Category Archives: Family Notes

An open apology to kids about knowing God, faith

I apologize.  

As I continue to study and to read the Bible, I realize I failed.  I failed to teach you faith.  I failed to practice the parenting principles that my own parents taught me.  I failed to share what I know to be my own life foundation.

I apologize.

As I grew up, both Mom and Dad lived a Christian lifestyle.  They modeled it by the very routines of our day and our week.  They never demanded that we participate, but then we would never have refused to follow their instructions.  It never even occurred to me that we should question the practices.

Therefore, why did I not follow those deeply entrenched practices on my own?  I did some, but some I did not.  Going to church each Sunday was a well-preserved practice and included attending Sunday school.

Because Dad always went with us each Sunday, I never thought that my own husband would miss church.  I thought that was just part of the agreement in a marriage.  When I first had to go to church alone, I ached. It was so wrong, yet I failed to make an issue of the change.  I just went—alone and alone with the kids.

I apologize.

Another practice that I failed in was maintaining the practice of the meal’s blessing.  We had three meals a day growing up and that meant three mealtime graces.  

I admit that the practice weakened during the college years because prayer is private and mealtime in the dorm’s cafeteria was far from private.  The meals’ grace disappeared.  Oh, I could have said the grace privately, but I don’t remember doing so.  And when I moved into an apartment, I could have resumed the practice then.  But I didn’t.

Then came marriage and meals were often in front of the TV.  No table grace then.  

And then came kids.  I should have known that I needed to add in the meal’s prayer, but I did not and did not even approach the subject with Dad.  I failed.

Then life changed with the divorce, and the opportunity to add in open prayer was there—but I hesitated.  It was not until the preschool grace developed and later remembered that the simple table grace resurfaced.  I failed to do so in a timely manner, but now it seems so important, so routine, and so simple.

I apologize.

Now the two practices of church attendance and table grace are just two small, concrete pieces to the Christian lifestyle that one can wear openly, but there is more about which I need to apologize.

Faith education is a critical failure.  I know that many argue that as children develop, they need to learn about God on their own, along their own timeline, in their own way or by their own experiences.  But how does that work?

Having been a teacher for 30 some years, I know that learning is developmental.  I know that all individuals can learn.  I know that we all learn differently.  I know that we learn by seeing, by hearing, and by doing.  

Yet, did I teach faith in my own home. No.  I realize now that I counted on the kids learning via other people’s teaching.  I delegated the task to others and did not take my own initiative to teach the very foundation of my own life.  I failed.

For some reason I thought that I was doing enough, and I was not.  I thought that since my kids lived in my home they would be able to figure out the importance of faith by osmosis.  

I did not figure in what would happen when outside influences or the divorce would create an entirely different learning environment than I felt I was maintaining.  I neglected my kids’ faith education.

I apologize.

How easy it would be to just ignore the issue, but I cannot stand seeing what life without God does to people.  I see so few who seem to have an internal fountain of joy shining from within them; and I know they are missing the joy I experience knowing God in my own life.

What I should have done is been verbally open about how God is part of the daily world in which I exist:

I should have spoken about how God created this universe and we are to care for it.  

I should have shown how all the different birds are part of God’s creation.  

I should have shown how farmers are key to feeding God’s people and for protecting this world that supplies all we need to grow crops and to nurture the livestock that feeds us.

I should have explained how important it is to treat each and every individual with love, just like we want to be treated.

I should have shown them that good leaders do care about their subordinates making any business or organization work smoothly.

I should have . . . and the list continues.

I apologize that I failed.

But, today, I want to put a stop to the failures and speak out—directly—to my kids.  God is good.  Whether you can ever fully understand the concept or not of an omniscient God, a creator, a spirit, a being, or whatever, I know that you must know what a difference God makes in my life.

More than anything I want you to experience the joy of this life experience that we are given.  I want you to demonstrate to all those you interact with that the power of loving one another is priceless.  I want you to share the love of life that you have because God loves you so much that he provides it.

And, I want you to know firsthand the value of studying the literature of the Bible.  We use words as a tool, and the Bible is filled with words to implement in your lives to manage all the ups and downs.  

As human beings, who do have the freedom to chose right and wrong, who do have the mental capabilities of analyzing history, science, social science, and experience, and who face all the challenges of living among believers and non-believers, we must learn all that we can about God.

Knowing God personally makes it possible to manage the evil forces that co-exist in our world. 

Knowing God personally makes it possible to live a joy-filled life even when we are confronted by a life challenge whether physical, mental, financial, or even a natural disaster.  

I apologize that I did not arm you with the knowledge of God that makes life good now and on into eternity.

I apologize that it has taken this many years to speak up.

I apologize that I did not teach you how to pray so you can always feel the reality of God with you, by you and for you.

Hear my prayer oh Lord, 

I am just a child of yours

     always learning of your vastness.

I am a child who has wasted time

     sharing what I value with my own.

I am a child who whines to you

     that my kids may not know you on their own.

Forgive me, Lord, 

     for my failures to teach my kids of You.

Forgive me, Lord,

     for wasting time in sharing faith out loud.

Forgive me, Lord, for whining

     rather than doing as much as I can.

Guide me to speak out loud 

     the truth of your love for us.

Guide me to live out loud

     my faith that so others may see.

Guide me to love my kids

     and all others as you commanded.

Thank you for the words of the faithful

     that share knowledge of faithful living.

Thank you for the open communication

     through our prayers.

Thank you for your guidance

     through the Holy Spirit within us.

May I be the parent unafraid 

     to love not only my kids but all your kids.

May all your children experience your great love

May they know the joy of loving you, 

         of loving life, and         

of loving one another.  –Amen

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An Open Thank You Letter: International Dyslexia Assoc. (formerly Orton Dyslexia Society) C. Wilson Anderson, past IDA president Dr. Joan Stoner, Nebraska Dyslexia Assoc.

Almost thirty years ago, I drove to Des Moines, IA, and met national Orton Dyslexia Society board members for my first regional conference on dyslexia.  Last week my daughter made her first presentation on the subject of dyslexia—her personal journey and methods that work.

That January 1990, weekend conference began a journey that continues to affect my daily life. Although the initial purpose was to find out how best to meet the needs of dyslexic cadets at a military academy, I discovered the reality of living with dyslexia and parenting a dyslexic.

Today, many years later, I want to thank C. Wilson Anderson and Joan Stoner for all they did to train me in the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory methods of language development. I have used it continually, even after retiring from teaching in an alternative program.

Now, my daughter uses it continually, too.  Missouri has just acknowledged the necessity of screening for dyslexia, and the developing problem is how best to teach those students.  I fail to understand why it has to be so complicated.  

My daughter’s presentation told not only her story of early diagnosis and interventions even before kindergarten, built up to a testimony of what works.  She succeeded in school, earned a teaching degree in early childhood, and also finished a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

Teaching dyslexics is exciting and challenging.  All students, whether identified or not, can benefit from the OG methods, especially when coupled with some of the educational theories such as differentiated learning, multiple intelligences, multi-sensory, and multi-layered curriculum. 

My own experience was enhanced by the work I did with the Orton Dyslexia Society, now International Dyslexia Associate, and the tutelage of C. Wilson Anderson and Joan Stoner—not to mention the many specialists who presented and joined in conversation at the national conferences. 

I may be retired from the classroom, but my passion for dyslexia is not.  Now I am fortunate to see my daughter drive forward doing all that she can for the students in her classroom whether they are identified or not.

Thank you for the guidance you provided, and know that it continues forward today.  

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Ever crave a recipe from Mom?

For the past few weeks, I have craved Mom’s pimento cheese spread.  I had looked for the pimentos and could not find them so I would give up.  Then walking down the aisle I saw something new–Velveeta with sharp cheddar flavor!

Now I knew I had to make pimento cheese because that was a new flavor and I thought it could really top the taste chart for my family.  So, I searched again–and I found the pimentos hiding down low in an entirely different location, but sadly a store brand.  Still I was determined to make Mom’s pimento cheese spread.

I pulled out my recipe:

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Sorry about the appearance, but this is a little spiral I keep of some very important recipes and I just can’t seem to give it up.  The vintage look of the page shows how much I return to these recipes over the years.

But, there it is.  Create a custard, add the cheese, melt it, and then add the pimentos.

Yes, I make some notes, and you can see that I learned the hard way about adding real cheddar cheese.  The flavor would be good, but it just does not work.  That is the reason why I was so excited to find the new flavor of Velvet.  I am going to have to add the 2018 note about it now.

Making pimento cheese always seemed like a major challenge, but not this time.  I pulled out the ingredients, turned on the stove, and in no time it was done.  And the flavor–wow!

And yes, I did add a few slices of American cheese to keep the spread a bit more stiff.  Still the spread works great on bread, toast, crackers, and celery (don’t try potato chips unless kettle cooked or wavy because it is too stiff for that to work).

IMG_2672

The final product is so yummy and I know Mom would be proud.

 

I keep thinking how good this will be added to some sandwiches, too.  In Atlanta, I found a sandwich that included pimento cheese and never thought about adding it to a classic sandwich.

Maybe it is the time of year, but just the process of making this family treat certainly picked up my spirits.  Typically I move into November filled with dread, but making this treat brought a little special joy into my November 1 day.

As we enter into these last two months of the year, family connections color our moods.  Stopping once in a while to capture memories can be a positive, yet I am reminded how many in our world do not have the warm-fuzzy memories like mine.

Maybe sharing this recipe with others is one way I can help build new memories for others.  This is not too difficult, but one major warning–you must stir while it is thickening because it scorches very easily.  It also spits terribly if you have it too hot and it boils.

This time I was amazed how quickly it started thickening and when it started to spit, I turned it down to a low setting while I added the chunks of cheese and kept stirring while it melted.

And believe me, the aroma when you add in the chopped pimentos just lift one’s spirits!  I should have made a bowl of tomato soup, too.  That would have topped off my kitchen time.

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Going home . . .

 

Over the weekend, we made a trip back to my hometown, Montgomery City, where the annual Old Threshers was the drawing card.

 

Old Threshers is a trip back to the past.  The old steam engines were on display working like they did when they first joined farmers in the hard work that had to be done—harvesting, cutting logs into boards, and more.

 

And that is not all.  The tractors of my childhood and even before all line up for everybody to review and remember.  I always look for the Oliver 66, which is the tractor Dad taught me to drive and the one I like the best.

 

There are other displays and activities, but there is something about seeing that Oliver 66 and the others from my past.  There is a magic that occurs when the steam whistles sound, the steam puffs up toward the clouds, and not to mention the smell of the freshly cut cedar planks.

 

But Old Threshers, this year, was special.  I visited with old church members, cousins, and neighbors. Recognition had to be awakened. Stories had to be shared.  But most important was sharing the past with the future.

 

For the first time, my grandchildren walked the fair grounds with me.  They saw the equipment for the first time.  They heard some of the stories of my parents and my childhood.  And I felt my heart soar.

 

And the day expanded as we returned to the farm.  I got to share the house with my daughter-in-law for the first time.  I watched the awe as she and her son/my grandson looked at Mom’s piano.  It continues to sit there waiting even though the keys are in bad shape and tuning has not been done in decades.

 

And the grands met their cousins!  Yes, the next generation met for the first time.  My kids with their cousins.  My grandkids with their cousins.  My brother, too, along with me and our cousins.  Wow!

 

I know, the experience was everything to me and not so everything for everybody else. But I am reminded that family is family. I am reminded that when we expand our family by joining in new families, home never really changes.

 

For years, I have thought about why I was so eager to leave home after college.  I have wondered why home always stays with you.  I went home regularly.  I really did not divorce myself from home.

 

But life divorced me from home.  Life circumstances can distance us from the very foundation of our lives. True, I became distanced from home; but I never became distanced from the foundations taught me at home.

 

My parents came from different faith backgrounds.  True they were both Protestants, Mom a Presbyterian and Dad a Methodist.  But when they married, the decision was to be a Methodist family.

 

My faith journey began with their faith journey.  And my faith home remained Methodist, even with a brief visit with a Presbyterian congregation.

 

When I returned home over the weekend, the first face I recognized was a member of that Montgomery City Methodist church.  How warming it was to feel that sense of recognition and to glory in that relationship.

 

The recognition reminded me that we are all of one family.  We may have different parents, different genetics, but the common ground of faith makes us so close to one another regardless of location or distance defined by years.

I find myself thinking about Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son:

  • How many times do we walk away from the foundations of our lives thinking we could do better?
  • How many times do we avoid going home?
  • How many times do we ignore what we are taught, esp. about God?
  • How many times does our life decisions risk poisoning our lives?
  • How many times do we think we cannot go home?

 

The parable shared in Luke , speaks to all of us at so many different levels.

 

As a parent, we do our best to raise our children so they know they are loved and will always be loved.  We know we have to discipline them at times.  We know we have to let them grow up.  We know we have to accept their decisions even if we disagree. Yet, we pray they succeed and that they come home; not permanently but emotionally.

 

As a child, we all know that as we grow up, we look forward to living as independently.  We grow up and move on.  Maybe like me, I never wanted to be labeled a teacher, marry a farmer, and stay in my childhood community.  But, I also never expected to face some of the challenges I did.

 

Thank goodness my parents laid the foundation for me life that included God and church.  I fled that farm life, but I never left the church.  My life challenges certainly knocked me down, but with my faith in God, I kept going.

 

The story of the Prodigal Son is as much a story of me leaving and returning as it is as a parent who watches children leave.  God provides unconditional love to all always.  It is us who must find our way home.

 

Going home is tough, true.  But going home warms the heart and the benefits are immeasurable.

 

Going home this weekend was a delight.  My family that remains in Montgomery were there.  My family who live outside of Montgomery, were there. My heart was warmed by all the memories, all the relationships, and all the promises of the future.

 

My prayer is that all of my family and friends from my childhood, from today, and from the future know that they are loved.  There is enough unconditional love from God to accept all the mistakes we make, but we may not know it until we stray away.

 

Thank you, God, for all the love and all the grace and all the forgiveness that you provide.  I hope I model it for others, too.  –Amen.

 

Luke 15:11-32:  Parable of the Lost Son

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

 

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

 

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

 

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]

 

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

 

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

 

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

 

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

 

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Resting in confusion

Three weeks into a rest period, I find myself in confusion.  I am so used to operating on a schedule and knowing my goals, this pause in that life is very uncomfortable.

I am so fortunate to have family and friends–personal and professional, who know how confusing this time is for me and know that I want to race through rest to the next step.  This set of family and friends just keep telling me to rest.

This morning a second visit to Rev. Jim Downing’s church filled me again.  True it is a 30 mile drive, but going in and feeling comfortable among no one I know is evidence of how the Holy Spirit can make it feel like family.

For the past 10 years, I have organized my life around my work.  First I was a teacher, especially in an alternative setting; but then I added in part time pastoring.  The pressure to maintain all that I needed for both jobs just seemed natural.  Then I retired from the teaching profession.

Now retiring from one’s lifetime career is stressful enough.  I have now realized retirement really means being “really tired.”  I still had the church as a part time job, but I was used to full time work.  I probably used as much time now for the part time job, and worked hard to rest in the evenings.  Not easy

Speeding forward through the past three years, I am now trying to rest.  Not really retired, just working at resting.  And naturally, resting leads one to see all the daily household chores and postponed projects now have no reason to put off.  So, I am finding that rest can still be elusive.

In our Midwestern lifestyle, there seems to be a sense that one must work every day in order to achieve their goals.  I did not grow up knowing how to ‘play.’  Life on the family farm meant there were always chores.  We did stop on Sunday, though, and rest.  Even this concept is lost in our farming culture today–now farming is 24/7.

Rest.  I am learning that to rest, I have to give myself permission to rest.  I have to close off my ears to the internal yelling about all the work there is to do.  I also have to turn off the clock.  I have no reason to rush ahead, but my internal clock says I have such a limited time frame to use for rest even though I have NO time frame at all.

So here I am in week three of my rest, and I am confused.  Thank goodness my family and friends know me well enough to accept my confusion in this time of rest, but also know me well enough to reprimand me when I start tressing out over the timeframe.

One of my personal goals in this time of rest is to figure out how to listen to God.  I must quieten myself enough to recognize his voice.  This week I read a book by Adam Weber, Talking with God.   I started it and could not stop, finishing it in one day.  I separated myself so much from my typical day that I heard God.  I found energy.  I recognized Mom’s voice, too.

Thank you, Adam Weber, for such a clear discussion of talking with God.  I know what it is to be exhausted.  I know what it is to have unconditional love.  I know how hard it is to wait.  Your work spoke to me and speaks for me.  I know God speaks through your words, too.

One of the results of reading this is a driving desire to share this understanding from Adam Weber with others.  I wanted to buy a case of the books and start sending them off to others who I wanted them to know/experience this conversation.

Maybe this is what rest is.  Maybe I need to give myself permission to read–without a highlighter in my hand or note papers to record on.  Maybe I need to share what I read via the blog or Twitter.  This is all part of my process.  Rest in the moment also means being alert to how God can use me in those moments.

I may be assigned a period of rest, but my confusion still needs to be decluttered.  I guess I must remember that there is no timeline other than God’s.  Thank you to Rev. Downing, Rev. Weber, and my family and friends for helping me make my way to refreshment and renewal during this extended, uncertain time of rest.

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Decoration/Memorial Day Thought

As I prepared the sermon, I started remembering how our family handled Memorial Day, which we called Decoration Day.  The day was a process–beginning in the morning picking flowers from our own yard.  No purchased ones were ever used and I never remember not having fresh ones available.

The next step was wrapping old Folgers coffee can with aluminum foil, filling them with the flowers and then water–enough to get to the cemetery before we added more there.  The flowers filled the trunk of the car and then for the next step.

My memory includes picnics.  Mom would pack the picnic basket–now sitting in my dining room with one broken handle–with either fried chicken or ham.  No potato chips, instead there would be potato salad and/or deviled eggs.  At least that is what I remember.

Then off we would all go–all four of us.  No one stayed home as this was a family event.  We started in Middletown.  I remember it because that is where Ote West was buried, along with his wife.  Our farm had been his, but when he died, it became Dad’s.  And with each grave, came the stories. Little did I know the value of the stories then as I do now.

From Wellsville, we drove to Millersburg where Mom’s birth mother and an older brother are buried along with others from her family.  This is where we learned of the heartbreak Mom experienced having lost her mom when she was only 2 1/2 years old and growing up to know she had had an older brother, too.  What we did not know until 1980 was that her mother had been pregnant when she died.  But the stories continued.

As I remember, we often had our picnic at Dixie Lake which is only a few miles from the Millersburg Cemetery.  In terms of a lake, it is rather small by my adult standards, but as a young girl it was huge.

After lunch, we drove back to Montgomery City’s cemetery where Dad’s family was buried.  There were more graves to visit here, but Dad’s family was much larger.  One memory is of my cousin Sally’s family.  She was the only infant to survive due to RH factor.  The graves of the babies are not an accurate reflection of that heartbreak as some were turned over for scientific study.  But the story is laid out along the rows of graves in that cemetery along with aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and now even our own parents.

Today I live on the other side of the state.  Trips to the cemetery are far and few between.  The cemetery is a location, but the spirits are always present.  I rather miss the traditions and being able to share the stories I learned from decorating the graves, but location determines many decisions.

I know that Memorial Day is really designed to honor the veterans, but for me it is honoring the history of my family.  We did not have many who were veterans as most were farmers and escaped being drafted.

One uncle did serve in World War II and suffered from malaria off and on during his life.  Plus my dad and his cousin Donald did enlist at the end of World War II when the draft called them.  (Enlisting rather being drafted reduced the months of service.)  Later his brother also served.  Yet they returned home to continue farming until their lives ended in a non-combat manner.

Today, the Tuesday after, I wonder if I should have made the drive across state to visit the cemeteries.  No.  My memory always honors those who have gone ahead.  The cemetery is just a place.  My decoration is the life I now live honoring them in who I am.  I am sure they know.

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A Mother’s Loss

The following Letter to the Editor was published today, April 27, 2018 in the Kansas City Star.  I wrote it after reading the tribute to Barbara Bush on April 21.  The essay/editorial struck a cord that is worthy of noting.  Please read.  Thank you to the KC Star for including it in today’s edition.

Mary Sanchez’s sympathetic and empathetic column concerning Barbara Bush is a testimony to the strength of character not only of Mrs. Bush, but her mom and all of us who experience the loss a child. (April 21, 11A, “Remembering Barbara Bush, grieving mother”)

My experience was a miscarriage of twins. But that was half a century after Robin Bush’s death and Sanchez’s mother’s first late-term loss. I was fortunate to have a community that understood it was a loss and allowed me to grieve.

Another generation later, our daughter-in-law lost a daughter, Faith, at 17 weeks. Fortunately, she was supported by a medical team that understood the need to allow her and her husband time with the daughter.

Loss is painful, but grieving is a process that one must experience, and a medical team that understands that need is exceptional.

Sanchez’s words and her insight concerning Mrs. Bush are evidence that our culture is learning to honor painful life experiences appropriately. Thank you for sharing such a personal and perceptive tribute to Mrs. Bush, but also to your own mom and all mothers who know the loss of a child all too soon.

Susan Annette Smith Warrensburg

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