“..the battle is not over. It has just begun.”

I attended a presentation of sex trafficking and child trafficking here in our state, last Saturday. And the presentation has not left me. I cannot get all those facts and stories out of my head. I also learned a lot about social media. I clamped down on my presence, even deleting people we call “friends” and deleting photos and stories I had shared about my life. The ways in which people with unholy desires can obtain information about us is truly frightening.

You may well wonder why I would attend something like that. Well, I was invited. It was part of a monthly meeting I attend with the Well Armed Woman, in which we are presented information about a variety of things. And then the second half of the meeting, we shoot. And trust me, after that presentation, it felt good to hang with like-minded women and get some personal instruction on my shooting, and to just aim at a target and bang away at it, until the paper was shredded to bits. I only used 4 magazines. I think if I had pre-loaded more, I would have used them, as well. An hour of target practice left me happy. LOL.

We visited with our oldest son, and while we were there, he showed me how weak my security was on my social media accounts, by going into them and finding all sorts of things. The things he found, I thought I had locked down. I wept at how inept I was, and how much was out there, because of me. That afternoon, I purged more. I attended a meeting Sunday evening and shared with everyone there. We all sat around the table, on our iPads and laptops, deleting information we did not realize we had shared with the world. One part of this that bothered me is how easily we share what we do not want to share, unknowingly. Did you know your current (and any past you have not fixed) profile photos on Facebook are public? Did you know anything public can be downloaded and saved by anyone who sees it? Did you know your photo can then be shared by ANYONE? Anywhere? And that photo can be used to steal your identity? I am now a flower on FB. And I have deleted tags and photos – just animals and plants and scenery from now on. No photos of family, friends, or me. I never knew what was public was truly no longer mine.

One of the things we were told at this presentation, was how easily our children have been influenced by all things electronic. And it has happened in just a short amount of time. I recall having this silly western-town game on our computer, and how ancient that thing was and how slowly it processed things, and how our two-year-old son was mesmerized. He would sit and just shoot things and we would tell him he needed to win prizes. He said he didn’t care about “being a good citizen” or “saving the bank” from robbers and earning points, he just like the shooting part. Luckily, it did not last long. The computer went on the fritz pretty early on and it took years to replace it. And it was big. It required its own desk and stacks of books to operate, and space for the attachments and cords and games, etc.  It was not a simple thing back in the day. My son is now in his 30s and has kids of his own. He got them this thing called a “Switch” for Christmas. The controllers are about the size of my key fob for my car – no joke – and the entire console is about the size of my old alarm clock. It connects wirelessly, so cords are not an issue! The speed with which our technology has outpaced our mores is astounding. And I don’t think most parents even think of the evil contained on cell phones (which have more computing power than our old computer that had its own desk) and iPads. They are innocuous tools in today’s technological world. And it scared me. Truly scared me. I cannot get it out of my mind.

The average age of people being subjected to sex trafficking is 13-19. And the majority are girls. Just girls. Not women. Girls. They are behind their screens in their rooms, and the old inhibitions we had about sharing our bodies is broken down. How? They are in their rooms, behind closed doors, who can see? So they take nude photos. And barriers we once had ourselves, and thought we instilled in our kids, are broken down. Just a couple barriers of many we thought we erected. The next step? They share the photos. So now nudity is no big deal. Sex becomes no big deal. Sex in front of people becomes no big deal. And then they get lured into relationships online. Never met in person. It is common for teens to date, fall in love, change their status’, and break up – all online, never having met their “boyfriends” or “girlfriends.” How many friends does your teen have on Facebook? On Instagram? Twitter? SnapChat? 1000s? How many have they met in person, spent time developing a relationship with – in person? Does a teen even know 1000 people???? And then they are lured into meeting them in person. The experts shared that kids who are vulnerable cross all lines – race, economic status, geography, etc. Home schooled, public schooled, private schooled. It does not matter. The men involved do not see these girls as people but as property. And they treat them very, very poorly. It is a horrific way to live and it is so easy to have happen. Most parents just wake up one day and their daughter is gone. Off to be with someone who loves her, and has no rules to live by. Teenage rebellion in its worst form. And they are just girls, but want to be treated like adults; like women. Sad sad sad. And I worry about the world my granddaughters will be living in, where they are thought of as more property than person.

And one of the things I keep thinking is, “Where did we go wrong?” Where is the formation of our children lacking? Why would men even want to traffic in children for sex?? Why is it that our culture is drawn into this underworld of sex and drugs? Where are we failing our children? The single, most dire thing on the internet, according to this presentation, is pornography. It has drawn people in and it has ahold of our country. Not too many people will admit to liking it, but a lot of it has seeped into our lives. There are outfits worn today that would have been considered pornographic just in my youth, and even in my married lifetime. There are words used on TV that would have shut them down just 10 years ago. There are scenes on our TV screens, in our homes, that would have been banned just 5 years ago. We have allowed it by the subtlety of gradual acceptance. “Oh, it’s not that bad. Ha-Ha-Ha.” “Well, no one is naive anymore; it’s ok.” “It won’t hurt; just laugh it off.”

Don’t get me wrong, I know there has been pornography as long as man has been able to produce it. There are scrolls from ancient cultures with pornography on them. We are a fallen people. It is our basest nature. And man consistently falls to their lowest denominator.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it. Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7: 13-20

Throughout these past few days, this subject has been on my mind. I just cannot shake the fact that we, as a culture, are failing. This is just one, tiny, aspect of how we are failing. Drugs, pornography, violence, abortion (do not even get me started on the new laws in NY), promiscuity – the list goes on and on. We need to do something, or our world will fall. It is on its way now, and the USA is falling, right along with it. I, for one, have resolved to be more in tune with what is going on around me. Less on media, more on personal interaction. Less about using technology and more about doing myself. I can cook on the stove or use my Instapot. Cooking is a far more enjoyable process. Reading a story to our kids is far more enjoyable that plopping them down with an iPad and some games.

So what is the take-away (dontcha hate cliches??) from this? Well, we need to bring God back to our country. We need to hit our knees in prayer 24/7 for our nation, our families, our children. We need to share our love of life and the protection for all life. We need to value our humanity above all else – above the technology we have created/invented. We need to hold our children and love them into adulthood – not parse it out to electronics. These are just some of my observations, from what I see, and what I have been told. Will everyone who reads this decide to do the same? Maybe not. But maybe they will notice the weird traffic at a hotel they are staying at, noting all the men going down a hallway, or perhaps a young girl out on her own. Maybe they will see the remote look in their niece’s face, or the lonely stare of their daughter’s best friend. Maybe they will notice the world around them a little more. We can turn this around. We can. But it is a big job and we cannot do it without one another, and without God. Pray, pay attention, say something, do something – make changes around you to lessen this horrific practice of sex and child trafficking. Make it stop, in the name of God and our love for one another. And may God have mercy on us all.

 

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“…she makes her own coverlets…”

Well, we flew across the country to see to the final rest of my mother-in-law. We arrived home spent. I am emotionally and physically exhausted. What an incredible week. We saw family we have not seen in years. We hugged and cried, caught up and shared laughs and tears. It was a week spent rediscovering what it means to be “family.” And we all feel so very, very blessed to have been together. Yes, we came to bury my mother-in-law, but we also shared in the joy of a life well spent. We also reignited our joy at belonging to such a wide and varied group of people who call themselves “relatives.” I joined this family 36 years ago when I met my husband. It was the life-changing moment of my existence. Meeting him changed everything in my life. The Lord knew where I needed to be, and who I needed to walk beside for my lifetime. I cannot even properly express how blessed I feel.

There were some amazing moments. Moments that caused us to pause and reflect. We spent so much time telling one another how much we loved each other. Because we all came to see how fleeting this life truly is. I know I have been quoting our former pastor for a long time, ” We are not guaranteed our next breath,” and we truly felt that with the experience of her sudden death. Mary was my husband’s last remaining parent, and they were both the eldest child in their respective families. It was like the old guard had passed. As my mother-in-law’s tomb was being sealed and my husband prayed over her, my eldest son whispered to me, “Now you really are Grandma Kaiser.” The mantle of the title settled onto my shoulders. (My husband and I are both the eldest of our siblings, too). And it was as if this generational shift sort of settled into place. It was palatable. And my eldest realized he now holds his dad’s former position in the family. Weird experience – and so hard to articulate.

The Rosary the night prior to the funeral was a little chaotic. It was held at the Chapel near to Mary’s final resting place. It was the first time we saw some family members. We were all milling about in the vestibule of the chapel, hugging and crying. My mother-in-law was in her casket in front of the altar, with it open, and we all ventured up to pay our last respects. My first impression was, “Wow. She looks amazing. So young, So happy. So peaceful.” And actually, seeing her made me happy. She was no longer suffering. She truly seemed at rest in such immense peace. It somehow took the sting away from her death. And I was able to present her in death to two of her great-granddaughters, who insisted on going up there with me. And they were not afraid. They both made cute comments about her sleeping so nicely. The older of the two even patted her hand. And I spent time with my sons, as they knelt there, weeping. It was such a beautiful experience. The prayers of Divine Mercy and the Rosary were so very comforting. Watching my grown sons cuddling their nieces, kneeling and praying the Rosary together, made my heart sing with joy. The fact that their grandmother died, and that was what brought them to this joined faith expression, made it even more poignant. I think, for me as a mom, this will be a memory I will always hold dear.

I was asked to do the first reading at the funeral. And I have to say, I was scared. I normally do really bad at funerals. I usually get physically ill in some way. The last one I attempted, of a family member, I spent the entire time with a trash can in the church hall, laying on a pew, listening via intercom. I was fine for the burial afterwards, but the funeral really did me in. LOL. For my mother-in-law, I really wanted to be there. For her. For my husband. But mostly for me. It was important to me, to show my respect for her. She has done much for me, in mothering me, throughout my 36 years of knowing her. She taught me so many things about being a wife and mother. Don’t get me wrong – we often butted heads. But I dearly respected her, and loved her for raising the perfect man for me! She was a crafter extraordinaire. I do not craft. At all. I have two left thumbs. But I am taking a crochet class here soon with friends. I am going to try, again. LOL. Anyway, I was asked to read Proverbs 31 – the Ideal Wife. Sigh.

There is an entire movement dedicated to supporting a Proverbs 31 woman. I have belonged to several groups, extolling the virtues of a Proverbs 31 Wife and Mother. I have done Bible studies on this verse. It is an important verse for all women. Because I was so intent on doing this successfully, I asked my two daughters-in-law to accompany me to the ambo, or pulpit, and to stand with me as I read. I thought it was fitting that the three women who married into the family (through my husband) should honor my mother-in-law. And they could catch me if I fell over in a dead faint! LOL!

The Church where the funeral was had prepared a typed page for me to read. And I read it. It was butchered and chopped up. I commented to the person who was helping us if I could use a different version. She brought me two more. None of the offered versions fully described a Proverbs 31 woman. And that was my mother-in-law. They were editing out all the skills she had mastered – sewing and weaving among them. And I realized it was because our society does not support women who choose to be skilled in these attributes. Those of us who opted to be at home, even homeschooling our children, are usually made to feel somehow less because we do not work outside the home. But Proverbs 31 fully explains, and extols, and honors, the womanly skills and attributes of being a wife and mother, which our modern world has somehow denigrated. And so, I asked if I could use my Bible, the one I had been practicing the verse out of, the one I had written notes all over from my Bible study, the one I had highlighted the virtues of womanhood in. And I was told I could. And it felt so right. With my mother-in-law in her draped casket before me, and my 2 daughters-in-law behind me, it was near to perfect.

The attribute that was the most important to me, aside from all the ones listed in Proverbs 31, is the one which says, “But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30).  And this is what was being left out of much of the chopped versions. What does “fear the Lord” really mean? Does it mean we cower in fear from this mighty God Who will smite us? No. Not in the least. “Fear of the Lord” is love and respect. We respect God and His statutes. We keep Holy His Name. We value His teachings in our lives. We make our faith our #1 priority. We believe all He has provided for us; we celebrate His Word. We believe in His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. We love our Lord with all we are. My mother-in-law placed her faith as the pivot point, the center, around which all her life operated. She feared the Lord. She did so in a loving and wonderful way. Was she perfect? Even she would tell you she was far from perfect. But she had a love of God and she focused daily on her salvific walk with Him. She listened to sports, and a couple of TV shows, but mostly she listened to EWTN every day, and she prayed her Divine Mercy chaplet twice a day. She stayed home most of the time, so she was free to pray constantly. And she did. Every. Single. Day.

So I was able to read from my own bible, filled with my own notes, surrounded by the women in our family. We all struggle with Proverbs 31, because the world today does not respect, or even support, these virtues. Much of the crafting most of us don’t even know how to master any longer. Spinning and weaving? Few of us rise while it is night to prepare food for our families. We don’t plant our own vineyards. But we are not afraid of the snow (Proverbs 31:21). We try to serve the poor and not be idle in our homes (verses 20 and 27). Those skills can still be found. We can adapt them to modern times (like vacuuming instead of beating rugs and sweeping). But the most important tenant is the “fear of the Lord.” Our faith is what determines who we are. We can struggle to be competent housekeepers, but our biggest struggle lays in becoming women of God. My mother-in-law struggled – she often spoke of it. But she persevered. Daily. Without fail.

May her memory be eternal, and her name among the angels.

I really believe she gained her heavenly crown – a daughter of the King.

 

“Eternal rest, grant unto them…”

I won’t get into a deep post, because my brain is traveling a million miles a minute right now. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers. My mother-in-law unexpectedly passed away last night. Our family is in a tailspin.

My in-laws are part of a greater sub-group in the Mid West and other parts of America. They are known as “Volga Germans,” “Germans from Russia, ” and so many other titles. But they all settled in the midwest of America, usually in northern climates. There are many in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, etc. All were escaping Communist Russia. And all the families had been brought into Russia by the Czarina, Catherine the Great. To sum it up, when Catherine, a German princess, was brought to Russia, she noticed how backward and simple Russian lives were. So she brought talented craftsmen and their families from Germany, to Russia, to modernize it. And that is where my husband’s family hails from. Along the Volga River in Russia, but originally from Germany.

For me, this pale-bread-British-girl, the colorfulness of this culture astounded me, and thrilled me. Brits can be pretty boring. But reading books about life on the Steppes of Russia was amazing. The hardships they endured, and the ways in which they adapted to life in Russia filled me with such pride, at marrying into this amazing group of people. And then learning the traditions they still held on to! Our wedding 34 years ago was filled with as many of these traditions as we could manage. The aunts did all the cooking. The food was all Volga German. We had mostly beer at the reception, too. The uncles took care of that. Our band was what I called an “umpa-pa-pa” band and they played only polka. My feet were killing me because I do not “Dutch Hop” and so my toes ended up under everyone’s feet who danced with me. My father-in-law was so patient with me. LOL.

After getting married, my husband would ask for dishes his mom made. I was not a cook. At all. The aunts had sat down with me around the kitchen table, with new index cards for me to write on, while we were in town for our wedding. I had tons of recipes that were all a part of their tradition. I felt prepared. But of course, the ones my husband loved, were not on cards. They were in the heads of all these women, who grew up making them. My mother-in-law would just sigh when I would call on a Saturday morning, asking how to make “sea-splinta” (still cannot spell or say it properly) or deep-fat-fried pancakes, or scrambled egg pancakes. Then there was “toad in a hole,” which is a family favorite. And all the dumplings I tried and failed over. My husband says they make good door-stops. LOL. So many times my mother-in-law would patiently explain recipes to me. She was a “just put a pinch of salt in it,” or “wait for the right consistency” sort of cook. I needed teaspoons and temperatures. LOL. She was so frustrated with me. But she reported instructions patiently until one day, probably about 10 years into it, it all clicked into place for me. LOL. Same ingredients in all of them – just vary the eggs, milk, and flour for how you want to use it. Measuring is meaningless. I got it! LOL!

My mother-in-law was not that happy her eldest son chose to marry me. But she was kind. She shared her faith with me, which meant a lot. I recall attending Church with my husband (we were just engaged at the time) and I sat there with his entire family, and took up a whole pew. I could have walked out at any time and none of them would have noticed, because their faith was that strong that their eyes were all on the altar. It was something I wanted for myself, too. She always played Christian music. I think I have remarked on this before. But when I asked her why, she told me it was because she was a poor Christian and keeping her faith alive in her music all day, kept her on track. I have never forgotten that, and now, I play pretty much all Christian music, too. She was right about that. We are what we eat, see, and listen to, as well as who we associate with. She inherently knew that.

She was a crafter and sewer. I am not. I often wish we could have spent time doing that together. When we visited I would often go to her sewing club, or quilting club with her, to keep her company. The art of quilting still amazes me. I loved just seeing all that talent and all the wonderful fabrics. But I just never got around to learning how to do that with her. I am sad about that. Her mother-in-law was an amazing crochet artist, and I often regret I did not learn that craft from her, as well.

My mother-in-law was a nurse. When I gave birth to my sons, she would be there. She would take care of all of us, so I could focus on being a new mom. It was invaluable and precious time spent. With our second son, I was ill with strep throat. I recall little of the post delivery, except waking up one time when she was placing him on my breast and her saying to me, “No matter how sick you are, he needs to nurse. Just sleep. I will keep an eye on him.” And I did. What care she gave us all.

And now it has been 36 years since we met, and 34 years spent as her daughter-in-law, and now I need to step up and help with all the burial things, and the things surrounding her life and death. In many ways, my husband and I are now stepping fully into the shoes of his parents. It is something I can actually feel descending onto us. The next few weeks will be filled with tears, prayers, and arrangements. We now have to care for the business side of when someone passes away, let alone our aching hearts. This is hard.

May her memory be eternal and her name among the angels. Rest well, Mary, rest well. Joined in eternal slumber, Joe and Mary Kaiser.

“…12 drummers drumming…”

We are almost to the 12 Days of Christmas. I am spent. LOL. The season can wear you out. When you think of the chaos of having all those things happen to you, if you took the song literally, over 12 days, it is exhausting. Of course, these are all Christian symbols, for which we sing the song. Thank goodness it is just symbolic, although I recall a story about some guy romancing his girl by gifting her all these things (probably a Hallmark Christmas movie plot). But for the first time in a long time, I am ready to take down my tree and get my house back. I am craving streamlined and simple. I am over extras I have to move out of the way just to put down the blinds in the living room. Or the stuffed cute things I have to hide from our grand puppy whenever she visits (I love that dog, so it is not her). We will be babysitting two dogs for our groomer next week, and I seriously want all this put away before then.

I have come to realize it is not Christmas that is bothering me, it is the clutter. I have become less tolerant of clutter. And as I look around our house, which most people think is sparsely decorated, I keep looking at ways to streamline it. LOL. I really hate to dust. I am not a fan of having to pick up all these little collectibles, dust around them, and dust them, and put them back down, only to do it again next week. I am blessed in that our house is not particularly dusty. It is well-sealed. A house we lived in, that we loved, was in a pasture. Literally. And it was in a wind-zone. I would have to – seriously – get bath towels wet and lay them on all the doorways and along all the window sills in our house. If I did not, there would be little piles of fine, fine dust at each one. I had to vacuum my window sills, my doorjambs, and my entry points all the time. I had to vacuum the ceilings regularly for spider webs and dust hanging off them. It was a farm and it was a constant battle between me, the elements, and the creatures, and I was determined to win. So I know about dusting. (Who are we kidding? It’s dirt. Good, old fashioned, dirt). And I am not a fan. So, to make it easier, I have very few of my collectibles out on shelves. I have very few shelves or tabletops for displays. And I like it that way. It is bad enough I have white carpet, but that discussion is for another post. LOL.

And I have collected some knick-knacks on my kitchen counters, as well as baked goods that have been pretty well picked over (you know, Christmas cookies, the fudge, the cakes, etc. you seem to collect on pretty Christmas plates with plastic wrap on them) and I am ready to toss the lot of it. I want my countertops back. And I am getting the Spring Cleaning bug early this year. I keep thinking of ways to de-clutter. And at the same time, I am fantasizing about new valances (don’t freak out, sweetheart), and maybe changing up the window coverings we use. Sigh. Ideas for the future when I can once again open my windows! LOL! And a foyer bench idea I would like to have. Like the one below.

Anyway, winter is fun, don’t get me wrong. I adore Christmas. It is my favorite time of the year. Enjoying a White Christmas is a special experience, and I know I am blessed to live where that is pretty much the norm. But I am ready to return to simple. And I know it stems from other things, as well. We are now preparing to enter a different liturgical season. We are going to be praying more, seeking closeness with the Scriptures, as we, even now, look towards Lent. And prior to Lent, we clean. Obsessively. Spring cleaning is about making way – for God in our lives, for action in our lives. We cannot move forward if we are holding onto the past. We cannot be tripping over the clutter in our lives, expecting to change ourselves in fundamental ways.

As in Advent, we prepared the Way of the Lord in our homes and hearts, waiting on His birth. Now, we journey with Him through His life, His Death, His Burial, and His Resurrection. For me, not only do I need to have a “spiritual cleansing” to prepare for the Lord, I also need a physical one. We plan to change eating habits as we move towards Lent, waiting until after these 12 Days of Christmas. We all make resolutions to ring in the New Year – lose weight or stop smoking, or reconcile with people from whom we are estranged. All sorts of things like that. Then, in Lent, we offer to give things up, to help clear a path for the Lord. And Spring Cleaning is all that, and more. It is in the heart and mind, the soul, the stomach, and the environment. I don’t need much in this life, but those around me – I take joy in celebrating with family and friends, all the milestones that make up life. And I am also enjoying more one-on-one time with my husband. (Even after 34 years of marriage, he is the one I want to spend my time with). And neither of us requires much around us. We both prefer the simple to the overly decorous or too bright and colorful. Muted tones, muted decor – a place to sigh and relax, to unwind, to be quiet and simple.

I think God is moving me – again. Sometimes He uses a 2×4 and sometimes it is a whisper. I think this time, He is allowing me to see what I need. And I think I need to get busy simplifying even more. So for now, I am dodging the dancing ladies, leaping lords, and making room for the drummers to go right on out the door. Oh, and I plan to mute the pipers piping….Epiphany is Sunday! And then we move on and make a path….a simple, straight path, to the Cross.