Monday, November 23, 2015

Eucharisteo: to be grateful, to actively express gratitude

This has been an unbelievably hard year for us, yet, we know it could be worse. We've seen what worse looks like. We've had those years too, the war years and the death years. So, it's not in a whiny way that I say this year is hard, it is simply a matter-of-fact statement. Some years are hard. This is one.

My little family is not alone. My entire community, suffers as job after job dissipates.

Finding employment here is becoming a needle in a haystack project. Even with that piece of paper declaring him educated, my husband searched hard for half a year before finding a job that requires twice as much work for half the pay. The ends fight to meet.

It feels overwhelming when I let it. The weight of worry is heavy.
Yet, there is always reason to sing.

It was in prison that Paul and Silas sang praise to The One deserving of it. Thankful hymns swung open prison doors.

In my heart too, that is how I find freedom. Always through thankfulness.

I watched this recently. I think it's a great sermon on this topic of giving thanks.

I also recommend the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I wanted to say, "It will change your life!" But, that really isn't true.
Your life will remain exactly the same from the beginning of the book to the end, but this book will help change your perspective. From a different angle, it's a whole new world.
I have endeavored since reading this book to continuously count gifts of blessing, and to pause long enough to say thank you to the Giver of it all. One thousand was the goal.

As the year ends, my counting of gifts isn't adding to one thousand yet. I sit in the prison sometimes, and doubt instead of sing. I worry when I should worship. However, like a little boy's lunch, in Jesus' hands, the not enough gets multiplied. I have stopped and truly said, "I thank you for this which You have provided to me." several hundred times this year.  Even one thousand wouldn't be enough. All He has done, all He has given, all He has healed, and all He has brought back to life...Amazing Grace, Amazing Love.

No matter my failure, my counting doesn't stop. It can not stop, even if I wanted to. My soul sings thankfulness when my heart can't find words. He has bottled my tears time and again. He cleaned me up, and I was not deserving. I am grateful to my core, and I am ashamed at how little I say it.

The amount of love poured out onto this undeserving soul crushes me and builds me back up.

The lengths He went to, just to win this dirty heart, has forever tied my life to His.
May I count with my pen, with my photos, and with every breathe this body takes.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
   - 1 Chronicles 16:34

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way...

I had two very nice women knock on my door the other day. They wanted to ensure my entry to heaven. While I normally welcome such conversations, this was just bad timing. Uninvited door knocking usually is.

You see, I had been busy all morning with Photoshop making some digital things for my church. It took me longer than I had anticipated, and I was still in my bathrobe at 11:00. So, answering my door at 11:00 in a bathrobe looking a mess is embarrassing. Convincing two nice ladies that I really do know Jesus, and yes, if I died today I'd know where I'm going - even though I know I look a mess, it is well with my soul, I promise - is horrific while standing in my doorway in a bathrobe holding my squirming little dog so she doesn't jump on their pantyhosed legs.

So, after this conversation that took way longer than it should've on the morning that my tasks had already taken longer than I wanted, I was annoyed. I had a doctors appointment to get the baby boy to, and now I had to get dressed quickly.

This is about the time my baby girl asked, "Who were those ladies at the door?"

In my annoyed state, I spoke without really thinking, "They were here to save me."

To which my girl responded, "Well, it took them long enough! And, weren't you already saved?"

"Yes, baby, I am as saved as you can get. I can not be any more saved!"

As my response came out, it was so convicting to me.
This was why they knocked on my door. Not to save me, but to prompt these words.

I heard it, really heard it.
"I am saved."
"I am as saved as you can get."
"I can not be any more saved."

Sometimes I go through life like a crazy lady trying to earn something.
It can't be earned.
It can't be bettered.

It is finished. That is what He said, and I need reminded occasionally.

I don't always look the part. Sometimes I am a disheveled mess.
Yet, "I can not be any more saved."

The same day, I watched this video sent to me by a friend.

Oh, how He loves us.
Maybe you need the reminder too?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Weight of a Quilt

Few things are both practical and artistic. Quilts definitely fall into this rare category, and that is why I love them so much. I always had handmade quilts to sleep under as a child. Actually, I can remember having quilts everywhere. It seemed that no matter where I was in my house, a quilt was in view. I loved them. They were colorful, they were heavy and warm, and they came with stories. Curling up under a handmade quilt is quite a different experience than buying a new comforter from a store. The weight of a quilt holds a person down, but in the best possible protective way. Quilts have always felt like love and comfort to me. I studied them as I curled under them, and I was determined to unlock the mystery of how old clothes became these beautiful blankets.

Making a quilt, especially when transforming old, worn out clothing into a new useful blanket, is to make beauty from trash. It is a redemption story. Quilts tell me that everything and everyone has the potential to become beautiful and useful. Held together with stitches that represent hours, these pieces of patchwork were once lost, but now they are found. When I look at the little stitches, I can imagine nimble fingers going through the repetitive motions of transforming three distinct layers into one.
My ancestors are gone, but they have left behind a tangible part of themselves. They told their story in their piecing of fabrics, and in their stitches. This is creative work rich in tradition. It is a community started of necessity.  My Appalachian Ancestors have been covering their beds with this practical art form for countless years.

Quilters make quilts for many reasons. Quilts are first and foremost blankets to keep us warm, but they can also mark special occasions, become a form of income, be given to loved ones, or made for the pure joy of creating art. Like my quilting ancestors, I piece together quilts for all these reasons. I consider myself a historian, preserving a part of Appalachian History with each quilt I sew. Unlike the quilters of the past however, the techniques of quilting today can be very different from those of yesteryear. I have the luxury of a fabric store, and an electric sewing machine. 

In his book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary D. Chapman teaches that love can be “spoken” in five different ways. These love languages are touch, time, acts of service, gifts, and words of affirmation. A handmade quilt requires touch to make, and provides touch. The time it takes to produce a handmade quilt is one reason they are valuable items. The act of making a quilt is a tedious and labor intensive endeavor. For these reasons, a quilt is a special and welcomed gift. You can rest assured, if someone says “I made you this quilt”, what they are saying, in every love language, is “I love you.”

Appalachian mountain people are industrious. Living in a harsh environment will make people strong and self-sufficient. Appalachians are practical even in our art. I proudly carry on the traditions of my mothers before me. I sought out the secrets of quilting, and I can magically transform old clothes into beautiful and colorful blankets now. The redemption story keeps telling its tale to another generation of mountain folk.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What was I saying?

Sometimes right in the middle of telling a story, no matter how enthusiastically I may be telling it, I will just lose my way. My thoughts can't keep up with the words, and before I know it, I'm thinking, "What was I saying?"
This happens to me when I get distracted by the reaction of my listener, when I am trying to listen to everyone around me, or when I started speaking before getting my thoughts clearly lined out. I just find myself rambling, and so I stop mid story.
"If it's important, it'll come back to me."

And, It does eventually, but only if I quit speaking for a bit.

This is my explanation as to why I quit speaking/ writing on here. I got distracted with the reaction and/or lack thereof of my listener, I was listening to everyone around me, and I'm not sure I clearly lined out what this blog was to me or what I wanted it to contribute. So, I stopped speaking. I needed a "What was I saying" moment...that turned into a year.
I am virtually tapping your shoulder, and saying, "I remember now, if you are still listening."

There is more to the story. I wasn't finished.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From my journal: 21 Nov 2012

I hear his rhythmic breathing - in, out, in, out - with a very small snore accompanying the rise and the fall of that five year old chest.  I keep thinking of his birth.  Five years ago, I was mothering two:  3 year old Emme and 5 year old Jack.  Most days, however, Jack went by his cowboy name, Black Jack Walker.  'Ole Black Jack was quick on the draw and ever ready to defend a lady.  Evan is in his own  cowboy phase now.  What he lacks in cool cowboy name, he more than makes up for in spunk and pure raw boy-ness.  He is right where big brother was when he was born, and thinking of Jack at the same age, I truly wonder if two brothers were ever born with more different personalities.
My Jack has now traded his cowboy "Black Jack Walker" for his gamer name  "Beowulf".  I am so crazy proud of that boy.  This week is huge for him.  The closest thing I can think to compare it to is a Jewish Bar Mitzvah.  Jack is coming of age, and he is doing it the way West Virginia boys have been coming of age for many many years - in the woods with their fathers.  This is his first big hunting trip.  He is now, more than ever, one of "the guys".
Maybe that is why I am cherishing the little man beside me breathing his sleepy snores.  I've walked this path once before.  I know that mommies pick up cowboy hats and six shooters one day, not knowing that it was the last time they would be reached for.  It's once that phase has ended that you cherish it ever more.  Five years ago, I don't think I understood how quickly Black Jack's can turn into Beowulf's, and newborns can turn into cowboys.  Time, she is always moving.
Hunt well and enjoy your trip, my son.  I know that you will always remember this week for all your days as the first step into manhood -
and so will your  mother.  

Monday, October 27, 2014


Being a homeschool mom,  I get asked a lot of questions pertaining to home education.  Mainly, the questions center around "How?"

"How do you know what to teach?"
"How do you get your kids to sit still long enough to learn?"
"How do you get your housework/cleaning done?"
"How do you fit it all in?"
"How do you stay sane?"

The simple answer to all of these is, I don't.

Because I don't know exactly what to teach, I purchase a curriculum with a teacher's guide which leads me.
Some days we don't sit still to learn.  Currently, we are tagging along on my husband's business trip to Wyoming and exploring the area.  We did bring our books with us too, but we are taking it easy and stretching one week's schedule into two weeks time, and supplementing with hands on experience such as touring the Wyoming Territory Prison, hiking/bouldering through Vedauwoo, and driving through Medicine Bow National Forest and into the Snowy Range of the Rocky Mtns.
We just don't always fit every single thing in.  Priorities are constantly being checked and while our calendar stays fairly full, I do try to keep as much as possible clear for schooling.  I am learning to say no more, and to appreciate that being a homeschool mom is a full time job.
And, sanity?  It's overrated!  :)

Here is what I don't get asked much:  Why?  Why do I homeschool my three children?

My friend, Kristen, asked me to write a blog post about why I started homeschooling, and I did find it interesting that I don't get asked "why" much.  So, for Kristen, and for anyone else interested or curious about home education - here is our story:

I can clearly remember having a baby bump growing so large that my heavy Columbia winter coat was getting quite snug around the front zipper.  Wisconsin is a harsh state to winter through, but that is where the Marine Corps had sent us, and rain or shine, snow or sleet our little doggie still needed walked each night before bed.  As my bundled up husband walked, and I waddled around our apartment complex leash in hand, we spoke about this little guy that we were bringing into this harsh and cold world.  What would his life look like being a child of an active duty Marine?  How often would he have to move?  How many times would he have to change schools?  And so, in time, the talks kept coming back to homeschooling.  We reasoned that if all else changed in his life, his state or even his country, his friends, his church, through deployments - this one thing we could keep stable and unchanging for him, school would be stable.  His teacher would be me.

Of course, once the decision was made, then the doubts began to creep in.  After all, I had some college, but I didn't finish - and that was for nursing, not education!  I felt extremely inadequate and unprepared, and so I found myself doing what I always do when I feel this way - I spent hours researching and reading about schools, education, and particularly home education.  My child wasn't even born yet, but I needed answers.  The more I read, the more I realized that homeschool was more than just school at home.  My son's education would look nothing like my public school education had.  This scared me, but more than that, it got me excited.  I wanted to learn more.  I started to believe I really could do this, and it felt right for us as an active duty military family.

Time passed, the belly grew even larger, and the time came for my husband to re-enlist after completing eight years in his beloved Corps.  Feeling the pull to raise our child at home among family, and watching some of our family members experience failing health - we made the hardest decision we had faced, and for the first time, we put our child's needs above our own with the decision to not re-enlist.   My career Marine left his Marine Corps that he loved, and the career he excelled at to give his child the chance to grow up among the mountains and the family that he and I had grown up among.

Again, time passed, and that baby grew to a pre-school aged boy with a baby sister, and a momma with baby bump #3 growing.  Talk of education started back up.  This wasn't an idea or a theory any longer, this was the real deal.  We weren't active duty military any longer.  Did this change everything?  We were in rural West Virginia now, and this was not the situation we had planned for.  What now?  With much prayer and many discussions, I would recall all that I had read about homeschool.  I remembered how excited I was to give Jack something different that what we received.  I still wanted to homeschool, and yet I still felt very inadequate.  On top of not knowing what I was doing, I now had more than just Jack to care for.  I was terrified of failing him.

We decided on a "trial" period.  We would buy curriculum and follow it for pre-school.  If I completely bombed, we could send him to kindergarten at age 5.  I had a safety net.  Knowing that, I proceeded into his pre-school education fearlessly.  After all, it was just "trying it".  We had a blast.  We read books on the couch, his sister did art with him with her chubby little fingers, and life was blissfully fabulous.  I loved, absolutely loved, schooling him.

At the end of this year, again, a decision had to be made.  Buy more curriculum or send him to kindergarten?  Adding to my decision was a newborn baby, and a three year old sissy to care for during his first "real" year of school.  This was it, the real deal, I had to send a letter of intent to the Board of Education telling them my son wasn't truant, we were homeschoolers.  Real ones.

The weight of it was so very heavy for me.  I cried as I prepared a letter of intent that first year.  I prayed over and over, "Please don't let me fail at this.  If I screw up every area of my life, please let me get this right for them!"  It became a mantra for days, "please don't let me fail at this, please don't let me fail…"   And, after days of holding that letter of intent, I felt peace and I felt God speak to my soul:

 "I will equip you.  I have called you, and I won't leave you unprepared.  I love your children more than even you do.  I gave you this desire, because this is your ministry.  You are not alone.  As I gave manna to the Israelites, I will give you daily what you need.  Trust me, and obey."

With a deep breath and a prayer, I mailed that first letter of intent.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What I want his mom to know.

I am trying my hardest to raise my two sons into sweet, thoughtful, polite gentlemen.  I want them to honor their elders and to cherish their women.  
Your son does.

In 19 years of marriage, your son has been a wonderful husband.  He is also one of the best fathers I've been around.  He works so hard, not just at his job, but at his business, and also at home.  He truly takes care of us well.  

I hope that he feels as loved by me as he has always made me feel.  

What I want you to know is that I thank you for that.  Sons don't raise themselves.  Wonderful men don't happen by accident.  You have done well by your children - all of us.

I will never forget that first vacation we took together to the beach.  I got an ear infection, and in typical Drema fashion, you nursed me back to health.  You played with my hair.  You loved on me, and you haven't stopped.  You just have a touch for fixing the broken things in this world.  When most people give up, you breathe life back into things.  I admire that.  

I have learned to make your special green bowl chicken, your hard candy, and hamburger stuff - but I'd still rather sit at your table.  Mine just never quite measures up.  You are an amazing cook.  Thank you for patiently teaching me some of your tricks.  When we cook together, it always makes me feel more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law.  That means a lot.

I love that you had all boys, because now you get excited to talk makeup and jewelry with us girls.  My mom had all girls, so she gets excited to have Mike take out her trash for her.  Thank you for raising a son that is not only good to me and our children, but good to my mommy.

For all the ways you have loved me through the last twenty years, I do sincerely thank you, and I love you.
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