What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another Closed Door? Or an Open Window...

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a futre and a hope."   Jeremiah 29:11
The picture of the plaque to the left is the original image that inspired the title of this blog, "Closed Doors, Open Windows".  Years ago a young lady, who was a member of our church youth group, cross-stitched that picture and gave it to me as a gift.  I was very taken back by this gift, as well as by the giver...as she was one of our more troubled youth at the time...a young girl who had seen more than her share of slammed doors and perhaps "broken windows" in her young lifetime.  I remember wondering at the time how a girl I had perhaps misjudged because of her outward appearance and sometimes inappropriate behavior could have such a mature insight into a message that became so encouraging and precious to me as the days and years have passed by since.  God knew then what I couldn't see...and He inspired a wayward young teenager to send me a message from His heart...that still amazes me today, some 23 or more years later.  I've lost track of that young woman...have no clue whatever happened to her after we left that church.  I can only pray that somehow this act of kindness shown toward me, her pastor's wife, also had a lasting and profound impact on her life...and helped her to seek those open windows that led to peace and joyous life in Christ.

When I began to write this blog over a year and a half ago, I chose this as my title because I was in the middle of experiencing one closed door after another in my search for employment.  Finally, God opened a window of opportunity for me and has blessed my life in the process in so many different ways.  This blog itself, is an open window of opportunity, that has hopefully not only encouraged me, but has also been an encouragement to those who have taken the time to read it.

Now I find myself in the midst of another closed door...this time my husband's.  He was given some difficult news at his place of employment this past week which, due to no fault of his own, means that he is now exploring and searching for an open window of opportunity.  This comes at a very difficult time in our lives...(is there ever a good time to be unemployed?) and puts us in a real quandary about what the next step should be. 

I cling to the promise of the verse quoted above from Jeremiah 29:11...God is speaking to the Jews who have been in captivity, but I believe He is also speaking to us when He says,
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
The Lord knows how much we long to be in that place of peace...and to have that hope of a good future...not something that is evil.  God has promised to care for us and to shelter us under His wings.  The Psalmist cries out to the Lord in Psalm 57...and I cry along with him:
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by."
The Psalmist then goes on to sing his praises to God in verses 5 and 11:
"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth." 
verse 9-10 says,
"I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations.  For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds."
So, here I am again, Lord.  I don't like the sound of that door that just slammed shut in our ears, but I am seeking Your face...and waiting for that open window of Your opportunity to appear.  We've been here before, and You did not fail us.  Therefore, I will continue to trust in You; and "in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by..."  Amen.

I just noticed that there is a bird sitting in that open window above..."Shadow of Your wings"...hmmm...maybe there was more to that little image than I realized...

Lord, I also pray for that young woman who so sweetly stitched that verse for me so many years ago.  I don't know where she is today, but YOU know.  I pray she is safe in the shadow of Your wings...and that You will bless her in a very special way today.  Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Discovering Hidden Treasures

Have you ever been on a "treasure hunt"?  I remember having such fun with my classmates years and years ago searching for treasure as we discovered clues in secret places and followed the instructions written on the notes hidden therein.  Sometimes the instructions told us to walk so many paces to a certain tree and look for the next clue, or to go to the next spot and look up or down or all around and find another clue stashed some clever place.  Then there would be a mad dash to the next destination to see who would be the first one to discover the hidden treasure.  What a thrill to be the one who found it...no matter how insignificant the treasure, it became a a grand prize in the hands of the discoverer!

I loved those exciting events and enjoyed the searching for the mysterious prize almost as much as finding the treasure.  The thrill of the hunt...the challenge of the competition to get there first...and laughter and glee of all my friends running about seeking the treasure...kind of like an Easter Egg Hunt...such happy memories. 

Recently I've been on another kind of treasure hunt as my siblings and I have been seeking out the "treasures" left behind by our parents in our family home upon the departure of our father on his journey to heaven, where he joined our mother who was eagerly awaiting his arrival.  My parents' home was quite a menagerie of collections of so many interesting things that it was almost mind boggling to even know where to begin to sort it all out.  My parents' idea that all their earthly goods should be sold and the proceeds divided equally between their four children sounded good on paper, but in reality it became a complicated problem for us to fairly decipher when there were so many special memories tied up in all of their "earthly goods".  I mean, how can you just out and out sell to strangers the family heirlooms, no matter how "valuable" or lacking in monetary value but precious to our sentimental feelings...things that have our family history inscribed in the knicks, chips and scratches on dishes and furniture, and worn pages and signatures, faded pictures and scribbled notes on old letters, books, diaries...so many memories...

There was one particular piece of furniture in the house that I had always admired, and I kept thinking in my mind that I really would like to have it, but I just wasn't sure if I would have room for it, or if it's "assigned value" might make it cost prohibitive for me to add to my "list" of things I wanted to keep.  But I knew that it really shouldn't be sold out of the family because my mother had told me that it had belonged to one of her ancestors and had even perhaps been built by a family member years and years ago.  Although I wasn't certain from which ancestor this beautiful chest of drawers had originated, I knew that I just couldn't let it slip away from our family.  So I finally made the decision to take it home with me, with the blessings of my other siblings. 

Can you see the handwritten signatures which I found on the side of one of the drawers of this chest?   Written in pencil, and yet still there over 100 years later!! A little to the right and above their signatures is a note engraved by my father, stating, "Refinished by William F. Mursch, July 1968", which explains why the chest is still in such beautiful condition.
As we removed the drawers from the chest to make it easier to transport into our house, I began to search for any hidden clues that could help identify the origins of this wonderful old antique.  I knew that sometimes people used to write their names on the undersides or insides of their furnishings to identify them, so I scanned each and every surface of the dresser for an answer.  Lo and behold! There it was, written upside down on one of the sides of one of the drawers was the treasure I was seeking!  Scrawled in the old fashioned script of yesteryear, written in pencil, were the names of two significant people:  Dora Johnston and Flora B. Johnston.  Now, I know that probably doesn't mean much to you, but those two names solved the riddle.  Dora and Flora were sisters, born in 1860 and 1857 respectively.   Flora Belle Johnston married John B. Sheets, and she then became the mother of my grandmother, Flora E. Sheets Tedlie, the mother of my Mother, Dorothea May Tedlie Mursch! So this beautiful chest of drawers that I somehow just couldn't leave behind for strangers, belonged to my maternal Great Grandmother, and probably dates back to the 1860-1870's, since it is signed by both sisters, which means they were most likely still both living at home.  I believe the piece was actually in the home of my Great-Great Aunt Dora Johnston Gorseline, and she actually left it to my Grandmother when she willed her home and all it's furnishings to her upon her death in 1932.  My Great Grandmother Flora Belle Johnston Sheets had previously passed away in 1911. 

Although I still don't know who actually built the chest of drawers, that doesn't really matter as much as who used it and filled it with their own precious treasures, lingerie, dainty hankies, gloves, jewelry and maybe even their secret diaries.  Oh, if those drawers could talk, I'll bet they could tell me the dreams of two young girls who never in their wildest dreams knew that one day, some 150 years later, their great grand daughter and great great niece would be sitting here writing about this on a computer for all the world to see!  Wow! That even excites me and gets my imagination flowing!  Could be the start of that book I keep wanting to write...hmmm...I'll just have to think about that!

What a treasure!  Oh, by the way, when I finally got this chest of drawers set up in my guest room, (which I call "The Grandma Room"), I know I heard some giggles and sighs and hand clapping from somewhere up in heaven...and I could definitely feel my mother smiling down at me and heard her whisper, "Thank you, Pam, for carrying on the family heritage and finding the treasure hidden therein." 

You are welcome, Mama...and I'm so glad you kept nudging me on to not give up on it!
Good night!  Sleep Tight!

The Chest of Drawers that belonged to my Great Grandmother Flora Belle Johnston Sheets and her sister, Dora Johnston Gorseline, passed down to my Grandmother Flora E. Sheets Tedlie, and then to my mother, Dorothea May Tedlie Mursch, and now to me, Pamela Anne Mursch Steiner. I wonder where it will go from here?  Time will tell...

The Buster Brown Tea Set on top of the dresser belonged to my Aunt Margaret Tedlie Moss, and my mother remembers playing with it when she was a child.  The two pictures are: Flora Sheets Tedlie, my grandmother as a little girl about 5 or 6 years old, and the other is a picture of my Great Great Grandmother, Flora E. Johnston, the mother of Dora and Flora B. Johnston!  The doll is a doll that I gave my mother as a birthday present on her 85th birthday.  The books are from my mother's collection of old books, including a very old edition of Little Women, wrapped in plastic because it is literally falling apart and beyond restoration.  I am looking foward to placing more "treasures" in and on this chest of drawer as I discover them...!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Day After Mother's Day

"Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God."  Ruth 1:16

Portions of this verse were actually sung at my wedding almost 42 years ago...and even though the song was intended as a message from the bride to the groom, the original scripture verse was actually spoken by a daughter in law (Ruth) to her mother in law (Naomi) after the death of Ruth's husband and Naomi's son.

This particular mother's day was very difficult for me, even though the day itself was pleasantly spent.  You see, on this Mother's Day, as I remembered my own dear mother who had gone on to be with the Lord exactly five years ago, I also was saddened by the departure of my mother-in-law from my home, who went to stay with her other son and family after being with us for the past six months. 

You may wonder why I was saddened...most people rejoice when their mother-in-law leaves town...and I must admit, in many ways it was actually a relief to me.  But on the other hand, it was a very difficult experience.  You see, my mother in law is showing all of the signs of increased dementia, and her departure from my home was extremely turbulent as she was overcome with anger mingled with fear and distrust of me and all others who had participated in her care in the recent past.  I must also admit that my own reaction to her anger towards me was not exactly sweet and controlled.  I responded like most anyone would respond when false accusations and allegations are hurled at them with such vehemence...and I know I must apologize to not only my mother in law, but to my Lord and Savior.  I regret that I was not able to "turn the other cheek" and speak softly and humbly in the face of such uncontrolled wrath.  Even though my response may have been justified at the time, it was still wrong and disrespectful of a dear woman that I have loved for all these years, and who, in her better days, also loved me as a daughter...not just a daughter in law.

This is the painful side of the effects of aging, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.  The dear ones we have loved and cherished and enjoyed for many years suddenly become strangers to us...and this goes both ways...the one suffering from dementia views her loved ones as strangers and enemies, and her children and family also view her as a person they no longer recognize and understand.  She is not the same person we've always known and loved, and it becomes increasingly difficult for us to know how to deal with her unpredictable changes in behavior and mood each day.  It also becomes a concern for not only her safety, but our own safety and security in the home.  Oftentimes these behaviors can become so violent that one may actually fear for his life.

And so, difficult decisions have to be made...how to best care for one in such a condition as this.  In our case, we had done everything we were "permitted" to do for her physical and medical care.  When it became apparent that she was no longer going to accept our care and continue to trust us to help her, we had to make a decision to "pass the torch" onto the next in line...and let them try to move her on to the next level of care that is required to keep her protected, healthy and well treated.  Even though it may appear that we are happy to be relieved of our "duty", we are not celebrating.  We are grieving the loss of this dear one and the sweet kind of fellowship with her that we had previously enjoyed. 

Two weeks ago my own father passed away, and I am still grieving that great loss.  But sometimes I think there are some losses that are worse than death.  We never lost a feeling of love and trust with my Dad.  He was pretty much aware of us and enjoyed his family until the very end, as much as possible.  With my mother in law, I fear that we will not be able to enjoy that kind of fellowship ever again, even though she may live for many years to come.  And that is what grieves us today.

Lord, I confess to You today my inability to cope with the hurt that I experienced this past weekend in the relationship with my mother in law.  I pray that somehow she will understand that I truly do love her, and that someday we will be able to once again embrace and experience that love and trust.  Until then, please keep her safe from harm, and protect the dear ones who have taken on this awesome responsibility. May they have Your strength and patience and wisdom in becoming the new torch bearers. I pray this in the name of Jesus, the Great Physician and Burden Bearer.  Amen.