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August 4, 2012

Team Stevens

Just the other night I was out weeding my gardens, and I got to feeling sorry for myself.  I am not typically prone to that particular pastime, but that night I was ruminating over the fact that I am unable to attend my 25 year high school reunion this weekend.  It was a scheduling conflict that simply couldn’t be avoided.  Nonetheless, there I sat among the kohlrabi and the cabbages wishing that I could go and see how much we have all changed.  That thought led me down a different path – one more in line with self-reflection than self-pity.

How have I spent the last 25 years?  What would my classmates see or notice about me now? What would I want to tell them?  I spent quite a few hours among the weeds pondering that question, and thus, once again, God provided me with fodder for another blog.

The more I thought about it, I could give a basic recap of my life in little snippets or I could speak from my heart by sharing that somehow God has allowed my life to mimic the chorus lyrics of my son Reed’s favorite campfire song. (I married into a wonderful Polish/German family that has sing-alongs at every get-together.)  That special song is “Blow up Your TV” sung by John Denver.

Blow up your tv – While we didn’t literally follow this little tidbit, we didn’t choose to have cable television until three years ago.  My kids learned that books were a better adventure, and your imagination can carry you to more exciting places.  Perhaps my insistence on less mind-numbing technology has to do with the fact that I grew up to be an educator.  As my children grow up and go to college though, I am certain they will regale the other co-eds with tales of their mother’s science experiments in the kitchen.

Throw away your paper – To be honest, I still get the daily newspaper.  I enjoy a good crossword puzzle.  Yet using a little creative license with this part of the chorus, I threw away my obsession with “papers, titles, and namebrands”.  At some point over the last 25 years, I learned to be really comfortable in my own skin.  I became less concerned with titles (of which I hold several) and papers on my wall,  because even my dog has those things. Instead, I focused more attention on the relationships God has blessed with me each and every day.

Go to the country No creative license here!  Unbeknownst to me at the time, my parents moved me away to North Dakota the day after we graduated from high school.  I went to college there, graduate school at Auburn, but in the end married a sweet boy from ND.  We now live in a prairie town in southwestern Minnesota.  The older I get the more I miss the South and Florida’s beaches, but I wouldn’t trade small town living for anything.  I will confess that I do miss having gentlemen open doors for me, hearing “Yes ma’am” or “No sir”, and having sweet tea be a menu staple.  Yet there is nothing like experiencing all four seasons and raising my children in a town where we know many people by their first names.

Build you a home – By the time I had entered high school, I had probably moved at least 7 times; so roots were not something I had established.  Around 15 years ago, my husband and I bought a modest home in a modest neighborhood.  We were both up and coming in our careers, and the thought was to buy this house as a starter home and then upgrade in a couple years.  Those plans changed when our neighbors convinced us otherwise.  It wasn’t by anything they said, but more so, by what they did.  Sharing garden produce, keeping an eye out for each other’s kids and dogs, pitching in together after severe storms (tornados and blizzards) – these things were just more important than a bigger house in a bigger neighborhood. A tiny house evolved into a home over those years.

Plant a little garden – The highlight of my summer is the garden plot that my family tends. Many hours are spent caring for those plants in hopes of a bountiful harvest.  Yet gardening isn’t the only hobby we have related to food.  We are much more connected to our food than that.  That steak we had last night, we saw earn a blue ribbon last year at the Lyon County Fair. Same goes for the chickens and the eggs.  All came from friends our kids have in the 4-H club or the FFA. The highlight of the fall is when father and sons start the hunting season.  The goose, pheasant, or venison roast for special holidays is typically one that the guys brought home after spending time outdoors together.  While I can’t go to Joe Patty’s for Gulf seafood, I do enjoy fish from Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.

Had a lotta children – I am guessing for most of my classmates, this will be an understatement.  I am the proud momma of 7 children.  Sadly, four of those children now live with Jesus in heaven.  If there was one defining moment of my life over the last 25 years, this would be it.  I dreamed my whole life of being a momma, and I enjoy the “fruits of my labor” every day.  Yet, losing three of my children as babies and then one of my sons to a tragic school bus crash has changed me in remarkable ways.  I worry less, forgive more, judge less, and give more.  God has shown me that not only can your heart begin to heal, but it can also seek out and love others who are hurting.

Eat a lot of peaches – Right now, it is County Fair time, and my children are busy with projects and showing animals, which in our case are pigeons.  While it is fun to earn ribbons, it is more of a way of life around here.  Yet another ritual begins at this same time as the fair, the peaches arrive and the canning season begins.  Over the course of the next few months, there will seldom be day that the canning jars aren’t lined up ready to go.

Try to find Jesus on your own – We have known Jesus for a very long time, but through the horrific events surrounding the death of our son, Reed, and the injury of two of our other children we saw firsthand that God and His Son are truly among us.  Friends, family, neighbors, and yes, even strangers filled our home and our hearts with love, tokens of remembrance, assistance, shoulders to cry upon, and gifts of time.  But the most important gift was that they prayed for us.  Daily during those dark days we could literally feel those prayers as we were able to just get through minute by minute.  I honestly don’t know how you could survive tragedy without faith, because I know I couldn’t.

I still feel blue that I wasn’t able to join my classmates this weekend for the reunion.  If you haven’t ever heard John Denver’s version of “Blow up Your TV”, take the time to find it. When you listen to it, just know that one content, sweet little, Southern transplant is living and loving well – way up here in Minnesota.  But no matter where you listen, it probably won’t sound near as good as around a crisp North Dakota campfire with four generations of family members singing along.  For that, I am blessed and thankful!

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