A Father I Can Count On

Father’s Day.  It is always a bittersweet time for me.  Growing up I looked up to my father and wanted to be just like him.  Then, as a teenager my father left our family and after that my relationship with him was very chaotic.  When Father’s Day comes and so many speak of their great fathers, I find myself wanting to feel the same.  My emotions run the gamut from fond memories to times I never want to remember.  I shared these feelings in a post some time ago.  Thank you Dad!

So, another year, another Father’s Day.  In a recent conversation with my pastor, he mentioned a verse in Psalms that he was going to use in his message.  That brought back memories again – but they were memories of my heavenly Father and how He has been such a comfort to me through all these years.  The verse is from Psalm 27 and it says

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

I am so thankful that early on I found God to be not only the Creator, the awesome God, but also a loving father.  How He comforted me when I cried myself to sleep at night missing my Dad, then actually scared of my Dad, then with great pity for my Dad.

I am thankful that my heavenly Father has been one I can count on.  Over the years when trouble came my way, He has been there.  His Word has strengthened me and given me hope.

So today for all who have fathers you can count on, make sure you let  them know how much you appreciate them.  For those whose great fathers are no longer with you, cling to those memories you have.  And for those who fathers were not there for them, I invite you to reach out to the Father you can always count on.  God loves you!

 

Little Country Church

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Little church in the country

Growing up my earliest memories of church took place at Zion Methodist Church.  This country church is just east of the town of Mt. Vernon, Illinois where I was born many, many years ago.  My mother and father made a commitment to serve the Lord in this little church when I was just a few months old.  Although I was obviously too young to remember anything about this event, I heard my father tell the story so many times I feel as if I do remember it.

The Story Goes

My parents were not followers of Christ and enjoyed going to the movies on Sunday nights.  My oldest sister, who was nine years old, started attending church with my aunt and uncle.  Although only a young girl she understood the simple salvation message the minister preached and made a commitment to God.  After that she began begging my parents to attend church with her.  One evening to just shut her up they agreed to pass up the movies and go to church with her.

Adam, where art thou?

My father sat through the worship, but about halfway through the sermon, his cigarette habit called to him.  At least that was the reason he was giving for leaving in the middle of the service.  Later he admitted he was feeling God speaking to his heart and he knew if he did not get out of the building, he would have to surrender his life to God.

He got up and started to the center aisle when the minister reached the point in his message where he said,

And God said, Adam, where art thou?

My father often spoke of this moment with great feeling.  He said his ears heard “Adam where art thou?” but his heart heard “Hal, where art thou?”

Decision time

At that moment he knew he had to make a decision.  Would he turn to his right and walk out of the church and silence the voice of God speaking to his heart?  Would he turn to his left and walk down to the altar and surrender his heart and life to Jesus Christ?

I am so thankful he made that turn to his left and said yes to the call of God.  I spent the first six years of my life every Sunday morning at the church.  My Sunday School teacher was the same one my father had when he was a young boy and attended that church with his mother.

fanspotbelly stove

The church was heated by a pot belly stove in the center aisle.  In the summer there was no air conditioning, but we used paper fans.  Most of the fans had advertising from a local funeral home.

Because I was very young, I would often fall asleep in the Sunday evening services.  One evening my family started home, my folks in the front seat and my siblings in the back.  About half way home they realized I was not in the car.  My parents had thought I was sitting on my older sister’s lap in the back seat as I often did that.  My siblings thought I was layig down on my mother’s lap in the front.  They quickly turned around and headed back to the church.  Thankfully I was still asleep in one of the pews.  I cannot imagine how frightened I would have been if I had awoke and found myself alone in the darkened church.

Such are my memories of this little country church.  On a recent trip down memory lane I asked my husband to take me to the church and let me get a picture.  Standing in front of the church – all the memories that came flooding my heart and mind.  My parents are now gone, my aunt and uncle also.  But I will always treasure that little church where I first heard the words:

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

 

I Don’t Do Cookies!

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It’s that time of year!

All over the country mothers and grandmothers are busy in the kitchen baking cookies with their kids and grandkids.  On Facebook I see post after post of beautifully decorated cookies and smiling faces of children with their mother as they happily put their special touch on the cookies made to look like snowmen and angels and reindeer.  So many creative women out there making wonderful memories with their children.

Then there’s me.  Mother of the year – NOT!

When my girls were little I wanted to be that mother who makes such memories for her children by following that tradition of making cookies for Christmas.  I got out my cookbooks and looked for recipes that said “easy to make.”  All excited, I brought my little girls into the kitchen, sat them up at the counter and explained how we would start our own tradition and have these wonderful bonding moments making memories to last a lifetime.

We followed the recipe and put the cookies in the oven.  When the timer went off, we eagerly opened the door expecting to have these wonderful cookies to decorate.  The cookies were a disaster.  They looked burned to a crisp.

Not one to give up easily, we made a new batch and tried again this time taking them out earlier.  The cookies were still a disaster.  This time they were gluey and clearly not done completely in the middle.

We pressed on!

I tried valiantly several times to make Christmas cookies before I finally accepted the fact that I don’t do cookies.  No matter what recipe I used, no matter how hard I tried, my cookies were always too hard, too soft, overdone, under-cooked.  In other words, I don’t do cookies.

I make a mean apple pie.  At family gatherings, my kids and grandkids always ask for my banana pudding or peach cobbler.  My husband requests my black forest cake and it is always a hit at potlucks or parties.  But cookies?  I don’t do cookies!

Hopefully my daughters were not scarred by being the only kids in the family who did not make Christmas cookies with their mother.  Hopefully my grandchildren have not felt disappointed that Grandma never had plates of delicious, beautiful decorated cookies to eat at Christmas time.

Papa to the rescue!

This year my husband has come to my rescue.  He makes wonderful jumbo raisin cookies using his mother’s recipe.  When my youngest granddaughter came over today he took her into the kitchen and patiently helped her crack eggs, toast walnuts and showed her how to make cookies.

Papa makes the best cookies in the world!

Sampling the cookies when they came out of the oven looking just right, my granddaughter declared, “Papa makes the best cookies in the world!”  She was right.  They are delicious!

raisin-cookies

We made other memories!

Despite my total lack of cookie-baking ability, I know my girls and I made other good memories at Christmas time.

  • Wooden Christmas decorations we painted one year that they still have on their tree
  • Watching the movie, “Popeye”
  • Snuggling in bed and reading the “Ugly Joke Book”
  • Decorating the tree

So as I look at all the Facebook posts of beautiful Christmas cookies, I thank God for all those mothers out there making memories.  But I want to encourage those mothers whose house does not look like it was decorated by Good Housekeeping, whose cookies are a flop, and whose Christmas presents are not elegantly wrapped.

Just love your children and laugh with them.  Cookies or not, they will love you too and treasure their Christmas memories.

A Surprise Christmas Card

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A dear friend died this week.  My husband and I had watched him battle cancer (two different kinds) for over two years.  It was hard to see him slowly lose the battle.  He fought hard and he never lost his courage or his great sense of humor.

His family asked my husband to do the funeral service.  It was an extremely hard thing for Paul to do.  They had been friends for almost 20 years.  In the very beginning of their friendship, I had surgery for breast cancer.  The cancer was very advanced and my husband was  frightened as his mother had died from breast cancer.  Richard came to the hospital and sat with my husband through my surgery and did not leave until I was out of recovery.  That cemented their friendship.

That – and their love of golf and corny jokes.  Although they claimed they played golf, I think from listening to their tales that they spend more time laughing at each other’s skills than they did actually playing the game.

After my retirement, I often joined the two of them for breakfast.  It was such fun to just sit and listen to them as they teased one another and shared stories of their time on the golf course.

While it was hard for my husband to do the funeral service, he was honored that the family said that was what Richard would want.  As we arrived at the funeral home, his daughters handed us an envelope.  On the outside it said, “Paul and his bride.”  That was how Richard always referred to me – “Paul’s bride.”  When Paul and Richard met, if I was not present, he would always ask, “How is your bride?”  The handwriting on the outside was clearly not Richard’s.  So we assume it was just a card saying thank you for doing the service.

When we opened the card it was a Christmas card.  Thinking it was a little strange that his daughters were giving us a Christmas card, we opened it up.  My heart skipped a beat as I saw the signature inside the card.  It said simply, “Richard.”  We immediately recognized his signature.  Also enclosed was a picture of him.

His daughters told us although Richard never sent Christmas cards, just before his death he asked them to get him some Christmas cards.  He then signed a few and asked them to give them to his special friends at his funeral.  He knew he would not be here for Christmas and he wanted us to know what our friendship had meant to him.

This is a special card my husband and I will treasure forever.

Merry Christmas Richard!

 

 

 

How Do You Say Goodbye?

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Saying Goodbye!

Today my husband and I visited an old friend to say goodbye.  In the final stages of cancer it appears he only has a few more weeks to live.  This friend was first my husband’s friend.  They met when my husband stopped at a restaurant owned by this man.  The restaurant was halfway between our home and the church where my husband was the pastor.  Driving back and forth between the church office and our home every day, my husband often stopped in for lunch.

“Two Peas in a Pod”

My husband and Richard shared the same sense of humor.  They loved to play golf together although from the tales they tell me I am not sure just how good they were at that game.  But they had a lot of fun and shared silly jokes with one another.

A true friend!

Richard was a true friend.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my husband was so distraught.  The day of my surgery Richard came to the hospital and stayed in the waiting room with my husband until I was safely out of surgery.  At that point he became my friend also.  Every time my husband had lunch at his restaurant, Richard would ask “How is your bride?”

Eventually Richard sold his restaurant but continued there as manager.  After my retirement I often joined my husband and Richard for breakfast there.  They kept me laughing so hard as they traded one silly story after another.

The dreaded “C” word!

About two years ago Richard shared with us that he had cancer.  He was optimistic saying his cancer was a slow-growing one and he would probably die from something else before the cancer got him.  My own story was an encouragement to him.   (See my story at Life — What a Wonderful Gift! When I had my battle with cancer, the doctor had not given me much hope for survival.  Yet here I was still alive and cancer-free.  To be honest, I was not too much concerned because I truly thought this slow-growing cancer would not take his life.

Time passed, Richard began to grow thinner.  Complications set in and he spent too many days in the hospital.  Still, I clung to hope.  I had beaten cancer and he would too.

But, for Richard, the battle appears over.  The doctor has taken him off all the medicine fighting cancer and is talking now about “quality” of life.  Hospice has been called in.

How do you say goodbye?

How do you tell a good friend goodbye?  Do you laugh and talk about all the funny and happy times you have had?  Do you rejoice in the hope that we as Christians have that it is not really “goodbye” but “see you later?”  Do you let him see the tears in your eyes as you contemplate life without him?

Realizing your own mortality!

And, to be totally honest, since Richard is the same age as my husband, it makes us realize that we are also in the that final stage of life.  So we ask ourselves some questions.  Do we have our house in order?  Are we truly ready to face our Savior?

Coming back home, we have mixed feelings.  Sadness, of course.  But also thankfulness for the time we had with Richard.  Perhaps most of all, a new determination to enjoy each day as we live it.

Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”    ― Kurt Vonnegut

Thanksgiving – My Favorite Holiday

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Before the costumes for Halloween are off the shelves, Christmas decorations are everywhere.  Now I’m not fussing about getting ready for Christmas too early – or listening to Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.  I love the Christmas season and understand how exciting that time can be.

But sometimes it seems Thanksgiving gets lost in that time between Halloween and Christmas.  What a shame!

I love Thanksgiving!  It makes few demands.

  • No shopping required.
  • No large decorating project required.
  • No large list of parties to attend.

Just a time to enjoy food and family!

Now I know for the one fixing the meal, it does require some labor-intensive efforts.  But, after the meal, what a great time to just enjoy family and friends.

No worries if everyone liked their gift:

  • Did it fit?
  • Was it the right color?
  • Was that the game they wanted?

No decorations to take down and drag out to the garage or down to the basement.

Most of all, I think it gives us all a time to reflect and count our blessings.  (Something we need to do more often.)

While it is my favorite holiday, I must confess it brings some sadness to me also.  Most of my children and grandchildren now live in other states and we are not able to always get together on this holiday.  I miss those days of a table filled with laughing faces.  Still, I’m thankful for the memories I have – and I know there will be more Thanksgivings ahead when we will be together.

So – I count my many blessings and take a moment to relax before I enter that busy Christmas season.

Just a few thoughts on Thanksgiving.

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. ”  Psalm 106:1

 

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

– WT Purkiser

 

 

 

 

Thank you Dad!

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Growing up, what was your experience with prayer?

This was a question asked at a recent Bible study I attended.  Sitting at a table with eight other women, we went around our table, each woman sharing how prayer did or did not play a role in her family as a child.

As I shared my story of the very important part prayer played, I realized how blessed I was.  Prayer was a very significant part of my home life.  We prayed before each meal.  Those prayers were not memorized or short “Thank you for our food” kind of prayers.  Each family member took their turn in praying for a meal and the prayers were spontaneous – from the heart prayers.  At bedtime we all gathered in our living room, knelt down by the couch or a chair and our Dad would lead us in a prayer.  Any time I was not feeling well or had a problem at school, Dad’s solution was prayer.  We did go to see a doctor when sick, but prayer always came first.

One memorized prayer

Being the youngest in the family, my first prayer at mealtime was a memorized prayer.

God is good, God is great!

And we thank Him for our food!  Amen

At mealtime I would pray my simple prayer first, then another member of my family would say an “adult” prayer.  Shortly after I turned five, my Dad decided I no longer needed to pray that childish prayer, but could just take my turn with the rest of the family praying at mealtime.  However, he did not explain that to me.  We sat down to eat and Dad called on my oldest sister to say the prayer.  She prayed and everyone began eating.  After a few minutes Mom noticed I was not eating and wanted to know what was wrong.  “I didn’t get to pray” was my response.  How could I eat my meal without thanking God for it?  After Dad explained that I did not have to personally pray for the meal before I could eat and that going forward I could take my turn and pray a “real” prayer rather than the memorized one, I was content.

My Dad was my hero!

As a child, he was my hero!  I thought he could walk on water and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.  He not only taught me the importance of prayer, but he gave me a love for God’s Word.  My earliest memories are of Dad, after a hard day’s work, sitting at the kitchen table reading the Bible.  Along with prayer, reading and studying the Bible was a high priority with him.  He taught me how to use a Bible dictionary, a concordance and commentaries.

Then my hero was gone!

When I turned 14 my father made a 180 degree turn in his life.  He deserted my mother, my sister and me and turned his back on all he had taught me.  Refusing to pay any child support and showing no affection for me, he broke my heart.  My hero died.  As I entered the world of teenagers and then a young adult, one of my greatest desires was to regain a close relationship with my Dad.  But sadly, it never happened.  He remained very critical of me and everything I did.  Every visit I had with him seemed to end up with me either crying or running out of his house in anger.  How I longed for him to say he loved me or to give me a word of praise.  But sadly, it never happened.

Then he was REALLY gone!

A few years ago my father died.  I had long ago forgiven him for deserting me, had long ago forgiven him for his unkind treatment to me.  So when he died, I thought all would be okay.  Surprisingly, I found myself filled with the greatest anger I had every known.  I felt hatred for him.

I struggled with this and prayed for deliverance from this pain.  How could I feel more anger when he was dead than when he was alive?  How could I feel hatred for him when I never felt that emotion when he was alive?  After many months of soul-searching and prayer, I realized that as long as he was alive, I had hope that we would somehow become close again.  That one day I would visit him and hear him say that he loved me or that he was proud of me.  But now, that would never happen.

Anger and hatred finally gone!

After months of prayer, I’m grateful that the anger and hatred subsided in my heart.  But all that was left was a sense of great loss and sadness that the memories of my father were not pleasant ones.

Thank you Dad!

But then, I attended the Bible study on prayer and listened to myself tell how my father taught me the importance of prayer.  What a great gift he gave me!  Although my memories of my dad when I was a teenager and later, an adult, were not pleasant ones, and I never received the love and approval from him that I so desired, I do owe him a great debt.   He taught me one of the most important lessons a person can know – that God loves me and He hears me when I pray.

So – I have a great inheritance for which I am thankful.  It’s my choice to cling to those memories and be grateful!