Side of Grief

“Aunt __________ had a stroke,” the voice on the other end of the line said. The bottom fell out from under me. I gripped the counter for support.

After multiple moves from hospital to hospital and some new factors, the prognosis is not good. Aunt _______ has a special place in my heart, only seven years my senior and a writer (journalist) with a quick wit and a heart for hurting children. She has been a constant fixture in my life and is famous for our coffee dates that last for hours while we talk about everything and nothing.

Grief sucks energy and leaves me drained. To add to that, over the past several weeks my family has suffered its share. A dear aunt from the other side of the family slipped away far too quickly. I got a text at 4:30 am that she was gone. My sister-in-law spent nearly a week in the hospital while I was on vacation (and no one told me). That news shook me. I called her as soon as I heard and was relieved to hear her voice on the other end.

I’m a deep, slow processor. While others are microwaves, I’m a woodburning stove, the embers burn slowly. I almost didn’t write this post because my processor is still creaking slowly away, but I felt I had to share this message, one I have experienced over and over: Grief and joy co-exist. I didn’t used to believe this. I thought that I could be happy or sad. Turns out joy is not happiness. It’s a fruit. It need to seed, to flower and then to produce a tiny fruit that matures until it is ready to harvest.

Charles Dickens said it best:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Fifteen years ago I had two seasons burst forth at the same time. My new kids came home from Poland and at the same time, my Bud (step-father) labored to breathe in ICU. I had the joy of my whole family together at last and the grief of losing Bud. He died a week into the kids’ new life in the states.

Last week, with the devestating news of my aunt pressing on me, I almost cancelled Camp Lemon-Lime, a family camp here at my home for the kids and grandkids. I followed through because I know joy and grief can and should co-exist. He prepares a table for me in the presence of mine enemies. He provides daily manna. I trust that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and He is good. He gives good gifts.

Camp Lemon-Lime Lucy goggles
Ready to swim!

We swam, jumped on the trampoline, ate S’mores every night while we sat round the campfire and watched the fireflies light up in the distance. I napped in a hammock one afternoon while the grandkids napped after two swim sessions. I battled it out in the pool with sponge balls and laughed hard and long with Sam and Theo, Jerry, Adam and Rafal. Audrey, Amerey and I chatted and read aloud to one another while lounging in lawn chairs on the front lawn. And…sometimes I cried quietly, sometimes out loud.

Camp Lemon-Lime Let me help you with those!
Let me fix those for you!

In the midst of all the fun, a dear friend was wounded deeply. I shot her a few texts and said some prayers and wished I had some sturdy, strong boxing gloves I could put on and to into the ring for her.

Camp Lemon-Lime Pip and Hunter

Camp Lemon-Lime ended Sunday. Jerry and I drove the hour and a half to visit my aunt. The situations are still there, active, living, breathing, causing pain and suffering, yet, my joy is there too. I have a brown paper bag full of memories, moments of connections, play-doh at the dining room table and a long story telling, jumping on the trampoline like popcorn. Sweet conversations that begin with, “Ni Ni, COME!”

Camp Lemon-Lime amerey belly
Please show your pregnant belly, Amerey. Going for a walk. Lucy has her backpack with her Wendy doll safely tucked inside.
Camp Lemon-Lime Sam
Night Swim/kayaking with help from Uncles Hunter and Gregory creating some white water!

There is sometimes snow in summer. Seventy degree days in December. Joy and grief blast in at once. Weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning with tousled heads and bowls of cereal in the library pouring over nature guides.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday!

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25 Days of Survival Tips: Count down to Christmas, Day 8

51695-img_0058Tip 8-

Do something for someone else and have the kids participate.

You know the old saying “it is easier to do something yourself than to ask for help”? Throw it out the window. Let’s replace that with something more meaningful and eternal, “it takes time to train others and be patient when they don’t know what to do, but the time is an investment, not a waste.” Time is a precious and irreplaceable resource, but people are more precious. Some of our children have gifts that we are not even aware of. And isn’t this the season of giving gifts. Let’s let our children give their gifts to the Christ child and watch them grow!

This season, two of my children and I have been involved in a major production of Scrooge, A Christmas Carol. Ania helped with props backstage serving the Stage Master, George Yost. Rafal handed out mics. under the direction of Bud Ervin, the Tech master. My original job was diction coach and drama team leader which morphed into one of several stage directors. My kids jobs morphed into other jobs too which they willingly fulfilled. See the photo below? Amazing! All of us under the direction of Jeff and Heather Nichols (middle) and their girl Friday, Ashley Curry.(bright blue dress on left) Everyone in the photo taken by talented photographer, Jessica Lueken, served with kindness and not competition.

This season let us use our resource of time and ourselves and pour it like a precious drink offering into the kingdom!  And let me tell you, the kingdom is fun, it is not dry or boring. It is exciting and energizing to work side by side with brothers and sisters!

The most important harvest of this season is new names written in the Lambs Book of Life. The Lord used the vehicle of Scrooge to do just that. Thank you Jesus for new siblings in the kingdom!

More photos on my facebook page- Positive Adoption!  Videos of the performance will be available soon, if you are interested message me, email me, or tweet to @kathguire!

Holiday Happiness

Eleven years ago the Guire family ate Thanksgiving dinner in an orphanage in Sulejow, Poland. No, the Polish do not celebrate Thanksgiving. There was no turkey, no mashed potatoes, no homemade rolls or cranberry sauce. No one mentioned Chief Powhatan or John Smith. In fact, I could not understand the most of the conversation going on at the table. I don’t speak Polish well, just a few phrases. Yet, I was happy, joyous, thankful beyond measure.

We had already attended one hearing to determine whether we could adopt our children or not. The verdict? We would be able to adopt all four siblings: Damian, Gregory, Ania and Rafal. Our family would grow from five to nine after the next hearing in December.

Eleven years later, I am still thankful for the same thing-family. All those years ago, I was on the brink of becoming a mother of a large family, but not overnight. Before the adoption, there were many labor pains, many prayers, many heartaches and disappointments. That is life. Anything worth having is HARD work. There are no easy passes.

This Thanksgiving, when I sat around the table and listened to my children talk about what they were thankful for, ‘family’ won the most points. Family is the foundation that society was built on, God puts the solitary in families, that is what the Word says. It doesn’t say, God gives the lonely an X-box or lots of clothes/money. It says he gives them families.

When Jerry and I adopted a sibling group of four, we weren’t just giving them a place to live and food to eat. We gave them a family which includes sisters, a brother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and now nephews.

With this large extended family comes fun and games, but also wisdom, teaching, advice, love, long conversations, coffee at Barnes and Noble with Grandude, cousins and aunts, dinner table talks, traditional present exchanges, Advent readings, movie watching, shopping, left-over eating and the list goes on.

It is so much that these activities occur, most of them can be done solo, it is that they are accomplished together. All of these are building blocks for belonging. Everyone wants to belong; it is an innate need. All of this belonging leads to a relationship with the heavenly Father. Those who have a family know how to behave in one. Those who have acceptance of a Father are more likely to accept a heavenly Father. Those who have experienced mercy at the hand of their parents are more likely to accept the mercy and forgiveness of sins offered by Jesus.

A few years ago, my daughter Amerey attended a retreat and during an activity learned that she was the only one in her group that had experienced family meal time as a regular habit growing up. A college student who came to stay with us for a few days commented to me, “your family is different than my family.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, you talk. You play games. My family all goes in separate rooms. We don’t talk,” he said.

Family is not just your last name. It is a safe haven, it should be. I have spent so many years working on attachment with my kids that I didn’t realize how many traditions that we were building together. The topic of discussion at family mealtimes started as a way to help my newbies form complete sentences in English and to interact with each other. Early topics included: my favorite thing I did today, the best thing that happened today, and I what I wish would have happened.

Today, teens ask to pick the topic at dinner even when they have friends over. It’s a tradition. All those years ago, in the orphanage, I sat in the cafeteria just basking in thankfulness for my new children. I didn’t understand most of the table talk then, but I didn’t care, I just enjoyed it. Today, I don’t understand some of table talk that teens choose such as, “Mom, how would you survive an zombie apocalypse?” “What’s your favorite kind of truck?” “What would you need to climb Mt. Everest?” I just listen and enjoy.