Waiting for My “Forever Home”

My husband and I love to watch HGTV.  Many of the programs show clients who say they are looking for their “forever home.”  A place where they can put down roots and raise a family.  A place where they can make memories to last a lifetime.

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That sounds so good.  To have a place where you live for all your adult life, maybe even living there until you die.

I have never had a “forever home.”  Several times I thought I had found it only to have it slip away.

My first “forever home” was a mobile home situated on three acres in the country in southeast Missouri.  My first husband and I purchased the place, not for the run down mobile home, but for the beautiful land.  It set on a hill overlooking the farm land around it.  There was a small pond at the back of the property.  We made such plans to build our “forever home” there.  We would have a garden and there was enough land to have a horse for our girls and perhaps raise a calf to butcher later for beef.  There were fish in the pond and that would provide some fun time for my husband to spend with his girls.  We spent the winter looking at different house designs and planning just where on the property we would build the house.  Just waiting for spring trying to survive the cold, bitter winter in the mobile home which let in the cold air.  At one point our water pipes froze and we had to go out in the cold and pump water from a well, bring it in and warm it up.  But it was okay because come spring we would have our “forever home.”

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NOT

But two days after spring came, my dream of a “forever home” was destroyed.  My husband was killed in an accident.  Instead of beginning to laid the foundation for our home, I buried my husband.  Without him, I did not have the heart or the ability to make that dream of a “forever home” come true.  So – I moved back to Illinois to be near my family.

After a couple of years, I met another wonderful man and remarried.  We bought a house that I thought would be my “forever home.”  The upstairs was finished with two large bedrooms and a beautiful dining room with large windows looking on a back yard bordered by large trees.  My husband set to work and quickly built three bedrooms for our children in the walk-out basement.  All that remained to make our home complete was to finish a family room in the main part of the basement which  also had large glass doors looking out on the  back yard.

NOT

Before we got the family room finished, we answered a call to sell our home and go to the Philippines to work in a college in Iloilo.  Selling our home and our possessions was a difficult decision to make and even harder was leaving our son who was about to graduate from Illinois College and was getting married that summer.  We also left a daughter and son-in-love with two little babies under two years old.

Off we went to a new home in a new country – a home that would not be a “forever home.”

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After returning to the USA again I thought I had found my “forever home.”  It was a smaller home than the one we had before, but in a nice neighborhood with a fireplace – something I had always wanted.   My husband went to work and built a deck on the back of  the house and began planting some beautiful flowers.  Finally I would have a place to put down roots.

NOT

After two years my husband received a call to become a pastor at a church in northwest Illinois.  So – house on the market – off we went.

This time we would not be buying a “forever home.”  The church had a parsonage and we would live there.  I thought maybe some day when my husband retired I would have my own home again.

After seven years in the parsonage with my husband nearing retirement age we decided to buy our own home.  Living in a parsonage is not an easy thing to do.  It is not your house and you have to get approval from others if you want to make anything extensive changes.  Since it is not your own house you hesitate to spend a lot of your own money making improvements and so you depend on the church board to see the need for improvements (not always an easy thing to do).

Getting our own home was so exciting for me.  Finally, I would have my “forever home” and be able to fix it as I wanted.  We did a lot of work to that home.  We took up carpet and put down beautiful laminate floors.  We added a sun room.  We bought all new appliances and a new furnace and AC unit.  My husband planted a beautiful hosta garden in the back yard with over 200 hostas plants along with roses, lilies of the valley, flowering trees.  At last I had it – my “forever home.”  We would stay here as he finished his years as pastor and then enjoy the home in our retirement.

NOT

It almost worked out that way.  We lived here for seventeen years – the most I have ever lived in one house.  It seemed perfect.

But then – our youngest daughter accepted a position as a pastor in central Michigan.  She and her husband moved taking our youngest granddaughter with them.  The rest of our children were scattered all over the USA and we were now going to be left with no family nearby.  At our age (I’m 70 and my husband is 78) we did not like the idea of no one close to spend holidays with or call on if we needed help.  And although we do not love this granddaughter more than the rest of our grandchildren, she is the youngest.  The majority of our grandchildren are grown or at least teenagers.  Zoe at only seven still thinks coming to Papa and Grandma’s house is an exciting event.  So – you got it.

We said to goodbye to our “forever home” and headed north to Michigan.  This time we are renting a house.  Not knowing the area well, we did not want to purchase a home immediately.  At our age we are not even sure we want to buy a house now.  Easier to just call the landlord if something goes wrong and no yard maintenance for us to do.

So now I realize that I will not have my “forever home” in this life.  But that has got me to really thinking.

I’m nearer now than ever to what will be the best “forever home” I can possibly have.  I love the words that Jesus spoke just before He went to the cross.

“You must not let yourselves be distressed—you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am.”

While I’m not ready to take up residence just yet in that place Jesus has prepared for me, I treasure the thought that there is a “forever home” waiting for me.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from….Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home?    C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Lizzie

That time has come!

That time when I realize that I do not want to spend the last years of my life dusting all the “stuff” I have accumulated over the years.

That time when I realize I do not want to spend the last years of my life cleaning floors in rooms I no longer need or use.

That time when I realize I do not want to wash windows in rooms I no longer need or use.

In other words, the time has come to downsize!

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Posting items on local swap sites I have been a little unsure as people purchased my “stuff” and the house has become more empty each day.  But after a few items were gone, my house suddenly felt so much bigger and so much less cluttered.  As each item sells I begin to feel like a weight has been removed from my shoulder.

I have had little trouble parting from the extra furniture, the deep freeze I was no longer using, the extra bedroom furniture I no longer need.

But when it came to looking through my many bookshelves filled with books, I must confess I have had a moment of sorrow.  Over the years I have collected biographies of presidents, first ladies, and people who played a role in our American history such as our founding fathers (and mothers), senators, generals and other famous political persons.  All of them I have read at least once – and most two or three times.  It is like saying goodbye to old, dear friends.

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But one item I am parting with has little or no resale value.  I would probably have a hard time even giving it to anyone except for someone who knows its history and loves it too.

It is my garden frog, Lizzie.

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Named after my grandmother, Martha Elizabeth, this little cement frog stood guard in my Grandmother’s garden for years.  Grandma loved flowers.  When I was a little girl I loved the plants in her yard  with their big beautiful green leaves that looked like their name “elephant ears.”

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Remembering her elephant ears plants perhaps that is why I have loved my hosta garden because of the huge leaves many of these plants have.DSCF0046

Grandma slowly lost her eyesight to glaucoma and had to get rid of her flowers.  That was a sad day for her.

I am not even sure how I came to the be the grandchild that got Grandma’s frog.  But I have treasured it.

One reason is that I inherited her love of flowers and I feel a connection to her through the flower garden and little Lizzie.

But also because Grandma was the only one of my grandparents who I felt loved me.  Grandpa (her husband) had died years before I was born so I never had the chance to know him.  My other grandparents never showed me any sign of affection.  I cannot remember ever getting a hug or hearing them say they loved me.  Going to their house my parents always told me to say hello to them and then go sit down and be very quiet.

But my flower grandma always made me feel not only loved, but special.  Like her I was a redhead and she was proud of that.  As she began to lose her eyesight she would have me stand in the doorway where the sun would shine on my hair so she could see the red hair.  She also had me played the piano for her when I came over.  Just learning how to play, I am not sure how good it really was but Grandma always praised me.

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But in downsizing to a smaller home with a smaller yard, I will no longer have a place for Lizzie.

So what to do with Lizzie?

Perfect answer:  my daughter, Rebekah.  She, like Grandma and like me, loves flowers and gardens.  While I will miss Lizzie, I am content knowing she will be loved and treasured by the fourth generation.

Enjoy your new home, Lizzie!

 

 

Döstädning – Death Cleaning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dance and enjoy fun times with my husband

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enjoy some road trips

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

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

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

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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.

 

Abundance of Friends

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Friend – a person who you like and enjoy being with.

I sometimes envy other women when they share how they have been friends for 10, 20 or 30 years.  I listen to them talk about their high school days or they share those years when they were both raising their families and the good times when the two families would get together for holidays or camping trips.

Looking at my own life, I have moved around a lot.  In the 12 years of grade and high school, I attended 10 different schools.  In sixth grade, I was in three different schools.  Growing up, I was always the new kid.  The longest I have ever lived in a house is 16 years and that is the house I live in now.  When people ask me where I am from, I am not certain how to answer.  My “home town” – the place where my parents and their families are from is in southern Illinois.  However, we moved from that town when I was ten and the only connection I have to that place is the graves of my parents.

So sometimes when I listen to these women speak of their long-time friendships, I feel like “I have no friends.”

But when I take a second look at my life I realize I have been blessed with an abundance of friends.  Looking at the definition of friends as “a person you like and enjoy being with” I recognize that moving around as I have – different communities, different schools, different churches, different jobs – I have been blessed with many people who I liked and enjoyed being with.  There are, I have come to believe, seasons of friendship.  People have come and gone in my life – not because our friendship ended but time and distance have made it hard to remain close.

That does not negate the value of their friendship.  Even the many friends in the past with whom I have lost contact remain in my mind with precious memories of our times together.  Although  there are even some whose last name I cannot recall, I remember their support and friendship at that season of my life and how valuable it was.  And Facebook has been a blessing in that area as it has helped me connect again with many friends from the past.  I was surprised and so happy when I got a message a few years ago from a woman in the Philippines asking if I was the same Barbara Lane who had taught a leadership class at their church years ago.  We reconnected and I was able to encourage her as she went through a battle with cancer.

  • There are my friends from fifth grade who took this shy new kid on the block and made my fifth grade year probably the best school year of my life.
  • There are friends from Perryville, Missouri who supported me with such love after my husband was killed in a tragic accident.  They offered food, they offered babysitting services.  That first Thanksgiving I had so many invitations for Thanksgiving dinner from friends who knew I had no family in the area.  They all  offered their home if I would not be able to go home for the holiday.
  • Friends from Iloilo City in the Philippines who helped me adjust to a different culture, different climate.
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Celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends in Iloilo City, Philippines

  • Friends from work at the law firm of Bernard & Davidson who prayed with me and took on some of my work load when I lost a beloved step-father and brother in death just weeks apart and had a daughter in Texas with toxic shock syndrome.
  • Friends from Mid-American Energy who took such care of me for over a year while I went through treatment for cancer.  The day I came to work after finishing my last radiation treatment, they stood up from their desks and applauded me as I walked to my desk.  I felt like an athlete making a victory lap.
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Friends from MEC who took this picture the day of my mastectomy and brought it to me with a gift basket

  • Friends from churches I have attended as a pastor’s kid, a lay person, a pastor’s wife and now a lay person again.  With them I have laughed, cried, prayed and they have helped me grow in the Lord.

 

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Women from Free Will Baptist Church on a field trip to Galena

 

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Ladies Weekend Retreat with friends from Milan Christian Church

Have all my friends proven true?  No.  There have been times when those I thought were friends have hurt me, disappointed me, even betrayed me.  But I still reach out to make friends.  To shut myself off from others because of a few hurts might spare future pain – but would certainly stop future joy!

But the best friend I have ever had is my Lord Jesus Christ!  All of my friends have been able to help me many times, but there are times when only the Lord could meet my need.  I shared in a past blog about being all alone when I had radiation treatment.  No friend could be with me then.  But the Lord was.  Coincidence or An Act of God?

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Best friend!

One of the old gospel songs says it best.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

If you need a friend, let me introduce you to the best friend who will ever have – Jesus Christ.

 

 

I Don’t Do Cookies!

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It’s that time of year!

All over the country mothers and grandmothers are busy in the kitchen baking cookies with their kids and grandkids.  On Facebook I see post after post of beautifully decorated cookies and smiling faces of children with their mother as they happily put their special touch on the cookies made to look like snowmen and angels and reindeer.  So many creative women out there making wonderful memories with their children.

Then there’s me.  Mother of the year – NOT!

When my girls were little I wanted to be that mother who makes such memories for her children by following that tradition of making cookies for Christmas.  I got out my cookbooks and looked for recipes that said “easy to make.”  All excited, I brought my little girls into the kitchen, sat them up at the counter and explained how we would start our own tradition and have these wonderful bonding moments making memories to last a lifetime.

We followed the recipe and put the cookies in the oven.  When the timer went off, we eagerly opened the door expecting to have these wonderful cookies to decorate.  The cookies were a disaster.  They looked burned to a crisp.

Not one to give up easily, we made a new batch and tried again this time taking them out earlier.  The cookies were still a disaster.  This time they were gluey and clearly not done completely in the middle.

We pressed on!

I tried valiantly several times to make Christmas cookies before I finally accepted the fact that I don’t do cookies.  No matter what recipe I used, no matter how hard I tried, my cookies were always too hard, too soft, overdone, under-cooked.  In other words, I don’t do cookies.

I make a mean apple pie.  At family gatherings, my kids and grandkids always ask for my banana pudding or peach cobbler.  My husband requests my black forest cake and it is always a hit at potlucks or parties.  But cookies?  I don’t do cookies!

Hopefully my daughters were not scarred by being the only kids in the family who did not make Christmas cookies with their mother.  Hopefully my grandchildren have not felt disappointed that Grandma never had plates of delicious, beautiful decorated cookies to eat at Christmas time.

Papa to the rescue!

This year my husband has come to my rescue.  He makes wonderful jumbo raisin cookies using his mother’s recipe.  When my youngest granddaughter came over today he took her into the kitchen and patiently helped her crack eggs, toast walnuts and showed her how to make cookies.

Papa makes the best cookies in the world!

Sampling the cookies when they came out of the oven looking just right, my granddaughter declared, “Papa makes the best cookies in the world!”  She was right.  They are delicious!

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We made other memories!

Despite my total lack of cookie-baking ability, I know my girls and I made other good memories at Christmas time.

  • Wooden Christmas decorations we painted one year that they still have on their tree
  • Watching the movie, “Popeye”
  • Snuggling in bed and reading the “Ugly Joke Book”
  • Decorating the tree

So as I look at all the Facebook posts of beautiful Christmas cookies, I thank God for all those mothers out there making memories.  But I want to encourage those mothers whose house does not look like it was decorated by Good Housekeeping, whose cookies are a flop, and whose Christmas presents are not elegantly wrapped.

Just love your children and laugh with them.  Cookies or not, they will love you too and treasure their Christmas memories.

I Hate Waiting!

Waiting….having patience…not easy for me.

In our culture I would guess it is not easy for most of us.  We pull up to the fast food place ready to give our order and if we have to wait more than a few seconds before we hear the words, “Can I help you?”  we start complaining.  “Come on!  I’m in a hurry!”

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We look for dinners in the store that can be popped in the microwave and be ready in two or three minutes.

We have “instant” coffee, “instant breakfast drinks” and now stores are offering “instant credit.”

Our spending habits reflect that also.  We want it now, we do not have the money now, so we charge it now and pay later.  Unfortunately for many of us, when “later” comes, we still do not have the money.  Waiting is not something we find easy.

But for a Christian, waiting is part of our faith.  In the Old Testament, they waited year after year for the Messiah to come.  In the New Testament, we wait for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In this first week of Advent we focus on that waiting, that longing.  As we reflect back on the longing of the Israelites as they awaited the coming of their Messiah and see the fulfillment of that longing, we can rejoice that God is faithful.  What He says He will do….He will do.

Over 400 scriptures and prophecies tell us of His birth, life, death, resurrection and His return as conquering King.  As we read those scriptures and see how Jesus fulfilled them, we are assured that God has a plan for His people.

And as surely as He brought the promise of the Messiah to fruition, we can rest assured that the promise of His return in glory will also be fulfilled.

So – this first week of Advent, I am preparing my heart to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and remind myself to be patient as I wait for the fulfillment of His return.

As Isaiah said when speaking of the ministry of the Messiah,

Prepare the way of the Lord

I seek to prepare my heart for the Messiah.  It is not easy to do that in our culture.  We have made Christmas such a busy time that often we are guilty of having “no room” in our hearts, in our lives for the one the holiday is all about.

My husband and I have been blessed by the responsibility of planning our church’s Christmas Eve service.  How surprised I have been at the people who told me they could not help or would not be there because they had other obligations.  Not meaning to be guilty of being a Pharisee or judging, but I have to wonder just how much we have made this season about everything except the Messiah.  Shopping, decorating, baking, parties.  All of these are not bad, but I pray that in all of this, I will not lose sight of what it is really about.  I pray that I will take the time to prepare the way of the Lord in my own life.

And I seek to be patient as I wait for the fulfillment of his glorious return.