Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Tribute to Jane's Wonderful Mother

I clearly remember getting up one Sunday morning and there she was dressed so beautiful ready to go to church. It was that Sunday in the main service that I saw my precious mother go forward to receive Jesus as her Savior! I remember seeing her kneeling at the altar crying and not understanding why, and a dear lady, Mrs. Hurt, sat down beside me saying, “Janie do you understand what's going on?” 
She explained to me that mom's tears where tears of sorrow that turned to tears of happiness and joy because of Jesus!

A tribute to my dear mother who went to be with Jesus on this very date, 6 years ago...

She was small in stature --  not much more than 5'0” -- but had a heart bigger than the universe! She was a farmer's daughter from Kentucky with 14 siblings. Her maiden name was Conner, Irish descent so she had a good mix of fight and stubbornness! She never flew on a plane, didn't want to. She never drove a car and only went to school to the 8th grade. In the world's eyes she would appear very simple, uneducated, no titles, no fame, no fortune. But in the eyes of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren she was a saint representing unconditional love, wisdom – not wisdom from a book but from just living. She was strength, she was an over comer, a force not to reckon with or if you did you would regret it! She knew her mind, could speak it and yet knew when best not to. She was lovely with a beautiful smile and contagious laughter. Sang like a song bird, dancing about, light on her feet. Always doing something, never lazy, working hard. Doing what needed to be done.

For her, life dealt some very hard blows, a lot of pain, a lot of burdens. But if you were to meet her you would have never guessed it. She was an incredible person full of life, love, endurance and persistence. If life was hard you just dealt with it. She had 12 children, 2 passed on. She loved her children deeply. Oh, she had her opinions and her ways of discipline and for many of us children we felt it at the end of a switch or a hand.... much deserved! But we all knew she loved us and was there for us!

I remember one particular time playing all afternoon at a friends house (did not get permission) and of course mother was worried sick. I snuck in the back door and I ran upstairs to my bedroom, thinking I could pretend to fall asleep and not get in trouble, only to find a switch laying on the bed waiting for me. So I took the switch, broke it in two and turned around and there was mom standing in the doorway ...calmly she told me to march right down stairs and go get another one. I thought that's fine I'll get a thin one, it won't hurt. Needless to say that I had a lesson to learn and many more!

There were no strangers to her, she loved people. She had an unusual way of reaching out to others and making them feel loved and important. They walked away feeling special... I remember as child going with her door to door calling for bus ministry, inviting people to church. She always took the time to listen to many who were hurting. She didn't drive a car, but that didn't stop her. We would just walk to a certain street and start at one end and go door-to-door to the other end. She wanted people to come to church and find Jesus!

Mom loved music. She played the guitar and oh how I loved hearing her sing. She had that sweet mix of slight Irish/country/story ballad type. I can see her now strumming the guitar and singing. What a Day that will Be, There is an Unseen Hand, Take My Hand Precious Lord, Some Through the water some through flood, some through the fire but all through the blood, Where the Roses never Fade, Thirty Pieces of Silver . She loved singing in the church was a part of her life. Whenever we would go to Conner reunions you could understand why...lots of music...lots of singing; it's in their blood! She passed that love on to her children! Every one of my brothers play the guitar and a sister plays the piano!

Mom knew how to cook. She could take a few ingredients, work her magic and make something absolutely delicious out of it..She was known for her yeast rolls, her pies, her fried chicken on and on the list goes. She would always have a spread ready for her children to eat no matter what time they got in. Something was always on the stove or in the oven ready to be devoured. At Thanksgiving everyone always wanted her turkey dressing. Even now when I smell certain spices they bring a flood of memories of watching her cook, pouring love into what she made.

Mom loved Jesus! And that was it clear and simple. We were living pretty close to downtown Indy, off of State street when a knock on the door started a chain of events that changed her life. A pastor, a bus ministry and mom agreeing to send me – I must have needed it more then my siblings! -- to a little Nazarene church on Washington St. I remember seeing children riding the bus with their moms or seeing families coming to the church and I would go back home and ask mom to please come with me.. not knowing Jesus was already beginning the work. I clearly remember getting up one Sunday morning and there she was dressed so beautiful ready to go to church. It was that Sunday in the main service that I saw my precious mother go forward to receive Jesus as her Savior! I remember seeing her kneeling at the altar crying and not understanding why, and a dear lady, Mrs. Hurt sat down beside me saying, “Janie do you understand what's going on?” She began to explain to me that mom's tears where tears of sorrow that turned to tears of happiness and joy because of Jesus! My dear mother came to church that day with a broken heart and left totally changed, transformed by the healing hand of Jesus! She loved her Lord and wanted her family and others to know Him. Calling became her mission! If she couldn't go door to door she was on the phone making calls. I think how every Saturday she would call her children. If they were not home that was ok she would call till she got them even if it was very late at night. I'm sure my siblings are smiling remember those calls and some sermons too! We would always be there for her on Mother's day though...10 children, in laws, grandchildren...she was so pleased to see us all there!

Oh how she loved us, full of spunk, vim and vigor. You couldn't hide anything from her! She had a mischievous streak, loved to play pranks. She ran, played, climbed right along with us. She cried with us, laughed with us, prayed untold hours for us. She talked to us, listened to us, always, always loving on us with hugs and kisses. Those small arms and hands of hers wrapped around our lives the greatness of who she was to us...our dear little mother.

And so it was right about now as I am writing this, six years ago that she was taking her last breaths. The doctors were amazed scratching their heads that she lasted as long as she did from the massive strokes. But her children knew she would fight and hang on till she was ready! That's just how she was. I had the privilege of having her in my arms those last moments and singing, Where the roses never fade. All was quiet and peaceful when she took that last step here from us and entered another place to see her Lord!

I miss her today, and know the rest of my dear family does too. We all have many stories, many memories of this sweet little lady who gave us life. How do you put into words a lifetime of treasures, to put it on paper seems so inadequate to what the soul really feels. My soul feels so incredibly blessed by this little woman. So much that to some degree I understand the depth of love for her family. Here I am reminded how the Lord has blessed me with a wonderful loving husband and two precious sons. What a privilege I have in being a mother. What gifts from the Lord Lawrence and Elliot are! My prayer is that I can be to them what mom was to me. My heart is full of thanksgiving and gratitude for this life I have been given. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ronald Lee is 30!! (a re-post on the occasion of a later birthday!)

It must've been somewhere in the summer after my Senior year of High School when, just like a few years earlier when number six came along, Dad called us in for an announcement: “Your Mother and I are going to be adding another baby to the family. Sometime next Spring number seven will arrive!” And did he ever arrive! On this day those 30 34 years ago, Ronald Lee Huff joined our family and we've never been the same – a good thing!!

Unfortunately for me I was off to college when he was born but I still remember Mom flying to South Florida from Kansas with an 8-week old boy so she and he could be with me and my older sister for a week or so. It was some kinda hot and the little brother made some kinda noise, but it was all good!

A few years later I was home for a year and was around for Ronnie's birthday-suit trek through the neighborhood and his attempt to climb on the roof at age 3. I still remember how determined he was to get up there and help us on that hot, steep roof. One time he climbed a radio tower up to the eave of the roof. Mom was the only one home with him and had to climb up and retrieve him herself! Even though I was not home a lot during those years, I always remember how huggable and lovable he was as a boy, a lot of fun for the family and all who knew him.

As he grew into elementary school it slowly became just he and older brother Robb at home with Mom and Dad because the rest of us were gone with our own families or college or work. Robb and Ron were close buddies. Then when Ron was nine we all suffered the loss of Dad. After 20 years it still hits you in the gut, and perhaps Ronnie most of all. I still remember Ronnie – nine years old, trying to take it all in, resting in the strengthening presence of family. After the graveside gun salute he was gathering the spent brass cartridges out of the grass. He held out his hand to show me 9 cartridges: “I saved nine of these for the nine years I had with Dad.” This was Ron – thoughtful, tender, missing the biggest man in his life, and knowing enough to always remember.

In the years to come and up through High School we always loved it when he and Robb could visit our home with Mom. He always had a ready smile and laugh, and we loved him so much. Couldn't help ourselves. I remember once after our first son was born and Ronnie was visiting. He went out to ride around with me and he was old enough by then to help me some. He was only eleven so I should have known better, but I found myself pushing him, insisting that he 'get busy'. I didn't let up very well either, mean ol' big brother that I was! And then I noticed that he was just quiet and thoughtful – not doing much. “What are you thinking?” I asked. He took a moment before he replied.  “Life isn't just all work you know," he said. "Just 'cause I want to be out here with you doesn't mean I'm wanting to work all the time.” It was late, cold and he was right -- "wanting to be with me".  There's a life lesson in that.  Maybe a 30-year old guy could think of something more fun to do with his eleven-year old brother than work and more work. Ya think?

And so along the way we have had a great deal of fun. I wish I could remember some of the jokes. They were often nearly unspoken. One time in particular we were in Indiana for Thanksgiving, enjoying a domino game around the table. He would've been about fifteen I guess and we had discovered a very kindred spirit, meeting somewhere in the exquisite world of “Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes.” The worst of it was that we could seldom make our remarks without busting into uncontrollable laughter. Before one of us could finish some wise-crack, the other knew where it was going and we would lose it. The rest of the table had no idea how whatever-it-was could be so belly-laugh funny. Maybe we didn't either – it just was, and this is a special connection we have always enjoyed.

Another connection is this sort of crazy love of big-word-talk, for lack of a better description. It goes something like this: Instead of asking “Why did the chicken cross the road?”, Ron might proffer the following: 

     “Should inquisitions propose grammar leading to quest of determining poultry motive in situations  where horseless carriage ambulations must be transversed by said poultry, such determinations shall be disallowed from being sought via annoying query signs beside said routes of transversing.” 

Perfectly clear, right?

My favorite expression of his was when he referred to people as “sentient beings.” It was LOL funny -- after I looked it up to know what it meant.  Soon I shamelessly stole it for my own retorts. Of course mystified onlookers wonder what marbles we have left, but we don't mind. We might even describe said state for you if you like!

So there has been a lot of fun, and some hard times along the way as well. I remember when Ron decided to join the Army. I had the very poignant privilege of taking him to the airport for his departing flight to boot camp. The memory of that trip and his departure is surreal. I wish I could go there again, hug him again and shake his hand, feel the mix of pride and challenge and knowing life can never be the same again. We drove some 60 miles and made small talk. My kid brother had grown up and was going to do something none of us had done. And it was a life step I will never forget.

I am so proud of Ron for joining and serving in the Army. He has been less than enamored with his memories and experiences, not uncommon I am sure. But the love we all feel for him, and the pride and appreciation for his service and sacrifice will always be real in our hearts.

In the last ten years there were times when Ron lived within a few hours drive and 2 or 3 times I was able to meet him for his birthday. Once we met at this cool sub place in Cincinnati. Another time he took me to a new-to-me Mexican place that served huge portions. It was always so very good to get together with him, talk about old times, new times, good times, life. Like always he was funny, thoughtful, articulate. Good times.

Now he is 30 and I can't believe it, but I get to take a few minutes and say something real, something I mean, something like this straight to my much-loved kid brother: “Hey man, I miss you. Wish Kansas and Virginia were not far separated by, you know, roads and mountains and miles and stuff. You OK? Working hard I'm sure – that makes me happy and proud. I love the memories, Ron, and the blessing of a brother like you. I'm thankful for the now and all we can know and love. I believe in a better Tomorrow but am very thankful for all the todays. Let's stay in touch better – ok?  

"That's all for now except to say again, Happy Big 3-0.  I hope you have many, many more and that I get to celebrate some of them with you.  This thousand miles away stuff just doesn't cut it.  Oh and I almost forgot -- I love you, Bro.”


Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Big cattle"

There comes a final day for all of us, an ultimate reckoning.  On that day we may rejoice or tremble in the hat we wear.  On that day I want cattle.

"Big cattle."

I heard this expression on the radio the other day, apparently common in Texas, true of human nature everywhere.

It brought to mind a tragedy from Olathe, Kansas nearly 32 years ago today. Mark Manglesdorf, student leader at nearby Mid-America Nazarene College, murdered his lover's husband. The case went cold for 20 years and then in 2005 or so he was finally convicted and now sits in prison. He had been the big man on campus. After graduation he went on to Harvard and became a high level business executive, married with family, respected by those who knew him. He lived all those years with a damning secret in his heart, the guilt of murder.

Big Hat, no cattle. It speaks to the human condition. We know in our bones that we're made for something great, that we are stamped with the very image of God, that we were Created. This speaks to purpose, to meaning, to significance, and yes, to good, loving behavior. This is our Big Hat...and our cattle. We know we have substance, that we matter, that we are born for a reason. We know we have cattle. So we don the Big Hat. But, alas, the cattle die or run away. We find we cannot really own them. We find we are not what we are supposed to be.

This is sin, the tempter bruising the heal of the Deliverer, tricking Adam and Eve. This is Adam betraying his Maker, Cain killing his brother. This is "no cattle."

But we keep the Big Hat.

Yes, indeed, the Hat is fake if the cattle are not there. But we want the Hat more than the cattle. We want to look good even when we are not. We act in ways our heart betrays. Big cattle.

This is the human condition and if Jesus does not have an answer for it, then He is a fake. I believe He is real, that He is who He claimed to be, and that He has an answer. So I'm going to leave off musing, read the Gospels, and find some answers.

Why does this matter?  There comes a final day for all of us, an ultimate reckoning. On that day we may rejoice or tremble in the hat we wear. 

On that day I want cattle.