Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We Are Family

It's good to belong. It's healthy to be part of something bigger than yourself and even your immediate kin (you know, the ones who live under your roof or did at one time). And when you leave that family, your father and mother and cling to your spouse, and start your own little fam...before you know it they are off, leaving and cleaving and the group keeps growing.

The Extended Henning Family

In all our silliness!
The Cousins Reunion, as we call it in the Henning family is a fairly new gathering. Our first reunion, here at "the farm" was originally planned to be an 80th birthday party for the patriarch of the Henning clan, my father-in-law, Bill Henning. Sadly, he passed away in April of 2001. Still, we went ahead with a gather on his birth date in August of 2001 and the Cousins reunion was born. So our reunion is 12 years old! Gosh, Bill would have been 92 this year. I'm sure he's delighted to have inspired this special family time, just wish he could have been part of it.
The Bruce Clan

The Bruce clan is larger because we have an extra generation, and that generation were many, and they had bunches of kids, who had bunches of kids. (This is my dad's family, which is nothing, numbers-wise, compared to my mom's. Between the two, I have over 50 first cousins -- 52 on a quick count, which doesn't include cousins-in-law.) 
The only cross-overs between pix are Tom, me, two of our boys, and one of their our girls. Wait, not me, I was taking the picture.
We are family. And we do it big. (But I made the pictures too big and cut people's a redo.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rainbows and Other Signs of Hope

Testimonies like the one in italics below touch my heart. Touch isn't really the right word, pain would be more accurate. I know young people like the one who penned the words below -- beautiful, delightful, sweet, kind, strong, smart, wise-beyond-their-years young people. Dear human beings who are Christians and lovers of God. I'm talking about Christians who have had to come to grips with who God made them to be. The text below was written in reference to Mary Lambert's song, "She Keeps Me Warm".

"This was the song  that was so important, my God. I wanted to write a chorus that was poignant and honest; genuine. I really tried to not be gay at points in my life, but I was (and am) at a point where I refuse to apologize about my identity. I am not sorry about my gayness. I am not sorry I’m a Christian, either, though that’s far less persecuted than my gayness, which is ironically, instigated by the Christian community. “Not crying on Sundays” was a huge lyric for me to write. I cried and cried in church for a year, believing that I was going to Hell, trying to reconcile “the demons”. At some point, it became absurd."

I realize there are some brands of Christianity that would keep this dear person, these dear people in that absurd place, crying every Sunday -- and most of the week as well. Some of you reading this would defend your stance saying it's better to be miserable and cry all through this life than to burn in hell for eternity. You'll claim it's only because you love gay people that you persecute them, hoping to push them to repentance. You forget, it's God's kindness that leads to repentance. It's by grace we are saved, not because of anything good that we've done, but by His grace.

I've come to know quite a few Christian people who are gay. I've met some of the young people interviewed on a DVD entitled "Through My Eyes". They tell their stories, many of them heart-wrenching stories of lonely journeys, coming to realize they weren't like all the other girls or boys. Denying as long as possible their sexual orientation. Knowing that accepting it and coming out would rock the world of everyone who loved them, they kept their secret. They tried changing, tried dating opposite sex, tried and prayed to get straight. All to no avail. So they mustered their courage and went to a best friend, a sibling, a parent, and told their secret. The results varied widely and wildly. Some best friends turned their backs, some siblings turned them in -- telling on them as if they were still children, some parents fell apart, cried, screamed, denounced, sent away. Others stood by their children offering them not support and acceptance, but help. "We can help you change. There's an organization that guarantees success. Together, with them, we'll pray away the gay for you."

But that organization, Exodus, International, is closing up shop. This is a convoluted sign of hope for the LGBT community, but a sign just the same. Exodus leadership realized the error of its ways, confessed they did more damage than good, even called their ministry a "hurtful echo chamber of condemnation." The false hope they offered to gays led innocent people to acts of desperation when they weren't healed. One of three things typically happened after a round of reorientation therapy. 1. Under pressure and with lots of discipline some people felt and claimed a change took place. 2. Lacking what it took to claim a healing touch from God, disillusioned gays walked away from faith. 3. Others who couldn't find God's healing, deduced they weren't good enough -- not worthy of a healing, not worthy of God's love. They took their own lives.

Beautiful people, delightful, sweet, kind, smart, Christian people, lovers of God. But they took their own lives. I would have too. 

Only those in category #1 were success stories -- each a poster child for sexual reorientation therapy. Many of them married opposite sex people and began families. Sadly, most of those found their "change" temporary. The result when one or both partners could no longer keep up the charade, a divided, divorced, broken family.

Meanwhile, conservative churches, the ex-gay ministries, and hopeful loved ones continued to rally for change. They were happy for anyone who gave it the old college try! Never mind the frustration, the hurt and sadness. Never mind the devastated spouse, child or children left in the wake. And I can't help but wonder, who was there to pick up the pieces? (In their defense, Exodus dropped the slogan "Change is Possible" a few years ago, and in January 2012 the president of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, admitted that 99.9% of conversion therapy participants don't experience any change to their sexuality. A year and a half after that statement, June 2013, the ministry announced its closing.)

And now, July 2013 the Pope, the Roman Catholic Pope, Pope Francis, has taken a step, made a conciliatory speech that could change the tone of how the Catholic church views and responds to gay people. It's a glimmer of hope, just a glimmer, but still, a sign -- of hope.

We're fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator, our Father God, who so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish (burn in hell), but have eternal life (go to heaven). God did not send Jesus to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Psalm 139:13-14

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Water Therapy.

It happened just like I thought it would. The second reunion is upon us and I didn't do reporting of the previous one justice, nevermind posting some of the delightful daily events in between. I could have posted some lovely wildlife and nature pictures Tom captured. I could have told of dear friends stopping by, a baby's first dip in Betsy's pool, little ones learning to blow bubbles, put face and head under water...and finally, after a fashion...swim! It's a thrill for me every time.

I could have written about kiddos growing more confident, learning to dive, doing tricks -- shouting "Betsy, watch this! Watch me! Look what I can do!  Count how long I stay under!" Do they ever outgrow the need to be noticed and applauded? I hope not.

But there's plenty of quiet time at the pool too. Tom does laps in the morning. I hear his strong stroke and steady kick in my sleep and make a decision to join him or go back to dreamland. Usually I -- unconsciously -- choose the latter, happy to do laps at a more reasonable hour. Several times a week, a friend or two will join me for a gentle water workout and girl-talk. Sometimes we solve the world's problems. If we have any troubles of our own, real or imagined, we solve each other's problems. And,  -- completely unsolicited -- we, only occasionally, just between us, work at solving other people's problems.

One thing we always agree on, no matter your mood, your troubles, the stress that momentarily weighs you down, it all dissipates in the pool. Worries, concerns, aggravations lap away. Off they go through the filter, cleansed and replaced with healthier thoughts; restoring the bather. A session of water therapy restores, refreshes, regenerates!

Speaking of which, I better go get me some of that. Today is the Henning Cousins Reunion -- am I ready? Should I panic? Yes, I mean, NO.  Gosh it's already getting late in the morning, but I think there's time for a swim.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Family Reunion (Part 3)

Descendants of Ruth and Archie Bruce came from far and wide -- gracing us with their presence on Saturday, July 6th. The Johnstown, PA contingent traveled a little more than 3 hours to get here. Others came from Pittsburgh, Latrobe, Drums, Philadelphia, West Sunbury, Erie and State College, PA. Then there were the Ohioans, some from Cleveland, others, Cuyahoga Falls. But if we gave a prize for the family member(s) that traveled the farthest, Kathy, Bernard, and Audrey Couprie would win, hands down. They come across the ocean from Paris, France.

It was a grand day -- the weather cooperated, we had fabulous foods thanks to everyone who contributed, and as always, the best part was the company. What a great family we have!



Sisters, sisters, there were never more devoted sisters!


The youngest reunion attendee -- 8 months, maybe -- and his adorable mama.
The eldest member of the family -- beautiful and still spry at 90!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Family Reunion Part 2 (of 122)

Getting ready -- the days before the reunion we had 16-18 people here at any given time. Might as well put them to work.

Mom was in the kitchen making potato salad, Kathy and Bernard went shopping with a big long list, Scott and Anne went on a date to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland -- with a promise to be super duper cleaner uppers upon their return, a promise they made good on. Tom, Dave, and Jerry did some outside work, put up a tent, and used the tractor and wagon to round up picnic tables from hither and yon (hither being our barn and yon being the neighbors house. We've got great neighbors.).

After a job well done started, a little rest in the sun is in order.
...But hey guys, go get those tables.

A sweet ride.

Cousin time -- board games! The littlest cousin isn't playing board games, she's in the pool with a friend that we borrowed for the day. Later the big girls included the little girls and they all goofed around figuring who was and who wasn't smarter than a fifth graders.

And there's still kitchen work to be done...
All in all it was a very full, fun day of preparation.
Many hands did indeed make light work.