Little reminders

            When Mike and I started dating, he gave me this cute red heart eraser (yes, a cheesy gift).  I keep it in my purse as a great memory.  This little eraser is now almost 25 years old. It’s a little shabby, stained, and scuffed. Every time I look at this gift, I am reminded of all that is good, of all the struggles, but mostly of all that Christ has done for us.   How can I not be reminded and thankful for His constant love and care for us at each season of our lives?

            As I shared with a few friends this past week about Joshua 4:1-7. God had asked Joshua to create a memorial of stones as a reminder to the Israelites.  First,  God had led them to the Jordan River—a reminder of how he carried them through all of the hardships they endured as they remembered their pasts.  Second, He prepared a way for them to cross the Jordan– a reminder  of how he provided a safe deliverance for them to cross over to something new. Third, He saw to their well-being as each person crossed the Jordan safely to the other side– a reminder of how he watches and cares about us even when it seems danger surrounds us constantly.  

             The storms of this life are relentless and we are bombarded daily from each side. It is often discouraging. But be encouraged as it written in John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  This is a wonderful reminder of the promise of God’s love for us in the middle of difficult times and that we belong to him. God has you in his hands. It is believing his promise and surrendering ourselves to the Lord by placing our focus only on Him.  What is your reminder of his love for you?

“Hey, you! I’m trying to get your attention!”

Camping with mom–she always watched out for me & the Lord does the same for us.

Shouting! A way to lose your voice. Do you remember shouting at games, a concert, being hurt, needing help, or maybe used in anger?   Sometimes we have this insatiable desire to shout—we’ve reached our wits end or can’t contain some joyous news. Shout is defined as uttering a loud call or cry (In Hebrew, the word for shout is RUWA: isn’t it interesting that the battle cry for the US Marines is HOORAH?); typically, it is an expression of a strong emotion, but most often shouting just means to get attention.  Most scriptures that discuss shouting are about joy, some make an announcement, and others talk about weeping. In all contexts, they are the desire to get the attention of the Lord.

There is one person in the Bible, despite being so young, whose attention was warranted by the Lord so that a stern message could be conveyed to Eli, the high priest.  The young prophet in training, Samuel.   In I Samuel 3, The Lord had been particularly quiet in those years after the death of Samson and the Israelites chose to live life on their terms.  Eli, the high priest, was not correcting his sons as their behavior in the temple was dishonorable in God’s sight.  So, the Lord withheld his voice from Eli and Israel waned in the vision for its people and the land.   One night, the Lord calls Samuel’s name.  The first and second times, Samuel runs to Eli, not out of fear but to see what Eli needed.   Eli responded, I did not call you, go back to sleep.  Finally, by the third time, Eli realizes that it’s the Lord’s voice.  He tells Samuel to go back to bed and if he hears the call again to respond with, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”  Samuel went back to bed.  The Lord indeed called him again and Samuel responded just as Eli had told him to do.   What a powerful moment to have the Lord’s voice speak to one so young.  It might as well have been a “Hey, you” kind of moment, except without the shouting.  The Lord managed to speak to Samuel who would share the Lord’s strong admonitions with Israel for the rest of his life—this was man whose heart belonged to the Lord and sought to serve God with his entire being all due to the Lord watching over him.

As I reflected about getting attention, I spoke with Mike about my first day of kindergarten.  I was so excited for that day.  My schedule was to start school at noon.  I am sure my mother told me what to do after school let out at 2:45, but let’s just say it went in one ear and out the other. I was awestruck at my newly acquired independence.   As the end of my first day neared, my teacher announced the four exit gates of the school. She asked us to raise our hands if we were being picked up at A Street, B Street, etc.  She grouped us by exit so we would walk out together with our peers towards the exits.  All I know was that I exited with a new young friend and decided to walk home.   Let me describe this scene: My parents chose to send me to a school that was a little further than our home, approximately 1.5 miles away.  I would have to cross a business street where about 1000 or more cars passed daily.  My plan was to walk alongside a 2-lane road through the hills of the University of Texas at El Paso.   As I was preparing to walk to the corner of the busy street and cross over, I felt someone grab me from behind, pull me into the tall brush of weeds that stood in the gulley between the school and the sidewalk, and heard the shout, “Hey, what were you thinking?”  It was my mom.  She had needed me to have her attention about what to do after school, but distraction interfered and I chose to go my way–
She instantly had my attention and my back (literally) .

This was not the sublime “Hey you” moment like Samuel’s calling, but it was the attention of someone who loved me.   The Lord’s attention is on us too and He is always interceding on our behalf.

I shared with one of my brothers about seeing our mom pray for us in the middle of many nights. She’d kneel by our bedside and I could hear her praying.  She would say she was interceding for us because we belonged to the Lord.  Her advice would always be, if you wake up in the middle of the night, start praying.  It’s your shout to the Lord who wants to hear your heart and you’ll have his attention during the quiet night.

Before my mom passed away, her favorite song was Shout to the Lord.  Oh, how she loved this song!  It was her anthem. One of my fondest last memories of her was holding our niece, playing this song, and how she taught her to lift her little hands in worship to the Lord.   It’s one of those memories that penetrates your soul.  Worship was my mom’s attention “getter”— her shout to the Lord.  I think of this as her final piece of advice. It was a reminder that the Lord wants our attention. Sometimes He uses the quiet and sublime circumstances; other times, He uses dire situations for us to finally let out a shout.   It is daily that we should yield our will to the Lord and remember Samuel’s words, “Speak Lord! For your servant hears.”

The Incredible Gift of Forgiveness

December 1 – one month to a new year.  So many ups and downs with this year coming to a close.  Were plans achieved? Or did I quietly tuck them away back in January, only hoping to pull them out in the New Year and dust them off?  Most importantly, what did I learn from this year?

This time becomes bittersweet for me because December is when my dad passed away, 25 years ago. All I want for Christmas is for it to quickly bypass all the activity that is associated with it.  All my soul wants is the quiet reflection of what this time means and where to go from here.  I can’t explain it, but I love the Silent Night and being reminded of a king who came to forgive us of all our sins. It’s a simple message but we spend so much time trying to stay away from it.   If we stay busy, we won’t be reminded of this king’s great gift.

My dad’s favorite song at this time of year was the Little Drummer Boy.  The line that would get my dad each time was where the boy sang that ‘he had no gift to bring that’s not fit for a king;’ yet the boy gave his all in playing his drum.

For many years, my dad saw himself as one who thought he was never good enough, especially to be forgiven. Perhaps the greatest event for him to think this to be true was what had happened to him in Vietnam.  My dad never discussed his time in the war with his family, but there were times he opened up to my mom and she would tell us this story.

My dad was supposed to be in the back of a truck carrying supplies while in Vietnam. It was my understanding that he traded places with a fellow soldier. The soldier was tired and wanted some rest. So my dad offered to drive.  As he was driving, they ran over a landmine of some sort, killing the soldier in the back of the truck and injuring my dad.   Upon my dad’s return to the United States, he visited the soldier’s family who refused to forgive him and blamed him for the death of their son.

For almost 30 years, my father lived with this guilt. Every time my mom would share Christ’s love with him, my dad would have nothing of it.  It would not be until December 2, 1993, after being ill in the hospital, that my dad shared with my mom that this was something he needed to let go of and he needed to finally forgive this family so that he could feel free and forgiven.  It was a hurt that my dad could not let go of in the past and it kept him from loving Christ and his family the way he desired to love them.  On December 13, my dad would pass away and finally be at rest.

Sometimes we wait for others to seek us out and ask for our forgiveness. We, ourselves never seek restoration. We’d rather choose to live with deep hurt and forego a joy that Christ offers us when we seek out the offender or those we have offended.  We spend so much time with hurts and unforgiveness in our own hearts that we forget to offer it ourselves despite what may have transpired in the past.

This past week so many people have shared similar stories of missed years with loved ones or friends because they held onto grudges.  They only kept their hearts hardened against those that offended them so long ago.  It is when we hold onto these offenses that we often miss the blessing that God has for us and for the future of our loved ones.

Mike shared a story with me about two men, Karl Barth and Cornelius Van Til, who were very prominent theologians in the mid-20th century.  These men were scholars whose ideas differed greatly on the spectrum of Biblical content, yet both esteemed highly.  In their desire to share to the world of their immense knowledge, they would often cut each other down in writings or in public. Here were two men who might have been able to forge wisdom, yet appeared only to hold contempt for one another. Here is a brief summary of the story:

It was in 1962. Previously, Barth had been rude toward Van Til. However, he took a step towards reconciliation when he was visiting Princeton to give a series of lectures. Van Til used the opportunity to write to Barth: “When you came to Princeton I called up the Seminary and asked whether I could see you but was discouraged from doing so. When I looked for an opportunity to shake hands with you after your Princeton lectures and you were hurried away. When at last I did come near to you in the hallway and somebody called your attention to my presence and you graciously shook hands with me, saying: ‘You said some bad things about me but I forgive you, I forgive you,’ I was too overwhelmed to reply.”

So much hurt between two men. Can you imagine what they may have accomplished together? If only these words had been expressed earlier—I. Forgive. You!

As I end my story, be reminded of how in Luke 7, a woman of ill-repute, entered the home of a prominent Pharisee where Jesus was dining.  She took an alabaster box, wept at Jesus’ feet, wiped them with her tears, and anointed them with perfume.  The Pharisees judged this woman and what she was doing.  Yet in Jesus’ love and mercy, he says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”  She knew what she had done. She wanted to show Jesus that she was repentant. Jesus knew her heart and forgave her.

Can we imagine if we were to do this at Christmas and offer forgiveness to those we have offended or who offended us?  The mere joy of being restored unto fellowship with one another and receiving the blessing of love.

These are the gifts I truly cherish at this time of the year. Reminders of God’s immense love and the healing in souls. This is why Christ came to earth. To offer forgiveness for all we have done against him.  This is love and is the greatest gift in moving forward to what he has for us.

I love you all! Merry Christmas & God bless you for 2019!

Song: You Belong to Me by Grey Holiday

 

The Sacrifices and The Provisions/ Genesis 22:1-14

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While I was growing up, my dad was not a Bible-believing/Church-going type of man, but I did have a very Godly and strong Christian mom. (Mom prayed for him for years and he gave his life to the Lord before his passing in 1993). And though our home was divided over this, God united my parents when it came to raising my brothers and I.   My dad taught us obedience.  He and my mom made sure we did almost everything together, I think this was his way of teaching something to us if we were always with them.  If mom had to go to the grocery store, we all went.  Dad never put up with us if we started begging for a certain box of cereal or candy, etc.  He merely took us to the car and that would be the end of it.  If they went to vote, we went along and waited in the lines with them. And when it came time for television, we had to watch what dad wanted to watch–60 Minutes, Abbott & Costello, Star Trek, the Lawrence Welk Show, Hawaii 5-0, Dragnet, and always a war movie (I am so glad Mike likes war movies too, or else we’d have some issues).

So as I was remembering my childhood and war movies, I shared with Mike this illustration, as I have been spending time studying Genesis 22.  If you can picture this scene, typical in the movies:   There is a soldier on the battlefield. The soldier has been given orders from his commanding officer, it is something urgently important and completing these orders will save lives. The solider is focused, assembles his team, even includes backup plans in an unforeseen event.   Once the team is ready, they proceed with caution.  And almost always, in an unexpected moment, enemy fire begins to descend on the team.  The soldiers run from the gunfire to locate safety and regroup. The gunfire is distraction from what needs to be accomplished.  We, the audience cheer the soldier on, hoping that all will end well.  Deep down, we understand that in his obedience to his commanding officer, something great will be saved.

Now from a Christian perspective, the enemy’s fire are the distractions that inevitably show up to take away our focus.  It is in the midst of these distractions that we often lose perspective and find ourselves in valleys that keep us from trusting in the one who can save us.

In Genesis 22, it is like reading a screenplay for a very dramatic movie.  We know from previous chapters how Abraham and Sarah had waited a lifetime for God’s promise of a son.   At the end of Genesis 21, they now have their son and what a joy!  Everything should be at happily ever after….But God begins the  next chapter with these words, “God tested Abraham.”  Another test? For a 100-year-old man?  Why God? At this age?  What more can anyone learn?  Has Abraham not proved that he has learned to be faithful?  And yet, here was the assignment:  Take your son, the promised one whom you love, and offer him as a sacrifice.   We, the readers,  the audience, may tend to place ourselves in Abraham’s shoes.  We would grumble or be like a Gideon, asking God for proof of his will in this assignment.  I can only imagine that he felt his heart fall into his stomach when God assigned this test.  Yet, the Bible does not describe Abraham’s feelings or thoughts.  From these verses, remember these three things: Abraham goes, Abraham prepares,  and Abraham worships.

In Genesis 22:3, after Abraham had been told what to do, “Abraham rises early the next morning, saddles his donkey, and takes his son and two men.”  In other words, Abraham just goes.  He did not wait another day, week, month to see if God would change his mind.  It was the next day!   All I can say is WOW!  In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus told the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Did Abraham just know that God would be with him? Had God provided him with the needed essentials to accomplish this assignment?   He must have had so much faith knowing that God had given him all he needed and more to handle such a test.  But Abraham proceeded and knowing full well that through this test his son would also learn to become obedient to the Lord.   So what of our own lives?  We will come each day into the school, with all eyes watching us and ears listening to what we say.  Can we reflect obedience as Abraham did for his son?

Abraham continues on this path, focused and undeterred from what he needs to do.  He “prepares the wood for the sacrifice.”  As I shared earlier about the soldier who prepares the way for his team to accomplish the task, the same went for Abraham, he prepared.  In II Timothy 4:2-4, “Preach the word; be READY (in other words, PREPARE) in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,  and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.  “To prepare is always the most difficult.  We want everything perfect.  But it is in the midst of a trial, that our preparation is the most significant–we prepare for our own personal growth in order to live out God’s plan for our life.  If we resist the preparation, we lose the benefit of always learning something new.   As teachers, this is most important feature to our calling, we need to be ready at all times for the sake of our students.  It is for them and their families that we need to be Godly examples of always being prepared. 

Lastly, in Genesis 22:4 “On the third day, he arose and told the men to wait while he and Isaac went further on to worship.”  Why did Abraham use the word,  WORSHIP? Another way to define worship is to seek and adore.  I Chronicles 16:11 says,  “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.”   This is a meditation point: When a tough situation hits me, the last thing on my mind is wanting to worship.   I need strength and I want someone to take the whole dilemma off of my shoulders.  Then I realize that I need to blot out my distractions and come to the Lord.  It is in my worship of Him that He fills my soul and my strength is regained.  Abraham knew he needed God to fill his soul as he walked with his son.  As we begin the school year, we will walk into our classrooms and more than anything we will need God to fill us with His presence. Those eyes and ears need to know how much we love the Lord even in the midst of our distress.  And there will be days that we will come distressed, fill your souls by worshiping the Lord so that he will fill your heart.

Let’s pause to remind ourselves of the three things Abraham did.  Abraham goes, he prepares, he worships– all in obedience to what was asked of him.  This was his test and he did not deter from what he needed to accomplish in the midst of this storm.  What could have been his distractions keeping him from focusing on the Lord?  Thoughts of his wife?  Explanations to family and friends?  What he would tell Isaac at the altar?  We are left to wonder, but we do know that Abraham continues in his obedience to God.

As Abraham and Isaac walk, there must have been a quiet silence.  Abraham worshiping in his heart and Isaac following respectfully.  Yet, Isaac breaks the silence in verse 7, “We have the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?”   Abraham answers wisely in verse 8, “God will provide.”  This is the climax of the story. Not only has Abraham obeyed, he shows us how he trusts the Lord for complete  provision. He knew God loved him and had his back and God was going to be faithful.

As Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, we see in verse 11, “The Angel of the Lord calls out Abraham, Abraham.”  Abraham responds ‘Here am I…’ Almost as if to say, I am yours first Lord, do with me as you will, ask of me what you will. I love you and I am yours and your ways are much better than mine and you have been with me through it all. 

As the story ends; God stopped Abraham and said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  God saw that Abraham’s act was out of true devotion to his will.  Abraham knew that if he tried to control the situation in his way, the outcome would have deterred him from a receiving God’s blessing.  Just think back to when Abraham and Sarah were waiting for a son.  They overreacted and thought Hagar would be a good surrogate.   The blessing  would come later as they learned to trust on the Lord’s word.

After God provides the ram for the sacrifice,  Abraham is blessed for his obedience to God,  for his faith in God, and his love for God.  Can we honestly say we’d be an Abraham?  That no matter what is asked of us, we would obey?

Let me conclude with this story, over a year ago I was diagnosed with diabetes.  I decided to hide the news from my in-laws and my own family, and our friends.  I thought this was my lot and I am too busy to worry.  I made myself forget and allowed myself to create excuses. I allowed my  silence to be a distraction not to get better (basically it was my stubbornness).  I let the doctor start me on a regimen of medications and I continued to believe that I just did not have the time to take care of myself.  Then last year, when my brother went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with diabetes. The doctors began giving him insulin and prescribing all the other standard drugs. It was then that the Holy Spirit convicted my heart…I need to get better and that my excuses were mere disobedience to God’s will for my life.  My doctor helped by providing a coach,  while I wept like a baby.  Mike encouraged me and has even learned to eat some of the foods I have learned to cook. My coach has met with me weekly, the ladies in the office and many faculty, staff, and some parents encouraged me this last year as they learned of my story.  And now a year later, I am diabetes free with no medications of high blood pressure, cholesterol, and all numbers are normal.    This was my valley and I allowed it to be a crutch of distraction in my life.  Instead of persevering with my race, I made a decision to forego what God had for me and thought He could no longer use me.

When Mike & I reminisce about how we got together, we remind ourselves that we wanted our relationship and marriage to be on the cutting edge of what God would always have for us and not be mediocre.  God has always been faithful to us in this regard. We may have taken some turns off the path, but God has always had our back and has never let this adventure take us far from him.

In each of our lives, we can make excuses for everything that comes our way. This year we will encounter various challenges.  It may be a financial strain, uncertain medical diagnosis, church or work issue, marital or other relationship burdens, unanswered prayer requests, the list will go on.  It is out of our obedience that we go, we prepare, and we worship in faith and love to the one who daily gives us more of himself than we utterly deserve.

Let’s pray…

So Far…So What?

Last summer, my brother was diagnosed with diabetes after going to the hospital.  It was an eye-opener for me.  I had been diagnosed with diabetes a few years earlier but told no one; I took the medicine and hid in silence.  His diagnosis served as a wakeup call for me to do something about my health.  I just wasn’t sure I had it in me.

I had to stop making excuses. I had to begin by acknowledging my past mistakes. You see, I never cared about my health. I just figured it would always be bad.  After all, my family had one of those health histories that would make medical researchers cringe.   Is it any wonder why I gave up on living a healthy life.

When I look back, I have to say that my mom’s sudden passing left me in despair.  This was my best friend who could make me move mountains.  She was strong, wore humility as a robe of honor, and her laugh was contagious.  Who in the world was going to know when I was feeling down?  Who was going to braid my hair and give me advice while doing so?  Who was going to teach me how to make those green chicken enchiladas Mike so loved?   As I cried out to the Lord, all I could hear was the still small voice that he would be both my mom and dad.  I felt like such an orphan.   This was seventeen years ago.

Again Sandy, why didn’t you get over it?  Things just seemed to spiral I suppose.  We didn’t have kids. Mike had health issues.  The pressures of managing work, finances, church, family, and marriage took a toll some days.   There was simply no time to care about myself. But I look back and am reminded of a song by Truth that Mike & I based our marriage on:

 

It’s getting harder to remember

Feeling lost and lonely

Cuz it seems we’ve been together for so long

I’ve been living in the moment

So I never stopped to measure all the miles that passed the places where we’ve gone

But when I try to count the ways your love has carried me

It doesn’t take me very long to see

That we have come so far you have been so good

When I traced the road that we have traveled

I’ve gotta tell you, Lord,

I look at where we are

And see where I could have been

That need to say again you’ve been so good

Who would have guessed that we would come so far?

There may be others who have wondered

Why you kept on believing in the person that you knew I could become

But even though I wasn’t worthy

You’re the one whose love was faithful

To complete the work in me that you’d begun

I don’t know the mountains that are left for us to climb

But I know when I reach the end I’ll find

We have come so far you have been so good

When I traced the road that we have traveled

I’ve gotta tell you, Lord,

I look at where we are

And see where I could have been

That need to say again you’ve been so good

Who would have guessed that we would come so far?

Through all of these trials, God has been there.  Even when I was silently despairing inside, God was using all these things to help me grow and heal.  It has been a long process, but thanks be to God for seeing me through it all.

Today, I can proudly say that I am down 45 plus pounds, off of the medications, and feeling better.  My husband, doctor, coach, and so many countless family members and co-workers have encouraged me along the way. Most importantly, it has been my Savior who has carried me … We have come So Far and it has been So Good.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

All my love,
 S

 

F.I.A.

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Ah February!  Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, shortest month.  For me it is a constant reminder of losing my hero who knew me so well—my mom.

I have moments that I still want to call her and talk about anything under the sun. No matter what time I called, she’d listen, encourage, and pray for me.

My greatest memory was her eagerness to evangelize those she talked to by phone or in person.   She never missed an opportunity to pray for someone or lead a person to Christ.  Just think of a gunslinger and how he quickly pulls the gun from his holster; Mom could do the same with the Gospel message.  She listened intently to people and would find an opening to witness to them.  It was an amazing gift she had.

I also miss seeing mom’s time with her 10 siblings.  We would laugh for hours listening to all of their stories. There were so many memories they had of one another.  The one thing they always agreed upon was that my grandparents made sure that they all served their close knit neighborhood.   They would remember “being” the church choir, the deacons, Sunday school teachers, or the visitation group to the neighbors. They would be “the church” to a community where church was known as a mere building.

Many times mom would speak about my grandpa and how he’d take them to various evangelistic crusades, jails, or orphanages throughout El Paso and Juarez.  These events touched mom greatly. She loved seeing people come to Christ.   She thought at one time she would become a missionary.  But the Lord had a different type of ministry for her life.

For all intents and purposes, mom’s marriage to my dad perhaps made her a stronger witness for Christ. I hate using the term “volatile” when it comes to describing my parent’s relationship, but at times it seemed that way.  While they certainly loved each other, mom’s relationship with the Lord was something dad could not understand.

My dad could be explosive for any reason.  I recall hiding in a closet at the age of 6 and praying for my parents to divorce.  I barely knew what divorce meant.  At that age, I had learned the term from a fellow kindergartener whose parents were divorced.  I thought life would be better without dad yelling.

The one thing that could easily set dad off was anything God-related.  As much as mom would talk to him about Christ or the church, he wanted nothing to do with it and most definitely did not want his family attending church.

The great thing about mom was that she was resilient.  She never backed down from dad and she never ceased praying for him at every opportunity. I always saw her on bended knee asking the Lord to save dad.

There were those times mom broke down in tears after an argument and I saw tiredness in her eyes, but her prayers to the Lord always gave her strength to go on.  She may have even asked the Lord why the man she loved the most was the most obstinate in coming to know his grace.  But no matter what, she kept right on praying.

A few times dad attended some of our church services for special occasions. I had hopes of seeing a changed man.   I learned that God’s timing is always best.  I needed to trust the Lord to increase my faith for dad.

In my early teen years, dad became very sick.   Without any real warning, his kidneys were failing.   We had never seen him ill before.  Then one day out of the blue, he reminded mom to place her hands on him and pray.  I thought his heart was changing, slowly but surely.

Over the next few years, there were the ups and downs of dad’s illness.  Dialysis took a toll on him as we waited for a donor. He slowly gave up working and went into retirement.  Mom at some point had to give up working as a church secretary.  We used food stamps and learned to get by on dad’s monthly pension checks.   Life was not easy but we never lacked for anything.  The only thing that seemed consistent was dad’s temper.   He could not understand the Lord’s grace and forgiveness mom spoke of.  Still through it all, mom remained strong.

Mom sometimes explained to us that there were things from his past that might have led him down a path of unbelief; perhaps leading to thoughts that God wasn’t there for him.  Or that maybe he did things he was ashamed of to receive forgiveness.  But no matter what, mom continued to be a prayer warrior and was determined not to give up.

I began to see another glimmer of hope in dad’s life.  Mom had been admitted to the hospital after collapsing. I remember being with my dad and brothers. One of my aunts stopped by that afternoon and I overheard sobbing in the other room.  I had never seen nor heard him cry.  He said he did not know what he would do without her.  We all knew she was the piece that helped keep our family together.  Again, continued prayers led mom to keep walking in faith.

Upon my graduating from high school, the only college I felt called to attend was Liberty.  I had never even been to Virginia.  The one thing holding me back was the thought of leaving mom.  Who would she talk to when she needed someone?   She reminded me that the Lord was there and He would be with me, too.  Even though we had no money, my parents took out all they had and sent me off by myself to begin my future.   Mom’s advice, “Once you are there, don’t call to say you want to come home, because we can’t afford to bring you back.”  In reality, her translation was Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  She knew I’d have struggles.   I would have to learn to face these and ask the Lord to guide me every step of the way—always pray, pray, and pray some more was the motto ingrained throughout my life.

While in college, I definitely phoned home all the time.  Mom readily encouraged me during those years, especially when I called to tell her about a certain young man named Mike Dewey.  Her letters and phone conversations always gave me the confidence to trust the Lord.

The first time my parents would see Liberty was at my graduation.  Of course, unbeknownst to us, this would be the final year of my dad’s life.  He would pass away 7 months later but not before giving his life to the Lord and asking mom’s forgiveness for the years of grief in their marriage.   After 24 years of praying, mom’s hopes were realized and we all knew we would see him again someday.

In mom’s last few years before going home with the Lord, she continued to minster to many people and traveled on a few mission trips.  Her life had been a representation of the heroes of the faith like the ones described in Hebrews 11 or the F.I.A. chapter (Faith in Action). As for me, I will always remember her as my mom, my hero.

A woman of grace ‘twas her fame

She sought neither glory nor wealth if they came

The mere souls she encountered were for eternity’s gain

Helping those in need, those in pain

Those living with loss

By leading them to the foot of the cross

“Salvation is what he has offered to you,

Take,” she said, “it offers life anew

Though you feel ashamed,

Your sins be as scarlet shall be whiter than snow, as proclaimed

Take him as your king this day

For the world only leads those astray”

As she ended her words with bated breath

She prayed to the one who took on death

“Lord, I thank you for your mercy

And though I am not worthy

It is for you I answer the call

It is for you I give you my all.”

Miracle on Centennial Street

louieIf my dad could read this now:

At this time of the year, I begin going down memory lane.  With each passing year it gets harder to believe how long it has been since I last saw you.

The years have quickly passed by as I sit here remembering the last holiday we were together, Thanksgiving.

You were so feeling so ill that day/week, but you were excited at the visitors we were having over to the house. Nothing was going to stand in your way of eating a great meal, talking and laughing to everyone who stopped by that evening.

Who would have thought that this would be our last gathering?

I always saw you as the one who could bounce back with ease, nothing was going to keep you down.

You were always strong for us despite the major setbacks of not finding a donor.  You always made it seem as if there wasn’t an illness to battle in those few short years of your disease.

So in my mind this was nothing new, just another hurdle to overcome. Then you would be home and we would celebrate your most favorite time of the year—Christmas.

But it was not meant to be.

Everything felt so surreal.   As if time were moving in slow motion.

I remember how mom stayed with you in the hospital those first few days. She did not want to leave your side.

The nurses, other family members, and even I convinced her to come home and rest for a few hours.  You were stable and it appeared to be a good outlook.   Little did she know that the world would change in those few hours. At least, the world according to us.

When she returned to the hospital, it was as if the weight of the world hit us with a pile of bricks, and then blankly hit us with more .  The family was besieged with grief but garnered strength to help us make decisions.  One never believes that they are going to go down a road such as this. Yet, the family’s love and devotion supported us through the process.   Your physical body was shutting down and your spiritual body was getting ready to leave us and go “home.”

To this day, I feel like the world stopped. I couldn’t believe what had happened, that my dad would not be coming back to us.  All of the years, we prayed for you—your salvation, your health, your total being—you were now going to have all the answers and be in perfect peace.  Still, I could not fathom a world without you.

It was so hard to say goodbye because I expected a certain plan for you.  Never thinking it had to be God’s way of doing things.  How selfish could I be?

The decision to let you go was not an easy one.  I know that in some way we were still holding out for a miracle to be seen with our own eyes. It was like wanting to prove  to the world that God was going to part the waters,  that mountains would be moved,  or that Lazarus was coming back from the dead.  But still it wasn’t to be the miracle that we wanted; the focus had to be what the Lord wanted for you and us.

I’ll never forget the long wait in what seemed to be  an eternity.  Family had asked my brothers and me to go home and rest, that the end of your life could be late into the night, or perhaps the next day.  But then mom walked out of  the ICU, along with our uncle on her arm, and we knew immediately that you were gone.  The miracle had taken place.  Mom said  it was like seeing you get on a roller coaster,  eyes squinted tightly, and then just like that– you were gone.  I almost pictured you as in some scene out of Star Trek, perhaps even riding a comet into eternity.

Life is truly fragile.  As James 4:14 describes it, “What is your life? You are but a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  The Lord reminded us all of how he directs life…

“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God… Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”     I Corinthians 15: 50-58 (paraphrased)

This memory is always the hardest to describe. But my greatest hope is that one day, I’ll get to see you again and hear the other side of the story on how you arrived.  The miracle on, what I have termed, Centennial Street.