Musings, Meditations, and Memories of One Slightly Dysfunctional American Family, co-written by
Karen DeLoach, Linda Tinker, Mike Harper, and Patti Ford
gets hectic and you want to slip away and enjoy a moment of peace and simplicity, open the pages of Musings. You will find nostalgic stories that trigger memories of your own childhood days. You will feed your
soul with insightful meditations. You will be encouraged by stories of answered prayer and God’s intervention in the
lives of ordinary people.
The now grownup Harper kids - Linda, Karen, Mike, and Patti - offer to share with you lessons learned, prayers answered,
blessings bestowed, and the fun involved in being part of this slightly dysfunctional American family.
Slightly Dysfunctional Family
By Karen Harper
I was a teen-ager in the ’60s.Our evening meals were shared with Walter Cronkite and our boys in ’Nam.We ate mashed potatoes and meatloaf and watched whirring choppers stir up dust while
wounded soldiers were loaded on board.Sounds of war rumbled in the distance.Civil Rights marches, anti-war demonstrations, Flower Children, bra-burnings, flag-burnings,
riots, free love, LSD and pot—all spilled into our living room as stories splashed across our small screen on the nightly
And—in the midst of that bra-less,
hip hugging, bell-bottomed, mini-skirted, pot-smoking, rock-and-rolling, longhaired, newly liberated generation of teenagers—I
walked through life, a throwback to the ‘50s.
To me, pot was something in which to cook
oatmeal.Being liberated meant my parents allowed me to double date when I was
fifteen, instead of having to wait for my sixteenth birthday.
Let’s face it.I was typecast for Father Knows Best, not Mod Squad. I was almost untouched by the worldly turmoil around me.I knew young men who were shipped off to Vietnam,
but they all came home safe and sound.I didn’t personally know anyone
who burned their bras or smoked pot.The first black students who attended my
all-white high school were twin brothers.They were not only welcomed; they were
extremely popular with the whole student body.
My family and I lived the small-town life
in a suburb of a sprawling city.Daily household chores were part of our childhood
routine—everything from making beds to scrubbing the bathtub to ironing clothes.Mother took us to church every time the doors were open.Sunday School
and choir practice were part of our weekly routine.Dad set down rules, and we
abided by them.Supper was at six, lights were out by ten.We ate breakfast together every morning.We were a ’50s
family in a changing ’60s decade.
Sheltered?Yes, and frankly, grateful for it.Love-ins, drugs, race riots, hippie
communes—it was happening on another planet, not the world in which I lived.
It wasn’t until I was in my
forties that I fully realized just how carefully our parents had sheltered us.
Our Dad died a couple of weeks after he
and Mom celebrated their forty-third wedding anniversary.Mom was broken-hearted
when she lost the love of her life.Four years later, we lost Mom.Only after my parents were gone did I discover that because of their loving protection, I had never known
that my parents had been on the brink of divorce when I was a small child.
I was around five years old when my dad
asked mom for a divorce.He wanted to raise my brother.My mother could have my two sisters and me.
Mom wanted to shelter her little stair-step
children.She persuaded Dad to keep up appearances for our sake.When we got up in the morning, Dad was at the breakfast table.When
we went to bed at night, he was there for a goodnight hug and kiss.What we didn’t
realize is that once we were in bed, Dad left.He slept on a couch in his office
and came home each morning in time for breakfast.We never knew he was not living
with us during those weeks while they were separated.We never knew the heartbreak
and pain our mother went through.
Mom was a strong Christian woman who lived
her faith.She turned to God in her marital crisis, and He answered her prayer.Mom and Dad reconciled, their marriage restored.They experienced the normal ups and downs of marriage, as do all couples, but they steadily grew closer and stronger
in their love as the years drifted by.Because our parents sheltered us from
their problems for those several shaky weeks early in their marriage, we children never knew how close we had come to being
a shattered family, a statistic in the rising divorce rate.I grew up secure
in the knowledge that my parents loved each other.
At one point in those early years, when
emotions were raw and hurts still fresh, Mom threw Dad’s mistake in his face.Seeing his pain, her tender conscience was touched.She immediately humbled
herself to him.She knelt down in front of him as he sat in his chair.Looking into his eyes, she apologized.She had already told
him that he was forgiven and she promised never to take that back.She vowed
never to bring it up to him again.And she never did.
What humility and strength she exhibited,
not to mention Christ-like love!I admire her resolve to put aside her own feelings
and handle a difficult situation in the manner she thought would best benefit her children and her marriage.She definitely did not exhibit the “me first” attitude that is so prevalent today.
However, that situation early in
their marriage seems to have laid the groundwork for a lifetime of secrets.Over
the years, situations have arisen in our family which we should have discussed openly.Perhaps we tried to protect each other.Perhaps we felt the need to keep
up a fašade of perfection.Problems that could have been resolved festered.James says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. . .”
Some family members traversed emotional
fires and overwhelming floods without the support of the rest of the family, either because
we did not know their situations or we did not really understand the circumstances.We should have been there to help “Bear yeone another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”
(Galatians 6:2).It haunts me that people whom I love have gone through intensely
painful times alone.
I confess!I don’t like secrets!We all deserve our privacy.Not everything in life should be made public to the world or even to family members.But I believe that if we talked more openly and shared more freely, understanding would blossom, relationships
would be nurtured, and family would be strengthened.
Mom definitely taught her children to look
to God as our ultimate Source in life.And I believe we do that.But sometimes we human beings need to feel skin.We need a
hug, a listening ear, a piece of advice.What better source to look to than a
brother or sister?When I have opened up to my family members and shared my needs,
they have always been there for me.They
have never turned away.
We were a ’50s family, so to speak.We were children who were raised to worship God, honor our flag and country, and respect
our neighbor.Still, to use an overused
watchword of this generation, we have been dysfunctional in our own way.We
have been too private at times, secret keepers.
My brother and sisters and I are individual
works-in-progress.We have a good foundation thanks to the godly principles our
mother taught us from the cradle.We have all made Jesus Christ the Lord of our
lives.What joy and hope there is in that!Indeed, we “have a goodly heritage” (Psalm 16:6).
In the last couple of years, we have begun
to open up and share our hearts through our stories.We do this in an effort
to encourage others and to glorify God for what He has done for us.We hope you
will be encouraged as you read the musings, meditations, and memories of four grown-up kids from a slightly dysfunctional family.
By Linda Harper
As I drove toward the west one evening
to meet some friends for dinner, I headed into a beautiful sunset.The pattern
the clouds made against a sky of hot pink, gold, and purple was so lovely and satisfying.Then I noticed the jet paths that cut across that beautiful design and reflected, That
is just how man is—we always mess up God’s stuff!
Then I observed how the edges of the jet
paths were blurred by the wind until they began to merge with the clouds and form a part of the pattern, becoming indistinguishable
from the original.And I thought, That’s
just how God is.He takes our mistakes, our mess-ups, our defiant marks cutting
across His design, and works with them patiently until they become intricately interwoven into that design, not destroying
it, but enhancing it.
Thank you, Father, for continually turning
the ugly into the beautiful, despair into hope, grief into joy, disappointment into triumph.You design, paint, and sculpt tirelessly, working toward the desired result.Help us submit willingly and gracefully to the work of your hands, rejoicing in this creative process.
“For I am confident of this
very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus...for it is God who is at work
in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” - Philippians 1:6
copyright 2001 Linda Harper Tinker
An Angel Watchin' Over Me
Karen Harper DeLoach
"...some have entertained angels unawares." - Hebrews 13:2b
in his daddy's arms, six-year-old Bill leaned over the casket and kissed his mother Betty goodbye for the last time.She had been sick for over a year, an eternity in a little boy's life, and had finally
succumbed to cancer at the tender age of twenty-two.
passed, and memories faded.Betty's picture on the nightstand kept her face clear
in Bill's mind, but he couldn't quite remember the sound of her voice.Memories
of sitting in her lap while she sang to him tickled the edges of his mind, but he couldn't remember the songs she sang.
only had one clear memory of her.It was probably so clear because it involved
terror.It was at a family party.Betty,
not much more than a kid herself, put a sheet over her head and stood outside the picture window in the dark until all the
children saw her and screamed in terrified glee, except for Bill.He screamed
in real terror.
Betty saw his fear, she raced into the house to comfort him.She showed Bill
the sheet and tried to reassure him.She said, "It was just Mama.I was playing a silly joke."But he couldn't calm down.Finally, she distracted him with his favorite treat.She carried him into the kitchen and made homemade pecan pralines just for him.
children seem to adjust to change quickly, and those around Bill thought that he was doing just fine after his Mama's death.
During the day, he laughed and tumbled and fought with his baby brothers, as
usual.But at night, a sick, lonely emptiness clutched his insides when he went
to bed.And he continually worried about his mother.Worried and wondered.Where
is she, really?
day about a year after his Mama's death, Bill was playing outside his aunt and uncle's house in Savannah under a big pine
tree.Preoccupied with his trucks and cars, he didn't notice that the sky had
darkened with churning clouds and the wind had picked up.
he looked up and saw his mother standing in front of him.She looked so beautiful!
She wore a white robe, and her long, black hair framed her sweet face.
on inside now, Bill," she said quietly.
he simply replied, "Yes, maam," and gathered up his toys.
he went into the house, he ran to find his aunt.She was washing dishes. "I saw Momma outside," he told her. "She
told me to come in now."His aunt murmured something noncommittal, thinking he
was just playing "pretend."
short time later, the storm hit with full force.Lightning struck the tree under
which Bill had been playing.
he actually saw his mother or it was an angel who looked like her, Bill just knows that he was protected on that stormy day.That happened almost fifty years ago, and, from that day to this, he has never worried
about his mother again.She looked like such a beautiful angel.He knows she's in heaven.