Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Memories of My Aunt Grace

My Aunt Grace passed away yesterday. And I am sad.
My husband and I are on vacation. We are in a historical place, and yesterday we had been seeing the sites. We were sitting on a bench to rest for a few minutes, watching the horse carriages going back and forth, and absolutely enjoying ourselves. And then my phone rang.
When I heard the news, I could not speak. I listened about what happened, how it happened, and the outcome. I could hear my mother sobbing in the background. And then I cried, briefly, but with all my heart.
I love my Aunt Grace. Always have, always will. When I was small and lived in Ohio, every summer Daddy would drive us to New Jersey, where my mother's family lived. We would spend several weeks there, and sometimes I got to stay for the summer.  But always, after a 12 to 13 hour drive, within 15 minutes my Aunt Grace had me in her car, going...somewhere!

Life was an adventure to me with her. She took me to meet family I had never even heard of. And friends that I didn't know she had. I came to know all the folks she worked with at the knitting mill, and even knew their kids.

She took me horseback riding often. She didn't ride, but she watched proudly as I rode around and around, in my element, loving it the whole while. She never complained about the time, and I am sure there were many times she paid extra just to let me ride longer.

She took me to the store, shopping, just riding around. I was introduced to flea markets and yard sales. She took me to Fort Dix, where my grandfather had worked, so often I knew my way around. And she would take me to McGuire Air Force Base, right next to Fort Dix, to watch the planes taking off and landing. I loved it!

Aunt Grace had been adopted by my grandma and grandpa because it seemed Grandma could not bear a baby who could survive. So, while living in Akron, Ohio, they adopted a 3 year old girl, and named her Grace Lee. My Aunt Grace.

She helped Grandma raise 3 other children who came along naturally. God was blessing them with biological children. My mom was the first, when Aunt Grace was 12, then my Uncle Darrell, and finally Aunt Pat, who passed away in 1994, a year after Grandma.

But Aunt Grace, while slow, was raised by my grandma and kept under her thumb. It was not done in a mean spirit, but in the vein of protecting her from the outsiders, from those who may hurt her, or cause harm in some way. So Grace learned to copy grandma in her lifestyle. Her friends were approved by Grandma, or not, and her activities were limited to what Grandma though appropriate.
She did not even learn to drive until it became a necessity. My grandpa had a massive stroke while at work on Fort Dix. He was a fireman. He never recovered, and passed away 7 years later, when I was 15. Grandma took care of him, did what she could to help him, and was faithful and strong that whole time. That strength took root in Aunt Grace as well. When he first fell ill, she went and learned how to drive. It became her responsibility to transport everyone in the family. She eventually saved enough money from her job to buy her first car. And that car became her ticket to adventure, and freedom.

Aunt Grace was never home. She wasn't doing anything wrong, she was just visiting everybody she knew, or taking someone somewhere, or cleaning some one's house. She was busy, and she was always willing to help someone else. She had some difficulties because, as I said, she was slow. She did not comprehend some things. It was like one part of her cognition had been cut off.

But she did know goodness, kindness, and how to laugh. She was so much fun. She showered me and the other grand kids to come with love, gifts, fun. She was life itself, and I always looked forward to spending time with her.

In later years, after she and Grandma had moved to Ohio to live close to us, where I also lived at the time, she became pretty independent. In this I mean, she made new friends, without Grandma's consent. She went where she pleased, and did what she wanted with her own money. She learned how to write a check and balance her own checkbook. Yes, Aunt Grace had come of age, although she was well in her sixties by that time.

So, for the last few years, she had given up a lot of that independence. She gave up her right to drive. She turned over most of her finances to my mom and stepfather. She made her own funeral arrangements with a local funeral home, which shocked my mom greatly when she found out. But it turned out that she just did not want to be a burden, any more than she needed to be, to those she loved, and who loved her. My Aunt Grace.

For the past year she has lived in two nursing homes. She did well until last November, when she moved from one to the other. I'm not saying that is why she passed. She was 92 after all. But something changed for her, in that soon after she moved, she started fading away. Soon, the woman who was always talking, asking questions, telling cute jokes, suddenly spoke very little, and here lately not at all. She knew us when she saw us, smiled and held our hands. But she never spoke again once she stopped. And then on Sunday night, she was taken to the hospital, put on life support, and then simply stopped living. My Aunt Grace.

There is now a void where joy had been. But that joy will come back, as already I am laughing in my mind and heart, and even with a little chuckle here and there, at the funny things she would say and do. Yes, I will miss her greatly, but my love for her will never stop. And one day I will see her again. I am confidant of this fact. Life doesn't stop with the end of the body's life. It is only beginning. And Aunt Grace is now healthy and happy, and simply the best she has ever been, or could hope to be. She is with Jesus!

Blessings!

'Yes, we are good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.'
2 Corinthians 5:8 (ESV)

Friday, April 4, 2014

ECUADOR BOUND

Yes, that's right. I will be traveling to Ecuador this June. I have been waiting 9 long years to go back, and now God has seen fit to use me there once again.

Not that He doesn't already use me! Gracious me, He keeps me rather busy, He does. And I love it. I may get tired, discouraged, and all around down, but He is the One who always shows me what He has done, even when I didn't realize I was a part of it. He is amazing.

I love that place. Truly. It is not only a beautiful country, rich in history, landscape, and culture. But the people...oh, the people! They are beautiful. They are friendly. They need Jesus.

There are many Christians there already, but there are other religions as well. And that is why we are going. We are going for Bible studies, children's Bible School, to spend time with orphaned children, to build a playground, but most of all, to minister to the souls God chooses to put in our path. You see, this is what God has called His people to do...to take the Gospel of Christ to the far ends of the earth.

I am going with a large group from my church, 38 people. We will be with the same missionaries we were with when we went the last time, only there were only 8 of us, and it was a singing mission. This trip promises to be something different for me, something I have never truly experienced, and I am so excited I can't hardly stand it. Give me patience, Jesus!

A couple of other things are different this time. The last trip, we sent letters to family and friends to raise our funds. And of course, most of us were also making payments, and saving up spending money. This time, there will be a couple of small fund raisers.

But my husband and I have decided we are paying for my trip ourselves. We are not sending letters to anyone. We are not finding other ways to raise money. We are simply...trusting God.

My inner self tells me that if God truly wishes me to be on this trip, then He is going to fund it. And the way I am handling it is that I won't be a burden to someone else. Times are tough right now, for alot of folks. But when I make my payments, I am finding God has rearranged our finances in some different way. I can't explain it and I don't need to. It's God. Simply put, it's just Him! And because He has been so gracious to us, my trip is nearly paid for! Hooray!

Over the next couple of months, we will be preparing. The greatest preparation we can do is to pray. Prayer is the answer to everything; it is the beginning, and it should be the end, when we give the praise and thanksgiving, and all the glory, to the God who made it all possible. Whatever the 'it' may be. So we are praying for the trip itself. We pray for the souls and hearts being prepared by a Holy God. We pray for the missionaries, who are preparing for our arrival, and into whose hands God is entrusting us. We pray for our prayer partners, who intercede for us daily. We pray for our families, for the time we are away. And we pray for one another. We all know satan comes against us the most when we are stepping out in faith for something, so you know he hates we are going, that we WANT to go, and what we will be doing once we arrive there.

So this is what I ask of you, whether you know me or not. Whether you understand about mission trips or not. If you are a Christian, I covet your prayers. Pray that I will pray, and that I will pray consistantly. I am already doing this, but you know how life can 'get in the way' of prayer, and Bible Study. Pray that I will keep my eyes on the goal, to serve Him, not myself. Pray for safety, for our entire team, pray good health, and pray for the divine appointments we are anticipating. Most of all, please, please, just pray that God's will be done.

I do not deny that I will enjoy the trip for other reasons. It is an adventure, and the older I get, the more I crave adventure! It is a beautiful place, full of mystery, waterfalls, glorious birds and monkeys...the most beautiful flowers and trees you could ever want to see. I see God's hand in every single thing there. But I see it here as well. He is everywhere. And He expects us to always be on a mission field of some sort...even if it be in our own living room, or at the fence with our neighbor in the back yard. You needn't travel to another country to be a successful missionary. If your heart belongs to Christ, you are one.

I thank you in advance for your prayers, for your good wishes. And be assured I will be providing you with details and pictures upon my return. For what God has done in our lives, we will share His glory with others, and constantly sing songs of praise to Him, and Him alone.

Blessings!


Friday, October 11, 2013

Seasons....

'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.' Ecclesiastes 3:1. As I grow older, the truth of this statement becomes clearer, and creates an excitement about my future.

Our lives are not meant to be stagnant, never-changing. Instead they are to be like the seasons, gradually evolving, bringing their own beauty and blessings to maturity.

God uses these seasons ...of our lives to show us His glory, to grow us in spirit and faith, and to give us fresh perspective when we move from one to the other. We will have many beginnings, and many endings. In between, we will experience joys and sorrows, trials and victories. And each time we move on, we will be stronger, more trusting of God, and sensing the purposes He has designed for each of us.

So, no matter which season you are currently living in, search, find, enjoy all the adventure, possibilities, and blessing that awaits you. Even in the midst of difficulties, we will find the good if we will seek Him, trust Him, and live for Him. And with the good, comes wisdom, knowledge, and strength.

Blessings!

Monday, April 1, 2013

#4 HE IS RISEN!

(I am reposting four devotionals about Easter from Living Water Daily Devotionals. I am doing this because I feel so strongly that the message needs to be repeated, that we understand what Christ did for us. Blessings!) (March 31, 2013)

HE IS RISEN!

Today we celebrate Easter Sunday. We remember that Jesus, the Christ, was persecuted, tortured, and killed on the cross.

Yet He fulfilled prophecy when He arose from the grave, conquering death, and bringing salvation and forgiveness of sin to all mankind.

'But He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.' (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

Three days, just three. Yet they changed the world forever. He changed us forever. Once we know the truth, the reality of His sacrifice for us, His obedience to the Father, His willingness to suffer, we can never be the same.

We can only be surrendered. Praise His holy name for His amazing grace, His endless love.

Happy Easter, and blessings!



#3 So They Took The Body of Jesus...

(I am reposting four devotionals about Easter from Living Water Daily Devotionals. I am doing this because I feel so strongly that the message needs to be repeated, that we understand what Christ did for us. Blessings!) (March 30, 2013)

'So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.' (John 19:40)

The people had witnessed the arrest, persecution, torture, and crucifixion of Jesus. Now He was brought down from the cross. Can you imagine the anguish of those closest to Him, as He lay before them beaten, bloody, and dead?

He was taken for burial in a donated tomb. His body was prepared, and the stone rolled into place. Heartbreak surely brought a numbness as they worked, doing the things which had to be done for the burial of a deceased loved one.

At this point we are not given any words to describe anything but grief. The horrendous events of the past couple of days had to be seared into their mind's eyes. But in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23, verse 56, we are told, 'On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.' Still obeying, even if not understanding why their Jesus had died.

We can take a lesson from this. No matter our circumstances, no matter what it looks like to us, no matter whether we see light at the end of the tunnel or not, obedience should be our response. When we are numb with grief, or fear, or simply with weariness from the fight, if we will respond the way Jesus teaches us to, in faith and obedience, the Light will appear.

Tomorrow we celebrate the Resurrection. This is the event, above all others, that shows the world God's devout, sublime, endless and timeless love for us.

Remember to attend the church of your choice, and participate in this celebration. Remembrance of what Jesus did for us is a form of worship. So go, dear one, and worship Him with all your heart, your mind, your body, and your soul.

Blessings!

#2 So They Took Jesus...

(I am reposting four devotionals about Easter from Living Water Daily Devotionals. I am doing this because I feel so strongly that the message needs to be repeated, that we understand what Christ did for us. Blessings!) (March 29, 2013)

'So they took Jesus, & He went out , bearing His own cross.....'. (John 19:17)

We go from what we call Palm Sunday, when Jesus triumphantly returns to Jerusalem amid the people waving palm fronds and calling out Hosanna, to the same people calling out for His crucifixion. When given the choice of his or a criminal's release, they chose the criminal.

Yet we should not judge them. Many times throughout our lifetimes we will have been guilty of the same thing. Yes, we often choose sin over Christ. Usually not deliberately, but we choose it just the same.

The difference now is that if we are true Christians, He is living within us. And because this awful thing happened to Him, He gives us mercy and forgiveness. His Father, our Father, allowed this death to happen. He willingly gave His Son as a sacrifice because of our sin, because of our choices.

So as He proceeded on to Golgotha, in absolute misery but total determination, we were on His mind. Yes, whether you know Him now or not, He still did this for you, and for me.

Consider today the choices Jesus made. Mark today as a day of worship and remembrance of what was done for mankind by the Creator of mankind. Be sorrowful for His suffering, yet joyful for His indescribable love. There is none like Him.

Blessings!

#1 -- A Little While and You Will Not See Me...

(I am reposting four devotionals about Easter from Living Water Daily Devotionals. I am doing this because I feel so strongly that the message needs to be repeated, that we understand what Christ did for us. Blessings!) (March 28, 2013)

'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me, because I go to the Father.' (John 16-16) (March 28, 2013)

Much of the words Jesus spoke at The Last Supper were not understood. The disciples were confused by what Jesus was trying to tell them. He knew this, but He also knew that they would eventually remember His words after...

... After His death and resurrection much of what He had told them the preceding three years, and on that last evening, began to make sense. The fullness of His life and actions made itself clear. But they had to live through the confusion, the terror and sorrow, and the joy of His defeat over the grave before they would understand. Thus, they were finally prepared properly, equipped for His ministry that He had instructed them to continue when He was gone from them.

All of Jesus' words make sense. We know the beginning, and the end, of the story, His story. It is not fiction, but an autobigraphy of the most amazing life ever lived...one that lives on today and forever more.

Remember the scene of The Last Supper as you celebrate this coming Easter. And remember that even as we understand His words of truth, we will truly one day understand the perfect miracle that is Him.

Blessings!