Bittersweet March

The last part of March is full of memories for me.

It was March 29 I married my first sweetheart. Lonnie had just come home from a journey of duty as a Marine in Vietnam. We were married and quickly headed out to the USMC base in Quantico, Virginia. We were blessed with almost thirteen years of marriage and given two beautiful daughters, Rebekah Rose and Jessica Lynn. This March 29th we would have celebrated 54 years.

Happy times!

Tragically on March 24, just days before our thirteenth anniversary my beloved husband was killed in an accident. He had told me he had a special evening planned for our anniversary. I often wonder what it would have been.

Sad times!

Three years ago, on March 22 my second husband had emergency surgery for a brain bleed. That was one of the longest days in my life as I wondered if he would live – and if he lived, would his brain be injured beyond repair.

Scarcy times!

So thankful he recovered and is fine now. I tease him that if he had to pick a time to be seriously injured and facing possible death, he could have picked a better date than two days before I lost my first husband.

So – this time of year as I reflect on what March has brought me – good and bad – one thing stands out in my mind. Through it all, the joy and thankfulness that God brought Lonnie home safe from Vietnam and allowed me to be his wife; the sorrow and pain of his death; the fear of losing another husband; the joy and thankfulness that Paul’s life was spared – through it all – God has been there. He has given me the strength in all circumstances.

So March makes me thankful that I am His child! It reminds me that no matter what life may bring my way, with God at my side, I am victorious!

My Miracle Man and His Art

It was three years ago today that my husband’s life was on the line. How thankful I am for these three years God has given us – and I look forward to more. Today I say “Thank you Jesus!”

Grandma's Ramblings

About this time two years ago my husband fell in his art studio in the basement of our condo. It was a Thursday and because Covid had just started, we were not sure about going to the doctor. He felt fine so we went on with our daily routine as normal.

Until Sunday. After church on Sunday he complained of a severe headache and being nauseated. I drove him to the emergency room where I was told to go home and wait. They would call me after examining him.

When he went in to the ER he looked and acted fine to me. The only thing I was going on was his comment of the terrible headache he had.

About an hour later the ER called and told me a CAT scan revealed bleeding in his brain. They had called the main hospital in Lansing, the capital of our state…

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This Sums It All Up!!!

I have a birthday coming this spring. As I realize I will be three quarters of a century old and I have fewer days ahead of me than behind, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on the years gone by.

Interesting – sometimes I cannot remember what I had for lunch but memories of life when I was five or six are so vivid.

If I had to say what these reflections have led me to conclude about life so far, this song says it all. Committing my life to Jesus Christ at six years of age was the best decision I have made.

Life has brought joy and sorrow, moments of great excitement and moments of despair. But through it all, I see the goodness of God.

Friday’s List – Thankfulness

Next week we celebrate Thanksgiving. As I began reflecting on my many blessings and making a list of things to be grateful for, I realized we often mention the “big” ones (which we should) like knowing Jesus Christ or our family. Then I thought how often we just take much for granted without stopping to be grateful. Things that are “small” in and of themselves, but that add so much to our life.

So, here’s my 10 things I am thankful for this year.

  1. The freshly fallen snow outside my patio window.
  2. The birds gathered around the birth bath.
  3. The sound of the children’s laughter playing next door.
  4. The leftover chocolate bar I found in my daughter’s collection of Halloween candy. (Don’t tell her I took it.)
  5. The smell of clean sheets taken from the dryer.
  6. Holding my husband’s hand under the covers as I drift off to sleep.
  7. Finding reruns of the Flip Wilson show on YouTube.
  8. The smell of the apple pie as it comes from the oven.
  9. Texts I get with pictures of great grandchildren who live in other states.
  10. My Amazon package bringing me more coffee from around the world.

As I look at this list I realize it reflects the many “big” blessings for which I am thankful. Eyes that can see, ears that can hear, the ability to taste and smell. Family. Finances enough to be able to have food, entertainment, a home.

How often do I just take those things for granted.

This week my prayer is:

Lord, thank you for my eyesight and the beauty I can see each day; for my hearing and the joy of my family’s voices, the music and the bird’s songs; all my senses that help me experience and enjoy the world you have made. Thank you for being able to get out of bed each morning, dress myself and take care of my needs. Thank you for my every breath that keeps me alive. For the love of family and friends which make life worth living. Thank you for another day of life. One more day to love and be loved. One more day to laugh and maybe even cry. One more day to know You better.

And may my gratitude not be a momentary thing as we approach Thanksgiving, but may I be more aware of all my blessings each and every day. Amen.

Celebrating 20 Years!!!!

Laughing at how much I look like my Dad with my bald head!

Laughing at how much I ook like my Dad with my bald head!

This month I celebrate 20 years cancer free!   I am so thankful to God that I am still here – a cancer survivor!

I think of all the things I would have missed:

  • Wedding and graduations of many of my grandchildren
  • Seeing my oldest daughter earned her Master’s in Education
  • Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan tradition
  • The birth of my youngest granddaughter and several great grandchildren
  • All the many trips my husband and I have made exploring our great country
  • Perhaps most of all just the 20 years I have enjoyed life with my husband who is also my bff.

I kept a journal during the fight with cancer.  Every year I get it out and read it again.  Here are my thoughts from that journal during the first few days facing the battle ahead of me.

Day 1 – Cancer! A simple word describing a disease that other people get. Just a word. Until suddenly I hear the word as I get the results of my biopsy. Abruptly my whole world changes forever. Nothing will ever be the same again.

It all started when I found a lump in my left breast. Although I called and set up an appointment with my doctor, I told myself there was nothing to be concerned about. This would just be a benign tumor. Cancer would never happen to me! After examining me, my doctor assured me it was probably nothing. Cancer in the beginning stages, she told me, seldom hurts and boy did I hurt! It was probably a cyst. If so, they would insert a needle to remove the fluid, and all would be fine. Nothing to worry about.

Then why did she tell me not to leave until she had an ultrasound scheduled? Still, there is nothing to fear! Cancer happens to other people, not to me. I’ll grow old and die some day of a heart attack.

Day 2 – After the ultrasound the radiologist wants to speak to my husband and me. He tells us he is trying to get in touch with my doctor to recommend I have a biopsy as soon as possible. He tries to comfort us by saying that cancer is seldom painful in the beginning stages. I’m in so much pain, it’s probably just a benign tumor. If pain means no cancer, bring on the pain!

Day 9 – The needle biopsy is completed. It was supposed to be painless, but I have to have three shots before they can complete the biopsy. Lord, let it be good news.

Day 12 – It’s not good news. I have cancer. How can that be? Not me! I call my husband on his cell phone. He is coming to take me to lunch and when he answers the telephone, he starts chattering away, making nonsensical comments. I cut him off, “Honey, listen to me.” Now what do I say? How do I say that dreadful word? There’s no way to avoid it, no way to make it sound all okay. So, I just say it. “I have cancer.” His response is engraved in my memory. “I’ll be right there.”

Now I have to tell the kids. How do I tell my children their mother has – there’s that word again – cancer? The kids come hurrying over with their families. I can tell they struggle with the news. My two daughters who have never been at a loss for words when talking with me are now strangely silent. They seem to avoid even looking at me. How I long to take away their pain, but I am totally helpless. This is not like when they fell as little girls and scratched a knee. I can’t wash away the pain, can’t put a bandage and a kiss on it and make everything fine again. Cancer was never something we thought we would have to deal with. That happened in other families, not ours.

Day 13 – Finally, almost 24 hours after I get the news I have cancer, the kids go home and my husband runs an errand. I am alone at last to absorb the news. I take a bubble bath and as I relax in the warm water, the tears finally come. I cry and beg God over and over, “Please let me live! Please let me live!” Over and over comes this desperate plea.

Sixty-eight Years – and He is Still Faithful!!!

I posted this in 2018 but today I celebrate 68 years of walking with my Savior, my best friend.

Life has had its ups and downs, but one thing has remained true. Jesus has been faithful to me through it all.

  • He was there when my father left my mother and I when I was fourteen. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Psalm 27:10
  • He was there when my husband was killed in an accident leaving me with two little girls to raise. “I will be with you always.” Matthew 28:20
  • He was there when the doctor told me “The odds are not in your favor” and gave me little hope of surviving more than a few more years. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Psalm 23
  • He is here as I began to age and face pain of arthritis and all the other issues of the aging. “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

In 74 years of life, I have made a lot of decisions, some good, some bad. But that decision as a six-year-old was the best one I ever made and one I have never regretted.

Do You Take Your Shoes Off – or Pluck Blackberries?

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I’m Rich – How About You?

These thoughts are not my own – I am sharing the message my pastor gave us this week.

She told us that if we make $37,000 a year we are in the ranks of the rich when compared to the rest of the world’s population.

Then she listed the “rich” people problems we face all the time. Things that we complain about – and do not really stop to think how many in the rest of the world would be grateful for those problems.

  • Our cell phone service is bad.
  • Our air line flight has been delayed.
  • Amazon is out of the size we needed.
  • Amazon promised shipment in three days and we now have to wait a week.
  • We have to get new tires for our car.
  • Our laptop stopped working and we have to buy a new one.
  • The lines at McDonald’s are too long.

And we could go on and go about the “problems” we complain about every day without realizing these are “rich” people problems.

We take so much for granted in the USA.

Yet, at the same time we know there are many in our country who are struggling financially right now.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 9 Americans struggled with hunger. In 2019, 35,207,000 people were food insecure.  Food insecurity exists in every county in America.  Millions of people are still struggling to get by because of underemployment, stagnant wages and the rising cost of living.  To these Americans, food has become an unaffordable luxury. 

In 2019 more than 5.3 million children live in households struggling with hunger.  Approximately 25% of children in households at risk of hunger may be forced to rely exclusively on hunger relief organizations to make ends meet.

According to the USDA, in 2020, 35.3 percent of households with incomes below the Federal poverty line were food insecure. Food-insecure households include those with low food security and very low food security. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for single-parent households, and for Black and Hispanic households. Food insecurity was more common in both large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas.

As I look at these statistics I realize how blessed I am. My husband and I have a freezer full of food and a pantry with shelves fully stocked. Yet, my studies have shown me that many elderly have to decide between buying food or purchasing needed medicine.

So what do I do? Just feel bad and move on with my life? Or, try to help in some way.

If you fall in that category of having plenty of food, I challenge you to reach out and help

  • Find a food pantry in your area and contribute food and/or money. Money is probably better than food because most food pantries can purchase food in bulk at much cheaper prices than an individual can. If you give food, think dried and canned goods. And please, check for expiration dates and do not give something you would not eat.
  • Many schools have food programs – check with your local school.
  • Do a volunteer food drive.
  • Volunteer with your local food pantry or with the Meals on Wheels program.

I am grateful that my church works with Compassion in Action, a local group that helps with school children who are food insecure, and with a local food bank to distribute food to those in need every month.

My pastor shared the story of the farmer in the Bible who had a huge harvest. His response to that was to build more barns and then sit and enjoy his success. While Jesus was clearly not condemning being successful or even rich (many of godly men in the Bible were wealthy) or being a good steward of what you have, He clearly tells us we are not to trust in our own riches. Our trust is to be in God.

Also, we are not to grasp on tightly to what we have, but be willing to let go and share with others.

Finally, when we talk about riches we usually think of money or possessions. But I am rich in so many other important ways – ways that money cannot buy. Family, health, peace with God.

I think of a song my mother used to sing when I was a child.

If you are one of those who are food insecure, do not be afraid to ask for help. Check with your local church, your local school. There is help out there – and you should not feel bad about receiving.

If you are one who is truly “rich,” be grateful but also reach out and share with others.

As my husband often said when he preached about giving generously to others, “I never saw an U-Haul truck following a funeral car to the grave.”

In the words of Jesus:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I Asked for Two Years – I Now Have Nine Years

When I was 54 years old I was diagnosed with a very aggressive and advanced stage of breast cancer. My doctor said I had only a small chance of still being alive in ten years.

Ten years – that would put me into retirement age. At that time I planned to retire at age 62. So I figured if I could last ten years and retire at 62 that would give me two years to enjoy retirement with my husband.

For years I had worked a secular job which kept me busy with work Monday through Friday. My job was a very demanding job and often required overtime. When the weekend came I was really not free to enjoy time with my husband because he was a pastor. That meant that much of his weekend was involved with the church.

So I thought if I could just make it to those ten years, that would give me two years of retirement to enjoy more time with my husband.

That is what I asked for – “Lord, let me live to retire and give me two years to enjoy some quality and quantity time with my husband.”

As the time grew near for my 62nd birthday, I was thankful that I had made it eight years – but finances dictated that I needed to work until I was 65.

“Lord, let me live until I am 65 and give me two years of retirement with my husband.”

Well, obviously I made to 65. What is so wonderful is today I celebrate nine years of retirement. Nine years ago today I walked out of MidAmerican Energy Company for the last time. Still praying for those two years of retirement with my husband.

God has given me now nine years of retirement – and I am still going strong looking forward to many more years.

What I have been able to enjoy in those nine years.

Seeing my oldest daughter get her Master’s degree
Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church
Being able to just “hang out” with my grandsons
Enjoying my “crazy” grandchildren – and seeing two of them happily married
Meeting my first great grandson – and looking forward to seeing the second one.
Getting to watch this youngest granddaughter grow up.

And all the trips we have been able to make:

All across the south loving the old oak trees and the Spanish moss.

Enjoying the beach and the carriage rides.

And out west to Wyoming and Montana following the Pony Express/Mormon Trail.

Being a history nut I have been able to visit many former presidents’ homes and I loved walking the grounds of Fort Laramie.

Seeing the names carved into the rock at Register Cliff.

But most of all, I am so grateful for all the quality and quantity time I have had with my husband, my bff, these past nine years.

Still my bff after nine years of “real” togetherness!

Thank you Lord for your blessings on me!

Where Did The Time Go?

Fifty-one years ago today I became a mother for the first time. That day will always be one of my favorite memories. As I held my little girl in my arms I whispered to her that we would be best friends. All the fun we would have – shopping, reading books, playing games, singing songs.

I thought then that I had all the time in the world with this little one. I was wrong. Too quickly she became a toddler getting into everything. Then a little girl off to school. Her first day of school she gave me a scare as she did not get off the bus at our street. We still laugh about that day, but at the moment I was one frightened mother.

Then a teenager. Although we often hear parents complaining about teenagers I found the years when my daughters were teenagers some of the happiest of my life.

Finally she was a young woman in love. Then came marriage – and later three beautiful children making me a grandmother. Time has passed too quickly and she is now a grandmother (which means I am a great-grandmother). How did that happen?

Fifty one years – looking back at 1970 – what a difference.

In 1970 prices were:

  • Hershey’s candy bar – $.15
  • gallon of milk – $1.15
  • dozen eggs – $.62
  • pound of coffee – $.91
  • loaf of bread – $.25
  • can of Coke – $.10
  • average movie ticket – $1.55
  • postage stamp – $.06
  • median cost of house – $26,600
  • average cost of car – $3,500

Of course, income was much less then also. Median wages was $8,734

The top 10 TV shows were:

  • Marcus Welby M.D.
  • The Flip Wilson Show
  • Here’s Lucy
  • Ironside
  • Gunsmoke
  • ABC Movie of the Week
  • Hawaii Five-o
  • Medical Center
  • Bonanza
  • The F.B.I.

How times have changed. We did not have cell phones. The first commercially available cellphone was developed by Motorola and went on sale in the U.S. in 1984. The phone was huge, cost $3,995.00 and was only good for about thirty minutes of use before you had to charge the battery again.

Old Cell Phone

Other technolgies we did not have in 1970:

  • MRI – 1977
  • e-mail – 1971
  • post-it note – 1974
  • Rubik’s Cube – 1974
  • first commercial barcode scan – 1974
  • Apple computer – 1976
  • Sony Walkman – 1979

Looking back over these fifty-one years, while life has changed in so many ways – not only in my family but in my country, one thing remains true.

I have not lost that magical feeling of being a mother. Although my daughter now lives hundreds of miles from me and I do not get to see her as much as I would like, when I hear her voice on the phone or get a text, my heart still smiles.

Happy birthday dear Rebekah!