Queen Esther

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“Heaven is rejoicing!”

That is what I said to our children after my brother called yesterday evening to tell me our mother had passed through the veil of this life to her eternal home. I believe that with all my heart.

Heaven is rejoicing.

Esther lived up to her name – she believed she was royalty because she was a daughter of the King of Kings. Mother acted like royalty in the sense that she believed she had inherited all the riches of God’s blessings – and she lived like that. She expected good things to happen to her, and why shouldn’t they? She was a daughter of the King!

When her beautiful amaryllis bloomed for the second time this past year, she called me in an excited voice and said – “I’m sending you a picture – you won’t believe it unless you see it! It is blooming again! God blessed me again!”

Esther saw seemingly little things, even what others might accept as everyday occurrences as blessings from God. By recognizing God’s hand in the world around her, she was constantly blessed by the riches of His grace. Her smile was a reflection of God’s love in her heart.

My mother was 90 years old, born Esther Kathleen Rohner on May 17, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the 3rd of three daughters born to Svea Elise Anderson and Rouleau Lester Rohner.

Just like the queens in literature, my mother had shortcomings. She set high standards for herself and at times imposed those same standards on others. Yet Esther was willing to admit her failings and receive forgiveness.

Mother touched so many lives with her exuberant love for Jesus and God’s Word. She did this literally throughout the world, in Wheaton, Illinois, in North Carolina for 30 years, in Taiwan for 7 years, and even in trips to Brazil at age 86 and 87.

“After 80 you can say what you want!” she once told me with a twinkle in her eye. That means she had 10 years to speak her mind! Look out!

Heaven is rejoicing, and our family is blessed to have had royalty among us for so long. Esther will be greatly missed, but she is with her King. She told my older brother Garry this week that she “just wanted to finish strong.” She did!

2 Timothy 4:7-9 (NLT)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Queen Esther is now wearing that crown of righteousness.

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Four Generations 1979

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Supporting Our Children’s Teachers

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In my 25 plus years of teaching I learned some important lessons about communication between parents and teachers.

Some of these lessons I learned because of mistakes I made. I want to share these thoughts with the hope that each of us allows God’s grace to overshadow all we do as parents, grandparents, and teachers. It can be especially hard when the parent is also a teacher! I remember….

So – here goes:

  •  don’t believe everything your child says – check it out.

I had a parent come see me my second year of teaching and ask me if I had dressed up as a moose. No, I had not. In talking further, we realized that I had a dress with a white pinafore (this was 1975) and that the child was trying to tell her mother that I had dressed like Mother Goose – only the child said “moose”. I am so glad she came to ME, and thankful this was before Facebook!

  •  if you have a concern, ask about it respectfully, don’t
    accuse

I remember thinking “why didn’t the teacher let me know about this field trip, assignment, etc. earlier” only to find out a note was sent home – but never given to me. Not the teacher’s fault.

  •  if you have a concern, write a note or an email that says something like this – “I am concerned about Jimmy’s __________ (fear, negative attitude, apathy, lack of understanding of new material, etc) and I was wondering when I could meet to talk with you about it. Is there something I could be doing at home to address this concern?”

Showing up during class or calling during class is NOT a good idea. Teachers want and need to be teaching during class. Waiting around right after school unannounced may also be a problem because the teacher may have after school duty, a faculty meeting, or a sports event for their own child. A note expresses your willingness to respect the teacher’s schedule as well as let the teacher know you want to work together for the good of the child.

  • Whenever something positive happens, especially after you have expressed concerns, share appreciation for what the teacher has done and is doing. It means so much and it also sets a good example for our children.

Eleven of our 12 grandchildren have started back to school. Four of them had their first day today! Some of these grandchildren are in classes of 30 or more. Those teachers have all those precious minds and hearts (and not so precious bodies:) to teach 5 days a week. We must remember to pray for them!

As a former teacher I must remember not to criticize or complain about my grandchildrens’ teachers. God is in control, I need to trust.

The two following verses are a good reminder for teachers, parents, and grandparents since we all share the responsibility of teaching our children.

Proverbs 15:2 (TLB)

2 A wise teacher makes learning a joy;

Proverbs 16:21 (TLB)

21 The wise man is known by his common sense, and a pleasant teacher is the best.

May God Bless this school year!

Heirloom Plants and People

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Heirloom plants are all the rage now. At our local farmers market you can find plants that our grandparents ate frequently, but that I had never seen for sale locally. One plant that is becoming increasingly visible is beets. If you believe the “info-mercials”, beets are the answer to all the physical and mental problems one might face.

My grandparents ate beets. LOTS of beets. Grandma Barker was a wonderful cook, but I never developed a taste for her beets. Grandma and Grandpa Barker moved into our home when I was 11 years old and they brought their beets with them. Grandpa Barker loved potatoes at every meal and Grandma cooked the most delicious potato dishes. Fried potatoes with onions, scalloped potatoes, potato salad, boiled potatoes, and mashed “to perfection” potatoes.

Yet the image of the beet juice creeping slowly across their plates and turning the delicious mashed potatoes pinkish purple still sends culinary chills up my spine.

I have been thinking recently about the heirloom plants that people are now planting in their gardens. I have some heirloom flowering plants that were on our property when we bought it and are as old as our home built in 1880.

What is this fascination we have with the past?

Obviously everyone does not have it. One of our daughters lives in a home where all the furniture is new. It is lovely.

We buy old, vintage furniture and treasure the family heirlooms we are fortunate enough to have. We nurture and protect the old plants and flowers that grace our yard with their perennial beauty.

Truth be told, new appliances are a blessing. I am thankful for a washer and dryer, even though I enjoy using a clothes line, weather permitting. I am glad I don’t have to use a wringer washer and heat the water on the woodstove to wash our clothes. We actually have an heirloom hot water heater in our cellar. It is cast iron and was fed with coal. Our electric hot water heater sits next to it connecting to the hot water pipes that plumb our house. I’m glad I don’t have to stoke a coal fire every time I need a shower!

There is a balance between honoring the heirlooms of our past and utilizing the benefits and innovations of our current culture.

My mother recently gave me my Grandma Barker’s Bible. It is a King James Version which my Grandmother gave to her father, George Auman, in 1946. He was a pastor in the United Brethren in Christ denomination. My Great-grandmother gave it back to Grandma Barker in 1956 after Great-grandpa Auman passed away. Grandma had it rebound in 1964 and she writes in the fly leaf – “The * in the margins are Dad’s markings.”

Grandma has written many notes throughout this Bible in her beautiful, distinct hand. It is well worn, well read, and an heirloom I treasure. It demonstrates her sincere faith on every marked page.

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In II Timothy 1:5, Paul says –

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

As a grandmother now myself, I want to live like Lois did, like Grace Auman Barker, my grandmother did.

I want my grandchildren to remember my sincere faith.

And when they see the carefully tended heirloom flowers, or the notes in my journals and Bible, I hope it points them to the God who loves them and blesses them as Grandma’s Bible blesses me.

 

 

In My Garden With God # 13

“Before you know it, …”

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“Before you know it, that kudzu will creep right on in your bed!”

One of the pleasures of walking for exercise is the encounters you have with people who are also walking.

Now some of you are thinking…”I like to exercise alone.” Good for you.  But I know that once I moved away from my walking buddy – Alice Marie – my exercise level went way down. I do better when I talk and walk.

So – on Monday as I was walking by myself,  I saw another frequent walker. We greeted one another and then started talking about all the rain we have had recently. Weather is a frequent topic because it affects all of us and our walking. Then we talked about our gardens, what was doing well – cucumbers, which like the rain, and what was not doing so well – tomatoes – which prefer hot, dry weather.

Then our conversation moved on to kudzu. Kudzu must REALLY like the rain because it is growing up a storm! My friend mentioned that she and her husband used to own some land where they had cows and never had any trouble with kudzu. When they sold the land, the new owners didn’t want cows and before long called and asked what they could do about all the kudzu. It was taking over their land.

“Before you know it, it will creep right on in your bed!” my fellow walker said.

We laughed together, knowing just how close to the truth that statement is.

A little Kudzu history – it originally came from Japan –

“In the decades that followed kudzu’s formal introduction at the 1876 World’s Fair Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, farmers found little use for a vine that could take years to establish, was nearly impossible to harvest and couldn’t tolerate sustained grazing by horses or cattle. But in 1935, as dust storms damaged the prairies, Congress declared war on soil erosion and enlisted kudzu as a primary weapon. More than 70 million kudzu seedlings were grown in nurseries by the newly created Soil Conservation Service.”  Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/#tvkuq1M1sB0CAeTS.99

So – kudzu found a home in the United States to combat soil erosion.

A good motivation – an unexpected result.

I thought about this and a parallel principle to Spiritual growth.

As Christians we are often looking for “quick fixes” to our problems. Some of the these ideas are good. They even work for a time. But there are unexpected results that we didn’t anticipate.

A few examples:

  • marriages in the church are struggling – have a marriage conference
  • children don’t want to sit quietly in church services –  offer children’s church

The marriage conference may offer great information, but what about a month later when the old conflicts rear their ugly heads (and they will) what does that couple do?Having a mature, Godly couple mentor those struggling in their marriages provides ongoing support and PRAYER which is powerful in effecting real, sustained change.

Children’s Church can be a blessing for parents who want to focus on worship. Yet these children specific offerings often become entertainment, not real worship. They do not prepare children to block out distractions so they learn to focus on worshiping the King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, their Lord and Savior. Toddlers do need separate space. But once children begin school, they are able to learn to participate in the most important activity of human experience – Worship of God. By participating in worship, children will learn to worship.

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We must make sure that we are not practicing “quick fixes” in our spiritual lives that cause us and our children to experience unexpected consequences.

Before you know it….!

 

In My Garden with God – #12

“They Need to See Each Other”

When my father passed away several dear friends gave me gift cards to purchase a plant in his honor. This was especially fitting since my father was a botanist and naturalist, as well as a biology teacher.

I knew immediately what I wanted to plant in his honor… an American chestnut tree, blight resistant.

When my father became a seasonal ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1959, one still saw many towering gray tree trunks of dead American chestnuts, the last vestiges of a once mighty species of tree in our mountain forests.

Years later when my parents were living with us, Dad told me that he had read about a blight resistant American chestnut that had been developed and was showing promise of thriving in our mountain habitat. He mentioned that we should get one. I called around to a few local nurseries and no one had any of this variety yet.

So, after my father passed away at 91 years old, I again called the nursery and sure enough, they had American chestnut trees. Phil and I went to pick one up and the man helping us said,

“Now you need two so they can cross pollinate and you then you will get chestnuts.”

Of course – Biology 101.

Thinking about the many trees on our property already,  I asked, “How close do I need to plant them?”

“They need to see each other.” he said.

I smile every time I remember this conversation. As I was weeding around those two trees recently, which by the way are growing very well, I was reminded of a spiritual principle that those trees illustrate perfectly.

Trees will only bear fruit, (or nuts) if they are close enough to each other to cross pollinate. As Christians, we will only bear fruit if we are in close relationship to other Christians. We need the cross pollination of our brothers and sisters in faith to keep us growing spiritually in healthy ways.

Some of the effects of cross pollination are:

  • recognizing Truth vs. deception
  • being held accountable to Godly behavior
  • growing the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, self control, etc.
  • learning from what the Lord is impressing on fellow believers
  • being challenged to love and good works
  • reproducing more Christians

It is hard to demonstrate REAL love, patience, or self control if we are all alone. Expressing real love requires an object of that love. My patience is most often challenged by others and I learn to be patient by practicing it on others. It is hardest to demonstrate self control over my tongue when there is actually someone around to hear me. It is through close contact with others that I cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:12-13, 18-21 says the following –

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

We need each other – to grow, to be healthy, to reproduce.

We must remain close to others Christians, close enough to see each other.

 

In My Garden with God #10

 

 

 

It’s All About the Soil

 

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When folks see our yard, they often ask – “How do you get these plants to grow so well?”

First, I always stress that we are just the caretakers, God is the source. I truly mean that – it is NOT just a statement of false humility. Phil and I have moved plants, sometimes multiple times – until we find just the right location for them to thrive. But, then the rich mountain soil fulfills its God ordained function.

Phil – “I thought we moved this plant last year.”

Gayle – “We did, but I think it will do better over here.”

Phil – “It looks fine here.”

Gayle – “Yes, but it needs more sun to bloom. Just dig the hole, please”

Phil – “Is this why you married me?”

Gayle  – “Yes” (smile – always smile)

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The MOST important factor in the beauty of the plants in our yard is the soil. We had nothing to do with that. Over the years, many leaves and plant matter have decomposed creating a rich, nutritious soil that results in beautiful plants and flowers. That is one of the many blessings of living in an older home. Some of our shrubs and trees are very old and we receive the blessing of their beauty year after year.

But it started with good dirt.

I was thinking about this as I was reading in Ephesians as part of our Bible study. We are in chapter 6. In verse 4, Paul says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In the Amplified translation verse 4 says this –

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I try to place our plants in the best location for that plant. Hostas need shade, Shasta daisies need sun. ALL plants need the good foundation of rich, nutritious soil so their roots can grown down deep in that soil.

As we raise our children, we must first and foremost make sure that we provide a good foundation (soil). In a family this means a safe, secure, loving environment where the child can grow. As the child grows, we must then provide nurture for the specific needs that child may have. Just as all plants don’t require the same amount of sun, each child will not thrive in the same activities or learning environment.

Raising plants are a fitting parallel to raising children. If I place a hosta in full sun, just because my crepe myrtles do well there, the hostas are sure to burn up in the summer heat. Our native plant section is at the edge of the yard where these lovely plants thrive under the canopy of  poplar and oak trees, their natural habitat. When Phil and I move a plant, we study where it has thrived in nature and move it to a similar environment.

We must do the same as parents. Society now labels some of our children “special needs” which I feel is a respectful way to understand that these children have their individual path for growth and development. Yet ALL children have unique needs and recognizing those needs will help ensure their full growth and development. Those who don’t fit into the “traditional school mold”, (like most little boys) will need increased attention to their specific situations. Like some of my plants, they may need to be moved (i.e. try various strategies) several times before just the right place is found.

God is SO patient with us!

My dear friend Julianna is facing challenges with her special needs son, Hawk. They are facing these challenges with faith and grace, choosing to celebrate each step of progress no matter how small. Hawk is blessed to be in this family. Instead of focusing on what Hawk is unable to do at this time, they get excited over each new accomplishment.

We must provide the “soil” as parents – that firm foundation. Then as verse 4 says –  bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Each child is unique. Each child is precious in God’s sight.

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In My Garden With God – 9

Nesting

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In winter, when all the leaves are off the trees, you see things that are not visible when foliage is full. We have found several nests recently and looking at their structure causes amazement and wonder. Birds are master builders using various materials to form nests that perfectly meet the needs of their species.

The small nest in the picture above has sticks that form the outside shape, then grasses, and an inside layer of fine, soft fibers. Perfectly suited for this small bird’s eggs.

Nests are made in a wide variety of sizes and materials. We found one that was almost exclusively sticks, nothing soft or cushiony about it. A humming bird nest found in our forsythia bush is tiny, just as the birds who built it are.

I can see some large nests very high in the poplar tress on the ridge behind our house. I would love to see inside the nests and see how they are constructed. I am not sure what kind of birds built these nests, but they must be large.

I will  NOT be climbing any ladders to check them out. Please Phil, don’t get your ladder out!

Phil is engaging in his yearly perusal of garden catalogs. He has already ordered some seeds and is planning where he will plant things this year. I think Phil especially enjoys doing this because of the anticipation of a harvest. That is a long way off from our current winter weather, but Phil loves being outside and planning the garden is a sign to him that winter will end and spring, summer, and fall will come in succession.

Jesus refers to planting in this passage in Luke 13: 18-20 AMP

18 So this led Him to say, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky found shelter and nested in its branches.”

What struck me about this passage that Jesus used to describe the kingdom of God is the result of the man’s planting.

I would assume he planted mustard seeds to get mustard. (which by the way is my favorite condiment) The verses do not say anything about the man planting seeds to get a tree so that birds could nest in it! 

Yet that is just what happened, and what Jesus compared to the kingdom of God.

What this spoke to me was the fact that we as “gardeners”  will plant “seeds”, but the end results may be very different than we planned. Or, there may be additional results that are totally unexpected!

This is so true with children and grandchildren, isn’t it?

How I want to embrace this aspect of the Kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom is the place where God reigns – where God’s authority rules.

That place must be my heart.

I must be willing to let “seeds” I plant produce mustard, or grow into large trees so that others can find shelter and nest.

I will plant – God is in charge of the results.

God’s will – God’s way.

 

In My Garden with God – 3