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Monday, November 28, 2011

Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him

How wonderful to be back to my blog and to be able to share my heart thoughts with all of you. Personal illness has kept me away for a while. There were days when just breathing was difficult and I could only walk short distances without becoming extremely fatigued. Thankfully, God has been gracious and allowed me to recover my strength and my health. I am so very grateful for all of your prayers and kind thoughts during this time. I am eager to get 'round to all of you and catch up on your holiday festivities.

Oh, how I love this time of year. I love the preparations of baking, the wrapping of gifts, the songs of the season, and the anticipation of family gatherings. I love watching the changes in my home as the decorations go up and each room becomes a magical place. Old traditions and new celebrations merge into rich memories to be savored long after the season is ended. It is my most favorite time of the year.

In getting in the spirit of the season, I have a collection of Christmas music by various artists I enjoy. Last year, I purchased a CD by Josh Groban and it has become my most favorite of all. His beautiful voice lends itself so well to the songs of the season. The last song on the CD is "O, Come All Ye Faithful". It is the most glorious rendition of this song I have ever heard.

Though I have sung this song and relished its words since I was a child, this year it has taken on a special meaning for me. During the time that I was so very ill, I came to lean on the Lord for comfort and peace. I learned to not just love Him, I learned to adore Him. His presence became my escape and His Word became my resting place. When I was so weak I could hardly utter a prayer, I could feel Him near. What joy that was to me!!!

When I was a little girl, I used to wonder what it would have been like to be among those who came to worship the baby in the manger. I would imagine myself at the side of Mary as she held Him close and I would even imagine myself holding the Baby Jesus and looking into his infant face. Now, as an adult, I still feel that same sense of adoration when I think of Jesus' birth, how He was laid in a manger filled with hay, wrapped in swaddling cloth, his arrival announced by an angelic choir, and shepherds hurrying through the dark of night to see Him for themselves.

I do so love the beauty of Christmas. Yet, as the ornaments go on the tree, as I listen to the songs of the season, and as I thrill to the gathering of family and friends, my adoration is reserved for the baby in the manger. There is no other I love so dearly, no presence so treasured as His. I will come to Him, I will adore Him, and I will celebrate his coming. He alone is worthy---Christ the Lord.

In Grace,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Refuge

"God is my refuge...He's a strong and mighty tower...that I can run to...God is my refuge...without Him...tell me what would I do?". Southern Gospel Hymn

I awoke this morning still tired and nearly exhausted from a very busy week. I pondered what I should write about and found that I could not settle on a subject. Since that is highly unusual for me, I prayed about it. I asked God to give me the topic of the day, as I always do, but still nothing specific came to mind. So, I decided to just enter into prayer and wait for God to bring what was needed to my mind.

As I began to thank God for all His many blessings to me, I was reminded of the night I gave my heart to the Lord. I was fourteen, naive, and had no clue what life was all about. My world was centered around the things of God. We were a family whose entire focus was on the ministry so, while I was fairly well versed in Godly matters, life itself was a completely different issue. As my brothers grew older, they were involved in sports activities, field trips, and hunting expeditions. I, on the other hand, chose the comforts of home. Though I had friends, I was basically a loner. I was so hungry and thirsty for the things of God that it became a separating factor as most of my friends could not understand why I would rather sit with Daddy and his ministerial friends than go out with them. It is still that way today. I have wonderful friends in my church and I adore my pastor's wife. Susan is my totally best friend. However, most of my time is spent alone with God. He is the best friend of all. I am in constant hunger for His presence.

Which brings me to today's thought. As I was thanking God for all He has done for me, I found myself also thanking Him for the hard lessons He has taught me. I said to the Lord, "God there were many times when I wanted you to rescue me, but you had lessons for me to learn.". It was then I felt the unction of the Holy Ghost as He spoke to me and said, "I wanted to be your refuge, not your rescue.". Oh, how grateful I am that he taught me where to run for refuge, how to continue on in the midst of the storm, and how to follow the path of righteousness to find my shelter in Him. How grateful I am now for the times I spent with Him instead of worldly pursuits. Oh, I cannot express to you the joy I feel at this moment.

Lest you think I am boasting or, worse still, you perceive me as a hermit, let me say that I love being with the people of God. I love listening to their life stories and sharing mine with them. Coffee on the porch with Susan and her daughters is one of my favorite pastimes. I love to shop and I love to eat out. Being with my children and grandchildren is always a pleasure. But it is my time with God that renews me. It is His presence that I crave the most. It is the time spent in prayer and meditation that have sustained me through the dark times of life. His Word has, indeed, become my refuge.

All that I have shared with you today has been intended to point you to the only refuge you really have. With all the friends we may gain, all the money we may spend, all the possessions we may accumulate, it is what we gain from God that will sustain us. He will anchor us. He will be our refuge. He will be our teacher and our guide. He will never fail or forsake us and His love is all encompassing. His mercy and grace are renewed every day and He never lets go of us, no matter what.

God doesn't want to rescue us as much as wants to refuge us. He is the only shelter we have when the storms of life are raging high. I urge you to seek Him today. Run to Him, love Him, bask in His presence. He is your strong and mighty tower and you can find shelter in Him. When it comes right down to it, we really have no where else to go but to God. As the song says, "Without Him, tell me what would I do?". As long as He is willing to refuge me, I am willing to seek Him out and hide myself in Him. He is, indeed, my place of refuge.

In Grace,


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Safe and Sound

This is Derek Russell Caudill. He is currently serving in the United States Army.

I recently wrote about my brother, David. In that tribute I mentioned his son Derek and the fact that he was serving in Iraq. I am grateful to say that Derek is now back in the United States, safe and sound, and is stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. I am so thankful to God for protecting him and keeping him from harm during his tour overseas.

Derek is the youngest grandchild in our family and never has a child been loved so much as he has been by all of us. I think Derek must have been born with a smile on his face, because that is all he did when he was little. Just like his father, he smiled all the time. Whenever you would speak to him, he would not only smile, but chuckle---just a little giggle that would start out quietly and then, the more you talked to him, the louder it got. Before you knew it, he was laughing and chuckling so loudly that we all found ourselves laughing along. From the time he was a baby, he has always had such a joyful spirit.
Derek at about three months of age. The little outfit he has on was worn by his father in a photo taken when my brother was about the same age.

When Derek was six, I went through a devastating life circumstance. I leaned on my brother, David, quite heavily during that awful time. I needed Dave's strength and his love while I learned how to move forward and, needless to say, it was always there. I was visiting Dave at home one night and, just as I got ready to leave, here came Derek in his little pajamas, carrying a white teddy bear. He looked up at me with great big eyes and said, "Aunt Ree, I know you have been sad lately so I wanted to give you something to make you feel better. This is my favorite teddy bear. His name is Maximillian Snowflake, but you can call him Max. Whenever you are feeling sad, just give him a great big hug and you will feel better.". Do I need to tell you that I cried so hard and hugged Derek even harder? His little heart was so big and so full of compassion, he couldn't stand to see me hurting. I wrote about Max in a former post. I still have him. He sits on my bed and I am reminded everyday of the little boy who brought healing to my hurting heart.
Derek playing T-ball at age six.

Derek was eight when his father died. I don't know how he received the news---I wasn't with my brothers and his mother when they told him. I do recall, however, how Derek came to terms with his father's death in the week that followed. I was taking Derek home to spend the night with me. I missed my brother and I thought having Derek with me would help me. As we were driving home he said to me, "I didn't expect my Dad to die. I thought he would get a liver transplant and everything would be okay.". I replied, "I thought so, too Derek. I'm having a hard time understanding all this.". "Oh, I understand it, Aunt Ree." my little nephew said. "Well, would you please explain it to me , because I need to understand.", I said. This is how Derek explained it to me:

"Well, it's like this. Everyone is born with a job to do.While you are alive, God comes down from Heaven from time to time and helps you do your job. Then, when your job is done, God comes down one last time and takes you home to be with Him---and my Dad's job was done.".

I cannot explain how that ministered to my spirit. I had to stop the car and, looking into Derek's face, I knew what he said was true. His father's job was done and God had taken him home. I have never forgotten these words and have used them many times in comforting patients, their families, and my own loved ones as death has hovered near. It seemed almost too wise a comment to come from a child. But that's Derek.
This is the last family photo of my brother David, his wife , Vanessa, oldest son, David Lee, and Derek. I believe Derek was not quite seven in this photo.

As a teenager, and now as a young adult, Derek is funny, smart, athletic, and kind. He has always had such compassion for others. His love for his mother and his older brother, Dave, and especially Dave's little girl, Annabelle (or Bella as she likes to be called), is touching to see. He is such a selfless young man. He never ends a phone conversation without saying, "I love you", and always tells me how glad he is to hear from me.
Derek (standing in the back) with his mother and brother.

Life has put physical distance between my nephew and I. We don't get to talk too much and we see each other even less. He is in my heart daily, though, and I am so very grateful to God for bringing him home to all of us who love him. I am not certain of Derek's future---I don't know where the armed forces will take him or what will befall him in days ahead. I do know that I will continue to ask God to protect him, watch over him, keep him safe, and let him never forget the teachings of his father. Aside from the presence of God, family is the best thing we have in life for it is the only thing that lasts. I think Derek knows that because that's how he lives his life, living each day to the fullest, and making it all count. At the end of the day, it's the best way to live after all.

In Grace,

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Remembrance

This was my second oldest brother, David. We affectionately called him "Big Dave" because he also had a son with the same name.

It is so hard to lose a loved one. Life is never the same when the one you love so well is gone. I have often referred to death as a thief. It robs us of the most valuable of possessions when it takes from us the ones we love. I have lost many loved ones over the years and none have been so difficult as the loss of my two brothers.

Today, my brother, David, would have been 53. He passed away at the age of 39 due to liver failure. He was the second of my brothers to die. My father has often told me that, of all the five of us children, David and I were most alike in personality. We also looked more alike than the others. I miss him so very very much.

I was seven years old when Dave came along. He was the sweetest child. He laughed all the time. When he wasn't laughing, he was smiling. Everyone loved him from the moment they met him. Sometimes, I would just sit and look at him---he was just so sweet. As a toddler, he was the cutest little fella. He had little chubby legs and when he started walking, he would just giggle from the sheer joy of "running" away from us. He was also so loving. When he would curl up on my lap and lay his little head on my shoulder, I just melted. He could have asked me for the moon and I would have a found a way to get it for him. Such a sweetie!

As a teenager, David was all boy. I cannot count the number of times he rode his bike into the garage, breaking the window panel in the process. Daddy finally put a wood panel in, thinking he had solved the problem. One day we heard a crash on the driveway and, you guessed it, Dave had hit the brakes on his bike and skidded into the garage door. By the time we got to him, he was half in the garage and half out. I died laughing at the sight of him just hanging there. All we could hear from inside the garage was Dave's voice saying, "Could someone help me out of here?". We were all laughing so hard, it took a few minutes for us to help the poor fellow.

Dave also enjoyed football. He and his buddies played throughout junior high and high school. I am reminded of a time, before Dave got his driver's license, when he needed a ride home from football practice. He called home and asked me if I could pick him up. I said I would. When I arrived at the field, he had four buddies with him, all dressed in football uniforms---shoulder pads, knee pads, jerseys, helmets---the works. My car was a 1968 Ford Mustang, definitely not designed to hold five high school football players in full gear. Somehow we managed to squeeze them all in and deliver them safely home. As each guy got out of the car, you could feel it rise a little higher off the ground. Dave would always look at me with that beautiful smile of his and say, "Thanks, Sis.". That was always more than enough for me.

After high school graduation, David married his high school sweetheart, Vanessa. I played the music for their wedding. It was such a happy time. Vanessa is still a part of our lives and is loved so much by my family. She has remained so loyal and faithful to him even after all this time. Their love for each other has transcended even death. I know she is lonely without him, but she has told me that she could never love anyone as much as she loved my brother. She is quite a lady.

Of all the things David enjoyed in life, his two sons remained his greatest source of joy. David Lee and Derek Russell were the loves of his life. When his oldest, David Lee, was born, I was waiting at my parent's home for news of his birth. Dave couldn't tell me over the phone, though. He left the hospital, drove to my parent's house, and told me in person. With a grin on his face he said to me, "I've got me a big boy, Sis. He's beautiful.". He grabbed me and gave me one of his big bear hugs and we both laughed with sheer delight. Eleven years later, his second son, Derek, was born. The same joy overcame us as he shared the news with me. His sons became his heart and soul. He was an excellent father to both boys. They are strong, intelligent, loving men today because of the man they called "Dad.".

David's last days were spend in Ohio State University Hospital, waiting for a liver transplant. On the Sunday before he passed, I called him. I just had to hear his voice. He was weak in body but strong in spirit. We talked for about 15 minutes and then, sensing he was tired, I said my goodbye. I told him I loved him and he said, "I love you too, Sis.". Those were the last words he spoke to me. The next day David suffered full cardiac arrest and was placed on life support. Three days later, he took a severe turn for the worse with major body systems shutting down. We withdrew the life support and a minute later he was gone. As a nurse, I have watched many people die. David's death was the most peaceful I had ever witnessed. It seemed as if his spirit hovered over us, comforting us, sustaining us, and then he gently left us. I know the angels carried him away, taking him to a far better place where sickness and death do not enter.

Oh, how I miss him. How I wish I could hear his deep voice call my name and what I would give to hear his laughter one more time. What I would give to hear him say, "Hey, Sis," one more time. Oh, but I would never call him back from the beauty of his resting place. His body was worn and weary, he was tired, he was ready to go. What a wonderful man he was. I loved him so fiercely and I miss him so deeply.

I close with the words of Peter Marshall, former Chaplain to the United States Senate. I have quoted them many times and I always find peace in the beauty of the phrase, "Those we love are with the Lord and the Lord has promised to be with us. If they are with Him, and He is with us, then they cannot be far away.". Maybe that's why, after almost 14 years, I can feel David's presence from time to time. It's almost as if I can hear him say, "Don't worry, Sis. I'll wait for you. Remember, this is only a temporary separation, after all.".

In Grace,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When All Else Fails

I've been away from my blog for a little while due to changes in my job, preparing to move to a new home, and some personal difficulties as well. While several of these activities were unavoidable, collectively they have taken a toll on my physical strength and I have just tried to focus on feeling better. As of this writing, I am on the mend.
I have always believed in the ability of our great God to see us through any storm, lift us up in the midst of all adversity, and keep us safe in His protective arm no matter what comes to us. I still believe these things with all my heart. I know my God is ever present in time of trouble, no matter what that trouble may be. Recently though, I have also come to understand that there are times when God is silent---when his hand cannot be felt, His voice cannot be heard, and the way before me is unclear. It is a time of questioning, a time of gut wrenching prayer, a time of asking why, and a time of finding no rhyme or reason to the situation in which we find ourselves. It is a time of trusting and of faith being put to the test.
During this time of testing, I found solace in the book of Job. I read of his testing and trials, his losses, and the stilted words of advice that came from his so-called friends. I found myself identifying with the questions he asked himself as he pondered what he had done to make God withdraw His presence and protection. As I read where job described His life's works to God, I found myself also recounting the sacrifices I had made in my own life to do my Lord's bidding. I reminded God of my repentance as a teenager, my devotion to His house and his work, my loyalty in the face of all despair, my trust in Him despite the tragedies that had found their way into my life. Then I soon came to see that life is not at all about suffering, it's about Faith. It's about trusting God when there seems to be no reason to trust Him. It's about believing that God is able to do above and beyond what we could ever hope or imagine. Knowing God is a God of His Word, believing that He will bring that Word to pass in us, securing our faith by making Himself known to us at every turning of life's pages---this is what adversity is all about. It is all about Faith.
As I look back over the past few weeks and the difficulties I've faced, I am reminded of the most poignant words of Job's conversations with his so-called friends. Found in chapter 23, verses 8-10, Job tells of how he searched for God. He describes how he looked for God in every place he had found him before, but God was not there. Then, he makes the statement of faith, "But He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.". The word "shall" is Job's faith in action, it is his revelation of the reward of trusting God. It was the statement that secured my faith in God when facing troubled times.
I am certain that this will not be the last crisis of faith I have in my walk with God. Life has a way of bringing you low, of hitting below the belt, and draining us of what shred of faith and hope we may have been clinging to. But, I find joy today in knowing that He knows the steps I take. Though frail and halting those steps may be, He knows them just the same. I can truthfully say, when all else fails, God never does. Silent though he may be at times, hidden though he may seem to be, He is ever present. He never fails.
Oh, how I pray to be strong in my faith. I pray to never waver, never lose sight of the price he paid for me. He is the God of my heart, the source of my strength, and the unending spring of joy. He is the love of my life. He is the One I cling to when all else fails.

In Grace,

Sunday, April 3, 2011

At The End Of The Day

This is me with my gospel music hero, Guy Penrod. It was such a thrill to meet him.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely love Guy Penrod, former lead singer for the Gaither Vocal Band. His voice is so strong and filled with emotion as he sings. Whether it is a foot-stomping hymn or a soulful ballad, no one caresses the words of a song the way Guy Penrod does. His voice has carried me through many difficult times and his rendition of the song, "Knowing You'll Be There", has comforted me at the loss of loved ones. He is a truly gifted singer.

I was privileged to meet him in person last year. He had just released his new CD, "Breathe Deep", and was doing a concert at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. I gladly made the three hour trip from my home in North Carolina to hear him sing. It was a dream come true for me. Not only did I get to hear that marvelous voice, but I had an opportunity to meet his wife, his beautiful little girl, and several of his seven sons. His wife, Angie, arranged for me to have a few moments to chat with my "hero". As I looked into the face of a man I admired and respected, I felt the anointing of our great God. I told Guy how his music had sustained me through some very dark and difficult times. I also told him how his down-to-earth attitude had touched my heart and encouraged me to keep looking to the Lord for comfort and direction. Guy is so very humble about all of this. His reply to me was simply, "Praise God. I am just glad to be able to be a blessing to you and to others.".

I love this photo---it says it all about a man's walk with God.

Upon returning home, I decided to check out Guy's website. In the section, About Me,
I found a statement he made that just hit me with a big reality check. He said this, "I live in the country on a farm in a log house and drive a tractor and a Ford F-350...those listening to my music may live in Manhattan in a high rise and go to work in a limo. But, at the end of the day, life is life, and we all have joys and heartaches.".

I pondered that comment for several days. I had never really thought of life from that perspective. When you think of people who are wealthy enough to go to work in a limo or live in a million dollar home, you just don't often think of them as having difficulties. The affluence and worldly successes sort of blur the visions we have of the lives of such people but, indeed, life is life. Sorrow finds its way to all of us in one form or another. Those who face it without the Lord will find the path more difficult to follow. Money, fame, and power will give little comfort when life gets rough.

I don't know how people make it without the Lord. Where do they go? Who do they turn to? The old, old hymn says, "Where could I go but to the Lord?". At the slightest disturbance in my daily life, I find myself running to my Lord for shelter, for comfort, for protection. Oh, how dim and lonely life would be without the Lord. How dismal the future would appear! With Him, though, I have hope for a brighter tomorrow. With Jesus, I have faith that, should sorrow find its way to me, I would be held securely in His everlasting arms. What a comfort! What a joy that is!

I learned so much from my hero the night I saw him sing. I learned about leaning hard on the Lord and never forgetting He is always close by. I learned that we must never overlook the fact that our family, outside of God Himself, is our greatest gift from God. I learned that seeing the world through a child's eyes in not a bad thing. Most of all, though, I was reminded that life is life. My favorite new saying here of late has been, "It is what it is.". Life is what it is. It is what we make it. We can make life bearable by serving God and desiring Him above all else OR we can make it a drudgery by failing to give our lives into the hands of a loving God. Sometimes, priorities can get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. I stepped away from the busyness for a day and gained some valuable insight into life in Christ. Wonderful words, beautiful music, all at the end of the day.

This is Guy and Angie Penrod with their eight children---seven boys and one little girl, Lacey. A beautiful family.

In Grace,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oh, Glorious Day

I have never been much of a fan of contemporary music. All my life, I have loved the sound of Southern Gospel. I love nothing more than the blending of a keyboard, acoustic, and bass guitar. Add the drums, electric and steel guitars, and there is nothing that sounds any better behind a Southern Gospel vocal. I grew up listening to Jimmy Swaggart and Floyd Cramer on the keyboard. I would listen to them closely, then go to my piano and mimic the sound. I have been playing music in church for 43 years and have never taken a lesson. I couldn't read a sheet of music if my life depended on it, but I can play by ear just fine. It was God's gift to me many years ago and I am grateful, so grateful, to Him for His gift.

As much as I love southern Gospel, I have recently learned to enjoy some contemporary artists as well. One group in particular, Casting Crowns, has become a real favorite. I listen to them a lot and am smitten by their harmony and the strength of the message in their lyrics. I have been especially blessed by the song, "Oh, Glorious Day.". What a wonderful rendition of an old hymn this has become. I heard the older version of this song just a few weeks ago and could hardly believe the difference in the two presentations.

Regardless of the message, the lyrics of the song carry a powerful message. I have long believed in, and cherished the thought of, the day when we will see Christ face to face. To look into the eyes of the One who died for me, to hear His voice, to see the scars in His hands, to know I am finally home, to be with Him forevermore, oh, it will truly be a glorious day. All Heaven will be in celebration as those of us who have fought the good fight of faith will be welcomed home with open arms. The very thought of it brings tears to my eyes. What a day that will be!!!

The chorus of this song is particularly touching to me. I reaches me in my soul and reminds me, with each repetition of the words, just how much Jesus did for me. Allow me to share the words:

"Living, He loved me.
Dying, He saved me.
Buried, He carried my sins far away.
Rising, He justified,
Freely forever.
One day, He's coming,
Oh, glorious day.
Oh, glorious day."

I tell you, my friends, it is with great joy that I anticipate His coming. Please, do not misunderstand. God has given me a wonderful life, filled with the best of family and friends. I have everything I need and so much of what I want. God has been so good to me. But, with that being said, I know that there will, one day, come an end to life as I know it. I will either find a resting place in the grave or be alive and well at the coming of our Lord. It matters not to me how I get to see my precious Jesus, just as long as I get to see Him. It will be a glorious day---a day filled with laughter and rejoicing as those of us who have given our lives in the Lord's service, at last, reach our final destination.

Casting Crowns sings this song with much emotion and one senses that these young artists know the Jesus they are singing about. I firmly believe that they have experienced the grace and mercy of our dear Lord. Beyond their beautiful musical abilities, though, lies the fact that there will come a glorious day. This fact exists, regardless of who sings the song. One day, He's coming---I desire to be ready and waiting. As an older southern Gospel song says, "What a day, glorious day, that will be.".

In Grace,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gabriel's Goodbye

This is my favorite photo of my wonderful grandson, Gabriel

I am constantly amazed at the wisdom of children. They seem to have an inner voice that we, as adults, have lost as we've grown older. To a child, the world is an amazing place, filled with wonder and delight. Everyday is an opportunity to find new joys and experience new adventures. Because of this, a child's life must be protected at all costs for, too soon, they will become adults and the childhood wonder of life will be tempered by the events of life itself. The security of one's childhood sets the tone for the life one will lead as an adult. Our children deserve to be loved and sheltered while we, as parents and grandparents, teach them the things they need to know to lead happy and productive lives.

One of the great loves of a child's life is its pet. Children and animals go together like bread and butter. There develops a great bond between child and pet and they become inseparable. Such has been the case with my grandsons and their two puppies, CoCo and JoJo, both pups being rescued from horrendous living conditions. While Gabe was attached to both dogs, JoJo, the smallest of the two, became his favorite. He loved to sit on the floor and play with JoJo. I frequently found him with his arms wrapped around the little dog as he nuzzled her neck and told her what a good dog she was. JoJo loved both boys and followed them around the house and yard, always wanting their attention. Gabriel was always loving and petting the little dogs, particularly JoJo. I use the past tense in relating this story as JoJo passed away this week.

When Gabriel and Michael called to tell me that JoJo would have to be put to sleep, my heart sank. JoJo had received an injury to her back left leg that could not be surgically repaired. Her little hip was dislocated to the point where she could not bear weight. In fact, she could not use the leg at all---it just dangled at her side. The little dog was in constant pain, her eyes reflecting how awful she felt. While the vet offered several options in treating the little pet, none of them would relieve her pain and she would remain a cripple. The decision was made to relieve her suffering and let her go. It was a very difficult decision but it was the right one. Knowing the love the two boys shared for their little pets, I thought for sure that they would just fall apart. Oh, how very wrong I was.

I spent the night at my daughter's home the night before our little Jo would leave us. I cradled her little head and stroked her back, telling her how much joy she had brought to the boys and how much we all loved her. It was Gabriel's farewell, though, that touched me deep in my heart. JoJo was lying on a soft blanket on the sofa, her little eyes half closed as she watched all of us around her. Gabe knelt down close to her and said the following words, "You're going to meet Jesus tomorrow. He is so wonderful. You will be with Him in Heaven and you won't be sick anymore. You will be able to run all over Heaven. And, you will meet Jesus' father, too. His name is God and He is so cool. I love you, JoJo. I will miss you.".

Do I need to tell you how the tears began streaming down my face? I looked at my precious grandson and I realized just how strong his faith had become. He understands that life sometimes means separation but, he also understands that Heaven is a reality. He knows that God exists and that He is, indeed, "so cool". He told me later that He would miss his little pet but that he knew he would see her again in Heaven. He also told me that he was glad she would no longer be suffering and that being with Jesus was the best thing for her. I could not hold back the tears.

The next night, after JoJo had been laid to rest, Gabe talked to me on the phone and, once again, told me he was glad she was no longer suffering. He told me he was sad and that he was missing his little companion. Then he said, "I'm sad JoJo is not here, but I will see her again in Heaven someday.". Oh, how I loved him at that moment! How proud I am at the strength of his faith and the secure trust he has in our great Father-God. Faith born in a child's heart is faith that will secure them for a lifetime---it is a faith that will bring them through every adversity---a faith that will help them weather every storm.

I know that Gabriel will face far more difficult situations in life than that of losing a pet. I know that life itself will unfold in glorious beauty as well as the darkest of storms. I feel certain, though, that the faith both my grandsons possess will not fail them. I know that what their Mother and I have taught them will anchor their lives and enable them to face whatever life brings them successfully. That is what faith in God does.

I will long remember the little farewell Gabriel gave his pet. I will remember how he loved her, cared for her, played with her, and, in the end, prayed with her. I will recall, fondly, his idea of Heaven and his secure faith in a God who cannot fail. In days to come, when my own faith may be tested and tried, I will hear Gabe's words, "God is so cool.", and I will know, once again, that He never leaves us or forsakes us. It is a simple message, but one that is oh so true. There is faith in Gabriel's prayer and a promise in his goodbye. That's more than enough for me.

In Grace,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Loving Jesus More

My grandsons, Gabriel and Michael, recently spent the night with me. I had such fun with them. We were planning a celebration for Gabriel's ninth birthday the next day so, of course, I opted to keep the boys with me so my daughter could decorate for his party. We had supper together, popped popcorn, watched movies and just enjoyed being together. At about one o'clock in the morning, we finally decided we were ready for bed. All three of us piled into my bed, propped up the laptop and watched the old black and white Dracula movie with Bella Lugosi. I woke up about five in the morning with two little boys trying to share my side of the bed. I looked down at their sleeping faces and thought to myself, "God, I love them so much. I would do anything for their happiness. I would give my life for them if need be.". I could not imagine my life without them.

As I thought about how much I love my grandsons, the question popped into my mind, "Do you love Jesus more than them?". Oh, how my heart pounded as I thought of how important my Saviour is to me. I thought about all the years I had served Him and how much He had changed my life. I remembered the times when sorrow ruled my life, yet Jesus was able to take it all in a moment of time. Memories of the times He had rescued me from the brink of despair brought tears to my eyes. I honestly cannot recall a time in my life when my Lord was not there for me. I have been His child for 45 years and not once has He ever failed me---not once.

Loving Jesus has not been difficult. When I think of all He has done for me, I cannot help but fall to my knees and tell Him how much I love Him. He has been my faithful companion, my truest friend, my champion, my hero, my brother, my Redeemer, my King, and the love of my life. He has proven Himself to me time and time again. I am most completely His.

Oh, I have not been the truest of His servants, though. So many times the faults and failures of my weak and frail humanity have gotten in the way of my duty to my Lord. So many times I have failed Him. So many times I have chosen my own path instead of following Him wherever He would lead. Though my actions have not always proven so, my love for Him has never wavered. I have remained so in love with Jesus. Even when adversity and hardship drove me to my knees---even when I did not understand why He allowed such dark times to trouble me---even when I found myself questioning Him regarding the necessity of certain difficulties---even in these moments of questioning---my love was never abated. I have loved Jesus all my life.

I have learned, with the passing of time, that one does not need to understand our Lord in order to love Him. I have come to the place where it almost doesn't matter anymore what happens in my life. What matters is that Jesus is there. What matters is that I can feel Him close and know that He will help me through, no matter what the test or trial. What matters is the relationship I have with Him. It remains secure, no matter what the circumstance.

My desire is to only serve Him better and love Him more. I want others to see Him in me. I want my life to stand for something---something that is greater than I. My heart's desire is for my life to reflect Jesus in such a way that others will want to know Him, too. One of my favorite songs asks the question, "Will you love Jesus more when we go our different ways?". I pray the answer from all those I encounter will be a resounding YES!!! My prayer is to be a light to someone---to shine so brightly for Jesus that those who are lost without Him will be able to find their way home. I pray that when I walk away from an individual, or a crowded room, the ones I have met will come to not only know Jesus, but actually love Him more. I once read a quote that said, "If you meet me and forget me, you have lost nothing. If you meet Jesus and forget Him, you have lost everything.". I pray today to continuously love Him more. He is so worth it.

In Grace,

Monday, January 31, 2011

My Beautiful Mother

This is my beautiful, sweet Mother. I love her so much.

This past week, my beloved Mother celebrated her 80th birthday. It does not seem possible that she has reached this age---I still see her as the Mother of my childhood days. Still, I am so blessed to have her with me and to be able to talk with her daily. She has been such a blessing to me.
Mother has always been the most godly woman I know. I cannot remember a time when she was not prayerful for Daddy and all five of her children. I have the most wonderful memories of hearing my precious Mother call my name in prayer. I would lay in my bed at night and listen to the sound of her voice as she prayed for her family and for the body of Christ. I recall fondly hearing her talk to God like she was talking to her best friend, telling Him how much she loved Him, how she depended on Him, and how she was proud to serve Him. Her prayers left their imprint upon my young heart and are the reason, I am sure, that prayer is so much a part of my own walk with God. She was, indeed, a praying Mother.
In addition to being a true prayer warrior, Mother carried God's word with her everywhere she went. A Bible was never far from her reach. I have seen her read a passage of scripture, then hold the closed Bible close to her heart. It was as if she was pressing His word into her spirit. To this day, Bible reading is the first thing Mother does in the morning. She never fails to start the day with prayer and scripture. I do not know how many times she has read the Bible through, but I know that she is consistently in the Word.
To say that Mother lives what she believes is an understatement. Never have I seen a life in Christ lived more faithfully than in the life of my Mother. Her faith never wavers, never falters, and is completely secure in the God she loves and serves. In the midst of the worst adversity, I have watched my Mother lean on the promises of God's Word to see her through. She has borne her sorrows and her joys with the utmost grace.
I am fully aware that my Mother is not perfect, no one is. She has her faults and her shortcomings just like anyone else. Throughout my life, however, I have chosen not to see them. I have chosen to look at the beauty in my Mother's life---there has been much to see. She is, and always has been, a woman of God.
To say that I love my Mother is, again, an understatement. She is the woman I admire the most---the woman I trust the most---the woman I love the most. When I think of holy people, I think of my Mother. She has been my mentor, my teacher, my friend. She has been, for all of my life, my beautiful Mother.

In Grace,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seize the Day

One of my favorite movies is "Dead Poets' Society". It is a story of young men coming of age in a preparatory school in New England. The lives of these young men are most affected by a young, intelligent, caring instructor who teaches English literature and poetry. In the beginning of the movie, the instructor seeks to acquaint his students with the possibilities of each new day and the need to live each day to its fullest. In doing so, he gives them a phrase in Latin, "Carpe Diem", meaning "seize the day". He then says a phrase that has stuck with me since I first saw the film: "Seize the day, lads. Make your lives something wonderful." As the movie progresses, each young man learns, at times painfully, the need for making each day count.
I ponder this statement today with a heavy heart. As you know from reading my previous post, a dear, beloved friend has passed on. I already miss her dreadfully. But, as I reflect upon my friend's life, I realize that she truly knew how to seize the day. She knew, instinctively, how to make each day count. I suppose I knew this about her, but never realized it fully until now. She leaves me a fine example.
As I face a new year, I am determined that each day will be something magnificent. Maybe not magnificent to those around me, but certainly to me. I pray earnestly, from my heart, that God will help me open my eyes to the wonder of life---to its beauty and its fragility. This day will only come 'round once, and I want to make it count. I want to see the need and help meet it. I pray to feel the joy of life and revel in it. I pray for humility and gratitude for the many blessings I have been given. I pray, most earnestly, to live a life of honor and value. I pray to be able to "seize the day", before it slips away with nothing gained from it.
Perhaps these words mean little to those of you who read them. Perhaps they will inspire you today and be forgotten in days to come. As for me, I cannot ignore the message. Everyday is a day to be lived to its fullest---to be valued for its uniqueness---to be treasured for its potential. This is not to say that living life to its fullest will be easy or trouble free. Indeed, some of the greatest lessons to be learned from life are learned in the midst of adversity. It is in these times that we come to understand that the simple pleasures of each day are what makes the day itself bearable.
And so, in the days ahead, I plan to enjoy my simple pleasures. I want to hear my grandchildren laughing, feel the embrace of loved ones, sip tea in the quiet of the evening, and watch the beauty of a setting sun. I want to hear the music of the world, fill my eyes with the beauty of God's creation, and listen to the sound of my Daddy's voice reading from the scriptures. I want to hear my daughter's "I love you, too", my son's "Hello, Mom", and feel my Mother hug me until I can't breathe anymore. In addition, I want to leave behind a life well lived---a life of honor, dignity, and joy. I want to be remembered as a woman who loved life. Above all, I want to be remembered as woman who loved her Saviour and served Him well.
A beautiful, unmarred year lies ahead. It is full of potential, full of memories to be made, and full of time to be savored. May your new year bring you joy untold and peace everlasting. May you be blessed with all abundance. Most of all, may we all learn to "seize the day" and make each one count.

In Grace,

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Charla Darla, Addendum

My dear friend passed away this morning at approximately 3:00 a.m. Oh, how I will miss her. She was a great encouragement and inspiration to all who knew her. She remained full of faith and hope until the end---her faith never wavered.
Please keep all of us who knew and loved her in prayer. We are already missing her and longing to see her again. There will come a day, for all of us who know the Lord, to be reunited in a place without death, heartache, or separation. I will see her again.

In Grace,