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!