Thanks for Remembering!

This month two of my grandchildren are graduating from college.  A granddaughter in North Carolina is getting her BS and will be starting law school in the fall.  A grandson in Tennessee is getting his Master’s.

As I rejoice in these two grandchildren’s success and hard work, I wonder where did the time go?  It was only yesterday they were playing with puzzles at my kitchen table or playing on the merry-go-round at the park.

As my grandchildren grow up, go to college, start careers, get married, have lives of their own and also live so far from me (grandchildren in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee – but only one in Michigan where I live) it is only natural that my time with them is limited.  The circle of life turns and we old folks are no longer an active part of their lives.

But I often relive times spent with them as they grew up.  My granddaughter who is graduating was such a cute baby.

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When this picture was taken I was in the Philippines along with my husband and youngest daughter teaching in a Bible college.  I missed her first year but I always treasured this picture her mother sent to me in the Philippines.  Sometimes I feel sad that I missed her first tooth, her first step.  But thankfully I was back with her by her second birthday and shared so much joy watching her grow up.

Her first step toward becoming a lawyer was getting her Associate’s Degree.

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Now she has completed the second time with her Bachelor’s Degree.  So excited for her as she takes this next step and enters fall school.

One of my prayers for my grandchildren has always been that when the time was right, God would give them a Christian husband/wife.  It was my joy two years ago to see the answer to that prayer.

 

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But sometimes I must confess I wonder if the memories I treasure are held in such esteem by my grandchildren.

So – today my heart is so happy.  I got a text from this granddaughter that said:

Brandon and I are at the mall and we saw a carousel.  It made me remember all the times you and Grandpa took me and my brothers to the mall to ride the carousel.  I love you!”

What can I say to express my joy!

If someone has given you great memories be it a grandparent, a parent, an aunt or uncle, maybe a school teacher or a youth leader, take time to let them know you remember.  We often wait until someone has died to share how important those memories were.  Sadly, it’s a little too late then.

Thank you Barbara Rose for remembering!

 

 

 

 

Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

 

Now I Am “Great!”

This past weekend I held my great-grandson in my arms for the first time.  He is just seven months old and lives with his parents in North Carolina – much too far away from this great-grandmother.

This triggered so many memories and emotions.  The overwhelming and instant love I felt when they placed his grandmother – my daughter – in my arms for the first time.  Struck by the responsibility I faced to care for this life that God had given me and my husband.  Amazed at the strong love that filled my heart at the sight of her beautiful little face.  Excited about what waited for us in the coming years as I would watch her grow and teach her to walk, to read, play with her in the park, take her shopping.  All the plans I had.

Thinking I had years ahead of me to spend with her, I had no idea how quickly she would grow up, fall in love and begin a new life.  A life where I no longer had that responsibility to care for her or teach her.  A time when she would no longer be my “little girl” but a grown woman and we would have to readjust our relationship.

But this time was also an exciting one.  Watching her fall in love, seeing her make her own way in the world.  The best part was when once again a little baby came into my life.

This time it was a grandson.  I thought being a mother was great – but holding that little boy – I thought nothing could top that.

I loved the years with this little guy.  Taking him to get ice cream or just walking after a rain and stepping in all the puddles we would find – all the time I spent with him was golden.

Too quickly he grew up.  Once again I repeated the history I had with his mother.  Watching him graduate from college, fall in love and begin his life as an adult.

Now once again I have experienced such a magical moment.  Holding my grandson’s son!  Amazing that little guy I had never seen before except in pictures, now was here with me – and I fell head over heels in love with him.

As the weekend passed by way too soon and he is now off to North Carolina again, I am thinking of my own parents and grandparents.  How life goes by so quickly but also how blessed it is to have family – past, present, future.

It is doubtful I will live to see this little guy’s children.  But I hope the memory of me will live on and stories about me will be shared with him.

I have worked some on my genealogy finding stories of great grandparents.  This visit has made me want even more to know more about those who went before me.   I will be working more in earnest once again to find and treasure their stores.

Past, present and future.  As I come toward the end of my own life I realize more than ever that in the end it is family that matters most.

Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you’re just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric.”– Pam Brown

Just when grandparents think their work is finished someone calls them “great.”

 

 

Made for Community

Reading the story of creation recently I was struck once again by the one thing that God said was not good.  Each day He created something and then said it was good.  Until the sixth day when he created man.  He stood back, looked at the highlight of all His creation and noted that there was something not good about it.

Man was all alone.  God said:

“It isn’t good for the man to live alone. I need to make a suitable partner for him.”

That verse has been used many times to teach that marriage is designed of God and that a person is somehow incomplete without a spouse.

While I agree God was clearly establishing the marriage relationship, I think it was about much more than that.

God was establishing our need for community – for others.  Not just a spouse but the many other relationships that would grow from this unit of man and woman.

  • children
  • aunts/uncles
  • cousins
  • neighbors

In other words, community.

We were designed to need others.

Sometimes living in community can hurt.  We have all had family, friends, co-workers who have hurt us.  After being hurt our natural tendency is to withdraw, to decide to not trust others again.  But when we do that we are living in opposition to the design God has for us.

One trait most Americans highly value is our independence.  Being self-sufficient often is preferred beyond other abilities.  We feel “I don’t need you” or even “I don’t need anybody.”

But is that really true?

God said it was not good that man should be alone.  Again, I think He was talking about more than a marriage.  If that is all it was, then what were His plans for those who do not marry.  Would it then be good that they were alone?

Jesus spoke about building the church.  Almost all of the New Testament is addressed either to a church group or a leader of a church.  It is not a book written for independent relationships.

The writer to Hebrews said:

“…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another….

Today as I met with my small group after morning worship I realized how thankful I am that Jesus established the church.  Moving to a new state where we had no friends, after less than four months I have many new friends.  Where did I meet them?  At church.

Since church is made up of imperfect people I have been hurt by the church.  I have had some terrible experiences with people from church.  But those bad times are far outweighed by the blessings and wonderful relationships the church has given me.

When we live isolated from others, both we and others are poorer.  We lose the benefits of the gifts their friendship could bring us – and we rob them of the benefits our gifts could bring to them.

When I think of this need for community I am reminded of one of my daughters who was afraid to love again after she had experienced a painful hurt.  My first husband had been killed in an accident and my daughters had been the ones to find his body.  It was a horrific experience for them.  When I decided to marry again my daughter told me she would never love the man I was marrying.

Concerned about that statement I asked her why.  She said she liked him, was glad I would be happy again.  She was not against the marriage.  But she was never going to love him because she was never going to allow her heart to be hurt again.  If she loved him, he might die and then where would she be?

I assured her she did not have to love him or anyone else.  If she shut him or others out of her heart she would probably never experience the terrible loss that death brings.  But in the process, she would also shut out all the joy that loving others brings.

Thankfully, she grew to love him and open her heart to love.

Looking back at my life and seeing how much I have moved from place to place I thank God for all the “community” I have experienced and I realize just how much heaven is going to be great when I am reunited with those I have been blessed to call my friends.

Thank God for all those who have filled my life with joy.

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My Husband Has a New Love

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My husband and I have been scrabble addicts since 2008.  We have books recording every game we have played for the past ten years.  During the summer we usually play two or three times a week but in the months when Old Man Winter blows his breath around our house, we play every day.

You can check out my original admittance of our addiction in my post:

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

We began this year as always playing almost every day in the cold, bitter days in January.  All was fine until April when my husband left me and Scrabble for his new love.

And it’s all my daughter’s fault.

In April my husband had major surgery and was in the hospital for several days.  After coming home he was supposed to remain quiet for six weeks.  In an attempt to give him something to help pass the time my daughter bought him a Sudoku book.

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To be honest I didn’t think he would use it.  He is not the kind to sit still for long and although he does for Scrabble there is interaction with me.  So I thought he would work one or two and then quit.

Boy, was I wrong!

He started on the ones marked “easy.”   Every time I asked if he would play a game of Scrabble, he would say:

Let me just finish this one puzzle.”

But one puzzle led to another.  And another.

I thought when he got to the ones marked ” medium” he would quit.  Not that I doubted my husband is smart, but I thought as they got more difficult to solve, he might get frustrated and quit.

Boy, was I wrong!

He began working five to six puzzles a day which left no time to for me or Scrabble.

I still held out hope that he would surely quit when he got to the ones marked “hard.”  I can never figure those out and I thought he would have trouble also.  That would surely lead to frustration and he would come back to me and Scrabble.

Boy, was I wrong!

He is skipping through the “hard” ones and is almost finished with the book my daughter bought him.  So – now maybe there is hope.

Boy, was I wrong!

Last week, in anticipation of finishing this book of puzzles, he went to Barnes and Noble and brought a GIANT Sudoku book.

I’m going to try one more time today to get him to play a game of Scrabble with me.

If not, maybe divorce court will be in our future.  (Just kidding, of course!)

Guess I need to find a new addiction myself.  My daughter gave me a word search book – maybe that will work.

 

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The Day I was Mad at God

I remember the moment I held my daughter in my arms.  It was overwhelming to realize I was a mother, personally responsible for this tiny baby.  Looking at her, I whispered that we were going to be the best of friends.  I shared with her my hopes and dreams of the hours we would spend reading, playing in the park and listening to music.  Four years later I once again held another daughter in my arms.  How happy I was – two beautiful daughters!

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My girls were my world.  As a mother, there was nothing I would not do to make them happy.  As time passed, my oldest daughter and her husband gave me the joy of being a grandmother.  Robert was born and his first year was filled with precious memories watching him beginning to walk and say his first words.  One year later a beautiful granddaughter was born.  As I walked into the room where my daughter lay holding this new grandchild, my heart skipped a beat when she held the baby out to me and said, “Mother, meet Barbara Rose!”  She was named Barbara after me!

In the midst of this joy, my heart was torn.  In just a few short weeks I would have the honor of dedicating this little child to God.  However, a few days after the dedication I would get on an airplane with my husband and youngest daughter and fly to the other side of the world to serve as a missionary in the Philippines.

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Several months before Rebekah had become pregnant with Barbara, God had opened a door for my husband and me to work in the Philippines for a couple of years teaching in a Bible College.  At the time I felt everything would be okay because by the time we left Robert would be over a year old and Rebekah and Rob would do fine as new parents with this little boy.  While I would miss Robert, I would have had that first year to share and treasure while we were gone.  But now my daughter, who had married very young, had not one, but two children less than twelve months apart.  She and her husband were both college students.

As I looked at them struggling to keep up with their home, their studies and two little babies, I wondered how can this young couple make it.  Holding Barbara Rose on dedication day, my heart ached as I realized I would not be there to see her sit up, take her first steps, and say her first words.  When I came back, she and her brother would not know who I was.

Yet, I knew God had called us to go.  I thought of the verse in the Bible that speaks of loving God so that in comparison it may seem we hate our family.

Rebekah and Rob went with us in the airport as far as they could go before security barred their way.  The last look I had was the two of them standing there, each with a baby in their arms, and the saddest, forlorn look on their faces.  I felt my heart would break.  I was deserting them when they really needed me.

We settled in the Philippines and while my heart still ached, I became busy in the work and prayed the time would pass fast for them.  A couple of months later, we had a call from my daughter.  Our little granddaughter was having digestive issues and it looked as if she might have to have surgery.  How I longed to go home, but we had just arrived and our budget did not really include money to make a trip home.  Rebekah assured me they would be fine and did not need us, but I could hear in her voice the longing for her mother.

Hanging up the phone, I went into my bedroom, laid on the bed and told God how mad I was at Him.  I said, “I sold everything I had, gave up my time with my grandchildren to obey You.  The least you could do is take care of them.  I feel as if I am turning my back on my daughter.”

God did not strike me with lightning for speaking that way.  That’s the beauty of a relationship with God.  He knows our hearts, He understands our pain and He loves us.  I have never understood those who feel we cannot be totally honest with God – as if He does not already know our very thoughts.  He understood the love of a mother for her children.  He loved me in spite of my hurt and anger.

But quietly I felt that “still small voice” of God speaking to me.  He said, “I turned my back on my Son for you.”

For the first time in my life I got a little idea of how much God really loved me when He sent His Son to die on that cross.  John 3:16 took on new meaning for me.

And the end of the story – Robert and Barbara quickly developed a love for Grandma and our relationship is very close.  God also has given me many more grandchildren and I believe the example we set putting God first in our lives has had a tremendous influence on my children.  Putting God first is sometime hard, but always in the end, brings great blessings.

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Taking a Last Walk Through My Garden

 

Today we put our house on the market.  It has been  a busy few months as we began the process of downsizing preparing to move from a nine-room house to something much smaller.

My experience in this process of deciding what to keep and what to sell, give away or throw out has been an interesting one.   Döstädning – Death Cleaning

At times I have felt relief as I began to see the freedom I would have when I did not have to spend so much time cleaning and dusting and moving “stuff” around.  Relief as I look forward to the day my washer and dryer is on the same living level and I do not have to climb up and downstairs to do the laundry.  (Or, in my case, my dear husband does not have to do that.)

Other times I have felt some sorrow as I parted with items I have enjoyed over the years.  But how many Isabel Blooms can one house have?  (For my readers who are not familiar with Isabel Bloom, check out their website at isbloom.com

Perhaps the thing I will miss the most is my garden.  This garden was built by my husband with love for me.  The Garden that Love Built

It has been so much fun to watch this garden grow from a couple of trees and a few hostas plants until now the entire back yard is one beautiful garden.

Downsizing and moving to a smaller place was what we originally had planned.  However, in the middle of these plans our youngest daughter who lives with her family nearby announced they are moving to another state for a job opportunity for her.

Although we have six children (one is deceased), 20 grandchildren (three are deceased) and our ninth great grandchild is on his way, our children are scattered all over the states.  Missouri, West Virginia, Illinois, South Carolina and Michigan.  This daughter was the only child near us.  So – moving to a smaller place suddenly has taken on a harder decision.

Where do we go?  At our age we do not want to live without any family nearby.  Which child gets the blessing (or the curse) of having us live close by?  ♥

As we begin the process of deciding exactly where we will call home it is a stressful time hoping to find a place we will really love.  But it is also an exciting time as we look forward to a new home and making new friends.

I remember the words found in Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

I will trust you Lord!