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.

My Mother Sang Southern Gospel!

It’s Friday – time for another post on old church hymns.

Many of the old hymns I love are found in the old hymnals from mainline churches like Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian.

However, since I am a country girl at heart with some southern roots, many of the old songs I love would probably never be sung at the churches with more formal worship.

One of my favorite southern gospel songs is one my mother used to sing.  She had a good voice and was often asked to sing at regular Sunday evening services and at revivals held in our area.  Everyone who knew her always associated this song with her for she loved it and sang it often.

Accompanying her often on this song, it is one of the songs I memorized and it is one often requested when I play for the “old folks” in the assisted living facilities.  What really makes me smile is when I play it the folks from the more “formal” churches clap their hands and/or pat their feet right along with the song.

Recently I made contact through FB with a friend from years and years ago.  She asked about my mother and said she always thinks of her when she hears this song.

Written by a prolific southern gospel song writer, Mosie Lister, it is only one of his songs that I love.  Anyone who loves southern gospel will recognize this list of songs by Lister:

  • His Hand in Mine
  • How Long Has It Been (one of my favorites)
  • I’ve Been Changed
  • Til the Storm Passes By

So – sit down, relax in your chair, get your hands ready to clap (and maybe tap your foot) and enjoy this southern gospel music!  And yes, if you notice the piano player, I can play it just as lively as he does!

My Own Personal “Rainbow Row”

When we moved into our condo last spring my husband decided to work on the unfinished basement and create a place where he could fully enjoy his love of painting.  Before this move there was never a really good place for him to keep all his painting paraphernalia.  A place where he could also display his art work.

So – he began working and made a great “man cave.”

The Making of a Man Cave

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On a row, he decided to work on the second room in the basement.  Instead of putting up dry wall or paneling, he designed a mural – just for me.

A few years ago we spent several weeks in Charleston, South Carolina.  I fell in love with the city and especially loved the area called the Rainbow Row.  Paul bought me a tray painted with the colorful houses and it sits on a shelf above my kitchen sink.  Often I stand for a moment at the sink and remember that beautiful place.

Since we decided we would make this room a place where we could watch TV in the summer when the basement would be cooler than upstairs, he wanted to create for me that beautiful row of colorful houses.

These historic homes were built around 1740 and local merchants had their shops on the ground floor while they lived on the top floor.  At that time the houses were not the colorful ones we see today.

After the Civil War the area became a slum.  Then in 1931 Dorothy Haskell Legge brought the homes numbering 99 through 101 East Bay.  After renovating them, she had the houses painted pink.  Soon future owners began buying the house on East Bay and painting them in pastel shades.  By 1945 after most of the houses on this street had been restored.   Mrs. Legge was given an award from the Preservation Society of Charleston in 1992.

If you ever have the good fortune to visit Charleston, you must see this beautiful row of homes.

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I hope someday to go back and view these homes in person, but until that day, thanks to my husband I can enjoy the memories with my own Rainbow Row.  He is painting the concrete floor a grey/blue and soon I will have an easy chair to sit, read and remember!

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He has started a mural of the sea wall which is near Rainbow Row.  It is a work in progress as he will be adding sailboats to the sea.  This is still a rough scene but will be great when he is done.  Can’t wait for him to get that finished.

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66 Years of Grace

Listening to music this morning, this song brought tears – tears of joy – to my eyes.  It has been 66 years since I started this race with Jesus Christ.  There have been mountain tops of great joy, great excitement (to mention only a few – marriage, birth of children and grandchildren) and valleys of sorrow and pain (to mention only a few – death of first husband, oldest son and grandchildren, cancer).  But one thing has remained true through it all – He has proved to be that “friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

Thank God for His grace.  This song says it all!

I was just six years old.  Too young many would say to know what I was really doing.  But I knew.

Growing up in a family that attended church every Sunday and where my parents practiced what they preached on Monday through Saturday also, I understood that Jesus loved everyone – even “sinners.”

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I wasn’t totally sure what all being a sinner included, but I knew I was not one.

Until one evening at church, I recognized I was.

I was coloring during the sermon on a Sunday night when I heard the speaker say

We put sins into a “big” and a “small” category.  But sin is sin regardless of how big or how small it seems.

 

He then mentioned what we call “small” sin – like lying or disobeying our parents.  Now he had my attention.  Just that week I had disobeyed my mother – and then lied to keep from getting in trouble.

I was a sinner!

Now many may laugh at this or even say how terrible to make a six-year-old feel she was a sinner.

But for me, it was one of the most important times in my life.  Because I knew that Jesus loved sinners – and that He loved me.  I also knew what I needed to do.

So – I went back to coloring and waited until the end of the sermon.  When the message was over, I put my colors and my coloring book aside and walked to the front of the church where I asked Jesus not only to forgive me, but I also committed my life to His service.

Yes, I was only six, but yes I knew what I was doing.

Shortly after that I was baptized as an outward sign of what had taken place in my life.  Our church did not have a baptismal so we went to a farm pond where I, with several others, was baptized.

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Since I am scared of water and do not even like having water in my face in the shower, it was a BIG step of faith to walk out into that pond.

But what a wonderful experience it was.

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Just turning 72 this year, I have been following Jesus for 66 years.

It has been a great walk with a great friend!!!

 

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Throughout our ministry my husband and I have always conducted services at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Twice a month I now do a music recital at a nursing home.  One of the most requested songs we get from the “old folks” is always the song “In the Garden.”  It has also been one of the most requested songs for funerals we have conducted.

As this older generation passes away, I think this song will soon be forgotten.  I can’t imagine the younger crowd playing this song with the guitars and drums so popular now.  In fact, I have to laugh as I think what kind of music will be played for the boomers when we reach nursing home age.  Certainly the music will go from “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”  Hopefully we hear some Motown and Beach Boys too.

But I digress….Back to the Song “In the Garden.”

Although I have played this song for years I must confess I often wonder what garden the writer had in mind when he wrote this song and who was the person speaking these words.

Since I started this series on the history behind old gospel songs, I did some research and discovered that the author clearly had a particular garden and a particular person in mind when he wrote this song.

In his own words:

“One day in April 1912….I drew my Bible toward me and it opened at my favorite book and chapter, John chapter twenty….It was though I was in a trance, as I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life when she knelt before her Lord and cried, “Rabboni”….As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head, bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came unto the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in and ran away….Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing there, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched, and looking into His face cried, “Rabboni”.

I’m not sure why the older generation loved this song so much.  Perhaps just the thought of walking with Jesus in a quiet restful garden was reassuring to those who lived through the  depression and World War II.  The thought of a loved one walking peacefully with Jesus after death was no doubt also a comfort.

There is a joke about this song I heard some years ago.

A little boy came home from church and had this conversation with his mother:

Boy:  Mom, in church today I learned what God’s name is.

Mother:  And what is his name?

Boy:  Andy

Mother:  Andy….who told you that?

Boy:  We sang a song “Andy walks with me and Andy talks with me.”

If you know the song, you understand the joke.

If you do not know the song, here it is.  Hope you enjoy both the old gospel song and the joke also.

 

The Story Behind the Song (It is No Secret)

Music is magic.

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand….Stevie Wonder

Music is the emotional life of most people….Leonard Cohen

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain….Bob Marley

I see the power of music every month as I play for the residents of a nursing home in my town.   Eyes that look so dull without emotion suddenly light up as they recognize a song from their childhood.  Bodies that were slumped in their chairs suddenly sit up as a song brings back memories of days gone by.  Faces that were so sad looking suddenly light up with a big smile as I play a song that was once their favorite.  Voices that were silent began to sing along as music works its magic.

As I research songs from the past to play each week it has been interesting to see the stories behind the songs.  Each Friday for a few weeks I thought I would share of these stories behind the songs that I have discovered.  Hope you enjoy.

This week’s story is about the writer of an old gospel song – It is No Secret.

The writer, Stuart Hamblen was a songwriter, cowboy singer and appeared in motion pictures with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and John Wayne.  My parents loved Roy Roger and Dale Evans, his wife, and was a big fan of these movies.

His songs were recorded by many artists including Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.  Perhaps his best known song was This Old House that was recorded by Rosemary Clooney and was Song of the Year in 1954.

Part of the Hollywood scene, Hamblen’s wife tried to get him to attend the Billy Graham crusade held in Los Angeles in 1949.  At first he refused but then asked to meet personally with Graham.  During his conversation with Graham, he committed his life to Jesus Christ.

Shortly thereafter in a visit with his friend, John Wayne, he was asked about the change in his life.  He replied, “It’s no secret what God can do in a man’s life.”  Encouraged by John Wayne to write a song about that beautiful thought, Hamblen went home and began thinking about it.

When he heard the hall clock chime out the midnight hour, he was inspired with the words of the first verse.

“The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through”

Hamblen went on to complete the song which has been sung throughout all the small churches in town after town.

If you have not heard the song – or if you just would like to hear it again – here’s Elvis Presley’s version.

And on a personal note:  I truly have found

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

My Little Composer

Years ago my father sometimes held revivals in small churches in southern Illinois.  Many of the churches either had no piano player (this was before the era of drums and guitars in worship) or a very untalented player.  Since he felt music was important for sharing the gospel, he came up with a solution.

He would give his daughter piano lessons and she could go with him to play at these services.

I was excited to learn to play.  Unlike most piano students who start with music books like “John Thompson’s Modern Course for the Piano,” my book was an old hymnbook.

 

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The first song I learned to play was an OLD hymn called “When I See the Blood.”  It was written in the key of “C” with no sharps or flats and a good place to start for a beginner where I could just play on the “white” keys.

After 10 months of lessons I was quite adept at playing all the songs in the hymnbook.  My teacher said I was the best student she had ever had and she wanted to teach me classical music.  I was so excited as I started this course of study.

Shortly after a few lessons in this new genre, my father felt learning classical music was money wasted.  He wanted someone to play in church.  Who needed to know how to play Bach or Beethoven?

Although I had no more lessons as a child, I continued to study on my own and took more lessons as an adult.

My music has been such a blessing to me – and I hope to others.

When I have experienced great “highs” and great “lows” in my life, music has been a release.  I can play lively show tunes or songs of praise in times of great joy.  When I have experienced times of distress or sorrow, music has also been a place of comfort.

Now I am enjoying one of the greatest joys of my musical experience.  My little granddaughter has a love for music and for the piano.  A few months ago I started giving her lessons.  Her parents say they never have to tell her practice – she loves to play and needs no prompting to play.

What is so sweet – last week she decided to become a composer.  She has a lot of stuffed animals she calls the wolf pack and she is writing a song for them.  “The Theme of the Wolf Pack.”  Not only is she writing the music – she also has words to go with the music.

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She is not quite ready to draw the lines and the actual notes so she has just written the letter of the note and has specified in some cases if it is the right or the left hand that plays the note.  She also has a repeat bar at the end so you can go back and play for the second verse she has yet to write.

It thrills this old grandma’s heart to be able to share this love of music and pass on a little of my own knowledge to the next generation.

Who knows?  Maybe some day she will write songs of worship for her generation to praise the Lord!

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy The Moment!

Growing up I often heard my mother say that as you age time flies faster.  I always thought that was silly.  Time is time.  It does not move slower or faster.  A minute is 60 seconds, an hour is 60 minutes.  Same for everyone.

Now that my mother is gone and I am the old lady in the room, I totally understand what she meant.

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As we approach the end of 2019 it is hard for me to believe another year is almost gone.  It seems only yesterday my husband and I put our house in Illinois on the market and took a big step to move to Michigan.  At our age (71 and 79) starting over in a new town, a new state was a little scary.  After our house sold we loaded all our belongings in a truck and headed out for a new adventure.  And here we are already in our second year here.

Come spring I will be 72.  When I look in the mirror and see the old woman with grey hair and wrinkles I often wonder how she got there?  Where is that redhead with the smooth complexion?

My mother was a strong, active woman and I found it hard to keep up with her as a young adult.  The memory of the day I was walking with her and suddenly realized  I needed to slow down so she could keep up with me is still so strong.  Now I see my daughter doing the same with me.

It truly seems time is flying much faster as I approach old age.  (Notice I said approach.  I still refuse to believe I am old.)

Looking at life from the last stage I can say it has been a great ride.  I plan to enjoy these last years to the fullest.

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  • Life, if lived well, is long enough….Seneca
  • Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments….Rose Kennedy
  • The truth about motherhood is that the days drag on but the years fly past…ChildInsider
  • Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind….Nathaniel Hawthorn
  • Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today….Mother Teresa

As we head into the Christmas holidays, enjoy every moment.  Don’t spend time regretting what you may not have, but enjoy what this year, this moment gives you.

 

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Once Upon a Time

A memory just popped up on my Facebook page where I shared a conversation I had with my granddaughter four years ago.  So funny!  Still brings a smile.

Zoe:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus.

Me:  When Jesus was a little boy.  (Quickly interrupted by Zoe.)

Zoe:  No, Grandma, say “Once upon a time.”

Remembering Grandma

Grandma Sechrest was the only grandparent I was close to, the only one that expressed love and an interest in me.  I also related more to her because she was a red head, like me.  All my life I was told that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.   I never knew any of that side of the family.  I was told they were all “a bunch of Irish drunks.”  As I did research on my family history I discovered the Tates were not Irish but rather English.  So much for family legends.

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Grandma had a hard life, losing her husband while pregnant with her eleventh child.  He was shot by her oldest daughter’s husband, Wesley Smith.  I never was completely sure of the facts, but the two men had been arguing and Wesley had come into the yard at their house and shot Grandpa.  My father was only 14 at the time and I’m sure it caused a lot of emotional/mental damage.

Grandma was a big woman and pictures I have seen of her when she was younger indicate she was probably a big gal most of her adult life.  I have never seen a picture of her when she was young – but I always wondered what she looked like as a young girl.

She loved the fact that I also had red hair – the only grandchild that did.   As she grew older, she began to lose her eyesight to glaucoma.  When I came to visit, I  would stand in the doorway where the sun could shine on my red hair.  She also loved music and was proud that I played the piano.  I would always play the latest song I had learned on her old upright piano when we went to visit.

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She loved flowers and before she lost her eyesight her yard and house were full of flowers.  There was always a row of elephant ears planted along the house on both sides and in front.  As she began to lose her eyesight, she gave up the flowers in her yard, but she had flowers in her house until she was totally blind.  For awhile, my mother would come over and water the few plants she kept in the house even though she could not see them.  Just knowing they were there seemed to make her feel better.  It was a sad day when she finally had them take the last plants away.  My dad loved flowers too and I have often thought I get my love of flowers from them.

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When Grandpa was killed, all but two of her eleven kids were still at home and she raised them alone.  My dad and some of his brothers would often catch a train, ride to Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska to work in the wheat fields.   They would be gone for weeks on end and Grandma would have no idea where they were until they returned home after finishing the harvest.

When Grandma was in her 60’s she married a retired Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Green.  He and my Dad often spent hours arguing about “once saved, always saved.”

If Grandma got upset about something, she would begin patting her foot.  The more upset she got, the faster she patted her foot.  We grand-kids knew when Grandma was patting her foot very rapidly it might be a good time to go outside to play because she was about to speak her mind to our Dad or one of the other adults there.

It was at Grandma’s house that I saw television for the first time.  She bought a very tiny TV and I would love to watch it when we visited Grandma.  I thought she must be very rich since she could afford a TV.

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Grandma’s house always smelled of garlic and cabbage.  She loved cabbage and it seemed that she almost always had a pot of cabbage cooking on the stove.  As she began to lose her eyesight she had her salt/sugar and spices lined up on the shelf in order so that she could still find the right spice for what she was fixing.  She made great chicken and dumplings (which she taught my mother to make) and, of course, corn beef and cabbage.

As I am now a great grandmother myself I find myself thinking more and more of my childhood days.  My red hair, my love of flowers, my love of garlic and cabbage  –  Grandma lives on in me.

I wonder – what will my grandchildren remember about me when I am just a memory?  My prayer is that their memories will be good ones like mine.