Category Archives: Personal

The Story of my Life

So, it is true. My life is anything but dull. In fact, the life I live really is the stuff that producers look for when casting and writing a reality Television program. While a majority of the so called reality shows are actually scripted, my life would need nothing added to get people to tune in. I have adventure, mayhem, conflict, romance, good food, good fun, good people, challenging situations, and morals to learn with every tale that my life brings me. I’ve recently been reminded that life is nothing if not a very good story. As the protagonist of my own life and the lead character, it is up to me to develop a story worth telling. It is my sole responsibility to live my life in such a way that when the credits roll and the plot line climaxes for the last time, people have observed something worth clapping for, perhaps even something worthy of an awards nomination. This past weekend the story of my life brought me yet another humorous chapter. When life throws curveballs, we can decide to laugh and tweak our story for entertainment value, or become sad, frustrated, upset, and throw in the towel. While the emotions went the full spectrum from laughter to anger, the decided final theme was one of a weekend well played because it will be forever etched in our memory. Murphy was at his best this week and everything that could go wrong, definitely did.
My mother, my aunt, I, and my 2 sons decided we wanted to go to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the weekend. It is Amish country and they have a magnificent playhouse that puts on spectacular Bible stories. This year the story is “Joseph”, which is one of my sons’ favorite bible characters. The tickets to these shows are far from cheap and non-refundable because they are broadway-esque productions. After leaving North Olmsted 2 hours later than scheduled on Friday, we embarked on the adventure of 3 ladies and 2 babies. The trip there went off without a hitch except the hotel I booked on hotwire was actually in York, PA, 40 minutes from Lancaster instead of the 10 minutes that hotwire claimed, the fact that a 6 hour drive turned into a 12 hour trip due to the numerous stops dictated by middle aged women and toddlers, and the fact that once we finally did stop for dinner, they took an hour to serve us and forgot to bring me my food after everyone else had been served and was finished. On Saturday, the day started well and quickly escalated into crazy. The ankle I had twisted the prior week got sprained and my ankle turned into the size of a tennis ball. We had to get that taken care of and off to the “Plan and Fancy” Amish farm we went. We saw an amazing Amish Experience play/movie/interactive stage and then went to dinner there. Things began to turn south as our supposed Amish dinner, which was overpriced for tourists, turned out to be boxed food. Every place I had eaten in Ohio’s Amish Country was delicious but this place served Kraft macaroni and Cheese and boxed bow tie pasta noodles trying to pass them off as Amish Egg noodles! It was unreal. I have never seen anything like it and I’m surprised in an area with Amish level culinary skills could get any business at all. I sent my noodles and macaroni and cheese back. If I wanted Kraft and generic bow tie, I would go pay $.99 at my local grocer and make it myself. We got back in the car to head to the dramatic production of Joseph.
We got about a mile down the street and pulled into an Amish bakery to grab some dessert on our way and the car totally quit working. We were driving in my mother’s vehicle, so of course, she was panicked. I will say we were thankful it broke down in a parking lot, but the 95 degree, humid day and the fact we were potentially going to lose out on the whole reason for going there, the play, and lose all the money put us all in a frenzy. Not to mention the fact that home was 6 hours away and the hotel was 40 minutes away!! Also, it was Saturday night so no rental car places were open. We called AAA and they were dragging their feet, so my Aunt flagged down some guys on a motorcycle and we found a gray haired lady in the restaurant with a set of jumper cables. We sure looked like a motley crue: 3 ladies, 2 babies, 2 motorbike dudes, and one Mrs. Doubtfire look alike all trying to get my mom’s car to work. Thankfully, the jump worked and we were able to fly into the nearest Pep Boys, 2 miles away, on a wing and a prayer.
The diagnosis is that her alternator and battery had totally fried and we could not drive the vehicle. We were such a mess that the manager of the Pep Boys took mercy on us and loaded the 5 of us up in his car and he drove us to the drama. We were faced with a more serious dilemma though. How were we going to get back to the hotel where we had already checked in and had all of our stuff at and then get back the next day to get the car? We called a taxi and were quoted $70 minimum one way. Thankfully, we came up with the idea of having my Aunt call my Uncle and he connected with an area pastor who so graciously on a Saturday night at 10:30 PM came and picked us up in his church van and drove us the 40 minutes to the hotel. The same church also shuttled us back the next day. Upon arriving back to Pep Boys, we discovered they hadn’t even started working on my mom’s car because the alternator they thought they had in the store was just an empty box!! So, adding insult to injury, we had all of our luggage, hadn’t eaten since the prior day at around 4 PM, and had no vehicle. Thankfully there was a restaurant about ¼ mile down and we drug ourselves there. Finally, after killing 3 hours, her car was done. We left Lancaster and began our long journey home.
Feeling the need to reward themselves for a long weekend, my mom and Aunt insisted we had to have cracker barrel for dinner. So, even though we left super late, we drove 30 minutes OUT OF THE WAY so they could fill their craving. Mind you, there is a cracker barrel 5 minutes from our house. Why couldn’t they have just waited until a different day? So, after leaving Cracker Barrel the GPS said we’d arrive home at 10:30 but that was before nature happened. Tornado like winds, lightening, thunder, and heavy, torrential downpours hit our car. We had to go 35 miles an hour on the interstate because of visibility issues. Reese suddenly woke up out of a dead sleep and said something about his belly hurting. I lovingly told him to go back to sleep and then joked to the rest of the car that it would be the icing on the cake of our chaotic weekend if Reese vomited in the car. It wasn’t even 2 minutes later that he threw up everywhere. It was powerful, massive, and explosive. It went everywhere. All of him, splatters on Gentry, and splatters on my Aunt. Therefore, when we did arrive at home at 11:30 PM, I had the honor of cleaning him up, doing laundry, wiping up the car, taking apart his car seat, washing it, and cleaning Gentry up. Needless to say, we were glad to be home and see the sun rise on Monday.
Besides sharing this humorous, but cringe worthy story with you for entertainment value, there is a moral to this story. The moral is, you can’t control life. It isn’t up to you to control it. If I blogged about every weekend or event that played out in my life with this same outline, I would bore you. I am a magnent for uncomfortable, funny, and strange situations. I am married to Murphy. His law is tattooed on my heart. I pretty much would understand if no one that craved order and control watned to be my friend. My life is especially unpredictable at times. Novel and movie worthy events seem to follow me. Sometimes this frustrates me, but today, I am amused by it. Perhaps God just really enjoys my performances and as the author of my life and the director of my story, he gets great pleasure in watching me act in certain life scenes. Conceivably, I have won academy awards at heavens banquets and will be presented with them at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. As the lead character in my own story, I am just glad to add another chapter.
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Death of a Dad

Death is so final. I’m sorry to sit here and tell all of you who just lost somebody extremely close to you, that it never gets any easier. I wish I could say it does. The counselor in me can tell you though, that you can indeed successfully make it through the stages of grief and come out to a degree of normalcy on the other side. I was told by a wise person during my greatest time of grief that time does not heal all wounds, but it will give you the tools you need to handle the wound.

This weekend celebrates 6 years since my dad went into the coma that ultimately claimed his life. It was on Father’s Day Sunday that we sat in the family living room with him for the last time. I wish I could do that day all over again. What could I have said or done differently? He had just been discharged from the hospital that weekend where he was admitted for his long term battle with kidney issues. His transplanted kidney was failing again, but we had been down that road before and had it covered this time. As children, when his kidney first failed, my brother and I were not even considered to be kidney donors. We were too young. This time around though, we were adults and ready to be tested to see who the closest match was and to give him one of our kidneys. Although it was a struggle for us to face again, we had this path routed out and knew we would come out ahead. Life had other plans though.

While he was admitted to the hospital, my father, in his transplanted immune suppressed state, had somehow contracted meningitis. We did not know this until that Father’s Day, 2004, when he was acting drugged in the living room. He could barely stay awake and the man that was a wordsmith and genius, could barely put sentences together. We thought perhaps he was just still a little sick and exhausted. This behavior continued all day, but we had grown rather use to health problems in the Bentley home, so the worst case scenario was not even considered. The Monday after father’s day, I got a call at work to tell me to go to ICU immediately because my dad was dying. I raced out the door, with hardly an explanation to my co-workers or boss. I didn’t care what they thought and could barely comprehend what was even going on. I think at some point I must have picked up Jonathan because he ended up at the hospital with me, but I have little recollection about what happened in those following hours. All I know is that the dad I knew was gone. He was hooked up to Life-support and in a coma. We had to wear surgical gear to even go into him because they didn’t know what strain of meningitis he had. It eventually led to encephalitis and led to complete brain death. During his 3 months in a coma, he came out of the coma for a couple of days and when they put a voice box over his tracheotomy, the first thing he did was to begin singing, “How Great thou Art”. What a great anthem to our heavenly Father and enormous tribute to the kind of man my father was.

I still can’t talk about these moments very easily and even while typing them, the dam I have built around my emotions has broke loose. I had a few treasured moments with him during these days, but still carry around loads of regret. Could I have done something to change the outcome of this? I know, as an intelligent person, that I contributed nothing to his death. I imagine it is just natural to feel guilt and regret about monumental life events that alter the course of our destiny. Could we have prayed more, loved harder, pushed further? I know that logically, I couldn’t have. After a couple of days out of the coma, he went back in it? I still have no idea why. The doctors offered all kinds of explanations and did numerous tests, but they were always telling us something different. Even the doctors couldn’t agree completely. Their theories ranged from West Nile Virus to “fill in the blank” and “you name it they theorized on it”. The one thing they could all agree on though, is that during the 2nd round of coma, he had lost all brain activity. There was no way he was ever coming back.

This giant of a man, this genius of intellect, this warrior for God had renewed his mind for the final time. I ask myself almost daily why he only got 51 years on this earth, but then, almost simultaneously, I give thanks for the 51 years he did have. Not everyone gets the privilege of being raised by a dad of his caliber. I’m thankful that he was there through my entire childhood, on my wedding day, and at all of my academic graduations. Sure, he never got to meet my children, but God, in his mercy, has blessed both my boys with their own giant of a father. If your father is still alive and is even half the man my dad was, please, don’t miss out on celebrating him this weekend.

Mother’s Day 2010


May the 7th is a day that holds special significance and meaning to me. True, there are some years where it has an even deeper meaning than others, but for at least 5 years, it has been a day filled with a tornado of emotions. May 7, 2005 was the year that this date changed forever for me. It was at 2AM on May 7, 2005 that I began to go into labor for my first child, my firstborn son Reese. If you know our family dates, you are probably scratching your head because Reese’s birthday isn’t until May 8. Reese decided to show us his strong will early on. The labor started at 2 AM on May 7 and Reese wasn’t delivered until 10:59 PM May 8. Looking back though at those two treacherous days, I have to smile. A part of me feels that this was all a part of Reese’s master plan. You see, May 8, 2005 was mother’s day. That strong will of his is also masked in an unbelievably thoughtful, loving, kind, charming, and intelligent boy. He wanted his mommy to have the best first mother’s day gift ever, the life of my first child, him.

It really was a date for the record books. I had gone into the hospital on May 7 early in the morning and they tracked my contractions all day then sent me home because the labor was going so slowly. Because my husband is a pastor and Mother’s Day is one of those “big”, “significant” church Sunday’s; he did not feel like he should miss the Sunday Morning service. My water had already broken and I had already had two days worth of contractions, and yet I gave him the green light to attend service and speak that morning. He had his cell phone sitting on the podium, waiting for that desperate plea from me that I can’t take it anymore. In retrospect, this was a horrible decision! What if I had delivered Reese at home with no one to help me? It could’ve happened. My water had already broken. I suppose they would’ve just done a TLC reality show special on me if that had happened. Who could’ve predicted such an eventful first mother’s day?

Mother’s Day has always been an extraordinary day for me. For the past 30 years, I have been blessed to have a mother. 30 years ago on April 23, 1980, she gave birth to me, with no pain control medication might I add, and has stuck by my side through the whole ride. Now, as a mother myself, I can see all of the small sacrifices that were hidden from me before. It reminds me of the bible verse that says; “Now we see through a glass darkly, but soon we’ll see.” As children we go through life seeing things, but not really recognizing them. As a mother that was blessed to also have a mother, things have become clear to me in ways that were before, at best, hazy. Who really knew how much work the daily grind of life could be for a mother? Every time my kids fight me about bedtime or cleaning up their toys, I can only be so irritated. It was a mere few decades ago that I was that child testing my independence.

Being a parent, or being an adult that is heavily and lovingly involved in the life of a child is the best representation of Christianity on this earth that I can think of. In a society that keeps blurring the lines of what family really is and what it means to be a family, I’m thankful for the example of a heavenly father on the correct way to treat my children. As mother’s, society still puts most of the pressure of running a household on us. We are expected to be educated with multiple college degrees, hold exciting jobs, move up the career ladder, and still produce children that we singlehandedly care for while juggling homes, careers, significant others, and we are to do this while looking physically fit, gorgeous, put together, stylish, and even sexy! We really face a lot of pressure as women and mothers in this 21st century world. Even though I view myself as a quasi-feminist in that I believe women should be educated, should have equal employment opportunities, and should receive equal pay for the stuff they do, I can’t help but think life would be simpler if we could return to the era of a one income household. In our quest as women to be viewed as equals in society, we have actually somehow made it so that we aren’t equals at all. In fact, we are expected to be super mom and super women, while the men are just expected to do what they’ve always done. Go to work, bring home money, mow the lawn, and watch sports. The purpose of this blog is not to bash men. In fact, my husband is amazing and I can’t imagine doing life without him. I can’t imagine parenting without him. He goes above and beyond societies expectation for dads and he’s a real father. I appreciate all men that fill that role. The purpose of this blog is to honor women that play a significant role in the life of children. You are a hero!

Whether you are a mother because you conceived and bore a child or because you adopted one as your own or because you have stepped into the life of the children in your community to love, nurture, and grow them, your impact on their life will be unparalleled. There is nothing like the love of a mother when it is displayed in all its glory and in its purest and most natural state. Too often in the Christian world we think of God in all the masculine roles that he plays. He has been given the name Heavenly Father, and while that is a biblical term and while he plays that role, let us not forget that in Genesis it states that both male and female were created in his image. We need to celebrate that through our job as mom, we are displaying the love of Christ and the image of who God is in our children. God’s comfort holds us like a mother’s arms when we fall and it is through his mercy and grace that we can identify our propensity to overlook the faults of our children and defend and encourage them.

Know this mother’s day weekend, that your role as mom is literally fundamental in shaping the next generation of leaders. Your degrees and education and careers and goals can all find harmony in your role as mom. I don’t believe being a mom is an either or choice. I’ll either be a mom or I’ll pursue my goals. They can line up together. Celebrate the life of your children and the lives of the children around you that you impact and know that every time you see a successful adult it is because somebody took the time to sew seeds into their life as a child.

Dedicated to: Reese Bentley Buckland (May 8, 2005) and Gentry Jonathan Buckland (December 11, 2007) who made me a mother and gave me the greatest title I’ll ever hold and to Donna Lynn Whitmore Bentley (Mother) who gave me the chance at life.

Updates


Here are just a couple of thought updates that I’ve had lately.

1) 

Business Week Magazine recently did a story on America’s Unhappiest Cities. Cleveland ranked number 5 out of all the metro cities in the USA. Below are the statistics that I pulled from the story. I think it is time that we pray this spirit of depression and bondage out of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland. The birth of Christ and the gospel story of the death, burial, and resurrection is “good tidings of great JOY”.
Cleveland, Ohio
Overall rank: 5
Depression rank: 17
Suicide rank: 27
Crime (property and violent) rank: 11
Divorce rate rank: 2
Cloudy days: 202
Unemployment rate (December 2008): 8.8%

2)

I just wanted to drop a note of encouragement to those that may be suffering from the current state of the economy. As the children of God, we need to refuse to participate in the recession. This doesn’t mean that our finances won’t be affected and that we won’t lose our jobs. What this means is that we are going to claim the promises given to us in scripture. When our investments fail financially, our investment into our relationship with God will bring huge returns. He does his best work when we have run out of our own human ideas and answers.
Psalm 37:25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. (NIV)
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.