Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, August 25, 2023

Splash Pad Mad

In the three summers since the interactive fountain opened only a block from my home, I’ve had three opportunities to take my grandchildren. Two of those times, it was not functioning.

I remember the excitement I felt when the playground itself first opened. I attended the grand opening, anticipating the fun it would provide for families in the community. When Covid broke out and all the equipment was taped “off limits,” I grieved in my heart each time I passed. Then I rejoiced again at the sound of kids playing there when it reopened.

The addition of the splash pad was the icing on the cake. Is there any happier sight or sound than kids splashing in water? Even though our grandchildren aren’t here often, I looked forward to seeing them enjoy the splash pad eventually. Meanwhile, I loved seeing neighborhood kids enjoying it.

When I saw people complain about it on Facebook, even calling it “an embarrassment,” I spoke up to defend it. Maybe other towns do offer fancier facilities, but I have a small idea of how long and hard our Parks Committee volunteers worked to make this a reality for north-end residents.

So, on the evening that our thirteen and eleven-year-old grandsons declared they’d rather go to the splash pad than the beach, I happily walked over with them. As we drew nearer and saw no other kids, my heart fell. Was it out of order, again?

Sure enough, a sign read “Closed for Repairs.” Phooey.

Appalled by the amount of trash lying around,
the phrase, “This is why we can’t have nice things” came to mind. I half-heartedly suggested to the boys that we could play “trash pick-up” instead. I might have insisted, if our opportunities to spend time with them came more often. I also would have chastised the one who said, “This place sucks.” In my own frustration, I let his words slide. We walked home dry and disappointed.

The next day, I felt convicted. With zero knowledge of why the facility wasn’t working, how long it had been out of order, or who might be waiting on what part before repairs could begin, I had begun to judge. Would I become one of those complainers, bashing the “they and them” who ought to be doing a better job? Or would I find a way to make my community a nicer place? Donning rubber gloves and carrying a bucket to collect garbage, I returned to the scene alone. In addition to the expected candy wrappers, beverage bottles, and cigarette butts, I filled my pail twice with four socks, eight Q-tips, and most of a banana. I placed all in the garbage and recycling containers placed mere steps from the park bench.

“What’s wrong with people?” I wanted to yell. But I already know the answer. We live in a broken world with broken people. We are all self-centered and entitled in our own way. My brokenness may not look like your brokenness, but it’s certainly there. We all need Jesus to work in our hearts.

Guess what? My little mission cost me all of twenty minutes. It got me outside, moving my body, in the fresh air and sunshine. I even grabbed a few extra pieces of litter on the walk home. And hey, I wrote a blog post about it. I realize the chances of the litterbugs reading my words are slim, but maybe my readers will see some other area where they can start helping and stop griping. I may not be able to repair the splash pad, but I can do what I can do and feel better for it—about myself and about my community.

How about you?



Friday, August 18, 2023

The Best Kept Secrets

They say you’re only as sick as your secrets.

In 1942, a fourteen-year-old girl named Emmaleen Kimball began to grow suspicious. She felt certain the Kimball family into which she was born held secrets to which she was not privy. Furthermore, those secrets had something to do with her.

Being a fanciful sort, Emmaleen’s imagination led her down numerous roads. Some days she felt convinced she’d been born to a band of roving Romani people who left her on the Kimballs’ doorstep. Whether or not that piece was accurate, she was certain she’d had an identical twin named Darleen. Did Darleen die? Was she stolen? In any case, Emmaleen sensed she had not been placed in the correct spot on the Kimball family tree, if she belonged there at all.

If only her big brother Charlie wasn’t off fighting a war. He’d level with her, even if her other family members were no help. Dad never said anything about anything no matter how much Emmaleen quizzed him, and Mother spent her days lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Her sister April was too busy with her husband and four kids. Her sister Bernadette carried a chip on her shoulder so enormous, she’d probably tell Emmaleen she was a chimpanzee being raised as a human, just for spite.

When Emmaleen became dangerously ill, she feared her mother’s illness must be hereditary. Instead, the sickness led to a horrendous series of events that ultimately forced the secret out and threw the entire family into turmoil.

The Kimball family lived on a farm near a fictional town called Mainsfield, Manitoba. The town is fictional because the Kimballs are, too. They are characters in my new book, April’s Promise, releasing this fall.

There is nothing uncommon, however, about family secrets.

In an interview with The Guardian’s Rachel Cooke, author Dani Shapiro shared her big family secret and the long journey to uncovering the truth. As a child who never felt she belonged in her family, she was not entirely surprised when, years after her parents’ passing, DNA tests led to a sperm donor other than the dad she’d always known and loved. In her case, the term was literal as her parents had sought treatments for infertility.

In the moment of her discovery, she felt traumatized and alone. Why had her parents gone to their graves carrying so huge a secret? So affected was Shapiro by the breakthrough that it led her to create a popular podcast called Family Secrets. She felt floored at first by how many families were hanging onto secrets.

“In every audience,” she says, “there is a significant number of people who have discovered family secrets of their own: adoptees who were never told, donor-conceived people who never knew, parents who made a decision not to disclose the truth to their children.”

In an interview with The Today Show, Shapiro stated that in the past, parents often believed what their children didn’t know couldn’t hurt them. Science no longer allows us to get away with these secrets, as DNA testing has become a popular pastime.

April’s Promise, while fictional, explores what can and does happen in many real-life communities when pride, fear, and shame rule over truth and grace. Even when kept out of love and protection, secrets always create burdens. May my story help point to a better way. I hope my readers enjoy the story but more importantly, I pray they’ll be encouraged to follow a path of life free from shame and secrets. Watch for it next month.



Friday, August 11, 2023

Don't Know Whatcha Got...

Warning: this story comes with more information than you may care to know.

We’ve recently completed an intense 10-day stretch of family togetherness, the longest ever for us. Using our son’s acreage 30 minutes down the road as “home base,” our daughter and her family stayed in our camper on her brother’s yard while Hubby and I made numerous trips back and forth—sometimes sleeping over, most often going home. God gave us great weather. The five grandsons enjoyed cousin time in a large yard with a big inflatable pool and trampoline, a dog, cats, chickens, guinea hens, frogs, and crickets. We enjoyed great food, a beach day, fireworks, board games, and campfires. My daughter and I celebrated a long-awaited girls’ night while the men had their own evening of grunting and scratching or whatever guys do.

But as you know, life happens.

Before our time together had even begun, my right knee started giving me grief, making it tough to use stairs. By day three, that leg and foot were so swollen I could barely wear a flip-flop, let alone shoes. At the clinic, a doctor ordered an ultrasound to rule out blood clots. Thankfully, none were revealed, but the pain and swelling forced me to sit around with my foot elevated and made it impossible to be as active as I’d have liked. It’s gradually improving.

Funny how we take for granted the ability to walk freely until it’s gone.

We were also adapting to our new-to-us car. When the air conditioning quit, it felt like a major inconvenience in the heat but was quickly downgraded to minor when we nearly lost a tire because some lug nuts had come loose. A wheel alignment and torquing caused another ripple—and major expense—in our busy week.

Funny how we take for granted wheels that stay on and a comfortable temperature in which to ride on them…until they’re gone.

Sure could've used one of these!

When the only toilet in our son’s house malfunctioned and we waited for repairs, we appreciated the bathroom in the camper. That is, until its holding tank filled the same day, rendering it useless until a pump-out could be arranged. This ol’ grandma was grateful to come home to her own house the night nine people stayed there with no toilet. My attempt to lighten the mood proved unsuccessful when I suggested that all we needed to make this a perfect storm was an outbreak of diarrhea. When I was a kid, country property would have included an outhouse even if no longer in use. One of those sure would’ve come in handy! With all the boys in the family, the great outdoors sufficed, but three days of our son’s life seemed dominated by that most unpleasant repair job.

Funny how we take for granted such a simple luxury as a toilet until we need one and it’s gone.

While these types of dilemmas feel enormously taxing and frustrating in the moment, they all become laughable memories before long. Considering how seldom real life-altering tragedies occur, in relation to how often they could, gives one cause to pause and be grateful. If we must go through struggles anyway—and it seems we do—why not learn, laugh, and love each other through them? Why not recognize all the good things we’ve got before they’re gone?

“We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Romans 5:3.