Thursday, June 24, 2004

Slowing the Pace

“A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body…”
~ Proverbs 14:30

I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why

“I’m in a Hurry”
~ recorded by Alabama

Time got away from me this week and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off. With my deadline looming less than twenty-four hours away it seemed appropriate for me to share some thoughts on slowing the pace of our life. I realize that’s not an original theme (as if there’s any such thing), but I also realize it’s something we all seem to struggle with, regardless of our age or occupation.

Case in point. Today I received a letter from a friend of mine who is 82 years old. She wrote in part: “I’m sorry if this must be short – at this time of life I’m inundated, swamped or whatever you want to call it with interests, obligations, invitations, aches and pains – so much to do – so little time!”

The continual challenge for me is trying to decipher the difference between the “good” thing to do and the “right” thing to do. Just because an activity is noble, worthy and/or fun, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best investment of my time. We only have so many hours in the day and most of us have a limited reservoir of energy, so we have to choose our priorities wisely.

When I was in Nevada, I made my book my priority. Consequently, I nearly completed my rough draft – all 425 pages of it – something I’ve been unable to accomplish in the past six years. Since I’ve been home, however, my priorities have shifted and my book has been placed on the back burner once again. So I’ve decided to wait until the students in my family return to the routine of school before I attempt to complete my book project.

Here’s a great quote along these lines. It comes from Philip Humbert, Ph.D.

“Resolve this week to maximize the quality of your life, rather than the quantity of items on your to-do list! Resolve to enjoy every conversation, and to eliminate at least one unnecessary pressure. Say ‘no’ to a few requests; politely decline a couple of invitations. Smell the roses. Notice the sunrise. Feel the grass under your feet. Slow down! Slow down enough to enrich the quality of your life.”

Many years ago, my father gave me a copy of the following poem that he found amongst my mother’s personal things after she passed away.

Take Time
Author Unknown

Take time to THINK…
It is the source of power
Take time to PLAY…
It is the secret of perpetual youth
Take time to READ….
It is the fountain of wisdom
Take time to PRAY…
It is the greatest power on earth
Take time to LOVE and BE LOVED….
It is a God-given privilege
Take time to be FRIENDLY…
It is the road to happiness
Take time to LAUGH…
It is the music of the soul
Take time to GIVE…
It is too short a day to be selfish
Take time to WORK…
It is the price of success
Take time to DO CHARITY…
It is the key to fulfillment

From the time my husband, Keen, was in the seventh grade until he graduated from high school, he spent every summer working with his cousin Jack on the farm his Uncle Keen and Aunt Helen owned near Alma. The hours were long – sunup to sundown – and the work was hard, but Keen so enjoyed the time he spent on the farm.

Several years ago – on August 26, 1991 to be exact – Keen decided to attempt a writing exercise that included some of those cherished memories. This is the result.

Saturday Freedom
By Keen A. Umbehr

Coming back to the farm is an exhilarating feeling of
Saturday freedom. Hiding away from the masses of humanity
becomes a splendid, mind whirling rush. Exploring the
origins of a spring creek becomes my sole purpose. Hearing
the immense quietness astounds me. Smelling frost on God's
forest fills my nostrils as sweet perfume. My mistress
becomes the natural nature of the wild. Humanity is
absent, the wild is free. Wilderness is evolving at its own pace.

I sing out for the trees to hear and I receive a
glorious applause by the rushing of their leaves. A
pristine stream flows by; streaks of silver flash as
minnows bask in the morning sun. Fall leaves paint the
ground like a legion of artists could not. Birds sing
forth like an orchestra. Sunshine, oh glorious sunshine,
blesses everything in it's path.

I am impressed by the smallness of my concerns. I lay
down by the creek...the sound of riffles gently call me to
rest. I shut my thoughts slow...sensations dull.

Sweet peace softly enters in.


“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
~ Sir J. Lubbock


Finally, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems. The author is unknown.

Slow Dance
Author unkown

Have you ever watched kids
on a merry-go-round
Or listened to the rain
slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You’d better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last

Do you run through each day on the fly
When you ask "How are you?"
do you hear the reply?

When the day is done
do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
running through your head?

You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last.

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow
And in your haste, not seen his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
'Cause you never had time
to call and say "Hi"?

You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast
Time is short
The music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It's like an unopened gift...
Thrown away...

Life's not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

“My desire is to have you free from all anxiety and distressing care.”

~ I Corinthians 7:32

A “before and after” shot taken in 1980 by our former neighbor, Carmen Bloomfield

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Next Generation

“And He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…..”

Malachi 4:6 (RSV)

I used to love to walk behind my Daddy
As he plowed our garden every spring
My little bare feet in the dirt would make me happy
As he talked about what harvest time would bring

He was sowin' love...for the family
He was sowin' love...he took a little extra time
Looking forward to a bountiful harvest
Like a good father does...he was sowin' love

“Sowin’ Love”
~ recorded by Paul Overstreet

Recently I came across this excerpt from one of my journals that seemed fitting to share this Father’s Day. The date was October 31, 1988.

Sunday afternoon Keen was tired and wanted to take a nap but he said he’d been feeling like Jared needed some special time to be with just him. So after lunch, Josh and Keener went down for naps and Keen & Jared drove out to the land Keen’s folks own. They had such a fun time together. They shot the gun, played hide & seek and even had a dry cow pie fight. What a day! Jared thanked Keen over and over for taking him out.

Then when they got home Keen orchestrated the carving of the pumpkins. We had 2 big ones and 4 little ones. Keen carved a question mark in the littlest pumpkin for the baby on the way. It looked so cute all lit up at the end of the line.

I wanted to record the activities of this weekend partly to remember what a great father Keen has been. He’s so devoted to meeting the needs of every person in the family. I think he’s the greatest. He’s a super Dad and a super husband.


Our boys were very blessed to have a father who gave them 100% when they were growing up. Even though he was always physically drained after hauling trash, he still took time to wrestle and play with them. On the weekends, he would try to do something special like take them fishing, roller skating, or to the park or a movie. Their all time favorite summertime activity was jumping into the creek from a rope swing.

Now Keen is continuing the tradition by being a wonderful grandfather to the next generation of Umbehr boys – our two grandsons, Asher William and Gabriel Michael. Asher and Gabe spent six days with us last week, along with our daughter-in-law Erin, who was on a break from nursing school. Unfortunately, Jared wasn’t able to join us because he’s currently attending radio communications school at the naval base in Virginia Beach.

When the boys arrived, the first thing they noticed was the 8 x 10 picture of their family hanging on our living room wall. Asher, who is 4 ½, proceeded to identify everyone in the picture. He said, “That’s my Daddy….he’s bald.” When I told Jared about it he said Asher made it sound as if being bald was his latest and greatest accomplishment. “He’s been bald for about two years now; we’re very proud of him.” Later on when Asher saw his dad’s high school graduation picture he said, “That’s my Daddy with hair on!”

Asher and Gabe share many of the same facial features, but that’s where the similarities end. While Asher is somewhat finicky when it comes to eating (he even told me he was “allergic” to several items on a buffet line), Gabe will eat anything you put in front of him. Consequently, Asher is more lean and Gabe looks like a little football player. Their mannerisms are like night and day, too. Asher is docile, easy going and soft spoken –except when you ask him to repeat something (“I said…!”). Gabe, on the other hand, is a little firecracker who only has one gear – full speed ahead! He’s also very curious and knows no fear – which can be a dangerous combination for a twenty-month old who’s going on twenty. I get the feeling that Gabe just wishes everyone would recognize his vast capabilities and let him rule the world!

The two of them together remind me so much of Jared & Josh when they were little – two peas in a pod. Of course they have their squabbles, like all siblings, but most of the time they are very loving and considerate toward each other. One time Gabe was hugging Asher around the neck for so long that I had to ask Erin if it was a hug or a choke hold!

It’s been a long time since we’ve had little ones running around the house and I must admit to feeling a little rusty. It’s a bit of a shock to the system to return to the hectic days of diaper changes, bath time, spilled milk and toys scattered throughout the house. But we had lots of help from the whole family and everyone enjoyed making the most of the time we had with them. On Friday we all piled in the Durango and headed for Gage Park to swim in the pool and ride the carousel.

I honestly don’t know how Erin juggles the demands of school and being both mommy and daddy while Jared is in the Navy, but she’s doing a great job. She’s earning a 3.9 in nursing school and a 4.0 in parenting and raising two happy, well-adjusted little boys.

I’d like to close by sharing this poem my mom sent me when my kids were small.

The Image
Author Unknown

There are little eyes upon you
And they’re watching night and day
There are little ears that quickly
Take in every word you say

There are little hands all eager
To do anything you do
And the little boy who’s dreaming
Of the day he’ll be like you

You’re the little fellow’s idol
You’re the wisest of the wise
In his little mind about you
No suspicions ever rise

He believes in you devoutly
Holds what you say and do
He will say and do in your way
When he’s grown-up like you

There’s a wide-eyed little fellow
Who believes you’re always right
And his ears are always open
And he watches day and night

You are setting an example
Everyday in all you do
For the little boy who’s waiting
To grow up and be like you.

Grandpa Keen with Asher and Gabe

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Picture of Contentment

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

~ I Timothy 6:6-8 (NKJV)

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera…
what will be, will be

“Que Sera, Sera”
~ performed by Doris Day

A few weeks ago I received the nicest letter from a woman by the name of Rebecca Miller of Council Grove. (Rebecca writes the Wilsey news for The Council Grove Republican.) She wanted to let me know that she had been getting acquainted with me by reading my column in The Prairie Post. “It’s my opinion that you are a talented writer, and I enjoy reading what you write. Keep on writing.”

Her letter was a great source of encouragement to me, but nothing could compare with the joy of meeting Rebecca and visiting with her face to face. Coincidentally, she lives right across the street from The Cottage House where Keen and I went to celebrate our 26th anniversary. Although I only spent an hour with Rebecca, she made a very strong impression on me.

Rebecca Miller was born in November, 1919 at her grandparents’ home southwest of White City, Kansas. She spent the first 50 years of her life on farms around Wilsey, raising cattle, hogs and chickens and tending her garden. The next 30 years she lived in the town of Wilsey. After her house burned down several years ago, Rebecca moved to an apartment in Council Grove. She never complained about the fire, instead, she chose to maintain a positive outlook. “Maybe it turned out for the best for me to move into Council Grove,” she stated.

Rebecca loves her apartment and all her neighbors. “Nobody goes by Mr. or Mrs. here,” she explained. “We all just go by our first names.” I’m sure her neighbors love her, too. She’s known as “The Cookie Lady” because of the cookies and treats she bakes for the other residents and mail carriers. She gave me some of her delicious applesauce cookies when I visited.

In the short time I spent with Rebecca, I learned that she has some very strong opinions. She never married (“I don’t feel sorry for myself one little bit”), and she stated very plainly that she doesn’t want to be called a spinster. “You can call me an old maid, but don’t call me a spinster!” she explained. I told her that I wouldn’t think of calling her either one! Rebecca also dislikes the title “Ms.” She prefers to be addressed by her first name or by Miss Miller. “When I get free address labels that say Ms. Rebecca Miller, I just use my other ones. I have plenty of labels so I don’t need to use them.”

Rebecca has an ailment which prevents her from standing upright. She calls it “the Harmon stoop” since several members of her family were inflicted with it, too. But she doesn’t let it bother her or hold her back. Instead, she talks about how grateful she is that she doesn’t suffer from arthritis and how blessed she is to have perfect eyesight, without the need for glasses. With Rebecca, it seems the glass is always half full.

Rebecca proudly told me all about her sister, Jane Dixon, who also lives in Council Grove and is 17 years her junior. “She’s so good to me,” she said. “She takes me to the grocery store and I just hand her my list. She’s much taller than I ever was so she can reach the items on the shelf. Then she carries them to my apartment for me. All I do is push the cart and write the check.”

When Rebecca was in high school, she wanted to learn how to play the violin in the worst way. But times were tough and her family couldn’t afford to pay $12.50 for a violin. Then one day she overheard a boy at school talking about how he sold his violin to another girl, but she had never paid him. Rebecca asked the boy how much he was selling it for and he told her $5.00. Somehow her family managed to scrape together enough money to buy the violin. “The music teacher wasn’t very happy with me for buying the violin away from the other girl, because she had more musical talent than I did,” Rebecca said. “But she bought another violin later, so everything worked out fine.”

Rebecca remarked that God didn’t give her the talent to sing or play music by ear, but thankfully He gave her the talent to read music and play the violin. “The talents I don’t have make me more understanding of others who can’t do certain things, and the talents I do have make me grateful for the gifts God did give me,” she said.

When I asked Rebecca if she would play a tune for me, she agreed and proceeded to play a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. She enjoys playing for her church in Wilsey where she taught Sunday school for many years. But I was very surprised to learn that Rebecca is still using the same violin her parents bought for her so many years ago for $5.00. Now that’s a picture of contentment!

Someone once said that joy, like sorrow, is infectious. Spending an hour with Rebecca Miller would brighten anyone’s day.

May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

~ An Irish friendship wish