Saturday, July 26, 2008

God's Word Bears Much Fruit

On July 21st, we attended the funeral of Ger Vang at Hmong Lutheran Church (LCMS) in St. Paul. Ger was the matriarch of a refugee family that came to America in 1976. The family was originally from Laos, where the father and oldest sons had worked with the CIA in an attempt to stop a communist takeover of the country. They ended up having to flee Laos in 1974, and spent 2 years in a refugee camp in Thailand. My husband's home congregation in southern Minnesota, along with a few other congregations in their circuit, sponsored the family and thus they were able to come to the US.

And so it was that on June 10, 1976 the Vang family moved into a farm house three-quarters of a mile down the road from my husband's family. There was a father, mother, 7 children, and an "adopted" son whose family was not able to escape Laos. All they had was the clothing on their backs, and a suitcase or two of worldly possessions. Only the oldest boy and the "adopted" son knew any English, and that was basically limited to "Yes" or "No."

And yet, as my husband recalls, there were no real language or cultural barrier between him and the young children in the Vang family. David (age 5) and Kou were fast friends, and have remained close friends (if not brothers!) ever since.

The Vang children were all enrolled at the local Lutheran grade school, where they learned English and were catechized in the Christian Faith. They were all baptized at my husband's home church. All of their clothing, household furnishings, toys, and food was donated by members of the local congregations. Members also helped find jobs for the father and oldest children.

The Vang family moved to St. Paul in 1978 in order to find better jobs and more opportunities, but they have always considered South Branch home. My husband and his family visited the Vangs a number of times in St. Paul. Most recently, Kou attended my husband's installation at his current congregation, and we went up to a house warming for Kou and his family when they moved into their new house.

At the end of June, David got a call from Kou to inform him that Kou's mother had died. They observe a 30 day period of mourning prior to the funeral, and Kou asked if David would say a few words as a representative of the congregations that had sponsored his family.

The funeral was fascinating. First of all, we were warmly greeted by the entire Vang family (now numbering some 82!) as soon as we arrived. We took the opportunity for a picture.

Back Row : Toua (the "adopted" son), Kou, David, Hannah, Glenda, Ellie, Ma
Front Row: Tou, Yia, Abby, Nathan, Sam, and Ma's youngest son

In their culture everyone remains outside of the church until the body is brought in. Then everyone pays their respects at the open casket. Mrs. Vang was dressed in a traditional Hmong outfit, with an ephod which read in Hmong, "Behold I make all things new!" The entire service was in Hmong. It began in the back of the church with the reading of Romans 6:3-5 while a pall was placed over the casket. The procession was led by a processional crucifix and a banner which read in English, "Behold, I make all things new!" The readings were from Psalm 90, 1 Corinthians 15, and Luke 24.

Oh, did I mention that this congregation was started by two of the Vang boys - Yia, who is an LCMS pastor to the Hmong in Wisconsin and Tou, the oldest. After the funeral there was a recessional and all followed on out to their cars. Now the procession of vehicles began across St. Paul to the cemetery.

At the cemetery, everyone was able to pay their respect once more at the open casket. Here we saw and heard much weeping especially from Ma, the youngest. In the Hmong culture, the youngest child takes care of the parents. Ma therefore, had never lived without his mother, and he , his wife, and children were very close to her and were all very sad. Even not knowing Ger very well, my own eyes swelled with tears and I tried hard to blink them back as I ached for those still on this side of heaven.

After this, the casket was closed, the pastor said a few words, the children laid a beautiful quilt over the top of the casket which was then lowered into the ground. The vault lid was placed on top, and the tarp over the pile of dirt was removed and two shovels placed in the dirt. (this was all done by cemetery workmen.) The pastor said some more, and at one point took some dirt from the shovelful being held by the person next to him, and sprinkled it onto the casket. Amazing Grace (in Hmong) was then sung by all.

The children and grandchildren each had a flower from the bouquets and threw them on top. Next starting with the children, they each shoveled dirt on top of their mother's casket. Wives and grandchildren all were next. My husband and his father were both asked to come and also participate. David shoveled three times and I knew that it was in honor of the Holy Trinity with whom we had faith and confidence that we will one day see Ger again.

After everyone who wanted to had participated in showing their love for their mother, grandmother, aunt, or friend by helping to bury her, some left to return to Ma's home where a family dinner was planned. But as we left the cemetery and the backhoe was now doing the work of the shovels, I saw that a good many and had stayed and where diligently watching over the burial.

Once at Ma's the women began working to prepare the dinner. Bananas and grapes were out for all to nibble on until time to eat. We took this time to visit with the Vangs.

Here David talks with Yia about the missionary work he does in Thailand.

David's parents also visited with them. Here they are visiting with Tou. Grandpa has his back to us and Grandma can't be seen because she is sitting right next to Grandpa.

And this is Mrs. Geistfelt. She and her husband (now sainted and enjoying the heavenly feast with Ger) gave the Vangs a home on their property to live in when they first came to South Branch as refugees.

Ma, who is sitting, and Yia, standing, are enjoying catching up with David and Hannah as much as David is enjoying it. In the background Phoua is checking to make sure the food is ready.

We had a delicious meal of rice and various beef dishes. One was a beef stew that was quite spicy, yet yummy! Also there were shrimp - whole shrimp with the heads and tail. Many of the Vangs simply ate the shell and all. We on the other hand, peeled them and then ate them - very good.

Right before saying good bye, I took this picture of David and Kou, each of whom treasure their friendship dearly.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Paint is Dry

Two weeks ago we painted our living and dining rooms the Behr paint color named, "Fall Mood." I love the way it warmed up the rooms. (Not to mention that now these rooms are completely clean - for now.)

The curtains are new (to me) given to me by my mom from a garage sale find. It is Battenberg lace (thanks to Amy for telling me this - boy she is so smart!) and I love them. Mine is very similar to the third picture here.

The dining room is the same color. And last week my friend Amy was gracious enough to sew for me a bench cushion for the window seat.

Wow is she talented! Thank you Amy! I love it. The cushion makes the dining room "pop." And is a wonderful, comfy place now for the kids (or me) to curl up with a good book, or look out the window at our bird feeders.

Who do you want to listen to?

While driving the other day, Nathan asked, "Can you turn on traveler?"

Dad and Mom: "What Nathan? What is traveler?"

Nathan: "You know, that cd of traveler."

Mom: "Nathan I have no idea what you mean. When did you listen to this? Do you remember any songs?"

Dad: "Do you mean 'Journey'?"

Nathan: "Yeah that's it!"

Too bad the cd wasn't in the car after that great use of a synonym by my 8 year old.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life keeps me busy, busy, busy

I have lots to post and share with all of you. What from having my best friend and her kiddos here with us last week, my oldest daughter off to camp for the very first time, a Hmong funeral we attended Monday, my second oldest attended school in 1836 on Tuesday, plus pictures of the new paint in my living room and dining room and the new bench seat made (by my best friend) for the window seat in the dining room.

But it will all have to wait another day or two. Today I am gone again with Nathan's baseball game, laundry to do, and then off to haircuts and supper at Grandpa and Grandma's. And I thought I would be able to do some more school work this week and start scrapping on my Germany trip. Life is laughing at those plans for sure!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jack Fell Down and Broke His Crown

And that really, really hurts. I broke mine on Monday noon, eating fresh blueberry pancakes. For the past month every now and again I have felt a tenderness in the back left bottom tooth which I thought was a cavity developing. But apparently that was my crown cracking and voila it finally broke.

Boy oh boy do exposed nerves make eating and drinking really sensitive! I now drink everything with a straw. David has asked me the last couple of days if I want to have a beer with supper or a glass of wine. But I refuse to drink those with a straw. I only eat things on the right side, because pressure on that tooth hurts. I eat smaller amounts because I have to take smaller bites (maybe this is the silver lining?) Rinsing my teeth after brushing is painful.

I get to experience this for another week and a half before the dentist can put in another crown. (well a temporary then two weeks after that appointment he'll put in the real crown). And of course they couldn't do it the same day as my scheduled cleaning, no I'll have to make extra trips.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Berry Good

Yesterday, 12 hours of work culminated in this:
  • 91 lbs of strawberries picked, hulled, and washed, then preserved into:
  • 44 pints of jam (29 for our family and 15 for Grandpa and Grandma)
  • 25 quarts of whole berries (20 for us and 5 for Grandpa and Grandma)
  • 14 quarts of sliced berries (8 for us and 6 for Grandpa and Grandma)
  • 2 very delicious pies
Plus enough for Grandpa and Grandma to take home to make their own pie (I had made them crusts to put in the freezer) to share with relatives.

No I didn't take any pictures, I was too tired. But it was fun to do the work. David, Ellie, and I were at the berry patch by 6:15am and had finished picking by about 8am. -Grandpa and Grandma (my in-laws) came over around 10 to help and we were quite the production line. By lunch all the berries were hulled, all the whole berried fixed, and the pies were done. After lunch Grandpa and I made repeated batches of jam at the same time, each staying on our own half of the stove and counter. David kept us supplied with the crushed berries and sugar and timing; Grandma napped. By 3 the jam was finished and we rewarded ourselves with pie. After the treat, David took the remaining four pieces to two of our shut-ins and the retired Pastor and his wife who keep us stocked in fresh fish. While he did this, Grandpa and Grandma sliced the remaining berries, I added some sugar and filled the containers. This was a new thing for me this year. But we knew the berries would taste great on homemade ice-cream or stirred into yogurt.

Now I need to:
  • clean the store room in order to get to the freezer to put all that away.
  • do more laundry
  • vacuum and mop the dining room and kitchen
  • clean up the rest of the house because tomorrow evening....
My bestest friend in the whole world and her 4 chitlins are coming for a weeks visit. Yippee!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Conner Prairie

On our last day of vacation we went to Conner Prairie for the day. I had been there a couple of times as part of a class field trip growing up. I love living history museums and talking with the characters. For those of you who live close to Indianapolis consider purchasing a year pass, it would be quite worth it.

We spent quite a long time in the blacksmith shop.

We were the only ones in there and he was very friendly, telling us all sorts of stories and showing us how to make different things. David asked if he made nails, and even though nails have been mass produced since 1776, ((we were in 1836), he showed how he makes his own nails for personal use, giving one to Ellie who was his helper a couple of times.

Each child got to try their hand at dipping candles. This is Hannah:

At one of the homes, the lady of the house showed the kids how to play a game with a metal hoop (made by her brother the blacksmith) and stick. The trick was to hold the stick below knee level, balance the metal hoop, then release it, pushing it with the stick to keep it rolling and finally picking it up with the stick before it fell over. Sam and Abby demonstrate:

Here Nathan and Sam play with the scales in the pottery hut.

Nathan and Sam try out one of the beds at the Inn. We decided not to stay there that night though.

Abby demonstrates how they helped move some of the hay into another part of the barn.

Here Nathan and Sam are helping this lady do something (it isn't spinning, but putting thread on a shuttle for the weaving machine which you can sort of see in the background.)

It was a really fun day.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

This is what I like

While on vacation at my mom's (after the CCA symposium), she had a new garage sale find. I spent a lot of time using it.

For two days I laid in the hammock and read Persuasion by Jane Austin.

The weather was perfect, the shade was great, and lest you feel that David didn't get a chance.....

It was rough, but if I had to, I would do it again.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Speaking of Cleaning....

Were you (or are you) one who made your own baby wipes instead of buying them? Once you're done with wiping bottoms don't stop making them. Here is what I do:

Now instead of using baby oil and baby soap mixed in the water, I use tea tree oil and Shaklee Basic H (you can use whatever cleaning soap floats your boat) mixed in the water and add the paper towels. Its uses:

  • Each day the two youngest take some and wipe clean all the toilet seats and sinks in the house.
  • If some little boy "misses," I grab a couple to clean up (or make him).
  • They're great for kids to take and wipe doorknobs and light switches.
  • Take them on trips to wipe hands and faces in the car or on a picnic.
  • When kids feet are only a little dirty, I make them use them. But normally they have a bucket of soapy water, a rag and an old towel outside to clean up before coming in - a tip from my wonderful sister in law, Lori.

Really, you could use them for all sorts of various cleaning jobs, but these are our regular. Wiping down counters or fronts of appliances would work, but I'd rather use a spray bottle and rags for that. Happy cleaning.