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Another Perspective on CLARK

Clark KornelsonLast week’s post, “CLARK – One of the best and worst guests in my life” was one of the most looked-at posts in my almost five years of blogging. Typically from 40 to 80 people look at my blog on the first day of a post, usually a Tuesday. The next day, about half that. Then it gradually tapers down until the next Tuesday, when I post again. All together, on average, each post is viewed by between 100 and 200 people during the first week, sporadically after that. For last Tuesday’s post, Whispering Winds had 156 views on the first day. The next day there were 113 views. By this morning, after seven days, there have been 407 views. I think this might have set a new record for my weekly blog. But more significantly, this response tells me that Clark influenced a lot of lives, and many of these people still care about him 12 years after his death.

The gist of last week’s post was that my brother-in-law, Clark Kornelsen, was a challenging person in my life. There was very little that we saw eye-to-eye on, but because we were family, we needed to get along. We were two imperfect souls doing the best we could. In retrospect, we were good for each other – which undoubtedly is why God provided us the opportunity to interact with each other so much. It was God’s way of helping both of us grow to be kinder people.

I was very careful when I wrote last week’s post to try not to offend anyone who knew Clark, especially his children, my niece and nephews. My purpose in the post was not to criticize their dad, but rather to share how God sometimes uses difficult relationships for everyone’s benefit. I was pretty sure many people could identify with having to deal with challenging relationships.

Family Portrait 12-25-02

Clark and Nancy with their kids and grandkids – Christmas 2002

The first reader comment I received on this post – just a few minutes after posting it – was from a regular reader, someone whom I have never met but is a friend of a friend. Betsy wrote, “You, and God, touched my heart this morning Marian. Thank you.” That made me feel good about writing the post, even if I was taking a chance that I might offend someone. I guess it made me feel it was worth the risk.

A few minutes later another regular reader commented – someone else I have never met. Claudia is a cousin of Clark’s who lives in California. On Facebook she wrote, “I did not realize that is your connection to my family. I know my cousin Mardelle absolutely adored her brother Clark!”

Oops! I wondered if Claudia felt she needed to defend her cousin’s reputation after reading my blog post. She and Clark’s sister Mardelle were very good friends. Perhaps she thought I was being too critical of Clark. (Mardelle, who passed away a couple years ago, had been an avid reader and frequent commenter on my blog.)

Later that day Mary, a college friend of mine, posted a comment on the blog. “The fall of 1968 Clark & Nancy hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving celebration for Wheaton student Jeannie Cardiff in their home & I was invited. At dinner that night Clark asked about my grad. plans & my interest in missions, & then suggested that I contact Greater Europe Mission re: their summer short term programs. That brief conversation resulted in my leaving with GEM for Germany 10 days after graduation (June 1969) as a summer worker, then extending to teach the next school year at the German Bible Institute. The lessons learned in my walk with the LORD that year have framed my outlook on the world, its desperate need for the Gospel, & living a Gospel-centered life. God’s faithfulness continues & Clark (as an instrument in the LORD’s hand) was a pivotal part of it.”

I hadn’t thought about that Canadian Thanksgiving hosted by Nancy and Clark for some of my Wheaton friends in over 40 years. It was fun to remember that evening, even though the memory may have been prompted by Mary trying to redeem Clark’s reputation from my blog.

Between Facebook and the blog itself, there were lots of reader comments last week, many more than usual. These comments confirmed for me one of the key messages in “The Monastic Way” devotional readings by Joan Chittister for this month. The entry for last Thursday, February 18, was:

It is not so much that what we see we must see correctly. Instead, we must remember that most of what we see, we see because of the filters we wear while we look at it. “Persons,” Laura Ingalls Wilder says of the situation, “appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.”

The filters I use when I remember Clark, and the filters Claudia and Mary use, are different. In all cases, Clark was a significant person in our lives. Based on the number of comments on last week’s blog post, Clark was a significant and positive influence on many lives. We just all saw him a little differently. We all saw Clark – as we see everyone – from our own perspective.

Clark - Terry on shoulders

Clark and his first son Terry going for a walk – with Clark “heightening” Terry’s perspective of the world.

 

Amen, Papa, Amen.

My mom used to tell the story about one of her best childhood friends, Ruth Eckblad. Ruth’s father was pastor of the Willerup Methodist Church in Cambridge, Wisconsin for a few years in the early 1900s. One day when Ruth was a little girl, she got tired of sitting in church and being quiet for what seemed to be an awfully long time. Finally she stood up on the pew and said loudly enough for her father who was at the pulpit preaching (and the whole congregation) to hear, “Amen, Papa, Amen.”

1930s Willerup Preacher

Inside Willerup Methodist Church in the early 1900s.

Mom told that story often enough that “Amen, Papa, Amen” became a family expression that meant, “That’s enough for now. Let’s move on to something else.”

Well, it’s about that time of the year to say, “Amen, Papa, Amen” to 2015 and to welcome a new year.

Near to the Heart of GodLast Sunday’s hymn in the devotional book, Near to the Heart of God: Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns was “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” composed by Peter C. Lutkin. As you read the words  below, I’m sure many of you who have been members of church choirs will hear this benediction being sung in your mind as a beautiful choir anthem, especially the 7-fold Amen at the end.

The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord lift His countenance upon you,
And give you peace, and give you peace;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you,
And be gracious, and be gracious;
The Lord be gracious, gracious unto you.
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.

The reflection for the day was on benedictions. The word benediction was defined as a “Latin-based term meaning a concluding prayer of blessing.” The author, Robert J. Morgan, cited several different benedictions given in the Bible. His favorite benediction is from Hebrews 13:20-21, “May the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will.” (NIV) His wife’s favorite is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Jeff VandenHeuvel - cropped

Pastor Jeff at Messiah

My favorite benediction is the one Pastor Jeff says at the end of every service at Messiah:

May God go before you to guide you;
Be behind you to encourage you;
Above you to watch over you:
And beneath you to support you.
But may you discover the presence of God within you,
And know that God will always be your friend.
Amen.

As I was drafting this blog post, Floey came up to me and asked, “What are you doing, Mom?”

“I’m writing my blog post, and it’s kind of a benediction as we move on from 2015 and into a new year.” I read to her what I’d written so far.

Floey sitting - profile cropped“I like that, Mom. It’s good to think about God blessing us as we move into a new year. I especially like Pastor Jeff’s benediction. I like being reminded that God is guiding me, encouraging me, watching over me, supporting me, being within me, and being my friend.”

“Yes. Isn’t it comforting to know that God is with us as we begin the new year,” I replied.

“It sure is, Mom. I was going to offer to help you write your blog this week, but you’re almost done. Can I blog with you next week? I want to blog about our special words for 2016. I’m so excited. I can hardly wait to tell you what my new word is. You’ll never guess it.”

“Great! We’ll work on it together next week. I’ve chosen my special word for 2016, too. We’ll check with Mim to find out her new word, and we’ll reveal them to everyone next week!”

Meanwhile, it’s time to move on to something else – just about time to begin our New Year! Amen, Papa, Amen!

Floey-Marian 12-29-15 cropped

 

 

 

Why in the World do I keep writing blog posts?

Floey sitting - profile croppedWhen I sat down at my computer to draft this blog post, my dog Floey came up to me, sat down, looked up and asked, “Hey, Mom. Why in the world do you keep writing blog posts? Just think about how much time we would have for walks if you didn’t do all this writing.”

I thought a minute before responding. Then I said, “You know, Floey, I’ve been thinking about that very question myself. My original purpose for creating www.WhisperingWindsBlog.com was to use it as a marketing tool to spread the word about Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. In order to get people to read the blog and think about coming to Whispering Winds for a retreat, I wrote about everyday happenings in my own life, things that prompted me to think that God really cares about us and is involved in our lives in many different ways. Over the past five years, I’ve built up a regular following of readers. Obviously, I no longer need to convince people to come to Whispering Winds for a retreat. It’s no longer in operation. So why do I keep writing?”

“Yup. That’s the question, Mom. Why do you bother to keep up the Whispering Winds Blog?” Floey looked hopeful that I might really give it up and go for a walk right now. But I wanted to think this through out loud with Floey before I grabbed her leash to go for a walk, so I continued.

Marian - 5th grade

Me as a 5th grader

“I’ve always liked to write. I remember one of the earliest personal essays I wrote was entitled, “I am a Little Mouse with Great Big Eyes.” I was in fifth grade when I was given the assignment to write a story. My mom gave me the idea to pretend I was a mouse in the schoolhouse and to write about all the strange things I saw. My teacher (Mrs. Borgerud – who 50 years later lived with us as an assisted living resident) liked the story so much she read it to the class. She could hardly read parts of it because she was laughing so hard. That was enough positive reinforcement for me to decide I really liked to write.”

“Wow. That sounds like a good story, Mom. Can you read it to me?” Floey looked at me expectantly.

“No, I’m afraid I can’t, Floey. My mom kept the story in the bottom drawer of the chest of drawers in her closet, where she kept all my school pictures, but somehow it got lost when we emptied the farmhouse to remodel it in the late 1900s.

Marian HS Graduation pic

Me as a high school senior

“But, back to writing, I even liked to do term papers. In junior high and high school I loved choosing a topic and going to the librarian for help in finding as many as a dozen books to study on the topic. One year in high school I wrote about the life, values, and influence of Sir Walter Raleigh for a term paper for my English class. Somehow, I convinced my mom that I needed to stay home from school for a day or two to complete my research and write the paper. I can still see myself sitting at the dining room table writing it well past midnight. Mom took all those handwritten pages to work the next day to type it for me – 12 pages typed – so I could turn it in the following day when it was due. My English teacher read that paper to the class, too, but no one laughed. I think a couple kids dozed off, but the teacher really liked it. He gave me an A.”

Floey interrupted my musings to say, “I don’t think you should have gotten an A if your paper put people to sleep.”

“Fortunately, my teacher didn’t agree with you. Anyway, I think maybe the real reason I started my blog five years ago was that I just like to write, and Whispering Winds gave me a reason to write. When the retreat center went on hiatus a few years ago, I justified keeping up the blog because we might reopen Whispering Winds sometime, and I wanted to keep my readers as prospective guests. Now that we sold the farmhouse, I know we won’t reopen Whispering Winds. Maybe I should stop writing the blog… That’s something I’ve been mulling over for the last few weeks as 2015 is coming to its end.

The Monastic Way“But then I started to read the December issue of The Monastic Way. I’ve been reading The Monastic Way, a monthly pamphlet written by Joan Chittister, for about four years. I saw the pamphlet for the first time when I was in the jail chapel playing the piano for the women’s worship service. The chaplain offered a pamphlet to me. I took it home, read the daily readings for that month, and then went online and subscribed to it. I think Joan Chittister writes the pamphlet primarily for inmates. It’s designed to be a thought-provoking devotional tool, regardless of one’s religious background.”

“I like The Monastic Way, too, Mom. I usually read it over your shoulder every morning,” Floey added.

“For the first couple years I read it, Floey, Chittister chose a painting for the front flap of the pamphlet. Each daily reading consisted of one or two sentences to help readers understand the meaning behind the painting and to help apply the artist’s message personally. Since 2014, Chittister has replaced the painting with a quotation to examine. This month’s quotation is one of my favorites. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. [Teilhard de Chardin]

“In this month’s introduction to the quotation, Chittister writes:

It’s then [in the final third of life] that we begin to understand that life has been more about the shaping of the spirit than it has been the accumulation of things. It’s then that we finally come to know that it has been about our inner selves – our generous souls, our happy hearts, our loving relationships, our worthwhile work, successful or not – rather than our public status, that life has been about all along…. It is, in the end, who and what we have become spiritually in life that finally, ultimately, counts.

Listening for God FRONT“Writing my blog is something that helps me keep that perspective on life. As Teilhard de Chardin says, We are spiritual beings… To be sure I have something to write about every week, my mind is constantly on the lookout for signs in life that may be helpful for the development of my spiritual being. The title of my first book, Listening for God: 52 Reflections on Everyday Life, really defines what I’m doing with my blog. The book is simply a compilation of 52 blog posts selected from the first year and a half of my blog. For five years I’ve been consciously Listening for God, to be sure I’m hearing what God may be saying to me, and then sharing those insights on the blog. I don’t want to stop writing my blog mainly because I don’t want to stop Listening for God. Without the commitment to post something to the blog every week, I’m afraid I might get lax about Listening for God.

“I can understand that,” Floey interjected. “You always seem so busy I can see how you could forget to think about what God might be saying to you if you didn’t have to write about something every week.”

“God has given me a love of writing, Floey. Following that passion is critical to the development of my spiritual being. WhisperingWindsBlog.com is no longer a marketing tool. It’s a by-product of my spiritual journey. As long as it continues to contribute to my spiritual growth, I’ll continue to write posts.”

Floey-Marian faces selfie“I think I see,” responded Floey. “I guess that means I should go take a nap. We aren’t going for a walk just yet.”

“I’m afraid you’re right, Floey. But we’ll take time for one later. Sometimes that’s where God shows us new things to think about and write about.”

Playtime… Big Time!

Floey lying beside desk - adj 2

Floey beside my desk, helping me with my blog post.

I was sitting at my desk and Floey was lying on the floor in her usual spot, between me and the patio door. “Well, Floey. It’s been a whole week now. What should we tell our blog readers about your play date with your litter mates last Tuesday evening?”

Frannie with her moms Bonnie and Heidi

Frannie with her moms Bonnie and Heidi

“Wow! Mom, I had the time of my life! You know that. We were the first ones at the dog park, and oh what fun it was to run around inside the fenced area all by myself! I wished you had remembered to bring a tennis ball for me to chase, but at least we found some rings, and they worked fine, even if they didn’t bounce.”

“But we didn’t have to wait alone more than about five minutes before your sister Frannie came with her two moms – Bonnie and Heidi,” I responded.

“Oh, yeah. I couldn’t believe it when I saw Frannie again. She looks a lot like me, except she’s somewhat smaller, isn’t she, Mom, and she has short hair. As soon as we sniffed each other we started to race, just like we did on the Indian Reservation when we were little pups. She’s the only dog I know who’s almost as fast as me.”

I laughed at that. “I took a picture that shows Frannie running ahead of you, Floey. Don’t you think that may mean she is actually faster than you?”

“Not really, Mom. We just took turns being in the lead. Oh, it was so much fun to run so fast!”

“The two of you chased each other constantly for about ten minutes until your brother Otis arrived with his parents – Nicole and Jordan.”

Frannie and Floey racing

Frannie and Floey racing

“Otis has really grown! He’s big. I think he’s almost as big as my cousin Lucy. But he can really run, too. Once Frannie and I went through the sniffing routine with Otis, the three of us chased each other for about an hour. The only times we stopped were when another dog and their human came to the gate to join us. We politely greeted them and invited them to play with us, but they stayed pretty close to their people instead. I think they were amazed at our speed. We really are a fast family!”

Girls against boy - cropped

The girls (Frannie & Floey) against the boy (Otis)

“You’re also a very loving family. I watched you, your brother, and your sister tackle each other sometimes, too, and play fight with each other. All three of you are just as gentle as you are fast.”

“Oh, it was so much fun to be together again. Can we do it again, Mom?”

3 w toy

Otis, Frannie, and Floey lining up for the Pass-The-Ring game

“I think we’ll be able to work it out for all of us to get together every few months. While you dogs were playing, we people talked, and agreed that everyone was having so much fun we’ll have to continue to do this. We also talked about how similar you three are in so many of your mannerisms.”

“Like what, Mom?”

“You all cross your front legs when you sit. You all have the same eyes – you gaze at us with that soft, intent look. And you all hate loud noises like lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners, but you don’t mind thunder. And, you also only eat when you’re hungry. You never over eat.”

“But most of all, Mom, we all run like the wind. We are fast! And running fast is so invigorating!”

“I think you finally had a chance to run enough to get tired out. By the end of the evening, all three of you were lying around, just being content to be together.”

Three very happy dogs resting

Three very happy dogs resting

“Yeah. And then Mim proved again that she’s the primary cook of the family. She knew we needed a little nourishment after all our running. She had remembered to bring along some treats for all of us. Frannie and Otis were pretty impressed at what nice moms I have.”

Treat Time

Treat Time

“Frannie and Otis have nice parents, too, Floey. I think all three of you were very fortunate in having the right people adopt you.”

“Yeah, we were. But I wonder about my other three siblings who didn’t show up at our reunion last week.”

“Well, we know that two of them, Rosie and Charlie, tried to come but their humans had last minute things come up that kept them from joining us on Tuesday. Their moms emailed all of us to apologize and say they hope we all try to get together again. By the way, Rosie’s mom just emailed me to tell me that her brother’s family lives just a block away from us in Cambridge, and that the next time she goes to visit her brother’s family, she’ll bring Rosie along and walk over to our place so you two can play together.”

“Really, Mom! Wow! I can hardly wait to see Rosie again! When do you think they’ll come?”

“I don’t know, Floey. But I hope it’s before the snow flies. Regardless of when it is, at least you know you will see her again. Unfortunately, I think we’ve lost contact with your last sibling. They have never responded to any of our emails. We don’t know if they received them, or not.”

“You know, Mom, I’ve thought a lot about all my litter mates over the past week – since we got together last Tuesday. As I was thinking about them, I felt bad that three of them didn’t come to our reunion. But then on Sunday, I read over your shoulder when you were doing your early morning devotional reading. I’m glad you’ve picked up the JESUS CALLING book again. I like that book. In Sunday’s reading, Jesus said:

Try to see things more and more from My perspective. Let the Light of My Presence so fully fill your mind that you view the world through Me. When little things don’t go as you had hoped, look to Me lightheartedly and say, “Oh, well.” This simple discipline can protect you from being burdened with an accumulation of petty cares and frustrations.   [JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, 2004, p. 275]

“Even though I had a wonderful time playing with Frannie and Otis, I was feeling a little disappointed that I didn’t see the rest of my litter mates. I had expected to see and play with all five of them. But maybe it was best this way. The three of us sure had a good time. Maybe the others will come next time. I’m certainly not going to worry about it. I’m just thankful that Frannie, Otis, and I got together, and that we’ll do it again. JESUS CALLING helped me put everything in perspective. I’m really thankful I have litter mates and that they live close enough that at least some of us can get together to keep in touch. God is so good to us.”

The next day should have been Sunday. It was a day of rest for all.

The next day was a day of rest for all.

A Roundtable Discussion that Makes My Day

roundtableImagine starting your day almost every morning in a roundtable discussion with six other people plus yourself. In my case, the people are Joan Chittister, Henri Nouwen, God, Jimmy Carter, Christine Dallman, and M. J. Ryan – and, of course, myself. Wow! Quite a group of seven we are. Usually, everyone speaks up in the order listed. We spend about half an hour talking about whatever is on each person’s mind.

Joan Chittister

Joan Chittister

Occasionally the participants of the roundtable discussion change, but for the past four years, three participants have been constant – Joan Chittister (speaking through her monthly pamphlet, “The Monastic Way”), God (communicating through the daily readings of the Revised Common Lectionary – as listed in the daily devotional booklet, “Christ in Our Home”), and me.

Last year Henri Nouwen (“Bread for the Journey”) hadn’t joined us yet, but Edward Hays (“Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim” and “A Book of Wonders”) was in his place. Jimmy Carter (“Through the Year with Jimmy Carter”) is a newcomer this year, too. Christine Dallman (“The Personal Daily Prayer Book”) is also new this year, and she always prays about something a little different every day.

M. J. Ryan (“Attitudes of Gratitude”) just joined the group a couple weeks ago, and she plans to stay for only a couple months. She keeps telling us inspiring stories of people who exhibit a heart-warming attitude of gratitude. Her stories are really helpful in giving us a down-to-earth perspective on life. Pretty soon she’s planning to leave the group, and someone else will come along to join us as a short-termer. Debbie Macomber has often joined us as the floater. She’s the one who got me into the habit of having a special word for each year instead of doing New Year’s resolutions.

I’ll admit that some mornings the seven of us have an amazing discussion and I can’t help but think about it all day long. Other times, even though we had a great discussion, I don’t think about it at all throughout the day.

Usually I don’t say much in these discussions – I just listen and ponder what’s being said. But I discipline myself about once a week to speak up. Sometimes I transcribe these thoughts for my blog.

Henri Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

A couple days ago, Joan Chittister talked about something Albert Einstein once said about being careful that we don’t limit God by trying to define God. Henri Nouwen said that we need to be careful that we don’t become too legalistic in defining what we claim to be God’s nature. God then spoke up about how helpful the image of Jesus being the Good Shepherd can be to us, and how important it is for us to demonstrate the love and care that shepherds give their flocks.

Then Jimmy Carter wrapped it all up saying how important it is to remember that God is all about showing love and always being kind. He said that his favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” [New Living Translation] I spoke up when I heard him say that. I said, “That’s my favorite verse, too!” Jimmy Carter and I have something in common beside politics! I didn’t know anyone shared my favorite Bible verse!

Jimmy Carter 2It was Christine Dallman’s turn to speak up next. She prayed, “O God, make us children of quietness ….” I smiled at that. I like to be quiet. Then she encouraged us to “Take time to unwind, time to be silent, time to reflect, and time to pray…” Imagine her saying that, just when I’m in the middle of spending two weeks by myself at our Christmas Mountain timeshare with plenty of time to be quiet – time to read, write, think, and pray.

As usual, M. J. Ryan ended our discussion by telling another story about gratitude. She told us about a woman who had suffered a stroke and had lost her ability to speak. She had been a great communicator and had been able to speak five languages. Now she struggled to find words to simply talk with her adult children. The children tried to help her by suggesting words that she might be trying to say, and the experience for everyone was just frustrating. A therapist, trying to help the family, suggested that when they are frustrated by her inability to express herself verbally, they should focus on her attempts to communicate by touch. This opened up a whole new world of opportunity to communicate the love they felt for each other that they had never been able to express in words.

Ryan went on to say that “the trick is to use a source of frustration as a trigger to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.” Then she gave a personal example.

For me it’s standing in line. I absolutely hate to ‘waste’ time; I live my life at a frenetic pace and don’t want anything to get in my way of doing all I have to get done in a day. Until recently, I was the person in the line huffing and rolling my eyes at the wait, jiggling and looking at my watch every few seconds. And when I finally made it to the counter, I was too aggravated from having to wait to be pleasant to the person on the other side of the counter. But since life is full of lines, I finally decided to change my approach. Instead of being annoyed, I decided to see waiting in line as a wonderful opportunity to slow down, to take a few conscious breaths, become aware of my body, and release as much muscle tension as I could. The waits are as long as ever – but now I am grateful for the chance to stop.

Hmmm. That made me think about some of the little aggravations in life that frustrate me… Is there some way I can change those moments into triggers of gratitude? Something to think about…

I’m truly grateful for this roundtable discussion every morning. What an inspiring way to begin my day!

roundtable of books

Being Robbed

Blogger Linda Swanson - "Journey in Process" blog

“Journey in Process” is one of about a half-dozen blogs I follow. Linda Swanson in the blogger.

“I will not be robbed!” was the title of a blog post written by Linda Swanson for her blog, Journey in Process. Linda is a spiritual director who works mostly with missionaries all around the globe. She currently lives in New Jersey. She and her husband, Kevin, who is a pilot and a pastor, have spent most of their careers working for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), an aviation and technology service focused on providing support to missionaries.

During the year that I have been following Linda’s blog, she has traveled extensively, speaking at several retreats and conferences, mostly for missionaries in Africa and Asia. She’s back in New Jersey now, and a couple weeks ago she wrote about being robbed at her new home and how she reacted to being robbed. That blog post reminded me of the times that I have been robbed, and how being robbed made me feel.

Telephone TableThe first time I was robbed I was in high school. There was a small telephone table in the dining room that I used as the space for dropping my books and purse when I came home from school. I also left a few of my things on that table – like pens and notepads. Sometimes I left some money there, if I didn’t want to have it with me in school.

One day, I remember I left two one-dollar bills on the table.  When I came home from school that day, the money wasn’t there. I asked my brother Danny about it, and he didn’t know anything was missing. When I mentioned it to my mom and dad, my dad said that around noon that day, he saw one of our neighbors come out of the house. (We never kept the door locked.) Dad had walked up to the house from the barn to see what the neighbor wanted, and the neighbor said something about wanting to borrow a tool – but my dad said the situation seemed a little suspicious. The visitor was a new neighbor that no one really trusted yet. Together Mom, Dad, and I concluded that the neighbor had probably come to the house to see my dad about something, and had decided to walk into the house and look around since no one appeared to be home. He probably saw the two one-dollar bills and slipped them into his pocket. My family never did trust that neighbor.

2 one-dollar bills 2 croppedWe did not confront the apparent thief. Mom said I should consider $2 the cost of the lesson I was learning about leaving money lying around in the open. Two dollars may not seem like much now, but back then it was two weeks’ allowance. I felt bad about the money, but I felt particularly bad that the reason I lost the money was that I was careless about where I kept it. I did learn a lesson.

The second time I was robbed I was living in Chicago with Mim and two other women – Marlene and Maurine. We were the four M’s. We lived on the first floor of a large vintage two-flat in a nice neighborhood. One beautiful summer night we left the windows open in the sun room. The next morning we discovered that two of our bicycles had been stolen from the sun room. The thieves had simply cut the screen, climbed inside, chosen the two bikes they wanted to steal, lifted them out the window, and probably rode off on them. We were fortunate they just wanted a couple bikes. They could have walked off with a lot more of our possessions. But I remember feeling spooked – knowing that while I had been sleeping, a couple strangers had been in our apartment. I was a little scared.  I learned a lesson that day, too – don’t leave first floor windows open at night in a city.

This 26-inch 3-speed Schwinn bicycle had been my a really special present I received on my 10th birthday.

My 3-speed Schwinn bicycle was one of the bikes that was stolen. My parents had given it to me on my 10th birthday.

I was almost robbed a third time, but I caught the thief in the act. I was climbing up the steps of the “L” in downtown Chicago. It was about 5:00 Friday evening, and the stairs and platform were crowded with everyone rushing to go home from work. As I reached out my hand to hold the swinging door to the “L” platform I turned to look back at the person behind me to be sure he would grab the door after me and not get slammed in the face. I saw that he was holding my wallet as he was removing his hand from my purse, a shoulder bag. He was startled to see me look at him, and he dropped the wallet back into the purse. When I got through the door onto the platform, I walked as fast as I could to get as far away from him as possible. Again, I was scared, but very thankful. That’s when I learned to use a small purse and keep it inside my completely closed briefcase.

L platformMim has been robbed twice. The first time, she had met me in the loop after work so that we could do a little Christmas shopping. As we walked from the Sears Tower to State Street we passed some kids who were laughing and jumping around on the street. A couple of them bumped into us, but we just smiled and kept walking. Everyone was having a good time, enjoying the spirit of Christmas. However, when we were in a store and Mim reached in her purse for her wallet to make her first purchase, she discovered that her wallet was missing. I paid for the present she was buying, but then we went home and called the police and filed the report. Unfortunately, in this case, Mim also had to notify credit card companies and get a new driver’s license. This robbery wasn’t particularly costly to us, but it was the biggest nuisance.

concrete flower pot w petuniasThe oddest robbery we’ve experienced was also in Chicago. Mim had just finished planting a big concrete pot with petunias and other annuals to sit on the ledge beside the front steps of our two-flat. She went around to the back of the house to put her garden tools away. When she came back to the front of the house to admire her handiwork, the pot was gone. In less than five minutes, someone had stolen Mim’s big flower pot. It had to be a strong person, because the concrete pot filled with potting soil and live plants and soaked with water was heavy. I can’t imagine that someone would steal a freshly planted flower pot to enjoy for the summer.

In all five of these robberies, we were a little shaken. I googled “robbed quotes” to see if someone could express more clearly than I can what our feelings were about being robbed. The closest quote to how I felt was by the British actor John Boyega. He said, “Being robbed hurts – not physically, but from what it does to your pride.” I guess I would substitute “sense of security” for the word “pride.” Being robbed makes you feel vulnerable and a little scared. In our cases, we also felt thankful that the losses weren’t greater.

What Linda said in her blog was,

Linda SwansonRobbed. I don’t know what to do with that word. When I woke this morning, I felt the power of that word start to do a color wash of gray over my perceptions of our new home, our new neighborhood. I lay in bed much longer than normal feeling the word, recognizing where it wanted to take my thoughts and conclusions, assumptions and presumptions. And, I decided not to go there.… Life will only be right if I remember where my security really comes from, that my joy and contentment are based on my relationship with God and not my circumstances.

Thanks, Linda, for reminding me of what it feels like to be robbed, and prompting me to be grateful again that my security really comes from God.

Surpassed in Giving

My niece Michelle and her kids

My niece Michelle with her 4 kids and a couple friends enjoying the day together

On Sunday I read the best story about generosity I’ve ever read. It was written by my niece, Michelle Kornelsen Hauge on her blog, www.strategicparenting.us. I asked her if I could share her story on my blog, and she agreed. If you would like to be added to Michelle’s email list to get regular notifications of her blog posts, you can email her at wedinparadise@hotmail.com.

Michelle and her husband Kerry have adopted four children and have cared for many more foster children. They take their role as parents very seriously, and are trying to share what they are learning about parenting on their blog. Michelle home-schools the kids, and she also helps Kerry in their three home-based businesses – Jim’s Country Fireplace, Paradise Pond Shop, and Paradise Park (where they host outdoor weddings in their beautifully landscaped back yard).

I’m not a parent, but I find something new to think about every week when I read Michelle’s blog. This week, the theme is generosity. I’ve always thought that my mom was the most generous person I’ve ever known. After reading this post, I think Michelle and Kerry’s kids may have Mom beat.

Michelles kids

The kids playing in their back yard.

 Surpassed in Giving

by Michelle Kornelsen Hauge  (from http://www.strategicparenting.us/)

It’s humbling to be surpassed by your kids. But good.

Michelles vanWe’ve been putzing with the process of selling our old minivan, unsure of how much to ask for it. We finally came to an amount and posted it on Craig’s List, along with an honest description of its many problems.

A week passed, with a few low offers.

Tuesday, just as we began hosting an evening meeting, a man arrived who wanted to buy it now, for a third less than we’d asked. We agreed, quickly re-iterated what needed fixing, signed the title and took his payment. It wasn’t much for a van, but it would pay some bills. In the rush, he drove off with only an ignition key.

Wednesday evening, he began calling and leaving phone messages. By the time I arrived and picked up, he was frantic. His mechanic had the van on a hoist, and was pointing out the problems. They were just as we had described for him the night before. I reminded him of this.

“But I thought they were just little fixes when you said it.” A torrent of frustrations poured across the phone line, intensity building by the minute.

My response was defensive, not compassionate.

I finally cut in, saying that if he wanted to return it, he’d have to come back tomorrow when Kerry was home.

As I washed the dinner dishes, my mind continued the argument.

“You won’t get a van that cheap that doesn’t need repairs … not unless someone gives you one.”

The word stuck in my heart like a burr.

“Give?

“Is that You, God?”

If it was, I decided, Kerry would think it was.

He did. If we gave the man his money back, Kerry reasoned, he could use it for the needed repairs. Kerry never flinches when it comes to giving.

We’ve given old cars away before, but never to angry strangers. This was a stretch for me.

We decided to pull the kids into the process.

The next morning, before the man was due to arrive, we focused our prayer time on his family. Part of his rantings had included a long list of their needs, so we had a starting point.

In the process of praying, the kids decided they wanted to give too. They painstakingly wrote up encouraging scriptures, such as Isaiah 41:10 –

Michelles kids Bible encouragement

Then they raided their money envelopes. Some took out every cent they had. Some chose a generous portion. Pockets were stuffed with readied gifts.

We expected him at 9:00. It came and went. We began math … and finished it. Spelling. Reading. Language lessons. Lunch. The day was long and pregnant with anticipation. We knew he’d come; we still had the keys.

Eleven hours later, as we were preparing for bed, the shout rang out: “He’s here!” The kids scrambled around, digging through the laundry to find their gifts, then dashed outside in their pajamas.

By the time I arrived on the scene, the kids were being embraced. Kerry pulled me off to the side and said, “He’s happy tonight. His mechanic was able to fix everything, and his father-in-law paid for it all.” We had three seconds to decide: What now?

We didn’t give him his money back.

The kids basked that evening in the after-glow of their generosity.

Kerry and I considered what to do.

We eventually determined that the money’s God’s. The next day we decided where to give it. Today the hand-off will take place.

We admire the carefree abandon of our kids’ giving. It seems to somehow surpass the caution of our own. Balance is needed, but this may be one way a small child will lead us.

Michelle - hands-full-of-money50

Time for a new blog? “Strategic Childhood” may be in order.