August 1

Monday, July 31st began as hopeful as any other day. The sun was shining (brightly!), the birds were singing (loudly!) and we blithely assumed that we were leaving for our grand adventure. Assume, my that is a "loaded" word!

We had planned on leaving at 9 am Monday. Weeelllll, it took us until 2:30 to finish packing the RV. Okay, okay, a small set back but nothing worth fretting about! Then Christa had a few more errands to do and Jeff had to tie up a few things at the office.

So.... by 5:30 we admitted to ourselves, that today was not the day to leave. Okay. No problem. Tuesday we will get up, bright and early have breakfast and leave! We got the get up part, the bright and early.... well, 10:00am isn't soooo late. So, off we went to have a bite to eat, pick up a few items at the office and then..... off on our adventure! Right? Wrong!

11:00am our new (old) jeep dies. Okay, no problem, there is an auto mechanic right here in the shopping center. He says two hours max. Great! We'll take off at 2:00 or so! Right? Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding...... Wrong! After the mechanic informs us the part will be in tomorrow morning; we bravely make plans to leave...

Bright and early Wednesday morning.... hmmmmmm, think it will happen? Not on your life!!!

We will be on the road by 12:00noon Wednesday, August 2! FOR SURE!

August 3   (Thursday)

Day One of driving. I am learning three items of interest today, regarding driving a motor home.

  1. Never back up your RV into your own tow vehicle, this makes for a very scary noise and a very unhappy husband!
  2. Whenever you can use a public toilet…do it! Anything is better than dumping the "black water".
  3. Bunny Rabbits are a pain in the "whosit" in a motor home. No pets are a MUCH better idea!

So, after much effort to leave Monday morning, we finally left Mission Viejo at 8:30pm on Wednesday evening. Our first stop was the gas station, which took TWO hours! Of course, we had to fill the diesel, fill the propane and fill the water tanks. 

Just figuring out how to get into the station was a challenge! Jeff circled the block several times (won't say how many, wouldn't want to embarrass him)!

Finally, we left Mission Viejo and Orange County, California…. We were off! We decided we would drive no further than Riverside, just get a feel for the rig, park for the night and take off again early the next morning. Being quite sick with a Bronchial infection, I bedded down with the two girls at midnight, Jeff promising to stop not long afterwards.

The next morning dawned bright and early….. very bright, very early (7am) and VERY HOT. I crawled over the two girls after a night of feet and elbows in every soft part of my body, and went searching for the boys. There they were, sound asleep…. Jeff on the couch and Kurt in the passenger seat. 

It was HOT inside, so to cool down a bit, I stepped outside….. HOT… I found myself in the Desert!! I mean the real thing, cactus, sand, and heat…. The whole nine yards. My darling man hadn't been able to quit driving until 3:00am and took us to past Barstow, nearly to Arizona. WOW!

Waiting for the family to wake up was an experience in patience. They slept, and slept, and SLEPT! Finally at 10:00a they stirred. Off we went in search of breakfast and coffee. Now, coffee… nearly a religious experience for the Gefke Parents…. Coffee. We had to find it… soon. 

We happened across the Ludlow café. Ah ha!! We ordered coffee with much anticipation. Okay, it wasn't going to be Starbucks or Dietrich's or a Latte or anything, but it was going to be coffee. Well, this adventure is not going to be filled with memorable stops of wonderful coffee, if our first experience is any indication! However, we Gefke's are sturdy stock and we put down at least a pot each of the swill that was named coffee.

The rest of the day was spent driving. We made it all the way to Gallup! Sleep.

August 6

I have never seen anything like this… I am sitting in a McDonalds in Nebraska. The line for food is out the door, drive up traffic is curled into the street. I waited 35 min in line to get a cup of coffee. And boy… it is goooood coffee! Small things, make for interest.

Well, the last couple of days have been a challenge, thrilling, scary and happy. We have all learned how to go potty in a moving vehicle, wash dishes in a sink full of waves and generally keep ourselves busy for many hours of confinement in the coach. We have sampled many Flying J truck stops, a few local eateries (none worth mentioning here!) and lots of time spent looking for WATER.

Water, the life-blood of humanity! Without it you can't shower, drink, cook, go potty or clean house!! We have had no problem finding diesel or propane. We have even found it simple to find a dump for our "black water". 

Clean, drinkable water…. That's a challenge. We realized the absolute need for water after all of us had to take showers/baths in the same water one evening. Now this normally wouldn't be such a big deal…. kids don't get too dirty, right? Ding, ding, ding, ding…. WRONG! 

I have never seen such black feet on any child as Eve. Where does she get it? Certainly not from the floors of our home. She never walks outside barefoot, so where does the dirt come from? I think Kurt and Grace have stashed a bucket of dirt somewhere to smear on their feet and faces, where else could it have come from?

I am finding unique ways to get alone time! I have discovered that Wal-Mart at 3:00am (shhhhh, don't tell my Mom we stayed in the Wal-Mart parking lot …. Twice!) is a very peaceful place. Lots of quiet and lots of stuff to look at! 

Last night, Jeff took the kids to Wal-Mart at 11:00p, when we got into town, and gifted me an entire 35 minutes alone. And what a beautiful 35 minutes it was! I put my jammies on (first time not sleeping in my clothing for a week!), washed my feet and face, and even got a chance to get down on my knees with the Father…. ALONE! Wow! 

It was beauteous! Then I got into bed and was asleep before they even got back to the coach. The first time I actually slept through the night!

We have been sleeping a bit oddly this week of driving. The kids sleep on our bed as we drive into the night. Jeff and I sleep on the couch and the floor, giving us more drive time after the kidlets are asleep. Last night, we pulled off the road early and I got to sleep in my own bed. Ahhhhhhhhh. Clean sheets and clean feet, what could be better!

Thus far, we have traveled through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and are into Nebraska. Each state has it's own look and feel, even from the vantage of the windows of a moving vehicle. Arizona surprised me, it isn't all desert. New Mexico just felt, like … well, romantic. It seems to be bathed in soft hues of orange and warm air. Colorado, this is a strange state! The road signage is BAD! We got lost twice in Colorado. Can you believe it? The first time was late at night.

We were driving through Colorado Springs and Jeff saw the Focus on the Family off ramp. After much driving and little signage we ended up in their parking lot, stuck! We can't turn the beast around (or back up, remember!) and their parking lot is like a warren. 

Then a helpful security guard came out and directed us to the nearest Wal-Mart for overnight parking (can't park in the Focus on the Family lot, it's private!) . The next morning we got up and Jeff graciously took us back to Focus on the Family and we spent $65 on audio and videotapes. 

I got the kids dressed nice before we got out of the coach, what was I thinking? That we'd actually see and talk to Dr. Dobson? Honestly.

The next lost moment was through Denver, somehow we lost the freeway and ended up driving HOURS through the city. Thankfully, we are full of good humor and giggled through the experience. We finally found our way out through calling the local AAA and they talked us out!

Now we are in Nebraska. It is really FLAT. And there are lots of bugs!! I hate bugs. Any kind of bug. I just despise bugs. They are everywhere here, and they KNOW I dislike their kind! They dive-bomb me in protest.

Sunday, August 6 … 1:49 in the afternoon

We have just had our first domestic crisis! Eve had to go potty, so naturally like a good mommy I helped her (mainly because Grace wouldn't). After flushing, I noticed a peculiar smell coming from the toilet. So, thinking like a professional full-time RV'er, I added some "blue stuff" to the potty to get rid of the smell. 

As I began the flushing ….. holy cow, the toilet began to overflow. Mind you this is all at 65 mph down Hwy. 83 in Nebraska. As the water with the blue stuff and who knows what else sloshed about the toilet threatening to spill over onto my semi-clean carpet, I shouted frantically for Jeff to STOP.

I love this man! Not only did he stop, he proceeded to put his hand down the hole and fish about, trying to unplug the potty. Didn't work. After bailing the bluish, grayish water into a bucket, he continued to stab at whatever is wedged in the plumbing!! All to no avail. 

Without a complaint the dear man washed his hands (several times) and continued down the road…. We'll fix that later!

August 8

Today we started school. For the first 20 minutes Grace just whined and cried that she wanted to go back to school. She moaned, that she couldn’t do the work, it was too hard, too easy, and she’s not used to it. 

You name it, she whined it!! After about 20 minutes, Grace realized she was having fun and actually smiled. This is a period of adjustment for all of us, I must keep that in mind.

When changing your life style, it is easy to just focus on your own fears and needs. It is a challenge to attend to the other four members of the family’s sense of unbalance, while being submerged in your own sense of disorientation. I hold my irritation back and smile. Jesus is definitely helping me on this one! It takes all I have, and some of his juice too, to maintain my calm and help everyone else deal with their fears and imbalance.

Last night was a thrill, we almost experienced our first tornado. Jeff was calm, the kids prayed out loud and I just started beading my keepers (my current craft of choice). We made it through without a scratch. The tornado had dissipated before coming to Minot. We barely got a wind. It was fun for everyone.

August 9

We went to the mall today. Jeff is sick and we needed his prescription filled. After filling the prescription we took a walk through the Target in the mall. Amazing. We could have been in Mission Viejo. It was exactly the same as home. Same layout, same merchandise, same employees. It was eerie. Kids also asked for the same things…. Grace and Eve wanted clothing and Kurt wanted Nintendo. So, sameness prevails.

August 10

Jeff is not feeling well so the Kids and I drove him to work at Minot AFB. It is about 7 miles from the campsite. The children were very impressed with the airplanes on display. 

Kurt had to get a pass to get on base, that was a highlight. Grace kept asking if they had TV’s or stores or where they got their food on base. It was as if she was in a very foreign place. She had a hard time relating that these people that live on the base are just like you and me. It was very interesting, her perception of the military lifestyle.

Friday Night, August, 10

The wind was moaning through our rig, rocking it as the near gale force crashed into the siding of our home. We watched the television waiting for word of the storms progress. Bam… the coach rocked on its wheels. I quickly got out of my pj's and instructed Kurt to get little Evie dressed. 

The family worked together as a seamless unit, getting dressed, putting blankies and teddy bears in a bag, turning off lights and securing our belongings. We were headed out of the coach across the campground to a storm shelter. 

I packed some water bottles, cookies and a pillow. Grace readied her bunny, her children (dolls) and held tight to her bible. Kurt got Eve dressed and volunteered to carry the bunny to the shelter. He feverishly recorded the experience in his journal. Stopping to help ready the family.

It was time to go out into the storm, to find the shelter. Grace went first, opening the door. As she leaned forward the wind knocked the door from her hand and as she stepped down onto the staircase the angry wind propelled her into its fury as she nearly flew out of the coach, down the stairs, landing on the ground amid tears and wailing. We will always remember it as the night Grace flew.

I was next down the stairs holding Eve. As I reached down to help Grace up from the ground, Eve's little arms tightened around my neck. Eve appeared confused. Was she supposed to be frightened, like Grace or was it okay to have a good time? The wind was fierce, yet never had she seen anything like this before. Her simple trust in Mommy's arms allowed her to relax and enjoy the howling wind.

I grabbed the girls and began to run, through the rain pelting our skin towards the storm shelter. I felt like one of those women in the movies with her skirt swirling around her ankles as she bravely leads her children to safety (even though I had no skirt on… just sweats!!). 

I glanced back over my shoulder to where Kurt should be, right behind me, he was gone. I wavered for a moment, should I go back and find him? Should I go forward and protect the girls? My heart felt strong and secure, Jesus was with us, and Jeff was behind me locking up the trailer… he would protect my boys.

The girls and I raced across the campground towards the storm shelter. How do we get in? We ran past the door and around the side. No! Back to the front door just in time to see the boys going in and the door closing! Up the three steps and into the room, hands reaching out, pulling us into the safety of the shelter as the fierce wind slammed the heavy door shut behind us.

The room was hot and humid, filled to overflowing with other campers and their pets. Their were dogs, cats and of course our bunny. Kurt had found a cubby to sit in and write in his journal. 

Grace huddled in a corner, rocking her bunny and dolls. Eve was the official spirit raiser! She helped pass out candies, allowed herself to be held and rocked by strangers who needed her comfort.

We waited in the shelter. The room got hotter and sweatier. We crowded around the two fans blowing humid air around our legs. We waited and watched the news. The storm was propelled by 95-mph winds through the Air Base, just seven miles away. We waited. The storm was just overhead now. Lightening crackled and lit the sky. We watched Eve move around the room and were comforted.

The storm began to pass. As mighty and wicked as the storm had appeared, it left us huddled together, surprised by the sudden lack of storm. Sheepishly we all began to return to our motor homes and campsites. 

As I walked back, carrying Eve, holding Grace's hand, we giggled over the excitement of the evening. Grace couldn't wait to share her story with Kristen back home. The nighttime drama was completed. It was the night Grace flew and she was thrilled about the experience.

Kidisms:        When told to get up, as it was nearly 11:00,   Grace replied, " what? eleven in the morning or eleven in the afternoon?"

August 15

Homeschooling is quite a daily challenge. Today was one of those days. After dropping Jeff off at the Air Base, the children and I went off in search of a field trip. Driving Highway 83 back towards town, I spied a sign with a big cow on it and the words The Graham's, underneath the cow were the letters NG. 

Oh goodie! A farm !! (There are countless farms along the road, why this jumped out at me I will never know!!) I turned down the long drive and headed towards the farm at the end of the road. Ah, but wait! A sign proclaiming RASPBERRIES called out to me from the first farm along the road.

We headed into the drive of the farm. Ahead we saw a beautiful field of raspberry bushes with a note on the front door, "pick all you want, $1.25 per pint, leave the money in the door". What a wonderful invitation! 

Urging the children out and into the field, I hurried towards the bushes. They were luscious. Red, Ripe and Sweet! We had a wonderful time picking berries, and tasting a few along the way. I was having a ball, the kids… well, they were along for the ride! 

What is better than this, I couldn’t imagine why the kids weren’t diving into the picking!! (I guess it was one of my dreams to pick fresh berries, they thought the bugs and the prickles were yucky.) 

After picking a pint and leaving the money at the backdoor of the farm, we drove towards the road.

As we were leaving, the farmer drove by us on a four-wheeler, pulling some kind of farm contraption. I pulled over and parked the car. Here was the perfect opportunity for some quality homeschooling! I was not disappointed! 

The farmer was a handsome fellow, tall and tanned. His face was stained with dirt. He was happy to tell the kids all about canola and durham wheat. We learned about the different weights in a bushel and the uses for the grains. 

He taught us that math is an essential part of his life, sharing the number of canola seeds in a pound and how that translates into seeds per bushel. It was absolutely fascinating an the kids were eating it up!!

After our lesson in math, we headed back down the road towards the farm with the cow sign. We drove past stalls with what appeared to be cows (we would learn later that these were bulls). Off to the left of the house was a building with "office" painted above the door.

 I parked the car and went inside to ask the farmer if he could share with some homeschool kids about his farm? Sure!!! I ushered the children into the office for what I was sure would be a great learning experience about dairy farming.

The farmer, John, then began to share with us that his farm collected semen from bulls for artificial insemination of cows all over the country. WHAT?? Yep, it was a semen farm. So, after my initial shock, we all giggled and I figured that was that, no big deal! Yeah. Well, he showed us all around his lab, we got to play in the "fog" from the cryogenic tanks (the semen is frozen in what look like straws), and we learned that math is crucial on this farm as well! 

Then Kurt mentioned that he would sure hate to be one of those bulls, you know, getting a needle stuck in him all those times to get all those "straws". Ahem. John, bless his soul, looked politely at me with a grin on his face. Kurt, the semen doesn’t come out of the bull from needles. I realized at that point that this school day was going to be about more than math. A little biology was involved and I had some explaining to do!

As we drove away, I gently explained to Grace and Kurt from where the semen is expelled from the bulls anatomy. Grace’s response was, "I didn’t need to know that!". Then I asked if they understood how the semen gets out? WRONG QUESTION. Kurt again suggested needles. No. Well, do they have to cut the bulls "thing" off? NO. Again, I gently explained the process of semen collection. Kurt’s response was, "well, I didn’t need to know that!". 

Truth be told, I didn’t need to teach that today, was my first thought. Well, honestly, we giggled for about 3 miles and gleefully planned how we would share with Dad that we learned about Bull Biology on a Semen Farm today!

Homeschooling is an adventure.

Saturday, August 19

I am reading Ezekiel right now. Holy smokes, God was so angry with Israel. I wonder if he is this angry with us. He compares Israel to a prostitute, selling herself to her neighbors. Is this what the United States has done? But not just the US, is the whole world gone in the way of Oholah and Oholibah. I don’t know. I do know that He wants us to fear Him and love Him, as you would a father.

I try to visualize my relationship with God like my relationship with my children. I love them so much, even as He loves me. Eve wakes up in the morning and her first impulse is to crawl into my lap for comfort and warmth. Do I do this with God? Sometimes in my morning prayers, I am just talking, not seeking comfort and warmth. Some mornings, I climb into His arms dutifully, grab my hug and move on to my day. Ugh! I know when one of my children gives me this kind of hug and it feels terrible.

When I hold Eve in my arms and she snuggles in close, I feel so good. I feel so loved. She looks to me with such complete trust and honesty. I stroke her arm and her skin is so smooth, so unmarred by weather and time. Her little kisses are sweet as strawberries and make my heart swell with love for this precious little life. I am God’s child. Do I give him such pleasure? Do I love him with the complete abandonment of a child? How do I love him?

I want to love my Lord with the same sense of childlike trust and abandonment. Eve holds her arms high up in the air, her signal that she wants to be carried, held in my arms. How do I signal my Heavenly Father? Do I signal Him? I will stop whatever I am doing to lift up my child.

He will do the same for us, if only we ask.

Sunday, August 20

We are getting ready to leave Minot! Yahoooo! I am ready to be on the road again. However, our next stop is the airport in Minneapolis. This is bittersweet. Kurt is leaving us for two weeks to travel, by himself, back to California to attend summer camp with his Boy Scout Troop. He doesn’t leave me for two days and I already tear up at the thought of my baby being all the way across the country without me. I will miss him immensely.

Funny about our kids. They drive us CRAZY with their questions, imperfect manners and adolescent attitudes. But oh, how we love them. From the bottom of my soul, I love my boy and girls so very much. My heart could burst, the love I feel for them is so very intense and palatable. But they do drive me crazy!!!

These last two weeks in North Dakota have been odd. It has taken some time for this motor coach to begin to feel like home. I love the freedom from routines and rituals. Yet, I yearn for my stable, predictable routines and rituals. I miss Joanne and Katy and Mom. I miss Tracy and Katie and Jennifer. Yet, I relish Ann and Muriel and Robin, and all the other new people in my life, with alternate takes on the world around us. It is quixotic and confusing.

I have begun to quilt. I am also beading "keepers". These times of creativity give me moments of solitude in a room full of people. I enjoy the intense concentration needed for these two crafts. I am transported to a place closer to God when my hands are busy making keepers or sewing patchwork. 

Wonder if one of these could provide a small income for me. The keepers are unusual and might sell, somewhere. I do hate not having my own "mad" money. I don’t want to ask Jeff for money all the time. Cash flow is tight.

I wonder how we are going to make a living. What will be the final decision on the fate of Sound Pacific ? If only Jeff could just be happy. I don’t care what he does for a living. He just needs to feel fulfilled and come home at night happy to be a husband and father.

This sleeping late and dread of what lies ahead for the day is killing him. For awhile I was praying for God to change Jeff. You know, make him get up early, jump out of bed and face the day with enthusiasm and expectancy. I am now praying that God changes me. 

If I am going to be a good wife to my man and mother to these children, I need supernatural help. I must learn to nurture the choices Jeff makes regarding his professional life. I will with God's help.

I listen to Dr. Laura chastise women for complaining about their "druggy" men or "mama’s boy" husbands. She regularly reminds these women that the men did not change, they are exactly the way they were on their wedding day! 

Okay, Jeff is not a druggy and is not a "mama’s boy". He has his faults, as do we ALL! Throughout our life together, who he is has not changed one iota. Other than his incredible growth in Christ, he is the same man with whom I fell in love. 

Lord give me the strength and courage not to drive myself and Jeff, crazy over what could be or could not be in life together!

My awesome role and job is to be the helpmate. I can do this. 

Without the tremendous love of Jesus, there is no way I can become a Proverbs 31 woman. I love Jeff with all my heart, I just need to learn how to unceasingly lift him up to Jesus and honor the man that Jeff is today. 

Thank you God for putting Jeff and me together. I can’t imagine what Jeff had to deal with (me!) for all those years before I was saved. All those angry years. Thank you Jeff. Thank you God.

All right Christa, to bed!! It is late and you get to go back on the road tomorrow morning!! YAHOO!!!

Late, Monday, August 21

I just finished driving for nearly six hours! Jeff and the kids slept most of the way, I rocked!! I found a radio station of oldies and it stuck with me for miles! I was bopping to the Everly Brothers, Diana Ross, the Monkeys, you name it… I rocked to it! What a great time I had. 

Here’s the picture: woman over 40, dressed in sweats and mussy hair, driving a huge motor home through North Dakota and Minnesota, singing at the TOP of her lungs and shimmying!! Now there is a picture. I tell you, I had a great time!

August 22

Well, we dropped Kurtie off at the airport for his trip home to Los Angeles. Waaaaaa! I boo hooed as he turned away from me (no, he didn’t see me cry!) and marched his not so little body down the hall into the plane! He is so grown-up looking. Traveling on an airplane all by himself! Boohoo. He will be gone for two weeks, visiting family and going to Boy Scout Camp with his Troop! Boooo Hoooo! I will miss him.

This evening we had dinner with Alice and Carl Peterson. Their son, Jim is the Scout Executive that we worked with on Day Camp and has become one of our dearest friends. Dinner was like stepping back to another era in time.

Alice served Pot Roast, "Amish" Chicken, Fresh Green Beans, and assortment of Crudités, Mashed Potatoes, Cornpone, Rolls, Gravy, and…. The BEST Jell-O mold I have EVER tasted!! For dessert we had homemade chocolate cake for the children and homemade rhubarb pie. 

It was an amazing spread for this dear woman to put out for just our family, her son and husband. Can’t imagine what growing up in her kitchen must have been like for her five kids!! The obviously ate extremely well!!

Alice and Carl were wonderful people. Strong Christians and extremely proud of their heritage, we were delighted to hear the stories of their youth and history. Both Carl and Alice are first generation Americans, their parents emigrated from Sweden. In fact, Carl did not speak English when he began school, only Swedish!

Carl fought in WWII and they are part of the Last Great Generation. Their story of depression era youth, immigrant parents and heartfelt faith and commitment to Jesus is an epic tale of what has made America the greatest country in the world. 

Alice is the storyteller often times running her hands through her hair and lamenting the decomposition of American values. She paints a vivid picture of growing up in Minneapolis, raising five wonderful children and getting her first job after eighteen years of staying home for her children. 

This dear woman describes the frustration of being married to a police officer, never getting her drivers’ license despite passing the driver’s test. She proudly tells about the local boy who knocks on her door late at night looking for a warm cookie and cold milk, needing a ride across town to his single mom’s latest abode.

Carl regales us with stories, spoken with the truest Swedish Accent ever! He occasionally embellishes in Swedish and will talk Swede as long as you will listen. His lilting voice and ready smile warmed my heart and soul. These two people are truly what the word Grandparent describes. Alice cuddles goodbye with Eve and includes our quiet Grace in her effusive praises about how lovely and smart both girls are.

I am sorry Kurt has missed meeting these people. On the way home (to Wal-Mart!) Jeff and I tell Grace about why so many people immigrated to the USA. We try to impress upon her wonderful mind that the strength and dedication of people journeying across the world to this land, is the reason that the country we call home is so great, so proud and so very strong. 

People of varied beliefs, strengths, and willing to work hard for an ideal, is what makes us American. We want our children to love America and understand her greatness. That greatness is due in part to people like Alice and Carl Peterson.

Tuesday, August 23

I have been to Nirvana..... The Mall of America!  This is one amazing mall.  It goes on and on and on!!  The girls and I had a wonderful time shopping and playing, Jeff was extremely patient and kind, frequently reaching into his wallet for one of us!  

One of the best parts of the day was the Underwater Adventure, an amazing Aquarium, located at the bowels of the Mall!  It was quite a place, highly recommended!  Not only were the exhibits well done, but the docents were GREAT!!   If I lived in this area, it would definitely become part of my homeschooling hits!!

Saturday, August 26

We are headed into Sioux Falls. Jeff’s father, Norman, is very ill with a relapse of Cancer. He is on interferon and it is making him feel terrible. Norman is wanting to quit the treatments. We are headed to see Norm and Muriel. I wonder what God has in store for us here in South Dakota, I can only imagine.

I sent an email ahead of us to Jeff’s cousins Kevin and Deb, they are Christians and worship regularly. We haven’t attended church since we started living in this RV and I am so needing to attend a worship service. 

This Sunday, perhaps we can finally attend a service! I understand now why God commands us to worship with other Christians. It is essential to the body of Christ, and the individual parts! We strengthen the body and we are uplifted by the body. My heart aches to be among believers.

Sunday, August 27

The Service was great!  A wonderful Pastor and great group of congregants!  We were welcomed with open arms.  It turns out that the Pastor here, First Congregational Church - Sioux Falls, has been visiting Jeff's Dad in the hospital!  God is Good! 

I understand one of the reasons God sent Eve to our family at such a "late" point in our lives. She instinctively knows who needs loving. She allows Muriel to enfold her in her grandmotherly arms, smothering Eve in love and affection. She knows just when to wink at Grandpa Norman, what will make his sagging spirits rise. She is hope and love and joy all mixed into one adorable and grace-full package. She is a delight to all of us, including her older sister Grace. They are a tonic to Norm.

Monday, August 28

We are still in Sioux Falls, SD. Norman (Jeff’s Dad) is very thin. He eats better when we are present according to Muriel (Jeff’s Mom). We spend most of our days out doing errands and then visit at the end of the day for dinner. Norm and Muriel seem to appreciate this arrangement. Norm tires easily. We are concerned for his health, although he seems very at peace with his disease.

The girls love meeting Moo (Jeff’s Aunt) and her gang of kids and grandkids. Jeff and I love being with this noisy, wonderful group of people! We are touched by the love and support they show our little family.

An Overview: Saturday through Tuesday

We are in Sioux Falls, SD. Jeff's dad is dying. Everyone talks around it, but this is the truth. He has survived another cancer operation (skin) and is taking interferon. Norm (Jeff's Dad), is barely eating and down to 120 pounds. The first two days he is nearly like himself, smiling at Eve and Grace, but very quiet, subdued. 

Monday and Tuesday he is hardly there, sleeping all the time and very somber. He feels terrible; it is etched into his face and demeanor. We spend most of the days running around Sioux Falls and only visiting Norman and Muriel in the evenings for dinner.

Muriel is amazing. She smilingly takes care of her husband of 60 years, never mentioning in front of him her worries or pains. She needs a knee replacement surgery. Muriel is 80. She insists on putting the knee surgery off until Dad "gets better". She can barely stand some days. 

For diversion Muriel works three days a week at the Hy-Vee market as the cheese sample lady. It is her only outlet. She loves complaining about the people visiting the market, sampling her wares, giggling at the silliness of people over free food.

My heart is so softened towards this woman that I have disliked for fifteen years. We always used to joke how Muriel didn't like me; it was truth as far as I knew. I spent time with her this week, having coffees and going shopping. She is a woman of amazing and enviable strength and commitment. 

My mother-in-law was born a beautiful daughter of a local farmer, the homecoming queen. Then she married a big city guy and moved to Sioux Falls. Her husband retired at 40 and spent the next 42 years napping until noon with headaches and dabbling in a variety of businesses. He supported the family well, and Muriel always dressed to the hilt and made sure her children were clean and shiny!

Somehow, when bad things happened to the family, Muriel was always there, taking care of everyone. Norman was usually sick or hospitalized with an ailment. Not that his ailments weren't serious, heart attacks, cancer…. Etc. 

Muriel always mowed the lawn herself and cleaned the house. She baked, she cooked, she did crewel, crocheting, and quilting. Muriel was a very hardworking mother and wife. Typical to her generation. I believe in many ways, that Muriel was the Proverbs 31 woman, she always made a little money (garage sales, small jobs, etc.), clothed her husband and children in fine fabrics and made everything last. Forever!!

She was also the disciplinarian in the family. She was the "bad guy", while Daddy Norman was always the "good guy". This sticks with children, even when they are grown adults with their own children and life experience. 

We, meaning all the aunts, cousins, sisters and in-laws, always put Muriel at the core of inconvenience. She was the reason they didn't travel, she was the reason no one visited, she was always the reason. Truth be told, Muriel doesn't know how to share (people especially) very well. But why should she? Any sharing or reciprocating was her responsibility. Her husband was unavailable; he didn't encourage or support her reaching out to the rest of the family. 60 years is a long time.

However, what I saw in her this week was a highly intelligent woman, undereducated by virtue of her time in world, strong, capable, loving and warm. She loves her family and her husband with every fiber of her being. She just doesn't always understand how the world works, reciprocation and sharing. But she is not evil. She has carried her burden in this life. She has been the strong one in the family and marriage, and sometimes the strong one takes the hit, is the unlikable one.

Muriel has done the best she could do with the tools she had at her disposal. She is an amazing woman; I am so honored and grateful to be her daughter-in-law. I also learned from her what commitment to one man and marriage is all about… 60 years. That is a long time to lead the way. God Bless her.

Tuesday, August 29

I was amazed to learn today that one of Norman’s siblings refuses to talk to Norm. The sibling feels slighted that Norm and Muriel have never invited them over to their "fancy" house on the hill. How incredibly silly. Norman is dying. That is the truth. We are all dying. It is weird that Norm and Muriel don't invite anyone to their home. Yet, she is 80 and he is 82. Well, they haven't always been 80. That is true. But they are family.

Family can be weird sometimes. But, they are who God wanted us to share our world. It is no accident that Norm has particular brothers or sisters, or that you have the siblings with whom you are blessed. It is totally God's will. Hmmmmmm.

Love your family. Honor thy mother and father. Love your neighbor as yourself. Hmmmmmm. I don't think that withholding our love from another is God's intention. Perhaps sometimes when you feel spurned or shut out from someone, it is really not about you, it is actually about that other person. It is their problem… we just have to love them despite their foibles…. After all, everyone has faults…. Don't they?

Tuesday Evening

I am 41. I just realized that those expensive pair of glasses hanging around my neck are essential to my life. Ohhhhh Nooooooo. I figured out today that I really CAN see things with my glasses on, AND if I wear them… I don't get headaches or sore eyes. Ohhhhh Noooooo. I am aging. Darn.

Wednesday, August 30

I never really felt part of the Gefke family. I guess that has been my awful little secret these many years. I never really felt that this family I married into absorbed me or accepted me into their circle. I have always felt the big, brash, loud intruder. 

Jeff's aunt "Moo" has always made a special effort to get to know me, inviting us to her home whenever we are in town. Her three children, their spouses and her eight grandchildren surround us with a joyful confusion and welcome. But somehow, I never really felt a part of this family.

Was it Jeff's mom? His oldest sister, who I barely know, and whose husband I have never even met? Was it all those cousins that have a shared history? Was it just being in the mid-west? Perhaps most brides feel this way, I wonder if my sister-in-law feels like this?

This visit changed my absorption factor into the family. I first realized it when I ran by the bank that one of the cousins works at, she yelled HELLO! This wonderful woman announced to everyone in hearing distance that her cousin (that would be me!) was here visiting from California. 

Then, lo and behold, I realized that I had been absorbed into the family after taking my darling husband’s mother, Muriel, out for a coffee. I had a good time; I did not want it to end. I felt at home with this woman. I am absorbed. I belong.

Funny thing is, I bet I always did belong. The family didn't change… perhaps I have.

Wednesday, Late Afternoon

We are in motion, heading towards Atlanta, via Lincoln, St. Louis, and various other towns. As we are driving down the road, Jeff is hungry. I turn around and ask Eve to get daddy a snack from the drawer. She not only gets him crackers, she also opens the fridge and gets daddy a cold water bottle. WOW. 

This three-year-old will grow up knowing she has a part in the family. She already plays an important role, helping tonight, folding towels, contributing to our team. I do not think that she would have learned her importance to the family team had we stayed in our home in Mission Viejo, CA. She has to be a productive member of the family; we all count on this adventure. Thank you God…. This is really GOOD!

Thursday, August 31

All right, now I know I am going bonkers for a yard. I cannot believe what I just did!! Grace and I were walking along a sidewalk in Lincoln, NE. There were some landscape maintenance workers planting some shrubs and they were discussing how best to get the plant out of the pot and into the ground. 

Good old Christa buts their conversation and tells them all about not disturbing the roots and explaining my "patented" method of pot removal. Ahem…. They do this for a LIVING!!! They know what they are doing!! Arrgh. Grace asked me very politely as we walked away, why I told them about plants. I calmly explained that her mother is a "Suzy Butinski".


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