It is Good – Eber’s Legacy

Today marks what would have been the ninety-sixth birthday of Eber S. Martin.  He is one of the sweetest and wisest men to have ever lived, in my humble opinion.  Eber lived life well, always saw the good (especially in people), and had an incredibly witty and punny sense of humor.  He was  an honest, God-loving man of integrity with a deep faith and a love of classical music.  In his later life he faced blindness caused by macular degeneration with great courage never allowing it to dampen his spirits or change his positive outlook on life.  I had the privilege and honor of calling him Grandpa because I married Eber’s oldest grandson.

Eber lead a relatively normal life similar to those of his generation.  He grew up in a loving Christian home, married a wonderful and spunky woman and raised a family with her, and in his twilight years retired to travel with her.  He expected to have a quiet, uneventful life in his golden years, but God works in mysterious ways.  God wasn’t done with him yet.  In his later years, Eber was inspired to write volumes and volumes of poetry.  Some are humorous, others pay tribute to people he knew or life events, still more show how he bravely accepted his diagnosis of macular degeneration as well as the inevitability of aging, but a great number of his poems are praise and thanksgiving to the loving God he served.  Eber’s poetry is filled with timeless truth and wisdom that is as relevant today as when he wrote the vast majority starting around the year of 1995.  Below is just one of many of the wonderful things he composed:

It Is Good…..God Called It So

How could God be so remiss

To put us in a world like this?

This world is evil, of little worth,

We’ve heard this said about the earth.

Why put us in this evil place,

Did this show lack of grace?

This we endure, it is our curse,

We think that nothing could be worse.

Are His motives then suspect?

Such thoughts we quickly should reject

If we remember as we should.

He formed the world, then called it good.

Goodness we should contemplate,

It shows His care and love so great;

Sunrise and sunset, sky so bright,

He gives us light, for he is Light.

He gives us such joys to bless our days,

We should respond with love and praise;

Created things we now applaud

And worship the Creator God.

When time shall end, He’ll show us more,

Still greater things He holds in store;

Then we will finally understand

This is what he always planned.

How did Eber know the world would look so hopeless just three short years after his death?  Christians are being exterminated in Iraq and other places, children are being gunned down in schools, women are being forced into sex trafficking, millions are being displaced or fleeing the violence in their homelands, and the threats of terror and violence are making people afraid to go about their daily lives.  It is probably human nature to question the why of it all and want God to explain and answer why he would allow such atrocities to happen.  We must put the blame for it all on SOMEONE.

It occurs to me that my generation is probably not the first generation to say the world has become a cold and hopeless place, how will humanity survive,  what possible future can my child have in a world like this?  We are seeing a lot of evil right now all around, but the generation before us dealt with the Cold War, Vietnam and segregation, and the one before that with World War II, and the one before that with the Great Depression, and the one before that with World War I, and the one before that with the Spanish-American War, and the one before that with the Reformation period and the one before that the Civil War — I could keep listing, going on and on, backward over the decades to list the tragedies and travesties that have been plaguing humanity since time began, not just here in the United States but across the globe.

Eber’s message here is so very vital and important!  God created good and isn’t responsible for the horrors we are seeing in the world.  The Evil one and the fallen race of man are the perpetrators, but God the Creator gives us daily reminders of hope and showers us with blessings to help us to live with joy.   We must choose to see and remember the good and trust our heavenly father.  There is an old hymn that Eber may have been thinking about when he wrote the poem above that says we will understand it better by and by, meaning that someday we will meet our Father in Heaven, and he will help us to see the why’s we are wondering about in the here and now.

On the beautiful fall day of September 20, 2011 we received a call, and with a very sad and heavy heart I made this post on Facebook:

today we lost a gentle soul who always had a kind word to say to everyone he met. he lived a simple life, happy in the knowledge that he had raised his family well, which was all the success he needed. a gentleman who aged with dignity and grace. even when his sight and hearing failed him almost completely he faced it bravely and put on a cheerful face. he has gone home to be with the lord and rejoined the love of his life. he will be greatly missed by all. we love you grandpa eber!

There is a very special place in my heart where Eber’s memory lives on.  He welcomed me into his family with open arms, accepted me as I am, helped me to become more comfortable in my own skin, and helped me find my way to Midway where I have been blessed with a wonderful and supportive church family.  He listened to my doubts and troubles and answered my questions about what being a Mennonite meant and what they believed.  Our family was blessed to be able to attend church and worship with him for the last years of his life.  Eber was present when my husband and I were baptised together and was the first one to stand to affirm us as members of the church, despite the fact that he was wheel chair bound (many thanks to the thoughtful person that was sitting next to him during the baptism that helped him stay steady on his feet).  I will never again in this life hear his wonderful deep chuckle, or hear him tell stories that begin with “Weeeelllllll” or tell about how he “ooched” too far, or that he spent the afternoon “sunning and making an ash out of himself”, but I know we will see him again someday.

Until then, I will continue to treasure the legacy he left us — his wonderful and  insightful poetry.

Eber

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A Letter to My Son: Embarking on the Middle School Journey

Dear Bouncing Baby Bugga Boy-o,

I doubt you will allow me to call you that for much longer, but for the moment I can still get away with it.  It seems like just yesterday I was holding you, our baby moose,  for the very first time, but today you started on a new phase in your young life.  Today you started middle school!   Let’s hope that you handle the twists and turns along this new path with as much dexterity  and adaptability as effortlessly as you coped with the surprise start to the school year this morning because your silly mother somehow mixed up the date of back to school.

Not many years ago you were a cuddly little boy who filled my life with hugs and little boy kisses.  Your little laugh that could turn my bad day into a great day in an instant!  I will cherish those early years we were blessed to share with you forever, but I can’t stop the hands of time. The cuddly little boy is quickly turning into a handsome young man.  You have been and will continue to grow despite my instructions that you stop right now before you pass me up in height!

Although we have hit the occasional storm, I am SO proud of the boy you have become!  Your creativity never ceases to amaze me!   Your mind comes up with ideas and you find a way to bring those ideas to life.  Many strange and wonderful creatures have been constructed out of corn dog sticks, soap pumps, and paper towel rolls.  Many more cards have been created out of index cards and scraps of notebook paper that turn into imaginary dueling games, illustrated by your hands.  Harness your creativity my dear boy!  It is an incredible gift from God!

Caring and sensitive  are the next characteristics that come to mind as something else you have in spades.  A great big heart for others beats in your chest.  A gentle giant with younger children, you are a leader that seeks to include everyone.  A wish to make people happy motivates you to reach out to cheer up those who are sad.  I have seen your heart-break for the animals on tv that flash across the tv screen before I can change the channel because we can’t stand to see the poor animals’ sad eyes staring at us in our living room.   Over the years many teachers have complimented you on your large heart that has reached out to the children with problems or on the margins of the class to show them friendship and inclusion.  Loving hearts like yours can be easily wounded, my prayer is that you never lose your large capacity for love and that it inspire you to do great things to help humanity!

Another characteristic that comes to mind  for you my son is curiosity.  You are always trying to figure out how something works, or “evolve” something to make it better.  I often can see the wheels turning in your head as you break something down to process how it all works together.  You seek to improve things to make good things even better.  You soak up the information gleaned from Myth Busters and Animal Planet.  Let me offer a word of encouragement to you in this area:  never let lack of opportunity stop you from pursuing something that interest you.   A formal education is only one way to learn, but there is a whole world of knowledge out there available at your fingertips.  Seek and you will find ways to learn, regardless of where you are in life.

Finally, my Sunshine Boy, I pray that you will always let God be your guide.  He has very great and very specific plans tailored just for you!   Always give him praise and thanks, and listen for his voice.  As much as I love you, he loves you that much more!  It’s true!  Let your faith continue to grow, you will need that firm foundation to survive in this fallen and broken world.  May He shield you from as much sadness as possible.  I would like to tell you that everything will fall into place, but I just can’t promise you that.  Life is a difficult struggle.  There is so much that will make absolutely no sense to you.  Cling to God in your moments of uncertainty, insanity, and anxiety.  Always let your light shine where ever you are.   Never let that light go out!  Stand strong when temptation comes your way.  Daddy and I will always be here for you, and so will your Father in Heaven.  Let us share the load with you.  Life isn’t easy, but there is always joy and we will always be there for you.  Look for the joy and peace that comes from a deep relationship with God.  Enjoy this journey!

With all my love,

Your pixie momma

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The “Stuff” Society

During my nightly perusing of my Facebook news feed I scrolled past a quote that caught my eye.  It was from noted money advice guy Dave Ramsey, and it said, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”  Wow!  It caught my eye as the screen was scrolling by, and I had to back up to make sure I had read it correctly.   That is worth another WOW!  I couldn’t help but reflect over my life and the impressions I had of what I needed to buy in order to obtain my American Dream.   Then I realized that I had already  more or less figured this out over the last couple of years and have seen my priorities change, and my ideas of what we actually need, as opposed to what would be nice, have gone through a drastic change.

Magazines and blogs are full of articles on how to organize our stuff.   They are also full of articles on how to declutter our stuff.   It seems like a vicious cycle.  We buy the stuff, we store the stuff, we get overwhelmed by the stuff, we get rid of the stuff, then we replace the stuff with more stuff — what are we really looking for?

Are we looking for approval, possibly from a parent or some other close relative?  Hoping beyond hope that the stuff we have acquired would make them proud of us and our successes? Buying stuff to be able to show them how well we have done so that they will realize we are worthy of their  affection that we believe is otherwise lacking for us?  Trying to perhaps measure up to some imaginable standard that in reality most likely does not exist.

Are we looking for friendship, using the stuff as our “dues” to get into the group we think we most closely identify with?  Why do we doubt that the qualifications of our character, intelligence,  sense of humor, and compassionate hearts aren’t enough to get and keep friends?  Is our society really that fickle that we choose friends based on outward appearances and possessions instead of on what is on the inside?  When did the make and model of someone’s car become more important than the knowledge that said friend would come to pick us up if we ever needed to be rescued?  Let’s start a Love Revolution instead and try to top each other with acts of kindness, not brands of stuff.

Are we looking for acceptance from our peers or co-workers, perhaps our in-laws, because we are convinced we have to prove we are capable, competent and worthy of what ever position we are holding, be it office worker or wife?  Obviously SOMEONE has chosen us, hired us, married us, because they think we fit the bill exactly right.  Let’s own that!  It’s time to put away the prizes for the best stuff, which gives us more stuff that we don’t need.

Are we filling in the holes in our lives with stuff that we should be filling with a relationship with our God and creator?  I can’t answer that for you, but for me I think the answer was and IS a definite YES — human insecurity plagues us and we feel less than.  The cures we tend to choose in this broken world are the ones we find here on Planet Earth.  However, I am learning that with every step I take to deepen my own personal relationship with our God in Heaven, the less incomplete and  undeserving I find myself feeling.  Not saying the dark days don’t come to me, because boy do they ever, but I am starting to look to Heaven for the hope I need to realize that I am doing ok, and that I am worthy and enough just the way I am.

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

Your baby has been hurt by another person.  Your thoughts and opinions are constantly put down and ridiculed.  You are criticized instead of mentored and supported.  You put your all into a friendship only to be forgotten.  Humans can be pretty mean and vicious to each other.  Survival of the fittest and self-preservation take over and the next thing you know someone is lashing out at you to cover up their own insecurities.  At this point you have a choice to make, dig your heels in and fire back hurt at the person hurting you or let it go and forgive.

As Christians we like to think of ourselves as the forgivers of the land.  After all, Matthew 6:14-15 tells us “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Is it enough to forgive the transgression?  Can you withdraw from the relationship, be it business or personal, friend or family, to prevent further transgressions?  What does this forgiveness thing entail?

If only forgiving was always easy!  With small things forgiveness usually comes quickly, but when there is a lot of physical pain or mental anguish involved it is a process that must be worked through.  Emotions run high and cloud the way.  The hurt seems to fester in you until you get to the point of feeling ill just thinking about the person or you feel your heart drop out of your chest when you think you may be forced to come face to face with this person again.  Eventually we come to the conclusion that it isn’t worth the continued pain and suffering to hold the hurt in.  We decide to work through the hurt and find our way to the point where we can forgive and shed the bitterness within.

One stumbling block for me has been that I thought in order to truly forgive you have to allow the person to be a part of your life.  I no longer believe this to be true.  While you do need to find a way to forgive, it is not necessary to continue to allow the pattern of hurt to continue.  We do not have to put ourselves on the merry-go-round of hurt again and again.  Forgiveness can be extended from a distance.  We can wish the person well, and not harbor any ill will towards them, but unless they rebuild the trust that was lost, they do not need to have a place in our present.

Some hurts never heal completely.  They can leave lasting scars on our hearts, some deeper than others.  Fortunately scarred humans struggling with forgiveness seem to be a specialty for our heavenly Father.  He will put balms of grace and love on our scarred hearts and care for our wounds.  He is waiting for us to lean on him for strength and guidance.  With God, forgiveness is a place we can get to.  He is always ready to hug his hurting children and walk with them on this path.  We just have to ask him.

Wander Lust

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, so the lyrics go in the old hymn Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.  And boy do I understand!  How often have I had to steer myself back to the path God has laid out for me?  I am discovering that to follow Jesus, choose joy, press on the upward way, however you like to put it, is something that I have to mentally choose to do each and every day.  Then there is that nagging feeling that perhaps the path I am on is not the path intended for me after all, so where is my path?  How do I find it?  When do I get there?  Did I miss it altogether?  Didn’t I get a map?

Recent events have led to the discovery that I have a problem.   I can’t say NO!  I am so eager to serve that I will agree to pretty much any opportunity or request that comes my way.  Why, you ask?  Because I am a people pleaser who wants to show love and doesn’t want to let anyone down.  The results? A stressed out pixie who has no time for her family or herself.  Another side effect of this problem is all the noise generated by my busy schedule tends to drown out the silences where little whispers of guidance are spoken to me.

So, where does this leave me?  It leaves me on a path of self discovery.  God has an incredible journey still in store for me if I will take the time to listen.  One of my greatest gifts is curiosity.  I love to read!  Whether it is studying the women of the Bible because I want to see how God has used women to do his kingdom work, or taking a look at the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, I can’t get enough!  I am fascinated by the Old Testament, and perhaps would someday like to take theology classes.  In the present, I intend to continue to read, and then write about the new ideas turning about in my mind.  While I am not a scholar, there is no shortage of ideas and opinions floating around in my head.  The time has come to release those to gain some new perspectives.

 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin – Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)