Tuesday, December 30, 2008
by Philip James Bailey (1816-1902)
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
And he whose heart beats quickest lives the longest:
Lives in one hour more than in years do some
Whose fat blood sleeps as it slips along their veins.
Life's but a means unto an end; that end,
Beginning, mean, and end to all things—God.
The dead have all the glory of the world.
I found this on the Academy of American Poets web site (www.poets.org). I subscribe to their e-newsletter, and this was linked in this morning's issue on the theme of "Carpe Diem."
It certainly goes along with my workshop on the "The Real 3R's of Literature: Read, Reflect, Respond" that I am presenting at the second annual Books & Beyond seminar on January 24. I do not ever wish to live my life numbly, but to think and feel deeply.
Here is another bit from the poet Philip James Bailey, found at www.BrainyQuote.com.
Let each man think himself an act of God,
His mind a thought, his life a breath of God;
And let each try, by great thoughts and good deeds,
To show the most of Heaven he hath in him.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The moral of the story is that when life hands you a bitterness, mix it with something sweet, enjoy the result of your resourcefulness, and then be sure to share with others, which brings a special sweetness of its own.
Friday, December 26, 2008
I found this little gem in this week's e-news of Orlando Grace Church, a congregation we attended for many years. This quote of Tozer's is worth thinking about more than once. Part of the reason we get so irritated with other people is that we don't like to admit that we might be wrong in our own attitudes or actions or that we value our own perspective too much. Even if the other person is not being very gracious in their comments or body language, we should LISTEN (with our hearts and not just our ears) and think about what they are trying to say and what positive thing we can do to improve the situation. Sure it's a blessing when someone agrees with our opinions and appreciates or affirms us. But it is even more of a blessing, to ourselves and everyone around us, when we can be humble enough to listen and learn even from those who aren't perfect, even in the midst of conflict.
May God bless you with abundant, authentic peace in your every day life!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
by Virginia Knowles
He, eternal and radiant Creator
Became a human mother’s son, a humble babe
Promised and anointed one
Ambassador from Heaven to Earth
Not in resplendent majesty befitting Celestial Royalty
But in an earthly body like ours
A body like ours?
Yes, a body!
A body with eyes to seek out scattered and wounded ones
Eyes that weep, eyes that sleep but do not sleep
Ever searching, ever watching
Eyes that pierce our straying sinner-souls with gracious gaze
Eyes that shepherd us safely home again
So angels can rejoice with our Father in Heaven
A body with ears to hear quiet sighs
And frantic cries of desperation (Lord, have mercy!)
As well as words profane and cruel, uttered by fools
His ears hear not only what we hear
But the very echoes of our silent thoughts and intentions
He hears this evidence that we are all fools
We need not only wisdom but redemption
A body with a mind that senses, muses, keenly understands
All beauty he had designed
Ruined by Adam’s Eden fall: Paradise Lost
All that was, he remembers still
And all that will be, he already foresees
Untangles twisted circumstances and chaotic confusions
Even when we know not ourselves
He knows and cares and plans: Paradise Regained
Is anything too difficult for him
Whose thoughts are high above the heavens?
A body with a mouth to teach the way of life
Sermons to the simple and to the sophisticated, parables and pearls
Soul seeds to blossom in hearts of those who have ears to hear
A mouth to proclaim truth and justice
Yet speak forth mercy to those who do not deserve it
To answer with probing questions
Warning those Pharisees who use their mouths to snare
A mouth to bless children and all who are old yet childlike still
And this man-child’s mouth thanks his Father
Prays: “Not my will, but Yours be done”
A body with hands: gentle yet tough are those hands
Which created this world we call home
Hands to work hard, stuff of daily life
Built with carpenter’s nails and beams of wood
Hands to heal, stretched forth in victory over pain and decay
Hands to break the meager bread and fish
Multiply in abundance to feed the hungry multitude
Busy hands, yet not too busy to embrace a wee child
To ruffle matted hair, to wash dirty feet
Or to scribble words of pardon in the sand
For a damsel in distress: no stone thrown
And a body with feet, walking from village to village,
House to house, soul to soul
In dusty sandals we mortals are unworthy to untie
Walking on waves amidst the stormy sea
(His feet are not for soil alone)
He traverses the land, announcing the Kingdom of God-With-Us
Among those who do not yet recognize his benevolent dominion
He goes to those who will not come on their own, in mercy
Chases those who run headlong toward the brink of destruction:
Hound of Heaven
Yes, a body!
Yet he did not just live in this body merely as an example
So we could know how to be good
But offered it as a sacrifice because
We could not, would not, attain to any goodness in ourselves
A body crucified, stretched out to die
Pierced with carpenter’s nails on beams of wood
Pierced with spear until blood and water flow
Willingly punished for our iniquities, not his own
(Only a perfect sacrifice can obtain atonement for sins of others)
Then taken down and laid in borrowed tomb, but not for long
Mortal once, yet immortal always, resurrected in power and glory
Walking and talking again among men and women
So their eyes could see, hearts believe
What had been foretold from ages past by prophets of old:
God in a body like ours, yet not like ours, victorious over death!
(O Death, where is your sting? We are raised with him!)
Yes, a body!
But where is this body now?
The Son ascended again to his Father’s side
Intercedes on our behalf, pleads for his Bride, his Church
Whom he purified with his own blood once for all
Prepares glorious mansions for us, a wedding feast for us
Who deserved his cross and grave and wrath instead
Yet he has not left us bereft as we wait
He has poured out his Holy Spirit: fill us, empower us, guide us
Why? Because we, we who believe and follow
Are now the Body of Christ on earth:
Our eyes shall seek out the lost and guide them home
See, really notice, then meet earthy needs meanwhile
Our ears shall listen to their cries, questions, doubts, confusions,
Confessions, prayers, testimonies at last
Our minds navigate mazes and minefields of life
Solve riddles to serve mankind, strategize, plan
Our mouths proclaim good news, call sinners to repent and believe
Teach the Jesus way, always pray
Our hands serve and heal, wash and feed, build and embrace
(Gentle always, please)
Our feet go out for the King and his Kingdom
Around the globe or down the street
Our body, his body, working together to do as he has done
Laboring with all his strength under his sovereign command
Ambassadors of Heaven to Earth
"Corpus Christi" is a poem in my Advent series. Written in 2007, it was inspired by the excellent book Holy Available: What If Holiness Is about More Than What We Don't Do? (previously titled The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life) by Gary Thomas and was also posted on his web site for a while. Click here to read my review: Holy Available. The poem is also based on the following Scriptures:
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” Colossians 1:15-24 (ESV)
“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” Hebrews 10:10-13 (ESV)
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:3-13 (ESV)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
by Virginia Knowles
A prayer I make to stay awake,
To watch the sheep safe in my keep,
When I should see, in front of me,
An angel bright in darkest night.
“Be not afraid!” the angel bade.
“Good news of joy! A baby boy
Is born today, on bed of hay.
The Savior mild, the Lord’s a child!”
Now in the sky the angels fly,
And gladly sing of newborn King.
“Give God high praise, hosannas raise,
And peace on earth through Jesus’ birth!”
All shepherds know that they should go,
To follow them to Bethlehem.
Where baby rests is not the best,
A scratchy stall holds Lord of All.
But God above sends Gift of Love.
Forgiving sin, he lives within.
Now spread the word, till all have heard
Amazing story, to God be glory!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Burn with holy flame!
This is your destiny
Slender thread, stiff stub of wick
Down and down, lower, low
Snuffed and silent…
Then lit to blaze again awhile
Amid liquid wax and taunting draft.
O light the way
Illumine the Book
When lower reaches lowest and there is no more of you
Humble service is over
And the flame is snuffed one last time
Then you shall join the blaze of glory
Higher, higher and higher more
Bright and hot, holy and pure
Shining ever in the presence of the Eternal Flame!
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1
And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:43
Sunday, December 21, 2008
In the back row are Joanna, Julia, Melody, Virginia, Thad, Rachel, Lydia, Mary and her husband Ryan Tindall. In the front row are Ben, Naomi, Andrew and Micah.
Sarah Jencks, one of Julia's friends, took the photo for us outside Metro Life Church this afternoon.
by Virginia Knowles (Advent 2006)
more and more
merited? no! no merit in murky miserable me
manic malice meted on Messiah Martyr
Mighty and Meek
manic malice meted on my Mediator misses me
marvelous mercies ministered on me
move massive mountains in me
make merry melodies in me
mirrors of Thee in mere me
more and more
of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,
not because of works done by us in righteousness,
draw near to the throne of grace,
Sunday, December 14, 2008
by Virginia Knowles
Sweet Jesus, you bring to me all that is good:
Comfort and hope when I am discouraged,
Peace and reconciliation when I am in conflict,
Strength and enthusiasm when I am weary,
Wisdom and guidance when I am confused,
Courage and confidence when I am afraid,
Forgiveness and mercy when I have done wrong.
You bore the fatal punishment that I deserved,
Yet rose up again in power,
Promising that if I would turn from my awful sin,
And believe in your awesome grace,
I could become your own precious child,
And enter into your everlasting Gloryland.
Such a rich salvation that I could never earn!
As a simple gift of gratitude,
With help from your Word and your Spirit,
I will trust and obey your loving commands,
I will worship you with my prayers and songs,
I will serve others joyfully,
I will share your Good News,
So that each one who hears and believes
May receive the matchless treasure
Found only in you.
This is another of my very early Advent poems, from at least 11 years ago. Life is no easier now than it was then, and I will always need the strength, comfort, and forgiveness of my Sweet Savior!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Story Did Not Start with a Stable and a Star
by Virginia Knowles
The story did not start with a stable and a star
But in the beginning, before billygoats on boulders or bluebirds in birch trees
The Trinity, the Three-In-One: Father, Spirit, Son
Viewed a vast void with a venturesome vision
And lo, this Lavish LORD said, “Let there be…”
And there was Light and Life and Love
Tigers and tiger lilies and tiger sharks
Amoebas and ants, aardvarks and apple trees,
Honeysuckle and honeybees and heavenly hallelujahs
For it was good: this grand garden, green and growing, glorious and glowing
With two to tend Eden: Adam and Eve
Masterpieces made to multiply more masterpieces in the image of their Maker
Working and walking with Him, worshiping Him for the wonder of His wisdom
But then came a choice and a cheater and a chilling challenge
They rebelled and rejected and ruined their Royal Relationship
In punishment, pushed out from Paradise into pain and peril, perishing
Generation after generation
Mankind multiplied moral messes
The Spirit sometimes seized sinners into the Sovereign Sacred Story
Prodding prophets, priests, and preachers to proclaim:
“Repent! Return! Revere! Renew!”
And so the Father sent his Son
And seers sought this Savior from afar
But the story did not stop with a stable and a star
The little Lord Jesus, who lay there so lowly, lived his life
This Great God-With-Us grew in grace
He, the Holy One, who helped and healed
Preached and prayed and praised His Father
This Lord of Love looked high and low to liberate the lost
This consecrated Christ carried His cross
He was crucified in His courage by our cowardice
Thus our Prophet-Priest paid the penalty price for our Paradise
His ransom rescues rebels from ruin
Freeing those who by faith will fully follow
Generation after generation
Multiplying more miracles among mortals
For the Spirit of the Sovereign Sacred Story
Still seizes sinners and sanctifies saints
And our Royal Redeemer shall return:
Holy is He! Hark the heavenly hallelujahs!
For it is good and God is glorious!
Earth shall end and eternity shall start
And the story of the Savior shall always speak to the heart.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” Genesis 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 10-14
You can find more by clicking here: Advent Poems by Me.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This is "Adoration of the Shepherds" after Annibale Fontana, 1600s, Terracotta, National Gallery of Art
Christmas Blessings, Virginia
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Over the next few weeks, I will post several of the Advent poems I have written in years past. "The Paradox" is one of my earlier ones!
by Virginia Knowles
Come, see where He lays,
Good Shepherd and Little Lamb
King of Kings and Servant of All
Prophet and Prophecy Fulfilled
Physician and Wounded One
High Priest and Atoning Sacrifice
Counselor and Rejected One
Builder and Foundation Stone
Righteous Judge and Condemned Prisoner
Ancient of Days and Newly-born Babe
God and Man
Jesus is a paradox, a seeming contradiction in terms. Who is he? What is his nature? And why did he come? If you have ever wondered how to understand or explain the mystery of Jesus, I invite you to look up the following passages, which correspond line by line to the facets expressed in the poem, The Paradox.
John 10: 11 / John 1:29
Revelation 19:16 / Mark 10:43-45, Philippians 2:7
Luke 7:16 / Matthew 1:22, Luke 4:16-21 (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Matthew 15:29-31 / Isaiah 53:4-6
Hebrews 7:23-28 / Hebrews 9:11-14, 10:19-22
Isaiah 9:6 / Isaiah 53:3, John 10:22-33
Hebrews 3:3, Matthew 16:18 / 1 Peter 2:4-9
John 8:1-11, Acts 10:42-43, Acts 17:30-31 / Mark 14:60-65
Daniel 7:13-14 / Luke 2:8-20
John 1:1-5, Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:19-20 / 1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 1:1-4
Many years ago for Christmas, I used a gold metallic paint marker and wrote it on painted wooden plaques as gifts. This one is at my parents' house in Maryland.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
This is a little something from my monthly family letter that I sent out last week...
I know that many of you are going through exceedingly tough times right now with health issues, financial woes, family relationship crises, and assorted inner turmoils. Especially in the past few years, I have been learning more about growing stronger and deeper in the midst of challenging circumstances. The temptation is to frantically try to fix things as fast as possible or at least, in a flurry of activity, to distract ourselves from our distress. Even if our self-imposed efforts are spiritual and noble, we can totally we miss the point.
Trials are often sent to get our attention, to draw us home to the only One who can truly satisfy our longings and heal our hurts. At times, God takes away the presents so he can give us his presence instead. (Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, those who believe in him have free access to the throne room of grace and mercy in time of need.) There are other blessings in disguise. Enduring tough times can enable us to connect more completely with those around us, either because we are finally desperate enough to ask for help or because we finally understand enough about their struggles to show a little extra compassion. There are new choices, too… We can stop placing such stringent expectations on others, and instead guard against our own unhealthy reactions toward those who disappoint us. We can humble ourselves enough to seek God's guidance, rather than just plowing ahead with whatever solution seems most efficient at the moment. We can survive with less clutter and start to appreciate simple blessings. Our lives can become less compulsive and more compelling. We can become real, authentic, sincere people, rather than cold, hard, shallow shells. We can allow ourselves to feel and grieve and then move on, instead of covering it all over with a superficial happy face. That's when the deeper peace and joy come along -- as the inner calm right in the middle of the tempestuous storm. For that, we can be thankful, any time of the year. As we often sing at our house:
I pray that God will richly pour out his tender mercies for each of you, from the inside out. Look for it!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
by Jack Prelutzky
The turkey shot out of the oven
And rocketed into the air;
It knocked every plate off the table,
And partly demolished a chair.
It ricocheted into a corner,
And burst with a deafening boom;
Then splattered all over the kitchen,
Completely obscuring the room.
It stuck to the walls and the windows,
It totally coated the floor;
There was turkey attached to the ceiling,
Where there'd never been turkey before.
It blanketed every appliance,
It smeared every saucer and bowl;
There wasn't a way I could stop it,
That turkey was out of control.
I scraped and I scrubbed with displeasure,
And thought with chagrin as I mopped,
That I'd never again stuff a turkey,
With popcorn that hadn't been popped!
~ Jack Prelutsky ~
(I read this poem for our Providence home school co-op Thanksgiving assembly on November 17. You can enjoy edited selections of our program at www.ProvidenceHomeSchool.blogspot.com.)
Monday, November 24, 2008
Last Monday (November 17), our home school co-op, Providence Home Educators, presented a simple Thanksgiving assembly during the history classes. My purpose in organizing it was just to get the kids singing and to think about our gratitude for our country!
The Pre-K through 2nd grade classes sang two verses of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and one of "America the Beautiful." The 3rd-6th graders sang "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "Come, Ye Thankful People." The 7th-8th graders performed "In God We Still Trust." All of the students recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and I added in three poems as well as introductions for each song. We also said farewell to one of our co-op families as they move out of state. It wasn't a fancy production, but everyone seemed to have fun!
I posted edited audio selections from the program, accompanied by photographs and captions, on our co-op blog. Here is the link: Providence Thanksgiving Assembly 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I just talked to my mom and she said that my dad has been cleared to go back to work (he is a computer guy) on December 1! This is quite a bit earlier than expected. He can also take off the hard neck brace, which he hates, since his cracked vertebra is almost healed. He is doing really well in his recovery from his traumatic brain injury last month (see the next post down) and he sounded cheerful when I talked to him on the phone tonight. He often walks down to the local track and goes around a few times, though he is not allowed to jog yet. They don't know when he will be allowed to drive since he may need to pass muster with a doctor from the Motor Vehicle Administration.
My daughter Mary stopped by for a while this afternoon, and we all had fun joking around. She is enjoying her new job as a copy editor at the Orlando Sentinel. One of the stories she just edited is one by my favorite Sentinel columnist, Darryl Owens: Eagle Scout's dream comes true, even after he succumbs to cancer. She has to go to work on Thanksgiving (late in the afternoon) while her husband Ryan is out of town visiting his ailing grandmother, so she's coming to our house for our feast. (She's fixing the mashed potatoes from scratch, as she always has!) Next year, Mary and Ryan are planning to go to Israel and Europe. They didn't have much of a honeymoon since she started a Wall Street Journal internship right after their wedding. Mary also told me that she has a new post on the Dow Jones summer intern blog.
Well, that's about it for right now!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
I just got back on Friday evening from a trip to my parents' house in Maryland. I went up for several days to try to help out in the wake of my dad's traumatic brain injury nearly four weeks ago and my grandmother's hip replacement last Monday. My dad is recovering well, but he gets frustrated at being so restricted and supervised in his activities. I feel for him. Thank you for all of your prayers!
Things were pretty quiet there compared to our busy home with several children. My main purpose was just be there as an extra pair of hands and eyes. I didn't do anything particularly spectacular around the house -- just dishes, laundry, a little cooking, fetching things, going to the end of the driveway to get the paper, taking the compost down to the back of the yard, staying up until midnight to let the nighttime home health aide in, etc. My Grandpa Hess, who is the family baker, taught me how to make English muffins from scratch and admonished me to always open them up with a fork instead of knife to make sure I create the nooks and crannies. Probably the most noteworthy household chore I did was to clean the refrigerator, which is hard for my mom to do since she has arthritis. I also drove Grandpa Hess over to the hospital to see his darling wife a few times, and enjoyed taking him out to lunch to Red Lobster for his 96th birthday on Friday.
Thoroughly enthralled with the gorgeous autumn colors that we don't get in Florida, I took dozens of pictures of trees and birds and everything else I could find in my parents' large yard. My mom has several bird feeders hung within view of the front windows, so I spent quite some time observing the squirrels, chipmunks, cardinals, yellow finches, blue jays, house finches, tufted titmice, chickadees, red headed woodpeckers, etc. Mom also saw a deer down near the garden on Friday, but it wasn't there when I went out with my camera a few minutes later. I also took pictures of family members and things around the house that I like, including a few things that I had made in years past.
Here are some of the photos on-line:
- Maryland in November 2008 (Tuesday)
- More Maryland pictures (Wednesday)
- Autumn and Family in Maryland (Thursday and Friday)
Another thing I squeezed in was scanning vintage photos and news clippings from my grandparents' photo albums, which are falling apart. I uploaded dozens of them onto Facebook. I figured that my siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins would enjoy them! Some are from the 1800s, and a lot from the very early 1900s, so really anyone might find them fascinating. I even found a big old pulpit Bible donated to a church by my great grandpa and grandpa, William and Lillie Brazier, and there were all sorts of neat clippings in it. I remember in January recording my father (using my MP3 players) as he spoke of his memories of them. This week I unearthed a picture of my great great grandmother Ida Wrislar that I had never seen, and since I didn't know anything about her, I asked my Grandma and Grandpa Hess to share their recollections, which I recorded. I encourage each of you to poke around and see what you can find out about your family history through photos, journals, genealogy notes, and personal interviews. What a splendid way to teach history! Check out my photos here:
- Vintage Photos from My Mom's Family
- Vintage Photos from My Dad's Family
And finally, as an extra gracious and unexpected gift from God, I had the chance to slip away on Thursday afternoon for a grand adventure all by myself. I have so longed to get back to the National Gallery of Art for years. The last time I went, my young children distracted me from enjoying the art for myself. Last year, Thad took a few of the older ones when we were up for Christmas, but I stayed home with the little kids and missed it. I love art! It feeds the soul and reflects how we were created to be creative in the image of our Creator. I was amazed at how many of the pieces there had Biblical themes. I sat for the longest time just looking at Rubens' masterpiece "Daniel in the Lion's Den." I will write more about that sometime on my blog, but for now, I am sharing my pictures! I had to take most of them from a slight angle to avoid glare from the camera flash. I'll figure this out eventually!
I believe there is an art to paying attention and to receiving all of the gifts that God has for us. I hope that these photo albums on-line will give you a taste for how the Lord blessed me this past week.
Much love to all of you,
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I'm not Catholic so I don't quite know what All Saints Day means to them, but I have my own take on it. "Saints" is actually a word for all Christian believers, not just those who have been canonized in the liturgical church. And so, every November 1, I pause to thank God for all of saints who have blessed my life in the past 32 years that I have known Jesus. I could list all of the people here, but they would mean nothing to most of you. But I roll these names around in my brain and my heart, recalling each one as best I can.
There is much remembering to do, for there have been countless men and women who have nurtured me in the faith, taught me the Scriptures, set the real life example for me, and spoken such grace and truth into my life. When I trace God's gracious hand of Providence in my life, I can see them at the intersections, standing as road signs, pointing me this way or that.
I'm not going to write a book this morning, but I did want to share an example of one cluster of saints whom God used to lead me along the way. In April 1977, I had just moved to Baltimore from San Francisco. I had just become a Christian the year before and had not yet become part of any church fellowship. Coming in as a "new kid" at the very end of the school year is a tough way to make friends, but God had already given Anne Rittler a welcoming heart. When I sat next to her in chorus class, she befriended me and invited me to her church. Her parents, Don and Chickie, were so faithful to drive out of their way every week for over two years to come pick me up for Sunday services and youth group. At Timonium Presbyterian, the pastors, youth leaders, and Sunday School teachers laid such a firm foundation for me in the Scriptures, prayer, worship, fellowship, evangelism, and global mission. It is through TPC that I first heard about Teen Missions and went on summer outreach trips to Scotland and Israel. That's how I eventually ended up in Florida, where I met my husband, Thad. Like I said, this is just one example.
I write this to encourage you to think about those whom God has used in your life. Take the time to write a grateful note or two, even if it means you need to hunt someone down on the Internet. This past year, I finally managed to track down Rev. Jim Midberry, who had been my youth pastor at Timonium. He was really glad to hear from me, three decades down the road.
I also want to remind you that you can make a difference in the life of someone else. Be like Jesus to them and trust that God will use it, even when you when you don't see immediate results. You may not know for 30 years (or even until eternity reveals "the backside of the tapestry") how crucial your heart investment has been to them.
I leave you with the first verse of an old Anglican hymn, "For All the Saints, that I have loved since the InterVarsity Urbana '84 missions conference:
(You can see the whole hymn and listen to the tune at: "For All the Saints" at Cyberhymnal. The painting here is "Les Jour de Morts" by William Bougueareau in 1859.)
Thank God "for all the saints"! And thank you to those who have been my friends all of these years! You are so precious to me!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I went to vote this morning! Many of my friends had reported waiting 2 or 3 hours, but our county has extended the hours, so there was absolutely no line at our local public library when I went at 8:20 AM. With as much as I have to do in life, I'm thankful for that, but I would have voted even if I'd had to wait. It is worth it to me.
I want to share you a favorite poem that I have given out to my English class the two years we have studied American literature. Written by a Russian Jew who came to the USA at age 7, it is sure to stir your patriotism -- not just for the past, but for the future. The first stanza speaks for folks like me, whose ancestors (Captains Samuel Ransom and Alexander Quarrier) really did fight in the Revolution. The second is the voice of those who have immigrated from oppressive countries, like my friends Olga, Monica, Ovi, Anna Marie, and Zamfira.
I am An American
by Elias Lieberman
I am an American.
My father belongs to the Sons of the Revolution;
My mother, to the Colonial Dames.
One of my ancestors pitched tea overboard in Boston Harbor;
Another stood his ground with Warren;
Another hungered with Washington at Valley Forge.
My forefathers were America in the making:
They spoke in her council halls;
They died on her battlefields;
They commanded her ships;
They cleared her forests.
Dawns reddened and paled.
Staunch hearts of mine beat fast at each new star
In the nation's flag.
Keen eyes of mine foresaw her greater glory:
The sweep of her seas,
The plenty of her plains,
The man-hives in her billion-wired cities.
Every drop of blood in me holds a heritage of patriotism.
I am proud of my past.
I am an American.
I am an American.
My father was an atom of dust,
My mother a straw in the wind,
To his serene majesty.
One of my ancestors died in the mines of Siberia;
Another was crippled for life by twenty blows of the knout;
Another was killed defending his home during the massacres.
The history of my ancestors is a trail of blood
To the palace gate of the Great White Czar.
But then the dream came
The dream of America.
In the light of the Liberty torch
The atom of dust became a man
And the straw in the wind became a woman
For the first time.
"See," said my father, pointing to the flag that fluttered near,
"That flag of stars and stripes is yours;
It is the emblem of the promised land,
It means, my son, the hope of humanity.
Live for it die for it!"
Under the open sky of my new country I swore to do so;
And every drop of blood in me will keep that vow.
I am proud of my future.
I am an American.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
My sister Barb called last night to say that my Grandma Hess fell and broke her femur. She was taken to the hospital by ambulance. They are going to do a hip replacement since the break is right near the ball joint. This is NOT the same hip that she broke on August 3. She won't be home again for another several weeks.
It has been two weeks since my dad was hit by a motorcycle and suffered a brain injury. He is scheduled to come home from rehab on Friday. He will be needing outpatient physical, cognitive and speech therapy for quite a while. He is still somewhat delusional, doesn't totally understand what is going on, and has unpredictable behavior. Yesterday he asked my sister to go to Home Depot and buy a box cutter so she can come to the hospital and free him from the restraints, as he is still strapped to the bed. He keeps saying he wants to go back to work tomorrow, but it may be three to six months from now, if at all. When he comes home, he is going to need round the clock supervision, especially when walking, since they are not sure of his balance. My mom's cousin Ruth Ann Douglas is there now helping out and her brother Henry is coming next. I am flying up next Monday (Grandma Hess's 94th birthday) right after co-op classes and will stay until that Friday (Grandpa Hess's 96th birthday). Thad is being so kind to hold the fort for me while I am gone for several days for the second time this year. My son-in-law's mother, Donna Tindall, is taking me to the airport, and I'm thankful for the help!
In brighter news, my daughter Mary excitedly told me that she got the copy editing job she has been pursuing with the Orlando Sentinel. This is quite something, since the journalism industry has taken a huge hit, there were a whole bunch of other experienced applicants, and she just graduated from college in May. I think that Wall Street Journal summer internship definitely helped out there! I am so proud of her because she has worked hard for this! She and her husband Ryan will both have roughly the same afternoon/night work schedule, which is another plus. She has also been freelancing quite steadily for the Orlando Magazine, too.
That's about enough for now. Please do continue to pray for our family. I know that my mom is under a huge amount of stress right now. I didn't hear until this morning that she has been walking with a cane for a few weeks since she has problems with her feet! I'm glad I can go up there and give her lots of hugs and kisses.
Oh, one last thing. At times like this, I like to listen to uplifting music.
Yesterday, I played the following country music video for some of my students as we were talking about America's Christian heritage. I think you'll like it too: "In God We Still Trust" by Diamond Rio.
Right now I am listening to Sara Groves' new Christmas album, O Holy Night. Here's the information and link...
Thursday, October 23, 2008
You know by now that I am a raving evangelical who can’t quite seem to shut up about God. I suppose some might even venture to call me a “Bible thumper” though I don’t think I’ve ever actually thumped one. (Well, maybe once or twice.) But it hasn’t always been so. Many years ago, I harbored great hostility and scorn toward pushy Christians and their precious little Bibles. One time my sister Barb and I were strolling along the aisles at the San Mateo, California county fair when we suddenly met some of them at a booth. They cornered us (at least it seemed that way then) and tried to explain about how we were sinners who needed a savior. I was more interested in finding the fudge booth (I still love chocolate!) and stomped away in disgust, while Barb, who hadn’t yet managed to pry herself away, looked at me helplessly. I fumed. Who did they think they were? Why didn’t they mind their own business? This was my continual attitude, not just one incident. I was “looking for a skylight in the floor of my upside down world” – but I did not want to concede that Christianity could be the truth.
About that time, my Aunt Fay in Pennsylvania, whom we hadn’t seen in quite some time, sent us a letter saying that she had become a born again Christian and urging us to do the same. I thought she was totally off her rocker. Crazy! And yet that summer, when our family drove all the way across the country for vacation, we met this crazy Christian. She was different all right. She had peace, joy, and love – and I didn’t! Even at that tender age of 12, I had often contemplated suicide. Yet when my cousin Cindy explained the gospel to me using some ridiculous looking Bible tracts, I contemplated the truth and grace of God instead. In July 1976 (our nation’s bicentennial anniversary of independence) I found my own true spiritual liberty and joined in with the crazy born again Christians. I have never ever regretted it. Since then I have always sought to share the incredible good news of Jesus Christ. I am in awe of such lavish mercy that makes my heart sing!
I know I talk a lot about God, but I realize that these bits and pieces don’t always communicate a full, balanced understanding of who he is and how we can know him. “God talk” is actually pretty popular these days. Spirituality is all the rage. Most of modern culture takes a smorgasbord approach to truth as a random collection of inspirational ideas that we are free to pick and choose to suit our cravings of the moment, rather than a revealed, universal, objective Truth that can stand the test of time and place no matter when or where we live. We do need to think and reason about truth. Yes, spiritual life also takes a leap of faith, but it is a leap onto a firm foundation. Truth matters, especially when we are seeking the right path to our eternal destiny.
So, I would like to take a few moments to share with you some basics about what it means to be “saved” or “born again.” It would take a lifetime to exhaust this topic and I don’t want your eyes to glaze over, so I’m still only giving you a small sample. If you aren’t familiar with this sort of discussion (or it even makes you uncomfortable), perhaps you could just read it to find out why all of those Christians (like me) are making such a big deal about it. And I hope in the process you might discover why it should be a big deal to you, too.
I like lists, so I’ll give you one right now with several key ideas:
1. God is utterly holy, pure and just. He will not tolerate the presence of sin. His thoughts are infinitely high above ours. He knows everything in our hearts. He is sovereign, all powerful over things and people. Our Creator is filled with incredible beauty and majesty and deserves our complete and humble worship. God is a trinity: three in one. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are completely unified and completely God. (Yes, this is an awesome mystery that boggles the human mind!)
2. Mankind is utterly sinful. We have repeatedly rejected God’s truth and God’s ways. We have each broken his commandments, either in our actions or in our thoughts. We have actively participated in ruin. We cannot make ourselves righteous by any amount of good deeds or by any amount of religious activity. We deserve God’s full measure of eternal wrath as punishment.
3. God is merciful and forgiving. He has made a way for us to cross the chasm. Jesus (God the Son) took on human form and lived an absolutely perfect, sinless life on earth. Then he was crucified on a cross, taking the punishment for our sins. He was buried and then rose again on the third day, appearing to hundreds of people before he ascended to Heaven. His resurrection proves his claim to be God the Son. Jesus was the promised Messiah, who had been foretold by the Old Testament prophets hundreds of years before his birth. (Read Isaiah 53!)
4. We can escape God’s righteous wrath and claim the promise of eternal life in Heaven only by trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus. That means confessing our sins and placing our full faith in him alone, not in being good enough or following some sort of religious system. He is our only hope. When we ask God to save us, our sins are forgiven and we are declared righteous in his sight.
5. When a person is born again like this, he or she becomes a “new creation” with a changed nature. We repent, which means to turn away from our sins and seek to please God instead. We realize that we are not our own anymore – we belong to God and must obey him with a whole heart. We still struggle with a sin nature and temptation, but we are also given a new heart that really wants to love God and other people. The good works that a Christian does are the grateful fruit of salvation, not the path to it. As disciples (followers of Christ) we continually grow in our faith and in our ability to make right choices, but we will not be perfect until we get to Heaven and see him face to face. And because we want others to experience the lavish mercy we have received, we boldly speak to them about sin, wrath, grace, faith, and salvation.
But why all this talk about God’s wrath and judgment? Can’t I just be tolerant and say that if anyone is sincere or tries their best to be a nice person that this is sufficient?
Good question! I’ve often asked it myself! Several months ago, in a philosophical mood, I decided to pick the theological brain of our friend Tom Clinkscale, who is a Baptist preacher and teaches at a Christian college. I asked him: "How do you reconcile the wrath of God that we see in the Old Testament with the mercy of God that we see in the New Testament?" I had put him on the spot, but he thought for a few minutes and then gave the wisest answer I have heard for that cosmic question. He replied that the one event in which God poured out his fiercest wrath was also the one where he poured out his most lavish mercy -- on the cross where Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins. The cross bridges the chasm between Hell and Heaven for us. It transports us from fierce wrath to lavish mercy!
I have talked enough in my own words. Now I want to let God’s work speak to you in a way that I could never do. Pause to let it sink in!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” John 3:16-18
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6
“As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:10-12, 23
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-11
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, 20-21
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:4-10
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
I will close with a poem that I wrote about two years ago, during a season of life when I became freshly aware of my sin and my continual need for my Savior.
by Virginia Knowles
more and more
merited? no! no merit in murky miserable me
manic malice meted on Messiah Martyr
Mighty and Meek
manic malice meted on my Mediator misses me
marvelous mercies ministered on me
move massive mountains in me
make merry melodies in me
mirrors of Thee in mere me
more and more
That’s enough for now. Let me know what you think. I’d be happy to talk to you about this if you send me an e-mail. Feel free to share this with others.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
My daughter Joanna showed me these videos and I couldn't resist passing them along to you. Please listen to what Gianna Jessen has to say about surviving an abortion -- when she was the baby! She speaks with passion and grace.
Check out the site http://www.bornalivetruth.org/ as well as http://www.abort73.com/.
UPDATE ON OCT 16: After I sent this out, Eric Novak, the son of one of my newsletter readers, e-mailed and told me that he had just interviewed Gianna that morning. Here is the link to the audio: Gianna Jessen Interview with Eric Novak on October 16, 2008.
UPDATE ON OCTOBER 17 FROM WWW.BORNALIVETRUTH.ORG
DEBATE 3: OBAMA’S LIES
Hear Dr. James Dobson interview Gianna Jessen and Jill Stanek on his Focus on the Family radio show Friday, October 17. Find stations and air times here.
In 1999 a gruesome discovery was made that an Illinois hospital was shelving babies to die in a soiled utility room who had survived their abortions. The Illinois Born Alive Infants Protection Act was introduced in 2001 to provide legal protection to all born babies, wanted or not, including the right to medical care. Then-state Senator Barack Obama voted against Born Alive 4 times in 3 years and was the sole senator to speak against it on the Senate floor in 2001 and 2002. In 2002, the Federal version of Born Alive passed unanimously in the US Senate and by overwhelming voice vote in the House. The pro-abortion group NARAL even went neutral on the bill. But In 2003, Barack Obama voted against the identical version of Born Alive in Illinois. Then, for the next 4 years he repeatedly misrepresented his vote until it was recently discovered in the IL General Assembly archives. Explore our website to learn the shocking truth: Senator Obama opposed granting legal recognition to born alive infants as human beings, and thus denied them the guarantee of medical care.
View Barack Obama's Actual Voting Record
“If Barack Obama had his way I would not be here.”
Can you imagine not giving babies their basic human rights, no matter how they entered our world? My name is Gianna Jessen, born 31 years ago after a failed abortion. I’m a survivor, as are many others…but if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn’t be here.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama voted four times against affording these babies their most basic human right. I have serious concerns about Senator Obama’s record and views on this issue, given he voted against these protections four times as a state Senator. Just as abuse victims share their stories to educate the public, fight for the common good and hope that as a result politicians do what’s right, I felt it was important to come forward and give these new born babies a voice.
I am living proof these babies have a right to live, and I invite you to learn more about Senator Obama’s record on this important issue.
-Abortion Survivor Gianna Jessen
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I wrote this article in November 2006. Though it was originally written in the context of home schooling, somehow I think it's also appropriate for adults in light of the recent financial crises. I will follow it up in a few days with the handouts from a class I am teaching Monday for English, including an essay called "What Will It Take to Forge Our Character?")
The storms of life will come and go, but will your child be prepared or be blown away? In some ways, home schooling shelters children from many storms of life – appropriately so! In other ways, it can prepare them to be even more effective in dealing with challenging and disappointing situations. This process takes effort on the parents’ part as they try to discern the balance of sheltering and preparing. There are many ways any parent can help prepare a child for weathering the storms of life.
Cultivate a sense that God is in control, no matter what happens. Show how faith, hope, and love can conquer depression, fear, and anger. We don’t always understand what is happening, but we can trust a sovereign God. In showing God’s providence and our need for perseverance, you can use Bible stories (such as Joseph, Ruth, or David), Bible verses (such as Psalm 43:5, James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, Romans 8:26-39, 1 Peter 1:6-9, and Habakkuk 3:17-19), hymns and worship songs, and prayer. Many children are disillusioned when they pray and God doesn’t answer like they want him to. Explain that sometimes he answers yes, sometimes no, and sometimes wait. Share stories from your own life when you asked God for something that would not have been good for you, and how you are glad you didn’t get your own way. You can also model a wholesome response to trials in your own life. Your children are always watching you!
Equip your child with both skills and responsibility ahead of time. Don’t coddle your children – challenge them! If you make life too easy for them, they will never be strong enough to face the outside world. Stretch them appropriately in their academics and household chores, and don’t let them give up on an assignment just because they think it is too hard. Press on! Children who have learned to value responsibility and duty over comfort and convenience will have more inner strength to face challenges in life. There are also specific skills you can teach that will help your child prevent or solve problems. Be sure to cover time management, money management, organization skills, household repair, etiquette, and communication, etc. With younger children, play “What If?” games, asking what they could do if they got lost at the mall, or another child dared them to do something wrong. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Teach Biblical peacemaking concepts. Walk them through how to resolve interpersonal conflicts, which are usually either the cause or result of so many of life’s storms. Peacemaker Ministries (www.peacemaker.net) has many wonderful resources.
Let your child “own” his trials. You can comfort them and brainstorm with them, but don’t be quick to offer easy answers. Make it a dialogue, where you are merely coaching them through solving their own problems. Give plenty of time – don’t rush through this process! Follow up later on to see how well they are coping with the aftermath, and if there is any bitterness or confusion. Teach your children to think ahead of time about the consequences of their choices. “If I do this, then that could happen.” Let them suffer the natural consequences of their own poor behavior, since they will learn from that more than from a lecture. Do not let them whine, sulk, or manipulate others. Hold them responsible for their share of conflicts, rather than simply blaming the other party to salvage a child’s feelings. If you see your child reacting to a frustration with bitterness, accusation or impatience, stop them and role play a calm, wholesome response. I no longer allow my children to yell, “THIS IS STUPID!” Instead, they may say, “I don’t understand this.” And finally, encourage your child to look for a life lesson that God is trying to teach them through this lesson. If they caused their own problem, they could learn to repent and prevent situations from happening like this again. In a situation that was not the child’s fault, they can learn patience to endure, faith in God’s care, and compassion for others who are suffering. Be sure to point out “evidences of grace” that you see in your child’s life because of this trial that has helped them to mature.
In your home schooling time, be aware of teachable moments. Read plenty of heart-reaching books where the people face difficult circumstances. Talk about what they did that was appropriate, and what they did that wasn’t. Biographies, well-written fiction, and even history text books can be so vital! The time periods of the early church persecutions, the Reformation, the American Revolution, slavery, Civil War, Holocaust, Civil Rights era, and others provide many examples you can use in teaching how to deal with adversity. We also like the animated history videos produced by NEST (www.nestfamily.com), since they show the struggles that famous people have faced. While studying science, point out instances in the natural world where “adversity” is necessary to produce the best results, such as precious metals being refined, gemstones being hacked out of the ground and chiseled into shape, muscles being exercised, tree roots growing deep for nourishment and anchoring, etc. Math can be a major source of frustration. However, it can model more general problem solving principles, such as staying calm in the knowledge that the problem is here to teach you something valuable, following any instructions, breaking it down into smaller parts, thinking through the different options, working carefully with keen attention to detail, asking for help when necessary, and checking to make sure the solution is reasonable. See how even the academic aspects of home schooling can prepare your child for facing the storms of life? What a blessing!
I hope that these ideas are as helpful to you as they have been to me over the years. Of course, we’re still working on them, but with 10 children in the house, there are plenty of opportunities to practice!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Mom was born to Henry and Dorothy Hess on October 8, 1938 in Kingston, Pennsylvania, and grew up in the rural outskirts of the Scranton / Wilkes Barre area. She was named after her grandmother, Mary Grave Hess, who also had a grandmother named Mary. My mom’s first granddaughter (my daughter) is named Mary, which continues this tradition. Really, though, it’s because I associate the name with that sweetness and light that my mother exemplifies. Mom was the middle of five children. I don’t have a picture of her when she was a child, but I remember seeing the cutest one of her with braids. Her childhood pictures and mine look so much alike, and we were often mistaken for sisters. At age 17, she met my dad when he came for visits with his roommate (Mom's cousin Charlie Davis) from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in King's Point, New York. They celebrated their 50th anniversary on Christmas Day last year.
My brother John, sister Barb and I came along soon enough, so she kept busy mothering us full-time for many years. Isn't this a cute picture of us?
Eventually, when I started full day kindergarten and tough economic times hit the country, she went back to work. She’s had a variety of careers, including secretary, hotel manager, typesetter, and owner of an office cleaning business, medical transcriptionist, and computer trainer. She retired from this last position (working for the National Institutes of Health) several years ago. Even when she was working, though, she always made time to do stuff with us, like read us stories.
I wasn't always really grateful for what my mom and dad provided for us. They gave me this little red wagon for Christmas one year, but I thought it was a "boy toy" and refused it. Mom said if I didn't want it, she would take it. She rode off in it, then filled it with her own stash of Christmas presents. Of course, my jealousy was quickly incited, and she graciously gave it back to me. Smart mommy!
I like this pensive picture, taken when we lived in California in the 1970s.
Gardening has been one of her favorite hobbies. We always had flower gardens when we were young! The first one she helped me plant, in Kansas City, had zinnias. We grew pumpkins there, too. Later, in a San Francisco suburb, we enjoyed growing pansies and golden poppies. We also had a small corn field and a blackberry patch (from which we made fruit leather) in our backyard there! Mom still lovingly tends gardens – her own flower gardens and a vegetable garden supervised by my Grandpa Hess, who is a gardener extraordinaire! I wish I had their green thumbs.
Along with the garden, my mom loves to watch birds. She has a whole bunch of feeders in her yard, just outside her windows, with different kinds of seed (or nectar) for the various species.
Mom was a Girl Scout leader for more years than I can count, and one year she was the city coordinator for all of the troops in San Carlos. She was also the cookie mom. I remember one time when a hapless young Girl Scout knocked at our door wanting to sell us a few boxes. I merely opened the adjacent door to our garage and showed her the cases and cases of them! Somehow she survived dozens of troop camping trips, but she always managed to come home with a splitting headache for some reason! We also camped often as a family, especially when we lived in Northern California and could visit the gorgeous Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, as well as Big Basin. We even had a family tradition of roasting hot dogs on the beach at Half Moon Bay on Christmas Eve every year.
My mother is also a very creative seamstress. I distinctly recall a pumpkin outfit that I wore for Halloween for several years, a big round orange thing that we stuffed with newspapers. She has also made quillows (a cross between a quilt and a pillow) for several of her grandchildren (and me), and together we made a few sets of jumpers for my five oldest daughters when they were naive enough to still put up with wearing matching clothes.
My mom loves to take and edit pictures and videos to record our family happenings for posterity. I know I inherited my love of family history from her, and I am blessed to know so many of my precious relatives because we often traveled to family reunions “up home” in Pennsylvania and kept in touch with everyone in between times. You can read about some of this here: Hess Family Heritage.
My mom has always been up for learning something new. When I started college at Northern Kentucky University in 1981, she took a class in Small Business Management with me. A lot of college kids might be upset to have their mom go to class with them, but I treasured this time with her! When I went away to college, she kept up with me through phone calls and letters. I remember one note that she wrote to console me when I had endured a big disappointment in life. She was so sweet about it. She is not only my mother, she is my dear friend.
Mom learned the fine art of stained glass when she was in her 40s, and I am the lucky owner of a nativity set, as well as several other beautiful pieces.
And then there is her singing! I remember that from my very earliest years at home. Always a song in her heart! Her mother had been a church organist, so music played an important role in her own growing up years. Mom played the piano and made sure that the three of us had music lessons of our choice, too. My sister and brother performed in a whole bunch of high school musicals, so attending them as a family is another happy childhood memory. Many choirs have been graced with her voice, and she spent many happy years singing, recording, and touring with the National Christian Choir in her “spare” time. Though she is no longer a member of the NCC, she is going on a New England cruise with them, leaving this Friday! I’m so excited for her!
Speaking of traveling, my mom is the adventurous sort. When we were young, we traveled all over North America, visiting 48 different states, as well as Canada and Alaska. With all of that long distance driving, I don’t know how she had the patience to spend that many hours hearing, “Are we there yet?” and “I get the front seat!” But she did, and we are richer for it. I suppose it helps that we lived in several states: Illinois, Missouri, California, Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky. They moved to Texas after I left for college in Florida, but they now live back in Maryland. Since they became empty nesters, she and my dad have taken the opportunity to visit such far-flung locales as Bolivia and Germany, among other countries.
But really, my mom is just as happy right at home. You see, she is a nurturer at heart. And she’s had plenty of practice, starting with her own three kids and thirteen grandchildren. She also opened her home for months at a time to a few of my cousins in their teen or young adult years. My sister’s family stayed with them for a while and my mom helped home school my nieces and nephew. She still plays an active role in their lives since they live nearby. (My one and only beef about living in Florida is being so far away from them. At least she visits us often!) Mom also took care of her mother-in-law, my Grandma Driggs, who lived with them from 1995-1997.
And twice, for a total of three years so far, she has had her own parents live with them. They are turning 96 and 94 next months, and she keeps very busy as their primary caregiver! Right now, she is helping my grandma recover from surgery for a broken hip. She does all of this so cheerfully, even though she herself suffers from migraines and arthritis. She is such a treasure. I told her I wished she could take care of me when I am in my 90s, but she has declined that opportunity.
Here is she is with my little Melody, who absolutely adores her Grandma!
There is so much more that I could say about my sweet and lovely mother, but I guess I’ll have to leave it at that!
I also wrote something about my dad on Father's Day. You can read it here: A Tribute to My Dad.
(P.S. You can probably figure out that this last picture is from my wedding in November 1985.)