Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Refugees

Last Saturday at our church, we had an event that was part of a series on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. That particular night was about Goodness, specifically how even through difficult circumstances, there is a lot of good to be found. That night a family of five (most especially the mother) presented their story of fleeing Ukraine as refugees of the current war. I was intrigued to hear about their experience, especially since my parents were refugees from Hungary around 1946.

While the mom was speaking, I found myself on the verge of tears several times. Throughout the talk, she cited Bible verses that had given her encouragement. She talked about their decision to leave Ukraine, which included leaving her parents behind. It took them five days to reach the border, with hundreds or thousands of cars creeping along the roads. Many people along the way offered them food and clothing. Gas stations gave out a limited supply of fuel. When they did reach the border, others helped them with paperwork, etc., and they entered into Poland.

Soon after, they were offered beds and showers at a convent. It was their first safe place where they could rest and get cleaned up. That was another highlight of the goodness of others. In five more days, they were able to come to the United States. They received a lot of help, during the total of these ten days, from the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, of which the father is a member. Eventually the mother’s parents also came to the United States, in an even shorter time frame.

After the talk, I approached the mother to thank her for coming, and mentioned that my parents had been Hungarian refugees. Then I started crying and had to quickly escape. After so many years, and the fact that my PARENTS, not me, were refugees, I didn’t understand why I was reacting so strongly, and perhaps I never will. I was amazed that after the Ukrainian family’s ordeal, the mother was able to stand in front of an audience and not break down.

I won’t go into it much here, but I thought of many reasons why my parents situation was a bit different and possibly more traumatic, but not necessarily. For one, it was a much longer process for them; they were refugees for perhaps five years, not ten days. Their travel to the United States was much longer; perhaps about two months by boat and train; no jets for them! But there could be other reasons: emotional, family background, financial, and other factors.

In the end, I’m very grateful that the United States accepted them and that I’m here today.

The God Who Loves You

Here was another life-changing book for me. I can’t find the exact quote, but the idea in the book that hit me like a ton of bricks was “God creates only out of love. That means He made me only out of love. Therefore, my reason for existence is love.” Something like that, anyway. I will edit this if I can find the exact quote.

This book is one of many that changed my life. There is a chapter in which Corrie is challenged to forgive a man who had been one of the Nazi prison guards in the concentration camp she had been in. At first, she is unable to shake his hand when he offers it, after a post-World-War- II lecture she gave on forgiveness. But after praying, she has the grace to put out her hand and shake his.

I remember realizing: If God can forgive a Nazi guard, He can forgive me — I don’t deserve it, but it’s not about what I deserve. It’s about God’s grace.

Halloween 2022


The eve of All Saints’ Day was magical, in a good way. For one, it had been raining, right up to about the 6 p.m. start of the trick-or-treating. [Ohio has townships, a subdivision of counties. The township suggests (or is it a law? I don’t know) that trick-or-treating should take place between 6 and 8 p.m.] I had been doubtful as to whether we should even bother giving out candy. Suddenly at about 5:50 p.m. or so, the rain stopped.

My husband helped by putting out a little firepit at the end of the driveway, which is a custom for many in our neighborhood. The homeowners sit by the firepit while giving out candy, and they may have a party themselves.

I wrote the following after it was all over.

———————————————————————————————————————-

It’s quiet now. The clowns and freaks, saints and sinners, ghosts and ghouls are gone. I stand in the driveway, on the darkened and empty street, wondering what it all means. The silence after all the childish shrieks. The candy bowls empty. How did I come to be in this crazy world?

We talked with neighbors whom we don’t often see. One came over on his own, and when we got short of candy, he gave us some of his own. I went over to another neighbor after we had run out of candy again, just to say hi. I found out that the husband is related to a political candidate. When these neighbors learned that we had run out of candy, they gave us some of theirs.

Sitting with my husband by a firepit, we ate pizza and drank seltzer water between candy giveaways. A citizen patrol car drove by twice. The sounds of laughter in the neighborhood were comforting.

Shortly before 8 p.m., our neighbor to the right yelled, “Have a good night; we’re calling it quits.” Somehow I got to asking him what he did for a living, and he explained. Here was another neighbor whom we hardly ever talk with.

So quiet and silent now. The voices are gone. The air is still. The weather is mild tonight. We are blessed to be alive.

Rejoice with me, for my cat was lost and now is found! (paraphrase — see Luke 15:6, 9, 24).

Last night our younger indoor cat (Pepper), a male, escaped during a thunderstorm. We’ve had him less than a year and he doesn’t know the neighborhood, which possibly has coyotes. I know that many cats do return, and sure enough, he was back in the morning, not even wet!

On the grand scale of what happens to people, this event was not a big deal, but nevertheless I was praying and asked others to pray, was somewhat anxious, and didn’t sleep much. It did make me consider many things, one of which is how God pursues us relentlessly when we are lost. He is an awesome God!

In Matthew 18:10-14, Jesus says, “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”

The morning after my night of poor sleep, I considered how I would lure Pepper back. Since we have another cat that I didn’t want to escape, I put her in a room and shut the door. I opened the back glass sliding doors about eight inches, then put some wet and dry cat food near the door. Soon he appeared at the door, after I had heard a bit of meowing, but he wouldn’t come in right away. I backed off to about 30 feet away, and after some more meowing, he rushed into the house towards me. I scooped him up and hugged him like a baby!

So my heart was full after a rotten night. This brought to mind another passage from the Bible, John 16:20-22 (No, I do not have these passages memorized; I cut and paste them from websites.): “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

It’s hard to believe in joy while we’re going through sorrow, but when Pepper returned, I certainly experienced that the sorrow had been worth it! It hurts at times to love God or others, but we suffer because of the love that we have, and the love is worth it!

We Will Go Home

[Note: I have tried for YEARS to write a decent poem in iambic pentameter, with no success. Then this one just HAPPENED. There’s no telling how the muse will strike.]

We will go home, we will go home at last.
No crying then, and all our sorrows past.
All will be well, our wounds and traumas done —
The world so bright, like unto twenty suns.

And then we’ll know, yet couldn’t see it here,
That all our troubles, hardships, and our fears,
Were but a flash, a drop in ocean vast —
Were only tests and trials, meant not to last. 

And then we’ll see (but didn’t seem so then) —
The suff’ring woe of women and of men
Was worth it all — for what we were to gain,
Outshines, like sun, the candle of our pain.

God’s Dwelling

I saw the lofty clouds,
Like mountains piled high.
I wondered if the angels,
Or God, were dancing there.
And then the thunder rolled,
A wave of sound; God speaking there.

I saw the real mountains,
The jagged cliffs, with snow adrift,
Their fearsome heights created
By a holy God — And who can tell
If He does not there dwell?

But He’s not bound by earth or sky;
Perhaps He’s in a lullaby,
Or in a spouse’s kiss; He’s ne’er amiss.
To know His love is awe and bliss.

The Snare of Riches

‘And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”‘ (Luke 19:23)

We are sorely mistaken if we think that riches will bring us happiness. Material goods, to a point, are certainly a blessing. It is good to have nutritious food, clothes to keep you comfortable in any weather, and shelter from that same weather. Beyond that, I’m proposing here that unearned and/or unshared wealth can be a real hindrance to happiness, if it takes the place of our relationship to God.

Certainly a high position in society does not guarantee healthy or moral behavior, not to mention that all your foibles and flaws will be mercilessly criticized by the public. There are some crazy stories, going back some generations, from my own family background, that cause one to ponder.

Here are a few, half heard, half remembered (and thus probably half accurate), from my background: One relative with a high position in the (non-U.S.) government, contracted syphilis and went mad. He was in the military and presumably, while married, contracted the illness from someone other than his wife. Another VERY wealthy relative gambled away 26 houses. Still another, to impress a woman he was wooing, bought out an entire theater performance so that the two could be the only people in the theater. They did get married, but later divorced, partly due to his infidelity. The same man ran for government and promised the voters that he would provide a copious feast if he won. He won.

We have all seen unhappy rich people in the news, with broken marriages and families, and disordered lives.

If you happen to be blessed with wealth, however you obtained it, remember that all your riches, and anything you possess, ultimately comes from God. (Of course, dishonest wealth is not in God’s plan.)

There were several rich men in the Bible who were righteous. Being rich doesn’t have to be evil in itself. For example, Abraham was quite wealthy and a person of great faith. Again, recall the story of Job, who lost all his riches and most of his relatives, but did not curse God. Ultimately, God restored everything to him, and more. There were rich Christians in the New Testament who shared their wealth. The point being, that their wealth was not where they derived their value, but they derived it from Christ.

WRITING A POSTCARD

“Wish you were here” can be trite but true.
Writing a postcard means I thought of you.
But it could mean more — 
Will you believe that’s true?

I’m wishing you the quiet 
Of a warm September night,
I’m wishing you the rest and hope
Of a life with burdens light.

I’m wishing that you find your dreams,
A childlike faith, some innocence returned,
New horizons, happy schemes,
And healing — if your heart’s been burned.

If there’s a way to give my self,
To help another’s life have peace,
Lord, let me find it, and then I’ll be
Myself unburdened, truly free.

Time —
How do we use it?
Do we abuse it?

Going west, you gain some,
Going east, you lose some,
But it’s all how you use some.

Don’t waste it in hate, anger, or blame,
Worry, fear, feeling a victim, or shame —
The time given is the same.

And if there’s time that you’ve wasted,
Seek forgiveness — freedom tasted.

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