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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Family Afterglow

A little boy said goodbye to his mother and he was brought to an orphanage in Pune. His mother suffered from tuberculosis and did not expect to live. This was her sacrificial act for her son, there was no one else to care for him. Her gift to her son was the chance of a gift of life.

A young couple and their three daughters, one adopted from India, in America looked at the pictures on the coffee table of little boys. Which one would they choose. They were drawn to the photo of Santosh. Arrangements were made with the orphanage and the small boy, almost four years old, flew in an airplane from India to America with a person from the orphanage. It was a long trip for a little boy, before he even knew what 'goodbye' meant.

At the end of the flight, the young couple met the plane. It had been a waiting time filled with concern and prayer. The money for the adoption, the choice of Santosh, the preparation for a little boy, who would soon arrive created the need for trusting God. So many unknowns, and then they held Santosh, a small brown-eyed mischievous little boy. They were a family.

What did Santosh think of his light-skinned parents, his two blonde sisters, and Rebekah, who reflected his darker skin and brown eyes? Santosh's new father wrote an article about Lavasatha's legacy ( Paul wrote: One of my favorite passages of the Bible is from Proverbs, ”A man plans his steps, but the Lord directs his path.” As I look back almost 21 years ago, I can see God using a little boy to direct my path in a way I could never have foreseen.
Not only was Santosh's life forever changed forever, but Paul and Carolyn's and their family, and Santosh's new uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents' lives. During the first visit to his Arkansas grandparents' home, he still remembered life in India....and pretended to eat dirt from a tub because of the hunger he remembered. He loved green grapes, and through subsequent visits he learned to play checkers with Grandma. On one visit, he went to Grandma Daisy's house and saw the wild rabbits that tried to eat her garden. Eighteen years later, he still remembers her excitement of showing Santosh the rabbits.

There was never a question from either Santosh or his grandparents as to their relationship and love. Adoption simply means a choice of love from all concerned. Santosh's new parents raised Santosh to love Jesus and to pray and to trust in Him.

When Santosh was 10 years old, he came to his grandparents' home and said he wanted to be baptized into Jesus. His Grandpa baptized him in the Rogers Christian Church baptistery. The faith of Santosh deepened and he delighted in discipline, telling others his story, enduring racial taunts from classmates and learning the nuances of a new language. He overflowed with love and concern for others. He loved taking a tray of food to Grandma Daisy and listening to her stories. At one point, he gave his Grandma one of his stuffed animals to keep....a rabbit.
Santosh delighted in working and being busy. He attended a Bible College in Montana for a year. He plays the guitar and a bit of piano. Then he left home, working in construction, shingling roofs. He attends a church and trusts in God. He decided to come this year to see his transplanted Arkansas grandparents. It has been many years – and as we ate green seedless grapes, he told us of his adventures and his life. He is twenty-two years old now and a man.
We enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner with our son, Tim and his family. Ben stayed to visit with his cousins. Then we 'skyped' his cousins in California. He enjoyed visiting with family and being with family for Thanksgiving Day. At the end of the day, I asked him what he is most thankful for. He said without hesitation – family.

He continued, I am thankful for being a Combs, and for family and all that means. He left the next morning at 5:30 am, and as he drove, he thought about family and wrote this poem:
It is strange to watch the time fly Before our very eyes, Which reminds me of the blessing, That we have you in our lives.
To have yet to feel the touch That's as gentle as your hand The closeness of our family One could never understand.
As each of our lives Continue to change, Reflections of your love In each of us remains.
You have pointed out the path And led us along the way;
The wisdom you have planted, We each still hold today. You sheltered us through childhood And saw us through today, Taught us of the Lord above, About faith, and how to pray.
One day we'll all be in heaven Dancing on the throne, Praising God for giving us A family like we've never known.
I love my family...
As I read this poem, my heart welled up inside me for that little boy who lost his family and God blessed him, and us, with belonging to our family....Benjamin Paul-Santosh Combs!

That is exactly what belonging to Jesus is all about. We are lost, adrift in this world, and then we are adopted through Jesus into the Family of God. No matter what happens in our lives each day – it is the belonging to that Family that gives us hope and never-ending love. Through this adoptive family we acquire brothers and sisters – a loving, supportive family.
It is a legacy that began in the heart of God. There are so many 'what-ifs' that it isn't 'happen-chance' – it is God's planning through the legacy of Lavasatha that we have Benjamin. Paul writes, “Lavasatha’s legacy in our family is the new life he brought us. He opened our hearts to adopt from India. And he opened our hearts to the many, many children in the world who are alone, heartbroken and in need of someone to care.”
What is in Benjamin's future? That is in the hands of God and in the heart of Benjamin.
- May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor. Psalm 72:4
- Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Psalm 36:5
- As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:13


Monday, November 19, 2012

Being Thankful...

For all we eat, For all we wear,
For all we have everywhere,
We thank you, Father, Amen.

That prayer, repeated by my brothers and me at every meal was the beginning of 'thankfulness' and taught to our four children. The words, “For all”, over time became one word - “Forall”. It became a ritual, not a prayer.

When I was little, my Dad, Herman Siemens, said this prayer - "Komm, Herr Jesu, sei unser Gast, und segne alles, was du uns aus Gnade bescheret hast." The translation is: "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and bless all that you through your grace have bestowed on us." ( I loved hearing him say, 'besheret'. Then I would wait for the 'Amen', knowing it was time to eat.

It is one thing to grow up in a 'thankful' household – but it is another to learn to be thankful. In today's world I have seen thankfulness become an 'in' thing to say and to write. Facebook is the place to share the 'I am thankfuls' from the heart. I have read each one – and written my own. Each one expresses a color that paints the canvas of life with vibrancy of light and love.

And how can it be? When the news all around the world is chaotic, threatening our very existence. Why is that? We do not have far to look. We simply examine our own hearts to see if we have the elements that make our world a place to live, to love and to enjoy in peace. When anger and criticism is our every-day language, we have fallen off the thankful meter into the abyss of misery. Tears express frustration. Our eyesight observes the eyesores of our world, no matter how brilliantly God paints the sunrises. We cannot see God's work when we are blinded by greed, corruption or anger.

So, how do we leave the 'downers of life' in the dust? How do we change direction and see the glory of God at work? That is the question.

Google, one of my 'acquaintances' is filled with rules and steps that instruct us in becoming thankful. No matter how many steps – following the well-meaning 'how-to's' – does not accomplish the desired goal of thankfulness. It must come from the depths of the heart. Last Sunday I heard the heart described as the Worship Center and the Operating System of our lives (OS). How apt! For the heart provides the why and how we choose live.

During Bible Study last week we studied about Mary and Martha, when Lazarus was raised from the dead. Immediately I wondered what Lazarus would say for his “I am thankful....” when he came from the tomb. The ramifications of re-entering the world – business as usual – must have been difficult.

My Grandmother Suderman (Anna Loewen Suderman) wrote about the death of four little ones: “Soon little bundles from heaven came to us. How sweet they were, we loved them dearly. But sickness and even death did not bypass us. But we were together, sharing joys and sorrows. It hurt very deeply to give up our loved little ones, but God kept us and gave us comfort so that we could bear it.”

She continues, “The first 20 years of our married life we enjoyed good health, but then for a number of years I've been sick very often. Sometimes we thought my stay would not be long anymore. But God always heard our prayers and graciously helped us. He very definitely answered our prayers. The last years Gerhard has not been in good health, but we get along, and are thankful that we can be together and help each other.”

To my Grandmother Suderman, thanksgiving comes from the heart and shines through the bad times and the times when we think we will not endure. If it were just us – we would not endure. Down through the years our ancestors have battled through storms of various kinds – illness, death, financial distress, immigration, drought, famine, flooding, separation from family and outside dangers. Yet their faith strengthened – why? Why not just give up? Why not become bitter and disillusioned with life?

One that article caught my eye – described thankfulness in an acrostic for F-A-I-T-H, by Trevor Lund.
F –Focus – look at what God is doing, not at what threatens to occur. Matt. 6:23-26
A –Attention – Keep focused on the right thoughts. Philippians 4:8-9
I – Intention – Make plans and follow through to change your thinking. Romans 12:2
T –Thinking God's Thoughts – Matthew 11:28-30
H –Holy Spirit Help – I John 2:27

Yes, this is the week to express thanksgiving for our blessings...a day set aside to remember to be thankful. Just one day?
Two verses of scripture say -
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

Thankfulness in these verses are coupled with the words – peace, prayer and being watchful. So it is that being thankful doesn't create a life of chaos, anger and criticism. The first attributes – peace, prayer and watchfulness call us to life. Without being thankful our spirits become death for ourselves and others.

My Mother's praise always surprised me. Without warning, in the midst of canning, sewing, cleaning, gardening or cooking, I would hear Mom's voice burst out – Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost...A-men!

I didn't comprehend the depth of her spirit of thankfulness. Her legacy to me (and to all who knew her) is a mantle of thankfulness – praise – and love for “Father, Son and Holy Ghost”.

So this Thanksgiving I give God praise for His blessed Love and leave you with the words Mom wrote long ago....
Lord, today I bring you offering as a sacrifice of praise.
Let my life proclaim thanksgiving...Honor Him in all my ways.
All my heart should live thanksgiving, Pleasing God in everything.
He's my Savior, Christ Redeemer, He's my Master, Lord and King. ADS


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One-Drawer Life

As I walked through our new kitchen, I vaguely heard a comment. “I just realized, there is just one drawer in the kitchen!” The third day, I decided to organize what Hilarie so carefully had begun in unpacking the kitchen. And the comment about one drawer became clear! Surely not! There had to be more than one drawer. There wasn't. Just one drawer!

Tim's voice (our son) echoed in my mind as we toured our previous house, “Down-size, Mom, down-size.” I remembered the drawer-rich kitchen. He pointed out what we could take and what there would not be room for when we moved. In dis-belief, I looked around our new kitchen and found ONE DRAWER!

The direction, “It's in the drawer!” takes on a different meaning. Very concise and there can be no misunderstanding. “It's in THE DRAWER!”

As I re-organized and determined what should be in THE DRAWER, I took an overview of Kitchens of the Past. Why did one drawer seem so un-doable?

In our first two-room house in the country near Piedmont, Kansas, we just had minimal storage place. I don't even recall a drawer. We had very few possessions. We didn't stress, didn't wonder where we would put anything. Even when Uncle Gallio and Ed added two rooms to the house, and piped water from the spring across the road, we still we didn't wonder about storage space.

Then the move to Joplin. We rattled around in those five rooms and a full basement. Then came Minneola with six rooms and a full basement. New Harmony, Indiana had six rooms plus a room-sized hall way and a black coal fired furnace in the basement. Hinton Oklahoma had 5 rooms and a back porch. Near Dodge City, we had two stories and 8 rooms. Then in Collinsville we spread out in two stories of 7 rooms plus a full basement. In Rogers, for just two of us we enjoyed 14 drawers in the kitchen! There were more houses, and yet we never felt a want for storage room even with our four children.

Why now does one drawer in the kitchen take on such an exaggerated meaning for me?

Then I realized what it is. The 'full circle' is taking place in our lives. When it was someone else that moved, it didn't seem to matter. Somewhere along the life's way, I had become attached to things – familiar things - about me. Grandma Siemens' two amber glasses one, with a crack, Grandma Suderman's gift of 3 dimensional flowers in a glass rectangle, the pictures of family on the wall from 2 generations ago to 2 generations ahead. They all remind me of who I am. When I unpacked a box last Friday and located the treasured genealogy record books, I rejoiced. The lost and familiar had been found.

Down-sizing is the loss of material reminders of who we are. I remember the day my two brothers and their wives met us at Mom's house in Watonga. Mom's house was filled with boxes and every flat surface was covered with a life time of Mom's belongings. Mom down-sized – moving to a 2 bedroom duplex in our town. About 7 years later she down-sized to a single room. Her last living area in our home had only one window, a hospital bed, a table that she cut down years ago to place her typewriter on, a file of her writings, a pink bookcase of treasured volumes, a small tv and one chest of drawers.

Physical down-sizing provides opportunities. It provides blessings and serendipities. It is freeing:
• It takes less time to care for things.
• It provides time to build spiritual strong holds.
• It creates time to pray for children, grandchildren and those who come     
• It gives time for reflection, count blessings and know who God is.

Just when time on earth is on a downward cycle, downsizing becomes a blessing. Then time can be spent on the eternal, kingdom matters. Seventy years ago, I watched my Grosmom Emilie Siemens rock her way to Heaven. She sat on the front porch of our brown house in Clinton, in the steel rocking chair and in time to the hymn she sang, she rocked. She moved from a small two bedroom home in Corn, Oklahoma, to one bedroom in our home in Clinton, Oklahoma. What was she thinking as she sang, Shall We Gather At the River, the Beautiful, the Beautiful River.... I knew she had immigrated to this country when she was 16 years old from Russia. Her life was difficult and austere in terms of comfort and possessions in her early married life. She raised four sons and one daughter. She lost her baby girl, Annaka, to meningitis at the age of 1 year and 3 months old. Did she grow weary caring for her husband when he became paralyzed and died at the age of 62? Who comforted Grosmom? What was she thinking when she looked into the Wear-ever kettles on the stove Mother used before dinner? Did she miss her home in Russia?

Mom told me about her mother (Anna Loewen Suderman) moving from her small house on the farm, to a larger house, and then a large home to care for her parents and then a small house in town. Her last move was to a single room. My Mom's mindset with her final move was the same as her Mother's – “I just pray I can be decent about it.”

My prayer is the same, so I walk into my kitchen and open The Drawer for a spoon and give thanks! There are no coincidences with God – everything is happening for His purposes – even when we are not aware of it. God is teaching me So I am thankful for my one-drawer kitchen. Some day I will move to one room. And the circle will be completed and I will praise Him.

Last Sunday, I heard these words....God's Got It!

God's got it! God's got it!
He 's got my life in His control.
I'm trusting Him
With my life and my soul.

God's got it! God's got it!
When the way is dark, let Him lead
In His Wisdom and His Word
In joy I will ever feed.

God's got it! God's Got It
Every day He knows the way
No matter the storms we endure
We'll see Him on That Day!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 


Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. C. S. Lewis

A Sears sale on coats coaxed me to once again print out a computer map and drive in Champaign. Meticulously I followed the directions. I must have taken a wrong turn. WHERE is that store? I watched the traffic and crossed from one parking lot to another, and glanced up ahead and saw a sign. It might as well have been a flashing neon sign that greeted me on a large wall of a building – SEARS! I laughed outloud. God is always surprising me. Why was I surprised that the answer of my quest would be before me?

I entered the store and found the advertised coat sale. After an hour's deliberation, I found a coat that will protect me from the Illinois winter elements – washable – water proofed – big pockets – a hood – and a color that is attractive. After paying for the 2 pairs of cozy socks and the coat and headed to the car. I wondered what other stores this mall held. I went around corners, not realizing that I was losing my inside head-compass. After more turning, I found an 'out'. I continued down the street, I saw a street name I recognized and immediately turned on it – the wrong way. Soon I came to another recognized name – and turned – the wrong way.

Soon the road became a high way. Where was I? Even glancing at the car's $2.00 compass did not provide a direction. Finally I realized that I was totally lost. This confession crushed my pride iof effortlessly finding my way around Champaign. (Pride goeth before a fall!)

I remembered in 1952, buying groceries in Eureka KS, for the first time as a bride. I couldn't remember which way to take to drive home to our farm. Finally, I swallowed my pride, and asked a passerby which way was north.

I remembered in 1968, I explored Collinsville IL. As I drove down the street, the Exit signs off the road beckoned to me. When I found myself speeding toward Vandalia, I realized a turn around was in my near future if I wanted to return to our new home.

The many computer-printed maps that littered the car did not rescue me. I felt compelled to keep driving. When I saw the exit sign to Peoria, I realized I would not be returning home in that direction. I saw a familiar street sign exit, and pulled off and parked to survey the scene. At that point I called my understanding daughter-in-law. She confirmed my direction and soon familiarity looked like home. Relief flooded my heart. Uneasiness and despair exited my being as if there was a sign.

Once, long ago, Mom told me of being lost on a dirt road in Western Oklahoma. We three small children sat wide-eyed in the back seat of the old Ford, not knowing she was lost, as she traversed the back roads of Oklahoma. Somehow – being Mom, she because un-lost.

Did Mom experience that sinking feeling? Did she feel helpless? No! We didn't realize at that age the independence and perseverance (Some would say – 'stubborness'). Later I saw this family picture of Mom when she was a little girl – a portrait of, “git'er done!”. The little blonde girl, with her hands on her knees is ready for anything.  Mom identified closely with the children's story she offen told us - “The Little Red Hen.” The family book Mom wrote, “The Lines are Fallen”, reveals the source of her independence:

I seemingly inherited Mama's fierce independence. I must have been about nine when I trimmed my fingernails with a tiny scissors. The left hand was done. What about the right hand? I asked Mama, 'Could you trim my right hand fingernails, cause I'm left-handed?' Mama snatched that scissors in a wisk and snipped her own fingernails as she soundly chided, “Child, don't ever ask others to do for you what you can do for yourself. If you don't know how...then learn. Here's your scissors!” I learned and the lesson took.
Mama gave us life. She taught us never to lean on others when we could stand alone. Borrowers owe interest then kindness is extended; and, flowers shared always bloom best. Mama taught us to walk through each storm with head high.”

Jesus knew that we would feel lost here on this earth when dark deeds and dark thinking snuff out the light of goodness and truth. That feeling of lostness can be spiritual as well as physical. What can give us hope and set us on the road to home? Anna Lowoen Suderman had no formal training of strategies and techniques, yet she taught independence and the genesis of joy in every-day living on the flat wheat fields of Kansas to her children God blessed her with..

She taught hope, perseverance and independence and tied them up with glorious ribbons of joy and hope. She taught her children to look beyond the storms of life to the joy that is there. Mother captured Grandma Suderman's teaching in this poem: Behind The Storm.

When summer storms rolled by and sun-kissed drops
Displayed God's brilliant rainbow across a clean-washed sky.
Mama taught us joy.

Behind each summer storm we romped and splashed
In worn-out dresses through grassed-in puddles
Across the meadow greens.

All through our youth our ears were tuned to thunder
For joys behind the storm with rainbows overhead
When jeweled drops teased the sun.

Now that winter storms are here, we wear our worn-out garb
'Till tear-drops turn to joy within the rainbow circle
For joys behind the storm.

This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not
lost one of those you gave me.” John 18:9

But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Acts 27:33

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5