I was born in Michigan, and so was my mother. My grandmother was born in Finland.
My grandmother gave birth to her children at home. My mother gave birth in the hospital during the obstetric practice of twilight sleep and delivery with forceps. I gave birth by cesarean section.
As a nurse I worked in labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care. Hoping to help women avoid unnecessary interventions, I taught Lamaze classes.
Finally after many years in the hospital I worked with a home birth practice alongside doctors and midwives. I learned new ways to assist a woman during labor and birth. I gained new perspectives, able to see the spiritual side of childbirth more clearly. Sometimes, while caring for a woman during labor, she asked me to pray for her. Sometimes I observed the husband praying.
Every birth is unique. Every baby is a gift of God. I have been blessed with seeing the birth of my grandchildren at home and in the hospital.
Today we went to the cemetery and tended the family graves. We planted flowers and walked among the stones marking family members. As I read the names I was recalling family history.
My husband’s grandparents immigrated from Holland in 1911. In 1918 they lost three of their children when scarlet fever and the Spanish flu afflicted the family. William was a young adult, Winnie was a teenager and Cornelius was school age.
The family had worked hard to adjust to life in America and pay back the debts incurred during the first year. They had a deep faith in God and persevered. With support from a community of faith, they persevered through the grief of losing three children in one week.
We are blessed to have a family history written by my husband’s uncle. He wrote about his family and each of his sisters and brothers. He described the faith of his parents and siblings.
I reflected on this as I thought about our Steven. The years of his cancer treatment were tough. He kept a journal, continued with school work and Awana lessons. He memorized many Bible verses. Three verse are listed on his gravestone.
The first one was chosen for him when he was dedicated as a baby.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:3
The second one relates to his participation in Awana, his Bible study.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
The third verse is one that he talked about in the last weeks of his life.
He [God] shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4
As a family we are bonded together in faith and hope. We remember those that have gone before us to eternal life.
If you, dear reader, are not a part of the family of God, you can be. The word [of faith] is near you . . . because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God, raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
In my morning Bible study I have been reading about Nehemiah’s leadership in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, the city with a temple for God’s presence.
The Jews had enemies that did not want them to rebuild the walls. At first these enemies jeered and mocked them. When that didn’t stop the work on the wall, the enemy made a plan to attack.
But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.Nehemiah 4:7-8
And we prayed to our God and set a guard of protection against them day and night. Nehemiah 4:9
Some of the people let fear take hold of them.
In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”Nehemiah 4:10
Nehemiah responded with a plan to guard every section of the wall as they rebuilt it. With prayer and dependence on God, with a strategic plan, the work continued.
As I mused on this text I thought about the way fear can be a controlling force. How is the cloud of fear surrounding the pandemic affecting me?
I can follow Nehemiah’s example of prayer. Nehemiah also had a practical plan, and then he stayed focused on the work God had called him to do.
More and more I have recognized my need for God’s wisdom. The time I spend in prayer is growing. My family has decisions to make regarding my mother’s care in the nursing home. The lockdown, the inability to visit is hard.
We are encouraged to pray. Jesus is ready to intercede for us.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
We are in challenging times . . . like people who came before us. I think of the civil war, the Spanish flu, World War II. The Bible records times when fear hung over the people of Israel. Currently I am studying the book of Ezra.
After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, Zerrubabel led a return to the land of Israel to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Ezra 3:3 records: They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. When fear grips us we need to turn to the Lord.
I am reminded of God’s words to Joshua. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
We can trust in God as we make changes in our daily life, as our circumstances change. God’s word is rich with promises and examples of God’s faithfulness.
Your hands have made me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.
I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Psalm 119:73-76
On St. Patricks day I listened to the press conferences on the growing pandemic. I spent time on the computer gathering information. It made me weary and stressed. I was glad to receive notification of an evening hymn sing that Keith and Kristen Getty provided on their facebook page. Their concerts have been canceled, but they sang hymns from their home, and it warmed my heart. You can find it here.
Spring is coming. God is faithful. We don’t need to fear tomorrow.
My mother’s birthday was last month. We celebrated her 98 years. She is cared for in a nursing home in Michigan. She has significant memory loss and is wheelchair bound.
She recognizes family as familiar people and is happy to see us. Sometimes she reverts to the language of her childhood, Finnish. I can only catch the drift of what she is saying.
When she was a child her mother made pasties—meat, potatoes and rutabaga wrapped in pastry. It was a typical meal for miners. My mother’s father worked in the copper mines.
This Upper Michigan specialty was passed on to us. Mom made pasties for our family. We had summer vacations in Upper Michigan and visited relatives there. On a sunny day we would take a picnic basket full of warm pasties, some soda or juice and a thermos of coffee for a picnic lunch at a park along the shore of Lake Superior.
So for her birthday we had a pasty lunch. I brought pasties that I had made at home. My sister and our husbands were able to set a table in the activity room at the nursing home. Mom was more alert and talkative than she has been lately. It was a lovely day.
Here is my recipe for pasties:
3 C. flour
½ tsp. salt
2/3 C. shortening
1 egg yolk, reserve the egg white
½ C + 2 Tblsp. cold water
1 Tblsp. cider vinegar
Combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until it appears as coarse crumbs.
Mix the egg yolk, water and vinegar. Gradually add this to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork. Add the water slowly and stop when all is moistened. Mix just until it holds together. If needed added additional water a tablespoon at a time.
Divide the dough into six portions and roll out each portion to a 9” circle.
1 lb. round steak, diced or coarsely ground
1 C. rutabaga, chopped
½ C. finely chopped onion
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1+ ½ tsp. salt
Place a generous cup of filling on half of each dough circle. Fold the other half of dough over the filling and crimp the edges. Place the pasties on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Whisk the reserved egg white until it is a little bubbly; then brush the pasties with the egg white. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serve hot.
NOTE: Optional additions to the filling include chopped carrots, shredded kale, garlic, herbs.
Talent: characteristic feature, aptitude or disposition of a person; the natural endowments of a person
Words matter. They can encourage or deter creative pursuits. I still remember two elementary school teachers that I had. The orchestra teacher told me that I had no musical ability and discouraged me from attempting to play the violin. (I heard don’t try to be involved in any musical activities.)
An art teacher said that I had artistic ability and recommended that I be included in a special art class. I was encouraged and blessed by this opportunity.
As parents, grandparents and teachers we desire to guide children, helping them to realize their potential. I know I tried to do that for my children. I see it as my role as grandmother, to speak encouraging words.
What about in the church? Do I recognize the talents of my fellow believers and encourage them?
God has given each of us a role. We can encourage each other along the way.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
Over the years I have attended the March for Life in Palatine and in Chicago. I have paid attention to social media accounts of the March for Life in Washington D.C.
Despite the thousands of young adults and families who have turned out year after year, the coverage by the main stream media has been limited. With relief I can say that this year the coverage might be better.
For the first time ever, the President of the United States attended the March for Life and spoke to the tens of thousands of high school and college students, men and women. It was refreshing to hear the President say, “Mothers are heroes.”
When we hear the defense of a woman’s right to choose, the implication is that careers taken precedence over children. An actress at the Golden Globe Awards stated that if she had continued her pregnancy, she wouldn’t have been able to finish the movie she was in.
Some women choose to abort the life growing in them, but others don’t really have a choice. They are pressured to abort the baby by parents or boyfriends.
My daughter led a young life group. One of the girls became pregnant and called my daughter for support. She wanted to continue the pregnancy. But her parents threatened to take away all financial support, and she gave in to the pressure.
Another woman told me with tears in her eyes that she had forced her daughter to have an abortion.
Abortion is contrary to life and health. The procedure has risks and longterm consequences for women. We know that from conception the baby is developing as a unique individual.
The President said, “Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God.”
I am thankful for growing number of pregnancy centers that offer support to women that are in a difficult circumstances. I am grateful for groups that help women to heal after an abortion.
Between Christmas and the beginning of the new year our family had a mini vacation in St. Charles, Missouri. It was such a pleasure to have our children and their families altogether for a few days. The nine grandchildren enjoyed time with their cousins.
We learned that Lewis and Clark left from St. Charles for the Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1804. The town has the Lewis and Clark Boat House Museum with boats that are a replica of ones used by the expedition. The museum elucidates the historical facts about St. Charles, the people of the town and the expedition.
Patience is a virtue, worth cultivating in ourselves and our children.
Some years ago I read an article by Pamela Druckerman that extolled the way French parents teach their children to wait. In her article, Why French Parents Are Superior, Druckerman pointed out that children who have learned patience are more content and better behaved.
My senses were awakened to the virtue of practicing and teaching patience.
It pleases me to watch my daughters as they make good choices in parenting. When I am talking with my daughters on the phone, invariably a child may want their attention. They calmly inform the child “I am talking to Grandma. When I am finished I can help you.”
It is good for children to practice waiting.
One daughter has six children and the youngest is two years old. This little guy is aware that I often have some lollipops in my purse. If I stop by for a visit in the morning he runs to me with a big hug, and then he asks me, “Did you bring your purse? Do you have lollipops?”
When tell him, “yes I have lollipops”, I explain that he must wait until after lunch. He is satisfied.
Gardening provides practice in patience for me and for the grandchildren. We plant seeds and water them, waiting for the appearance of stem and leaves. Then we wait for flowers to bloom, for tomatoes to appear and ripen, for raspberry bushes to bear fruit.
The Bible has a message about waiting.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3: 22-26
In our walk of faith we are encouraged to develop patience.
The Balloon Festival in New Mexico is a great family activity. I was amazed to see so many people, so many family groups, strolling together at the Balloon Festival Park. It was a state fair like scene at 6:00 am. Parents were pushing strollers and pulling wagons as they walked past venders offering coffee, donuts, burritos, turkey legs and more. Brightly colored banners and souvenirs beckoned to the crowd.
At 6:30 am the first balloons lifted off, and the air currents carried them into mist. Clouds were scattered throughout the sky.
At 7:00 am a soloist appeared on the bandstand and sang the Star Spangle Banner. As she finished singing flames soared from the hot air burners, and the crowd cheered.
Because of mist and fog (unusual for Albuquerque) the conditions were not optimal for the giant balloons, so only a few more lifted off.
Still a multitude of the balloons were fully inflated and the crowds grouped around the various launching sites. The Star Wars site was hugely popular.
Colorful balloons were interspersed with character balloons.
The following day, Sunday morning, we went to a hill that gave us a view of the balloons in the air. It was a beautiful clear morning and the sky was full of colorful balloons. We watched for favorite balloons we had seen inflated the day before.
By 9:30 am most of the balloons had landed and we went to church with our son and daughter-in-law.
The sign for the church has a rooster on it and I asked my son what it meant.
He said, “Remember Peter and the rooster crowing after Peter denied knowing Jesus? Peter failed Jesus, but Jesus called him back and forgave him. We are all broken people.”
The call to worship was appropriate for the day.
Sing to God; lift up a song to Him who rides through the deserts. He ascended on high, leading a host captive in his train.
He who descended in humility is also He who ascended far above the heavens, that He might fill all things.
And He gave gifts to men, to equip the saints, for the building up of the body of Christ.
Let us therefore grow up in every way into Him who is the head, that the body may build itself up in love.
The pastor reminded us that we cannot reach up, cannot ascend by achievement to God. God, righteous and holy, is far above us. We may be in a wilderness, but God has descended to us through Jesus. Jesus came down and suffered and died on our behalf. We need only to accept the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus offers.