Going Back Home…

Attending the Owego Free Academy 45th class reunion on July 28, 2018, it was great to see and chat with several classmates. We were the 100th class to graduate from OFA, and the first class to graduate from the new high school building – such honors! Having moved 15 times by the time I was 15, attending five different schools, learning to make new friends at each school, I’ve held onto many treasured memories. With this reunion in mind, I just had to share this blog originally posted in 2013.

Oh, the childhood memories of places we’ve been and the friends we’ve made! Don’t you just love to visit with friends from long ago, remember childhood fun, and recall the good ol’ days when life was simpler? I suspect we all have precious memories tucked away, ready to be pulled out every so often. It’s a chance to gaze back in time, to smile anew on fun shared by all. But, I’m sure I’m not alone in having some memories that bring emotions to the surface, and tears to the eyes.

Twice a year as our children grew up, we’d visit back and forth with my childhood friend and her husband, Hugh. Kathy and I were friends in East Palmyra – in church, in class at the Christian school, and in playing at our homes. We continued our friendship via snail mail after my family moved away in 4th grade, just before I turned 10. It was a very painful and emotional move for me – away from farm life, away from the best friends I’d ever known to city life in Clifton, New Jersey where I was born, and where my dad’s parents and siblings’ families lived. It was an unwelcome change. I hated city life, was horribly homesick, and cried for weeks.

But, life got better as I let go of childhood pain and released the sadness. Though there were difficult times and events in Clifton, I now find many good memories to replay in my mind’s eye. It was an era when my sister and I could walk or bike everywhere without fear. And then there was the time we biked from our eastern side of Clifton to where our grandparents lived all the way on the other side. When my grandmother opened the door to our knock, trust me, she was not pleased… because no had known where we were! Still, with the used bikes my grandfather gave us, we felt so rich! I treasure memories of fishing with my dad in northern Jersey lakes, and of spending time with my grandparents. My grandmother was a former professional seamstress who taught me to sew clothes and quilts – and to rip it out if it wasn’t right and sew it over again, more than once as I recall! This little Dutch immigrant had an unspoken life motto – “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!” How I miss her greeting us at the door with a hug and always sweetly saying, “Hello Dear!” in her softened Dutch accent.

Admittedly, my favorite memories are those of my childhood on the farms, and the fun my sister and I had back when there was no technology to ruin what our little minds could conjure up. My earliest memories, though, begin after we moved back from Delta Junction, Alaska. My dad had a foreign assignment in the Army, stationed at Fort Greeley before Alaskan statehood. He wanted to homestead, but my Mom wasn’t keen on the idea, so back to New Jersey we went. I’ve often wished I’d been old enough to remember the trip and the beautiful sights down the Al-Can Highway back to the States; but, then again, as I heard about the road without guardrails next to steep cliffs, of an old car with a steering wheel that caught at the most inopportune times (like coming around a curve and heading straight for a cliff when, at the last moment, the steering engaged again for my Mom, preventing us from plummeting off the cliff), maybe I’m glad I wasn’t old enough to remember that trip. Dad got rid of that car as soon as they got into Washington state, and they took a train east to Newark, NJ where my grandparents brought us back to their home.

Dad next went to work on the Everson Farm in Clifton Springs, NY. I have photos of that time, but my first memories begin when he worked on the Wychmere Farm in Ontario/Sodus, NY. I clearly recall that, at age 3-4, we drove down a lane to a Lake Ontario beach where I floated in an innertube. Seeing a ship on the horizon, my child’s mind feared it would “run me over!” Then, imagine my excitement when, while dating my husband-to-be, Ed, my friend, Kathy, and her husband, Hugh, took us to that very same lane and beach near Chimney Bluffs and it was totally familiar to me, remembered from all those years ago!

Next, on the Breemes farm in Marion, NY, my sister and I could be seen playing in and around the barn; milking “my cows” with an old tea kettle on the bank-barn’s wall ledge while standing on a bale of hay as Dad milked his cows; throwing rocks into mud/ manure puddles with my sister, and accidentally following those rocks into the muck. My brother, Charlie, was born that year, an interloper to our fun… or so I thought at that age. Later, we once again moved back to Clifton, NJ where I went to kindergarten, a big girl walking several blocks by myself to school.

Returning to Marion the following year, we had many more adventures with Fran and Betty DeVries while living upstairs in their beautiful Victorian house on their parents’ farm. I still remember the layout of their barn, helping a few times to put milking machines together, watching their Dad put in silage with the belt-driven unloader off the tractor. My Dad knew Gerald and Joann from the Sussex, NJ Christian Reformed Church when he was herdsman for old Mr. Titsworth after graduating high school. Actually, Mr. Titsworth was a direct descendant of Willem Tietsoort who settled that area after the 1690 Schenectady massacre, purchasing extensive lands from the northern Jersey Indians. Unknown to our family back then, my genealogy research several years ago discovered a daughter of Willem Tietsoort was one of my mother’s ancestors!

Moving up the road to the spacious farmhouse on the Musshafen tenant farm brought more fun as we meandered the fields, and walked back up the road to spend time with Fran and Betty. My Dad bought a steer from Mr. DeVries to raise for beef, and my sister and I named him Elmer… as in Elmer’s Glue! We also thought it was more fun running between rows in the garden instead of our weeding chore. Brother Mark was born here, with Charlie anxiously asking, “When can he play ball with me?” My Dad’s sister, Aunt Hilda, taught us the little ditty, “On top of spaghetti…” Needless to say, whenever I recall that song, it is always with images from that house as the poor little meatball rolls off our dining room table, out the back door, down the cement steps, down the slope, past the garden and under the lilac bushes this side of a small creek! We shelled endless piles of peas and snapped mountains of beans, and, I’m ashamed to say, threw some under those lilac bushes when we got tired of it all. We practiced our fishing techniques, aiming to put the dobber into a bucket though I don’t believe we were too accurate. We caught tadpoles and watched them grow into frogs in jars before returning them to the creek. And we tried to fry an egg on the road on a very hot summer day… well, the adults always said it was so hot you could…!

Next, as tenants on the Bouman farm on Whitbeck Road, fun found us running with Ruth, Annette and Grace in the haymow, catching my shoe on baling twine and tumbling down to the wooden floor below, barely a foot away from the upturned tines of a pitch fork and getting a concussion; traipsing over the fields and through the woods; walking among the cows in the pasture only to be chased by a very indignant new mom for getting too close to her baby and barely making it under the fence with her hugeness right behind me; roller skating, only once, on a pond because we didn’t have ice skates; building snow forts, sledding down the hill outside the barnyard; playing telephone as we kids all sat in a circle, laughing at how the secret message had changed from the first person to the last; playing Mother May I, Red light, Green light, and Hide and Seek; learning to ride bike under Grace’s tutelage with resultant scraped-up knees; playing at friend Kathy’s home, sledding down their hill and across the field when a train came through, freezing up and not thinking to roll off – thankfully, the sled came to a stop a few feet away from the track as I looked up in horror at the train rushing by; voraciously reading every book I could get my hands on, a life-time habit; and so much more…! Oh such fun!!

Then, abruptly, we moved back to city life in Clifton, NJ. Sadly, much was left behind, including the unique doll house made special for us when I was in kindergarten. But, now we enjoyed visiting often with our grandparents, and loved the family gatherings for every main holiday on the calendar. When brother Andy arrived, my sister and I, at ages 10 and 11, were responsible every week for months for hauling the family laundry in a wagon to the laundromat across the street from the bar at the top of our block, washing and folding it all (we became little pros, respected by all adults doing their own laundry), getting to buy treats like 5-cent double-stick popsicles, way bigger than today’s version! We taught Charlie to ride bicycle in the former train station’s empty parking lot across from the end of our block. Our Dad took us fishing to northern Jersey lakes and on Clifton’s Garret Mountain with its great vista overlooking the cities to the New York City skyline, all fishing holes from his childhood. We two girls enjoyed traipsing the city unsupervised and unaccosted, walking or biking everywhere to parks and the city library, and to Passaic Christian School and then Christopher Columbus Junior High 12 blocks from home. I can still visualize so much of the city like the back of my hand, forever frozen in time.

After four years, my heart rejoiced when we moved back to New York, through the outskirts with bumper-to-bumper heavy traffic and hippies of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969. Our long drive ended in Lounsberry, half-way between Owego and Nichols, where the odor of neighboring farms was heavenly. Here, my latter teen years were spent caring for three-dozen-some chickens, 6 Muscovy ducks and their newly-hatched ducklings (who grew to provide us with fine dining), my lamb, and mare, War Bugg, a beautiful grand-daughter of Man O’ War… along with our youngest brother, Ted. I was, admittedly, very disappointed he was not a little girl, but I soon fell in love with him and those big blue eyes as my sister and I helped care for him. After all, we were “pros” in baby care by then! And just a few short years later, I met and married Ed, and a whole new story began.

Simply spending time recalling precious memories of family and friends in a long-ago world brings a few tears and many smiles to my heart… So, what cherished memories do you have that are waiting to be brought to mind and shared?

Going back home…
Linda A. Roorda
Going back home within my mind
To simple retreats of childhood days
Holding sweet memories of yesterday
Like quiet oases of rest and peace.
~
Stirring emotions that overwhelm
On traveling back to gentler times
With early images tucked far away
On pages engraved in a long-ago world.
~
For what could ever make me forget
The fears that then descended strong
With dog at fence and thunderstorm
To shake the world of toddlerhood.
~
While a life-long love was built in scenes
Of farming and learning beside my Dad
With laughter heard through carefree days
In adventures had by my sister and me.
~
The many homes of my younger days
Are shelters now for cherished views
As dear and precious memories enhance
Wistfully perfect they ever remain.
~
But tucked within the pages recalled
Are days of change and tender tears
Moving away and losing friends
Through a lifetime lived, they’re never forgot.
~
Yet often they say it’s just not the same
We can’t return to scenes of our youth
That life and times are forever changed
The rift between then and now is too great.
~
But as I gaze on all that once was
I find it’s okay to let the tears flow
As they wash away the lingering pangs
To leave my heart refreshed and clean.
~
So I shall always savor the joy
Of going back home within my mind
And holding dear those treasured days
Of childhood mem’ries and lessons learned.
~~
09/21/13
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
~~

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Contentment Flows

It’s just an accumulation of trinkets and stuff, an assemblage that needs to be fed every so often. I should know, because I have my own collections from the past. But, in the long run, none of it will go with us when life’s earthly journey comes to an end. We should be content with what we have and who we are… not seeking to satisfy our appetite with more of everything life has to offer. Be at peace, rest in who we are meant to be… don’t compare or judge ourselves to others.

In contemplating that accumulation, I’m reminded of a song by the rock group U2 from their Joshua Tree album – “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” A fitting comment to an endless search for just the right thing. Theodore Roosevelt was even noted to say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How truthful and fitting both sentiments are for all of us at times!

So, what is contentment? How do we find it? And when is enough… enough? The dictionary on my desk tells me contentment is where the heart is at… perhaps rested and satisfied, at peace, with a quiet and calm joy. Contentment is an attitude of the heart… being thankful and grateful for what we do have, serving others out of a joyful appreciation. Because, believe me, contentment is not found in eyeing what someone else has… of being jealous or envious of what’s on their plate… as if we didn’t have enough to take care of on our own.

In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul wrote “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Hmm… so how could he say that with all the many difficulties he faced?

There’s an old hymn I’ve loved since childhood, coming to treasure the words even more after our daughter, Jennifer, died. Horatio G. Spafford wrote a poem after he and his wife lost their 2-year-old son, their property in the 1871 Great Chicago fire, suffered further economic losses in 1873, and then lost their remaining four daughters at sea – “When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul…” …well-known words of comfort. Having three more children, losing a second son at age 4 in 1880, he resettled in Jerusalem with his wife and remaining two daughters. There, he founded the American Colony, a Christian group providing humanitarian relief to the disadvantaged of any faith. He’d learned the secret to contentment.

The Apostle Paul, writing to a dear young friend, stated in I Timothy 6:6-7: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Don’t get me wrong… it’s not about denying ourselves the ability to succeed in our careers or home life and to have nice things. Instead, it’s all about the depth of our heart, our faith, our attitude… the intangibles… the spiritual treasures.

Life really isn’t about gathering as much stuff as we can hoard for ourselves. Life was never meant to be like that old saying attributed to Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s not about God ensuring that we have a wealthy and happy life. It’s not His plan to make us “rich and famous” in a life of ease without pain. Instead, contentment is a learning process… learning to be who God intends us to be… learning to be gracious and loving when our life is full of pain, disappointments, illness and setbacks. And, in learning to give thanks and appreciate what we do have, we find ourselves gladly serving others around us with a heart of joy and peace… as contentment flows from our soul.

Contentment Flows
Linda A. Roorda
Contentment flows from the soul at peace
Not easily grasped though deeply pondered
How quick am I to follow my will
While yielding to trust finds Your truth with grace…
~
Grace to understand blessings of mercy
In wending my way through waves of turmoil
Seeking shelter from storms that threaten
As Your calming spirit brings showers of peace…
~
Peace that envelopes my very being
From the depth of stress that oft overwhelms
Which tugs and strains the restful repose
To humility meek with a heart of joy…
~
Joy that shines bright in the face of woe
Amidst the sadness of sorrow’s dark tears
As rays of hope through shutters burst forth
To flood my soul with serenity’s rest…
~
Serenity’s rest within the world’s din
Marks peace of mind when focused on You
Grant me, I pray, a heart full of love
One filled with thanks as contentment flows…
~~
07/06/16
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of the author.

Ode To Job

There once lived a man who faced a litany of untold suffering, whose riches could not buy relief. It is said by some he never lived, that he was simply a character in an allegorical story. Personally, I prefer to acknowledge Job as a man who truly lived and walked upon this earth, likely in the time of Abraham, according to our pastor. So, what can this old man teach us today?

Job was a man who faced extreme adversity amidst his own physical and emotional frailties. While his friends questioned what sin he might have done to cause the devastating calamities that struck him… and though Job was a man who questioned God’s faithfulness, and even rued the day he was born… yet he was a man who clung to a sliver of faith in Yahweh, Jehovah God.

Studying the book of Job currently in Sunday School, though having written this poem and blog several years ago, I find in Job’s struggles and ultimate praise of God a wisdom I can look to in dealing with life’s difficulties. When faced with our various problems in life, often our first question is why, perhaps followed by what did we do to cause this? I’ve been there with both questions.

Sometimes, we may become angry at God for allowing distressing trials. Sometimes, we may turn our back on God… because He does not seem to embody love to our way of thinking. Perhaps He did not prevent a catastrophic event in our life and we lost everything. After all, we reason, haven’t we lived a good life? We haven’t committed any horrible sins. So why should we suffer?

My husband’s ongoing multiple health issues and blindness, my diagnosis of cancer a few years ago, the untimely death of our daughter at 25, and numerous other difficult situations have tried our faith and patience, never mind the bonds of marriage. But, we are not alone in these various trials as the depths of tragedy and pain are evident in so many families around us.

In all honesty, though I have questioned why and wondered what we had done to cause the various problems we’ve faced, I have not been angry at God. To me, He is my creator. He is omniscient. He knows best why He allows the storms to happen. He knows how all things will work out for good even though I don’t like the bumps in the road. (see Romans 8:28) And, like Job said, shall we not accept and endure the trials just as we gladly accept our many blessings? (see Job 2:10)

Often, these difficulties can only be viewed through the perspective of a rear-view mirror with amazement at how the Lord has walked with us, even carried us, through all of life. And, I have found that even in the most difficult situations, including the loss of our daughter, Jenn, there was always something to be learned from living through the pain. For they were trials by which I gained a greater wisdom and understanding, even empathy for others, that I would not have earned had I not gone through adversity.

And so it was with Job. He lost everything… except his wife… a woman who has managed to go down in history as the biblical woman who told her husband to curse God and die after all that had happened to them. Actually, I rather appreciate Tim Gustafson’s comment in “Our Daily Bread” devotional for Sunday, 06/24/18: “[Job] merely noted that she spoke ‘like a foolish woman.’” We tend to gloss over Job’s reply to his wife, thinking poorly of her. (Job 2:10) But, like Gustafson, I suspect Job’s operative word “like” intimates that he knew his wife far better than the rash statement she had just uttered. For if Job were so highly respected and honored, it would only seem logical that his wife was also more of an upright and honorable woman than her words implied. Spoken from the depths of her own pain and anguish, she shows evidence of her frail humanity just as we do all too often.

We need to remember that she lost everything too, the most painful being the loss of their children. Their many servants were gone. Great herds of cattle and camels – gone. Huge flocks of sheep – gone. All the crops to feed everyone, including the great herds – gone. Ten beloved children, likely their spouses and children, and their homes – gone. And to top it off, Job’s health failed and her dear husband lived a miserable, painful and pitiful existence… on a garbage heap… mocked by his friends.

Yet through it all, Job did not sin. Soon after their losses, he said to his wife, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21b) He did not blame or curse God for what had happened. But, in questioning God and hearing the Almighty’s questions of him, Job was able to acknowledge an understanding of where he fit into the overall scheme of life… that God was far greater than he. God was in control. And, ultimately, God blessed him even more than before.

I am impressed with Job’s humility as he learned to put his trust and faith more fully into the hands of our God who is all knowing, all powerful, and so loving He wants the best for us, even when that comes by living through severe trials. And may I, too, be found worthy at the end of the journey.

Ode to Job
Linda A. Roorda
(Based on the book of Job)
~
One day Satan had a talk with God…
I’ve been out walking on this earth of Yours
And have my eyes upon those who claim
They love Your word and follow Your way.
~
But now I want to ask of You this…
Who will they follow in depths of despair?
Will they lose all and cling to their God
Or will they curse You even to Your face?
~
And God answered thus, Have you considered
My faithful servant, a man of honor?
For he is blameless, a man who loves me,
Who heeds my words, and shuns evil ways.
~
Then Satan mocked the great I Am.
Why should he not? You’ve blessed him richly!
Take it away! Strip him of it all!
Leave him destitute! Then learn of his heart!
~
In your hands gently I will place my man,
But one thing only you dare not commit.
Take away all, whatever you wish,
But take not his life while evil you bring.
~
And so began the worst day of all
When everything owned was taken by storm,
From crops to cattle, servants to children
All was destroyed, in mere moments of time.
~
In deep humility this man bowed to God,
Naked I came from my mother’s womb
And naked I leave; for as the Lord gives
So shall He take, praised be my Lord’s name.
~
Friends soon came to share his great pain
Tenderly bearing overwhelming grief.
But then they pointed with fingers of blame,
What evil within your soul is the cause?
~
Why me, Lord God? What have I done?
What did I do to bring on such shame?
Even my wife says to curse You and die,
But shall we accept the good without bad?
~
Yet now I rue the day I was born.
May its light darken, and no good recall.
Why did I live and not die right then?
For I have no peace, only turmoil within.
~
Even my friends betray me with words
Recalling my faith which flees from my soul.
But where is my hope, my confidence true?
Fleeting as wind when evil disrupts?
~
These friends say appeal, to God bare my soul.
Is it not He whose wonders we see?
As God corrects the man He calls blessed
Do not despise His wounding to heal.
~
So will I seek and call on His name
For what is man that He blesses much.
I know all my sin, for mercy I’ll plead;
Remember me God, forgive my offense.
~
Another dear friend now lays on my heart,
Does God pervert that which is done right?
No, for your sin does penalty come.
Plead now with God that He may restore.
~
How can I dispute and come out unscathed?
Can I be righteous before a just God?
With wisdom profound, His power is vast.
Were I but guiltless… but I can’t ask of Him.
~
If only I had died on the day I was born
I loathe my life and bitterly speak.
Does it please You, God, to oppress my soul,
To smile on evil and favor its schemes?
~
Yet You formed me. Your hands shaped my life.
Will you now destroy and turn me to dust?
You blessed me with much and watched over me.
Why did you hide your wrath until now?
~
And still my friend is asking of God,
Will this talker be vindicated?
Will God speak words against His own heart
Or will He utter His secrets of wisdom?
~
Though I can’t fathom the mysteries of God,
Can we set tests of Almighty’s power?
Higher than heaven, deeper than the depths
Can we yet measure how vast is His world?
~
You tell me to end the evil of sin,
Stretch out my hands with heart devoted,
That in this hope my life is valued
While the wicked fail like a dying gasp.
~
And yet I say, do not men at ease
Show their contempt when misfortune knocks,
And see him merely as laughingstock
The one who slips though still he loves God.
~
How I now long for the days gone by
When God as friend watched over my soul…
He knew my paths, that evil I shunned,
I feared my Lord with righteous wisdom.
~
I hear them mocking, men younger than I
Detested am I, they spit in my face.
In my affliction their snares set a trap
As I cry to God and plead for answers.
~
Unending pain and suffering confront.
Have I thus sinned or denied some their gain?
Have I rejoiced at my enemy’s fall?
No, I have not hid my sin from my God.
~
So let Him hear! Let Almighty speak!
If I have sinned to cause my deep shame.
Let the earth cry out against me with tears,
As the Lord my God will question me…
~
Where were You when I set the foundation?
Did you measure, its dimensions gauge?
Did you determine where cornerstone lay?
Did you cause stars and angels to sing?
~
Did you speak orders to bring forth the dawn?
Do you know the home where light and dark live?
Have you set time for birthing of young?
And provide food that all are nourished?
~
Will he who struggles to understand Me
Correct My ways and tell Me to change?
No, Lord, I will not; no answer have I.
Unworthy am I to even reply.
~
For who am I to question motives
And ponder means which you employ
You draw me near, Your wisdom to seek
As Humbly I bow before your glory.
~
In my humanity I can’t comprehend
Your higher ways from which I should gain,
Learning by faith to grasp adversity
Knowing Your will has my good at heart.
~
Lord, now I know you won’t abandon,
Your loving heart will gently embrace.
Your words will guide my soul through dark days
That through the trials I’ll praise your name still.
~
You’re in control, all things You do well,
Great wisdom is found within Your counsel.
I cannot measure Your wonderful ways
I spoke my turn without true knowledge.
~
While I like Job of long ago days
Cannot fathom wisdom from above
Not mine to know, but His to decree
The reasons and plans which He has set forth.
~
So, guide my feet Lord, let sin not take hold
May You yet impart wisdom to my heart
That I may praise and worship You, Lord
For my life exists to glorify You.
~
November 2014
~~
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
~~

In Silence You Sat…

Sometimes we’re at a loss for words and don’t know what to say to the grieving. We want to say the right words to bring comfort. Yet, often the less said the better. The one grieving is struggling to take it all in, finding their attention span is limited. While life around them continues on its merry way, unfairly it seems to the grieving, their immediate world has come to a screeching halt. Unsure of the next step, they often move forward in pain-filled autopilot mode. I well remember…

Though the steps of grief are typically similar, they’re not the same for everyone. A numbness or denial might be followed by a sense of guilt, the “if only” stage as I call it. You might feel anger at the cause of death, or that God did not answer prayers for healing. Perhaps depression sets in as you face life without your loved one. But, one day you realize acceptance and a healing sense of peace have touched your heart.

The only way to truly understand someone’s loss is to mourn and grieve with them. Awash with empathy, love comes alive when your heart awakens to sharing another’s pain, to be there for them and to feel their sorrow. May you know that God has put you there in His place to shelter and hold His beloved as an emissary of His love.

My poem below was written a month before my dad passed in April 2015. Not able to visit him several states away, a lifetime of memories came to mind as his life drew to a close. But, I also recalled the days when our 25-year-old married daughter, Jennifer, passed away in June 2003. Many people shared our grief in tangible ways as they shed tears with ours, shared joys in remembering a life well lived, and simply gave their loving support with kind words, food, and cards. Actually, it was a summer with many family losses, including my mother-in-law six weeks after Jenn.

Ed’s uncle the week before Jenn, … a cousin’s son two weeks later, and two weeks later by my step-sister’s daughter and three of her friends in a fiery crash when hit from behind.

There’s no preparing for your loss. You may realize their illness is terminal and know the end is coming as we knew with my dad and mother-in-law. You can begin to prepare yourself for the loss to come, but you cannot anticipate the depth of your feelings in the actual loss.

On the other hand, you may have no warning as it was with Jenn. Her collapse was so unexpected. Ending life support and saying our final goodbye was not easy. In sharing our grief, friends and family sat with us in the hospital, sharing memories, and writing Scripture on the board in our conference room. Their presence meant much to us, as did that of our neighbor, Mark Stevens, owner of the golf course, formerly my husband’s family farm. Seeing me on my garden bench the day after Jenn died, he sat with me and shared the quiet time just to show how much he cared. Out of respect for our sorrow, he also stopped all construction on the golf course that day.

In the days and weeks to come, emotions were up and down, and we’d often find ourselves deluged in tears. Yet, there was also joy in recalling a life well lived. I found solace in writing about her life and passing, including the growing-up years of all three of our children, recalling the fun and love they shared in an unpublished manuscript, “Watch Them.” Writing was cathartic, a healing release as I came to terms with accepting this loss and change in our family. Her life’s history was written in God’s book long before she was held in my arms at birth. The Lord took something so painful to reveal how His great love allows, and yet overcomes, our earthly sorrows. Like the tremendous sense of peace and comfort that washed over me when reading Psalm 139:13-16 on a beautiful plaque in Rochester International Airport. Likely placed in honor of the unborn, God knew how much those verses would mean to me and our family in the days and years to come.

As a Houghton College grad unafraid to share her faith, two of her Alfred University friends accepted Christ following her death. Because of Jenn’s witness to them of God’s love, they readily testified with Scripture of their faith at Alfred University’s memorial service. Despite their mocking her for not going to bars, Jenn invited them to her home to work on their Master’s psychology projects, sharing her delicious home-cooked meals and desserts. From her love for them, and for how tenderly she worked with troubled children, her friends saw her inner beauty and wanted to know more. God’s love gently shone through in Jenn’s love for them.

Crying so hard I could barely see as I typed, these words poured out of my heart like a cleansing release. “At times I am overwhelmed with thinking that God, our Great God, took the time to give us so many special reminders of His awesome presence in our lives. But, then really, it should not surprise me that He would care so much for each one of us… that we are so loved and so special to Him… that He would know our every need and handle them in such a way that would mean the most to each of us… that He would reveal His tender loving care in such a difficult and painful loss through Scripture, special visions, and through our loving family and friends. God was always here, loving us through our pain.” (“Watch Them…” by Linda A. Roorda, 2004, p.9)

There is something to be said about the bonds of friendship and love which are strengthened during life’s deepest sorrow. In that time of quiet, when the one mourning is simply unable to voice their deepest pain, there’s no need for words. But through your act of love in simply being there, your presence brings peace to the hurting. This poem, then, is a tribute to each of you who supported us, and a tribute to each of you as you support others in their grief.

In Silence You Sat
Linda A. Roorda
In silence you left like a shooting star.
You lived your life full, a blessing to all.
Where once you sat, an image lingers.
Where once your voice spoke, now silence replies.
~
In silence you sat holding my hand close.
You heard my sobs and shared my heart’s cry.
You did not voice your thoughts for my pain
But in this moment your silence spoke well.
~
The warm embrace as hands tightly held
The soul in pain, the heart sinking low,
You wrapped your love like a blanket warm
Around my heart to share my sorrow.
~
Your silence spoke its volumes of love
Your presence gave joy where none could be felt.
Your smile gave light and hope far beyond
A glimmer of life and meaning through pain.
~
As days pass by and the world moves on
Life’s little routines bring normalcy home.
But never forgot is the time you sat
In silence to hold my heart in your hand.
~
With tears for a season was this grief expressed
For you taught us well the lessons of life.
As memories linger from a time held dear
Where grief overwhelmed, God’s peace comforts and sustains.
~~
03/16/15
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.

Initially published as “When Grief Overwhelms” in the “Faith Nurture” section of The Network, the online resource of the Christian Reformed Church of North America.
~~

I Remember A Dad…

Father’s Day… a time to remember the dads we treasure.  They’ve taught us well in the ways of life.  I remember a lot about my dad.  In fact, it would be fair to say I had put him on a pedestal while growing up.  It seems he could do anything and everything, a jack-of-all-trades.  Though none of us can measure up all the time, there is One who is perfect… who forgives all our failings… our heavenly Father.

There is so much my Dad, Ralph, taught me and my siblings, including about the love of Jesus.   As a small child on the farm, I would say, “Jesus is my best friend!”  But, for a time as a teen, I forgot my childhood friend until my Dad reminded me of those words I used to say as a little girl.  Oops!

I loved playing board games on Sunday afternoons with my Dad, especially Scrabble.  I love the challenge of this game and tend to play aggressively, perhaps because I was in tough competition with my Dad.  Though I won only one game against him over those few years, it was a sweet victory knowing that I’d accomplished the win without his having given me an edge.

He taught me honesty was the right way such that in 8th grade English class I chose to write an essay entitled “Honesty Is The Best Policy”, receiving an A.  Actually, I think I may have gotten writing and art abilities from him.  Although he was an exceptional storyteller, imitating voice and mannerisms of various comedians, I speak best through the written word.  He also had a gift for drawing with his talent for art passed on to me and my son.

As we grew up, we loved hearing Dad tell family stories of his and our childhoods.  He had a gift for telling any story in a humorous way, and how I long to hear them all again.  I’d ask him to write them down for posterity, but he never did.  When he drove truck in the latter 1960s through the 1980s (and later huge tractors for an Iowan farmer in the ‘90s), he’d come home with stories from the road.  He shared radio routines by Bill Cosby and southern Cajun comedians, recalling their stories and imitating accents perfectly!  That was way better entertainment than TV any day!

I recall a few stories of his time in the Army at Fort Greeley, Alaska (1956-1957), a foreign assignment before official statehood.  From 18 months to 2 years, I was too young to remember my six months at Delta Junction with my baby sister.  But, I do remember having heard how he and several buddies found a sunken rowboat.  As it lay not far below the surface of a lake, they pulled it up, cleaned it off, and took it out to fish.  It made for an interesting adventure to say the least – while they each took a turn fishing, the other three worked hard at bailing to keep the boat afloat!  Now that’s dedicated fishermen!

Fort Greeley is also where he learned to drive big rigs.  With someone ill, he was asked to take over in the motor pool one night.  Proving he could handle backing up a trailer perfectly, the commanding officer asked where he’d learned to do that since everyone else struggled.  “Backing up a manure spreader, Sir!” was his dutiful reply.  They kept him in the motor pool, where he got invaluable training for later driving 18-wheelers.

He also was given an unprecedented promotion because he took the time to thoroughly clean an office coffeepot, a skill learned from his Dutch immigrant mother who had taught him all aspects of housekeeping while growing up, like any good Dutch mother.  With a general visiting Fort Greeley, and the coffee-making task handed down to my Dad, he took pains to provide a clean urn for making fresh-brewed coffee… which greatly impressed the general.  When the general asked who made the coffee, the aide who was supposed to have made it “blamed” my Dad.  Instead of the feared reprimand for the typically bad-tasting coffee the office was known for, the general complimented my father on the best cup he’d ever tasted!  Turning to the senior officer, he told him to give my father a promotion!

When we were younger, he always had time for us.  I enjoyed it when he took us fishing.  And, though I could never bring myself to touch those worms (still can’t!), let alone put them on a hook, and never did catch “the big one,” it was the quality time with our Dad that meant the world to us kids.  As a tomboy, I especially enjoyed working outside with my Dad whether it was in the barn learning to care for the animals, in the huge vegetable gardens, or traipsing the fields and woods hunting.  That love just naturally transferred to enjoying the time spent working alongside my husband out in the barn or in the yard, even growing my own gardens.

As we grew older, I still adored my Dad.  In my teens, he listened to us and gave sound advice, but I wasn’t always ready to listen to him.  His careers changed from farming, to driving a grain truck delivering feed to dairy farmers, to carpentry with his Dad, a general contractor in northeast New Jersey, to driving a tank truck “locally” and later OTR (over the road/cross country).  When we lived in Clifton, he drove chemical tankers locally in northeast Jersey, southern New England, and New York City.  What stories he brought home from his experiences!  I got to ride with him only twice and wish it could have been more.

I was never so happy as when we moved back to New York in 1969!  Though I hated city life, I can now look back with fond memories of Clifton.  But, as we settled in to “backyard farming,” he taught me how to raise our mare, War Bugg, a granddaughter of Man O’ War.  I helped him build her corral and box stall in the small barn, along with re-roofing and remodeling the old chicken coop for our flock.  And then came the heavy-duty barn chores of mucking out the pens, learning to groom War Bugg and how to pick up her feet to clean the undersides.  I saw his deep concern when I stepped on a wasp’s nest in the haymow with 11 stings on my leg, and saw his gratefulness for my dousing him with a 5-gallon pail of water when a torch threatened to catch him on fire while trying to burn tent caterpillars.  But, I also learned the hard way that running War Bugg flat out up the road and back could have killed her.  I was scolded hard, yet taught to walk her slowly, allowing her to have only small sips of warm water until she cooled down.

As we grew older, we teens were often in our own world.  Soon enough, I got married and began a new life with my new family, while my siblings and parents scattered themselves around the U.S.  Life changes, and we change with it.  I well remember teasing my Dad as a child when he turned 30 that he was old, and that when he would turn 50 he’d be “way over the hill.”  Well, Dad, guess what?  Your oldest daughter reached that milestone a ways back, too!  Giving him this writing in 2014 before he passed away in 2015, he knew I felt blessed to have him as my Dad.  Sometimes I wish I could go back and recapture the childhood fun of days long ago, but I greatly treasure the memories that linger still.

May you each be blessed with very special memories of your Dad!  Happy Father’s Day!

I Remember A Dad

Linda A. Roorda

I remember a dad who took me fishin’

And remember a dad who hooked my worms,

Who took those hooks from fishy mouths,

And showed me the country way of life.

~

A family of six, two girls and four boys

Fun and trouble we shared as we grew.

From farms and fields to paved avenues,

Walking and biking, exploring we went.

~

I remember a time spent playing games,

A dad who’d not cheat for us to win.

Family and friends and holiday dinners,

Lakes and farms and countryside drives.

~

Weeds were the bane of childhood fun,

So ‘tween the rows we ran and we played.

But as I grew and matured in age,

Weeding was therapy in gardens of mine.

~

I remember a dad who thrived on farming

Livestock and gardens, and teaching me how.

I remember a dad who took me huntin’

Scouting the fields, always alert.

~

I remember a dad who taught us more

For growing up we learn by example.

I remember working alongside my dad

Roofing a barn and building corrals.

~

I remember a dad whose gifts were given

In fairness to meet each child’s desire.

I remember a dad whose wisdom we honor

In memories of caring and love in small ways.

~

I remember a dad who brought us laughter

With Cajun and Cosby stories retold.

For blessed with a gift of retelling tales

Family and childhood events he recalled.

~

I remember a dad whose time was given

To help his children face life’s turmoils.

Time spent together are memories treasured

For things done best put family first.

~

I remember a dad who taught me more

To treasure my faith in Jesus my friend.

In looking to Him as Savior and Lord,

Salvation by Grace, not earned by my deed.

~

As I look back to days long ago,

I remember the dad I knew so well.

For I miss the dad who took me fishin’

And remember the dad who taught me more.

~

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May not be reproduced without permission of author.

Releasing With Love

In this season of graduations, my thoughts began to contemplate releasing our young with love. As we travel life’s path we all manage to lose a few things… like special trinkets, and perhaps a few friends from another time and another place as life moves on. We even lose our patience a few more times than we care to admit. Though losing something special can be painful, it’s different from giving it away… releasing that treasure on our own is a whole other story, a gift of love.

Letting go of what we hold dear can be difficult, perhaps even bittersweet, yet the release can leave us with a warm glow in our heart. It’s a process that takes time. As Corrie ten Boom, one of my favorite authors, once said, “I have learned to hold all things loosely, so God will not have to pry them out of my hands.” Like a mother hen, we lovingly protect and keep our little ones safe, and try to impart some of our hard-earned wisdom over time before letting them take off on their own. After all, we truly want the best for them!

But, as our little ones grow up, they mature with a wisdom found only by taking some of life’s most difficult steps. Learning to walk, falling down is a frequent occurrence as they learn how to get back up again. Then, as they continue to grow and mature, they also benefit by failing a few times, learning how to pick themselves up to try again. At times, though, I was over protective of my children, a hover-mother, not wanting them to face some of the difficulties I had… not my best parenting idea. I loved my children and wanted to be involved in every aspect of their little lives, especially since I didn’t have that type of close relationship with my own mother.

We all know parenting has its challenges, and every so often I’d say, “It’s hard to raise a mother!” Raising our children was a joint learning venture, especially since they managed to arrive without an individual instruction manual in hand. But, now we have the pleasure of watching our children raise their children, and hearing their stories holds extra special meaning. Like when our daughter, Emily, was trying to put her middle son down for a nap. He had every excuse in the book as he fussed around. Finally, she let him know how frustrated she was getting with him. Patting her arm, 3-year-old Sam gently said, “It’s ok, Mom. You’ll get used to it!” And Em had to tuck her face into his blanket so he wouldn’t see her laughing. There’s more wisdom in those words than little Sam could have ever known! For out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom sweet.

Should we hold too tightly to our children and their childhood, we may not allow them the freedom they need to grow and adjust with life’s changes. They may not become the well-adjusted mature adults they are meant to be. And, if we fail to help them discipline their own actions, they won’t know the rewards of self-control. Each child is a unique individual, a most precious gift from God to be treasured and loved as we guide them in starting their journey of life.

My friend, Mimi, once shared a quote from her stitchery with me – “There are two lasting gifts we can give to our children – one is roots, the other is wings.” How true! May we love our children enough to provide them with the deep roots of a sturdy foundation, laughing and crying alongside them, while giving them wings and freedom to fly out into the great big world on their own. And may we learn the gift of releasing with love… allowing us all to see the beauty deep within their heart.

Releasing With Love
Linda A. Roorda
Along life’s journey we lose a few things
Like fancy trinkets and friends of the heart
Even some time, and patience, too
All that holds meaning through our hands will slip.
~
Losing possessions with meaning attached
Shows how futile to retain our grip
As respected wisdom gives true perspective
That where grace abounds we hold but loosely.
~
When losing our self for a greater good
We follow a path of godly wisdom
And in giving thought to what holds our heart
Is found the key essential to life.
~
For the years of youth build up to the time
When wisdom is gained and freedom earned,
We’ve gently led and helped them to know
It’s time to fly on wings of their own.
~
By clutching firmly life’s fleeting passage
We cannot grasp the beauty within
For in the act of releasing with love
We’ll come to treasure each moment’s sweet gift.
~~
05/19/17
All rights reserved.
May not be reproduced without permission of author.
~~

 

Mary or Martha?

I got to thinking one evening while doing dishes after dinner… am I a Mary or a Martha?  Or perhaps a little of both?  I’ve always been intrigued by the biblical story of Mary and Martha, two sisters, friends of Jesus along with their brother, Lazarus.  Luke 10:38-42 describes Jesus’ visit to their home where Mary joined others and sat at His feet, listening to His teaching.  But, Martha remained in the other room preparing a meal for their guests.  While busying herself with all that went into food preparation, her frustration simmered to a boiling point.

Life gets so busy and hectic sometimes, doesn’t it?  Ever feel like you’re trapped in the kitchen while everyone else is having a great time visiting, talking and laughing?  I’ll admit I have!  Cooking is not my forte`.  I’d much rather be visiting with my guests than in the kitchen.  So, I empathize with Martha.  There’s so much to do for your guests, and you fret and worry as time presses in.  You want everything to be right for them to feel special, loved and appreciated… to give attention to the fine details as you prepare to serve them a delicious meal.

Being the oldest of six, having helped care for four younger brothers during my teen years, plus an every-other-day 8-hour babysitting job of four children all through high school (alternating evenings with my sister), plus other weekend babysitting jobs, plus caring for my horse and flock of chickens and ducks, plus working for a lawyer in the afternoons during my senior year of high school and full-time after graduation, contributing a portion of my income to my parents for room and board while also buying my own clothes, fabric to make clothes, paying for my own school supplies and for a car with its upkeep, I’ve always felt responsible for myself, and everyone and everything else.  Even my husband and kids will tell you that!  To be honest, with Martha being the oldest sibling, perhaps she also carried the weight of responsibility and obligation that Mary may not have felt as strongly.

So, as Martha prepared the meal, in frustration and perhaps with a quick temper, she petulantly asked Jesus, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” and then even demanded, “Tell her to help me!”  On one hand, you’d think that was a valid request – after all, they needed to eat, and Martha did need help.  But, on the other hand, I’ve also been appalled at Martha’s nerve for speaking in such a demanding tone to their beloved teacher.  Instead of answering sharply, Jesus gently rebuked her for being concerned with these lesser matters, saying, “Martha, Martha.  You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

His response to Martha can seem a bit confusing.  As I contemplate His words though, I believe Jesus intended that the meal could wait.  They didn’t need anything fancy – no abundant buffet or big fuss was necessary.  Martha only needed to serve something simple, quick and easy.  I believe He wanted Martha to understand the value of the personal time and teaching He was giving to the guests, and to the sisters in their home.  In essence, He was reminding them of something He’d taught the crowds in His Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink… But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow… (Matthew 6:25, 33, 34a NIV)

Priorities mattered then just as much as they do now… in my life… in all our lives.  I need to set aside quiet time to think and reflect, to meditate, to pray and listen to what God is trying to say within my heart… and to give Him the weight of responsibility I feel for everything.  I need not fret and worry.  The Apostle Peter understood how we feel and said it well, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7 NIV)  When I do, it sure seems to help me handle whatever comes my way.  It also seems to put life into a clearer perspective so that I can better serve others with a heart of joy instead of stress in the little nuisances of life.

Mary or Martha?

Linda A. Roorda

If I were Mary,

Or were I but Martha,

What would I choose

Should a friend come to call?

~

Would I be too busy To welcome my guest,

Or would I gaze attentive

And at His side be still.

~

But a meal must be served!

The depth of discussion

I’m too busy to hear

There’s so much to be done!

~

Lord, can’t you tell Mary

I need her help now!

The preparations are great

A burden for me alone.

~

Martha, my dear child

Can you not understand?

Mary’s gentle spirit

Seeks my Word for her soul.

~

There’s a time and a place

For the busyness of life

With much to be done

For those in need of care.

~

And yet there’s a time

To come away from it all

As you quietly listen

And ponder My Word.

~

A word of wisdom I seek,

To restore my soul.

Lord, show me the path,

My steps to trace Yours.

~

Attentive and still

To quiet the chaos

In the depths of my soul

I need You, dear Lord.

~

Your soft voice I hear

As I sit at your feet

Resting in Your Word

The Way for my life.

~~

09/05/13

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