As the first year without our mother, comes to a close, I find myself with mixed feelings. I miss my mother so much, but I know where she is, and that makes is a little easier. That doesn’t, however, make the sting of missing her go away. It’s hard to live on this Earth without your parents. Oh, I know it is something most people go through at one time or another in their lives, but no one really knows exactly how that feels until they have been through it. I know I didn’t. There are times when the sadness fills my soul so much that I cannot hold back the tears.
At other times, I think back on the things our parents taught us. There are so many life lessons…their teachings that made us the people we are today. My mother was the sunny one. She hated having her family sad or even grouchy. If someone was grouchy, she would often start singing, Keep On The Sunny Side. That song always held a special place for all of us. My mom really was the keeper of the sunshine in our house. She loved to laugh and sing, and many was the morning that we woke up to the nursery song, Good Morning. Mom sang often. I think that went back to her childhood years. When her mother and siblings were working around the house, they always held sing-alongs. The way we grow up has a lot to do with the way we run our own homes…and Mom grew up around songs and team work. We grew up doing chores, and we never felt like there was something wrong with that. I can’t say that we always wanted to do our chores, but we knew there was a good reason to share the chores. Probably the main one being to stay out of trouble.
My mom knew a lot of songs. They filled her heart. Some of her favorites were hymns, because God was always first and foremost in her life. Like many of us in the family, the songs we sang in church on Sunday morning tended to stick in our heads throughout the week. I find myself singing them all through the week. Mom had some particular favorites too. She liked In The Garden, Jesus Loves Me, How Great Thou Art, and What A Friend We Have In Jesus. She sang these songs often, and when she did, she always felt like she was closer to God. Of course, Mom was always walking with God. If she wasn’t reading her Bible, she was reading books by her favorite Evangelists or listening to teaching tapes and videos. Mom knew that Heaven was her home, and when she got ready, and she was satisfied with the things she had done in her life, she made the decision to go home. I know there are those who won’t understand that, but my mom was not sick in any way…she just decided to go home to be with her Lord. That was one year ago today, and while we miss her terribly, we know that she is home, and that’s where she really wants to be. We love you Mom. And we can’t wait to see you and Dad again.
It would be hard for me to imagine walking away from all I knew to travel to India to begin a thirteen year run as the wife of a missionary, especially in 1874, but that is exactly what Mary Barr Uhl did. Mary was a somewhat distant cousin on my husband, Bob’s side of the family…specifically the Knox side of his family. The beginnings of her future mission were actually laid by when she was still a child. An elderly relative, Dr John Scudder laid his hand on her head and stated his wish for her to become a missionary. I’m sure that for a little girl, being a missionary meant very little, but as she grew, perhaps the words stayed with her. Sometimes, when we think about something like that for so many years, events in our lives line up to put us in exactly the right position to fulfill just such a mission, without our really thinking about it very much at all. Such was the case for little Mary Barr.
Mary Barr was born in Savannah, Ohio, and was educated there and in Springfield, Ohio. As was the case with most girls in those days, becoming a teacher was the degree of choice, and so Mary Barr became a teacher. As time went by, it’s possible that the desire of the elderly Dr John Scudder to have Mary become a missionary, faded into the past to a degree, until she met Lemon Leander Uhl. Leander as he was called, was a pastor in the Lutheran church. Dr Uhl was a graduate of Wittenberg College and Seminary in Springfield, Ohio, and did his post graduate work at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The couple married in the fall of 1872, and Dr Uhl became a missionary in the India field of the General Synod, Lutheran Church. Thus, the desire of Mary’s relative, Dr John Scudder, became a reality. Leander and Mary would spend the next thirteen years in the mission field in India. Mary and Leander arrived in Guntur, India in March of 1873. Mary opened the first school for girls of the upper classes and the first Zenana work for the same classes. She carried on both forms of mission work for many years. Mary’s perseverance and dedication won her great respect in that country. She was an untiring worker among the Telugu Hindus, and aided her husband in the Anglo Vernacular School by visiting the young men students in their homes.
Mary and Leander’s only child, Grace was born in Guntur, India during those missionary years. That is another thing I can’t quite imagine…having my baby so far away from my mother, and the doctors that I trusted in the United States, but by then, perhaps Mary felt comfortable with the help she had around her. It didn’t matter really, because she had no choice. You can’t stop babies from coming when it’s time. You just have to go through it. For Mary, childbirth went well, and she had a beautiful little daughter. It was by the grace of God, and so they named her Grace. While I’m sure that giving birth in a foreign country might have been an event filled with apprehension, the life they gave their daughter was one of many experiences. Not only did Grace experience life in another country, but she experienced schooling in many places. Grace would graduate from the College of Liberal Arts of Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Mary Barr Uhl’s life took many turns that might have seemed far fetched to a child, who had been told of the desire of an elderly relative, but in the end, the desire of Dr John Scudder, that little Mary Barr would become a missionary had come to pass. Her life was not ruled by this man, it was just his desire…that became her desire too. Perhaps he saw something in that little girl that told him that she would be a great missionary. I suppose we will never know, but Mary did indeed, become a great missionary, and spent many years serving God in that capacity before retiring and returning to the United States. She died on March 26, 1926 at the age of 80 years, having fulfilled her destiny.
The presents are purchased, the packages wrapped, all of the commercialized aspects of the day are over now and there is finally time to take a moment to ponder the real reason for the Christmas season…the birth of our Saviour…Jesus. So often, we spend so much time rushing around trying to get ready for the holiday, that we have little time to think about the wonderful thing our Father, God did for us!! We were a world lost, and destined for Hell!! He had no obligation to help us. We got into this predicament by ourselves…and He could have left us there, but God’s love is not like human love. We hold grudges…even with those we love. God does not hold grudges, but rather, He set out to make a plan to turn it all around. He came up with a plan to send Jesus to Earth…and worked it out so that He lived a sinless life, as a human, and then paid the price… the ultimate price. And Jesus agreed to the plan. He gave his life for us so we could live our lives under grace, and receive Heaven and not Hell in the end.
So often, the birth of our Saviour is all but forgotten in the mix of Santa Clause and a big dinner. I find that really sad, especially in light of the sacrifice He made for us. I can’t imagine being God and deciding to take on a human form, much less a baby who is for much of its young life helpless, and forced to rely on others for all your needs. Then, while you had never sinned in any way, you are taken captive, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Then in the only way it could possibly work, Jesus was separated for God, while he took all the sins of the world on himself. It had to be, because the worst result of sin, is separation for God. That would be far worse than Hell could ever be. God’s love is the most important thing we have. It is what saves us from the pit of Hell.
There is nothing wrong with the Christmas traditions we cherish so much, and giving has always been what God is all about. The main thing is that in the midst of all of our traditions, we take time to be thankful for the greatest gift ever given. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16, one of the most important verses in a book that is the greatest book ever written…the Bible. God is love, and when we sinned, He stepped up and made a way for us to be reconciled to him. He sent a Saviour named Jesus. And that is the real reason for the Christmas season. Merry Christmas everyone!! May God bless you all!!
With our nation’s Independence Day upon us, I find myself, like many other Americans, in a rather weary and confused state. So much about our country has changed, that it has almost become unrecognizable to me. The United States of America has always been known as the land of the free and the home of the brave, but now it seems that we are becoming the land of the free, only if we agree with what a select few want, and as for the brave, well it’s becoming very much out of style to stand up for our beliefs, values, or even for our country. I’m not picking on any one group here, but rather I find myself feeling quite sad that the sense of pride we have always felt for our nation is suddenly gone…at least in the minds of some people. I know that everyone really has a right to live their life in the way that they want to, but the problem is that lately everyone wants to tell everyone else how to believe. With that in mind, I thought it fitting to remind people about why our ancestors came here in the first place.
When our forefathers left England, it was to get away from a government that made it a treasonous act to separate from the Church of England. The people who did not agree with the teachings of the Church of England had to leave or they would be killed. That was the reason that the First Amendment to our Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” These were very important parts of our Constitution. The problem is that many people have forgotten those rights, or they have mixed up the meaning, thinking that we are not to have anything to do with religion in our government. That isn’t it at all. It says that the government is to stay out of our religious beliefs. That is not what is happening. Our current government is far too invasive in our religions.
As time went on, England tried to usurp more and more authority over the young colonies. They tried to interfere with religion, economics, and politics. Even though we were a nation basically under them, we knew it could not continue much longer. It was decided that we needed to be independent from England. That was when we knew that we could not continue to be under this type of rule. So, why do we celebrate the 4th of July…Independence Day. We think of July 4, 1776, as a day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. But it wasn’t on July 4, 1776 that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence. That was on July 2, 1776. It wasn’t the day we started the American Revolution either. That had happened back in April 1775. And it wasn’t the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. He did that in June 1776. It wasn’t even the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain. That didn’t happen until November 1776. It wasn’t even the date it was signed. That was August 2, 1776.
No, we celebrate the 4th of July, because that was the day that the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, in 1776. They’d been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes. That was the day that truly represents our Independence. Not the day it was accepted by Britain, but the day we decided to make it our own. That was the day we made freedom and independence our own. It was the day that we decided to live in peace together, with each man, woman, and child having certain rights that should never be denied them. I think some people in our country, and especially our leadership have forgotten that fact in their race to political correctness, anti-racism, and a thinly disguised attempt to control our religious rights.
I read yesterday that Earth’s saddest day and it’s happiest day are just three days apart. That is truly one of the most profound statements ever written. On Good Friday, Jesus had to die to take away the sins of the world, and today, Easter Sunday, just three days later, He rose from the dead triumphant, having paid the debt that the world could not pay. The one act was the most amazing act in the history of Earth. It was a selfless act of a loving Saviour. He knew it would be painful and he knew he would have to endure separation from His Father, and yet he chose to do it anyway, because he knew that the people of Earth had no other way out of the horrible mess they were in. Now, every year we honor Jesus, because He loved us so much that he gave up his life for us. We also live every day looking forward to the day when we will live in Heaven with Him forever. On this…Resurrection Sunday, I honor Jesus, my Lord and Saviour.
For many of us getting caught up in the whole Easter Bunny thing is all there is to it, but it shouldn’t be. Today also needs to be a day of reflection on all that our loving God did for us when He made a plan to save us from eternal damnation. Lately, I have been thinking about just how temporary this life is. When we are young, it seems like we have so much time left, but as we get older, we understand that this is not our home. Heaven is our home. We are travelers here, on our journey to eternity. We can choose were we will spend that eternity…Heaven or Hell. If we decide that we don’t want to be in Hell, then we have to make Jesus the Lord of our life. It is that simple. Jesus said to him in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Not everyone agrees with me on this, I’m sure, and that is their right. God gives each of us the right to decide which side we will choose…Heaven or Hell, but it is His hope that each of us will choose, Heaven…life…Jesus. The Bible says in Joshua 24:15, “But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord.” It is your choice, and I pray that you will choose Jesus! Then, Heaven will be your home.
Over the years, I have watched my niece, Jenny Spethman grow in so many ways. Of course, I’ve seen her grow from a little girl into a teenager, adult, wife, and mother, but those are simply the normal changes we all go through in life. Jenny has changed in so many other, more important ways though. Growth can take on very different and complicated forms, but the greatest growth is in the area of the spiritual, and it is in that area that I find Jenny to have almost literally exploded. I have watched her faith in God grow by leaps and bounds.
Life has not always been easy for Jenny. She has had her share of heartaches, as those who know her can attest, but through it all, she and her husband, Steve Spethman have never faltered on one thing…their faith in God. When people lose a child, often the first thing that is questioned is to ask God why He did this, but not Jenny and Steve. They knew that this was not God. And they then doubled their focus on God’s word, and his promise that they will see their baby girl, Laila in Heaven, and until then, she is in the arms of Jesus and enjoying time with family who have also gone on to Heaven. Jenny and Steve have been blessed with their three sons, Xander, Zack, and Isaac, as well as their daughters, Laila, and now Aleesia, who is almost 2½ years old. Every day is viewed as a blessing beyond measure, even though they miss Laila terribly.
I had really never thought of Jenny as a morning person, although I don’t know why, but these days, at least, she cherishes the early morning hours, as a time to see God’s great sunrises and reflect on His teachings and promises to her. She also loves to see the moon and stars, again because she knows that God has blessed her life with such enormous beauty. I think that it is in these quiet moments of reflection, often before her family wakes up, that Jenny has grown closer and closer to God. She knows that He is not only her Father, Lord, and Saviour, but in all reality, her Daddy and friend. A friend that sticks closer that all others, and no matter what life brings her.
Jenny has grown in so many ways, and each area of growth has made her a more and more beautiful person, both inside and out. I am so proud of her and all that she has become. I look forward to the time to come when I will see her grow even more, especially in her walk with the Lord. Today is Jenny’s birthday. You are an amazing woman, and one I am proud to call my niece. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Many people, myself included, believe that our country was founded and populated in an effort to escape religious persecution. Looking back on several branches of my family tree, as well as that of my husband, I see the personal accounts of a number of people who dealt with persecution first hand. People such as my Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren, who makes not of it in her journals when she speaks of her father, my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher’s return trip to Germany to visit family members who were still living there. During that time, the German government was doing it’s very best to force people to deny the very existence of God on any level, and their lack of any need for a god to lean and rely on. So often, I think of religious persecution, such as we have in the United States today, as being a problem of the current times. I suppose that is because it feel very personal to me at this time in history, but in reality, I suppose it is nothing new. In fact, the Bible says that there is no new thing under the sun.
When my great grandfather made the trip back to his homeland, he had plenty of time. His visit was extended for several months. It was most likely during that time that he became more and more convinced that his move to the United States was the right one for him. While he was free, or at least relatively so, to practice his faith in his own way, there was, nevertheless, a number of incidences whereby doing so could be frowned upon to say the very least. That fact would not be something that would deter my grandfather from standing on his faith, and it would renew his love for his new country, and his reasons for coming here to it.
I have run across many other ancestors, particularly on the Knox side of the family who suffered persecution from people in their homeland over their choice of religious beliefs. It’s strange to think that when someone receives a revelation concerning God’s word, that they are immediately looked upon as severely brain damaged. Why is it that people would assume that we humans, with our small minds would somehow have the capacity to know everything God intended for us to know…that there couldn’t possibly be anything else for us to learn from His word. And yet, that is exactly what we do. That is why our forefathers left the old world, and came to America in the first place. The churches they were forced to be a part of, or the removal of any kind of religion from their lives had left them with no choice but to leave the country they have called home all their lives, and move to an unknown world.
I don’t know how many immigrants arrived here as a result of religious persecution, but I do know that our nation has somehow lost sight of why we first began to exist. There are so many religions in the world today…especially Christians and Jews who are bring brutally persecuted right now. I still believe in freedom of religion. I may not agree with some of the religions in the world, but each person should have the right to believe as they choose. And no one should ever have to pay for their beliefs with their lives. I know that this world will probably not change that until Jesus returns, and I think that is very sad.
As Christmas arrives, I am reminded of so many Christmases from the past. As a kid, I think the earliest memory I have of Christmas was the big celebration we always had when decorating the tree. The day we decorated the tree became a family party. We made snacks and played Christmas music. We sang Christmas carols, laughed, and munched. We always had a real tree in those days, because artificial trees didn’t exist, as far as I know. That meant that the first part of the evening was spent with my dad cutting the trunk of the tree to remove any unneeded height. The fragrance of the spruce tree filled the air. It was an incredible scent, and one that I still love to this day. The real tree lives in the past for my family now, and I can’t say that I’m totally sorry about that, because they are messy, and a fire hazard. I will take the trade off, and the fragrance of the spruce tree will have to live in my memory files.
Christmas eve was another family night, with singing, and of course, the one gift that we got to open that night…our new pajamas. I’m sure that was to add a nice fresh touch to the Christmas morning pictures, but it didn’t matter, because we loved getting those pajamas…and the excitement if opening just one gift on Christmas Eve was what it was all about anyway. These days with my children grown up, I’m not the one to give pajamas, although, we did it when our girls were little. Now they always know that at Grandma’s house, they will receive an ornament, so what is the mystery in that. Well, it is what kind of ornament, of course. I try very hard to be creative with those, and I think I did great this year. We had gone to Alaska on a cruise this past summer, and the kids all received an Alaskan ornament. I was so excited about those, that I had to get one of my own.
Christmas day always brought excitement and awe. It didn’t matter what you got, it was just so exciting to open the long anticipated gifts to see what you got. It always seemed that at this time of year, people were listening carefully so they could hear what you wanted, and then they headed out to get it and surprise you with it. My favorite years were the ones where we got something extra special for my parents. It was amazing to surprise them with something they never expected that we could afford…like the toaster we got them when I was the only one with a job. The rest of the gifts were hand made. They were so shocked. Then there was the year that we were sending them on an Alaskan cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary. We got them a video camera for the trip. They were so excited. Yep, I think the best Christmases are the ones where you give amazing gifts. It is about giving rather than receiving. I guess that was how God felt too. After all, He gave us the greatest gift of all…Jesus. And that is the greatest Throwback Christmas of them all. Merry Christmas everyone and may the greatest blessings God has to offer be yours this Christmas and all year long.
It’s tradition…looking at your life on Thanksgiving Day, to give thanks for the many blessings that you have received over the year, and the years past. We take stock of everything. The sad things are set aside for review on another day, and we focus on our family, friends, homes, and jobs. And we look to the future and what it promises to bring for us. It isn’t all about things, and in fact, things are often the furthest things from our minds. We are much more focused on our loved ones. Of course, this isn’t the only day we give thanks for our loved ones, nor should it be, but sometimes we find ourselves so preoccupied with our daily lives, that we don’t really notice the blessings that are all around us every day.
This tradition was felt to be so important, that on October 3, 1783, President George Washington issued a proclamation making the 26th day of November as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving…a day to give thanks to Almighty God with grateful hearts for all He has done for us. While the date has been changed to the 4th Thursday of November now, the tradition has remained intact. Somehow though, many people have forgotten the prayer and thanksgiving part of the day, and remember only the food part of the day. There is nothing wrong with feasting…in fact God set aside feast days for His people too, but we must remember that the feast part of the day is supposed to coincide with the prayer and thanksgiving part of the day.
It is my belief that most people are thankful for what they have, but there is a difference between being thankful for things, and giving thanks for things. I believe that difference is acknowledging the one who gave all these things to you…God. I suppose that people who don’t believe in God would see no reason to be thankful to Him, but for me, with my deep faith in God, blessing couldn’t come from anywhere else. God loves me and He is the one who blesses me. Therefore, it is to Him…Almighty God that I give thanks on this Thanksgiving Day. I, like so many other people, neglect the need to thank God in the way that I really should, and maybe having a national day of Thanksgiving, will give us all the opportunity to step back from our busy lives and take a good look at all we have been blessed with. And maybe we can all take a few minutes out of this day to acknowledge God’s grace and loving kindness toward us…and give Him thanks for all he does for us. Happy Thanksgiving to all…and thanks be to God for His loving kindness and all the blessing He has given me and my family.
Every Easter families gather together to eat a big meal and enjoy each other’s company. Most of us use just about any excuse to have a huge meal filled with all the best dishes we can think of. The meal often consists of ham and brisket at our house. And of course, what Easter dinner would be complete without eggs in some form…usually for breakfast and dinner. All those eggs the kids colored had to be used in some way, after all. In our family, the eggs are called angel eggs, because for obvious reasons, we don’t like the term deviled eggs. I really don’t want the devil involved in anything in my family…even the eggs.
But, more importantly, as Christians, we come together to remember the sacrifice our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ made to save us from our sins. We were in a horrible mess. We had all sinned, and there was no way out of going to Hell…not that we could manage anyway. Nevertheless, God is a loving God, and His children really are His life. He devised a plan to save us from the mess we were in. He sent his son, Jesus, who left His home in Heaven to come to earth, as a man, to live a sinless life, and then to die on the cross anyway, because it was the only way out for us. A sinless man had to die to pay the price for a world of sinners.
I saw a post yesterday on Facebook with the message, “Friday happened, but Sunday is coming.” That is so true. There is nothing we can do about the fact that our sins caused the need for a Saviour, Jesus to come and die to save us. That is in the past, but our future is eternal in Heaven, because of the selfless act of our Saviour. It is God’s love, grace and mercy toward his children that allows us to walk away from the punishment we all deserved, and live forever with Him. We can never thank Him enough for sending His Son. We can never thank Jesus enough for choosing to come and die in our place. All we can do now is rejoice!! Friday happened, but Sunday came three days later, because God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son!! Jesus willingly paid the price, defeated the devil, and the rose again to proclaim that victory!! Sunday is here!! He is risen!!! Jesus is alive!! Rejoice!!