Wordless Wednesday – Life Saver

Make the call.

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My Tribute

A special photo that, to me, represents healing since 9/11

I took this photo last weekend while we were on retreat in the mountains of New Mexico, but as I looked at it more closely this morning while watching the 9/11 remembrances on the morning news, I realized that this photo represents so well the healing that has occurred, at least for me, since the tragedy of 9/11/01.

The darkness is still seen in the background, as well as the “shadows” of what was, but literally hundreds of points of light shine through that darkness to illuminate a single tall vine that is new growth in the foreground.  For me, those points of light represent the lives of those lost that day and the hope that could not be destroyed.  Every little detail of the healthy vine can been seen so well as it reflects the light that is piercing through the darkness beyond, and it was illuminated so brightly that I felt compelled to capture it in a photo.

This brings to mind a special verse for me today, and may it inspire us all to continue to fight the good fight in our own lives, know whose we are, know how much we are loved, and be a shining light of truth and grace to others in our lives every day.  Today, I am grateful for this special little message to help me to continue to move forward as I remember the sacrifices and the exquisite pain that many are experiencing today.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

— John 15:5

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Grand

The very next day after the tragic event with the young man which took place in our neighborhood that I wrote about in my previous post, I was blessed to accompany one of my best friends and her family to the hospital for the birth of their second grandchild. I was there with my camera for the birth of their first grandchild a few years ago, and what a privilege it was to be there with all of these special friends once again on this happiest of days.

While I am certainly no pro with my trusty camera, I was able to just be there to help ensure that the desired “first” pictures were not overlooked amid all of the fun and excitement, as well as taking a few pictures they might not see themselves, such as the picture in this post. Their job was to be family, and my job was to love them with my camera. They also received a free professional photo shoot with baby before they left the hospital, but nothing can ever replace the real-time photos taken in first hour or two in the life of a brand new baby.

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The sign in the room as the family met their precious new baby

There is just nothing like the experience of holding a new baby and seeing the expressions of those sweet family members as each one held this little 7 lb 2 oz miracle straight from the arms of God for the very first time, and I feel quite confident that I am likely preaching to the choir among many of my readers here. I’m not sure that life gets much better than times like this.

As my friend held her precious new grandson for the first time, some new thoughts came to me. Was such a celebration also taking place in Heaven at that moment? What if we are received in such a way in Heaven one day? Do angels sing at times like this? There was such great anticipation of the arrival of this sweet new life. What if it is that way in Heaven for each of us? What will that experience be like someday? Will the earthly celebration of the birth of a baby even begin to compare with the Heavenly celebration? Will this change how I look on the death of a believer going forward? I never once entertained these thoughts until that moment.

I had such a great hour in the room with these precious people in my life, and I will treasure this memory the rest of my life. And as “payment” for my services, I got to hold this sweet little boy after everyone else had their turn and even had my picture made, too. But, this was certainly not about me. It was their special time together first and foremost. My friend’s daughter was more beautiful than I’ve ever seen her, and she is always stunningly beautiful. A new mother has a special glow about her, I think. Haven’t we all seen it at some point? It is revealed in her eyes that are tired, joyful, loving, relieved and a bit scared all at the same time. It’s just priceless.

After I left the hospital, I decided to take a stroll in a nearby park for a few minutes. The grass is still green, as are the trees, and it was a beautiful afternoon to take a quick stroll around the lake in the park. Normally when I’m walking outside, I have one or both of the dogs with me to exercise them, which is always fun, but I truly enjoyed this peaceful time alone to decompress a bit. A quiet walk in nature should be a medical prescription when we are a bit out-of-sorts from the roller coaster of life. Just being in God’s creation, whether in an urban setting or out in the middle of nowhere, is always a good dose of medicine to my soul. Hopefully we will be headed out in the RV this weekend for a quick getaway to one of the state parks, too. This is such a great time of year to go camping, and we are ready to go and enjoy this beautiful weather before winter cold finally arrives in a few weeks.

I believe we all need beauty in our lives regularly, in whatever form we can see, hear, touch or smell it. For me, that also includes absorbing the beauty of God’s word regularly… as in every single day. It is medicine for my soul, comfort when times are hard and joy when times are grand. I doubt that too many things are more beautiful and grand in this earthly life than being present at the birth of a brand new baby. No wonder they call them grand… children!

And all you grand… parents reading this say…. 😀

Psalm 127:3
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. (NLT)

Psalm 139:13
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. (NLT)

Jeremiah 1:5
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart …” (NLT)

Matthew 18:10
“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.” (NLT)

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The Blessing of Waiting

For some reason, the post that I published earlier today is not showing in my WordPress Reader.  So, I would like to invite you to read today’s post, The Blessing of Waiting.  I believe it was successfully published via email, so I’m not sure what the issue is with the Reader.  Thank you, dear readers!

If for some reason it was actually published in your own Reader earlier, please accept my sincere apologies for sharing this again.  It did not show up in mine after almost three hours.

The Blessing of Waiting

Earlier this week, we once again had some unexpected drama and excitement in our neighborhood from one of our neighbor families nearby.  This is a fairly common occurrence with this family, too.  As I was preparing to leave the house that morning to run a couple of quick errands, I happened to look out one of our front windows to see two police cars out front.  Based on previous experiences like this, I knew right away which house they were visiting.  I just did not know the cause this time.

It did not take long to figure out that the youngest grown son, who lives with his parents and older brother in the home, was in what my beloved grandmother would have called “a heap of trouble.”  One policeman was attempting to talk to him at the edge of the street while the other policeman was talking to his parents in their front yard.  The young man was extremely upset, to a point that did not seem normal to me when talking to a police officer.  So, that may be a bit of evidence as to the problem at hand, although I still have no clue what his real issue was.  After an hour of obviously heated discussions between officers and family members, the officers finally handcuffed the young man, frisked him and took him away in the first police vehicle.

I prayed for this family once again during that hour as I watched out my window, as well as praying for the officers and their safety.  It was obviously a very bad day for this family.  The husband has shared that their older son has been in prison twice, most recently being released earlier this year on a federal crime conviction.  Now, it seems they may walk a similar path with their younger child, too.  This family has deep, deep issues, and I pray that God will bring them all to a place of peace, reconciliation, healing and obedience soon. Hubby is good to talk to the husband fairly regularly, as he seems to be the only member of the family that is ever interested in being somewhat neighborly, and I am sure Hubby will continue to be open to talking with this man as the occasion presents itself.  I pray that God will bring others into their life that can offer real help, too.

My family also walked a very difficult path together for a time over ten years ago, and I know the feeling of having my own world turned upside down in an instant, not having a clue if the next day would even remotely resemble the days of my life that I had known to that point.  When I now see other families in turmoil, I can relate in a very real way.  It was, by far, the worst time of my life, and it all came to full fruition in the week of the 9-11 attacks, too.  I just do not think that life could have been much worse at that time, and I still feel that way today.  It was rock-bottom for me, if not for our entire family.  I’m sure our neighbors likely know this same feeling right about now, as having one or more family members with serious issues is probably one of the most stressful situations any of us will ever deal with in our lives.

In so many ways, that time period in our lives seems like a fleeting bad dream to me now.  I can hardly recognize our life as it was back then, based on the happily imperfect life we happily live today.  God performed what I consider to be a miracle healing in a family member, and my own spiritual walk forever changed, too.  If it took this nightmarish turn of events to bring me to the place I am today, then so be it.  Gods timing is always perfect, and families can (and do) heal!

One of the most difficult aspects of that time period was the endless waiting.  Waiting for breakthroughs.  Waiting for resolutions.  Waiting for God to bring clarity to that whole situation.  Waiting for just one day that was not tumultuous.  Waiting for the right people and groups to come into our lives to help.  Waiting… waiting… endless waiting.  It was maddening for me so many times.  But, I learned so much about the blessing of waiting, too.   Yes, it was a blessing to wait.  I know that now.

Bible and Cross

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  — Isaiah 40:31 ESV 

That hard-learned “boot-camp” lesson on waiting continues to serve me well in my life today, although I must confess that it is still so very hard at times, especially where our loved ones are concerned.  But, I also know that God is there in a very real way in every minute of that hard wait, too.  The verse above demonstrates how actively waiting on God is a productive exercise and does not constitute cowering in a closet with heads held in shame or fear.  This is my “go to” verse when I am waiting in a particular area of my life, and I frequently find myself waiting these days in one way or another.  Certainly, there are times to act, but active waiting is a big part of life now, it seems, and I don’t think that should be a big surprise.

Active waiting has been a tremendous growth opportunity for me, and slowly but surely, God is good to help me realize the true blessing of waiting.  I cannot control others when I actively wait and let God do his thing, and that is so often the lesson God has for me in many situations.  Wait… pray… have faith… trust… act only when appropriate, not nearly so often as I want to think… trust again… pray endlessly… give thanks.  What a huge lesson this has been and continues to be, and not an easy one, for sure.  But, it is the real deal.  Just read how many times in the Bible we are told to wait.  Waiting is this way is not an idle, unproductive time, as we like to define productive so many times.  It is a highly active pursuit.

In the past few years, I have been extremely blessed to have the opportunity to work directly with some ladies who have since found themselves in the position I was in back in the fall of 2001.  I will never be able to adequately put into words how this honor has impacted my life.  Each instance has been a definite God-thing, and my life is so much fuller for being a part of the lives of these special ladies during their own times of waiting.  I can hardly speak about it without welling up in tears.

Starting today, and through the entire month of November, I am going to add a personal prayer request twice a day for families that are in turmoil, especially due to drug and alcohol issues, and waiting in their own ways.  I believe that is the take-away for me from witnessing this event in my own neighborhood this week.  While this is a personal thing for me, I hope you will consider joining me, too.  I find it interesting that this will also take place in the month of Thanksgiving, and how deeply that fact speaks to me in all of this today.

Give thanks in everything…

every… single… thing.

Yes, God… with your help.

Dear God, thank you for your unbelievable grace in our lives.  May I be an instrument of your love in a tangible way today, and help me to continue to believe in and expect unbelievable miracles.

10/24/2014 Update: Sometimes God just blows me away.  One of my online “mentors” (Beth Moore) posted this on her Twitter feed on the very day this all came down.  I just saw it this morning for the first time.  It truly got my attention once again.  Praying hard for these families.

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The Wind At My Back

A few weeks ago, Hubby and I bought new hybrid bicycles.  Normally we would never spend the money for a couple of nice bikes like these, but when we found them for about half price at Costco, we thought about it for a few days, then went back to buy them before they were gone for good.

We took the new bikes with us on our first trip camping with Little Red just over a week ago, and we loved riding them so much that we ended up riding about twenty miles in two days, and I actually rode a little more than Hubby did, probably about twenty-five miles.  It felt so good to be able to ride comfortably once again, instead of working more to try to ride the trail bike all the time.

Riding the Trail

I found myself giving thanks over and over again on our long ride…

… thankful for being in good health in my mid-fifties to even be able to ride
… thankful for my new bike at a good price
… thankful for a sweet man to accompany me that is willing to “ride” with me on our journey
… thankful for a pretty much weather-perfect day in a beautiful place with a flat road (ha)
… thankful for the tiny little yellow flowers that were just beginning to pop out
… thankful for our RV that enables us to get away with our dogs and just relax and be in God’s creation more than ever in our lives
… thankful for the history of the area and for Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight
… thankful for the bison and the bison babies
… thankful for the prairie dogs and their little babies
… thankful for the deer
… thankful for the song birds
… thankful for spring
… thankful for the magnificent beauty of this unique place
… thankful that no one in our family was sick or injured at that moment
… thankful that God listens to me and my randomness
… thankful for the Allsup’s in Quitaque that had a diet soda when we arrived in town

… and …

… thankful to be able to be thankful.

That last one came after a few weeks of struggling a bit in that area.

As we made our long trek on the bikes on Saturday morning, we had a little breeze in our face for the first five miles.  I was glad to have the breeze against us on the first part of the journey, too.  I thought that I would be pretty tired on the journey back to camp, since we were not used to riding quite this far in one stretch.  Sure enough, I was starting to feel a little pain in my legs as we started on the way back, but having the wind at my back made the journey so much easier once we got rolling again.  By the time we arrived back at camp, I found that I was in very little pain and having the time of my life.  I wanted to continue to ride, but Hubby was tired and ready for a break.

I then took Girly Girl on a little hike on a nearby trail, and I was overwhelmed with a realization that this is how I want to end my life one day… with the wind at my back.

Life is a training experience, isn’t it?  We take on a lot of “headwinds” throughout the course of our lives, and hopefully we are in good shape by the end of our journey.  People who have trained properly through proper disciplines to ride bikes can do so very well, regardless of whether or not the wind is in their face.  They are in excellent shape and have the proper equipment to ride well and ride for long distances.  We have just such a friend, and he has ridden across the United States on his bike… twice.  I cannot imagine being in such good shape, but he is proof that it can be done.  He still rides more than I can only dream of doing, and he is in his early sixties.

For me, in a spiritual sense, I don’t want to be stuck in “training mode” when I am nearing the end.  I want to be sailing along with the wind at my back, mature and dependent on God in ways I am not today.  I want to symbolically be “riding cross-country,” doing good works, living a life of happy discipline and enjoying the scenery when I’m ninety.  How nice it would be to go into those closing days with the wind at my back, instead of straight in my face, like it often is right now in many respects for me today.  I have seen others do it well.  I know it can be done.

I have much training left to do. 😉

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. — Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV, emphasis mine)

 

Blessings to you this week, as we prepare our minds and hearts for Easter once again.  May we approach the day with truly grateful hearts and consider Him who persevered the cross and set the ultimate example for us all.

 

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Random Thoughts on Aging

As I have spent time daily with my elderly mother over the past couple of months while she has been in skilled nursing to recover from her bad fall back in January, I have had the opportunity to really observe where she is at this point in her life at age 92, almost 93.  It is been very eye-opening for me, and I have given thought to several related topics as we have gone through this time of recovery together.

As the children of our parents, we learn from them throughout our lives, and in the case of my father, I actually learned many things after his death, too, including some that were quite a surprise to me.  We learn things we want to emulate in our lives, and we learn things that we want to avoid or change as well.  Certainly that is true of many people in our lives, but I think our parents have a tremendous influence on us because of who they are in our lives.

Right now, I am particularly aware of how my elderly mother is struggling emotionally with aging.  She has lived with much denial in her life and has for many years now in so many ways, especially since my father died almost fifteen years ago.  It is painful to watch her go through this personal struggle, but she is also very stubborn and resistant to any kind of help.

Watching my mother struggle in this area has convicted me in a big way to examine my own life and my own preparations for aging.  In many ways, I am quite opposite of my mother and very much like my father, who was the stable person in our family and took care of all the business matters.  But in his last few years, he also grew very fearful of aging, even to the point of having some paranoia about it at times.  This is a highly personal thing for all of us, and right now, I do not want to be like either of my parents in this respect, or at least as long as my mind is sound.  This realization has been on my mind for a few weeks now, and I’ve given a lot of thought and prayer to it.

One thing on my heart is just being strong in my faith, above all.  I am not judging my parents, as I believe each of them were/are faithful servants of the Lord.  I just have room for improvement in this area, for sure.  I want to be so strong in my faith that when the serious trials of aging arrive, my faith is as strong as possible, and I am going to start praying regularly now for strength and guidance in those days to come.  Such things as scripture memorization, daily bible study, making good notes in my study bible for future reference and better prayer habits have particularly been on my mind lately.  If I am ever laid up for weeks or months like my mother has been, or if I end up living alone without a good spiritual support system, how I would love (and need) to have my bible with pages and pages of good study notes to help give me comfort.

Bible and Cross
I have two bibles, the red-letter version pictured above that I never make notes in and my tabbed study bible where I keep extensive notes from bible studies

I also purchased my favorite study bible in e-book format, too.  As time permits, I transfer notes from my study bible to my e-bible.  I rely on my bible so much, and having a little redundancy where my beloved bible is concerned gives me some peace of mind.  I have the Kindle e-book version, so whenever I make notes or highlights in my bible on my Kindle, those highlights automatically show up on my phone version, too.  That great feature has already been very handy for me.

Another realization, unfortunately, is to not rely on family members for comfort or assistance.  While I have been there for my mother, sadly, many others that live here close by have not.  Her two grandsons, my sister’s boys that my mother practically raised, have not come by or called her at all since her fall two months ago.  My sister and her husband have only come to see her for lunch on Sundays, as long as I made sure that there were some free meals tickets for them to use.  This has been particularly troubling for my mother and has only added to her unease during this time, as this is almost the exact opposite of who she has been most of her life.  I do what I can for her and make sure that she is well cared for, but I cannot make others do the right thing where she is concerned.  I don’t guess any of us will know for sure how our family members will respond until such a time comes in our lives either.  For me, though, I think the important thing to realize is that I have no control over what others choose to do or not to do, now or in the future, including my own children.  I need to not grow old with unrealistic (or possibly even realistic) expectations of others.  I need to also access my own personal situation later on to see if I need to look at other people or ways to help provide for my care, too.  That is a sad reality, but unfortunately, it is very real today.  I will save my rant on how narcissistic and selfish our society is becoming and pray earnestly that I resist that temptation each and every day myself.

On a related note, this article came across my Facebook feed recently, and it is a great read.  I will also say that this is also a good read for grandparents concerning their grandchildren.  If I am ever so blessed as to have grandchildren, may God help me to keep this in mind.  9 Things We Should Get Rid of to Help Our Kids

I am slowly collecting a large library of e-books for future reading, too.  I love to read, and I hope to continue reading all of my life.  Reading brings much joy to my life, and I love to read several different genres.  That is making a bet, of sorts, that e-readers will be around for a while, but I think that is a fairly safe bet at this time.  I follow some sites that share free and discounted books, and I am truly amazed at how many books I now have that I would dearly love to read, as well as how little money I have spent on them overall.  Many have been totally free, and others have been discounted to just $2 – $4 in many instances.

One other thing to think about is when to move into a group living facility.  In hindsight, I can say for sure that my mother moved out of her home too early.  She was in good health and still drove her car for several years afterward, but moving out of her beloved home to a place with no kitchen was a mistake at that time.  She had unrealistic expectations of moving into a luxury apartment where she would eat gourmet food for every meal and have people wait on her hand and foot.  It was not to be.  Her house sold right away, so there was no place for her to move back to.  She gets extremely frustrated with frequent management changes, as she thinks unrealistically of them as “family.”  She feels abandoned when people move on to other places.  Group living also has its own set of concerns, such as the frequent spread of diseases which is not discussed nearly enough in my opinion.  It is much like moving onto a cruise ship, but the cruise ships we have been on had much more concern for the prevention of the spread of diseases than either of the group homes where my mother has lived.  She got extremely sick from a norovirus at her previous group home and spent over a week in the hospital because of it.  The cost of group living also increases every single year, too, and despite my warnings of this fact, she did not fully grasp this reality going into it.  So, for me, delaying a move to a group home and preparing to live in my own home a little longer is something to definitely think about and plan for.

I recently read a quote from Max Lucado that helped me to know that this is a good topic to ponder in many respects, at least for me at this time.

“Growing old can be dangerous.  The trail is treacherous and the pitfalls are many.  One is wise to be prepared.  You know it’s coming.  It’s not like God kept the process a secret.  It’s not like you are blazing a trail as you grow older.  It’s not as if no one has ever done it before.  Look around you.  You have ample opportunity to prepare and ample case studies to consider.  If growing old catches you by surprise, don’t blame God.  He gave you plenty of warning.  He also gave you plenty of advice.”
— “Abundant Life” – Lucado Devotional Bible, NCV – Max Lucado

None of us can predict the future, for sure, but we are wise to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider what it may hold for us.  One thing I know is that I want to try my best to fight the good fight all the way to the end.  With God’s help, may it be so.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” — 2 Timothy 4:7

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