It was late and a school night. Everyone was tired. As my grandma straightened the blankets one more time, I noticed her hands lingered a little longer. Everyone kissed grandpa and walked out of the room and down the cold, sterile hall toward the elevator. I watched them walk ahead of me but something made me stop, so I turned and walked back into his room. He was sleeping and I wasn’t even sure if he could hear me, but I took his hand and whispered~ ”I love you so much grandpa”~then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. I don’t know what made me do it, but I’m so glad I did. The next morning I woke to the phone ringing and my grandma’s sobs. I was a sophomore in high school, but I pulled the covers over my head and I cried like a baby. Losing a loved one is so hard, it doesn’t matter how old you are. Everyone’s heart breaks. He was my grandpa, my mom’s dad, my grandma’s husband. So many emotions and memories wrapped up in each one of those titles. My personality is the type that makes me want to run away and hide from the world when faced with tremendous heartache. But that doesn’t make it go away, and heart ache returns~ again and again. Even my wedding album reminds me of how often heartache has come for a visit. In one particular picture, 8 out of 15 of our family members are no longer living. Death has taken them. It is no respector of persons or titles, days or hours. Can we ever avoid this pain that is almost unbearable? We honestly cannot. As a pastors wife, I hear this question again and again and yet, I have no answer. Inevitably, we will endure pain and heartache, but we don’t have to endure it without hope. That morning, that phone call caused the tears to flow and since that time, many others have as well. But they did not flow for my grandpa, our cousins, my sister in law, my mom, or all of our precious grandparents. They flowed from the emptiness my heart felt for their absence. They flowed for the sorrow my other loved ones were going through. They flowed for the dark and lonely days ahead that my loved ones would be facing, but not for those that had gone home to heaven. And so, my hope is on the Solid Rock. Because of the gift of God’s Son and His death on the cross, my hope is in my Savior. My hope lies in knowing that my loved ones are in heaven with Him right now, dancing to the angel’s music, laughing with loved ones, sitting at their Savior’s feet. No more suffering this world has to offer. Can you even imagine? They can run to Jesus and hug Him any time they want to. And that’s the hope that puts a smile on my face. That hope allows me to face tomorrow. I don’t have to run away. I don’t have to hide. That hope tells me, it will be okay. Do you have that hope? God forbid, if something happened to you, would your family find comfort in that hope? Let that hope be your hope today.
Titus 1:2, Titus 2:13, Titus 3:7, Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:27, I Thessalonians 4:13, Romans 5:2, Romans 15:4, Psalm 42:11
This sweet childhood memory I have~~The glass panes of the old farmhouse windows, cold to our touch as we sat, patiently waiting and watching. The heavenly frost that created beautiful pictures on the exterior, making them appear even more magical in my little mind. My younger brother and I giggling as we drew scenes with the tips of our tiny fingers into the clouds made by our warm breath. The colorful, twinkling lights and silver tinsel from our Christmas tree reflecting off of our childish artwork. Knowing mom was in the kitchen. The smell of turkey and fresh evergreens filling the air, and Andy Williams telling us it was the most wonderful time of the year. We didn’t have to be told, we already knew. When our cousin’s car was finally spotted coming down our snowy dirt road, we squealed in excitement. FAMILY WAS HERE!~ my cousins, whom we rarely got to see due to the distance we lived apart. FAMILY. That's why each part of this memory is so vivid to me. I couldn’t wait to spend Christmas with them all, especially the girls~ Liz and Joan. What a feeling that was. FAMILY. I know my own children feel the same way every year when we all go down to Oak Island at Easter and see Grandma and Grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins, many of whom we aren’t able to see all year.
I cherish every single childhood memory of family get togethers, especially when my mom was still with us. Each memory I've made with my own children, and now their families, will forever hold a special place in my heart. From every Christmas morning and the excitement my kids had, to every holiday get together or vacation with extended family.
When you’re with the people you love, you can be yourself. You can pick up right where you left off. You can laugh about memories you share with them and make new memories for the years to come. There is a bond and a happiness that can’t be explained.
And so, my “Christmas” reminder to you for February is FAMILY. Loved ones. Friends. Making the time apart from Christmas and holiday get togethers, because we don’t always know how much time we have. How many more moments will be made into memories? Who will still be at the table next year for Christmas dinner? Time can be a good thing, but sadly, time can also be a bad thing. You are the one who chooses which it will be. You can choose to let the nonessential things of life steal away your time or you can make the most of it by purposely choosing to spend it with those you love~EVERY chance you get. Don’t make the mistake of realizing this after that time is taken away. It will be too late. Purposely take the time for each other then stop and take a deep breath, savor the smell of turkey and evergreens, a fresh rain or newly cut grass. The sea shore. Being together. Birthday cakes or french fries just because. The familiar smell of mom’s house. The sound of happy laughter from Dad. Live in the love of that laughter, make tiny moments into beautiful memories. Share stories. Look at photos, not your phones. Listen to music. Be together. Cherish each other. Draw pictures on the window pane of your heart. Pictures of family, friends and loved ones that will last forever.
Don’t ever forget that feeling of FAMILY.
James 4:14 Psalm118:24
So here it is~ February~ the month for Valentine’s Day EVERYTHING. From the hearts plastered all over Walmart to the Russell Stover displays in your local grocery store. The constant “Kiss begins with Kay” commercials and the sappy Hallmark cards and movies. It’s almost unavoidable. Add to it all the devotionals out there geared toward single Christian women that are struggling and how they need to find contentment in Jesus~ and it becomes overwhelming. What makes it even harder is the women, who do have husbands and families, continually complaining about everything their husbands do wrong and how they never have any “me” time because their lives are so busy. They might even go so far as to tell their single friends~ “you don’t know how good you have it”. And with their next reprimanding breath they add~ “You seriously need to find contentment being single. Stop being so depressed, Jesus is all you need girl.” I understand that some women are perfectly content being single. I also understand that some women want a husband and family more than anything in the world. It’s their own personal fairy tale and they desperately want a happily ever after.
CONSIDER COMPASSION. Until we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we cannot know the hurt they are experiencing. Consider going home night after night to an empty house. No laughter, no hugs, no one to greet you. No one to share your day with. No physical intimacy of any kind, whether from a husband or from children. No one to sit and watch your favorite shows or a bowl of ice cream with. No one to pray with. No shoulder to lay your head on. No one lying next to you in the stillness of night. No comfort that comes from the sound of their soft breathing as they sleep. No one to say “I love you”. We take so much for granted.
Even Jesus Himself had compassion. He did not reprimand Mary when she wept over the loss of her brother. He did not tell her that He alone should be enough for her. He wept with her. This Valentine’s Day, if God has blessed you with a husband and a family, make a conscious effort to stop complaining about the little things and celebrate that beautiful love that fills your life. If you do have friends that are single and are hurting, or lonely and struggling~
Pray for them, love on them, be there for them and stop complaining to them. Yes, Jesus truly is all we need and true joy can only come from Him, but that is a journey they must take on their own, without us judging them or pushing them every step of the way. It’s much easier for those of us that do have families to make critical statements to those who don’t. If it was all taken away from us today, would we still be able to say Jesus was all we needed~and truly mean it in our heart? Valentine’s Day is all about love. Look unto Jesus, the perfect and most holy source of that love, and then~CONSIDER COMPASSION.
Romans 12:15 John 11:35
Just the other day, my granddaughter Ellie was eating her after school snack and telling me all about her sister Clara. Clara can be quite a handful at times. As if it was a fact of life that could never be changed~EVER~ Ellie said “Clara’s ALWAYS bad”. She then proceeded to relay two recent stories of Clara’s misbehavior. Throwing an apple in the toilet after telling mama she threw it in the trash. Hiding an entire sandwich behind the couch after telling daddy “ yes I ate it THAT fast, I just shoved it ALL in my mouth”. She’s quite the story teller. We parents call that lying. While Ellie was unfolding these events, as if God Himself were whispering to me, a few memories of my own came popping up. The times I told my mom I ate my own sandwich at lunch but really threw it in the creek (every day) on the way home from school. Or the times I told my mom “ yes I wore my snow pants for every recess” but only put them on once after the bus dropped me off at the end of my street. Yep. Up until that moment, those memories had eluded me as I dealt with Clara’s daily indiscretions. Clara was just like grandma and when I crawled into bed that night, there under the covers were her tiny little socks and I couldn’t help but smile. My own socks seemed huge next to hers. It was almost crazy to think that at one time I wore socks that exact size. Even though I am a grandma, I am still my father’s child but through the years, my actions toward him have matured. They are the result of love for him alone and nothing else. Clara will get there.
As children, we can all be like Clara. We have our child like moments that probably cause a lot of gray hair for our parents as they wonder and worry if their child will ever be “good” and grow out of the awful stage they’re in. Sadly, the same can be said of us as adults. Our behavior has not changed. We are still acting and reacting like a child. We stretch the truth. We are selfish. We whine and cry. We want our own way. We have temper tantrums and break downs. We complain that life isn’t fair. Then we stretch the truth some more. We try to hide it, not only from God but also from ourselves. We are storytellers and we’re good at it. We know exactly what to tell ourselves in order to feel better about our terrible behavior. Our Heavenly Father calls it lying. He always knows the truth. We can’t hide it from Him or sugar coat it. At times we can also be like Ellie, easily finding the faults in others and happy to point those faults out. As His child, neither way is God honoring. The good news is, He is our Daddy and He loves us with unconditional love. He always forgives and He will always be our Father, our behavior cannot change that, but we can grow as our love for our Father deepens and matures. We don’t have to continue in the same childlike mistakes over and over. Through the love of God alone, we have the power to change.
So I looked down at those little socks and asked myself, am I being the example to Clara that I need to be? She is watching and learning. Her tiny feet are following behind and one day she will be where I am. A grandma, a mama, maybe even a pastor’s wife. On a daily basis she can see the love I portray for Christ, but she can also see my worst reactions to situations~ and her tiny heart is taking it all in. So, be careful my friends. The steps you take in front of others, and especially your children or grandchildren, can be huge. What story are you telling? Make sure their tiny, little feet slip inside the footprints you are leaving only as you step closer and closer to your Savior.
I Corinthians 13:11,13 Psalm 37:23 Proverbs 22:6 Jeremiah 23:24