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.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Forty Years

This Sunday Bill and I will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our wedding day. We were married on my daddy's  forty-seventh birthday.  As it has in the past,  this year it falls on Fathers Day also. Sunday will be a day full of memories for us. Both of our fathers are gone. Bill is now the patriarch of our family.
How could forty years have passed by so quickly? I was 18, Bill 26. So young and na├»ve. I have heard that many couples divorce when they have a special needs child as it is such a strain on the marriage. Amy did put more pressure on our marriage and we did have problems. But we worked through them and our marriage grew stronger.
I have also heard the same is true when a child dies. Amy's death has only strengthened us, though. Not because she was so precious (she was), not because our family has rallied around us and helped us grieve (they have), and not because our church family was always there for us [they were]. Those things are wonderful and good,  but only because we know Who our strength is and Who we go to in times of trials have we become stronger.
I thought that Amy's life and death would have been enough for any family to handle, but Bill and I have both had to struggle with issues in our extended family also. So we go to our Lord and He helps us through and gives us strength, comfort and wisdom on how to handle things.
This past year has brought even more challenges. Our church has always been our life. Our kids were involved in every aspect of it as they were growing up. They have made life long friends their own ages and also older ones who have been godly examples for them and they now are part of our 'family.' My kids all serve in some capacity in our church and so do Bill and I. We always have. It has been our extended family for forty years. Amy was always welcomed, always loved. This past year has been our biggest trial yet. We are trusting in God to give us wisdom, strength and to follow His leading in our lives. Right now we do not know what that will bring. But .......... God does. He knew this was going to happen. He knew the trials we would be facing, He knows what the future will bring to us. We are just called to trust and have faith in His perfect will.
This again has strengthened our marriage more so than the other trials in our life we have gone through. Is that surprising to you? It has been to me. We have been continually drawn to prayer, to study God's Word, and discuss the situations, and drawn to prayer again and again. As I have mentioned before, Bill is a man of few words. We have talked more about spiritual things in the last year than we have in the other 39 of our marriage. Trials always produce something. Even though I do not enjoy going through this time and have many questions of why, I am thankful that He has drawn Bill and I together through this.
I started a new Bible Study today. It is called, "Entrusted, a study of 2 Timothy" by Beth Moore. I have done a few  of her studies before and with each one I am amazed at what God teaches me. This verse jumped out to me today. It's from Acts 13 (the first lesson is background to 2 Timothy). So in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas are being persecuted for preaching the Word and they have been driven out of the city. So what did they do? Verses 51 and 52, "But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconim. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." They were filled with JOY! JOY? After all their trials? JOY. Yes they were filled with joy. I, too, can be filled with joy even through the trials. Especially through the trials.
So how to handle the memories that will come this weekend?
Bill and I are leaving in the morning for Niagara Falls to stay in an inn, a B&B on the shores of Lake Ontario. Our very first vacation with Amy was to Niagara Falls. She was only 3 years and Tessa was 5 years. Emily and James were yet to be born. We had a wonderful time. I have good memories of that vacation.
The next four days will, I'm sure, have some tears, but mostly I hope joy.  JOY because I know that God is in control of every detail of our lives. From the aches and pains of getting older to the stress that comes from jobs and relationships with others. God is in control. That brings joy.

The only photo I have of our time 32 years ago.

And I almost forgot, we're going to be grandparents again. That little 5 year old in the photo is going to have another baby in December. More blessings, more JOY.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dancing In The Rain

February came and went; we all were sick, even the grandkids. March came in like a lion and Bill flew off to Andros Island in the Bahamas again for a week to do some ministry, working on buildings repairs after the hurricane last fall.
Amy would have been 35 years old on the 9th of March. The 'girls' (my two daughters and daughter-in-law) and I celebrated Amy's birthday with a spa day. We each got a massage, Laura and Tess a pedicure, I got a manicure and Emily got the works- a pedicure, her make up and hair done.  It was a nice fun day to remember Amy.

As the month of March progressed I tried my best to not remember the events of 4 years ago. But my depression deepened and I think I was at my lowest ever on the anniversary of the day Amy died, April 8th.  We once again gathered at the cemetery to release a balloon for each of us. Last year newborn Micah stayed in the van because it was so cold. It was a little nippy this year also, but the sun was shining and the flowers were blooming. Although I felt like I was in darkness. I tried to focus on my children faces. And the grandchildren. They were so happy. They wandered around the cemetery. So innocent, unharmed by reality of life.

After wards I took a drive by myself and went to our local state park and enjoyed nature and prayed. I drove by the fruit orchards and inhaled the fragrance of the blossoms and I prayed. I prayed for wisdom, I prayed for joy. I tried not to dwell on four years ago and tried not to think about the new sorrows and grief I had experienced in the last year and a half since Daddy died. But instead I tried to remember the happy things that had happened this last month.
We celebrated Micah's first birthday and Marissa Amy's second birthday.


And...... after a pretty snowless winter, it snowed in early spring!

I received a few cards, messages and one long letter from friends, telling me they were thinking of me. My mom and sister sent me some butterfly items in memory of Amy.   I felt like the darkness had lifted. Then Easter came, just a week later. I made an Easter egg tree. I've made one every year since we were married, except for the last four years.
 I discovered that one of the four cacti that my sister potted up for me (that were Daddy's and came from the farm) had sprouted and grown a new shoot. I was about to give up on them as it has been so long. But there was new life in at least one of them. I felt like it was a small miracle, God sending me a message. 


I made Easter Egg Baskets for the grandkids, and we had an egg hunt.

Matthew 21:15 &16  "But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?”

PRAISE. It is the least I can do for my Lord for all He has done for me. 

One of my favorite songs, "In Christ Alone."

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

As I was taking pictures of the cactus, I reread the saying on the stone that Tessa gave to me after Amy died. "Life isn't waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain."
The darkness in every storm eventually passes but I don't want to feel like I'm drowning anymore. I want to stand in the power of Christ. Till He returns or calls me home. But I want to do more than just stand. I want to dance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

JOY

I only took one picture at Christmas. ONE. I don't have a smart phone and just an old fashioned camera so as the years go by I take less photos. (Except of course if it's on vacation and if I see buffalo!) I rely on my kids to give me pictures of the grands and then I usually complain if I'm in them! But this Christmas as Bill was reading the Bible of the birth of Jesus I had to snap a photo. Ever since I can remember, my Daddy always read the Christmas story before we opened presents. We have carried on this tradition in our own family. As he was reading I was wondering how many times I heard Daddy read the story and how many times I have heard Bill read it. Last year Mama read it, even though it was hard for her to see the words. That was a special moment for me.

























This picture says more than just Bill reading the Christmas story. It shows how our lives have changed in the last two and a half years. There are Duplo Legos on the floor under his chair and an open Easter egg at his feet. ( I have no idea why!) Beside him on the table is a pacifier. It is pink so that means it goes to Marissa's baby doll.  Beside him is Tim, Will's stuffed penguin, reading the Christmas story along with him!
After a rough month of wondering if anyone remembered Amy, each of my children gave me a memory of her. Emily gave me butterfly earrings, Tessa gave me a bracelet that says Amy on it, and Laura gave me a kitchen towel set with butterflies and a calendar with a different butterfly on each month. A dear friend at church the week before had also shared a memory she had of Amy and how her family remembers her each Christmas because of it. Thank you for speaking her name, even though it brought tears. Thank you for remembering her.
I have a favorite photo of Amy's last Christmas with us. It was taken in the light of our advent candles. We would try to burn a candle every night up till Christmas Eve when all of them were lit.




Emily wanted me to put up the candles this year and I just looked at her and said, "What for? I haven't put them up for the last three years." It was a few days before Christmas and I had finally gotten the dining room table cleaned off from craft making and Christmas wrappings. I could tell she was a little upset (a mother can always tell) and so the next day when she was at work I put the table cloth on and set up the advent wreath of candles. I cried many tears with each candle I put in, knowing that the last time I did this Amy was still here. We lit them before the Christmas meal and sometime during  dinner I glanced up and this was the view I saw. Marissa Amy and little Micah  in the light of the candles. I used Tessa's camera to get the picture so I wasn't focusing right, but it is still dear to my heart. God knew I needed to see it this way. He knew. He was telling me, "Look at the blessings you have! Think on the future, not the past."




I received a few presents, too, in  memory of Daddy. Emily made me a cutting board that says "We thank Thee, Lord, for the necessities of life...." When I was little Daddy would always say the same sentence in his prayers and it was about partaking of the necessities of life.  I really didn't understand until I was older that he was thankful for the daily necessities that most of us take for granted. It is now a constant reminder in my kitchen to be thankful.

James and Laura commissioned a painting to be done with the artist who painted Amy's closet door with a scene of butterflies, an arbor, flowers and a fairy in her bedroom (our bedroom now). This was what they commissioned. This was what I unwrapped. I thought my heart was breaking once again.





That's my Daddy walking through his beloved fields of corn. Walking into the rays of the sun. Going Home.
O how I miss that mighty man of God. He stood for everything that is true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely in this world.   

I started this blog after Amy died as a way to share her life and my process of going through grief. I didn't care who read it as it was a way for me to grieve and almost all of the posts were written with tears streaming down my face. I could be real on here so I could 'pretend' out in public that everything was ok.
I struggle with words. I am not a natural born writer and many of these blogs have taken hours to write as I try to make sure my grammar, spelling and sentence structure are correct. I knew there would be others reading this although I never dreamed  I would touch people in foreign countries.  Even though I haven't written a post since Oct. in the last 30 days there have been over 100 views from Asia, Europe and South America. I don't say that to brag. I say that to state that what I am writing now is mostly for those out there who don't know me very well and if you are friends or my family, I hope you can see my heart in this and not take offense.

The last few months have been really hard. After my visit to my Mama in Oct. I seemed to struggle more with grief. Then the first anniversary of my Daddy's death came and I remembered all the details of the last two weeks of his life that I was able to spend with him and the following week of the funeral. There were so many heartaches that week and in the weeks to come with my family that I have tried to forget. But it has put a distance between my sisters and myself.  As time has passed and the political climate has changed I decided to remain silent, especially when I read this verse from Amos 5:13, "Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time."  Even though we don't agree, I love them and do not hate them or their families. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate.

This past November, in my own immediate family a horrible misunderstanding occurred. Angry words were spoken, tears were shed, I asked for an apology and it was given but with more hurtful words said, and distance came between us. I was willing to talk- to hash things out- but they chose to not talk about the situation and just move on.  
And so we have. 
At that same time I fractured a rib and was in a lot of physical pain for a few weeks and the emotional pain just added to it.

During the last year and especially these last few months God has taught me much. I always thought my family would be there for me. He has taken me through the loss of a sister, mother and father-in-law, a precious daughter and then my sweet Daddy. Someday I may lose others before He decides to take me home to Him. But I have learned that I only need Him. He and He alone is what I need to be complete and whole. My family adds to my joy (and sometimes sorrow) but I cannot live my life for them. I can only live it for Jesus and do what He tells me is best for me, not what others think is best for me. God is writing my story and He isn't revealing that story to others, whether it be my children, sisters, or friends.
So to all of you out there, I don't know your stories.  What I am trying to convey to you is that even if you have no family or don't have a relationship with your family, you can still have joy and be content if you have Jesus. He is all you need.


"But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;    I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me."

Micah 7:7-8
My word for the year is JOY.
Thank you for reading my blog. Being able to share God's Word is one way I have joy.