A Tribute to My Mama

As most of you know, my mother passed from here into eternity on March 22, 2016. This is the tribute I wrote and read at her funeral:

Proverbs 31:10 states, “An excellent woman, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”

Today I’ll share with you some jewels that our excellent mother shared with not only her own family but a host of people whom she served.

Faithfulness is the first gem our mom passed on to us. Proverbs 31:11 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her and he will have no lack of gain.” 

When you talk about Pauline, you’ve got to talk about Ray—they came as a pair. They lived together, worked together, and played together. They not only loved each other, most days they liked each other.

As a teenager, or even as adult when I’d criticize Dad for one thing or another, she always stood up for him and encouraged me to think the best. “Your father is a good man,” she’d say.

And somehow I’d believe her. And she was correct.

The last several years of Dad’s life were difficult, to say the least, but Mom faithfully served him through it all. I’d try to get her to go out with me, but usually she’d say, “I don’t want to leave your father.”

Those who observed our family thought that Mom, or “Warden Wert,” ran the show. But those who really knew us knew the truth—Ray ran the show the show and Pauline did her best to hang on.

And Paula, Paulette, and I are hanging on to Mom’s faithfulness.

The next gem Mom passed on to us is caring. Whenever she visited people or people visited her, she always asked about them individually, remembering the details like the names of their children or parents.

Even in her last days—when thoughts remained difficult to grasp and harder for her to speak, she asked about her children and grandchildren. When they hurt, she hurt.

When word was posted on Facebook about Mom’s promotion to glory countless women who’d been under Mom’s guidance as they grew up said how much mom loved them and made them feel special. For a woman that would stand out in a crowd, had a minimum amount of education, and never signed an autograph, her life made a difference. 

I had the privilege of having my parents live in my home as their health declined. One of my fondest memories of both my parents was the morning devotions at our dining room table. They read a short scripture and an accompanying illustration. Then they pulled out their prayer list. The “list” was extensive and detailed. My children often commented on how many people were on the list—they knew each of them by name and when there were answers.

Both mom and dad cared enough to pray. I’m grateful for that.

The last gem we received from our mother was the gem of encouragement. She believed people could be better than they were and not only told them, she expected it.

I think this is what my children will miss the most. When they came home, Grandma was always there and ready to talk or just listen. I’ll probably never know some of the many words of encouragement that went on in her room.

Mom didn’t mince words. She asked the really hard questions everyone else was afraid to ask. Recently, my son came to visit. Knowing we’d been praying especially for him over the last several weeks and months she asked, “How are you, Micah?”

He hesitated for a moment, “I’m okay Grandma.”

Lying in her bed, she straightened herself up so she could look him in the eye. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Mom encouraged me not only by her life, but also by her death.

The last several months, Mom slept perhaps 18 hours a day. I’d go into her room to check on her after her naps and check on her. Sometimes I’d tell her of my very busy day, or complain about something that had gone wrong. Then I’d ask her how her day had been.

As she lay in her bed, after being bathed and changed and fed—eyes half closed she’d say, “Good.”

The Bible says in Psalms 90 to “Teach us to number our days so that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

I learned a lot from her.

I’d like to end with 2 short stories.

The first was when my father was still alive. Although he couldn’t walk, they’d travel up the block each evening from our house in Florida. Dad in his wheelchair, mom hobbling along with her cane.

One day as I pushed my father and mom ambled ahead of us, Dad motioned for me to bend listen to him.

“There goes the most beautiful woman in the world.” Then he pointed to my mama.

The other story happened about a week before she died. During the cool North Carolina evenings, we’d hoist mom into the chair in our living room in front of our wood stove. On that particular night, I read from the Salvation Army publication the War Cry and then I pulled out the hymnal.

She’d had a few good days in a row and we began to sing.

“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!”

She threw back her head and sang along with every word—not in her low, gravely, old-person voice, but on tune with a young fresh sound.

“That’ll be good won’t it Mom?”

She smiled and said, “Yes it will.”

That night as I prayed, I told the Lord that if he wanted to take my mama in her sleep, this would be a good night.

He didn’t. He allowed her to hold on a while so that I held my sweet mama in my arms and whispered in her ear how much we loved her and what a difference she’d made in our lives as she passed from here into eternity.

I began with Scripture, and I’ll end with it.

Proverbs 31:28-31 states:

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her. Many woman have done excellently but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


YouTube and Pigs

 

The obstinate “Big Boy”

If you would have told me when I was a snarky college freshman I’d be searching YouTube for how to load pigs for market, I’d have told you that you’re a few straws short of a bale.

In fact, I wouldn’t have believed there would ever be a YouTube since when I attended college, phones still hung on the wall–in the hallway–by the communal bathroom and showers.

But yesterday, I looked up how to load pigs. The video looked relatively simple. A smiling man assured me loading pigs was as easy as riding a bicycle. He then backed his trailer up to the pig pen and began to call “Piggy, Piggy, Piggy.” Like magic they entered the trailer as if they had free tickets to the Super Bowl.

I think they were pig actors.

Our pigs did not cooperate. Tom spent all morning trying to load them with no luck. It didn’t help that a sleety snow fell as he worked. After a few hours, he came in.

“Any luck?”

The Eeyore look told me all I needed to know. “I’ve put food on the ramp, in their bowls on the trailer. Two of them came close, but the big boy wants nothing to do with me.

“I’ve been thinking. You need something that smells really good for them to bite. Well, I didn’t mean that literally.” I gave it some thought. I contemplated the smell that is irresistible–especially to the male species. Then it came to me, “How about bacon!”

Tom frowned.

We decided on table scraps and yellow rice. How could it fail?

“Here piggy, piggy, piggy, I have a treat for you…” The female squinted at me suspiciously and placed her two front hooves on the ramp. “Come on Miss Piggy, you’re going to like this.” I waved the bowl of aromatic leftovers in her face as I carefully stepped backwards.

Truthfully, I felt devious. Several passages from the book of Proverbs came to mind. One talks about a beautiful woman without discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout. Quite an illustration. But that’s a whole other subject.

Mostly the verses I thought of centered on how following the wicked person leads to death.

I felt a twinge of guilt.

Then I thought of sausage and pork chops from piggy one and my mouth watered. (Piggy number one has already been ushered into pig heaven.)

“Come on, lady, climb in for the ride of your life!” I waved the yellow rice just beyond her reach. Her back hooves climbed the ramp.

“Keep it up, Pauline, you’re doing great! This is the farthest she’s come!” Tom whispered. “If we get one in the other two will follow.” I had my doubts but continued my seduction.

Just when she crossed the threshold of the trailer, the smaller male jumped on the ramp startling the female. They both evacuated.

It’s been over 48 hours and they’re still free. The farmer we bought the piglets from is coming over today to try and load them.

It’s not his first rodeo.

It won’t be our last.

I’ll have to choose another YouTube video next time.

One without actors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You a Wise Guy?

My unique father used to use the term “Wise Guy” in a derogatory manner when he referred to me. A conversation would go something like this:

Dad: “Are you wearing that to school again?”

Me: “Yes.” I’d say in my lofty teenage-girl-voice.

Dad: “So you’re wearing overalls so you can be different like all the rest of the kids?”

Me: “Whatever you say, Dad.”

Dad: “Don’t be a wise guy,” he’d say as I slinked out the back door for school  dressed in my jean overalls for the fifth day in a row.

As I look back on it, I think he was the wise guy.

Really.

The older I get, the less I know, and the more I  realize how much my parents knew. They were wise.

Something else my dad used to say was, “Sometimes, people get dumber by degrees. They might have a PhD, or an MBA, or an MSW, but they don’t necessarily have a J-O-B.

I used to think he was talking about the book in the Bible. I think I’d graduated from college and had a J-O-B before I understood he meant occupation.

I want to be wise. I wouldn’t mind being knowledgeable, but my desire is wisdom.

So when my pastor, David Brady decided to preach through the book of Proverbs, I got excited. I figured it would be something like Become Wise in Ten Easy Lessons. 

He began with an unexpected question, “Do you fear God?”

From that thought-provoking question he took us to several references in the Bible, beginning with Proverbs 1:7,

“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge.” (NLT)

True wisdom begins with fearing God. It’s like the foundation of the house. No foundation–no house.

We definitely don’t see much in the news or on TV about fearing God. If anything, they make fun of it. Most try to separate fear from God. My pastor said, “Separating fear from God is like taking the word butterfly and separating the syllables. In other words, flying butter.

I’ve never seen that.

Many people who say they believe the Bible say God is love and there’s no need to fear Him. Kind of like a big, heavenly, Santa Claus.

That’s not what the Bible says. His Word, both the New and Old Testament emphasize fearing and loving God.

When I honestly questioned myself, I knew I feared God. I know one day I’ll give an account of my life, but it seems so far off, and this world seems so real. Often, I fear man more than I fear God. But I don’t want to. I want to be a truly wise guy.

What about you? Do you fear God?

Come along with me as I blog through Proverbs and maybe we can share a cup of coffee together and become wise.

Although it might take more than ten easy lessons.

And the first lesson is fear God, not man.

Are you with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life’s Season of Winter

Yesterday, it snowed.

Barely.

Just enough to cover our meager lawn and dust the stark trees.

Beautiful.

I think winter has a bad reputation. Of course I don’t live in Milwaukee where your lawn is covered with snow in September and you don’t see it again until March. Or April.

I lived in Florida for almost thirty years and maybe saw snow once for about fifteen minutes. You could predict the weather almost everyday–sunny and humid with an afternoon shower.

Since calling North Carolina my home almost three years ago, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the seasons. They give a kind of cadence to life.

I thought of that yesterday when I stayed home from church to care for my 95-year-old mother. We observed the white ice drift down on the front porch railing. We smiled as small birds searched for food while our wily cat watched carefully from afar.

Since becoming a farmer, winter takes on new meaning. Shorter days and cold weather prevent much in the way of crops. (Although, miraculously my chickens are still producing eggs.) I’ve gotten some much needed rest.

Because of the weather, my life slows down and gets simpler. If I can’t make it to the superstore, I open a can of soup or have a bowl of cereal.

Sure, Tom and I watched four NFL playoff games over the weekend, but for the last few months we’ve mostly been watching reruns of the fire in our new wood stove. Sometimes we drink hot coffee or sometimes we read, but often we just stare at the flames and discuss how beautiful and unique they are.

I’ve noticed during the winter I can see more. During other seasons of the year, I notice several shades of green from my bedroom windows. In winter there is some green, but mostly I see weathered trunks, and brown leaves, and intricate twigs on bare branches.

I can also see farther. In front of our house, I catch sight of two tobacco barns hidden behind our forest. If I stare into the woods I view trees I’ve never noticed. Small ones that stretch for the sun. Beyond them is a mystery of gray. I can only guess at what lies beyond.

Mom is in the winter season of her life. Most people dread it or avoid it all costs. Some even avoid those who are in winter since it reminds them of the mystery after their lives are over.

I’m beginning to embrace life’s winter season. I look at the intricate lines on Mom’s face and see time and years have worn her soft young skin away. In those creases, I see wisdom, and strength, and love.

Both our lives have slowed down out of necessity. Mom can’t walk anymore so her movement is limited to her bed, the wheelchair, and a big chair in front of the fireplace.

Often in the evening, she sits in her chair while Tom and I watch reruns of the fire. I don’t know that she can see the fire much but she feels its warmth and she is content. She has to be fed now and the food must be easy to swallow since swallowing is difficult. Her food choices are limited–simple.

Her life is simple. She has few possessions and even fewer clothes. She doesn’t need them.

I’ll sometimes ask her how her days has been. “Good,” she’ll reply.

She can also see farther. She looks back on a life filled with lots of color and she looks forward to the mysterious gray of the woods. She can see the trees better and understands their intricate designs. Mom appreciates the gnarly trunks and weathered branches.

She’s lived them.

Her winter forces me to examine mine. It compels me to slow down and enjoy the day. To understand that under the green canopy are sturdy trunks and elaborate designs that are meant to be appreciated and enjoyed.

It also reminds me that soon Mom is headed to the mystery beyond the gray.

And I’ve heard it’s spring there.

It’s just in a different place.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.” Ps. 23:4-5 (ESV)

 

 

Jesus is My Mouthwash

Recently, while reading through the Psalms, I noticed the reoccurring phrase of how man is just a vapor, a fleeting breath.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had bad breath. Serious. Bad. Breath.

It made me wonder what kind of breath I’d be if my life’s breath could be smelled and rated on say a 1-10 scale. Or for that matter, if all our lives could be rated on our life’s breath, maybe like the Olympics–cards would be held up with 7.5, 8.1, 6.3… (Of course the Russians would always be lowest.)

Some would say my cards would be high and my heavenly breath good because of caregiving or other good works, but I know better. I know my hidden thoughts and insidious pride.

I’ve thought about life’s breath a lot lately. One of my new friends in North Carolina died Friday. Her death came both suddenly and quickly. One day she was at church, and over the next few weeks, she went from the hospital to home to Hospice to heaven.

I miss her.

She wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. A rather ordinary-looking, middle 70-ish woman who of course drove a Buick.

She was the first to greet us in our new church. Each week I could count on her pleasant smile and kind words. She always asked about my bed-bound mom or how farming was going with us. Or how my son was doing in Florida.

But it never stopped at just words. Her actions backed up her strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

She called almost every week to check on Mom and update the prayer list. One evening, on a particularly difficult night for me, she corralled chickens and even helped me make a gallon of salsa for an event I attended.

There were other acts of kindness that I am not allowed to discuss because those were her terms. If she did something for us, Tom and I couldn’t tell anyone.

She had fresh breath. It was made fresh by Jesus.

Mine, too.

Our human effort smells foul to God. Isaiah stated that all our best works are like filthy rags. A negative number on the vapor/breath scale.

Yet, by Christ’s atoning work, he makes our life-breath clean. Pure. Acceptable to God.

I’ll miss my friend, but I’m not sorry she’s gone. She’s breathing heavenly air. Air I long to breathe one day.

Fresh. Eternal. Jesus-filled.

But for now, I’ve got to think about my breath here. Do I smell like heaven, or do people move away?

What about you?