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!

 

 

Things Mother Never Said to Me

 

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It’s almost Mother’s Day – and my memories of Mom keep coming back so strong.  She was such a feisty lady.  In her 60’s she drove a bright yellow car and slowed down only slightly for stop signs.  She loved to show my daughters how to do the Charleston.   (Does the younger generation today have any idea what that is?)

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She gave me a lot of good advice (some I followed, some I did not).  But in honor of her great sense of humor, I thought I would share some things my mother NEVER said to me.  (And I’m sure there are things other mothers have NEVER said to their children.)

 

  1. How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?
  2. Just leave all the lights on…it makes the house look more cheery.
  3. Let me smell that blouse…yeah, it’s good for another week.
  4. If Susan’s mother says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.
  5. If everybody else jumps off the bridge, be sure and join them.
  6. Your curfew is just a general time to shoot for.  It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.
  7. Don’t worry about sharing your candy with your sister.  After all, it is yours.
  8. You are too tired to do your homework tonight.  OK.  Just be sure and turn off the TV by bedtime.
  9. Don’t worry about wearing a coat.  Spring is only two months away.
  10. I don’t have a Kleenex with me.  Just use your sleeve.

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:

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Remembering Mom

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Rosie Fern Sechrest – 4/16/1918 to 4/4/2006

Hard to believe it has been 12 years since my mother died.  Hard to believe it has been that long.

My birthday and my mother’s were only eight days apart so we often celebrated them together.   The year my mother died my husband and I had gone down to her house in southern Illinois in late March so we could celebrate our birthdays a few days early.  For years I lived in the northern part of the state while my mother lived in the southern part and so our time together was far and few between.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband’s job as a pastor took up the weekends so I only saw her a few times a year.

But that was all going to change.  In February of that year my husband retired and now we would have our weekends free so we could make more trips down to southern Illinois to see her.

I was so anxious to tell her that now I would be coming to see her more often.  Being interested in my genealogy I was looking forward to asking her more questions about her childhood and maybe even visiting some of the places where she went to school or lived.

That was not to be.

When I arrived at my mother’s home I found her in a lot of pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon so my husband and I took her to the clinic.  She asked me to go in with her for the doctor’s exam and it was only then that I found out she had been having problems for some time.

After examination the doctor admitted Mom to the hospital.  He did not seem to be too concerned saying only that she might have an infection and needed some tests and medication.

The first couple of days Mom seemed to be doing fine and the doctors assured me they would soon get to the bottom of Mom’s pain.  I even assured my sisters they did not need to come, Mom would soon be back to normal and I would be taking her home.

I still struggle that I told them that.  By the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and within a couple of days it was clear there was something seriously wrong.  By then I called my sisters that they needed to come, but I always felt guilty that I had assured them there was no need to come.  By the time they got there, Mom was clearly not doing well.

Yet, in a very selfish way, I was glad that I had those couple of days with Mom all by myself.  Being the baby in the family, Mom usually seemed to trust more on my older sisters for help and it made me feel so good to be the one adjust her pillows, straighten up her cover, being a help to her.

So my feelings still are mixed.  Guilty because I assured my sisters they did not need to hurry down; yet thankful for those couple of days of just me and my mom.

Mom was a jolly woman.  I remember as a child when she and my aunt (a Methodist minister) would do the Charleston dance at our family gatherings.  Her pies were the best.  Many Saturdays Mom would spend the day baking pies:  chocolate, coconut cream, apple, peach.  Sunday nights would find our kitchen and living room filled with members of our church who came over to visit – but I think more to enjoy Mom’s pies.

She always made her own crusts but as she got older she started buying frozen crusts from the store.  While I missed her delicious crusts, the pies were still good.  When my husband and I visited, I knew Mom would have a pot of beans (for me) and coconut cream pie for my husband.  Of course, she also had a chocolate pie because that was my favorite.

After Mom died, I grieved for her.  But, slowly, over time I began to get used to not having her around.  Lately, however, she fills my thoughts almost daily.  I think it is because I am getting old myself and as I age, I understand my mother better.  Sadly, I often wish I could apologize to her.  Many times I got irritated at her – and now I find myself doing and saying the very things she did.  I understand her better now than I did when I was young.

But it is too late to let her know that.

Because of my Christian faith, I believe someday I will see my mother again.  While I will try to apologize, I imagine she will just laugh and say “Come on Barbara, let me show you the rose garden”  for she knows how much I love roses.

Until then, if your mother is still living, give her a call and let her know how much she means to you.

 

 

 

 

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!

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!

 

 

Now That It’s Over

Christmas 2017 is now history.

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The beautiful tree we spent hours decorating is now ready to be taken down and put away for another year if it was an artificial tree, or it soon will join the landfill if we chose a live tree.

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All the presents that we spent days and weeks searching for in the store or online and then wrapped so carefully are now opened.  The beautiful packaging is probably in the trash cans ready to also go to the landfill.  Some are enjoying their gifts while others are perhaps a little disappointed that Santa did not bring them exactly what they wanted.  Maybe it was the wrong size so a trip to the store to make an exchange is on the agenda this week.

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All the delicious food that Moms spent hours preparing has long been consumed or is sitting in the refrigerator waiting for leftovers tonight.  The beautiful china has been washed and put away for another year – or the Christmas paper plates are also headed to that landfill.

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Some are savoring precious memories made this year with family and friends.  For them it was a time of great happiness and an almost Christmas-card perfect day.  There were newlyweds spending their first Christmas together.  Grandmas and grandpas were enjoying spending time with grandchildren they do not see the rest of the year.  Brothers and sisters, cousins laughed over board games or their favorite Christmas movie.

Still others are glad it’s over because it was a sad time.  There were family members who were absent at the table this year.  Some were gone because death tragically struck this year.  Others grieve over the divorce that split the family in two.  Some families spent the holiday in the hospital or sitting quietly by the bedside of a loved one who is quickly spending their last days.

But regardless of how this year’s Christmas season turned out – happy or sad, perfect or so imperfect, it is history.

So now what?  Do we just put away the decorations, replace our Christmas CD’s with our favorite music style, close our Bibles to Matthew and Luke and go on with “normal” life.  Did we just “enjoy” the Christmas play at church, the children singing “Away in a Manger”, the classic Christmas carols or the contemporary songs like “Mary, Did You Know”  Is that all there is?

While we hear the Christmas story every year and it is old and well-known, I think we would be wise to follow Mary’s example as found in Luke’s story of the nativity.  When the shepherds found the baby in the manager and told Mary and Joseph of the message of the angels, Luke tells us that

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

So what do we do now?  Put aside all we have heard this season of the Christmas story and go back to our busy world.  Or, would it not be a good idea to stop now and then as winter turns into spring, then summer, then fall and think about what the Christmas story really means.  God come in the flesh to redeem mankind.  God’s demonstration of His love for us.

My prayer is that you will take time to think about Christmas – the real meaning of Christmas – in the days, weeks, months ahead and let it change how you live in the coming year.