Archive | May 2012

Remembering My Mom – and Yesterday’s Sermon – on Memorial Day

My earliest memory of Memorial Day is going to the cemetery with my mom to put flowers on the graves of my grandparents. I remember asking her, “Why are we putting flowers on their graves? They weren’t soldiers.” And she responded, “Memorial Day is for remembering everyone we love who has died.”

Letter my mom sent to me 35 years ago

With that conversation in my mind this week, I went to a box full of old letters – correspondence that my mom had kept dating back to the 1920’s. I had wanted to share some letters between my mom and her brother in this week’s blog, but I guess the letters I’m thinking of are in another box. Instead, I came across a letter my mom had sent me, postmarked October 6, 1977, only 35 years ago. Mim and I lived in Chicago at the time. As I re-read this letter yesterday, I gained new insights into my mom’s attitude toward life, particularly in the context of the sermon I had just heard in church earlier in the day.

In the sermon, our pastor quoted Helen Keller. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

My mom wrote this letter when she was 69 and my dad was 73. The letter is a snapshot of their normal routine in their retirement.

Tuesday p.m., October 4, 1977

Dear Marian,

It’s so long since I’ve written to you I had to look up your address – isn’t that awful? … Last week we had special meetings at church every night – and he preached about 1-1/2 hours each night, so we got home around 10. The week before was prayer meetings in homes every night. And we did get awfully tired.

I thought this week we could relax a little. Ha! Sunday we went to Richland Center [to visit a retired pastor in a nursing home] – got there in time to go to church. Got home about dark. Monday morning Nancy [my sister] and I went to the woods to pick hickory nuts. In the afternoon I made the deposit [my mom was church treasurer] and then dug carrots and juiced 4 pints of juice, and pulled weeds. This morning I went to a Women’s Aglow breakfast in Fort. This afternoon Stella Jarlsberg and I went to Verona to see Stella Lillesand [in a nursing home]. Tonight I’m going to get Sally and take her to the Women’s Society (I have to help her dress) to hear about Dagmar’s travels [a retired missionary]. Tomorrow I take Donna and her baby to Milwaukee to visit her sister who is expecting a baby any time. Thursday morning I take Sally to get her hair fixed. Thursday afternoon we are probably going to Stoughton to help look for a car for Danny [my brother]. Friday I may take Sally to Madison to the Eye Clinic so she can order another pair of glasses. Friday afternoon Nancy’s 4 kids come for the weekend. (My blood pressure is rising just writing this – maybe I’d better quit!) I do have to go now, but at least I got a start. Will finish it later…

Wednesday a.m.

Didn’t get home until 10:15 and then I didn’t feel like writing. Now I have half an hour before we go to Milwaukee… Daddy just came in now. I told him not to talk so I can finish this. But I guess I ask the impossible.

Wednesday p.m.

Well, we went to Milwaukee today – left at 10 and got home about 5. Then I went out and harvested some garden as it is supposed to freeze hard tonight. I picked some little tomatoes (red) for you. Are you coming to get them?

Sally called me tonight that she has an appointment to see a skin specialist on the Square in Madison (she had skin cancer once) on Friday at 11 a.m. So we’ll go there and the Eye Clinic. Evy Fossum is going along to help her as I know there’ll be parking problems. Then I have to take Evy to Fort when we get home to see her mother who is in the hospital…

Thursday a.m.

It’s morning but I don’t have time to write more as I want to mail this. Daddy wants to go to Stoughton this morning before I pick up Sally. I got dinner in the oven – scalloped potatoes and meatloaf…

You should see the flies upstairs – hundreds! So I’ve got to clean up there today.

Next week I have Reading Circle here – we’re reading The Bible and the Bermuda Triangle.

See you soon, I hope.

Lots of Love,

Mother

My mom didn’t have a spectacular ministry, but she did what she knew she could do to help meet the needs of the people in her life. What a model for us to remember on Memorial Day.

As Mim and I walked Abbey this morning, we walked by the gazebo at Whispering Winds to check on the robins that hatched last week. The robin parents were out gathering breakfast for their babies, and the babies were eagerly awaiting their return. The adult robins aren’t going to change the world, but they can keep their babies fed. We all have our own ministries.

Hungry baby robins in their nest near the gazebo at Whispering Winds

Being Thankful Today – not just on Thanksgiving

Today’s about as far from Thanksgiving as you can be in a year, but I want to talk about being thankful anyway. Being thankful was on my mind a lot last week.

On Thursday, I went to the county jail again to play the piano for the women inmate’s worship service. During the testimony time, one of the women talked about how blessed she felt and how thankful she was. She was back in jail because she had been caught drinking while she was out on probation. She had made a dumb mistake, and she was sorry. But what bothered her most was that her daughter who was in college was extremely angry at her for messing up. Her daughter wasn’t about to forgive her for making this mistake. The mother had been praying for her daughter and had been praying that they could be reconciled. The inmate was delighted to report that God had answered her prayer. Her daughter had sent her a wonderful, loving Mother’s Day card. She was ready to forgive her mother. The mother couldn’t be more thankful. God had heard and answered her prayer. Her daughter had forgiven her. And her daughter wanted her to know that she loved her. She was overflowing with thankfulness.

Also on Thursday, my partner Mim told me about a new book she had just started reading, Living Life as a Thank You: The Transformative Power of Daily Gratitude (copyright © 2009 by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons, Viva Editions). The book is all about having an attitude of being thankful every day in all things.

Friday morning visitor on the deck of our condo.

On Friday morning, I looked out on our deck and saw my favorite kind of bird, a goldfinch, about 18 inches from the patio door. I took this picture through the window. What a great way to start the day! Last week had been a hard week for me because of Mim staying at Whispering Winds for a little getaway, leaving me in charge of our resident (with major assistance from our caregivers Kathy and Nancy). Nonetheless, it was considerable responsibility and stress added on top of my normal routines. Seeing my favorite bird on the deck was a bright spot, a special treat to be thankful for. I was also thankful that there were no crises to deal with when I was in charge.

On Saturday, I spent time working outside at Whispering Winds. I picked the asparagus (yes, it’s still coming), and I started the huge, unending task of weeding some of the flower beds around the house. But the best part was enjoying a beautiful day. It was hot, but there was a gentle breeze. The roses are bursting open, especially in the old-fashioned shrub rose bed. I took a few pictures with my cell phone to show you what it looks like at Whispering Winds these days. Too bad I couldn’t capture the smell with the camera – these are the fragrant roses. Not hard to remember to be thankful on Saturday!

This really is the place to take time to smell the roses. These old-fashioned shrub roses are the fragrant kind.

When I told Mim I was writing this blog, she said there’s a really good poem in the book that I might want to share with you. Here it is.

WEATHER REPORT
by BJ Gallagher

“Any day I’m vertical
is a good day”
– that’s what I always say.
And I give thanks
that I’m healthy.
If you ask me,
“How are you?”
I’ll answer, “GREAT!”
because in saying so,
I make it so.
And I give thanks
that I can choose my attitude.
When Life gives me dark clouds and rain,
I appreciate the moisture
which brings a soft curl to my hair.
When Life gives me sunshine,
I gratefully turn my face up
to feel its warmth on my cheeks.
When Life brings fog,
I hug my sweater around me
and give thanks for the cool shroud of mystery
that makes the familiar seem different and intriguing.
When Life brings snow,
I dash outside to catch the first flakes on my tongue,
relishing the icy miracle that is a snowflake.
Life’s events and experiences
are like the weather –
they come and go,
no matter what my preference.
So, what the heck?!
I might as well decide to enjoy them.
For indeed,
there IS a time for every purpose
under Heaven.
Each season brings its own unique blessings.
And I give thanks.

© BJ Gallagher 2009

(Note: You can learn more about this poet, speaker, and prolific author from her website, http://www.bjgallagher.com.)

The wild cranberry bush in bloom in front of Whispering Winds. This bush provides lots of red berries that the hearty birds are thankful for all winter long.

Upcoming Retreat at Whispering Winds: “Wrinkles Don’t Hurt”

There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it.
For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.
[Author unknown]

Guest blog post by Pastor and Spiritual Director Joan Gunderman

It is not difficult to talk and joke with friends about growing old, but how often do we have conversations with others about meaning, where we can honestly share our wisdom and peace, our fears and doubts, our faith, and the unique humor that comes from a lifetime of experience among that curious species, human beings.

Between myths about aging, and the worship of youth in our culture (not of kids themselves, but of the appearance of youth), many of us resist, and even fear, aging and, subsequently, dying.  Just look at the ads pitched our way: expensive hair dye to hide the gray because “I’m worth it!”; creams, salves, pills, diets, even surgery to make our well-earned wrinkles magically disappear; and how about the current trend of “60 is the new 40!”

Much of this seems so ironic to me.  Not just as a little girl, but even as a young adult,  I loved my grandma’s wrinkles!  She had lovely wrinkles that actually lit up her face, revealing a lifetime of smiles, warmth, and love.  I honestly didn’t look upon her countenance and think, “Wow she’s old.”  When I looked at her face, I saw love, grace, and the beauty of a life being lived well.  I don’t know exactly when or how I was taught that wrinkles were ugly betrayers of the fact that we were no longer young (as if that is bad?), but every time I head that way, I think of my grandma.

For many people the midlife years and beyond are a time of both reflection and discovery,  presenting opportunities for deep and meaningful spiritual growth.  In our retreat on Saturday we will look at the unique gifts that aging provides in terms of our spirituality — how we view ourselves, our lives, our world, and God.  I hope you’ll join me!

Saturday, May 26, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
$50 includes retreat and lunch
To register for the retreat, CALL 608.212.6197. 

Whispering Winds Retreat Haven

Am I really defined by my possessions?

Marian on her “mini-truck.” Mim’s Matrix and Marian’s Camry in the background.

Several days ago Mim learned about the need for a $2,300 repair on her 2003 Toyota Matrix. We briefly considered whether or not it was getting to be time to replace the car, and quickly concluded that now is not the time for us to pay for a new car.

Today I hope to clean up my “mini-truck” – my tricycle – from its winter’s rest in the garage at Whispering Winds. It’s time to start pedaling back and forth between the farmhouse and the condo. I have mixed feelings about that. My mini-truck is handy for carrying groceries, laundry, and odds and ends back and forth the scant mile between the two places. It’s cheaper and environmentally more responsible than taking the car. And it’s good exercise for me. BUT, I still feel like a funny old lady riding my 3-wheeler.

My brother Dan on his sporty tricycle, with his dogs.

Ironically, my brother has a 3-wheeler, too, which he rides with pride. His 3-wheeler is a hyper-cool recumbent trike. Dan bikes frequently for good exercise and fresh air. A couple years ago he had back surgery, which resulted in him being unable to safely ride a traditional bike. One of those low recumbent 3-wheelers is perfect for him. His is the “flashy sports car” of adult tricycles. Mine is the “strictly functional pick-up truck.” Not that we’re competing for who is “coolest.”

That brings me back to cars. The first car I ever got was a 1963 Corvair that my parents bought for me for $600 in 1966 when I turned 18. I needed a car to drive back and forth to Madison for my summer job.  The Corvair was functional and cheap. I got exactly what I needed.

1963 Corvair – engine in back, trunk in front.

During my college years, I traded cars with my brother when he got married so that he could drive the cheap and functional Corvair and I would get his 11-mile per gallon sporty Pontiac LeMans. I let it sit in the garage during the school year and just drove it to work in the summers. Even with gas costing $0.30 a gallon back then, it was still too expensive to drive much, so after a year or two my dad traded the car in on a brand new Corvair for me.  It was the perfect car for my dad, but not for me. It was completely functional, without even an ounce wasted on beauty or comfort.

Over the past 45 years I’ve had 10 cars. I’ve really liked only one of those cars. It was a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass. It’s the only car I ordered from a dealer, specifying exactly what I wanted on the car – everything down to the number of speeds on the windshield wipers. It was a beautiful and comfortable car. I was proud to drive it. It was the perfect car for me – except it was a lemon. Almost everything that could go wrong with a car mechanically happened to that car.

1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass – the only car I ever liked.

After just a few years of equal parts enjoyment and frustration, I traded it in on a practical car, an intermediate-size Oldsmobile without a hint of sportiness. It was comfortable enough, but it was just a functional car. Nothing more. It had as much style as my old Corvair. Or my 3-wheeled mini-truck. I was a little embarrassed to drive such an old-lady car.

Today I drive a 2003 Toyota Camry, another old lady car. But at least it’s comfortable and doesn’t need a $2,300 repair.

I spent about an hour “window-shopping” on the Internet last week to see what cars might be a good fit to replace Mim’s Matrix, to help Mim find a car that would meet our transportation needs, reflect our values, and not clash with our personalities. Fortunately, I didn’t have to window-shop long before I concluded that spending $2,300 on a car repair doesn’t clash nearly as much as spending tens of thousands of dollars on a new car would.

So, with all this reflection on my lifetime of cars, including my 3-wheeled, muscle-powered mini-truck, am I really afraid that my possessions define me to the world – my car and my tricycle in particular? Do I think that people will assume I am a funny old lady because I ride an adult tricycle with a big basket in the back? Do I care what they think?

Obviously, I must care somewhat by the fact that I’m talking about it on this blog. I can’t deny that reality. But that raises a much bigger question: How much of what I do is controlled by what I perceive people will think about me, rather than what I personally think, or what I believe to be God’s perspective on the matter?

Do you ever think about which of your possessions define you to the world? What possessions or daily activities shout out who you really are? Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting on this blog post. I’m curious to read what you think.

Without a doubt, Dan’s dogs think his tricycle is more fun than mine. But I can carry a lot more groceries on mine.

 

Summer Small Group Opportunities at Whispering Winds… Starting this month!

 

 

 

Joan Gunderman will be leading two small groups at Whispering Winds this summer. I asked her to tell us about these groups in today’s blog post.

“Great Reads”

3rd Mondays, May-October, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

The Whispering Winds front porch is a comfortable gathering space, the perfect spot to watch the sun setting over corn fields.

Are you someone who enjoys discussing a good book with others who have read it, too?   You’ll have a series of opportunities to do so, reading and discussing books with a spiritual bent, monthly from May through October at Whispering Winds.  Both fiction and non-fiction will be in the mix.  You can sign up for all of them, or for one at a time.  $10 per evening covers our modest expenses and yummy dessert (Whispering Winds style!). I will choose the first three reads, and the readers will join me in selecting the remaining three, from your suggestions.  Here are the first three:

May 21 – Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos

Imaginary Jesus is an hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing. On his wild ride through time, space, and Portland, Oregon, he encounters hundreds of other Imaginary Jesuses determined to stand in his way (like Legalistic Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus, and Magic 8 Ball Jesus). But Matt won’t stop until he finds the real Jesus—and finally gets an answer to the question that’s haunted him for years.

June 18 – Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now, by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, one of the best-loved authors of our time, shares the wisdom of a remarkable life in this best-selling spiritual classic. This is Maya Angelou talking from the heart, down to earth and real, but also inspiring. This is a book to treasured, a book about being in all ways a woman, about living well, about the power of the word, and about the power of spirituality to move and shape your life. Passionate, lively, and lyrical, Maya Angelou’s unforgettable work offers a gem of truth on every page.

July 16 – Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish, by Sue Bender

“I had an obsession with the Amish. Plain and simple. Objectively it made no sense. I, who worked hard at being special, fell in love with a people who valued being ordinary.”

So begins Sue Bender’s story, the captivating and inspiring true story of a harried urban Californian moved by the beauty of a display of quilts to seek out and live with the Amish. Discovering lives shaped by unfamiliar yet comforting ideas about time, work, and community, Bender is gently coaxed to consider, “Is there another way to lead a good life?”

On nice summer evenings the small group may meet on the front porch.

Heeding a persistent inner voice, Bender searches for Amish families willing to allow her to visit and share in their daily lives. Plain and Simple vividly recounts sojourns with two Amish families, visits during which Bender enters a world without television, telephone, electric light, refrigerators, or computers; a world where clutter and hurry are replaced with inner quiet and calm ritual; a world where a sunny kitchen “glows” and “no distinction was made between the sacred and the everyday.”

Join me in a lovely and thought-provoking read.

Spiritual Formation Group

3rd Tuesday, May-October, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  (Psalm 63:1)

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)

Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. Lord, teach me to know and understand (St. Augustine, 354-430 AD)

Deepening our connection with God, deepening our connection with our own soul, getting to know who we really are as a child of God, and following our God-led path, brings the greatest joy in life. [paraphrased from Ruth Fishel, author of Time for Joy.]  It has been a point of longing from as early as the Psalms (and earlier), through the time of Jesus himself, the early church, and still today.  Worship and church work take us part of the way, but more and more people are realizing they are hungry to meet and know the gracious and loving God/Christ/Spirit dwelling within them.

Spiritual formation is a sacred journey, not a destination, and has everything to do with the richness of life — your own life, and the life of the world God loves.  It is not navel-gazing for our own sake.  It is the rich soil from which trust, humility, peace, contentment, healthy relationships, and loving as Jesus loves grow.  It is a truly amazing journey!

Or, if the mosquitoes try to join us, the Gazebo is another great meeting space.

We will meet six times, reading and discussing together the book Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, by Marjorie J. Thompson.  It’s a classic and continuing favorite.

The registration for the spiritual formation series is $50. Even if you know you’ll have to miss one (or two at the most) feel free to register anyway.  We give and receive the most when we commit ourselves to one another and to gathering together each month.

Note for both “Great Reads” and Spiritual Formation participants: I have checked Amazon.com out for all of the books listed here.  They are all available and, if you’re willing to consider “Used – Like New” or “Used – Very Good” you can get some very good deals.  (This is what I do most of the time!)

To register for the “Great Reads” small group or the Spiritual Formation Group, call 608.212.6197 or email mariankorth@gmail.com.