Take Wings and Fly--December 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

As a mom, I spent the first half of my boys’ lives making them secure. Now, I find that I must learn the harder thing: to let go.  A great-grandmother neighbor of ours told me when I had four under six years of age, “These are the best years of your life.” I remember thinking, “If these are the best years, I want heaven now.” The children were all at home and under my wings. The physical energy required exhausted me. 

Now, I understand her words. Those years I let them choose sugar-sweetened cereal or oatmeal--and the decision only caused tooth decay and hunger. Now, their decisions and actions determine what future opportunities they will have. Oh, to be eating oatmeal again! Now exhaustion at the end of the day is not caused by physical stress but by emotional. We let them go and allow them to fly, fervently praying that the One Who made them and loves them, better than I, will allow their wings to fly where He desires.  

Someone said, “You need to have ten kids, then you’ll find your worry divides down to nothing.” I think more children intensify to give premature greying and wrinkles. But I am learning to let them go, and allow them to fly like God created them. 

I’m sure you want to hear how the boys have flown this year….

Jonas (16 years) has about flown the coop, if he were a chicken. He helped my sister twice in Canada, picked strawberries with friends in IL, visited friends up north and went with us three times to IN to help with family. On the way home by himself, his plane was delayed in Chicago. That caused him to miss his flight at LAX. He spent the night at the airport. When he finally reached home, his luggage was lost. He loves this wing spreading without the rest of the flock slowing him down.

While he was gone, his cow lowered her head, charged me and threw me to the ground. When I came inside, barely walking, Jonathan saw me. (As background, Joey would give the boys a drink when they were hurt. If they drank without crying, they were okay. If they couldn’t drink, then they really were hurt.)  I sat as soon as I could. Jonathan rushed to give me a glass of water. “Here, Mom.” (Like father, like son?) His concern made me laugh, in spite of my pain. 

Another time Jonas was gone, James and I checked his bees. While helping James remove a bee out of his pants, I burned myself on the bee smoker. Somehow when the boys do all this, they don’t get hurt. My wings were a bit singed. 

When Jonas is home, I am assured that any horse or cow’s needs are met. He moves cows to borrowed pastures, requiring no purchased food.  He’s bought and sold several calves at the auction. His wings must always be fluttering. 

Lolly, our milk cow, died. Friends helped haul her from the bottom of a ‘ravine.’ An autopsy showed too many cherries built up gas. So much for a treat. I told Jonas, “It is a good thing that I am not God, because I would not allow bad things to happen to you, and you would grow up to be a weanie and not a man.” 

Jonas planned to develop two bee hives.  With the dry winter (when we get our only rain), there was no food for them. One hive swarmed. We moved the other hive several times protecting them from Buckeye blooms (toxic to the larvae) and fire ants. He killed the queen and introduced larva to groom another queen to produce fertile worker bees. Doing hard things strengthens his wings.

Jonas earned his driver’s license and purchased a vehicle. His wings keep taking him higher and further.

Jacob (14 years) may not have wings but he sure has legs. Friends who help the boys with taxidermy took him duck, coyote, turkey, dove, and deer hunting. He hiked in preparation for it. If you know where we live, there are no flat roads; it is either up or more up. If you measure success by memories and stories, he ranked high on the google listing. Josiah, after listening for one day to Jacob’s hunting recounts, suggested, “Why don’t you write it out, edit it, proof-read it, condense it and then read it to us.”

Jacob started his flock of sheep. He paid for his ewe, borrowed a ram and swapped work for pasture with another flock. His wings may be foot-bound but he keeps stretching my limits.

Jacob’s grown puppy challenges me when Jacob is not here. She races down the hill at full speed to stop before knocking me over. Sometimes she succeeds. She gashed her leg with a two inch cut that required several stitches. If she could just keep her paws on the ground and didn’t think that she could fly, I might be safer.

Jacob pursued photography with a passion. We now have pictures, other than cows and chickens, to put in the boys’ photo albums. He stopped the action of Jonathan’s football games. Who needs wings, when legs will do?

James (13 years) would love to fly. He’s Jonas’s right-hand man taking cows and horses to pasture, staking them and bringing them home. He hatched several batches of eggs. James tried hatching pheasant eggs with one of his hens. After some of his chicks and eggs were missing several days in a row, he discovered a skunk crawling through a fifty-cent size hole. We allowed Jacob’s expertise to alleviate the problem. I have a good recipe for removing skunk smell on boys, just ask. Sometimes you can only wish for wings soon enough.

This year was the first year that we found snakes in his chicken coop—twice. Maybe all the little chicks were too tempting as bait. Grow the feathers fast--for their own protection. 

With James, it is not will he fly, but will he ever come back when he does? 

He asked to show his rooster and hen at the fair. He worked diligently to tame, groom and wash them. I was not happy when our dog killed one. (May he never get another chicken…) We registered him (chicken and James, not dog) for showing at the fair. We arrived at the designated time ready to demonstrate the chicken’s obedience. We registered him wrong. He was not allowed to show. Another example of “If I were God, you would be a wimp.”

Jonathan told Michael (7 years) to put his underwear on first (before his pants). Michael said, “That’s what Mom says, but I don’t understand it. When I grow up, I’m just not going to wear underwear--it’s too expensive.” I must still make some secure before they take wings. 

Joey asked the boys what they were learning from reading Proverbs. James quipped, “To keep my mouth shut.” Oh, to have that wisdom, thrust down my throat.

After Joey explained, “To whom was Ephesians written is like ‘who is buried in Grant’s tomb.’” he asked, “So, Paul wrote Ephesians to whom?” Michael answered confidently, “Grant.” 

Another time, Joey asked the boys how they learned patience that week. Mike answered without thought, “Me.” (If he only knew.) When asked what patience was, he said, “It’s when I ask someone to play checkers with me, then I have to wait.” I do believe he’s sprouting feathers.

Joshua turned ten years old this year, a milestone for our family. We initiate them into ‘manhood,’ with a purchase of a Leatherman. They seem to get younger and younger--that flying thing is really hard for me to allow. He proved his abilities by fixing various things that were ‘unfixable.’ His common question of the day is “Mom, what can I fix today?” Now don’t you all wish for that question!

With baseball season, Jacob and Jonas umped, Josh and James played (James’s last year in this league), and Joey and Jonathan helped coach. I volunteered to shop for snack bar, and ended in charge of it. (I think it goes back to that Proverbs thing, about keeping your mouth shut?) The boys played in the playoff game. They flew around their bases with the speed of one with wings. 

After my mom had a stroke in the early part of the year, the boys and I, (Joey had army duty, Jonathan had football practice) drove back for two weeks this summer.  We learned that following GPS instructions to find Arby’s will take you to a town with an Arby’s but no electricity for the entire town, or another Arby’s will be converted to a car wash, and the last Arby’s, going through Flagstaff, had a flash flood that hit national news—the road in front of Arby’s was flooded. We floated into its parking lot and watched while the highway was closed and water rushed down the street. (The lesson learned: be flexible to eat somewhere besides Arby’s.) The other more important lesson, while allowing Jonas to drive (with just his permit), have plenty to drink so you can gulp down water instead of speaking…

He would remind me, “Mom, I got this….Isn’t this great!” He would glance at me and give his great smile. (Was that supposed to comfort me?) Josiah sat in the back seat praying and wondering out loud how we didn’t get hit by another close call—going from lane one to lane eight in a half mile stretch during rush hour in the city while it poured. Sometimes I need wings to leave the car and see beyond the now.
Jonathan attended Reedley High School for his last year to play football and baseball. Football practice started back in June. He came home from one practice saying, “I must not be as fast as what I thought I was…” I told him that it was good to be challenged by others. He complained of soreness. I responded, “When you lift weights to an excess you will hurt.” A week later, Josiah had chicken pox. He struggled with flu like symptoms for several weeks prior to the spots. When Jonathan found a spot my previous comments came back to smack me. Sometimes, maybe they need God as their God to give them the sympathy that their mother doesn’t give them. 

Those two were out of ‘life’ for another two weeks. They left their room to get a drink, took a break before returning to their room again. Jonathan encouraged me, “Mom, if it takes two weeks for each one of us to get it, we could have chicken pox until the end of the year.” Maybe that’s why I don’t give him sympathy. By the time Jonas and Jacob got sick, we had medicine to help with the effects. James, Josh and Michael suffered with their own spots. Spots with wings don’t mix.

Reedley High School was an adjustment for all of us. Jonathan came home within the first few weeks of school with stories of how his group moved a bench across campus, marked it as theirs, and argued with the girls over it. I said, “Wait, you stole a bench, you claimed it with graffiti, and you fought with girls? What happened to the years of manners that I poured into your life, all gone in two weeks of public school?” He will explain it differently, but… Are the wings crumbled?

Jonathan said concerning his 1,000 word essay assignment about himself, “I only wrote 380 words. There’s only so much I can write without bragging too much.” Those words must have been enough to spread his charm, because he received an “A+” for his efforts.

Jonathan’s protective instincts keep him safe. When another student with his gang asked Jonathan, “Where did you come from?” (that challenge often draws a fight), Jonathan’s apathetic response, “Does it matter?” curtailed confrontation without effort. 

Jonathan’s football season had us all watching. If he could just attach a flashing beeper on top of his helmet, I could find him better on the field. His coaches found the right spot for him to thrive. If his effort alone could knock down people twice his weight, he could have been a power to be reckoned. As it was, he still defended his space. Maybe he doesn’t need wings, maybe just extra padding. 

I'm thinking security is more important than I thought.

Jonathan’s coach awarded stickers for their helmets for good effort. I told him that if stickers were what motivated him, I would give him happy-face stickers for good penmanship. He said that it wasn’t the same.

Jonathan was commenting on how great he slept that morning. I asked him, “In what class?” “Not in class, Mom, this morning.” Maybe I am too hard on him. 

I took Jonathan to the specialist for his thumb—the doctor asked, “On a scale from 1-10 what was his pain?” Jonathan’s response, “Three and later two for the shot they gave him at the joint.” I asked “Why are we here? Anyone who plays football must like pain.” Jonathan later explained that Joey described the pain scale as 8-9 for child birth and 10 was writhing on the floor. He said that he knew he was not in that much in pain. Pain won’t keep his wings from flying.

Adjusting to school was not all entertaining. While standing in the lunch line, Jonathan’s wallet was stolen. If I was God….you already know, the world would be a mess.

After the cow threw me, and later when I slipped requiring me to sit gently for weeks, Jonathan concluded that I was never coordinated. Jacob continues to remind me of my age--since I’m now antique. Just call me ‘classic.’ But I once had wings, if I remember right?

Josiah sold his work truck to purchase a car for school. A wise decision counseled by our mechanic, who gave good tips. Josiah resealed the head gasket and other valves. Sometimes wings learn new skills.

Josiah’s wings are firmly attached. He left our home. He’s joined the Mennonite community in our area. We’ve attended his testimony, communion and Bible lessons. He will leave for Brazil in January for six months. I try to enjoy his visits, but know that it is only a matter of time before his wings take him further away.

Joey John married Rachel at the end of last year. Their pregnancy announcement came as no surprise. One cousin commented, “I didn’t know that Joey John was THAT friendly.” The boys were avidly teasing me about being ‘grandma’ until Joey told them that we would wait to see if they had a boy or a girl before we knew if they were an aunt or an uncle. That kept some of them puzzled for a short while. Emma Faith arrived on October 23rd to seven uncles that awaited holding and squeezing her. Thanksgiving was their first opportunity. They stood in line rather than exercise their wings to make sure their turn was not skipped.

Joey John continues at MSOE in Wisconsin for his final year in mechanical engineering and minor in technical communications. Rachel faithfully supports his endeavors.

Letting go…humorous when they are just learning but still under our direction, harder when they leave on wings of their own. Having children made me more dependent upon God. Relearning they are given to me on borrowed time makes the letting go easier. I’m handing them back to the One Who loves them more than I could. I wouldn’t cut their wings for anything. I want them to soar to new heights that God has planned for them.

What helped me let go is stretching my own wings.  God has given me a passion to write. I’ve completed two books this year, although editing and marketing still consume my time before actual publication.

Can you trust a God Who destroyed a nation before your eyes? Can you believe that He desires to be your friend?

Until My Name Is Known is a romance between God and His People. YAHWEH grabs His people’s attention. He rescues His suffering people through plagues. He woos them through hardships to confide in Him as the only true God. He prepares them to follow Him to freedom. Will they trust Him?

YAHWEH reveals Himself like no other time in all history in Until My Name Is Known.

I put ‘flesh’ to the Biblical narrative of the Exodus. When reading the first chapter of my book out loud to the boys, the boys promised that they’d all lock their bedrooms doors at night to keep me out. (See Exodus 4:21-26) 

Joey supports not only our wingless and winged men but their mother who must watch them leave. He continues holding us all up to the One who knows just how far the wings will take us. He also holds me as we are left behind to watch how God will make them fly.

While I consider my sons’ wings, I’m reminded of Psalm 91:4 which says, “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.” I am grateful that although my wings can’t cover them all any more, I can rest in peace because their God’s wings do.

Christmas is a perfect time to remember God’s protection---for the ultimate provision provided for our salvation through His Son’s sacrifice for us. His wings overshadow us. I can let go, because God has them. He gives me peace.

May your Christmas reveal His wings protecting yours as well. May His peace cover you, too.

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I read your last article and got a good laugh! It reminded me of when Herb and I made a trip to Colorado a few years back with 3 dogs in the back seat of the truck . . . not fun.

I'm glad you and the family made it safe and sound and hope you enjoy your new life in OK.