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)

pair of cardinals

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?

christmas-tree

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

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Her children call her blessed #2 – “Help! Life Doesn’t Make Sense!”

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 –  What My Mother Taught Me”  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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Help!  Life Doesn’t Make Sense!

“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 head.”  (Proverbs 1:8,9)

      …talking with good friends about God and faith.  They’d purchased my mother’s memoir,  “An Ordinary Women, An Extraordinary Life,”  as a gift for their daughter, who was going through rough times.  After reading the Foreword, which states why I felt compelled to write my mother’s story, they were returning it.  “We cannot believe in a God that allows tragedy to inflict pain and suffering on people,” they stated, citing the Holocaust, terrorist regimes, and wars as  examples.

      I knew something of their pain.  I’ve had my own doubts and questions as I watched someone I loved suffer.  Books about the Holocaust and visits to Dachow and Aushwitz sickened me.   As a teenager, I read the Diary of Anne Frank.  When I visited her family’s cramped quarters in Amsterdam, the reality of the injustice, cruelty, and inhumanity hit me all over again.  My friends are Jewish and their outrage at the horrors the Nazi regime inflicted on their people, has a personal quality  I cannot experience.

It’s hard to make a rational argument for faith in the light of such pain and suffering.  I was silent as they railed against God – the God of my parents, who in their view,  was unfit for the title and office of the Almighty.  They  sounded angry and bitter. They’d put God on trial and He came up short.  This encounter and others like it, make me realize and appreciate what my parents taught me and instilled in me and my siblings:  a reverence and fear of the Lord.

Theirs was no Pollyanna faith.  They were aware of evil and injustice in the world.  In addition, they experienced their own heartbreaks – eking out a living on a small farm, in the middle of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, losing a daughter in the prime of her life, and a son to the war – a son who survived the jungles of Nam, but never returned home. In the face of it all, they never forsook their Lord.  In the crucible of suffering, their faith was strengthened.

  Eking out a living on a small farm had its challenges.  “A sick cow could contaminate and ruin the entire batch of milk.  Too little rain and the newly planted seeds could suffocate; too much and they would wash away.  A windstorm could destroy the entire cherry crop.  Too make matters worse, the cherries would have to be picked  and dumped to insure the success of next year’s crop.”  (In the Garden, pg. 32)  They were never the same after the death of their daughter or the estrangement of their youngest son.  In their grief, they most certainly cried out to their God, “How will we feed our children with the cherry crop ruined?  Why did our precious daughter have to die? Why?  Why?  At the end of their despair, they fell silent and bowed to the infinite wisdom of the Almighty.  It never would have occurred to them to forsake their Lord, even in the midst of their pain.

What was the key to their strong, uncompromising faith?   Having written the memoir, I’d  already reflected on my parents’ faith – founded on the promises of Scripture, solidified through prayer and grounded in the majestic cathedral of nature, where so many of the details of their lives were carried out.

  Scripture  – My father was a Joshua of old:  “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  (Joshua 24;15) My parents began and ended their days with prayer and Scripture, and during the day, our meals began with prayer, concluded with Scripture, a lively, heated family discussion, and closing prayer.

Prayer – My parents knew that prayer was the only way to change things.  “They hid God’s word in their hearts as the sun arced across the heavens.  Thus, they were strengthened and fortified for the vicissitudes of the day.  With (Scripture and} morning prayers they sought access to the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings; {Scripture and} evening prayers brought them back under their heavenly Father’s protective wings. Daily devotions were their spiritual milk.”  (In the Garden, pp 116,117)

“Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

hawk soaringNature – My parents’ faith was honed on the farm.  Both of them, but especially my father, spent many hours out of doors, where they became close to nature and to God. I can imagine him, guiding the handheld plow across the fields, behind our workhorses, Maud and Daize, my father listened to the birds chirping, the killdeer gliding to and fro on its spindly legs, and the hawks soaring high overhead.

“As he went about his daily chores, Scripture verses he’d read and memorized were internalized until they were embedded into his soul and became planted there like fertile seeds. ” (In the Garden, pg. 35)

My mother too, encountered her Lord in the out of doors.  As she hung her newly washed clothes on the line outside. a black – capped chickadee perched on a branch nearby and trilled its little heart out.mountain chickadee

“Oh, you beautiful little creature,” Ellen called. Something in that plump little bird lifted her spirits and gave her a burst of hope. She felt a deep longing within…an awakening to nature and the power of birds singing, trees budding, breezes blowing, and bedsheets flapping in the wind.  It was at that moment, Ellen knew there was a power beyond al that she could see, smell, hear and feel.”  (In the Garden, pg. 27)

The stillness inherent in the sounds of the clumping hooves of Maud and Daize, the rustling leaves of the majestic maple tree, the chirp of the killdeer and the trilling of the chickadee translated to a stillness within – a sacredness connecting them to the formless, the intelligence beyond thought – God Himself.

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

   The secret of my parents’ deep, unwavering faith was surrender to the will of God and looking beyond earth’s trials to heaven.

Surrender – My parents joined the ranks of the spiritual greats, who throughout history, in the face of great loss, illness, imprisonment or impending death, accepted the seemingly unacceptable, thereby finding, “the peace that passeth all understanding.”  According to Eckhart Tolle, “acceptance of the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in the world.”  There is a certain recognizable crusty hardness about people who are resigned to life and its hardships.  Madeleine L’Engle states that there is the finest line separating acceptance and resignation; however, choosing one over the other, will make all the difference in the way you live your life.

My parents showed no signs of crust whatsoever.  At the end of their lives, they were tired, empty, humbled pilgrims.  My father died suddenly and peacefully in his eighties; however my mother lived to be 90.  We had the privilege of watching her die a serene, victorious and peaceful death (an experience which led me to write her story).

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Looking beyond – “Their faith enabled them to see life beyond the cornfields, the cherry orchards, the clothesline, and the garden, and  helped them through the  disappointments of a blighted cherry crop, rotted potatoes, diseased cows, and sick children.  My parents never slighted their duties or responsibilities; however, beyond it all, they saw their eternal inheritance.

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

Aslan

My parents started out trusting in the God of the Old Testament, the more impersonal God of the covenant.  As time went on and their faith was tried in the crucible of suffering, the Almighty God evolved into their Lord of the New Testament.  There is no more appropriate description of the God they came to love, fear, and revere than that penned by C.S. Lewis in his imaginative, insightful tale for children of all ages – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

     “Is he a man?”  asked Lucy?  “Aslan a man?”  said Mr. Beaver sternly.  “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great emperor – Beyond – the Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts?  Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

     “Ooh!”  said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man.  Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

     “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver,  “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just plain silly.”

     “Then he isn’t safe?”  said Lucy.

     “Safe?”  said Mrs. Beaver.  “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  but he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

I conclude that while pain and suffering are and always will be part of life, we can choose how to deal with it and that choice will make all the difference in how we live.  Interestingly, while my friends couldn’t believe in a God that would allow senseless things to happen, my parents believed that life makes absolutely no sense apart from God.

Faith is what they taught us, faith is what they lived, and faith is my choice – by the grace of God.

 

The Twelve Birds of Christmas – “Spread the Word”

“Spread the Word”
The 12 Birds of Christmas – a series featuring a bird each day of our journey to Bethlehem. May these “things with feathers,” give us hope and inspiration as we prepare for the coming of the Child, whom we anticipate; worship and adore.
It’s fitting we begin our series today, December 8 – my mother’s birthday. She would have been 101 today. She loved birds and as I recount in her memoir, “In the Garden,” birds gave her encouragement when life came at her hard in the 1930’s, when she and Henry lived and worked on the land, now Country Dairy.
The black-capped chickadee was one of her favorite birds and though she and Henry could not coax the chickadee to build a nest in one of their many birdhouses, she was always thrilled when the plump feathered wonder with black cap and bib, alit on a tree nearby and peeled out its “chickadee – dee – dee.”

black capped chickadee
Black – capped chickadee

“On a crisp Monday morning in mid – April, Ellen had just pinned her last bedsheet onto the clothesline, when a little black-capped chickadee perched on a branch overhead, trilling its heart out. “Oh you beautiful little creature,” Ellen called. Something about that plump little bird lifted her spirits and gave her a burst of hope (like the cardinals had done earlier{pg. 23}.
Ellen felt a deep longing within – it seemed to come from the very depths of her being, her soul, an awakening to nature and the power of birds trilling, breezes blowing, clothes flapping in the wind. It was in that moment she knew there was a power beyond all that she could see, smell, hear and feel.
She had learned about God in church and Sunday school and had publicly professed her faith when she was eighteen…But now in a bird’s song, she experienced the God of creation and revelation in her heart. In the bird’s song, the budding of the trees, the cool refreshing breeze and the tulips blooming by the side of the house, she knew her Lord. She didn’t have to worry about her new life on the farm or feel lonely and isolated when Henry left her to do his chores about the farm. With God’s help she could become the housewife she wanted to be for her Henry. She felt strangely moved, changed. She had experienced a kairos moment – a moment out of time…Feeling refreshed, Ellen picked up her clothes basket and went inside.” (ITG pp. 27,28)

mountain chickadee
Mountain chickadee

Ellen’s experience with the chickadee is described in a poem by Emily Dickinson: “Hope is a thing with feathers, that perches in the soul; it sings the song without the words, and never stops at all.”
When nesting is over and the young are on the wing, chickadees form flocks of eight or twelve birds, which roost and forage together until spring. Ellen’s chickadee was likely part of such a flock. Finding food in the winter is tough and hunting in groups increases the chances for success. As the band of birds flits about among the trees and shrubs searching for pupae and insect eggs, they keep an eye out for each other. When one of them discovers a tidbit, the rest of the flock twitter and chirp enthusiastically, spreading the word that food has been discovered. In this way, new food-source bulletins are disseminated throughout the band.
The lesson of the chickadee: “Go tell it on the mountain…” As you journey to Bethlehem this season, spread the message of Jesus’s birth to others – a message of peace, love and hope.
Challenge: Can you find the minute feature which sets the mountain chickadee apart from its black-capped cousin?. Answer below.
Happy Birthday Mom. May you be surrounded by a flock of black – capped chickadees today and may the full – throated ease of their singing fill your soul.
Answer to the challenge: (a white eyebrow)
Note: This post is a tribute to my mother on what would have been her 101st birthday)Hoeing "In the Garden" #4 - Of Lilies and Sparrows

To a Waterfowl #6 – I’ll Fly Away

Note: 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 the crossroads of her life. In the midst of the “why,” moments of her ife, 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, transforming their home into a place of beauty and sanctuary. 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.

“I’ll Fly Away..”

“And soon that toil shall end,

Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,

And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend

Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest.” (To a Waterfowl, verse 6, Wm Cullen Bryant)

 

Our waterfowl’s journey is over!  He has finally arrived at his summer home, where he can scream with others of his kind and find safety and shelter among the tall grasses.

We’ve been comparing Bryant’s depiction of the migration of the shorebird to the pilgrimage of my mother, Ellen, as described in the memoir, In the Garden.  As our shorebird has reached his final destination, so Ellen has come to the end of her life on earth.   Helpless and dying, she lays on her hospital bed,  where she gazes over the farmland to the hills beyond. One senses eternity in her presence.  We listen in on her final conversation, “in the garden,” with her Lord:

  “MHoeing "In the Garden" #4 - Of Lilies and Sparrowsy dear Ellen.  It is time to go.  Today your name will be called, by the One who formed you in the beginning of time.”

Then, as His words broke through, yet hardly daring to believe their meaning, “My Lord, my Lord, can it be true? Oh, I have waited so long for this moment?

“Ellen, today you will enter into the joy of your Lord.  Come, the angels are waiting to bring you home.  Can you hear them singing?”  (In the Garden, pg. 109)

 

 

A shorebird’s migratory journey is fraught with dangers.  Besides looking out for prowling predators or human “fowlers,” our bird requires a plentiful food supply, energy for flying thousands of miles, mostly at night,  without stopping, and an internal GPS system that will keep him on course and bring him home.

Ellen’s journey, too was filled with challenges and trials.  Ekeing out a living on a small farm with Henry, was no small task.  Infected cows, untimely winds, torrential downpours, resulted in heartrending losses of badly needed income  The death of a daughter and estrangement from a son tore at the fabric of Ellen’s soul.  It was in these “why” moments that Ellen found her Lord, “in the garden.”

“And soon thy toil shall end…”

Ellen laid on her hospital bed…She felt tired, so very tired.

“Ellen.”  The voice familiar, soft and oh so tender.

“My Lord, is it You calling?”

“Yes, Ellen, it is time.”

“Time?”  She seemed confused; puzzled.  “Time, my Lord?  Is it time for me to get up then?  I think I have overslept.  Oh, my Lord, it is late? I have work to do – beans to pick and snip, roses to tend, socks to darn…”  She rushed on.”

“No, Ellen.  No, my dearest.  You have no chores to do today.  You have fought the good fight.  You have run the race.  Your earthly chores are done.”  (In the Garden, pp. 108,109)

“Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest…”

Eckart Tolle, in his book, The New Earth, describes heaven, not as a place, but as an inner realm of consciousness, available to us in the here and now.

Spiritual teacher and philosopher, Emmet Fox agrees:

“Heaven lies all about us – it is not a distant locality afar off in the skies, but all around us now… Heaven is the religious name for the Presence of God, and Heaven is infinite… Heaven is Eternity, but what we know here, we know only serially, in a sequence called ‘time, ‘ which never permits us to comprehend an experience in its entirety.” (Sermon on the Mount, pp. 36,37)

While this inner realm of consciousness was evident in Ellen, she very much believed heaven  was a place and longed for the time when she would go to join her loved ones, who had gone on before; however, this did not mean that she, or my father, shirked their earthly responsibilities and sat around dreaming of a life beyond.

” At some point, when life was hard and the going rough, they learned to view life in terms {of heaven} of eternity.  Their faith enabled them to see past the cornfields, the cherry orchards, the clothesline, and the garden to see the life beyond.  Their faith helped them through the disappointments of a blighted cherry crop, rotted potatoes, a diseased heifer, and a sick child.  Faith helped them to see, at the end of it all, their eternal inheritance.”  (In the Garden, pg. 118)

Heaven was Ellen’s ultimate destination.

And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend

IMG_4186In the memoir, I describe Ellen, lying on her death bed, traveling back and forth on the road to Heaven and how that experience, etched in my memory, inspired the writing of my mother’s story.

“As I sat with her, she would drift in and out of consciousness.  Many times, she would awaken from her dozing and be talking, lucidly, with Henry {my father}, who was obviously nearby for her.”  (In the Garden, pg. 106)

Again, we listen in as Ellen, on her deathbed, talks with her Lord:

“Angels, my Lord?  Yes, I can hear them.  I see them in the distance.  They are coming closer.  And, someone is with them.”  Joy rushing forth like a geyser from the ground.  “Who is that with them, my Lord?  Can it be, yes it is – my Henry!  Oh, my                                                                                                                                                     Photo by Larry Monat

Lord, my Henry!  I am ready.  I am ready to go home.”  (In the Garden, pg. 109)

Upon reflection, I believe my father was sent back to accompany my mother to heaven at the time of her death.

“Once in a far off time and place, Ellen had processed down the aisle on the arm of her father, Benjamin, to wed the love of her life, Henry.  Now she and Henry, were together forever, in the city of gold… Can you picture Ellen and Henry together again, their  resurrected bodies – renewed, whole, and glorified, leading the angelic victory procession? (In the Garden, pg 133)

Soon, o’er thy sheltered nest.

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“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:3)

Their earthly migratory journey over, two, tired, humbled pilgrims, home at last with their Heavenly Father;  their faith was made visible.  Their faith had seen them through times of suffering, disappointment and grief – times, when they had prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” and their prayers were not answered in the way they would have chosen. Still, they never forsook their Jesus.

(Photo by Larry Monat)

“Faith is what God asks of us.  His invisibility is the test of faith.  To know who sees Him, God makes Himself invisible.”  (Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, pg. 175)

All their lives together, Henry and Ellen hungered and thirsted after God and cultivated that need with a daily diet of scripture and prayer.  Their faith was only deepened and strengthened through life’s experiences and challenges, giving them a firm hope in the midst of the journey.

On the small farm in west Michigan, where they rooted themselves, they were caught up in the great plan of God, giving their lives an eternal beauty and dignity. “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.” (Psalm 62:1)

Hear the voice of their Lord, welcoming them home:

“For they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To a Waterfowl #5 “In the Garden” – “Faith – All the Way to Lake Michigan… “

 

Note: 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, transforming their home into a place of beauty and sanctuary. 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.

“Then saw a new heaven and a new earth…” (Revelation 21:1)

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“All day thy wings have fanned,

At that far height, the cold thin atmosphere;

Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

Though the dark night is near.” (To a Waterfowl, verse 5, William Cullen Bryant)

 

 

“My parents had a little porch on the front of their house, where they loved to sit in the cool of the evening, after their daily chores were done, and look out over the countryside.  The porch was built for two, though with a bit of squeezing, it could accommodate four.  Here they communed with nature, tired, but happy and contented after a hard day’s work.  Long after the sun set over the western hills, they sat, enjoying the cool breezes, listening to the crickets singing and the frogs croaking.  On a clear day, my father, Henry, claimed he could see all the way out to Lake Michigan.” (In the Garden, pp 50,51)     3e828-viewfromporchatgrandma

Now it was approximately a 30′ drive from our house to Stony Lake and beyond to Lake Michigan and in between there were many hills, curves in the road, fields of alfalfa and corn, and apple and cherry orchards, so it would take some doing to be able to see past (or out/over) all of that to the sparkling blue waters of Lake Michigan; however, whether or not my father really could see the lake from our house is immaterial to me.

I love that my father would make such a claim. He knew the lake was there and if he and Ellen set out for the lake,  it would appear at the end of the drive, in all is beauty and majesty.  It was a statement of faith, and to me his claim is an allegory of his, and my mother’s, faith.  Just as my father claimed he could see all the way to Lake Michigan on a clear day, so firm was my parents’ faith in God, they believed they could “see” all the way to heaven from the house on the hill, on their small farm in western Michigan.

My parents’ lives were founded on the scriptures and prayer.  Spending time out of doors, they came to know and worship the God of creation.  Their faith was strengthened through life’s experiences, giving them hope and comfort in the midst of trials, disappointments and challenges.  When life on the farm came at them hard – an infected cow resulting in the day’s entire supply of milk being dumped, a windstorm ruining the cherry crop, fluctuating market prices resulting in minimal profits from the asparagus or bean crop, too much rain washing out newly-sown seed, and too little causing measly, shriveled up plants – my parents learned to view life in terms of eternity.

Just as my father believed that he could see all the way to Lake Michigan, but would have to drive over the hills and past the fields and orchards to get there, so it was with seeing all the way to heaven:

“Their faith enabled them to see past the cornfields, the cherry orchards, the clothesline, and the garden, to see life beyond.  Their faith helped them see through the disappointments of a blighted cherry crop, rotted potatoes, diseased cows, and a sick child. Faith helped them to see, at the end of it all, their eternal inheritance.”  (In the Garden, pg. 118)

My parents’ faith was not a cowardly escapism or ostrich-like wishful thinking.  Not at all.  The more they looked “all the way to heaven,” the more seriously they took their earthly responsibilities, but now they worked, loved, cared, and struggled with a new dimension:  at the end of a hard day’s toil, they turned everything over to God.

C.S. Lewis describes it this way:

“Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is one of the things a Christian is meant to do….If you read history, you will find that those, who did most for the present world, thought most of the next….Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”  (C.S. Lewis, Christian Behavior)

Eckhart Tolle, in his book,  A New Earth, describes heaven not as a place, but an inner realm of consciousness.   

Emmet Fox, in his book, The Sermon on the Mount,  weighs in on the subject of heaven in his explanation of the verse, “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.”

“To ‘see’ in the sense referred to here, signifies spiritual perception, and spiritual perception means just that capacity to apprehend the true nature of being which we all so sadly lack….Heaven lies all about us – it is not a distinct locality afar off in the skies, but all around us now – …Heaven is the religious name for the Presence of God; Heaven is infinite;…Heaven is Eternity;…Heaven is the realm of Spirit,… To ‘see’ God is to apprehend Truth as it really is, and this is infinite freedom and perfect bliss.”  (Emmet Fox, Sermon On the Mount, pp.37,38)

This “inner realm of consciousness,” described by Eckhart and “spiritual perception,” by Fox, became increasingly evident in my parents’ lives; however, their belief in heaven, was a literal one.  They very much believed it to be a place, where they would one day meet their Lord.  And, with a faith like theirs, I’m inclined to think they’re right.

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And what of our shorebird, flapping along, high on the thermals, making his way homeward?

“You have been flapping your wings all day high in the sky. continue on, even though night is near and and beckons beneath you.”

“…Stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

though the dark of night is near. ” (To a Waterfowl, verse 5)

 

 

 

To a Waterfowl #4 – In the Garden – “The Dash to the Finish Line”

 

 

Note: 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 a 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.

 

 

“There is a power whose care

Teaches thy way along that pathless coast

The desert and illimitable air,

Lone, wandering, but not lost.”  (verse 4, To a Waterfowl, William Cullen Bryant)

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On my mother’s gravestone, is the following designation: Dec 8, 1914 – Sept 1, 2005. I gaze at the brief combination of numbers and letters that summarize my mother’s lifespan. I marvel that a single dash (-), set between the dates of her birth and death, while only a symbol, can somehow, comprise her life.  You mean the countless hours I spent writing my mother’s memoir – ‘a reflective rearrangement of actual events’ (Larry Woiwode, What I Think I Did), describes something as brief as a dash??
Thinking further about this, I realize that Bryant’s beloved poem is a reminder that life – that “dash,” is, essentially, a migratory journey, which starts with our first gasp of air and ends with the last. One grand pilgrimage with many and various secondary trips throughout.

The one (secondary) experience that would define my mother’s earthly pilgrimage was marrying my father, Henry and moving with him to the little farm in west MI, to the house on the hill, where they lived together for over sixty years and where they both would die.

(March 1936) “It was only 1 1/2 miles from her {Ellen’s} childhood home in town to her new home, but it might as well have been 100, so great was the contrast between her leisurely, cultured and bountiful life in town and the life she would experience on the farm. Bountiful would take on a new meaning for her there.” (In the Garden, pg. 21) Again: “Nothing in Ellen’s life, growing up in a comfortable, well-to-do home in the city, could have prepared her for the stark reality of living on (and off) the land; still she threw herself into her new life with determination and optimism, for she loved Henry with all her heart and was totally committed to their life together.” (In the Garden, pg. 22)

Things with feathers...

“There is a power whose care…”

“Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  (Psalm 139: 7 – 10)

The poem causes me to reflect upon when my mother first become aware of “a power” that would “teach her way…” When did she come to know the presence of God in her life – a power that would become the bedrock and center of her and Henry’s lives? As I read through the memoir, I’m amazed to find a passage where I described Ellen’s awakening to a personal awareness and consciousness of God’s presence in her life:

“Ellen had learned about God in church and Sunday School and had publicly professed her faith when she was eighteen.  She and Henry had promised, in their wedding vows, to make God the center of their home.”  (In the Garden, pg. 27)

“On a crisp Monday morning in mid-April(1938), Ellen had just pinned her last bed sheet onto the clothesline, when a little black-capped chickadee perched on a branch overhead, trilling its little heart out.  “Oh you beautiful creature,”  Ellen called.  Something about that plump little bird lifted her spirits and gave her a burst of hope.

She felt a deep longing within – it came from the very depths of her being, from her soul.  It was an awakening to nature and the power of the birds’ singing, trees budding, breezes blowing and clothes flapping in the wind.  It was then she knew there was a power beyond all that she could see, smell, hear and feel.

Now in a bird’s song, she experienced the God of creation and revelation.  God was in the bird’s song… She didn’t have to worry about her new life or feel lonely or isolated when Henry left her to do his chores about the farm. With God’s help, she could become the housewife she wanted to be for Henry’s sake…” (In the Garden, pp.27,28)

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise;  you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways… You hem me in, behind and before;  you have laid your hand upon me.  such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”  (Psalm 139:1-6)

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Though it was on the farm, doing her daily chores, that Ellen, became conscious of the presence of God and cultivated a deeply personal trusting relationship with her Lord, the “power” had been there all along – at her birth, throughout their migratory journey, and at the end.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”  (Psalm 139:13 – 15)

I stand and gaze at her gravestone:  “Dec 8, 1914 – Sept 1, 2005”

And, I hear the words of the psalmist, once more:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  (Psalm 139:16)

 

 

 

To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden” #3 –

 

 

Note: 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 a 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.

“Seek’st thou the plashy brink

Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,

or where the rocking billows rise and sink

Off the chafed ocean side?”

(To a Waterfowl, verse 3 Wm Cullen Bryant)

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     This verse addresses the question, “Where? Where are you going? Are you looking for the marshy edge of a lake, the bank of a river, or the shore of an ocean?”

      Sounds like a travel agent planning a trip to an idyllic destination in the great out-of-doors.  Our waterfowl, pursuing his solitary way, certainly had the best views, finest accommodations, and cheapest rates, unfettered by traffic, deadlines, or queues.

     My mother loved birds.  She loved the full-throated ease of their singing and now and then, might have felt a twinge of envy at their effortless freedom of flight.  In the memoir I note, that when Ellen followed her heart and married the love of her life, Henry, my father, and went to live with him on the farm, she gave up a life of comfort, luxury and freedom. My mother could have been anything and done anything she pleased, but once she met Henry, her role, as Henry’s helpmeet and housewife  (my mother didn’t like the term “farmwife”) became the overriding passion of her life.

    Not that my mother ever looked back at what her life might have been or second guessed her decision.  I can’t help but wonder though, when life came at her hard, if she looked at a bird on the wing and felt a twinge of envy.

“Ellen wholeheartedly accepted her role as Henry’s wife and helpmeet, yet she must have had dreams and ideas just bursting to be set free. She was intelligent, cultured, determined and creative {as was Henry}.  She had the capacity to do anything she chose to do; yet there was very little time in her day to pursue anything for herself.  When life was hard and she and Henry struggled just to make ends meet, she must have wondered if her dreams, or the dreams she had for her children, would ever find fulfillment.  Yet, she never flinched in fulfilling God’s purpose for her as homemaker and helpmeet in the house on the hill.”  (In the Garden, pg. 42)

     During their early years on the farm, daily chores and caring for children made it difficult for my parents to get away.  Babysitters were uncommon in those days and besides, finding someone to care for seven energetic and rambunctious children would have been a challenge.  So, more often than not, if they went somewhere, we went along – all nine of us jouncing along in the turquoise and black Plymouth sedan.  Seat belts had yet to be invented. I perched on the edge of the seat in between my sister and mother in the front. Four down, five to go.  My  younger brother had a similar position to mine, in the back, while the other four  vied boisterously for the remaining seats. The window seats were the best.  And off we went, my father at the helm, driving his brood to the world beyond the confines of the farm, our womb and comfort zone.

      Even though my mother was getting away from her chores, I can’t imagine these trips were restful or pleasant for her.  There was always a great deal of normal give and take in our family and now it was limited to the confines of a car, with no way to escape.  I remember taking a family vacation to Niagara Falls once, with my mother’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Postema. We took two cars – thank goodness for that. We stopped along the way for our meals, which my mother and grandma had packed – guess people didn’t go out to eat back then.  My mother had a migraine headache for most of the trip and after setting out the picnic meal, she returned to the car to nurse her migraine in peace and quiet.87ae0-2013-07-0411-24-18

     During the summer, when the chores were done and time allowed, my mother would pack up us girls and drive to Stony Lake or Lake Michigan for a couple of hours.  My mother could swim, but if she could just get her toes in the water, she was happy.  I remember her sitting on the beach watching us frolic in the water or playing in the sand.  Thinking back, I realize how luxurious those moments must have been for her.  Was it then, as she watched the seagulls swooping and diving over the water, she felt an affinity with their freedom of flight?

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     As we grew older, and were able to stay home for a few hours by ourselves, Ellen and Henry would take off for a drive in the country. How my mother loved poking about the countryside, investigating new sites and areas of interest.  Often, in the evenings, they would drive out to Lake Michigan to enjoy the sunset.

     Once the older siblings were old enough, my parents were so bold as to leave us alone in their care and attend evening programs at Maranatha Bible Conference in Muskegon, Michigan.  It was there one evening, shortly after they had settled into their seats, their hearts ready and ripe to accept the word of God, they were called out for an emergency phone message: Return home immediately.  Back at the farm, we, children, had organized a swing-jumping contest.  When it was my turn, I pumped myself higher and higher and then, when the swing began to bump, alerting me that I was at its highest arc, I leaped from the swing, surprising even myself, so brave it was, and alas, landed in a pathetic heap on the ground.  (Where were the babysitters anyway?)  I won the contest, hands down, but broke my right arm in the process – so badly, that it would need surgery.  Instead of enjoying an evening away, my parents ended up in the emergency room.  To make matters even worse (could they get worse?) my parents had no insurance.

     Somewhere, along the way, probably after we were out of the diaper and toddler stages, my parents started attending Winona Bible Conference in northern Indiana, for one week in the summer.  This week became the focal point of their life, so much they loved the time away in pleasant surroundings, their hearts alert to the words of beloved preachers and softened by the music of hymns sung and listened to.  My two older brothers stayed on the farm with my father’s parents and we, girls, along with my youngest brother, were left with my mother’s parents, who had a large house in town. Later on, some of us would go along.  I remember accompanying my parents on a couple trips.

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     While we were small, my mother’s parents, purchased a winter home in Clearwater, Florida.  I remember family trips to visit Grandma and Grandpa Postema, though how they put us up in their modest home, I can’t imagine.   Once my mother my youngest brother, who was a toddler, traveled to Florida by train.

     And, then suddenly, their nest was empty.  In 1968, my father passed the farm on to my brother, Wendell, and for the first time, since they started life together in March, 1936, my parents were free to travel.  Now, unencumbered by daily chores or financial worries,  they could visit their daughter Joan, in Florida or Alabama and their son, Roger, in Virginia. Finally, Ellen’s wanderlust longings would find fulfillment, and though my father’s favorite place was his recliner in the living room or the front porch, he consented to travel the world with my mother.  They toured the continental U.S., Hawaii, Nova Scotia and Europe.

“With their children gone and the farm sold, they had time to slow down, relax and enjoy life.  The sale of the farm, along with the inheritance they received from their parents, relieved them of money problems they had dealt with for so many years.  Now they could afford to travel….” (In the Garden, pg 62)3e828-viewfromporchatgrandma

 The waterfowl is on a migratory journey and though his destination is set, he is enjoying the sights along the way.  Ellen, too, is on a journey with a clear destination.  She too, from the rigors of the early days on the farm to the more relaxed recreation of retirement, accepted her place on the farm as God’s will for her.  From the times when she sat on the front porch and longed to experience the world beyond to the days when her longings were fulfilled, she found peace and contentment in the confidence that she was in the place God meant for her to be.

After one of her {later} conversations with her Lord, “in the garden,”

“Ellen felt a fluttering within, like a brace of birds, longing to be free.  Free!  Oh, how she longed to be free.  Free from the woes that beset them on the farm.  Free from the lack of money, free from the dreaded windblight {that ruined their cherry crop}, free from sick cows and contaminated milk, free from lack of rain and parched earth, free from accidents, just waiting to happen.  Free!  Free!  Free!  The flutterings increased until, like a wave, her fears rose up inside and nearly overwhelmed her.  She could scarcely breathe.  She thought her heart would burst.  Then, with a sudden surge, the wave of flutterings burst forth and like a bird, on the wing, her soul felt light and free.  As she stood in stunned relief, a stab of joy pierced her heart.  In spite of everything, joy!  Just as her Lord had promised.  She heard His words once again:  ‘…and ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy noone taketh from you.'” (In the Garden, pg. 56)SONY DSC

        (illustration on right from Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration, Bruce DeVries, artist)page 16

To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden #1

 

 

To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant

Whither, ‘midst falling dew,
While glows the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?

IMG_20150106_080940_575~2In Bryant’s beloved poem, To a Waterfowl, the speaker is addressing a shorebird in flight. Using the literary tool of apostrophe – addressing an abstraction or a thing, present or absent, an absent entity or person, or a deceased person, Bryant achieves the effect of having the speaker muse aloud: “As dew falls and the sun sets in the rosy depths of the heavens, I wonder where you are going?”
In this series of blogs, To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden,” the poem will be taken verse by verse. The reader may wish to read the poem, first, in it’s entirety.

My mother, Ellen, will be the speaker in the poem. As the poem is, essentially, a profession of faith, her musings are a testimony to her life of faith on the small farm, where she and her beloved Hinie, eked out a living, raised their children and honed their faith.
As the waterfowl begins it’s migratory journey north, it has no idea what challenges and difficulties it may encounter along the way, so Ellen, when she married the love of her life, Henry, and began a new life with him in the house on the hill, had no idea what life held in store for her:

“Nothing in Ellen’s life, growing up in a comfortable, well-to-do home in the city {if New Era could be called a city}, could have prepared her for the stark reality of living on (and off) the land; still she threw herself into her new life with determination and optimism for she loved Henry with all her heart and was totally committed to their life together.
The farm is bleak in March. A grim austere landscape greeted Ellen in mid/late March as she and Henry returned from their honeymoon and began settling into their new home.” Looking out the kitchen window, on her first morning on the farm, she would have seen the sun rising to the east. Barren, scraggy trees stood here and there in the yard. Sooty stale piles of snow were reminders of winter’s frigid blast. Patches of green dotted the snow-covered pasture and a ring of water circled the frozen pond – hopeful signs that the bleak barrenness would not last forever. The pond wound lazily uphill to the woods – a scruffy, scraggly army of trees guarding the rear boundary. She might have seen the cows, relieved of their saggy udders, straggling out in a line to greet the first signs of spring, following their leader to seek what sustenance they could find in the grim austere wilderness of the pasture.
As she waited for Henry to return from his early milking for breakfast, her sense of excitement and exuberance shifted to a twinge of uncertainty and doubt, triggered, perhaps, by the foreboding scene framed in the kitchen window. Suddenly, she felt vulnerable, alone and unsure of herself. What was she doing here? She knew nothing of farm life or being a farm wife. Her comfortable, leisurely life back home, only one and a half miles away, seemed far away indeed. …Yet, here she was in the kitchen, dressed in her new house dress and apron, feeling lost and alone.
Suddenly a flash of red flew past the window. Ellen noticed a male cardinal perched on a limb in the yard, his shebird a few branches up. A pair of cardinals, she thought. A pair, just Henry and me. The sight of the birds ifted her spirits. Henry would be home soon. He would make everything right. She loved him with all her heart. He was a farmer, so she would be his farm wife. Well, a housewife who lives on the farm, she thought. Somehow that sounded better.
Ellen started the coffee, set the sausages sizzling and whipped the pancake batter into a froth. Henry would be home soon. He would be hungry. She had better get busy fixing his breakfast.
Ellen’s life on the farm had begun.” (In the Garden pp 22,23)

pair of cardinals

And so it was, on her first morning on the farm, a pair of cardinals, would bring hope and reassurance to Ellen’ soul. it would not be the last time that “things with feathers,” – Emily Dickinson’s symbol for hope, appeared to lift her Ellen’s spirits and put a song in her heart.

I love the image of my mother, there in the kitchen, full of love for her Henry and full of hope and promise for their future together. How could she have known then how dramatically her life would be shaped and fashioned by her new home on the farm and in return, how indelibly the farm would bear the stamp of her (their) presence?
In the beginning, it was her love for Henry that nurtured and sustained her, but as time went on and the challenges of eking out a living and raising a family on the farm increased, her love for Henry and their love for each other would find new meaning and strength in their faith in God and His Word. It was in the everyday details of their lives on the farm, that their faith was honed.
Though Ellen may have recited scripture in church or Sunday School, God’s promises would take on new meaning in the days and details of her daily life:

“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13 – 16)

Coming soon: the second verse of To a Waterfowl in To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden”

MimiThe MimicNote: Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration, Janet’s 5th book in her Tales From Pelican Cove series, is based on Emily Dickinson’s “things with feathers,” poem and is a tale of hope and remembering.

 

Note:  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 a 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 www.principia.com or 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.

To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden” #1

 

To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant

Whither, ‘midst falling dew,
While glows the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?

IMG_20150106_080940_575~2In Bryant’s beloved poem, To a Waterfowl, the speaker is addressing a shorebird in flight. Using the literary tool of apostrophe – addressing an abstraction or a thing, present or absent, an absent entity or person, or a deceased person, Bryant achieves the effect of having the speaker muse aloud: “As dew falls and the sun sets in the rosy depths of the heavens, I wonder where you are going?”
In this series of blogs, To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden,” the poem will be taken verse by verse. The reader may wish to read the poem, first, in it’s entirety.

My mother, Ellen, will be the speaker in the poem. As the poem is, essentially, a profession of faith, her musings are a testimony to her life of faith on the small farm, where she and her beloved Hinie, eked out a living, raised their children and honed their faith.
As the waterfowl begins it’s migratory journey north, it has no idea what challenges and difficulties it may encounter along the way, so Ellen, when she married the love of her life, Henry, and began a new life with him in the house on the hill, had no idea what life held in store for her:

“Nothing in Ellen’s life, growing up in a comfortable, well-to-do home in the city {if New Era could be called a city}, could have prepared her for the stark reality of living on (and off) the land; still she threw herself into her new life with determination and optimism for she loved Henry with all her heart and was totally committed to their life together.
The farm is bleak in March. A grim austere landscape greeted Ellen in mid/late March as she and Henry returned from their honeymoon and began settling into their new home.” Looking out the kitchen window, on her first morning on the farm, she would have seen the sun rising to the east. Barren, scraggy trees stood here and there in the yard. Sooty stale piles of snow were reminders of winter’s frigid blast. Patches of green dotted the snow-covered pasture and a ring of water circled the frozen pond – hopeful signs that the bleak barrenness would not last forever. The pond wound lazily uphill to the woods – a scruffy, scraggly army of trees guarding the rear boundary. She might have seen the cows, relieved of their saggy udders, straggling out in a line to greet the first signs of spring, following their leader to seek what sustenance they could find in the grim austere wilderness of the pasture.
As she waited for Henry to return from his early milking for breakfast, her sense of excitement and exuberance shifted to a twinge of uncertainty and doubt, triggered, perhaps, by the foreboding scene framed in the kitchen window. Suddenly, she felt vulnerable, alone and unsure of herself. What was she doing here? She knew nothing of farm life or being a farm wife. Her comfortable, leisurely life back home, only one and a half miles away, seemed far away indeed. …Yet, here she was in the kitchen, dressed in her new house dress and apron, feeling lost and alone.
Suddenly a flash of red flew past the window. Ellen noticed a male cardinal perched on a limb in the yard, his shebird a few branches up. A pair of cardinals, she thought. A pair, just Henry and me. The sight of the birds ifted her spirits. Henry would be home soon. He would make everything right. She loved him with all her heart. He was a farmer, so she would be his farm wife. Well, a housewife who lives on the farm, she thought. Somehow that sounded better.
Ellen started the coffee, set the sausages sizzling and whipped the pancake batter into a froth. Henry would be home soon. He would be hungry. She had better get busy fixing his breakfast.
Ellen’s life on the farm had begun.” (In the Garden pp 22,23)

pair of cardinals

And so it was, on her first morning on the farm, a pair of cardinals, would bring hope and reassurance to Ellen’ soul. it would not be the last time that “things with feathers,” – Emily Dickinson’s symbol for hope, appeared to lift her Ellen’s spirits and put a song in her heart.

I love the image of my mother, there in the kitchen, full of love for her Henry and full of hope and promise for their future together. How could she have known then how dramatically her life would be shaped and fashioned by her new home on the farm and in return, how indelibly the farm would bear the stamp of her (their) presence?
In the beginning, it was her love for Henry that nurtured and sustained her, but as time went on and the challenges of eking out a living and raising a family on the farm increased, her love for Henry and their love for each other would find new meaning and strength in their faith in God and His Word. It was in the everyday details of their lives on the farm, that their faith was honed.
Though Ellen may have recited scripture in church or Sunday School, God’s promises would take on new meaning in the days and details of her daily life:

“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13 – 16)

Coming soon: the second verse of To a Waterfowl in To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden”

MimiThe MimicNote: Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration, Janet’s 5th book in her Tales From Pelican Cove series, is based on Emily Dickinson’s “things with feathers,” poem and is a tale of hope and remembering.

 

Note:  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 a 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 www.principia.com or 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.

Hoeing In the Garden 4c – “His Eye is on the Bluebird?”

“Why do I feel discouraged?  Why do the shadows come?  Why does my heart feel lonely?  And long for heaven and home…?”  (His Eye is on the Sparrow)

“His Eye is on the Sparrow,” is one of the most beloved hymns in the repertoire.  It was one of my mother’s favorites. We sang it at her funeral.   In times of challenge, loss and despair, the words, “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me,”  must have given her comfort.

Field sparrow head.JPG

Have you ever wondered why the hymn writer chose the sparrow – one of the most ordinary birds, to remind us of  God’s love and care for His creatures?  Judged by its appearance, the sparrow doesn’t fare particularly well compared with its more brightly decorated peers.  It’s buff-colored garb wouldn’t garner any beauty awards, that’s for certain. It’s a plain, humble, ordinary bird. 

      It is likely the hymn writer took his lead from the scriptures, where several references to the sparrow, remind us of God’s faithfulness and abiding love.  In Luke 12:7 (NIV), Jesus reminds his followers:  “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows,” and in Psalm 84:3 (NIV), the Psalmist states, “Even the sparrow has found a home, the the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar…,” the image of motherly care and nurture, described so beautifully in the hymn.

But why the sparrow?  Why didn’t Jesus, and subsequently, the writer of the hymn, denote a ruby red male cardinal, an orange-feathered  Baltimore Oriole, a brilliant bluebird or the magnificent Pileated woodpecker?   Wouldn’t you feel more important and worthy of God’s care and attention if He likened you to one of the more colorful, conspicuous – stand-out birds?

Let’s take a closer look at some of these plain, colorless, ordinary birds.  Perhaps there’s something we’re missing.

Let’ begin with the The American Tree Sparrow. Why the word “tree” was added to his name remains a mystery, as he shows no special interest in trees, preferring instead to flit about brushy thickets and hedges, to nest atop a mossy hummock, or rest in a tuft of grass.  Where eating is concerned, however,  his name is more appropriate.  The  name, “sparrow,” is used for small, brownish, seed-eating birds and the tree sparrow is, without a doubt, one of the most prodigious seed-eaters.  Weighing scarcely an ounce, it devours an average of one-quarter of an ounce of weed seed every day.  Scientists have estimated that tree sparrows wintering in Iowa, consume more than 875 ton of weed seeds every year.  Turns out he’s a hardy soul to boot.  Even when winds are at their bitterest temperatures, hovering near zero, in the central and northeastern states where they live, flocks of tree sparrows dot the frozen fields and prairies, tittering musically as they browse among the heads of weeds, grasses and sedges that poke above the snow.  Pretty amazing…

American Tree Sparrow

Though all sparrows line their nests with hair, the chipping sparrow, is dubbed “the hair bird,” in many parts of the country, because of the  vast quantities of hair it uses to line its nest. Horse hair is the chippy’s lining of choice and where horses abound, you might spot one tugging at a swishing tail, then flying off with a long, dark strand of hair trailing from its bill.  But, with the passing of horses from the American scene, chippys now mostly build their nests out of thin rootlets, then line the little cups with precious hairs from horses, dogs, cattle, deer, rabbits, raccoons, or – watch out, – even humans! – whatever donor they can find.  Where there is no hair available, they will substitute feathers or fine rootlets and grasses, which also make a soft, resilient pillow on which to cradle the birds’ eggs and tender featherless hatchlings.  These guys are pretty impressive…

Chipping Sparrow

The clay-colored sparrow must have been near the end of the line when nature’s treasures were being distributed in the bird world.  While wood-warblers, cardinals and orioles received party-dress finery, this fellow seems outfitted like a chain-gang worker, clothed in uniform gray and commonplace brown.  And, while sparrows are generally undistinguished for their musicianship, the clay-colored  species, announces himself with a sonorous, insectlike call of three or four buzzes.  So where are the redeeming qualities?  Well, while this fellow, personifies the word “ordinary,” perched atop a bush on a summer’s morning, he has a distinctively “gentrified” air about him.  His soft gray and crisp brown feathers are subtly woven like a fine English tweed, well cut and expertly fitted. It’s their parental instincts, however,  that make this bird so endearing:  The male feed his mate while she nests and the female, an expert impersonator, lures predators away from her hatchlings by feigning an injury that promises an easy meal – but hardly ever delivers it.  Absolutely fascinating.  These birds are growing on me…

Spizella breweri.jpg
Clay-colored sparrow

The sage sparrow makes its home in sagebrush country out west, where it nests 6 to 18 inches above the ground.  Don’t plan on seeing one up close though, for this gray-headed ordinary bird is an elusive wraith and a master at hide-and-seek. The best an observer can hope for is a whispered psst and a twitching tail that drops quickly back into the sage.  It’s the nest that saves this bird from the Undistinguished Birds encyclopedia:  seems it has a weakness for comfort – it’s nest is typically lined with feathers, rabbit fur – even tufts of wool, when, serendipitously, sheep and sagebrush are found together.  The more I learn about these ordinary  birds, the more I’m liking them.

One last look at the Vesper sparrow. Outfitted in the usual gray and brown, the  vesper variety, is a songbird,  serenading us regularly, with it’s rippling, tinkling, summery melody, at twilight, under the evening stars.  The vesper belongs in the musical sparrows’ group (some sparrows buzz, some squeak, and others rattle one unchanging note), and while it’s song is distinctively sparrowy ( ordinary?),  the vesper – sometimes unpredictably, will flutter some 50 feet into the air and give voice to a wild, ecstatic melody.  Wild! Wow!  I love this bird!

Pooecetes gramineus -USA-8.jpg
Vesper Sparrow

I think I’m beginning to see why His eye is on the sparrows, rather than on the more colorful birds.  Colorless garb doesn’t mean colorless habits or traits. I’m reminded of something C.S. Lewis wrote about the ordinary:

“Every human being {bird/creature} is in the process of becoming a noble being, noble beyond imagination.  Or else, alas, a vile being beyond redemption…There are no ordinary people (birds/creatures}…it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” ( The Weight of Glory/ In the Garden, pg. 134)

If what Lewis claims is true, that there are no ordinary humans {creatures}, I’ve done the sparrows a disservice.  Actually, in learning more about them and their habits, I’ve come around to see them as special – not extraordinary, perhaps, but certainly more than just ordinary.  I like to think that, like my mother, these birds are simple, humble creatures of God, fulfilling their particular, unique calling in life. Not to imply that my mother, or any human being, is to copy the lives or methods of the birds, literally, but rather, being infinitely higher in the scale of creation than they are, to adapt to her element – in my mother’s case, her life on the farm with Henry, as completely as the birds, the sparrows, do to theirs.

The scriptures teach that it’s what’s on the inside that matters. Beauty is only skin deep after all.  The rich young ruler was turned away because he valued money more than his Lord, the Pharisees, to Jesus, were as phony as whitewashed tombstones and children were held above the learned, because of their simplicity and humility.

“I believe that {C. S. Lewis’s quote, above} is true, but I didn’t use the term, extraordinary or noble for my mother because I knew it would have made her uncomfortable.  She never thought of herself a anything other than an ordinary woman of faith, who loved and served her Lord; however, her life is a testimony to what God can do when an ordinary person, like my mother, is totally dependent and yielded to His will.  That i what is extraordinary and it can only come from Him.  All of Him, none of self.  That use of the word, extraordinary, my mother would like.  The beauty of her story, is that what God did in her life, He can and will do for anyone who asks Him – for you.”  (In the Garden, pp.134,135)

And, so “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” it is and fittingly so.  “I sing because I’m happy; I sing because I’m free; For His eye is on the sparrow; And, I know He watches me.”  (His Eye is on the Sparrow). Hush.  What is that I hear rising sweetly on the evening air?

Note:  Information used in “His Eye is on the Cardinal, the Baltimore Oriole, the Bluebird or the Pileated Woodpecker?” courtesy of Book of North American Birds, Reader’s Digest

Front CoverNote:  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 a 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 www.principia.com or 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.