November 14: God’s Word

I’ve found so much comfort in God’s word these past few weeks. Through the difficult loss of my grandfather (and some completely unnecessary ugliness that accompanied it), through daily stresses and struggles, through bewilderment and anger,  I’ve found verses coming to mind over and over.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains,but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 in particular has been speaking to me. Without love – without the love of Christ – behind all I do and say, it means nothing. More and more the truth of that has been revealed to me, and I think it will be my focus verse for this next year.

I am so thankful today for God’s Word, and for those who have labored through the millenia to bring it to us.

November 13: our church

Last night, Tom had the last of the big church meetings for the year. It might have gotten a bit off track, but it did remind me how thankful I am to be part of this body of believers.

Ours is a multi-generational church, and becoming more so every week it seems as new friends join us. We have the wisdom of 95 year olds and the energy of 5 year olds.

This church is welcoming to all, and actively works to make newcomers feel like part of the family.

It’s a church that seeks to reach outward to make an impact on our community through prayer, our food pantry and through many servant’s hearts in many different areas.

It’s a church that makes their pastor and his family feel loved and supported.

This past year and a half has been a learning experience. It hasn’t always been easy and as we’ve grown, there have been those inevitable difficultie. And I do believe we have some spiritual battles that still must be fought in order to take us to where God is leading. We’ll get there, through obedience to His Word and His call.

I am so thankful for this community of Jesus followers and so grateful to be among their number.

November 9: shared memories

Overwhelmingly, this week I’m so thankful for shared memories. As family members came together to remember Papa, inevitably the conversation turned to “I’ll never forget the time Bud…” and “Uncle Bud always…” and “Papa was just so….”. I’ve learned so much about him this week. The sharing of words, the hugs, the kindness – it’s made a difficult time a little bit easier.

I’m not sure when I became a person who gives eulogies. It’s certainly not easy for me to stand up and speak, but there have been family members that just require it. When the gentleman from the funeral home asked if we’d like to open up a time during the funeral to share, I knew I would.

I didn’t know how I’d get through it, but I knew there were things I had to say publicly about Papa. Sunday morning, before he passed, I had a few minutes alone with him and I was able to say things I’d said so many times to him before but needed to say one more time. I’m so thankful for that. But there were things I needed others to know about my Papa, and I’m so glad for that extra strength it took to stand up and speak.

These are the memories that were most important to me to share, without the awkward times my voice broke or went oddly high. I added a few comments (ahem – I never did get that pony I was promised when I was five) and skipped a few words.

My grandfather would probably be a little annoyed at us all for this today. He really didn’t like to be made a big fuss over. It just wasn’t in his nature.

But here’s the thing, Papa.

 You’re kind of a big deal to all of us who knew and loved you.

When I was born, he decided he wasn’t old enough to be a grandpa…so Papa it was and Papa he’s been. When my daughter was little, he tried to get her to call him “Old Bud”, but it didn’t stick. Thank goodness.

He was right, though. He was never a grandpa and never did typical grandpa things. My Papa rode horses, he did flips off the diving board and would take a gaggle of grandkids on hikes up at Cathey’s Valley to look at Indian rocks. He’d pick me up from first grade to take me to the horse races at the Fresno Fair, and put down money on what ever horse I thought had the prettiest name…usually something like Rainbow Sparkles…no matter how bad the odds were. My papa made homemade fudge and popcorn balls, and always seemed to have cookies hidden somewhere in the kitchen. He’d pick up my sister Carrie and I and take us for drives, and let us sing along to Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys over and over and over. My papa asked me every time I saw him if I had a boyfriend, even if I’d just seen him the day before, from the time I was four or five.

And when I finally did have a boyfriend and that boyfriend proposed to me, the first time that poor boy met my Papa was the night we were engaged. His knee was still wet. And Papa ran him through the ringer – he asked questions about Tom’s background, about his plans for the future and even if he’d mind having some blood tests done. Tom didn’t know it, but Grammy and I could see that glint in his eye and knew he was just having fun with him.

I think more than anything, I will miss that glint and the stories that went with it. I will miss hearing about Oklahoma and the Dust Bowl and how the wind blew so much dirt into the air, you’d see prairie dogs swimming through it. About playing music with his Dad and siblings and about his Mama’s cooking. I’ll miss hearing about his years farming and the things he did with his own kids. And I’ll miss hearing him tell the story of how I loved the Muppet Show when I was little, but would run from the room when he said Pigs in Spaaaace.

When my children were young, Papa would often ask me if I was planning to have more, and would warn me that surest way to be poor was to have a large family. I’m sure that as 1 of 10 children, he was speaking from experience but I don’t think he was right. Being a rich man has nothing to do with money or things – the richest man is one who lives his life surrounded by those who love him.

Papa, I hope you realize how truly rich you were, how much of a big deal you were and how very much you are already missed. I will carry you and your stories and the love you had for your family with me every day of my life, and I will make sure that I share it with those around me.

November 6: Aunt Cindy

Every family has that one person that just is always there. You know the one – it’s the person that comes to help before help can even be requested. They don’t need accolades, they don’t need to publicly thanked or patted on the back. They do it because it’s who they are.

In our family, that’s my Aunt Cindy.

She’s the one that plans wedding and baby showers and family reunions, and makes sure everyone knows what to bring for holidays. She’s the one that gets up from the table to get things for others and, when everyone else moves to the living room, she goes to the kitchen to get started cleaning. She is there for my grandparents – uncomplaining and unfailing – for whatever they need, as she is for the rest of the family. She is welcoming and kind, and she makes the most incredible cookies you’ve ever tasted. She makes things better just by being who she is.

When I was little, she was the cool aunt that drove a Camaro, always had Juicy Fruit gum and wore her sunglasses like a headband.

Today, she is my hero and I’m so thankful for all she does and has invested in me over the years.

November 5: Papa

Yesterday, my grandfather passed away. He left this earth as he had lived upon it, with his family surrounding him and his wife of 63 years by his side and holding his hand.

To say that I am blessed to be his granddaughter is an understatement. So much of who I am, of who I want to be, of what I value and of the life I choose to live is because of him.

 

 

November 4: this guy

Today, I’m thankful for Tom.

Who is patient when I have none.

Who works so hard to provide for our family, and to understand me when I’m having hard days.

Who will stand up for what is right and try to right what is wrong.

Who shares Jesus with words every Sunday, but more importantly with actions every other day.

Who supports and loves and gives and shares all that he is and has.

Thank you, Lord, for a husband that is worthy to be head of our home and who loves You with all of his heart.

side note: that’s a sippy cup of the nephew’s in the shot. Caleb hasn’t used one since he was 3, just so we’re clear.

November 3: change

I am so grateful today for the change of seasons, now that they’re becoming more evident. The cool mornings, the turning and falling leaves, that crispness in the air that greets me when I open the house in the mornings, even the night coming earlier – I love it all.

My body craves the change in ways I’d never expected and I’m thankful for this time to take a deep breath and focus inward.

November 2: thankful for teenagers

Who would have guessed that one of the things I’m most thankful for is a group of crazy teenagers?

It’s true.

Hanna has the loudest, silliest, most supportive group of friends a mom could ask for. While Tom and Caleb generally hide from them, I say a prayer of thanksgiving and protection for these sweet girls as they maneuver through high school. When the aroma of nail polish and perfume comes creeping down the hall and the One Direction and Taylor Swift get a little loud, I thank God for these years and these girls.

November 1: thankful to be here

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First and foremost, I am so thankful simply to be where I am this fall.

For six years, we lived nearly 3000 miles away and it was torture for me to be so far during family crises. This Fall, we’ve endured two big ones – the loss of a cousin and my grandfather’s fall and his continued deterioration. I can’t imagine what either one would have been like from so far away.

To be here physically – to give hugs and be able to go where needed without worrying about plane tickets or a week’s worth of driving – it’s huge. Two years ago, when we found out Tom’s job would be cut to part time and we made the decision to come home, we had no idea where that road would lead.

I’m thankful that for this season, it lead here.

Join me this month for a daily 5 minute muse on something I’m thankful for. Want to do it to?

It’s the Great Pumpkin Party, 2012

Last year’s party was a huge success.

I think this year’s was even bigger.

We kept it simple again – hotdogs, beans and chips to eat. Tables covered with disposable plastic covers, lots of pumpkin carving sets and templates. I made popcorn balls and brownies, and it was just enough. We set the donated pumpkins up as a pumpkin patch so that each kid could pick their own, and we didn’t have a single one left at the end of the night.

Next year, we’ll start earlier. It got too dark to carve and we ended up having to take some pumpkins inside to finish up. We had a lot of younger kids this year, and some games or activities to get some of the wiggles out would have been nice. And I think we’ll skip the movie next year. I’m pretty sure Hanna, my mom and our 3 year old friend Cheyanne were the only ones that watched it.

We really saw a deeper impact this year with the pumpkin party. Our community is one that mistrusts the churches, usually with good reason. It’s something that iss hard to overcome. It’s also why we don’t do a gospel presentation or anything like that at events like this.

Tom likes to refer to this as incarnational ministry – simply being Jesus to those around us. It means being welcoming, being open, accepting, listening, loving on and planting seeds while encouraging the families – whatever form they take – of our community.

Personally, I think the fruit of events like this will have a wider impact and be far greater when we look at them in Eternity’s timeline.