“All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from my Mother” #1 A Tribute for Mother’s Day

About “Hoeing ‘In the Garden'”  – The memoir, In the Garden, portrays the author’s mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God. At every crossroads of her life, she chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair. “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra. After marrying the love of her life, Henry, Ellen lived her entire life in the house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan (the site of present day Country Dairy), putting down her roots in the place she believed God had planted her. There she found her calling as a helpmeet and homemaker. She transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for her family.

To view the memoir visit http://www.principia.com or http://www.janethasselbring.com. In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

 

“All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from my Mother – A Mother’s Day Tribute 2017”

“Next to the might of God, the serene beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence for good in the world.”  (Dwight L. Moody)

Amazing Grace Dec. 8, 1914 – Sept. 1, 2005

I gaze at my mother’s gravestone, amazed that a simple dash, set between the dates of my mother’s birth and her death, can comprise her life – her birth to a well-to-do-family, her happy precocious childhood, her romance and marriage to the love of her life, Henry, my father, their life together on a small farm in west Michigan in the 1930’s, where they eked out a living and raised their family, their retirement after selling the farm to Wendell, their son, Henry’s death, my mother’s declining health that resulted in her being infirm and homebound the last years of her life, and her peaceful and victorious death.

That simple audacious dash is a sobering reminder that when we die, everything associated with the physical realm of form – our money, possessions, career, clothes, friends, and yes, even our egos, dissolve.  Our life experiences become part of the “memory bank” we leave behind, but the solemn truth is this:  with our last breath, we are stripped, bare to the soul, to the very essence of who we “are.” Not “who” we knew, “what” we did, or “where” we lived, but the “constant radiation” of what we are at the core of our being.

The “essence” of my mother is what stays with me in the years after her death – the “serene beauty of a holy life,” that grows stronger with time and reflection.

“Ellen’s last years weren’t her best years, heath wise, but time spent with her, during these last years, as rich and rewarding. Moments spent with her were moments lived in the present, moments of eternity – kairos moments.  As her body withered and faded, something remarkable was happening.  She grew weaker, yet her spirit waxed stronger.  She was helpless, dependent and vulnerable.  Her skin was thin as an onion’s, yet she glowed with an inner radiance that was otherworldly.  It was as though the sunshine of God’s face was shining through her, this emptied tired, humbled, ordinary pilgrim.”  (In the Garden, pp 105,106)

“Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil – the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his/her life.  This is simply the constant radiation of hat a person really is, not what he/she pretends to be.”  (Wm George Jordan)

One of the most endearing things about my mother is how her faith grew and matured through the challenges of her life on the farm.  It’s in her struggles during these defining moments, that I find guidance and direction for my life. Her life was grounded on Scriptures and prayer, where she came to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God of the covenant.  She communed with the God of creation as she picked string beans in the garden, trimmed and tended her beloved roses, and hung sheets on the clothesline, but it was in the “why” moments, when life came at her hard, and it often did, that she came to know the Lord and Master of her life.

     My mother was naturally strong emotionally, fiercely independent, self-reliant and she possessed a healthy self-image; however, when she came to the end of herself, was unable to cope or continue on in her own strength, she threw herself on the mercies of her Lord and prayed the prayer that would become her mantra:  Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

The essence of my mother’s life is surrender. Giving up her will and submitting her ego to the will of her Lord, didn’t mean she became weak, vacillating, compromising, or shilly-shallying.  Quite to the contrary. She was absolutely tenacious where her faith was concerned, but her conversation was without ego and judgment.  She was gentle as a lamb; powerful as a tigress – she is my hero. I love and adore her.

Stay tuned – this series continues with the words of Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount, words that come alive for me in the lif e of my mother.  It is said that “seeing is believing,” and her life personifies for me the truth of the Scriptures.  “Blessed are the meek…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her Children Rise Up… #3 – Give us this day… – “Stollen from Heaven?”

memoir-coverAbout “Hoeing ‘In the Garden'”  – The memoir, In the Garden, portrays the author’s mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God. At every crossroads of her life, she chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair. “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra. After marrying the love of her life, Henry, Ellen lived her entire life in the house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan (the site of present day Country Dairy), putting down her roots in the place she believed God had planted her. There she found her calling as a helpmeet and homemaker. She transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for her family.

To view the memoir visit http://www.principia.com or http://www.janethasselbring.com. In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

In this series, “Her Children Arise and call her Blessed –  What My Mother Taught Me”  the author describes her mother as an archetype, guiding her through the rough and tumble of life’s journey, helping her to fulfill her soul’s deepest yearnings and desires,  become the person she wants to be, and how she wants to be remembered. She recalls challenging, interesting experiences and times when she called upon the wisdom of her mother and the traits that transformed this ordinary woman and made her extraordinary.

      Christmas 2016  – “Daily Manna – Stollen from Heaven?”

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Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7;14)

I. Introduction

Immanuel: God with us.  Words I’ve heard for nearly 70 years.  Words I know  theoretically from reading the Bible.  Words I reflect on at Christmastime.  Words as much a tradition as the stollen, from the local German bakery we enjoy every year.

But, what I know about and reflect on,  my parents knew firsthand.  Just as surely as Jesus was born in a manger, God dwelt with them. The presence of God was so palpable in their lives, in their home, on the farm, where they lived, it was unmistakeable, so visible you could see it, so tangible  you could almost reach out and touch it.  I sense its power even now, as I remember, many years later.

Their realization, every day, every minute, of the Presence of God, stemmed from their experiences on the farm, where they eked out a living and learned to trust in God for their daily needs.

God was with my mother as she went about her daily chores –  guiding the clothes through the dreaded wringer washing machine, hanging them on the line to flap in the breeze, pulling up onions in the garden, and snipping flowers from her garden for a fragrant bouquet.

He was there as my father walked behind the workhorses, Maud and Daize, guiding the plow back and forth across the field, mended the fences, and milked the cows, squeezing their udders to force the flow of milk into the pail.

Though I remember it most vividly in their latter years, when they were free of daily chores, financial worries, and raising children;  still I know God’s presence was there from the beginning. dimmed  perhaps when life came at them hard, but there all the same.

Then, somewhere, along their journey, like a beautifully crafted story, their trust in God for  physical, daily needs translated to a faith in God, as the Source and fountainhead of everything necessary for, the body, not only, but, for the soul as well.

The daily manna became the Bread of Life.

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II. Here is their story:

“Their{my parents’] lives would be fashioned and shaped by the farm, and in turn, the farm would forever bear the stamp of their presence.” (In the Garden, pg. 15).

“Ekeing out a living,” describes my parents’ life on the farm (now Country Dairy), where my father brought his bride on March, 1936, after their honeymoon to the Wisconsin Dells.

My father, who grew up on the farm,  worked the land with, and for, his father. They settled up on Saturday nights, and when my father brought home, in cash, his share of the week’s profits, he and my mother first placed ten percent of the earnings in a jar that sat, prominently, on the hutch, in the dining room. Only after the tithe was allocated, were they free to dispense the rest of the money for groceries, school clothes, seeds, a new pair of shoes, a new toy, and if there was enough,  a new hat for Ellen.

That jar was a symbol, early on, that my parents placed their trust in God to supply their daily needs. When children were born, (seven altogether), the daily needs of  food, clothing, shelter, means of travel, religious instruction, education, books, etc.  became increasingly apparent.

Life was hard for my parents back them. If a cow got infected, the entire day’s supply of milk had to be dumped, a badly-timed windstorm could ruin the cherry crop; too much rain and the newly sown seeds would wash away; too  too little and they would lie stagnant.

I “rise up” and remember:  they were poor, yet rich; they faced insurmountable challenges and became strong; they suffered grief and loss, yet found joy; experienced doubts, but were people of great faith; suffered the agony of defeat, but, in the end, knew the glory of victory.  What was the secret of their lives?

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1;14)

III. Through Scripture, prayer and time spent in nature, the God who provided them with daily bread – manna from heaven, became the Source and fountainhead of all things they needed for a healthy, happy, free and harmonious life and became a living Presence dwelling with them.

A.  Scripture:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” fine words once read after dinner and theorized about in a bible study class, were “realized” as God dwelling with them.  As their faith was honed on the farm, words of Scripture became embedded in their souls and experienced in the rough and tumble of their everyday chores:  their Lord would be present with them;  because He was God, all-good, all-powerful, all-wise and all-loving, they had nothing to fear; they could rely on Him to take care of them and their children; He would supply all their needs, teach them everything they needed to know and guide their steps aright.

“Faith is what God asks of us.  His invisibility is the test of faith.  To know who sees Him, God makes Himself invisible.”  ( Hillenbrand, Unbroken)

Hoeing "In the Garden" #4 - Of Lilies and Sparrows

B.  Prayer:

“Give us this day, our daily bread…”     Like Joshua of old, my father committed his family to the Lord – Scripture  and prayer were as much a part of our lives as meals, chores and dishes.  But if prayer, at first, was more of a ritual or habit carried over from their parents, it became, for them, a lifeline; the only real  action available to them, the only thing that can change one’s character.

After a windstorm ruined the cherry crop, or an infected cow forced my father to dump the day’s milk supply, the words of the Lord’s prayer, “give us this day our daily bread,” must have taken on new meaning and urgency.

Daily prayers for a good cherry crop, rain to fall on parched earth, and safety of children walking home from school, always ended with “not my will but Thy will be done,” and became a force for changing their characters and aligning their lives and wills with the divine will of their heavenly Father, transforming prayers for daily bread into a force for accessing the eternal Bread of Life.

When life came at her hard, Ellen often met her Lord “in the garden…”

Ellen in conversation with her Lord, after daughter, Janet broke my arm, jumping out of a swing, needing surgery.   “Ellen, Ellen, why are you crying?” “Oh, my Lord, Janet has broken her arm and we have no insurance.  We had to use next month’s grocery money to pay for the surgery and heaven knows where we will get the money to pay the hospital bills!”  The Lord smiled.  “Ellen,” his voice, soft and tender.  “‘Therefore I say unto you.  Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for the body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat and the body than raiment?'” “Yes, my Lord, but it is not for myself that I come to you.  My children need food and shoes and winter coats and boots for school and…” She could barely go on.  “Please, my Lord, please help me.” Her voice broke off in a sob. “Sometimes I don’t know how we will get along.  There just isn’t enough money…”  It was quiet in the garden.  Then, “Ellen, my child.   ‘Which of you by thought or worry can add one cubit to her stature? …Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin and yet…Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” “Oh my Lord, forgive me for doubting.  Help me to believe. Sometimes I think we need a miracle around here.”  God smiled.  “Miracles are what I’m good at, my child.  Now go in peace.  Your faith has made you whole.”  Then He was gone. Ellen finished cutting her flowers, thinking about what her Lord had said.  Feeling strangely steadfast and humbled, she went inside to fashion a bouquet and finish her ironing.” (In the Garden, pp 49,50)

More of Ellen’s conversations with her Lord can be found in the memoir, In the Garden)

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C.  Nature:

“I love the house where you live, O Lord; the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8)

“Henry spent most of his waking hours outside where he became close to nature and to God. While guiding the plow…he listened to the birds chirping and singing.  He watched the killdeer gliding back and forth on its spindly stick-like legs.  The hawks hovered high over the maple tree as he snapped the tall green asparagus stalks.  He rose with the sun and watched it  rise in the east, arc across the sky and plunge into the western hills, an orange ball of fire, at day’s end. As he went about his chores, Scripture verses he had read and memorized were internalized until they sank into his soul and  were planted there like fertile seeds.  Like the seeds he planted, Henry became an apple tree himself, planted by rivers of water, bearing its fruit in season, with leaves that would never wither and fruit that would never be damaged with wind blight.”  (In the Garden, pg. 35)

“As she {Ellen} went about her daily chores, especially when she was outdoors hanging out clothes or working in her garden or flowerbeds, the truths contained in her daily Scripture reading became real to her and their mysteries unfolded in her heart. The feeling of reverence and awe at a bird’s song or a beautiful sunset were firmly grounded in the belief that the God of Creation was also the God of Scripture… nature was a venue for meeting God and worshipping HIm.” (In the Garden pp 36,37)

Immanuel : God with us; the Word become flesh; the Babe of Bethlehem.

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IV.  The Symbol of Bread

A.  Just as eating food is an act that must be done for oneself,  experiencing the Presence of God is something we must access for ourselves – noone else can do it for us.

B.  Realizing God happens “daily,” in the here and now.  The Israelites, wandering in the desert, were told they would be supplied with manna from heaven every day, each one receiving abundant for her needs, but on no account, were they to save it up for the morrow.  Those who lacked faith in God’s promise of “daily” manna, suffered  pestilence or death. My parents lived day by day.  They learned that the best way to prepare for tomorrow, for eternity, is to make today all it can be.

V.   “Stollen from Heaven”

It’s been said that God is “in the details.”  “If God is in the details, we must all on some deep level believe that the truth is in there too.”  (Prose, Reading Like a Writer pg. 196)

“Her children rise up and call her blessed…” As I enjoy a slice of stollen this Christmas, I think of my mother baking bread.  She baked four loaves twice a week and the nine of us could go through them quickly.  Was it then, when she was mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, and forming it into loaves, that God became real to her? Could she see her Lord through the mist, when she unloaded a 10 – lb. bag of flour into the flour bin sending a spray of dust into the air? Did she  think about bread as daily manna as she plucked the freshly baked loaves from the oven and placed them on a rack to cool?  Was she aware of God as her Bread of Life as she slathered slices with butter and set out her homemade jam?

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Immanuel : God with us; the Word become flesh; the Babe of Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoeing In the Garden – “Her Children Arise and call her Blessed” #1

Things with feathers...About “Hoeing ‘In the Garden'”  – The memoir, In the Garden, portrays the author’s mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God. At every crossroads of her life, she chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair. “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra. After marrying the love of her life, Henry, Ellen lived her entire life in the house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan (the site of present day Country Dairy), rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her. There she found her calling as a helpmeet and homemaker. She transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for their family.

To view the memoir visit http://www.principia.com or http://www.janethasselbring.com. In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

In this series, “Her Children Arise and call her Blessed –  Lessons from Proverbs,”  the author describes how her mother has become her archetype, guiding her through the rough and tumble of life’s journey, helping her to fulfill her souls’ deepest yearnings and  desires, becoming the person she wants to be, and how she wants to be remembered. She recalls challenging, interesting experiences and times when she called upon the wisdom of her mother and the traits that transformed this ordinary woman’s life and made it extraordinary.

 

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Lesson 1 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood

     It was week five of my writing class.  As the class members assembled, I looked over my notes one last time before welcoming them to another session of Writing the Short Story.  We had covered a lot in the course and the following week, Week Six, was scheduled to be A Celebration of Writing, the culmination of the course, where students would share a finished piece they had written, edited and polished.  I had a lot of material to cover before then.   I hadn’t wanted to teach the class, but agreed, under pressure, to give it a try.  I was retired after all and supposed to be enjoying my time, wintering, in Florida.  In truth, I would rather have been outside on the tennis court.

     It was time to start, but before I had a chance to welcome everyone,  Barbara piped up. Barbara was from New York and before retirement, had written musicals, some of which had been successful off  – Broadway productions.

     “I have something to say,” she announced. Quiet settled over the room.  “I’m not happy with the way you are teaching the class.”  Instinctively I stiffened, as she proceeded to blast me for talking too much; for teaching at the expense of class participation.  It wasn’t the way she learned and certainly not the way she would teach, were she the instructor.  As the complaints continued,  I glanced around the table, feeling responsible for the class members. I was the instructor after all.  These were my students.  They appeared startled at her visceral outage, their faces a bit gloomy and strained. I sensed some were ready to jump in and defend me.

     Feeling angry and betrayed, I was about to respond in kind, telling her she was out of line, attacking me in front of the class.  Her feelings should have been relayed to me in private.  Then too, my hackles were up over her description of the class structure.  Even though I knew I had been dominating class time with my agenda,  I strongly disliked classes where instructors abdicated their professional responsibility to teach, instead allowing class participation to be the order of the day.

     In the meantime, Barbara still had the floor, her assertions turning into a diatribe.  I needed to do something to regain control.   Suddenly, out of nowhere,  a calm settled over me.  From somewhere came a question:  “What would my mother do?”  And knowing the answer to the question, I  sat back, smiled at Barbara and the others.

     “Thanks for your input, Barbara,” I said.  “I’m sure I have been talking a lot during this class, trying to cover everything I promised in the course outline.  But, let’s change things up today and go with your idea to have more class participation.” With that I invited each of the students to share something they had written, inviting feedback and discussion from the others.  “Would you like to begin Barbara?”  My invitation was genuine, with not a trace of defensiveness or rancor.

      Everyone relaxed.  We spent the rest of the time listening and discussing each other’s writings.  Ever the teacher, I attempted, as best I could, to apply the principles and elements of writing – what I was supposed to be teaching(!), to their works and some of the problems discussed.

      Toward the end of the class, a member spoke up.  “I know you changed today’s agenda to accommodate the wishes of Barbara,” she said, “but I think many of us would like to hear the lesson you had planned for today.  Could we postpone the Celebration of Writing a week and have you do today’s lesson next week?”  Barbara sat mute. Everyone concurred and that’s what we did.

       Barbara didn’t return to the class. Later, alone with her, I suggested she might like to join another group, devoted solely to sharing and critiquing.  As gently as I could, I noted that there might have been a better way for her to handle her comments.

The Celebration of Writing was a huge success for the students and along with their evaluations of the class, both written and shared personally with me, many of them noted how much they appreciated how I handled a challenging situation and turned it into a positive for everyone, without diminishing Barbara.

    Hoeing "In the Garden" #4 - Of Lilies and Sparrows “First attempt to understand, then to be understood,”  was practiced by my mother, Ellen, far before Stephen Covey described it as Habit #5  in his Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.   That day in class, faced with Barbara’s barrage of complaints, I called on that wisdom.

     Interestingly enough, one of my class lecture/discussions, actually the one I postponed because of Barbara, had to do with calling upon archetypes to guide and navigate us in the difficult situations/relationships of life.  Having written In the Garden,  a memoir, of my mother, Ellen, I had come to respect and admire her – her peaceful and victorious death led me to explore the manner in which she lived – and died; however, not until I devised the lessons for the writing course, specifically the lesson on archetypes, in which I state that everyone has at least one archetype, that may lie dormant, until its triggered by some situation in the environment or the conscious/unconscious mental life of the person, did I realize that my archetype is my mother.  Once aroused, the archetype will manifest powers and attributes through you, helping you to become the person you want to be.  Wow!  What a coincidence!

     I think my mother has been my guiding light and mentor for a long while, but it took Barbara to make me aware of it.  My mother’s example, that day, enabled me to take a step back from my defenses, my pride, my “right” ideas – my EGO, and listen, really listen to her – not through my perceptions, my story, but really listen to her  – her needs, her story. With my mother’s help, I was able to place Barbara’s concerns before my own, genuinely trying to understand her instead of needing to be understood myself.

     My mother was a strong, independent woman with high ideals, morals, and principles. Eking out a living on a small farm with Henry, the love of her life, in the 1930’s(she was a city girl, after all), couldn’t have been easy; yet through it all, she invested herself and her beliefs in an Emotional Bank Account that grew dividends over the years.

     For such a strong, independent woman to show me the way to non confrontation, acceptance, understanding, and  exploring winning solutions by listening and caring to and for others, is a wonderful thing to contemplate.  My mother would want me to explain that all the miracles and victories of her life were made possible through her faith in God and the work of the spirit in her life.

     My mother, my archetype, helps me to take the high road in the situations and relationships of my life.  With her guidance, I’m learning not to be confrontational, not to react defensively, to listen to people and care about their feelings, and to create WIN/WIN situations out of problems and challenges.  2015-12-11 13.55.11

      I feel good about the way things worked out that day with Barbara.  Seeking to understand, rather than to be understood, helped me be who I want to be and how I want to be remembered.

                                                          “A Garland and a Chain”

“Listen, my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

(Proverbs 1: 8,9)