Friday, March 10, 2017

Holding on to You

At the most recent Final Friday, I purchased a piece of art. A small sculpture, created by an up-and-coming new artist:  my daughter.

Laurel heard about the "Beneath the Surface" art show and silent auction through her art classes at North High. The show was to highlight February as teen dating violence awareness and prevention month, and proceeds were to go to the Wichita Sexual Assault Center.

Thankfully, Laurel doesn't have first-hand experience with dating violence, but she decided to create a piece for the show anyway. She sculpted a girl out of clay that she imagined was hurt and vulnerable.

Laurel intended to sell her work, but as the girl's form took shape and made it through the kiln unscathed, she began to reconsider. After adding a finishing glaze, she was thinking she might want to keep her. However, Laurel was hoping that if the piece spoke to someone, they would purchase it. So when she submitted the piece, she marked that the art was available for sale.

She named the piece, "Holding on to You," at the suggestion of her classmates. Someone had created a piece "Tear in my Heart," and another had "Polarized" which were all twenty one pilots songs, so hers made a trifecta.

The show was at the Vertigo 232 Gallery, above Hewitt's Antiques. Laurel was a little disappointed when she visited the show. Instead of her sculpture being displayed with the other artwork, it was grouped with the auction items, meaning it was sharing space with the likes of a Mary Kay basket and a weekend getaway package.

Laurel Franklin's sculpture "Holding on to You" at the silent auction

When I got to the show, the bidding had already begun. I upped the bid by $5. The dad of another art student joked that the price would stay there, since people would see that the Mom had put in a bid. He was right. I got a call the next week saying my bid had won. I went downtown to redeem my prize.

When I got home, I tried to find a suitable place to display my art. Just putting her on an end table by my Kleenex box didn't seem quite right.

My coffee table has a glass top, and seeing her suspended in air didn't give the right setting. Plus, she didn't really go with the flower arrangement and candles I had sitting there, and if I cleaned it off, it was too big of an expanse for her anyway.

My marble-topped plant stand that I have in my entryway was the right size, but I didn't think that was the right setting for her either.

Then I tried my wall shelf. On it, I happen to have a wooden cross given to me by my friend Debbie Ford. She gave it to me on a dark day in January when my dad was seriously ill in the hospital. Her dad had made this cross and many like it before his death over a year ago.

When I placed the sculpture on the shelf, everything changed. Suddenly, she was at the foot of the cross. Yes, she was still vulnerable. Yes, her heart still ached. But now, "Holding on to You" didn't seem desolate and futile. Her head was still bowed, not in desperation, but reverence. Now there was hope.

Laurel Franklin's sculpture "Holding on to You" at the foot of the cross
When Laurel got home, she said, "I see you put my sculpture by the cross."

"Yes, I love it there. I think it shows hope." I said.

"I agree," she said. "That's what art does. It speaks differently to different people. That's the beauty of it."



Friday, October 21, 2016

The Secret to Writing

I've always known I wanted to be a writer.

I loved reading, I loved creating "Karen's Kronicle" for Mrs. Friesen's sixth-grade class. I saw the power of journalism when my article in the 7th grade newspaper about our ancient multi-use track and basketball uniforms (we had the same uniforms for both sports) resulted in new track-only uniforms (with no numbers, yea!).

Much to my chagrin, Hillsboro High School discontinued its newspaper, The Oracle, right before my freshman year. I signed up for yearbook instead.

At Tabor College, I joined The View staff right away, and spent three years as managing editor and editor.

As an English major, I wrote countless papers. On several Friday nights I remember lugging books up the concrete stairs of the administration building to the deserted second-floor computer room. Deserted, that is, except for Melodie Hofer, head editor and English education major. We commiserated as we knocked out our assignments or wrote the next week's editorial or column.

But once I graduated, I didn't find a way to be gainfully employed while writing. I took a job to help pay the bills and enrolled in a few journalism classes from Les Anderson at WSU.

In my spare time, I wrote and edited Youth Horizons' newsletter for about five years. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I put together a newsletter for our church, River Community, a gig that lasted for at least a dozen years.

But at different points along the way, I would try to get more serious with my writing.
When my youngest started kindergarten, I visited my former Tabor professor, Katie Funk Wiebe, for bi-weekly mentoring sessions in her apartment 3D. I always thought that was the coolest apartment number ever, and would play with essay titles in my head, like "Mentoring in 3D."
I remember Katie asked me when I wrote, and I said I was planning to write in the mornings after my run. The answer satisfied her.

Putting that into practice was another matter, however.
I had always thought I was disciplined, but without deadlines imposed by a professor or someone on the church staff, I was adrift. Working up a freelance article for a magazine that might or might not want to publish it somehow slipped down the "to do" list after grocery shopping, laundry, and driving for field trips.

Blogging came along, and I started this one so I would have a creative outlet. I could write every day!

Or, at least, once a week.

Time between blogs stretched to a month, then several.

My book club read "Surprised by Motherhood" by Lisa-Jo Baker. I think much of the book grew from her own blog, which she wrote after putting her small children to bed. From what I remember she was working full time and had a two-hour commute--each way. "Well, good for you, Lisa-Jo Baker," I thought.

A few years later at my suggestion my book club read "Notes from a Blue Bike" by Tsh Oxenreider. I remember Tsh described how she purposely would go to bed early, soon after her kids, so she would be able to get up and write on her blog for several hours before her kids woke up. Nearly everyone in my book club disliked this book. I didn't like it very much either, mainly because I figured out Tsh started her blog only a year or so before I did, and she was supporting her family with it. How in the world?

A few months ago I was reading several of Delia Ephron's books (she and her sister, Nora, wrote the screenplay for "Sleepless in Seattle" and several other films). In her book of essays, "Sister Mother Husband Dog" she says her shrink taught her how to write. He told her to sit at her desk from 10 a.m. to noon, then do it again from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Apparently that worked.

My book club recently read "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett, so I was especially interested when I heard an interview with her on NPR. Ann was mainly promoting her newest and most autobiographical novel, "Commonwealth." but she also answered some questions from listeners. One asked about writing, and she mentioned that she put all of her writing advice in an essay "The Getaway Car," which is found in her book of essays, "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage." I checked it out. She said when people who want to write talk to her, she tells them to write for an hour every day for a month, and then get back to her. Few people do.

She also had a lot of things to say about writer's block (doesn't believe it exists), and how she has these beautiful, ephemeral ideas for a novel that float around like butterflies, then she pins them down and kills them.

Strangely, I am encouraged. Perhaps because over the years and across a range of writers I am seeing a pattern emerge in their advice.

In fact, it's the same advice Nike has been advocating for decades.

Just do it.




Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Father's Love

This morning when I was going through my email, intending to read over the Sunday School lesson I would need to present to my 2nd grade class, I got sidetracked by a post from Gospel for Asia. It was about Ruth, who was rejected by her father because she was his fourth daughter and he had wanted a son. In the interview, she says she was a "beggar for love."

But she met some missionaries and eventually was introduced to the one true God who loved her. The women missionaries mentored her and encouraged her to go to Bible college. Before she left, she went to her father to ask for his blessing. When she bowed to touch his feet, a cultural sign of respect, he kicked her in the face.

Several years later, after she graduated, her pastor asked her to return and work in her home church. She declined, saying that her dad was not kind to her. The pastor said her dad had changed. He now believed in Jesus.

When she got off the bus, her dad was there to meet her. He greeted her--for the first time ever--with a warm embrace. "I feel like Heaven has come down," Ruth says.

I was in a puddle of tears by this point. You can hear the story for yourself on my link from earlier today.

But as moving as her story is, I think, "How lucky am I?"

I haven't gone for a day without knowing that my father loves me. I haven't ever thought of questioning it. He's always provided for me. He's corrected me when I needed it (we had a dreaded spanking stick with a hole at the end, so it could hang on a nail, always at the ready).

He went with me to the Pioneer Girls father-daughter basket dinners (note to self, see about having something like that with our church youth group), he read us the Christmas story every year before we opened our presents, even though it was late on Christmas Eve. He sat with Mom when she read my sister and me Bible stories at bedtime, and prayed with us every night until we were well in to elementary school. He read devotions every morning when we were eating breakfast.

He didn't make it to most of my basketball games or track meets, but he didn't miss many choir or band concerts. And when he couldn't attend, I never doubted that he didn't love me. I knew he worked really hard and would have come if he had been able.

And after I'd gotten married, he heard Dobson or someone talk about how you should take your daughters on dates, and I think he felt bad that he'd missed an opportunity. And going on dates with him would have been nice, but I still knew I was loved.

But I think in part to make up for lost time, he and Mom have made a great effort to attend my kids' events. They have been to countless wrestling meets, swim meets, football games, basketball games, band concerts (no choir concerts with my kids), and graduation parties. And they were there in 2009 when I finished my first marathon.

Because I always knew I was loved, it wasn't hard for me to see God as a loving Heavenly Father. So while the Gospel for Asia's story about Ruth is an amazing story of transformation, my story of lifelong love and acceptance is equally amazing.

I remember the moment before my dad led me into the sanctuary at my wedding. He was escorting me and we paused at the top of the stairs. He smiled at me, and while I was clutching his arm, with his other hand he patted my hand. I am so thankful that the very alert photographer captured this moment, because it encapsulates my relationship with my dad perfectly. I am blessed.



Friday, September 16, 2016

Family Promise

I am so excited about a really cool opportunity our church has to help homeless families by partnering with Family Promise of Greater Wichita. When our pastor, Dave Mitchell, first mentioned we might be housing homeless families in our Sunday School rooms my reaction was, "What!?"

Of course, I had visions of trying to teach in my 2nd grade Sunday School classroom with bedrolls and clothes stashed in the corner next to the drawers of crayons and construction paper.

I quickly learned that would not be the case. In the program, Sunday is a transition day, so the cots used by the homeless families would be packed up before church services, and then taken to the next church in the rotation later in the day.

Speaking of cots, they will look like this:


And what's so cool about these brand-new cots is that they're paid for!

The program is planning to serve 14 people at a time, so they needed 14 cots. Our church had a bake sale this summer to raise money for the cots. I meant to bake cookies, but with our lawn service, summer is a busy time and I didn't get any made. However, I was so happy when Dave said he thought our family should donate enough for one cot, because that's what I wanted to do too!

We were not the only West Ridgers exited about this project. The bake sale raised $3613.72, more than enough for all the cots. And you thought Girl Scouts were the experts in cookie sales!

Our church was blessed over two years ago to be able to buy the former Crossroads (and former Country Acres) building near 13th and Ridge. On Sundays we use every inch of it, with babies packed in every nursery, and kids crowded in every Sunday School room or chasing balls and each other in the gym.

But during the week, it's kind of empty. I see the Family Promise concept as part of the new "sharing economy" sort of like Uber and Air B&B. We have the resources, let's put them to use more of the time. The families in the program will hang out at the hosting church in the evening. (Each of the 13 churches will host four times a year, once every quarter). Church volunteers will prepare meals each night. Some might play with the kids. Two church volunteers will be there at all times for security.

During the day, the families will go to a day house, which brings me to another really cool thing.



 Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church donated this house to be used for Family Promise. I grew up in a Mennonite Brethren Church, so it's really cool to see a church from our sister branch of Mennonites lead out in this way. Their branch has historically been more focused on social issues, while the MBs focus more on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But it's my relationship with Jesus that makes me want to extend a helping hand and share Jesus' love with these struggling parents and kids, so I am thrilled to be joining them. I completely agree with the title of Hillary Clinton's 1996 book "It Takes a Village" to raise a child, but if Clinton is looking to the government to be that village, that's where she and I differ. I've always heard that the church can run programs more efficiently and effectively (and offer real hope and real solutions besides) so I am anxious to see what God can do through the people at Family Promise.

I remember reading articles in The Wichita Eagle about the challenges of educating the roughly 2,000 homeless school-age children. One of the biggest hurdles was getting them to school, and keeping them in the same school. One of the really cool things is the school bus will pick up the school-aged kids from the Lorraine Ave. day house. No matter which church they are staying at for night, while they are in the program they will have the stability of the same school.

But how will the families get to the day center? In this 15-passenger van, donated by a family from West Ridge!
At the day center, volunteers will work with the parents to help them find a job, or figure out what kinds of training or classes they need so they will be able to support their families.

As if all of those things aren't enough, last week Family Promise of Greater Wichita named Jacqueline Cook Green as the new Executive Director.


Jacque married our friend Chris Green about a year ago, and I've loved getting to know her. Since moving to Kansas she's been working for a different nonprofit, but before that she worked for Family Promise in Texas, and it's been her great desire to see this awesome program help at-risk families in Wichita. I was so surprised and pleased when I heard that she would be joining them.

Our church isn't scheduled to host until the week of Thanksgiving. I can't wait to see what will happen next.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Worrier or Warrior?

I've always been able to sleep really well. On vacations in unfamiliar hotels or camping, I count on getting a good night's sleep, and I do. When my kids were little, Dave often nudged me awake, "Karen, the baby's crying," so I would breastfeed her or him, then go right back to sleep myself.

Now my kids are grown, nearly out of the house, and I'm finding sleep doesn't come so easy. They aren't always home when I go to bed, but they are expected back. They are driving their own vehicles and motorcycles, so I am finding lots of things to worry about.

I remember Dave's grandma always worrying about her grandkids for various reasons, and motorcycles were the worst. I determined I wouldn't be like that. Dave and I have had hours of carefree riding on the Harley all over Colorado and Arkansas, but last year when Caleb got a Harley and joined us on a few rides around Kansas, I noticed I was constantly checking the rear view mirror to make sure he had made the last turn successfully and was still upright.

Along with their safety, I worry about their futures. Their choices have been different from the ones I expected, and far different from my own. I chose Tabor College, a Christian school that happened to be in Hillsboro, my hometown. Caleb chose the Kansas Air National Guard to help pay for college, studied a semester at Butler but is now thinking he'll follow my brother David's career path and become a lineman. Harrison leaves in a week for New Jersey to begin basic training with the U.S. Coast Guard. I don't know how it will turn out.

So when I wake at night I have plenty of things to mull over. The other night I was nearly consumed with worry. I thought, "Oh no! I've become a worrier." So I prayed.

My long-time go-to verse is Phil 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I am committing to pray that verse when I wake in the middle of the night. Because I would much rather be a warrior than a worrier.



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Brothers and a '57 Chevy

My uncle Al Ediger passed away July 6, and I was able to attend the funeral on Saturday in Grand Island, Nebraska with my parents and sister.

When I think about my uncle, this story that my mom often tells gives a good illustration of the unassuming and thoughtful man he was.

My mom was sixth out of seven kids. Her sister Kathrine was 2nd. The rest were boys. Even though there were five, my mom says, "I never felt like I had too many brothers. I liked them all."

My grandpa Ediger would never be described as "trendy" or "flashy," but he did get a new car every few years, and he was a Chevrolet man. In 1957, he traded in his old car for the latest model. He was surprised and possibly a little embarrassed when his sons expressed keen interest in this fancy '57 Chevy.

At a family gathering about a decade ago, my mom asked if anyone had a picture of that car. I don't know what was said, but months later a package was left on her doorstep. Inside was a framed picture of her family's '57 Chevy. Her brother Al, who drove a pilot car for the last 15 years of his life, had made a detour through Hillsboro to drop it off. My mom was touched by the thoughtful gift, and disappointed that she had happened to run to the grocery store that day and missed his surprise visit.

A few years later, Al called to say he would be driving through Hillsboro that evening and asked if he could stop by. She said that would be fine. It was a few days after Christmas, but on the Epp side we don't usually get together to celebrate until the 28th or 29th, so our family was actually all together reading the Christmas story and opening presents when he arrived. I think he was surprised to find a houseful of people, Typically shy, Uncle Al said he didn't want to intrude, but we insisted he stay for a while. His visit made our Christmas extra special that year.

Al was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer June 6, a month before he died. From what my cousins tell me, they used that month to say goodbye to him, to say the things that in our busy, surface lives don't always get said. Al asked them deep questions about their spiritual lives. They reassured him, he encouraged them. He made sure all of his grandchildren knew that they could ask Jesus into their hearts, and at least one of them did. Then he was ready.

At his request, his cremated remains were placed in a stainless steel box crafted by his oldest son, and driven to the cemetery in his pilot car. Al, however, wasn't there. He'd already taken the highway to heaven and reunited with his brother and grandson, and all the others that have passed before.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Kitchen tours and gooseberry pie

A few weeks ago week I had the privilege of giving my first official kitchen tour. It was for the friends of our house's previous owner. I served gooseberry pie.

What? You've never heard of inviting in the friends of the people you bought your house from? You've never baked them a pie? You've never heard of gooseberries? I see I have some explaining to do.

Gooseberries are a marble-sized sour fruit that grow on prickly bushes. 
I inherited half a dozen gooseberry bushes when we moved into our house in Benjamin Hills in 2013. I was familiar with gooseberries because I remembered picking them on our farm when I was seven or eight. One year my sister and I sold them to the The Iron Kettle in Hillsboro. I think we made $3. Then the bush died, and with it, our source of income.

So when we were in the process of buying the house, I was mildly interested to discover I was to become queen of a gooseberry plantation. I like the sour-tasting fruit in pie, but if I had the choice I would probably choose cherry or strawberry rhubarb instead. However, everyone I met connected with the house--next door neighbors, the executor of the estate, and a friend of the deceased owners--talked about the gooseberry bushes and raved about her gooseberry pie. It seemed she had created a group of aficionados.

I dutifully picked the gooseberries every June, freezing them in bags with four cups each. I think I got two or three bags in 2013 and 2014. Last year, however, was a banner year. The frequent rains came at exactly the right time and the gooseberries swelled plumper than I'd ever seen them, and they kept coming and coming. I put enough in the freezer for eight pies, and then gave away bags to my aunts at a family gathering.

So that brings us up to speed on the gooseberries.

At a funeral of a former neighbor, my husband Dave and I spoke with Gyla, the woman who had been engaged to John, the man who owned our house. Now you need to pay attention, because this is where it gets complicated. Gyla had lived two doors down on the same street for probably 30 years. Her husband had died a few years ago, as had Brenda (of the gooseberry pie fame) the wife of John, the owner of our house. So John and Gyla, who had both lost their spouses, after a time decided to marry each other. They were going to live in John's house, but days before the wedding, he died unexpectedly. I think it was a heart attack. So Gyla ended up staying put in her house, and we bought John's house and became Gyla's neighbor two doors down, until about a year later when she moved to a condo.

We hadn't seen Gyla in a while, so at the funeral Dave was telling her about the renovations to our house. Since that was to have been her home, she had a lot of interest in his description of how we'd removed the L-shaped walls between the living room, dining room, and kitchen. She said she'd love to see the finished project. We told her that when the granite counter tops were installed, we would give her a call.

The granite company took longer than we'd planned, but finally the counter tops were in, and then a week later the island top was installed. Gyla said she was excited to see our house, and she knew of a few people who would be interested as well. Would it be okay to invite a few of John's old friends and the executor of the estate? Sure, I said. We set the day for Tuesday after Easter. I figured since we were hosting our Easter family gathering, the house would still be reasonably clean.

I told Gyla to plan on having coffee and dessert at my place. I got a bag of gooseberries out of my freezer and baked a pie.

Gyla showed up with a gorgeous glass gazing ball, done in a mosaic of greens and turquoise as a hostess gift. I loved it. The tour felt a little awkward at first, since I'd just met most of them. However, the couples were appreciative. They told me they had many good memories of the hours they'd spent in my house over the years. Apparently it was the party house, and whomever lost at chicken-foot dominoes would have to take home the dreaded rubber chicken. The chicken was lost for a while, Gyla said. It had been found in our hall closet when they were cleaning out our house for the estate. The same hall closet that we considered demolishing in our recent remodel, but decided to keep because it contains a heating duct (apparently those are important) and because we wanted to maintain an entryway. Plus, I needed a place to keep my sweeper.

I love stories like the traveling rubber chicken, and it's fun thinking about it roosting in my closet for a season. But what I hadn't thought about was how these people had lost their friend with no warning. Even though several years have passed, the ache is probably still there. Seeing their friend's house again, with the parts that are the same and the parts that have been transformed, might have brought a little closure. Having a slice of gooseberry pie, made with Brenda's (John's wife's, remember?) recipe (she had shared it with our next-door neighbor, so I got it from her) might have brought back some memories that had been tucked away.

And I have to hand it to Gyla--she is a "Why not?" person. Why not take someone up on an offer to tour their kitchen? Why not see if you can bring a few friends? Why not make it a party?

In an email, Gyla offered this bit of wisdom gleaned from her experiences:

"One important thing I learned from losing Gene and then John is that new memories can be made after people die.  When you participate in activities about the things you used to talk about or do with them it adds new joy to those memories."

Out of the gooseberries life has handed her, she has made pie.
My kitchen now with "The Big Island," granite countertops, glass tile back splash, open area above original cabinets, separate ice maker, and new lighting. 

I have lots more stories of our remodel, and I will take more pictures. Stay tuned!

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About Me

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I am a freelance writer. I also work full time with our business, Franklin Lawn Service. My husband, David, and I met as students at Tabor College and we have been married for almost 20 years. We have three great kids, Caleb, Harrison, and Laurel.