A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of going to Minnesota for my older sister's wedding. That, in itself, needs to be a blog post of it's own. But for now I wanted to write about one of the friends that I visited while I was there.
Let me start by saying that this friend no longer remembers me. She is now 84 years old and has Alzheimers disease. I think the reason why she was willing to let me come and visit her is because I sent her a letter ahead of time and let her know I would be in the area. She also remembers the church that we both went to when I lived in Minnesota so long ago. Because of this church connection I think she felt safe to let me come into her large old farmhouse for a cup of tea.
Right away I showed her a picture of me with my family. She immediately got tears in her eyes. She has always had a passion for large families. Over the past several years when I would receive something from her in the mail there would usually be some sort of encouragement in the area of family and parenting.
Marta* and I had an interesting time talking about large families, marriage, her childhood growing up in Germany, coming to America and becoming a Christian.
Because I too have a bad memory I actually took notes on the things Marta told me. I didn't want to forget a thing!
(Ironically,I have no idea where those notes are at the moment!)
So, from memory I will do my best to share with you the wisdom and stories that Marta shared with me.
Marta had 8 children. This was from two different marriages. (Sadly, she lost both of her husbands and two of her daughters to cancer.) I asked her something to the effect of, "Would people ever give you a hard time for having so many children?" To which she replied, with a shrug, "It didn't matter. If they did I just made them feel ashamed for not having more." She went on to say that she would encourage mothers to have lots of children. I believe that whatever she said to them probably gave them strength to raise their kids with dignity when others told them that they had too many in their family. (She said that sometimes women would cry because of the criticism that others gave them for having large families. )
Husbands need the respect of their wives.
Wives need the affection of their husbands.
Marta was in the first grade when Hitler rose to power. She said that the children were completely indoctrinated. She thought to herself that Hilter might be God Himself. She remembers asking a friend in her class if she thought that Hitler ever used the bathroom. When the friend said something like, "Of course, stupid!..." and then went on with details, Marta said she had to think long and hard as to whether or not she should turn her friend into the teacher for saying such things about their dictator. All the children were to report anything negative said about Hitler.
When Hitler invaded Russia Marta's father said that Germany would lose the war. When Marta asked "why" her father replied that Russia was too big.
I'm not sure what Marta was taught at home regarding God or religion but it seems she was very influenced by Hitler's teaching that said "God is fine for the weak and the old."
On Coming to America:
She came to New York on July 4th, 1951. She said there was a big brass band playing at the airport for the holiday. It was a very special experience for her.
On becoming a Christian:
At one point (I believe this was after she got married), Marta had a neighbor who was a Christian. This woman often would share with Marta about Jesus, but Marta held to the belief that religion was not for her....only for the weak and old.
Over time, something terrible happened (again, I don't know the details), and Marta was stabbed. The knife went right below her heart. At the hospital Marta's Christian neighbor visited her and said, "I have been praying that God would spare you so that you could repent."
And she did!
There is more that could be said about Marta and oh how I wish I had a picture to share with you. She is a short woman with long white hair that she always keeps braided and up in two buns on either side of her head. She is a hard working farm woman who loves and serves God.
Before I left her home I told Marta I was going to visit another mom who also had several children and she encouraged me to go and choose a bouquet of wildflowers from the many that she had prepared early in the morning to sell at the farmers market.
It was an honor to be able to visit with Marta. I'm so thankful I was able to do so.
*Not her real name.