Monday, February 28, 2011

Dropping, Dropping, Dropping, Dropping, Hear the Pennies Fall

Every Sunday morning my mother would put a few pennies, sometimes a dime, rarely a quarter, in my hand for offering for Sunday School.  At the appropriate time, my mother now on the small platform of the church basement would wait for the appropriate chord from the piano and she would start to sing,
Dropping, Dropping, Dropping, Dropping
Hear the Pennies Fall
Everyone for Jesus, He will get them all
One by one we would march to the front and drop our offerings for Jesus.  Often I would wonder if Jesus really needed my pennies.  I would much rather go to the candy store next to the church between Sunday School and church to get something to tied me over until church was over.

Brooklyn Day Sunday School Parade
My mother is the teacher.  I'm in the 2nd row on the left

I've been counting change this morning.  I had a plastic bag full of it that we brought back from South Dakota.  I thought it was time to cash it in.  There was over $50 in that bag.  Not bad for an hours worth of work.  As I counted, I thought about dropping pennies for Jesus.

My children never sang dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping but they do recall Penny War.  Even though long departed from my home church in Connecticut, it will always be home.  I started attending that church when it met in a high school auditorium.  I remember well sitting in the auditorium with my then six children - two more were added in Connecticut.

Calvary was a small church plant that had a short history of four years.  The pastor was a Zion Bible Institute graduate like my childhood pastor, Ben Crandall.  I thought Pastor Dave must be okay if he went to ZBI!  I would try to sneak out sometimes but Pastor Dave always came running after me.  He'd call me on the phone if we missed a few weeks.  Our first Thanksgiving in Connecticut he went and bought a huge turkey for us along with a food basket.

At every church social, he'd load my arms up with food to take home for the children.  We stayed.  I wandered once for lack of children's programs only to be scolded by my children who "missed" their church.  It doesn't take fancy rooms or special programs for children to love church.  It takes people who love them.  Even though children's church was in a coat room, and the Sunday School classes scattered over a public hall - they knew they were loved.

I remember clearly when I heard Pastor Dave and "Teacher" Elsa were leaving.  I was sad.  I remember the last sermon he preached.  I used some of his text for my last sermon to the wonderful people at Grandview Covenant a few weeks ago.  That first Christmas without them when we 'd sing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" I'd think of Pastor Dave.  It was his favorite Carol and it just seemed we should have him there to sing it with us.

Pastor Bob assumed the leadership of the church.  I assumed the leadership of the Sunday School.  Every Sunday I'd be the first or second to arrive.  I got out the supplies out of the storage room and would make sure that there was toilet paper in both the bathrooms.  My kids helped.  Soon some of my kids were teaching classes of their own.  I was leading Children's Church.  We sailed on Vacation Bible Ship and we learned about worship from Selah the field mouse who David found in the shepherd field.  We climbed in the belly of a big fish simulated by a box fan and plastic tarp.

I had tried Sunday morning "quarterback" during Super Bowl time to raise money. Now I had a new idea.  We never made a budget with those pennies, dimes, quarters that came clutched in the children's hands.  We had a Penny War.  For the weeks leading up to Father's Day, money was collected pitting the boys against the girls.  On Father's Day, we served hot dogs and fixins on the lawn of the church.  Pastor Bob represented the boys; I represented the girls.  The leader of the team that won put a pie in the face of the leader of the team that lost.  That first year, I put a pie in Pastor Bob's face.

I counted a lot of pennies, dimes, and quarters.  I refused to give up ten percent to CoinStar.  I think I liked the idea of knowing that every penny did go to Jesus.  I thought of those children we told about Jesus with that money.  Many of them are my friends on Facebook now.  Many are parents of their own children.  One of the sweet little girls wears fatigues and defends our country.  I hope and pray they press pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in their children's hands and learn about Jesus.

It's been a long time since I was part of Calvary.  I am wondering today about where God will lead me.  I am wondering if He has a church where I can be at home again.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grandchildren, dogs and refrigerator art

We have a dog.  I've always liked dogs but having been bit by one as a small child, I've also always been a little skittish with them.  Our little dog's name is Pebbles.  She's been part of the family now for about 4 years.  Just before she became part of the family, I had prayed for a small dog.  I wanted a dog because at the time I wanted something who would love me all the time.  I was feeling pretty low so this thought appealed to me.

She's not really "my" dog.  She is our daughter's dog.  Nevertheless, she loves me.  She proved that she loved me when I wasn't "feelin' the love" from any one else.  I was sitting on the couch crying.  I was feeling pretty low.  I don't remember why now, but I was telling Pebbles I should just get a small trailer and a dog and live alone.  Obviously I didn't mean it.  But that was how I felt at the time.  As my tears kept streaming down my face, Pebbles was right there.  She was licking me and trying her best to comfort me.  So much love from a little chihuahua.  Next thing I knew, Pebbles was crying along with me.  Seriously, tears were coming down her little face as well.

Today I watched Pebbles.  Her owner, my daughter, had just brought her in from a short walk before going to work.  Pebbles is totally devoted to her.  First she watches her leave from the window in the door.  Then she goes to the window on the other side of the room to watch her pull out.  Then she'll run to the front of the house either trying to peer through the windows in the front door - other times she runs to their shared room to watch from that window by the bed.  She wants to see her leave.  She wants to get every glimpse of her that she can.  That's a lot of love from a little dog.

I am feelin' the love of late myself.  I don't want to go live in a trailer alone with a dog any more.  It's because I have grandchildren, a dog and refrigerator art.  I have many grandchildren.  I love them all.  But it is so nice to have grandchildren near to hug my neck and tell me they love me.  From the 4 years old Maria to the 17 year old young man Jesse and the beautiful young woman Alysabeth who loves pocketbooks and shoes, just like me, there's a lot of love.

Today I put Maria's artwork on my refrigerator.  I had some of her artwork on my refrigerator in South Dakota.  But now I have NEW refrigerator art.  I am sure there will be plenty more where that came from... she's very talented you know.  I have a beautiful poem written by her sister to cherish.  I am loved.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fårikål and Family

I have often told myself that I am silly for feeling the way I do.  Maybe I am.  Maybe I am not.  The older I get the less judgmental I get about myself and everyone else.  I have been learning to “be.”  To accept who I am.  I don’t think it is unique to want to feel special and loved.  Last night I felt special and loved.

Yesterday was my 33rd wedding anniversary.  It started pretty much the same as any other day.  I was sick, which actually isn’t that unusual on our anniversary since it comes at the peak of flu season.  I don’t have the flu but I am sick.  I’m coughing and coughing and feel miserable.  I had been up late waiting for my husband, hoping to see his reaction to the anniversary present I got for him.  I wrote about it here.

He came home that night with an odd but beautiful assortment of flowers.  I’ve arranged them on my dining room table.  They are pretty.  At midnight, the beginning of our anniversary we had exchanged our cards and gifts.  He muttered something about getting my gift tomorrow. 

My daughter and her family had decided to honor us and have a party for us on our special day.  I was touched.  When I was a little girl my parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in grand style in the basement of our church.  It was one of the highlights of my youth.  I remembered so distinctly my mother saying, we didn’t have much of a wedding or reception, so when that happens, you go all out for your 25th.  
That stuck with me.  On our 25th anniversary, we had no party, no trips, nothing.  I still feel that disappointment.  I was also sick that year too.  It was Bethany and Jerry who came with chicken soup to make me feel better.  I don’t like soup but that was the best chicken soup I ever had!


Last night was our first EVER party for our anniversary.  It was the first time any of our children honored us on our anniversary.  I think we failed in training them in this way.  Nevertheless Bethany has been the exception.

Her house was decorated with white balloons.  I don’t know about you, but there is something about balloons.  Even though we were late, there were still smiles and hugs.  My granddaughter said I hope when I get married I have a marriage like ya’ all’s and not get divorced after two years.  I thought yea, me too!  But I also thought “honey, you have no idea how much work that takes.”

There was a formal menu.  Norwegian food was the order of the night.  Usually when we have family events the Pakistani side overrides the Norwegian side.  Not last night!  Jerry as the head chef made an amazing fårikål that was the star of the night.  There was music in the background including Shania Twain’s “Looks like we made it.”  Used to be my favorite song and I used to cry when I heard it – I didn’t last night.  We talked about Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” the song I claimed as “our” song even though my husband doesn’t remember J.

The chatter was pleasant.  The food amazing.  Love filled the apartment.  Not the love of my husband and I as a couple, but the love of family – something bigger.  I marveled again at my beautiful grandchildren.  Our son chatted chemistry and biology with our grandson Jesse.  Alysabeth seemed to enjoy laughing at our stories of old cars.  She cleared the table and washed the dishes without complaint as well.  Maria sat on grandpa’s lap as he read to her.  I was so proud of all them.  I was especially proud of Bethany.  She has overcome so much.  Her strength is amazing.  Her loyalty and love of family is strong.  As I hugged and kissed her good bye, I said thanks-you made my day.

As I got in the car I opened the card they gave us on the way out.  Signed by all of them it was a memento I will keep forever.   Then I saw the poem my beautiful granddaughter had written.  I welled up with tears.  It was special for me.  I felt so loved and special as I got I rode home in spite of the coughing.  I went to bed last night feeling warmed inside by the love of my daughter and her family.  I needed that yesterday because in the background were thoughts of my own mother who passed into glory a year ago yesterday. 

I have a friend who keeps saying “life is good.”  A short time ago that irritated me because life for me wasn’t good – now it is.  I’m home.  I have family nearby and best of all they love me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Old Photographs

I came through the back door of my house last night with some groceries.  We’d been to Publix grocery store that I’ve written about before.  It’s nice to have a choice in grocery stores.  I even have a grocery store directly across the street from me but at the same time I can see deer, wild turkey, cardinals, robins, and eagles in my back yard.  I have daffodils and crocus in my front yard.  I’m home.

It washed over me last night like a gentle breeze on a warm night.  I was home.  Not only was I home, but I had a home.  Not two places where I live, but a home.  The living room looks nice.  I could actually feel comfortable inviting you to come, sit, and have coffee with me.  The kitchen has a ways to go but looks good already.  The dining room has further to go but you’d overlook that because you know I just moved back.  Of course you’d have to navigate past the bags and boxes of trash waiting for the dump.  My half of the bedroom looks good.  The other half is waiting for the next episode of Hoarders.  I guess a coffee visit will have to wait though; I have too much work to do to sit and chat for too long.

where it all started
I have so many pictures to put up on walls.  I don’t think I have enough walls.  We have such a large family that I probably cover several walls floor to ceiling.  However, I got the prize photograph today.  The very pleasant FedEx guy just delivered a 20x30 print of a family picture we took last year in Columbia Missouri in front of the A. P. Green Chapel where my husband and I along with my three children started our lives together.  Tomorrow it will be 33 years since that day.  Tomorrow will also be the one year anniversary of my mother’s reunion with my dad in heaven.

and still growing...
I have another picture.  It is another family picture.  I look at it every morning when I get up as it hangs in my bedroom.  It is my mother, father, my two brothers, and I.  I’m the cute baby in the high chair.  The other two people are my very favorite Tanta Bitta and her husband Arthur.   Sometimes when I look at that picture, or other old pictures, I wonder what was going on in their minds when the picture was taken.  What were their hopes and dreams?
I know my mother and father prayed fervently for the salvation and future of their children.  Neither of my brothers are men of faith.  In the end, they disrespected their mother in her last days and in death.  Of course, throughout their adult years they cared little for her.  A dutiful card and a book or a sweater for Christmas, Mother’s Day or her birthday was the extent of their care.  They never came to see her in the nursing home.  They refused to attend her funeral.  They took her life insurance money that was to be used for her burial. 

When I look at that picture, I feel sad.  A short time later, their oldest son Stanley would leave home as a runaway.  He was gone for nearly a year ending up working in a mine in Tucson Arizona at the age of 15.  In what was described to me as a “prodigal son story,” he returned home, finished high school, and went off to Bible School.  Where he lost his faith I’m not sure.  His runaway adventure was described to me as a sense of adventure.  As an adult, I don’t accept that explanation and it causes me to wonder.  No one will tell me the truth; perhaps I’ll never know what really caused a 14 year old to leave home. 

My other brother, the middle child, always looks sad in photographs.  He has always been quiet and sullen.  His hostility and anger seemed to boil over at the time of my mother’s death.  He also is a mystery to me.  Neither have ever really been a part of my life and will never be after their betrayal.

I wonder what future generations of mine will think as they look at this family portrait taken a year ago that I will hang in my living room tomorrow on my 33rd Wedding Anniversary.  I wonder if they’ll spot the sadness that was in our hearts at the death of my mother.  I wonder if they’ll be able to spot who in the family was at odds with another at the time.  

I wonder if they’ll see the hopes and dreams and prayers I have for this family.  I hope they judge us all kindly.  We have our struggles and differences, but my most fervent prayer is that we never end up like those people in the black and white.  I pray that we love each other in spite of our failings and short comings.  I pray we all see my mother and dad in heaven.  I pray we see Jesus someday.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beating the storm

What a weekend!  I feel like I am paying for some horrible sins – perhaps the sin of not liking South Dakota OR maybe it is the curse that people who never understood put on my exit from South Dakota.  As with all experiences of this type, you do learn.  The best thing I learned – something I did already know but was reminded of this weekend, is that my daughter Bethany is amazing.  I don’t know anyone else, family or otherwise, who would sacrifice and do what she did for us this weekend. 

We had a grueling trip to South Dakota and back.  We out beat the blizzard that dumped 11 inches on Brookings SD.  We spent about 62 hours on the road covering about 2000 miles.  In between the   hours and hours in the car, and the little bit of sleep, we packed our two bedroom apartment in South Dakota and loaded it on a truck and trailer.  To say that she and her family did 95% of the work is no exaggeration.  We stopped and paid respects to my parents at their graveside.  It's almost a year since they were rejoiced in heaven. I am blessed.

However, we didn’t sing kumbaya the whole time and it certainly was not a trip without its share of tension.  The truck wasn’t big enough so last minute we had to get a trailer.  There were differing expectations about times to stop, where to stop, what time to leave, etc.  Nothing major, just normal stuff.  I decided that Bethany and I were shock absorbers for all this stress.  She would call me or I her with every change.  I guess it was because we wouldn’t get mad at each other and everyone else was at times on edge.

I learned that my two grandchildren, Jesse and Alysabeth are pretty great kids.  On the way we stopped at a Subway.  I learned that Jesse is very conscious of his health and Alysabeth didn’t like Subway – she had pizza though and it wasn’t that bad.  As we sat there, I looked at us spread out over three booths with little Maria bouncing around with her beautiful smile and hair sticking up and laughed.  I laughed and laughed.  I wasn’t terribly loud and probably no one really noticed.  I was laughing with an odd type of joy.  I was laughing because God had preserved us all as a family.  There are so many reasons why we never should have been together in one place, enjoying a meal on a stressful trip and still loving each other.  Only God's grace can do that.

I learned that Gerry is a pretty amazing guy as well.  He’s got a huge responsibility with his family.  He keeps them together and provides strength – he’s very good at driving a truck for long hours too! 

Now I face the task of trying to find a place for all that stuff in the truck and trailer outside my house.  I have no idea where it will go or how we will manage.  There will be differing opinions of where things should go – I am dreading it more than words can say.  However, it will get done.  Maybe not to my liking and probably not without stress.  But I’ll find my deodorant and toothpaste once again.  I’ll also be thankful and amazed at my daughter Bethany and her wonderful family.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wal-Mart, Target and bodily functions

It’s been a while since I wrote here.  I’ve moved from South Dakota back to Tennessee.  I am sure most of my readers have read my farewell to South Dakota and seen the video but if not, see it here.  It was a sadder exit from South Dakota than I could have anticipated or even thought possible. 

I strongly suggest you read all of this.  Get ready to laugh.  
You'll be sorry if you don't read to the end.

We are settling back into what is familiar and yet, now different.  You can go home, but home is always different.  Today I met with the ministerial group that I was a part of when I was pastor of The Well.  In some ways it seems like that was a very long, long time ago and yet it wasn’t.  Half the folks were people I knew and had shared community with, the rest were new.  They assured me I could come anytime.  I will have to think about that since I no longer pastor.  They listened to my short presentation about my research for my dissertation.  I think those that can, will help me when the time comes to form groups for the research.  I got some hugs and that was good.

I got some warm hugs last night as well.  I had a nice supper with a very dear friend followed by an Aglow meeting.  Saw some dear friends there as well who seemed genuinely glad to see me and know I was back.  Not sure where I fit with Aglow anymore.  I said the same thing when I went to South Dakota though, and they seemed to have a place for me. 

This weekend we’ll make another trip to South Dakota, maybe our last for the foreseeable future.  I told a pastor friend that I’d come and do pulpit supply if she gave me enough notice.  I meant it.  We’ll see if she asks.  When we leave South Dakota this time, there will be no time for videos or even much reflection.  In a U-Haul truck cab will be my oldest daughter, her boyfriend, her daughter, and our SD furniture.  I have no idea where we’ll put it.  In my little red car will be me my husband, my two teenage grandchildren and I.  It will be a trip to remember but maybe not fondlyJ.

Now if you are still with me as I ramble about how my life is going, I hope you are ready to have a good laugh.  For my dear South Dakota friends, you know I had lots to say about life in South Dakota.  While I am not going to start a new blog about life in Tennessee, at least I don’t think so.  But in fairness, I think you need to hear me ramble about Tennessee once in a while.

The first weekend we were here, we were at Wal-Mart, my least favorite place to shop but a necessity at times.  In the parking lot we were facing a full size pick-up truck.  Mama and her adult daughter unloaded their “buggy” (that’s what they call carts in the south, I don’t, but they do) into the truck.  Then Mama, who was probably about 75 climbs in the truck from the driver’s side.  She successfully navigated her butt past the steering wheel, turned around and parked that butt on the passenger seat.  Daughter got in after her and off they went.  We laughed.  My husband said, there’s your first blog about Tennessee.  I said “Yeah, but where’s Bubba?  Certainly there is a bubba in this story?”

But that was nothing compared to what I heard a few days later in the women’s restroom at Target.  Now Target is my favorite store of its type.  I learned in South Dakota why it probably is that way – it’s the straight wide aisles probably the designed by those of the same ilk that designed the straight wide roads in the Northern Plains – Target is a Minnesota company after all.

When I first came to Tennessee and worked in a church office, a parishioner came in and told me she had been sick.  She proceeded to describe in too much detail what her vomit looked like.  I told the pastor and he said, welcome to the south – you’ll hear more intimate details about bodily functions than you’ll ever want to hear.  He was right.  I learned about floater, sinkers, and all manner of other things I never knew.

I was reminded of that conversation while in the women’s bathroom that day in Target.  I was in there minding my own business –pun intendedJ.  The woman in the stall next to me said to her friend who was also in the bathroom, “Did you know you are supposed to poop twice a day?”  Without missing a beat her friend said, “you’ve got to be kidding.”  Then the first woman queried, “do you poop every day?”  The reply, “No, do you?”  Neither of them did.  I was praying they didn’t ask me. 

The conversation between them continued to someone who could no longer eat cheese.  I am assuming the person of which they spoke was lactose intolerant.  As they thankfully washed their hands at the sink, the first woman asked the other one, “What’s your favorite vegetable?”  She said she liked them all.  The first one announced that hers was asparagus.  I don’t know if that led to a conversation about another bodily function or not because they left the bathroom. 

Yep, I’m back down south!!