Tag Archive | family

Dinnertime

Abbey Hungry 05-12-08

Abbey used to let us know when she was really hungry by bringing us her metal dish – and dropping it on the kitchen floor, making a clatter capable of waking the neighbors.

I guess today is a good day to talk about dinnertime. It’s Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday – a time of feasting the day before beginning a forty-day fast for Lent. Mim and I are planning to go out for a musical feast tonight – an organ recital by Thomas Trotter (a fantastic organist from England) at the Overture Center in Madison. We’ll probably stop at Culver’s for a cheeseburger and fries on our way there. If the flavor-of-the-day is really good, we might splurge on a small dish of custard – but only if it’s a really good flavor. The real feast of the evening will be musical.

Bread for the Journey coverOver the past few days I’ve been reading about “the meal that makes us family and friends” in the book Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith by Henri J. M. Nouwen. The reflection for February 15 in this daily devotional book started with these words:

We all need to eat and drink to stay alive. But having a meal is more than eating and drinking. It is celebrating the gifts of life we share. A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events. Around the table we become vulnerable, filling one another’s plates and cups and encouraging one another to eat and drink. Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst. Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body.

During most of my growing up years, Sunday dinner, eaten about 1:00 p.m., was the most special meal of the week. My mom usually put a roast in the oven before we left for Sunday school so that it would be almost ready when we got home from church, between 12:15 and 12:30. Mom had the potatoes peeled and waiting in the pressure cooker.  She turned the burner on to start the potatoes and grabbed a package of our own garden vegetables from the freezer, either corn or green beans. While the potatoes and vegetables were cooking Mom made gravy, and last of all she mashed the potatoes. My job was to bake some refrigerator rolls and set the table. Then the whole family gathered around the table, Danny and I said the “Come, Lord Jesus” prayer, and we ate and talked and laughed together. Often my Grandma Kenseth joined us for this meal. The meal ended with a dessert of homemade cookies, cake, or pie – and always ice cream.

What made this meal so special every week was that it was the only meal we all ate together. My dad was usually in the barn milking cows when the rest of us ate breakfast, and also when we ate supper. On weekdays, my dad was the only one home at noon. My mom was at work in Madison, and Danny and I were in school. Sunday dinner was the special time to eat together.  Besides sharing the meal, it was also a time for the whole family to be involved in conversation. I guess those Sunday dinners were pretty instrumental in forming our identity as a family.

In 1973, when I first met Mim and she invited me to share her apartment with her until I could find an apartment of my own in Chicago, Mim and I went out for dinner at the Buffalo Ice Cream Parlor (for cheeseburgers and hot fudge sundaes) to get to know each other a little, and to clarify our expectations as roommates. One of the rules Mim insisted on is that we eat meals together whenever possible, and that we would share equally in the cost of all groceries. I think Mim’s concerns were mostly about not wanting to keep track of which food belonged to each of us. But as Nouwen suggests, “Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body.” Maybe Mim had an inkling of how important it is to share mealtime.

Mim and me, ready to sit down for Easter dinner in the dining room of our apartment in Chicago. We’re still dressed up from church.

Sharing meal time provides an opportunity for developing relationships better than almost any other activity. I was surprised to learn that this is true even for business meals. When I worked for Northwest Industries in Chicago I frequently had to travel on business. During those years I ate plenty of restaurant meals alone. I usually went to the restaurant with a notebook to outline plans and draft reports while I ate. But whenever I went out to dinner with a business associate instead of eating alone, I found that I got to know the person beyond the business context. By “celebrating the gifts of life we share” together over a meal, a genuine friendship usually developed. Meal time truly was a special time, even on business.

Twenty-some years later when Mim and I turned our farmhouse in Cambridge into Country Comforts Bed & Breakfast, we made the decision to have all our guests eat breakfast together around the dining room table. As our guests ate, we stayed in the dining room to refill coffee cups and to be sure food was passed around the table, and also to encourage conversation among all the guests. (We usually had four to eight guests at a time.)  One morning, near the end of breakfast, I remember a young man said, “I was dreading this breakfast – having to eat together with strangers, but I’m really enjoying it. I feel like we’re all friends.”

B&B Guests at breakfast

B&B guests at breakfast in our farmhouse

When we changed Country Comforts B&B into Country Comforts Assisted Living, we changed from sharing our breakfast time to sharing all meal times except breakfast. Mim and I and our residents all like to start our day at different times, so we each eat breakfast on our own. But lunch and dinner are always shared meals. I think that is a big part of what transforms our residents from being strangers living under the same roof into becoming caring family members of the Country Comforts family.

Sharing a meal with our Country Comforts family

Sharing a meal with our Country Comforts family

Today’s reading from Nouwen says, “The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to one another…. We invite our friends to become part of our lives. We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurture us.”

I’m glad Nouwen’s book prompted me to think about meal time. Whether we’re feasting for Fat Tuesday or eating more modest meals throughout Lent, it’s good to remember that “A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events…. Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst.”

Our extended family gathered around our extended table for Thanksgiving dinner in Chicago, 1984.

More on that Reflection in the Mirror – and in the Photo

Floey sitting w patio door reflectionIn last week’s blog post I wrote about Floey’s reaction to seeing her reflection, and I changed the words of a familiar old song to “How Mean is that Doggie in the Mirror?” Then, personalizing it, I rewrote the simple lyrics again with the words “How Kind is that Person in the Mirror?” This week Floey and I have some more thoughts about reflections that we see of ourselves…

This time of year is significant for our family, and I was talking with Floey about that on Saturday. “Hey, Floey, do you know what today is?”

Floey-Marian faces selfie 2“I sure do, Mom! It’s the second day of my one-year birthday celebration. You do know I have a 2-day birthday, don’t you?”

“Well, I guess you might say that,” I replied. “Your adoption record says you were born on January 23, 2014, but your first vet record has a hand-written birthdate that is either January 24 or January 29 – I can’t tell for sure. So I guess we could celebrate your birthday throughout January 23 and 24, if you’d like.”

“Yup. That’s what I want to do – every year – a 2-day celebration!” she said with her tail wagging.

“OK, that’s what we’ll do,” I told her. Then I added, “You chose a really special time of year to be born, Floey, at least for our family.”

“Really? What else is special – besides my birthday?”

“We celebrate the nine days from January 24 to February 1 every year. On February 1, 1973 I met Mim in a small group Bible study, and she invited me to share her apartment with her until I could find a place of my own. I never moved out. On February 1 of this year we will have lived together 42 years.”

“Wow! That’s 294 dog years!” Floey exclaimed. “But what happened on January 24 that gives you reason to celebrate all those days between January 24 and February 1?”

“On January 24, 1989 – 26 years ago – Mim and I had a Blessing Ceremony. It was our time to publicly declare our love for each other and to promise to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives. Our Lutheran pastor performed the ceremony. Our attorney was there with our wills and power of attorney documents to be signed and witnessed for us to convey to each other as many ‘spousal rights’ as we could.”

“Does that mean that you’re really married? That we’re really a family forever?”

Floey-Marian working at desk 2“Of course it does, Floey. But for legal purposes we had a legal wedding in Minnesota a year and a half ago. That’s another date we celebrate – September 15.”

“I’m sure glad I joined this family! We celebrate a lot!”

“We sure do, and the nine-day stretch of January 24 through February 1 is the special time we’re celebrating right now.”

“Hey, we can make it a ten-day celebration, by having it begin with my birthday!”

“I guess we can, Floey. But now, maybe you can help me pick out some pictures to use. I want to create an anniversary card for Mim. I’ve got lots of old photos to choose from.”

Ch-1 MM front of Xmas treeFloey stared at an old photo. “Is that really you, Mom? It can’t be. Those two young women look really happy, but they don’t look very wise. And they are long-haired people. Were you and Mim ever long-haired?”

“Yes, Floey. We were both long-haired people when we were in our twenties. Can’t you see any resemblance to us at all in this picture?”

“I don’t know, Mom.”

MM 1988 church picture cropped“Well, how about this picture. It was taken about 15 years later for the church directory. We knew we had found the right church when the pastor said that of course we could have our picture taken together as a family for the church directory. That’s the pastor who married us with a blessing ceremony a couple years later. Here’s a picture from the ceremony.”

BC-1 MM Steve“I guess I can see you in that picture. Old pictures give funny reflections of who you are, don’t they. They aren’t quite like mirrors. Or maybe we can say they are mirrors that reflect our history.”

“You’re right, Floey. That’s a good way to say it.”

I flipped through some more pictures in the photo album. Floey jumped up and said, “Is that you and Mim holding that blond puppy?”

Ch-1 MM Megabyte on couch“Yes. That’s Megabyte. About a year after our blessing ceremony we adopted our first dog. We were ready for our family to grow. A year later we adopted our second dog, Maia. She’s in this next picture along with Megabyte and Mim’s mom who lived with us for five years.”

M-M-Selma-Meg-Maia cropped“I’m glad you have these family pictures so I can see my older sisters and see all the love that has been shared in my family.”

“I’m glad you can see the love in these family pictures. That’s what I really hope these reflections of our family life over the years show. The next picture is only a couple years old – so you should easily recognize us. It’s a family portrait with Abbey, our last dog before you came to us. Do you think we still look as happy as we did on our first picture? And have we started to look wise yet?”

PID 445601 Back Cover Family Portrait“Oh, Mom, I can see love and happiness in all of these pictures. I think there might be some wisdom starting to show too – in the gray hair and the extra weight (probably gained by sitting around pondering life’s mysteries). But you don’t have any family pictures with me in them yet. When can we get our picture taken together?”

Mim-Floey-Marian 01-06-15“That will happen soon. Remember I took that selfie a couple weeks ago. Pretty soon we’ll start taking more pictures. We want our photo history to reflect as much of the love and joy in our lives as possible.

“I guess I need to write another verse for our doggie song.”

How loving is that family in the photo?
The one with the moms and the dogs.
How loving is that family in the photo?
I hope they’re still keeping photo logs.

“That’s kind of a strange lyric, Mom. Can’t you do better than that?”

“Well, Floey, what words can you think of that rhyme with ‘dogs’?”

“I see what you mean. I’ll stick with ‘woof, woof’ – that always rhymes.”

Floey adoption photo

Awful August – except for …

Broken Glass grass and skyDoes it ever seem like your world is shattered? That life is suddenly broken? For some of my family members, that’s what August has been like this year.

I guess I would describe August 2014 along two tracks of events. One track is affecting my broadly extended family. The other track is affecting Mim and me mostly, and a few other unrelated people. I feel like I’ve been running as fast as I can along the “Mim and me track,” but the “broader family track” keeps pulling me over to slow down and cry with my family and wonder what’s happening in our world.

Sandy and Conrad looking out their kitchen window while hospice volunteers did spring yard work.

Sandy and Conrad looking out their kitchen window while hospice volunteers did spring yard work.

Perhaps I should begin by explaining who my “broadly extended family” includes. My brother, Danny, married his high school sweetheart, Sandy, shortly after they graduated from high school in the mid-1960s. They had two kids, Cindy and Kevin. As Danny and Sandy matured, they grew in different directions and divorced when their kids were still young. Danny and Sandy still stayed in contact over the years, primarily because of their kids. They both remarried twice, bringing more in-laws and nieces (no more nephews) into the family. We’re a big, complicated (but probably fairly typical) extended family. I think of Sandy as my first sister-in-law. She is still part of my “broadly extended family.” I knew Sandy in high school, even before she dated my brother. I’ve always liked and admired Sandy. She made me laugh a lot with her quick wit.

Sandy and Conrad holding handsSandy has been in declining health for the last few years, even though she’s only 67. Several months ago Kevin took the picture of his mother and her husband, Conrad, holding hands when she was in the hospital. Kevin had gone to visit her, and he found them both asleep but still comforting each other.

A few days later she was released from the hospital, to go home on hospice. Conrad would take care of her at home.

On Monday evening, August 4, Conrad went to Subway to get sandwiches. He was killed in a car accident on his way home, on the street right in front of their home.

Sandy was devastated. She lost all will to live. She died 16 days later. Her funeral is today.

Kevin has three daughters and his sister Cindy has two sons – all who lost two very loving grandparents in August. It’s been a very sad month. We’re reminded of the observation in Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” But it’s really hard when two deaths – of people you love deeply – come so close together. Too much time to weep. Too much time to mourn. And no time to laugh and dance.

Farmhouse exterior - summerOn the “Mim and me track,” our farmhouse is moving quickly into its next phase. As you may recall, six years ago we turned the farmhouse into a bed-and-breakfast style spiritual retreat center. We named it Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. A year and a half ago we put Whispering Winds on hiatus and agreed to rent the farmhouse to a family who needed a place to live for a couple years. On August 3rd the renters moved out, five months earlier than planned. We were okay with that because the renters were able to buy a home of their own sooner than they expected, and we really wanted to spruce up the place and try to sell it.

A few days before the renters moved out, I received an email from someone (Jeff) who wanted to talk with me about collaborating on reopening the farmhouse as a retreat center. Eventually Jeff would like to buy the place, but for now he wanted to see if we could work together to reopen the farmhouse as a retreat center. We scheduled a time to get together at the farm and talk. That meant Mim and I had just over a week to “spruce” up the place before our meeting.

We quickly realized that we had a bigger clean-up job on our hands than we had anticipated, and we would need help. Amazingly, within that one week in early August, we had two women from a cleaning service deep-clean the five bathrooms and the kitchen; five men from a landscaping service spend a full day weeding, pruning, and removing three truckloads of brush from the yard; another handyman mow our 3-acre lawn and spread 8 more yards of mulch (he had spread 10 yards earlier in the season); our HVAC service man clean the furnace and repair the central AC; and a friend help us carry a dozen heavy boxes of dishes, glasses, flatware, and other furnishings up from the basement. With all that help, the house was presentable for our meeting with Jeff to explore the possibility of collaborating on a retreat center.

The next week, we had a friend paint walls and ceilings as needed throughout the house, reinstall parts of the kitchen cabinets, and replace the garbage disposal and faucet in the kitchen sink. Mim and I worked, too – mostly moving around furnishings to make the house look like a B&B retreat center again. It was an amazing transformation! Oh, and we also bought a new range to replace the one that had been accidentally damaged beyond repair by trying to clean the self-cleaning ovens with a spray-on oven cleaner. (Caution: Don’t ever do that!)

We were amazed. With the help of half a dozen friends and half a dozen strangers, our farmhouse was completely transformed within a couple weeks – all within the same timeframe between Conrad’s death and Sandy’s death.

Stone Meadows Condominiums

Stone Meadows Condominiums

The day after our meeting with the retreat guy (which had been a great time for sharing ideas, but probably not the beginning of a retreat collaboration), our realtor showed the house to a prospective buyer. Thanks to all the help we had received over the past week the house and 3-acre lawn were completely ready for showing!

But then everything changed. Our friend Sharon, who was renting one of the condos in the duplex next door to ours, was told that her condo had been sold and she would need to move out within a month or so. Sharon is the friend who had welcomed “Mary,” one of the 93-year-olds we care for, as a short-term roommate because we didn’t have room for her in our condo.

So… that’s what the next phase is going to be in the life of our farmhouse… Sharon and “Mary” are going to move into the farmhouse next month. Sharon may also invite her 90-year-old parents to join her for the winter months. We’ve talked with our real estate agent and have decided to take the farmhouse off the market. It seems pretty obvious that this is where Sharon and “Mary” need to be for the next several months.

That’s August 2014. Track one is filled with sadness. Track two is filled with fast-paced problem-solving and lots of hard work. Between the two tracks, we’ve been able to deeply sense God’s presence, God’s comforting love. I guess that’s why I played “God Will Take Care of You” for the prelude last Sunday in church. The awful August of 2014 demonstrates this truth. We’re not in this world alone. God is with us, as are the friends and family God has sent to comfort us, as well as the kind strangers God has ready to help us with our various challenges.

Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you;
Beneath God’s wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

Refrain:
God will take care of you, Thru ev’ry day, O’er all the way;
God will take care of you, God will take care of you.

Thru days of toil when heart grows frail, God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.

All you may need God will provide, God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you.

No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon God’s breast, God will take care of you.

[Civilla D. Martin, 1904]

Gods presence butterfly

“Family”

Mim and Marian eating lutefisk dinner at St. Olaf College about 40 years ago.

Mim and Marian eating lutefisk dinner
at St. Olaf College about 40 years ago.

About 40 years ago, I went “home” with Mim for the first time. We drove from Chicago to Kenyon, Minnesota, at least a seven-hour drive, the first weekend in December. In Kenyon, we picked up Mim’s mom, Selma, and drove another 15 miles to go to the St. Olaf College Christmas concert. Mim’s mom, who worked in food service at St. Olaf, was able to get us tickets for the concert, a major achievement for a very popular annual concert.  That was the first of many St. Olaf Christmas concerts I went to with Mim and her mom.

That was also the first time I went with Mim to her home church, Gol Lutheran Church in rural Kenyon. It had been Mim’s family church on her mom’s side for four generations, ever since they immigrated from Norway. Also, Mim’s dad had been the pastor at Gol for 20years.

Mim - Selma outside church 125th adjMy first reaction to Mim’s church was – what a beautiful old country church. I was a little frustrated with trying to follow the liturgy, which was much more structured than I was used to, having grown up a Methodist. Mim’s mom was proud to have her daughter and her roommate home for the weekend, so we stood around and talked to a lot of people after the service. That was not my favorite part of the weekend! Making small talk with strangers has never been one of my strengths.

Over the next 20 years, Mim and I went to Kenyon to visit Selma one or two weekends a year, and we always went to church with her. Gradually, I got to know a few of the people in the church and I started to feel a little more at home there.

Mim - Selma by organ 125th cropped

Mim and Selma at Gol’s 125th Anniversary

In 1989, Gol celebrated its 125th anniversary in style. Mim and I joined Selma for the whole weekend, and we all enjoyed lots of music, lots of eating, lots of picture taking, and an original play that taught us lots about Gol church history.

Twenty-five years later, last weekend, Gol celebrated its 150th anniversary. Mim really wanted to participate in the celebration. I was considerably less enthusiastic about spending a whole weekend in Kenyon, Minnesota with a couple hundred people I didn’t know.  At best, I might know two or three people. But, I figured this is one of those things you have to do for family. So we spent the weekend in Minnesota.

Much to my surprise, I had a great time all weekend. “Family” really is the key word. As Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, has said, “I go to church as an expression of my need for God and for God’s family.” We spent the weekend with one particular branch of God’s family. We were with about 250 of God’s family members – almost all of Norwegian descent. I think everyone had great appreciation for Norwegian-American church history, food, and music. Of the 250 people, I recognized about a dozen of them from my previous visits to Gol. Mim introduced me to about another dozen of her old friends. All 24 of them were people I enjoyed visiting with. I’ll have to admit, it was kind of fun to get together with this big extended church family.

The Rev. John Hagen, a former pastor of Gol, preached briefly from the steps of the farmhouse where the congregation met before the church was built.

The Rev. John Hagen, a former pastor of Gol, preached briefly from the steps of the farmhouse where the congregation had met before the church was built.

Finally I’m beginning to understand that my extended church family is growing bigger and bigger. It started with the church of my childhood  – Willerup United Methodist Church in Cambridge. Even though Willerup is no longer the church where I regularly go to worship God, I still feel connected to some of God’s family members who worship there. I also feel connected to the building itself where I spent literally thousands of hours (on average 4 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, 18 years plus 4 summers during my college years) learning about God. I also feel a connection to the cemetery next door where my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and other relatives are buried.

My growing extended church family also includes members of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Chicago, Messiah Lutheran Church in Madison, as well as other churches I have been a part of over the years. And since Gol is a big part of Mim’s church family, it has also become part of my church family.

The more I think about my extended church family, the more I realize how big it really is. Beyond all the church family members I know personally, God’s family is described in the Bible this way:

Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian. What a foundation you stand on now: the apostles and the prophets; and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ himself! We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God. And you also are joined with him and with each other by the Spirit, and are part of this dwelling place of God. [Ephesians 2:19-22 The Living Bible]

Spending last weekend with all the people celebrating the 150-year history of one small branch of God’s family in Minnesota reminded me of the Bill Gaither song, “The Family of God.” Here’s the chorus:

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod;
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

Gol Group Picture 125th

“Part of the family, the family of God”

The Three Big Questions in Life

Abbey-MarianWhat a walk! Sunday afternoon was a time for spring fever. Bright blue sky. Snow-covered fields. Temperatures in the upper 30’s. And no wind. Mim, Abbey, and I walked down country roads for well over an hour. The highlight of a weekend of highlights! After that refreshing walk, Abbey and I were ready for the conversation we meant to have for last week’s blog post.

“You’re right, Abbey. We need to take more of these long walks. They are so refreshing. We need to do everything we can to avoid being too busy,” I said to Abbey as we sat down in the living room.

She responded to me, “Now that I’m 70 years old – 10 in human years – maybe you’ll give me credit for having some wisdom. I know how important leisurely walks are for all of us.”

“You’re right, Abbey,” I conceded. “Even though this was an awfully busy weekend, I’m glad we found time for this walk.”

The birthday girls - Anna turns 92 and Abbey turns 70

The birthday girls –
Anna turns 92 and Abbey turns 70

Abbey smiled and said, “Saturday was the really busy day. I never knew anyone else had my birthday. I’m glad we celebrated Anna’s birthday. Turning 92 is quite an accomplishment. My turning 70 is nothing in comparison to that. I’m glad such a nice woman lives with us. It was fun to help Anna open her presents. She appreciated every gift she received, but I think what she liked most was having her family visit – all three generations of her offspring were reperesented. Oh, and getting lots of phone calls from other family and friends, too.”

I replied, “It was fun to see Anna and her family having such a good time together. Birthdays are so important because they bring friends and families together to specifically honor the birthday person. With birthday celebrations, everyone is reminded of how much their friends and family love them.  By the way, Abbey, there’s another person who’s special in my life and who shares February 23 as her birthday together with Anna and you.  My mom would have been 105 on Saturday. Actually, that’s why we set your birthday for that date. We think you were born in February, but we don’t know for sure. All we know is that you were about 3 years old when we adopted you. My mom loved dogs, and she would have loved to share her birthday with you.”

“That’s nice. I wish I had known her.” Abbey hesitated, then added, “I wish I knew more about my past. I’m glad you adopted me, but I wish I knew more about where I came from.”

“Interesting to hear you say that, Abbey.  Mim is reading the book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays. She just told me she read that the three big questions in life are Where did I come from? Where am I going? and Why am I here?”

“Well, I guess I’ll never know the answer to the first question.”

“That’s probably true, but you’re not alone with that, Abbey. Last week I read the book, Andrew, You Died Too Soon, by Corinne Chilstrom. Andrew, who had been adopted as an infant, committed suicide at age 18. His mother wrote this book. She said that trying to learn where he had come from was the biggest issue that plagued Andrew throughout his short life. Knowing our family roots is extremely important to understanding who we are and what we will become. Abbey, I’m sorry that you will never know your roots. At least you get to play with some of your distant cousins on the golden retriever side of your family. That must give you some clues about your family history.”

Abbey's cousins out for a ride.

Abbey’s cousins out for a ride.

“Yeah, playing with Holly and Sadie and Piper helps.” Abbey paused, then said, “Let’s talk some more about the three big questions in life. I don’t know about the second question – where I’m going – but I think I know the answer to the third question – why I’m here. I’m here to love. I love you, and Mim, and every one of the grandmas who have lived with us. A long time ago I figured out that my life mission is to love everyone. Remember, I even wrote it down as my personal mission statement.”

“That’s right, Abbey, and you do a very good job of loving everyone, especially all the grandmas who come to live with us. You definitely figured out why you are here on this earth! Now, about the middle question – where I’m going. Pastor Jeff hinted at it in his sermon Sunday. He said that we’re “citizens of heaven.”

Family portrait in our own little heaven - in front of the pond in our back yard.

Family portrait in our own little heaven – in front of the pond in our back yard.

“Do you think that means we’ll ultimately end up in heaven?”

“I think that’s what Pastor Jeff was suggesting. It’s what the Bible says. In The Message paraphrase it says, There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And If I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. (John 14:2-3)”

“Wow. That’s something to think about.” Abbey sighed.  “I’m going to ponder that for a while.Thanks for taking the time for this conversation. This has been quite a weekend – a birthday party, a long walk, and time to talk about the three biggest questions in life.”

“Thank you, Abbey. When I seem too busy to take time for things like this, keep on pestering me till I remember.”