Need Your Help!

I realized yesterday how much I’m enjoying writing again. Maybe one day I’ll explain why it’s something I put aside for the past decade or so, but I’m finding peace in getting things out of my heart and into my head again. It’s kind of a fresh way of journaling.

The fact that you visit here — whether regularly or occasionally — is humbling. Thank you! I wanted to ask you to help me with something.

Can you give me some feedback? I know my life isn’t any more interesting or different than yours. But I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Do you enjoy personal, family stories and pictures?  (Sometimes?….smile.)

Updates and news on our new church?

Mini-series (like this week’s on finding meaning in the mundane)?

Posts that vary in topic from day to day depending on what I’m thinking about at any given moment (which could be pretty dangerous…ha)?

Are there are topics you would like to hear about as you peruse the net to find ideas or encouragement?

If you could take a minute or two to either post a comment here, email me, or send me a Facebook message I would so appreciate it!

Many blessings!

Sheree

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Sunsets and Clean Bathrooms

You’ll notice that I’m blogging over at Redeemer Church sometimes. The reasons for this are several, but mostly, smart tech people tell me it’s a way for our church website to get more traffic. This ends up making it easier for people to find us on the web. In fact, we’ve already had several guests who have visited because of our website.

So THANK YOU for not only visiting my little blog, but also for helping our new church get onto the cyber map!

I’m starting a series today about what God thinks about normal everyday life stuff. It’s helping me think better about things like clean bathrooms. You can read today’s post here.

Thanks again!

Sheree

P.S.  On Wednesday, I’m going to ask my readers for suggestions of things you would like to read about here.  Since there aren’t a lot of you 🙂 your feedback will be helpful! I wanted to give you a heads up so you could give this some thought.

A Godly Woman’s Final Words

Hours after our moving van pulled away from the Virginia home where Mom had lived with us for her last 7 years, she was released from the hospital to continue out-patient chemotherapy. Often during the next few days we had chatty, long distance conversations. She was feeling better and was gushing with joy over the surprise changes my sister made to beautify her little apartment.  The tumor was shrinking, and she was hopeful and happy. We talked about her coming to Florida to spend some extended time with us in the winter…

But within days things suddenly worsened and she was re-hospitalized. When my sister called I was able to speak with the doctor, who explained that a bacterial blood infection was ravaging her body and was growing faster than antibiotics could stop it.  I asked her to be honest with me: if this was her mother, would she come?  Her emphatic “yes” resulted in Jaime and I getting on the first plane out of Orlando to DC.

Soon after we joined my brother and sister, along with a few of Mom’s grandchildren and other family members, her breathing became increasingly labored. She was offered the option of going onto a ventilator. Just minutes before the medical staff came in, I had a moment with her alone. I took her hand, leaned close and told her I loved her. She was too weak to respond. We both knew her allotted time was about to come to an end. If Mom was able to muster the strength and breath to speak again, I knew they would be her last words.

“So before they come, Mom, is there anything you want me to tell everyone?  Anything on your heart to say?” Her countenance displayed a striking contrast of peace and weariness. During the past hour all of us became ready to let her go. The suffering just needed to stop.

Her eyes were closed. Each breath was quick and labored. I fought to maintain control over my emotions because these moments weren’t about me. Her life had been about me and my siblings; dad and her own siblings; her nieces and nephews. It was time for everything to be about only her.

“I want you to tell everybody,” she said in slow and hushed tones, “that God is in control…and everything He does is good.”

She squeezed my hand lightly as the medical team told me I needed to leave.

Once the ventilator was in place and morphine had been administered, we all surrounded her bed as my Josh led us in worship. I noticed medical personnel standing at a distance wiping tears. Even they knew this was a holy moment. Within minutes she was gone. No more suffering. No more cancer. She had been welcomed by the Savior that had carried her through a lifetime of hardship and suffering. And I’m sure Daddy and Randy were among the cloud of witnesses that were eagerly awaiting her.

Since that day nearly 12 years ago, I have often thought of her last words. My mother lived a life peppered with suffering. Her son became a quadriplegic at age 21 and then died 6 years later.  Just months later, she lost my dad to a heart attack.

Yet when it came time to summarize what she wanted her family to know, she spoke of God’s loving and sovereign control over everything. How could a woman who had suffered so much have such a honorable perspective in her moments of greatest suffering?

In control? Always good? Even when year after painful year of grief gripped her heart? Marital strife tempted her to give up? Sisters lost grandchildren to tragic accidents? An adult son needed his mom to rotate his paralyzed body night after night to avoid bed sores? A younger brother died after a horrific house fire? Recurring financial strain tempted her to wonder how this month’s bills would be paid? Back and neck issues, including multiple surgeries, didn’t bring relief to decades of daily, chronic pain?

Since her death I have gone through some really tough times. There have been moments when I’ve actually found it hard to breathe due to the weighty issues we were walking through. But each time God has reminded me of Mom — lying on her deathbed working hard for every breath — testifying of His goodness.

I’m learning that God is in control and everything He does is good.

P.S.  This picture was taken during Mom’s trip to Texas for Josh and Rachel’s wedding — just 4 months before she died. A copy of it sat on her casket at her memorial service. We all agreed she was saying goodbye. See you soon, Mom.

Her Last Lesson

We were in the middle of packing to move from Virginia to Orlando when we found out it wasn’t pneumonia. Just days before we would be making the long drive down I 95 to Florida, we were told Mom had lung cancer. I was fretful. Anxious. Disoriented. How could I leave her? I just couldn’t…and I told her that.

“Honey,” she began with her lingering southern drawl, left over from spending her childhood in the mountains of southwest Virginia. “Of course you will go. Benny and the kids are your priority and I will be just fine. God will take care of me. So yes, you will go. And I don’t want you to feel guilty.” Even in my mid-40’s Mom was still discipling me.

My remaining days in Virginia were bittersweet. The agony of leaving my family, friends and the church Benny and I had loved for two decades pulled fiercely at my heart. Now Mom had cancer. How could this be? I needed to be there. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was comforted by knowing she would be in good hands: my amazing sister and devoted brother — along with our large and loving extended family — would pamper and care for her. I can’t describe how torn I felt, but I knew she was right. I had to entrust her to God.

The sweet conversations I had alone in the hospital room with my mother the days before we left were a precious gift. While reading portions of Randy Alcorn’s Heaven to her, I asked if she was afraid to die.

“Baby, I’m not afraid to die,” she said with quiet confidence. Her soft blue eyes, though surrounded by deep wrinkles, were still beautiful at 73. “I’m gonna meet Jesus and see your daddy and Randy [my older brother who died at 27]. Why would I be afraid to die?”

I finally mustered the courage to say what I had been feeling. “Mom, I don’t want you to die; especially of cancer. I don’t want you to suffer…” I couldn’t hold back the tears. For a moment I was a little girl again and Mommy’s embrace was comforting me. But her kiss wasn’t going to make this all better.

Mom then told me two really important things. First, that suffering is a part of life and none of us can avoid it. Then came the words that stunned and instructed me.  For the first time in days her voice was strong and firm.

“Don’t you believe for a minute that cancer will kill me. My days were numbered by the Lord before I was born and I won’t die one minute before my time is over. Yes, I’ve been irresponsible and shouldn’t have put so much nicotine into my body. I hate that this is causing my family such pain and heartache and I need everyone of you to forgive me. But God is bigger than nicotine and cancer. I will go because He decides it’s time and for no other reason.”

I learned so many things from Mom during our 45 years together. During those days she taught me a final lesson: how to die.

More on that tomorrow.

New Family: Same Legacy

On Saturday I attended the wedding of a wonderful young couple. There was much I loved about the festivities…not the least of which was seeing David marry his beautiful bride! Benny and I met David when he was about 3. He was running around a park like a crazy boy while we sat with Mike and Cindy talking about how to parent our challenging toddlers.  Only God knew that our sons would someday become dear friends who would be in each other’s weddings.

The thing that affected me most about this wedding was the love and godly legacy that is deeply embedded in both families. The bride’s twin sister was her maid of honor, while the groom’s best man was his dad. The rehearsal dinner was filled with family members from sisters to grand parents honoring David and Beth. While there was a winsome amount of family mockery, the message of this wedding was clear:  David and Beth have a godly legacy to start their own family.

In a culture where “family” too often means simply flying in to celebrate Christmas together, these families stand out as a stunning example. Like all families, they’ve had their share of challenges and trials — and the cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and children are spread out in various states which keeps them from spending as much time together as they would enjoy. Yet, they all clearly love each other and everyone wants to see this new marriage and family succeed.  David and Beth’s grandparents and parents said it well — the key to their joy and growth is found in glorifying and obeying God.

Every marriage starts off with glowing anticipation of a wonderful new life together. No couple was ever happier than David and Beth were yesterday. But every marriage also has struggles. This newlywed couple will doubtless be reminded soon that they, like every other couple, said “I Do” to a fellow sinner. They will have conflicts, disappoint one another, and have to remind themselves of the irresistible things that made them fall in love.

But they will have a lot of support. First, from the One who drew them together. And then from strong and loving families whose faith has been tested and who have found God to always be faithful.

Someday, Lord willing, David and Beth will become parents. Sooner than they can possibly realize (ask Mike, Cindy, Cleve and Susan) they will be the parents of the bride or groom. From what I observed this weekend, the heritage of godliness that has been passed from one generation to the next will be on display yet again.

Hmm…that will be in about 25 years when I’m in my early 80’s. How fun would it be if I could be there?  Maybe even with my camera.  I think my friend, Cindy, will look a lot like the beautiful great-grandmother you see here with her adoring grandson. Yep.  Hope I’m there.

M&M’s and Fingerprints

My desire with this blog is to combine musings about what God is doing in my heart and life, along with unapologetic gushing about my family. Today is one of many Granma days.

Before my Kayla was born I thought I would be Nana. But at her birth I held her in my eager arms and found myself saying, “Your Granma loves you so much and can’t wait to get to know you.” (That’s her and me above.) So Granma I am. It’s probably my favorite name.

I don’t know how the idea came 6 years ago, but I decided to have a Valentine’s Party for my little people. That day, I told 11-month-old Wyatt and JJ (grandsons born three days apart) to promise me they would keep coming to what I hoped would be an annual party, even when they were teenaged boys. They assured me they would.  🙂

This Valentines Day a houseful of adorable, energetic kids showed up for triangle-cut sandwiches, crafts, races in the back yard and, of course, candy. As my five grandsons romped in the yard, I fast forwarded 10 years and pictured strapping young men sitting around my table with more little people yet unborn. I hope their love for Granma will help them not to pass on the Valentines Party. I promise I’ll make enough sandwiches.

Every grandmother expresses her heart-squeezing love in different ways. People have said they enjoy my pics because it’s giving them ideas. But I don’t want anyone to think a Valentines party is a standard form of Nana-Mimi-Granma love. My grandmothers never had Valentines parties for us, but we all knew they loved us.

I just noticed a pink M&M under the couch across from where I’m sitting.  I’m surprised one of the kids or the dog let that one get away. There are fingerprints on the sliding door and a couple of big trucks laying sideways in the back yard. I’ll just leave them. I wonder why grandkid clutter doesn’t bother me nearly as much as kid clutter did?

It might be because they come, have a blast and then go home, leaving only traces of themselves here.

I love them and their traces. In fact, there’s not one thing I don’t love about being Granma.

My Friend Liz…and French Braids

I’m over at Redeemer Church today talking about my friend, Liz…and why french braids are important to me.  Please come and visit.  And also, pray for Liz.

You can access my post by clicking here.

Warmly,

Sheree

P.S.  Thanks for your visits and encouragement.  I read every comment and appreciate each reader.  Blessings!

Happy 40th Valentines Day

It was sometime during my Junior year of high school when I first interacted with him.  We were in the choir together. I couldn’t figure out why he was in the choir. He was one of those boys (pictured here in the middle at his graduation with his two older brothers) who stood out in front of the school in the mornings and smoked. And he had a reputation for being a thug who stole things from people. Choir was for good kids who didn’t skip school and were “clean cut.”

I was the choir secretary that year and class met during home room, which meant I received absentee notes to send to the school office. He sauntered in with his long, blonde hair and those purple tye-dyed jeans. I didn’t hang around with “guys like him” but I had to admit he had a great smile. When he handed me the note from his mom for his absence the day before, I chuckled.

“So you know Cathy, huh?” I smirked.

“What?”

“This note was written by her; she sits next to me in history.”  What mom dotted her i’s with little bubbles, anyway?

He flashed me that smile and we still disagree on what I did with the note. I say I marked his absence unexcused and he says the smile worked.

Well, if it didn’t work then it worked later. Some months later our choir director took us on a camping and spelunking trip to Franklin, West Virginia.  It was on that trip that I learned Mr Tye-Dyed jeans was a sweet and kind former thug who seemed to want to see his life changed. Then he wrecked my car by hitting a 66-passenger school bus and I thought the little spark between us would go nowhere when my parents found out. Instead, his apology and offer to help Dad fix the car turned into dinner and Mom commenting to me later that he seemed sweet. Mom always had a special place in her heart for “naughty” kids.

But God was at work. A few months later he was radically converted during a revival that swept through our high school. When he started coming with me to the little Baptist Church my family attended that met in the elementary school in his neighborhood, a lady warned my mother about him, because he had robbed her house at some point a couple of years prior. Mom waited for years to mention this to me.  Seems she told the lady to kindly mind her own business since, after all, God does change people. Wow. He went on to start a vibrant youth ministry that affected lots of people, including me. God’s redemptive grace and sense of humor were on full display.

40 Valentines Days, 38 anniversaries, 7 children and 11 grandchildren later, his smile still makes my heart squeeze. Mom was right. God does change people. The punk who used to steal and fight and skip school became a studious pastor who has given his life to care for God’s people for decades.

We’ve had rough times over the years. There have been numerous times I’ve had to remind myself that God doesn’t always think change needs to happen in the areas think are important. And something really important hasn’t changed. He still loves me.

Benny, thank you for your patience with me when I’m not lovable. For welcoming more children than you thought was ideal (and adoring all the little people that wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t); teaching your family by your example and sacrifice to serve and prize God’s church; instilling into our children a love for truth; modeling humility during some really tough seasons when you wanted to give up; and loving me through it all. I am a rich woman because of you.

Happy Valentines Day to a still-cute blonde who I love getting old with. I pray we have many more years together to fall deeper in love…and to welcome more little people into our crazy life and family. Your legacy is one I love seeing pass to yet another generation.

I love you!