Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Anniversary

I've said it before and I'll say it again...grief is a weird journey! Unlike other kinds of suffering, and I've had my plate full of them in life, it's a state of suffering that fades in and out at different times. For instance, I am approaching what would be my 26th wedding anniversary with Vinnie and sadness is already hitting me again.

My youngest daughter got married on our 25th. Vinnie and I renewed our vows and incorporated that into the beginning of their wedding ceremony. It was a precious event. But even though Vinnie and I vowed "to keep our promises to each other for as long as God would have us be together", we both knew deep down in our hearts that the amount of time we'd still have together on earth would be shorter than we'd hoped. It was! We would only have 7 weeks left. The anniversary date will be harder to face and more emotion to deal with than I was expecting. It is still but a week away but it's already getting tough.

This past weekend I went to the beach with my sister. Vinnie and I loved the beach and always planned a trip around the time of our anniversary. There were few moments this weekend that I didn't miss him. Our time away was always opportunity to have conversations that included more than, "What's for dinner?" and "What movie are we watching tonight?". And though I totally loved being with my sister, he was missed this weekend. I am still surprised that when I seem so "OK" with life as it now is, it will take an event like the beach or our anniversary date to turn the sad stone back over again.

I have no clue how long these sudden bursts of sadness will hit me. The recent bouts of sadness that have hit me have been when Shelly graduated from college a few weeks ago, when Amy got a job in her first level of nursing assistance at Duke, the hospital of her dream, the trip to the beach and now our anniversary approaches. It will probably hit me again when Shelly and Chris buy their first house, a deal which will close in a few weeks. My hope is that the year of "firsts" (first Christmas without him, first birthday without him, etc.) will be the hardest and that after that those dates will get a little easier to bear and less sad as each year comes and goes and new traditions are created. Of course I can only guess since I've never been down this road before. I imagine, however, that it will be hard when other firsts come too, like when Shelly and Chris have their first baby and other graduations happen, etc.

Grief is weird. When I've had trouble with a relationship, it always came to a conclusion and the problem was over. If I'd had trouble with a job, or finances, there'd come a time when it would come to a conclusion and some kind of answer would rear it's head in resolve. But grief, it strikes when your going along feeling fine and enjoying something that's in the flow of the day or week or year and suddenly - boom! Grief hits again like ton of bricks. It seems to get easier but not less sad.

When I got home after spending the whole weekend with my sister, I realized that I'd loved having someone to talk to all day, for two whole days! I miss that so much! I never get anyone to myself anymore and I spend many, many hours alone at home. I am not sure I'll ever get over that! It simply compounded the sadness I've already been feeling but sadness is just an emotion. Sadness over Vinnie's absence is simply a sign of the fact that I loved him very much. I have to keep all this in perspective. It's the only way I'm going to survive. So...I'm off now to go hang a new picture I bought to put up over my kitchen window. I wish it was Vinnie putting it up but it never will be him doing it again and that's going to become more and more OK with me in time, I am sure.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Strong or faith and confidence?

This is my youngest daughter, Shelly, graduate of UNCG in Psychology. My other daughter is pursuing a nursing degree, and my step daughter has a degree in early childhood. I am very proud of them. Can you tell?

I have sometimes been told that I am 'so strong'. I was thinking about that today and here's the truth of the matter. I am not strong, well not in the sense that I've thought of people being strong in the past. I think of a 'strong' person who doesn't have a relationship with Christ as one who is a bit tough, hard, and so focused on something that there are no distractions that would bring laughter, crying, or emotion of any kind. THAT does not describe me. I laugh, cry, and am not afraid to experience any emotion or talk about it with others. I don't know that strong is the right word...I am not tough, hard or callus. I'm wondering if it's more that I am confident. I am confident. Oh, not in myself, believe me, but I am confident in who God is. I am confident of who I am in Christ. I am confident that if I pray for something and it doesn't come to pass, that I am the one who didn't get it right, not God, or His timing is better than mine and I need to pay attention.

I know that people think I am strong because I can laugh and live and carry on now that Vinnie is gone. I love Vinnie and miss him so much but I know he and our Heavenly Father want me to live. This is where I live. I don't usually know what I am doing but I do know that even if I haven't figured it out, God is always doing something and I am sure, because He is good and He is love, that He knows what is best for me and what will most glorify Him and prove that He is exactly who He says He is and always will be. That is what I am confident in and hope to get more and more confident in that until I can go Home. I can't imagine living any other way!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Word of God (Scripture)

In all of the ways I've mentioned this week that God speaks, I left the best for last. God speaks to us all the time in His Word. I remember the first time it happened to me. My step daughter was living with us at the time. I had only been a Believer a year and had recently gotten a study Bible which I read often with fascination to have explanations for most of the passages.

My step daughter was a bit of a argumentative person - OK...she was ALWAYS arguing with Vinnie and me, and teachers, her siblings - EVERYONE! One day while being totally rebellious and yes, arguing with me, I said something like, "You know, you argue with us because you just don't get what you want. We would all have a happier life here together if you'd stop insisting everything would go your way and insisting you get whatever it is YOU want as if you were only important one here!" She stormed of to her room.

A little while later I went up to my room and opened my Bible on my bed. When I picked it up turn to the pages I had been reading before bed that week, I saw a passage that got me SO EXCITED! It was the passage from James 4:1-3. " 1What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

I ran right over to her room and knocked on the door with excitement. I wanted her to know that my revelation (yes, it seems obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation - why we argue!) It was so exciting to show her the wisdom in the Bible (she was not a Believer then).

There are countless times when I would see a passage that would be an obvious clear direction or answer to a problem or a question. There have been times when in one day the same verse would be unexpectedly seen over and over again in different places - the radio, on a web page, a poster, you name it. Vinnie and I would get so excited when things like that would happen!

of all the passages in the Bible, isn't amazing that God would orchestrate our day to put us in the view of the same passage in various places all day when He has a specific message He wants to drive home that day? It's amazing. No one can tell me that my God is not personal and real! It's just too many times, too most interesting and unexpected ways and times He's spoken. I love it and it still amazes me.

I have been realizing this week that I am often times competitive and jealous of others. I can't say I really was so vividly aware of this as I am tonight. I guess this is one more layer, one more way I've kept my eyes off Jesus...yearning for what others have (a relationship, career, comfort, Godly children, a clear call from God on their life, you name it!). Once again, God is showing me that He just wants me to be thankful, content and fulfilled knowing that my ultimate purpose on earth is to enjoy His presence and His relationship with me. It will come as I listen to His side of the conversation - to hear what things He wants to tell me. He's got better things to say to me than all I can drum up to say to Him I am sharpening up my eyes and ears to hear Him some more!

Clouds That Speak - (sort of)

Here's my little grandson. He's as cute as that teddy!

I told you I had a funny story to tell of a way God spoke to me once. It actually happened last night! I was driving home after having dinner with my daughter and her family. The wind started to really kick in and dark ugly storm clouds were taking over the sunset. Rain began to pound the windshield when I decided to go home before the storm got worse. I was a bit nervous that I'd have trouble controlling the car in the high winds or I'd lose visibility and have to pull over in the dark and wait to see.

I prayed a short prayer of sorts to get home safely. As I started driving on the Interstate, I realized that it was raining in sections of the highway. It would be really heavy and then seconds later, it was light drizzle. In fact, after about 5 minutes on the Interstate, there were breaks in the dark clouds and streaks of blue sky were visible in between. I suddenly saw the funniest thing - a cloud formation that very vividly shaped a hand giving an "OK" sign. I wish I'd had my camera. You would not believe how perfect it was! There were three folding finger shapes, a palm, and an index finger folded roundly to meet a rounded thumb to shape a perfect "OK". I laughed and laughed and thanked God for giving me a sign that I'd be OK. A few minutes later I was driving in sunshine again. When I got home there were signs of having come after some pretty heavy rains. There were large chunks of tree branches lined up in front of the house too so it must have been a pretty heavy storm. But God had me travel in the pockets of the storm that were safe over my car. Isn't God amazing?!

Tell Him What's On Your Mind!

I know the topic this week is on ways God has spoken to me (and I have a funny one on the next post!) but today I must write about something important - a message to young brides.

I was recently dining with a family - a darling, lovable young couple. There was a bit of tension a few times when the little wife got annoyed with her partner. After having a discussion about it later, she told me she was annoyed because he was talking away, entertaining the guests (which included me but she insisted guests were not to help) and not helping her serve, get things, pour drinks, put food away, and other tasks that arose before, during, and after dinner.

Here's the thing gals...there are things that our husbands might assume would come natural to us...but they go over our heads. And girls...your guy may just not get what you were expecting or what you want. It is always better to say, "Hey want to have so and so over for dinner Friday?" When he says, yeah, we can ....(he may fill in some activity he wants to include in the evening). Then, you say, "Will you help with dinner? Will you help me serve our guests? Will you help me clear the table after dinner? Will you help with dishes? do you want to clean up as we go or do it all after they leave? You'll help me right?"

Girls...let them know what you want or you are hoping for! I used to just tell Vinnie that when I hadn't gotten flowers in awhile, he could feel free to surprise me one night with some or I'd like to go on a date. I'd ask him if he could think of something he'd like to do on a date (to give him some creative ideas) but sometimes I'd say, "I'm in the mood to go do....(whatever). He SO appreciated that I figured out eventually that it was better to not make him guess. As often as possible, tell him exactly what is on your mind. There'll me less frustration and you will know ahead of time if it's worth taking on a task or not!

Happy marriages to you!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Loud Whisper of Sorts

I promised to write about the other way God has spoken to me in the past. It is not that I want anyone to think I am special. I simply want others to know that God does speak to His people. When I first started to "hear" God's whispering words, it seemed liked sudden thoughts that came to me from out of the blue. I heard one pastor once say that it is like a bubbling up of spring water, not a constant flow like a river. It is the very way I 'heard' God speak to me when I became a Believer. Now, I have had the encounter several times and what I thought might have been God proved to have been God, so I find I am more confident these days when it is from God. Mind you, there are plenty of times when I am not sure God is speaking and it requires a lot of prayer, a watchful eye, and a humbleness to recognize that my 'listening' may be entangled and therefore distorted with my own human nature. Let me explain though, how I've heard form God in the past.

The day I became a Believer I was in a church service. It happened during the worship time. I looked around the room and wept. I saw all these people singing to God with sincere, wholehearted love. It was overwhelming and beautiful. In my consumption of emotion, I 'heard' a voice in my mind that said, "Look back on your life. Think on all the times when you almost died. I suddenly remembered the two times I tried to commit suicide as a little girl. God said, "I am the One who sent someone in the room to rescue you." I thought of the car accident that nearly killed me. I heard, "I am the One who kept you from being thrown from that car." Then the "whisper" reminded me of the three times I was almost raped. The 'voice' said, "I am the One who suddenly brought others into the picture to intervene." Then I 'heard", I let you stray to the right and the left of the path I have for your life but those times when you got too far off, I am the One who pushed you back on the road. I did all this to bring you to today. But starting today, you will no longer be allowed to stray. I have things I want you to do and since you have always belonged to me, you must now seek what are the things I want to do in your life."

I thought about running away at this point, but heard the 'voice' again. "You can run wherever you want, but you will always be tucked away in the hem of my robe and therefore you can never really escape me. I am the One who put the hole in your heart as a little girl - a hole that has made you yearn for love, the love you wanted from a perfect Daddy. I am that perfect Daddy. I want to fill your hole with my love. I wanted you to know me, that I am your perfect Daddy."

Does this all seem crazy? I really can't explain it any other way. I 'heard' this voice in my mind. It was kind of like dreaming, only to the best of my recollection, I was awake. I mean I was still sitting through the service that morning and I left a new person. I 'heard' this voice a few other times too. One time was actually before I became a Believer. It was in a service at an Episcopal church (where we used to attend, reluctantly). A woman priest came to give the service that day. I'd never heard of a woman priest before. I thought it was ridiculous until I heard her sermon! I not only heard her sermon, but I heard a voice in my head that said, "You will do this some day!" The only reason I didn't pursue a career as a priest at that point was that my husband thought I was nuts!

I heard the same message when I attended a Women of Faith conference about a year after I became a Believer. As I listened to women speaking, I also heard a 'voice' telling me that one day I'd be doing what they were doing - speaking and sharing God's story in my life and being an encouragement of faith to other women. And...I heard the voice again one other very distinct time.

I had become quite involved in a Children's Church program we'd started for our grade school children at our church. At the end of one year in this program, a friend and myself were praying about what to teach the following year. We felt like God wanted us to teach the names of God and I was led to a new curriculum written and published through the Bethlehem Baptist Church where John Piper pastors and went to a workshop to learn more about it.

As I sat though the workshops, I would hear all these really awesome ideas and concepts about teaching the children the Word of God. I would again 'hear' this voice. The voice kept saying, "Well, when you run Children's Ministry, you can do it that way too." I heard it over and over again, and remember thinking, "why do I keep hearing that?! There is already a pastor over the children and even if he wasn't there, I am not a pastor. Why would it seem like God is telling me that I would run things? I'd never become a pastor." It was so confusing!

Little did I know that the children's pastor would step down two months later! the 'voice' came to me many times, "Go tell your pastor God wants you take over." It seemed so ridiculous that it took three months of just not standing it anymore before I finally got the nerve to tell our pastor. The results (and I'm skipping a lot of detail here - perhaps for another blog)...I was children's minister at our church for 3 1/2 years! I was certain at that point, that God does in fact still speak to His people! I can't go on, although I could, but it's a blog, not a book. Perhaps tomorrow I'll tell you about that journey in Children's Ministry!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When God Has Spoken...

Today's pics are of my youth. The top two are right after my senior year. That was my step dad's Camaro, not mine. And check out those fabulous (NOT) short dresses and scarves! Whohoo.
Fashion is hilarious!

I have had the strangest things that have come to mind at times. It has seemed so strange and out of the blue that I could only conclude at the time that it was God or the Holy Spirit that brought those things to mind. Over time they have proved to be true. I was telling a friend this the other day and she asked if I have kep a journal of these events. Truth is, they are not specifically documented so I thought I would doc them today on my blog.

A few times I've had strange sudden mathematical/numerical things pop into my head from seeming out of no where. One such time was when one of my grandsons was born. My daughter had him at 18. She'd gotten pregnant at 17 we extended grace and hoped that good would come out of it for her and all of us. When I was holding that little gorgeous baby boy it suddenly dawned on me that if you go back one month from his birthday, May 23, and add three days, you get his mother's birthday, April 26. If you go ahead a month and subtract 3 days you get June 20 which is my step daughter's first son. If you go ahead one more month and subtract 3 days, you get my youngest daughter's birthday, July 17. Now that might all seem complicated, but it all came to me in a flash moment and was clear and simple as day and night. My next feeling was that God wanted me to know that He is aware of all the details of our lives, He is Sovereign over ever detail, and He wanted to assure me that He would care for this little one and the rest of our family.

The next time He spoke to me in numbers was back in March of last year. Vinnie was still recovering from his second surgery when his kidney, prostate, bladder and some lymph nodes were removed. He was still sore but he was getting better and we were hopeful. However, in March one day during a church service, it suddenly dawned on, from out of the blue, that I was born in 1956 and Vinnie was born in 1951 and that while he was still still 56 and I was still 51 he would die. That immediately made me think that he wasn't going to make it and would die in August, right before my 52 birthday. He died one week before my 52 birthday.

These are two numerical ways I can remember that God 'spoke' to me. Tomorrow I'll tell you about how He literally spoke to me on a number of occasions. My purpose? I want people to know that I am not special. What I mean is that while I am a child of God and that is pretty darn special, there are also many other children of God, many who are a lot more special than me! Yet, God still speaks to His people, even in this modern times. If we pray for ears and wisdom to discern then when we absolutely don't expect it - god may speak to us. Be alert. Be confident in teh ways he may communicate to us directly. Come back tomorrow!