February 23, 2012

Waiting for Dad ~ A Short Story

This is a short story I recently penned during writing class.  The assignment was to write a story of at least three paragraphs in length from a single picture.  I was thrilled with the outcome since I've not attempted much fictional writing.

Waiting for Dad
                The spring of 1963 was warmer and rainier than years past.   I was eleven, care-free and young.  The only cloud in my sky was the far-off Vietnam War – where my Dad was fighting and it frightened me.   April dawned, and with a gust, rain poured from the skies, unhindered.  Each day after school I passed through the town square where the lush and fragrant Kolb Gardens were located.
                It was there that I first noticed the man.  He was in a hurry - briefcase in hand, umbrella in the other, scampering his way down the cobbled walk, hopping from foot to foot to avoid puddles of rain.  He seemed sad.  His face drawn, heavy with lines, brow creased dark eyes.
                I was standing in the middle of the walk, hands stretched skyward, completely oblivious to the world around me; drinking in the beauty of the day, the rain, the sun now peeking from behind the once thick clouds.  “Sorry kid,” the man muttered my way, as he inadvertently brushed against my outstretched hand.  That was our ‘introduction’. 
                Every afternoon at five o’clock, the man marched home, rain or shine.  And I was always in the square, feather in hand as he passed by.   I was always happy.  Fond memories washed over my mind.  Memories of my Dad and me together, before the war.  That seemed an age ago.
                In May with hordes of blooming Tulips surrounding me, I spotted the man.  He sat alone on a weathered bench, looking beaten down and depressed.  Approaching him, I slowly, tentatively sat down next to him. 
                “Hi there,” I began shyly, unsure of exactly what to say.
                “Hello,” he replied.  “I’m Bill, and who are you?”
                “Harry.  Do you enjoy the gardens?”
                “Yes, quite.”
                “How often do you come here?”  I asked.
                “Nearly every day, after work, if it’s not raining,” he said with a chuckle.
                Our conversation drifted from one topic to another.  I learned that Bill’s wife, June, had recently passed away, and I told him about Dad.
                Bill turned to me and asked, “Why do you always have that feather in your hand?”
                I smiled.  “My Dad gave it to me the day he went to war.  It was from a nest he’d found as a boy.  This feather reminds me of my Dad, that’s why I carry it.”
                As spring blazed into summer, our friendship grew.  Bill became like a dad to me.  We worked in Bill’s garden, planting a variety of flowers – each of us encouraging the other.  And I waited for Dad.
                September came, and I returned to school.  Bill and I still talked.  We worked in his garden in the evenings or on Saturdays when I didn’t have chores or errands to run for Mom.  I learned a lot of important life lessons that summer.  Things that helped to fortify me and brought me into manhood.
                A letter came.  My Dad was Missing in Action.  Bill did his best to comfort me, but what if my Dad was dead? 
                The trees began to change into a glorious array of gold’s, reds and purples, yet I was filled with uncertainty and apprehension. 
                “How’re you doing?”  Bill emphasized his care with a firm grasp on my arm.  “There’s still no news, but I’m hopeful!”  I added with a grin.
                With the first snows of winter, my Dad came home – haggard, hungry and with a full beard, but sound in body and so glad to see me, to embrace me!   And I showed him Bill’s garden.  Dad shook hands with Bill, tears brimming in his eyes.
                “I am so grateful for all that you’ve done for Harry.”  Bill smiled.  “Your son showed me how to love again, he helped me heal.  That’s a gift you gave me.”
                We walked home hand in hand, and I knew I was done waiting for Dad.

The End 

*Please do not copy or re-distribute this written work without first requesting the author's permission*

February 21, 2012

Would you join me...

in praying for my Grams (Anna) as she undergoes major, double-hip replacement surgery this morning at 10am?  We are resting in the peace that Jesus gives us, and know that she is in His precious arms of protection and care.

Please pray:

  • That the surgery goes well, without any complications
  • That she'll be protected from any infections during her surgery, from the prostheses or her hospital stay
  • That she recovers quickly and fully
  • That her time in the hospital would be a time of restful recovery and encouragement
  • That she would do well in the rehab center 
  • That she would be free from pain
Thank you dear friends!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7
Grams came through the surgery well.  Despite having her surgery pushed back twice, she did well.  We are so thankful.  She was sitting up the next morning, and although she was stiff, she was in good spirits.  And this morning she walked!!  Thank you all for your prayers!  


So I finally found the post about my great-grandma that I promised to re-post.

This week I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with my great-grandmother.  She’s 95 and has lived through many changing times, thus having much to recall and retell.  We sat at the dinner table and sipped Dr. Pepper, and she talked.  Her stories are as varying as A to Z, all of them interesting, some of them anxiety causing, most of them laughter making.
Like the time her father almost died of Anthrax, contracted from a farmer friend who got it from one of his infected cows, and Grandpa Huges’ father poured un-diluted Carbolic Acid to remove the sore that had come up, eating away the flesh from one of his thumbs, but saving his life.  Or the times when the bayou would flood, causing the water to be parallel to her front porch, and she would go to school in a boat.  She reminisced about her childhood on the farm, having to walk to the old schoolhouse, which also served as the church house on Sundays. Or when she moved 4 miles from town, which in those days was quite far; after she got married and was pregnant with her second child, and her mother was pregnant with her 7th, a boy 23 years younger than great-grandma.
As I sat there listening to her speak, I wondered how many other young people still have relatives who were born before either of the world wars, before the invention of the motor car, before indoor electricity was common, or inter-state highways linked our great land, before the Great Depression and the turbulent times surrounding WWII.  She has lived far longer than anyone I have known personally, save my paternal great-grandfather who lived a few months past his 100th birthday.
In May she will be 96, and if she lives that long we will celebrate, a life lived over 9 and a half decades.  And of course, we will remember.
“Remember the days of old;
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
your elders, and they will tell you.”
(Deuteronomy 32:7 ESV)
“O God, we have heard with our ears,
our fathers have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
in the days of old:”
(Psalm 44:1 ESV)

February 20, 2012

Healer {Kari Jobe}

You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease

I trust in You
I trust in You 

I believe you're my healer
I believe you are all I need

I believe 

And I believe you're my portion
I believe you're more than enough for me
Jesus you're all I need! 

Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible 
Nothing is impossible for You 
You hold my world in Your hands  

February 7, 2012

Living vicariously through one's children

Have you ever noticed how some parents try to make their children dress and act a certain way, or be involved in a certain activity (e.g. music, art, sports, dance, etc.)?

I've noticed it as well.

I call it: living vicariously through one's children.

My theory goes something like this...

Parents who weren't athletic, beautiful, funny, popular, rich/privileged, top-notch-brains - dress their kids up in all of their dreams, perhaps unbeknownst to their children, hoping to somehow fulfill that life-long desire they had as a child. 

That's part of why, I think, parents tolerate their sons having long hair, or their daughters dressing like little women, instead of in age-appropriate clothing, or they get their kids involved in every after-school program imaginable.

Whatever happened to just letting your kids be themselves?  Yes, I do think parental insight and oversight are important.  But, sometimes a parent can push their child/children into something that they wanted to do as a kid, failing to realize that perhaps their own child doesn't really enjoy ballet, or soccer or the chess club.

This is NOT a rant against parents, or parenting methods used by today's parents.  For one, I'm not yet a parent, just a young adult observing the world.  Watching as culture goes about doing its thing.

I guess it all comes down to one of my pet peeves.

When I have children, I'd like to simplify their life, not make it more complex, complicated, hard to bear.  This world is crazy enough, and stressful.  Yes, I think encouraging our children to excel in their gifts and talents is something we should do, but not overdo.

Since I'm totally pro-home education, and plan on doing that with any children I may have, I think it's important to bring one's offspring up with a worldview firmly planted on God's word - Scripture.  And I think the three R's are essential.  Beyond that, how much of the extra-curricular stuff we pile on ourselves really matters for the Eternal kingdom?  Will our children be rewarded by God on judgement day because they know how to score a corner shot, or dance a quadrille, have memorized the periodic table, or can compose a piece of music?

My aim for my own life, and what I hope will be my husband's and my aim for our children's lives is to sharpen them into mighty and effective arrows for Christ's kingdom.

Don't get me wrong.  Academics are important.  Book learning has its place.  Knowing how to communicate in a way that is both concise and encouraging is key.  So is learning what 2+2 is, how to write your name, and read a book.

But there is more to life than the abstract.  What one can stuff into their brain.

Hands on, down-to-earth practical skills are really a part of every-day life and something I want to focus on with my children.  That and discipleship / character building.  I don't want to hinder my children's natural abilities and talents, but I also don't want them to be so focused on that aspect of their life that they forget the eternal perspective they should have.

So while I think music training, sports, art or chess are not necessarily wrong, I am more interested in seeing parents encourage their children to understand that we are in a spiritual war.  A battle for hearts and minds.  For souls, dying and lost - in need of Jesus.

I want my children to be storing up treasure for Heaven, where moths and rust can't corrupt them and where those treasures can't be stolen by a thief.  I want them to see how very much they owe their existence to their Creator, and how their life and its work (whatever that may be) should be aimed towards Him. 

To conclude:

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
 Only what's done for Christ will last.

That is what I want my children to excel in.

Happy Birthday Jo!

It’s my youngest sisters birthday, and she’s 14. :)  Wow!  Where have the years gone??
Johanna is a blessing to me, and is becoming a dear friend day by day.

Johanna was thrilled to be a big sister!

With our newest blessing ~ Jaden :)

The “bride” and “groom” – Johanna and Jaden playing dress-up

I absolutely LOVE this picture of these cuties!

At the National Missionary Convention in 2008

National Missionary convention with Uncle Jim & Phoebe

The three stooges ;)

Story time with Mama

With Rowena and Trista

She always puts her hand on her hip

At her baptism

Phoebe and Jo ~ Fast friends

She has turned into a beautiful young lady

At the Target circle

After a short film we three “starred” in (lol!)

With our friend Alex from Romania

About to go see Courageous!!!

She’s stunning!

A favorite activity ~ English Country Dancing

Family photo beside the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, MS ~ Nov. 2011

I LOVE YOU JOHANNA!!!  I am so glad that you are a part of our family.  Many happy returns on your birthday. <3

February 1, 2012

Under the Overpass {notes}



"Mike Yankoski's life went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight.  By his own choice.  From the United States capital to San Diego, Mike and his traveling companion, Sam, journeyed as homeless men for five months.  Not for a project or even in response to a dare.  He needed to know if his faith in God was real - if he could actually be the Christian he said he was apart from the comforts he'd always known. 
So with only a bag on his back, a guitar in his hand, and Sam by his side, he set out.  And like any traveler in a foreign land, he returned a different man."
Under the Overpass - A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America is a fascinating, challenging and moving tale of Mike and Sam's chosen homelessness and the experiences they encountered during their time on the streets. 

This was one of the books I asked for at Christmas.  Since I began reading it, Saturday, I have learned more about homelessness than I'd ever known before.

Already this book is highlighted and marked up, passages I want to remember, and return to.  Important lessons disclosed.

Scriptural commands I need to hear, and live.

I'd like to share some of them with you.

In the first chapter {Twenty Minutes Past the World}, Mike discusses the reasons behind his desire to experience homelessness:
The idea had dropped into my brain one Sunday morning while I sat in church.  The pastor was delivering a powerful sermon about living the Christian life.  The gist of it was, "Be the Christian you say you are."
Later in the chapter:
But we were created to be and to do, not merely to discuss.  The hypocrisy in my life troubled me.  No, I wasn't in the grip of rampant sin, but at the same time, for the life of me I couldn't find a connecting thread of radical, living obedience between what I said about my world and how I lived in it.  Sure, I claimed that Christ was my stronghold, my peace, my sustenance, my joy.  But I did all that from the safety of my comfortable upper-middle-class life.  I never really had to put my claims to the test.
Mike contemplated what Paul really meant in Philippians 4:11-12 where he states - "I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, whether with everything or with nothing."
With nothing?
 What if I stepped out of my comfortable life with nothing but God and put my faith to the test alongside of those who live with nothing every day?
Hard on the heels of the idea came the questions: What if I didn't actually believe the things I argued with so much certainty?  What, for example, if I didn't truly believe that Christ is my identity, my strength, my hope?
Some statistics tell us the horrible story of homelessness in the United States.
Key findings of the report on homelessness:
"In his book Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes, "We are all equally privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God's mercy."  Mercy is something homeless people so desperately need.  As Christians, we are called to extend mercy to everyone.
Mike discusses candidly his own thoughts on homelessness, previous to being homeless himself:
...I do know this: blithely allowing this terrible stripping to occur is a blot on the conscience of America, and especially on the conscience of the church.  If we as believers choose to forget that everyone - even the shrunken soul lying in the doorway - is made in the image of God, can we say we know our Creator?  If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven't we entirely missed the point of the gospel?
Too many times as Christians this is our response to a real need in someones life, whether we know them personally or not:
We hear a Christian assure someone that he will 'pray over' his problem, knowing full well that he intends to use prayer as a substitute for service.  It is much easier to pray that a poor friend's needs may be supplied than to supply them.
A.W. Tozer (Of God and Men)
How true, and how heartbreaking.  Especially when we have received a directive from Jesus on how to care for those in need
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;
James 1: 21-2:8
How should we as Christians respond to homelessness?
... I do this because my faith tells me to.  The Bible clearly says, if you see someone hungry, feed them; if you see someone naked, clothe them.  Those words weren't written for us to make books and sermons about.  They're written so people don't go hungry and naked.  And they require action from all followers of Christ, not just the rescue missions. - George a man who helped Mike and Sam
What a down-to-earth, biblical response!

Something to think about:
Remember that the poor are people with names, [They are] people with whom and among whom God has been working before we even know they were there.
Bryant Myers (Walking with the Poor)
We don't go to church, we are the church.  So many problems that show up on the church steps, or in the pews, or between congregations seem to start with misunderstandings about that.  The church isn't a physical building or a doctrinal statement or a perfectly produced program.  It is us - we are the living expression of Christ's presence in the world, His body.  The sooner we realize that, the sooner we'll be able to be the healing body of Christ to our sin-sick world.
Mike Yankoski (Under the Overpass)
In the chapter on their experience in Phoenix Arizona, Mike answers some common questions about street life and what we should or shouldn't do as we assist homeless people
But that raises an important question: Should you give money to beggars?  You run into them in every major American city - standing at the off-ramp on your way home from work, sitting at busy intersections on your lunch break, or walking up to you when you're downtown for an evening with friends.  The simple answer is, "probably not," but I need to quality that... Unfortunately, it's also true that the majority of the men and women we knew on the streets would - within a half hour of receiving a donation - spend it entirely on drugs or alcohol.  A nugget of marijuana or crack is only five dollars, and a forty-ounce beer is only two-fifty.  So your money is probably providing someone with their fix before you get home or back to the office.
That's why I recommend you give something other than cash... Having said that, I think the most meaningful gift might be your genuine attention and caring.
There aren't really easy answers to the question of giving to panhandlers.  On the one hand, we're called to help those in need.  On the other, we're called to be "wise as serpents, innocent as doves."  Being both wise and innocent might mean taking some risks, getting creative, and forgiving yourself if you feel foolish or make mistakes.
Conviction of sins is something we all wish we took more seriously, felt more deeply, responded to more quickly.  One man (Doug) Mike and Sam encountered brought these desires into stark contrast:
Lying there in our bags listening to the waves, we talked about Doug.  His brokenness about his sins was convicting. "I wish my sin pained me as greatly as Doug's does," said Sam.  "Would you do anything about it if it did?" I asked.  "What do you mean?" Sam asked, sounding sleepy.  "Doug longs to be cleansed and free of his sins, but I don't know.  I don't think he's willing to stop doing the very thing that grieves him.  Walking over here tonight, I was wondering if there are things in my life that I am praying for deliverance from but refuse to let go of.  It's a scary thought."
Yes it is.  In my own life I know I desire to feel broken over my sin, but sometimes I become numb to their redundancy.  I want, as G.K. Chesterton put it, "We want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent."
In the last chapter Coming Back to Normal Mike gives some insights about his own experience of coming back to a normal life after the grueling months on the streets.
In a very real sense, the problem of homelessness is overwhelming.  Jesus put it all in context when He said, "The poor you will have with you always."  You just can't meet every need you see, or spend time with every homeless person you meet.
So where do we start?  Jesus summarized right living in two powerful statements: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...and your neighbor as yourself."  As over-spiritualized as it might sound, I really do think that caring for the needy begins with loving God more completely.  It's in knowing and responding to His amazing love for us that we begin to set our priorities straight.
Mike gives four ideas on how to reach out to the homeless in our community:
  1. Find a rescue mission nearest to you.  Call and find out how you can get involved.  Show up an hour early and plan on leaving an hour after you're scheduled to.  Have conversations with the homeless as they stand outside, waiting to get in.  Bring bottled water, baked cookies, granola bars, patience, and a sense of humor.  You'll bless those who cannot bless you in return.
  2. Go downtown with a friend or friends (don't go alone).  Buy cups of coffee or a bag of take-out food, find a homeless person sitting around asking for money, share your gifts, and enjoy a conversation.  No agenda, no plans, no purpose other than to be with that person.  You'll be amazed at what unfolds.
  3. Is it cold outside? Go to your closet and grab the sweater, sweatshirt, or coat you keep telling yourself you'll wear sometime but know you won't.  Call up four friends and tell them to do the same thing.  Then go downtown and hand out your warm clothing to the men and women huddled under the overpass or in a doorway.  As you stand there thinking of how cold your nose is, you'll be amazed at the genuine thankfulness of someone whose whole body is probably numb.  And your giving will warm your soul, too.
  4. Become a spokesperson in your youth group, church, and community for those who have no voice.  Be relentlessly suspicious of your comfortable life, and of the comfort zones that render so many Christian fellowships insensitive and ineffective in our communities.  God calls us all to more.  And you and I can lead the way, one small step at a time.
In closing, Mike challenges us again to be radical in our faith, clinging alone to Jesus as our one form of strength and guidance.
A radical choice to trust in the Lord must extend into all areas of your life, with everyone you encounter during the day.
Some local homeless outreaches: