Those Last Tenths of a Mile Before Heaven Began

 

before Heaven

It’s the route that we take when we remember those lives before Heaven.

The roads on this route are full of curves and hills. Each homeowner/store owner remembers those days in 1998 and 2011. We do, too.

A few weeks ago when Dave traveled out of town for a meeting, he mapped out the route we’d take this Saturday for the annual Jerrel Good/Paul Slabach Memorial Bike Ride.  (You can read more about the people in this event here.) He stopped at each place we’ll visit and scouted the surrounding area for safety issues for the two dozen bikers who will be on this ride. He’d taken his weed eater and trimmed around the edges of the bank where the cross we’d place a few years ago could hardly be seen for the weeds and brambles.

Dave took the time to cross the road to visit with the store owner – who recognized him and marked his calendar for the event this year – June 17, 2017.

before Heaven

Because he traveled the route alone, Dave had a lot of time to think.  If you know Dave, you’ll know he’s a thinker, and you’ll understand how this route caused him to think. I wasn’t with him, but I am as sure as I can be that he also cried.

On Sunday when he continued his messages on the Lord’s Prayer and shared from Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven,  he shared. That poignant sharing came from the depths of his heart.

We see life on this earth from our human perspective. As parents, we want to offer the best for our kids. We want their happiness, their health, and their success, and strive to help them achieve those goals.  Then, when “bad things happen to good people,” we don’t get it because we’re looking from our perspective as parents and not from the perspective that our Heavenly Father sees. The Eternal View.

“I watched the odometer as I neared the crash sites.  These guys had no idea that they were nearing the place where God would call them Home in a matter of minutes. They had no idea, but God knew. Five-tenths . . .  four-tenths . . . three-tenths . . . two-tenths . . .  one tenth, and BAM!  It was over.”

As he recounted those scenes, he cried. So did we.

“But THEN I remembered that it wasn’t over. It was only the beginning!”

That is why we ride.

This Saturday when we ride, we’ll certainly be remembering. We will remember the ripping rawness, the horrendous ache, the harrowing questions, and definite uncertainty. We will remember asking Why? over and over again.

This side of Heaven, life often doesn’t make sense – and sometimes it’s so unfair. Before Heaven, we wrestle and we groan.

Then comes Heaven – where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow. Where the old things will be passed away and all things will be new.

I’ve learned that when we answer the questions of our kids – and even questions of our own – it helps solidify our faith. We find answers to our own questions when we have to contemplate the ones others are asking.

This I also know: we can look back and see that God continues to be good, even when life hurts and doesn’t make sense. We know that His will is done here on earth – as it is in Heaven. Truly, reaching Heaven is really what this life is about.

before Heaven

 

So we ride and we remember. We will not forget the ache, the sorrow, or the pain.

 

before Heaven

before Heaven

 

Yet, more importantly, we will remember the faithfulness of the God we serve.

We have traced His hand in the years since Heaven claimed our guys.

This we will remember: that our God has been faithful.

And He is always eternally good.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Calf is Born. Will it Live – or Die?

There’s a new calf at our place.

She is the second calf born in the past ten days.

calf

The first one weighed about fifty pounds, and she’s a combination of brown and black. Her name is Stormy because she was born during those days and nights of torrential rain when schools were closed for three days because of flooding.

The one born this week is larger and she is red. She’s a beauty, all right. We haven’t named her. I thought she looked like a Fritzlie (yes, it’s spelled right, and unless you know Pennsylvania Dutch, you won’t get the name), but now I’m thinking Flopsy might be a better name. There are a few more calves to be born, so there’s always a chance for a Mopsy.

The only problem is, her mama is the heifer-now-cow that Dave calls Wild One. Only now she’s the Wild Mama. She’s not acting much like a mama. She did a few things right. First off, she licked the calf clean and dry. That’s important, you know. The calf was up and walking in a short time, so Dave assumed all was well.

The next day, the calf was down – lying in the middle of sunny buttercup flowers, ears lying back, and listless. Dave came in from work to take care of the calf. A bottle of colostrum was fed via a nipple bottle and the calf remained there amid the buttercups.

calf

Learning to suck on the nipple.

Nine hours later, she was up and running with the other calf in the pasture. Wild Mama seemed to take more of an interest and they could be seen together around the pasture. We hoped they were bonding. Yet, Dave couldn’t get close enough to Wild Mama to see if she had been nursed. Twice in the first twelve hours, Wild Mama charged him. That’s a sign of a good mama, you know. Good mamas are protective of their offspring and this mama wasn’t about to let him get too close.

So why did she leave her calf lying alone at the far end of the pasture? Why go off by herself for hours at a time? This Wild Mama is more than wild. She’s a wild puzzle. Or you could call her a wild card. Even the farmer who delivered her to our place asked me just the other day if we still had “that wild thang at your place.” She’s a puzzle, that’s for sure.

calf

Nuzzling her baby

We’re still waiting to see what’s going to happen with this one. I am sad, for springtime is a time of new life, new growth, and new birth. Birds are building nests and eggs are hatching. Flowers and trees are blooming. Gardens are beginning to provide fresh produce.

I want this calf to survive and to thrive.

I want this mama to be the “mama she ought to be”. Will it happen? Time will tell.

We’ve prayed over this calf and we don’t mind at all if you pray, too.

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Why I Am Wearing Red Today

I am wearing red today* because it was Mom’s favorite color.

Mom Slabach always said she didn’t understand why Christian conservative folks didn’t think women should wear read.

Yes, red was a color often worn by harlots, she knew. She’d been reminded of that many times. She didn’t care if that’s what harlots wore, because she wore red, too.

She’d say, “Red also represents salvation — because

the blood of Jesus Christ, His son, cleanses us from all sin.”

So this wife of a Mennonite minister wore red.

Today I remember Mom. And I am wearing red.

Mom loved –

steaming hot coffee,

wearing red

ice cold Pepsi,

wearing red

fried bacon,

wearing red

and delectable ice cream.

wearing red

Looking at this list makes me smile as I put on my red in honor of a mom who enjoyed life and family fun.

wearing red

I didn’t know much about raising boys because I grew up in a family of girls.  When we started our family, God gave us three of our four boys in a row. I used to think, if I was having a problem with one of my guys, I’d just send them to Grandma. She’d have Sunday school (as her kids called it) and send them back to me, all fixed up. Only thing is, she didn’t get to help raise those boys because she died when the oldest was five and before the youngest was born. I never got to send them to her for Sunday school, but she had prayed for them! She prayed for her kids, her grandkids, and those not yet born.

I wear red in memory of Mom’s Sunday schoolsIn honor of her prayers, I am wearing red.

wearing red

I wear red today for the mom who believed in her son Dave and the spunk he possessed; who always said she wouldn’t give a dime for a kid without some spunk – and then prayed and prayed over that spunk and asked God to use it for His kingdom. I wear red today for the memories I cherish of a woman who claimed me and was glad I was loving her Dave.

I reap the blessings of a life well lived, a character well defined, and a faith well practiced. I benefit from the harvest of her commitment to her family and to God and gladly claim her son as mine.

I wear red today in honor of my mother-in-law, who was not just a mentor, but also my friend. There wasn’t a subject that was unmentionable with her, and she didn’t mind delving into the nitty gritty of life. Even when we disagreed, we were friends.

Although cancer took her life, it did not deprive her of her spirit. That is why everyone wanted to help care for her and be there during those last weeks.  Mom could make a party out of an event, and none of us wanted to miss the party. I am wearing red in memory of those parties!

Twenty-five years ago we stood by her bed and watched her face change from agony to peace, calmness, and rest. We watched her lips change from a grimace into a beautiful smile. Oh yes. She smiled.

Ah, that smile!  I remember it still. When we saw that smile, we knew that Mom had Arrived! She fought the fight, she finished her course, she kept the faith. Mom finished well.

I wear red today because she won the Victory.

Today, I am wearing red, in honor and in celebration.

I wear red today, not with tears, but with joy.

 

Happy 25th Anniversary of your Arrival in Heaven, Mom!

wearing red

Watching Mom fight that dreadful disease of cancer was not easy. Caring for her was a privilege and a blessing. That journey of grief and gallantry is chronicled in the book Aren’t We Having Fun Dying?!.  The title of the book is a direct quote from Mom two weeks before her Arrival.  Each chapter title is a quote from Mom during her last months here on earth. For more information about this book, you can visit this page.

[some wording/quotes come from (my) book “Aren’t We Having Fun Dying?!”

*the anniversary of Mom’s arrival in Heaven is March 16.

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Six Things I Learned From My Aunts

The aunts from whom I learned.

My mother and her sisters, minus a sister who died in 1955. In this 1992 photo, they were 75-86.

Truth be told, I learned more from my aunts than I ever realized at the time. These aunts of mine (both maternal and paternal) were a stoic bunch. For the most part, they were German-Swiss stock with an ancestry that portrayed family partings from one country to another, never to see family members again. A family rich in Christian faith and trust, they were a family who descended, in part, from survivors of an Indian massacre in 1757. Several of my paternal aunts were raised by their father and older siblings after the sudden death of their mother. My maternal aunts lost a sister to an aneurysm and later a brother (both suddenly) many years before. All of them experienced hardship and heartbreak at some point in their lives. They were strong and stoic. They were courageous and caring. They mentored and mothered. They persevered and they prayed.

All of them are gone. There are days I wish I could sit at Aunt Verda’s laden table for Sunday dinner again, or watch Aunt Della’s eyes twinkle when she heard our laughter. I wish I could visit with Aunt Annie and see her smile, or look into Aunt Myra’s true blue eyes and feel her hug. I miss Aunt Mabel’s gentle regalness and Aunt Alma’s teaching, although at the time I didn’t appreciate her knowledge of the Bible. How I’d enjoy hearing Aunt Kate share her poetry or hear Aunt Rhoda and Aunt Edna tell stories of life when they were children.

Like Emily in Our Town, it’s impossible to go back and live those days over. I wonder what I’d discover if I could go back and re-live one of those days.

You know that feeling?

Some days it seems the world would just be better if I could look into one of their eyes, or hear those voices again. Even though they could do nothing about what’s happening in my world, just being there would make a difference.

I learned that doing what one ought to do, and doing it well, was praise enough.

While my aunts expressed appreciation, they were not quick to compliment or praise for talent or ability. Appreciation for a job well done, affirmation for character traits that were important, yes. But lavish praise? No. For after all, “self-pride stinks.” Satisfaction for a job well done should be reward enough, they would say. We didn’t need lavish praise for doing what we ought to have done in the first place. When a need was evident, they stepped up to bat and found a way to help meet the need without expecting praise, because that’s what families do. I learned that there is no better reward for a job well done than the satisfaction that comes from knowing I did it right, I did it on time, and I did it well. That was praise enough.

Even though money was tight and their possessions were few, they were hospitable. There was always room for one or two or three more at their table. When they had uninvited guests in their home, one would never have guessed they weren’t expecting company. There was preparation ahead of time, especially for Sundays, so there was always more than enough to go around. Any one of us would have been welcome in their homes at any time, and we knew it. I learned that hospitality is more than doing. It is being. I learned that preparation is an important part of hosting, but hospitality comes from the heart.

My aunts were not prone to gossip. I still find it hard to believe the things that were never mentioned to others. They shared secrets in their diaries, but no place else. Anything shared in confidence stayed there. All of them grew up in the home a minister, and several of my aunts had spouses involved in church ministry. What happened behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors, and there was no finagling to obtain information from any one of them. them.  Many secrets, I am certain, they carried with them to their graves. I learned that gossip does not a friend make and that it’s nice to have folks with whom one’s secrets are safe.

I learned that stability is stronger than panic.

When there was a crisis in the community or in the family, I didn’t see my aunts cringe or become ruffled easily. They remained calm, did what had to be done, and provided stability along the way. They managed to get things done without flaunting what they were doing. I experienced that quiet care and endurance as a child and grew to appreciate it even more as I got older. I learned that stability in distress is stronger than panic.

None of my aunts were extravagant. Their homes, clothing, and pocketbooks were orderly and clean. They always knew which side of the pocketbook held the Chapstick or Rosebud Salve. They could whip out a checkbook without searching in the bottom of a purse, for it was exactly where they always kept it. I learned that tidiness includes your pocketbook.

I remember the evening during visitation after a heart attack claimed the life of an uncle. There had been no warning and no time to say goodbye. I watched them, the sisters, my aunts. There were glimmers of tears in their eyes, but no weeping or wailing. How could I possibly handle the death of a sibling with such grace? I wondered.

Underneath their tears was a calm, serene emotion. This was life. Through their grief ran a chord of trust and faith in God. Underlying their sorrow was Truth. God was faithful. He had been faithful in their past. He was faithful today. He would be there in their tomorrows. Their unconditional trust in the sovereignty of God steadied them in their grief.

I learned from my aunts that sorrow does not need to break me.

That is why my aunts could sing in times of sorrow. They had tested the promises of God and found them true, Every Single Time. As a young child, I didn’t understand that faith because I had not yet experienced it myself. I learned that a deep, settled faith comes from years of walking with God and trusting Him when life doesn’t seem fair or doesn’t make sense. 

from my aunts, I learned to be strong

Looking back, I realize the things I learned from my aunts were caught as much as they were taught. It gives me pause. It gives me grateful praise.

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