Thursday, June 14, 2018

California and Courtship

No, I'm not going to California and I'm not courting anyone. I'm happily married. This is about my mother.....

As I continue sharing my mother's story, you'll see how God kept working out the details of her life. God knew there was a beautiful job and a new man in her future. That man had a LOT to do with the fact that I'm here today—which is a perfect segue into Father's Day for this coming weekend.

In the later years of my mother's life, I saw a woman whose sense of adventure seemed limited, compared to mine. She found delight in simple things, like cooking, going for a drive and making special "snack bags" for her friends in the retirement community where she lived. She had no desire to fly anywhere, even to see her children (she had experienced enough "terror" in her life, she used to say). But as I learn more about her younger days, I see a very adventurous young woman. Some who knew her before I did gave her the nickname, Bert, indicating a woman who was a lot of fun. Early videos that I've seen reveal a woman who loved to laugh. This next section of her life shows that fun-loving side of her.

We continue my mother's (Bertha) story here:

"Both my parents had gone to California when they were young, before they even knew each other. I had grown up hearing stories about it, and since I had never been to California, this seemed like the time to go. I invited a girlfriend to go with me—Gladys Sollenberger Stickley. In the fall of 1950, she and I and Dougie, then four years old, set out for California.

We were out there about a year, had an apartment, found jobs working in homes for various people and were connected to the Upland Brethren in Christ Church. It was a welcomed change, an adventure that I needed. Gladys's friendship to me and Dougie helped to give me solid ground during a time I needed it.

Gladys Stickley and Dougie Crider in CA.
While still in California, I began praying that I would find a place to live when I returned to Pennsylvania..not just any place, I wanted to live within a Christian Community.

The three of us eventually returned to Pennsylvania, and I faced the reality of getting a job. I answered ads in the paper and finally, I took a job working in the Heinz Tomato Plant in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

I wasn't there long, maybe a few days, when a woman from the office came and said, "Bertha, there's a gentleman out there who wants to speak with you."

It was C.N. Hostetter, President of Messiah College! He had come to the factory and asked if I would come and work as a secretary, keeping track of the academic records for the students. It involved a lot of typing and I hadn't typed since 1941, when I graduated from High School. My first reaction to him was, "I'm not qualified!" He said that was all right—they wanted me to come anyway. He also said there was a brand new apartment waiting for me to move into.

So Dougie and I moved there and started work at Messiah College in the fall of 1951. It was another case of God answering the prayer I had made in California—to live in a Christian Community. I enjoyed my life at Grantham living with Dougie, but after a few years, I was beginning to think—"This boy is getting older and he needs a father!" So I began to think about marriage again.

Eventually, I met Orville Heisey. He was a teacher at Messiah College. He gave me something for Christmas and I was suspicious of his motives! We had a six—month courtship, and married in 1956.

The dashing H. Orville Heisey
Orville and Bertha made a "plain-lady" snowman
Wedding day, August 18, 1956, Air Hill Brethren in Christ Church.
Dougie, 8 years old at the time, was pleased to have a Daddy.

Orville and I had four children, Adriel, Brenda (Aspen), Nathan and Frances. Even though Orville taught Math and Science at Messiah College, his dream was to have a farm. This dream came true eventually, but first we lived in Westerville, Ohio (near Columbus) so Orville could finish his degree in Chemistry at Ohio State.

In 1964 we decided to move back to Pennsylvania. I remember driving around in the Mt. Holly Springs area looking at farms. We saw the For Sale sign and drove up the long lane—I was taken by the feeling of how it was nestled back in away from the road with lots of trees. The house had a screened in porch in front and summer kitchen in the back, a barn and various out-buildings. And there was a spring with a pond. It was love at first sight.

We bought Willow Springs Farm, 52 acres, in Gardners, Pennsylvania, south of Carlisle. How we loved living there!"

Moving to Willow Springs Farm in 1964, Gardners, PA. Even the bees came along!

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Prayer, a Phone Call and lots of Books!

As I read back through my mother's stories, I'm reminded again and again of how God took care of her in the midst of so many trials and setbacks. I learned the power of prayer from watching her. She would pray about everything, and as a child, I must have learned more from her than I realized.

It seemed God often heard her prayers and met the desires of her heart in simple, yet profound ways. Even when she didn't feel very pretty after the bad car accident and was still mourning the death of her young husband, God was taking care of her and met an unspoken desire of her heart to be around books. (I remember her telling me once that books were rare when she was growing up and she longed to have access to them.)

Finding a job for a young widow back in the 1940's would not have been an easy thing, but you'll see how God was already working on her behalf through prayer. A phone call not only opened up a job opportunity for her, but to her delight, it also gave her access to all kinds of books!

One of my favorite pictures of my mother, Bertha.
More from Bertha's life–

"From that day on, I've had that peace and joy and contentment that I wanted so badly but didn't know how to get. I had surrendered my all, my everything to the Lord. I remember saying to God after that—"I want to glorify you, but I don't know how to do it. If you can use me to glorify you, don't let me know that you're doing it, lest I become proud."

Even now, when I go through something difficult, I say, "Lord, back there in 1947 when I told you to glorify yourself, that still holds, if you can use anything about me."

I have the deep settled peace in my heart that God is still directing my steps. If I didn't have that, I don't know how I would have gotten through the difficult times.

A few weeks later, I had a phone call from Avery Heisey, from the Christian Light Press, (now Lifeway Christian Store in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) offering me a job to come and work in his bookstore in Chambersburg (located downtown at that time).

My response was "Do you know how I look?! My jaw is crooked; my face is swollen; I'm not fit to work in public."

He said, "I know, but it's okay."

He wanted me to come and work there anyway. I was very grateful for a job where I was surrounded by so many wonderful people, good books to read, and music."

Back to Frances—

Yes—God even cares about the smallest, hidden desires, like access to books!

What is the desire of your heart today? Have you told Him lately?


"Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:8


Here's a song I wrote with Darwin Moody years ago based on the very principle that God sees everything about us; the things we want to hide about ourselves and the dreams we have. All we need to do is give Him permission to look into the deep places of our hearts. He loves to free us from the ugly stuff we might feel about ourselves (like a mis-shaped face from a broken jaw) as well as delight us with giving us the desires of our hearts.

Listen to the song, "Nobody Sees" HERE.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

"Come Ye Needy One and All"

Many people who knew my mother view her as a hero of faith. Heroes are usually formed in the fire of great trial, the crucible of hardship. As I continue sharing the story of my mother's life (as told by her), you'll see from this particular story that the death of her high school sweetheart (and first husband, Paul) began to shape the faith of a woman many people admire.

We continue with her story.....
"After that car accident in April, life seemed rather heavy and I had just said to Paul while getting ready for bed on a Sunday night early in July—we were talking back and forth about the car accident, and I said: "Well, honey, I feel that I can go through anything as long as I have you to go through it with me. If you were taken from me, I'd hibernate the rest of my life." 


Paul turned to me and said in surprise, "Honey, I'm disappointed. I wish your faith in God would be strong enough that you could accept whatever happens as God's will for your life. Look at my parents. No two people loved each other more than they, yet when my father died, Mother accepted it as God's will and went steadfastly on her way."
The next day, Monday, July 7, I was hanging up my laundry on the clothesline outside, and thinking just how happy I was...I did love my life. I had a lovely son, and I was happy being the wife of Paul Crider. And then my mother and a neighbor lady came knocking on my front door, both looking very grave. They told me that there had been an accident on the job where Paul was working—building a silo in New Oxford. He had fallen from a height of about 40 feet and he was seriously injured. They told me he was in a coma, in the Hanover Hospital, and if I wanted to see Paul alive, I should come quickly with them to the hospital. Well, I went, I did get to see him alive, but he never regained consciousness. He died four days later on July 11, 1947.

After Paul died, and I remembered the conversation that had taken place so close to his death; it felt like somehow God was in it—He had prepared my heart, gone before and arranged that Paul would give me this message in the calm and quite of home. "Have faith in God, that no matter what happens, you will know it is God's will for your life." It was almost as though it was a parting note from Paul.

My heart is deeply moved when I realize the graciousness and love of God that He had gone before and provided for something He knew I would greatly need. But that did not erase the pain, the heartbreak, the disappointment that followed. I didn't want to live without Paul. Life was empty—nothing to live for. Here I was, a young widow with a 7-month old baby, and a face that had been permanently rearranged from the automobile accident.

What was I going to do? I remember I had $400.00 in the bank...that's how much we had saved from Paul's work so far.

That August, I told my mother I wasn't going to go to our annual Roxbury Camp Meeting (a local camp meeting within our denomination). I didn't want to face people. I wanted to hibernate. Her response was firm: "Bertha, you can't stay home...We won't allow that." So I went, but I stayed in our cabin; I didn't attend any of the services. But I could hear all the preacher's messages because our cabin was on the front row and there were outside loudspeakers.

That week that I spent there at the cabin, I was seeking God with all my heart. I was praying that Dougie and I could die, but there was still that fear—the fear of meeting God if I wasn't ready. As a result, I began seeking God as I had never done before—confessing out everything I felt God may not be pleased with in my life.

It was on the evening of August 10, 1947 (just four weeks after Paul's death) that I presented myself to God and asked Him to fill my empty shell. The biggest and hardest thing for me to confess was jealousy. I had jealousy in my heart towards a certain person and I wanted to be rid of it. I knew it was standing in my way.

That person of whom I was jealous just happened to be there at the meeting. So I went and told her. She laughed and said she had something like that too that bothered her—she understood what I was talking about.

Then I went to the altar. I knelt down, my arms crossed and my head down.

They asked me why I was there.

It looked like an impossible monster but I confessed everything until I felt completely emptied. I wanted to die and no price was too great. I "cleaned house"—my physical body even felt empty, as if it were only a shell. There's a song—"Bring your empty earthen vessels, cleansed through Jesus' precious blood, come ye needy one and all".

That was me. I came to God in a way that I had never done before. I was as clean and empty of self as I knew how. I felt a need to be filled, now that I was empty.

They prayed for me for a time. Then they took hold of both my wrists that were on the altar, and lifted my arms so that my face was lifted up. After a while, they asked, "How is it now, Bertha?"

I was just so full—I began weeping—and I said, "I'm full!" in a breathless voice.

God so surprised me and filled my shell with an overflowing love, joy, peace, contentment, and security that I never knew existed. It was a gift because all I was seeking for was an assurance that I was ready to meet God. I had wanted to die; I didn't want to live. I had only wanted to be able to ask God—please take my son and me to heaven.

But a whole new life opened up to me. Now I no longer wanted to die. I wanted to live. There seemed to be so much to live for. God in His graciousness began opening doors of service to me that made my life rich and fulfilling. I enjoyed my dear little son."

Bertha and her son Doug.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Mirror mirror on the wall, I don't like what I see, at all!

How do you feel about the way you look?

I have my days when I would rather not look in the mirror, but those days are less than what they used to be.

As I continue to share my mother's writings/stories in this blog, I see so many parallels with my own life. My mother had her own story about a mirror and the reflection she saw in it one day.

My story took place in Nashville, TN. I remember the day we were going to start recording the music for my album, "Inside Things" there in Nashville. We planned to start with the song, "Wonderfully Created". I had written this song thanks to a teenage girls' slumber party booking (yes - that was unusual) and our theme was from Psalm 139, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made".

We were planning to start the week of recording with that song. I got up early and had my devotions, meditating in the Psalm to prepare my heart for recording. This led to a challenging conversation sparked by the voice of God when he asked me to thank him, out loud, for making me so wonderfully, just like David did in that Psalm.

Our conversation went something like this:

God: "I want you to thank me for making you so wonderfully, just like David did here in this passage."

FD: Hesitation. "Do I have to do it out loud? Can't I just think it?"

God: "No, I want you to say it out loud."

FD: More hesitation. "But I don't want to."

God: "Why?"

FD: (Knowing how Adam and Eve must have felt when God asked them why they hid. He KNEW why! But he wanted to hear THEM say it). "I guess the truth is, if I say it out loud, I feel like I have to mean it and now that you ask me to do that, I realize I don't feel like I'm wonderfully made—no offense to your craftsmanship, but I don't!"

God: "Why don't you like how you're made?"

FD: "Well, I don't like my teeth. They are crooked and when my mother offered to have them corrected, I took it as an insult to my looks and it hurt me. I wish now I would have taken her up on her offer. When I get my pictures taken, I hate smiling with my teeth because I'm embarrassed by them. Not to mention the massive underbite I have and how it makes my jaw stick out."

God: "I know all of this about you. But you ARE wonderfully made. Do you think you could begin to thank me out loud for making you?"

FD:  (Knowing within my heart that God only asks things like this of us because he intends to help us and has more work he wants to do on the inside, I responded.) "I will certainly try...with Your help!"

God: "I'd be glad to help!"

From that moment on, I began doing just what he asked. I still have many days when I struggle, but he has begun to help me change how I think about myself.

Years later, you can see why reading the following story from my mother's life hits home with me!

From Bertha Heisey's story:

"One night that same spring, on April 1, 1947, myself, Paul and Dougie (my son) were in our car with my brother Chester, his wife Norma and their son, Charles, who was about Dougie's age. Paul was driving and we were almost home. I was sleeping with my head resting on Paul's shoulder and Dougie was on my lap (this was before child car seats, airbags, and seat belts). We were within sight of our destination, but Paul must have nodded off–and we hit a concrete bridge.

No one was killed, but our new car was greatly damaged and my face was changed forever. Earlier that same day, I had had an interchange with my mother. I was at my mother's house passing in front of the hall mirror—I looked in the mirror and said, within hearing of my mother, "I wish I looked different!"

My mother said, "Oh Bertha! You be careful what you wish for!" Well, the car accident that happened later the same day, left me with my front teeth missing and a jaw broken in 5 places and indeed, I did look different—my jaw was permanently rearranged. The injury was complicated and the healing of my jaw was a drawn-out-process, taking months to complete the surgeries and dental work. A special bridge plate with two new front teeth had to be specially made to fit my mouth, which I still wear.


But my mother never said a word to me again about what I had said when I looked in the mirror that day. And that's something I appreciated about my mother. She lived such a good example. She could have said when I came home from the hospital—"Now Bertha, see what happened!" But she never said another thing to me about it. All down through the years I have grown to appreciate her more and more."

Frances:

So back to my original question. How do you feel about yourself?
What are some beautiful traits that you could begin to focus on, instead of the ones you don't like?
Everyone has something beautiful about them! What do you adore about yourself?

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 
Psalm 139:14 NIV



Click on the video to hear the song "Wonderfully Created."





Friday, May 18, 2018

Jesus Became my Shepherd. (As told by Bertha Mae Sollenberger Crider Heisey)

I used to hear my mother tell stories of her life and I always heard them through the filter of being her daughter. Now, I read them through the lens of a middle-aged woman—and I absorb them as one woman talking to another woman about their lives.

As I make my way through my fifties I am starting to see how powerful it is to begin to look back over your life and connect the dots. I share more of her story with you, in remembrance of Mother's Day and a life that inspired so many other people, including me.

My mother, Bertha, was asked to tell her life-story for a series that featured various residents at Menno Haven, a retirement community in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania where she lived out the last decade of her life until she passed away. We are fortunate that someone asked this of her, otherwise, I'm not sure we'd have her stories in such detail.

Bertha tells her story at Menno Haven with the help of Aspen.
May 21, 2012

To prepare something for her to read to the other residents, my mother (with the assistance of my sister, Aspen) revisited memories and contemplated her rich life, the meanings and lessons she felt she learned. As they focused on a few of the key stories and settled on a theme, this is what they put together. (Re-edited by Aspen April of 2014).

Jesus Became my Shepherd

"I was born February 6, 1923, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and my parents were Avery Landis Sollenberger and Frances Wingert.

I grew up in Culbertson with my two brothers, Chester and Avery. Our family was very involved in the Air Hill Brethren in Christ Church. I remember one evening at a testimony meeting, I was about 5 or 6 years old and the women were all sitting together (this was back when women and men sat on separate sides) and I was curled up beside my mother, nestled to her side. Listening to all the testimonies, I began to feel sick in my stomach. I told my mother, "I feel sick!"  She must have had some sort of intuition about what was happening to me, because she whispered back: "Do you want to say something?" and I said, "Yes."

She had me stand up but I wasn't tall enough to be seen by the preacher, so she said I should stand up on the bench. Then the preacher saw me and asked if I wanted to testify. I said, "Yes, I want to love Jesus too!" and oh my...what a feeling I got when I said that! I plopped down on the seat beside my mother.
Bertha Mae Sollenberger (as a girl).

I still remember the satisfaction I had from obeying God, telling a group of people that I wanted to love Jesus too. Even though I was a young child, I believe something happened then and there that helped to lead me all my life.

Jesus became my shepherd.

This early experience of testifying set in motion a spiritual yearning and seeking that has lasted my whole life...I always felt like I wanted more of God—a deeper and richer experience.

At the height of my young married life when I seemed to have everything I could ever want, I did not feel the complete assurance that I was ready to meet God, and I remember praying: "Lord, I must know that I am your child, at any price." I just did not know what or how high that price was going to be. My prayer was answered and I do have that assurance for which I yearned.

I can see themes that have been woven into my life, and certainly an overarching theme would be this: No matter how difficult the experiences I have faced, (a car accident, a young husband's death, the death of two children, and sickness) God always prepared my heart just prior to the event, which helped to make the pain bearable.

I could only see those connections and the weaving of this theme in hindsight, but it always led me to a feeling of being cared for by God, and it helped me accept and have peace about the life-altering and traumatic happenings in my life.

By telling a few of the key stories in my life, I feel like that little girl, almost 90 years later, standing up on a bench and saying now: "I still want to love Jesus, and I have a lifetime of experience and stories about how He has taken care of me."

Frances:  One of my mother's favorite songs was the hymn, "God Will Take Care of You". I remember playing it for her on the piano because I knew she loved it. In elementary school, I even created a banner made out of burlap and yarn for her. As an adult woman, I'd get tired of dragging it around every time she had to move to another level of care in the retirement home. But now, as I go back and read her story, I see why this saying was so special to her and why she kept the banner. I keep that banner hanging in my office and I just can't throw it away.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Death of Paul Crider (as told by Bertha Mae Sollenberger Crider Heisey)

Paul and Bertha Crider - Married on April 22, 1944

I've been sharing parts of my mother's story on Facebook, leading up to Mother's Day. This story is just too precious to only post part of it. I've taken an excerpt from a little book my sister wrote (with my Mother) not long before her death. I'm so glad we have this story in writing. Thank you, Aspen (my sister) for capturing Mother's story!

In April of 1947, Paul and Bertha were in a car accident after Paul fell asleep at the wheel. My mother's front teeth were knocked out and her jaw was broken in 5 places. 

We pick up the story here...

"After that car accident in April, life seemed rather heavy and I had just said to Paul while getting ready for bed on a Sunday night early in July—we were talking back and forth about the car accident, and I said: "Well, honey, I feel that I can go through anything as long as I have you to go through it with me. If you were taken from me, I'd hibernate the rest of my life." Paul turned to me and said in surprise, "Honey, I'm disappointed. I wish your faith in God would be strong enough that you could accept whatever happens as God's will for your life. Look at my parents. No two people loved each other more than they, yet when my father died, Mother accepted it as God's will and went steadfastly on her way."
The next day, Monday, July 7, I was hanging up my laundry on the clothesline outside, and thinking just how happy I was..I did love my life. I had a lovely son, and I was happy being the wife of Paul Crider. And then my mother and a neighbor lady came knocking on my front door, both looking very grave. They told me that there had been an accident on the job where Paul was working—building a silo in New Oxford. He had fallen from a height of about 40 feet and he was seriously injured. They told me he was in a coma, in the Hanover Hospital, and if I wanted to see Paul alive, I should come quickly with them to the hospital. Well, I went, I did get to see him alive, but he never regained consciousness. He died four days later on July 11, 1947.

After Paul died, and I remembered the conversation that had taken place so close to his death; it felt like somehow God was in it—He had prepared my heart, gone before anad arranged that Paul would give me this message in the calm and quite of home. "Have faith in God, that no matter what happens, you will know it is God's will for your life." It was almost as though it was a parting note from Paul.

The other thing that helped me during that time was regarding the numbers. I realized all the series of the number 7s had signifiance to me. Seven is God's number, said to be the perfect number...Paul had his fatal fall on the 7th day of the 7th month of 1947. I so needed to make sense of all of this for myself and seeing the 7s seemed to help. I didn't fall apart in the same way I think I would have if I hadn't had Paul's parting message and the numbers' message to hold onto. My heart is deeply moved when I realize the graciousness and love of God that He had gone before and provided for something He knew I would greatly need.

To read more excerpts about her story, visit my Facebook Page here.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Cat's in the Bag!



In April, I spent a good bit of time on the road doing music and speaking at various events. Preparing to go away can be a daunting task in and of itself, but as a musician who has to take sound equipment, "stage" clothes and all your merchandise along, it feels even more daunting. Picture a music store on wheels.

Sometimes it's fun to go somewhere and not take ANYTHING with me—especially my phone! I feel so free.

Samie and Blue - my kittens!
But now that I have two adorable cats (though my husband calls them the demon twins—and they are very bad sometimes) life has become even more complicated when I pack. Or, maybe I just try to cram too many things into my day before I hit the road.

Things like....

Make food ahead of time and put it in the fridge for my husband.
Wash the kitchen floor.
Wash the clothes.
Balance the checkbooks.
Get the suitcase out from under the bed.
Chase the cats out of the suitcase.
Put clothes in the dryer.
Go to the library to get books for my husband to read while I'm away.
Clean out the fridge so that there are no science projects in there for my husband to gag over.
Go back to the suitcase and chase the cats out of it, again.
Take clothes out of the dryer and put them away.
Chase the cats out of the suitcase.
Start loading clothes in the suitcase.
Get the merchandise ready to pack up.
Load sound equipment in the van.
Wash more clothes.
Chase the cats who are now lying on top of my clothes, out of the suitcase.
Vacum cat hair off of my clothes and suitcase.
Go ahead and vacuum the house since the vacuum is now out of the closet.
Bake a pie. (What was it I'm supposed to be doing???)
Take a shower.
Wash hair.
Put on makeup.
Chase cats off the top of the suitcase so I can finish packing toiletries.
Close up the suitcase.
Set suitcase in the kitchen by the door so I don't forget it. (I have left without my suitcase!!)
Pack up exercise clothes (in a gym bag and hope the cats don't find THAT).
Chase cats away from the suitcase by the door.
Pull cats out of the gym bag.
Put the sneaker they pulled out of the gym bag back into the gym bag.
Finish packing the van.
Pull out of the driveway as the mournful cats watch you leave.
Begin wondering how to possibly take the cats with you next time.
Arrive at the venue and find more cat hair all over your black "stage" outfits.

Note to self: next time get black kittens?