articulate - adjective
1. having parts connected by joints, as in "articulated"
2. made up of distinct words joined together in such a way as to convey meaning
3. able to express oneself clearly and distinctly
4. well formulated, clearly presented

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Serendipity: Visit with an Austrian Angel

You know those rare, unplanned, wonderful blessings that seem to drop spontaneously from heaven into your lap? They're the embodiment of the word "serendipity." I experienced one of those last Sunday.

Background: Three other ladies who write Christian fiction and I planned a get-together Sunday afternoon at the local mall. Some of us had only met online, others had never met at all. We thought it would be fun to become acquainted and share some great encouraging face time.

We had no idea.

There are so few people you feel an instant bond with. Even rarer is when you meet three other people at once and instantly bond. Even rarer? What happened next.

We had ordered lunches at the Subway counter, then gathered at the comfy couch area near the center of the food court and visited for about an hour when an elderly lady walked by, pausing near our location. She appeared to be searching for someone, so one of us asked if we could help her. She replied that she was trying to locate her daughter-in-law, who was supposed to meet her there. Although we proved to be of no help at all, we all introduced ourselves, and someone commented on her lovely German accent. And then Maria (NOT Maria von Trapp, although she teasingly tried to convince us that's who she was!) joined us, pulling up a shiny black vinyl chair and sharing with us her life story, sprinkled with humor, many gestures, and several freely-shared opinions on life in general.

Example: "The United States is the best country in the world. I can say this because I am an immigrant. If you do not believe me, leave the country. Visit others. Vhen you return, you vill kiss the ground. There is no country like America."

She told us of her naturalization process, of how she studied hard to pass the tests, learning to read and write in English. She hadn't known a word of it when she arrived in the country and had to take night classes to learn it. She spoke with better grammar than most natural-born citizens I know.  

She was born in Serbia, but moved to Austria early in her life. She was 13yo when "the monster Hitler" moved into Salzburg, and her voice thickened as she spoke of being hauled from the family house in the middle of the night, of atrocities she witnessed, of family members murdered. "They lined us up, then counted off. Eeenie, meenie, miney, mo, although that is not vhat they said." She pointed, pointed, pointed, then stopped. "Vhen they stopped, that person was dragged out and sent to a concentration camp. Ve never saw them again. Also the grandparents and young children. If they couldn't vork, they vere hauled avay and killed." 

She described the attack on the man who was first stripped naked, then tortured til he died. She told of the repeated raping of the 17yo village girl by the soldiers. But although the soldiers had an automatic 24-hour judgment-free period to cover their actions whenever they entered a village, not all soldiers were animals. The man appointed to guard Maria's family actually saved their lives, rescued Maria from the lewd attentions of his fellow soldiers, and stopped the attacks on the 17yo village girl.

We four ladies who composed her audience were already literally on the edges of our seats, elbows resting on our knees as we leaned forward to catch every word. But her next words caught us instead:

"The only thing that brought me through that terrible time vas God in heaven. I knew He vas vith me at all times. I came to America when I was 18 years old, and then I met Peter, the love of my life and the man who became my husband. Ve had a vonderful life together until he developed a brain tumor and died vhen I vas 52. I had thought that the time in Austria when the monster Hitler came through was going to be the hardest time of my life, but losing my husband vas much, much vorse. Ve had lived through such good times together.

"But do you know vhat I found? Although I have had many mountain peaks and valleys in my life, it was in  the valleys that I grew closest to God. He vas vith me the entire time. He grew me in the valleys. The valleys were what shaped me, not the mountain peaks."

We sat quietly, absorbing her words. Not one of us ladies has her amazing perspective on life, not one has endured the atrocities she has known. But each of us craves the faith and joy she exuded, that certainty of God's love and goodness in the valleys of our lives.

Shortly afterward, Maria's daughter-in-law found her and drove her away. But the four of us ladies knew beyond a doubt that God had dropped an unexpected treasure in our laps, a gold mine of wisdom and humor, of faith and love, in the shape of a talkative little 5-foot-tall dynamo who blessed us with her grace.

Thank you, Maria. I hope we meet again someday.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Musings: Treasures

Last Saturday night, I attended an amateur radio banquet with my husband, where the featured speaker presented the fascinating story of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. 

Am I the only person who has never heard of this amazing tidbit of our nation’s history? I’ve been teaching history for years, but this had escaped my notice. There is even a movie on the subject as well as several other publications.   I was amazed to learn the following:

  • During the first part of the twentieth century, Native American children were educated in US government schools in an effort to “Americanize” them. They were not allowed to speak their native tongue or participate in cultural traditions. At all.
  • When our military had difficulty inventing unbreakable codes during the First World War, they decided to use Native American languages instead, recruiting these men to develop code for them.
  • The Choctaws were the first Native Americans to work on code in World War I. Other tribes included Apache and Osage, as well as a few others.
  • The Navajo Code was developed for use in World War II, employing basic Navajo words – like their word for “whale,” for instance – for American military terms – like aircraft carrier. They also assigned words for letters, much like our phonetic alphabet of today using Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc., in order to facilitate the spelling of words not included in the code. 
  • Since the Navajo language was not written at that point, and because it was such a complex language in tonal qualities, the code was unbreakable.
  • Without the Navajo Code Talkers, we would not have won at Iwo Jima.

How interesting! But what grabbed my attention even more was the realization of how often we overlook the treasures right under our noses until we have dire need of them. Before the World Wars, Native American languages and cultures were demeaned, yet they held the key to our victory.

I wonder what treasures might be hiding right under my nose, what blessings God has put in my path that I haven’t even noticed, much less learned to cherish and employ?

How about you?

·         What insignificant treasures have you discovered that have changed your life?
·         Do you have a favorite little-known tidbit of national history?

I’d love to hear about them!

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