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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Love Letters

In1938, when I was nine years old, United States President was Franklin Roosevelt. It was the zenith of “do It your-selfers. A new car cost $700, gasoline was 20 cents a gallon, bread was 9 cents, a postage stamp was 3 cents, milk was 50 cents a gallon. The average annual salary was $1,700. Hit songs that year were, “Begin the Beguine”, “Thanks for the Memories” and “Whistle While You Work”.

It was Labor Day, we could hear the drums from the parade downtown, but Dad battled termites. He used a heavy brush and painted creosote on the foundation of our ‘brown house’ on 330 South 14t.hStreet. Mother was busy in the kitchen. I wandered down the basement stairs and noted that the crawl space was open. It was kept closed. I peered into the shadowed area and spied a box. Why would a box be under the house. I pulled it to the stairway and slowly opened it. Inside the box were bundles of letters, some tied together with ribbon. Curious as to why letters were in a box under the house, I began pulling a letter from an aged envelope and unfolded the paper and read, “To My Darling, My Sweetheart”…. I had never heard of a love letter. Who had written these? I read further and found a love poem. The signature on the letter flowed across the paper – Herman Bennie Siemens.

My Daddy wrote this letter? My Daddy wrote poems? Why would my Daddy’s letters be under the house? Who is “My Darling”. I opened another letter and found a telling signature, Anna Daisy Suderman - Mom. What a treasure! I found letters that my parents wrote to each other before they were married. I read the school girl writing, slightly slanted to the left that my Mom had written.

My parents were just my parents – and here was evidence of another life of my parents before I was born. Incredible. As I read the third letter from the box, I heard footsteps, and Mom’s voice floated down to me, “What are you doing?” Before I had a chance to respond, Mom swooped down and replaced the letters and closed the box again. “You are too young to read this now.” There never was a time when I could read them. I wonder now what happened to the letters, a testimony of the love that lasted a lifetime.

Love letters are a tradition in history. Imagine my surprise in learning on internet that for a price, you can choose the parts you want to put together to form a love letter, as well as love poems. Interesting that love letters have become a lucrative business based on the need to express love-thoughts to one’s special love. What is it about love letters that books are written on the “How-to’s” of writing a love letter?

One example of Dad’s written love for Mom, the love letters no longer exist, from the back of a picture (above) he gave Mom in 1941. …..In memory of our 13th Anniversary Engagement (April 20, 1926). Here’s to the Dearest little Girl in the World. Who promised faithfully to this humble boy, and through the years has kept this faith – true, pure and without alloy. From Herman.

My love letters from my dear husband were lost in a move. I mourned the loss, but learned through the years that love is not always written – but lived out. When I count all the ways my dear husband proves his love, there is no need for words. He worked long hours, made life easier on many different ways, including often caring for the babies in the middle of the night in our early marriage.

On our refrigerator is a love note from our daughter, I love you, Mommy. A reminder that although miles separate us, our love stays whole in our hearts. We receive love letters from our children, our grand children and from friends. I see a love letter when a child smiles and when I see someone help someone else. A love letter is giving of time and thought. There is nothing more personal that a handwritten note encouraging someone you love. A love letter is putting your heart on paper.

God sent Jesus, His Love Letter to us. This is one Love Letter that is for eternity.

A love letter that cannot fade in time. Every time we see a sunrise or a sunset, their brilliance is a Love Letter from our Creator. Is it any wonder that when we read Paul’s Epistles in the New Testament we know his intense love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Twenty-one of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are Paul’s love letters to the churches then and to us today. They tell of the unforgettable love of Jesus Christ who died for our sins and that Jesus was raised to life again, our advocate and giver of forgiveness of sins.

Philippians 1:3-6 - I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

II Corinthians 3:2-3 - You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

What kind of love letter can we write to the One who is our Creator and our Sustainer? II Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives the answer.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


“I want to be free!” My sixth graders, long ago, discussed what the school would look like if they were totally free. They wrote their definitions of freedom concentrating on re-doing the menu in the lunch room, not having to ‘line up’ to go to lunch or the rest room or to recess, not having to do homework or have rules to obey in the classroom. They wanted freedom in their immediate realm.

As they expressed their ideas, I asked some questions about what their idea of freedom would look like. I learned as much as they did about the concept of freedom. Inter-related concepts of responsibility came in to it. I remembered thinking the same things they were expressing as I grew up. I loved the feel of wind in my hair, singing as I walked or sang at the edge of twilight or reading an entrancing story.

One of the most enlightening truisms of life is that we always have a fence around us. A responsibility to obey. As I grew up, I learned to mind my parents and the school rules. Then college rules. In marriage, I considered my dear husband’s thoughts and wishes. In teaching, I had many rules to follow in the school system. One day I realized that above all, God has set out His commands to follow as a safeguard with no loopholes, just love and forgiveness. Then came the realization of this scripture: Before a word is on my tongue- you, LORD, know it completely. 
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:4-6

Suddenly I realized that being hemmed in is a security – a guard -- a protection from the unknown and the Evil One. One quote by Rainer Maria Rilke reminds us – “The only journey is the journey within.” How true, freedom is longed for, and is ours when we learn obedience within and its discipline molds our life.

In a discussion with a wise man recently, he proposed that what motivates obedience is to live within the guidelines God has given us. We came to the conclusion that lasting motivation is love and forgiveness, not fear and compulsion. Threats toward others do not elicit willing obedience while choosing to obey has long-lasting implications from generation to generation. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4

Choosing to obey has more intrinsic rewards than forcing obedience through fear. One sixth grade class surprised me on Valentine’s day with a huge blue heart-shaped box of chocolates. They then insisted on a valentine parade through the small school. Now I know that they chose to honor me because they understood they were ‘safe’ in our classroom. It must have begun in September, when I opened a desk drawer and pulled out the rubber sole of a tennis shoe belonging to the former teacher. I asked what it was. The students related that it was his paddle. I threw away that sole in the trash.

That experience pointed out the by-product of obedience on the way to freedom is peace.

What gives us peace? A simple explanation is ridding one’s self of sin. When a dear friend of mine came up out of the water of baptism, she told me she felt peace most of all. One of my favorite verses tells us of that peace. When I was a child, I heard a lady sing in a deep contralto voice about peace, before I knew what contralto was. When she sang, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”…. The words rode on her deep tones that traveled deep into my heart.

Peace. And how does this peace work? John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

What does this peace give us? Freedom from anxiety or what might have been, what will be and what is. Freedom rests on foundation of obedience to the One and Only who only asks for faithfulness. Every moment of every day, I rejoice in God for giving his only Son to make it possible for a relationship with God, A relationship that leads to an everlasting life where our traits will be as His traits - love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, goodness, kindness and self- control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Can you imagine an everlasting life there no one has to be politically correct? Can you imagine a place where everyone is filled with the God-traits? Can you imagine a place where there is acceptance for all and praise is true and there is no fear, no death or crying? This is Heaven. This is the true Freedom that is awaiting us.

God is our peace, He is our joy, He is our freedom.

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ Numbers 6:24-26


Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Before I ever knew about Hope, God gave me Mom. Her creativity in seeing beyond what is, provided a foundation of hope in my life in many areas.

It was in the 1930’s that Mom showed me the cotton feed sack that had held chicken feed for Dad’s chickens. Dainty blue flowers printed on 100% cotton cloth. Then she began to tell me how she would create a new dress for me from this material, I began to catch her vision – what little girl is not delighted to wear a new dress. Mother washed the material, ironed it, and then began to cut out the pieces and stitch them together. Finally it was time to try on the dress. It fit perfectly. Then I saw it!

A hole in the cloth! My hopes for a new dress were dashed. I showed the small hole to Mom. She smiled, “That is no problem, that is a perfect place for a pocket!” She added, “If the hole were smaller, I could just embroidery a flower over the hole, but a pocket will work.”

Seeing her confidence, my hope was restored. The dress was finished, and I wore it with pride. I didn’t know it then, but Mom had given me more than a new dress. She gave me a lesson in Hope!

God is in the business of hope. He gives us hope through the power of His Holy Name, through and Jesus, His only Son. That hope is rests on our faith and trust in Him. That faith allows us to see beyond what is and provides wisdom for us.

The verses from Psalm 37:3-4 were favorites of Mom. “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Delight in the Lord? That delight stems from choosing to trust and have faith in God. I often think of my six year old piano students. When I give them a choice of how many pieces they want to learn for the next week, they always rise with delight and expectation to choose more. This is so like us. It is not a begrudging choice, it is not an obedience that is forced. It is a choice that is joyfully made, a giving of our whole hearts to the Lord and we hunger for more of Him in our hearts..

It is no wonder that Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice for we trust in his holy name But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,” Psalm 33:20-21.

Remember your birthday? Remember the anticipation when your heart beats faster, as you anticipate what you will see in the next year? The verse describes the hope that is ours and the anticipation in hope for the Lord.

My favorite part of the verses – But eyes of the Lord are on those who fear (respect) Him…God never takes His eyes off of us – we are His children – He made us. He loves us. He is the foundation of our hope in life. He is the genesis of our joy. He is the author of our faith. He is! And The LORD is our Hope!


My hope is in you, O Lord
I trust your Holy Name
Your love never fails
You are ever the same.

You are my help
You are my shield
In You I find wisdom
To You I ever yield.

The desires of my heart
I receive day and night
For it is in You
I ever will delight.



Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Moving Day!

One of the seven moves during our 59 years together was in 1957. Half-heartedly I began packing boxes of dishes, books, toys and needs for a baby and three little boys, all born within 4 years. I soon learned to close the boxes, or our little boys unpacked as quickly as I packed. Each of the seven moves provided its share of stress and moments of comic relief.

As we moved to a farm house near Howard, Kansas – my dear husband decided the moving truck would get stuck in the mud, so he backed the pickup to the truck to move the piano into the house. He soon learned that was not a wise transition. The piano survived. During these moves when we were young – we managed the refrigerator, the piano, and the heavy things ourselves.

On another move, I followed the U-Haul truck, with my dear husband driving, through the heavy traffic of Wichita. Two of our children were with Daddy, and I had the oldest and youngest in the car. The car was topped with a regular sized mattress. (Family pictured)

Somehow we managed to drive through several green lights and then it happened. The U-Haul truck made it through the green light, and then the caution light came on. I slammed on the brakes. In the back seat, Anna woke up and began crying. Dan was trying to calm down his little sister. It was then I noted the slide of the mattress and it threatened to slide down to obstruct my view.

In panic, I kept my eye on the truck which was disappearing from view with my dear husband and two sons. Meanwhile, Anna’s voice continued to rise in pitch and intensity….as Dan tried to comfort her. Driving on, determining my options, I searched for a huge U-Haul truck. They are easy to spot, I thought. Finally after driving another 4 blocks in downtown Wichita, I spied the truck. We were once again united and my dear husband adjusted the mattress on top of the car. After 53 years, that feeling of relief is as fresh as it was that day.

Moving to Arkansas was a bit different. We left our three sons in Illinois --- they had left home and one was married by then. Anna was ready to attend college. (She once said she didn’t know where her home was – Illinois we had left, Arkansas where her parents then resided or Oklahoma where she attended college.) I resigned my teaching job and we left our church home. Cutting ties in a move was always the most difficult. Leaving the comfortable footprints to go to work, to church, to the grocery store, to the doctor – and then our paths are obliterated by time and distance.

I often thought about Sarah as she followed her husband, Abraham, when God told him to move to another place. What was the conversation like? Sarah, “Where are we going?” Abraham, “I don’t know, God just said to go.” Sarah, “When will we get there?” Abraham, “When we arrive.” "What will we do when we run out of food or water, where is the laundry place, or the doctor?” Abraham, “Woman, God will provide. We must trust God and He will provide.”

To make this trip’s discomfort more real to young people, I always add, “There were no McDonald’s or Walmart’s on the way!” I always hearing a horrified gasp.

Once when driving home at dusk from a day of teaching, the road rose until it seemed to disappear into the sky. For an instant I felt that it led straight into Heaven. What was I doing on this road? Was I lost? Where did it lead? What if I continued on this road and never found home? Now I know I was nearer our Heavenly Home than I ever thought.

What happens when we near the end of our lives? Yes, that becomes an unsettling time for our strength is no longer present. Our routines are uprooted and we ask questions like Sarah did. There are no answers. That is when we hear Abraham’s voice – Trust in the Lord.

When Grosmom Siemens moved into our home in Clinton, what was she feeling and thinking? As a grandchild, I rejoiced – Grosmom was always with us. What did she dream of? When Grandmother Suderman moved into the Parkside Home, she said, “I just hope I can be decent about it.” These words were echoed when Mom could no longer care for herself and moved into our home. I didn’t wonder about it then, but I do now, when my time comes, will I be ‘decent’ about it? Will I trust that God will provide?

Recently – a four year old boy – noting the brown spots on my hands - asked why they were there. Without thinking, I said – “That is what old people get on their hands.”

In all his innocence, he looked up with inquiring blue eyes and commented, “But old people die.” I wondered how I would answer. Suddenly I blurted, “Yes, but then I get to go live with Jesus.” I went home, thinking about our conversation. The words played over and over in my mind and I wrote:

Movin' On

I’m movin’ on…I’m movin’ on.

One day I’ll hear the Lord call – And I’m movin’ on

Won’t need to rent a ‘u-haul’ Oh, I’m movin’ on.

My spirit flies so free – I’m movin on

It’s just my Lord and me. I’m movin’ on.

To the mansion in heaven

There’s no tears when I’m leavin’ For I’m movin’, movin’ on.

He made me, He loves me, He set me free

When sin’s shackles fell away.

He moved into my heart to stay.

Movin’ on, movin, movin’, movin’ -

Movin’ on.

Philippians 3:14 - I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:20 - But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

John 14:1-4 - “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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