blog bash (I Love You)

I am joining Alison and Ado’s Blog Bash today! They are fabulous women and writers I recently met through Yeah Write. As fellow party-ers we are to include and link one of our favorite posts. In true party fashion there are great prizes. If you want to join in the fun click on the pretty badge below.

I wrote this and posted it last summer in July 2011. It’s included in a chapter of my manuscript. This is one of my favorite posts because it’s about my family, my heritage and how their lives have shaped mine.

I Love You

I come from a long line of doers. Good Mennonite stock that emigrated from Paraguay, South America. This means there is nothing you can’t fix by doing. In church circles it’s called the gift of hospitality. It was like a calling for us as Mennonites. You don’t sit around and wait for things to fall into your lap. We may be pacifists in war, but in life you cook, clean, bake! I had a lot of family who wanted to help.

When I was at my worst, no one knowing if I was going to cross over to the other side, family came out in droves. My two younger brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins parked themselves on chairs in the waiting rooms and took turns sitting with me while I was oblivious, trapped in a coma.

One of my cousins was willing to donate skin. Some were silently supportive, stoic in their pacing around the room. Others sat with me and held my hand. Some prayed and recruited their church congregations in prayer. Others had questions for the doctors. What could they do? How could they help? This is the Mennonite way. There may be a situation which is beyond our control, but one can always find a way to help. We demonstrate our love through action. The gift of hospitality is something we are not in short supply of.

Another way we help is through food. There is always more than enough food. You don’t go without, not if my mom or any of her sisters have anything to say about it. I have never left one of our family gatherings without somebody pressing food into my hands saying, for lunch tomorrow. You look down and it’s already been covered in plastic wrap or tucked into a Tupperware container. You cannot refuse. It’s not a choice. You say thank you and go, grateful for how your body will be nourished tomorrow.

I grew up in a house where you pray, but with efficiency. Short and to the point, amen. God doesn’t need for you to go on and on. He’s a busy God and not interested in flowery prose. He’s God. He knows your needs. My prayers growing up were all said in German. They were memorized, traditional prayers – one for mealtime and one for bedtime.

As a child I believed God preferred German. It was the language I learned first. If I said a prayer in English it would not be received as well as if I had spoken it in German. Our prayer at mealtimes went like this, Segne Vater diese Speise uns zur Kraft und Dir zum Preise. Amen. (Father, bless this food for our strength and to you as praise) It is said swiftly but with reverence. When we were children, to amuse ourselves, we recited it as fast as we could, picking up speed as we went along. It was a race. Who could finish first?

“SegneVaterdiesespeiseunzurkraftunddizumpreiseamen!”

My dad did not appreciate this. With a stern look and a “Nah” with the ‘a’ drawn out, so it came out a Naaah, the word coming up at the end, we shut up and looked down at our plates, very busy with our forks. This meant he also didn’t appreciate when we said it slowly enunciating each word as if we were delivering a powerful sermon, sometimes with emphatic arm gestures. This was considered disrespectful too. I’m pretty sure I saw my dad hiding a smile more than once during our attempts to spice up our prayer lives.

My dad wasn’t a man big on I-love-you’s. We were loved, so it didn’t need to be said. That changed after June 12, 1998, the day of the car crash.

When I was newly born my dad cradled me in his arms and carried me around in the middle of the night to lull me to sleep. From infancy on I liked to be near him. There’s evidence of this in photos of us sitting side by side, my dad sipping his Yerba Mate (a South American herbal tea) and me leaning into him. My brothers and I spent a lot of time on my dad’s back as he crawled around on all fours as a bucking bronco, a galloping horse! He wrestled with us, played street hockey with us, but he never said I love you. When I was sixteen I worked up the nerve to say, “I love you” and it was met with uncomfortable silence. There was no I love you too.

My dad’s very first I love you came when I was in a hospital bed hovering between life and death. He said, “When you were brand new to the world I dedicated you to God. I told Him, she is yours first and mine second.” He spoke in his well-worn German broken with English, the voice of my childhood. He cleared his throat, “I prayed, wondering if God was going to make good on the dedication. But, God gave you back to us.” He paused, looked at the floor, and then his eyes met mine. “I love you, Heidi.”

Blog Bash

32 thoughts on “blog bash (I Love You)

  1. tara pohlkotte

    oh, Heidi. These I love you’s…spoken through lips of strength and reserve…beautiful.

    {ps – my daddy was a preacher…I may know a thing or two about trying to spice up your prayer life…rarely met with approval 🙂 }

    1. heidi Post author

      Haha! It never went over well. You know, to this day we pray that prayer when we have a meal with my family. Every time it transports me to my childhood.
      Thank you, Tara.

  2. IntenseGuy

    Okay. you made a grown man cry. Between what happened and the power of your writing…

    …it’s nice “always knowing” that you are loved… it’s even nicer to hear it.

    1. heidi Post author

      Thank you – not only for these kind words…for all the kind words you left me today. I’m so touched and humbled by you and your grace. Thank you isn’t adequate. But, thank you so, so much.

  3. christy

    Oh my goodness. I remember this from reading it the first time. So incredibly moving. You have such a talent Heidi! And those images of you guys reciting fastfastfast and slowly and emphatically with hand gestures? Made me giggle so hard!!!

  4. Tanya Doyle

    “When you were brand new to the world I dedicated you to God. I told Him, she is yours first and mine second.”
    How lucky you are to have a dad like that and how lucky your mom is to have a husband like that. You got me me all teary-eyed at work. 🙂

    1. heidi

      Oh no! Not crying at work! 🙂 My dad isn’t a man of many words, but every once in a while he’ll pull them out at just the right time.
      You’re so sweet. Thank you.

  5. Delilah

    Oh Heidi. Ugly cry. Your words move me so much. I exit your blog feeling richly blessed and powerfully moved. What you describe in this post is the very epitome of a family in my eyes. And it’s beautiful. Just beautiful.

  6. Kerstin

    Alright lady, you did it this time. Made me laugh out loud and cry at the same time.
    The prayer thing just cracks me up!
    And I can totally understand how your father was acting… – and I am very glad he came around and told you he loves you and I hope he has done it since then.

  7. Toriz

    I’m sure I remember reading this post before, either when you posted it orriginally or during the time I spent reading back. I’m also sure it had the same effect on me then; brought tears to my eyes!

  8. Katie

    oh, how I remember this post! I bawled the first time I read it! This time I was really appreciating your humor; I love your description of God being a busy god who doesn’t want to hear our prayers that go on and on. Thanks for letting us into your life.

    1. heidi

      Thank you, Julie! Yeah, we’re probably not too far off in how we-were-raised. My grandparents immigrated from Russia to Paraguay. Their family originated in Germany and Holland…anyway, here I am. They’re an interesting lot. 🙂

  9. ring stafford

    Tears sprang to my eyes, and there is still a lump in my throat. What a gift it is to see grace in all its power. Beautiful.

    1. heidi

      Hi Ring,
      Thank you for this beautiful comment and all the kind words you left me. Truly, thank you. It means so much to me.

  10. Lance

    and I’m crying…

    I grew up in a similar household – southern Baptist, old school parenting, not a lot of hugs and kisses, ephasis on hard work and shutting up.

    I parent completely different. There are more hugs and kisses and I love yous than anything in this house.

    I’m so glad you were able to hear it from your father. Expressing emotion and care is what makes a man, in my opinion.

    1. heidi

      Us too…more hugs and kisses and I-love-yous. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
      How true and right you are about that last statement. Absolutely.
      Thanks, Lance.

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