Thursday, February 28, 2013

5 - My Story, God's Story - Emotional Teen Years

I think I would rather just skip the teen years.  My memories seem to be based on boyfriends and tears...they always went together.  Mostly I experienced a lot of emotions, typical to teens, and I wish I could have "grown up", "matured", handled those years better than I did.  I'll just start down this hallway and see where it leads.  I hope God prompts some good memories for me.

When I was in seventh grade, my parents decided to spend the whole school year in Florida, and not make us change schools.  I have a funny memory from 7th grade.  I had a new purse...more like a train case, a popular style back then.  It was my first day to carry it, and it was sitting by my desk.  When a student to the right of me asked for a piece of paper, the student to the left of me handed one over to me to give to him.  But he let go of it, and it was floating back and forth in the air, headed to the floor.  I tried to catch it, and I fell out of my desk and landed on my purse!  I put a big dent in it!!  Can you just imagine that scene?  I was totally embarrassed, totally upset I had smashed my new purse, and totally struck by how funny it was for others to watch.  I still grin every time that memory comes to me.  Perhaps one of my most embarrassing moments.  Seventh grade girls can be so self-conscious!

I remember after lunch, just before art class, taking a dime to the Tropicana Orange Juice machine to purchase a box of orange juice.  I can still taste it in my memory today.  That was good stuff, and it didn't hurt that we could smell the Tropicana factory in the air.  7th grade was a time of lots of girl friends.  We would go to each other's houses on the weekends.  One friend had a swimming pool, but I don't recall swimming in it.  Another friend and I would ride bikes around her neighborhood.

I wrote a poem in 7th grade, and the words still come back to me:

In the year of '62
The war with Cuba might come true.
Are you right or are you wrong?
I don't care, just sing a song.
If you're wrong, you better get right,
Because the Lord might come tonight!

Okay, so I never really made it as a poet, but it's funny to me how that one poem has stuck in my head through the last fifty years.  I'm sure I must have written other poems, but none of them come back to me.  

Certainly church was an important part of my life.  Most of my girlfriends were from church, and there was a cute boy I really liked, but we were just friends, and I was happy with that.  At church I was on the Bible Quiz Team, and we studied the Gospel of John.  The one verse that I recall from that study is John 8:32:  "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  I must have been impressed with that verse, for it too has stuck with me down through the last 50 years.  Certainly I am a person who thrives on truth, and cannot tolerate lies and deceit and dishonesty.  I have trouble respecting people who are dishonest in any way.  Certainly I keep my distance!

Just as we spent the whole school year in Florida during my seventh grade, the next year, 8th grade, we stayed in Michigan for the duration of the school year.  In fact, Mom and Dad quit taking their trips to Florida until I graduated.  I wonder how much of a sacrifice that was for them?  I never thought about it until just now.  I know it was a lot easier for me to stay in the same school as a teenager than to keep changing schools.  I really think it was for Mike and me that our parents made that decision.  After I graduated, and Mike had graduated two years before me, they were back to wintering in Florida.

While I was in 8th grade, I had my first real boyfriend.  He was two years older than me and we went to the same church.  We could sit together as long as it was the pew ahead or the pew behind my parents.  We never really dated, but we attended church parties together, and rode the bus together to youth camp.  Because he was in high school, and I was in Junior High, we didn't see each other at school, and I started being interested in other boys my age.  Again, nothing serious, and nothing lasted long.  

I didn't actually go out on a date alone with a boy until I was 16.  Then I met Larry.  He was a delinquent, transferred in from another school, and lived on a farm as a hired hand as a means of helping him overcome his delinquency.  We were two opposites, for sure.  I must have appealed to him as a challenge he wanted to conquer, a good girl, a church girl.  Mom and Dad wouldn't let me date him unless he came to church, so he did.  As I look back on those years, I wish Mom and Dad had never late me date him, but they were trying to give me some latitude too, I guess. I think this is another chapter for another post.  It's a long story.  Not one I really want to share, but it is a major portion of my story, God's story.  So, until next time....

Saturday, February 23, 2013

4 - My Story, God's Story - Elementary School Years

If I told you I attended a one room country school, would that give my age away?  I am so glad I was able to be in on the tail end of that genre of education, to experience eight grades all in one room, with one teacher.  When you reached high school (9th grade), you rode the bus into town and attended the public high school.  If you lived in town, you attended a public school...several classrooms, several teachers, but just one grade in each classroom.  However, if you lived in the country, and I was only two miles from town, you attended a one room country school, until it closed down...which is what happened to my school after fifth grade.

We lived one mile from the school, and I had to walk both ways...even as a kindergartner.  I can't imagine sending a five year old on a one mile walk today without a chaperon.  It's just not a safe world any more.  Usually you walked to school with neighborhood kids that lived near by, and that helped pass the time.  On a snowy winter day, you might stop and slide on some of the road banks.  On a spring day, perhaps you would stop to pick some dandelions along the way.  However long it took us to walk to school, or to walk home, it didn't seem so boring when you had friends to talk and play with.

In the school room, wet mittens were laid around the pot-bellied stove to dry off for recess.  Girls had a coat room and bathroom on one side of the building and the boys had their rooms on the other side.  There was a fridge for the milk bottles, which were delivered every day for lunch.  There was a little poem on the bottle, "We've come to visit, not to stay.  Return our bottles every day."  At lunch time we would grab our lunch pail and our bottle of milk (white or chocolate) and sit around desks with friends.  Recess came after lunch. We played soft ball, or group games like Red Rover, or played on the swings, slide, or teeter-totter.  There were several tall lilac bushes that were grown together and made like a play house inside them.  All ages all played together.  We had our reading groups broken down into classes by age/grade, but our music and square dancing was for all of us together.  We put on school bazaars and Christmas plays, and at the end of every school year we would all go to the Roller Rink on our last day, and have a picnic at the park.

Remember in an earlier post I mentioned that we would go to Florida in the winder so Dad could find work as a carpenter.  That meant leaving the one room country school behind, and being put in a large city school. Then, before school was out, we were taken back to Michigan to finish that school year.  I guess it didn't bother me too much, as I don't remember any fears.  Since we lived in different rental places each winter, I didn't always go to the same school.  At the close of my 6th grade, Dad and Mom decided to stay in Florida until school was out for the summer.  On the last day of school all of the classes assembled in the auditorium for a program.  I don't recall how it came about, but I do remember directing a play from Children's Bible Hour.  That was a radio program for children with Aunt Bertha and Uncle Charlie with character building stories (presented in dramas) and songs and Bible verses.  When the assembly was over, I headed out the door and got in the station wagon with my Mom, Dad, and brother, and we started back to Michigan.  Funny how that memory comes back to me after all these years.

I remember having the measles in third grade.  I told Mom I didn't feel good, but she made me go to school anyway.  Then the school called her and told her I had the measles and to come and get me.  I remember laying in bed with sunglasses on and Mom waiting on me.  It wasn't much fun.  I would rather have been at school with my friends.

Those are the memories that come back to me tonight as I type this post.  I had a happy childhood.  I had lots of friends at school and at church.  I liked playing Dominoes and Old Maid with my Grandma.  Sometimes in the winter we lived together, as she and Grandpa (maternal grandparents) would go to Florida also.  Usually they stayed longer than we did.  The car trips were long, but I liked seeing the different states we drove through.  My favorite signs were "See Rock City", and sure enough...we would stop and "see seven states" from Point Lookout.  Never did I realize that one day I would live near Chattanooga!  That I would raise my children in East Tennessee.  Half way between my homes in Michigan and my homes in Florida. I a Yankee, a Florida Cracker, or a Hillbilly?  I guess I could say yes to all of them.  The Great Smoky Mountains, however, has the strongest pull on my heart.  Thank you, Jesus, for the variety of education and experiences you allowed me to have as I grew up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

3 - My Story, God's Story - Childhood Memories

When I came along, I was Mom and Dad's second child.  My brother was born two plus years before me.  I don't know if Mom's fall was the reason for not having any more children after me, or that's just the way it was.  I never asked, didn't even question, didn't matter.  My brother and I got along fairly well.  Probably most of my early memories come from watching the 8 mm home movies that Mom and Dad made while we were young.

I mentioned in my last blog that Dad was a carpenter, just like Joseph, the father of Jesus.  He was self-employed most of his life.  He would build homes in Michigan in the spring, summer, and fall, then we would go south to Florida for the winter months where he would build a couple of houses a year.  That kept him occupied year round, and believe me, Dad was a man who liked to keep busy.  He was honest, he was fair, and he liked to help young couples get started, so he sold his houses as inexpensively as he could afford.  He never made big money.  What he did make, he made sure he paid his tithe before anything else.

As I got older, Dad would help build parsonages and churches for those churches who did not have much money.  He did this in Michigan and in other states, and eventually he started going to the mission fields to donate his labor.  Rather than build houses in Florida in the winter, he would take his summer earnings and finance his trip and the materials to build churches and schools and whatever was needed in areas like Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Virgin Islands, and other South American countries which I cannot recall.  Sometimes Mom went with him, but mostly her health did not permit her to do so.  She would get his trips all lined up for him, and coordinate the crew that went along with him (other volunteers...friends, family, church people).  I say all of this to say Dad was an example of how to live for the Lord, giving way beyond his tithes and offerings...he gave himself.  He would sacrifice getting a new car if there was a mission work that needed him to come and help build.  That impressed my brother the most, for he cared more about new cars than I did.  We both knew, however, that with Dad, the Lord was first in his life.

Dad took time for us also.  I remember one time when he took my Mom to get a new hat, and I was with them.  Back in those days hats were kept in drawers at the dress shops.  The clerk got a hat out for Mom to try on, and then she leaned against the drawer shutting it.  Well, what she didn't know was that I had my fingers wrapped around the edge of the drawer and as it shut suddenly, there were my fingers caught in the drawer!  I just started crying silently...wouldn't say anything.  Dad looked down and saw me and saw my dilemma.  He quickly put me up on his shoulders and took me down to the corner ice cream store to get me a cone, knowing that would make everything better.  It did, but it is the memory that stayed with me that meant the most.  Dad was showing his love for Mom and for me that day, and I've never forgotten it.

I have another memory from my early years that I've never forgotten.  Mom and Dad washed my mouth out with soap for telling a lie.  I was four years old, not old enough for school yet.  My brother was in 1st grade and every day Mom packed a lunch for him.  I knew where she kept the candy a high cupboard that I could not reach.  One day Mom and Dad and my brother were all outside working in the yard, and I got a stool and climbed up and got a candy bar.  Somehow they knew, but when they asked me if I had taken a candy bar, I said no.  Well..the proof was in the pudding, and I was caught.  First time I remember getting my mouth washed out with soap, and the last time.  I was a quick learner!!  Somehow that stayed with me, and honesty became an all important character trait for me.  I didn't like to be lied to, and still don't.  Ask my boys and granddaughters if they ever had their mouth washed out with soap!!

Candy bars were a down fall for me, however.  I didn't tell another lie, but I did steal.  When I was ten years old we lived near a corner convenience store in Florida during our winter stay down south, and somehow I managed to steal a candy bar.  While we were back in Michigan the next fall, a neighboring church had a revival, and our family went to it every night.  One night I was under conviction about that stolen candy bar, and I went down to the altar all by myself to ask Jesus to forgive me and to give me a clean heart and live in my heart.  I consider that to be the time of my salvation experience, and it was when I was eleven.  I guess you might say it was when the age of accountability caught up with me, and I knew that I had to make Jesus my personal Savior if I wanted to go to heaven some day.  Well, Mom came and knelt down beside me to pray with me about accepting Jesus into my heart, and I knew I needed to tell her about the stolen candy bar.  I knew I needed to confess my sins to Jesus, but somehow I knew I Mom needed to  know also if I truly wanted to be saved.  Mom did not scold me, she just prayed with me and hugged me.

The next winter while we were in Florida, we were near that corner convenience store one day, and Mom told me it would be good to go in there and tell them what I had done, and pay for the candy bar.  Gulp.  Dad had a word for that...restitution.  Dad was big into restitution because he had so much to make right when he was a teenager and found Jesus as his Savior.  He knew that was the only way to get a clean slate and a fresh start.  So, they gave me a nickle to go in and pay for the candy bar, and sent me in on my own.  I went to the clerk at the check-out counter, and the owner of the store was there also.  I looked up at them and gave them my nickle and told them what I had done the year before.  It wasn't easy, but I know Jesus helped me.  I wanted to be clean all over, and it was something I needed to do.  The store owner was so impressed that a little girl would confess her crime and want to make it right that he took my nickle, and gave me two more pieces of candy for telling the truth.  Wow.  Does it pay to serve Jesus, or what!!!  Big lesson for me that day!!!  I was skipping and singing as I left the store that day!!

There have been other times in my life when I needed to make restitution, nudged by the Holy Spirit.  One was for taking a pair of scissors from my home economics class that wasn't mine. I rationlized it was okay to take the scissors because mine came up missing.  Later on, as an adult, I ended up sending the school a check to pay for them, and confessing what I had done.

Then there was the time I bought two rose bushes and the rain had washed the price out on the tickets.  What I thought was $3 was actually $8, I noticed when I got home.  So, I went back to the store to make it right.  You may think that was just human error, no big deal.  Guess what...Jesus knew.  I didn't want to get to heaven's gates and have Him say to me I couldn't enter because I had cheated that store way back when.  No...I wanted everything in my life in order so I never had to wonder, never had to live with guilt.  Do you know how freeing that is?  Restitution, making things right.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for teaching me that when I was a child.

Mom and Dad taught me by their words and their actions how to live a Christian life.  That included being at the church whenever something was going on there, and volunteering at the church in any way we could.  On Saturdays we would go out to the country and visit some poor families, taking shoes or whatever was needed, and then on Sunday we would go back and pick up the kids and take them to Sunday School.  On Sundays we would sometimes go to the "old people's home" and visit elderly shut in people.  The smell was bad, and it seemed like such a sad place to live, but Dad and Mom would go, taking us kids, and we would read the Bible and sing songs for those people.  What a tremendous example was set before me in how my parents served the Lord...with their words, with their money, and with their actions.  My childhood memories are sprinkled with the love of Jesus as seen and felt in the lives of my parents.  I was so blessed, and didn't realize it at the time.  I took it all for granted.  Thank you, Jesus, for Mom and Dad!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

2 - My Story, God's Story - The Beginning

I like that I was born in 1950, mid-way through the 20th century.  That's an easy number to work with when I am trying to remember how old I am.  When people ask me how old my kids are, I tell them I don't know, but I can tell you what year they were born in.  However, those years end in odd numbers, and doing the subtraction just isn't as easy as 1950.  Think what else came out of the 50's...."I Love Lucy", "Mighty Mouse", Annette and Frankie of the Mouseketeers, "Little Rascals", "Red Skelton".  That was what was on our black and white console television.  But you can be sure, the TV stayed off on Sundays!!  That was the day to go to church and take afternoon naps, or stay in our rooms.

Yes, I was born into a conservative Christian home, with parents that believed in starting each day with praying together, and saying the Lord's Prayer at the close of our family prayer time.  I am so glad Dad made that a priority for his family.  I cherish the memories of hearing him pray, and I never doubted that was speaking directly to God Almighty.  Dad wasn't raised in a Christian home, and he wanted his home to be different.

Dad was one of twelve children, six boys and six girls.  He was raised on a farm, and none of his siblings, nor he, became farmers.  At age 17 he found the Lord in a church revival, and after that he told the horses he wouldn't kick them any more, or be mean to them any longer.  Most of his brothers and sisters also became Christians over time.  His mother, my paternal grandmother, was a Christian, but she was so busy raising 12 kids and feeding thrashers, time didn't permit her to go to church.  Grandpa wanted nothing to do with religion.  But we would often go visit Grandpa and Grandma on Sunday afternoons before we headed to the evening church service.  Seems like Dad usually had prayer with them before we left.  And Grandpa always gave me and my brother a stick of gum from his overalls pocket.  He walked with a cane, and he played a harmonica.  He was always smiling when we were around.

My Mom was an only child of her parents, but she had two half-sisters and one half-brother.  She was her mother's only child.  I think that may be why Grandma always gave me special attention.  The other Grandma had so many grandkids, I never felt like she even knew who I was, but my maternal Grandmother and I were very always very close.  She also was a church-goer and a devote Christian, although her husband was not, and never attended church in all the years he lived, to my knowledge.  We would often have Sunday dinner at their house, and the first words out of my mouth when the prayer was said, were "Please pass the mashed potatoes!"  Grandma was quite a cook...homemade noodles to go with her beef, home canned fruits and vegetables (from their garden), homemade sugar cookies...huge soft ones.  Grandpa and Grandma also had a strawberry farm, selling their berries to the local grocery store.  We often had biscuits and strawberries for lunch (we would help pick the berries), and that would be the whole meal.  Even today that is one of my husband's favorite meals...just biscuits and strawberries.  Yum...

Mom and Dad were leaving her parents' house one Sunday after dinner, back in 1950, and Mom fell down the back steps to the garage.  Dad took her to the hospital, and before too long, I was born.  Until today I never thought to ask Mom if she had any injuries from that fall, other than hurrying up the labor process.  I do know that Mom had a history of severe falls, and in fact, her final fall, from which she never recovered, was at the bowling alley after throwing her third strike in a row.  She turned around too fast in her excitement, fell, and broke her hip.  Within a few months all of her other complications took her life.  However, God gave her to me for 47 years.  Many times cancer was out to destroy her, and God would restore her and give us more years together.  She was able to live long enough to be a loving Grandma to our two sons, her Buddy and her Punkin.

Well, this story is about me, but I had a beginning with two wonderful Godly parents.  They set the tone of the home, and made serving the Lord their number one priority.  There was never a time when I rebelled or turned my back on what they taught me to believe.  I am so grateful for that foundation.  I often say one of the greatest gifts God ever gave me was being born into a home with Christian parents.  I wish you could hear their stories...they were unsung heroes ..giants in God's kingdom work.  I miss them so very much, but I am so glad they are safe at home, reaping their rewards for their years of labor. thing Jesus and I have in common...our fathers were carpenters.  I like that.  I can identify with Jesus there!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

1 - My Story, God's Story - Intro

Our small group is studying Max Lucado's "God's Story, Your Story", which is about how our story, our journey through life, is really indwelt in God's story.  We were each created by Him, and there is nothing we go through in life that He doesn't already know about.  There is nothing that is so ugly that He cannot use it for His glory.  I personally believe He goes before us, and paves our way if we choose to follow Him.  If we choose our own path, He is still very aware of our existence and choices.  He is right there waiting for us to call upon Him at our point of need.  He has an amazing way of cleaning up our messes and creating good results from our failures.

In thinking about this journey that I am on with God, I decided perhaps I would start blogging my life story from my perspective.  Hopefully God will inspire me and give me insights as to the times He intervened in my life, and woven His pattern into my tapestry.  I entitled my blog "A Slice of Journal Pie" several yeas ago when I first started sharing my stories, journeys, and Biblical insights on the world wide web.  Even then I knew the blog was just chapters in my life, chapters where I intended that God would use my stories to encourage others.

I've pretty much always been an open book.  I have nothing to hide.  That doesn't mean I haven't had embarrassing times, or shameful times, but I have always given those over to God to use as He sees fit.  I have freedom in knowing I don't have to look back over my shoulder to see if anyone is trying to catch me off guard.  I am who I am, by the grace of God.  I have had several learning experiences, and will have more before I reach my destiny, but it is my prayer that God will continue to whisper to me, "This is the way...walk with me one moment at a time and I will guide you safely home."

This is my first segment.  How shall I title my post?  I want readers to know that this is a continuing series.  Will it be interesting?  Probably not to very many, if any.  Mom would enjoy reading it, but she's already in heaven.  (I sure miss sharing my life with her!)  Will it be detailed?  Probably way too much so.  I was guilty of writing term papers longer than they were supposed to be.  Will it be true?  Without a doubt.  Above all, I cherish honesty.

This is a Sunday night, a beginning of a new week.  I don't know how often I will post, I just know I want to start and we'll see where it leads, how the path winds as I unfold my history, God's history in my life.  I have to admit I am weary of winter white, slippery walkways, and cold to the bone weather.  I need something new to keep me busy inside, for now, and I have needed some new material, thoughts, for my blog.  I am amazed that people continue to stop by.  However, if they are stopping in, I would like to have fresh posts for them (you).  So, here I am, off and running.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Glimpse at My "Everlasting Hope" Blog

I haven't had much to blog about lately.  I know there are some of you that check in now and then, and you don't find anything fresh and up to date.  A couple of years ago I started a Bible study blog on the book of I Peter.  I haven't been very faithful to that either.  In fact, today I entered a blog, and it's on Chapter 3:8-12.  In two years I have only gotten half way through this book???  Shame on me.  I really enjoyed doing my study on Genesis, and posting my Reflections on Genesis blog (back in 2008, I might add), but I have struggled in keeping my motivation going.  I think, what can I write that hasn't already been written?  People can go to the commentaries just as I do to get a little more introspection on what the author is saying to us in God's Book.

Well, if you haven't visited either of my other blogs, I do recommend that you do.  I truly think you will enjoy the inspiration God gave me while writing my reflections on Genesis.  And then today as I posted my latest I Peter blog, I thought perhaps a little nugget of what God is reminding me of might be good for my readers.  So...I am going to borrow from that blog the opening paragraphs and the closing.  To read the rest of the blog, you need to go to the side bar and click on "An Everlasting Hope", my Bible study blog on I Peter.  Here's my intro for today:

          My husband had just left our house for the last time.  He was getting a divorce from me and had come to pick up the items he wanted from our two year accumulation of married life.  When the door shut behind him, I turned around crumbled in turmoil, asking God if He was going to reject me also.  After all, He hates divorce.  I saw my Bible on the nearest table and went to it to see if He had a Word for me.  He took me to Galatians 5:13 – For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

            At that time of my life I focused on God loving me enough to release me from an unfaithful husband, and yet be sure that my new found freedom didn't lead me into a relationship that would displease Him.  It was several years later when I was seeking my life verse that I was brought back to this Word from God.  This time He highlighted the last portion of the verse, the part about serving others with love…His love.  I had found my life verse and my calling.  It basically boiled down to being set free to serve God by serving others.  However, it was His love that set me free, and His love that I needed within me to serve others. 

            Even though God had given me the mandate to serve others with love when He gave me my life verse (Galatians 5:13), He did not immediately gift me with all the attributes I would need to fulfill my calling.  It’s been a life-long journey.  There was a definite point in my journey where I surrendered my complete self to him…a point of consecration where I recognized God wanted to sanctify me…set me apart for His holy purpose.  That still did not perfect me.  I had to make daily choices that would either honor Him, or take my own way.  I did not always honor Him, sad to say.  But He never gave up on me, and through the failures, I learn and grow.  

             I have obtained wisdom through the years that I wish I would have had as a young mother and as a mid-lifer.  Don’t we all wish we could turn the clock back sometimes and redo things differently?  The key for me was to keep on my knees in prayer, surrendering my weaknesses, and asking for more of God’s grace.  My heart’s desire was to please Him, to serve Him, to love others…but sometimes Carol just got in the way.  So I would bring my messes to Him and ask Him to help me to be more like Jesus.  He has never failed me.  Now when I read these check points that Peter has given us, I see areas where I have made tremendous growth…I have come so far.  But there are still some areas in which He is helping me to improve.  

            My passion and goal is to hear my Heavenly Father say to me, “Welcome home, my child, come on in… we've been waiting for you!”  And I will know the journey I took was worth it all…just to see His face!!