Saturday, December 29, 2007

Playin' Guitars!

You know you're a proud grandma when...
you don't mind being seen without make-up in order to show off your cute grandson!
video

Chapter 16 - Unanswered Prayer: Whose fault?

For those of you reading only my comments and not the book, I am going to write in detail on this chapter because I found it to be so thought-provoking. If my comments seem a bit disjointed, it's because I'm trying to cover so much territory without creating a post that is too lengthy for anyone to finish reading! : ) But I will probably fail.

Although there have been events in my life that I have not understood, I haven't spent a lot of time asking God for answers. The unanswered prayers of others less fortunate than myself have always troubled me more than my own. As I've mentioned in other posts, my mother was not healed of cancer. Yet I didn't struggle with my faith in God over that seemingly unanswered prayer. God did shake my faith in man. And I learned not to put my faith in emotional experiences as answers from God. But those were necessary and good things to come out of my grief and loss.

Whenever I have prayed for deliverance that did not immediately come, I have leaned heavily on Romans 8:28. I believe with all my heart that all things are working together for my good. Whether I can understand how, in the moment, is not relevant. God knows. In hindsight, I can always recognize where I have grown spiritually, especially in compassion for others, from things I have suffered.

However, I have not faced some of the things others close to me have faced. For instance, I have often wondered how challenging it might be for me to embrace that promise if I had been a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Worse yet, if my abuser were regarded by others all around me as a "man of God" and, over the course of my lifetime, my abuser (or his family) was protected and valued more than I, as an innocent victim. How might that skew my concept of a loving God working all things for my good?

I personally know a fairly large number of women who have suffered childhood sexual abuse. It never happened to me. But I've been close to many it has happened to and I have been witness to the impact on their adult lives. I was close to enough situations that I've observed the way it was handled by those who had the responsibility of protecting the innocent and helping in their recovery. I've witnessed with my own eyes the many times a guilty party received more protection than a victim. These injustices have been one of the major mental/spiritual struggles I have wrestled with for most of my adult years. And I wrestled with it internally long before I developed the courage to talk about it.

This subject came to my mind because Yancey touches on it under the heading, "A Threat to Faith." His first sentence begins, "Unanswered prayer poses an especially serious threat to the faith of trusting children." He goes on to describe a young girl who had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a family member daily. The adult woman recalled, "I cried out every night for God's help, to make it stop. God never answered."

In another letter Yancey received, entitled "Magic or Faith," the writer tells of his work as a grief counselor in a hospice program. "While working with death and dying," he says, "I identified the challenge to my faith that had thrown me for a loop: the inconsistent intervention of God and his people...I rebelled against an interpretation of life that had God rushing around the world answering prayers to clear away parking places for Christians tardy for appointments. I heard many of these people praying that God would magically intervene and help poor or sick people -- never sensing they might be the answer to those prayers. It seemed more a belief in magic than in God."

Yancey further explores the inconsistency problem. For example, he writes of one person's remarkable escape from an airplane crash and how he cannot help thinking about "the people who died in the same crash, many of them praying just as fervently." I remember thinking so many times when someone was testifying about how God had miraculously brought them out of an accident unharmed of another person in the same room whose loved one had perished in a similar accident and wondering to myself what they were feeling at that moment.

For many years after my mom died prematurely, I struggled with mixed feelings when someone spoke of any kind of physical healing. I accepted God's will, but it confused me. I knew of people who had received healings that seemed undeserved. My mother was a good woman, in my opinion; yet, He did not add years to her life. I don't remember ever asking, "Why, God?" I just remember accepting that this was something I wasn't intended to understand. I have since come to understand that none of us deserves God's blessings, even my mom. Nobody is that good. Only One is good and He is God.

Yancey also gives examples of two sides praying for opposing outcomes. The best is his example of the Civil War. It was God's will that prevailed, not the will of the pray-ers.

Yancey pointed out that Ulysses S. Grant was profane and often drunk. General Stonewall Jackson, on the other hand, "refused to fight on Sunday unless attacked, and held worship services for his troops. Confederate President Jefferson Davis called for Southerners to observe days of prayer, confident that 'it hath pleased Almighty God, the Sovereign Disposer of events, to protect and defend the Confederate States hitherto in their conflict with their enemies, and to be unto them a shield.'"

But President Abraham Lincoln "pointed out the incongruity of pious men fighting to preserve slavery." Lincoln stated, "It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces."

"At the time," writes Yancey, "both Northern and Southern clergy were claiming God on their side. Lincoln gently cautioned them to inquire instead whether they were on God's side." (My emphasis.)

If God answered prayers strictly on the basis of the most devout pray-ers, Yancey points out that "the armies of Robert E. Lee and not Ulysses S. Grant would have won the American Civil War. Christians would comprise a favored class who never got sick, never lost their jobs, never experienced a traffic accident. And how would that affect the Christian community, not to mention those outside it? The biblical history of Israel, Golden eras, such as the reign of Solomon, fostered pride and decadence while times of national humiliation brought about spiritual growth."

I know that God has consistently impressed upon me over the last many years that my faith needs to be in Him alone; not in answers, not in experiences, not in specific outcomes to my life's situations, and not in man. If He allows me to suffer, it's for my good. I think I have posted something in the past about this, but this seems a fitting spot to share something I wrote for our church's advent book this year. It seems to be the theme of my life, but especially this year.

*********************************************

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

This verse has provided comfort and assurance during the most difficult places of my life. I remember times of trying desperately to do what was right (not necessarily succeeding), yet feeling that my efforts were mostly in vain. Occasionally, I would ask God if He even cared about my suffering. And He would always bring this scripture to my mind. I learned to hold onto it as a promise. If He was allowing me to suffer, it was for my ultimate good. That helped me to trust Him.

In the last several years, God has blessed me far beyond anything I could have anticipated or deserved. Prayers I prayed long ago have been answered in abundance, yet in much different ways than my finite mind could have envisioned. God has brought miraculous deliverance and joy to my life, but often through suffering.

It’s easy to see God’s deliverance in hindsight. It takes faith to believe in things not seen. But when my future seemed uncertain to me, it was never uncertain in the mind of God. I needed only to believe and trust in His promises. I like to imagine God looking down on me in those moments of despair, saying, “My child, you cannot fathom how much I care, or the way I will redeem your life.” God certainly had some surprises for me. One of the biggest surprises was the blessing of my husband, John. Our marriage was worth waiting – and even suffering – for.

Recently, John and I were confronted with a situation beyond our control. As I prayed, I began to put my hope in a certain outcome. God so lovingly showed me that I was putting my hope in something other than Him. And just as He has so many other times, God brought Romans 8:28 to my mind. The voice was not audible, but He gently spoke these words to my anxious heart: “Do not put your hope in a specific outcome. Put your hope in Me and in My promise to work all things for your good – even this.” It was a gentle reminder of the reality I have already experienced: God is faithful. I can trust Him.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Chapter 15 - The Sound of Silence

This morning I read chapter 15 of Prayer. Yancey discusses in this chapter the times when God seems to be silent. (For those of you in my small group, I hope you are continuing to read while we have not been meeting. That has been one of my goals in writing about each chapter. I'm hoping we can finish this book and start something new when we get together after taking our Christmas break.)

It seems like every chapter of this book brings back a memory for me. The memory this chapter brought to mind is sad, but also humorous.

Over twenty years ago, my mother was terminally ill with untreatable colon cancer. The cancer was not treatable because it had already spread to all her vital organs before it was discovered. She got this diagnosis just before Thanksgiving of 1986 and passed away in June of 1987, just two weeks after her 49th birthday.

Following her diagnosis, we were all praying for her healing. Many people I was close to at the time had spiritual experiences about her healing. I was told by people I had a lot of confidence in that God had said it was His will for my mother to be healed and that she was not going to die.

Some had believed God had given them scriptures.

Others had dreams.

Others admonished our family that God could only heal her if we, the family, believed strongly enough (along with everyone else). In other words, we, the family, could mess up the healing by not having enough faith -- in spite of everyone else's faith. (This person meant well and is someone I've always loved. I'm just trying to portray the scenario as it was.)

One person said that at precisely 9:something or other in the morning on a certain day, God had told her "I have healed Jane. It's done."

Some made public statements (in testimonies) suggesting it would be the people's fault (sin in their lives) if Jane was not healed. This person talked about sins such as women cutting their hair or wearing make up, or the wrong kinds of clothing.

I would hear all of these things and then return to my mom's bedside to help care for her. She continued, despite all the miraculous experiences, to decline. It was very confusing to me.

I don't view physical death as failure on anyone's part to believe. Although He can, God does not physically heal every one of His children who is diagnosed with cancer. Death is a part of life. And even miracles are temporary. Even Lazarus, who was raised from the grave, ultimately died a physical death. I wondered if people's experiences were more a reflection of their own emotions (and love for my mom) than truly hearing from God. I did not see any evidence of these experiences being real (or from God). And I wanted the truth, not false reassurance.

So here is what I did. Because I grew up in a place where it was not uncommon for people to ask God for an answer by opening their Bible randomly and putting their finger on a scripture, I decided to do that. But before I did, I prayed a prayer that went something like this: Lord, a lot of people are telling me what you are saying. But their experiences are not enough for me. I accept your will, whatever it is, even though you know I long for my mother to be healed. I know you are able to heal her. That's not in question. But I also know you don't heal everyone and that the number of our years here are not of ultimate importance from your perspective. If all of these experiences are from you, would you please give ME something to confirm what you're giving to everyone else?

When I opened my Bible randomly and looked down at the page, I almost could not believe my eyes. My Bible fell open to the blank pages between the Old and New Testaments. I remember shaking my head and smiling.

Now, I could view that as God's silence. But I could also view it as an answer.

So many times we think God is silent because we are not getting the answers we seek, or the "feelings" we seek, etc. But God's silence can be our perception and not the reality.

I believe that God had begun a path of deliverance for my life long before I could ever envision it, let alone see it or "feel" it. The foundation He was laying for what He would do in my life MANY years later was as miraculous as the culmination of it.

Our walk with God is all about trust. Do we trust Him? Or are we continually seeking specific evidences to prove to us that He's there, that He's listening? I could see God in those blank pages many years ago. I didn't fully understand. Nor will I ever. But through every situation, He has taught me over and over again of His faithfulness and that I can trust Him.

I loved this quote from Chapter 15. A British convert named Jonathan Aitken said it this way: "Trusting in God does not, except in illusory religion, mean that he will ensure that none of the things you are afraid of will ever happen to you. On the contrary, it means that whatever you fear is quite likely to happen, but that with God's help it will in the end turn out to be nothing to be afraid of."

And to that I say, "Amen."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

THANKFUL

I woke up this morning thinking that I need to squeeze in at least a short work out before getting ready to leave for our annual trip to Evansville to celebrate Christmas with John's family. And the thought hit me that I need that work out because I have such an abundance of food to eat (and choose from) that I can easily gain several pounds in a day or two. How often do I truly comprehend what an amazing blessing that is and stop to thank God for food? I take so much for granted because I've never known hunger or the fear of not having enough to eat.

I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night -- but in a soft, warm bed. I may have to lie there for a while before going back to sleep, but I could not be in a more comfortable state of insomnia.

God has blessed me with a husband who truly loves me, protects me, appreciates me and doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on my flaws. The ones I have can be glaring at times. I'm emotional and sensitive and way too often personalize something that should not be personalized. But we never fight. And I've got to tell you, it's because of him. He is the one who doesn't react to anything. And we both care more about the other's feelings than we do about being right, or worse, proving someone else wrong. That's another amazing blessing. And that is one blessing that I am extremely conscious of and do thank God for on a very regular basis. It's the first thing I thank God for every time I'm lying awake in the middle of the night. I am always aware of how blessed I am to have John right there beside me.

I am so thankful for my family. I'm blessed with a son I have always had a close relationship with and one who has always loved God. He has been a spiritual inspiration since he was young. And he has always pointed me to Christ. I am blessed with a daughter-in-law who I can truly call one of my dearest friends. She lets me know how much she loves me, that she wants me around and that she considers me a great grandma. I don't take those things, or her, for granted. I know mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law don't always have the kind of relationship Rebecca and I have. There is mutual respect, appreciation and lots of love between us. There is also an acceptance of our different personalities and the freedom to respond differently or even disagree without lasting consequences. And there is open communication.

As evidenced here on my blog, I have adorable grandsons. I love them so much. I'm so thankful they are healthy and I don't have to worry about them being cared for well because Danny and Rebecca are incredible parents in so many ways.

I am thankful for my extended family. Life is funny. We are not always good friends with someone simply because the same parents brought us into the world. Many times we are just born such different people. It's nobody's fault. That's just the way life is. I always felt like the different one in my family, growing up and as a young adult. I would have given anything to be more like my brother, Todd. I thought he was much more lovable than me. And I envied some of his traits. I wasn't crazy about most of my own. I remember desperately wanting his love and acceptance for so many years. And I am thankful I'm not needy in that way anymore.

I love all of my family, whether we are close or not. And I always will. But my love now is not out of need. I accept our differences and I accept each relationship for what it is. It does not have to be ideal. I know that both of my brothers love me. One I definitely feel more acceptance from and feel closer to. But I love them both equally. They are each important to me. And they are gifts in my life, just in different ways.

I am blessed with a sister-in-law that is more like a sister than an in-law. We have been through so much together. I know the real her. And I love and respect her very much.

I am also blessed with a slew of nephews and nieces, whom I have always adored. I am thankful for each one of them and the special relationships I've had with them since they were little. I can't imagine my life without any one of them.

I am blessed with great in-laws. John's family is my family. His mom is a mom and a buddy to me. She is amazingly wonderful. And I am so thankful for her. She also loves me just as I am. She makes me feel so loved whenever we're together. I just love spending time with her. And I love to spoil her and make her feel special, because she is. I'm so thankful to have that kind of relationship with her. And I just love John's whole family. We always have so much fun together. And from the first day I met them, they have welcomed me into the Howerton family with open arms and made me feel like part of the family. I will never forget the comments from John's brothers early on in our relationship, "Well, Johnny finally got it right."

I have a lot to be thankful for. I will never be able to fathom why God would be so merciful and would choose to bless my life so abundantly. I do not deserve all these gifts. All the good deeds (if I'd done them) in the whole world could not merit such a blessed life. And I am so very thankful.

I just wanted to begin Christmas Day with a public thank you to You, Father. Thank you for sending Jesus into our world. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for every trial and every opportunity to know your grace. And thank you for all my undeserved blessings.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve








I've given John his gift, so I can now share about it on my blog. He loved it and said he only wishes he were still playing professionally so he could show it off to an audience. He kept saying, "This is wild." Here are a couple of pictures, followed by the story of its existence.








The Challenge of the Perfect Gift!

Is it not one of the best feelings in the world when you know you’ve come up with the perfect gift for someone you dearly love? I am in that state of euphoria at this moment.

As I am writing, I have not yet given my perfect gift to my perfect mate. I have six days to go before I see the look on his face when he opens it. I can hardly wait. I don’t think I have ever been so excited about a gift.

My husband is a musician. He played professionally all through the seventies and early eighties. Then he got “a real job” in the car business. But he still loves to play and loves vintage guitars. I love the sound of his guitar as it resonates throughout the house. Music is a big part of our lives. I admire his talent. And he has taught me more about guitars than I ever dreamed possible.

I remember my daughter-in-law telling me one night, as we were sitting in the bonus room watching John play, “You look like a high school girl admiring the captain of the football team.” That is exactly how I still feel after four years of marriage. Having said that, I guess it’s obvious how important John’s gift is to me.

One day in June, I happened to be watching Midday Today on Channel 4. It was during Fanfare. A woman was being interviewed who creates custom guitar straps for many famous performers. And I knew instantly what John was getting for Christmas.

I went straight to her website and sent an email. I did not expect a personal response. I expected to hear from an assistant. But she and I began a warm relationship as we brainstormed ideas for John’s personalized guitar strap.

She wanted to know all about John. I had to come up with answers to some pretty tough questions. She asked me, for instance, who his top three guitar heroes were. I later asked John on the way home from a concert one night, as if it had just popped into my head spontaneously. He asked why I was asking. I told him someone had asked me and I was curious if I’d named them correctly. Then I told him my answers. He was impressed that I’d known. And I was beaming that, out of all his many favorites, I knew the top three!

From June through December, I have developed an email friendship with the woman who has created John’s one-of-a-kind, custom leather strap. Her name is Jeri Hart and she will return to Nashville again this June. She has been a joy to work with and has really invested herself in this project. It is so important to her for his strap to be just right that she is still sending me pictures and making minor changes one week before Christmas.

Jeri has been wonderful and she has allowed me to be a big part of the creative process. She has enabled me to give John the perfect gift.

I’ve given my final approval to the last change today and the sewing has begun. I will receive shipment at the last minute, which is good for me. I am not known for my ability to refrain from giving an early gift; especially one I am this excited about.

I had important goals for this strap. At Christmas, I try to think of a way I can include Brittany in a gift, as though we are giving it to her dad together. I want the strap to be about John’s life. I want it to glorify God. And every time he looks at it, I want John to be reminded that he is one-of-a-kind to me.

Here is a description of the strap and what each symbol represents:
John’s initials frame a ’67 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster he bought while we were on our honeymoon. The symbol of a heart with wings, rising up between the clouds and stars is for Brittany, John’s daughter. She passed away in August of 2003. There is a brightly shining sun above all. I wanted Brittany to be under the sunshine of God’s love and in a scene that represented heaven.

Below her are two hearts, with the Cross at their center, pierced by an arrow. That’s the symbol for us, our marriage, and Christ at the center of our love. One day we will be reunited with Brittany, who for now resides above us.

The background is a winding road that represents John’s life. There’s a car, which represents his profession and love of cars in general. Next to the car is our two-year-old grandson’s word for cars, “Vrmmm.” Joshua shares a love of music and cars with his “Poppy John.”

There are red crystals covering the strap. They represent the blood of Christ covering us and giving us eternal life with him; the most precious gift of all.

I had high goals and expectations for this gift. Thanks to Jeri, my ideas and emotions have been transformed into a keepsake. Mission accomplished.

Christmas Eve Eve

Joshua shows Nikki his Thomas bed.

















Watching the Titans. (Danny, John, Lexi & Chris)

















Rebecca and Joshua
















Cheryl and Karlie


















Shari and Cheryl in the kitchen (where we belong).



















Matt and Andrew

















The Gang



































Opening presents...










Friday, December 21, 2007

On pins and needles

I have been planning my husband's special Christmas gift for six months. And today it will arrive. The bummer of it is that today is also the dealership Christmas party, which I always attend. But if the delivery doesn't arrive before lunch time, I will have to miss it because the delivery requires a signature.

I can't wait to share details and pictures of this one-of-a-kind gift. I will give it to him Christmas Eve night and after that I intend to post something I wrote to go with the gift, along with pictures. It is so cool and probably the best gift I have ever given. I'm quite pleased with myself. However, I don't know how I will ever think of something in the future that comes close to it! It's very sentimental and practical at the same time.

Not that any of you are that interested in John's Christmas gift. But I'm so excited about it, I have to talk about it! My readers are few and close friends, so I know you'll enjoy seeing pictures and reading the story of how this gift evolved. Maybe just slightly less than I will enjoy sharing them! I was telling a friend all about it the other day and she suggested I write a story about it for The Post. So if she thinks the community would find it interesting, I guess my friends might.

I've shown pictures only to Danny. I'm dying to show them to someone else. So I think I will email one of John's brothers. Did I mention I'm really pleased with myself this year? Ha!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Unworthiness

It's been a while since I've read or posted on the Yancey book. I read this book the first time over the summer. And I have been reading through it a second time with my small group. We have taken a break from our regular meetings because December is so hectic; therefore, I have not been reading it regularly. But last night I read Chapter 14. In this chapter, Yancey writes about things that hinder us from praying. He mentions feelings of unworthiness, distractions, wanting to do it "right," and personality traits.

It always amazes me how God works in my life. I haven't picked this book up in quite a while. And last night I picked it up and read about unworthiness after spending several hours wrestling with my own personal feelings of unworthiness. Unworthiness is a conscious state of being for me most of the time. I daily feel unworthy of God's love, mercy, forgiveness and His blessings in my life. But yesterday afternoon and evening my mind was troubled by some specific thoughts about my personality, my temperament, my passionately expressive nature, my tendency to be direct and hold strong opinions. Sometimes I say things others would leave unsaid. In other words, I've been particularly focused on (and humbled by) what I view as my defects.

It's weird how the same traits in one setting can be strengths and, in others, weaknesses. Every trait is a two-sided coin.

I didn't know what was in the next chapter. But God did. And I don't believe it was a coincidence that I felt inclined to pick up the book and read. Apart from a lack of discipline, my greatest obstacle in praying is unworthiness. I'm certain God does not want me to ever feel worthy of Him. But I do believe He wants me to know He created my personality and, flawed as I am, He loves me. My unworthiness should draw me to Him. It's His approval only that I should seek.

My thoughts last night came as a result of a conversation I'd had with someone who was trying to explain to me how certain others feel toward me. It was done in love.

It does not come as a surprise to hear that certain people have felt hurt by my words and actions regarding the church I was raised in. I already knew that. But in that conversation, my personality was contrasted with someone else's (who also has strong feelings but has never written about her feelings on the Internet). In order to explain why people do not have such strong negative feelings toward this other person, as they do toward me, she was described as "softer." And I was described as "independent and direct." Those words were probably an attempt to soften the criticism. When I feel strongly about something, and especially when I hold deep convictions about right and wrong, I do come on strong. I always have.

I can't count how many times someone has asked me "Are you angry?" when I don't feel any anger. I'm just expressing myself with a great deal of emotion. I am well aware some people find that part of me to be harsh and abrasive; hard to take. I don't mean to be offensive. In actuality, I grieve over that part of me. And I would change it if I could. I would love to be described only as soft and sweet. But I know that only God can transform me and He eventually will soften my rough edges. The edges He wants softened. We have many examples in the Bible of individuals God used who had rough edges. And Yancey lists some of those examples in this chapter.

Even as I was struggling with the reminder that not everyone likes or approves of me and the knowledge that people I will always love cannot understand my heart or the strong conviction I have felt to speak out in behalf of victims and truth (regardless of my personal affection for some), I knew the sadness I was feeling was about me and my desire to have the understanding and love of people. And I felt like God was reminding me, once again, that cannot be my goal as a Christian. If it is, I will compromise the truth to have people's approval and love. And if I place more value on how someone feels toward me than I do on the truth, I am loving myself and not God OR others.

I value the friends I have who love me enough to be real with me and tell me the truth, even when it hurts me. I value the honesty of the friend who said things to me yesterday that caused me to feel bad about myself the rest of the day. She was trying to help me understand how I am perceived by others. Even though my goal cannot be to have their approval, it is important that we have reminders of how others experience us. How we perceive ourselves can be radically different from the way others perceive us. And I don't want to live in ignorance of my impact on others.

Waking up this morning, my feelings of sadness have returned again to the acceptance God has given me regarding these lost relationships. I can't honestly say that God has prompted my every word in the past. I can't completely know my own heart or motives. But I do believe God, in His sovereignty, has ordained the exposure of wrongs. And I believe He has used some of us who have left to confront those wrongs openly. The night I spoke publicly, three years ago, I knew without a doubt that I had been in God's will and that He had sent me there. It was not something I wanted to do. It was something that caused me tremendous anxiety, until I began to speak. The Holy Spirit covered me and took all of my nervousness away. It was an undeniable experience of being a vessel. I have agonized at times over being described as abrasive. But I have never regretted that night. There are a handful of situations in my life where I absolutely knew God directed my every word. And that night is one of those times. Whatever the personal cost is to me in terms of lost approval, acceptance or love, I accept it and one day I will learn to rejoice over it.

In the meantime, I will sometimes feel sad and defective and desire softer edges.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Remembering

As most of you know, I occasionally write for our local paper, The Murfreesboro Post. I'm a "guest columnist." The editor, Mike Pirtle, is a friend who is like family. He enjoys my writing and encourages me to write, in spite of the fact that he continually has space issues.

I felt inspired to write something yesterday and Mike is going to try to get it into print before Christmas. So you might also see it in The Post before the end of the year. But I thought I would share it on my blog. I began with an idea for a humorous piece. I wound up speaking from the heart on a more serious note. Somehow, it all came together in a theme. I hope you enjoy it.

Remembering

My all time favorite birthday greeting card goes something like this:
Remember when we used to laugh at old people?
What was so d*** funny?

I love this card because I find myself at exactly that point in life when you stop laughing. I was telling my son yesterday, who is about to turn 30, how young 30 looks to me now. My mother-in-law assures me 48 will one day look just as young. She is a very youthful 75.

The other night, I was sitting on the sofa with my laptop, legs propped up on the coffee table. I guess I sat that way too long because when I stood up, I could barely walk for several minutes. I don’t mean I was a little stiff. I could hardly bend my legs! It was scary-stiff!

I remember wondering why little old ladies couldn’t get their make up on properly or why they had stopped plucking their eyebrows. I guess I suspected that eyesight had something to do with it. But, in my young mind, I couldn’t understand why a magnifying mirror would not solve the problem.

I’m now up to a magnifying mirror of 10X in order to see the stray hairs I need to pluck from my brows! I’ve had to throw away several magnifying mirrors because they were all suddenly too weak. Oh, for the days when I could pluck my eyebrows in a regular mirror! And I am still in the process of becoming a little old lady!

At 44, I started needing longer arms in restaurants. And it seemed like I had to concentrate to focus my eyes. Until this began happening, I don’t remember having to think about focusing. Now I can go nowhere without reading glasses. I have to use them to read any label (and most menus). I find myself looking at shampoo bottles now and wondering how in the world I EVER was able to read such fine print.

I’m also at the age where you start to actually see the lower part of your face falling. Even worse is seeing it magnified ten times! It’s a strange experience to look in the mirror, feeling like the same person you’ve always been inside, but realizing you are becoming someone quite different on the outside. (Don’t be fooled. The picture flatters me. I look quite different first thing in the morning without make up.)

I know everyone eventually experiences these things. I’ve heard many elderly people say, “I still feel like the same person.” But, like so much of life, it’s different when it happens to you.

Challenging as it may be to accept these unwanted changes, I would not trade my life at 48 for my life at 30. My forties have been the best years of all, so far. As I approach the half-century mark, I become more and more aware that every year is to be embraced and celebrated. My mother died at 49. She did not get to have a 50th birthday. Although it seemed young then, it seems younger every day.

I almost got to have a daughter when I married John. Something I was so looking forward to because I instantly loved his Brittany. He told me all about her on our first date and I remember feeling so drawn to her emotionally. But we lost her suddenly, just after our engagement. She did not get to see 20.

I will always be thankful for the closeness I had with my “almost daughter” in that very short period of time. I miss her and I miss the relationship I planned for us to have. I remember worrying that maybe I was trying to love her too much and too quickly, before she had a chance to know she could trust me. In hindsight, I’m glad I wasted no time lavishing as much love on her as I possibly could. I couldn’t have known our time was so limited.

Life is a gift. I want to laugh at the unwanted changes and be thankful I’m here to experience them. And I want to lavish love on everyone around me, as much and as often as I can. We never know when these opportunities will come to an end. We just know they someday will. The best “mistake” you can ever make is to love someone too much. I know this from experience.

There is no better time of year than Christmas, the gift of God’s love to us in sending His Son, to focus on the gifts of love and life. The best way I’ve found to say thank you to God is to love others the way He loves us.


John & Brittany (2002)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Good Monday Morning

This has been a busy week and I haven't had a chance to post since the day after we got home. I keep waiting, hoping I'll have time to read and feel inspired to post something meaningful. But that hasn't happened this week. So I thought I would just check in with another less meaningful post! Ha! Hey, I figure that anyone who is bothering to check my blog must just like me, anyway.

Would you believe I am still coughing? At this moment I am having my daily morning coughing attack as I sip a cup of coffee. But I am definitely improving and I see light at the end of the tunnel. I've been sleeping without the aid of decongestants and I took none during the day yesterday. If it weren't for the coughing, I would feel like I was completely over it. Dana, if you are reading this, you'll have to let me know how you're doing! : ) You and I have been running neck and neck with this!

I still have not lost all the weight I gained in Scottsdale. Saturday night messed me up big time. Making healthy choices is such a frame of mind. When I splurge a little, but don't eat everything I'm not supposed to eat in the same meal, I don't gain weight. But when I throw caution to the wind and have whatever I want, the scale jumps. I ate a lot of fried foods (appetizers) at Bonefish and then had Coconut Shrimp (also fried) as my entree' Saturday night. And then I thought, "I might as well have the garlic mashed potatoes, too. They sound so good." And I gained.

I could have written an Erma Bombeck post yesterday about the experience. I was miserable Saturday night. I didn't sleep well. I was awakened by an unfamiliar sensation (acid reflux!) in the middle of the night and jumped out of bed to get some Pepcid. I was so mad at myself for eating so much junk. I even repented for being a glutton. And I was serious.

I really watched it yesterday and drank lots of water. I'm back to 128 this morning. I want to say I learned from the experience and won't eat to excess again. But I know I will.

On a completely different subject, I heard on the news this morning that The Golden Compass was the movie of the weekend according to box office sales. I've heard and read a lot of differing opinions on how we, as Christians, should respond to this movie. I've been really surprised to hear Christians say that we should not keep our children from seeing it because they should be able to make up their own minds and it is fantasy and it's not going to be any threat to Christianity, etc. I have been surprised that there are so many Christians who have read these books, knowing the dark content and that the author is an atheist.

EDIT: I should not have said "so many Christians." I should have said I am surprised that any Christians would read these books. I don't know of many who have. I think I was just shocked when I read a few comments from Christians praising these books. I do not think they are in the majority by any means.

I would like to pose this question. How can a Christian support (by buying and reading the material) the agenda of an atheist who has stated publicly that his goal is to kill God in the minds of children? I'm not afraid of the movie as far as it threatening my faith. But I could not recommend the movie to anyone. In fact, I would urge Christians not to go to this movie. But not out of a desire to control others or force Christianity on anyone. I could not see this movie or buy the books because I cannot contribute financially to an agenda that is opposing God. Now, of course, I confess to being a hypocrite. I can't honestly say I have never watched a movie that in some way violates Christian principles. But there are lines I will not cross. If we cannot draw the line at supporting the agenda of atheism, where WILL we draw the line? My goal is to be working on that line so that it becomes more sensitive, not less. I just can't understand how lightly some people view these books. Why would a Christian want to read such dark material? I thought we were not supposed to embrace darkness. I really am perplexed by this. And I welcome comments, if anyone has one. (I seem to get email comments and no comments on the blog, but I would love to see someone else post an opinion on this.)

Well, it's time for me to wrap this one up. Today is my day to volunteer at the church and I need to get going. Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Home Again!

No matter how much you enjoy being gone, there is nothing like coming home to your own surroundings and your own bed! We finally walked through the door at about 10:00 last night and I'm so glad we unpacked and put everything (including the suitcases) away before going to bed. John has been such a good influence on me. He doesn't procrastinate on such things. It once would have taken me days to fully unpack and have everything put away. But since he does all of his unpacking the minute the suitcases hit the floor, I have learned to follow his lead. And it is nice not waking up to suitcases and clothes all over the place.

I am still battling my sinuses, but I think I'm on the down hill slide. I didn't take any decongestant last night and I slept soundly. But I'm still coughing and sniffing. I can't wait to be fully over this. I read this morning on a medical email list I subscribe to that sinus related infections usually last about two weeks whether one takes an antibiotic or not. I came down with laryngitis exactly two weeks ago today and the other symptoms followed. I have discovered one thing I will use from now on. It's called the NeilMed Sinus Rinse. It's similar to a neti pot, I guess. But it's so easy to use. The kit comes with little pre-measured packets of PH balanced salt and baking soda. You fill a little squeeze bottle with warm water and one packet, then lean over the sink and squeeze the solution into one nostril and then the other. It just runs through and it feels good; very soothing. I've been using it morning and night and it really clears the sinuses. The package says it will reduce/prevent sinus infections if used regularly (like brushing your teeth). I just thought I'd pass that along, since it's flu and cold season! I wouldn't have even known it existed if someone hadn't shared with me. John picked it up at a Walgreens and said it was easy to find.

I weighed this morning. I'm up three pounds. I'm not surprised.

I finished reading "Humility; True Greatness" by C. J. Mahaney on the plane last night. I love this book. It's small - only 174 pages and not a full size hard back. So it doesn't take long to finish. I read more than half of it during the flight. But it packs in a powerful message and one I will read over and over again. I can't recommend it enough. I kept thinking what a great gift it would be and how much I'd love to give a copy to everyone on my Christmas list. There were many parts of it I could comment on and probably will in future posts.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007















This is our last night in Scottsdale and we will fly home tomorrow. We've had such a nice time. But since I tend to eat a little bit more every day, I think it's time to go. I won't be surprised if I have gained three or four pounds since Saturday. It's amazing how thin I felt just a few days ago and how different I feel tonight.

We haven't taken that many pictures, but we did take some last night in front of the hotel Christmas tree just before going to dinner.

I have continued to fight my sinuses the whole trip, although I'm better. But I get so congested at night, I have been trying to sleep propped up on pillows so I'm not completely horizontal. It's helped with the congestion, but it destroyed my neck. I went first thing this morning to get worked on by a neuro-muscular massage therapist. She helped me a lot.

Anita and I walked the grounds for over an hour this morning, then got cleaned up, went to lunch at El Torito and shopped while the guys played golf. Then tonight we all went to dinner. I am miserable from eating too much and can't wait to get back on my eating program. I'm not looking forward to finding out exactly how much damage I've done.

I had planned on posting something to my blog sooner, but I read Danny's website about Madeline Adams and somehow I just couldn't write about having fun on a trip and what great food I was eating after reading about what this family was going through. (If you're wondering what I'm talking about, you can read the blog by clicking on the Abundant Redemption link provided. Just scroll down and look for links on the right hand side of the page.) This mother's post to her caring bridge journal moved me to tears. She just lost her little girl to a brain tumor that was only diagnosed in January of this year. But in spite of the sadness, it was so beautiful and filled with faith. I recommend you read it.

Most of you reading this already know that my husband lost his 18 year old daughter just a few months before we got married. She had a severe asthma attack and went into cardiac arrest, never regaining consciousness. We were engaged at the time. I will never forget watching him sob at her hospital bedside, saying good-bye. And then for all the months and years that have followed, I've seen his quiet faith, peace and acceptance of God's will. This is a peace that only God can give. I've witnessed it in John and I sensed it in the mother of this child. My heart breaks for her loss and yet rejoices for the hope and comfort she has in Christ.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

No patty cake for the camera (a video clip)

I have been trying to upload a cute video of the boys, with no luck. Maybe the video clip is too long. It's failed three times and I'm trying to get ready for our trip to Scottsdale, AZ. So I guess I'm going to have to give up for now. We're taking the laptop, so I may post something from there. Maybe even a few pictures.

For those who are interested in a diet update: I am holding steady at 126. The lowest I've seen on the scale has been 125.8 (only one time). My goal is still 125, but it's going to be hard to get there. I've been very good this week, but I don't want to eat too few calories because I know that isn't good for me, either. I should be plenty happy with 126. I set out to lose five pounds and have lost 9.6 pounds. We are going to the Bahamas for our anniversary in January and I'm thinking that maybe I can lose one more pound by then. But I do know one thing: I will be up a couple of pounds after this trip! I plan to enjoy myself.

I'm going to try to upload the video one more time...
Yea! I got it! Here's a little video clip of my darling grandsons!

video