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.