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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks-Giving

"Yesterday's the past and tomorrow's the future. Today is a gift - which is why they call it the present." (Bill Keane)
An interesting quote. We always like to receive a gift.... yet, we often choose to wait until the future for some awaited happening that seems more glorious than today. Rarely do we live in the present enjoying the things around us but wait impatiently for what is to come.

Last Lord's Day, I heard a two point sermon entitled Thanks - Giving. As the title implies, it is not something to be celebrated once a year with turkey and fixings, but it is a recipe for living in the present.

How we live in the present creates our future. What is past 'fades into history'. However, we can do something in the present to have a glorious future.

My dear husband of 56 years and I planned a quiet Thanksgiving this year, celebrating the day together by just being. However, Monday night I learned that my Aunt Edna died. My plans for the future days were changed as I ponder the wisdom of traveling on Thanksgiving Day, ordering flowers, notifying my brothers and their families, and other things to get ready for an impending trip to Hillsboro.

Somehow, while I called my little brother, I realized that I would not be talking to him this moment, in the present, if it were not for Aunt Edna's passing. As Gene and I visited about her life, he remembered sitting in the backseat as a boy with his brother Jim, as Uncle Eli and Aunt to be Edna drove them home. He remembers her as a spunky lady. She raised four children with Uncle Eli on a farm. They celebrated Thanksgiving on Wednesday as a family. She enjoyed that time - in the present - with her beloved family. After 66 years of marriage, Uncle Eli, 92 years old, is left alone in the present. Yet, memories from the past 66 years race through his mind, and all the 'present memories' he has lived are his forever. And now the present will seem empty without Aunt Edna. He will continue to give thanks and to give with his last breath, no matter what day it is.

Mom and Dad (Anna and Herman) spent their last night together visiting memories and holding each other, for they knew their final separation was at hand. One of Dad's statements that night Mom shared with me, "When Jesus comes, look to the East, you will see me in the air going to meet with Him."

What was their secret? In all things, they gave thanks. Each evening, Dad gave this prayer at the supper table -
Come Lord Jesus be our guest, and let thy gifts to us be blessed. He always said this in German - "Kom, Herr Jesu, sei unser Gast, und segne alles, was du uns aus Gnade bescheret hast. " Mom thanked God so often for so many things. The garden vegetables, the first tomato, the fruit from the tree, viewing her stash of home canned foods and after the tornado caused much damage to their home -- she thanked God for life. She would break out into the Doxology - Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Their second secret? Giving. Generosity wore hands and feet and smiles all in the name of Jesus Christ. Mom and Dad's words were laced in encouragement, especially in their latter years. They gave their home to many who passed through, they took food, flowers from their garden, listened to the elderly. Even as Mom gained the age of 84, she would tell me that she must call on the old people. Off she would drive in her maroon-red chevrolet.

Our Suderman and Siemens reunions consisted of laughter, love, devotion, family stories and always something to eat. I don't ever remember a quarrel or even a disagreementvwhen the whole family gathered. From what I know
in the various individual families, there were times of teaching, prayer, and Bible Study and chores - responsibilities.

Why are they able to accept the future without fear? Because they lived in the present - a gift from God - to prepare for the future with Thanks to Him and Giving to all. And the present IS a gift from God!

Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you're in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father
. I Thessalonians 1:2-3 (Message)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Momma and Alexander Graham Bell


Communication makes family life even more relevant through the ages since the time of Alexander Graham Bell. I often think of the pain that happens when our ancestors were separated, and then only through the Pony Express and written word came that communication connection. Or perhaps the letter was carried by a ship across the ocean in 1800's and earlier. No matter the telegraph or words on paper, there is nothing like hearing a loved one's voice.

Through the eyes of Grandmother Suderman in a note to her daughter, Anna Daisy - on her 55th birthday (1962), I learned how relevant is communication and the need to share good news!
My dear daughter (Anna Daisy), 55 years ago we celebrated, it was a hot day, the telephone was off, because it was a holiday. But you came early that morning, arriving at 8 a.m. Daddy stayed at home that day, did not go out to work. That evening when the telephone came on he called those that should know about it. John Litke worked for us that harvest and the wheat was finished the afternoon of the 3rd. John was the one to go get Mrs. Eitzen, Papa got Grandma Suderman and we had 2 little girls. I’ve always been glad for you both. (Would have been so nice to have the two boys) But God’s will was different. He’s made it alright. Thanks for the visit, and you know I did not think of your birthday when you were here. Nice warm weather today. Have a good time and keep well.
Love from Momma (Anna Loewen Suderman)
It was the following day, July 5th, in 1907 that the phone was used to announce to the neighbors on the party line that indeed a new baby was born.

Every time Anna Daisy toddled through the living room she spied the telephone on the wall. An inviting object. Momma and Papa would talk to it as often as they talked to her. What could it be?

Anna looked at the black circular speaker that jutted out from the front of box. On the left side, a receiver was hanging. On the right side the small crank was ready for the caller to turn to make a series of long and short rings. If the party they called had the number 23, it simply meant two long rings and three short. Anna often studied the object. It would be fun to turn the crank, put the receiver up to her ear, just like Papa.

One day Anna Daisy, her mind as agile as her body, assessed the matter. A red horsehair sofa sat beneath the phone. If she could get climb on the back of the sofa, she could talk into the telephone, just like Momma and Papa. She began her ascent eyeing her goal. Climbing to the top, she grabbed the speaker and lost her balance. She hung on to the phone as it pulled from the wall. Anna and the phone fell with a crash to the floor. The speaker shattered and pieces were embedded underneath Anna’s left eye.

Momma found Anna crying with the telephone box lying partially on her. She scooped her daughter into her arms and held her until the sobs subsided. She carefully cleaned the particles of the phone from Anna’s face. Momma cringed as she could see how close to losing an eye Anna had come.

Momma could not clean all the particles from under Anna’s eyes, and Anna Daisy carried the reminder of her curiosity, bits of black like eye shadow, until her dying day.

The telephone was used to announce my birth to family in Oklahoma and Kansas. The phone heralded good news and bad news. It became a way of life. I remember, in high school, that our phone number consisted of 3 digits - 205. Life was a slower pace then, with no cell phones and blackberries belonged on cereal, not in the pocket. It was a race to see if the phone was used more for bad news than good news.

Mother (Anna Daisy) compared my telephone conversations with my brother Jim's conversations. Mine were filled with emotions, the ups and downs of my life of the moment. Jim's were always 1 - 2 - 3 and a quick goodbye. I remember a tearful conversation with Mom after three weeks of college. I had never known that homesickness could hurt so deep inside. My wise Mother said, you can come home after six weeks, but not sooner. Tough love, gentle patience, conversations laced with wisdom were dispensed on the phone to Mother's family.

Once the phone rang late at night. Dad (Herman Bennie Siemens) said his familiar, "Hallow," into the phone. The caller asked, "Is this Herman Siemens?" Dad, half asleep answered, "Yes, it is." He promptly hung up the phone. He didn't remember the call the next morning.

We become frustrated when our mode of communication is cut off, whether it be cell phone, emails, facebook, myspace or twitter. We want the connection to stay unbroken so that our words and ideas can flow through unimpeded. We are frustrated by an unanswered communication when we attempt to make a connection - no matter what type of spoken or unspoken word we send.

There is a six letter word that is more important in communication than any other.....PRAYER.
Our Father in Heaven waits continually to hear from His children. He wants to hear from us in our ups and downs, our belief and unbelief and in our strength or in our weakness. His love is never-wavering, His faithfulness is constant. There are no interruptions of 'service'. There is no down time. We can turn to Him in all things, knowing that His deep love is steadfast.

Philippians 4-7 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Words and Words = Books

Anna Daisy (Suderman) Siemens (Mother) said to her daughter, "Susie, that was an inadvertent statement." After a discussion young Susie understood that she had inadvertently commented to her mother a statement that was misconstrued.

Anna Daisy had a love affair with words. While her daughter (me) blithely learned Latin, struggled with French. Anna Daisy found obscure words and used them often until they were hers. She loved to do crossword puzzles and in her writing meticulously substituted words until she attained a word with a fitting rhythm, sound or meaning. Ill-chosen words could distort the purpose of the entire writing - and compell the collapse of the strength of the verbose discourse.

What is the result of Anna's love of words? There are many. There were the 'on-target' results of publication and awards, or a continuous love affair with wordology. (not a word - I am sure there is a larger word for wordology).
1. Closer listening to determine the meaning
2. A larger vocabulary
3. Interest in history of words and their evolution of meaning
4. Amusing confusion of children as they hear unusual words in familiar places
5. Creating an interest in off-spring (children) who also become enamored with words.
6. Teaching students of various ages the art of writing poetry in workshops.

Mother gave this gift of the love of words through her quest for better writing. Her oldest grandson, Dan, kept an open dictionary on the floor by his bed during his high school years, and he consulted it often. Dan learned French in high school and learned the obscure language - Esperanto - on his own.

Dan's brothers and sister have a penchant and adroitness in the use of words and have written often in various formats. Another grandson, Matt, became a talented debater, winning many awards during highschool and college.

What was the foundation of Anna Daisy's interest in words? Her tremendous faith in God and the determination to witness that faith. She spoke Plautt Dietch, coming from the heritage of a group of people, the Mennonites, who came to this country for the freedom of worship in the 1800's. Anna's determination and understanding of God's Word demanded that she witness her faith. She accomplished this in writing the history of her family, a file cabinet of poetry, articles and stories. There is but a short step from the rhythm and flow of words to music. One of her passions included writing Scripture Songs, singing her faith. She often wrote an 8th note beside scripture verses that 'sang' to her.

The picture above shows the foundation of her, the Bible, and the books she self-published during her later years. She once reminded me of the words of Solomon - Ecclesiastes 12:11-13
The words of the wise prod us to live well. They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There's no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you're no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you.
One of Mother's poems illustrates her lifelong journey with Jesus Christ, the foundation of her life.
Precious Presence, we are kneeling Wearied of earth's emptiness Feed and fill us with your power As we strive for holiness Let us walk to gain perfection, More like Christ in every way, Till we stand in joy before you On that great and glorious way.
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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Remembering


As I sorted the remains of Mother's belongings and picked up the light Wearever Aluminum mixing bowl. I saw that much of the covering had worn off. There was a dent in one side of the bowl. Worn and weathered, this bowl and endured many years of use. I considered throwing away the battered bowl, yet something stayed my hand.

Dad bought Mom a set of Wearever cooking utensils. Among the skillets and pans was this mixing bowl...and it brought mixed memories. Mom used the bowl for mixing her bread dough. I can still see her arms, covered with flour, flailing about as she gleefully kneaded the dough. The mixing bowl did not groan, but I wondered how it managed to endure. Once I asked about her active interaction with the dough. She explained that she received a lot of exercise making bread.

Many a chocolate cake, gingerbread or hot wheat loaves of bread were brought through the yawning portals of the old aluminum mixing bowl. Now when I reach into the cabinet for the used aluminum mixing bowl, I don't think so much of what Mom used the bowl for, but of the lessons she taught me through her giving to others, her love of the Truth, her straight and narrow path, her desire to impart through music, writing and teaching the love of Jesus.

Today I received an email from a Chinese friend, who said, "It isn't the words you said, but the love you gave that has changed my life." From this I learned a valuable lesson and one that points to Jesus. For it isn't just the Words of Truth that He gave us, it was His Love, dying on the cross for my sins, that makes following Jesus a life-changing force.

The beauty of the cross shines with love, though it is an instrument of torture. Remembering Jesus. I look at the emblems of bread (body) and juice (blood) as I partake of them. I see Jesus and His great love for me, and marvel at His great love. I hear the words, "This do in Remembrance of Me".

Now, I know why we were given our memories and the little things in life that remind us of love and sacrifice. The love that was demonstrated through the years from grandparents, parents, long gone and also now of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Just as the aluminum mixing bowl reminds me of my Mom's love, all the things of creation remind me of His great love and I sing His Praises for the abundance of blessings and love He pours out upon His children. Even as the birds sing praises to Him, I stretch out my hands to Him who is ever Able!


Psalm 143:6 - I remembered the old days, went over all you've done, pondered the ways you've worked, Stretched out my hands to you, as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.



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