Posted by: ksuechester | March 9, 2011

Camping Out

Hebrews 11:13

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth:

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For the past two days, the sting of disappointment has seemed to have appointed itself as my companion. A friend I cherish has been unable to keep a promise she made to me, and although her reasons are valid, it doesn’t make the sting any less painful. Things I had anticipated and hoped for didn’t happen, and my heart is feeling the ache for the loss of “What might have been”.

But I guess I should ask myself, “Why am I surprised at this?” “Why, after a lifetime of disappointments, am I surprised by one more?” It seems that by now, pain should be expected, and even planed for. The Bible warns us it will be coming; 1 Peter 4:12 says “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”

Maybe the reason for my shock at yet another disappointment, is because from time to time, I forget that I am still on the journey. My final destination has yet to be reached. This life isn’t the reward God promises to His faithful followers, and my living in this world doesn’t mean I belong here! This is only a “campground” for the Christian, and like a lot of campgrounds, it is full of painful thorns, rocks, sticks, and underbrush that has to be pulled up, chopped down, or cleared away, before another night’s rest can be had.

But I am encouraged because God promises that one day He will call me. Either through death, or at the second coming of Christ, I will hear my name, and you can bet these tent stakes will be yanked up. Then, there will be no more “camping out” for me! I’ll be HOME!!!

There is a song I used to sing as a child, called “We’re Not Home Yet Children” and the chorus goes

“We’re not home yet children, so keep your eyes on the Savior; Just a few more days to labor, and we’ll sit down beside the river. How we long to be with Jesus, and our loved ones gone before us; There’s a better day a ‘coming. We’re not home yet!”

I praise God for the truth of those words!!!

Posted by: ksuechester | January 19, 2011

For The Love Of Pie!

It was in May of, 1960, six months before I was born, that my family moved to the rented farm on Miller road. In early 1977, a few months after I turned sixteen, we moved away. But for sixteen fairytale years I was privileged to live on seventy-two acres of PARADISE! That un-farmed farmland had everything a child could ask for. Well, everything but hot water and a bathroom. But in the super-small, five room house that was home to this family, whose final head count totaled nine, who needed those luxuries, what with everything else we had? So what, if the brown dirt under the house could be seen through the cracks in the floor? You really couldn’t see that much of it, unless you were down on your knees with your eyeball on the floor. And the two brown, smelly kerosene heaters, standing back to back, and separated only by the wall between two bedrooms, and the length of exhaust pipe that connected them, kept us warm enough in the winter. Although a body DID have to stand mighty close to them to feel the heat they put out. And did anyone except Mama, really mind that there was no privacy in any of the rooms, because there were no doors for the doorways? Or, that to get to any room of the house, one had to walk through all of the others to get there? Did it really matter that there was only one closet in the whole house, and that Daddy claimed it as his? I mean after all, there WAS that old rocking chair in the corner of a bedroom. It was there, where all of the clothes, once washed and dried, were taken from the line, and dumped. It only took a small amount of searching through the pile to find what we were looking for, and once ironed, we would wear it proudly out to play or off to school. Did we mind that we took our baths in the kitchen sink, where anybody from inside or out, could walk right in and “catch” us in our birthday suit? Or that our “potty” was in an unheated, falling down shack, a good ways down a little path from our house? These were minor inconveniences to have to pay for all the splendors that were ours in this tiny piece of Heaven! Splendors any child would have envied us for!

Those splendors, scattered across seventy-two acres of what, at one time had been a farm, were woods to play in; a creek to dam up and swim in; huge rocks to climb over; trees to climb up and get stuck in; the old barn and chicken house, and well house to make clubhouses out of; gullies and hills to explore and slide down; kudzu vines to hide in; and the wonderful soft brown dirt up under the house to play in. There were hollyhocks, and honeysuckle, wild irises, dandelions, and buttercups to decorate the landscape, and if one got hungry in the midst of play, there was always something to grab for a quick snack; apples, pears, peaches, cherries, wild strawberries, black cherries, persimmons, plums, walnuts, pecans, and blackberries.  A little something for everyone!

With five brothers and a sister, there was always someone around to play with, and keep me company whether I asked for it or not; or even wanted it! And we never hurt for enough players to form teams for our games of rolley-bat, dodge ball, tag, football, hide and seek, or badmitten, although getting everyone to agree on what we would play, could prove, at times, to be a challenge. We never hurt for pets to love and care for either, because people were forever letting out stray cats and dogs at the corner where Charlie Walker, and Miller roads met, and those lost little animals would inevitably find their way to our little house on the hill, and in time, win our hearts, and become our pets. With only a few exceptions, that is the way most of our many household pets were acquired. All of them were allowed to run loose, and NONE of them, as I remember, were ever carried to the vet, for any reason.

The seven of us children practically lived outside. Maybe because it was roomier out there, or maybe it was a means of escaping some of the brutal happenings that took place inside. But whatever the reason, we managed to always find fun and entertaining things to occupy our time. On snowy, winter days, my siblings would make snowmen and igloos, or have snowball fights. Since I was born with severely “clubbed” feet, I couldn’t stand or walk in the snow very well. So I would watch the fun from inside, looking out through a window. But in the summer, we all played with June bugs on a string. Or captured lightening bugs and put them in jars for bicycle headlights. We made pets of hoppytoads and caterpillars, and dodged bumble bees, as we gathered flowers to wear for jewelry, or in our hair, or for bouquets to give to Mama. It was the kind of life books are written about!

One of the best things about summer, during that tender time of life, for me anyway, was the ripening of the blackberries! I LOVED the blackberries! And it seemed we had tons of them. It didn’t matter that they grew among briers. Or that they were a breeding ground for chiggers. Or that the areas where they grew seemed to be upon the most uneven terrain of the whole seventy-two acres. It seemed next to impossible to maintain balance, and not fall headlong among the nettles. At least, in my case. But each summer found the ones of us who could, or WOULD, dressed in layers of clothing for protection against scratches and bites, out in the briers, with whatever kind of bucket we could find, picking blackberries. We would pick gallons of them, and eat quarts, before calling it “quits” and carrying the harvest inside to Mama. Once relinquished to her care, she would wash and rewash the berries, drain them, and “sugar” them up. Then she would measure them out for pies. How many pies she made, depended upon how many berries we had picked. Anyone who ever tasted Mama’s pies always said that she could make the best crusts of anyone they knew. And I just loved to watch her prepare and roll out the fragile dough. I would marvel that the paper thin shell never tore as she picked it up and placed it just so, in the pie pan. She was always careful to leave just enough of both the top and bottom layers overlapping the edge of the plate for an adequate seal. Then she would pick up the unbaked pie, and with a knife, cut away the extra dough, which would fall away in strips to the floured surface of the table. Because of the tight budget which we were forced to live on, Mama allowed few things to go to waste, including those scraps of dough. She would re-roll them, and sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on them and dot them with butter. Then bake them to make what she called, “stickys”, which I loved, and considered to be an added “extra” to the blackberry pies baking away in the oven!

By the time I turned eleven, change had drifted into our world, and life on Miller road was never the same. Instead of the “outhouse”, we now had an indoor bathroom, which Daddy installed himself, in a minuscule room off the side porch. We still had no hot water. But at least we had a tub to bathe in! And as long as we were careful, we avoided being scalded by the boiling water which we carried from the kitchen to the bathroom in two large canning pots. This, to equalize the cold tap water in the bathtub. And the bathroom actually had a door with a lock on it! Another change we saw, was the replacement of the old rocking chair in the bedroom. Now, the baby bed that had cradled Mama’s last-born, until he had outgrown it, sat in that corner, and overflowed with fresh-smelling laundry, spilling out over the mahogany colored rails. But the biggest change of all, was that instead of a family of nine living in the tiny house on the hill, we were now a family of five. My older siblings, all four of them, had either been “asked” to leave, or, as in the case of my sister, had married and moved away. There was now only three children living at home, I being the oldest of them. And then of course, there was still Mama and Daddy. Our games changed, for there was no longer the number of players needed for teams, and it is a sad and difficult feat indeed, to play three handed rolley-bat!

With all of the changes taking place and adjustments being made, there was one thing that remained the same. Our love for blackberry pie never lessened! In fact, Mama threw out a challenge to the last three of her brood, that the first four never knew about. If all the three of us would pick enough berries for two pies, we each could have a whole pie to ourselves. And Mama would get THREE! She said it was only fair, since she was the one who had to bake them. And we certainly didn’t argue. We were, after all, getting a whole pie to ourselves! Now, summertime may have found fewer “pickers” in the patch, but our zeal never waned. Indeed, the three of us picked with renewed enthusiasm that we might accomplish our selfish ambition. That, of course being, to stuff our faces with pie, when all was said and done. Each of the five remaining summers that we lived on that old farm, found me stumbling around in the brier patch, fighting for balance, and smothering in layers of clothing, while enduring scratches and bug bites. And all for the reward of a pie to call my own!

I know life on Miller road wasn’t perfect. Far from it! But early on, I learned to “push down” the bad stuff, and live as if it were. And until I grew up and learned differently, I honestly believed that no one had it better!

Posted by: ksuechester | January 9, 2011

“I’ll Have The Fly, Please!”

If you have read my “About” page, then you know that I had to take an early retirement due to some health issues. That happened in September, 2009. Before that, I owned and operated “Kathy’s Kids”, a licensed Family Home Child Care center, which I opened January 1, 2000, and it was quite literally, the best job I ever had! Because I was licensed, I was allowed to keep up to eight youngsters in my home at a time; five of them, from the ages of 6 weeks-5 years, and the other three, 6-12 years. It kept me busy, and there were days I could have pulled out my hair! But on the flip side, I received hugs and slobbery kisses every day for nearly nine years! Actually ten, because I worked at a large church day care a year, before I decided I could do the job at home. And it WAS a job, no doubt about it. Child care hours were from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday, every week of the year. The only exceptions being holidays, vacation days, and snow or ice. And that, only, if the parents couldn’t make it to my house. For twelve hours a day, I alone, acted the role of caregiver, cook, disciplinarian, counselor, referee, teacher, nurse, companion and playmate, not to mention janitor, maid, director, bookkeeper, and anything else the occupation required. Once in a while, I received help, when hubby didn’t have to work, and felt like pitching in, but that wasn’t often. We both loved “our” kids, but “Kathy’s Kids” was my career, not his.

As you may imagine, dealing with children day after day, lent to some interesting happenings and many “stories.” Some funny, and some, not so much so. I am going to share one of my favorites with you now, and you be the judge of it’s humor.

Two very precious children I was blessed to keep for four years or more, were two I called my “twins.” They were a little boy and a little girl, from different homes, whose birthdays were only one month and a few days apart. Their names were Kelsey and Kody. Both, were well behaved, and just as cute as they could be, and they were BEST friends! Whatever one was into, the other was into it too, and even on days when they wouldn’t play with anyone else, they would play with each other. At the time of this story, they were about fifteen and fourteen months old, and both had been walking for some time. In fact, they had been RUNNING for some time. Another thing they had in common was the fact that they were usually the last two children to be picked up in the evenings, sometimes, by as much as two hours after all the other kids had gone home.

That was the case on this particular day. All the other children had been picked up by their parents, and these two were playing sweetly together, as they always did, so I picked up a book laying nearby, and was soon lost in the happenings of another place, another time. At some point, somewhere in my distracted consciousness, I became vaguely aware of the sounds of giggles and tiny shoe-clad feet flying across the carpeted floor. After a period of time, more running, followed by more giggles. I was so deep into my book that it took a while before these sounds could penetrate the world of fiction I had escaped to, and bring my attention back to the “here and now.” Finally, though, they had my full attention, and I became acutely aware that the quiet little game I had entrusted my angelic munchkins to, had changed drastically! As the fog of literary magic cleared from my brain, I began to realize that perhaps this new game would bear some observation, so I set aside my book and watched to see what they were up to. It was clear that whatever it was, they were deep into it, and were having the time of their lives! I watched as they raced to a window, laughing with all of their might. Then they got quiet, as they appeared to be searching for something. After a while, one or the other of them would give a little squeal and point to something apparently out of their reach, and the laughter began again as they stood on tiptoe to stretch, and reach, and do whatever else they could, to touch whatever it was, they were after. Then suddenly, without any warning or apparent reason, they would tear away from that window, and giggling and squealing, would fly across the room to the other window, where again, they grew quiet, as they searched for something. Then, once observed, would resume the laughing, and squealing, stretching, and reaching. This went on for some time before I finally realized that they were chasing a fly! With amusement I watched the two of them play their game, then decided it was harmless enough, and went back to reading. I was once again deeply involved in the world of an author’s imagination, when I felt Kody slam his tiny body hard against my knees, his head landing in my lap; Kelsey, right behind him. For a fleeting moment I felt a rush of annoyance, as I juggled my book to keep it in my hands and off the floor! Then I got a glimpse of Kody’s upturned face and the wide adorable grin caught at the corners by two deep dimples, just beneath two huge blue eyes glowing with the light of victory. “Tat-ty! Tat-ty! I ate da bug!” This he said with obvious pride, and delight! Perhaps it was because of the speed with which I had reentered the world of reality. I don’t know, but for whatever reason, the words somehow refused to register in my brain. “What did you say!?” I asked incredulously. “I ate da bug!” he repeated with just as much pride as before. It STILL didn’t register. “Surely he was mistaken! Surely, the fly had escaped, and he just THOUGHT he had eaten it!” “Kody!” I tried again, this time slow and clear. “WHERE IS THE BUG?” Kody pulled himself to full height, as a solider standing at attention, opened his mouth as wide as he could get it, and pointed inside with such vigor I thought he might swallow his hand! It slowly began to “click” in my head as I searched his open mouth for traces of a leg or wing. Nothing! As I sat back in my chair the pieces fell into place for me. These two relentless midget hunters before me had chased that poor fly to the point of exhaustion, and apparent capture and consumption! Finally satisfied that Kody had indeed eaten a fly, all I could think to say was “Well, was it good?” With that precious grin still wide on his face and his eyes alive with victory, he silently clamped his mouth shut and without a word nodded his little blond head vigorously up and down. I just wanted to hug him! As I pulled him up onto my lap, I noticed Kelsey, who had been quietly standing on the other side of my knees the whole time. With one arm folded over in front of her and the hand of the other propping up her head, it was obvious her emotions were not running the way of Kody’s. Her face was such a mixture of envy, disappointment, and longing that I could almost hear what she was thinking. “Life is just NOT fair!” Her expression was one of such disparagement, that I had to hug her too, but for a different reason. That afternoon, When Kody’s Grandmother came to pick him up, and as I gave her a report on the events of  his day, it was with much trepidation that I told her, “…Oh, and Kody ate a fly today…!”

I wonder what the reactions of my “twins” would be, if I could recount this story to the two of them? And if I could, I would HAVE to end it with a bit of certainty that they may or may not have accepted as fact, in their young lives as yet. But it is this… “No, Kelsey darling! Life ISN’T fair! Not EVERYBODY gets to eat the fly!”

Posted by: ksuechester | January 2, 2011

Fishbowl

I vaguely remember them I was so small, but I remember their names clearly. We called them Flipper and Flossie. They were just two, normal, everyday run-of-the-mill goldfish, contentedly swimming in circles in the only world they knew; their not so large, clear glass goldfish bowl. I was too little to feed them, but I remember watching my sister, or one of my brothers, and even once in a while, my Dad, as they picked up the little can with holes in the white top, and sprinkled into their bowl, a tiny amount of what looked like, black pepper. In reality, it was fish food, and apparently it didn’t taste like black pepper, for those two little fish lost no time in making every last floating speck disappear!

Every so often, my sister, and again, once in a while, my dad, would take a soup bowl from the kitchen cabinet, fill it with water from the faucet and let it sit on the table until it reached room temperature. Then they would gently place Flipper and Flossie’s  fragile world on the table, and with a small net on a handle, would carefully transfer our small orange pets from the dirty water of their home, to the temporary soup bowl apartment. I would watch as the dirty water in the fishbowl was dumped, and the bowl was carefully rinsed and refilled with clean, clear water, and left to sit on the kitchen table until, once again the water in the now clean fishbowl reached room temperature. Then, Flipper and Flossie would be scooped up and placed once more in their roomier, more permanent home.

Looking back on it now, I wonder if Flipper and Flossie had any clue as to how perilous a life they really lived! Oh they seemed contented enough as they endlessly swam the few inches their watery world afforded them, but how content would they have been if they had once thought of the very real possibility that my sister could forget to give them their daily supply of food? How freely would they have swam if they could have guessed that the freshness of their world depended upon the faithfulness of my Dad? And if they had known the unpredictability of my Dad, they would have known that they had GREAT CAUSE to worry! How very true for them, the old saying, “Ignorance is bliss!” How great a blessing, their ignorance, that they were TOTALLY dependent upon the faithfulness of the humans in their lives, and how thankful they could have been that those humans didn’t delight in the torture of goldfish!

It seems lately, I have found my thoughts turning more and more to the goodness of God, and comparing our universe to that fish bowl. The Bible teaches that the very character of God is good, but I know of people who argue that God is mean; even cruel. They question, “If God is so good, why did He allow…?” Or, “If God loves me so much, why didn’t He prevent…?” I am sad to admit it, but I have found myself toying with those same thoughts from time to time. It seems we humans have the tendency to equate the character of God to the circumstance we find we are facing at any present moment of our lives. “If I am happy, then God is good, but if I am hurting or unhappy, then God must be a mean and hateful God, with no compassion at all; filled with spite and contempt for the whole human race!”

We know about “choice” and “free will,” but why is it, we want to believe that our every selfish and unholy action should be rewarded with “happy ever after” consequences? When will we understand that wrong choices, even if someone else makes them, oftentimes causes immeasurable pain and hurt!? In my own life, I have experienced horrible pain and loss, and have cried torrents of tears, because of the choices which someone else has made. That is probably true of every soul that has ever lived, even though God lays out clear guidelines in His Word to direct our every decision.

So why DO we accuse God of being cruel? WE are the ones who choose! And WE are the ones who act out our choices! Perhaps it is because we know of the power that God possesses, and in our self-centered little minds we expect that He should use that power to shelter and protect us from every painful “effect”, regardless of the “cause”! Forget the fact that others suffer the consequences from some of the choices WE may make, it is all about “My!” “Me!” and “Mine!”

But can we begin to imagine the kind of horrors we could experience if the character of God WERE cruel!? You and I are just as helpless and powerless in our world, as Flossie and Flipper were in theirs! If any one of their “caregivers” had taken a notion to, just for the “fun” of it, pull the fins off of one of those little fish just to watch it suffer, that poor fish would not have been able to do ANYTHING to stop him. And just so, if God were cruel and decided to lift us up by the hair of our head and set us on the moon to watch us gasp for oxygen so He could have His fun, all the pleading of our hearts could not change His mind, or prevent Him from doing so. If He wanted to reach down into our “bowl” and pinch off an arm or a leg on any one of us, who could stop Him? Cruelty has no compassion, and doesn’t care at all how loud we scream or how much we hurt, or bleed! Can we begin to imagine the fear and dread; the sheer horror of every second of our existence, wondering who or what would be next, if God WERE cruel!? OR if He HATED us!

THANKFULLY, that is not the way of God AT ALL! His character IS good! It was with GREAT love for the human race that He created us, and it was love that caused Him to give us choice, and INCREDIBLE love that provided a way of rescue, if the wrong choice was made; which we know, it was! It was God’s LOVE that instructed Adam not to eat from the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” I know that there are those who would argue, “Then why did God even put that tree there?” But what good is CHOICE without OPTIONS!? No, the problem wasn’t the tree. The problem was that Adam failed to understand, that with choice comes consequence. But we really shouldn’t blame Adam, either. It seems that WE don’t understand it any better than he did. And in reality, Adam has one over on us. He was the first to have to exercise this “freedom of choice,” with no examples of “cause and effect” to look at, and thereby to help guide him. We, on the other hand, have TONS of them. And we STILL don’t get it right! But God, the ultimate caregiver, is LOVE, and that is why, when we come to Him, yield to His wisdom, and surrender to His will, we are able to live in this fishbowl that we call “universe” with no more fear or worry than Flipper and Flossie seemed to have in theirs!

Posted by: ksuechester | December 24, 2010

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

Has anyone ever asked that of you? “Just who do you think YOU are? If you are like me, there have been times when you could not have answered them. At least not honestly. At one  time in my life,  I did not KNOW who I was. I wasn’t conscious of it, and had you asked me, I would have given some kind of answer of what I thought was truth, but in reality, was far from it. So how did I figure it out?

When I was young, my Mother used to make most of my clothes. Dresses, mostly, because 50 years ago, that is what all girls wore. – And grown women too. I would stand beside her blond (that was the color of it)  sewing table and watch her pin the pieces together and then sew the seams, using her guide to get them straight. Afterward, she would clip the threads and remove the pins that had kept the fabric from slipping, thus preventing a big mess. Then as I watched, she would do a very curious thing. With very sure fingers she would turn the sewn garment INSIDE OUT! The dress looked totally different!  The seams were hidden. The weave in the fabric was different. The pattern of the design in the fabric was different. Even the colors were brighter and less blurry. What I hadn’t realized as I stood by watching her every move, was that she had sewn the seams with the “right” sides together. I could have worn the dress unturned, but it wouldn’t have been RIGHT to wear it that way. It wouldn’t have been comfortable, or pretty either. It wouldn’t have hung right. – No. for my dress to be right, it had to be turned. That was the only way to know the TRUE dress.

If you think about it, there are many things that are formed by beginning with the inner and working outward. Take a baby for instance. Life itself starts with a cell that splits, then splits again, then yet again and those four cells become the beating heart of an embryo. As that tiny heart beats and cells split, more organs are formed. Blood vessels, nerves, bone, muscle, skin, and finally hair, lashes, and nails are formed until labor begins and the infant is pushed out into the world, healthy and whole. The ecstatic mother coos over her newborn exclaiming about the shape of her lips, the length of her toes, and the color of her hair, without even a thought of the size of her heart or the shape of her kidneys. It’s all about what Mom can see with her eyes!

But even before that child became the first microscopic cell, it was the thought and very carefully laid out plan from deep inside the very heart of  The Master creator Himself! Yes you and I had our very beginning from INSIDE the mind and heart of God! In fact, ALL of creation began that way. Think about it… If God had not first have held us in His heart, our Moms would NEVER have held us in their arms! It almost seems that there has to be an INSIDE before there can be an outside.

So getting back to the original question: “Who do you think you are?” The only way to be able to answer that, is to take an honest look on the inside of yourself and face what you discover, head on. I did that. It was hard, and not pleasant at all. In fact it was painful, but as I asked God to help me see me as I was, He was able to make me into what He wanted me to be; What He had, all those long eons of time ago, had planed for me to be, when I was just a thought He was holding in His heart!  And lest you think differently, I want to be quick to inform you that I’m not a “done deal” yet! God is still showing me who I am, and who He WANTS me to be, and as I yield to Him, the change gradually takes place! It isn’t easy, and many times it is extremely painful, but I have reason to believe that the finished product will be GLORIOUS! – At least, that is God’s promise to me, and it is a promise I cling to!

Maybe you long ago, figured out where I am leading to with all of this; maybe you haven’t, but here it is. Somewhere inside of me, I have a great longing to be genuinely known and understood. That is the hope I have of you. As you read and follow my blog, and hopefully you will, it is my desire that you come to know me. Really know me… from the INSIDE OUT!

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