About kaiserswest

A wife and mother to 3 amazing sons, and grandma to 5 (and counting) beautiful grandchildren. We currently have my mom living with us, as she completes her Alzheimer’s journey. This is just a place where I can muse on things in my life and the world around me. I don't pretend to be a great writer or theologian, historian or blogger, but I'd love you to join me on this journey!

“Where there is no prayer and fasting, there are demons.”

So many of us struggle to live out our faith in this world of ours. I know I do. Every day. Sometimes hiding our heads in the sand is so much easier. Fat, dumb, and happy – that was me. And then I decided to learn. To educate myself. Oh, I attended college, chasing the allusive degree. But I am more interested, as the years pile on top of each other, in eternal knowledge and eternal truth. Because, like it or not, that is where I am headed in the not-too-distant-future.

I was chatting with a High School friend, well, texting, and realized I have been out of high school for 45 years. Yeah – out of high school. Sigh. Where has the time flown? I remember thinking how old people who were 45 seemed to me back then. She and I will have been friends for 50 years pretty soon. It just seems surreal. And where am I right now? Am I closer to those mystical truths I was searching for? Some days it feels as though the Hand of God is on my shoulder and I bravely march into my day. Other days I am happy if I get dressed and accomplish pretty much anything. Today is more along the lines of that last comment.

Why is it we get this spiritual and emotional ennui, which is defined as a “listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement?” Some of the synonyms for it are boredom, tedium, lethargy, or languor. There are many avenues through which we seek the divine. We can attend Churches where the music is mighty, the overhead projectors show you the words to the songs so you can participate, and the atmosphere is jovial, almost like attending a performance of your favorite band. The aim is to excite you enough for you to pursue your faith doggedly and wholeheartedly, regardless of your moments of ennui. There are places where you can worship almost in solitude, and  at almost any hour of the day or night, and are referred to as Adoration Chapels. I love going there in the middle of the night, to just sit in the Presence of God in the Tabernacle, and seek His Grace. Just being in the presence of the Holy, when you recognize it, can enervate you to make those changes in life that wipe out these moments of lackluster living.

We can quietly seek the Holy in our world, without having to go to a place. We can play music that helps us. We can grab a rosary or prayer rope. We can open the Scriptures and dive into the Word of God in our pjs, grasping for dear life onto our morning coffee. The difference is that attending a religious service brings us to community. No man is an island, and no man is supposed to go through this life alone. No man. Some people feel that hermits and others who isolate themselves from the rest of us think they are holier than we are. That is simply untrue. Many hermits, or others who perhaps are in secluded monasteries of either gender, who are cloistered away from the world, actually feel inadequate to be in this world and are desperately seeking the Divine. And most pray, constantly, for all of us in the world. They isolate themselves because they feel the need to be alone with God and also are called to be Spiritual Warriors for the rest of humanity. Thanks be to God there are those who still seek Him in this way. They are who are praying for all of us, nonstop. It comforts me to think of them, praying at every hour, of every day.

There are those who serve God by leading us in prayer and worship. We need to spend time worshipping with our fellow believers. It lifts up the Kingdom of God and it lifts our souls to heaven, alongside people who believe as we do, singing mighty praise to God. Corporate prayer accomplishes such good in this world. And we also look to our religious leaders to actually instruct us, and to lead us to better ways of living our lives in the everyday. And every once in awhile, we experience something unique and special and it stays with us. As I was feeling so inadequate and so slow and with my feet really dragging today, I recalled the homily from this weekend. We were told that abortion is wrong. Period. That the taking of a human life in this way is completely unnecessary, and it is always wrong. Infanticide is always wrong. As a Church, a believing people, we are called to defend the defenseless, always. And I was so excited to hear, from the pulpit, strong language defending the Pro Life stance – in fact, in unequivocal terms. My heart just sang. Afterwards, I shook the Priest’s hand and I squeezed it as I said, “Thank you, Father. That was an incredible homily. It was incredible. Thank you.” Each word got a squeeze. Why? Because everyone is afraid to speak and I wanted him to know I supported every word he said. Everyone is so worried about offending someone else, they stand by and say and do nothing. The Governor of Virginia, the State of New York, and many national legislators, defended infanticide. They lit the Empire State Building to celebrate it. And every, single, citizen in this country should be very, very afraid of legislation like that. Every, single, Christian, should be standing up and just saying, “No! We are not going to take this stuff any longer. We want our country, and our world, back.” The Lord is sending us message after message in the things we see and hear all around us, that it is time to stand up for what is right.

Love, and standing up for the right thing can cost us our very lives, in some areas. The priests above stood and said no to guns and violence. They prayed over dissent and shooting and death, bringing the Word of God to a place that was unraveling. We need to see this sort of courage from everyone. Even me. Even you.

How can we be brave like this? We can call our legislators and tell them we are pro-life and all abortion and infanticide is murder. We can make public testimony when horrible bills are being proposed (most levels of government have ways for you to participate from your living room). We can support centers in our towns that save babies and support mothers. We can donate used baby items, new items, cars, time, talent – you name it – to the pro-life movement in our towns. We can offer to drive moms to pregnancy appointments. We can adopt a newborn. We can foster newborns. We can go to NICUs in our town and volunteer to hold the babies (yes, you can do this). We can knit or crochet (well, not me, but you. I am taking a class next week. So there is hope for me) booties, hats, and blankets for newborns and donate them to hospitals and pro-life centers. We can pray every day to save just one baby. We can add an intention every day, to pray for one mother who is considering abortion. We can take our lackadaisical attitudes, our ennui, and turn it into something powerful. No prayer is ever wasted. The Lord uses our prayers for His Kingdom. Please, do something. Our world needs each of us. Now.

 

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“What shall we say to these things?”

“But Mary treasured all theses things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

I like to think I am a thinker. A ponderer. A muser. Nowhere, on any scale, would I consider myself on par with resolute, professional thinkers. I have a dear friend whose eldest son has a PhD in thinking. Well, it is in Epistemology, Ethics, and Metaphysics (I think? LOL). But that is literally about thought and processing thought and ethics and the ultimate truths in the world. He could think me in circles! LOL! So do not expect that level, or even close, on this blog, or this post. That preamble being stated, I cannot stop thinking about truth. Well, the opposite, which is lying. Or untruth. And why is it so easy, simple, and reactive to lie our way through life? Where are we taught that lying is a good thing? How are we taught this? How have we come to think manipulating people through falsehood is an okay thing to do? The ends justify the means?

“Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Somehow, somewhere, someone dropped the ball. Our world is saturated with falsehoods and lies. The Evil One is having a field day. He is winning the hearts and minds of this world. And so very easily. The Lord needs us all to step up and teach truth and do not depart from it. Because I see all around me lies piled on top of lies.

Recently, my grandson lied to me. And he was caught and it was taken care of. He even apologized to me later on, without parental prompting. However, I cannot get over the fact that as such a young person, the lies came so easily. When I was about his age, I lied about how many bags of chips I had consumed prior to dinner. My mom had just bought them, so she knew how many there were (this was back when the little cellophane wrapped boxes of small bags of chips just came out; the early 60s.) and she knew I had lied. She told me to stay in my room until my dad got home. I always dreaded dad’s discipline. Not for violence of any kind. He talked me to death. LOL. He would philosophize us into comas with his speeches. We were too young to recall his words, or even truly understand them. Now this event was almost 60 years ago and I still remember it. Why? Dad took away my Barbie car and Barbie Dreamhouse. He put them up on a shelf in the garage, above the washer and dryer. I could look at them, see all that pink, but was not allowed to touch them. For lying. And I have never forgotten it. Ever.

 

 

 

 

 

The memory haunts me to this day. I recall standing in the garage, staring at them, so angry at my dad. But you know what? It was all on me. I was the one who had lied, and I was held accountable. The things I treasured most were taken from me. No compromise; no relief. I believe it was a 2-week sentence. And to a young girl, in her 7-8 year old range, it was horrific. And it was memorable. I think it was one of the single, most memorable lessons of my life – and it was all because I lied, snuck around, and deceived my parents – on purpose. I knew what I was doing. I went to great lengths to hide the extra bag I had consumed – in a neighbor’s trash can, no less! Devious little girl that I was!!! Ha! But my dad, in his warped wisdom, imposed a sentence that has lasted my entire life. And I have never purposely lied since. I may leave facts out of conversations, but I do not deliberately lie. Ever.

With our kids, we held truth to be immutable and of the highest importance. We always told our kids that telling the truth may still merit punishment for their “crimes,” but lying only made it that much worse. And for the most part, I think we have pretty honest kids. Trustworthy. “Their word is their bond” – “let’s shake on it “- sort of men. Perfect? Oh my word, no. Struggling in this crazy world? Yes; yes they are. Raising their own kids amongst this horror that is blatant deceitfulness.

“The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.” Proverbs 13:5

So, crazy world, how do we combat lies? The annual debacle, otherwise known as the Super Bowl, was yesterday. The game was a snoozer for me, and the half-time show was pretty bad (Adam Levine – what were you thinking????), so that left the commercials. Some were great, others funny, most boring. And for so much money!! WOW! $5.2 million dollars was spent by the Washington Post. It was narrated by Tom Hanks, showing lots of murdered journalists, and lots of scenes where journalists were “on the spot” where things were happening. All this to convince us that they are sharing the truth with us. It was laughable. It was, moreover, a ridiculous amount of money for the media to convince us, the public, that they have our best interests at heart, and are sharing us the truth of the moment, of the world. One of their tag lines that infuriated me the most was, “Because knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free…” and the worst was last: “Democracy dies in darkness.”

“An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.” Proverbs 14:5

So the Washington Post, amid lay-offs and diminished benefits for its employees, spends $5.2 million dollars trying to convince us they are the harbingers of truth. The abject consumerism of the entire event was disgusting, but the pompous attitude shared in these commercials rankled. They had to spend all that money to convince me they bring me truth? Or that I need new insurance? Or a car? Or a beer without corn syrup? Nothing and no one touched on anything of social or political or historical importance. Oh, they were being over the top with their patriotism, trying to convince us the NFL are the good guys (uhm, we totally see through that). During half time, Adam Levine promised his truth warriors he would show them he supported them – and today, even they are rallying against him for his poor performance. Millions and millions of dollars later, where are we? Better off? More aligned with the truth? More apt to be good, honest people? I hardly think so. I spent most of the time playing Word Therapy and Angry Birds on my phone, or tickling my grandkids.

“What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, angels nor rulers, nor present nor things to come, nor powers nor heights nor depths, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast more proudly about my weaknesses, so Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

And so I am pondering truth, and the falsehoods which permeate almost all aspects of life these days. Am I some great philosopher? I am not. But I see so much in our culture and how it is trickling down to our most vulnerable – our children. In New York and other states, we can kill a child – up and to sometimes including after they are born. What is next? Life is literally hanging in the balance. Our Lord spoke of the evils of abortion and infanticide in the Scriptures.

 “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.”          Deuteronomy 12:31

The thing I am getting to is that truth lies (no pun) within each of us. We are not supposed to cower in fear of the lies. We are not supposed to allow this evil to continue to permeate our world. We must stand up for what is right. Do we need to run for office? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Do we need to author bills to be added to our laws? Maybe, but perhaps reading and commenting on pending legislative acts would help usher in the reign of truth, instead of lies. Because if all of us who believe in the truth handed down to us stood and said no, then NY would not have the law they have and the Empire State Building would not have been lit in celebration of murder. But we have stood by and let it happen.

Maybe we need to take the basket off our lamp of truth and share it in the marketplace (See Matthew 5: 15-16) so others can be illuminated. Maybe someone needs their Barbie car taken away for them to see the value in truth. Truth is forever. It never changes. It never goes away, regardless of the hyperbole of the modern press. Truth is the value of humanity and our lives. Live in truth. Always.

“..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.

 

“…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.

“…and pondered them in Her heart.”

It was a tad bit nippy this year. But the snow sparkled. Which I love. We had one of the best Christmases on record. No arguments (I know, right??!!!). Presents given and received in love. Love in the air and around the house. Joy around the table. Picked up Mom and brought her with us to extended family celebrations and feasting. Even among strangers, she enjoyed the food, the noise, the kids, the conversations. Actually got home in time to watch a Christmas movie and relax before falling into bed. All in all, a truly blessed Christmas.

This year, we Nailed It! for Christmas. LOL! This show has captured my funny bone. We watched an episode while getting ready to head out to family yesterday. What I love about the show, “Nailed It!” is that people are trying. They are learning. And they compete in something they know, ahead of time, they are not particularly good at. But they try. And it provides some much-needed levity in life. We need to learn to not take ourselves so seriously. To not expect more than we are capable of. And we need to learn that sometimes our efforts are just not enough, and that we have not “nailed it,” and that we are okay with that. Life is the journey, not the destination.

As I posted in my blog about needing my weapon to be handy and ready, I realized that I had a lot of living left to do, and I was not ready to lay down and let someone else choose the end. My dash was still going on! If you are not aware, there was a eulogy given a few years back that became so famous. It spoke to the two dates on our tombstone, with the dash in the middle. The dash is the sum of our entire lives. And we need to be present in our dash, and make it count. And this year, we opted for a simpler Christmas. We chose to enjoy the moments and to live in them.

We spoke about how people were texting each other Merry Christmas wishes on their phones, and about how some people seemingly “go dark” from social media during Holidays. And I thought about that. And I thought it was a great thing. Because if we are off social media, it means we are present to the people around us, making the most of our dash. And today, as I was browsing the various social media forums, I noticed who did, and who did not, post a lot of photos. Some people had some magnificent photos of their Christmas feasts, decor, and gift giving. Some posted sayings and left it at that. Some posted pithy political junk that had nothing to do with Christmas. Others were not present on the media platforms at all. And it got me thinking.

The Birth of Christ is what Christmas is all about. Even our grandchildren were talking about Jesus’ birthday this year (miracle all on its own). And I was thinking about how quiet it must have been in that lowly manger. Just the stirring of the animals, the movement of the breezes, the light from the Star. And Mary and Joseph, knowing the miracle is upon them. My eldest jokingly referred to it as the “Holy C-section” as we believe Christ “emerged” from Mary without all the travail of a traditional birth. Some believe She suffered; others believe that because She was the Mother of God, suffering would be unknown to Her. The result is the same: Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

And the Shepherds, sleeping with their flock, are awoken by the songs of the Angels, directing them to the Manger where the Son of God lay, surrounded by His Glory and His Simplicity. It must have been frightening, and exciting, all at the same time. And they did not quarrel over what they had seen. They did not dally and ponder. They did not go back to sleep. They obeyed the Messengers of God and right away sought the Savior where He lay. In the book of Luke (Luke 2: 17-20):

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby, who was lying in the manger. After they had seen the Child, they spread the message they had received about Him. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, which was just as the angel had told them.”

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” And I realized something profound to me: we were so busy truly living in the moment and joy of Christmas, we forgot to take photos! We have no family poses. We have no photos of our grandkids with us, or our dinner conversation around the table, or photos with my mom. We forgot. Because we were living in the moment. Our dash was full and growing. How amazing is that? And today, I thanked God for the blessing of this Christmas. And for the moments with family and friends. And for excited joy on the faces of those we loved, as they received the gifts we chose for them. For the moments of revelation when conversations were life-filled and love-filled. For the moments of no-conflict, even with disparate people gathered around a table. Even though we were not with our entire family, because of distance, we treasured moments with them of conversation and loving wishes given and received. We were so very blessed this year. So blessed.

And today, as the world returns to its rhythms and its chaos, my prayer for everyone is that we recall the simplicity of the moments in the Stable. When Mary rejoiced in Her Newborn Son, held lovingly in Her arms. When Joseph looked lovingly at His Wife and the Son He would raise to become a Man like no other. When the Shepherds arrived, after having been instructed by Angels – a choir of Angels – singing, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, Goodwill and Peace among men.” All in the quiet of a December night, so long ago. And as you gaze lovingly at the spent remnants of a day sharing with family and friends, smile for a moment, thinking of the Birth of the Son of God, Who came to save us all.