Her Room Looks Empty

Her room looks empty.  Her dresser is bare.  Her bags are packed.

This is happening.  My firstborn is leaving home.  It isn’t her first adventure, but it is her longest so far.  Seeking God and helping others is her mission, taking photos along the way.

                How can I say goodbye to my right arm, the joy of my heart, and my best girlfriend?  I fear I will be overcome with testosterone and daily tasks without her.

  But I know that it is her time to fly. 

God’s timing is perfect, and His grace is sufficient for me.  She graduated two years ago, an amazing student.  She stayed to save money and help me through my hardest pregnancy and recovery yet. 

                She is a second mother to the others.  She diapered them, fed them, washed them, dressed them, educated them, had fun with them, and loved them.  They are the children they are today because of her.  I am a sane and happy mother of 10 because of her. She had a job and was a leader at youth group.  Many have been blessed by her! 

                “What will we ever do without her?”  my heart keeps asking.  “How will I bare the emptiness?”

                The truth is, we are not becoming smaller as a family, we are expanding.

We are not losing Areli, we are going to be seeing a whole new world through her eyes.  Her room won’t be empty!  Two little girls will being filling the space with feminine joy and enthusiasm soon.  And what a good change it will be.  Four year old Annalise is still in a crib in her brother’s room.  10 month old Aria will be a wonderful roommate now that she sleeps like an angel.

All the children will take a step up and grow in maturity. They will learn new skills and take on new jobs.

                Areli will be going to the same missionary school that I attended just a brief 25 years ago.

  25 means double grace, and there is double grace on her life.

To live…to love…to learn…to grow…to embrace each moment!  Our hearts are going with her, and our prayers are surrounding her. 

 One of her walls looked awfully bare. So I pinned up some photos of Areli and the family. Aria will be able to lay on her new changing table and see that beautiful smile everyday. 

We are so proud of you Areli!  It won’t be long until we are all together again.

A Hawk, a Vulture, and an Eagle: Part 2 – The Cabin

When I look back on those three days, I can see that God planned each little detail to show us just how much He loves us.

We were able to leave our puppy at home with a good friend.  She provided respite care for Ashlyn as well.  Ashlyn gets stressed and agitated in new places with new schedules.  She seemed happy to continue her routine with home and school.

Someone let us use their trailer for free!  We loaded suitcases, sleeping bags, camping chairs, bikes, fishing poles, a pack-n-play, towels, a folding table, about 30 other items, food, food, and more food!

The 10 of us piled into the van and enjoyed the 2 hour ride.  There was talking and joking and raucous laughter constantly.  I found myself belly laughing over and over again.  Laughter is good for the soul!

The Cabin was huge.  Bigger than our house!

DSC_0795

There was a bunk house right next to it that had 6 large beds and a wood stove for heat.   The five oldest boys decided to sleep there.

DSC_0607

They were so excited to have some independence.  They got the fun of a sleepover, and the other children each got their own room in the cabin.  Areli, my 18 year old, said that her favorite part of vacation was the fact that she had her own room with its own bathroom.

The weather was perfect!  Cool and misty in the morning.  Sunny and warm during the day.  Cool and clear at night, just the right temperature to enjoy a fire.

DSC_0210

The first day we enjoyed the expansive yard.  I loved how it was full of moss and ferns without a bit of poison ivy.  There was a swing set and a rope swing.  The boys rode bikes.  They played games.  We cooked our meal over the fire.  My favorite were the apples I roasted on the dying embers.  Delicious!

The second day we decided to go to the World’s End State Park. We went into the visitor’s center and learned a lot from the friendly staff.  There was a gift shop with silhouettes of birds on the ceiling.  I identified the Cooper’s hawk.  Wow, it is small! Then we located the Red Tailed Hawk which was definitely bigger.

“That was what crashed into our van!” Calvin said.

Then I saw the turkey vulture.  It was large with wings that each bent like a V.  Right next to it was the bald eagle, larger with straight wings.  Still, they looked so much alike.

“How will I ever tell the difference?” I wondered to myself.

Finally we set out for adventure!  The older 4 boys went fishing.  The rest of us decided to take one of the easier trails that should take about an hour, the Double Run Nature Trail.

DSC_0231

This was a very special time for me.  I had not gone hiking with the family in so long, I can’t even remember.  I would always stay back with Ashlyn.  With her delayed walking and then club foot deformity, she could never navigate a trail.

It was cold and lovely in the woods.  Areli, Calvin, Courage and Annalise were excited!  We came across a few little waterfalls.

DSC_0274DSC_0297DSC_0285DSC_0311

It didn’t take long before we realized that this wasn’t an easy trail.  Soon we felt like we were going straight up a mountain…on a path littered with large rocks and roots…with a four year old and a two year old.

What was I thinking when I suggested this?

“How long is this trail?  Are we going to be able to make it back to the van?”  the adults were wondering to ourselves as we took turns giving piggy back rides.

DSC_0320

Finally, we began the descent and found the Cottonwood Falls.  It was all worth it!

DSC_0404 (2)DSC_0387DSC_0372

We returned to our meeting place and found the boys waiting for us.  They were a bit dejected since no fish were biting.  We ate a picnic lunch and the children played at the playground.

Then we drove to the Loyalsock Canyon Vista.

DSC_0463

I suggested we check out the Rock Garden.  I thought it would be a boulder field.  It was not what I was expecting!  Huge rocks jutting out the ground in random ways.  The children loved it.  The boys climbed and jumped from one high cliff to another.

I was tied up in knots on the inside as I watched them.  I felt terrified as I tried to help Annalise and Courage navigate through.  There was no discernible path and I was worried the older ones, who were running ahead, would get lost.

“Please, let’s go now!”  I pleaded over and over again.  Finally we all walked back to the van as the boys excitedly talked about how that was the best thing ever and please mom can we go back again tomorrow and again next year and again and again…

I could breathe once more as I watched all my children with their feet on solid ground.  I choose to put out of my mind the possibility of ever returning.  I’ve always been afraid of heights, and I am even more afraid of my children being UP ON THE HEIGHTS!

We drove to the High Knob overlook.  We could see for 40 miles, the beautiful expanse of Penn’s woods.

DSC_0563

I searched the sky for birds but saw no eagles.  How amazing would it be to see this view from the vantage point of an eagle!  We returned to the cabin, tired but happy, ready to cookout again and enjoy the amazing stars in the black, black night sky.

As our last day dawned, we pondered what we should do before we had to pack up and clean the five bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.  The previous day we had seen a sign for a DSC_0659general store.  At the visitors center we learned that the women who used run the World’s Best Snack Shop was now at that general store.  The children had dollars that they wanted to spend on some exciting souvenir.

So we set out to try and find the general store.  We finally found the Hillsgrove Country Store and decided to stop.

As soon as I walked into the little shop, something caught my eye.  There was a photograph of a bald eagle mounted on cardboard and wrapped in plastic.  It was beautiful!

I thought to myself, “This might just be my eagle!”

DSC_0657

I asked the women who was at the counter (who used to run The World’s Best Snack Shop) how much the eagle picture was.

“Forty dollars!  Isn’t that a great price?!  A local photographer spent three months watching two eagles before he got this picture,” she answered.

“Where did he see the eagles?” I asked.  Maybe I could see them too!

“Just a few miles down the road at the Slaptown Bridge.”

I considered $40 to be quite a hefty sum, but I didn’t want to miss this God moment.  He had led me right to this lovely eagle and I couldn’t leave him behind.

Courage and Annalise picked out 25 cents worth of penny candy.  The other children purchased chips, drinks, and sausages.  Finally I walked out the front door and sat down to wait for the other children. I looked out to the street…

THERE IT WAS…

A Real Live Eagle!

It was flying from across the street and came right towards us!  It was so close that I could almost see individual feathers. This didn’t look anything like a vulture!  It was larger.  Its wings were absolutely straight.  There were lighter feathers underneath.  There was a stark white head and white tail feathers.  It was majestic and noble…and beautiful!

Areli just happened to have her camera with her, and she snapped a few pictures when the eagle sat in a tree.

DSC_0656 (2)

Then it took flight again, soaring higher and higher, further and further away.

DSC_0662DSC_0661 (2)

Chris was almost excited as I was.

“I am so happy for you!” he kept saying.

We watched it until it was joined by another eagle.  We watched them until they were so far, they looked like tiny black dots against the sky.

DSC_0680

We finally headed to Hunter’s Lake to let the boys try fishing again.

DSC_0687

The lake had just been stocked that morning and quite a few fishermen had gathered.  We ate a picnic lunch and enjoyed that lovely view.  We learned that there was an eagle’s nest along the water’s edge.

DSC_0707

The fish weren’t biting, but we were delighted by the multitude of monarch butterflies on the goldenrod.

I didn’t see an eagle at the lake even though they are very fond of fish.  However, the entire afternoon, eagles were soaring in my imagination.

I was in awe of how God perfectly orchestrated this eagle sighting.  I had asked Him, and He had answered.  How could I ever doubt His words to me?

He created me to be an eagle!

I have been born to fly!

After 41 years on this earth, I think it is high time that I stop saying that I am afraid of heights…

and start to learn to how to soar.

 

 

Family History is Full of Blessings!

I have been taking a journey through the annals of time, through photocopies and photographs hidden in dusty filing cabinets, almost forgotten.  I have delved into old family papers to try and answer the questions: Where did I come from?  Who were my ancestors?  Who am I?  I have just scratched the surface, but I found some pretty great stuff!

My Mother’s Family

DSC_0037

My mother’s father (Harold Gisselman) was born to Erik and Anna Gisselman in Iowa after they immigrated from Sweden.  They later settled in Wisconsin.  I wrote about Harold in “Will I See My Papa Again?”  Harold was such a wonderful story teller and I wish he was still here to tell me all about his wonderful family and what his parents remembered about their lives in Sweden.

My mother’s mother’s side of the family holds a rare treasure called “Shilling Genealogy and History” by Anna Schilling Wichman.  She tells the story of her grandparents, Johann and Justina Schilling.  Johann was born in Brandenburg, Germany.  I was very excited to learn that fact since that is my husband’s family name and now my name as well!   He was a wine maker and barrel maker. That fact also excited me since we have a son named “Cooper” which means “barrel maker!”

They immigrated to Wisconsin in 1858 where he became a farmer.  When wheat raising declined, “With the help of his son, Frank, driving teams hitched to sleighs loaded with the family belongings, they came north through the state which at that time was almost unbroken wilderness, with only a few rough roads blazed through the jack pine and scrub oak.”

Johann purchased an 80 acre tract of land in the vast forests of Marathon County and built a farm that was sold to his son, Frank in 1894 for $1.00.  Frank Shilling was described by the author (who was also his daughter) as, “Always an industrious farmer and always a humble, faithful Christian.”  His wife, Anna, was “one of the sweetest, noblest women whose life has ever brightened this earth.”

This lovely couple had 8 children, one of whom was my great-grandmother Amelia.  Amelia was, “an industrious woman, strong in character, had an unwavering trust in God, which was her strength and shield, and enabled her to meet the adversities of life with calmness and fortitude.”  She became Amelia Seipp and had two children, the firstborn being my grandmother LaVera, “a woman of grace and dignity.”  I wrote about LeVera in “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy!”  LaVera married Harold Gisselman and had one child, Dana.  Dana married George Beyer and had two children.  That is me and my brother!

I am very thankful to know of my trailblazing, hardworking, God-fearing ancestors from Sweden and Germany who settled in Wisconsin.

My Father’s Family

DSC_0044

My father’s side of the family is more of a mystery to me.  My father was a historian and a writer, but he never compiled a history of his own family. How I wish that I could talk with Dad again about all that he knew of his past.  How I wish that I had more interesting questions to ask of his parents (Leonard and Edna Beyer) back when they were alive, more important than, “Where are Dad’s old Lincoln Logs?” or  “Can I watch TV now?”

I have to piece together their lives with the papers and photographs that my dad had saved.  A pile of matted photos, faded and yellowed with age, taken by Leonard Beyer tell me that he was an amazing photographer.  His photos of plants, animals, and landscapes were taken in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, England and Italy.  My daughter Areli has inherited his love of both traveling and photography (and his talent as well)!

DSC_0042

Leonard’s father was Andrew Jackson Beyer, who I know nothing about except that he perhaps owned an ice cream shop and possibly served as a judge.

His mother was Virginia Keyser.  I have extensive paperwork on the Keyser family, generated when they held a Bicentennial Family Reunion.  It was Dirck Keyser of Amsterdam, a prominent dealer of silk goods, who first immigrated to what is now Pennsylvania in 1688.  He responded to an invitation from William Penn because he was, “desiring to worship God in all freedom.”

DSC_0034

The Keyser family was quite proud of their earliest known predecessor, Leonhard Keyser of Bavaria.  He broke from the Catholic Church, of which he had been a priest, to become an Anabaptist.  The Reunion states that “he put aside the mystery and absurdity of the Latin tongue, and went among the people talking to them in their own language…what they should do to be saved.”

An account of his martyrdom was recorded in Martyrs Mirrors from two separate but very similar reports. “…in the year 1525, and forthwith continued his ministry with great power and zeal, undaunted by all the tyranny which arose over the believers, in the way of drowning, burning and putting to death.  Acts 9:20 In the second year of his ministry, Leonhard Keyser was apprehended at Scharding, in Bavaria, and condemned by the bishop of Passau…to be burned…When he came out into the field, and was approaching the fire, he, bound, as he was, leaned down at the side of the cart, and plucked a flower with his hand, saying to the judge, who rode on horseback alongside of the cart: ‘Lord judge, here I pluck a flower; if you can burn this flower and me, you have justly condemned me; but, on the other hand, if you cannot burn me and this flower in my hand, consider what you have done and repent.’  Thereupon the judge and the three executioners threw an extraordinary quantity of wood into the fire, in order to burn him immediately to ashes by the great fire.  But when the wood was entirely burned up, his body was taken from the fire uninjured.  Then the three executioners and their assistants built another great fire of wood, which when it was consumed, his body still remained uninjured…and the flower in his hand, not withered, or burnt in the least, the executioners then cut his body into pieces, which they threw into a new fire.  When the wood was burned up, the pieces lay unconsumed in the fire.  Finally they took the pieces and threw them into the river Inn.”

I cannot even comprehend what a legacy of devotion to God and courage I have inherited from Leonhard!

My father’s mother, Edna Specht Beyer, I also know very little about.  A few stories written by Edna give a peek into their lives.  “Something Very Personal” was an article about how they met and married.  “My Grandfather’s Place” was written about her paternal Grandparents who came from Germany.  Something wonderful happened to me as I read my grandmothers recollections.  Previously I had only ever seen her as a very proper, old woman.  As I read her writing, I realized that she wasn’t always old.  She was actually once a young woman very much like me, with a love for reading, writing, and teaching. The way she viewed her grandparents and their home was very similar to how I had always seen her and her home.  In fact, I had written sentiments so similar to her own, years prior in my article, “The Term is Over.”   She describes her grandparent’s house as a special place where nothing ever changed.  Her grandparents’ yards was like a magical fairy land to her as a child.

Edna and I also shared the same sorrow when we returned years later to see the place very much changed by new ownership and the wonder stripped to the barren look of any, common subdivision.  I feel so much closer to Grandmother Beyer now and want to know more about her heritage.  She actually felt that same way about her grandparents.

In fact she wrote, “It seems strange to me now that I remember Grandfather’s place so well but know so little about my grandparents.  How I would love to visit them again and get them to talk of their childhood in Europe, of their parents’ decision to come to America, of the long trip over in a sailing vessel, of the hard years in a new country… But of important things about their lives, I know very little except that they had always been honest, hardworking, God-fearing.”

It is a shame that neither Edna nor I thought to ask the really interesting questions while our grandparents were still alive.  Yet God holds all our past in His hands, and will reveal what is important in His good time.

It is also true that written accounts usually highlight the good and minimize the bad.  Exodus 20: 5b-6 (NLT) says, “I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”  We have all observed how the bad decisions and weaknesses of the grandparents and parents have a negative impact on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of the children.  We all have those negative influences in our families. Yet Jesus died to set us free from every curse!  His blood brings healing from every destructive thing in our family lines.

God is such a loving Father that His blessings extend down family lines, not just for three or four generations, but for a THOUSAND GENERATIONS!

I have been asking for all those blessings to fall on my generation, on my children, and on my grandchildren.  I think God loves those kind of prayers, because He carefully chose the specific details of my lineage, and He would delight if I lived in the fullness of all that He had placed there!  I can also feel His joy as I discover those blessings, one by one.  May my children also experience that joy as they read my writing, years from now, when they remember all that they wished they had asked me.

Something Very Personal By Edna Specht Beyer

006

I am pleased to introduce my first guest blogger, Edna Specht Beyer, my paternal grandmother.  She actually passed away when I was in elementary school, and I never knew her very well.  Recently my mother uncovered some of Edna’s writings, and I have gotten to know her much better.  It turns out that she was a writer like me.  Or maybe I am a writer like her.

                I had heard that Edna had met her husband Lenard through a personal ad in the newspaper.  The story was so vague that it never seemed real to me.  Well, now I have the true story, told by Edna herself.

“Something Very Personal”

By Mrs. Lenard K. Beyer

GREETINGS from corn belt!  Isolated young woman, book-worm, wishes interesting correspondence.  Favorite novel, “Old Wives’ Tale”; favorite Waltz, Blue Danube; favorite sport, hiking; favorite dog, Irish Setter. Pet aversion, bridge.  Yours?  Corn Belt Miss.

 Sitting in a corner of my quiet little room one November afternoon a good many years ago, I scribbled the above lines in lead pencil.  This originated one of the small human interest ads that filled a back page of “The Saturday Review of Literature” each week.  Having gotten around to launching into this journalistic adventure I had had no idea what I was going to write when I tentatively jotted down my friendly opening line.   After a puzzled five or ten minutes another sentence formed rather limpingly.  Then an idea popped into my head, and the mention of a book I loved gave me enthusiasm.  Now I really got under way!  Dashingly I wrote other favorites, and recklessly topped them with something I really hated, “per aversion, bridge.”  Signing off with “Yours? Corn Belt Miss”, I felt flushed and excited.  Filled with a sense of wonder at what I was doing, I went to my desk and clicked off a copy on my portable typewriter.  Rereading my paragraph neatly typed, I thought it looked pretty good.

Rereading the same paragraph today in a yellowed copy of a 1933 magazine I am surprised at how gay and casual it seems in the company of the “Cultured, widely traveled” woman and the young man “with no degrading habits”.  I know not whether these more dignified neighboring ads brought any results.  I do feel sure that none of the other “personals” on the page could have had more important consequences to their writers than my own lively little paragraph.

But as I sat in my room rereading my neatly typed copy I expected nothing in particular, although I felt excited and filled with a vague sense of adventure.  What fun it would be to look in the mail hoping to find letters from persons with similar interests — anyone, anywhere.  How thrilling the possibilities of bursting the boundaries of one’s familiar environment!  What interesting friendships might come to me!  And perhaps even —- romance, whispered a sly little inner voice.  But no, I silenced the silly suggestion with my school teacher’s sensibleness and authority.

Then an incident occurred which might have kept me from mailing my “personal”.  There was an imperative knock at my door and my mother called to me announcing a long distance call from another part of the state.  It proved to be an offer of a teaching position which had to be accepted or refused immediately.  It was accepted.  But in the midst of packing shopping and getting ready to leave for school the “personal” was not quite forgotten.

“You are not going to send that now?” was my mother’s dubious question in regard to my silly little experiment.

But it seemed that I did want to send it.  So I counted the words, wrote a check to the editor and addressed an envelope to the magazine.  And in my haste I did not forget to include the stamps that were to bring me the letters from the interested readers of my “personal”.  However, I had all but lost interest in my experiment.  As I dropped the letter at the post office on a trip down town to shop for dresses and shoes for the schoolroom I was too preoccupied to feel any continued sense of adventure.  I had entirely gotten over my thrill at bursting out of my little prison of conventionality.  So I rushed on to my shopping and packing.  I was starting to teach once more, and it seemed like any other Fall except that it was six weeks late and I must hurry.

One sunshiny morning in October almost a year later I was waiting in a state of high excitement for a Ford V8 to turn into our driveway.  I have never experienced at any other time such a strange mixture of thrills, curiosity, hopes, fears and excitement as the morning that I waited for Lenard to arrive after his long trip.  Lenard and I had corresponded for most of the preceding year, our letters steadily increasing in number and intimacy as the time went on.  I had spent hours and hours writing to him and he to me.  Early in the correspondence he had told me of the pitiful tragedy of the loss of his wife and new-born child.005  I felt all too strongly how much the letters from the girl in the west had come to mean to him.  As I started at the approach of each passing car I was almost overwhelmed by my sense of responsibility at letting him drive a thousand miles to meet me.  As I peered at the girl in the mirror in my room I wondered again and again if I would look like the person that he had built up in his mind out of the many snap shots that I had sent him.

And he — would he really be like his pictures and letters?

Early in the morning I had put on my nicest house dress and arranged my unruly black curls as smoothly as possible.  Since then I had wandered restlessly and nervously about the house waiting for a car with an eastern license plate to drive in. Should I have let him drive that thousand miles to see the girl of the letters?  Would I come up to his ideal?  Would I like him?  Could we take off where our letters had left off?  When we met face to face would we be the same persons that each had thought he was writing to?  Or would we be really strangers?  I knew what music he liked, what books he read, what views he held on many subjects, what his hobbies were, what he liked for breakfast.  But I didn’t know the sound of his voice, how he walked, what mannerisms he had.  How would we react to each other?  How would our personalities “mix” when we were together in the flesh?  The hours dragged on and I began to think that perhaps he wouldn’t arrive that day after all.  I went about doing some housework absent-mindedly.  It was nearly lunch time now.  By this time I had begun to just glance at the cars going by.  Then suddenly my Mother’s, “There’s a car ——-“.

“It isn’t ——–?”

“Yes it is ———-a Ford V8 and he is driving in.”

Now that my “big moment” had arrived I became suddenly fussy about going out to meet “him”.  My hair needed smoothing and so forth.  Finally with my heart seeming to stand still I hurried to the door.

“Edna,” asked the young man at our front door.

“Yes.”

“How are you?”

“Why – a — I’m so excited I don’t know what to do.”  It was the last thing I had meant to say.  We looked at each other uncertainly for a moment and then a little blankly.  After all our months of writing, waiting for each other’s letters, and counting on each other, we seemed practically strangers at that moment.  He seemed a very nice young man, even finer than I had imagined.  And he was better looking.  But he seemed to be another person.  With bewilderment I felt that the person I thought I had been writing to for the past eleven months had never existed and someone slightly resembling him stood in his place.  His voice was the greatest surprise.  He had a quicker, almost hasty way of speaking.  And I was overwhelmed by the unlikeness of the real person from his pictured likenesses.  And in my confusion I realized that without a doubt he was feeling the same way about me.  A few minutes later I was helping him carry in things from his car and showing him his room in our home.  Somewhat gropingly we were trying to make conversations based on our letters.

The next two or three days I like to pass over even in my own thoughts.  I still feel strained and embarrassed when I think of that stage of our experiment.  Then one dull October afternoon when we were walking in the deserted natural park near my home, we sat down on a park bench and faced the situation together.  We did not really know each other very well, it seemed, and there was great doubt of our achieving the deep feeling and companionship that we both wanted so much. Strange as it may seem, that painful admission brought a new sense of understanding between us.

Then a few days later, on Halloween Eve, we experienced a sense of revelation.  I will never forget that evening — the tang of the Fall outside, the mantel decorated with pumpkins and autumn leaves, the cheerful open fire and the magic of our feeling for each other.  And being entirely feminine I will always keep the dress that I wore that night, the one of midnight-blue with the frilled collar and cuffs and the full swirling skirt that Lenard liked so much.  After that enchanted All Hallows Eve the days and evenings passed all too fast.

Early one crisp frosty morning we stood together in front of my home saying reluctant good-byes.  Lenard was about to retrace the thousand mile trip that he had made alone to see a young woman he had discovered in a magazine  I said that we must put the third of a continent between us once more before deciding that we were sure.  I myself felt entirely sure, but wanted to give him every chance to know his own heart in regard to the girl that might fill the empty place in his life.  As he drove off I stood watching as long as I could see him.  Then I stood alone once more shivering in my wooly white sweater and wondering whether, if I pinched myself, the past two weeks would turn out to be a dream. But many letters and telegrams the next few weeks reassured me that my happiness was all very real.

001

002At noon two days before the following New Years, Lenard and I stood before the holly and evergreen decorated fireplace of my home and exchanged marriage vows before a local minister.  A few days later his friends were surprised by the news that he had married a bride in the west.  And my friends were equally puzzled by the announcements that I had married an easterner and gone east to live.  Only one of his friends and one of mine have ever learned how it happened.  Even yet we are sometimes startled by the innocent question, “And how did you meet?” A staid college professor and his faculty wife can hardly answer that it was through the “personal” column of a magazine.

To the natural question of the reader as to how it has turned out I can answer more frankly and say that we seem happier than most of our friends.

004

Edna, Lenard, and George

And not long ago Lenard and I told each other that if we had it to do over we would repeat our unconventional romance.  Other results of that little “personal” of years ago are occasional nature articles that we write and publish together, a home that we think is lovely and a son who is a leader in the religious and social work of his city.

010

Edna and Lenard’s son, George, my father

Lenard and I and more especially our son often marvel at the part that chance in the form of a small item in a magazine can play in life.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my Grandmother Beyer’s true story as much as I have!  I think she and I have a similar style of writing.  I am so happy to know her better and to realize that I share in her heritage.  Now I think I will go curl up with Edna’s favorite novel as stated in her personal ad, Old Wives’ Tale, and see it we share the same taste in books.

My Little Piece of Heaven

 

Our first apartment as a married couple was a little piece of heaven, a sweet and tiny oasis of newlywed bliss (well, usually…except for those times when we were fighting over whether we should throw the budget out the window and buy a Vfirst apartmentCR.) It had the charm and character of an older building.  It was situated in an established neighborhood with tree lined streets.  We used to take long walks and imagine which one of the beautiful homes we would buy one day.  We were excited that it had a garage, a rare find for an apartment building.  We were delighted when we pulled into the garage that first time, only to realize that there was no extra room for the driver to open his door and actually exit the vehicle while still in the garage.  On a particularity hot summer day, the second story apartment became just oppressive.  We realized that running two air conditioners at once was too much for the old electrical panel to handle. Just minor details that added to the charm.

After a year we decided to shake off the dust of that boring, little town and find a real adventure in Colorado Springs.  There we found another piece of heaven in a garden level apartment.  Oh, the sweet memories of our younger married days!  It had a spare bedroom and a cozy fireplace.  It also boasted mice and a snake (totally uninvited!)  In the big snowstorm of 1997, hundreds of travelers got trapped on the highway between Colorado Springs and Denver.  Chris thankfully found shelter in a Denver hotel.  Meanwhile, I was being buried alive in that underground apartment, feeling claustrophobic and horribly bored.  The little apartment was sparsely furnished with only a bed, dresser, and kitchen table.  We would sit on the carpet in the living room to watch movies.  That’s right!  We did own a TV and VCR by this time.  Our lives were full of blessings!

After six months we found the perfect townhouse that seemed just massive to us; two bedrooms and two bathrooms!  It was new and pristine with an open floor plan.  Heaven again relocated to be with us in this lovely place.  We had our first babyplumtree 4 and settled her into the extra room.  I can’t describe how beautiful it was, that cherub sleeping in her own crib in her own room.  We had our second child and added another crib.  We had our third child and added a set of bunk beds.  Then we had our fourth child, and she ended up in our walk in closet.  The walls felt as though they were closing in on us, and the concrete slab in back wasn’t what our children needed for a back yard.

We were able to sell that little piece of heaven (finally!) and find a little larger piece of heaven to rent; a rrental house Colorado 2eal house with a real fenced in yard!   With four, then five young children, I felt like I had won the lottery!  The fence was not an effective barrier for the little neighbor boy down the street, who would escape by climbing over his fence and into the neighbor’s yard and eventually into our yard…all without his parents having a clue.  They would find him wandering around the neighborhood doing interesting things, such as “selling” free ice cubes door to door out of a soggy cardboard box.  My children didn’t feel inclined to follow little Nick, but rather played contentedly in our own back yard, safe and secure, and life was good!camp hill

Having had more than our fill of adventure in Colorado, Chris accepted a job back in the boring, little town where we had started.  Yet now it had been transformed into our Promised Land. The 5 day trip camp hill 2across the c ountry was like crossing the Jordan.  As we drove into Central Pennsylvania, I could hardly believe it!  We had arrived!  We had reached our own little piece of heaven in a rental house on Market Street.  Sure, there was constant traffic and sirens passing our house 4 or 5 times a day.  Sure, there was a lot of air pollution and mold in the house. (We have never been so sick as a family as we were in that house.)  Yet, out the kitchen window I could see a stunning dogwood tree, showing off its incamp hill 3credible blooms just for me. And the view from the living room – Amazing!  I wou ld sit in my recliner and nurse baby number six while my eyes would feast on the sight of the magnolia tree.  For two weeks out of the year, it would look so glorious; I thought that this must be what the Garden of Eden looked like.

camphill 4

I was content in my little piece of heaven, but my husband found a house online that he was interested in.  There were no pictures of the inside.  The outside looked old and outdated, hidden in dark awnings.  But there was a huge front porch and my imagination painted the inside with much charm and character.  I t was less than a mile from our fist apartment. When we actually got inside to take a real look at it, it was better than I had imagined.  “This is it!” we thought, “Our piece of Heaven!”

Miraculously God gave us that house which cost twice the amount we were qualified to borrow, and that is where we live today.  I love the custom woodwork, all original from 1924.  I love the high ceilings and wide hallways.  The large downstairs bathroom, which used to be part of the original doctor’s office, has built-in shelves and cabinets and a counter just perfect for a baby changing station.  I imagine that when Dr. Christian was drawing up the plans for this house to his own specific needs, God was quietly whispering in his ear.  He was giving his loving “suggestions” that would make this the perfect home for the Brandenburg family 80 years later.  It is true; the house is very old.  The lead paint on the windows is chipping, the porch is rotting, and the doorknobs come off in your hand if you pull too hard.  Yet, this is where heaven resides, and this is where I want to be!  Our seventh and eighth babies were born in the bedroom upstairs.  The older children have grown into teenagers here.  The younger boys ride their bikes on the sidewalk and play with the neighbor children. I love to watch them in the back yard, glowing golden in the setting summer sun.sept 3fun outside 012fun outside 035fun outside 037

It is true; we have a lot of people sharing five bedrooms and one bathtub!  We have our eye on a much bigger place; seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, and ten acres of wooded land.  And when we finally get there, heaven will be there too!  I am sure that even that divine home will have its issues.  Maybe it will feel like too many square feet to keep clean and heat.  Maybe the mosquitoes will be breeding in that idyllic lake out back.  Whatever the issues are, they are just details.  The real truth is, heaven is wherever the center of God’s will is…and for me, that is in the heart of my family’s home.