Saturday, March 28, 2009

Who Am I?

One of my favorite songs from the early days of my walk with God is "Who Am I?". Not the more recent version by Casting Crowns (although that, too, is one of my favorites), but the older version written and recorded by Rusty Goodman. What a voice he had and how smoothly he could move through a song! The words of the song he penned still bring tears to my eyes.
I have been thinking a lot about those words in the past couple of days. I am more aware with each passing day how undeserving I am of all the blessings my precious God has bestowed upon me. I sometimes find myself thinking that I have done nothing to merit such love and concern as that which God shows to me. Who am I to be chosen to receive from the very throne room of Heaven? What could I possibly have said or done that God would deem me worthy of His very best?
I think of how frail my human wrappings are--how riddled with faults and shortcomings my fallen nature is and I am amazed at Gods complete disregard for it all. I find myself driven to my knees in sheer gratitude that the creator of Heaven and earth would be mindful of me, the least of His servants. I look up at the beautiful North Carolina sky, with all its stars shining like diamonds in the royal blue of night, and I realize that the God who flung them into space from the palm of His hand now holds me safely in that same palm! Who am I?
There are nights when my heart is heavy and rest is fleeting. My spirit grieves over someone I love, or some event of the day for which I find no peace, no resolution. My tears fall easily and my voice whispers to God for help. There, in the shadows of night, I feel the softness of His presence. There comes a change in the atmosphere of my room--a knowing that He is near. I rest in the company of the one who is the throb of my heart, the air that I breathe. Then, I am humbled to know that I have done nothing to be found worthy of the peace He brings to me. I receive only because I am loved.
Nothing says it better than the words Rusty wrote so long ago:

"When I'm reminded of His words,
I'll leave thee never.
Just be true, I'll give to you
Life forever.
I wonder what I could have done
To deserve God's only Son,
To fight my battles until they're won
For, who am ?

"Who am I that a King would bleed and die for?
Who am I that He would pray, not my will thine for?
The answer I may never know,
Why He ever loved me so,
That to an old rugged cross He would go,
For, who am I?"

Dearest friends, we may never really know why God loves us so much. We may never understand why He constantly pulls us towards Himself and why He is so insistent upon sharing with us the treasures of Heaven. I have come to believe that it is that very sense of our own unworthiness and our weak attempt at gratitude that forces Him to continue to give us blessing after blessing. It is the knowledge that we are His children and, like a true father, He wants us to have the best. He gave us His Son to take upon His human likeness all the sins we have ever committed. He did that so that I could be with Him always. I am blessed beyond words. I am loved beyond limits. Who am I? I am a child of the King.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This Is My Cross



Today I have been thinking a lot about people I know who have shown courage in the face of adversity--people who keep moving forward no matter what the circumstances. My grandmother was one of those people. Her life was an inspiring one.
My father's mother, Roxie Wilson, was born on Christmas day in 1899. From the beginning of her life she was bold and independent. Grandma wanted to do things her own way and in her own time. She was fiesty and could hold her own with any of her siblings. She possessed an inner strength and a sense of purpose that enabled her to approach any situation with confidence. Every obstacle became a personal challenge and every challenge was met with a will that was unshakable. As it turned out, that strong will would be tested beyond her imagination.
Grandma loved the outdoors and the beautiful mountains of Kentucky were her playground. She and her brothers and sisters spent most of their free time in the woods and valleys surrounding their home. At the age of fifteen, Grandma suffered a horrific accident. While riding sidesaddle on horseback, the girth (buckle across the abdomen of the horse that holds the saddle in place) of the saddle broke as the horse was jumping a small stream. My grandmother fell off the horse's back landing on her feet. The force of the fall snapped her spinal cord at waist level--she was paralyzed from the waist down on impact.
I cannot begin to imagine what an accident like that would do to anyone much less someone as active as my grandmother. There was no known treatment, no surgical procedure or physical therapy that could help my dear grandmother recover any functioning of her lower extremities. She was fifteen years old and could not walk or run or do any of things she loved so well. She told me about it years later and described that time as the saddest time of her life.
Grandmother laid in bed as an invalid for five years. At that point, she realized she was not going to die. In her own words she said, "I decided that if I was going to live, then I was REALLY going to live.". Though she did not have a wheelchair, she learned to sit in an armless chair and, moving it from side to side, managed to move herself from place to place. She became a seamstress and made clothes for the wives of physicians and merchants in her small town. She learned to walk short distances on crutches, though it was exhausting for her. Because she could not use either of her lower extremities, she had to position the crutches forward and "swing" herself to the next point. Still, nothing stopped her.
In her early twenties, Grandma gave her heart to the Lord after hearing the salvation message preached by mountain missionaries. Upon conversion, her zeal for the Lord and the body of Christ became the focus of her life. She was consumed by the presence of God in her life and never lost sight of the cross. No matter who came into her home, they soon heard the message of Christ. She read the gospel, she sang the gospel, she lived the gospel. Her life was such a glorious example.
When Grandma read about the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, she went off to herself to seek the Lord for understanding. She found a "secret" place under a beautiful oak tree and there she sought the face of God. There she lingered in prayer until she was filled with the Holy Spirit. At last, she felt her soul was secure.
I was her only grandaughter for about twelve years, until my cousin Colleen was born. I loved Colleen so much, I didn't mind sharing Grandma with her. Besides, I always felt I was Grandma's favorite (smile). The above picture of Grandma and I was made when I was ten years of age. Next to my own, dear Mother, she was the woman I loved most in this world.
My grandmother died when I was eighteen. Hardly a day goes by that I do not think of her. At her funeral, I was priviledged to play the piano while the hymns she loved so well were sung by family and friends. As the music finished and, before the minister began to speak, I recalled how Grandma had once summed up her life to me. Seated in her favorite chair, she described her attitude towards her life as a paraplegic. She looked at me with eyes as clear as could be, voice strong and vibrant, and said, "This is my cross. I will bear it and be happy." I wonder when she spoke those words to me if she knew how it would affect me. I wonder if she could ever realize that those words would ring through the history of my own life, giving me hope when there was none and determination when all else failed.
I pray God will give me the strength of will and the singleness of purpose to look at every adversity of my life as an opportunity for God to prove Himself once again. I pray that the enduring of every test and trial will be prefaced with the words, "This is my cross. I will bear it and be happy.". Let it be, dear Lord. Let it be.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Music in My Soul


Music has always been such an important part of my life. When no words could comfort me and all else failed, music could calm my troubled soul. It became my escape, my refuge, my retreat. I suppose that's why I love the Psalms so very much. As a shepherd boy, David also found solace in his music and an escape from the weariness of life.
As a child, the music I remember most was the sound of bluegrass. I can still hear the sound of stringed instruments floating across the mountains of my grandparent's home in beautiful Kentucky. I recall the soulful sound of the violin (fiddle, if you're from the south), the twang of the banjo and the high pitched sound of the mandolin. Add an acoustic (flatop) guitar and Heaven itself had no sweeter music. I would often fall asleep to the beautiful music of the old hymns. What sweet memories!
For me, it was the keyboard that held my interest. I had been singing all my life but at age sixteen, I learned to play the piano. I learned to play by ear and practiced until I could accompany myself. After that, there was no stopping me. I didn't have a piano at home but you would never have known it. I played the piano on the kitchen table, the bathroom sink, the coffee table in the living room--anywhere I could put both hands side by side. Mother used to laugh so hard at me because everything in the house had soon been made into a makeshift keyboard and "played by Marie". She was so supportive of my efforts.
My brother Don played the acoustic guitar. How I loved to hear him play! Many were the times I found him sitting on the back porch with his guitar. Sometimes he would pick out the notes, other times he just strummed the chords. Either way, he was a joy to listen to. A softness would come upon his face as he played and he seemed to be in a faraway place. It was almost magical.
One particular memory stays with me more than all others. Don knocked on my bedroom door one night after supper. I opened the door and there he stood with his old, somewhat battered guitar. "Let's play some music, Sis.". We sat on my bed for over an hour as Don played and I sang. I watched his fingers fly over the strings for the hand clapping tunes and then he seemed to caress the strings for the soft ballads. When he really liked the song he would look at me and grin. Of course, I kept singing just to win his smile. What a sweet memory!
Don died at age 26. My heart had never been so broken. An emptiness filled me--I missed him so. I could hardly stand to look at his guitar. It was only a reminder that I could never hear him strum the notes again. I grieved, oh, how I grieved. Life would never be the same.
One week after Don's death Daddy wanted us all to go to church. He would be ministering his first message following my brother's death and he needed our support.
I did not think I could do this, even for Daddy. How could I sing when my heart was broken? How could I strike a note on the keyboard when the music would only remind me of Don's absence? Music had always been the balm that healed the wounds of my spirit. Not this time. Not tonight.
When Daddy asked me to sing, I thought it impossible. My brother was gone and I did not understand. How could this happen? He was so young, so full of life and love. How could I sing without him there? I bowed my head and asked God to help me to lift my voice and sing as unto the Lord. I then felt a surge of strength--a strength I recognized as the spirit of God. I knew I could do this. I struck the notes on the keyboard and began to sing,

"Farther along, we'll know all about it.
Farther along, we'll understand why.
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine.
We'll understand it all by and by."

Now, I understood. There are things in this life that we will never understand. God owes us no explanation for what He does. He is obligated, however, to keep the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us. I found Him to be true to this promise. He is truly ever present.
Music will always be the constant in my life. It will always be the outlet God has given me when life becomes something I cannot understand. I lose myself in its sound, in its notes, in its words. Music takes me to a place I feel safest--it takes me into the heart of God. There I find joy unspeakable and full of glory!!

In Grace,
Marie

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mother So Sweet


Some of the fondest memories of my childhood are of my sweet Mother. Never have I seen or known a lady more devoted to her family than she. Oh, how she could calm my fears and make all the wrongs of my life right again. Just the sound of her voice and the touch of her hand could make even the darkest place seem brighter. Whether it was a wounded knee or a wounded heart, mother could fix it with a simple caress and a word of prayer. Daddy was our protector, our defender, but Mother was our healer. She was, and always will be, like an angel to me. I do love her so.
Mother had many responsibilities when all of her children were young and living at home. In addition to caring for the home and making it a haven for her family, she held the position of a pastor's wife--a position I know she found difficult at times. You see, Mother has a quiet personality, not at all like her outgoing husband and children. She found the spotlight frustrating at times and I remember hearing her pray quite often for God's guidance and direction. She never lost sight of the fact that she was Daddy's strongest support and his greatest asset. She took her role very seriously and, many times, said that her job was to make sure Daddy's ministry was a success. Even today, she still feels the same--Mother loves the work of God and remains a strong part of Daddy's ministerial efforts.
But to my four brothers and I she remained the sweetest mother. We all loved her so much and would do anything she asked simply because of our tremendous respect for the life she lived before us. We were also priviledged to hear her voice in prayer. Many times it was in the early hours of the morning or sometimes in the midnight hour. If we listened closely, and long enough, we would hear her call each of our names and intercede for our specific needs. How loved that made us feel! No greater gift could she bestow upon us, her children, than to hear our names fall from the lips of this dear Servant of God. In all of our heartaches and all the despairs that have fallen upon each of us, my brothers and I knew that we would make it through them all because Mother kept us covered in prayer. A true prayer warrior! A faithful believer!
I dont' believe there is anything in the life of a mother that could hurt anymore than the loss of one of her children. I have seen my mother lose, not one, but two of her sons. I will never forget the grief and sorrow that covered that beautiful face. As long as I live, I will know the sound of mourning for I heard it escape from my mother's heart--I heard it rush forth in aguish of soul and I will never be able to abolish its memory. Mother grieved inwardly and spent many hours following my brothers' deaths in lonliness and despair. She yearned for the sound of their voices and longed to hear their footsteps. Mother mourned the fact that her sons had lost their lives before they really had a chance to live. Don was taken at age 26--David passing at age 39. She mourned, most of all, that she must continue on without them. It was so heart-wrenching to watch Mother grieve while I remained powerless to help her.
In the days that followed the death of her sons, however, I saw something beautiful develop in my dear Mother. She found a way to turn her mourning into a ministry that would help others and began to reach out to women she knew who had also lost a child. She found words of comfort that only those with a common loss would know. In placing the healing balm of God's comfort in the lives of others, she began to experience it for herself. It wasn't long until I heard Mother's laughter again. I began to see her smile when I came into a room. I soon heard Mother and Daddy remembering their sons and finding healing in the memories. I asked my Mother a few months ago how she made it through those dark times. She looked at me with those lovely blue eyes, smiled and said, "I made it one day at a time, leaning on the Lord.".
My dear, sweet Mother is such a blessing to me. Through all the days of my life she has loved me so fiercely, clung to me so tightly, and never failed to bring my name before the Lord in prayer. The sound of her voice is enough to calm all my fears, set the world right again, and bring the joy of the Lord to my heart. She is my example, my teacher, my mentor. She really is my Mother, so sweet.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Daddy's Little Girl


There are definite benefits to being the only girl in the family. Not only was I the only girl but I was also the oldest of the five children. There were two years and two months between my oldest brother and myself. That meant that I had Daddy all to myself until Don came along. I followed him everywhere. I talked to him like most little girls would talk to their toys and I was the apple of his eye. I remember those strong arms holding me close and Daddy's voice, normally so booming and strong, would become soft and low as he called me "Daddy's little girl". Very often I would lay my head on his shoulder and fall fast asleep. The above photo shows me with Daddy at age two, held tightly by my hero. I always felt so safe with Daddy---I still do. I love him so very much.
I suppose my idea of God as my Heavenly father relates a great deal to my own earthly father. When Daddy preached about God's love for us, His children, I could understand because I had seen a father's love in action. I could understand what it meant to have a Heavenly father who would never leave us or forsake us. Daddy stood with all five of his children. Even when he didn't agree with what we had said or done, he never let go of us--he was always there. Now by no means do I mean to imply that my Daddy is equal with God. What I am saying is that he was such a wonderful father that my idea of God was molded by his actions. Daddy is quite a man.
I have always felt so secure with God. I have never felt abandoned or unloved by the God I love and serve. He is my rock and my shield. He guards me from the enemy's snares and guides every step I take. He leads me by the hand when the way is dark and walks by my side when all is well. He holds me close when I am afraid and protects me when danger is near. I lean on Him without fear or dread knowing He is ever present.
When I gave my heart to the Lord at the age of fourteen, Daddy was there. Later, he baptized me and prayed with me when I received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. He taught me to love the Scriptures and he told me I could talk to God just like I talk to Him. My Heavenly father and I have a deep relationship because of the influence of my earthly father.
Daddy just turned 79. He is as sharp as a tack and still spends most of his day in reading the scriptures and preaching to anyone who will listen. I still thrill to the sound of his voice and the touch of his hand. It has been my priviledge to be his daughter.
I just know that when I stand before my God, and finally see Him face to face, it will be the greatest joy I have ever known. To look upon the face of the Father I have loved and served, yet never seen, will be the thrill of a lifetime. I long to be able to be alone with God and thank Him for all He has done--for loving me, for being patient with me, for forgiving me, for never leaving me, and for giving me an eternal home in His kingdom. Most of all I want to thank Him for choosing a humble, loving man to be my earthly father. I want to feel the arms of God, my Heavenly father, wrap around me and say, "Well done, Daddy's little girl. Enter in to the joy of the Lord.".

In Grace,
Marie

Amazing Grace

I awoke this morning with the words of the lovely old hymn "Amazing Grace" flowing through my mind. I felt such a peace come over me as the words of the song played across the strings of my heart. My pastor recently preached a message regarding the grace of God. He defined it not only as unmerited favor but more as the Divine influence of God upon the heart of man. I liked that definition.
As a child I felt the influence of grace upon my life most directly from my parents. Daddy was, and still is, a teddy bear of a man whose words came across the pulpit with a mix of love and grace. He lived everything he preached and served God with complete faith and trust. Mother sang her grace. Every afternoon was nap time and, no matter how old we were, we had to lay and rest even if we didn't sleep. It was the priviledge of the youngest child to nap on mother's lap as she sat in her rocking chair and sang the old hymns. "Amazing Grace" was one she sang quite often and she sang it with her voice so clear and strong. I recall falling asleep to the sound of her sweet voice.
Oh! My friends, there is nothing like the safety and security of the grace of God. No wealth or fame can compare to the peace it brings, silver or gold cannot buy its worth, and man is lost without it. It is the divine influence of God upon the heart of man that makes the grace of God so precious. It is what makes grace so amazing!

In Grace,
Marie

Monday, March 16, 2009

From My Heart

It is really amazing to me how God brings people into our lives to touch our hearts and help us fulfil our goals and dreams. When I first decided to begin my blog, I thought it would be really easy and that I, being of basic intelligence, would be able to achieve it fairly quickly. I was WRONG! It was difficult for me to understand some of the concepts regarding computer language, layouts, graphics and so on. I was near tears trying to achieve my goal.
Then, by chance, I was visiting blogs listed on a particular blog I visit frequently and happened upon Jan and Tom at Rose Haven (www.jt-jantom.blogspot.com). The beauty of their blogsite was an example of exactly what I wanted to accomplish. The best part was the fact that Jan was having a giveaway of a blog header and background which she had designed and which was exactly what I was looking for. As you can see by my beautiful blogsite, I was one of the winners. I am thrilled!!!
Now I fully realize that there is a big difference between achieving this goal and overcoming some of the more serious difficulties of life. But, isn't is so like our Lord to be as concerned over the little things that add joy to our lives as He is over the larger ones that break our hearts? It matters not whether our concerns are big or small, frustrating or truly heartbreaking. The bottom line is that God cares about it all and not one detail of our lives goes unseen by Him.
It is a real joy for me to think of all the things that can be shared between us as we follow each others posts and remember each other in our thoughts and prayers. I do so want to be a blessing to each of you.
May you be blessed of the Lord today with all good things.
Oh--thanks again, Jan. God bless.

In Grace,
Marie

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My First Post

I am happy to be able to post my first writing even though the blog is not what I want it to be just yet. Please be patient with me--I promise there is more to come.

I have read so many wonderful blogs lately and have seen so many lovely images that I find myself asking the question, "what could I possibly have to add to what I have read and seen?". It then occurred to me that God has blessed me so abundantly and He has added such richness to my life that I could tell about it every hour of every day and still not be able to tell it all. I long to share my blessings with each of you and pray it will, in turn, be a blessing to you as well.

My dear, sweet father is a minister and, until three years ago, was my pastor as well. He always told me to follow the dreams God placed in my heart and to lean on the Lord to fulfil those dreams. Having this blog is one of the dreams I have long cherished. My desire is that it will be a resting place for each of you, a comfort for those who are weary and an inspiration to all.

As I learn more about posting, imaging and blogging in general, I promise there will be more than just a post. Until then, God bless each of you.

In Grace,
Marie