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 bars...in 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!!