Five Years and Counting!

November  4, 2002 – Call from doctor – biopsy shows I have cancer.

November 14, 2002 – Surgeon tells me after surgery that the cancer was very advanced and I will definitely need chemo and radiation.

November 27, 2002 – Doctor tells me the odds are not in my favor.  He says chances are slim I will still be alive in ten years.

No, I’m only 54 years old.  It’s eight more years until I can retire.  That means if I even live to reach early retirement, I will only have two years to enjoy with my husband.  For most of my marriage my husband has been an evangelist, missionary or pastor.  I have worked right alongside him, providing music for services, training Sunday School and youth leaders, teaching Bible classes and overseeing ministries for women.  Being a pastor is a 24/7 job (at least for those like my husband who have a shepherd’s heart).  I cannot count the times our own plans have been put on hold because someone in the church had a need.  My own job required us to be at home Monday through Friday – and weekends were filled with church obligations so vacation times were few and far between.  I was so looking forward to the day we could retire and have some time for just the two of us.

Lord, please let me live to retire and give me two years – just two years of retirement with Paul.

April 8, 2010 – I turn 62 today.  I had thought I would take early retirement now.  If I did, that would give me those two years with Paul in retirement.  However, looking at our finances I realize it would be better both now and in the future if I work until I’m 65.  My doctor has now told me it appears I have beat old man cancer and may very well live much longer than first expected.  Still, that clock is ticking.  If I wait to retire at 65 I will be past the ten years.  How many years of retirement will I have?

Lord, let me make it until 2013 and then give me two years in retirement with my husband.

January 4, 2013 – retirement is here!  I have retired about three months before 65 but it’s close enough and I’m ready to begin a new life.  I have reached that ten-year survival mark.

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Lord, please give me two years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.

January 4, 2018 – God has not only allowed me to reach retirement age, not only given me those two years of retirement I prayed for – but today I begin my sixth year of retirement.

Thank you Lord for every day, every week, every month, every year you give me to enjoy time with my husband.  

 

 

My Christmas Wish Book

MW Christmas catalog

Growing up every year as fall began, I would begin getting excited when the mailman came.  I would come home from school and ask my mother, “Did it come today?”   Anticipation grew each day until finally Mom would smile and say “Here it is!”  How excited I would be as I opened the Montgomery Wards Christmas catalog.

Aaron Montgomery Ward launched the nation’s first mail-order business with a one-page price list boasting 163 items, which he sent to farmers’ cooperatives throughout the rural Midwest.   Unlike existing mail-order businesses that dealt only in individual items, Ward offered the rural consumer a variety of merchandise and, by eliminating the middleman, kept prices low. His new business found a ready market as homesteaders pushed west across the frontier. By the spring of 1874, his price list had grown to 32 pages and was bound into a catalog. Ward offered a guarantee – “Satisfaction or your money back!” It was dubbed the Wish Book.

Wards was the first, but ultimately not the biggest, mail-order business in Chicago. In 1887, Richard Warren Sears, who had sold watches in Minneapolis, moved to the city and with the help of Alvah Curtis Roebuck, a watchmaker, began a mail-order business selling watches. By 1893, the Sears catalog, soon to be called the Big Book, was selling furniture, baby carriages and musical instruments–and carrying some clever advertising. One item–a sewing machine, price $1–was really a needle and thread.

For my family in the 1950’s there was no shopping mall, no on-line shopping, no strip malls.  But faithfully every year we got a Christmas catalog from Montgomery Wards.  My sister, Minnie, and I got hours of joy out of that catalog.  We would sit on the couch with the catalog open to the girls’ clothes or the toys, me on the left side and Minnie on the right, pretending we had lots of money and could order anything we wanted.  With the catalog open, I got first choice of anything on the left page.  After I picked what I wanted on that page, Minnie could then pick what she wanted.  She could pick anything except what I had picked.  That was mine.  Then we would go to the right page and Minnie got first choice with me getting second choice.

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My family in early 1950’s:  Dad, Mom, “Big Sis” Velma, brother Dorvin, “midde Sis” Minnie and me – the baby of the family!

We did that for weeks before Christmas until the pages were all ragged from our turning them over and over.

Over the years, both companies opened stores, and the mail-order business became secondary. In 1985, Montgomery Ward ceased publishing its catalog; Sears ended the Big Book in 1993. Yet the mail-order catalog’s place in American life was undeniable. In 1946, a book-lovers society included a Montgomery Ward catalog on its list of the 100 American books that had most affected American life, noting “no idea ever mushroomed so far from so small a beginning, or had so profound an influence on the economics of a continent, as the concept, original to America, of direct selling by mail, for cash.”

Today, I miss the wish book.  Somehow standing in long, long lines and watching people grab and push to get an specially priced item does not compare to sitting in my pajamas in my own home with a cup of coffee and spending hours looking at all the different options available in the wish book.

Time moves on, things change.  While I really do not wish to return to the “good old days” I do miss the “good old days” of wish books.

 

The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

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 to find many of the ingredients for that meal on the island of Panay.  That did not mean our Thanksgiving meal would not be good – just not the usual menu.

As the holiday grew near one of the members of a Bible class my husband taught every week excitedly told us he had a turkey for us for Thanksgiving.  He knew it was an American tradition and he was so happy to surprise us with this gift.

How exciting for us!  A real turkey for our Thanksgiving.  The day before the holiday he arrived with our turkey.  For us crazy Americans we had expected a nice fat frozen turkey.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the gate and there he stood with a real, live turkey!

Questions immediately went through my mind:

  • how would we kill this thing?
  • who would kill this thing?

When I was a little girl my mother had raised chickens.  She would chop their heads off and then my sister and I would help pluck the feathers.  Mother would then cut the birds up and our freezer would be stocked with chicken for the winter.  However, I was not about to chop that turkey’s head off and one look at my husband told me he was not going to do it either.

  • how would we fix it if we even were able to kill it?

We had no oven, certainly no deep fryer.  Our kitchen consisted of two burners on a small stove with a propane tank for fuel.

Finally, the turkey looked like it had been on a strict diet.  It was the skinniest bird I had ever seen.  Even if we somehow managed to kill it and find a way to fix it I was certain it would be a tough old bird.

What to do?  We could not refuse the gift that this man was so clearly excited about giving us.  To do so would have not only been rude and hurtful, but would damage our relationship with the community.

We took the bird and said thank you.  After he left we held a family council.  What do you do with a turkey you can’t use?

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Our daughter leading the kids on our street in a song

Then the problem was solved.  The kids on our street were always in and out of our house.  That morning one of the young boys came by and when he saw our turkey, his eyes lit up.  You could tell he thought we were so lucky to have a turkey.  His family’s meal would consist of a small bowl of rice – just like they had every day.  To him this skinny old turkey looked like a gift from heaven.  So we asked his mother if she would like a turkey for Thanksgiving.

How excited she was!  I have no idea how she cooked the turkey but she assured me she could do it.

So we gave her the turkey and we fixed tuna fish steaks with rice topped off with mangoes and the most delicious watermelon I ever tasted.

I have often thought back to that Thanksgiving as I once again enjoy a table loaded with all the goodies we associate with this holiday.  I think of that family that rejoiced and enjoyed a turkey that we as Americans felt was not good enough for us.  Although I have had many delicious meals with turkey before and since then, I realize that was the best turkey I ever had.  Because it was given to us out of love and gratitude from a man who had so little to give.  Given to us who in comparison had so much.

My prayer this holiday is:

Lord, forgive me for taking my blessings at being born in this country for granted.  Forgive me for thinking more of myself and spending so much money on me while others in the world go to bed hungry every night.  Help me to reach out and help the homeless here in my own country and reach out to help the hungry around the world.  I cannot do much – but I can do something.  I cannot save every hungry child, but I can help one or two.  Help me to be truly thankful!

 

Anyone Remember Gunsmoke?

It was over 60 years ago but I still remember the day as if it were yesterday.  What an exciting day!  The day my family got a television set.

The first television I saw was at my grandmother’s house.  It had a very tiny screen and, of course, the shows were in black and white.  Sometimes when we visited her house she would be watching a show but she always turned it off so my parents could visit with her.  So disappointed, I thought how rich my grandmother must be to own a television.

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I sure wish Grandma would leave the television on so I could see one of the shows.  

A few of my family’s friends had a television and sometimes the kids  would watch a show while our parents visited.  The western “Gunsmoke” was my favorite.  Because the show was on Saturday nights at 9:00, we usually never got to see all of the entire show to the finish because my parents would leave midway through the show.  The next morning was Sunday and we kids needed to get to bed in time to be rested and ready for church  the next morning.

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Why can’t we stay just once late enough to see how the show ended?  Did Marshall Dillon get the bad guy?

Then it happened!  My dad came home and announced that he and mother were going to town to pick out a television set for us.

Now I can watch Gunsmoke and see the show all the way to the end!

Gunsmoke

My parents returned – but without a television.  They explained that they had purchased the set but it would not be delivered until the next Saturday.

A whole week?  Well, it will be hard to wait but just one more week and my family will have our own television.  

Up early that Saturday morning, I kept looking out the window for the delivery truck bringing our television.  At last it arrived.  Mom and Dad decided where to put it in the living room and then we all gathered excitedly to watch as Dad turned it on.  Our television had a bigger screen than Grandma’s and was actually both a television and a piece of furniture.

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We have our own television set.  We must be richer than I thought.

It was early Saturday afternoon so it would be a few hours before Gunsmoke came on but Mom and Dad assured me I could stay up to see the entire show.  As soon as it was over I would have to promise to get straight to bed.

I’ll be good and go straight to bed afterwards.  I want to be allowed to watch the show every Saturday night.

It’s 60 years later but I still love Gunsmoke.  My husband and I have the first 12 seasons of the show and every few years we pull the DVD’s out and do binge watching.  We are even planning a trip to Dodge City this spring on our way west.  Gotta get a picture of the statute there of Marshall Dillon (James Arness).

Who knows!  Maybe we’ll run into Doc Adams or Chester and have a drink at the Long Branch Saloon!

What is funny to me now is how we regarded the show as good family television.  Really?  The main characters are all single and spend most of their time in a saloon.  While as a child I never noticed, as an adult it is clear that Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty have a “relationship” without benefit of marriage.  Almost every show has at least one killing.

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But compared to the sex and violence on today’s shows, I guess it is a good old-fashioned family show.

So here’s to you Marshall Dillon, Chester, Miss Kitty, Doc and all the gang.

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Thanks for the childhood memories!

 

 

All those “One anothers”

One another

 

 

 

 

I have been planning with some of the women in my church for a game night.  Just a time for us to get together and have fun with one another getting to know each other better.

  • Not a time of Bible study
  • Not a time to do a service project
  • Not a time to fix a meal for the church
  • Not a time to “do” anything

Just a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

So many times when we go to church (or to any other type of meeting) we sit in our same spot, talk to those who sit near us or who are in our small circle of friends and only give a nod and “hi” or “how are you” to the rest.  We know each other’s names, but do we really know each other?  I must confess that after attending my church for almost three years (and it is a small church) there are a couple of women whose name I still do not know.  At this point, I’m embarrassed to ask them their name, to admit that I have been attending church with them week after week and I don’t even know their name.

We can get so busy with our own concerns and often our prayers consist of “bless me, my four and no more.”  It’s not that we are selfish people.  It’s not that we don’t love others.  It’s just when we know people only by their face and their name and little more, it becomes harder to remember to pray for them, to be concerned for them.  We have no idea what their needs might be.

This month I have asked God to help me be more aware of those around me and not so consumed with my own issues.  I have asked God to help me see people not just as the lady who sits behind me in church or the woman who checks me out at the grocery store, but a person who, just like me, may be tired, sick, worried and could use a smile and a friend.

Looking at the Word of God, I see how important the Lord felt those “others” should be to me.

There are 59 “One Anothers” in the New Testament.

1. “…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

2. “…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

3. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

4. “…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

5. “…Love one another…” (John 13:35)

6. “…Love one another…” (John 15:12)

7. “…Love one another” (John 15:17)

8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)

9. “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

10. “Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

11. “…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)

12. “…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)

14. “…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)

16. “…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)

17. “…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

18. “…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

20. “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

23. “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

24. “…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

26. “…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)

27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

29. “…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

30. “Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)

31. “Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)

32. “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

33. “Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

34. “…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

35. “…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

36. “…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

37. “…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)

38. “…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)

39. “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

40. “Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)

41. “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

42. “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

43. “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

44. “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)

45. “Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)

46. “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

47. “…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

48. “…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)

49. “…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)

50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)

52. “…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)

53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

54. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

55. “…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)

56. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

57. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)

58. “…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

59. “…Love one another.” (II John 5)

John apparently really thought the most important “one another” was love as he kept saying it in two of his letters.    In his gospel he also told us that Jesus said

They will know you are my disciples if you have love one to another

Interesting that the mark of a disciple was not now much scripture you could quote or how much money you gave or any of the many things we often judge others by – but by love.

My goal is to put these “one anothers”  where I can see them each day and then ask God to help me truly keep these “one anothers.”

How about you?  Want to join me in this?

 

 

 

 

What makes a man a Grandpa?

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My daughters “Shadow” and “Giggles” with their beloved Grandpa

I remember his big hands.  They were very large, yet always gentle.

I remember the love and care he gave my daughters after their father was killed in an accident.

I remember the nick names he gave to both of them.  My oldest daughter was “Giggles” and my youngest was “Shadow.”

I remember how he understood my deep grief and sorrow after my husband’s death in a way no one else in the family did because he had also lost his first wife in death.

I remember how he just stood by my side in silence with his big hand on my shoulder in the days following my husband’s death while others in the family would be sharing their opinion on why God had allowed Lonnie to be taken from me and my little daughters.   Or, how he would give me a hug at family gatherings when my heart ached for the empty spot at the table where my husband would have sat and no one else in the family even mentioned his name.  It seemed at times as if they had never seen him as a part of our family.  But I knew that Grandpa Gerling missed him along with me and my girls.  He never had to say a word.  His hand on my shoulder, his hug, his whisper to me “It will get better in time” said it all.

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My mother and step-father — Grandpa Gerling

He was not biologically a grandfather to my girls but if love counts for anything, he was their grandfather.  My husband’s family seemed too lost in their own grief after his death to offer any love or comfort to my daughters.  My own father had deserted me and my mother when I was 13 and although he came back into my life later he was always very negative when we were around him and critical of me.  My hair was too short.  My slacks were too tight.  So the only love they were shown by a grandfather was my step-dad, Grandpa Gerling.

He has been gone now for many years, but I still miss him.  I often think how much he would have enjoyed seeing my daughters’ children, how much he would have showered them with love.

This time of year I always think of him.  In the fall he would always fix us his goulash.  My girls and I now make that dish – and remember his kindness and love to us.

He was not their “real’ grandfather.  They shared no DNA.  But he was the only “real” grandfather they knew.  Because what makes a man a grandfather is more than sharing his DNA, it is sharing his love.

So as fall comes and I think about the trips at this time of year to Mom and Cliff’s house for goulash, I thank God for giving my daughters a “real” grandpa.

 

 

Please Mr Postman, Is There a Letter For Me?

Letter

Recently I was doing some clean-up on my computer getting rid of files that I no longer use.  I found a file that I created several years ago when I wrote down some memories of my life growing up to share with some of my grandchildren.  In that file I found a letter I sent to them encouraging them to love God’s Word and let its principles guide their life.

As I grow nearer to the end of my life, I have even more conviction that what I wrote them several years ago is still true today.

Here’s what I wrote.  Hope that my readers will take a moment and think about how they view the Word of God.

“I’m amazed at how we say we love God, but we seldom read His Word.  When I was engaged to Lonnie (their grandfather, my first husband who is now deceased), he was in Vietnam.  I wrote him almost every day.  He was not as good at writing (fighting for his life n the jungles of Vietnam might account for that), but usually wrote once a week.  My place of employment was five blocks from the apartment where I lived with my mother.  Every day at lunchtime I would walk home to see if I had a letter.”

Please Mr Postman, Is there a letter for me?

“Mail was delivered in our block around noon.  Some days the mailman would be there about the time I got home.  Other days if he had a lot of mail he would not make it to my apartment by noon.  Since Lonnie only wrote about once a week and sometimes the mail was held up getting out of the jungle, I might not get a letter for a couple of weeks.  Still, every day I walked home on the CHANCE that the mailman would have made it to my house, on the CHANCE that there would be a letter from Lonnie.”

Please Mr Postman, Say you have a letter for me!

If there was not a letter, I would walk back to work so sad.  When I had a letter, I would open it immediately and read every word before I returned to work.  Then, on break, I would get it out and read it again.  As soon as I got home from work, I would read it again.  Why were these letters to important to me?  Because they were from the one I loved.

Well, God’s Word is a love letter to us and when we fall in love with God, we will want to know His Word.”

The Psalmist said,

Thy Word is a light to my path and a lamp to my feet.

My dear grandchildren, I encourage you to devour the Word of God.  Read it over and over and over again.  Read the same portion in different versions.  Memorize it.  Take notes as you read.  Mark verses that stand out.  Wear it out.  A person whose Bible is falling apart from use will never fall apart from the cares, temptations, and difficulties of life.

We do not need or want to be legalistic about it.  If we read a chapter a day just because that’s what good Christians do, we have gained nothing.  There may be days when we find it hard to find the time to study the Word, but we should never be so busy that days and days go by and we fail to get into God’s Word.  I hope you will learn to not only read the Word on a consistent basis, but learn to really STUDY it.  There is a difference between reading and studying the Word and we need to do both.  If you don’t know what I mean, check out the Bible bookstore.  There are several good books out there to help you learn to study God’s Word.”

Mr. Postman, Thanks for the letter!