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My Grandpa Monke’s memoirs, and a photo book my mom put together on the history of our family’s farm.

It’s been quiet in my little teeny corner of bloggy land. Which usually means my real life has been especially un-quiet.

It’s been a heck of a summer. I…

…graduated my oldest son from high school (notice “I” graduated him, as if he had nothing to do with the thing), threw a party, and had random outbursts of uncontrolled crying.

…wrote nine bus essays. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you know I was this year’s Writer on the Bus for Roanoke’s Art by Bus program. You can read more about it here; or read some of my bus riding field notes here. Right now, the essays are being turned into a chapbook that will be available locally this fall.

…went on a Canadian-Maine (Acadia National Park) family vacation and had a bicycle stolen at Niagara Falls (don’t take your bicycles to Niagara—it’s the currency of choice in the drug trade). A week later, the bike was recovered in a drug bust. Because the bicycle shop where we bought the bike put their logo on it AND still had a record of that transaction (four years later), the Niagara Police were able to connect with us. Alas, shipping costs across the border were astronomical (over $1,000). So, we sent our son (the one I graduated) and three of his friends up to Canada to fetch the bike.

…took a summer class on French Food Culture. For six weeks, I was immersed in all things food, wine, and the French concept of terroir. It was a lot of reading, a lot of writing (journal entries and essays), and a 12-page research paper on wine (the topic was mine to choose) as a final project. For six weeks, I called my nightly wine drinking “research.”

…drove to Illinois with my 16-year old son to babysit my toddling nephew for a week while his parents (my brother and sister-in-law) attended a church conference in Nashville. What joy to have my world simplified to the life and schedule of a two-year old once again!

…discovered a mass on the right side of my 16-year old son’s neck (shortly after the above trip to IL) that spiraled our end-of-summer into a series of tests, speculations, and—finally—surgery to have the thing (which was actually multiple things) removed. What turned out to be several severely enlarged lymph nodes had to first swing the vast abyss of diagnoses: a glandular cyst, neural tumor, lymphoma; before landing happily on the solid side of “reactive lymph nodes.” In the span of 12 days, I aged 15 years.

…Took my oldest son to college two days after my 16-year old son’s surgery. Need I say more?

Now everyone is tucked back in school, and I’m trying to recover my home and routine. Oldest son calls every couple of days to update us on college life. Sixteen-year old son is recovering from his surgery, working to regain full use of his right arm (the surgeon had to stretch a major nerve to get to one of the nodes) and counting the days ‘til he can drive on his own. My three middle school kids are, well, middle school kids—bless their hearts. And life rolls right along.

Except, I’m struggling to roll along with it. I’m trying—I truly am—life demands it of me. I have a fall class beginning this week, the next installment of dining articles due soon, a fall speaking gig in Michigan (two break-out sessions) to prepare for. Not to mention a couple half-finished essays and a novel mid-written but un-touched since May. How I pick that up again, who knows?

I’m trying to roll along. But it is difficult. I go to my word well and all I pull up is sludge. Ideas and images heavy with my own tired thinking (‘tired’ being the key word here) Quite frankly, it has me worried.

The other day I was paging through my journal looking for inspiration, a spark; anything to get me rolling again. I came across a quote I re-wrote from one of Makoto Fujimura’s (artist and author) Culture Care newsletters. In May’s issue, he asked readers this question:

What do you need to remember? And in remembering, how can your perspective be renewed for the sake of flourishing relationships, work and worship?

Underneath the quote, I had jotted a list of things I needed to remember. It included:

  • My Midwestern farming roots
  • My Christian roots
  • The people who’ve sacrificed to see me grow up well (my parents, in particular)
  • God’s providential hand on my life
  • The Word
  • The cloud of witnesses gone before me

It was an easy list to write as I had considered the question soon after making a trip back to Illinois for my grandfather’s funeral. The second question, however, slipped away from my immediate understanding. I left it unanswered.

…in remembering, how can your perspective be renewed for the sake of flourishing relationships, work and worship?

Looking back over that list I wrote in May, I wonder if remembering can renew my perspective now? What would happen if I spent time soaking in my memories? What if I lingered for a time over my childhood that included baby piglets to nurse, straw bales for building forts, and sunsets that turned the entire prairie land golden? What if I stopped long enough to remember the time I watched my dad dance in the rain after months of crop-scorching dryness, or my mom teach me to correctly measure flour while I balanced atop the green stool so I could reach the mixing bowl? Or the stories my Papa Bell told under the shade of our old maple tree; watching over a roasting hog and talking about raising five daughters after WWII. Or the letter correspondence I kept with my Granny Bell from childhood to college, the book conversations I’d have with my Grandpa Monke, and round after round of Skip Bo and Uno with Grandma Lucille (better known as ‘Loose Wheel’).

What if I stopped for a time and remembered the Psalm I read the morning after my husband left for war? The one that ends:

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” –Psalm 27: 13-14

Or remember the morning several years ago I woke up nearly choked by my worries, then looked outside and saw my bird feeders dripping with bright yellow finches, chickadees and a cardinal couple feeding one another.

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  –Matthew 5:25-26

Or the Scripture my pastor texted me three weeks ago while we were swinging across that awful abyss with Isaac’s neck mass. He wrote:

“Shari, Jesus tells us the TRUTH will set us free. So, we pray for the truth about this situation to be fully known so it can be dealt with.”

Yes. Maybe this is what I need. A time to saturate myself with remembering.

Maybe—in fact—we all need more times of remembering.

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”  –Elie Wiesel