A Welcomed Grace

Saturday, April 7, 2012
I awake early. It seems not a moment passes until I realize what today holds. The pain of the last days coats my face with huge wet drops and chokes my throat. Breathing is only possible if I stand. I cover my face with tissues and quietly move down the hall, peeking at my sleeping grandchildren, closing the doors of their bedrooms with the skill acquired from years of motherhood and now Nana-hood. Ron is making the coffee, while I step onto the back porch, a box of tissues in hand, striving to control my sobbing, distanced away from the sleeping ones. The sun shines through the trees and pierces my soul with the faithfulness of its Creator. 
 

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It’s the Third Reason

The call came.
‘Seriously? Me? Now?
 
The prayer began. Asking the Lord. Should I? Show me.
He did.
 

So the work begins – just days before school starts. It may be a brief stint, but I pray it’s a potent one.

The work starts with the room. It’s been a thing with me since my first day of teaching so many years ago. Part of myself. The room must be ready before I begin the lesson plans. Kaylee spends a day helping – really helping! Little do we realize that her schedule will change a few days later and she will actually be a student in one of my classes! How many people get to teach their granddaughter about Literature? It’s just the first of many blessings.

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Together Forever

Margie lived in a small, white farmhouse,  two miles from the little country church in Butler Township. On Sundays, she, along with her brothers and sisters, sauntered the dry gravel roads to church. The parade of children was led by their stern and proper matriarch, Grandma Locke, who lived with the family, as was the custom with many in the first half of the 20th century.

Wayne, on the other hand, was one of an even larger batch of children. He lived twenty miles away in Ovid Township, in a yet smaller white farmhouse. And on Sunday mornings, in contrast to Margie,  Wayne, alone, walked the dry gravel roads (or wet in the rains, or icy in the winter)  to meet up with a traveling pastor, who faithfully drove from Ovid township on Sunday mornings and evenings to preach at Dayburg Baptist Church in Butler township.

IMG_0189 1In and around that quaint little building and its grassy churchyard, Margie and her brothers and sisters met young Wayne. The Locke family took to Wayne, which led to him spending long Sunday afternoons with them at their country home. Later in the day, after the Sunday evening service, Wayne would ride with the pastor back to Ovid Township and walk the short mile home.

IMG_2293Wayne’s friendship developed with the Locke family, and later,  with Margie. One summer afternoon, the young couple crossed the creek, and ambled through the woods between the church and the cemetery on the hill. In this woods, Wayne carved their initials, connected by an arrow, into the trunk of a young tree:

W N + M L ↔

 

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Days passed. Months passed. The young tree reached for the sun above. Occasionally the skies were gray, but the sun always shone again. The tree kept reaching.

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By the time Wayne graduated from Coldwater High School, the United States had entered World War II. He signed up and served overseas for three years. Oh how he missed the little country church and his sweet Margie! Meanwhile, Margie worked in a factory, keeping busy to help the war effort and her family.

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The tree was still growing, and as it grew, the imbedded letters widened – the arrow tightened the connection between the pair of initials.

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The years dragged. The young couple corresponded, and their letters spoke of love and of marriage.

1946 AZ June 23In 1946, Wayne came home, and he and Margie were married at the little country church – just a few hundred yards from that carved tree in the woods.

Yellow House in the FallSoon, they bought a farm near that woods behind the church where they had one day wandered. The creek bordered the farm on the south. The beautiful yellow farmhouse sat on the hill, midway to the northern property line. It was a house Margie had admired since she walked the dusty roads as a child, many years before, and now her dream had come true.

They served the Lord together in the little country church and raised their family in the yellow farmhouse –  both just a few hundred yards from that carved tree in the woods.

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The sun often shone in the woods between the church and the cemetery on the hill, but occasionally skies became overcast and gloomy. Oppressive rains darkened the carved letters in the tree. The storms raged. But the sun always came out again and dried the bark of the tree. Then the carved letters laughed and sang in the light of the Son. The tree flourished and praised its Maker. The tree aged but stood strong and solid. The years passed . . .

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

. . . nearly sixty-six years! Then the eyes of Wayne’s old body closed for the last time – never to open again. His soul went up, high above the tree, through the sunlight of the early March morning and into the presence of his Maker; and a month later, on an April day, Margie lay, yearning to follow her beloved Wayne. She raised her aged,  purpled forearms toward the heavens, reaching toward the Son – and then she followed him.

The grave - May 2013Their old bodies are buried together in the cemetery on the hill – just a few hundred yards from that carved tree in the woods!

A tombstone bears their names and the dates of their births and deaths. Between their names, two words are carved in the gray granite: Together Forever. 

When a stranger meanders throughout the cemetery and pauses to read those words, he probably smiles and thinks, “How sweet! The old couple is forever buried together here in this little country cemetery.” But when those of us who knew Wayne and Margie read those words, we laugh and sing in light of the Son, knowing that the young couple is Together Forever in heaven!

IMG_2292If you stand high on the cemetery hill and look over the dark green tops of the trees in  the woods below, you’ll see an empty space where the carved tree once stood – empty because the tree died, too. But if you look deeper, down through the green, onto the floor of the woods, you’ll find saplings and seedlings, sown from the seeds of the old tree. They’re growing and reaching up toward the sky and the sun. They welcome the spring rains but are frightened of the fierce storms of late summer and winter. They grow taller and stronger in each season, and they praise their Maker as they see the Son after each storm.

And when you stand on that hill, if you are very still, and if a soft breeze is coming from the church yard below, ruffling the tops of the trees throughout the woods, you’re apt to hear a duo of voices whispering, Together Forever. And when you do, you’ll find yourself laughing and singing in the light of the Son.

Who is Touching You?

Today, I was reading about Jesus. It’s the story of Jesus at a dinner. All four gospel writers record it. Perhaps you’ve heard it – or read it.

A woman comes in to the house where the dinner is held, obviously uninvited,

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God used a “Bird,” a very beautiful “Bird”!

Brilliant. Beautiful. Graceful. Pleasant. Stately. Confident. Cocky.
 
“Cocky.” That’s the trait that ended Gary Hancock.
 
     He couldn’t help being “cocky.“ That’s how God made him, the very peacock that he is (was). Through the years, I’ve witnessed  the “cockiness” of the wild turkeys that strut our yards and fields – of the pheasant that crosses the road as though he owns it, which he does! Likewise, it was the innocent, stately, God-given confident “cockiness” that brought about Gary Hancock’s demise yesterday afternoon as he crossed the road he assumed he owned.

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#20 The Trip, Itself

When we travel to a location, we don’t consider that location to be our “destination.”  Instead of a “place,” every mile, every jaunt, of the trip itself is our destination.

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… nothing can separate the love of a mother and her daughter

. . . nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39

Do not park in the front drive.

Do not take anything into the visiting room.

Sit at all times.

Do not touch the glass.

          I drive to the jail, which I have passed many times in my life on my way elsewhere, to the grocery store or to school. Today, it is my destination.

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So She Waits . . .

 
She knows she shouldn’t worry – shouldn’t fear. She reads it, studies it, believes it. She speaks that Word as a reminder to herself. She speaks that Word as prayer.
   But the fear is sometimes overpowering, 
much like its creator, the deceiver, who strips her mind, if only temporarily, of any other options than that of the fear of loss. More loss. The deceiver assaults, approaching her from his dark hiding place, filling her tired and weary mind with the worst possibilities. She suddenly feels weak – nearly too weak to fight. But she waits.

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A House Where She Belongs

Daddy passed away first and Mama followed him just one month later. I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. But today, I write about something they left behind when they passed: the “big yellow house,” where they lived together 60 years.

They’d been married just a few years, when they bought the house and the property – 80 acres – some farmland, some woodland. In this house and on this property, they raised their family and created a heritage for us that lasted not only through their lifetimes but one that continues today in us, their children and grandchildren.

They planted thousands of pine trees in bare, unused pastures. Along the creek bordering the south line of the property, Daddy created a beautiful picnic area, where he and Mom hosted family reunions and Sunday School picnics. Church softball teams played in one of the two ball fields. Twenty foot posts connected by tightly woven wire farmyard fence stood tall and firm behind home base, creating the back stop.

Mom on Gypsy
Mom on Gypsy

Our main barn was huge with two large haylofts, cow stanchions, horse stalls, grain bins, and equipment rooms. We kids swung on a rope as thick as a softball bat – from the north to the south loft – and back and forth through the east and west barn doorways. Other farm buildings completed this pastoral setting: a smaller barn, chicken coops, a corn crib, a granary, and a shed, housing an electric pump, which supplied fresh water to our horses: Jack, Gypsy, and Smokie,  and to my brother’s dairy cow, Daisy. It was as Norman Rockwell as any Midwestern farm could be, and it belonged to Margie and Wayne, my parents.

The heart of this ideal ambience was the house – a big yellow house – and although we all loved it, my mother seemed to love it the most. Next to her Lord, her husband, and her family, the house was her everything! She needed nothing else to be content than to be in her home – the big yellow house. And it fully satisfied her from the fall of 1952, when they moved in, until her last day, some 60 years later.

waligora favicon2During those first years, few improvements were made to the house, but it was personally and tastefully decorated on a very limited budget: simple, sylvan printed curtains attached with sewn on rings; homemade chair cushions, stuffed with worn towels and covered with a pastoral print; and fresh flowers from the garden in the summer, pussy willow in March, and evergreens in the winter.

We “lived” in every room of the house. One of the big upstairs bedrooms belonged to me! But in the cold winter months, Mom and Dad set up my brother’s and my twin beds in the dining room on the cozy main floor, as the upstairs was hard to heat. Heat rose through one large, square, cast iron register in the living room from the enormous wood furnace in the basement below. Insulation and storm windows came years later.

During my childhood diseases, my mother tucked me into a “bed” made up on big wine-colored frieze chair and matching ottoman – close to her opened bedroom door.

She was very spontaneous, and she improvised as needed – or at whim!

One day, I came home and found that she had cut the top part of the footboard off her bed. I didn’t even know she could use a chainsaw!

She cooked on electric stoves but yearned for a cookstove to be put in the back “woodshed,” an unheated, unfinished part of the house. A “summer kitchen,” she would call it. She also would have loved an open stairway. Mama never got either the summer kitchen or the open stairway, but it didn’t appear to matter much to her. She loved her house unconditionally and was most content there.

As  the years passed and Mom worked more outside her home, adding to Daddy’s income, physical improvements were made to the house: storm windows, insulation, aqua-colored carpet from Sears & Roebuck, a remodeled kitchen with maple cabinets, and a new large window, overlooking the huge garden, filled with poppies and strawberries, vegetables and flowers, and on to the fields below – all from the dining room table.

But time passed, and as the house aged,

so did Mom.

Near the end of her days in the big yellow house, I often found my mom sitting at the dining room table, looking out the window – across the garden, and on to the old ball fields, picnic area, and the creek. I often heard her speak as she had throughout the years before: of love for her “big yellow house” and of the contentment she found within it.waligora-logo2Before Mom was buried in the country cemetery across the road, we placed her in a beautiful white hearse and covered her with flowers – flowers like those found in her garden and yards. And on that cold April day, she journeyed the circular drive one last time – near the spirea bush, beside the old maple tree that had slowly died along with her, alongside the kitchen door she had entered so many times, and past the lilac bushes, just beginning to leaf. I imagined hearing her say “goodbye” to that “big yellow house” as she stepped into a perfect one the Lord had prepared for her.

As much as she loved the big old yellow house, I don’t think she misses it now because, you see, I’m sure God gave her a new one in heaven. It has the open stairway she always wanted — and a summer kitchen with a green and cream-colored cook stove. Daddy was waiting for her, sitting at the dining room table, forever to share that big yellow house with her!

Recently, I’ve been sorting through Mom’s “pieces” – her writing, her notes, and her quips – and I came upon a little piece she had clipped out of a magazine one day, long ago. I’ve researched it. The words seem to be anonymous, yet they are my mother’s words:

“There’s a house whose rooms I know by heart

where I tended the garden and read my books.

Where dreams were dreamt and memories made.

Where children grew up and I grew old.

There’s a house where life was lived.

A house where I belong.”

IMG_2767

Mom had cut the page, probably from a magazine, personalized the piece by placing a photo of her “yellow house” over the house pictured in the article, and covered it with  a plastic protector.

I love the yellow house. I know its rooms by heart. I dreamed in the house and read my books there. But my children didn’t grow up there, nor did I grow old there.

 Someone, however, will again raise her children in that house, and that woman will grow old there. She will never “see” it, but a blessing of heritage will permeate its walls, the presence of the Holy Spirit will indwell its rooms and will touch the woman’s soul. Yes, someone will again live out her life there. And for her, it will be a house where she belongs.

Yellow House in the FallRead more in When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers

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#10b Have you ever held a Bear Claw in your lap?

Our second day at Glacier National Park was a bit more relaxing than the first, as we took a lovely drive and a relaxing boat ride. (Read about our first day here.)

There’s a town far north on the west side of the park called Polebridge, just 20 miles from the Canadian border.

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