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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Birth of Trust

I remember watching a baby's hands caressing the face of his mother. Memorizing the contours of her face, his eyes full of trust. The mother teaches that babe to trust our Lord from the first 'Amen' to full-grown prayers learned as his mother prays for him.

I remember the joy of holding each of my four children in my arms, watching them grow up. Is it any wonder that my heart swells with joy whenever my children, all in their 50's now, accomplish something, show their love and appreciation for their spouses and care for their children and grandchildren. The memories a mother holds in her heart of her children and the way they grew. I remember how Mother read a book to us (before the days of television) to help us not notice the wild western Oklahoma snowstorm outside.

Can a mother be disillusioned by her child as he grows up? No, she knows what is in his heart from birth. She cannot turn away from her son. As she grows old, her only gifts to her son are her prayers and love that last until her last breath. This is essence of motherhood. To my chagrin, I remember when my Dad cried when I brought home an 'F' on my report card. His disappointment in me didn't bring swift punishment, but tears. They hurt far worse. Did he stop loving me? No. Did he treat me with disdain? No. His love was constant.

Motherhood happens in every generation, the exploration of love under the banner of trust. For those two attributes are interchangeable. Without love, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no love.
Grandmothers underline the role of the mother with even more love, the sweetness of unconditional love. The Amen of Mother's Love.

How can this be?
Psalm 13:5 - But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I Corinthians 13:6-7 - Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

We trust in God, because He is trustworthy. Psalm 139:16 - your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

What about betrayal? What about the husband or wife who break their marriage commitment? What about the son who goes astray? What about families who are split asunder through distrust, fear or quarrels?

What happens? Distrust is a niggling suspicion that grows like an insidious leak, until it is a full-blown gusher of hurt. Only when all parties truly trust God, can this leak of criticism that leads to distrust be healed. Prayer, love and trust go together.

Trust Me, Trust Me Not

Trust is such a little word
Only five letters long
That encapsulates
A lovely love song

A child understands
He instinctively knows
Who to love and trust
As he learns and grows

From the first 'Amen
To his first step
Holding his mother's hand,
Secure from any misstep.

When do we lose
That implicit trust?
When just holding Mom's hand
Is not a must?

It's when we transfer
Our undying love
And put our Hand in His
And trust our God above.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Little Anna

I must have been six years old, visiting Grosmom Siemens. I could hear the murmur in Plautdeitch of my parents and Grosmom. It was evening and sleep would soon claim me. I laid on the floor and looked at the four walls of Grosmom's living room. My eyes found this picture of a little girl. I watched and wondered about her. I looked at her slippers and the way she stood. Her eyes intrigued me...what was she thinking. How old was she?

I wondered why I had never noticed her before. I wished she would come down from her frame on the wall and play with me. I knew we would have fun. What happened to her?

Later I asked my Dad who this little girl could be. He told me her name was Anna, his little sister. He used to rock her when Annaka (little Anna) cried. When I checked on the genealogical information Dad was 10 years old when his little sister died of meningitis when she was only 14 months old. The next time we went to Grosmom's house, I looked at her picture and wondered if she knew what was going to happen to her. I wondered if she liked Heaven.

I tried to imagine how it was for my grandparents when Annaka was born in 1911. Jacob and Emilie moved to Washita County in western Oklahoma. to homestead a farm with their four children, Elizabeth, Jake, Dietrich and Herman. Both Jacob and Emilie were used to travel. Jacob traveled as a traveling evangelist for the Mennonite Church. Emilie traveled to United States from Saratov, Russia, when she was 16. On the homestead, hunger was always a constant visitor.

Dad told me once that Grandpa Siemens hooked the horse to the wagon to go to town for supplies. Grosmom asked him, could there be some oil cloth I can make bibs for the children. Grandpa counted his money....shook his head no and declared, "If we do not have money for oil cloth, then I will not go to town."

Pictured - front row: Jacob Siemens, John, Emilie.
Second row: Herman, Elizabeth, Jacob, Dietrich.

Then John E joined them in 1907. Imagine the joy of Jacob and Anna when Annaka joined them in 1911. Elizabeth was 15, Jake was 14, Dietrich was 12, Herman was 9 and John was 5 years old. What a blessing of a little sister to join the rollicking family. The laughter was stilled when Annaka became ill. Nothing helped Annaka.

I can imagine Grosmom's brown eyes filled with tears when Annaka died. But she would only grieve in private. Grosmom was a strong lady - a practical lady. Her love was easily given to those in need. Her jet black hair, parted in the middle, and combed back into a tight bun at the nape of her neck. I often wondered what her life was like between 1876 and 1892 when she lived in Russia. During her time as a mother between 1897 - 1913, what inventions would make her life easier? Many, such as toilet paper (1880), the zipper (1893), first tractor (1890), crayons (1903), Cornflakes (1906), and none of these things made her life easier. (I remember the catalog in the outhouse) When Grosmom came to live with us, we washed dishes one day. She picked up the eggbeater and began turning the handle. Soon the suds in the dishwater threatened to escape the dish pan. I watched the delight in her eyes. To protect her, I informed her that Mom did not allow playing while washing the dishes.
Dad told about the woman who was his mother, so softhearted - crying behind the wood stove. She had struck a baby pig with the tines of the pitchfork in the hay when feeding the cows. When her husband's health broke, and he was struck with progressing paralysis, she did not complain. The petite woman insisted that she was the one who cared for her dear Jacob. Grandpa Jacob died in 1930, and I can see her yet, sitting on the front porch rocking in a chair to the time of the hymn. "Shall We Gather At the River." Was she longing for heaven to hold her Annaka again? Was she longing for her dear Jacob?

When I pray and read God's Word - I know that I am following in the footsteps of Jacob and Emilie. Just when life gets difficult, I remember how my grandparents had faith and believed - and that gave them strength from the same God that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob prayed to and loved. I wonder which verses meant the most to them.

Were they my favorite verses or did other verses give them hope and strength?
John 14:1-4 - "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hem Me In

"Shout to the Lord for joy, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness."

Not many letters, unless you level the lines, trace each letter on a ladder and then paint each one. The top line provided the opportunity to reach to the skies on the stage of Rogers Christian Church. Today is the painting day. Driving to church, I prayed that God would help me to stay within the lines, hold my legs steady to complete the task before me.

Suddenly I could hear Mom's voice reading --- You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. (Psalm 139:5). Many things went through my mind as I climbed the 10 foot ladder to finish the top lines, I told myself, "Remember, you are 81 years old. Be very careful." Then I prayed again for strength to paint and most importantly to stay within the lines.

I laughed aloud. Whenever Mother quoted this verse, I pictured her nimble fingers rolling a hem, measuring, and then stitching by hand, the resulting hem.

As a child I chaffed at being rolled into a small place and stitched in to stay. I wanted to explore the world and all its experiences. Sometimes the hem would be a 3 inch hem, but still, I wanted space. I wanted freedom. I wanted independence.

Patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, my parents tried to teach me obedience, 'to stay in the lines'. Perhaps they understood their headstrong daughter wanted to scale any challenge. One day I came home from college and told mother I wanted a two piece suit made of red taffeta. Mother usually made my clothing....and it would have taken two hours. She decided that I needed to learn how to sew. We purchased the pattern and the red taffeta material. Then she supervised cutting out the pieces of the puzzle from the material. Then came the point of no return. The sleeves included a diamond shaped piece under the arm. My temper began to flare as I tried to fit this gusset into its place between the sleeve and the back and front. "Ootch it!" my Mother admonished, after I tried three times, ripping out the stitches each time. "What?" I asked. She explained to stretch one side and 'ootch' in the gusset (diamond shape).

Finally Mother said she was leaving for awhile. "Why?" I asked.

"You need to figure it out on your own, I will come back later." Mom replied. Feeling totally abandoned, I spent an hour 'ootching' and finally sewed it together. I think there were a few tucks here and there -- but Mom gave me the room to solve my problem. Now I wonder....How much better if I had taken a deep breath, prayed for guidance - depended on God to help me, would it have 'ootched' easier?

Who knew that God would teach me a lesson on a 10 foot ladder today? The joy of being hemmed into a safe place with God. The joy of being able to depend on God for guidance and strength and knowing God would steady my hand. The faithfulness of God that allows me to feel freedom to serve Him.

God's boundary provides peace and joy, and I echo with my Mother -

I've learned that it is a blessing to know and trust that -- YOU hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.


Monday, July 05, 2010

Unwise Choices

An Unwise Choice -- Dad said, "Go get a Tamarisk branch, you need a spanking." I know I needed to be punished, the reason now escapes me. I remember my heavy steps toward the willowy Tamarisk bush, to select a suitable branch. With even slower steps I returned holding the 'switch' for Dad to use. When I handed it to Dad I realized that I had made the wrong choice by looking at his face. He threw it down, "I'll get one that won't break."

I don't remember the cause for punishment or the punishment itself, I simply remember that my choice of a switch was not suitable for Dad's intended purpose. The switch was flexible, the punishment was not.

It wouldn't be the only wrong choice I made in my life, although none of them were as black and white and quickly over. Growing up, I often deliberately disobeyed or made the wrong choices. The consequences were sometimes delayed or sometimes instantaneous. Learning obedience is difficult when we are young and often just as difficult later in life. I did notice that when I obeyed I felt a sense of peace and all's-well-with-the-world sense.

Ironically, we expected total obedience from our children, forgetting our own history. One of the most
rewarding happenings for me is knowing my children as the adults they are now. When we went through the 'forever' of their childhood we longed for and dreaded the moment they left the home nest. Knowing all the choices they had to make: their education, livelihood, mate, faith, how to spend their money, where to live and so many other decisions of men and women on the edge of adulthood.

We cheer for their successes and pray for guidance in their missteps and wrong choices. The love we knew for each of them when they were born has not abated, but grown. This love only grows with every grandchild and every great-grandchild. Enriching blessing from God - each one.

Choices as individuals, families, cities, states and countries can be difficult to make, and even more difficult without wise guidance and a foundation. Each decision each one makes impacts not only the individual or group making the decision, but those who are born generations later.

When Dad moved to accept a rural mail route shortly after WWII, he encountered many flat tires. His predecessor was less than accommodating to his mail patrons, and 'tack' retribution left its point. I marveled at Dad's restraint, purchasing a magnet to clean up the areas around 100 mail boxes and patching tires, tires that were difficult to find in that era. The po
tential enemies became helpful friends. Dad's patrons used their tractors to pull him out of snow banks, and offered him water on a hot day. He made the choice that freed him from a 'tack-filled' relationship.

We just celebrated the 4th of July. Many years ago our forefathers made a choice that gained freedom from taxation without repr
esentation and independence for our country. The choices were made by a hand full of men long ago. Their decisions, their choices, have stood fast for more than two hundred years. Their choices made a difference and gave us the inspiration of freedom for generations.

My Mom, Anna Daisy Siemens, was born long ago in 1907, on the 4th of July. The choices she made in her life, made a difference for those she knew and her family. Why? Because she chose to follow Jesus Christ in her life. Because of her choice, Jesus was glorified through her attitudes, her actions, her writing and her life.

Today I received an email from one of her great-granddaughters, Rebekah:

Yesterday made me think of Grandma Daisy....a lot. And that got me to thinking of her influence on so many young minds; which brought me to thinking of how well her parents raised her and instilled values. And that brought me to what our founding fathers were have a nation for people to be have "One Nation Under God". We are so very blessed with the many opportunities in our path.

So many times, I hear in my mind and my spirit, Mother's voice. It is often scripture....May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14.

Jesus was Mom's choice and Jesus is my choice. Each individual must make a choice, and not making a choice, is to make a choice. Choosing is a stepping stone to obedience and freedom. This is not an oxymoron - obedience is the boundary in which freedom abides. Obedience plus freedom in Christ equals the peace that passes understanding.