Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just Breathe

Dear Thom,

This banner was made by the women of the Little Flower prayer group and given to me for you on the night of your Baptism. Due to pyloric stynosis, the chaplain at St. Joseph's Hospital conditionally baptized you in the examining room. You were just a week old.  You were operated on two days later.

A month later, we had you baptized at an evening Mass in the downstairs church of The Shrine of the Little Flower. Over 100 people came for your baptism Mass. However, before the Mass started, you began to choke. Aunt Phyllis started working on you. Someone rushed out to call the doctor. Another was running to Rite Aid (known as Read's at the time) to buy an aspirator.  Finally, someone made me go outside because frankly, they didn't think you were going to make it. 

I came back into the church and all the people were praying aloud. Finally, one woman said, "In the name of Jesus, you spirit of death, release this child." At that, you took in a breath and all were relieved and began to praise God for sparing your life. The Mass began and you were baptized. 

Later at the reception in the church hall, Dad and I were presented with this banner. The women's choice for the one side was certainly prophetic. All who were there were amazed at the banner in light of what had just taken place. To this day, people say to me, "I will never forget Thom's baptism."

Everything Came Out All Right

All of my pregnancies were fairly uneventful except for one, and that was my pregnancy with Thom.  I developed toxemia and pregnancy diabetes.  In my seventh month, I was hospitalized. My blood pressure had gone way up and I was experiencing abdominal pain. After two days the doctor came into my room and told me that the baby was not developing properly.  "Oh God," I prayed, "please help." I was thirty-eight and having difficulty.  This was just prior to women having children in their later years becoming acceptable.

There was little support outside my family and close friends. Most people looked at me as if I were nuts to be having a fifth child. So when the doctor said the baby was not developing properly, all I could think of were negative things that could happen because I was not young anymore. I remember crying when the doctor left, and then I began to pray.

After a few minutes, I opened my Bible to Isaiah 44, and began to read. As I read, I felt a peace I cannot explain envelope me. Verses 1-5 spoke to me, and from deep within I knew this child would be okay, especially after reading the verse that in my translation read, "and this one shall be called the Lord's."  From that moment on I had a faith that sustained me through the net few difficult months.

In the last month, I went to the hospital every other day for the doctor to induce labor to see how Thom's heart would respond to the stress of labor. His response would determine if he could stay in the womb full-term, or if he should be taken prematurely by C-section.  Thom's due date was Christmas day, but the doctor decided to induce labor to deliver on December 19th. Thom was born about 11 a.m., and although he was small for one of my babies, he was in good health.  When I remember the Isaiah reading, I also hold fast to the promise of Verse 3 which says, "I will pour out my Spirit upon your offspring and my blessing upon your descendants." I pray that for my children, their spouses, and my children's children.

(Photo from

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Baltimore Tithing Futures Market

It was November in the 70's, and the financial situation for Christmas looked bleak. We were working on trusting God for our financial needs. I was missing the mark and worrying.

One night Grandma Turner came over for dinner and she brought with her $18 in quarters that she had been saving for the children. At that time, there were only five; Phil came the following year.  If the money was divided evenly, each child would get $3.60. The children were most appreciative and talked about what they would to with the money.

Later that night, Larry and I were talking about Grandma's gift and my Bible was opened on my bed.  I glanced down and my eyes fell on a verse in Paul's Epistle concerning sowing and reaping. I was struck with the thought of using this as a teaching tool for the kids. Larry and I agreed that we would give the kids the option of taking the money and spending it as they like or sending it to a mission and see if sowing and reaping was just a nice thought or was it a truth. Except for Tom, who was too young to make that decision, all of the children, ages 11 to 17, agreed to send the money to the missions.

The next day, a lady whom I had worked for the previous year and still visited, called me and asked if I could come to see her because she had something for the children. When I arrived at her house the next day, she handed me a check for $50 to be spent on the children. She had never done that before, nor did she ever do it again.   

The children were amazed.  The Scripture was true.  One son thought that we should send the $50 to the missions and try and get $100 back.  He felt this was a great way to make big money and become millionaires. It was obvious that we needed to talk about seeking God's will, but the kids did see a Scriptural principle in action.

A Sacrifice Of Pain

As I searched through the trunk in the attic looking for a suitable costume for my son's school pageant, I came across a dress.  I held it up.  "Hey Mom, I'm not wearing that," said Phil indignantly.

I smiled at him and laid the dress aside.  I went back, to the trunk, and found a shirt and a sword that would help him look like the knight from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

"Why do you keep that old dress? Why don't you throw that old thing out?" queried Phil as I lovingly folded the worn faded blue fabric back into the trunk.   

"I can't throw this out, Phil.  This is my miracle dress," I said.   

"What do you mean, Mom?" he asked.

"When I was in the fourth grade at our Catholic elementary school, Sister Anne told me that I had been one of six girls chosen to be leaders in the procession of children making their First Holy Communion. This was a special honor and I was so proud to have been considered.  I ran home just bursting with the news.  But when I told my mother, she didn't seem to be happy at all.  In fact, she looked terribly upset. She told me, `I don't know if you can be a leader; it will mean paying for a dress and flowers, and with so many expenses now, I don't see how we can do it.' Tears welled up. I'd never thought of the expense. I tried to be big and brave, but the tears wouldn't stay in.

"Grandma Harp (Mosnee), who was sitting in the next room, heard the conversation, and as I walked passed her with the disappointment wetting my cheeks, she called to my mother.  'Dorothy,' she said, `I want to talk to you about the dress for Iris. Do you think you could afford the dress if I tried to make it?'  Mother looked startled, for Grandma had come to live with us just the year before after suffering a series of major crises in her life. Her husband had been killed by a hit and run driver. Four days later, her mother, whom she had cared for, also passed away, and within the following month she had to sell her home and come live with us because she had no means of keeping up the payments on the house. Also, during this time of grief and turmoil, Grandma had developed arthritis in her hands and back and was in a good deal of physical pain. So, although she had been a fine seamstress, Grandma's fingers were so stiff that mother had to help dress her each morning and comb her hair. Yet, she was suggesting she make the dress - and we had no sewing machine! She said, 'I don't think I can handle the scissors to cut out the material, but, if you laid it out, Dorothy, I could tell you what to do and you could cut it out. I'd really like to try to sew the dress by hand.' Mother said she would talk it over with Dad. That night it was decided that this offer of Grandma's was worth a try.

"The shimmering blue material was purchased, and mother cut the pieces out. I remember seeing Grandma working so hard with the needle and thread. I could tell it was painful for her, but she continued on, despite the pain.  Finally, the blue taffeta dress was finished and each tiny stitch a work of love. I was so caught up with practicing for the big day and so happy that I had my beautiful dress that it wasn't until a week, or so after the First Communion day that I realized Grandma was dressing herself and combing her hair without help and her fingers were not as stiff as before.

"So you see, Phil, this dress is precious to me.  God loved me through Grandma's sacrifice of pain and she, too, was blessed with healing, and later she made many more articles of clothing for her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Be Healed! Really!

I had been to a parish meeting where the priest invited a Lutheran minister to speak about healing through prayer. As a Catholic, I knew people were healed at places like Lourdes and similar places. However, this minister, Pastor Erwin Prange (above), was speaking about people just like us who were praying for healing and some were being healed. I didn't know if I believed that.

The following week, my Grandma Harp was in Union Memorial Hospital with a heart attack. She was out of intensive care, but still not doing well. The doctors had told my mom that Grandma, or "Mosnee" as some of us called her [1], would be there for several weeks. 

I went to the hospital to visit her, and as I walked into the lobby I saw Pastor Prange on his way out. He seemed to recognize my face, so I spoke to him and told him where he had seen me. I asked if he would come up and pray with my Grandma, if she would give her permission for that. He said he would, and Grandma said yes, she would like him to pray with her. Pastor Prange prayed a simple prayer, placing his hand on Grandma's arm asking Jesus to heal her. After the short prayer, he left the room. The next day Grandma felt better and the doctors were amazed at the change in her. She was sent home three days later.

Larry and I then began to pray with each other and with our children when we were sick. To this day, we pray for each other in difficulties and illnesses, and our children ask for the family's prayers for in-laws and friends, as well as extended families. If you are reading this, know you are prayed for daily.

[1] Since Grandma Harp was of German descent, we referred to her as "Gross-mom" (not "gross" in the modern English sense, but "great").  When my young daughter Anne tried to say "Gross-mom," it came out "Mosnee," and that's what much of the family called her from then until her death.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

The first paycheck we ever tithed was frightening for me, since we had little to no discretionary funds and this seemed like such a big risk. We tithed our money, and near the end of the week I needed milk for the children and I had no more food money or any other money to buy the milk, since we had paid our bills allotted for that paycheck. Our next check would be available in another day, but the last of the milk had been used at breakfast.  I knew I could get by until dinner since the kids went to my mom's for lunch from school.

What to do for supper and the next day's breakfast was the question. I was fretting as I often did.  I couldn't come up with a solution to the problem except to borrow money from a relative or friend. Yet we had learned that tithing was one way God wanted to teach us to trust Him for our finances and not our earning power or our dollars. Amazing that on our one dollar bill is printed "In God We Trust". This day, I was unsure this was a truth.

After the children went off to school, I was to take two elderly ladies, Pauline and Marie, to the doctor. I had taken care of these dear souls for a time, doing their laundry and shopping and cooking.  However, I was no longer working for them, but was called upon from time to time to take them to the doctor. I picked up the ladies and after the doctor visit, Pauline and Marie insisted that I take five dollars from them for my services. They had never paid me before for these trips and never did again, and I had not said a word to them about money, tithing, milk, etc. I was astounded that God had moved these women to give me money when I was in need to teach me that I could trust Him. Like every slow learner, I was to repeat the lesson over and over until years later, I realized I really could trust Him with our money and He was our Provider.

Fore Your Own Protection

One beautiful day, Larry called to say he was taking off early from work to play golf at Carroll Park. I wished him bunches of pars and hoped he'd have a good time.

Because the day was so fine, I decided to walk to the store on Route 40. As I walked, I felt a need to pray for Larry`s protection on the course. After a few minutes in prayer, the sense of urgency left.

When he came home, he began to tell me what happened to him on one of the last holes. Someone started throwing rocks at him. He said they were huge rocks and he couldn't see who was throwing them, but had one hit him, he said he could have been killed. Thank the Lord for His protection.

When The Playboy Club Was First Cancelled

A young couple, Bob and Sharon, whom we had met while living in England, were staying with us for a week before returning for their second tour of duty there. We were delighted to have them stay with us. The night before they were due to fly out, they asked if they could take us to dinner as a way of saying "thank you" for our hospitality. We were all looking forward to this special evening. Sharon was excited since she and Bob would have a chance to wear new outfits they had recently bought. A few minutes before we were ready to leave, Bob announced that they were taking us to the Playboy Club that had just opened downtown. 

Larry and I were not very comfortable with having dinner there, but we were their guests and Bob had said that he had chosen this place since they had a Diner's Card for the club.  Just before we left, Larry and I in the privacy of our bedroom said a prayer asking Jesus to intervene. We didn't want to hurt Bob and Sharon by refusing this gift of dinner at the one place they could afford.

We drove to the club and went in thinking that this might be a difficult night. As we stood in line waiting to be seated at the club, the scantily dressed hostess came over to the four of us and advised us we would not be able to dine there because Bob was not suitably dressed in shirt and tie. His new outfit was a 70's patterned shirt that opened at the neck and he wore it with his new bell-bottoms and vest. Poor Bob and Sharon were very embarrassed. Since they were not familiar with the downtown Baltimore area, we suggested a little inexpensive German restaurant we knew of that was nearby. We had a delicious meal and Bob and Sharon were amazed how reasonable the dinner was. Larry and I were amazed at God's care for us that night.

The Tithe Begins To Turn

As a Catholic growing up during the 40's and 50's, I heard much about charity and sharing, but not tithing. However, in our parish Bible study program, the Biblical concept of tithing was discussed and Larry and I decided to try the concept, even though our budget was very limited raising four small children. 

Not long after we started tithing, Rob and Paul needed winter jackets. Our clothing budget was particularly tight at that time, but I was trusting that God would take care of us. The next day a circular from a nearby store was delivered, announcing a sale of winter jackets at just the price we could pay. I hurried to the store and picked out two jackets. While in line to pay for them, I realized that these jackets could not be washed. Disappointed and unable to afford the washable jackets, I put those I'd picked out back on the rack and left the store. 

As I walked out the door, a worker from the Salvation Army was by the door with her kettle.  I dropped in a quarter. She handed me a pamphlet which I shoved into my pocket and headed for home, all the while thinking we'd made a mistake about tithing.  When I arrived home, I took the pamphlet out of my pocket and to my surprise, the subject was tithing. It was a wonderful article which helped to clear away my doubts. 

Later that day, a neighbor called and said she was cleaning out her closets and found two jackets her sons had outgrown, and would I be interested in seeing if they fit my sons since they were in good condition, very warm, and washable? They fit perfectly. Her thoughtfulness was tangible evidence of God's faithfulness.

(Pictured above is Paul wearing his jacket after the Washington's Birthday Blizzard of 1979.)

The Shortest Route From Newcastle To Taunton Is Via . . . Baltimore

We were home from England about a year and one of our parish priests was holding an ecumenical region-wide conference for clergy on the Charismatic Renewal. I was asked to help at the book tables. I had agreed and was going to the Shrine of the Little Flower hall with Joan Sipes and Nancy Kurek. Nan was driving and I was waiting on the front porch for her to pick Joan and me up. 

As I waited, the mailman came by with a letter that was addressed to me. It was from a friend in England, Delores Omand.  Delores had been in the Christian Family group I belonged to in Harrogate. She was also Mary's Pre-K teacher. Ron, Delores's husband, was in the RAF and was assigned to the post where Larry worked. We became good friends. She and Ron left Harrogate about the same time we left for the States. Ron was reassigned to another posting and Delores went home to Newcastle to spend time with her family until housing became available for her at Ron's new base. 

She and I corresponded. She had written several months ago that she had been to a Charismatic prayer meeting at her former parish church in Newcastle and had been nourished spiritually and was looking forward to going on a regular basis while she was at home. At the same time I too was going to a prayer group at All Saints parish and was experiencing the Lord in a personal way so we had much to share with each other.
On the way up to Little Flower I read Delores' letter. She wrote that she was now living in an apartment in the south of England in a town called Taunton

Ron's base was close by and she liked her apartment but she sure missed the prayer group and the support she had received from the people there. She said she had contacted the Catholic churches in Taunton to see if there were any prayer meetings in the parishes and there were none. She was very disappointed. She asked me to pray that she find a group somewhere. I put the letter into my pocket and went in to help with the books.

When the conference was over I was helping a minister from the area find a particular book he was interested in. He spoke to another clergyman who was with him and when that pastor answered him I realized he had a British accent. I asked if he was from England and local minister introduced him to me as Pastor Smith who had a very large ecumenical prayer group in England. I told Pastor Smith that I had lived in Yorkshire and asked where his church was. Taunton, England was the answer! Wow! I pulled out the letter from Delores and let him read it He was flying back to England that evening and since her address was on the letter he would contact her the next day. What a God of faithfulness have we!

The Pastor did contact Delores the following day and she went to the prayer group in his church for as long as Ron was stationed there. The Pastor told her about meeting me after I had just received her letter. All of us were just amazed at the Holy Spirit's work.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Before It's Too Late

While in Harrogate I was elected to the parish council of St. Robert's. Occasionally, our pastor and I did not see eye to eye on some issues and could have to hash things out. 

After we came home to Baltimore, I was remembering one of the Canon and my disagreements (Canon is the British title for Monsignor). I realized that in that conversation I had been harsh and that I needed to write and ask the Canon for forgiveness for my demeanor and my words. However, I kept putting the letter off. 

Several weeks later I received a letter postmarked Rome. It was from a British lady I had met after our return to Baltimore while she was here on vacation.  Emily was from Yorkshire but not from the town where I lived. However she did say she knew some of the priests from my town since she worked at a retreat house within the county and met lots of clergy. We spent a little time seeing the Baltimore sights and
talking of her travel experiences and mine. 

Now here was her letter from Rome. I opened the letter and she told me of her visit to the Vatican and to St. Peter's. and how she had lit a candle and said a prayer for me at St. Peter's.  After leaving the cathedral, she crossed the piazza and at one of the outdoor cafes, she saw my former pastor having a coffee. She went over as she recognized him from the retreat center and she told the Canon of meeting me in Baltimore. What a coincidence Emily interjected into her letter that "I would meet someone who knew you just after I prayed for you."  As I read these words I was shaking. This was no coincidence. This was a "God-incidence." 

I wrote and sent the letter to the Canon. Two weeks later I received a beautiful letter from him. He was most gracious to forgive and was very encouraging just as the Lord is each time forgiveness is asked of Him. Six weeks later I received news that the Canon had died suddenly. How good God was to me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ach du Lieber and the Autobahn Society

Larry's job had taken us to England to live for three years. While there, we had a wonderful opportunity to travel. During the last summer of our tour, we drove to southern England, crossed the English Channel by hovercraft, and spent three weeks staying in lovely bed and breakfasts in Luxembourg and Germany.

We were driving on the autobahn near Nuremberg in Germany heading for Calais and the hovercraft to take us back to England, when our tire blew out. Our car veered all over the road. Thank God no other cars were near us, as there is no speed limit on the autobahn. Some drive as fast as one hundred miles an hour. We were averaging sixty to seventy miles an hour at the time of the blowout. Larry gained control of the car and stopped on the shoulder of the road. However, the shoulder dipped down and formed a small ditch which made it impossible to jack up the car with our jack.

On the autobahn are telephones for emergencies. Larry decided to walk to one and call for assistance while the children and I sat at the top of an incline to wait for his return. Larry had walked about a mile and was almost to the roadside emergency telephone when he realized that the person answering the phone may not speak English and he spoke no German except for "Ach du lieber". He asked God to help him.

Just as he got to the phone, a car pulled up and the driver asked if he could help. Larry said, "You sure can, if you can speak German." He did, and he made the call for Larry, explaining just what was needed to a garage mechanic who did not speak English. The mechanic came and fixed our tire with the use of a special jack. We were able to continue on our way thanks to our "Autobahn Angel."