Say “yes!” to the dress

616321_10150948871431568_1422691467_o The day we said yes to the dress was full of  “happy happenstances.” Let me tell you about them.

It was a Saturday morning in April, and Katrina and I were going to attend an event called “Brides Against Breast Cancer.” This was our first attempt to find a gown, as Katrina had been totally swamped with finishing her master’s degree. For this charity event, shops donate gowns, and brides can buy them at reduced rates, all proceeds going to cancer research. I was a bit nervous about driving the 1 1/2 hours to Charlotte, since I am ridiculously directions-challenged, and Katrina has unfortunately inherited that particular gene from me.

Happenstance #1 – It was raining lightly that morning, so the outside work my Steven had planned was called off. He surprised us by volunteering to drive us. Yay! He has the directional thing going pretty well. And, you know, the father of the bride doesn’t get to be involved much in the whole wedding planning process. We were so pleased he would be a part of the dress adventure. And after we had been on the road for about an hour, the rain suddenly cleared up, and we had a lovely spring day to enjoy.

The drive went quickly, and we found the Marriott easily. The ballroom was huge, and had been separated into smaller areas with drapes. It reminded me of the Dior fitting rooms in “Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris.” There were tall mirrors here and there throughout the room. Katrina tried on about a dozen gowns. They were so lovely! Each time, she would go out and show her father, where he was seated in the waiting area telling the story of Katrina’s life to an attentive worker. About half the gowns were tried on again, and then four again, then three, then down to the last two. Agony and suspense! Finally, bells rang, music played, and a voice announced “A bride has found her gown!” (They did this every time a gown was chosen.) A photographer took a few shots of her in the gown. The gown was boxed up and we went to pay for it, and then things got exciting for a few minutes.

You see, our credit card was refused, and we were told that a fraud alert had been activated on it. As we stood there dumfounded, Steven’s cell phone rang. It was Danny, calling from home. “Daddy, do you have your credit card? The company called to say someone might have stolen it.”  Well, it turns out that the “Brides Against Breast Cancer” charity operates out of a Florida office. We had left our residence that morning (in South Carolina,) and shortly before reaching Charlotte, had stopped and bought gas and some snacks (in North Carolina) so when the credit card company saw a Florida purchase coming through, the alarms went off. We were delighted at their vigilance, but here we were, all ready to “say yes to the dress!”

Happenstance #2 – The week before, I had gone to a home jewelry party, and had brought my checkbook along. I don’t usually use the checkbook, and when I do, try to put it back in its customary drawer immediately, but this time I had forgotten, and oh, hallelujah! there it was in my purse. And the charity was willing to accept a check. So, we had successfully found and purchased the dress – at less than a quarter of its original price – on our very first dress shopping trip. And we had the father of the bride along to enjoy the day with us.

Our dress adventure is one I’ll always remember – and after August 3rd, I’ll be happy to add a picture of the bride on her day!

by Karen

Running with God

running 080After losing Olivia, I found myself conflicted about prayer. Why pray? God will do what He will do. I spent quite a few months praying with half a heart, going through the motions, moving my lips to words my heart was not saying.

I too had been taught the ACTS acronym about prayer. I had been at a Bible study where we were instructed to evaluate how we were doing in each of the ‘acts’. Am I spending enough time adoring? How about confessing?Thanksgiving? Too much time on the supplication part?  My prayer at this time in my life was one word. Help.

It came to me one day, God-sent, if you will, that maybe I was looking at this prayer thing wrong. And where better to learn how to pray again than from the Master. So I began praying the Lord’s Prayer. I often pray this way on my morning run.  I remember hearing my mother sing the Lord’s Prayer.  I am not a great singer but I sing quietly as I run along.

Our Father, who art in heaven…. Literally, Abba. Dad. He is not far away; He’s close. He is my loving, just, kind, all powerful good Dad.

Hallowed be thy name….Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Not that I would grit my teeth and pray for your will, but that I will welcome your will and see it as good.

Give us this day our daily bread. Please provide what I need today.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  I am thinking any grudges I have held or hurt feelings I have had are out of here. Letting go.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. I know only you can keep me safe in this world.

For THINE is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever…. Here as I run, I raise my face to the sky and my arms go up of their own volition. I smile and sometimes a tear finds its way down my face. I let my worn out voice sing out.  The majesty. The power. The glory. The everything. It is all his and for all time.

  Prayer is so much more organic than a list of requests or a four word formula.  I am talking to my father and my God and I am refreshed and encouraged. It has taken time but He has comforted me in my sorrow and turned my confusion into confidence in him and his word.

Thank you, dear God.


By Viv Walden

Conversations with God


338255_10150513029056994_838738628_oPrayer– to address God with Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. This is the manner in which I was taught to pray….and in that order. Sounds good, right? After all, intellectually speaking we’ve covered all the bases and even made an acronym of the word ACTS.
Yet when I look at David’s prayers in scripture, I don’t always see form and structure as being a top priority. David was known for laying his soul bare. His prayers didn’t always meet the required criteria for performing religious ‘ACTS’. His prayers poured unreservedly from his heart to the God he loved. It was not some learned mantra, designed to elicit a desired result. He was not addressing some distant being, but rather the God of creation who loved him and cared for him personally. And I talk to that personal God daily.

The God I know, knows me. I don’t have to be afraid to approach him. He’s the giver of good things and the one I know wants only my best. I may not understand all of what he allows in my life, but I know if he’s allowed it, it is for my benefit. He’s the God I meet during shower-cries….and don’t tell me you haven’t met him there, too. He’s there when my heart is elatedly soaring, and when I am, as Anne would say, ‘in the depths of despair’. He’s the one who keeps me centered and calm in the midst of life’s surprises. He’s the righteous judge and the merciful Savior.

They say your view of God is greatly affected by your view of your father. I guess that’s true. I knew my father was the loving authority in our home. It made me sad when I disobeyed him, because I knew he only wanted my best and I could trust him. Yet, I could approach him with anything. This is the way my prayer life is with God.

So, the question is, what is prayer? To me, it’s a lifelong conversation with the maker of the universe, the creator of life, the Savior of mankind, and yet my personal counselor, redeemer, and friend…the one who formed me in my mother’s womb and knows my inner thoughts. I can hide nothing from him and do not desire to. He knows me; I know him, and our time together is something we call prayer.

Prayer for a soldier

292358_10151408413272172_1463871078_nThis past Memorial Day was truly the most memorable of my life. My son, Army Sgt Steven Case, and my friend Dagmar both had a lot to do with that.

As we set off for Fort Stewart, Georgia, to meet Steven’s battalion returning from his second deployment, I couldn’t help thinking of how it all began. My son was ten years old when he heard his dad reminiscing about the rigors of Army basic training. “Some parts of it were really tough, but I was just glad I never joined the Rangers. Those guys had it the toughest of all!” My son’s response? “Cool!” From that day on, he wanted to join the Army. And so, one month after high school graduation, we took him down to the recruiting station, hugged him goodbye – and he was gone! The world never seemed so big, nor my son so young as at that moment. I found myself worrying not only about his physical safety, but about what four years of the Army might do to his faith.  My friend Dagmar was one of those who had committed to hold Steven up in prayer. Dagmar has her own distinctive way of expressing things. She was specifically praying that Steven would return from deployment “with everything that he left with.” I had to agree with that!

Steven had wanted to see if he “had what it took.” So, after Basic Training (in the 120-degree Georgia heat) came Advanced Infantry Training, Jump School, and finally Ranger Assessment & Selection (RASP.) And yes, he had what it took. And thanks no doubt to the prayers of Dagmar and company, he came through it all unscathed. He had decided right at the start to be up front about his faith. He paid the price many times, and in more ways than we have yet been told of. The net result? He’s become pretty fearless. He’ll talk about anything to anybody.

We arrive at the fort, and what a day it was! The Army band playing. Family members of all ages eagerly waiting. And oh, it was so wonderful to hold my boy in my arms again, safe and sound on the soil of the good ol’ U. S. of A. It’s probably Dagmar’s fault, at least in part, that he didn’t get all the combat experience he had expected. But praise the Lord, he did come back with everything that he left with!

Risey Shiney!!

‘Risey Shiney! Let me hear your feet on the floor’, my mother called up the stairs. She wanted to make sure we would be up before she left for her job as a nurse in a local hospital. A foot or two went obligingly out of the school busblanket on the side of the bed and pounded on the floor. We’re up, someone said, and promptly went back to sleep.

I have fond memories of getting ready for school in the morning. Five girls, four boys and one bathroom. The bathroom was a busy place and when one of us needed to get in we would pound on the door hoping the occupant would hurry. The person in the bathroom would holler ‘Occupied!’ (That word was ours way before the Occupy Wall St people thought of using it.) Many a dance was done outside the bathroom door, accompanied with, ‘Hurry, I gotta goooo.” A sister might open the door and let another sister in because after all two girls can share a bathroom and I remember a few good conversations with one of us on the loo and another at the sink.

Anyway, we would all be scurrying around getting ready and one of us would see the bus coming down the hill past Hergenrother’s farm heading toward our house. The shout would go out, ‘Heeere comes the buuusss.’ (2 syllables on buu…uuss) Here is one of the nice things about big families. We are all in this ‘getting on the bus’ thing together. Invariably one of us was not quite ready – usually it was one of the girls.   ‘Walk slow, walk slow,’ the sluggard would say. So one of the brothers would walk out and when he was almost to the bus, then the second sibling stepped out the door. And the pattern continued. It was a little like a bridal procession. Watch. Wait. Walk. One by one. In this way we could have an extra 2 or 3 minutes and the last person  would have time to take the rollers out of her hair, find schoolbooks, and saunter out of the house just in the nick of time.

At least that’s the way I remember it. And I – and I suspect other of my siblings, nieces and nephews – have used those very same words to raise slumbering children. Risey shiney!

This post isby the second sister and middle child.


I just finished reading a series of adventure books written for middle school kids. I know, I know, I’m long past middle school – but they were fun! They featured a brother and sister involved in ancient Egyptian magic. The conflict was between order and chaos, and words were extremely powerful in the struggle. Words were called the “divine instruments of creation.” I couldn’t help thinking how true that is. “Let there be light, and there was light.”

Words are a wonder. I recently saw the play “The Miracle Worker” and was struck again with the power of words. It was words that freed Helen Keller from her personal prison.

Words were such a loved thing in our house. Our parents loved reading. I’ll always remember how choked up our daddy got as he was reading the end of “These Happy Golden Years” to us three littlest girls. Our mom loved crossword puzzles, Scrabble, Boggle, and getting a perfect score on Reader’s Digest’s “How to Increase Your Word Power” quiz each month. She was almost impossible to beat at anything involving words. I guess it was inevitable. Take a plentiful supply of words, add in a couple of creative parents and kids, and strange things can happen. Language is the one thing on the planet that truly does evolve, and at our house, it evolved with a vengeance! Whether it was “drexdriss” (breakfast) or “cryodoctyl” (crocodile) from our baby sister, or “raggy-eyed aggit” (rabbit) from our mom, words did funny things around our house. 

And names – well, names are words, after all, so they were fair game, too. Our mother went from being called “Motherly” to “Therlify” to the grand title of “The Therlified One.” And even my Siamese kitten wasn’t spared. Her full title – composed of names from the current radio news and intended to be spoken rhythmically, with a rising pitch and a pronounced crescendo – was “Mahatma Ghandi Gunnar Jarring Ra-wal-pindi.” Our baby sister was Marjorie, or Mahzadeek, or just Maz, or Nubbin (probably a reference to her tininess) which then became Nubbin Toofle (for no discernible reason at all) and so it went. 

What fun it all was! And I must confess that in my own home, it’s happening all over again . . .

Simply Splendid


My parents were original thinkers…..really original. When one comes from a large family, the parent you knew may not be the parent another sibling knew. We perceive people differently according to what our own personality is, our birth order, our place in history…. The parents I knew were the best parents I could ever have had.

When I look back on my upbringing I am ever thankful for what I call the ‘Old European’ way of parenting my parents espoused. They espoused this view without even thinking about it;it flowed from them. I don’t remember ever being taught certain values by words, instead, my parents lived them. We last three were the parents of their older years, when they knew what was most important and what need not be considered. The father I knew was a lover of books. My mother was a lover of music.

I learned to value each person when my father made a point of picking up children whom others may not have associated with, for Sunday School and VBS. The big blue van rolled down the road loaded with children —– and yes, this was before the seatbelt law. When my sisters and I rode in that same van to the feed store, propped on top of the feed bags, we learned our father loved to have us around. When he took us to Cumming’s store, gave us 15 cents for penny candy (that was 15 candies!), and waited patiently while the equally patient storeowner let us pick out each candy, we learned that the world was a pleasant place. Grown men took time to care for their daughters and must have some extra pull with storeowners because everything stopped when little girls walked in.

Did my mother ever tell me she wanted music to be a priority in our lives? No. She lived it. She sang, she paid for our voice lessons, she encouraged us to play musical instruments. She was not one to attend sports events during our school years, but anything musical—–Christmas programs, choir, band, school musicals—-she was there.

I remember sitting in a church listening to her as she sang at a wedding, Ave Maria, not the norm for a Baptist church member. Love that woman! For her, it was the music, the beautiful music. It reigned supremely in her life and because it did, it is huge in my life too. I still remember, shortly after her passing, meeting a young mother who, when finding out I was the daughter of THAT nurse, told me how my mother had helped her through a very rough time. This was when I discovered my mother was known as ‘the singing nurse’. She sang her way through her shift and it caused others to ‘sing’ too.

They were adventurers. They bought a farm, started a life in the country and this was almost as foreign as America must have been for their own parents when they emigrated. They knew nothing of country living but they DID it. They were the dreamers, the workers, the explorers, and they poured themselves into our lives unreservedly.

I shall always love them, of course, but I have learned, as the years have passed, how much I respect them and honor them for everything they were. They did not learn these things from a book, a seminar, the latest fad. They simply were what they were, and they lived this with amazing strength and dignity. There is a word my father ( a lover of words) would use to describe them both…….they were simply ‘splendid’.


How did that happen?

Long ago and far away in what seems like another lifetime, I started to teach my children. I remember reading books on child development and feeling like 5 was such a young age to send our daughter off into the big blue world. I remember my older sister’s example of claiming her son for a few more years….of keeping him close. I remember loving that and choosing that path for our family.

And now, here I am, thirty years and six children later. All schooled entirely at home and then taking various paths… to Russia to teach, another to airplane engineering, another to work at various jobs, one to work on raising children of different backgrounds……and then our last two, just finishing and just beginning to ponder where life will take them.

It was THE grand experiment. It was ‘the road less traveled’. It was a path I sometimes boldly traveled and sometimes walked very gingerly. Here I am, looking back, sometimes judging myself for how well I did or didn’t do on this journey. Remembering the work of it all and the love of it all. For I truly loved it. I loved each day with these wonderful people I call my children. I loved them all. I was the mother who cheered when school began, not because my children were going to be away all day, but because it meant we could start again.

Each fall brought boxes of books arriving and happy faces tearing them open to find new treasures. It seemed I was continually looking for THAT book that would find a special place in the heart of each child–books can be our dearest friends if we let them.

So now, I look back. The grand experiment is not over. Their lives will be a continual result of all those years. And what does a mother do when her life’s work is, for the most part finished? A new journey begins……you go from teaching your own to teaching others. Who would have thought? No one could plan this but God.  Me? A principal?

And God says, Yes. I trained you all these years. You thought you were training them, but I was training you. Now, it’s time to use whatever you learned from the grand experiment to love and nurture other children. Your children are grown. They don’t need you in the same way, but THESE children do.

And I stand here a little unsure and not quite certain, sometimes walking boldly and sometimes stepping very gingerly…….