Friday, August 28, 2020

Cousin Power???

This title probably carries no more meaning than the importance of family. Cousins are one degree removed from being siblings so in many cases, they are close friends. In other instances, they are almost unknown.


My immediate family is small—one brother with his family and my two sons. My husband has two sisters, one with two children and consequently, two grandchildren. So my boys have four first cousins and ensuing first cousins once removed (or however you want to describe that relationship).


However, my father came from a family of eight so at one point I had eleven first cousins issuing from his side of the family and four first cousins coming from the other side, courtesy of my mother’s only sibling.


All these thoughts regarding relational ties occurred to me after a delightful, much appreciated visit from one of my first cousins and her husband at the beginning of August. As we pored over old photographs (some more than 100 years old) that my cousin had brought with her in hopes I might help her identify them, the interweaving of family relationships was brought to the forefront.


We found the picture of the Overland car our maternal great-grandmother had won (according to family legend). We also found some photograph postcards that showed our great aunt had spent time in Peoria, IL – so that is no longer a fictional part of the story I’m writing about her.


Obviously, the picture poring was fun, as well as useful to me, but the more important aspect of my cousins’ visit was the fact that they cared enough to take the time, spend the money for travel, and brave the possibility of catching a nasty virus to visit a cousin.


The “power” of family or community or relationships has always been important, but during this upside-down year of 2020, I believe it’s more important than ever before. The ultimate relater, the One Who created relationships in the first place, is no doubt saddened/pleased/grieved/happy at what we have learned or not learned about relationships this year.


So if a cousin or sibling or friend comes to mind, consider that to be a nudge from your Creator to text or call that person, or perhaps even visit. You’ll both be glad you did.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

How Has Covid-19 Changed Your Life?

Now that various areas of our country have begun to open up somewhat, perhaps you can look back at the past three-four months and take stock of changes you have experienced that may well be permanent in your life.

We are still in the midst of much uncertainty with this virus and unfortunately, sources of information and misinformation continue to swirl, adding to the confusion.

One thing each of us can testify to, personally, is how we have lived during this time and what results we see in ourselves and our families.

We read of families actually having the time (enforced) to truly get to know each other. This can be an awesome benefit of “sheltering in place.” However, in dysfunctional families/relationships, this enforced togetherness has been a horrendous experience.

For some, the paychecks continued as workers made their home, their office space. For other, this was not an option and fear and anxiety coupled with more violent emotions appeared as the bills continued to arrive but the paychecks did not.

I don’t know anyone personally who has contracted Covid-19 or died from it, but I do know people who were hospitalized during this time and it was a nightmare for them—one of fear and desolation and utter loneliness because no family members or friends were allowed to visit.

For those of you reading this post and willing to share your feelings on how your life has changed at this point of our strange journey, I would love to hear your comments. I will start this off by sharing the change I have seen in my life.

Because of the various methods of communication—conference calls, texting, Zoom and other face to face meeting methods, I didn’t see any change in my activity level. I attended just as many Bible studies, prayer meetings, etc. as before--they just weren’t face to face. Despite my introverted personality, this isolation taught me how precious my friends and family are.

Because of my vision limitations, I tend to get frustrated very easily when I’m working at the computer, which is a large percentage of my day. Too many times I vent my frustration in words unbecoming a King’s kid. So I prayed about that ongoing problem and was given this idea, “Let your frustration become an opportunity for learning.” (I’ve had many opportunities for learning this past week as my internet was down for the first week of an internet class I had registered for. Enough said.)

So Covid-19 has changed my life in the realization I really do need/like people and I’m beginning to be able to view my frustrations as opportunities to learn.

What changes has Covid-19 brought to your life?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Check Your Focus

It seems like a lot of philosophical thought can be tied to the year 2020 as, in our country at least, we think of 20/20 vision as being the standard of excellence for physical vision.  

Our Ladies Bible Study has been reading/discussing Ecclesiastes. Solomon, King David’s successor, is generally considered to be the writer of Ecclesiastes. Back at the beginning of young King Solomon’s reign, he prayed to God asking for wisdom (see I Kings 3:7-13) God was delighted to grant the young king wisdom and in addition, He allowed Solomon to amass great wealth. It’s very likely that Solomon was the wisest man to ever live as well as the wealthiest. But when you read Ecclesiastes you discover that neither wisdom nor wealth guarantee happiness.

Solomon states several time in this short book about the wisdom of obeying God, and being grateful for every blessing from Him. But he spends more time bemoaning the fact that, essentially, he can’t take his riches with him when he dies and with all his wisdom, he can’t figure out creation or even the convolutions of wisdom/learning, itself

The spiritual epiphany that struck me as we were studying was somewhat simplistic. In all his wisdom, during the majority of his life, Solomon directed his focus on something besides God, whether it be amassing precious metals and jewels, land and livestock, wives and concubines, or displaying his wisdom to other royal dignitaries.

Every time Solomon moved his focus back to God, he glimpsed peace and joy. In the same way I’m reminded: every time my frustrations send me into a depressing downward spiral, I need to check my focus. When I do, I discover, it’s not on the Lover of my soul, it’s on the disagreeable or painful circumstance in my life.

So, my friends, when fear or depression occur or your joy and happiness seems to have totally disappeared, check your focus. It’s most likely not on God. When your focus shifts back to Him, you will rediscover joy and the ability to regain an “attitude of gratitude.”

Solomon concluded in Ecclesiastes 12:13b “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” Stay focused on God for His love never fails.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Lissie Is Live!

I am happy to announce the birth of my latest book, A Most Uncivil War: Lissie’s Story. It is now available in electronic version as well as in paperback form from Amazon. 

The book a fictional account of my great-great grandmother’s life, was written using my imagination, along with information from old newspaper clippings, and a short autobiography written by her husband, LB Reber, back in 1901.

The really cool thing about LB's book is that, thanks to my brother, Bob, we have re-formatted the book, which has long been out of print, and reissued it so that his story is once again available to anyone interested. In addition, the format is much more readable than the original 

His book is an account of his experiences as a teenage soldier in the Union army and his later life as a Free Methodist circuit riding preacher. This book is also available on Amazon.

Stay tuned on FB as I hope to run a deep discount on the Kindle version of “Lissie’s Story” at the end of this week.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Vision

This new year’s number lends itself to all sorts of interesting ideas and comparisons. And, as with any new year, comes the idea of New Year’s Resolutions.

A friend recently used I Chronicles 4:9-10 as the basis of a Bible study/devotional, and the minute I read the verses, I knew that would be my prayer (or resolution) for this new year as well as this new decade.

In the midst of several chapters of “so and so was the son of so and so”, the Lord plops a two-verse story of a godly man named Jabez. The section of Jabez’s prayer I claim for myself is: “Oh, that You would bless me and expand my territory.” Jabez prayed for several other weighty blessings and since nothing is too difficult for God, He answered Jabez in the affirmative.

Now if you have not made a New Year’s resolution or if you scoff at the thought, please do consider Jabez’s prayer and making it your own. For me, personally, I’m not anticipating acquiring land or houses. I would consider expanded territory to be good book sales (“Lissie’s Story” should be out this month) and increased ability to write interesting material, doing it well.

My personal “territorial expansion” could also include ministry interaction as I lead a Bible study group and just listen as friends come to visit over a cup of tea. An “out of my comfort zone” territorial expansion might include visiting with people on the bus, for instance, and sharing the hope God has given me. However, expanding your territory can have all sorts of meanings and lead to many interesting adventures.

Bruce Wilkinson wrote a little book, “The Prayer of Jabez” where he speaks at length on the subject. However, if you are still mulling over a worthwhile goal for this year of 2020, I recommend you read and meditate on Jabez’s story in I Chronicles. In the meantime, during this new year, may we all be blessed with 20/20 vision--spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Monday, May 27, 2019

My Heroes

My husband, Dean Diehl
This Memorial Day I took the time to look up pictures of both my husband and my father in their Service uniforms.

My father (Jim) James Johnson
My father was in the US Army Air Corps stationed somewhere in the California desert. His term of service was 1942-1945. By the time I was old enough to be curious about what he did in the war, all he would way was that his job was to teach fighter pilots how to use radar. 

My husband was in the US Army stationed in Ft. Campbell, KY (I think this is correct, but I had not met him yet at that point:) He service term was 1963-65 and he was the company clerk. He, too, said very little about what he did, other than to remark that as he was getting ready to be mustered out having served his three year stint, he was typing up orders for his company buddies to go to Vietnam. I feel sure that he dealt with a mixed bag of emotions regarding that.

Here's a huge thank you to all those who have served in our country's defense as well as in the defense of life in other countries.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What Happened to That Dress?

The dress pictured here was worn by my Grandmother Triplett 100 years ago to say “I do” to her true love, Harvey. I have Grandma’s dress adorning a dressmaker’s form standing in my living room. And thereby hangs an incredible tale. 

When we were little kids (my brother, cousins and I), we used to dress up at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. She had a chest of old clothes and shoes that we were free to play with and I remember seeing shoes with many buttons, so different from our shoes having laces or buckles. I even remember a pair of soft white leather shoes with many buttons—her wedding shoes. But there was no wedding dress to go with the shoes.

Grandma died in a car crash and my mother occasionally spoke of her mother’s wedding dress because it had apparently disappeared. She said Grandma had sewn tiny seed pearls around the neckline as decoration and her description made me think of a fairyland creation. Like the fairyland of our childhood, the dress seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.

Flash forward to August 2001. My dad had died and mom was moving  into senior housing, but she needed to have a sale of farming equipment and the contents of barns, outbuildings, and the farmhouse. My brother and niece had spent several weekends working on cleaning out the accumulation of 50 years of country living, but there was still plenty to do when I flew back to the Midwest a week before the sale. The day before the sale we were still going through boxes, sorting and tossing.

I was working my way through the back entry between the garage and back door where an old trunk had sat since my Aunt Anna died back in the mid-80’s. I opened it up to find it mostly empty except for a few vintage hats. However, a small shelf attached to the lid still held some detritus which looked like it should head for a trash bag. By this time, I’d learned never to do a wholesale dumping of "stuff" because currency, old pictures, and other priceless memorabilia could well be mixed in with useless receipts from 25 years ago

I started gingerly pulling out a yellowed plastic bag. When I opened it, there were several beautiful little girl’s dresses for perhaps a two year old. I knew they weren’t mine so I guessed they were surely my mom’s or her sister’s from back in the 20’s.

There was another yucky plastic bag in the open shelf so I picked it up and opened it. I pulled out a lovely piece of satin fabric—decorated with seed pearls—and the hair rose on the back of my neck. Could this be Grandma’s “lost” wedding dress?

Out came a long skirt with three rows of ruffles, evenly spaced. The last item was a long sleeved blouse with a square neck also decorated with seed pearls. The first item that had emerged was like a decorative vest so the wedding “dress” was an ethereal three-piece ensemble.  

Mom verified that, indeed, it was her mother’s wedding dress but she didn’t remember anything about the little girls’ dresses, guessing that they were hers as a tiny child. It was agreed that I could take the wedding dress home with me since my brother’s family never knew Grandma Triplett and my mom had no place to display the dress. I folded it and the little dresses and put them in a corner out of the way.

Sale day arrived and the helping hands of friends joined us in getting all the indoor “treasure” outside for the auction as the weather had threatened rain the night before. After lunch I was visiting with a cousin of my mom’s generation and mentioned Grandma’s wedding dress. She, of course, had never seen it so I went in the house to get it. But the corner was empty!

Apparently the helpful hands had carried the dresses (the little girl’s dresses were gone too) out to be sold. Grandma’s wedding dress was gone again. And this time there was no doubt in my mind, it was gone forever.

The sale over, we all went home and I was recounting the sad tale of the vanished wedding dress to my friend, Jackie. “Why don’t you advertise for it?” she asked. That thought hadn’t even grazed my mind so I thanked her for the idea and called Mom that evening. She, in turn, advertised in two county papers and the daily just across the river in Illinois.

Three days later Mom got a phone call from a lady who said, “I think I have something you’ve been looking for.” Mom had taught elementary school for sixteen years and one of her students was the caller’s son. He had come to the sale and bid on a box of doilies, aprons, and other items, which, it turns out, included Grandma’s wedding dress. The lady was planning to take the items to a flea market that weekend but when she read Mom’s ad in the paper, she felt compelled to return the dress.

And that’s how Grandma’s wedding dress finally made its way from Palmyra, MO to Elko, NV

She and Grandpa were married on May 14, 1919 the day before her 25th birthday and probably 2-4 weeks after her school term was finished as she taught in a rural school for at least five years prior to her marriage. 
The newlywed 100 years ago, today