Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Carol (not by Dickens)

Christmas is usually one of my favorite times of the year. I love the decorations, the cookies, the movies, the shopping, the cookies, the gifts, the music, the cookies, and, of course, the reason for it all – celebrating the birth of Jesus. As I’ve gotten older, the childlike wonder and excitement has faded a bit each year, but I’ve still always loved the season… until this year.

I have to be honest, this year I’ve had a lot of trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. Rather than giving into the joy of the holiday, I’ve been overrun by the stress of life. My job’s not been going well; my truck committed a gruesome suicide on the side of the road and cost a lot of money to repair; I have family and friends with serious health issues; I lost a check I really needed to deposit; my cat keeps clawing my furniture and playing in the toilet… even the little stuff - like thinking I had one more ice cream sandwich only to discover the box was empty – makes me feel like kicking my Christmas tree.

Am I alone in this problem? What’s the cure? I wish there was a quick fix, a pill for instant attitude adjustment. Of course, even if there was one it’d probably have horrendous side effects like nausea, insomnia, bleeding ulcers, toes falling off, and purple skin. And you wouldn’t be able to operate heavy machinery.

I’ll tell you the one thing that’s helped me the most this season: music. Christmas music, to be exact. I loooove Christmas songs (note the extras “o”s in “love” – that tells you it’s an extreme devotion). Every year I start playing them November 1st. I know I’m supposed to wait until December, but I can’t; they’re just too good to only hear them for one month. Anywho, when I’m feeling grumpy, my Christmas Ipod list is my go-to plan. I love the old traditional carols, the new contemporary Christian songs, the fun secular ditties… all of it. It’s very hard to stay grumpy when belting out words like

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king… Joy to the World, the Savior reigns… no more let sins and sorrows grow...

Just hear those bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too, come on it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you… giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, let’s go, let’s look at the show, we’re riding in a wonderland of snow...

Hark now hear the angels sing, a king was born today, and man will live forevermore because of Christmas day...


Long lay the world in sin and error pining till He appeared and the soul felt its worth… fall on your knees, oh hear the angels’ voices, oh night divine, oh night when Christ was born

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know...

Can’t you hear them bells ringin’ ringin’, joy to all, hear them singin’, when it’s snowing I’ll be going back to my country home...

And still he calls through the night... a voice of peace to weary ones who struggle with the human soul.. the years they come and the years they go, though we may forget somehow, that the child once born in Bethlehem is still among us now... Emmanuel, God with us, Emmanuel, the Son of Israel...

I could go on and on; you should see me now, singing in front of my computer, trying to type correctly while dancing in my chair.

This year, more than any other year, I’ve been really trying to pay attention to the words of Christmas songs – almost every single one of them talks about hope, family, joy, love, peace… and the majority of them attribute those things to the birth of Jesus. The fact that so many people, both believers and nonbelievers, sing these songs all season long is a true Christmas miracle, in my opinion.

Every day this month (with one or two exceptions), I’ve posted one of my favorite Christmas songs to Facebook. I don’t even think most people noticed it, but I’ve had so much fun picking out which songs to do, going through the lyrics to find just the right one. It’s been the highlight of my day each day. And it brings me back to the joy of the season.

And you know what? Just by writing this blog, talking about Christmas songs and such, I already feel more Christmasy. So I’ve got a question for y’all? What’s your favorite Christmas song? That’s not an easy question, actually – I’ve been posting my favorites for 23 days now and it’s hard to pick just one (kind of like eating potato chips).

(And yes, I used the word “dittie” in this post. I couldn’t help it; I couldn’t think of another synonym for “song.”)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Steam escaped through the banana leaves from the ground - red hot rocks are rotated on the leaves by women wearing grass skirts, swishing as they walked, nets hanging from their heads and down their backs, babies crying from within. Men, wearing only a gourd, had killed a pig with spears then dug a hole lining it with hot rocks and leaves putting the whole boar into the earth 24 hours before.

Christmas in 1972 was in Bokindini, Irian Jaya, now the province of Papua, an island of Indonesia where primitive people still existed. A pig feast was created in our honor - the pilot's family, with three tow-headed girls straight from South Dakota. We recoiled from the large lump of pig fat that we were presented with by the Danis'. To them it was the highest honor (the area right around the tail!) instead we gravitated towards the steamed sweet potatoes thankful for something we recognized. I salivate now as I think of that wonderful aroma of tropical greens and fresh steamed pork.

For Christmas mom had gone to the 50 gallon barrel and pulled out presents she had bought months before in the States, carefully rationing them for the four years until we were to return on furlough. Wrapping paper was used carefully - presents were opened at the tape as we reused it year after year. My grandma didn’t really support my parents vision of taking her grandchildren half way around the world to serve as a missionary pilot/family so she made certain that in the crate we were allowed to bring from the states held an artificial Christmas tree in it! Every year for 12 years we made a tradition of putting that tree up while pretending the rain on our roof was snow. On Christmas day we would pull the drapes so we couldn't see the tropical flowers and happily sang Christmas carols around the beautiful tree that we had decorated. One year a generous donor air dropped turkeys to all the missionaries on the island; what a wonderful treat….outside the palm trees swayed and the temperature rose above 100 degrees.

(yep thats me in those attractive black frame glasses!!)

Denise Stuessi-King

Christmas Eve At The Truck Stop

It was late and we were tired and heading out 66 in the dark was the last thing we wanted to do, but it was Christmas Eve and my parents were expecting us. We looked forward to the family time, but the three hours getting there was a bit of a drag, especially since I was pregnant with our first child and had to stop frequently for obvious reasons.

Leaning over to be closer to John in the front seat, I glanced at the dashboard and noticed the temperature light was in the hot range. What to do? We were in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. We drove on looking for an exit that might be helpful...all the time keeping our eyes on the ever rising gauge. The bright lights of Toms Brook truck stop came into view and with a huge sigh of relief, we pulled over and found our way to some men who were hanging around near an open garage bay.

In my mind I was thinking..."We have no money and no way to get any. How will we pay these men anything, even if they CAN help us?" Things were different then. There were no debit cards, no cash machines nearby. Cell phones were non existent, so calling for help was not a viable option. To make matters worse, our new friends weren't repairmen at all, but were the guys who helped replace tires on the big rigs. But, at this point, they were our only hope.

Up went the hood and men began peering and poking, harrumphing and sighing. I sat in the car all pregnant and lumpy, trying to be invisible. They cranked on this gadget and that, and eventually arrived at a solution that, while not perfect, would get us back on the road home. All I could think about was not having any money to pay them.

We thanked and thanked them and offered to send them a check when we got home, but they absolutely would not take anything for their work. I couldn't believe their generosity but it reminded me that good, kind people are out there and will do what they can for others. It's been 21 years and I have not forgotten these Christmas angels or their kindness.

Christmas Eve at the truck stop turned out to be a beautiful thing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Angels

"Mr. Mason! Mr. Mason! Stay with us...don't leave us! It's Christmas Eve and your family needs you!" My father was close to death at this point, having been brought into the emergency room with a possible heart attack. The staff at the hospital were frantically working over him, trying to save his life, calling out to him the whole time, trying to keep him alert and alive.

Dad would open his eyes every now and then and was so confused. He was seeing angels....bright white and silver angels...Heaven! He must be in Heaven! But these heavenly angels were not singing nor were they letting him find the rest he was longing for. They were yelling at him, sticking him with needles, and rest was not on the agenda. The emergency room staff had decided to brighten things up a bit since they had to work Christmas Eve and had chosen to dress up. Dad's hardworking nurses were angels, down to the tinsel circlets on their heads.

The Lord spared him that night, just for another 2 months, but we loved hearing how he looked up into the bright light and saw such wonderfully kind faces shining down on him. Angels there to comfort him and ease his fear and pain, and to reassure Him of God's great love for him. He told that story over and over for the next two months, and when he passed away in February, we knew he was seeing real angels this time.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jingle Mingle

Friday night was the 1st Annual Jingle Mingle and we had a terrific time. Our goal was to pack cookies for our troops and those in our church who've had a tough time recently. We mailed out 6 boxes to our deployed men (totaling nearly 60 pounds) and 13+ platters of cookies were hand delivered over the weekend. God was glorified in the way the ladies of GLCC worked together to make the night a success! We managed to eat a bit and socialize too....good times and good friends make for a special night.

Thanks to Julie Davis for sharing her story of God's provision while Mike has been gone. I know my eyes weren't dry during her talk!

Thanks to Cindy Wayland for leading us in the "Jingle Mingle" icebreaker. Lots of fun and lots of laughs as we learned more about each other.

Megan and Adriana were great to share their thoughts on the new ministry for moms. We're so excited for January and what that new group will mean for our young moms!

Lisa Fowler, Cindy Wayland, and Jennifer Upmeyer were the force behind the event. Working with them is so very uplifting and yet can be a laugh a minute. Thanks Janda Sample for being the tech wizard keeping the music going as well as the computer. Your musical selection was quite varied...Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer...a real crowd favorite! June Leatherman, thanks for helping decorate! You have such good ideas:)

To the ladies who delivered the cookies to our GLCC friends, you did a very special thing. I know if I opened my door to see a friend bearing a tray of cookies, my day would be brighter. Thank you for taking your time to visit and share a smile.

Notice we called it the 1st Annual Jingle Mingle? There's a reason for that....mark your calendar for next year. You won't want to miss it!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas celebration in Sweden

I wanted to share some dear memories and Christmas traditions with my friends at Grace Life.

When the first of four Advent candles is lit in Swedish homes and churches, there are three more weeks until the arrival of Christmas on December 24.
Candles and the concept of light are very central to the Swedish Christmas celebration, because the days are shorter due to the sun is rising later and setting sooner winter time.
One of the best memories I have from growing up as a child is how we celebrate Lucia which is a big Swedish tradition during the Christmas season on December 13. All the children at schools everywhere get dressed in white robes holding candles and with tinsel in our hair. One lucky girl from each class got to be Lucia, the queen of light, with a crown of white candles on her head singing with her hands pressed together like a Saint. Last in the "Lucia train" are the Star boys, holding paper stars on a stick and wearing conical hats decorated with stars, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem. We sing Christmas carols in front of our teachers and parents who are able to come. After singing a few Lucia carols, we offered our audience saffron flavoured buns called "Lusse Cats", that I am now baking with my own kids at home in December.
Later I have learned that Lucia came from Italy. Until quite recently the celebration of Lucia, which means light, was local to the western Sweden only, but during the last century it spread to the entire country.

There is a Swedish school for children in Falls Church where many Swedish/American children attend on Saturday mornings to learn the native language. I am proud to say that my children enjoy our Saturdays there. And last Saturday we, the parents and teachers, had all the children dress up in the white gowns with a Lucia performance at the Swedish Embassy in Washington DC. It was a lot of fun! Many pictures was taken, which reminded me and many other Swedish parents of my child hood at Christmas time.

I wish all of you a Very Merry, Peace full Christmas and please don't get too caught up in all the gift giving because after all it is the dear memories of Family and friends that is most important.

Thank you for letting me share a part of me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Gift That Brought Healing

Today is my youngest's birthday. He's 14 and I've always called him my gift. Jonathan's entry into our lives began at one of the darkest and most painful moments and I will be eternally grateful to the Lord for blessing us with such a lovely smiling boy.

My father had heart trouble for most of my life. He had his first open heart surgery when I was 9 and the procedure was fairly new. It was a very big deal and he was at UVA hospital for nearly 3 weeks. We learned to take very good care of him, and because of his dedication to walking and eating in a healthy way, the Lord spared him for nearly 22 years which was some kind of miracle. When I was 31 he went in for another open heart surgery and since it had worked the time before, we were somewhat complacent. He would recover, we would have more years and we were absolutely, totally wrong about that. His heart was too damaged and in 5 days he was gone. He only opened his eyes once and the Lord allowed me to be there at that moment to say words of love and goodbye.

To compound issues, John and I had been trying for another baby...which was kind of crazy since we had just blinked at each other and were pregnant with the first two. This one was taking a bit longer and the day my dad died, I found out I wasn't pregnant. Two blows at once and I dissolved in tears and heartache.

But...and I love a good but....the Lord wasn't finished with this portion of my story. We helped my mother cope with the funeral and some paper work and spent the next couple of weeks up and down the highway taking care of her. My husband and I hardly saw each other and it was usually to trade off the boys and run by on our way to someplace else. But...again the big BUT....I got pregnant. It was nothing less than miraculous considering the circumstances and we both found it hard to believe.

The first thing the doctors always ask a woman who might be pregnant is, when was the first day of your last cycle? I knew it because it was the day my father died. God had welcomed my dear daddy into His loving arms and had turned around and given me my precious Jonathan. From that moment on, I had life to celebrate and the joy of growing a baby under my heart.

There were still hard days, but they were tempered by the sweetness of expecting my little bundle of boy joy. He was born on December 4th and we named him Jonathan Charles...Charles in honor of my father.

The Lord takes away and He gives. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Scared of the Unknown

Have you ever had to do something that scared you silly? Maybe you flew in an airplane for the first time or did some rock climbing, or jumped from a plane. I remember asking my husband (then just the guy I was crushing on) out on a date and my palms were sweaty and I could hardly speak. I persevered because the outcome was important enough to me to make the fear worthwhile. I'll tell you that story sometime....

I think accepting Christ into your heart is a little like that. When we are standing on one side of that choice we might have a vague idea of what it will be like, but we are being asked to give our WHOLE selves over to the Lord and the thought of that might be very scary. What's He going to ask us to do and what happens if we don't want to do it? We stand at the door and He is knocking and the big question is...are we going to answer it and walk into freedom or hang back in fear of the unknown?

For me, opening that door and stepping over the threshold of faith has been an incredible experience. It's still BEING an incredible experience because God is not finished with me and I'm being challenged at every turn. I find myself trembling and fearful sometimes, but the life I've found in Christ is beautifully satisfying.

All day long I've been thinking of this because of a video I recently saw. Beagles who had been used for testing had been caged for their entire lives and were now rescued. Their cages were opened and they faced a threshold and a big scary beautiful world....and FREEDOM! Watch the video and cry like I did. Taking that step is a wonderful thing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blue Christmas

"I'll have a blue Christmas without you. I'll be so blue thinking about you. Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree...."

Right about there, my dad asked me to stop singing that song and to never sing it again. He hadn't done that before and since my voice was pretty good, I was a bit surprised. He explained.

Years ago when he was a young Navy Seabee stationed on the island of Guam he had his first Christmas away from home. He was a Blue Ridge Mountain boy and Christmas for him meant family and home and cold weather and all the things he was used to. My grandparents were very poor and presents were not even part of the picture, but Dad missed Christmas. Instead he was building roads, and guarding Japanese prisoners of war on a tropical island thousands of miles away. He told of how the prisoners begged for a weapon in order to kill themselves because of their lost honor at being captured. Hard things for a young man to see and hear.

Fast forward to the 50s and that Elvis song and it tore at my dad's heart and reminded him of those hard days on Guam. Christmas music would make him cry tears for the boys who wouldn't get to come home.

This year the ladies of GLCC are packaging cookies to send to our deployed men and women. They won't be able to be with their families, but they CAN get a little box of goodies that says "home" and might just help take the Christmas blues away...even for a short time.

December 9th from 7-9pm
GLCC gym
5$ admission to cover shipping costs
Finger food to share

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for Heroes

My dad is a retired police officer. He joined the U.S. Park Police in 1959 and retired in 1984. He was also a volunteer firefighter in Silver Spring, Maryland for a time.

He was responsible for commanding a unit of police officers during the riots in Washington, D.C. in 1968. At that time, I was just a young girl. I had no idea how much danger he was in at that time. I just knew that he was a police officer and he was my dad and he was my hero! (And if there were any "box lunches" left from his shift that his officers didn't eat, he brought them home to the family for us to eat! They were actually pretty good!!) Later, as a teen/young adult, I was able to look back and realize the peril that my dad faced each day he worked in his job -- whether during the riots in 1968 or just doing his job -- walking a beat, directing traffic, patrolling the National Mall, etc. Later in his career, he became an instructor, teaching new recruits, which took him out of most of the dangerous aspects of his job.

Although he didn't do a lot of volunteer firefighting after I was born, there is one incident I recall. We had just moved into a new home in Alexandria, Virginia, and the grass was about knee-high in the yard. The builder had the grass mowed before we moved in, but it was just tossed in a pile under the back porch. After moving in, my dad went to remove the pile of grass -- and found that yellow jackets had built a nest in the pile!! He donned his turnout gear -- coat, gloves, helmet and face covering -- and proceeded to clear out all that old grass without fear of being stung!

Today, on this day before Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the real heroes in our world -- the servicemen and women, police officers and firefighters. All those folks who keep us safe so that we can go about our day-to-day activities with a sense of security. Yes, as a little girl, my dad was my hero. Today, he still is -- but so are all of those people who stand on the front lines to protect us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Our very own Jen Upmeyer shared these thoughts with us for Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for an untidy house, because that means I have a family that lives in it and feels comfortable enough to make it home.

I am thankful for dirty dishes, because that means we have food in our bellies and family time around the table.
I am thankful for dirty laundry, because that means we have warm clothes on our back today.
I am thankful for constant chatter in the house, because that means God has blessed me with two spirited children that love to play.
I am thankful for the Legos I constantly step on, because that means I have two little boys with creative minds who love to stretch their imagination.
I am thankful that my husband is at work (haha! keep up with me!), because that means he is employed today and able to support his family.
I am thankful for the 7am alarm clock on Sunday morning, because that means I am able to go freely worship God at the church of my choice.
I am thankful for an overly busy schedule, because that means God has blessed me with a beautiful family and an abundance of friends who love me and want to spend time with me.
At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. Ephesians 5: 20

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mother and Daughter Duos

This will be my second Thanksgiving without my mother. She passed away in August of 2010 and I thought I was through the worst of missing her, but I thought wrong. For some reason, maybe it's just a holiday thing, I miss her more than ever.

Being in the kitchen together was one of our favorite places. She loved to cook and I love to cook, so it was a natural place for us to chat and catch up on life...the kids, my marriage, my faith, my home....all the things moms care about. We would make the biggest mess (neither of us being the neatest of cooks) and we'd sing and have a grand old time. Those days are gone for me and the house has been sold and Thanksgiving with Mom will only be in my heart.

I realized how tender my emotions were at Walmart of all places. I was doing my pre-Thanksgiving shopping and for some reason, many of the shoppers were mother/daughter duos. Many of the mothers were elderly, in scooters, and the daughters were helping them gather the items they needed to create that special bread pudding or macaroni and cheese. One thing I noticed though, was they were all fussing with each other...mother knowing what she wanted and daughter telling her what she thought and biting words all around. I know that feeling and I've been there with my own mother. I wanted to run to them and tell them to cherish this time, even the Walmart time, to love each other and not fight over what type of butter to get. None of the things they were thinking of as important really mattered at all.

My eyes filled up as I walked away. At that moment I wished more than anything to be able to spend time in my mother's kitchen, in her presence telling her how much I love her. I can't, but perhaps YOU can. This Thanksgiving, if you have the joy of spending it with your mother, tell her you love her, sing and laugh with her, and make sure you give thanks to the Lord for her presence in your life.

Mother, the ribbons of your love are woven around my heart. ~Author Unknown

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Where Is My Wallet?

"HONEY....Where's my wallet?" My husband was turning the house upside down looking for the missing wallet and we were under pressure to find it. He had to leave for work and back in the day, there was no such thing as flex time so the clock was ticking. Our house went from moderately destroyed to total destruction in a matter of minutes, but despite our best efforts, we could NOT find the wallet.

I had a sudden brainstorm. There was a young man in our house who loved to hide things and if I was correct, HE knew where the wallet was. The only problem was that this pack rat was a very young toddler and his communication skills were sketchy at best.

Bending down to eye level, I looked at Evan and asked, "Do you know where Daddy's wallet is?" He looked at me, his finger stuck in his mouth, but he said nothing. I KNEW there was a connection, so I tried again but with different words. "Evan, do you know where the brown thing is that folds up? When you unfold it, you see money?" Ding Ding Ding Ding!!! The light of understanding came on in Evan's eyes and his little face brightened. Immediately he ran off and I followed him up to our bedroom. He got down on his knees and reached way back under the dresser and found.....THE WALLET right where he had hidden it the evening before. He was so excited to be able to help and my husband, shaking his head in wonder and exasperation, hopped in the car and zoomed off to work.

What have you been looking for this morning? Significance? Love? Security or the need to feel you are precious to someone? We may not, like my little Evan, be able to put it into words, but I know this. You are loved, you are important and you are precious to the Lord. He has His hand on you and with Him you can begin to let go of that "lost" feeling and have the joy of being "found". Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Now, if you're looking for your wallet or your car keys...make sure to check under the dresser!

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Love, Love Sunday with Family

Most Sundays after worship we gather somewhere as family. This week we met as family to share, food, our week and laughter. There is always something going on at our house on Sunday as the family meets for noon day meal. The house is filled with noise, confusion, laughter and questions like, “Aren’t you going to put the football game on?”

There can be two noon prayers of blessings depending on if the grand children and their friends eat at the adult table (dining room manners)or kitchen table (with school lunch manners).

This Sunday seemed to be no exception except……
After the meal, as the adults were enjoying quiet conversation and the kids were scattered throughout the house, the laughter started. I could hear in the background several feet headed to the upstairs. I never know what will happen next, but the sound of feet returning accompanied by noise indicated that the latest escapade was about to be presented.

As the first grand children were born I began to go the thrift shops to collect clothing for the dress up box. Oh, and by the way, after-Halloween sales are also great. The girls had enjoyed this box for years and sometimes they could convince the younger boys to cooperate with them in this fun fantasy. We are now down to one pre-schooler, so I was about to get rid of said box. But, it was discovered again.

One of the teens and her friend who had joined us for Sunday lunch came down in the best dress-up ever. It was a 1950-60 white strapless formal dress complete with yards of white netting, sequins, etc., and a strapless blue mermaid dress. We had a good laugh at their craziness. The comment was made by one of the girls, “Wow no one could get near you in this!” I guess she had heard some of the lessons on purity in Connect on Sunday morning for teens. Cries of not fair…I want to….led to a promise to the pre-schooler that next time they would find something cool for him to wear - with a sword of course. Then they were off again to……you don’t even want to know!

I love Sunday with family. Eccl. 3:4 a time to weep and a time to laugh…

Friday, November 11, 2011

Tuesday Afternoon Adventure...

“Two are better than one….A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12b

She and I met this past summer. We were in a small group that met for several weeks. Then we all kind of went our separate ways, but I felt a special bond with these women. We had shared personal issues during our discussion times, and I felt I could trust them. I sent them a personal prayer request via email, and she answered right away – “God has shown you to me (and thereby me to you).” And thus, she and I decided to do things together – take day trips, play card games and board games, etc.

Our first “together time” was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. We would drive west on I-66 and take in the beauty of the fall colors in the mountains. When I had told my husband of our planned afternoon drive, he had said, “If you end up near Middletown, stop at the Route 11 Potato Chip Factory and pick up a couple of cases of potato chips.”

So, around 1:30 p.m., she and I headed toward the potato chip factory, chatting and getting to know one another, and taking in the spectacular colors of the leaves as we drove. Arriving in Middletown, we discovered that the factory was no longer there. A local gentleman said that the factory had moved to Woodstock, VA. So, on we drove down Route 11 toward Woodstock. In Woodstock, we were told that the factory was actually in Mt. Jackson, about 10 miles farther south. We were advised to take I-81 because we would be able to see the potato chip factory from the interstate.

We traveled about a mile on I-81 – and heard an awful sound! A tire on her car had blown out!! She pulled over to the shoulder, where we took out the jack and spare tire and flagged down a pickup truck with two older gentlemen in it. They seemed pleased to be able to help us – until they (and we) realized that her tires had wheel locks on them and we could not find the tool necessary to remove the wheel lock. She called her insurance company, through which she has roadside assistance. The men left and we waited (fortunately, only about 20 minutes) for a tow truck.

The young man driving the tow truck tried valiantly to remove that wheel. He finally said, “I’m gonna have to tow the car to our shop. We should have the necessary tools to get it off there.” About half an hour after we arrived at the service station, the old, blown-out tire had been removed and the spare installed. By now, though, it was after 6:00 p.m. We knew the potato chip factory would be closed, so we headed back home – after stopping in Woodstock for a quick bite to eat!

While having a flat tire and sitting on the shoulder of an interstate for 2 hours was not what we had planned, the time there gave she and I an opportunity to chat and to be grateful: We were grateful that neither of us was alone when the tire blew out, we were grateful for the two kind gentlemen who took pity on us helpless women and tried their best to help us, we were grateful for the nice tow truck driver who assisted us, and we were grateful that the service station was eventually able to get us back on the road. And she was grateful that the entire ordeal only cost $35! Mostly, though we were grateful that God was with us through the whole afternoon! (He is the third strand in the cord that is mentioned in Ecclesiastes!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

E-mail, Texting and Faith.

Recent text….”Auntie, it’s time for Ray to put in requests for next assignment. Will you pray with us for God’s timing and place?”

Sara is my niece and her husband is in the Navy and is currently on assignment in Djibouti, Africa.

Sara and I have been texting and e-mailing for more than five years. She keeps me posted on the good and the not so good in her life. We have lots in common despite the age difference. We not only share our faith but the life of a military wife. (Me retired Army wife)

Let me go back a few months to July as Ray was deploying.

E-mail…all is well here. I feel good, so long as I can keep my “spirit” up everything is a piece of cake. I got a call from Ray at the airport 4 hrs. after we had dropped him off to come pick him up! Sophia and I were ecstatic to say the least, didn’t matter we would be doing the farewells all over again. Ray was home long enough to read Sophia one more bedtime story, hold Elias (2 weeks old) once more, and get a good night’s rest then he would head off again on Monday.”

Ray had previously spent the last 6 months with long hours in training or weeks away from family. So goes the life of a Navy wife.

E-mail ….from Sara (several weeks later) ”Sophia is sick, her little heart is broken each time I so nicely try to tell her she cannot touch or kiss Elias (he is just a month old) right now. I feel so bad for her. She seems a little depressed as she is asking for Ray and wants to see him at work….this is all for a reason that I have no control over. This too shall pass.”

More desperate e-mails and texting…..”Elias is sick…high temperature…spinal tap…he is so little….pray…..overnight at the hospital with Sophia and Elias. Told I can no longer stay with both of them. No one to leave Sophia with…..prayer please….sister Kari will fly in to help out. Thank you Lord for all blessings.”

Text... I ask Sara to tell me what she is thinking about God’s plan for their life and what she does to remain strong in faith.

Sara’s reply“what I do to remain strong in faith: This is especially difficult for me right now as I do not have much of a faith based support network here or a church home. (They had just moved from Washington State to Virginia and then a second move to a different house). But I can improvise and have done so by seeking out friendships that encourage Christian fellowship and who love the Lord. Some friendships are very long standing where I tend to see that person more as a Christian mentor. Some friendships are new. All the friendships however are unique in their own way for me in my faith journey... prayer is another way I am with the Lord and when my heart is with Him I seem to falter less and praise Him more. Lastly, I look all around me. I am reminded everyday with the simple things….like God’s grace and His humorJ Our Lord is awesome in every way so I cannot help but be joyful. My joy for the Lord only reaffirms and encourages my faith.”

I then asked Sara for any favorite scripture…..

Her reply: “all of the Psalms, but let’s go with Psalm 139:13-16. I have interpreted this in many ways depending on the time in my life. All the same though…..I am of and from the Lord. He knows every fiber of my being, where I have been and where I will be. I need to trust in the Lord. Follow His lead.”

“Psalm 91:1,2 this is a daily reminder for me in so many ways that I am with the Lord and He with me, at every moment. I tend to lose track of that and often, with life happenings, schedules and daily routines…..that really are not all that important for eternity. My most important relationship of all, with the Lord is not always made that important. This psalm is posted on our stairway wall so that we can see it every day, right in front of us a simple reminder.”

“Psalm 24:1 everything is the Lord’s ….we are in a way borrowing it, like my husband, my beautiful children, everything are all His. If I hurt my husband with words, I hurt the Lord. Etc…”

Please keep this family and all military families in your daily prayers. Many, like Ray, have had bounties placed on their heads, to capture or kill them as they serve in foreign countries. Recently he has served 2 tours Iraq and one Afghanistan.
Ray and Sara have been married 12 yrs. and they like many have spent more time apart than together. Missed birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

Thanks to Sara for being so willing to be so transparent and share her faith with you who read the GLCC blog.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Day of Fasting....and a Pot Roast

I'm trying to get a grip on my day and decided to throw a roast in the crock pot while I do some much needed cleaning. It's so nice to have the meal ready and the house smells delicious all day. The smell has reminded me of a funny little story about temptation.

I grew up in a small town, went to a small church, and when we planned to hold a revival and host a visiting preacher, my parents volunteered a room in our house. By that time, the larger rooms at the front of the house were in use by the family, and the guest room was the cozy little hideout at the top of the kitchen stairs. Mom fixed it up as nicely as she could and when the pastor arrived, he was pleased and said so. The location soon proved to be problematic in a way we'd never even imagined.

Preacher Man's practice was to spend the first day of the revival in fasting and prayer and informed my mother that she had no need to prepare anything for him all day long. He'd have some water, but that was it. Mom agreed and thought having guests couldn't get any easier. She did have to feed the rest of us though, so put a roast in the crock pot and went off to work.

Well, the day progressed and the smell began to waft up the stairs from the kitchen, directly into the little room being occupied by Preacher Man. He was on his knees, fervently praying or trying to pray and boy, was he hungry. the form of succulent roasting beef....was literally knocking at his door, but he didn't give in. He later told my parents it was the longest day of his life, and when he finally ate with the family, we all had to chuckle.

In talking to a friend yesterday, we commented how easily we are distracted from the very things we have decided to complete, whether it be cleaning the house, paying the bills, or spending quiet time with the Lord. I'm reminded how Preacher Man had temptation knock yet he ignored it and went on with his work. While my roast scents up my home today, I'm going to do those things I've set out to do and enjoy a meal and completed projects tonight.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Upcoming Events for Women at GLCC

Walking With the Women of GLCC...Part 2. Come join us on November 20th for a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving bag lunch and a walk at Bristoe Battlefield. Close to church, easy hike, finished by a visit to Pam Layton's barn (right by the battlefield) to see the horses and have gingerbread and cider. Good times and good fellowship. Meet after the 2nd service.

Save the date....December 9th....for the Women's Ministry Jingle Mingle. Look for more information coming soon on what promises to be a fun filled night.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blessings in Disguise

"If God brings you to it, he'll bring you through it." This quote is one of the things I have clung through this year. This has been an amazing year of blessings from God in my life. When my husband left, I quickly learned how much I really do on my own. Shortly after this change in our lives, I followed God's call to go on a mission and went to Honduras where I was blessed so much I don't know where to begin. He has brought people in and out of my life. For the few who left, in most cases, I understand why God removed them for now. As for all the wonderful people he has placed in my path, God continues to amaze me with his blessings through them.

I have learned so much this year. Things like how much God wants a relationship with me, what it really means to be a Christian, how to really forgive others and myself, how to trust the holy spirit, and God has shown me repeatedly how He provides.

Now I am not saying God made this year has been easy for me. There have been many events and situations that have been troubling and hard. But the biggest blessing is I have learned how to lean into the Lord and rely on his strength to pull me through.

Another thing I have clung to is the song "Blessings" by Laura Story. It is the song I have chosen to sign for the Deaf Concert this Saturday, November 4th. This song serves as a reminder to me that God knows the big picture and everyone's purpose in it. He is using all the trials and blessings to prepare us for what is to come. So remember, even though it is a tough time, lean into God, He is most likely sending you a blessing in disguise.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Lord At Work In London

It’s 11:00 pm London time. I’ve lost track of what day it is and how any days we’ve been here. It was another packed day, I’m exhausted and I’m still trying to process the events of the day, so, really, there’s no telling what you’re going to get with this summary.

We started the morning with a leisurely breakfast and delightful fellowship and eventually made our way to Asha (which means “hope”, but don’t ask me in what language), a thrift store in the South Hall section of London. Asha is run by World Harvest Mission and they use it as an opportunity to witness to the Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. After being treated to samosas (a yummy Indian food) and tea, we met up with some missionaries from World Harvest to help them with a book table they sat up on a street near a bus stop. They give away free books, tracks and DVDs in seven different languages. Not my strong suit, to be sure, but I was happy to help and I learned a lot, especially from Marcus, one of World Harvest’s missionaries. This is his passion and it shows. Seeing him “in action” was an encouragement to me and gave me an example to grow and learn from.

Some people wanted nothing to do with the literature I offered. One young woman asked me what it was about and when I told her Jesus, she looked at me like I was loony, snarled her lip and said, “I’m Muslim.” Others, however, were very receptive, curious, and even grateful.

After the book table, we visited several gurdwaras (Sikh temples) and Hindu temples. I was expecting to go in and sense an oppressive spiritual battle, but that was not at all my experience in any of the sites we visited. I felt nothing. At first I thought I was just tired and winding down, and perhaps detached from the experience for some reason. But a bit into it two words came to mind…dead and futile. It was all a disconnect for me. Whether it was the Hindu temple with the brightly dressed gods surrounded by flashing green neon bubble lights, or the more subdued gurdwara with the attendant constantly dusting their holy book, I saw nothing that offered hope.

Someone commented that it was all human effort…offering fruit and milk to the Hindu gods, touching or kissing the railings or floor to receive power. I’m not sure why they do it...perhaps to appease the gods or coerce them, or perhaps tradition or obligation. It did make me think about Christians too and how sometimes we do the same thing with our faith…we have “devotions” so we can check off the Christian box for the day and go about our business, play “Let’s Make a Deal” with the Lord, or go through the motions because that’s how mom and dad did it. Without a personal relationship with our Savior and Lord, all of our doing is meaningless as well.

As we were winding down our visit to the last site I was struck with what I didn’t see: joy and life. Perhaps that is cultural, I don’t know. As I said, I’m still trying to take it all in and process it. There is no life in deadness, but the Lord can redeem that and I pray I can be a part of that in some way…not only for unbelieving people in faraway lands, but also for people who are believers, but not living as though they have hope in a real and personal, and very much alive Redeemer. I wonder, if we were all to ask the Lord to open our eyes to the pain, suffering, hurt, and hopeless around us…wherever we may be…and to give us His heart of love and compassion, what a difference His Church could make. How many lives would be changed and how many more would be fully alive… including our own?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.

Written by Susan Ellis

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding My Voice

As a young woman, I enjoyed a certain level of acclaim for my musical gift. I had numerous opportunities to sing before very large groups of people in various settings. I won talent awards and received scholarships aimed at developing my ability. Music was, and still is, the deepest expression of my heart and my faith.
It seemed that the dream of recording my songs was going to be realized when the church I attended at the time approached me and the group I sang with about producing a music project, which was to include a couple of my originals. I was ecstatic, but the thrill was short-lived. Almost overnight, due to circumstances beyond our control, the project was cancelled and our dream was shattered. The resulting disappointment left me virtually unable to sing. Every time I tried, I would just weep.
For nearly the next ten years, I found it very difficult to sing. It was as if I had lost my voice; and yet, the music within me refused to be silenced. There eventually came a time when I was able to sing to the Lord again, but only in private. I nurtured no thought of ever singing before people again. The very idea made me tremble with indescribable fear! Besides, singing privately felt very safe...
Then, I received an invitation to sing in a church service. I'm not exactly sure why, but I accepted. I spent a great deal of time preparing to sing, and on that morning when I arrived at the church, my stomach was in knots and I felt as if my legs would not support me if I tried to stand. I requested a stool that I could perch on, and determined that I would sing the song I had prepared as a prayer to the Lord. When it came time in the service for my song, I walked to the stool, perched on it for support, used both hands to steady the microphone, closed my eyes and sang to the One and Only Who is worthy of my heart-songs. I was both humbled and awed that He gave me the strength and the voice to do it.
Some years have passed since that time. Even now, when I get up to sing in front of others, I still face fear. I no longer expect the feeling of fear to be removed from me; I just pray that the butterflies will fly in formation and determine that I will sing to the Lord in spite of my fears. Almost without exception, once I begin to sing I experience His peace. I am constantly reminded that His strength is made perfect in my weakness and His grace is sufficient for me, so I offer up a sacrifice of praise and ask Him to use it for His glory. He is the reason I sing!
I am still finding my voice and I experience great joy in helping others find their voices, as well. I have been privileged to do so in ministry among women and with church music for the past several years. It is my prayer that my story will inspire you to face your fear and to find your voice, no matter what form that might take. I have come to realize that the enemy of my soul wants me to keep quiet; I have also come to realize that God can take whatever I offer up and powerfully use it to the praise of His glory. He persistently and gently urges me to lift up my voice; I cannot stay silent!
Maybe you hear Him tenderly calling to you, urging you forward into something that makes you tremble. Just last night He reminded me of the words of Isaiah 12:2 -6, "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."
In unparalleled grace the everlasting God, our Father, has lavished His amazing love on us and uniquely gifted each of His children to make His name famous. There is no greater or sweeter name than that of our Lord Jesus. So, my lovely, gifted, and courageous sisters in Christ, let's find our voices and shine for Him!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hope Amid the Rubble

Yesterday I wrote of hope and today I saw a story that has given the people of Turkey much hope. After the massive earthquake of this past weekend, searchers had been digging frantically for survivors. Then they heard the cries of a child... a two week old baby girl. For two days, this child had been held in the arms of her mother, buried under their collapsed apartment building.

Wonder what the mother thought about? Wonder if she cried and called out in terror? I'm sure she did, but she never let go of the baby...not for two whole days while she was pinned down. Baby Azra was held close and protected as much as possible and when rescue workers finally heard the cries, they were able to break a small hole through the debris and the baby was offered up and lifted out into the waiting arms of medical people. She is alive now and her mother was rescued a bit after.

Azra...that's the baby's name and that name in Hebrew means "help". I don't know the faith of this young mother...I can guess....but I don't know. I DO know what God promises us in His word. He promises to be our help.

Psalm 30:2
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
Psalm 33:20
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
Psalm 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Psalm 63:7
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 124:8
Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
John 14:16
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

Azra's life has been spared and she lives as a symbol of hope for the people of Turkey. Her rescue from the ruin can be a symbol for us, too, as we look to the Lord for help and for rescue. He promises that He will be there to lift us up and to set our feet on solid ground.

Have you been feeling buried under your circumstances? Have you been feeling hopeless and that God has forgotten you? Don't give up! Help is only a cry away.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Planting Bulbs...Planting Hope

My mother had a green thumb but it has skipped a generation and I have no ability to keep green things alive. I keep trying. I had pretty much decided not to plant any bulbs this fall, but I'm going to give it one more try and see what happens in the spring. The squirrels will do their level best to eat each and every one, but I'm still going to make the attempt. I hope that in the spring, when I've just about forgotten that I planted them, the bulbs will burst upward with color and vigor and surprise me with their loveliness!

Hope is a curious thing.
The dictionary describes it as expecting something with confidence or the search for a future good.

The Bible says Job placed his hope in the Lord, even if there was the chance he might be slain.(Job 13:15)

Charles Schultz once remarked, "A whole stack of memories never equal one little hope."

Mignon McGlaughlin said, "Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent!"

One of the great pleasures of my life is that I get to talk to lots of women. I just love talking to women and the more I meet, the happier I am. We have a lot in common, these girls and I. There are some things in our lives that are big and scary and sometimes there doesn't seem to be a really good answer. Sometimes there seems to be a big brick wall that is keeping us from having what we hope for...a happy marriage, a healthy spouse or child, a better job, a restored relationship with a family member, a dream realized....the list goes on. Sometimes it seems that we're never going to see brighter days and we feel like giving up, throwing up our hands and calling it a day.

We must remember hope. Like those bulbs that are placed in the dark cold earth, hidden from the light and tucked away, we need time. The Lord is at work in our lives and in our hearts and will do His good work in His good time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We might feel buried under layers of darkness, thinking nothing good will come from our situation, but just wait. The sun is going to shine again and when it does we're going to stretch up our arms to a loving God and be grateful for what He's done.

So, I'm going to plant my fall bulbs like I've done so many times and I'm going to wait. The squirrels will do their best, but spring is going to come and the flowers are going to bloom and I'm going to be glad I planted those little nuggets of hope.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Rather Blustery Night

This breezy day is reminding me of a funny little incident that happened when I was a girl. As many of you know, I grew up in an old house, beautifully restored now, but back in the day, it was not airtight and by no means warm when the cold winds blew. On these breezy days (and nights) the old windows would rattle in their frames and they could be heard all over the house. We were used to them. Our visitor one night was not.

A family member came to stay for a few days and was given the best room we had. It sat at the bottom of the attic stairs and had a big bay window that overlooked town. We settled our guest into her room and everyone had dinner and the evening advanced and it was time for bed. That's when the fun began.

The big old house was dark and everyone was asleep but one. That poor soul was up wandering around in her room, trying to figure out where the NOISE was coming from. The NOISE had woken her up and there was no way on this earth she was going back to sleep. She got back in bed for a bit, still listening, still frightened to death, and then she couldn't take it any longer. She, a grown woman, crossed the hall to my mother's room and woke her up and demanded she come back to her room. See...she thought there were spirits trying to communicate to her in that room under the attic stairs and she was mortally afraid.

I'm sure my mother rolled her eyes (too dark to see) but she politely went with our guest back to her room. Mom walked over to the window that HAD BEEN RATTLING IN THE BREEZE and laid her hand on it and the noise stopped! All that time of terror and tension due to a rattling windowpane. Back to bed my mother went...and we got to hear of the fun after the departure of the visitor.

I can laugh about this story and say how ridiculous, but I'm not really that different. Nighttime is hard for me. I wake up sometimes and a little thought comes into my head...just a little one and it rattles around and makes some noise and before long it becomes a NOISE THAT WILL NOT STOP. I become afraid and the worry starts and it grows and grows and keeps me from my rest and then I remember I can go to the Father. I don't have to cross the cold scary hall under the attic stairs...all I have to do is call out and He's there. He puts His hand of mercy on that NOISY thought and it stills and I can rest.

Having any nighttime noises that scare you? Do you do your best worrying and wandering while the rest of the house is asleep? Go to the Father of all comfort and He will give you rest.

Mark 4:39 (The Message)
Awake now, Jesus told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, "Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Get Connected...

Have you been wanting to meet other ladies at GLCC but haven't quite figured out how? We're a big church, that is true, but it's not impossible to meet and make friends. Here are a couple of ways coming up soon.

The Family Festival takes place at GLCC on October 29th from 1-4pm. Our ladies will be hosting the concessions tent, serving hot dogs and baked goodies and it would be lots of fun to serve alongside other friendly faces. If you're available that day, stop by and we'll put you to work. Or, if you're shy and don't want to serve, you could always bake something and bring it in. Women carrying food become very popular right away!!

The second opportunity to join in is at our Walking With the Women of Grace Life the very next day on October 30. Pack a lunch, bring your comfy shoes and a camera, and meet us in the gym after the 2nd service. We're going to carpool to a picnic site and then hike a bit through the battlefield. Don't be's just us girls!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Can Do Anything Good...Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

Have you seen this video of the little girl looking at herself in the mirror and giving herself the pep talk to end all pep talks? I know this video was supposed to make me smile and it did, but it was a melancholy sort of smile. I'm happy for her and she's a sunny little girl, but I'm sad for us big girls. Where and when did we lose this confidence? When did we go from saying, "I can do anything good!" to "I can't do that....don't even ask me to try!" When we were small we might have started our day out thinking, "I love my everything!" but have progressed to, "My life stinks and nothing is going right for me."

My next question is this. How do we get it back? I think it begins with the truth. We MUST tell ourselves the truth of what God thinks of us.

Psalm 139:14 (New Living Translation) says Thank you for making ME so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is well I know it!

Zephaniah 3:17 Says the Lord takes great delight in YOU....He rejoices over YOU with singing!

Jeremiah 31:3 declares the everlasting love of the Lord for YOU!

Philippians 2:13 speaks of God working in YOU for YOUR good purpose!

Let's talk truth here. We have good days and we have bad days...sometimes more bad than good. But truth is that God loves you....the little girl you used to be, full of hope and confidence....and He loves the big girl you've become. Next time you look in the mirror, remind yourself that the God of the UNIVERSE created you and loves you with an everlasting love. Do a little dance in your jammies and believe it because it's true!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Growing Pains

My younger son has been growing recently and at times will say his calves and ankles hurt. I asure him that it is only growing pains and will soon be over. Sure enough, at the end of 6 weeks he grew an inch!

At the time of the "growing," he thought the pain would never go away. A constant ache and reminder that he was being stretched. That is how I feel these days. Not growing physically, but spiritually and emotionally.

I revealed to God the desire of my heart, and am doing my best to follow His path. Along that path are trials that touch me emotionally first, then spiritually. Make no mistake, it hurts! My heart aches the most, followed by my mind. Trying to figure out how to handle different situations with people who are not like me "personally" at all. Sometimes I don't sleep for days. I pray constantly for myself, the other person, the situation, and ask God what He may be teaching me for the future.

Since my ministry training began in mid-September I have had "issues" with two different people. The leader warned me that the attacks will begin almost immediately because once you come out of the safe hole (like a rabbit) and proclaim the work of Christ, the target is set and secure. Even though I know this, it doesn't make it any easier. I can only sit and imagine the pain in Jesus' heart as He gave His life on the cross. When his side was pierced by the sword, the Bible tells us that His heart also contained water as if the pain in His heart was in so much agony that all it could do was surrended to God and cry.

There are days when I want to run away and hide to avoid those that are causing me pain, but running isn't the answer. Prayer, and lots of it, faithfullness and a committed heart is what I know I need. Growing is necessary to mature in my Christian faith and walk, and it hurts! But I know God has a plan and He will not give me more than I can handle: even though I am overwhelmed right now I am not walking this journey alone. The best part is that Jesus walked His own journey on Earth, and no matter what I struggle with He has already "been there and done that." He understands my growing pains, and in that I find a glimpse of hope and comfort to keep me on the path.

I wrote this new poem just now at the end of my story as my prayer to God and His answer to me. A reminder that He understands me, cares for me, and wants the very best for my life!

Lay Down Your Heart

The Lord God knows my struggles
He has felt them in the flesh.
He understands the heartache
He asks me to come and rest.

"Lay down the burderns of your heart,
Lay down your troubled mind,
Lay down the need to control,
The end result is mine.

Seek me when you rise,
Seek me in the day,
Seek me when you lay to bed,
And I will guide the way.

My burden is made easy,
My yoke is made light,
My hand is always with you,
To raise you to new heights.

The path may not be easy,
The journey filled with sorrow,
The hope for each new day,
Is that I will also be here for each tomorrow.

Lay down the burdens of your heart,
Lay down your troubled mind,
Lay down the need to control,
The end result is mine."

I hope you are blessed today as I have bared my soul because to help one another on life's journey is my ultimate goal. God is calling you to action and to get involved with life. He has promised to be with you along the way: to hold your hand, and give you a shoulder to cry on, and to lift you up as a light unto the world. Go humbly and bolding into each new day knowing the end result is His IF we lay down our hearts to Him. - Sharon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Want to Want to Be Like Jesus

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Many moons ago, shortly after I accepted Christ, I prayed day after day that the Lord would make me like Jesus. And yet it seemed that nothing ever changed. I was still impatient, angry, prideful, demanding, and arrogant. My language was far less than edifying. My holier-than-thou attitude resembled that of the Pharisees. Why, Lord? Why, when I beg you endlessly to change me, do you not do so?

Then, in the middle of one my rote, dull, senseless prayers, it hit me and it hit hard. I really didn’t want to be like Jesus. The truth of it washed over me like a downpour. Jesus was hated. His friends abandoned Him. He was unpopular. He sacrificed. He had no home to call His own. He was selfless. He loved the unlovable. He touched the untouchables. He forgave seventy times seven.

Why would the little girl whose father chose not to know her want to be abandoned? Why would the girl who wasn’t popular in school want to be unpopular and hated in the adult world? Why would the woman who was angry and harbored unforgiveness want to be forgiving? Why would the woman who felt she was unappreciated want to sacrifice? Why would I want to be homeless after working so hard to own a home? Why would I want to love the annoying, clueless, stupid people in my world?

It was a turning point. The realization of my condition flooded me with despair and repentance. I sat on my bed and sobbed. Oh, Lord. I don’t want to be like Jesus. You ask too much. But I do want to want to be like Jesus. It was probably my first honest, heartfelt prayer since coming to know the Lord. It was a prayer He was delighted to answer. Not that I’m always like Jesus…just ask my family…but most days I’d genuinely like to be more like Him.

Slowly, bit by bit, the Lord has chipped away at the years of wounds and sins and has revealed glimpses of the woman He intended me to be. Slowly I’ve come to realize that being like Jesus is about loving God and loving people (yes, I know that’s in the Bible; I don’t always catch on so quickly). And when I love God and others, I am changed from the inside out and my life is richer than I ever imagined possible. My conclusion to the matter? An honest prayer, no matter what it may be, is a powerful one, and pleasing to God.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Deaf Pig Roast (DPR)

First of all, let me answer the question on your mind. No, the pig was not deaf! It was an event held in Williambsburg last weekend for the Deaf in our Virginia communities. Deaf families from all over come together with one common link: someone in their family is Deaf. This could be a mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother. It didn't matter. What mattered most was that everyone understood the challenges one faces being deaf or having a loved one who is deaf.

I have been married for almost 20 years now, and although my husband, Ken, is deaf he was mainstreamed in the public school. This being said, he never really considered himself Deaf. He does wear a hearing aid to help him catch some of what is going on around him, but without it he is completely deaf.

In the past year at GLCC the deaf ministry has opened up a new world to him; one that he was not seeking. He has since connected with old friends from his childhood; many of which were at the DPR. They are on Facebook chat and text regularly. Technology has opened up their world of communication. TV shows like "Switched at Birth" let hearing people understand the challenges of the Deaf better.

A poem was posted on FB recently that I would like to share. Perhaps you will gain a better understanding from Dianne Kinnee (Switras) the Deaf person's perspective...

What is it like to be deaf?

"What is it like to be deaf?"
People have asked me.
Deaf? Oh, do I explain that?
Simple: I can't hear.

No, is much more than that.
It is similar to a goldfish in a bowl,
Always observing things going on.
People talking at all times.
It is like a man on his own island
Among foreigners.

Isolation is no stranger to me.
Relatives say hi and bye
But I sit for 5 hours among them
Taking great pleasure at amusing babies
Or being amused by TV.
Reading books, resting, helping out with food.

Natural curiosity perks up
Upon seeing a great laughter, crying, anger.
Inquiring only to meet with a "never mind" or
"Oh, it's not important."
Getting a summarized statement
Of the whole day.

I'm supposed to smile to show my happiness.
Little do they know how truly miserable I am.
People are in control of language usage,
I am at loss and really uncomfortable!

Always feeling like an outsider
Among the hearing people,
Even though it was not their intention.

Always assuming that I am part of them
By my physical presence, not understanding
The importance of communication.

Facing the choice between Deaf Event weekend
or a family reunion.
Facing the choice between family commitment
And Deaf friends.
I must make the choices constantly,
Any wonder why I choose Deaf friends???

I get such great pleasure at the Deaf clubs,
Before I realize it, it is already 2:00 am,
Whereas I anxiously look at the clock
Every few minutes at the Family reunion.

With Deaf people, I feel so normal,
Our communication flows back and forth.
Catch up with little trivials, our daily life,
Our frustration in the bigger world,
Seeking the mutual understanding,
Contented smiles and laughter are musical.
So magical to me,
So attuned to each other's feelings.

True happiness is important.
I feel more at home with Deaf people.
Of various color, religion, short or tall
Than I do among my own hearing relatives.
And you wonder why?
Our language is common.
We understand each other.

Being at loss of control
Of the environment that is communication,
People panic and retreat to avoid
Deaf people like the plague.

But Deaf people are still human beings
With dreams, desires, the needs
To belong, just like everyone else.

I am encouraged by the ASL sign language classes being offerred at GLCC and those in the community for the children attending Coles Elementary School.

When you visit our home you will most likely see sign language. Our children are learning it and my husband is no longer ashamed to have to use it to communicate better. After all, communication is the key to any relationship. I am the "ears" for one who cannot hear. I have to remember that it is important to Ken that I relay as best as possible the things happening around him so that he doesn't feel left out.

We are planning to attend the DPR again next year. It was truly wonderful to be able to communicate with my Deaf friends and to be accepted in their "world."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Boulders In Our Path

Several years ago, my dear husband suggested we climb Old Rag. I like the outdoors as much as the next person and I like a good hike, but I was intimidated at the thought of this particular hike. My teaching assistant, years before, had come back with a sprained ankle, scrapes all down her side, and an arm in a sling. But, like the good wife I try to be, I said sure let's go and so we went.

The initial part of the hike was fine, a steep little walk up a leafy hillside, making me wonder what all the fuss was about. I must be some kind of superwoman since this was a piece of cake! How silly of me and how premature the celebration. We soon came to the most challenging bits and I found myself many times wanting to stop, to go back the way we'd come, maybe even call in mountain rescue to airlift me down. For me, it was that bad.

Boulders were everywhere. I mean honking big old boulders that towered over everyone and everything, jumbled up on top of each other like building blocks. They were fun to go around and a little challenging to climb over the smaller ones, but soon we came to a mammoth mountain of several together and the trail went straight up between them. Adding to the challenge was the slippery sides made even more slippery by hundreds of wet sneakers traveling up and over.

I didn't want to do it. I couldn't do it. I wasn't strong enough and I wasn't limber enough and I was scared out of my mind. I stood in the snaky little line waiting for my turn to make the attempt, dreading the humiliation when all of the spectators realized the thing I already knew. I was a miserable failure and a total schlub at hiking with the big boys.

A handful of Boy Scouts went up in front of me and another handful were directly behind me. Even worse, I thought....humiliated in front of 10 year olds. I approached the ginormous rock and looked up at the impossible height and then I noticed something new. The scouts in front of me were on top and they and their leader were holding out their hands to me. I clasped the offered hands then realized that the ones behind me were shoving with all their might from the back and between all of the helpers and my own strength, I was up....up and over!!! I wasn't even embarrassed that little Boy Scout hands had been shoving the rump of a strange lady hiker! With their help, I had done it and it felt GOOD!

Sometimes we feel like our life is strewn with giant boulders and there is no way, absolutely no way we will EVER get over or around. We may have been standing at the base for a long time, despondent and discouraged, and utterly without hope. That boulder is not moving and we're stuck. The thing is, I didn't see help until I looked up. I looked up and saw the outstretched hand willing to help me in my climb and right then, it became possible.

Are you in front of a boulder? Have you just about given up hope? Have you looked up? Take the hand that Jesus offers and let Him help you move past it. I can promise will feel GOOD!