drop off some mail. That car...that post office...that lone utility pole...and a 15 year old permit-driver...

"You need to pull into the post office, so I can mail this," I remember saying, long before we'd actually reached the post office.
"Ok...go slowly now...slow down...stop...STOP!" and then the ominous "thud" as we struck the utility pole, very squarely and solidly.
"What part of 'stop' didn't you understand?!" I assume were the words that came out of my mouth...although now, five years later, all I can do is laugh as I think back on the memory. She felt terrible, I felt terribly nervous, and the car probably just shrugged and thought, "Oh well, what's one more little ding?" (After all, this was the third girl in the family to use this as the driver's ed car.)

And THAT reminded me...
2004, and daughter #1 was now licensed. She drove herself all over the place, to Columbia often and to Harrisburg every day for school. But then there was the morning that she pulled out in front of someone. That was the end of the front "bumper" on the driver's ed car. Actually, we all know that cars today don't really have "bumpers" - they have these fiberglass things that crack and break and shatter. She, nor her parents, could afford the repair job - and since the accident was her fault and we only carried liability insurance on the old car - duct tape became her auto body repair technique. She drove that car around for nearly a year with duct tape holding the front of it together. But then one day when leaving school, she stopped and the young guy behind her didn't...so now the rear "bumper" was dinged, along with the back hatch. But this time it wasn't her fault - so we got an insurance check. A check that was big enough to cover the repairs on the front and rear bumpers...and we just left the ding in the hatch.

I'll never forget the words of the guy at the auto body place, when we told him we wanted the front and rear bumpers of our little driver's ed car replaced. He laughed and said, "Are you sure you don't want me to just fasten railroad ties on the front and back instead?" We thought it was funny at the moment. After the utility pole at the post office...we realized our auto body guy was a prophetic genius.  Next time we'll probably listen to him. After all, the little car only has 240,000 miles on it, has only had one hole welded up on the engine block so far...and still has three more children to get through the Kohl family driver's ed program.

PS - This little car has provided fun writing material more than once. (And did I mention that the car occasionally murders wildlife? That is quite traumatic for new drivers, in a funny sort of way, and makes for some interesting stories.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Needed That

Sometimes we just need a laugh. A good laugh at ourselves is one of the best. After doing this homeschooling thing for 20 years now, I find myself getting disillusioned and tired of it at times...many times, in fact. Thus, the need for a good laugh.
I've written about home schooling before (it happened to be my very first post.) However, this young man does a much more entertaining and concise job of explaining homeschooling and debunking a few of its myths. Seven of them, to be exact.

Here's just a few of his best quotes, in case you don't have time to watch his hilarious take on it:

  • "Homeschooled??! So does that mean you're a genius or an idiot?"
  • "Yeah, well that explains your outfit."  :-D
  • "But think about how nice that sounds...living in a world where you don't know who Lady Gaga is..."
  • "If being sheltered from sex, drugs and alcohol when I was in middle-school makes me sheltered...then YES, I was sheltered!"
  • "People hear 'home school' and they think you live on a farm...or the wilderness...or in a log cabin. Just anywhere that's an hour away from a Wal-Mart."
  • "Homeschoolers have no life?? Let me get this straight. You're the one who spends 8 hours a day in a specific classroom, at a specific time...EVERY day...and I'M the one who has no life??!!....Heck no! My life is AWESOME!"
  • "Homeschoolers do school in their pajamas. This isn't so much of a lie as it is a reality...but it is the very, very best thing about being homeschooled."  ;-)
This was a good reminder for me. Sure...we have our quirks...but we've also got some awesome perks.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I'm Not a Fan of Snow, BUT...

I love Missouri for several reasons - one of them being the fact that we have all four seasons in reasonable, equal amounts. Some hot, summer weather for swimming, some cold and snow for snuggling and sledding, beautiful autumns and refreshing spring-times. However, the older I get, the more I dislike winter in Missouri. I've started thinking that I'd be happy to become a snowbird after retirement - spending the winter months in Florida, Arizona or the Maldives. (that last choice is in my dreams - when we become as rich as Bill Gates)

However, within the past few days I've realized I am actually longing for snow. Not just a dusting...but inches and inches...perhaps even a couple feet of the stuff! Do I really want to go sledding that badly?  No, of course not. It's just that my college girls will be heading back for the beginning of their spring semester within a few, short days...and I wish we had just one more day where we all had an excuse to stay home and do nothing but spend some time together as a family.

Two feet of snow usually does that for us. No one goes anywhere, no one expects anything out of us, and we just hang around with each other. Christmas day did it for us this year, but I'm selfish and was hoping for just one more day like that before everyone went back to their separate lives.  Sometimes it's those little inconveniences - like snowstorms - that cause life to come to a standstill for a few hours and give us a reason to slow down and bask in our loved ones.

That's the real reason why I hear myself humming, "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!"