90 Years of Thankfulness

We had the privilege of celebrating a birthday Saturday with a dear family friend, Nana Kehrli. She is 90 years old, still lives in the home where she raised 3 lovely daughters, just down the road from where she was born on Stoney Creek in eastern Tennessee.

Nana, almost everyone calls her that, has slowed down some physically, but her mind is as sharp as a tack. She is an amazing cook – her Southern pork chops just melt in your mouth. Eating “farm to table” is a trend that is growing in popularity throughout our culture – Nana and her family have always eaten that way.

It could certainly be a factor in her 90 healthy years.

She and her sisters ran a grill, a small community restaurant several years back. It was very popular with local folks who knew they would get the best in home-cooking. They probably never made a lot of money because these Southern ladies treated their customers as they would guests in their home.

“Honey, did you get enough? Do you want some more?.”

“Here, take this plate to your mother. I hear she is feeling poorly.”

If Nana knew someone was recently widowed, she would send an extra meal home for lunch the next day. If she knew someone was hurting financially, she gave a discount.

Nana has seldom gone to the doctor in her 90 years, besides the births of her three daughters. “I don’t go to the doctor, he’ll just find something wrong with me.” she has often been heard to say.

Nana has been a widow since 1968 when her Air Force husband was killed in the Vietnam War. She raised her daughters with the love and support of her close knit family on Stoney Creek.

I told Nana Saturday that she could be so thankful for her 90 years of health and mental acuity.

“Gayle, honey, I get up every morning and thank God for all He has blessed me with. I didn’t know of anyone who is as blessed as I am.”

What a testimony of God’s faithfulness!

Colossians 2:6-7 says

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

May Nana Kehrli be blessed with God’s grace and peace in her remaining days.

I want to follow her example – overflowing with thankfulness each day for God’s blessings.

 

Grace for Young Mothers

I haven’t written lately.

I haven’t painted.

I haven’t sewn a book or printed on the handmade paper I recently made.

Yet I have been doing the very things for which I retired. I am spending time with our grandchildren.

I walked into my studio yesterday to check the tiles I made with 8 of our grandchildren. The calm, creative atmosphere of the studio hit me, along with the fact that I have several projects in the works waiting to be attended to. “I LOVE working in this studio,” I thought.

But there will be time later, I thought. Grace.

These thoughts took me back 36 years to the time our children were little. It seemed like I faced a never ending cycle of meals, laundry, cleaning. Oh…. forget the cleaning. I did.

I didn’t write – except a random letter once in a great while.

I didn’t paint – except for a stick horse, a wall mural, or doll furniture.

I did not make anything “creative.”

But wait!

I was doing exactly what I planned to do when I left teaching full time. I was spending time with our children. “There would be time later to “create”, I thought.

AND THERE IS! Grace.

When God births a desire in our hearts, He is faithful to fulfill it in His time. We must wait and trust. I realized this week that I could choose to lament the time I am not in my studio, or enjoy the fact that our grandchildren are here and that I can treasure this time with them.

I am so thankful I chose the latter. We are having a lovely time. (I am worn out!)

A friend, Lena Woods, told me this week that her favorite memories from childhood were spending time with her cousins at her grandmother’s house. I hope we are creating some very special memories for our grandchildren as well.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

This Scripture passage goes on to list many of life’s activities. Each thing has a time and a place. God’s time and God’s place.

So, I am going to go now and make lunches and we are going to ride bikes.

The studio will be there next month.

The grandchildren will not. Grace.

God’s Expectations

Phil and our first-born

” I could never live up to his expectations.”

How often have you heard this tragic statement in regard to someone talking about a parent? Sometimes a father, sometimes a mother, but equally heart-rending. Living with the feeling that you did not measure up is sometimes debilitating, but always hurtful.

The offending parent may have never verbalized their attitude towards the child, but in this case actions do speak louder than words. Looks of disdain, ignoring a child’s presence or needs,  just being too busy to listen all communicate lack of regard for a child.

Making fun of a child who makes a mistake, whether physical or verbal, is so hurtful. This can not only make a child feel inadequate, but can make a child feel like not trying something new for fear of failure.

We parents and grandparents must guard our speech to prevent hurtful words from wounding our children. Words spoken in frustration and impatience are especially scaring. One of the most harmful responses to a child is comparing that child to someone else in a negative way. “Why can’t you be like so and so…..?”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

I have an older brother who was a high achiever in everything he did. He made excellent grades, was a good athlete, played the trombone, and NEVER got in trouble. Thankfully, my parents made it a point to not compare myself or my younger brother to our older sibling.

My younger brother can fix anything. He was this way as a young child. Whenever he visits, he fixes something. (Oh, about our coo-coo clock…when are you coming to visit?)

My parents expressed pleasure when I won the bubble-blowing contest, praised me for the grades I earned, and more importantly, supported my unique pursuits in artistic expression and theater, things my brothers did not do.

I do not remember a sense of competition in our home – but a realistic expectation that each of us would do our personal best. We are all different, and encouraging those differences seemed important in our family. My brothers may see it differently than I do, being the only girl, I always felt valued for who I was.

What a gift!

Phil and I tried to do the same with our four children, celebrating their differences and unique qualities. I can’t say that there was never competition between them, but it was self-inflicted, not from their father or me. The following Scripture is very meaningful to me –

Psalm 62:5   “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.

It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children.

We must make certain that our children know we love and accept them unconditionally. They must know that our love is not based on whether or not they meet our expectations.  The second part of that verse holds the key – “my expectation is from Him”. We must allow God to form our children according to HIS good pleasure, not ours.

I find this verse, Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified version, so encouraging –

“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–“

Now I can think of some pretty wonderful things to have happen for my children and grandchildren!

Yet this verse states the fact that what God, our Father, has planned for them is better than anything I can even think or dream!

So – the challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to let our expectations come from God.

Singing Scripture

Nana singing to twins

We often sang in the car as we traveled when I was young. My parents both had excellent voices and sang harmony, baritone and alto, in a mixed quartet while in college. They represented their school, Huntington College, Indiana, singing in various churches.

Since my parents both sang parts, someone had to carry the melody, so that fell to me. I can sing a melody line with the best of them, but I cannot sing a harmony part to save my life.

I wish I could.

We sang lots of hymns, gospel songs, folk songs, and what I think of as “camp fire songs”, Home on the Range, Cowboy Joe, etc.

I liked the gospel songs the best. They were upbeat, often had an echoing part, and were just plain fun to sing. They also rang true to me – they represented the Christian beliefs that were lived and taught in my home while growing up.

As I continued to grow, singing remained an important part of my life. In high school I started playing the guitar. I still play that same guitar today, 50 years later. I wanted to play the guitar to accompany singing, so I just play by ear, but I know LOTS of songs.

I was part of Christian singing groups in high school and college, and began learning scripture set to music.

Those scripture songs are so very dear to me. I will be thinking random thoughts and a scripture song will come to mind. I will then sing that scripture and be blessed by God’s word. It is hard for me to memorize Bible verses at my age, but I can easily remember words set to music.

It blesses my soul!

Gayleand Elaine in Israel

One of my most precious memories of our recent trip to Israel was singing scripture and hymns with my friend Elaine. We would see something, or hear someone share something and a scripture song would come to one of our minds. Several times Elaine and I had the same song on our hearts at the same time! What a blessing! We not only walked where Jesus walked, we sang as well.

Colossians 3:16

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

I will always be thankful for the musical heritage passed down to me by my parents. Phil and I sang a lot with our children, and although neither of us sing harmony, we sang lots of gospel songs, hymns, and scripture together. Truthfully, sometimes we sang to distract a fussy little traveler. It usually worked!

Now we sing with our grandchildren. I hope to pass down that same musical heritage to this next generation. An unexpected blessing has been the new songs that they teach me.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live…” Psalm 104:33

That is the cry of my heart.

Nana singing around campfire

 

 

Real Wonder Women

Four Generations 1979

I am staying with my mother this week following the replacement of her pacemaker.

Look out world, she has another 15 years on this new device!

At 89 my mother is an amazing example of someone who embraces life and sees each day as an adventure. She is a woman of strong convictions and loves people with genuine feeling. Get within ear shot and Mother will engage you in conversation, hoping to share at every opportunity “the hope that lies within her.”

There has been lots in the news recently about Wonder Woman, the movie and it’s groundbreaking success as a film about a female super hero. Alongside these stories have been additional offerings concerning the issues that women face in current culture, exploring efforts of women to “have it all” – by overcoming the glass ceilings in many areas of entertainment or careers, AND having satisfying and meaningful relationships.

The first question that arose in my mind was “What is “it“?

What exactly does it mean to “have it all?”

Certainly in our diverse and pluralistic society these commentators are not suggesting that “it” is the same for all of us women, are they?

While listening to these viewpoints it seemed that the prevailing attitude was that many women don’t reach their goals or dreams because their responsibilities to their families hold them back. Small children prevent them from becoming the CEO because they can’t leave an ill child at day care and therefore they miss the important board meeting insuring being passed over for a promotion. Is a promotion guaranteed if one doesn’t have children? I think not.

But the question remains… can a woman “have it all”?

That depends on what “it” is.

So, I asked myself… do I have it all? Did my mother?….did my Grandmother?

I look at the above picture and see women who have had it all. Yet, not all at once, nor in the same way.

Let me explain.

My grandmother emigrated from Sweden in 1920. She came to Chicago via Ellis Island with one suitcase. Her dream was to raise a family as an American citizen. She first worked as a maid, then a cook for a wealthy Chicago family. After meeting my grandfather, she married, had three daughters, raised two grandsons, eventually living in a lovely brick colonial home in a northern suburb of Chicago. She began oil painting when she was 55 and she continued painting until she was 90. Her greatest joy came from her relationship with God through Jesus Christ. She loved to quote Bible verses – sometimes out of context – and share the fact that Jesus loves each individual, regardless of who they are.

At the end of her life, she felt she had it all. She had lived the American dream and was going to spend eternity with her Lord and Savior.

My mother grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents. She married her college sweetheart before finishing her degree and soon had three children. She stayed home raising them, eventually getting an Associate Degree in Library Science when her children were in college. Together with another family they ran a family campground in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina during the summer for 22 years. After my father retired from teaching high school Biology, my parents went to teach at a mission school in Taiwan. This had been a dream of my mother’s since childhood – to serve in a foreign county. They lived and worked in Taiwan for 7 years returning to care for aging parents. My mother has participated in and taught women’s Bible studies for over 65 years and she has continued to do this in her 80’s.

My mother just turned 89 in May and she will tell you she has had it all. Not all at once, but she has lived fully and experienced things she didn’t dare to dream. (trips to Brazil at ages 86 and 87)

These women have lived purposeful, meaningful lives. They have not been paid seven-figure salaries. They have not had books written about them (yet) nor gone viral on YouTube (thankfully! well – almost).

Wonder Women!

Jesus said this – in Mark 9:34-38 (NIV)

34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.”

 

The point our culture misses is that the path to true greatness is servant-hood.

When we are serving our families as mothers and wives we are being obedient to a high calling. Jesus Himself placed children front and center as we see in verse 37.

Some women are called to places of authority – some are not. Having it all for daughters of our Heavenly Father means serving one another –  whether we are the CEO or the one who changes diapers.

These are the true Wonder Women  – the women who serve with a servant’s heart.

 

Company is Coming!

image

I am vacuuming. My children ask – “Who is coming over?”

so – I only vacuum when we have company?

Out of the mouths of babes….

I used to scurry around madly fussing at anyone in my way before we had company over. I always left things to the last-minute so I was stressed and made my family stressed as well.

This is the way I viewed hospitality when I was first married.  I had gotten all these wedding presents like –

  • dinner ware
  • silver ware
  • placemats
  • cloth napkins
  • matching glasses

So I thought hospitality was setting a lovely table with flowers and having people over for dinner. The first home Phil and I lived in was in Bryson City, next to the road – NEXT to the road. The rent was $65.00 a month. (can you picture a house that was torn down soon after we moved?)

We invited a couple over after church and I had made a meal of spaghetti (one of two dishes I could fix) and set a beautiful table with those wedding presents.

It was raining.

That would not have been a problem, but our roof leaked and there were four of five streams of water coming from the ceiling. The first thing we did when we entered with our guests was put bowls under each stream.

So much for the lovely table setting.

The dictionary defines hospitality this way –

  1. Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.
  2. synonyms – friendliness, welcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity,

Just look at those synonyms!

  • friendliness
  • welcome
  • helpfulness
  • warmth
  • kindness
  • courtesy
  • generosity

Hospitality can be so much more than inviting people to your home.

Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Each time I read about hospitality in scripture, it was connected to showing love.

I believe hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

AN ATTITUDE WHOSE BASIS IS LOVE.

Hospitality is an attitude of the heart.

I know a young woman named Sadie who lives hospitality. She invites people over and makes them feel at home, makes them tea and listens. Sadie lives hospitality.

It is the attitude of her heart.

I had the privilege of shadowing Elaine White at United Christian Ministries. Remember those synonyms for hospitality? friendlinesswelcome, helpfulness, warmthkindnesscourtesygenerosity, Elaine demonstrated every one of those with each person she saw.

It is an attitude of her heart.

A friend shared with me about opening her home to “strangers” – someone her daughter had met who needed a place to stay.

It did not go well.

But the attitude of her heart was to be welcoming, kind, and generous. She honored God – even though some people are unwilling to receive such love.

Sometimes showing hospitality is difficult.

It is not always easy – but God is asking us to have a hospitable heart.That may mean opening our homes, inviting people over.

It may mean being kind, friendly, and loving at Wal-Mart.

II John 1:12

“I have many things to write to you, but I prefer not to do so with paper and ink. I hope to see you and talk to you FACE TO FACE – so that our joy may be complete.”

Face to face –

this is when we can practice hospitality – whether it is in our home, while we work, when we see someone at Wal-Mart.

Then our joy may be complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.