When you pray . . .

I was pleased that Kaylee was sound asleep. She had seen me cry enough this last year, each time, hugging me, “Are you missing Grandpa and Grandma Nutt?” she would ask.

“Yes, honey,” I’d answer, thankful to receive and return the hug, but forcing the smile. Her tenderness brought me back. Her smile always gave me focus. And strength.

But now, as I left her sleeping, I could feel the tears welling up. These tears –  tears from missing someone so desperately, knowing you’ll never see her again in your life time – don’t well up in the eyes. They build in a pressure beginning at both sides of the top of your neck, spreading behind your ears, instantly to the sides of the bridge of your nose, then flooding your eyes and overflowing down your face.

“Nana, will you sing to me?” Kaylee had asked, just a few minutes earlier.

It had become our nightly ritual. Kneeling beside her bed, rubbing her back or stroking her cheek, singing her to sleep. My repertoire usually consisted of “Go Tell Aunt Tabby,” “Bye-Baby Bunting,” and my made up song for Kaylee:

Sweet dreams, my Kaylee Joy; 

Sweet dreams to you.

Dream about butterflies,

Dream about baby dolls,

Dream about teddy bears too.

And each night, after several made up verses, my soft singing turned to quiet humming; and eventually diminished, as I left the room and walked down the hall. She was contented and asleep.

But this night, as I knelt by her bed and had sung several verses of Kaylee’s made up song, I quietly hummed two notes – the fifth and the third notes of a  chord – and those two tones immediately took me back  in  time.  . .1951 AD Newborn Kathy copy

. . .  to my mother’s arms.

She was holding me. I felt the warmth of her arms. I looked into her face. I could see my chubby little arm reaching up to her soft cheek. She was humming the song to me – the same two tones. I was tiny – perhaps a few months – perhaps a year. In all my memories, I’ve never felt so small. I remembered being a baby! It was so peaceful but oh so brief! Nearly as soon as the memory had come, it was gone! I was back in the present! Back in reality!

As I left Kaylee’s room that night, the other tones, the melody of the song, came to mind, and the words came a bit later. This time, I wasn’t taken back in time but I sat in the dimly lit living room, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to picture and hear my mother singing – the  little chorus I hadn’t heard in years:
Music Notes

When you pray, will you pray for me
For I need His love and His care
When you pray, will you pray for me
   Will you whisper my name in your prayer.

At the close of the day, when I kneel to pray
I will remember you
You need help every day, this is why I pray
And I will remember you.

When I pray, I will pray for you
For you need His love and His care
When I pray, I will pray for you
I will whisper your name in my prayer.

1954 B Christmas Margie and Kathy (6) copyTonight, Mama, when I pray, I will whisper your name in my prayer:

Thank you, Jesus, for my Mama, who held me and sang to me and prayed for me. And thank you, Jesus, for the wonderful memory .

Click here to listen to the Gaithers sing “When You Pray.” It’s not as sweet as my Mama’s voice, but you’ll get the idea! 🙂

Their Wedding Rings

Their wedding rings remain a symbol and a promise of their commitment to each other and of the fidelity they exhibited for 66 years.

I had observed those rings on their fingers, year after year. The fingers, once young and taut, became aged and thin, as did the gold bands around them. Both wedding bands and the diamond engagement ring are worn through from years of hard work, in the factory, the dirt, the water.  From years of play and of cooking and baking and of praying together. And why wouldn’t they be worn? Sixty-six years as symbols and promises  of commitment and fidelity.

Mom's bandsDaddy and Mama have been gone now for some years. And I miss them. So, on occasion, I hold those rings in the palm of my hand and visualize their aged hands, wishing I could hold those beautiful old hands in mine once again.  I occasionally slide the rings on my fingers, especially when I want to feel their presence. Having the rings near reminds me of how they prayed for me and my family.

They passed one spring, just one month apart. Early that fall, I slid the rings on my omega necklace chain, and wore them throughout a most difficult day, the day of our daughter, Amber’s, sentencing. The rings hung close to my heart, touching my skin. I sensed their presence with me in that courtroom, reminding me that their God was my God. – always faithful. On that taxing day, the rings, once a symbol and a promise in the marriage, became their symbol and promise of commitment and fidelity to us, the family resulting from the marriage. Our family continued to be one – in the Lord.

On the omegaOne morning, shortly thereafter, I placed the rings, along with my birthstone, on the necklace. and headed out the door for Mott’s Children’s Hospital at U of M in Ann Arbor, where our baby grandson, Luke, was to undergo open-heart surgery. Throughout the long day and the trying days ahead, I often touched the rings, fidgeting with them, remembering Daddy and Mama’s  faithful prayers for me and my family – prayers that are still held in a bowl, each prayer like incense going up before the Lord God (1). At times, I raised my hand to my breast and clutched the rings ever so snugly within my grasp for quite some time, picturing the Father holding my little Luke in His hand, never letting him go. As I did so, I prayed. And prayed. And prayed.

On the trying days of Baby Luke’s surgery and recovery, the rings symbolized even more. Suddenly, they were reminders of Daddy and Mama’s commitment and fidelity to the Lord Jesus, which is the heritage they have passed on to us, their children, and to our children, and to our children’s children.

That heritage, in turn, reveals the greatest promise of commitment and fidelity – that of the Lord Jesus to me, and to my children, and to their children . . . “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” He says (*2). And I have found that promise to be true.

Just days later, I again wore the rings on the necklace to await and then to celebrate the birth of our grandson, Jack, the newest life born into our family. Memories flooded my mind of Baby Jack’s Daddy, our firstborn, Matt. Matt was Daddy and Mom’s first grandson, Matt. On that day years ago, the rings were on their own fingers – now I wore them near my heart. The rings connected us from the past to the present and in some way, to the eternal future we will all have together. And as we all praised and thanked God for this new gift of life in our family, I wrapped my fingers around those rings and whispered, “Thank you, Daddy and Mama, for your example of commitment and fidelity – to each other – to us, your family – and to the Lord Jesus.”

(1) Revelation 5:8

(2) Hebrews 13:5b

Treasures from the woodshed.

Daddy and Mama bought the big yellow house when I was 13 months old. Surrounded by red barns, white board fences, chicken coops, and corn cribs, the house sat on 80 acres of fields, pastures, and woods, bordering a creek. They paid $10,000 for it. Grandpa Nutt said they’d never live to see it paid! But he was wrong. They did! They paid the mortgage in full by mid life.

Daddy and Mama were hard workers, very frugal – didn’t charge, didn’t live beyond their means. As the years went by, they maintained the house and slowly made improvements as they could afford: a remodeled kitchen, blown-in insulation, aluminum storm windows, and baseboard hot water heat – typical 60’s-style upgrades But one aspect of the house never changed – the woodshed.

The woodshed was actually the large, attached back portion of the house, but it was rough and unfinished inside. From the north, a door led into a corner of the woodshed we called the milk house (a room where the milk was brought in from the milking barn). The big slider door (the one we always used) opened to the east. Hooks and nails covered the inner wooden slatted walls, and held garden hoses, rakes, and corn brooms (one good and several worn). Lofts stored empty coffee cans, out-of-season window screens, and “who knows what” treasures, hidden through many years. The basement door, which closed only by a hook, was in the southwest corner of the dark, often dank room – the woodshed.

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~

The years passed until limited social security income allowed no further improvements on the house or the property – and certainly not the woodshed . Dementia and crippling disease stifled all maintenance. As Daddy and Mama aged, so did the house. It cracked and creaked and sagged. Its outside became worn, sun bleached, and peeled. It forgot all of its glory. It lost its hope. But I loved it just the same. Aging doesn’t change love.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Daddy left the house first – went to the nursing home. (And that’s another story.) Mama followed – joining him (or so it seemed) in the same nursing home.

The house was cold and empty.

Utility bills, property taxes, and insurance premiums continued to fill the mailbox every month. The social security income was now transferred to the nursing home. The yellow house was being deprived of its nourishment. It was slowly dying.

Reality set in: The house faced it and so did I.

Daddy and Mama wouldn’t be coming home. Daddy passed first; Mama shortly after. The white hearse had driven each of their coffined bodies around the circle drive, pausing near the front door, then across the road, down the long lane to the cemetery to be buried within sight of their big old yellow house.

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~

Because I loved the house, I wanted to feed it and nurture it and revive it. And I knew that Daddy and Mama had wanted the house to live on and be filled with young, new life – with family.

So the time came to once again renovate, upkeep, and maintain the old yellow house. 

Builders, plumbers, drywallers, painters, electricians, and furnace installers began slowly reviving the old structure. Three coats of paint moisturized and refreshed its outer surfaces. Its foundation received a “tuck” and a “lift.” Its walls and its floors were recoated. But the most drastic revitalizing came in transforming the woodshed. Now the house felt complete, as the woodshed became a true part of its body and soul. And in the process of rejuvenation, a few hidden items were discovered up on its dusty lofts: a white rubber boot, a couple of antique pulleys, a Michigan Stove Co cast iron stove flap, a child’s red plastic wallet, and a pair of black and white saddle oxfords.

The oxfords revealed their age, just as the house and the people within it had. I wondered who had worn these shoes. I took them home and placed them beside sympathy cards and death certificates.

Then one day, browsing through mementos, I saw the photo, and in it, Mama was wearing the saddle oxfords.

She was young then, as were the shoes.

I remembered the setting: Lake of the Clouds in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – an annual summer vacation to stay at my Grandpa’s cabin – obviously an autumn one this particular year.  Browsing the other photos brought back fond memories, and I realized that I was wearing saddle oxfords in those photos, also! The year was 1955; I was four years old. I closed my eyes and tried to go back to that time – to those years – to that life in the big old yellow house. 

I imagined the shoes on the floor of her bedroom, under the metal clothing rack.

I imagined her taking them to the backroom and polishing them from time to time with both white and black shoe polish.

And I imagined her one day, placing them on the upper loft of the woodshed, assuming she wouldn’t be wearing them again.

My upper chest hurt to think of that day – the day she went from young to old.

She’s gone now. But I have her shoes – her old shoes – her saddle oxfords – those she did not intend to keep. Perhaps others would throw those old shoes away, but I won’t.

I’ll get some leather cleaner.

I’ll enlarge and frame the photo.

Then I’ll set the shoes besides the photo,

I’ll place this little grouping somewhere in my house – will probably move it from one place to another – from time to time.

 And as I’m moving through my house, cleaning, or rushing, or multi-tasking, I’ll pause when I see the photo and the saddle oxfords. Sometimes I’ll cry. Always, I’ll smile. And I’ll think of my Mama who once was young and then was old and lived in the big yellow house.

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~

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The Old Soap Dish

It doesn’t look like much. And to most, it probably isn’t much. Just a soap dish, from K-Mart, one might assume. Probably purchased in the 50’s. Pink plastic with removable drainer. The gold trim of its crown nearly worn from years of scouring with Comet Cleanser. At first glance, one might easily overlook the esteemed position it held through the years.

The soap dish held court at various locations in the old Victorian home—the big yellow house—as it sustained its royal status throughout the years the family resided within.

 
Court was first held upstairs beside the claw foot bathtub. The woman scooped the white Ivory bar from the dish, scrubbing the children’s skinned knees and alfalfa-entangled hair before wrapping each child in blanket-sized towels and carrying them  downstairs, one by one, to the warmth of the oversized heat register to dry and dress in their flannel pajamas.
 
At other times, court was held at the guest sink in the small bathroom, not original to the yellow house but added years later in the empty space under the stairway. The woman placed a new Dove bar (her favorite) in the clean soap dish, and the beautiful, elongated white bar, embossed with the famous dove lasted quite some time in that location.
 
The years passed; the children grew and left the big yellow house; and the soap dish with the Dove bar was removed from its guest sink location, being replaced by liquid soap in a sterile, aloof, pump dispenser.

From that time on, court for the stately container was held in the back room of the old house, aside the jumbo cast iron sink and the old pitcher pump. A large, green coarse bar of LAVA soap now filled the dish, and the man used the LAVA bar several times a day, faithfully scrubbing his aging hands, ridding them of the evidences of hours of labor on his land. The soap dish was often covered with the dirty, dried bubbles of the resultant purification process, thus the woman used more Comet Cleanser, more often to clean the aging pink plastic dish.
More years  passed until the old man and the old woman  sadly left the big yellow house. The old pink, plastic, soap dish rested alone and nearly empty, filled with but a sliver of a coarse bar of soap and covered with dried pumice. The dish was nothing but a simple, quiet remembrance of the old man, the old woman, and the family who had once inhabited the royal surroundings.
 
The little girl who had years before overlooked the pink, plastic soap dish and to whom the soap dish had once seemed silly and unimportant, had grown up, and one day, while browsing the back room of the empty house she had once occupied, her eyes fell upon the seemingly useless and meaningless container. Now she perceived it unlike she had in the past, scrutinizing every detail of its surface, regarding it in a different light and from a different perspective. Suddenly she recognized its royal significance. She gently carried it from the yellow house to her own home where she carefully cleaned it and placed it at a prominent position, once again entitling the soap dish to resume its noble post and to once again hold court . Now, in the time of fragranced, foaming, liquid soap selections, the soap dish holds a plain, white bar of Kirk’s Castile and is regularly but delicately cleaned in an effort to maintain its royal stature.
The little girl, now grown, understands that the old pink plastic soap dish doesn’t look like much to the visitor or to the passerby.  And to most, it probably isn’t much. But to the little girl, it’s another sweet reminder of her stately past and a  true confirmation of her royal heritage.
 
 
 

The Poppies of the Field

Passersby stopped their cars. Some actually drove in the big circle driveway, walked up the steps to the porch, and knocked on the kitchen door.

“May we look at your flower garden?” they asked.

Daddy’s and Mama’s garden was massive, stretching  between the mown lawn and the corn field, its woven artistry of greens and reds and yellows visible from every south window of the old yellow house. It abounded with fruits and vegetables – strawberries in June, green beans in July, sweet corn in August, and pumpkins in September. But at a distinct time of the hot Michigan summer, the garden was amass with papery-petalled blooms: beautiful red poppies.

Daddy’s and Mama’s lives paralleled that garden. Like their garden, their lives were brimming with ever-bearing vibrancy – of honor and service to God!

Those seasons were  times of sunshine and rain. Of planting and reaping. Although well-remembered, they were summer of times long passed. 

Today, nothing remains of the beautiful flower garden or of the vivid red poppies. For a few years, a little stem, here and there, popped up, but now, withered stubble covers the ground where the poppies once bloomed. And like the garden, nothing remains here on earth of the vibrant lives of Daddy and Mama.

“All men [and women] are like grass, and all their glory is like the [poppies] of the field; the grass withers and the [poppies] fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:6,8)

Yes, His word stands forever. It is powerful. It is mighty. It is beautiful. It does not die. It withstands every season, every storm, every fire, and every trial. It is permeated with vibrancy – the vibrancy of life.

So again today, I will open the Word and let it fill me with its unending message.  I desire the Word to reflect in my life such vividness that passersby stop and stare, glimpsing God’s glory in all of its beauty. 

They asked Daddy and Mama, “May we look at your flower garden?”

I hope they ask of me, “Please tell me about your Jesus I so vividly see.”

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The Fishing Pole

When I was a little girl, Rev. Bob Lindner held summer vacation Bible School at our little country church. The week before the event, he drove the dusty roads with a megaphone speaker atop his car, announcing the upcoming Bible school, inviting the children as they played in their yards, and creating excitement amongst the community! Bible School began on Monday. Each day, more children attended. Our contest encouraged us to invite others and to memorize Bible verses. The top prizes were a plaque and a fishing pole!

By the time the Friday night program took place, all the children knew who had the most points – who would win the plaque. Her name was Linda Crum, and she was a “whiz” with Bible verses. She had a “gift of gab” and could recite those verses better than anyone I’d ever heard! We also knew who came in second place–me! Although I didn’t come close to Linda Crum’s colossal number of points, I was a strong second. I’d worked throughout the week, inviting many children and learning many Bible verses, and I looked forward to the second choice of the prizes – the fishing pole. I knew Linda well enough to know that she had no interest in the fishing pole. She was sure to pick the plaque. And she did! The Friday evening program ended. Linda Crum had been announced as the winner; she had her plaque in hand, but nothing had been said about a second place. The fishing pole was still in place at the front of the church. Of course, I was heartbroken. I shared my disappointment with my mother who explained to me that Rev. Lindner had never announced there would be a second place. He had simply offered two choices for the top place winner. As we turned to leave the church, Rev. Lindner called me up front. He offered me the fishing pole as the second place prize. I was elated!

Evidently someone had  let Rev. Lindner know that I had been working all week for the fishing pole, and he was compassionate enough to care about a little girl’s desires. Looking back on that summer Bible School, I find his compassion to be similar to the compassion the Lord has shown me: a compassion that offers me the “desires of my heart.”

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV)

 

I hear the Master whisper . . .

I drive past it nearly every day, on my way somewhere. Today, though, I pull over and park my car in the lot, now overlaid with weeds. I look at the church – an unkempt building that has been empty for many years now – and I listen. No music flows through its closed windows.  No children laugh or play on the rotted teeter-totter in its side yard. No pastor  preaches from its pulpit. Instead, I hear the sounds of the country – the birds, the leaves kissing the breeze, a tractor in the distance,

and I’m remembering the past,

and I’m missing my old church,

and I’m hearing the Master whisper . . .

It was a beautiful old country church in its day. I remember it with fondness. Huge double doors opened into a contrasting small foyer. Tall, stained glass windows – four on each side – adorned its structure. Reposed on the side of a gravel road in a typical country church setting , near a creek and down a hill from the cemetery bearing the same name – Dayburg. Dayburg Baptist Church was a stable, element in my life. It is where Daddy and Mama met; where they married; where they faithfully served the Lord; where they raised their family to grow in the Lord; and where later, Ron and I were married.

1962 DA Wayne Bday with SS kids
Daddy and his High School Youth Group (along with my little sister, Becky!)
(Early 60’s)
1961 EA Margie and Alice SS party
Mama with her Sunday School Class
(Party – Early 60’s)

Choir002On Sunday mornings, my brother, Larry, and I joined other neighborhood children, each of us lidded in white capes with little black bow ties – altogether composing our little choir. Throughout the preceding week, my mama and Ethyl, her friend and neighbor, had prepared the capes. I remember watching Mama sprinkle each cape with water and starch and roll it up, placing it with the others in a basket. Later, she unrolled each on her ironing board and pressed it with a hot iron, the steam rising like little clouds of praise to the Lord. By Sunday morning,  a dozen or more of these stiff little mantles hung on wire hangers, neatly separated, smallest to largest, at the bottom of the stairway to the church basement. Marsha, the pianist, pounded out the introduction; then we marched down the aisle, two-by-two, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” I always wondered what “war” we were “marching as to”! God was opening my little heart to His Word and will.

 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ Matt. 19:14

Potluck dinner was held in the basement of the church on the first Wednesday night of each month,. We went early, as Daddy and Mama always helped set up and clean up from every church activity. When we entered, the basement felt damp and smelled a bit musty, but soon, the stone-walled room was filled with the scent of  meat loaves, banana nut bread, and homemade noodles. “Hooray for the Noodles!” Delores cheered, as Gramps came down the steps, carrying the green Pyrex mixing bowl, filled to the brim with Nana’s homemade noodles. Gramps and Nana were a lovely couple from the neighborhood who lived in a huge white house surrounded by even larger dark-green-leafed shade trees. Gramps was unquestionably faithful in his church attendance and service to the Lord, and I remember Nana for her faithfulness in making the noodles for the monthly potluck. And we did love those noodles!

 Gramps was the oldest man in our church. He was a beautiful man – inside and out – with solid white hair and a radiant glow on his face. I observed that brilliance every time he spoke or prayed and especially when he sang “Will There Be Any Stars in my Crown.” He sang loudly and off-key, and I loved every measure and stanza, eyeing him from the side, my little mind imagining Gramps wearing the crown he would one day receive in heaven!

Now there is in store for [Gramps] the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award on that day. 2 Timothy 4:8

Maude and Dessa were sisters, both widowed, who lived together just two houses from the church. I thought they were as old as a person can possibly be. On Sunday mornings, Maude fired up her old car. It was still sputtering and backfiring when she pulled in the church yard. Maude was another who sang out of tune, and being quite deaf, she also sang loudly. But we all loved Maude and we all cherished her singing!

 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Psalm 104:33

One Sunday morning, Dessa had prepared the communion wine, which in our church was always actually grape juice. As the communion cups passed our pew, I saw tiny cups full of the oddest looking, thickest communion juice I’d ever seen (in my few years)! I looked strangely at Mama beside me, who gave me “the eye” not to say anything about it or make a fuss. Later Mama told me that the grape juice was homemade by Maude and Dessa – from the small grape arbor on their property. It was just another commonplace occurrence in our little country church!

When the people are gathered together . . . to serve the Lord. Psalm 102:22 KJV

 On Thursday nights, prayer meeting was held at the church. Mama often took me with her. I sat beside her, or knelt beside her, on the merciless, hard wooden floor as she and others prayed. During those prayer meetings I was exposed to great depths within the hearts of Mama and our neighbor ladies – pangs of anguish, burdens for others – passions I hadn’t imagined could possibly exist in their common lives. Through my observations, the Lord began to develop a sense of compassion within me – of understanding and empathy for others. And years later, I became the recipient of similar compassion from others.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

My greatest memories of the church, however, were those of summertime.

In the summer, the tall stained glass single-hung windows were opened all the way, allowing the breeze to enter the west windows, circulate the open sanctuary, and exit through the east windows. It felt cool to me when we arrived for Sunday School at 10 am, but by noon, the large room was warm and stuffy.

We all seemed to sit in the same pews every Sunday – a trait I’ve since found to be commonplace, even in the largest of churches. When I was young, our family sat near the back on the left side.

Ethyl’s husband, Frank, sat on the right side of the sanctuary, about half way up the aisle, at the east end of the pew, closest to an open window. Frank was a big man in a plaid shirt and coveralls. He rarely spoke at church. If I hadn’t known Frank, I probably would have been frightened of him, but his kind heart and friendly smile made me feel comfortable. We all loved Frank. I always thought Frank sat closest to that window so he could feel a breeze as he snoozed during the sermon, but perhaps it was because that window provided him the closest view to his nearby farm, and a farmer is most comfortable on his farm. Frank had come to Michigan from Iowa, and he farmed with a big old Oliver.

220px-Oliver60RowCrop1944

The tractor looked huge to me – big man, big tractor. I assumed he was a big-time farmer, but Frank was really just a small-time farmer, eking out a living by doing what he loved most.

Ethyl, on the other hand, was outgoing and talkative. She taught Sunday School. Her Christian testimony was evident to me, but I never heard Frank’s testimony – never heard him speak about the Lord. For a very long time, Frank sat in our church and during that time,  the Lord God was actually doing the farming – planting the seed in Frank’s heart; watering; nurturing. Then years later, shortly before his death, Frank  accepted the Lord Jesus as his Savior. The Lord God made  farmer Frank; the Lord God loved farmer Frank; and the Lord God graciously saved farmer Frank.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

One hot summer day, during Vacation Bible School (VBS), Reverend Lindner taught us children about Jesus – his birth, his ministry, and his death on the cross. It became real; the Lord’s suffering was for me!  I remember the courage it took to stay after the lesson while others went to their classes and craft time, but I didn’t question it. Jesus had called me, and I prayed and accepted Him as my Savior that summer day. Many children responded to the gospel message throughout the week of Vacation Bible School.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

The old country church – this is where I met Jesus!

And later that summer, the congregation walked from the little country church, the short distance to the creek, where I was baptized.

Confessing . . . they were [Kathi was] baptized by him in the Jordan River [in this case, Hog Creek!] Matthew 3:6

vbs bus 2Reverend Lindner was a missionary with Rural Bible Mission. During the school year, he was welcomed into the public schools and taught children Bible stories. In the summer, he led Vacation Bible Schools  throughout the county. The week before VBS, he drove the country roads, a portable PA system attached to the roof of his car, and called out to children, inviting them to the local Bible School. It was a week we children eagerly anticipated. Then he drove a bus, picking up any child, anywhere, who needed a ride. It was one of the greatest weeks of the summer! Of course, during VBS, contests were offered, encouraging us to invite other children, so I analyzed the neighborhood, and devised a strategy: I would invite the families with the most children! Supianoski’s had the most children – seven, I believe – but they were Catholic and not interested in attending our Baptist Vacation Bible School. Next in number were the Strauss families: one family had six children – another had five. I invited them all. Some summers they attended. Other summers they did not. Sometimes, they also attended our Sunday School.vbs 1

Years later, one of those girls, Theresa, shared something with me – something I had never realized as a child. She said that as a young girl, the only place Theresa felt comfortable and safe was in that country church. Little did I know  that her childhood home was filled with hatred and abuse from a cruel father. Dayburg Baptist Church was a haven to her. The seed, planted in her heart during those early years by the Master of farming,  later led Theresa to place her faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop . . . the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart [this is my friend, Theresa], who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:8

Today, as I sit in the parking lot of the old country church and contemplate the memories it brings, I know that the old building was and still is just a shell. The people were the church that I remember. And people still make up the church – throughout this community, throughout this nation, and throughout the world. I am the church. The other children who responded to the gospel are the church.  And Theresa is the church.

Mama and Daddy, along with Frank and Ethyl, Maude and Dessa, and Reverend Lindner, are all in heaven now. Gramps, too, and he wears his crown. His face is more radiant than ever, and he sings in perfect harmony!

Today, in the quiet abandoned church parking lot, along with the sounds of the country – the birds, the leaves kissing the breeze, and a tractor in the distance, I hear a whisper. It’s the Master whispering to them, His people,

Well done, thou good and faithful servants. Matthew 25:21

Then I start my car , back out onto the country road, and drive away, hearing Him whisper to me,

Go now, Kathi.  Be the church!”

 

A Mother’s prayers – still before God

Three of our grandchildren were living with us.

It was a joyful time, in the midst of a sad time.

Bedtimes were  part of the joyful time – a time of quiet talk – a time of prayer – an assurance of love. For Kaylee, the youngest, it included a time of singing. It was a song I had composed, just for her:

Sweet dreams, my Kaylee Joy;

sweet dreams to you.

Dream about rainbows,

dream about sunshine,

dream about teddy bears, too.

And as she fell asleep, my singing changed to humming, and the humming diminished as I tucked her blankie around her and tiptoed out of the room.

It was during one of those times of humming that the memory came.

Just two musical tones of my humming brought the memory – tones of a first, then down to a fifth. (You musicians know what I mean!)

With those two tones, I saw her – my mother.

She was young. Her hair dark, short, parted on the side, and wavy. I was a baby – how old I don’t know, but young enough that I was still in her arms. I looked at her through baby eyes. I saw my chubby forearm and hand. My hand was touching her soft cheek. And she was singing:

When I pray, I will pray for you,
For you need His love and His care.
When I pray, I will pray for you,
I will whisper your name in my prayer. 
At the close of the day, when I kneel to pray,
I will remember you.
You need help every day, this is why I pray,
And I will remember you.  
When I pray, I will pray for you,
For you need His love and His care.
When I pray, I will pray for you,
I will whisper your name in my prayer.
 
 

I knew the entire song – one I hadn’t heard sung in years, but now I heard only the first of it because, you see, the memory was so short. Perhaps only seconds. But long enough to place me back in my mother’s arms – to remember her holding me, singing to me, loving me.

The memory suddenly poured from my eyes and flowed down my cheeks.

I was glad Kaylee had fallen asleep. I left her bedroom and cherished the ever-so-brief thoughts, thanking God for that special reflection.

And I’ve since thought more about the words to that old hymn. Mama prayed for me. My faith first lived in her (2 Timothy 1:5).  And her prayers for me are still worship before the Lord God (Revelation 5:8, 8:4).

When their mothers had gone to be with the Lord, both my friend, Becky, and my cousin, Sherri, shared their feelings of emptiness with me. Besides their normal feelings of grief and loss, they both said, “I feel like my most faithful prayer warrior is gone.”

When my time came, and my mother was gone, I understood. I felt much the same as Becky and Sherri, until I realized that my mother’s prayers were still powerful and alive before God. A golden bowl holds the incense, which are the prayers of the saints, and the smoke of that incense continues to rise before God. I was encouraged and in turn, encouraged Becky and Sherri with that insight from God’s Word.

Let it also encourage you, my friend. Gain strength in that knowledge, my friend. Your mother’s (and/or grandmother’s) prayers are still before the Lord God. The fragrance of those prayers continues to rise  up to God, as sweet worship to Him!

And to me, it’s as though she’s still singing,

When I pray, I will pray for you,
For you need His love and His care.
When I pray, I will pray for you,
I will whisper your name in my prayer.
~~  ~~  ~~

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 – the “big yellow house,” I call it  – 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. And in this house and on this property, they raised a family and created a heritage that lasted not only through their lifetimes but one that continues today.

They planted thousands of pine trees on 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.

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 with sewn on rings; chair cushions, stuffed with worn towels; 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 our beds in the dining room on the cozy main floor, as the upstairs was hard to heat. One large register brought heat from the enormous wood furnace in the basement into the house. 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 called it. She also would have loved an open stairway. She never got either of those things, but it didn’t 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 large window by the dining room table.

And as the house aged, so did Mom.

Near the end of her days in the house, she sat at the dining room table, looking out the window – down to the old ball fields, picnic area, and the creek. She spoke as she had spoken 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 died along with her, alongside the kitchen door she had entered so many times, and past the lilac bushes, just beginning to bud. I imagined hearing her say “goodbye” to that “big yellow house” and stepping 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 the green and cream-colored cook stove. And once again, Daddy shares that yellow house with her!

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.”

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Mom personalized the piece by placing a photo of her “yellow house” over the house pictured in the article.

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.

But someone 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 live out her life there. And it will be a house where she belongs.

Yellow House in the Fall

 

 

Really? My belated response to Michelle Obama.

 “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m proud of my country . . .” (Michelle Obama, February 18, 2008)

Really?

My belated response to Michelle Obama.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been proud of my country – America.

In my elementary classrooms, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance every day. I was a proud American way back then.

As I grew, both of my parents had opportunity to work; my dad had a steady job; my mother worked at home and sometimes outside the home. A healthy American pride was developing within me – watching my parents fulfill the American dream; owning their own home, enjoying the freedom of raising their children as they saw fit. Even in my early years, I was developing into a proud American.

As I grew up, I learned morals and values upon which our country was founded. For instance, I heard how my grandpa had once arrived home from the country store and realized the storekeeper had given him 25 cents too much in the change back from his purchase. He then “hooked” the horses back up, and drove the rig back down the dry and dusty roads to the little store to return the change. Honesty and integrity were values in my family, and I assumed them to be a part of America, and for that I was proud.

My Daddy told about serving overseas in WWII, separated from his family and my mother for four years. I learned that my grandpa and grandma had five sons serving during those four years. Only four returned. Another Uncle later served in Korea. My brother served during the Viet Nam era. Why? I learned that they all served our country so we could have the freedoms we had. I was a proud American.

Our flag hung outside our front door. It waved in the breeze during the day, but my mother took it down during the storms and at night. Why? I don’t remember anyone having to tell me why. I knew why. It was a symbol of America and of our freedom. It deserved respect. I was a proud American.

Back then, and still today, I love and worship God without fear. I know this is not possible in many countries, and because of that, I am even more proud of America.

In my country, neighbors bring food in times of death or trouble; farmers help each other with their crops; the community comes together for new projects and for those in need. America is people! I’m proud of these people – my fellow Americans; thus I’m proud of America.

At my children’s ball games, I’ve stood quietly and proudly, my hand over my heart as I’ve sung the National Anthem. I’ve taught my children to do the same. Why? Because I’m proud of America.

With three children, I was still able to go to college and attain my Bachelor’s degree – later to earn my Master’s. Never did I take it for granted. I don’t think it’s commonplace in most other countries, do you? My country gave me that opportunity, and it makes me even more proud of America.

I was born in 1951, at a time when our country was healing after WWII. It was a good time in America. And you, Mrs. Obama, were also born during a good time in America. You were born in 1964, shortly after some significant positive changes in our country’s history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had just presented one of the most inspiring speeches in history, which changed our country. Our president had endorsed Dr. King and his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. What a marvelous America you were born into! In reading your biography, I find that you were also raised with both Dad and Mom in the house. Yours was also a close-knit family. You received opportunities to attend a school for the gifted. Awesome! Then you received degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law School. Wow! This was in America, right? And you weren’t proud of the country for the opportunity it granted you? It’s just a bit difficult for me to understand, because, you see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been proud of America.