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.

 

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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.

Cool, Refreshing Water

It has been SO hot! I know we have not had the extremely high temperatures that many places have, but 90 is very hot for us mountain folk. So, Phil and I took some of our grandchildren to the river.

Getting in the cool water that flows from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was so refreshing! We brought tubes and some of us floated in the cool wetness, while others stacked rocks, threw rocks, or just played in the water.

It felt so good.

As I floated, leaning back on the headrest of my tube, I found myself reflecting on just how lovely it felt to relax in the coolness of the river.

It was refreshing, something I needed after the heat of the day.

I also need spiritual refreshing from time to time because of the stress (heat) of life.  It builds up, just as heat does, and we can be overcome by that pressure without realizing it.

Jesus addresses this very issue in John 7: 37-39

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Rivers of living water flowing from within!

This refreshing, flowing, continuous LIFE comes from the Holy Spirit. When I feel overwhelmed, discouraged, even defeated spiritually, I must allow the Holy Spirit to flow in and through me. This living water, the Holy Spirit, is received when we become Christians, and dwells within us.

Just as the cool water of the river refreshes me physically, God’s Holy Spirit refreshes me spiritually.

May we be faithful to let the living water flow.

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

 

 

Heart Condition

I took my mother to her heart doctor today as a follow up to having her pace maker replaced last week. She is doing well, the incision is healing nicely, and the data from the pace maker indicates that her heart is doing what it is designed to do.

We are thankful.

We then visited her family practice doctor to ask about some slight swelling in Mother’s legs. He asked her several questions, questions designed to reveal if  there is anything going on in the rest of her body that might signal a heart condition. The answers indicated that mother has been more active since I have been visiting with her, and that the extreme heat here in Chicagoland is causing that bit of swelling.

Nothing to be concerned about.

We were glad we went to the doctor and it got me to thinking about the questions doctors ask. Questions designed to reveal information about conditions that may not show up on the surface, but could be of grave concern. Those questions could reveal heart conditions that are hidden from view.

The questions we ask reveal much about who we are, don’t they?

I remember being in the hospital with my father right before he passed away. His condition was a mystery at first, and five different specialists were consulted to try to determine what was wrong.

Each specialist came to talk to my mother, my brother and sister-in-law, and myself. We listened to their preliminary diagnosis, and then were asked if we had any questions.

My brother would ask a question, and immediately you could see a change in the specialist’s deminor. They would ask, “Are you a medical person?” They knew immediately, without my brother saying so, that he had medical knowledge by the vocabulary he used, by the insight he had into what the specialists shared. My brother is a family practice physician and had been on the other end of these conversations countless times. His questions revealed who he is.

Jesus did the same thing when people came to Him seeking help. Jesus asked questiones to determine the condition of their hearts.

In Matthew 19:3-6 Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees. Jesus asks them a question to test their hearts.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Jesus knew they were trying to trap him, but instead Jesus revealed the condition of their hearts.

We must guard our hearts that they do not become hard. Our words reveal the condition of our hearts, don’t they?

Jesus says in Matthew 12:34b

For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart,

I pray that our hearts are in good condition.

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.