Which Memories?

I knew I must have my box of facial tissues close at hand, for this was going to be “one of those times.” The series with this family was concluding. From the very first episode, I was hooked. This was one of the most genuine and profound television drama series, I’ve ever viewed.  I’m quite certain the writer (s)  has/have undergone many of the scenarios they wrote about because most people in life experience many of these situations. This was “real” life; the good, bad, ugly and beauty of life- this series possessed it.

At what age do we realize life is not a “fairy tale?”  Are we teens or adults; middle age or elderly? As a  young child I learned that my life was nothing like that of my classmates or other children I met. So too did one of the characters on this television series.

In this television family of different personalities, even different ethnicities, the writers “got it.” Yes, there were some aspects of the story which didn’t align with my morals, but isn’t that parallel to reality? Aren’t there situations, family dynamics and personalities which are different from ours? What should always be constant and what remained constant in this series, was the love, support and devotion of this family to one another, no matter what happened. That was one of my primary reasons for being drawn into the series. The family was always there for one another, no matter what had occurred the hours or days prior.

It spanned more than fifty years. What does our life look like if we have endured fifty years? What will it look like fifty years from now, if you are blessed to survive another fifty years?  Perhaps the reason I became so intertwined with these characters is that with some of the episodes it was as though the script should have been entitled, “This is Your Life.”

For many people when they come to the end of their life, they wish they could “hang on” just a little longer. They desire just a few more hours or days, but when God calls us, “it is time to go.” Whether your life has been good or bad, complete or incomplete it is “your time.”

 Just as when we are alive and fulfilling what we believe are our goals and desires, if we are relying on the Lord to lead us, He has His plans in His time. That seems to be even more valid when it is His time to end our lives on this earth.  

One of our lead characters in this television series had lives like many of us. She was a teen, young adult, wife, mother and grandmother. She had the joys and sorrows of life, but her earthly life was now ending. Her family wanted to hold her closer a little longer, but they had what each of us have; their beautiful memories of the person they loved.

When we are at the end of our lives, we don’t dwell on the negative. We are thinking of the glorious memories which kept us going. Perhaps the best time to make those memories so that we have them as we take our final breath is to view each day as it truly is; God’s gift to us.  Ecclesiastes 3:2 NLT, A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

Dirty Feet

In preparation for Easter Sunday, our pastor presented a series of messages on Jesus’ life prior to His greatest act of love.  All of Jesus’ achievements remained only those of great humility. Perhaps one of the greatest was when He washed the feet of His disciples following the last supper.  Imagine how dirty, calloused and perhaps blistered, feet would be that had walked for hours in sandals. I think of my own feet after gardening. Even with shoes and socks, they become dirty.  As I come in the house to shower, my feet are unsightly to behold and would not desire for anyone to see them; certainly not to wash them. Yet Jesus washed the feet of those He loved; those He had spent His adult life with. What humility!

If I could be granted one trait in life, I believe I would choose humility. People might be humble occasionally, but it is impossible to be humble and prideful at the same time. Mick Ukleja speaks of the six attributes of healthy humility: 1) They acknowledge they don’t have it all together. 2) They know the difference between self-confidence and pride 3). They seek to add value to others 4). They take responsibility for their actions 5). They understand the shadow side of success 6). They are filled with gratitude for what they have.

Perhaps each of us possess some of these traits sometimes, but never do we possess all of these traits all of the time. There are still others that never possess any of the traits of humility for their pride overpowers all areas of their lives. Mick continues his commentary, “pride is an exaggerated sense of self-importance. And typically accompanied by placing ourselves above others.”

As I thought of Jesus’ humility and devotion to his disciples, I reflected on Mick’s words of “we-ness.”  He stated, “humility becomes the social oil that prevents wear-and-tear in the engine of our relationships. The closer the relationship the greater the potential for overheating and abrasion.”

When my children lived at home, I reminded them often of steps five and six, but from the godly perspective. For I knew, all of my life was a direct result of God allowing me to have- to be and to do.  On those days, I become discouraged and downtrodden with the path of my life, I have to remind myself, “But God.” All that happens passes through His hands.

When our lives are fraught with challenges of life, do we thank God for these times? I have to believe most often we don’t. Instead, we are saying, but God, why? Shouldn’t the answer be, why not? That is when importance of ourselves is greater than our humility.

Recently I watched a movie based on the difficulties of Job. Although the screenwriter’s parallel to Job was superficial, the motive was to cause the viewer to be humble; to be always grateful. God may never bless us more abundantly following a loss as He did with Job. Nonetheless, God will allow us to overcome these dilemmas when we are humble before Him. James 4:10 NIV, “humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

Price Versus Value

Unlike an advertisement from a jewelry store “to pray for rain so that the diamond you purchased at their store would be free”, my prayers were for sunshine. God answered! It was a beautiful spring day, with perfect temperatures and sunshine. Our tiny church was filled to capacity with wedding guests on this day fifty -three years ago.

From a “pretend” bride as a young child to an actual bride walking down the aisle to become Mrs.,  I couldn’t have been happier. I  prayed for this day for as long as I could recall. I longed to be a wife and a mother; to love, honor and cherish my husband until death and to love, esteem and encourage my children so they could fulfill their goals and dreams.

Although our wedding was small and modest compared to weddings of today, it was extravagant for my then husband, Charles and me, paying for the entire wedding ourselves.  I chuckle when I recall our pastor’s wife stating she had never been to such a large and formal wedding. My gown and those of the wedding party had all been hand created by me and my mother. The bridesmaids flowers were a single rose to minimize the expenses. Our reception consisted of punch and cake; typical for a wedding of the 1960’s.

At ages twenty-one and twenty-two, we would be “growing up”  as we also “grew together.” For me, love was not only “in the air”,  but I felt my heart would literally burst with the love I had for my husband. Because our love and abiding as “one” was saved for the time we would become husband and wife, I was innocent and naïve to the life ahead of me.  My pastor’s recent sermon on extravagant love caused me to pause and reflect on the love that embraced our marriage and home.  Was our love for one another extravagant?

The definition of extravagant is exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate. Can we possibly give too much to someone we love? Life is never like a fairytale or Hallmark movie; perfect days-perfect endings and always receiving what we desire. Yet what do those wedding vows represent?

As my pastor shared about price versus value, what is that? The passage for his sermon had been when the woman poured the expensive oil over Jesus’ head. Those around her were upset for this oil was costly; worth up to one year’s wages. They touted to her that she could have sold it and given to the poor. Jesus reminded the gathering that the poor would always be with them, but He would not.

What if, we viewed our commitments to others in the same manner? What if we valued our relationships as though they were purchased with wages far beyond our financial means or what if we valued them as though they would not always be there? Our love was not extravagant for it is no longer. Perhaps it was “price versus value” when Charles chose another. For me, the value of our love is not only the memories of that union, but it is displayed with each moment I share with our children and grandchildren.  Proverbs 21:21 NIV “whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”

Happy Birthday!

Oh God please, I cried out time and again. Please- send me a baby, as my then husband, Charles and I struggled to conceive. God’s timing is always perfect although the journey to become a mother was a challenge. Because Charles mandated, I work full-time, the illness from pregnancy compounded the difficulties with my employment. Nonetheless, the joy of my pregnancy was far greater than the obstacles of a problematical employer.

It was time! I was in labor. When I stepped on the scale, in the hospital, the admitting nurse and I were both astonished to discover that I weighed one pound less than the day my pregnancy was confirmed. My lengthy illness during the pregnancy had been an unexpected weight loss program. Now my prayer was for a healthy baby, but not yet knowing if it would be a son or a daughter. Sonograms were not routine in the early 1970’s, so only God knew the gender of this little life.

As day and night wore on, my delivery was not going as expected. My obstetrician explained the baby was not in the normal face-down position, but face-up, resulting in a longer, more painful delivery. But finally, after twenty-seven hours of labor, the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” My excitement could not be contained. Not only was the baby healthy as I’d prayed, but the daughter I’d hoped for. I cried tears of joy.

On that chilly spring day driving to our first home as a family of three, I held our tiny daughter, Andrea, on my lap for the duration of the one-hundred-mile trip. When I learned of my pregnancy we resided in Oklahoma City. However, two weeks prior to giving birth, Charles accepted a job in the city we would call home for the next several years.

Upon our arrival, I quickly made our two-bedroom apartment a home. The apartment didn’t have space or a hook-up for a dryer, so when it was too cold to hang the laundry outside, I hung cloth diapers and baby clothing throughout the apartment, doorknobs and doorways becoming makeshift clotheslines for the metal hangers. I would have to quickly remove hangers from the front door when Charles arrived home from the office. I was so ecstatic to be a mother, such inconveniences were trivial.

From the time I was a young girl, my only desire was to be a wife and mother. Even though life altered my status as a wife, I will always be a mother; a role which has brought more exultation than words can describe. It is impossible to reflect on these past five decades of Andrea’s life without tears.

The many emotions I’ve had with Andrea from infancy, childhood, teen years and now herself a mother of four has filled not only tangible albums, but also the memories of my heart. As mothers we have the beautiful reminiscences of our children which bring us joy for the duration of our lives. Happy Birthday beautiful daughter. You are a gift I cherish daily.  Nehemiah 8:10 KJV “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Unfocused

Several days ago, I blogged about a memorial service I attended for a man that had changed hundreds of men’s lives. Thus, also the lives of their wives and families when they chose to put God first. The service had been especially poignant for me after a recent bible study on marriage.

Having experienced marital betrayal after four plus decades of marriage, my sorrowful reminders of unfaithfulness following the memorial service and bible study are what we understand as emotional triggers. Whether it be a traumatic accident or experience, death or divorce as a result of infidelity, the “flash backs” from these occurrences can cause a significant sense of rejection or depression if we don’t maintain our focus on God.

When I learned of my then husband’s love for another, I wanted desperately for God to remove my incredible anguish. By the time I learned of my then husband’s affair, the divorce was long past, and he had been with his lover for years. Like many harrowing situations in our lives, I found myself maniacal.  The “how” and “why” were not answered.

Sometimes we understand immediately the rationale behind the action or experience; natural disasters, extreme accidents, often deaths have an explanation. Seldom does marital infidelity have a motivation for the one who has been betrayed. Only the unfaithful spouse can justify his or her actions.

A recent article I read by Clint and Peggy Bragg brought both smiles and tears. Even though their article discussed the “aftermath” of marital betrayal, their encouragements can be applied to countless other situations in our lives. During trauma, it is difficult to understand why we must endure the happening.  The Braggs noted, “you must choose to believe that you’ve been entrusted with a high calling that few hear or even fewer obey: Pursue God and wait for Him, not for your circumstances.”

In many such situations we desire to do what we can to “make the pain go away.”  I was akin to the example they gave of “leaving something for our spouse or sending a loving text”, but as they noted, “more often than not, these actions only backfire.” I recall so vividly when I initially learned of my husband’s affair, I thought if only I reminded him of my love for him, the heartache of losing a child, the financial struggles we had endured, etc. that he would want to save our marriage and our family. When a spouse has decided to leave you for another, your tears and pleas are of no value to them.  If anything, your agony offers satisfaction to the offending spouse. They had never loved you or they would not have betrayed you.

The Braggs words can be applied to any anguish. “Instead of viewing this present situation in the landscape of your entire faith journey, you focus…on the pain this crisis has created. Like your view when sitting in the front row of a movie theater, the drama seems so massive you can’t see the entire picture. As a result, your faith becomes distorted and ineffective. Healing is a process that requires both time and faith. God’s time. Your faith.”  Hebrews 11:1 NKJV “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Send Me

There are occasional events which impact us so greatly that we choose to share with others. Such is the event I attended this week. This blog is longer than normal, as after “cutting and cutting”, I could not convey the message, if I continued to delete. Nonetheless, the value in this blog is what we can do for God and others, if we just listen to God’s voice.

Two weeks ago yesterday our pastor mentioned from the pulpit about the passing of a man whom had meant much to our church and also to him. I’ll call this man Paul for during his memorial service some referred to him as the apostle Paul of our day.

 I was perplexed why so many could be so sorrowful over the passing of a man in our community. Yesterday, I understood their rationale. Paul’s funeral had been earlier in the week and the service at our church was a memorial; for those that loved and respected him. I didn’t know him, but I desired to attend to learn why this man had been such an inspiration to countless persons.

I arrived at the memorial service twenty-five minutes before it began. At 2 p.m. as the service was to begin, I looked behind me and was in absolute shock…there were at least 1,500-2,000 people at that service- What-? Who is this man?  I quickly learned he was a man among men. He had impacted hundreds of individuals and thus families, during his seven decades of life.  For when the “man” of the home is changed, so too is the family.

Paul was not any more special than other people in this life, but he heard God’s call, which he heeded. He earned a degree at a state university, but then opted to go to seminary and from there, he pastored a church, but not for long. He realized that God called him to minister to men-for men to be the head of their homes and families-for men to be a “one woman man.”

 Paul led the men that when he chose his wife- he stood firm- “she was the one” until death and he never considered another woman. One of the sons spoke about the fact that he would attend conferences with his dad and he said he knew his father had to at least “see” other women, but no–he said, his dad instilled in the men he led that as men of God there had to be only one woman in their lives and his son said his dad lived every word he spoke.

 The sons shared how men would come to their home and their father would take them into his office, open his bible and listen to the men-their needs and pray with them. Each of Paul’s three children shared how Paul “lived his life” every day and every minute in the way God desired.

They noted if Paul felt he had spoken harshly or said something unkind, he was immediately at their side to apologize. When Paul’s wife spoke, she shared that Paul always accepted the blame in situations which he truly had not been at fault for, but Paul so greatly desired to “live as God desired of him. ”You don’t have 1,500-2,000 people at your memorial serivce, if you didn’t impact many along the way.

 One man shared he and his wife had been divorced for seven years, but when he attended Paul’s bible study, he reconciled with his wife, renewing their vows. Paul made such an impact on his life that he too wanted only to follow God’s direction for the remainder of his life.  I walked out of the memorial service after 3.25 hrs.- yes that long! Every minute-every word was a reminder to me of what God can and will do in the lives of those of those that truly follow Him.

 Paul said if a man follows God- their wives, home and children will thrive. Paul’s eldest son shared that Paul told all of his children “there is no success in your lives, if God is not at the center of your lives.”  I only wish I could share the countless other things I learned about this “man among men” that said “here I am God-use me.”

 NIV Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go with us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me.”

Do I Feel Guilty?

Many of us today are “hunkered down” in our warm homes, staying in to be safe from “old man winter’s” words that God is still in control of all things, including weather. While we sip hot chocolate, sitting by the fire, life “half a world away” is struggling.

I’m on the e-mail list of seveal of my church’s departments including missions and music.  I know Facebook has posts about today’s events, but these are not people in some far away land; they are just like us. They awakened today to dress and get ready for their day. If parents with children at home, they prepared breakfast and perhaps kissed and hugged their children good-bye as they departed for school. Mom and/or Dad prepared to leave their homes for jobs. Mom may have remained home to complete the days’ chores before her family returned.

Now their lives are shattered. They are living in a war torn community, Kyiv Ukraine. I read the words and viewed the photographs from those in Christian organizations in Ukraine and immediately ceased my day to pray.  When many in our country have disasters or emergencies, there are friends and family members standing with open arms and homes to aid them in their tragedies. If an entire country is being attacked, the “helping hands” are more limited.

We may donate money or goods to assist those in need, but then as we close our checkbooks or place our credit card back into our wallets, we believe we did our part. Yes, we did something, but perhaps we could do more. We may think, those people we just donated funds to are “not like us.” They are “just people” that live elsewhere.

They are like us. They are young, old, rich and poor individauls and families. None of us chose where we were born or who our parents are. We may have been reared with nothing, very little or much. Even our poorest in this country may appear wealthy to those in countries such as Ukraine.

Did I feel guilty as I observed the pictures and e-mails from the missionaries and staff working in organizations in Ukraine trying to help these people? Yes, I did! Not only did I feel guilty, for my petty whining over trivial issues in my life, I stopped and prayed. My small donations to these missionaries and Christian organizations may not make much of a difference, but my prayers can.

You may walk around in your beautiful home or drive off in your lovely car, but please just stop and think about those today that not only don’t have these blessings, but they didn’t ask to be where they are. They were as innocent as each of us would be if our entire country was being attacked. The families which awakened in Kyiv today didn’t know their family might be  killed or injured or their homes destroyed. Sometimes our prayers are the greatest gifts we can give to others. KJV, I Timothy 2:1 “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.”

What? An Office?

It’s a table-no, it’s a sofa. It definitely is a laundry counter or just a place to “throw objects” which we don’t know what to do with, except at night when we use it for its’ intended purpose; a bed. I know each of you reading this has at one time in your life used your bed as a multi-purpose object.  Yet how often do we stop and thank God for something which is such a stationery element in our home?

When I was living out of the “back end of my car” for four months last year while awaiting God’s timing for me to obtain a house, the bed in my hotel room and air b/b’s became all of the above on several occasions. While watching a documentary recently, I began laughing aloud. The narrator noted his bed became his office and his desk during covid. Wow! Ingenious, sensible or unconventional?

 Whatever the reason, I found it amusing. The narrator proceeded to say, it was just more comfortable and because he was home alone working on his computer, why not just “snuggle in bed and be relaxed?”

For well over five decades, I’ve loved coming in from work, church or running errands and quickly “getting comfy”, which means putting on pajama pants or exercise tights. So perhaps for some, being in  “comfy office attire” might also mean just remaining in bed.

I love my bed and am grateful for it. I don’t take it for granted for I know millions of people around the world, don’t have a soft, warm and comfortable bed. As a child I always had to share a bed with my sister. Not only was the bed crowded, but our bed was void of a nice mattress and sheets. Most of our sheets were thread bare and often ragged. Frequently, either my foot or my sister’s would catch an average sized hole in the sheet which upon awakening had torn the sheet into shreds. Soft and untattered sheets were luxuries our home didn’t possess.  Likewise, a clean, solid mattress was something we had never witnessed, nor felt beneath us.

Several years ago, when purchasing a new mattress, I inquired about the box springs. The salesman tried not to mock me as he stated these were no longer the trend. He informed me mattresses now rest atop a platform. Oh, but the sales pitch was strong about the pros of such a fad. Our heads, feet and legs could be elevated allowing a more comfortable sleep. So I was now the owner of one more remote control!

 Last week when I was too ill to even leave my bed, the warmth and comfort of it was my “hug from God” that even though alone, He was right there with me. When we have to change the sheets or make the bed, it’s not a chore, but a gift. Whether a table, a sofa or perhaps even a desk, at night it is my “my resting place with the Lord.” James 1:17 NIV “Every good and perfect gift is from above…”

Dearest Friend!

As I opened the Facebook page to wish my friend, Jenny, happy birthday, her cover photo was perplexing. I realized something had happened. I immediately researched and yes, there was a death in her family. My heart pounded as my mind raced. If only I had remained friends with her as I had so earnestly desired, I would have known of her loss and heaven’s gain.

I became tearful as I recalled the countless “friend chats” we had in those earlier years. We had times of both laughter and tears, while in our thirties we dealt with the typical challenges of “family life”; marital conflicts, praying for children and then the rearing of children, losing jobs and obtaining others, building new homes and lastly moving from a home and area that I loved.

How often had we sat in one another’s homes, hand in hand praying during these trials? Jenny had been my closest friend during those difficult years. She had come to my rescue when I found myself alone, living in an apartment and not having even $5.00 to purchase groceries. There she was for me; offering a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and an open heart and hand with food for a barren pantry.

She and I connected from the very first time we met in our church Sunday School class.   As earnestly as I had tried to sustain the friendship, when I moved from the area, her friendship also relocated. Upon my return, several years later, all my efforts to rekindle the friendship were invalidated.

 As I reviewed the memorial video of her loved one, my heart was so heavy, I could hardly breathe. How I wish I could have been there at her side when she kissed her beloved good-bye as he walked hand in hand with the Lord. He was one of the kindest men I had known. He always had a smile and encouraging word. Now his chair would be empty for her birthday celebration and I was saddened for her.

This was one of dozens of situations which have occurred in the past five decades that I could have screamed “God this is wrong. Why was my then husband allowed to take me away from my family, my home, church, community and all my friends?” Each time we moved to and from cities, dwelling in over twenty residences, I lamented the moves.

 Whether it is during a storm or in the “sonlight”, God is there. I thanked Him that He gave me the friendship of Jenny. Although it didn’t endure, it was a gift at the time of my life when I needed Jenny.  I now quietly desired I had known of her loss, but God gave me the memories of Jenny and her beloved, which are indelible.  NKJ Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

The First Step

Happy New Year Dear Readers. I trust the first day of a new year finds your heart and life filled with more blessings than sorrow. For I also know that each one of us has experienced both. Some of us have had greater sorrow and/or blessings than others, but if you are reading this, you are blessed.

In one of my blogs, I apologized for sharing and had removed that blog. Then I had many of you urging me to “keep on” for sharing one’s heart and life causes others to understand each of us is “human.” We laugh and cry. We shed tears of both joy and happiness, but we are the “one” God created us to be.

Thus, this brings me to this day; January 1, 2022. Another calendar is history and a new one begins. I’m weary of hearing people say “this year will be your year.” My year for what? Every year that God gives us is “our year.” This was “my year” in some ways, but in many other ways, it was not my year.

The saga of my life’s journey which began over ten years ago has impacted every day, week and month of my life. So like many of you reading this, I had many difficult and challenging times this past year. However, many of you prayed with and for me during those long, five years that I tried to sell my home in Oklahoma. I don’t know today nor while it was happening why God “dragged” it on so long. Yet He did and I had to accept it.

My Oklahoma home sold in January and closed in March. I had an extremely difficult move from that house to this one, but God was right there with me.  Also, how could I possibly reflect on the year without the dozen houses I bid on and lost?  I left a depressed real estate market in Oklahoma to come to a greatly inflated and “hot” real estate market in Texas.

As I spent four full months living in and out of hotels and an Air B/B, my prayers were fast and furious. My two small suitcases contained my full wardrobe during those four months, as all my earthly possessions were jammed into storage units. I continued to ask God “when?”

My prayers never ceased for I knew God had “His” house for me. Finally, in July, I moved into an older home which needed much love and attention. I realized then my prayers to locate a home paled in comparison to the prayers to repair and/or renovate this house.

It is a work in progress, but God is good. We sing the chorus “God is good all the time. All the time God is good.” As we close out this year, at times that is difficult to grasp. Yet God is not only good, He’s wonderful. I now stand on the first step of the first day-of the first month- of a new year. I proudly proclaim. Here I am God-use me for whatever you desire of me for this year.

We will all be facing something in 2022. We may not know what it is today, but what a joy to know that God will be right there with us, no matter what awaits us. Psalm 25:8 NIV,  “Good and upright is the Lord…”