Story without a book

I was standing in the kitchen making breakfast, just the same old morning routine that I’ve done every day for at least four years. All of a sudden, in the midst of baby babble and intermittent screams, my two oldest had a conversation that seemed to bring the whole world into focus for just a few seconds. It wasn’t anything particularly profound. I would probably be more inclined to describe their interaction as annoying, and I guess it was more of an argument than a conversation, but either way it went something like this.

“Declan, you ate two of your Halloween candies yesterday.”

“No I didn’t,” replied Declan. “I only ate one.”

“No, Declan, you ate two,” Niela insisted.

“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”
“Na ah”
“Ya ha”

Like I said, annoying. My usual response would have been to jump in at great cost to my patience and try to resolve the argument, restore friendship, throw in a little character lesson as well as a comment about how bad sugar is for you, while simultaneously wiping a snotty nose and calming baby’s screams.

For some reason, I opted to just ride this one out. It was one of those experiences when the sounds get quiet around you and you’re seeing things through a filter. It’s like everything comes into perspective all at once.

I realized that these rather mundane and sometimes annoying moments of my life are a large part of my story right now.  I’m not whining, I’m saying that happily because for those brief couple of minutes, I was able to capture the moment. I grabbed a hold of the preciousness of this phase in my children’s lives, and tucked it away in my heart.

I had another of these moments just this morning. We were running out of the door way too late to get my daughter to preschool. This time of year always brings with it the added pressure of hats, coats, extra layers, snowsuits when necessary and blankets in the stroller.  So off we went as fast as my six year old’s legs would allow, and arrived barely in time at the school.

We were on our way home and I was enjoying the peace after our frantic morning, the crisp chill of the air and blue skies when I heard some familiar words.

“Mummy, tell me a story…. without a book.”

I have my Dad to thank for this. He is a master storyteller and when my parents came to visit last winter, my children’s favorite thing to do with Grandad was to listen to a story all curled up on the couch. They would forego everything; TV, trampoline, park, dinner just to hear one more ‘story without a book.’

When Declan first started to ask me to tell him stories on our way home from school I was a bit put out. First because I was enjoying the quiet, and second because coming up with a story on the spot required effort and creativity.

Over the months, I’ve come to look forward to these storytelling school runs in which I have my sons’ undivided attention and, apparently his respect as he seems to think my stories are pretty cool. OK, so he’s six, but I’ll take it while I can.

These storytelling adventures were part of what inspired this blog. Who doesn’t love a good story? It was also one of the reasons that I wrote my novel ‘Bedstemor’. This story was primarily for my children, for my family. There are not too many stories that will inspire a person more than the one of their own life, their own ancestry.

I hope one day that my son will read my book, but in the meantime I have the awesome privilege of telling him stories, showing him photographs and sharing my own first hand experiences of my bedstemor, my grandmother Anni McCrum. These are the stories he’ll remember, the ‘stories without a book’.

~ Esther

Photo of Declan by Melissa Vanderlinden Delve Photography. Used with permission.

Susie Uhlik – ‘I used to be a nun’

Some people just draw you in. You can’t even put your finger on why. It’s just this feeling, like you want to be around them and listen, and not talk…. ever …. because anything you say would stop them from talking for a moment.

I met Susie at my MOPS group. I’d been going for two years when she showed up. You know, just another Mom. She was quiet, unassuming, humble. Mom of three, married for thirteen years, just relocated. And then one sunny Spring day out of the blue she said something in the middle of a run-of-the-mill conversation that made everyone’s mouth drop to the floor, “I used to be a nun. Oh, and I married the priest.” Well, let me tell you she stirred our little MOPS group up just a little bit. It wasn’t this shock and awe revelation that stirred us up though. It was the journey, the story behind it that moved us. Susie bared her heart to us that Tuesday morning and compelled each one of us to crave a new level of intimacy with Jesus and inspired us to greater depths of faith.

Susie has just written two books ‘Mama Prayers, Mama Wisdom- Volume 1; Delivered and Awakened’   and Volume 2; Transformed and Saved in which she shares her personal journey and insights into motherhood.

Susie has impacted me with her devotion to listening prayer.  You can buy her books here and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog.

~ Esther

This is Susie’s story:

I believe there is always an event in our lives that disturbs us enough to make a choice….either run toward God or run from Him. That event for me, was the unexpected death of my father twenty five years ago. He was only 42, and his eternal sleep caused the beginning of my awakening to life with God. Until that event, I knew in my head that God loved me, but I didn’t feel it in my heart. Not unlike Sleeping Beauty, when we start to feel the ’kiss’ of God’s love are we awakened from an outer-world induced slumber to the riches of our inner-world, eyes wide open and ready to explore His Kingdom within. My father’s death was that ‘kiss’ and I chose to run toward God, totally surrendered.

I began a consistent, daily prayer life, hoping to get to know God. What I didn’t plan on, was that getting to know God, meant getting to know me. I soon felt called to religious life as a nun. Through the help of a priest, I found the Notre Dame Sisters, where the gradual ‘awakening’ continued. I entered the several year process of becoming a religious sister while finishing my Elementary Education degree.

My first teaching job was at St. Gerald in Ralston, Nebraska. It was there that another event would startle and awaken me to new places to explore in my inner world. I met Deacon Charles Uhlik. He was six months away from being ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, and I had just made the decision to go on to Novitiate with the Notre Dame Sisters. Falling in love was not part of the plan. As you can imagine, there was much struggle, many tears, sleepless nights, and fervent dedication to spiritual direction to see us through this complex and faith-shaking time.

To make a very long story, short, we ended up choosing each other and God. We chose love in all its many forms and, today, our devotion to each other, to God and to our children is stronger than ever.

Sometimes when God calls us, it is for a far deeper reason than the appearances of the outer world. My time as a nun completely prepared me for marriage and children. I had places inside me that needed healing from sexual abuse. I had no idea how to love myself, let alone God’s people, a husband, or children, but being healed in my inner world, I learned to love myself, my life, and everyone in a much deeper way. My deepest prayer during my time as a sister was that I would feel God’s love. That prayer was answered. God brought love to me in the form of my husband, Charles and my three amazing children.

I learned that our God is a happy God, and because we are born of God, we are meant to experience that same happiness. It is our natural state of happiness, our happily- ever- after, that God is constantly fighting for. Our history, and our circumstances do not dictate the condition of our inner-person. Our quietness in His presence is what fills the void, changes us and transforms our outer-world with that same love and happiness.

Just as a mother fights for her children, so God fights for us, every day of our lives.

Guest post written and submitted by Susie Uhlik

Anni McCrum – my bedstemor

“How can I write about a woman I hardly knew, and how can her life be redeemed 18 years after her death?” I prayed following a stirring inside that this was what God was asking me to do. The conclusion I came to was obvious and didn’t require too much consideration. “It’s impossible!”

Yet how many times have we found ourselves in a position of impossibility, only to discover that our impossible is simply a launching pad into the stratosphere of God’s divine intervention that make all things possible?

Anni McCrum was a woman who lived a life of pain, struggle and heartache. She suffered physically as a child and carried a deep wound from her mother that greatly affected her ability to mother her own children. Add to that the culture shock of moving from her homeland of Denmark to post-WWII London, England as well as the stress of life on a coal barge….. Are you getting the picture? Life was tough for Anni. She had no choice but to fight to survive in every sense of the word. Love was squashed by fear and disappointment. Joy was cast aside by the desperate demands of raising young children on a boat that had no electricity, water or insulation.

This is a tough story to write, as it is relentless in its struggle and tragic in its end. Anni died estranged from three of her four children and carried an emotional wound that I’m sure pierced her heart every waking moment.

This story is vitally important to me, and it is appropriate that I would begin this blog by introducing you to Anni for several reasons, most importantly because she was my grandmother, my Bedstemor.

Anni died when I was 15. I had very little emotion because how do you grieve for someone you hardly knew? I met her maybe five times in my life. I knew she was special but that knowledge never translated to a heart connection, as there was simply very little opportunity. My brief childhood visits to the boat are treasured memories for the novelty of the experience, more than the relationship.

And yet, something extraordinary happened 12 years after her death. I had just given birth to my first child and was finding the adjustment to motherhood more difficult than I ever expected. My son was only two months old when I had a dream in which I met Anni in Heaven. I woke up sobbing and grieving, not just for her death, but also for her life.

I was suddenly compelled to know who she was, to know her life story so that I could pass it on to my own children.

Six years later, Anni’s story has been written. I now know this woman as though I had spent time with her every day of my life. She is dearer to me than I could have ever imagined and my life is richer from the journey I have experienced in writing her story. I had no idea how, or even why I was to write it, but I knew it was important. It became especially pertinent when I felt that it would be a story of redemption. Not only has this story brought deep healing to my own life following the miscarriage of my third child, but also I believe that it has redeemed Anni’s life.

My family is now reading her story and the power of healing and redemption is touching their lives. How far that impact will reach, I have no idea but what I thought was impossible has already been made possible and so there are no limits to the potential of this story.

Anni’s life story has been told in my book ‘Bedstemor’ which is available at my eStore and on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.eu and kindle.

Her story is also the inspiration for this blog in which I hope to share the lives of many everyday people who have extraordinary stories.

Anni’s legacy that was buried with her now lives with the possibility of touching many lives for generations to come. This story reveals the redemptive power of a living, loving God.