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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Memories.....

When memories are just not enough, it is time to make new memories.

Do you have the urge to change the colors in your room or house, move furniture, making living all new? So, it is with memories, as sweet as they are, we want a new beginning and a new memory. Although I am comfortable with the memories with the old, yet the opportunity is here - now - for a change.

On the 21st of September our belongs will begin the trek across two states to our new home with the help of our blessed children. Yes, our thoughts will often turn to remember with joy our church family. We will remember our home on South 12th with the colorful garage door. We will remember our friends and hold these 'rememberings' close to our hearts – memories of 38 years.

My dear husband, learning the limits of dementia-living, acquiesced to moving closer to one of our four children. After almost (lacking 4 months) sixty one years of marriage, we are settling into a new phase of marriage and being together.

In our seven prior moves, early in our marriage, I viewed moving as an adventure and a set of new friends. This move, being made in our 80's, will be slower-paced. Yet there is the childhood excitement of playing a game of hide and seek present. That tingling of expectation of what will be.

God places us where He wants us to be, and that excitement of anticipation is: “How will God use us in a new setting? What will He have us do?

I know that my spiritual antenna is fully stretched as I wait to see what He wants me to do as I care for my husband.

While contemplating this thought I remembered the Jabez prayer and suddenly the word 'multiply' has new meaning for me as I wait on the Lord to reveal His will. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” I Chronicles 4:10

I know that I can't base my relationship with Christ Jesus in a scrapbook of memories from the past. No, that relationship with Jesus will continue in this

new life and blossom into eternal life. Again I draw from a precious memory with Mother. We sat one summer evening on the back stoop in Oklahoma watching the sunset. As the dusk deepened, the Evening Star appeared, the star Mother claimed as her own. As a young girl she confided dreams and troubles in the Evening Star, her confidante. Thinking of Mother as a little girl telling secrets to a star is one of my favorite memories. And her faith in Jesus Christ was her compass, guiding her through her 91 years of life.

Our older memories enrich and enhance our new memories of faith, joy and trust. I love the lyrics of the old hymn – “I don't know about tomorrow, but I know who holds my hand.”

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverb 3:5-6

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:6-8


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Things ~ Last Things

One of my earliest memories is seeing my baby brother and with wonder exclaiming, “Look at his little toes.” Now my little brother is 80 years old.

First things are precious. The first smile, the first word, the first step, the first day of school the first time we are able to tie our shoes, learning to read. Yes, there is a thrill with new actions and thoughts as they herald growth of the body and the spirit. There is an excitement of discovery of what might be.

During a teacher's conference with our shy son's teacher, she informed me that my son had hit a fellow kindergartner. Imagine her surprise at my response, “Wonderful! I'm so happy that my Paul stood up for himself.” Later, as a teacher, I understood her loss for words and the quick end to the conference.

Later comes the first love, the first date, the first year of marriage, and yet all the “firsts” come to an end.

During the Going-Away Festivities with our church family, we heard many 'last words”. Words of love and caring that can only come from 38 year relationships . Next Sunday is the last worship time with our church family. “The Last Things” come with tears and wonder of a different sort. We tuck the cherished memories into our hearts, knowing that with some, the next time we see them is in Heaven.

The last picture, the last words, the last hug, remembering so many moments that are colored as forever. Faces blend together in love. Hands always outstretched in caring and unbridled generosity.

While sorting/packing papers I found a 3X5 card with notes that my dear husband wrote for a fellowship dinner years ago. His thoughts are so appropriate for this moment. His message is still our message today.

Emily and I have four loving children, three lovely daughters-in-law and a handsome son-in-law. God has blessed them – and us – with twelve grandchildren – 12, two by adoption and ten by birth, plus a grandson-in-law and a granddaughter-in-law. We are blessed with seven great grandchildren as well. All are so precious to us. Their homes are far away, and we don't get to see them often enough to spoil the grands and the great grands and enjoy our children and their spouses.

But God made us a part of His family though Jesus Christ, and you also are a part of His family. We are brothers and sisters and Jesus is our Elder Brother.

Emily and I are blessed by you and your families. We have joy in knowing you and your children. We share your pride as we watch them grow and become children of God through Jesus, because of the teaching and examples you give them, as well as others of the Church Family.

Some of our little ones are part of our prayers even before they are born. We rejoice with you and the Church Family as new babies are born into this world. We rejoice when new Babes in Christ are born into Jesus Christ in our family here even more.

As we are gathered together, I am reminded of the time when we will all be gathered at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb of God. What a great excitement there will be when we are in the presence of God and surrounded by our loved ones, our family and our Church Family, that have made our time on earth enjoyable. You have strengthened our faith with your love...”

Can you imagine the delight of our Heavenly Father as we take our first step into faith in Jesus Christ and our new spiritual rebirth? Or the celebration as we turn to our Lord with thanksgiving and praise? And how He rejoices as we serve one another with joy and His complete gladness when His Children trust Him and worship the One and Only in unity.

Those are all first things of faith. And His ecstasy is complete when He welcomes us home and we know His Presence, not on Earth, but in Heaven. What will be our last thoughts, our last words be in this life? Though we may be drowning in pain, we will walk with Him in the last moments on this earth and know His peace that passes understanding. The last things fill us with satisfaction and completeness in the Lord. May our last words be in praise and longing to be Home and may that be our spiritual legacy to those who follow...

• "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

• "For we live by faith, not by sight." II Corinthians 5:7

• "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 1:4

• "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

• "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

• “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Starting Over

Starting over, turn over a new page, turn a corner of life. Down through the ages there have been many euphemisms for 'a new start'.

On New Year's Eve in Clinton, Oklahoma, I was young enough to think bedtime could not be as late as midnight. Mother continued to sit by the fireplace with her Bible in her hand. When I asked what she was doing, her answer came, “I will begin a new year tomorrow, and I want to be ready.”

As the joy of writing enveloped her and after Dad left this earth, New Year's Eve always began with planning what to write and how to live the next year. One year she wrote devotions through the Bible. One year she wrote sermons through the Bible. In March, 7th day of 1995, she wrote – “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all our generations before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You gave me strength for nearly 88 years of life on this earth. You have given me more joy than pain.

Mother knew new beginnings from moving from home to Oklahoma in the panhandle, to Clinton and later to Watonga, Oklahoma. Then early in the 1990's she left her home of 48 years in Watonga to move to Arkansas. She transplanted her life to a strange town and found joy in writing and in her new church home. And most of all she learned that a new environment is just like beginning a new year. It is faith in God that counts – He goes with us when we change our geographical locations and brings us blessings unnumbered.

I sit in my favorite place watching the trees sway in the summer breeze. Clouds obscure part of the blue, blue sky, and I thank God for this oasis of peace. I know that the oasis I feel is the presence of God. And that doesn't change no matter where we are.

As the time to change our geographical location in 2 ½ weeks, we find comfort in knowing that though we have spent hours in planning and packing – that which we hold dearest in our hearts – faith in Jesus Christ – travels with us and cannot be extinguished.

Though we leave many memories from 38 years in this one place, God is blessing us mightily through our church family and their help, support and love in so many ways. Then there are our four blessed children and their families who care and help us with a move we would not be able to do on our own. They have shown us honor beyond measure during this time...and I ask that God blesses them mightily in the days and years ahead.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Turning a page, beginning anew or starting over is not a one time thing, or just when something happens that is monumental. No, it is a moment by moment happening. The choices that we make moment by moment in attitudes or behaviors can give us peace when they are in God's will. No matter what pain we may experience along the way – trusting in God and His Leading is brings us hope and peace.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

How do we manage these choices? Gratitude and Praise and Encouragement. Forgetting the criticism, the whining, and 'put-downs' and replacing them with a can do attitude and a smile is a beginning. Praising God for the little things and those around us. That makes the difference. We have the freedom of speech – not to tear down – but to build up and share a gentle, loving spirit.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:3

Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. Isaiah 42:10

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17