Flying to Finland to visit my Grandmother’s birthplace

In July of last year my husband and I flew to Finland to visit my grandmother’s birthplace and to attend a family reunion. We had a nonstop flight on Finnair from Chicago to Helsinki Finland. Relatives met us at the airport.

My grandmother’s travel to the United States was much more arduous. She traveled by boat from Oulu, Finland to the port city Hanko. From Hanko she took another boat to Hull, England, then a train from Hull to Liverpool. As far as I know she traveled alone in 1903.

In Liverpool she boarded the Ultonia (a former livestock carrier). She traveled third class in steerage. She had a bunk, along with many other immigrants, in the hold of the ship. This crowded space had inadequate sanitation, and many of the passengers were seasick. I can’t imagine what she endured.

She arrived in Boston and was directed to a train  that  took  her  to  Chicago.    From Chicago she took a train to  the  Upper  Peninsula  of  Michigan where she was met by two of her brothers.

My grandmother had told family members that she planned to go back to Finland to visit one day. But after completing her journey to Michigan, she decided that she could never make such a difficult journey again. Instead she asked her daughters to promise that they would one day visit Finland.

Vuostimo Finland
House that neighbored my grandmother’s girlhood home (now gone).

My mother, my aunt and my sisters have all made the trip. We are blessed by the ease of air travel.

Linking with the Five Minute Friday Community. Today’s prompt is: FLY

Crisis & Prayer

Today I am joining a community that is writing on the prompt: PAUSE

Life has been on pause.

No, that is not quite right. The nonessentials of life have been on pause.

A week ago my grandson developed a critical illness and has been in a pediatric ICU. My daughter has been at his bedside. My husband and I have been taking care of the other children.

We have been learning their daily patterns, seeing more of their school projects. It has been an intense week. Grandpa has earned the title of Grand Nap Master for his ability to coax the toddler to take a nap.

The days have been stressful but touched with little blessings. We are thankful for the prayers on behalf of our family. A dear friend sent me scripture verses. This one has encouraged me:

Psalm 62:5-6  Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

The evening before major surgery my grandson’s youth group held a prayer meeting. About fifty people, many of his friends, showed up to pray.

We are blessed by God’s love being displayed by faithful friends.

UPDATE: Our grandson is recovering after two surgeries for a bleeding brain aneurysm. We praise God for answered prayer. We are grateful for the skill of the medical team and the advances in medical technology.

UPDATE on 8/3/18: After a summer of therapy our grandson is preparing to begin high school in a couple weeks. We are praising God for his progress and continue to pray for returning strength and adjustment/healing of limitation in his eyesight.

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When the Church Responds to Foster Care Needs

On most Fridays I join the challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Visit this inspiring community by clicking here. Today’s prompt is: PROVIDE

My children are grown and married. Currently we are taking care of my daughter’s children while she and her husband attend a seminar and celebrate their anniversary. As grandparents we are being introduced to foster care—we have two foster grandchildren. My eyes are being opened to the circumstances that many children face.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, 437,465 children in our country were in the foster care system in 2016. The most common reason a child is placed in foster care is neglect (61%). The second most common reason is drug abuse (34%).

I was talking with my son-in-law and he said that poverty is a factor. He has participated in a poverty simulation course and was awakened to the stress that poverty places on a family.

Some children bounce back and forth between foster care and their biological family. It is heart breaking. But I have been encouraged to see the way the church in this community has stepped up.

Last Sunday we attended church with our daughter’s family. A dedication service took place for a young couple and their foster daughter. The children’s pastor invited people that wanted to  support  this  young   couple to come to the front of the church.

About thirty people, from teenage to elderly, walked to the front. They encircled the couple. The young mother had grown up in the foster care system and had been befriended by a family in this church.

My daughter’s family is part of a community of believers who are taking in foster children, providing support to families (children’s clothing, furniture as needed, meals as their family grows suddenly).

The community provides material and emotional support. The love and compassion for children is palpable.

It has blessed my heart to see this faith community engaging in the needs of children. I am so grateful that my daughter’s family has this support system.

Mental Illness Affects the Whole Family

Yesterday I began the task of going through my brother’s papers. After years in psychiatric hospitals and then group homes he passed away last June. I was his guardian.

When I saw the prompt for Five Minute Friday, I was already there emotionally. Sadness and REGRET.

When my Dad could no longer handle his  finances,  I  became  his  rep payee. I have years of bank records and medical records. I am discarding many of the papers, but keeping those that tell his life story.

My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young adult. His illness shattered our family. Each of us was traumatized by the events that took place.

Over the years my sisters and I had our turn as advocate for our brother. We visited him in the hospital and arranged outings.

Among the papers that I accumulated, are papers that my parents saved. I found my brother’s birth certificate. And I found copies of letters that my father wrote seeking better care for him. Letters looking for answers. Letters from hospital administrators, doctors and a senator. A letter from another parent of a mentally ill son.

My brother’s life was tragic. I do wish that I had understood better the heartache that my parents carried for so many years.//

Now I have to trust God’s word.

And I heard a voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

Musing About Family and Privilege

The snow has come as forecasted and the world outside my door is cold and white. It is a good day to stay inside. It is Five Minute Friday—the day that we take five minutes, or just a little more—to write on the prompt that Kate Motaung gives us. Today’s prompt is: PRIVILEGE

There is a great benefit to growing up in a family with both mother and father. When the family reads Bible together and prays, there is additional blessing. This is God’s design. An intact family is not meant to be a privilege, but we live in a broken world.

My daughter and son-in-law have taken in two children through foster care. They have had some contact with the biological parents and are deeply saddened by the brokenness that has led to the child entering foster care. My daughter has shared with me her gratitude for our family, her growing up years.

Sometimes we don’t recognize the privilege we have experienced until we move outside of our comfort zone. Sometimes we need a new perspective. //

Family - Bouquet

As a nurse I had a dramatic change in perspective when I left the hospital labor and delivery unit to attend home births. For years I had taught Lamaze classes, giving instruction on how to stay relaxed, how to breathe, comfort measures for labor. When my clients gave me feedback, they told me about the hospital procedures they encountered. The breathing techniques and relaxation did not always help.

For home birth, the laboring mother is in her home. I was the guest giving her guidance and support. She was able to work with her labor in a way that I hadn’t seen in the hospital.

I am now an advocate of homebirth—with a clear plan for hospital transport when labor is prolonged or complicated. My hope is that hospital staff and homebirth attendants can have increased communication and understanding. All can benefit from a new perspective.

It is a challenge to step outside of our comfort zone. As Christians we have been given a great gift and the ability to reach out to others with love.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the common wealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2: 8, 12-13

 

Talking About Sex

On Thursday evenings I look forward to seeing the prompt  that  Kate   Motaung has chosen for Five Minute Friday. I enjoy linking up with this community of writers and seeing where the word takes us. Today’s prompt is: INTENTIONAL

I was born in the 1950s, before the b.c. pill became widely available

My mother had five of us. The women in my church had anywhere from three to five, maybe six children. My aunt had six children.

I was just out of nursing school when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. I still remember the young woman that was brought in to the  labor and delivery unit where I was working. She was there for a saline induction and as I understood what was happening, I was horrified. The baby would die before being delivered.

The next day I went to the nurse manager and told her that I could never be assigned an abortion case. I wrote a letter about my conviction, and it was placed in my file at work.

I grew up in a different age. The sexual revolution has made things seem common, things that are harmful to women.

I want my granddaughters to know that they should protect their bodies. I want them to know that sex is a deep bond reserved for marriage. It is just one part of a life-long commitment to one man.

I want them to know that sometimes pregnancy is a surprise,  but  it  is  always a gift. Motherhood is hard; it is a self-sacrificing role, but it has many joys. It is a time to get close to God. A time to lean in to Him for strength and guidance.

I will tell them.

All Life is Precious

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Advent and the Family

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son . . . John 3:16

As I think about Christmas and God’s great gift to us, I find it meaningful that Jesus came to a family. He came as an infant to Mary and Joseph, to the family unit. From the beginning, starting in Genesis, God planned the family unit.

We have fractures and brokenness in family life, but it is God’s design for nurture. Jesus came to heal the brokenness. The church family is called to be a place of healing.

My daughter and her husband are taking in two children for foster care, hoping to adopt. This is a stretching experience. We have limited insight into the heritage and health history of the children. We simply know that they need a loving home.

It gives me joy to see my daughter and son-in-law welcoming them into their home. I am blessed in being able to help. As I swaddle and feed the baby he cuddles up against me.

And so I have new insight. As part of a church family my willingness to extend love needs to be stretched. God’s desire is for us to bring healing to those in need.

Five Minute Friday is a community of inspirational writers. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is ONLY.

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A Thanksgiving Birthday

This year I cooked the turkey on Wednesday, a day before Thanksgiving. I scooped out the stuffing and put it in a casserole dish. I deboned the meat and placed it in a  large  baking  dish.   I  put  the  bones in  the  freezer, planning to make broth sometime in the next week.

Turkey

When my daughter and her family came for Thanksgiving my meal was ready. I said to her, “This worked well. I think I might want to do this again.”

She gave me a peculiar look and said, “You cooked the turkey on Wednesday last year too.”

“I did?”

“Mom, the baby was due and we didn’t know when I was going to go into labor. You made the turkey ahead and brought it over on Thanksgiving.”

And then I remembered. She did go into labor late in the day on Thanksgiving. Sometime during the early morning hours of the next day she went to the hospital with her husband—and I went along as extra support.

The birth of my youngest grandson was beautiful. The doctor commented that he wasn’t really needed. Everything proceeded smoothly.

I remember the birth of this little boy,  now  turning  one  year  old.  Memory of the Thanksgiving dinner has faded into the background.

But I think I will keep the tradition of cooking the bird on Wednesday.

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is FAMILIAR.  Visit this community and join the fun by clicking here.

A Mouse in the House

It is Friday and the #FMF community is writing and posting their thoughts on the prompt given by our gracious leader, Kate Motaung. Today’s prompt is: EXCUSE  You can visit the community and join in the fun by clicking here

The cold weather has arrived, and I have found evidence of a mouse on my KITCHEN COUNTER! I washed the counter and placed cotton balls with peppermint oil along the inside edge of the counter.   I  told  my husband that we had to get rid of the mice.

My husband dutifully brought out a mousetrap and set it with a piece of cheese for bait. And the next morning the cheese was gone . . . no mouse.

Dear husband set the trap again. This time he used caramel sauce for bait and set two traps. And the next morning the caramel sauce had been licked off both traps . . . no mouse.

I looked at the empty trap—I am a little skittish about handling a mousetrap. I took a metal knife and set the trap off and then picked it up. I was determined that we were going to catch the critter, no excuses.

I took a small chunk of cheese and worked it in my fingers to make a soft ball and then smashed it on the bait holder. Then I turned the trap this way and that as I figured out how to set the trigger. I set the trap on the floor.

That evening, while we were watching TV, we heard the trap go off. My husband went to look and he came back with surprise written across his face. “You caught one.”

So he took care of disposing of the mouse. I asked him if he was going to set the trap again. He looked at me and gave this excuse, “Well, you’re the one that knows how to set the trap.”

So I set the trap again. We have caught mouse number three. At first my husband’s pride was hurt, and then he realized he had a partner in catching mice. Sometimes we have these little difference to work out as husband and wife. I am glad that he takes the mouse out of the trap.

A Song of Home: Book Review

This past October I met Susie Finkbeiner at the Breathe Conference for writers. I went to her session on dialogue and picked up helpful tips for my writing. I learned that Susie writes historical fiction. When given the opportunity to be on her launch team for A Song of Home, I signed up. It is the third book in the Pearl Spence series. Having finished this book, I will go back and read the first two.

A Song of Home

The book is set in 1935. Pearl’s family has moved from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to Michigan. Pearl is a thoughtful girl, eleven years old. Through her eyes we see the complex troubles in her home and town. Her relationship with her mother has painful wounds.

Will Bliss, Michigan ever feel like home? She attends school and church, but has deep distress over her mother’s choices. She is a reader and finds comfort in the local library. Stories linger in her mind; her musings about life are touching.

Opal Moon brings some order to the Spence household. She offers friendship to Pearl and gives her an outlet for her energy. With music streaming from the radio, Opal teaches Pearl the new dance steps. (I learned about the Swing Era.)

Other women provide guidance for Pearl.   Aunt  Carrie  is  a  rock  of  stability. Mrs. Trask, the librarian, has a gentle kindness. Meemaw isn’t physically present, but her words of wisdom come back to Pearl. Pearl makes a connection between lessons from the Bible and events taking place in her life.

A Song of Home is a well-crafted story of love, forgiveness and hope.

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