20 Years…

Rich ticket stub

Twenty years is a long time – but sometimes, it seems like no time at all. Time is funny that way.

1997 was particularly significant for me in a number of ways. In late May, I cleaned out my middle school classroom for the last time, saying goodbye to a career that would take unexpected turns. We moved to a new town, and my husband was now much closer to his new job at Taylor University (as he had been commuting until I completed my school year… I had signed a contract, you know). In May, I also visited my eye doctor… who led me to another doctor and a diagnosis in June for probable multiple sclerosis. (Because we weren’t busy enough the first week in June, as we packed boxes to move four days later… but that’s another story.) The official diagnosis came on July 30 – yep, it was MS.

This part of the my own 1997 story took a step in August when I attended a concert of my favorite musician, Rich Mullins – the link here will lead you to a review of the concert I posted the next day. What I did not realize was that this, the final concert of his tour, would be the last of Rich’s performances I’d have the pleasure of seeing. Of the fifteen concerts of his I had attended, this was also the first one that led to tears. During “Bound to Come Some Trouble,” the floodgates let loose. Two weeks earlier, that diagnosis had come, and I really wasn’t certain what it would mean. (Attached is a clip of this song that somebody recorded at his Wisconsin concert on August 10, four days before I had my little tissue-soaking time.)

September 19 was a day like any other – I was a graduate student, commuting to Ball State for class and work during the day, and the phone call came from my younger brother that evening. I had been listening to Rich’s “Canticle of the Plains” as I could throughout the day, but now I stepped into our back yard, where I could lean against the towering oak and gaze at the stars. The lyrics of “Elijah” scurried through my head, as I teared up and wondered about that candlelight in Central Park, and what it would mean to say “Goodbye.”

So here we are twenty years later, and I still feel that my life as it is today has been enriched by the music and ministry of Richard Wayne Mullins. His songs still traipse through my head, and I’ll still be reading scripture and thinking, “So THAT’s the spot where that lyric originated!” But a huge smile came to my face last Sunday morning when our associate pastor was describing what his two-year-old son had been doing at breakfast. Music was playing, and the little fellow left his cereal at the table and felt he needed to dance before our Lord… we were told this was a Rich Mullins album that was playing. I have a feeling this would have made Rich smile. And I have no doubt that Rich’s music will continue touching countless more lives in years to come.

This year, my own story will instead mark September 20 as a significant point. As I begin new medical path for my MS treatment, a new chapter may begin in my own story. I’ll plan to listen to Rich’s music as I venture on – and I’ll post more about that tomorrow or Thursday. In the meantime, I’m thankful for the legacy of Rich Mullins on this day in particular.

Gen Con 50 – View from the Chair (days 3 and 4)

 

Yes, Day 3 of Gen Con came, and though the numbers were technically not larger, it seemed more packed, I think. Yesterday ended later for us, but for a fun reason, as T.R. attended an awards ceremony for the ENnies, the EN World RPG Awards. His “Cyclopaedia” blog was one of five blog nominees for an award, and though it was not a winner, two different games he assisted with did win gold and/or silver awards!

But what were those other snapshots of on Friday? The one plain shot of an elevator wasimg_1390 a reminder of how thankful we are for the elevators and skywalks that allow us to attend events in and around the Convention Center without trying to navigate stairs or crazy twisting ramps. …We hit our first snag here, though, when Thursday evening’s elevator from the skywalk to the Convention Center was dead. And there was nobody to contact, no number to call. We ended up making our way across to a parking garage where we could take an elevator down, then walk along the city street to enter the Convention Center, once we found an entrance on that side that didn’t involve a stairway. Thankfully, it had been repaired by the time we were on the way back from our evening event.

Other events Friday included demo-ing (then purchasing) two new games. One img_1397that excited me to most was Codenames Duet, a cooperative two person version of the popular party game. Yes, it’s a neat game, but what excited me the most wasn’t just the game itself, but the fact that the convention demonstration size of the lettering on the cards was huge… so I could read it from a few feet away without problem! Though the demo sized tiles are not sold, I’m contacting the company to encourage them to make this version available! Small text size on playing cards is one of the more frustrating bits of gameplay I face, and what a beautiful solution this option could be. We shared these thoughts with those running this game room, and I will communicate with the publisher after we’re home.

One little piece of Gen Con I enjoy each year is the balloon sculpture.

 

This year’s Golden Dragon, representing the 50th Anniversary, is quite lovely. More was pieced together each day, and we could view the final celebratory piece on Sunday! (I didn’t attend the final popping.)img_1442

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Bob Ross “The Art of Chill” board game

Saturday evening had also been an extra special game time, with friends gathering in our hotel lobby/breakfast area to share pizza and snacks, then img_1417play new games we had purchased – my favorite was one that is now available at Target stores. If you also grew up watching “The Joy of Painting on PBS, you also may enjoy the game where you earn points for painting fluffy clouds, happy trees, and mighty mountains.  Some of those who gathered were those who rarely meet face-to-face, but know one another via online communications through Innroads Ministries.

Sunday brought one of our favorite parts of the week, the img_1433Christian worship service. This gathering of believers to sing praise, share communion,  and hear a telling message from Tom Vasel. Though the speaker is known in the gaming community as the founder and host of the game review podcast “The Dice Tower,” he is also an ordained minister. His message was right on target with this audience. The three points (as most sermons possess) were simple:

1. Be content. (even when you’re attending an event that shows you so many games and things you “must have.”
2. Listen. In our busy world – and a busy Con also – take time to stop and listen. And Hear. Sometimes, we need reminders to stop talking, to take in messages from others.
3. Rest. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous note to rest… and no, resting does not indicate laziness, but it is necessary physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

We certainly appreciated Tom Vasel’s timely words, and after we left to join the final day img_1445at Gen Con, we prepared to meet with various people, then we had a unique, unexpected lunch that showed another way a business took an “invisible issue” img_1810seriously. At a daughter’s request, we decided to visit “The Walking Waffle Company” in the food court of Circle Center Mall. Their menu offered different meal options – the breakfast waffle with bacon, eggs, and cheese looked lovely, and the chicken waffle sounded fun. I have an unusual, rather annoying allergy: black pepper. As I do at any restaurant, I asked the gentleman taking orders if the chicken or breakfast waffles contained any black pepper. He thoughtfully responded, “The eggs don’t, but several items do, and I’m afraid pepper could  remain on the grill and leach into the eggs.” He then carefully considered and found that the Waffle Club Sandwich should work for me. Not only was he correct there, but I found a new, unexpected treat. I know that food allergies can be tricky, particularly when they’re uncommon. I do appreciate a private restaurant owner, even in a popular food court, taking the time to accommodate a silly allergy.

As we walked toward our room after lunch, a game-editing friend passed us in the hallway. John had injured his foot and was in a wheelchair (where he had not been when I talked with him on Saturday morning). “The world is different from this view – it’s quite… disconcerting.” John then described an interaction he’d had with a taller friend – about 6′ 5″ – and he said they were so far apart that he felt cut off from the rest of the world. Trying to converse with a taller friend woke him up to a different perspective.

Gen Con 50 did hold more than the snippets I described. So many neat conversations with people from around the world, here just a ninety minute drive from our home. Games and costumes and celebrations and more. But me? My “battery” is such that I took a nap each afternoon, while the rest of the family worked at a booth each afternoon. I enjoyed and appreciated the experiences I had – Nice job, Gen Con 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nineteen years – still saying “Goodbye”

rich-magI realized this evening, after seeing a note from my older brother, that this is indeed September 19. “Yes,” you say, “you can read the calendar. And your smartphone… and this matters because…?”

Nineteen years ago today marked a loss from which I’ve still not fully snapped back. But as I contemplate this evening, I think that’s okay. I think Rich would have liked knowing that his steps ruffled things up a bit.

I’ve written of Rich Mullins’ impact on my life several other years also, and I’ll do it here again. His own life was filled with “invisible issues,” some of which he shared in ways only he could, and many of which he kept hidden.

title page - ElijahOne song of his, “Elijah,” was particularly poignant, with poetic Rich's preface for my photo essayimagery that touched my heart as far back as my high school years. Take a look at my 2012 reflections on Rich’s special forward to my high school photographic essay. (Step back in time for a look at school projects completed with paper, pen, crayola markers, scissors, and scads of rubber cement. Color printers? Not in 1988.)

I continue to hear Rich’s music in my head at various times, but I find it happening most when T.R. and I are reading scripture together. So much of the imagery, the stories can be tied to scripture. As we’re trodding through Revelation, with its fantastical and frightening imagery (though I know a triumphant end is coming before the book is complete), I find myself offering the same prayer as Rich in his song,  Be with You: “…when the sky is crossed with the tears of a thousand falling stars as they crash into the sea, can I be with You? Can I be with You?”.

Yes, it’s been nineteen years. And I thank Rich and the legacy he has left for continued little lessons I learn, from reflecting on teenage times to hearing the scriptures continue to sing today. May his songs live on.

 

Day 28 – Thirty Days of Thanks – celebrating the life of Uncle Otto

In “Day 27” of my thankful journey posts, I promised I would continue with “Day 28” on August 9. The past week and a half held many blessings, but one calendar addition came a little unexpectedly. How so? Allow me to explain.

Today, August 9, my uncle’s funeral is taking place as I finish typing this post. Uncle Otto  passed away at the age of eighty, and his final few years held the extra challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. For a strong farmer/businessman, a leader in his church and family, understanding and coming to terms with this hard-to-understand I malady weighed hard on Uncle Otto, Aunt Donna, his children and grandchildren. I know all of the family is thankful that they had the opportunity, while his mind was still here, to share final words with him. Then over recent months, we were all thankful for a loving “memory care center” that offered needed support.

But Uncle Otto’s life was beautiful and rich, not defined by his later struggle. So what to be thankful for on this day? I was unable to travel to the funeral, but I have no doubt that much will be shared about family, as children, grandchildren and cousins banter with a smile.

Five Thankful Thoughts in honor of Uncle Otto:

  1. Family roots – My mother’s only brother (with four girls in the family), Uncle Otto followed my grandfather’s farming footsteps. The farm carries on with my cousins Tim and Scott, then their extended families. In a world where family roots sometimes struggle to take hold, Uncle Otto’s legacy will carry on.
  1. ottofaamFamily man – Five children in the Otto and Donna Wuethrich family were neat cousins to grow up with, though I was much younger. I never really got to know the oldest cousin, Jerry, as I was only ten years old when he died in a car accident. The photo here is one Scott posted on Facebook – isn’t it a lovely image of Uncle Otto and two of his happy kiddoes?
  1. Man of Faith – Otto Wuethrich held strong to his faith, and I know he was a part of the leadership at the Apostolic Christian Church in Francesville, where my mother attended when growing up. Though the more formal, traditional church may seem unusual, the heart of this church is pure on a level often not seen in less formal houses of worship. After Grandpa Wuethrich passed away when I was in elementary school, I recall Uncle Otto leading a prayer at a large family gathering. And his voice sounded exactly like Grandpa had sounded, with as sure of a prayer.
  1. Outdoorsman – Uncle Otto loved to fish – and he even stocked fish in the pond behind their home. And young relatives who love to fish were able to do so! I appreciated him sharing this bit of his life with us.
  1. Aunt Donna – his high school sweetheart! I’m thankful that he brought into the Wuethrich family a gem of a sister-in-law for my mother. Aunt Donna, later in life, developed a sweet yet sardonic humorous routine, a la Erma Bombeck, and we’re so blessed that she is a “Wonderful Wuethrich Woman.” The long goodbye of Alzheimer’s was especially hard for Aunt Donna, who also faces Parkinson’s, but she stood by Uncle Otto even when it was tough. We love you, Aunt Donna!

Day 23 – Thirty Days of Thanks – about writing

A few words of thanks …

Background to today’s list: when I first decided to become a teacher, I hadn’t been able to decide whether I wanted to study to teach English, science, or general elementary grades (so as not to specialize, and to avoid teenage angst). Thirty years later, life has taken paths beyond my middle school classroom of 1994-97, my grad school years, and my Museum Educator chapter. Even my “adjunct professor” times. And the beautiful Kids Hope adventure.

During this journey, T.R. and others encouraged me to continue taking coursework that allowed me to keep my teaching license current. In order to keep my license renewed, I’ve needed to complete six hours of college coursework every five years. Graduate school classes were staggered enough that the first classes I took for this specific reason were about six years ago. My elementary license also includes middle school science and language arts, so I was thrilled to have the chance to take two writing courses to meet the licensure requirements..

Eight years ago, my writing adventure launched in an unexpected way. Our area newspaper, the Marion Chronicle-Tribune, put out a call for community bloggers. As T.R. and I discussed, we has an idea: blog about the challenges faced by those dealing with disabilities. These topics are often misunderstood, usually unseen. “Invisible Issues,” one could say.

Six years ago, I enrolled in “Freelance Writing” and “Creative Writing.” License was renewed. Five years later, I completed “Media Writing” and “Nonfiction Writing.” Each of these four courses helped me grow in so many ways, and I do feel like a better person because of it! And definitely a better writer. (One who is willing to purposefully break grammatical rules, for instance … but only if she knows she is doing it.)

So my point here? Writing: is this how I am now meant to teach? Without the physical wherewithal to lead a middle school, college, or elementary classroom, shall I hone my writing abilities so that God can use these tools in ways I hadn’t planned? So begins today’s thankful list:

Today’s 5 Thankful things:

  1. Thank you to patient college professorsDr. Hensley and Dr. Householder both tolerated this student, two decades older than the other class members. I felt a little younger myself, and I hope I helped teach them a tad bit. This was in 2010 and 2011, when I was the slow student with the floral folding cane. Doc Hensley taught me to stop splitting my infinitives, among other things.
  1. Thank you to my supportive husband – Though I had planned to attend Gen Con with him next week, he arranged things so that I could also attend Taylor’s Writer’s Conference in August. What a beautiful gift, meaning more than I think he realized!
  1. Business cards – How cool is it that one can design business cards, then have a box of
    image1100 delivered to your door less than a week later? Awesome! Thank you to T.R. for designing them and to Zazzle for printing. (Of course they had a special also. Even online, I try to follow my mom’s example to use coupons and catch sales whenever possible.)
  1. Thank you to Writers’ Bloc – our writer’s group that meets weekly or so, encouraging each of us to continue writing, and offering friendship along the way.
  1. A laptop on which to type – Particularly after my laptop died in early June, I gained an even greater appreciation for this technology. What a wonderful gift this is!

Day 10 – Thirty- Days of Thanks – prayer

 thankful2

On this lovely Sunday, our family’s time of worship had us looking at prayer – an amazing gift that I continue to aim to understand. So today’s thankful things will start with prayer!

Today’s 5 Thankful things:

  1. God who answers prayer – Even when the answers aren’t quite what we thought we needed.
  1. spring robin 2God who knows – …even when we don’t. This photo of the robin was taken in front of our house four years ago, and it’s in honor of the similar robin we affectionately named “Dumb Bird.” Why? I’ll give the story next.

 

  1. Because too often, I’m the “dumb bird. This particular robin decided that he needed to build a nest over our front door, on the little ledge there. At only an inch or so deep, we knew a nest there wouldn’t survive, so we continually removed the pile of nest-building material he’d pile there. Each time we’d remove them, he’d pile them again. He didn’t see that we had removed those for a reason. Dumb Bird’s story was a parable God offered me – when I desire to build a nest that wouldn’t work, I know God has a tree somewhere that would suit me better than the ledge I deem as perfect.
  1. Family helps answer many of our prayers and needs – I continue to be amazed at how God continues to answer prayers and meet needs that I didn’t even know I had.
  1. Laughter – I love how happy laughter of family and friends can help lighten the heart and mood, giving God a chance to turn my ear to Him!

Day 4 – Thirty Days of Thanks – proud to be an American!


American flag Ellis IslandHappy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! The Fourth  of July reminds me of so many things I have to be thankful for. Here are a few:

  1. Statue of LibertyI love our country! – Though quite imperfect, America is my home country, and there are so many wonderful things that come together to make our very diverse nation a beautiful place.
  1. Picturesque spots – From sea to shining sea, as the lyrics proclaim, America truly is beautiful.
  1. We’re young, but we do have history – As my daughters spent the past school year immersed in the depths of our history during advanced placement US History (APUSH), I, the parent, was reminded of chapters of our history that may not all make me proud, but do show how far we’ve come.
  1. Family roots – My grandmother (Dad’s mom, Helen Trimble) once told me that our family does date back to the colonial times. My great-great-great…… aunt was Dolly Madison’s sister, or something of that sort. (Dolly Madison was the wife of James Madison, not just the brand name of a snack cake advertised with the Peanuts cartoon characters.)
  1. Freedom! – Ability to worship God unimpeded by governmental rules and requirements is a beautiful thing.

p.s. The fourth of July is also the special day of a friend who lives “across the pond.” Happy Birthday, Ruthie!

Day 3 – Thirty Days of Thanks – Sunday thanks!

thankful2
I do love Sundays, for so many reasons! This leads very logically to today’s list:

Today’s thankful things:

  1. God’s grace – Though I don’t deserve it, I am so blessed to know that the incompressible, infinite, all-powerful God of the universe loves me. Kinda crazy and hard to understand, isn’t it?
  2. Church family Upland Community Church-Upland,IN – Our church, Upland Community Church,  is not just a building. UCC is made up of friends and family from many places, all of whom are special in so many ways! They offer help, comfort, encouragement, support and friendship that cannot really be quantified.
  3. Carry-in Picnics – When a lot of good cooks bring food to a celebration picnic, tasty foods are there to choose from. After a hamburger with yummy sides, sugar cream pie cannot be beat for dessert. (…or fresh peanut butter pie, or gooseberry pie, or awesome cookies…)
  4. Sabbath rest – Sundays are days that allow for rest in a special way! Though some work is necessary, rest from outside work and big responsibilities gives time to focus on what this day is all about.
  5. Conversations with friends – Having the chance to sit and converse over fun foods was such a lovely time! It’s something I wish I could do more frequently, but life with an uncooperative body that likes to emphasize fatigue and lack of coordination, chances for nonawkward social times are treasured when then come.

A few thoughts for World MS Day

Today, May 25, is World MS Day. In late February, I began a writing course, and much of my writing time has been devoted there. This blog shall begin regular posts by late June – I just feel that  I must draw attention to this particular day! (Side note – I “celebrated” March as MS Awareness month by experiencing the most difficult MS month I’ve faced in 18+ years. That story will come later, as I really must finish my homework. But I assure you that I was very aware, as was my family.)

Those facing MS are asked to share their stories on this day, so I will do so in the form of a poem. It’s one I’ve shared before, but I refined it a bit. So in honor of World MS Day, here’s my story:

Scars

MS
Multiple Sclerosis.
Many Scars.
a Misbehaving System is what I call it.
You can call it what you wish.

Cells that should kill germs harm others instead, and what do they leave behind?
Scars.
What do they take away?
Energy. Control. Ability. Freedom.

“It’s all in your head,” you say.
And I agree.
With scars in my head,
I sometimes wonder what’s left.
Besides scars.

But then I hear an inner voice, one of assurance:
“Scars are not alone. When you look, you’ll find unexpected gifts:
The gift of Empathy to offer an ear to hear of invisible pain, filled with frustration and hard to see with the outer eye.
The gift of Peace beyond understanding, easier to feel when busy-ness is forced aside and stillness found.
The gift of Love you’ll feel as dear ones see through and beyond your scars, and the truest love, shown through one whose scars bring new life.”

MS
Multiple Sclerosis
More than Scars.
That’s what I call it.
You can call it what you wish.

Rich Mullins remembered – 18 years later

Rich ticket stub

songs still speaking beyond the years, beyond the scars

Eighteen years ago, life changed in more ways than I would have predicted. On July 30, I received a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis. On August 14, my heart was lightened as I attended an absolutely wonderful concert. Rich Mullins had been my very favorite musical artist for a while already – this was likely my fifteenth of his concerts. In fact, I wrote a review for an email list, as I was very touched by Rich’s words and music. But after August came September, and I received a phone call the evening of September 19 that caused my heart to drop.

My younger brother called to share news he had just heard on the radio: Rich Mullins had been in a car accident… and he had died almost immediately. His song “Elijah,” and my high school photo essay, flashed  through my mind. As I leaned against a large oak tree in our back yard, a few silent tears trickled down as I stared into the clear, starry sky.

But this was eighteen years ago. Last year, a new piece of Rich’s legacy was shared in the form of an independent film, Ragamuffin.  Like any story, Rich’s true tale was multifaceted, and the movie does share some of Rich’s scars that were not outwardly evident on this multi-talented musician, poet, speaker, writer. The lyrics of “Hold me, Jesus” ring even truer as we get a glimpse of Rich’s inner struggles.

and I wake up in the night and feel the dark
it’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

so hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Each of us does have “invisible issues” of some kind, and I’m thankful to Rich for being willing share some of his struggles, to admit of the “blisters on his heart.” And to remind us where true peace comes from.

https://angieknight.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/heaven-is-waiting/

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