What makes a man a Grandpa?

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My daughters “Shadow” and “Giggles” with their beloved Grandpa

I remember his big hands.  They were very large, yet always gentle.

I remember the love and care he gave my daughters after their father was killed in an accident.

I remember the nick names he gave to both of them.  My oldest daughter was “Giggles” and my youngest was “Shadow.”

I remember how he understood my deep grief and sorrow after my husband’s death in a way no one else in the family did because he had also lost his first wife in death.

I remember how he just stood by my side in silence with his big hand on my shoulder in the days following my husband’s death while others in the family would be sharing their opinion on why God had allowed Lonnie to be taken from me and my little daughters.   Or, how he would give me a hug at family gatherings when my heart ached for the empty spot at the table where my husband would have sat and no one else in the family even mentioned his name.  It seemed at times as if they had never seen him as a part of our family.  But I knew that Grandpa Gerling missed him along with me and my girls.  He never had to say a word.  His hand on my shoulder, his hug, his whisper to me “It will get better in time” said it all.

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My mother and step-father — Grandpa Gerling

He was not biologically a grandfather to my girls but if love counts for anything, he was their grandfather.  My husband’s family seemed too lost in their own grief after his death to offer any love or comfort to my daughters.  My own father had deserted me and my mother when I was 13 and although he came back into my life later he was always very negative when we were around him and critical of me.  My hair was too short.  My slacks were too tight.  So the only love they were shown by a grandfather was my step-dad, Grandpa Gerling.

He has been gone now for many years, but I still miss him.  I often think how much he would have enjoyed seeing my daughters’ children, how much he would have showered them with love.

This time of year I always think of him.  In the fall he would always fix us his goulash.  My girls and I now make that dish – and remember his kindness and love to us.

He was not their “real’ grandfather.  They shared no DNA.  But he was the only “real” grandfather they knew.  Because what makes a man a grandfather is more than sharing his DNA, it is sharing his love.

So as fall comes and I think about the trips at this time of year to Mom and Cliff’s house for goulash, I thank God for giving my daughters a “real” grandpa.

 

 

Who Do You Turn To?

It’s 8:30 at night – I’m sitting in my recliner – in my pajamas – and I’m crying!

The tears are partly a result of the tension of the past few days.  For over a month I have been planning a women’s retreat for my church.  With the guest speaker, who is my youngest daughter, I have brainstormed picking a theme, planning the lessons, the decorations, the music.  I so wanted it to be a success.  But as the weeks went by I had to ask myself – why do I want it to be a success and what needs to happen for me to consider it a success?

I have questioned my motives.  Do I just want to impress everyone with how smart I am?  Do I just want everyone to see what a great speaker my daughter is?  Do I want the women of my church to be encouraged and help them better understand God’s Word?  Do I want to see spiritual growth among my “sisters?”

Will it be a success if we have a large number show up?  Will it be a success if everyone has a good time?  Will it be a success if someone really is encouraged, really does develop a greater desire to know God, have a better appreciation for God’s Word?

So I have prayed that my motives would truly be pleasing in God’s sight and that there would be nothing in my efforts that would desire anything other than that God would be glorified and lifted up.  I have prayed that there will be a good response, that the women will show up, will enjoy, but most of all will draw closer to God as a result of the weekend.

Then, there was the worry of getting it all to come together.  Finding the right decorations to set the scene (but at a cheap price as I promised the church board it would not cost the church anything so the expenses are on me).  Getting volunteers to bring food for our Friday night snack and breakfast and lunch on Saturday.  Will I have enough food?  Finding volunteers for the skit I want to do on Friday and for worship on Saturday.  Praying for my daughter as she prepares the lessons I have asked her to do.

In the middle of all this I start having terrible pain in one of my teeth.  I had it filled last year but the dentist told me the tooth was really bad and he was not sure the filling would hold. A call to the dentist and off I got to get it pulled.

I’m feeling great!

Everything is coming together!

I have my tooth pulled on Wednesday.  Dentist tells me I can expect pain, bruising and swelling.  But here it is Friday.  I have had no pain, there is no sign of swelling or bruising.  My husband says it’s a God thing.

I truly believe my heart and my motives are right – that my desire is only for God’s glory.  I find most of the decorations at the Dollar Store – budget saved.  Tables are decorated and the room looks great.  My daughter sends me her notes for the handouts and they look perfect.  Volunteers have all responded and the skit, the worship, the food – it is all on track to be a great event.

Oh no!

Friday morning I start cutting up veggies for the Saturday lunch.  Suddenly my carefully laid plans all seem to come apart.

My husband comes up from the family room in the basement and he looks white as a sheet.  He tells me he almost passed out and off we go to the doctor’s office.  After examining him and talking to his heart doctor, we are off to the emergency room for further evaluation.  He had a heart attack in 2009 and has had 4 stents put in since then so the fear of another heart issue makes me very nervous.

Now I’m getting up tight.  Clearly I need to be here with my husband, but what about all the things I still need to do to be ready for tonight?  Is he going to be okay?  Is he having a heart attack?

While waiting for the doctor to evaluate the EKG and the blood work I pick up my cell phone to start calling our kids to let them know their dad is in the ER.  Before I can dial out, my phone rings and it’s our son.  When I answer he tells me that he has just had a call from his wife and he is rushing to the ER in their town.  Their daughter has been in a bad car wreck.  He doesn’t know more than that but wants me and his Dad to be in prayer.

Now I’m really stressed!

I try to hold back the tears as I think – “What do I do?”  I have to tell my husband, but is that going to add to his stress and cause a heart attack?  After sharing the news with him, we hold hands, crying and calling out to God for our granddaughter.

I watch the clock waiting for the doctor’s evaluation pulled between needing to be with my husband and needing to get back home and finish final preparations for the night session at the retreat.  Of course, my husband keeps telling me I need to go on and get ready for the evening and I keep telling him no way I’m leaving him until we find out what is going on with his heart.

And we keep waiting for our son to call with more information on our granddaughter.  How badly is she hurt?  Is she going to be okay?

He’s going to be okay

The doctor finally comes in and tells us that he is not having a heart attack but they do want to keep him overnight for observation and possibly do some tests in the morning.  When I am assured that he is in no immediate danger, I finally leave, hurrying now to get cleaned up myself and get to the church to finish final preparations.

We finally hear from our son.  Our granddaughter was hit in the passenger side by a young man drunk and high on drugs.  He hit her at such a high rate of speed it flipped her car over twice, crushed in the front and they had to pull her out through the windshield.  But, miraculously she has no broken bones, no life-threatening injuries, but is terribly bruised and some cuts on her arms from being pulled through the broken windshield.

While working with my daughter to put the finishing touches on everything at the church, we get a text from my son.  He has sent us pictures of my granddaughter’s car.  When we see the pictures my daughter and I both began to cry and to spontaneously praise God.  From the pictures of the car we realize we have seen a miracle.  There is no way anyone should have walked out from the car alive.  The whole front and right side is smashed in, the windshield completely broken out.  We get pictures of my granddaughter’s neck and front of her chest.  She looks like someone who has been severely beaten.  Clearly she has subsisted some terrible bruising and will be in pain for some time.  But no broken bones, no concussion.

As we praise God, I feel the tension drain from my body for a moment.  Then my husband calls.  They are going to do an angiogram tomorrow morning.  Doctor thinks they may be more blockage.  I start to get uptight again, but I’m reminded in my spirit that the same God who protected my granddaughter is the same God who will be with my husband in the morning.

Long day at hospital

But now, of course, I cannot be at the retreat on Saturday.  I know between my daughter who is speaking and the women who will be leading worship I don’t have to be there.  But I’m disappointed.  I have enjoyed watching the women in our Friday session and seeing their hearts being opened to God’s Word – just as I had prayed – and I really want to be there Saturday to share with them.

But I know there is no question about where I belong.  I love my husband – my best friend – and I not only need to be with him, I want to be with him.

The procedure is done and they have to put in another stent (his fifth).  The doctor shows me an area where there is a 50% blockage but says he will not touch it until it becomes blocked enough to be life threatening.  Because of its location it will require open heart surgery.  This makes me nervous.  How will he know it has become life threatening until it is life threatening?  On top of that they had trouble getting the bleeding to stop and have had to put a pressure cuff on his groin which is pushing down and is very painful.  While normally a person has to lay on still on their back for two to three hours, he lies all day – over six hours – not being able to move from his back and having this pressure cuff pushing down on his groin.  A rough day for both of us.  Since he cannot sit up, I help him try to get some food down.

The day is over!

Granddaughter is very sore – will be out of commission for a few days – but she is alive, she is going to be fine.

My husband is out of immediate danger.  He has to stay overnight in the hospital just to make sure he does not move too much and the bleeding stays stopped.  But, all is well with him.  I can bring him home tomorrow.

The retreat appears to have been well received by everyone.

Who Do I Turn To?

So, I need to be rid of all this tension.  What do I do?  Guess I could pick up a glass of wine.  I could put on a favorite movie.  I could take a hot shower, a sleeping aid and go to bed.

But I turn to the one I have always turned to.  My Savior, my Lord, but also my friend.  I put on a CD by Selah, lean back and think of all the times in my life – when my father walked out on the family, when my first husband was accidentally killed and my daughters came home and found him dead, when I was diagnosed with cancer and told I did not have a very good chance of making it – and so many other times when crisis came and how Jesus has always been there.  Giving me wisdom, peace, comfort.

And as I meditate on His goodness, His love to me, the tension drains from my body and my tears become more than just tears of release.  They become tears of love and gratitude.

I turn to Jesus.  Who Do you turn to?

When I’m far away from home
And the cold wind starts to blow
When I’m empty and alone
I turn to You

When there’s hardness in my heart
And I can’t see the truth
And I’m wondering in the dark
I turn to You

And here in Your holy presence
It’s all that I can do

For the faith to move ahead
And to let go of the past
And to see me as You do
I turn to You.

I turn to You, Jesus
I turn to You, Lord
What else can I do
I turn to You

You alone are worthy
The one and only God
The Ruler of the nations
And Father of my heart

I turn to You, Jesus
I turn to You, Lord
What else can I do, Jesus
I turn to You

Selah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids ‘n’ Church

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As a grandparent and a pastor’s wife, I have heard so many funny stories about kids in church.  One of the funniest involved my own grandson, Robert.

His parents had recently moved to a new community and were trying to find a home church.  They were a little nervous about walking into a new church as they had two little ones just 1 and 2 years old and were not sure how “kid friendly” the churches in the small town would be.

Finding a place toward the back of the church, they settled in with the two babies, the two diaper bags and their Bibles.  All was fine through the worship.  Then came the sermon.  As the pastor was getting into the message, my grandson decided he had been still long enough and began trying to climb out of the seat and down the aisle.  As my son-in-law tried to corral him, my granddaughter decided she was unhappy and began to cry at the top of her voice.

Seeing all the stares they were getting from the congregation, they grab the kids, the diaper bags, their Bibles and tried to beat a hasty retreat from the sanctuary.

Giving a sigh of relief as they made it to the back door, they were mortified as their son reached out and flipped the light switch as they exited the door.  Leaving the church in total darkness, they hurried to the car hoping no one had really got a good look at them.

Needless to say, they wrote that church off their list of churches to visit again.

I would love to hear your stories about kids n church.

 

 

My “Compassion” Girls from the Philippines

It started with Claudine.  Claudine was a young high school student living in Cebu City, Philippines.  Through Compassion’s program to help release children from poverty, I began sending a monthly contribution to help meet Claudine’s educational and physical needs.  While in high school Claudine attended the Cornerstone Student Center.  Through the Center – in cooperation with Compassion – Claudine enjoyed good and helpful medical check-ups, help with school work, learned life skills such as cooking and baking and assistance in job applications.

With their help, she filled out her “My Plan for Tomorrow” workbook helping her to plan her future and set goals.  Extra-curricular activities were provided that helped her explore her God-given talents.

We enjoyed years of letters and pictures sent back and forth.  It was a bitter-sweet day when I received her last letter.  She had graduated from school, had a job and was now moving out of the Compassion program.  She was making plans to pursue a college degree.

She thanked me for the monthly sponsorship, for the birthday, Christmas and family gifts, but when she told me what she was most thankful for, tears came to my eyes.

What I will miss the most are your letters where you tell me about your life and what’s happening.

She said she hoped I would still sponsor another needy child like her.

I will never forget you and I will always love you and your will be forever in my heart.

So – in honor of Claudine and her hard work and faithfulness to God and her family, I chose another little girl from the Philippines.

Now comes Rachell Ann

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This time I decided to pick a little girl much younger than Claudine had been when our sponsorship started.  This would give me more years to develop a relationship with her and help her from the very start of life.  It is also nice that Rachell Ann is only 5 months older than my youngest granddaughter, Zoe.

Rachell Ann lives just east of Quezon City.  Because she is so young her mother writes to me for Rachell Ann.  Very interesting to see that the place she would like to visit is the same as many kids in the USA – Disneyland.  But the chances that she will ever be able to do that are pretty small.  While I can’t help her with that dream, I’m grateful that I can help see that this little girl has a better chance of growing up healthy and educated – and know the love of God.

I’m not posting this story to “brag” about what I’m doing.  I’m hoping you will read and decide that you, too, can help bring a child out of poverty.  It costs us so little – it means so much to others.

Check out the Compassion, Inc. site.  See what you can to do to help a child – and therefore a family, be lifted up from poverty.

 

 

 

My New Knees are Coming!

As I age, I am battling “Old Man Arthritis.”  Some days when I get out of bed I can hardly walk.  After a trip to the bathroom and then to the kitchen for my cup of coffee (which my husband always has ready for me), I began to lose some of the stiffness and I am ready to face the day.

Sitting down on the floor is almost an impossibility.  I can get down okay but the getting up is a killer.  Having a four-year-old granddaughter who loves for Grandma to play with her makes things a little difficult.  After struggling several times to get back up, I have finally explained to her that we will have to play on the coffee table or the kitchen counter, that Grandma cannot get on the floor with her.

At first, she was puzzled when I said I could not get on the floor because I could not get back up.

“See – Grandma.  I’ll show you how.”

Saying this, she quickly sat on the floor and then proceeded to show me how to push up with my hands and get back up.

“Sweetheart, Grandma knows how to get up.  I simply cannot get up.”

Explaining to her that my knees simply are getting old and do not work right, I could see the wheels turning in her little mind.

When we sat down for the meal, she wanted to pray over our food.

“Jesus, make Grandma’s knees feel better.”

A few days later she was taking a walk with her mother.

Mommy, someday God is going to make us new bodies.  Grandma will get new knees and they will work right.

Yes, Zoe, someday this old body will not be stiff and painful any more and Grandma will be able to run and sit with you on the floor!

Until then, I’m thankful for a little granddaughter that already knows how to pray and already is concerned about her grandmother.

I’m not quite ready to get my new body – still want to see that little girl grow up.  But sometimes when the pain and stiffness are great, I do think how great it will be when I get my new knees!

 

 

 

Becoming an Old Woman – How Did That Happen?

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Several years ago my daughter brought me a book of poems and reflections on growing old.  When she gave it to me she assured me she did not think I was old – but she thought I would enjoy looking at my mother’s world (since my mother was old).

Too quickly the years have passed.  My mother is now deceased (how strange that sounds) and I AM becoming the old woman in the family.

I laughed when I first read this poem.  I still laugh – but I relate to it so much more than I did when she gave it to me.

So – for all my “old lady friends” I want to share this poem by Jenny Joseph.

Warning

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph

So – friend if you see me in purple with a red hat – know that I am an old woman for sure!

From Irish to French?

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Searching for the past!

When I was in junior high we had an assignment to find out our family’s background – what nationality made up our family tree.  My parents did not have a lot of information to share, but Dad said his mother’s family was Irish and his father’s family German.  Mother was not very clear about her father’s side of the family.  He was an orphan and never shared much about his family.  She never met any of his parents, siblings, aunts or uncles.  What little she knew was that there was some Indian ancestry there.  Mother said her mother’s side was English.

More Irish!

Recently I received some genealogy research from one of my mother’s cousins tracing my grandmother’s family back several generations.  I was so excited when I found that my great-great grandfather was not English, but Scot-Irish!

Of all my grandparents the only one who really showed any interest in me was my father’s mother – the Irish grandma.  She was a red-head and I am also.  She loved that I was a red-head and that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.  Because she made me feel loved and proud of my red hair, I have always felt a connection to that Irish heritage and always loved anything Irish.

Knowing that red hair is a recessive gene and required that both my parents pass on the gene for red hair in order for me to be a red-head, I knew someone in the past on my mother’s side had red hair.  But I was so excited to find out that only a few generations back was an Irish gentleman.  So now I can thank not only my Grandma Tate but my great-great Grandpa “Paddy” Wilson for my red hair.  (Fiery Red-heads Have More Fun!)

But French?

I was excited to find that second Irish connection, but surprised to find that my ancestors were also French.  My great-great Grandpa Wilson married a French lady.  And it appears of all my ancestors I have traced so far it is the French connection that is the most interesting.

The Boudinots were Huguenots who fled France after King Louis XIV revoked the decree of Nante and began religious persecution of Protestants.  From France they immigrated to England for a short period and then on to North America, arriving just in time to be a part of our early history as a new nation.   I’m just beginning to learn more about these French ancestors but it appears they were involved closely with the birth of the USA.  Since I am a history nut and have read everything I can find on our founding fathers and mothers, it is so “neat” to find that some of my ancestors were closely involved in that history.

So who cares?

I realize that in one sense it doesn’t really matter who my great-great-great-great grandfather was – yet as I age, I find it more and more important that we do not forget our past.

What other surprises await?

I have traced enough on my Grandmother Smith’s side to feel no more surprises – it’s Irish/French.  But a mystery remains on my Grandfather Smith’s side.  The only sibling of my mother still alive told me I should not try to trace that side of the family.  He was very mysterious as to why I should not.  Research so far does appear there may be a secret there.  But what?

So – what is your heritage?  What interesting stories does your family tree have?