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Linda Roorda

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  1. Little lambs are so soft, cuddly and cute! In my mid-teens, my siblings and I were given a lamb which I promptly named “Lambie.” Very original, huh?! It was only intended until something better came to mind, but nothing ever did. She was a twin, abandoned by her mother and given to us by our cousin, Robert, from his flock. I don’t know the breed, but she had light gray wool with a black face and black legs. As Lambie’s main caretaker, I took responsibility to make sure she was fed. Following my Dad’s directions, I made a gruel with oatmeal, water and evaporated milk, feeding it to her in a glass bottle which had one of my brother’s bottle nipples attached – we were good at making do. And I loved to watch her little tail go “ninety miles an hour” while she drank! Lambie was small, not very old, so we kept her in a box near the old-fashioned wood-burning kitchen stove to keep her warm. It was too cold to put her out in the barn all by herself without her mama. Even our mutt, Pepsi, of terrier and other unknown parentage, liked nothing better than to jump into Lambie’s box to check out this new arrival to our menagerie. And I’m sure Pepsi wondered why this little one said “baaaa” and didn’t whimper like a puppy, but she contentedly mothered her adopted baby anyway! Eventually, Lambie went to her pen in the barn, and followed me wherever I went. It was fun to watch her spring up and down as she played and ran about the yard and nibbled on the grass. Occasionally, she tried to wander beyond her guardian’s protection until called back to my side. Though I never considered myself her “shepherd,” in reality I was. I provided food and water for her, protected her, and kept her from harm… until the vet diagnosed her with Listeriosis, or circling disease. Nothing could be done for her and we had to put her down. Crying so hard I could barely see, I insisted to my Dad that I would dig the grave at the edge of the raspberry patch and bury little Lambie all by myself. Such were the thoughts that came to mind after writing the poem below which is based on Jesus’ parable found in John 10:1-21. Here, we read that the Good Shepherd knows each one of his sheep, and He calls them by name. But the sheep also know their shepherd, recognize his voice, and follow wherever he leads them. Should a stranger enter the fold, the sheep will not follow him… instead, they will run around wildly or just run away en masse, simply because they aren’t familiar with the stranger’s voice. Perhaps, under cover, a thief may come near the flock, pretending to be their shepherd. He may disguise himself and draw a few young, inexperienced sheep away who think they’re following their shepherd. Or perhaps a predator might sneak up on an unsuspecting lamb and lead it astray. Disoriented and lost, the lamb follows the predator to supposed safety. Soon it becomes obvious that the predator is not its shepherd… but by then it’s too late. Except, the true shepherd with his trained eye realizes what’s happened. Like another of Jesus’ parables in Luke 15:3-6, He seeks out His precious lamb and brings it back, or willingly fights off the predator to rescue his little lost lamb. Listening to its Master’s voice, the lamb turns around and joyfully runs back to the safety of the flock… and there it stays, feeling content and peaceful under the watchful eye of its protective shepherd. And I thought, how like those sheep we are… As Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” We have a tendency at times to follow what sounds and looks so good, what seems so right… only to realize later that we’ve been duped… we were on the wrong track… and we need someone to save us. That special someone, the Master, the Good Shepherd, would do anything for us, His sheep… especially those who have wandered off or been drawn away by a predator. Not so the hireling who doesn’t care much about someone else’s sheep. With only a little provocation, he’d as soon run away than fight for the lives of the sheep under his watch. Just as my heart ached and cried for the loss of my little precious lamb, so the Good Shepherd of our story aches for the lost, and would lay down His own life to protect and save His precious sheep from harm. And isn’t that what our Lord, our Good Shepherd, our Master, has done for us? May we always hear the love in our Master’s voice within our heart and follow His leading… The Master’s Voice Linda A. Roorda Like gentle sheep we’re prone to wander Easily enticed by things of this world But at the sound of our Master’s voice Will we then heed or continue headstrong? ~ The Master’s words will not lead astray Seeking the ones who meander off Softly calling each one by name With tender words of comfort and peace. ~ When storms arrive and release their fury The shepherd guides his flock to safety. How like our Master who longs to embrace And bring us home to rest in His arms. ~ When wolves appear like gentle sheep clothed With flattery smooth they strike unannounced Their intention dark, the naïve to deceive Serving their needs, the meek to destroy. ~ Then words of wisdom are soon directed At wandering lambs who have left the fold Calling them back to a sheltered life Protected under the Master’s great love. ~ Unlike the hireling, He lays down His life Whatever it takes to gather His own Take heed to His call and flee from the foe Lean into His arms of mercy and grace. ~ Like a good Shepherd is our Savior Lord With care He protects each sheep in His fold It matters to Him whose words we follow The call of folly or the Master’s voice. ~~
  2. Linda Roorda


    G.R.A.C.E. - This acrostic idea did not originate with me; unfortunately, I don’t even remember who I heard preaching about it… nor do I remember all of his words intended for the title of G.R.A.C.E. In any event, this is my original poem and thoughts, having heard only the tail end of that sermon. Grace can be defined as an elegance, a refined charm. Speaking of a practiced ballerina, or champion ice skater, brings to mind a picture of elegance and graceful beauty in motion. But grace can also be defined as unmerited favor, like the rescue or redemption from evil. And thus, the word grace brings into focus the unmerited gift of salvation. As another acrostic online puts it - “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” How fitting. Grace is a gift… something we don’t deserve and we can’t do for ourselves. It’s a reaching out by God toward us, especially as He displays His love for us through His Son. Who would ever think that God would send His beloved Son to earth from His heavenly home of glory? Who would think that He would allow His Son to be born into this world of woe, a world of evil? Who would think that this man, who claimed to be the Son of God, would grow up to live among us… that He would not live an easy life of posh luxury because of who He was… that in living with us He would be tempted as we are, face ridicule and mocking for His love of sinners, the downtrodden, the untouchables – and that He would heal them, and tell them their sins were forgiven? And who would have expected that our great God would allow His Son, His one and only beloved Son, to die a horrendous and painful death on a Roman cross for sins that he didn’t even commit? Just for us? For the sins of each one of us? Why? Because of His great love for us! And we don’t even have to satisfy a list of requirements to please our God for Him to love us! So, how do we fathom such a priceless gift… if not for eyes of grace. In Romans 3:23 we are told that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Yet, “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) And out of a thankful heart for such grace and mercy comes our grateful attitude. For in our day-to-day relationship with our Lord, we long to please Him, grow closer to Him, and honor Him in all that we do. And therein lies our grateful relationship with an attitude of confession and endurance... G.R.A.C.E. A Grateful Relationship with an Attitude of Confession and Endurance Linda A. Roorda With grateful praise I sing of Your grace For who am I that You would claim me. Yet love me You do, knowing my frailties And stubborn penchant to go my own way. My relationship grows by walking with You Though there are times I take You for granted. I hear Your voice, but don’t always heed Draw me still closer as love grows stronger. My attitude then will change over time As wisdom grows to honor Your word, That like a mirror Your Grace I’ll reflect For all to see Your love shining through Me. May I confess the wrongs I have done Let me not keep secrets hid away. Though You know all, You ask that I come Seeking Your face and forgiving grace. Grant me endurance and strength for the trials Knowing You light the path that I walk, And should I stumble draw me near to You As You wait with grace and mercy’s sweet peace. Linda Roorda writes from her home in Spencer.
  3. Analogies give us a glimpse of similarities and truths of a story tucked within a story. Thinking about this concept after my poem below was written brought to mind Mark Twain’s book, “The Prince and The Pauper,” published 1881 initially in Canada, and subsequently in 1882 in the U.S. In Twain’s beloved story, a young prince and a pauper (who happen to look a lot alike and were born on the same day) trade places in life. The prince experiences the roughness of a lowly life just as his counterpart once did, while the pauper tries to bravely find his way at the top of an unfamiliar kingdom of elites. Common sense, so crucial to his survival in the real world, comes in quite handy as he makes his way through the upper echelon. Ultimately, the real prince returns to claim his rightful place as heir and is crowned king. Ever grateful for his real-life experiences as a pauper, the prince now understands life for the poor and hard-working folks beneath him, and is better able to comprehend their needs. And makes his friend, the pauper, his aide. Not having read Twain’s book, my poem was written without knowledge of the story line, though I had heard of the title. After research, it’s clear my poem takes a similar, albeit slightly different tack to Twain in relating a king who was used to observing the realm from his castle high above the fray of every-day life. Wanting to experience firsthand what life for his subjects was like, he walks among them dressed as a beggar. In this guise, he observes that most people continue on their way with their heads held high, seldom stooping to assist someone poorer and perhaps scruffier than they. Sadly, there are still those who live and breathe a self-serving arrogance. A few years ago, I encountered two gentlemen one day – one, a young man looking a bit shabby, crouching against the building to finish a cigarette before entering our local grocery. Unsure of whether to smile at this lone man for fear my friendliness would be misinterpreted, I nervously glanced his way as he quickly got up and stepped ahead of me to hold the door open. Giving a smile and thanking him very much, he, ever the gentleman, waited off to the side for me to get settled with a shopping cart as I told him to go ahead of me. Later that same day, I met an elderly casually-dressed gentleman walking into the pharmacy at the same time. As I hung back to allow him entrance first, he instead slowed down and motioned for me to go ahead. Noticing his cap signifying he was a Navy Vietnam Veteran, I thanked him for his service, mentioning one of my brothers was a 20-year Navy man who’d served in the Gulf War. At that point, the gentleman quietly told me he’d served in Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, and many places in between, a 40-year vet, and we had a nice chat as he thanked me. And I realized, first impressions do tend to make a difference, don’t they? On the other hand, a young woman notices our poor man in his tattered clothing. Kindly offering to feed him, not only did she provide nourishing meals, but she repairs his coat to provide warmth against the cold. He returns often to talk with her, to learn the depths of her heart, and to simply show appreciation and gratefulness for what she has done for him, a beggar. He was afraid to share that he had fallen in love with her and was now in a dilemma for he needs to return from whence he came. Indeed, he knows that truth must always be told in any situation… and so he set out one day to let her know how much he loved her. He was willing to give up all he owned just to serve her for the rest of his life. And it was then that he could see his love was returned in her eyes as he knelt down to propose. With her “yes,” his heart leapt for joy knowing their hearts would soon be united forever, sharing with her who he really was. Tucked within the depth of my poem’s reflection is the analogy of our Lord’s love for us. Leaving His throne in His beautiful and perfect heavenly home, He came down to dwell among us… in our world of sin and pain. Once here, Jesus experienced life just as we do with all of its temptations and sadness, but also the joys. He wants to have a relationship with each of us. He wants to share conversations in prayer as we listen for his nudging and messages in our heart from His Words of Life in Holy Scripture. And in this way, He is able to be our advocate and comforter, knowing from personal experience what our life on earth is all about. For as Jesus once said, “’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40 NIV) During this season of Lent, as we think more closely about Jesus, our Savior, we remember what our Lord accomplished as a servant while He lived among us, even to washing His disciples’ dirty feet: “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28) In His sacrifice, He gave His all for us through His death on the cross… that we might accept His priceless gift of mercy and forgiveness of our sins, becoming our Lord and Savior. What joy there will be when we are united with Him and remain in the presence of His love forever! What a King! Ode to a King Linda A. Roorda I gazed from afar while observing my realm And found with interest motives in action, But often their lives showed merest concern Though I could see depths of their anguished souls. ~ Oh how I loved these people of mine! And longed to walk the path to their soul A chance to converse, a sharing of hearts, To bring them peace with comforting words. ~ So stepping down, I entered their world Yearning to serve the rich and the poor But they did not know this beggar in rags Most never saw needs, just held their head high. ~ And then I noticed a young woman fair Who spoke gentle words to a stranger coarse. She offered food and to mend my coat While love in my heart had only begun. ~ A love which grew on the winds of time A chance to bond and learn of her heart To know the depths of comfort and peace Humility’s grace wrapped up in mercy. ~ Now deeply in love I’d sacrifice all Yet she did not know the truth of my garb How would I explain that she’d found favor That her heart was true, like gold refined. ~ So I intended my dilemma to share To let her know from afar I’d come, That all I’d longed for I treasured in her, Companionship sweet, a melding of souls. ~ Expressing my love for her tender heart Overwhelmed was she as on knees I bent Asking for her hand, with tears she said yes, My heart leapt for joy that we’ll become one. ~ And then I shared my journey in rags From a kingdom rich in glory and fame To this lowly world of sorrow and pain To which I had come, others to serve. ~ For it was then my eyes did behold Analogy of One with far greater love Who left His throne to walk on this earth To share our burdens and speak to our hearts. ~ His love ran red as He gave His all To purchase with blood and redeem our souls That He might draw near, from sin set us free And offer His gift of life eternal. ~~
  4. “Young love, first love, filled with true devotion…”* Glimpses of memories linger from sixth grade at Passaic Christian School of a former farm girl whose family had moved back to city life in Clifton, NJ. It was where life began for her, and where her father’s Dutch immigrant family had lived since the Great Depression era of the 1930s. She was tall at 5’7” in sixth grade, tallest student in the school actually. With a natural springing high jump, long arms and legs, she had the strength to punch the ball hard to beat everyone at tetherball – including one classmate in particular. Poor guy! He simply gave up and walked away the last time they played. But she must have made an impression. After making their silhouettes in art class, he brushed the nose of his next to hers saying, “Eskimo kiss!”, and I was smitten. Getting out of his seat for an inquisitive peek out the window one day, our teacher said, “Curiosity killed the cat!” to which he immediately replied, “But satisfaction brought it back!” I loved his quick wit. Once a week that spring until school was out for the summer, he walked me home after classes. One time, he stopped, moved a cinderblock away from a garage door, and positioned me next to it as he stepped up. Looking down, he exclaimed, “There! Now I’m taller than you!” We carry many special memories in our hearts as we travel through life. And, as we glimpse back through the window of time and recall days of long ago, fragments return of treasured days. We’ve held onto dreams and hopes, we’ve made mistakes that we regret, apologized, moved on and matured. Yet, first love remains with its sweet simplicity and priceless memories… a tender young love. In 2018, my mother’s first beau sought her out. After visiting her nephews on their farm, he was able to contact me and arrange a visit to see my Mom at the nursing home. Telling me she had left an impact on his life, he made amends. They had a wonderful visit, a special time of reminiscing. All those years ago, they’d met at the county fair in Cobleskill, NY. As farmers, they had a similar background, living not too many miles apart. They kept steady company through the end of high school and a bit beyond for about 3-4 years. He loved racing on the local track, known for a fast reputation which broke their relationship. Another young man, Ralph, pursued a beautiful girl with a penchant for fast driving... and he asked a friend who that young woman was as she sped by, actually late for work! Soon she knew this farmer was “the right one” for her as they spent many a Saturday night square dancing, getting to know each other better. The following spring, they married. And 11 months later, I arrived as the oldest of six. In seasons of time, young love made itself known once again. When a tall, dark and handsome young man saw her for the first time, it was love at first sight for him. Still, it took over a year for Ed to gather the courage to ask that pretty girl out on a date. And I fell in love with this gentle, caring, humorous, tall farmer with a strong faith in God who was determined to do as much as possible despite his vision limitations. He told me that if I ever felt sorry for him, then I didn’t belong at his side. And we shared our hearts and filled our life with young love and true devotion… meant to last a lifetime, shortened by the limitations of life that no one can predict. Yet, there is a love far deeper than any of our tender loves… a love that lasts far longer than our earthly loves… because our “God loves us deeply [and] is full of mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) Our God has tenderly loved us from before we even were born…words which Israel’s King David penned that our heartfelt praise can echo: “You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made… My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139: 13-16) No matter our past, no matter the cost, our “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) Happy Valentine’s Day!! A Tender Young Love… Linda A. Roorda A tender young love from days long ago Held in the heart as memories smile From the depth of care to the pain of loss Felt in the hands together held tight. ~ A tender young love never forgotten Still tucked away in pages of yore, Reflecting upon the days of old That gently carry the heart’s awaking. ~ A tender young love of silent reverie The sheltered moments in passage of time That pause to reflect on life together Sharing sweet dreams and heart-felt caring. ~ A tender young love that sparkled within And lit the world with eyes shining bright A focused adoration so well understood But lost too soon to the whims of life. ~ A tender young love to always treasure As I hold your heart in memories dear Your wit and wisdom with hearty laughter A voice from the past where our dreams come true. ~~ “Young Love” sung by Sonny James, written by Ric Cartey, Carole Joyner.
  5. No seed catalogs at this house!! I've always looked forward to their arrival to peruse again and again, dreaming of bright and beautiful flowers to come... and now, even tho I made some purchases last year, but no catalogs have arrived to date and likely will not be coming... Otherwise, will just work with what I've got or look at those companies online of last year's catalogs and see if there's anything I can add to the gardens. A far cry from years ago when I grew a very large garden to can and freeze the produce. Cannot do that anymore, sadly.
  6. What’s my purpose in life? Who am I meant to be? And what am I meant to do? If you’re like me, you’ve pondered those thoughts every now ‘n then over the years, especially in our younger days. With life ahead of us, we often wonder what part we’ll play in society. What career should we go into? Who will we love and marry? These thoughts carry evidence of the weighty questions from our heart regarding our basic needs, and for who we will become… as we seek to find our place in the world at large. Celebrating my childhood friend’s birthday and 50th wedding anniversary with her husband yesterday, and meeting other childhood friends I haven’t seen since my family moved away, brought to mind all the different paths we have each taken in life. Yet, the foundation set by the Christian school and church have been part of the solid foundation in God that was established for our lives. I once read of a little child’s misunderstanding of the Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father who art in heaven. I know you know my name…” Besides being cute and precious, there’s a lot of truth in those words! I find peace and reassurance knowing that our heavenly Father knows my name… knows who I am, who He’s created me to be, and what my purpose is on this journey of life. As the Lord said to an Old Testament prophets, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13) God knows what my needs are even before I ask. But He likes to hear me give voice to those needs… to express a trust in His caring hand, and in His loving wisdom. Yet, how often doesn’t it seem that, when faced with the brevity and fragility of life, in the pain and turmoil that besets our path, it’s then we’re more apt to pray from the depth of our heart and remember the greater purpose of our life – to praise, thank and glorify our Creator God and bring Jesus’ love to the world around us. As we thank and praise our God in the busyness of every-day life, we feel the blessing of a relationship with Him, and feel His presence in even the simplest things that we do. We feel a joy and peace as we follow His footsteps… His words… and as we adopt them for our path in life. There’s a comfort and a peace we find in knowing we’re listening to His voice in our heart for which direction to take… and how we can use our purpose to help others on this journey of life. Because there are as many ways to define our purpose as there are people… for we are each created unique with our own set of gifts or talents, desires or yearnings, and special ways to show love to each other. We actively seek to encourage and support others, show how much you care in words, actions, or simply with smiles and hugs. Share your humorous wit, and a hard-earned wisdom gained through experience. Value family relationships, and give back to your community from your wealth… whether financially or by simply lending a helping hand in a myriad of ways. It may not come instantly to us when we have a concern; but, given time and prayerful reflection as we delve into His Holy Word, He’ll lead us forward on the right path. He’ll show us His will, His purpose for our life and in the lives of others… though sometimes we may not see how He’s working all things together for our good until we look back and see how He’s led us every step of the way. Because, as we read in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What’s my purpose? To bring glory and honor to our great God in all that I do! What’s My Purpose? Linda A. Roorda ~ What’s my purpose if not to bring praise… To honor a love that knows no bounds A grace and mercy I do not deserve From One who has blessed with joy out of woe. ~ What have I done that You would seek me For I’m not worthy of Your gracious gifts But with open arms You draw me near To offer me hope with shelter and rest. ~ The blessing of friends reflects Your heart’s depth Holding out hands as others we touch For there’s a bond that silently speaks In drawing near to humbly share love. ~ May I forgive as You forgave me All those I meet on this path of life As peace You share envelopes my soul From striving turmoil to soothing solace. ~ What’s my purpose if not to share love… A semblance of Yours bought with a price May we be blest from Your gracious hand And may our lives bring glory to You. ~~
  7. It’s hard to realize a full year has gone by since my husband passed away January 25th. It’s been a year of learning to live more independently while seeking God’s guidance, relying on wise counsel from others, a year of missing Ed’s wit and wisdom and his big hugs which left me feeling so loved and protected… yet times of missing him so much, shedding a few tears, while savoring precious memories of our 49 years together, thankful for the many blessings through the years and now… and it’s also been a year of knowing contentment and peace realizing Ed is fully restored, able to see, to walk and run without pain or dizziness, absolutely enjoying his heavenly home with our Lord. Yet, in the past, there were many times when my peace was shattered... difficult storms, painful wounds, major losses... and I was in turmoil. Like December 2019 when Ed was found to be in severe life-threatening diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome, a rare complication of diabetes type II. We were both overwhelmed with the new diagnosis of type II diabetes, and a new treatment regimen on top of his multiple other health issues. We fully realize countless others have successfully dealt with this diagnosis, but the initial shock left us overwhelmed. In 2022, Ed was hospitalized twice in July, again at the end of September, in the ER several times in early December for difficulty breathing with severe congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema. Arriving home that night after spending 8-1/2 hours in the ER, I found two “thinking of you” cards in the mailbox from dear friends. What perfect timing! God knew we needed a special reminder of how he uses each of us to bring His love and care to those who need a cheerful lift. Then just two days after Christmas 2022, Ed was hospitalized for 8 days with fluid overload on chronic congestive heart failure. At cardiac catheterization, three stents were placed to open a fully blocked artery, with more near total blockages and damage throughout his heart with 9 days’ worth of atrial fibrillation. In January 2023, he was readmitted with Covid, multiple pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in his lungs), more difficulty breathing, and major weakness. But the cards mentioned above, the visit of dear friends leading to a special inspiring visit by their friend, pastor and chaplain at Robert Packer Hospital, and the many kind comments of loving care and prayers to my Facebook updates at that time, remind me of the following blog I’d penned based on words written so many centuries ago. Reading our devotions one evening several years ago, Ed quietly asked me to read Psalm 91. He wasn’t sure what it said, but he had a strong sense God was urging him to have me read this Psalm for a particular difficulty I was facing. In reading Psalm 91 aloud, I found these words by King David spoke to my heart: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’… He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart… If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent… ‘Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him…’ He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (vs.1-2, 4, 9-10, 14-15. NIV) Despite tears rolling down while reading the entire Psalm that night, I felt a great sense of comfort and peace… that peace which passes all understanding despite the trial. (Philippians 4:7) None of us is immune to the trials and storms of life, or the feelings of sadness that overtake us at times. Sometimes God graciously allows a storm to pass us by without disturbing our equilibrium, other times He fully heals us in our difficult storm, while other times we have no choice but to wend our way through the storm to understand why we had to walk a difficult path… for neither are we promised a life of ease. As Jesus reminded His followers in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The one who is ill may not even look ill. They remember their busy fulfilling life of the past, replaced by a limited worth or useless feeling that permeates their days. We’ve learned it is normal to grieve life changes with sadness and frustration, even as Ed’s great sense of humor would pop through despite a difficult day to envelope us in therapeutic hearty laughter. But I will also admit to a touch of envy knowing most friends can do anything or go wherever they want, not an option for us to enjoy. It can be hard to identify with those who deal with chronic illness… facing health issues and concerns other folks don’t ever seem to encounter. And the grieving process can initially leave you devoid of the joy which James 1:2-3 speaks about as we learn to accept chronic illness. Guilt may even be felt by the chronically ill person and family when prayers for healing seem to go unanswered. To hear a casual or flippant response, to be told we’re not praying right, or to sense a lack of genuine care can be crushing. As we pray for healing, we especially ask for strength to handle each day… because healing as we want may not be God’s plan. The Apostle Paul was not healed as he desired, but learned that God’s grace was sufficient with Christ’s power and strength evident through his (Paul’s) weaknesses. (II Corinthians 12:7-10) Relying on God for wisdom and strength each day, God’s power shines through us. I will never forget another hospital chaplain who sat with me when Ed was in the ICU in 2010 for severe life-threatening grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizures. Gradually pulling out our life story, he listened and cared deeply, saying that in 30 years as a chaplain, he’d never met a family who’d dealt with so many difficult issues as we had, and I hadn’t even told him all, as he prayed with me in facing a new major stressor. Six months later, Ed was back in the ER, hearing his favorite ER physician say, “I’m so glad to see you! Not that you’re ill again, but that you survived those seizures and have no damage!” Wow! She truly cared! We appreciated the support and prayers of family and friends as we faced each new trial. Take time to hear concerns as a new norm is accepted, leaning on God as He walks beside you in the storm. Share your heartfelt hugs. Convey a depth of feeling and understanding in asking “how are you doing.” Friends and family who ask and truly listen to understand what anyone with chronic illness faces bring much comfort. Offers of help are gratefully appreciated, even if they cannot be readily accepted. While we're inside the storm, though the wind and waves batter our world, we do remember God is still there, still in control. We know we can trust Him to hold us tightly, to shelter and protect… even though we may lose everything, including life itself, as when we lost our daughter, Jennifer, and last year my husband. Yet, through the difficulty, He will make a way, perhaps close one door to open a better one, and shine His light to guide us as we move forward… one step at a time. It’s where we place our trust that peace will be revealed. And when it’s placed in our Lord’s perfect will, trusting that He has our best interests at heart even in the most difficult times, we see Him help us handle what comes our way as we grow in faith to become more like Christ, our life’s purpose. With such trust, our faith remains unshakeable, and we find a renewed peace… with a joy that passes understanding. There’s a painting I love entitled “Peace in the Midst of the Storm” by Jack E. Dawson. One story is told that a wealthy benefactor searched for the perfect painting depicting peace. The first two beautiful tranquil scenes were rejected. When the artist returned to his easel, frustrated at his work being rejected, his prayer prompted the design of a riveting scene. On a dark and stormy night, water gushes in torrents over rocky ledges…as a mother bird calmly sits upon her nest tucked under a ledge, protecting her young while the elements rage. Now that’s peace! https://jackdawsontour.com/peace-in-the-midst-of-the-storm/ Studying that painting, I also notice a profile of Christ in the rock formations and a cross created by rocky fissures. Considering how our heavenly Father gently guides and protects us during the storms of life, however fierce they may be, it’s His canopy of love and peace that shelters and comforts us. And I can be at peace when life is in turmoil knowing that “[He] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in [Him]. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord…is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV) Peace Linda A. Roorda ~ There is a peace in the depth of my soul A joy that comes from Your love alone, For in the midst of storms and trials My heart is steady when focused on You. ~ But peace is fleeting when I fail to heed When I take charge and grasp hold the wheel. I need to trust that Your ways are best When through the darkness I walk gripped by fear. ~ For as the waves relentlessly toss Your face I’ll seek for comforting solace. I know You’ll guide me safely to shore As Your light shines down to brighten my way. ~ For what is peace without Your mercy The hand held out to offer refuge, An ear to hear burdens of the heart Arms to envelope the soul in turmoil? ~ Grace beyond measure You pour over me Yet I don’t deserve riches of mercy. Prone to wander, to follow my will Still You pursue to seek and to save. ~ There is contentment just in the knowing Whenever I feel the world crashing down, You call my name and draw me with joy Out of the chaos and into Your arms. ~ And like a fresh rain washing over me now Peace like the sun envelopes my soul, It covers my life with joy unreserved Tranquility found as I rest in You. ~~
  8. Yeah, I'm with you there! Still have my 20-gal, and 10-gal (which was a birthday gift as a youngster). Used to have tropical fish in the 20-gal tank when my kids were young; love watching the fish swim around and have seriously considered setting it up again... but the I, too, remember all the work involved, and not sure I want to start up this venture again!
  9. Linda Roorda

    What If...

    This story is very close to my heart for someone I dearly loved would not have lived among us if the recommended abortion had taken place. January is Sanctity of Human Life month, and today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. First designated as such in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, I think it extends to far more than the banner of the anti-abortion movement. It’s not a political issue, but one that affects our moral fiber. Sanctity of life issues reflect on each one of us because all life is sacred. With the 51st anniversary of January 1973’s Roe v. Wade abortion decision, I again share the story of a mother-to-be who already had two healthy children, a girl and a boy. This time, she was very ill with her pregnancy. Vomiting frequently, she steadily grew worse. Struggling to carry this new little life, and against her wishes, her physician sought to obtain a “medically necessary” abortion. At that time, three doctors needed to sign documentation indicating the mother’s life was in jeopardy if the pregnancy continued. However, no third physician would put his name on the line to allow such an abortion. A Cesarean section was performed at 7 months’ gestation or risk losing both mother and baby. To the surprise of all, twin boys were born! After surgery, the mom nearly died from the effects of toxemia (i.e. now called pre-eclampsia), the result of high blood pressure and the demands on her body by not one but two precious little ones. With prayer and great medical care, she pulled through; but her little boys struggled. The largest twin at 5 lbs succumbed to an enlarged heart and died at two days of life, while the smallest little boy at 3-1/2 lbs was placed in an incubator for a month. This tiny preemie survived, albeit with health problems and very limited vision in only one viable eye. How do I know? The littlest twin was my husband, Edward. His blindness was caused by the incubator's high oxygen content. But we all praise God that no third physician was willing to sign papers to permit an abortion which would have taken the lives of these precious boys. Prior to1952, major medical centers knew that high levels of oxygen in incubators led to infant retinal damage and blindness. But physicians at the tiny hospital in Goshen, NY, a small farming community, were not aware of these findings. As a toddler, Ed was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. There, his parents were told he was among about 2000 children seen in their clinic, one of seven children who had some remnants of remaining vision! The optic nerve to his right eye was damaged, causing total blindness, while his left eye had limited vision, 20/200 with correction. Ed got his first pair of glasses at age 2. Three years later, with a new pair of stronger lenses, he stared out the car watching the world go by. Suddenly, he shouted, “I see them!” Kids were sledding down a nearby hill; though blurry, it was something he’d never seen before. Whenever his mom told this story, it always brought tears to her eyes. That one sentence was worth every cent of his care, she’d say. As Ed grew up, he was determined to do nearly everything everyone else could do. It drove him forward. Totally blind since 1998, we considered it a blessing he had limited vision for as long as he did. The renowned musician, Stevie Wonder, has the same condition. Then called retrolental fibroplasia (RLF), it is caused by high levels of oxygen in the incubator which contributes to abnormal blood vessel growth, damaging the retina. Now termed retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), it still affects a small percentage of premature infants. Did you know that at about 22 days, the pre-born infant’s heart begins beating. By 12 weeks, she is about 2 inches long, fully formed and recognizably human, able to feel pain. By 14-16 weeks, fully formed, fingers and toes have fingerprints and nail; he sees and blinks, inhales and exhales amniotic fluid, kicks, sucks a thumb, and sleeps regularly. At full-term, 39 weeks, your baby is ready for life outside the nurturing womb. Even Ed's retired dermatologist, a devout Catholic, always wore the tiny "Precious Feet" pin on her lapel as a testament to her beliefs, pleased we knew what it meant. Look up the pin name online for a physician's story behind this pin. Since Roe v. Wade was passed January 22, 1973 allowing for legal abortions in America, the numbers have been staggering with more than 63 million abortions. It must also be taken into account that some data is voluntarily reported while other American states have not provided details in a number of years, and I read there are many uncounted abortions. Yet with legal abortions available, the number of deaths from illegal abortions has declined. For anyone who has aborted their baby for whatever reason, I pray she finds peace in the loving arms of God’s forgiveness. But my prayer also is that each precious little life be allowed to reach his or her full potential and life purpose, regardless of disabilities. The current discussions of “quality of life” and euthanasia go beyond a personal decision, with government or insurance companies’ input supposedly for the “good of society.” There are many difficult questions on both sides of the aisle. But I’ve long pondered, if we care so much for those in the animal world, and carefully protect and preserve many other species from decimation, how much more precious is each and every human life – especially since we are made in the image of God? How can we destroy human life through abortion, i.e. murder in utero, simply because the pregnancy doesn’t fit our plans or the pre-born baby is “defective”? Do we expect abortion because some pre-born infants are imperfect, and will become a supposed burden to society? Do we justify abortion because some parents are unprepared to care for their children, abuse them, or kill them? Even in our imperfect society, there is a viable alternative – adoption. However, with more stringent laws passed to prevent human trafficking, adoption has become an increasingly difficult option. Anyone who has miscarried an unborn child understands the pain of loss. I miscarried our first little girl, Heather, at six months, with autopsy showing twins who did not separate properly, followed by a second miscarriage a year later. My cousin, Randy, intellectually challenged, grew up a kind and loving young man thanks to the love of his widowed mother. Despite his disabilities, he knew everything there was to know about his baseball team and the players! My step-sister’s son, Cory, was born with DeGeorge syndrome due to a missing part of chromosome 22. Also having apraxia (an inability to perform certain purposeful actions due to brain damage) and diabetes, he developed cirrhosis a year before passing away Easter Sunday 2015. Like many with disabilities, Cory had an infectious joy for life and an unconditional love for everyone he came in contact with, thanks to his mother, Janet. Life is sacred, and each pre-born child is a unique gift from God just waiting for us to open our arms and heart to this new little life. As David wrote in Psalm 139:13-16: “…you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” What If… by Linda A. Roorda What if… There was no God? Would we know how to love Or, would hate rule our lives? Would we each decide What rules to live by Changing like the wind As our wants wrest control? ~ Would we violate The sanctity of life Simply because Life would not matter Except for the worth We each determine How best we can serve Our selfish ambition? ~ And yet, what if… Each life among us Was somehow meant To open the eyes Of our heart and soul To a higher purpose To show the value Inherent within No matter the wrapping? ~ And what if… We move toward each other And then extend Our outstretched hands? Would that not show Great caring and love From within the depths Of a heart overflowing? ~ For is that not like The hands of One Extended outward Nailed upon a beam To show us how We too should love And sacrifice self Our gift to each other? ~ Because… what if… There is a God Who really cares And Who truly loves Each for who we are For His life was a gift That we would know Just how we should love? ~~ Linda writes from her home in Spencer.
  10. I saw the sun shining bright for a while yesterday as it peeked from behind those clouds! That prompted me to take a brisk walk with the wind at my back helping my pace… the same wind and sun in my face on the way home, making me lean into the wind to keep my balance a few times. How well I remember taking walks with Ed on days like that where he’d hold tightly onto my arm to keep me from blowing away, as he put it! He kept me from getting blown to and fro by those changing brisk winds… something our Lord does for us when we hold onto His hand, allowing Him to lead and guide us thru stormy days. Which prompted this previously unpublished blog for today. May you know the Lord’s guiding hand every day on your journey thru life. Sometimes we feel like we have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, and we fret and worry about everything! I know… because that description fits me at times. It’s one of my struggles – learning to release my cares to the One who knows and allows what it is I face each and every day. He can handle all that comes my way… if I would just let Him… and He can lift me up from all the mistakes I manage to make. But I’m going to admit it’s not easy to “let go and let God” as the popular saying goes. Sometimes it seems that if I do the worrying, then somehow that will help make the situation better. Nah! Don’t count on it! Actually, it seems like it often tends to make the situation worse as I become confused and lost in the tangled web of thoughts. So, you’d think I’d have learned to always release my burdened heart and let God take over while I move forward in peace. After all, God is right there, ready to listen, ready to carry me, and ready to deal with whatever is stressing me out. He can fix it all… without my help! And He has done just that… blessing me richly in so many ways, so many times… drawing me closer to His side, filling me with a calm and quiet peace. Yet, somehow it seems to be a lesson that I must learn and relearn. All of which reminds me of Matthew 6:25-33 (NIV), part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. These verses have often come to mind over the years. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? …But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And as I heed these precious words from our Lord himself, reaching out to Him in prayer, He’ll guide me each step of the way… just as He’ll guide you through whatever you might face on this journey of life! His Guiding Hand Linda A. Roorda Lord, I give You my all As I relinquish That which my heart Has always held tight. You know that I struggle Thinking I can control All of life’s burdens Which tumble my way. You hear desperate pleas As I try to wait, While Your very best answers Conform my will to Yours. At times I struggle Alone with my thoughts In a mind doing battle Within my seeking soul. Where is my God, my protective Shield? How can life be so raw? Why does pain and confusion Keep knocking upon the door? And yet… He is always here! In a whisper soft … or a vision serene Enveloping my heart With His perfect love and grace. For He directs me on the stony path And plants my feet securely Upon a foundation solid and firm Guiding each step along the way. As rough this road at times can be, He gently carries me safely home, When oft in prayer I turn to seek His loving, guiding, and merciful hand. ~~ Linda Roorda writes from her home in Spencer.
  11. Saturday morning while doing some garden cleanup, admiring the beauty of the autumn leaf carpet, I listened to the quiet… broken only by low-lying geese honking their conversation, and several birds trilling their beautiful summer songs. It was so calm and peaceful, without busy road commotion… the call of nature, God’s creation. “Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10a) Quiet your heart… slow down your pace… put aside your frets and worries… and listen as God speaks to your heart… thoughts to remind myself… as I listen to hear His voice. Perhaps you’ve heard about comparisons regarding which voice we pay closer attention to… that which we feed… that which brings comfort or worry, encouragement or discouragement, a calming stillness or urgent rushing, the voice of reassurance or fright. You get the idea. With maturity, we know the value of discerning which voice we should listen to in any given difficult situation. While the stronger voice often brings turmoil within our heart, there is another voice which calms and quiets our soul with peace. One of my favorite life verses has been, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Yet, admittedly, I fall short and tend to fret. For isn’t it so like us to be drawn away into a false sense of security by thinking something isn’t as bad as it really is? And I can be so easily overwhelmed by fretting on the day’s trials, or projecting trouble into something that hasn’t even happened yet! Sometimes it takes moving away from the hustle and bustle of the world to hear God’s wisdom quietly speak to our heart. Once warm weather arrives, I enjoy the peace and tranquility of my two sitting gardens. I love to listen to the gentle sounds of nature all around. And though what surrounds me was once my husband’s family farm but is now a golf course, the tranquility is refreshing to the soul, especially on those days when I can hear the gentle gurgling of the creek. In the relative quiet and solitude, I sit and pray… remembering those in need, or rejoicing with those who’ve been blessed in some special way. I thank the Lord for my own many blessings, too often taken for granted, especially my late husband and family. And express to Him my needs and concerns. I thank Him as I listen to the birds sing and chatter, as I watch them building nests and later feeding their young. I observe and appreciate new blooms as the gardens change day by day. I watch the creek as it serenely flows west and south. And my stress is put into perspective. For God is a God of peace, not of contradiction and worry. In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples the night before He was arrested that “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Our Lord brings comfort and contentment to our soul amidst the din and confusion of the world. And when we come to Him in confession, He washes us clean by His loving mercy and grace. As our advocate then, our Lord gently reminds us how much He loves and cares for us... as He covers us with “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, [which] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:7-9) May I be still and know that You are God... as You quiet my soul… You Quiet My Soul Linda A. Roorda You quiet my soul while the world rushes on I lean on Your word when all around fails A strength You give in response to my pleas To calm and still my heart in chaos. When voices condemn in the silence of night My heart shrinks down in bitter defeat Though awash in fear Your solace I seek For comfort You bring when worries stir fears. Peace within turmoil You alone bestow With blessings poured out from Your generous heart For Your word directs when I seek Your throne As mercy and grace with love set me free. Your arms wrap tightly to embrace my life Encouragement’s light on a pathway dim To lead me on and gently reassure You’ll never leave... You’ll never forsake. So quiet my soul while the world rushes on Bless me with joy when Your face I seek That love may gently contentment’s praise sing As you calm and still my heart with Your peace. ~~
  12. Are we contented yet? It’s just an accumulation of trinkets and stuff, an assemblage that needs to be fed every so often. I should know, because I have my own collections from the past. But, in the long run, none of it will go with us when life’s earthly journey comes to an end. We should be content with what we have and who we are… not seeking to satisfy our appetite with more of everything life has to offer. Be at peace, rest in who we are meant to be… don’t compare or judge ourselves to others. In contemplating that accumulation, I’m reminded of a song by the rock group U2 from their Joshua Tree album – “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” A fitting comment to an endless search for just the right thing. Theodore Roosevelt was even noted to say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How truthful and fitting both sentiments are for all of us at times! So, what is contentment? How do we find it? And when is enough… enough? The dictionary on my desk tells me contentment is where the heart is at… perhaps rested and satisfied, at peace, with a quiet and calm joy. Contentment is an attitude of the heart… being thankful and grateful for what we do have, serving others out of a joyful appreciation. Because, believe me, contentment is not found in eyeing what someone else has… of being jealous or envious of what’s on their plate… as if we didn’t have enough to take care of on our own. In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul wrote “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Hmm… so how could he say that with all the many difficulties, beatings, persecutions, opposition to his preaching, false accusations, weariness, hunger, imprisonments and more that he faced? There’s an old hymn I’ve loved since childhood, coming to treasure the words even more after our daughter, Jennifer, died. Horatio G. Spafford wrote a poem put to music after he and his wife lost their 2-year-old son, their property in the 1871 Great Chicago fire, suffered further economic losses in 1873, and then lost their remaining four daughters at sea - “When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul…” …well-known words of comfort. Having three more children, losing a second son at age 4 in 1880, he resettled in Jerusalem with his wife and two daughters. There, he founded the American Colony, a Christian group providing humanitarian relief to the disadvantaged of any faith. He’d learned the secret to contentment. The Apostle Paul, writing to a dear young friend, stated in I Timothy 6:6-7: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” Don’t get me wrong… it’s not about denying ourselves the ability to succeed in our careers or home life and to have nice things. Instead, it’s all about the depth of our heart, our faith, our attitude… the intangibles… the spiritual treasures. Life really isn’t about gathering as much stuff as we can hoard for ourselves. Life was never meant to be like that old saying attributed to Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s not about God ensuring that we have a wealthy and happy life. It’s not His plan to make us “rich and famous” in a life of ease without pain. Instead, contentment is a learning process… learning to be who God intends us to be… learning to be gracious and loving when our life is full of pain, disappointments, illness and setbacks. And, in learning to give thanks and appreciate what we do have, we find ourselves gladly serving others around us with a heart of joy and peace… as contentment flows from our soul. Contentment Flows Linda A. Roorda Contentment flows from the soul at peace Not easily grasped though deeply pondered How quick am I to follow my will While yielding to trust finds Your truth with grace… ~ Grace to understand blessings of mercy In wending my way through waves of turmoil Seeking shelter from storms that threaten As Your calming spirit brings showers of peace… ~ Peace that envelopes my very being From the depth of stress that oft overwhelms Which tugs and strains the restful repose To humility meek with a heart of joy… ~ Joy that shines bright in the face of woe Amidst the sadness of sorrow’s dark tears As rays of hope through shutters burst forth To flood my soul with serenity’s rest… ~ Serenity’s rest within the world’s din Marks peace of mind when focused on You Grant me, I pray, a heart full of love One filled with thanks as contentment flows… ~~
  13. With school either having started for some, or about to start for others, I pondered the realization that there’s so much I thought I knew when younger, but really didn’t… for education isn’t only that which is gained in a classroom. Over the years, I’ve learned I can’t turn the clock back to undo or redo what’s been done. Life doesn’t have a rewind button for our editing... so we inevitably move forward in a relentless flow of time. And in that flow, learning becomes an emotional and spiritual educational process as disappointments and suffering soften our hearts amidst the joys. This is how we mature and become wiser. In the process, we learn that we may not get that second chance. Make amends now… apologize, forgive and move forward. Love one another… and let the other know it. I have searched for and regained friends from years ago… friends I’d lost when moving away, friends lost when my childish words took their toll, and to whom I’ve given heart-felt apologies. I cannot undo, but I can atone for and correct my wrongs. Walk away from sin… don’t let it overtake you with its tempting appeal. The great Ten Commandments really do have something to say to us today. Stop blaming someone else. Don’t condone or excuse the habit of lying, concealing your wrongs to protect yourself. Even if no one else is the wiser, God knows. Own it, confess it, and make amends. Others do take notice of what we do… do it well, for a good name is much to be treasured. Love, listen, take advice gladly, and learn… you won’t go wrong. “Be very careful, then, how you live… making the most of every opportunity…” (Ephesians 4:15-16) As we look back, we often wish we knew then what we know now. Wouldn’t such knowledge have saved us a whole basket of trouble?! But, did we hear, did we listen, did we truly heed the advice given as we grew up? I’m afraid I didn’t always do so. I thought I “knew it all” in my teens. It took time as life traversed a variety of circumstances unique to my needs to gain understanding and knowledge with wisdom from God. And from the realization of my own errant ways and words, I apologized and made amends… because the Lord has done so much more for me. For the loving Father that He is, God took the time to teach me all through the years. Because I was often not listening to wiser words in my youth, I now treasure the wisdom of others as I sit at their feet to learn, and recall fragmented words of wisdom expressed years ago. Blessed with Godly wisdom, Solomon wrote in Proverbs 2:1-6: “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” And vs. 9 adds, “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path.” Oh, how true! If only… that age-old phrase we all quote... if only I knew then what I know now. So, let me take what the Lord has taught me through the difficult struggles to reach a satisfied contentment… through tears of deep sorrow to tears of great joy with laughter’s healing touch. And may we use the blessings He’s bestowed upon our hearts to reach out in love with something we’ve learned… Something I’ve Learned Linda A. Roorda ~ Something I’ve learned since I was young… If I knew then what I do know now I’d have been spared life’s toughest lessons. But, then again, how else would I learn? ~ Something I’ve learned came slowly with time… For I wanted life to move fast forward And in wanting more, I just needed less As contentment dwells in life’s simplest gifts. ~ Something I’ve learned by looking backward… That in facing life I thought I knew all, But looking forward from slow motion days Impatience revealed an unsettled heart. ~ Something I’ve learned wishing I’d discerned… By heeding then the sage’s wisdom Who’d lived and seen what I could not fathom For experience marks the role of teacher. ~ Something I’ve learned is not easy to say… That which I rue when youth went its way As lessons learned brought maturity’s wealth With understanding through wisdom’s trained eye. ~ Something I’ve learned by climbing the hill… Conquering hurdles that hindered my path, For stones that seemed like unmoving boulders, Were mere stumbling blocks to peace found in You. ~ Something I’ve learned I treasure now more… My faith in You, Lord, once taken for granted Its value gained from bumps in the road Which led me to where I stand on Your Word. ~ Something I’ve learned we all have to face… Sorrow and loss have taught to accept That which was healed as my heart grew wise For only from pain can compassion speak. ~ Something I’ve learned about all my stuff… I can’t take it there on the day that I leave Much better by far to share with you now Showing my love in tangible ways. ~ Something I’ve learned that when the door shuts… Reasons there are for not looking back. Express regret for what’s done is done Then welcome the door He flings open wide. ~ Something I’ve learned with You at my side… To share the bounty of blessings divine To gently speak with a tender voice And to hear with love from a generous heart.
  14. My sugar maple has a small section near the top that I just noticed today has begun to turn ever so slightly... summer went by all too fast!
  15. I love a good painting, especially a realistic portrayal. Actually, once upon a time, I painted landscapes, getting so lost in the effort of creating art that I’d easily forget the passage of time and that I needed to eat. Sadly, I haven’t picked up my brush and oils in several decades… though I used pen and ink to illustrate a few stories I’d written for my grandchildren several years back. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of abstract art, though I can appreciate various works of modern art among the different genres. Yet, each one of us views a painting, sculpture, or even a photo differently… because we “see” through our own heart, our own emotions, our own life experiences. That which may stir my thoughts and emotions with a depth of appreciation may do nothing for you at all. But that’s what art is meant to do – to stir our thoughts and emotions, perhaps leading us to recall another time and another place. A great work of art can transport us in thoughtful reverie as we ponder the meaning of the vision before us… taking us back in time to what once was… or stirring our imagination to envision something only a dream may hold. The artist’s work might convey a concept, an idea, a novelty… that which sparks our interest to understand better what the artist is trying to say or trying to elicit through our individuality. Art should challenge us to think in a way we might not do otherwise. Art can tear at our heartstrings and bring us to tears. It can incite anger at an injustice. It can elicit great joy within our soul. It can combine a dichotomy of powerful conflicting emotions. It can portray evil overcome by good. It can soothe the weary and distressed. And, it can even reflect a tremendous calming peace, a peace within the storms of life. A good painting can be likened to the beauty we see in the people and world around us. Each of us portrays an individual beauty, a uniqueness created by the Master Artist. We’re one of a kind, not a duplicate. Even the world of nature exudes a seemingly immovable, yet ever-changing panorama which the Master Artist blessed us with. For after He created each aspect of the world, our great God “saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1) And in our appreciation of nature, even the simplest perspectives excite emotions within us… as we observe brilliant sunshine lending both a glow and a shadow to life… the menacing darkness of gathering storm clouds… a brilliant colorful rainbow during or after the rain as the first rays of sun return… the fanning out of the sun’s brilliant rays from behind a cloud like fingers of God… the awesome display of stars and moon in sparkling lights upon a black velvet tapestry… the calm and peace of gentle waves versus the roiling waters which batter a shore… the awe of majestic mountain grandeur to the simplest flat or rolling land with grass gently waving in the slightest of breezes… and the colorful changing of the seasons of time… as these vistas and more elicit thoughts and emotions within our hearts and minds. Though the world and people around us are seen individually, through our unique emotions, we each see all as through the artist’s eye… The Artist’s Eye Linda A. Roorda In the artist’s eye is beauty beheld Within each scene perfection arrayed A haunting image that speaks to the heart A story told in visual display. ~ Facing blank canvas, brush poised in mid air A picture forms in the artist’s eye As ever gently stroke upon stroke The scene unfolds, its beauty to share. ~ From lighting bright to shadows dark Lingering mirage or perspective clear Sentiments stir as we gaze upon The artist’s work from within the heart. ~ They say a picture is worth more than words And there are times words uttered alone Cannot convey the depth of feeling Where spoken voice the ambience missed. ~ For within our soul perception awaits The depths of which we don’t often plumb That we might enjoy designs unique By an Artist greater than humanity’s touch. ~ So we gaze upon the scene presented As emotions stir like brush on canvas For out of feelings tempered by life Colors are worked with passion displayed. ~ Thus what the artist has framed for our gaze Reaching into the depth of our soul As image pondered gives rise to emotions Its secrets exposed through the eye of our heart. ~~
  16. August 29, 1779, 244 years ago, a battle near present-day Elmira in Chemung County, New York was significant to the Revolutionary War. It played a crucial, though seldom discussed, key role. It was not a bloody battle, but it was instrumental in breaking up the power of the Six Nation Iroquois Federation, thus allowing westward frontier expansion for colonials. For centuries the Iroquois Nation included the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca tribes. In the early 18th century, the Tuscarora joined their ranks by heading north from what is now North Carolina. As the Revolutionary War commenced, the Iroquois Federation tried to stay neutral. In time, however, most of the Iroquois gave their loyalty to Great Britain while the Oneida and Tuscarora tribes chose to align themselves with the colonists who were seeking independence from the British Crown. Under Thayendanegea (commonly known as Joseph Brant), the Native Americans (referred to by the Colonists as Indians) joined forces with Loyalists and attacked western frontier settlements just as they did those further east in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys. They carried away prisoners, ruthlessly murdered and scalped adults as well as children, and burned and destroyed the crops and homes of Patriots in both outlying and established settlements. And a cycle of retaliation ensued. I am not here to open a discussion or pass judgment on the negatives and positives of the why, wherefore, and how regarding what was or was not done 200 to 400 years ago in our nation’s history by either the Native Americans or the white European settlers. May I say, however, that conflict and conquering of other lands and peoples has been taking place since world history began. Their times are not ours. The Chemung River valley basin and its surrounding hills near present-day Elmira were home to Indians for centuries, but by the 18th century the Iroquois were in consistent residence. Here they had ample room to grow crops along the fertile river bottoms. Easy access to virgin forests filled with wildlife supplied them with meat and valuable pelts as they hunted and trapped. The rivers and streams provided them not only with an ideal means of transportation, but an abundance of fish. A healthy way of life for sure! Atop a steep hill which overlooks the Chemung River and the Southern Tier Expressway (formerly State Route 17, now Interstate 86) is the Newtown Battlefield Reservation State Park, once part of the Iroquois’ territory. The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Newtown was celebrated August 29, 1879 with the dedication of a monument on top of Sullivan Hill. The area was designated a national historic landmark in 1965, with battle re-enactments held annually in the park. I’ve wanted to observe the re-enactments to learn more about the battle, but have never managed to make my way there. So, come along with me and we’ll learn together what took place all those years ago. To understand what took place, though, is to know the precipitating chain of events which led to the small but important battle at Newtown. In the early days of the Revolutionary War, both the British and the Colonists attempted to gain the loyalty of the Native Americans as noted above. The ultimate decisions caused division among the great Iroquois Federation when the tribes split their loyalties. The famed Iroquois’ leader, Joseph Brant, worked closely with the British stationed at Fort Niagara. He frequently took to the warpath against the white settlers on the western frontier, as well as back east in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys. But the question begs to be asked, why? Along with the vital convergence of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, the greater Albany region was of key importance in the Revolutionary War to both sides. Schoharie County, part of western Albany County prior to 1795, has historically been considered “The Breadbasket of the Revolution.” With its fertile lands, the area produced an abundance of crops which kept Washington’s armies fed. Thus, the area’s assets, the rivers for transportation and the productive land, became a root of contention among the Loyalists and Tories, or supporters of the Crown. Their loyalties festered and erupted into violence and destruction against their neighbors and kin, the supporters of independence. In the early stages of war, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington, preferred that these vulnerable settlements use their own local militia to guard and protect against attack. And repeated attacking was the game plan of marauding bands of Indian-Loyalist troops. Often, “forts” of refuge for Patriots were established to escape these bands of Indians and Tories. Among such forts is the old Dutch Reformed Church, now called the Old Stone Fort, home to the Schoharie County Historical Society in the town of Schoharie, New York which I have visited several times to research my maternal family. Its stone walls still exhibit a hole from the direct hit of a cannonball. In May 1778, Joseph Brant set out on raids in Cobleskill (near my mother’s home town of Carlisle) and the neighboring frontier settlements. Soon after, on July 3, 1778, Col. John Butler and his Loyalist Rangers joined Chief Sayenqueraghta’s Seneca and Cayuga Indians in an attack of Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley. Settlers from Connecticut had established homes and farms along the Susquehanna River in this fertile valley, an area which also produced an abundance of grain for the Continental armies. Here, at Forty Fort (a few miles north of the fort at Wilkes-Barre, but on the opposite side of the Susquehanna River), about 360 local Patriot militiamen were killed with over 200 scalped in the Wyoming Massacre. That September, Patriot soldiers under Col. Thomas Hartley took their wrath out on the Seneca, Delaware and Mingo Indians by burning and destroying nearly a dozen towns on the Susquehanna, including Tioga (now Athens, PA) and Chemung (NY). At the same time, Butler’s Rangers destroyed Patriot houses and crops on the German Flats up north in the Mohawk Valley. This brought the Patriot militia back out to attack and destroy the Indian settlements at Unadilla and Onaquaga (now Windsor) along the Susquehanna River in New York. To read William E. Roscoe’s “History of Schoharie County, New York” and other related books about the killing and destruction throughout the region is to gain a better understanding of the larger picture. Indians were known among settlers, including my ancestors; some were liked, others were feared. The war cast a pall of deadly fear among residents of the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys - one’s loyalties were usually known, whether for the Crown or Independence, and often one’s life depended upon that knowledge. Neighbor was pitted against neighbor, even against one’s own blood relatives. My various direct ancestral families were Patriots with one Loyalist, while some extended relatives were killed or taken captive by the Indian-Loyalist bands. I have also dined with friends (Cheryl being a distant maternal cousin) at the George Mann Tory Tavern north of the town of Schoharie, beautifully restored to its colonial elegance, Mann having been a well-known supporter of the Crown during the War. In November 1778, Butler’s Rangers, 320 Iroquois under Chief Cornplanter, and 30 Indians under Joseph Brant attacked Cherry Valley, northeast of Oneonta in Otsego County and northwest of Cobleskill in Schoharie County. Encompassing the fort to ensure soldiers could not escape, the Indians began their massacre. They killed and scalped 30 or 32 residents (numbers vary in reports, mostly women and children) and 16 soldiers. An additional 70 to 80 adults and children (again, numbers vary in reports) were taken captive into Indian territory after the homes and crops had been completely destroyed. More retributions followed from both sides with further loss of life, but the Cherry Valley Massacre was a devastating blow. Something had to be done to stop this slaughter of innocents. (Cherry Valley lies south of the Mohawk River and east of the northern end of Lake Otsego. Unadilla is southwest, near where the Unadilla River joins the Susquehanna. Onaquaga lies a short way further southwest on the Susquehanna.) Gen. Washington was now convinced of the need for an offensive campaign against the British, Loyalists and Indians who held Forts Niagara and Oswego. Settling on Maj. Gen. John Sullivan as commanding officer, Washington wrote Sullivan on May 31, 1779: “The Expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of the Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners…as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more… You will not by any means listen to any overture of peace before the total ruinment of their settlements is effected. Our future security will be in their inability to injure us…” Essentially, a “scorched earth” policy was to be executed. Thus, in August 1779, Washington sent Major General John Sullivan and his troops up the Susquehanna River from Easton, PA while Brigadier General James Clinton and his army traveled southwest from Canajoharie in New York’s Mohawk Valley down to Otsego Lake and to the Susquehanna River flowing west. Known as the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign (or, Expedition), Washington’s goal was to destroy Indian ties to the British by decimating the Indian towns and supplies of corn, vegetables and fruit at their source. It was this produce which not only kept the Indians well fed, but also the British army. Sullivan and Clinton were ordered to then continue northward with their armies to capture the British forts at Oswego and Niagara in order to disrupt their military hold on the region. On August 22, 1779, Sullivan and Clinton met at Tioga Point along the Susquehanna River (present-day Athens, PA). With combined troops numbering at least 2300 to under 4000 (accounts I’ve read vary as to numbers), they traveled northwest along the Chemung River. On Sunday, August 29, advance scouts found hidden horseshoe-shaped breastworks/earthworks about half a mile long. Roughly 150 feet up the southeast slope of a mile-long hill (now called Sullivan Hill), these earthworks were within shooting range of the road and near the Iroquois village of New Town. From this vantage point, those approaching the hill could be observed or ambushed before reaching the Cayuga Indian towns of Nanticoke and Kanawaholla where Elmira was later established. Newtown Battlefield military placements discussed here. At that time, the slope was densely covered in virgin forest. At its base and to the east was a marsh, Hoffman Hollow, thickly covered with grass and trees. Baldwin Creek ran through this marsh and emptied into the Chemung River (called the Cayuga Branch by Sullivan in his reports). My online search of Google maps shows what is likely Baldwin Creek to be, surprisingly and confusingly, labeled the Chemung River as it flows under I-86 and empties into the main Chemung River. What was then called Baldwin Creek runs near to and west of Lowman Road within the area still labeled Hoffman Hollow. Manning the breastworks were 15 British troops, 250 Loyalist Rangers, and about 1000 Indian warriors. The initial intent of Loyalist Major John Butler and the Iroquois chief, Joseph Brant, was to harass the Continental troops. Sayenqueraghta and other Indian chiefs rejected that proposal, favoring instead attempts at luring the Continentals into a full ambush. One of the forward scouts for the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, Lt. Col. Adam Hubley, recorded the discovery of these breastworks that morning. “On our arrival near the ridge on which the action of the 13th commenced with light corps, our van discovered several Indians in front, one of whom gave them fire, and then fled. We continued…[and] the rifle corps entered a low marshy ground which seemed well calculated for forming ambuscades; they advanced with great precaution, when several more Indians were discovered who fired and retreated. Major Parr… judged it rather dangerous to proceed any further without taking every caution to reconnoiter almost every foot of ground, and ordered one of his men to mount a tree and see if he could make any discoveries; … [and] he discovered the movements of several Indians… as they were laying behind an extensive breastwork. “ Learning of the breastworks’ locations through Lt. Col. Hubley’s findings, the Continental commanders knew there was an attempt in the offing to lure them into an ambush. Moving cautiously forward into position, an initial attack on the breastworks came late that morning when Brig. Gen. Edward Hand put his infantry on the far side of Baldwin Creek. From that position, they could easily fire into the enemy’s defense works. In early afternoon, Gen. Sullivan met with commanders under him to plan their next move. Essentially, Sullivan’s men were to attack the fortified works of the enemy from the south and east with artillery and troops, while the men under Gen. Clinton were to attack the fortifications from the northeast. The 1st New Jersey Regiment under Col. Matthias Ogden, detached from Brig. Gen. William Maxwell’s New Jersey Brigade, slipped south and west along the Chemung River to come around to the right and rear of the Loyalist-Indian forces. The New York Brigade under Brig. Gen. James Clinton and New Hampshire’s Brigade under Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor marched northwest through Hoffman Hollow toward the hill’s eastern slope where they turned to flank the British left. At the same time, Sullivan’s Pennsylvania and New Jersey brigades stayed behind with the remaining light infantry companies. Brig. Gen. William Maxwell’s 1st Brigade was to take aim at the center or face of the British breastworks. Ten guns from the light infantry were placed near the road, ready to open fire on the defense positions and the land in between. Once these guns began firing, Gen. Hand was to fake an attack on the center of the horseshoe breastworks while the brigades from the east were to turn inward, take the summit of the hill, and then turn to attack the left and rear section of the breastworks. All together, with Maxwell’s artillery support, the goal of their three-pronged attack was to surround the defenseworks on the hill in a complete crossfire. It was a detailed plan which was put together quickly, but one in which the troops readily proved their mettle. The brief battle resulted in a significant defeat for the British Loyalists and Iroquois; however, it could have been much worse for them had it not been for unavoidable delays by the Sullivan-Clinton armies. In maneuvering through the swampy ground of Hoffman Hollow, Poor’s and Clinton’s troops got bogged down. This put the timing of the plan off, and caused enough of a delay that the Loyalist-Iroquois men escaped full encirclement and thus slipped the noose of an utter and complete defeat. In the meantime, Lt. Col. George Reid’s 2nd New Hampshire Regiment was to position itself to the left of Poor’s troops. Unfortunately, with Reid’s men climbing the steepest part of the slope, they lagged behind the rest of the troops. Joseph Brant took advantage of this opportunity to lead a counterattack with fellow Indians, almost completely encircling Reid. Seeing this, the next regiment in line, the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment under Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn, turned around abruptly to fire into the enemy who were positioned downhill. Clinton and his brigade, climbing up the hill from below and off to the right of Poor, saw these events unfold and sent his 3rd and 5th New York Regiments to Reid’s aid, further thwarting Brant’s attack. [Above military placements discussed here.] See also: JOURNALS OF THE MILITARY EXPEDITION OF MAJOR GENERAL JOHN SULLIVAN AGAINST THE SIX NATIONS OF INDIANS IN 1779 WITH RECORDS OF CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS. For a few hours, the peaceful valley and hills echoed with the blasting of cannons (ranging in size up to six-inch field howitzers), the resounding shots of a few thousand muskets, and the strong acrid smell of gun powder with its residual smoky haze. The sounds of gunfire combined with the hair-raising battle cries of Indian warriors must have reached a deafening pitch at its peak. Naturally, there were losses and injuries on both sides. But, with the realization that they were overpowered, Loyalist Major John Butler, Capt. Walter Butler, and the Iroquois chief Joseph Brant wisely cut their losses and withdrew. With their troops, they retreated towards Newtown and crossed the river with the Continentals in pursuit, but without additional losses on either side. After the battle, the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign continued on their way north through the finger lakes region, burning and destroying at least 40 Indian villages, reportedly destroying 160,000 bushels of corn and a significant quantity of vegetables and fruit which the Indians had set aside for winter. By the end of September, the armies were returning to Morristown, New Jersey for the winter. From Gen. Sullivan’s journal notes: “Teaogo [Tioga], Sept, 30, 1779. SIR:—In mine of the 30th ultimo to His Excellency George Washington, and by him transmitted to Congress, I gave an account of the victory obtained by this army over the enemy at Newtown, on the 29th August. I now do myself the honor to inform Congress of the progress of this army... The time taking up in destroying the corn, in the neighborhood of Newtown, employing the army near two days… I sent back all my heavy artillery on the night of the 30th, retaining only four brass three pounders, and a small howitzer; loaded the necessary ammunition on horseback, and marched early on the 31st for Catherine's Town. On our way we destroyed a small settlement of eight houses, and town called Konowhola, of about twenty houses, situated on a peninsula at the conflux of the Teaogo and Cayuga branches. We also destroyed several fields of corn. From this point Colonel Dayton was detached with his regiment and the rifle corps up the Teaogo about six miles, who destroyed several large fields of corn. The army resumed their march, and encamped within thirteen miles and a half of Catherine's Town, where we arrived the next day, although we had a road to open for the artillery, through a swamp nine miles in extent, and almost impervious. We arrived near Catherine's Town in the night, and moved on, in hopes to surprise it, but found it forsaken. On the next morning an old woman belonging to the Cayuga nation was found in the woods. She informed me that on the night after the battle of Newtown, the enemy, having fled the whole night, arrived there in great confusion early the next day; that she heard the warriors tell their women they were conquered and must fly; that they had a great many killed and vast numbers wounded…” The Iroquois, who had supported the British by attacking settlements, killing and taking captives, and feeding the British military, were now forced further west to Niagara and northwest into Canada. Under protection of the British forts, but without their winter food supply, many died from starvation, disease and the winter’s cold. Yet, even John Butler, in correspondence that previous May, had referred to the fact that the Indians were not doing well, lacking in production of their own food supplies. Although successful at Newtown, the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign has often been referred to as a “well-executed failure.” Congress congratulated them for what they had accomplished, but they were essentially not looked upon in a favorable light for their failure to take the British forts on Lake Ontario. True, their armies destroyed the Indians settlements and crops throughout the finger lakes region, but Major General Sullivan stopped short of completing General Washington’s orders. They had been ordered, and expected, to continue north to Lake Ontario and capture the British forts at Oswego and Niagara. However, knowing their field artillery was limited to lighter guns, Sullivan and Clinton returned instead to headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey by the end of September. In fairness to Sullivan, he realized he was not equipped with big enough artillery to take on the well-defended British forts; he and his troops would likely have been annihilated. Also, in worsening health, Sullivan resigned command in November 1779 and returned to his home in New Hampshire. With Sullivan not completing the balance of his campaign orders, Joseph Brant and his Indians returned to rejoin forces with the Loyalists in 1780. Once again, they viciously attacked western settlements and the established communities back in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valley regions. These raids and massacres touched my ancestral families in that part of New York. At Beaverdam (now Berne) near the Switzkill River on September 1, 1781, a British soldier led Loyalists and Indians in an attack on the Johannes Dietz family. Johannes’ son, Capt. William Dietz, commanded the local Patriot militia, and was, therefore, a target of the Loyalists who engaged the Indians to make Dietz an example and put fear into the hearts of all other Patriot settlers. After capture, William Dietz was forced to watch his elderly parents, wife, four young children and Scottish maid be killed and scalped. Two young brothers who happened to be visiting from another family were also taken captive. At Fort Niagara, Dietz died of a broken heart not long after arrival as witnessed by another captive from Schoharie County. Capt. Dietz’s father, Johannes, was an older brother of my ancestor, John Hendrich/John Henry Dietz (referenced in my Independence Day article at my blog, Homespun Ancestors. (see also “Old Hellebergh,” by Arthur B. Gregg, The Altamont Enterprise Publishers, Altamont, N.Y., 1936, p. 24; signed by Gregg, in my personal library from my father’s collection) (See Painting of Dietz Massacre by Jacob Dietz, son of Johannes, Courtesy of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society) The final and most devastating attack was in the lower Mohawk Valley in October 1781 where everything over a distance of 20 miles was utterly destroyed. When the war was over and the colonists had won, Joseph Brant and other Iroquois settled land given to them by the British Crown on the Grand River in Quebec (now Ontario). The area of Brant’s river crossing became known as Brant’s ford, later simplified to Brantford. Other Indians moved on to the Ohio River Valley region, or joined the Cherokee in the southern states. Ultimately, the Newtown Battle, or Battle of Chemung, opened the narrow southern gate to settlers who had been forbidden from traveling through this part of Indian territory on their way to settling the western frontier. For American soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War, the Chemung Valley drew many men back who had taken part in the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign. Certain to have admired the beautiful countryside in both Pennsylvania and New York while detailed there on campaigns, it was only natural former soldiers would seek its fertile land as their bounty award for service to their new government. New England and eastern New York were considered heavily populated, with many regions too rocky for good farming. Western New York was the perfect place to homestead with wide-open fertile land available to establish a new life. With the soldiers settling this area, we can assume their descendants walk among us today, perhaps even unaware of their family’s history.
  17. Sometimes we put others high upon a shelf… like fancy antiques… elevating them far above what is appropriate, thinking more highly of them than we ought. I mean, after all, we all have our flaws. Or, we might set them up high, putting a little distance between us… thinking we can just admire them while we go on about our way, doing things without their input or assistance. Like we do with God sometimes… I know I fail at times to look first to God for answers in facing life’s problems. I do revere the Lord, but when I set Him high up on that shelf by thinking I can handle things all on my own, I soon learn that I really can’t function all on my own. Sometimes, it seems it’s in the difficult times that I draw nearer to the Lord and ask for His help. But the gracious God that He is, He keeps working through me… as He continues to draw me ever gently to His side… and I begin to realize the depth of what He’s been doing for me. But, of course, I realize I can’t put God upon a shelf like a beautiful precious antique just to be admired, nor can I put Him in a box, limiting His infinite capacities to match our finite minds and expectations. Instead, God wants to walk with me and you every day… especially in the nitty gritty of life. He wants to hear my prayers, the pleas and praises of my heart. He wants to hear my voice just as much as I should want to listen for His still small voice within me… and then heed His voice. All of which reminds me of another favorite Scripture verse: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 NIV) It’s true - He really wants to be part of my every-day life! He wants to shine His light through me and you out into the world, as a witness for Him and all that He’s doing… that others might know His love. Despite my failings, or maybe because of them, others know my life is full of mistakes, just as we all manage to make mistakes. But, it’s in my failings and recognition of them that I can look up to Jesus, the One who sacrificed His life for my soul, and realize that I can turn to Him. In confession, I can ask for forgiveness, and receive the blessing of overwhelming grace and mercy no matter what I might have done. And then show that same forgiveness to others around me. He wants me to take Him off that high shelf and out of that box, and allow Him to walk by my side, through all of life’s ups and downs, asking for His guidance and wisdom, thanking and praising Him all throughout my day… no matter what I face. High Upon A Shelf Linda A. Roorda I set you up high, high upon a shelf And bring you close when the needs arise I shy away from seeking your face Keeping my distance, safely I suppose. You created time and all of this world Why would You give an ear to my thoughts? Or hear my voice, my pleas in the dark When all creation is under Your eye? How could I think You’d ever have time For problems I face, trivial pursuits? Why would You care, and why seek me out What do I matter to someone like You? Oh, but don’t you see how special you are! How unique your heart, like no other soul. I long to meet every day with you To shorten the span, that gulf between us. I’ve given you gifts, fruits of the spirit Blessed you with wisdom, the heart’s hidden treasure While tests that prove faith through life’s ups and downs Are living out hope in My hand unseen. I love you my child, and forever will I’ve given My life that you might be free Free under grace with mercy’s deep love That My light may shine on the path you walk. Yes Lord, I’ll bring You down from off the shelf As You draw me near with welcoming arms And with a glad heart I’ll kneel in worship To thank and praise You, my Lord and my God. ~~
  18. Linda Roorda


    Recently, I was mocked for my faith and belief in God by a reader of my online blog. Attributing to God the special ways my prayers were answered to overcome a fear of going alone through major airports, I met folks who became helpful friends on my flights to and from visiting family. This woman was aghast, proclaiming God had nothing to do with it. She added that her comments were “unlikely to sway anyone who has been indoctrinated into a belief system.” Rather, her purpose was to “lay bare the myth of religion” as Christianity has been “incredibly destructive.” Proudly, she stated how “green” she was, yet bragged about travelling to 90 countries, logging millions of miles, and that God had nothing to do with her flights because “God does not exist.” Without God, we trust in ourself - that’s called pride. How sad! For as King David wrote in Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” I chose not to respond, but to pray for her instead, while two supporters/administrators made it clear to her that her comments were very inappropriate. As a meme I once saw noted: “An umbrella cannot stop the rain, but it allows us to stand in the rain. Faith in God may not remove our trials, but it gives us strength to overcome them.” Faith… it’s intangible. You can’t see it. You can’t feel it. And it’s hard to define. But it’s there… deep in the heart. Faith is a trust, a belief, a confidence knowing that something positive will happen based on past experiences, while hope is optimistically looking to the future. Even though we may not see the evidence of our faith and hope for a long time, we can agree that biblically speaking, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) We put faith in a lot of things – like people, money, real estate, our job, military power, that the water we drink and use will always be there, even our electric until it suddenly goes off. We put faith in our best friends, in our dear loved ones, and hope that they will come through for us. We have faith our car will start… especially on those bitter cold mornings! We often don’t know or understand how something works; it just does – so we say we have faith that it will work. We have faith knowing that at the end of a long, dark and dreary winter, we will see spring’s beauty unfold. The cells of life are within each seed whether human, animal, or plant as created by God and established within its own kind. And as we watch the flower or leaf bud begin to swell, and then open, we see the evidence, the proof, of our faith and hope in this new life that’s about to burst forth. Yet the opposite of faith is pride in self, while the opposite of hope is uncertainty, anxiety, despair… with uncertainty being sure of one thing – nothing. And how often don’t things and people let us down? Thus, we should “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let [our] requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). We have faith, hope, and trust in our God to guide and assist us when we look to Him, seeking to follow in His steps, His path, His will. So, what exactly is at the heart of this kind of faith? True faith must be put into practice… for though faith is unseen in our heart, it becomes an action on our part when we actually place our trust in the Lord. And, I’m ashamed to say, I have failed at times. Yet, faith is essential in relating to God. Faith helps us realize that no matter what happens to us, good or bad, God is working in the situation for His will, His purpose. And Ed and I have seen our God working through many difficult situations and losses of health, jobs, and life, using what we’ve learned to come alongside and assist someone else on their difficult journey. We can’t see God and can’t feel Him next to us. But, in fact, it is even He who opens our heart and gives us the faith to come to Him seeking forgiveness and salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV) And it’s within that faith as we build our trust and confidence with belief and hope that we learn how much our heart wants to please and praise our God. Still, at times I have failed to understand the effort to trust that I must put forth in the equation of faith. At times I have questioned what I sense the Lord is telling me to do versus what my heart wants. At times I have pushed the limits of self will, wresting control of the reins instead of resting in His hands, His will. But as I’ve learned to trust Him more, to obey His Word, to have faith in His greater purpose for my life, I find peace. Yet, how hard the lesson can be at times! Still, God is faithful, even when I am not, so I can have confidence that “…he who began a good work in you [and me] will carry it on to completion...” (Philippians 1:6 NIV) Thus, faith is trusting that God will work through me in whatever situation I face. He wants me to simply trust Him… like a child trusts their parents… to have faith and confidence in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and in Him alone… that He will take me through a difficult situation, and bring me to the other side with new understanding from the journey. Out of this depth of trust comes the proof of our faith in God as we see the fruits of the spirit emerge in our actions and love toward others. This will then bring glory and honor back to our great God and His precious gift of love as we continue drawing closer to Him through prayer and study of His Words of wisdom. And therein lies our growth… the fruit of our faith. So what’s at the heart of faith? An obedience to trust and live out what God expects of me by showing I have confidence in Him and His word. “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) Faith is trusting the Lord will provide and care for me even when I don’t see immediate answers to prayer, knowing “…that in all things [He] works for the good of those who love Him… (Romans 8:28a NIV) Simply put, faith is resting in the arms of God, allowing Him to work His will through me… like putting my hand in the Lord’s hand and saying, “Where you lead, I will follow.” (based on Luke 9:57) Faith Linda A. Roorda My faith is more than just mere words More than the eye could ever see For underneath the surface stirring Believes the heart with hope evermore. A hope within the depths of my soul Focused upon what cannot be seen There in the quiet and solitude calm Lies sweet the dream someday to fulfill. Choosing always to patiently rest Under Your wings to calmly abide Eagerly awaiting the break of dawn A gentle semblance of faith held secure. Your promises firm ring evermore true For when I put my trust in Your hands And then release the reins to my life You guide my steps from within Your will. And yet faith hopes in what can’t be seen Always expecting the best to emerge For faith is more than just simple dreams It’s holding on to trust in the truth. For truths in Your Word which cling to my soul Will give me hope and confidence clear When all seems lost and fears wander dark Faith holds forever its promises bright. ~
  19. Attending my Owego Free Academy 50th class reunion last night, July 22, 2023, it was great to see and chat with so many former classmates. We were the 100th class to graduate from OFA, and the first class to graduate from the new high school building – such honors! Being asked to give the prayer at the reunion dinner last night, it was an honor to thank our Lord for all His many blessings – of friendships, places we’ve been, lives we’ve built, and to thank Him for the friends who have left this life much sooner than any of us would have liked. We were given a great informative tour yesterday afternoon at the high school by the young principal – how can he be principal looking like a kid barely out of school! A lot has changed in the intervening 50 years, with great programs in place to help the students achieve their best and prepare for their successful launch into society at large. Having moved 15 times by the time I was 15, attending five different schools, learning to make new friends at each school, I’ve held onto many treasured memories. With the reunion in mind, I just had to share this blog originally posted in 2013. Oh, the childhood memories of places we’ve been and the friends we’ve made! Don’t you just love to visit with friends from long ago, remember childhood fun, and recall the good ol’ days when life was simpler? I suspect we all have precious memories tucked away, ready to be pulled out every so often. It’s a chance to gaze back in time, to smile anew on fun shared by all. But, I’m just as sure I’m not alone in having some memories that bring emotions to the surface, and tears to the eyes. Twice a year as our children grew up, we’d visit back and forth with my childhood friend and her husband, Hugh. Kathy and I were friends in East Palmyra – in church, in class at the Christian school, and in playing at our homes. We continued our friendship via snail mail after my family moved away in 4th grade, just before I turned 10. It was a very painful and emotional move for me – away from farm life, away from the best friends I’d ever known to city life in Clifton, New Jersey where I was born, and where my dad’s parents and siblings’ families lived. It was an unwelcome change. I hated city life, was horribly homesick, and cried for weeks. But life got better as I let go of childhood pain and released the sadness. Though there were difficult times and events in Clifton, I now find many good memories to replay in my mind’s eye. It was an era when my sister and I could walk or bike everywhere without fear. And then there was the time we biked from our eastern side of Clifton to where our grandparents lived all the way on the other side. When my grandmother opened the door to our knock, trust me, she was not pleased… because no one knew where we were! Still, with the used bikes my grandfather gave us, we felt so rich! I also treasure memories of fishing with my dad in northern Jersey lakes, and of spending time with my grandparents. My grandmother was a former professional seamstress who taught me to sew clothes and quilts – and to rip it out if it wasn’t right and sew it over again, more than once as I recall! This little Dutch immigrant had an unspoken life motto - “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!” How I miss her greeting us at the door with a hug and always sweetly saying, “Hello Dear!” in her soft Dutch accent. Admittedly, my favorite memories are those of my childhood on the farms, and the fun my sister and I had back when there was no technology to ruin what games our little minds could conjure up. My earliest memories, though, begin after we moved back from Delta Junction, Alaska. My dad had a foreign assignment in the Army, stationed at Fort Greely before Alaskan statehood. He wanted to homestead, but my Mom wasn’t keen on the idea, so back to New Jersey we went. I’ve often wished I’d been old enough to remember the trip and the beautiful sights down the Al-Can Highway back to the States; but, then again, as I heard about the road without guardrails next to steep cliffs, of an old car with a steering wheel that caught at the most inopportune times (like coming around a curve and heading straight for a cliff when, at the last moment, the steering engaged again for my Mom, preventing us from plummeting off the cliff), maybe I’m glad I wasn’t old enough to remember that trip. Dad got rid of that car as soon as they got into Washington state, and they took a train east to Newark, NJ where my grandparents brought us back to their home. Dad next went to work on the Everson Farm in Clifton Springs, NY. I have photos of that time, but my first memories begin when he worked on the Wychmere Farm in Sodus, NY. I clearly recall that, at age 3-4, we drove down a lane to a Lake Ontario beach where I floated in an inner tube. Seeing a ship on the horizon, my child’s mind feared it would “run me over!” Then, imagine my excitement when, while dating my husband-to-be, Ed, my friend, Kathy, and her husband, Hugh, took us to that very same lane and beach near Chimney Bluffs and it was totally familiar to me, remembered from all those years ago! Next, on the Breemes farm in Marion, NY, my sister and I could be seen playing in and around the barn; milking “my cows” with an old tea kettle on the bank-barn’s wall ledge while standing on a bale of hay as Dad milked his cows, and throwing rocks into mud/manure puddles with my sister, accidentally following those rocks into the muck. My brother, Charlie, was born that year, an interloper to our fun… or so I thought at that age. Later, we once again moved back to Clifton, NJ where I attended kindergarten, a big girl walking several blocks by all myself to P.S. #15. Returning to Marion, NY the summer after kindergarten, we had many more adventures with Fran and Betty DeVries while living upstairs in their beautiful Victorian house on their parents’ farm. I remember the layout of their barn, helping a few times to put milking machines together, watching their Dad put in silage with the belt-driven unloader off the tractor. My Dad knew Gerald and Joann from the Sussex, NJ Christian Reformed Church youth group when he was herdsman for old Mr. Titsworth after graduating Clifton High School. Actually, Mr. Titsworth was a direct descendant of Willem Tietsoort who settled in that area after the 1690 Schenectady massacre, purchasing extensive lands from the northern Jersey Indians. Unknown to our family back then, my genealogy research several years ago discovered Willem Tietsoort was related to one of my mother’s ancestors! Moving up the road to the spacious farmhouse on the Musshafen tenant farm brought more fun as we meandered the fields, and walked back down the road to spend time with Fran and Betty. My Dad bought a steer from Mr. DeVries to raise for beef. We girls named him Elmer… as in Elmer’s Glue we joked! My sister and I thought it was more fun running between rows in the garden instead of our weeding chore. Brother Mark was born here, with Charlie anxiously asking, “When can he play ball with me?” My Dad’s sister, Aunt Hilda, taught us the little song, “On top of spaghetti...” Needless to say, whenever I think of that song, it is always with images from that house as the poor little meatball rolls off our dining room table, out the back door, down the cement steps, down the slope, past the garden and under the lilac bushes this side of a small creek! We shelled endless piles of peas and snapped mountains of beans, and, I’m ashamed to say, threw some under those lilac bushes when we got tired of it all. We practiced our fishing techniques, aiming to put the dobber into a bucket though I don’t believe we were too accurate. We caught tadpoles and watched them grow legs while in jars before returning them to the creek to finish growing into frogs. And we even tried to fry an egg on the road on a very hot summer day… well, the adults always said it was so hot you could…! Next, as tenants on the Bouman farm on Whitbeck Road just outside of East Palmyra, fun found us running with Ruth, Annette and Grace in the haymow, catching my shoe on baling twine and tumbling down to the wooden floor below, barely a foot away from the upturned tines of a pitch fork and getting a concussion; traipsing over the fields and through the woods; walking among the cows in the pasture only to be chased by a very indignant new mom for getting too close to her baby and barely making it under the fence with her hugeness right behind me; roller skating, only once, on a pond because we didn’t have ice skates; building snow forts; sledding down the hill outside the barnyard; playing telephone as we kids all sat in a circle, laughing at how the secret message had changed from the first person to the last; playing Mother May I, Red light, Green light, and Hide and Seek; learning to ride bike under Grace’s tutelage with a few falls resulting in scraped-up knees; playing at friend Kathy’s home, sledding down their hill and across the field when a train came through, freezing up and not thinking to roll off - thankfully, the sled came to a stop a few feet away from the track as I looked up in horror at the train rushing by; voraciously reading every book I could get my hands on, a life-time habit; and so much more…! Oh such fun!! Then, abruptly, we moved back to city life in Clifton, NJ. Sadly, Dad left much behind, including the unique doll house made especially for us girls by our landlord when I was in kindergarten. Now, we enjoyed visiting often with our grandparents, and loved the family gatherings for every main holiday on the calendar. When brother Andy arrived, my sister and I, at ages 10 and 11, were responsible every week for months for hauling the family laundry in the little red wagon to the laundromat across the street from the bar at the top of our block, washing and folding it all (we became little pros, respected by all adults doing their own laundry), and getting to buy treats like 5-cent double-stick popsicles, way bigger than today’s version! We taught Charlie to ride bicycle in the former train station’s empty parking lot across from the end of our block, which is now all gone. Our Dad took us fishing to northern Jersey lakes and on Clifton’s Garret Mountain with its great vista overlooking the cities to the New York City skyline, all fishing holes from his childhood. We also enjoyed going to Green Pond for water fun where Dad’s sister, Hilda, and family spent the summers. We two girls enjoyed traipsing the city unsupervised without problems, walking or biking everywhere to parks, the city library, to Passaic Christian School and then to Christopher Columbus Junior High 12 blocks from home. I can still visualize so much of the city like the back of my hand, forever frozen in time. After four years, my heart rejoiced when we moved back to New York state! We were slowed by heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic because of hippies everywhere on Rt. 17 finding their way to the the fields of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969. Our long drive ended at a house on River Road in Lounsberry, half-way between Owego and Nichols, where the odor of neighboring farms was heavenly. Here, my latter teen years were spent caring for three-dozen-some chickens, 6 Muscovy ducks and their newly-hatched ducklings (which grew to provide us with fine dining), my lamb, and mare, War Bugg, a beautiful grand-daughter of Man O’ War… along with the arrival of our youngest brother, Ted. I was, admittedly, very disappointed he was not a little girl, but fell in love with him and those big blue eyes as my sister and I helped care for him. After all, we were “pros” in baby care by then! Meeting Edward, my husband-to-be, at our Owego Christian Reformed Church held at the Talcott Street Community Center, I began another new chapter. He was a dairy farmer with his Dad, so I moved to Spencer, making a new home, new friends, and a new life. Simply spending time recalling precious memories of family and friends in a long-ago world brings a few tears and many smiles to my heart… So, what cherished memories do you have that are waiting to be brought to mind and shared? Going back home… Linda A. Roorda Going back home within my mind To simple retreats of childhood days Holding sweet memories of yesterday Like quiet oases of rest and peace. ~ Stirring emotions that overwhelm On traveling back to gentler times With early images tucked far away On pages engraved in a long-ago world. ~ For what could ever make me forget The fears that then descended strong With dog at fence and thunderstorm To shake the world of toddlerhood. ~ While a life-long love was built in scenes Of farming and learning beside my Dad With laughter heard through carefree days In adventures had by my sister and me. ~ The many homes of my younger days Are shelters now for cherished views As dear and precious memories enhance Wistfully perfect they ever remain. ~ But tucked within the pages recalled Are days of change and tender tears Moving away and losing friends Through a lifetime lived, they’re never forgot. ~ Yet often they say it’s just not the same We can’t return to scenes of our youth That life and times are forever changed The rift between then and now is too great. ~ But as I gaze on all that once was I find it’s okay to let the tears flow As they wash away the lingering pangs To leave my heart refreshed and clean. ~ So I shall always savor the joy Of going back home within my mind And holding dear those treasured days Of childhood mem’ries and lessons learned.
  20. Ever feel as though you’re broken and scattered… like pieces of shattered glass? You’re so overwhelmed by life, torn apart by one situation after another, perhaps in rapid succession. And you begin to feel like you want to run away from all the stress and responsibility. I have… and know I’m not alone. We all get hit hard by life at times, like the disruptive past few years midst the coronavirus pandemic. We all stumble and fall. We’re all broken… broken by our mistakes, sins, fears, unending pain, ongoing chronic illness, loss of a loved one, financial stress, or simply by the weight of life’s never-ending demands. But are we willing to admit we’re broken people? Do we think we’ve got it so together that we would never admit a failing? Do we lash out at others around us out of anger, hurt and resentment? Do we perhaps look down on those who might stumble in a moment of weakness? Or do we humbly apologize and ask forgiveness from those we might have offended? The damage from any trauma or abuse can be devastating, leaving us feeling raw and exposed, torn apart. Just the simplest things can take a toll when we’re overwhelmed by stress without relief. Long-term illness or disability can have the same effect. We keep hoping that one day… somehow… things will get better… but they don’t seem to. Reminds me of what it might be like sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake without oars, rudder or motor when the storm hits. We won’t get very far. In fact, the storm will toss us about unceasingly or capsize us without that rudder to steer and stabilize the boat, or the oars to row our boat to shore. And it’s so true that life’s challenges can blindside us when we least expect them and catch us totally unprepared, leaving us feeling like we’re unable to handle what comes our way. Certainly, we don’t feel like our brokenness is beautiful! God never promised us a life without problems and pain. But He did promise He’d give us what we ask for when we ask in His will, and that He will always be with us. We just need to ask and trust Him as He “works all things for the good of those who love Him…” (Romans 8:28) He intends our journey of difficulty to strengthen our faith. For James 1:2-3 reminds us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…” Yet that trial, or broken road, can sure seem long and tedious, and not something we readily rejoice in! Still, as we draw closer to our Lord in the difficulties, we realize He’s been drawing us close to Himself. He’s at work putting our broken pieces back together to make us complete… to restore us. How often haven’t we felt His love surround us when the path is hard and long, and we seemed so alone? Haven’t we looked back to see He’s carried us at times when we’ve done all we could and felt as though we couldn’t take one more step? And isn’t He the one who sent someone to wrap their arms around us, with an ear to listen to our heart, words to heal, and arms to hold us up and help us stand… until we felt stronger and able to function again? Just like Paul wrote, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Recently I read about the Japanese artform of Kintsugi (golden joinery), or Kintsukuroi (golden repair) https://www.britannica.com/art/kintsugi-ceramics . These are terms for a special type of repair to broken pottery which began in about the 15th century. Artisans take gold, silver or platinum dust, mix it with a special lacquer or resin, and apply it to the broken pieces. As they fit the broken pieces together, the shattered pottery is made whole again. Typically, the broken vessel becomes even more beautiful in its new state of repair – broken beauty, in other words! No matter what we go through, God will bring comfort and peace to our heart when we look to Him for strength to face each trial. He has it all under control, and even has a reason for taking us through the storms, allowing us to grow and heal through the difficult journey. He welcomes us as broken people, and makes something beautiful from our shattered pieces of life! Then comes the day when we realize we’re healed… maybe not exactly as we’d wanted… but the pain no longer has a grip on us… for our brokenness has been used to heal a weakness! The difficult journey was worth every step from brokenness to a new wholeness … because it has given us a better understanding of life with a greater empathy for others, with peace like a comforting blanket… enabling us to come alongside someone else who is struggling and overwhelmed as we “encourage the disheartened [and] help the weak...” (I Thessalonians 5:14) For we know that God has used our trial in such a way that we now shine a light from within that we never knew we had… as we’ve gone from broken to beautiful in God’s restorative eyes! Broken Beauty Linda A. Roorda ~ Sometimes… Like a beautiful vase Our life is shattered Like so many shards Of broken glass Where once there was A vessel whole, unbroken. ~ Because… Trials of life Came crashing down To take their toll Inflicting damage Leaving emotions raw Trying to destroy The joy from within. ~ But… There comes a day When it’s time To pick up the pieces And one by one To then reclaim The former beauty Of the vessel treasured. ~ So… An effort ensues To fit the pieces Back together In such a way That there will shine Illuminating brilliance Never before seen. ~ For… An inner strength Has taken hold So that the pieces Broken and scattered In coming together Now give the vessel A broken beauty! ~~ 02/05/14
  21. I heard this after my flights to visit family - “How can you not see God in every little thing, in every little moment?” It was a meaningful phrase in a great song by Leanna Crawford that I heard last Monday while picking up some groceries. I’d just gotten home after a 12-hour delayed flight, and thought, how fitting… especially after my trip to see some of my family the end of June. I was nervous about going through the airports... 1) Elmira to Detroit to Nashville, 2) Nashville to Minneapolis, and 3) Minneapolis to Detroit to Elmira... and sure enough, we had a hitch, or should I echo a friend calling it a hiccup. I'd prayed before leaving home that God would guide me through the maze of huge terminals, cities unto themselves, and He answered my prayer way better than I could have dreamed! Friday, June 23 – As a sub, was invited to attend a breakfast staff meeting at the middle school. I heard the principal speak kind words about someone… which turned out to be me… greatly surprised, I promptly forgot everything she’d said, next congratulating a friend and fellow sub sitting next to me for her own award. Then it was home to recheck my backpack, with my sister-in-law Diane and her husband Mark driving me to the airport. Elmira/Corning Regional Airport is small, updated a few years back, easy to get around in, but there was still an underlying nervousness about flying. Yes, I’ve flown before… alone in 2004 to CA to help Emily move to SD, with Ed in 2006 to Sioux Falls, SD for Em’s graduation with her master’s, and in 1980 we took toddler Jenn to visit my family in Texas, but, still… I was very nervous about getting lost in the big city airports. Enter a nice couple who sat near me as we exchanged smiles and greetings. They chose to sit near me again after we ran the gauntlet of x-rays filming our bodies and belongings. Striking up a conversation, I learned they were flying from their home on Keuka Lake to Texas to visit a daughter. Long story short, our words tipped each other off that we were all Christians. They knew Spencer well as their grandson works at Renovation House rehabilitation center! They eagerly gave advice on what to do, where to go, and how to get help in the huge terminals… very welcome advice that I put to good use! My seatmate to Detroit was a young man heading off to study bio-engineering in England. Safely arriving at Nashville late on the 23rd, got help from those in uniform for where to exit the building to find my niece Nina who easily found me! It was awesome to see her and Chris and their three children, Teagan, Kinley and Nadiya, and to visit with my brother Charlie and wife Monica, both with recent health issues, keeping them in my prayers. Chris and Nina’s coffee shop in Lebanon, TN, Split Bean Roasting Company (website sells their different flavors), has a welcoming, down-home atmosphere. Their menu includes delicious coffee made with Chris’s coffee-grinding expertise, soft drinks, sweet treats, soups, and breakfast fare, wishing I could eat and drink from their specialties to give a 5-star rating. And then we learned they were just ranked 4th in the top 10 best coffee shops in the entire state of Tennessee! Congratulations and way to go, Chris and Nina!! On the 25th, I was returned to the Nashville airport for my flight to Minneapolis, another major hub. As the seats at the gate filled up, a young man sat near me. He struck up a conversation, learning he’d been in Lebanon to visit his sister, where I’d visited Nina and her family, returning home to his wife and kids in Minneapolis. He was involved in his church’s prison ministry, bringing the Gospel to prisoners, assisting those being released in learning to support themselves on re-entering society. At the airport, Nick and Emily picked me up in the 3rd of 4 lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, driving 1-1/2 hours home to Sauk Rapids. We took day trips, like walking through Munsinger & Clemens Gardens, home to beautiful floral gardens spread out over 20 acres along the Mississippi River in St. Cloud, across the river from the university where Nick is a math professor. You know I want to go back and admire the amazing beauty again, thinking maybe I could transplant a few ideas to my own gardens! I also visited a distant McNeill cousin, Marjorie and her husband John. They gave me a tour of Northfield’s St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges, beautiful campuses from which Marjorie retired as librarian. They showed me the bank, now museum, in Northfield where the James/Younger Gang and compatriots attempted to rob the safe in 1876. Jesse and Frank James fled while others were either killed or later captured, bullet holes still visible in the outside bank walls. Inside the museum, sharing with staff that I was from Upstate New York, south of Ithaca, a gentleman overheard me, saying he has family at Cornell University, and has driven through my town of Spencer! Marjorie and John’s home is beautifully arrayed with family antiques (a living museum), and a unique dumbwaiter John (an engineer) had made between the kitchen and lower patio, all while showing me their welcoming friendship. Home with Em again, we walked around the pond behind their property, seeing ducks, a pair of Sandhill cranes, played games with my Grands, and watched special National Park shows. We walked along the Mississippi, and toured Sauk Rapids’ Benton County Museum. It was the only house in the large community to survive the F4 tornado on April 14-15, 1886 which destroyed every building, bridge and railroad track, leaving the city stranded with no way in and no way out for a time. Killing 72 people in its path, it’s the deadliest tornado on record in Minnesota. That house survived due to its uniquely-built granite walls with an air space between two adjacent walls of solid granite stones. We visited the small but well-kept Pine Grove Zoo in Little Falls, thoroughly enjoying the variety of animals. After a relaxing picnic lunch in the primeval pine grove next to the zoo, we drove to Charles Lindbergh’s home/museum also in Little Falls, his favorite place growing up, set on the banks overlooking the Mississippi, watching newsreels about him and his solo flight across the Atlantic to Paris, learning more than I had previously known about him and his family. Saying goodbye… I spent over 18 hours in the Detroit airport for my flight home to Elmira with delay after delay, finally getting home late Monday morning instead of Sunday evening. But in the waiting, I met a sweet lady. Sitting next to me, I learned Joy was from California, flying east to visit her daughter who lives 5 minutes from the Elmira airport! We shared stories of our lives, finding we had much in common, also sharing our Christian faith. Her family and home had survived the 2018 Carr Fire in northern California, as they helped others in the neighborhood who lost everything, including some who lost loved ones. Another lady walked past me who looked very familiar, but I just couldn’t place her, so I decided to just go ask. Connie recognized me, told me who she was, and it was an aha moment! I knew her years ago as Ed’s mom’s hairdresser who lived locally, was widowed, remarried, now living in North Carolina, on the same flight to visit her daughter here who I also know! And then we met a young man and his wife with 2 kids from Newfield whose dad drove bus with my Aunt Lois for many years! Trust me, we all had a great time chatting and laughing together! Small world indeed! Remember I said God blessed me more than I could have imagined on this trip? Not only with special family time, and getting to sit in “my” old saddle from years ago when riding War Bugg, but spending the night together, we 3 ladies shared stories of how God blessed our lives despite major difficulties we had each dealt with. We chose to ignore the negativity of a lady who emphasized we’d have a lot of trouble trying to get flights out, while I and others instead thanked the one crew member and desk clerk for their helpful kindnesses. We three supported each other and spent the night at Gate 35, keeping each other awake overnight, charging our phones, chatting about our families and life in general. Though our Monday 8 a.m. flight to Elmira was delayed for an hour, boarding and lift-off went smoothly, and we were all very thankful to be heading home. Now it’s hard to believe my trip was ending just a week ago, the reward I’d looked forward to as the school year drew to a close. I was so impressed and thankful for the many ways God blessed me with just the right person at just the right time… and for the blessings of visiting with family! After getting home, picking up some groceries, I took a much-needed nap… not something I’m fond of doing. Sleeping for 4-1/2 hours, I woke up with a start at 5:30 p.m., wondering whose room this was and where I was! Interesting tricks your mind can play when sleep has eluded you for too many hours… and home life resumed its normal routine, finishing two purse orders, baking for our local farmer’s market, enjoying each simple day back home. God bless you this week in all you do, too!
  22. It’s a fact that we Americans love our 4th of July celebrations! We especially enjoy family gatherings and picnics, and big parades with lots of floats and marching bands. We look forward to fireworks with their beautiful colors and designs exploding in the night sky. We decorate our homes with flags and bunting. We salute, or respectfully place our hand over our heart, as our nation’s flag is carried past us by military veterans in parades. And, we recall the two important founding documents of our nation: Preamble to the Declaration of Independence: “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America…” What precious meaning these words have held as we take time to gaze backward to their origins, something I never tire learning about. As I contemplated our nation’s celebrations, I thought about the effort and sacrifice it took from many to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted. I am so thankful for all we have in America which many around the world do not enjoy. But I also wondered if perhaps we have forgotten all that took place a long time ago, and if this day has simply become a traditional fun holiday, or just a holiday to besmirch. Though no nation or government has been perfect as far back as the beginning of time, the early days of a young nation’s beginnings provide perspective for today’s America, this bastion of freedom. So, it’s fitting that we ponder what part our ancestors played in the making of our great America some 247 years ago. And, I might add, one of the best parts of researching my ancestors was the great lasting friendships I’ve made with other descendants. Several of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War in various capacities, some of whom I researched more extensively than others. Originally, I did not plan to bring them into this article. But then it occurred to me that would be fitting. Knowledge of personal service and sacrifice often provides us with a greater understanding of the historical era and what our collective ancestors experienced. Numerous events, political acts, and taxes over many years led to the First Continental Congress meeting from September 5 through October 2, 1774 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was held to counteract the British Parliament’s Coercive Acts (commonly called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists) which were intended to punish the colonists for their Tea Party held in Boston’s harbor. But, among the early precipitators of the American Revolution was the import ban in 1774 against firearms and gunpowder enacted by the British government. Next came the order to confiscate all guns and gunpowder. The aptly named “Powder Alarm” took place on September 1, 1774 when Redcoats sailed up the Mystic River to capture hundreds of powder barrels stored in Charlestown. Taking the event seriously, 20,000 militiamen turned out and marched to Boston. Battle was avoided at that time, but ultimately took place the following spring at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Within these events lie the foundation of our Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as written by Thomas Jefferson in 1791: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The Second Continental Congress began meeting in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775. That very same day, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys seized New York’s Fort Ticonderoga from the British after traveling west from Vermont. On June 14, 1775, delegates from the Second Continental Congress created the Continental Army from colonial militia near Boston. The next day, they appointed an esteemed and experienced military and civic leader as commanding general of their new army, a humble man by the name of George Washington, congressman of Virginia. Nearly a month later, Washington arrived in Boston to take command on July 3rd. The Continental Congress then approved a Declaration of Causes on July 6th. This proclamation outlined why the thirteen colonies should stand united against Great Britain’s political clout and military force. Through these early years, and with pressing urgency, the great minds of the day began formulating a bold statement of the burdens the colonists bore from an overbearing government an ocean away. Initially, the colonists were not looking to start a war; they simply wanted their concerns heard and addressed. But, revolt would be a relevant term regarding that which was festering. They felt the heavy hand of tyranny over them like a smothering umbrella with their king and his government’s over-reaching philosophy of “taxation without representation.” It did not take much for congressional delegates to think back and recall the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770. Several colonials had taunted the ever-present British soldiers. Reinforcement soldiers shot into the crowd killing five civilians, injuring six others. Three years later, the Tea Act in May 1773 was followed by the Boston Tea Party on December 16th. The year 1775 began with several new tax acts put in place; labeled collectively as the Intolerable Acts, they were Britain’s answer to their colonists’ unrest. And then an auspicious delegation met in Virginia on March 23, 1775. Those present never forgot Patrick Henry’s speech and resounding words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Paul Revere’s midnight ride came the night of April 18/19, 1775 to warn of British ships arriving at Boston’s shores. [From the interstate, I have seen Boston’s diminutive North Church tucked beneath the shadows of modern “skyscrapers,” and walked the upper and lower decks of the U.S.S. Constitution from the subsequent War of 1812 – with a sailor in period dress uniform talking on a telephone!] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride” (“Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…”) has been said to contain many inaccuracies; in reality, it was written 80 years after Revere rode out with several others on horseback, quietly alerting other Patriots, but it may also be that Longfellow simply wrote a flowing ode to Revere with embellishments as any poet is wont to do. The British government was again intent on confiscating all weapons held by the colonists. Bands of British troops were sent to confiscate ammunition stores in Salem, Massachusetts and part of New Hampshire. Both times, Paul Revere, a silversmith, was among members of the Sons of Liberty who alerted townsfolk in advance of enemy troops, giving them sufficient time to hide weapons and frustrate the British military. Desiring to alert citizens, Revere garnered assistance from Robert Newman, sexton at Boston’s North Church. To warn that the Redcoats were coming from the shorter water route across Boston’s inner harbor, Newman hung two lanterns from the steeple window. These lanterns were clearly seen by those in Charlestown, including the British, unfortunately. Newman must have felt tremendous fear as the Brits attempted to break into the church while he was still there. Reportedly, he managed to escape capture by quietly sneaking out a window near the altar moments before enemy soldiers entered the church to begin their search. And the very next day, April 19, 1775, the Minutemen and British redcoats clashed at Lexington and Concord with “the shot heard ‘round the world.’” Two months later, June 17, 1775 saw the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) on the Charlestown Peninsula overlooking Boston. Per military records, my ancestor John Caldwell McNeill was present as part of the Hampshire Line. As British columns advanced toward American redoubts, the colonists were reportedly told by their commander, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” The British were shot virtually pointblank and hastily retreated – twice. It was not until the third advance by the British that the inexperienced colonists lost to a superior military force. As the colonists’ limited ammunition ran out, hand-to-hand combat took place on that third advance. The redcoats took control with greater troop numbers despite their loss of over 1000 men, while the colonists counted over 200 killed and more than 800 wounded. Yet, the inexperienced Americans realized their dedication and determination could overcome the superior British military which, in turn, realized this little uprising was going to bring a long and costly war to the Crown. With pressure mounting, the congressional delegation met the next year in the City of Brotherly Love. Here, they commenced to hammering out wording for what would henceforth be termed a declaration of independence. “Monday, July 1, 1776, [was] a hot and steamy [day] in Philadelphia.” In a letter to the new president of Georgia, Archibald Bulloch, John Adams wrote, “This morning is assigned the greatest debate of all. A declaration, that these colonies are free and independent states… and this day or tomorrow is to determine its fate. May heaven prosper the newborn republic.” (John Adams, David McCullough, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, NY, 2001, p.125.) The delegates felt the tension amongst themselves in the debates and wording of their declaration, and the voting at the end of the day was not unanimous. Their tension was heightened that evening as news reached the city that one hundred British ships had been sighted off New York, with eventually more than 300 joining the initial fleet. The seriousness of what they were undertaking was felt by every man in the delegation for they knew their very lives were on the line. July 2nd saw an overcast day with cloudbursts letting loose as the delegates met. The New York delegates abstained from voting while others joined the majority to make a unanimous decision. Thus, on July 2, 1776, twelve colonies voted to declare independence from Britain. More than anyone else, John Adams made it happen. His elation showed in writing home about the proceedings to his wife, Abigail. “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” (McCullough, pp. 129-130) News spread like wildfire throughout Philadelphia. A young artist, Charles Willson Peale, journaled that “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.” (McCullough, p.130) But, Congress still had to review what the delegation had written before an official statement could be made. dJuly 3rd blessed the city with a drop of 10 degrees following cloudbursts the day before. Tensions had even begun to ease among the men, but still there was much work to be done. More discussion and Deliberation ensued as they reviewed the language of their declaration. (McCullough, pp. 130-135) Much had to be cut and reworded to make it a more concise document which then boldly declared, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America. When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Benjamin Franklin offered encouraging and comforting words to the now-silent Thomas Jefferson whose many words were debated and cut. When their work was finished, it was still Thomas Jefferson’s words, however, which have held a firm and tender spot in the hearts of Americans ever since. To Jefferson goes the credit for writing “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (McCullough, p.130-136) Thursday, July 4, 1776, dawned cool and comfortable. The tension was gone from the weather just as it was now from among the men of the delegation. Discussions were again held through late morning when a final vote was taken. New York still abstained, but the other twelve colonies voted unanimously to support the hard work they had wrought in this Declaration of Independence. Ultimately, the delegates from all thirteen colonies, including New York, signed the document in solidarity. (McCullough, p. 136) Celebrations began on the 8th when the published Declaration was read to the public. Thirteen cannon blasts reverberated throughout Philadelphia, bells rang day and night, bonfires were lit everywhere, and candles shone bright in windows. The news reached Washington and his troops in New York City the next day where the Declaration was read. More celebrations sprang up as the crowds pulled down the equestrian statue of King George III. (McCullough, p.136-137) But, their elation was not long in lasting. In reality, it would be several more years before celebrations of this magnitude would again be held. In reality, though the hard work of writing such a declaration was finally completed, even harder efforts and sacrifices of thousands of men and boys on battlefields were about to begin. In reality, the conflict about to begin would affect every man, woman and child living within the thirteen colonies in ways they could never have imagined. And, ultimately, their great sacrifices gave rise to the freedoms which we enjoy and tend to take for granted today. The lives of the men who signed this declaration were also forever affected. If the new America lost its war for independence, every signer of said document faced charges of treason and death by hanging for actions against their king. In signing, they gave “support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, [as] we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” There were 56 representatives from all thirteen colonies who signed, ranging in age from 26 to 70 (the oldest being the esteemed Benjamin Franklin). Over half were lawyers, but the men included planters, merchants and shippers. Most of them were wealthy men who had much to lose should Britain win. Though none of them died at the hand of the enemy, four men were taken captive during the war by the British, with one-third of the signers being military officers during the war. And, nearly all of them were poorer when the war ended than when it began. There was much at stake in the days and years ahead after the Declaration of Independence was signed and the war began in earnest. Some men abandoned the battle lines, their friends, and what once seemed like worthy ideals, and simply walked home. Many suffered untold pain and suffering as prisoners of war. Many suffered deprivations of food and clothing along with disease and death within their own military camps. Many fought family and friends in the same community as Patriot was pitted against Tory, i.e. Loyalist. Schoharie County, New York, considered by historians to be “The Breadbasket of the Revolution,” provided an abundance of food for Washington’s northern troops. To frustrate the colonists’ efforts, the British and their Loyalist supporters, including many Native Americans, destroyed and burned crops and buildings as they captured, killed and scalped settlers throughout the Mohawk and Schoharie Valley and along the western frontier during the war. In reality, however, we likely would not have won our independence if it were not for Washington’s spies. Barely two months after the Declaration was signed, a 21-year-old Yale graduate by the name of Nathan Hale from Massachusetts eagerly volunteered to spy for Washington. He intended to go behind enemy lines on Long Island and in New York City to infiltrate the British strongholds. Instead, not being sufficiently familiar with the area and its people, and likely having a New England accent, he was caught and found to have sketches of fortifications and memos about troop placements on him. Without benefit of legal trial, he was sentenced to death. His requests for a clergyman and a Bible were refused. Just before being hung on September 22, 1776 in the area of 66th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, Hale was heard to say with dignity, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” (George Washington’s Secret Six, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2013, p.1.) George Washington knew that he desperately needed spies, but he needed them to work in such a way that they would not be discovered. His tender heart for his fellow countrymen deplored that even one should die for the cause of freedom. Yet, he also knew that such loss was inevitable. And, thus was born Washington’s spies so aptly named, “The Secret Six.” Out of the realization that Gen. George Washington desperately needed spies, and hating to lose even one more life after the hanging of Nathan Hale, a ring of trustworthy spies was gradually pulled together. Washington’s “Secret Six” included five men and one woman embedded within and around New York City and Long Island, each familiar with the land and its people. They reported to Washington on British movements and military plans in a timely fashion. Because they knew the area, and were known by the people, they were readily accepted as they maneuvered amongst the enemy. That is not to say, however, that they didn’t come close to being found out. They lived in constant fear of such, not to mention the fear of losing their own lives and destroying their families in the process. At times they were emotionally frail, depressed and despondent. But, because of their passion for the freedom movement afoot, they came together for the greater benefit of all. At one point, Washington’s army was entirely surrounded by the British in New York City. With tips from his spies, and being a man given to much time and prayer with God, his troops managed to quietly evacuate the city under the cover of night at an area not under guard. With dawn, however, came the realization that a large contingent still remained behind and would be very visible to the enemy. An answer to prayer was soon forthcoming to allow the balance of his men and equipment to leave the city – an unexpected and extremely dense morning fog enveloped the area, allowing them to continue crossing safely over into Jersey with the British unable to do anything about the Continental Army’s escape from their clutches. Because of the work of Washington’s spies and the “important memos” he managed to have planted with false information behind enemy lines, the Americans were able to surprise the enemy at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Day night 1776 after the British had relaxed their guard and celebrated the day in style. Needless to say, the Americans enjoyed a vital and rousing victory. Because of the spies and their efforts, accomplished with great fear for their own lives and that of their families, warning was given to Washington of 400 ships arriving from England. The spies’ insider knowledge that the British were planning to attack and scuttle the French ships and troops coming to Washington’s aid allowed him to turn the tide in a timely manner. He was able to fool the British into thinking he was readying an imminent attack on New York City, causing them to leave Long Island Sound, thus allowing the French time to land and move inland to safety in Connecticut without battling the British at sea before they even disembarked. Because of the spy who owned a print shop which seemingly supported King George, important plans were heard and passed on to Washington. Other spies were privy to the upper level of command amongst the British military at parties in a particular merchandise shop and a certain coffeehouse. A circuitous route was set up for their messenger across Long Island to Setauket where packets with concealed or innocuous-looking papers written in invisible ink and code were rowed to the Connecticut shore in a whale boat (while being pursued by the British) where another member took the seemingly innocent packet of merchandise and rode his horse overland to Washington’s camp in New Jersey. At times, someone simply traveled out of New York City to visit relatives in northern New Jersey and met up with another dependable link to pass the information along to Washington’s headquarters. Because of their courage and resolve, the spies assisted in uncovering the Crown’s Major John Andre` (who, himself, ran a British spy ring) as he worked with Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, American commander at West Point. Despite a prior stellar military record, but due to personal bitterness, Arnold was in the process of handing West Point over to Andre` and the British. Through a series of blundering mistakes, because of the spies’ knowledge given to Washington at just the right moment, and because of the quick thinking of a couple of patriotic guards on a bridge leading back into New York City, Andre` was captured and later executed. Arnold’s hand-over was thus thwarted, although Arnold managed to escape behind enemy lines and ultimately fled to England. Because of the supposed loyal British support by the owner of said print shop, a little book was obtained through his work as an undercover spy. This inconspicuous little book contained key information on British troop movements at Yorktown, Virginia. With important knowledge gained of the enemy’s military plans, Washington was able to redirect appropriate troops and ships to Yorktown. General Cornwallis surrendered for the British on October 19, 1781 in an American victory where total defeat for the Americans would have otherwise taken place. Because they swore themselves to secrecy, no one knew the full involvement of all six spies, nor all of their names. Only gradually over the last few hundred years has their identities become known, the fifth not confirmed until recently. All five men are now known, but the woman’s identity is not; she is simply known as Agent 355. It is believed she was captured and became a prisoner; but, there is no hard evidence by research even to prove that conjecture. The efforts of the six spies as they secretly obtained information and passed it along (devising their own specialty codes, using a unique invisible ink, and more) enabled them to maintain total secrecy. Nor did they ever seek accolades for their work after the war was over. The secrets to their successful accomplishments have been among the methods still taught and used successfully by our CIA today. In the interest of sharing the spies’ courage which undoubtedly helped us win the Revolutionary War, their story (as briefly described above) has been extensively researched and written by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger in George Washington’s Secret Six, The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution. It was one of my Christmas gifts from my husband a few years ago, and I highly recommend it to other history buffs. It’s a read you’ll find difficult to set down! So, why is history important to us? To quote David McCullough in the Reader’s Digest, December 2002, author of the books, John Adams and 1776: “Who are we, we Americans? How did we get where we are? What is our story and what can it teach us? Our story is our history, and if ever we should be taking steps to see that we have the best prepared, most aware citizens ever, that time is now. Yet the truth is that we are raising a generation that is to an alarming degree historically illiterate… While the popular cultures races loudly on, the American past is slipping away. We are losing our story, forgetting who we are and what it's taken to come this far.” “The best way to know where the country is going is to know where we've been…But why bother about history anyway? …That's done with, junk for the trash heap. Why history? Because it shows us how to behave. [It] teaches and reinforces what we believe in, what we stand for. History is about life – human nature, the human condition and all its trials and failings and noblest achievements… Everything we have, all our good institutions, our laws, our music, art and poetry, our freedoms, everything is because somebody went before us and did the hard work... faced the storms, made the sacrifices, kept the faith… If we deny our children that enjoyment [of historical story telling]… then we’re cheating them out of a full life.” As I contemplated our nation’s celebrations, I thought about the effort and sacrifice it took from many to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted. I am so thankful for all we have in America which many around the world do not enjoy. But I also wondered if perhaps we have forgotten all that took place a long time ago, and if this day has simply become a traditional fun holiday. The United States of America came to be with God’s hand working a miracle behind the scenes, and within the hearts of men and women who were very involved in its forming by putting their lives, legacy and financial support behind the movement for independence. Though no nation or government has been perfect as far back as the beginning of time, the early days of our young nation’s beginnings provide perspective for today’s America, this bastion of freedom. So, it’s fitting that we ponder what part our ancestors played in the making of our great America some 246 years ago. And, I might add, one of the best parts of researching my ancestors was the great lasting friendships I’d made with other descendants. Several of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War in various capacities, some of whom I researched more extensively than others. Originally, I did not plan to bring them into my article. But then it occurred to me that it would be appropriate. Knowledge of personal service and sacrifice often provides us with a greater understanding of the historical era and what our collective ancestors experienced. While researching my ancestry over 20 years ago, I purchased Revolutionary War pension application files of several ancestors who had served. For those whose government files I did not purchase, their data was obtained from Schoharie County Historical Society, various Revolutionary War books, CDs, and documents proving their service. Hoping that my family research might provide us a closer glimpse of the war for independence through their experiences, I share their legacy. 1) Frantz/Francis Becraft/Beacraft, bp. 06/12/1761, Claverack, Columbia Co., NY - Private, 3rd Comp., 3rd Regiment, 1st Rensselaerswyck Battalion, Albany County New York Militia, on muster roll from Berne in 1782, 1790 census at Berne. In an 1839 affidavit, Francis Becraft of Berne stated that he “served as a Private in a company commanded by Capt. Adam Dietz in the County of Albany...” Frantz/Francis married Catherine Dietz (sister of said Capt. Adam Dietz), my g-g-g-g-grandparents. In researching my ancestors, I discovered an apparent familial tie to the notorious Tory Becraft/Beacraft. This man felt no remorse in aligning himself with Joseph Brant’s Indians to capture, kill and scalp Patriots throughout Schoharie County, known to have brutally killed and scalped a young boy in the Vrooman family who managed to escape the house after his family had been murdered. After the war ended, Becraft/Beacraft had the audacity to return from Canada to Schoharie County where he was immediately captured by ten men. In meting out a punishment of 50 lashes by whip, the men supposedly reminded him of his infamous acts against the community, his former neighbors. Roscoe notes that death did not linger for him after the final lash, and his ashes were buried on the spot. Of the ten men who swore themselves to secrecy, apparently only five are known. (History of Schoharie County, William E. Roscoe, pub. D. Mason & Comp., 1882, pp.250-251.) However, in "Families (to 1825) of Herkimer, Montgomery, & Schoharie, N.Y.," a genealogical source on many early families by William V. H. Barker, it is noted that the Tory Becraft/Beacraft was Benjamin, born about 1759, brother of my ancestor noted above, Frantz/Francis Becraft. If this is accurate and they are indeed brothers, they were both sons of Willem/William and Mareitje (Bond) Becraft. Another source, “The Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea…” notes Becraft survived his whipping and left the area (pg. 64), just as other undocumented sources indicate he survived and returned to Canada to live with his family. So, I am uncertain as to whether Tory [Benjamin] Becraft actually died from his whippings or survived and left the area. 2) Johannes/John Berlet/Berlett/Barlet, b. 05/08/1748, Schoharie, Schoharie Co., NY – Private, Tryon County Militia, 3rd Reg’t, Mohawk District. He married Maria Gardinier, b. about 1751; their daughter Eva/Eveline Barlett married Martin Tillapaugh, b. 1778, my g-g-g-grandparents. 3) Johann Hendrich/John Henry Dietz, bp 05/10/1722, Nordhofen, Vielbach, Germany – served in Lt. John Veeder’s Company, Rensselaerswyck, later under Capt. Sternberger’s Company at Schoharie. He married Maria Elisabetha Ecker, bp. 1725; their daughter Catherine Dietz, b. 1761, married Frantz/Francis Beacraft above, my g-g-g-g-grandparents. As per my research article on Chemung County’s Newtown Battle, the Indian/Loyalist raids and massacres also touched my ancestral families in New York. In Beaverdam (now Berne), New York near the Switzkill River on September 1, 1781, the Johannes Dietz family was attacked. Johannes’ son, Capt. William Dietz was captured and forced to watch his elderly parents, wife, four young children and a Scottish maid be killed and scalped. (see “Old Hellebergh,” Arthur B. Gregg, The Altamont Enterprise Publishers, Altamont, N.Y., 1936, p. 24; signed by Gregg, in Roorda’s collection from her father.) Capt. William Dietz’s father, Johannes, was an older brother of my ancestor noted above, Johann Hendrich/John Henry Dietz. 4) Johan Dietrich Dallenbach/John Richard Dillenbach, b. 1733 per cemetery records, Stone Arabia, NY; father Jorg Martin Dallenbach born Lauperswil, Bern, Switzerland (emigrated with 1710 German Palatines with mother and first wife). John Richard Dillenbach married Maria Mynard; their son Martinus took name of Martin Tillapaugh (my lineage), married Eva/Eveline Barlett as above. Dillenbach reported for duty March 20, 1757 when Sir William Johnson called local militia out to protect Fort William Henry on Lake George for the British. The Seven Years’ War, or the French and Indian War, began in 1754 and ended with the European peace treaties of 1763 during which year Dillenbach again reported to defend Herkimer with the Palatine District Regiment. James Fennimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans about the siege of Fort William Henry. Roughly 2300 colonial troops were protecting the British fort when the French arrived with about 8000 troops in August 1763 and heavily bombarded the fort. With additional supporting troops not found to be on their way, the garrison was forced to surrender. The men were to be protected as they retreated by generous treaty terms. However, as the Indians entered the fort, they plundered, looted, scalped and killed about 200 colonials, many of them too sick to leave. In desecrating graves of those who had died before the siege, the Indians exposed themselves to smallpox, taking the germs back to their homes. The French destroyed the fort before returning to Canada. Fort William Henry was reconstructed in the 1950s. Visiting this fort in 1972 with the Lounsberry Methodist Church youth group, I was unaware at the time that my Dallenbach/Tillapaugh ancestor had walked that ground, having been involved in the siege and survived. 5) Timothy Hutton, b.11/24/1746, New York City, married 2nd) Elizabeth Deline b.1760. Their son George b.1787 married Sarah Wyckoff b.1793 (descendant of Pieter Claessen Wyckoff who cared for Pieter Stuyvesant’s bouwery/farm, today’s bowery district of New York City, with his Wyckoff House Museum on Clarendon Road, Brooklyn, NY still standing), my g-g-g-grandparents. Timothy served as Ensign in Philip Schuyler’s Regiment of Albany County Militia, at defeat of Gen. Burgoyne in Saratoga October 17, 1777; appointed Lieutenant in New York Levies under Col. Marinus Willett; defended Schoharie County from burnings and killings by British, Loyalists and Indians. This Timothy is not to be confused with a nephew of same name and rank, b. 1764, which many have done, including an erroneous columnar grave marker in Carlisle, NY. Sorting their military service out was part of my extensive thesis and documentation in researching and publishing two lengthy articles on the origins and descendants of this Hutton family in the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record in 2004-2005. My Timothy’s nephew William Hutton served extensively in the Revolutionary War throughout New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley. My Timothy’s nephew Christopher Hutton of Troy, NY served as Ensign, promoted to Lieutenant, member of the elite Society of the Cincinnati. My Timothy’s nephew, Timothy Hutton b.1764, served as Lieutenant in New York Levies under Col. Willett, enlisting 1780 at age 16 in the Albany militia. My Timothy’s nephews, Isaac and George (brothers of Christopher and the younger Timothy, all sons of George Hutton, the older brother of my ancestor Timothy Hutton), were well-known influential silversmiths during the Federal period in the late 18th/early 19th centuries in Albany. Hutton silver has been on display at museums in Albany, New York. 6) Johannes Leenderse (John Leonardson), b.06/18/63, Fonda, Montgomery Co., NY - enlisted as private in 1779 at age 16, Tryon County Militia, 3rd Reg’t; Corporal in 1781; served on many expeditions in the Mohawk Valley and at forts; joined Col. Willett’s company on march to Johnstown October 1781 in successful battle against enemy who had burned and killed throughout Mohawk Valley; re-enlisted 1782. Married Sarah Putman b.1773. Their son Aaron Leonardson b.1796 married 3rd) Lana Gross, parents of Mary Eliza Leonardson b. about 1732 who married William Henry Ottman, my g-g-grandparents. 7) John Caldwell McNeill, b. 1755, Londonderry, Rockingham Co., NH - at Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) on Charlestown June 17, 1775 per purchased military pension file. As Sergeant under Col. Timothy Bedel of the New Hampshire Line, John bought beef to pasture and butcher as needed for the troops. Bedel’s regiment joined “Corp.1, Co. 1, New York Reg’t” on mission to Canada against British; McNeill taken captive with cousins and friends at The Cedars near Montreal, an island in the St. Lawrence; soldiers were stripped of clothing, belongings and food, and released in cartel negotiated by Gen. Benedict Arnold before becoming a traitor. John served at and discharged at Saratoga, NY. He married cousin Hannah Caldwell b.1762; removed to Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York ca. 1794; their son Jesse McNeill m. Elizabeth Ostrom, my g-g-g-grandparents. (Neighbor was Thomas Machin who built the Great Chain across the Hudson River to keep the British ships from sailing north. A granddaughter of McNeill married a Machin grandson, removing to the Midwest.) 😎 George Richtmyer, bp 04/23/1738, Albany Co., NY – Captain from 1775 through end of war in 15th Reg’t of Albany Militia, defending Cobleskill and Middleburg, Schoharie Co., NY. Married Anna Hommel; their son Henrich/Henry married Maria Beacraft (see above), my g-g-g-grandparents. 9) Hendrick/Henry Vonck/Vunck, b. 03/06/1757, Freehold, Monmouth Co., NJ - served as private and Corporal in New Jersey and New York City; carried papers for American Gen. Charles Lee; joined units marching to same area of Canada as John C. McNeill; on return became ill with smallpox with others at Lake George when news of the Declaration of Independence was made; honorably discharged; called to serve again at Sandy Hook, NJ; captured by the British at Sandy Hook, taken to a prison ship, then to the [Livingston] stone sugar house in Manhattan, then another prison ship, the Good___ (writing illegible on the early 1800s pension document, possibly Good Hope). After “one year and one month” as prisoner, he was exchanged and released. “Having suffered while a prisoner great privations and disease and in poor clothing and severely unwholesome provisions many prisoners died in consequence of their treatment.” (Per 1832 affidavit of military service for pension.) Conditions suffered as a prisoner left Henry in poor health the rest of his life; removing later to Montgomery County, NY. He married Chestinah Hagaman; their daughter Jane Vunck married James Dingman, my g-g-g-grandparents. From 1776 to 1783 the British made use of decommissioned ships (incapable of going to sea) as floating prisons. At least 16 rotting hulks were moored in Wallabout Bay, the inner harbor along the northwest shore of Brooklyn, now part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Among the ships were the Good Hope, Whitby, The Prince of Wales, Falmouth, Scorpion, Stromboli, Hunter, and the most infamous HMS Jersey, nicknamed Hell by the men. Over 10,000 men, perhaps at least 11,500, died on these ships due to the deliberate deplorable conditions. Men were crammed below decks with no windows for lighting or fresh air. There was a lack of food and clothing, with vermin and insects running rampant, and a lack of other humane efforts to aid the ill, all leading to the death of thousands. Prisoners died virtually every day, reportedly as many as fifteen a day. Some were not found right away, their bodies not disposed of until days later. Often, those who died were sewn into their blankets (if they had one) to await pick up by cart the next morning. Many were buried in shallow graves along the shore (unearthed during major storms) or were simply tossed overboard, later washing ashore. With development of Walloon Bay area over the last two centuries has come the discovery of their bones and parts of ships. To commemorate these soldiers’ lives and what they gave in the fight for independence, the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument was built. Located in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, it was dedicated on April 6, 1808 with improvements made to it several times since. At least another 5-6000 men died in the sugar houses, bringing the total who died as prisoners to more than 17,500 in the sugar houses and ships, more than double the battlefield losses. Sugar houses were buildings meant to store sugar and molasses. Affidavits by my ancestor, Henry Vunck, and friends note he was held for a few months in the “stone sugar house.” This could only mean the Livingston Sugar House, a six-story stone building built in 1754 by the Livingston family on Crown (now Liberty) Street in Manhattan. Demolished in 1846, buildings No. 34 and 36 are now on the site. A second sugar house, the Rhinelander, a five-story brick warehouse, was built in 1763 at Rose (now William) Street and Duane Street. This building was eventually replaced and is now the headquarters of the New York City Police Department. A third, Van Cortlandt’s sugar house, was built about 1755 by the early Dutch family of this name at the northwest corner of the Trinity Church in Manhattan. It was demolished in 1852. 10) Hans Georg Jacob Dubendorffer (George Jacob Diefendorf), b. 01/23/1729, Basserstorff, Switzerland – a Loyalist during Rev War, he left Mohawk Valley for Philadelphia and New York City, returned to a daughter’s home in Canajoharie, NY after the war rather than remove to Canada. A patriotic son disowned his father, taking his middle name (his mother’s maiden name) as his new surname, removing to Virginia. George Jacob married Catharine Hendree; their son Jacob Diefendorf married Susanna Hess, my g-g-g-g-grandparents. On February 3, 1783, the British government acknowledged the independence of the American colonies. The next day, they formally agreed to halt all military operations. A preliminary peace treaty was ratified in April, and Canada offered free land that summer to Loyalists who sought a new life. Still, the British military maintained a presence in Manhattan. When Britain signed the Treaty of Paris September 3, 1783 to end the war, the hated Redcoats finally and slowly began to abandon their New York City stronghold. Next would begin the task of establishing the government and president of this new nation, the United States of America. George Washington rode into Manhattan on November 25, 1783 with his officers and troops, eight horses abreast. At the same time Washington’s parade began, British soldiers and ships were setting sail for their homeland across the Pond. Flags were joyfully waved, church bells rang in celebration, and cannons were fired in honor of those who had fought and for those who had lost their lives, all for the independence of this fledgling nation. The war had definitely taken its toll; but, on this day, great joy was felt in every heart for what had been accomplished. And that is why we continue to celebrate our 4th of July heritage in style – as we remember and commemorate those who gave so much that we might enjoy so much. And, I trust we will never forget what their efforts wrought for us in America!
  23. Father’s Day… a time to remember the dads we treasure. They’ve taught us well in the ways of life. And I remember a lot about my dad. In fact, it would be fair to say that I had put him on a pedestal while growing up… not a wise placement for anyone. But it seems he could do anything and everything, a jack-of-all-trades, almost perfect in my little girl eyes. Though none of us can measure up all the time, there is One who is perfect… who forgives all our failings… our heavenly Father. But, yes, there is so much my Dad, Ralph, taught me and my five siblings, including all about the love of Jesus. As a small child on the farm, I would say, “Jesus is my best friend!” But, for a time as a teen, I forgot my childhood friend until my Dad reminded me of those words I used to say as a little girl. Oops! I loved playing board games on Sunday afternoons with my Dad, especially Scrabble. I love the challenge of this game and tend to play aggressively, perhaps because I was in tough competition with my Dad. Though I won only one game against him over those several years, it was a sweet victory knowing that I’d accomplished the win without his having given me an edge… his way of readying us for the world. He taught me honesty was the right way such that in 8th grade English class I chose to write an essay entitled “Honesty Is The Best Policy”, receiving a coveted A. Actually, I think I may have gotten writing and art abilities from him. Although he was an exceptional storyteller, perfectly imitating voice and mannerisms of various comedians, I speak best through the written word. He also had a gift for drawing with his talent for art passed on to me and my son. He loved trains, especially the old steam engines, having grown up next to the tracks in Clifton, NJ. I loved watching him as he built a passenger car for his train set, using a tweezers to handle those tiny parts. I watched him build Packard and Duesenberg model cars, and a German Focke-Wulf plane from W.W.II, taking us with him as he flew it using a remote-control system… until an unexpected gust of wind dove and smashed the plane into the ground. As we grew up, we loved hearing Dad tell family stories of his and our childhoods. He had a gift for telling any story in a humorous unique way, and how I long to hear them all again. I’d ask him to write them down for posterity, but he never did. When he drove truck in the 1960s through the 1990s (and later huge tractors for an Iowan farmer), he’d come home with stories from the road. He shared radio routines by Bill Cosby and southern Cajun comedians, recalling their stories and imitating accents perfectly! That was way better entertainment than TV any day! I recall a few stories of his time in the Army at Fort Greeley, Alaska (1956-1957), a foreign assignment before official statehood. From 18 months to 2 years of age, I was too young to remember my six months at Delta Junction with my baby sister. But I do remember having heard how he, his best buddy Roland, and two other friends found a sunken rowboat. As it lay not far below the surface of a lake, they pulled it up, cleaned it off, and took it out to fish. It made for an interesting adventure to say the least – while they took turns fishing, the other three worked hard at bailing to keep the boat afloat! Now that’s dedicated fishermen! Fort Greeley is also where he learned to drive big rigs. With someone ill, he was asked to take over in the motor pool one night. Proving he could handle backing up a trailer perfectly, the commanding officer asked where he’d learned to do that since everyone else struggled. “Backing up a manure spreader, Sir!” was his dutiful reply. They kept him in the motor pool, where he gained invaluable training for later driving 18-wheelers. He also was given a rare promotion because he took the time to thoroughly clean an office coffeepot, a skill learned from his Dutch immigrant mother who had taught him all aspects of housekeeping while growing up, like any good Dutch mother. With a general visiting Fort Greeley, the coffee-making task was passed off to my Dad as no one wanted to be making coffee for a general! He didn’t complain but took pains to provide a clean urn for making fresh-brewed coffee… which greatly impressed the general. When the general asked who made the coffee, the aide who was supposed to have made it “blamed” my Dad. Instead of the feared reprimand for the typically bad-tasting coffee the office was known for, the general complimented my father on the best cup he’d ever tasted! Turning to the senior officer, he told him to give my father a promotion! When we were younger, he always had time for us. I loved it when we lived in Jersey and he took us fishing at Garret Mountain in Clifton, Lake Hopatcong and Upper Greenwood Lake. It got me out of the city and into nature where I felt at ease. And, though I could never bring myself to touch those worms (still can’t!), let alone put them on a hook, and never did catch “the big one,” it was the quality time with our Dad that meant so much to us kids. As a tomboy, I especially enjoyed working outside with my Dad whether it was in the barn learning to care for the animals, in the huge vegetable gardens, or traipsing the fields and woods to hunt rabbit and deer. That love just naturally transferred to enjoying time spent working alongside my husband in the barn or in the yard, and growing and weeding gardens of my own. As we grew older, we teens were often in our own little world yet I still adored my Dad. He listened and gave sound advice. I recall the day he didn’t go to work, taking me instead for a drive to discuss a problem I was dealing with. At times though, I wasn’t ready to listen to him because, as life moved on, his anger took control and he wasn’t always there for us as a family, causing division with his divorce by expecting full support for his side. No parent in a divorce situation should ever do that their kids. But I treasure our renewed relationship later in life. With apologies for my own errors as a teen, I heard his sadness as I expressed how family dysfunction affected all of us, and he understood my saying I/we all had needed him more than he realized when he was on the road for 2-4 weeks at a time. I appreciated his compliments on my writing for a local newspaper, my own blogs, publishing genealogy research in a national journal (The New York Genealogical & Biographical Record), and for how well I raised my family and took care of my Mom, even saying he’d never realized all the difficulties I’d faced in my life. Honesty and forgiveness cleared the way for a better relationship with love expressed to both my parents. God truly takes our most difficult situations, working them for our good when we love Him, admit our errors, and make amends. My Dad’s careers changed from his love of farming, to driving a grain truck delivering feed to dairy farmers (winning top NY State Purina Feed salesman awards for 1961 and 1962), to carpentry with his Dad, a general contractor in northeast New Jersey, to driving an 18-wheeler hauling tanks locally and later OTR (over the road/cross country). When we lived in Clifton, NJ, he drove chemical tankers locally in northeast Jersey, southern New England, and New York City. What stories he brought home from his experiences! I got to ride with him only twice and wish it could have been more. I was never so happy as when we moved back to New York in 1969! Though I hated city life, I can now look back at special memories in Clifton where I was born. As we settled into “backyard farming,” he taught me how to care for our mare, War Bugg, a granddaughter of Man O’ War, a retired Western working ranch registered Quarter Horse. One of his trucking buddies also rode the rodeo circuit and put War Bugg through her paces – she did a figure-eight so tight you’d’ve thought she’d fall over! I helped Dad build her corral and box stall in the barn, along with re-roofing and remodeling the old chicken coop for our flock. And then came the heavy-duty barn chores of bringing hay down out of the mow, hauling 50-lb bags of grain, mucking out the pens, learning to groom War Bugg and pick up her feet to clean the soft undersides, devouring books on horses and their care, dreaming of being an equine vet. I saw his deep concern when I stepped on a wasp’s nest in the haymow with 11 stings on my leg, and his gratefulness for my dousing him with a 5-gallon pail of water when a torch threatened to catch him on fire while trying to burn tent caterpillars, chuckling later that I almost drowned him! But I also learned the hard way that running War Bugg flat out up the road and back could have killed her. Not realizing the depth of War Bugg’s Western training, I’d simply clicked my tongue and she took off like a rocket, so I let her run… on the paved road. I was scolded hard, yet taught to walk her slowly, allowing her to have only small sips of warm water till she cooled down. After riding her another time, I dismounted, tied her to the backyard light pole, and ran into the house briefly. On returning, I realized she’d pulled on and broken her bridle, standing as if still tied with reins straight down. And it was then I realized she was Western trained to be “ground tied” and to take off at the click of the tongue, very responsive to touch, the absolute best horse! I still miss her… Soon enough, I got married and began a new life with my new family, while my siblings and parents scattered themselves around the U.S. Life changes, and we change with it. We learn from those childhood mistakes, and grow up wiser for them. As a child, I teased my Dad when he turned 30 that he was old, and that when he’d turn 50 he’d be “over the hill!” Well, Dad, guess what? Your oldest daughter reached that milestone a good ways back, and she’s still kickin’! Giving him this writing in 2014 before he passed away April 17, 2015, his wedding anniversary with my Mom, he knew I felt blessed to have him as my Dad. Sometimes I wish I could go back and relive the childhood fun of days long ago, but I treasure those memories that linger still... and I love you, Dad! May you each be blessed with very special memories of your Dad, too! Happy Father’s Day! I Remember A Dad Linda A. Roorda ~ I remember a dad who took me fishin’ And remember a dad who hooked my worms, Who took those hooks from fishy mouths, And showed me the country way of life. ~ A family of six, two girls and four boys Fun and trouble we shared as we grew. From farms and fields to paved avenues, Walking and biking, exploring we went. ~ I remember a time spent playing games, A dad who’d not cheat for us to win. Family and friends and holiday dinners, Lakes and farms and countryside drives. ~ Weeds were the bane of childhood fun, So ‘tween the rows we ran and we played. But as I grew and matured in age, Weeding was therapy in gardens of mine. ~ I remember a dad who thrived on farming Livestock and gardens, and teaching me how. I remember a dad who took me huntin’ Scoutin’ the fields, always alert. ~ I remember a dad who taught us more For growing up we learn by example. I remember working alongside my dad Roofing a barn and building corrals. ~ I remember a dad whose gifts were given In fairness to meet each child’s desire. I remember a dad whose wisdom we honor In memories of caring and love in small ways. ~ I remember a dad who brought us laughter With Cajun and Cosby stories retold. For blessed with a gift of retelling tales Family and childhood events he recalled. ~ I remember a dad whose time was given To help his children face life’s turmoils. Time spent together are memories treasured For things done best put family first. ~ I remember a dad who taught me more To treasure my faith in Jesus my friend. In looking to Him as Savior and Lord, Salvation by Grace, not earned by my deed. ~ As I look back to days long ago, I remember the dad I knew so well. For I miss the dad who took me fishin’ And remember the dad who taught me more.
  24. We’re very thankful for the good rains that came following the heavy smokey haze we and so much of the northeast dealt with from Canada’s many wildfires. I saw the photos taken by my cousin in New York City sent to his parents, and which his mom forwarded to me. Much denser a haze than we had here, which was bad enough, it permeated everything. And going without rain for several weeks or even a month, it was cause for joy when my students and I heard and saw the heavy rains coming down! But the smokey haze hit me as a good metaphor for the haze of emotional disruption caused by PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. The emotional distress clouds your normal ability to experience life on a good positive level, while you try to live normally, hiding or concealing symptoms of distress so that few notice something just might be amiss… because you, yourself, may not even understand the depth of distress. I’ve been there… and this is my story. June is National PTSD Awareness Month. PTSD is a serious issue whose effects I don’t think we fully understand even today. This is the story of my journey. I no longer deal with its effects as in years past. Now realizing I did nothing to cause the problems, there is no reason for me to feel ashamed. Life being what it is, an imperfect entity, there are things that happen to each of us over which we have no control. What we do have control over, however, is our reaction… either to our detriment, or to our recovery and growth. And I hope sharing my story here will be helpful, encouraging others in their struggle. Several years ago, a friend’s Facebook post about PTSD suffered by combat veterans brought memories back to me of long ago. Nearly 10 years ago, inappropriate incidents by a so-called friend during a time I felt utterly overwhelmed by extreme stress… working full time and caring for my husband, his many medical appointments, and virtually all household needs for so many years… reactivated my own PTSD symptoms. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not a syndrome affecting only our military vets returning from an active war zone. It is believed that about 20% of American adults who have suffered some form of trauma can be diagnosed with PTSD. This diagnosis includes a host of after effects from various traumas such as emotional, physical, or sexual assaults, natural disasters, serious accidents, and many other traumatic life-altering situational stressors. PTSD is an invisible pain with its own specialized mental challenges. Unlike visible wounds, it often lacks outward evidence or proof, taking prisoner one’s deepest inner self and emotions. PTSD is typically evidenced by flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and working, panic attacks, and feeling detached from reality… essentially an unstable emotional equilibrium. Usually, no one else knows the victim has a problem, who may also be in denial that anything is wrong, or may be totally unaware they have a problem. I know. I was diagnosed with PTSD well after the trauma of verbal rape had occurred in junior high. For me, PTSD reared its head to strike years later after having to steel myself daily in an abusive employment situation. Predating the initial traumatic event though, my family abruptly moved when I was 9 from a farming community of everything and everyone I loved to city life, and I was an emotional mess. Within the year, Tourette’s Syndrome began, albeit undiagnosed until years later. But I overcame the challenges and adapted, making a new life with new friends. Yet, just a few years later, my family never knew why I suddenly became withdrawn, was easily agitated, and startled and screamed easily at the unexpected. I was always on alert, wary of others, shied away from making friends, withdrew from a great group of peers in our church youth group, being afraid of even them, and often “clung” to my sister’s side when I should have been making my own friends. I also never shared my fear of the dark, literally sensing someone was behind me to grab and kill me. It was a very real and horrendous fear that I battled for several decades. I was afraid to tell anyone, fearing they’d think I was absolutely crazy. But, to be fair, I also had no idea the trauma of verbal rape in junior high could have caused my problems. I thought that event had simply been tucked away in the distant crevices of my memory. A few years after that emotional trauma, my family moved back to a rural community in upstate New York. There, I was mocked by a neighbor’s sons, or so I assumed, hidden from view in their yard as I took care of my horse. Unfortunately, my dislike for them was real. Unexpectedly, I was reminded of that mocking incident by the perpetrator over 20 years ago. Still thinking it was hilarious fun at my expense, laughing while retelling the mocking episode, I was afraid to share the pain I’d lived with for so many years. Sadly, my sister does not comprehend the damage her mocking did to me. It is well known in the psychiatric community that emotional abuse damages the victim’s self-esteem with long-term consequences to their emotional stability. Wishing I could apologize for my own wrong in holding onto dislike in thinking a neighbor’s son had done this, I gathered the courage to seek him on Facebook. He graciously accepted my apology for my long-held hate, and forgave me, passing away unexpectedly several months later. I am forever grateful I listened to God’s prompting at that time to reach out. A few years after that mocking incident though, returning home from dates with Ed (being legally blind, he could not drive), I would park my car as close to the house as possible, and run as fast as I could to get into the house. The closer the car to the door, the more severe the fear. It was laughed about, but I never shared my intense fear of the dark with anyone except my husband-to-be. Sharing it with my Dad a few months before his passing, I heard the pain in his voice for his never having known in order to have been there for me way back in junior high. Fast forward several more years when, after leaving an abusive employment situation, property damages began, and nightmares and flashbacks set in. It felt like I was beginning to break with reality. Resigning from a new job because of the sudden inability to function and make office decisions regarding things objectively I knew very well how to do, hearing condemning voices and yelling in my head by my former employer, I felt like an absolute and total failure. While looking for just the right tree to drive my car into, I drove past the home of my Dad’s former Army buddy, Roland, a faithful Christian. I’d sat on his knee for Thanksgiving at my family’s cabin in Alaska when I wasn’t quite 2 years old. Now, driving past his home, I clearly heard the voice of God saying, “I’m here for you. Your family needs you. You will be okay.” Like ancient Israel’s King David who said in Psalm 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust,’” God was always here for me in so many ways. Finally seeking professional counseling, I was given a diagnosis - PTSD. My counselor shared that it was not a diagnosis given lightly, typically not given out other than for military personnel. But she said I had been severely traumatized in several ways, had suppressed the trauma and my feelings, steeling myself to additional abuses, and emotions overwhelmed me. Told I really would be okay, and that none of it was my fault (which I’d always believed), the healing process began with my husband’s loving support. Still, having to support my family with Ed unable to work at that time, taking a month off, I put one foot in front of the other to work as a secretarial temp for executives before being hired as a hospital medical transcriptionist over 30+ years ago. The temp jobs were a boost to morale with letters of commendation from a bank president, university labor relations professor at Cornell, and a hotel CEO. They had each told me personally they would have hired me but for their own secretary being on vacation. It seems like a lifetime ago. I have forgiven those two boys in junior high, hoping they’ve gone on to become good men as adults, as well as my mocker, and former employer. The effects of any bullying are devastating as we see all too often among today’s youth. I will no longer allow myself to be mocked or bullied, even when such abuse is hidden from the eyes of others, even within the church. I forgive, but renewed friendship is inappropriate with those who continue to blame their victim, refuse to comprehend the damaging effects of ongoing bullying, and cannot apologize or amend their behavior. Though I still find it difficult to go outside in the dark even with a flashlight, startle easily, and always assess my surroundings, I’ve also learned God uses the traumas of life for a higher purpose, like the words He’s blessed me with in poetry, words which I’ve sensed have come from the depths of my soul. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” And I pray God may use me to “be there”, bringing peace and comfort to others who struggle. I’m also thankful to say I’m doing well, appreciative of the great supportive friends who have blessed my life with their presence. My prayer is that anyone else suffering PTSD, or the adverse effects of abuse and bullying, will seek help to recover… and be richly blessed in their healing! Where the Heart Soars Free Linda A. Roorda Little girl sad, withdrawn and teary Changes and loss disrupting life’s flow Leaving behind remnants of what was With emotional scars, reminders vivid. ~ Where once her heart ran free, unhindered Clinging to joys and ease of childhood Now all the world was seen through the lens Of deepening gray on guard for the unknown. ~ Open her eyes, Lord, that she may see All of the wisdom You share with her May she then know how great is Your love That You care enough to shelter her heart. ~ For there is a place where the heart soars free Where love shines bright in a world grown dim Where hopeless need meets faith to overcome By walking the path that conquers defeat. ~ As an airy joy with a zest for life Brings cheer to the sad and light to the dark Where peace in the heart and contentment calm Cover her wounds with Your loving grace. ~~
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