By Him

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.

Colossians 1:16

heaven and earth

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

 

“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

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.

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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