Monday, February 22, 2010

Mansion Over the Hilltop

by Anita Mae Draper


As soon as I saw this theme, I thought of sitting with my Finnish grandmother and singing Mansion Over the Hilltop.

My grandparents emigrated from Finland to Northern Ontario in 1930. We were raised to call them Mum-ma and Pup-pa which means old woman and old man in Finn. To me, they were unique because they never bathed. Instead, once a week, they gathered towels, soap and clean underwear and walked down the railroad tracks to visit the neighbor’s sauna.

Mumma knew Jesus. She’d found Him as a young girl when missionaries went to their small village. In her memoirs on my cousin’s website, Mumma said, ‘when I was twelve years old, there were Mission girls (ladies) in my village. I loved to go to their meetings. There are all kind of obstacles, when I didn't know what to do, I prayed to God to forgive me all my sins, and He helped me all these years. I gave God my life, and wanted to please Him in every way. I became a Christian, born-again Christian.

Mumma once told me she’d go home after the meetings and her family would laugh at her. She was the only one in her family to believe in Jesus but she knew in her heart He was real and she wouldn’t let anyone talk her out of her belief. This is my heritage. Faith in the face of unbelief.

I remember visiting Mumma when I was about 8 and she took me to worship with her. Since there wasn’t an evangelical church around, the service was held in the living room of a believer in town. I have this image of myself sitting beside Mumma, hymnbook in hand, singing Mansion Over the Hilltop. From the first time I heard it, it called to me. Maybe it was because the farm still didn’t have electricity. We used oil lamps for light and a woodstove for cooking and heat. Cold water came from the well and had to be heated which meant we fed the woodstove all day even during the dog days of summer. Yes, that meant there wasn’t any indoor plumbing. Chamber pots at night if you really needed to go and an outhouse with a diamond window in the door for the daylight hours.

Mumma was always humming and singing hymns whether she was at the farm, in town or at our place 6 hrs to the west.

When I was 12 yrs old, I had the privilege of spending the whole summer at Mumma’s farm. Of all the times of my childhood, this one stands out as magical. The freedom of the farm, learning to drive Puppa’s old Cockshutt tractor, reading the afternoon away. And spending time with Mumma. I remember sitting in her sunny kitchen while flies buzzed against the window and danced against the fly tape hanging in the corner. Embers snapped in the woodstove just feet away. Beside the stove was the door to the lean-to where we washed our faces and hands and Mumma did the laundry. We always laughed because the room was sinking and you had to step down into it, leaving that back corner of the kitchen stove without support. Scary when I think about it now, but nothing unusual back then.

Mumma would sit in her kitchen chair, ankles crossed and swinging her legs, smiling. She had this little girl look to her where she’d duck her head as if shy and her shoulders would shake. ‘He he he,’ would spill out of her. Not a giggle and not a laugh but something unique in between. And then she’d say in her heavy Finn accent, “Un-nita, you know Yea-sous loves you.”

I’d smile and nod because yes, I did know He loved me.

And there in that little farmhouse without electricity or plumbing, with the floors sinking and the walls leaning, she’d sing about a mansion on a hilltop where the streets were paved with gold.

Mansion Over The Hilltop
(~1949 Words & music by Ira Stanphill)
I'm satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that's silver lined

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Tho often tempted tormented and tested
And like the prophet, my pillow a stone;
And tho' I find here, no permanent dwelling,
I know He'll give me a mansion my own.

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Don't think me poor or deserted or lonely,
I'm not discouraged, I'm heaven bound;
I'm just a pilgrim in search of a city,
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.

I've got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we'll never grow old

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I found this YouTube video of Mansion Over the Hilltop done in a variation of American Sign Languge (ASL) called Pidgin Signed English (PSE) with Elvis Presley doing the singing. It's released by hutt5 who have a whole bunch of signed hymns on YouTube.




I accepted Christ as my own personal Savior that same summer.  Mumma is gone now but her legacy of faith lives on in my own children.

Do you have a legacy you'd like to share?

25 comments:

  1. What a treasure chest of memories and images, Anita. Thanks for sharing a little of what's in your heart.

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  2. Lovely, Anita. And my heart did a little jump when I read the title of your post! That song was written by the uncle of one of my very best friends in high school!

    Anything by Bill Gather takes me back to my grandparents' house and their love for Jesus. I know that much of what has been good in my family through the generations has been because of my grandparents' faithfulness and prayers.

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  3. Wow, Anita, what great experiences for a historical writer. I've been to Finland, by the way, and they sure do love their saunas. I didn't end up trying them because we were only there for a few days on my way to Paris and most of the groups we were with were men, but my husband is a big fan.

    The Finnish were pleasant and relaxed people. Everyone has crazy hair up to 40 and 50 year olds. I wanted to streak mine pink :)

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  4. Hi Anita,
    I love the pictures and the video. What a neat history. I grew up with my extended family and mom and brother. They were the Swedish side of the family. In grade school I was close to a Finnish family with the last name of Lippo.

    I don't think I'd like being referred to as the "old woman' though.:)

    My grandfather worked as a detective for the railroad for awhile. No wonder I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan.

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  5. I love your grandmother's view of eternity. The song sums up a perspective we don't see often anymore. This life is hard but god has a better place for us.

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  6. D'Ann, I was actually looking for a Gaither YouTube version but couldn't find one. And then I saw this one and just felt it was right since my daughter, Jessica, taught herself ASL from a library book when she was 14 yrs old just in case she ever ran into someone who needed to communicate.

    It's so cool that you're familiar with the songwriter. I started out writing the post about the story of Ira Stamphill and how he came to write the song and I was just going to mention Mumma in passing. But the more I wrote, the more I realized I didn't need Ira's version when I had a real one already.

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  7. You're right, Anita, that the story is not about the song as much as about an abiding faith in what is to come for those who believe. Your story brought tears to my eyes.

    I love to think how people with so little material possessions sometimes have that much less 'clutter' between them and the Lord.

    I hope you can introduce me to your Mum-ma some day. I don't suppose she'll still have that Finnish accent though, eh?

    thanks friend! beautiful post.

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  8. Hey Dina, that's wonderful that you visited Finland. That's cute about the hair. My mother's current husband is a Finlander and she's flown over with him. They visited Mumma and Puppa's relatives and she keeps in touch. I'd love to go some day.

    I love the sauna. Of course traditionally, you need to run out the door and jump in the lake to experience that hot-bare-skin/cold-shock-to-your-system feeling. We didn't have that at the farm.

    However, I did experience it at my father's place because when he remarried, it was to a Finlander as well. They built their sauna on the dock so we could just open the door and step out. I remember visiting them at Christmas one year when they went out for a sauna. Hubby and I chose not to take the adventure that time. We didn't look out the windows but we could hear them shriek as they jumped into a slushy hole in the ice. They weren't out there more than a minute but there energy level was super-high when they came back to the house.

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  9. Thanks, Jill. I wondered who'd say something about the 'old woman' moniker. :)

    It was that 12th summer when I started picking up a few words of the language Mumma and Puppa always used with each other. When Mumma told me what her name meant, I was shocked and started to call her Gramma. Do you remember that little 12 yr old girl in Finland who embraced Jesus and stubbornly refused to refute Him? Well, she was stubborn about her 'title', too. She refused to answer or even look at me unless I called her Mumma. From her actions, I've always considered the title to be one of respect for an elder.

    Yes, I'd go with the detective theory. I'm a firm believer in occupations passing through in the genes.

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  10. Hey Lisa and Wenda. Yeah, memories can be good or bad and we choose how we want to remember them.

    Our pastor preached about this very thing yesterday saying God gave us the ability to choose. We choose if we want to get up in the morning or stay in bed... all day long we make choices. And we even choose what and how we remember. We can dwell on the hardships and still feel the suffering or we can push it aside and accept the small grain of goodness out of it.

    It wasn't the perfect summer and there were many rough spots as Mumma and I (2 stubborn people) learned to accept each other, but they aren't worth digging out to think about. I choose to remember the good times and every one of those included Jesus.

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  11. Hey Debra, I'll introduce you to Mumma when you and I meet in heaven because that's where she is today. She passed through the golden gates in 2003 at 95 yrs of age after never having taken so much as a pain reliever her entire life.

    She always had her heavy Finn accent and always called me Un-nita with the accent on the Un. She turned every J into a Y. And she'd say 'I walk-ed here' instead of 'I walked here', always making it and others 2 syllable words.

    Those material possessions you spoke of brought back another memory. Mumma would open her door to any hobo riding the rails. My mom used to say they must have had her address posted on a bulletin board because the hobos would hop the train and stop at the farm for a decent meal. Mom said she'd wake in the morning to find strange men sleeping under the kitchen table - uncomfortable but warm. She said sometimes she wished Mumma wasn't so free with her material possessions because her and her siblings wouldn't have proper clothes or shoes for the 7 mile walk to school while the hobos were sent off fed, clothed and with a few coins in their pocket. Ouch. Back in the dirty 30's, this would have been very hard to accept, wouldn't it?

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  12. Anita, your 'Mumma' sounds like an amazing woman. Thanks for sharing about how you were blessed by her wisdom and her faith during the special times you spent together :-)

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  13. You're welcome, Narelle. Thanks for popping in.

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  14. That is such a beautiful story, I never knew any of my grandparents and barly remember my Dad. I was a late in life child and had 9 older brothers and sisters. My grandparents were gone by hs time I could remember and I was eight years old when my Dad died from cancer. So even though I had other brothers and sisters it was as if I was an only child.
    I have lost all of my siblings except one sister and one brother, neither one is in good health.
    I hae always tried to be the best mother and grandmother anyone could ever have, ever I failed there as some of my family never comes around and I have never got to be a grandmother to my youngest son's two children. He never comes around us either, but that is ok, I love them anyway.

    May God bless

    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

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  15. Anita, what a beautiful story. What a treasure. I look forward to meeting your Mumma someday, too!

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  16. That is such a beautiful story, I never knew any of my grandparents and barly remember my Dad. I was a late in life child and had 9 older brothers and sisters. My grandparents were gone by hs time I could remember and I was eight years old when my Dad died from cancer. So even though I had other brothers and sisters it was as if I was an only child.
    I have lost all of my siblings except one sister and one brother, neither one is in good health.
    I hae always tried to be the best mother and grandmother anyone could ever have, ever I failed there as some of my family never comes around and I have never got to be a grandmother to my youngest son's two children. He never comes around us either, but that is ok, I love them anyway.

    May God bless

    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

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  17. Susie - isn't it glorious that we can anticipate such a gathering? It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. And yet when it actually happens, I'll probably be standing in awe, unable to speak. Just like in the song, Imagine by Mercy Me. :)

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  18. Hey Edna, I'm kind of worried about my boys for the same reason. I had the youngest when I was 41. He was the only one of my kids not to meet Mumma although he attended her funeral with me. He's 11 yrs old and he smiled when he read my post today and said it was nice. I have to admit I should bring the boys to see my mom more often than the every few yrs that I do but when you live a 20 hr drive away it's not always possible.

    There are all kinds of reasons for neglecting loved ones. Sometimes people realize in time and sometimes they find out after the fact. But all you can do is your best and trust God to do the rest. He'll make sure your grandkids know you love them and are thinking of them.

    Thank you for sharing with us Edna. I'll be praying for you and your family.

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  19. Edna, like Anita, I'll be praying for you. I can't imagine how hard that must be for you. I'm sending you a cyber-hug.

    Anita, I love this song so much. I couldn't get to the computer yesterday to comment, but now I know it was so I could read Edna's comment and pray for her.

    I just wanted to add, all day yesterday after knowing the title of your post, I was singing this song! This is my favorite verse:

    Don't think me poor or deserted or lonely,

    I'm not discouraged, I'm heaven bound;

    I'm just a pilgrim in search of a city,

    I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.

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  20. Anita, how BEAUTIFUL! Thanks ever so much for sharing!

    Loved your mom's picture. Wish I had some old pix like that!

    A legacy? God-fearing grandparents on both sides of the fam! A grandmother who found a way to bridge a difficult generation (the 60s) and be both friend and mentor.

    Patti

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  21. Suzie - Oh yeah, that verse always makes me feel better.

    Patti - Praise God you had a deep spiritual beginning, too.

    btw - both pics are of my Finnish grandmother (Mumma).

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  22. Dear Anita Mae Draper
    I am an Evangelist with the Church of God, and enjoyed your story very much. I justlost my Mother at the age of 83 to cancer. She was a praying mother and always sung this song every day while she did house work. I think that either God is calling me home or Mother is talking to mr, because all I can seem to do latly is sing this song. May God Bless you and your family. Remember God Love You and Jesus is comming soon and we will see that mansion just over the hilltop.

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  23. Thank you 'Evangelist' for blessing me with you comment. I find that when I awake with a song of praise on my lips, and carry it throughout the day, I am more at peace than any other. I don't believe it particularly means anything, other than that's the song pouring out of your soul. And some songs do stick with us longer than others. I know many secular songs that get into my head and refuse to leave until I find a praise song to replace it.

    Thank you for visiting today and please come back another day, too.

    Blessings,

    Anita Mae.

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  24. A beautifully written reminiscence. Thanks for sharing it. It was actually your reference to the gospel song "Mansion Over the Hilltop" that caught my attention today. This is the 17th anniversary of the death of the author, Ira Stanphill. (Note that his name is spelled with an "n," not an "m.")

    If you enjoy reading about our hymns and their authors, you might be interested in the story behind this one. You can find it on my hymn blog, Wordwise Hymns.

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  25. Hey Robert, so glad you found us here. I've corrected the spelling on Ira Stanphill's name in the post. Thank you for letting me know. Since I've always been an excellent speller, I can only assume I subconsciously changed it since I've never read the name with an 'n' before.

    I've checked out your blog and have bookmarked it as a resource for my writing research.

    Thanks for commenting. Happy New Year!

    Anita Mae.

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