It’s April Again!

I look forward to April every year. It’s poetry month. It’s PAD – Poem-A-Day- with Robert Brewer over at Writer’s Digest. It’s reconnecting with a few poets I’ve met there. It’s feeling creative once more. It’s looking forward to reading the prompt of the day and being challenged to produce. It’s being able to express so many cooped-up feelings. It’s mostly happy and sometimes sad and always a month of possibilities.

Day One: “F”

Future and Present

Future and present me 

to past and present you:

Do you remember how much I love all things time/space/dimension travel?

Today I heard that Beatle’s song

When I’m Sixty-Four

and I won’t be able to sing it

when I’m sixty-four

because you will always be sixty-three

and come November

I’ll be older than you

for the first time ever

***

I’m already losing my hair

like my mom

and your’s was still thick 

like your dad’s

If you were still here

be might be doing the garden

digging the weeds

We were going to scrimp and save

in our moonlight years

***

When I’m sixty-four

you’ll be forever sixty-three

and I’ll still need you

Thoughts from Elisabeth Elliot – Part One

I was looking back today at some quotes I jotted down when I was reading Elisabeth Elliot’s book, The Path of Loneliness. I want to share a few, along with some of my thoughts.

"How blessed I have been to have been a wife."

My thoughts exactly. To have had all the ups and downs, joys and sorrows of 41 1/2 years of marriage is something for which I am ever grateful. To have grown up in the LORD with a man who cared for my spiritual welfare is something that is a true blessing.

The reality was beginning to sink in: despite friends and family who cared about me, I was essentially alone for the first time in my life."

This is so true for me, also. I went from being at home (two years in a dorm didn’t count as alone) to marriage. Until Chuck died, I’d never lived alone.

Where is my home ultimately? My home is where Christ is...God has made a home for me in order for me to share that home with others. "

God has given me a home in Tampa, Florida. A home I have been able to share with others, whether for a meal or a few nights. What most of those who enter my house don’t know is what a blessing it is to to have them there.

My larger family are those who also know Christ in an intimate way."

God has provided me with a larger family at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church. I have sisters there. I have pastors and elders who truly care for me: they shepherd my soul, they check on me, they pray for me. I have a place to serve.

The loneliness of widowhood was an exit from the comforts and consolations of having a husband, and an entrance into the strange world of having to make unilateral decisions again and to learn to say 'I'instead of 'we'."

Those unilateral decisions have about been my undoing this past week. I long for someone else to make some decisions for me. Someone to just say, “Here’s what we’re going to do…”


Chuck’s Testimony

1979

Today, Chuck would have turned 65. If I live until next summer I will have been on the earth longer than he was. We lived together for 41 1/2 years. Before and after that I’ve lived 21 1/2 other years. I thank God for every year He has given me, the hard and the easy. I learn more everyday that all these years are but a wisp of time compared to eternity.

I found the following words from Chuck on a usb while trying to purge files on a computer. They were written in 2008 as we were preparing to join Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine.

I was born (1956) and raised here in Jacksonville, Fl. My parents were hard working, moral, but not spiritual people. Needless to say I was not raised in church, I can actually recall the only four times that I attended church services up until I was 21 years old. I was lost but I did not yet realize it. I believe it was true of me when the scripture says; “I was once alive apart from the law.”

My only real interest in life from age 8 to 20 was playing baseball. Everything I did centered on baseball. Life was planned around it to the extent that I chose my college based on which Jr. College had the best baseball coach and where would I have the best chance of being drafted. Baseball was my first and only love. Everything was subservient to it in my life. Little did I realize how God was working in my life, especially, since I had no interest in Him or need for Him (at least by my perception).

I met Angie in the summer of 1977, at the age of 20, when we were both students at Georgia Southern. We began dating and soon I fell in love with her. At this point God began to move in my life.

I never was a good student in college; I was always making good enough grades to maintain my status on the baseball team. However in 1977-78, it all caught up with me when I was suspended for one quarter (winter) due to my grades. This meant I was no longer eligible for baseball. So, too ashamed to go home, I stayed in Statesboro and worked at a lumber yard full time, saving my money so that I could return to school in the spring as a ‘new man’. I decided I would focus on serious things, making good grades, etc. I was still without God, lost, and head over heels caught up in the world. I did return to school that spring and I pulled three B’s which, was a marked improvement for me, but now it was time to go home for the summer.

In the summer of 1978 two significant things occurred; 1) I decided to propose marriage to Angie and 2) She started back to church. She accepted my proposal and soon I followed her example and started attending services myself. Over the next several months I heard the Bible taught for the first time in my life. I learned about God and His Son and I learned about my sin, “but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” It was the first time that I ever realized I was a sinner and lost. In the fall of 1978 I surrendered to the Lord, I repented of my sin and believed Jesus Christ and He saved me. I was baptized within a few weeks of conversion and by the kindness of God in December of ’78; Angie and I were united in marriage.

If I may fast forward to the present to say, it has now been 30 years since the Lord saved me. My walk with Him, like all believers, has been full of hills and valleys, though sometimes the valleys have seemed like long deep ditches. But I can honestly say with the psalmist; “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

A Day in the Life

Thanksgiving, 2011

With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the business of being grateful. I read a lot of blogs and I’ve been impressed recently with the idea of looking at all of life with a grateful eye. Which isn’t always easy when your roof is leaking, the termites are back and you get rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver. But, all these things and more drive me to my God, Who knows it all, Who determined it all for my good.

Today was a day of ups and downs, but I felt the peace of God surround me in it all. My grandson spent the night with me last night, so my morning didn’t start with me being alone. I had his company at breakfast and conversation on the drive to school. After I dropped him off, my tire pressure light came on. I found an air machine and paid my $2, only to run out of air time before I got to the one that was actually low. I drove home and then I remembered I had an air compressor that hooks up to my car. So I was able to put air in and the light finally went off. Hopefully that’s it.

Ruby and I got out for a walk around the block before noon. When I returned the mail had come. I got a nice card from a widow I met recently via Hope For Widows. Turns out we have the same birthday! She is only about an hour away so we plan to meet in person soon.

Late in the afternoon I went out to pick up a few things from the Dollar Tree and grocery store. Didn’t realize Friday night at the Dollar Tree was a hopping place. I didn’t feel impatient waiting in line, which is not how I used to be. God has done this work in me. In front of me was a grandma with her baby grandson. I could tell her mental capacity was a little diminished. As I approached the door to leave she was struggling with her bags, trying to get them all out of the cart, with the baby still in the seat. She asked me to get him out and I offered to carry him to her vehicle. She was appreciative, but all I could think was I’m glad it was me and not someone who might take off with the baby! When I lifted him up I could tell his diaper was soaked. When we got to her truck I told her he was pretty wet. So I lifted him back out of his car seat so she could change his diaper. I pray for her. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for her.

I proceeded to the grocery store, wandering around getting only a portion of what was on my list. By the time I left it was dark. I saw a man across the parking lot who, from the back, reminded me of Chuck. He was tall and broad shouldered, but when he turned I saw he looked nothing like Chuck. It still brought tears to my eyes. I thought of how when the time changed in Alabama Chuck hated getting home after dark.

Now, as I sit typing this, my windows are open and there is a pleasant little breeze. I’ve got a favorite playlist going in the background, my dog at my feet (when she isn’t up barking at every little noise).

Last night one of the elders from church called me. He was so compassionate and gave me this verse before he prayed with me over the phone:

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and kind in all his works. – Psalm 145:17

Hymns of Grace #5: Go Bury Thy Sorrow

Go Bury Thy Sorrow was written by Mary A. Bachelor about 1870 and set to music around 1906.

I have mixed feelings about this hymn. I understand the sentiment to an extent, but I think’s it’s just too simplistic

Verse 1

The world tells us to bury our sorrow. It’s okay to grieve, just not too much or for too long. This isn’t scriptural. There are so many examples in the Bible to look to of godly men who grieved. Lamentations, Job, and Psalms are full of cries of sorrow. Jesus was a “man of sorrows” (John 11:35, Isaiah 53:3-4).

Verse 2

The second verse follows scripture more closely. I totally agree that we are to go to Jesus, Who is our brother, friend, and husband, when we are grieving. Being acquainted with grief, Jesus certainly knows and enters into our grief. The Psalms are full of David taking his sorrow to the Lord. He honestly poured out his heart, sometimes wondering if God was even listening to him. Yet, I think David knew God was there all the time.

Verse 3

Now, verse three – well. I agree we are to go and comfort others in their grief. We are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). That doesn’t mean we have to bury our own sorrow. To love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:31) I must first love myself. Because I have empathy, I’m not just going to “give them the sunshine’. We can grieve together, but with hope (I Thessalonians 4:13).

So, there you have it. Aunt Marie’s hymnal is full of wonderful songs. But, as with everything else, we need to be ever discerning (Acts 17:11).

Monday Music #23

It’s hard to believe the last Monday Music I posted was on February 17,2020. Just before the world around me was totally reprogrammed.

“The Keep Going Song” by the Bengsons came out in October, 2020. It’s silly and profound at the same time. And much better than “This is the Song That Never Ends”!

And we are so lucky and blessed to be safely here
And we thought we’d be here for like ten days, tops!
{What did we know?} What did we know?
{What did we know?} What did we know?
We thought we knew a lot
We thought we knew a lot

Here we are, ten months, not ten days, after this song came out and it feels like we are back at square one.

And if your heart is breaking
I hope it’s breaking open

My heart was broken last year. And though it will never be the same, music helps to heal and soothe.

And I hope that you’ve watched a lot of
Really great television
Like, a lot of it!

I watch TV late at night. I plowed through several series this past year: Still Standing With Johnny Harris, Lost, Manifest, the Good Doctor.

I pray my pain is a river
That flows to the ocean
That connects my pain to yours
And I pray I pray my happiness is like pollen
That flies to you and pollinates your joy oh boy
Oh boy is that possible?
I don’t know I don’t know
We are making this up as we go

I’ve been able to connect my pain and my joy to other widows, most recently via Hope for Widows.

So, take a listen to this song – I hope it makes you smile.

Goodbye to the Varsity

Going to Athens every summer to visit Grandma and Aunt Marie usually included a trip to The Varsity. So, even though I don’t have a long history with it like others do, it still was a part of my childhood and a big part of the town where I was born.

I’m so glad we were able to take the grandkids to The Varsity back in the summer of 2019 after the Bryan/Bailey reunion. They loved the food, just as we did. But, as you can see, they were mesmerized by the TV; Chuck and I let them have the best view -haha!

June, 2019

This article, A Love Letter to the Varsity in Athens, Georgia by Caroline Sanders via Garden & Gun, expresses the sentiments of many people.

Our True Home, Part Three

My Home – Tampa

I’ve written some thoughts about heaven, HERE and HERE. So it was comforting to read words from Andrew MacLaren on speculations about heaven in his sermon on First Corinthians 15. It helps to know I’m not the only one with questions and wonders. But, also not the only one who knows that I don’t need to understand it all.

There lies in it the idea of repose. ‘They rest from their labours.’ Sleep restores strength, and withdraws a man at once from effort on the outer world, and from communication from it. We may carry the analogy into that unseen world. We know nothing about the relations to an external universe of the departed who sleep in Jesus. It may be that, if they sleep in Him, since He knows all, they, through Him, may know, too, something-so much as He pleases to impart to them-of what is happening here. And it may even be that, if they sleep in Him, and He wields the energies of Omnipotence, they, through Him, may have some service to do, even while they wait for their house which is from heaven. But there is no need for, nor profit in, such speculations. It is enough that the sweet emblem suggests repose, and that in that sleep there are folded around the sleepers the arms of the Christ on whose bosom they rest, as an infant does on its first and happiest home-its mother’s breast.   

More Covid Effects?

image via wild apricot

Does anyone know of a church relatively close that does evening services? I’d love a Sunday night service but Saturday could work too. After Covid for the past year I’ve really loved our mornings at home on the weekend.” – posted on a neighborhood facebook page

This struck me as a very sad commentary on not just the effects of the “pandemic” but on our culture.

  • The person asks about a church – no denomination as it didn’t seem to matter.
  • The person is looking for a convenient service, something that wouldn’t interfere with Sunday mornings at home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the opportunity to watch/semi-participate in church at home. When things starting shutting down last year, before we even knew about Chuck’s illness, we watched our church in St. Augustine from afar. When our children came to Birmingham we were able to share with them together in our living room. For a few of them it was the first sermon they’d probably heard in years. After Chuck died, there were a few Sundays I just couldn’t face people yet and I was grateful to hear His Word proclaimed via YouTube.

But, as soon as I was able I attended in person, even though it was at two new locations where I had to/am having to get to know a lot of new people. What a difference; what a blessing! Now I crave that fellowship with God and His people. I pray God does not let me slip back into habits of ease and mediocrity.

The Valley of Vision #5: Death

I don’t know if Chuck read all of the entries in The Valley of Vision because he didn’t mark them. But this portion from one entry near the back of the book could have been his prayer.

"Prepare me for death, 
that I may not die after long affliction or suddenly, 
but after short illness, with no confusion or disorder, 
and a quiet discharge in peace, with adieu to brethren. 
Let not my days end like lumber in a house, 
but give me a silent removing from one world to the next."

If this had been his prayer, I think it was answered. His illness was short, but not sudden like a heart attack or accident. He was not confused, except maybe for the final few days. He was able to say his goodbyes, even though I felt he and I didn’t really say ours.

Madeleine L’Engle relayed a story a nurse told her of when she lost her husband. “NO CODE” was written in his chart. The nurse said she fell apart, but that looking back, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is what we did. Chuck agreed and we signed the DNR form, but when the time came he begged me to call 911; said he changed his mind. I, too, fell apart inside but did my best to stick to what I knew his wishes were. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Madeleine also told of her thoughts when her own husband was dying. “Does Hugh understand that he is being touched, loved? Is there enough awareness in him for that?” I often wonder what Chuck’s thoughts were in those final hours. Our daughters were there with me and we all ministered to him, did our best to give him all the love we had. He was aware that we were there up until the last moments. I can only hope he knew we wanted him to stay, but had to let him go.

He preached and believed “our times are in His hands”. I believe this, too. It was one year ago today.

“And she said she was grateful for every moment she'd ever had with him and, even if it was all over, she wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world.” - from Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle