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This Is a Test

GUEST BLOGGER Joyce K. Ellis puts a delightful contemporary spin on the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther . . .

THIS IS A TEST… By Joyce K. Ellis 

A Hebrew beauty queen in ancient Persia models how to ace the tests we’re facing in today’s world. 

Tests in school used to set my stomach on fire. And when I began college at age 39, my synapses weren’t firing as quickly as they once had. So I feared exams even more. But in time I came to view tests as gauges of whether I had learned what I was supposed to know or not, rather than as sadistic inventions of deranged educators. 

In our personal lives we may sometimes view tests and trials as ordeals to be endured by gritting our teeth and calling the prayer chain, rather than as opportunities to measure our spiritual growth and our understanding of who God is. 

Reality: Tests are painful! We don’t like pain.

Preparation, Not Cramming

Esther, that Old-Testament paragon of beauty, on the other hand, seems to have sailed through her tests like a Bermuda sloop, designed for upwind sailing. But did this young woman in fifth-century-B.C. Persia score an A+ easily?  

Orphaned at an early age, Esther grew up under the tutelage of her uncle* Mordecai—no indication of any Mrs. Mordecai nor any other female influence. Esther and her uncle lived in captivity—first to Babylon, then Persia (present-day Iran). 

Apparently, by God’s grace, Mordecai taught Esther well, and she developed a beautiful spirit, enhancing her pretty face and great figure. But Esther’s looming tests would measure what she had learned about how far she could trust God and what she was willing to risk in order to stand up for what’s right.  (Though God’s name is never mentioned, Esther’s faith in Him shines through.) 

King of Showoffs

Here’s the setup: In the lush palace gardens in Susa, Persia’s King Xerxes throws lavish “marathon banquets” to show off his incredible opulence and power. Queen Vashti invites all area women to a girls-night-out-with-the-queen banquet of their own inside the elegant palace.                     

Xerxes—more than a little tipsy—decides to show off his trophy-wife queen and demands that she leave her banquet to “walk a catwalk” before the guests at his.   

Fast forward: Vashti refuses. He’s furious. Advisors say, “You can’t let Vashti get away with this! We’ll all lose control of our women.” Vashti loses her crown. Xerxes gets depressed without his queen. His young male attendants’ solution? Let’s get some girls in here. Have a beauty pageant. Get a new queen. 

So the call goes out for the most beautiful virgins in the land to participate in a beauty contest. And Esther gets carted off to the king’s winter palace in Susa.

SPAcation?

Most of us would gladly suffer through this test of Esther’s: a one-year all-expense-paid SPAcation, complete with fragrant oil massages and makeup makeover. But imagine her apprehension as time ticked down to her queen audition—sleeping with the wine-loving, anger-prone, demanding, superpowerful, King Xerxes! What kind of faith in God did it take for Esther to cross the threshold of his bedchamber that night? 

Most of us would also gladly endure another test of Esther’s: watching Xerxes place the queen’s crown on her head because she pleased him the most. But had she recognized God’s hand in the preferential treatment she received in the harem and in the king’s losing his heart to her?  

And most of us would gladly tolerate this other test of Esther’s: the luxurious palace lifestyle with a plethora of servants to peel our grapes and polish our toenails. But then she learned that Xerxes’ right-hand man, Haman, planned to kill her people, all the Jews, because Uncle Mordecai refused to bow before him (a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Would God give her the strength to give up all this lavish treatment to do what was right? Remember, she had seen what happened when Vashti defied the king!

Esther knew that initiating an audience with the king could mean death. She knew that admitting her heritage—in the light of Haman’s planned holocaust—would certainly invite her own assassination. But Mordecai told her, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family [including her beloved Mordecai] will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14 NIV, bracketed addition mine). 

She may have thought of that, too.

Esther needed wisdom and courage beyond herself. So she asked Mordecai to gather together all her people in Susa for a three-day fast before she approached the king. 

Final Exam

Since the Persians loved banquets so much, with fear and trembling, she takes that tack: Feed the king—and his sidekick, Haman—and when they’re happily full, plead for the lives of her people. 

Fear is a natural emotion, and we either fight or run when we face fear-inducing tests: Relationships fall apart. We get frightening lab results. Our financial situation gets scary. Depression grips us in its vice. Or we find ourselves squirming under tests of character—challenges to stand up for what’s right and confront what’s wrong—in our families, jobs, churches, government, and world. “Speak up…,” God says, “defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9).

So we can relate to Esther— her passion to do what’s right, her fears, her need for God’s wisdom, and her cry for others to stand with her. After much wrestling within herself and God, she could say, essentially, “I will do what needs to be done—stand up for what’s right—regardless of the consequences.”

Esther courageously risked her life and saved her people. She had learned what she needed to know. And Haman hung from the gallows he’d built for Mordecai—an irony bearing the fingerprints of our Invisible God. 

Esther passed her tests. Will we?

First appeared in Kyria.com

Joyce K. Ellis, award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including The 500 Hats of a Modern-Day Woman and the picture book, The Fabulous World That God Made, writes from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and speaks for women’s groups across the country and internationally. Contact her through her website: www.joycekellis.com.

July Is the Month for…

July is the month we dust off the grill, wave the flag, and give a perfunctory nod to Freedom and Independence . . .   ~ By Sharon Sheppard

Ask an American third-grader (or maybe even a high-schooler) to define freedom, and she might say, “Freedom is the right to do whatever I want.”

The definition of Independence? “That’s when I’m on my own and don’t have to be under the thumb of my parents anymore,” a cocky sophomore might reply.

But neither Freedom nor Independence was a given in the early days of our country. They were to die for, you might say.

 Thomas Jefferson’s profound document that finally severed ties with Britain, the mother country, included some radical ideas about rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” he confidently proclaimed, “that all men are created equal (an amazing admission!); that they are endowed by their Creator (Separation of Church and State, you might be thinking, Call the ACLU!) with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This elegantly written document listed some 28 offenses against the British Crown and declared the rebel nation to be independent from the mother country.

Writers and statesmen have weighed in on the brashness of the fledgling union and the topic of freedom over the years. Essayist Henry David Thoreau, of Walden Pond fame, said, “The English did not come to America from a mere love of adventure, nor to truck with or convert the savages, nor to hold offices under the Crown, as the French to a great extent did, but to live in earnest and with freedom.”

Many have justifiably raised cautions against taking our freedoms for granted, as we Americans are inclined to do, fearing that we might become careless and neglect to preserve this remarkable democracy that separates us from most of the nations of the earth. Novelist Somerset Maugham said, “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

President Ronald Reagan expressed a similar concern: “The price of freedom is high, but never so costly as the loss of freedom. One day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”   

Many gave their lives in the deadly American Revolutionary War that eventually sealed our freedom and independence. Patrick Henry, one of the country’s Founding Fathers, famously said, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Hugh Downs aptly summed it up this way: “The price of freedom is high, but never so costly as the loss of freedom.” So let’s savor our freedoms. They were purchased at great cost. 

THIS IS A TEST

GUEST BLOGGER Joyce K. Ellis puts a delightful contemporary spin on the ancient biblical story of Queen Esther . . .

THIS IS A TEST… By Joyce K. Ellis

A Hebrew beauty queen in ancient Persia models how to ace the tests we’re facing in today’s world.

Tests in school used to set my stomach on fire. And when I began college at age 39, my synapses weren’t firing as quickly as they once had. So I feared exams even more. But in time I came to view tests as gauges of whether I had learned what I was supposed to know or not, rather than as sadistic inventions of deranged educators.

In our personal lives we may sometimes view tests and trials as ordeals to be endured by gritting our teeth and calling the prayer chain, rather than as opportunities to measure our spiritual growth and our understanding of who God is.

Reality: Tests are painful! We don’t like pain.

Preparation, Not Cramming

Esther, that Old-Testament paragon of beauty, on the other hand, seems to have sailed through her tests like a Bermuda sloop, designed for upwind sailing. But did this young woman in fifth-century-B.C. Persia score an A+ easily?

Orphaned at an early age, Esther grew up under the tutelage of her uncle* Mordecai—no indication of any Mrs. Mordecai nor any other female influence. Esther and her uncle lived in captivity—first to Babylon, then Persia (present-day Iran).

Apparently, by God’s grace, Mordecai taught Esther well, and she developed a beautiful spirit, enhancing her pretty face and great figure. But Esther’s looming tests would measure what she had learned about how far she could trust God and what she was willing to risk in order to stand up for what’s right.  (Though God’s name is never mentioned, Esther’s faith in Him shines through.)

King of Showoffs

Here’s the setup: In the lush palace gardens in Susa, Persia’s King Xerxes throws lavish “marathon banquets” to show off his incredible opulence and power. Queen Vashti invites all area women to a girls-night-out-with-the-queen banquet of their own inside the elegant palace.                     

Xerxes—more than a little tipsy—decides to show off his trophy-wife queen and demands that she leave her banquet to “walk a catwalk” before the guests at his.   

Fast forward: Vashti refuses. He’s furious. Advisors say, “You can’t let Vashti get away with this! We’ll all lose control of our women.” Vashti loses her crown. Xerxes gets depressed without his queen. His young male attendants’ solution? Let’s get some girls in here. Have a beauty pageant. Get a new queen.

So the call goes out for the most beautiful virgins in the land to participate in a beauty contest. And Esther gets carted off to the king’s winter palace in Susa.

SPAcation?

Most of us would gladly suffer through this test of Esther’s: a one-year all-expense-paid SPAcation, complete with fragrant oil massages and makeup makeover. But imagine her apprehension as time ticked down to her queen audition—sleeping with the wine-loving, anger-prone, demanding, superpowerful, King Xerxes! What kind of faith in God did it take for Esther to cross the threshold of his bedchamber that night?

Most of us would also gladly endure another test of Esther’s: watching Xerxes place the queen’s crown on her head because she pleased him the most. But had she recognized God’s hand in the preferential treatment she received in the harem and in the king’s losing his heart to her?  

And most of us would gladly tolerate this other test of Esther’s: the luxurious palace lifestyle with a plethora of servants to peel our grapes and polish our toenails. But then she learned that Xerxes’ right-hand man, Haman, planned to kill her people, all the Jews, because Uncle Mordecai refused to bow before him (a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Would God give her the strength to give up all this lavish treatment to do what was right? Remember, she had seen what happened when Vashti defied the king!

Esther knew that initiating an audience with the king could mean death. She knew that admitting her heritage—in the light of Haman’s planned holocaust—would certainly invite her own assassination. But Mordecai told her, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family [including her beloved Mordecai] will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14 NIV, bracketed addition mine).

She may have thought of that, too.

Esther needed wisdom and courage beyond herself. So she asked Mordecai to gather together all her people in Susa for a three-day fast before she approached the king.

Final Exam

Since the Persians loved banquets so much, with fear and trembling, she takes that tack: Feed the king—and his sidekick, Haman—and when they’re happily full, plead for the lives of her people.

Fear is a natural emotion, and we either fight or run when we face fear-inducing tests: Relationships fall apart. We get frightening lab results. Our financial situation gets scary. Depression grips us in its vice. Or we find ourselves squirming under tests of character—challenges to stand up for what’s right and confront what’s wrong—in our families, jobs, churches, government, and world. “Speak up…,” God says, “defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9).

So we can relate to Esther— her passion to do what’s right, her fears, her need for God’s wisdom, and her cry for others to stand with her. After much wrestling within herself and God, she could say, essentially, “I will do what needs to be done—stand up for what’s right—regardless of the consequences.”

Esther courageously risked her life and saved her people. She had learned what she needed to know. And Haman hung from the gallows he’d built for Mordecai—an irony bearing the fingerprints of our Invisible God.

Esther passed her tests. Will we?

First appeared in Kyria.com

Joyce K. Ellis, award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including The 500 Hats of a Modern-Day Woman and the picture book, The Fabulous World That God Made, writes from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and speaks for women’s groups across the country and internationally. Contact her through her website: www.joycekellis.com.

How Emotionally Healthy Are You?

How Emotionally Healthy Are You?

By Sharon Sheppard

A family friend, Dr. Tom Lowry, who was both a reverend and a psychologist, once commented that my dad was one of the most emotionally healthy people he knew.

I’m not an authority in this field, but since we are emphasizing this aspect of health on thewisejourney (as well as Father’s Day) during the month of June, I’ve been pondering what that label might mean. What makes a person emotionally healthy? How do you know whether you are? Or how do you get that way if you aren’t?

I surveyed a few lists to see what the experts are saying.

Personality Buzz mentioned a few traits that are characteristic of people who are emotionally strong:

  1. Tough people don’t bog down feeling sorry for themselves.
  2. Strong people stay in the present.
  3. Mentally strong people have no trouble being themselves.
  4. Mentally and emotionally strong people have patience/persistence.
  5. Mentally strong people have a strong support network behind them.
  6. Strong-minded people welcome change.
  7. Tough people stop wasting energy on things that are out of their control.
  8. Tough people don’t repeat their mistakes.
  9. Strong-minded people have no time for jealousy or negativity.
  10. Tough people know that the world doesn’t owe them anything.

Except for number 6, I’d say my dad scored high on 9 out of these 10.

Familydoctor.org gave a few suggestions for keeping your emotional health:

  1. Think before you act.
  2. Manage stress.
  3. Strive for balance.
  4. Take care of your physical health.
  5. Find purpose and meaning.
  6. Stay positive.

Again, I think my dad scored well on all of these. How about you?

If you need some help, Psychology Today gave these tips for reenergizing your emotional wellbeing:

  1. Hang out with people who love you.
  2. Take a break.
  3. Try something different.
  4. Write down your worries.
  5. Write down what’s working for you in your life.

OR, as Garrison Keillor used to say, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

And if you would like to keep in touch with us here at thewisejourney, drop us an email at mzigan2442@gmail.com

Happy Fathers Day!

This is a smattering of some humorous quips and quotes I stumbled upon as tribute to ALL fathers and dads this month of June and all year through. – MZ

Dad, you’re the world’s greatest, although my frame of reference is limited.

Dad, thanks for sharing your DNA, now we are both fabulous.

Dad, sorry you had to raise my awful siblings.

To a Father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter. I think my Mother put it best. She said, little girls soften their daddy’s hearts. ~ Paul Walker

Remembering My Father

Remembering My Father – By Mary Zigan

Father’s Day is fast approaching, which means it’s time to find the right card with the right words to let your loved ones know how much they mean to you. To my amazement, when I googled “Father’s Day Greetings” all the helps for the right sentiments were provided. There was a variety of heartfelt and funny Father’s Day messages to do just that, along with easy how-to tips.

            My Father has been deceased for 19 years, but no one needs to prompt me in what I would say about him. The memories are fresh with happy thoughts and gratitude. Here are a few:  

My dad was just an overgrown kid. Everyone in the church youth group loved to come to our house because dad was so much fun.  He would take out the tractor and tie on a toboggan and tow us around the fields or ice-packed roads. We skied or tobogganed behind cars. If something had a motor and made noise, Dad was counted in on the activity. Though money was tight, we kids didn’t know it. There was money for roller skating, and the stock car races, for all the fun snowmobiling trips up North to the shack. Dad would give his last quarter to us and do it in good humor.  He was God fearing and definitely a family man. If I could emulate one quality about him, it would be his integrity. Every girl would long for a Daddy like I had. Often as an adult with two small children of my own after lots of fun in the sun, swimming, savoring good food, and seeing lots of the “salt of the earth” examples of servitude in both my parents, Daddy would always say in his parting words to me; “Come home when you can!” What a heritage. Thanks be to God!My Father didn’t really tell me in words how to live; he lived for me, and let me watch him do it. ~ Mary Z.

Free to Be Fit

Free to Be Fit by Mary Zigan

Spring is in the air! Hot weather is on the horizon! That thought can strike terror in the hearts and minds of many woman who don’t want to give up “the cover up.” I know. I have been there. The chill of winter makes it a safer time to cover our fat with layers of clothes. But, if we are honest, we really want to be free of the fat and the delusion and denial that goes with the cover up. Do you like me, look ahead to what feeling thin would be like, and get discouraged before you start. There’s the wedding, the concert, the family reunion all coming up, and they ALL involve food. When we look ahead and project, analyze, scrutinize, nurse and rehearse, we borrow trouble with a capital T.

There is a solution: Today is a good day to ask God for recovery.  Why not believe that today a new life is possible? It takes willingness and belief to turn our lives over to the One who has the power to rescue us from this place of defeat and discouragement. Yes, by God’s grace willingness and belief are the way out of the darkness and a road map to be free and fit. We can open ourselves to accept this gift with gratitude and do our part to stay the course by choosing to walk in His faithfulness just for today.

Lord, I am grateful for the opportunity to be on the journey of recovery from emotional eating and food obsessions.

Mary Z.

May Salad

MAY SALAD

QUINOA WITH BUTTERY ROASTED VEGETABLES

PREP TIME: DIFFICULTY:

30 Minutes Easy

SERVES COOK TIME:

Four-Six 45 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup Quinoa, Uncooked
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 4 Tablespoons Land O Lakes® Salted Butter
  • 1/2 whole Red Onion, Peeled and Cut Into Large Chunks
  • 1/2 whole Butternut Squash, Peeled, Seeded, and Cut Into Large Chunks
  • 2 whole Large Carrots, Peeled, Halved, and Cut Into 1-inch Pieces
  • 2 whole Large Parsnips, Peeled, Halved, and Cut Into 1-inch Pieces
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 4 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
  • 6 ounces, weight Baby Arugula Leaves
  • 1 cup Parmesan Shavings, Divided
  • Lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare quinoa according to directions. Set it aside to cool. 

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the garlic. Turn off the heat and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

Arrange the vegetables on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour over half of the garlic butter, sprinkle on salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast the vegetables for 35 to 40 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they’re nice and deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool slightly. 

Add the pine nuts to the same skillet over low heat and toast them for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until light golden brown. Set aside. 

Place cooked, cooled quinoa in a large bowl. Toss in the roasted vegetables and half the Parmesan shavings. Squeeze lemon in the remaining melted garlic butter and add to roasted vegetables. Toss in the arugula (it will wilt slightly) and the pine nuts, then sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan on top. Serve hot or cold. ENJOY!

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, has partnered with Land O’ Lakes for exclusive endorsement of Land O’ Lakes Butter. This blog post is sponsored by Land O’ Lakes.

Remembering the Sacrifices of Our Military

GUEST BLOGGER: Remembering the Sacrifices of Our Military, by the late Duane Sheppard, award-winning OpEd writer. (This article first appeared in The St. Cloud Times, St. Cloud, MN.)

Last Memorial Day weekend, as I saw media images of grieving parents at grave sites holding military photos of sons and daughters lost, I was reminded anew of the high cost of war.

I can only try to imagine what it must have been like for my Grandma Sheppard to receive a telegram from the War Department back in June of 1944. As she opened with trembling fingers the small yellow paper bearing a tersely worded message, her first reaction must have been to wonder which of her three military sons she’d lost.

Sergeant Morris W. Sheppard, a 28-year-old paratrooper from Madison Lake, Minnesota, Grandma was informed, was “missing in action,” a euphemism that generally meant a soldier had been killed in battle but they hadn’t yet found his body.

Several months later, my grandmother received the exhilarating news that he was alive, but unfortunately, he was being held as a prisoner of the Nazis.

How she must have rejoiced that at least he was still alive! Yet the anxiety over what sort of treatment he might be enduring in a German prison camp had to have tempered the celebration. Five months later she received yet another telegram from the Provost Marshal in Washington, D.C., telling her that her son had escaped and was now in Moscow.

For years after my uncle returned, he refused to speak of his seven combat jumps or his multiple escapes from Prisoner of War camps. He brushed off questions about his service with the words, “Those things are best forgotten.”

Wednesday’s St. Cloud Times bore the headline: “Military Stress Cases Rise.” Citing the epidemic of an estimated 40,000 cases of war-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since 2003, the report called to mind poet John Milton’s line, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” The stress borne by loved ones at home should never be underestimated.

I was 10 years old when my father was drafted into the Army during World War II to serve under Dwight Eisenhower at the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces, in France.  Among my vivid wartime memories are red-bordered flags that hung in the windows of families of men and women in the service—a blue star for each living service member, a gold star for those who had died.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sent the following letter to Lydia Bixby, a mother grieving incalculable losses:

“I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.”

While the wartime loss of sons, daughters, siblings, spouses, and parents is no less tragic in our time, we who are the modern-day beneficiaries of the freedom from terrorism on our own soil owe a huge debt of gratitude to those men and women who serve in the military or who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Let’s not make expressions of thanks and support for military personnel and their families just a once-a-year event.

Last weekend I stood at the grave of my father and reread the bronze military foot plaque. Though he was not killed in service, he came home from the war gravely ill with undulant fever, a disease he had contracted in France. Too sick and demoralized to go through the red tape necessary to get medical care through military channels, my father spent months in the hospital at his own expense after his return to civilian life. He carried the effects of this disease for the rest of his life—a different sort of sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of his death.

My Best Teacher: My Mother

GUEST BLOGGER, Alice Bostrom, a Minneapolis freelance writer, shares this wonderful memory in honor of Mother’s Day – My Best Teacher: My Mother

Over the years the enjoyment of history and literature was woven into the fabric of my life, Mother taught me in a unique way to love history. Each trip to her home town of Philadelphia to visit my grandfather included a visit to Independence Hall, Betsy Ross’s home and Christ Church. Mother had brought her students to these paces when she taught school in Philadelphia. She brought them to the historic church to see the pew rented by President
George Washington. Of course she brought her daughter there. She let me crawl under the ropes to sit in his pew, as she had done with her students.

We lived in Belmont, Massachusetts during my early years.  Mother took Dad and me (and every visiting relative) to the battlefields in Lexington and Concord twenty miles from our home.  I often crossed the “Rude Bridge” to listen for the shot “heard ’round the world.” As a child I did not need a textbook to understand the American Revolution. Mother had taught me how the patriots fought, and she showed me the rock fences where they ducked own to reload their muskets.

From early childhood, Mother loved books and American literature.  Each summer we drove the short distance to visit Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott lived from 1858 to 1877 to see how the author of Little Women lived.  We owned copies of Little Women, Little Men, and most of her other stories.  I believed this was the home where her characters Jo and Beth grew up.

Nearby in Concord, she also enjoyed the Old Manse where Ralph Waldo Emerson resided at various times.  I have never forgotten seeing the bedroom window where Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife carved her name in the glass with her diamond engagement ring.  I thought she was a rude houseguest.

In Cambridge, near Harvard Yard, we liked to go to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home.  Mother would quote his poetry there. “Listen my children and you shall hear/ of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”  For the rest of my life I, too, have loved to visit authors’ homes and the homes and libraries of U.S. Presidents.

Dad took a sabbatical year at MIT the summer I was sixteen. Mother enjoyed perusing antique shops in Boston.  One day we found a shop selling a real Paul Revere silver bowl. We didn’t inspect the price, knowing we couldn’t afford it.

Before I could learn to read my parents taught me through reading. Oh, sure, I heard daily children’s stories and Bible stories.  But I learned first by listening. My parents read to each other. My exposure to Perry Mason came when Mother or Dad read the weekly installment of Earle Stanley Gardner’s fiction from magazines.  As an adult I asked mother, “Why do I know things about the Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson?”

She smiled.  “Your father and I studied every book we could find about him in the Boston Public Library the summer you were seven.  You must have listened as we read them.”

Mother’s love of reading and of books became my passion, too.  However it did not happen easily. My first-grade teacher used a sight reading program, and a way Mother didn’t approve of.  She took the train to Philadelphia and bought copies of the books she had used as a teacher and spent the summer teaching me.  She said to me, “When you understand phonics, you will have the tools to read anything.”

Reading was one of many skills Mother patiently taught me.  In elementary school, I learned to knit and to crochet. But unfortunately, my crocheting skills remain very elementary.

I broke my elbow at age ten.  I could not write in school, but Mother whipped out yarn and needles so that I could knit ten-inch squares.  She and our neighbor sewed the squares together with squares they and my friends knitted. These squares became afghans for the Army hospital during the war.  Before that time, she had knitted sweaters to match Uncle Donald’s Naval uniform, Uncle Bob’s Merchant Marine uniform, and one for her cousin Sandy to match his Canadian Royal Air Force uniform.  Knitting for the “war effort” was something Mother believed in.

She also loved to teach.  During World War II, working mothers needed a safe place for their children.  She taught Daily Vacation Bible School. Not for a week. Not for two weeks. She taught all summer long.

Mother enjoyed teaching Sunday school.  I believe she must be named, “the best Sunday School teacher I ever had.”  In my sixteenth year, Mother became my teacher. You can believe I was never unprepared.  If she said, “Memorize this scripture during the week,” I did. I might have been the only class member who did, but I learned the scripture and required hymn lyrics.

In her thirties, Mother began to develop her love of painting.  She once painted a mural of sailboats on the plaster wall of our game room.  I also recall her painting place cards for parties and writing an appropriate poem for each guest.

Gradually she studied oil painting and later china painting.  She, of course, taught many others to paint on porcelain. I never had the opportunity to develop this skill, but my life has been completely changed because she taught me to love the Lord Jesus.

From the beginning childish prayers, the early Bible stories, her teaching in VBS and Sunday school, Mother helped me to understand the love of Jesus.  Watching her quiet acceptance of the death of her daughter, her father, and in later years, her husband, I learned how a true Christian should live.