Category Archives: Love

Then

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Then

This past weekend I watched my youngest son as he stepped out onto the surface of a snow-covered frozen lake, one hand clutching the hand of the woman he loves and the other hand, deep in his pocket, clutching a tiny box that contained a promise for the future. John and I watched them as they laughed and skidded their way to the center of the lake, snow giving way to dark gray ice with a matching sky above. From fifty yards away, we saw him hand his camera to a bystander, turn back to his love, and drop to his knee. We knew it was coming (who didn’t?) and when this moment came, I fully expected to see his life flash before my eyes: my cheerful, happy baby with his thumb firmly embedded in his mouth…his blonde chili-bowl haircut…his way of happily commanding attention in a room full of large teenage football players. But instead of seeing a parade of pictures of Micah, images of our own marriage played through my mind.

This continued as the evening went on – as we celebrated with them, prayed with them, and heard their joyful phone calls to family and friends back home. We sat across a table from them in a restaurant and listened to them as they made their plans for their wedding party and wedding songs and wedding places.

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I could not recall some details of our own wedding planning – though I remember invitations and flowers and cakes. Watching Micah and Courtney, I could not help but think of the words to the song “Then”:

“We’ll look back someday, at this moment that we’re in,

And I’ll look at you and say –

‘And I thought I loved you, then…’”

The fun of setting up our own little home, just the way we liked it, with a monthly mobile home payment of $202.89. Buying and paying down my parents enormous Oldsmobile Delta 88 four-door sedan. Snuggling on Sunday afternoons on the old hand-me-down family furniture, cooking all kinds of John’s favorite things. Gaining weight. Figuring out how to pay for school, juggle family time during holidays, and learning the hard way about keeping the car tires aligned. The all-encompassing, overwhelming love for babies, sleep deprivation and desperate desire to protect them. Uncertainties and insecurities. Faithfulness. Are we making the right decisions? Losing our grandmothers. Where do we want our boys to grow up, make friends, go to school? Fourth grade performances, football practices, stomach viruses, good (and not so good) friendships, making time for a date so we can remember who we are together. School board campaigns, not-so-smart decisions, secrets kept and confessed and forgiven. High school graduations, birds leaving the nest one by one, figuring out how to help pay for college, job changes, hurting together as we watched our parents’ health decline. Grieving with our grown children in their losses and struggling with them in health issues. Losing my dad. The birth of beautiful grandchildren.

Bits of 32 years in a paragraph. But woven all through every struggle, triumph, joy, argument, excitement, achievement, loss, confession, physical change, emotional strain; through the brightest of days and the darkest of storms, there has been the deepest love that has grown exponentially. God has walked with us through every event, and we have praised Him and talked with Him every day. I’ve held the same hand for more than 32 years as hands larger than ours guided our steps. Only recently has my husband begun to show signs of age – deep laugh lines around his eyes and mouth, graying hair dignifying his already handsome face. 32 years ago, I would not have thought it possible to love him more than I did then. 32 years ago, I think I might have laughed to think he would be more attractive to me at 52 than he was at 20. But it’s all true.

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I never want to detract from the love that Micah and Courtney share now.  It’s real and deep and true. But I have an idea of what’s ahead for them, and it’s even better than they imagine. Experiencing life and love together, with the guiding hand of God, with His love and blessings raining down upon them in whatever they encounter – they have so much to look forward to! Praising God for His gifts of love, marriage, family, memories and blessings that flow from one generation to the next!

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Caleb

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Twenty some-odd years ago, John and I met an energetic, mischievous, fun-loving, God-fearing, smiling young man named Clay, and a beautiful, serene, generous, kind and gentle young woman named Joanna. In 1998, the Lord merged those two personalities and Caleb was born, followed by Faith, Jenna, and Audrey.

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Our lives have crossed and intersected and merged now and again and we occasionally were blessed to hug their necks and laugh about things that happened when they were in college (like the fact that Clay taught Jordan and Jacob – when they were toddlers – to say “hey, chicky baby” when girls walked by.) We loved seeing their growing family.

Last summer we spent a weekend with them and their church family at a retreat in New Mexico. On our way there, we met them for a bite to eat and from the moment he bounced over to us, it was evident that Caleb was someone special. He peppered me with questions about Micah and talked about basketball.  He affectionately rubbed his baby sister’s head and smiled all the way through eating his sandwich. I teased him all weekend as he suddenly grew tongue-tied around some pretty girls. I noticed how he was comfortable with all ages and consistently wore a smile. He made such an impression on me!

Last Saturday, August 24, 2013, Caleb left Clay and Joanna, and went home to his Heavenly Father.

Several times today I’ve watched the slide show from his memorial service and as his baby pictures flashed by, I wondered – what if Clay and Joanna had known that they would only have him for fifteen short years? As a parent, I can’t imagine the dread that would create; the panic to hold on tightly as the time approached.

Caleb’s death and Clay and Joanna’s pain have made me think even more about the kind of love that God has for us. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and we would do anything – give anything – to prevent it from happening. But then I remember that oft-repeated verse that I might not really pay enough attention to, because He knew all along what would happen to His Son – “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

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I’m thankful for precious Caleb’s life. I’m thankful for my Father’s sacrificial love. And I’m thankful that one sweet day there will be a joyful reunion.

 

 

Camp

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When Micah was little bitty, he and I stayed home while John took Jordan and Jake with him to camp. Not being much of the outdoorsy, adventurous type, I preferred to stay in the relatively bug-free air-conditioned comfort of home. I never quite “got” why John and the big boys seemed to be so changed – on a higher plane, if you will – when they returned home.  But I get it now.

By the time Micah was about five years old, John and the big boys were begging us to come along and make it a family experience. My choices seemed to be (1) have another baby in order to stay home from camp, or (2) go to camp. Since the first option seemed a bit extreme, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a week at Camp Hensel.

Hensel, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, is not quite a five-star resort. It isn’t the Marriott. It’s not the Holiday Inn Express. It’s not even Motel 6. It’s more along the lines of the Bates Motel. Let’s just say Hensel has been around for a long time – so long, in fact, that I think some of the bugs stuck between the windows and rusty screens of Cabin 2 have been there since before I went as a child in the 70’s. The shower house for the boys is something straight out of the House of Torment: rusty nails, scary spiders and all. The Road House has a raccoon family in residence.  So I am firmly convinced, every year that our group returns relatively unscathed from a week at Hensel, that God has kept His protective hand over us.

Yes, there is heat. Oppressive, humid, sweaty heat. And bugs. And dirt – lots of dirt.  Shower shoes are a must. People tend to smell a little musty during their week at Hensel. We may occasionally get a teensy bit irritable. And maybe it’s because we only get about four hours of sleep each night.

BUT! There are the absolute best people in the world. A week spent away from the cares of the world and focusing on what is truly important. Lessons rich from the word of God, from men who have a gift for imparting His message. Meals eaten side by side with some of our best friends in the world. God’s beautiful creation evident all around us.

There are little boys (most likely wearing the same clothes for three days straight) whose ratty bed-head is absolutely adorable . Little girls who run around hand in hand, like these two:

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There is time to bond with young men and women – away from their telephones and iPads and any other electronic device. I  find it fascinating that they often come into the cabin on Sunday afternoon with a reserved demeanor (and sometimes downright distrust,) but by the end of the week they run to you with open arms, because the powerful word of God has entered into their hearts, and because we have been given the opportunity to show them that we truly care about them. These were most of mine and Denise’s girls this week – how I love each of these young women!

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There are times to pray, alone and together. Times to catch a glimpse into the sweet relationships between mothers and daughters; fathers and sons. Time to reflect on how blessed we are to be able to minister to others and for them to minister to us.

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And the singing! Can you imagine nearly 250 (dirty, sweaty) people crowded into a medium sized (un-air-conditioned) dining hall, windows and doors closed (because the acoustics are better) and singing for an hour? Andy Baker always encourages and reminds us to concentrate on the words of the songs and remember to Whom we are singing. This must be what heaven sounds like.

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The most beautiful sight was to see the compassion and care from so many when an individual had the courage to step forward and ask for prayers. They were immediately surrounded by so many – and not just their closest friends, but people they may not have known so well. What an amazing group of tender-hearted young people we spent the week with! I saw God in their compassionate, sympathetic tears.

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If you haven’t been, it’s hard to explain, and I hope someday you’ll know. I know we aren’t alone with our experience at Hensel – other camps provide the same experiences as well. I only wish that everyone could spend a week away, digging deep into God’s truths and retreating from the world.

Some of my favorite quotes from the week:

“When God uses you as His instrument, it doesn’t matter if you’re outnumbered.” Todd Crayton

“The Bible never gives us something to subtract from our lives without giving us something to add in its place.” Andy Baker

“If you’re against God, who can be FOR you?…Going to heaven is not easy, y’all, but going to heaven is worth it.” Mike Bonner

After a young lady had responded, Wayne Jones said that “her tears are a reflection of her heart.” What a beautiful statement.

When we arrived at Hensel, a dead feral hog was discovered in a stand of trees near the creek. Each time we walked to the creek for a baptism, the odor was overpowering. But John pointed out, in yet another teachable moment, that it was the “smell of death – and we don’t bury living people. In baptism, we die to our sins, are buried, and raised to walk in newness of life.” 2013-06-12 002 2013-06-12 011

I overheard Michaela Bonner comforting a fellow camper (whose grandmother is near death,) saying “You’ll see her again someday, and you’ll be even happier than you are now!”

We laughed a lot, too. A LOT.  Gretchen said “If you tried to stop some girls from talking, their heads would explode!” There are too many funny things that our girls said this week for me to record – and anyway, they’re just between us girls. 🙂

Coming home from camp is so bittersweet. I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. Not have to stand in the sun with 250 people before I eat. Not have to wait in a line of 100 people to eat lunch. Sit with my elbows on the table. Have the bathroom to myself.

But I’m going to miss my brothers and sisters. Back to living in the world – a world that needs Christian light. And hopefully we have all better prepared ourselves, and those with whom we spent the week, to reflect the light of Jesus to a lost and dying world. I’m praying for those young people who have to face reality again. I’m praying that they’ll remember the strength and encouragement they received at camp when they’re faced with inevitable temptation.

I’m glad my boys all encouraged me to experience camp with them. It’s been life changing. I hope you’ll someday have your life changed, as well.

I Want to See God

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My friends  Leslie and Karen lost their beloved mother-in-law, Sandra, on Thursday morning.  Mark and Russell lost their mom. Drew, Taylor, Lily and Sam lost their Grandma.  I say “lost” like she can’t be found, but we know where she is. She lost her battle with hateful cancer but she has won the victory in Jesus Christ.

Last night we sat in the quiet corner of a restaurant with Leslie and Russell. I snuggled baby Sam while Lily sat on her mama’s lap and played trains with the sugar packets.

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Leslie and I talked about the void that Sandra filled in her life. Love is so simple and yet so complicated, and Leslie’s voice broke as she tried to express her feelings.

Lily heard the tears in her mama’s voice and turned around. She placed her hands on Leslie’s face and said tearfully, “I want Grandma.”

Through her own tears, Leslie said “I do too, but Grandma’s gone home to be with God.”

Lily Grace, in her little three-year-old voice: “I want to see God.”

I do, too. Don’t you?

If you don’t know how, here’s a great place to start:

http://searchingfortruth.org

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IMHO

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Women could never be accused of being opinionated.

Co-sleeping or crib sleeping? Cry it out, or soothe to sleep? Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?  Cloth or disposable? Shots or no shots? Home, public, or private school? Lots of kids, or no kids? Stay-at-home mom or work-away-from-home mom? TV or no TV? Skirts only, or pants too? Sugar or no sugar? PTA or no PTA? Makeup or no makeup? Band or athletics? Too much Facebook, not enough Facebook, or no Facebook? Long hair or short hair? Courtship or dating? Kids should have phones, or kids shouldn’t have phones? Vegan, vegetarian or carnivore? Organic or inorganic? College or trade school? Be fit and exercise, or embrace the body you have? 

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Okay, so maybe we DO have a lot of opinions. Like Lady Violet, we think we are never wrong. And IMHO (in my humble opinion) that means a lot of different ways for us to feel superior – or inferior – to one another. I know I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this – and I’m trying to remind myself that in matters of opinion, I need to be more careful with my attitude. (And even in matters that aren’t opinions, but doctrine, I still need to be careful with my attitude toward others!)

We shouldn’t quarrel over opinions (Rom. 14:1). We should put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…forgiving each other,” ( Col. 3:12-17). And we should be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…” (Phil. 2:2-4).

We women need each other. We need to lean on one another, to cry on each other’s shoulders, to laugh together, and to know we aren’t being scrutinized or criticized when our backs are turned. We need to build one another up instead of tearing one another down. We need to be more gentle and less harsh and assertive about our views.

But that’s just my opinion. 🙂

No Regrets

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While digging through cabinets looking for our missing Christmas DVD’s, John discovered our old video camera and some tapes. They contained footage of old Christmases, Jacob’s *stellar* performance as Daddy Warbucks in his 8th grade musical, and Jordan’s summertime 7 on 7 football games.

Plenty of laughs. There were Jordan and Jacob in 1998, with their arms around each other, standing on the hearth singing “Joy to the World, ‘cuz Barney’s dead…they barbecued his head…” (Wow, really? Where did they come up with such violence??) Micah’s statically-electrified bedhead hair flying around on Christmas morning as he pushed his new Fisher Price Toddler Trike around the living room. John and me, both at least 50 pounds heavier, which didn’t exactly make us laugh but DID give us extra incentive to head to the gym tonight. 🙂 And there was my Dad at one of Jordan’s middle school basketball games, with considerably more hair on his head.

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I found myself swallowing tears too, and wondering why. It’s just so bittersweet. At the time, you might not think much about your little boys throwing their arms around you with unrestrained happiness and unfeigned love. It’s easy to take little things like that for granted.

But I got to thinking about how much more “sweet” we have than “bitter” – and how thankful I am that God gave us a handbook to guide our steps. Thankful for a husband who led our home spiritually and emotionally – and in every way. Thankful that our memories are a blessing and not a curse. And thankful that we don’t have serious regrets about our boys.

Food log….been kinda iffy on that for the last week or so, for obvious reasons. I think I’m going to start posting a screen shot of my Weight Watchers log instead of re-typing it here. Starting tomorrow. Because I’m regretting the food choices of the last week. 🙂

Near to the Brokenhearted

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Today’s tragedy reinforces what is truly important. I do not take for granted that all of my loved ones are safe today. My heart is broken for those parents whose arms are empty tonight.

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“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, oh children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” Psalm 34