Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Love Story Spanning the Decades, Part I

June 15, 1949 was the date of my parents' marriage; Mother was three weeks shy of 18, and Dad was 21.  Their love started in an era where times were simpler and vows seemed to mean more than they do today.  Let me start at the beginning.

My parents met when my mother was probably about six years old.  They lived in Bamberg County, South Carolina in a "hole-in-the-road" known as Little Swamp Community, not too far from Lodge and Smoaks.  My father's daddy worked for the railroad and was often away from home.  Dad was one of four boys that his mother basically reared by herself for much of his childhood.  His daddy was killed in a car accident in 1946.

Mother lived "across the branch," as they  called the woods, with her parents and four siblings.  Her daddy was a poor farmer who grew cotton, among other things.  She and my father attended the same one room school house and church.  In those days, country folk in that area had socials that centered around cane grinding and peanut boiling.  It was at one of those peanut boilings when she was probably about 15 that she announced to some of her cousins that she was going to "marry that boy one day."  And that is what she did.

Fast forward to June of 1949.  My grandfather drove Mother to Bamberg to buy her a new dress in which to get married.  One day shortly after, she came in from the field, kicked off those shoes, and said, "I'm done with you, old shoes!"  On the 15th, her eldest brother drove them to the parsonage in Smoaks and waited in the truck while they went in and got married.  The next day they took a bus to Columbia and the following day continued on to Clemson where they were to live while Dad attended the University and tried to support them.

This thing called "faith"

One.day.at.a.time......

So, I have this little nondescript blog that no one reads.  I have it to basically process my thoughts...when I feel "moved" to do so.  At times it functions to whet my spirit when it is dry.

This morning I am numb, depressed even, over what the next few weeks, months, or years will bring.  I am not in a comfortable spot.  I don't like change, yet change is a primary component of life.  Only God knows how much time my mother has left in her earthly body, one that I have classified as "bionic" because of shoulder and hip replacements.  I worry about my father--my rock, my hero--and I worry about how I will handle it when they are both gone.  See, they have put me in charge of their estate.  I have only halfway listened when Dad went over directions/procedures with me....contacting the Air Force base in Charleston, social security, on and on and on.  The smart man wrote everything down, too, because he knows .....he just knows......

Yesterday when the enormity of it all was pressing down on my shoulders, a friend reminded me to take it one.day.at.a.time.  This blog is old; birthed from my cancer experience, if I remember correctly.  On sun shiny days I have no problem remembering this.  Well, I am entering the not-so-sun-shiny days of my life.  This is what brings us back to our faith. 

One.day.at.a.time "I can do *all* things through Christ, who strengthens me."

It does no good to wallow in worrying about tomorrow;"Today brings enough trouble of its own."
Yet, we are, after all, only "human."  This is something I have to make a concerted effort to do.  One day, one step, one breath at a time....

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Inching Closer to Our Creator

Purple fingernails and the low hum of an oxygen generator....every hum that resonates represents the inching closer to our Creator.....

Such was the scene as I left my parents' house this afternoon.  Just two weeks ago today, Valentine's Day,  we were eating lunch at Cracker Barrel.  Today, when I walked into their home since August 1967 (They bought it in 1963 when Dad was in the Air Force.), the dining table was gone, packed away in a back bedroom.  In its place sat a new hospital bed, replete with lovely eggplant sheets Dad bought yesterday.  We waited for several hours before the ambulance brought my mother home.  She had spent the last week in ICU--at first she had pneumonia and acute kidney injury---now she has heart failure, bedridden with constant oxygen and bed pads.  I stayed an extra two hours through the hospice nurse's visit and all her explanations to my father.  At one point as I looked over at him after she left, he held his hand to his head.  I calmly went over and wrote this verse on a sheet of paper from his legal pad:

"I can do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens me."

I told him I had claimed it as "my" verse several years ago.  I reassured he "can" do this.  See, although hospice is involved, they will come a couple of times a week; *he* is her primary caregiver.  In the last week I have heard him tell several people that years ago, 65 years and 8 months and so many days, they promised to take care of each other as long as they were able.  He is fulfilling that vow.

In the twinkling of an eye one day, Jesus will return; in the twinkling of an eye our lives can irrevocably change. 

Two weeks ago I was eating in Cracker Barrel with my parents; today I was watching purple fingernails and listening to the low hum of an oxygen generator.


Inching closer to our Creator

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reminder

At times I am such a simpleton---truly slow and hard-headed.  I have been going through a very difficult time with a family member in the last year, and the last two months have been particularly trying.  On most days I find myself treading water, barely keeping my head above the deluge that constantly washes over me.  I have begun to claim as my mantra, "Walk by faith, not by sight."  How easy it is to say.  It's more difficult to do.

This morning I was on one of my regular blogs and saw this posting from the owner:  "In what ways am I slow of heart and foolish?
      1.  Letting discouragement bring me down
      2.  Listening to doubts instead of truth
      3.  Forgetting
      4.  Letting my mind wander instead of focusing on Jesus."

I messaged this sweet lady that I believe God meant that for me.  It truly resonated with me.  I should probably have it tattooed onto my brain or forehead.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Bells and Whistles

A friend and I have often discussed what type of church we are seeking.  It seems we are in the days of the mega churches with the entrapments of bells and whistles of light shows and bands and praise teams.  Why?  2 Timothy 4:3 tells us that the time "will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."  In other words, man wants to have his ears tickled; he wants to hear what will make him feel good about himself and his lifestyle.  That is why we have the "prosperity doctrine" preached in the mega churches. 

But, I digress........

That is so far removed from the church of Jesus' time.  AND, I think that is why there is a large faction of the population who want nothing to do with church; they don't see Jesus in that. The church He founded met in homes where people shared a meal together.  They showed concern for people, not how to pay a multi-million dollar mortgage on a stadium or multi-plex.  Recently, an acquaintance asked me about coming to a new church that meets at a local school.  I nicely cut her off and told her I want no part of it.  I do not need flashing lights and praise teams to worship God.  I need a community of like-minded people who want to commune in private homes over a home-cooked meal where they have a Bible study and plan ways of doing for those less fortunate in their community....where they pool their resources to fix a damaged roof of a poor shut-in...where they collect socks to hand out to the homeless (I recently found out that is one thing the homeless need a LOT of)...where they make sandwiches on one of the Bible study breakfast meetings and assemble bag lunches to give out to the homeless....that is the community of Jesus followers I want.  I once had that...and it was wonderful.  Now, there is just me....for the time being...so I wait.  I wait on the Lord.  He will bring that to me again...someday.  How do I know?  Because He says "Trust in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  Jesus told his followers in Matthew 25:40:  "Truly I tell you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." 

So, I wait on the Lord to bring it to pass......the Church as He intended.....one of service to the least among us.......a pure, unadulterated church.....not one ensnared with the trappings of this world.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Intentional

Intentional---This is my "theme" word for 2015--my word to live by.  To me, the word means "on purpose with forethought."   I want to be intentional in what I do:  intentional with my finances, intentional with my relationships, intentional with my work, intentional with my health, and intentional with giving my time to others. 

I have been a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" person.  This year I want it to be different.  I see 2015 as a pivotal year in several areas of my life, and being intentional will help me to achieve my goals.  My 2015 goals are as follows:
                
                           1.  Contribute *weekly* to my savings account using the principle of adding the
                                       amount that corresponds to the week of the year
                           2.  Pay off 3 debts
                           3.  Stick to "clean" eating as much as possible for my health
                           4.  Exercise at least 3 times a week
                           5.  Allot a specific day of the month to visit my parents, putting all else aside
                           6.  Read through the Bible in one year with a plan I found online
                           5.  FEAR NOT

With God's help, I will be able to live an intentional life this year, one that blesses others as well as meets some of my personal goals. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Reflection

As a new year dawns tomorrow, I am pondering this post from last January 1.  It focused on overcoming fear with the touchstone of these verses:  Isaiah 41:13:  "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and  says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"

And my favorite:            2 Timothy 1:7:  "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness;
                               but of power and love and discipline."


I think back over 2014 and consider how I have done in that area.  Last December God was placing a powerful blessing in my hands, and I was scared to death to reach out in faith to grab it and take advantage of it.  I was so scared that I ignored it for the Christmas holidays.  Once New Year's was past, I tentatively reached for it, and I haven't turned back.  There have been ups and downs in this new venture (adventure) He gave me in online tutoring, but each time I faltered, I looked back at those verses and snatched them, not tentatively reaching  as initially, but snatching them for dear life.  He has taught me so much through this compact between us:  faith, trust, and reliance.  It *is* a compact between Him and me.  He set this opportunity on a silver platter before me and said, "Here is an answer to your prayers, Ginger.  Take it, trust Me, and I will help you."  And *that* is exactly what He has done---beyond my wildest dreams.

So, as 2015 dawns, I am setting new goals---boldly---knowing that the same God who guided me and helped me in 2014 will be there to guide me and help me in 2015.  As I reach out my hand, He will continue to say, "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and  says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Resolutions: To Make or Not to Make?

We are on the cusp of a new year---2015---and that means the buzz on social media is about resolutions and whether to make them or not.  People tend to pledge to do the normal thing--lose weight, exercise more, etc...

I have never been one for really making resolutions, but this year I am.  And, I am writing them down as a visual reminder.  I got some not-so-great medical news this morning, so it is a necessity that I make some changes to affect that for the positive.  2015 will be a pivotal year for me financially as well as I pay off some big bills.   I have had many challenges in the last few years:  cancer, family illnesses, financial strains, etc..  Through it all, I have relied on one verse to see me through: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:13).  Notice the one little word allIt doesn't say "I can do some things.."  It says all.  All means *all*.  Christ equips us to victory through Him.  There are many things we can not do on our own power, and I believe trying to shows arrogance--an "I-don't-need-you" attitude.  I have been guilty in past years of giving up on resolutions before I have really begun---because I tried to do them in my own power.  This year, I resolve to rely on Him as the verse says:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  If I rely on Him for the biggies, like I did cancer, then why not on the not-so-big things, too?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Ramblings

Christmas, and what it truly means, has been lost in our PC, self-engrossed society.  Several years ago I noticed school districts changed the wording of  "Christmas Break" to "Winter Break," so as not to offend anyone.  That is, except the Christians among us.  Let me give you a news flash:  If not for "CHRISTmas," we would not have a winter break. 

In addition, local municipalities were sued for allowing manger scenes on firehouse grounds.  This was a tradition that reached way back into my childhood and beyond.  Now, they are mostly a thing of the past....all in the name of not "offending."

When I was younger, I suppose I was preoccupied with what was under the tree or what Santa would bring me.  I can even remember as a child opening one end of each package to see what the wording on the box said.  Society has just gotten worse in the last ten years or so.  Worse, as in horribly me-centric.  As an illustration, when my school's NJHS did a food drive at Thanksgiving for needy school families, my homeroom contributed one can of pork and beans.  That's it....and that was after being told to bring in something they would eat for Thanksgiving.  pork and beans?  really?  It is very disheartening when I see where the younger generations are headed.  And, I don't just mean the kids I teach; I mean their parents as well, for everything starts in the home. 

I read certain blogs every day because they are generally uplifting.  There is one who does not put up a Christmas tree because she says it is an "idol."  Well, we can make anything an idol; it doesn't take a Christmas tree to do it.

I chose several years ago to scale back my Christmas traditions to focus on the real meaning of Christmas, and I suppose I did it partially in response to the above-mentioned greed I see all around me.  I *do* put up a tree, but I have cut way back on gift-giving.  My son is grown now, so the toy trappings are a thing of the past.  There is nothing he really needs, either, so he will get a few small things.  I have also curtailed my baking.  I fondly remember past years of having more goodies than we could handle, but we don't need them. 

What I *will* do is this:  I will continue my third year of delivering Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve to my shut-in, and I will add another component this year.  I recently read that fire departments are often inundated with goodies at this time of year, but people often forget the police departments.  So.....I will be making a very simple recipe to deliver to my local police department on Christmas Eve.

I labeled this post "Christmas Ramblings" because I feel they are just that...ramblings of things on my mind.  I am reminded of childhood Christmases where things were much simpler.  I am saddened by the commercialization of Christmas as merely a money-making holiday for merchants.  I suppose that is one reason I have curtailed spending as well.  CHRISTmas is named such for its namesake, Christ.  It is, after all, HIS birthday that we originally celebrated.  The giving of gifts was a nod to the wise men who brought Him gifts in that manger so many centuries ago.  Christmas is a reminder of God's gift to us:  His son who chose to come to earth as a babe and later die for us so that we could have eternal life.  THAT is the reason for the season, and I choose to celebrate it by doing what I feel He would have me do---in my own small way.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Remember to Look UP

I *used to* love to joke to people that I never get sick; I just get cancer.  Up until last week, that was true.  I have been as healthy as a horse my entire adult life, except for an annual winter cold....and the cancer that surfaced in the summer of 2007.  I had not had the flu since I was a child.  Last week that is just what I had.  It forced me to hibernate in my bed for two days, sleeping it off from Nyquil Cold and Flu.  At first I thought it was a stomach virus until I became feverish and every.part.of.my.body ached as never before. I   rebounded after the second day and four doses of the over-the-counter medication.

When I awoke yesterday morning to return to work, I had broken out in hives from my feet to my neck.  Luckily, they were not too itchy, and I was able to make it through work.  On the way home, however, they spread to my jaw line.  I have not had the hives in about seven years.  The only other time I had them was when my bff and I had them together at work.  As astute as she is, when I called her late yesterday, she was adamant they were caused by stress, as the earlier outbreak had been.

I didn't *feel* stressed, and that is when she reminded me that our bodies have their own way of dealing with stress that we can not control.  As what she said sunk into my mind, I realized she was right.  This last year I have been dealing with more stress than *normal,* whatever that means.  I have dealt with things with my son as most parents do; my father was hospitalized for over a week in September;  a beloved pet has been sick;  finances have been strapped for a variety of reasons, one of which included a deer last month; and I have had to contend with a lying, irreputable repairman; and, and, and....................

Being a single parent is HARD, and I am one of the lucky ones in that I have an advanced degree in an area that offers job security.  Even so, everything else that a single parent goes through, I have had to go through alone.....and that has resulted in living a stressful life.  When everything appears to be falling down around me, I have to remember to look up....up to the One who knows me as no one else does.  When everything narrows down around my head, He is the One who sends me a safety net.  It has often  been by unlikely means, but it comes.....by way of Facebook and the words from a student from a quarter century ago.....by way of this blog read by another favorite, long-remembered student from the same era who acted when God prompted him.....by way of part-time jobs (one of which was a total  unexpected miracle)....by way of earned bonuses at work......by way of answered prayers......by..................   This will be added to as He works in my life.

So.......when life bears down upon your head and you feel at your last rope, look UP to the God who made you and knows your needs more than anyone.  He will sustain you.