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Archive for the ‘Spiritual lessons’ Category

If you had told me in January of this year that today would be so full of joy that my heart would overflow and I could hardly keep the smile from my face as we drove home from church, I would have rolled my eyes and said in a sarcastic tone, “Yeah right…”.

Let me back up…here is a run-down of 2012…My cousin, John, passed away from stomach cancer in January. Blane graduated from high school, changing my life as a mom. My dad passed away in June. We moved Blane to college two weeks later. In August the wife of Freddo’s co-worker died; she had become my friend over that last year and a half of her life, and we were there when she passed away…bringing with it all the sights and sounds of my dad’s death… In November a very close friend of mine died. I went to see her on Friday. She couldn’t respond to me, but when I told her I had to go and prayed with her, and that I would be back the next day, she got restless and started making noises for the first time since I had been there…if only I had known that she would pass away the next morning…I would never have left…

All through this process I spent time each day searching for gifts, and I journaled them. Honestly, this daily moment by moment act and praise music were like my life lines through the dark days. I knew God was there, but because of the pain my heart was in, I couldn’t see Him, or feel Him. (I recently learned that “feeling” my way to God is not biblical.) I developed a very discouraged and rebellious attitude. I didn’t care much about anything. I struggled to find joy in each day and I still laughed and smiled upon occasion, but I felt lost.

In December of 2013 Bob’s dad was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma and was given “months” to live. In January of 2014 we moved into their home to assist in his daily caregiving needs and stayed with them until a week after he passed away at the end of March.  In February Freddo and I resigned all of our “positions” of ministry at our church, since we didn’t know how long this would go on. Our hearts were so sad and discouraged, and yet we KNEW we were right where God intended us to be.

I learned so much during this time! One thing was… that a few clothes, my own pillow, my tablet, my Bible, a book called “Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl”, and my hubby was really all I needed from home. We have always tried to live a “simple” life, but this really was simple. I recall thinking, “All that stuff at our house, all the decorations, the dishes, the clothes, jewelry, furniture, tv, etc., none of it means anything.” I guess God really changed my heart about our possessions during that time. Now, to be honest, I still struggle with contentment, and I think I always will to some degree, but there had been a definite shift in my thinking.

Freddo and I struggled about where God wanted us to worship from here on out. We worshiped with his mom at his folk’s church for some time, and while our hearts were so encouraged by the love and support from their community, we never had a peace that we were to leave our home church. So we decided to go back to “visit” our church. We sure felt on guard during that time, and I can’t tell you the exact Sunday that we knew what God’s plan for us was, but I can say we were convicted during worship one Sunday morning. On our way home we agreed that if we were going to worship at HBC, we were going to get back into serving the Lord there. And that exact week, God opened doors for us that we had never imagined. We decided that we would serve God with our hearts, wholly surrendered to Him, despite the cost.

Today, August 24, 2014, I can tell you that for the first time in a long time, I walked away from a full day of service to the Lord with an overflowing heart, so full of love for His people. It would take a while to go all the joys God blessed me with today, but I do want to testify that God has renewed my heart and healed it. It has been a slow, long, painful process, but I can at this time thank Him for all the pain of these past few years.

If you are discouraged by the trials in your life, let me encourage you to not give up the fight. Seek God. God’s Word says in Psalm 53:2, “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.”  After reading this verse, I realized that I want to be one that God sees who understands and who seeks after Him. Don’t you?

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Well, my sweet friend, it has been a year since I stood at your bedside, singing a song in your ear and praying with you. If only I had known it would be my last chance to speak to you… I have to wonder what I would have said differently??? If only you could have spoken on that last day. I have a strong feeling you knew I was there, that you could hear me, cause you became so restless when I told you I had to go.  I wonder if God had already told you that you would be going home so soon…is that why you were so restless?

I have spent too much time this last year thinking through the “if onlys” of that day, and the months prior to your death. But God has constantly pointed me back to the positives of what had already passed. Our talks on the phone, our times of spiritual accountability, our moments of encouraging the other during the hard days, the times we talked about your double lung transplant and the hardest parts of those days, the cards and scrapbooks that we made while we were together, the love for music that we shared, the fears that we both had, the laughs we had over our boys, the talk of Bible studies and learning together about God, our times of prayer, our quest to live boldly for God and our frustration with never doing enough for Him, the list goes on and on. I try to dwell on all those memories of the great times.

So often I wonder how your “days” play out now? Can you see me? Do you know of my struggles and my tears? Do you understand why your mom and my dad passed in the ways that they did? Does your illness make sense to you now? Does it matter if we have our quiet time in the morning or at night (lol)? Do you have all the answers to the private things we discussed between the two of us?

I am incredibly grateful that you are no longer suffering and when I think of being in the presence of God I am at complete peace, but when I lose my focus and think of myself and try to figure out the days without you here to talk to, I get a bit discouraged. Oh how many times I have wanted to talk to you… About envelopes, where do I buy them? Where did you find those keys that you put on that plaque? What was that recipe that we made for that family? What were your plans for some of the projects that you had started? How I wanted to cry to you like we have done before when the days have been hard. I have never lost of friend before and I miss you like crazy!

I am so grateful for the things I learned during your life…

-my struggles or frustration usually come back to a heart issue

-never take your friends for granted

-don’t judge your friends, let them be vulnerable about whatever is on their heart and just listen

-it’s okay for be afraid, just don’t give in to those fears, always look back to God

-when I fail at my having my quiet time, I just start again tomorrow

-never give up hope, God is working

-germs…they are everywhere…lol!

-how your death has caused me to lean even more on the Lord, trying to understand and trust His will, especially when it hurts, even when it’s hard

I did do the Ann Voskamp study we talked about doing together in January. I was a good study, but I still wish we could have done it together!

I will forever be grateful to the Lord for your friendship and for the times we shared. Remembering you today, a little more than usual, and rejoicing in God’s will with tears in my eyes…

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Fall is, by far, my favorite season of the year. The cooler weather, breezes blowing through the trees, bon fires, the changing of the leaves…bright yellows, magnificent oranges, and fiery reds…what an amazing array of colors that warm my heart in a way that no other season can.

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Despite my love for this time of year, there have been many things that have happened throughout the years that have threatened my joy during this wonderful season. But God (which is an amazing statement alone) has taught me to “Choose Joy Now”, no matter what may be happening around me. One way I have learned to do that is to find things to be grateful for, even during the toughest of times. Often these are obscure things that are hard to notice without careful attention, other times God displays them proudly, right in front of me.

It’s almost as if He knows I need to see His Hand at work. I know He understands fully my need to trust Him even deeper than yesterday. Trust…it has become my word for the last few years, it has been a long journey, but one that has not quite come to an end just yet. And in all honesty, I can say I am glad that He is not yet content with my trust in Him.

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Recently my friend’s husband left home for a one year deployment to protect our country’s freedom. My heart has been heavily burdened for them as they waited for the day of his departure to arrive. I have been praying, but God was pressing me to do more, so as I left for work this morning I asked the Lord to show me a different Bible verse each week that I could pray for my precious friend and her family. As I was praying, I jokingly mentioned that God would need to be creative in how He showed me a verse this week, as I have not been the most diligent each day to read His Word. I finished praying and began singing praises to God as I continued my drive.

When I walked into work I began coughing, so as I was digging through my purse looking for a sinus pill, I came across a small yellow paper that was crumpled and a bit worn.

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On the paper was,

Isaiah 41:10
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

As soon as I read it I began to smile…I knew this was the verse that God intended me to pray for my friend and her family this next week. It took me a while to take all this in, because, as you see, I had written this Scripture on the torn half sheet of yellow paper back in March of this year (2013), when I was struggling to trust God with a difficult situation that was happening. That verse came to me as a welcomed relief back in March when I heard it and I quickly jotted it down on the scrap piece of paper. I was reminded back then how much God must love me to give me that verse at that exact moment when I so desperately needed to know that He was holding me…did I mention that was SEVEN months ago…??? This morning when I found this paper in my purse, I had this overwhelming sense of peace of God’s love for me and for my friend as I wondered how exactly God had gotten that piece of paper into my purse after all of these months…?? I clean out my purse at least once a month. I KNOW I had taken this paper out, but for such a time as this, God saw fit to get it back into my purse so I would find it this morning. He knew that on the way to work I was going to ask for Him to show me a verse to pray. I just shook my head as I took all of this in this morning…and by the way, my coughing, which is why I got into my purse to begin with, has stopped by this time…

 

So I quickly shot my sweet friend an email to explain to her how much God loved her (explaining the story to her quickly. Imagine, if you can, how encouraged my faith was when she sent the following text and then email to me…
“Isaiah 41:10 is the verse we are “claiming” as a family for this deployment. The boys’ necklaces say “FEAR NOT” and [my husband] wrote out that verse for them right after we found out about his deployment. We both came across Isaiah 41:10 as a verse we should use separately. God reminded me when you sent me this verse that He knows me. He is good.”

 
The following came in an email…”I don’t feel like my text adequately explained what a gift this was. Instant tears came to my eyes as soon as I saw the verse…not out of sadness, but out of humility that all mighty God cares for me that much. I shared it with the boys this morning. I want them to know God is here and at work, and that He loves us. If in the end they have a better knowledge of Him and His faithfulness, then all of this is worth it. Thanks for praying and asking God for guidance. Oh, what a difference it makes. Love you much. “

 
Honestly, there are not adequate words to color for you the joy, faith, comfort, peace and love that flooded my heart when I stepped back and took all this in. There were so many cool things that God brought together in these precious moments this morning. I was even able to go back and thank God in a different and deeper way for the trial that we went through back in March, for if we hadn’t walked through it, I wouldn’t have been desperate for that verse and I wouldn’t have written it down. God just set me at awe this morning. I never cease to be amazed at Him.

 

As I sat there taking all this in, God brought a song to my heart that I began to sing. It is a song that God used to encourage my heart after my dad died. Click on the following words to hear the song:

 
“Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone”

 
I smiled as I considered that God loves my friends so much that He is demonstrating His love for them as they begin this journey.

A journey that will be long and hard.

A journey that will require much faith and tenacity.

A journey that will test them in ways they’ve never been tested before.

A journey that will grow them in ways that nothing else can.

A journey that only God can walk them through and bring them out better on the other side.

And the cool thing is that they will never walk alone throughout the whole journey, even though they are apart from each other! God is good, just as my friend said.

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The week is crazy with work and Vacation Bible School. It seems so rushed to get everything done, there really isn’t time to stop and spend time with God…and yet He continues to draw me. This morning I read a quick devotional from Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” devotional.

The Scripture is “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine…Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1, 4 ESV

When I let that verse sink in it warms me, to think that the God of the universe has redeemed me and has called me by name. He tells me right here that I am His. Oh, the comfort, I am so grateful I stop to spend these moments with Him!

The rest of the devotion talks about grace. She says, “…the real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time. Like the wind, grace finds us wherever we are and won’t leave us however we were found.” I think of how God’s grace has found me and how He/it/ His grace continually changes me, softens me.

I see these word on a sign on the door at Casey’s in bold print “ACCEPTED HERE“. This catches me off guard, “accepted here” isn’t this what we all are looking for…??? A place to be accepted, not when we are better, or when we have it all together, we need to be accepted right here, right now, just as we are. One of the things I know about God and His amazing grace is that He accepts me, right here, just as I am. And I am comforted, I don’t have to jump through any hoops, do things just right, He loves and accepts me right were I am, right here!

While I am comforted greatly by this thought, another emerges in my mind…who is it that I am not willing to accept right where they are…like God did for me?

My time with God this morning was quick and a bit painful, as pruning always is, but as always, I am so glad for these moments alone with Him to allow Him to continue to trim away these parts of me that don’t look like Him. I’m so grateful for His grace and that He teaches me to share His grace with everyone I meet.

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Airplane trails can be seen all across the morning and evening sky, the sun brightly marking their paths.

I ask Freddo why I have never seen so many at one time before, as I have this past year.

When I look to count them, there are 12, 13, 14 and counting. There is this childlike grin on my face and anticipation growing within me as I count them all. I tell Freddo, “Truly, I have never seen this many in the sky at one time before this past year.”

He gently says, “That’s because you are slowing down to see. You know, taking time to count the gifts”.

There it is, a reminder of what Ann Voskamp testifies of, “counting gifts slows down time”.

Even my sweet husband notices that counting gifts slows me down, proving what Ann has told so many in her “One Thousand Gifts” book…that “counting gifts slows down time”, which brings about joy.

For years I have sought this slippery word, joy, never before had I been able to grasp how to have the “joy of the Lord”.

Then I read about it in Ann Vokamps’s book. Slowly, as I soak up the book and begin to count my own list of gifts, simple, everyday things, this joy that has always been such a mystery to me, begins to show itself. Joy, not happiness.

Joy, a state of mind, that comes even when life is hard, and yet it stays despite the sadness of the days, such as were my days last year when Dad was slowly dying and Blane’s high school years were slowly draining away.

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Despite anything I tried, the days of those two lives that I desired very much to hold tight, continued to fade from my sight.HPIM1798

Any Daddy’s girl and mother of that last child at home would have felt the same, I believe…that sadness that comes when seasons are over. Gone. Never to return.

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Even then, in the tear-filled days of those fading seasons, counting gifts brought joy into my life.

By God’s grace I had learned a way to stay fully awake in the moments and have joy even though I was sad. Great is my gratefulness for finding that direct link to constant joy, Eucharisteo: thanking God in all things, bringing about grace, gratitude and joy. The journey has been hard, but I am so glad that God’s plans allowed me to walk this path, despite the pain.

And just today I was reminded that this slowing down, finding gifts, it really isn’t even about the gifts, but about the God that gives the gifts. The entire purpose of this totaling of gifts with daily persistence is to point me back to Christ with each gift I list.One thousand gift shelf

Something I am learning is a life totally focused on and fully trusting in Him is always right on target! And who wouldn’t want that?

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{Joy Dare} for Week #5 of 2013

1-21 a gift in sky, water, and memory:

#121 sky: two bald eagles taking in the scenery from two trees on our gravel road, so cool!

Eagle shot edited

Eagle in flight edited

#122 water: warm shower

#123 memory: recalling the times that we went to see the eagles with friends of ours, how small our boys were then…

#124 Hardwood floor warm from the woodstove’s fire

#125 My friend’s bathrobe, soft and cozy around me as I read my devotion

#126 Fan, noise I don’t like, forcing the warm air throughout our home

#127 Sunrise colors, hues cast all across the sky

 

1-22 a gift wrinkled, smoothed and unfolded:

#128 wrinkled: my face, showing that I have lived, laughed and loved

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#129 smoothed: floors, removing all the wood and dirt

#130 unfolded: God’s continued blessings in my life

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1-23 3 gifts found in Christ:

#131 acceptance

#132 wisdom

#133 gentleness

#134 bowl of Cheerios with a banana in it

 

1-24 3 gifts blue:

#135 brad nailer my hubby used to build a crate from scratch from materials we had in the shop (won’t be long until he will be able to make our crate coffee table, yippee)

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#136 finding Red’s bed, it was out in the shop (we had forgotten it was out there)

#137 plastic tote that holds wood for the stove

#138 14 quarts of homemade V8 juice canned today

#139 hearing a sermon yesterday telling us all that we need to ask God for wisdom when we lack it, something I needed to pray for two times today, so grateful God gave me that reminder last night at church!

 

1-25 a grace borrowed, found, and inherited:

#140 borrowed: canning colander

#141 found: a Hannah Whitall Smith book in Mom’s closet

#142 inherited: wooden bowl that my dad made when he was in school

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#143 cabin themed buttons to hot glue to a lamp shade

#144 opportunities to show love to others that don’t feel they deserve it

 

1-26 a gift before dawn, at noon and after dark:

#145 before dawn: sleep

#146 at noon: salsa made and jars in a hot water bath

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#147-150 after dark: crispy and thin homemade pizza, ice cream sandwich dessert, laughing with friends and planning a trip out west

#151 cozy home with warm lighting, #iloveourhome

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1-27 3 gifts in the kitchen:

#152 “new to us” microwave that some friends gave us

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#153 indoor/outdoor thermometer

#154 wooden silverware holder

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The last few days I have spent so much time thinking about my dad and how my heart misses him so deeply.

The Christmas season wasn’t as hard as I anticipated it being, since it was our “first” since he died. I was kind of breathing easy since it had come and gone and all seemed to be okay.

This past Saturday Freddo and I were in the kitchen cooking, when I rattled off one of the things that Dad and I used to sayto each other. I would say, “Hey, Poncho” and he’d say, “Hey, Cisco”, then we’d both say, “Hey, Hey, Hey”. It was just one of those things that we have always done. Dad had a lot of sayings.

Even at the end of his days on this earth, I could see his eyes react when I would say both of our parts (cause Dad lost his ability to talk toward the end).

Well, on Saturday, I just rattled that saying off and not one thought of my dad entered my mind until Freddo said, “I bet your dad is laughing at you about now, since you are still saying that”.

My heart was devistated that I said it and didn’t think of him…

Well, I pushed that out of my mind for the remainder of the evening and all seemed fine (avoidance is a tactic I often use)…until we turned off the lights to go to sleep. All of a sudden my mind went directly to the fact that I had “forgotten” my dad, and the tears began to fall. Memories of him at the nursing home flooded my mind like a still shot motion picture, full color, words and all, and for the first time since he died I entered the “guilt” part of the grief process.

When we put him in the nursing home I knew it was God’s plan. Even though I didn’t like it one bit, I never questioned it…until Saturday night. I even entertained thoughts of how awful I was for encouraging my mom to put him into the home. I thought in those brief moments that he very well might still be alive if I hadn’t intervened. I cried the most Saturday night that I have cried at one time since Dad died.

Grief is like that, you are going along fine, then BAM!!! It stops you in your tracks, and plows you right over. My mom calls these times “ambushes”.

Freddo reassured me that it was all a part of God’s plan, reminding me of all that I already knew to be true. But it didn’t change the guilt that flooded my heart in those few hours Saturday night. In my selfishness all I could think of was that I wanted him back…

I decided to go back through some notes that I wrote on Facebook when Dad was sick this morning. And it sure was an encouragement to my heart. I am going to copy and paste one or two of them here, so that you can see a small glimpse of what our family’s journey with Lewy Body Dementia looked like.

This entry was dated August 16th, 2011:

When we decided to have a facebook account a few years ago, we said that we want to use it for God’s glory. So I would like to share with you a bit about our lives. Some background: My (Sheila’s) Dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia a few years ago, and up till now my Mom has cared for him at home.  It is with heavy hearts that we applied for him to live at the Veteran’s Home in Mexico a year ago (2010), because his care is getting too much for my mom to handle.  We asked God to take his placement at the home out of our hands and to work it out in the way that He sees fit.  The time has come for him to be admitted, cause his name is very near the top of the waiting list, like within the month, which is much earlier than we had planned. We have cried and struggled much with this decision, even asking God to change the course that we are to be on. So that basically brings you up to speed on where we are.  So please read the following about how God is continuing to work things out in His way.

When I woke yesterday morning I had no idea the day that God had planned for me.  I read my Bible and prayed.  As I prayed I asked God to help me to accept it in my heart what seemed to be His plan for us to move Dad into the Veteran’s Home, so that I wouldn’t become angry when that time came sometime later this month. 

I desperately needed God’s perspective, because so far my perspective was leaving me wanting. God showed me a bit of His vision yesterday morning that I will share with you now.

God allowed me to see that, yes, Dad is going into a nursing home, but that is not the proper perspective.  Dad really is just moving to the mission field, outside of all of our comfort zones.  And we (the rest of the family) get the privilege of visiting that mission field anytime we want to and will be able to share the love of Christ with those that are there. 

Many of you have known my Dad and know that it was his dream to retire and to become even more active on the mission field in Haiti.  When his health began to decline after his early medical retirement, that dream seemed to die, and a part of my Dad seemed to go along with it.  For when he talked about Haiti, it brought out a passion in him.  He loved serving the people there.

So you can imagine the peace that began to overwhelm my heart when I allowed God to remove sadness of “putting him into an institution”, taking him away from his comfortable home that he loves, and to see it as this incredible opportunity for him to move into this place that God had prepared for him to serve the Lord.  Dad still loves to talk about the things of God on his good days.  Not everything he has to say always make sense to the average ear, but when you listen knowing his heart, you hear the message of hope that God has given him and you are able to see Christ in him.  Well, at that point yesterday morning, I briefly thought about it, said thanks God, and moved on.  I had no idea that in a few short hours I was going to be allowed to share that vision with my Dad through tear filled eyes.

Dad had an appointment with a doctor yesterday; we were hoping that she would be able to convey his need for that level of care for him, since until this point he would not accept that information from us.  Well, when the doctor brought it up he became angry and she backed off and said, “Well, if it is not what you want, then perhaps you and your family should reconsider and wait to place you there when you are ready.” 

I thought then, “Okay, Lord, this is not going as I planned”. 

So we left the office and I took Dad down the hall, I stopped and got on the floor beside his wheelchair and asked him what he thought, to which he replied in a very stern and a fearful tone, “I don’t want to go there, I am afraid to be without my family. I don’t want to live with people that I don’t know.  That scares me.”

I shot a quick prayer to God and asked for wisdom.

I said with tears flowing, “Dad your disease is getting worse and it will continue to decline. What I am about to tell you is hard and I really need you to try to understand…You are going to have to go into the Veteran’s Home when they call, and they are going to be calling soon.” He began to cry, “I don’t want that”.

And I told him through my tears, “I don’t either, I have asked God to do something so that I didn’t have to place you there, but God said I was going to have to.”

Then I began to share the vision that God had given me that morning about the mission field and how he loved to tell people about Christ, and how the people at the home need him to be there to learn about Jesus.  It might be the only way that some of them ever get to hear about God.  I told him that God was going to use all of us and missionaries have rough roads that they don’t really like, but they willingly walk them, cause it is necessary for God’s kingdom to be furthered.

Next I used the new phrase that Dad loves, “We are going to have to ‘adapt and overcome’.”

(Mind you, I haven’t really had a normal conversation with my Dad in MONTHS, cause he doesn’t really live in reality much.)  But yesterday all day from that point on my Dad, the old Dad, that I know and love was there.

He, Mom and I talked and cried for a long time sitting outside at a picnic table at Culver’s.  It was the most exhausting, beautiful, painful, God-filled hours I have ever had in my whole life.  

Through those long, long moments Mom and I were able to reassure Dad of the many things that concerned him about moving there.  We told him we will be able to come any time of the night or day, it’s only 20 minutes.  He can call us anytime he wants.  

He asked if they would celebrate his birthday.  We assured him that they and we would do that.

I have never seen pain on my Dad’s face like there was yesterday.  It was so tough, but God was so faithful!!  

I can’t even begin to tell you how He met me right where I was and gave me every word I spoke.  Bob has a saying that he learned a few years ago, “God gives you exactly what you need, just when you need it.”  He reminds me of this often. And that phrase was true yesterday.  

I have been anxious many a day as we have looked forwardly to the day, wondering whether we would have to place Dad in someone else’s care, it wore on my mind and I couldn’t figure it out.  I knew I wasn’t to worry, I knew that I needed to trust God.  I was worried about how we would convey this to Dad and how he would handle it. Yesterday after it was all done and I was thinking over it all I thought of the following analogy from Corrie Ten Boom.

“When Corrie as a child asked her father, Opa, to tell her about sex, he made her try to pick up his heavy suitcase on the train. When she couldn’t do it, he said that the same was true in life: there are some things too heavy for us to know until we are old enough to bear the burden. The heavy suitcase is a metaphor for the burdens of life…….”.

God, as my Father, knew that the answers to the questions that I sought were too heavy for me at the time; and yet, yesterday, before I knew that I had need of that answer, God supplied my every need.  He showed up with exactly what I needed, just when I needed it!  

We are so blessed to serve a loving God that is so faithful.  I also know that God doesn’t allow things into our lives by accident; He wants us to use them to give Him glory and to encourage others.

I’m not sure what questions you are seeking of God, but I pray that this will encourage you to wait patiently on Him to answer you in His timing and to continually seek Him while you wait, because He alone knows when you need to have the strength to lift the suitcase. Please remember that above all you can trust Him with EVERYTHING!

These pictures were taken between Thursday, August 18 and Sunday, August 21, 2011. All of our family stayed those days at my folks, spending every last moment we could together before Dad was moved into the home on Monday.

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We spent some time singing praise songs to encourage our hearts.

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These two pictures were taken on Sunday just after we told Dad that he would be going to the home the next day. He handled it so well. We all cried. He just hugged and hugged on mom and they cried together.

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Freddo and Dad played Connect Four, which was Dad’s favorite game. It was always a hoot to play with him. So often he would accuse my mom of cheating when they played together, which made it even funnier.

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While Mom was working to get Dad’s clothes ready, Dad and I made homemade pizzas. Below he is chopping the olives for me. He sure enjoyed cooking.

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This entry was dated August 21st, 2011, the day before we took Dad to live at the nursing home:

“I read something from a caregiver’s devotional this morning. I think it really fit my thoughts and prayers as I think about and feel anxious about tomorrow. I have been wondering how God is going to work out all that concerns me.  “I have learned that even though the world is a tangle of paths and highways, avenues and streets, my Father knows them all, so we needn’t fear finding our way. My family is on a journey together, and whether or not we’re skittish about seating arrangements, we’re confident we’re heading toward a pre-determined destination. My earthly father has relinquished the driver’s seat, but he is confident, as we are, that our heavenly Father knows each turn on the horizon and the secret shortcuts. Our perspective is eternal- we have a view from above.”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm to, plans to give you a hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13″

I find it interesting that God allowed me to write these notes about Dad entering the nursing home with so much detail of how He had worked in all of it to bring us to the point of placing Dad in the home. Only God could have orchestrated all of that, including me documenting in the fall 2011, the very thing I would need at the start of 2013 to reassure me of His plans and free me from the guilt phase of my grieving process.

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I love you, Daddy…with all my heart!! We all miss you like crazy!

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In this post I will include some ‘things I learned this year’ and answer some reflection questions that came to my inbox from “Incourage” today.

This past month I have been thinking about things I have learned this year, some funny, some sad, some encouraging.

~having an empty nest isn’t as bad as I thought it would be

~Freddo and I are getting older, cutting wood seemed quite a bit more difficult this year

~shopping is fun, spending money can be too

~I didn’t value my time with my friend(s) as much as I should

~an expected death is easier to deal with than a sudden death, although neither feel good, there is SOME ease in knowing the end is coming

~I don’t trust God as much as I thought I did, especially in the midst of life’s messes

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~God never leaves us, He is always faithful!

~it is hard to watch someone you love suffer

HPIM1798~and it’s hard to let them go, even when you know it is God’s planHPIM1817

~Women of Faith and a weekend with girl friends can be an absolute blast!

~time spent building relationships is worth it every time

~forgiveness feels great

~time with family and friends is priceless

~Joy and sorrow can be felt at the same time

~It is possible (in God’s strength alone) to give my dad’s eulogy without being one bit nervous. So grateful for all of my dear friends that were praying for me that day.

~It is fun to sit in a nursing home with a bunch of old men and sing songs with them, it makes your heart sing and cry. Time well spent.

~Life is not an emergency

~trust comes in layers

~the internet (facebook and pinterest, mainly) can drain an hour or five easily before a person even realizes it

~I enjoy painting and quilting (well the easy stuff anyway)

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~it is easier to keep my home clean when I am not homeschooling

~I like jewelry…and scarfs…oh, and purses and shoes…who knew???

~it’s okay to take an antidepressant for a season to get past the pain of grief, it doesn’t make me a bad Christian

~I am too old to ride rollercoasters or Giant Barn Swings at Silver Dollar City, cause they make me sick to my stomach…sad day!

~it hurts to offer God on open hand, but easier when I recall His faithfulness

~laughter is a very good thing

~sex gets better and better the longer you are married…yep, I said it…  🙂

~my relationship with God can change, not because of Him, but because of me.

~life is better when we stop to enjoy the moments instead of rushing through the day

~counting gifts from God changes how I see

~”Eucharisteo (giving thanks to God) always precedes the miracle. “ Ann Voskamp

~I enjoy writing

~there are so many moments within each day to truly be enjoyed, but I must be intentional

A few reflection questions…

What was the single best thing that happened this year?

Freddo proposing again to me on one knee, giving me the new ring that he picked out, containing diamonds from his mom’s, my mom’s and my grandma’s first wedding rings.  It was a surprising moment. I am grateful to have married such a sweet man 25 years ago in May 2013!

proposal

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What was the single most challenging thing that happened this year?

My dad and my friend dying about 5 months apart.

Presenting the flag 2

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What was an unexpected joy this past year?

Becoming a Blessings Unlimited Consultant

   What was an unexpected obstacle?

My love for God growing cold this fall, grief looming in a way I didn’t expect, depression deepening

What were the best books you read this year?

“One Thousand Gifts”(pictured below)

 

“Choosing to See”

“Guide to the Empty Nest”

“Final Gifts”

“Made to Crave Devotional”

What was the best way that you used your time this year?

Encouraging other’s hearts through Joy Boxes that I made

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Each box contained Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts”, a 1,oo0 gifts journal that I created and other goodies to encourage the hearts of women in my life that God brought to my mind.

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May God bless you greatly as we head into 2013 seeking Him and learning to trust Him more, no matter what mess may come into our lives.

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