Josephine and Henry

“So Grandma,” I said one day as she was showing me how to make her favorite lemon pie (complete with lard pie crust), “How is it that you met Grandpa, since you grew up in Iowa?”

Grandma blushed and smiled, thinking of the day she met Henry Balkema.

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My Grandpa.  To me, he was a legend in his own time. Henry Balkema was strong as an ox with twinkling, crinkled eyes and a jolly laugh who grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He was the son of Dutch immigrants and the third born of ten children.  He worked for his dad, starting out as a pooper scooper for the horses at age five.  Later on, he drove trucks to haul celery and flowers from Kalamazoo to Chicago.

Grandpa loved horses, and if he had lived in the west, I’m certain he would have been a cowboy. I’ve been told that as a young man he rode two horses bareback through Upjohn Park one day.  However, the day we were making  pie, he was  hauling gravel in the dump truck from his gravel pit.

“When I was 17,” Grandma said, “Mom decided I should  visit my dad and siblings in Michigan.  It was quite a trip for me.  I had never been so far away from home alone.  I took the train from Iowa, through Chicago and then up to Kalamazoo. Other than the visit from my dad, Anne and John, when I was thirteen, I had never seen them. ”

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Josephine with her parents, Dick and Jennie VanSant in 1940.

“Weren’t you nervous?” I asked.

“Oh yes, I sure was, but my brother John picked me up at the train.  You know, your Uncle John?”

I nodded. Yes, I knew great Uncle John VanDyk. He lived down the road from us a mile or two.

“John had a good sense of humor.  He picked me up from the train station and I quickly felt at ease with him.  On the way to my dad’s house, he stopped at the gas station. I didn’t know it at the time, but your Grandpa was also at the gas station.  That was the first time Henry saw me.  He didn’t introduce himself, but told me later he was instantly smitten.”  Grandma smiled and wiped her hands on her blue and white checkered apron.   “Boy, was he smitten.”

“So when did you meet him?” I asked. Grandma put that pie crust together so quickly, I pretty much missed what she did. Maybe I would catch it next time.

“The next day, John drove me around Kalamazoo for a tour. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had often told the Balkemas he had a  pretty blonde-haired sister in Iowa. My dad lived on Walter street, and the Balkema family was their neighbor around the corner a couple of blocks from them on Vine Street.   They were good friends, and John worked for them too.”

Grandma put the pie crust in the oven and started separating eggs for the pie as she continued her story.

“John and I walked into Balkema’s house and he started to introduce me to some of the girls.  At that moment, your Grandpa came down the steps, and you’ll never guess what he did next!”

Grandma took out her glass lemon squeezer and went to work getting juice out of the lemon, leaving me in suspense a few moments.  She looked up at me with laughing eyes, knowing I was waiting impatiently.

“He came straight down the steps,  gave me a hug and kiss and said ‘Josephine, I’m going to marry you!’

“What?” I said, shocked.  “What did you say to him?”

“I don’t think I said anything,” she shook her head,  “I really  had no choice in the matter.”

That was the beginning of their courtship.

Grandma started up the stove to cook the lemon filling. “Our first date was the Root Beer Stand.  You know the one on Cork Street? ”

I nodded.  I had been there several times with Grandpa and Grandma.

“When I went back home to Iowa, Henry started writing me big letters.  I found out later he showed all the lettters to his mother first, and they were  pretty much alike.”

“What did they say, Grandma?”  I watched as she whisked the filling on the stove. “Well, that is, if you don’t mind telling me?”

“You know, Grandpa only went to second grade, and he didn’t write very well.  Most of his letters wrote the same scrawling lines over and over;”  Grandma paused from stirring and smiled to think of it.  They said, ‘I love you!  I love you! I  love you!'”

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Josephine’s Lemon Pie Recipe

2 egg yolks (Use the whites for meringue)

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 T. butter

1 T. cornstarch (heaping)

Juice and rind of one lemon.

Cook together till thickened.  Pour into baked pie crust.  Use egg whites to make meringue.  Cool in refrigerator.

*Note to those of you who arrived from following my weight loss journey:  Of course I won’t make or eat this recipe these days.  I can’t have the sugar.  But I posted it fo family and  those who might like to have it.   It’s straight from Grandma’s recipe book.

As always, your comments are welcomed and appreciated.   If you know remember additional details or suggestions about these stories, I would love to hear them.

More Josephine Stories

Josephine’s Birth

School Days 

The Surprise Visit

Birth Family of Josephine (Pictures and Documents)

The Faith of Eda Stek (a story about Josephine’s aunt)

I married a Chicago Cubs fan

The past couple of weeks I’ve been blowing up my Facebook personal page with Chicago Cubs status updates. It was a thrill this year when they won the wild card against the Pirates, followed by a successful division series against the Cardinals.  Then there was the crushing defeat last night when the Mets swept them in the NLCS.

Truthfully, I have never been a sports person.  About 25 years ago there were sparks of enthusiasm for the high school basketball team, but the highlight was hanging out with friends on the bleachers.  It was all about socializing.  When Dad and the brothers watched their Detroit Tigers, you would have heard me complaining, because I preferred to watch my beloved Little House on the Prairie.

Years later, I met my Dean man.   He turned out to be a “sports guy”.  He enjoys watching  football and he loved playing church softball, but above all, he is a baseball guy.  And not just any baseball guy.  He is a Chicago Cubs fan.

gocubs

Dean grew up in suburban Chicago in the late 70’s.  His family had one small black and white television, complete with tin foil  antenna.  This tv could receive only one channel:  Chicago’s famous WGN.   Are you seeing the connection?  Dean, who is kind of shy, quiet, and was the only boy in the family with two sisters, tunes into the Chicago Cubs. Being a future math teacher, he started tracking  players and stats, even creating his very own game–a sort of baseball solitaire, if you will.   He was hooked. For life.

It’s no surprise that his favorite color is Cubbie blue.  When he asked me to marry him, there was one condition:  I had to attend a game at his beloved Wrigley Field first.

Karen's first Cub game

 

Since he required me to attend a Cub game, I told this city-boy that if he wanted to marry me, he had to milk a cow at my dad’s dairy farm.

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(I still consider it cheating, because he did not actually touch a cow’s udder, but merely hooked up a milker.)  I digress.

It was during our engagement that I made a decision:  This non-sports person, would become a Chicago Cubs fan too.  Of course, I was in love with the man.  But I also knew from experience that things you adore about the other person when you are dating, can easily become agitations in the future.   Since Dean loved to spend some of his free time watching 2-3 hour long baseball games, I decided I would not kick against the goads.  I would become a Cubs fan too.

We walked into our wedding reception with “Go Cubs Go” playing in the background.

Go Cubs Go!

Naturally, our first child was born on opening day.  We watched the first game of the season in my hospital room, and while you can’t see it in this picture, our son was already wearing his Chicago Cubs onesie with matching booties.

Go Cubs Go

 

We have indoctrinated our children to become Cub fans.  Normally super strict on bed times, we allowed them  to stay up late and watch play-off games the past couple of weeks.

Go Cubs!

In summary, here are some major perks to being married to a Cubs fan:

  • I can buy pretty much anything Cub themed, and my normally frugal husband doesn’t object.
  • It is a wonderful way to spend an evening.  You cannot imagine how much crocheting I can accomplish while spending time with my husband and watching the Cubs.
  • During the off season we keep track of the news, draft and trade information, so there is always good conversation.
  • We dream about someday traveling to watch the Cubs play in several ball parks across the country.
  • If Dean  is loyal to the Cubs through all their ups and some terrible downs, I have no doubt he will always be loyal to me.

Go Cubs Go!

 

How about you?  Have you become a sports fan via marriage?   Would love to hear your comments below.

Why I’m a Big Fan of Opposite-Sex, Christian, Monogamous Marriage

I know that my husband has never slept with another woman.  I was his first and only sexual partner and sex between us began on the day of our wedding.  He even went so far as to reserve our first kiss for marriage. The fact that my husband reserved the most intimate, passionate part of his being for me, provides a sense of trust and comfort for me that he will continue to do so.  He showed respect for me while we were dating, and he continues to respect and cherish me.

First Kiss!  Pure Bliss!

First Kiss! Pure Bliss!

Sacrificial

Christian marriage is understood to be a sacrifice, based on the sacrifice that Jesus made for his bride,the church.¹   I admire the tradition of Orthodox Christian wedding ceremonies when the man and woman wear martyr crowns as a symbol of the self-sacrifice required in marriage.  It is simply putting your spouse above your own needs/desires/interests.

My husband would probably enjoy using all of his spare time to play golf, softball or bowling.  Instead he chooses to spend his time (when not working) with his family.  We certainly take breaks and pursue individual interests, but with the view that it is a time for refreshment, and beneficial to the family as a whole.

Community

Another blessing of being in a Christian marriage means that we live in Christian community.  We worship in our local church as a family. Our pastor encourages Christian marriage and family life. We have fellowship with other believers in all stages of life, single and married.  There are always friends who we can talk to and share struggles with when we are having a difficult time.

Health

There are many health benefits in traditional marriage. My husband has been a tremendous support to me as I have gone through miscarriage,  weight struggles, and grief from losing loved ones. I have supported him as well “in sickness and in health”, through unemployment, job changes and the many difficulties of life.

Fruitfulness

God told the original opposite-sex couple, Adam & Eve, to “Be fruitful and multiply.”²  One obvious way that the marriage is fruitful is when children are born, fostered and/or adopted into the home. This doesn’t mean that having children is the only way to be fruitful.  Christian marriage provides unique avenues for fruitful service and living that serves God and others in the home, church and community.

Statistically, traditional marriage is the most stable environment for children.  Scripture itself promises blessings when we follow God’s instructions for marriage and family life.³

My grandparents, Fred & Ada Vlietstra celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

My grandparents, Fred & Ada Vlietstra celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

I am a grateful recipient of these blessings:

  • My grandparents on both sides were faithful, committed Christian spouses who celebrated over fifty years of marriage.
  • My own parents have been happily married and faithful to one another for over forty-five years.
  • None of my aunts & uncles have divorced. The ones who are married remain with their original spouses.
  • Most of my cousins are also in Christian marriages with very few divorces among them. (I am one of the few who is divorced.  I wrote about that here.)

More posts about my family history here.

No Shame

There is no shame in maintaining an opposite-sex, Christian, monogamous marriage.  I feel shame and regret about many things in my life.  I have struggled with temptations,difficulties, short-comings and sins.  I believe that God not only forgives me, but uses even my sins to draw me closer to Himself.

All that being said, sexual abstinence apart from marriage is  a specific area where I don’t have regrets.  I credit my parent’s teaching in this area. Saying  a firm “no” to sexual temptation (as a teenager, single, dating, engaged and divorced woman) has produced fruitfulness and blessing and joy throughout my life.   Note: I am only speaking from my own experience.  I am not condemning others. I  never claim to be 100% perfect in this area or any other. My favorite book on this subject is Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot.

Deeply Fulfilling

Because of all these reasons, I heartily recommend Christian, opposite-sex, monogamous marriage.  It is deeply fulfilling to have a passionate lover and friend so opposite from myself.  These differences add conflict (yes, it’s hard…very difficult at times!), but there is the opportunity over time to  learn skills for communication and ultimately, a stronger marriage. In my own experience, this type of marriage  brings tremendous comfort, security, and true romance. Couples that I know personally in these types of marriages have a peace, joy and contentment in the long term that I do not see often in society at large.

It takes a man and woman, both living for God and for one another for it to happen.  It’s crucial to marry an opposite-sex spouse who shares your faith and values.  In that, I am amazingly blessed and I would encourage anyone who desires this type of marriage to pray for that blessing and  pursue it with all of their heart.  If you know my story, you know it did not simply happen for me in the timing and way that I hoped.  But God’s timing is always perfect.

Russian style wedding crowns, 19th century

Russian style wedding crowns, 19th century “Ventsy brachnye” by Shakko – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

¹Ephesians 5:23-29

²Genesis 1:28

³Deuteronomy 4:39-40

Your comments are welcome and appreciated

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