Gifts from my Grandma

The following is a tribute I wrote for my grandmother, Lelia Place’s funeral this past week.  John suggested that I share it here on my blog.  I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I am ready now.   I am also thinking of my mother in law, Mavis Hilleson this morning as I pour boiling water on my Thanksgiving tablecloths.  No fear of red jello here!  On this day after Thanksgiving, I am reminded of how many wonderful, strong, women of faith have poured their time, talents, and selves into me.  I am very blessed and beyond thankful.

Gifts from my Grandma

My grandma gave me many gifts over the course of my lifetime. I would like to share seven of them with you today.

  1. The Gift of Hospitality– Grandma’s door was always open to me and she was always glad to see me. This wasn’t just for me or for her other grandchildren. They had a hired man named Carl who lived with the family all throughout my mom’s growing up years.  John and I have had several employees on our farm over the years and I can’t imagine inviting any of them to live with our family, but Grandma did.  I remember many stories about a certain seed corn salesman who just happened to call on them at dinnertime every time he came to call. She always told this story with the air of someone who knew exactly what was going on, but she served him dinner anyway.
  2. The Gift of Enough– She and my grandfather were married during the Depression. Since she and Grandpa had enough to eat, they were considered “wealthy” and her younger siblings were sent to live with them. Because she had enough, Grandma felt it was her responsibility to help others as she was able. It was and remains a powerful lesson to me. If you have enough, you are wealthy.Scan0014.jpg
  3. The Gift of Simplicity- Living during the Great Depression left its mark on my grandma. She knew how to make do and to be content with simple things. During the first year of their marriage, Grandma really wanted to have a Christmas tree, so she made a small one out of leftover scraps of aluminum foil as a decoration. Even after the Depression, when our country enjoyed a more widespread prosperity, I don’t think you could rightly say that she was a “fancy” woman, but like the Velveteen Rabbit, she was Real.FB95IMG951484676189582.jpg
  4. The Gift of Generosity- When it came time for me to buy my first car, I needed it, but I didn’t have the money. Grandma was there. She readily loaned me the money, but not before I understood that this was a LOAN, not a gift, and that she wouldn’t charge me interest, but she did expect monthly payments that we later set up. She made sure my needs were met, while giving me dignity and responsibility in the bargain. I know for a fact I am not the only person in this room that she did that for. When I was in college, she and Dale would just happen to drop by on a Friday night and see if I wanted to go out to dinner with them. She knew I couldn’t afford to go out to eat and just wanted to be a blessing.
  5. The Gift of Self- After John & I got married, and the babies came, and life got really busy, I found it was more difficult than it should be to visit her, even though she lived just three miles away. No matter, she would just stop by when she was out running errands and we would get to visit for awhile. She didn’t complain that she visited me more often than I visited her, we just enjoyed our time that we spent together.FB95IMG951484676252081
  6. The Gift of Work- My grandmother was a hard worker and an accomplished woman. To my knowledge, there is not one aspect of their farming operation that she couldn’t manage. She kept the books for his seed corn business, she drove the tractors, she managed her own herd of sheep. But even after that work was done, she worked alongside of me, passing her knowledge on. She spent countless hours on my porch peeling apples, teaching me to add a little salt to the water to keep the apple slices white or a little lemon juice to the sauce to make it taste fresh. Fitted sheets were a mystery to me, until she showed me the trick to folding them. There are a million different ways I am reminded of her as I go about my everyday work.
  7. The Gift of Faith- Like many people in her generation, still waters ran deep. She was not particularly showy about her faith, but it was there and it was real. Grandma prayed for her family every day. She put her trust in her Lord. In the hospital, Grandma told Gabe how proud she was of him for becoming a preacher. The last words she spoke to me were “The Bible promise…go home.” And so we grieve today, but not as those who have no hope, because we know that she is in the presence of the Lord, completely healed, more alive than she has ever been. For those of us who have put our trust in Christ, today is not goodbye forever. Today is just the beginning of a temporary separation.1008171500e.jpg



Verb Tenses in the Wilderness

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in yourname I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Maybe it is the elementary teacher in me, maybe God was just trying to show me something, but when I read this Psalm a couple of days ago, the first thing that jumped out at me was the verb tenses.  Weird, huh?  Verb tenses don’t normally jump off the page at me like that.
Past Tense Verbs:
have looked upon you
have been my help
These are looking back to God’s faithfulness in the past.
Future Tense Verbs:
will praise you
will bless you
will lift up my hands
will be satisfied
will praise you
will sing for joy
These look forward with anticipation to a time of future joy.
Present Tense Verbs:
I seek you
I thirst for you
my flesh faints for you
I remember you
and meditate on you
My soul clings to you
These verbs offer an honest appraisal of what David is feeling at the moment.  There is no pressure to put on a good face or to just dive in and pull himself up by his bootstraps.  There is no chastisement that he would get over it if he would just serve the Lord more or better.
There is one more verb that has not been addressed yet.
God’s verb:
your right hand upholds me
When studying the Bible, it is said that when God repeats himself you had better take notice because it’s important.  Considering how God spoke to my heart when I was studying Psalm 42 a couple of weeks ago, I think I’ve gotten the message.  When living through a time in the wilderness, look back and remember God’s past faithfulness, look forward and anticipate a time of future joy, and just hang on.  It is God’s part to uphold you.  I want to be very clear that I am not talking about clinical depression.  That is a medical illness that requires medical treatment and to neglect that aspect of taking care of yourself would be as foolish as someone with diabetes neglecting to take their insulin.  Sometimes we are just faced with a wilderness, a time of prolonged grief and sadness that is not biochemical, but you can’t just get over either.
I love that we have a God who says to Hagar “I see you and I hear you”when she was in the wilderness. (Gen. 21)  I love that when Elijah was ready to give up and die, God did not tell him to snap out of it; but rather tended first to his physical needs for food and rest and then to his emotional need for encouragement. (1 Ki 19)  I love that Jesus fully knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but cried at his funeral anyway (John 11)  I love that we serve a God who tenderly cares for those who are hurting without pretense or expectation to put on a good show.  This is only more powerful because He is not the one dimensional, feel-good God-who-is-only-love; but that He is also the righteous, holy Judge and omnipotent Creator of the universe and still chooses to tenderly care and comfort me in my distress.

Psalm 42:1-6 (Revisited)

I have a confession to make.  I have not always been a huge fan of Psalm 42:5.  “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  This is in part because it has always felt a little like an accidental weapon people use when someone is hurting. It’s kind of like saying, “Be well, be happy, put your hope in God.”  Not particularly helpful.  The other reason is due to the happy worship song of the same words.  When my soul is downcast, happy little worship songs are (again) seriously not helpful.

The Word of God never changes, but I do.  Each new season of life brings a new perspective and a different understanding to the Bible. In this light, I have had occasion to revisit this Psalm, spend some time considering these verses, and gain a new appreciation for them.  This morning, I wrote them out in my own words and John thought I should share them here.  They are not a translation or even a paraphrase but more like C.S. Lewis’ “supposal” of what these words might look like played out in my life.  It is our hope that they may be of encouragement to someone.

Psalm 42:1-6 (Revisited)

I remember…

I remember when it was not like this; when I delighted in the Lord and in the fellowship of His people.  I remember the deep satisfaction and joy in using my gifts to serve Him and the holy moments when it was not me, but Him working through me to touch the life of another person.  I remember those times and I long to return to them.  I am so thirsty for joy.  But instead of joy, I drink my own salty tears that were not invited or welcome and only make me thirst more for the joy I had in Him.  They sap me of my strength when I long to be filled with His power.  but even now, this I know to be true.  I will yet again praise Him.  This too, shall pass.  This season of grief is not welcome but it is just a season and it will in time come to an end.  While I am waiting, I will remember God’s faithfulness and put my hope in Him.


Praising God in the Hallway

As the sparkling white of icy winter gives way to the gray-brown snows of approaching spring, my arms start to ache to work in my gardens again.  I have been dreaming all winter of plans for my kitchen garden and the herbs and teas I want to plant this year (BTW, if anyone knows where I can purchase a chammomile plant, please let me know!)

I think this is why I’ve been struggling with a touch of homesickness lately.  When I visit the farm and see windows boarded up and the lawn littered with demolition debris or see strange men with dirty boots tramping through my house, it crushes my spirit a little bit every time.

I can give in to these feelings and keep my eyes on my circumstances or I can turn my eyes to God and allow Him to give me a fresh perspective. As the saying goes, “While you are waiting for God to open another door, praise Him in the hallway.”

The following are pictures from our temporary home:


641. The company which provided the furnishings did not want me to put plants on any of their tables, but this bay window is just perfect.  And really, if one has to do dishes, this view is a blessing.  My soap dispenser was broken in the move, so on one of our (seemingly) daily trips to Wal-Mart I picked up this blue one. I don’t care if it’s a cheap plastic soap pump, I love that it matches my blue Mason jars! (642.)


643.  My dad sent me these lovely roses for Lions Rose Day.  Being the daughter of a Lion and the wife of a Lion, I am doubly blessed ❤  They were especially meaningful to me this year and made the place feel a little more like home.  (Aren’t they gorgeous?)


644.  I could not find my napkin holder after the move.  I walked into Goodwill for something totally unrelated and someone had just dropped off several Longeberger baskets.  Perfect!


645. This is a little reading nook the housing company set up for me.  It is right next to sliding glass doors with lots of natural light to do my quiet times in the morning.Or at least it will be the perfect place to do my quiet times if I can beat John to it some morning; he is also quite fond of my reading nook.


646.  I didn’t have a really good place for the kids to practice tumbling at our farm; but the large, unfinished basement is just the thing!


647. We had a toy room at the farm, affectionately known as “The Toy Shop”.  It was a converted porch that was very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, so it was mainly used for toy storage.  In the basement of this house, there is one finished room (that is quite toasty) that we have set aside for the kids’ toy room.  Sam and Emma hosted a few friends over yesterday and I can tell you I was quite happy to have all the happy screaming noises downstairs.


648. This is the back deck (complete with bunny tracks from last night’s snow), but do you know what I see?  I see a perfect place for planters filled with herbs and teas to plant in my kitchen garden when I move back home.

Spontaneous Stops and Cold Meat Sandwiches

We moved into temporary housing on Tuesday.  The housing company delivered most of the furniture.  On Wednesday, the rental company delivered the washer and dryer.  On Thursday, the plumber hooked them up.  On Friday, the housing company delivered the rest of the furniture.  Saturday we left for a five day family vacation.  Boxes are piled high, waiting to be unpacked, our internet was still not yet hooked up, and our homeschool books are waiting patiently for me to find my stride again so we can catch up.  Suffice to say, this was not a convenient time to take a family vacation.  In fact, it was a very inconvenient time to take a family vacation.  Turns out, it was a great time to take a family vacation.

The five days we spent on the road were filled with all the hallmarks of a great family vacation (or at least our family vacations)…audiobooks read by Jim Weiss, picnic lunches, small treats and activities to help distract children from long hours on the road.  John spent many hours planning our route, finding interesting places to stop,and making hotel reservations, and yet we found once again that some of the most delightful stops were completely unplanned.

To quote Dr. Suess, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”  I am such a structured person, wanting to plan every detail ahead of time, and the planned stops were fun but the most delightful ones were spontaneous.  Even the picnic lunches were delightful (and as all my children know, Momma is not fond of cold meat sandwiches).  

It was a really, really inconvenient time to take a family vacation…John & I both have so much work to do at home, but for those five days on the road we were completely powerless to do anything about it.  I do not like being powerless.  I like being in control, but the time spent on the road was a gentle reminder to trust God because He is in control.  Long hours on the road gave me time to examine how much I really do trust Him.  Do I trust God so long as I get to retain control over all the details?  Or do I trust Him even when I am completely powerless?  

I don’t think I will ever be a go-with-the-flow kind of girl this side of heaven, but as we return home to our not-quite-home and face a lot of uncertainties I would rather not face, I think I am a little better prepared to relax and trust God and trust His timing.  He is in complete control and all His gifts are good.  After all, if he can make cold meat lunches enjoyable, He can do anything.  

My Confession

I blew it.  I really, really blew it.  I can give you a thousand reasons why…I could try and make my defense…but in the end they are just excuses; the facts remain that I was guilty as charged.  My sweet little girl had brought me a beautiful turquoise necklace she had made and asked for my approval.  My words were harsh, critical…Why hadn’t she asked my permission before using my things?…It would be better if the beads were arranged in a more balanced arrangement…I didn’t even notice her face before rushing on to accomplish the tasks I thought were so important for the day.  The day was a demanding one.  I gave my full attention to the deadlines that were loudly demanding it, I gave very little to the sweet, sensitive spirit that asked very little of me.  As the day drew to a close, the Holy Spirit whispered words that were a slam-dunk conviction: “Those were her beads.”  In that instant, my vision was cleared.  Yes, my deadlines were important, but nothing was as important as finding my girl and making things right.  As we found a quiet corner, her face was full of concern.  “Is everything OK, Mommy?”  “Did I do something wrong, Mommy?”  Her words pricked my heart.  How often had I crushed her before this day?  I told her how wrong I was, how sorry I was, how I appreciated the artistic gifts God had given her; I praised her for taking the initiative to create something and be creative without anyone telling her to do it. She snuggled in closer to me. “It’s OK, Mommy.  I forgive you.”  Grace.  Priceless words offered to me.  As we begin our school year, let this grace be before all others.  If we learn math, writing, & science, but miss grace we walk away empty handed.  But this day holds another lesson for me.  Sin can be forgiven, but it always has a consequence.  She may have forgiven me and our relationship was restored, but as I climbed the stairs to attend to the next thing I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she picked up her necklace to work on it again, the way I had told her it should be.    Image

Musings on the Body….

From Ephesians Ch. 4:

1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called

Ah, yes, this is my great desire…to walk in a manner worthy of my calling…but what does that look like?  How is that done?

2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

Humility, gentleness, patience, love..all evidences of the Spirit at work, doing His good work in my life; but there is something here which especially catches this farm girl’s eye: Continue reading