Monday, February 18, 2013

Home Sweet Home

There is a welcome gentle rain falling on the windows, and I am going to treat myself to go upstairs to the living room and choose a new book to begin reading.  I recently finished Wuthering Heights and Unbroken, so I get to begin a different book.

After leaving Woodsong shortly after 6 a.m. on Saturday and not reaching back home until a bit after ten last night, home seems very sweet.  Although I loved working outside the house, I used to look forward to being back at Pondside Farm,  As I approached the house in the evening, in my mind, I  called it my “Pleasure Palace.”  I knew that the newspaper, magazines, and books awaited me there.  The same feeling comes when I reach Woodsong, our retirement home.

I was very reluctant to build this new house, a half mile away and leave Pondside Farm.  We had remodeled more than once at Pondside adding more room, and though it was not a luxurious home, it suited me very well.  One remodeling had added a floor-to-ceiling book case in the small entrance foyer. (I had gotten the idea from a magazine photo.) I had a favorite chair in the living room, far enough from the family room that I could not hear the television there. This was especially neat when our teenagers had friends in.  I could occasionally check in on them, but their noise was shut out for the evening.  In addition to our bedroom, there were finally four small bedrooms so all four children had their own.  (Now no one could blame the roommate for a messy room!) 
Except for the major remodeling that lasted one very long  summer living with carpenters and falling plaster, one falling carpenter in fact, and flies coming in torn down openings,  the other smaller remodeling jobs there were Gerald’s.  Frankly, that was one of the reasons he wanted to build a new house.  He was sick and tired of working on that old house with its uneven floors and too many memories of past projects that might need to be repeated as natural aging continued to take place.   (Even with this well-built new house, we found out, he has had plenty of upkeep to attend to, but at least it was a refreshing change from the old house.)

One of the funniest projects over at Pondside, at least afterwards, was what we thought was going to be a rather simple bathroom remodeling.  Of course, all this work was in addition to Gerald’s farming activities. We had invited my family for one evening during our annual (at that time) Martin reunion.  We were very excited that we had relatives all the way from Oregon to Pennsylvania who were going to be able to come. But somehow everything took much longer than planned.  I think it was only the day before our party that the bathroom toilet stool and other building materials were still strung out from the bathroom to the family room and sitting under the wonderful old maple tree outside the family room back door. Gerald and I were both somewhat aghast at what our relatives might think if they arrived Saturday night to see that toilet bowl under the tree.  But Gerald heroically met the challenge, and a nice new bathroom was ready for use with no sign of the previous cluttered yard.  With cousin Barbara’s help, we were ready for guests and we had a good time.

Here at Woodsong every thing is arranged, if possible, for Gerald’s and my convenience and desires.  (That includes enough old couches, in addition to the one less bedroom that Pondside had, in order to handle the influx of grandkids, which we wanted.) Naturally there have been some mistakes we made in our planning, but not enough to matter in terms of enjoying our home. 

Unlike Gerald, I loved old houses.  (I did not have to do all the repair and remodeling work.  He did.)  However, there were two main reasons I was reluctant to move.  The Pondside home held so many memories of our children that I was sentimental about leaving. I did suffer just a mite the first Christmas, which seemed strange in a new house. That year I did not want to look at photos of past Christmases. But this house now has so many memories of its own that I no longer think with regret about the other one. The second reason I did not want to move was an etched-in memory from Gerald’s grad school days at the University of Illinois. Every time we went home for a weekend, we would pass a beautiful farm home that Gerald had heard about in class.  The farmer and wife had built this dream house only to have the husband have a heart attack soon afterwards, and she was a widow there.  Although I was young, this story deeply affected me, and I had a lump in my throat every time we passed it. When we considered building, I had a fear of that happening to us. Finally, Gerald persuaded me by asking me if I thought we were both likely to live five more years, and I honestly did. He then asked if that would make it worth while to make the move, and I agreed it would.  We have lived here over eleven years now, and I am grateful for his persuasion.

Last night after the two days of being a caregiver for our daughter Katherine with progressive MS, I was very tired when I returned home.  So I welcomed being off my feet and leisurely eating my late supper while reading Saturday’s newspaper that Gerald had saved and then glancing through Sunday’s. A final pleasure was a hot bath in my own tub and gong to bed in our very comfortable bed at midnight. I slept until 10:07 this morning and then caught up with a few things in the kitchen to have our lunch ready when Gerald returned from the therapy he is taking for shoulders and neck pain. I had managed to check my email and a do a tiny bit of catch-up on Facebook this morning, and this afternoon I was able to check out more on the University of Georgia’s website and other online sites about the softball team, where our granddaughter Geri Ann has hit a home run in the past four games.  Of course, Gerald had watched the games on Game Tracker and kept me pretty much informed already. 

Now I better quit reminiscing and go upstairs and choose that new book to read before supper time gets here.  I just suggested to Gerald that while he is in town that he go through a drive-in and bring us home a supper instead of my fixing us a light meal.  Not only will that taste better than what I might fix, there will be no clean up and I can read in that book a bit longer!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Message for the Ages and the Thirsty

Yesterday in the worship service of our village church, ages ranged from two-month old Issac and seven-month old Jace to Lena in her 90's. I love the inspiration of the older generation (which Gerald and I are rapidly approaching in our church), but I also am thrilled with the young adults and their children who will keep God's message of love and salvation alive in our nation long after we have perished from the earth. I love it that John assured us that whoever wishes is invited to take the free gift of the water of life.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Wisdom from Wendell

Our friend Wendell Garrison has written several devotional books—I am too lazy to run upstairs to the book case and count to be sure if it is four or more or only three.  Of course the latest is on Gerald’s bedside table where he usually reads the day’s entry just before he falls to sleep.  Wendell and Gerald were college roommates; and when they get together, they still laugh about some of their doings in those days—something about that sock monkey named Joe and one of them falling asleep during prayer time. 

When they were dating , we entertained Wendell and his first wife Margaret in our little green house in the country that we rented for $10 a month.  (Rent is cheap when there is no indoor plumbing, and for us newlyweds living a rural life style and starting a family was a dream come true.)  Gerald was finishing up his senior year at Southern Illinois University on the GI Bill and preparing to start grad school that fall at the University of Illinois when they came for dinner.   Katherine had been born in April, and we liked to claim that she was so sweet that she was an encouragement for Wendell and Margaret to marry.  We just made that up, but I suppose such musings are typical of parents enthralled with their first born. Wendell and Margaret went on to seminary and later came back to Illinois where Wendell served as a pastor for many years.  We would occasionally get to see them even though he was eventually working on the Illinois side of the St. Louis municipal area. We kept up through Christmas card exchanges, and once or twice Wendell accompanied Gerald to the East St. Louis stockyards with a truck load of hogs.

After the heart break of Margaret’s death, we were happy for Wendell when he later found Mary. We missed their marriage celebration given by their church because of a terrible snow storm, but eventually we were able to meet Mary and it was easy to understand why she made Wendell so happy.  We especially enjoyed his brief interim pastorate a year ago when he served at Katherine’s church in Marion.  We just regretted that he had agreed to only come for a short period because he had to finish his last book.

For a long time we received monthly mailings from his church with mimeographed copies of his sermons, which he always wrote out at that time. I borrowed from them occasionally for a devotion. I couldn’t tell you where they are, but I may have them someplace in this house.  Or maybe I gave them to our friend Loretta Crosson, who once told me she enjoyed reading sermons.

Most recently on Facebook, Wendell has been sharing one-paragraph devotional thoughts that come as he drinks his morning coffee.  If you want to read more of his thoughts, maybe he would let you friend him.  I didn’t think to ask him that when I asked permission to reprint his yesterday’s devotion in my blog.  I thought it was such an excellent follow up on what I had written yesterday.  There is evil in the world, but we have the ability to choose good. I also liked it that the young woman he wrote about was not only able to rise above her abuse but also used a journal to record her life.  When I encourage people to write, I know how much their writings will mean to their descendants.  Her journal can even bless you as you read her story in Wendell’s brief words of wisdom:

”Sitting by my fireplace, watching the curling flames, sipping tasty coffee, recalling a story that illustrates God's redemptive love, his ability to bring good out of bad: A Kentucky girl at age four lost her mother. Her father remarried. His new wife abused the girl. When she was fourteen, her father gave her and her sister each $12 and put them out on the streets. After her death in 2000, her family found her journal in which she had written that when her boy was born in 1936, she gave him to Jesus. I believe God used her hurts to help her to turn to his redemptive love. That boy became an influential preacher who until his death in 1988 was my wife’s first husband.”

Thank you, Wendell.  By the way, I just now googled and found it is four books that Wendell has written in retirement.  You can google Wendell Garrison also and go to his website, which I wasn't aware of,  to find how to order the last two, which are still available. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Goodness of People in Bad Weather and Fair

Looking out the kitchen window and across the driveway one morning last week, I saw seven fat blackbirds ornamenting the top of the snow-covered limbs of the gum ball tree there.  By evening the tree was bare of snow and birds.  We have experienced constantly changing and varied weather recently. The ground that was covered with snow on Sunday morning had melted by afternoon, One day it seems like spring, and the next day we will have bitter cold and high winds.

One evening last week I looked out the living room windows where I often pause to enjoy the puff of white billowing clouds against the deep blue sky. That time, instead, the tranquil scene was of layered blue clouds against a white sky. Nothing could have seemed more peaceful, and I paused a long time. Only a few hours later as I was reading in that same room, a storm was raging and beating against the wall of windows. I felt warm and very peaceful to be inside all cozy and dry on such a wild night. 

Then I heard a loud noise of beating rain in the front of the house different from anything I remembered from past storms.  I jumped up to see if the roof was leaking since Gerald was already in bed. The unusual sound was only hard slanted rain blowing across the front porch and pounding the glass of the front door.  I was relieved to go back to being cozy with my book, and by the next morning the front porch was swept clean by that storm. 

However, our neighbor’s cousin over in the nearby town of Galatia was not so fortunate.  That family of four was hit by the tornado that came through; photos show only one of their four walls still standing. They were so thankful for coming through alive that they were not lamenting their loss but rejoicing. I don’t consider myself materialistic, but I feel complete awe when I think of people going through such devastation and having all their clothing and possessions and photographs gone forever. 

All those citizens in New York and New Jersey--still miserable and still bravely coping with their terrible problems in this winter weather--fill me with appreciation for the human spirit. A bus driver who gave his life in an effort to protect the children made me know how good some humans can become. The news media keeping Nathan’s last name out of the news and many people working night and day to rescue him made me thankful for all the goodness that exists. 

When Gerald and I drove Katherine to a Carbondale appointment at the end of last week, the snow was so dense it made driving slick and difficult.  Today her cousin Vicki drove Katherine to Cape Girardeau to see a physical therapist at the hospital’s rehabilitation center to help her decide what kind of chair might best replace her worn out one. The weather was so gorgeous that I decided to leave my coat behind in my car, and I did not regret it. 

Despite the good driving conditions, however, stops to help Katherine in her painful chair made us late.  Vicki, an authentic angel, climbed into the back more than once to adjust stiff arms and legs as Katherine directed.  When we breathlessly and worriedly arrived, both the wheelchair technician and the therapist were warm and kind and made us feel we were of utmost importance.  Both stayed late and spent generous time analyzing her condition and working together to determine how to help her have a more pain-free life. Since her hands would not allow her to drive her chair today, one of them drove her to the van and helped Vicki lock her chair in. Such service beyond ordinary duty as well as Vicki donating her day to help us reaffirmed my realization that so much goodness exists in this world.

Come rain or shine, there are always people who will go to great lengths to help their fellow man.  One good Samaritan will go back and check on a “sleeping” man in a parked car beside the road and save his life. (A young woman I know did this.)  Another good Samaritan will pay for a child’s shoes. (Another young woman I know did this—more than once.)  Another good Samaritan will leave his busy office and drive ten miles to lift someone into a wheelchair.  (My pastor did this for me.). People from area churches will drive to Carbondale to prepare a free Tuesday meal for tables full of international students studying at the university.  Other churches take responsibility to prepare a week’s worth of meals at our local soup kitchen. Plant employees will take turns to make a meal and send to a family where the mother’s is ill.  Volunteers keep our homeless shelter functioning and bring in special meals for holidays.  A former convict now reformed gives thanks for the local Salvation Army that supplied him with clothes and furniture when he started his new life.   Now he is counseling others released from prison and helping them get the skills they need to live productive lives.

There are people who are destructive and full of hate for themselves and others. We find that out too often. Yet there are also glorious amounts of people who constantly reach out to help friends, neighbors, and strangers. Oddly, through giving they gain competence, compassion, and deserved self esteem.  Our goal should be to move the haters to join the world’s helpers and reap the benefits that come from loving kindness.