GUTSY GAL

I wish you could have known my incredibly spunky little mother.  In 1947, when I was twelve years old, my Mom underwent a radical mastectomy where surgeons removed her right breast and the lymph nodes under her right arm.  That was in the days before lumpectomies and reconstructive surgery.  Mama was left with a long, red, jagged scar which extended from just below the shoulder almost to her belly button.

I knew my Mom had cancer.  We had prayed—everyone had prayed that the fearful knot in her breast would be just that, and life would go on as usual.  We prayed that surgery would not be necessary, but the day came when Mama was whisked off to the hospital, and my sister and I were left behind.

Late in the afternoon Daddy found us playing on the wash porch when he returned with the news that Mama’s breast had been removed, and she was all right, but in his sadness, he did little to reassure us.  We went to bed with heavy hearts that night longing for the day our beloved mother would come home and things would get back to normal.

What a glad day it was, when she returned.  The doctors had told her, because the lymph nodes had been removed, she might never again be able to use her right arm.

“Well,” she replied, “That’s ridiculous!  I still have two little girls at home who need me, and I need my right arm.”

I can still see the little spongy, blue ball mama held in her right fist, as she squeezed it over and over in an effort to strengthen the muscles in that arm.  The doctor’s verdict didn’t stop her for a moment.  In fact, her first chore when she returned was to do the ironing.  Between her trips back to the hospital for radiation—at that time, chemo therapy was only in the experimental stage—she carried on as though nothing enormous had happened.  She made sure that life for us was as it had always been.

If there was pain, she never spoke of it.  If she wept, she wept alone.  My mother was not a whiner.  Only in later years did she tell me how that surgery had made her feel so much less a woman.  She never used a prosthetic.  She just stuffed a clean soft cloth in the empty side of her bra and went on with life.

You might say that my Mama had a lot of “Intestinal Fortitude,” that she had “Guts.”  There are many ways to say that she was courageous and determined.  She faced life with a “fighting spirit,” always committed to making bad things better—to going on without giving up.

There was a sort of dichotomy in all of this.  For while my Mom was tough and tenacious under fire, she remained the sweet, kind, and godly woman we had always known.

How did she do it?  She was a little thing not extremely strong physically.  She was not what we would call “well educated,” not even “well read.”  She had not traveled the globe or rubbed shoulders with the great.   Yet she knew who she was.

She was the child of an old time shoe cobbler, but she was also a “Child of the King.”  At the age of fifteen, in a Methodist, “school house” revival, Mama gave her heart and life to Jesus.  After that, nothing was ever the same.  She was faithful to God for the next three-quarters of a century never turning back for a moment regardless of the circumstances.  There is a picture tucked away in my heart of my Mom sitting quietly with her Bible open on her lap.  She was my example.

I am like my Mother.  I am strong, and my strength comes from the very same source.

DNA might have a bit to do with it, but actually Mama drew her tenacity and toughness from her relationship with God, for she knew He is a God who does not fail even in the worst of times.

The promise in Isaiah 40:29-31 assures us, “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Don’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets rough, but rather, call upon the Lord until your strength is renewed.  He will not fail.

My Mom never cast aside her confidence, and her cancer never returned.  She lived with a jagged scar for forty-two years—a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  In eternity, she will have a new body with no reminder of the sufferings of this life.

Be encouraged!  GOD IS THE OMNIPOTENT ONE!  He has enough strength for both of you.

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

UNEXPECTED TREASURE

During my college days I was as poor as Job’s Turkey.  After High School graduation, I worked for a year for seventy-five cents an hour saving one thousand dollars.  Only then could I think about continuing my education.  With my money safely in the bank, I packed my trunk, boarded a Grey Hound bus, and took off for Waxahachie, Texas site of one of our Bible Colleges.  That was back in the day when college tuition was not extravagantly expensive.  Still, I knew I must work, for my savings would only go so far.

Working on campus meant that my income was automatically applied to my school bill.  I never saw a nickel of it.  I tell you, “I was poor!”

My Mom wrote faithfully each week.  After reading her letters, I stuffed them in my top bureau drawer.  Cleaning out that drawer one day, I found one of her letters that had never been opened.  You can imagine my glee, when upon opening the envelope, I found a crisp five dollar bill tucked between the pages.  I thought I had died and gone to Fort Knox.

You have to understand, in those days, for me, five dollars was a lot of money.  I could walk to the end of Sycamore Avenue to Carl’s Café and buy a full meal including chicken fried steak, salad, vegetables, sweet potato pie and iced tea for sixty cents.  I spent Mama’s five dollars sparingly making it last a long time.  Talk about unexpected treasure!

Irish mythology tells us there is a leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.  Problem is you’ve got to catch that wily little creature before you possess the gold.

Men have been fascinated with the thought of treasure, chasing that proverbial “pot of gold” since time immemorial risking life and limb resorting to thievery and mayhem.

Fort Knox, the US Bullion Depository, which houses 5,000 metric tons of gold worth one hundred billion dollars, maybe the only treasury in history that has not been successfully burgled.  Of course, the twenty-ton door would be a little daunting.

Think of the Pirates, who plied the high seas during the 17th and 18th centuries wreaking havoc, sinking ships, taking lives, disrupting world trade, and making off with rich cargo.

From 1848 – 1852, 300,000 people, from the U.S. and around the world, rushed to California literally searching for the “Pot of Gold.”  There was instant wealth to be had in the twinkling of an eye.  A few did gain great riches, but many returned home having less than they started with.

Then there are those who take their risks in the stock market putting their faith in this or that commodity hoping the Dow Jones will not fail them.

These days salvage companies make a business of searching for sunken ships that were known to carry great riches.

A Spanish Galleon, The San Jose, was sunk, off the Columbian Caribbean coast, by the British Navy in 1708, with what may be the world’s largest sunken treasure—eleven million gold coins and jewels from Spanish controlled colonies.  This treasure is valued at four to seventeen billion dollars.

An American salvage company claims to have found the sunken wreck in the 1980s, and the Columbian government makes the same claim.  You can believe there is an all out war going on over who will gain the spoils.  Though they may profess interest for archeological purposes, treasure hunting is primarily motivated by potential profit.

On a much smaller scale, thousands of people make their way everyday to Casinos, in places like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, hoping to strike it rich, and even more head for the nearest convenience store to buy Scratch Offs and Lottery tickets.

Sadly, on the almost non-existent chance of an instant fortune, many, if not most of these, can ill afford the money, money needed for essentials.

To me the word “treasure” is relative.  It doesn’t always refer to monetary wealth.  Two of my most treasured possessions are my Mother’s needlepoint tapestry of an English Garden, and the little glass dog my Daddy gave me when I was seven.  Mama did the needlework, and the little dog probably didn’t cost more than fifteen cents.  Still, to me, these items are priceless.

Whether you are raising sunken ships, chasing leprechauns, or waiting with bated breath for the lottery drawing, any way you look at it, treasure hunting is a risky business rarely producing the longed for results.

There does exist, however, a “no risk, high dividend” investment possibility for your future, in which everyone is invited to participate.

Consider the “no fail” offer made in Matthew 6:19-21.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for your selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

How, in this world, do I lay up treasures in heaven?

I give Christ my heart—committing all that I am and all that I have to Him understanding that every prayer I pray, every dollar I give to His work, every moment I spend in service to Him, every act of obedience, and every word I speak as a witness to His grace are treasures deposited to my account in heaven.

Don’t kill yourself trying to accumulate the riches of this world.  Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it is safe from moth and rust and burglars.  You may never be rich in worldly goods, but imagine the riches of heaven.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

THAT NEBULOUS SOMEWHERE

One of the most intriguing undergraduate courses I ever took in college was a course in Geography.  I chose it as one of my humanity courses because I thought it would be about faraway places, and it was.  It was about things that take place in the universe far above us.  It was about what goes on in the heavens.  I learned a lot about clouds.   It was fascinating.

When I moved into this house, I chose the front bedroom as my office.  It looks out on the street, and as I work, I have a clear view of the sky and the clouds drifting by.  Of course, in my part of the world, more often than not the sky is an uninterrupted canvas of blue without a single cloud in sight.

This morning, as I watched the lacey white clouds skittering along, I heard in my mind, the voice of Judy Garland singing the number one song of the twentieth century, “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”  As I sang along, I decided this song is either one of the saddest or the most hopeful songs ever written.  Remember it?

“Somewhere over the rainbow way up high,

There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue,

And the dreams that I dare to dream really will come true.

 

Someday I’ll wish upon a star.

And wake where the clouds are far behind me,

Where troubles melt like lemon drops,

Away above the chimney tops.

That’s where you’ll find me.

 

Somewhere over the rainbow

Blue birds fly.

Birds fly over the rainbow.

Why then, O why can’t I?”

 

Yip Harburg wrote this song in 1938, when the clouds of war were darkening the skies over Europe, and his fellow Jews were suffering suppression, oppression and violence at the hand of the Nazis.  We really don’t know whether or not the threat of war in Europe influenced this composition, but I can hear the pathos and longing in this composers voice as he hopes for better days—days free from storm clouds—blue sky days.

 

Just coming away from Resurrection Sunday, and the hope it brings to my heart, I am gripped by these sad, hopeful words, and I recognize there are billions of people in this world who have no real hope.  Still, they dream of a place of peace and rest and safety and joy.  They wish upon a star or some iconic object, or pray to a god, who neither sees, or hears, or answers.

“Somewhere,” somewhere there’s a place where skies are blue.  Somewhere there’s a place where my dreams will come true.  Somewhere there’s a place of unclouded skies and untroubled days.  Somewhere there’s a place of peace.  Somewhere!

Often clouds are a portent of an encroaching storm.  We no sooner dig ourselves out of the debris and clean up the mess until storm clouds gather again, and troubles?  They just seem to multiply—there’s never an end.

Where do we find shelter from the storm and solace from the troubles?  That “Somewhere” is such a nebulous expression.

The word nebulous means “in the form of a cloud.”  It means “hazy, indistinct, indefinite, unclear, ill-defined, unformed, and uncertain.”  Somewhere!

Where is that uncertain place?  Where can it be found?

Please hear me.  No matter how we hope for it, there is no such place, for shelter and peace are not found in a location, but in a person.

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is our shelter from the storm, our refuge in time of trouble.

Mark 4:37 – 39 tells us, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling…Then He arose (Jesus) and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace be still!”  And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

Surely, if Jesus can calm the elements, He can calm the storm in my life.  Doesn’t mean the storm clouds won’t come.  It does mean, however, that in the middle of the storm, we will hear His “Peace Be Still!”  The troubles will not melt like lemon drops, but He will keep you during the troublous times, and cause you to triumph.

If a storm is brewing on your horizon, or perhaps you are already in the big middle of it, I encourage you to crawl into the strong arms of Jesus and let Him be your refuge.

Maybe you have just happened onto this blog not knowing what to expect, but you recognize yourself as one of those who has been looking and longing for that indefinite, unclear, and uncertain “Somewhere.” You need a place of peace and rest.

            TRY JESUS!

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Jesus died and resurrected for you.  He is your shelter in the time of storm.  He is your peace.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

THE FINAL EASTER PARADE

 

When I was in the fifth grade, I actually marched in a parade, fat little kid that I was, and played the snare drum.  It was a rodeo parade.  I can’t imagine it!  If you know me, you know that I am the furthest possible from being a cowgirl.  That’s why, I guess, I have tried to blot it out of my memory.  I have no recollection of the snare drum before or since that parade, but I guess I was a member of our drum and bugle corp.  It’s weird what kids will do!

Parades can be fun and exciting and spectacular.  I usually watch a few minutes of the Rose Bowl Parade each year, but it is beyond me to sit on the sofa or stand on a street corner for hours and watch nine million beautiful floats passing by.  Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is amazing, but a dozen oversized cartoon balloons are enough to last me for a good while.

It’s the unusual, maybe “once in a lifetime” parade that I best remember.

At Christmas time, in Lodi, where I used to live, fire engines festooned with colored lights, holiday music blaring, drove down our residential streets tossing goodies to adults and children alike who gathered on the sidewalks to shout “Merry Christmas.” What a dazzling parade.

As a child, I remember seeing thousands of American Soldiers marching in triumph down New York’s Fifth Avenue, following the end of World War II.  The confetti and ticker tape filled the air, as people welcomed them home.  Now, that was a parade!

Of course, Easter processions or parades, often including special dress, have been part of Christian culture since earliest beginnings.

The Bible records two such processions during the first Holy Week.  On what is now called Palm Sunday, Jesus, seated on a donkey, rode into Jerusalem as an adoring throng waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna…blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

On Friday, a few days later, this same Jesus, carrying his cross, led another parade up Calvary’s Mountain.

Authorities attribute the introduction of new Easter clothes and personal finery to the Roman Emperor, Constantine, who ordered his subjects to dress in their finest and parade in honor of Christ’s resurrection.

From 1870 through the 1950s, New York’s Easter Parade was the main cultural expression of Easter in our country.  By the 1880s the Easter Parade had become a vast spectacle of fashion and religious observance.  It was actually an after-church cultural event for the well-to-do.  Decked out in new and fashionable clothing, they would stroll down Fifth Avenue from their own church to others to see the impressive decorations and to be seen by their fellow strollers.  People from the poorer and middle classes would observe the parade to learn the latest trends in fashion.  It was not unusual for a million or more people to turn out for this parade.

By the mid 20th century, the parade’s religious aspects had faded and it was mostly seen as a demonstration of American riches.  What had begun in 1870 as a parade of refinement and religious display had become an ostentatious frolic.

Sadly, for most people today, Easter has little to do with Jesus Christ and His resurrection.  The Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs have stolen the show.

I will never walk down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday dressed in my finest, but I will, once again one day, participate in a parade.  It will be the parade to end all parades.

Revelation 19:11 – 16 speaks of this parade.  John, the writer, tells us, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

One day, we don’t know when Jesus is coming back to this sad sinful world.  He will be the Grand Marshall of the grandest parade.  He will ascend from heaven on a white horse followed by the redeemed of all ages.  Those, who have loved and served Him, will be dressed in fine white garments also riding upon white horses.

I would like to think this will take place on some future Easter Sunday, but regardless of the day, our KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, the one who was born for us, died for us, and was resurrected for us, will once again take control of this world wiping out all evil setting up His Kingdom where He will rule and reign forever.

That’s what Easter is all about—our Resurrected Christ, faithful and True, coming again.

MAY YOUR EASTER BE BLESSED!

 REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Momma

Age is just a number, right?  At least, that’s what I have always declared.  I love birthdays, that of mine or anyone else.  Birthdays are a celebration of life and anticipation of another year, no matter what it brings.

I had an attractive friend who cried the whole day on her fortieth birthday.  She looked in the mirror and said, “Blah!  Forty!”  She salted her scrambled eggs with her tears, and wailed, “Forty!” She even wept at the party her friends threw for her.  For Sandy, turning forty was a tragedy.  I wanted to remind her that she was only one day older than yesterday.  I don’t think there is a way to skip from thirty-nine to forty-one.  There is no alternative to becoming forty.  It is forty or nothing.

I have never minded growing older, believing that age has to do with attitude and mind and heart.  However, though I don’t mind being older, I’ve discovered I do mind feeling older.  All of a sudden, my body can no longer keep up with mind, my wishes, and desires.  I am mad!  I feel betrayed!  I had such marvelous plans for this season of life.  Those plans are no longer feasible, at least for the moment.

My Mom was a feisty little thing always on the go.  With a twinkle in her eye and laughter in her voice, she announced that she was going to live to be one hundred.   She didn’t, but the days she did live, she lived with purpose and joy setting an example for those of us who loved her.  I have an image of Mama indelibly stamp on my heart.  She sits on the side of her bed, early in the morning, dressed in her soft pink robe, her white hair mussed from sleep, her Bible open her lap.  What an example!

Mama lived with me the last few months of her life.  She was fragile, but she had a mind of her own.  I tried my best to take good care of her making sure that she was clean and comfortable and had nutritious meals, but if she didn’t want it, she didn’t want it.  She hated oatmeal, sometimes hiding it in a paper towel in her robe pocket.  She detested the handful of pills that were forced upon her each day, and shower water pelting down on her was worse than death.

Finally, her little body just wore out.  When it was clear that she was dying, with broken heart, I reminded her of her promise to live to be one-hundred.  She squeezed my hand and said, “That’s one promise I cannot keep.”

Tomorrow, March 23rd, will have been my Mother’s 118th birthday.  She was born in 1900 to Mary Ballentine and John Fullerton, in Whitewright, Texas.  She was the eighth in a family of nine children.  They named her Maggie Lou.  She would forever detest her name saying, she would rather be called “Doggie.”

After her death, we took Mama home to Arizona and buried her between Daddy and our brother, Henry.  At the end of the service, after family and friends had paid their respects, my four siblings and I stood by the coffin to say our last “good-byes.”

“Happy Birthday, Mama,” Lincoln said tenderly.

It was March 23rd, Mama’s eighty-ninth birthday, and though we sorrowed and the tears flowed, I suspect, for Mama, it was the happiest of birthdays.  No more pills, no more showers, no more oatmeal, and best of all, after a journey spanning almost a century, she was finally home.

So, what do I do?  Do I give up, because my body betrays me?  Do I lie on the sofa all day with novel in hand munching on bonbons?  At the age of eighty-two, I suppose I have the right.

Still, I have never lived like that.  I can’t begin now.  Surely God has a plan for the rest of my days, and He does.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

My future may not be as I imagined it, but God, our creator, has not run out of ideas, and His are so much better than mine.

At this point, I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m kind of excited.  I will not be idle.  Will there be rough patches?  I am certain of it!  How will I handle the bad times?

Deuteronomy 33:25 says, “…As your days, so shall your strength be.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

These scriptures assure me God will give me supernatural strength for whatever comes my way, both the good and the bad.  I am weak, but He is strong.

Therefore, I am looking forward to growing older, celebrating more birthdays, and living out God’s good plan with hope for the future.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

HEIR TO THE KINGDOM

When I was a child, this “Valley of the Sun,” where I live, was dotted with little towns separated by miles of cactus decorated desert.  Now, the valley has grown into a conglomerate– a city stretching for many miles in every direction crisscrossed with great highways that get you there in a matter of minutes.  The little towns have been swallowed up.

All those years ago, a twenty mile trip to Phoenix was a rare but greatly anticipated journey.  We drove through two towns and miles of desert before arriving at our destination, but for me and my siblings, the wonders we saw along the way were far more exciting than the city itself.

The giant Hayden Flour Mill was on the right-hand side of the road on the north edge of Tempe.  It was owned by the family of our very own, longtime Arizona senator, Carl Hayden.  We were impressed, but the Mill Avenue Bridge over the Salt River was even more intriguing.  Of course, the river was dry.  It had been dry since the dams were built upstream in the 1940’s but that didn’t spoil our fun.

However, the sight we most looked forward to was THE CASTLE!  Right out in the middle of the Arizona desert surrounded by Saguaros and rattlesnakes was a real castle—The Tovrea Castle.  It looked like a three-tiered wedding cake—it still looks like a three-tiered wedding cake, but to a child who had never seen a castle, it was magnificent.   I could dream for hours about what it was like to live in such a place.  Did a king live there?  I imagined myself a princess in that castle.

Perhaps that was the beginning of my interest in and fascination with royalty.

In the supermarket or at the beauty shop I am attracted by magazine covers portraying William and Kate and their babies, and Prince Harry and his soon to be bride.  I can’t help but be interested in what’s going on in their life.

I still remember Princess Elizabeth’s wedding and the birth of Bonny Prince Charlie, and the pomp and circumstance of her coronation, as the Arch Bishop of Canterbury placed the crown upon her head.

Why is it that Americans are so intrigued with royalty?  We, who fought to escape the rule of King George III, now follow faithfully the escapades of the Royal House of Windsor.

Our little girls play at being princesses.  Our Newspapers and magazines are filled with royal stories.  We stand with faces pressed against the wrought iron fence surrounding Buckingham Palace just hoping to catch the appearance of some royal personage.

It has been said that, after his success with the Revolutionary War, George Washington, had he so desired, could have been “King of America.”  His supposed reply to that idea was, “I didn’t fight George the III to become George I.

Still, we are possessed with this inordinate interest in the royals.  I have tried to understand the reason.  Though I know, at the core, a royal is just another person like I am.  He suffers the same sin and sorrow that I suffer.  Yet, he seems so far above the maddening crowd—untouchable by the dinginess and tawdriness of this life.

I don’t think it is the riches or the adulation we are longing for.  Perhaps our preoccupation with royalty is an innate desire for something more—something better—a higher sphere of life.  This world has become a base, ugly place.  Lurking in every corner is hatred and strife, disappointment and danger.  Factions are constantly gnawing away at each other attempting to destroy our equilibrium.

We long to escape the vexation of this world.

Remember Queen Esther?  She was an orphaned Jewess, a captive in ancient Persia, exiled from her homeland.   When King Ahasuerus looked for a new wife, as unlikely as it seemed, he chose Esther.

Esther 2:16-17 tells us, “So Esther was taken…into his royal palace…The king loved Esther more than all the other women…so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen…”

Somehow I identify with Esther more easily than with Queen Elizabeth or Kate, for I was also an orphan estranged from God.

According to Romans 8:15-17, I have “…received the Spirit of adoption…The Spirit bears witness…that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…”

I have been adopted into the family of God.  He is my Father.  I am his heir—recipient of His love—His goodness—His bounty, and all the glories of heaven.  Furthermore, I am joint heir with His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is my big brother.  That makes me a princess royal.  Kate has nothing on me!

James 2:5 tells us “…Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”

I AM HEIR TO THE KINGDOM!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WISH I MAY, I WISH I MIGHT

 

Star light, Star bright,

The first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight.

 

This little ditty is believed to be of late 19th century American origin.  However, the superstition of hoping for wishes granted when seeing a shooting star or falling star may date back to the ancient world.

The words allude to the fantasy that, if you wish upon a star, your wish will surely come true.   In fact, in Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio,” Jiminy Cricket says so.

“When you wish upon a star,

Makes no difference who you are.

Anything your heart desires

Will come to you.”

Now, we know, in our rational moments, this is fantasy.  Even the words, “I wish I may, I wish I might—express a growing sense of doubt and pathos.  Still, many of us spend half our life wishing for something more or something better or something not quite so bad.

My little sister used to sit on the end of her cotton sack between two rows of cotton, in the scorching Arizona heat, and wish the wind would blow.  Most often, it did not.

Every Tuesday my mailbox is filled with myriads of thin, anemic catalogs that quickly find their way into the garbage, for I remember the real catalogs the postman used to leave at our front door—thick, heavy tomes filled with treasures from Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, and Sears & Roebuck.  They came in the spring and in the fall, and at Christmas time. That was the glorious one.

With catalog before me, I lay, for hours, on my belly in the floor leafing through these beautiful, colorful treasure troves.  

There was something for everyone—clothing, shoes, furniture, appliances, fabric, kitchen wares, tools, and one cannot forget the toys.  No one was left out.

Is it any wonder these catalogs became known as “Wish books?

Christmas catalogs were the most anticipated.  They came with shiny covers and bright colors. I could spend hours dreaming my way through those pages.  There was every kind of gift and goody—chocolate and hard candies—toys, decorations, and special Christmas clothing.

I was aware, as I looked and dreamed, that I was never going to have all those heart fluttering things, but—still I wished.  I knew on Christmas morning there would be something, for My Mama also looked at the catalog, and she listened to my dreams. So there was HOPE!

HOPE!  I love that word.

“Wish” and “Hope” are words often used in our vocabulary, but they couldn’t be further apart in meaning.  

“Wish” is a sad little word often accompanied with a sigh. It means to want or desire something unattainable.  “Wish I hadn’t said that.” “Wish I could do it over.” “Wish I hadn’t eaten so much.” “Wish I could win the lottery,” etc.  Still, wishing on nine billion stars will not bring it to pass.

Now, “Hope” is a hopeful word.  There’s no better way to say it.  “Hope” explains itself. It means to cherish a desire with expectation of fulfillment, or long for with expectation of obtainment.

“Hope” may also refer to someone or something on which hopes are centered.

In Psalm 71:5, David said, “…You are my hope, O Lord, God.”

The Apostle Paul told his readers, in Romans 5:3-5, “…we glory in tribulation because it produces…hope.  Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts…”

If you are hoping in Christ, if He is your hope, no matter how difficult life becomes, hope doesn’t disappear, it does not disappoint because He is still there.  He has promised never to leave you, and he won’t.

In this life, we don’t always obtain all the things we hope for.  Life may not be turning out exactly the way you pictured it. However, you and I, as followers of Christ, have a secret.  We know that this earthly life is just the beginning. For there is life after this world, as we know it, has ceased to be.  That is our HOPE! We know this hope will be fulfilled because God’s word gives us that assurance. Our hope will not disappoint us.

Titus tells us, in 2:3, that he himself is, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

HE IS OUR HOPE!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

WHEN OPTIMISM FLYS THE COUP

 In my first blog, almost two years ago, I introduced myself to you as an OPTIMISTIC OCTOGENARIAN.  I’ve always thought of myself in those terms.  I’m the one who makes lemonade out of lemons, and I see the glass half full instead of half empty. “Nothing is ever as bad as it seems” “It will be better tomorrow. “ We can do something to fix this.”

I have been accused of being out of touch with reality because I refuse to see the hopeless side of things.  BUT—I must confess—lately, I have found myself questioning my own outlook.

Truth is the last five and one-half years have been the most stressful, traumatic time in my life—without a breather.  I have written about all of this, so I will not bore you with the details.

First, there was the unimaginable excitement and stress of marrying at an advanced age, then after only a few months, the death of my husband, and the unbearable grief that followed. When I could finally function again, I was confronted with my sister’s needs.  Things that seemed simple have become so complicated.  Nothing has gone smoothly.  There is one crisis after another, and I am tired.  There is always a knot in the pit of my stomach and I live with a sense of uneasiness, and at the same time, I live with a sense of hope that “this, too, shall pass.”

So, am I truly an optimist or have I been depending on my own innate strength.  I am a strong person.  I know that!  I’ve always been able to solve the problem in some way.  No more!  I am, now, at the mercy of others.

Is it true?  Have I, like the proverbial ostrich, been burying my head in the sand refusing to face reality?  If so, I find myself reluctant to admit it.  (By the way, the ostrich does not bury his head in the sand.)

In my moments of quiet contemplation, trying my best to understand all of this, I realize that my optimism springs from my relationship with God.

Everyone, whether Saint or outright heathen, suffers difficult problems. Many others face impossible, unsolvable situations.  How do they cope?  No wonder the suicide rate is increasing, and mental institutions are crowded with hopeless souls.

Realizing that my optimism is inextricably linked with my faith raises another question.  When optimism wavers, where does the fault lie?  Is my faith also wavering?

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:6, told the people that they were “to be anxious for nothing.”  Then he gave them the cure for anxiety, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Still, I am anxious, which seems to say that I distrust God’s power and wisdom, and doubt the reality of His promises.  Yet, I know that is not true.  I do trust Him.  That is the reason I keep coming back.

Of course, I pray, and others pray with me.  The problem lies in the fact that I know He hears me, but I don’t know, yet, what He is doing about it.  Could my impatience be part of the issue?

I have a way of wanting God to do it right now.  But, perhaps He is using this period to teach me a grand lesson—a lesson in patience.

In Luke 21, Jesus speaks to His followers about the terrible trials that will come in the last days, but He says, “Don’t worry for not a hair of your head shall be lost.  By your faith and patience, you shall have eternal life.”

James 1:3-4 says, “…the testing of your faith produces patience…that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

LACKING NOTHING!  WOW!  That surely puts a shot into the arm of my optimism.  Lacking nothing must mean that one day soon, I hope, all these awful, strength-sapping trials will be behind me.  I will heave a great sigh of relief and dance a joyful jig, and try to ward off the next onslaught.

I have been learning Christ all my life.  These years of pain have only served to reemphasize the truths already learned.  I KNOW that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.  I KNOW that He surrounds me with His loving care.  I KNOW that His Spirit indwells me and upholds me. I KNOW that He will cause me to triumph, and enable me to be faithful until death.

IN HIM I LACK NOTHING!

This truth ought to elicit a torrent of Thanksgiving.

If that isn’t optimism, I don’t know what is…

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROKEN HEARTS

Does the hurt ever go away?” my friend asked, as the tears flowed.  Her husband of sixty plus years was recently deceased.

I couldn’t help but think that tomorrow, February 9, would have been my fifth wedding anniversary.  After being alone all of my adult life, at the age of seventy-seven, I married for the first time.  Sweet Cecil, a long time friend, who had been widowed, came on like a stormtrooper declaring he loved me, and there was no changing his mind.

The thought of giving up my prized independence terrified me.  I came and went as I chose.  My schedule was mine to arrange.  If I wanted to study in the middle of the night, there was no one to object.  I was accountable first to God and then to my church leaders.  That was it!  At this late juncture, I wasn’t looking for a man.  I had done quite well on my own.

My emotions ran rampant.  I was excited, fearful, hopeful, and pessimistic.  I was determined I couldn’t do this.  Yet, like the proverbial moth, I was drawn hypnotically toward the flame.  How could I, after all these years, make room for another person in my life?  How could I share my space, my stuff, my bed, be accountable to someone else twenty-four hours a day?

I was scared, but not stupid.  Being loved, being touched, being important to someone else was kind of fun.  I found myself succumbing to this cute, white-haired, charming man, who thought me “precious.”  I still laugh at that.

One morning I awakened early.  Lying there thinking of Cecil and the possibility of marriage, I thought, “Why do I cling so to my independence?  Being alone hasn’t done that much for me.”  In that moment I made up my mind.

On February 9, 2013, Cecil and I stood at the altar in his home church, where we had met.  Before God and 150 “forever” friends and family, we repeated our vows pledging ourselves to each other “For Better, for Worse.” We had many “For Better” plans:  serving missions overseas, cruising Europe’s rivers, and visiting the Great Wall of China.  On that cold, cloudless, sunshiny day, it was beyond us to think of anything but the “Better.”

Never once did I consider the hurt that might lie ahead.  But, the fact is, Cecil will not be here tomorrow to celebrate our anniversary.  Five months and eleven days after our fairytale wedding, he died of an inoperable aortic hematoma.

It made no sense.  Why did God allow this to happen?  What did I do wrong?  Why was I worthy of only five months with Cecil?  I wanted to remind God, “I was doing all right.  I wasn’t looking for a man.  Why did you interfere in my life?”

The hurt was beyond belief.  I’ve always been the strong one, but I was tired of being strong.  I wanted to fall in the floor and kick my heels and throw a fit.  I howled with grief.  Oh, how I wanted someone to take care of me for a change.  That was supposed to be Cecil’s job.

I prayed, but my prayers consisted mostly of the same tearful plea, “God, I need you.  Please help me.

I have discovered there is a “For Better or for Worse” in almost everything we attempt in this life.  We hope for and expect a good outcome, but life dictates that the outcome is sometimes really bad.  That’s when we experience the hurt.  O, it may not be the devastating hurt experienced at the loss of a loved one, but at one time or another, we all suffer hurt and disappointment.

So we return to my friend’s question.  “Does the hurt ever go away?”

My faith in a God who cares had kept me for more than seventy-seven years.  That’s why I was strong, and though I couldn’t see any purpose in Cecil’s death and the questions were unending, my faith remained intact.  I chose to trust God.

As I trusted Him, God wrapped the sharp corners of grief in His tender love, and bit by bit, the sun began to shine again.  I could get out of bed in the morning without falling apart, and I found new purpose for my life.

I can only attribute this miraculous healing to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as I trusted God to help me find my way again.

In Isaiah 61:1-3, Jesus says of Himself, “He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn…to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning…”

There will always be a lonely place in my heart where Cecil fit perfectly.  I will wonder what life would have been had he lived.  But this I know.  God is faithful.  He is the healer of broken hearts.

REMEMBER THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

MY VALENTINE

We have very little reliable knowledge about Saint Valentine, a third century Roman Catholic Priest upon whose life, the little bit we know of it, we have built a worldwide holiday that will net $19.6 billion dollars this year.  Valentine’s Day is the busiest holiday of the year and ranks fourth in retail sales.

No one is quite sure how this happened.  We do know that the Roman Emperor, Claudius, prohibited young people from marrying, because, in his opinion, single men were better warriors.  They did not have to worry about wives and children, when they went to fight.

Valentine, this soft hearted, sympathetic priest, defied Claudius’ decree by marrying couples secretly.  On February 14, he was beheaded for his infraction of the law, later becoming known as “The Patron Saint of Lovers.”

It wasn’t until the high middle ages, historically associated with courtly love,  that someone came up with the idea of celebrating Saint Valentine and his martyrdom.  O, through the centuries, his death had been celebrated in churches, but this was different.  Now he would be remembered for his kindness and regard for lovers.  Thus was born Valentine’s Day as we know it.

I can’t help but reflect on Valentine Days in the past.  Remember those “beautifully” decorated classroom boxes?  I used lots of lacey, paper doilies and gallons of paste fabricating valentines for my classmates.  It was an exciting day.

In the fifth grade, I was in love.  There was brown eyed, dark haired Ronny and blue eyed, blond haired Keith.  I couldn’t choose, so I just loved them both from afar.  A Valentine from either of them became a treasured possession.

When I was an eighth-grader, I really was in love.  David walked me to school and carried my books.  I dreamed such wonderful dreams about him.  Then he moved away and took the dreams with him.

My church always threw a grand Valentine banquet each year.  The promo declared that the banquet was for everyone—married, unmarried, sweetheart or not.  For years I went hoping they were telling the truth.  However, in spite of the promises, everything was tailor-made for sweethearts.  I finally gave up on Valentine’s Day and Valentine banquets.

A few moments ago, I took a file out of the cabinet here by my desk.  It is marked “Cards to and from Cecil.” The file contains the first, last, and only Valentine that I ever received from my husband.  Cecil’s cards were usually sloppy with sentiment, but this time he chose a cute, funny one.  It says, “You are sweeter than a Pina Colada, more beautiful than a piano sonata, you are the whole enchilada, and I love you because “I just gotta!”  I honestly would have preferred the sloppy, sentimental card, but it would have made me cry today.  However, on a day when I really need to laugh, this card makes me laugh.  God surely must have known.

Cecil and I spent our only Valentine’s Day together on a boat off the coast of Maui.  It was a warm sunshiny day.  A slight breeze whipped up frothy meringue on the edge of the gentle waves.  There was fabulous food and live music.  Mostly, we just sat quietly holding hands and grinning at each other.  Somehow it was noised around that we were newlyweds.  There was a steady stream of people coming to congratulate us, offer a drink, or just a friendly smile.

There is no one here today.  The phone doesn’t ring, and there are no lacey valentines.  But I’m all right.  I have my sweet, goofy memories and the knowledge that I am not truly alone.   For God, who sustains me continually, has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me, and He is my closest friend—closer than my brother.   In fact, He has promised to be my husband.

Isaiah 54:5, speaking to Israel, says, “For your maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.  He is called the God of the whole earth.”  Think of that!

On this day for lovers, God will be to you everything that you are longing for.  If you are alone today, I pray you will remember how very much God loves you.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

LOVE OF GOD—

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!