Monday, February 21, 2011

George Washington...

George Washington praying at Valley Forge
 Happy President’s Day! George Washington’s birthday. What a man. What a life! There is another George Washington whom I can’t help but think of today--and also hope to meet someday in heaven. George Washington Carver.

George Washington Carver
      "Oh, when the saints, go marching in, oh, when the saints go marching in! Oh, Lord, I want to be in that number! When the saints go marching in!"  As a little girl, I imagined these saints as I sang. We had a great music program in my public elementary school. Miss Forsythe taught us many folk songs and classics. I can still see her standing at the blonde-wood upright in our classroom, her tall frame crouched slightly, one knee bent, the opposite foot on the pedals. Gosh, what good times. Some teachers really have a gift for making learning exciting, and bringing it to life.
     In college I was blessed to have a gifted History professor. Dr. Kerr was short and rounded with black glasses and thinning, white hair. He wouldn’t have stood out in a crowd, but in our large lecture hall all eyes were on him. He could have been an actor, his lectures were so animated. He quite literally performed in front of our large lecture hall. I sat front and center. I loved his class. He was Sir Walter Raleigh, Paul Revere, Queen Elizabeth or Abraham Lincoln on any given day. He made history come alive. He was brilliant.
     I still love history. I have more books than I'll ever finish. My middle-aged brain is slower and it is constantly trying to keep tabs on our eight children at home, two living away from home, and our foreign exchange student. They are certainly more important than my reading list, but when there is time, I do enjoy learning about earlier times, those who have gone before us, and especially those with heroic, inspirational lives.
     A few years ago the girls brought home a book about George Washington Carver. Born in Missouri around 1865, he wanted so badly to go to school that he walked ten miles to another town where a black boy could attend. He was raised by a man named Carver, who respected freedom, was good to him and raised him much like a son.  The woman who owned the house where he stayed while going  to school asked him his name. He replied, “Carver’s George, Ma’am.” She told him he should have his own name, one with dignity. He chose George Washington Carver, after our first President, and Mr. Carver.
     He graduated from highschool, moved a few times, worked hard to earn money, and went to college. A Botanist, he later earned a Master's Degree and an Honorary Doctorate. We seem to remember him most for inventing multiple uses for the peanut but he really did so much more. He taught farmers how to rotate crops, using plants like the peanut in order to restore nutrients into soils depleted by cotton. He was peaceful, strong, amiable and helpful. When my boys complain about going to school I remind them how blessed they are. They get a lesson about George Washington Carver and the value of education.

     To be counted "in that number".  I sure am hopeful that both George Washington and George Washington Carver are! I am my own biggest critic and I doubt that one day I could be thought of as an example of anything, unless it’s an example of someone with a desire to do right, despite her own weaknesses and procrastination.  I find strange hope in reading that men like Columbus and Tschaikovsky never lived to see the impact they made on their world. I am sad that they died feeling as though they hadn't accomplished much (can you imagine?).  I will never discover another land or write a symphony! Nevertheless, I will keep trying to do better, and to live as Christ taught. I have ten amazing children, and I believe the world can be changed by them.
You are the only one who can uniquely do what God has called you to do. Here’s to ”marching in” together one day!
God Bless you,
The Abbey Farm

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


     I remember wondering what life was like for my mother, who grew up in a very large family. I had three brothers and had what was considered an average family size at the time. Forty years later, I have a large family, when the average number of children is about two. People are curious about us. When they find out we have ten children, we hear, “Wow…how many?” or “Are they all yours?” or “I have one and I can barely keep up with him!” or comments about their own personal decisions on family size. No one has ever been unkind. People want to relate, to understand, and to be understood.

     Life is very busy, but in truth I couldn’t imagine it otherwise. Sometimes I’ll sit at the dinner table and count our children to confirm that there really are that many! Ten is a wonderful number. Each of our children is loved and treasured and unique. I remember when I had my first: Marie was the center of my world for two years. At the time, I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else like that, but then Susanna came along and, my goodness, I sure did!

     Emily and Sharon were ten and thirteen when I met them. The moment I realized I loved Bruce, I loved them. It didn’t matter if they were adorable and funny and bright and well-behaved--which they were--it was bigger than that. They were a part of the man I loved, and so I loved them. That love has only deepened and grown. They are absolutely incredible young women and they make life so special. I am very proud of them.

     Bruce and I were almost forty when we married, and we loved the thought of having another child. We understood that, realistically, we could be unable to have children and might need to adopt. We were able to have more, more than we imagined! Six in about eight years. God had a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time, I guess. Yes, I am tired often, but we are greatly blessed. I have friends who have grandchildren, who travel a lot, who play golf a few times a week, who have seemingly unlimited free time. I’m human and not exempt from whining a bit, but I wouldn’t trade places. This is right for us.

     Today, Max and Gus were sick and stayed home from school. I told Ben that I’d drive him to Kindergarten and stop first at McDonald’s. We had fun and actually dined in. I could see the little groups of elderly male regulars, all smiling at Ben. Were they thinking of their grandchildren, or their children? Were they remembering what it was to be five? They watched as he bumbled around, gazing at the soda machine and the case of featured “Happy Meal” toys. Mom had to redirect him a few times toward the menu board and his order. Ben picked a booth right beside a group of silver-haired men animatedly discussing local commerce. More smiles. Ben worked at his giant breakfast while Mom watched him and listened, and imagined his life the future.

     Will he be a husband, a father, a grandfather? God willing, Ben will live to a ripe old age. Perhaps he’ll have a weekly breakfast with old friends. One day, maybe a little boy will come into the restaurant with his mother, and Ben will find himself smiling, thinking back to life in a big family, to being five years old, and to a time when he and Mom made time stop for just a little while.

God Bless you,

The Abbey Farm


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


     I burned the gasket in our microwave today. It’s not even a year old. The warranty won’t cover it. “User-unfriendly button placement” isn’t on the list of things covered. “User error” is--on those things not covered. It’s a bummer.  It was simply a matter of pressing “power” rather than “timer.” I smelled burning plastic after only 5 minutes. Thankfully nothing caught on fire. We really use our microwave a lot. What a convenience! Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have one? I’d love to hear from you. How do you do it?

     I remember the first microwave I ever saw. It was huge. My friend's family owned it. I have mentioned Bev, who cooked in Canada with me. We had so much fun at her house. We experimented with cooking all sorts of foods in it. We microwaved bacon (messy), cookies (cool to watch them rise, but not a great final product), and Bev’s favorite: Bisquick coffeecakes (genius).

     Anyway, I can forgive myself. I’ve certainly done worse. Microwaves are easy to replace. Feelings are not so easy to mend. We teach our children to apologize and to ask forgiveness. And we teach them to forgive. It is not always easy, but they really need to learn while they are young. After an apology, to hear “It’s OK,” just isn’t as good as “I forgive you.” First of all, it wasn’t OK. Whatever was done was wrong--or perhaps an accident. Second, it offers better resolution. Most of all, it’s what Christ taught us to do, not because it makes us weak or passive, but strong. St. John Bosco said, “Let forgiveness be your sword.”

     It is certain that some things are easier to forgive than others. Some things can eat at us for years if we haven‘t forgiven. The TV shows like Jerry Springer and those “judge” shows are offensive to me. I don’t want to revel in someone else’s revenge, retribution or poor decisions. I feel bad for them.  Less offensive, but still hard for me, are the real cases you hear about with disproportionate damages paid. Like the classic hot coffee spilled by the customer at McDonald's. There are places for damages to be paid, but I feel as though there is abuse in many cases.

     I have a good friend who struggled with anger toward someone who was partly responsible for a loved one’s death. The fact that that someone felt no responsibility and no remorse made it even harder. She told me that after rehashing the story to the umpteenth friend, she realized no matter how many people she vented to, no matter how many others sided with her, there was no magical number she would reach when her pain would be healed. Rather, she found that her pain worsened. Somehow she had to find the power to forgive. It was especially hard that the person didn’t care to be forgiven. But she forgave, and was healed of the anger. That person was really in God’s hands.

     Forgiveness is healing. I know that there are circumstances where it is humanly impossible to do so. God gives us the grace if we ask Him. We may not even feel it as we utter the words. It may take time. It is a process.  I have struggled before. I’ve had situations in my life that called for a great amount of grace from God to forgive. Sometimes it took years to heal. There were times when I was stubborn. But God was patient.

     In the scheme of things a microwave is pretty easy to deal with.There are much harder situations.  I pray that if you have a tough situation, that you will find the ability to forgive. It may be that you need to forgive yourself. God says He’ll forgive anyone with a contrite heart. He doesn’t require self-loathing or disgust. Just faith in His love. The fresh start comes with great peace.

God bless you!

The Abbey Farm