Whose Child Am I?

AncestryDNAPlayerCardBarbaraSechrest

 

I have always been interested in history – especially American and English history.  My library contains biographies on almost every American president, most of our founding fathers, and other men or women who have played an important part in our country political system.

Growing up I was told my grandmother was Irish.  She had red hair and so did I.  Grandma was so proud of my red hair.  When I was just a little child Grandma was losing her eyesight.  I remember how my parents would have me stand in the doorway at her house where the sun would shine on my hair and she could still see my red hair.  Guess that is why I always loved being a red hair.

Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!

A few months ago I started doing genealogy research on my family.  It has been an interesting journey.  I found one ancestor whose story gives the impression that she was not a very happy camper.  The picture I found of her certainly appears to back that story.  However, in most of the pictures taken in that time period no one appears to be smiling.

Mary Wampler

My third great-grandmother.

I was so excited when I found what I thought was an ancestor who was the founder of the American Bible Society and president of the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1783, Elias Boudinot.  Then, I discovered he was not a direct ancestor but a brother to my direct ancestor, Elisha Boudinot .  Still, it was a thrilling moment for this history nut to find that Elisha was friends to George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.

As a little girl my mother spoke so lovingly of her grandpa and it was great to find a picture of him.

Calvin

My great grandfather, Calvin Wilson

It was from this line of ancestors that I have my Irish DNA and my red hair.

Receiving a record of my DNA and researching my ancestors has made me really stop and think.  From this wide background of people from Ireland, England, Germany, France and Switzerland is this person called Barbara.  But who am I?  Am I more than just DNA from a multitude of people from different cultures and lands?

Who is my father?  What is my true identity?

I am more than my DNA.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  — Romans 8:15-16 

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.  Psalm 27:10

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. Psalm 68:5
These verses are more than just words to me.  Throughout my life, God has been my father, my comforter.
I am more than 71% Britain or 11% Irish.  While I enjoy learning about my ancestors (the famous Frenchman, the English prince and the Irish drunk), I am so thankful that I am a child of God!
Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us
Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God
A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us………………………………………….Lyrics by Third Day

 

 

I’m “Officially” Old!

It has happened!  Today I am “officially” old!

Today I am 70 years old.

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How did that happen?  How did I become my mother?  Where did that thick head of red hair go?  What is that sagging thing under my chin?  That can’t be bags under my eyes?

Many of my friends have become very upset at turning 30 – 40 – 50 – 60 and I have always asked them:

What’s the big deal?  It is just another birthday!

But I have been dreading this day.  Somehow it has seemed to me until I hit 70 I could still consider myself – well maybe not middle aged – but certainly not old.

But 70 – I realize the days ahead of me are way, way fewer than those behind me.  I find myself looking back at my life and wondering:

Have I done anything of real value?  Is anyone’s life better because I have been a part of their life?  Have I done all I could do, all I should have done to be a good mother, wife, friend?

Over the years ministering with my pastor husband to the elderly both in our churches and in the nursing homes where we visited I have seen many different responses to old age.

There is the the old crank who complains about everything and constantly puts the younger generation down.

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And the one who wants to tell you all about her aches and pains.

aches and pain

But there are also those who are a joy to know.  Those who still have a zest for life and a gratitude for the blessings they have.

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So as I move forward into this “old” time of my life I pray that:

I still see the glass as half full, not half empty.  I appreciate the health I have and not complain about what my weak knees, bad back and poor hearing.  Others still enjoy being with me and not dreading to see me walk in the door,

So – here’s a little “old folks” humor.  Laugh with me.

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If you do see me coming, just remember this:

old

 

 

 

Remembering Mom

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Rosie Fern Sechrest – 4/16/1918 to 4/4/2006

Hard to believe it has been 12 years since my mother died.  Hard to believe it has been that long.

My birthday and my mother’s were only eight days apart so we often celebrated them together.   The year my mother died my husband and I had gone down to her house in southern Illinois in late March so we could celebrate our birthdays a few days early.  For years I lived in the northern part of the state while my mother lived in the southern part and so our time together was far and few between.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband’s job as a pastor took up the weekends so I only saw her a few times a year.

But that was all going to change.  In February of that year my husband retired and now we would have our weekends free so we could make more trips down to southern Illinois to see her.

I was so anxious to tell her that now I would be coming to see her more often.  Being interested in my genealogy I was looking forward to asking her more questions about her childhood and maybe even visiting some of the places where she went to school or lived.

That was not to be.

When I arrived at my mother’s home I found her in a lot of pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon so my husband and I took her to the clinic.  She asked me to go in with her for the doctor’s exam and it was only then that I found out she had been having problems for some time.

After examination the doctor admitted Mom to the hospital.  He did not seem to be too concerned saying only that she might have an infection and needed some tests and medication.

The first couple of days Mom seemed to be doing fine and the doctors assured me they would soon get to the bottom of Mom’s pain.  I even assured my sisters they did not need to come, Mom would soon be back to normal and I would be taking her home.

I still struggle that I told them that.  By the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and within a couple of days it was clear there was something seriously wrong.  By then I called my sisters that they needed to come, but I always felt guilty that I had assured them there was no need to come.  By the time they got there, Mom was clearly not doing well.

Yet, in a very selfish way, I was glad that I had those couple of days with Mom all by myself.  Being the baby in the family, Mom usually seemed to trust more on my older sisters for help and it made me feel so good to be the one adjust her pillows, straighten up her cover, being a help to her.

So my feelings still are mixed.  Guilty because I assured my sisters they did not need to hurry down; yet thankful for those couple of days of just me and my mom.

Mom was a jolly woman.  I remember as a child when she and my aunt (a Methodist minister) would do the Charleston dance at our family gatherings.  Her pies were the best.  Many Saturdays Mom would spend the day baking pies:  chocolate, coconut cream, apple, peach.  Sunday nights would find our kitchen and living room filled with members of our church who came over to visit – but I think more to enjoy Mom’s pies.

She always made her own crusts but as she got older she started buying frozen crusts from the store.  While I missed her delicious crusts, the pies were still good.  When my husband and I visited, I knew Mom would have a pot of beans (for me) and coconut cream pie for my husband.  Of course, she also had a chocolate pie because that was my favorite.

After Mom died, I grieved for her.  But, slowly, over time I began to get used to not having her around.  Lately, however, she fills my thoughts almost daily.  I think it is because I am getting old myself and as I age, I understand my mother better.  Sadly, I often wish I could apologize to her.  Many times I got irritated at her – and now I find myself doing and saying the very things she did.  I understand her better now than I did when I was young.

But it is too late to let her know that.

Because of my Christian faith, I believe someday I will see my mother again.  While I will try to apologize, I imagine she will just laugh and say “Come on Barbara, let me show you the rose garden”  for she knows how much I love roses.

Until then, if your mother is still living, give her a call and let her know how much she means to you.

 

 

 

 

Everyone Needs a “Big” Sister

She has always been there.  My “big” sister, Velma.  I call her big, not because she is physically bigger than me.  In fact, I think she is a little smaller.  But she was my oldest sibling and calling her “big” sister is probably better than calling her my “old” sister.

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Me and my “big” sister, Velma.

Velma was the oldest of four children and I was the youngest.  My parents told me from the moment of my birth, Velma felt that I was “her” little doll to play with and take care of.  They told me when I was only a few weeks old the whole family decided to go berry picking.  They packed the car with a picnic basket and Mom went into the house to get me out of my crib.  But I was not there.

A little panicked, my mother looked out the front door to see Velma carrying me to the car.  Stepping over the ditch by the driveway, she slipped and dropped me.  I was not hurt but the family often joked “that explains a lot about Barbara.”  Dropped on my head.

In the days before automatic washers and dryers, microwave ovens and all the conveniences we enjoy now, my mother had her hands full keeping up with the house work and taking care of us.  Velma stepped right in to help.  So when it was time to go to church or any other event where I needed to look my best, it was often Velma who helped me get dressed, fixed my hair, made sure I had brushed my teeth.

Velma took home economics in high school and became a very proficient seamstress.  Her senior year she made us matching dresses.  The school had a fashion show for the students to show off their sewing talents.  Velma was asked to include her “little” sister in the show.  Although that was years ago, I still remember how excited I was to be in a fashion show with all the “big” kids.  Velma and I practiced over and over in our kitchen how I was to walk on stage, turn around slowly and walk off stage.  The night of the fashion show I think I was the hit – a little girl with red banana curls!  I will always remember the pride my sister had in me – gave me confidence I needed.

Velma not only took care of many of my physical needs, she was concerned about my spiritual need also.  I had a Bible storybook that I had read over and over.  I loved reading about Joshua, Gideon and David and I loved the stories of the Old Testament prophets.   That bible story book was my first introduction to the wonderful stories about Jesus.  The book is worn out, but I still have it sitting on a shelf in my study.  Over the years I have moved a lot and do not have anything from my childhood but that book.  I still treasure it.

However, for my seventh birthday Velma thought it was time I graduated to a “real” Bible so she bought me my first one.  She also got me some new pajamas.  I was so proud of both gifts that I insisted I wear the pajamas and she take a picture of me in them with that Bible.  Although that Bible was the King James version (in the days before all our new translations) and hard for a seven-year-old to understand, Velma encouraged me to

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Just keep reading.  The more you read it, the more you will understand.  Ask God to help you.

So I did.    Perhaps the fact that I read the King James Bible faithfully instead of the “See Spot Run” books is why I became not only an excellent reader, but a very fast reader.

She was my role model.  As a young girl I was in the Sunday School class she taught for young girls.  I still remember the navy blue dress she wore with a white-collar.  Her shoes were navy, red and white.  I thought she was so sophisticated in that outfit.  When I got my first job I bought myself a pair of navy, red and white shoes and purse.  I watched her style of teaching – and I have patterned my own Bible teaching after her.  People say I am able to present great truths of the Bible in a simple way that a child could understand.  If that is true, I owe that to Velma.

I recently visited my sister and her family.  Got to me thinking.  I will be 70 in April – and my sisters are the only ones who share all my history with me.  They are the only ones who remember my banana curls, my playing and singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, and much much more of my history.  They are the only ones who share so much history with me.

My “big” sister has never had the joy of having a “big” sister, but I hope being her “little” sister has been a blessing to her as she has been to me.

Sis, if you read this, I LOVE YOU!

Wisdom from Zoe

Love playing school with my granddaughter.  Although we have to play by her rules.

She tells me what character I will be – and she tells me what I am supposed to say.

So really I don’t have to use my imagination – I just follow Zoe’s scrip.

This week we had a music class.

She was the teacher – Mrs. Z.

Our stuffed animal friend, Willie, was himself – Willie.

I was Susie Q, a not very bright student.

student

She drew the treble clef on the chalk board and proceeded to explain to me how to remember what notes were on the different lines.

clef

For anyone who has had some music lessons you know we were taught that little sentence

Good boys do fine always

to help us remember the notes on the five lines were g – b – d – f – a.

She said we needed to come up with other ways to remember the notes.  Since Susie Q is not too bright, she could not think of any other sentences to remember the notes.  (Maybe that’s because Susie Q is really not a young student, but an old grandma whose mind is stuck on that sentence she learned years ago as a young child.)

But not to worry.  Mrs. Z is very intelligent and she had a new way to remember it.

Good burgers deserve fries always.

After this we had a math class and Mrs. Z tried to show Susie Q how to do the “new” math.

math

Needless to say, school ended very quickly after that as Susie Q could not understand the new math at all.

By the time school was over, Susie Q was exhuasted and needed a nap.

Mrs. Z a/k/a Zoe must have enjoyed it because she told her mother:

I need a sleepover at Grandma’s.

We have set a date and I will need to spend some time trying to think of a new sentence for the treble clef lines, try to understand the new math and – most importantly – get a good nap in before she comes.

granma

 

 

 

Do You Remember Polio?

When I was in second grade the vaccine for poliomyelitis was declared effective and safe, and a nationwide inoculation campaign began.  Children were the first to get the vaccine because the disease was known as “infant paralysis” mainly affecting children.

This disease attacks the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, often causing muscle wasting and paralysis and even death. Since 1900 there had been cycles of epidemics, each seeming to get stronger and more disastrous.  It seemed to attack more during summer and I remember the panic as a child when several cases appeared in my home town.  Most people recovered quickly from polio but some suffered temporary or even permanent paralysis or death.

One of our neighbors had a little boy who had contacted polio.  He was five years old and could not walk.  His parents could not afford expensive leg braces so the little guy crawled everywhere he went.  He had a sister my age and I remember playing with his sister outside as he would try to keep up with us crawling behind.  He would wear out the knees in his pants from crawling all over outside.

When my school announced that the children would be given the vaccine my parents and many others were not sure if this was safe.  They were told that we would be injected with the polio vaccine.  The idea was that they would take the polio virus, kill several strains of it and then inject the benign viruses into the bloodstream.  The person’s immune system would create antibiodies to the virus and he/she would be able to resist future exposure to poliomyelitis.

My parents were afraid of the very idea of me being injected with the polio virus, even a benign form.  The very idea of polio was frightening.

Besides our neighbor’s son who was crippled from polio, we also had a friend whose body was twisted from the polio and she walked with braces on her legs and using crutches.

We heard of people who had to be placed in an iron lung when their chest muscles would not work enough to help them breath.

iron lung.jpg

After many long discussions they agreed to let me have the vaccine.  On the day we were to be vaccinated a bus came to our school.  We were taken down town to the civic center where there were doctors and nurses all lined up at tables and we walked through one at a time to get our shot.

I was terrified!

Just the thought of a shot was scary, but even more the realization that they were injecting the polio virus into my body.  My parents explained to me that it was not a “live” virus and it would not give me polio.  Still, I was scared.  This was all a new thing.

What if they were wrong?

What if I could not walk like our little neighbor boy?

What if I ended up wearing leg braces and using crutches like our friend?

The vaccine at that time consisted of three shots given a few weeks apart.  So, we were all scheduled to go back down town in a couple of weeks for the second shot.

However, the night after I was given the vaccine I began running a fever.  I complained to my mother that my legs were hurting me and I had to lay down.  Panic-stricken my mother called our family doctor.  He believed that I was somehow allergic to the shot and told my parents I should not get the other two vaccines.  He wrote a note telling the school I was not to participate in future vaccinations.

My parents and I worried over the next few years when we would hear of someone getting polio praying I would not come in contact with anyone who might pass the virus on to me.

Thankfully, that fear of polio was soon gone.

Following the vaccination of school children, there was a rapid decrease in cases of polio.

In 1955 there were 28,985

In 1956, 14,647

In 1957, 5,894

Because of widespread polio vaccination in this country, polio has been eliminated.

There is always danger of someone from another country bringing the polio vaccine with them when they travel to the USA.  But if we keep our program of polio vaccination current, we can rest assured there will be no epidemics again.  No children left crippled.

What is even more encouraging is that we have shared this vaccine with the world and today few countries have any current cases of polio.

polio map 1988

I rejoice in that knowledge because many of these poorer countries do not have access to good medical care that patients of polio would need.

When I remember the fear we had of polio and all those who were crippled because of it – people I knew – the fear the very word “polio” brought to us –

and now I see that to my children and grandchildren it is only a word – something they read about –

I’m thankful to God for the knowledge He has given us to win the battle over this dreadful disease.

I pray it always remains just a word to future generations.

Döstädning – Death Cleaning

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I have been “death cleaning” but did not realize it!

Over the years I have watched my friends fret as they anticipated turning 30, 40, 50 or 60.  I never understood why they got so up tight.  To me those milestones were just another birthday.

But this spring I turn 70 and that is a milestone I find hard to accept.

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70 – I can no longer count myself in the middle age group.  I’m old!

Thinking about this milestone in my life I have found myself looking around at all my “stuff” accumulated over the years and suddenly it just seems like too much “stuff.”  I have had an irresistible urge to clean house – to declutter.

While I certainly expect to live many more years I have looked around and thought:

Why am I hanging on to stuff I no longer need, want or use?

Why leave all this for my children to have to sort through deciding who gets what.  Or, what is really more likely, to not want any of it but feel guilty putting it in a yard sale or toting off to Goodwill?

Since my kids are grown, why do I need so many pots and pans, so many dishes?

Since it is now just my husband and me, do I really need two televisions, four recliners?

Talking to my husband he agreed that it is time to clean house, to declutter.  My daughter says I sound like a pregnant woman who is nesting just before her baby comes.

So we have started going through our home and making decisions.

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We have listed several items on the local swap websites and have been able to sell several items.

Our garage is full of boxes all ready to be priced and sorted for our community yard sale this spring.

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While I thought this was just my own unique experience I found out recently that there is a new book being published this month by Margareta Magnusson called The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.  Translated from the Swedish döstädning the concept is not a negative focus on death.  It is just recognizing that maybe you should start shedding the baggage of life rather than leave it for your children to deal with.

Also – and this is where I am right now – having too much “stuff” can raise stress levels as you age and do not have the energy to keep it all looking neat and in order.

Besides, while I still have a lot of good years ahead, I realize there are more years behind me than ahead and I want to enjoy every minute of those remaining.

Instead of spending time and energy dusting, cleaning, I want to:

dance and enjoy fun times with my husband

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enjoy some road trips

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and spend some romantic evenings just enjoying being together and watching the sun set.

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So – as I begin this death cleaning, I find I am already feeling much better – somehow freer to enjoy the years ahead.

So sorry kids!  Besides spending all our money on those road trips, now you find out there won’t be much else left in the house when we bite the dust!

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