Thursday, February 26, 2004

Unexpected Miracles

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…"
~ Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV)

When a woman is pregnant, she is said to be “expecting.” But sometimes babies are “unexpected.” Someone once said that the definition of “planned parenthood” is that you find out you’re pregnant and start planning for it.

That’s what happened with Keen and me. When we got married, we decided we wanted to wait a couple of years before we had kids. But God had other plans. Our firstborn son, Jared Joseph, arrived right on his due date – May 10, 1979 – exactly 11 months to the day after our wedding day. Keen always says, “Yes, the math works out.” But even when the math doesn’t work out, it’s still a miracle. In fact, some of God’s greatest blessings are unexpected miracles.

Kenny Chesney recently came out with a beautiful song titled, There goes my Life. The video version depicts a high school football player who just learned that his girlfriend is pregnant.

All he could see were his dreams
goin’ up in smoke
So much for ditching this town
and hangin’ out on the Coast
oh well...those plans are long gone

And he said -
There goes my life
There goes my future,
my everything
Might as well kiss it all goodbye
There goes my life

Couple years of up all night
and a few thousand diapers later
That mistake he thought he made
covers up the refrigerator
Oh yeah, he loves that little girl…

Momma’s waiting to tuck her in
as she fumbles up those stairs
She smiles back at him
dragging that teddy bear
Sleep tight

Blue eyes and bouncing curls

He smiles
There goes my life
There goes my future
my everything
I love you, Daddy, goodnight
There goes my life

The next scene shows the little girl all grown up and going off to college. “And he said - there goes my life… my future… my everything.” What a touching example of how life’s detours can lead us on a most wonderful journey.

Far too many women take what they see as the “easy way out.” But there’s nothing easy about living with the guilt of ending an innocent life. There’s nothing easy about the heartache of going through life thinking about the child you never had and wondering what they might be doing right now.

I recently purchased a book by Kimberlee Stone titled, I’ve Got a Secret: A Mother’s True Story of Healing and Forgiveness. The author candidly shares the personal story of her past abortion in hopes of helping other women overcome their shame and guilt and find healing through God’s total forgiveness.

So much growth and beauty could be achieved if we would only accept responsibilities and face difficult situations head on, no matter how difficult or embarrassing they might be. A woman who is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy could choose to keep the baby or give it up for adoption. Either way, she would be giving her precious baby a chance at life.

There are no easy answers to the abortion question in our country. Anti-abortion activists like Eric Rudolph and Paul Hill seem to think the solution is to murder abortion doctors or bomb abortion clinics. That’s obviously not the answer!

I am personally opposed to all abortions – but especially late term abortions. To perform that horrendous “procedure” on a full term baby is nothing short of murder in my view.

But whether you agree with a woman’s right to choose or not, the fact of the matter is, abortion is legal in our country. As much as I hate to admit it, even if we succeeded in overturning the law, I’m afraid it wouldn’t stop women from having abortions any more than the prohibition movement stopped people from drinking alcohol.

So what is the answer? I think the answer lies in changing people’s hearts and trying to help them see a better way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could match up couples longing to have a baby with the women who weren’t ready or able to care for their babies at this time in their lives? So many couples have empty arms just yearning to be filled, but their only choice is to remain on long waiting lists or travel overseas to adopt a baby. What an incredible gift that woman would be giving to an infertile couple – not to mention the gift of life she would be giving her own unborn child.

This is a poem I wrote based on an actual conversation I had with our youngest son, Kirk several years ago.

We mourn

One day my young son,
asked me to explain
A word he’d heard before
but didn’t understand
“Sure, honey,” I said,
without giving it a thought
“What word is that?”
Then my jaw just dropped

“Abortion,” he said
in all his innocence
I cringed when he said it
And then I felt quite tense

But I had to tell him how
A little life is destroyed,
Because it’s a sad fact,
That we cannot avoid

My son just winced
When he heard the explanation
Then I began to wonder
If it was beyond his comprehension

But the words that he spoke next
And the look upon his face
Let me know without a doubt
That this was not the case

With wisdom beyond his years
He turned and said to me
“Mom, I feel so sorry,
For that little baby.

“Because we only get,
One chance to be born.”
Yes, that’s sad, but true, my son
And after that, we mourn.

We had an unexpected miracle in our family four years ago…he calls me Grandma.

Thursday, February 19, 2004


“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
~ II Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
~ The Serenity Prayer

When we moved to Singapore back in 1973, one of the biggest adjustments was the weather. Due to Singapore’s close proximity to the Equator, the climate is always hot and the humidity is very high – about 75% (on the average). As a result, there are only two seasons – sunny or rainy.

As much as I enjoyed the experience of living in Singapore (not to mention meeting Keen), I really missed the changing of the seasons. Everything was so predictable – not like Kansas where we are blessed to be able to enjoy all four seasons. I love the way a new season comes along just about the time I’ve grown weary of the last one.

Change is good. It keeps life interesting and fresh. But sometimes change is painful. Sometimes it barges into our lives rudely, like an uninvited visitor who arrives at a bad time. But we don’t have any say about the events in our lives that occur unexpectedly – like a death in the family or the loss of a job.

Other times change is something we choose for ourselves. When my sister Mary made the agonizing decision to end her abusive marriage after 25 years, she knew it was what she had to do for her own survival – but that didn’t make it any easier.

This is a something I wrote for Mary during that difficult time.

A Sister’s Sorrow
By Eileen Umbehr

She never wanted it to be this way
This wasn’t the dream she had so long ago,
when she walked down the isle with the man
she wanted to grow old with

No, this doesn’t even come close.

The dream is shattered by reality
Hope has vanished -
Her heart is broken

With every painful step toward the end, she cries.
Grieving for what might have been
Realizing she’s been holding on to what she wanted -
not what she had.

A fantasy.

Even still, this is the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
The death of a family.
The death of a dream.

She fights on. She struggles in her mind.
Is there anything worth saving here?

Then…. she remembers….

Mary, Mimi, Jess, Chloe & Gus


Yet, no matter how painful the process, change is a necessary and natural part of life - like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Mary and her children have never regretted their decision to strive for a better life – a life of freedom, joy and serenity.

A friend of mine sent me this interesting piece titled Changes Come.

Changes Come
By Ralph Marston

To be alive is to change, from moment to moment, from day to day. You take what comes to you and you make of it what you will, changing all the while. Some people see themselves as cursed by those changes that come their way. Others see themselves as blessed by the opportunities that those same changes present. And the fact is, how you see change, how you live it, how you choose to deal with life as it changes, makes all the difference. For change is an engine that can take you as high as you dare to dream.

Changes come continuously and relentlessly. Indeed, they are what keep you alive and what keeps life interesting. So grab those changes and make them your friends. For it is through change that you arrive at precisely where you desire to go.

In closing, I’d like to share a poem I wrote recently.

By Eileen Umbehr

Have you ever felt like you’re growing
(not upward or outward, thank the Lord)
But in a new direction
That you’ve never gone before?

Well, that’s how I feel right now
A change is coming over me
I’m beginning to find the courage
To make my dreams a reality

Now you’re probably wondering -
What dreams, you might ask
I guess you could say that I’m learning
To be real and remove my mask.

I don’t want to live my life
Trying to please everyone else
Because they all have a different opinion
And I have to be true to myself

Change isn’t always easy
You have to leave your comfort zone
But you’ll never regret your decision,
Once you see how much you’ve grown

And if anybody doesn’t like
The changes they see in you
Don’t let them get you down,
Just invite them to try changing, too

Because life is just too short
To let it pass you by
So look in your heart - discover yourself
Then spread your wings and fly!

If you always do
What you’ve always done
You’ll always be
What you’ve always been
~ Josh McDowell

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Best for Last

"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” ~ Matthew 7: 7,8 (RSV)

My brother said that I was rotten to the core
I was the youngest child so I got by with more
I guess she was tired by the time I came along
She'd laugh until she cried, I could do no wrong

She would always save me…because I was her baby

The Baby” ~ recorded by Blake Shelton

This week I’d like to write about my brother, Bob, who will be celebrating his 39th birthday on February 13th.

Bob was “the baby” in our family – the youngest of nine. While the rest of us seemed to arrive in two year intervals, Bob came along a full five years after child number eight.

God must have saved the best for last because Bob has been an answer to prayer from the day he was born. Our sister Connie tells the story about how she prayed fervently for another brother or sister. Then one day Mom gave Connie a note to give to her teacher explaining that she would not be able to attend a parent-teacher conference because she was “infanticipating.” I guess Mom was trying to disguise the news, but Connie figured it out. “Infant + anticipating…..Hmmmm. I’ve got it! Mom’s having another baby!”

We all adored Bob – and still do. I can honestly say that none of us ever thought he was “rotten to the core” – although I do recall thinking he got away with more. When Bob was just a teenager, he used to engage in heated debates with our dad and it sounded an awful lot like “backtalk” to the rest of us! We were pretty convinced that we would have been escorted to our rooms if we had used that tone of voice with our dad!

When Bob was just a baby, he came down with pneumonia and almost died. I still remember seeing his little body lying in that big old hospital bed underneath an oxygen tent. But thank God, our prayers were answered when Bob pulled through. Bob would survive several other close calls throughout his lifetime, including a ruptured appendix and a fall from a high dive.

We all thought Bob was the most adorable baby that ever lived (until we grew up and had children of our own, of course!) – and we enjoyed the cute and funny things he would say and do.

When he was about three years old, our oldest sister Peggy went off to college and Bob went with my parents to help her move into the dorm. A short time later, Mom took Bob to visit a pre-school. After they returned home, Mom asked him how he liked it and Bob’s eyes immediately welled up with tears. “I don't want to go to collitch! I want to stay right here with you, Mom!"

Another time, our dad came home from work and asked, “What’s new?” and Bob answered, “Just gwocewies.”

I remember how Bob used to call our brother Bill, “Bully.” One day when Mom was vacuuming, Bob came running down the hall, crying hysterically. “Mom! Bully threw a block at me!” “Ahhhhh…..Where did he hit you?” Mom asked as comforted him. “He missed me!”

Bob was such a good kid growing up – and a hard worker, too. When he was only eleven years old he had a paper route and he used to get up at five o’clock in the morning to brave the snow and cold of a Minnesota winter.

After high school, Bob attended Notre Dame University and graduated summa cum laude. Three years later, he graduated number two in his class from Duke University School of Law. While attending Duke, Bob was an editor of the Duke Law Journal and won the law school’s moot court competition. He also delivered the graduation address, which contained a touching tribute to our mother who had passed away exactly one year earlier.

Bob married his college sweetheart, Christine and together they have three adorable children of their own; Caitlyn, Connor & Ryan.

Bob & Christine

Caitlyn, Connor & Ryan

About four years after Bob graduated from law school, Keen and I were embroiled in a legal battle with the Wabaunsee County Commissioners. Bob was once again an answer to prayer when he offered to assist in our free speech case. However, when I told our attorney about Bob’s offer, his response was rather cynical. “Everyone has a lawyer in the family who thinks he’s an expert,” he said. But in this case, it happened to be true.

When our lawsuit reached the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Bob successfully argued the merits of our case before the three-judge panel. He wouldn’t even let us pay for his hotel or airfare. “Just consider it my contribution to the cause of freedom,” he said. “Honest to God, Eileen, I believe in this case.”

After the Wabaunsee County Commissioners appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, no one was more surprised than us to learn that they decided to accept our case. Out of 8,000 requests that year, only about 80 cases were granted a hearing. I still remember the day Bob called to tell us, “We’re goin’ to the show!”

Sometime later we received a tempting proposal from one of the largest law firms in the world, Jones and Day. They offered to represent us free of charge at the U.S. Supreme Court. When we asked Bob what we should do, he replied, “You should give it some serious consideration, because they’re a very reputable firm and they’ll probably assign about ten lawyers to the case. The offer itself represents about $100,000 in legal fees,” he explained. “But make no mistake about it – I would dearly love to be the one to represent you at the Supreme Court.”

After much prayerful consideration, Keen and I decided to “dance with the one that brought us.” And were we ever glad we did! On November 28, 1995, several members of our extended family witnessed Bob skillfully respond to the questions the justices asked him in rapid fire succession.

Seven months later to the day, on June 28, 1996, Bob called to deliver the news we’d waited so long to hear. “We won!” Keen and I were screaming and jumping up and down and thanking God. It was such a great victory, not only for Bob and for us, but also for “the cause of freedom.”

I can’t close this column about my brother Bob without mentioning his incredible sense of humor. For example, when I emailed him to ask about his various brushes with death, he provided the info and then added:

“That’s about it for near-death experiences except that I once had a very nasty hangnail and another time stubbed my toe real bad. Blew up the size of a balloon. Speaking of which, don't forget my crash in shorts on Keen's dirt bike and the attractive welts that accompanied that fall. I still have the shape of a muffler imprinted on my inner thigh.”

After Bob provided the specific details on his educational achievements, he wrote: “I also won the 6th grade spelling bee and played King George in the 5th grade class play. I think my first grade teacher gave me a double smiley face as well for sandbox etiquette, in case anyone is interested.”

Bob has always given us so much to be proud of ….and so much to be thankful for.

Happy Birthday, baby brother. We love you.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

My One and Only

“I am my beloved's…and my beloved is mine! His voice and speech are exceedingly sweet; yes, he is altogether lovely – the whole of him…is precious. This is my beloved, and this is my friend…” ~ Song of Solomon 6:3, 16 (Amplified)

I have been blessed
And I feel like I've found my way
I thank God for all I've been given
At the end of every day
I have been blessed
With so much more than I deserve
To be here with the ones that love me
To love them so much it hurts…
I have been blessed.

Blessed” ~ recorded by Martina McBride

Last week, I wrote about the power of words – both negative and positive – and I used the following verse from Proverbs 16:24 to illustrate my point:

“Pleasant words are as honey, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.”

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner (and with my husband’s permission), I’d like to share some “pleasant words” from two love letters he sent me since I’ve been in Nevada. I’ll take love letters over flowers and candy any day. There is no greater gift.

January 16, 2004

Dear Eileen,

It is Friday night and it occurred to me that you haven’t received a love letter from me since we were dating in high school. This is a love letter, long past due.

By tomorrow, it has been only 14 days since you left. I miss you! As busy as I am with school and all, I must admit my heart aches. To be honest, it kind of surprised me that I began to miss you so much and so soon. I love you so much. I am so thrilled that you have the courage to follow your heart – to do what seems crazy or antithetical to the “norms.” I am so proud of you! I think about you more now than I did when you were here.

Last night as I was looking at your pictures, I took stock of how beautiful you are; how encouraging your smile is; how “deep of spirit” you are. After talking with you today – I’m lovesick! I want to wrap my arms around you, and hold you tight.

Well, it’s 12:15 a.m. – I must get to bed – I have a Saturday class at 9:30 a.m.. I want you to know that I love you and miss you every day that you’re gone.

Walk every day in faith. I love you!

January 22, 2004 – 10:15 p.m.

Dear Eileen,

It’s Thursday night and I miss you. Tonight I had planned to begin research on a brief due next week, but I just had to stop and write you….to tell you just how much I love you, how much less of a man I am without you near me!

Lately, I find myself daydreaming about you. How beautiful you are; what great joy you bring me! Someone asked me, “Isn’t it hard to be away from your wife – and for so long?” I said, “Yes, it is; more than I ever expected.” I even admitted that I’m lovesick. But I never doubt that we are on the right path – God’s plan. I marvel at our path. I look at your picture. I remember your voice, your touch, the sight of you sleeping, the expression on your face when I walk into the house.

In a strange way, this experience has brought me closer to you; it has made my heart yearn – ache, really – for you. There is, and can be, no one other than you. When I close my eyes, I see your smile and it brings comfort to my soul. The sight of you is so pleasant in my eyes; like water to parched soil. You being away has made me love you more than if you were here. How can that be?

You are so precious to me; the most important thing in my life – air to my lungs, blood to my heart, life to my soul. I feel so grateful, that out of all the men in the world, you chose – and continue to choose me as the recipient of your affections. I am the most blessed man in the world.

Truly, I must be lovesick for you. It is such great pleasure to be in love with you, sweet as honey to my heart. I just love you and miss you so much! What I wouldn’t give for a talk on the couch with you right now. I know that you are working so hard out there. What a privilege it is to be a part of God’s plan.

There was a time that I struggled with keeping the balance between my love for you and my love for the study of law. But please know that if I was ever forced to choose, I would choose you without a scintilla of regret. You bring such a relief to my heart and soul, Eileen. You are the custodian of all that I hold dear.

One day – the world will stop for us. On that day, we’ll have all the time, money and opportunity to just be together. Until then, please know that it is such a thrill to stand next to you – and be loved by you.

I am out of words to express how much I love you!



“…a word spoken in due season, how good is it!”
~ Proverbs 15:23

Keen & Eileen
Married June 10, 1978