Posts Tagged 'Letitia Suk'

Ode to a (Lonely) Piano

The family piano from my childhood.

After years of lessons, I can’t really say that I know how to play piano. I’m not quite sure what happened making those connections between the notes and my hands.

My mom was big on self-improvement and decided taking piano lessons was a good cause in that direction. She and my dad purchased this used spinet piano in the late 1950’s and found a place for it in our living room in Quincy.

A piano teacher was employed, Mrs. Jenkins, who lived up the street. I dutifully walked up there every week and sat next to her on the bench as she opened a John Schaum beginner book with such hope. Mr. Jenkins was always watching TV preachers.

I think my mom paid something like $20-25 a month for the lessons. I felt somewhat bad not really getting the concept even though I practiced at home, usually under some duress. Soon, my brother was walking up the street to Mrs. Jenkins too.

By the time I got to high school, I quit going to Mrs. Jenkins and now took lessons at school. While Mrs. Jenkins didn’t do recitals, Sister Arthurn, my new teacher, did. “Ebb Tide” was a popular piece at the time, and I chose that for my recital. Somehow, I memorized it and pulled it off. My mom was so proud! She talked about it for years.

I officially ended my piano career sometime in high school and had no regrets, even though I still did wish I could actually play. I would say hi to the piano when I was visiting Quincy but no lost love.

On a random day in May of 1986, when I was very pregnant with our fourth child and not thinking at all about pianos, my mom called. Surprise!

“The piano is on it’s way to you.” She announced rather than asked. She decided she wanted the space back in the living room and hired two guys from Quincy to drive it the 300 miles to me in the back of their pick-up truck. (Not at all close to piano movers.) “You took lessons the longest so it belongs to you.” Really?

So we found space in our living room and there it sat. The kids enjoyed banging on it and every so often someone would visit and actually play it.

Three years later, I set my oldest on the same path, piano lessons from a local teacher. He seemed to feel about it the same way I had. I can’t remember how long those lasted but kids # 2 and 3 also took part in the grand tradition of learning to play the same piano.

Our youngest asked if she could skip piano and try something else and I readily agreed. The lid stayed closed unless someone came over to play and then it really rocked!

Meanwhile, the piano became an excellent place to display the photos of the month. I rotate the pictures based on the birthdays of that month and significant events that have taken place. Halloween and Christmas decorations look nice up there too.

Enter the grandchildren! The young ones always open it and pound away. The older ones have their own piano at home and really do know how to play. It’s fun to watch them go at it and try out the pedals but I’m really done now.

Like my mom, I now want the space back and am ready to pass on the piano. It is horribly out of tune and two keys stick. I tried to donate it to a foundation, but no one got back to me. I then offered it as fr*e to all the sites and so far, no one has shown any interest. We can’t bear to just throw it out. 

As I write this, I’m listening to piano music. Kind of ironic, but it is one of my favorite genres.

I’ve discovered my hands are better at words than notes but someone can bring this piano back to the life it was built for.

Hoping it brings as many stories to the next owners as this one has for us.

Would you like a piano?

Hope for the best,

Tish

PS I still have a few pages from my John Schaum beginner’s Christmas album 🙂

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Four

Arriving home from our honeymoon.

Senior year started for us in the fall of 1971. After the fun day at our friend, Janet’s, I was hopeful that Tom would begin to notice me other than a friend, but I had to wait and see.

My new housing was an off-campus apartment I shared with a friend from the dorm. Setting up housekeeping was so much fun! I saw Tom at the Intervarsity events, but we no longer had the shared dorm as another connecting point.

The first weekend after moving in, there was a knock at our door. Tom! He brought his bike into the neighborhood bike shop in the next block for a minor repair and decided to pop by. I tried to play it cool like it was no big deal but inside I was so excited!

Turns out, that bike needed a lot of repairs that fall. Or at least that was the stated reason for all the visits. By October, Tom was stopping by without the bike. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but decided not to ask and just enjoy the slow change in our friendship.

The last weekend in October, he went to an IV conference in Champaign. While he was gone, I decided to knit him a scarf as the weather was definitely changing. It seemed like somewhat a bold move on my part but I kept knitting away all weekend until it was done.

Tom arrived back Sunday evening and came to see me right away which I took as a good sign, so I presented him with the scarf. He looked so happy and to my complete surprise, gave me a nano second thank you kiss. Then I knew, it was on!  Celebrate your Kissaversary!

June 10, 1972

The rest of that year we spent most of our off-school time together. I was falling deeply in love but still we didn’t talk about our relationship’s future. Our parents met each other at our college graduation and connected well. But where was this heading?

I took off for Italy for the summer for a mission program and the letters flew back and forth between us. I still have them and am rereading them now.

All along I planned to relocate near Tom in the Chicago area and find a job when I came back from Italy. He was starting seminary and the summer separation was long enough. But a week before I returned, I had one of the most powerful God encounters of my life where I clearly heard to return to Quincy instead.

August 18, 1973

“But what about Tom?” I pleaded with God. “You will marry next summer” was the answer that came. “Well please tell him!” I begged.

The day I returned, Tom picked me up from O’Hare and whisked me off to a forest preserve to walk and talk. By the end of the day, we were engaged.

I did return to Quincy and he stayed near Chicago and we saw each other once a month until our wedding, August 18, 1970.

Books could and probably will be written about all the years since then!

Hope for the Best,

Tish

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50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Three

After four months of hanging out, Tom and I were still “just friends.” One January day, I noticed him enter the dining hall of the dorm where we both lived. This was a common occurrence, but this time wasn’t like all the others.

As I waved to him, I really noticed him and suddenly (really!) felt like I was falling in love. I also had a strong sense in that moment that we would marry. I was blown away and he was clueless. I didn’t know what to do with this but knew if I told him of my changing feelings, he would likely split. So, I said nothing (to him, my girlfriends knew all about it!)

In the ensuing months, our interactions were often both in and outside of the dorm, and we showed up at the same Intervarsity events. Tom considered me a “good friend” and once confided in me about a girl he had a crush on. I tried to be supportive but that was hard!

By the end of our junior year in college, 1971, we had known each other for about nine months and for about five of those, I was quite smitten with him. It was not reciprocal. Not that he had spurned my affections, he didn’t know about them.

Then came one of the most romantic gestures of my life! It was the last spring evening in our dorm. Everyone was packing up to go home for the summer, including me. A knock came to my door and of course there was nothing unusual about that.

When I yelled, “come in,” a friend presented me with a bouquet of field flowers in a crockery pot*. Lovely! Next, however, a pillowcase was slipped over my head and I was led away down the hall! I could hear some of my friends laughing and was definitely intrigued, “what was going on?” I was excited when I heard Tom’s voice 🙂

The little procession moved outside, and a car door was opened for me to climb in, pillowcase still on. Of course, it sounds frightening but wasn’t in the least as I trusted the friends I was with. The drive took about fifteen minutes, I had no idea where we were.

The car came to a stop and I was led out for short walk. The pillowcase was finally pulled off and the scene in front of me on the country road was the scene of a most beautiful sunset with an old-fashioned iron rail bridge nearby.

Tom must have been paying attention to my comments over the months about my love of both old iron rail bridges and beautiful sunsets because he had orchestrated the whole event.

I was so touched and hopeful than the turning of our friendship into something more was happening. Wouldn’t you? But not yet.

I returned to Denver in the next weeks to work and hang out with my friends. During the summer, we wrote letters back and forth (I still have his) but Tom’s to me were all about how to grow in faith, very epistle-like.

My feelings grew stronger through our absence. Right before school started, we met at a mutual friend’s home for a fun day. I couldn’t wait to see him again!

After that day, for the first time, it felt the air was shifting, maybe there was hope after all! To be continued….

 

Hope for the best,

Tish

*Still use the same crockery pot for dried flowers.

 

 

 

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part Two

After a life-changing summer in 1970 in Denver*, I returned to my campus to begin Junior year. I was new in my faith journey and wasn’t sure how to keep growing after I left Colorado. Before I left, I asked my new friends how to find other Jesus followers on Western Illinois’s campus as I didn’t know any. They told me to look up two campus groups called, Intervarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ. I had not heard of either one of them.

On my first day back on campus, I was hurriedly exiting an elevator in my new co-ed dorm. Such a rush that I literally ran into a girl carrying a poster, which got knocked down by the collision. I profusely apologized and picked up the poster for her. It was announcing an event for Intervarsity that Saturday night called an “Action Bash.” I was stunned.

Right away I explained to her, Becky, that I was planning to find Intervarsity! She invited me to come to the event then asked me if I knew Tom Suk. I didn’t. She told me he also lived in my dorm and that she would introduce me to him at the event.

So, with some excitement and trepidation, I went to the Action Bash event, September 18, 1970.

I clearly remember walking into the Lab School on campus where it was held and finding my new friend, Becky. She walked with me to the gym where she pointed out Tom who was playing basketball. His longish hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and he was wearing a white tee shirt and blue jeans.

Becky motioned him over and he stopped playing and walked over to meet me. We chatted a bit but not long. Later that evening, I decided to walk to the Student Union where all the campus groups were hosting activities that same night to meet new students. Tom and I left the IV event at the same time, but not by intention, and walked up together.

I don’t remember when I saw him again, probably in the dorm in the cafeteria. In the ensuing weeks, we became part of the same IV group and saw each other fairly often. No sparks yet. I wasn’t looking to fall in love, and he gave me no reason to think he was interested.

We did pair up to lead a Bible study together in the dorm for non-believers which required some extra connecting and found we worked together well.

After Christmas, things began to change….

Hope for the best,

Tish

*See 50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part One.

50 Year Legacy – How I Met My Husband: Part One

Tom and Tish in college.

50 years-ago I started following Jesus (as told in July) and two months later on September 18, 1970, I met the man I would marry. Another amazing story! Watch for that to unfold this month on Thursdays.

For some time, I thought our initial introduction between two college students, was a simple meet and greet (more on that next week.) Then I found out there was a back story: Tom already knew who I was. In fact, we both lived in the same dorm the previous year.

Like the rest of the country, college culture was rapidly spinning in the late 1960’s and co-ed dorms were a new thing, at least for the Midwest. Considering that my all-female dorm freshman year had strict hours and no male visitors except for family, this was quite a jump!

My work-study job sophomore year was sorting mail in the new dorm, a perfect fit for me as I have a life-long devotion to writing and receiving letters. One of my co-workers in the mail room was George – a good friend of Tom’s from high school. But Tom, George and I were never at the same place at the same time for an introduction. Tom did his own inquiries, “who is that girl?”

Meanwhile, as part of my “experimental” lifestyle, I spent a few weekends each quarter in Chicago. On one of these Saturday nights, I wandered into a bookstore in Old Town after a performance of “Hair,” the outrageous musical of the time. Soon I was sitting on the floor of the store, intensely engaged in conversation with a guy who poured out that he had no reason to keep on living. He finally agreed not to harm himself.

The following week, I met with my psychology prof to talk about the need to set up an all-campus hotline for suicide prevention. He put me in charge of it! I don’t remember the details of how that got set up, but it did. One of my tasks was to spread small posters all over campus announcing the hotline, my name was on the posters. Tom noticed them.

He told me later that every time he saw a poster, and there were a lot, he said a prayer for me as he knew I was the girl from the mail room, George’s friend. When I asked him what he prayed, he said he had a sense that I was troubled too (got that right!) and without knowing any details, began to ask God to help me out.

We still never met, and I took off for Colorado that summer. I’m sure Tom’s prayers were part of the amazing story of what happened that summer! How I Became a Follower of Jesus: Part One

Next week I’ll pick up the story of what happened at the end of that summer.

Hope for the Best,

Tish

My Best Tip for a Happy Marriage*

1976

Before you got married did you have a “must-have-in-a-spouse” list?  How about a “this-is-what-I-expect-out-of-marriage” list? You might not have ever written it down but you knew what was on the list.

Although you might not have realized it right away, you probably didn’t get it ALL, right?

In a good marriage, most of the time your spouse/marriage will meet about 85-90% of your expectations of what you signed up for in a marriage, whatever was on your list. Take a minute to review your list, am I right?

10-15% of the time you might be frustrated or disappointed.

The choice is now yours:  You can give thanks for the 85-90%, celebrate and concentrate on that and be glad for what you’ve got OR you can focus on the 10-15% and feel deprived, depressed and whiny.

How happy you will be in your marriage depends on which perspective you choose.

Hope for the best,

Tish

* I am celebrating my 47th anniversary (August 18, 1973) and will be sharing a few popular marriage posts on Thursdays through August.

 

The (mostly) Universal Marriage Quirk*

Circa 1979

Turns out that the thing that most attracted you to your spouse in the first place is often the same thing that drives you the most crazy!

Let me show you a few examples….

Spontaneity is so fun when dating…making decisions in the moment for what’s next, ready anytime for a fun adventure.  You really like that quality in your spouse until it is time to PLAN something or to pin down details.

A “free spirit” personality can stand out in a crowd of conformists but becomes  frustrating when the wisest choice becomes to go with the flow.

Creativity is a delight to observe whether it is in the arts or crafts until mundane tasks get neglected too often.

Athleticism is a real draw unless sporting events fill your entire social schedule.

Careful with money can feel over-restrictive when you just want to have some fun.

Gorgeous can involve very high-maintenance or expensive services to preserve that beauty.

Sensitive can flip to moody.

Hard worker sometimes feels like someone’s always at the office.

Next time you feel an annoyance coming on, try to flip it back to the “other side.”  How does this thing that bugs you, serve you?  Can you look deeper and find the original trait and give thanks?

It helps to look at your own foibles through the lens of finding the strength on the other side too.  I haven’t yet identified just which of my attractive traits keeps my cabinet doors open all the time but I’m sure there is a connection!

Hope for the Best,

Tish

* I am celebrating my 47th anniversary (August 18, 1973) all year and will be sharing a few popular marriage posts on Thursdays through August.

Yellowstone, My Love.

Morning Glory Pool

Yellowstone WOWS. Sometime in my childhood, I beheld it’s wonders for the first time. My parents loved to throw us in the back seat of the family sedan and take off cross country all the way to California. Yellowstone, America’s oldest National Park,  was on the way. I remember sitting on the bench and waiting for Old Faithful to go off “one more time.”

Tom’s family did the same, drove to Yellowstone in their family station wagon. Driving across country was uncommon in the 50’s. If you spotted another Illinois license plate in a parking lot, it  was not unusual to stop and chat like long lost relatives. Maybe we ran into each other back in some parking lot in Wyoming!

So when we were planning our camping honeymoon in 1973, it was an easy destination to chose, let’s go big: Yellowstone! Instead of fine china and matching towels, we registered for camping gear for our wedding and were fully outfitted. We loaded our supplies into our borrowed-for-the-trip car and started driving West.

In these early weeks of our new lifetime bond, it was Morning Glory Pool, a Yellowstone treasure that called us over. One of us snapped a photo of our feet as close as we could get to the guard rail. All that was ahead of us in our decades together seemed to be symbolized by standing on the edge of that magnificent beauty.

The color is all faded out of this 1973 photo.

Fourteen years and four kids later, we headed back in 1987. This time we were driving in our own van to Seattle for Tom’s parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. Yellowstone was not exactly on the way but the draw was too strong to pass it by. Still tent-camping but more crowded now with the six of us packed in. The first night we arrived was the coldest recorded place in the US. Some of us slept in the van that night.

The older kids, 4, 6, & 7 were mesmerized by the geysers, hoped to see a bear, and were charmed, just like us, by the wild attractions the park offers. The baby remembers nothing 🙂 I still have the counts they kept of the animal sightings!   I’m sure we got to Morning Glory but no photo remains.

BTW We were in Wyoming on the 4th of July on that trip and since we missed out beloved Evanston’s hoopla, we decided to go to Evanston, WY (founded by the same John Evans) to celebrate and went to a rodeo!

Twenty-eight years after our 1987 visit, Tom and I, long empty-nesters now, returned to Yellowstone in 2015 for the third time in our marriage. Much had changed yet nothing had. The mystique was still there.”Old Faithful” still faithful but on a different schedule after the devastating fires of 1988.

No camping this time! We booked a condo in the town of Jackson nearby and spent a lovely evening dining at Jackson Lake Lodge just as we did in 1973. Our one big honeymoon splurge.

Before we left Yellowstone, we walked over to Morning Glory Pool and put our shoes on the edge of the boardwalk just as we had at the beginning. More behind us than ahead at this point but the view in front of us still so beautiful.

Hope for the best,

Tish

50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part Five

Circa 1970’s

I am celebrating a Golden Anniversary!  50 years ago this July I started following Jesus. Here’s the last installment of how it began in May of 1970…

Once I made the choice to follow Jesus, and not join someone else’s faith club, life shifted into something remarkably new.

I know the phrase “born again” sometimes has a lot of baggage to it. Jesus, actually, is the source of the expression in his conversation with the Pharisee who came to him at night. “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3.) We can only coast so long on someone else’s faith: our parents, our church or youth group, our culture. It can be comforting to hang out around faith, but until it’s truly ours, it stays on the fringes of our lives.

Memories of the rest of that summer are somewhat blurred but I know it was a steady rhythm of getting to know Jesus through spending time with him, talking with him, church events, the book study, and hanging out with my friends. I had much to learn and they were glad to offer what they knew.

One of the favorite things of that summer was going to Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver to engage in conversation about Jesus with the concert goers. Once the music started, we stayed in the parking lot and put the “Permanent Revolution” leaflets on the cars. I know that may seem peculiar now but it was a common practice at the time. That tract was so powerful for me that I was eager to share it. The strains of the music reached our location and we often stuck around until the end.

One particular night at Red Rocks, however, security shut us down and said no more leaflets. My group of friends was devastated and started praying for a way to be able to share something about Jesus that night.

As we were listening and praying, Paul Stookey (Paul of Peter, Paul, and Mary ) started sharing from the stage about his own relationship with Jesus.  It was more powerful than any car leafleting we could have done. After all these years, it remains a strong reminder of God’s faithfulness to provide a way.

In spite of all the amazing events, the summer had quite a surprise ending!

One afternoon in mid-August, I was riding in the front seat of a VW bug. My back was leaning against the passenger door  to better able converse with the rest of the friends in the back seat. My seat belt was not fastened and the car door was not properly closed. Fortunately, the car had just exited the highway.

The driver hit a speed bump on a side road. The door flew open and I flew out and bounced along the pavement a few times. I vividly remember the jarring of my body. An ambulance screamed up and I remember being loaded in and rushed to the nearest hospital.

My parents, back in Illinois, needed to give permission before any stitches could be put in as I was not yet 21. They were hosting a BBQ that night with some friends and were rather freaked out to get the call! The injuries required two sets of stitches on my face, lots of body bruising, but no broken bones. I did have a hard time moving and couldn’t see well due to the swelling. If you look closely at my face today, you can see the scars.

I left the hospital that night all bandaged and wrapped and looking quite a fright. I clearly remember how differently people on the streets regarded me because of my temporary disfigurement.

Due to the injuries, I was not able to stay and finish my classes so I made plans to return home. It was all so abrupt and  startling in every way. I packed up my room in the apartment, arranged to take in-completes for my classes, and said a sad goodbye to my new friends. Before I left, I asked about where to find other Jesus followers at college since I didn’t know any.  Intervarsity and Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) were mentioned but  I had not heard of either one.

My parents were glad to have me back. Before I went to Denver they were so worried about my lack of faith and now they were worried because I seemed to have too much! We went on a short  trip and I spent large amounts of time reading “Good News for Modern Man,” the current popular translation of the New Testament, by the pool each day. Just couldn’t get enough!

When I finally returned to my university,  the previous spring seemed like a lifetime ago. A few of my college friends had transferred to other universities. Some were still around campus and preferred the “old me” and others were curious about my story. One thing for sure, everyone recognized something had happened!

Someone else was about to come into my life that fall to forever change my course of direction….. Stay tuned!  I’ll tell that story in September.

Thank you for reading this five part story! Sometime in January of this year I felt the need to tell it like this. Some of my readers knew me then and others had no idea of the backstory of my faith journey.The fifty years since have been full of the ups and downs of life but hanging on to Jesus has been my lifeline. Would love to talk more if you’re interested!

Hope for the best,

Tish

 

 

 

50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part Three

I am celebrating a Golden Anniversary!  50 years ago this July I started following Jesus. Here’s how it began in May of 1970…

Within a stone’s throw of my apartment was the beautiful Evan’s Chapel right on campus. John Evans had founded Denver University and must have won the naming rights to the chapel.

I found out later that he also founded Northwestern University and the town I have lived in for over 40 years, Evanston, IL was named after him too. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I started strolling over to the chapel in the evenings. By this point, if I needed a label, I would have grabbed agnostic: a person who claims neither faith or disbelief in God. My first chapel visits were just to check it out. Pretty! Then I began to slip into a bench to sit and ponder. One evening I was alone in there, as usually was the case, and I got out of the bench and laid down in the aisle. In what might have been a scene from a movie, I pounded my fist on the floor and cried out, “God, if you are there, show yourself.”

One night he did.

I remember this evening like it happened yesterday. I exited the small chapel after one of my pleading prayers and was approached by a guy holding some kind of small pamphlets. He offered me one and I, ever polite, accepted. The title was,  “The Permanent Revolution” and the art featured a peace sign and a raised fist. I still have it. But then, I handed it back.

“No thank you. I’ve been involved in efforts towards political change and it failed.” That comment did not deter him. He responded easily with talk of a spiritual revolution of the heart. I rebutted that I had known religion and really, thank you but I’m not interested. The Kent State killings and the aftermath were the dead-end point of my search for meaning. All my idealism and “rosy colored glasses” approach to life felt snuffed out.

He countered that this revolution was about relationship with Jesus, not religion. I was unfamiliar with the distinction. I remembered Jesus from my childhood and quietly took the tract back. That was as far as I could go in this conversation.

“Do you have a Bible?” he asked me. Of course I didn’t. He kindly suggested I get a hold of one and read the Gospel of John. That was it. No names or numbers were exchanged. But God knew where I was and how to find me.

I walked away intrigued. Maybe one of the roommates would have a Bible. Turns out, Hazel did. I thumbed through it and found the gospel of John but didn’t read any of it yet. The next day I saw a notice on campus about an intro meeting about a new-to-me practice called TM which stood for Transcendental Meditation. Might as well check that out too. I remember nothing about that except that it didn’t fit me.

A couple days later, the three of us were in the apartment at the same time when the phone rang. Marilyn answered it and I eavesdropped on the conversation. I quickly got the gist that she was invited to an event that had something to do with the guy on campus whom I talked to outside of the chapel. She was trying to end the call with a “Thank you but I’m not interested.”

“Who are you talking to?” I mouthed. “Those people passing out the Jesus stuff” she whispered back. “I’ll talk to them” I responded and reached for the phone. I don’t think anyone was expecting that, including me! Although we had not exchanged names or numbers in the brief encounter by the chapel, Marilyn must’ve provided her contact info and this was a follow up call.

First God found me on campus, then he knew where I was living.

The invitation was to a book discussion the following night at a local church.  Without overthinking it, I said, “Sure, I’ll go” or something like that. Arrangements were made to pick me up on campus. I found myself somewhat mystified by the unfolding of these events but remember feeling no trepidation, only curiosity.

I wish I recalled who picked me up. Some details now, 50 years later, are blurry. We drove to a church in Littleton, CO and headed to the basement.  I do have a clear memory of a dynamic presenter and a heady theological discussion on the book which was “The God Who Is There” by Francis Schaefer. I was fairly lost in the discussion and remembered how poorly I did in my philosophy class at college.

Regardless of my level of engagement with the book discussion, I felt something from the people and what must have been the presence of God. Everyone was very kind and I felt no judgement. When someone invited me to come back to the church on Sunday for the service, I didn’t hesitate at all to say yes.

Honestly, I wasn’t thinking that much about theology or anything deep, I knew something was stirring inside me and wanted to see where that was going. Was I seeking God? I don’t know if I would have called it that but looking back, I can see that God was clearly seeking me.

One thing I knew for sure I didn’t want, one more bandwagon to climb on. (to be continued.)

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