I said all that to say this…When I finally received all the pictures from the ladies who took the pictures, I got to see the kids faces, I cried again. Oh boy. I went to post them on our church website and in searching for a verse to speak to the event of the day I found one and it spoke directly to ME!
For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.
Where are you God in the land you ordained?
We look up, eyes to heaven.
Where are you God in the people you dwell?
We look out, eyes to man.
Where are you God in the dust you formed?
We look down, eyes to earth.
By His creation He says “I am here.”
When will you lift your hand of protection?
We hold on, faith in God, The Father.
When will you come for your Bride?
We hold on, worshiping the Son.
When will you leave the lost to themselves?
We hold on, trusting in the Holy Spirit.
By His Word He says “I am the Great I AM.”
Why do you wait for all to come?
He gives hope, our only way.
Why do you forgive when all have sinned?
He gives mercy, His only way.
Why do you sacrifice one for many?
He gives love, The Only Way.
By His gift He says “I am love.”
by Michelle M. McMillen
© 2016 all rights reserved
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,
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
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!
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.
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 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!
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.
I 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 the 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.”
I 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!
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.
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.”
Grace to you