And I remember the smell of potatoes in the entry of the farmhouse where she and my mom grew up. Where uncle Justin raises his family right now and farms seed potatoes – the best in the world – in the black dirt that lines the Red River Valley. Overalls and work boots would be in the entry, and they made the whole place smell like earth and spuds.
Natalie is my mom’s youngest sister. She was two when my mom and dad started dating. My sister is named after her. I remember when she met Jon, too, attending Concordia, Moorhead. Nice work, Natalie. He’s a keeper.
Today Natalie is in surgery at Abbot Northwestern. *Correction: surgery is scheduled for Wednesday morning, July 14… but all the same prayers apply. On June 3 she was diagnosed with Olfactory Groove Meningioma, which is a tumor of the brain, basically located behind the bridge of the nose, between the frontal lobes of the brain. It is non-cancerous, and slow growing, but the symptoms (loss of smell, funky eyesight, dizziness) have been creeping, and her doctor said that surgery was necessary, and the need to proceed was urgent. The tumor is in a sensitive area, pressing against her optic nerve, and there is some risk of damage or stroke following surgery. But the surgeon is capable and experienced, God is her guardian, and we trust in His love for her. Right now, as I type this, Auntie Natalie is in the O.R. Jon is waiting. My mom is on her way to the hospital from Bemidji. We hold our breath and pray.
Flash back to last weekend… July Fourth, as the extended family gathered around Natalie in my Grandma’s home in Bemidji. The smell of our Sunday brunch was still in the air. Egg bake, muffins, fruit, coffee, and those glorious cheesy baked hash brown potatoes. Always potatoes.
This is why faith matters. We read from the Bible. Natalie’s sisters taking turns praying. Her husband, and the cousins, asking God to be strong and present. Thanking Him in advance for what He is going to do. My boys laying their hands on her shoulders, listening, and learning the power of generational faith. Grandma Vernice praying for her daughter. Natalie herself expressing her thanks and trust to God. Peace and thanks and love for each other overtaking us. THAT is worth every dime I have, every ounce of energy, any cost. Faith that roots a family has a worth that cannot be measured.
The roots of our faith in Jesus run deep. To the generations before us. Three, four, deep into the roots of our family tree. And the practical, right now today effect of that faith is that Natalie does not need to go alone into that operating room. She has her family praying, and the creator God who loves her bathing her in comfort and protection. Jon is surrounded and upheld and not alone. My cousins, Natalie’s kids, are surrounded and comforted by the Holy Spirit. And as Natalie expressed with confidence in her Caring Bridge journal entry a couple days ago, “I AM GOD’S CHILD AND EVERYTHING HE ASKS ME TO WALK THROUGH IS FOR MY GOOD AND HIS GLORY. I firmly believe this and as long as He is on the throne (forever), I am safe.”
Without Jesus, fear. With Him, peace. The blessings are too many to number. I want this heritage for my boys more than anything else in this life.
I recognize that a family history of faith like this is unusual, and I never take that for granted. Most of my believing friends have, at best, a mixed bag in their family. Maybe some believers, some not. Sometimes a form of religion, but little personal relationship. Sometimes, there is open hostility to Jesus Christ. But each generation has an oportunity to lead. To raise their kids to love God and love people. So that their grandkids can see faith alive. And God can be the center, the bedrock, the protective covering, and the life blood of the family. Every generation can start a new legacy. Every father can be that dad. Every mom can wrap their kids in prayer.
You can be the one.
One thing you can count on in our family, whenever mom and her sisters and brother get together. Potatoes. Every meal, in every form. Potatoes are in our blood. And, there will always be prayer. Sometimes, before the potatoes, we’ll gather together around the food and sing it, Lutheran style. I try not to make eye contact with Grandma, because I’m the “music guy,” so inevitably she’ll look my direction to get it started. And then we have to decide whether we’ll “strengthend for Thy service be” or “feast in paradise with Thee.” We’ve feasted more than we’ve been strengthened in the last few years it seems. And then, in that quiet moment right after the prayer closes with the four part “Amen,” I wait for Grandma Vernice to jump in with a quick critique of the prayer… “Like an angel choir. Have you ever.”
So today I’m asking for two things from you, if you would be willing. First, please pray for Auntie Natalie. And for her family. She has several hard days ahead. And second, I’m asking you to consider the benefits of of a faith heritage that permeates and defines a family. Living faith relationships with Jesus. It’s what we’re made for. Maybe your family doesn’t look anything like mine. Maybe you can’t even imaging praying together like that. But if not now, when, and if not you, who?
You have a chance to define what your family looks like for your children and your children’s children. Every family tree has roots. Mine are thick with faith. And potatoes.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the One who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of opression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
“faith of our fathers :: potaoes and a brain tumor” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.