My family moved 5 times while I was growing up. To some that might seem like a lot and to others it might seem like nothing at all. When you move that often, you don't get the sense of history and memories that a home can hold. After Mike and I were married, we moved 4 more times before settling in Caseville. It might seem silly to some, but this house we have lived in for the last 22 years holds so many memories that at times I feel like my heart could burst from the goodness of God on our lives. I'm such a sentimental sap. Little things like going down to my cellar to do laundry bring back so many memories of the endless loads of laundry I did for my family of 6. At the time I'm sure I felt overwhelmed but now it brings tears to my eyes and some days 'crazy' me will just stand down there and remember. Every day when I walk upstairs and pass by the little window at the top, I can picture my children playing there~they loved to sit on the top step looking out that window for Santa's foot prints on the roof or excited for the snow to melt so they could play on the swing set daddy built them. Time went by so quickly but each nook and cranny this house has holds memories for me. Their little fingers holding on to the stairway banister. Their angelic faces as they were nestled under blankets, fast asleep. The music of their laughter coming through my open windows in the summer. I would give anything just to hold each of them on my lap one more time and have them snuggle into me. When they were so tiny, I had no idea that one day they would all still live in our beautiful hometown. I had no idea that each would be such a blessing to our ministry here. One thing I knew for certain though was that I needed to bring my children before God in prayer each and every day. I knew that it was my responsibility as their mama to show them what a real relationship with Jesus was all about and that they too could not only call Him Father, but also Friend. It was my job to show them that Jesus was just as real in our day to day tasks at home as He was when we were in church on Sundays and Wednesdays. With Mothers Day just around the corner, I want to challenge our mamas out there to be sentimental saps. To cherish every single second you get to spend holding their tiny little hands and listening to their sweet baby laughter. Hold it close in your heart and don't ever forget it, but most of all bring those babies before the Lord. Pray for them daily and show them that knowing Jesus and the joy He gives can change their lives forever. I'm so thankful for who my children have become. They are not only my babies but now they~ and their spouses~are my best friends. I don't know what I would have done without the strength of my Savior to guide me through their growing up years. I made plenty of mistakes but I never gave up and I continued to bring my kids before the Lord. If you haven't already, this year give your babies a gift for Mothers Day~the gift of praying for them every single day. Their tiny hands might soon be grown but their hearts will be yours forever and one day as they all sit around your table with their own children, laughing and reminiscing, you will be so thankful you did.
Within minutes, the joy of a newborn baby girl was extinguished and fear entered our hearts. The nurses were wheeling my bed up to a room, chatting happily about my new baby and how sweet she was. Mike was standing next to me smiling proudly, when suddenly I knew something was wrong. Hemorrhaging had started. When I became unresponsive, Mike quickly realized something was wrong as well. The funny thing was, I could hear everything that was going on. I remember the nurses panicked voices as they called for the Doctor. I remember being rushed back down to surgery in a large, stainless steel room. I remember thinking that the joy of a new baby would quickly be stripped away from my husband, because I was going to die. In the midst of the panic, I also remember having a complete peace about dying because I knew when I woke up I would be in the arms of Jesus. I remember Mike's voice saying my name. Charisse. Charisse. That's what I woke up to when I came out of surgery. I recognized his voice even with my eyes still closed and it brought me a sense of comfort. Everything would be okay.
This week, as I recalled that moment in my life, I couldn't help but think of Mary in the Bible. So much had changed for her in 3 short days. Her Lord had been honored with cries of hosanna and joy flooded her heart with hope, but it was quickly stripped away when He was brutally beaten and crucified on the cross. She went to His tomb, but He was gone. For a moment she thought all hope was gone as well. She cried in torment to the gardener, pleading with Him for answers and then...she heard Him. Mary. Can you hear Him? Her eyes had been closed. She did not recognize who was standing right before her~until He spoke her name. Mary. Compassion, love, assurance all in one word. Mary. And then, all her fears were gone. When she heard His voice, she KNEW~and her joy returned as comfort flooded over her.
This Easter, let us listen for His voice. He died a horrific death for us. He took our sins on Himself on the cross, He was crucified and laid in a tomb~but praise God He did not stay in that tomb. He arose and He wants us all to accept His beautiful gift of salvation. He is calling our names. Do you recognize His voice? Do you hear Him? Let His comfort and peace wash over you, even in the midst of a life that might seem hopeless. You might be tormented. You might feel like your joy has been stripped away and you have nothing left but sorrow. Don't give up hope. Jesus is calling your name. He wasn't just a simple carpenter. He wasn't the gardener. He IS my Savior, the Son of God. He has conquered death and has given me life everlasting. There is nothing in this world that can bring you the comfort that only He can give. Today, this Easter, listen for His voice. He is calling your name. Open your eyes and your heart and know~ everything will be okay.
I'm a huge coffee drinker and can easily down an entire pot by myself, so one year while our family was on vacation in NC my husband bought me my own pot for our room. It stays at his grandparents home all year until we return again the following Spring. Every year I pack up the coffee pot and get nostalgic. It's only a coffee pot but it holds so many memories. It also holds on to the hope that I will see it again next year, along with my many loved ones. It waits patiently in grandma's attic, wondering who will return to the beach house next year and eager to hear the love filled laughter from all the other rooms. But for a year, it hears only silence. My husband's family members have been coming here in the Spring, since he was a baby. His sisters and brother, parents, aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and now our grandchildren too. We all stay together in one house, every year looking forward to "the beach". When we drive away at the end of our stay, tears are always shed. Sometimes an entire year will go by before we see each other again. I recently read a quote that said "Heaven is a little closer in a house by the sea." Heartache has hit us all during these years. We lost our cousin Alan, and then our precious Amy, Mike's youngest sister. We lost parents and grandparents and our hearts wept. And for a moment it seemed like our laughter turned to silence. But we return and along the way God has brought us new loved ones, new spouses, new cousins and sweet grandbabies who are now so precious to us. We laugh and we love, we have hearts bursting with joy, not just because we have each other, but more importantly because of our great Savior. He fills our hearts with laughter when others might have thought that laughter would never return. He fills our hearts with joy because we know that we will see our loved ones again, just like that old coffee pot. We might not see them at "the beach" house but we have a sure confidence that we will see them when we go home to heaven. That home will far surpass the most beautiful ocean front house there is, and the laughter and joy it's halls bring will last an eternity. An eternity with our loved ones. An eternity with Jesus. I will fill my heart with memories as I pack this coffee pot back up in its box and I will forever be thankful to my Father for sending His Son to die for me. Because of His amazing gift, I will close up that box and know in my heart that we will all be together again.
Grandchildren can be brutally honest. They don't mean what they say in a bad way. They're just stating the truth, as their little minds see it. For instance, the other day my granddaughter Ellie was sitting on my lap and matter of fact-ly stated "I love you so much grandma. You have hair in your nose. You need to clean that out". Boy, statements like that are such confidence boosters 😂 Or the time I was holding little Gabe and he was hugging me and smiling and his chubby little 1 year old hand kept reaching up and grabbing grandma's turkey neck. He just laughed and laughed. Grandma did not. You know what's so amazing though? The things that I think are so unattractive in myself as I get older hold no barring on the love my grandchildren feel toward me. They love me regardless. They love me in my pajamas, with no makeup and my hair thrown up in the messiest (not in a cool way) bun just as much as they love me on Sunday morning all dressed up for church. To think of what comfort this unconditional love brings is such a joy, but it cannot be compared to the comfort we can have knowing the true unconditional love Christ has for us. It doesn't matter how ugly you think your heart is. It doesn't matter how much you feel like you have blown it. It doesn't matter what happened in your past or what is happening right now in your present. At our very worst, when others around us see only the ugly nose hairs of our lives, Christ loves us still. Even as they are shaking their heads and muttering about how we need to clean ourselves up~God our Father, because of Christ's payment on the cross~sees only the beauty inside our hearts and He has compassion. We can continue to fail Him daily, but He will never leave us or forsake us. He will continually grab that turkey neck of trouble we find ourselves in and will whisper to our broken hearts~ "I will take care of that for you." And then, He will restore that brokenness with laughter. I can't imagine choosing to only come into my grand children's presence when I look "Sunday ready" because I know for a fact, I would never see them. Remind yourself of this, even if it's on a daily basis. Don't wait to come to God when you think you are good enough. Come to Him now, in all your brokenness, heart ache and hurt. Bring all your mistakes, all your pain, all the ugliness you might think your heart holds, and let His love wash over you. There is nothing in this world that can compare to the unconditional love of God our Father.