Monday, December 30, 2013

The Gift of Friendship

     As the end of 2013 approaches, I have been reminded of some precious friends that God sent to get me through challenging times in my life.  All 3 of them sent cards and told me that they have been reading my blogs, so I hope they will see this one.
      Today I went back to see the doctor who has been treating me for the recurrence of thyroid cancer.  It was all good news -- the blood test that had skyrocketed to 190 last summer has now dropped to 39. It needs to go down to 2, but that has been a huge drop-- my doctor said "Outstanding!" So I will go back in 3 months and expect the number to drop even lower. I am grateful
to God and all the prayer warriors who faithfully prayed for me. I have had the peace that passes understanding through the whole experience.
      Because I followed my soldier around the world, it has not always been easy to find friends --and keep them when life took me to a new location. I am grateful for the ones who were friends for a season -- we shared holiday celebrations and shopping trips and pizza nights and more.  But when we moved away, we gradually lost touch. Facebook has helped me reconnect with some-- I am especially glad to renew friendships from school days. There is something sweet about having a friend who remembers when...
        I first met my friend Sheila when I was her counselor at church camp. The next year she was a counselor, too, and our friendship grew.  She has advised and comforted and encouraged me for over 40 years.  She was there when I met my future husband, and my maid of honor when I married him.  We both moved far away from each other, but when we have those rare opportunities to get together again, the years apart don't seem to matter.  She was godmother to my daughter and started a savings account for her that made it possible for her to go on the senior trip when we could not afford to send her. Sheila had thyroid cancer before I did, and her prayers and encouragement helped me so much when it happened to me, too. My life has been so much richer because of her -- I could write a book about all the ways I have been blessed by this friendship.
        We were living at Fort Bragg in the early 90's when I met Linda.  Our children were going to the same Christian school, and we started going to the local spa together after we dropped the kids off at school. We even went camping together.  But then they got orders for Germany -- she insisted that I take their washer and dryer because I was still using the little portable one that didn't hold enough for our growing family. Then we got orders for Germany, and somewhere in the moving, I lost her address.  We spent 3 years overseas, then returned to Fort Bragg. I was in the commissary one day when I heard that wonderful Massachusetts accent -- it was Linda!!  Before long, our husbands were sent to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm.  During that time, Linda called me often, and made dresses for my girls and became my life line while Sam was at war.  Then her husband left the Army and they moved back north, and Sam retired -- but this time we did not lose touch.  We have played phone tag for a while -- I love to hear her voice when she leaves a message.  We got to stop in for a brief visit a few years ago on our way back from Maine and it was wonderful to see her again. I look forward to her witty Christmas letters, and one of these days we will actually talk to each other again. I will always be grateful for the blessing of her friendship, especially during the war year.
         The adventure of living in Germany was made so much richer because of  Marjorie. We met at a church picnic soon after we arrived in the country.  We sat in lawn chairs and found that we had so much in common.  I was excited to meet another home-schooled family with children near the age of mine. They had lived in Germany for several years, so she knew all about everything.  She took the girls and me to see Switzerland for the first time and introduced us to some interesting people and invited us over for dinners and holiday celebrations. She had also been home-schooling for several years, and her wisdom and experience was such a help to me.  We settled in North Carolina, and they are several states away.  Our children are grown and we've only been able to get together once since we left Germany in the late 1980's, but we have not lost touch.
           I read a book called "Captivating" a few years ago.  The author said, "The gift of friendship among women is a treasure not to be taken lightly.  To have a woman friend is to relax into another soul and be welcomed in all you are.  It is here she can mother, nurture, encourage, and call forth life."
           I am grateful for all the friends who have touched my life.  I don't think it was just coincidence that we met.  Each was a treasure from God-- some for many years, and others for a short season-- Lynn, Dot, Sharon -- all helped me grow in my faith and I will not forget them. And if any of them happen to read this, I hope they can see how much their presence in my life has meant to me. Thank You, God, for these women!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lessons in Humility

    Ok, I admit it -- I love to sing -- and have been known to burst out into song at the drop of a hat. and I also admit that I love to sing on stage with my chorus or choir or praise team at church. I am not a soloist -- no illusions in my mind about having a great solo voice -- but if someone is singing the melody, I always sing the harmony part.  I sing tenor in the church choir, alto with the praise team, and bass with my barbershop chorus. Hand me a microphone at church and I am ready! I've been singing harmony since about fifth grade when a few girls from my church started a little quartet -- that's about 55 years. So I am quite comfortable on stage, and almost always say "yes" when I am asked to sing at church.  Singing fills my heart with joy, especially when I am singing to the Lord.
    "The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving."
Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

  However, to be honest, sometimes I need a little reminder that it is not all about ME.  And this is the season for some lessons in humility.
  First little jolt was when my chorus was singing at the Biltmore House for the Candlelight Christmas Tour. That is always a great honor, and an opportunity to sing about the birth of Christ in a public place.  I was proud to be there, and getting ready to sing, then I missed a step and fell down, right in front of everyone. Good news was that I didn't break anything, and I didn't tear a hole in the knee of my pants, but it was very embarrassing and humbling. 

My daughter and I stayed overnight in Asheville, then got up early the next morning so we could drive back in time to sing with the praise team at church. We made it in plenty of time and I thought I did a fine job singing my part -- until I found out that I had forgotten to turn on the microphone. Obviously my part wasn't as important as I thought. 

Then on Sunday night, our church choir presented the musical worship celebration that we had been practicing for months.  I was supposed to sing one song as part of a trio, and I was especially looking forward to it because my young friend had returned from his military service in Egypt in time to be a part of the trio.I knew it would be a beautiful song -- our close harmony sounded so good in rehearsal. But a few days before the service, I came down with laryngitis.  I kept hoping that my voice would be back by Sunday night, but by Sunday morning, it was evident that it was not going to happen.  So a replacement was found, and I just sat on the back row of the choir, croaking along the best I could.

And it occured to me -- it's not all about me -- it is about Him.  I was easily replaced and the worship and praise still happened. In fact, the laryngitis was almost a gift, because it made me slow down and take a  break from all the activities I had planned to do that week. I was able to write cards and wrap gifts and even read a little instead of rushing out every evening to sing someplace. 

I am back to my regular voice now, and again bursting out with songs.  But I hope I remember Who I sing for and take time to listen to the words I sing. 
"From Bethlehem to Calvary, 
Jesus paid the cost,
 for love went all the way 
               from the cradle to the cross"                                                                                                       

Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering President Kennedy

   It was the fall before I turned 16, November 22, 1963, and I was sitting on the school bus, ready to go home.  A kid got on the bus and said, "The president is dead--someone shot him!" Even as a teenage, I was pretty skeptical and just didn't believe it could be true.  It had just been about 5 months earlier that I stood in the rain with my family and about a gazillion other people to see this tall, handsome president when he spoke in Charleston, West Virginia.  I was from a Republican family, but we were all very impressed to see a president in person, and his speech made us proud to be West Virginians.

         Click this link to hear what he said that rainy day in 1963

 As we rode on the school bus that day, we had no cell phones to call and check the facts.  We just had to wait until we got home to turn on the black and white tv and see what was on the news.  But when the bus stopped at the Red House post office, I saw the flag had been lowered to half mast, and I knew it must be true.  We didn't have CNN with news around the clock, but we were stunned to see the news unfolding-- watching Jackie Kennedy's blood-stained pink suit, the funeral procession, little John Kennedy saluting his father, Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald--- it was all horrifying and terribly sad.

   This week at church, Pastor Tom brought a message from the book of Habakkuk. The prophet was giving a message from God that terrible times were at hand -- the Babylonians were going to conquer and take the people into captivity.  It was a devastating message to the people of Judah.

   Just like our country felt when President Kennedy was assassinated -- just like Habakkuk felt when the Babylonians attacked -- it seems that our country is in trouble again.  Nothing but bad news on tv. But the words from the Old Testament are still true today.
  Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Veteran's Wife

 During this Veterans Day weekend, I've been thinking about how God sustained me during those years of seeing my husband go off to war.  Sam was headed to Vietnam for his second tour of duty when we met.  He was a new Christian, and my faith was strong so I don't think I really realized the danger he was in. There was a scripture verse that I claimed --and all these years later, I can't seem to remember exactly what it said, but it said to me that he would come home safely, and I believed it.
      But after we were married and had children, it was a lot harder for me to see him go off to war.  We had no cell phones or Internet or Skype -- just letters that took forever to arrive.  I was grateful for our church and the messages of hope and encouragement that I heard during those months, and the book of Psalms was a treasure to me.  Here's a verse that I marked with a star:
Psalm 94:19." Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer. ."  I needed that one a LOT! Especially when weeks passed with no letters.
And Psalm 91 was a great comfort " He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I am trusting Him.....His faithful promises are your armor.....for He orders his angels to protect you wherever you go....I will be with him in trouble, and rescue him."
  I am so grateful and proud to be married to a man who was brave and strong enough to serve our country for many years.  And I am thankful for God 's protection over those years.  And when I was afraid or lonely or worried, I am so glad for the inexpressible comfort that came from the Scripture.
  So, on this Veterans Day, I am thankful for my Veteran and for my God who protected us during the Army years.  We are blessed!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Peace/piece from God

     It's the end of the summer and the time I am usually caught up in school plans.  But this year, my daughter, Sara, wanted to celebrate her birthday with a trip to the beach. It has been very nice to spend the week thinking about which beach we will visit or where we will eat next instead of cutting, gluing, and laminating.
     We made a couple visits to the beach on the beautiful hot days before the rains came at the end of the week. Sara desperately wanted to find a sand dollar on the beach -- sort of a gift from God for her birthday -- so I walked about a mile up the beach, picking up shells and hoping for a sand dollar for Sara. I did find a piece of one, but that was all. When I got back to where we left the towels, I decided to lie down and enjoy the sun on my neon white skin for a short time. My kids are finally old enough that I don't have to watch them every minute, so I closed my eyes, listening to the sound of the powerful waves crashing onto the shore. I was thinking about the Scripture verses that told about when Jesus told the waves, "Peace, be still." Then I started praying for Sara, that she would find the sand dollar she wanted.  In a while, I heard her voice -- she had found a piece of a sand dollar after I showed her what mine looked like. It wasn't the pretty white unbroken one like she later bought in a beach shop, but I was thinking that sometimes the peace of God is sort of like the piece of a sand dollar. You pray for it, but it doesn't all come at once.  You have to search for it and pray for it, and sometimes it comes in bits and pieces.
     I have felt the peace that passes understanding in some very difficult situations, but sometimes, before I know it, it has washed away like the footprints on the sand and I am again worrying about something. And then a song or a verse or a piece of a sand dollar shows up to remind me that I can rest in God's peace forever.

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,

Resting sweetly in Jesus' control;

For I'm kept from all danger by night and by day,

And His glory is flooding my soul!
Peace, peace, wonderful peace,

Coming down from the Father above!

Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray

In fathomless billows of love!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Friends Stay Away!

  I had my radioactive iodine capsule today, and came home with a list of precautions for staying away from everyone for a week.  I feel like the lepers in the Bible who had to call out, "Unclean! Unclean!"  when they were near other people.  I am wondering if I should find a flag that says, "Stay Away." 
  The thyroid cancer that I had in 1999 reappeared in a lymph node in my chest, discovered when I had my yearly blood test. "Weirdest thing I ever saw," my doctor said.  Both my doctors have said this is an extremely strange location for thyroid cancer to show up, but both are very optimistic that the radioactive iodine will take care of it.  ( Thyroid tissue soaks up iodine, so they made the iodine radioactive so it will zap the cancer). 
  They bring the capsule to me in this big lead container, wheeled in on a metal cart.  There's a little pill bottle inside, and the nurse hands it to me and says to swallow it without touching it. As soon as I chug it down, the nurse quickly gets out of there and tells me to leave and go straight home -- no stopping at Walmart on the way.  In fact, no public places for 7 days.  No one can share my bed or bathroom for 7 days either, so Sam will have to find someplace else to sleep. I have to stay 6 feet away from everyone, cover the phone with a cloth when I talk, wash my clothes twice, and suck on sour candy every waking hour to clear the salivary glands. Ok, more than you want to know, and what does this have to do with hearing from God?
  Well, blessings show up, just like always! When I got in the car to drive the hour and a half trip to Winston Salem, the cd in the car started playing this song about being in the presence of an awesome God. I started thinking about all the people who had sent messages that they were praying for me, and  I was a little overwhelmed with gratitude and praise for the Great Physician.  So I sang along with the cd all they way-- it included the song I wrote about last time, "He's been with me through every trial..." I sort of had a little revival there in the car.
   If you live around here, you know that this has been the rainiest month in history, and thunderstorms were predicted for today, too.  I didn't pray for a dry drive because all my prayers today were about my medical issues.  But I sure was hoping that it wouldn't rain again -- I hate driving in a downpour.
So look at what I saw!  
Blue skies, smilin' at me...
God is so good!
   Anyway, I stopped at the mailbox on my way in, and I found a package for me.  It was from one of my oldest friends -- maid of honor at my wedding and fellow thyroid cancer survivor. She doesn't do Facebook, and I hadn't communicated with her since last year's Christmas card, so she does not know about my recurrence. But in the package was a book, written by Dr. Greenbrier Almond.  He was a medical student when we met him in 1971, and he was the one who invited us to go on the mission trip that summer -- where I met my future husband. She just saw the book and thought I would enjoy it. So it arrived today, just on the very day that I would appreciate it most -- a reminder that there are no coincidences. Our Heavenly Father knows the plans for he has for me and once again I have heard from Heaven. The God of hope fills me with joy and peace.
  I stand amazed in the presence -- and presents!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Through Every Trial

He's been with me through every trial
He's been with me through every test.
I've learned when I put my faith in God,
Then God can work for my best.
Never one time has He failed me;
He's never once left me alone.

We sang those words in choir practice tonight, and it was a good reminder to me right now.  I am facing a biopsy in the near future, and so far I have not really felt scared or worried.  Although part of that feeling of peace may be from a bit of Scarlet O'Hara -- "I'll think about it tomorrow", I have a long history of  trusting in God through other situations, and He has never let go of me yet.
I know that very few people actually read my words, but blogging gives me a place to reflect on things in my life.  When I put my thoughts down on paper --- well, virtual paper -- I can go back later  and remember how God brought me through this, too. I want to remember the words to this song as I go to my next doctor Appointment -- "He's never once left me alone."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Missing the Lightning Flash?

       On Friday evening, a group from my Sunday School class accepted the invitation of a Jewish friend to visit the Synagogue where she attends.  There is a small congregation, and the rabbi just comes to Hickory once a month for Friday evening/Saturday morning Sabbath services -- sort of like the circuit-riding preachers from long ago.  Almost all the singing was in Hebrew, but some was written phonetically in the prayer book they gave us, so I did my best to sing along on those songs. I noticed that Baptists aren't the only ones who like to sit on the back row -- but they had a moving partition so they could make a new back row when the place started to fill up, so even the late-comers could get a seat in the back!  Also like Baptists, they like to eat -- one lady laughingly said that they never meet without eating.  My kind of group!
     They welcomed visitors with open arms, and even with such a different kind of service, I was not uncomfortable.  They worshiped the same God -- but just left off the Good News from the New Testament.  I was very interested in seeing the Torah, and when I asked about it after the service, some of them eagerly and reverently took it out from behind the curtain, removed the beautiful cover, and opened the scrolls for me to see the handwritten words.  It was very old, so they used this pointer thing -- can't remember the name of it -- instead of touching it with their own fingers.  It also was all in Hebrew, so I couldn't read a word, but I appreciated their respect for it.
    I was also very touched by some of the words in the prayer book, and I copied them down on a scrap of paper so I could  read and think about them again.
    "Days pass and years vanish, we walk sightless among miracles.  Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing.  Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk."
     That is exactly what I call a "God Wink" -- a moment when I am reminded of God's presence, sometimes like lightning illuminating a dark night. We walk through life with our eyes and minds so oblivious to the powerful messages from God that are available to us -- walking "sightless among miracles."  What unexpected, eye-opening lightning flashes from God am I missing every day?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

He Sent a Rainbow

   Driving to school today with a lot on my mind -- feeling a little overwhelmed -- when all of a sudden I had a reminder that God was still in control. I caught sight of a rainbow as I approached the school, and when I pulled in the parking lot, there it was, right over the school!  And not just a regular rainbow, but a double one (not really showing much in my picture, but it was there.)  So I walked in feeling a little lighter -- isn't God good??!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Late Bloomers

Lots of signs of spring everywhere --- several have posted pictures of their daffodils on Facebook. After seeing yet another picture of the beautiful yellow blossoms, I went out to check on mine. Nope -- not even a sign of the bud swelling yet. It is the same every year as the bulbs are blooming everywhere except in my yard. I am not sure whether it is because they are planted on the shady side of the house, or because they are a particularly late variety, or maybe because they came from my mother's flower garden in West Virginia and not able to keep up with the earlier North Carolina spring. There is nothing I can do to rush them.
I have a couple of "late-bloomers" in my kindergarten class this year. Just because they were old enough to come to school, it doesn't mean their little bodies and brains were ready to start reading and writing at the same time as the rest of the class. And no matter how much I try, I can't make them mature any faster. They just need the gift of time.
I was wondering if God feels the same way -- wishing His children weren't so slow to "get it." We talked about Peter in Sunday School this morning and the time that Jesus said, "Who do you say that I am?" I wonder how long he stood there, shuffling his feet, before he answered? Even with all he had experienced while following Jesus, did he still hesitate? I see people all around who have heard the Word, but have not made that commitment to become a follower. Or they have made a profession of faith in God, but don't really show much growth since they believed. Does God want to say, "just BLOOM!!!"?
John 15:8 says "You should produce much fruit and show that you are my followers, which brings glory to my Father."
My flowers will eventually show their colors.My children will finally learn to read and write.  And I plan to produce fruit and bring glory to God -- but sometimes I am that late bloomer -- by my good intentions that are often too little or too late. So here is another message from God to me -- "Do it now -- BLOOM ALREADY!!"

Monday, March 4, 2013

Amazed by You

 "Lord, I'm amazed by You
Lord, I'm amazed by You
Lord, I'm amazed by you
How you love me."

Although it has been a rather hard week at school, it has been a week full of blessings.  It was my birthday week, and I was also voted "Teacher of the Year" by the other teachers at my school.  So I received cakes and flowers and gifts and applause and recognition at school, at chorus, at church, and at home this week.  People have been so kind -- it reminded me of a little sign that hung in my bedroom before I got married.  It said, "I suspect people of plotting to make me happy."  But this morning at church, I was singing this song with the praise team, and suddenly the words I was singing touched my soul.  I AM amazed at how the Lord constantly shows His love for me -- so undeserving, yet still blessed beyond measure. So I thought I'd better write it down as a reminder to myself on those days with no applause.  The days with dirty dishes, fender-benders, no planning period, students with head lice,  -- even the days with sickness and tragedy -- a reminder that I have experienced God's amazing love so many times and I want to always remember that feeling.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Melody Lingers On

In church on Sunday, one of the songs was "The Heart of Worship"  The melody took me back to a small church in Marganets, Ukraine, where I attempted to sing the song in Russian, It was such a blessing to sing in their own language.  To sing the words "I bring you more than a song...I'm looking into your heart," really touched me as I felt like I wanted to touch lives over there on that mission trip.

The next year I sang "How Great is our God" in Hungarian as we ministered to the gypsy families in Munkacs, Ukraine. Music carries such a powerful message, and I started thinking about other songs that take me to a different place.

One of my most vivid images has to be "Amazing Grace"-- my Grandad Frazier's song. I can still hear him belting out that song at the old Red House Church when we were kids. He often made  it into a medley with "I'm gonna trust in the Lord" And sometimes "The Old Time Religion!'  So when I hear that powerful song, it always takes me back to Red House church -- the old church is about to fall over now, but the melody lingers on.

Another song that takes me back is  "Shall We Gather at the River" -- as I sing that, I go back to the creek where I was baptized as a little girl.  Out church always sang that at a baptismal service.  Ours were always outside -- I was not a Baptist in those days, so there was no indoor facility.

I went off to college in the late 60's -- it was during the Viet Nam war and there was lots of interest in merging my beloved EUB church with the Methodist church.  It was hard to lose our small denomination's identity and the thought of getting lost in the larger body was difficult for some of us We sang "Pass it on"  and "WE ARE ONE IN THE SPIRIT" as we thought about reaching out to others who were different from us. In college I remember singing  songs every Sunday night at the small church in Morgantown. We sang. "Where Have all the Flowers Gone?" and other folk songs together with the guitars strumming.

'When I married my soldier,  we went to Chapel at Fort Bragg, and they always opened the service with the fourth verse of "My Country Tis of Thee " and some sharp looking soldiers carried the flags in -- "Our fathers' God, to Thee, Author of Liberty, To Thee We Sing..." that one always gives me a bit of a patriotic chill when I hear it even now. Another one that our organist plays occasionally is the Navy Hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save"  But the lyrics of one verse always grip me and remind me of the danger faced by the Army pilots. This was often played at a memorial service and the tune makes me a little sad.

Eternal Father, lend Thy grace To
those with wings who fly thro' space,
Thro wind and storm, thro' sun and rain,
Oh bring them safely home again.

Oh Father, hear an humble prayer,
For those in peril in the air!

  OK, this project is taking way too long for one post, and I still have many songs and memories to add -- another time. I don't even know if it is of interest to anyone else, but I have so enjoyed reliving the moments!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sam, God and Duck Hunting.

   I have a "guest blogger" this morning -- I didn't expect such deep thoughts from a duck hunt.  I mean, what kind of nut gets up on a freezing morning and goes out in the woods by himself... you can find a Godwink in the strangest places....
In Sam's own words...


 This morning at 5:30 and 31 degrees I went duck hunting. I got to the duck hole before daylight.  I stood watching the dawn. The sun was just peeking above the trees, blue cloudless sky, a thin mist drifting off the water. A turkey gobbled at the first blow of my duck call. At my age I appreciate see’n most mornings but this was prettier than most. I stood there in awe, thanking God for letting me see this. Then, I remembered a big ol’ greenbrier I tripped over coming in, as a drop of cold water ran down the inside of my waders.  As I waited for the patch kit I carry to dry, God gave me a lesson.  Usually it’s a slap on the back of the head after I messed up. Anyway the lesson was sin is like the water. No matter how much you prepare it can still find a way in to your heart and like the water eventually filling my waders, sin will fill your heart. I have talked about seeing God in nature but not shout it from the rooftops. However this startled me so much I thought I’d better write it down.