Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

This Christmas was a little different as it had an aura of sadness about it.  As I got up on Christmas morning and started to get ready for the day, it felt as if a heavy weight was slowing me down.  This has become a familiar feeling in the last couple of weeks.  I asked God, "Will this feeling ever go away?  Why today, on Christmas?"  I automatically thought of a new widow - who may never be rid of a weight of sadness that is much heavier than mine - and I felt so selfish.  I prayed for her & her family and went downstairs to mine.

In spite of the initial Christmas-morning sadness, this Christmas holds many special memories for me.

1)   The surprise and wonder that my 3-year old had this year.  At that age, little ones don't remember past Christmases and everything is so new and amazing.  On Christmas Eve, we went to my in-law's, as is tradition.  Zane knew there were gifts and after supper he asked if we would be doing presents soon.   When I said that we would, he said, "For Katrina?"  "Yes," I said, "for Katrina and for you, too!"  His eyes got so big.  Then I began to list the family members that would be receiving gifts: "Michael, Cassia, Anna..." "And Grandma and Grandpa?!" he nearly shouted.  It was so sweet.
     He was shocked that he not only received one gift, but two.  One of his gifts was a Thomas the Tank Engine book with little figurines of the various characters as well as a play-mat.  He absolutely loved it.  Later, as we were moving the play-mat & trains into the toy room, he asked Grandma, "Can I keep this?"  She told him that he could.  "Can I take this home?"  He was totally flabbergasted at this whole concept.  And when he found out there were more gifts the next morning...wow!
     Zane is most likely our last little one.  Though I am enjoying sleeping through the night & being diaper-free, I am truly going to miss this stage of wonder.

2)   While the 3-year old tugs at the heart-strings, the 13 year old tickles the funny bone.  After the gifts were opened at Grandma's house and we were digging into the desserts, he was watching the annual television broadcast of "It's a Wonderful Life."  We had already watched that earlier in the season and we were soon going to be watching "The Nativity" (a wonderful movie, by the way) on DVD.  As he was sitting in the old easy chair, he suddenly said something like, "The more I watch this movie, the more I think George should have jumped from the bridge."  HA HA HA!!!  Gotta love the teenager!

3)   Starting a few years ago, some of my children began to make gifts for their daddy & I.  Last year, they did some things for each other.  It thrilled my heart to see them exchange gifts on Christmas morning with one another.  Though there seems to be an awful lot of bickering among them, they truly do love each other.

4)   We gave our 8-year old a cupcake decorating set.  It really was fun baking mini-cupcakes and helping her decorate some on a relaxing Christmas afternoon.  The fact that she could actually take some to her grandmother later on truly made her happy.  I think it is a memory the both of us will cherish for some time to come.

5)   Our oldest son prepared a short message for us and "preached" it on Christmas night.  It was about 5 minutes long, but it was well thought out and delivered.  It wasn't the Christmas story, but it was about Christ's command to us as He left the earth - to tell the world the gospel.  It is my prayer that Michael will continue to prepare messages and deliver them as the Lord allows.

6)   Though there were many special moments in our day, my most cherished memory will be of the prayer meeting we attended at our church on Christmas night.  Our church has a men's prayer meeting on the last Saturday of every month.  As the last Saturday in December happened to be Christmas, the pastors decided to hold the prayer meeting for anyone who wasn't already occupied with family, etc.  In order not to separate families on Christmas, the meeting was open to all family members.  Pastor asked that all who were in attendance pray.  It was his desire, also, that we just praise & thank God and not ask for anything.  What a special time that was.  About 50 souls were there, each with freshly wounded hearts due to recent events, and each of us just praised and thanked God for His goodness to us.
     Our 5-year old, Gloria, was quite distracted by the idea that she would have to pray out loud among all of those people.  In all honesty, I think there were a few of us who were a bit intimidated.  She whispered to me a couple of times that she didn't want to do it and she didn't know what to say.  I told her to just pray, "Thank you, Jesus, for my family and thank You for saving me. Amen."  As it worked out, she had to wait quite a while before it was her turn.  I wasn't sure what she would do.  Gloria's turn came and her sweet voice was heard saying, "Dear Jesus: Thank You for the manger.  Thank You for being born.  Thank You for dying on the cross.  Thank you for the world....Amen"
     Of all of my special Christmas memories, nothing will top that of my sweet 5-year old's innocent & heart-felt prayer that night.  There was no weight of sadness at that moment - just pure joy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Sons of Parfitt

This past Sunday, Ken Parfitt's five sons each preached a 10-minute sermon during our service.  Each was a touching tribute to their father - their love for him, his service to Christ, and what he taught them.  You will be blessed tremendously if you listen.  May Ken's death not be in vain.  May we all learn from his examples and serve Christ with our whole hearts.

The Parfitt young men preaching in memory of their father.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"My Dad Taught Me"

Sunday morning, 12/12/2010 :   During Family-School, Pastor F. has a sweet little girl sit on the top step of the altar and help him list the ten plagues, in order.  When the pastor asks her how she knows all of the plagues so well, the young girl gives her signature sweet smile and says simply, "My dad taught me."

Later in the service, Pastor C. preaches a powerful sermon about prayer and fasting.  He uses the example of Daniel's fast (Dan. 10) and how there comes a time in our lives where we just need to get a hold of God through fasting and prayer.

Tuesday morning, 12/14/2010, 7:10 am:  The dad who taught his little girl the 10 plagues (in order) stops by the side of a snowy highway to see if he may assist someone who has slid off the road.  When told the tow-truck was on its way, he makes his way back to his car.  Suddenly, an on-coming car loses control on the icy road and this father of the sweet little girl is struck, thrown, and lies unconscious in the snow.

7:30 am:  The church members receive an e-mail from Pastor C. informing us of this tragic accident.  He also informs us of Pastor F's brother's sudden passing during the night.  We are requested to fast and pray.

All through the day we fast and we pray.  We pray for comfort for our pastor.  We weep for our brother Ken in the hospital fighting for his life.  We beg God to give wisdom to the doctors who are desperately trying to save him. We pray for comfort for his wife and 8 children - one being that sweet little girl on the top steps of the altar.  Most of all, we ask that God be glorified.

A popular local radio personality happened to be one of the first on the accident scene.  When Ken's wife arrived, he heard her fervent, earnest prayer; not that her husband would be spared, but that God's will would done.  Beginning with the words of this radio host, the story of Ken's Bible lying next to him, the words of his wife's prayer, the blood-stained gospel tracts in his pocket, of Ken's life-long service to God and to others spreads throughout the city, the country, the world in a matter of hours.

God is already getting the glory.

Wednesday, 12/15/2010, 7:20 am:  Surrounded by his wife, sons, and many family and friends, Ken's heart pumps its final beat.  It has been 24 hours since he got out of his car to help a stranger...since he last looked on this world.  In that 24-hours, people all over the world have heard or have read about his wife's prayer of faith.  In that 24-hours, people have heard about how a Christian man lived giving of himself for others.  They heard how he died giving of himself for others.  Ken told many people about the love of Christ throughout his life.  Yet, while he was lying in the ICU, he reached more people than he ever dreamed.

Some would say that our fasting and praying were done in vain.  Not so.  Our Lord heard our prayers.  He answered them according to His plan.  His Name continues to be glorified and lifted up as the news media tells the story of Ken & his family's faith in Jesus again and again.  Ken lived so that Christ would be glorified and Ken died so that Christ would be glorified.

So many are grieving Ken's death - his church family, his co-workers, his wife and children.  Ken's little girl grieves.  She is young, but she will always remember her dad.  She will remember him telling others of Christ while he lived.  She will hear stories of how so many heard of Christ in his death.

Ken's daughter will grow up telling others of Christ with compassion and boldness.  Someone may one day ask her, "How do you know to do this?"  And she will smile and answer simply, "My dad taught me."

Monday, December 6, 2010

From Answers to Questions

When I was a young mom, I had all the answers.  I knew how to schedule my babies from day one.  My husband and I were marvels in the church with how we could get our little ones to sit so still for an hour and a half service.  Our three year old could recite Romans 12 in its entirety.  When people would say, "Just wait until they're teenagers," we would take offense.  We just knew that teens only acted badly when it was expected of them.  We knew that as long as we did what was right all the time, our children would be just like the kids on the front of all of those homeschooling magazines.

#1.  My husband & I don't do, nor have we ever done, what was right all the time.

#2.  The kids on the front of those homeschooling magazines have struggles of their own.

Our oldest is now a teenager and his sisters are not far behind.  Not only do I no longer have all the answers, I often think that I don't have any answers!  Getting our three year old to sit perfectly during church doesn't seem that important anymore.  Instead, I pray that God gets a hold of my heart and the heart of my older children.

Let me say now that we are not dealing with major rebellion.  There are seeds, though.  Probably seeds that are found in every young "plant" in every home.  The seeds we were warned about with those "just wait" comments, but refused to believe.

The other night, I was at my wits end.  I had no idea what to do anymore.  Lectures aren't working. Yelling is obviously not the key, though I keep trying to force it into the lock.  Threats prove to be only temporary fixes.  So, Saturday night found me in the place where thousands of parents before me have found themselves - on my knees begging God for wisdom.

As a result, today I completed my first 24-hour fast in years.  I have always been happy to have the excuse of gestating or lactating to avoid fasting.  My body hates it.  I always have found myself more distracted by how hungry I am and how badly my head hurts than focused on prayer.  Last night and today were different.  I was praying for, what basically amounts to, the souls and future of my children.  I was praying for myself.  My morning prayer resembled Solomon's request.  Oh, I desire compassion and love in my heart; but above all, I desire wisdom.  Wisdom will change me.  Without change in my life, in my attitude, in my actions, my children will never change.

Wisdom will enable me to release control to God.  I refuse to make my children follow God.  If I make them do so, they are not following God, they are following me.  They will follow me right up until they leave our home; then they will follow the devil.  I have never been one to make my children read their Bibles.  I do tell them often to go read or ask them if they have read, but it is rare that I quiz them on it.  I have known many families where reading the Bible is mandatory and the children are as ungodly as the heathen who has never cracked open the Good Book.  I was never made to read my Bible - yet it is an important part of my life.  I know it is the right thing to do.  I know it is an essential part of my walk with the Lord.  It is not always what I want to do, but often it is by deepest desire.  That is what I want for my children.  To WANT God.  To want to serve, follow, and obey Him. It is not my desire that they read their Bible or memorize verses out of fear, duty, or even obedience to me

That is where the wisdom is so direly needed.  I need to live and teach in such a way that my children will desire to live for God and to do good and have good character.  I need to be a light that shines on a path that, though not always easy, beckons them to follow as well.  Oh, I could easily make a list of rules, consequences, schedules, etc., to mandate correct behaviour.  However, that is not how God works with me.  He won me by His love & grace.  I am asking Him for wisdom in exemplifying that same love & grace to my children...His children.

In a way, I am glad I no longer have all the answers.  I have come to that time where I now have to lean on the One who does.  To those parents who are older than me and knew all along where I would end up, thank you for your patience.  To those parents younger than me and think you'll avoid this time...just wait.  Someday, you'll get to be held up by our Father's loving arms, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Welcome to...My Life

My 8 year old daughter has a cowboy hat.  She wears it once in a while.  Most often, though, she likes to see how it looks on the floor.  You name the floor, it's been there.  For a long time.  Days, in fact.  Hallway floor, front-room floor, toy-room floor, etc., etc. 

I, as a mother, have taken the oath that I will NOT pick up my children's toys or belongings.  I, as a mother, have the compulsive need to find out just how long something has to sit around in everyone's way before it is actually taken care of.  I, as a mother, get fed up and begin to nag - all the while keeping my promise not to pick up my child's things.  Of course, if I DO resort to picking up their possession, it is either to throw it away or hold it for ransom.

Last week, I told my daughter that if I were to find her beloved cowboy hat on the floor again, it would find its way out of the house via the trash can.  I am  happy to say that she has listened to my words and I have not found it on any floor in our home since.

Tonight, I opened up my spare refrigerator and there, on the bottom shelf, lay the cowboy hat - upside down filled halfway with brussell sprouts. 

You think I'm kidding?

Welcome to...my life.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Teacher, My Friend

Last night, I met a good friend for coffee.  We haven't had a chance to sit down and really talk in YEARS!  We see each other here and there, talk for a couple of minutes, catch up a bit on Facebook, etc., but any plans we've attempted to try to get together had been unsuccessful.  Such is the way it often goes with moms.

I love friendships that continue and never change no matter if it's years between coffee-dates, etc.  I love when you can sit down and pick up right where you've left off.  That's how it was for Karen and I.  Catching up, laughing, encouraging...it was great.

My friendship with Karen goes back almost twenty years.  She was my high-school computer teacher during my 12th-grade year. (This was computer class circa 1990/91 - the age of DOS, floppy discs, and large, square, blinking cursors)  Though she was my teacher, she's less than a decade older, she was married just three years, and she was a kid at heart.  She was so easy to befriend.  Karen wasn't afraid of teenagers.  She smiled and talked with us.  She wanted to know what was going on - kept up with all the "news".  While many adults found the lives of teens unimportant or annoying, Karen loved to hear about our daily lives and struggles as well as the details of our "courtships." I remember standing around talking with her between classes and after school.  I remember how tired she was after her first few weeks of teaching.  Being born hearing impaired, Karen often used sign language, but also knew how to lip read very well.  However, in the first weeks of school she had done more lip-reading than she had done in quite some time and, piling that on top of learning the ways of the school and getting to know many different students results in exhaustion.  I think I really began admiring and respecting her when she told me how tired she was, but she kept on smiling and saying how much she loved it!

I remember Eric and I (while we were dating) going out for ice cream (or was it Wendy's?) with Karen and her husband.  I can still see her laying her head on his shoulder and him giving his infamous grin.  They were the couple I wanted to be someday.  They were being an example - a good example - without even trying.

During my senior year and a few years afterwards, there was a door-to-door witnessing ministry on Saturdays.  It must have been Karen who asked me to join in this ministry as that was not something I would normally do on my own.  She and I were partners and I still have a trinket box she gave me with the name of the ministry engraved on the top.  We had a blast on those Saturday mornings knocking on doors and talking with people.  She smiled at everyone, greeted them with her boundless energy, and taught me a great deal about sharing the love and joy of Christ.  I'll never forget running under lawn sprinklers one sunny Saturday morning.  Who ever said ministry was dull and mundane never went door-to-door with Karen!

Our relationship began as teacher/student.  Last night, we sat at the table and talked about the joys and challenges of motherhood, homeschooling, exercise, and life.  I don't remember any of what Karen taught me in that computer class (maybe because all of it is non-existent today), but her example has formed a part of who I am today. I find that quite a few of my friends are young people with whom I befriended when they were in those awkward years between childhood and adult.    I still rest my head on my hubby's shoulder from time to time and remember my teacher & her man as newlyweds.  Though it is not often I go door-to-door, I always try to remember to pass out a tract with a smile in order to convey the joy of Christianity - just as Karen taught me years ago.  Without knowing it, I have tried to emulate her spirit in many ways in my life - and I am so grateful to her.

She was my teacher for a short time.  Karen is my friend for life.  Thank you, my friend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Of Things Matrimonial

So, the other night as we were sitting around the dinner table, Katrina (our 8 year old) pipes up with the age-old question, "Why do people get married?"

I, looked at her and said, "That's a good question."  Turning to my husband, I asked, "Why DID we get married? I forgot!"

Ok - so I was kidding.  REALLY!!

Eric chose that time to be the romantic making me look bad.  "Because people fall in love!!"

We told the kids that when two people meet and become best friends and can't imagine life without each other, they get married.  I realize this is an overly-simplified explanation, but she's eight.

She asked when people are considered engaged and as I was explaining about when the man proposes, Eric got down on one knee proposed - in a overly-dramatic, comical way. Of course, I answered in kind.  The idea that our kids have that we're nuts was basically confirmed.

Anyway, while most girls are dreaming of their wedding and the dress, etc., Katrina asks, "Do you have to have a wedding?  Then you have to deal with all those people."

Obviously, this is our less sociable child.  She's the same one who looks like she's about to crawl under that table every year when the family sings "Happy Birthday" to her. 

I don't know where the inspiration came from (I'm pretty sure it was God-given), but I was even fairly impressed with my answer.  "Well, after you got saved, you were baptized, right?  Couldn't you still be a Christian without being baptized?  Of course.  But, getting baptized tells everyone around you that you are now a child of God and that you want to serve Him and obey Him the rest of your life.  When everyone knows that, you are more accountable for your actions and how you live your Christian life.  The same thing goes for a wedding ceremony.  It's a way to tell everyone that you love this person and you will only belong to him and love him for the rest of your life."  Not bad, eh? 

Then, our 8-year old, saved, lifetime church-goer, homeschooled, no TV child asks:  "Can you live with the person for a while before you get married just to make sure he's the right one?"

Did I mention that she's also our very logical child?

Without going into the whole fornication aspect, I was able to logically explain that the courtship process will enable a person to observe the prospective spouse in many different situations in which you will find out their true character.  Sure, there are issues once you become married and start living in the same house that may have to be worked out; such as, your husband leaving his dirty laundry on the floor instead of putting it in the basket.  But, those things can be worked out - even if it's the wife figuring out that it's not worth getting upset about the laundry, picking it up, and just being thankful for an over-all great guy.

I love these unpredictable conversations around the table.  Something tells me they'll get even more interesting as the kids get older.

A side benefit - my husband put his dirty laundry in the basket the next day. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Day in History...

October 20, 2003....I was almost made a widow. 

You can read the whole story here & here, but today I have been thinking how different my life would be without my best friend and husband. 

1.  I would NOT be married.  I could not imagine being with anyone other than Eric.  He is my first and only boyfriend, so it's REALLY hard for me to imagine.  Plus, with five children, who really would want to have married me?

2.  I mentioned having FIVE children.  I realize I have seven.  I was five weeks away from delivering our fifth child.  Two of our children would not be in existence today and only two would actually remember their daddy.  How my heart would break if my children could not know their wonderful daddy.

3.  Since Eric's accident, I have lost my father, Anna has been hospitalized, we've had several trips to the ER, Michael had major surgery, and there's been a divorce in my family.  Through all of these things, Eric has held my hand and held me up.  Though I know God would have held me up if He had decided to take Eric home, I am so grateful that He chose to leave him here to be my minister of strength.

4.  If Eric were no longer here, my children would probably be in public school as I worked a full-time job.  Though I often am exhausted with homeschooling, I am so blessed to be able to do it and be home with my family.  Who knows what our crazy life would be like?

5.  Most of all, I would ache with loneliness.  My husband is my best friend in all the world.  I remember waiting for Mercy Flight and praying, "Lord, if You take him, I know you'll take care of me.  But, Lord...he's my best friend.  I don't know how I'll live without my best friend." 

Seven years ago, Eric could have died. Today, I drove him to pick up a truck from a field. I HAVE a husband to drive around.   Though it's the crazy harvest season and he's exhausted & absent much of the time, he WILL be home.

I don't know how long God will choose to allow us to be together on this earth.  I pray it's until we're very old.  I do know that I am grateful for the time we have now and the life we have today. Today I am still able to hold hands with my best friend...thanks be to God.

Friday, October 15, 2010

For Gloria Has Sinned...?

I am going through "Leading Little Ones to God" with my three youngest children, Seth, Gloria, & Zane.  It is a really wonderful devotional book that helps little children learn all about the attributes of God and why we need Him in our lives.

Last week, we began the section which speaks about how sin entered the world and the consequences of sin. The devotional, "What it Means to be a Sinner" begins by asking, "Are you naughty sometimes?"  Both Gloria & Seth, who have recently accepted Christ as their Savior, answered in the affirmative.  When I placed the question before Zane he heartily answered, "No!"

Me:  "You're not naughty, Zane?"

Zane:  "No.  Gloria naughney."    *I personally love his pronunciation of the word "naughty."

Me:  "Gloria's naughty?"

Zane:  "Yes."

Me:  "You're not naughty?"

Zane:  "No.  Gloria naughney."

Me:  "What about Michael?  Is he naughty?"

Zane:  "No."

Me:  "Is Cassia naughty?"

Zane:  "No."

And on it went through the listing of each one of his siblings.  Then, I came to Gloria once again.

Me:  "Is Gloria naughty?"

Zane:  "No." Quickly realizing what I had asked, changes his answer: "YES!"

He still held firm to the fact that HE was NOT naughty.  I believe we have 8 other people in the house willing to testify to the contrary.

At the end of the lesson, we began the review questions.  I looked at Gloria and asked, "Gloria, who sins?"  Expecting to hear her tell me that everyone sins - a fact that she knows - she says firmly, "ME!"

I guess Zane will preach conviction into the hearts of many - and he's starting with his sister!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sober Thoughts

"Zane.  Zane.  Time to get up."

My three year old, who already had his eyes opened, turned over on his back and looked up at me from his bed.

"O-tay," he said.

"You're going with Mommy & Daddy today.  The doctor is going to fix your eyes."


Telling a three year old in advance about any upcoming surgery is usually pointless.  At least, this three year old.  How does one prepare a 30 pound, 2 1/2 foot child about going to sleep and waking up in pain...but that it's all for the best?

Crossed eyes is hereditary in my family.  My aunt was born with it and began wearing glasses at 18 months of age.  Each of my nephews has it and Zane was diagnosed a few months ago.  In our son's case, the doctor does not believe he was born with it, but it developed over time.  Zane wore glasses throughout the summer, but his eye appointment at the end of August proved the glasses to be ineffectual.  Surgery would be needed.

"No big deal," I thought.  At least we wouldn't have to deal with the patching all of my nephews, my brother, and so many of our friends' children have had to deal with.  Anesthesia?  That's old hat in this family as our oldest son has "gone under" twice.  Sure, Zane was younger and a different temperment, so I knew that a lot of crying (and possible screaming) would be involved when he awoke, but, again, no big deal.  The chances of someone dying under anesthesia are far smaller than the chances of getting in an automobile accident.  I AM NOT a paranoid mother.  The surgery itself was not a concern.  In and out.  Michael had a life-threatening 10 hour surgery with a stay in the PICU and hospital for almost a week.  Seriously, this was looking like a picnic in the park.

Until now.  Zane's smile, his toddling steps down the stairs, and his innocence all began to tug at my heart on this morning of surgery.  As I put on Zane's shirt I prayed, "Lord, please don't let this be the last time I get Zane up and ready in the morning."  On the outside I was smiling and acting like we were just going to have a fun outing.  On the inside, I was consciously jotting down every moment in case something happened and Zane did not come home with us.  Morbid, I know.  Just the kind of foolishness I usually laugh at.  But, I guess a mother is a mother - no matter how many times she has been through various situations and how "logical" she has become.

Zane got to pick out a toy when we got to the surgical center.  He enjoyed playing with his new truck while the doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists spoke with us.  With my cell phone, I took a picture of his wide, toothless, cheesy grin.  My cross-eyed baby.  Then, the anesthesiologist picked him up and walked away with him.

"Mommy?"  Zane says looking over the doctor's shoulder with his arm outstretched.

I sat there trying to hold back my tears.  Zane didn't cry - he was a trooper.  I wouldn't look at Eric as I felt like an idiot for crying.  Seriously, this was minor surgery.  Zane's doctor does dozens of these every week.  No big deal.  So, why did it feel like I was laying Zane upon the same altar I had lain Michael on two years ago?

Because it was the same altar.

Subconsciously, we moms know that our children may not be here until our old age.  But, we don't let that fear rule our life or theirs.  If we did, they would never leave the house and we would be miserable failures as parents.  But, some days, the realization that we are not promised tomorrow with our little ones stares us right in the face.  It is on those occassions, that I give them over to my Lord once again.  I trust that His will is perfect - whether I hear that precious "o-tay" again or not.

Less than half an hour later, I was holding and rocking my crying Zane-man.  I sang to him through my tears.  I had had nothing to worry about; not because the success ratio was so high - but because my God was in control all along.

Though it is the rare case that children do not survive these minor procedures, there are cases where parents go home with an empty car-seats and hearts broken beyond belief.  There are mothers that I know personally and that I have prayed for but never met, that have lost their children unexpectedly. It is only by the grace of God that they take each breath.  They laid their children on the altar as I have.  Whereas my children were allowed down off the altar (so far), their children were accepted into the arms of Christ.  It is with that realization that my tears flowed when Zane was in surgery.  I know in my heart that God's grace would be given, but oh how it must ache. 

To the mother who has lost a little one:  I am no one. But, I pray for you and many like you.  You are a hero to me for going on with life each day.  Thank you for your example and proving to moms like me that, if we ever have to take the same path you are following, God will pick us up and carry us down it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Visit with Officer Friendly

Recently, I was on my way to pick up my mom so she could get some paper work done for a new car she bought. She was waiting for me at a store across the street from the car dealership and I was in a hurry.  What's new?   I was driving a stretch of road that I drive about 4 times a week.  The speed limit is 35 mph., but I usually go a *little* faster than that until I reach the top of one particular hill.  This day, however, I continued my speed until I went over the crest of said hill.  That's when I saw it.

A police car.

I slowed down and passed by and immediately he pulled out behind me.  My stomach sank.  Yet, as his lights didn't turn on, I figured maybe I was worrying for naught.  I waited at the red-light eying Officer Friendly behind me the entire time.  The light turned green and his lights flashed red.

All this within my mother's sight.  Thirty-seven years old and I still dreaded my mother's scolding over the police officer's.

I pulled over and immediately began searching for my license and registration.  I found the former, but not the latter.  I also remembered the conversation my husband and I had the day before about the registration needing to be renewed as it was closed to being overdue.  The officer came to the window and asked for both the items I was looking for.  He looked at the registration on the window and mentioned that it had expired.  No surprise there.  The conversation proceeded as follows:

Officer Friendly:  Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me:  I was speeding. 

OF:  Do you know how fast you were going?

Me:  About 55.

OF:  I clocked you at 59 mph.  Do you know what the speed limit is back there?

Me:  35 mph.

OF:  What's your license look like?

Me:  Clean - never had a ticket.

OF:  So, when I check it there will be no surprises?

Me:  No, sir.

He also hinted that as I was so far over the speed limit, there was little chance he'd be able to let me off.  I knew I deserved whatever I got.  I didn't cry or get mad - just answered his questions honestly and with a smile.  Yes, a smile.  I figure that police officers deal with enough angry and distraught people every day and I didn't see why I should make this poor guy miserable for something I honestly had done wrong.

As I waited for my ticket, I texted my husband.  Might as well let him know now.  While many husbands would have been upset, the response I got was, "Are you ok?"  My husband is awesome.

I spent the rest of the time sweating over what my mother would say.

Officer Friendly came back to the van.

OF:  This would put 6 points on your license and your insurance would go through the roof.  But, 30 miles over the speed limit...that's tough.  I'm going to give you this (a ticket) for your registration being expired and nothing for the speeding.  It won't show up on your license.  You could come to court and argue it, but seeing as I'm not giving you a speeding ticket....

Me:  No, sir!  I'll send it in and pay the fine.  Thank you very much....

And everything YOU would probably say if he had let you off almost scott-free!

In a way, I think it worked out that our registration was overdue as he almost HAD to ticket me for something.  If it weren't the registration, then he would have probably knocked a few mph off my speed, but I still would have ended up with a speeding ticket that would have put points on my license.  Procrastination is not always a good thing, but, in this case...When I went home I immediately got on the computer to renew our registration.  You know when it expired?  The day before.  Hmmm.....

I also think my honesty and the fact that I have had a clean license for my entire driving career (19 1/2 years) helped a lot, as well.  My son later pointed out that I have been pulled over before.  I kindly mentioned that the officer hadn't asked me that. Ahem...

My brother said the Lord wouldn't have allowed me to get a ticket as I was on my way to help our mother.  And, he and my husband both said that thing about pretty girls, etc.  Whatever.

In the end, whatever the reason, I am thankful to God and to the kind police officer for not giving me
what I deserved.  I have experienced so much mercy in my lifetime, yet I could never put into words my gratitude.

I turned my van back on, pulled into the parking lot where my mother was waiting and braced myself as she entered the vehicle.

"I am so sorry,"  she begins.   That's it.  Nothing but compassion.

No ticket.  No scolding.  That's what I call a good day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Good-bye, Facebook Friends

A couple of days ago, I came to a conclusion that I believe the Lord has been leading me to for quite some time.  I actually fought it for a while, but I was ready to stop fighting.  At the risk of offending many very good and dear friends - true friends - I removed many of my "friends" on Facebook.  Let me make it clear that no one had offended me in any way.  If any one looked at the people I removed and the people I kept, they would be hard-pressed to find any rhyme or reason to my method. 

I am a very social person and I love to know about people, what makes them happy, sad, etc.  This makes Facebook both a blessing and a curse.  The fact that it takes so much of my time makes it more curse than blessing.  Here's a typical scenario:  "I'm just going to go on FB and post this really cool thought to my status.  Hmm...let me see what's going on with so-and-so.  I'll just quick check the other updates.  What?!  That person is expecting?  Let's just add a congrats comment, here.  Aww...their kids are sick. That's too bad.  Oh, while I'm here, I might as well see if there've been any pictures posted from today's picnic.  After all, it has been 3 hours since it ended..."  The next thing I know, an hour has passed and I have accomplished nothing. 

Truly, do I need to know everything about everybody?   Do I need to know so-and-so is going to yet another birthday party?  Do I need to know that their child blinked 5,032 times yesterday?  Do I need to know every single detail about every single issue in every single person's life?  Don't get me wrong - I do care about people.  I rejoice with those that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.  I have just come to realize that people have done that for thousands of years without social networking.

For months, I've heard husbands make fun of Facebook and pastors preach about it (not necessarily "against" but definitely messages of warning).  I would defend it to my own conscience as a social outreach for those of us ladies who "stay at home" all day (though, there are very few of us on Facebook who actually do this).  It was better than being on the phone all day, right?  Really?  I began to see the point these men were trying to make.  (In case you didn't realize this - men actually have good insight on most things!)  A lot of what goes on through Facebook is silly.  It seems to be resembling more and more  I Timothy 5:13 - "And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not."  Many of us on Facebook are not saying things we ought not say, but maybe our words are idle.  Most of us are wandering from house to house via cyberspace.   Knowing what's going on in everyone's life makes me feel like a busy-body.  It got to the point I began to feel physically nauseated by the whole thing.  By Saturday night, I knew what I had to do...remove the majority of my friends.

Usually, when people remove "friends" on Facebook, they remove those who have offended them in some way - either through words, pictures, or lifestyle.  This was not the case with anyone I removed.  I removed very dear friends of mine.  I honestly removed all but one person I attend church with (a young person whose parents appreciate my input)  as well as several other good friends whom I see on a regular basis.  If I want to know what is going on in their lives or them to know what's happening with me, we can talk in person.  I removed those whom I am "friends" with on Facebook but never say more than "hello" to when I see them in person.  If I'm not going to take the time to really know them in person, I feel a bit fake for knowing all aspects of their life.  I actually like seeing someone I haven't seen in a while, NOT knowing all of their life's happenings, and having a great chat just getting "caught up."  So, that is why I even removed some friends who live in the area, but I only see once in a while.  

So, who did I keep?  Those friends and missionaries who live out of state or country.  I kept my best friend who has been a part of my life since I was born (literally) and I kept my brothers and sister-in-law. I kept a couple of in-town friends that have been a part of my life for a long time and because their status updates are often spiritually thought-provoking.  One friend mentioned how I was a spiritual encouragement to many and a testimony to the lost so I should reconsider.  My Christian friends can live without my 2-cents, but, because of this sweet friend's advice, I did keep two people whom I know are lost and I do have some part in their real lives.  Many of the people I kept aren't even on Facebook a lot, which is a blessing.

I ended up eliminating over 150 people and still keeping 99 friends.  I find that my time has been freed up tremendously and, because I'm no longer updating my status 5 times a day, I have the desire to write things of worth again.  Ok, maybe not worth much, but at least longer than 10 words.

If you were a friend whom I removed and you are in any way hurt, I am sorry.  I had no intention of hurting anyone.  My Facebook photos, my photo page, and this blog are still open to anyone to view and comment. One may say, as I did, "But Facebook is a great way to give and receive prayer requests."  I will still receive prayer requests and such through other means of communication...such as, face to face conversation, a phone call, texting, or e-mail.

This decision may not be for everyone at this time.  But, I really believe it's what the Lord wanted of me.  It actually was very difficult to remove those I love, but, in reality - REALITY - I did not.  They are still very much a part of my LIFE - my face to face real life - and I am ever so grateful for that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome to...My Life (again)

I just got done calling a bunch of people I don't know for a party I'm not throwing.

What?  Don't you do that?

The party is actually a picnic my husband is giving a certain soon-to-be-groom.  Eric is the best man in his wedding and is hosting the picnic.  As the wife and secretary of an adorably handsome guy who HATES making phone calls, I get to call all of these guys whom I've never met.

Let's just say....I hope I never have to do THAT again.

Call #1:  I accidentally called the guy's wife's phone and got their daughter.  A daughter who has the skill to make you feel like an idiot in about 30 seconds flat.  She finally got her mom on the phone.  What's the saying?  "Like mother like daughter?" Yeah.  I got the impression that she was a bit miffed HER husband wasn't the best man.  So sorry.

Call #2:  Nice guy, but at first seemed to think this was a "bachelor party."  I made sure he knew that this was not a typical bachelor bash as we are Christians and there would be no drinking, etc.  He kindly let me know that Jesus drank.  Wasn't expecting that theological monkey-wrench...

Call #3:  Guy with a heavy Italian accent who asked me to repeat all the info to him and then was pretty sure his wife had a shower to go to for their daughter so the both of them wouldn't be able to make it.  This after I said twice that it was a picnic for all the GUYS.  My mistake, I'm sure, but the third time in 8 minutes that I felt like the biggest idiot on the planet.

The last two calls were great - especially as I only had to leave a message for one of them.

Remind me never to plan a bachelor party...er, groom's picnic...again.

Welcome to...my life.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome to...My Life

A note I texted to our dog this morning after I found the "gift" he left for me.  (Ok, so I texted it to his beloved master, my husband. I'm sure he relayed the message.)
Dear Hunter,
Next time you decide to gag up a bone along with some grass, and whatever other digestive juices, please don't do it next to my couch.  Thank you.

When I spotted it, our 5 year old, Gloria, said she thought her sister Katrina had done it.  I told her what the contents were and, therefore, I didn't believe it was Katrina.   Her response?  "Katrina eats lots of grass."

Welcome to my life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Bowl

Last night, my son made chocolate chip cookies.  My, are they GOOD!!!  One of the best surprises was that he actually cleaned up after himself!

Ok, well, "cleaned-up" is relative.  To some people, there was still a bit more to clean.  But, for him - it was a huge step in the right direction.

This morning, as I was emptying the dish strainer, I came across the mixing bowl he had used.  The inside was clean enough, but the outside still had dried cookie dough and had that scummy look and feel to it.  Obviously, it had to be washed again.

While I was re-washing the mixing bowl, I began to think.  Why was I washing it?  The INSIDE was clean.  It was just the OUTSIDE that was dirty.  We don't use the outside, so I should only be concerned with what is on the inside of the bowl.  So, I stopped cleaning it and put the bowl away.  What a waste of time to be so picky.

You don't think I did that?  Why not?  Wouldn't you?  It's just the outside.  It's what's inside that counts and that was clean.

Isn't that how most Christians today think?  The oft quoted verse, "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" is often used to defend a person's "right" to dress and look anyway he/she wants to look.  It only matters what is in the heart.

Like the bowl, a Christian may have a pure heart that loves the Lord and desires to serve Him.  Yet, on the outside, he looks just like the unclean vessels around him.  The average person would not be able to pick him out of a crowd as he looks just like the crowd.  On closer inspection, one sees that he is clean and different...on the inside.  Can he be used? Of course.  But does God get that same sick feeling using him as we would get when using a bowl that's clean on the inside but still carrying last night's food remnants on the outside?

Why did I opt to clean the bowl?  Because I knew with the bowl clean on the inside AND the outside, I would get optimal results in my next batch of cookies.  I would not risk dirtying any other dish it touched.  In order for God to get optimal results from me, I must be clean inside and out.  I must stand out from the pile of dirty dishes and be sparkling clean.    If I am being used effectively by God, I AM touching other dirty vessels.  I must allow Him to wash me with the water of His Word daily if I am indeed being used daily.  And, I must keep my eyes open to make sure that my outside isn't being changed to look like those around me.  Why would a clean dish want to look like a dirty dish?  If I would not use the ungodly as a model for my inside, why would I use them for a model for my outward appearance?

The outside DOES matter to God.   Does he use us without hesitation or does he have to close His eyes when He reaches for us because of our dirty exterior?  Clean your vessel - inside and outside.

Oh, and I DID re-wash the bowl completely.  :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Little Things...

...like the Cleveland Browns and Winston Lights.

Neither are things that are spiritual.  I don't even care for football and I've never smoked cigarettes.  But, whenever I see the emblem of the Cleveland Browns or hear the name "Winston" (I don't think they even make Winston Lights anymore), I feel a tug on my heart.

Both bring my father a little closer to me.

My dad loved the Cleveland Browns.  No disrespect to the dead, but for his love of the game, he had absolutely no taste in teams.  As I've already stated, I don't follow football.  But, I do keep nominal track of the teams my loved ones follow.  Anyone who even owns a radio will know that the Cleveland Browns have not been a good football team in over 30 years.  But, they were the team my daddy loved.

My dad smoked Winston Lights for as long as I knew him.  Though I don't care for the smell of cigarette smoke, often, the smell will bring me fond recollections of times with my dad.  The memory of sitting around the table with my dad and his girlfriend's family at Christmas as they all smoked actually gives me a strangely happy nostalgic feeling.  Thankfully, there are no signs of second-hand smoke damage.

My dad was more than football teams and cigarettes.  He was jokes, belly laughs, and fun.  But, I will hear no voice that sounds like his telling jokes.  I will not hear another laugh like his.  Many people have many types of fun.  But, the sight of the Cleveland Browns emblem and the name of Winston makes my father seem closer.  I don't believe in signs or messages from the dead, but, in a way, when I see these things, I feel he's sending me a smile.

It's the little things.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For the Record...

I believe that there are instances when a man or woman needs to leave their spouse due to types of abuse.

For the record, I do not believe divorce should be an option for the Christian.  Seperation, yes.  Divorce, no.  In a situation where the non-Christian spouse leaves the Christian, then there is nothing that can be done about that.

For the record, I believe God forgives them who seek forgiveness for bad decisions - such as divorce.

For the record, I have thought about the things I've said so far and do not care to debate these things at this time. Maybe another time.

For the record, I don't believe just because one party apologizes for continued bad behaviour, the other party should automatically put themselves back in what could be a harmful situation.  Some people live better apart.  (However, see #2.)

For the record, I believe there are VERY FEW one-fault instances of separation and divorce.

For the record, I don't believe it is ever too late for counseling.  Those who say it's too late probably need it the most.  Again, even if it's to settle things and learn to live apart without destroying relationships around them.

For the record, if a couple needs to separate, relationships between children and grandchildren ought to be encouraged to continue & grow (if that is the desire of the children) unless those children will truly be in harm's way.

For the record, I don't believe people ought to be forced to choose sides when friends or family members separate or divorce.

For the record, I don't believe being polite to both sides equates choosing sides.

For the record, I believe a person may disagree with one or both parties & disapprove of certain actions, character qualities, etc., but still be kind and polite to that person (or persons).

For the record, I hate divorce and the division it often causes among family and friends.

For the record, children of divorce, no matter how calm they look on the outside, deal with anger towards the situation & even their parents.

For the record, I am glad there is a Father these children can go to and lay down their anger, sorrow, and frustrations.

Just...for the record.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not his mother, but his lover

This past Sunday, my pastor preached yet another awesome message.  However, equally as awesome are his bunny-trails.  He got to talking about how wives are not to be their husbands' mother.  (Don't worry, he got on the men about things, too.)  If I were the shouting-in-church-kind I probably would have had a minor shouting fit.  In a good way.

One of the things that irritates me most in this life is hearing a woman treat her husband as if he were a 10 year old.  Have you ever watched even one episode of Jon & Kate plus Eight?  She is the extreme case in point.  Not to condone Jon or any other husband who cheats on his wife, but that is the epitomy of the contentious wife who drives her husband to the corner of the housetop.  Men need to be treated as men, not as boys.

And, don't give me, "well, I'll stop treating him like a boy when he stops acting like one."  Maybe he'll start romancing you as a woman when you start acting like one!

Sorry, got in the flesh there a bit.

I know none of my readers ever tell their man what to do - whether it be household chores, how to take care of a child, how to dress, how to drive, or how to treat you.  I know I never have. *cough*

Ok.  I lied. There have been a few times when I've treated my husband like a young boy without a clue.  I've disapproved of his clothes.  I've disapproved of his driving. I've disapproved of his timing in getting a job done.  When I open my mouth and tell him what to do or how he could improve I have no romantic feelings toward my sweetheart.  I feel prideful, frustrated, or angry. Quite frankly, I don't like myself.  I hate sounding like a drill sergeant to my children and I really hate sounding like one to the man whom I'm supposed to cherish.  I know for a fact he isn't feeling really mushy & gooshy when I treat him that way, either.

I can honestly say that I rarely nag or tell my husband what to do or how to do it.  Two reasons:
1.  I want to keep our relationship sweet
2.  My husband, though a steady, easy-going guy, is not going to listen to his wife give him orders.  He is much more responsive to reasonable and well-placed requests.
If I treated my man like a child on a regular basis, our relationship would sour and we would be irritated with each other most of the time.  However, it is sad to say that many women in this day, Christian and non-Christian alike, take on more of a motherly role than that of a wife to their husbands,   A woman will treat her husband like a child and then complain that there is no more romance in their marriage.  She wonders why he no longer treats her as the princess he once did when they were dating.  He no longer has the woman of his dreams, he has mom #2.  Not very romantic.

Ever have a woman tell you "you need to tell your husband to do [such-and-such]"?  I have.  Before following her unwise advice, take a look at her marriage and how she treats her husband.    Most often, a woman who is telling you to order your husband around is doing the same thing in her marriage and you will rarely find sweetness in that type of situation.  You will find a discontented, bossy wife with a discontented & often angry man.  There will be few, if any, shows of affection between the two and you won't see them having very many deep, intimate conversations.  Be careful of being fooled by advice from a "strong" woman who advises you to demand things from your husband and tells you that he should listen to you. 

I've seen it many times.  The more a woman "mothers" her husband, the further the distance becomes between the once-madly-in-love-couple. She picks out his clothes, tells him how to hold or play with their child, tells him what chores he needs to get done, etc.  If it makes my stomach turn, imagine how that husband feels.

Wife, don't nit-pick.  Let him do things his way and in his time.  FYI - just because he doesn't do it your way or in your time doesn't mean he's wrong! Yes, you can ask more than once for something to be done - key word being ASK.

I will ask Eric to do something and won't mention it again for weeks.  I've been advised to TELL him to get something done.  That will get me no where.  Just as I desire (and get) patience and understanding from him, I give it in return.  If it's 90 degrees outside, I would love for my a/c to be put in.  But, if he's harvesting wheat for 15 hours a day, I'm not going nag him every day or demand that he do it RIGHT NOW.  He hasn't forgotten and usually the a/c will be put in once he sees me passed out on the floor.    Yes, it will take patience.  Yes, you may feel inner frustration.  But, he will see your patience (usually) and will appreciate your kindness and trust in him.  If it's weeks or months before the job gets done, instead of saying, "It's about time" just say "thank you" and give him a kiss, a hug, and make him a special dinner, dessert, or just pour him a cold drink.  You'll make him glad he did something for you and the romance will stay alive.

They say that mothering is the hardest job in the world.  Being a wife is a lot more fun.  He has a mother.  She told him what to do, how to dress, how to act, etc., during his childhood years.  You're his lover.  Love him as the man he is now. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A New Blog

For those of you who would rather just read my deep, thought-provoking posts and not be bothered with a bunch of pathetic photographs;  for those of you who would rather not read my silly, mundane posts but just look at some awesome shots;  for those of you who would like to do both, but in a more organized way - I present to you my new photo blog:

Our View photography

Monday, June 7, 2010

Photo Challenge: "Play"

(a photo challenge from i heart faces Thanks, Jenna & Rebecca!)

More fun than playing is watching my children play.  Tonight, my boys built a block tower.  I played with my  camera.

Blocked view

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Foto Friday (a day late): Happy

So, I've wanted to join Rebecca's "Foto Friday" for quite some time. I was feeling badly that I wasn't posting this until now (Saturday night), but I just saw that our dear hostess posted late, as well.  However, it figures.  I finally enter this thing and she just announced that she is hosting her FINAL one next week!  Story of my life!  SO, if any of you know of any other photo challenges, please let me know. 
With this week's theme being "happy" I figured there was no easier and better time to take part!  As Memorial Day was Monday filled with parades & a picnic, it wasn't difficult to capture images of happiness.  So, without further ado, my first Foto Friday entries...

Happy to be riding in our church's float in the city's Memorial Day Parade

Abe Lincoln was happy to join us for the morning

A father & son happy to be reunited

Happy to serve his country

Moms can be happy, too!

No comment necessary

I'm happy he's mine!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Memorial Service of Carissa Ireland

I am on my way to Carissa Ireland's memorial service.  I have Abigail Miller's cd, "I Can Go In" playing.  As I listen to the title song the thought occurs to me that this song would be perfect for Carissa's service.  I can just imagine Carissa entering into heaven with the many sinners washed in blood & justified by faith.  What a comfort it would be to the hearts of the Christians that would be in attendance and what a witness to the many lost, as well.  Well, whatever music has been chosen is God's will and He will use it.

I enter into the church building that Carissa often entered when in New York.  The church where she saw old friends and where she witnessed her sister get married not quite a year and a half ago.  There is my current pastor hugging my former pastor.  There are many other familiar and friendly faces.  The atmosphere is somber, but not depressed.  Laughter can be heard from time to time and smiles are numerous.  The aftermath of the shock is still subtly felt.

I take my seat in the upper half of the sanctuary.  I observe many people enter, hug one another, find a seat, and settle in.  The sanctuary fills to near capacity in 30 minutes.  My brother, sister-in-law and two of their children make their way towards me and we sit together.

Music has been playing.  Beautiful instrumental hymns.  Hymns that Carissa probably listened to hundreds of times in her twenty years.  Hymns she sang, played, and loved.  With little fanfare, the family enters the sanctuary.  We almost do not notice, but one by one, we realize they are taking their seats to say their "final" good-bye to their daughter, sister, sister-in-law, niece, grand-daughter, cousin.  To the one they all could not help but love and cannot help but miss deeply.

The screens in front light up and pictures of a sweet baby girl appear.  Then, I cannot believe it.  As the recorded music begins, I hear the piano introduction.  It is Abigail Miller's "I Can Go In."  The song God would have begin this service.  Just a small gift to an insignificant member in the crowd.  The song is sung in it's entirety as we watch Carissa grow up before our eyes - a happy baby, a sweet little girl, a beautiful young woman.  It almost seems surreal.  Is she REALLY gone?  The last picture is on the screen as Abigail holds out the final words.  It is a profile picture of Carissa.  She is smiling widely, her hands our semi-outstretched, and she is looking slightly upward.  Is this how she looked as she entered into heaven just a week and a half ago?

Pastor Gary Sauer walks up to the podium.  He and his wife have been friends with the Irelands for as long as the Irelands have been a part of FBBC.  His voice cracks many times as he welcomes us and the family.  He asks the family to take a moment to look around at the filled sanctuary.  It is a tribute to Carissa and to them - so many lives they have touched throughout the years.  So many souls who love them.

We sing some favorite hymns of the faith.  From my seat, I can clearly see the Ireland family.  We sing "It is Well With My Soul" and I watch.  Robin's hand flies in the air as we sing the last verse - "And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight..."  That day has become more dear to her.  How she looks forward to seeing her daughter again.  She is rejoicing in this promise.  My tears begin.  We then sing Carissa's favorite song, "This World is Not My Home."  The joy filling this place is amazing.  This is truly a celebration!

A short video is now going to be shown.  Ah!  I recognize it from the facebook page remembering the lives of Carissa & Irina.  This particular video was taken in Ukraine.  It shows a group of young people standing in a circle singing "This World is Not My Home" in Ukrainian.  They are clapping and singing with their whole hearts.  There's Carissa.  Her smile is a light as she sings with exuberance.  There's a look exchanged between Carissa & her sister Coleen which makes their smiles even bigger - a private joke or something to be certain.  We see in this short video a sisterly bond, a bond of love between brethren, and the love of Christ.

Nancy Curran - a woman with so much grace in times like these - sings a song written by another missionary wife.  The song speaks of how awesome the moment is when we look upon Jesus' face.  I think of how Carissa must have felt at that moment.  Does that feeling ever go away in heaven?  I think not.  We will have our moment one day, too.

Pastor Bob Brado, who has been introducing the various parts of the memorial service walks behind the podium once again.  It is time for the eulogies.  As I looked at the "program" before the service, I saw "eulogies" listed, but not who would be giving them.  I am curious.  My heart jumps when Pastor Brado mentions that three of the Ireland children would be the first to speak.  How will they do it?  The grace of God. 

The youngest sister is first.  She has been crying throughout most of this service already.  My heart is breaking for this sweet little girl old enough to know that she will never see her sister on earth again, but young enough to not really be able to comprehend any of it except for the horrible ache in her heart.  She speaks of how she loved her sister because she would bring her and the other children gifts and candy whenever she came home (to Ukraine).  She loved when Carissa would call on Saturdays just to talk with the kids.  They loved sharing a room with Carissa although her hair (which was waist-long) was "all over the place".  We laugh with her through our tears as she reads to us through hers.  The broken-hearted young girl finishes - "But, most of all, I loved Carissa because she loved me."  I am choking down my sobs at this very moment.  Oh to go down and just give that baby a hug.  But, her big brother is holding her up right now.  They are leaning on one another as their oldest sister stands behind the podium. 

Jennifer speaks eloquently of Carissa.  How beautiful and sweet she was.  She uses the analogy of a flower.  She mentions how Carissa was seemingly taken too early, but God knew exactly when to transplant her into His garden where she will bloom forever.  The grace and peace of God is evident on Jennifer. 

Michael Jr. walks to the podium.  He is strong, but his grief is evident.  Unlike his sisters, he has no paper to read from.  He speaks as his heart fills.  He speaks so much like his father - with passion looking at the audience with eyes full of intensity. He tells us of the time that he and Carissa were in Florida with their grandparents.  They had played in the water and on the beach all day and now they were sitting in the sand with their feet being washed by the water.  Carissa reached over and held his hand (he wasn't crazy about that at the time).  She said, "Mikey, I wish mom and dad could be here.  They would love it."  Then he tells us, "The she said, 'Mikey, I love you.' I just want everyone to know, I loved my sister.  I loved her very much."  The three walk off the platform together.  It is silent.

Pastor Brado introduces four college friends of Carissa's from PCC.  One has been appointed by the group to speak.  There are two boys and two girls.  The dark-haired girl is the one who approaches the podium.  She tells of how she stayed in her room the first two days of her freshman year and just cried.  She didn't think she'd make any friends.  Then she told us how Carissa came to her room and became her first friend.  She tells us that she lost her own mother to suicide a year and a half ago.  She didn't think she'd ever make it back to college due to the emotional and financial stress.  But, Carissa was famous for two sayings - "Jehova Jireh" (the Lord will provide) and "We have a big God."  Carissa would say those things to her friend all the time - even times when her friend did not want to be reminded.  But, when she said she wouldn't make it back to school, Carissa told her, "We have a big God.  You're coming back and we will graduate together."  She made it back. Carissa meant so much to this group of friends and to the many friends she had at PCC.

Now, Pastor Brado walks back to the podium.  He tells us that Irina McEntee's family is here.  Her service was two days ago.  The  three remaining family members all walk up onto the platform.  Mr. McEntee seems to be a business man - well groomed, well spoken, and kind.  He tells us that he didn't know Carissa long, but the friends from PCC described her perfectly.  He says that the first morning in Maine, he was sitting at the table reading his Bible when Carissa came down.  She asked him if she could call him "Uncle ---" and he said that would be fine.  She then went to read her own Bible on the rocks outside.  Later that morning, the girls were talking at breakfast.  Irina was telling Carissa of all the "treasures" she had collected on the island.  Many buoys would wash up on shore and she had collected many of them.  Irina told Carissa of the time when she was a young girl and she had found a muffler and her parents saw her dragging it down the street homeward.  So many "treasures."  The girls laughed.  Mr. McEntee speaks of picking up the girls from the Boston airport and the conversation during the 100 miles to their summer home in Maine.  The girls spoke of the kids back at college - what boys liked what girls and vice versa.  They spoke about who they liked and who liked them.  The McEntees listened to that for 100 miles!:)  Mr. McEntee said he then realized that the girls' treasures had changed from buoys & mufflers to boys.  They were growing up.  Then he says that now they have found their greatest treasure - Christ in heaven.  As he speaks, his wife looks tired and wipes her eyes often.  Their youngest son, Nick, stands with his arm around his mother. This family has lost 2 children/siblings in a year's time.  The grief is unimaginable to me.  Mr. McEntee stands like a rock.  His family must be leaning hard on God at this time for there is nothing else to lean on.  I quietly pray for them...again.

Pastor Bob Brado and his daughter are the last to eulogize.  They speak of their friendship with the Irelands and of their time in Ukraine.  They speak of how Carissa truly was godly and lived for Him.  Their eulogies, like the rest, make us laugh and they make us cry.

This time includes eulogies sent via video from those in Ukraine who loved her.  Carissa's mom has spent time doing the voice-over to interpret what they say.  The look of grief on their faces is intense.  They are in shock.  They are sad.  But, in each eulogy, they mention the same thing their Christian brothers & sisters here in America have said - they trust God and His timing.We are half a world apart, but we feel the same pain, we trust the same God, we love the same family.

Another song is now being sung; again about the moment when we will bow before Christ.  These songs are specifically chosen by the Ireland family obviously because they desire to focus more on the joy Carissa must  now be experiencing rather than their deep sorrow.

The song has ended.  I see Pastor George Grace walk up the steps and to the podium.  The pastor I grew up with.  The Ireland's pastor.  The pastor that lives up to his name - grace.  Through experience, I know that the message he will bring in a moment will bring encouragement, hope, tears, and smiles.  He is saying that he has two types of messages - the kind where he takes a really long time to say not much of anything and the kind where he takes a short time to say as much as he possibly can. :) He'll do the shorter tonight/  He tells us about the hope that Carissa had.  He tells us of her godliness.  He tells us that we ought to love one another as brethren, for, if we cannot love each other how will we ever love the lost?  Carissa loved.  He leads an invitation.  I wonder how many are praying right now to be saved.  I am praying that many are inviting Christ into their hearts and that they will let the Ireland family know so that they will be able to rejoice in this time.

One more song.  The man who is about to sing is explaining to us that the song has a story.  Carissa sang this song with a choir at PCC and she absolutely loved it.  She obtained the sheet music for it and had been practicing it on the piano and had been working on translating it.  It seems she was looking forward to presenting it to her loved ones back in Ukraine.  When Mike & Robin found out that Carissa had entered into heaven, they asked for the music to be found.  It was in Carissa's luggage.  He begins to sing:

"Blessed Be the Name of the Lord."
As the sun rose that morning on the day of Job's trials,
He rose up to serve God as any other day;
Bound and determined to live in God's favor,
And nothing would stand in his way.

But then the messengers came one by one with their story,
In just a few moments Job lost all he had;
Great wealth and riches the health of his body,
And even his children were dead.

The Lord giveth, he taketh away,
Blessed be the name of the Lord;
I served him before and I'll serve him today,
Blessed be the name of the Lord...
I am listening and I am in amazement at how this song not only speaks of Job, but of Carissa and her family.  They rose on a morning just like any other.  They went about their business of serving the Lord just as they have these last 20-plus years..  Then, they received a phone call - their daughter was missing.  Another call - the kayaks were found but not the girls.   Then the call each parent dreads - your daughter is gone.  They cry.  They  hold onto one another.  They look to heaven and repeat the words of God's servant Job.  They grieve, but still serve.  They grieve, but still praise their loving Father.  They grieve, but continue to be a light shining for all who watch. 
"Lord, Carissa had a plan for this song.  You had a different plan.  How could she ever have known that she would never perform this song in Ukraine but that You would be glorified through it in a service remembering her and her love for You?  I don't understand, but blessed be Your name."

My current pastor is the last to walk to the podium.  He is to lead us in a final prayer.  He speaks of the girl who looked just like her mother.  He tells us of how he visited their family in Ukraine when Carissa was just 10 years old.  She took him to the market and while he was quite nervous, she had great boldness.  He tells us how he recently was in Florida and had taken her to lunch and walked away amazed at how she just exuded God.  He introduces a short video to us.  She will not be seen in this video, but we are to listen to what are, in a sense, her last words to her parents.  My heart jumps a beat.  I heard that she had sent her parents a multi-media message of the island she and Irina would be kayaking to.  Is this it?  Is this going to be a bit much for all of our emotions?  The clip begins.  It is dark and  there is a humming noise in the background.  We hear Carissa's sweet voice.  She focuses on Irina and tells her to say hi to her family.  They must be on an evening boat ride.  I hear her say something and the video stops short just as my mind was processing what she said.  Pastor comes back to the podium. "Did you catch what she said?  She said, 'Mom & Dad, you would love it here...' "  
She is saying the same thing now - "You would love it here."

Please pray for the Ireland & McEntee families as they continue to grieve & lean heavily on their Heavenly Father at this time.  May they never doubt our love for them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

All in a Week

The girls said "good-bye" to a special friend the other day.  They gave him a better home.

He was the first kitten my daughter successfully rescued.

Got new windows.

Took my daughter's picture for her final scrapbooking class.

Went to a party at a friend's farm on Sunday.

Same photo, different effects.

Such a lack of manners.  You'd think that goat was raised in a barn!

There were trucks, too...

...and a hammock...

...and a cute guy I know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Heritage

I guess the next set of pictures could be viewed as morbid, but I took them mainly for the sake of my heritage.  My great-grandmother died at a young age as did my grandfather and, therefore, I never met them. 

My grandmother passed away when I was two years old.  I am grateful for the one memory I have of her.  She was in the hospital after having her leg amputated due to complications from diabetes.  I clearly remember a peaceful smile on her face as she told me that Jesus was with her.

My one and only memory and it's a legacy to hold on to.

Note - I am posting straight-from-the-camera shots and then the edited version (if any). I have my reasons.:)

 My grandfather died of leukemia when my mom was 12 years old.

My grandmother's grave is in the background.  She shares a stone with my step-grandfather.  However, my mother's parents were very much in love from the beginning until death parted them.

Ok, so this isn't the original.  Honest, the only thing I did was add the white matte around the edges.  

My great-grandmother died from appendicitis when my grandmother was just 18 or 20 years old.  My mother is named after her.

As I drove to the cemetery and walked around, I couldn't help but imagine my mother at 12 years old burying her father.  I believe she said it rained that day.  Many of the graves I see now were here then.  Did she stop to look at her great-grandmother's grave?  Did this sweet little lamb with it's inscription catch my young mother's eye?  This baby had died just 3 years before.  Did she wonder about him and his family?  Did she understand more than most children the keen sense of heartache they were probably still feeling?  Today I wonder what this child's story was.  The few times I've been to the cemetery, there have always been flowers at this little grave.  

You've never had a name, but you've never been forgotten.

The next few I didn't bother touching up as, frankly, I didn't think they needed it.:)

My favorite.

Thank you for walking with me as I contemplate my heritage.  How about you - what is your family story?