Thursday, February 26, 2015


Have you ever seen the "tiny houses" on HGTV?  They are mostly a one room "house-trailer" size house with a loft to sleep in.  In fact, many of them you can pull down the road behind a truck.  That way you can pick up and move to a different spot whenever the mood strikes.  Now that's the ultimate in downsizing, when it comes to houses.  It seems to be a trend these days to purchase smaller houses rather than large monstrosities with too many unused rooms.  Low maintenance...could be a reason.  I don't know what has brought on this trend...perhaps the undependable economy, what's your guess?  Anyway...I like this trend!

I began downsizing seriously when we sold our house in Highland, Illinois and moved to Michigan.  I'm still working on my blog entries for "My Story...God's Story", and my next chapter will be on the move to Highland, so I'm jumping a little ahead of my  story right now.  The reason I am inserting this, which really has nothing to do with that particular blog series, is because I wrote an email to a friend this week regarding downsizing.  It just seems to be appropriate to record it in my blog, to remind me and my heirs why I have been and will continue to downsize.  Getting rid of the "stuff".  "Stuff" that used to be very important to was part of me, of who I was/am.  It sort of brought my history forward with me.  There was even pride in all my accumulations.  So not only have I been dealing with getting rid of "stuff" the past ten years of my life, I have been dealing with breaking down the pride.  God hates pride!  It is the deadliest of sins.  I desire to live pleasing to Him!

Therefore I am inserting a copy of my email to a friend, explaining what I had been up to since moving to Michigan in 2004.  Here it is:

Downsizing as drastically as we did, was definitely a comedy!  (Insert...we moved from a 2800 sq ft ranch house with a 2800 sq ft walk-out basement and a three car garage to a 400 sq ft cottage with a screen porch, no garage.) But we have been learning to let go of stuff and not be so concerned about hanging on to things, or having more than we needed.  Even as we prepared to sell the cottage and house here on the campground we started selling stuff on Craig's List and having yard sales.  We are almost down to the basics!  Feels good.  Now if we could only eliminate the mortgage!!  The three major "things" I have unloaded since we have been here, and it has taken me ten years to do it, are:

1.  My household files from since my first job...before I even met Paul.  All of our bills, receipts, tax papers.  I had large bins full of over 30 years worth of accumulation.  Now I am down to just keeping the last seven years, and shredding each year the 7th year papers.

2.  My library.  I was so proud of it, as I had a lot of good books I had accumulated over the years, mostly theology and inspirational...not so much fiction or fun books.  I looked like a scholar, so I thought.  If the book was in my library, it had been read at least once.  But I was tired of lugging those bins of books all over the country, so I knew before we moved again, I wanted to go through them all one more time, and after the book was read, I would give it away if it wasn't something I knew I wanted to read again.  That was most of my books.  Early on, several years ago, I started taking them to preachers' retreats and putting them out on tables for preachers to take home.  Sometimes I unloaded them to a church library, or the camp library.  They were on my summer "give away" tables in my yard.  Last fall I finished the last book.  I mostly kept my commentaries, and biblical study books and Greek texts.  I had also kept all of my college and seminary papers, and I have downsized those to just my sermons/Bible studies.  I feel good about this.

3.  This winter I tackled the hardest bins to get rid of.  My memories/mementos bins from my life..accumulated since my early 30's.  Every card, letter, flyer from events I attended, travel brochures from our trips, small gifts, pictures my grand-kids had name it, the bin held it.  Sometimes I had 3-4 bins for the same year.  I'm talking large shoe bins.  (My household files and books bins were the larger, deeper storage type bins.)  So I would take each "shoe-box" and go back through the items, look at who sent the cards and letters (some people I don't even remember!), and then discard it all.  I only kept any pictures and cards from my kids and grand-kids.  Now I have a manila envelope for each year.  Much easier for storage.  What a walk down memory lane!  Some happy, some sad.  

I'm just thinking "condo", and if it isn't going to fit in a condo (without a basement), then I don't need it...and my kids don't want it!  I've also gone through the family photo bins from my Mom's side of the family and Dad's side of the family.  Gave a bunch of that away also.  I haven't gone through those for over ten years, and I probably will do it again in ten years.  So it's been a walk down memory lane, preparing for the senior years, knowing my kids don't want any of my stuff.  It's sorta sad, yet it's very lightening!  I want to know I can pick up and move and not have to worry about storage.  I weed out clothes and shoes every year in my yard freebie "sale", so I can fit everything I wear into one small closet, both seasons!

So...why am I telling you all of this?  I don't know...just something to talk about.  And as I tell you, I feel good about myself for being brave enough to let go of all that accumulation.  I just gave two bins of fragile glassware to my niece.  They were my mother's fancy glasses from her wedding.  She never used them, I never used them.  My niece was very close to Grandma, and she loves dishes, so she has inherited them.  My granddaughters never met my Mom...she was already in heaven when they came along.  So no need to pass them along!  When we left Highland, I had gotten rid of most of my dishes, knickknacks, and lots of our furniture.  However, I still had a lot of "stuff".  When our house in Highland sold, we moved into a 1200 sq ft ranch, less than half the size of our former house.  

It has felt very healthy to down-size.  Thus far, I haven't missed a thing, and truly, I still do have too much "stuff".  Each summer I unload some more on those freebie tables.  I have gotten rid of almost all of my Christmas decorations.  I used to have four Christmas trees.  Now I have a wreath for the door.  

Well, this downsizing has all been part of trying to live simple and finish well...the catch phrase I came back to Michigan with last spring after having spent our winter with our son in St. Louis.  I started a blog about Living Simple, Finishing Well (you can see it on the sidebar), but I haven't had much to add to it after my initial burst of starting the blog.  Now I'm back trying to catch my Slice of Journal Pie blog up to date.  And this, my friends, has been my entry for tonight.  Have you given thought to Downsizing???  It will make your life simpler, I promise!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

17 - My Story, God's Story - Move to St. Louis

Paul was content with his job.  The boys were in Jr. Hi/Sr. Hi doing well.  I was in my final year at seminary.  We were pleased with where we lived, our church, our friends.  We were not seeking to move, nor to leave the company Paul was with.  However, a head hunter would not leave him alone, so he finally agreed to go check out an engineering position for a company in St. Louis, with the following stipulation:  he wanted to take the whole family with him on the interview trip (an unusual request).

While he was at the company interviewing, I took the boys out driving.  We ended up down in the Fenton area, just outside the I-270 loop, southwest of the city.  We found the high school in that area,  and stopped in to see what we could find out about the school.  It was brand new, and the first graduating class would be in three years, the same year our oldest son would graduate.  The three of us were impressed with the school and the location.  

We were being "wined and dined" by the interviewing company.  They put us up in a luxurious downtown hotel in a suite, more like an apartment.  There was a revolving restaurant at the top of the tall hotel, located right next to the Arch.  We ate fancy that night.  We talked about our day, and it seemed everything about the day, for all of us, was positive.  This looked serious, the fact that we might be making a major change in our lives.  So I took it before the Lord in prayer.  My first request was that all four of us would agree to the move.  With the sons doing well in school and enjoying their friends, we didn't want to disrupt their lives unless they were willing to make the move.  Secondly, I wanted to know for sure this was God's will for us...that He was opening the door.  He led me to the scripture in Revelations 3:8:   

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut

He answered my very prayer, very clearly.  

We went back to Tennessee to make our plans to move.  We moved Paul into an apartment during Christmas break, and the boys and I went back to finish our schooling during the spring semester.  As mentioned in my last blog, as soon as school was out and I graduated from seminary, we made our move to the big metropolis of St. Louis, Missouri.  We found a rental house in the Fenton area where we would live until our house in TN sold.  By October the house had sold, and we bought a home that fit our family well...not too far from the school.  We visited three Nazarene churches in the area and ended up settling down at Webster Groves Church of the Nazarene, about eight miles from where we lived.  We all quickly became involved in the church, making friends, and finding areas of service.  During our years there, Paul was the minister of music, I taught various classes, and our sons were active in the youth group.

Four years went by quickly and the boys were both graduated from high school and in the college of their choice.  To help fill the empty nest, we got a little Pekingese puppy...the runt of the litter.  He was totally black except for white paws, a white tip on his tail, and a white throat.  Paul appropriately named him Tuxedo.  What a delight he was to us!!  We had moved from outside the loop into the Sunset Hills area of St. Louis, closer to church, after our second son graduated.  We had a large fenced in backyard, and Tuxedo loved to chase the squirrels...but never wanted to catch one.  It was funny to watch him.  One time he and a squirrel got entangled and rolled over...I'm not sure who was the most scared.  Both ran their separate ways!!

Out of all the houses we have lived in, that home in Sunset Hills was our most unique place.  It was an older ranch with a full finished walk-out basement.  We did a lot of work in the yard to clean it up and make it a more picturesque setting.  We also did some renovations to the kitchen and one bathroom.  We made the house our own, and enjoyed our time living there.

We were in that house when our second son married, and our first granddaughter was born.  She got to make several trips to visit and/or stay with Grandpa and Grandma.  Those were precious times in which Tuxedo also became her wagon riding buddy.  If I could turn back the clock of time, I would go back to that house and choose to stay there.  However, I was always restless for the next change.  Our second son and his wife and baby decided to move to southwest Missouri to be near her parents, and we ended up moving again...this time across the river to Highland, Illinois.

But I have skipped over the St. Louis years too quickly.  Let me go back and share some of the things that happened in my life during that time.  I mentioned that I taught classes at church.  I taught a couple of adult Sunday School classes.  I also taught a women's Bible study, and started a Greek class...but that didn't really make a go of it.  Also during these years I worked bookkeeping jobs, since I couldn't seem to get my feet in the college setting.  I did work at two churches as part time bookkeeper, and I worked at two seminaries.  

One interruption that caused me to change jobs was that my dear mother was dying in Florida.  I chose to quit two of my part-time jobs (one seminary and one church) and go spend the last five weeks of her life caring for her.  I absolutely do not regret that choice.  It was a privilege God gave me to have those weeks with Mom and Dad.  Mom was dying of cancer, and it was a very difficult time for her.  She did not want to die in the hospital and we wanted to care for her at home.  Hospice didn't come in until her final day.  We just didn't realize she was that close to death until all of a sudden she was gone.  God gave me grace to live through those days...He was my comfort.  We went back to Michigan for the funeral.  It was after that we sold our house and moved into Sunset Hills.  With the boys both being gone, we didn't need as large a house, and I needed a change to refocus.

The year our granddaughter was born, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Billy Graham Crusade.  Dr. Graham was going to be holding a crusade in St. Louis, and as was their practice, they came into the city about a year in advance to lay the groundwork for the crusade.  They use multiple volunteers in various aspects.  I was able to work in their mailing room and accounting office.  What a treat to meet so many people, other Christians from all different backgrounds, coming together for the sake of Christ.  It was a very interesting and rewarding experience to see what all goes on behind the scenes in preparing for a Crusade and during the Crusade itself. 

When my volunteer work was wrapping up, I took a real estate class to get my realtor license, something I had thought I would use, since I loved looking at houses.  I finished the course and passed the licensing exams.  But by then I realized that even though I loved looking at houses, I didn't really care for all the paperwork that went with selling houses.  I asked God if He had anywhere else I could serve.  That's when I got the call from a large Presbyterian church, and I joined their staff as bookkeeper.  It was a wonderful place to work, and I enjoyed my duties and my co-workers.  

During that time I discovered I had two large cysts which resulted in me having a radical hysterectomy.  I couldn't go back to work for eight weeks.  I was so restless at home, but very thankful for Tuxedo keeping me company.  Paul and I ended up making a trip down to North Carolina, taking Tux with us, just to pass some time for me.  We had thought that perhaps one day we would like to retire in the Asheville area of North Carolina, so we went to check out that area.  As we left Asheville, we drove south and found a smaller town, Hendersonville.  There was a nice Nazarene church in that town, and we liked the lay of the land.  More of a plateau setting than Asheville had been.  We wanted to be near the Smokey Mountains, but not up in them.  That was the first of many trips to that area, and here we are today still hoping to relocate to Hendersonville some God's time.

Sometimes it is hard to remember events of our lives when we go back to recap them.  We lived in St. Louis from 1994 to 2001.  They were good years.  We were proud of our sons, both graduating with honors, and choosing good colleges, one in Missouri and one in Ohio.  They met their wives at college.  One married after his freshman year, and one married after he graduated from college.  We had our first granddaughter.  Lots of good things happened during those years in St. Louis.  Next move:  Highland, blog. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

16 - My Story, God's Story - Seminary Years

I lay in bed one morning after writing the last blog on my college education, and my mind took a trip back through those years of my life.  One of the highlights of my life occurred back then, and I overlooked entering it into that blog post.  Let me quickly insert it at the beginning of this post.

I mentioned how New Testament Greek was my foreign language, a necessity for me to graduate with a bachelor of arts degree.  I ended up minoring in New Testament Greek...two years, 18 credit hours.  One of the requirements for completing the second year of Greek was to present an in depth study and presentation of a scripture passage.  I had asked a Greek professor from Olivet Nazarene (College) University for his advice on a holiness passage...a place in scripture that focused on sanctification, cleansing, being set apart for God's use.  He directed me to I Thessalonians 4:1-12, and I thoroughly enjoyed my research into those verses.  

I entitled my Exegesis "Living a Life Pleasing to God".   Each student was given one complete class session to present his paper, including time for questions and answers.  That day stands out as a highlight in my life.  I was thoroughly prepared, and I had invited all three Greek professors on Lee's campus to be present.  God gave me complete confidence in my presentation, and I was able to respond to the questions asked.  I honestly felt God's pat on my head that day.  It was like the culmination of my college career, everything I had worked for in my transition from a depressed housewife to a graduating college student.  With God's help I had made it!!  It took day by day, moment by moment discipline to complete my goal of getting my college education at the age of 41, but when I graduated, I wished I could do it all over again!  Thus...seminary, my next step up.

My first year Greek professor, a man whom I highly respected and revered, suggested that I get a Master's of Divinity degree at seminary.  I had originally planned to get a counseling degree, but he felt the M.Div. would serve me much better.  He was directing me toward a PhD and eventually being qualified to teach in a university setting.  I wasn't sure about that goal...I just decided to take it one step at a time.  I did follow his advice to seek the M.Div. degree, however.  That's a degree that most ministerial students seek, but I still did not believe I had a call to preaching ministry.  I wanted to work in the college setting, but I didn't know in what aspect.  I felt my background in psychology would lead to counseling.  I proceeded, walking in faith one day at a time, believing God had a purpose for it all.

I attended the Church of God School of Theology (now called Pentecostal Theological Seminary) in Cleveland, TN, right across the street from Lee University.  As a woman I was in the minority, and I was the only Nazarene on campus.  Determined to be serious about my studies, I again asked God to help me to stay focused and to do my part in preparation.  I was stepping into a different kind of arena...different from the college atmosphere I had left behind.  In college, most of the students were just out of high school and were away from home for the first time.  They were becoming independent, yet looking for Mr. or Miss Right to spend a future with.  There were extra-curricular activities to focus on, and studies were not the first priority for many.

Seminary, on the other hand, was for the serious student who felt called by God to prepare for some type of ministry.  The classes were intense and deep, and required many hours of study and research.  For sure, I learned how to write research papers, with all the documentation.  I had not been exposed to much of that in the undergrad program.  

It helped to be involved in a small study group...a very nice group of fellow students from varied backgrounds.  That's the other thing about seminary...many of the students were coming to enhance their skills after having already pastored churches.  Or they were from a different employment background, now answering God's call on their lives to enter the ministry.  My study group included a pastor from England, a pastor from Canada, an accountant, and an employee from a chicken processing plant.  I was also able to meet their wives and children.  The family from Canada became close friends, as we had sons about the same age.  We still keep in contact today, and have enjoyed our trips to Canada to visit them.

There was another aspect to seminary life that I had to overlook, or look the other way.  Politics.  I saw this in the students trying to impress others with who they were to be given the better church choices, and I saw it in other arenas.  Since I had no such aspirations, I wasn't out to impress or play any games.  I was just there to learn what God wanted to teach me.  I was the lowly Nazarene.  

The issue of speaking in tongues came up quite often for me, in the classroom and in small group settings.  So I took it to the Lord, asking Him to help me to know the truth, and what He wanted for me.  If He wanted me to have the gift of speaking in tongues, then my mouth, my lips were dedicated to Him.  It wasn't something I was going to make up, or pretend, it had to come from Him.

This is my theology regarding tongues, as best discerned through my time spent asking God for the truth.  I believe in the gifts.   Nazarenes believe in all of the gifts, but felt some of them were strictly for New Testament times, such as tongues...speaking in unknown languages.  Or they believe that tongues are a known language, and you have the gift to speak that language without having learned it.  Pentecostals believe that gifts are bestowed upon on you by God, but that the gift of tongues is the "magical" gift that was proof of having been filled with the Spirit.  If you haven't spoken in tongues, you have not been filled with the Spirit, and if you have not been filled with the Spirit, you are still inferior and not fully surrendered to God.  Now, please understand I am presenting the two sides of the coin of the two Wesleyan traditions.  Obviously I am speaking of the extreme in each tradition, for there are those Nazarenes who believe in and practice the gift of tongues.  There are those Pentecostals who believe in tongues, but do not believe it to be the ultimate gift.

I come from the stance that tongues is a gift.  All gifts are from God, and He chooses who receives which gifts.  Not all gifts are given to all people.  The gifts are to edify the church, and if everyone would use his gifts, the church would be stronger.  Instead, we tend to argue about which ones are important.  Because I strongly believe in being filled with the Spirit...and I believe everyone seeking the will of God must come to that point...then what is it that provides the evidence for such an experience?  To me the tongues gift has nothing at all to do with proof.  I believe when one is filled with the Holy Spirit there is a divine love instilled in that moment...the kind of love Jesus had for everyone, not just His favored few.  The kind of love that sees the potential in a person.  The scriptures talk about knowing we are Christians by our love..."behold how they love one another".  It does not say we are followers of Christ because we speak in an unknown language.  We speak the language of love, for the greatest of all gifts, as found in I Corinthians 13, is love.  

Well, this blog entry is not meant to be a sermon or a theological lesson.  I am just sharing one of the challenges I faced my three years at seminary, and the outcome for me.  God has not chosen to bestow the gift of tongues on me, and I am fine with that.  I do not doubt that I am living in the center of His will, following in His footsteps just because I don't have that gift.  But if my brother has the gift, I do not look down on him or avoid him.  Jesus has set me free (Galatians 5:13) so that I can allow others to also be free.  The ways in which we worship will be diverse, and God is pleased with all of us who simply content ourselves in Him.  I also appreciate the freedom from politics in the religious realm.  I have One to please, and if I am pleasing to Him, none else matters.

While at seminary we opened our home to other seminary students living away from home.  We had Thanksgiving together one year, and other times of fellowship.  One student in particular made our home his home.  His name was "Butch".  He had been working in a chicken processing plant when he went through a divorce,  He began to seek God's direction for his life.  He felt called to ministry, he just didn't know in what area.  He was taking Greek, so I was able to tutor him in that.  I also assisted him with grammatical corrections in his papers.  He had his own apartment the first year, but over the summer he had a baseball injury and ruptured his Achilles tendon.  He was on crutches when he came back to seminary for the second year, and it was going to be difficult for him to maneuver the flight of stairs to his apartment.  We opened our spare rooms to him that we had built for our parents or missionaries to stay with us.  Butch had his own bedroom, bathroom, and family room just off the kitchen, separate from the rest of the house, with his own private entrance off the back porch. 

When my husband went on a Work and Witness trip with my father's team to Ecuador, Butch went with them.  He had never been out of the state of Maryland before he came to seminary, and now he was leaving the country for the first time...on his first airplane ride.  They built a church, and witnessed in the neighborhood.  Many building miracles occurred during that trip...things only God could be responsible for.  One miracle was the supply of cement blocks.  There was a professional block layer on Dad's team, and he knew they were going to be short of blocks.  There were no more to be had at any price.  They could see the blocks dwindling, but they just kept laying them as long as there were some there.  They never ran out of blocks, until the last one was put in place.  Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!!  Butch came back home very excited over what God was doing in Ecuador.

To finish the story on Butch, after he graduated from seminary, he ended up going to Chili, South America, as a missionary for the Church of God, and he married a Chilean girl.  So there seemed to have been a purpose for which God had placed him in our home for two prepare him for his call to service in another country.  I am of the opinion, as I look back on my seminary years, that it wasn't about me.  It was about being there to provide for Butch, to enable him to fulfill his calling.  I have found it to be true in other areas of my wasn't about was about who I was serving, being available to be used of God to help someone else.  That will surface again in a future blog.

I did complete my M.Div. degree in the three years normally allotted for the program.  The last six months I continued to live in Cleveland, TN with our sons (and Butch) while Paul moved to St. Louis to a new assignment in his career.  I'll talk more about that in the next blog, moving to St. Louis, but while I was finishing my seminary degree, the boys were completing their school year, and I was getting the house ready to sell.  Also, during that six months, I was doing my internship at Lee.

I had wanted to assist my New Testament Greek professor in teaching first year Greek.  He had asked me to do that.  However, the seminary powers that be, and the chairman of the Lee Bible Department, did not agree with that assignment for me since I was not Pentecostal.  I had to go before a seven man board to be given my internship assignment.  I wanted to go back to Lee, they wanted me to take CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience) at a Chattanooga hospital.  I did not want that assignment.  I was not comfortable with making daily trips by myself down to the hospital, and I was most certainly not comfortable with the blood and guts that I would be exposed to in the emergency room.  Butch was doing CPE as his internship, and I knew from him there were plenty of exposure to not so pretty sights.  My constitution would not be able to take it.  

Since I would not submit, the board told me that I should pray about it, and come back to them and tell them what God said.  I tried to be humorous when I responded, "Well, I guess if God could speak through a donkey, He can speak through a woman."  I was being facetious, but they had been pretty "authoritative" with me as a woman who did not know herself, and needed to get in touch with my feelings through CPE.  At any rate, they did not laugh, or even smile, or respond.  I was obviously out of line.  I was dismissed.  So glad to be out of there!

The compromise we came up with was that I would do an internship on Lee College campus with the Associate Academic Dean, who had been my second year Green professor.  However, I would not be working in the Bible Department, but in his dean's office.  I had various assignments, but the one that was the most demanding came about as a result of a dorm fire.  An old wood dorm was torched by off campus guys in the middle of the night, and in ten minutes was in full flames.  The story is well documented in Lee's history and the Cleveland Daily Banner news so I won't go into the details.  I will just say what satan meant for harm, ended up giving God the glory.  Not one student died in a situation that could have been totally devastating and deadly.  Dr. Conn made mention in chapel service, following the fire, that some were asking, "Where was God in the fire?", meaning why did He allow it to happen.  Dr. Conn responded God was in the midst of the fire getting all of the students to safety.  It was once again a time where I saw God at work defeating the enemy, providing the miracles needed, and changing lives for the good.  Interesting internship made intense and personal.  I am glad I was there.  It was an assignment from God.

Paul came home for my graduation from seminary.  A moving van loaded up our household.  We put the house in the hands of a Realtor, and we headed to St. Louis.  Next blog.