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An Open Letter To My Mom

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Dear Mom, I’ve thought of writing this letter many, many times. I’ve planned it in my head but all of those plans didn’t make it into long-term memory in their exact form, so I’ll start over.   I don’t know if you realize just what a precious gift you were to us. To me. When you came to our home we were a fractured family; heads down, just doing the next thing that needed done while coping the best we could with the tsunami caused by Mommy’s death. Oh, we had love. We had family support. We had friends. We had an awesome Daddy.   But the hole was immense and deep. An endless chasm.   And then you came.   The relief was immediate and exhilarating. Well, at least until you fixed creamed tuna and spinach. (Smile). You came with your new foods, your new ways, and your breath of fresh air.   You were really “cool” because you had been a single missionary. You were the most amazing woman in the world because you got my mass of thick unmanageable hair cut into a shag! We came home from school one day to find you and Daddy had redone our bedrooms with new comforters and paint. Oo-la-la!   Of course, you were firm. You were the Mom and that was an interesting adjustment for three children who had been “motherless” for long enough to have developed some independent ways. That’s all I’m going to say about that.   I have a strong memory of the first time I remember an adult apologizing to me. That was you. It wasn’t anything big. It was just something you said in front of others. Something I’m positive, looking back that I would have said in the same situation. But, when you apologized to me it did something inside of me. It made me feel like you were someone I could trust. Someone who would do right no matter what. I learned that while saying you are sorry is VERY hard, it is the right thing. That, very possibly is the most important lesson you ever taught me.   During all of my  years of being single you were my map. You were the one who reminded me that God has a plan. I just needed to wait. I’m thankful I had that example. It helped more than you know.   Of all of the things you did or were, the best was that you loved our Daddy. You made him so happy and that righted our world in ways I can’t even describe. You continued the pattern we had seen in our parents—that of servant leadership. It’s a lesson that has become part of who I am, who my siblings are.   I thought I understood how it must have been for you to come as an independent single missionary lady and suddenly become a wife, mother, and Pastor’s wife. Then I got married at 43 and moved from SD to South Florida leaving my family, friends, church, job, and everything I knew. I totally underestimated the emotional impact all of those changes would make. I was so ecstatically happy being married but I was such an emotional mess. I couldn’t help but realize just what a massive life-shattering change...

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Of Flashbacks and Templeton the Rat

Posted by on Apr 28, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Of Flashbacks and Templeton the Rat

The other day I told an online friend that “my eight-year-old twin nieces turned seventeen today! How did that happen?” It’s hard to believe the nieces and nephews are growing up so fast. I have flashback moments—usually when they are telling me the things that they are doing now like getting learner’s permits and such—where my brain still sees them as four to eight year old children. Kind of like that car commercial on TV. I had a flashback moment the other day when I was in Pennsylvania. I stood in front of a classroom of third graders and spoke about developing the plot of a story. I was using the story of Charlotte’s Web to explain each point and the flashback happened. In my mind I saw my five oldest nieces and nephews all under five years old. They were sitting on the floor in my parent’s house watching Charlotte’s Web for the umpty-jillianth time. My Dad sat in his recliner watching the grandchildren. All of a sudden, from Daddy’s chair and in his voice came a perfect impersonation of Templeton the rat. “That wasn’t nice, Charlotte.” Our heads whipped around. There sat my Daddy, grinning—or would that be smirking—from ear to ear. The kids dissolved into giggles all over the floor and I thought we grownups would laugh until we cried. This morning I had a strong pang of wishing. I was wishing that my siblings could bring their children to see me. When I first got married and moved South that was the plan. But distance, finances, car woes, the price of gas, health issues, and did I mention distance has prevented it. So, every chance I get I travel back to South Dakota. Sometimes I take videos with me. Sometimes I take my favorite picture books to read to the youngest ones. I don’t want them to miss any of those favorite Aunt Miriam experiences. It’s just a few months until I’ll go again. I can’t wait. I’m planning a video party with the youngest ones. We’ll watch Charlotte’s Web! Now, if any more of the boys can avoid having their voices change before I get there. ....

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Opportunity. . . the answer?

Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Opportunity. . . the answer?

A few weeks ago a lady who has known Bruce’s family for years was visiting with us at church. She commented about how smart Bruce’s Daddy was. She mentioned that he was so good with his hands. She summed it up this way. “If he had had the educational opportunity he could have been an engineer or something.” Bruce agreed with her. We were talking again Sunday about my Grandpa and Grandma Jones, Bruce’s parents, other adults we know. Many, many of them did not have much for opportunity when they were young. There just weren’t choices for education like there are today. Life was tough. Putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads was a higher priority. Yet their lives were a success. They were honest, hard-working people who did a good job of raising their kids to be productive members of society while themselves being honorable. What more could we ask? I’ve had my Aunt Arlene on my mind lately since I’m doing a family newsletter and it’s her turn to be interviewed. The trouble is, she’s in heaven and I can’t call her. So, I’ve enlisted help from others. What I’ve heard over and over from her siblings and children (8 of them) is that she was a hard worker and she was smart. My Uncle said he thought she might have been the smartest of all. She never went to college. She chose to get married and raise a family and that’s what she did. Very well. I look back at the lives these people lived and I can’t help but wonder this. How much better off are we now that young people have every opportunity. Pretty much if you want to you can find a way to go to college. There are even colleges for kids who aren’t college material. There are scholarships and grants just waiting to be snatched up. Maybe it means student loans but there are ways. The world says you can be anything you want to be. The problem doesn’t seem to be the lack of opportunity today. The problem seems to be lack of character. So many people today don’t want to have to work for what they get. They feel entitled. I think it’s time to change the conversation. I don’t think we should be telling kids they can be anything they want to be. I believe with all of my heart they need to be told this: You can be anything GOD wants you to be. He will empower YOU to do the work needed and it CAN be accomplished. If that is their vision and mind-set they will have both the opportunity and the character they need to change the...

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Riding The Rails

Posted by on Apr 15, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | 1 comment

I am riding on a train. A real train, not just one of those touristy trains that harkens back to a previous time. No, this is an honest-to-goodness train taking honest-to-goodness people to places they need to go. It’s the first time I remember being on a passenger train in the good old USA. The last time I was on a train was from Budapest to Vienna and I don’t have positive memories of that trip. But then, that’s another story involving two huge suitcases and a stolen passport. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Today though I’m riding along from Salisbury, NC on my way to Philadelphia, PA and I’m watching the world roll by out my window. It is amazing. There’s a cemetery followed by a manufacturing lot. Now a farm field, trees, farm field. . . I’m feeling a bit like I’ve traveled back in time. I’m beginning to see what my Grandpa McKnight was talking about when he said that train was so much better than flying. Oh, of course it’s not as fast. It will take me 12 hours to get where I’m going (oh, hey there’s another cemetery) but if I was going to fly to PA it would be an hour to the airport, a two hour wait to take off, a couple of hours of flying and then get my bags and wait for a ride. It still takes most of a day. And this way, I get to see stuff. Stuff like the cemeteries, the trees, rivers and creeks as we go across bridges. We see the older parts of towns which might be part of the reason why I feel like I am time-traveling. There are houses right beside the tracks which remind me of the house we lived in when I was a kid. There are churches and since it is Sunday the parking lots have cars and I see an occasional person going in or coming out. We just passed through Whitaker, NC. Or is that Virginia? I’m not sure. I think we are getting close to the Virginia border. Wow! There’s some open space. . . oops it’s gone. Just passed the Rockfish Capital of the World, but I’m not sure of the name of the town. Or the State, for that matter. Now we are crossing a river and the train track is up above the trees. Wow, that is amazing. I feel an affinity with the past. I can almost imagine myself living 100 years ago. Well, until I realize I am sitting here with my computer plugged into the wall typing while my iphone is charging through my laptop. . . guess they wouldn’t have had those a hundred years ago. In my defense I did read a book, study for the lessons I am going to do this week, and read my Bible (well that was on my iphone) before breaking out the computer. . . The attendant—she’s not a flight attendant, what DO I call her—just came by to gather trash. Are we getting ready to land, I mean stop? Oh boy, this is getting a bit weird. It’s hard to type since the train jostles and jiggles along. I’m glad this isn’t a plane; this would be an...

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A Recipe for Pleasing God and Man. . .

Posted by on Mar 21, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Recipe for Pleasing God and Man. . .

Monday night Proverbs 3:3-4 jumped out of my Bible and slapped me right in the face.   “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart. So shalt thou find good favor in the sight of God and man.”   What struck me first was the combination of mercy and truth. I find in today’s culture that these two don’t seem to coexist very well. Not even in Christian circles.   As Christians we are called to show mercy. We are to love the unlovable. We are to be Jesus to the world. We are to meet their needs.   We are also called to uphold the truth. We are not to compromise. After all, we are to be salt and light, not just one of the gang.   But we are told to be merciful.   And so it goes.  The problem is that we seem to get one or the other right, just not both. Evidently this isn’t a new problem. After all, in the verses above God said not to let them forsake you. That makes it sound to me like mercy and truth are just as likely to wonder off than hang around your neck.   I thought of my winter scarf and the way I have to tie it in a knot around my neck or it gradually slides one way or another. Kind of like truth and mercy, isn’t it.   I find this especially interesting in light of the polarization that is present in our country. It pervades every area of our culture. You can see it in churches, families, and politics. People are so sure their way is the absolute right way that they can’t even listen to another perspective.   I’m just saying.   The last part of that verse says to write mercy and truth on the table of your heart. I think about when the sidewalk was put in at the church when I was a child. I know that I wanted to put my hand print in it. I had seen sidewalks with prints in them and it captured my imagination. Just think, someone years later could see my handprint there and know I had been present. Of course the fear of the Lord and my Daddy prevented it.   We should write mercy and truth on our hearts so they are always there. So that everyone can see they are there.   The next verse is extremely interesting to someone who tends to be a people pleaser. I heard a great message a couple of weeks ago challenging us to be God pleasers, not people pleasers.   I propose that according to these verses there is a way to be both! If you can find the balance between mercy and truth, you will please God and man.   Now that is something worthy of my efforts. Mercy. And...

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The Intrinsic Catalyst Effect of One Small Change

Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Can you believe I thought up that title all by myself? Honest! I know it sounds more like something my Scientist husband would write, but it is all me. It is a mouthful, I admit. But it is a perfect description of something I have learned over the past six years. For six years we have been working to restore Bruce’s childhood home and property and create our own haven. It has been a haven all along, but one drowning in projects. However, over and over I have seen the immense and unexpected value of one single change. As the title says, one change can be the catalyst for so much visible change. For example, when we took the very real 5000 copy paperback library out of the living room on our first working trip to the house it was a catalyst. That one little project allowed us to move all of the furniture to the middle of the room and paint the walls. I’ll never in my life forget the feeling I had when the room was finished. We sat on the couch and looked at the clean empty spaces and smiled. We were amazed and hopeful. Maybe we could do this. Let me share another example. This one occurred just yesterday. Several months ago we bought a gas stove for the new kitchen. However, due to the fact that the connections were too tight for Bruce to safely do it himself and our inability to be here to let the plumber in it had never been hooked up. This meant that we were still using the stove in the old kitchen but the refrigerator in the new. It was workable, certainly but led to frustrations. We had two sinks and two drain boards and the utensil I needed always seemed to be in the other kitchen. Yesterday, the plumber came and he hooked up the gas stove. Voila! With the stove in the new kitchen I was able to bring the cooking tasks with their equipment over to the new kitchen. This incited a frenzy of cleaning, especially after I moved the microwave too. By the time it was done the new kitchen was completely functional and the old kitchen was clean and neat. The counter in the old kitchen even became a lovely display venue for some of my teapot collection. The changes weren’t large, but what a feeling of accomplishment. I found myself motivated to take on other tasks I had avoided all week. I wonder what other small changes in my life would be the catalyst to huge accomplishments? I guess I have my goal for the day; find one small change and watch things happen. I just hope it doesn’t involve big words; I used all of mine in the title this...

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Better Than an Antidepressant!

Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Better Than an Antidepressant!

There are two things which can brighten my mood, no matter how dark; children and music.   Since no children live at my house it is a blessing beyond words to have the vast access to good music. We do like our music. We have almost as many music CD’s  as we have books. If you have been to our house you will understand what an amazing feat that is.   One friend walked into our house for the first time and said, “do you think you have enough music?”   Well!   Of course, with the ability now to listen to great radio stations on the internet we don’t use all of those CD’s very much. But we still have them.   I have found through the years that I can walk into a building in the darkest, deepest, emotional turmoil with no ability to smile and when I walk into a room of children the dark is gone. The sun shines again. For those moments when I am with the children I am happy again! It’s better than taking anti-depressants that’s for sure!   Likewise, the power of music is uncanny. I really only discovered this the past few years. Maybe that’s because my favorite “anti-depressants” were all in South Dakota, but the value of beautiful music became key in my life. I can put in a CD of Vivaldi and within minutes I can feel my spirit rising.   If there is no good music on the radio and I have no CD or other source all I have to do is sing. I remember one trip when for unknown reasons I was just a sad, pitiful, weeping mass. Bruce had tried humor. He had tried comfort. Finally I said, “let’s sing.”   So, we started singing hymns. Hymns like What a Friend We Have In Jesus, God Will Take Care of You, All the Way My Savior Leads Me, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and Amazing Grace. I cried through the first verse of the first song, then the dark cloud lifted. As we sang those amazing old hymns my spirit was comforted. The smile returned.   So, now  if I get blue I turn on some good music. Sometimes Bruce turns it on for me! He’s a smart...

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The Power of A Story

Posted by on Mar 11, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Power of A Story

The topic came up this morning while we were getting ready for church. Somehow, in our “this-and-that” conversation a much-repeated phrase popped out.  “There will be no smilin’ on this bus.”  We both laughed at a reference to a remembered funny statement made by Bruce’s niece some 25 plus years ago. “Sarah will never live that one down,” Bruce said. I laughed and commented that I didn’t think she really minded. It is a sweet story that her Daddy and Uncles like to tell. It shows the adoration they all had. . . I mean, HAVE for the little girl become young woman. What’s not to like about that.  As I pondered the value of this story in the Bradley family one of my own popped into my head and I shared it with Bruce. I remember my Grandma Jones telling this story several times. She had a dry, quiet wit. She didn’t talk a great deal. When she told a story, you listened. She recounted that when I was three or four and we came to visit the ranch I was standing outside the hog pen. I watched. I listened. Then I proceeded to say with some disdain, “Pigs don’t say oink.” When Grandma told the story she would always laugh. I remember the glow and the feeling of love and security that always came with the telling. It’s just a simple story. I’ve heard funnier ones. But, the thing that was so breathtakingly remarkable to me was the fact that my Grandma, who had 23 grandchildren remembered that story and liked it enough to tell me and everyone around me. She delighted in a memory of me. She thought I was funny. She loved me for me! As I stood at the mirror this morning doing my hair I realized something. That was a powerful gift for her to give me. The gift of validation. The gift of love. The gift of a cute story! This is a gift I can give to my nieces and nephews and all of those children with whom I come in contact. I can build them up not by approving the things they do, but by approving the person God made them to be, quirky personalities and all. And this folks, is one of the reasons I tell...

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Something to Blog About

Posted by on Mar 3, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | 1 comment

“I can blog about this,” I told my husband as the Physician’s Assistant stitched up my thumb.   I’ve had a bit of a dry spell trying to think of things to blog about. Oh I get ideas, but before I get the time to write them they are gone, outdated, or just not as interesting as they seemed at the moment. So, I’ve felt restless, unable to settle, irritable—you know that feeling when you know you are putting off something you should do. I just couldn’t settle to focus and write.   Today instead of writing a blog I was slicing potatoes for drying. You can see where this is going. I enthusiastically gathered my equipment, set up the water with the teaspoon of citric acid to soak them in and washed the potatoes. Then I  started slicing. I couldn’t feel the potato go through the slicer so I lifted it up and looked. Yep. It was slicing.   Wow, I thought! This is a great slicer. The next thing I knew I had sliced the outer side of my thumb and nail. I almost cut the chunk clean off. I knew as soon as I saw it that we were headed to the doctor.   So, now I am forced to stop the potato production. Thankfully, Bruce finished the batch and is now making the best potato chips I’ve ever eaten.    I won’t be able to wash dishes or do any cleaning and I suspect that once the lidocaine wears off my thumb will be throbbing.   It turns out, though I can type just fine with my right thumb bandaged! Guess I’ll be blogging more after...

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A Gift Delivered in God’s Perfect Time

Posted by on Jan 28, 2012 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts, Uncategorized | 4 comments

This morning I was cleaning out my email folders and I came across an email to my sister with a scan attached. I caught my breath. When we were at my parents’ in December I found a treasure. I was downstairs and I saw a bible sitting on top of the piano. I picked it up and opened it. It was my Mommy’s bible. I stood there, unmoving while I leafed through it. I found places she had underlined—she loved some of the same passages I do—and notes she had written in the margin. After several minutes I came to the back fly leaf and that’s where I found the real treasure. There tucked between the back page and the cover was a little card. You could see it had been taped on that page but the tape had come loose long ago and now it was just tucked in place. The card is faded. There are yellowed tape spots at the top and bottom. But it is one of the most beautiful pieces of paper I have ever seen. Here it is:   I cried then, and I cried again this morning. The fact that I had a mother who not only gave me life but desired to do anything she could to insure that I would have “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ and His will for (my) life” just overwhelms me. I am so blessed. The truth is, I had two mothers who prayed that for me. How can I be so double-blessed when so many don’t get one Mom like that? Amazing! This month—as in every January—I’ve done a lot of thinking about my mother. She was born and died in January so it has kind of become “Mommy month” in my life. There are times I wish I could just have one day with her now that I am an adult. I would love to see what she was like from an adult perspective. Oh, I know that isn’t how it works and it probably would be too hard to let go after that day, but I still wonder. Just think . . . when we get to heaven we won’t have to deal with that anymore. We will be with those who have gone ahead and I don’t believe for a minute that we’ll miss those left behind. How awesome will that be. . . to just glory in the joy of the moment with no regrets and no unfulfilled desires? But, the gift of today is that God gave me this awesome reminder. I believe that on November 19th, 1962 the Sovereign God wasn’t just working in a mother’s heart so that she would pray for her little girls. I believe God was preparing a card so that 48 years later that little six-month old girl could experience some Mommy-love. Thank you,...

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