Category Archives: Family

What Every Grandmother Needs…

Friends!  Whether you’re already a grandmother or have a friend who’s a grandmother, I’ve got just the book for you and/or for you to give to a friend.

I discovered this book thanks to my sis-in-love, Margee, who gifted me with it when our little Claire Elizabeth was born. The book?  A Grandmother’s Prayers—60 Days of Devotions and Prayer by Kay Swatkowski.

Not only was the book new to me, so was the author, Kay Swatkowski.  I’m already a huge fan of her ideas and creative writing, plus I discovered her blog:  www.americangrandma.com which also offers a wide variety of information.

The book includes sixty devotions.  Each is short, including five parts:

1 – Kay opens with a story which illustrates the point of that day’s devotion.

2 – “Let us pray that…” This part offers points to pray about related to the story along with a Scripture to bring that point home.

3 – A prayer to help us apply this idea into our lives with our grandchildren.

4 – “Think and Do”:  This part includes questions to get us thinking about how to incorporate the devotion’s idea into our lives, sometimes a Scripture to look up and sometimes a children’s book is recommended.  (I grinned after Kay recommended children’s books by Max Lucado on more than one day.  This is yet another reason she and I could be big buddies. Bigger smile.)

I’ve made quite a list of books purely from Kay’s recommendations to look into for reading to Claire and our future grands, Lord willing. (This may be a bit of an investment!)  Kay gives a brief snippet of each book she recommends for younger and older children.

Here are just a few:

 

Bedtime Blessings by John Trent

Just in Case You Ever Wonder, The Crippled Lamb, and The Christmas Child by Max Lucado

God is With You by Larry Libby

My Friend Jesus by Kathryn Slattery

Too Small to Ignore by Wes Stafford

The Lord’s Prayer by Rick Warren

A Child’s Look at the 23rd Psalm by W. Phillip Keller

A children’s adaptation of Les Miserables by Monica Kulling

The Priest with Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul

She also recommends reading missionary stories of Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor, and Jim Elliot.

5Each devotion closes with several Scriptures to reinforce its’ focus.  Each entry is empowering and encouraging for us grandparents to boldly press on praying for our precious grandchildren.

Kay opens the book with a charge of sorts:

“Research reveals that the love and care of the older generation has a positive impact on children in many ways.

One study found a definite link between grandparent involvement and adolescent well-being.

Grandparents provide  not only affection and support, but also wisdom, problem-solving, and stability during times of family crisis…

GOD IS NOT FINISHED WITH US.

WE HAVE A CRITICAL JOB TO DO.”

As God would orchestrate, when our whole family was at the beach in South Carolina in July, I opened Kay’s book to “Day Thirty:  The Sea.”  There I was, on a deck overlooking the ocean while Kay talks about us  being drawn to the sea.

All I have to do is see the sea and my soul begins to stir.  I recharge by the sea better than any other place on this earth.

Kay reminds us, “Our God is a Sea of limitless love and forgiveness. He is a Sea of acceptance and mercy. He is a Sea of strength and comfort…”

When the tide was out, walks on the beach allowed us to tote Claire along in her stroller.

Even this poor guy, having lost an eye and a claw, strolled the beach!

This particular morning, Diana and I started out with Claire in her Baby Bjorn.  It was so hot, Claire immediately fell asleep.  We decided to ditch the walk and grab an iced coffee in the air-conditioned shops.  Certain the whipped cream smothering that coffee was walked off from our other beach walks???

This year’s family vacation not only included the beach, but our new little beach baby.  Please note the wee bit of attention Baby Claire received from all of us:

In the devotional’s closing on the sea, Kay gives several Scriptures to pray, my favorite of which is:

“Let us pray that our children will have the delight of leading their children to an understanding of the deep love of God and of becoming part of one endless line of faith until Christ returns.” (3 John 1:4)

Amen and Amen.

 

Thanks to the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant and Charleston, South Carolina for a week of fun for our entire family…What a blessing!

Til next time!

 

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More on Gathering Around a Table with Help from Shauna Niequist’s book: BREAD AND WINE

Friends!  The past few weeks we’ve been looking around with mission-minded eyes from our back yards to our front yards, perhaps plopping down turquoise picnic tables in them.

This week we’re going to mosey on inside, and try a few recipes in the kitchen, making some unsuspecting guests at our table very, very happy.

Even if you’re challenged in the cooking department like me, you’ll be so inspired to try what author Shauna Niequist suggests in her super fun book, Bread and Wine—A Love Letter to Life Around the Table (with recipes).

Shauna’s honest, no-nonsense style and wit make this book a page-turner.  Divided into three parts, most chapters, which are lovely vignettes, include a recipe.

All her chocolate recipes call for my favorite ingredient:  dark chocolate. The one I most desperately wish to try ASAP is her three-ingredient “Simplest Dark Chocolate Mousse”.  I know…  She dubs it “cheater mousse”.  LOL.

Sensing some of her readers may be cooking impaired, Shauna offers entertaining tips, a list for what to stock your pantry with, and menu ideas.  It’s the best!  Plus, for those of you who need to eat gluten free, she either shows you how to make the dish GF, or it already is GF.

You’ll become acquainted with Shauna and her husband, Aaron, their two boys, Henry and Mac and many of their unique friends. Her Supper Club sounds like a blast.

Her extended family makes cameos as well and you’ll get a feel for how real they are. In reality, I’m sure it’s tough to escape from under the microscope of her Dad’s mega church, Willow Creek.  (www.willowcreek.org )

Also an accomplished author, Shauna’s Dad, Bill Hybels, clearly loves his family.  Getting a peek into their family is so sweet.  Their devotion to one another is beautiful.

I love how Shauna calls her Mother, Lynne, “a global soul: a poet, an activist, a woman of creativity and conviction and vision, a woman I aspire to be like in a million ways.” Lynne is also a fantastic author.

Just as author Kristin Schell showed us easy ways to be hospitable via a turquoise table, Shauna does the very same at her dining room table.  She proclaims, “Fuss not!”, blissfully chucking perfectionism out the window.

This is how she puts her foot down:  “You can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving…” I need to make that quote into a sign and hang it in our kitchen!

Here, Shauna’s readying to prepare a meal…

My Mother was a long-suffering perfectionist.  When John and I would go home to Lexington for dinner, she’d spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen.  We’d serve our plates and she insisted we “go on and eat.”  We complied, but by the time she fixed her plate and came in to eat, we were all nearly done. There we sat.

One petite example:  Jelly was never served in a jelly jar, it was presented in a crystal bowl, silver spoon at the ready.  To this day, I still laugh when I whip out the ketchup and barbecue sauce bottles, salad dressing bottles, etc. and set them on the counter for everyone to self-serve.  (Mother would be horrified. Shauna would say, “Yes!  You can do this!”)

Above and beyond striving for simplicity, Shauna and I could be buddies on many levels. In addition to being a mom of boys, I adore her love for bread.  I’d go one step further and confess my love for bread and butter. (Any of you Whole 30 advocates out there are cringing.)

Shauna explains her title beautifully:  “…I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine…The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.” To me, that makes communion that much more special.

Another of many favorite quotes in the book is: “Many of the most sacred moments in my life, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place around the table.

Something extraordinary happens when we…

Slow down,

Open our homes,

Look into one another’s faces, and

Listen to one another’s stories around the table.”

We also learn early on Shauna bravely put herself in a culinary boot camp.  I applaud her effort. Her experience filters throughout the book in an encouraging if-I-can-do-this-you-can-do-this way.

One statement from the Intro’ seems to be a goal of the book. We readers get to see it in action in each of the meals Shauna serves.  I see it in three parts:

What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to

(1) Rest and

(2) Connect and

(3) Be fed at my table.” (I added the numbers.)

Dash  to your local bookstore.  Find this book and flip thru’ it.  My guess is you’ll see enough recipes you’ll want to try, especially when you learn the stories behind them…even better!  Bread and Wine would make a great gift as well.

‘Til next time!

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Big Excitement from Sally Lloyd Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible—10th Anniversary! And more!

Friends!  Blessings to you this week.  I’ve got some fun news for you about more than one book by one of my favorite children’s authors, Sally Lloyd-Jones. (We adults enjoy her books as much as our children and grandchildren do.)

I first learned about Sally Lloyd-Jones one weekend when our middle son, Gordy, was home from college several years ago.  He asked me if I’d take him out and buy him a book.  Friends, now this kind of request rarely happens from a boy who’s in college.

This wasn’t a book he needed for classes.  This was a book he heard about from some kids involved with the ministry of  Campus Outreach. All the kids were talking about and reading a children’s Bible.  The Bible?  The Jesus Storybook Bible—Every Story Whispers His Name.

Yes, well, I don’t know about you, but if your child asks you for any Bible, wouldn’t you be thrilled?  Gordy and I marched out and bought a copy for him and a copy for John and me.

The staffers at Campus Outreach were smart.  They were showing college students all about the Bible via Jago’s cool illustrations and Sally Lloyd-Jones’ storytelling skills based on the Bible. Sally’s creation has not only reached and touched college students’  lives, now in its’ tenth year, it’s been translated into thirty-three languages all over the world. Ponder that for a minute…

Here’s a pic of the new gift edition:

Sally begins by reassuring us readers, “You see, the best thing about this Story is—it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.”

I love what she says in the section on Adam and Eve, “You see no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children—with a

Never Stopping,

Never Giving Up,

Unbreaking,

Always and

Forever Love.”

(These five types of love are repeated throughout her book.)

Another favorite part is found in Paul’s transformation when he says to the people, “It’s not about keeping rules! You don’t have to be good at being good for God to love you. You just have to believe what Jesus has done and follow him. Because it’s not about trying, it’s about trusting. It’s not about rules, It’s about Grace: God’s free gift—that cost him everything.”

I just love how she explains the Gospel.  This book really is for everyone, not  just children!

I discovered another book by Sally at a shower given for me to “Stock the Grandmother’s Library” my cousin Bonnie hosted.  Talk about book heaven! Baby’s Hug-A-Bible is an adorable book, and one where the child can literally hug the fleece-covered book.  It includes ten favorite Bible stories in rhyme.  It would be a great way to introduce your child or grandchild to God’s Word.

For the toddlers who are being potty trained, don’t miss another one of Sally’s books with the best title ever:  Skip to the Loo, My Darling! A Potty Book.  The illustrations and rhyming words are just too terrific.  Beyond clever.

I heard Sally interviewed about this book on the Eric Metaxas Show.  They are long-time friends. You’ll find their back and forth banter priceless. www.metaxastalk.com

She was also recently on his show talking about the 10th Anniversary edition of The Jesus Storybook Bible as well as the Stories and Songs Tour she would be doing with Amy Grant and Ellie Holcomb.  (It ran from March 19-May 13.)

Sally was born in Uganda.  She reveals while she was only nine years of age, at a boarding school no less, she experienced God speaking into her life about her future. It’s an irrefutable God-incident!

Sally’s newest children’s book, Found:  Psalm 23 sounds strangely familiar to her own story.  It’s her paraphrase of Psalm 23 from The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The books we’ve talked about this week are just a sampling of many, many wonderful offerings Sally’s written.  Pop over to her website and check them out. (www.sallylloyd-jones.com ) I can’t begin to say which is my favorite, but I’m on a mission to “research” them all, one by one, and soon will be reading them to our little Claire, Lord willing.

‘Til next time!

 

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Don’t Make Me Come In There… “The Power of a Whisper” by Bill Hybels Makes You Think

Friends! I pray today finds you well and that perhaps you’re getting to experience a beautiful spring day.  It’s been a wild-n-crazy week in the Hoagland Household. (Translation: Not enough hours in the day.)

I found a post on a most helpful and interesting book by Bill Hybels which I wrote about a while ago, worthy of a reprise. Please enjoy.

Next week,  I’ve got a fun, new devotional to share with you. It will lift your spirits every day.

May you have a blessed week and hear from the Holy Spirit thanks to Bill’s great thoughts…


 

Ahhhh…Motherhood…. A time when you finally admit, “Never say never!”

How ‘bout a for instance?

“I’ll never be one of those Mothers who chucks a pop tart in the back seat to my child on the way to school.”  Busted.

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“I’ll never plunk my child down in front of a TV and let him/her sit for hours.”  Busted.

 “I”ll never scream and yell like a  possessed person at my child.”  Yeah, right.

To this day, our boys’ favorite seemingly-possessed-style-of-parenting was me shouting “May Day!  May Day!” at the top of my lungs when something really went awry.  As if “the troops” knew I was waving a major white flag?

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After years of experimentation (!!!), probably the biggest attention grabber in my mothering was lowering my voice, in a do-or-die whisper.  Whispering won out way over yelling.  Greatest fear factor:  Whispering “Don’t Make Me Come In There!”

So what exactly do you do when someone’s whispering to you?  You sit still, ears at attention, and you listen

This week I’d like to share some highlights from an intense book by Bill Hybels:  The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond.  It had me from its’ title…

Not such a gutsy gal, I prayed this book would give me some gargantuan guts. (I s’pose “Guts for God” sounds better…)

Allow me to share the wealth:

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Bill begins with informing us he’s been on a fifty-year odyssey of hearing whispers from God.  Bill expounds: “Inaudible whispers at that!…My entire journey comes down to a series of unplanned promptings from heaven that have charted a course for my life even I never could have foreseen.”

Sound crazy?  Perhaps.  But…to encounter Bills’ experiences all over the world  immediately hooks and leads us, the readers, to want to learn to listen expectantly and prayerfully.

After citing Samuel’s story, how he became a prophet of God from listening to God  in I Samuel 3, Bill shares a poem one of his teachers gave him which he memorized in the second grade:

“Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear,

An open ear, O Lord,

Alive and quick to hear

Each whisper of Thy Word;

Like him to answer to Thy call

And to obey Thee first of all.” (A hymn by James Drummond Burns)

Titus 3:5 returned to Bills’ memory when he surrendered his life to Christ:  “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

Soon after that, a Christian man offered to buy Bill dinner.  Over burgers, the man asked him a show-stopping question:  “What are you going to do with your life that will last forever?…I’m just curious what you’ll do that will outlive you and all of those earthly accomplishments.”

Oh boy…that’ll make you think, huh?  My husband, John, is always saying upon his death, he just hopes he’s missed.  Not remembered so much for what he did, but because if you are missed, you have touched others’  lives.

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We are forever and a day laughing at obituaries that rattle on and on and on filled with clubs and organizations people belonged to as if a resume is needed…for heaven?  I don’t think so.

Bill also reminds us of Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (ESV)

Billy Graham, in his book Day by Day, tells us what the Holy Spirit does for us:  “The Holy Spirit illuminates the minds of people, makes us yearn for God, and takes spiritual truth and makes it understandable to us.”

Billy’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, in a recent  Decision Magazine said “Learning to recognize the voice of God is critical, not only for our own peace of mind but also for developing a personal relationship with Him and for living a life pleasing to Him.”  There’s the peace found from Romans 8:6.

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Well how exactly do we hear from the Spirit?  Bill gives us five filters to help us test every whisper we receive.  He says, “No matter how confusing, challenging, or unsettling a prompting may be, if it passes the following filters, I obey it every time:

Filter #1:  Is the Prompting Truly from God?

Filter #2:  Is it Scriptural?

Filter #3:  Is it Wise?

Filter #4:  Is It in Tune with Your Own Character?

Filter #5:  What do the People You Most Trust Think About it?”

The best way to learn more about these, in addition to the book, is to watch the below YouTube clip where Bill talks about this whole concept and explains the filters.  It’s only eighteen minutes long.  The testimony included will bring you to tears.

Stormie Omartian, in her book Lead Me Holy Spirit affirms the concept of being rooted in our faith:  “The Holy Spirit is the power of God flowing through you, and that puts you on solid ground, like a house built on rock.”

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Last week we talked about how we want to become rooted like redwoods. All of these  authors we’ve heard from today are textbook examples of Colossians 2:6-7:  “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward:  Just go ahead with what you’ve been given.  You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him.  You’re well constructed upon him.  You know your way around the faith.  Now do what you’ve been taught.  School’s out;  quit studying the subject and start living it!  And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” (The Message)  Don’t miss those last two crucial sentences!

Look at how The Voice puts it in verse seven:  “Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundationBe strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.”

May it be with us…

‘Til next time!

 

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Calling All “Fixer Upper” Fans…(Make it a Merry “Magnolia Story” Christmas!)

Friends! Are we really in the month of December?  Translation: The countdown to Christmas has arrived. As of this writing, it’s early in December, however many folks have had the nerve to reveal they’re done with their Christmas shopping.

Herein lies the challenge to “rejoice with those who rejoice”…I fear I must be related to Scrooge. Very distantly, of course.

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Good news is there are plenty of delightful distractions to detour one’s potentially foul mood. Bigger bonus: My cousin Bonnie, a/k/a Bow Creator Extraordinaire, has moved right up the street from us. I can magically appear in her foyer in three minutes, tops, begging for a bow. Smiling with relief while typing…

One of my favorite distractions is a wildly popular TV show, Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their new season has just begun, and there are plenty of other seasons to catch up on. www.magnoliamarket.com  Just ask my friend, Val, who “caught up” on all of them while recovering from surgery. She’s newly hooked.

Before we talk about the show, surely you’ve seen the Gaines’ new book, The Magnolia Story. It landed lickety-split on the New York Times’ Bestseller List and hasn’t left.

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Now that I’ve read it, I also learned Chip and Joanna recently recorded the audio version which would be a total hoot. The book uses two different fonts, helping us readers distinguish whether Chip or Joanna is the one writing. The audio version where one could actually hear them would be stellar.

Mark Dagostino is who helped Chip and Joanna write the book. He has completely captured their personalities. We can literally envision them bantering back and forth. While it’s their story, as in non-fiction, it’s quite the page-turner.

The book also takes us down memory lane via a large section of adorable pictures. You can see their childhood pics, wedding pics, and of course, Fixer Upper pics.

I learned of their show from one of our daughters-in-love, LT. She was wildly blessed by one of her friends last fall who invited her to go to Waco, Texas for the Grand Opening of the Magnolia Market at The Silos. (Silobration)

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LT’s friend, Jamie Marshall Dorr, happened to register to win tickets to the Opening, never thinking she’d win. Lo and behold, she not only won, she won four tickets! Jamie took her sister, Randy, plus LT, and LT’s sister, Chelsea. We could hear them shouting many miles away they were so excited.

They got to go to the Grand Opening, attend a concert by Johnny Swim, meet Clint Harp, the fab furniture maker, and even spend some time with Chip and Joanna:

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Left to right:  Joanna, Jamie, Randy, LT, Chelsea and Chip

And don’t miss the identical leather jackets Joanna and LT are sporting. (Thank you, Anthro’….)

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In addition to learning how Chip and Joanna built their business (you’ll be stunned to learn at one point, they nearly went belly up financially), you’ll connect with a beautiful theme within the book: Their steadfast faith in God. They consistently give God the glory in their endeavors while never waivering in their faith or trust in Him, even in the hard times.

Being a huge fan of Billy Graham and his family, I was excited to learn Chip credits Billy Graham and Danny Lotz (Anne Graham’s husband) with leading him and his family to the Lord. His Mother attended a Billy Graham Crusade in 1975.  Her newfound faith trickled down to her children.

Later while attending college at Baylor, Chip met the Lotz’ children and got to spend time in their home.  He said Danny took an interest in him and mentored him, showing him what a relationship with Jesus Christ looked like. (This came from an article in Decision magazine this past May.)

Both Chip and Joanna are very candid in their book.  They reveal lessons they’ve learned which have the potential to open our eyes to our own foibles.

For example, one home Chip and Joanna bought was what they then considered their dream home. It was in a lovely area of Waco. Joanna worked her creativity to perfection. Problem was they had little bitty children who naturally made messes, leaving trails of who-knows-what behind.

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Joanna said she was constantly fussing at them, straightening, picking up, forever exhausted and frustrated. Her “aha!” moment finally came when they moved to a much smaller home where she purposefully created fun, livable spaces for her kids to just be kids, spill milk, squish play-doh, etc.

She said, “If all I’m doing is creating beautiful spaces, I’m failing. But if I’m creating beautiful spaces where families are thriving, then I’m really doing something. Doing that became my new calling…It’s not just about pretty anymore. It’s about practical.” Stunned, she said, “I saw my family come alive in ways I’d never quite felt before.”

When their Magnolia Market at the Silos opened in October 2015, Joanna said she felt like they’d come full circle. She said, “If ever I needed proof that I should trust God with my dreams, this was certainly it.   He turned my little dream, my mustard seed of faith, into all this.”

What a visual of Matthew 17:20!

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Joanna concludes, “Not even a decade after I made that difficult decision to close my shop to stay home with my babies, God delivered on the promise of making my dreams come true in ways that were bigger than I ever imagined.”

This is where I hear Ephesians 3:20 blessing the Gaineses plus us readers:

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Lastly, my favorite thing about Chip and Joanna is they are complete WYSIWYGs. (What-you-see-is-what-you-get.) The folks at HGTV capture their authenticity which is the main ingredient that draws us viewers in. (It’s throughout the pages of their book as well.)

Joanna says, “We love our kids, we love each other, we love this town, and we love our clients. That’s the heart behind our show.”

If you need another Christmas gift idea this season, your friends would enjoy reading the The Magnolia Story. It’s a fascinating journey.

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Meanwhile, enjoy this Christmas season and may we all remember the reason for the season.

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‘Til next time!

 

 

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When You Miss Your Mom and Dad…

What seemed like a normal stop in the laundry room last week turned out to be a devastating downpour.  This is the challenge in losing a loved one.  One little photo can spark a thousand emotions…

Growing up a lonely only was super swell in my book.   My petite universe swirled around me.  No wonder sharing wasn’t in my vocabulary. (Can you say, “spoiled”?)

My Mother and Father married in 1952, but I wasn’t born until 1960.  After eight long years of waiting, who wouldn’t be fearful of a brand new baby girl?  I still believe they had no idea what to do with me.

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(Note most of our pictures were either of Daddy and me or Mother and me as with the three of us, who else would take the picture?  Please don’t miss Daddy’s very svelte argyle socks.  This was 1960.  My sweet sister-in-law got all our boys rockin’ with svelte socks last Christmas.  Yeah, 2015.  Thank you, Nordstrom Rack.)

Mom and Dad perfected helicopter parenting, not wanting a scratch or a bruise to mar my little self.  The day I rode my Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon down our neighbor’s hill, crashing on the asphalt in our driveway, depositing some skin on the pavement, freaked us all out.  Odd, there was no flying in that wagon.

Once in school, I began inviting friends over.  Many of them were lonely onlies too.

God provided the best kind of friend directly across the street from us.  She was ultra cool because she came with the bonus of having two older brothers.  They were boy scouts and there was nothing they couldn’t do.  Each visit was a new lesson.

Her name is Meredith Myers.  She and I are only one year apart, so for several years, we’d ride our bikes together to Glendover Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky.  God graciously protected us because we never paid attention to cars near us as we talked non-stop all the way to and from school.

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(Note these little girls are wearing helmets.  Helmets weren’t invented back in our day.  Yes, we are old.)

Meredith’s parents and mine also became close friends and “those were the days” as they say.  Elementary School evolved into “Junior High” (now Middle School), on into High School.

Meredith and I went to different colleges, but we managed to visit each other, staying in touch.  We married three weeks apart and were in each other’s weddings.  She and her husband settled in Nashville while John and I settled in Louisville.

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Meredith lost her parents first.  Both deaths seemed too early and too sudden.  Thankfully, we were able to trust in a Sovereign God.

Two favorite Scriptures  which help are:

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My folks stayed in their home, still across the street from where the Myers lived, as long as they could. Multiple illnesses plus my Dad having a stroke landed them in an Assisted Living facility in Lexington.

Unfortunately that was a short term band-aid, causing us to move them to Louisville into a nearby nursing home.  Our three boys swear they’ve never moved so much furniture so many times. God bless their strong backs.

Daddy had a heart attack that ultimately took his life, followed by a seventeen-month progression of health deterioration in my Mother.  “Only the Lord” is how we answer the question of, “How did we survive those difficult years?”

Deuteronomy 31:6 is one of our favorite “life-lines”: 

“So be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you.  He will never fail you nor abandon you.” (NLT)  Somehow that little word “panic” resonates. But look at the promise that follows…God will go ahead of us, never failing nor abandoning us.  Isn’t that the best?

Many of our friends are losing their parents too.  I find myself buying sympathy cards by the box.

Visitations and funerals are not at the top of my list of most desirable activities, but of course, who wouldn’t go for a friend?  The greater challenge of attending these services is offering the right words of condolence.  Not a gift of mine, rest assured.

I’m embarrassed to admit that often, the bereaved winds up comforting me because I’ve dissolved into a puddle of tears.  Thus, I’ve resorted to borrowing words of encouragement from a few of my favorite authors:  Max Lucado, Bob Russell and Kerry and Chris Shook.

The Shooks help with a good perspective when a death seems to happen too soon. They tell about a young couple in Owensboro, Kentucky.  The wife discovers she has terminal cancer and soon will be leaving her young children and husband behind.  (This is in their book, One Month to Live—30 Days to a No-Regrets Life.)

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She asks her pastor, Jess Moody, about the below verse:

2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

She did the math, and “figured if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like one hour…my husband may live another forty years, but that will be just like an hour to me in heaven.  When he gets to heaven, I’ll greet him and say, ‘Where have you been for an hour?…I’ve missed you.’”

My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that will be like two hours to me.  When they get to heaven, I’ll greet them and say, ‘How was school today?  Mom misses you when you’re gone for a couple of hours.’”

Jess said, “Now that’s an eternal perspective.”

Max Lucado, in his book, When Christ Comes, quotes Bob Russell.  He tells about Bob’s father’s funeral.

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Bob said the day of the funeral was a “cold, blustery, Pennsylvania day”…The Funeral Director told Bob the roads were too treacherous to take a procession to the burial.  He said he’d take the body to the grave.

Bob couldn’t bear to not be at the burial, “so he and his brother and their sons piled into a four-wheel drive vehicle and followed the hearse.”

Bob said, “We plowed thru’ ten inches of snow into the cemetery, got about fifty yards from my Dad’s grave, with the wind blowing about twenty-five miles per hour, and the six of us lugged that casket down to the grave site…”

He continued, “We watched the body lowered in the grave and we turned to leave.  I felt something was undone, so I said, ‘I’d like for us to have a prayer.’  The six of us huddled together and I prayed, ‘Lord, this is such a cold, lonely place.’

“And then I got too choked up to pray anymore.  I kept battling to get my composure, and finally I just whispered, ‘But I thank you, for we know to be absent from the body is to be safe in your warm arms.’” (2 Corinthians 5:6 KJV)

Max concludes with what I hold onto today:

“We don’t like to say good-bye to those whom we love…It is right for us to weep, there is no need for us to despair.  They had pain here.  They have no pain there.  They struggled here.  They have no struggles there.

“You and I might wonder why God took them home.  But they don’t.  They understand.  They are, at this very moment, at peace in the presence of God.”

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This is an older picture of my parents, but it’s how I like to remember them. It’s the one staring at me over the washer and dryer.  It’s the one that triggered the unexpected tears.

On days when those of us who’ve lost our parents are homesick for them, I pray these words of these great authors plus The Author of the Word of God bring us all comfort.

‘Til next time!

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons

Gift Book, Married for Life—Inspirations from Those Married Fifty Years or More, Inspires All Ages…(Plus Petite Travelogue from Gulf Shores, Alabama)

Friends! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Hallmark store and grab several copies of a nifty little gift book. (www.hallmark.com ) Married for Life—Inspirations from those Married Fifty Years or More by Russ L. Potter, II and Bill Morelan is a fantastic, enlightening discovery.

My friend Mary gave a copy of this book to our newest daughter-in-love, Diana, at a dinner in her honor before she and John Jr. got married. Fascinated by the title, I peeked inside…

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Every two pages include quotes, devotional-style, from a different couple who have been married fifty years or more. A snippet of how they met comes with their two cents’ worth on what’s kept them married all these years. The advice concludes with a fitting Scripture.

I was so blown away by this power-packed book, I marched out and bought several copies. One for Hubster and me since we’ve just celebrated our thirty-second anniversary, one for each of our married kids, and one for several different couples who recently got engaged. It’s the perfect gift!

One favorite section is entitled: “Never get too old to hold hands.” This comes from Arnold and Hazel Morelan, married on February 17, 1920 in Iola, Kansas.

Old Couple Holding Hands

They say, “Holding hands is one of the most intimate expressions of love between two human beings. Don’t ever let this beautiful act slip away from you…It requires no words; in fact, no words can convey such a profound message.”

They conclude: “Hold your spouse’s hand throughout your life together; don’t ever let it go until the day when you’ve fulfilled every marriage vow and finally release it from your grasp, placing it lovingly, trustingly into the hand of God.” Tear jerker!

Psalm 73:23-24 ties this together:

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The Life Application Bible reminds us, “From birth to death, God has us continually in His grip. But far more, we have hope in the resurrection. Though our courage and strength may fail, we know that one day we will be raised to life to serve Him forever. He is our security, and we must cling to Him.”

Our family of eight was recently gathered around a table, eating breakfast in Orange Beach, Alabama, right down the beach from Gulf Shores. We’d trekked there for a week of vacation. (Just to pull that off is like herding cats, so we were beyond grateful it came to fruition.)

LT read us this very quote from this devotional. Now that we all have a copy, my prayer is we’ll continue to enjoy the book post-vacation.

God blessed us with picture perfect weather, a beautiful beach to look at, walk on, sit on, play in, and the most fun lazy river pool you’ve ever seen. It was the solution to beating the heat.

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I must share about a very challenging team-building activity we tried: Breakout Games— “A Life-Sized Game of Twists and Turns”. (Checkout www.breakoutgames.com ) See if your town has one!

Grab some friends or family and go try it!  It’s a total blast. I double dog dare ya to watch the “launch video briefing” from the website.  It’ll kick your heartbeat up a notch or two or twenty…

Breakout Games currently offers the following options:

Museum Heist,
The Kidnapping,
Island Escape,
Hostage, and
Operation: Casino.

We chose the Operation: Casino. Our kids turned out to be super smart sleuths, solving puzzle, after clue, after lock combination. Hubster and I pretty much watched them at work, all the while being one hundred percent wide-eyed.

Participants only get an hour to solve the mystery. You’re also blessed with a “Game Keeper” who watches your every move from another room and occasionally gives you a hint or two. Jessica was our Game Keeper. She was the bomb, bless her patient soul.

The instant the door closed, a very large clock started the sixty minute countdown…oh my… I had my doubts, but with the kids’ persistence, I’m happy to report we were able to break out with less than three minutes to spare.

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Lest any of you are claustrophobic, you’re free to leave the room at any time, especially to visit the loo. Just sayin’…You can imagine our dinner conversation after our big breakout!

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We all had “jobs” during our week of vacation, just to throw some more ideas your way…

Each of our newlywed couples had a night where they “got” to cook dinner. We called it a “Cook Off”. (Translation: Mom and Dad have a night off.) Each couple grilled.

We had tilapia tacos one night, steaks-n-potatoes another, and chicken with mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado another, pardon me. We never declared a winner as each meal was so delicious, we couldn’t have possibly chosen just one.

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My equally tough assignment (!!!) was to choose a restaurant to dine in on the nights when the kids weren’t cooking.

Any of y’all heading to Gulf Shores may like to know we LOVED The Gulf (www.thegulf.com). They have a fantastic grouper sandwich as well as a grouper salad in a very festive atmosphere.  We ate at a picnic table right next to the beach.

Since Breakout Games is located at The Wharf (www.alwharf.com), we were able to get a table by the marina at The Villaggio Grille. (www.villaggiogrille.com) The Wharf’s development has only been open a few months, so they’re still trying to fine tune things. Good potential.

Craving a good lasagna as Hubster does nearly nightly, we tried Cafe Grazie (www.cafe-grazie.com) another night. The lasagna was good, but not as pretty as the picture.

I had the grouper with pasta and capers which was delicious. Others of us tried a pizza and different shrimp and pasta dishes. Crab cakes were a big hit. After dinner, we walked out onto the docks and snapped some fun photos:

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Group picture of all eight of us above from left to right are: Woody and LT, John Jr. and Diana, Gordy and Lauren and Hubster and Yours Truly.  The girls’ photo starts with Diana, then Lauren, me, and LT.  Just warmed our hearts to have our kiddos together.

Sadly our last night rolled around way too quickly. We ventured over to Shipps Harbour Grill (www.shippsrestaurant.com) . Big bonus: you could make a reservation.

We tried nearly everything on the menu: oysters on the half shell (not 100% participation there….); smoked tuna dip (delish, but we all ate too many crackers!), fried shrimp and fish, coconut grouper, island mahi mahi, and a crab and brie quesadilla. Our favorite side dish of the night was the smoked gouda mashed potatoes (oh my—to die for!). Our round table of eight led to some massive sharing. This was a favorite.

Finally, let’s look at one more pearl of a quote from Married for Life. At dinner one night, we loved this, given we were at the beach: “Enjoy the simple things—like looking at sunsets.”

Retirement Vacation Concept, Happy Mature Retired Couple Enjoyin

This comes from Auburn and Louise Roland, married December 14, 1935 in Leicester, North Carolina. They say, “When you and your spouse feel the need to get back to basics, to look beyond the clutter and clamor of this bewildering, complicated world and see what really matters, just go outside together for a moment and gaze upward. No matter what time of day it is, you will witness God’s splendor—…”

“…And when a butterfly floats out of the sky and alights nearby, examine it closely and consider, Who but God could have made such a lovely, ‘simple’ thing?”

Large Tree Nymphs butterfly and flowers

As God would orchestrate, Lauren had just been telling us about a neat connection she has with butterflies. Our gracious God literally sent one her way at the perfect time when we’d been in Naples together a few years ago. (Later this month I’ll be sharing about a new website Lauren’s Mother is launching and you’ll be able to read her whole story. It’s the BEST!)

We also realized Gordy’s had a love for butterflies since he was a small child. We have a great picture of him with three butterflies sitting on one hand one summer day. It “just so happened” it was Lauren who read this particular devotion to all of us. Is God the best, or what?

Let’s close with the Scripture this section offers:

Psalm 113:3 says:

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We praise you, Lord.

Amen.

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Travel