Sunday, May 19, 2013

Darkness and Light

“When the darkness closes in, still I will say, Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Words from a nice song.  A song about worshiping God in good days and bad.  But what about when the bad days are filled with hurt that you can’t explain? 

My role in this season is something like a senior advisor.  I’m the Bapka – the mom of the dad, the longest married dad of the second generation of the clan.  He’s the dad of the clan who is secondly asked for advice – only in line behind the patriarch. 

I’m an extra and, honestly, have asked God more than once what He has me here for.  This impossibly intertwined little town doesn’t need me.  They have all of each other.  There are good things about being here so I rather selfishly enjoy pieces of this season.  But is it really necessary?  My son tells me he still needs me - partly to be nice, I think - partly because sometimes it's very true. 

Let me try to explain this better.

I live on the fringes of a family which is its own social network.  This town is largely populated by one family.  If you follow the family tree down, you will find one particular set of parents who have six kids – five grown and married with children.  Those grandchildren total 11, with two more on the way.  That whole conglomeration of personalities continually flows in and out of each other’s days.  They work together, play together, hang out together, sharing sorrow and joy alike.

My son is married to one of the daughters of that family.  They are the longest married with the most kids.   Due to his position and his gentle wisdom, my son is rather respected by his peers. 

I’m not everyday involved with this whole family, it’s true.  But we go to church together and they are a part of my extended social circle.  All the grandchildren call me Bapka and run to me with hugs and I call them all my Angelbabies and give them mints.  On the fringes is a nice place to be.

Except when it’s not.  Like this week. 

From my distant space I watch their lives, pray for them, love them, encourage them as much as I can.  I see a lot of things from my distant perch.  Some things that make my heart smile, some that make me worry and wonder if there isn’t a way I can steer change.  They don’t even know how often I carry their names to the Lord.  That’s ok.  God knows. 

Not quite two years ago, one of those extensions was given an amazing, miraculous gift.   I watched the story of the twins unfold from their impossibly early birth, through the preemie hospital days and then as they excelled past every benchmark to show they were thriving beyond expectations.  The mother of the twins is my daughter-in-law’s sister.  The dad is one of my son’s closest friends. The twins and their older sister call me Bapka. 

They are a part of the fabric of my life.

This week one of those twins left us.  Her little life took a sad turn and suddenly we went from saying things like, “those twins are so cute together and so healthy!  What a miracle!” to awkward phrases like, “I don’t have the words to say how sorry I am.” 

They said it was a virus.  There was nothing anyone could have done.  It acted so quickly and presented so oddly.   

And now I muddle through trying to explain the unexplainable to my grandchildren, my son, his wife.  I hear my voice reaching for comforting words.  I have prayed this week until my voice was hoarse and no tears remained.

Through this, my purpose is clearly, sharply defined.  The work of the sorrow should be done without little ears listening.  I keep my grandbabies removed from the epicenter while my son and his wife work through this family grief.  

And so I make lunch, draw baths and hold these Angelbabies of mine while they cry.   

I try to answer their questions, but find they have more answers than I do. 

Arthur plainly states, “Ava went to heaven with Skippy the cat and Grandma Loraine and Hunter.” 

No questioning God’s motive.  No doubts about the hereafter.

Again, I see my life here is full of purely selfish benefits. 

“He gives and takes away.  My heart will choose to say.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Love My Brother and My Sister!

I'm compelled to post some pieces about my brother and sister.  Like our relationships, they are from different places, but reflect one sincere truth about us:  we are bonded.  Miles, life, time doesn't separate us or change our commitment to one another.  

I'm including the titles to the pieces these are lifted from just in case someone wants to read the whole bit from A Book of Pages.   

If you have a sibling - or a friend who is like one - tell them you love them today.  Pretty sure we can never say that often enough.

Here's to you Bob and Tina.  Thanks for keeping me!

A Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges
Patchwork of Me       

ieces of color patched together, stitched with love, tossed about, useful, warmth- generating and comfortable.  That’s me.  I didn’t get this way on purpose.  Though I could have been torn asunder by circumstances beyond my control, instead I held together.   I have become me because of where I have been. 


 A stubborn piece of resilient material forcefully kept in position represents my brother and sister.  Although raised in a separate home far removed; they would not forget me.  My brother, at five years old, was the elder when we were taken from one another.  He was the great defender of our baby sister, only two at the time.  It would have been easy for them to cut ties from me since the adults in charge didn’t always see eye-to-eye unintentionally keeping us apart.  As we grew, our lives crossed paths every once in awhile.  Finally, we were grown enough to make our own decisions, to find one another.  Helping each other through times of crisis like settler families circling the wagons in defense; we have chosen to be family.  Our conversations frequently contain a reference to the fact that we don’t have to love one another, but we choose to.  We have few common interests among the three of us, yet we can easily talk for hours without tiring.  Committed, loved, forgiving:  I am from my brother and sister.

Though it might seem that the pieces of my life are haphazardly strewn about, closer inspection reveals careful placement in harmony with an ultimate plan.  If I have much to give, it is only because I have received abundantly.  Held together by undaunted faith, made stronger through adversity, compassionate and giving; I am. 

Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges
From the Inside Out


icture a piece of burlap. Strong. Tightly woven. Complete.
            Now picture that same fabric torn, not cut, into five pieces. The ends frayed and torn. Two of them more together than apart, but none of them completely connected any more.
            That’s what my family is like.
            Two young people in love and ready to conquer the world and beat the odds were overtaken by life’s demands. Push pulled and they were strewn asunder. Not cut with neat edges. Torn. Raggedly.  With strands flaying and seeking wholeness.
            And yet, one strand, invisible to the outside, still connects those lives. It’s like a band of steel that could not be torn, cannot be broken. It can be ignored or pushed aside, but it remains. Intact. Unchanging.

From the outside in, we aren’t a close family at all. Rarely are we all in the same space. Few pictures exist of all of us together. Two of us or three of us, now no more than four of us, gather from time to time. Our memories are stilted, disjointed.
            Being together takes effort. We make the effort because we enjoy each other, we get something from each other, we understand each other. We are okay apart, but much better together.

Even if we try to go on about our lives – the thread keeps tugging. Our minds, our hearts, our attention is centered on one another.
            We’re a family. Not like yours, perhaps, or any other. Together we are stronger, more complete.
            The burlap is frayed, but only needs to be placed near the other torn pieces momentarily to find the right place, to connect, to become whole.
            That’s my family from the inside out.

To order a copy of 
A Book of Pages About Crossing Bridges 
or A Friend Named Jesus, 
please visit my website:  Writer's Pages
Facebook:  Author Kris A. Newman