Chicago Baby

“We’ve left our house in Spokane and are moving to a department (apartment) in Chicago,”  Amélie confided soberly. Moving is NO FUN! I was just Amélie’s age (5) when our family moved from Indiana to Michigan, and I was heart broken, particularly because I wasn’t sure how I’d find my way back home so I could marry my boyfriend (also 5) when we grew up. It was the summer of 1956, and “Que Sera, Sera” was playing on radios everywhere! “Whatever will be will be.”  Somehow, I found the words comforting and remember singing them to myself as I explored our new home in East Lansing. Little people feel things with every bit as much passion as adults! In an effort to soothe the kids, Jon gave us all a little slide show of their home and friends from Spokane, and I think it might have helped Amélie in her efforts to process everything, but poor little Sophie (3) burst into gales of inconsolable tears. Jon and Linda have been doing everything they can to ease the way, but there’s no doubt about it: Moving is tremendously unsettling! Yes, it’s fun to spend some time with Nana and Grandpa, and yes, it will be fun to spend some time in Germany and visit with Gerlinde’s family, but leaving all their friends and moving from their lovely home out west into Chicago—one of America’s biggest (and scariest) cities—is paramount to panic!  Are you facing a move? I think it’s good to get in touch with our feelings during transitions, but I also think it’s important to track our thoughts. We shouldn’t just listen to ourselves, we should talk to ourselves too…speaking truths into our lives to give us courage, such as Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  God loves us. He is doing a good work in us to make us more like Himself! Rather than being fearful about the future, let’s ask God for the grace to claim Isaiah 26:3,  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  P.S.—I am so thankful for my courageous daughter-in-law, who is a beautiful example of Sarah from the Bible (and her mother Sarah, who left her homeland and followed her husband to the mission field in Tanzania). “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (I Peter 3:6).

“When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother
What will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

“Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother
What will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly

“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
Que Sera, Sera.” (—Composed by Jay Livingston)

Overcoming the Green-Eyed Monster

“Nana, I just overcame the Green-eyed Monster!” Amélie announced with bright-eyed pleasure. “Sophie’s present is bigger than mine, but I don’t mind.”  Since the girls have been with us, I’ve probably read through all the Berenstain Bear books multiple times (as has Uncle Joel and other doting adults).  The books date back to the  years my kids were growing up, and they tell stories about children grappling with all the common challenges kids face, such as the importance of telling the truth and learning good manners, dealing with friends (and not so friendly kids), going to school, the dentist, church, etc.  The authors (and those of us caregivers who read them) are definitely trying to instill good habits and moral values into our kids, but you never really know seriously kids are taking the lessons.  The Green-eyed Monster is about learning to overcome envy, and what a joy to see Amélie’s excitement over understanding the problem and implementing the solution in her own life!  Weary caregivers, take heart! Little ones do hear. I think most people hear. May we be faithful to keep planting seeds of Truth into the lives of those we love!

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).                                          “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness”

“Show a little bit of love and kindness,
Never go around with hatred’s blindness,
Take a little time to reach for joy, and wear a happy face!
Sing a little bit when the days are dreary!
Give a little help to a friend that’s weary!
That’s the way to make the world a happy place!

“Sing a song! Spread some cheer!
There are sad and lonely people everywhere!
Be a friend. Show some love.
It will lift them from the dungeons of despair.

“Offer help! Bring some hope!
Through the fainting and discourage on life’s road!
See a need! Lend a hand!
There are many who are crushed beneath life’s load!”
(—I don’t know who composed this children’s chorus; do  you?)

Rise Up, My Love (243): Wedding Vows

Song of Solomon 7:9 “For my beloved.” Yes, all that we are and have is for our beloved. In this physical world we give such allegiance to our beloved spouse, but in a deeper sense—in a way that encompasses both the physical and the spiritual—we give all that we are and have to our beloved bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ…for time and for all eternity.

Tell me, have you kept your wedding vows? Do you remember them? Perhaps you wrote your own and had them all memorized…can you still repeat them? It would be a good exercise to keep a written copy somewhere special—maybe in your family Bible—and repeat them every year on your anniversary. My husband and I used the aged formula that we had heard so oft repeated from our earliest childhood memories of weddings… “and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him/her so long as ye both shall live…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.”

Our first, ever continuing obligation is to forsake all others. It is also God’s first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Just as every wife wants her husband to have eyes for only her (and visa-versa), so God wants us to only have eyes for Him! Do you ever allow your eyes to stray when a pretty woman or a handsome man walks by? You will break your beloved’s heart and trust.

In our country, we aren’t typically tempted to worship literal, handmade image-idols from other nations. You don’t hear of many people converting to Buddhism or Shintoism. Do you know why? Because the god that appeals to Americans is the “almighty” dollar. Money and leisure have become national gods, and Americans who don’t worship Jesus typically chase materialistic pleasures. So, don’t be tempted to relax and say, “Well, at least I’ve forsaken all other gods! I don’t have eyes for anyone but God.” The real test is not, “Do you keep figurines on an idol shelf?” but, “Do you find yourself tempted to make decisions based on material gain or selfish pleasure rather than on your perception of its being God’s will…being right and for His pleasure?”

“To have and to hold.” Yes, Jesus, above all else, I am yours to have and to hold. Isn’t it strange that during the easy times of life many hearts are tempted to wander, but during the hard times, we are more likely to seek the comfort and support of a companion? Why is that? “For better or worse.” When things are “better,” it should be simple to remain faithful, but how easily people grow careless with each other and become intent on pursuing idle pleasures that distract rather than bind them together. When things are “better,” how easily people forget God and go their own way!

How much like sheep, who wander off on the sunny days until they have stumbled and fallen…and then bleat pitifully in their helpless pain and fear as the night falls! When it’s “for better,” humans tend to grow selfish and not want to be “bothered.” When it’s “for worse…” well, if it’s our problem, we want help and compassion…now!! But, if it’s our spouse’s problem…do we rush to his aid…and then endure patiently as needed? Our ability not only to “endure” but to take joy in being able to show love for our spouse through sacrifice is a rare and noble quality indeed.

“‘Joy is a duty’—so with golden lore
The Hebrew rabbis taught in days of yore.
And happy human hearts heard in their speech
Almost the highest wisdom man can reach.
But one bright peak still rises far above,
And there the Master stands whose name is Love,
Saying to those whom weary tasks employ:
‘Life is divine when Duty is a joy.’”
—Henry van Dyke

What a comfort it is as we grow older “to have and to hold” a life mate. I often used to tell my children that getting married is like putting money in a bank. Our oldest, shrewd financial steward that he is, tucked away $20,000 from his first year’s salary for his retirement, knowing that if all continues for the next fifty years as it has for the past fifty (which it probably won’t), that small (but significant) investment will grow into an ample retirement pension. Now, a twenty-five year old young man could think of many ways to spend 20K, but he will be very happy for his sacrifice in years to come.

Likewise, young adults may find it very difficult…even painfully sacrificial… to pour their time, energy, and money into developing a strong marriage and rearing a family. How much easier it would be to just “do their own thing.” But, all the sacrifices we make in our youth pay tremendous spiritual, emotional, and even physical benefits as we age.

Although it was simply by faith that my husband and I invested in a large family (based on believing Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward”), there is nothing on this earth that brings us more genuine pleasure now than our family. If you asked my husband, “Was it hard?”, I’m sure he would say, “Harder than I could have ever imagined when I asked Kathi to marry me!” When I asked him if it was worth it, he said, “Next to getting saved, it’s been the greatest joy of my life.” To which I would add a hearty “Amen!”

“For my beloved.” Yes, keep all you have and are for your beloved, “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death” parts you! And for our beloved, let us keep all we are and have for him until death brings us to his arms forever!

Poor Knights

With lots of little mouths to feed this month, I decided the best option would be to make a list of all the things my grandchildren liked best to eat, so one morning I asked them to name their favorite foods. Sophie (3) said, “Fudge!” Other items included chocolate chip cookies, salami, corn on the cob, cake, and rice, etc. After they ran out of ideas, I started asking my two little granddaughters if they liked certain foods. When we  got to breakfast foods, they said they liked pancakes and waffles, but they were totally baffled when I asked if they liked French toast, which surprised me, so I asked their mother (who is European). She asked what it was, and when I explained it to her, she said, “Oh, yes! The children do like it, but we call it ‘Poor Knights’.” After a quick Google search, we learned that the recipe goes back to the 4-5th century, and it sounds like the name refers to something knights would eat when they had little else available. However, in modern times, Poor Knights (aka/french toast) is considered a treat —at least it is at our home—although I do often use it as a way of brightening up bread that is starting to loose its freshness. I suppose everybody who grew up in America knows how to make it, but just in case you’re from a country where it’s not on the menu, here’s the recipe:

Warm and Wonderful French Toast

Start with bread. It can be bread that’s been sitting around for a few days and is starting to dry out (although if I notice that happening, I store it in the refrigerator to keep it from molding). Prepare a mix of 1 egg whipped with 1/4 cup of milk for each 2 slices of bread.  (Most children eat one, and most adults eat two, but you know your family best.)Sprinkle the surface with cinnamon, dip in the bread slices, letting them soak for a few seconds on both sides, and then fry in butter (or oil, bacon fat, or whatever). Cinnamon isn’t necessary, but it really does enhance the flavor. Fry them until they’re golden brown on both sides, and serve them up with syrup. I suppose the poor knights of old didn’t have any meat to go with them, but a bit of meat on the side is always a yummy addition, although bread with milk and eggs is a perfectly nutritious meal!

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
than a stalled ox and hatred therewith”
(Proverbs 15:17).

Out of Joint

There’s no end of excitement when you have little ones running about, and this week has been no exception…except it was unique in that poor Sophie (age three) ended up with a dislocated elbow! My first experience was forty-one years ago when Alan was playing with our first-born son and made the mistake of trying to lift him off the floor by his hands. Aaron screamed in pain, and we had no idea what was wrong, but we quickly learned (at the emergency room) that children (probably of all ages) should be lifted under their arms with a firm hold on their chests, since all their joints are weak and shouldn’t be stressed by pulling.

Gerlinde and I guessed what was wrong, but even though Alan talked us through what to do (he was at work) and we watched a youtube video on how to pop the joint back into place, we couldn’t seem to do the trick. After two unsuccessful attempts, we flew off to the closest emergency room. There an understanding pediatrician deftly popped it back into place in about five seconds, leaving Sophie all smiles again through her tears. WHEW!!

Scary times! Even as adults, sometimes something happens—and it can be an accidental injury—yet we’re so out of joint that we’re debilitated by the pain. Even if we know what we’re “supposed” to do, there are times when we can’t seem to fix the problem. Ever happen to you? I’m thankful for a merciful heavenly Father, to whom I can run with my pain. He can straighten things out (at least in my attitudes, if not in my circumstances) and pop me back into shape in the twinkling of an eye if I’ll let him. It’s all in the know-how, and He knows how!

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
(Psalm 25:17-18)

Fireflies

Our woods and meadow are filled with fireflies right now, much to the delight of our grandchildren (…and children, and myself!). They look a little like “bright, shiny diamonds” as one of our children’s records used to say. Just as twilight makes taking photos difficult, tiny glowing lamps twinkle and beckon us to follow them. Because we have poison ivy around the edges of the wooded areas, we can’t really chase them with abandon, but I’ve been able to detain a few to light up the lives of our little ones, if only for a few seconds. Thankfully, Amélie is extremely gentle, so she doesn’t hurt them, and little Sophie is too timid to hold them, because they tend to crawl up our hands and fly off in the most scary way!  I’ve tried so hard to capture the magic, but my camera can’t translate such low light and tiny twinkles into the fairy dust feeling we experience. So much of life is like that! Tiny moments of joy and light in the twilight…but don’t blink, or you’ll miss the light, and don’t try too hard, or you’ll ruin the gift. Just allow that breathless wonder to create a magical memory in your soul.  It’s like the love of God. We can talk about it, and we can try to explain it to people, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing it for yourself!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

The Love of God
—Frederick M. Lehman, one hundred years ago, back in 1917!

  1. The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell;
    The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
    God gave His Son to win;
    His erring child He reconciled,
    And pardoned from his sin.

    • Refrain:
      Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
      How measureless and strong!
      It shall forevermore endure—
      The saints’ and angels’ song.
  2. When hoary time shall pass away,
    And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
    When men who here refuse to pray,
    On rocks and hills and mountains call,
    God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
    All measureless and strong;
    Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.
  3. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade;
    To write the love of God above
    Would drain the ocean dry;
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky.

 

 

Have You Ever Experienced a Season of Heartbreak?

I suppose there’s no one alive who hasn’t experienced a season of heartbreak at some point. Isn’t it a universal part of each human tapestry? Every person who has loved deeply has had to cope with loss. It might not be as traumatic as losing a child or experiencing divorce. It could be something as natural as losing an aged parent or parting with your adult children when they move out of your home for the joy of marriage, or to transfer locations in order to further their career.

Although Mark Karris’s book focuses mainly on the issues facing those who’ve experienced the heartache of a major breakup, the strategies for grieving well and overcoming heartache are helpful for anyone who’s feeling the pain of loss—or even for those of us trying to prepare for the inevitable future as we see loved ones (and ourselves!) aging. Mark’s objective was to “provide a powerful, life-giving resource that will help you not only survive your season of grief but also thrive and be transformed.” That, I thought, was a very lofty goal, and personally I felt he succeeded, at least in how his book impacted my life.

But, Mark was even more ambitious that that! He also aspired to finding “powerful practices to help me embrace grieving as a liberating spiritual discipline.” Wow! Come again? Is that possible? Actually, by the time I finished the book, I understood what he meant. I can’t say that I’m free from heartache as a result of being liberated by developing appropriate spiritual disciplines to deal with grief, but I can say that I understand the many principles and practices he taught, and it’s helped me explore areas of grief that were hidden in the crevices of my heart, forgotten but unhealed because I never knew what to do with them!

I intend to keep my copy of Season of Heartbreak as a reference book, knowing that in the years ahead I will inevitably experience my own intense seasons of grief, either as I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, or as I watch loved ones passing on from this life to the next. However, I’m willing to lend you my copy if you’ll promise to return it! Otherwise, it’s available on Amazon, although if you’re willing to buy it from Kregel Publishers directly, then they don’t have to pay a commission to Amazon. The link is:

http://kregel.christianbook.com/season-heartbreak-healing-heart-brain-soul/mark-karris/9780825444715/pd/44471X

If you’ve experienced heartache and never really addressed it, or if you’re still actively feeling the sting of pain from the loss of love, please consider reading Mark’s book. As a family advocacy and support specialist for the United States Navy as well as an ordained pastor and licensed marriage and family therapist, Mark Karris has a wealth of experience in identifying the issues, and he’s done a masterful job of teaching strategies for coping and overcoming. He has insightful chapters with provocative titles like “In Need of Story Catchers,” “Forgive to Live,” “Holy Huddle,” and “A Theology of Suffering.” And…about a dozen more!

In ostensible theory, I chose this book because I have over a thousand young adults who follow my blog, and I thought it might be helpful for them. In experiential reality, the book opened my heart to some buried, unhealed griefs and helped me in my own spiritual journey. If you have a heart that’s still beating, it’s a worthy read!

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).