Saturday, April 2, 2011

Happy Ever After

God, the best maker of all marriages,
Combine your hearts into one. ~William Shakespeare

I was fifteen -- he was seventeen -- when I looked towards the piano during choir rehearsal and my eyes collided with his.  My heart pounded and I couldn't breathe -- what was up with that?  I still had two and a half years of high school left.  He was leaving for college in the fall. I couldn't date until I was sixteen and that was nine months away.  Wouldn't he get tired of this quiet introspective girl before then?

That was nearly thirty-eight years ago.  If he's tired of me, he's smart enough to keep it to himself. 

We were blessed with loving marital examples in our parents.  My daddy, the romantic, enjoyed spending his off-work hours with my mother.  RB's father, ever practical, made sure his wife was cared for, treating her with love and respect throughout their 60+ years of marriage.  Someone said, "The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother."  I couldn't find the source, but whoever wrote this was a wise person. 

We used the traditional marriage vows in our wedding.  RB has lived the phrase, "in sickness and in health."  He  rejoices in the good days and cares for more than his part of the load in the bad.  I've been told that marriage only works if there's a 50/50 ratio -- each partner giving 50%.  I disagree.  Throughtout our marriage there have been times the best I could give is 30% and RB has given 70%.  Likewise in the seasons he only had 40% to give, I have been able to give 60%. 

For the first twenty-six years of our marriage we lived where we worked -- on the campus of a Bible College and the campus of church ministry. I had opportunities to see him numerous times throughout the day.  It was a big adjustment for me ten years ago when RB left at 7:00 in the morning and didn't return until 6:00 in the evening.  I'm thankful for computers.  We're able to connect via email throughout the day, even if it's a hurried, "Racing from meeting to meeting -- XO."  Cell phones are on my thankful list, too.  Grateful for free phone-to-phone minutes that allow taking advantage of commuting time to talk about our days. 

Start Strong and Finish Well
Although Emily will be living at home and traveling with RB to the university each day, we're entering another season of our life.  I'm thankful for the vibrancy of our relationship.  Thankful we enjoy each other, that our discussions went beyond home and parenting to the political, spiritual, and yes, even the craziness. 

In this autumn of our life we will keep our vows -- to have and to hold from this day forward -- happy ever after.

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Wedding in a Box

My girls loved playing wedding.  Melanie and her friend, Maria, often dressed Emily up as a bride.  Emily would do anything they asked, even wearing the half slip veil they fashioned for her.   

Remembering that, I made Morgan a "Wedding in a Box."  Except for the box and tulle, I found all of my wedding items at the Dollar Store, bringing the total project to $12.00

What's in the box: 

Veil, made with tulle, a rose and wired hearts.
Lilly of the valley bouquet
Long white gloves
Silk petals for the "aisle."
Wedding bubbles
Wedding bells
Bride's garter

RB wrote, "Here comes the bride" around the side box and "Morgan" name on the lid.  I can't wait to "play bride" with Morgan.  I'll be sure to tell her that she wants to marry someone like her own daddy -- a gentle man, a strong man, a man of God.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sheltering with Love

I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, "How many good things have you done in your life?" rather He will ask, "How much love did you put into what you did?"  ~Mother Teresa

Ten years ago yesterday my mother-in-law went to be with Jesus.  Helen Kuhn was quite the lady.  Married at 17, she became a pastor's wife to three churches (yes, at the same time!).  For the next 65 years she sheltered others with joy.

1.  She loved people.  Oh my, did she ever.  She genuinely cared about everyone.  From the littlest to the oldest she was interested in their lives.  Week after week she would pick up kids on Saturday night to ensure their Sunday morning church attendance.  She bought church clothes for them to wear on Sunday and made sure they had a good breakfast, and of course took time to make sure their hair was neat.  

One Saturday night one of the girls locked herself in the spare bedroom and couldn't get it unlocked.  RB was dismayed to find out that his 80-year-old mother climbed out the window, onto the porch roof, walked around to the bedroom window and climbed in, and rescued her guests. 

When RB's father died at age 85, he was pastoring a church in Struthers, Ohio (one he had served 37 years prior to that time).  The church folks wanted her to remain with them, so arranged to use Bible School students or retired pastors for a while to fill the pulpit.  All other duties were left to Mom Kuhn.  She called on people all over the city. Struthers/Youngstown were not known to be safe twin cities; in fact, at one time Youngstown was even called the murder capital of the US.   One night a man got so mad at her he slammed the door in her face, and when he did, the door knob fell off in his hand.  She loved it! (For some reason, RB failed to see the humor!)...  And once again we cringed knowing what could happen to her.

2.  She shared what she had.  Multiple times whenever RB's dad noticed a cake on the counter, he’d joked, "Who's that for?!"  Homemade bread, jelly, pickled beets and eggs; whatever she made was shared.  Buttermilk fudge was her specialty.  Oh yum!

3.  She was thrifty.  Mom Kuhn could make a dollar go further than anyone.  She cut coupons, shopped where the bargains were, and stockpiled when she found a sale.  So many of those items found their way into my home.  Tights for the girls, strawberries for me or lima beans for RB.  She picked strawberries, apples, peaches and anything else that picking made cheaper.

She also loved to thrift shop.  I think she knew about every pastor's size in the church conference (district).  Every camp meeting she'd have a trunk full of suits, dress pants, white shirts or shoes to hand out.

Ask RB about the year they had turnips and turnips, and did I say turnips?  The man that plowed their garden (horse-drawn plow) had turnip seeds in his pocket and every time he’d lean forward to get a good grip on his hand-operated tiller, some of the seeds would fall out of his pocket.  Of course they couldn't waste the turnips so she mixed them with everything--even sneaked them into mashed potatoes.  He was sure glad to see the end of the turnips.

At my parents
Writing one of the hundreds of cards she sent out each year

4.  She used her tools and gave freely.  Mom Kuhn's sewing machine got so much use.  She was always sewing for someone.  Sewing modest dresses, shortening sleeves of dress shirts and pants she found in thrift stores so they’d be “tailor made,” making gifts of oven door hanger towels, children's nighties -- her sewing machine was always humming.  As I reflect, I can see her digging through her stash to find the perfect fabric for the project she was working on. 

5.  She loved her son (and daughters, most certainly).  RB's birth certificate announced, The Crown Prince Has Arrived.  They finally had their son -- at almost grandparent age.  But she loved RB enough to discipline him.  When others praised or bragged on RB's musical talent, she was quick to remind him to consecrate his talent to God.  When RB questioned someone's actions his mother quoted, "Others may, I cannot."  She made him practice his piano lessons -- with lima beans on the piano.  When he played a song once, he’d slide a bean to the other side, until all 5 (painfully, through tears) beans made their transition!  All her work paid off, as RB fell in love with keyboarding.  If RB's hair got too long to suit her she'd ask, "Are you going to get a violin or a dog collar?"

6. She loved me.  If I ever did anything to displease my mother-in-law, I wasn't aware of it.  One of the nicest things she did for me was have a sweet talk with RB before we were married.  She told him to never say, "My mom doesn't do it that way," or "My mom's doesn't taste like this."  She sewed clothes for me, crocheted beautiful pieces for my home, and taught me to prepare Fordhook lima beans and sweet tea the southern way. 

Grandma Kuhn with Melanie (15) and Emily (6)

7. She spoiled her grandchildren.  Never did Grandma Kuhn make the rules for our girls, but neither did she break my rules.  Because RB was a "later life" child, there weren't cousins to play with when they visited and during holidays.  That didn't bother Melanie and Emily.  It was also fun for them to be with Grandma Kuhn because whatever she was doing, they did, too.  Add to that putting together puzzles, playing games and helping in the kitchen.  One of my favorite pictures is of Grandma Kuhn teaching Melanie to skip rocks on Lake Monroe.
Grandma Kuhn with Adesh

Not only were my children spoiled, but the children of RB's sisters got their share.  Fruity Pebble marshmallow treats for Jesal and Adesh -- I don't remember what Samiksha's favorite was, and the other grandkids were grown up by the time I joined the family -- but I do know if Grandma was visiting, there were treats in the suitcase.  She prayed for her grandchildren daily.

8.  Most of all she loved her God.  There was never a question about Mom Kuhn's love for God.  His light shone in her eyes and was felt in her actions.  She loved the Word and quoted it daily.  Emily, who slept with Grandma Kuhn when they were together, remembers her quoting Scripture as they fell asleep.

I was privileged to shelter her along with her daughter, Marsha, when the colon cancer took its toll on her body.  I cannot recall a cross word, not during the weeks in the hospital or throughout the time when she came home to our “hospital living room” for her last days.  She was appreciative for each small task we did for her.  We look back on what should have been a stressful time, but RB, Marsha and I remember it with peace.  That seems like a funny word to use, but that's how the visiting nurses, our day nurse and the church people who gave so willingly of their visits and food gifts, described it.

Some people pass away and are remembered with fondness.  Others, are remembered with poignant memories told again and again -- these are the shelterers.  These are ones who loved extravagantly -- cared deeply and gave with joy.  Helen Kuhn  sheltered --  and the footprints she left behind ten years ago are still evident on the paths she trod.


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Ski Soup

When we were getting to my in-laws house late at night,
we'd be greeted with the warm, homey smell of Ski Soup -- RB loved it.
(I never wanted to eat that late at night, but enjoyed it the next day.)


In Chicago with Marsha
1 lb. sausage, fried
2 cups green lentils
1 tsp minced garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 medium potatoes into 1 inch cubes
8 to 10 cups water or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Sauté garlic and onions over medium heat for about five minutes or until soft.

2. Add garlic and onions and sausage to stock pot with water.
3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer stirring occassionally for at least 1 hour. Like most soups of this type, this one will taste even better the second day when the flavors have had a chance to develop.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fruitful Sheltering

Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love's touch. Goodness is love's character. Faithfulness is love's habit. Gentleness is love's self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins.  ~D.G. Barnhouse

Emily learned the fruit of the Spirit when she was quite young.  I don't remember her age, but when she was eight she was reading one of my magazines and came across an advertisement for Zondervan's Fruit of the Spirit Bible Studies.  The books were fanned out so that you couldn't see the title of each one.  Emily couldn't understand why there were only eight books.  I wrote to Zondervan and this is what they said. 

Page in Emily's Self Esteem Notebook
Dear Pamela,
Your daughter is perceptive!  We bundled "goodness" with "kindness."  Stores have an easier time displaying on their shelves 8 titles (or at least an even number) in a Bible study series.  To go outside that standard can cause confusion among restocking clerks in stores.

Now at eighteen, the fruit of the Spirit are evident in her life.  Each fruit.  Kindness and goodness aren't bundled together.  Each one is evident and distinct.  When others tell me Emily is just naturally sweet, I want to protest.  Nobody is naturally sweet.  Terry Fullam said, "The fruit of the Spirit grows only in the garden of obedience."  Obedience is a choice.  It is only through a consistent choice to obey that God's fruit grows in Emily and in her momma! 

Here's what Emily wrote at age eight:

I came up with a neat game to help me grow the Fruit of the Spirit in my heart.  I filled a basket with fruit (Mine is plastic, but it can be fruit you have drawn.)  Each fruit will represent a Fruit of the Spirit.  Each week I will pick a fruit and concentrate on applying it to my life.  This week's fruit is peace.  With the war beginning I have a lot of fears.  I'm learning the verses,"He will keep in perfect peace all who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord" (Isaiah 26:3) and,"I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, O Lord, you will keep me safe" (Psalm 4:8).  Each verse is printed on a fruit and when I learn it I put it in a basket we made for the door.  Mom tries to fix something for a snack in the flavor of the fruit I pick.  What's really good is apples dipped in caramel sauce or sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar!

Photo by Emily
How about you -- Are the Fruit of the Spirit evident in your life?  I found this "where we live" worksheet by Dave Ahl to rate them in my life.  You may want to use it yourself.  I (and I believe my dear readers) desire these fruit to be evident.  It's easy to be discouraged at the "slow growth."  After we plant a seed, we watch for the first tiny shoots, then it grows larger, sturdier. The fruit is the last to appear.  Plant seeds of love, joy, and peace.  It won't be long until others will see your fruit and be challenged to "taste and see that the Lord is good" -- the comfort and blessing of your sheltering tree...

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Fruit Salsa Blessing

Photo by Emily
2 T white sugar
1 T brown sugar
3 T jelly (I used sugar free peach)

Dice the fruit. You can use any fresh fruit you have on hand. Add the sugars (Splenda works) and jelly.  Mix well.  Brush melted butter on tortillas.  Cut each tortilla into six pieces.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes.  

Emily is a fruit lover so I blessed my family with this recipe.  I also made up a basket for a dear friend.  I really wished I had a book to go with this gift.  Super Fruit Blueberries: Improve your memory and your eyesight would have been a fun book -- just because my friend would have seen the humor.  But what I would have picked if I would have thought through the project a bit longer is Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit by Beth Moore.
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