Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Held in His Arms

I planted some paperwhite narcissus bulbs at Amy's grave a few days ago. They are my favorite spring flower. I first became aware of them because we had a few bulbs hidden among the creeping groundcover on the bank beside the road. They bloomed less and less as the years went by and I realized that the ground cover was choking them, instead of letting the bulbs flourish underneath the soil. So I tried to dig them up and transplant them but I must have not done it correctly because they died. About a month ago my sweet daughter in law noticed the bulbs at a garden center and knowing I like them, pointed them out to me. I bought about a dozen and planted a few at Amy's grave, a few in her little garden area outside our bedroom window, and a few in a pot in the fridge to force bloom for Christmas. 
Certain flowers have special meaning to me. My wedding was all daisies and baby's breath. Daisies grow wild here, but they are small, so I have some larger varieties planted. I can't seem to grow baby's breath. Lupines remind me of our wonderful times in Maine and mine flourish in my raised garden beds.  My sister, Erin, liked nasturtiums, so I always plant them every year in her memory. Even though they aren't the "creeping" variety, they did their best this year to escape the garden bed. 
My parents always grew morning glories outside their back door on the farm in Iowa. They would come up every year, which always baffled me because I had to plant mine every year and Iowa winters are more harsh than ours. Then Mama gave me seeds one year from her plants and they grew and they came back on their own the next spring! They must be a special kind of morning glory! I had planted them around the base of the swing set, and each year they would come back and climb up the ladder with some support from me. I would save some seeds and tried planting them in different areas, but they wouldn't grow well and never came back on their own like they did by the swing set. 
When Daddy died in 2015 and the farm was to be sold, I knew my chance of ever getting anymore seeds was gone. I saved all the seeds I could that year and planted some for Mama in Maine when Emily and I visited last fall. This past spring we pulled up the old swing set and put in a deluxe 'castle' playset. The area where all the morning glories were was dug up and grass was planted there. I searched for an area that might work for the seeds to be planted and finally decided to plant them around an old garden bench that was used for decoration to hold birdhouses. It took a long time for them to grow, but when they finally started they took over the whole bench!
There's a bench under there! And below is a close-up of one of the little birdhouses Daddy and Mama made sitting hidden on the bench. The little sign Mama painted on the house says, "For Rent."
It has been so dry the last few weeks, and fall is now here so I thought I should get some pictures of them soon.
I planted those seeds around that bench, but God planted others that were such a blessing to me. 
 By our back door.

 By the foundation of my garden shed.

Even in a pile of weeds and garden refuse, they are growing!

Take another look at the first picture I posted of Amy's grave. Do you see the little flower on the left side? It is a morning glory. I sprinkled a few seeds in the dirt in the spring and it just started growing a few weeks ago. I knew it wouldn't get watered or wouldn't have support to climb but I planted it anyway. And God allowed it to grow. A little flower from a seed, that first came from flowers on our farm in Iowa, growing at my daughter's grave in Pennsylvania. Thank you dear Lord!
 Amy's body rests beside her Grandpa and Grandma to the left. Our farm is just down the hill in the valley in the background.
 The beautiful views of the mountains to the north.
The ground to the right of Amy will hold our bodies someday when the Lord calls us home to Him. It is a comfort to me to know this. It doesn't seem unnatural to me to think of death or graveyards or tombstones. It is just a part of my life now.
As is swinging. Yes, swinging. My little granddaughter squeals with laughter when I swing beside her as she is in the other swing.
I love to lay back and look at the sky and...... just be.
Just be..... held in His arms. 


Sunday, September 3, 2017

CONSIDER IT ALL JOY

I have wanted to blog so many times in the last two and a half months, but the words wouldn't come. After just having a heart wrenching time of crying, and being alone in the house (a rare thing) I decided to sit down here at my computer and see what happens. So I read over my last blog post and the weekend we spent in Canada for our anniversary seems like a very long time ago.

In my last post I mentioned that we were having problems at our church, but I never imagined the amount of pain we would have to suffer in the weeks to come. Our church is an independent Bible church. It is run by the congregation with a board of deacons, trustees, and the pastors. We do not have a denomination we answer to or get help from. As a congregation we vote on everything of importance. When our pastor of 20 some years chose to retire, the deacons were the ones who searched for a new pastor and then the congregation made the decision by voting. So the pastor we have had for the past year was not appointed to us by a denomination. My husband was a deacon so he was involved in the whole process of choosing him. But soon after he came we saw his true character come to light. My husband tried to address issues we  had with him within the confines of the deacon and board meetings, but to no avail.

As the issues were never told to the congregation we increasingly felt the Lord telling us to speak up at a congregational meeting, to inform them of our concerns. So on July 2, I read a statement we had typed up, expressing our concerns and that we were thinking of leaving our "home" of forty years. It was not received well by the pastor. He verbally used Amy as a weapon against us.  He has never visited our house, has never seen her pictures, he has never asked about her life or her death, or even mentioned her name. But that night he said her name to us with malice. He knew where to thrust in the knife and turn it so it would hurt me the most. Bill and I went to the cemetery following church and I just sat on the ground beside Amy's grave and cried and cried.  I knew that night that "my" church was lost to me.

A week later Bill went to a special deacon's meeting and poured out his heart. After hearing the pastor say that he had done nothing wrong, expound on his Bible knowledge, and that Bill was not leading his family correctly by letting me speak up at a meeting, AND when all the other deacons supported the pastor, Bill knew then that we had to leave. 

We had already decided that if we would leave the church we would not leave quietly as others have in the past. We spent hours praying over and composing a letter that we sent to almost everyone in the congregation, telling them why we were leaving and when our last Sunday was to be (August 27th).  They would have received the letter a few days before that Sunday. There was a congregational meeting following the Sunday service and this is the first time in all our years that the moderator announced that there was to be no discussion during the meeting. Emily and Bill followed the Lords leading and spoke what God had laid on their hearts anyway. They had written up what they wanted to say and  spoke calmly and clearly. Others also spoke and in angry tones voiced their support of the pastor and said we were slandering him. We did not reply back and the meeting ended. A few people came to where we were sitting to tell us goodbye, but most just left. 

In an email I received from  a friend the day she received her letter, she said we had been "chosen" to bring the issues to light. I never looked at it that way before. I just knew we had to do what God was telling us to do, so I guess we did have a "calling" to do this.

It is amazing how God has led me this summer in what He has wanted me to study in my Bible. In the beginning of the summer I was in the middle of studying Jeremiah when the Beth Moore study came up and I decided to take a break and do that. I mentioned it in my last post; it was called "Entrusted" and was a study of 2 Timothy.  I was in the middle of this study when all the heartache happened at church. These are the titles of the chapters to give you an idea of how God's Words in Second Timothy encouraged me. Divine Triangulation; Purpose and Grace, Strong in the Grace, Difficult Times, Difficult People; Fulfill Your Ministry; and Face to Face. I felt like we were doing what God called us to do. We were fulfilling our ministry for this time in our lives.
Then the week before our last Sunday at church we had a family vacation at a rental house just a little over an hour away from here. It was a much needed break for us and we were able to spend time in prayer, talking about life and enjoying the family times together. I used that week to do an Instagram Study on Psalm 15. It was a short study and I knew that would be perfect for vacation time as "time" always goes by so fast! Again God used this short Psalm to speak to me about what it means to slander someone. Only He knew that in just a few days we would be accused of slander. We were not slandering as we only spoke in love and concern for our family in Christ. This past week I was back to studying Jeremiah. In chapters 42 and 43 Jeremiah was told by God to tell the remnant of the Jewish people to not flee to Egypt. They ignored him and in 43:2 the arrogant men tell Jeremiah he is lying. The words "arrogant men" sure jumped out to me! I felt like God was showing me that we were like Jeremiah in telling the truth as to what God had told us to do. We obeyed. We were hoping for a different response, but God knew what was to happen. We obeyed and that is all that matters!

God also knows the future. He knows what church we will end up worshipping at. He knows what church all my children and their children will end up at. He knows whether we will all be able to worship together again as a family. He knows if I will be able to hear my girls sing and play the piano in church again. He knows if the cousins will be able to grow up going to the same church. He knows what church will be Emily's "sending" church when she becomes a missionary. He knows. This is what breaks my heart if I let it. I have made peace with the past but I feel that I have lost what I perceived my future to be. But no matter what I pictured for our future, God has so much better in store for us! I am reminded of an old song I learned when I was a child, "Because He Lives"

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives.

I'm also still working on memorizing the first chapter of James. I have been working on it for over a year now. I have half of it down pretty well so I just sometimes rattle it off in my brain so I can concentrate on getting to the part I'm struggling with. I was working on saying it slowly and really concentrating on the words last week when JOY jumped out to me. My word for this year, JOY!
"James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." James 1:1-5

CONSIDER IT ALL JOY!

Update: I started this last evening. This morning we visited a church with friends. I thought there would be tears, but there was only joy. Thank you Lord.