Monday, February 26, 2007

Love Sown

“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that He answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is . . . The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." ~Mark 12:28, 30-31 (RSV)

I seem to be stuck on the love theme lately. Keen took some ribbing after last week’s column, so just in case anyone was wondering how he feels about me sharing his love notes and “sweet nothings” with the world, he is perfectly fine with it. His philosophy is that anything that happens in the Umbehr house is open game (within reason, of course!). As a matter of fact, this morning I was greeted with another love note taped to my computer. It read: Eileen: Thank you for a great weekend. I know we worked on a couple of projects – but we are storing up for the right to take off extra days to do something special. I can’t wait! Love, Keen. Then he drew a picture of a heart with an arrow through it with the words “I love you.” So now you understand why it’s so easy for me to get “stuck” on the love theme. Someday I’ll have to write another book titled, “Singapore Sweethearts.” But first things first.

Last week I shared that our “fairytale romance” is not exactly “fairytale-ish” 100 per cent of the time. But I’ve been thinking that marriage is like anything else in life – jobs, children, health, finances – you have your good days and your not-so-good days, but you wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world. Recently I was attempting to encourage an elderly friend of mine and I sent him the following email: “Try to remember that the only way depression can come back on you is if you start to allow it to rent space in your brain. What you think about dictates your moods and how you feel. If you're thinking about positive things, (good friends, good health, a safe and warm place to live, enough food, ability to drive, good mind), then you will feel positive. But if you start to think about the negative things in life all the time, then eventually that is all you will see, and your whole world will appear negative, despite all that is right or positive about it. I guess it's like ‘the glass is half full or half empty’ philosophy.”

There’s a verse in the Bible that says: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” That’s so true. We don’t do anything in life without thinking about it first. Whether it’s eating that second (or third) piece of chocolate cake or exercising; pounding our fist, or jumping for joy. A marriage counselor once told my sister that she had to “teach” her husband how to be nice. Bologna. He knew how to be nice; everyone at work sang his praises. He was just nice to everyone but her. So every decision we make in life begins with a thought – whether for good or for evil. That’s why it’s so important to guard our thoughts. As someone once said, “You might not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you don’t have to let it build its nest there.” And I mean really, how important are some of the things that we let drive us absolutely crazy? We act like spoiled little kids when someone cuts us off in traffic or takes our parking spot. We would do well to remember the message behind Richard Carlson’s wonderful book titled: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – And It’s All Small Stuff.”

“But refuse – shut your mind against, have nothing to do with – trifling (ill-informed, unedifying, stupid) controversies over ignorant questionings, for you know that they foster strife and breed quarrels.” ~ II Timothy 2:23 (Amp)

Life is just too much of a gift to ever be taken for granted. Make up your mind that you’re going to kick out any negative thoughts that come your way. When you make a mistake, don’t say, “I’m so stupid!” And when someone else makes a mistake, don’t tell them they’re stupid. Decide to be a positive, loving person. Remember, God is love, so the closer you are to Him, the more love you will have stored up in your heart to share with others. And the love you give away will always find its way back to you.

The bottom line is this: whether you’re married or single, there’s something bigger and more important out there than you. Something you’re meant to do – a life you’re meant to touch, to heal, to save. It may involve visiting people in a nursing home – or spending time with a neighbor who lives all alone. Or maybe you’re meant to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, or volunteer at a battered women’s shelter. It is in giving, that we receive. If we don’t sow anything good, then we can not, and will not, reap a harvest of anything good.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” ~ Galatians 6:9

In closing, I’d like to share the following story sent to me from a friend:

A Lesson on Life

There was an Indian Chief who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.

The second son disagreed. He said the tree was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son said he found the tree laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed with all of them; he said the tree was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The father then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each only seen one season in the tree's life.

He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.

If you give up when it's winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, the fulfillment of your fall.

The Moral of the Story:

Don't let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.
Don't judge life by one difficult season.
Persevere through the difficult patches and better times are sure to come.
Live Simply.
Love Generously.
Care Deeply.
Speak Kindly.
Leave the Rest to God.

“If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” ~ I John 4:12b (KJV)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Love Pondered

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins." ~ I Peter 4:8

I would like to dedicate this belated Valentine column to Keen, my husband of nearly 29 years, my one and only Valentine, my first and last true love, my joy, my heart, my soul, the one who makes me laugh, and in whose arms I feel like nothing else in this big old world really matters, as long as I have his love.

Has ours relationship been the stuff fairytales are made of – a so-called “storybook romance?”

Yes. And no.

If, by storybook, you mean the way we met each other halfway around the world in Singapore when we were both just fifteen years old, then yes. If, by storybook, you mean the fact that we were each other’s first “real” boyfriend and girlfriend, or that I was the first (and last) girl he ever kissed, then yes. If, by storybook, you mean that we stayed together for two years by writing letters when my family moved back to Minnesota and his family stayed in Singapore, then yes. If, by storybook, you mean that Keen took the old-fashioned route by formally asking my father for my hand in marriage, and how, if my father had said no, then we were prepared to postpone our plans until we had his blessing, then yes. If, by storybook, you mean that we waited until our wedding night by going on a three-week ”physical fast” where we could only hold hands, then yes. And if, by storybook, you mean that we’ve been blessed with four wonderful sons, two loving daughters-in-law, and four amazing grandchildren, then yes.

But if, by storybook, you mean that in nearly 29 years of marriage we’ve never had any problems, then No – with a capital “N.”

I’ve often said that every fight we’ve ever had was started – and ended – by me. It’s sad, but true. I would probably be divorced several times over if I hadn’t married Keen. He has been the true picture of what love is really all about. He has seen me as that “diamond in the rough,” and thanks to his patience and kindness, he has brought out the best in me, despite my all-too-slow process of maturing and changing. Keen has never stopped loving me in good times and in bad, and for that reason, we are still together. And he continues to give me more credit that I deserve for being the “wheels that make his wagon work.” He tells me that he could not live without me if I should go first. When I spent a week in Mississippi recently, he said he missed me more than he ever had. (I didn’t know that was possible after the beautiful love letters he sent while I was in Nevada.) Upon my return from Mississippi, he took me in his arms and held me tight. “I’m not as confident without you,” he said. “I’m not as happy, or as peaceful; I’m not myself.”

This past weekend we decided to go to Kansas City. As it turned out, Josh and Lisa were free, so we enjoyed spending time with them and Katelyn. After we returned home and got settled, we decided to watch a television show. Before long, Keen was snoring, so I covered him up and kissed his forehead. This morning when I woke up I found a note he had taped to the bathroom mirror:

Eileen: Today is the morning after our weekend to KCK. I have to go to work. I don’t really want to. I want to stay home with you. I miss you already. Last night, when you put me to bed, I felt so loved, so cared for. I needed that. It somehow refreshed my soul. I love you, Eileen. You are the only thing in my life that matters. Without you, I am nothing; with you, I can do anything! You give me such strength. I will be thinking of you all day. Love, Keen

The truth is that I feel the exact same way about him. During times when we are not seeing eye-to-eye, I can hardly function. I can’t write my column or accomplish much of anything. In fact, I can barely think straight.

“Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:11

But every couple goes through seasons that are more difficult than others. For us, that season has been the past two years. Starting with the unexpected death of my sister Patricia, Keen’s graduation from law school, followed by an intense summer of non-stop preparation for the bar exam, Hurricane Katrina wiping out Jared and Erin’s apartment that fall, my sister’s and my cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy the following spring and summer, all of this while Keen was just getting started with his law practice and opening two offices. During times of high stress, it’s easy to take your frustrations out on each other. But those are the times when you need to spend more time on your relationship, not neglect it; build each other up, not tear each other down.

“A little neglect may breed great mischief; for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

Sometimes just talking about how you’re feeling helps a lot. Don’t keep things inside. Be honest with your spouse, and that will help them to better understand your struggle. The Bible says that a “three-fold cord is not easily broken.” If we drift apart from each other or God, then we lose our strength.

“Separately, we are as fragile as reeds and as easily broken. But together, we are as strong as reeds tied in a bundle.”

~ Inspired by Jewish Writings

Has our marriage been without its seasons of struggle or strife? No. But has it been worth it to work through those dark times? Absolutely. That’s why, on June 10, 1978, at 4:00 in the afternoon, we pledged before God, our family, and our friends, that we would love each other unconditionally for better or for worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in joy as well as sorrow, as long as we both shall live.

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

~ Genesis 2:24 (KJV)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Love Expressed

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you....”

~ Philippians 1:3 (NKJV)

Recently I came across a poem on the internet that really touched my heart, and I wanted to share it with you for Valentine’s Day. After sending a short note to the author requesting permission to republish the poem, I received the following response:

Dear Eileen,

This is Guy, Connie's husband. Connie has just recently passed away after a long illness, and I am taking care of her emails and stuff. Her policy for poems has always been that yes, you may have permission to re-publish her poem, "A Prayin’ Man" without editing or revision, listing Connie Hinnen Cook as the author. Many of her other poems are available on,, and, too, with the same policy applying.

Incidentally, Connie was from Cheney and Wichita, Kansas.

Thank you for expanding Connie's ministry.


Guy Cook for Connie Hinnen Cook


The message of the poem, written as an expression of love from a wife to her husband, reminded me to be ever thankful to God for blessing my life with a loving and faithful husband. It is my hope that when you read Connie’s poem, you too will be inspired to cherish all of your loved ones 365 days a year, and not just on Valentine’s Day.

A Prayin' Man
by Connie Hinnen Cook

As I walked softly in the room
his head was bowed down low,
His hands lay idly in his lap,
his breathing calm and slow.

I thought that he was sleeping
till he opened up his eyes,
He made me want to kiss him
when he said, to my surprise...

"Have I told you that I love you?
I was telling God right now,
Oh, I know He knows already
but I told Him anyhow...

"We both think you're something special
and I know that He'd agree
Nothing bad should ever touch you,
not if it were up to me!"

Prickly goose bumps start to tingle,
icy chills run up my spine,
And sometimes I have to pinch myself:
this prayin' man is mine!

And just before we start our meals
he always says a prayer,
For God to bless the food we eat
and keep us in His care.

I love it when he reaches out
and puts his hand in mine,
And speaking low, he thanks the Lord
when we go out to dine.

He asks the Lord's protection
when we're traveling in the car,
For angels to ride with us
if we're going very far.

I picture one above us,
on the sides, the front, behind,
Our housetop angel waves goodbye,
(but only in my mind).

Girls, you can keep the latest hunk,
I'm not a beef-cake fan,
Stud muffins leave me unimpressed,
give me a prayin' man!

He owns my heart forever
'cause there's nothing stronger than
Words of power, words of blessing
coming from a prayin' man.

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

~ James 5:16 (KJV)

Guy and Connie on a sunny, windy day in Tulsa, Oklahoma last summer

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Love and Laughter of Children

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Framed picture of Katelyn, 7 months old

Last weekend I enjoyed babysitting our granddaughter Katelyn while Josh and Lisa traveled to Wichita to look into a residency program. Oh, how I enjoyed spending one-on-one time with their precious angel, Katelyn Seraphina.

Katelyn smiling at her Grandma Kaus . . .

...and Grandpa Kaus...

. . . and Gram-E Umbehr . . .

. . . and Elmo

Katelyn's locks and blocks

Josh, Lisa & Katelyn, Christmas, 2006

Next week, I'll be in Mississippi visiting our other three grandchildren, Asher, Gabe, and Emma Eileen (and their parents, Jared and Erin, of course!). I’m really looking forward to it.

(Here are some pictures taken during my last visit in October.)

So, with grandchildren on my mind, and Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would share the following collection of stories about the love and laughter children bring into our lives.


Author Unknown

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place,
But have not love, I am a housekeeper – not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements,
But have not love, my children learn cleanliness – not godliness.
Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh.
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window.
Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.

Love is present through the trials.
Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive.
Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child,
then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.
Love is the key that opens salvation's message to a child's heart.

Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection.
Now I glory in God's perfection of my child.
As a mother, there is much I must teach my child,
but the greatest of all is love.

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
(first appeared, Ladies Home Journal, October 1958)

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!
Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep.


(This is a sampling of answers from children who were asked some questions about love and marriage.)


You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.

Alan, age 10

No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you're stuck with.

Kirsten, age 10


Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.

Camille, age 10


You might have to guess, based on whether they’re yelling at the same kids.

Derrick, age 8


Both don't want any more kids.

Lori, age 8


Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.

Lynnette, age 8

On the first day, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.

Martin, age 10


When they're rich.

Pam, age 7

The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that.

Curt, age 7

The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.

Howard, age 8


Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.

Ricky, age 10

When my niece Chloe Eileen (my sister Mary's daughter)was about eight years old, she recited this list of negative attributes describing the kind of man she did NOT want to marry when she grew up! (Sort of an anti-wish list.)

1. Does drugs
2. A gang person
3. Smoking
4. Cheating on real games
5. Don't take turns
6. Too much alcohol
7. Lies
8. Hits girls
9. Doesn't take care of the children
10. Pulls hairs
11. Someone who’s not clean
12. Someone who doesn't make food
13. Someone who doesn't have a job
14. Someone who doesn't snuggle our children in
15. Someone who doesn't play with the children
16. Someone who doesn't take care of the Mommy when the Mommy is sick
17. Someone who steals
18. Someone who breaks windows that are glass and makes us cold
19. Someone who shoots people
20. Someone who isn't kind

And last, but not least . . . Someone who doesn’t love Jesus.

Out of the mouths of Babes.

“Do not be unequally yoked together . . . . [For] what communion has light with darkness?” ~II Corinthians 6:14

Chloe with twin brother, Gus

Chloe on far left with siblings Mimi, Jessica, and Gus