Seems appropriate this season.

Path To Zion

I sat in the  “cherry” decorated kitchen at my friend June’s house, last week.   There were nine  ladies crowded around the kitchen table, watching the last video of our Bible study series; staring up at the television mounted on the wall. Extra treats, and colorful wrapped presents line the counter for a full afternoon of celebration.

The temperature outside was frigid and about 20 inches of snow dumped on us the day before. Several of us still had more shoveling to do, clocks that needed resetting due to a spattering of power outages, and need to pour out the water jugs we filled when the storm warning was issued. We laughed at our own perseverance and dedication to our study.  Bragging that we are die hard, true, northern Michiganders- hearty, taking the cold and snow in stride. It is typical winter weather here in this quaint little town that sits…

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Personal Journey; And Now It Is Robert

Recently I learned that several of my first cousins’  died last year. That may sound strange as most people have some sort of relationship or contact with their blood relatives. Not so in my family. There has been an estrangement for many, many years.

The alienation was due to the death of my father in March of 1959. It was a fateful night for this seven year old girl. My father was one of the younger ones in his family, dying at the age of   thirty five from a massive heart atatck.He was the second brother to die of cardiac causes, as my uncle Mike died in 1957. Dad was from a large Polish family, most of whom lived in Saginaw Michigan, where we lived also.  I had numerous cousins, aunts and uncles. Time, and life changes took me far away from them.

 Before death, Christmas Eve was a huge clebration at my Aunt Lottie’s and Uncle Wallys house. The tall, white flocked scotch pine, with all blue lights, and what seemed like hundreds of skinny plastic icycles hanging from the boughs fascinated me. We children ran through their big , stately home, playing all evening long. We all were decked out in our pretty holiday attire. The adults remained in the kitchen, drinking “high balls” , eating rich, traditional ,holiday fare.

During the first few years after my father’s death family interaction slolwy began to diminish. It was usually weddings, graduations, and rarely Christmas holidays we got together.  I was closest to my cousins’ Mary and Linda. Our mom’s were widows and they often went out to the “Apple Orchard”, a local tavern, to dance on Sunday nights.We girls would pretend to be grownups having our own little  parties complete with makeup, dress up clothes, dancing to the latest rock and roll hits, and sipping grape juice from a wine glass. Turning off the lights and playing hide and seek in their  basement was fun during holiday break. I remember taking our metal saucers and heading for the hill behind their house in the country to slide, rewarding ourselves with hot cocoa afterwards.

Even my time spent with Mary and Linda bagan to change. My mother had to work full time, and she also got a boyfriend. As an only child I spent far too much time alone; I lived in my head and imaginings became my closest friends.

Ofen, I was shuttled off to one of my mother’s friend’s as she went out with her beloved or searched for the next one. Yet, many of these friends had good and lasting impact on my young heart and mind. Bea, would make me popcorn as we played dominoes. I will never forget the first time I set foot in a evangelical church. Why, they said and did things that were completely foreign to this little Catholic girl. People stood up and gave testimony to what the Lord did for them. Some cried. They spoke of Yeshua (Jesus) as if they knew him. They sang songs about the Lord God, and read from a Bible.

I recall Lorraine LaFleur, she and my mother would go out also. Lorraine tended bar, she kind of walked on the wild side. She did have grandchildren though, and we would play tag on hot summer nights in the city, in the more neglected part of town. Their lives were lead in a not so spotless environment, so different than mine, , ( my mother was pretty tidy…actually, OCD).  Witnessing one girl get disciplined quite severly by her step parent also impacted my heart.

The minimal interaction I had with my paternal family halted when my mother met the man of her dreams and off to the big, big city we went. First it was Grand Rapids, during the  eight grade. Spring  of  1965 they married and we moved to Chicago. I had new family now, but this time I was the step child.

I grew up quickly those ensuing years. Perhaps it was the lack of direction, coulpled with loneliness that pointed me on the path I choose to write about in my memoir. I lived with an alcoholic step father and a mother who chased him out of every bar on the south side of Chicago.

Wanting love of my own I got pregnant and married when I was 16. My husband was an alcoholic also. Throughout my adult life I have rebelled against Ha Shem (God). I have been in and out of various churches, divorce courts, counseling, and bars.  Only a death would bring me back to Saginaw and my father’s family, and  at that I did not often attend.  Eventually, they became extinct to me.

Two weeks ago I decided to internet search a cousin. She suffered  a  sudden onset lung disease a few years ago and I wanted to call her. Sadly, I found her obituary. From there I saw her two brothers had died within the past three years. Then I found my childhood playmate cousin, Mary, died last year, she was 61. The obit stated she was predeceased by a son. This also was news to me. Yesterday, I began searching for other cousins. To my surprise my younger cousin Robert  died in 2011.

Robert was born when I was nine.He was an aqua blue, wild eyed little blond boy. The last time I saw him he was about 5. A cat was frantically trying to get away from him as he laughed and swung it through the air by it’s tail! I do not know what became of him, how he lived his life, his occupation, did he marry or have children, and did he have faith. All I know is the two sentence blurb stating he died in January 2011.

 Rolling this information over and over in my mind has altered my perspective on my life. I considered Mary. She was married to the same man for 43 years. Her children all had the same father, and were not scarred by divorce. She lived in the same area, with the same people, probably doing the same thing all her life. She even went to the same Catholic  church.These are wonderful things and I am not jealous or envious. Mary also buried one of her children, just as I did. Unanswered questions about her faith: did she just attend Mass and put her trust in a doctrine, or ritual? Or, did she have a dynamic relationship with the One True God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, snd trust Him with her life and her death?  In fact, I could ask that of my other cousin’s who died and those living, as well.

Mary is no longer alive, nor is Robert, Sandy, Bruce, Ronnie, and Eddie.  I am.

My life has been an arduous journey, very different, atypical.. My autobiography needs to be written  in volumes, small doses so the reader can handle it. In fact people probably will think it is fiction. But it has brought me where I am today. This is the key: I have experienced joy through Messiah Yeshua. I have forgiveness,  purpose for my life, and a future to embrace. All the ups and downs, sadness and happiness, wins and losses that confront us, the most important thing is our standing with Ha Shem (God), and we are confident in what Romans 8:28 tells us:

 Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose; 29 because those whom he knew in advance, he also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers; 30 and those whom he thus determined in advance, he also called; and those whom he called, he also caused to be considered righteous; and those whom he caused to be considered righteous he also glorified!  Read it again and let it sink in.

Therefore, I realize there is much to be done, much to type, much to share. I do not know how many more times my heart will beat on this earth,  I must give “testimony” while I still have breath, before my name shows up on a Google obituary search.  Shalom, Sarah Anne

Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. (The Complete Jewish Bible Online)

I Need You Now-Revisited

Natalie pulled up to the curb, I jumped out quickly to hug her goodbye. As my twenty one year old daughter grabbed her uniform shirt and ran into the popular restaurant where she was to work the lunch shift, I assumed the driver’s seat position. The morning was sunny, dry palm leaves swished in the gentle breeze as I headed towards the beach, just a few blocks away. Shifting into first then second, I reached to change the radio station. My hand stopped short as I caught the words of the song that was playing.

A young woman with a sweet voice was singing that it was a quarter after one, she was a little drunk and she needed him… now.  She wondered if he ever thought of her, wanting to be strong she would lose control and call him, and did not know if she could live without him.  These words struck a cord in me: a breaking heart, drinking to ease the pain,  impaired judgment occurs, consequently heaping regret upon regret. The tune was very catchy as well as melancholy.

Many people can identify with this scenario. I sure can. The memory is vivid, so strong and distinct that just hearing the words of this song impart a heaviness and oppression within my soul. I remember sitting on a bar stool glancing over my left shoulder toward the door, perceiving the contrast of the darkness inside to the bright sunshine of that warm summer day outside. Many days and nights were spent sitting in a smoky, stinky stale beer smelling bar, drinking shots of peppermint Schnapps until the pain of betrayal diminished…at least for a short time.

There was camaraderie there: we were all damaged or broken in some way. Crying in our beer and on each others’ shoulder. I had plenty to cry over: a drunken ex-husband, two small boys to raise with little or no support of any kind, (my choices even when sober were impaired). Oh yes, we laughed and joked and lost our inhibitions, jobs, families, health, and time that is gone forever that could have been spent more worthily with those we said we loved. Some even lost lives.

As I listened to this beguiling tune I was both sad and angry. Sad, as this song connects with the grief and betrayal all of us have experienced over lost love. Angry, as it also legitimizes sinful behavior, lawlessness, indulgent self pity as the only alternative choice. This self defeating behavior  leads young impressionable men and women down this path of destruction. I know first hand the consequences of this behavior; consequences that may last a lifetime, and it is not pretty. Neglect of my children, hangovers, broken relationships, shameful conduct, or the inability  to even remember it, is ugly.

This popular song conveys the cultural acceptance of an attitude and behavior that perversely and covertly perpetuates the problem. It solves nothing. The music of the world is insidious. Little by little, step-by-step, we walk farther in the ensnarement. Nice beat, harmonious notes, common emotions-mix it up and what do you have? Enslavement.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of  death.” Proverbs 14:12

Millions will hear, identify, hum this captivating melody which unconsciously persuades one to incorporate it’s message into the heart and soul as normal, appropriate response to the unhappiness that comes with life. The enemy has succeeded in blocking our dependence and trust in   “Adonai Roph’ekha, The LORD who heals you; The LORD your healer;” (Exodus 15:26)

Only the LORD, G-d of Israel  can heal…ANYTHING, especially a broken heart, and a broken life. The booze will not do it, your friends cannot do it, all the ‘highs’ in the world, all the phone calls, a new relationship, and sex cannot do it. After you try all this eventually you run out of options. “Baruch Ha Shem” [Bless G-d] I ran out before it was too late, and into the arms of the  One that could “fix me”.  Listen to what King David wrote in Psalm 103

By David: Bless ADONAI, my soul! Everything in me, bless his holy name! 2) Bless ADONAI, my soul, and forget none of his benefits! 3) He forgives all your offenses, he heals all your diseases, 4) he redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, 5) he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s. 6) ADONAI brings vindication and justice to all who are oppressed. 7) He made his way known to Moshe, his mighty deeds to the people of Isra’el.  8)ADONAI is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in grace. 9) He will not always accuse, he will not keep his anger forever. 10) He has not treated us as our sins deserve or paid us back for our offenses,

“Why?”

11) because his mercy toward those who fear him is as far above earth as heaven. 12) He has removed our sins from us as far as     the east is from the west. 13) Just as a father has compassion on his     children, ADONAI has compassion on those who fear him. 14) For he understands how we are made, he remembers that we are as dust. 15) Yes, a human being’s days are like grass, he sprouts like a flower in the countryside- 16) but when the wind sweeps over, it’s gone; and its place knows it no more. 17) But the mercy of ADONAI on those who fear him is from eternity past to eternity future, and his righteousness extends to his children’s children, 18) provided they keep his covenant and remember to follow his precepts. 19) ADONAI has established his throne in heaven; his kingly power rules everything. 20) Bless ADONAI, you angels of his, you mighty warriors who obey his word! 21) Bless ADONAI, all his troops, who serve him and do what he wants! 22) Bless ADONAI, all his works, in every place where he rules! Bless ADONAI, my soul!

Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern

Turn, turn from sin, and turn to Adonai.

 Sarah Anne Summer

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