Follow by Email

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Blind Will See

My Aunt Marie set a plate of food before my Uncle Jake, "The potatoes are at 2 o'clock, the chicken is at 4 o'clock and the green beans are at 11 o'clock." I watched Uncle Jake move his hands move toward the edge of the plate to hold his fork, preparing to eat.

At the age of eight, I realized for the first time that my Uncle Jake was blind. I thought about the restrictions that he faced in life. I watched later as he took a large book, laid it on the table, and began running his fingers over the bumps on the page. When I questioned his activity, I learned about Braille. Whereas my eyes simply scanned the page, and the words jumped up into my eyes and told stories to my brain, Uncle Jake read with his hands. Later I tried to 'read' with my fingers but could not discern any meaning from touching the bumpy Braille.

Uncle Jacob was the 6th Jacob Siemens, in a continuous line from Jacob I who born 18 May 1746, in Altmunsterburg, West Prussia, Germany. The Siemens Family left Holland because of religious persecution sometime after the year 1560, immigrated to Danzig area of East Prussia. This area between cities of Danzig and Elbing was swampy forest land owned by a Polish King. Mennonites reclaimed the land using a network of dikes and canals. They were required to learn the German language, church services were in German, schools, too, but in the home Dutch dialect was used. About the same time the Prussian king demanded that Mennonite young men enter military service. The Colony paid the king $5000 a year to exempt them from this service.
His obituary reads - Jacob J. Siemens, son of Jacob B and Emelia (Brunn) Siemens, was born 17 Dec 1898, in McPherson County, near buhler, Kansas, and went to be with his Lord, 29 Mar 1969 at the age of 70 years, 3 months and 12 days. On May 2, 1926, he was united in marriage to Marie E. Huebert in Corn, OK, Washita Co., who was his reader while he attended chiropractic College. To this union was born two daughters, Virginia Siemens Hurt and Helen Siemens Dreschler. Since music was one of his many interests, he loved to sing and play the piano. For many years he taught in the Sunday School, eager to know more about the God of the Word. His favorite scriptures were Psalm 121:1-2 and Philippians 4:8. Among other things, he was interested in history, mathematics, and had an athletic and mechanical mind. He enjoyed fellowship with people, and great joy thrilled his hearts over his five grandchildren.
Later Mom taught me Uncle Jake's favorite scripture from Psalm 121:1-3.
I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber.
Uncle Jake began his life in the light, but his physical eyes were blinded through accidents when he was a boy. In empathy for Uncle Jake, I blindfolded my eyes and tried to walk and eat. I listened to footsteps, learned that bats, blind as a bat, could sense an impending barrier, with their built-in radar. I wondered what it was like to never see the face of your loved ones - a wife and two beautiful daughters or the grandchildren. As I played the piano, I wondered what it sounded like when you couldn't read the notes, or how could he sing when the words aren't visible but written on your heart. I watched as the Siemens brothers - Dietrich, Jacob, Herman and Johnny sat in a row on wooden chairs tilted against the wall - reminiscing about their life as children.

I wondered if Uncle Jake had another kind of sight that we didn't know about. As I grew older, I read the scripture, John 9:39 - Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." I sang the song when I was 19 years old and thought of Uncle Jake - from I Corinthians 2:9 - Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Yes, there are many ways to see without using the miracle of our eyes. We can see with our souls - with our spirit. And in seeing spiritually the things of this world and God's purpose for our lives, we have the promise from Psalm 3:3 - "But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter of my head."

When things in this world seem like more than we can bear, when it seems that we are attacked from all sides, we can lift up our heads, because our Lord is a shield for us.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

Finally, "There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever." II Corinthians 4:18 (Message)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thank you, Children!

Thank you, Children, for raising your parents through the years.
You were raised during the Dr. Spock days (not of Star Wars fame). Prior to the advent of landfills full of disposable diapers and the plastic bottles that could take a fall! Several times a week our house was filled with the aroma from the washing machine....of amonia, not Oust. Getting ready for a new baby was buying another dozen of diapers, for there were usually two in diapers at the same time for about five years.

After I read Dr. Spock, I compared the discipline he mis-advocated and that which my parents used. There had to be something in between that would work. I made a trip to the Dodge City Library to search for a book on children's discipline one evening. There were none. It was not the day of Dr. Dobson, or the many authors who provide alternatives to 'what was always done'.

The years of their growing up has become a series of pictures that flip faster and faster through the years in a fast forward fashion.
  • Dan, Paul and Tim pushing the bangstas (little benches) upside on the floor like so many cars. (Bangstas were reminiscent of the small benches used by their Grandpa - Herman Siemens).
  • Paul riding on Booger, the shetland pony, who liked lemon drops and cracker jacks.
  • Tim banging his head on the crib end as he rocked back and forth to go to sleep, mimicking ever tone the piano tuner hit, much to his chagrin.
  • Anna holding Tiger the rooster in her lap, sitting on the fence, daring to jump off the high dive at the swimming pool to the awe of her older brothers....because of a deficiency in her sight.
And many more pictures in my memory scrapbook. Their concern for their Mother, was evident in many ways. When we lived on the side of a Western Kansas sized hill, they would go explore near the Coronado Cross, out of the sight of the house. Many years later they told me that as they trekked out of sight, "If anything happens to me, take my underwear to Mom so she will know what happened." (It was logical to them.)

In the Fort Dodge two story house, we had four bedrooms upstairs. Tim, the little brother, shifted between Dan and Paul's bedrooms. Every so often Tim had to move to his other brother's bedroom. They made the decision on their own. As a reward, the next house had 3 bedrooms upstairs at Collinsville, IL, Tim had the largest bedroom. Once I complimented Tim on him keeping his room clean and done so quickly. Then later one of his brothers had me look under his bed. Oh, oh!

As they grew, their personalities flowered and bloomed as attested by their Grandma Daisy in poems and pictures included on this page.

Dan, the student, studied many things: time, space, ham radio, electronics, playing the guitar.
Paul, the creative one, made 8 mm movies, took pictures and developed them in his photography studio in the basement. He learned to play the guitar from his brother Dan.
Tim, the studious one, always in a hurry. He worked laboriously on a report about Abraham Lincoln. When I read it, I asked how he did it. He told me he would copy a part of one sentence here and there and splice them together. He loved to read the encyclopedia.
Anna wanted to be like her brothers in many ways, climbing trees, exploring. Then she taught herself how to play the piano, interrupting TV time for her brothers. We moved the piano to her room after she painted it orange (her choice), and she practiced uninterrupted for hours over her Dad's workshop.

And how did they enrich our lives?
Education: Dan - "Why do I have to be in a classroom where other kids don't want to learn and I have to wait?" This question came up over and over when I became a teacher.
Paul - "If I know it, and I know I know it, why do I have to do the homework or get A's?" This question came when he was 10 years old, in Mr. York's classroom.
Driving: Tim - On entering Vandalia Drive (a forked road), out of habit, I said the usual - "Be careful." Tim put on the brakes and asked, "How long have I been driving?" Six months. "Have I had an accident?" No. I got the point.
House Cleaning: During the usual Saturday morning house cleaning, I pointed out the missed areas and began fixing them. Paul: "Mom, if you have to do it over, why should we have to clean our rooms at all?"
Emotional Welfare: Annaka's loving spirit and constant concern for friends and family gave her the nickname of Sunshine Girl by her loving Dad.

Yes, we went through some times of concern, and yet, through love and family, we made it through each upset with prayer. And as I near my 80th birthday, I can see God's hand through all the years, and how He sent me children to learn from them. We are separated by miles, we are separated by so many time constraints, and yet our family is still close and we enjoy our children and their children and their children's children. Hugging memories in our hearts, communicating through the wonders of technology and cyberspace, the blessing of children.

One of the most important gifts for Mother's Day and Father's Day are the children's books - My Mom is Fantastic and My Dad is Brilliant, in 1992. Both by Nick butterworth. Children's books that were embellished by many memories and comments by our four children. Thank you, Karen!

I understand the words of my Grandmother as she said that she wanted her children and grandchildren with her in Heaven. This scripture says it beautifully. 3 John 1:4 - Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children continue diligently in the way of Truth!

Yes, Children, I give God praise for giving your Dad and me such beautiful and beloved Children who have taught us so much about the process of being a parent. You have obeyed Exodus 20:12 - Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


As I walked into the house, I heard the sewing machine running and then it stopped. I reached Mother's bedroom door just as she whipped the new garment from under the Singer Sewing Machine presser foot saying, "Thank you, Lord!"

I asked, "Why are you thanking God, Mom?" I was used to her creations at the sewing machine, and took them for granted. She looked at me in surprise, "Why, Susie (my nickname), it is because God let the thread and the seams finish at the same time!"

That was one of many expressions of thanks I heard for 'the little things' in our home. I've often heard that God's timing is exact, yet I didn't know it extended to such an every day event. I began looking for other things to thank my Lord for...and I find many. When I enter a busy intersection, and suddenly it is clear of traffic, I know that God is there. When I encounter a problem and suddenly the answer is clear, I know that God is there. In the evening as I retire, my last thought is resting in His arms, secure and safely. In the stillness of the night, when I awake and can't sleep, I turn to him, and He gives me rest. When the day dawns and the 'to-do list' lengthens endlessly, I trust in His Goodness and His Help. The food and the health He gives me is such a blessing....

The song comes to my mind:
God is good all the time He put a song of praise in this heart of mine God is good all the time Through the darkest night, His light will shine God is good, God is good all the time
As a young matron, I looked for a gift I could give for Mother's Day. You must know that I grew up with knowing that washing dishes is a chore. Somehow the dishes piled up in the sink in my home, and I remembered the hours I spent doing 'chores' in the kitchen. Then I found the poem, which I prepared for Mother's gift - even breaking some doll dishes to fit on the frame. It changed my focus, not on the chore, but the blessings of dirty dishes.
Thank God for dirty dishes,
They have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry,
We're eating very well.
With home and health and happiness,
We surely shouldn't fuss.
For by this stack of evidence,
Life's been good to us.
You might say that I had this same view a house cleaning - a chore. Now I know that a home is a blessing, and represents a place of love, growth and a place to be God's child. And I am thankful when I wash the kitchen floor, vacuum the carpet and dust that God has given me this place to be.

Just this morning, as I walked along our street, my heart leaped at the sight of the beauty of God-painted leaves on one tree. I love to mix colors, but I would be hard pressed to come up with that luxuriant shade of sunsets and fall leaves. Recently someone sent me a series of pictures of a vista from a mountain top. There before me in the photos lay mountain tops and deep valleys, all dressed in God-colors.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
No matter what happens, and every day there is something or someone that needs AGR on our part. (Additional Grace Required) It may be short-lived, or it may stretch out seemingly unendingly. God taught me that when I cared for my Mother during her last illness, when I finally prayed, "If this is what you want me to do, I will do it." I submitted to his will. Mother died two weeks later.
Psalm 68:6-7 Blessed be God— he heard me praying. He proved he's on my side; I've thrown my lot in with him. Now I'm jumping for joy, and shouting and singing my thanks to him.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


It was a warm summer day. I enjoyed laying back in the water, breast stroking my way across the pool at Roman Nose State Park. I watched the lazy lacy clouds drifting across the blue skies. I was enveloped in my favorite color - blue, until I heard a demanding voice. It was Hoppy the golden haired muscular lifeguard. He motioned me over to him. I swam over and he asked, "Are those your parents?" He motioned over to the shallow end of the pool.

There they were, sitting on the steps talking HOLDING HANDS. The serene blue of the day crashed, I was embarrassed as only a 16 year old can be. I nodded yes, and swimming away, I tried to recapture the euphoria I had previously.

Relationship. I thought about that tableau often, wondering how I could have been so wrong. I came to treasure the deep love my Dad and Mom had for each other. How they considered each other in their walk through life before themselves. How Mom ate the dark meat of the chicken because she liked the white. Dad ate the white pieces of the chicken because he liked the dark. After 30 years, they finally confessed to each other, and spent the other 20 years of their life together eating their favorite pieces of chicken.

Mom used to take the three of us for long rides in the old car, so as to keep the house quiet during the day so Dad, who worked at night, could get his rest. Mom prepared meals that were healthy for Dad, when he had heart trouble. Dad sat by the hour in the living room and was a part of every piano lesson Mom gave to a parade of students, offering his encouragement to each one. Mom spent many hours trying to teach Dad how to match his voice to a pitch on the piano, when it went awry.

That is relationship. I saw the same kind of concern and love in my grandparents and great grandparents. I watched my Dad in his relationship with his brothers as they reminisced about their childhood together. The Siemens brothers were known for their sense of humor and for their love for each other. During a Siemens reunion, I could always be found near them so I could hear their stories told partially in English and in Plautdietch and their laughter, as their wives visited in another part of the house.

My husband and I enjoy that special relationship, too, with each other and with our children and grandchildren and beyond.

And there is another relationship on a spiritual plane that grows stronger and more meaningful as I grow older. From the time I was a little child I knew the verse - God is love. I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was eight years old, knowing my sinful nature, and desiring an eternal life in Heaven. In the ebb and flow of my life, that relationship with Jesus created a base that I often wandered away from, yet Jesus always draws me back to him.

I can still see my Grandmother (Grosmom Emilie) sitting on our front porch in the steel-springed rocking chair singing "Shall We Gather at the River" over and over, to the rhythm of the rocking. She had a hard working life, raising five children, and later caring for her husband who was paralyzed. Did she turn from God? No, she longed to go Home.

As I read the book, The Shack, I was struck with the word pictures the author used to describe the relationship we have with God. The power of unconditional love, the freedom of forgiveness, the inter-relationship of the Father, Son - Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and how they long to have all of us to be a part of their deep love-relationship.

John 3:16-18 (Message)
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it.