Thursday, October 30, 2003

Follow your Dreams

“For a dream comes with much business and painful effort….”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:3 (Amplified)

Climb every mountain
Forge every stream
Follow every rainbow
Till you find your dream
~ The Sound of Music

I guess you could say that I’m a dreamer – but that’s only because I believe dreams really do come true. My dream is to write a book. There. I said it. But I’ll go into that more in a future article.

Before Keen and I got married, we attended some pre-marriage counseling classes through the church. After we filled out several questionnaires, they analyzed our answers and concluded that we were very compatible. (Whew!) They did find one area of concern, however. They said that we seemed to look at life through “rosy-colored glasses.” Later we joked, “Well, they sure beat those dark green ones!” Come to think of it, those rosy-colored glasses have helped us through some pretty bleak moments in our life.

When Abraham told his wife that God spoke to him and said that she would bear a son in her old age, Sarah laughed. “And the Lord asked Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I really bear a child, when I am so old?” (Gen. 18:13) When Joseph told his brothers about his dream that depicted them bowing down to him one day, they mocked him. “Behold, the dreamer cometh!” they chanted. (Gen. 37:19) Martin Luther King had a dream – one that seemed very far from reality at the time. But all of these dreams eventually came true. So I say, let ‘em laugh!

Recently I read a book by Mark Rutland simply titled, Dream. He writes, “Remember this: No one will ever be as excited about your dream as you are. Oh, encouragers may come. Pray so. Some may even be helpful, generous, magnificently generous, but they can never feel what you feel. No one can ever know the inner exhilaration, the surge of spiritual energy, the utter delight in your soul, for it is, after all, your dream and your soul.”

The author also shared a story about when he was in the 5th grade at a new school and how once a month his teacher would have a “dream day” when each child in the class was asked to share their personal dreams. It could be anything, but they had to say something. And if anyone laughed at another person’s dream, they would have to leave the room. One by one the students shared their dreams for their future. “An astronaut,” one said. “A movie star,” said another. Each time a student shared their dream, the teacher would offer words of encouragement. She talked about how one day she just knew she would hear about them on the news or see their name in lights. She talked about how proud she would be to be able to say that she was their teacher. When Mark Rutland’s turn came around, from somewhere deep inside he heard himself say, “I want to write books.” He was only 10 years old at the time, but his heart already knew that he was born to write. (By the way, he just completed his ninth book.)

We must dare to dream, as the saying goes. But it’s not enough just to dream – we have to take steps toward making our dream a reality. The dream is only the beginning – the very first step. Then the real work begins. We have to be determined not to let anyone or anything stand in our way.

My husband spent nearly 18 years on the back end of a trash truck. But he had a dream that one day he could go back to college to earn his law degree. During the time he was a trash man, he worked diligently to provide his customers with the best possible service. But his frequent prayer was that one day God would allow him to “…use his mind, instead of his back.”

In the fall of 1998, Keen was a guest on The Jim Cates show. Jim asked Keen if he ever considered going to law school. His response was: “Actually, Jim, it’s been a personal dream of mine. But I don’t know if I’ve got what it takes to do it. I have great admiration for those who do, though.” Little did he know that just a few months later we would get the opportunity to sell our trash company, making it possible for him to enroll at K-State for the spring semester. Yes, by the grace of God, that dream is becoming a reality – but not without “much business and painful effort.”

In his book titled, Simple Truths, author Kent Nerburn devotes a chapter to the subject of work. Nerburn encourages the reader to think of work as a vocation, which comes from the Latin word for calling – something that calls to you, that gives voice to who you are and what you want to say to the world. He further states that we should really consider the job we do and see if it is how we want to spend our time. “If it is not,” he writes, “your job will become your prison rather than the vehicle of your dreams. And a person without dreams is only half alive.”

Nerburn goes on to say, “There is no reason why a person can’t abandon a job that does not fit and strike out into the unknown for something that lies closer to the heart….No amount of security is worth the suffering of a life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams.” He then shares a story about one of his professors who had a dream of becoming a concert pianist. But due to a fear of failure, he never realized his dream. Instead, he chose a career in academics where the work was secure and the money predictable. “Do what is in your heart,” the professor told Nerburn. “I really wanted to be a concert pianist. Now I spend every day wondering how good I might have been.”

Nerburn closes the chapter with these words of advice: “Find what it is that burns in your heart and do it. Choose a vocation, not a job, and your life will have meaning and your days will have peace.”

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the things you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

~ Mark Twain

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Finding Your Voice

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” Then Saul clothed David with his armor….And David tried in vain to go….Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these; for I am not used to them.” And David put them off.
~I Samuel 17:37 - 39 (RSV)

Have you ever felt like a chameleon? I have. Oprah refers to it as “the disease to please.” Oftentimes we morph ourselves into whatever size and shape we need to be to win the approval of others. We may be feeling sad, but we put on a happy face because we think that’s what’s expected of us. We may be angry, but we stifle our feelings rather than truthfully confront the person who hurt us. We want people to like us so we agree to volunteer for activities that we really don’t have time for or interest in; we say yes when we want to say no. It’s just easier to deny ourselves than to risk disappointing others.

I don’t think God made each of us unique only to have us spend all of our time and energy trying to imitate somebody else. He wants us to follow our own hearts and be our own person.

In today’s verse we see well-meaning Saul trying to help the poor, misguided, little shepherd boy, David who naively thinks he can take on the giant, Goliath. What Saul didn’t realize is that David wasn’t trusting in his own abilities; he was putting his faith and confidence in God. “You come to me with a sword and a spear and a javelin,” David said to Goliath. “But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts….whom you have defied.” (I Sam. 17:45)

David was open to suggestions, however. He tried to wear Saul’s armor, but it just didn’t fit. It wasn’t him. Whenever we try to be something we’re not, it feels awkward and uncomfortable. So David went out with his sling shot and five smooth stones, trusting God to use his true talents to slay the giant. As I recall, Goliath was insulted when he saw David approaching. Well, too bad for Goliath. David knew who he was and he knew who he wasn’t. But most importantly, David knew who his God was. We can do all things through Him, but not if we’re busy trying to be like somebody else.

"There are as many ways to live and grow as there are people.
Our own ways are the only ways that should matter to us."
~ Evelyn Mandel

Recently I saw the movie “Seabiscuit, and one line jumped out at me. They were talking about a horse that had been tied to a center pole and trained to walk around and around that pole. When they decided to see if he had the potential to be a race horse, he got on the track and started making sharp little turns, instead of following the course. Someone said, “They’ve had that horse running around in circles for so long he’s forgotten what he was born to be.”

We need to look into our hearts and find out what we were born to be, and then be the best one of it.

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be a mom and a housewife. I’ll never forget the year I got an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. I was in seventh heaven! It came with little packets of ingredients for making everything from pretzels to candy. I have always loved being a homemaker and I feel so blessed to have been able to fulfill that deepest desire of my heart.
But that has not been my only desire. I also love to write. I’ve written poems through the years, but this column has been my first experience at sharing my thoughts on a regular basis. It’s been good for me as a writer. It’s helped me find my voice.

“Take care to find your own true strength.
Nurture it. Develop it. Share it with those around you….”

Simple Truths by Kent Nerburn

When Johnny Cash was a young boy, his mother Carrie took in laundry for $3.00 a week so she could get him some singing lessons. After the second lesson the teacher asked Johnny to sing whatever song he’d like. He sang Lovesick Blues by Hank Williams. After his teacher heard him, she pushed away from the piano and said, “End of voice lessons! Sing it the way you feel it!”

Recently I taped one of Dr. Phil’s shows where he dealt with this issue. I recorded the following conversation he had with one of his guests who also had a dream of being a writer.


“I’m a strong believer that we have at the absolute core of who we are what I call an ‘authentic self.’ To me that involves all the gifts, skills, abilities – all the God-given talents, traits, characteristics that you’re given. Then we add to that our learning history; what we’ve picked up from society, what we’ve accomplished or had done to us or by us along the way and that’s our authentic self. And if we’re being consistent with that and we’re allowing those traits and characteristics to come out and achieve, then we’re going to be really, really happy.

“On the other hand, there’s the fictional self, where we start making choices out of fear. We start making choices because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t take the job and stick with it for 16 years. We’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t conform to what Mom or Dad or society or employers or husbands or wives think we should do. And so we say, ‘Okay, authentic self – I hear you crying; I hear you’ve got this talent, I hear you’ve got that skill, I hear you’ve got this ability, but she wants me to do this or he wants me to do that and I’m afraid not to.’

“Look, you’re burning daylight. This is no dress rehearsal. It’s time. If you’re gonna do it, it’s time to do it…..What you need to do is the best you can do. And if the world stands up and salutes that, then great – the world stands up and salutes it…..

“The difference between winners and losers is winners do things losers don’t want to do. That’s the difference between a winner and a loser. Nobody wants to get rejected. Our #1 fear is rejection; our #1 need is acceptance. But winners say, ‘I don’t care if you reject me. It’s gonna hurt me, but you know what? I would rather have the chance and reach for it then sit on the sidelines and watch the world pass me by.’

“What you do is … behave your way to success and what you’ll find out is – monsters live in the dark. So people don’t like something you do? Fine. Somebody else will.

“Writing is a solitary thing – I’ve done it. I’ve written book after book and I sit down and I’m there by myself and it’s late at night and I’m writing and I’m working. Then there comes a time when you put it out there and people are either gonna read it or they’re not – they’re either gonna buy it or they don’t.

“I’ll tell you the secret for me. I decided I’m gonna write this book and I’m gonna tell the truth as I see it…and I was proud of the book whether somebody bought a single copy or not – and then it didn’t matter.”

A friend of mine gave me a beautiful stone plaque that sits on a stand by my computer. It reads: “Words are the voice of the heart.”

I’d like to once again thank Joann Kahnt for giving me this opportunity to find my voice, and the readers of The Prairie Post for listening to it.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

When Love Goes Wrong

"What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.”
~ Mark 10:9

Last week I wrote about the blessings of love and a long-lasting marriage. This week I’d like to talk about the opposite scenario – when love goes wrong.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that the disintegration of the family and the high rate of divorce is a sad commentary on the state of our country. Nobody likes to see a family torn apart by divorce. But I truly believe that sometimes it becomes necessary for the well being and survival of those involved.

In regards to the above Bible verse, my husband had an interesting thought: Maybe God didn’t join some people together in the first place. Isn’t it possible that sometimes we’ve made a terrible mistake and simply married the wrong person? As long as we’re human, we’re capable of making some really bad decisions in our lives. Or maybe the person we married changed after the wedding. I’ve seen that happen time and again – they act like Prince Charming before the wedding, and then they turn into a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But thankfully, God is a God of second chances!

Some may say that’s a copout or an excuse to give up too quickly on marriage. But I’m not talking about the little disagreements that we all have from time to time (or the occasional BIG disagreements, for that matter) – I’m talking about being married to someone who is unfaithful or continually abuses you or your children verbally, emotionally or physically. As much as God hates divorce, I believe He hates seeing His children abused even more. In fact, the Bible tells us that God takes a dim view of men who mistreat their wives.

“And this you do with double guilt; you cover the altar of the Lord with tears [shed by your unoffending wives]…..”
~ Malachi 2:13 (Amp)

God doesn’t want us to live out our days suffering abuse at the hands of someone who has broken their vow to love, honor and cherish – till death do them part.

There are many reasons why women tolerate abuse at the hands of their spouse, but the main reason usually involves financial concerns. Additionally, abusive men are into power and control and they’re usually very good at manipulating their wives into believing that they are worthless and stupid and no one else would ever want them. After years of being criticized and belittled, the woman’s self-esteem is obliterated and she eventually starts to believe all the negative things he says about her. So she resigns herself to a life of misery and heartache, deciding that even a bad love is better than no love.

Another reason many women stay in a verbally or physically abusive relationship is because there are children involved. When they got married, it was for life – and they never wanted their children to come from a broken home. Sadly, in most cases, their home is already broken. Yet, no matter how bad it gets, they convince themselves that they should just hang in there “for the sake of the children.” But we need to ask ourselves, what is it doing to the children to be living in the middle of a war zone?

Besides that, what kind of an example of marriage is that setting for them? Do we want them to think that it’s normal for husbands and wives to scream at each other day in and day out? Do we want our daughters to think it’s acceptable for a man to cheat on them, belittle them or physically abuse them? Is that really the picture of love we want to paint for our children?

Amelia E. Barr once said, "What right do I have to make everyone in the house miserable because I am miserable? Troubles must come to all, but troubles need not be wicked, and it is wicked to be a destroyer of happiness."

In my sister’s case, she and her kids are happier and more peaceful since the divorce (which was finalized last summer). Recently, her 12-year-old daughter had to write an autobiography for school and she talked about how her dad didn’t treat her very well when he lived with them. Then she quoted the words to a country western song by Jimmy Wayne titled “Stay gone.”

Here’s a poem I wrote for my sister two years ago when she was just beginning to contemplate divorce.

For My Sister’s Sake

My sister’s in a marriage –
if you can call it that,
Her husband is so mean to her,
he tells her she’s ugly and fat.

He never shows her any signs
of kindness, love or affection,
Nothing she does ever meets
his standard of perfection.

He yells at my sister day and night
because the house isn’t clean,
Believe it or not, he even complains
about water spots on the washing machine!

When my sister makes an honest mistake
he mocks her and calls her stupid,
I don’t know where this guy came from
but it certainly wasn’t from Cupid!

Even their kids have noticed the fact
that their dad’s not a very nice fella,
They don’t like how he bosses their mother around
as if she were Cinderella.

When times were tough, as they often were
and his insults pierced her heart,
She took a deep breath and told herself
that this was the “for worse” part.

She wanted to keep her family intact
so she fought with all that she had,
She tried to focus on the good
and overlook the bad.

But recently she discovered
that her suspicions about him were true,
It seems there were three people in the marriage
instead of the traditional two.

Now, whether her life as a single mom
will be an improvement, there’s no guarantee,
But for my sister’s sake, I hope she takes that chance
at least then she will finally be free.


Recently another dear friend of mine, Mae from Texas, sent me an interesting commentary on divorce from The Word Among Us magazine (
Coincidentally, Mae and I became friends when she sent me a letter after reading one of the poems I’d written about my sister’s abusive marriage. I’d like to close with this excerpt:

“If you are divorced, know that Jesus loves you just as much as ever. He shares your pain and suffers with you. Think about His encounter with the woman at the well (John 4:1-42). He didn’t condemn this woman, even though she had been married five times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. Instead, He brought her to repentance, healed her, and sent her back to her village to tell other people about Him.

Whether married, divorced, or single, all of us need to know God’s healing. Our Father wants to mend the wounds in every marriage as well as the wounds of those who have been affected by divorce….He wants to put his arms around us and give us His blessing (Mark 10:16).”

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Ain't Love Grand?

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD.”
~ Proverbs 18:22 (RSV)

Through the wonder of computer technology, I’ve been privileged to get to know many people whom I’ve never had the opportunity to meet face to face.

In a recent email from two of those dear people, Jack and Evelyn from Florida, they wrote about the vows at their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. “Gee, that was 61 years ago. How time does get on in our lives. Are we ever blessed!” Later, Jack realized how that sounded and had this to say:

“Just reread the above....better make sure I get you straight! 61 years ago
was our wedding...not 61 years ago, our 50th anniversary. However, you would not have to retake Math 101 to figure that out! Please, Eileen, no mention in your Reflections that you know someone who was married 111 years ago...or are you also writing a Ripley column?”

Okay, Jack. I won’t write about the couple from Florida who has been married for 111 years. But I did write a little poem for you.

61 Years Ago
(for Jack & Evelyn)

How could we have known
how You would bless our life
When 61 years ago,
we became man and wife?

You blessed us with children
And grandchildren, too –
In every situation, Lord
You were there to see us through

Yes, we stand in awe and wonder,
of all the blessings You’ve bestowed
But the miracle we’re most grateful for
began 61 years ago.

Speaking of blessings, last Friday a group of “Almanites” met at Gambino’s Pizza to welcome two very special people to our town, Bob and Alma Walters. But first I should give you a little background information which Bob shared in a letter he wrote to the residents of Alma in a recent edition of The Wabaunsee County Signal-Enterprise.

In the letter, Bob described the profound effect a billboard on I-70 had on his life eight years ago when he was driving from Marion, Ohio to California to visit his stepdaughter, Tasha. During his stay, Bob met Alma, the grandmother of the one-year-old boy Tasha cared for as a live-in nanny. Alma had been widowed 6 months earlier after her husband of 33 years passed away unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Bob wrote about the instant attraction he felt for Alma. During his visit, they had several opportunities to spend time together and with each meeting, his fondness for her grew. But Bob didn’t know how he could express his feelings to someone who had so recently lost her beloved husband. So he left California as planned and headed home to Ohio.

On the drive back he couldn’t stop thinking about Alma. “She was such a warm, wonderful, funny, beautiful woman,” he wrote. In short, Alma was everything Bob could ever hope for in a mate.

The battle to get Alma off his mind continued through Nevada, Utah, Colorado and into Kansas. “Then it happened!” he wrote. “The billboard loomed ahead like an oasis in the desert, sending shockwaves of relief and confidence throughout my mind, body and soul!”


“Those four HUGE words on a billboard in Kansas on I-70 …. a sign from the heavens illuminating my soul! Those four words gave me the confidence to call Alma to ask if she would agree to see me if I came back to California. Those four words gave me the guts to express my feelings and to allow her to respond in a way that established such a wonderful connection that I don’t know how I ever lived without it!

“On September 1st, 1995, Alma and I went out on our first date, and we’ve been together ever since! And the romance, and the laughter, and the love continue to grow!”

Bob went on to explain that he and Alma would be driving through our town of Alma around the first of October and he asked people to contact them so they could make arrangements to meet some of the local residents. They wanted to talk to people who grew up in Alma and perhaps meet those responsible for the sign that changed the course of their life eight years ago.

We all enjoyed visiting and laughing with Bob and Alma. They are an interesting, fun-loving couple with a true zest for life. They are so grateful for the twist of fate that gave Bob the courage to express his feelings for a woman he had only just met.

I guess it goes to show that we should pay attention to the signs in our life – both literal and otherwise!

Thursday, October 02, 2003

My Sister, Mary

But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.” ~ Ruth 1:16

This past weekend I was talking on the phone to our daughter-in-law, Erin, and she had a few humorous stories about things the kids had said or done. The other day her one-year-old, Gabriel, got a hold of the cordless phone. After she took it away from him the phone rang. It was the sheriff’s department calling to make sure everyone was all right because they just received a 911 call. Of all the numbers he could have pushed!

Another time Asher said: “Mommy, our baby is growing up!” They’re going to a new babysitter now since Erin started nursing school so when she picked them up the other day Asher looked sad. He said, “My friend wasn’t there today, Mommy. Gabe had a friend, but I didn’t.” Then Erin was wondering how they liked their new sitter so she asked Asher if she was nice and he said yes. Then she asked him if she ever yells at him and once again he said yes. Feeling a bit concerned, Erin inquired about what she said when she yelled at him and Asher replied, “She said: Be careful!”

My sister Mary gave me a comic strip recently. She said it reminded her of me. It was The Family Circus by Bil Keane and it showed two little kids standing on the sidewalk watching a third boy walking towards them. The one kid says to the other one – “Oh, no! Here comes Billy with more cute things his grandmother said.”

Speaking of Mary – you guessed it – she has a birthday coming up! This Sunday, October 5, she will be celebrating her 47th birthday. Mary and I are just about two years apart in age, but we’re as different as night and day. How is it, then, that we have been the best of friends for nearly our entire life? (With the exception of that period of time when she hated my guts because I wore one of her new shirts before she even wore it and after she specifically told me not to! But we won’t talk about that.)

Mary and I shared a room up until the time that she started high school. By then, a few of our older siblings had moved out, so that freed up one of their rooms. Mary was the best big sister I could ever hope for. Whenever I had trouble falling asleep, she would sing hymns to me from church – like Ave Maria or the Our Father. It worked every time!

The thing I remember most about our childhood is the laughter. Like most sisters, we laughed and giggled about the silliest things. In fact, whenever one of us was feeling blue, we had these imaginary giggle pills that we’d take – and they really worked! But then there were those times when the giggle pills got us into trouble. Like when our dad would come into our room at night to tell us to quiet down and go to sleep. After ignoring repeated warnings, we would suffer the consequences on our backsides.

Mary knew how to play the guitar and she also wrote songs, so she and I would often sing together. In fact, when our parents had dinner parties, several of us girls would entertain the guests by performing for them. We sang songs like Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, 500 Miles, Lemon Tree, Where Have All the Flowers Gone and White Coral Bells (which we sang as a round). I still love those old songs.

Mary’s been with me through thick and thin. When we moved to Singapore and had trouble adjusting to a new high school in a foreign country, we were each other’s only friend. She was there when I came home from my first date with Keen. She was in my wedding and I was in hers. One time she came for a visit and noticed that our oldest son, Jared, was riding a bike with a banana seat that was too small for him. Well, Aunt Mary was absolutely appalled and promptly made her way to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy him a brand new bicycle. When her twins were born, I had the privilege of being there before, during and after their birth. And when she told me that Chloe’s middle name would be Eileen, I was overwhelmed with joy. More recently, I supported her during a painful divorce.

Mary is good for me. She makes me feel special. She calls me “Bean.” I remember how we laughed until we cried when I was at her house and she asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee. “Coffee, Bean?” she asked. We still laugh about that. Everything is funny when I’m with Mary. But she’s got it all wrong. She’s the truly special one.

I found the perfect poem for Mary that I’d like to share with you. Ironically, it comes from a book of poems about sisters that Mary gave me for Mother’s Day last year. This is my birthday wish for you, Mary….. sent with all my love.

You Are a Very Special Sister
By Sydney Nealson.

I want you to know how amazing you are.
I want you to know how much you’re treasured
and celebrated and quietly thanked.

I want you to feel really good about who you are.
About all the great things you do!
I want you to appreciate your uniqueness.
Acknowledge your talents and abilities.
Realize what a beautiful soul you have.
Understand the wonder within.

You make so much sun shine through, and
you inspire so much joy in the lives of
everyone who is lucky enough to know you.

You are a very special person, giving so many people a reason to smile. You deserve to receive the best in return, and one of my heart’s favorite hopes is that the happiness you give away will come back to warm you each and every day of your life.