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Mary's Blog on Life Lessons.

Remembering 2020-21 

The Years of  Covid 19 

(I'm writing this blog to remember what these past two years were like for my family.) 

My husband Paul and I took a trip to Branson, Missouri in the early part of March of 2020, not knowing that a virus from China had escaped and made its way to the United States. That  weekend, we got to see a wonderful play called Noah in the Sight and Sound Theater. It was the first showing for the season and also the last. The next day the theater was closed to keep people from gathering and spreading the Covid 19 virus.

Suddenly, the way we lived changed drastically. The government told us not to gather in large groups and to wear a mask whenever we went into an essential business. They basically encouraged everyone to stay home.  .Schools closed and children did virtual learning at home. 

Our family started ordering food online from our local Walmart and Kroger stores. I shopped with an app and went to the grocery parking lot marked off for online shoppers. I parked and called to let them know I was outside. Then wonderful masked employees brought out my purchases and put them in my trunk for me while I sat safe in the car. 

In 2020, many people who were told they were not essential businesses, like hair dressers and small boutiques, had to close their doors.  Mothers and fathers had to cut their own children's hair. Restaurants who offered buffet style eating closed and many never opened again. The bookings I had for Author Visits to ladies' meetings were suddenly cancelled. Clubs didn't meet and friends did not go visiting. Churches closed their doors and did their services on line. I felt 2020 was a very dark period in our history as a nation. Christians around the world were praying for God to intervene.

People panicked and hoarded hand sanitizer and of all things, toilet paper! Hoping to grow their own gardens in the summer, many were surprised to find they could not get basic canning supplies like jars, seals, and lids. Workers around the world were getting sick and products were not being produced or shipped.

Many families, including ours, were grieving the loss of a loved one because of Covid. We lost Uncles and Aunts who were in nursing homes. We lost friends from church, and in 2021, we lost a much loved cousin and brother-in-law because of Covid 19.

In 2020, people trusted President Trump to urge the FDA to quickly consent to vaccines that were being developed. and in November of 2020, the President and Vice President were two of the first people to receive a vaccine to slow the spread of Covid. They were brave men and  showed the world they were not afraid to get this vaccine. 

Everyone hoped that 2021 would be better and it was in some ways. Mask mandates were lifted and all businesses could now open if they could find qualified workers. Many schools and churches opened their doors. But because of new variants of the virus, more people have died from Covid. We still pray for God to rid our world of this virus, but if not, to keep our family safe. I pray for you and your family too. I pray that you know Jesus as your Savior. Then if Covid comes to your door, you will not be afraid. You will know that if you leave this world, you will be with Jesus in heaven and that is a beautiful promise from our Lord and King, Jesus, who always keeps His promises. Happy 2022!

A Father's Legacy

I am the second oldest child in my family. You can see me on the right in my dad’s arm. My older sister, Sherry, was in his other arm. We were 11 months apart. Dad was pretty pleased to have us two girls. Little did he know that 14 years after this picture was taken, he would have 6 daughters and 7 sons each about 11 months apart. What a family! What a challenge! What kind of legacy did he leave his 13 children?

A good father has a personal relationship with his Heavenly Father.

Dad went to church every Sunday growing up. When he graduated from High School, he went into the Navy. Dad said he became an alcoholic on his first drink in the Navy, which turned into his first drunk. Sailors were given free beer and cigarettes. That fueled his love for alcohol. Then the God of his youth had to take a backseat to the bottle.

After the war, Dad married our mother and loved her deeply, but he loved to drink more. He didn’t understand why his wife was always “nagging” him about his drinking. He had no idea that all of his problems were surfacing because he was drinking too much. By this time, he had nine children. He still went to church with Mom but wondered why God was not answering any of his prayers.

His brother-in-law had joined AA and convinced Dad to come to a meeting with him. Dad quit drinking but didn’t really think he had a problem with alcohol. He told himself that one drink wouldn’t hurt him, but when he took that one drink, six months later, he was worse off than before he quit.  Then on the night of his 38th birthday, he celebrated alone at a bar and ended up in jail for hitting a parked car. He broke his ribs and his pride. He knelt on the jail floor and cried out to God. “Please God, forgive me of my sins and help me to be the kind of husband and father you want me to be. Save me, God,” he prayed. And God saved him. He never took another drop of alcohol for the rest of his life.

We children knew our dad loved God. We knew he was changed by what had happened to him. Life was still hard for him, but he was trusting in God to stay sober and to turn his life around. His faith became one part of our legacy. One by one, each of us has given his or her life to Jesus.

The best thing a Dad can do for his children is to love their Mother.

Dad was attracted to our mother’s beauty and charm. He heard her sing to a crowd and was impressed by her talent. He asked her to dance with him and was stricken by her ability to follow his lead so easily. She was attracted to him too and three months after their first date, they were married.

Then came the babies and the problems, but our parents stayed married. Dad and Mom went to AA and Al-Anon meetings together and this strengthened their marriage. They started the first AA and Al-Anon group in their home town and began helping other alcoholics and their families. More babies came and Dad kept us children from disrespecting our mother. He was a disciplinarian and we knew we should not talk back to our mom.

Dad got home at 5 o’clock each evening and dinner was usually ready. When he came into the house, Dad would grab Mom and dance her around the room. His love for her was always visible. We knew our dad loved our mom. They kept their marriage vows and we children never wondered if they would end up in divorce. The genuine love of our father for our mother is part of our legacy.

A good father will teach by example; forgiving because he has been forgiven, accepting others because he has been accepted, and loving because he has been loved. 

Our dad expected us to work hard because he had to work hard every day. He wanted us to behave and to be kind to each other. We were never allowed to pull pranks on our siblings. We were not allowed to use bad language. Even though Dad might slip up and use words from his time in the navy, he wanted better for us. He didn’t want us to fall into the same mistakes he had made.

If we messed up at home or at school, we were punished. We knew that Dad did not hold our failings against us because he had failed so many times himself. “There but for the grace of God go I, ” he would say. He would also remind us that “This too shall pass,” if we were struggling with something, because he had struggled so hard to overcome his own problems.

Dad had learned in AA to make amends to those he had hurt. He expected us to make amends too. Dad helped all kinds of people in AA. He did not care what economic level or race they were. If you had the disease of Alcoholism, you were his brother and he would help you. He did not want us to judge a person by anything but his heart. Dad living out the Golden Rule is part of his legacy to us.

Dad and Mom left no inheritance of money to us children, but what they left is a legacy of faith and love toward God, love towards each other, and love towards each of us children. I feel very blessed to have grown up in a big family whose members still love each other even though we are now adults with families of our own. Thank you, God, for loving our Dad so that he could love us.

The biography of Don and Theresa Wenning, Sober by the Grace of God, written by  Mary T. Wilkinson, may be purchased on Amazon at this link:

A Mother's Legacy

May 9, 2020

The greatest mothers are the ones who care about the whole family.

My mother had 13 children in 15 years. She gave birth to 13 individual, unique, and talented children while helping her husband in his recovery from alcoholism. She was the hub of our home. Everyone shared their troubles and victories with Mom. Mom shared them with Dad. After we left home, if we wanted to know the health of a brother or sister, we asked Mom. She knew everything about every child, his or her spouse, and her grandchildren. She was also the keeper of the extended family information. If we wanted to know about Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, or cousins, we asked Mom. She loved them all and prayed for them and us every day.

The greatest mothers discipline, but also put their children into God’s hands.

I had a praying mother. She trusted Jesus with everything including us. She encouraged us to trust God with every problem and praise Him for every solution. She wanted each of her children to know Jesus like she did. She was an example of godliness once Jesus was her Savior. My mother was strict. She expected the best from all of us. She knew she was not perfect, but she was forgiven. She wanted her children to know that forgiveness too. It started with knowing God was the head of our home so if we disobeyed, we didn’t disobey Mom; we disobeyed God. Most of all, Mom wanted us to love God so we would be in heaven with her someday.

The greatest mothers make each child feel like they are her favorite.

Mom died of pancreatic cancer when she was only 63 years old. We fell apart. The hub of our life was gone. Our greatest cheerleader and confidant would never say another word to us in this world. She had prayed for us daily. God listened to her. In the days before she died, she would pull each child aside and give them some little trinket to remember her by. She would tell them how much she loved them and how proud she had been over their accomplishments. 

After the funeral, my youngest brother said, “I know you are all sad, but I am the saddest of all because I was her favorite.” We stared at him.

     “No, I was her favorite!” they each said one by one. I laughed. I always thought that I was her favorite. She had made all thirteen of us feel that we were her favorite. What a feat for a mother with such a big family!

The greatest mothers leave a legacy of faith.

What will happen to your children when you are gone? You will have nothing to fear for them if you have shared Jesus with your children. Then all of you will meet again in heaven. That is the legacy Mom left for us. She didn’t have money to leave us. She didn’t have properties to leave us. She had no earthly thing that was greater than the faith that she modeled and shared with us. Because of her example, I wanted to be that kind of Mom to my children. I look forward to seeing her when I leave this world. What legacy will you leave for your children?

When Peace is Missing

April 17, 2018

Here is an introduction into Mary’s newest book for adults, 

Antidote for Anxiety.

Isaiah 48:22 (NIV) “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”

As Christians, we understand that verse in Isaiah, having come from wicked lives ourselves before Jesus saved us. Our lives lacked peace and so much more. But now that we have come to Jesus, and have His Holy Spirit living inside of us, shouldn’t we always have that peace?

Romans 15:13 (NIV) “ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope 

by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

We should be living in perpetual peace with the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Yet, so often we are in a state of anxiety and fear. I wonder about that a lot because there are times in my walk with God when peace seems to be missing. I believe the promises of God, and He is not going back on His word. So what makes my peace evaporate into thin air at times? I have come to realize that I am the cause of my anxiety and loss of peace.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive 

way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

There are several reasons why peace is sometimes missing in my life. The first reason is that I sin and I feel guilty. How long do I need to stay in that spot agonizing over my sin? If I trust my Savior, I can go to Him as soon as I realize my mistake and ask His forgiveness. That is the best way to live, but my remorse makes me think I must suffer and be filled with anxiety for a long time. Remorse is part of repentance, but we don’t have to stay there. We thank God for his power to remove our guilt through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and believe God’s word is true. So whenever we sin, we need to seek God first and remember the truth of His word. That will restore our peace.

John 8:31-32 (NIV) To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, 

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you 

will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

The second reason that peace leaves me is when I don’t tell myself the truth, when I listen to the lies the devil whispers into my ears and make them mine. This is what I think: “I’m going to have a terrible day today. I’m alone and there is no one who really cares about me. I can’t do the tasks before me. I might as well quit now and get back into bed.”

If I listen to this destructive self-talk, I sink into anxiety and self-pity. There is no peace in that spot, so to bring back God’s peace, I have to tell myself the truth. “God cares about me and He will get me through this day. He will give me the strength to do everything that needs to be finished in this twenty-four hours, and He will protect and love me through it all.” Reading the truth from God’s word and then saying it to yourself is even better. I keep a list of verses that speak truth into my soul.

Luke 12:7 (NIV) Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Taking life one day at a time is really a good way to live. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow. Sometimes we take Him at His word on that, but we also need to remember that He doesn’t want us to worry about today either. If you find yourself feeling anxious and seeking peace, remember that tomorrow is not promised, and God loves you more than the sparrows who spend the whole day just trying to find something to eat. He cares about every part of you, even the hairs on your head, and He is going to love and protect you. What peace that thought can bring! The God of the universe loves and cares for me!

Psalms 22:3 (KJV) “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest 

the praises of Israel.”

What do you feel like when you are in the middle of a song service at church? When you are praising God, are you anxious or afraid? I hope your answer is “No, that is when I feel at peace.” There is a reason you feel at peace when you sing worship songs. It is because you are centered on praising your Heavenly Father and He inhabits those praises. He is there in the middle of your praise.

Philippians 4:7 (NIV) “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When you feel anxious, and peace seems far away, think of these four letters; STOP. S- Seek God first, T- Tell yourself the truth, O- One day at a time, and P- Praise God. Give Him thanks. If you do this, peace will not be missing any longer. Our God wants us to experience peace. Peace is a gift to His children.

A Better Plan

January 15, 2018

How does a small town girl, one of 13 children, grow up to do anything worth writing about? Well, let me tell you. It wasn’t my plan, and I didn’t do it alone. It’s not that I didn’t have plans. I did. I wanted to be a singer like my mother. She had studied opera at Indiana University for three years before becoming a wife and mother. The babies just kept coming and soon the opera part had been thrown out the window with the bath water. Still, she didn’t give up on singing. I think everyone in town had my mother, and her equally talented sister, Rita, to sing for their wedding or funeral. Besides that she taught all thirteen of us to sing and harmonize with her. We were one big musical family. So my first career plan was to be a singer, preferably on the Lawrence Welk show.

My second plan came about because my dad was a recovering alcoholic. My older sister, Sherry, and I had to babysit our siblings at least three nights a week so that Dad and Mom could go to AA and Al-Anon meetings to keep Dad sober and mom from going crazy. Sherry and I would get the kids bathed and in their pajamas. Then I would tell them a whopper of a story I made up. After I had their attention, I’d finish with a big finale. Putting them to bed with a story was fun. I started thinking maybe I could be a writer. I really loved working with children and dreamed I would be a children’s book author.

My last plan was to get married and have a home and children of my own. That one wasn’t going so well either. Sherry got all of the dates in High School. I never really had a boyfriend. My father wanted all six of us girls to eventually be married off and in homes of our own. He felt that being a wife and mother was God’s greatest calling for a woman, but since I was not dating, he told me I definitely needed a job when I graduated to support myself. I talked to my dad about my dreams; being a famous singer or an author, but he said I would never make any money in those two careers. I always wondered if I would have been dating someone at the time, if he might not have been ok with my aspirations. After all, I could sing and write and still be a wife and mother. I did pretty well in High School and my counselor told me I might want to consider being an elementary teacher. I had one of those “Aha!” moments when she said that, even though I had no idea how I’d be able to pay for college. 

I went to Ball State on work study, student loans, and a small scholarship. College was where I found Jesus. Dad hoped I would come home with a degree and a husband, which I did, but finding Jesus was the best decision of my life.  I taught 5th and 6th graders for 29 years. I read my students stories I had written to encourage them to write. I sang songs I’d made up to make them laugh or to help them learn a particular lesson. I became a mom and wrote songs and stories for my children. In the summers I sent my stories out to publishers. In the winter of the year, I counted all of my rejection letters. It seemed that none of my plans were quite working out like I wanted, except for being a mom. That was the absolute best. I wondered if I should keep writing stories and songs when they took so much time and effort. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God had plans for me too. He just had a timeline that was different from mine.

Several years ago, our church started a Praise Band and they wanted someone to sing who could do harmony. They chose me and I was thrilled. I am still thrilled every Sunday that I get to sing in the Praise Band. Then just when I was wondering when to retire from teaching, a publisher called me out of the blue and wanted to publish my first novel, Call Me Lizzy. If I could put that whole book down into one sentence, it would be this: Never quit believing that God answers prayer.

Maybe your plan is not going how you want it to go either. Ask God to show you what His plan is, and be ready to wait for His perfect timing. In the meantime, use those talents any way that you can. Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” So sing, write, dance, draw, whatever inspires you and trust that God has the better plan. He’ll show it to you when the time is right and you are ready for it.

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