Karen

Family Trees

October 16, 2010 in Family and Friends

I like the idea of family trees…you know, roots, supportive limbs, waving branches.  It’s a great metaphor for how we connect to the world and to each other.  I like to think that we’re all connected, somewhat like the aspens in Colorado, one root underground grasping on to its neighbor.  That kind of root friendly life makes us all family.

Last weekend I was blessed to see my son get married.  As I considered what it now means for him to extend his family roots and embrace a whole new forest of possibilities, it struck me that these new roots for him, were now new roots for me too and that was a nice thing.  I thought about his father, who attended the wedding with his wife and his aunts and uncles whom I hadn’t seen in many years, and how much they too are still my family.  We may have been shaking in the wind, grafted on to other parts of the tree, but when you get down to it, we’re still connected.  We’re still part of each others family tree.

Of course, then my mind looks at how God makes us all part of His family, letting us wander around somewhat rootless at times, all the while knowing we have a place, that we have a branch on His tree.  We may let our branch grow a bit dormant at times, we may not see it blossom and produce much fruit, but the fact is, we’re there, always connected. One of the beauties of celebrations, weddings, birthdays, new babies, even funerals is that we come together on those occasions to remind each other that we’re still there, we’re still important as family.  That’s the gift, the beautiful humanity that makes us see things that matter more clearly.

Sometimes, when I’m out here on my own, far from my family, I can forget for a moment that I have a place somewhere. I can even forget that I have a family tree.  Yesterday, in a quiet time of prayer and meditation, God showed me a beautiful smooth brown tree trunk, about a foot in diameter.  I didn’t really understand it as it stood there all alone very close to me.  Suddenly, it opened up and a few bees started buzzing around it, and then before I knew it the whole trunk of the tree was surrounded by a swarm of bees.  I watched in wonder at the life that had come from that particular tree and the sweetness that new honey might produce for those passing by.  I didn’t quite understand it, but yet in some way, it made me feel better.  It made me see that we don’t always know what is produced from the roots and the branches that we’ve helped to grow, but if we’re lucky, there’s a little bit of honey…a sweet buzz created around all that we’ve hoped to do.

I love my family tree!  I love every time it’s had to be pruned, every time it has blossomed, every time it has stood strong in the winds and the storms of life.  I love that it is totally rooted in the One who keeps it strong!

Karen

We Are Family!

September 9, 2010 in Family and Friends

Over Labor Day weekend, I was blessed to take a trip back to upstate New York and attend a small family reunion.  It was the first time in months, even years that some of us had seen each other.  Children had grown into adults, more children had been born, marriages had happened and life had moved on all while I was somewhere else, living in my own little microcosm, sheltered from the events themselves.  When you pack forty people into a room and give them a chance to unwind over copious amounts of potato salad and barbecued chicken, something wonderful happens.  The years simply melt away and all you can do is remember the love you share and the common ground that you possess, this one thing called family, this one spark of heritage.

When I think about connections, the great joy it brings to feel safe in the loving arms of your own family, I realize that there’s something in that group that can’t be found anywhere else.  Regardless of how many years you may have been apart, how far you’ve drifted from the family culture, or what course your life has taken, these are the people who welcome you back and genuinely hope, believe in, and encourage the best in you and for you.  This is the place where the walls, if only for a few hours, come tumbling down.

I have three sisters! These women are the gifts of my life, the blessings that have shaped and molded and encouraged and loved me through all that has come my way.  They are my angels, the ones God gave me to keep me walking on the path He designed for me.  At one point, we sat together, four women, suddenly a group of teenagers on a couch singing “Sisters, Sisters, There were never such devoted Sisters…” at the tops of our lungs.  It was a moment to be cherished because we were all back home again, in the strongest bond four women can share.

It’s always been in my nature to make “family” out of the people that share my life day to day.  Those of you who visit my blog here, are part of my family.  The people I work with become my family and the people who attend my church are my family.  I love that!  But, it really is different to step foot back into the space where you’re known and loved simply because you are part of the tribe.  I can only guess that God meant for us to understand the “feeling” of family so we’d get the same point, the same rush of experience when we join His family.  I love the Psalm that says God sets the lonely in families.  He knew our greatest need is for connection, confirmation, and a sense of belonging.  He knew our great need for sisters and brothers.

To my own family, I say thank you for all of it, the joys, the disagreements, the laughter, the support, the place to call home no matter where the world takes me.  Your family is God’s gift to you as well.  Embrace each other.  Share the love!  That’s really all that matters.

Today, I send out hugs to all of you…my extended family, my beloved family…with joy and gratitude.

Karen

Fathers, Dads, Papas too…

June 20, 2010 in Family and Friends

My Dad has remarkable courage. He managed to help raise four daughters and with only one bathroom, that wasn’t an easy task.  He started out as a teenage father with a teenage wife and he could have walked away any time.  He could have taken the quickest exit and shirked the responsibility.  After all, he was young.  He was good looking and he was headed to Japan just after the War ended.  Instead, he returned from active duty to the young woman who held his only daughter and created a family.  With what little he had when he left the army, he started taking care of his first daughter and created a second one.  He had courage and honored his commitments.

As a blue-collar parent, he couldn’t always provide special things for his two daughters, who soon became three daughters, and then four, but he did what he could.  He wrote poetry to honor their birthdays and made swings out of tires.  He brought candy bars home in his lunch box and found great delight in letting little girls discover the treat.  He laughed easily and hugged us a lot. He was proud when we achieved something in school and taught us all how to bowl and how to fish, two things he enjoyed.

I know that people who are blessed with good fathers have a better way of understanding their Heavenly Father as well.  They can more easily imagine the twinkle in His eye when they do well, and the smile it brings when they discover the special treats He has for them.  Earthly fathers sometimes reflect the One who created us and that reflection stays with us for a lifetime.

One of the things I loved about Wm.Paul Young’s book, The Shack, is his way of addressing God as Papa.  Papa is such a warm and inviting way to think of God.  It brings a sense of connection and promise, of healing and hope.  Papa takes care of His own, loving and guarding and guiding each one.  Good dads everywhere are reminders of Papa, of all that is good about our Heavenly Father.

To my dad, I say thanks for the love, the guidance, and the hugs of welcome that always make home a great place to be.  To our Papa in heaven I say thanks too for giving so many of us wonderful fathers, to laugh with, to grow with, and to love our whole lives through.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads who share your gifts of love with your own children, or the children around you who see the twinkle in your eye.

Karen

We Are Family!

June 14, 2010 in Family and Friends

I just spent the past two weeks traveling (and so I send out apologies to my special friends who find me here on a more regular basis).  It was time to visit my family and take part in the love fest that makes life more worthwhile when you get a big dose of those family ties all at once.  I was blessed beyond measure to see my three children, who wrapped me in moments to treasure as we celebrated birthdays, played board games, badminton, and cooked great dinners together.  One gift after another without discounts or coupons.  Simply an incredible sharing and a reminder of all it means to be family, to be a mom of incredible children.

From Ohio, I drove on to New York to see my parents and my sisters and slipped into the hillsides of my roots and be reminded of the gift it is to be someone’s child again.  It’s incredible to see my parents who have been an awesome example, married for over 65 years, still dancing, still enjoying life and still holding hands.  Of course, mom’s strawberry shortcake tops the list of great things.

We all attended the wedding of my niece as well and nothing does my heart more good than being on the dance floor, laughing, enjoying the moments, and shaking our booty with my parents and my three sisters.  The Sister Sledge song that The Pointer Sisters also made really famous came back to mind. We Are Family!  You may remember the song says in part, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me, We are family. Get up everybody and sing…

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight
No we don’t get depressed
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no
This is our family Jewel, yeah.”

In our family, this is indeed our “jewel” the chance to remember all that we have, all that we share, all that we mean to each other.  When I think about this part of my family, all of it, my parents, my sisters, my children, I can’t help thanking God for the way He structures this life for us.  He knows that nothing makes life better than the nurturing and the love and the benefits we get from good families.  Those of us who have them cannot count the blessings.

As the gypsy woman in my family, the one who has moved to more addresses than most people have visited, I can only say that I’m always better after I’ve taken some time to re-root myself, to nourish my soul and my spirit in the arms of the people who may not always know me best, but who love me always.  I’m able then to go back into the world, create family out of neighbors and friends, and breathe more fully.

As I get back to work, back to my own routines, I simply want to bring honor to each member of my family for always giving me a place to call “home.”  Because of you, this is one incredible world.

Blessings to my family and to yours today.

Karen

When Hurry Met Slowly

May 6, 2010 in Family and Friends

They say timing is everything.  Whether we impose a time line on our own lives or just ride along on the one that comes our way, we’re all either in sync or out of sync with something we can’t quite define.  One of my favorite movies is “When Harry Met Sally” and beyond the funny and charming  love story it presents, it’s a lot about timing.  In fact, as a “Sally” of sorts still waiting to meet the “Harry” of my dreams, I have begun to see that timing is one of the biggest players in an ever-unfolding love story.

In my new life here in Florida, possibility erupts in swirling scenes of change as people come into my life.   It feels like a revolving door.  So far I’ve met “Harry” about five times only to discover he was leaving the area the next day.  Though a friendship may have ignited, the fuse is quickly fizzled by timing.  I’ve also noted that for some people the time pressure causes a desire to quicken the agenda so much that the discussion moves  from coffee to the wedding chapel faster than you can sing “Surrey with the fringe on the top.”  It’s a bit daunting.

This week, my son announced to me that he and his girl friend of several years have decided to marry in October.  I am so very excited about this and pleased for them to be taking this incredible step to honor their experience of life together.  It seems like perfect timing and one day they might make a little video clip of how they met and how they fell in love like the couples in the movie.

I always tell my married friends to be grateful they don’t have to hang out in the dating pool and hope to find a partner.  Either you find the ones who want to dive in and make a splash before you’ve even had a chance to get your feet wet or the ones who always seem to be in the wading area, or maybe it’s the waiting area, and never actually get in the water.  All in all, it’s about timing.

I may have a personal sense of urgency to find the right “Harry” for me, but I’m still of a mind to move slowly whenever any such opportunity arrives.  “Hurry” may be trying to catch me, but “Slowly” still makes the most sense.  Good timing after all is God’s timing and deep down in my heart of hearts, even in this arena, I think He holds the trump card.  He already knows the moment I’m waiting for.  At some anniversary down the road, I want to be smiling and telling the story of how we met just in time. I don’t want that sense of urgency to become slow regret over something so important.

So to my son and his “Sally”, I just say, it is indeed perfect timing.   To those of you who still hope and wait for the day to arrive, put away your stop watches and be at peace because the right time will come. Love is all around you…no hurry, no worry…in perfect timing.

Karen

The Company You Keep

March 4, 2010 in Family and Friends

Most of us have at least one good friend.  Some of us have several friends and a few of us seem to be continually surrounded by a bevy of them.  Each friend brings a gift, an important ingredient that spices up life or gives it a sweetness that makes everything better.  Recently, I was able to write a book about friendship so I thought I’d include a few excerpts of it here for you to consider.  If you want to share any of your favorite thoughts about friendship with me, I’d love to hear from you.  I believe that God puts people in our lives at the right time to help us grow, to cause us become better people, to remind us that we’re not alone.  Here are a few things that feel true to me about friendships that I’ve embraced in my own life.

When I am drained with nothing else to give, nothing else to say, nowhere else to turn…a friend walks in and begins to carefully unwrap the light that still shines, hidden for a moment, unable to come forth on its own.  A friend always sees something more, some value I simply cannot see for myself.

Some friendships are built coffee cup by coffee cup and over time there’s little that hasn’t been considered, discussed in great detail, postulated, synthesized, and turned in every philosophical direction.  There’s constant conversation and beautiful silence, equally warm and comfortable, like slippers on a cold wooden floor.  These are Maxwell House friendships…good to the last drop!

Distance never really happens in real friendships…time or miles can’t change the bond that exists.  Even if a conversation is stopped unexpectedly and not resumed for two years, it picks up right where it left off, simply reconnected with one warm hello.  Perhaps the greatest thing Facebook has done is reconnect people who drifted apart, but understand the value of being friends.

A friend who prays with you is like holy glue…almost nothing can break your bond because you’re protected by the One who put you side by side to begin with.  You hold each other up in prayer, strengthen each others direction and choices, allow each other a vulnerability and transparency that few ever know.  This is the friendship that binds you with a three-fold chord.

Friends who make you laugh at yourself, bring a texture and balance to life that you simply can’t get on your own.  They see you in your most outrageous, crazy, spontaneous moments and love you simply because you’re you!  These are the friends who when you do something totally stupid, like leave your grocery bag on top of the car and drive off, will point and laugh, and then get on a cell phone to tell you before it’s too late to save the eggs.

The blessing of true friendship is that it is built on a trusted foundation.  Two hearts come together, hold each other up when needed, offer each other encouragement, and remind each other of all they are meant to be.  Honor your friends every chance you get.  Let them hear from you how much you value them.  Like any relationship, the one with your spouse, the one you have with God, the one you share with a good friend simply cannot be taken for granted.  According to Proverbs 17, a friend loves at all times.

What a joy it is to keep such good company!  Let’s hear for real friends!!

Karen

When the Light Goes Up in Heaven

February 24, 2010 in Family and Friends

Those of us who are bound by gravity have no choice but to contend with the light and the dark.  We spend a good share of our time walking in one or the other, sometimes knowingly, other times just walking.  We wrestle with the things that remain uncertain and yet embrace those things that draw us in and give us peace.  My friend Judy has joined the light brigade, those who are now living in the joy of continual Grace, laughing on the breezes of love.  I’m excited for her today as I imagine the rush of old friends and family coming to embrace her there.  I see the smiles everywhere for a job well done, a life well lived, a woman well loved.   I can’t help but smile a little too because the scene is just so glorious, in fact, it’s heavenly.

A long time ago we attended the same school, grew up in the same small town.  We were nurtured on hometown values and family and the things that make the world seem safe and small.  We walked a bit of the path together back then, and then disappeared from each others view as we stepped out into new arenas of learning, new cities and experiences.  A long time passed and then we were blessed to find ourselves at a little table sharing lunch and laughter and life and we were both awed at how far we’d come and yet how close we felt about where life had taken us.  We both still embraced our childhood dreams, our hopes nurtured so long ago.  We were different women, but so similar in so many ways and we were encouraged by that fact.  We shared a bond that made us connect in a way we could never have known years before.

I’m a little sad that I can’t be there as friends and family gather to say goodbye this week, but I’m still smiling that we said hello many times over the past few years and that in her illness she knew that I was one of many friends sending up daily prayers for her well-being.  I’m so grateful for her, for the love we shared as friends, for the light she brought to my life and the opportunity we had to know each other.  We’re so blessed when we have real friends, people who see us and love us just as we are.  It’s the people who wipe our tears and make us laugh at ourselves that bring meaning and light to our lives.

I know there’s an extra bright light in heaven just now and I know that we’re all blessed by having had Judy in our lives.  Her light will shine with every thought, every sweet memory revisited, every child who knew her as a teacher or a mom or a grandmom, and every person who knew her as a friend.

I’m thanking God for her today, for the chance to have shared the heart of a very special woman, and I’m offering a standing ovation for all her life has meant.  She’s worth the celebration here.   I wonder if we can outdo the celebration in heaven though because the light just got brighter!

With love to Judy, her family and friends…may God bless you all.

Karen

Katy Keene and Stiletto Dreams

February 9, 2010 in Family and Friends

I used to love paper dolls!  When I was a young girl in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I would dream about becoming a model when I grew up and living a life that was  something like the Archie Comics character, Katy Keene.  Her creator, cartoonist Bill Woggons, had designed Katy after the WWII pin up girls.  She always had just the right outfit for just the right occasion.  Readers could actually design outfits for Katy that Woggons would then recreate for the strip giving them credit for the design.  It was a great way for a girl to spin fantasies.  It was in good taste and Katy was always doing her best to break into Hollywood.  I must have traced my paper doll Katy hundreds of time, designing my own line of clothes just for her.  It was harmless and imaginative and a fun way to share time with my sisters.

Perhaps few of us remember Katy Keene.  It turns out that Bill Woggons was a Christian and created some other products for that market for kids before he died in 2003, all in all a good legacy.  Paper dolls probably aren’t as fascinating to young girls today as they were to me.  After all, virtual dolls exist online and you can design wardrobes to your heart’s content if you just log on to the right spot.  Every tool any artist could want exists in some form online.  The actual cutting out of a paper doll, designing around her form just right so that you could make an outfit, imagining the story of why she needed the very outfit you were creating and coloring it all yourself, isn’t required.

I guess I’m not going to argue that one system is more imaginative than the other, or that somehow something nostalgic holds more weight than something easily erased on the screen. However, I do want to remember with you what it was like to share quiet times, designing, playing a game, thinking out a story idea or a song with your siblings, really stepping into some cooperative thinking and sharing, giving each other ideas, that’s what I got from Katy Keene.  When Donna was working with Veronica or Sharon was coloring a new outfit for Lucky Red, I was with them, my two favorite people in the world, my sisters, sharing the fun of creating something new.  Katy Keene was like us, a dreamer, a possibility thinker waiting for an exciting future.

Though Katy has vanished from my life, the joy of creating, of writing a new story, or coming up with a new concept for a card line or a book line or a piece of artwork is just as thrilling as ever.  Looking back, I think this humble root was part of what inspired my hopes for the creative work I choose to do today. It’s a nice thought, a moment to help me reflect on all that’s happened since those simple beginnings.

The stories still need to be developed, the stiletto dreams are as much of a draw as ever.  My role models are a little different now, my designs for my life created in a different way, but the hope and the fascination with all that is still possible remains.  Perhaps it’s the humble beginnings that help us connect the dots to becoming more than we might have been.  Thanks to Bill Woggons and Katy Keene for firing the flames of a little girl’s imagination.  I hope to send in a new design soon.

Karen

A Little Thanksgiving Prayer

November 26, 2009 in Family and Friends

Lord,

We thank You for each morning

We awaken with the sun,

Ready to embrace the day

And all that must be done.

We thank You for the gifts of life

For each day we start anew

Blessed to have a brand new slate

Made clean and whole by You.

We thank You that the human heart

Is filled with love for others

Connecting us to everyone

As our sisters  and our brothers.

We thank You that we have enough

When doors of hope close  tight,

For we know dreams are yet possible

As we hold them to Your light.

We thank You on Thanksgiving Day,

For laughter, food, and friends,

For the grace of Your provision,

Because Your bounty never ends.

We thank You, Lord, for all we are

With a humble attitude,

For each amazing gift of Grace

We receive with gratitude.

Amen…thank you, Lord.

Karen

It’s a Boy!

October 22, 2009 in Family and Friends

I grew up with a mom and three sisters so my dad was the only male influence in the house and the one who couldn’t get into the bathroom sometimes for days on end.  Living with five girls had to be a challenge for him.  Somehow he managed it and even found ways to keep every strand of his curly hair in place before we left the house on an outing.  I say this because that more feminine culture has made a difference in who I am and I’m delighted about that.

Today is my son Doug’s birthday.  He’s my firstborn, (I also have two lovely and brilliant daughters, but that’s another story), and the day Doug was born started a kind of fascinating epic journey in my life.  Here was this precious, incredibly smart blonde-haired boy who managed to wrap me around his fingers and toes before I even knew what hit me.  As a baby, he was so curious, “reading” magazines for hours at a time absorbed in the pictures, loving any opportunity to discover the world outside, especially the insects and birds.  He was an introduction to a world I didn’t know anything about.  All through the pregnancy, the doctor had boasted of his ability to predict the sex, (this being before they could actually do so) and had said it was definitely a girl.  Then, as his arrival became immanent, the doctor again said, “It’s a girl.”  Two minutes later, he looked at me and said, “Guess what? It’s a boy!”

I guess all of us who are mothers are fascinated by the amazing opportunity that comes to us when a child is placed in our arms and in our care for the first time.  We’re awed by what God has done, totally immersed in the miracle of that moment.  I felt that way with all three of my children, but it was this first experience that awakened a part of me that I didn’t know existed.  It made me realize the awesome responsibility of being someone’s mother and part of it was exhilarating and part of it was downright frightening.

Over the years, my son taught me many lessons.  He helped me learn about the world from a masculine perspective and helped me see it with new eyes.  He turned up the light.  One of my favorite times in his growing up years came about when he started dating and going out with friends.  He’d come home from a movie or a party or some event and sit on the end of my bed and tell me all about it.  He was so capable of describing the details and it was such a wonderful time of sharing for me.  Later when he went to college and studied poetry and literature, it provided other ways to share how he thinks and how he sees the world.  Something that still captures my heart about him.

Today he manages a bookstore, such an appropriate position for a guy who used to read books with a flashlight long after lights out had been called at home.  Every now and then we share something about our mutual interest in writing and those moments are a gift to me.

So, Happy Birthday, Doug!  I love you, BIG time!  And to all the parents out there who have cherished sons and daughters, I say let’s give great thanks for them, for all they have done to guide us and help us become more than what we would be otherwise. Since all of  life is about relationship, we know the ones entrusted to our care are given to us on purpose. They are never an accident, never an after thought, but a divinely created blessing.

I often think about the relationship Jesus shared with us about His Father.  He always wanted us to understand that love is the reason, that being there for each other is the gift, and that nothing can ever change the joy it brings.  Honoring our children isn’t new.  Even God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

To all our sons and daughters…blessings and joy and gratitude forever!