At Rest In The Presence Of The Lord

We laid my mother to rest today. I was up at 6 am this morning to start the preparations. I went to the cemetery, first thing, to lay the flowers and get it ready for our service. The sun was up, dew was still on the freshly mowed grass and a cool breeze blew. It was so very peaceful.

A verse came to my mind in the drive over. Romans 8:28. There have been many occasions where He has brought that verse to remembrance, mostly on occasions filled with anxiousness and uncertainty so I wondered how He would apply it today.

All things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

The headstone was placed on Friday. When I first saw it I was so emotional I did not realize until later that her last name was spelled wrong. Of course, they would replace it but not overnight. So I was inspired to look for a florist that sold headstone flower sprays. The very first one I called had just made two of them recently. I rushed over to pick one out and it could not have been more perfect. It was so beautiful and it hid the misspelling. Again I heard, “It will all work out.”

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A short time later I drove to the park to meet everyone who would help set up for our BBQ after the service.  I was thinking of how many times I have planned events months in advance. I would get to that day and my mind would be running through all the details, over and over, how I would manage and execute the plans made months or weeks before. This time it was different. There were plans but not the kind that would have to be orchestrated to the tee because a still small voice was saying, “It will all work out.” Or maybe it was my mom’s voice because she was always saying to me, “It will all work out.”

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Gary, the man doing the service messaged asking if there was an agenda. I replied, “I am too emotional this morning to say so I think we should just let the Holy Spirit do His work.”  And again the voice, “It will all work out.”

I had wanted to ask our cousin, Jeff, to sing but not sure he would be up for it due to some health issues. So I did not ask. But as soon as I saw him he told me he would sing a song for mom today! No words, God just working it out.

Special friends made the trip down to Desloge to celebrate my mother’s life with our family. It was her longtime friend and her family Julia, Jackie and Quinne, three generations loving on my mom and me and my family. Each of us recalling wonderful sweet and sometimes very funny stories of back in the day.

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Debbie, my sister Dannielle’s best friend from high school came. She kind of got lost and was heartbroken to have missed the service at the cemetery but made it to the park. She showed up and it made the day even sweeter.

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And then there is my sweet friend from my high school days, Penny. She came, even though she had just lost two very precious family members to cancer within a week apart this past month. She came for me! And that filled my heart to full! There were a few others that could not make it due to illness and life issues but sent their love and prayers for us today. And those I hold dear as well! I believe those prayers contributed to all the beautiful ways God showed His hand in our celebration.

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We met for the procession. We placed mom on the back of a dear friend’s bike for her last ride to her final resting place.  We lined up and began the drive. The US flag on one of the bikes furling in the breeze as we went. The oncoming cars pulled over out of respect.  One lady, who was not a part of the procession, pulled up alongside when we got onto the highway and put her flashers on so no one would pass us.  The people in the cars following the bikes stretched for a half a mile behind.  Looking in my rearview mirror, my heart swelled.

 

 

 

The sun was straight up overhead as we arrived at the cemetery. Friends and family gathered around to hear the message of Christ, to remember a woman who touched their lives in one way or another. We were there to honor the kind of person who said what she thought, cared about others with an honest heart and delivered her wisdom with a dry humor. The words spoke of her to me by others since her passing, “There was no better woman, I loved her.”

She loved bright colors, flowers and being among friends and family. I know she would have loved it all. I can say for certain her spirit was with us. I love what Gary said, she was not an angel sent to look out for us, to guard us. For angels were created to work for the Lord and each has a duty to do His bidding. She was not working today or any day. She is at rest in the presence to the Lord.  Shouting hallelujah and reunited with long-lost loved ones in Christ, whose headstones were representing, surrounding hers.  Perhaps she was looking down on us and smiling at the love and honor showed her this day, at least I would like to think so.

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We had the privilege of listening to a song sung by one of her favorite singers and mine, our cousin, Jeff. He has been there for our family through many wonderful events and sad occasions. He sang one of my mom’s favorites, The Lighthouse. At that moment, I was taken back to 1984, a moment when I had first heard it sitting beside my mother, in church, where Christ changed our lives.

And I thank God for the lighthouse,

I owe my life to Him,

Jesus is the lighthouse,

And from the rocks of sin,

He has shown a light around me,

That I might clearly see,

If it wasn’t for the lighthouse,

Tell me where would this ship be.

 

And for that memory and this day I was thanking Jesus for working it all out for good.

IMG_7519My sister, Amanda, and I left her a rose in honor of her but it also honored our sister Dannielle, who our mother was with today. I believe if my sister had been here she would have wanted to sing The Rose. She loved that song and loved singing it. She may have been singing it today for our mom, up in heaven, just maybe.

 

We ended the day with a lighted lantern. A good friend of hers surprised us with the lantern for Jo Jo.  It was a sweet and special moment for all of her friends for these past few years. And they wanted to honor her with a prayer sent up to heaven.

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Last but not least, which may seem insignificant to others, but it is a detail that no one else would know about but me and God. When we arrived at the park that morning to set up the pavilion, over to the right side was a US flag on a pole. It was up pretty high up and could not be reached. It was wrapped around the pole it was attached to. I had this uncanny desire to unwrap it and, to see it hanging correctly and flying in the breeze.  It was not until we were taking everything down and packing up that I noticed it was completely unwrapped and waving lightly. No small detail ever escapes God and He says in His word,

Psalm 37:4, ‘If we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires of our heart.’

I didn’t fret over the wrapped flag I thought to myself, it is what it is.

Before I left that place His breeze unwrapped the fabric of the red, white and blue. He blew it gently with his breath. He worked it all out.  For good.

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Rest in Peace, Mom.  Thank you for my life. Thank you for always being there. Thank you for showing me how to plan a good party! LOL

SIDE NOTE: she loved to text me at wee hours of the morning, 5 am sometimes, and one time her phone was broke and she could only type in capital letters. And when I type LOL I always think of her text

 

 

 

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I want to say thank you to Deborah Soucoucie, Dennis Sweet, Gary Leggans, Mel Brinkley, and Jeff Parsons for having a part in making this memorial happen.

WHAT IS THE BIBLE TO YOU

open bibleI could not adequately describe to you what the Bible means to me. For to do so I would have to tell you my life story with all of its crazy twist and turns. And that would take hours upon hours to lay out before you. If you will allow me to try, here is my best effort.

God’s Word was practically unknown to me up until the of age fourteen. Though I remember going to a Baptist church when I was a little girl. Occasionally on Sunday morning my mother would dress my sister and me up in dresses and send us out the door to walk to a church about 5 or 6 blocks down our road. We would hear stories about Jesus and do little Sunday school papers. I do not really remember the stories, just bringing home the papers. There was an old brown piano and lots singing but don’t remember the words either.

I first clearly heard the Gospel while in a canoe on a lake, from my Uncle, while attending a summer church camp he and my aunt were assisting at. He told me the story of how Jesus gave his life for me, for my sins. He asked me to accept him as my savior. I prayed the prayer. I believed with my head but am still unsure to this day I believed with my heart at the time. Though it was the first knock at my door, from the Lord, He continually pursued me for years. At times He was close enough for me to hear his whisper of love but other times I would not know or care where he was.

My Aunt and Uncle had given me a bible I would pack around throughout my life. I would read the handwritten inscription which would nudge me to read a verse here and there but would never read the whole book. It was special because it was a gift. I treated it as a memento to save not “a prescription for life” as my Aunt and Uncle referred to in their words written to me on the inside page. I had not realized how big a gift it was until years later when I heard God’s voice again beseeching me to come unto him. It was loud and bold this time. So loud, in fact, I could not resist it.

There are times in life when the rug is pulled out from underneath you. You fall with a thud. You are in shock from the impact and confused as to why or how you ended up there. And that is how it was with me. I was not sure what to do or where to turn. And this is when God whispered, “I am here to pick you up.” It was a whisper heard through the words of a friend. “Michelle, maybe you need God.” I heard it but I did not know how to reach out to Him. In the pain and heartache, I experienced, I just began to move forward out of necessity for my children. And in moving forward, I had a desire to go to church for the first time in my adult life. Strange things began to happen. He immediately opened doors I would have never walked through and met people I never considered speaking to about God.

He orchestrated a new life that I never imagined for myself.  One day I found myself sitting in a church, hearing a preacher say I have to know that I know that Jesus saved me.  And before I knew it I was rising to my feet walking down an aisle surrendering my life to the one and only, Savior, Jesus Christ. I finally believed in my heart what was believed, in my mind, those many years ago.

I opened God’s Word to read the instructions that would put my life back together. His words would lead me down paths I never knew existed. His Word saved me and inspired me to make changes for the good. It would give me breath when I could not breathe on my own. It would give me a song when all I could do was cry. It would bring me comfort when sorrow weighed me down. His words gave me knowledge and wisdom when I felt helpless and ignorant. They would give me hope when I was in the rut of sin and I thought my failure would end me. God’s word became the light of a path that was dark and unknown. It would become the lifeline to sanity from the midst of confusion. It was a rope to freedom from the discouragement of life.

His word was the love I desperately craved from youth. It was the hope I cringed at in darkness for fear it was not real.  It was the rescue I cried out for in depths of grief. It was the fresh air I gasped for in days of panic and fear. It was the enveloping hug in the silence of loneliness. It was and is the personal note, letter, and poetry from the lover of my soul!

Little did I know that that words inscribed by my Aunt and Uncle would become prophecy. For God’s Holy Bible is indeed the prescription for all my illnesses and problems, keeping me healthy and happy! And the best news of all, I will live forever with Christ in Heaven!

Dear Shelly,

This Book is a prescription for life. Take a little every day. If you’ll follow the instructions you find it will cure all illnesses and problems you’ll ever have. It will make you very happy and healthy and you’ll live forever. 

With deepest love, 

Pat and Gail

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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