Cross Cultural Family

Divine Hospitality by Joan Wollschlager

“My eyes fluttered open ten minutes before my alarm and for the first time in my life, I said, “I don’t want to go through this day.” Though I’m a pretty strong person and have no fear of speaking in front of a crowd, I wear my heart on my sleeve and cry at the drop of a hat. Today was my mother’s memorial service in Iowa and I wasn’t at all sure I could get through her eulogy without breaking down.

My sister and I had planned the service from beginning to end. As musicians and directors, we’d planned all kinds of services and events, just like our mother had over the years, and we both had our roles to play. My sister, Elaine, had spent years as a music teacher, so planning the music and poetry fell to her. I’d spent lots of time in hospitality, so preparing a suitable lunch was up to me. 

After 85 years in North Dakota, Mom and Dad had moved to the senior independent living center in Elaine’s town in Iowa. Alzheimer’s Disease had veiled Mom’s mind for the past several years, so though her neighbors in the center were cordial to her, none of them really knew the mother we loved and respected so much. We’d always called her “The Hostess with the Mostess!”

Often when I was a child, for no apparent reason, Mom would get very busy cleaning, changing sheets, washing towels, and baking. Nothing extra was on the calendar but somehow she felt the need to “be prepared.”

“I just have a feeling someone’s going to come!” she’d say.  And sure enough, on a bright summer day, a car would pull into the farmyard and out would pile six or seven cousins, aunts and uncles, smiling and hoping we were completely surprised by their impromptu visit. Mom and Dad would usher them in and everyone would sit down to freshly made rhubarb pies and coffee, with my parents ready to act like the perfect hosts and everyone would get a big chuckle out of Mom’s “intuition.” Mom’s sixth sense became famous within the family and everyone knew she would always be ready to host any and everybody.

Everyone always knew they were welcome at my parents’ house. Mom’s most common phrase was, “Can I get you some coffee?” And of course, it was always accompanied with homemade cookies, donuts or pies. No matter how short their visit, no one ever left Mom’s North Dakota house hungry. 

Mom and Dad continued to enjoy surprise visits from many, though they no longer called Mom’s intuitive knowledge a sixth sense. Over the years, they’d replaced the verbiage with a far more accurate phrase that demonstrated their deep dependence on a loving God and called it “Guidance.”

Now in her new more dependent life in Iowa, no one had eaten Mom’s home cooking. But any new friends that had graced her apartment had heard her ask, often more than once, “Can I get you some coffee?” Alzheimer’s may have stolen her stories but it had never robbed her servant’s gracious heart. Even now that she’d been transferred to a nursing home, she still offered to get folks coffee.

Last November, Dad had had to move Mom into that nursing home, 21 miles from the apartment they’d shared in Iowa. With his own failing health, he couldn’t go and see her every day but, in her own inimitable way, Mom always seemed to know when Dad was coming to visit her. The nurses noticed it at first–Mom would scoot to the front door in her wheel chair and watch the door. Within half an hour, in would walk Dad! There hadn’t been a phone call. He hadn’t made an appointment. She just knew he was coming. Soon the nurses came to expect Dad to walk in every time Mom would sit by the door, joking about her marvelous intuition.

In May, six months after Mom had been admitted there, my family drove to Iowa from our home in Texas to celebrate our nephew’s wedding, stopping midway for an overnight in a hotel. And that night, I had the most arresting dream! In it, I got a phone call from someone, saying, “Your mother is not doing well. You need to get there right away!” Then I saw Mom in a hospital bed, her face almost as white as her hair against the white hospital sheets. 

The dream had been so vivid, I’d described it to my daughter and husband that morning as we got back on the road. But I was still completely stunned when my cell phone rang in the car just a few hours later. It was my sister. “Joanie, I just got a call from the nursing home. They say Mom’s been pretty unresponsive. They took a blood test and she’s drastically anemic. They’re taking her to the hospital as we speak.” 

Though our home was 12 hours from that hospital, we were only two hours away when the call came! Hurrying straight there, we walked into the room, only to see Mom’s face as white as her hair against the white sheets, exactly as I’d seen it in my dream! I thought of Mom’s daily dependence on God and realized that only He could have brought us from our home 12 hours away to her bedside only two hours after her arrival at the hospital! Guidance!

What an incredible gift it turned out to be with Mom for those few days surrounding the wedding. Our children were there and we hugged her and sang hymns around her bed, each of us getting to say our goodbyes. God even gave us a time of conversation where she displayed more lucidity than we’d seen for many years, where we discussed her assurance of salvation and her readiness to go to be with Jesus. 

Now only three weeks later she was gone, and we were planning her memorial service. I’d insisted that it wouldn’t be right to have her service without serving lunch and had planned and orchestrated it just like Mom would have liked. But the morning of her service was here and I didn’t think I could face the day. I rolled over for a few more winks before the alarm went off and instantly fell into one of the deepest most profoundly restful sleeps I had ever experienced–and dreamt!

I was standing, and suddenly Mom was on my left, still wearing her hospital gown, her white curly head coming just to my shoulder. Though she’d been quite tall, age and osteoporosis had shrunk her frame by several inches and now she looked up at me just as I remembered her from the hospital. Yet her touch was as firm as a 40 year old’s as she squeezed my shoulder and looked up at me with clear twinkling eyes. Then, with the strong clear voice I’d known as a child, she laughingly said, “You girls are doing such a nice job! And I’m so glad you’re serving lunch!” And just like that, she was gone!

I woke up laughing, reveling in the still tangible feel of my mother’s reassuring embrace on my shoulder! I could still hear her words in my ears, still see her laughing eyes! And I knew she was exactly where she had spent her entire life preparing to be–next to her Savior, enjoying every minute.

Suddenly I wanted to be at her memorial service! I wanted to tell her new friends about the woman I loved and respected, who’d taught me every important lesson I’d ever learned! I wanted them to know her like I did! 

And I did just that! I sailed through the service with humor, laughter, honor and without tears! We shared my dream, served the lunch and laughed at her unexpected endorsement of the day. And I have never been so happy to use the words, “Can I get you some coffee?”

Written By Joan Wollschlager (my mother)  in honor of her mother’s 90th birthday.  
Every time I set the table or journal a prayer I try to honor her.
I aspire to her grace, hospitality and spiritual tenderness.
We all have a story to tell. . . what’s yours?
 
#divinehospitality
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The child of missionary parents, writing became a natural was to process my adventures across the world.

Ndjerareou means 'he who builds the road in Ngambai, Nate's tribal language spoken in Chad, Africa.

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  • The road to a friend’s house is never long.” -Danish Proverb
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Thankfully, the same is also true for family. Road trips to visit my brother and his amazing wife in Abilene have become a sweet mini-retreat in the last couple of years. We check out their latest creative endeavor—Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure at the Abilene Community Theatre @actabilene and @kacalligraphydesign latest loveliness on display at The Well.  We get some quality time and enjoy the pace of small town life. .
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Abilene has wonderful local flavor like La Popular. @lapopulartienda Don’t take my word for it, ask anyone in the line around the building and you’ll get recommendations for the menudo, breakfast burritos and pastry. Make sure you take home a stack of home made tortillas. #worththetrip #roadtrip #abilenetx #miniretreat #texas #lapopular #abilienecommunitytheatre #familymakethebestfriends #sistersinlove #changeofpace #changeofscenery #bigskycountry #neverstopexploring #neverstopadventuring #changeyourperspective #trysomethingdifferent #eatlocal
  • “I’m outdoorsy, I like to drink wine on the patio.” -Unknown .
My husband calls it “porch therapy” we love a great spot to people watch, connect and share something tasty. Magnolia Avenue just opened an inviting new spot (formerly the barbershop.) Tapas, drinks, pizza. Look for movies playing outside, coffee and churros in the evening in the cute little out building (Saint Sofia) Great for dates & families (or family playdates;) Well done @lazonafw .
#porchtherapy #hotelmadrid #lazona #magnoliaavenue #lazonafw #fortworth #latergram #springintx #churros #coffee
  • Dreaming together is pure romance for me. Adventure is simply a hasty, impromptu or well planned dream being realized. .
My husband is an executor, I’m the dreamer. As the stakes grow high in life and misadventures mark our path, it’s easy to give up dreaming. To lick our wounds, protect what we care about and stop working our dreaming muscles. .
Recently, as I dusted off a dream that had lost it’s luster, gotten beat up and frustrating. Nate got a far away look in his eyes. It would have been easy to think he was tired of hearing my swan song of imagination. 13 years of marriage and I’ve learned to trust that look. I hold my breath in anticipation. It’s the look of a dream being realized, a partner buttressing my hope with belief and support. .
Today, I’m grateful for the courage to keep dreaming, for a man who needs my hair brained ideas to bring his life color and still jumps into the unknown with me. From our battle weary hearts to yours- keep dreaming my friends. .
#ndjerareoujourney #adventureawaits #daretodream #adventuretogether #neverstopexploring #neverstopadventuring #neverstopdreaming #twoarebetterthanone #dreamersneedexecutors #trustispriceless #sandollarbeach #bigsur #latergram #instatravel #happyvalentinesday #fromourheartstoyours
  • “In my life I need more faucets, less drains.” -  @katytullos .
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Overheard at my beloved Awakening Creativity Writers Group sponsored by @arthousedallas. Today we discussed critics, the ones in our heads and in our daily lives. This group is my secret weapon, a place I go to be filled up and find support through the minefield of self-expression. .
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Thank you @stircrazybakedgoods for hosting us. Cozy atmosphere,  good coffee and treats. Magnolia Ave is inspiring in any season.
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#writerslife #grateful #inspiration #creativityforthecommongood #innerlifeoftheartist #writersofinstagram #writersneedcommunity #andcoffee #magnoliaavenue #fortworth #arthousedallas #findyourtribe #fortworthcreatives @shannonreneeholt @stephaniesuire @sharibower @katefriederichs
  • My parents got their first TV EVER the night of the 1984 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Is it any wonder I believe this should be a national holiday!
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We are Olympic ready in this house! Snacks-check. Opening ceremony bingo-check. Sushi-check. Psy playlist-check Korean BBQ-check. Crafts for kids-check (thank you Pinterest) This is my Super Bowl people! .
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In recognition of this event I started listening to Scott Hamilton’s new book. Finish First. (with Allison Fallon  @allyfallon well done) . .
#ivetrainedallyearforthis #mykidsthinkimbananas #openingceremony #2018winterolympics #usa #olypmics #instaolympics #scotthamilton #pyeongchang2018 #familynight #raisethemright #itsmysuperbowl
  • My heart's been poured into a lime green composition book this year. On the page my morning laments morph into simple requests giving them life with pen and ink. Their stark presence on the page invite Christ in, begs for hope, simple in its naked reality. It’s an admission of need, a request for participation, a waiting. .
Restoration begins when we admit we’re broken. This year that meant very simple confessions. Repentance followed in basic prayers of need. Lord, what do I do with this? . 
Seeking renewal one quiet morning at a time has opened my heart to a tender response that is offered in unexpected places. It moves my soul because I admit I’m seeking.  My requests focus my hearing and tune my heart for the whispered word of guidance.  In a tender gathering over coffee I weep to hear I’m not alone, a friend is made, a note is written; a wise person recommends a book, a tool or a prayer. . 
Today is about keeping my promise to myself. A simple prayer to seek His face. His response has been tender, personal and relevant. Seeking restoration means walking through the wreckage of your apathy, poor choices and tainted beliefs.
It’s living honestly, bending and serving, admitting my frailty, nourishing my body.
Seeking his leading one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time.
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#renewal #inspiration #ndjerareoujourney #graytonbeach #journaling #prayersforrenewal #writersofinstagram #writerslife #florida #healing #keepingmypromisetomyself
  • “No.” is a complete sentence.” Anne Lamott.  It’s a privilege to be my children’s mom. To hold their hands, listen to their fears, correct homework, find socks, turn their dreams into piano practice and robotics camp, nudge their friendships and feed their bodies, souls and spirits. As my oldest nears her teenage years I realize time is flying and these central tasks of my life will be over in a heartbeat. This year I made a list of all the needs that were on my plate and I prayed for the courage to cross off the ones that could survive without me. Honestly, only one really got a clean line through it. One idea I’ll leave for another year and another season. But this permission to be less gave me the gift of space. A little room in the schedule to seek wholeness, find renewal.
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#breathe #ndjerareoujourney #renew #restore #motherhood #thehardestjobyoulleverlove #thebestyes #longdaysshortyears
  • Breathe . . .It’s a simple word with a powerful intention.  Gone are the long lists of resolutions, gone are the goals and the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of lists and plans. There are grocery lists, to do lists, lists of things to buy, phone calls to make and bills to pay. My lists are typically much longer than my days. .
This year I refuse to be defined by these lists. These lists do not prove my worth, my importance, my contribution. All those lists have helped me discover is that the longer my list the tighter the pain in my chest. I keep lists out of necessity because there are many demands on a day, many objectives in a week. It’s an essential part of being a mother, wife, writer, friend. .
 Restoration now sits prominently on my list. This year was birthed in a deficit and it’s very clear that there needs to be room for being filled up, being fed, caring for my soul, body and heart in ways that honors God and brings life to my family. So today I choose to simply breathe. . .
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Mathew 6:25-20 .
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 #considerthelillies #breathe #seekgod #seekrenewal #ndjerareoujourney #writersofinstagram #momlife #write #restore #faith #inspire