Category Archives: Empty Nest

The ties that bind <3

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This is kind of a crazy week and even as I type that I know I say it a lot, but it really is setting the bar at a new level. 

Several trips north sprinkled in with regular work and a side of a weekend out of town wedding with weather that is ranging from high 40’s to mid 80’s has me just slightly frazzled. 

Our nephew is getting married which has me thinking about family and how amazing the connections are as family trees add branches. Character traits and resemblances and even common mannerisms pop up whether you are around family much or little.

Russ and my cousin Kenny’s wife will laugh when we are together as apparently he and I, though we grew up on opposite sides of the U.S. and really were only around each other a couple of times growing up, have so many similarities. And obviously ones that don’t bother us a bit, but make our spouses nod their heads in sympathy.

I love watching his dad, my father’s younger brother, because it is like old home week. The way he puts his hand on his forehead, his laugh…even things he says…like a carbon copy of my own dad.

And again…they lived apart from each other and visited infrequently all of their adult life. 

That same uncle, after hearing a recording of our Sarah singing, marveled that she had my Aunt Eugenia’s voice…and ever after, I have realized that yes indeed…that laugh I miss so much from my aunt still bubbles up out of our daughter.

Even while I often think l hear my own voice on some video Russ is watching and then realize it is actually Rachel’s.

Our nephew who is getting married is no blood relation of mine and we think resembles his mom’s side….yet there are little bits of him I see sometimes in our Graham. How can this be but through Russ’s line?

How fun to glimpse that spark I have loved in our red-headed nephew twinkle in the eyes of our grandson.

And love.

Wow. 

I think of our nieces and nephews as just as much mine as they are Russ’s and yet – no blood tie exists. 

I look at our grandchildren and the way they already love and bond with family and while they share aspects of two family lines, they draw no difference between who is blood and who is just kin of the heart. 

Such is the family of God, you know.

We belong to this big extended family through the blood of Jesus. 

He is our common thread and it is His character and His love and His mercy that tie us together. 

We belong because He first loved us. 

We begin to resemble Him and people recognize Him through us as we love and care for one another.

Precious <3

Maintaining consistency in our maintenance of what matters <3

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I hope you have had a good week.

For me it has flown by but I feel I have accomplished a lot which is always a good feeling when Friday rolls around. 

Russ has been car shopping and so I will be saying goodbye to my second home and moving the kleenex box, phone charger, quarter for the Aldi cart and two little booster seats into a new vehicle in a few weeks. 

I have a lot of miles logged and a lot of memories echoing around that car and I love it dearly, but after I test drove a newer model and then climbed back into ours a few weeks ago, I had to admit it looks a little shabby. 

The finish on the steering wheel is worn off in the places I habitually grip it as I make my way along the highways and byways.

The floor mats can be vacuumed, but there are marks and dirt that no longer can be rubbed off. 

In the back, little tennis shoes have rubbed marks into the leather and there is a deep scratch in the front of the glove box where my OCD self just had to straighten the tilt on the propane tank Russ was taking to be filled…and I guess I didn’t realize he had wedged it that way for a purpose…whoops.

That vehicle is well loved for sure and has served us well, but I don’t take care of it like I did when it was brand spanking new. 

Back then I slowed carefully for speed bumps, I took turns cautiously and I eyed the road for potholes as if they were landmines. 

It’s funny isn’t it, how we treat new things with such care and then as they start showing wear and tear and get familiar we just are not as careful with them.

The newness wears off and so does our diligence to tend and be tender. 

Let’s not be like that with the things that truly matter eternally.

Relationships in family and with friends, our faith journey, our calling. 

Let’s not get lazy and allow neglect become the norm for our souls. 

Scripture calls it stirring up our faith and we are to do that in one another. 

In an age where encouragement can be as simple as a text away, let’s be quick to fan the flames of love and hope and joy for our fellow travelers. 

Well loved and well worn hearts are what the Gospel is all about. 

May the Lord bless each of you as you journey onward today <3

Monday and we actually have sun!

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We had a full and fun weekend that culminated with us falling in a heap with blankets and books last night and has me moving slowly this morning. 

Thankful for getting to wrap my arms around these two lovely ladies yesterday

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and then seeing this guy via What’s app video

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…so all in all….best weekend ever.

Since we were going to hear the boys sing up north on Sunday, Russ and I attended our church service Saturday night to hear the end of the Nine Fruits of the Spirit series. 

It was all very good and helpful until the last part when things got a little dicey. 

Because our pastor presented us with a challenge to review again the list of the fruits of the flesh…Galatians 5: 19-21….and note our “signature tendency.”

Well, true to my excessive nature, I had four. You know…go big or go home, right?

Then he challenged us to look at that and make a decision to let God take control and surrender that tendency to Him so that He can transform us and start growing and developing more of HIS fruit in us. 

He offered us to join him in a prayer that he had the tech team put up on the screen and I give Wayne credit for knowing his flock well. 

He had us read through it once and pause a second to think before we just prayed it. 

And I will tell you…in that split second after I read through what he was asking us to pray, I debated not praying it. 

I know God answers the kind of prayer we were being invited into. 

It was a prayer asking God to put us in situations and circumstances where our bent towards flesh would be displayed clearly so that we could then surrender in the circumstance and let Him have His way with us so that we could grow in our godly response of exhibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Yes…exaclty.

A complete mind set shift from my whole life goal. 

My thought here has always been to ask God to help me avoid situations that test me in these areas.

It seems to me that we could develop a pretty solid character portfolio for my life if God just cleared the path from all those annoying situations where my flesh rises up and has a hey day. 

But no. 

All of a sudden my pastor, who happens to also be a good friend who has eaten around my table and attended family stuff and knows me very well…is asking me to ask God to….

orchestrate situations for me to encounter where I stand a good chance of failing miserably. 

Feeling somewhat like I would if I had just been locked into a restrictive chair so that I could be whirled through a living nightmare Batman Ride at Six Flags, I prayed the prayer knowing I was going to need a heavy duty dose of yoking with Jesus as soon as we said the amen…I prayed the prayer. 

And just to make sure I knew what I had committed to, I wrote these words based on his final exhortation….

Expect to see places where my bent will arise and I can choose at those moments to live under the control of the Holy Spirit – walk in step with the Spirit IN the struggle with the temptation. Expect to find places to grow. 

So here we go people. 

I have never wanted a tattoo but am considering writing in permanent marker on my hand…so I can see it all this week…

You asked for this, Laura…now…choose the Spirit…and grow.

Because it wasn’t five minutes after I prayed it that God answered and He has just continued to abundantly give me opportunities.

The way I am doing it is I literally imagine I have my arm hooked through Jesus arm. Like little kids walk together sometimes side by side.

And you know what…I kind of love it. <3

Mother’s Day thoughts…Part 3

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We have these pink cowboy boots that we just can’t part with. 

Sarah asked for them for months before she turned 6 and she wore them faithfully until she couldn’t cram her growing feet down in them one more time. 

Her teacher asked me a couple of weeks after her birthday if she slept in them and I had to say she would if we would have let her. 

She loved them. 

And they birthed an expression that still puts me into fits of giggles every time it is said, or I even think about it being said. 

Walking down the mall or a street or out in front of our house, she would start this long, striding, purposeful march with her arms swinging wide at her side and with her head raised high, she would proclaim…

I’m walking like a mom!

It was adorable, although less than flattering to see her impression of what a mom walked like. 

I couldn’t tell if she actually thought that is what I looked like or if she was capturing the essence of the power and confidence she thought I possessed as her mother. 

Since no one in our family ever agreed that she had definitely nailed an accurate impersonation of me walking (I know this because we all would laugh uncontrollably and ask where she got that idea), I have to assume it was the latter option.

So in honor of Mother’s Day…here is my response to that little girl in the pink cowboy boots and the sister and brother who made the bookends around her.

Oh children….if ever you thought your mother was confident that she knew what she was doing…she had you fooled. 

I had not a clue how to dress a baby or change a diaper when they laid the first one of you in my arms and said we could take you home to raise. 

While I had practiced for this role a zillion times in the play house my dad made for me in our basement as a little girl, real babies are not like dolls. I had never really cared for a newborn child.

They wiggle and move and their very lives depend on you and I was so scared I would mess it up. 

And I did. 

Time and again….although I was greatly relieved to find out eventually that feeding errors and occasionally binge watching cartoons doesn’t lead to sudden death.

I questioned every decision and I read so many books, even the falling apart paper back one from Dr. Spock that my mom had used when she was struggling with her own doubts raising me and your aunt. 

I asked other mothers and I thank God the internet wasn’t a thing because I would have been googling perpetually.

I never wanted to do anything right and perfectly more than I have wanted to raise you three. 

I wanted you to love Jesus and love people and spread your wings and not live in the same kind of fear and dread cycle I have fought so that you could do the wonderful things I knew God made you to do. 

And you went and did, didn’t you.…

All three of you.

You went and spread your wings and flew, and traveled, and set your mind to attempt careers and learn skills. You have taken up the cause of others so many times and fought for the underdog.

You have made a life of purpose and forged into areas that have forced me to respond to  your big ideas with a phrase I coined back in your college days…

“That sounds like a great opportunity.”

And here’s a little secret, that is code for “Your mom is going to need some time on her knees to get happy about that plan.” 

You weren’t afraid to think and to be adults who fend for themselves. You have learned to wait for the things you want to happen and yet you have also rolled up your sleeves to do your part.

And along the way, you realized that your mom doesn’t really have a bent to walk with big confident steps and her arms swinging boldly at her side with her head held high…even if she would like to be that way. 

You figured out that sometimes she does manage to pull it off…but a lot of times she moves slowly and sometimes she just rambles…and many a time all she could pull off was a crawl. 

So here is to you birds that made me a mom and the dad who held us all together with the glue of steadfastness, consistency and wisdom.

Here’s to the laughter and the tears and the way we all have grown up together. 

And here’s to the years and growth that lay before us all as we….

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pc/Graham

journey onward <3

Mother’s Day thoughts {Part 2}

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I spent a lot of the day thinking about my own grandma’s as I prepared for what to share today. 

They were so different. 

Emma Grace Ploch lived in Louisville and had a very serious face. But then, by the time I came on the scene she had lost her mom when just a child, buried a newborn son and a husband, raised a family through the Great Depression and the Great Flood of 1937 and maybe she was just tired. 

She wore serious house dresses and black lace up shoes with hose that were mysteriously rolled just above the knee. She made fabulous meals like fried chicken and ambrosia salad and roasts that melted in your mouth and produced vegetable dishes that made this kid love them. She used liberal amounts of bacon grease she kept in a crock on the stove top in a kitchen roughly the size of our master bathroom. 

She loved us well and when I arrived as the youngest grandchild after an eight year dry spell, she dubbed me Pitiful Pearl after a popular rags to riches doll. I heard the story many times….Poor, poor pitiful Pearl she would say as she settled me and it must have been often because for most of my young years that side of the family tended to call me Pearl. 

My dad’s mom was Eugenia Otilla Lochner and she and my grandpa and all dad’s siblings had headed to Washington State sometime before I was born. Dad spoiled my mom and we spent the major holidays with her side during his years in the Air Force. When he retired we headed back to their Kentucky roots and so I saw his side less. To them, I was and always be Laura Jean.

Because the “Jean” came from their side and so with that I knew…they claimed me whether I saw them much or little. I was one of them. Their Kentucky blood ran deep so it’s more like one word…LaruhJEAN. I can assure you, distance does not dim love of family and I adored them all even if I didn’t log as much real time with them as my mom’s side.

As I remember, Grandma Lochner wore pants often to do her yard work. She too was a whiz in the kitchen. Like all my dad’s side of the family, you never had to wonder what she was thinking and it was usually a colorful display of language we weren’t allowed to use when things got heated.

In her 70’s she rode the Amtrak from Washington to Louisville to visit us and when she was in her late 80’s we sprung her from her retirement home and took her to a Mariner’s game. She walked with those bow legs, that I would one day watch my dad inherit, down a mountain of stairs where she dined on hot dogs and chips and cheered her team on. 

They were magical people, my grandma’s. I didn’t think of them as old or as my parents’ parents. To me they were in a category of people that are set apart. Unique from all other humans. They either had time for me or they put an apron on me and put me to work next to them. 

I can’t say I really “knew” them beyond that they were my grandma’s.

I can’t say I remember them telling me their stories or explaining what made them tick. I’m sure they never shared their struggles or their hopes and dreams. They were a different generation, those grandma’s and folks just kept those inward thoughts to themselves. 

Or they were two busy frying chicken and canning asparagus to dwell on them much.

While my real time spent in the presence of these two women varied in quantity, the quality of those hours remain equal in my grown up heart. I cherish every memory I can drum up and who they were is part of who I am. 

Even if I didn’t know their deepest thoughts or have a working knowledge of their history, they live in my memories for the times I spent with them in the years I had them.

I wonder what our grandchildren will remember of me. 

I can’t write the script for them. 

It will be captured in the moments spent together.

It will be their individual wirings that pick up what matters out of who I was to them.

I am not sure they will aptly portray me the way I saw myself. But I will exist in their memories in the ways they experienced our times together and pieced together through what their parents tell them about me.

I am thankful beyond words and humbled to hear them refer to them as “their” Lola.

As if I’m not really a person and more like they kind of own me through a God-ordained relationship.

I have joined the ranks of the likes of those women that birthed my parents. 

I may dress differently and use new-fangled machines to get my chores done…when I actually do them. I may use a cell phone and not a black rotary dial with a party line extension. But I have the same things to give these offspring of our offspring that those women who helped shape me gave their grandchildren. 

Unconditional love. 

Unhurried time. 

Unlimited attention. 

For as long as God allows me. 

And my prayers for them will last…

To infinity and beyond <3

I sure would love to sit with you today over a cup of coffee and hear your Grandma stories.

Since we can’t do that because I am headed out the door in about five minutes to go be Lola to the band of brothers and little miss thing, let’s take some time today to read an amazing Grandma story found in the book of Ruth.

Let’s read about Naomi and the way God worked through deep loss, a foreign daughter-in-law and a tightened heart to place a grandchild in the lap of this widowed woman to remind her she was not forsaken.

Read it with fresh eyes as you watch this grandma of the Root of Jesse discover laughter and joy at the end of a long journey of sorrow.

If you have received Christ, she’s one of your Grandma stories too.

Precious.

Have a blessed day <3