Historic Henderson House

I am a history nut!  That is, American history.  My library is full of biographies of presidents, secretaries of state, senators – the players in our country’s political life.  As I read of our country’s past, it is interesting to note that much of our current political events are really not new.  Attempts to destroy your opponent by rumors of bad conduct (both true and false) began with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and have continued throughout our history.

While many are frustrated with the lack of action from Congress, that too is nothing new.  The writer of Ecclesiastes was not referring to American politics, but his commentary on life certainly is true with our political history.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Loving history as I do, I was so excited when I was able to live in the Henderson House in 1969 for several months.  My husband and I were married in March of that year shortly after his return from 13 months in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corp.

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Me and my Marine!

After our wedding, we packed our wedding presents and our clothes into our 1966 Chevelle and headed for Quantico, Virginia where my husband would be stationed for the rest of his enlistment term.

The base at Quantico is where the Marines train their officer candidates and the FBI also does training exercises on the base.

Just young crazy kids in love, we headed out with no idea of where we would stay when we arrived.  After living in a small efficiency apartment for a few weeks we heard that the owners of the Henderson House had an apartment for rent in the town of Dumfries, just outside the base.  At the time we had no idea of the history of this house, we just needed a nice place to live.

The house had a huge hallway running completely down the center of the house.  On the front of the house it opened onto a beautiful large porch with comfortable chairs and a swing.  In the back it opened onto a large well landscaped back yard.  One side of the hallway had originally been the large formal parlor with a more informal music room on the other side.  The current owners lived in the rooms on one side of the hallway and rented the other side to us.

How excited I was as I talked to the owners and found that this house had been built by the father of Archibald Henderson the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Alexander Henderson built this home in the late 18th century near the Old Post Road (King’s Highway).

During the American Revoluntary War the Hendersons entertained many of the leaders of the revolution.  Both the Confederate and Union armies used the house as a hospital during the Civil War depending on which army occupied the area.  The owner showed us a hole in the side of where a cannonball had struck the house during the Civil War.  It had remained lodged in the west wall for about 100 years until a souvenir hunter stole in the 1960’s.

My imagination ran wild as I would sit on that front porch and imagine the wounded solders that had stayed in the same rooms I was now staying in.  I wonder if George Washsington or John Adams had sat on this same front porch sipping a glass of wine while discussing the fight for independence from England.

I was just a young bride then and while I loved the idea of living in such a historic place, I did not fully appreciate the history of that entire area.  Learning much later that the town of Dumfries received its charter on May 11, 1749 and was the oldest continuously chartered town in Virginia, I wish I had done more exploring of the area.  Dumfries was  the second leading port in Colonial America receiving tobacco from the upland, it rivaled New York, Philadelphia and Boston. But long before my arrival in 1969 the town had lost its importance.  The Revolutionary War, erosion and siltation, and the shift in the main shipping commodity (from tobacco to wheat and sugar) led to its demise as a major port and today it is just a small town of about 5,000 people.

Guess it is just getting old myself, but when I reflect on how this once prosperous and important port became just a small town that most would drive through without taking a second look, I realize how quickly life comes and goes.  How quickly what is important today may become just a memory or a point in history.  How much we should enjoy this moment before it is gone!

Don’t miss today by regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.

 

My Christmas Wish Book

MW Christmas catalog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Best Thanksgiving Turkey

It was 1991 and my husband and youngest daughter were spending our first Thanksgiving on the mission field.  Homesickness was filling my heart as I remembered all the Thanksgivings of the past spent with family and friends.  A table loaded with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, biscuits and all the other goodies we enjoyed that time of year.  Visions of pumpkin pie, pecan pie and my mother’s delicious chocolate pie danced through my head.

But the thing I was missing most was  the loved ones that gathered around that table.  This year would be the first Thanksgiving for my youngest granddaughter.  How I longed to see her taste that pumpkin pie for the first time, to hold her on my lap and rock her to sleep.

At first we thought we would try to duplicate the American thanksgiving dinner.  However, it soon became clear that it would be difficult to find many of the ingredients for that meal on the island of Panay.  That did not mean our Thanksgiving meal would not be good – just not the usual menu.

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

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

Questions immediately went through my mind:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our daughter leading the kids on our street in a song

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

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

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

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

My prayer this holiday is:

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

 

Anyone Remember Gunsmoke?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks for the childhood memories!

 

 

Can I Get An Amen?

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Thank God for music!

I love music!  My best times of devotion are when I listen first to a praise song and sit and meditate on God’s presence before I pick up my Bible or my devotional book.  In times of great joy or great sorrow in my life I have often gone to my piano and played a song expressing that joy, that sorrow.

One of my favorite musical groups is Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.  This morning listening to one of their songs, “So You Would Know,” once again my mind roamed back to all the times God has been there for me in times of great sorrow or tragedy.

Thank God for help in times of great need!

I have shared in other blogs many of those times God helped!

The Day That Changed My Life

Coincidence or An Act of God?

I’m thankful for those times when God’s presence and help were so needed – and He was there.  Those times when I was weak and He carried me.  Those nights when he wiped my tears away.  Those times when pain racked my body and He sent healing down to me.

When you walked on this problem
Didn’t I step right in on time
When you got weak along life’s journey
My angel carried you

When the pains were racking your body
Didn’t I send a healing down to you

How many days must I be a fence all around you
How many nights must I wipe your tears away
How many storms must I bring you safely through
For you to know just how much I love you

Thank God for the everyday blessings!

However, while I thank God for help in difficult times, sometimes I forget to thank Him for day-to-day blessings, the many things I take for granted.

Didn’t I wake you up this morning
Were you clothed in your right mind
Didn’t I put food on your able
Show UP! when your bills were due

So today I thank God

  • that I woke up this morning still in my “right mind.”  (And at my age, that is a blessing!)
  • that I was able to walk all by myself
  • that I was able to see the colorful fall trees
  • that I was able to hear as I watched the news and now as I listen to the music
  • that I had plenty of food to choose from for breakfast:  bagels, cereal, bacon and eggs
  • that I had a hot cup of coffee waiting for me fixed by my loving husband (and at our age, to still have my husband alive and well is a blessing!)
  • that I have a warm house and warm clothes as these fall days turn colder
  • that while I am not rich by any means, all my bills are paid
  • that I have clean, running water

And the list could go on and on.  Things I just take for granted.  Things that a majority of the world does not have.

Today can I get an Amen?

I want to encourage anyone who reads this to take a few minutes to think about all the things God has blessed you with.  And recognize how many times we complain about our very blessings.

  • We complain about our “busy” schedules instead of thanking God for the children we have or the friends we have that take up so much of our time.  That we have a house to clean or a grocery store and money to buy food for our family.
  • We complain about the weather instead of thanking God for the air conditioning and heating that makes life so comfortable on those hot or freezing cold days.
  • We complain about our jobs instead of thanking God that we have employment (if we are still young enough to work) OR
  • We complain about our aches and pains and loss of energy as we age in retirement instead of thanking God that we have lived long enough to be retired.

Thank God for the greatest gift of all!

But the greatest blessing in my life is not that He delivered me from cancer, He strengthened me when my husband died or all the material blessings He has given me.  The greatest blessing is that as a young child He helped me to see my need of Him and to understand how much He loves me.

When you were lost in sin and sorrow
I died to set you free
So you would know just how much I love you

Can I get an Amen?

Join with me in praising God today for His blessings – both the BIG ones in times of GREAT need but also the EVERY DAY blessings we take for granted.  And as you count your blessings, let it be a reminder of HOW MUCH GOD LOVES YOU!!!

 

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.

 

 

What makes a man a Grandpa?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My mother and step-father — Grandpa Gerling

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

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

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

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

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