I Am Part of All that I Have Met

As I gain a little momentum in life…I often have times that my mind thinks back on people and events in my life that have meant something to me. I have many memories with some people in my life and I have snatches of memories with others. Each one has made an imprint on me that builds one upon another and has had a part in making me the person I am.

All my life my mother told me about my grandfather’s love for me. I was the first grandchild and he liked to spend time with me. He died when I was two so most of the things I know about him are just from what my mother would tell me. But I do have a small memory of me on a swing and a tall man in gray work garb, gently pushing me and laughing. I remember stopping the swing and receiving a piece of gum. I can see the white paper and remember opening it. I knew it was HIM. My grandfather. And it’s my only memory of him. But I grew up knowing he loved me and feeling like a “favorite” of his, though it is only my own summation from things I have been told.

Printed deeply in my memories are a curving road up a mountain in eastern Tennessee and sitting in the small house, the last one before the road turned to gravel. IMG_1929

I can picture my great-grandmother sitting on her couch, telling stories to my parents. Voices going on and on…not knowing that someday I would LONG to her them again…wishing I could write down every word! But as children, my brothers and I would wait for the okay to run outside to climb the mountains, avoid the cows and bull and run around free through the Richardson land. But I knew that I had a good foundation in my family tree with a grandmother who talked about the apostle Paul as though he were a friend. I knew even then that those days were special but what I didn’t know was how fleeting they were. But I felt I belonged there and I knew that my family went beyond the five of us who lived together back in Ohio.

I can recall many trips to cemeteries on Memorial Day….speeches given about days I couldn’t imagine, men who wore funny hats but marched in a straight line behind buglers and bag pipes…they were called veterans and I knew they had fought for my freedom. Dad always took us…a day we wanted to sleep in because it was a day off from school…a day we could go to a friend’s house and play. Memorial-Day-Saturday-039But instead, we stood in the hot sun and listened to the men who served or the congressmen present and we learned, even before we understood, that the flag was important, and men had died for us to be free and that we should be grateful for a free country. Instilled in me from a young age was a patriotism that I still carry to this day.

My parents were what some would consider “strict”. We were taught to obey God’s word. We were taught that we were children and not adults. That meant obeying mom and dad, respecting our elders, not interrupting adults, not running around public places but always being well behaved. We did not talk back, whine, ask more than once and we did not question (though sometimes I still wish we could have at least been heard). We had chores and worked hard but we played hard, too. We learned from our dad how to play baseball and basketball in our back yard. But he also taught us that those who serve us, teachers, and church workers were respected and they were always right (yes, I later learned my parents may have spoken to an authority figure after the incident but WE never knew that). Our father was the final authority. But we knew he loved us, had our best interest in mind and I can honestly say (though now I don’t agree with everything he did or believed), that he NEVER required anything of us that he did not do himself and he was never inconsistent. He taught me how to grow up to be a respectful and responsible adult. And best of all, when I knew that I needed Jesus in my life, it was my dad who led me to Him.

My mom…well…there are not many words to describe her. She was something. lol But EVERYWHERE she went, she knew everyone and everyone who knew her LOVED her. She was a real people person. She cared about her kids. She had a lot on her plate. Besides keeping up with the house and her three children and attending EVERYTHING that any of us participated in, she had to work, too. We were all in Christian schools and had a pretty nice place to live and we just needed more income. So she was willing to step in and cook in the local elementary school for years and later, keep books for a friend’s business. She and I were so different in so many ways. But she was always my greatest cheerleader. She ALWAYS talked about how she thought I was so talented, and beautiful, and I could do ANYTHING I wanted to do. I must have heard those things a thousand times. And even though she was, of course, quite prejudice, some of that stuck in my head and I knew beyond a doubt that she loved me and she instilled a confidence in me. And I still carry some of it around with me now.

One of my most precious relationships is with my brothers. Almost all of my memories include them because we were always together…at least until college years. The three of us were close in years and though we fought like all siblings do, we had a special closeness. No one could mess with my brothers. I may mess with them….lol. But anyone else had to answer to me. I was so proud of them. We had fun together. We have so many inside jokes and things that only the three of us know. We are the only ones who can truly know what it is like to lose our parents and the suffering that they went through when they died. We have been through a lot. Each of them has lost a baby and I have had to deal with a child with spina bifida. I believe all of us, though things have been sometimes dire or grievous, learned to get though these trials because of our parents. My mom was an eternal optimist. And my dad…well…he has been sick as long as we can remember. And when when he had cancer, we were all brought to the hospital. He sat us all down and read to us a passage from 2 Corinthians. 2-corinthians-13-4Yes, dad told us he had cancer and then he started preaching a little sermon to us. Over the next 15 years, he would go through so much. It was hard and sometimes there are no words to describe what we all went though and though we could tell he was suffering, he NEVER lost his love of life or his love for God. When he went through an intense time of not remembering the things he was saying…when he would come out of it, the first thing he would ask was if he had said anything that would bring dishonor to God. He never did. But what a lesson to us. It is one that the three of us will never forget.

I have had the privilege of having so many good friends through the years. I grew up next door to someone who turned out to be the very best friend. She was there through the barbie doll years (we had quite the serial soap opera going on) and though the awkward teen years. Then there was the time I ran to her house because my heart had been so broken by a boy and I thought I would never make it. It was to her house I ran. And she left her boyfriend sitting on her front porch to comfort me and be with me. I had friends from church growing up and though their families left and we went our separate ways, they still hold a special place in my heart. And there was a friend who though she and I had our ups and downs, sometimes were friends and sometimes we were not, she is now family and I love her with a special love.
imagesThere were friends from my school, some I still keep in touch with and friends from college whom I still love. I can look back and feel like I was part of something special and memories that I hold dear and will never forget. They make up my childhood and my teenage years and bring a sweetness for me to look back on.

Oh, how I could spend words and words telling about how I met Steve and how we broke up and how we got back together. It was all timing! He and I have been together 30 years. It has not been the easiest 30 years. We have gone though much together. Being in ministry, we have had many years of want….as in need. Money, people!! Money. lol BUT, we are RICH in more way than one!!! God has always been there. We have had more than we need. Abundance! Being in ministry can bring heartache…for the kids you fall in love with but they make a turn away…in many ways…from the church, from God in general, from their families, from the Word of God. It hurts. You invest so much and you want so much for them. But we keep praying. We have been through sicknesses and loss and intense relationships. And then we had a child with spina bifida. She has had 21 surgeries. You can’t go through 21 surgeries plus the added illnesses and problems and being told three times that we may lose her and it NOT affect your marriage. We were told before Korie was born (I haven’t researched this myself) that 95% of marriages of special needs kids eventually divorce. Times have been difficult but Steve and I only had each other…and God..to lean on…I believe we grew closer…to each other and to Him. Through all this, we have learned to rely on God as individuals and as family. heart-300x275

Thinking of Steve, besides my relationship with the Father, he is the best decision I have made on this earth. He is faithful, strong, understanding, and more. He always sees the best in people, he always does the right thing. He and I are opposites in so many ways and yet, our interests are so similar. We just have a nice flow in our relationship and there is no one else I could ever have gone through life with. He changes my life everyday.

Presently, my friends and my church family have taught me about love. My friends here are just the best. Everyone should have that friend that they know would be there for them no matter what and who will alway have your back. I have that. And our church has been the arm of God toward us both in the past and today. They are loving, giving, understanding and are active. We know we are blessed and we hope that we can be the same for them.

Lastly, for today anyway, my daughters have taught me life’s lessons. Kristin was a little thing when her sister was born. She had to grow up quickly has life and death was present in our home for many years. She had to make many sacrifices, both because we couldn’t do some things as a family because of our limitations or because of a lack of funds. I am not saying she was perfect, but she did adjust and she accepted. She has taught me to give people the benefit of the doubt and a loyalty to friends and loved ones. To watch her grow in to a beautiful woman has been a great joy to me. And my greatest blessing is that she and Tim live close to us. What a gift. Korie has suffered but she preserves and she smiles in spite of it all. She is sweet and loving and has taught me patience and acceptance and love. Both have impacted my life.

Tassel1-150x150I read recently about a woman was watching an undergraduate interact with his friends. He had forgotten his tassel. His friends quickly began giving him one or two strands of their own tassels. He collected them and made them into his own tassel and wore them proudly on his mortarboard that day as he received his diploma. She then talked about a Tennyson poem called “Ulysses” who said, “I am a part of all that I have met.”

There are more than the things that are written here that have made me who I am, but this is a good representation. The ebb and flow of life has brought people, situations and events into and out of my life. They all have made an imprint in who I am. For them I am very thankful and I can only hope that I can do the same in the life of someone else.

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