Thankful for the Mender of Broken Things

On the eve of Thanksgiving, a brief thought. The other day I broke a little figure that meant a lot to me in sentimental value. It was part of a pair I had for years and years, a little touch of continuity through so much change. Tom heard me lament that it was broken beyond repair, in jagged pieces. I made too big of a deal of it probably.

Tonight I went to pull the blinds in the living room, and there it was, next to its twin on the table. I thought I was seeing things. It was perfect. Tom said he had fished the broken pieces out of the trash and said he felt bad about it, so he gave it his best shot putting it back together. He did a beautiful job. I was moved so much with that small act. It was more than just an act of love. It was a metaphor for all he has done for me and our children. He has represented Jesus in my life through the years. Constant, faithful, caring about even the small things and heartaches. A true Christian man.

God mends us in many ways, and often through the love of others. I am grateful. Tonight, I think of those who have really been the healing hand of kindness to me and a great encouragement in tough times. Thank you. I will never forget it.  There is so much to be thankful for, and I thank God for his mercies every day. Have a beautiful Thanksgiving Day, friends.

 

 

 

Great Kitchens

kitchenmagI subscribe to a number of pages on Facebook, including Homespun Wife  and My Farmhouse Love. (If you are on Facebook you can see their pages by clicking on the links.) I like these pages, because they are a perpetual source of good thoughts and smiles with home and country scenes in paintings and photographs. The images remind me of all the blessings in life, regardless of what else is going on.

One page I like has photographs of country kitchens in farmhouses, which I love. The kitchens are gorgeous with the latest designs featuring all the beautiful ways you can have a kitchen designed with a country and farmhouse theme.

I have had many different kitchens in my lifetime, including some very small and shabby ones years ago. When I was a single parent with two little boys to raise, I lived in the upper unit of a 1920’s duplex. It was old and worn, but it was roomy and met our needs perfectly at the time. The kitchen still had the original sink, however. The landlord painted the old cupboards white and put in an inexpensive counter top for the small stretch of counter that was there. The linoleum was faded yellow, and it was old. My aged fridge that I bought from a sale at an apartment house and a gas stove were the only other features of that room. I put up a cheery, bright set of curtains, and that was about all I could do. But it’s funny, I have warm memories of that old kitchen.

That was where I made popcorn with my two little fellows in their pajamas,  chopped veggies for soup and cut up apples for their snacks. That’s where the old radiators hissed and clunked around, but kept the heat evenly warm on the coldest nights. We had all we needed, and we were cozy, and we had love.

For nine years, up until we moved this summer, Tom and I lived in a nice home, the only downside of which was a very small kitchen. It was something I overlooked when we bought the house, because several other things about the house distracted me at the time. Pans regularly fell out of the one cupboard I had for them, because they all had to go in there, stacked on top of each other. It was love’s labor lost trying to organize it. There wasn’t nearly enough cupboard and pantry space or floor space for a family our size. When the oven door was open, it was difficult to walk. I mentally complained every time pans came crashing out at my feet. It was a secret (albeit wry) joke to me, and I would think, “This kitchen is part of your sanctification process, Ingrid. Patience. Some day you’ll maybe have a better cupboard situation!”

When we moved this summer, the ONLY house we found in our small town that worked for us in our situation had one outstanding feature—a kitchen with a long length of counter top, an unusually large number of cabinets, TWO built-in pantries for groceries, and a built-in hutch in the dining room. As a bonus, the shelves even pull out! For a small ranch home, it was amazing and delightful. I have said “Thank you, Lord” many times since July and have smiled looking up, because of the small joke between the Lord and me. He knew what we needed, and He amazingly provided it. He made me wait a while, but, the smallest kitchen in America is a palace kitchen to the rest of the world. Perspective helps everything. I am very, very grateful.

In the end, though, it’s the people in the kitchen that make it a happy place…or not. You can have a gleaming magazine kitchen with all the mega, super, ultra counter tops and appliances, but if you don’t have loving people around you,, it’s not a very joyful place. (If you have both, you are doubly blessed! Enjoy!)

As a bonus, the floor space is big enough for my sweet grandsons to have their own little table when they come over to eat, and the smooth floor is great for hot wheels cars, also. Much fun to come in our kitchen, Lord willing, as baby Gianna joins the other two grandbabes. Thank you, Lord, for the people who make any room, be it fancy or shabby, a little bit of heaven. Thank you for love that makes it that way.

Here is just a part of my new kitchen. Room for Em’s Betta fish, the famous Princess Frilly, and my rooster cookie jar!

 

kitchen2

 

Next Thursday We Will Sing

Our Thanksgiving plans are set, and Lord willing, we will have a houseful as we gather in gratitude for all the things the Lord has done. We are not only grateful, we are grateful to the Giver of all of it.

These are dark and dangerous times. Not only is the world as a whole in great turmoil, but so many that we know are going through deep trials of various kinds. Those of us in our family have also faced great difficulty in various ways in the last year. That changes nothing as we gather to say thank you to the One who sustains us all.

I told my sister that when she and her husband, Russ and their four children come, they should bring their musical instruments. Russ and Lisa’s children sing as well as play instruments, and I am printing off song sheets for us all. Even the grandsons, Peter and Max, can play the rhythm instruments and make music.

The first song we will sing is a song written several centuries ago in the middle of a horrific time in history. The simple hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, was not written in an American suburb in a centrally heated home with food in the cupboards and a fully plumbed bath and warm beds. It was written in a time of war, with death and want all around.

Here’s a little glimpse of the environment in which a humble pastor, Martin Rinckart lived:

The plague of 1637 visited Eilenburg with extraordinary severity; the town was overcrowded with fugitives from the country districts where the Swedes had been spreading devastation, and in this one year 8,000 persons died in it. The whole of the town council except three persons, a terrible number of school children, and the clergymen of the neighbouring parish, were all carried off; and Rinckart had to do the work of three men, and did it manfully at the beds of the sick and dying. He buried more than 4,000 persons, but through all his labours he himself remained perfectly well. The pestilence was followed by a famine so extreme that thirty or forty persons might be seen fighting in the streets for a dead cat or crow. Rinckart, with the burgomaster and one other citizen, did what could be done to organize assistance, and gave away everything but the barest rations for his own family, so that his door was surrounded by a crowd of poor starving wretches, who found it their only refuge.

That was the state of things. Here’s more:

After all this suffering came the Swedes once more, and imposed upon the unhappy town a tribute of 30,000 dollars. Rinckart ventured to the camp to entreat the general for mercy, and when it was refused, turned to the citizens who followed him, saying, “Come, my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men, let us take refuge with God.” He fell on his knees, and prayed with such touching earnestness that the Swedish general relented, and lowered his demand at last to 2,000 florins. (Source: Martin Rinckart)

In this environment of suffering and want, the pastor wrote a brief hymn of thanks to His heavenly Father. Here are the words.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Our daughter Emily, age 6, has learned this hymn at school. She will lead us off by singing the first stanza on Thanksgiving Day, and we will all join in the rest, with Tom on trumpet, Will at the piano, and Rachel on Viola and the grandbabes on the rhythm instruments.

In light of the manifold blessings we enjoy every single day, how can we do any less but thank God? If Rev. Rinckart could pen this hymn in the midst of such suffering, what is our excuse for not recognizing God’s blessings?

I hope all of you have a joyful Thanksgiving time, wherever you may be, in whatever you are facing. God has not forgotten you.

thanksgiving-songs

An Obituary Full of Life

“So, I was born; I blinked; and it was over. No buildings named after me; no monuments erected in my honor.But, I DID have the chance to know and love each and every friend as well as all my family members. How much more blessed can a person be?”

These lines are taken from an obituary sent to me by a friend. The words that were penned by the woman before she passed away sum up a life rich in many ways, but most of all in love. She wrote, “I’ve always maintained that my greatest treasures call me Nana. That’s not exactly true. You see, the youngest of my grand-angels, Ella Ashley Kramer and Finley Christian Kramer call me “Grand Nana…”

I don’t care what religion you claim to possess, what creed you profess, if you don’t cherish your own children and grandchildren, your own brothers or sisters, you’re very poor.To be pitied. And your religion, if it doesn’t produce love for your own family, is worthless.

I read through this piece several times, it’s so full of life well lived. The gratitude for blessings received is exemplary. As the woman wrote, “How much more blessed can a person be?”

That’s why counting blessings ought to be a daily exercise.

Count your blessings one by one
When dawn appears and day has just begun
They will light your heart with happiness
Make each hour bright and bring you gladness

Count your blessings one by one
When twilight falls and toil of day is done
And in sweet dreams they’ll come again to you
If you will count your blessings each day through

Count your blessings while you may
For we are here but little time to stay
All around are hearts sincere and true
Lovely things abound just waiting for you

Count your blessings while you may
The big or small, whichever comes your way
For then you’ll find this world a place of love
If you will count your blessings from above

Reginald Morgan & Edith Temple

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

newyearsOur minds can get consumed with the negative in this world to the point where we completely fail to see the grace in front of us.

I was thinking about this last night and this morning. It’s funny how rejection, hatred, slander, grudge-holding and hurt by others can carry more of an impact than kindness, generosity, mercy and grace. As 2014 shudders to an end, that’s worth thinking about.

In the last nearly four years of spiritual, emotional and financial stress in our family’s life, there has been an ongoing sense of loss, or at least what appears to be loss. But there has also been tremendous gain, and those are the things I was thinking about this morning.

We have back and forth conversations in our own minds, at least I do. I’m not talking about mental illness, I mean the wrestling for dominance of either good or the not good in our thinking. The conversation can run something like this.

Negative thought: “Isn’t it sad that person X and Y are no longer in our lives? I really valued them and I can’t understand how they could throw us under the bus and walk away without a second look.”

Positive comeback: “Yes, but isn’t it good to be free of false friends and those who never really valued you in the first place? If they were true friends or loving family, they would never have dumped us by the side of the road. God had a house-cleaning in our lives. Appreciate that. Be grateful.”

Negative thought: “Yes, but there’s a hole there now.”

Positive comeback: “What hole? God not only removed the false and untrue, he replaced those people with new friends and family who are a constant reminder of His grace and love. How is that loss? Sounds like gain to me.”

Negative thought: “How is this need going to be met? This is a mountain we have been forced to climb unjustly by false Christians with no sense of decency or compassion.

Positive comeback: “God has met the needs. He will meet the needs. Demonstrate otherwise.”

And on the conversation goes.

I put the positive comeback in bold to demonstrate the need for those words to dominate and win out. It’s difficult to do in life. That’s the struggle we are always in. For some reason, evil tends to strut on the stage of our minds while good sits in the corner unnoticed and ignored. At times like this, we need to kick evil and its perpetrators off the stage and slam the door. Grace needs to step forward in our minds and take the stage, love needs to have the spotlight, and the God who shows his amazing mercy should get the applause.

There’s life in gratitude. There’s death in the circular thinking of negativity.

It’s good to begin a fresh year with this in mind. It’s crucial to find the good and praise it, and to teach our children to do the same.

A blessed New Year to all of you who stop by the blog!

A special thank-you to those who read this who have been a personal and material blessing to our family. You know who you are. We are grateful.
A psalm of thanksgiving:

Shout for joy to Adonai, all the earth!
Serve Adonai with gladness.
Enter his presence with joyful songs.
Be aware that Adonai is God;
it is he who made us; and we are his,
his people, the flock in his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
enter his courtyards with praise;
give thanks to him, and bless his name.
For Adonai is good, his grace continues forever,
and his faithfulness lasts through all generations.

~ Psalm 100

 

Remembering the Little Things

It is time again to be thankful for simple pleasures. For some reason, in the last few days, God blessed us with a flurry of them.

My beautiful friend Paula stopped by on Saturday and we had a front porch chat. My valkommenporch was all marked up with sidewalk chalk from my daughter and snaked across with a hose and populated with bikes, a wagon and a stroller, but we sat and talked. There is nothing like a good friend chat, clutter around us and all.

I’m still reflecting on how wonderful it is to see the generations mix. Yesterday, I took Will to a church to play an organ concert. There were about 42 senior citizens who turned out to hear the music. They surrounded our son afterwards to talk with him about all sorts of things, not just music. Will is friendly and he genuinely likes people, so both he and the seniors enjoyed talking together. Good music was the catalyst that brought them together. Our son came home enriched for the experience, and I know the people enjoyed it as well. Simple things like this bring real joy.

This morning, Emmy asked to wear a pink summer dress that she normally wears to church. The summer is waning, the dress is getting short, so she dressed in her pink flower dress today just because. All day, she made me smile watching her.

I worked hard today. The house looks nice. That always makes me happy. Our home is a busy place, and clutter, fingerprints and dust are a reality sometimes, but doesn’t it feel awfully nice when for a few moments, things are shiny and clean? All ten minutes worth of it!

chocolate chip cookiesThis afternoon, Em and I made some chocolate chip cookies, and then, a pan of brownies for the man of the house after dinner tonight. Em made the dough balls, and I stirred up the brownie mix. The air is autumn like today, hardly like August at all. The beautiful cool breeze is carrying the aroma of the cookies and brownies through the house and outside again. The house is going to smell awfully nice when Mr. Schlueter walks in tonight.

These are simple pleasures of daily life, pleasures that many do not have. I am very grateful for each and every blessing from the Lord’s hands.

Don’t Forget Your Blessings

I love this song. I know I posted it once before a couple of years ago. It is not the familiar “Count Your Blessings” many know, but this version, sung by Welsh singer, Aled Jones, is really lovely, and sums it all up. The lyrics are below the video.

 

Count your blessings one by one,
When dawn appears and day has just begun.
They will light your heart with happiness,
Make each hour bright and bring you gladness.

Count your blessings one by one,
When twilight falls and toil of day is done,
And in sweet dreams they’ll come again to you,
If you will count your blessings each day through.

Count your blessings while you may.
For we are here but little time to stay.
All around are friends, sincere and true.
Lovely things abound, just waiting for you.

Count your blessings while you may,
The big or small, whichever comes your way,
For then you’ll find this world a place of love
If you will count your blessings from above.

Morning Reflection

Late May morning.

Sunshine splashing across my kitchen floor.

Barefoot little girl in a sundress.

Aroma of coffee brewing.

Drone of a lawn mower through the open window.

Wading pool water warming in the sun for later fun.

Birds in riotous chorus.

Music of Bach from the living room piano.

Blessings of normalcy and peace.

Gratitude for all those in the Armed Forces who gave their lives for freedom and for those who continually serve that we may have mornings like this one.

Will is 12 Today, By God’s Grace

On the morning of June 3, 1996, I awoke with ringing in my ears and my eyes didn’t seem to be quite right. I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with two other children to care for, so I lumbered out of bed and began the day. My fingers and my feet were swollen beyond recognition, my weight which had been 112 before baby was now 150 and climbing, and when I looked in the mirror, I hardly recognized myself. I had had to have my wedding rings cut off because of sudden swelling in my hands. My young doctor seemed unconcerned. That morning I remembered I had a doctor’s appointment at 3pm, and I sat down at the kitchen table trying to draft a grocery list to take along with me to my son’s 2pm piano lesson. I thought I might be able to get to the grocery store while he was with the piano teacher.

But as I dropped Sammy off for piano, the ringing in my ears became a growing buzzing sound, and my eyes didn’t seem to be focusing correctly. I decided to skip the grocery store after all. The doctor told me later that it probably saved my life. I drove directly to the doctor appointment after piano with the two boys in the back seat. I knew they could wait for me during the appointment. By the time I got to the doctor’s office, my eyes seemed to be worsening. I picked up a magazine in the waiting room and was alarmed that I could no longer read anything. The doctor walked in, took one look at me and did not smile a hello. He took my blood pressure and said, “you’re going to the hospital, now”. I became really frightened at that point and called my husband at work and told him to meet me at the hospital. I also called my mother to come and get the boys.

On the way to the hospital I remember wondering what was going on and asking the Lord for peace. Nobody had told me anything up until this point. What I didn’t know was that lab reports from a week earlier had come back showing that my liver and kidneys were failing. At the hospital, a very worried Tom met me, and I was taken to the labor and delivery section. “What are they doing with me?” I asked him. He didn’t know either. Finally, after what seemed a very long time, a nurse explained that the doctor was on his way in and that the baby would have to be induced immediately. It was too early, but it couldn’t be helped because our lives were in danger. They put me on an IV drip and hooked me up to monitors of every kind, one of which took my blood pressure every five minutes. A special IV was put in with anti-seizure medication. “It will make you feel like your burning up from the inside,” the nurse announced cheerfully. “And by the way, no water, period.” What a combination, I thought. Fire and no water.

By evening the labor was progressing and so was my blindness. The hallucinations I was having visually (like the face of Margaret Thatcher in the ceiling, ha! I’m a Reagan-era conservative, can you tell?) were replaced with a gray kind of mist. I asked the nurse about it and she airily dismissed me. “That’s just the medication you’re on,” she said. I was relieved but puzzled as to why my vision was going even before the IV started.

William was born in the 11th hour, and the Lord saved both our lives at the 11th hour. He was over 5 pounds (an amazing size for one so early!) and turning blue the nurse said, so I couldn’t hold him. His lungs just weren’t ready to be born so they whisked him away to the NICU. Meanwhile, everything got progressively dark. I was left hooked up to monitors all night in that room and repeatedly, I told the nurses that I couldn’t see. Not one of them believed me, I think. The next morning the doctor came by to see me, and I told him. He believed me. He shined a light into my eyes and told me, “something doesn’t look right”. All day, I waited to hear news of tiny William. The intensive care unit said he was very sick, and the only thing I could think of is that if he didn’t make it, I really wouldn’t have gotten to see him. Tom kept going between hospital floors to bring me updates. My pastor came but I couldn’t see him. He assured me that everyone was praying.

That evening, an eye specialist came in to see me and they started doing tests. “It’s the strangest thing,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Your retinas apparently were being bowed out by the fluid pressing on them from behind. You’re a lucky woman to be alive, did you know that?”

Not luck, sir. Just blessed. “Your retinas are damaged but I can’t tell you if it’s permanent or if it’s temporary,” he said.

After researching it further, the doctor told me that there was not much medical literature on such cases as they were so rare. To shorten the long saga, William began to grow stronger. Despite his early arrival, he was one plucky little boy. He was fed through a gavage tube for a week, and then moved on to tiny bottles that looked like they were made for little rabbits or something. He wasn’t jaundiced and his lungs were developing just beautifully because of Surfactant, the wonder drug. It is so wonderful what they can do with these little preemies now. I praise the Lord for that. After 15 days in the NICU, William came home.

My full vision had come back just about the same time. It came back little by little. The darkness started lifting and then one day I stepped outside and millions of little diamond-like specs appeared from the sun. The doctor said that was the light being picked up by the eye again. What a beautiful thing it was to see that light. Post Tenebras Lux.

I was told that if I had chosen the Wednesday appointment instead of the Monday appointment, I would have died because the fluid build-up was so far advanced causing the kidney/liver failure, and the blood pressure was so high that I could have gone into seizures from the pressure on the brain. The young doctor later admitted to me (when he found out I wasn’t going to be litigious about it) that he had never had a situation like mine emerge. He should have discovered the pre-eclampsia early on. It’s one of the basic things doctors are supposed to look for. The tests all pointed to it early on, I learned, but he missed it. But like the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. The Lord for some reason had a plan for both William and me, and it wasn’t our time to go yet. The experience was a sobering reminder of just how frail life is, and how gracious the Lord is, again and again.

Today, William is 12 years old. He is playing a Bach prelude downstairs that I wish you could hear. He loves football, Super Soaker battles with his dad, pipe organs and pianos, and he wants to be a military historian some day, (after hours from his organist job). He’s also studying for his amateur radio license. Best of all, he loves the Lord Jesus who rescued him 12 years ago tonight. We pray that he will be a man of godly courage and integrity and a strong witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is a living example of God’s grace. Soli Deo Gloria.

(This is Will’s 12-year-old portrait, courtesy of Babboni Photography Studios.)