A Hard January

January is a tough month. Especially here in Wisconsin, the “Frozen Tundra.” It doesn’t help that my window thermometer is reading below zero and that a wicked wind is swirling around the corners of my house.

But it’s not just the weather.

I’ll bet some of you in warmer climes are feeling January, too. In fact, my husband Woody told me he’d heard a news report that January 21 is officially (or unofficially?) the “saddest day of the year.” Apparently someone somewhere has researched this and attributes it to a combination of post-holiday blues, Christmas bills come due, bad weather, and flu season. Or something like that…

For me personally, this is an especially hard January. I’ve just come home from one of life’s most painful tasks—cleaning out my parents’ Florida condo in order to be completely moved out within one month after Mom’s death (We closed the door for the last time on January 19.) And next week our son Lars, a Marine Captain and C-130 pilot, leaves for deployment in Iraq. (More on Lars in a coming entry.)

Back to January.

I think we all—especially moms—need a little perspective in January. A look at The Big Picture. A reminder of the difference that a praying mom can make in a family—and in generations to come. Which is why I want to write today about a couple of precious gems God has allowed me to discover even this January. As we were going through ancient pictures and old files last week, we discovered a letter my dad had saved from my German grandmother, Grandma Schultz, written to her family in 1950. Then my Aunt Betty gave me some notes she had found which this same Grandma had written for what she wanted to say at her 48th wedding anniversary.

Piecing these two treasures together gave me a stunning glimpse into the life of a remarkable woman.

My Grandma Schultz was a remarkable woman who lived what many would call an unremarkable life. A life with a lot of Januarys in it. Grandma was a German-speaking Minnesota farm girl who married a German-speaking farm boy. My dad used to tell me that as farm kids, Grandma had about a first-grade education, and Grandpa about a third-grade education—all in German. They raised their family on a Minnesota farm. Even though they were both born in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, she and my grandfather never learned to speak English until they were in their forties!

What made Grandma remarkable was her quest to know God. Here’s how she described her journey:

“Before we joined hands for life we both decided we wanted to live Christian lives, so we started out having daily devotions and were very religious without any knowledge of salvation wich (I’m keeping Grandma’s spelling, just as a reminder that English was not her primary language) gave us no peace of heart . Living religious lives is no passport to heaven, and for the first eleven years [of marriage] . . .

O how I was hungering for real life from above. In 1916 the most important thing wich must take place in any life took place in our life. As soon as we came to see that being religious and belonging to church did not save us we came to the Lord [in a local revival meeting] as lost sinners and He spoke peace to out hearts and we were made new creatures in Christ and life has been different ever since.”

In one of the CD devotionals for the new Mom To Mom curriculum, Inside Out Parenting (due to be released on May 1, 2008), I describe Grandma’s going forward in that 1916 meeting despite Grandpa’s saying “Sit down, Anna. We’re church members.” Grandpa soon came to a personal saving relationship with Christ himself. But how thankful I am that Anna did not sit down!

Not only did she not sit down. She stood up for what she believed. She found a Bible-preaching church. She and Grandpa raised a Christian family. And she became a praying mom. Listen to these words to her family, written in 1950:

“. . . this past year many, many things have come to my remembrance. When I was in my teen age I don’t know why, but many times it would come to me that I would be married some day and have six children and again and again I would say, ‘No, Lord, I would rather be unmarried than to be married and have children that would not walking the way of God and be lost eternally.’ You’ll understand that in those days we didn’t know anything about being born again or having assurance of salvation, but God put it in my heart to have eternal life . . . . And here I am having the six children and the desire to have you safe in the arms of Jesus has never left me and will never leave me as long as I live. I know we both have failed many times in giving you the rite training, but God in His mercy has led it so that you all have had the chance to experience the new birth which is the most important thing in life. And our prayer is that after our earthly life is finished, we will be able to say, “Lord, here are those wich thou hast intrusted to us. That will be heaven, first to see Christ Who has redeemed us and to praise Him for His love toward us and bringing us safely home.”

Schultz Farm.jpg

As I type these words, I’m picturing January back on that hard-scrabble southwestern Minnesota farm where Grandma and Grandpa Schultz raised their family in the 1920’s and 30’s and 40’s. I’m sure there was more than one January day when Grandma very sad, even felt like giving up (In fact, this makes me wonder what month of the year she buried her third child Alvin, just a toddler…) But even on the darkest, coldest, hardest days, Grandma could pray. Even, I suspect, in January. And what a difference her prayers made for generations to come. They’re encouraging me—and you as well, I hope—on this bitter cold January day in 2008. Maybe January’s not a throw-away month for moms after all.

P.S. Incidentally, I just now discovered my Grandma Schultz's birthday: January 25.