We live in a time when so much information is swirling around us through multiple means of media. When we were raising our family, Dr. Spock was the author everyone was turning to for wisdom. It was a time of no discipline and wisdom crumbled into a time of anarchy.
We raised our children through insights found in the Bible–We found the book of Proverbs and the words of Jesus our best blueprint for living. It spoke about how to deal with enemies by overcoming evil with good. Julie, our daughter, was the new kid on the bus and was not greeted warmly. We made cookies and the next day she distributed them and built a bridge of friendship through kindness.
We are living in difficult days where marriages are crumbling and the suicide rate and death by bullets is at an all time high. Our society has all kinds of directional devices but not one for living a good life. We need a societal directional system. Today I put together wisdom I found in 2 Timothy 3 and 4. I hope it will help you understand the times we live in and give you strength to stand firm.
“People will be lovers of themselves. Boastful, proud, abusive. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–Always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. To suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers saying what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth. But you, keep your head in all situations. Endure hardship–Discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 3 & 4
By committing your life to Christ and spending time in his love letters to us, life will have purpose and meaning. “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.
We were enjoying our late afternoon hike in Frozen Head State Park outside of Oakridge TN, when I came across a solo ranger with a chain saw working on a large logjam. “Hi,” I said. Joe enjoyed the interruption. “Do you have any volunteers to help?” I asked. “No,” he replied. Then I did what I always do best. “Larry will give you a hand; here he comes now.” I’m always volunteering my husband of 47 years. He just set the date for what he calls his Darth Vader knee replacement earlier that day. “This logjam is causing water to spill onto the graveled path,” said Joe. Larry, a former contractor and teacher, looked at the situation and came up with a workable solution. The two entered the stream thigh deep and removed large branches and trees. As their cheerleader, I gladly stood on the sideline taking pictures I would add to my lifewithlarry.org blog. The ranger, a bit fearful of cutting the large root of the tree, gave it the go. “Boom!” It finally came to rest on the bottom of the stream where it would be much easier to dismantle. Joe beamed from ear to ear, and Larry was thrilled to use his knowledge and muscle as a 69 year old man to help in a random act of kindness. “It was the best part of the vacation,” he said as he asked the ranger to please hand him his silver cane.
In 2008, I started a book club and we have become dear friends while reading many historical fiction and non-fiction books. We recently read The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. It took place during World War II. Women came from all over the US to a town that was not on the map. Today, we call it Oak Ridge, Tennessee which is located near Knoxville in the Cumberland Gap Mountain range. Everything was top secret. Little did they know that those working there were instrumental in ending World War II. I had a friend who grew up in Oak Ridge. She wanted to talk in her church about her new faith in Christ and asked Larry and I to join her in the Spring of 1978. I knew her parents were scientists but little did I know that they were also involved in the Oak Ridge project. I lost track of my friend Cynthia but was determined after reading this book to contact her. After years, we have connected and here is what she said about the experience first hand.
I was very excited to receive your letter and catch up a bit on you and Larry. First of all, yes, my parents were part of the beginnings of Oak Ridge. My father, Boyd, was tasked with research that would help dispose of the waste from nuclear reactions. However, he never spoke of what he was doing to anyone outside of the Lab, even to my mother. Secrecy was very much a part of the work that was going on in the three different laboratory facilities. The town was entirely surrounded by barbed wire fences. Each worker entering the city had to show an ID that indicated that they had received security clearance at some level. I remember the big billboards at each of the gates that reminded people entering and exiting to guard their speech.
To the outside world, there was no Oak Ridge. My grandmother in Ohio could not call us directly on the telephone. The phone operators would tell her that there was no such place as Oak Ridge, TN. I think she had to ask for the phone center in Knoxville, and they transferred her call. My parents discovered after the war was over that one of their women friends was an official spy for the government. He job was to report anyone who at parties, etc has “loose lips.” The woman’s husband was the most surprised of everybody when her spying was revealed.
It was a wonderful city to raise a family. With the high percentage of very educated scientists who were moved there, these was a high priority on education. So, the schools were excellent. Also, because we were a closed city, there was a strong sense of community. Volunteerism was huge, especially in the area of the arts. We had our own symphony orchestra, theater group, playground programs for children in the summer, and a well-stocked library. Neighborhoods were close and supportive of one another. The wives in my neighborhood got together frequently and played canasta. I do remember as an elementary student responding to air raid drills. We were to leave our classrooms and squat down in the halls. It was an accepted possibility that we would be bombed. There…enough about Oak Ridge. I hope your reading group finds some of what I’ve written interesting. I’m looking forward to visiting Oak Ridge in the near future. The wild flowers are suppose to be the most beautiful at the end of April. We are in Oak Ridge right now April 26, 2016 and getting ready to explore the history of this town and to bike the beautiful paths along the river.
It was a warm and beautiful day in San Diego where we escaped the winter by staying with my wonderful cousin Dave Berge and his wife Gail. We woke up to the sound of the ocean and the call of the birds and seals. Yes, his condo was right on the beach of Oceanside. We took our morning walk and ended up at a coffee shop. Larry wanted to stop and get a Marine hat. In his picture he is wearing a Navy hat. You see, Larry spent 4 years as a Marine where our daughter, Deborah, was born in South Carolina. But later, he joined the Navy reserves as an air-controller. Even though he was in the reserves for 19 years, he still was a Marine—–once a Marine, always a Marine. We walked into the local military store and checked out the Marine hats. We were not satisfied with any of them and concluded we would buy one at the Marine base in San Diego.
He was still looking around so I left him to join my daughter at the coffee shop again. She was soaking up the rays. (See picture below)
When Larry returned, I said, “I thought we didn’t like that Marine hat. I guess you decided to buy it anyway.” He frantically put his hands to his head to retrieve the Marine hat and said,”Oh no, I walked out with the wrong hat and left my Navy hat at the shop.” Now Deb and I are laughing at the imaginary sight of police surrounding Larry for the theft of an unwanted Marine hat in exchange for the desired Navy hat he left at the scene of the crime. He quickly bolted up the hill two blocks to the store to return the hat and retrieve his Navy hat.
We had a good laugh and I knew I had another Life with Larry story. Now my question is how many of you have done something similar? Have you left something precious to you at a store or restaurant? I was guilty of leaving my cell phone in a restroom at a Cracker Barrel in Kansas. My point is that in life we need to give grace to those around us. We all make mistakes or have senior moments. This scenario turned out OK; how about yours?
I heard a flock of sand hill cranes overhead beaconing the end of winter. Sitting on my deck, I see budding trees, the crocuses and my new rhubarb plant. Yes, what looked like death is certainly now alive. Nature is such a beautiful picture of the resurrection of Christ. In the background, I love listening to Handel’s Messiah and the song, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”. It is the perfect Easter message.
I am so thankful that Cornelius existed in Christ’s time, because he gave us a picture of God’s love. Cornelius was a centurion (soldier) in the Roman Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing. But he was not a follower of Christ at that time. It says in Act 10 that he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. As a result, an angel spoke to him and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. He was then instructed to get in touch with Peter who was visiting Simon, the tanner. At about the same time, Peter was praying and had the same vision three times where he was instructed to eat meat that was forbidden to the Jew. He then had a knock on his door and was instructed to go to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. When Peter saw that God was opening the door to the Gentiles, he said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who reverence him and do what it right. Then he told them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. As a result, before he finished speaking—the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them.
We are thankful for the Jews who faithfully and accurately penned the Old Testament with the prophecies of Christ throughout. (See Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for examples). Also reading Acts 10, I see that God hears the prayers and cries of the non-Christian and answers them if they seek Him with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
For example, I looked up at the sunset and called out to a God as a freshman in college. I didn’t think He existed. But I was looking for meaning and purpose in my life. I told God if he was there, He could have my life. Then I added, “Make something wonderful happen, if you truly exist.” That night, I met Larry at a dance—-my soul mate for life. Together we have seen the hand of God on our own lives, our families’ lives, and so many others. How he speaks to you may be entirely different. Just like nature is filled with a diversity of flowers and trees, so God has many ways to call his own to himself. Most of us have a thirst for more than this life can give. We know deep inside that the end of life is not the end. It’s written in our hearts
I imagined being Laura Ingalls from The Little House on the Prairie, putting another log on the wood burning stove. It’s a clear sunny day; but make no mistake—it’-2 degrees reminding me of a time several years ago when we went up to Kettle Moraine to cross-country ski. Larry had been begging me to winter camp with him, and I wisely replied, “No”. “Look,” he said, “It will be an adventure and it’s been a mild winter. Let’s do it.” Our marriage has been about a partnership of give and take. Larry is all about his gear and likes to test the durability and reliability of his sleeping bag and tent. If the bag says, “Good to -10,” Larry wants to see if it’s true. I just like snuggling by a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate at the end of a wintery day. We skied at Lapham near Delafield, WI with friends the first day. It’s a challenging course ending with a huge hill called Slide Run. I was delighted that all our body parts were in order at the end of the day. We spent that night with our friends in a motel across from Lapham. Then we made our way to Ottawa Lake where we set up our tent for the next night. We were the only ones in the campground while our friends smartly headed home. We skied that day at Kettle Moraine near La Grange. It was getting colder by the minute. After dinner and hot tea, we made our way to the homemade tent that Larry constructed from a 1970’s Frostline kit. Our sleeping bags were supposed to be good for below zero weather. I slid into my ice cave bag and could not get warm. I put on Larry’s very smelly and sweaty ski sweater and huddled under the sleeping bag; but the aroma of the sweater was more than I could take. I came out for a breath but the air was much too cold. I felt like a tortoisesticking my head in and out all night thinking of the song, Every breath I take—Every move I make. We finally saw the light of morning and quickly took down the tent and headed into Oconomowoc for buckets of hot coffee. It was then that we learned that the temperature that night sank to -12. “What’s this about camping on a mild winter night?” I said—- after brushing my teeth in the restaurant bathroom while trying to be incognito. We survived and winter camping is now off my bucket list.
What are the lessons to learn here? Marriage is a partnership. To make it an adventure, one needs to leave the comforts of normal life. A hot shower the next day and sitting by a cozy wood burning stove never felt so good. When I ask Larry to do something he is not too excited about, he remembers I winter camped with him and additionally, we now have a good www.lifewithlarry story to tell our grandkids.
“We have been given two ears and one mouth so we can speak less and listen more.” This was a quote in our speech book at Cary Grove High School. I learned this lesson by the mistakes I have made in communication in the past. My husband pointed out that I often asked a person a question and then when they were responding, I’d start a conversation with another person at the table. How rude was that and yet I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Fortunately, I heeded Larry’s words and worked at changing this behavior. “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers”—Proverbs 16:20. Now that I’m a senior citizen, it’s time to express what I have learned in life. If I hadn’t been an English/Speech teacher, I probably would have been a journalist. When I wrote for the Compassion and Justice ministry at Willow, I had the opportunity to interview people from various walks of life. I found my sweet spot doing this. I looked at everyone as I would look at an interesting book and asked myself, “What can I learn from this person and what makes them tick.” “When having a conversation with someone, think of them as the most interesting person in the world. Being curious will take you away from being judgmental as well,” said Robyn Hatcher.
Toastmasters has also helped me be a better listener. I have to remember—“It’s not about me.” Listening properly means fully engaging instead of jumping in when the speaker takes a breath and bringing the topic back to me. This is also a wonderful way of making great friendships. It doesn’t mean you don’t express yourself; instead, it means waiting to hear them through. Larry had a very difficult day on a climbing trip in Montana. When he returned, he told a friend about it—- ” This was the most difficult day of my life– second to basic training as a Marine..”The response from the listener was, “Let me tell you about my retirement plan.” There wasn’t even an attempt at asking why it was the most difficult day.
But how often do we catch ourselves only thinking of our own needs and not the needs of others? “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer,” said Ed Cummingham.
So how can we all get better at the art of listening?
Here’s an anacyrom that will help. EARS
E=Engaging-Be interested in your friend’s thoughts and opinions.
A= Acknowledge-Acknowledge the speaker-Put away distractions.
R=Repeat what the speaker said in your own words so the speaker can clarify or correct any misunderstanding.
I hope this has been helpful for you. Please respond on my website www.lifewithlarry.org to post what you have learned about the subject. My New Year’s resolution is to get better at this most important art of good listening.
“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out shouting, ‘Oh my God, what a ride.’” It has been that kind of year filled with many activities. Instead of being in beautiful snow laden MT this Christmas, we are home because of Larry’s meniscus knee surgery and our involvement in a Nativity play with Jonahre Foundation. We are gearing up for our last performance this Saturday at Egg Harbor Restaurant in Barrington. It’s a live nativity with a camel and lots of sheep. Larry and I didn’t like the scripts we saw on line so we wrote our own. This experience has brought us back to the theatre days at Cary Grove High School where we teamed up directing the school plays.
The year 2015 was a whirlwind of activity beginning with New Years in MT with Aaron, Lynelle and our three grandchildren—August, Jasper and Isaak. August loves aviation and had a chance to fly a real plane. Jasper loves physics and playing his cello. Isaak is very athletic and loves his French horn.
Elliot and Natalie drove out to MT with us this past summer so we could have a cousins’ reunion. It was so exciting to have them all together along with their Aunt Deborah. Elliot and Natalie are amazing readers. Elliot loves soccer and Natalie has been in several recitals playing the piano and singing.
One of the highlights of the year was our trip to Costa Rica with International Teams last March. We worked on building projects on their lovely campus filled with flowers and fruit trees. My job was to teach English classes to a couple Latin American women. What a wonderful way to make international friends for life.
I continue to keep my connections with District 155 by subbing when needed and Larry spent a lot of time volunteering with Love INC and Conference Point, a camp on Lake Geneva. Whoever said retirement is boring? We wake up to our coffee and ask God this question,”What do you have for us to do today?” There is always something. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.
We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Remember life is more than going through the motions of making a living, etc. You are unique just like your fingerprints and created for a purpose. Jesus said, “I am come that you may have life and more abundantly.” John 10:10. Go for that abundant life and don’t settle for anything less.
Welcome growing older and in Larry’s words remember the following, “Old age and treachery will always win out over youth and vigor.” So smile at the future. We love to post our pictures on Facebook under Sue Schuerr and Larry Schuerr. We also have a blog called www.lifewithlarry.org. Please stay connected and stop in and visit when you are in the area.
We had been married for ten years with three beautiful children but
no home of our own. We finally qualified for a loan in 1978, but the interest rate was high. Our construction loan was 12%—a sign of the times during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. I longed for a home for my children—Deborah, Julia and Aaron. Just like the woman in Proverbs 31 who bought land, I traveled from West Chicago to Algonquin and saw the quaint town with the Fox River flowing nearby. I stopped at a real estate company telling him I was interested in buying a lot for our future home. We bought a lot in unincorporated Fox River Grove from a 90 year woman for a very low price. My brother Bill, a lawyer, wondered if it was under water. It was on a downhill lot filled with trees. We would need to clear it and put in a well and septic.
We rented a house in nearby Crystal Lake and worked in the evenings clearing the lot. I gazed longingly at our land and dreamed of the house we would soon build. It was a long wait before our home materialized. In 1980, the bottom fell out of the economy similar to what happened in 2008. There was very little work for my contracting husband and even though I helped support our family of three with homebound tutoring and subbing jobs, we could no longer afford to rent a house while building our own home.
Summer passed and we were staying in a camper at Buffalo Park in Algonquin. I drove the kids to school and then went to my tutoring jobs. Aaron, our son, was asked to draw a picture of his house. He said to the teacher, “You mean our lot.” He didn’t have a house yet. But even then as a young artist, Aaron could accurately draw his house which was just a frame with a ladder going up to the window. Today he is a noted plein air artists. See www.aaronschuerr.com.
Winter came and we moved into the garage and kept warm with our wood burning stove. Larry read C.S. Lewis stories around the fire. We identified with “Little House on the Prairie”. We were regulars at the YMCA where we had membership. In fact on Christmas Eve the staff told us the pool was closed. We said, “That’s OK. We just need showers,”
From the garage, we continued to complete the house. Larry struggled while putting the heating ducts in by himself. In frustration, his language became rather colorful. “I never heard Daddy talk like that,” said Debbie. I quickly shuffled the children off to bed saying we need to pray for daddy. Each day after school, the kids huddled around the radio and listened to children’s programs on Moody radio. I often remarked, “We have a loving home but no physical house to put it in yet.”
A woman from church invited us to stay at her home for a couple weeks while they were vacationing. “That would be wonderful,” I said. I try to remember how important hospitality can be. We had no choice living like this while we were building. There just wasn’t income—contracting had dried up and our interest rate was almost like the interest on our credit card.
From the garage we moved to the basement and established a kitchen similar to my Italian high school friend, Adelina Gina Maria Sangineto. The Italians I knew growing up cooked in the basement during the hot summer. Then after dry walling the bedrooms, we set up the bunk beds Larry made for Deb and Julie. The telephones were installed before the dry wall was completed. Unfortunately, someone stole our telephones and we had to replace them.
Our showers at the YMCA came to an end when we installed the bathtub. That was a momentous occasion. We took our first baths by candle light before the drywall was completed. It was pure luxury. I appreciated every step forward to the completion of our house.
Finally, the day came for our final inspection. We were very nervous because we still had major things to complete. The sink and one of the toilets was not functional yet. But we passed and shouted “Hallelujah.” I’ll never forget those difficult days and I’ll always have compassion in my heart for those in need. I was able to get a job teaching full time and I helped finance Larry’s education so he could complete his degree and become an Industrial Arts teacher. We knew we had to look for a more secure financial situation for us and our family. We were hard workers willing to take the opportunities to advance—- life then got much easier for us.
We have been in our home now for over 30 years and the walls reverberate with the voices of our three wonderful children and now our five grandchildren. Pictures of our odyssey from our lot to our home fill our walls. We love opening our home to friends for potluck dinners. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t thank God for our wonderful now paid off home. It has high ceilings and windows on the roof. It is decorated with tropical plants and large windows. Our wooded lot is surrounded with plants and trees. I love looking out the window watching the birds sing, the trees swaying in the wind or the snow glistening. Occasionally, a deer or a fox will make a quick appearance. I will always remember our times of struggle and our times of plenty. It is part of the tapestry of our lives