Life — What a Wonderful Gift!

I Made it!!!!!!

This month I celebrated three years of retirement!!!  Over thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive breast cancer and told the “odds were not in my favor.”  (https://barblaneblog.com/2014/10/13/cancer-survivor/).  As I went through nine months of treatment, my prayer was “Dear Lord, please let me live until I can retire and give me three years of retirement to enjoy with my husband.”

On January 3 of this year, I reached that milestone.  I  have enjoyed three wonderful years of retirement.  My husband and I have been able to travel to the east coast visiting the homes of Presidents Jefferson, Madison and Monroe as well as the Confederate States White House in Richmond.  We followed the Morman Trail out west and visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina with our daughter and her husband.

I have enjoyed days of working in our hosta garden, reading all the books I brought when I was working but never had time to read and playing countless games of Scrabble with my husband.  We share an addiction to the game.  (https://barblaneblog.com/2015/02/22/confessions-of-a-scrabble-addict/)

I am so thankful that my prayer was answered and I have had these past three years.  Each day that I live beyond January 3 is like a priceless gift – a gift “above and beyond.”  I have no idea how much further this “journey’ will take me.

  • Will I live to be 102?
  • Will this be the last year of my life?
  • Will I remain cancer-free and healthy?
  • Will some day the cancer appear again somewhere in my body?

But I have determined to not worry about tomorrow – but just enjoy today!  I cannot change the past – I cannot control the future.  But I can enjoy every moment of today!

“It is not required that we know all of the details about every stretch of the river. Indeed, were we to know, it would not be an adventure, and I wonder if there would be much point in the journey.”
Jeffrey R. Anderson

 

So come on Life!

I’m looking forward to whatever God has in store for me tomorrow!!!!!!

The Unwanted, Unexpected Phone Call in the Night

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Unexpected, Unwanted Call

I last posted on my blog in April. While we were on vacation, we got that unwanted, unexpected phone call in the night. A police officer called to tell us that our son had been found dead in his apartment. While we knew he was not in good health (a disabled veteran) and would probably not live to be an old man, we still did not expect to be planning his funeral. As my husband sadly said, “No one should bury their own child.” Yet, we know that many do – some burying their children at a much younger age than our son.

I stopped blogging

At times of great grief, your world seems to come to a halt. My husband and I are great Scrabble nuts as I shared before in Confessionns of a Scrabble Addict  (https://barblaneblog.com/2015/02/22/confessions-of-a-scrabble-addict/) . But suddenly we no longer wanted to play. It was as if continuing with our favorite game was somehow to make his death seem unimportant. Every time I sat down to blog, I could not decide on a subject. Should I continue to write about the silly, every-day part of my life. How could I do that when I’m supposed to be grieving? Should I continue to write on more serious subjects. I just did not have the heart for that. So – I stopped blogging.

But the world does NOT stop turning. 

But, even if we would like it to, the world does not stop turning.  Life goes on – and that is a good thing.  While we will always miss and grieve the loss of our son, we are so blessed with other children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  We do no service to his memory to stop loving life.

Let the games begin – the blogging continue

So – tonight we are going to play a game of Scrabble and I am returning to my writing.

 

The Day That Changed My Life

Finally – spring!

Finally, spring had arrived!  After a very long, cold and snowy winter, spring had come at last and warm temperatures were promised for the next week.  We were so excited!  At last the girls’ daddy could take them fishing in our pond.  More important to me, now my husband and I could begin our new home.

In September of the previous year we had purchased some property in the country where we were going to build our home.  It had been our dream since we had married over 12 years before that one day we would build a home in the country with a little acreage where we could have a big garden, a few cows and a horse for our daughters.

The property was perfect!  Set on a hill it overlooked fields of corn directly in front of us and behind us were thick woods.  Just down the hill was a winding creek perfect for wading in the hot summer.  We had a pond stocked with fish and for my fisherman husband – that was the icing on the cake.

The only bad thing about the purchase was that until we built our house we would have to live in the mobile home on the property and it was in terrible shape.  About to fall down, when the wind blew, the windows offered little protection.  But we only had to get through the winter and in spring we could begin building.  One year in a junky trailer would be worth achieving our dream.

But what a winter!

When we moved in we had no idea what a cold winter was coming our way.  Record temperatures were set that year and it seemed it would never stop snowing.  The water pipes froze in the trailer and we had to carry water from the well – in the freezing temperatures!  The only heat we had was a wood-burning stove in the living room so we  all slept together in a big bed we put in the room.  My husband and I kept saying to one another as we snuggled with the girls between us in the bed trying to keep them warm, “Hang in there – spring is coming!”

I began planning my flower garden.  After the house was built and we had the trailer moved, we would make a beautiful flower garden where the trailer had set.  My husband was talking to local farmers to determine where we could buy a couple of cows and a horse for the girls!  All we had to do was tough it out for a few more weeks until spring came.

As spring approached and the temperatures began to climb, the girls began asking their daddy, “Can we go fishing now?”  He promised them that he would take them fishing on Saturday.

Then Thursday came!

Thursday morning my husband drove me to work.  He had worked the midnight shift.  Although he was tired, he was going to make some repairs on the car before going to bed.  He had a rough night at work and was a little cranky.  On the ride into town, I tried to tease him and get him in a better mood.  By the time we arrived at my office, he was smiling at me once again.  I looked at him and said, “You would miss me if something happened to me – like you would miss a migraine!”  We laughed and I kissed him not knowing that was the last time I would ever be able to do that.

I had planned to give my husband a call at lunchtime to see how the car repairs were going, but the day was so busy, I kept working through lunch.  After school I received a call from my oldest daughter.  No surprise there – my girls always called me when they got home from school to let me know they were okay and tell me about their day.  Their father was always home when they arrived, but I still liked to hear from them after school.  I answered the phone expecting the usual “Hi Mommy!”  But I was not prepared for what I heard.  My oldest daughter, 11, said words I will never forget.  “Mommy, I think Daddy is dead!”  Both my daughters – ages 6 and 11 – had come home to find their father dead in the driveway.  The car he had been working on had fallen on him and crushed him.

There must be some mistake!

At first I could not believe it!  I thought he is only injured – not dead.  I panicked, but my daughter showed more calmness than I did.  She called the ambulance and the neighbor.  Believing that he must only be injured and that they would take him directly to the hospital, I called a friend who drove me to the hospital.  We waited and waited.  Finally, sensing something was not right, my friend spoke to the nurses in the emergency room.  They told her he would not be coming to the hospital – he had been pronounced dead at the scene.

We jumped in the car and hurried to my country home.  How could I have been such an idiot?  Why did I not go directly to my daughters?  How horrible it must be for them out there with their father dead and their mother still in town?

Walking in a dream!

The next few days were like a dream – or a nightmare!  I found it hard to go to sleep, and when I finally fell asleep, I would wake up realizing something was wrong – but what was it?  Then, it would hit me again – my husband is dead!

I must be strong!

My main thought was that I had to be strong for my daughters.  My own parents had  divorced when I was young.  My father had deserted me and my mother just fell apart emotionally.  Not only was I left to basically deal with my sorrow on my own, but I felt responsible to help my mother deal with her anger and grief.  I was determined I would not repeat that mistake – I would not put my burden of sorrow and pain on my daughters.  Looking back, I realize I may have made a mistake in trying to be so strong for them.  As little girls, they saw this strong woman (not knowing the heartbreak I hid from them) and I think they grew up with an image of a strong woman who no one could really live up to.

My life was changed!

Suddenly, without any warning, my life was changed.  The plans we had made, the hope we had for spring was gone.  There would be no new house, no flower garden, no horse in the pasture.  I just could not do all that on my own.

As family and friends came for the funeral and to try to comfort us, I could see that they did not see the dream my husband and I had shared.  All they saw was the dumpy mobile home and they thought “Poor Barbara.  Look where she was living.”  How I longed to tell them about the blueprints we had for our new house – about the garden catalogs where the pages were marked just waiting for us to order the bulbs in a few weeks.  I wanted to point out where the vegetable garden would go and the new driveway we would have when the trailer was removed.

But my grief was too much – so I just accepted their words of comfort and tried to ignore those who gave me looks of condescension.  Although that dream would not come true, it would always remain in my heart – it would always be something I had shared with my husband.

In the midst of sorrow, God was there

God was so present to me in my time of shock and grief.  When I first heard those horrible words from my daughter that my husband was dead, I immediately thought, “What will I do to raise two girls all alone.”  Even before the question was completed in my mind, I remembered those words of Jesus, “Lo, I am with you always.”

And He was.  Every step of the way.  During visitation the young couple that we were buying our property from on contact for deed, asked to speak to me privately.  I assumed they were concerned if I was going to continue to make payments on the land and I quickly assured I would.  They told me that was not why they wanted to speak to me.  They did not understand the sense of peace it seemed everyone had.  They said, “We have never attended a visitation or funeral where we sensed such peace.  Why do you seem so at peace?”

The Prince of Peace

What a joy it was to tell them that I knew the Prince of Peace – that my husband had known Him too.  And although we sorrowed it was not without hope.

And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.   I can tell you this directly from the Lord: that we who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves.   For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord.   Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.   So comfort and encourage each other with this news.

There is sorrow – but there is hope – and there is joy!

My life – and the lives of my daughters – were forever changed.  There will always be sorrow – especially for my daughters – when they miss their daddy not being there at important times in life.  But there is hope – we will meet again.  And God brings joy even now.  In time, when the wounds were not so bad, God brought another man into our lives to be my husband and their “Pop.”  He did not replace their daddy – he has never tried to do that.  But he has loved them as his own and brought joy once again to our lives.

I  can only imagine

There was a song out a few years ago that talked about what we would do when we get to heaven – and of course, we can only imagine.  But sometimes when I think of heaven, I can just see my present husband meeting my first husband and I can hear the words he would probably speak.

Thank you for loving and taking care of my three girls when I could not.

My faith is built on a solid rock!

My life changed that day – but after 33 years I can say with no doubt – My God is faithful!

You are in our thoughts forever!

Lonnie Dale Lott

May 22, 1948 – March 25, 1982

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Jacobi Israel

Jacobi Israel – 10/18/12 – 1/10/13

He was born in a West African country.  His mother died shortly after his birth.  Grandmother brought him and his twin sister to an orphanage seeking help when she could no longer take care of them.

That is how he came into our lives.  What hopes and dreams we had as we began to support our daughter and her husband as they took the long road to adoption.

But it was not to be.  Before adoption could be completed, little Jacobi died.

How we hate the word “died.”  Even writing this, I tried to think of a better way to say it.  Being a Christian, I know all the answers we give.

  • He went to be with the Lord
  • He is in a better place
  • He is at rest

But the truth is, he died.

I never got to hold him in my arms, or even see him.  Still, somehow I miss him!

Being a Christian, I do have the hope that one day I will be able to hold him in my arms.

Until then, I remember you Jacobi Israel with love!

My Favorite Bible Verses!

Recently I shared in Words to Build a Life On  how I have found the Bible a source of strength and hope in difficult times.

As I begin a new year, I have been thinking about those verses that have been so meaningful to me.

My Top Verses of a Lifetime

John 3:16 – For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

This verse, like most people my age who attended Sunday School as a child, was the first verse I learned.  The truth of God’s love has always been an encouragement to me.

Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd;     I have all that I need.

The entire Psalm has been a blessing to me, but this verse especially is so true.  There are things I “want” that I do not have – but I can honestly say that God has always met my need.  Through parents’ divorce, through husband’s accidental death, through cancer, and more, He has always been faithful.

Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;

While all of Psalm 23 has been a blessing, verse 4 really gave me comfort when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death while battling breast cancer.  I wrote about the strength this verse gave me when I was told by my doctor that “the odds are not in your favor” in Coincidence or An Act of God.

John 14:1-3 – Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?   When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

What a wonderful thought that Jesus is preparing a place for me – and that place will be with Him!  Something to look forward to at the end of this life!

Romans 8:38-39 – And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, I have found this so true.  Divorce, unemployment, death, disease, discouragement, nothing has ever separated me from the love of God.

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

I took this advice at an early age.  Studying God’s Word, but also reflecting daily on the words I read and then obeying it has been the secret of my life.  It has brought me joy and peace throughout my life.

Philippians 3:14 – For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.

This verse has been my “life” verse.  When I have been afraid to try something new, afraid of change that came to my life, afraid in any situation, I have remembered that I can everything – through Christ.  That is the secret.  Not in my own strength or ability – but in Christ who gives me strength.

 

 

 

 

 

Words to Build a Life On

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When I was a young girl just learning to read, my primary storybook was the Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old.  Originally published in 1904 it was the complete Bible story including the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Unlike most of today’s Bible Storybooks for children, this book was a continuous narrative of the Scriptures told in one hundred sixty-eight stories.  I loved reading about the Old Testament characters – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and King David.  While other children of my generation read books about Dick and Jane that said,

See Spot run!

I was busy reading about the prophet Samuel who said,

Is the Lord as well pleased with offerings as He is with obeying His words?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen to God’s word is more precious than to place offerings on His altar.

Today I am an avid and fast reader and I wonder if learning to read with a more difficult book than the Dick and Jane books (with certainly more interesting topics) help contribute to my reading skills.

At age seven my oldest sister gave me a “real” Bible for my birthday.  I was thrilled to graduate to the “real” thing.  However, in those days all we had was the King James Version with the “thee’s” and “thou’s” and it was very difficult for me.  Still, I plodded through the Bible reading from Genesis to Revelation.  Skipping over all the words I did not know or understand, most of my first attempts at reading the Bible went quickly as I found little that I really understood.  Still, I kept at it and slowly I began to understand the words.  Again, I’m sure this helped my vocabulary grow quicker than just reading the Dick and Jane books.

Along with reading the Bible, I began to memorize Scripture.  What a blessing that has been for me.  In difficult times I have found those words that I have hidden in my heart come back to give me hope and courage when I need it so desperately.

What to do when your parents fail you and you feel all alone?

The first time the Word was so precious to me was when I was fourteen years old.  My father who I adored made a drastic change in personality.  He left the church where he had been so faithful for years and walked out on my mother, my sister and me.  Making a 180 degree turn from everything he had taught me, he moved in with another woman and from that time on he never gave me any help financially or emotionally.  Leaving us to struggle to make ends meet and confused at his rejection, I turned to my mother for support.  However, she was not emotionally strong enough to give me that support.  She had never worked outside the home and facing the fear of finding a job plus the hurt and anger she felt, she was simply overwhelmed by it all.

Feeling confused, hurt and scared, I found a Scriputre that seem to leap out to me off the pages when I was reading in the book of Psalms.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

The words were more than just words.  They were truth to my spirit.  I found the place of safety – the One who would never forsake me.  What a blessing to have discovered that truth at such a young age.

What to do when your husband is killed and you face life as a young widow with two little girls?

At age 33, I found the Word again a source of strength in a great time of need.  I was at work when my eleven-year-old daughter called and told me, “Mommy, I think Daddy is dead.”  My little girls had come home from school and the two of them found their father lying crushed under a car that he had been working on.  At first, I refused to believe he was dead – just hurt badly.  But when the truth slowly penetrated my mind, I panicked wondering how I would face life alone with two little girls to raise.

I had no more than sent up a prayer – “What am I going to do?” – when these words of Jesus came to my mind:

Lo, I am with you always!

And it again was true!  In the weeks, months, years ahead the Lord gave me peace, wisdom and strength to continue to love and teach my daughters.  He gave me joy in the midst of sorry and though at the time I never believed I would ever be happy again, He brought new happiness into my life when I was ready for it.

What to do when the doctor tells you the “odds are not in your favor” as you have an advanced and aggressive cancer?

Twenty-one years later, I faced another crisis.  Finding a lump in my left breast I had a mastectomy.  When the pathology report came back, they told me not only was there cancer in my left breast, but they had taken almost all the lymph nodes from my left arm and 13 of them were also cancerous.  My cancer was a very aggressive one and I was in Stage IIIC.  Prognosis was not good.  The doctor’s words to me are engraved on my heart and mind.  He said, “The odds are not in your favor.”

Holding my husband’s hand, I felt my body began to shake.  Again, I cried out to the one who said he would “take me up” and “never forsake me.”  Instantly, the words of another Psalm came to my mind.

Yea, though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

I did not know exactly how the words were meant for me.  Would I walk through the valley of death and come out alive and whole on the other side?  Would I walk through that valley to my eternal destiny?  I was not sure.  But the thing that sustained me were the words “I will fear no evil for You are with me.

So I knew whatever happened I would still not be alone.  And I was not.  I have written in another post how God was with me in a very special way during my cancer treatment.

How thankful I am that I have built my life on the Words of God from an early age.  As I retired and began that “last stage” of my life, I have found another verse to cherish.  It is my prayer.

O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.  Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.  Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!

I now have many Bibles in my home, but the old Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old sits in a place of honor on my desk.  The pages are worn, the backing is almost gone, but I cherish it still.

RIP

thRest in Peace

This past weekend my husband and I visited a local cemetery.  I felt a little strange as we drove in the main entrance because we were going to inspect our own tombstones.

While we are not ready to “kick the bucket” yet, we are at an age where we realize that we are not going to live forever.  Wanting to make sure our kids are not stuck with decisions and expenses on our demise, we purchased the tombstones this summer.  Friday we received notice from the monument company that they had set the tombstones in place so we went to take a look.

Looking at the inscriptions that gave our names and date of birth with a place for the future date of our death led to a little “soul-searching” and reflection on my life.

Looking Back

As I reflected on the past 66 years of my life, I feel like I have been many different people.

  • There was the little red-headed girl with banana curls that loved to walk outside after a rain, find a mud puddle and make mud pies.
  • There was the shy grade school girl whose parents moved so often, she was always the outsider, always moving on just when she started making friends.
  • There was the young girl in junior high who discovered through a speech class that, although she was shy when meeting people one-on-one, she could stand before a crowd and be funny and sing and dance with freedom.
  • There was the happy bride excited and looking forward to a long life with her first love.
  • There was the scared widow with two little girls wondering how she would go on without her first love.
  • There was the woman so grateful to find love again and a wonderful man to cherish both her and her daughters.
  • There was the stepmother trying to understand how to raise a teenage boy when her experience as a mother had only been raising girls.
  • There was the pastor’s wife trying to juggle family and job while trying to support her husband’s work at church.
  • There was the middle-aged woman facing breast cancer and learning to treasure every day of life.
  • And now there is the “older” woman who is learning to live with arthritic knees and back, leaking heart valve and decreasing energy.  While the body is betraying me, my spirit is still young.  Looking in the mirror, I often wonder “Who is that old woman?”  It can’t be me!

God has been good to me!

As I look back I realize just how good God has been to me.  I am so grateful for every day, week, month, year.  I can even thank God for the difficult times.  Not that difficult times came, but that in those times He gave me the strength I needed to make it through.  I have made mistakes – there are things I wish I could do differently.  But all in all, it has been a good ride thus far.

Looking Forward

Now I look forward to the years ahead.  All those years of responsibility as a mother, grandmother, pastor’s wife, worker are over and I have reached those “golden years.”  I find them to truly be golden.  Each morning when I wake up, I am free to do whatever I want to do.

  • No time clocks to punch.
  • No children needing breakfast or help with homework.
  • No church meetings to attend.

Having already faced death in the face when I battled breast cancer, I just enjoy each day as it comes, treasuring the memories I am now making with my husband.

Growing up I have treasured different verses from the Bible in different stages of my life.  And now as my hair gets thin and gray, my boobs sag (the one I still have) and my energy decreases with every year, I still find verses that encourage and bless me.

Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  

 

O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do.  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.  Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.