Monday, December 3, 2012

My Friend Ula

Ula recently at church with our friend Xihao who we first got to know when he
came to this area as a university student from China- just another young person that Ula encouraged.
 This past week was a pretty emotional one for me. First my dear friend (who was like a grandma to me) went to be with the Lord. She was 98 so I suppose it was that time but it was hard to think about how much I would be missing her as she was still a big part of our lives. She came to church every Sunday (even though she couldn't hear very much) and we loved spending time with her there and then we would go visit her in her apartment where she always welcomed us with a big smile and enjoyed playing/visiting with the kids.

 A little over a day later we got the call that Ken's Grandmother from Nevada had gone home to be with the Lord as well. She was 95 years old and had a lived a full life and had spent the last few years in nursing homes and bad health so we were thankful that God took her home.

  With both of these women though it is hard to say goodbye right now it is very exciting to know that we can see them in heaven someday! They both lived faithful lives that impacted many people.

And now I want to tell you a little more about my friend Ula. This will not be the first time I have mentioned her here on my blog, her life impacted mine in many many ways. I have long said that it is my hope and prayer that when I am old that I live my life the way Ula lived hers.

Here are some of the ways she was an example to me:

Ula and Megan
  • She put her relationship with God as front and center in her life. She spent much time in prayer. Even in her last days when laying in the hospital bed (she had suffered from a heart attack, pneumonia -with lungs filled with fluid and then a stroke) we had a conversation on the importance of prayer and she was telling me how she liked to keep a prayer journal and she would write in it every day. She also found church attendance very important and once she was no longer able to drive she willingly got rides from others from church.
  • She studied and memorized God's word all the time. This woman was one of the greatest examples that I know of someone who studied to know God's word to the best of her ability. She read the Bible through twice a year (I am not sure how many years she did that but it was many and at the age of 98 I am thinking she has read through the Bible many, many times!) and she worked on memory verses daily. She rose very early in the morning to make sure that she had time to do those things. She had a Bible verse memorized from every book of the Bible plus many, many more that she found to be useful to her life. She didn't just memorize them and forget them either - she had a method for going over them regularly.
  • She encouraged others. Even at the age of 98 and with various health difficulties she always worked at encouraging others. When we would see her at church she would give a big smile and a hug and would often tell us what she appreciated about us. She would also encourage us to study God's word and memorize it. If she wasn't going to be seeing you (and sometimes even if she was) she would send many many letters to encourage - always including some scripture that she thought would encourage you too and for the little ones the letters were usually decorated with some stickers. Even when her hands got to shaky to write very legibly in the last years she would still write letters -she simply started typing them on her computer.
  • She loved young people. When I was a child (and she was already in her 70's - so not young) she loved having all of us church kids (maybe 15 or so at a time) over for camp outs. At those camp outs she would serve us Potato soup (with corn in it) and hip hugger bars as well as other treats. We would play baseball in the yard ( I think sometimes with a big plastic bat and a beach ball) with Ula playing right along with us kids and we would stay up late - Ula didn't mind - she stayed up late too. She also loved to create treasure hunts for us with all sorts of clues written out (often times involving bible verses) and had us work together in teams. She also liked to play games with us -Rummikub, Bible Trivia being some of the ones I remember playing the most.

    Another event the Ula hosted every year at her farm that was especially fun for young people was a Hay ride and hot dog roast. She invited everybody from church and whoever else she could think of and then she encouraged us to invite others as well. She would have hay put on the big hay wagon and it would be hooked up to the tractor (her son-in-law or some other man would usually do these chores) and then we would go on rides through the fields on her property. We loved riding and singing (and sometimes jumping off and trying to get back on again). We would also have fun eating hot dogs and marshmallows and all the other goodies that she and others would provide. We would also do things like play croquet and football and climb trees (Mara added that last one.)

    Another thing that she did many years with we young people was to have a pancake and sausage supper at church. She would buy the ingredients and then have all the young people dropped of where she would then direct us in making pancakes, frying sausage and also preparing a program (complete with much reading of poetry -which she loved) and then serving the adults when they came for supper. So many wonderful memories in that!

    Another prime example of her love for young people was the fact that she had foster children. She didn't have just a couple of them either - she hosted 142 foster children in her home. Some of them were very short term - just emergency situations where she had them overnight but some stayed over a year and a couple of them became her daughters for the rest of her life. (She also had 2 daughters by birth). 

    Examples of this trait could go on and on but I will just end with some quick mentions of how in her last years she still loved to reach out to my children. With the boys she loved to have them make faces for her (this is a tradition that they have had for years now and she still had them do it when we went to see her in the hospital) she would say "Give me a happy face!" and then "Now give me a mean face!" "Oh, that's not a very mean face, here's a mean face" and then she would demonstrate. Or she might ask for a sad, mad or glad face. Another thing that she did was to allow all the little kids to play with her walker (unlike many older people, basically nothing was off limits as far as Ula was concerned -she never seemed to worry about something getting broken or lost) - there was a seat on it so usually the youngest child would ride while the other children would push them around or often Ula would offer to give a young child a ride while she pushed.

Ula and some of the young men that she influenced.
  •  She was hospitable. Not only did she open her home to foster children and would she hold big parties but she was absolutely loved it when we would just drop by to visit. She would always figure out something for the kids to do and find cookies or candy for them to eat and she loved to visit. When she still lived out on the farm (before she moved to an apartment a couple of years ago) she would try to have homemade cookies or cookie dough on hand and she could whip up potato soup or sloppy joes or something else pretty fast if you were willing to stay for a meal. Things weren't fancy but they were certainly served with love! (And they did taste yummy too!) She also was quite willing to host overnight company when we would have church rallies or other times.
  • She was always trying to learn more. Not only did she love to learn the Bible but she loved to read in general. She loved history (and knew a ton - though it would help that she had lived through a bunch of it too!) and enjoy sharing that passion with others. She shared books with us regularly - loaning them too us and then giving us many as well especially in her later years.
  • She was generous.  It was rather rare to go to her place and not go away with something. When I started my wedding flower business she started saving and finding vases for me to use. When she still lived out at the farm she loved to share starts of plants (I have chives, lilac bushes and other things thanks to Ula) or apples or plums from her trees. She also loved to share Rhubarb from her patch. She would also find little odds and ends that she thought the kids might enjoy and they did. When I was a child we got a card from Ula at every birthday and many times it contained a 2 dollar bill or a couple of 1 dollar coins. When I was pretty small I would also get homemade underwear that was made all fancy with ribbon or lace.

Ula visiting at church.
  •  She liked gardening. She had planted all sorts of trees on her property with a lot of them being fruit trees. She also had a big rhubarb patch and lots of gorgeous flowers (Lupine, Lilacs, Peonies, Marigolds and Morning Glories being the ones I most associate with Ula) and when I was still a child she had a large vegetable garden. In later years she gave up the big garden but still grew pots of tomatoes and lettuce on her porch. We enjoyed talking about gardening together and I learned a lot from her. I also saw the rewards you reap later in life by planting fruit trees and other perennials.
Ula on her farm.
  •  She liked to sew. She was great at making quilts, panties and other things as well. She loved to share tips on quilt making and I enjoyed learning from her. She also gave me many books that she had used but thought I would now make better use of them.
Ula helping us make quilts for some babies.
  • She liked to bake and was experienced in the kitchen. There are many of us that have had fun baking (quite likely making her type of thin cinnamon rolls) with Ula. I have also been inspired when she had told me how she used to can around 500 quarts of garden produce each year. I have a long way to go before I achieve that sort of canning success!
  • She was very self disciplined. Rising early, working hard, memorizing verses, exercising and much more attest to how disciplined she was.
  • She took care of her health. She was very careful to eat right to the best of her knowledge and ability, she exercised every morning - even lifting weights up until very recently to make sure and keep her muscles strong. When she lived at the farm she had a self imposed exercise schedule that included many trips up and down her stairs. When she moved she no longer had the stairs so when she would come to church each Sunday she would enlist one of the young men to walk with her and she would go down to the basement and come back up just to keep in practice. When she gave that up a few months ago we realized that she was not feeling as strong as she used to. She always stayed just as active as she could.
  • She loved her country and did what she could to help it. She was always careful to vote and always careful to be an informed voter. Several of our last conversations included visiting about the election. When I was a child she helped to foster my interest in politics by inviting our family over to watch the election night returns as we did not have a TV in our home.

I guess I probably could go on and on but this is long and I need to go make supper but I wanted to share with you a little from the life of my friend Ula. She impacted my life in a very big (and good!) way and I hope she might encourage you as well.

This post is also just to celebrate how wonderful it is to have elderly people in your life - you can learn so much from them (though I think it might be pretty hard to find another Ula!) and hopefully you can bless them a little too.

I am linking this up to the Homestead Barn Hop because of how much Ula encouraged me in my attempts at homesteading and how much I learned from her in this area.

Join The Barn Hop!


Anonymous said...

Great Job, Abbi! Mom

Michelle said...

What a beautiful memoir to a woman who was obviously amazing. How wonderful that you got to share in her life. Let yourself grieve, as it is a normal process. I only hope that I live as long and have half the impact on others that she did.

Jackie said...

What a beautiful memorial to your friend. She sounds like an amazing woman and one that we should all strive to emulate. I am sure Heaven is rejoicing to have her there, but I know it will be hard not to have her here. Take care.

JoannaTopazT said...

I'm sorry for your recent losses. Ula sounds like a great lady, and a great reminder of all that we can learn from the elderly!

Anonymous said...

Dear Abbi,
So sorry to hear about about your recent loses. Ula sounded like an amazing person. I enjoyed reading about her in your blog over the years. Your words always remind me to appreciate all that I have, and to give make to those who have less.
Take care,

Abbi said...

Thank you all! I so appreciate your comments!


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