Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Memories of Mama...and Things She Passed Down to Me

One of my daughters is a blogger and she recently started a “Wednesday Walk Down Memory Lane” addition on her blogsite, and she challenged other bloggers to write down some of their memories on Wednesdays and add them to their blogs, or link them to hers. She also encourages them to print them out every week so that they can become a book of memories to give to their children someday. This same daughter has always kept a journal and has also written a book that was recently published. She finds it easy to express herself through writing. This may be something that runs in our family.

I also enjoy writing down memories, or things that are in my heart or on my mind. I find that it is a creative outlet for me and maybe even a way to minister to others. I don’t worry about correct grammar, spelling or sentence structure,…I just let it flow and then I have my husband proof read it and he is more than happy to correct any major mistakes!

I think some people would like to write but they think they don’t have the time, or the ability, or they think that nobody would be interested in what they have to say. I would like to challenge those people to just start somewhere and write something to see if it unleashes something inside and see if it doesn’t come along easier than they think. Perhaps like me, you might find out that it is in your blood and has been passed down to you. (:>)

When I was a child my mother only had one arm, as she had been in a car accident and lost her right arm before three of her four children were born. She had been right handed, so she had to learn to do everything with her left hand. I imagine that this was a very hard thing to do, but she had no choice, so she relearned everything from handwriting to tying her shoes, to diapering a baby with only one hand. She often used a typewriter when writing letters and I always admired the way she didn’t let her handicap alter her life if she could find another way to accomplish a task.

I would sit with her and watch her type letters to her family and friends who lived in Texas where she grew up. She loved to keep in touch with them since she had moved from Texas to California. Writing to her loved ones was something she enjoyed. I would get a pad of paper and a pencil and write to them too, and I think this is when I discovered that I liked to write. Mama would help me and it was a special time for the two of us. Over the years we enjoyed writing Christmas letters and addressing cards together, and this is something I love to do to this day. It evokes memories of mama for me. We would string the cards we received around a doorway, or across the front room window. I loved all of the pretty pictures on the cards, and especially liked the ones of baby Jesus in the manger. I liked to read the friendly replies we received in response to our letters.

When was the last time you sat and wrote a letter to a friend? Maybe you should do that today. I am sure that it would be appreciated and maybe even be a blessing to someone who could use some encouragement. Mama was good at encouraging others even though she had a hard life raising a family with no help from a husband most of that time. She was faced with many challenges, but with God’s help she faced them with faith and courage.

Back then the cars gear shifts were on the floor and since my mom lost her right arm she had to relearn how to drive a stick shift, letting go of the steering wheel, reaching over with her left arm to shift the gears. Now I think the hardest thing for me to do after a car accident had claimed my arm,… and almost taken my life, would be to even get inside another car, let alone learning to drive again with only one arm, but my mother had fortitude and she gave everything a try. It did become easier when they made automatic transmissions and she didn’t have to shift the gears, and when someone also attached a little knob on the steering wheel that made it easier for her to turn the car around and easier to crank the steering wheel as she backed into a curbside parking place etc.

When I was a child I didn’t always appreciate my mama, and I took for granted much of what she did for me. But as I became a mom and was caring for my own children, I often stopped and wondered how my mama would have done the task I was doing when she only had the one arm? I still do that, and I fondly remember all of her efforts that made my childhood a happy one.
Kneeling by the bed or sofa, mama and I would pray for our needs, and for the needs of others, and when we were done she would often times have tears in her eyes that she wiped away, but there was always a peaceful smile on her face even though the tears were there. I know that same peace that comes from carrying burdens to the Lord and leaving them there,…and I thank God for a mama who taught me to do that.

It has been over twenty years since my mama went to be with Jesus but what she taught me lives on. I love to think back and remember her, and there is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t have some special memory of her. I am glad my daughter challenged me to write these memories down today. It does my heart good to share them too. Just writing down my feelings revives something inside of me. I think God brings these things to my mind and wants me to count them as blessings in my life.

How about you? Do you have a blessing to share with others? Some memory, some feeling that needs to be unleashed? Why not give it a try? Walk down memory lane and write it down. Share it with others and be a blessing,…and give glory to God. And, if you have some burden in your life or a handicap that you face everyday, step out in faith as my mama did and trust God to get you through it, one day at a time. Who knows, maybe you have a child who is watching you and learning from your example!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grandma's Hands

Recently I read a little story titled "Grandma's Hands" and it touched me. It had a picture along with the story, of several generations of female hands in a circle, telling a story all it's own.

I look at my hands and think how old they are looking. I have thought back to the days when they were pretty, with long painted fingernails at the end of each finger. I used to be proud of my hands,...and was complimented on them lots of times, and was told that I had "pretty nails". (Especially when I was working at a jewelry store for several years and I spent time caring for my hands more because I had to show jewelry and try on rings for people.)

I think back further, to my hands as a child when I used to have excema rash on my hands and I remember how they would itch so badly, and I would scratch them and wring them together so much that they would crack and bleed and make my life so miserable until they would heal. They were not a pretty sight and I was ashamed for people to see them, so I would often stick them in my pockets and try to hide them.

I would have "flair ups" throughout the years with the rash on my hands, and especially during the years when my three girls were babies and I would rinse their dirty diapers out in the toilet and then constantly be washing my hands after each diaper change. Turning little night gowns and socks, and baby clothes right-side out while folding laundry would be agony to my cracked, sore fingers. I would slather vaseline liberally over my hands again and again to keep them lubricated so that I could bend my fingers and move my hands enough to complete my "daily duties" around the house. (I think every door knob was covered with a coating of vaseline back then, as well as the steering wheel of my car!) Ha!

These flair ups and outbreaks on my hands continued for years and years as I am sure even my girls can remember. And even as I type this, I have a couple of places on my fingers that are red and itchy, from washing and cutting up vegetables just last night.

Maybe these problems with my hands have been a little "thorn in my flesh to keep me humble?" I don't know. But I am thankful that I have two hands,...and I have always been thankful since I grew up with a mom that only had one arm and one hand! She was in a car accident before three of her four children were born and she lost her right arm. She had been right handed so she had to learn to do everything with her left arm. Mom always had such fortitude,...and she worked so hard with that one arm.

That leads me to another story. My friend Kathy who lived in Derby, went to see my mom when she was in California visiting her mom one time. When Kathy got back to town she said an interesting thing. She said,..."your hands look like your mom's hand". I looked down at my hands when she said that, and I agreed,...they did look like mom's. Mom only had her left hand, but it is my right hand that especially looks like my mom's. The same callouses from holding pencils too tight, and the fingers are shaped the same. Since my friend Kathy said that to me I have often looked down at my hand and thought of my mother.

Over the years when my girls were little I would put my right hand behind my back and try to do normal things with only one hand. Things that my mom would have had to do, like changing a diaper, or washing dishes in the sink, or pulling up a zipper, or tying a shoe. I suddenly would have new compassion and admiration for my mom,...and just how hard her life must have been, raising 4 kids alone with only one arm, and one hand. A couple of years back when I broke my right elbow I did it again,....I thought , "how did mom ever do all that she had to do, with only one arm?"

Yet, as I look back and think about it, everything did get done. All of the important things! She could still touch my face and dry my tears. She would wrap her arm around me and draw me to herself and provide me with comfort and safety. And she would point that finger towards me in warning when I needed correction, and still deliver a swat or two when I needed it. That left hand typed letters to her family in Texas, and to her many friends over the years, and addressed many Christmas cards. And it also steered our car to the little white steepled church year after year. We attended Siver Acres Community Church, in Santa Ana, California. I love those memories of being in that church Sunday after Sunday, and Wednesdays too, with my mama.

I liked the nap time stories my Mom would tell me, about growing up on a farm and how she would have to help make butter, and pick cotton, and work hard with her hands, just like her brothers did, and like her sister Ethel did, even though Ethel was 16 years older than she was. She'd tell me about washing their clothes on a wash board and having to wring them out and hang them up to dry. And how she learned to kill chickens and pluck them and cut them up for dinner. I remember falling off to sleep as she went on and on with her childhood tales of growing up on a farm in Merkel, Texas.

Long ago and far away are those times, but my mom is as close to my heart as ever.
I don't dwell on the memories of her in the nursing homes, but on the happy years with her when I was growing up.

When I looked at the photo of the hands, and read the story that was with it, I was just moved in my spirit. I don't have any memories of my grandma, and I know my girls' memories with their Grandma Tate are few, but I still hold dear MY memories of her with my girls.

She did love them so much, and she kissed on their little chubby cheeks, as they wrapped their chubby little arms around her neck. She had a comfy lap to crawl up into, and an ample bossom to nestle against as she would draw them close to her heart with her one arm. She always wore lipstick, (just like I do), and when she'd give my girls kisses, she would always leave her mark! (:>)

Mom always had a big purse with loose change inside, and she'd give my kids nickels, dimes and quarters,...and sticks of gum. All of her grandbabies would ask for gum when they would see her, and so we nicknamed her "Grandma Gum!", cuz that's what the kids would say when they would see her.

She would take a hold of their sweet little hands and kiss them and tell the girls that she loved them. And she would sing "Jesus loves me" to them, and "Jesus loves the little children" too. All too soon she got feeble and weak and she spent way too many years in nursing homes, and that is so sad. But through all of our long distance phone conversations throughout the years, she kept up with us, and I am sure she smiled when I would tell her all about my girls.

The very best thing is that we will all be reunited together in heaven with Jesus someday, and we will get to spend all of eternity with her. The Lord will let my girls see the true heart of their dear Grandma Margie. And since she will be perfect in heaven and have both of her hands in her spiritual, glorified body, all of us girls can join hands and form a cirle of love.
We can even let our boys in the circle as we praise the Lord together forever more!!!!!!

We should take a picture of our hands someday when we are together, I'll put my right hand in, in memory of mom, since that is the one that looks like hers, and then my left one for myself, and then my girls and their girls. This can be our own "Grandma's Hands" story.

Before too many more years pass by, my girls might be grandmas too, and they will have their stories to tell. Isn't it great to think how the love we hold in our hearts just keeps getting passed down through the generations? Take a few moments to picture your "Grandma's Hands", and think of all of the ways she has touched your lives,....and pass the stories on, so Grandma can live forever in your hearts and in the hearts of her descendants.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Lord Will Light My Candle

The other night my husband and I attended a “Candle Light” service at our daughter’s church. It was Christmas Eve and everyone was in a good mood. I watched as people greeted each other with handshakes and hugs, and a hearty “Merry Christmas”. I myself felt a warm fuzzy feeling of contentment as I sat beside my husband in the decorated church, waiting for the service to begin. The pastor of the church, dressed in a cheerful red sweater and slacks was walking amongst the crowded sanctuary patting shoulders and shaking hands, and having friendly conversations with people, and he also gave us a special greeting as he said,…“well hello there,… Lisa’s parents!” Then he proceeded with a smile to say that he knew who we were but he just couldn’t remember our names. I didn’t care if he knew our names or not, because he had singled us out and tried to make us feel welcomed.

I thought of how Jesus would walk amongst the crowds of people who followed him. Each person had a special need, and most of them were hoping that Jesus would meet that need by touching their infirmity with his healing hands. Some people were just curious about this man who had grown up amongst them as a carpenter’s son, but now was rumored to be endowed with special power. I pictured in my mind what it would have been like to be there with Jesus.

What had brought me to this service and what was I hoping to bring away from it? Well since our daughter’s husband is the youth pastor there, we have often gone to special services there,… like when our granddaughter was in a program, or when our daughter was singing in the choir, or when the Vacation Bible School program was presented at the end of a week of Bible School that several of our grandkids had attended. We have been there when our son-in-law was installed as a deacon, and then later when he was ordained as a pastor. But this night my husband and I were seeking the baby Jesus as the shepherds had done.

Earlier in the day my husband asked me if I would like to go to the Christmas Eve Candle Light service at Lisa’s church, since our church had prayer meeting the night before but they were not having a Christmas Eve service. As empty nesters we were quietly sitting together with our coffee in hand, doing our morning devotion time, and I thought that it sounded nice, so I said sure let’s go!

So here we were, candles in our hands. I was ready for the Lord to,…“light my candle!” My 16 year old granddaughter was happy to see us and she gave us her warm hugs and she and her friend sat next to grandpa. I was thankful for the gift of this teenage granddaughter, who came to us through adoption 16 Christmases ago.

We started off by singing Christmas Carols and that was fun. There were a couple of special songs from the choir and I looked at our beautiful daughter up there singing her heart out for the Lord,…and my heart was filled with love for the gift of this daughter, and for the way that she loves Jesus.

Then there was a my handsome son-in-law who came up front and welcomed everyone and then he shared his special memories of growing up in church and attending many of these candle light services. He said that they were always special to him and among his favorite Christmas time memories as a child. I found myself thanking God for this gift of a Christian son-in-law who loves the Lord, and loves my daughter and granddaughter.

There was also an elderly lady who told her story of the best Christmas she ever had. Her mother was a nurse and was working for 25 cents an hour trying to support the family since her father had passed away. To make more money the mother had to move away so that she could work in a hospital, and it was hard to leave her children behind in the care of someone else, but she had to do it. The elderly lady telling the story said she had a little sister and also one that had passed away, she had felt much sorrow in her young life. What did she want for Christmas? Well she had always wanted a piano and a bike, but didn‘t have much hope of ever having them. But that Christmas she got both. Before her father died he had made arrangements with someone to purchase a piano for her and she received it,…as well as a bicycle! Does Jesus know how to give us the desires of our hearts,… or what!??….(:>) I thanked the Lord for the gift of this dear lady’s story.

As things continued and we were thinking about the pregnant Mary about to give birth to the Lord Jesus, a pregnant lady stepped out of the choir for a solo. We had prayed for this very lady as just days before she had surgery to remove her gallbladder even though she was big with child,…and here she was singing to the Lord! Thank you for the gift of this lady, and the answer to our prayers, as she and the baby came through the ordeal safely.

“Mary Did You Know?” was one of the solos we heard that night and I think this is one of my favorite Christmas songs. What must it have been like to bring the son of God into this world? It is no wonder that the Bible says she pondered all of these things in her heart!

The pastor read the Christmas message as a man played a guitar softly in the background. It stirred my heart once again, as if I was hearing it for the first time. My husband took my hand and squeezed it as we listened to this amazing story of the greatest gift ever given.

An offering was received to help needy families on Christmas and as it was collected a little girl played her violin, and it was fantastic! My heart had been greatly moved by this entire service,…like the Lord had lit my candle!

But as is customary, the pastor and his wife lit their candles and moved among the congregation lighting the person’s candle on the end of each row and in turn we shared the light with one another and a warm glow filled the church. I pray that the Lord will light your candle too, at this most blessed time of the year!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Underside of The Tapestry

Have you ever looked at the underside of a tapestry? It is not very pretty. There are random threads going here and there with seemingly no design or pattern. There may be knots or a loose thread or two, and it can be very unappealing to the average eye. But if you turn the tapestry over, a beautiful pattern appears and the finished item brings delight to the viewer's eyes and to their hearts.

There is a song called,..."I Can Only Imagine"...and it goes on to question what heaven will be like, and what the singer will do when he sees Jesus. Well until we turn over that tapestry and gaze at the completed product we can't even imagine the beauty we shall see in heaven. Here on earth we experience only the "underside" of the tapestry,...the weavings of our Master, as he adds new threads and different colors into our lives. Sometimes there is a glimpse of the beauty we will behold...such as when we view a morning sunrise, or an evening sunset, or as we gaze at the ocean as it rolls back and forth with great unseen power...or as we point our heads upwards to see the peak of a mountain top covered in snow, or a tall tree with a bounty of colorful leaves as it sways in the wind. Or as we see the first crocus poke through the snow covered ground, or a hyacinth, or a jonquil to remind us that spring has come. Times when we stare at a shining lake that sparkles in the sun, and reflects like a mirror, and our breath is taken away at it's beauty.

But there are other threads that the Weaver allows into the tapestry of our lives at times that are not so pleasant. Things like tornadoes, or floods, or fires in a beautiful forest. There are riptides in that beautiful ocean, and tsunamis. There are avalanches in those mountains, and all of these things can bring distress, sorrows and pain. They are like big ugly knots in the tapestry and we don't understand why they are there. To make it more personal, there are times when people we love get sick or die. There are financial hardships when people lose their jobs or are unable to work. There are times of trials and we often do not understand what is going on, or why the Weaver has allowed these things to happen. The winds blow hard and the leaves fall off those lovely trees. The branches are sometimes broken. BUT the tree actually gets stronger from the storms that blow so hard as it stands against their forces. After the fires, the green still appears on the forest floors. The Master allows the wheat fields to be burned to make for more crops to spring forth again after the new seeds are planted. Hopefully we learn and grow and change as we lean on Him through these times when things get all knotted up in our lives. And the tapestry continues to get bigger and more full of confusing lines and patterns that to us make absolutely no sense!

Well, I don't think they will ever make sense to us until we do see the other side of the tapestry when we are in heaven. In fact I think the finished tapestry is our life in heaven with our Master Weaver! There is some beauty here on earth but it is a beauty that has been marred with the sinful deeds of man. Heaven will not be marred. There will not be the knots and loose threads. Everything will come together and make sense. The completed tapestry will tell a story of His goodness. Questions will be answered,...but we probably won't even care, or even want to remember the trials we have experienced here on earth as the Lord has been weaving our lives for our good and to suit His purpose and to bring Glory to Himself. I think we will rejoice forever more and praise our Weaver as we see the finished product. Let's have faith in this life that He isn't finished with us yet. That each thread He weaves into our lives is a needed thread to bring more beauty. Let's be thankful that He thinks we are worth the time and efforts to work on our tapestries at all. And may we offer the beautiful finished product at his feet and humbly bow upon them in His presence! Amen? Selah! (Meditate on this!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Life-Less Trees Oustide My Window

As I look out my window today I see some trees without their leaves and they look so life-less, and indeed they do appear to be dead. However they are not dead, they are just going through a normal process. The leaves have gone from green to gold or red and then they turned to brown and fell from the tree and have blown around in the changing wind until someone rakes them up and puts them into large bags and sets them out for the trash man to pick up.

These bare trees look cold and empty and not very pretty at present, but I know this is just for a short time and when autumn and winter have passed, spring will bring them tender shoots once again on each of their branches and the barren looking sticks will flourish with lots of healthy green leaves to sway in the wind. Some of the trees will also flower and lovely white, purple or pink blossoms will be abundant, and this will bring delight to all of those who pass this way.

But during the barren times I can't help but feel a sadness and a longing for the fruitfulness of the tree to return. I think that I am going through a similar time right now because I have not been well and therefore I am not flourishing. I have not been active, or able to enjoy the routine things that daily life involves. I have felt like my strength has drained and my leaves have fallen. But I do know that this is just a passing season of my life, and before too long my life will return to normal.

When the snow comes the barren trees will appear to be dressed again with glistening white coats. Or sparkling ice, like jewelry, will dangle from the formerly bare branches. This will bring needed moisture and it will be good for the trees. And I will be able to look out my windows and enjoy the wintry white wonderland and my spirit will be lifted.

God has a reason for each season of our lives,....and He knows what we need to go through and how to prune us so that we can bring forth abundant fruit at His appointed times. I am so thankful that things are not always what they appear to be,...the trees are not dead,...and either am I! There has just been a quiet time where God wants me to be still and dwell in His presence. My trial has been so small compared to what some people experience. I am not complaining, just reflecting on what God wants me to learn at this time of my life.Yet I will admit that I long for the warmth He will bring and look forward to the new life that will soon appear, and the growth, both on the trees and in my life.

If your life is looking a little bleak, and your branches are feeling empty, don't despair the Lord is always near and He will hear your whispered pray. Don't lose hope, hang on to your faith in Him. Open your eyes to the beauty that can be found even in the autumns of our lives or the cold dark days of winter.Sometimes we need the quiet, still, moments. And before too long we will be seeing new growth sprouting out from the dormant areas in our lives if we yield ourselves to Him, and let His strength flow through us like sap.... bringing new life and new energy to us once again.