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/

Thirty Days of Thanks – Day 29 – still thankful!

thankful2

As colds tend to linger, I’m still feeling far from good, but taking things even more slowly leaves even more room to recognize my many blessings! Such as what, you ask?

  1. “Streaming” technology – When sickness keeps two folks at home on a Sunday morning (when they wish they could be in church!), I was extremely thankful that our local service was streamed digitally, and we could follow along with the fantastic message that Tom shared this morning. How nice!
  1. Kleenex – I am so thankful that single-use, disposable tissues are readily available. Having to rewash hankies while dealing with colds would be a rather icky task, I think. I also recall making fun carnations out of fan-folded Kleenex of various colors when I was growing up… whatever the brand, disposable tissues have lots of uses, and I am indeed thankful for them!
  1. Fuzzy socks are wonderful! :)

    aahhh… fuzzy socks!

    Fuzzy socks – Even in the summer, toes can grow cool… I love being able to slip on a pair of fuzzy socks to reduce the chill for a few moments. The socks come off before long, but this particular pair makes me smile as I think of the friend who gave these to me as a birthday gift a couple of years ago. 🙂

  1. goldfinches

    beautiful goldfinches!

    Natural yard – Though our home isn’t exactly rural, it is such a joy to watch and hear signs of wildlife through our windows! We get to see birds, but other critters can be seen also.

  1. Wellness – With my husband and I sick today, I am so thankful that this hasn’t passed on to our daughters! They begin school on Wednesday, so I pray it stays this way. (We’re doing what we can – handwashing can’t be overemphasized!)

I’m thankful for more than I can say… it will be hard to choose five final “thankful things” tomorrow. But what a special experience this 30-day journey has been!

Thirty Days of Thanks – Day 26 – Gen Con Thanks

thankful2

I mentioned on Friday how I wouldn’t be able to post again until Monday, and I said I’d explain. So here we go. On Saturday morning, I was able to travel to Indianapolis, where I spent the rest of the weekend with T.R. and the girls at Gen Con! The time was very full, not to mention tiring, but it was lovely in its own very special ways.

5 things I’m thankful for about Gen Con

  1. It is in Indianapolis! – This convention, which people travel to from around the world, is a 90 minute drive from our home. When we were first married, T.R. spoke of wishing he could attend Gen Con, but then it was in Geneva, Wisconsin, so this just wasn’t going to work. Twelve years ago, it was moved in Indianapolis, and T.R. was first able to attend (and be a part of a booth) four years ago.
  1. Gencon family selfie

    Angie, T.R., Emily and Rachel

    Family event – With a family of self-proclaimed “geeks” (and proud of it!) , this was a lovely way to make special summer memories.

  1. Gencon musicNeat worship together – Sunday morning’s Christian worship service started with nice music led by somebody I’m sure we’d not have seen on the stage at our church (not with that hair piece, anyhow, but she did a lovely job of leading, with the acoustic guitarist beside her). How great to join with few hundred brothers and sisters from different places and various walks of life.
  1. Great messageGencon service – “Here there be dragons” – using Ephesians 6:10-20, the “Geek Preacher” shared the importance of the “armor of God,” particularly peace and truth, grasping our shield of faith.
  1. Special experience for T.R. – He did a wonderful job organizing and running the booth for Modiphius Entertainment – you can see great photos of his experience on his blog, Freelance Knight. You can see why I am so proud of him!

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