Monday, December 23, 2019

Janet Fehskens Shares A Heartwarming Christmas Memory

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Guest Post #14

"A Christmas Memory" by Janet Fehskens

Preface
"After two stormy years of marriage, the passionate, spontaneous, and exciting “long-haired hippy” I met in college turned out to be the good boy my mother had prayed for her daughter to marry.

Not quite hidden under the long curls was a young man whose vocational training began at age 14.  As a teenager, he spent four years in a Catholic minor seminary, which resulted in a wonderful education and a passion for the unborn.  He also carried with him a confusion that the Lord majestically cleared after wooing us into a whirlwind courtship with Him and leading us to a different denomination.

We said goodbye to my mother and North Carolina and his training continued
in cold Indiana, with his vicarage in Cheyenne, WY.  We were seeing the world.

The Divine Call Service for the seminary graduates was in May of 1981.
May, 81, was our mantra for four years, and began what the cold weather and hard work were all about:  serving God in his first parish.

Two specific prayers steadily pounded on heaven’s doors: 
Mine: Be close to family.  
His: Be near water.

We were thrilled when the call landed us on an island in Maryland within driving distance of both families.  The young church family doubled in size during the four years we spent there.  I still look back on that time as “Camelot.” The friends I made there are still my best friends.

Our sons doubled during that time, as well.  Having arrived from the seminary with two sons, we left with four, the youngest only ten days old.

Although excited and optimistic about missionary work in the Great White North, the reality of transplanting to Minnesota did a good job of teaching me discipline regarding my tongue. 

We contemplated why God would put us in such a foreign culture. No longer a parish pastor, my husband’s new position as national director of Lutherans for Life left us searching for a church home in addition to everything else.

Our recent experiences filled 5 of the 10 “Most Stressful Life Experiences,”— check, check, check, check, check. My outlets were the Bible, common sense and oh, so much prayer.  And let’s not forget a detailed book about colic called “Crybabies.” Postpartum tears sprang to my eyes when a kind word was had for me. Those words were few and far between since I was at home alone with small children, so far away from family and friends. 

A kind neighbor encouraged me to “go out every day no matter what” but the frigid, unkind wintry winds of Minnesota, compared to my balmy North Carolina home, kept me indoors with above-mentioned tears flowing for other reasons, as well. 

Taught “*The Thumper Rule,” not only by Disney’s Bambi character, but my mother who lived by, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” I vowed that if I couldn’t say something nice about our new situation, I would keep my mouth closed.

Christmas
On our first frozen, white Christmas Eve in this strange place, our family braved the great outdoors and attended the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at our (seemingly) frozen and unfamiliar church.  

The congregation boldly confessed our familiar faith through an ancient creed, and my heart lifted. I recognized this community of saints as it enveloped past, present, and future believers, bound together in Holy love and worship. 

I held onto Mark 10:29-30:
'Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life."

As the nativity was relived in candlelit wonder, my thoughts moved to young Mary, who traveled uncomfortably with her dear and bewildered Joseph to fulfill her mission.  I pondered the thoughts she may have had of the warm and familiar family left behind, likely at least as confused as my family was.  Did her mother teach her the Thumper rule?  Was it hard for her? I hope she was sent with love and support, but have a feeling that’s wishful thinking.  

The exhausted pastor looked deep into this lamb’s eyes as we filed past him, and back into the night to embrace the “good” part of Christmas the children anticipated, Santa!

Taking both of my hands in his, he exclaimed, “Your hands are so cold!” while my “Joseph” struggled to hold onto the hands attached to small bodies squirming to get away.  

Numbly I nodded, determinedly holding tight to my vow, “say only something nice.”
“Do you like it here?” he queried.
In return, he received a smile. 
God bless him, he knew there was more to the story.  
“Are you settling in? Do you need anything?”
I nodded, then shook my head, refusing to say anything that could be used against me.
Finally, “Is your house warm?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed, "My house is warm!", so grateful to speak words to the kind man who searched for the hidden treasure he knew was there if given the time to unearth it. 

Her house is warm!” he announced to the patient parishioners who filed behind me, and then he introduced me to one of the saints, 
who was also waiting for me – 
to be her friend.  
And then another one. 
and then another one. 

a hundred times as much.

The community of saints.  The forgiveness of sins.  The resurrection of the body.  Life everlasting.

Thank you, Jesus.

Merry Christmas, friends."

Bio:  Janet Fehskens has led workshops at national Lutherans for Life conventions and has published articles and poetry in Living, Gentle Spirit and local newspapers. She has spoken at the Ft. Wayne Seminary, high schools, camps, and women’s functions.  She served as president of the local Lutherans for Life chapter in St. Paul, MN, and has led several women’s ministries in parishes throughout the country.
Both Janet and her husband, Ed, are avid readers.  Ed keeps up with current events, but will watch sci-fi with Janet while she does handwork after the sun has gone down.  Her favorite medium is primitive folk-art.  She also loves taking photos during their travels.
Janet homeschooled their six children for four years, and began working part-time (away from home) when their youngest child began school.  She completed eleven years of administrative work in NYS colleges while she and Ed lived in and near Buffalo, NY.  Now adults, these children are parents of their 12+ grandchildren (#13 is due in February!).
She and Ed are now retired and have recently relocated to Bristol, TN, where they are members of Concordia Lutheran Church in Kingsport, TN. They enjoy traveling and being “on call” for their children and their families, who are within driving distance, while simply praising God for His amazing grace as they enjoy time spent with their favorite people – all grown up. 

A huge thank you to Janet for sharing her heart and heartwarming Christmas story with us!  I was so challenged by her courage, fortitude, and determination to find the good in her situation and focus on that.  May we all do the same this Christmas!
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As you think of Janet today and ponder upon her words, may I ask a favor of you, dear readers?  Will you please pray for Ed and Janet's daughter, Mary Grace and their son-in-law, Danny?  Danny is 29 years old, in need of a hip replacement, and trying to complete his college degree by this coming spring.  His surgery was scheduled, but after doing blood work, the doctor found that his liver enzymes are elevated, which is preventing the much-needed surgery.  He is in a lot of pain and on crutches.  All this, while Mary Grace is due to give birth to the couple's second child in February.  They have a little two-year old.  Please pray for this dear family — for healing and relief of pain for Danny, normal liver enzymes, the green light for a successful hip replacement surgery, the smooth delivery of a healthy baby, and for their needs to be supplied during this trying time.  Your prayers are SO appreciated!
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In closing, here is one of my favorite Christmas songs, beautifully sung and played by some very sweet friends of ours!  I hope you enjoy!


Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Paul Wilson and The Pressley Girls

In case you missed them, you can read previous Christmas Memory Sharing Posts by clicking these links:

8 comments:

  1. Oh, my! What an amazing story of commitment, love and faith. I, too, have been in such a situation when we left family, church and friends behind and moved across the country to arrive on December 19 in a strange, strange land out west. If it hadn't been for our church family, I would have gone under. I was SO lonely and heartbroken after leaving a church we had been baptized in, met in, married in and served in. Add to that leaving every single family member over 1500 miles away, AT CHRISTMAS. Well, that was 26 years ago and although we have made a life here, I still long for family and home.
    Oh, I needed this memory today. Thank you.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Betsy! I am so thankful Janet's story was a blessing to you, and it sounds like you have so much in common and have walked such a similar path. Both of you have blessed me so much by sharing! May the Lord richly bless you and Dennis this Christmas!

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  2. Praying for Danny and Mary Grace.

    Merry Christmas! 🎄

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    1. Thank you so much, Sandi! Merry Christmas to you, too!

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  3. Prayers for Danny and Mary Grace, Cheryl! I so enjoyed this inspiring memory of Christmas here.
    Blessings!

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    1. I so enjoyed it, too, Martha! Your prayers and support are so appreciated!

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  4. Love the song and the story of how God brought you through a rough time. Time and many moves has taught me to hold loosely to things, places, people and hold tightly to His strong hand that never lets me go. We may loose our hold a little on Him as we journey but He never refuses when we tighten our grip again.

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    1. I love your heart, Betty, and so enjoyed your words of encouragement. Merry Christmas, sweet sister!

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