{ Mama Makeover }

This post is not about pickles. Please keep reading.

Mama Makeover: Part 1

It started a few months ago, as documented in a previous blog post.

Summary: my oldest adult daughter gently wondered why I have been wearing such unlikely wardrobe combinations / mismatched outfits. I could blame it on a mid-life crisis, that I have nothing to wear, or on cabin fever. I could have blamed it on Covid-19 as many things were in 2020.

This first daughter pointing out my wardrobe issues was the initial step in what I believe may be a groundbreaking 2021 Mama Makeover. Yes, it is past due. Indicators that a mid-life makeover may be mandatory include the color-damaged lifeless hair, the lack of age-appropriate makeup, and the extra 10 pounds gained in record time.

Mama Makeover: Part 2

I showed up at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, feeling rather blah. Sara is only 4 years younger, but is slim and accomplished and doesn’t even have to color her hair. She is a great listener and encouraged me when I realized that I had forgotten our plate of cookies at home, but I brought a helping of my age-related grumblings instead. We commisserated together for a few minutes before diving into the lefse.

Mama Makeover: Part 3

Hours later, my next oldest daughter lounged on my bed (I love when she does that.)  I laughed and summarized my Christmas Day aging discussion with my sister. She affirmed me as she always does…and then gently and tentatively added some makeover ideas. 

Have you ever seen The Pickle Story episode from the Andy Griffith Show? Aunt Bea offers her homemade pickles to her neighbor Clara, who has been the winner of the county fair pickle contest 11 years in a row.  At one bite of Aunt Bea’s unsavory pickles, Clara winces and nods her head, trying to be kind. But then she slowly adds several recommendations, revealing that Aunt Bea’s pickles truly need serious improvement.

In like manner, my daughter rolled out a few tips:

  • Maybe you could get bangs again, so your hair would frame your face…
  • You seem to wear a lot of dark colors. If you wore bright colors once in a while…
  • And, your glasses make you look a little severe…
  • I follow this one homeschooling mom on Instagram and even though she is home every day, she always wears lipstick…

The Makeover Continues

Guess what? I have explored and followed many of these suggestions. Why? Because when a Mama gets makeover support from her young adult daughters, this is wise advice from the people who know her the best and love her the most.  My girls know that I don’t wear lots of makeup or fancy clothes and I usually keep my hair in a ponytail. They know my favorite accessory is an apron, that I shop at GoodWill and that I could never give up cookies. They are the ideal consultants to brainstorm a few changes that I can live with — so, the 2021 Makeover is to be continued….

~~~

Note: Because I believe that God created me in His image, it is my personal desire to make improvements where needed — not to try to recapture youth, over-focus on outward appearance or to imitate the world and its values, but to make my aging, imperfect body the best it can be for myself, my family and for service to my Creator.

~~~

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself…” 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 The Message Bible

{ Boxing Day Poem }

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Don’t Put Yourself in a Box.

You are a 1-of-a-kind person

2 unique to be summed up,

condensed

or ignored

You might be one of 3 negotiator types

Or a brain type 4

“Experts” say there are 5 types of cat owners,

Communication styles,

Love styles

and

6 types of people and “you are one of them” 

7 motivational spiritual gifts

8 types of intelligence

9 enneagram types

But YOU

Are an unpredictable, imperfect,

Lovingly crafted,

Image-bearing

 !  10  !

so

Don’t Put Yourself In a Box.

~~~~

I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
15 You even formed every bone in my body
when you created me in the secret place,
carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.
16 You saw who you created me to be before I became me!
Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
the number of days you planned for me
were already recorded in your book.
17–18 Every single moment you are thinking of me!
How precious and wonderful to consider
that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!
O God, your desires toward me are more
than the grains of sand on every shore!
When I awake each morning, you’re still with me…

Psalm 139: 14-18 TPT

~~~

Btw, don't put God into a box either...

[ More about that here and here]
Every time I put God in a box, I'm left sweeping up the pieces of shredded cardboard.
-- Josh Riebock

{ Tribute to Mr. W }

Mr. W was our tough, joke-loving, retired farmer-neighbor who always had a twinkle in his eye. He passed away recently after enduring dementia for the past two years. My 16-year old son was frequently called upon by Mrs. W to help. Here is what my son wrote about Mr. W.

My Memories of Mr. W

Mr. W, a big man with a big personality, was my neighbor for most of my life. He and his wife would visit our house – just down the street – every once in a while. During those visits, they’d make us laugh and have a good time. It was always a pleasure to have them in our home. Occasionally, tiling would need fixing or the ditch needed inspection. Mr. W might drop by for a visit on his way to the field. He would sometimes bring his golf cart along. 

1. The golf cart. When he would stop by with his golf cart, I would always want a ride in it. When I got a little older, I drove it for a while (badly). Mr. W’s golf cart was indeed a coveted thing. It even led to me saying to his face one time: “Can you give it to me in your will?” Indeed, a very inappropriate question. At the time though, it must have seemed only practical. What other way would I secure that golf cart in my future? It would long be a conversation starter when our neighbors were ever brought up.

2. Working with Mr. W. One thing everyone knows about Mr. W is that he was a worker. He could fix, build, or remodel just about anything. One time not too long ago, I got to help him build his deck. Of course, I didn’t know much about deck building. But it seemed as though he had built things all his life. He had a confidence in his work that was nothing short of admirable. He was a skilled carpenter, farmer and handyman all at the same time. If you needed something done, there was a good chance he could do it. 

3.  On the deck. It’s actually funny that I just mentioned a story about the deck. It plays into this next one. When his disease was getting real bad, I was able to come by and help out. It was never a chore, because I genuinely enjoyed it. I enjoyed being able to serve a man who had done so much for my family. Occasionally, I would come by, sit on the couch, and he wouldn’t move an inch. It was as if I weren’t there on those days. He very rarely did anything that caused a problem while I was there. Mr. W was always better in the mornings. Anyone close to him in his last year could tell you that. He would be jovial in the morning. He would comply with just about anything you’d have him do. So it was, early one day in the beauty of the summer, we went out on the deck. The sun was shining, and I’m fairly certain that he had brought out a glass of unfinished milk from breakfast. Anyways, we were just sitting there, and I had the idea to video him. I thought it would make for a great memory if anything were to happen to him. I took out my phone, started a video, and asked him to say hi. He turned his head and smiled in his own way. Kind of an amused, skeptical smile. He never did what I asked, which is fine. I’m just glad I have that video of him in good spirits, on a beautiful day, just living life. 

So, goodbye Mr. W, I’ll miss you. I am glad for all the times I’ve had with you. I will treasure that video forever.

————————————————

Photo by Gozha Net on Unsplash

{ Dear God, What Does Prayer Look Like to You? }

Dear God,

What does prayer look like to You?

 

Do You see our prayers like a cloud, rising?

Or do petitions position themselves like pinpoints on a map?

 

Do you hear them or feel them or

Did you already answer before the world began?

 

Does prayer turn Your heart like a stream of water?

Does it make You turn Your head and notice us?

 

Do You ever shake your head and decide it’s a no-go because you see the whole picture and it won’t work out best that way?

Do you wish we would understand?

 

Do prayers collect like sand in an hourglass?

Like rain in a bucket?

Like tears on a pillow?

 

What does prayer look like to You?

 

~~~

His promises are true / Romans 4:21

He never changes / Malachi 3:6 & Hebrews 13:8

He is always good / Psalm 145:9

~~~

Photos from Unsplash

{ The Blind Friend and the Sobbing Drunk on the Beach }

Yesterday, I sent a message to a total stranger, requesting help for a spiritually blind friend. 

Think: Asking Santa for a new baby sister, or calling on the President to help the family purchase a new dishwasher.

I am now sitting here at 3 a.m. wondering what the response will be, and I am comforted by sudden thoughts of being in good Bible company.

I recall — with hope — some innovative, yet seemingly inappropriate ventures that pop out of scripture — ones which ended remarkably well:

  • A harlot with faith who hid foreign spies in her roof. (Joshua 2)
  • Buddies who lowered their needy friend through a crowd and a roof to get healing ~ budding in line at best, and at worst: breaking and entering. (Mark 2:4)
  • A controversial woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, in front of a batch of scorners, then went on to wipe His feet with her hair. (John 12)

Have you ever done something outlandish or eccentric, but for a worthy reason?

  • Said to a stranger: “God told me to talk to you…” 
  • Dumped kindness and grace on someone who slighted or offended you?
  • Sent an anonymous gift in the mail?
  • Stretched beyond norms to rescue someone you love?

God’s ways — as seen in scripture — show me that He doesn’t always work within our manners, ways, protocol, or traditional appropriate-ness.

Jesus doesn’t bid us all approach Him as gently weeping sinners, sitting in shiny church pews. Sometimes repentance and God’s forgiveness wash over a sobbing drunk, stretched out on a sandy beach. 

So, all to say, I am praying that God, who creatively used a donkey to speak to a prophet (Numbers 22:22), will use my strangely unexpected message, sent off to a total stranger, to open the eyes of a blind friend.

Photos:

Bible Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Blind Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

{ Mom Life: Donating Love }

Being a mom is not a BEING LIFE; it is a DOING LIFE.

It’s a constant, daily, demanding string of decisions between selfishness and donating love cheerfully.

  • When a sleepy wanderer-child interrupts my calm early morning…
  • When I want the kitchen all to myself…
  • When I had a busy day and just wanted to rest….
  • When I am trying to think and someone asks me rapid-fire questions…

Will I snap in irritation, sigh impatiently…or donate love cheerfully?

Donate: verb:

1. to present as a gift, grant, or contribution; make a donation of, as to a fund or cause:to donate used clothes to the Salvation Army.

2. To provide (blood, tissue, or an organ) for transfusion, implantation, or transplant.

Yep, that is motherhood. Donating gifts, contributions, blood, sweat tears, heart, soul and more — whatever one has left to give.

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls…

2 Corinthians 12:15

It’s holding tight, It’s lettin’ go
It’s flyin’ high and layin’ low
It lets your strongest feelin’s show
And your weakness too
It’s a little and a lot to ask
An endless and a welcome task
Love isn’t somethin’ that we have
It’s somethin’ that we do…

There’s no request, too big or small
We give ourselves, we give our all
Love isn’t some place that we fall
It’s somethin’ that we do…

from Love is Something That We Do by Clint Black

Still working on it.

~ Lisa

{ Confessions of a Reluctant Homeschool Mom }

I have been living carefree, as if summer would last forever. Casual breakfasts at 9:00, lingering discussions over the kitchen table with my cup of coffee…late lunches at 1:00…cat naps on the sofa….easy, cool dinners created with garden produce. I have awakened in the morning thinking: maybe we will go to the beach today? Or the farmer’s market? Or perhaps we will grab our books and art supplies and blankets and fall asleep in the sun?

Fun bike rides on rail trails over the summer.

Not anymore. It is time to pay for the slothful sins of summer. I should have been hunting down appropriate textbooks and gathering resources. Week after week, I saw the universe of school supplies, shining from a distance in the aisles of Walmart. But did I walk toward the light? No. I lived in avoidance, by walking the long way round, through automotive or pet supplies.

Now, I humbly and hurriedly dig through a tangle of spiral wires, only to uncover the wide ruled notebooks that nobody wanted. I have ordered books on Amazon, but they won’t arrive until next week. My younger son asked yesterday, “I wonder what the spelling words will be?” I muse internally, “Hmmm, I wonder, too…” I start scratching down a possible word list.

How could I have lived in such denial? Even now, just hours before the bell rings, am I planning? No, I am sitting here at my computer, looking for suitable photos to post here with my ramblings.

The air is chilly. The coffee is brewing. I don’t know what I will serve for breakfast. The First Day of School has arrived.

More soon.

We discovered a lovely new beach this summer. I wish we had gone just once more…
This is me. I turned 55 this summer and I have been homeschooling for around 25 years.

{ Vamos a la Casa del Señor }

I wrote once before about my mother-in-law, Zenaida, on this blog, but last week I had the privilege of writing about her again, because we said our final goodbyes to Mama Z last week.

Here are some words I shared at the funeral of this tenacious Cuban lady, and the full story of her courageous exit from Cuba follows…

“We have a big family and each time after we had a baby, Zenaida would come for a visit, bearing LOADS of food. She didn’t just bring a meal and a bag of salad. It was more like:

  • A huge watermelon
  • 2 XL bags of tortilla chips
  • 3 pineapples
  • A large, heavy homemade loaf of banana bread, baked in a bundt pan
  • A 10-pound package of ground beef
  • And an institutional sized box of cereal

When she arrived, our refrigerator and freezer would be stuffed full and there was so much food on the table that there often wasn’t room for anyone to sit down and eat there.

That was just how she gave. 

She gave BIG. and

She gave generously.

On these visits after a new baby, Zenaida would find things to clean. She was thorough, and there was always something to clean at our house. She would scour the grimy highchair, she would pull out the washer and dryer and sweep behind, and once she used a toothpick to completely detail our toaster — removing every last crumb.

Zenaida loved to work with her hands, and she would add beauty and sparkle to her creations and sometimes add her own creative touch to something she had purchased. She made her own clothes and was not afraid to tackle complicated styles. She usually chose fancy fabrics with a little sparkle, and she always wore her outfits with her favorite jewelry.

Zenaida and I shared a love of sewing, however, the fabric I usually chose was much more plain and simple and I seldom wear much jewelry.

One time she took me aside and said:

“Lisa.  You shouldn’t dress so much like a nun.”

She sewed many dresses for me and for our daughters. Once she made me a jumper that had an opening cut out at the bottom.

She said:

“I made it like this, so when you are walking up the stairs, the dress will kind of open up at the bottom and show your legs a little bit.”

Actually, the dress I am wearing today is one that Zenaida made for herself and wore 30 years ago at our wedding. I think she would be happy to see me wearing something she made — and with a touch of sparkle in the fabric!

Tomorrow’s funeral service will include a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 about an inspiring, God-fearing woman. This is a fitting passage for Zenaida, because it includes phrases such as:

  • She works with her hands in delight!
  • She makes coverings for herself;
  • Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
  • The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (I never knew Zenaida’s husband; he passed away many years before I became part of the family. But whenever she spoke about him, her words were loving and honoring.)
  • She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
  • Her children rise up and bless her. 

And that last phrase is our desire: to share words that explain what a priceless part of the family that she will always be, and to express gratefulness for her investment of love in all of our lives.”


More family members have written about Zenaida; read Theo’s tribute and Sophia’s story.

———————–

Zenaida’s Obituary

In 1963, Zenaida Martinez Araujo Luciano left Cuba with her beloved husband, two young sons, and nothing else but her faith and courage. 

On August 15, 2020 Zenaida left this earth with a full life, along with the admiration of her large and loving family. 

Zenaida was born in the town of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1932. She was the only child of Francisca Martinez Araujo. Zenaida and her mother lived with Josefa Fernandez, a dear family friend, who became like a second mother to her. 

Zenaida attended Escuela de Comercio where she joined the marching band as a drummer and played on the volleyball team. After high school, she studied at Escuela Profesional de Comercio and earned her degree in international trade and customs in 1955.

After finishing college, she fell in love with and married Antonio Luciano. The couple welcomed their first child, Antonio Jr., while living in New York. After Cuban dictator Batista was removed from office, they returned to Cuba, where their second son, José was born. When the new leader, Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a communist state, Zenaida and Antonio applied for permission to immigrate to the United States. 

Zenaida and Antonio finally received authorization to leave Cuba in 1963, and when they departed their homeland, they were forced to leave behind their family and friends, their wedding rings, and all earthly possessions. After a brief stay in Miami, the family obtained sponsorship generously offered by the Richfield Jaycees in Minnesota. When Zenaida’s friends warned her that she would have to milk cows up in Minnesota, she laughed and said she gladly would.

While living in Minneapolis, Zenaida and Antonio’s family grew as they were blessed with sons Nicholas and Giovanni. Sadly, in 1974, Zenaida’s beloved husband died of cancer, which left her with four children, limited English, and without a driver’s license, car or income source. Dauntless and determined, Zenaida pushed through these new challenges, and studied to become a U.S. citizen in 1976. She learned to drive and secured a job at the VA in laundry and food service. Later, she transferred to the IRS, where she worked for 20 years. After retiring in 1997, she was free to travel, sew, care for her grandchildren and attend their important events.  

Zenaida will always be remembered as a persistent, generous, faith-filled person who never gave up. She was the #1 fan of her grandchildren’s activities and she was always the first person to deliver a happy birthday phone call or a severe weather update. Among many other things, she was an expert seamstress, a sports enthusiast, the best banana-bread-baker, a lavish food-giver, towel-embellisher, soup-maker, salsa-dancer and the rainbow-jello-queen. 

This past year, Zenaida faced her cancer with dignity and courage, and she often expressed gratefulness to her family, who cared for her in her home. Zenaida passed away on August 15, 2020 at age 88, surrounded by her devoted family.

———————————————————————————————————————

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

{ Am I the Only One?}

Am I the only one who….

…adds more butter to the empty butter dish?

…picks up tiny dropped things (both wet and dry) all over the house?

…sees those two stray (dirty) socks that have occupied the corner in the front hall for the past three days?

I wonder if anyone else in the world…

…praises God when she sees a sunrise or a full moon or a rainbow or when watching bees do their thing?

…feels like taking the next day off after finishing the final book in a series, or after having company over? 

And am I the only one who…

…avoids looking at old photos of her children because it makes her feel sad?

…wishes life could always stay the same?

… cries (or laughs) when she reads her own blog posts?


~ Lisa

Photo: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

{ Door Knocking }

My husband is running for a local government office, so he and I have been knocking on random doors, asking strangers in our county if they would be willing to place one of his political signs on their property. For me, this is like a series of cheap and daunting date nights; he and I with our clipboards and phone books, pulling up to farmhouses we have only viewed from a distance. I slowly crunch gravel as I tiptoe out, hoping for a positive connection, while at the same time, hoping no one is home. 

john-reed--04wiGkb8Jc-unsplash

Door knocking is full of surprises. Since we started, I have had strange dogs jump into my lap, and felt forced to pet them while listening to passionate stories of local history and watershed issues.

We have been chased down by a protective father whose child was in the house alone when we knocked on the door, and after the child phoned him, he pursued us for two miles to find out our business.

Yesterday, while chatting with one woman at her door, her husband yelled out the screen door: “If you are not wearing a mask, we are not putting up a sign for you.”

So be it.

But door knocking has been unexpectedly rewarding. We have met farmers — smart, sensible, resourceful individuals who push on with their strenuous, smelly, thankless work through hot haying weather and frigid winters. I am grateful to live around such hardy, independent people.

When we approach doors, we are reminded that joy and pain and history live inside these unpretentious homes. One neighbor greeted us warmly, even though we were strangers. After connecting ourselves to a common acquaintance, we watched tears trickle down his weathered face while he apologized, confessing that his wife had just died a few weeks ago. One hour later, we left his kitchen not caring why we had come and glad we had offered ourselves as company. 

Door knocking has given us a reason to march onto a neighbor’s acreage and introduce ourselves. We have been living next to these people for more than two decades, and have never met some of them, seen their backyards, or known things like:

  • Some dairy farms offer spa-like perks for their cows, such as fans, body brushes and pedicures. 
  • One neighbor drove a daily carpool 40+ years to work at a candy factory in the Twin Cities.
  • Around here, we have some innovative business owners, former federal agents, and 2:00 a.m. risers. 

So, I guess we will keep knocking on doors, putting up signs, and handing out pieces of glossy paper, because there are more fascinating neighbors to meet.

Photo: by John Reed / Unsplash