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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Last Day!

“Hurry, kids, clean your rooms, it is the last day before Grandpa and Grandma come, and we have so much to do.”

We children sprang into action – with the vacuum cleaner, the dust rag, cleaning from the front door to the back door, including our rooms. It was always exciting when Grandpa and Grandma Suderman came. We would have zwieback (two-story rolls); home made ice cream, and the Plautdietch talk would be thick, laced with laughter. A happy time. Each of the grandchildren received a small sack of candy, when five cents’ worth of candy filled the tiny sack. Now that I am grown, I realize that tiny sack of candy is tiny in my memory bank. The twinkles in the two pairs of blue eyes and the hugs, knowing we were loved unconditionally made their visit worth all the preparations the week before to the last day.

The last day and the last moment of their visit were always sad, to say Good-bye is the most difficult part of the visit. It was hard to keep from crying, but there was always the hope of the next visit. I didn’t know it then, but I learned patience in waiting.

There are many ‘lasts’ in our lives and each one is preceded with preparation. As I watch the incredible rose bush in preparation for blooming, I watch each day the swelling of the buds – waiting for the burst of a bloom. Then the last days before a killing frost, the roses seem to know and their buds are more prolific and the blooms more glorious.

The last day before graduating from high school, I walked through the halls of Watonga High School, memorizing the sights and the smells where I had spent many happy and challenging days.

The last day before marriage, all the preparations were made for the wedding, but what would a lifetime with my chosen love be like? So many unanswered questions filled my mind. The last days had many unanswered questions, yet, after almost 60 years of marriage – my mind could not have conceived all the blessings I have had with my dear husband and our four children, now grown with children and grandchildren of their own.

There are many last days when change is in the air – last day before retirement – last day of vacation – the last day of summer - the last day with a friend who is leaving. Each ‘last’ in our lives is preceded with preparation, training and a time of waiting with anticipation. Each ‘last’ is preceded with a first, and the exhilaration of challenge and achievement – from the first word and the first step, to every part of our lives whether learning or working or loving or faith.

Our great grandson, Samuel, asked his Mother about a word that he heard her singing, Holy. “What does that mean, Mom?” Sarah, our granddaughter, began explaining.

She was interrupted by her four-year-old son’s voice, “Mom, you know Jesus? He died on the cross, doesn't that just break your heart?"

Yes, this life is our preparation for the last days. Live today as if it were the only day we have. The last day we have. Tomorrow? What is tomorrow, really? The sun comes up and the day begins, how will it be different than the day before?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:18

So we fix our eyes not onwhat is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. II Corinthians 4:18

The story of an elderly missionary couple, returning to their home touched my heart. As they prepared to go into the house, the wife said, “You go on into the house, I will be there soon.” The husband walked in the house and soon he heard the door open as his wife prepared to come inside. As she stepped in she took her last step in this life and her first step into heaven to be with her Lord.

The last day leads to the first day of forever for those, whose Lord is Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


From the time I was old enough to observe, I saw my Dad throw himself into whatever needed to be done. His stride would quicken and his arms, elbows bent, churned the air. He wanted company and enlisted his children to plow the garden, repair the chicken house, take care of Daisy, the cow, and feed the chickens, clean the chicken house or caponize chickens.

When Dad took someone home, they would try to make it easier, and have Dad let them out near their destination. He always said, “When I take you home, you are ‘took’ home!” As a teenager, I awakened to the cry up the stairs, “Up and At-Em!” No matter what Dad did, he was All-In! He taught us to go the extra mile. He never complained when he delivered packages for the post office late into Christmas Eve.

Then I married my dear husband. I realized he was a laid back version of All-In, when we took our first born, Dan, to the doctor for his 6 weeks check-up. My husband insisted on carrying Dan to the doctor’s examining room. I followed with the obligatory diaper bag. I glanced up to see a picture of All-In. Wearing cowboy boots, tight jeans, and then I saw how those jeans, worn while herding cattle were equipped. From the left back pocket, hung a cloth diaper (it was 1952, after all). From the right back pocket was a half full bottle of formula – at ready. What a picture of a proud father. With the three children who quickly followed – My dear husband was always All-In. (The graphic on this page, a father’s day card from one of our All-In children was sent this last week)

Now, our children are grown, and when I receive an email from one of our children, I print it out and give it to their Dad. He reads it slowly, commenting along the way. He is an All-In Father and Grandfather and Great Grandfather. He is concerned about every part of their lives.

When I tried to understand the genesis of the term, All-In, I was astonished to see that it comes from a game of pool. But how is it used today? In the passage of 82 years, I have seen many phrases come and go. Now with texting and messaging, a curious mix of letters has meaning to the discerning texter/messager. I was stumped when my grandson said – brb. Or a friend last night saying – ttyl. After asking, I finally learned some of the phrases. The plethora of abbreviations show the short cuts of those try to keep pace with today’s ever-increasing speed.

I submit that God –in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. Creation shows that God is All-In in so many ways.

Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. Whenever I think about God, I love to read Job 38…in part….4-7 - “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together 
 and all the angels shouted for joy!

Recently our great-grandson, when asked what he learned in Sunday school answered, “God knows how to count the stars!" He has an understanding that God is All-In and He is our Lord.

God Can

God can count each star - He knows them by name

He can calm the storm - Wild animals, He can tame.

God can move mountains - He makes giant trees

He touches each rose with dew - He created everything we see.

God can do anything - And He's my King

God loves you and me - For He is All-In, you see.

All-In means enthusiasm, with all your heart and with your entire mind. One quote said, “Unless your heart, your soul, and your whole being are behind every decision you make, the words from your mouth will be empty, and each action will be meaningless. Truth and confidence are the roots of happiness.”

All-In is ‘marked by unconditional commitment, unstinting devotion, or unreserved enthusiasm: wholehearted approval’

When I think about wholeheartedness I think of the Apostle Paul, a man who put his heart into persecuting Christians, and then whole-heartedly lifted up Christ.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23.

One of the favorite verses of Mom’s was this one from Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

An All-In verse that explains how we can be ALL-IN – is from Luke 10: 27 - He (Jesus) answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

This All-In living is our response to our Lord who is ALL-IN


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Choosing Wisely

What goes into a decision-making? As a young mother, I was determined to give my children choices – at the breakfast table – choosing their cereal. My children would learn decision-making. It could have been expanded to other areas of their lives, but it wasn’t. Yet they had many decisions to make later of careers, choice of mates, choices of what are important in life.

When they were teenagers, during the summer we took turns making lunch. You should have heard the groans when our oldest pulled the hot Dill Pickle Jiffy Pizza from the oven! Tastes change through the

years, but our oldest still loves the unusual foods. His decision.

My Dad made a decision to trade postal jobs and houses with a man in another town. Before making the decision final, he and Mom prayed about the decision. Was this the right thing to do? How would it impact their teen-age children? Was there a church family to call their own in the new location? Would they like the house?

Moving day came after much preparation. The learning curve was steep for the mail carrier’s job, learning the route and all the patrons. We teen-agers were six weeks into the new school year, and then thrown into a smaller school system, with an all-new student body and teachers.

Finances became tight since the job required a car that worked in order to drive the 100 miles a day to deliver mail. I remember the 1945 Red Ford that soon racked up many miles. The car aged rapidly, with the country driving on dusty roads in the summer, snow in the winter. This required more decision-making as to finances, providing car repairs and new tires.

After one month, the decision was made to forego the house that was traded for, and move to the house next door. That moving day didn’t include a truck, but carrying our belongings across a field separating the two houses. The house fitted us.

Financially, it was tight for over a year, but it became home to the five of us, plus a cow, chickens and Jim’s hog for 4-H. The garden became an area of plenty – with vegetables, fruit and flowers. Even one year, Dad and Mom planted pecan trees.

When I think of the decisions they made and the sacrifices they made, I wonder how they were able to make wise choices. What makes a decision a wise choice? On what basis are decisions made? Who decides that a decision is wise? Is the wisdom of the decision in the eye of the beholder? On what basis or foundation can we be sure that our decisions meet the criteria of wisdom? Is it just a matter of listing the self-perceived pros and cons of the decision, or is there more?

Every family has many decisions to make and need the wisdom to do so. Discernment is a primary requisite and implies the ability to control actions, study possible consequences and generally practice self-control. Oh, that is one of the fruit of the spirit! (Galatians 5:22-23)

When floundering in the abyss of indecision, I like to read this verse: Colossians 2:2-3 - My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In Christ are hidden the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As I read these verses I long to know more of his wisdom for that wisdom only comes through Him.

James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Proverbs 10:13 - Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, - but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

Proverbs 2:6 - For the LORD gives wisdom; - from his mouth come knowledge and understanding

Proverbs 3:13 - Blessed are those who find wisdom, - those who gain understanding,

Proverbs 11:2 - When pride comes, then comes disgrace, - but with humility comes wisdom.

James 3:13 – He who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

In every part of our lives, whether emotional, spiritual, mental or physical, our lives depend on the choices we make. Discerning choices that send us on our way in this life. Making each choice, one that we can ‘live’ with is the key. The verses above, and there are more, clearly tell us the genesis of that wisdom…from the One who created us and created our world and created the plan to save us to live with God for an eternity.

Where can we find God and pray for wisdom? He is closer than we know.

From one of my favorite chapters, Psalm 139, come these verses (Message)

7-12 Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute—
you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011


As a child whenever I woke up with a bad dream, Mom said to think about lovely things. Think about pretty things, things that are beautiful.” In the midst of my tussle with scary and bad things, nothing looked beautiful to me. I challenged Mom, “What is beautiful?” She enumerated a dozen at least, things that were beautiful to her. She taught me to recognize the characteristics of the beautiful and the lovely. Each characteristic becomes a blessing.

She was my first teacher and continues to be. Even now, as scenarios of the past play through my head, I hear her voice, just when I need it. Her list of beauty then centered in her garden. The hues and shapes of flowers that bloomed in that garden were beautiful and she taught me their beauty. I remember when she skipped, yes, skipped, from the garden with fresh snap peas in her hands, “Here, taste this. These are so crunchy and sweet!”

Or picking off a ripe persimmon from the tree, “Here, taste this.” It was years before I learned that eating the first strawberries of the season, small slices of a few strawberries and divided between a family of five could be such a blessing and taste of spring. (Pictured to the left - Grandmother Suderman joins in the gardening work...)

Mom continued the process of finding joy in beauty, as she aged. I noticed that beauty extended to stitches in a quilt, sewing and finishing a garment, a row of homegrown, home-canned fruits and vegetables on the shelves in the Siemens Cellar (so designated by my brothers with brown shoe polish above the entrance under the backyard Elm Tree). How much Dad and Mom enjoyed their garden of flowers, vegetables and fruit in Clinton and Watonga.

Then came the Shades of Purple Mural on her living room wall. She loved the royal color, and began a huge wall painting of tall mountains, a stream, trees, all in soft shades of purple. A young piano-student helped her paint her dream mural. She loved painting and drawing, taking an art class at the junior college in her 80’s. She combined another love – words – and combined poetry with her art.

Why did Mom, Anna Daisy, continue to explore and study beauty? Why did she apply what she learned? She found the secret of life in intentional living – in focusing her mind on what is beautiful physically and spiritually.

I remember the day clearly when she gave me a scripture as I prepared for a day as an educator, Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12. Another lesson learned about the ‘whatevers’.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7a

II Corinthians 5b - and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. II Corinthians 10:5b.

This is an intentional living strategy. This is not WHATever living…but Philippians 4:8 living.

WHATever living is laissez-faire living. (do-nothing policy, for the most, free enterprise, free hand, inaction, indifference, individualism, live and let live).

WHATever living is like sailing through life without a rudder of faith, listing from one port to another with no real destination in mind.

Intentional living is aligning to our Creator – for Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is our reality and our rudder to guide us through this life to live with Him when He calls us home. This living has meaning and an everlasting foundation of stability in a world of change.

Robert Browning wrote – “Ah, but a man’s reach must exceed his grasp. Or what is heaven for?”

Mom, Anna Daisy, lived by the Whatevers…. of Philippians 4:8…. and received the peace that passes understanding. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Was Mom perfect? No, but she was perfect-fully real in Christ. And through Mom, I see Jesus! Thank you, Mom, for a gift without measure.