Whose Child Am I?

AncestryDNAPlayerCardBarbaraSechrest

 

I have always been interested in history – especially American and English history.  My library contains biographies on almost every American president, most of our founding fathers, and other men or women who have played an important part in our country political system.

Growing up I was told my grandmother was Irish.  She had red hair and so did I.  Grandma was so proud of my red hair.  When I was just a little child Grandma was losing her eyesight.  I remember how my parents would have me stand in the doorway at her house where the sun would shine on my hair and she could still see my red hair.  Guess that is why I always loved being a red hair.

Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!

A few months ago I started doing genealogy research on my family.  It has been an interesting journey.  I found one ancestor whose story gives the impression that she was not a very happy camper.  The picture I found of her certainly appears to back that story.  However, in most of the pictures taken in that time period no one appears to be smiling.

Mary Wampler

My third great-grandmother.

I was so excited when I found what I thought was an ancestor who was the founder of the American Bible Society and president of the Continental Congress from 1782 to 1783, Elias Boudinot.  Then, I discovered he was not a direct ancestor but a brother to my direct ancestor, Elisha Boudinot .  Still, it was a thrilling moment for this history nut to find that Elisha was friends to George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.

As a little girl my mother spoke so lovingly of her grandpa and it was great to find a picture of him.

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My great grandfather, Calvin Wilson

It was from this line of ancestors that I have my Irish DNA and my red hair.

Receiving a record of my DNA and researching my ancestors has made me really stop and think.  From this wide background of people from Ireland, England, Germany, France and Switzerland is this person called Barbara.  But who am I?  Am I more than just DNA from a multitude of people from different cultures and lands?

Who is my father?  What is my true identity?

I am more than my DNA.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  — Romans 8:15-16 

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.  Psalm 27:10

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. Psalm 68:5
These verses are more than just words to me.  Throughout my life, God has been my father, my comforter.
I am more than 71% Britain or 11% Irish.  While I enjoy learning about my ancestors (the famous Frenchman, the English prince and the Irish drunk), I am so thankful that I am a child of God!
Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us
Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God
A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us………………………………………….Lyrics by Third Day

 

 

I’m “Officially” Old!

It has happened!  Today I am “officially” old!

Today I am 70 years old.

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How did that happen?  How did I become my mother?  Where did that thick head of red hair go?  What is that sagging thing under my chin?  That can’t be bags under my eyes?

Many of my friends have become very upset at turning 30 – 40 – 50 – 60 and I have always asked them:

What’s the big deal?  It is just another birthday!

But I have been dreading this day.  Somehow it has seemed to me until I hit 70 I could still consider myself – well maybe not middle aged – but certainly not old.

But 70 – I realize the days ahead of me are way, way fewer than those behind me.  I find myself looking back at my life and wondering:

Have I done anything of real value?  Is anyone’s life better because I have been a part of their life?  Have I done all I could do, all I should have done to be a good mother, wife, friend?

Over the years ministering with my pastor husband to the elderly both in our churches and in the nursing homes where we visited I have seen many different responses to old age.

There is the the old crank who complains about everything and constantly puts the younger generation down.

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And the one who wants to tell you all about her aches and pains.

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But there are also those who are a joy to know.  Those who still have a zest for life and a gratitude for the blessings they have.

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So as I move forward into this “old” time of my life I pray that:

I still see the glass as half full, not half empty.  I appreciate the health I have and not complain about what my weak knees, bad back and poor hearing.  Others still enjoy being with me and not dreading to see me walk in the door,

So – here’s a little “old folks” humor.  Laugh with me.

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If you do see me coming, just remember this:

old

 

 

 

Everyone Needs a “Big” Sister

She has always been there.  My “big” sister, Velma.  I call her big, not because she is physically bigger than me.  In fact, I think she is a little smaller.  But she was my oldest sibling and calling her “big” sister is probably better than calling her my “old” sister.

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Me and my “big” sister, Velma.

Velma was the oldest of four children and I was the youngest.  My parents told me from the moment of my birth, Velma felt that I was “her” little doll to play with and take care of.  They told me when I was only a few weeks old the whole family decided to go berry picking.  They packed the car with a picnic basket and Mom went into the house to get me out of my crib.  But I was not there.

A little panicked, my mother looked out the front door to see Velma carrying me to the car.  Stepping over the ditch by the driveway, she slipped and dropped me.  I was not hurt but the family often joked “that explains a lot about Barbara.”  Dropped on my head.

In the days before automatic washers and dryers, microwave ovens and all the conveniences we enjoy now, my mother had her hands full keeping up with the house work and taking care of us.  Velma stepped right in to help.  So when it was time to go to church or any other event where I needed to look my best, it was often Velma who helped me get dressed, fixed my hair, made sure I had brushed my teeth.

Velma took home economics in high school and became a very proficient seamstress.  Her senior year she made us matching dresses.  The school had a fashion show for the students to show off their sewing talents.  Velma was asked to include her “little” sister in the show.  Although that was years ago, I still remember how excited I was to be in a fashion show with all the “big” kids.  Velma and I practiced over and over in our kitchen how I was to walk on stage, turn around slowly and walk off stage.  The night of the fashion show I think I was the hit – a little girl with red banana curls!  I will always remember the pride my sister had in me – gave me confidence I needed.

Velma not only took care of many of my physical needs, she was concerned about my spiritual need also.  I had a Bible storybook that I had read over and over.  I loved reading about Joshua, Gideon and David and I loved the stories of the Old Testament prophets.   That bible story book was my first introduction to the wonderful stories about Jesus.  The book is worn out, but I still have it sitting on a shelf in my study.  Over the years I have moved a lot and do not have anything from my childhood but that book.  I still treasure it.

However, for my seventh birthday Velma thought it was time I graduated to a “real” Bible so she bought me my first one.  She also got me some new pajamas.  I was so proud of both gifts that I insisted I wear the pajamas and she take a picture of me in them with that Bible.  Although that Bible was the King James version (in the days before all our new translations) and hard for a seven-year-old to understand, Velma encouraged me to

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Just keep reading.  The more you read it, the more you will understand.  Ask God to help you.

So I did.    Perhaps the fact that I read the King James Bible faithfully instead of the “See Spot Run” books is why I became not only an excellent reader, but a very fast reader.

She was my role model.  As a young girl I was in the Sunday School class she taught for young girls.  I still remember the navy blue dress she wore with a white-collar.  Her shoes were navy, red and white.  I thought she was so sophisticated in that outfit.  When I got my first job I bought myself a pair of navy, red and white shoes and purse.  I watched her style of teaching – and I have patterned my own Bible teaching after her.  People say I am able to present great truths of the Bible in a simple way that a child could understand.  If that is true, I owe that to Velma.

I recently visited my sister and her family.  Got to me thinking.  I will be 70 in April – and my sisters are the only ones who share all my history with me.  They are the only ones who remember my banana curls, my playing and singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, and much much more of my history.  They are the only ones who share so much history with me.

My “big” sister has never had the joy of having a “big” sister, but I hope being her “little” sister has been a blessing to her as she has been to me.

Sis, if you read this, I LOVE YOU!

Do You Remember Polio?

When I was in second grade the vaccine for poliomyelitis was declared effective and safe, and a nationwide inoculation campaign began.  Children were the first to get the vaccine because the disease was known as “infant paralysis” mainly affecting children.

This disease attacks the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, often causing muscle wasting and paralysis and even death. Since 1900 there had been cycles of epidemics, each seeming to get stronger and more disastrous.  It seemed to attack more during summer and I remember the panic as a child when several cases appeared in my home town.  Most people recovered quickly from polio but some suffered temporary or even permanent paralysis or death.

One of our neighbors had a little boy who had contacted polio.  He was five years old and could not walk.  His parents could not afford expensive leg braces so the little guy crawled everywhere he went.  He had a sister my age and I remember playing with his sister outside as he would try to keep up with us crawling behind.  He would wear out the knees in his pants from crawling all over outside.

When my school announced that the children would be given the vaccine my parents and many others were not sure if this was safe.  They were told that we would be injected with the polio vaccine.  The idea was that they would take the polio virus, kill several strains of it and then inject the benign viruses into the bloodstream.  The person’s immune system would create antibiodies to the virus and he/she would be able to resist future exposure to poliomyelitis.

My parents were afraid of the very idea of me being injected with the polio virus, even a benign form.  The very idea of polio was frightening.

Besides our neighbor’s son who was crippled from polio, we also had a friend whose body was twisted from the polio and she walked with braces on her legs and using crutches.

We heard of people who had to be placed in an iron lung when their chest muscles would not work enough to help them breath.

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After many long discussions they agreed to let me have the vaccine.  On the day we were to be vaccinated a bus came to our school.  We were taken down town to the civic center where there were doctors and nurses all lined up at tables and we walked through one at a time to get our shot.

I was terrified!

Just the thought of a shot was scary, but even more the realization that they were injecting the polio virus into my body.  My parents explained to me that it was not a “live” virus and it would not give me polio.  Still, I was scared.  This was all a new thing.

What if they were wrong?

What if I could not walk like our little neighbor boy?

What if I ended up wearing leg braces and using crutches like our friend?

The vaccine at that time consisted of three shots given a few weeks apart.  So, we were all scheduled to go back down town in a couple of weeks for the second shot.

However, the night after I was given the vaccine I began running a fever.  I complained to my mother that my legs were hurting me and I had to lay down.  Panic-stricken my mother called our family doctor.  He believed that I was somehow allergic to the shot and told my parents I should not get the other two vaccines.  He wrote a note telling the school I was not to participate in future vaccinations.

My parents and I worried over the next few years when we would hear of someone getting polio praying I would not come in contact with anyone who might pass the virus on to me.

Thankfully, that fear of polio was soon gone.

Following the vaccination of school children, there was a rapid decrease in cases of polio.

In 1955 there were 28,985

In 1956, 14,647

In 1957, 5,894

Because of widespread polio vaccination in this country, polio has been eliminated.

There is always danger of someone from another country bringing the polio vaccine with them when they travel to the USA.  But if we keep our program of polio vaccination current, we can rest assured there will be no epidemics again.  No children left crippled.

What is even more encouraging is that we have shared this vaccine with the world and today few countries have any current cases of polio.

polio map 1988

I rejoice in that knowledge because many of these poorer countries do not have access to good medical care that patients of polio would need.

When I remember the fear we had of polio and all those who were crippled because of it – people I knew – the fear the very word “polio” brought to us –

and now I see that to my children and grandchildren it is only a word – something they read about –

I’m thankful to God for the knowledge He has given us to win the battle over this dreadful disease.

I pray it always remains just a word to future generations.

Döstädning – Death Cleaning

clutter

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

road trips

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!

kids

Collecting Joy

Joy Journal

A gift from my youngest daughter

March 4, 1998 – My youngest daughter surprised my husband and me by bringing home gifts for us both.  It was not our birthday, anniversary, not any holiday.  It was one of those “just because” gifts that are so special.

One of the gifts that day was “The Joy Journal” by Barbara Johnson.  Known by many as the “Christian Erma Bombeck”, she wrote many hilarious books such as:

Stick a ger

and

Humor Me

Barbara wrote in the introduction to this journal

This Journal is a new way for you to add joy to your life.  When good things happen to lighten your load and brighten your day, write them down.  When someone pays you a compliment, write it down.  When you remember nice things from the past, write them down.  Let the journal become a personal treasure chest – your collected thoughts of hope, gladness, and love.  When you start to collect joy, you will find it’s a magnet.  Joy is everywhere.  All you have to do is look for it and use it instead of saving it for Sunday-Best.

Less you think Barbara Johnson lived in denial and was just a “Pollyanna” telling people to “be happy” without really knowing what problems and sorrow were, she had plenty of sadness in her own life.

Barbara lost two sons, one in Vietnam and one at the hands of a drunk driver. Another was estranged for several years. A few years after her husband’s death she was diagnosed with Central Nervous System Lymphoma (CNS), a brain tumor and also diabetes.  Refusing to give in to despair, Barbara chose humor and looking for joy as a way to beat the odds of adversity.  In 2005 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association awarded her the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award.  Her book “Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy” has sold over one million copies. While facing death, she was working on a proposed final book, Joyfully, Barb!

So – I took her at her advice and began looking for joy – and recording it.  Now 20 years later, I look back at all the entries in my journal and Barbara was right.  She had said this journal would be “a treasury of gladness to inspire you for years to come.”  And it has.

Most of my grandchildren are all grown up now – but I pull this journal out and relive those moments of joy I shared with them.  Here are just a few that make me smile and I  hope they will also bring a smile to your face.

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Matthew and Robert – my ‘little grandsons now all grown up

March 7, 1998 – Rob and Rebekah took Matthew to kindergarten roundup this week, a chance to show him the classroom, meet the teachers, etc.  After coming home he informed us that he was going to love kindergarten because there were lots of girls and they were going to love him!

January 16, 1999 – Robert spent the night with us and I took him to the Putnam Museum.  On the way there he just kept talking and talking.  I always want to give my grandchildren my attention when they are with me, but I had a headache and did not really feel like listening to his chatter.  So I told him, “Robert, Grandma has a headache and I don’t really feel like paying attention to what you are saying right now.”  His response was so funny, I had to try hard not to laugh.  He said, “It’s okay Grandma.  You don’t have to listen.  I just want to talk.”

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My beautiful granddaughter who is also my namesake, Barbara

April 4, 1998 – Took Barbara shopping at the mall.  Brought her a necklace and a headband.  We had tacos and sundaes.  She has been trying hard to “be good” so her parents would let her have this date with me.  As we were enjoying our sundaes she told me, “Momma is wondering if I am going to still be good tomorrow.  I’m not going to tell her but I’m going to surprise her and be good.  I’m going to try hard to be good but if I mess up, I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry.'”

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Granddaughter, Abby, has a lot of musical talent

I don’t have a date written down for the laughter this granddaughter gave us but when she was quite young she came with her siblings to spent a week with us.  Helping her Aunt make some cookies, she sat on the counter and began chattering away.  Seeing a frown on her grandpa’s face she asked, “Am I annoying you Grandpa?”  When he said yes she quickly responded “Good!”  Which brought laughter to us all – including Grandpa.

There are many, many more memories I could share but I’m sure at some point you would stop reading.  But I want to encourage you to look for joy that is all around you and record those special times.  Not only will you enjoy the moment, but like me, years later you can remember and experience the joy all over again.

As Barbara Johnson said in her journal, “Laughter is like a shock absorber that eases the blows of life.”

Get busy looking for joy!  I wish you good hunting!

 

 

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.