Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I can't believe I grew up on a Kansas farm without air conditioning. We knew better because some business places and a few homes had air conditioning, but we couldn't afford the unit or the cost of electricity to keep it running. Besides, we worked outside much of the time and were used to the heat. I think people suffer from the heat more today because we've become acclimated to air conditioning and don't tolerate the heat as well. We've become slaves to our lifestyles and are driven to work regardless of the heat. I remember lazy summer afternoons when we ceased our labors and read a book or took a nap until the sun began its descent and the evening air became tolerable. We often slept outside on the picnic table or the swing on those nights a cool breeze failed to come through our bedroom windows. If mosquitos, coyotes howling too close for comfort, or a thunderstorm chased us indoors, we would sleep on the cool, hard linoleum of the living room floor. Our upstairs bedrooms which were under the eaves of the uninsulated roof took all night to cool off. One by one we five siblings would stumble sleepily up the stairs in the early morning hours of dawn and catch a couple hours of complete rest on our soft mattresses. A cool morning breeze flirting with the curtains at the open window finally sent a sensuous wave of cooling air over our sweaty bodies. But a few hours of sunshine would heat up the day as hot, or hotter, than the day before.
Most of August we could smell the vegetation scorching. The road passing on the south side of our farm was layered with white rock which had been pulverized into fine dust by car, truck, and farm machinery wheels. Each passing vehicle raised clouds of white dust that would race with the wind for our house and garden and spread a layer thick enough to obscure the distinctiveness of flower and leaf, and create a chalk board on every flat surface so I could practice writing my name. The dust and the packed, cracked earth under our feet had the scent of baked pottery. Cumulus clouds would gather and bump into each other splitting the air with lightening and thunder but nary a drop of rain would fall. Sometimes, a small quick shower would dump enough water to soak our clothes as we ran out and danced with the rain. The heat gave us an excuse to have water fights. Just as we walked past the corner of the house we would suddenly be hit with a blast of cold water from a well-aimed bucket-full pumped up from the cistern. No one was exempt, not even our mother, who took the assault good-naturedly. After the first shock wore off it was a welcome relief and most times we were able to forgive the perpetrator. Of course, we always found an opportunity to retaliate with the same enthusiasm.
Finally, the day came when clouds began to accumulate more frequently until they were heavy enough to dump a respectful one or two inches of rain on the parched earth. It was the first sign the summer heat was abating and we could soon look forward to cooler days and nights. The cows started giving more milk, the chickens increased their egg production, and we were all less irritable with one another. We had survived another Kansas summer.
After a particularly hot summer like the one we're enduring now, my husband and I would talk about moving somewhere else instead of enduring another summer in Kansas. Though we often vacationed in Colorado where the humidity is less and the nights are blissful, we've never pulled up stakes and moved. Our resolve weakens when the next summer proves to be more mild. Family roots are more important than physical comfort. And so we endure the pain of heat, yet not without the comfort of knowing it's temporary. Fall inevitably follows summer.
I remember walking barefoot as a child on our cement sidewalks, feeling the burning heat on the bottom of my feet. Today, I have the same burning pain in my feet, but it's not from walking on sun-baked cement. The burning pain I feel these days is from the damaged nerves of peripheral neuropathy. I'm trapped in this body of pain, and the only relief is the daily regimen of pain medications that make the pain tolerable. I'm living one long summer since there's no cure for neuropathy, and there are no seasons of spring, fall, and winter to bring relief from the burning pain. Half the battle is won since I've accepted this pain will probably be with me the rest of my life, unless the nerves completely die and numbness replaces the pain. But that doesn't seem likely since the pain is as intense as it was when it began seven or eight years ago. I'm not talking about this to elicit sympathy. That's the last thing I need to give me the strength I need to rise above the pain. Rather I talk about it to try and make sense of it, to convince myself that what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. And maybe someone else who suffers chronic pain will read this and not feel alone with their pain.
Everyday, I ask myself, "What am I learning from this pain?" "What is the purpose of pain in my life?" So far I've learned that suffering does teach us about who we are, what kind of stuff we're made of. I don't have to understand why I have painful neuropathy to endure it and learn from it. Perhaps it's been given to me to keep me from becoming proud, like Paul in
2 Cor. 12:7-10, and to depend on God's grace. Maybe, like Job, I'm being tested. Or because of my pain I can be of help to others through understanding and encouragement as suggested in 2 Cor. 1:3-7: "...for when we are comforted, we will certainly comfort you."
Living in the furnace of trial by fire we need not be without comfort, for God has promised to be faithful to those of us who have faith in His love and believe in our friend, Jesus, and the constant comfort of the Holy Spirit and The Word. There are days I feel sorry for myself. But then I read or hear of someone who experiences and triumps over worse adversities than I. (See my link to "Check This Out!") I'm reminded that we are all trying to survive whatever situations or circumstances we find ourselves in this life. Who or what we rely on for strength and comfort can make a huge difference on how we make it through each day, how we endure the Heat of Pain. Earthly pain is temporary and will be gone when this life is over and we move on to our eternal home. Here's a song that expresses my thoughts today:
This World Is Not My Home
This world is not my home I'm just-a-passing through
My pleasure and my hopes are way beyond the blue
Many friends and loved ones have gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
Cho.: Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home oh Lord what will I do
The Angels beckon me to heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
Over in gloryland there'll be no dying there
The saints are shouting victory and singing everywhere
I hear the voice of those who've gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
My Lord's expecting me that's one thing I know
I fixed it up with Jesus a long time ago
He will take me through though I am weak and poor
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore
Author: na; Version: na
Lyrics provided courtesy of Bluegrass Lyrics.Com!
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
Meanwhile, we've entered a heat wave here in Kansas and, from what it looks like, most of the rest of the United States as well. We need a larger bird bath so I don't have to go out more than a couple of times a day to refresh it. I have two in the backyard and one in the front yard. The grackles, bluejays, and doves get in, many as three to four at a time, and splash out half the water soon after I've refilled it. This afternoon there were about two dozen grackles, doves, jays, sparrows, and finches all feeding together in the shade of the Autumn Blaze tree we planted a couple years ago. You know it's hot when different species of birds congregate together in the shade, hold their wings away from their bodies, and have their bills open.
Reminds me of how we spent our summers on the farm without air conditioning. After lunch we'd cease all our activities and read or take a nap. Mother would put a large square fan in an open window and pump up a bucket of cold water from the cistern. She would soak a clean gunny sack in the bucket, bring it up dripping and hang it on the outside of the window behind the fan. That was the closest we came to an air conditioner or a water cooler. Prior to doing that we'd carry pails of water to pour under the trees near the chicken house where the chickens had a cool spot to rest. The cattle would submerge themselves in the pond up to their stomachs. We probably poured some water under a few bushes so the dog and cats had a cool spot for their afternoon siesta. Our farm was a rather primitive operation during the fifties. The only running water we had was if we ran from the well with a pail of water in each hand like Jack and Jill. Needless to say, working on the farm kept us out of trouble.
Our son plays drums and percussion in a pop/rock band. They are recording a CD right now, and from what I've heard I'm impressed, especially with the drummer. They are also getting more gigs as people in their area get acquainted with them. This has been his dream for a long time. There's a link, "Son's Band," in the sidebar here. Click on it and have a listen.
I'm still losing weight, a pound at a time (one or two a week). Being 50 lbs. lighter feels so much better. Being lighter doesn't make a difference on the neuropathy pain in my hands and feet. But otherwise, I keep feeling better as I follow the healthy diabetic diet. It's frustrating not to be able to walk as much as I'd like. Never having learned to swim (I tried and sank like a rock) my fear of the water keeps me out of the pool, which would be the most ideal type of exercise. I must say I really enjoy taking up less space in the world. Another plus is that I don't sweat nearly as much as I used to in summer. A good life-change diet is the US pyramid diet. Here's a link if you want to start following it, if not to lose weight, than to start feeling better and being more healthy: http://www.mypyramid.gov
Is housework exciting? It can be, especially since I finally quit procastinating and started cleaning out the spare bedroom closet. Moved everything out, threw away, gave away and opened up enough space to put the cedar chest under the hanging clothes. At least now I know what's in there. There's more to go through but it's in containers that will take me just a few minutes when I have some extra time.
Our daughter and hubby are taking a few days vacation from the farm. I'm going to stay with our 16-month old granddaughter at their house. I'm looking forward to having lots of fun as our toddler is active and inquisitive. Yesterday when we visited she was playing ball with me. She went a few feet away and squatted like a catcher and pointed right to the spot between her feet and said, "Ball, ball." --put the ball right here. I think she's watched some of her cousins play softball. Is it just me, or is she a very smart and clever 16 month old?? I'm really enamoured with how observant she is of what we're doing and picks up on how to do everyday things we take for granted, but are a big growth step for her. She's great at imitating others which means we all have to watch what we do and say because we're always under observation. Her dad and mom said they're starting to spell words. Aha! I love it when that kind of history repeats itself.
The garden is finally producing. I planted four tomatoes and three hills of cucumbers. Some of the cukes were bitter until we started watering everyday. The plants certainly have taken off and if the heat doesn't kill them we'll have many more of the tasty burpless vegetable. Nothing is more delicious than fresh home-grown vegetables. Bought some sweet corn from a local farmer which are super eatin'. All too soon the summer will be over and wel'll be back to frozen or canned food. We like to make a cool salad with cut-up cucumbers and tomatoes. Mix in a little sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper to suit your taste and enjoy. Some people like to put cream with that, but I like it without. Others add some ranch dressing.
I'm so excited! As a lover of bluegrass music, I can never seem to get enough as there are few radio stations in our area that broadcast it. Our local college radio station plays bluegrass every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and one of the country/western stations sprinkles in a bluegrass song here and there. But now I found several bluegrass radio stations on the internet that I can listen to on the computer all day and all night long! Here's a link to one of the best: http://bluegrassradio.org/ Oh, wow, that good ole' bluegrass harmony with the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and bass accompaniment. The best bluegrass music, to me, is gospel. Many of the people who play and sing bluegrass music got their start singing as a family or in a church choir. But that's a whole other story for another time--how I grew up with music and finally got to sing and play bass in a bluegrass band.
I'd like to share the words of a favorite bluegrass song we used to sing. It's usually sung acappella. If I can find a recording of it on the net I'll put up a link.
Troubles and trials often betray us
Causing the weary body to stray
But we shall walk beside the still waters
With the good shepherd leading the way
Chorus: Going up home to live in green pastures
Where we shall live and die never more
Even the Lord will be in that number
When we have reached that heavenly shore
Those who have strayed were sought by the master
He who once gave his life for the sheep
Out on the mountain still He is searching
Bringing them in forever to keep
We will not heed the voice of a stranger
For he would lead us on to despair
Following on with Jesus our savior
We shall all reach that country so fair
Version: Stanley Brothers
"For we were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls." I Peter 2:25
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Isn't it something the way God planned life? He knew we had to start out as a baby. At what other age would our parents fall in love with us? Certainly not during our terrible twos or teens. Maybe at age 10, which is the age at which a "woman" best knows herself and is her most charming. By the time we reach the terrible twos our parents have fallen in love with us, putting up with the most atrocious behavior which makes them wonder why they wanted a child in the first place. But it's too late to give up by then. They remember the lovely baby who stole their love and who will now pull their heart-strings this way and that and use up their lives and livelihood until they reap the blessings in their children's children, and the circle of life starts all over again.
It amazes me how our granddaughter has such a well-developed character and personality by now. She has a delightful sense of humor and I never tire of playing with her and seeing her humor surface unexpectedly. She seems to know when she's being teased and gives me that know-it-all look that let's me know she's on to the game. She's having so much more fun since she started walking. Once she passed the first 30 steps and toddled off into the next room, her personality changed dramatically. She went from a somewhat whiney and clingy baby to running off laughing, leaving us behind, as if to say, "I'm a big girl now." Walking has given her a new-found confidence and happiness.
She's obsessed with balls. "Ball" was one of her most intelligible words out of her constant jabbering...and she loves to play with plastic balls of all sizes. She's also learned to scream. I was trying to teach her Mule Skinner Blues(a bluegrass song I used to sing from our band's repetoire), because I thought she already knew the yodeling part, and she enjoyed screaming it along with me. She tries to imitate my exaggerated sneezes, which throw her into giggles because I also lift my foot up when I do it; so she lifts up her foot and pretends to sneeze but so far all that comes out is a modified scream. She also knows bow-wow, moo, meow, da-da, papa (grandpa), quack, quack, but has forgotten how to say her name , though she said it months ago. Sometimes an almost-recognizable words slips through a sentence that sounds right, but isn't understandable. Her mother is teaching her sign language. That's the big rage now-a-days. She signs "more," "please," "drink," but also points and says, "huh," when signing doesn't work. It's a rather peculiar concept as I'm not sure what it accomplishes over the traditional way of teaching language. Time will tell, I s'pose.
This dear little granddaughter is a hugger. She reaches up to her parents and two sets of grandparents and snuggles cheek-to-cheek with her arms wrapped tightly around our neck. She's been doing this for months already. She'll hug anyone she's familiar with. Sometimes it seems to be a way for her to overcome her first shyness towards others. She'd rather hug than make eye contact. But I also think it's because she enjoys the feeling of love.
I generally go once a week to our daughter to help her out in whatever way I can and just to spend time together.. She's a busy farmer's wife and is struggling with quite a lot of normal pregnancy fatigue. While I'm there she works at getting caught up on accounting for the farm or goes grocery shopping. I often help with laundry, ironing, and washing dishes. This past Wednesday she took a two-hour nap while I played with my granddaughter and tried to get her down for a nap, to which she finally gave in just before Mama woke up. Though I'm often worn out by the end of the day, I can't think of a greater blessing than being a working mother and grandmother for a day.
Just as God gives us babies to fall in love with before we must walk them through all the difficult experiences of adolescence and the teen years, He gives us Spring and Fall so we don't fall out of love with the earth during summer and winter. I put out birdfeeders and birdbaths which provide us with a lot of entertainment. No need to turn on the TV or DVD. The birds, squirrels, and rabbits, are a moving picture of real life, a colorful diorama of how life works in its awesomeness and terribleness. We found a grackle floating in our little pool. I wonder if it was the one that was eager to take a bath in the pool and drowned himself in the process? Do his parents miss him? They're always so patient with the young who constantly follow them and beg loudly to be fed. The albino (white) squirrel that frequented our yard and was so entertaining the last couple years was found dead in the neighborhood a few weeks ago. I miss him. It's suspicious, or maybe just coincidental, that he showed up dead just a couple weeks after an amateur photographer published its picture in our local paper.
Thinking of living and being brings to mind Acts 17:28:
"for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'for we are also His offspring.' " (NKJV)He created the earth and everything in, and on, it for our benefit and enjoyment. How we care for ourselves, our homes, our earth, and how we relate to others around us is an outward expression of gratitude to our creator, God. Our earthly family is preparation for our heavenly family. We become light to those around us, especially our children and grandchildren, when we live in the light of our Creator as He teaches us in His word. That is how we pass on the lightness of being from generation to generation.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Last Sunday, Father's Day, our daughter and son-in-law told us they're expecting another baby in January! Our daughter and her husband are humorously creative. We were eating out, and I thought she had changed their daughter's clothes because the toddler had soiled herself. It took me awhile to notice that she was wearing a new t-shirt and when I finally read the words on the shirt it said, "I'm gonna be a big sister." Wow! That woke me up. A few weeks ago I thought my daughter's tummy was bulging a little and wondered if she was pregnant, but thought, "Naw," and let it go.
The Life Cycle
I think that the life cycle is all backwards. You should die
first, get it out of the way, then live twenty years in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You go to college...until you're ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a little kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating, and you finish off as a gleam in somebody's eye. -Bob Benson- (I've also heard this quoted by Christian comedian, Mark Lowry )
How do we do this grandparent thing? I find my thoughts alternating between joy and sadness. I remember how I met our granddaughter's birth with trembling and anxiety, unnecessarily of course. But with every grandchild, which I know are such a joy and blessing, comes the reality that we're growing older. I guess having grandchildren teaches us to grow older gracefully, huh?
Recently, I saw Dr Phil's show about people who are unable to let go of stuff, which enlightened me to some of the reasons I have trouble letting go. Letting go means we're growing older, we have to relinquish dreams and ideas because we just won't have the time to do all those things for which we've collected stuff. It's also difficult to let go of the past...some stuff connects us to people who have come and gone in our lives, and some to our youth when we were productive and anticipated a future we've now lost. I'm slowly getting deeper into my housecleaning project. It's been difficult since I'm such a sentimental old fool, but I'm trying to make it easier by first getting rid of the stuff I'm least emotionally attached to.
Why can't I be more single-minded and focused? It's just like me to try and take on more than one or two things at a time:
a new grandchild, ridding my life of junk, spending one day or afternoon a week with our daughter and granddaughter, volunteering at our church library which we're in the process of computerizing, wanting to read four or five books at a time.... Added to these are the fact that I have to balance and limit my time and energy because of chronic pain and diabetes. I want our home to be picked clean and ready to receive this new grandbaby. Most of all I desire and need a quiet time for Bible reading, meditation, and prayer to focus on what's important in this process called life. As I continue to create order in my inner house and our physical home, I know the when and how of other areas of my life will continue to fall into place. So, maybe my priorities and focus aren't as misplaced or chaotic as I sometimes feel they are.
Some people I know seem to have established the important routines of their lives early, and I wish I was one of them. I was efficiently organized when I was doing the mother role, but the empty nest syndrome, being unable to work, combined with learning to live with health problems blew my established routine to smithereens. Hopefully, with some hard work, I'll be able to create a comfortable routine as my husband and I approach retirement. Life is full of surprises and adjustments. I need to remember to be adaptable.
I opened a devotional book this morning that I checked out from the church library, Face to Face: praying the scripture for spiritual growth by Ken Boa, and popped it open to this verse from Is. 46:4
"Even to my old age, You are the same, O Lord, And even when my hair is gray, You will carry me. You have made me, and You will bear me. You will sustain me, and You will deliver me."What a comfort those words are at just the time I need them. Through every stage of my life God has been, and always will be, with me. What a harvest of comfort and encouragement there is to be found in the Bible. I'm still amazed after all these years of placing my faith and trust in God, how He watches over me by providing just the right words, people, and thoughts to help me through times of joy or difficulties.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Of course, I did plenty of coasting when I was younger. I just kind of let life carry me along without thinking too much about my spiritual growth and what plans God had for me, my marriage and family, community, world. Truth be, I can hardly get beyond myself some days, feeling like I'm treading water. One of the places where God speaks to me most is through finances. All my life, having "enough money" has been a real struggle.
I grew up in a home with parents who worked hard to provide shelter, food, and clothing for our family of five siblings. We never starved thanks to mom's beautiful garden and her ability to put food into jars and freezer. Dad provided meat and milk from cows, pigs, chickens (actually the chickens were my mom's project), and he got the most he could out of cash crops planted, cultivated, and harvested in summer. It was a perfect set-up in the 1940's and 1950's. Finally, in the mid 1960's, when the youngest of us five, that being me, graduated from high school there wasn't reason to try and scrabble a living out of 80 acres. Dad and Mom were getting older and farms were getting bigger. Dad could no longer both farm and work off the farm, as he had for many years, to make ends meet. Most everything was auctioned off (including some things I wish we had kept--like Mom's treadle sewing machine which taught me to sew) and Dad and Mom moved to a small, but bustling, farming town 20 miles from where we all grew up.
I set my sights on going to college, and endured one semester of a four-year liberal arts school, long enough to meet some friends and my husband. I wanted to major in music, but my advisor advised against it, unless I wanted to teach...which I didn't. Being a free spirit, studying wasn't one of my favorite things to do. I transferred to business school where I lived in a boarding house and shared a room with another student who is still my best friend after 42 years. My husband-to-be courted me driving me an hour back to Brown-Mackie Business School in Salina, Kansas so I could resume my secretarial studies for the week. I studied from January to October of 1965 and quit just short of receiving my secretarial certificate. I got through accounting class, but learning to do income tax was a bit too taxing for my free-spirit. Besides, my best friend left to get married, and my dating relationship was getting more serious. I took state boards which I passed and was offered a good job (in those days $5/hr. was pretty good money) at Fort Riley, but decided to move back home to take a job at the local hospital as a receptionist. That December I got engaged, and felt like the luckiest person in the world. At that time all my prayers were being answered.
Secretarial and receptionist jobs kept me happily working for several years. With both my husband and I working for the first nine years of our marriage we did well. We also had a small business my husband inherited from his parents. We didn't have to buy a house as my husband's widowed mother moved to an apartment and we lived in the house my husband grew up in. I always hoped I would finish my education, if not in the business field, then some other area, ranging from dreams of being a social worker to librarian. But most of all I wanted to be a writer, and did take writing classes and succeeded at getting printed when I took the time to write.
I finally did get a job as a library clerk, after our son and daughter were both in middle and high school. I loved that job for 12 years. By then my husband, who had lost another of several businesses, was working out of an office an hour away from our little agricultural town, which was economically challenged. He was doing a lot of driving as a sales representative for a home improvement company. We decided to move closer to his office in Wichita.
Since then, it's been touch-and-go. My parents passed away in 1986 and 1989 and I inherited $10,000 which instead of investing I spent on what, I don't remember. My mother-in-law is still living at 102 years old. The income she saved and social security that she made as a registered nurse is running low due to assisted living expenses, and if she keeps adding on the years, we probably won't inherit much of anything. Perhaps her remaining farm that our son-in-law is working will outlast her.
Our daughter and her farmer husband have given us a beautiful granddaughter with another baby due in January. It can be a wonderful life when I trust God to be with me through thick and thin, even when He chooses to withhold financial blessings. Admittedly, we're not very good stewards which is why we probably haven't known we've been blessed when we were.
The stresses have taken a toll on my health: I'm now tryng to learn spiritual lessons through diabetes and the chronic, daily, pain of neuropathy. God, where do I go from here, is my daily prayer, trying to remember to be grateful for what we DO have.
The words of an old song come to mind today:
"How many times have you heard someone say,
If I had his money I'd do things my way.
But little they know that it's so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind...
"Cause money can't buy back your youth when you're old
Or a friend when you're lonesome, or a love that's grown cold.
And the wealthiest person is a pauper at times,
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind."
~Author unknown, sung by Porter Waggoner
So I look to God to satisfy my mind, and grow me spiritually. He has given me the daily challenge of finding contentment in other people, places, nature, rather than money. Somedays I'm doing fine, other days I'm not doing so great. How about you?
"And he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Cor. 12:9 (KJV)
"I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours." Mark 11:24 (NLT)
Where is my belief? God help my unbelief.