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!

I Must Practice What I Preach!

A few days before Thanksgiving I posted a blog from last year where I encouraged us to give thanks even in the midst of the chaos of 2020.

Can We Give Thanks in 2020…..2021?

Shortly after posting that blog my youngest daughter called to tell me she had some bad news. Our granddaughter had been sent home from school that morning, along with all her class, because they had been exposed to Covid-19 the day before. They would have to quarantine for Thanksgiving and would not be able to join us for the day as we had planned.

Of course, my first concern was that she and her parents would not get Covid-19 in spite of the exposure. But immediately I also realized what this meant for us. They would have to spend the day with just the three of them and my husband and I would be just two for Thanksgiving.

We have a large blended family but they are scattered all over the USA. We have children and grandchildren in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Missouri and Illinois. As the grandchildren have grown up and married with families of their own, our Thanksgiving gathering has slowly gotten smaller.

Moving three years ago to Michigan we only have one daughter nearby. And yes, she is the one who had to quarantine.

As I started to feel discouraged about that, I remembered my own blog I just posted.

So I began looking at what I have to be thankful – even as my Thanksgiving feast will only have two seats at the table.

Here are just a few of the things I found I have to be thankful for:

  • Thankful for cell phones and FB so I can still wish loved ones Happy Thanksgiving and see pictures of them.
  • Thankful that none of my family have died from the Covid-19 though a few of them have had the virus.
  • Thankful that I have my husband – my bbf – and I will not be all alone at the table as some may be.
  • Thankful for my beautiful home and that my table will still be full of good food.
  • Thankful for health so that I can prepare the meal not only for us two but also take a meal to my daughter’s home and leave it on the porch for them to enjoy.
  • Thankful for being granted the privilege of being born in this country.

The more I thought about it, the more my list of things to be thankful for grew.

The best thing to thank God for is that we will soon be celebrating his coming to earth to live, to die, to rise again. That in the midst of chaos, He is there.

How did my Thanksgiving day go?

My husband worked with me fixing the turkey and all the trimmings, then quickly took some of it to our daughter’s home. We enjoyed the meal, shared a time of prayer and Bible reading, played Scrabble (we are Scrabble’s addicts), and ended the evening with a movie.

As we went to bed last night my husband said, “This has been a different Thanksgiving and I missed family, but in a way it was one of my favorites. I spent the day with my best friend doing things we loved to do. It caused me to really take a look at all the blessings God has given us and I am very grateful.”

The day ended well for me – I won the Scrabble game!!!!

My daughter sent me a picture of my granddaughter enjoying my pumpkin pie – with loads of Cool Whip.

I’m not sure if it’s my pie she loves – or all the Cool Whip!

And after almost a week – it appears my family are free of symptoms – no Covid-19.

Thank you Jesus!

The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

It’s that time of year – I am making out my menu for Thanksgiving and getting a grocery list made for that special day. As my list grows longer and longer I once again remember the Thanksgiving day I spent as a missionary in the Philippines and the special turkey we were given. Hope this story will help you realize how much we in America have to be thankful for. Even in the midst of the last two years, we are blessed.

Grandma's Ramblings

It was 1991 and my husband and youngest daughter were spending our first Thanksgiving on the mission field.  Homesickness was filling my heart as I remembered all the Thanksgivings of the past spent with family and friends.  A table loaded with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, biscuits and all the other goodies we enjoyed that time of year.  Visions of pumpkin pie, pecan pie and my mother’s delicious chocolate pie danced through my head.

But the thing I was missing most was  the loved ones that gathered around that table.  This year would be the first Thanksgiving for my youngest granddaughter.  How I longed to see her taste that pumpkin pie for the first time, to hold her on my lap and rock her to sleep.

At first we thought we would try to duplicate the American thanksgiving dinner.  However, it soon became clear that it would be difficult…

View original post 712 more words

I Have Hair!!!

Those who follow my blog know that I lost my hair 19 years ago after 16 treatments with three powerful chemo drugs following surgery for breast cancer. Although the doctor assured my hair would come back for years I did not. It was only a few years ago that we found out that one of the drugs I was given could cause permanent hair loss.

I was okay with that – I just wore a wig. No one ever knew it was a wig and were surprised when they found out.

Lately, however, I became tired of the wig. Old age I guess. I also was showing some hair growth – not much – very thin – but hair.

My two daughters encouraged me to take the wig off and see if my hair might grow back. They wondered if the wig might be preventing hair growth

I was scared – but I decided to take the plunge and do it.

My approach to difficulties of life has always been:

with a strong faith in God and a good sense of humor I can handle this.

So – I wrote a couple of blogs trying to make fun of my baldness.

Now – after about three months without the wig – I HAVE HAIR!!!!

It’s pretty thin – but it’s my hair!!!!

As it grew back it was a sloppy unkempt mess. I had to let it get some length before I could get it styled so for a few weeks I was so embarrased to go out in public – but I just remembered my prayer “Give me hair!” and was thankful that God was answering that prayer.

Finally a couple of weeks ago I was able to go to a beauty salon and get it styled. The stylist kept asking me if I wanted to use a curling iron or a blow dryer and how I wanted it styled. . Since it had been 19 years since I had any hair to comb or style, 19 years since I had been to a beauty salon, I put myself in her hands and trusted her to guide me through this.

So once again I have hair. It is not thick – it is not red – but it is my hair! I am getting used to the white/grey and actually beginning to like it.

I am so happy and grateful – I HAVE HAIR!!!

Memories and Potato Soup

October is a month that brings back so many memories to me. It was in this month nineteen years ago that I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive cancer. So it’s natural that I have memories of that time every October – and especially since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Some of those memories are not pleasant. The surgery – the chemo – the radiation – the very hard effort to stare death in the face.

But I also have so many good memories and today brought back one of those memories.

It is raining and chilly here in Michigan today – a perfect fall day. It is also a good day to just stay inside and watch the rain from my easy chair. My husband declared that this was a day for homemade potato soup.

I love homemade potato soup. My mother often made that when I had a cold or was not feeling good. It is my comfort food. My husband makes great potato soup so I was glad to hear his offer to make some for us today.

Watching him prepare the soup and enjoying the good smells coming from the kitchen brought back a very special memory of that time battling cancer.

I continued to work through my chemotherapy and was active but with the first two drugs I was given, I would basically lose a week of life as I felt energy and life drain from my body. I would spend several days in bed too weak to do anything but get up and walk to the restroom. My husband would fix my meals and bring them to me on a tray. If there was any meat, he would even have to cut it up for me because I had energy only enough to lift my fork.

He was so good – so kind – so patient and did all he could to help me through those weeks. One day as I lay in bed I thought how much I would love to have some potato soup. Because he was doing all the shopping, house work as well as cooking and taking care of me I did not want to make any special requests. Not knowing what he had planned to fix, I did not want to impose on him so I said nothing.

I drifted back off to sleep and some time later he woke me up to tell me he was bringing me my lunch. When he brought the tray to my bed, I was so happy. He had fixed potato soup. You may think that was just a coincidence, but I believe God knew my heart’s desire and led my husband to fix that soup.

As we ate the soup today we remembered that special time and we thanked God for how much He cares about us.

And, the soup was delicious – as my husband’s soup always is.

Just Because

I often get gifts from friends or family members because it is my birthday, or Mother’s Day or Christmas. While I always appreciate that someone thought of me, remembered my special day and took time to purchase something for me, the best gift I just received this week was for no special day.

The person sending me the flowers said it was “just because.”

Each of the roses was a different color – and so beautiful!

I could not decide which color I loved the most. But I am definitely feeling the love!

March and Its Bitter-Sweet Memories and Emotions

This time of the year I find myself remembering events from years ago that generate both sweet and bitter memories with all the accompanying emotions.

March has been a month that has brought both good and bad events into my life – events that changed me forever.

The first one that brings sweet memories occurred 52 years ago on March 29. That day I walked down the aisle at church and promised to “love and cherish until death do us part.”

For almost 13 years I kept that promise. Every year as that date approaches I remember those years with my first husband. We were happy and shared a lot of joy but the best part of those years was the birth of our two beautiful daughters. Memories of those times make me smile and I am grateful for every moment we shared. Those events changed me – made me a wife, a mother.

The second memory is more painful. It was 39 years ago in March that I got a call at work that I will never forget. My eleven-year-old daughter called me and said, “Momma, I think Daddy is dead.” Those words changed our lives forever. My first husband had been working on our car when an accident occurred that took his life. Ironically it was just four days before we would have celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. So March brings also feelings of great sadness as I remember the shock and horror of that day. The pain my daughters still feel today. The older one grieves as she remembers all the times she had with her daddy, while the younger grieves because she was so young her memories are few. That changed me – made me a young widow with two little girls to raise.

So – every year in March I deal with these memories and these conflicting emotions.

That would be enough to make the last of March an emotional time for me.

But last year added another event that adds to my emotions this time of year.

On March 19 last year my second husband fell and hit his head on the concrete floor of his art studio in the basement of our condo.

By the 22nd he was in pain and we went to the emergency room of our local hospital. From there he was rushed by ambulance to the main hospital in Lansing – the capital of our state – where they did emergency surgery. He had a major brain bleed and they said without the surgery he would not survive the night.

As I remember the next couple of weeks I still can feel the knot in my stomach as I waited at home (because of the virus I could not be with him) wondering if the next call would be to tell me I was a widow again. I wondered how I could take it if he died on the same day as my first husband had died. As the next few days were “touch and go” while they tried to get him off the ventilator, I kept telling God “please, not again, not this time.”

I am so grateful to God that he not only survived the surgery but after a few weeks he was back to his normal self. The doctor said he might have trouble walking, swallowing, communicating. While he had some of these symptoms for a couple of weeks, he was soon completely okay with no lingering symptoms.

One major concern of mine was would he be able to paint again. Would he even be able to walk down the stairs to his art studio. That prayer was again quickly answered. Our son-in-love brought his painting equipment upstairs and within two weeks he painted a beautiful lighthouse scene. Soon he was able to return to his studio downstairs and continue painting.

So along with the knot in my stomach, I also must rejoice with a great emotion of gratitude that I am not a widow for the second time, that my husband is not only alive, but well and strong again.

One of his first paintings also was of a beautiful rainbow which symbolizes hope and a reminder that God keeps His promises. He called it “Hope in the Storm.” It now hangs in my kitchen as a reminder to me that no matter what troubles come, with God there is always hope.

When my first husband died, when my second husband survived, regardless God has been there – and He brings me hope. Hope for whatever next March or any time may bring. Good times or bad – He is faithful.