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It Didn’t Matter Anymore, Grandpa

I don’t feel like the issue was fully resolved. I don’t feel that you completely understood where I was coming from or just how much you hurt me in those years of disconnect.  I don’t think you fully took responsibility for your part in it, though you apologized in your own way-not really ever using the words “I’m sorry.”

But it got to a point that I didn’t care. I hated not having you in my life and not really knowing my kids. I hated them not knowing you-the man who had had an immeasurable impact on who and what I had become.  The hole didn’t go unnoticed. I spoke of you often and then, like today, I felt you in many of my words and actions. There were many, many days in which I wanted to let it all go, and I would call you and see that you were still bitter. I don’t blame you entirely, perhaps I could have put in more effort.

I know that in that time (the few years in which we only spoke a couple of times a year), all the comments you made about being disappointed in me, or about my “head not being in this world” came from a place of hurt.  I know from experience, that pain often manifests itself as anger and bitterness. I know it was hard for you when I “stopped needing you” as much, as my own family was forming. What you didn’t understand was that I still needed you, just in different ways.

So, perhaps the God-ordained timing was just right, perhaps we were both at a place in which it didn’t matter anymore, but that one summer visit changed it all.  I am thankful that I had an “excuse” to come over to see my Aunt, (I’m not sure I would have come otherwise,) so I could see that the bitterness was gone. I felt we were finally both in a place to let it all go and just be Grandpa and Cyndy again. I told you I was sorry I had stayed away so long, and you told me I had misunderstood the things you had said to me about not finishing college to stay home with my son, and the comments you made about me homeschooling the kids as they got older, and that you didn’t mean it the way I took it. In my mind I disagreed, I still thought you had meant them exactly as I took them, but at that point it didn’t matter anymore. You told me you were never truly disappointed in me, and I took that. It was enough. You were 87, I believe, and I knew we were limited on time.

We found out a year later that cancer was widespread and aggressive. My emotions were so mixed as I was thankful that we had reconnected, and deeply saddened that we didn’t have more time. My older kids would remember you, but my little guy definitely wouldn’t.  I was thankful that you got to see me in my girls and it brought you back to when I was that age. And I will forever be thankful for that visit, right after I found out about the cancer, when it was just you and I, and I was your little girl again. It could have been 25 years prior and it was just us.  We reminisced about the past and you retold your favorite stories about us, and we laughed, and I cried. I told you that I wished we had more time. You said, “I guess our time was always limited, we just didn’t know how limited.” More words of wisdom, Grandpa-good for everyone to remember.

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What Joplin, MO Taught Me About Contentedness

I never imagined I would look upon the first two years of our marriage with such fondness. We were two broke college kids living over 800 miles from home. My husband had been there for college for a couple of years already, but I had no one there but him. We were both strong and stubborn, and learning to compromise while navigating our new roles as husband and wife was sometimes quite ugly.

We lived in a beautiful town-Joplin, Missouri-but I couldn’t see the positives at the time. I called it “Misery” because all I wanted was to be home in Michigan.  To me it was a burdensome detour on the way to the rest of my life. In hindsight I know I was bitter toward my husband because I had to move there so he could finish his degree. It hadn’t been my plan. I had a university in Michigan picked out.  I was already accepted and had scholarships waiting for me.

I knew before I married him that moving to Missouri for a time with him would be necessary, but as I said, I was stubborn and I would have preferred to have things my way-a trait that I unfortunately still haven’t grown out of.  My life growing up was out of control and chaotic with no stability. This left me wanting to control everything, which has caused me more problems and stress in life than if I had just relinquished control to someone as capable, or more capable.

In Missouri I could only see what I was being kept from-my family, my college, my state, my plan. I looked to the future and what I would do when I got back to Michigan. Then my life could really start.  It is good to plan for the future and have goals, but not at the expense of the present. This was a toxic looking ahead.

This push in me led, not surprisingly, to some hasty decisions that had very negative results. As soon as my husband graduated Bible College, we left for Michigan.  We had been offered a position at a small church with someone my husband had known for a very long time, and I thought it was the perfect, safe opportunity to ease into ministry, as I was still nervous about being a pastor’s wife. My husband was hesitant. He wanted to stay a little longer to be mentored by our pastor in Joplin, who, incidentally, told us that he didn’t feel we should go yet. I am embarrassed to admit that I pushed for it against all of this, and my husband, wanting me to be happy, took me back “home.”

As is so often the case when we make decisions based on emotion, and ignore wise counsel, things did not turn out well. We left the position with hurt and hard feelings, and it set us back in ministry for years.  Instead of feeling better about being in ministry with my husband, I felt even more unsure of it.  It did something in him too.  He had been passionate about becoming a minister and the light in him faded some.  He had had such high hopes for stepping into a role as pastor, and it was nothing like he had imagined.

Through the years we have healed. We are involved in ministry again, as youth pastors, and my husband takes every opportunity he can to preach.  God is like that. In His infinite Grace, he restores the things we ruin. The question I have asked myself often though, and that I find myself for some reason dwelling on recently is-if not for that one bad decision-how would our lives have been different?  I visualize in my mind a starting point with many different paths.  There is one that staying in Joplin a few more years would have taken us on, and one that moving back to Michigan when we did took us on. In my mind they veer off into completely different directions.  Would they actually have?

The point I started with is this-Joplin was great. I just couldn’t see it.  In hindsight, my mind’s eye sees it differently than when I was living it. We were all young and all had the whole future ahead of us. Every one of our couple friends seemed happy and full of hope.  It was a special time. The blessings outweighed the negatives, but I refused to see it. I found a great college in the city that I ended up loving.  I did attend that state university in Michigan and missed my Missouri Southern.

My ungratefulness and inability to count my blessings early in life cost me. Just how much, I’ll never know, but definitely the joy and excitement I could have had the first couple years of my marriage.  Would I change a lot? No.  I would still want the most important things to be the same-the same husband and the four best kids who were ever created, and with whom I have had the privilege of staying home as to not miss a moment.

What Joplin taught me though, unfortunately in a big way, was to be grateful and to be content where I am placed, and to not move onto the next thing until I am directed by Someone much wiser than I. I’m not going to lie, 16 years later I am still working on it. I gain more and more tools along the way to help me count my blessings instead of my disappointments, and I try to let God make my decisions.  Things go smoother that way.

 

 

 

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I Don’t Want to Just Complain

I’m the type of person who has no trouble writing a complaint letter to a company if I feel I’ve been mistreated, jipped or duped, or if I think something should be brought to their attention. I once wrote a letter to the Detroit Tigers’ Organization because a security guard was standing by and doing nothing while a man near our section was using extremely foul and offensive language and threatening anyone who dared confront him about it.  I’ll say they were very apologetic and offered us free tickets.  I also wrote to the company we bought our trampoline from after it literally began falling apart after less than a year, and heard nothing back, (Pure Fun Trampolines, by the way) but I felt better.  I figure that if it’s a good company, they want to know about what can be improved upon, right?

I also have no problem telling other people about my experiences.  I don’t want them to waste their money too. I also feel that if a company has no interest in addressing problems their customers experience, they don’t deserve customers.

I’ll get to my point: An experience we had this weekend got me thinking- I don’t know how often I write letters of compliment.  I give recommendations to people based on places I like, but I cannot remember the last time I actually wrote a letter to tell a business what I really liked about a place.  I am going to attempt to remedy that.

My husband and I have talked many times about how hard it is for a big family on a budget to do anything.  All we want is a good value, friendly and helpful staff members, and a safe family atmosphere.  It is so hard to find all three. We have experienced only one of those at many places, are pleased when we experience two of those, but rarely find somewhere that fills all three.

I am not really a camper.  Growing up my dad took us camping. I mean real camping.  He thought campsites were for chumps.  He would find a secluded spot by a river and dig us a hole in the woods.  You know what for.  I prefer toilets that flush and electric and water on the campsite.  As an adult I have stayed at a few campgrounds and because of some of those experiences, I shied away from camping.  The biggest issue I had was the crazy inappropriate behavior and foul language of the campers who drank a little too much and forgot there were other people around.

Well, I had the idea of going camping this past weekend to bond as a family away from electronic devices and other distractions. Upon a recommendation from a family member, we chose Wesleyan Woods Campground.  The website looked fun enough and I was pleased to see that it was an alcohol free camp-so no chance of a repeat of previous experiences.

I am ecstatic to say that they fulfilled all three of the aforementioned wish list items: good value; friendly, helpful staff; and a family friendly atmosphere. We had such a great time that we are already planning our next visit. I welcome you to read my open compliment letter to them:

Dear Wesleyan Woods Board and Staff:

I am writing to tell you how pleased our family was with our recent stay at the campground.  Actually, pleased seems too ineffectual of a word.  We were blessed by our stay.

We were looking for a place to get away and bond as a family by removing ourselves from the distractions of daily life and interacting through fun activities. Wesleyan Woods far exceeded our expectations. Between the self-directed activities and staff-directed activities, there was more than enough to do for all ages.

Everyone we came in contact with-whether staff members, volunteers, or other campers-were friendly, kind and helpful.  While there this past weekend, someone anonymously blessed us with wood, and someone else offered the use of their heater when I mentioned we had been cold the night before.

Thank you so much for providing a safe, family friendly place at a great value.  We are already planning our next visit, and we will happily and enthusiastically recommend the campground to our friends and family.

Thank you,

The Jamie and Cyndy Payne Family

http://www.wesleyanwoods.org

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Sophistication and the Usefulness of Socks

I remember while I was growing up I wanted to act sophisticated. I wished my family were more “polished,” or at least less embarrassing. My mom will admit proudly that she is a bit of a redneck. We are country kids at heart, no matter where we live. You just can’t “sophisticate” out the years of climbing barn ladders to play in haylofts, mucking stalls, and catching frogs from a pond.

I found myself recently pondering the “sophistication” of my own immediate family. Though I love my kids and husband an unbelievable amount and with an intensity that can only be attributed to Christ’s love flowing through me, I have to admit that I have many times throughout the years found myself embarrassed by their somewhat brash behavior.

However, as my daughter was swinging around her potato sock today while she waited for her sister’s to get done so she could pop it in the microwave. . .okay, I’ll explain. We used to have a custom made bag to microwave potatoes in and it worked fabulously. We’ve lost it, like most things we’ve ever owned, so I discovered that microwaving a potato in a sock does the same thing (hey, it’s clean).

We’ve found that socks are for more than just keeping feet warm: they work for washing in the shower-they slip right over your hand, so you don’t have to worry about dropping your washcloth; my 7-year-old discovered that in a pinch you can put pretzels and goldfish in them to snack while you’re playing outside; if you read my other blog posts, you know they do a good job of wiping off lipgloss; and of course the baked potato use.

Which brings me back to sophistication. In case it isn’t obvious from the many things we use socks for in my house, I’ve given in. We just aren’t a proper family. And guess what: I’m glad. There is a freedom that is coming from letting that go. I am finally getting to the place in which I am okay if people don’t like me for me. People will never see our family and say, “My they are refined. I wonder if Cyndy can tell me which fork I should use for my salad.” (By the way, I can’t. I’ll just wipe the dressing off the fork and use it for the main dish too.)

I find myself loving how we are at big extended family parties. When my mom, siblings, nieces and nephews, and my family are all together we are loud, we are overwhelming to outsiders, and we are brash (though still in an appropriate-kid friendly way). I’m better than okay with that. I am blessed and honored to be a part of my family. Just the way it is.

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It Was An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie. . .

Our family just returned home from a wonderful mini-vacation to an indoor waterpark. It was great to get out and do something fun during these long, cold Michigan winter months. However, I can’t stop thinking about something that I want to get off my chest; or rather, that I want to keep on my chest.

As I walked around the indoor family waterpark, I found myself giving a lot of thought as to how women choose their swimsuits.  (Perhaps it is because I am now raising a teenage boy and am increasingly aware of the temptations he is going to be faced with, or because I have a tween girl to whom I am trying to teach modesty.)  I was surprised at the number of women wearing small bikinis.  I don’t just mean two piece swimsuits.  I mean tops that don’t cover all the top, and bottoms that don’t cover all the bottom.

These women had young children that they were inevitably going to have to bend over to pick up or lean down to help with a life jacket.  They were getting on and off tubes, walking up stairs, and going down waterslides. I can’t imagine that their choice of swimwear was the most functional for those types of activities. I would have been constantly conscious of whether or not the material was sufficient to keep all of me covered.  As it was, the swimsuit I wore was purchased when I wasn’t nursing, and as a result I kept tugging up on the front and using my 5 month old as a “modesty panel.”

So, as I said, I began questioning what motivates women in their choice of swimwear. I may be wrong, but after I thought and thought, I could only come up with one reason a woman would wear a tiny bikini to an indoor waterpark. She isn’t going to get a tan, so she must want to show off her body.  She must want men to be attracted to her and women to envy her.  Almost all of these women were with a significant other, so what she’s advertising isn’t for sale (I hope), and since this park attracts mostly families, most of the men or teenage boys aren’t buying (I hope).

Before you think I am just jealous that I don’t have the kind of body to do a suit like that justice, let me refute.  I did at one time, and I still didn’t wear suits like that, and most of the women wearing them had normal post baby bodies, not supermodel-works out for a living bodies.

It just makes me uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable for teenage boys who have to learn very early to avert their eyes, and I am uncomfortable for honorable men of integrity who have to continually avert their eyes while trying to enjoy a day with their families.  I mean, if I am a completely heterosexual female who can’t help but notice the many body parts hanging out and flailing around, what is it like for a healthy male?