But A Vapor

memories

Look at the walls in your home. Photographs of family. Plates a grandmother collected. Awards for achievements in a career. Colors of curtains, couches and rugs all coordinating. Some of the hand me downs aged with time and wear. Closets filled with boxes of keepsakes. Shelves filled with scrapbooks and photo albums.  Those are just things, memories of lifetime that will be passed on, sold at a yard sale or thrown into the trash. Why do we hang on to things? I believe it is because the person who owned it, touched it. They held it. They kept it to remind them of something.

We touch it, we hold it and smell it because it reminds us that they were here. That they were real. And we are not ready to let go of that thing that connects us to the living, breathing person that our hearts are longing to see one more time. Grief is a funny thing. it comes fast and hard at first. And then subsides long enough to catch a breath. When you are least expecting it comes on like the wave that looks small in the distance and then crashes down with a force that knocks you off your feet. Sending you tumbling head over heal while you are grasping to find the ground underneath you. It’s never what you imagine. And it never leaves you but it does quiet itself over time.

I have been feeling as if I have gotten old overnight. A little alone and lonely because of isolation, living out here away from the city, family, and friends. A bit melancholy but not depressed. Some of it is from all the news of death recently. Several celebrities taking their own life, a very close friend losing two loved ones within a week apart and then hearing two more soldiers, suffering from PTSD, taking their own lives this past week. I spent the day in bed a few days ago not feeling well and missing my dad, my sister, and my mother all at the same time. Wanting to talk to them but not able to. My mother was the most recent to pass. She left this world on New Year’s Eve. I began the new year with a loss. I did not know that this year would be filled with it.

All this loss makes me reflect on my own life. Makes me turn inward. It brings up memories I forgot were there in the corners of my mind. At moments it takes my breath away. It has haunted my dreams waking me up suddenly with my heart beating fast. Some of it is grief, the other part is the awareness that our lives are so very short. There seems to be an urgency to get the things done I have had a on list for years. I had a ninety-year-old woman tell me the other day that she was ready to join her husband who had passed twenty years before. I told her she shouldn’t say that maybe the Lord still had something for her left to do. She said I have done everything there is to do. And she asked me how old I was. “55, soon to be 56.” Feeling somewhat young at that moment in comparison. She said, “We have different vantage points you and I, I have been there and done that. And there is nothing else I want to do or need to do.”

I think she was saying she was lonely and she had no purpose. She was living day in and day out doing nothing. Her family was living their lives without her. She had been a strong independent woman, self-sufficient and a real hard worker. This tiny woman was mowing her lawn just months ago. She told me of some of the things that she had done back in the day. She replumbed and rewired her house by herself and at one time in her life, she could lift 100 lb tanks.  In the short time, I have known her she is not one for sitting still. She could still do all that in her mind but her body will not let her. And she is ready to go.

I left her house thinking, is that what the end of your life looks like? Waiting to die? Waiting for God to take you? I remember talking to my grandmother before she passed. She was not an easy woman. She was a proud woman and never let you see the vulnerable side of her. She was judgemental and very manipulative. She would spend her last days of her life being paranoid about those around her. Even on the day she passed, I spoke to her on the phone and she begged me to call the police to come and get her out of the hospital. She did not trust the doctors or the nurses. I was in a different city and I could not get home to her. She died with no loved ones around her.

My mother passed somewhat in peace. I was five miles from the hospital when she took her last breath. Everyone told me she heard my voice on the phone, telling her I was on my way. But in the Lord’s sovereignty, I did not make it. I missed her final breath.

All of this death should have me sad and depressed. It should have me in despair. I could ask all the questions most people ask God, even the ones that know Him when people leave us. What is the point to all of this?  Why did you create us to die? Why do you allow all the pain and suffering in our life? Why do you take innocent babies? Why do you allow cancer to eat up our bodies and anxiety to wreak havoc on our minds? Why do some people think that the only way is out to take their life?

Why?

I know depression is real. I know it is an illness. I know, because it runs in my family. It took the form of self-medicating, alcohol abuse, rage and dysfunction. It showed its face in PTSD, trauma and physical abuse. It was passed on like a photograph in a frame. I tried myself to say, “No more, it stops with me.” And for the most part some of it did. But not all. It crept in through others who came into my life and left its mark. I am not a victim. I am no longer in bondage to the things the enemy used to take us captive in our family. Because I found something better than a pill. I have a relationship with Jehovah Rapha. The Healer.

I know something about God that I did not know when I was younger. When I first came to know Him I was so unsure of who He was. I questioned so much about Him. His motives, His will, and His love. I read His word to find out how He thought, how He works in our lives. I studied his concepts & principals so that I could apply them to my life. I sought His mercy, His care, and His heart. Looking back I found something I would never have found if I had not been looking.

I found a God who wanted fellowship. Could it be that He was lonely? Could it be that God wanted to be loved? His word says we are made in His image. We desire to be loved and cared for. Our hearts desire relationship. We look for it our whole lives. Even when we think we found it we look for more. Our hearts seem to be a bottomless pit of want. And the irony is, in our creation, God put that desire in us. It was meant to cause us to look for Him. Because He is the only one that can fill it.

When He comes in, He fills it with His presence. It is then we become whole. We become loved. We become cared for. We become, slowly like Him. My thoughts become His thoughts and so I do not feel hopeless. And as my heart beats as His for my fellow man I should want to serve them, help them, and love them too. My soul is one with Him so  I am never alone or lonely. My strength is His strength working in me, through me and for me. I have nothing to fear, nothing to despair from and everything to look forward to.

The whys of life and death disappear in the light of His filling. You see He never wanted to control me like a puppet on a string. He never wanted me to be a mindless robot doing His bidding. He did not want our relationship to be based on terror. It was not about how good I was or am. It is not about punishing me for bad that I have done. It is and always has been about relationship.  And that is the purpose. For us to go out and create relationship with others and by doing so we show them who God really is. What love is, what purpose is and it gives us the hope of eternity with our loved ones.

babyfingers

I have carried seven children but have only given birth to four. My life profoundly changed with each one I lost. Sadness, sorrow, regret, and failure. Loss, mourning and forever wondering what would have been. While I have never gotten to see the faces of three of them, it was not until I beheld the face of my first little boy of how fragile and blessed life really is. Following the lines of his tiny face, hearing the cry of his little voice and feeling his little fingers curling around my one. Realizing now that God gave me a glimpse into His relationship with His children through the birth of one child and the loss of another.

Relationship. A mother and a child.

Love. I did not know him but I loved him because he came from my body. He was a miracle.

Purpose. At that moment I could not fathom what was ahead only that I would care for him, raise him and give him all that I had until the day that I die.

When he became a man I did not stop being his mother. I did not stop loving what came from my womb,  what God created within me. And just like God whose children walk away from Him for a while, I wait to hear from my son. To speak with him. To love on him. To have relationship with him. And when we do my heart is full! It is in the moments that I do not hear from him my mind can wonder if he still cares for me if he still needs me or will we ever be together again?

And so God waits to hear from us. To speak with us. To come back to Him. Our God did not create us to die. He did not cause us to suffer. Life is but a vapor and it is gone before it even begins because a man and woman in a garden wanted more than they had. They wanted to be independent of a God who would love and care for them. A God who would protect them by giving them all they would ever need. Yet they did not believe he was enough. They would choose their own way over a relationship with their creator. In doing so death & suffering came upon mankind as a consequence of their choice.

Death is not the end though. We will all live somewhere forever. Heaven or hell. But God in His love and mercy gave us a way back to Him. Back to a relationship with Him. And He let it be still our choice. Choosing Christ as our Savior takes us to Heaven, gives us a purpose beyond ourselves and can heal the despair and heartaches that come with living life.

He does not want us to do this alone!!! We are to stay connected, assembling ourselves with other believers. This is one way He protects us. Others looking out for us, comforting us, praying with us, loving on us and showing us Jesus in the flesh. When we draw away to be alone we are vulnerable to the enemy.  It is the enemy that will lie to us and lead us to destruction. Even unto death.

Depression, PTSD, and grief can be healed by Jesus. I have been a witness to and a recipient of healing so many times. We have to choose to want to be healed by applying God’s word, walking in faith and letting Him fill our hearts and minds with new thoughts and ways. Believing Him & trusting Him to walk with us through the darkest moments in our lives. Even in the dark days of loss and grief.

worship.jpg

I miss them all but I do not despair. I am sad but not depressed. I may still grieve their loss at times but it is only a reminder to me the day I take my last breath on earth  I will take my first one in heaven. We will all be reunited! And God does say He will wipe away all the tears. In the meantime, my purpose is to bring as many people with me to heaven as possible. Afterall, it is the only thing we can take with us.

 

Worth Far Above Rubies

Johanna Lee Pope.JPGYou know it is never easy, to sum up, a person’s life in a few short sentences or a list of words. I guess because when you lose them to the death your mind is flooded with memories from your very first memory to the last day. And as I think back over the years of my life the memories of a woman I called Mom are the woman who looked much like the woman in the book of Proverbs. While the woman the Lord speaks of is pretty much perfect I know my mother would say she was far from it.

I always described my mother as a pip. By definition, a pip is an excellent or a very attractive person or thing. And she was very attractive to many. “She was beautiful,” many have said to me. She was feisty, witty and could be stubborn when she needed to be. She loved to be with people. She definitely was a social creature. Whether at a party, a holiday gathering, playing cards, floating, camping, motorcycle rides or just sitting around with family doing nothing, she was happy.

She was loyal and loved her family. I saw my whole life how she cared for her mom and

1968 farmington

Larry, Wilma, Johanna, Elbert, Glenda Michelle and Dannielle 1967 Farmington, Missouri

dad. Her sister and brother. Her husband and her children. She was definitely a caretaker. She took care of us all. She always had a plan and she could make it happen. And I am pretty sure I got that from her. She loved, loved, loved having her family around her. I think that brought her the greatest joy. And just today realized I got that from her as well because having all my children and grandchildren surround me fills my heart to overflowing. I know that is what she expressed on her face when we all came home to visit her.

She was also a peacemaker. Always trying to encourage everyone to get along. We come from a loud and boisterous family. There were many years of turmoil and upheaval that were hard on her. But she never quit trying to make things better. I remember just before going into the air force my mom and Bob started attending church. They both surrendered to the Lord and I began to see a change in them, in their lives. That change influenced me to make some changes in my life as well. Those changes for me would lead me to a faith in God deeper than I have ever known. A faith I would need in the years that followed, a faith that would change the course of my family’s life.

She loved being a grandmother. I watched her hold each one of her grandchildren with such pride and tenderness. Other than adoration I never knew what was going through her mind when she was holding them and baby talking to them until of course, I became a grandmother. I remember asking her once how come she never told me how great it was to be a grandmother? She just giggled. So I guess that was her secret.

She loved her children. And losing one nearly took the life right out of her. That was a dark time for our whole family. She did say she told me that she could relate to me because she herself had lost StitchSCAN1385-SCAN1391.JPGher brother tragically when she was 19. But I could never relate to her losing a daughter. The pain of that ran very deep. The joy in this day is that she is reunited with a brother she has not seen in 55 years and a daughter she has not seen in 11 years.

She was forgiving and kind. Always saw people for how they treated others. She did not see color or status. Make no mistake she could sum a person up in a few minutes, she was good at telling someone’s character. And if they were a bad egg she would warn you. One of the blessings of this day is seeing the number of folks that loved her and hearing them praise her for her kindness and compassion she had for others. So many people respected her. Another word that keeps coming up is fun; she was just a fun person. What a great friend she was to others and how much everyone valued what she said. I think I heard the ladies at the VFW called her the “Mob Boss.” And the picture of my tiny mother as a Mob Boss is precious.

She was so creative. Oh my goodness, she could create anything out of nothing. I love that I got that from her. I remember, as a little girl, her sewing teeny tiny clothes for me and my sister Danielle’s Barbie’s. She made ice candles out of milk cartons, wax, and ice and then would put it on a plate surrounded by leaves she picked up out of the yard. She loved to decorate. And everything had to color coordinate, even what she was wearing. She could put together an outfit and look like a million bucks. Some of the clothes she sewed from her own patterns back in the 70’s were amazing!!!

IMG_7517

2016 taken at the Jewel Box St. Louis Forrest Park

A few years ago the Lord had put it on my heart to do something for my mother for Mother’s Day. I had not spent Mother’s Day with her since the 90’s. She had been in and out of the hospital and I just knew we needed to create some new memories together. I wanted to treat her like a queen for the day. I planned a weekend away in the city with my mother, my aunt, my sister and our daughters. I made the announcements including the itinerary and sent them off. First, we would have dinner with a very old friend of my moms. A lady she had not seen in many years. Then we would be swept off to the city for Mani/Pedi, a photography session at the Jewel Box in Forrest Park, a stay at an exclusive historic hotel, order room service dinner, catch the Sound of Music at Fox Theater and topped off the weekend with a Mother’s Day Buffet at the top of the Park Plaza Hotel overlooking St. Louis Forrest Park. When it was all said and done she said, “This is the best time I ever had in my whole life.”IMG_7686.jpg

And you know today it is one of the best memories I have of my mom in my whole life. The intent was to celebrate each other, as a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister and an Aunt. We each played one or more of those roles, we represented 3 generations connected by blood but more importantly by love. It was priceless.

Yes, my mother would tell you she was far from perfect and I would tell her that in her imperfection she exemplified that woman worth far above rubies. Her husband trusted in her. She worked with her hands to create beautiful things. She worked hard in her life and never quit providing for her family. She knew how to grow things and make life beautiful around her. She would make clothes for herself and her family. She gave to those around her who needed help without a hesitation. Her husband was known in the gates because of her strength and honor. She opened her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue was kindness. She cared for her household always and did not waste her time with idleness. And because of these things

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Johanna Lee (Pope) Tomlinson

1943 – 2017

Online Obituary

Johanna was the direct descendant of the founding fathers of Farmington Missouri. Through Joel Zolman and Louisa Murphy.  See Pope Family Tree Page on Shell’s Space.

 

 

What else do you need?

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation,and my high tower. Psalm 18:2

The end of another year.  2014.  I am finding it is true with age time speeds up and memory begins to fade.  I was just remarking, the other day, how my memories seem so distant to me.  Even just the events of 10 years ago seem like another time another place to me.  I never would have imagined the life I am now living, not in a million years.

One of the major changes this year is that Pete and I are almost “empty-nesters.” Without even realizing it, on occasion, I have found myself trying to remember what it was like to be constantly taking care of children.  The only time I get close to remembering is when I have my Grandchildren for a night and a day. 🙂

I have been contemplating what this year has meant to me, what new thing I have learned and what God did in our lives as a family this year. The year certainly went fast. As I look back through the pictures I can not believe all the moments I got to witness in my families’ life. So many to mention but I will just try to highlight a few.

The beginning of the year saw some actual winter weather in Houston. Icicles of all things. They were everywhere and soooo pretty!

One of the favorite events of the year was the Josh Garrels and Robbie Seay Band concert we attended at the Warehouse Live in Houston, Texas. Ben and Rachel introduced us to Josh’s music and we had been listening to him for a while.  He had just started touring this side of the country and Pete bought tickets for us but he could not make it because he was still deployed.  Ben, Rachel, Sam and I went. We recorded him singing some of our favorite songs so the video quality was not that great. He sounded so much richer in person. The music was incredible and we all fell in love with his music even more after seeing him live. He is very down to earth and authentic!

We celebrated Brodies’ 7th Birthday! An amazing day with a castle cake, hand-made shields, many a daring sword fights and adventures with the kids.

 

Another special day was Blue Bonnets blooming in Texas.  It is a funny story.  I told my husband before we married that he had to see the Blue Bonnets. Bragged to him how beautiful they were so we planned our honeymoon to go to a bed and breakfast in the Brenham area so we could go see them when they bloomed.  The year we married there was very little rain around Texas so the drought effected the Blue Bonnet season severely. When we got to Brenham and planned our day to go on our tour of the area we discovered there weren’t any Blue Bonnets to be found. The waitress at the restaurant had told us there were a few but did not stay long.  However we found one (1) at a nursery.  Now this year there were millions! What a joy to share with our grandchildren!

There were many other happenings throughout the year.  Everyday things like soccer games, trips to the beach and a trip up to Fort Hood to see the ‘Army Guy’ in our family. 🙂 Witnessing vows at weddings, births of more grandchildren.  Fun times spent in the back yard looking for and finding cool bugs. Spending really hot days at the pool.  Family dinners and celebrating more birthdays in the family.  If you follow me on Facebook then you have already seen the 1000’s of pictures I have posted. But here are a few that cause me to pause.

 

Notice anything about most of these pictures? Most of them are filled with little people, grandchildren.  The ‘group’ pictures are my favorite because they represent how the Lord doubled and even tripled our family.  The growth of our family, the dynamic of our family and most importantly the blessing of our family. God has given us so much this year and all of it in tiny blessings.

The pictures are not perfect. While there are smiling faces and silly grins there to are the worries, the disappointments and the losses.  But you can’t really see that.  You only see that some are posed but if you look closer you can see each personality of each person frozen-in-time.  You can’t see the little things most often missed by many too hurried to wonder about it. Like gratefulness that most of us had good health this year. That we could afford to celebrate and travel. That we could provide for our family. That in the hodge-podge, that is our family, we could be together and enjoy the simple moment-by-moment pleasure of making memories.

What did I learn this year?  I learned this year you can not hold tightly to things or people because they are not meant to be permanent. So I have let go. I learned that lessons God taught me years ago are still relevant to me today and I have to keep applying His answers to my life each and every day no matter what. So it is back to the basics in my walk with God for me.  I learned that loving your children does not mean you agree with everything they do and say and praying for them is the best way to bring about positive changes in their lives. So my prayer time will increase for sure. 😉

Even now I can not imagine what 2015 will be like. There are already a few things we have on our calendar to look forward to but I do not know exactly how they will go until we get to that time. I can not be sure of tomorrow but I can be sure that God will be there when it comes because He always is. A friend posted that she has never been sorry that she trusted in His name! I replied, “me too!”  For that is real and true, especially for 2014.

So the very best thing I could do for the new year would be to continue to trust in Him!  For He is my ROCK, my FORTRESS, my DELIVERER and my STRENGTH!

What else do you need???

Grace to you,

Shell

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

“Call me back.”

Father’s Day.  Last year I called my dad on Father’s Day but he did not answer his phone so I left him a message, “Was calling to wish you a Happy Father’s Day, call me back.”.  He called me back but I missed his call so he left me a message, “Michelle, this is your father, I called you back, call me back.” We finally connected later on that day.  He thanked me for the Harley Davidson Coffee Mug I sent him and we chatted about this and that. He told me what his day had been like and then we hung up.  I talked to him one more time after that.  It was Thursday, June 27th at 8am. My commute was often an hour or more and because it was early I knew my dad was up. So as was custom I would call him and catch him up on the family happenings on my way to work in which I did that morning.

School had let out for the summer several weeks before so traffic was not as heavy as it was during the school year which made the trip a bit shorter that day. My memory has been very vivid where this particular phone conversation is concerned. Normally our conversations would consist of the goings on in my life and his life. Then we would exchange opinions and factoids on the current events and politics. One of the special things to me about these discussions was that during this time in our lives we seem to agree on many issues.  Which was a far cry from when I was a young adult or a teenager when we did not agree on much.  Looking back it was probably because I did not understand what was really going on in the world so I could not discuss most subjects with him intelligently. Which most assuredly frustrated him.  To have these discussions now was very gratifying because I could appreciate his wisdom and opinion and secretly loved the fact that my father would actually want to know my opinion on a matter.  He would actually acknowledge some of the wisdom or knowledge I had about a subject.

This particular conversation was just a bit different, however. He seemed to be out of breath and I inquired as to why.  He said he had just walked up the stairs. But his breathing never got better as I chatted on and on about each one of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He asked about each one. My son, Esteban and my nephew, Austin had graduated high school several weeks before so we told each other about the event. Esteban in Texas and Austin in Missouri. When we had finished I changed the subject to current events and he said, “That stuff doesn’t matter, you know, lets talk about the kids again, there is a lot going on.”  So I paused. Then he started listing the events coming up for our family during the summer he remarked on the blessing of it all.  A newborn baby coming, a wedding, a son going into the Army and my husband deploying overseas. So much was coming.  And little did I know at that time he would be going.

I told him to get to the doctor and he told me he had an appointment on Monday.  We said, “I love you” to each other though he was out of breath I sensed he was emphasizing his words.  After I hung up my first thought was, ‘how strange for him to repeat everything I had said was happening with the kids this summer and he said it was all a blessing.’ I realized at that moment that I didn’t think I had ever heard him say the word ‘blessing’ before. The conversation has stayed with me every day since.  Even now I hear his voice.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and in eighteen days it will be the one year anniversary that my father went to heaven.  It is hard to think about that for too long without the tears welling up.  Initially I am happy for him, celebrating Father’s Day with his heavenly Father.  I can’t even imagine what that day will be like for me.  I try to but it is just too much.  My dad had not known Him long but for the time he did he was a changed man. And that thought alone makes me smile.  Makes me want to fall on my knees and give thanks for my heavenly Father who made it possible for my earthly father to experience peace, love and joy. For him to be able to recognize the ‘blessings’ in his life. So while I can not call him tomorrow to say Happy Father’s Day, I can call upon the Lord to say thank you for answering my prayers of salvation for the dad God gave me.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. ~ Romans 10:13

Larry Leach

Larry Leach

…That Both You and Your Descendants May Live!

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; ~ Deuteronomy 30:19

I have a new grand-daughter! Her name is Melody Adeline! She is beautiful, head to toe!  I do not just say that because she is my grand-daughter but she is a wonderful creation. Black hair and dark eyes.  Her name means music, song and it rolls off your tongue like a song. Her middle name, Adeline, means noble. In German it means of nobility and pleasant. How sweet!  She is our ‘noble song’.  She is the smallest of all babies born into our family, 6 lbs. 9 oz. Look at her sleeping like she is praying!  I love this picture!

Melody Adeline

Melody Adeline

Holding her yesterday she was so content, curled up in a little lump laying on Grammy’s chest.  I could have held her all night long. Her big sister Daniela Jade, our little “jewel,” came and went visiting with me.  It wasn’t but three and half years before I was holding her the same way. She is a big girl now with her funny way of talking to all of us. She is precocious at times but she is an innocent little girl with eyes wide to the world around her. She mimics the adults around her and wants to be seen.  There are moments I see her vulnerability to the harshness of the world. As we all are vulnerable. But she has a sweet heart. I pray God protects that! I pray for both of them the way a Grandmother’s heart does. First to see God in all things and know Him in their lives.  Melody is my 4th grandchild and just like the ones before her I have sung Psalm 103 over her so she could hear the words and they would cover her heart and soul.

 

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I heard a message on this passage the other day.  And I loved how the preacher listed the benefits when we honor God.  I had read them, sang them and prayed them but I am not sure I really stopped to list them on paper as they applied to my life.

1) He forgives my sins (when I ask & repent)

2) He heals my diseases (mental as well as physical)

3) He redeems my life from destruction (many times over)

4) He crowns my life with love, kindness and tender mercies (His daily grace)

5) He satisfies me when I am hungry for something to fill my soul which in turn renews my strength & ability to serve Him (if and when I go to Him only for satisfaction)

All these benefits are mine daily if I do something first. Bless Him with my life. Honor Him. Walk in His ways. Give Him praise & worship.

And sometimes I am overwhelmed by these truths and the simple fact that God loves each and everyone of His creations in this way. So this is the prayer for each one of my grandchildren.  Brodie, Ann Marie, Daniela and Melody, that they would bless the Lord with their lives and would partake in the benefits He gives, so that they may LIVE well!

 

Finding A Piece of Destiny

Suddenly a memory pops into your head.  It isn’t a smell or an image provoking it, it is just a thought.  A thought popping up much like those annoying ads on websites you go to.  The site loads and up pops this little box trying to force you to sign up for something. This has been happening to me a lot lately.  My sister’s face comes up in dreams and in thoughts.  Yesterday it was my sister and my dad.  Last week it was my grandmother on my mother’s side.  They are bringing with them remembrances that are sweet and make me smile. With it comes a huge ache in my chest.  I miss them all.

Popes AnniversaryI think it is because in researching my ancestry I have made some very interesting and exciting discoveries that I would love to share with them and I can’t.  It seems those around me are not as excited about the pieces of treasure I have uncovered.  I want to call my sister and tell her what I found.  I want to call my dad and share with him the stories that I have read.  I would love to sit down with my grandmother and share with her the history of her family.  I wonder if she knew that her family founded the very town she raised her children in. Both my mother and my aunt had no idea so I believe she did not. What a shame to not know how your family staked a claim that future generations would call home.

I learned that three men, a father and two sons, set out from Tennessee to go West.  The father, William Murphy, was from Richmond, Virginia and was a Baptist minister. He and his family had settled in Tennessee after the Revolutionary War for a short time. The three men decided go a little to the south-west into what was known as the Louisiana Territory.  They were adventurous to be heading into the unknown. Reports say this was in the year 1798, which means the territory was under Spanish control, having been previously owned by France some 35 years before. The men arrived in what was known as Ste. Genevieve (Upper Louisiana) or later to be known as the south-eastern part of Missouri.

While everyone in the area was french and said to be very hospitable, no one spoke English. They had to send out for a man who could interpret for them. The man took them to his home and spent the rest of the night telling them about the area and where the good land was.  The next day with the assistance of an indian guide each of the men found land to claim. They filed their claims and the land was granted by Spain. They headed back to Tennessee to retrieve their families, however the father did not make it home. They had stopped at his son’s house in Kentucky and it is told he died there.  The brothers did however make it back to Tennessee and soon started back to their claims along with another brother who would work their father’s claim.  Later their mother, a woman named Sarah Barton Murphy, followed with the remaining family.

Sarah was a woman of faith.  And fearless it seems.  She took her remaining household on a trip in a keel boat that began on the Holston River, to the mouth of theOmaha keelboat Ohio River and eventually up the Mississippi River using ropes and poles.  She and her traveling companions managed to pass in the night the areas inhabited by hostile indians. They stayed close to the bank during the day for some concealment.  At the end of the trip on the river they walked another 28 miles over land to the final destination. It is calculated they traveled over 1000 miles and when they arrived, those greeting the party gave them a standing ovation.  They arrived June 12, 1802.*

Even though France took back the Louisiana Territory in 1800, it was done in secret, so it was still under the Spanish law until 1803. During the time of Spanish rule, it was against the law to worship God as a Protestant. So those who had lived there spent many years without corporate worship or fellowship. That did not seem to stop Sarah. Being a Christians lady, she would not have the men doing such things as fishing on the Lord’s day so she began a bible study.  The first one west of the Mississippi.  There is a monument to her today in the town of Farmington, Missouri to attest to the fact.

“On this spot the first Sunday School west of the Mississippi River was organized and taught by Sarah Barton Murphy in the year 1805 in the Old Log Meeting House, which was the first Protestant Church west of the Mississippi.” 

sarah barton murphyI have spent some time reading and re-reading the accounts of this family.  The family who worked the land and created what was known as the Murphy Settlement. And then later called Farmington, Missouri.  There are many more stories I want to explore and search out. But just gaining this knowledge has inspired me.  It has given me encouragement that each one of us has an opportunity to stake a claim for our family. We may not head out into unknown lands or have to travel under dangerous conditions to get there.  Maybe it is staking a claim for the Lord.  A claim to His promises to bless those who serve and honor Him.

I made such a claim years ago when I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I wanted to raise my children in the ‘nurture and admonition’ of the Lord. My desire was to make a change in the way my family had lived.  It now seems my family had grown away from the Lord in the generations since the Murphy’s. While it is exciting to learn of the Christian heritage I have, I did not learn of it until about 7 or 8 years ago.   I had already made the claim years before when my life was falling apart around me and I turned to God for help.  The heartache and destruction of alcoholism and drug addiction had been passed down in my family but can not be sure of who it started with or when. I take comfort in knowing that there may have been one, two or more Christian men and women praying for their descendents.  And those prayers found me when the bottom fell out of my life.

Finding Jesus and learning more about Him literally saved my life. It impacted my life in such a way that it changed the lives of those around me.  My children know God, my father came to know God, my 1st husband came to know God and now my grandchildren are learning of God.  Like finding an ancestor that made a difference in their time, changing the course of the lives around them by pointing them to Jesus. What a treasure to have knowledge of this. I know our focus should not always be on the past.  I know God is wanting us to keep our eyes focused on Him in any and all endeavors.  So I praise Him for showing me these new things. How good of Him to reveal the little details of our past weaved together for His glory!

God has been speaking to me about serving in the moment.  Not waiting for an event, or planning a program or praying about it….He wants me fully engaged NOW! Moment by moment being Christ to the world.  Serving Christ in my church daily not just on Sunday.  In my workplace, in my home and even in my commute.  But most importantly serving Him in my relationships.

As I get older I am understanding more the loneliness of age.  When we are young, we set out to connect with others in the world.  Our lives are weaved with relationships that either bring a balance to our lives or ones that knock us off course.  While we alone choose the people we keep in our life there are times when we have no choice whatsoever on who is in and who is out.  We can try to keep some in but if they want to leave we have to let them go.  We can try to leave some but they won’t let us. As we get older the relationships seem to thin out.  People die or move away.  Our kids grow up and have their own lives to attend to. Those connections I have to my childhood are getting fewer and fewer each year.  Maybe that is why Facebook is such a novelty to some of us. It has allowed us to reach back to the years through friends and acquaintances we had during that time. I think in some ways it validates a time stamp.  “See, we were there.”  “I lived there.” “I was connected there.”

I believe the desire to search out the stories of my ancestors is perhaps a tug of my heart to find a connection to destiny.  Or maybe it is the words of my great-grandparents prayers they offered up to God, to Jesus that someday their descendants would see that they were there.  That they lived and they served Him. That we would be connected to the very same God they were connected to. That their worship and service was not in vain. I want to know that too as I offer up prayers of my own.

The thought overwhelms me that the Murphy’s looked at the same moon & stars,  warmed their  faces under the same sun and kneeled to the same Lord of Lord and King of Kings and some day when I am present with the Lord I pray my great-grandchildren will do the same!

Christmas Heart Ache

One of the things I love about Christmas is the lights.  I love the colors, the twinkle and the beams that bounce off the shiny ornaments.  As a little girl I would sit in the dark living room with only the tree lit. The bulbs were big and bright. Tinsel covered the tree. Bulbs hung along side hand-made ornaments my sister and I had made with our mom or in school.  My mother and father worked at the General Electric Lamp Plant in St. Louis.  Mom had brought some clear light bulbs home without the innards. Only the bulb and the metal end.  She put us at the table and showed us how to apply glue and glitter to the inside of the bulb.  Then we took a small picture she had cut out of us into the shape of an oval and we taped a string to the back side of it.  My mother put the picture and string inside the bulb and attached it to the metal part which she glued onto the end of the bulb. Viola! A beautiful light bulb ornament. I still have it today and it hangs on my tree.

1967 Shell GE light bulb ornament

1967 Shell GE light bulb ornament

When I left home to go into the Air Force, my mother began to send me an ornament every year.  Some were bought and some were hand-made.  All were a memorial to the year being given.  I kept every one of them and have hung them on my tree each year.  I even began making some of my own to commemorate some major events of the year. But I still continue to add them to mark a specific family event.  For example this year my son and his wife gave birth to a baby girl, Ann Marie.  My daughter got married and my third child, though now a man, graduated from high school and then 6 months later graduated Army Basic Training.  All very proud moments for me.  So I plan to hang three plus one for my fathers’ passing in remembrance.

This is the 1st Christmas without him.  It is surreal to come home and find him not here. I am staying in his house. The house he and his wife bought several years ago.  A beautiful Victorian style home.  It is in the center of the town off the main street.  I sense him all around us.  The ache in my heart of missing him but knowing he is celebrating this season in heaven with my sister.  What a thought, worshiping Jesus on His birthday in Heaven. Wow!

It is more difficult for his wife, my step-mom.  She sees him everywhere she turns.  He loved her so much and she knew it.  He took care of her and she misses that. Being taken care of and loved by a man who had searched for love his whole life.  The coolest part of their relationship was that not only did they both find a special love, he found Christ through her love.  I can not begin to tell you how special that is to me.  An answer to a 20 year prayer.  In her grief she is comforted by the fact she knows where he is but the ache is more real in the absence of his touch and his daily concern for her. Grief does not have a calendar or clock.  It knows no boundaries. It takes its time in the humdrum days of loneliness! I pray she finds healing in moving forward and focus on Christ who fills the emptiness left by my dad. I am glad I was here to share these days with her.  I believe it brought some ease to both of our hearts.

I did go to the cemetery to put flowers on my sister’s grave and my fathers’. He has no headstone yet but the grass has grown over him. The small blades of grass resemble moss, revealing to those who come to visit a fresh grave.  There is always a breeze there when I visit.  A warm, hot breeze on the day of his funeral.  But today very cold and brisk, making my eyes sting with tears.  Memories are a funny thing. Standing there I remembered I was the last to leave his casket waiting to go down into the ground.  I almost could not leave him.  I knew it was just his body, not him.  Something in me wanted to stay. I guess it was the finality of it all. I think that is why 1st anniversaries after a loved one passing on is so difficult.  It is the final remembrance of all the years you spent before.  Everything reminds you of what they did the last time you opened presents or sang Happy Birthday. The end of their living life.  The beginning of recalling every last word spoken.

I have noticed that there are memories that do not really come alive until your loved one is gone.  Is that what ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ means? The memories are more vivid and emotional.  I guess it is the heart and the mind that bring them together much like a photo album with dates and places written underneath the pictures. A slide show perhaps.  I like to make memorial videos of people and their moments. I have made several for myself, friends and family of special events we have shared.  I load all the pictures, put them in sequential order and then add music.  I try to add music that speaks to their life, their memory.  It is amazing how it all comes together when it is completed.  I watch them over and over. They make me smile.

I did that for my father.  I enjoyed looking at all his earlier pictures.  When it was finished and I watched it all the way through I realized how adventurous he was.  Motorcycles, boats and hobbies he had throughout the years.  He smiled a lot when he held his children and grandchildren. That was very cool to see.  The end was harder to watch because the pictures were more recent.  Even so he ended well.

I am wondering what the memory of this Christmas will be in a few months.  It was full of what is important.  Family.  Loving one another unconditionally and cherishing each precious moment the Lord allows us to share with those who make our lives full and rich.  Never mind the junk because really the junk is the reason Christ came. To take away the junk and replace it with gems.  His precious gift of a redeemed and restored life! And that is what I remember today of my dad. A gift from God. Redeemed, restored and at peace!  Thank you Lord for filling our minds with memories and hearts with love!!! Thank you for turning heartache into joy when we turn our hearts toward you!

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

Grace to you

Shell

The Greatest Gift a Father Leaves a Child

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6

Putting into words the sum of a man’s life seems more daunting when you do not really know a man.  God is the only one who truly knows the man’s heart.  I do believe that a man who has faith, who lives and walks in faith, gives us glimpses into his heart.  Without spending time with him you can not know the details of his daily routine but it is in the conversations you can know the spirit of his heart.

My dad is a big man.  Stubborn and always offered his opinions whether you wanted them or not.  In my younger years I was often intimidated by him.  As a little girl looking up at him I was looking up at a giant.  And it never really mattered how tall I grew to be he was always taller and still a giant in my eyes.  As children we seek our parents approval and in our relationship it was no different.  I was as stubborn as he was in my teenage years and I am ashamed to admit I did not respect his authority very much in those days. I quickly found when my kids became teenagers that they too thought they were as smart as I thought I was talking back to my dad.  But he loved me in spite of those years, as he did all of his children.

Over the years bits and pieces of his life and heart would be revealed through difficult relationships he had.  It was not until I found my faith in Christ that I stopped to consider what he gave me as a father.  When I came face to face with God during a devastating time in my life I often went to God the way I went to my father.  Intimidated and craving relationship.  I began to talk with God and my father in a way that was more open and honest.  Asking real questions instead of hi, how are you  and whatcha’ doing? And he began to talk to me.

It was awkward at first but after time it became the very thing I often craved as a young girl.  Moments with dad.  Real conversations. Some were deep, some were hard and some were sweet.  As in all families each of his children had ups and downs that closed down communication altogether for a short time.  During those times it was the issues in our lives or his life that turned us inward, the way difficult times can sometimes do.  When dealing or coping with circumstances beyond our control our world shrinks. I depended on my faith but I am not so sure what my dad depended on during those times.

As in all relationships we go away from each other and we come back.  We pick up where we left off.  We forgive and move forward to a new level of relationship.  The one area that my father and I never connected was in the area of faith.  He had no peace. I had found it with Christ.  He was sometimes respectful of my beliefs but he did not like hearing the truths of what I had learned.  At first I tried to win him over with words but eventually I knew it would be God, himself who would crack the hardness of my father’s heart.  So I began to pray.  And pray. And pray. And walk by example.

Many years went by.  Many relationships in his life crumbled and made his heart harder for it.  He was searching out something to make him whole.  To give him peace.  To know love.  Even though he had not found any of it he never gave up. Then God finally broke through.  By God’s divine providence he brought several people into his life and took a daughter home to heaven.  First he brought,Marilyn.  He was a romantic and it was the first time in my life I saw him show it openly.  Secondly he brought, Michael. A man of faith.  A friend who could  meet him where he was in his life, who accepted him and most importantly showed  him the love of Christ.  The third thing was my sister’s death.  For the first time in his life he questioned eternity.  He began to ask questions and seek God.

When Marilyn called me and told me he had accepted the Lord and wanted to be baptized my heart just leapt with a joy. I had prayed for 20 years for my father to find peace and forgiveness.  To find the hope of heaven in Jesus Christ.  It says in God’s Word that He will give you the desires of your heart if you will commit your heart to Him.  He surely fulfilled that promise to me and to my father.  In the song by Bebo Norman called ‘I Know Now’ he says…

I could lay my burdens down
And I never knew
Redemption could be found
But I know now

And that is what my father told me.  He found rest from his burdens, his worries and his past mistakes.  And then he would say I want that for my boys.  For my grandchildren.  I want them to know what I know.  There is no perfect parent except God the Father.  He is our Daddy.  I have been told that we often view God the way we view our earthly father.  I know it is true.  For in the beginning of my relationship with God it was tentative at best.  I was seeking approval by checking my God box.  As I got to know the Lord I began to understand His unconditional love for me.  No matter how I messed up He always forgave me and His Word told me consistently that He loves me with an everlasting love.

Now the most wonderful gift that God has given to me, my brothers, our children and our children’s children is the example of a man who lived the best he knew how to live.  Found a relationship with God the father and peace for his soul. He Learned to forgive and not only learned to love unconditionally but to say it at the end of every conversation.  As in the beginning of our father/child relationship his children sought for our father’s love and approval.  And at the end we received it.  What better gift could a father leave his children?

Our father ended well.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Larry Dale Leach

October 8,1942 – July 3, 2013

Online Obituary

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 2 Thessalonians 2:16

“It’s Uphill With a 75 lb Rucksack From Here” (dedicated to Esteban, my 1st born 3rd child) :)

This is it!

This is it!

Yesterday was the last day of my vacation and it is back to work on Monday. I am really wore out from all the planning, anticipation and the emotion of watching another child achieve a milestone, graduation. On reflection of this week the only thing that comes to mind is “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me!  Bless His Holy name!”

How do you thank God for the overwhelming goodness He shows us in our lives?  There are times in my walk with God where I have felt so very inadequate when saying thank you to Him.  This is one of those times.  Years ago, as a single mom, I did not know how I was going to take care of my kids, let alone get them through high school in tact. 🙂  I did not know how I was going to teach them everything they needed to know before going out on their own.  My head would spin having four of them to corral let alone imparting pearls of wisdom on each one.  I have found myself telling Esteban random things while driving him to school or taking him to the gym.  How to buy car insurance or making sure he understands how debit cards work.  LOL

But as each one has taken the step from being a student to adulthood it has reminded me of how much more God has had to do with it than I did.  I can say yes, I did not give up on them.  I can say yes, I faced each challenge that came with their transition while believing God would prevail in their lives.  But I could still see there were so many gaps. And I want to scream, “WAIT, I still have more to tell you!!”  And folks, that is where my belief kicks in.  God fills in the gaps or he leaves them to learn those things on their own. OH MY!

February 1995

February 1995

While two of my kids are grown, with kids of their own, Esteban is my third child and I have on occasion said that of all my children he is the ‘high maintenance’ one. I do not even have the words to describe what that entails just suffice to say, he has literally worn me out as a mom! I admit I have actually told him I could not wait till he was grown and on his own.  Yes, I have said that. And then immediately following I think I do not want those to be my last words.  So I would say, “I still love you!”  There is one exception, the day he was born.   He came out in distress and was not breathing.  It took them a minute or two but then I heard this little squeak. Air finally. I had a peace during those moments because I had felt him moving within me just before his birth.  I knew he was in God’s hands.  He certainly found his lungs by the third day.  After that he had a determination to do things his own way in his own time.

As mothers sometimes we have a tendency to overlook our children’s bad qualities.  I have often felt that I tend to focus too much on them.  I have prayed for the Lord to help me find the balance in observing the good and letting them know that I see it. I suppose I have focused on the bad instead of the good because of the many disappointments I have experienced throughout the years of being a single mother. Guilt is a huge hindrance in a single mother’s life.  And if one is not careful it can practically incapacitate you to the point of being too permissive or overindulgent.  I have to admit to being both at one time or another.  But thankfully God would snap me out of it quick enough.  Especially when they got into trouble.  OH MY!

The Graduate ~ 2013

The Graduate ~ 2013

I was reminded in watching Esteban march into the stadium last night that it wasn’t just Jesus and I raising him.  It was all the people who invested in him these past years of his life.  Friends from church, his family, the teachers and coaches.  Even when I was making the invitation list I was remembering those folks who had spent hours pouring into his life prayer, guidance, teaching or just loving on him.  Cheering him on. Showing up to his baseball or football games. Those who corrected him or praised him. Those who came into his life at an early age and those who just recently added to his quality of life.  Those who committed to support him.  There were even complete strangers, who at a very financially difficult time in our lives, invested into his life.

Marching in

Marching in

He marched along with his fellow students, smiling.  Smiling because he looked up to the right and saw his family sitting in the seats above.  All waving to him and yelling his name. He was genuinely happy.  And that made me well up with love.  He will be leaving in three months to go into the Army.  He wants to be an Airborne Ranger.  And I have no doubt he will do what he sets his mind to do and I truly believe God has saved him for something awesome!  Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men. Proverbs 22:29  When he leaves I will be going through waves of emotion again. Saying goodbye, sending him off to serve our country knowing that life as we knew it all these years will be forever changed.  He will in every sense of the word, become a man!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen!

PS. If you are curious about the title, it includes several remarks made to him about graduation! I added the 75 lb rucksack because his father was an Airborne Ranger and I would watch him pack his rucksack and could not believe the amount of stuff he would put in there and still have to carry his weapon and other gear.  So basically, yeah that is what he is looking forward to in the Army! 🙂

Peter Called Out, “Lord, save me.”

Friday began with a restlessness that I could not put into words.  All day I kept wondering why I could not be at ease.  You know the butterfly type queasiness you get when you think something bad is about to happen to change your world.  I prayed out loud to the Lord the scripture that always comes to my mind in those moments.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  ~  Philippians 4:6-7

I prayed it several times yet I could not shake the feeling but I had surrendered the worry to Jesus’ care.

I left work early to go to an ultrasound appointment with my son and daughter-in-law.  We were going to get a 3D/4D video and pictures of the baby.  I was excited to see the baby moving but was not fully prepared for the overwhelming feelings I had at seeing this sweet miracle of life.  We got to see the whole baby, from top to bottom.  Hands, fingers, feet, toes, ribs, arms, legs, bottom, gender, back, head, face and the tongue. Yes, babies, stuck its tongue out. 🙂 I say babies, because we are not revealing the gender until the baby shower, only I know what it is….tune in later for the news! Babies kept grabbing onto the umbilical cord to hug it or put it in its mouth.  At 26 weeks it is just the most precious proof of a sovereign creator.

tongue

tongue

prayers

prayers

There was a moment when the technician snapped a picture of babies with its hand up toward its face.  It looked to be praying.  It was at that moment the name of my grandchild popped into my head.  I believe it was the Holy Spirit giving me the name.  On my way home from the appointment I kept saying it out loud.  I loved it, O what a beautiful name! Of course I would have to live with whatever name the kids gave babies but in Grammy’s mind I already had a name. 🙂  Later in the evening our family watched the video we had purchased of the ultrasound on our television. When my son and I were alone I asked him what names they were thinking of for a boy and a girl.  He told me the list of names and guess what??? YES, the name the Lord had spoken to me was on their list.  I got goosebumps and said almost in tears, “Are you kidding me???”I told him what name came to me when I saw the picture and he was amazed!  (He found out the gender at the appointment because he could not wait any longer but promised not to tell)  We both had huge smiles on our face! And this Grammy had praise in her heart for a God so personal and intimate that He gives confirmation of His presence in a name.

Saturday came.  I had planned a Scrap-booking Crop for Saturday at our church.  Had 6 ladies come and it was a great day for fellowship and getting work done on some of my albums.  And it just happen to be National Scrapbook Day, Yeah!  I enjoyed being with friends and working through my creative outlet but I still had a nagging feeling something was wrong somewhere.  I called my kids to check on them.  Texted my husband a couple of times and just kept praying the prayer, trusting Him with all that may be ahead.

Sunday arrived. The morning service went well and the message was right on target as usual.  But it was a strange day for mishaps.  A few things misplaced and forgotten but thankfully the day ended well.  Early in the day I sorted through a box filled with notes, cards and letters given to me over the years.  As I opened them and read them the person writing them immediately came to mind.  Their face and their life flowed through my memory.  Their voice was in my head. I could hear them speaking to me, crying with me, laughing with me, praying with me or for me.   It is amazing to me that God gave us a memory that at any given moment a sight, a sound, a smell, a word or picture can take us to a moment in time as if no time had passed.

Later we attended the Sunday evening bible study.  There was a great discussion on pursuing after Jesus and also how we can miss out on what God has for us by losing confidence in our faith and giving up.  As Peter did in stepping out onto the water when he saw Jesus.  He pursued Jesus by asking first if it was really Him. Then he stepped out of the boat onto the water in faith.  When he took his eyes off the Lord and onto the raging waves he became afraid and began to sink.  It was then Peter cried out, “Save me, Lord.”  And of course Jesus did.

The observation was made that many interpret Peter to have lost his faith in Jesus by becoming afraid but he suggested that Peter had lost  confidence in his own faith, that it was not strong enough to keep him walking forward on the water.   That spoke to me about how we often think we are unworthy to serve God.  How we, continuously, are so consumed with our own failures that we give up and stop serving or pursuing Jesus.  We stop short of the blessings God has for us in our lives.

We know the story of how Peter denied the Lord when Jesus was arrested.  Jesus, himself foretold this to Peter and he did not want to believe he would ever deny his Lord.  But he had done the very thing the Lord said he would do.  Do you know, according to Scripture that Simon Peter is the first person Jesus appeared to after his resurrection?  Perhaps to reassure him that He was still loved and still chosen.  Can you imagine that meeting? Oh what love must have been in the Saviors eyes when Peter realized who it was appearing to him.  On the day of Pentecost the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter was so overwhelmed  that he began to preach and 3,000 were saved that day.  And so began the church.  What if he had given up on his faith when Jesus had died on the cross?  What if he decided he could never serve Christ again because of his failure? Thankfully he did not give up and received Christ forgiveness and love.  He humbled himself under the Lord’s teaching and was built up in his faith.  He became one of the boldest preachers of the Gospel ever known this side of the Heaven.  Doesn’t that encourage you? It certainly encourages me!

When we fail the Lord, do we recognize Him when he comes after us? He pursues us each and every day through His Word, through others and through his creation.  He waits for us to fellowship with Him.  Do we run to him when we realize our mistakes? How much do we want Him in our lives?  How much are we willing to deny ourselves and run after Him?  Those were questions several asked in our group last night which are still on my mind today.

Well, here it is Monday morning.  The weekend has come and gone.  The feeling I had Friday is not nagging me any longer and as I awoke this morning I was glad that it had disappeared.  Though I am not sure it is related, I had some terrible news this morning when I logged onto Facebook.  A friend whom I have known for many years passed away on Saturday.  I did not know at first how she passed away.  I assumed it was her heart.  She struggled for many years, as my sister did, with a drug addiction.  It nearly destroyed her life.  But by God’s grace she overcame it and was married several years ago to a wonderful man.  She was attending school and making many positive changes in her life.  I had not seen her face to face in several years but we often chatted on Facebook. I was so very proud of her and so thrilled that she was living what seemed a vibrant and happy life.  When a short time passed after reading the news it was then I found out through a mutual friend that she took her life.  I am in shock.  I could not even imagine what was going through her mind at that moment.  And my heart breaks for her family.  Her dear family left to pick up the pieces.  Left to ask the age-old question, why? It is the second time in a year that I have heard the news of friend taking their life. in such a manner. While I have experienced despair and devastation I can not imagine what held them in such grip to make them want to end it all.   I am reminded again of Peter sinking into the water, looking at the raging waves instead of Jesus, the master and creator of the sea. Peter called out, “Lord, save me”

I find a familiar thread running through the past few days.

  • God is the creator of all things and He is sovereign over all. Psalm 135:6
  • God does not change because of our circumstances, it is our perspective that changes when we fail to keep our eyes on Him. Psalm 102:12, 25-28
  • God knows what lays ahead of us and will equip us to handle it if we consistently walk in obedience to His Word.  Jeremiah 29:11

Life is full of unexpected experiences,  a miracle of life one minute and the tragic loss of life in the next. There are moments when life clicks and everything falls into place and there are moments when it is all out of sync and everything falls apart.  I can not imagine living my life without God,  without the one who has numbered my days and knows the very number of hairs on my head.  He is so intimate and personal that  He  knows where to fill every ache in my soul with peace.

Lest you think walking with Christ is easy, it is not.  It is a life of endless discovery of the good and bad in our hearts, forsaking the bad and choosing the good.  It is a life of trying to do what is right every single time according to God’s Word.  It is a life often filled with our cries to God for mercy & grace, which He freely gives.  It is a life of continually dying to self for His glory.  It is a life of far greater reward than any earthly riches can buy.  And only if you choose to pursue Jesus will you discover this wonderful truth for yourself.  Because when you call out, “Lord, save me.”  He does!

Grace to you all,

Shell

Dedicated to my friends Marian S. & Michelle R. ~ may God use their circumstances in life and in death to reach someone for Jesus Christ.