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Legacy #9, Graag of helemaal niet

By July 26, 2015 No Comments
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By Helen Luhrs

When my mom died this winter, I realized the generation of my parents was gone. What I learned from them about faith and life was now mine to practice and pass on. To help me remember what I learned and treasure what nuggets of truth I want to share, these summer Sundays are dedicated to Henry and Edith Blankespoor, my parents.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18

Whether she was offering a tasty treat or suggesting a task, Mom expected a cheerful, willing response. Growing up I remember a Dutch phrase she liked to say to us: “Graag of helemaal niet” which meant “gladly or not at all.”

That was her motto. “Do what you do with a willing heart.” Answers like “whatever” or “I don’t know” were not acceptable even if she was just asking if we wanted ice cream. Pouting was not OK either. She used to ask us, “Do you want a clothespin to hang on that lip?”

That is how Mom looked at life, particularly her faith life. A schoolteacher before her marriage to Dad, I often wondered if she missed that career. A few years ago, I asked her. “I did,” she replied, “but I got married and that was my job.” She was matter-of-fact and accepting. Her life wasn’t always easy, but she was able to face change with an unwavering Calvinist view of providence. Like Calvin, she believed that everything happened according to God’s will and since she knew God loved her, she had to keep walking forward even when her feet dragged.

She was great at reframing long before therapists coined the term. When my sister, Judi, took a teaching job in Lynden, Washington, she wrote her and sent packages, but accepted it as an opportunity for her child. My sister Ruth’s death challenged her faith, but Mom didn’t give up on God. She simply cheered herself with thoughts of heaven. When my Dad died, she grieved deeply, but did not forget to enjoy her children and grandchildren as well as the finches on the feeder. When she left her house for an apartment, she focused more on the activities there and the meals she would enjoy with others than on all the memories she was leaving behind. Even moving to a nursing home was more of an adventure for her than a hardship. She soon endeared herself to the staff and joined in the activities. At age 96, she would rather talk about the Minnesota Twins game than the pain in her leg. I never heard Mom say, “God is good all the time,” but I did hear her say, “God is with me. I am fine.”

Dear God, help me to face change and disappointment with a belief in your care always. Give me the grace and strength to focus on the tapestry of life instead of the holes. Stay with me. Amen

An Iowa woman to the core, Helen Luhrs is a high school teacher who lives out in the country near Knoxville, Iowa. Helen and Lee have four married daughters, five grandchildren, a graceful prairie, and a square foot garden.

Helen Luhrs

An Iowa woman to the core, Helen Luhrs is a recently retired high school teacher who lives in the country near Knoxville, Iowa. Helen and Lee have four married daughters, six grandchildren, a graceful prairie, and a square foot garden.

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