Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Archive for the ‘Personal story’ Category

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.

The Hiding Place

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 / Love Is Worth It!

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!

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.

A Year Since We Moved On!

About one year ago (June 27, 2021), my husband and I set out on our journey to move to Ohio from California. We chose to take nine days to do the drive, with our cat.

The trip here, and life afterwards have been an adventure, to say the least. For me, it’s been a bigger deal than for my husband. He grew up in Ohio, whereas I had lived in California my entire life, not even going away to college, not even a college within California (except as a commuter student, three or four times). Possibly, making a big change like this when you’re 67 might be slightly difficult!

We ended up in what I might call a semi-suburb. We are outside the limits, and on the east side of a large city. Our zip code is the same as a nearby small town, but we don’t live inside that town’s city limits. Although we have a sewer system rather than septic tanks, and other suburban amenities, it’s a very quiet neighborhood (development), which happens to have a small woodsy section in the center permanently preserved for wildlife. We often see deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and many, many birds. On the other hand, my son and his family, who live within the west side of the same big city mentioned above, also see deer, plus have woodchucks nesting in their big yard, and other wildlife makes its presence known to them.

The people in Ohio have been wonderful. The biggest adjustments for me are climate (humidity and cold), bugs (chiggers are the most difficult so far), and poison ivy (rooting it out can take a lot of work, and you practically have to where a hazmat suit to work on it). Getting a new driver’s license (because of my unconventional birth certificate) and setting up new doctors were also challenging.

And the many good things: Abundance of natural life, plenty of water, dramatic clouds and thunderstorms, friendly neighbors who almost always wave, family helping each other, fireflies, a beautiful river just a few miles away and the riverside trail along it, etc.!

Thanks be to God and to all who prayed for us and made this journey possible.

Heaven in a Dream

Last night I dreamed about a church young adult group I was in, twenty-five to thirty years ago. In the dream I was in the current time and now lived in a huge house, with my kids and grandkids. Someone (I don’t know if it was my daughter or someone else) arranged a surprise party for me, inviting all the people from the young adult group. It was a wonderful time. — End of dream.

When we were both awake, I told my husband about the dream. He asked, “That’s your idea of heaven, isn’t? Lots of people together and getting along.” I answered, “Yes.”

A New Arrival!

Our second grandchild, Lucy Marie, has arrived!

Born to Jacob and Teresa
May 10, 2022, 8:04 a.m., 7 pounds 11 ounces, 20 inches, 
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

We are overwhelmed with gratitude, especially for the following reasons:

The obstetrician had decided a month or two ago to do a C-section, because the baby had turned and was presenting breech.  So 5/10 was five days before the projected natural due date.

It turns out that the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around Lucy’s neck.  Given that problem and the breech presentation, it’s probable that the C-section saved both the baby’s and perhaps even the mother’s life.  In another time or place, it could have been an incredibly sad day.

My two brothers were breech birth, and thank God they survived, and our mom survived the births!  I don’t think she had C-sections.

So we give thanks and praise to God for His overwhelming mercy.  We also say that when things turn out more tragically — we thank God because He helps us get through those times.

Mood Disorder?

First, a disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and have no psychological training except a few college classes and one five-day workshop. However, I have been in and out of counseling/therapy since age 12 or 13 (I’m now 66), sometimes with a break of many years. So, any psychological terms I use will be my understanding of what they mean, as a layperson.

My main diagnosis through all these years has been mild to moderate depression, or dysthymia. If I understand correctly, dysthymia comes under a broader category called “mood disorders”.

There are many opinions about depression, including “Just pull yourself together,” “It’s because of your sins,” “It’s a lack of faith,” “It’s from ‘stinkin’ thinking’ (irrational, untrue, or unrealistic thinking),” and “It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain.” Of course, all of these can be true, or overlapping.

I am often (not always) in a state of low-grade melancholy, for whatever reasons, as noted above. I could even add the excuse of my cultural background, which is Hungarian. My parents grew up there and then emigrated to the United States. From what I have read, melancholy is a common characteristic among Hungarians. Again, this could be for many reasons. One of my theories is that Hungary, for hundreds of years, has been overrun by foreign powers and has been constantly at their mercy (if there was any mercy). At any rate, melancholy does seem to be common among Hungarians, indeed, many eastern Europeans.

But, today I would like to share a surprising recent occurrence for me, perhaps a small miracle. The other day, I was in the typical, mildly low, mood. Sometime around 5:30 p.m., it was like someone turned on a switch. I was happy! I felt loved, and worthwhile, like God, and some people, loved me! It was inexplicable! I repeat, it was literally like a switch was turned on in my mood. No longer the negative thoughts like “Nobody likes me,” “I’m evil (or at best, worthless),” “Things are going to turn out badly,” etc. Lest this sounds frightening to anyone, let me be clear; I sometimes have these thoughts, but I don’t give in to them. They are like attacks that happen periodically. I have found ways to combat them. I am not miserable anymore, as I was in younger days. I have the hope of Jesus Christ, which is what keeps me alive and functioning and purposeful. Speculating on where they come from could be another blog post.

Like any mood change, I cannot explain what happened. I’ve even had the opposite happen. I will be in a mildly low mood and plunge into a more severe depression. Happily, this happens less and less in my life.

What can I learn from this? I believe God is trying to tell me, “Don’t rely on how you FEEL. I am with you despite any moods, feelings, or thoughts. I never leave you. Do not base your worth on how you feel, or how others treat you.” Whether I feel happy, sad, or in between, I mustn’t take that as my major reality. My major reality is that God is present and will not abandon me. THIS IS THE REALITY, not what I FEEL!

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