Mom and Dad and Shirley and Jack… (an uncommon friendship)

Just thinking…..

My friend Ruth recently noted that her father, Jack, never wanted people to greet him in the airport.  You know…”Hi, Jack!”   LOL…..  But that got me to thinking about her father and mother….. and then my father and mother….. and how their lives intersected.

They  were not old friends; they were friends who were old.  I first met Shirley and Jack when I entered our church one Sunday and saw these two heads.  One was somewhat bald and shiny, and one had full magnificent white hair.  I thought it was my mother and father, who must have driven down from Iowa to surprise me.  So I walked up to the pew,  sat down and slid over….. only to discover that these folks were not my parents.  We all had a good laugh, and that was how I met Jack and Shirley.

Aside from looking the same from the back, my parents and Ruth’s parents had much in common.  Mom and Shirley loved being wives and mothers and grandmothers  and taking care of the family.   Dad and Jack were both veterans (Dad with the US Army and Jack with the Dutch military), and they both enjoyed woodworking, and telling a good story.

When my parents finally did come down  to Missouri and visit us, I arranged for them to meet Jack and Shirley.  Those four hit it off, and it was almost as if I was no longer in the room.  They were instantly talking and laughing and sharing stories  and getting some coffee and talking some more.  Jack and Shirley left after promising to come to Iowa for a visit.

And they did.  Mom told me that they called to say they would like to come up, stay awhile, go to Pella (the Dutch community near my parents) and see the sights of Iowa.  No one talked about how long the visit would be.  My folks figured it might be two or three days, and that was fine by them.  When they arrived, the talk and stories and laughter and coffee commenced immediately.

The four of them went to Pella and they visited the Dutch village, had pastries at the Dutch bakery, viewed the windmill, and heard Jack’s stories about growing up in the Netherlands.  Another day they went to the Boone railroad and took the scenic tour.  They visited the quaint Villages of Van Buren.  They went shopping and ate out.  The two or three days stretched into a week.  No one seemed to mind.

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Mom and Dad were planting garden and Jack and Shirley joined right in.  They all went to church together.  The folks lived on gravel roads, and the car was dusty.  Jack hooked up the hose and washed the car…. and did it again…. and again.   Dad had to run to town for something; Jack went along, and they worked in the wood shop together.   Shirley and Mom cooked together.  They all sat out on the patio and had coffee.  The week stretched into another week.  No one seemed to mind.

Jack and Shirley had to leave for home.  Mom said that the place just felt empty when they left.  They waved goodbye until the car disappeared around the corner.    The garden grew.   The car got dusty again.

As time went on, they met occasionally.  Travel became more difficult.  But they could send Christmas cards and pictures.  The time came that Jack died in his wood shop.  Shirley began. to have memory problems….. and when she looked at a picture of Jack, she said that this is the man I loved.  Then she passed away. My father died.  Five years later my mother died.

All of them were believers.  I don’t know how friendships work in Heaven, but it’s possible that they still enjoy each other’s company as they worship our Lord.

Wasn’t that a remarkable friendship?  It was that instant click…. that easy, no-frills relationship.  It was as if my dad said, “Hi Jack!” and then grinned…..  and they walk off in deep conversation.  I am blessed to have some friends like that: friends with whom I can pick up the conversation trail that we forged years ago.  Friends that understand what makes me tick.  Friends that will wash my car.  Friends who will let me wash their car.  Friends that get it.

It makes all the difference.

Father,

Thank You for the friends You put into our lives.  Help me not take them for granted, but to pray for them always.

To God be the Glory…..

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Published in: on November 15, 2018 at 5:56 am  Comments (2)  

Things I Learned at 18

 

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I left home at 18.   Didn’t go very far, just about 60 miles away to Kirksville, MO for college.  It may as well have been 5000 miles, as I suddenly felt very alone….. very on my own….. very frightened.  That surprised me, as I usually never was homesick…. never minded being away from family.    But those times were temporary.  This was going to be more permanent…… a LONG semester!  I had no car, and no one owned phones.  So I knew there wouldn’t be much communication.

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I wanted to do well in school.  I wanted to have a boyfriend….. really…. just have a friend.  I wanted to be successful.  I wanted to make my own way.    I wanted to become my own person, and not just be known as so and so’s daughter, or sister.

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I began to compile a list of things I was learning during this time.  Keep in mind that I started this list in 1967, so some of it will seem a bit dated as you read it now.

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So…… Here’s the Things I Learned at 18 While Away At School….. (written in my notebook…..forgotten…..and found again years later.)

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  1.  I like peanut candy better than plain candy.
  2. Always brush my teeth.  Never know who I might meet.
  3. Don’t trust a roommate too far.  Some steal.  Some don’t.
  4. Don’t borrow roommate’s property.  That can get expensive.
  5. Nothing, but nothing, beats a good first impression, but a close runner up is a good 2nd…. 3rd…. 4th…. etc.
  6. Sometimes I feel scared and lonely. What have I got myself into?  Who can I trust? A good night’s sleep, some prayer, and talking with someone official in charge usually makes a difference.
  7. Learn quickly who the fools are and leave them alone.
  8. There will always be someone out there who will try to use me as their toy or cheap entertainment.  That’s degrading, and I refuse to be used.
  9. I can’t afford financially to drink or smoke, and I can’t afford health wise to drink or smoke, and my folks would kill me if I did, so I won’t.
  10. There are always certain people that I want to impress.  The important thing is to figure out why I feel I must impress them
  11.  Some ideas are really stupid.
  12. Don’t wait until the night before to do a 20 page paper
  13. It is vital to know what I can do well by myself, and what I can do well with help
  14. Three things I have to get straight: Who is the boss? What are the rules? Who will enforce them?
  15.  When I make a mistake, apologize sincerely and quickly.  Then move on and remember the lesson I learned.
  16. I have pride in who I am, and in who I was created to be.  Since I live with myself more than with anyone else, it is important that I live up to that pride.
  17. Every day, try to find something funny, something beautiful, and something sad that I can change.  Write it down in a notebook.
  18. Don’t give away my heart too fast.
  19. Nothing is as stressful as trying to be different from who I really am.  It gets tiring putting on a front.
  20. Lies get too complex. Truth makes my life easier.
  21. Keep up with the laundry.
  22. Watch the weight.  It piles on faster after 18.
  23. I’ve got to know people before I judge them, but I don’t have to be chummy with the wrong people.
  24. I’ve got a vision for my future.  Will this step take me there?
  25. Who is God?  What does He want? Is it worth it?
  26. Who are my parents? What do they want?  Is it worth it?
  27. Respect, respect, respect is the key.
  28. Put covers on my books and take notes in my books.
  29. Ask advice from adults.  They love to feel needed.
  30. I know I should make my life count to make this world a better place.  But how?
  31. Watch out for parties.  They aren’t just pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey-eat-birthday-cake any more.
  32. Be careful of the money flow.  It goes so fast, and now I’m responsible for it.
  33. When all is said and done, what people will always be there for me?
  34. If I mess up, then I messed up.  But I don’t have to stay messed up.
  35. Take at least one walk by myself everyday just to think and get things straight in my head.
  36. Letters are more important than I ever thought.  Why don’t my friends write?  But then, why don’t I write?
  37. I’m kind of on my own.  That means I need to think more about birthdays and Christmas and stuff.
  38. When I look at all the adults in my life, I know I need to decide which ones I really want to be like.
  39. Never dry my underwear in the oven.  And never give anyone the key to my dorm room.
  40. Don’t push teasing too far. Some people just don’t get it and some people just don’t like it.
  41. Don’t get caught in the hall with just a towel and no key.
  42. If I have a choice of seats, sit on the front row and get to know the professor.
  43. I am a person with purpose.
  44. Who I really am can be found in what I do when I know no one is looking.
  45. My grades here will in part determine the jobs I get.
  46. Get to know people from other cultures.  I may never have this experience again.
  47. Most people don’t think I’m weird for reading the Bible, even the atheists thought it was neat that I could argue some points with them.
  48. Type everything possible.  It always seems to mean a better grade.
  49. Let people know real fast that I am a hard and honest worker.  They trust me more and give me better jobs.
  50.  I’ll only be 18 once.  Dear God, let it count.

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Father, I look back now and thank You that You kept me safe during those years, that You provided, that You carried me, and I praise You that others were praying for me.   I knew none of that at the time.  But You knew.  You cared.  You loved me. Amen.

To God Be The Glory…..

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Published in: on October 1, 2018 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

On A Roll, Here….

Just Thinking……

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It’s almost October, and you know what that means….. it’s time to stock up on toilet paper.   Toilet paper is serious business, and it gets a bit complicated, so start early.

To understand my concern, you have to understand my background.  I grew up on an isolated farm, and it took about 30 minutes to get to the store in town.  And those stores were not like Walmart and open 24 hours a day.  No.  Those stores opened when the shopkeeper unlocked the door, and closed when he went home.  So that meant careful strategy in the TP buying.  You just did not wait to buy toilet paper at 4:30 pm.  You could not buy toilet paper at all on Sundays….. not because there was a dated law against doing so, but because the stores were closed on Sundays.

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It might be that you intended to buy TP  tomorrow when you went to town….. only to wake up to a blizzard roaring and throwing snow, which meant the roads were blocked, which meant you did not go to town and buy toilet paper.  And then there were the icy days, when you tried to carry toilet paper from the store to the car to the house, only to slip and have it all roll away.  Serious business, indeed.

In my childhood Iowa, snow and ice could begin in October. So the prudent shopper stocked up either  at the end of September or the beginning of October, and bought ahead for the entire winter.  Remember, in Iowa, that could be April.   And the discerning shopper will count the number of people in the household and add two more in case you have overnight stranded travelers from all that snow.

I know the horrors and rigor of using pages ripped from the catalogue, and being able to discern if it was a slick advertisement page, or newsprint. .  I know what it is like to waste precious Kleenex on such a mundane task.   I have heard tell of using corn cobs, but just the thought makes me uncomfortable.  So all those experiences, and near misses, and rumors lead me to totally believe that I need to build my TP hoard in October.

Now….. it’s one thing to buy massive amounts of toilet paper; it’s another to decide what to do with it.  It would seem reasonable to store it in the bathroom since that is the point of usage, but when the bathroom is the size of a small pantry, you would not even have a path through the stacked walls of TP.  You could not  use the bathroom.  It’s case in futility.  So there must be places to hide the TP.

Here’s how we handle it in our home.  There is no charge for borrowing our ideas.

Step 1: Buy enough TP to last from October to April.

Step 2: Stuff it into every available cranny in your automobile and carefully drive home.

Step 3: Lug all those mega roll packages to the back bedroom.

Step 4: Begin to tightly squeeze it all under the guest bed.

Step 5: Reserve 20 rolls or so to stuff into the linens closet.

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Step 6: Put a new roll onto the holder, and a spare on the toilet tank. Can’t be too careful.

 

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Take it from one who has been there.  You don’t know how blessed you are to not have to run outside to the little house …. in the dark…. during a blizzard….with a roll of toilet paper in each hand and one under each armpit.  You don’t want to know.  You don’t want to be the one sitting out there in the dark blizzard with your knee caps and shins freezing,  yelling your fool head off that the little house is out of TP, and no one can hear you because the blizzard is too loud.  You don’t want to have those terrible visions of being found in the morning….or in the spring….. void of TP.  You don’t want to live with  scarring regrets that all this pain and torment and gossip-mongering could have been avoided if you had just organized the toilet paper regime better like any sensible person would.

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So save your pennies…. save your mind….. save your dignity….. and trot right over to the store while there is still time.  Carpe Diem.

Father,  Ah…. the memories.   And now I ask that You provide what we need, when we need it.  No more. No less.  Amen.

To God be the glory…..

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Published in: on October 1, 2018 at 5:01 am  Leave a Comment  

The Last Look

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Just Thinking….

This morning Hubs and I went out to the folks’ farm to dig peonies from Mom’s flowerbed.  Technically…. it’s not their farm anymore; it’s not even my and my sibs’ farm.  The papers have been signed, the dollars exchanged, and the land belongs to someone else.   (Yes, we had permission from the new owner to get the peonies.)

It seemed odd driving down the lane to the house, knowing that most likely this will be the last time I will ever set foot on this land.

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So many objects caught my eye, triggering my memories and emotions, and forcing me to see them in a new way.

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On the main road are the signs that indicate where the farm is located: the street and cross street, and the house number.

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The next sign is the dead end sign.  That one socked me in the stomach.  My great-grandparents who homesteaded this land…. dead. My grandparents who built the home that is here…. dead.  My parents who owned and worked the land from the 1960s until the present…. dead.  It’s the end of the family century farm.  The end of their dreams and love of the land.  The end of all our family gatherings here.

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And driving back to the main road, we saw the last sign:  STOP.  So we did.  We stopped to reflect, to take the picture, and know that even in the future we will stop to remember all that this place meant to us.

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Next we saw the prairie grasses and flowers.  More than likely, similar plants were there when my great grandparents first stepped onto the land and began to break the soil.  I’m too ignorant to be able to name them, but I can appreciate the vibrant colors and sturdy composition to withstand the harsh Iowa summers and winters.  Maybe…. just maybe…. they symbolize those who lived here: vibrant, sturdy, long roots…..

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The rolling fields and rows of trees caught our eyes.  Those are the fields that produced the crops to support the families.  Those are the trees that provided firewood, and building materials, and walnut and ash and oak to create handcrafted gifts.

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While Hubs dug the peonies, I looked at the little things that reminded me so much of my parents.

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There was the flagpole.  Dad had built a little white bridge there, and would go out, cross the bridge and raise the flag.  It was a flag that waved proudly, a flag that showed his patriotism and love of his country.  When we would visit, he always wanted to take us over the bridge and show us the flag.

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There were the remains of the little bird house nailed to a tree.  Mom and Dad loved to watch the birds.  One winter a pair of geese, which they affectionately named Elmer and Gladys, wandered about the farm, to the folks’ delight.  One time some birds built a nest under the front porch roof, and my parents were entranced by the building, the feeding, the pooping (“Would you believe it?  They just put their rears over the edge and let go!”), and the inevitable flight away of the hatchlings.

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When we drove down the lane towards the house, I paused to see it from the distance. It was the familiar sight that I seen for decades…. when I was coming home.  I had not grown up in this house (my parents bought this farm from my grandmother while I was in college), but the decades that they lived here made it home.

 

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And leaving, we drove up the lane, knowing that “home” as we had known it…. home as a particular building….. home as a parcel of land…. was behind us.   We shook off the soil that was clinging to our shoes, and entered the future.  We would always have “home”.  This place would be home of our memories, and other places would become “home” to us and our children.

A few years ago, my mother fell during the night.  She was broken in so many places, and had to be transported via ambulance to the hospital.  It was the last time she ever was on her beloved land, and in her beloved house.  She would reference that from time to time, wistfully wanting to go “home.”  But she was never able to go back.  She is “HOME” now, of course…. a home where she will never have to leave.  I can look forward to being in that home with her  and my father when my time comes to leave this soil.  So sweet…. to contemplate “home.”  Good-by for now…….

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Father, You are greatly to be praised.  You have given me generations to pave the way, joy in the journey, and a challenge for the future.  Transitions and changes are hard, but I trust You to carry me in the ways You have designed for me. Amen

To God be the Glory…..

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Published in: on September 13, 2018 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Keeper of the Memories

Just Thinking….

Every family has one….maybe more….. who are  keepers of the memories.  This might be the person  who rescued the family generational photos.  Or makes the albums and scrapbooks.  Or the one who is the oldest and hence, can recall more of the events. The one who is the story teller.

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I am a keeper of the memories.  My mother died in March, which made me an orphan.  But even before that, I carried boxes of my parents’ pictures and documents and mementos to store in our basement, so that they would not be damaged by weather or insects.  And there they stayed until my mother’s death.  It was time to sort the memories.  I realized with a pang that, being an orphan,  I could no longer ask my parents about these items; it was time to preserve what I could.

Opening the boxes gave me a new perspective on my parents.  I began to see them as children growing up in the Depression, as young lovers, as an 19 year old boy suddenly in the midst of war or the 17 year old girl left at home waiting for the military letters,  as newlyweds, as a couple trying to buy a farm and eke out a living, as parents…then grandparents….then great grandparents.  I saw them as ordinary people who did extraordinary things, like caring for their own parents in their old age, like sacrificing so that the family could travel or so that the children could have music lessons, like remodeling their house so that the grandchildren would have a place to stay.

Some of the pictures I had seen before, and knew some of the stories behind the pictures.  Some pictures had names or dates or places written on the back.  Others were a mystery.  I found postcards of Kentucky, a picture of my young mother standing by two other people in front of a house I didn’t recognize.  Knowing that my parents went to Kentucky on their honeymoon, I asked a cousin about the pictures. Confirmed.  This was a picture of my mother on her honeymoon, with a great aunt and uncle in Kentucky.

But what about the ones with no information?  Who were the girls in white dresses that all looked alike?  A graduating class?  Look at that car!  Definitely an antique by our standards, and yet… there it was parked by the side of a road, as if it was a most natural event.

And the things…… There is my father’s trombone music and the letters he earned in high school, and the 4-H ribbons from the fair.  There is my mother’s wood chest with letters from my father, who was stationed in Japan.  And my mother’s graduation picture, so pretty, so young, so full of life.  There is the little plastic tube containing my grandfather’s tooth…. and the other family oddities.  I found my great grandfather’s naturalization papers, my father’s military discharge papers, my grandparent’s wedding books, my mother’s necklace, the invitation to my parents’ wedding,  old school report cards.

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My siblings and I gathered to sort through these remembrances of life past.  I took pictures of the pictures which I could not identify, and posted them online to see if others might be able to help.  I asked an aunt to help identify.  We divided items more or less evenly, and made a collection of things that we wanted to scan so that everyone could have a copy.  One sister still has the box of letters to go through and then give us each one or two to keep.  The bronzed baby shoes belonging to my parents have yet to be parceled among us.   But most of the dividing is finished.

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We sold the farm that my great grandparents had homesteaded, and on which my grandparents built a house and raised their family, and  where my parents purchased the land and lived until they could no longer live alone.  Before the  sale, we spent many hours walking the creeks, the pathways, going through the barns and sheds and sharing the memories.  We have stones from the creek now in our yard, and when I look at them, I remember.  We have a tray that we made from barn wood off the farm….. and I remember.

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When the dividing was finished, I stood in my now almost empty basement and looked at the items that no one wanted: the trombone music, the birthday and anniversary cards that my mother had collected, the pictures that we could not identify, some cracked  frames, high school alumni reports, a blue towel, a Bible and a book about cowboys.  There were pictures from my parents’ travels, filled with people  I had never met…. and probably will never meet.  I can just see my father….. taking pictures….. and my parents making instant new friends.  When I sifted through the alumni reports, I found a copy of Dad’s high school class last will and prophecy, which I saved.  The other items went into the trash, one by one, except the Bible and the book, which I donated.   I found myself apologizing to my mother and father as I put each item into the trash bag.  I cried as I threw away pieces of their lives.  These were important enough to them to save….. and  now I don’t even know the reasons why.  Yes, I am  keeper of the memories, but I have no memories of these items.

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Finally, I was left with only the cardboard box of old greeting cards.  I decided to use my scrapbook punching tools and cut out segments of the pretty pictures.  It was a slow process, as I stopped to read the cards, to remember the faces that went with the signatures and notes.  My grandmother had written on a card, “To my daughter who is so kind.”   I saved that; it’s what keepers of the memories do.

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The box of cards was reduced to a pile of paper cutouts, which I intend to use as I make new greeting cards….  and a sack of trash.  The photos will be put into albums, and labeled. And then it struck me:  That’s how life works.  And as one who is a keeper of the memories, I just play a role in this on-going drama….  the saga of cards and pictures which turn into other cards and scrapbooks to be passed on.

Father, You have blessed me with so many wonderful memories of those who have gone before me.  What a privilege to carry these memories!!  Now I ask that You guide me using these wisely, for Your glory.  Amen

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on September 11, 2018 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mom… and Dad… and the Music

Just Thinking….

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I still don’t know how they did it.  What are the odds that a poor farmer and his wife could give the gift of music to each of their children?

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Some of my earliest memories were of Mom at the old upright piano and Dad putting together his trombone and the music that followed.  When I was in grade school, Dad tried to teach me the trombone.  He sat to my right, showing me how to tap my foot to keep time, how to get the slide to the proper position, how to get my lips correct.  It was too much.  I gave up.  So Mom and Dad bought me a flute (which I have to this day), and I went on to play in band from 7th grade thru graduation.

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My brother was next.  Dad got out the trombone, sat by my brother, and brother seemed to get it.  He played trombone in junior high and high school band.

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Next came a sister.  Mom and Dad bought her a clarinet, and once she was past the immature squeaks, she was on her way to play in the 6 years of band.

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And then came the last sister.  She received a saxophone….. and excelled in 6 years of band.

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Mom and Dad also saw that we each had piano lessons.  I was not too good at that, but learned enough that I could pick out tunes in the correct key and keep time…..albeit with one hand.  I don’t recall brother going too far with piano, but both sisters did quite well.  And in addition to all this, we sang in school choirs.

A favorite evening pastime for us was “jamming” in the living room:  Mom at the piano, two trombones, a feeble flute, and the woodwinds.  We mostly played hymns, but sometimes my mom would break out with a piece that she had memorized as a kid:  “Sunset Echoes”.  We loved it.

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Then there were the family sing-alongs.  We gathered around the piano and sang in 4 part harmony….. or something close to that.  Mom sort of quietly hummed along, and Dad wavered dangerously close to the tenor line.  Sometimes we would improvise and add our own flourishes.  When friends came over, we just started singing together.  One year, after we were all adults, we had some friends come for the weekend.  It was the most natural thing in the world for us to gather at the piano and start to sing.  Our friends joined in.    Later my friend said she thought she had dropped in on a showing of the “Waltons” and that she had never known a family who just came together and made music.  Another memory was sitting at the kitchen table as adults and suddenly starting to sing, “We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert
But if anything should happen, we’ll be sure to give a ring.  Hands across the water, water, Heads across the sky.”  We got to the appropriate high pitches…..

It wasn’t just at home where we sang and made music  It was common at our little country church for people to play a “special”.  Someone would sit at the piano and play a hymn arrangement.  Or someone would bring a musical instrument and play.  Or we would have a vocal solo or a small group ensemble.  When we had family reunions at Christmas, all the kids would bring music and instruments, and the cousins entertained.

So did we become musicians?  Yes and no.  I became a speech, drama, English and journalism teacher.  But I sang in church choir and wrote music for children in preschool and VBS.  My brother had a career in food service.  I don’t know if he still has his trombone, but he still sings well.  The first sister became a nurse.  She still plays for church, and sings well.  That last sister is a teacher, and still quite musical both vocally and instrumentally.  None of us make our living with music, yet I can’t imagine us living without music.

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I know I didn’t appreciate the sacrifice my parents made to give us the gift of music. I don’t know know how much money they spent on instruments, books, lessons, trips, uniform rentals and so on.  I know that I whined about practice and was more interested in socializing in band than actually playing.

How did they do it?  Honestly, I don’t know.  While going thru the odds and ends of my parents’ possessions, I recently found Dad’s trombone music and his letters that he earned in both band and vocal.  Somehow, my grandparents at the height of the Great Depression had seen fit to give my father the gift of music.  He passed it on.  Somehow my maternal grandparents had given my mother the gift of piano lessons in the money strapped Depression years.  She passed it on.  At the same  time, we also saw our aunts and uncles play piano, accordian, violin, and French horn.

The gift of music was so much more than the notes on a page.  It was learning the culture and background of the music, appreciating the history and styles of music (which meant we understood art and drama and literature and history all the more).  It was working with a group on a project that was larger than each of us. It was learning to entertain not only others, but also ourselves.  It fostered creativity.  And along the way, we acquired some skill.

And now:   I have given away my piano.  My flute is silent.  I lost much of my voice in a bad situation with some medicine.  But I still make a joyful noise.   My son played piano, trumpet and tuba and had vocal and instrumental scholarships to college.  All my grandchildren play trumpet and one also plays French horn.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the music….. however you did it.  I will continue to pay it forward.

Father, I am so grateful for music.  Over and over in Scripture I see the reference to music as a way to praise.  Thank you for parents who enabled us to praise Your name with music.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on August 31, 2018 at 3:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Mom and the Safety Pins

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Just Thinking….

Our 1950s household had a variety of pins:  straight pins, rollings pins, clothes pins, bobby pins and safety pins.  While I remember my mom using all of these, an image that permeated my memories  is that of the safety pin.

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I remember  clearly Mom standing at the ironing board, and seeing a chain of safety pins attached to her dress or apron.  Usually the chain was not on Sunday clothes or going out in public clothes, but just on everyday clothes worn around the house, doing everyday ordinary things.  I didn’t question it; it was just part of what Mom did.  I thought it might be sort of a coming-of-age rite, and that some day when I was older, I, too, would wear a chain of safety pins.  It would make me a woman.

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It was only years later that I learned my siblings had noticed all this also.  I finally got up the courage to ask Mom about the safety pins.

“Oh,” she replied, “It was just ordinary.  I would  find the pins laying around the house while I cleaned, so to keep track of them,  and not lose them, I just pinned them to whatever I was wearing so I wouldn’t forget to put them away.”    Sooooooo….. nothing mysterious.  No coming-of-age rite.  Just ordinary pins….found in ordinary places.

When Mom died, we decided to get a package of safety pins.  Some of us wore a short chain of pins; others just put one pin on the collar or shirt or blouse.  We said nothing about it unless we were asked.  Even the littles wore a pin, and when they asked why we were all wearing a safety pin, we just told them it was in memory of Great Grandma.  They were satisfied.

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It seemed fitting.  Just something ordinary….. an ordinary woman…..  an ordinary place.  Yet…. There was something extraordinary about her and the entire heritage and lineage.  The pins held it together.

Today it is common to “pin” something, such as on Pinterest.  It is something that we don’t want to forget.  I kept my little chain of pins; I don’t want to forget that extraordinary ordinary woman.

Father, Such a little thing…. these pins…. yet sometimes You use the little things to help us understand the bigger things.  Thank You for my mother, and how You help us to remember her.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on August 30, 2018 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dad and the Apples

 

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Just Thinking….

My dad was patient, but had a long memory.  He was gentle, but had a wicked sense of humor.  He was a hard working farmer, but took time out for fun.

And so it was with the apples.

Mom and Dad had an orchard on the old farm.  To the east of the summer kitchen was a gigantic pair of pear trees.  North of the chicken house was the larger orchard with apples, peaches, plums, cherries, and apricots.  It was an old orchard, established well before we moved to this farm in the early ’50s.  And it provided plenty of canning so that we could enjoy the fruit all winter.

Fall harvest usually meant that Dad was in the fields almost non-stop.  But the apples in the orchard ripened just before the corn and bean harvest.  So Dad took an afternoon to pick apples.

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He propped up the old ladder against the gnarled tree, had a basket attached to the rungs, and began to pick apples.  My brother and I were on the ground, picking up the “drops” (apples which had dropped to the ground, but were still edible.)  Soon we noticed that some of the drops were rather mushy and rotten.  They were surrounded by flies, seeking the sweet oozing juice.

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We got an idea.  Actually, my brother was the good child, so the idea was probably mine.  I picked up a mushy apple and hurled it at my dad.  At the time it seemed like a good idea, but I cannot figure out why now.  Then my brother followed suit.  Soon we were pitching rotten apple after rotten apple, and squealing with perverted laughter all the while.

Dad never turned around.  Never said a word.  He just kept picking apples.  And that was no fun.  So my brother and I went back to picking  up the drops.

Suddenly something hit me.  An apple!  And it didn’t just naturally drop from the tree!   I looked up; Dad was at the top of the ladder, his face filled with glee, and he was aiming rotten apples right at us!  We began to laugh and dodge the volley, loving every minute of it.

Dad only remarked once that we must have had fun throwing rotten apples at  “poor old dad”.  He was right.  And now it is a treasured memory of baskets of apples, splattered shirts,  afternoon sunshine drizzling over our blonde juicy hair and shrieks of laughter from all concerned.  The harvest was more than apples.

Apples have a long history in our family.  My great-grandfather, a Swedish immigrant, kept baskets of apples in his cellar.  His son, my grandpa, had an old fridge in his basement filled with apples.  Mom and Dad always had apples around, and so do I.  We fully understand the health component of apples, but we also understand the temptation of the apple…..    and we know the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Father, thank You for my earthly father who could give us treasured memories, who showed us patience and hard work, but also fun and humor. 

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on August 30, 2018 at 3:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Mom and the Souvenirs

 

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Just Thinking…..

Mom used to go to Ladies Aid.  It was a group of women who would meet once a month or so, have a devotional time, prayer,  some sort of program, a social time, and refreshments.  Looking back now as an adult, I’m sure my mom along with all the other ladies probably looked forward to this time when they could get out without the kids, and just take a break from rigors of housekeeping and farmkeeping.  I’m sure it was a refreshing time, whether they had refreshments or not.

The refreshments were the wonderful part.  The hostess for the month would bring out those little glass plates and coffee cups, cut a wedge of refrigerator cake to put on the plate, and add some mints and mixed nuts.  If times were hard, it was peanuts.  There would be plenty of strong steaming coffee and urgings to have another piece of cake.  All of this was accompanied by a fancy  paper napkin.

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My  mother would carefully wrap her mints and nuts in the napkin and stash it in her purse.  We usually got home from school about the same time she got home from Ladies Aid.  That’s when she pulled the napkin from her purse, and divided the mints and nuts between all of us. A little souvenir of her time away to be shared with us.   Refreshments.  Refreshed.

When we went on vacations, Mom and Dad let us pick out souvenirs, which we paid for with our own money.  And since money was scarce, it usually ended up being a postcard.  The folks would also buy souvenirs, usually postcards, for family members back home, and share the excitement of the vacation.

Even when we were grown and out of the house, Mom still made sure we got a souvenir from where-ever their travels took them.  When they went to Hershey, PA, we received a jar of Kisses.  After a trip to Alaska, we had a package of smoked salmon show up.  And sometimes we got a postcard.

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We were ravenous little creatures when it came to the nuts and mints.  Later, when we had matured somewhat, we joked about the treat wrapped up in the napkin.  But….  I find that I still want to buy a little something for the kids when we travel.

“Oooooo….. look at that!  Wouldn’t the boys just love that wooden whistle with Mark Twain’s picture on it!!!!”

“Here’s a nice postcard…..”

My parents are gone now…. sort of like the best vacation ever…. one that never ends in Heaven…. and I know there are no souvenirs coming my way.  But the other day while going through some of the pictures and odds and ends that belonged to my mom and dad, I found a photo album.  There were only a few photos in it….. and lots of postcards.  It was their honeymoon album.  The photos were of my great aunt and uncle’s home in Kentucky.  Mom and Dad visited them on their honeymoon.  And there were postcards, all mounted with little corner tabs….. postcards of My Old Kentucky Home, of Mammoth Cave, of Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln, of a bridge.

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Thanks for that little glimpse into that part of your life, Mom and Dad.  Thanks for the souvenir.  It was refreshing.

Father, thank You for giving me parents who always wanted to share what they had with us.  Thank You for the love they showed every day.  Thank You for refreshing us with memory.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on August 28, 2018 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Following at a Distance

 

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Just Thinking……

I’m reading in the Gospels now during my read-the-Bible- through-in-a-year quest.   I’ve read the Bible for years, yet every year something new jumps out at me.  This time it was in Matthew when Jesus had been arrested.  Then I checked the other gospels for the same account:

Matthew 26:58

But Peter followed Him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

Mark 14:54

Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

Luke 22:54

Then seizing Him, they led Him away and took Him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance.

You can see what jumped out at me.  Impetuous Peter, the ADD disciple, the one who said he would never ever EVER EVER  deny Jesus is following at a distance.

There had been rumblings of trouble.  The Sanhedrin was after Jesus.  Judas had already made plans for the betrayal: the kiss of death.  So when Jesus was arrested in the garden and hauled off, Peter follows….. but not closely.  He got close enough to mingle with the guards at the fire pit, but not close to Jesus.

Now here’s why this jumped at me.  I try to follow Jesus in what I say, what I think, what I do.  Sometimes I make a miserable mess of it.  I say what I don’t intend to say, have unbidden thoughts take residence in my mind, and my actions are not the honorable ones I desire.  Sooooooo grateful for forgiveness and hope and grace and mercy.  They let me confess my shortcomings and start over.

I know there are times that I follow at a distance, and I have to stop and think of why I would do that.  What does following at a distance look like?

I follow at a distance when I am embarrassed to be known as a Christian.  It happens when I don’t pray over my meal in public, or when I don’t speak up to defend a Christian worldview.  It happens when I should speak to a person about Jesus….. and I don’t.  Peter mingled with the guards while getting comfortably warm.  I sometimes mingle with the world and just stay comfortable.  I follow at a distance when I care more about what the world says than what Jesus says.  Peter finally realized this when the rooster crowed for the second time, and Jesus’s words settled into his mind.

I am not a pastor, but I have been a teacher of the Word in women’s Bible studies.  I follow at a distance when I fail to clearly present the Word, speaking in little cliches or feel-good phrases, when I fail to point out sin and forgiveness,  when I don’t speak with compassion and hope, when I fail to speak of the wondrous redemption story, when I don’t invite others to meet Jesus, when I care too much about what others think of me, and too little about what they think of Jesus.  I follow at a distance when I want to be liked or want to play it safe.

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I follow at a distance when I am tiptoeing along in fear: fear of what others may say to or about me, fear of what I may be asked to do, fear of what I might have to give up, fear of pain, fear of the future.  If I follow at a distance, maybe people won’t mistake me for a Christian. Maybe I would still have time to turn and run.

There’s that big part of me that knows…. KNOWS….. that I have to stay close to Jesus to have any sort of Christian power in my life.  And yet……  I fail over and over.

I have to wonder what would have happened if Peter had stayed close to Jesus during this time.  What if he followed Jesus into the room and stood before Pilate?  What if he walked the Via Dolorosa beside Jesus right to the cross?  He may have lost his life.  And he may just have gained it.

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Father, I ask for forgiveness when I let things or opinions or fear keep me from following closely. Please grant me boldness to be the Christian I ought to be.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on August 28, 2018 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment