Free Ticket to Unity Fest!

I have one free ticket to give away for the Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon for the next few days. Beginning tomorrow, this would cost you $70 at the gate!

All you have to do is join my email list on my blog here, and leave a comment and it’s yours! Give it a try! You might like something else you read too! Rules are that you need to comment on the WordPress blog site.

Sorry to my dear list of current subscribers! I love you dearly, but giving it to a new subscriber.

Message me for a time and place to get the ticket from me.

It’s a wonderful 4 day concert of dozens of artists on the beautiful shores of Muskegon Lake, near Lake Michigan and it is packed full of bands on the Main Stage, lots of teen bands on the A-stage, wonderful speakers, affordable food booths, activities for kids, and more. You will love it! The weather is supposed to be great this week too! Bring a friend or family members!

Here’s the link for the event! Matt Maher, Third Day, Crowder!, Salvador, Matthew West, King and Country, Mark Schultz, many more! You don’t want to miss this!

Here’s the link for all the info!

http://unitymusicfestival.com/schedule/main-stage-schedule/

 

A teaser: A video of “King and Country”…..wow.

 

Posted in Give-Aways! | Tagged | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Dad

Dear Dad,

Happy Birthday Dad! It would be your 95th birthday today and I am thinking about your past life, and what it would possibly be today. If you wouldn’t have had to begin suffering strokes and then finally die at the age of 82…what would you be doing now if you were healthy? So many things I wish I would have asked you. Now I would sit at your side and record you and ask you questions all day long. Were you hurt that I never took more time to listen to your stories?

You worked hard as a farmer without question. It was what you always knew since you were a small boy. Your father began that farm, building the farmhouse around 1905. It was your passion and purpose. Being born in 1920, you were a teenager during the Great Depression trying to keep a farm afloat. Do you know that I can’t imagine how you did it dad?

Meeting the “city girl” Martha, briefly when you were a teen, piqued your interest I believe, from what we can assume from mom’s diaries. She actually was a housekeeper for you and your parents for a very short period of time because grandma Bertha was weak and not very healthy. A friend of the family had gained her that job. She penned in her diary, “there’s a 17 year old son, he seems nice.” That was all. Do you know, I’m sure she saw quality in your hard work ethic dad?

After the sudden passing of your father, Gerrit, when you were only 18, you took over the farm and cared for your mother. You lived dedication. A couple years later, we see that Gordon was calling on the beautiful young city girl, frequenting Holland more and more. You finally convinced her to come out to the country and be the farmer’s wife marrying her on June 5, 1942, with a simple service at her father’s home, with parents as witnesses.  She must have been afraid, and that was a huge leap of faith in you and God. Dad, do you understand that she must have seen commitment in your eyes? What did you admire about her the most?

My mom and dad's wedding picture.

My mom and dad’s wedding picture.

The early years of your marriage was an adventure of traveling, working hard and visiting with neighbors, relatives and friends. Little ones came along and you completed your family with six of us.  Except for your beloved daughter Audrey, you saw all of us develop our lives, until I, as the youngest was 39. You saw many fruits of your prayers with mom. Do you know that all of us have many of your qualities such as dedication, work ethic and faith in God?

You suffered the loss of our mom, then a daughter. You married again, losing her after only ten years. You had so many heartaches in your life. Mostly keeping them all inside must have been hard. A woman who loved farming was your last love, as Pauline brightened your days. Did she help you get through all the struggles and losses you had in your life Dad? Could you talk it all out with her? What was the saddest moment in your life? What made you the happiest?

A pile of my mom's many diaries.

A pile of my mom’s many diaries.

Dad, I’m so thankful my own sons can remember their “Grampa K!” You took them to “John Deere Days,” climbing up on the tractors, and out to eat on Sunday noons. You had Andrew up on the ladder at 9 years old helping you put siding on the farmhouse. You considered James too young at six, and he had to pick up nails, which did not make him too happy. You paid them a very small sum. But they got to know what hard work was, to earn your pay. Even though they’re vague memories, because you died when they were 13 and 10 years old, they knew you. Do you know what it means to me that they knew their grandpa? Do you think I did a good job of mothering them? Do you know that you and mom have 20 great-grandchildren today? 

I’m melancholy today, as I remember that you could have had a vibrant life even today, at 95 years old….a few people do….but it wasn’t God’s plan for you. Your time on this earth is past and now I’m in the oldest generation. What is the most important thing you’d tell me today dad? 

Love, Myrna

 

 

Posted in ancestors, Ancestry, Childhood, Dad, Death, faith, Family, Farming, Father loss, Grief and loss, listen, Marriage Commitment, Memories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A reminder of the purpose.

“You’ve been missing in action!” Mia said as stepped down into the boat. The creaking of ropes and clanging of sailboat masts were the song of the day.

“I know…” Jen sighed.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know. It’s like a wall in front of my mind that I just can’t seem to see past” An occasional swallow clattered as he flew over.

Mia asked, “Well, can you talk about it?”

Jen began slowly, “Every time I try to write a story lately or get a document started for this upcoming writing conference, I get distracted by something else. It’s usually my fault. Even when I came out here to the boat to get inspired,  things just aren’t coming together. I feel so overwhelmed!”

“Have you prayed about it?”

“Of course I’ve prayed about it! It seems that’s all I do in between wondering what to write and how to get all this stuff done,” Jen retorted quickly. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t hear the Holy Spirit like many others do.”

“Why?” Mia asked.

Jen barely dared to say it again, “Maybe…I’m just not cut out for this writing stuff. Maybe I’ve been hearing God wrong all this time. I might not have the talent or the discipline that it takes to do this writing thing. I just don’t know–”

“Hey! Don’t you start that again,” Mia chided, “You know you have been affirmed many times that you are called to write. You can do this and–”

“I don’t know.” Jen interrupted, “It’s much harder than people think. I am dry as a bone and sit with a blank computer screen. So it’s easier to get on emails, social media, texting friends, reading a book, eating…anything but actual writing!” She admitted, as she looked at the floor.

Mia peered silently at Jen until she finally looked back up into her eyes.

“You know what I’m going to say.” Mia spoke softly.

Jen knew from many years of experience of being around Mia, that she was very sure that Jen was called to write many stories of life and hope. Much more sure lots of times than she was.

“Ok…you can say it again, but I know what I’m experiencing. Even after searching through my bible and praying, I just feel dried up. I don’t know if I can do this mother-loss thing and all the interviews, the devotionals and documents to finish, and not to mention the stories on the blog, and–” Mia put up her hand in a gentle manner.

Mia asked, “Do you like it?”

Jen replied, “What?”

“The writing, giving hope and stories to the world, directing them to the gospel?”

“Yes.” Jen wouldn’t look into Mia’s eyes. “People say I’m gifted. They say I’m touching people. But I’m not sure anymore.”

“Do you think God gave you this time for a reason?”

Jen spoke through her tears now, talking fast, “Yes, and I feel guilty that I’m wasting God’s time. I’m not producing like He wants me to–I mean, I’ve said no to pool dates with friends, I’ve taken a short leave of absence from Hospice work, I’ve said no to most things at church, all in the name of ‘getting work done.’ Trying to ‘say no the the good, in order to say yes to the best’ thing!” Jen folded her arms in front of her.

Mia replied gently but firmly in her usual way. “I think you’re trying to force the creativity. Open yourself up to let the Holy Spirit flow through you, let Him wash over you.”

Finally Jen lifted her eyes to meet Mia’s. A tear dripped down onto her shirt. They knew each other’s thoughts.

“Let’s pray.” Mia barely whispered, as she waved her to sit down and placed her hands gently over top of Jen’s.

The sun shone down on them through the open hatch, and the sea gulls called. The next few moments were filled with the soft sounds of Mia speaking to the Heavenly Father. Jen didn’t know how long she had been sitting there with her head bowed and whispers coming forth out of her mouth which she didn’t even recognize.

When Jen came back into realization, Mia was just smiling at her, one sister in Christ to another.

The breeze shifted and offered refreshment to their souls.

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Phil 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

My Dad…

My dad was a hard-working farmer who loved to talk to people. I can’t remember him ever telling me in words that he loved me. Hugging was also not really done in my family. My old-fashioned Dutch dad was very stoic. He would say “Life is for the living,” “If you don’t work you don’t eat,” “All I want is cooperation!” and similar sayings. The Webster’s dictionary defines the word stoic as, “a person who can endure hardship or pain without showing emotion or complaining” I think the word stoic fits him pretty well.

 

My dad, Gordon B. Kleinheksel, could be the most frustrating, stubborn man on earth at times. It was his way or the highway. He made us work on the farm, and you never skipped church unless you were in the hospital. But I respect the qualities which made him so much more than that.

The tree branch is still there, where my swing was.

The tree branch is still there, where my swing was.

Love was shown in many ways other than words. One of the earliest remembrances I have of my dad, was of him pushing me in the swing. The tree which held the swing was on his way from the house to the barn. No matter how busy he was-if I was sitting in that swing it would happen the same way. I would just have to look at him. Being the youngest of six, and a girl too…he would walk my way and take the time to push me a few times. I would giggle and say, “Push me higher!” and he would.

 

A very early memory is a time when I was really naughty…I played with a neighbor boy when I was only about four years old. I can’t even remember the boy’s name-I think they were renters. We were playing near an old chicken coop. He handed me the other stick and it seemed so fun to hear the crash of around one hundred square panes of glass. The deed was told, as everything was on that country street. I was standing in the back porch of that old farmhouse with my head down. I don’t remember my punishment. I remember my dad looking at me and saying not to play with that boy again. I then understood it was wrong, and obeyed him.

 

When riding with a girlfriend in high school, we got in a bad car accident. A farm implement scraped the entire side of the car and cut out all the windows on my side, and most of us were completely covered in glass. We went to the hospital and my dad was there before we were. He didn’t hug me or anything, but he was there with a very concerned look on his face.

 

My girlfriends and I just “had” to go to the Sunrise service way out in Bentheim, after a huge ice storm. My dad drove us on the thick ice instead of letting any of us drive at six o’clock in the morning. There was a hill in front of Randy Klingenberg’s dad Willis’ farm and the wheels just spun. He instructed us all to push the car, even in our new Easter dresses, nylons and heels.

 

A couple times, when I would back out of the parking spot at home, I ran over one of my beloved farm cats. I would run inside crying to my dad about it. He would calmly tell me he would bury the cat. I know what he did when he thought I wasn’t looking….he would put the cat in an old feed sack and bring it way out in the field beyond where I ever walked.

 

I never had an official curfew time in high school. But one time it was extremely late as I tip-toed past his bedroom door. After that same irritating creak in the floor that you could not avoid to get to my bedroom, my dad said, “it’s awfully late.” I felt guilty and always tried to get in a lot earlier after that.

 

One of the few times I saw him show emotion was when my sister Audrey died. At one point during that first awful day he took off in that old jalopy pickup that we called the “Sanford and Sons” truck. Gravel flew as he drove very fast down the road. No one ever knew where he went to grieve the sudden unexplained loss of one of his daughters. It scared me. I never saw him drive fast or behave in that way. When we were gathered in the living room a few weeks later, he was the one who announced what would be written on her gravestone. “In youth and love she sweetly rests.” Dad said so, and that was it.

 

In college, I dated a guy that I thought I could change and we would have a dreamy life together. One time, when I was home for a weekend doing a load of wash, dad came in and sat in the kitchen near me. He nonchalantly said that the boy was not a good influence on me and was a little “different.” At the time of course I knew everything, but it sure made me think.

 

When his dear third wife Pauline was under for a very serious cancer surgery and we didn’t think she would live, he sat with me in the waiting room. We were the only ones there at the time. He expressed to me along the lines of “you never know when someone will be taken from you, it’s hard.” I didn’t know what to say but just looked at him. He’d been through so much in his life.

 

Certain sayings of my dad are forever family keepsakes. Like, “Ya got that too yet then!” “If there’s food ya eat it, and if there’s not food ya don’t complain either!” We still say them to each other and laugh.

 

When I began dating my husband, he greatly approved of him. He said he was a reliable, hard worker. Dad was surely was a good judge of character. When he stuck out his elbow to walk me down the aisle, it wasn’t a “tearful give away my daughter time.” He said something like, “ok, is this how I do it, let’s go.” So funny, I loved him for that.

 

 

My dad walking me down the aisle at my wedding.

My dad walking me down the aisle at my wedding.

Grandpa K. always loved to sit and hold my babies. He didn’t talk to them, but just wanted to hold them. Later he took my boys to the John Deere Days, or had them up on the roof shingling with him. He was so proud of those two little white-haired boys. I’m glad he lived long enough that they know who their grandpa was.

 

It was “my” Saturday to have dad after his stroke. He was sitting in his wheelchair near me while I was doing household chores. We began discussing my younger years. Usually his speech was hard to understand, but he told me plainly, “Yes, those years weren’t good for you were they, I’m sorry they were really hard,” with tears in his eyes. Sometimes I could finally see what was behind those olive-colored eyes. The last five years of his life were very difficult for him but I never heard any complaining. My dad had been a very active person who drove all over the nation, worked hard on the farm, and got together with people constantly. Activities like driving, walking, dressing, bathing, his dignity, and finally talking, were all stripped away from him in painful shreds.

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One of the first buds...

One of the first buds…

When my husband and I built our house in the country, my dad and stepmother Pauline gave us money to buy a special tree. We chose a Red Bud tree and I watched that tree grow along with my boys, for 15 years. Every spring we’d have a few weeks of enjoying the little purple buds right outside our living room window. First the boys played under it with the dog, then mowed the lawn around it, and later had their prom pictures taken in front of it. It was a symbol of my dad. It bothered me that we couldn’t take that tree along with us when we moved into town last year. One day this Spring, my dear husband drove in with a Red Bud tree to plant. I watch it change through the seasons, and think of my dad. It’s outside the living room window behind my mom’s piano.

Do you have a story about your dad or a special male mentor in your life? Pass it on.

Posted in Childhood, Dad, Family, Father's day, Grief and loss, trees | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

My Uncle–A Memorial Day Story

 

Out of respect, I gained permission to post this story…

Many people have a story of a relative who served in a war or in the service. My hero is my Uncle Art. He is a very humble man.

But I want to honor him on this Memorial Day.

My Uncle Arthur Volkema is a veteran of WWII. There aren’t too many of them left anymore as he served very young. He’s 89 years old, his health isn’t where he would like it to be, but he still gets around. He is like a lot of veterans…they don’t want to be the center of attention and they don’t think they did anything special. They were just doing their job.

An amazing story of his Navy days in WWII, is about when he was serving on the aircraft carrier “U.S.S. Bunker Hill” when it was hit by the Japanese out in the Pacific Ocean. Over three hundred sailors died, some missing, and hundreds more injured, but thankfully not my Uncle Art. He has a picture of that ship hanging in his garage with huge billows of smoke rising above it. It’s a miracle that any of them survived.

The U.S.S. Bunker Hill after it was attacked.

The U.S.S. Bunker Hill after it was attacked.

 

We have a recording of my Uncle Art when he was interviewed long ago, about that awful day in WWII. It came without warning and was gruesome. Two Japanese kamikaze planes evaded the radar and crashed into the ship.

Webster’s dictionary describes them this way: “Kamikazi–(in World War II) a Japanese aircraft loaded with explosives and making a deliberate suicidal crash on an enemy target.”

The fact was, those who were left alive had to carry on immediately. They had to do what soldiers do. They put out the fires and burial at sea had to take place for hundreds of men. They had to take the dog tags or the marked belt off each one, if it was possible, so family could be notified. The clergy-person said a few words, and by tens they were put to sea. All this while wondering if they would be attacked again.

The first and only time my Uncle was willing to be in a Memorial Day parade to be honored was in Holland, Michigan a few years ago. His entire family came along to watch and we were all so proud of him. He rode by in a car wearing his “Bunker Hill” cap and waved and smiled. Then we walked to the grave-sites of my grandparents and lots of other relatives to reminisce.

Of course my Uncle Art has always meant a lot to me personally, because he is my mom’s brother. He is also the only surviving sibling of five children. After the war, he went on to marry my Aunt who has a gentle, loving and encouraging spirit towards me and everyone who has ever met her. Uncle Art and his wife Pauline are about the sweetest, kindest couple you could ever meet. They have been like second parents to me. Being the extremely welcoming and caring people that they are, they have been so encouraging to me over the years.  My Aunt Pauline still writes hand-written letters to the “elderly” people in the nursing facility nearby their simple suburb of Chicago area. They go to church, read their bibles and pray. They brought up their three children to be wonderful Christian people and now have several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They live a quiet God-honoring life.

I’m so thankful that I got to enjoy my Uncle Art all these years.  I wouldn’t have had the cousins that I do. I wouldn’t have known him and experienced the stories he tells of the history of our family and the town he grew up in. He was the youngest brother my mom watched over. They lost their mother at a very young age too, so the family struggled.

 

My mom the oldest, holding her youngest sibling, Arthur.

My mom the oldest, holding her youngest sibling, Arthur.

Today, on Memorial Day, I think about my Uncle Art and the sacrifices he made for our country. If men and women wouldn’t serve our country in the military, we would not be free. I enjoy freedoms of The United States of America because of brave soldiers who have died, or served in the past or present.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you Uncle Arthur Volkema.

 

I have another Uncle, Fred, and my Grandfather, who also have stories I’d like to tell…to be continued another day.

Posted in Ancestry, Family, God's faithfulness, Memorial Day, Memories | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The Pretty Place

 The overgrown trail was dotted with purple, white and yellow in the spring. The whole area was called the “gullies.” Grabbing unto tree branches along the way, my senses filled  deeply with the grassy muddy smell.

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In the famous movie “Chronicles of Narnia,” when the character Lucy, finds her way through the coats in the wardrobe the world transforms before her eyes. When I slid the last tree branch aside on the way to my childhood sanctuary, my other world stood before me.

It was a sacred spot to sit, cry or pray. For me, it was my escape from all those hurts and pains which kept plaguing me during my child and teenage years. It was lovingly dubbed the “Pretty Place” by our family.

I felt like it was mine.

I knew others went there at times, but hoped no hunter or far-away neighbor would show up when I was out there. It was about a half mile walk behind our old farmhouse. It included woods, trails, and gully-like twists and turns, some of which were vertical and very deep. This un-tillable area sat almost right in the middle of the four roads that make up a country mile.

Long ago in my dad’s younger days, it had clearly defined two-track paths for tractors and wagons to go through to the field on the other side. The path was useful then, to get from one field to the other through the valleys and trees. When I was young I could still use the path although it was quite a challenge. The trees would sway in the wind and the sun would kiss my face as I basked in the innocence of childhood. After I crossed a large creek I’d walk walk off the path to the left, through the umbrella plants, up a knoll to the right, push a few tree branches to the side and there it would be. It was like opening the door to a church.

Arriving at the Pretty Place, sometimes I would stand at the top of the hill which seemed like a mountain when I was small. Looking down, there was a stream that ran from my far left side, wound around in front of me and then over to the right side. The stream about 30 feet below, had cut away at the earth and ran in a beautiful S shape.

There was a tree root to sit on at the top perfectly formed like a chair. Sometimes I sang my heart out and I dreamed I was a famous gospel singer.  I might arrive in anger or quiet shock. At times, I sat on that root and cried until there weren’t any more tears left.

The Pretty Place didn’t demand anything of me. It just listened. I could scream or be silent, and it would return the same calm trickling sound. It would never tell me how to feel, or blow up at me. Even if my grief of losing my mom and sister overtook me, the stream of grace remained the same.

Unchanging.

Just like God is.

I met God somewhere out in those fields and Pretty Place. I cannot tell you the moment or the day, or even the year. I just know He was always with me since I was a very young child. He was the only steady rock in my life. He didn’t die on me. He didn’t shout or fight, disappoint, or sneer sarcastically at me. He just listened. He accepted me the way I was. I didn’t have to put on airs of having it all together or stuff my grief down. I didn’t have to try to control anyone else or perform in a church service for Him. He loved me before I was even formed.

God walked beside me all the way to the gullies, and all the way back.

The Holy Spirit of God never condemned me if I was angry at Him. Lightning didn’t come down to strike me. Sometimes conviction would happen softly in my heart as a loving mother corrects her children in a whisper. If there was corn in the field that year, God’s words were like a soft clack of corn stalks swaying back and forth. If wheat was planted that year, the amber waves would create a gentle shhhhh sound like a loving gesture of a father putting his finger on his lips. It’s as if He said, “Just rest in Me, I will lead you.”

Photo credit: Jane Klingenberg

Photo credit: Jane Klingenberg

Ahhh….the sounds of His voice were there in the breeze through my hair. I have always been in His warm embrace.

 

Did you have a safe or comforting place to go when you were a child?

Posted in Childhood, Farming, God our Father, God's faithfulness, God's protection, Grief and loss, Memories, mother loss, prayer, sister loss, Springtime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Her Hands On Those Keys

It’s a symbol of a life well lived. As I sit down I can imagine my mom sitting on the exact same bench. I lay my hands on the keys and close my eyes. It’s soothing to touch the same ebony and ivory that she could make sing. My ability is very limited. She could enable them to praise the LORD with all her heart. She could press those keys in perfect rhythm and harmony to forget the world and think on greater things.

My mom is linked to me by blood, sweat and tears. She is forever connected to me because I was brought forth from her loins. Her blood streams through my veins. Although I knew her for only seven years, I am so thankful that she was around long enough to make me who I am. She laid her soul and faith before me by the way she lived. She laid out the keys to life.

I’m sure she bent her knees as she cried over me and all her beloved offspring of six. She combed my hair, cooked my meals, and worked hard gathering and cleaning eggs. As I was in the tub, she lifted the washcloth to warm me with water from the stove that trickled down. Mom is the one who wiped my tears when I fell onto the gravel driveway. She raised a hand from those keys to pull me close when I came to sit on that bench beside her.

Springtime tulips in the breeze.

Springtime tulips in the breeze.

She would come into my room in that huge white farmhouse at bedtime. My mom listened to my prayer in the springtime dusk as she pulled the shade down, and the covers up around my shoulders. She read me a story and ran her hand over my forehead as she kissed me goodnight. I remember her very last night. The two hairpins she left on the corner of my bookcase that I didn’t dare touch for weeks hoping she might come back to get them.

Her hands worked intensely hard, and could also rest softly on those keys and fill every corner of that farmhouse with music for our souls. Every piece of woodwork absorbed the melody of praise.

My mom's piano in my home.

My mom’s piano in my home.

Now the piano sits in my living room and I can imagine her hands on those keys. Two of her diaries are always on the piano so I can turn to a page to listen to her voice. My mom knew the key to true contentment even when life handed her unpleasant keys.

Your hands are now on those keys of life. Thank you for showing me what they are. I choose life.

Happy Mother’s Day mom. I love you and will see you later.

Posted in Death, Family, Farming, Grief and loss, Hope, Mom, mother loss, Mother's Day, Motherless Daughters | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments