39 years Ago – He Met His “Barbara”

It was in January 39 years ago I walked into a church in Bethalto, Illinois, not knowing that I was about to meet my future husband. As Paul and I remember that special day, we still marvel at how God brought us together. So – once again, I share our story.

“We as a community of friends are gathered here in God’s presence to witness Paul and Barbara’s renewal of commitment to one another and to ask God’s continued blessings on them. Marriage, like our creation as men and women owes its existence to God. It is His will and purpose that a husband and wife should love each other throughout their life. Shall we pray?”

This was how our Pastor began the ceremony when my husband and I renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary. We still love to remember that story.

Here’s the story!

While living in the state of Washington, my husband, Paul, found himself a single father trying to raise two teenagers. Needing support, he returned to his home town to be near family. He was very lonely and began to pray for a Christian wife. Since he was a minister and also loved to sing, he asked God if it would be possible that this wife would also play the piano and be able to work with him in the ministry.

Her name will be Barbara

While praying, he felt impressed in his spirit that God would grant him that request and that his future wife would be named “Barbara.” He was afraid at first to share that thought with anyone as he felt they would think he was crazy. But it was so real to him he needed to reveal it to someone. He finally related that information with a couple at the large church he was attending but no one else.

Four months later I walked into the church with my two young daughters.

While living in Southeast Missouri, my first husband was accidentally killed leaving me with two small daughters to care for. Everything I read about grief told me that I should make no sudden changes or moves for at least a year. However, after a year of trying to make it far from home, I decided to return to Illinois where my family could give me much-needed support. While it was great to be close to my family again, I still carried a heavy load of grief and sorrow. I tried to be strong for my two young daughters, but after a while I realized I did not want to continue living alone. Although I longed to find happiness again, I knew that my daughters’ happiness and safety were more important than my own. If I ever remarried, it would have to be a very special man who would love my daughters as well as me.

I asked God to give me a godly husband who would help me raise my daughters.

One year after moving back to Illinois, I decided to attend the church where my parents were members. When I walked in the foyer, I saw a couple that I recognized. They were friends with my first husband’s parents but I had not seen them in years. They seemed extremely happy to see me, but it was only months later that I found out why my sudden appearance at their church was so exciting to them. They were the couple that Paul had shared his secret with.

After greeting me, they hurried to locate my future husband and tell him, “There she is.”

He had no idea what they meant until they told him the red head that had just walked into the church was named Barbara. Paul told them to not say anything, but if this was the Barbara God had promised, God would work it out. A few weeks later Paul asked me on a date and the rest, as they say, is history.

And a good history it has been. Paul has proven to be a wonderful husband and, even more important, a wonderful father to my two daughters and grandfather to my grandchildren.

Today as we look back at the 39 years we have shared, we are grateful that God answered our prayers. I am no longer a red head, but he loves me anyway. 🙂

Aging With a Laugh

December was not a good month for me. It started off with a terrible head cold. My poor nose suffered from constant blowing.

When the cold was over, I had three to four days that were good – and then I got Covid.

Of course, being a good wife, I shared it with my husband.

After a couple of weeks of misery, we both looked pretty bad. I had cancelled my hair appointment when I got the cold and it was now almost eight weeks since I had a hair cut. I keep my hair very short and usually get a trim every four weeks. So with no makeup and my hair sticking out everywhere, I was not a pretty sight. My husband also was looking ragged with no shave for several days.

Then we heard a joke on TV and it has kept us laughing as we slowly recover from the effects of Covid.

Husband, looking in the mirror: “My arms are like little sticks, my chest is sagging, I can’t see my feet and my face is full of wrinkles.”

Wife: “Well, look on the bright side. Your eyesight is still perfect.”

Today I got my hair cut – and I have promised myself tomorrow I will put on my makeup. My husband has shaved and is looking good again.

Still, we are old and certainly are not the wonderful specimens of youth and beauty we once were. 🙂

But we are grateful to still love one another – even with our perfect eyesight.

Frustrations, Laughter and Joy

As another new year comes around, my mind races back to other new years and other times. Recently I was thinking about the life of a pastor and his family and the frustrations, the laughter and the joy that life brings.  Three different stories came to mind that illustrate all three scenarios.

THE FRUSTRATIONS

frustration

One Sunday morning as my husband was greeting the church members after service, one man stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Smiling while thinking “I didn’t know anything was wrong – and who asked you,” my husband asked him what he thought was wrong.  His response:  “You are too organized.”

Continuing to shake hands with the other members, a woman stopped him and said, “Pastor, you know what is wrong with this church?”  Now my husband took a deep breath, smiled and said “What is wrong?”  Her response:  “You are not organized enough”

THE LAUGHTER

laugher

There was a woman in one of our churches that bounced from church to church throughout the community.  She was a little slow mentally and when she came to our church we tried our best to make her feel welcome.

One Sunday my husband told the congregation that we would be out-of-town the following weekend as we were going to visit relatives in North Carolina.  He was encouraging everyone to please attend as members often stay home if the pastor is not going to be there.

This woman raised her hand and when my husband asked her what she wanted she asked him:  “Is Barbara going with you?”  Of course I was going and my husband replied in the affirmative.

The entire congregation tried so hard not to laugh when she said, “Well, if she can’t go with you, I can.”

THE JOY

joy

One morning as my husband and I headed across the parking lot from the parsonage to the church office a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out to talk to us.  She was looking for the church that was administering the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program.  We gave her directions to the local church that had the program.

She lingered after we gave her the information and seemed as if she was troubled and wanted to talk.  We invited her into the office and she began to share how she was pregnant and wanted to keep the baby but her boyfriend told her it was either him or the baby.  If she did not abort the child, he was kicking her out of their apartment and breaking off their relationship. She clearly did not want to abort the child but was unsure if she could raise a child by herself.

We spend time with her discussing her options.

  • She could obtain an abortion and keep her home and relationship with her boyfriend.
  • She could seek help from others, give birth to the baby and then put it up for adoption.
  • She could seek help from others and raise the child herself.

While we tried not to judge her or her boyfriend we naturally advocated for the life of the child.  It was clear she really wanted that, but just needed some help in not only making that decision but being able to have resources so she could keep that choice.

I made a list of phone numbers of various resources that would help her including the local Pregnancy Resource Center.  We also gave her our phone number and told her we would do anything we could to help her with doctor visits, baby supplies, etc.

After prayer with her, she left saying she did not know what she would do but she would keep in mind our offer of help and the list of resources I had given her.

Weeks, months went by and we never heard from her again.  I agonized over whether we had not made it clear enough that we and our church were willing to help her.

Almost 3 years later we had a district meeting at our church.  Several other churches in the area were in attendance.   A young woman walked up to me with a beautiful little girl  in her arms.  She asked:  “Do you recognize me?”

I did not know who she was.  Tears of joy quickly came to my eyes as she identified herself as the young woman who we had counseled and prayed with over the decision of abortion.  Although she had never called us back she had gone to the Pregnancy Resource Center.  They helped her with doctor visits and baby clothes and gave her the friendship she needed to carry though with the birth of that little girl.

She thanked me that we had taken the time to help her walk through the options she had and offered resources to help her in her choice of life.

So – you add it up.  The joys and the laughs far outweigh the frustrations.

The frustrations are gone, but the funny things still bring a laugh, and the joys still make it all seem worthwhile.

The Party’s Over – What Now?

I posted this three years ago. This year it is a good reminder to me. Christmas this year was not anything I had anticipated. A few days before Christmas I contacted Covid. All the plans for candlelight service at church and gathering with my daughter and her family for a fun day had to be cancelled. Christmas Eve my husband caught Covid from me and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day basically sleeping when we were not coughing our heads off.

Our daughter, who normally would have been over – wearing a mask – to bring us food and check on us also had Covid and like me she shared it with her husband.  We are so thankful our granddaughter has remained negative.    So, we were basically on our own.

Spending Christmas alone while we struggled to have enough energy to sit up awhile and wish each other Merry Christmas made this anything but the Christmas we had always enjoyed. Today we are on the mend but still so tired. It will be quite awhile before we will be back to normal. But as I am saddened by no Christmas for us – I am thankful that the real reason for Christmas is still true. In the midst of our sickness, we are minded that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Grandma's Ramblings

party.jpg

Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of…

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A New Christmas Carol

I love the old Christmas carols that I grew up singing and listening to on the radio and at church. But a couple of trees ago a new carol was written. To me, it is one of the best conveyors of the Christmas story.

Hope Has a Name.

Hope you enjoy it!

Remembering Richard at Christmas

Six years ago a dear friend died just before Christmas.

 My husband and I had watched him battle cancer (two different kinds) for over two years.  It was hard to see him slowly lose the battle.  He fought hard and he never lost his courage or his great sense of humor.

His family asked my husband to do the funeral service.  It was an extremely hard thing for Paul to do.  They had been friends for almost 20 years.  In the very beginning of their friendship, I had surgery for breast cancer.  The cancer was very advanced and my husband was  frightened as his mother had died from breast cancer.  Richard came to the hospital and sat with my husband through my surgery and did not leave until I was out of recovery.  That cemented their friendship.

That – and their love of golf and corny jokes.  Although they claimed they played golf, I think from listening to their tales that they spend more time laughing at each other’s skills than they did actually playing the game.

After my retirement, I often joined the two of them for breakfast.  It was such fun to just sit and listen to them as they teased one another and shared stories of their time on the golf course.

While it was hard for my husband to do the funeral service, he was honored that the family said that was what Richard would want.  As we arrived at the funeral home, his daughters handed us an envelope.  On the outside it said, “Paul and his bride.”  That was how Richard always referred to me – “Paul’s bride.”  When Paul and Richard met, if I was not present, he would always ask, “How is your bride?”  The handwriting on the outside was clearly not Richard’s.  So we assumed it was just a card saying thank you for doing the service.

When we opened the card it was a Christmas card.  Thinking it was a little strange that his daughters were giving us a Christmas card, we opened it up.  My heart skipped a beat as I saw the signature inside the card.  It said simply, “Richard.”  We immediately recognized his signature.  Also enclosed was a picture of him.

His daughters told us although Richard never sent Christmas cards, just before his death he asked them to get him some Christmas cards.  He then signed a few and asked them to give them to his special friends at his funeral.  He knew he would not be here for Christmas and he wanted us to know what our friendship had meant to him.

This is a special card my husband and I will treasure forever.

Merry Christmas Richard!

The Christmas Story Not Found in Matthew or Luke

At this time of the year we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to read the Christmas story. Each Gospel gives us a different aspect of the birth of Jesus.

Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the King. He starts his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus showing his descent from Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people, and David, their great king. It is the story of Joseph we read. Matthew tells us of the wise men who came from a distance bearing gifts and seeking for the newborn king of the Jews.

Our nativity sets showing the wise men at the manger are not correct. Exactly how many wise men there were we do not know – only that there were three gifts. Their arrival happened sometime after the birth of Jesus as Matthew tells us that they found Jesus in a house and calls him at that time a child. When Herod realizes the wise men are not coming back to tell him where this child is, he orders all boys in the area who are two years old and under to be killed.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi

While they asked for the king of the Jews, they clearly recognized that Jesus was God as Matthew tell us:

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. 

Matthew shows us that his birth is for all people. These wise men were Gentiles, yet they were one of the first to worship him.

On the other hand, Luke emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. He traces the line of Jesus all the way back to the first man, Adam. It is not of the wealthy, educated Magi that Luke writes, but the lowly shepherds in the fields, the lowly widow Anna who has been awaiting the arrival of Messiah.

While these two portions of Scripture are the ones we look to as we read of the birth of Jesus, I think there is a passage in the book of Philippians that gives a greater understanding of the meaning, the purpose of the birth of Jesus.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As we celebrate the birth of this little child, let us not forget the very reason He came was to save us. And just as the shepherds and the wise men worshiped Him, let us bow down in gratitude and love to our Lord and King.

Here We Go Wassailing

Today most of us think of Christmas carols as something we hear on the radio, or we sing at church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services.

However, singing carols in many places used to be more than just singing a song at church. It was a time to connect with neighbors as people would gather together and go from house to house singing Christmas songs.

In doing research on old, unknown Christmas carols I found that it is believed caroling began in the 13th century. Neighbors would sing to one another, and the term used was “wassailing.” The word comes from an Old Norse term that meant “be well and in good health.

In England as neighbors gathered to share songs and wish each other well, they also shared warm drinks. By the 14th century the word “wassail” become associated with the warm drink shared at Christmastime. It is wine, beer or cider with sugar, spices and fruit.

Apparently as the community began to share maybe a bit too much of the wassail the Christmas season became quite a time of parties and drinking (does this sound like us today?) and the Puritans Parliament in England actually outlawed celebrating the holiday in the 1640s and 1650s.

English bishop Hugh Latimer, said that “Men dishonor Christ more in the twelve days of Christmas, than in all the twelve months besides.”

In New England Christmas caroling was condemned by the famous minister Cotton Mather who wrote in 1712 that the “Feast of Christ’s Nativity is spent in Reveling, Dicing, Carding, Masking, and in all Licentious Liberty …by Mad Mirth, by long eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Reveling. . . .”

Growing up my church family often gathered on Christmas Eve and visited the homes of older members who might not be able to attend church services. We would stand outside their homes and sing carols. Sometimes they would invite us in to share a warm drink. When we were missionaries in the Philippines, we were serenaded at Christmas by students at one of the Bible colleges where we taught.

Even this year our church will be gathering to share Christmas carols with the community. We will gather afterwards to share warm cocoa and cookies.

If you would like to try a pot of wassail, here is a recipe from allrecipes. There are many other recipes available if you google.

Ingredients:
½ gallon apple cider
1 (46 fluid ounce) can pineapple juice
46 fluid ounces cranberry juice cocktail
1 orange, thinly sliced
5 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole cloves


Directions:

Step 1
Pour apple cider, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice into a stockpot. Place orange slices, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, and cloves in a muslin pouch or directly into the apple cider mixture. Bring apple cider mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until flavors have blended, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove orange slices and spices before serving.

Here is a second recipe from the “Williamsburg Cookbook” that is served at Colonial Williamsburg.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
3 lemon slices
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups orange juice
6 cups dry red wine
½ cup lemon juice
1 cup dry sherry
2 lemons, sliced

Directions:
Boil the sugar, cinnamon sticks, and 3 lemon slices in ½ cup of water for 5 minutes and strain. Discard the cinnamon sticks and lemon slices.

Heat but do not boil the remaining ingredients. Combine with the syrup, garnish with the lemon slices, and serve hot.

If you try one of the recipes, I would love to know which you tried and if you liked it. (But don’t drink too much and cause a riot.)

The Complete Story of Christmas

I never get tired of telling this story!

Grandma's Ramblings

Recently I posted about the “real” story of that first Christmas.  How different it was from the beautiful Christmas cards we see where everything is so neat and tidy and there are beams of light coming from Jesus and sometimes even from Mary and Joseph.

The“Real” Story of the First Christmas

Today I wonder if we truly understand the “complete” story of Christmas.

What is the complete story of Christmas?  Is it more than angels appearing to shepherds?  Is it more than wise men from the East bringing gifts?

We read in Philippians of the complete story of Christmas – what it is really all about.

Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God.  He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human…

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An American Carol We Don’t Sing

One of the earliest carols written in North America is a song we never sing. Most of us have probably never even heard of it. It was written by John de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary to the Huron Indians.

Brebeuf, along with a group of Jesuits, lived with the Hurons in what is now modern-day Ontario. The missionaries learned the native language and tried to introduce the Christian message in their language. They translated hymns and other Christian writings into the Huron language and then read them aloud to the Indians in their own mother tongue.

Brebeuf wrote the carol “Jesous Ahatonnia” (“Jesus is Born”). For the melody he used a sixteenth century French folk song. As you read the words of the carol you can see how he tried to use their own culture and understanding to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

The Huron Carol

Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wond’ring hunters heard the hymn:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O, harken to the angels’ word,
Do not decline
To heed the message which you heard:
The Child Divine,
As they proclaim, has come this morn
Of Mary pure. Let us adore.
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty ’round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus, your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heav’n
Is born today for you.