S: It's a Mary Thing
FC: It's a Mary Thing
1: It started early,... I saw things in comic ways... even when put in a cast from waist to ankles.
2: "For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139.13-16
3: That passage gave me encouragement at a young age, knowing that, even though my formation wasn't perfect, God knew and included it in the story of my life, using it to define my character and heart. | Walking! 3 years old
4: "Jesus is coming back", the Sunday school teacher said. I don't know if she didn't finish the thought or if I "tuned out". I was stunned--I was the only Mary I knew...and I knew the story! My mother spent the rest of the day straightening out my thinking... "#1, You are not the only Mary...and #2, Jesus is coming as a 'grown-up' next time."
5: Snow! Snow! Snow! I love it!
6: This may be the beginning of my "engagement" with ducks...years later, I was able to quack back and forth with a duck in the Norfolk Botanical Gardens for 10 minutes. I have no idea what I said but the duck seemed pleased with the conversation! | At Vander Veer Park Davenport, Iowa
7: Could it be that this incident was the beginning of my feeling the need to get training in counseling and maintaining appropriate boundaries? I remember having no idea how to rescue her from her big brother as he was fast approaching! | 4 years old
8: Since I couldn't have a REAL horse, my imagination came in handy-- no real feed to buy nor manure to deal with either! | 11 years old
9: I can't believe Dad took this picture...showing my affection for Dr. Roger Woods, my favorite professor, and my humor. In reality, he was the most influential person in forming my faith and thinking during my college years. | Graduation, University of Dubuque, Iowa, May 1970, My roommate Rosemary with Dr Woods and me.
10: One of the things he did was sensitize me to specific areas of injustice. Out of that, I went to inner-city St. Louis for my 1970 summer mission project, knowing I'd be in Chicago in the Fall. | One Saturday morning, I took the city bus downtown...
11: When I paid and turned to my left, I realized every face was "black" and looking curiously at me. I thought of Rosa Parks in 1955 and out of my mouth came the words, "Well, it appears that I belong at the back!" and I walked all the way back to sit down. There was laughter from everyone and I silently thanked the Lord for that inspiration!
12: After finishing my Master's in Social Work with an emphasis in Psychiatric Counseling, I found myself led into being the Coordinator of the Lakeview Pantry in Chicago, near the Cubs' Wrigley Field. It was there where God showed me His faithfulness in provision...
13: On the first day as Coordinator,I had read the October 1 entry in God Calling, "Regard me as your only supply. That is the secret of prosperity for you and you in your turn shall save many from poverty and distress...remember that I fed the Children of Israel with Heaven-sent manna..." So I responded, "Lord, I'll trust you to supply for these people, even if it's manna." That afternoon, a donation came in with a few packages of "Manna Golden Farina"...
14: It was as if the Lord was saying... (with a twinkle in His eye) "Good enough for you?"
15: It actually had manna-like qualities. As long as it was on a heat source, it could not be left unsupervised--it would multiply in volume, pouring over, even down to the floor. That gave me great opportunities to tell the Biblical story!
16: Twice a year, Campbell's Soup gave soup and canned spaghetti to local organizations that distributed food. They stopped shipping operations for the day and we all came for our donations. We had to rent a truck to bring back the generous donation, meant to last for 6 months. The first winter donation, for me, came on a day that called for a sizable snow. My predecessor figured we'd have to reschedule but I prayed, "Lord, however you'd like to do it, please either change this storm or change Campbell's scheduling...whatever you think is easier!"
17: The next morning, there was only a dusting of snow and the delivery went as scheduled. That night, I watched the news... | The weatherman said, "The strangest thing happened-- the storm seemed to hit a wall on the West edge of Chicago, went straight north to Wisconsin, across the lake to Michigan and then back down again!" I laughed so hard in delight at how God chose to do it (and agreed with His choice)!
18: On a snowy morning, I did a quick mental inventory of what was available without having to go to the market. I thought, "If I just had 7 whole chickens (for large families) I'd have enough." I walked to the Pantry and outside of the door, in the snow, was a box labeled... | From the churches of Dayton, Ohio
19: And in the box? Yup, 7 whole chickens, very frozen! I was never able to trace where to send a thank you... except to God Himself!
20: The most striking story of provision happened in the winter of '75 when unemployment was very high. There were about 100 family units coming in per day. No funds were coming in and donations were depleted. Our supply was so low that each of the 39 shelves held only about 10 cans. We filled the bags with 1 1/2 days' worth of food, not the normal 2 1/2 day supply. My helper noticed it first and said, "The number of cans at the end of the day is the same as at the beginning!!" It was true! Nothing changed overnight, those waiting for their food were facing the shelves the whole time. I tried several times to "catch" what was happening--unsuccessfully. This continued for at least 2 weeks, after which it became harder to measure since donations started to come in again.
21: From the statistics, I figured that if I had opened a normal can of soup, we would have served 100 people from it! | My usual security, a back-up of food from holiday giving, was gone, I remembered the Manna and was encouraged by this demonstration of His faithfulness--one I will never forget!
22: With donated funds, I went to the South Water Market to buy vegetables and the chicken necks and backs for soups. The guys on the docks, for the most part, respected me as someone "religious". One day, one of the guys let loose with a string of expletives and then saw me and quickly apologized. I said... | South Water Market, 1940's The trucks were much bigger in the 70's!
23: "Don't mind me... but, you know, God's been here all day." | to which he responded, with ashen face, "God's been here?!" (I expected a nervous laugh, not the total shock.)
24: While still in Chicago, I needed to go to the clinic. They took blood and urine samples. At the next visit, they asked me, "When was the last time you had sex?" I said, "I didn't." After asking a second time, getting the same answer, they thought they could "catch" me and said my urine sample showed that I was pregnant. I answered, "Well then, you'd better tell the Wise Men to start walking because there is no way!" I heard the staff telling it and laughing all the way down the hallway. | Virgin Mary...
25: At the end of 3 years with the Pantry, I had trained my successor and gave myself a month for travel, seeing friends and a cousin. That brought me to Norfolk, VA. I ended up moving there. I thought I'd get the counseling job that I'd been trained for but I was wrong. I was also envying the music gifts for worship. The counseling job didn't happen and God said that when I developed the gifts that He gave me, we could talk about the music gifts! I ended up working on my art and working at High's Ice Cream for minimum wage--for 7 years! Of course, that provided more opportunities to see God provide!
26: I was stressing about the lower hours and pay of winter time...but then, in a matter of hours, I was offered a whitefish (gutted and beheaded but needing to be scaled) and a loaf of bread... | I got the point... fish and loaves... God would provide... what a sweet and humorous "delivery"!
27: On another day, as I worked, I thought/prayed, "If I just had... a handful of walnuts, I could have a Waldorf Salad tonight." Within 10 minutes, a woman who was manipulative and very irritating came in, told me to put my hand out and...she dropped a handful of walnuts into my hand! | About a month later, I was laughing at how God did that so quickly and specifically but then HE said, "Oh, but Mary, consider who I got to be your servant!" He enjoyed the irony and didn't want me to miss it!
28: One January evening, when I was working alone at High's, two guys with hand guns came in. While one watched the door, the other demanded the money in the drawer. I'd seen a police car go by and hoped he'd circle back so I stalled, saying it wasn't theirs to have...I asked if I could count it before I gave it... asked if they wanted the pennies nickels, and dimes. He got so frustrated, he said he'd shoot me. I said I wasn't afraid to die, I knew Jesus. When he slapped me on the cheek, I finally gave him the quarters and bills, making a mental note of what I gave. As they turned to leave, I said I'd be praying for them. He then brought back two $5.'s and a $1.
29: Later, when I told that to the responding officer and suggested that he could dust them for prints, he said he'd never heard of that happening and asked why I thought he did that. I said, "I told them I'd be praying for them and I guess he could only handle $20.-worth of guilt!" He laughed and agreed, that was probably the reason.
30: Oh yes, I did mention that I was developing my artistic abilities... | My "Snoopy on his dog house" was stolen later in the day... I considered that a compliment!
31: Two things I "fell in love with" in the Norfolk area... | The Botanical Gardens in the Spring | The Tall Ships, especially the red-sailed one!
32: During the years in Norfolk, I became more mindful of being single... I prayed, I fussed... and, as my time there was coming to a close, I wondered, "Lord, why did I not really even have a date?"...
33: He didn't give me an exact answer to that question but He quieted my heart with, "I am a jealous God and you are mine." | I felt treasured and valued and that has been my point of peace ever since, even when people don't understand.
34: Several years later, in a dream, He presented me to those present as HIS, with His hand under mine... and I was dressed in white... a sweet confirmation of that earlier declaration!
35: In a later dream, He scooped me up in a 4-dimensional waltz and whispered in my ear, "Come dance with me...but, for the sake of everyone involved... | let me lead!"
36: Two years later, I awoke from a dream in tears. I had been talking to a lion, saying, "I have no husband or children." The lion answered, "I know, I have no wife or children..." He met me forehead-to-forehead and shed a tear. When I awoke, I asked myself, "Who is the lion?" It quickly became obvious--Jesus, the Lion of Judah who takes away our shame and losses.
37: In Psalm 68.6, it says, "God sets the lonely in families." I have seen that in each place, he has given me at least one family to be drawn into, taking the "lonely" out of singleness. | Dave & Estelle Gutierrez & family Chicago | Everette & Sharon Albrecht Jessica, Mark, Michelle & Michael | Lee, Chansonette, Lydia & David Hall
38: I can't forget the enjoyment of having Penny--everyone's little darling! She joined our family when I entered the 7th grade, in 1960. She took her job of greeting our guests very seriously. Here, after the relatives left on Christmas Eve--she was exhausted!
39: From my first parakeet, when I was 4, to the present, I have been blessed by the songs, chatter, and comedy of my little feathered friends! | Timmy Timmy II Skipper Buddy Buddy II Christie Isaac Rebeccah Beck Rainbow Sunshine Joy Danny Boy Josh Lilly Jeremiah Grace Hope Barnabas | Barnabas | Jeremiah | Timmy
40: After the Halls moved to Philadelphia, I sensed my time in Norfolk was coming to an end...after 7 years of dipping ice cream (which seemed Biblical). Within a week, in the Fall of '83, I got three confirmations to put my information into Intercristo, a computer match service for Christian organizations seeking employees. After looking through 9.5 feet of print-out, I selected 5 "most likely", Worldwide Discipleship Association being one of them. WDA was the first to write back to me and by December, I had a phone interview... Margaret said, "Of course you know you will need to raise your own support." I didn't, the print-out simply said "donations", it didn't say I had to get them! She also said, "This is sacrificial living." I laughed-- assuming I was able to raise the allowed amount, it would be "a raise"! After hanging up, I said to the Lord, amused more than any thing,"You tricked me". He reminded me, "Did I ever fail you while at the pantry?" (That was when I had to raise my own "salary" as well as the funds for the whole operation.) I had to admit, "No"...
41: By January, I was accepted on staff. In June, I was assigned to Purdue, which thrilled my parents---I was back in the Midwest. On September 23rd, I arrived in West Lafayette with Dad's help in driving the U-Haul truck, towing my car. | Parks, Margo, Everette & me Discipleship in the University setting has been a great fit for me and I am so thankful for the WDA staff, particularly the Purdue team. | Back to snow country! | ...a true Midwesterner, a field of corn can bring me to tears of thanksgiving for God's provision
42: Part of campus ministry--going with students on summer mission projects. For me, that included three summers in inner-city Atlanta and two in inner-city Knoxville TN. That sure brought back memories of my summer in St. Louis but I was about to be stretched much further...
43: I was gaining a larger vision for the world. I got my first international mission experience in Paris in '89, preparing me for my first trip to Africa to visit the Halls in Cote d'Ivoire in '92. This led me to learn some basic French, a language I'd avoided up until then... | and my heart was captured by Africa...with its needs, its people, the joys, the price...
44: 1994 Staying with Jacob's family, sleeping in his oldest son's hut with his 3 daughters, eating their food at their table, walking from hut to hut gathering folks for Bible Study, having great conversations in lantern light... I grew to love my African extended family. | Jacob & Jane, '96 | I returned there in '96, 2006 and 2009. In 2000, I went to Bungoma. Jacob came by bus twice to visit me (8 hrs by bus). That was the last time I saw him. He died in 2002 but I have stayed connected through his son, Peter. In all the struggles, his people are my people...
45: It was at Jacob's "choo" (out-house) where I left my "signature" in '94-- a semi-circle crack in the right back corner of the stucco floor when a bat came flying out of the floor hole... that definitely has a startle affect! When I returned in '96, I asked if there were bats in the choo. Peter said,"No" (as in 4:30 pm). Hours later, I went there and noticed that my "signature" was still there... | so I decided to go to the back left corner...
46: Unknown to anyone, termites had eaten through the floor beams in that corner...I went crashing through, remembering to keep my mouth shut as the bats flew up and out. As I went down, I wondered how deep it was and how far I would go, having seen a 25 foot pit. I was relieved when my feet hit bottom and the floor was at my armpit level. Better yet, I'd fallen to the side of the "main pile", my shoes were in dry lime powder. One arm was above the floor level, the other was below and scratched up but I immediately saw the great humor in it!
47: The Korean summer missionary who was with me went running into Jacob's hut, only able to say,"Pastor, Pastor... help...Mary...choo!" When Jacob and his friend Charles came running, I quickly pulled up my underwear for a proper rescue by two men. Jacob, culturally embarrassed, profusely apologized. I said it really was "a Mary Thing", my parents and friends wouldn't be the least bit surprised--amused, but not surprised. | 2006 New improved choo behind the rocks covering the "retired" pit.
48: A month later, as we were ready to leave, I set up my camera in the window of Jacob's hut for a delayed picture, ran out of the hut and around to the back of the group. Taking the sharp turn, I skidded on the dirt and flipped, hitting my temple. Fortunately, I'd just packed my glasses, knowing I'd sweat a lot while walking 4.5 miles to the road...
49: I now know there is PLENTY of time to get in the picture..and enough time to skid, fall,"come to", and hear everyone saying "Pole sana, Mary, Pole sana!" ("so sorry" in Swahili") That incident resulted in my first "black eye" but it was superseded by coming down with Malaria a week later on my second night back in the States.
50: Having "extended family" in Africa brings with it feeling the trials they go through and a partnership in ministry that is painful, challenging, and growth-producing... I have experienced the pain of loss, even if from a distance, of Jacob, Leo, Walter, Caroline, and Mary... but I have also been "given" many children, orphaned by AIDS or tribal conflict.
51: Even before the Bungoma orphan numbers grew to 500, I was overwhelmed with 50. I had to laugh...while looking at a picture of them, God spoke to my heart, "Don't ever say I didn't give you children!" This has been my testing-ground for trusting God's heart and provision, again and again. | Peter's pre-schoolers | Bungoma orphans
52: The problems are always there but in January of 2008, post-election violence created a much larger crisis. I had reached the point of being totally overwhelmed, hearing of the numbers of fleeing refugees increasing from 50, 70, 200, 5,000... | The first refugees near Bungoma | One of the Bungoma refugee camps | Orphans being fed in the Orucho area
53: I cried out in desperation, "I can't do this!" The Lord's reply was, "My point exactly." I had to laugh, so profound and so true, the essence of the Good News! A few weeks later, as I was listening to a song, He said, "This is not about you, it isn't even about their suffering, it is my story, let me write it!" His redemptive plan is WAY bigger than I can comprehend and all of the suffering will have an ending that includes his mercy and justice...
54: So this "Mary thing" is really a small part of a much larger story but I'm convinced that God has particular enjoyment and fun in "writing" my part! There are tender times when His presence is so needed and special.... and there are other times when it is comical and/or powerful... revelations of my limitations and His character...in boundless glory!