Call Back, if You Get Ahead

I read this post today from “Streams in the Desert.” Have you ever had someone “call back” and encourage you in your life?

Life is a steep climb, and it does the heart good to have somebody “call back” and cheerily beckon us on up the high hill. We are all climbers together, and we must help one another. This mountain climbing is serious business, but glorious. It takes strength and steady step to find the summits. The outlook widens with the altitude. If anyone among us has found anything worthwhile, we ought to “call back.”

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the very air was still.

Oh, friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your your face,
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky
If you have gone a little way ahead, oh, friend, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.
—Selected

From “Streams in the Desert”

This song says it all.

A Thank You from the Schlueters

compassionThere are a precious few in this world who are capable of understanding how to respond in times of loss. This thank you is to those who get it.

Thank you to those who are able to look beyond public image and big works and see hurting people in crisis and reach out.

Thank you to those who refuse to pile on with  judgments based on ignorance and hate at a time already fraught with complexity and anxiety.

Thank you to those who came to this small blog this last week, because you see our family and the Russ Turner family as people worthy of kindness and respect, and with an intent to pray for us or offer to help, rather than satisfy your idle curiosity for purposes of gossip. Your decency is worth more than gold. And just as rare.

My father, Vic Eliason, died last Saturday in the hospital. We were there, as we had been earlier in the week. Life is not a Hallmark movie. It would be nice if we could write the endings, wouldn’t it? But on this broken planet, life doesn’t always work out the way we hope and pray. All of us can only do what we can do. We are not in control. We are not in charge.

One thing my sister’s family and mine have seen often in the past years, is that every piece of the shattered glass of our lives can be part of a new mosaic. But it only happens if we give the pieces to God for arranging. What seems like unbelievable destruction really can be beautiful. Those in the middle of their own struggle can look up at God’s lovely design, see the light of His presence through the glass and say, “You can do that for me, too, God. Give me faith and courage.”

A blessed and Christ-filled Christmas to all who have stopped by.

 

October Fireside Notes

The smoke ascends to heaven as lightly
From a cottage hearth as from the haughty
Palace. He whose soul ponders this true
Equality may wall the fields of earth
With gratitude and hope.

~ Wordsworth, The Excursion

Oh, happy hearthstone! Oh, hour
thrice blest
Where peace is the handmaid, and
love is the guest.

~ Rose Elliot Smith

It was such a lovely weekend. The best weekends of all, for me, are spent pottering around the house, folding baskets of warm clothes  from the dryer, ironing Emmy’s school uniform blouses, shopping for groceries and spending evenings with Tom. Especially the evenings, talking with my husband.

Tom has a gap in music jobs right now, and the plus side is that he is able to do his own pottering around without the tyranny of an evening schedule. He painted the front hall this weekend. Only a couple  more rooms to go, and painting will be done. He takes his time, but when he is done, it is beautiful to see. He has an eye for the smallest detail.

It was a beautiful day yesterday. I took the longest walk yet all by myself when Tom and Emmy were gone for a while.  I ended up in the little German cemetery again. The play of light on the old stones and the seasonal changes to the trees make it the most peaceful place to wander around. Farther down the street there is a separate church cemetery with a black wrought iron fence surrounding it. The border of red Maple trees on the south end is so breathtakingly beautiful when the sun shines on them that it nearly takes my breath away. Em and I were driving home from school the other day, and the sun made the trees just glorious. “Praise you, God!” was all I could say. Em heard me, and now when she sees the trees, (they are losing the leaves but still have some of the beauties left hanging on them), she says the same thing from the back seat. “Praise you, God!” How wonderful that God left us so much beauty in a world that sin has so badly damaged.

My daughter-in-law, Laura, has been such a blessing and in many different ways. She is expecting our third grandbaby early next year, but took time to help alter Emmy’s frontier girl costume for school. The post office sorting machine ruined the first one we ordered, and the only one left was two sizes too big. Laura got out her sewing machine and in no time, she had it altered down to Emmy’s size. Emmy is looking forward to the Harvest Hoedown at school with a Davy Crockett theme. I’m grateful for Laura’s skill with sewing and willingness to help.

Thanksgiving is coming quickly. I heard about a looming pumpkin shortage, so I went and got some canned pumpkin just to make sure we won’t be without pie making material. Will is our biggest pumpkin pie fan, and he will be hoping for some. Speaking of Will, here he is on the organ with the Wheaton College Men’s Glee Club at their homecoming concert a few days ago. Jubilate Deo means, “Be joyful (jubilant) in the Lord!” (Psalm 100)

The Greatest Fear

“The greatest fear in the world is the opinion of others, and the moment you are unafraid of the crowd, you are no longer a sheep. You become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart. The roar of freedom.”

A friend who is older than I am told me a few months ago that one of the advantages of growing older as a woman was a loss of the crippling fear of the opinion of others. “I don’t know exactly why it is,” she said, “But I used to walk into a room of people and worry about whether they liked me. Now, I ask myself if I like them, and why I am in the room in the first place!”

It’s true. Fundamentalist Christian culture, in a very special way, is infected with the disease of image consciousness. There is no gossip heaven like the “born-agains” (mocking the frauds here, not the real deal.)  A few hairs out of place, baby, and you’ve just earned a place on a black list somewhere! Some even read this blog out of some ungodly need to stalk me and find something that can be used as dirt. I am laughing as I type. (Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war. With our latest targets, bleeding on the floor!)

I saw this meme today, and it nails the problem down.

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Those who form negative opinions about our lives, lives that don’t have anything to do with theirs in any way whatsoever, are sad people without adequate productive work to busy themselves. As someone who once was terrorized at the thought of people having false impressions or forming bad opinions of me based on lies, it now has the whiff of comedy about it. Dark comedy, but worthy of a laugh track. Who are these people who have never had the slightest love or concern for me or my family or ever had a personal interaction with us? Who cares what they think?! They are less than nobody to me and my dear loved ones.

What a freeing thing it is when you get out of a closed environment and breathe clean air, and with the clean air, find a surge of strength to speak the truth on your heart. What a freeing thing it is to shut the door on those who taught you how to judge others ruthlessly, to see things with narrow, loveless little eyes. It is true freedom to walk away from those who devalued and discarded you when you were no longer useful to their cause. It is a good thing to see this clearly and understand the cold, hard truth, and then proceed all the wiser.

Some Good News

Everybody has seen the horror on TV of wildfires that clear out entire forests, destroying everything in their path. After the fires are put out, there is a short period of time where all looks wiped out. Completely burned over and dead. But beneath the ruined forest there is life. It takes time, but slowly and surely, nature replaces the dead and the burned over with new life, ironically, fostered in the rich soil created by the fire. This article puts it this way:

But ecologically, fire has its place, and it’s not one of complete destruction. In fact, in ecosystems, fires initiate a process of growth. They destroy and they leave a space, a space that is soon filled with new growth. After the fires, the forest reawakens.

In Colorado Springs, there’s an ecological flip side to the fire. The forests were full of White and Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Aspen trees.  This ecology is adapted to the changes that fire brings. It knows what to do.

After a fire, aspen trees grow. Even if the tree itself has been decimated by fire, this fast-growing tree can easily sprout from the roots that have been left behind. The sunny spaces left behind by the fire give life to the new aspen trees. In turn, the trees’ roots hold the soil in place, and their leaves slow down the rainfall, reducing the danger of flash floods.

With the return of the aspen, comes the revival of the slower-growing Ponderosa Pine. This tree loves the sunshine. Its thick bark can protect the tree from small fires, allowing it to thrive in the more open ecology after a fire moves through. If the tree did not survive, new trees will grow in amongst the baby aspens, rebuilding the local ecology from the ground up. (Read more here.)

What is true of forest fires can also be true for people. The consuming fires in our lives seem to destroy everything worthwhile. But God, in his mercy, often allows the fires to remove what needs removing from our lives that something new and healthy can grow. It’s not all destruction. What’s been consumed is what needed consuming. A lot of what we considered good, is sometimes very bad for us, including some people who have harmed us terribly. The beautiful regrowth of things begins, and you realize that much dead wood, much that was unhealthy is now gone. That’s a beautiful thing for those who can see it.

If you’re seeing the flames at the moment, hang on. If you’re patient and don’t give up, God will show you new growth soon, and it will be something new and healthy and vibrant. Don’t give up!

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A Fan Note

This is my husband, Tom, last night leaving to play  the opening night of Tosca. He perpetually amazes me (20 years and counting) with all that he is and all that he does. Proud to know you, Tom Schlueter, and glad that you love me and our children. We love you right back. As Snow White once said about Prince Charming, there isn’t anybody like him, anywhere at all. ❤

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That Time of Year

Shakespeare’s words about autumn  were chilly, rather than warm, but it’s the beautiful and warm part of fall that I like to write about. I’ve already made apple crisp, pumpkin pie and my annual autumn spice cake (recipe below), and if I don’t stop, I’ll add five pounds from my culinary salute to the autumnal equinox.

Emmy, our sole little chick still in the nest, is looking forward to a trip to the orchard for apple picking and pumpkin buying. My sister-in-law put all of our family photos from a Sterilite bin into 8, sorted photo boxes. Looking through them the other day, I saw multiple photos of various years’ trips to the orchard/pumpkin farm with our five other children. Now we will soon have three grandchildren to enjoy the same.The speed of the passage of time continues to amaze.

EPSON MFP image

Sammy, Charlie and baby Will back in the fall of 1997 in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Tom has planted two trees in our new yard. He chose birch trees, as he has at three other homes we have had. He always puts in a Schlueter tree. It’s a family tradition.

Speaking of tradition,  every autumn for years, I have put out my two Dollar Store acorn people. Last year, I looked all over, but couldn’t find them in their usual place. Sadly, they never made an appearance. I looked at the Dollar Store to find replacements, but there was nothing even similar to the little figurines I had. During our move this summer, I was happy to find my two little acorn people shoved back in our hutch in the dining room, and they are now back out on display along with my pumpkin spice candles.

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~ George Eliot

acornpeople

Emmy is now happily in first grade, and I am deeply thankful to have her in a Christian school close by, the primary reason for our move. I see her copy work for school come home with hymns and verses to write. The other night, she was writing out this hymn:

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It struck me again how wonderful it is to have a little academy where that name of Jesus, reviled spit upon all over the world, is still revered and loved.

I am loving the cool, crisp mornings and still warm afternoons, the fresh air, and the deep blue skies of a Wisconsin autumn. The world is in turmoil, the ground under our feet sometimes trembling, but this little blue planet still has beauty, because God, the Creator of all of it,  is in his heaven, and He holds all things in his hand.

I came across some beautiful fall barn photos in Country Living magazine online. If you’d like to see some breathtakingly colorful photos in the country, here you go at this link!

Also, I make an annual practice on this blog of posting the recipe to my autumn spice cake that I initially found in a cookbook from the First Baptist Church of Cook, Minnesota. Those Swedish ladies really knew their baking! So here it is, my favorite spice cake recipe, 2015!

Happy Autumn!

MimiSam2

Little Mary and Sammy, back in 2001 at Nieman’s Orchard in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

Janet Mefferd is Back!

After five years on the Salem Radio Network, Janet Mefferd is back on the air with a new program, Janet Mefferd Today. Ambassador Advertising tweeted this announcement this morning.  It is my pleasure to assist Janet as producer for the new program. Janet will be interviewing the news makers, authors and other guests on the critical issues in the country, world and the church from a Christian perspective. The show debuts on 140 stations and it will also be podcasted beginning today at her site. (See above link.) The show airs at different times on different stations. You can hear the program here at Sound Cloud each day where it will be podcasted. The first show is already up.

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“Thus far the LORD has Helped Us”

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” I Samuel 7:12

These are beautiful words from the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament.  Whether people lived thousands of years ago or today, our human needs are the same. The guiding and preserving hand of the LORD in our lives is essential, and what a joy to have an Ebenezer in our own lives, marking the fact that “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

mygarden“I was about to fall,” David wrote in the Psalms, “but the LORD helped me.”  We were despairing, and God lifted up our heads. In the midst of so much ugliness, God has set a table before us in the presence of our enemies and has given us beauty for ashes. His love has rained on us through the love of others so many times in the last few years. His hand, even when it didn’t seem to be there, has continually led us and continues to lead. We are grateful for that kindly light in the gloom of this world.

When we live by faith, God takes the broken glass of our lives and builds a stained glass window, a unique mosaic built from all the shattered pieces. The glass is illuminated by the Light of his presence, and no earthly hand can make such a design.

Our family has seen and experienced the mercies of the Lord and help in time of need.  This spring and summer have been times of change for us, and these changes are a blessing. I have never been busier, working as a producer for a national radio show, having the privilege of scheduling excellent guests and news makers and assisting an able and experienced radio host. I haven’t enjoyed myself this much in a long time! (Meeting up with my old publicist friends has been fun. One said, “Ingrid, we worked together for 20 years. Welcome back!)

We are settling into our new home. Last weekend, I spent four hours sorting and putting all my books on the various bookshelves. It isn’t home until I have Spurgeon and B.B. Warfield on the shelves. I also unpacked a little mini-library of light novels from the early 20’s and 30’s that I have saved for our little daughter, Emily. These gems are disappearing from library shelves as the new books come in, and some authors can’t even be found anymore, sadly. But I have a small trove of treasures for Emily if she loves to read like I did when I was a girl. I also have two shelves of classic literature that spans childhood, so our daughter will have a rainy day library of the best books for children.

These are the best and worst of times. The best part of these times is that we can vividly watch the spiritual battle underway that Holy Scripture clearly describes. God’s Word is being proved true again and again in every headline you read. There is no neutrality in these times, no middle ground between good and evil, between life and death. Life and family are cheap in this world that rejects God and His goodness. But we have a glorious hope for a future where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and where we will know joy forever more. In the mean time, as the poet put it, “God stands within the shadows, keeping watch over his own.”

Inside the Gate – Garden Notes

As work on the new house proceeds, occasional breaks are called for. Our yard is in two parts, gatea large stretch on the outside of the white picket fence, and the other, smaller part inside. The inside part with the flowers is my new sanctuary. I sat there the other night thinking how much work the previous owner, an older lady who passed away, had gone to to make such a beautiful place. It gives me pleasure to think I will take good care of it for her.

Emily and I were sitting on the patio in late afternoon when a little chipmunk came running under the fence with something in his mouth. He stopped and looked around sharply and seemed satisfied that all was well in his garden. He went under some low hanging leaves in the border and was scurrying around there for a while. He peeped out at us several times, his cheeks still bulging. We sat quietly and just watched him. We had invaded his space, but we wanted him to know we were friends.

A robin flew down from the towering pine tree in the neighbor’s yard and landed on the fence. There are baby birds in the birdhouse on the outside of the fence. Yellow finches dart around the flowers and back out again, a bright flash of color.

The beds are getting choked with weeds, and thistles are springing up all over. Outside in the front part of the yard there is a large mound with roses and peony bushes, and the thistles are taking over. I’m leaving shortly to get a start on the weeds. They have a way of taking over if not addressed promptly.Just like in human souls and minds, it occurs to me.

So many thoughts run through my mind walking around and looking at the new yard. Tom is taking a tree down in the front that effectively hides the front of the house. He has plans. Last night we were looking at things at the garden center, and he told me what he wants to do. It is going to look lovely when he’s done.

Tom bought me a fat little cherub for my new garden. Emily was concerned that the baby angel might be lonely after dark outside all by herself. I assured her that the little chipmunks and other small creatures would make sure the cherub would have company.

Cherub

I hope to get a bird bath this week for the birds seem to want one as they fly over and stop on the top of my fence. They’ll hopefully soon have one, so they know that friends, big and small, are welcome in our little sanctuary.

Gardens are a lot of work. Tom is mildly amused at my zeal, but pleased at my new interest. He bought me garden gloves and a wide-brimmed hat for the sun. I’ll be the goofy garden lady with the straw hat in our new neighborhood.

One other blessing occurred yesterday that I am hugging to myself this morning. Emmy was zooming around our driveway on her pink scooter at the new house, and I was emptying our van out with some boxes, when I heard a voice. A neighbor couple on bikes were at the end of the driveway. With them was a little girl the very same age as Emily on her bike. We had a really nice introduction and conversation. They have already invited Emily over to play and to go raspberry picking with them. There are no words to describe what this means to me, as Emily has had a shortage (as in none) of neighborhood friends, siblings or cousins her age that she can play with on a regular basis. She is always alone. The mom explained that her daughter is in the same situation with only older siblings and no sisters. It sounds promising.

I’m headed off shortly to do battle with the thistles. The ornery things think they’re boss or something. My birds and the little cherub await, just beyond the fence, inside the gate.

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An Anniversary Photo

We’re in the throes of moving, with one house on the market while another is being readied for move-in. It’s that stage when chaos reigns! Lord willing, we will be past this stage soon. In the midst of the move, Tom and I took an evening off on the 30th to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We tried out a restaurant we hadn’t been to before, and we enjoyed it greatly.

As we pack up our home of nine years, so many memories come to mind. This is where children left home, with the last son off to college again in the fall. This is where we brought our delightful surprise baby, Emmy, home almost six years ago. Birthday parties, anniversary parties and so many celebrations took place here. This is where Will got his start practicing the organ in the basement and he and his dad have filled the walls with music. Much joy, some sadness, but lots of love.

It isn’t the walls that make a home. It’s the people who make it a joyful or tragic place. Tom has given all of us a beautiful life, and together, Tom and I are a team . we give full credit to God’s grace for carrying us through.

Every home is temporary on this planet, including the home we have in our bodies. Our souls are forever. Packing up things for Goodwill or give-away, I was thinking again of how yesterday’s happy purchase is today’s discard as we outgrow and no longer need things. Our heavenly home is forever, where nothing will fade, and nobody will age, and where all sadness will be wiped away forever. Thanks be to God for his gift of Jesus Christ through whom we have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.

Now, back to packing!

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