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Writing on these Sundays in July, I decided to go back to my childhood on an Iowa farm and all the treasures I learned from my parents.

Shortly before my mom died, we asked her what we kids were like when we were little.  She described me as “compliant.” I was a bit hurt. 

It’s true. When I was a child, I seldom got in trouble. I could not bear being out of relationship with the people around me. I usually listened and spent a fair amount of time worrying about doing something wrong.

Still, compliant sounded so boring, especially after she described my sister as “adventuresome” and my brother as “curious.” I have made peace with my “keep the peace personality” and am now too old to start breaking all the rules. Just so you know, I am curious.

With that in mind, you can imagine my devastation that summer of 1956 when I really got in trouble. We were in the middle of a huge remodeling project. We lifted the house, dug a basement underneath it, and moved our kitchen. Mostly, the project was exciting, even the trips to the outhouse when we had no indoor plumbing for a bit

On the whole, the carpenters and plumbers were congenial and liked to tease me. They called me Bob and offered to pierce my ears with the same machine that drilled holes in the siding. 

One summer afternoon, however, things changed. A new foreman took some sections of siding and leaned them up against the fence, making a ramp. To my cousin Nelvina and I, the ramp invited jumping, hiding, and bouncing. A bit braver than me, Nelvina eagerly led the show. We laughed and bounced nicely on the siding. It made the best sound. We hid in the triangle it made and sent our babies down the ramp for a ride.

Until, he yelled. The foreman saw only the siding and our dirty shoes. I don’t remember the exact words, but I know there was cursing, name calling, and a harsh, angry tone. My cousin went home about that time and I just disappeared. I was scared – not so much of the foreman, but of being in trouble with my parents. 

I ran out to the machine shed and hid in the long grass, sobbing profusely. 

Before long my mom found me. I am quite sure I wanted to be found, but I had no idea what she would say. “Would I miss dessert for a week? Would I go to bed early for a month? Would Nelvina ever be able to come play again? Would Mom take away my books?”

Mom sat down next to me and smoothed my hair. “Helen,” she said, “that man shouldn’t have left the siding right there and walked away. You and Nelvina are kids. He never told you or me that you shouldn’t play on the siding. It’s okay. Come to the house now. It’s almost time for supper.” 

I had been forgiven before, but now I also knew Mom was on my side. She understood and I had hope. Years later when I tried to wrap my head around the gift of forgiveness Jesus gives to me, I remembered that day.

That moment of forgiveness and grace still brings tears to my eyes. I was forgiven and not held guilty. Mom loved me still and I wasn’t in trouble. Maybe Mom wished we hadn’t played with the siding. I don’t know. What I do know is that the grace she showed as a parent made my soul soar.

Photo by anne-marie robert on Unsplash

Helen Luhrs

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


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Roman’s 5. Thank you.

  • RZ says:

    So true. In my experience, forgiveness has a far greater success rate than punishment when restoration is the goal. And when it is not? The cycle continues and tends to escalate. Even St. Paul, who required a divine kidnapping, eventually came to understand.

  • Noreen VW says:

    I love your “farm stories,” Helen! My kids and I have talked about the privilege of having grown up on a farm–not many kids have that opportunity anymore.

  • Lori Witt says:

    Beautiful memory, Helen! Thanks for sharing.

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