A Life-long Letter From My Mom

I slide my hand over a treasure. It has the smell of “old books” mixed with a touch of cedar from the chest it rested in for years. Yellowed newspaper clippings are tucked between the pages. My mom’s life is portrayed in a pile of small diaries with black, red, white, green and brown leather covers. Now they are a testament of a life.


Before the age of 15 she began recording her life, writing daily snippets of information on a small page. She faithfully continued to write an account of her days for over 33 years. There is one book that doesn’t match the others-a spiral bound paper booklet which was given to her. During WWII times were hard and you used what you had.


These are a portion of my Mom’s diaries.



Unknowingly, she gave me snapshots of her life. She voiced the desire to my older sisters that no one would read them. They sat silently in the cedar chest soaking in that smell. So many years passed before we touched them. Our curiosity begged us to pick them up to get to know the mom who left us so early. Even now there’s a tinge of guilt intertwined with the knowledge that she would want us to know her.


Just as a quilt is made up of pieces of cloth which are sewn together, so are the stories she tells about her life. The bits of information she shares are woven together to enable me to know her. When reading these precious books I feel like there’s a warm quilt being wrapped around me.


Carefully lifting one page at a time, I imagine my mom turning a page and hearing that same swish. Since her cursive scrawl is difficult to read at times, I have gotten into the rhythm of her style of writing and her life flows into mine.


Her own mother died when she was eight. She was the oldest of five children. The relatives banded together to take care of them. My mom and her sisters were tossed about between relatives for several years, while her two younger brothers remained with a different relative. They all lived in the same town and kept in close contact. When she became a little older, she was expected to come back to help her father in his home. Mornings began early with cooking breakfast, then walking to school with her sister. Being a talented musician, she taught lessons for several instruments at the nearby music store. After school she would go there to teach, make supper for the family, practice her own instruments and study. Late at night, she put her pen to the page and days turned into years.


At 16 years old she was asked by mutual family friends to take on a housekeeping job. My dad was the 17 year-old farmer whom she described as “nice”, and she was the young woman who went to care for an ailing widow and her son. The job didn’t last long, but that was the beginning. The diaries tell touching tales of their courting, marriage and honeymoon a few years later.


Stories are told of the city girl who went to be a farmer’s wife. She wrote scores of short accounts of what it was like to be a wife and mother of six on a growing farm. With a cheerful attitude mom cooked, cleaned, gathered eggs, drove tractors, or worked in the fields. I can almost taste the “good supper and cherry dessert” she often made.


To know her was to love her. Unexpected visitors could pull up a chair at the kitchen table at any hour. She was never too busy to listen and share some coffee and cake. People were drawn to her like a magnet as if searching for her secret to serenity, amidst the chaotic large farm and family life. She was the family communicator as relatives all over exchanged letters with her. Looking for the best in people, she was friendly and warm. Although she fought fear, she worked through it and served in her church and community. God was her strength. She wasn’t perfect but I like to imagine she was.


My Mom’s entry on the day I was born.


Naturally, I am attracted to the page of my birth date in the diaries. I was my parent’s sixth child, so the event seemed to have a common aura. There are a few facts about my weight, time of birth, and how her body coped after the delivery. She mentions how her father “did not care for the name!” I chuckle as I remember how traditional my grandfather was and I appreciate the way she could incorporate some humor into her writing.


I often say that I “missed my mom”, whereas my older brothers and sisters “miss my mom.”  I was only seven years old when she passed away unexpectedly at the age of 47, so my oldest siblings had the privilege of knowing her much longer than I did. I hear bits and pieces about her from them, but hearing her voice in her writing is a special gift she left me. I am so grateful to her that she took the time to write this journal of her life. Holding the same books she held, breathing in the scent of the diaries, and seeing her handwriting is priceless.


I only have a few faint memories of physically being with her. But I am eternally grateful that I have little books full of gems. My sisters are able to fill in some information about the people, events or feelings which were going on simultaneously with some of the stories, and I’ve learned to “read between the lines.” I am thankful that she was around long enough to instill in me her basic moral and spiritual values. Those seven years of influence were crucial and I strive to be the kind of person that resembles my mom.


After mom had her younger children down for the night, she would slip into her nightgown before settling into her chair to scribble out another page. In her later years, she would write by the blue light of the muted TV, waiting for teenagers to come home from their dates and events. I was the tiny girl who would often sneak out of bed to curl up on her warm lap while she wrote with her blue fountain pen. Writing every night despite the time on the clock or her exhaustion, displayed a life of discipline. She faithfully filled in her last page, the night before she died.


The pieces of life are woven together as a warm quilt.



Extending mercy, writing, communicating, and the love of music are a few pieces of the quilt that I’ve inherited from her. My mom’s life on earth was short, but I’ve been able to glean wisdom from her writings which I hold close to my heart. Simply sliding my hand over one of her diaries reminds me to be grateful for a life-long letter from my mom.

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If a tree could talk, the stories it could tell… Part 2

That old tree. It held many a child in the length of it’s years…


Look closely for the chain still hanging from the branch.


As long as I can remember, that towering tree spread it’s branches over us. It stood across the street from my own farmhouse. A bunch of us kids from the neighborhood would use the swing that hung down from a high horizontal branch. The whirring sound of the wind in my hair as I went back and forth, pumping my legs hard. Sometimes, we would push one another, other times one of us would give or receive an “under-duck.” Many carefree hours spent under the comfort of that shade.

At times we’d get going so high, you would be level with that branch that supported the swing, and you’d feel that frightening thump like you were almost going to fall out the back. You know the one…”ca-lunk!” My stomach still lurches a little remembering that jolt. The red dents in my hands would ache after hanging on to the chains so tightly. The seat was a rectangular wooden bench.

My father and grandfather knew that tree. My husband’s grandfather knew that tree, and I suspect his father too. My whole extended family on both sides would have a story to tell. My generation knows the chill of those chain links between their fingers. Even in the summer, the first touch held that steely coolness.

One day, I snapped a few pictures because I knew it was the end of another era. My eyes felt moist.

Just a tree.

But not “just a tree” to many of us.

You see, this tree brought families together. It beckoned neighborhood children together. If this tree could talk, a whole book could be written. It observed many planting and harvesting seasons. Listened to children’s laughter and tears. Umpired baseball games. Heard the roosters crowing their song at countless sunrises. Smelled the fresh eggs being laid in the nearby barn. Weathered so many harsh Michigan winters. Allowed it’s leaves to change colors with each new Fall. Arrayed it’s green leaves as the Springtime would ease itself back into Summer. The breeze would make that “shurring” sound, as the rotation of the seasons would repeat.

But in our area, the Ash trees have all been slowly dying… A tiny ash-boring worm, with it’s armies of millions, worked it’s way into it. Once standing so wide, proud and healthy, it finally succumbed to the mighty invading army. Sadly, this Spring, it was evident that this monstrous tree we had all known our whole lives, was nearing it’s end. The chain that once held the swing was dangling lonely, as the first branches were being felled.

A daughter of the homestead taking one last swing...

A daughter of the homestead taking one last swing a few years ago…

For around 150 years or more, this tree stood. Now it stands in my memories. Goodbye big ‘ole tree. You were one of those constants in my childhood. You were faithful for a time, but my Heavenly Father is always faithful. And He will endure beyond all creation. It’s a comfort that can never be taken away from me. 

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If a tree could talk, the stories it could tell…

The trees in the backyard were “clapping.” It was a very icy morning in December, when all the branches on the trees were swaying back and forth in the breeze. It was making a sound akin to someone haphazardly playing the chimes on a drum set.

Several months before that, a bible verse was brought to my mind. Still having a hard time with the impending move and my emotions going in every direction, the verse was a hard one to swallow.

The verse was,

Isaiah 55:12

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (N.I.V.)


Having dismissed the part about “going out in joy” and hoping the house wouldn’t sell, I put it into the back of my mind for some time. My husband and I had the house for sale off and on for a couple years. We had just decided to take it off the market again until at least Spring. Whew. I was off the hook again for a while.

In the meantime, before we took it off the market, one last couple looked at the house, made an offer, and ended up buying it. I was suddenly in a mad scramble of packing, giving, and throwing away for the next five weeks.


The trees were “clapping their hands”


That December morning, when I opened the back door to take pictures and a video, the verse popped back into my mind.

Ok, God…I will be going out in peace-not so much joy, unless you provide a miracle…and we don’t have mountains, but we definitely have a hill, and the trees are obviously “clapping their hands.” I get it. You’re trying to tell me something here. 

God repeated himself, as he often does, to get our attention. We had not one ice storm, but two within a few days…right in the middle of trying to move. The second time, I opened the back door again, and heard the same type of noise. The hills were clapping their hands again.

It was a beautiful sight, as the sun was glistening like diamonds on the trees. The icy branches were clacking together and chunks of ice would drop down, knocking many other branches on the way down. The ice chunks were shattering into a million tiny pieces as they reached the ground.

Leaving the house on that last afternoon, I hugged Cliff in the garage before we each got into our cars. All the emotions of the preceding months came crashing in. I had asked him to wait for me, although he had errands and things to do. I didn’t want to leave the house the last time all by myself. The moment was short. I wanted to linger but didn’t.

God was faithful. He had Cliff lead me forth in peace. He drove out of the driveway ahead of me. We had peace, although I carried sadness. Part of my heart stayed there as I drove out for the last time. The future was uncertain, but I knew this was the right thing to do.

The hills were going to “burst forth in song” as they again would observe another young family enjoying the acreage and home.

Bursting forth in song on an October day…


My thoughts have gone to trees quite often lately. There’s been reminders about how significant they are. Yes, we see hundreds, maybe thousands of them in a days’ time, depending on where you live. Often I don’t give them a second thought. Trees can teach, evoke memories, and give us gifts. They are a wonderful creation.


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Going against the flow…

I didn’t think it was a big deal. I just didn’t want to pour ice water over my head. I’ve always hated to be cold. At first, it was as simple as that.

As friends would post the “Ice Bucket Challenge” on Facebook, I was never “liking” or posting, hoping that I wouldn’t get noticed. Well…of course, finally I did. At first, I was like “oh crum, I don’t want to do that! I’ll just donate to ALS. I know friends who have lost a son to the dreaded disease, and I will just get it over with.” I mean, for heaven’s sakes, celebrities, church leaders, a past conservative president, sports stars, news and radio hosts, friends all over were doing it. What could it hurt? I’ll just have my husband video tape me tomorrow, and get it over with.

Well, I began thinking about it. I thought if I didn’t do it, then I would look like the “wet blanket” who doesn’t care about people who have ALS. Out of curiosity, I began looking up how much has been given and how the money gets spent. I really wondered if people who are nominated actually gave money, or if it was just fun to do, because of our recent heat wave. Did most people give, or just do the bucket challenge out of peer pressure? I looked it up. As of last night, 70.2 MILLION dollars had been given to the ALS foundation, in a month! YES, you read that right. In a month. This began July 27, 2014…

I began searching further. I found the video of the first man who did the bucket challenge in July, who has ALS himself. (see below) It was very touching. But later in the article, I began discovering some truths which bothered me.


Here is a link and a quote from a blog by Sunny Shell…


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) commonly known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, is a fatal neuromuscular disease that presently has no cure. No ALS patient is alike. Some people experience a slow degeneration, while others experience a more rapid degeneration of the motor neurons in their brain and spinal cord that disperse messages to allow voluntary muscle function throughout their body. Variant rates of motor neuron degeneration allows for patients diagnosed with ALS to live anywhere from three to five years after diagnoses.

The “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign began with “SC Featured: Pete’s Challenge” shown in the video below.

Many people are taking the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. I think this is a fun and fantastic way to promote awareness and garner financial support to help people afflicted with ALS, as well as finance research to find a cure.

A good way to accomplish this is to support organizations like Team Gleason. This organization was founded by Steve Gleason, former NFL player and current ALS braveheart. Their mission is to “Help provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with leading edge technology, equipment and services. Create a global conversation about ALS to ultimately find solutions and an end to the disease. Raise public awareness toward ALS by providing and documenting extraordinary life adventures for individuals with muscular diseases or injuries.”

Team Gleason partners with many organizations to accomplish their mission and one of them is Cord Blood Registry (CBR). Organizations like CBR only collect, store and use stem cells from the umbilical cords of newborn babies rather than harvest them from the helpless bodies of aborted, unborn babies.

A not so good way to promote awareness and support for ALS is to donate to the ALS Association. Though ALS Association promotes the betterment of current ALS patients and research to help find a cure, they do not promote or encourage the betterment of all life; specifically, precious and innocent unborn babies.

The ALS Association offers grants to many research organizations and one of them is the Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS).

On the NEALS website, they state, “These stem cells have been engineered from the spinal cord of a single fetus electively aborted after eight weeks of gestation. The tissue was obtained with the mother’s consent.”

The extraction of stem cells from unborn babies is completely unnecessary for this or any research. There are many other options for stem cell research where the opportunity to live is not callously stripped away from a precious innocent baby.

I wholeheartedly support and encourage more prayer and awareness for ALS patients and their families to: acquire expensive equipment, obtain exemplary medical care and look forward to research that may discover a cure for this fatal disease. As a Christian, I unashamedly stand for life…all life. Because I am an image-bearer of the Creator and because He so graciously granted me the gift of repentance that leads to life-giving faith in Jesus Christ, I desire nothing less for any other human being—whether they reside inside or outside the womb. All life is precious and all life should be protected, supported and allowed to maintain the quality of life we all desire.”
End quote by Sunny Shell.
A few other links which I found, were interesting. I just ask that people educate themselves. I am not trying to shame the friends who have participated in this challenge. They were acting out of good faith, and having fun. I have had many beloved friends do this. There are NO hard feelings whatsoever.
See other links below.
I really do not like to be divisive and controversial. It scares me! But there are ways to give to fight ALS, without using embryonic stem cells. There are ways to research this and many awful diseases by using adult stem cells. So make sure where your money is going. I’m just asking you to educate yourselves instead of blindly giving to the ALS Association, which definitely admits to using the embryonic cells.
Yes, it is an awful disease. Yes, it would be horrendous if I had to see my dear family or friends go through this. But there are alternatives. I’m not an expert at this kind of thing in any way. That’s why I’ve looked up so many links. Please read the articles, and don’t get caught up in the comments from angry people or those who are not educated in the topic. They just pull you this way, and that way.  Just read the information from experts who have studied the topic. Let’s learn together. I’m just beginning to understand all this.
If you have no problem with using cells from unborn babies, then that is your moral choice. It is not mine. I believe God wants us to value ALL human life. And I believe that the moment a sperm cell and an egg are put together, it is human life.
If you have comments, I welcome them. I ask that you please keep them civil, polite, on topic, and that you use G-rated language, or they will be deleted. This is my blog. You may put nasty comments on your own platforms. This is not meant to create arguments. It is meant to create a different kind of awareness. Do your homework.
Please give. Give to those who need help. Give to those missions and charities which are dear to your heart. Give to your next door neighbor. Help and love on the family who is going through ALS, or any disease or tough time. Give and love some more. It makes the world a better place to live.
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A Vigil

A dimly lit room at 2:23 a.m. One tiny lamp on the night stand. A fine-boned beautiful woman is lying comfortably on her bed. Her white hair is tousled, her face and neck wrinkled. She’s in that special place that none of us know. What is she seeing? What is she thinking? There’s been no response for days.


The clunk of the oxygen tank beats in a slow rhythm. Slight odors of a damp cloth on her forehead, the lotion standing on the bed stand, the half-eaten bucket of cookies, and the coffee pot on the cart.


As I look around the room, I notice things. I’m curious to get a glimpse of what her life was like on this earth during her active days.


One of the first objects that popped out at me, was the little orange devotional book sitting on a far table on the other side of the dear lady. Someone “calling” must be a comfort to her or her family members.

There’s a banner on the wall, that says,

“Happy moments, praise God.

Difficult moments, seek God.

Quiet moments, worship God.

Painful moments, trust God.

Every moment, Thank God.”


There on the shelf, sits a shiny mother-of-pearl praying hands, behind that peeks a black and white picture of a smiling young lady and handsome man. They’re looking at each other with shy excited smiles. The man has a corsage on his suit and she has a nice dress, a fancy hat, and a bouquet in her hand with streamers flowing down. There are rows of unlit candles behind them cascading in a diagonal line. It could have been the “going away” picture after their wedding. That young couple might have skipped to their shiny car, only to be chased by their friends, and a “shivaree” may have followed.


A vase of purple and white flowers a little past their prime, stand right in front of the black TV screen. She liked flowers…there are several baskets of them scattered around the room. Silk, plastic, and even a bright pink one hanging near her bed.


Slightly behind me to my left, is a huge tack board full of pictures. I imagine they’re pictures with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is plastered with smiling people. Some seem to be her, holding her treasured little ones on her lap. A proud granddaughter donning a cap and gown, as she pulls her grandma close. Boys with soccer balls, football outfits; girls with pink bows, cute hats. A birth announcement of a baby boy. Even a yellow Labrador dog gave his unconditional love. A beautiful young gal recently married, with a huge handful of red roses. One appears to be a four-generation picture; a mother, with her son, granddaughter, and a great-granddaughter. Many happy occasions captured on one bulletin board. Snapshots of a life with loving family members.


A picture of a uniformed woman in her early twenties, and an award on the board indicate her service in WWII. My mind goes to her possible age…has to be in her late eighties. What a brave woman. I silently thank her for serving. It was a much more rare thing for a woman to give herself to the country in the 1940’s in this way than it is now days.



Oh, the stories this dear woman could tell. I sure hope she lived life to the fullest, laughed often, and told many.



Occasionally, I set the keyboard to the side to gently touch her shoulder, and speak some words of comfort to her. Her chest still rises and lowers. Her pattern of breathing is not even, but not labored. Two family members have gone to try to sleep a few hours. They knew that volunteers would be by her side through the night. I wonder if they are able to rest. They left their names and numbers on the nightstand. This grand woman is very treasured.


If this night is her journey’s end, may peace and joy await her. It looks like she had a full life. Death is a strange and mysterious time.

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Every Summer Has A Story…

This summer has been such a whirlwind.

As I was sitting for a short break on a street in Chicago back in June, a saying on a shop window was suddenly staring right back at me. Thinking it was so fitting, I snapped a picture of it. Knowing that summer has always been my favorite season of the year, and hoping quite a few adventures were ahead of me, it soon became my “cover photo” on my facebook page.

Every Summer Has A Story

Every Summer Has A Story


It certainly has been true again! But this particular one has had so much going on, that I’ve been zipping from here to there and not even taking the time to write those stories.

Many times I’ve sat down to journal with a calendar next to me, so that I could catch up on what has happened during all this busyness. What was I even doing? The calendar often didn’t have that much on it, but the days always filled up with life.

One year ago today, I would have never dreamed I would be sitting in this town, in this house, in this living room, writing this story. My own dog is a visitor tonight, and is sleeping near my feet.

So much has changed in just one year. It’s amazing how God has woven all the intricate details together, to have me in this place at this time. My life has taken so many turns and here I am. My God has been faithful, as always.

Since I was a small child, I knew God was with me. I could feel Him in the breeze as I took those walks to the gullies. I saw Him in nature’s ever-changing, never out of order seasons. I heard Him in the birds. Felt Him through the soft hair of my much-loved cats. Knew His power through the thunderstorms that would shake that farmhouse during the night. Glimpses of Him were everywhere, in everything. Through the good and the bad.

He was there.

Many adventures have unfolded again this year. Some difficult, some mundane, some full of laughter and memories. Moving from the country to the city. Surviving the worst winter in 35 years. Moving twice during the worst winter in 35 years. Finding this home. Going on a cruise to celebrate 30 years of marriage. The second son’s graduation from college. Enjoyable times with friends. A trip out west to research ancestry and meet relatives. So many more to list…  Each of these small sentences could be broken up into thousands of little pieces to tell intricate details. They’re each stories that can be told.

He is here.

My God who has been faithful in the past, will be faithful in the future. It is His character.


He will be here. He has promised.

What is something that is keeping you very busy this summer?

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A Summer’s Day which burned

Another mundane morning of driver’s training. Three kids. An instructor who said, “go 40 on 40.” His way of attempting to be funny. Long story. Along with many other sayings he used. You would only understand if you grew up in our two-bit town.

So glad to be out of that car. I was leaning against the bars, in front of my high school, waiting for one of my parents to take me home. My shirt and shorts stuck to me and I shifted uncomfortably. My hands had taken on that smell of the iron bars, and they began turning red. I brushed the flecks of silver off onto my shorts.

Just another summer day.  June 23.

Fifteen years old and very self-conscious, I was sure hoping someone would come soon. Often the last one snatched up from every school event. Some kids were laughing nearby.

Audrey and I had gone down the country road the night before. She was riding bike alongside me, as I jogged. We talked and laughed, mocked a few people going by. Normal teenage sister things.

Not far down the road, we decided to come back and listen to some of Audrey’s albums on the record player. She had all these “78” records of new bands. We danced and ate snacks. The daylight lingered and twilight shone into the living room long.

She had gone off to college and left me home that year. In our tumultuous household. So many letters written back and forth. How I longed for that summer of catching up with her. The M.S.U little sister weekend was in the distant past. Now she was here with me- to play tennis, talk about boys, take me out to the movies. Four weeks of idolizing her.

She was my big sister. Only mine.

Plans for the summer. Telling secrets about silly boyfriends I had crushes on. Being eighteen already, made her an expert in my eyes. Many slumber parties in her room. Talking and giggling until my dad’s deep voice would echo up the stairs, with a warning to quiet down. Then we’d giggle some more with our mouths covered, biting our fingers to stifle the noise. What was so funny?

I thought the sun rose and set on her.


Fleeting thoughts of the night before ran through my mind again.  I wondered what Audrey and I could do that day, when she got out of work. Maybe we would go to the beach.

Instead of one of my parents driving up, I saw my Aunt and Uncle. They were elderly and never came into my school yard. My Aunt walked straight to me, moving faster than I had ever seen her move. She uttered words that burned deep and changed my life in drastic ways.

Have you had times which are etched so deeply into your mind? Why do you think that happens?




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