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  

My Mom Dream

Just Thinking…..

After Dad died, I had a dream about him.  He was marching in a parade, knees pumping high, and waving his trombone.  I could see him from the sidewalk, but was unable to join him in the street.  I remember thinking how great it was to see him marching along, full of energy, with legs that worked again.  But I wanted so much to go to him.

Mom died in March this year.  I didn’t dream about her until last night.  She and I had been out and about….busy….  And then we came into a room.  There was a comfy couch there, and Mom sank down onto the couch and leaned her head back and breathed deeply.  We had done a lot that day and she was tired.  But we weren’t home yet.  I asked her if she wanted to go home.  She said yes, she was ready to go home.

Strange little dreams.  Yet they give me such comfort.

Father, thank You for the dreams.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on August 28, 2018 at 3:22 am  Leave a Comment  

The Wall Around Me

Just thinking….

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.  (Mending Wall by Robert Frost)

 

There is a wall in my life, and I want it down.  It is the wall of hearing loss, and because it is invisible, it receives very little accord.  Disabilities and handicaps that are visible, such as being in a wheelchair, receive ramps and special bathrooms.  Hearing disabilities do not garner accommodations.  Don’t get me wrong:  I am very glad that those accommodations exist for those who have trouble on steps and with narrow doors, etc.  It is basic kindness.

Those of us with hearing loss do not get this kindness.  Sometimes we get closed captioning…. sometimes not.  Some places will provide a device to place in the ear to jack up the volume.  What they do not realize is that not all hearing loss is caused by lack of volume.  Some can hear the noise of the volume, but cannot distinguish what the noise means.  Sometimes it is the pitch or the tone of a voice that makes the difference.  Sometimes (and this is my case) too much volume is painful.  There usually is no preferred seating so that those with loss can be close enough to read lips, and take in the total body communication.  Many meetings or gatherings do not provide  anything in writing so that the hearing impaired can follow along.  Many speakers do not know how to use a microphone or sound system correctly.  Speakers will often put a hand over the mouth, or turn the head or mumble or talk too quickly.

This wall of non-communication sets up misconceptions and hard feelings.  Some will say (in so many words, tone and attitude) “We don’t care if you can hear or not. We do not intend to change anything about how we communicate.”

Some will try to be kind, but actually become condescending and shout:  “Can you hear now?  Did you get that? Do you understand?”

Some show frustration:  “Just try harder to hear!”  They have no idea of how physically exhausting it is to try and listen to a conversation or a gathering of any sort.

Some make you the butt of the joke….. the one to snicker about….. the one labeled “complainer” or “hopeless”…. deciding that you are totally disfunctional.

Sooner or later, the hearers give up and just ignore the impaired.  Sometimes they begin to treat the person with hearing loss as someone who also has memory loss, or impaired brain function.  And the walls keep going higher.

The irony of the entire situation for me is that I made my living being a speech teacher.  As part of the study on communication, I taught about the levels of listening, never dreaming that someday I would be the deaf old lady in the back row.

My hearing loss has walled me into isolation and loneliness.  It has made me invisible.   I try to be very upfront about my disability, and most people do try to be kind.  They just have no idea of how to respond.  Still…. I keep trying.  I remove a stone from the wall even as someone else is putting up a stone…….

And yet…. there are those who deliberately take a stone off the wall…. the kind lady who offered to do captioning for me at church…… the friend who makes sure that we have quiet places for conversation….. the clerk who when learning of my hearing loss, took time to carefully explain the product to me.  What a blessing these people are!!!

I get asked questions such as : “Do you think hearing aides would help?” (I wear two hearing aides).  “Did this happen because you went to too many loud concerts?” (I am child of the ’60s but I did not go to loud concerts.)  “Do you think you should learn sign language?” (I can talk just fine.  Sign language is OK if another person is there to sign what I cannot hear, but that rarely is the case.)  “Why don’t you have that surgery to replace the ear [cochlear implant]?  (There is certain criteria for the surgery; one cannot just demand it.)  Actually I am glad that people ask questions, for it does show interest and kindness.

I have no idea if Robert Frost intended his poem in any way to refer to the walls of communication surrounding the hearing impaired.  But it certainly fits.  I am walled in….. and I am walled out.  And it certainly gives offense.  And I want it down.

Father, I would love to have my hearing restored.  This wall brings more suffering than I ever thought possible.  And I regret all the years that I had the bad attitudes toward those who could not hear.  I did not understand, and I ask forgiveness.

To God be the Glory,

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Published in: on August 6, 2018 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Mom and the Cemeteries

Just thinking….

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The farm where I grew up was just up the road from a country cemetery.  When I had friends come over for a bunk party, we would sometimes walk to the cemetery and try to scare ourselves to death.

Mom didn’t mind us going to the cemetery; she had lots of cemetery history in her own life.  Every Memorial Day, we would cut the huge fragrant peonies, put them into mason jars filled with water, which in turn were put into cardboard boxes and packed into the car trunk.  Then we would fill a thermos with cold water, and make sandwiches, and off we went to the cemeteries.  We visited those graves of both the long departed and the short departed, and all the dearly departed received a blanket of peonies.  We all knew that the next day they would be dying and within a couple days would be ugly brown, but on Memorial Day they were fresh and pretty and their strong fragrance perfumed the air.  I learned so much family history by visiting those graves and decorating them all those years.

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My parents never missed visiting a cemetery.  We went to Arlington and saw the graves of the famous, went to Boston and saw the graves of the freedom fighters, and went to tiny little Iowa cemeteries to see the weird shaped stones that in some ways told stories of the departed.  As we would travel, my mom would say, “Cemetery,” and Dad would yank the wheel of the car and pull into the cemetery drive.  If we knew the history of anyone buried there, we reviewed their stories.  And if we didn’t know anyone there, we just made up stories about them.

My parents had a wide circle of friends and a huge family.  As deaths occurred, they not only went to visitation and the funeral, but they would also get into the funeral procession to go to the cemetery and gather under the little tent to pay last respects.  That circle shrank over the years, but the commitment to honor these long time relationships carried on.

In later years, Mom would still say “Cemetery” as we would drive along.  She  had us purchase plastic flowers to put on the graves on Memorial Day.  She still attended funerals, but did not always join the procession to the grave, electing to stay at the church until everyone came back for the funeral dinner.  The last times I remember her walking across the grass of a graveyard was for my father’s funeral and then to visit his grave and place some flowers..  She could barely walk.

Over the years, I had fallen out of the habit of cutting flowers and taking them to graves on Memorial Day.  But this year, my first as an orphan, I felt the need to take flowers to my parent’s graves, and the graves of my grandparents.  We cut peonies from Mom’s flower garden at the farm, put them into water, and off we went.  We first traveled to the little country cemetery where my paternal grandparents, and their parents, and my great aunts and uncles all rested in neat rows with cows peering inquisitively over the fence.  Dark clouds were blowing in and thunder rumbled.  We placed the flowers, reminisced a bit, and hurried back to the car as the rain started to splatter us.  Then we traveled to the cemetery where my  parents are buried, alongside my mother’s parents.  By this time the rain had shifted into monsoon gear.  I grabbed an umbrella and the flowers, but the wind turned the bumbershoot inside out.  We placed the flowers on the graves and hi-tailed it back to the car.

I think Mom would have been proud of us visiting the cemeteries, cutting her peonies, and braving the rain. I think she would have smiled to hear me softly say, “Cemetery” as we turned into the drives.

O Father….. life and death are in Your hands.  We thank You for the gift of life, and for the ability to remember those who have lived.  We thank You that death can usher us into Your very presence….if we have believed in Jesus.  Thank You for parents who taught us about Jesus, and who made the mystery of death not so frightening.  Thank You for the peonies, which will always remind of the respect we pay to those who have gone before us.

To God be the Glory,

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