Thursday, December 30, 2004

Looking Back

“And the Lord said to Abram . . ."Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are--northward, southward, eastward, and westward. . .”
~ Genesis 13:14

It’s that time of year once again
Time to reflect on family and friends
Time to remember, in prayer and thought
Time to thank God for the blessings He’s wrought.

2004 has been eventful indeed
Although it’s flown by with amazing speed
Keen will soon complete his time at Washburn Law,
The thought of nearing his goal, gives him a feeling of awe.

Graduation is set for May 2005
We’ll be counting the days until it arrives
Then it’s time to prepare for the bar exam in July
He plans to study non-stop, so nothing goes awry.

Eileen has completed a goal of her own
Her book on the Supreme Court is finally done
Now it’s in the hands of an editor so dear
In hopes of finding a publisher by this time next year.

Jared’s still in the military for two more years,
Then he’ll decide whether to make the Navy a career.
Erin’s almost done with her nursing schooling,
Trying to study with two kids has been quite grueling.

Speaking of the boys, ages five and two,
Asher’s in pre-school and Gabe likes Blue’s Clues.
In December the airlines ran a special deal,
So Gramma flew to Ohio, so kisses she could steal!

Josh & Lisa are the newlyweds, still very much in love
Their busy, busy schedules require help from up Above.
Josh is doing well in his second year of med school,
And Lisa is in nursing, while still working like a mule.

Keen II, our adventurer, started a new job this year
He works on computers for the State and gets along well with his peers.
A Yamaha motorcycle was a dream come true
He’s been wanting one of those since he was in grade two!

I'm just too cool

Kirk Van, my little namesake and the youngest of our four
Is growing up so much, he’s not a baby any more
He likes hanging out with his brothers and going to the mall
But the two loves of his life are his girlfriend and basketball.

As I finish up this poem, let me leave you with this prayer
That God will watch over you and keep you in His care.

With all our love,

Keen, Eileen & Family

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. ~ Numbers 6:24-26

Umbehr Christmas 2004

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Teach the Children

"You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.”
~ Luke 1:31-33

This Christmas story came from the following web page:

Teach the Children
Author Unknown

This is how it happened...I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed, when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out.

"What are you doing?" I started to ask. The words choked up in my throat, and I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.

He then answered me with a simple statement: "TEACH THE CHILDREN!"

I was puzzled; what did he mean? He anticipated my question, and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood bewildered, Santa said, "Teach the children! Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that now-a-days Christmas has forgotten."

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it before the mantle.

"Teach the children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind, all the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven."

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR.

"Teach the children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of His promise."

He then reached into his bag and pulled out a CANDLE.

"Teach the children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness."

Once again he reached into his bag and removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree.

"Teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the real nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection."

He then pulled from his bag an ORNAMENT of himself.

"Teach the children that I, Santa Clause symbolize the generosity and good will we feel during the month of December."

He then brought out a HOLLY LEAF.

"Teach the children that the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly represents the blood shed by Him."

Next he pulled from his bag a GIFT and said,

"Teach the children that God so loved the world that He gave His begotten SON... Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. Teach the children that the wise men bowed before the Holy Babe and presented Him with gold, frankincense and myrrh. We should always give gifts in the same spirit of the wise men."

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a CANDY CANE and hung it on the tree.

"Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherds' crook. The crook on the staff helps to bring back strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper."

He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL.

"Teach the children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang 'Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men."

Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulled out a BELL.

"Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should bring mankind to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return."

Santa looked at me and I saw that the twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the children the true meaning of Christmas and do not put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the One that is, and I bow down to worship Him, our LORD, our GOD."

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
~ Luke 2:9-11 (KJV)

I'd like to wish each and every one of you a very, Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

~ Eileen

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Joy to the World

"Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining . . . that you may show yourselves to be blameless . . .children of God . . . “
~ Philippians 2:14-15a (Amp)

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
Mr. Grinch . . .

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch . . .
Excerpts from “Mr. Grinch” by Dr. Suess

The Bible teaches us that the joy of the Lord is our strength, so when we get grouchy and start complaining about the circumstances of our life, it can send us spiraling downward into a sea of self-pity, which in turn robs us of the strength we need to face our struggles.

When Keen was hauling trash, he proved this principle to be true time and time again. If he started griping and complaining about large piles of trash in the morning, then he would drop like a lead balloon and be just miserable the rest of the day. But on those days where he made a determined effort to hold his tongue and do the work without complaining, he seemed to rise above the frustration of it all. There were still large piles and trash that dogs tore into, but it just didn't seem to get him down like it usually did.

“All the days of the desponding afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and foreboding], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. ~ Proverbs 15:15

That reminds me of an experiment Keen and I tried one time when we made a conscious decision not to complain about a single thing for one entire week. We somehow managed to bite our tongues and resist every temptation to grumble or complain that whole week. The results were simply amazing. As I recall, we had several unexpected stressful situations arise that week, but instead of sinking under the weight of the pressure, we were able to soar like eagles above the storms. It really was remarkable. Unfortunately, repeating the success of that experiment was easier said than done. But I know from experience that it works!

“For let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days (good whether apparent or not), keep his tongue free from evil, and his lips from guile . . . Let him turn away from wickedness and shun it; and let him do right.”
~ I Peter 3:10

I hate to admit it, but I’m really preaching to myself this week, as last week I acted like a real grinch (as opposed to some other, less-flattering description of my behavior). It seems like once I start complaining, I get on a roll of negativity and nothing seems right.

”These are inveterate murmurers (grumblers), that complain of their lot in life . . .”
~ Jude 16

My poor husband. God sure knew what He was doing when He matched us up, because I'd probably be divorced three times over if I hadn't married such a patient man. I'm serious! But with all my imperfections, he still loves me. That's why I write poems about him all the time, because I’m so grateful for his love and for the way he always knows how to help pull me out of my funk.

The other day my niece Mimi sent me the following email which offered one possible explanation for my “grinchiness.”


1. Everyone around you has an attitude problem.
2. You're adding chocolate chips to your cheese omelet
3. The dryer has shrunk every last pair of your jeans.
4. Your husband is suddenly agreeing to everything you say.
5. You're using your cellular phone to dial up every bumper sticker that says: "How's my Driving? Call 1- 800-"
6. Everyone's head looks like an invitation to batting practice.
7. Everyone seems to have just landed here from "outer space."
9. You're sure that everyone is scheming to drive you crazy.
10. The ibuprofen bottle is empty and you bought it yesterday.

But the truth of the matter is: male or female, young or old, we all have "issues" and we all have ample opportunities to complain every day.

I’ve noticed that many of our standard complaints seem to center around two major areas of life: kids and cars. Kids spill their milk, wet their pants, hit their brother, get in trouble at school and unroll the toilet paper, as in this picture of my guilty grandson, Gabriel, with his exasperated mother, Erin.

As for the motor vehicles we can’t live with and we can’t live without: they either won’t start, or get a flat tire, or we lock our keys in them. Sometimes the steering goes out all together causing a minor accident and both air bags to deploy, as in the case of our son Keen’s car this past weekend. (Thankfully, Keen and our other son, Kirk, were both uninjured.) Then there are those “miscellaneous complaints” such as long lines in the grocery store, traffic jams, grouchy store clerks, or being overcharged for something you purchased and not discovering it until after you get back home. You know – things like that.

But the only way we can overcome the tidal wave of frustrations that wash over us on a daily basis is to button our mouths! As Proverbs 10:19 says: “In a multitude of words transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.”

One of my favorite books (and one I’d highly recommend for any grinches or worry warts on your Christmas list), is “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff …and It’s All Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. It contains so many practical insights that help remind us of how some of life’s most trivial issues can cause so much needless aggravation. A few of the chapter titles are: Make Peace with Imperfection; Be Aware of the Snowball Effect of Your Thinking; Remind Yourself that When You Die, Your “In Basket” Won’t Be Empty; Ask Yourself the Question, “Will This Matter a Year from Now?”; and Set Aside Quiet Time Every Day. Those are just a few examples from the 100 wisdom-packed chapters included in the book.

So instead of grumbling and complaining during this hectic holiday season, let’s try to be thankful for the many blessings we do have and use our words to bring joy to ourselves and all those around us.

“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
~ Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

Joy to the World!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

For Keeps

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
~ Philippians 4:11-13

The inspiration for this week’s column came from the following story which was sent to me by my step-mother, Barbara Brady. It’s called “Keepers,”

Author Unknown

I grew up in the Fifties with a practical parent -- my mother, God love her, who ironed Christmas wrapping paper and washed aluminum foil so she could reuse it. My mother even ironed Christmas ribbons - they were made of rayon back then. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it. It was the time for fixing things – the screen door, a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, the hem in a dress. Things we keep. It was a way of life and sometimes it made me crazy…all that re-fixing, re-eating, renewing. I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there'd always be more.

But one day Mother died and as I sat in my kitchen that Sunday afternoon reading her old handmade cookbook in a binder, I was struck with the pain of feeling all alone, learning that sometimes there isn't any “more.” Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away...never to return. So...while we have it, it's best we love it....and care for it.....and fix it when it's broken. And heal it when it's sick.

This is true for old cars.... and children with bad report cards..... and dogs with bad hips..... and best friends who moved away or classmates we grew up with… and aging parents...and grandparents.
We keep them because they are worth it…because we are worth it.


When I was growing up in a family of nine children, we always had everything we needed. We had plenty of food and clothing, a nice place to live, ample sources of recreation and most of all, lots of love.

But I’ll be honest with you, one of the main reasons we had everything we needed was because our mother was so frugal. With that many kids to care for, she had to cut corners and save money wherever she could.

For example, Mom used to save those green stamps from the grocery store and painstakingly paste them into little booklets. I don’t recall what she received when the booklets were full, but it was something of value. Another way she saved money was by buying powdered milk. I can’t speak for all of my siblings, but I know I hated that stuff. There was always a layer of unmixed milk floating on the top. I remember one time I invited a friend over from school and I asked Mom if she would please buy a quart of “real milk” because I was so embarrassed. (Now I’m embarrassed to admit that I was embarrassed!)

Another way Mom saved money was in the area of sweets. Other than ice cream for dessert, she didn’t buy much junk food. When we took our sack lunches to school we usually had a sandwich, chips and a piece of fruit. It seemed sooo boring compared to the other kids’ lunches. I used to drool over the Hostess Twinkie snacks my friends had in their lunches every day. (Maybe that’s why I have such a sweet tooth!)

Lastly, Mom got all kinds of mileage out of the hand-me-downs in our family. With six girls and three boys, there always seemed to be plenty of clothes to hand down! Since we wore uniforms through the eighth grade at the Catholic school, I didn’t get to wear “regular clothes” until I attended ninth grade at Hudson Junior High. Being the youngest of the six girls, I had so many hand-me-downs that I didn’t repeat the same outfit for the first six weeks of school! Let me tell you, I was in seventh heaven!

It’s a good thing I enjoyed it while I had the chance, because the following year we moved to Singapore where it was back to school uniforms once again. In fact, I remember getting into trouble for being out of uniform because I wore bright yellow socks with matching yellow hair ribbons. I would do anything to spruce up my school uniform.

But the art of learning to be content whatever state you’re in is a valuable one. Keen and I have been dirt poor and we have had plenty, but always... always… we have had everything we need.

"I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out upon you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.... that you might recognize and know [your dependence on Him who is saying], I am the Lord your God."
~ Deuteronomy 29:5, 6b

It’s in the lean times when you learn to focus on what is really important in life – God, good health and the love of your family. When it’s all said and done, nothing else really matters.

Around the Corner
By Henson Towne

Around the corner, I have a friend
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friend's face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell,
And he rang mine.

Ah, but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.
“Tomorrow,” I say, “I will call on Jim.”

“Just to show that I'm thinking of him.”
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner! Yet, miles away.
“Here's a telegram, sir.”
“Jim died today.”

And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you...May you be content knowing you are a child of God.... Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you.”
~ St. Theresa, known as the Saint of Little Ways, who believed in doing little things in life well and with great love.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Battle of the Bulge

"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you…
And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
~ John 6:27,35 (NKJV)

Have you ever wondered why it takes six months to take off the weight you gained from only overeating one week during the holidays?

That happened to me several years ago when we drove to Minnesota to spend Christmas with my brother Joe and his family. Joe’s wife, Cindy has a yearly tradition of getting together with several of her friends and baking every type of Christmas delicacy you can imagine. Then they divide them up and everyone goes home with a smorgasbord of wonderful treats for their family.

Well, I have a terrible sweet tooth, which I constantly battle, but that year I just couldn’t resist. So, after deciding in advance that my overindulgence would be well worth whatever consequences I might have to suffer, I sampled one or more of nearly every scrumptious variety. Six months later, when I was still trying to lose the extra pounds I’d gained during my gluttonous binge, it didn’t seem like such a good idea.

Once I hit forty, I noticed that I began putting on some extra weight, even though I didn’t think I was eating any more than I normally did. My doctor explained that our metabolism slows down as we age, so if we don’t do something in the way of exercise to counteract that sad fact, then we’ll find ourselves losing the battle of the bulge.

The good news is that studies show exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous in order to be effective. One time my doctor asked me if I exercised. Since I didn’t work out at a fitness center, I sheepishly answered no. “But my husband and I walk several times a week,” I quickly added. Her response was a pleasant surprise. “What do you mean? Walking is one of the best forms of exercise around.” I guess I should have known that, because I lost twenty pounds when Keen and I walked once or twice a day during the seven months we spent waiting for the Supreme Court to hand down a decision.

Our son Josh is a second year medical student at KU and he has always been a great source of information and encouragement when it comes to health and nutrition. He says it’s a numbers game – like depositing or withdrawing money from the bank. By exercising, we can attempt to “withdraw” more calories than we “deposit.” He reminds me of the importance of keeping active so I’ll stay healthy long enough to enjoy my grandchildren.

One article Josh emailed me stated that we can lose 10 pounds in a year just be eating one tablespoon less fat per day (although some fats like olive oil and those in fish are actually good for you). “It’s not about making sweeping overhauls that are doomed to fail,” said Katherine Tallmadge of the American Dietetic Association in an interview with the Associated Press. The article went on to state that it’s time to “stop stuffin’ it and start huffin’ it.”

Here’s another email Josh sent me awhile back:

Hey Mom,
I needed a quick study break so I thought I’d find out a little moreon that book for you. It’s only $7 on If you type in
"Intuitive eating" you should get a book called "Intuitive Eating:
A Recovery book for the Chronic Dieter: Rediscover the pleasures
of eating and rebuild your body image." Also at that website you
can click the link “search inside the book” and it'll let you read
the first 10 pages or so. Within the first page I was reminded
how much I love this book.

Here's what I mean:

" . . . Dieting had made her more preoccupied with food. Dieting hadmade food the enemy. Dieting had made her feel guilt when she wasn'teating diet-type foods (even when she wasn't officially dieting).Dieting had slowed down her metabolism . . ."" .

. .Each diet teaches the body to adapt better for the nextself-imposed famine (another diet). Metabolism slows as the bodyefficiently utilizes each calorie as if it's the last. The more drastic the diet, the more it pushes the body into the calorie-pinchingsurvival mode. Fueling metabolism is like stoking a fire. Remove thewood and the fire diminishes. Similarly, to fuel our metabolism, wemust eat a sufficient amount of calories, or our bodies willcompensate and slow down . . ."

Alright, the cat's outta the bag, now you know where I get most of myanalogies. But Boy howdy does that say it all or what. And the wholebook is like that!I would be happy to sit down with you anytime. Back to the books,
test tomorrow, pray for me.Josh


In an email column titled “Faith to Faith” from Kenneth Copeland Ministries (, Kenneth shared his past struggles with weight and how he’s lost literally hundreds of pounds over the years, only to gain them right back again. He said he used to pray that God would help him lose weight, until he finally realized that he didn’t have a weight problem, he had a food problem.

“I wanted to lose weight,” he said, “but I didn’t want to permanently change my eating habits. I was like an alcoholic who wants to be able to drink constantly and not be affected by it. I wanted to eat nine times a day and still weigh 166 pounds!”
With the exception of those rare individuals who seem to be able to eat everything in sight and never gain a pound, most of us struggle to varying degrees in this battle for good health and physical well being. After all, it’s not about looking like a runway model, it’s about achieving a weight that we feel good about and that’s healthy for us.

I’d like to close this column on a more humorous note with the following poem by Dwight Burgess, who graciously gave me permission to share it with you.

By Dwight Burgess
Wamego, Kansas

Two gals chanced to meet one day on the street
There in front of the Café Sublime
“Oh Sylvia dear, imagine meeting you here,
Dear, it’s been such a very long time.”

“You’re looking great, you’ve lost so much weight,
why I hardly knew who you were.
It seems it’s more than a year since I saw you, Dear,
we need to catch up on old times, for sure.”

“Why, Dear, bless my soul, let me buy you a roll,
tell me how things are at your house.
Our lives change so much, we seem to lose touch,
are you still married to that louse?”

Then Sylvia said, slowly nodding her head,
“I’m afraid that the answer is yes.
I live with that hog like a whipped puppy dog,
I’m a glutton for punishment I guess.”

“Heaven knows it’s a job putting up with that slob
it’s been even tougher of late.
He smells such a fright I lose my appetite
that’s why I’ve lost so much weight.”

“And you better believe that I’m going to leave,
and heaven knows I’ve sure got grounds.
I won’t let the door hit my backside anymore,
but first I want to lose another 12 pounds.”

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
~ Romans 14:17 (NKJV)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

One More Day

“…do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
~ Ephesians 6:4

I watched him take the two-strike call:
He hadn't tried to swing at all.
I guess he'd had all he could take,
He walked away, for goodness sake.
His father's voice was loud and mean:
"You won't amount to anything."

That little boy quit tryin',
He just walked away.
There were teardrops on his face.

Tell me, how would you feel?
You'd probably give up too,
If nobody believed in you.

”If Nobody Believed in You” ~ recorded by Joe Nichols


“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
~ Proverbs 12:18

Love at Home (Author Unknown)

I ran into a stranger, as he passed by,
"Oh excuse me, please" was my reply.

He said, "Please excuse me, too;
I wasn't watching out for you."
We were very polite, this stranger and I.
We went on our way and said good-bye.

But at home a different story is told,
How we treat our loved ones, young and old.
Later that day, cooking the evening meal,
My son stood beside me very still.
When I turned, I nearly knocked him down.
"Move out of the way," I said with a frown.
He walked away, his little heart broken.

I didn't realize how harshly I'd spoken.
While I lay awake in bed,
God's still small voice came to me and said,
"While dealing with a stranger,
common courtesy you use,
but the children you love,
you seem to abuse.

Go and look on the kitchen floor,
You'll find some flowers by the door.
Those are the flowers he brought for you.
He picked them himself: pink, yellow and blue.
He stood very quietly not to spoil the surprise,
you never saw the tears that filled his little eyes."

By this time, I felt very small,
And now my tears began to fall.
I quietly went and knelt by his bed;
"Wake up, little one, wake up," I said.
"Are these the flowers you picked for me?"
He smiled and said, "I found 'em, out by the tree.
I picked 'em because they're pretty like you.
I knew you'd like 'em, especially the blue."

I said, "Son, I'm very sorry for the way I acted today;
I shouldn't have yelled at you that way."
He said, "Oh, Mom, that's okay.
I still love you anyway."
I said, "Son, I love you too,
and I do like the flowers, especially the blue."

“A gentle tongue [with its healing power] is a tree of life, but willful contrariness in it breaks down the spirit.” ~ Proverbs 15:4


"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up…that it may benefit those who listen.” ~ Ephesians 4:29

Author Unknown

Whatever our hands touch---
We leave fingerprints!
On walls, on furniture,
On doorknobs, dishes, books,
As we touch we leave our identity.

Oh please, wherever I go today,
Help me leave heartprints!
Heartprints of compassion
Of understanding and love.
Heartprints of kindness
and genuine concern.

May my heart touch a lonely neighbor
Or a runaway daughter,
Or an anxious mother,
Or, perhaps, a dear friend!

I shall go out today
To leave heartprints,
And if someone should say
"I felt your touch,"
May that one sense be...YOUR LOVE
Touching them through me.

“Clearly, you are a letter from Christ…written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts.”
~ II Corinthians 3:3


“At your age, I know I was caught up in raising my family – thinking of a million things. I wish now that I had spent just a wee bit more time taking time to stop to smell the roses. But I was more like a runner, grasping for air, in a frenzy to have perfect kids, a perfect house, etc… Oh to go back, even if for only a day!”
~ Letter from my friend, Marian Umscheid ~ April, 1995

Author unknown

Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face
and laugh when I feel like crying.

Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to
wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.

Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and
pick you up and take you to the park to play.

Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and
let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.
Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the
computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles.

Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny
grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck,
and I will buy you one if he comes by.

Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going
to be when you grow up, or second-guess every decision I have made
where you are concerned.

Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and
I won't stand over you trying to fix them.

Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us
both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a
story about how you were born and how much I love you.

Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not
get angry.

Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit
on the porch and count all the stars.

Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and
miss my favorite TV shows.

Just for this evening when I run my fingers through your hair as
you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the
greatest gift ever given.

And I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for
their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting
their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and the mothers and
fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer endlessly –

screaming inside that they can't handle it anymore.

Yes, my child, when I kiss you good night I will hold you a little tighter,
a little longer. It is then that I will thank God for you and ask Him for nothing…
except one more day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone ~ Eileen Beautiful web page

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Pressing On

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward…”
~ Colossians 3:23,24a (NKJV)

Well, I have to admit that I’ve been dreading writing this column updating everyone about the progress of my book. Let me just say that telling someone (or lots of someone’s) that you’re writing a book is like announcing to the world that you’re going on a diet. I can hear the tap, tap, tap of the feet, feet, feet. “Hmmm. She doesn’t look any thinner to me.” “I thought she went to Nevada to write her book. Now she’s back and still no book.”

“I am as a wonder and surprise to many, but You are my strong refuge.”
~ Psalm 70:7

I know, I probably sound like the girl who cried wolf, but in my defense, it’s a complex process and I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m learning as I go. But honestly, I’m still plugging away at it.

Just days before I wrapped things up in Nevada and was preparing to go home, I had a near crisis when my brand new computer crashed and could not be repaired. Thank God, I had just backed up my book onto a CD and mailed it to myself back in Alma.

Computers are great, but I don’t trust them any further than I can throw them. Anyway, I only lost a few pages and at that point, I felt that the rough draft was about 90% complete. Now, I’m not so sure.

“Starting a book is like taking a slow trot through the woods. Then it becomes one of the most arduous journeys of your life." ~ Author Jan Karon

After returning to Alma, I spent several weeks getting settled and the next thing I knew, I was back on the housewife track, getting distracted by all kinds of domestic duties – which only confirmed the fact that I cannot write at home.

"Working towards a goal is like taking a journey. Every side trip you take which runs perpendicular to your destination only delays your arrival." ~ Keen

A few weeks ago I attended the Kansas Author’s Club convention in Topeka (it’s for anyone who enjoys writing – not just published authors), and listened to a talk by children’s author, Jane Kurtz. Jane shared about the time her house was completely flooded and her family had to move into a FEMA trailer while their home was being renovated. She pointed out the fact that she had continued to write while living in temporary housing with several small children at home. Immediately, my brain short-circuited, because I can’t seem to focus on writing even when my house has been completely vacated. No matter. All writers have their quirks and this is mine. I need to leave my house to write!

"Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright. Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left…"
~ Proverbs 4:26,27

So my solution during this phase of the project has been to pack my bags once again – but this time I’m only straying 30 miles from home to the house we own in Manhattan. None of our college-aged children are using it right now, so it has proven to be an ideal writing studio. It’s exciting to be making progress towards my goal once again – even though things are still moving slower than I’d like.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been pouring through boxes and boxes of records and three-ring binders containing every scrap of correspondence from our lawsuit. There are more legal twists and turns in this story than I can keep up with. Just when I think I’ve recorded every detail known to man, I make another archaeological find and unearth an additional piece of the puzzle.

But this week was a tough one for me in the writing department. I keep reminding myself of the pearls of wisdom my sister Joanne gave me several months ago. “Keep breathing; keep moving; keep writing – you’re going to make it!”

Here’s an email I sent to a writer friend from California, Mike Stein, describing my predicament:

“…I'm struggling right now. I remember you told me to go to a movie or go for a walk when I get writer's block, but I feel like I have such a long, long way to go, so I want to stay on it until I get it done. I don't want to waste any time. What's making it hard is that it's emotional for me to continue to relive everything we went through. It was just one battle after another - we fended off attack after attack. I don't like stirring up all those painful memories. But I know I have to tell our story and I've come too far to turn back….”

(Here’s some examples of quotes that brought back those memories.)

"We are in the heat of the battle. We celebrate Christmas by clinking our tin cans together. They're full of water, but we make believe it's wine and go right back to the war. Everyone else celebrates with a turkey, a tree and presents. They are worlds apart from us and the way we live." ~ Keen, June, 1990 "This morning when I woke up I thought this would be the day I wasn't going to make it. As much as you want to get up, you can't. It's not like other times; it's just not there. You're walking on thin air." ~ Keen, July, 1995

Tonight Keen was talking about how he treasures our walks and the times we’ve danced on the patio. Then I said, “But you know what’s sad? There would have been so much more of that if there had only been less of this (the lawsuit).”

Keen replied, “But would it have been as sweet? If we’d never climbed the mountains, would we appreciate the plains?”
~ September, 1996, after the lawsuit was settled

Mike’s response to my e-mail: “…Keep at it. That's only course you can take if you want a finished book. Two suggestions: l. Steel yourself to be dispassionate. Get in a frame of mind where you are writing about somebody else. 2. Relive the ordeal by discussing it with Keen or anybody else involved. This also may help you dredge up facts you may have forgotten…Don't suppress anything. YOU'RE A WRITER! Recently, I read a New Yorker article about Thomas Carlyle, the Englishman, who wrote the massive volume, THE HISTORY OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. After finishing the manuscript after years of labor, he gave it to a literary friend for comment. The friend’s housekeeper, mistaking it for a pile of trash, tossed it into the fireplace, where it was destroyed. This was l835 and no copies could have been made. Carlyle was heartbroken and lapsed into a fit of depression, declaring to himself that he could never rewrite the book. But he did, forcing himself to take pen in hand again. He believed in the book and that it must be published. I know you believe in your book. So take a leaf from Carlyle.”
My response:

“And to think I was going to "un-send" my letter to you. Just hit a low point. But I'm glad I didn't. Thanks for the sound advice. You can be sure I'll be reading it over and over. The comment about being dispassionate was interesting. I feel like that's what I've had to do to write this more historical version of our story. You know me – I like the tear-jerking stuff. I always wanted to write "the personal side of an extended legal battle" based on my journals. But I guess I told you it turned out to be too much to put into one book. So this is more of the documentary version based on court documents/transcripts, letters to and from attorneys and newspaper accounts. I really had to take myself out of it in order to maintain my objectivity. I really appreciated the story about Carlyle. If he could start completely over, then I can finish what I've started.” “For a dream comes with much business and painful effort…”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:3a (Amp)

In my office in Carson City, NV

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Welcome Home

“Then he said unto him, Come home with me…”
~ I Kings 13:15 (KJV)

With great anticipation he waited at the door His only son was due from overseas For months now he'd been waitin' since he'd gone off to war And his eyes were filled with tears of great relief

Welcome home, son His loving arms held open and his heart so full of love Welcome home, son I've been praying and been hoping and I never did give up I knew that you'd return to me The place where you were meant to be Rest now, for you've been gone too long I heard him say as they embraced "I've waited so long for this day My son, my very own...Welcome home"

Welcome Home ~ recorded by Dolly Parton

There was an interesting article by Karen Ann Bland in this month’s edition of Kansas Country Living. Ms. Rand reported on the dedication ceremony of the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney, Kansas – one of four such cemeteries being built across the state to provide burial grounds for veterans and their families.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran spoke to more than 300 people who attended the ceremony and challenged them to ask themselves on Veterans Day, “Are our reasons for living as great as theirs were for dying?” Rep. Moran went on to talk about his trip to France earlier this year for the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion and D-Day. “I stood on the sands of the Normandy beaches; saw the waves lapping on the shore, the cliffs ahead. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for those young men, so many years ago, to disembark from their ships and charge out across the sand. For those who saw the dream, today we see the reality.”

I’d like to dedicate this column to all the veterans who sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom in America. I’d also like to pay tribute to the members of my own family who have served in the Armed Forces. My father, Joseph Van Kirk, who fought in World War II, my brother-in-law, Art Reese who fought in Viet Nam (both with the United States Army) and our son, Jared Joseph, who enlisted in the Navy after 9-11. Jared is in Special Forces and is currently serving in Southeast Asia.

This son
(For Jared)

We thought that we would wait
But God had other plans instead
Born eleven months to the day
From the day that we were wed

This son

Pure joy from the start
A bundle of love
Making us laugh
Giving us hugs

This son

Welcoming your brothers
One, two and three
Always the peacemaker
When they’d disagree

This son

Amazed by your wisdom
And your sense of fairness, too
We marveled at the gifts
God had bestowed on you

This son

Thinking of others
Your number one trait
The perfect ingredients
For father and mate

This son

September 11th
Shook the country to its core
You never hesitated a moment
To answer the call to war

This son

How can we describe
How proud we are of you
Of everything you stand for
And everything you do

This son

Now that you’re overseas
This is my constant prayer
“Lord, please keep this son of ours
Ever in Your care.”


Welcome Home
Author Unknown

I sat in my seat of the Boeing 767 waiting for everyone to hurry and stow their carry-ons and grab a seat so we could start what I was sure would be a long, uneventful flight home. With the huge capacity and slow-moving people taking their time to stuff luggage far too big for the overhead and never paying much attention to holding up the growing line behind them, I simply shook my head. This flight was not starting out very well.

I was anxious to get home to see my loved ones so I was focused on "my" issues and just felt like standing up and yelling at these clowns to get their act together. I knew I couldn't say a word so I just thumbed through the "Sky Mall" magazine from the seat pocket in front of me.

With everyone finally seated, we just waited and waited with the cabin door open and no one in any hurry to get us going – even though we were well past the scheduled take off time. No wonder the airline industry is in trouble, I told myself. Just then, the attendant came on the intercom to inform us all that we were being delayed. The entire plane let out a collective groan. She continued speaking. "We are holding the aircraft for some very special people who are on their way to the plane. The delay shouldn't be more than 5 minutes.”

The word came after we had already waited six times as long to finally be on our way home. Who were these “special people?” Why all the hoopla over these folks? I was expecting some celebrity or sport figure to be the reason for the hold up.....Just get their butts in a seat and let’s hit the gas, I thought.

The attendant came back on the speaker to announce in a loud and excited voice that we were being joined by several U. S. Marines returning home from Iraq. Just as they walked on board, the entire plane erupted into applause. The men were taken by surprise by the 340 people cheering for them as they searched for their seats. Everyone within an arm's distance of them shook their hands or touched them as they passed down the aisle. One elderly woman kissed the hand of one of the Marines as he passed by. The applause, whistles and cheering didn't stop for a long time.

When we were finally airborne, I was not the only civilian checking his conscience about the way I had reacted to the delays in getting “me” home to my family, my easy chair, a cold beverage and the remote control. These men had sacrificed so much for all of us and I had been complaining silently about me and my issues. I took for granted the everyday freedoms I enjoy and the conveniences of the American way of life. I took for granted the price that had been paid by those heroes who were going home to their loved ones.

I attempted to get my selfish outlook back in order. Minutes before we landed I got the attendant’s attention and suggested that she ask everyone to remain in their seats until our heroes were allowed to gather their things and be the first off the plane. The cheers and applause continued until the last Marine stepped off the plane.

I felt proud of them. It was an honor and a privilege to be among the first to welcome them home and to say “Thank you for a job well done.”

I vowed that I will never forget that flight nor the lessons learned. I can't say it enough, THANK YOU to those Veterans and active servicemen and women who may read this.


I hope to hear God sayin’
when it's my time to go Welcome home While the angel band is playin'
and God comes to claim my soul The angels will be singing
and joy bells will be ringing Rejoicing, I'll shout and sing along
When there are no more wars to fight And we're all children of the light When the Father and the Son say "Welcome home!"

Welcome Home ~ recorded by Dolly Parton

Official Veterans Day poster for 2004

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Still the One

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
~ Colossians 3:14

Looks like we made it
Look how far we've come my baby
We might of took the long way
we knew we'd get there someday

They said, I bet, they'll never make it
but just look at us holding on
were still together, still going strong

You're still the one I run to
the one that I belong to
you're still the one I want for life
You're still the one that I love
the only one I dream of
You’re still the one I kiss goodnight

You’re still the one ~ Recorded by Shania Twain

Someone sent me the following list in an email.

1. It is important that a man helps you around the house.2. It is important that a man makes you laugh. 3. It is important to find a man you can count on. 4. It is important that a man loves you and spoils you.5. It is important that these four men don't know each other.

Of course this is a joke that implies there is no such man living on Planet Earth. But I’m here to say that I married someone who has all those attributes and more. I’d like to dedicate this column to my one-in-a-million husband who will be turning 46 on November 8. Happy Birthday, Keen!

A Real Find
By Eileen Umbehr
For Keen on our 21st anniversary - June 10, 1999

I was shopping for a gift,
for my husband, dear;
something to commemorate,
our marriage of twenty-one years.

I thought that I would buy him,
a tie tack for the occasion,
and so I headed for the mall,
to fulfill my expectation.

I found so many different styles,
some were fancy, others plain,
and it wasn't very long before,
my patience started to wane.

But finally I narrowed my search,
down to two that looked real nice;
the only difference between them,
was, of course, the price!

In my mind I debated the issue,
back and forth I went,
trying to decide which one to buy,
for this blessed event.

Suddenly, it all became clear,
like a light bulb going off in my head;
so I pointed to the more precious one,
and this is what I said.

My husband is a real gem,
truly, I do not jest;
for he's one in a million,
who deserves the very best.

Thus, the choice is simple,
this fine tie tack is now sold;
for my husband's not a gold-plated guy,
he's 14-karat gold!

Now, here we are, five years later....still in love and still writing love notes. Here’s one I received just last week while I was working on my book at our house in Manhattan.


Its 10:40 p.m. and I have competed the writing project. Now, I am missing you so much. It just came over me all at once and made me so sad. I want you to know that I am what I am because of you. Never a day goes by that I think that I could survive without you. I love you.I can't wait to see you tomorrow.Love,Keen

Twice as much
By Eileen Umbehr

26 years of I love you’s
26 years of I love you, too’s

26 years of feeling blessed
26 years of passing time’s test

So many memories
Shared by us two
I could write a book
About this love so true

Just the other night,
after saying our prayers,
Something he said,
brought me to tears

First I said good night
and “I love you so much”
Then he softly replied,
“I love you twice as much as so much.”

26 years of I love you’s
26 years of I love you, too’s

26 years of feeling blessed
26 years of passing time’s test

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways....
I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life!And, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death. ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Thursday, October 28, 2004

That's Politics

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
~ Proverbs 29:2

By Eileen Umbehr

Politics is a messy business. It is not for the weak at
heart. The public is a fickle friend. One must prepare to
be alternately stabbed in the back and patted on it. It is
not a reflection on you as a person. Americans have always
had a love-hate relationship with their elected officials.
One minute you can do no wrong and the next minute, the
opposite is true.

A politician cannot depend on a select group of loyal
followers, for that group, like the tide, is constantly
changing. One must not be affected by the ups and downs of
public opinion. Prepare yourself to be gently drawn in and
treated like royalty one moment, and cast off like an old
shoe the next.

That's politics.


Since I’m short on time this week, I’d just like to share a few political quotes I’ve collected over the years.

May the best candidates win!


”Why pay money to have your family tree traced? Get into politics and your opponents will surely do it for you.” ~ Author unknown

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
- Galileo Galilei

"Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects." ~ Lester B. Pearson (1897-1972 ) Prime Minister of Canada"Those in power need checks and restraints lest they come to identify thecommon good for their own tastes and desires, and their continuation inoffice as essential to the preservation of the nation." ~ William O. Douglas, (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice

"That government is best which governs least." ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

"I once said cynically of a politician, ‘He'll doublecross that bridge when he comes to it.'" ~ Oscar Levant (1906-1972)"The more you read and observe about this Politics thing,you got to admit that each party is worse than the other…”~ Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist

"Being in politics is like being a football coach.You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important." ~ Eugene McCarthy US Congressman & U.S. Senator (D-Minnesota)

In an article published in the April 26, 2004 edition of The Topeka Capital-Journal, staff writer Ric Anderson reported that Rev. Fred Hollomon (Kansas State Chaplain for the past 23 years) has presented more than 1,100 invocations since 1979.

I’d like to close with this sample prayer from Rev. Hollomon.

“Lord, help us to know who’s telling the truth. One side says one thing and the other says just the opposite. If both sides are telling the truth or neither side is telling the truth, we’d like to know that. And if each side is telling half the truth, give us the wisdom to put the right halves together.”


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Out of Control

“And now…I commit you to God – that is, I deposit you in His charge, entrusting you to His protection and care…” ~ Acts 30:32

She sat alone on a bus out of Beaumont
The courage of just eighteen years
A penny and quarter were taped to a letter
And momma's goodbye in her ears
When you get lonely, call me Anytime at all

I'll be there with you, always
Anywhere at all
There's nothing I've got that I wouldn't give you
And money is never enough
Here's a penny for your thoughts
A quarter for the call
And all of your momma's love

26 Cents ~ recorded by The Wilkinson

Is there any job more difficult than being a parent? I’d like to know. Because either parenting is one of the greatest challenges you’ll ever face, or I’m just really bad at it.

I’m calling this column “Out of Control” in reference to the struggle I’m having with letting go of my youngest son, Kirk Van. Many tears were shed at my house this week, as Kirk found the courage to express his feelings on the subject. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to say and I know it wasn’t easy for me to hear. One of the things Kirk revealed during our conversation was that he felt like I was the driver in his car. Ouch.

You’d think by the time I got to son # 4 this would be old hat for me, but maybe that’s exactly why I’m having a more difficult time – because he’s my baby. But I have to realize that it’s not healthy for me to maintain a death grip on him in an attempt to control every aspect of his life. But somehow I have this notion that I’m not being a good mother if I don’t. I know in my head that it’s natural for kids (especially boys) to grow up and away from their mothers, but it feels very un-natural to my heart!

I was browsing through some of my old journals recently and I think I discovered the root of the problem. When my kids were little, it was my job to watch every move they made and to orchestrate every moment of their day from brushing their teeth and cleaning their rooms to telling them when it was time to do their homework or go to bed. It was a good thing back then, but those days are over now, and the transition can prove to be a difficult one. Case in point: I recall one of the boys tearfully explaining that he felt like he was old enough to pick out his own clothes. “It would be different if I was a baby like Kirk,” he said. “But I’m not a baby!”

So I’ve had to learn the hard way that if I continue to “mother hen” my child beyond the appropriate time, it will only create resentment and stunt his personal growth. As much as I like to be in control, the price is just too high. As a matter of fact, an alternate title for this week’s column was “Confessions of a Control Freak.” Just read the following memo I wrote to Josh when he was young and you’ll see what I mean.

Dear Josh,

This morning I found many items out of place in your room after you left for school. So many, in fact, that I was afraid I would forget them all if I didn't write them down. Here is the list of things that were out of order:

1. All drawers in your bureau were left open.
2. All drawers in your desk were left open.
3. Your wet towel was left on the floor.
4. Your pajama bottoms were left on your chair.
5. Your light was left on.
6. Your radio was left on.

I am happy to report that your bed was made. However, in the future, please see that you complete more than one out of seven morning duties before you leave for school. Okay? Okay!

I love you,


Now here’s an excerpt from a family newsletter I sent out in 1992 talking about a different approach:

“Recently I’ve incorporated a new system to encourage responsibility and discourage irresponsibility. I have a chart on the frig for responsibility credits. Jared, Josh and Keen are the only participating members right now. When they do something like dishes or vacuuming without being asked, then they earn some points. When they do something like put raw eggs in the bottom of their brother's new roller skates (true story), then they lose some points. I can't get over how effective it is! They count their points often and are literally fighting over who gets to put the laundry away. They gladly welcome any new chore since it’s an opportunity to earn more points. "Who wants to mow the lawn?" "I do! I do! Hey, I said it first!" The other day Keener said, "Now every day is like a clean up day." I can't keep them busy enough. Eventually, we'll tally up the scores and it will translate into “x” amount of dollars.”


Being a mother is all I every wanted to be. In fact, when my brother Bill was born just 16 months after me, my mom said I acted like I was his mother! She said I never gave him a moment’s peace – I just followed him around everywhere he went. Even then I thought it was my job to be the mother hen!

As my children got older, I’d say the hardest part about letting go was allowing them to make their own choices, even if I didn’t agree with them. I had to keep reminding myself that God didn’t put a barbed wire fence around the tree in the Garden of Eden. He just told Adam and Eve what they could and couldn’t eat and left the choice up to them. So if God relinquished His right to control His children and gave them a free will, then I guess I should follow His example by doing the same with mine.

Roots and Wings
By Eileen Umbehr

Some people say,
there are only two things,
that you can give your children,
one is roots; the other, wings.

They'll have their share of ups and downs,
at times the skies will be bleak,
but we must allow them to spread their wings,
even if they bump their beaks!

It's hard to know when to let them go,
some are ready sooner than others,
but no matter when that time comes,
it's always hard on their mothers!

But deep down in our heart of hearts,
we have always known,
we can't keep them with us forever,
one day they will be on their own.

And we really wouldn't want it,
any other way,
we have to allow them to fly and be free,
even though we wish they could stay.

So we'll raise our children
with faith, hope and love,
and a prayer that God will watch over them
From Heaven up above.

Then when the time arrives,
for them to leave the nest,
we'll wave good-bye with a tear in our eye,
knowing that we've been blessed.

I’d like to close with an analogy about letting go that my uncle, Tom Lynch shared with me many years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The analogy of the kite to child rearing is apropos. You receive a lovely kite. A kite’s destiny is fulfilled only when it flies. You must try to get it to fly.
You fashion a tail, to guide it, from your own experiences and the advice of more experienced kite flyers. The tail must be well done, not too inconsequential, not too burdensome – enough to keep it pointing in the right direction and to aid its flight. You may have to modify the tail a few times to get it right.
To control the pretty kite, you attach a string. You, as parents, hold onto the string and the kite, by turns. Alternately, you run with it to get it airborne and to keep it aloof. It begins to fly, albeit jerkily at first. You let out more string or take some in – thoughtfully, carefully. You judge the winds and urge your winsome kite to rise higher. It crashes a few times, hopefully not doing too much harm.

Eventually, your shining kite begins to go up, up and away, forever pulling as you let out more string. It is buffeted by the winds of fate; it twists and turns high in the sky. You are anxious. Do you let out more string or reel some in? You have many discussions as to what is best. The string is so tenuous the farther away the kite sails.

The kite tugs harder, increasingly. It wants to be on its own. Too soon (only a few years, really) it breaks the string and soars off alone. Your beautiful kite is free! Would you want otherwise? But it is heart wrenching.

As the years go by, you will often question yourselves about the kites you were entrusted with. Did we fly our kites well? Were our guiding principles worthy? Did we exercise enough control or too much?

It is the subject of much retrospection, between the kite flyers, as they grow old together.

I pray You'll be my eyesAnd watch her where she goesAnd help her to be wiseHelp me to let goEvery mother's prayerEvery child knowsLead her to a placeGuide her with Your graceTo a place where she'll be safe

A Mother’s Prayer ~ recorded by Celine Dion

Keen & the boys with homemade kite

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Invisible Scars

“And this you do with double guilt; you cover the altar of the Lord with tears [shed by your unoffending wives, divorced by you that you might take heathen wives]…
Therefore take heed to yourselves, and let no one deal treacherously and be faithless to the wife of his youth.”
~ Malachi 2:13, 15b

Invisible Scars
By Eileen Umbehr

Invisible scars
No one sees
Don’t appear

Invisible scars
Internal pain
Lasting wounds
Love in vain

Invisible scars
Blows to the soul
Knives in the heart
No longer whole

Invisible scars
Though not seen
Invisible scars
Last eternally

Last Tuesday, the Oprah show dealt with the silent shame of emotional abuse. The show was based on an article that appears in a recent edition of O Magazine titled “She’s come undone” which featured Susan Weitzman, author of, Not to People Like Us”; Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages.

Ms. Weitzman stated that one out of three women live in a marriage where they are verbally abused and emotionally tortured. After years of being called unspeakable names and constantly being ridiculed, the victim eventually becomes fragmented. Many women think that if they don’t talk about the problem, then it will just go away.
Ms. Weitzman referred to these women as being “hooked on hope.”

When the woman does try to assert herself by telling her abuser how his verbal attacks make her feel, she is often called a “cry baby” and told that she should “toughen up” or “get a grip.” She may also be told she is too sensitive or even selfish. “It’s all about you, isn’t it?” is a common phrase used by abusive men.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it…?

I, the Lord, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
~ Jeremiah 17:9, 10

As most of you know, my sister Mary endured 25 years in an abusive marriage. Many years ago she opened up to me and described the vile names her ex-husband called her on a regular basis. When she told him that one particular name was especially painful, that was the name he called her even more often. When she made a mistake he would tell her she was an idiot. If something spilled in the refrigerator, he called her a slob. One time she gave him a piece of cheesecake with raspberry topping on it and he complained because he had asked for a “dollop” of topping and apparently Mary hadn’t put the “proper” amount on. “Don’t you know what a dollup is?” he asked, incredulously. Then he got up from his chair and fixed himself another piece of cheesecake. “Now that’s a dollup!” he explained. (Now, if that had been my husband, I think he would’ve been wearing that dollup.)

Another thing he used to do was sit in his easy chair and hold three or fingers in the air, indicating the number of freeze pops he wanted his daughter to bring him. One day she was busy and told him she would get them for him in a minute. He got so angry that he started counting down out loud, dropping one finger at a time until only the middle finger was left in the air.

On New Year’s Eve, 1999, Mary bought some nice steaks and crab legs for a special dinner to celebrate the millennium. Her husband was cooking the crab legs in the kitchen while she went outside to light the grill. Well, the grill didn’t light for one reason or another and Mary didn’t realize it until they sat down to eat and discovered the steaks weren’t done. Her ex-husband berated her for 45 minutes over that one innocent mistake. At first I thought she said he mocked her for “4 to 5 minutes” – which would have been bad enough – but she corrected me and said it was forty-five minutes. “How could you be so stupid? Our meal is ruined now – we might as well throw the crab legs down the drain!” he said. “You are so stupid! Even the kids could have gotten that right!” Mary was in tears. She said it felt like he was poking her repeatedly with ice picks. So don’t tell me that verbal abuse isn’t as bad as physical abuse.

One of the guests on Oprah’s show (whose husband called her “pathetic” and many other names that had to be bleeped out), said that sometimes she wished her husband would hit her so she’d have a reason to leave. She swore that she would never stay under those circumstances. Many men realize there would be serious consequences if they ever hit their wives, so they use words as their weapons of choice to inflict pain. Yet all too often these situations escalate from verbal abuse to physical violence. Either way, it’s all about control.

After this same man viewed a videotape showing the appalling way he treated his wife, he seemed completely shocked by his own behavior, as if he were watching a video of some total stranger. When Oprah asked him if he loved his wife he answered emphatically, “Yes, I do….very much.”

Well, I don’t care what anybody says – that’s not love.

Have you ever heard the expression, “Silver-tongued devil?” It’s used to describe men like this who could charm the skin off a snake when they’re out in public, but heaven help their wife and kids when they pull in the drive. Then, when the wife finally decides she’s not going to put up with it anymore and files for divorce, everyone is scratching their heads and wondering what’s wrong with her. The only side they’ve ever seen is the side he shows his adoring public. “He wouldn’t hurt a flea,” they say. Well maybe not, but behind closed doors he’ll devastate the one person he vowed to love, cherish and protect until death do them part.

Although these abusive men may fool a lot of people, they’re not fooling God. The Bible says that you can tell a tree by its fruit and “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

“The good man from his inner good treasure flings forth good things, and the evil man out of his inner evil storehouse flings forth evil things. But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle…word they speak.” ~ Matthew 12:33-36

In other words: evil fruit – evil root.
Journalist and author Michele Weldon wrote a book titled I Closed My Eyes describing her experience as a battered woman. Unfortunately, many women choose to wear blinders and hang on to a fantasy, rather than dealing with the prospect of being divorced and alone, struggling to make ends meet and having their children come from a broken home.

Although I’ve never walked in their shoes, I have great compassion for women who are suffering from any type of abuse. I yearn to tell them that they deserve better – that they have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. It doesn’t make you a failure to walk away from an abusive situation. And please don’t think you’re doing your children any favors by staying in an abusive marriage. If the only behavior they witness in the home is verbal and physical abuse, then they will regrettably learn two very destructive lessons: 1) that it’s okay to treat other people like that and, 2) that it’s okay for other people to treat them like that.

In my opinion, it’s better for your children to be raised in a loving, peaceful home with a single parent, than to live in constant turmoil and fear – wondering when the next volcano is going to erupt. As Dr. Phil says: Children would rather come from a broken home than live in one.

This is a poem I wrote based on actual comments my sister’s 11-year-old son made about his relationship with his dad.

He calls me son
By Eileen Umbehr

When I get hurt and cry, my dad laughs at me and calls me a woosy (to my face).
My mom says she is so sorry.
I tell her, “Its okay, Mom. You didn’t do it.”
Sometimes I get worried because they say that girls turn out to be like the moms and boys turn out to be like the dads.

Mom tells me I need to remember how it feels so I won’t do the same things to my children.
I don’t ever want to do the same things to my children.
One time my dad told me I could have anything I wanted for my birthday. I said I just wanted him to play one-on-one basketball with me.

That was five years ago.
My friends’ dads play catch with them. For as long as I can remember, I’ve asked my dad to play catch with me. But he always says, “I’m too busy, son. Maybe tomorrow, son.”

Then when tomorrow comes I ask,
“Don’t you wanna play catch with me, Dad?”
And he says, “Not today, son. I’m too tired, son.”
He calls me son…..but he’s not really a dad.


Finally, I’d like to close with this poem I wrote three years ago about my sister’s abusive marriage. I know I’ve shared it before, but I think it bears repeating.

For My Sister’s Sake
By Eileen Umbehr

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

“You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will have confidence, because there is hope.”
~ Job 11:16-18 (RSVB)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Enough is Enough

Thus says… the Lord and your God, who pleads the cause of His people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling…You shall no longer drink it.
But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, Who have said to you, 'Lie down, that we may walk over you.' And you have laid your body like the ground, And as the street, for those who walk over."

~ Psalms 51:22,23 (NKJV)

Some day, when she's old enough,
She's gonna start askin' questions about him.
Some kid at school brings his Dad for show and tell,
And gets her little mind a-wonderin'
"Where's my Daddy? Do I have one?
Does he not love me like you do?"
Oh, maybe I'll find someone to love the both of us,
And I'll tell her when she's old enough to know the truth.
Will it break her heart?
Will she understand
that I had to leave?
That's what was best for me and Emily.
The house was never clean enough;
his dinner never warm enough.
Nothing I did was ever good enough
to make him happy.
So I guess he gave me
what he thought I deserved,
But it would kill me
if he ever raised his hand to her.
It's a brand new day,
It's a second chance.
Yesterday is just a memory,
For me and Emily.
Me and Emily ~ recorded by Rachel Proctor

Last week, the Wabaunsee County Commissioners, Ervan Stuewe, Maurice Gleason and Fred Howard, signed the following official Proclamation declaring October, 2004 Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

WHEREAS, the problems and effects of domestic violence span all economic, racial, and social segments of our society; and
WHEREAS, the impact of domestic violence is extensive and acutely affects women and their children and society as a whole; and
WHEREAS, the crime of domestic violence violates an individual’s privacy, dignity, security, and humanity through the use of physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and economic control and/or abuse; and
WHEREAS, men and women must recognize the full scope of this social problem and work together to create a community that refuses to tolerate domestic violence; and
WHEREAS, it has been battered women themselves working in the forefront to bring peace and equality into the home; and
WHEREAS, nearly 50 incidents of domestic violence in Wabaunsee County are reported to law enforcement each year; and
WHEREAS, the YWCA Battered Women Task Force/Sexual Assault Counseling Programs provides immediate crisis intervention, short-term shelter, support groups, individual therapeutic counseling for victims and abusers, community advocacy, community referrals, and outreach and preventive education.


Domestic Violence Awareness Month

and urge all residents to support the work of collaborative agencies in serving the needs of families impacted by domestic violence and work toward the elimination of domestic violence in our community.


Here are some staggering statistics:

Ø In the United States, a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend every 15 seconds.
Ø 2-4 million women a year are assaulted by their partners.
Ø 80% of battering incidents start in the home
Ø At least 25 % of domestic violence victims are pregnant when beaten.
Ø Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in families where domestic violence is present.
Ø Every day, four women are beaten to death.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the 24-hour Kansas Crisis Hotline
at 1-888- END ABUSE or the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence at (785) 232-9784.

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in honor of all the women who have suffered physical, emotional or mental abuse at the hands of another, I would like to share the following poems and verses.

Enough is Enough
By Eileen Umbehr

When do you say, "Enough is enough?"
When do you point to the door?
When do you say, "Never again,
I'm not taking your abuse any more?"

Now it seems you've quit listening to the truth
and started believing his lies;
You turned from the light and shut the door,
because the light was hurting your eyes.

He used to say you were nothing,
now he says he's nothing without you;
He brings you flowers and candy,
and promises to be true.

He's playing with your emotions,
telling you he can't live without you;
Where has he been for the past twenty years?
Did this change just come out of the blue?

I grieve for you because I know,
he's still not being truthful;
He's just telling you what you want to hear,
and that's what makes it even more hurtful.

You say that you're not backing down,
you're just stepping back;
You want to give him one more chance,
to show you the love he has lacked.

Well, I have to respect your decision,
after all, this is your life, not mine;
I just don't want to see you get hurt again,
and I don't believe he'll toe the line.

But for your sake, I hope that I'm wrong,
and that you’ll both live happily ever after;
And I pray that your home will be filled once again,
with love, and peace and laughter.
Written for my sister, Mary
July 21, 2001

“But if the husband or wife who isn’t a Christian is eager to leave, it is permitted. In such cases the Christian husband or wife should not insist that the other stay, for God wants His children to live in peace and harmony. For, after all, there is no assurance to you wives that your husbands will be converted if they stay; and the same may be said to your husbands concerning your wives.”
~ I Corinthians 7:15 (Living Bible)


On his own
By Eileen Umbehr

He tells her he never wanted this
And I guess in a way that is true
But it’s not what you think, let me explain
Maybe then you’ll see why he’s so blue.

He never wanted to cook his own meals
never wanted to mess with the bills
And he certainly never wanted to do his own wash
Or buy groceries to put on the shelves

He never wanted to sit all alone
in a one room apartment so plain
But when he had his wife and children around
All he ever did was complain

“Clean this! Clean that! Look at this place!
What have you been doing all day?
Just look at the dust on those baseboards – my God!
I just can’t keep living this way!”

Well, guess what? He doesn’t have to, now he lives on his own
with no noise, no confusion, no “filth”
So now if there’s something that hasn’t been done
He has no one to blame but himself

I guess he had to learn the hard way
You can’t have your cake and eat it, too
If you really want someone to be a part of your life
Then you better be faithful and true

Yes, you better show them you love them
By being helpful, respectful and kind,
Or one day they may be gone from your life
And you may be left behind

March 11, 2003

“See, this is the man who made not God his strength – his stronghold and high tower; but trusted and confidently relied on the abundance of his riches, seeking refuge and security for himself through his wickedness.”
~ Psalm 52:7


By Kayleen Drebes

She cries in the night
and no one hears
her tears fall silent
just like her fears

She wants to leave
but she’s afraid to go
and her little ones
don’t even know

She hopes for the day
that things will change
she’ll try a little harder
perhaps – she’ll pray –

But it’s hard
to just – begin again –
when hurts lie deep
and love just ends

She feels like a broken
china doll
with no way to protect
the little ones from the fall

Her smile is weary
confusion surrounds her
she’s losing the will
to live – altogether

Her tells her – he loves her
and can’t live without her
She’s the one to blame
for the pain that he’s in

She’s ridden with guilt
for she’s the protector –
of all those hearts
in her care

And he is the conqueror
the master of the game
the one who decides
what is fair

The battle goes on
and she tried to persuade –
and ease the tension
reassure her own faith

But hope of the hopeless
grows weak and tired
the battle gets brutal
the scars no longer hide

Sooner or later
she must find her way
to the crossroad of truth
before it’s too late.

“And I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, and in steadfast love, and in mercies. I will even betroth you to Me in stability and in faithfulness, and you shall know – recognize, be acquainted with, appreciate, give heed to and cherish – the Lord.

And I will sow her for Myself anew in the land, and I will have pity, mercy and love for her who had not obtained pity, mercy and love, and I will say to those who were not My people, You are My people, and they shall say, You are my God!”
~ Hosea 2:19, 20, 23(Amplified)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Elderly Inspiration

“The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.”
~ Proverbs 20:20 (NLT)

Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world's gone crazy
And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy

Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other, come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
Not just something they would say, and then forget?
Did families really bow their heads to pray
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days

Grandpa, Tell me ‘bout the Good Old Days ~ recorded by The Judds

This past week Keen has been business/dog sitting for some friends of ours who live above their computer store in downtown Topeka. I joined him for a couple days over the weekend and was able to visit a few of my elderly friends on Monday.

My day started out at the cafeteria of St. Francis Hospital where I met my friend Marne for breakfast. Marne eats there almost every day and enjoys visiting with his two friends, Steve and Amy, who are lab technicians. Unfortunately, Marne had taken a spill the night before and had a small cut on his forehead and a bruise on his face. Later, a trip to the dentist revealed the need for some unexpected dental work. “Seems like I have enough trouble for two or three people,” he wrote in an email. “Well, I will get by.”

After breakfast, I decided to drive to the Luther Apartments to see if I could catch my other friend, Joy. The timing was perfect as Joy was just heading out on her morning walk, wearing her red baseball cap and flannel shirt. Joy puts me to shame because she walks nearly every single morning year around – with a walker, no less. Twenty years ago she had a heart valve replaced and the doctor told her that if she wanted to live a long life then she would need to walk every day. So that’s what she does.

Poor Joy has had more than her fair share of misfortune lately. “I wish you could have walked in my shoes for the past six weeks,” she said. First of all, Joy lost her beloved twin sister, Joyce. Then there was a mix-up with the hospital and they started sending her all the bills. To make matters worse, she received a letter from the social security office (addressed “to the deceased”) informing her that they would be discontinuing her benefits. So Joy was feeling pretty overwhelmed and tearful that day, but bless her heart, she was trying her best to pull herself up by the bootstraps. “I gave myself a good talking to this morning,” she said.

In the afternoon, I met my brother Bill, his wife Connie and their daughter, Callie in Lawrence to watch their son Joey play quarterback for his Olathe football team. It was a beautiful afternoon and a great game. (They won by about 40 points.)

Afterwards we all went out to eat at Taco Johns on Haskell Avenue, which just happened to be about 3 blocks away from the home of my dear poet friend, Marian. Even though it was about 7:00 at night, I just couldn’t imagine not stopping by to say hello.

Marian and I had a wonderful visit, as always – being the kindred spirits that we are. She is such a special person and a talented poet who has written hundreds of poems over the years. Marian and her husband Arthur raised six children – 3 boys and 3 girls – and owned businesses in Manhattan and Wamego. In fact, Art was the mayor of Wamego at one time. But he is gone now, and Marian still grieves over the loss of the love of her life.

“Would that I’d a second chance,
To declare my love, to dance that dance
A chance to tell him what I ought
In loving words, so dearly bought!”
Excerpt from Song of Regret by Marian Umscheid

During our visit, Marian shared some of her ills, including being informed that she needed a root canal. But she chose to listen to her gut instincts which told her that the procedure really wasn’t necessary. Then she took some antibiotics that she had on hand, and the infection – or whatever it was – cleared right up. Marian says that she’s become bolder in her older age and is less afraid to say what she really thinks. Like the time the podiatrist kept her waiting in the examination room with no socks on her feet for about twenty minutes. Finally, she climbed off the table, grabbed her canes and walked down the hall in search of the doctor. Upon finding him, she exclaimed, “Excuse me, but I’ve been waiting for a long time and my feet are getting cold. Now I know I’m not a doctor like you are, but I think my time is just as important as yours.” The doctor apologized profusely and treated her right away.

While I was visiting Marian, she asked if she could give me some advice. “Meditate,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted. Slow down and take the time to meditate on the blessings in your life. Think about your legs and how fortunate you are to be able to walk. If I could, I would put it on a plaque for you – Don’t take anything for granted.”

My visits with my three elderly friends caused me to reflect. Each one of them – all in their eighties – still have daily struggles to contend with. They have to get up every morning and make a conscious effort to be happy and make the most out of the life they have been given. It’s not easy for any of us, at any age, but I am inspired by my dear friends who have so many more challenges than I do, and yet they carry on.

In closing, I’d like to share the following poem Marian wrote about retirement.

By Marian Umscheid

I’m retired, but you wouldn’t know it
All the things I have to do
The upkeep is monstrous
I’ll name a few:

There’s my body, and more things
Are going bad all the time,
The dentist, the doctor, the pharmacist
From my upkeep are doin’ fine.

Then there’s the house, it keeps
Showing the wear and tear
First the roof, then the furnace,
Every month something needs care

There are bulbs to change
And bulbs to plant
Things to oil and grass to mow
While watching for insects and bugs
I think they’re about to lay me low!

Don’t forget the car, the most demanding
Every few days it needs gas
Or fluid of one kind or another
Tires or brakes or polish the glass.

So don’t tell me that I can
Sit back and shirk,
I’ve more to do than a cranberry merchant,
Wonder when I had time to work?

I’ll put on my rose-colored glasses
I’ll put away discouragement and fear
I’ll look to the heavens for guidance
And live on for many more years.
~ Marian Umscheid

Marian & me