The Little Yellow House

One of my favorite aunts passed away yesterday (dare I say my favorite?). I only have two aunts left out of 14 originally. She was kind and compassionate, hospitable, and patient. She was generous with her love. And even though she had bright red hair, she did not have the temper that is such a stereotype for redheads! Although I do have to say I saw her aggravated occasionally, usually with my uncle. But it must not have been too bad because they were married over 65 years.

I have lots of fond memories of spending time at her little yellow house that was truly a home. I loved her green Fiesta Ware dishes that were square instead of round. I enjoyed eating her “cheesecake.” It was not until later that I learned it technically was pineapple fluff, not a true cheesecake. But it did have a graham cracker crust and cream cheese in it.

I was always excited to see her little yellow house at the corner of the Nortonville Gravel Road and her road. When I think back on how small that house was, I am somewhat amazed that a family of 5 could live there! And she hosted so many dinners there. I loved staying all night, even though it meant I had to kick my cousin Randy out of his tiny room for the night. There was no basement and I remember going to the root cellar to get canned goods for her and even one time going down there when there was a possible tornado. When my uncle finally built additional rooms on the house, it still remained yellow–such a happy color in my mind.

When I decided to move back home from Ohio, it was Aunt MaryAnn who came with my mom and helped load up all my belongings. I was probably more excited to see her than I was to see my mom. She has always just been there–loving and encouraging, gentle and kind.

She loved Christmas and one time when I took some friends from church home with me, we went to my aunt’s house just to see her collection of Santa Clauses. It was pretty amazing. She was so glad we were there. My friends commented on how gracious and welcoming she was.

Her life has never been easy and she lost a daughter many years ago and has one son who has made poor choices over and over again, which led to his life in prison. But she has one son who is a lot like her–compassionate, strong, kind and loving. She never complained of her lot in life and always still loved others. She cared for grandchildren and loved them unconditionally, she opened her home on more occasions than I can count and probably even know, and she endured difficult back pain that necessitated surgery. All without complaint–well at least to my knowledge.

And while the last few years have been spent with Alzheimer’s, she would still smile through her confusion when she had no clue who you were. It was hard to watch as her health went downhill with the advent of Alzheimer’s. I remember the last time I had a conversation with her at a family reunion. I reminded her gently who I was after I could see the look of confusion on her face. She asked me how Tom was doing. He was my husband, who had died a few years earlier.

Alzheimers is an ugly disease and it does not have mercy on anyone. As it did not on her. The things Alzheimer victims forget are a lifetime of memories and skills learned since childhood. The lack of recognition of the ones who love them most is debilitating for everyone. My cousin and his partner have been primary caretakers for both her and my uncle during the past several years–and believe me–that is a huge undertaking. It was not easy for him and my uncle to watch her slowly slip away to the disease until she was at a point where she could no longer be cared for at home.

Aunt MaryAnn, I am happy to think that you are smiling and chatting away in heaven with those who have gone before you. No more sickness, no more tears, no more sorrow. Enjoy your rest.

Being Me and the Perfect Life*

Do you ever wish you had someone else’s perfect life? Have you ever thought your life would be better if you could just have their talents and skills, their perfect family, or their awesome job?  Sometimes it’s easy to envy others when we think they have the best personalities, the most talent, and other attributes we admire.  Frequently we get into the comparison game and come up the loser.

The fact of the matter is while we are busy envying someone else’s life, that very same person may be envying another person, too. When I was younger I could sense something wrong in a relationship with a close friend. I couldn’t put my finger on what was going on, but it seemed we were losing our closeness and I was stymied as to what I had done that would make her avoid me. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, I confronted her. I was stunned when I heard her say she was jealous of my ability to make friends easily and I had a boyfriend, while she struggled to build relationships. Feeling badly about her relationships, she had started to avoid me, especially when I was with my boyfriend.

But the REAL fact of the matter was that I envied her for her sense of humor, her close-knit Christian family, and her obvious musical talent. Once we were able to talk about our feelings and recognize that God made us unique individuals, with our own strengths and weaknesses, we abolished the barriers we had let build over time.

Being much older and somewhat wiser now, I have learned to recognize that God has made each of us unique and equipped us with different gifts. Our families, communities, belief systems, and temperaments have all factored into making us who we are.  When we learn to recognize our personalities, and learn to understand our strengths and weaknesses, we can come to a greater understanding of ourselves.

I am learning to be content with who God made me to be and to recognize I need to work within my strengths. I have also learned to acknowledge my weaknesses and not be afraid to ask for help from those who are strong where I am weak. I am finally allowing myself to be me, flaws and all! That doesn’t mean I am not continually trying to grow and thrive in my environment, but it does mean I have given myself permission to not be perfect. (Which is a good thing, because the Good Lord knows I have a long way to go!)

There is a reason God doesn’t want us to be envious of others. When we start comparing ourselves to others and becoming envious of who they are and how they live, we find seeds of discontent being sown.  Envy can lead to bitterness and selfishness. (James 3:13-18 deals with this very subject.) When we focus so much on others, we forget to focus on the One who created us.

Being me. I am the only one who can be me. Being you. You are the only one who can be you. God can use us both. For today I am content being me and realizing that while life isn’t perfect right now, someday when I am with my heavenly Father, it will be!

Have you learned to be content with who God made you to be? Have you learned to let God use you through both your strengths and your weaknesses? Or are you still wishing that you had someone else’s life?  I don’t know anyone who has a perfect life. But there is peace that comes from embracing who you are (imperfections and all) and giving that to God to use.

*originally posted on September 6, 2011 by Linda Wallace cwrn.org website (no longer published).

Bittersweet Days

This evening will be bittersweet for me. I am going to the Alumni Homecoming banquet at the college I graduated from in 1974. (I know–I am truly getting old!) The reason it is bittersweet is that the college is in its last year of existence. When May arrives, the last graduating class will receive their diplomas and a school that has been in existence since 1956, will merge with another college. Like many Bible colleges the financial burden of staying open, the pandemic, and the lack of incoming students have created the perfect storm, causing hard decisions to be made.

Unfortunately I have seen several Bible colleges close in the last decade. I could cite a multitude of reasons why the majority of Bible colleges are struggling to remain open. Some of the reasons are valid, some of them are not. But that is not really the purpose of this post.

Continue reading

Words to My 22-year-old Self

I belong to a facebook group called Ministry Chick, which is specifically designed for women in ministry. In the short time I have been a part of that group, it has been refreshing to see women come together in support of one another. Today a young woman posted a question that really got me thinking.

Her question was “If you could go back and tell your 22 year old self anything, what would it be?”

Goodness! My 67-year-old self would have plenty to say. But here are the top 10 things in no particular order, except the first one, that I would tell my 22-year-old self. Continue reading

What’s Her Story?

We all have them in our churches. Women whose lives are full of hurt and pain, who struggle with job loss, economic woes, health issues, parenting issues, and more. They sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, trying to trust God with their struggles and frequently wearing a mask to cover their pain. We will never know their stories unless we make the effort to invite them into our lives and discover who they are.

A friend and I listened as a woman shared her story of a son who is struggling with paranoid schizophrenia. She lived in fear as she watched his hallucinations and bizarre behaviors become increasingly more frequent. The hours leading to his involuntary hospitalization were something I would never wish for anyone. My heart ached for her and her pain. We held hands as we prayed for her family. My friend and I both prayed that God’s healing hand would be on this family, but it was her prayer that made me cry as I truly saw the heart of a mother who loved God. Continue reading

Living with Brokenness

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a Fresh Grounded Faith conference. I heard Ann Voskamp, Laura Story, and Jennifer Rothschild share their stories and their challenges as women of God. I loved listening to these women because they were authentic and real. They didn’t paint a “rah, rah, everything is good in our lives” picture! Instead, they talked about our wounds and our challenges and our pain–our brokenness.

thAs I listened this weekend I thought about the multitude of women I know who have shared their stories with me through the years. Stories they have never shared with anyone, secrets so deep and painful they affected the rest of their lives. And I have been a keeper of the stories that have been told to me in confidence. My heart breaks every time I hear one of them. Continue reading

Surviving Transition

ChangeTransitions. We all have them. Some transitions fill us with expectation and excitement, others fill us with dread and uncertainty.  Some transitions are of our own making, others are sometimes forced upon us.  But there is no doubt, good or bad, we all need to learn how to adjust to transition in our lives.  It is especially difficult to make a smooth transition when change comes our way, not through our own choosing, but through circumstances–sometimes beyond our control or understanding. Continue reading

The Man on the Honor Flight

10686785_10203126098255503_2263128286258544606_nToday is a very special day for a very special man. My brother-in-law, Steve, will be boarding a plane for an Honor Flight to Washington, DC. If you are not familiar with an honor flight, these flights take a veteran to Washington DC, where they can see memorials honoring those who have gone before. What Steve will see today includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Vietnam Wall, both of which will be moving experiences for him. This blog is a letter to a man who is not only my brother-in-law, but also a brother to me.

Dear Steve, Little did we know how big a part of our lives you would be when Sharron brought you home for the first time. I remember looking up and seeing all 6’4″ of you and being amazed at how tall you were. What I have discovered since then is that not only are you tall in height, you are tall in spirit. We have shared a lot of memories through the years. Continue reading

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters

Cast Your Bread upon the Waters

I have been going through the daunting task of selling my home. Literally, months of preparation have taken place. The house was suffering from years of neglect simply because financially things have been difficult for me, especially since my husband’s death six years ago. The interior was dark with dark brown doors on all of the rooms, a tired kitchen and gold and blue bathrooms. The exterior? Well, that is a long, complicated story. Suffice it to say, in this house every time I turned around, some new issue had reared its ugly head. But this is where I can truly say, God is in control. Continue reading

Sometimes Life Is Hard

tearsSometimes life is just hard. My heart has been full of sadness for some of my friends and family lately. I cannot tell you how many of them have been going through crisis mode.  The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, the loss of a child, the heartbreak of a broken marriage, the pain of broken confidences, a diagnosis of cancer, and the list goes on.  Each one of them are precious individuals who are reeling from their hurt and pain. I wish I could fix it for them. But I can’t. Continue reading