Thursday, May 29, 2008

Love Awakened: The Story of Elsie & Walter

I've been thinking a lot about my grandparents lately...I think partly because May was the month of their anniversary. This particular picture (my favorite) was taken in the Summer of 2004, just a few months before my Grandma passed away. They had just celebrated 68 years of marriage. 68 years!!!

They were very young when they married back in 1936, and also quite poor. They had 13 children, but lost two of them in early childhood to illness. Another nearly died of polio. They lived in a old, small house in southern Kentucky where my Grandpa was a coal miner and a preacher.

Sometime around the mid-1960's, he retired from coal mining and left his church and they moved to Dayton, Ohio where he became a high school custodian. Although he no longer pastored his own church, he did preach from time to time as God provided the opportunity. By this time, all but two of their children were married with families of their own.

Their house in Dayton was about an hour away from ours. During many Summers in my childhood, I would spend a couple of weeks with them. A typical day at their house began very early, waking to the smell of fresh buttermilk biscuits, gravy, eggs and bacon. Grandpa would leave for work before dawn. Grandma and I would putter around in the house, playing games, cleaning house, baking or working in her unbelievable flower garden. It really never mattered to me what we were doing...I loved being with her. A petite little lady (not even 5 feet tall), she had a very gentle way and sweet...they just didn’t get any sweeter. One of my favorite things about her was her belly laugh. I remember trying to think of funny things to say, just so I could hear it.

Around 3:00 or so in the afternoon, I’d start watching for my Grandpa. He’d pull into the driveway in his pea-green Dodge Dart and I’d watch him walk up the sidewalk carrying his gray metal lunch box. "Hello Tracy-Jane!" he’d say. (It was his habit to call all his granddaughters, regardless of their given middle name, "Jane.") After scooping me up into a big hug, he’d say…"let’s go have a snack." We’d sit at their kitchen table and have a tall glass of milk and a couple of Little Debbie snack cakes. Usually, by this time Grandma was starting dinner and I’d help. When we sat down to eat, Grandpa would always pray a simple, but beautiful prayer and we’d enjoy a wonderful meal together. After the dinner dishes were cleaned up, we'd sometimes watch tv, work crossword puzzles or catch lightning bugs. Wonderful, wonderful memories of those days.

When I reached high school (probably about the time my Grandpa retired from the school), I noticed he and Grandma started acting more like young siblings than husband and wife. (As I think of it now, it's possible that was always their way but as a child, I just never saw it.) As the years continued on, however, I became very aware of it, and though the family tried to make light of their quarrels, it really bothered me. Couples their age (especially Grandparents) were supposed to be happy and content. It was such a strange irony that the sweet love they lavished on their children and grandchildren seemed sadly absent in their own marriage. Instead, it was often Grandpa being critical and petty, and Grandma, no longer holding her tongue, dishing criticism back at him. While there was little doubt they loved each other, for much of the last 20 years of their marriage, they seemed to drive each other crazy.

God in his infinite grace, however, didn't leave things that way. Through illness, He stirred a long-forgotten love in them for one another that was precious.

It began with Grandpa. Though his body was still very strong, he began showing signs of dimentia and then Alzheimer's. As you can imagine, this was quite stressful and often difficult for my Grandma and other family members who lived nearby. When something confused him, Grandpa would have bouts of anger, and he would accuse Grandma of moving things, or making meals he didn't like, etc. Rather than reacting as she had in the past, we began to notice a softening on the part of my Grandma toward him. God was obviously tendering her heart. Even when the situations were trying and exhausting, she became a kind and compassionate support to him. I remember she told me one day, "I don't know what I'll do if he dies before me." As you might expect, Grandpa's condition continued to deteriorate. He had come to a place where he would sit and stare off in the distance for long periods of time. He grew very quiet and rarely spoke more than a sentence or two.

In the midst of this time, Grandma began having serious heart problems. Even though she was in her 80's, her doctors believed she was strong enough and could recover from the surgery needed to repair her heart. The surgery was a success, but her recovery was hampered by one complication after another. Soon, it became apparent she was not going to fully recover. Her heart was quite weak and we knew at some point, it would just give out. She never left the hospital.

But something began to change in my Grandpa. He began to undergo a remarkable transformation. He was suddenly engaging with others again…particularly Grandma. He spoke so sweetly to her, and she to him as well. He only left her side when they absolutely made him (just so that he could rest). They held hands constantly. It was as if they fell in love all over again. They were absolutely precious with each other and became known to everyone as "the lovebirds."

The night before Grandma died, my sister and I were at the hospital. My mom, and all my aunts and uncles were there along with several cousins. They had been singing hymns in the room all throughout the day. Grandpa was sitting by her side, holding her hand and had been for hours. Earlier in the day, when she was still somewhat responsive, he let go once and she immediately reached for it again. By the time we arrived, she was no longer responsive at all, though the doctor said she could still hear us. Everyone knew it could be any time. We all had taken an opportunity to touch and kiss her cheek and whisper how much we loved her. As midnight approached, they asked Grandpa if he wanted to go home and rest, and he reluctantly agreed. He was so very tired. They told him to kiss Grandma good-bye. (It was hard to tell if he understood that meant probably for the last time.) My sister and I were standing just opposite of him. He slowly stood and shuffled up close to Grandma's face, leaned over and kissed her, then whispered "I love you." He then looked intently at her for a couple of moments. There was no response, but he looked at us and said…"she says she loves me too…" We both had to hold back the tears until he was gone. I will never forget that moment. She passed away around 5 am the following morning.

At her funeral, my uncle (a Pastor in his 60’s), explained that until the last few weeks, he had never, in his entire life, seen his parents kiss! Apparently even in their younger years, they rarely showed affection to one another in front of their children. In those last few weeks, there was a love and affection between them unlike anything we had ever seen..they absolutely clung to every moment together. It was a precious sight to behold. I'm so thankful to God for the incredible comfort of their awakened love. It's what I think about every time I look at this sweet picture.

Grandpa currently lives with my Aunt and Uncle in Georgia. He is now in the final stages of Alzheimer’s and is quite feeble and frail. It seems it won’t be long until he and Grandma will be together again. No doubt that will be quite a sweet reunion.

...And I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten...
~Joel 2:25 (KJV)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Word-Filled Wednesday

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Comprehending Loss

Like countless others, I had the Chapman family at the forefront of my thoughts and continual prayers yesterday. I was encouraged to read others voicing what I was thinking…Oh Lord, why?! Why this precious child? Why this dear family? Why under such tragic circumstances? Losses like this cry out for some form of explanation. Why? I ask out of complete inability to reason such a heart-wrenching loss in my human state. Yet even in the asking, I know and fully trust in God’s sovereign will, as do all believers, and somehow that trust gives us peace. Peace in the knowledge that although horrific and shocking to us, our all- knowing Lord appointed every day of little Maria’s life. It was always His plan that her stay would be brief. There is also peace that what happened Wednesday was allowed, through God’s permissive will for purposes that only He can understand. It is because of his great love and compassion that He is prepared for the outcry of our hearts, our hard questions and even our "Why’s."

I picked up a book some time ago called When Life is Cut Short – A Biblical Guide to Dealing with Tragedy. I wanted to share insights from several excerpts (in paraphrased form)…

It seems incomprehensible that God resides in the midst of such [tragic] situations, but He tells us in Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." That is the absolute truth. God doesn’t leave us alone in the dark to deal with our sorrow. He is very present to meet the critical need of our personal comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:4). So intentional is His presence that He specifically promised to be near to the "brokenhearted" and "those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18). Our assignment is to take the first step, to welcome God’s personal attendance to our comfort in time of trouble.

If God didn’t spare his own Son, but gave Him up for all – can we not trust Him to give us, with Him, everything we could possibly need? According to His promises in Romans 8:38-39, nothing -- not death, not life, what happens today or what may happen tomorrow can separate us from the love of God in Christ. God promises to weave our tragic situations into something constructive and beneficial for us, which gives a hope unexplainable by outward appearances. Think of Christ…He was able to withstand the terror and shame of the cross "for the joy set before him." (Hebrews 12:2) Surely He gathered strength from the hope that His senseless torture and barbaric crucifixion were being woven by His Father, into a glorious plan. A plan to bring about something infinitely beneficial for countless others. It was His Father’s promise of future glory that empowered Him to endure.

We may walk in the dark, but not alone. (Isaiah 50:10) It is said that Navy pilots experience three to five seconds of havoc after their planes leave the deck of a carrier in takeoff. Until their indicator needles stabilize, they are literally in the dark about their position. There is likewise a time of emotional havoc between the moment tragedy strikes and the moment God sheds light on His purposes. For a time, we must allow others to "frame our faith" for us. Others who have survived life’s tragic turns and our brothers and sisters in Christ can offer a treasury of dependable counsel.

Deuteronomy 29:29 affirms it is God’s prerogative to keep His counsel to Himself or reveal it to us…"the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." There are secrets that God will unravel for us only later…but there are also those that He reveals to us now in His Word. This counsel doesn’t explain away God’s sovereign intentions behind personal tragedy. There will always be a mystery here that transcends human reasoning, however it does shed the light of scriptural wisdom upon our path so that we may continue on without being impeded by our pain. If we
turn our hearts toward God, that mystery will not dim, but rather strengthen our wonder and our worship.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At last check on their memorial website, there were over 13,000 people who had offered words of prayer, love and support to the Chapmans. No doubt scores of untold others were doing the same for this precious family. If you’d like to meet Maria and express your condolences click here. To send condolences by mail, PO Box 150156 Nashville, TN 37215. In lieu of flowers, the Chapmans request any gifts be directed to Shaohannah’s Hope.

Father God, be ever near to the Chapman family. We ask for an outpouring of your grace, comfort and strength in untold measure on their behalf for the days ahead. Remind all of us that life is but a vapor that appears for just a little while. May we cherish every moment with those we love more than ever before. In the name of Christ, Amen

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Please Pray for the Steven Curtis Chapman Family

Just as I was preparing to log off the computer tonight, I read a news story that absolutely broke my heart. The youngest of three daughters adopted from China by Steven and Mary Beth Chapman, was tragically killed in an accident at their home on Wednesday afternoon. Maria (age 5) is seated with Steven above. According to the initial news report, Maria was hit accidentally by a car being driven by one of her brothers, who didn't see her. I can't begin to grasp the immensity of their pain, particularly that poor brother. Please keep this precious family in your prayers as they bear this unthinkable tragedy. (Steven Curtis Chapman website) (Fox News Report)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. ~2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Word-Filled Wednesday

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Friday, May 16, 2008

A Loving Reminder from God

Don’t you love experiencing God in the midst of the ordinary? Those moments when He speaks through a beautiful sunset, a friend's encouraging word or a vibrant rainbow, and you just know it was something He meant especially for you?

One of my favorite of these such moments occurred several years ago. My husband, Tom and I were both in the midst of some challenging situations at the time and were feeling particularly overwhelmed. Among other things, there were major difficulties going on at work for Tom. In addition, several months prior, we had joined the youth staff which meant each of us were caring for our own small group of 8-10 middle school students. Although our hearts were willing, we were completely out of our comfort zone in this new and unfamiliar territory. (Our own son was just then in middle school for goodness sake!) There was much we didn't know. Add to this, one of our biggest challenges was helping to look after Tom’s elderly Aunt, who lived next door.

God had divinely placed us here for the purpose of helping to care for Aunt Helen. A widow with no children of her own, she had practically helped raise Tom and his sisters, and she had always been so good to me. Being nearby to help her was truly a privilege, yet it could also be quite a challenge. She was 81 years old at the time and though her petite frame suggested frailty, it spoke nothing of her legendary determination. She took great joy in doing something challenging (and often dangerous) just to prove to herself (and to you) that she could.

It was January or February in one of those winters where we kept getting snow, just a few inches at a time, for what seemed like weeks. Shoveling the driveway became almost a daily task, in an effort to keep Aunt Helen from slipping and breaking a leg or hip, should she take a notion to walk outside (which she often did).

We tried everything to keep her off that driveway…we got her newspaper early each morning, we got her groceries and we picked up medicine. However, since Tom and I were both working, there were often hours when no one was home and the mail was delivered during that time. Despite our pleas, and offers to bring her mail as soon as we got home from work, many days we returned to find her mailbox already empty, because she insisted on walking that driveway and getting it herself. 

And so…with every snowfall, whether a little or a lot, we were over there shoveling and salting like mad. With everything else that was going on at the time, this typically minor chore grew to be a bit of a thorn in our side. We were long past enjoying its beauty. In fact, every time it started to snow, we would find ourselves groaning.

Well, on this particular Sunday, I woke up very early – well before my alarm. It was still dark outside and I realized Tom was already up and out of bed. When I didn’t see him anywhere in the house, I peeked outside and spotted him (yet again) shoveling snow next door. (We had gotten around an inch overnight.) I made my way through our garage and opened the side door just a few feet away from where he was working. "Good morning," I said…He greeted me with a smile and said, "Grab a flashlight and your coat and come out here…I want to show you something..."

A few moments later, I returned as instructed. He took my hand and led me to the end of Aunt Helen's driveway. I turned on the flashlight and there, in the peaceful silence of that early Sunday morning, this is what we saw...Now a logical person might assume it was pure coincidence that these tire tracks (probably from the newspaper delivery truck) formed two hearts. Instead, what we saw was a blessing from the Lord, spoken straight to our weary souls saying, "I know your struggles, I see your faithfulness, I care about what burdens you, I love you and I'm right here with you."

It's hard to put into words the encouragement that flooded our hearts that morning, truly when we needed it most. We stood there for several moments, not saying anything, just taking it in and thanking the Lord. Then I went to get my camera to capture this moment I didn't ever want to forget. It still encourages me every time I look at this photo. I pray it does the same for you this day.

...May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Word-Filled Wednesday

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Blessing of My Mom

I’d like to introduce you to someone special…my Mom, Shirley. She was the 6th of 13 kids born to my grandparents and named after Shirley Temple. She became my Mom just days after she and my Dad celebrated their first wedding anniversary in 1965.

For 3 ½ years, I was their only child. I have amazing memories of those days. Mom spent countless hours every day reading stories, playing games with me and sewing clothes for my dolls. Once, someone gave me a dollhouse, and she created all the furnishings from cardboard, construction paper and scraps of fabric! I was so blessed to have those precious years with her.

Life at my house began to get quite busy as my siblings came along, one by one. Although we didn’t have hours and hours like we once had, Mom was always doing something to make me (and all of my siblings) feel special. Most mornings, we woke to a hot breakfast and always, an amazing, home-cooked meal for dinner. I would sit at the kitchen table and she would help me with homework while she cooked. Sometimes, she would surprise me with something special she had made for me, like a new pair of pajamas or a new little purse. Upon occasion, we’d bake a cake or watch something on TV together after the other kids had gone to bed.

When my siblings and I got a little older, Mom began trying out some new hobbies. She took classes on cake decorating and oil painting, both of which she did very well. She was also really good at things like crochet and cross-stitch. She’s always been quite crafty and loves to create with her hands.

Her greatest talent (which she learned from her Mom) is undoubtedly quilt-making. In fact, I would say quilts are her love language. She has made scores of them, each one a beautiful and one-of-a-kind treasure. When my Grandma (her Mom) passed away, she took her dresses and created beautiful quilted wall-hangings for many family members. Last year, when my son, Brennan graduated from high school, she presented him with this photo quilt, capturing his most cherished high school memories. She had worked on it for months...Priceless!

I’m so blessed God chose her to be my Mom. She is precious beyond words. (And you can only imagine what an awesome Grandma she is, too!) I love her and honor her today!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Meet Brennan...(the Reason I Can Celebrate Mother's Day!)

A Son

There's nothing like the blessing
Of a little baby boy
To fill your home with sunshine
And fill your heart with joy.
With hugs and bugs and footballs,
Baseballs, toys, and grins,
You'll cherish all the memories
That you will share with him.
Take the time to walk and talk,
To share his dreams and plans.
All too soon your little boy
Will grow into a man.
(Author Unknown)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Happy Thankful Thursday!

I plan to honor my Mom in a Mother's Day Post, but also want to take a moment to thank God for her and some other special Moms today, as well.

♥ I thank God for my precious “Momma.” A preacher’s daughter and one of 11 children, she is one of the sweetest women who ever lived. She and I always celebrate Mother’s Day a day early. We’ll be having breakfast together on Saturday morning and will then spend much of the day together. It’s always a special time.

♥ I thank God for Millie, the Mom I inherited when I married Tom. In her mid-to-late 80’s (no one knows for sure because she won’t tell!), she is such a character! She and I have always gotten along beautifully and I love her dearly.

♥ I thank God for the biological Mom who carried my husband Tom, and then selflessly gave him up for adoption as an infant back in 1957. I doubt a Mother’s Day goes by that she doesn’t think of him.

♥ I thank God that Tom and I still have our Moms in this life to celebrate. What a blessing.

♥ I thank God for “Aunt Helen.” Though never able to have children of her own, she adored and practically helped raise my husband Tom and his two sisters. When I came along, she was one of the first to embrace me and make me feel a part of the family. We love her like another Mom.

♥ I thank God for the privilege of being a Mom, specifically of being Brennan’s Mom. The blessings God has granted me through him are immeasurable. My heart overflows with joy.

And now, a few additional praises we’ve been celebrating recently in our house…

♥ The birth of a beautiful, healthy baby girl to my dear cousin, Beth. She’ll make a wonderful Mom and I’m so happy for her! It makes me smile to think of her celebrating her own first Mother’s Day!

♥ The engagement of two very precious and Godly friends, Noah and Nicole. Noah just left earlier this week for a six month missions trip to Australia. Nicole will be planning their November wedding while he’s away. It is such a joy to see a couple so very much in love! Can’t wait to see how God uses them as husband and wife!

♥ With the completion of one last exam this morning, my son will be officially finished with his freshman year of college!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever. ~Psalms 136:1 (NLT)

May this Thursday find you thankful...

P.S. Thanks Sweetie! God spoke to me through your words this morning.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Word-Filled Wednesday

Provided by: (Paul Lee)

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Thank You Natalie! I am Honored!

Today, I was so touched to receive a Kind Blogger Award from Natalie! Thank you so much, Natalie! Your kind words thrill my heart because they affirm my reasons for beginning this blog. First, to be an encouragement to others. Second, to provide a tool by which I could express the joy and gratitude that flow from my heart because of Jesus. = ) Something I hadn't anticipated was how much I would be encouraged, challenged and blessed by so many of YOU! Natalie, I'd love to give this award right back to you. You've been so kind and helpful, such a wonderful example of grace and God's love!

I'd also like to pass along the honor to these very deserving, kind friends...

Becky (Frumpmama) – Becky faithfully encourages me with her comments. Her posts can make me laugh out loud and warm my heart. I really admire her gift for finding humor in just about any situation!

Connie (Little Red Hearts from God) – Connie was the first person ever to leave a comment on my blog, and she did so with an offer to pray. She is an incredibly kind and caring soul.

Elaine (Peace for the Journey) – Elaine's amazing gifts of writing and teaching God’s words are surpassed only by her kind and caring heart. She has encouraged me, prayed for me and spoken truth to my heart.

Tiffany (Tea with Tiffany) – Tiffany's grateful and compassionate heart is shown in every post, and every comment. Her desire to serve others is always an inspiration.

Congratulations ladies!

With prayers of gratitude for you and your friendship... = )


Friday, May 2, 2008

A Cheerful Heart is Good Medicine ~ Proverbs 17:22

I don’t know about you, but Fridays always find me with a little extra bounce in my step. Sweet. Blissful. Weekend! The Lord has truly blessed me with a joyful heart every day, but something about Fridays puts me in the mood to laugh and have fun!

With that in mind, I thought today I would invite you to share your favorite laugh-out-loud moments. Whether a joke, funny story, embarrassing moment, something hilarious said by one of your kids...please share it! I know you have it in you because I often laugh out loud as I make my rounds through various blogs and comments. Maybe you'd like to share something you've already posted...just leave the link in my comments. Let's laugh together today!

want to share a fun clip with you from one of our favorites -- Brian Regan. He is well-loved by people of all ages and best of all...his comedy is clean and family friendly! = )

Have a happy Friday! =)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Remember National Day of Prayer

If my people, which are called by my name,
shall humble themselves, and pray,
and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;
then will I hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

Hear Us From Heaven
Lord hear our cry
Come heal our land
Breathe life into these dry and thirsty souls

Lord hear our prayer
Forgive our sin
And as we call on Your name
Would You make this a place for Your glory to dwell

Open the blind eyes
Unlock the deaf ears
Come to Your people
As we draw near

Hear us from Heaven
Touch our generation
We are Your people
Crying out in desperation

Hear us from Heaven
Hear us from Heaven
Hear us from Heaven

Words and music by Jared Anderson
© 2004 Vertical Worship Songs/ASCAP

Visit the official website for
National Day of Prayer