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.

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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

 

 

The library in my woodland

I went to the woods today. It was to be a run ~  down the lane and back again ~ repeat ~ you know the routine. Anyway, once I got to the end of the lane, I was drawn in. The woods were beautiful . . .

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. . . and the woods were quiet.  I heard only the faint sounds of bleating sheep from the Amish farm a few fields away, and, of course, of birds fluttering in the taller trees. I couldn’t make them out. They were hidden by the leaves, still on the trees but changing colors, one at a time, throughout the grove. Oh, how peaceful! I looked up through the trees and cherished the quiet.

There are many stories in these woods, and one, in particular, I’ve been reading for many years, bookmarking my pages along the way. It’s a story set  generations ago – before my family bought the farm – a story set in the early 1900’s. The characters are Elizabeth and Ray Ramsdell, the former owners of the 80 acres – some  farmland, some pasture,  and some woods.

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Like most farmers, tenants, and other country folk those days, the dumping ground was on the farm – usually in the woods, the rubbish hidden by the trees and leaves, where the plow needn’t furrow. After years of service, old machinery found its final resting place near a towering poplar or behind the trunk of a large maple.

 

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Tin cans, glass bottles, and broken pottery and dishes were toted by the farmer in a wheelbarrow or a bucket from the yellow house near the road, back the lane, and dumped in a pile in the thicket.

As the years passed, iron wheels sunk into the soft black dirt while heavy fallen leaves and rotted bark composted more soil, further imbedding the discarded junk, or shall I say, the vintage treasures.

Winter snows cover the wooded treasures; spring’s new life and fresh greens mask the stockpile of riches; and summer ferns carpet the forest floor and hideout; but autumn days like today, when the green coverlet has dried and the brilliant foliage has not yet dropped to blanket the forest floor, the storehouse of times past is unveiled, and a story unfolds.

 A previous autumn day had found me reading the chapter of a cleaning day in the yellow house. Mrs. Ramsdell had tried a new product for cleaning glass. It was Windex! And 70 years later, I took that little character, the spray bottle, up the lane to my house and placed it with other vintage pieces in my laundry room.

WindexIMG_2479

 

 

 

 

 

 

So today, I return to the story and pick up where last I bookmarked.

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Mrs. Ramsdell  brewed coffee in her blue enameled coffeepot. She boiled potatoes in the green enameled pan. And either the Mr. or the Mrs. had filled a prescription. The pills were large and placed in a tall bottle. So today’s chapter  brought an unusual twist in the plot: original cotton, sealed in the bottle, after 70 or more years!

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I read the story for a while, collecting my valuables: another ink well bottle, white face cream jars, and a couple of new characters in the tale – two tiny bottles, one with an intact lid, likely vials for the Mr.’s regular insulin injections.

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So I carry my stash home –  through the woods, up the lane, all the while planning another day to browse the library in my woodland, and to amass my riches, and to read another chapter of this tale written long ago.

Have you read my book? It will bring hope and encouragement to you and to your family. Click here to order When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 ↔

 

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

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.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

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.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

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

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

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.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

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.

I Rise Up and Call You Blessed (Part 3 of “My Mother, The Proverbs 31 Noble Woman”

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life . . . Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. . . her husband . . . praises her.

Oh, yes! It’s difficult to believe today – that a woman would take such good care of her husband! But she did! And yes, he had full confidence in her; and yes, she brought him good all the days of her life; and yes, he was respected and an elder; and yes, he praised her! When I was young, I never heard my mother argue with my dad. She didn’t slam the door in his face or yell at him. She never spoke about separation or divorce. Faithfulness.

As a result, he cherished her. He respected her. He opened doors for her and was openly affectionate with her. He gave her gifts. I observed. It taught me much. And all by example.

He praised her for 65 years – even into the last stages of his dementia!

She loved, honored, and served him for 65 years – even unto his last breath!

2008

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~ 

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

She knew everything that was going on in the house and was always busy, whether working at the school, at the factory, or at home.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

As an adolescent, I argued with her – repeatedly! I had little confidence in her wisdom or instruction. But amazingly, years later, I looked at her and saw a woman who spoke with wisdom and faithful instruction! My, how she had changed during those years I grew up!

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Her children arise and call her blessed.

Oh, yes. I began singing her praises, especially after I became a mother! 2006 Nutt Family

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

. . . but a  woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

So now, when I praise my Mama, I also pray the very last verse of Proverbs 31:

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Give her the reward she has earned, [O Lord], and let her works bring her praise at [heaven’s] gate.

Amen. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!

She Extends Her Hands to the Needy : Part 2 of “My Mother, the Proverbs 31 Noble Woman”

I last wrote about Mom’s potholders – basically the only thing she ever sewed on her Singer! I wrote about those potholders becoming burnt at the edges and dabbled with smidgeons of escalloped potatoes or the broth of pot roast, or an occasional pot of chili. That pot of chili – brings me to several other traits of a noble woman – some my mother truly embodied.

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~ 

“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls . . . She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks . . . She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy . . . ” (From Proverbs 31)

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Mom worked from before daylight until after dark. She planted a garden – then she canned and froze every vegetable and fruit she could get her hands on. (Except beets. She didn’t like beets, so we never had them in the house!) Then, she took the bounty of her garden and she cooked and baked. I never had to ask IF we would have supper. We ALWAYS had supper. But I often came home from school and smelled something delicious baking and found out it wasn’t for us! It was going to someone else in the neighborhood! A meal for the Moores after Edna died. Basketfuls of hot and cold foods for the church supper on the first Wednesday night of the month. A meal for the Reverend Lindsey. Brownies for the church boys’ campout.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

One day I remember a big pot of chili on the stove. “Who’s this for?” I asked, feeling neglected.

“It’s for the Andrews family,” Mom replied.

“Well, they’re not from our church,” I complained. “Why are you taking it to them?”

She answered, “They’re hungry and they need to eat, don’t they?”

1959 HC Christmas MomI don’t know if Mrs. Andrews was sick, or if Mr. Andrews was out of work, but something was going on at the Andrews’ house, and Mom had a heart for this family with six children, and yes, they would eat supper that night because of Mom, who “. . . provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls (or in this case, the Andrews family!)

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~

I’m sending a message up to my mother. I don’t know if it will be delivered by the angels or by the Lord himself, but I’m trusting it’ll get to Mama for this Mother’s Day:

“Many women do noble things [Mama], but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:29

Be sure to catch tomorrow’s posting (Part 3) about “My Mother, the Proverbs 31 Noble Woman.”

Her Potholders (Part 1 of “My Mother” the Proverbs 31 Noble Woman)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day causes me to remember my Proverbs 31 mother.

 

Today, I’m remembering her “gifts” (or lack thereof) of weaving and sewing fabric!

 

“she selects wool and flax . . . In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers . . . She makes coverings for her bed . . . she makes linen garments . . . ” (from Proverbs 31)

 

 

1956 PB

 

Mom had a sewing machine —  a Singer, set in a darling little blonde cabinet. 

 

1957 BH

 

The Singer was an integral part of our home, holding various places through the years. It sat in the front parlor, in the living room, or in the landing at the top of the stairway.

 

Whichever location, there it sat!

 

Mom seldom opened the Singer!

 

She rarely sewed!

 

All in all, the Singer generated one resulting product: potholders!

 

The fabrics varied. Potholders made out of worn chenille bedspreads, old curtains, or tattered towels. The stitched designs were more limited: X’s, O’s, or a combination of both.

 

Mom’s limited sewing talents were the brunt of teasing throughout the years! She smiled and received the ribbings with a chuckle. And in the end, my sister, Becky, and I both inherited her sewing talents and a few tattered potholders! 

Meanwhile, her homemade potholders filled the drawers closest to her stove. They became burnt at the edges and dabbled with smidgeons of escalloped potatoes or the broth of pot roast, or an occasional pot of chili – which brings me to my next point:

 

Although Mom did not share the sewing talents of the Proverbs 31 wife, she embodied the traits of the noble woman. (Read more in tomorrow’s posting.)

When you pray . . .

I was glad Kaylee had fallen asleep because 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 that begins 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, the quiet humming that followed truly took me back in time. For a strange, unknown reason, I hummed two notes – the fifth and the third notes of a major chord – and those two tones immediately took me back . . .

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. 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 – a baby! 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!

And 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.

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

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.