Category Archives: The Gift of Community

Just in: Pictures of Emmaline and Sam

 

Sam and Emmaline were engaged in the pasture behind her family home.

So, this granddaughter is the first born grandchild, a surrogate mother and official right hand to her mom. The gal who always seemed to have a mature relationship with the Lord. For example, when she was nine years old, as we were leaving the grocery store, she turned to me and asked, “So how are you doing spiritually, Oma?” Shocked, I stumbled around saying, “Uh, I am very comfortable with my relationship with Jesus, Emmaline. How are you doing?”  “Well,” she replied, “i am working on my judgmental spirit right now. I have asked Jesus to help me with this.”

That was and is Emmaline. She was the last we ever expected to move away from Kitten Creek Road. But today, she and Sam are living in Missouri. This will take some getting used to. But this is what it is all about: sending the “arrows” out and blessing them as they begin their own lives and ministry.

Emmaline, Sam, with Lillian (Emma’s sister and maid of honor.)
Leaving Kansas. Missouri bound.

So Much Happening on Kitten Creek

 

Milestones: Two weddings. Our grandchildren are growing up. Brother/son/grandson, EJ, was married to Jena on March 18. The next weekend sister/daughter/granddaughter, Emmaline, was married to Sam. Words do not suffice in expressing our joy and thankfulness.  Emmaline’s pictures are not available to me,yet, but here us a link to EJ’s and Jena’s wedding pictures. The pictures relate the joy of the couple and also of those who love them. http://www.miravisuphoto.com/austin-wedding-photography-blog/

Actually, there were three wedding in that one week. Our dear neighbors, the Bascoms, were also celebrating a daughter/grandaughter wedding. The original farm acres were filled with guests and celebrations.

We are now in relaxation and recuperation mode.

Fire in Them Thar Hills

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A group of thirty to forty of us had gathered in and around the prayer chapel after making our way from the barn, across the pasture, and down into the ravine.  Listening to the prayers of thanksgiving and dedication, my mind was drawn back to that fateful day the previous fall.

Derrick and I had headed down Anderson on our way home from Kansas State University. The four mile trip home past farms and fields was always refreshing and restorative. Oblivious of the drama going on at the farm, we were enjoying the spectacular fall colors.  I had never appreciated the grassy fields and roadsides in the fall before we moved to Kansas.

My first fall here, on an inspired whim I had stopped one late afternoon and picked the tall prairie grasses that were growing along the road.  Bundling them up, I had taken them home, trying to preserve the beauty as long as I could in a large vase on the table.

Today, as in every fall, the leaves were changing again into yellows, reds, and gold, and the prairie grass to shades of purple, red, and orange.  Beautiful!  A steady wind was blowing from the south across the fields, and the grasses and leaves danced to its rhythm.

Rounding the corner into the little village of Keats, we were sobered to see a fire truck coming down Kitten Creek Road and pulling to a stop as it waited to enter Anderson. “Oh, no!  There must have been a fire on our road!  I wonder who? Where?” We were both speaking at the same time.

I couldn’t help but press my foot to the gas a little harder as we entered the gravel road and sped toward home.  As we passed the Peterson’s we could not see any signs of more fire trucks or activity.  But by the time we got to the Hageman’s, we could tell the activity was in our own front yard.  “Oh, please, no, God!” I prayed softly.

Pulling into the driveway, we took a quick inventory.  Thank God, the house was still standing, the barn was still there.  As another fire truck rolled down out of the pasture, past the barn, and into the driveway, it was clear that the fire had been up in the pasture.

It is true, we Kansans do burn our pastures in the spring, but never, never in the fall.  With the dry grasses and the wind, fall fires can quickly grow out of control, so this was a fire that MUST be stopped.

We saw one remaining truck in the pasture as we ventured up the hill and waded out to the truck across the black ashes and soot, all that remained of the grass.  The volunteer fire men were still dousing the fire on the hillside above the prayer chapel.  We did not realize the extent of God’s grace that day until we scrambled down the hillside and into the chapel.  The trucks had lightened burn of chapelmanaged to get to the top of the hill just as the flames were licking at the corner of the chapel.  The only damage to the structure was where the fire had settled into a corner of the railroad ties out of the reach of the hoses and had smoldered there until the firemen reached it with containers of water.

Later that evening we were able to put together the pieces of the story as Sara and Kay recounted their harrowing day to the rest of the family.

The schools had been closed that afternoon for a half-day teacher in-service, and Sara, a Jr. High student at the time, had been the only one at home.  The rest of us were either at the university or at work.

Arriving home on the bus after a morning of classes, Sara was relishing her freedom from classes and was looking forward to a peaceful afternoon.  She had settled into a comfortable chair, ready to pick up the book she had been reading the evening before when the phone rang.

Kay Bascom, our dear “over-the-hill” neighbor was calling.  “Sara . .      .” (pause).  Not wanting to alarm Sara, but very concerned, Kay chose her words carefully.  “I think . . . that maybe I am smelling smoke. Do you know if anyone is burning something?”

Sara, quick to hear the concern in Kay’s voice, looked out the window.  “No, I don’t see anything,” she said cautiously, “but let me go up in the pasture and check.  I’ll call you back if I see anything.”

Now it has never been a secret that Kay does not appreciate the controlled spring “pasture burning” process.  In fact, there usually is a plan to have Kay busy in town when we plan a burn.  But today, Kay and Sara were the lone occupants of their respective homes.  After this fateful day, Sara joined the ranks of pasture burning naysayers.

Sara did, indeed, begin to smell smoke as she climbed the hill, and then see smoke, billows of smoke.  Coming from the south the fire was raging toward the barn.  Or so, at least, it appeared to her.

Since this episode was taking place long before cell phones were part of the normal communication process, Sara raced down the hill and into the house.  Grabbing the phone, she dialed Kay’s number.  “Yes!” she reported, out of breath and gasping for air. “There is a fire, and it is headed our way!”

They quickly confirmed that Kay would call the fire company and Sara would call her dad. When Judd’s secretary answered the phone and told Sara that Judd was in a session, Sara left a desperate message:  “The pasture is on fire and is headed toward the barn.”

Meanwhile Kay had dialed 911 and the fire trucks were on their way. Volunteers arrived first and determined that the fire was actually in the fields, and the structures around the house and barn were not in danger. However, in the fields above the barn the fire was barreling its way across the pasture. That wind that had seemed so playful on our trip home was creating chaos in our pasture.

Thinking it was a simple pasture fire, the firemen were quickly corrected by Kay.  “You must stop it before it goes down into the woods.” Kay’s love for the chapel made it especially difficult for her to remain calm. “There is a structure in its path down in the ravine: a prayer chapel.  Please stop that fire,” she begged.

I am sure those firemen had never considered a structure would have been erected in that ravine, let alone a prayer chapel; but rising to the occasion through Kay’s desperate pleas, and guided by her directions, those volunteers were able to get to the woods above the chapel, just as the structure received its first licks from the flames.

By the time Derrick and I had arrived, the remaining fire truck’s crew along with Kay were making sure that they had extinguished every last ember.

We never did determine how the fire had started, just that it had begun in our neighbor’s pasture, and with the wind coming from the south it had raced hungrily toward ours.

My reverie of remembrance was abruptly interrupted by a song. The chapel and the wooded hillside reverberated with the voices of our thankful group as Charles led us in singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” The prayers had been offered and the scripture read and a little bronze plaque had been nailed to the wood beside the charred hole.  “Thou dost encompass me with deliverance.”  Psalm 32:7, the plaque reads.  Yes, even when we are unaware of the dangers that may threaten us, He does prepare a way of deliverance: someone who smells smoke, someone to put out the fire, a community of deliverers.

Leaving the chapel that day with this thankful group of friends, I turned to read the words inscribed above the chapel door, “Let him who is thirsty come; and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”   Revelation 22:17.  We were finding the sacred in the midst of the mundane once again.

Painting by the Number (continued)

One evening we gathered in the living room of our little home with people seated on chairs, couch and floor.  We had worked together and eaten together.  Now we were relaxed and spending some time in worship, song, and sharing. Dennis led us, playing a few of our favorite choruses.  Judd and John co-led as we jumped into one of our favorite topics.  The discussion was one that had become familiar, but this time Kathy recorded what we said. What was the next step?  Better yet, what was the big picture that God was painting?

Jane began the discussion in her calm, level voice.   “Perhaps, when you look at the gifts represented here, one focus we have could have is a home for emotionally disturbed children . . . or even family therapy,” she suggested,  her brown eyes resting on Judd in particular.

Ken, leaned forward in his chair intently. “Or we could be a community that welcomed pregnant women who needed shelter and a place to be loved and accepted.”  Ken was also seeing a potential that would possibly meet some of the needs of society and combine them with the gifts of our group and potential of the farm.

After some discussion of these possibilities, Dennis, his blue eyes fixed intently on the floor in front of him, looked up.  He slowly crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.  “What if we offered a place as a community where others could come to discuss and present ideas for feedback?”

Thayne jumped in and expanded  Dennis’ idea, “Perhaps we could be a community where we were living and supporting one another.  Where we are there to meet each other’s needs . . .  an alternative to the “me” generation.  We could offer an example of Christians living in a fallen world but exhibiting the consistency of God’s character, meeting emotional needs of acceptance, a place where questions will receive listening, and a place where people can come to regain themselves.”

More and more as we talked, we began to identify, not only gifts, but an expression of heart needs.  We would be a community, and together we were molding the shape of what that would look like.  All of those gifts and heart needs, a rainbow of colors, began to blend together to create the foundation of God’s “art work.”

It was a rich experience, this “visioning” together as we began to uncover that particular piece of artwork God was directing.  We all had our paintbrushes out and we were doing a lot of dreaming and coloring.

Of this group, only Charles and Kay and the Swiharts  (including our children’s families . . .Dan and Sara Swihart/Troyer”s  and Nat Bascom’s) would be the ones to finally build that permanent community. The rest of this small focus group would paint some lasting stories and pictures here at the farm before they would spread out into the world to create their own beautiful works of art.

 

 

Painting by the Number

Whenever God rejects a “wish dream” it is not out of His disdain for our wishes, but it is always that He has something better.  In rejecting my wish dreams, God did not hold back His blessing from the farm, its ministry, and its supporters.  He had a better plan.

Looking back now I can see that what happened over the years was God’s plan painted in pictures that we could only uncover as we lived under His leadership. His plan was like the old-fashioned paint-by-the number pictures I had done in my childhood.  The pictures came to life when I followed the numbers carefully, choosing the right colors to fill in the spaces until the image began to appear: a galloping horse, a cuddly puppy, or a lovely cabin by a stream.

Those early days were exciting as we began to uncover that particular piece of artwork God was directing.  We all had our paintbrushes out and we were doing a lot of dreaming and coloring.  Sometimes, when we used the wrong color, we had to step back and listen to the Artist again.  Whenever we in Wellspring ran into bumps, disappointments, disagreements through the years, the issues could always be traced back to our own personal dreams and visions of what that final art piece would look like.

We did have vision, excitement, and dreams!  We had no real idea of the big picture God was painting, but we were eager to see what He would do.  That first small rag-tag group anticipated God was going to produce something beautiful . . . and He was going to allow us to work with Him.  Not only Judd and I, but all of us in our newly formed group had visions and dreams, and as a community we had to learn to listen. Listen to what each other had to say, what gifts each brought, and what God was saying into all of this.  Voices arose, flags raised, and we certainly accomplished a lot.

L”Abri had been our model, but we were wise enough to know quite early in that first year that we would not look exactly like L’Abri.   As we looked at the gifts God had given each person in our group, we had a myriad of ideas that led to very interesting discussions.

One evening we gathered around the small living room.  The discussion was one that had become familiar, but this time Kathy recorded what we said that evening.   We represented a variety of potential, experience, and interests in this living room.  Jane, a student at Manhattan Christian College and the leader of the Youth for Christ at Riley County High School; Dennis, the area InterVarsity staff person here at Kansas State University and Emporia State University;  John and Ken, graduate students in the Geography Department; Kathy, our recorder that evening, a grad student in Family Studies; Thayne studied in Fine Arts; Lowell a grad student in architecture; Carol a grad student in Physics; Charles a physician at Kansas State’s Lafene Health Center; Judd teaching in the Family Studies department; and then there was Kay, whose wisdom always put a capstone on our discussions; and as always, our children and I.   Not present were two professors from the Family Studies area at the University, George and Ken.  George was a child psychologist and Ken had many years’ experience in family studies.

What should our focus be?  Where were we going to put our efforts?

 

 

Authenticity: The “Real I” and the “Real Thou”

 

At fourteen, a few days before I turned fifteen, I had a crash-bang encounter with the Real Thou…and He spoke directly to the Real I.  Having been chosen at the last moment to replace someone on our Youth For Christ Bible quiz team, I had crammed for a week, trying to memorize scripture that we would cover in quizzes against other teams from our North Atlantic District.   We were going to represent our group at a large convention in Ocean City, New Jersey. This was a big deal…and I was scared.  By the time we got to Ocean City, I was not feeling well.  I got worse as the week went on.  Except for the evening services, the quizzes were about the only part of the conference that I could attend during the day.  Other than that I was in my hotel room, sick.  .  My only real memory of that week was sitting with the other 2,000 young people listening to Torrey Johnson bring to conclusion his sermon.  No words from that sermon remain in my memory.  What I remember is that the crowd faded away and I saw Jesus hanging on the cross…and it was for me.  The depth of His love touched my very soul.  And it was His love for me, that little girl who had some knowledge of who He was and a very little knowledge of who she was.  He intimately knew and loved that young woman who was ready to give up pursuing hope; the one who had lost her sense of the adventure of life.

He knew me and He loved me, the real me, with unfailing and undying love.  Never again would I have to flounder on my own, never again would I need to search for an identity.  He knew who I was and He would reveal that to me in a loving, unfolding way the rest of my life.    That knowledge changed my life.  I was forever devoted to Him.

I am continuing to learn how that authenticity works.  In much of C. S. Lewis’ work, he emphasizes the importance of the “real me” in relationship with “the real Thou.”  I am learning about my Creator/Savior as I read His word, as I talk to Him, as I listen for Him, as I watch his creation, especially his creatures.  I am getting to know more and more the “real” Thou.  And slowly I am becoming the “real” me.

Yes, I am ME.  I am the one God created to live out this life in all of its surprises, conundrums, joys, sorrows.  Inside this skin.  Within the boundaries of my family of origin, with all of the handicaps and giftedness that may entail.  In Kansas!  On a farm!  With my husband (that gift from a God who never changes).  With the children and grandchildren God has given.  I must take every day as a gift from Him.  And then I must live it as the person God created me to be and continues to form me to be.  That life will not look like anyone else’s life.  It will be uniquely mine.  And in that uniqueness, I will be bringing glory to God that only I can bring.  I will be uncovering something about the mystery of God that only I can uncover.  I am becoming authentic.

The gift of authenticity. The farm gave us as a family a platform where we could practice being authentic, and where we could offer an authentic experience to others.

Authenticity: From “Me” to “Who?”

 

Children don’t know anything but transparency and authenticity. Their freedom to be themselves is quite compelling.  It is only later that they begin to adapt to the social pressures in this fallen world.

I remember in my wise four-year-old mind becoming aware that the thoughts coming in the form of ideas or conversation with others were actually coming from me.  I remember the awe I would feel when I would whisper to myself, “I am Me.”  Allowing the thought to reach into my very soul, I was overwhelmed with a sense of my own identity, and I marveled at this reality.

But when a child is slowly growing through those formative years, identity can become very confusing, and authenticity becomes less and less automatic.  Little by little I began to lose that ownership of my identity.  In the next half a dozen years, we moved. A lot!  We were always the new kids in the neighborhood, the new students in the classroom.  In one of my first grade classrooms (I think I went to three first grade class rooms in three different states that year) the teacher had given us the wonderful privilege of writing on the chalkboard during the lunch hour.

One noon, I had finished my lunch early and had taken my place beside another little girl who was writing on the chalk board.  I quietly drew some figures on the board, but out of the corner of my eye I was watching this very sophisticated little girl, this  One-who- belonged, write her name.  She not only knew how to write her name, she knew how to write it in cursive!  Surreptitiously I watched and, hiding my work behind my left hand, I wrote it just like she wrote it, Betty.  I went back to my desk that day and continued to practice that special word, Betty.  Throughout my school years and into adult hood, any time I doodled, in the midst of the doodling one word was sure to appear. . . Betty.  In some ways, this was to mirror the loss of that sense of identity that I had grasped so innocently in my preschool years.  I did not consciously adopt someone else’s identity, but I became less and less sure of who was existing at my core, who God had intended me to be.

One thing remained constant, though, in my growing years.  The God who lived up there in those beautiful skies, grew to be my companion.  In so many ways He showed me His beauty, His kindness, His creativity, His protection.  However, He spoke to me most clearly through His creatures. They became His sketch book of every day lessons.  “Look dear child at the beauty of the many colors in that rooster’s tail.  Watch the tenderness with which that momma cow licks and washes her tiny calf; see the devoted look in those beautiful cocker eyes of your faithful dog Winky as she watches to see what you will do next.”  In each creature, I saw characteristics that had been placed by a loving Creator.  But there was more! Each creature seemed to be secure in who/what it was.  God had created it to be a dog, a cow, a horse, a sheep, and it found satisfaction in being, just in being.  True authenticity!  I have watched those creatures almost in awe.  They are content, unassuming, and real!  None of the socialization, none of the pressure that we as humans have experienced in order to fit in, to pretend, to perform.

My natural instinct has been, even as a child, to turn to those creatures that also seemed to accept me just as I was.  At the age of four, I would slip out to the dairy barn after the cows had been milked and had  settled for the night.  In that long old barn, I had birthday parties; I had prayer meetings.  With a little grain in my hand, I would walk from stanchion to stanchion, preaching, singing, and entertaining.  And they accepted me.  They were my adoring audience. I could be free to be me.  Later, after we moved from the dairy farm and began the saga of continual moving, my cocker spaniel, Winkie, was the receptor of my tales of longing, my companion on walks, and my nighttime buddy.  She loved me unabashedly and uncompromisingly.

By my teenage years, I was becoming more and more a creator of my own self.  With deep feelings of not belonging in this world, of watching it as an outsider, I was becoming a young adult.  Unlike that little four year old who was thrilled with the “me-ness of me,” the person I was becoming did not like the me I was.  I did not like the body I had been given, nor did I not like my history.  Instead of accepting my identity, I became adept at covering it, of masquerading it, of working hard to become what I thought I should be.