How playing a church organ is like driving a Mack truck

There’s always a part of me that wants to be a truck driver.  I love the open road.  Put all the windows down, let my hair fly wild and have the radio full blast.  Driving! That feels like freedom to me.  I have a few Facebook trucker friends.  It is fascinating to read how many miles they’ve traveled, what kind of loads they are hauling, crazy happenings on the road, and interesting bits of news and weather from far-away cities that only a trucker could witness.

My brother has a few Mack trucks “just for fun”.  He uses them in his work as a dairy farm owner and hauls loads for others, yet he tells me they are mainly his hobby. He buys older models, fixes them up and paints them.

Fred and my son with one of the Mack trucks.  Photo credit:  Brenda Hoffman Photography

My brother and my son with one of the Mack trucks. Photo credit: Brenda Hoffman Photography

When I was a girl, it was it was a delight to ride with my Grandpa Balkema in his dump truck to deliver loads of gravel.  He also let me ride in the loader with him when he was loading up the truck.  I rode with my dad on the tractors, slowly going down row after row when he was working in the fields.  There was the day I rode with a friend in a semi truck to deliver flowers to Chicago and marvelled at the skill needed to drive in heavy traffic and back up into narrow spaces.  I rode with my brother in his Macks, just for fun.  Maybe it’s in my blood.  Several women in my family have been bus drivers, and also enjoy driving trucks or tractors. In relocating there have been opportunities to drive decent sized moving trucks–my favorite part of moving!!! Confession:, I’m a bit scared to drive them.  Not so much drive, as to back up or turn around.)  When I am driving a truck my theme song is “Give me forty acres and I’ll turn this rig around.”  And who doesn’t love a good ol’ trucker song!?  “On the Road again….”, “Roll on 18 Wheeler” or “Little Pink Mack.”

I took organ lessons on a wonderful pipe organ, and have played on several electronic organs.  My youngest sister is now taking organ lessons and we’ve been discussing the process of learning to play.  It occurred to me that playing a good pipe organ is like the feeling of driving a big rig.  Talk about POWER!  If you’ve ever sat in the driver’s seat of a big truck, or on the bench of a pipe organ and felt that deep low growl, you know what I mean.

These are the ways playing a pipe organ remind me of driving a Mack truck:

  • The impressive instrument panel.
  • You can put the pedal to the metal—but do so gradually for the best effect.
  • Smoke stacks or pipes – take your pick!
  • You make adjustments based on the load you are carrying or the number of people singing.
  • Often you are seated up and above everyone else.  Great views!
  • Both have horns that blast! (The organ stop is often labeled “trompette.”)
  • They are both majestic. It feels both humbling and exciting to sit on the bench or drivers seat.

Yours truly, playing a small church organ 18 years ago.

How about you?  Do you like to drive?  What’s the biggest vehicle you have ever driven? Have you ever played a pipe organ and know the feeling I’m talking about?

Sweet Freedom in America

 I have pondered what it cost for my great-grandparents to leave their homeland, the Netherlands,  in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s to come to the United States.  From my limited research, it appears most Dutch immigrants at that time came to America for economic opportunity,  freedom from high taxes, and to get relief from oppression of a state church.  My great-grandparents left everything familiar and comfortable, knowing  it was likely they would never see their loved ones and homeland again.  I believe they also left the Netherlands  with a sense of adventure,  hoping to make a better life for their children and future generations. The decision could not have been made lightly. They came here, struggled, learned the language, worked hard and made a good life.

I still walk around on the farm that my Frisian great-grandfather started, my grandfather continued, and my dad, uncles, brother, and cousins continue to farm.   I’ve seen their hard work, and their love for the land that they farm. I have watched that farm grow and prosper over years of hard labor and long hours. I have witnessed my own parents and grandparents progress from struggling to prospering in the freedom they have had to work the land, raise the cows, and sell the milk.

On my mom’s side, I have heard  stories about the beloved great grandmother who was sixteen when she immigrated from Groningen along with her two sisters and mother, a relatively young widow. All four women were mourning the loss of their brother and son, Joe.  Joe was the one who encouraged all of them to come to America, but he died of pneumonia two weeks before boarding the boat.    My great-grandmother married a man who had also immigrated from Groningen and they raised ten children.  I have known every one of these great-aunts and great-uncles, seen them prosper after  hearing about the lean years of their childhood, and have heard many of their stories over the years. I was amazed several months ago to hear my great-grandmother’s voice for the first time on a recording by her brother-in-law that we didn’t know existed.  She was singing a hymn in Dutch.

These stories are just one of the reasons that freedom is so precious to me.  I hope for my own children and grandchildren to enjoy the freedom that my great-grandparents were seeking when they came to the United States.  I want  to remember the courage these immigrants had, why they came, and what they were seeking.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

-Katharine Lee Bates

Oskaloosa, Iowa

When I was  young, Grandma would tell me stories about growing up in the 1930’s on a farm in the small town of Oskaloosa, Iowa.  I was included in a few of the 450-mile trips with Grandma to visit her mother and other relatives in nearby Pella.  At least once, I saw the actual farm and cornfields where Grandma was raised. Since becoming an adult, I haven’t visited Oskaloosa, but have been amazed at all the little connections I have had with that town over the years.

At age 18 and newly graduated from high school, I left home for the first time and went to live and work at a Christian campground for the summer, eighty miles from home. I was assigned to a trailer with two other young women.  One of them was from Oskaloosa.  My Grandma came to visit one day,  met my roommate, and they enjoyed a conversation about people and places they knew in common.

When I married my first husband five years later and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, I randomly stopped at a Supercuts in a strip shopping center in Woodstock.  Talking to the hair stylist, it became apparent that we were both “Yankees”. When I asked her where she was from, she replied,

“You’ve probably never heard of it.  I’m from Oskaloosa, Iowa.”

A few years later, I found myself living still further away in Shreveport Louisiana.  We purchased a home and it was quite a change to live in the heat of Louisiana after growing up in the Midwest.  One day I decided to take a little walk and stopped on a corner a few hundred feet away from my house to cross the street.  There was a bright red fire hydrant, and I glanced at it. The words Oskaloosa, Iowa were imprinted  in metal on fire hydrant.   When Grandma visited me in Louisiana, I was able to show her the fire hydrant from her home town.

Years later, my grandmother passed away.  Having moved once again, ninety miles from where I grew up, I took my children to visit our  local  library branch for the first time.  While the children were listening to  story time, I was browsing.  The very first book I picked up was a large children’s picture book which caught my eye.  I opened up to a random page near the middle, and the first line was “We moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa.”   (The title of the book was  The Huckabuck Family)
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Finally, this fall I attended my first writer’s conference.  I scheduled a short visit with an editor, and we discussed an idea for a book proposal.  Can you guess where she had once lived?

When Grandma told me her Oskaloosa stories, I think she was a little bit homesick. I think she missed her mother. Every time I have had an Oskaloosa connection, it came at a time when I was feeling a little homesick too.  I don’t think these things are coincidence.  I think they are little gifts, blessings from God that have brought me comfort when I was far away from home and missing loved ones.  They remind me of my grandma’s faith that brought her through many years of longing for home.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… (Ephesians 2:19 ESV)

Writers Write

Welcome to Blue and Green Together. 

Why blue and green together?  Because perfectly matched hues of sapphire and emerald are my favorite colors when they are put together. 

My sole purpose and intent in writing this blog is to write.  As an author once told me (which someone told him) “Writers Write”.