“Feathers of Freedom”

I sat my Christmas mug of peppermint mocha on the ledge of my cozy reading chair facing my large sunbathed window.

The overfilled bird feeders just outside the window were the centre of a flurry of many different kinds and colours of birds… feathered friends coming and going at will, side-by-side enjoying their bird feeder treats.

Sometimes 2… sometimes 4… sometimes too many to count, seemingly coming from far and wide as the vast malibu blue sky accommodated.

A pair of beautiful majestic Golden Eagles completed the picture as they swooped freely across the open yard…. their large wings gliding effortlessly, soaring higher and higher anywhere they pleased in the vast open sky.

My heart envied the sense of freedom these familiar feathered guests enjoyed.

My time at my window brought me back to a cherished memory in my childhood when my grandmother would lovingly surround my childhood atmosphere with music and song.

A line from a childhood favourite tucked lovingly in my memories that she used to sing to me in her gentle sweet voice was…

” God sees the little Sparrow fall it meets His tender view… if God so loved the little birds… I know He loves me too.”

These birds were doing everything but falling this day, but it reminded me that He had a tender view of even the tiny birds, and if that were true, how much more does He have us in His tender view, especially in this time of a world full of uncertainty.

Our world in this seemingly long season, may have us move about less freely, but the wings of our heart’s can never be stilled if we remember Who’s got us and Who we’ve got.

Our hearts are not bound and can soar as freely as the birds when we stretch wide our heart’s “feathers of freedom” like the eagles as they soar.

Stretch them into the lives of others no matter how far our arms are from the ones we hold so dear. Freedom is always present when we choose to stretch our heart wide in limitless prayers of Hope that transcends every boundary as far as the East is from the West.

Prayers for the healing of this world and so much more as we turn our faces upward… and let the Everlasting Light of Him who loves us most, bathe our hearts…

as we stretch our heart feathers of ultimate freedom.

When Your House (Life) Is On Fire

My sleep filled eyes stung as I struggled to open them as the thin white vapor hung in the upstairs hallway of our newly built country home.

The 80s digital clock in my mom and dad’s room flashed 8:17am in bold red numbers…. Just three hours after our whole family had arrived back home in one of the worst snow storms the local radio station had predicted that year….

Home from an attempt at plowing through the large snow drifts amidst the merciless blinding snow. My dad was determined to get our little family to the airport on time for our coveted trip to the Magic Kingdom in the US of A.

My dad had always been invincible to my young heart when it came to his skills at driving through the worst storms our Manitoba winters could hurl at us.

Today was no different as my dad successfully navigated our 70s green LTD equipped with radial studded tires, packed with his young family and all that would be needed for the trip to Disney on the south coast.

The departure lane flashed a highly disappointing “closed” sign as the realization of the closed airport sunk into our Magic Kingdom excited hearts.

Turning back was our only option now.

Once back home through the blinding snow, our disappointed selves climbed wearily back into our beds we had left behind only hours before.

My dad stoked the wood furnace in the basement to take the edge off the chill now hanging in the halls of our home on that bitterly cold January morning.

But the morning was about to take a very different turn.

As the smoke curled it’s way through our home, my little brother came racing from his room, gasping for air as his chronic asthma responded immediately to the building angry haze threatening to take even more of his air supply.

Our sleepy little family dragged ourselves from our beds as we woke fully from our deep sleeps.

Stumbling through the house, the ever thickening smoke threatened to steal our coveted air.

My eyes widened as my mind started to grasp what I was experiencing. A bright orange glow danced furiously behind every light switch as we all stumbled to the front door as the fire raged inside the walls of our new country home.

Huddling in our pajamas we had just crawled back into just hours before, on our snow packed front lawn, we watched in stunned silence as the heavily clothed firemen chopped holes vicariously into our brand new roof, trying to get to the imposter threatening our home.

In the end, our home was saved from total destruction, but not before much smoke damage had permeated the whole house.

The insurance assured our anxious family we could leave for Disney as planned the next day, as the damage would be taken care of.

As we boarded the 747 the next day, my excitement looking foreword to visiting the Magic Kingdom took my mind off of our smoke damaged home we had left behind.

“leave it behind you… Go enjoy your family vacation…. And when you get back… All will be good as new.”

And so it was.

Many years later now, I reflect on how that situation is indicative of our lives.

Sometimes our life will be filled with eye stinging smoke along with the angry glow of a raging fire behind the walls of our lives.

These conditions in our lives will keep us from living our best life… Whole and free.

Eye stinging smoke will leave us with vision skewed at best, not being able to see the clear picture of our life most days, and the raging fire behind the walls threaten to make us ill physically and mentally if we don’t take care of it.

Sometimes our God needs to “chop a whole in our roof” to let out the smoke and flames.

The chopping could look like opportunities, changes, and ultimately getting to the root of things that serve only to hurt us.

Sometimes we will need to “head to the door”…. Focus on something better God has put in front of us, and let go of trying to put out the fire and clear the smoke after all our efforts have been exhausted.

There is a time in our lives when things in our lives should be left with Him to deal with as we take our hands off the situation.

And when we “come back”… He will have done what only He can do when we let go…refocus…. leaving Him to deal with the smoke and flames….

When our house (Life) is on fire.

“Unit 9…Base 3…Over”

“Base 3… base 3…. Over.”

My dad’s bass voice boomed through the kitchen from the CB unit perched on the small telephone table in the corner.

My mom left her vigil at her large stock pot on the stove, leaving it to marry its flavours between slow and steady stirs with a large Tupperware ladle she’d earned from one of her many Tupperware parties through the early years.

Perching herself on this soft red, cushioned telephone table bench beside the CB unit, she pressed the side of the hand held speaker nestled perfectly in her petite hand and replied matter-of-factly:

“Unit 9, this is base 3.”

The conversations were usually short and to the point, mostly for information.

“I need a driver to take the Louisville from one pit to the other south of Grunthal.” Came my dad’s voice clearly through the speakers.

Mom glanced at her simmering pot of soup, and replied:

“I’ll just turn down the soup… I’ll be there in about 10 minutes.”

This was a regular part of everyday life in my teenage years when my dad owned his gravel business. Cell phones were not even a thought in the tech world at this time. but the CB world of the day was a high-tech magic of its own compared to the home phones in the 70s.

Communication was very important to the success of the business. I never doubted it was my dad’s voice every time I would hear it echoing through the kitchen from its CB perch. I had heard his familiar voice for many years by now…. I knew it. My mom would leave whatever she was doing to answer my dad’s voice.

It was important for the success of the business to go as smoothly as possible.

The remembrance of this regular scene in my life reminded me of the importance of knowing our Heavenly father’s voice.

The closer we grow to Him the more often we will grow to recognize His voice in our lives.

My mom would stop what she was doing in order to give her full attention to my dad’s message, and left behind other tasks to respond to various requests.

Leaving behind what we may be doing at the moment in our lives to take heed to our Heavenly father’s voice, and possible different direction, goes against what we may want to keep pursuing in our life’s path.

Recognizing His voice in our lives daily and responding to His direction will always lead us in the direction He has for us…. His perfect plan for our lives, whether it makes sense to leave a “simmering pot on the stove” or not.

Sometimes He may ask us to leave something behind for a time, or perhaps for good. But know that His request to redirect is never to hurt us, but because He loves us so incredibly much and sees things we cannot see.

His communication to us and our response to Him is also very vital to any hope of success in our lives.

Today as I reflect, I will find Hope in His direction for my life as I recognize His voice more clearly each day,

As I remember the days of….

“Unit 9…Base 3…Over”

A Little Girl and Her Sommer Borscht

The aroma of the Thursday’s Farmer’s s Market, garden fresh dill saturated the air as each cut with my kitchen knife released this gift to my senses.

It instantly brought me back to a simpler time many years ago in my childhood, sitting at our small 60s chrome kitchen table, watching intently as my young mother created the same beautiful aroma with every cut of the freshly picked mound of homegrown dill.

The fresh red potatoes and sharp tasty onions along with the rest of the recipes ingredients created the most magical dance on my taste buds.

It was an experience every time I gathered together the Mennonite soup ingredients.

It had always been a favourite of mine and now many years later my 6 year old granddaughter had developed a love for this same favourite.

“Mama!” She said between spoonfuls of soup disappearing into her tiny mouth. Her eyes sparkled as her request was made….” Can I have”… slurp slurp…. “more”… slurp slurp…. “Sommer Borscht!??”

Her long, light brown hair dipped vicariously into her bowl as she leaned over her steaming bowl with every taste…. her bowl still half full as the request began.

She wasn’t about to miss out on any leftover soup.

My mama heart smiled wide as I willingly ladled some of this coveted soup into her still half-full bowl.

My little granddaughter wasn’t about to miss out when there was more to be had. My whole being so enjoyed watching her eagerly spoon mouthfuls of this liquid gold.

I believe our God longs for us to ask for things our heart’s desire. He tells us so in his Word. He knows all and wouldn’t need us to ask, but He so yearns for that close relationship with us.

Watching my granddaughter enjoy her bowl of sommer borscht so immensely and ask for more so unashamedly even before she was done, reminded me of what we are invited to do.

Come boldly before Him into His presence.

He longs to see the sparkle in our eyes along with our boldness to ask before our hands are empty. He loves to watch us “lean” into our answers, gifts and blessings and enjoy them to the fullest.

He wants us to ultimately trust Him for all of it.

**************

As I ladled the last of the large stock pot of soup into a few beautifully etched old fashioned mason jars, a small smile tugged at the corner of my mouth knowing there would be more of this coveted soup the next time my little girl would ask.

I imagined Our God being overjoyed with the overflow of answers, gifts, and blessings He has for His children,

And how I experienced a small piece of this that day… with a little girl…

And her sommer borscht.

The Backpack

The intoxicating smell of the brand new pack of 6 Crayola crayons made my five-year-old heart happy.

I eagerly pulled my favourite forest green crayon out of the package, holding it gently to my nose and inhaling deeply.

It made my heart happy.

I loved school.

Next, I pulled a pair of small scissors that would assist in all my creations I would eagerly bring home to my mom to decorate her fridge with.

It also made my little heart happy.

I reached down again into the Stylerite paper bag from the store all our shopping was done in those years in the 70s. It was our Walmart of the decade.

I pulled out a brand new wooden ruler with a thin metal edge for all the measuring and counting I would need to do in mathematics class… Not my favourite subject but a new ruler could always pull me through.

Next were my brand new navy blue and white canvas indoor lace-up runners that would live on my feet for my school day.

I always loved the feel of a new Runner as they only happened once a year at this time.

A brand new Art smock was next for protection of my new clothes my mom had sewn for the new school year. Just a simple plastic smock but none the less new and only mine.

My own floral box of Kleenex lay at the bottom of the bag ready for a year of runny noses and sneezes and maybe a tear or two from a scraped knee..

I eagerly pack everything into my homemade blue gean drawstring backpack made by my mom with her crafty handwork adorning the bag in strategic places. Well-placed red needlepoint flower here and the yellow one there, but most importantly to me, my name stitched in bright block letters.

I was ready from my first day of grade 3 just a two-block walk from my childhood Hanover Street home.

I stuffed my blue homemade hooded corduroy jacket quickly into the opening as a last minute thought as I ran out the door to my elementary school.

As I skipped happily along, my eyes spotted a few multicolored stones lining the sidewalk haphazardly. One was surely not enough.

They all caught my attention. Eagerly I scooped handfuls of rocks and pebbles all different sizes, shapes, and colors. Some sparkled some didn’t but all caught my eye.

My imagination soared as I wondered what i could all create from these beauties or perhaps just display them on my bedroom dresser when I got home.

I quickly ran the rest of the way as I heard the chimes of the morning bell in the distance. The handfuls of beautiful treasures didn’t seem at all heavy as they were only handfuls at a time and my excitement overshadowed any thing else.

I loved those first days of fall, skipping happily to my elementary school with all I needed in my homemade jean backpack.

But day after day as I set out, I couldn’t help but notice I became more tired as I made my way to school every morning.

Then Saturday came around. It was wash day deemed by my mom, and my homemade backpack was on the list.

As my mom turned it inside out to protect the handstitched flowers, heavy handfuls of a beautiful array of treasures danced noisely onto the cement laundry room floor.

I had forgotten about the treasures I’d found the first day of school.

My walk to school the next school day seemed to go surprisingly faster as my back pack had only what I needed for my day.

My tiredness was gone.

My young self didn’t necessarily make the connection..I was just to happy not to be tired.

**************

Fast forward 45 years. The lesson learned that day has been a journey.

The days I felt tired, I needed to take a closer look as to what I was carrying. Why… And if it was mine to carry.

Life can get tricky like that if we are carrying things that attract as shiny sparkling stones that don’t belong in our backpacks.

It may be guilt over lies we may be believing, resentment, hurts that are buried deep in your backpack. Unforgiveness, self judgement, unresolved trauma…

All disguised as shiny stones… treasures we feel we need to keep for all the reasons we come up with, until one day we find ourselves exhausted from the weight of our “backpack”.

The mountains are high and the valleys are low in everyone’s lives…We can’t afford to be tired.

There is Hope.

Our God wants to turn our backpack inside out.

Let Him.

Let Him shake all those shiny pebbles that seem like disguised treasures, out of your life.

Keep only that which will help you live your abundant life here on the planet.

He will help you keep only the crayons that give your heart a lovely fragrance anytime you hold it close.

Keep only the shoes that take you places your God gives passion and purpose.

Keep only the Kleenex box for those who help wipe your tears in life to keep you moving on.

And then He will help you remember the only coat you need to keep with you is His coat of Righteousness He lovingly puts on you as His ultimate gift from where all of life can be lived victoriuosly.

Sit with Him.

And sit some more.

Sitting with our God of the universe, the only one who has been there every second of your life and has seen it all, will speak deep into your soul.

Listen and begin the process of dumping all that you are not meant to carry…trade the tired.

from that which you carry… and leave only that which is truly meant to stay…

In… The Backpack.

Take a Look… A Real Good Look

The date on the calendar said fall had arrived.

Sitting in my favourite chair, wrapped in my favourite Hockey blanket, watching the yellow crisp leaves intermittently floating around me from the malibu sky confirmed it.

My view from my perch.

Many sun kissed chairs… 17 to be exact, the number that represented our wonderful growing family, along with a few tables ready for gathering, and a cozy couch or two nestled under the canopy surrounding a rustic well-used fire pit, beckoned all those who came to gather.

It was a picture my heart looked foreword to regularly.

The soft Square multi coloured pillows accompany each Muskoka chair, beckoning all to stay a while.

The crudely cut Cedar wood piled high in the homemade wood shed next to it said so.

As the perfectly charred smokies piled high in the extra large platter with all the fixings grew bigger and bigger, the laughter got louder and louder and all those who gathered imagined it to be a feast fit for a King… because it was the company that made it so.

This familiar eclectic playlist crooning in the background created the likes of a big warm hug that said, “Glad you came”.

Not far beyond the cherry colored glass hummingbird feeder lived the world my littles created.

Eight to be exact. Giving me the coveted title of Grandma… Mama for short❤️

Their shrill laughter would pierce the fall air with each pump of their little legs on the yellow seated swing Papa had built for them…. The littlest of the littles clicked in tight in the middle wanting to enjoy along with the bigger cousins.

The playhouse, a little brown wooden garage sale find, just steps away, created a world for much imagination as the little squeaky door surrounded by fake purple flowers on each side continually swung back and forth with the flow of the littles.

Their imagination was the limit as the dried dirt and tiny pebbles, along with a splash of water from the sand pails became today’s “soup of the day”… for Mama to taste of course.

By now, some of the older littles had outgrown this world, but their passion lay elsewhere as The melody of an acoustic guitar lingered in the air as their fingers ran lazily through each chord.

It was not only music to my ears… but music to my mama heart.

It was a piece of Heaven…. my piece of Heaven.

The crudely planted geraniums along with their colourful partners sat happily in the earth filled pots, seemingly smiling at the company of all who gathered.

The towering fifty-year-old Maples leaned over this little piece of Heaven as if to protect these precious moments.

And oh how precious they were.

******************

What is the view from your perch?

Your little piece of Heaven…?

Everyone has it.

It may look very different than this one, but we all have it.

It is a gift. A gift given to each one of us from above with much, much love. And no matter what is happening in our lives, it beckons us to focus on our little piece of Heaven, a place where we can find rest for our hearts amidst the cares of this world.

What we focus on we experience deeply.

Just for today… and then… just for tomorrow, focus on the little piece of Heaven that is yours and yours alone, and thank the ultimate Giver for this precious gift…. a blessing among many others if we just take the time to look.

It’s a hope that keeps us going in the midst of all that wants to keep our hearts heavy.

All the rest that we need to take our eyes off of will grow out of focus if you find your little piece of Heaven….

if you just take a look…. a real good look.

Get “Sober”

“Her hand trembled as she white-knuckled the wine glass with her slender neatly manicured fingers.

The familiar ruby red liquid she had relied on for so long was now replaced by a nice cold glass of her new choice of bubbling pop.

She raised the glass carefully to her lips knowing the choice of drink she’d made recently, yet still anticipated the comfort of the ruby red liquid she had relied on for too much of her young life.

Her mind hadn’t made the switch completely. Her mind was powerful.

She didn’t know it yet, but the ache for the deep red liquid was the symptom….not the problem….

She needed to get “Sober”

***************.

The bright light of the refrigerator startled her as her bare feet stood on the cold tile floor in front of the open door displaying all that she thought would “solve” everything… even if it’s just for tonight.

Life was hard.

The half box of a large extra cheese pizza from last night’s supper, a pan of chocolate cake with lots of thick rich icing she had made two days ago, and a gallon of freshly bought milk all beckoned to accompany the binge she was aching for as the clock struck 3 a.m.

Relationships were tricky and her self judgments spoke louder and louder daily. The ache for the large pizza and chocolate cake in the middle of the was the symptom not the problem….

She needed to get sober.

*****************

She shut the screen door as quietly as she could as she held her breath. The creak of the front porch made her chest tighten unbearably.

She knew this was no way to live.

She knew he’d be fast asleep as his “night” was just beginning after his usual night shift at the local Factory. She had been here before walking through that squeaky Farmhouse door trying anxiously to quiet the front porch creak.

Her now purple and black eye could hardly open as the ache of last night’s punch not only screamed physically but mentally.

The urge to run and stay at the same time was a symptom… not the problem…

If she had just had supper on the table…if she had just been quiet… this would not be happening again…. She would do better…. Next time.

She needed to get sober.

**************” ‘

Wasn’t the drinking the problem?? Wasn’t the food the problem?? Wasn’t the abuse the problem??

All very much a problem but also very much a symptom….

They all needed to get sober.

They needed to get to the root… The “why” they were choosing the symptoms.

There are endless situations that we may need to get “Sober” from.

Why is the drink so powerful??

Why does the binge call your name so loudly??

And why does the most toxic relationship attract you unknowingly??

The “why” is the start of the answer to your sobriety.

Find the root.

Our God is our hope.

He knows us by name… It’s tattooed in His palm..

He knows us intimately… Knowing the number of hairs on our head… And He knows the “whys” in our lives. Why we do what we do, think what we do, choose what we do.

We cannot do it alone.

What we have experienced, what we have believed, all keep us in the dark at times when we can’t see and hear clearly.

It keeps us craving the drink…

The Double cheese extra large pizza….

And the toxic relationship that seems to need your fixing…

Take the step… Make the move…. See with eyes you’ve never seen before…. Hear with ears you’ve never heard before…

His.

Reach down… Way down for the root. The root of “why”.

Say goodbye. Goodbye to the life that doesn’t say “Abundant Life” The life offered to you by our God….

And get “Sober”.

The Butter In The Jar

My little arms were growing weary as my after-school routine of a 1960s episode of The Flintstones was coming to an end.

Almost 30 minutes of constant shaking of the thick farmer’s cream in one of mom’s Mason vintage jars, had gradually transformed into a soft block of mouth watering homemade butter.

I could hardly wait to slather the butter onto my mom’s delicious brown bread she baked regularly.

I never could understand how a jar of cream could be transformed into something so different, but it took consistency and persistence.

There will be things in our lives we may just never change with our shaking, but the real shaking may come when we allow our God to “shake” that what needs to be shaken out of or into our lives.

The consistency and persistence may just be where He is taking you on your journey on life’s road.

We can only shake us.

Setting the jar and just hoping the cream would magically turn into butter would be rather silly.

More often than not my determination would wane as my little arms would grow weary as results seemed to be so far away.

But once the tasty butter was formed, there was no turning back to a jar full of cream, and me and my family could enjoy the butter confidently knowing day after day the butter would still be butter.

The transformation was done. There was no turning back.

I didn’t need to shake the jar of cream everytime I yearned to slather that tasty butter on the fresh brown bread.

Life can get like that.

That which we are hoping will change will not unless we do something about it. Our lives will look exactly the same if we just look at the jar of cream on the shelf from afar and hope something will change.

And then, just when we think our arms want to call it quits from all the persistence…. The results (butter) appears, and we can enjoy the results of our efforts in our lives.

The “shaking” will look different for every situation, but non the less the shaking and persistence must happen for results.

Today, grab hold of the jar.

“shake….shake…. And shake” some more if you want to see results in your life.

Relationships at a crossroads?… Job not what you want?…or simply not happy with you?

Start “shaking”.

Shake that which you can shake.

Know that a transformation is just around the corner.

Allow the Master of all the shaking needed in our lives to direct you when, where, and how it should look in every situation.

And then… Rest.

And enjoy… the butter in the jar.

Just Around The Bend

Crack. Crunch.

The path beneath our feet, dotted with twigs and pebbles, created the only sounds as my sister and I wound our way through the towering evergreens and lush carpet that made up the towering Island forest.

The day had started with a decision to check off number 4 on our bucket list.

So here we were.

The trail wove majestically through the forest, now bringing us alongside a mighty deafening continuous waterfall.

Refreshing cool droplets of mist enveloped us both as the trail beckoned us closer and closer to the enchantingly lush green moss on the banks of the rushing body of water.

It was exhilarating and exciting all at once.

A long while into our bucket list, we realized the birds had quieted. Not a creature was to be seen as far as our eyes could see through the towering, moss-covered trunks. A sense of eerie came upon both of us as we stopped in the middle of the trail now looking back to a very empty path mirrored by the same as we turned to face the neverending, ongoing path it seemed in front of us.

We kept walking. Endlessly it seemed. To “where” we did not know. Signs seem to be non-existent.

Turning back seemed an option for a lonely moment, but the setting sun peeking through the towering island evergreens changed our minds.

The dark, strange and unfamiliar towering forest with so many unknowns, turned the anticipation of number 4 on the bucket list to a sudden grip on my heart at least.

The view around us all seemed the same by now and the same beautiful view we welcomed just hours into our adventure became something we wanted to leave behind in this moment.

But which way to turn?

Back? Familiar but into a setting sun, leaving us in a towering dark forest?

The thundering roar of the rushing river dotting our trek on one side and darkening thick forest of the unknown on the other… Continuing on the trail?… To where?

And then just as all these thoughts had wormed through our minds, out of nowhere appeared at tall seasoned jogger it seemed.

Hadn’t we just longingly looked down the long dark ending path we had just come?… How was this possible?

But here he was.

A midst slowing his jog, I sensed he saw our questions written all over our faces.

“just keep going… this trail ends, just around the corner.”

And then just as suddenly as he had appeared… he was gone, leaving us both with a newfound sense of direction and relief.

Our chatter between us heightened as our faces lightened with the prospect of seeing an end to this darkening trail we were not so sure of any more.

And then just as the mysterious jogger had said… Just a few minutes down the path the looming Evergreens that had started to threaten our peaceful hike, seem to part ways as the vast evening sky became dominant in our sights.

Our trek in the darkening island forest had been met with an open sky, painted with the majestic brushes of the evening hues of the setting sun.

Bucket list number 4 had a check mark behind it, but not before some heart pounding moments.

How often doesn’t life take us down a trail that beckons us to enjoy the beauty of the cool mist of a rushing river, majestic towering forests, beautiful views, only to have us in the middle of a trail it seems, with the singing birds quiet and the darkness looming, our hearts gripped with… “which way now” and “what do I do??”.

Our feet seemingly frozen on the trail.

We may feel like the looming darkness and uncertainty will never end in that moment.

But be very assured… Our God sees it all.

“I will never leave you or forsake you” is a promise you can count on no matter how lost you may feel in the middle of your darkest trail, not knowing which way to turn.

So in the midst of a darkening season of your life with the darkening trail ahead and behind you seeming to never end… And the birds seem to stop their singing in this season…

know that every darkened trail in our lives has an end.

Keep moving.

And just when you think the sun will go down, and leave your trail forever in the dark…

There is hope in knowing that the sky will look brighter, and the looming forest will part as you turn your ear to Him, and listen for His still small voice encouraging you to keep moving…

“Just keep going… This trail ends…

Just around the corner.

Cross The Ocean

It was the black of night.

Their tired and weary eyes could hardly make out the large looming shape of The grey metal Boxcar that would be leaving their motherland forever.

It was 1935.

Great grandma and grandpa and their four young sons were heading for a land… land of the free.

Four older son’s said goodbye in thier hearts as face to face was too risky as they were left behind to face cruel Russia.

My heart aches as I imagine this having four daughters.

I can’t imagine.

The crude unforgiving jolts of the train stopping and starting, must have added to the angst gripping their hearts as it approached the Port where their next part of their escape would continue on the open seas for the next long month’s.

“Reische” as they were called in German, were buns that had been toasted to golden perfection, and packed by the dozens into flour sacks to sustain them for the long journey… perhaps the only thing standing between life and death.

Settling in with the crude amenities of the day, I can’t imagine Grandma and Grandpa’s mind’s did not float back to the day they had to say goodbye… forever… to their oldest four sons , left to face the cruelties of Mother Russia.

Although the focus now was to keep, protect their younger four sons and build a new life, I can’t but imagine their minds didn’t go back… maybe often in their humanness. But life in the 1930s on the ship to America, the land of the free, did not afford anything but looking forward, survival, the future, today… their life depended on it.

The move had different lasting effects on great-grandma and great-grandpa. While Grandpa could never really forgive himself and was never the same, as the story is told, little great grandma or the “Kleine” grandma as I knew her, mourned her sons and her losses differently. She said ” We had to do what we had to do for us to live free in another land”.

Although my heart begs to know she thought of them constantly for the rest of her years till the age of 96.. She not only survived… she lived.

She had not only raised four sons…and lost four sons, she also lost her 9 month old baby daughter… her only daughter, in the freezing semlin( underground dirt house) of the merciless winters.

My mind can hardly comprehend.

My great grandpa died in 1958. I never did meet him personally, but I learned to know my great grandma for the first seven years of my life. A determined little lady who worked the fields till her first pains of labor in the early years, then served “faspa” ( German afternoon lunch) to the men folk at the end of the same day, tending to her new born at the same time.

Life needed to keep moving forward.

We just have no idea….

Well at least I don’t.

Reflecting on this story… this piece of family history , it reminds me of how our hearts and minds want to look back to situations, relationships, etc, that can never be changed, yet we keep looking back.

Most of us will never have to experience what my great-grandparents did or only parts of… but nonetheless.. We keep looking back… somehow wanting… needing things to change. Yet our new moments that lead to our future need to be anchored in the new season of change.

We cannot move forward holding on to the past. Remembering yes… holding on … no.

Focus on the todays and tomorrows, and yes, surely reflect and remember well, but make a choice to get on that “boxcar”… perhaps in the darkest Midnight Hour of your life, and choose to keep looking forward and get on that “ship” of continual journey, and cross that ocean to that Promised Land of the FREE.

Both believed in their God that had been with them through many dark times before, both dearly equally loved by their God despite their own personal Journeys and choices how to live them.

Yet great grandpa only survived…. And great grandma lived.

They both had crossed the ocean physically but great grandma had truly cross the ocean in her heart and mind. Oh I’m sure it had to have been a commitment at times to continue, but looking back would have left her on the other side of the vast ocean even though her feet had been physically planted in the land of the free.

I believe in the same God my great grandma and grandpa had faith in so many years ago.

That same God has a hope and a strength for me to choose any “ocean” I want to cross to the “land of the free” in any life situation.

He has proven Himself to me over and over again as I look back on my journeys of having to choose to “cross my oceans” in my life… and continue to.

I cannot begin to imagine having to leave my children behind or even lose one to a harsh winter, but I know that I know that the ocean needed to be crossed to focus on a new life.

Today, what is in the rearview mirror of your life no matter how difficult?

Look to the God of the ages.

He is with us in the “boxcars” of life in the dead of the midnight and with us on the “ships” and anywhere else we may be. He hems us in with His mighty, everlasting, loving arms and gently turns our face.. If we let Him, to the winds of tomorrow… the land of the FREE…

And cross the ocean.