Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Party's Over

It's funny how differently we all handle situations. When I was about 12 years old or so, my mother took a terrible tumble down the stairs. There was a toy or tools or something left on one of steps. She didn't see it and when she stepped on it, she lost her balance. I was right behind her. She flew in the air and landed on the cement basement floor. She hit her head and it knocked her out.

My sister went bonkers! She started screaming and running all around the basement screaming that she was dead. I kept telling her to be quiet. I could not believe she was so loud and hysterical! I on the other hand, calmly walked down the stairs, leaned over my mother, called her a few times and was prepared to call 911 when she suddenly opened her eyes.

I don't remember what happened next in the situation buy my mother turned out alright. What amazed me, even then, is how cool, calm, and collected I was - me the zealous one! Shortly after that, when everything was okay, is when the effects of rushing adrenalin set in. I cried like a baby while my sister was rejoicing and relieved.

I was like that with Vinnie's cancer too. I hope Vinnie realized this about me. I'd hate for him to leave earth thinking I was callus and didn't care! No, I cared, but it been my instinctive role to make sure everyone else is okay before I give myself permission to fall apart. Actually, I was like that with Vinnie. When he called me from the hospital and told me that his cancer was back, I told him to stop talking because I was coming back to the hospital to talk in person. We talked for hours that night and cried like babies the whole time. The doctor told him that he would not survive the cancer and he would eventually die from it. I was not cool, calm, and collected then. I was thought when we told our kids and our church family.

Vinnie has been gone for four months. Many people were concerned about me over the holidays. I seemed to be okay. I even surprised myself. I had bouts of tearful sadness here and there but it was not overwhelming. I seemed okay. Chritmas Eve came. I was okay. Christmas came. I was okay. But when the weekend was over and the company all went home; I was alone for again and I fell apart. I have been sad since. It seems now like Vinnie just died just a few weeks ago.

So tonight's it's New Year's Eve and I am already anticipating sadness. Oh I'll be strong and happy while my kids and grand children are at the house, but when the party's over, I will again be reminded that there is no longer a "Vinnie and Gail" that will talk about the New Year and what our plans might be for our new year. This too I will talk the New Year and what our plans might be for us in the New Year. This too I will get over (eventually, I hope), but it will take time. I suppose that is why it is said that it takes two to five years to get grief of a spouse, especially if the spouse took up half one's life! Life without Vinnie is a party over, but hopefully there are new "parties" for me in the days ahead - even in the days ahead in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leaning Into Pain - the way to heal and get stronger

The pictures today are all of Vinnie being horsey to his kids and grand kids...the tradition carried on for many years!

The bible verse for today on my blog site is from Micah chapter 5 verse 2. it reads: "You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Once again, God has proved how cool He is and that the Holy Spirit does live in those who believe and live for Him. I've been prayerfully thinking about what I should write about next on my blog. This morning, after completely another day's study I am doing, it dawned on me what I need to write about - what God is teaching me now. Then I got on my site to work on it and the Bible verse for the days fits right into the theme of today's post! That is just like God - another one of His fingerprints!

My Vinnie, as strong as he was, as big a man as he was, did not like pain. If he got a splinter in his hand, he would rather have left it in than have someone dig it out. The reason for this crazy approach? He didn't like the pain of digging out the splinter! Of course, you know why it's already hurts and it will hurt worse if it's not taken care of! And since he couldn't deal with the pain of removing it, I'd have to insist that I tend to the wound, cut the skin a little, remove the splinter, get anti-biotics on it, and wait for the healing to begin. In order for this happen, he'd have to admit he had a problem, allow me to go in and fix it, clean it up so it would not get infected, and admit he was a weakling and could not do it himself. He had to become small enough to get some work done on him.

What I love about this verse in Micah is that God is speaking to Bethlehem and telling them that the "One who will be ruler over Isreal", Jesus, is going to come out of this little town, the "smallest among the clans of Judah". My theme for today is that God uses the small, meek, humble and weak to fulfill His plan. If we want to be lifted up by God, we have bend down first, not only confess our weakness and desperation for Him, but acknowledge and embrace it first.

I have been attending a GriefShare program for the past 13 weeks. I am told that I am doing well and healing quickly in the program and will be training over the next 13 weeks to facilitate a discussion group. I am excited to know that it is possible to heal quickly from the grief of so many losses my family and I have had this year. Some people grieve for years. I know a lady lives a hidden life tucked away in a dark corner of the world because she never dealt with her grief in a healthy way of about 27 years ago! If you met her she might appear strong but when if you were to discuss issues with her that surround the grief, the resentment, anger, bitterness, and other emotions would clearly be seen lurking behind a self made wall of strength. On one of the video sessions at GriefShare, a man tells of his experience in another type of program for those grieving the loss of a loved one. He describes a couple who starts telling the story of their daughter's murder. The man listens intently, sad for this couple whose emotions are raw and painful. He later learned that the murder happened something like 14 or 17 years ago! He decided right then that somehow he was going to face his grief and move forward, dreading the idea of living in this much pain for that long. Like the splinter in the finger, if it's not taken care of it becomes a huge mess!

Maybe because I came to the GriefShare program so freshly hurting the loss of my Vinnie, I started two weeks after he died, and found it to be a safe place to grieve, that has given me what perhaps some haven't had. I hadn't had time to find my 'own way' of dealing with the pain (or as some do - ignore it and face something else). I've followed the experts advice pretty much from the beginning. I think one's 'own way' comes when one doesn't know what to do with the pain and just doesn't want to feel it anymore. It is afterall, quite painful and we don't want to go there. Television commercials are geared toward what we think we want and there are plenty of commercials advertising drugs to help eliminate pain of some kind. I am not saying there's anything wrong with medications, but when I hear what kinds of possible side effects can occur by taking them, I have to wonder what is worse, the original pain or the new ones? It reminds me of Vinnie's splinters. One way or another, one has to face the pain! The couple mentioned in the video faced their anger about the murder but they never faced the pain of losing their daughter. See the difference?

Facing pain is hard, whether it is pain of a loss of a loved one, pain because your spouse has abandoned you, your child is wayward and rebellious, or any number of things. Here's the point I am trying to get at...God's promise to "use all things for the good of those that love Him" (Romans 8:28) is just as true, even more so in my personal opinion, when it comes to God using grief. Grief, sorrow, sadness, desperation, you name it, my experience has proven that these emotions are meant to be like radar, signals that tell us we need God! So many feel like God abandoned them when their loved one dies when in fact, a sinful world brings death - it's a 100% death rate in the world, remember? But when death comes, God comes to comfort those left behind. He does! He loves to. He wants us to know we need Him but it takes a humble person, like Vinnie with a splinter in his finger, to admit we need help. God wants to use grief and all the other painful emotions to draw us closer to Him. Oh, if only I could stand on a mountain top and shout this out to a hurting world. Are you listening world?!!!!

If the world could hear me, there'd be few to listen, I'm afraid. Not that what I have to say is great, but what God's taught me is great and He doesn't want just a few to experience it either. So here's what I ask of you, the reader of this little blog...if you are grieving, lean into it. Don't be afraid to be small and wounded. Let God, the great healer, make you see the pain differently, from His perspective. Now it is not up to you to say how long it should take, in fact, if it's an amputation that is needed, it may always hurt, but your pain will always remind you to go to the One who will make you able to live with it, experiencing joy right along side the pain. In this case, the pain will never go away so why not go where there can also be joy too! If you are not grieving and you are reading this, I ask that you look around. If you see those who are hurting, tell them that it is a built in radar device God gives us to tell us it's time to tune into the Healer. He wants us to know Him and the more desperate we are the more we will lean on Him and know Him. If it's a person that has had a loved one die, tell them about GriefShare. It's Christ centered and Biblically based on the Gospel and Truth. He is after all, the only source of Hope any of us can ever have. Any other source of supposed stregth else will eventually crumble under our feet.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dreams Come True - delight yourself in the Lord

The pictures in today's post were of our mini vacation in the NC mountains on our 25th wedding anniversary just 2 1/2months before Vinnie died - the last vacation we would take together.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." It comes from Psalms 37:4 I have given this passage much thought; allow me to explain some important things. This passage can be taken two ways. One, God sometimes, out of love, like all loving fathers, gives us things that will delight us, but like the same loving fathers, he'll give us those things only when He knows they really will delight us. Those reading this that have children know that kids ask for things that we know in a month, a year from now, or somewhere down the road, they will regret getting. We would not want to give them those things and neither does God! He has even more reason for not giving us everything we ask...He knows us better than we know ourselves, He knows the future and how all things would effect His plan for our life, and He knows the long lasting effect any desire might have on our heart. God looks upon the heart, so He is very concerned about how things effect our hearts. (1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.")

Here's the other, really cool thing that I love about this passage: When we put our trust and faith in Him, when He fills us with the Holy Spirit, the same spirit that lived in Jesus (...the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, ...Romans 8:11a), He gives US HIS desires! Isn't that cool?! Yes, He gives us His desires, then we pray His will back to Him and He gives us those things I and He both desire! Amazing! So many people will accept Christ, believe, or make a profession of faith, when they are hoping that God will give them what they want, without regard or desire to find out what He wants. I know people who have literally walked away from the faith because God didn't give them a lot of money when they prayed for it! They want the money to live with ease but God doesn't want us to live with ease. He knows if we do, we won't need Him, we'll forget about Him. That's sad because He gave His only Son so we could have a relationship with Him, not a bank account. If we have everything we want because our bank book allows it, what would we need God for? No, God knows how much we need Him so He's not going to give us something that would take us away from having what is more important! Doesn't it make sense that God knows what that would do to their relationship with Him? God doesn't want to be an ATM machine to us!

No, He wants us to have His heart, to seek to be like Him, to live life for His purpose like Jesus did. And that is what I desire to do. So I have been seeking God's heart, His desire for my life. And why not? I have so many times thought I knew what I was supposed to do with my life. I so often thought I understood what my purpose is/was and I was burned in the end. No, God made me and He knows what will make me most happy. I want to desire what He wants, to be part of His plan. I want Him to give me the desire of His heart.

I have been praying about this for some time now, especially as it relates to my life now without my Vinnie. I have been praying that God would use my life and my story for His plan, for His purpose. This morning, in fact, I was singing this song with a line that says, “Here I am, Lord send life’s an offering, ..” and decided to turn on the radio to get that song out of my head (I tend to wear songs out!) The song on the radio was the exact song I had been singing and it came on right where I was singing it! Oh my God...He is awesome! And in the song, I heard the next line, for the first time, “My life’s story, fits in Your plan….here I am.” THAT is what I’ve been saying all along, for a year, really, that God would use my story (which is really His story) to fit it in his plan of redemption in the lives of others! Get it? I want what God wants, my desire is His desire, for His plan, for mine. What an amazing reminder that He is at work in my life!

I cannot say exactly (at this point) what God is brewing but He is surely at work! Pray that God will bring into manifestation those things which He seems to be bringing to my mind that He may want me to do in the days ahead, even in the near future. They are beyond my wildest dreams (of a few years ago) but seem to be so possible. Pray God opens doors and shows me how, the dream I believe is His dream, is going to become reality. I am so excited about becoming part of His plan, and that He would use me, someone who is no one really, in and of myself. it shouldn't surprise me though, because this is what God loves to do - take ordinary people and give them His power to do extraordinary things - as long as we are willing to be instruments in His hands, why would what we do be amazing!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Joy of the Lord is our Strength!

Nehemiah 8:10This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

My last post talked about joy and sorrow mixed, but this one is about the Joy of the Lord being our strength. This is an interesting passage in Scripture! Joy of the Lord is our strength. It could be said that the opposite is true - depression, from Satan, is our weakness. While we are remain being weak in the sense of humility before God but the weakness I mean here is vulnerability. So I could say, the Joy of the Lord is our strength and depression (from Satan) makes us vulnerable. Both of these things have been very important thought processes for me these past few weeks.

I had a dream one night recently about lions. There were several of them around. They were hungry and mean. I don’t know if lions are mean but the ones in my dream were like the ones Peter describes in 1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The lions in my dream were going around literally tearing people up. They were tearing at skin, and wrapping their jaws around heads, even their own heads. It was gross to say the least! (And I don’t want to get any of you sick!)

Satan is looking for the vulnerable, the weak, the ones weak in faith and that have no joy. Joy, by the way, is not the same as happiness! That is important. I have a pet peeve about that. I get a bit irritated when I hear someone tell another that they just want the person to “be happy”. Now there’s nothing wrong with being happy but if being happy is our life goal, no wonder we get depressed! Happiness comes from our circumstances. We are happy when our children have taken a nice long nap and we are able to fit in an extra chapter to a good book, or finish the laundry stacked up to the ceiling. We are happy when our boyfriend gives us an engagement ring or when our husband’s surprise us with a bouquet of flowers or tickets to a show. We are happy when we can buy a bigger house with nicer furniture or when we lose enough weight to fit into the pants we had on before we ever became pregnant. But the problem with happiness is that the husband doesn’t bring flowers home anymore, the kids don’t nap at all, the laundry is always piled to the ceiling, and falling over onto the messy drink one of the kids just spilled in the laundry room (what were they doing in there anyway?). Our circumstances change too often and until we are in Heaven were everything thing, every relationship, and every ‘me’ is perfect, we will be happy all the time.

Joy is different. Joy can coincide along with sorrow! I was with friends last Monday at a restaurant. We were reminiscing about my Vinnie and some of the funny things he use to do. We were laughing like crazy…he was a very funny guy…but I was also crying. Part of me misses him terribly. I long to hear his voice. I long to have a conversation with him, to ask him things, to get his help, to go for a ride with him, or a walk with him. The beach will never be the same for me. The mountains will not either. Nothing will be. But I am SO full of joy that he is in the most perfect place any human can ever be in! I am full of joy that I will join the Lord and see Vinnie again there someday. I am so full of Joy that his life had meaning and purpose while he was here on earth just as mind does, and it has different meaning and purpose now that he is in his new home, just as mine will. I am filled with Joy because I know the Lord, He has proven himself again and again in my life and I have confidence in Him, even now that my Vinnie’s not here. I am thankful that my relationship with the Lord has been central in my life while Vinnie was here because because it is one part of my world that hasn't changed - and never will!

(The picture here of our grandson is Vinnie's way of goofing around. They were playing it up that Tyler was sick and he wrapped this ace bandage on his head and put the thermometer in his mouth. No wonder the child misses him - his goofy grandpa!)

It's ironic that my name, Gail, means, "a source of joy". The name Gale means something different. Gayle and Gail mean a source of joy. My mother must have instinctively known my name should be Gail because I know the joy of the Lord, I love to share the joy of the Lord with others, and I love the strength it gives me against my enemy - he can't weaken me, I am strong against his desire to pull me down and chew me up. Joy in the Lord. It will make us stronger every day! Praise God.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sorrow and Joy - a real tossed salad

These are pictures of Vinnie and me at the beach. We tried to go to the beach every June for our anniversary.

I love springtime. It's my favorite season! I love some snow - as long as it's just a little snow and it doesn't interfere with life, work, etc, I like it. I like summer because there's swimming, and long sunny days, and since the invention of A.C. heat is nothing to really complain about. I love fall because, let's face it, the leaves are absolutely gorgeous and the cool days are a relief - the AC can be turned off and it's a break on the old wallet! But spring is the sign of new life. I love the color of spring leaves - they are lime green - a fresh, clean, new green. That is the only time you see leaves that color. I love the regathering of birds that are happy to be home again, chirping and singing their wonderful tunes of love as they mate and give birth to a whole family of new baby birds. I love seeing butterflies start to appear and of course, my favorite of all - the hummingbird appears again.

Spring is also a time when I get in the mood to eat fresh veggies again and salads. Salads are interesting - think about it - a salad is a dish that allows us to combine all kinds of vegetables and or fruits, cheeses, meats, mayo and or other dressings, nuts too if you like and toss it all up. I love that...the toss it all up and create a lovely, delicious, eye pleasing dish called a salad.

Life is a bit of a salad too, isn't it? We can have all kinds of experiences, good ones, bad ones, sad ones. We could say that a full life is to have experienced a well mixed salad of all kinds of things. I think it is our selfish nature, and perhaps the influence of our American culture that makes us want all the ingredients to be ala carte in life - we can pick and choose and if we don't like one, we can toss it out instead of toss it in. We want to be wealthy so we can pay to have the bad removed and not deal with pain, sickness, and sorrow. But some sorrow just surpasses the ability to live blissfully. Death of a loved one comes to everyone eventually.

Now salads are meant to be enjoyable, refreshing, delicious. I also grew up forced to eat everything on my plate. It made me fatter, yes, but it also made me more apt to like a lot of foods I might otherwise assume I don't like. Life is a salad. It's a mix of all kinds of things and if you know the Lord, and He has helped build your faith, as tough things come your way, you will learn that things like sorrow CAN be mixed with joy. I think there is a sense of guilt that is either built into us at birth or somehow built into us in our culture, that if we are full of sorrow, or even if we think we should be and that we are being loyal to someone (like the dead person) so we want to stay there - sad. There seems to be this idea that if we are supposed to be sad, that there is not supposed to be joy too. Well, if life is a salad, why not?

It's the bitter and hard that draw us close to God so we can't complain when we experience it because God uses it to draw us closer to Him, to show us the junk in our own heart that still needs to be gotten rid of, and He shows us that if we lay ourselves down in his hands, no, life may not look like it would if we were the captain, but it would be an awesome life, a life where we learn how God can use ordinary people for Him, instead of living life for me. It's a more fulfilling life anyway...believe me! So if we can understand or grasp that to any extent, we must also be thankful for it, right?

When I was still taking care of Vinnie, I remember one day walking by this beautiful basket I created for my daughter's bridal shower. It had pink flowers all over it and a pink organza bowed on top of the handle. I remember thinking for a brief moment that I would make my bedroom and bathroom full of flowers when Vinnie was gone. I felt TERRIBLE for thinking such a thing! Shame on me! I felt terribly guilty for this thought and mentioned it to a friend of mine, a lady who had lost her husband to cancer too. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "Don't you feel guilty about that!" She said, "That is the Lord showing you that there is and will be joy for you even after Vinnie's gone. Don't feel guilty, look for more of those things so your heart is prepared to find joy. There will be plenty of sorrow. Look also for joy."

I am here to tell you that there is joy and sorrow mixed. I am sad that Vinnie is not with me to talk to in the evening, but I love the new bedroom set I have and Vinnie would never have loved that lavender stuff! I'd trade that lavender stuff in a heart beat! But I can't, so I will just enjoy it. There are many things I'd rather have the way it used to be, but they will never be that way again. I can cry about that, and I do, plenty, but it's not going to change what is. So...I must find joy, little things that make me smile, laugh, or just fun (without being sinful or gobbling up my finances) and do so even in the midst of still deep sorrow. And the greatest of these joys in finding that God still loves me, still talks to me, still has a plan for my life. THAT is real joy too. Joy and sorrow would not be my choice in life. I was happy the way it was. But since sorrow is in the mix, and here to stay for a long, long time, I might as well as find a way to endure it - like in a salad that has a lot of other things in it too - like JOY!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Vinnie and I - Born Again

Here's a picture of Vinnie building sand castles in the sand with our grand children's first trip to the beach.

As promised, today's story is about how Vinnie and I came into a relationship with Christ. We were born again.
I had heard of people years ago who said they were 'born again' and I avoided them like they had the plaque. I remember one time while waiting in line for something, a mother was singing songs about Jesus to her little kids. I remember wondering why she couldn't "give it a break, already". I later became one of those mothers! Now I am that kind of grandmother! Yikes!!! How did that happen? Here's what happened... When we were first married, we could not decide what to do about church. Neither of us went to church in years, and Vinnie was from the Catholic church. I was from the Episcopalian church. Both churches were ingrained in hatred for the other (go figure!) So we never went to church until our oldest daughter was in kindergarten. Her friends went to church and she asked us what it was. She said she wanted to go to one. We visited a couple and stayed at a little mission church not far from where we lived. It was a great group of people and that was our motivation to joining. It had nothing to do with being a good Biblically based church! So when we moved to NC it was our natural inclination to attend another Episcopal church but the one in town was frustrating us. We made a few friends there but it was boring for the kids, and us too, truth be known. That summer, in spite of my dodging to become a Baptist here in the Bible belt of America, I allowed the girls to go to Vacation Bible School that summer. Hey...can you blame me? It was a week long program for the kids and it was FREE! Whahoo for me! On Thursday that week, my oldest daughter came home excited because she'd been "saved" that day. I patted her on the head and said something like, "that's nice dear". (This is a picture of Vinnie with his youngest brother and his father.)

When she started school that fall, she became involved in Girl Scouts. The troop met at a Baptist church in town. I didn't care where the girls met, but Amy was intrigued with the church sign that said, "A Fresh Approach To Knowing God". She would tell me every week that she believed God wanted our family to come to that church. I told her week after week that we were not Baptists and would not step foot in a Baptist church but God had a different plan! One Sunday morning while getting ready to go to our Episcopal church, the kids refused. They held onto the doorway in the house and said that I could not make them go...they were really refusing! Amy told me that we should go to the 'other church' and I finally, with much frustration, gave in. We visited the church with a 'fresh approach' and wouldn't you know - I loved it!

I came home and told Vinnie about it and persuaded him to go the following week.
It was the following week that I had the most amazing, almost unexplainable experience (but I'll try). During the worship time, I glanced around the room and suddenly became overwhelmed by the entire room full of people worshipping with the deepest, most sincere and genuine expression to God I'd ever seen. It brought me to tears. Then, in all my sobbing, I felt like God was speaking to me. It was in my mind but it was clearly a conversation. God said something like, "Think back about all those times you almost died." (there were three times I tried to commit suicide as a young girls, three near rapes, and a week of doing so much drugs I knew if I got high one more time, I'd die). He continued, "I am the One that intervened, I am the one who brought someone in the room when you were almost raped and when you tried to kill yourself. I have been protecting you your whole life. I've let you stray some to the right and to the left, but when you staggered too far, I am the One who pushed you back on course. I did this because you are my child. You have always been my child. I have great things for you and I needed to bring you to 'Today'. Today you must surrender to me. You may not stray anymore. I have things for you to do and I need you to stop playing around and listen to me." I was overwhelmed to say the least! I remember at one point thinking that I could run out of the church to get away from this God, but then I heard his voice again (in my head) saying, "You can run but you will be hidden in the hem of my robe so you'll never really get away from me. Why resist?" It was not for maybe another year or so that I found this verse in Scripture: "You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me." (Psalm 139:5)

I was shocked to know that God really did speak to me that day - from His Word! I don't think I'd ever heard that passage before - I didn't really know much of what the Bible said. I didn't know or understand what Jesus did on the cross. I had to ask a lot of questions about all that after, but there was no question - I had given my life to Christ that day, in faith! I had become a new person, a new creation in Christ, in faith. Later on God would explain to me why this was possible through His Son Jesus but at that point, it was just clearer, it didn't change that I was a new Creation in Christ. I'd been born again! My life was never to be the same again. And it surely has not been either!

Vinnie liked the church and we continued to attend there all these years. Vinnie felt called to be a priest when he was a boy and attended Catholic seminary for something like 9 or 10 years in Italy. But he began to see too much hypocrisy and left the church. When I became a new Believer and we continued to attend this church that was teaching profound Truth right from the Bible, and encouraging us to go to the Bible too, this had major impact on Vinnie. He began to realize that though he'd known and Believed in Christ his whole life, what was missing, and now being offered to him, was a personal relationship with Christ. Vinnie's born again experience was more like the pregnancy - it was gradual, but again, there was no question.

Eventually our youngest daughter devoted her life to Christ (remember Amy was first in the family), and eventually so did Vinnie's kids, Michael and Christine. We have each had very different journeys, God dealing with each of us according to the sins we hovered in our hearts over the years. He's dealt with each of us in areas of rebellion, lust, gluttony, drugs, alcohol, and all areas of trouble but we are thankful for His work in us and for Jesus.

I like the story of the judge who charged a man during the depression for stealing bread for his family. He had to do because it was the law. But as soon as he charged the man, he recessed the court, took a donation from every person in the court room, gave the man the money so he could pay the fine for his crime. In some ways that represents what Christ did for us. We could not possibly get out of paying the penalty for all the sin that has lived in our hearts. We are born with it. Look at little tiny tots who have rebellion and selfishness. It's inherent! Knowing we could never get back into a relationship with God on our own, and wanting to be close to us again (like He originally created us in the beginning) He asked His perfect Son to come pay our penalty for us so we could become close to Him again. And because Jesus rose again to new life, it opened the way for us to have a new life too - we could be born again!

We have a new life in Christ. I am so thankful that we do now -
because I know where Vinnie is and I'd never wish him back here for his sake! He's where we all belong - where it's glorious and there's no more pain and suffering or sadness. I also know that I could not keep living, at least without joy, in this life if I didn't have some understanding that God has a purpose in me being here. He has things for me to do and I am bound and determined to find out what these things are so when it is time to leave here and join Him at Home (and with Vinnie) I can hear Him say, "well done, good and faithful servant!" It's my last prayer before going Home.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Holidays - too busy to be sad!

This is Vinnie on a Saturday morning cartoons day with two of our grandchildren.

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving! Vinnie and I used to have Thanksgiving with my sister and her family on Thursday. When our kids got engaged and married, we told them to have dinner with their spouses families and we'd have our celebration of thanks on Friday. So this year, I had dinner on Thursday with my mother, two sisters, their husbands, and my two nephews. It was nice - quiet, relaxing, and a nice visit. Friday was nice too but there were 19 of us stuffed in my house. Eight of them are kids 13 and under! It's a bit noisier, but fun.

Now it's December 1. Oh my gosh, the month barely started and it's the holiday rush thing! Phew! I am already eager to get off this train!'s moving too fast, if I jump off I'll break a leg! So I spent the evening ordering gifts on line. That's the way to gas, no crowds, no clerks too new to know how to help find something. It's simple, fast, and I can do it like I do everything else in life (it seems at times) - online! Yeah!
This is my youngest grandson at Halloween. He was dressed as Elmo, his favorite, but would not stay still for a picture. He hated that head piece!

And just to make the holiday season a bit more nuts...I signed up to be a Tastefully Simple consultant. Am I nuts? Well, no. I really need the extra income. I figured if I do it now I'll make a little extra for the holidays. Besides, there are great gifts I can give from Tastefully Simple too. I love their foods! Baskets for all! (Don't worry kids! You won't get just food!)

Yesterday was our Thanksgiving service at our church. The first time I visited our church it was a Thanksgiving service. I could not believe it when we arrived that first Sunday! People were given an opportunity to get up and share what they were thankful for! Wow...I was the first one up this year. The teaching (before sharing time) was on conquering bitterness with thankfulness. It dawned on me, yeah, if I were going to be a bitter person, this would have been the best year to qualify! I lost two friends this year, twin grand babies, my husband and his son! And funerals/death/grieving was not all we had to endure. There were 3 weddings (all our won kids!), two breakups of a marriage (now reconciled for now hopefully for good!), a sick husband suffering from unbelievable pain all year, and the list goes on and on. But I am thankful, as I said in my last post, for a great church that teaches the Truth even if it goes against the status quot. And victorious walks though hard times with God over the past 14 years have been the very thing that built a foundation by which to stand on now in all this death and stuff. They started off as little things. Here's a few...

I remember when my step children came to America in 1995 & 96. We had a small dining room and four comfy chairs. When we had company we whipped out some old chairs and the kids got those. It wasn't very comfy when there were 6 every night for dinner! I remember asking my Sunday school class to pray for chairs. I don't know what possessed me to pray for chairs, but it just popped out of my mouth. The leader of the prayer time asked me what kind of chairs - hoping he might come across some on one his yard sale adventures. I described, almost in details, two type chairs I'd seen in the past that would look good and be more comfortable for our family. I told him I really only needed two chairs but if there were three or four and they were cheap enough, I'd take them all.

Here's one of my grandchildren dressed as Grandpa for Halloween. No one else knew who he was supposed to be but he did and was sure proud of it too!

A week later, while talking to a neighbor, we noticed another neighbor had her husband's truck all filled up with furniture. We went over to see if she was moving. She wasn't. She'd helped a friend move and there were left over pieces she didn't want to take to the dump. My neighbor was hoping to find someone who could use it. I asked if she had any chairs on the truck. She sure did! She had two of each chair I had described the week before in Sunday school! I knew it was God's way of saying that He really is in control of all things in our lives and the world around us. It was His way of showing me how the Holy Spirit in us works in us. It was his way of telling me that He orchestrates all things at all times for our good, His love for us, and His glory. That same God took Vinnie. What else am I to think but I trust Him even though I don't understand why.

A few weeks before I was about to homeschool my teenage daughters through middle school, I told them they could join some kind of activity (dance, horseback riding, a sport). My oldest chose horseback riding right away. My youngest had to think about it a bit. She came back to me and said she'd like to take piano lessons. I told her that piano lessons would not work out because sh would need a piano to practice on. Since we didn't have one and could not afford to buy one, she'd have to pick something else. I told her to pray and pray she did. She came to me a few more times saying she felt like God wanted her to take piano. I finally told her if she really believed that, she should start praying for the piano because I wasn't paying for lessons without one! She prayed. A week later, the same neighbor that gave us her friends chairs a year before, called to see if I knew of anyone who had a sleeper sofa for sale. I told her, I was getting ready to have a yard sale and actually had a sleeper sofa I was selling! The conversation went on. She was clearing out her attic and asked me if I wanted all kinds of things she had up there (looking for a trade). I wasn't much interested in what the attic was storing, but then she said something like, "in fact, I have this old piano collecting dust in my dining room. Know anyone who could use a really old piano?" I am NOT KIDDING! We traded my sleeper sofa for a free piano. And would you guess that the one person I would have wanted to give lessons just happened to have one opening left and on a day when my daughter was free to go!

And here's my granddaughter, dressed as - you guessed it - a princess! What else?!

God is good. He loves us and He's good to us. Life in Christ is not about us, it's about Him, but He sure does do a good job of building our faith and revealing who He is really is - both in His Word and in His world. I am thankful that I am a Believer because if it weren't for Jesus, I'd be a basket case today! My next post will be the story of how Vinnie and I became Believers. It's a pretty cool story!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Here's me with my sister and my mom while we get ready for the Thanksgiving meal together.

It's Thanksgiving. I called my mother on the phone a little while ago (even though I am going to see her soon!). She said she was thinking of me because she was "thinking it might be a ___, well, you know, a ___ ". I said, "Mom, do you think it's going to be a SAD day?" That's what she was thinking but didn't want to even say the word, sad. Isn't she cute?

No, while there are plenty of sad thoughts in this day, I am more thankful than anything. In fact, I am so thankful that I even tried (for hours) to get through to K-Love Radio that other day attempting to the be the , "I'm thankful for..." representative of the state of North Carolina. I never got through but I can say more things on my blog that I am thankful for today than I could on the radio. goes.....!

I am thankful that I am a Believer of Jesus Christ because He lives in me. There are countless times in my days that I am so aware that I probably would not think a certain something or do something in particular if it were not for that! The same Spirit that lives in me is the One that lived in Jesus. THAT is a very profound and humbling truth! (Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father.") I am thankful for faith, hope, and the promptings and 'voice' of God that give me directions, discernment, and peace. I would not have the confidence in God's promises. I would not be sure that I will join my Vinnie when I leave this earth - I would not even be sure where Vinnie might be right now either. I am thankful for this because I would never know God, be close to Him or even have the chance if it weren't for the blood of Jesus spilled on a cross that I deserved, to pay the penalty for my sins because I would never be able to. Now THAT is love! (The photo above and below are of my two nephews. They keep the couch warm while we ladies get dinner ready! I should add though that they did help their mom make desserts this week. They are good kids.)

I am thankful that God is at work in my life and in my family's lives. It's such a joy to see prayers answered, to see maturity in each of the kids, their spouses, their children. I love to hear the little ones sing songs they learned from Sunday School classes. Even my grandson Tyler has learned almost the entire song, "Here I Am To Worship" because it was grandpa's favorite song. I am so thankful to have my kids living near enough to see them pretty regularly. I am thankful to have a lovely little house to spend time with them in. I am thankful for my home, my church, my friends, Sisters and Brothers in Christ, my mother, sisters and all the amazingly wonderful people who have helped me, counseled me, spent time with me, cooked for me, and are nudging me along the path of finding my new life.

I am thankful that winter is only a few months here - although it's been too cold for these parts so far this year! I am thankful that it's usually a mild winter. I love the spring. Life emerges again and I am thankful for this reminder of new life. I can hardly wait to open my windows and listen to the millions of birds around my house when the spring comes! I hope to see millions of hummingbirds! They are so beautiful!

I am thankful for electronic technology that allows me to send notes to friends around the world and even call the other side of the earth without a flaw. I am thankful to be knit together in God's work around the world through prayer and financial support.

I am thankful and that is a pretty big step from the painful person I was just three months ago. I am thankful to know, with all my heart, that somehow I will get on with my life and discover what things God still has planned for my life in the days ahead. I am thankful to know that God will turn my mourning into dancing. That is an awesome promise for someone like me in a place like this and in the loss of the most best friend I may ever have in this lifetime. I am thankful.

The photo on the right is of the campfire that my brother-in-law made tonight in honor of Vincent and Michael. If they were here, they would have been hanging out by this fire most of the night, as they were many times in years past. Now they stand before the One whose eyes are ablaze but we were thinking of them anyway, in front of our little campfire.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Friends...New Things To Do

Well, I can honestly say that I have been having a wonderful few days. I went to choir practice last night and I was invited to go have hot chocolate with one of the ladies in choir who is not married. She's younger, like maybe in her mid to late 20s. I was tired; I had planned to go grocery shopping after practice, but I felt like it was my first opportunity to act single. Get that...ACT single. I am single. It's going to take a long time to get used to that concept. I am still Vinnie's wife - well, it's just weird.

So I ended up going to Starbucks about 9 and stayed an hour - until the place closed, then went outside to talk for another 15 minutes in the cold! I went shopping after that! I know it was late and it would have been good to go to bed right about then, but there were no lines in the store and there sure would be after work the next day, especially with Thanksgiving just days away. It was good to chat with girlfriends. I haven't really felt like I've had much time with girlfriends. It was wonderful!

Tonight I had a gold party. Friends are supposed to come over and bring old gold. The gold people examine the gold and but it from you. They give you cash. Not too many parties let you go home with money. It's fun. But only one friend showed up! It was okay though because two other friends gave me gold and they got good money for their gold too. But the party didn't last too long since there weren't any other guests. When the gold people left, I had another lady to stay and chat with me! Oh my was so nice to have company! She stayed until just a little while ago - 11 PM! Yikes! I am becoming such a night owl! I really need to go to bed but I just have to say that I like girlfriend time. I have been with married ladies for so long and when I am free to be with them, they are with their husbands. That's appropriate but for me, I need to look for friendships where husbands can spare the girls for a night once in a while and/or some other ladies looking to spend girlfriend time with me. One young lady wants to come bake cookies together with me for the holidays! How cool is that?! And another lady I haven't spent time with since we were home with our kids, wants to have a night together to visit while her husband is involved in hockey season, and yet another wants to go to a movie with me one Saturday!

I am so excited to think about new things - new things to do with my spare time (oh gosh if I could just get through all the banking stuff that has piled up over the past three months. Will I ever get it off my plate so I can really have time cleared up to go have girlfriend time? It doesn't feel like it!) Anyway...I am beginning to see, for the first time since Vinnie died, that I might have a life of my own. I'd trade it in a heart beat to have my Vinnie back. I'd give almost anything with my integrity for that! But I also know there's nothing I can give to have that. He's not coming back here and I have to stay. He'd want me to live and seek the life that God wants for me now. I have a choice to either stay buried at home in loneliness, trying to understand how God can fill the void of my husband no longer holding me in his arms while we dream and reminisce together. The only way that earthly void is going to be filled is with some earthly flesh and blood and girlfriends will fill that void pretty well. It seems to be a good fit for now. I feel young again and excited to see what kinds of new friendships God will put in my path in the days, months and years ahead.

Soon I'll start putting up pictures of me and my friends on my blog! But since I don't have any yet, you will continue to get pictures of my Vinnie - old and recent ones. Hope you love looking at him from over the years. He was a very special man, very special. I will always love him from the bottom of my heart. He was the love of my life. He always will be...but it's different now. It's different now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Living for the Glory of God

One thing that someone who is grieving, especially in the beginning, does not want to be reminded of is the Truth, a Promise from God, found in Romans 8:28. If you are a Christian, you probably know this verse by heart. It says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This is good news for those who are struggling with a difficult situation or if a friend or family is a difficult situation. It's good news for those grieving too but it's not what they really want to hear in the beginning. That is because it's hard to remember when your heart is aching to such a heart ripping wrenching way, that it's not about "me"! It's easy to forget that we are to live for the glory of God. It seems like we are being attacked, someone's been taken away from "me"; why? I know a family member who wondered, "why does God need him, anyway, [when we needed him so much more, I think could be implied here] with anger over a mean old God who would do such a thing to "me". It's not uncommon to hear or think this way at a time of grieving, especially if those grieving do not have a true Biblical perspective or personal joyful relationship with God.

I am not sure what God's plan is for my life now and I cannot tell anyone why Vinnie had to die and two months later, why his son died too. I cannot answer that question at all. But I can say that God will bring good out of the situation. That is a promise. I know this because it's been proven in my life many time over and over again over the years with my Vinnie. And God hasn't changed one bit! One reason why sometimes it's difficult to understand this promise to be true is when the expectation of 'good' translates to mean that the good is for "me". But if our lives have been surrendered to God, and we understand that God has a purpose in all things as they fit in the big scheme of things (God's scheme, not our own) we can begin to see that the "good" is sometimes for other people's good. Over time other's 'good' because our joy. Let me give you an example of this in my life.

Several years ago, when Vinnie and I joined the church I am not a member, I sang on the worship team. I remember being in the New Member's class (which I think was the first New Member's class at our church) and was asked what kinds of ministries I might like to be involved in. I remember distinctly saying that I am pretty enthusiastic about several ministries and would love to be involved in any of them except children's ministries. My justification for this comment, even though I do like children, is that I didn't believe that children liked me.

One weekend the worship team went to a worship worshop. It was amazing and it changed my life, really! When we came back I wondered why we weren't making an effort to teach the things we had learned to the congregation - but we didn't. I remember talking one day to a friend on the team about my passion to teach what we learned at the worshop but felt like it should be taught to the children. I remember her saying, "That's a great idea, Gail, why don't you talk to the children's pastor and start something for the kids?" I explained that I'd have to stick to being a helper or write curriculum because no one would want me to teach kids. Kid's don't like me, remember?!

Well, two years later, I believe, she finally gave up on me starting something for the kids and she started something with the kids instead. It was a big success but she could not handle it alone. So in a church prayer meeting one night the pastor asked if we'd pray for a helper to come alongside my friend and help lead worship with the children. A little voice told me that if I didn't speak up, someone else would take over my job! I told th pastor that the helper had already come forward. When he asked who the helper was, I said a meek little, "me".

It took five weeks before I was brave enough to get in the front of the room with the kids but once I got over the extreme fear, I was hooked! I loved it! They loved it! I eventually took over all the grade school Sunday school classes and teachers, schedules, etc. Then I went to a conference to learn how to apply a new curriculum I'd found for the grade school kids. I remember hearing a little voice every once in awhile that weekend, telling me that I could do things their way when "I run the children's ministry". This didn't make any sense. There was a children's pastor who did that and I was not qualified to teach boo-coo to anyone! I kept shrugging off the voice because I didn't understand what I was hearing and why.

About six weeks after I returned from the worshop, the children's pastor stepped down! Oh my goodness...this wasn't happening, right?! But it had nothing to do with m
e...I wasn't qualified to take his place! So I didn't say anything to the pastor. Three months went by and it was decided that no one would be hired to replace him in January when the new budget took effect. I thought they must have flipped - no one replace him...what's going on?! But I finally could not stand it anymore. One day I finally sent a long letter to the pastor telling me what I'd been experiencing, and that I felt like God was telling me to take over the children's ministry! I was stunned when he said he agreed that it seemed like God was using me and leading me to do something so we approaced it slowly and experimentally for a while. By six months it was clear. I was the children's minister for almost four years!

I didn't want to work with children! I went to one worship conference and it changed my direction in the life of my church! God used something I did for good and though in time I could see the good in my life - it was initially for the good of the church and the children. We jsut never know what the heck God's up to!

So how and what does any of this have to do with God using all things, even death, for the good of those that love him? Well, like I say, God is the same. He doesn't change - never! He does have good to come from Vinnie's death. It may not be for my pleasure (and his death is not for my pleasure - for sure. It's very painful!) but the ways God will use his death and the change in my life, it will be for His glory and it will eventually be a WOW experience - one that we all look back on with amazement to see how God would use the past and present things in my life to get on with the future, a future that promises to hold great things that will bless others. It helps me to know this truth because I know that Vinnie's death will not be in vain. It helps me to know that Vinnie's death could lead to so many people being blessed and even coming to knowing Jesus. This would thrill Vinnie to pieces!

I've had several ideas come to mind about how God would use my experiences in grief and all the other experiences I've had in this lifetime and how God would bring them all together to bless many lives around the world. I won't share them yet but I believe God does have a plan, a very exciting plan, one that will allow many people to learn to grow through their suffering, will help them know Jesus, and will bring more people into God's Family. I hope you'll join me in praying for God to reveal what His plan is and to give me wisdom to discern what it is so I won't miss the doors that open in that direction! Because my life is no longer mine but His, He has a plan and purpose for it, I am to live for is will not mine, and though my sorrow is as deep and painful now as it was two months ago, I can and will still know joy. My joy comes from the Lord and from living for Him, not myself. I am so thankful to know the joy of living a life much less selfish than the one I used to have, even though it means having great losses along the way. I know that God's plan is awesome and I am honored to play my part in His story!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Discovering My New Husband

Who would have thought back in 1951 when the little guy on the left was born that he's die such a painful death and would leave this planet just 56 years later?

During the time Vinnie and I were married, we had many dreams. We had plans, goals, and tasks we shared. He usually washed dishes for instance, and while he was a wonderful cook, and did cook once in awhile, especially when we had company, I did most of the cooking - he cleaned up. I cleaned the house and he took care of all home repairs and car maintenance. I did most of the grocery shopping although we loved to shop together. The only problem there is that we'd over spend when he did the shopping or when we went together. He did the bookkeeping and I took care of the kids needs (pack back packs, make lunches, that sort of thing) and I did the laundry.

I suppose you might be getting the idea - I've lost not only my friend, my buddy, but also the one who helped me get a lot of things done around the house and in our family. Until one is suddenly left alone, there's little thought to the fact that all the things done before still have to get done (take out the trash and take it to the dump once or twice a week, mow the lawn, cut the hedges - the list goes on!) but now it is done by just one person. It's difficult to figure out how to get it all done, especially when life goes on and on and before you know it, when you haven't figured out how to get it all done, it all piles up! That's kind of where I am now. I could use a week off to catch up!

So I am missing my husband for many reasons but I keep coming back to this one verse in Scripture. "For your Maker is your husband - the LORD Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;he is called the God of all the earth." I think God really wants me to chew on this because it keeps showing up. My girlfriend just sent this to me last night in the context of an email! I love that! God has ways of speaking to us and getting our attention! It's so cool! This verse is cool because it says God is a lot more than just a Husband. Can any of you say all these things about your earthly husband? No! Let's look at all God is to us.

Maker/Husband: God is our maker. He knows EVERYTHING about us - everything! And a husband sees his bride as beautiful, lovely, breathtaking. God sees me that way too! I am not beautiful in the earthly sense (although my sweet Vinnie thought I was beautiful!) but when looks at me covered in the blood of His son, Jesus, he sees me as one of the most pure and lovely women here! The Maker is my Husband. No husband on earth can know all there is to know about us, girls. I have told countless young wives to stop hoping their husband will figure out that they'd like to be surprised by roses on occasion. If you want flowers, don't hint and then wonder why he didn't get it! Just ask. Just tell him what you'd like. He will love that you didn't make him guess. But the Father in Heaven knows us through and through. He made us! He knows what we will absolutely love better than we know about ourselves! That's a wonderful husband!

the LORD Almighty is his name - Imagine being the wife of the president of the USA, one of the most powerful men on earth. Now imagine being the wife of someone even more powerful that! Imagine being the wife of THE most powerful, the one whose name is above all others, one so powerful, He oversees ALL things and all at the same time too! Now there's a powerful husband. Let me tell you - the wife of such a husband is pretty important! So am I. I play a role in the big scheme of things that is just as vital as any leader over this country. I am not important in and of myself, but my husband is LORD Almighty. I am honored to be his special beloved!

the Holy One of Israel - Because I really miss Vinnie and am magnifying the best things about him and our relationship as I write in this blog, you haven't heard much about the unholy Vinnie. He was hooked on old movies. He was sometimes short tempered. He was not always able to or patient enough to understand me or one of his kids. He had, like all humans in this earthly state, was imperfect. I excused his lack of perfections as he excused and had grace for me in mine. But I am wife of one who is never unholy! He is always pure, true, lovely, and perfect! Wow...even though I am not perfect, there's so much grace for me that He loves me anyway, and He remains pure.

your Redeemer - This is my favorite part! A redeemer back in Biblical days (and maybe it's still a practice somewhere in the world today) is one who buys a person out of slavery. They might do a number of things to achieve this but the end result is the same - someone is set free. I've given a lot of thought to this idea in times past. I've thought about if I was a slave to a master that I'd been a slave to my whole life and all of a sudden one day, someone tells me that I am no longer a slave! I think I would be lost. I would not know else to do except be a slave. In that moment I think I would probably want to find the person who set me free and be his slave. After all, if you only knew how to be a slave, wouldn't you want to be slave to one who wanted you to be free? I would! I can picture myself running after the redeemer and begging him to let me serve him all the rest of my days!

Well, truth is that I have been a slave. My master at one time was drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, immorality and all the things of the world. I was under it's command on my life and I was it's slave. Then Jesus revealed himself and told me what He'd done for me - that he had set me free, and I wanted nothing more than to be his servant. But this redeemer, with so much love for me that he gave up His life to set mine free, is my Husband!

The last concept of Husband that comes to mind is that of an intimate relationship. God wants an intimate relationship with me. In the Garden of Eden, God walked amongst Adam and Eve. Imagine seeing God with our own eyes walking right next to us? It's breathtaking! Because we live in a fallen world, He cannot walk with us like that (yet) but through the person of Jesus, we can experience God as our Husband. He desires us to know Him in the most intimate ways. We grow in this intimacy through a life of prayer and being attentive to the ways he speaks to us throughout the day and reading His word. I've called on God at times when I was so desperate for Him that I could literally feel arms around me!

God isn't going to come down and wash my dishes for me or check my car or take the trash to the dump! He's not going to climb into bed and rub his soft feet over mine, he's not going to have quiet conversations with me in a beach chair while waves wash over us. But God does 'talk' to us. I've heard him tell me to turn to certain passages in the Bible. I've heard Him tell me that Vinnie was going to die and He even told me 6 months ahead of time what month it was going to happen. I've had to develop 'ears' to hear him and recognize His voice. It's not audible with human ears but is the whisper of a Husband always audible? How many times did I know Vinnie was saying, "You are the love of my life" and words never spilled out of his mouth?!

I am not saying it's easy to adjust to having a Husband now with so many challenges in the way of experiencing Him. I wish I'd been more able to know the joy in knowing God as my Husband long before I lost my Vinnie. I might be more practiced at it now that I really need to know Him in this way now. But now is better than never! I have a Husband who's perfect, who knows me more than I know myself, who is never about His personal gain, who loves me beyond my wildest desires, and set me free from bondage to the things that would eternally destroy my chances of ever knowing Him. And because of that, I will one day be with my Vinnie again too. Now THAT is a package deal, isn't it?!

If you are wishing for a more perfect husband, ladies, know this - you will NEVER find him here! Some may come close but for all the little ways he doesn't make the mark, there is the Perfect One ready to fill your heart in the sweetest ways. Every missing aspect of your earthly one can be found in your Heavenly one! You may just need some help dusting off the antennas to know where He is and how He wants to satisfy you completely! Join me on the journey of discovering who our Husband is!

More verses on God as our Husband.

John 3:29
The bride belongs to the bridegroom.
Isaiah 61:10
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Revelation 19:7

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 21:2
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
Revelation 21:9
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
Revelation 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just The Way It Is - NOW!

Here's Vinnie 30+ years ago in the US Army. What a handsome guy, right?

I have had an amazing week. It started out so sad, exhausting, almost depressing. I seemed to cry at every turn last week and I was beginning to wonder if it were really possible for me I live without Vinnie. But Thursday I had a few events suddenly change course - you know those days where you think something is going a certain direction, you proceed to do all the things that it takes to get the task done, you think all along how awesome God is that He put such a perfect plan together - and all of a sudden, the door SLAMS shut! That was my Thursday.

While the day started out sad as did the other days of this past week, I suddenly found myself asking God, "What's going on? Why did you do this? I am not upset, in fact, I am sure you shut this door but I sense you are trying to teach me something here. Please show me what it is!" I began to think about the fact that I am bull headed sometimes. If I see a need, I sometimes don't wait on God - oh, I do pray about it, but since I am so sure something needs to be done and no one else is going to do it (of course, ha! ha!) then I best get all the steam I can power up and Gooooo! That's me! So by the time I went to bed on Thursday, I was doing a lot of talking to God. I also attended my Thursday night GriefShare group and came away realizing that in fact, I can and will, live my life without Vinnie. It is possible and will happen, because God took Vinnie and left me here. It's that simple. That's the way it is now.

So Friday night, just to add some frosting to the cake, I had a friend over for dinner. We had a wonderful time to together, as we often do when we get girlfriend time with each other. But one question she asked me kept haunting me the rest of the night. You see I've been trying to help my daughter and her family find a new place to rent. I've gone out of the way to search, make phone calls, and basically run myself ragged over it. Why, she asked, are you dong all this work? (you probably are asking too, right?) Well, it appears that bad habits over the years have reigned and I do some things like I've always done them, forgetting that my daughter is 24 now, quite responsible, and able to do this on her own! What's the matter with me?! I know - I am a sinner. I have fears, I have a lot of fears. That's the lesson for this week! If I am controlled by my fears and habits, how can I also submit to God? I can't! The result? I will not see what amazing answer God can provide!

I have often thought it interesting that God put Jesus in the home of a carpenter. Jesus learned to build with wood. He's not here physically now but He still builds - He builds His people, layer by layer, step by step, piece by piece; He builds us into a sanctuary where God can dwell! When I look back (and it is crucial to do this at times!) on how God's built my faith, I am in awe. Here's an example.

One time when I was still a pretty young Believer, we had a friend work on our roof. Midway through the project, he got called away and could not come back for a week. My husband was also out of town that week for a few days and would you know - it rained, no - POURED - all week long! The tarp used to cover the unfinished work on the roof had blown off and guess what started to happen? You got it - it started to pour inside too! One strip of ceiling, from one end of the house to the other started leaking. I had several buckets and bowls in two of the bedrooms and some in the stairway too. I was so afraid the whole ceiling would crumble to the floor. The money we were trying to save by doing the roof ourselves was going to cost us more than we'd ever be able to afford to fix. I was so upset!

I sat on the stairway crying my head off and my oldest daughter who about 10 at the time, said something like, "Mom, I think we need to pray that God would move the storm so the roof will not be able to leak anymore." I said something along the lines of, "That's ridiculous! You heard the weather report on TV this morning. This is slow moving storm and won't be gone for another two days!" She reminded me that Jesus moved a storm when he was on a boat with the disciples and he could move this storm too - if we just had faith. She insisted that God wanted us to have the faith to pray this. I told her that if SHE had the faith, she could pray. I'd pray with her but I was not able to ask for this, she'd have to. She did pray, it was a sweet prayer. We got up and put more buckets around the house. About 15 or 20 minutes later, it seemed as though the rain was not coming down as heavy. It seemed as though the clouds were not quite so dark and heavy. And..honest to God, in 30 minutes it stopped raining! I could not believe my own eyes!!! Just for fun, I wanted to see if the weather channel had picked up on this small pocket of the world no longer having a storm that was to last two more days. Even they were amazed at how fast, all of a sudden, "that storm moved out to sea!"

I have countless stories like this! I could write a whole blog or even a book on the many specific things we felt compelled to pray over the years - big things, little things - and God answered them. (I should interject here that God sometimes answer prayer with a "NO!" or a "Wait" but he does always answer). I can't go into more of them now. But I tell you this to make a point. God builds our faith by showing us He's faithful in little things and then a little bigger things, and then even bigger things. I hope you get the idea here. He builds us in strength too - a little here and there and more and more as each new need for strength arises. He does it with perseverance, and so many other things. He builds us to be temples of the Living God, one layer at at time.

I should know by now that if I have faith, and my daughter has faith, even if bad things fall on her or her family - God is in control! He wants to build their faith, the kid's faith, her faith, her husband's faith. Gosh, as He works in their lives, He is still building more of my faith! Maybe when Vinnie was here, we didn't turn to God every single time we should have. We didn't have to. He was there to the rescue. I am not saying he wasn't suppose to fill that role for us - yes, he was our protector. He just did too good a job at it! And I've been doing the same thing since Vinnie was sick - running like a bull to fix it, take over, and take charge. I have prevented either of us from seeing what amazing things God would do in a difficult situation. (The picture below is Vinnie before marriage - a long haired clown!)

But here's the deal - that was then and THIS is NOW. Just as I have to spend time now discovering how God is to be a Husband to me now that Vinnie is gone, so my daughter has to discover in a deeper, more real and consistent way, how God is a Father to her now that Vinnie is gone. He's been building our faith to get us to this point. I can trust he will take care of her, her children, her family. I can trust He will take care of me and will fill every single area of my life once consumed in Vinnie. No need for fear. There is instead a need for faith - a new layer of faith, a layer that is built on all the other layers God's built in me, in us, in times past, because after all - that's just the way it is NOW! It's not Biblically true that God doesn't give us more than we can handle! It seems to me that God often times gives us more than we can handle! But He gives us more when He's proven Himself in the layer before and the layer before that, etc. He builds this so we will see that He can and will use the present (key word here-present, NOW) for HIS glory and our good. It's too easy to think life's all about me/us. It's about Him and He wants to be glorified. He gives us more than we can handle because he's trying to get people like me to stop being bull headed and storm through hard times tough as nails fixing everything and keeping myself and others from being hurt and relying on Him too! He's trying to get us to live in the present, not fear the future or expect life will be like it was yesterday! Each day is a new day with new troubles of it's own. He wants us to face life - just the way it is NOW, with faith, with peace, with trust - in Him!