Where Did The Time Go?

Fifty-one years ago today I became a mother for the first time. That day will always be one of my favorite memories. As I held my little girl in my arms I whispered to her that we would be best friends. All the fun we would have – shopping, reading books, playing games, singing songs.

I thought then that I had all the time in the world with this little one. I was wrong. Too quickly she became a toddler getting into everything. Then a little girl off to school. Her first day of school she gave me a scare as she did not get off the bus at our street. We still laugh about that day, but at the moment I was one frightened mother.

Then a teenager. Although we often hear parents complaining about teenagers I found the years when my daughters were teenagers some of the happiest of my life.

Finally she was a young woman in love. Then came marriage – and later three beautiful children making me a grandmother. Time has passed too quickly and she is now a grandmother (which means I am a great-grandmother). How did that happen?

Fifty one years – looking back at 1970 – what a difference.

In 1970 prices were:

  • Hershey’s candy bar – $.15
  • gallon of milk – $1.15
  • dozen eggs – $.62
  • pound of coffee – $.91
  • loaf of bread – $.25
  • can of Coke – $.10
  • average movie ticket – $1.55
  • postage stamp – $.06
  • median cost of house – $26,600
  • average cost of car – $3,500

Of course, income was much less then also. Median wages was $8,734

The top 10 TV shows were:

  • Marcus Welby M.D.
  • The Flip Wilson Show
  • Here’s Lucy
  • Ironside
  • Gunsmoke
  • ABC Movie of the Week
  • Hawaii Five-o
  • Medical Center
  • Bonanza
  • The F.B.I.

How times have changed. We did not have cell phones. The first commercially available cellphone was developed by Motorola and went on sale in the U.S. in 1984. The phone was huge, cost $3,995.00 and was only good for about thirty minutes of use before you had to charge the battery again.

Old Cell Phone

Other technolgies we did not have in 1970:

  • MRI – 1977
  • e-mail – 1971
  • post-it note – 1974
  • Rubik’s Cube – 1974
  • first commercial barcode scan – 1974
  • Apple computer – 1976
  • Sony Walkman – 1979

Looking back over these fifty-one years, while life has changed in so many ways – not only in my family but in my country, one thing remains true.

I have not lost that magical feeling of being a mother. Although my daughter now lives hundreds of miles from me and I do not get to see her as much as I would like, when I hear her voice on the phone or get a text, my heart still smiles.

Happy birthday dear Rebekah!

Let’s Pass It On!!!

This time of year my mind goes back to Thanksgivings of the past. One thing I always loved about our Thanksgiving gatherings was it gave me a chance to enjoy my mother’s pies. She was an excellent pie maker. As I remember my mother, I think of all she taught me.  And we owe our mothers for teaching us so much.  A few things my mother taught me – and I bet your mother taught you were:

  • To appreciate a job well done – “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”
  • Religion – “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
  • Logic – “Because I said so, that’s why.”
  • Perservance – “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”
  • Weather – “This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”
  • Hypocrisy – “If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times. Don’t exaggerate!”
  • Behavior modification – “Stop acting like your father!”
  • Envy – “There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.”

Thank God for the advice of mothers?  Many words of wisdom my mother told me, I passed on to my kids – and now I hear them passing on to my grandkids.  Some of that great advice:

  • Money does not grow on trees.
  • Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position.
  • If I talked to my mother like you talk to me….
  • Always change your underwear; you never know when you’ll have an accident.
  • What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?
  • Close that door! Were you born in a barn?
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where it’s been!
  • Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.
  • I hope that when you grow up, you have kids “Just Like you”! (Also known as the “Mother’s Curse”)
  • Eat your vegetables, children in China (or Africa) are starving.
  • If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me.
  • Bored! How can you be bored? I was never bored at your age.

We have received and passed on advice just like this.  We heard our mothers say it, we said it and many of us now hear our children saying it to their children.  While we laugh at these words of wisdom, there are words of wisdom we need to be passing on.

In the 16th chapter of Acts we meet a young man who was part of the first “second generation” of Christians.  Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and he joined Paul in his missionary work.  Later, when Paul was in prison, Timothy had been left behind in Ephesus as a pastor/leader in the church.  From prison, Paul wrote a letter to Timothy.  This is believed to have been the last letter Paul wrote and he shared with Timothy words of wisdom, reflection and advice. 

In that second letter to Timothy in chapter 1, verse 5, Paul wrote, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”  Later in chapter 2, verse 15 he said, “You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.”

Timothy – a young man who carried on the work that Paul had begun in Ephesus – was able to do that, not only because of the influence of Paul in his life and the experiences he had shared with Paul.  No – his preparation for the ministry began long before Paul came into his life.  He had genuine faith (sincere, honest, real faith) that had first filled his grandmother and then his mother.  These two women had done a good job of passing on the torch. 

Today as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends of children, we have the same responsibility to pass on the torch of faith.  It has been said that God has no grandchildren.  Over and over the Word of God refers to God as our father, but nowhere is God ever called our grandfather.  We are always one generation away from losing the Christian faith.  Today, as never before, our country needs Christian leaders, fathers, and mothers.  We must, we have to pass on the faith.  It is the only hope for our children, our grandchildren, and our nation. 

We need to see that this life is a relay race. Those who want to win the race must be good at handing off to the next generation the essentials they need to live a life of faith. 

But how do we go about passing this kind of faith on to our families – whether it be our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, the children in our church, our community.  But how do we pass on this faith? 

Again, we must turn to the Bible. Let’s look at the words of Deuteronomy 6 which are a biblical cornerstone for the family. These eternal words talk about the daily discipline of faith building in the home.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

 Attention, Israel! God, our God! God the one and only!  Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

 Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates.”

“And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning” (vv. 6-7 TLB).

The commandments — those excellent, unmatched principles of love, honor, obedience, integrity, kindness, and faithfulness that are true for all people, in all cultures, at all times.

Often when we think of passing on the faith, we get all caught up in passing on rules/regulations to our children.  While it is true that Jesus Himself said if we love Him, we would keep His commandments, it is not rules/regulations we need to pass on.  Many of us have tried that, but a bunch of rules/regulations often lead to rebellion. 

When we look at Acts 16 where Paul first met Timothy and called him to join his mission team, we see that Timothy had never been circumcised.  Circumcision was one of the main rules of Jewish life.  All Jewish boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day of life.  While Timothy’s mother and grandmother were Jewish, his father was a Greek, so it appears that many of the Jewish rules were not observed by Timothy’s father or Timothy.  Yet Paul spoke of the genuine faith Timothy had – genuine faith that had resided in his grandmother and mother.  Clearly, what they had passed on was not a list of do’s and don’ts, but a devotion, a confidence, a trust in God. 

I want to ask you today, “are you passing on that devotion, that confidence, that trust in God?  Perhaps today you are not a mother.  But you may be an aunt, or a beloved cousin or friend to a young person.  We have an obligation to pass on the faith not only to our children and grandchildren, but to those young people we come into contact with in our church, our community.  There are single parents out there trying to be both Mom and Dad who could use someone to come alongside them and spent some time mentoring and caring for their children. There are grandparents raising grandchildren who could use a break, a word of encouragement and again the children could use attention and love from others besides their tired and overwhelmed grandparents. There are organizations like YouthHope and Little Brothers and Little Sisters that could use someone to spend time with children who live many times in homes where chaos and strife are the rule not the exception.

So when I speak of children – I am speaking to everyone here today whether you are a mother/grandmother or not, whether your children are already grown or still at home.

What does it mean to teach these divine principles to your children? It is very important that we understand the meaning of the word teach in this key parenting passage of the Bible. The Old Testament Hebrews had two definitions for teach. The first was the idea of a formal lecture, as in a professor giving a lecture in a classroom on parenting, child rearing, or the family system. Our idea of teaching in the Western World is very similar to this concept of a formal, organized presentation.

However, this is not the meaning of the word teach in this passage. The other meaning had to do with casual, everyday conversation of life, and that is the meaning the writer used here. The other meaning had to do with the casual, everyday conversation of life, and that is the meaning the writer used here. He wanted to get across the idea that character training flows more out of a parent’s day-to-day encounters with his or her children than it does from formal teaching. Whether you talk about baseball or ballet, music or math, the color of the sky at dusk or the dew on the grass in the morning, every conversation can provide an opportunity to teach your children about the things of God.

The basic meaning behind the term teach is that passing the faith never stops. You are always — always — teaching the children around you something. There are no downtimes, time-outs, or do-overs. Everything you do, every moment of the day, teaches children something about life, whether you are in their presence or not. The time you spend away from them at your job, at social functions, on dates with your spouse, shopping, or at church activities speaks to them about the importance of each of those activities. You pass the baton of faith moment by moment, in a thousand seemingly insignificant words, phrases, activities, and conversations. In other words, just as in a relay race, the baton is not taught, it is caught “when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning.”

Christianity is not just a weekend sport. It is a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday lifestyle. Those teachable moments with the children can happen while they are playing games, while they are at the soccer field, shopping at the mall, playing at the piano recital, fishing, or camping. And when children give you those windows of opportunity, take them and teach them words of faith.

When I think about what it means to pass on the baton of faith through teachable moments, my mind rushes back to when my granddaughter, Barbara, was 4.  Her diet consisted primarily of bread – any kind of bread – toast, homemade rolls, just bread and she loved potatoes.  But trying to get her to eat any fruit or vegetable resulted in an almost daily power struggle. Well, one night her parents were determined she was going to eat a tomato. They placed four little bites on her plate, but she immediately began to cry that she didn’t want it. So they said firmly, “Barbara, you are going to sit here until you eat the tomato.” Finally, she stabbed a piece of tomato and slowly lifted the fork to her mouth. Well, if you have ever had a four-year-old, you know what’s coming. Just as it touched her tongue, she gagged dramatically.

Sometimes we have tried to do the same thing with children when it comes to matters of faith. We try to force religion down their throats. This is not how we are to teach the things of God. Rather, teaching happens as we live our lives.  We don’t force it.  We don’t say, “We are going to sit here until you take it.” We live out genuine Christianity in front of them.


If you are raising children right now:

  1. When they come home with a problem at school – maybe someone bullying them, or difficulties learning a subject, share with them how God can help them.  Tell them about times He has helped you in the past.  Pray with them.
  2. Buy toys/movies/books that share the story of God’s love and faithfulness.  The Bible book stores are full of such resources.
  3. Watch TV/movies with them.  While you certainly do not want to have them watch shows that are X-rated or full of sinful actions, in our world today there will be many shows/movies that do not have nudity, violence etc. but may have what we would call “gray” areas.  When their shows come on, you can use them to discuss how that particular scene/action did not line up with God’s Word.  For instance, you may see a family comedy where one member of the family puts another one down to get a laugh.  You can later discuss how getting a laugh at someone else’s expense, is not showing love to one another and is not how a child of God should behave.
  4. Pray with your children – not just at mealtime or bedtime – but any time a need arises.  Also, when God blesses you, share that with your children and have a time of praise.
  5. Talk about the flowers, the sunrise, the birds singing – all the wonderful things God has given us and talk about the wonder of God’s creation.

If you are a grandmother, an aunt, a friend.

  1. Choose the presents you buy – make sure they have books/toys/movies that point to God.
  2. Share with them (they love hearing stories from grandmothers of the past) how God brought you through a difficult time, how He answered a prayer.
  3. Tell them about your favorite Bible verse or Bible character or Bible and why it is your favorite.

If you have children in your church.

  1. Learn their names and greet them by their name. 
  2. Stoop down to their level and talk to them.

There are hundreds of ways to let children know they are loved and are important.  And to share with them that God loves them to.  Just put on your thinking cap and get creative.

In order to pass on the faith to the next generation, we must possess that faith our self.  We cannot pass on what we do not have.  We need to make sure we have a serious and committed relationship our self to God and that we are living lives consistent with His truth.

I Love the Words “Grandma”

I still remember the day I became a mother! Looking at the little girl in my arms I did not realize how much you could love another person. Blessed once again a few years later to again hold a second daughter in my arms, I felt that love just grow. Looking at my daughters, I thought it was impossible to love more.

Then I became a grandmother! There is truly no greater joy than that of hearing someone call “Grandma!”

On this Mother’s Day I thank God for my mother, for the privilege of being a mother myself – but best of all for the joy of being a grandmother.

Funny how the household rules change with grandchildren.

My Mother Sang Southern Gospel!

It’s Friday – time for another post on old church hymns.

Many of the old hymns I love are found in the old hymnals from mainline churches like Methodist, Lutheran or Presbyterian.

However, since I am a country girl at heart with some southern roots, many of the old songs I love would probably never be sung at the churches with more formal worship.

One of my favorite southern gospel songs is one my mother used to sing.  She had a good voice and was often asked to sing at regular Sunday evening services and at revivals held in our area.  Everyone who knew her always associated this song with her for she loved it and sang it often.

Accompanying her often on this song, it is one of the songs I memorized and it is one often requested when I play for the “old folks” in the assisted living facilities.  What really makes me smile is when I play it the folks from the more “formal” churches clap their hands and/or pat their feet right along with the song.

Recently I made contact through FB with a friend from years and years ago.  She asked about my mother and said she always thinks of her when she hears this song.

Written by a prolific southern gospel song writer, Mosie Lister, it is only one of his songs that I love.  Anyone who loves southern gospel will recognize this list of songs by Lister:

  • His Hand in Mine
  • How Long Has It Been (one of my favorites)
  • I’ve Been Changed
  • Til the Storm Passes By

So – sit down, relax in your chair, get your hands ready to clap (and maybe tap your foot) and enjoy this southern gospel music!  And yes, if you notice the piano player, I can play it just as lively as he does!

This Day Changed Everything

Several years ago on this day (I will not say how many – that’s for my daughter to tell) I became a mother for the first time.

What an awesome moment – the moment I held her in my arms.

I whispered to her how we were going to be such good friends.  We had books to read, flowers to pick, songs to sing and so much more!  What dreams I had for her.

Today as I look at my “little” girl who is now herself not only a mother, but a grandmother, I still see the little girl in her eyes.

As we have walked through life together, we have experienced both joy and sorrow.  We have laughed and cried together and a few times even argued with each other.  But through it all one thing has remained strong – our love for one another.

daughters

Growing old myself, looking back on my life I think how I have never been famous or accomplished any great achievement.

Then I look at this daughter – a school teacher, who really loves her students and I see how many lives she has touched.  How many children came to love learning because of her interest and love for them.  How many children experienced for the first time a sense of their own ability because of her encouragement to them.  How many parents she has helped understand how to help their own children.

I see the beautiful hats she knits for each student at Valentine’s Day, the fleece blankets she has given to many at Christmas.  The hats she knits for cancer survivors.  The homeless she has fed.

If I had even a small part in helping her to become the caring person she is – then I have achieved much!

Today, on her birthday, I share some quotes about mothers/daughters that I love.

  • “A daughter is just a little girl who grows up to be your best friend.” – Unknown
  • “Mother and daughter never truly part, maybe in distance but never in heart.” – Unknown
  • “Someday when the pages of my life end, I know that you will be one of the most beautiful chapters.” – Unknown
  • “A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future.” – Unknown
  • A daughter is God’s way of saying, ‘thought you could use a lifelong friend.’” – Unknown
  • A mother’s treasure is her daughter.” – Catherine Pulsifer

And just in case she reads this blog today – here’s one for you, Beka Boo

  • “What’s it like to have the greatest daughter in the world? I don’t know ask your grandmother.” – Unknown

Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

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

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

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

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

 

Things Mother Never Said to Me

 

mother

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?)

Charleston dance

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.

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.