Mom and Dad do not love each other anymore.

I wanted to share this blog written by our long-time friend Mike Patz, pastor of First Assembly of God church in Gainesville, FL.  Mike writes about what constitutes real, lasting love and provides words to inspire us all to love our spouses with the same commitment we love our children.

Mom and Dad do not love each other anymore..

Mom’s Cross-Country Plane Trip

On of the legendaries stories in our family is of my mother’s plane trip from California to North Carolina.  The year was 1961. We had been living in Oceanside, CA, for the past two years, while my father was stationed at Camp Pendleton.  When Dad got orders to Okinawa, Mom decided to move to Salisbury, North Carolina, where Dad’s extended family lived.

The trip was remarkable for a number of reasons. For starters, it was Mom’s first flight.   I don’t think she had any idea what to expect, which in hindsight was probably a blessing.  Had she known how stressful the flight would be, she may have decided to stay in California.  Two plane changes and a missed connection complicated the flight.

Secondly, she was traveling not only with me, but also with my three sisters.  Sharon, the oldest was 4, while Nancy was only 6 weeks old.  Jeanne and I were in the middle.  I can’t imagine going to the grocery store with four preschoolers, much less flying cross-country.  I take my hat off to my mother for being brave enough, or perhaps naive enough, to get on a plane with the four of us. 

The flight was also remarkable in that Mom’s survival depended on the kind assistance of total strangers.  Fortunately, her fellow passengers were eager to help.  After Jeanne kicked a tray of food in Mom’s lap, a young Marine offered to hold the baby.  He disappeared into another section of the plane.  Mom didn’t see him or Nancy until the end of the flight.  He took good care of Nancy and returned her after assisting Mom off the plane.  Others helped keep  Sharon and I in our seats after we decided to run up and down the aisle.

However, the most remarkable aspect of the flight was the reason Mom was returning to North Carolina.  Mom and Dad met as students at Catawba College in Salisbury.  They were married on Christmas Eve 1955, in the midst of Mom’s junior year of college. She finished the year and took some summer classes but dropped out before completing her degree when she learned Sharon was expected.  With Dad gone for a year, Mom decided to go back to school and finish her college degree.  She reasoned that  Dad’s parents, grandparents, and an assortment of aunts and uncles would provide plenty of help taking care of the four of us girls.

Mom finished her degree that year, majoring in biology and becoming certified as a teacher.  Dad returned safely from Okinawa and the family moved to Parris Island.  Mom and Dad would have five more children and Mom never become a paid school teacher.  However, she taught us children many lessons and skills by incorporating teaching into every day tasks and reading aloud to us until I was out of elementary school.

It never mattered to any of us that Mom didn’t “use” her degree.  The fact that she went to such great lengths to earn it demonstrated the importance of education and the value of hard work.  When I interviewed for a college scholarship, I was asked who my role model was.  That was an easy question.  Mom was my role model then and she continues to be my role model.  She placed a high value on education, but she placed an even higher value on serving and caring for her family.  When I had children, I strove to live up to the example she set and prioritizing raising my children above career success and achievement.

Thanks, Mom, for making that incredible cross-country flight more than 50 years ago.  Thanks for modeling the importance of hard work and education while teaching us that family is the most important part of your life.  And, especially, thank you for allowing Jesus Christ into your life and sharing His love and plan of salvation with the rest of us.

I love you, Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day!

The family Mom and Dad created.

Applauding Moms Who “Can’t Afford to Work”

CNN Money recently ran an article entitled ‘Moms:  I can’t afford to work.’  The story explains that after subtracting child care and all the other normal expenses associated with working, many moms are finding that it doesn’t pay for them to work. This is true even among college-educated mothers making above average salaries.

Several women were interviewed for the article.  One woman, Sunah Hwang, calculated that after paying child care expenses, she would bring home $18,000 and in her words, “It wasn’t worth $18,000 for us to let somebody else raise our son.”  I applaud Ms. Hwang and other mothers like her who are making the choice to give up some extra family income to stay home and raise their children. Ms. Hwang explained that the family has made some sacrifices, including family vacations, to get by on one income. It’s not easy, but they are making it work. 

I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children when they were young and to work part-time in their schools when they were school-aged.  Giving up my job to stay home with my children was a sacrifice I was happy to make, despite the years I had spent in college and graduate school.  And in some ways the sacrifices continue even today.  After being out of the job market for many years, I don’t have as much work experience as most women my age.  I don’t make the salary I would be making if I had been working continuously for the past 30 years.  However, I would not trade a higher salary, a more impressive job title, or all the material possessions in the world for the time I spent at home with my children.

Since I was at home full-time, I was able to take care of many of the family chores while Steve worked.  This allowed him to spend more time with the boys in the evenings.  Steve protected his weekends and evenings to have as much time as possible with our sons.  We will reap those benefits for the rest of our lives.  Our sons have been raised with our Christian beliefs and strong family values.  We have a close relationship with each of them and enjoy spending as much time we can with them.  They, in turn, are devoted to their families and are committed to making the sacrifices to allow their wives to stay home with our grandchildren.

I would encourage parents to consider the joys and blessings of having one parent committed to raising the children, even if it makes sense financially for both to work.  You will give up some income if one of you quits your job, but the benefits you gain will more than make up for it.

Reflecting on the Blessings of 2011

As the year draws to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the way our lives changes in 2011 and to thank God for the blessings He bestowed on my family during 2011.

1)     In November my husband was rehired by the employer who had laid him off 2 years and 10 months earlier.  We are grateful that Steve is once again employed and that God sustained us financially during the extended period of unemployment.

2)     In May all three of our sons received a college degree—one earned a Master’s degree, one completed his Bachelor’s degree, and the other received an Associate’s degree.  We are very proud of them for their hard work and perseverance in achieving their goals.

3)     My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with a two-week trip to Alaska.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband and the love we have shared for more than 3 decades.

4)     Our precious grandson turned 1 in July.  It is a joy to watch him grow and learn new skills every day.  He has a wonderful nature and is a delight.

5)     Mother’s Day brought the news that we would have another grandchild.  We were delighted to welcome a baby girl to our family yesterday. It was a special blessing as it has been 118 years since a girl was born into my husband’s family.

6)     All of my sons are employed in jobs.  As an added bonus, they all enjoy their jobs and are doing well at them.

7)     I love my job but I didn’t love the commute.  Althoug only 16 miles, it frequently took me an hour or more to get home.  Two weeks ago our office relocated into town and much closer to home.  The new location is more convenient to shopping and home, plus I have awesome views of our city.

8)     My second novel was published in the fall.  The first novel did not sell many copies, but my publisher believed in the second one enough to redesign the cover of the first novel.  So far, the second one is not selling at all.  However, I have faith that God will bless my writing and that my novels will touch and enrich lives.

9)     We moved my mother-in-law to live in our community.  She is in a nursing home where she gets the round-the-clock care she needs and where she can regularly be visited by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

10) We were able to sell a piece of property that we had been trying to get rid of for the past two years.  We were then able to help our son and daughter-in-law to purchase their first home.

2011 was not all emotional highs and good times; there were some disappointments and sad times as well.  A much beloved aunt passed away with no notice, we endured many months of job searching and wondering if my husband would ever be employed again, and we dealt with my mother-in-law’s declining health.  But through it all, we could see God’s hand of blessing.  He has seen of through many challenging times and we know that He will be with us in whatever situations arise in our lives in 2012.

In what ways did God bless you and your family in 2011?  Please take a moment to reflect and share the ways God blessed you.

May your 2012 be filled with God’s blessings and the love of family and friends.

Packing A Life in Rubbermaid Tubs

I spent Saturday packing my mother-in-law’s belongings in twenty Rubbermaid tubs. Last week her three sons came to the sad realization that Mom needs to live in a facility where she can get constant care and supervision.  The decision was made to move her to live near Steve and me.

It felt strange to pack up her belongings without consulting her as to what to keep.  Steve and I made decisions as to what would be kept, what would be given away, and what would be thrown away.  We couldn’t transport everything to our home and she won’t have a need for much in her residence.  Her days of cooking are behind her, so her dishes and cookware were given away.  She doesn’t read much, so most of her books were donated.  We did our best to determine what items were valuable to her and to pack those items in the twenty tubs that would fit in our van.

As I packed her sweaters, letters, photo albums, and keepsakes, John 21:18 ran through my mind. “When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 

Although her body is frail and she is often confused, she does not suffer from Alzheimer’s.  We are grateful that she recognizes her family members.  She knows that she is coming to Virginia where she will get to see little Daniel, her first great-grandchild, and that she will be here when her first great-granddaughter is born in January.  We are not sure, however, that she comprehends she is moving here permanently. 

Steve’s mom has lived a long, full life.  Her body has weakened and her mind isn’t as sharp as it once was.  The important decisions that affect her are made by her children.  She is fortunate to have raised three loving, caring sons who are committed to ensuring that she has the best possible care. 

Our oldest son is fond of saying, “I’m the one who will choose your nursing home.”  He’s teasing, yet there is truth in his words.  One day I may find myself in need of supervised care and my children will be the ones making the decisions regarding my care.  We, too, are blessed with loving, caring sons. I can rest assured that they will put the same thought and consideration into their decisions as Steve and his brothers are now doing for their mother.

After 118 years of boys, it’s a girl!

The last girl in my husband’s direct lineage, Mary Ann Ball, was born in 1893.  She was the fourth child and third daughter born to Samson and Mary Elizabeth Ball.  Eight more sons were added to the family over the next 14 years.  Samson and Mary Elizabeth were blessed with 45 grandchildren.  Twenty-nine of those offspring were boys, including all four children born to my husband’s grandparents Giles and Lena Ball.

Three sons were born to my in-laws, Bob and Katherine Ball.  After growing up with three brothers and raising three sons, Bob was anxious to have a granddaughter.  Steve and I provided the only grandchildren–three boys.

Now it’s our turn to be the grandparents.  We were blessed with a grandson a year ago. At Easter we learned that another grandchild was on the way.  Given the Ball family history of producing male offspring, we planned for another grandson. Yesterday we were thrilled (and surprised) to learn that our grandchild is a girl!  


First picture of my granddaughter--due January 2012

We were delighted to share the news with Steve’s mother and wish that Steve’s father were still alive to share in the joy.  Of course, a grandson would have been just as loved as this little girl already is.  Our prayers have always been for healthy children and grandchildren, and we are happy to have boys or girls, as the Lord sees fit to send our way. 

Historically, the odds were in favor of a girl.  Going back 12 genereations to 1655, there have been 78 births in Steve’s direct lineage.  Of those 20 have been girls.  That’s about one girl for every three boys. After 19 boys in a row, the Balls were long overdue for a girl! We can hardly wait to meet her.

I Thank God for My Mother

Everyday and especially on Mother’s Day, I thank God for my mother. I have learned many lessons from Mom that have served me well throughout my fifty-two years of life.

  •  The importance of education.  When I was two, my father was stationed in Okinawa for a year.  My mother moved me and my sisters, ages 4, 1, and 6 weeks, to North Carolina from California so that she could finish her college degree.  I can only imagine how challenging that year must have been for her.  The move itself was quite an adventure, as she flew across country with four preschoolers in tow.
  • The importance of family. Mom devoted herself to our family.  With nine children, including one special needs child, there was always a lot of work.  Yet it was a common occurrence for us to arrive home to the delicious aromas of home-baked bread or a made-from-scratch chocolate cake.  She made sure we had home-cooked meals, clean clothes, and her attention when we needed it.
  • A love of reading.  We had lots of books in our home, and mom liked to read to us. I can still remember her reading “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “That Quail Robert” to us when I was in elementary school.  My sisters and I are avid readers, and my children have inherited the love of reading as well.
  • Responsibility.  As the second of nine children, I was expected to help out with the younger children.  I was well prepared to care for my own children when the time came.
  • Dependability.  I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times I came home from school to find that mom was not there.  On one occasion, she got held up while shopping and arrived home about two minutes after we did. On the other occasion, she was at the emergency room with a younger brother who’d been injured.
  • The joy of sewing.  When we were small, mom sewed a lot of our clothes, as well as costumes.  I still remember the Red Riding Hood cape she made Jeanne and the purple floral jumper she made me when I was in first grade.  When I was in high school, she taught me to sew.  I’ve made some clothes, but my real joy has been in making costumes for my own children and uniforms for girls in my Missionettes clubs.
  • Security.  Mom came from a broken home, and she was determined that her children would have the security of parents who stuck it out through thick and thin.  She and Dad don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they’re still together and in love after 55 years of marriage. 
  • The need for a Savior.  Mom accepted Jesus as her Savior when I was about 7. She instilled in each of her children the need to know Jesus.  She taught us that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, which can only come through the blood of Christ.

Thanks, Mom.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Chasing the Ice Cream Truck

You know spring has arrived when the ice cream truck begins making its rounds.  One made its first appearance of the year in our neighborhood last Saturday.  We let it pass our house without stopping but several of our neighbors flagged the driver down to purchase his sugary confections.  Apparently, the warm, sunny day brought ice cream trucks out in full force across our community.  Our pastor noticed one in his neighborhood and made mention of it in his Sunday sermon.

The coming of the ice cream truck stirs excitement in the hearts of children and adults alike.  We hear the truck long before we see it.  The familiar music wafts through the air, and we run outside to see if the truck is headed towards us or if it is passing us by.  When I was a kid, we used to send one sibling outside to signal the driver to stop while the rest of us looked for change with which to make our purchases.  It didn’t matter that our freezer was always stocked with ice cream and probably a couple of boxes of frozen treats.  The coming of the ice cream man was an event no one wanted to miss.

We introduced our oldest son to the ice cream truck the summer he turned two. Chris was a bit scared by the loud music, but he was thrilled with the treat the ice cream man gave him.  We probably only made a couple of purchases from the ice cream truck that summer and fall, but it was enough to make an impression on our son.  At that time we lived in north central Florida where the ice cream season is quite long.  Yet, at least four or five months passed between the ice cream truck’s last appearance in the fall and its re-emergence in the spring.

I’ll never forgot the day in early March when we heard the sounds of the ice cream truck coming down the street.  Chris knew exactly what the music signaled, and he was determined to buy ice cream.  The twins were nearly a year old.  I had just settled them into their high chairs and given them teething biscuits to chew on.  This was the first time I had put them in their chairs without another adult being present.  I explained to Chris that we would not be able to buy ice cream this time, as I couldn’t leave the babies alone while I looked for money and went outside.  Chris seemed to understand and ran off to play in his room.  Or so I thought.

A strange noise coming from his room alerted me that all was not as it should be.  I ran down the hall in time to see him escape out his bedroom window.  Fortunately, the window was very low to the ground.  I ran back down the hall to the kitchen to check on the babies before dashing out the front door to find my two-year old chasing after the ice cream truck.  I caught him in the next door neighbor’s yard and carried him home as he kicked and cried.  All the while I was praying that nothing bad had happened to the twins.  I found them just as I had left them, happily chewing on their cookies and making as big a mess as possible.

As the lure of the ice cream man was more than my two-year old could resist and I didn’t want a repeat of the day’s events, I developed strategies to cope with the ice cream truck.  I tried to learn the ice cream man’s routine and timed errands to coincide with his visits to our neighborhood.  For those times when we would be home, I kept a bowl of change by the front door to simplify the ice cream buying process.  If the twins were awake, I would put them in the playpen while I went out with Chris to buy ice cream. On the occasions when they were in their high chairs, I positioned myself at the front door where I could keep one eye on the twins in the kitchen and the other on Chris as he ordered a “fudgy cicle” or whatever treat he wanted that day. The ice cream man usually managed to decipher Chris’ order, but on occasion I had to yell it out from my post at the front door. 

We managed to get through the summer with no more escapes out the bedroom window.  By the next summer, all three little boys anxiously watched for the ice cream truck out the front window as they stood on the back of the couch.  They would climb down and run to the front door as soon as they heard its familiar music.  The bowl of change was always close at hand. Those are memories I will cherish all my life.

What are your favorite memories of chasing the ice cream truck?

DNA Test: $400; Discovering Your True Heritage: Priceless

I never had any doubts about my heritage growing up.  My mother’s German lineage was well documented.  Her family came to America in the 1600’s and settled in Pennsylvania. My grandmother lived in Souderton and her twin sister in Sellersville.  Their father was a Souder and their mother a Seller, both direct descendents of the towns’ founders.

We didn’t have any information about my father’s lineage, although with Whitman as our last name, we were clearly of English descent.  This belief was reinforced when Dad purchased a Whitman family crest.  The documentation informed us that Whitman is an old Anglo Saxon name meaning “white man” and that the first Whitmans to come to America arrived in New England in 1635. 

I always thought that Whitman was a pretty cool last name.  “Whitman.  Like the candy,” I used to tell people when they asked how to spell it.  My siblings and I felt a special pride in buying Whitman samplers for our mother on her birthday and Christmas.  Perhaps we were distantly related to the makers of our favorite candy.  In school, I studied the poetry of Walt Whitman and read about Marcus and Priscilla Whitman, pioneer missionaries to Oregon who were killed in the “Whitman Massacre” in 1847. 

Last fall my brother Andy suggested the siblings all chip in to pay for a DNA test on our father.  Andy has been researching our Whitman family genealogy for several years.  We had grown up with the impression that we were part Native American, and we were excited when Andy discovered that one of our great-grandmothers was a Saponi woman named Red Fern. 

Andy had connected with some distant cousins, also descendents of Red Fern, who knew of other Native American ancestors in their lineage.  Wanting to know if we had other Native American ancestors led Andy to suggest the DNA test.  He researched the various tests and decided upon the saliva method.  We all contributed and the test kit was ordered.  The results arrived shortly before Christmas.

We were surprised that it detected no Native American DNA, since Andy had confirmed Red Fern as a direct ancestor.  Andy explained that the test can only go back five generations, and Red Fern was born seven generations before our father.  We were even more surprised to learn that the test identified our father as being of Jewish descent.  Andy did some more research and discovered that the first “Whitman” in our lineage was actually Peter Weideman who immigrated to America in the early 1800’s.  Although he came here from Sweden, he was most likely German.  Upon arrival his name was Anglicized to Whitman.  So much for one day inheriting the Whitman Candies Company. 

It’s been said that America is a great melting pot where many different cultures merged.  My family is more a part of that tradition that we thought.  We now know that our ancestors included Germans, Jews, and a least one Native American. Ironically, we haven’t identified any ancestors of English descent. 

It’s a bit disconcerting to find out that you are not who you thought your were.  Of course, in all the ways that really matter, nothing has changed. I’m still a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and grandmother to some of the most wonderful people in the world. I do, however, feel more of a connection to the Israelites I read about in the Bible knowing that some of them are my distant ancestors. 

So, what’s in your DNA?  It might surprise you.

A Prayer for the Twenty-first Century Proverbs 31 Woman

Heavenly Father, I thank you for preserving me as a virtuous woman for my husband.  I ask that your hand would be with me today, helping me to live virtuously and honorably before you.  I thank you for the trust and respect my husband has in me.  May I honor and bless him through my words and actions each day.

As I go through my day, help me to do good to my husband.  Bring to my mind each day ways to lighten his load and make our home a true haven of rest for him.   Help me to remember the small “touches” that let him feel cherished and appreciated.

Please be with me as I work to make my home more comfortable.   Give me creative and economical ideas and help me to incorporate these ideas into my home.  Help me to stretch our financial resources to meet the needs of my family; let me not bring stress to my family by living beyond our means.

I ask for guidance as I plan meals and shop for food for my family.  Let me make meals that are nutritious, economical, and delicious.  Help me to view cooking as a creative challenge and a way to show love to my family, and not as one of many mundane chores.  This also applies to laundry, dishes, and house cleaning—let me view them not as labor, but as labors of love.

Father, help me to rise early and spend some time with you and my husband before we start our busy days.  Please help me to rest well each night and get up feeling refreshed so that I can be a pleasant companion in the morning.  It is important for my husband and I to share some time and eat breakfast together before we leave the refuge of our home for our work places.

As I work, inside or outside of my home, help me to work enthusiastically and energetically.  My family and my boss deserve my best each day.  Help me to make wise decisions that will benefit my employer at work and my family at home.

I know, Father, that I need to take care of myself each day—making time for daily devotions, exercise, and a little pampering—so that I may be strengthened and renewed to care for my family.  Help me to make these activities priorities and to incorporate them into my daily schedule.

Help me, Lord, to be aware of the needs of each member of my family and to work to meet those needs—whether it is a need of new clothing, help with school work, individual attention from Mom, or discipline and instruction.

Help me to use my time wisely each day, while still allowing time for fun.  Help me to limit time spent in activities that are not productive or that bring no real pleasure, such as watching television shows I’m not really interested in or playing computer games.   Help me to redeem this time to talk, read, or play games with my family. 

Father, your Word tells us that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but good deeds done in your name will last through eternity.  Let me be particularly in tune to your voice encouraging me to write a letter, make a phone call, or say a kind word.  Help me to be generous to the poor and needy, to those who are lonely and need a friend, to a stranger who needs a smile and a kind word, and to friends who need encouragement. 

May I look to you each day, Lord, for wisdom to guide me through the day, and for the strength to be the woman you want me to be, so that my husband and children will feel loved and blessed.  Thank you, Father.

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