Sunday, February 13, 2011

Church or The Wizard of Oz

It wasn’t hard to find inspiration today – I was surrounded by it.  The problem now is in choosing one thing to write about.

I made the trip to Indiana yesterday for a very special occasion . . . my sister’s “remarriage.”  My sister separated several months ago from her husband of 35 years.  When my sister left, she gave my brother-in-law a list of things that he needed to address – not a laundry list that would bring her back but a list that he just plain needed to address so that he could be a healthy individual.  My sister filed for divorce and started learning how to be on her own.  She had never done this before because she married at a young age and went straight from our family home to a life with a husband.  While she was busy carving out a life as a single woman, God was at work behind the scenes with my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law not only read her list, but took it to heart and started whittling away at it.  I believe that my brother-in-law is the only man I have ever heard of who has actually listened as his wife was walking out the door, took it to heart, and then started checking things off.  This is inspiring all by itself.

But the inspiration doesn’t stop there.  Not long after my sister had received the date for her final divorce hearing, she became a bit obsessed with getting a pair of boots back that she had left behind.  She texted her soon-to-be ex-husband and asked him if she could have them.  There was some back and forth and pulling and tugging and basically “don’t inconvenience me” attitudes but for some reason, my brother-in-law finally decided to take the boots to my sister.  The return of the boots led to an entire night of talking and discovering and talking and discovering and talking and crying and praying and rediscovering.  Not long after this, I received a text that said “would you be my matron of honor again on February 13th.  Sounds crazy, doesn't it? 

To say that standing up with my sister and witnessing her vows 35 years after the first time was inspiring is really a bit of an understatement.  To watch two lives come back together stronger and more passionate and committed than ever before after the dirtiness of the whole divorce process had taken over, was a miracle.  If you can’t be inspired by the witnessing of a miracle like this, you either have a heart of stone or you are dead.  I’m so inspired by my sister and brother-in-law and their courage to step forward in a direction that they really didn’t expect to be headed in.  Once the divorce train gets started, it very rarely stops and reverses directions.  I’m so proud to be her sister.

The ceremony took place in the church that we grew up in.  Our church was the center of our family life as we were growing up.  We were at church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night without fail as well as any other time there were special events or services going on.  Church took precedence over everything else in our lives – even The Wizard of Oz.  In this time before Netflix, TEVO, and six million cable stations that run 24/7, The Wizard of Oz was shown once a year in the fall and always on a Sunday night.  I don’t think we got to see the entire movie until we were teenagers because church always cut into the beginning of the movie.  My sister and I used to beg to miss church in lieu of Dorothy and the Wicked Witch . . . surely God would understand.  But our parents were unyielding when it came to their faith and its importance in our upbringing.  And today as my brother and I stood with our sister at the front of the church, I looked out and saw our parents sitting in the pew like I’ve seen thousands of times before in my life.  But today it took on a different meaning for me.  When I looked at them, there seemed to be this flashing neon arrow over their heads shouting out “THIS is what faith looks like.”  That vision has been there all of my life but never before today has it been more evident what my parents have sacrificed and given for me and my siblings.  They have been our rocks.  Anytime that my brother, my sister, or me have flailed around in uncertainty, there they were – holding out their hands so that we could anchor.  They have smiled over us, cried over us, prayed over us . . .  thousands of times that we have known about and probably tens of thousands of times that we haven’t known about.  What would I and my siblings have done without these two people who have shown us everyday what commitment to God, to your spouse, to your children, and to your community look like?  How would we have known how to do anything without their daily influence in our lives?  I guess I realized today in a very new way, that they have inspired me in every nook and cranny of my life and dear Lord, I am so thankful.  I stood on the stage that was very much about my sister and her family but was so surprised to realize that this day was even more about my parents and the foundation they worked so hard to build.  Gazing upon their sweet faces that to me haven’t aged a day, made my knees go weak. 

It was hard to leave my parents today.  I would have liked to have just curled up next to them on the sofa and fallen asleep while my dad stroked my hair and called me “punkin” and my mom urged me to lay down on the bed if I was going to fall asleep.  But as I reversed the path I took yesterday on Highway 41, I found myself praying that I have and will be as much as an inspiration to my children and grandchildren as my parents have been to me.  It’s something to shoot for.     

Just as I approached Milwaukee, my youngest daughter called me to tell me about her day in her new assignment on the burn unit.  She was so excited and spoke with such tender loving care about the patients she helped today.  My heart did a somersault, because I realized that the seeds that my parents planted are still blooming. 

When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle
is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
-Helen Keller-
Original wedding party in 1976: I am second from the left; my sister Denise, the bride; Our Brother, Andy is the Junior Groomsman on the far right.

My Mom and Dad when they were dating

Mom and Dad's wedding picture

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