Memories and Milk Glass

Last night the Verkaik women gathered together for a girl’s night.  We joined up to laugh, devour appetizers and catch up.  We try to do this any time the “out of towners” come back for our summer visits.

However, last nights gathering had a unique purpose, to absorb the history of all the dishes, antiques and memories that fill up my Grandmother’s curio cabinets and shelves.  To divide and receive, so that we may eventually take these heirlooms and integrate them into our own homes and stories.

There was a silent battle for milk glass, a confused googling over what exactly a “hummel” is and a hilarious roar when we found a little german sculpture of a naked couple intertwined in a passionate embrace.  We decided that our unmarried cousins must use this as a cake topper…. come on ladies, please?

At one point my Aunt Ruth commented that all this colored glass and delft made up my Grandma’s life, spoke of her journey, her memories.

These dainty cups and delicate plates came from California, Vietnam and Washington.   A few pieces remained from my great grandmother’s original journey across the Atlantic from The Netherlands to America.

There is something about a tea kettle that floated past lady liberty in an old wooden trunk that takes my breath away.  So much hope, and adventurous fear contained in a small silver vessel.

We each left that night with a piece of my Grandmother’s story, but more than anything we could hold in our hands we all left with a deep sense that our most cherished gift was the gift being a woman of this family.

We’re daughters, nieces and granddaughters, whether by birth or marriage, who will carry this family into the future.  We will retell and create the stories of “us.”

Of course we will cherish the vases and plates and retell their stories, but more than that we will carry and tend the flame of identity that is infused into our blood and bones.

Every time we gather I feel inner warmth and each time we part I feel less complete for the distance.

I’m honored to be a woman in this story, my grandmother’s second granddaughter, chosen to carry her legacy into the future.  To glimpse of her life in delicate blue delft and share it, and so much more with my own daughter and granddaughters.   I will teach my Daughter to love almond paste, appreciate delft and make blueberry buckle and pea soup.

Lineage, we all have a story that spans forward and backward from this very moment.  We are all part of some collective “we” and if your family has left you story-less, I must remind you that we are brothers and sisters together you and I.  Loved children of a God whose story includes all families in an infinitely redemptive tale that has neither a beginning, nor an end.

Today, may you see all that you carry and cherish, and may you share it into the future.

Really, it’s all God’s Love

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.” Isaiah 49: 15-16

I am often intoxicated with the sweetness of the evening.  The softness of clean, freshly bathed baby skin on my lips, the peace that accompanies nothing left but the easy unwinding of putting another day to rest, teeth brushed and pajama clad.

I love my life, all surrounds me and all that I sense on the horizon.  I love breathing strong prayers over sleeping babies just before I slip into sheets that feel so soft on my well worn and calloused feet.

As time passes I find I’m learning to release all my desperate striving and breathe grace.  Through this new way of living the spirit is prompting, leading and reassuring me.

We’re staying with our adoptive parents, Dave & Sandy while Kel is the Dean of a High School Summer camp a few hours south of us.  The way they have taken us and our children in is an unimaginable gift to us.  My mother heart wondered what life would be like for our family with no grandparents or parents left alive, and God knew and responded.

Last night I was stressed out and crabby, I had attempted to make dinner for everyone, one of our favorites, Pioneer Woman’s Dr Pepper shredded pork.  It’s spicy and sweet and will clear your sinuses and your worries in no time flat.

But last night it wasn’t turning out, wasn’t falling off the bone, wasn’t shredding or reducing.  The kids had just creamed their way through target and the little man is going through a “nothing will please me” phase where he throws whatever you offer him.

The dinner conundrum was the last straw and I couldn’t hide my aggravation and stress.  I didn’t snap at anyone in particular but no matter how much they insisted dinner would be fine I stressed that it was ruined and wrong.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard a whisper:  “You better cut it out, they don’t have to love you or let you stay.  Be sweet, be only the best parts of yourself.”

I apologized to Sandy later and told her sometimes I worry that since I’m not her real daughter that I could do something to send her away.  She cried and asked me never to say that again, that I am loved and our children are cherished, that we have a place here.

Suddenly it struck me, why is it that I think that real, lasting love comes only with blood and documentation?  

After all, isn’t love always a choice?  A series of choosing God’s ways over our human desires to serve ourselves first?

Parents abandon their blood children, and legally documented marriages end all the time.  These things that I thought obligated us to love are easily done away with.

I love Kel with a forever love that has nothing to do with our legal marriage certificate.  I love my children not because of our shared DNA but because of their light in their eyes and the spirit they bring to this world.  There is nothing that anyone could do or say to remove my cover of love from them.

Do I believe that my friends who worked so hard to bring home their adopted children will actively love them less than their biological children?  No, not at all, I have a lasting faith in the love of adoption.

We are all adopted when you think about it.

We all love people deeply without any legal obligation.  I’m connected through love to my friends, my life group and our college students with a love that is a choice and has nothing to do with blood or the law.

So, if I question this earthly love, then what of the love of Christ?  Do I believe he’s obligated to love me?  That because he created me that he had no choice but to save me, sustain me?  Does he love us because it’s the responsible thing to do?  He made us so he has to take care of us?

No, but I believe that he does and always will, because he is faithful and forever.  He promised this cover of love for us would never cease to flow and he has yet to break a single promise.

The wonderful and terrifying thing is that when you bring yourself to this place where you realize that no one on heaven or earth is obligated to love, you must take a leap of faith and trust that their love is true, heavenly and lasting.

The flow of human love relationships in my life could and will change, because we humans do that sort of thing.

All real love in our lives is truly the love of God, whether it comes directly from his hand or through the hands of his people.  For me to love my children strong I must be a channel of his love in me.  For Kel to love me fiercely he has to tap into the husband love that God is growing in his heart.  In order to be true friends we have to follow the bible’s teachings and lay down our desires for the good of each other.

It’s really all God’s love, none of it human in the slightest.

He is the source of love, and if I trust that he is the spring and that those around me are seeking to plug into it then we’ll all be forever lost in a torrential flow of love.

This love is for us, but it must always be shared.  It will always move us to rescue those drowning in hope, loneliness and death.

True love can never be hoarded, it demands to given away.

Have you feared this?  Grown through it?