Grace to Carry On

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I wrote the post titled “Life and Death” on June 15, 2018. I never dreamed, could never have imagined that two years later I would lose yet another person I love so dearly.

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This quote from that post is so true –

“We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Chuck didn’t fear death. He knew where his hope was. I knew that, too. I know that. But, the sadness is still here. Sadness that his face will no longer light up when his children or grandchildren enter the room. Sadness that we talked, dreamed, and finally planned for his retirement and our return home to Jacksonville.  That return was overlaid with sorrow. For him, that return lasted one month. Now he is truly home, and I’m left here to carry on.

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

A lot of of packin’

 

A lot of movin’, A lot of rollin’
A lot of drivin’, A lot of strollin’
A lot of leavin’ here
A lot of arrivin’ there
Trying to go just about everywhere
A lot of thinking about where I’m going next

I could add a whole verse here about a lot of packin’ :

A lot of packin’, A lot of sortin’

It’s nerve rackin’, We’re transportin’

A lot of leavin’ there

A lot of arrivin’ here

Goin’ on a lot of love and prayers

A lot of thinking about where we’re goin’ next

 

I’ve wanted to write a post for a while but have been so overwhelmed by life. To try to make a long story short, I’ll share my husband’s facebook post.

From my husband…

As some of you are aware, I put in for retirement effective June 1 and we placed our home on the market. The house went under contract immediately and we close on 5/19/20.

Unfortunately a few weeks ago I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. We have consulted with UAB oncologists and decided to return to Jax, FL as planned and I have an appointment at Mayo Clinic this Thursday.

I wish all of you the very best in all life as to offer. Angie and I covet your prayers for strength, wisdom and that the Lord be glorified in our circumstances.

According to the Scripture all ‘our days are numbered’ so whether mine are few or many “I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for my sins…”

Please forgive me if I ever offended you in anyway, it is never intentional but still there is no excuse.

I pray his blessings upon each of you.

 

So, here we are in Jacksonville. We are home. One more night in a hotel and we move into an apartment for six months.  This is not the move we planned. We were going to buy a house -our last home -in Jacksonville with cash so we would have no mortgage payment going into retirement. God had others plans. And He has provided for us.

My husband will start chemo next week. Our lives will be much different. But I look forward to a sweet time.

There have been many silver linings in all of this. I have seen God’s providence. Had there not been this “pandemic” our two daughters would not have been free to come help us as they have. We have seen amazing things with these two girls. Young women. Their love and care for their dad and me has been overwhelming. From cooking, packing, and making phone calls for me to massaging feet, taking vitals and tracking meds and food for their dad, they have been here for us. I could never have done it without them.

Our sons, too, have poured out love and help on us. Our oldest with his nursing skills has been a comfort to lean on, traveling back and forth from Tampa, which is NOT a hop, skip, and jump away.   The younger son, thankfully working a new job, maintains constant contact and cheers us up. A few weekends ago they were all at our house in Bham. It was the first time we had all been together in over 13 years.

Silver linings and blessings from God.

 

 

That’s Good

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My Juliette – 2019

Back on April 5th, the prompt for NaPoWriMo  was quite complicated.

“It’s called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. The challenge is to use/do all of the following (the list followed)  in the same poem. Of course,  if you can’t fit all twenty projects into your poem, or a few of them get your poem going, that is just fine too!”

I got most of them in. Stuff like: Begin the poem with a metaphor. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”.   Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person. Use a phrase from a language other than English. And a bunch more.

Here’s the final product:

That’s Good

today is a loaf of bread
the sky’s fresh-baked goodness calls out
and lures you, Juliette, to come and play
to Siesta Key’s pure white sand
today is a pie
it’s chocolate-pecan-apple all over
today is a mere slice of bread
just a taste of life in the sun
I closed my eyes and you were gone, Juliette
it gave me the frissons
the tender band of hope reached out
but it didn’t touch
Juliette, you soar above the ocean
you will rise above us all
Mae watches helplessly
knowing you will come down
but not knowing where
your jellied wings will melt
Ca c’est bon
the pie speaks of love
the bread rises again 

Four boys born in the days of COVID-19

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I know four little boys born within about a week of each other. Each one precious in the sight of the Lord. Each one with families who love them. It keeps reminding me that yes, life goes on.

First is Ryker, born to a young man, Jarrod, whom I have known since he was about nine months old.  He holds a special place in my heart. Jarrod has had a lot of ups and downs in his life, but he is now a wonderful father who is following Christ.

Next is Elijah. His daddy is also special to me because I got to know him as we went through the new members class at our church. Then he got married and is now a father of two. Elijah’s mommy, if she has her way, will be sure he grows up to be a Harry Potter fan. 🙂

Born the same day as Elijah, Henry is sorta related by marriage. Henry was born with a fairly severe birth defect and has already undergone one surgery with flying colors. I’ve known Henry’s daddy since he was a boy and he, too, has grown into a fine young man.

The last one is closest to my heart. My niece, Ella, had baby Wyatt at only 27 weeks. He weighed two pounds, 10 ounces. I love every picture I see and can’t wait to meet him.

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I was cast upon You from birth.
From My mother’s womb
You have been My God. -Psalm 22:10

 

In this time of fear and uncertainty, we can be sure of one thing:

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble. – Psalm 9:9

 

Except for that pesky virus…

Hurricane  Andrew

from Los Angeles Times

 

August, 1992, was when we moved from Orange Park to Lake Wales, Florida. The  second week there our youngest celebrated her third birthday. Then south Florida was hit by Hurricane Andrew. Though it was south of us, it was frightening watching it unfold on the news, tracking its path, just in case. Which is what we always do in Florida.

 

“Except for that pesky hurricane, Andrew, the summer of 1992 was magic.” – Rick Bragg

 

Today we are once again watching a story unfold that is bigger in scope than the hurricane. It sometimes seems distant, this coronavirus, but not for long. Most times it seems like it’s at our doorstep. But, we couldn’t stop the hurricane, or all the other hurricanes, so we just prepared the best we could. Same as today.

In 2004, we hunkered down with our newlywed son and his bride when Charley came barreling toward us. This time it was one day before that youngest daughter’s birthday. And the same day our older daughter arrived home from overseas, landing in Orlando in the midst of the chaos.

That was the year that three hurricanes crossed over our home in Winter Haven. Charley – Frances – Jeanne.  Ivan also hit Florida north of us.

I don’t really know what point I’m making here except that I am grateful God has brought us through all these storms. I am praying he will bring my family safely through this current storm. I want to be able say, like Rick Bragg, that except for that pesky virus, the spring of 2020 was magic.

 

Bookcase Browsings #6

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Boy and Dog Snuggled in Blanket (C. 1925) – from Norman Rockwell’s American Children by Marian Hoffman

“William’s mother always said, ‘The illness just has to run its course.’ This may have been true, but there were comforts that could be provided to help pave the way to better health.” 

In the front of this book there is an inscription:

To Papa Graham  

From Benji

Christmas Eve Dec. 24, 1990

My dad really enjoyed this book and I plan to pass it on, or back, to the giver, my son, Ben. I love the picture above. It reminds me of my Ruby and what a comfort she is. I don’t need to be sick to enjoy her snuggles. Of course, she benefits, too, as she gets to be on the soft, comfy bed.

I wish we could just say coronavirus “just has to run its course”. In a way it does, but it’s not a JUST when it’s affecting someone you love. Hang in there,work and pray, get your sunshine and fresh air, and snuggle your pet.

Bookcase Browsings #2: Vicar’s Writers

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Two of the best years of my teaching career were spent at Landrum Middle School in Ponte Vedra, Florida. I taught English and social studies to a fun group of gifted sixth graders. They taught me a lot, also. I was so fortunate to have a fantastic support group of parents who even set up field trips for us. I also had an Irish co-teacher who was the cool one and kept us all laughing.

In my second year, one of my students from the previous year came to me to ask if I would sponsor a writing club. I was so excited because she had caught the “writing bug” and I couldn’t be happier. Her mother helped out by bringing in a seasoned writer from the area, Ann Sims. She was a senior citizen who gave of her time to advise and encourage my little group of aspiring authors. Her book, Family Secrets, can still be purchased via amazon.

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I found my copy still on a shelf, not packed yet, and remembered she had signed it.

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I looked up Ann, only to find out she passed away in 2015. The interesting thing was I learned she grew up in Bessemer, AL, right where we are now! Her obituary tells of how she was a stewardess before she married, then years later she and her husband were early members of Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra. She was a Presbyterian and in her later years she played bridge and acted. I think I’d could look to her as an example for how to spend my later years. I think we could have been friends if I’d known her better back then.

 

“When I was young I longed to see the fullness of God’s face…God’s reflection is the essence of family. Now I understand.” – excerpt from God’s Reflection by Ann Sims

Bookcase Browsings #1: Main Street Baptist Church of Auburndale

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We are unloading our bookcases as a first step in our preparing to move. It is a slow process for me as I’m TRYING to get rid of a few books but that’s a super hard thing for me. Then I come across yearbooks, church directories, school anthologies and other such items that make me pause and travel down memory  lane.

Pictured above is the cover of an old church directory, circa 2001. The first page shows the “staff”. Of these ten people, four have passed on. The senior pastor, Dr. Jay Wimberly, is the reason we know and love these people. He and his wife, Shirley, were a big part of our lives for many years. They are both gone, but their daughter, Dawn, who directed the music, still lives in the Winter Haven area. Forrest Gilliam is gone – he was a very special man. His loving wife still lives in Winter Haven. He was a paraplegic for many, many years and she took care of him in a way that always drew my great admiration for her. The other one gone, Gene Manning, was a man that I always saw with a smile on his face. He just made me feel good.

Others gone but not forgotten: Mrs. Brown, Roberta, Helen, Mrs. Hendricks, Cheryl, Grace.

The kids who now have kids: Mindy, Katie, Stephen, Tiffany, Laura, Jarrod, Angela, Kyle, Ben.

I’m sure I’ve  missed a few – we haven’t lived in the areas since 2005. But I still count some of these fellow Christians  among my close friends: Tom, Peggy and Mary. I keep up with others via facebook.

Moving is never easy, but I look forward to being just a little closer to some of these old friends in Florida.

 

 

 

There’s Hope For Sure

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Red Mountain Park 2/22/20

 

In the middle of a very rainy winter, when it seems like spring will never come, I welcome the sunshine. I head to Red Mountain Park and am never disappointed. There, amidst the lifeless flora, I can always find some green. Sometimes a flower, even though IMG_7054considered a weed, peeps out below my feet to remind me that spring will come.

I find the abandoned railroad tracks where trees have grown up in the middle.

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When my mind is burdened with thoughts and decisions that need to be made, I can find a calm. Though I return home with those decisions still unmade, the burden seems less. I not only have the assurance of spring, but the assurance that my future is in God’s hands, just like spring.

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See, you can only live one day at a time
Only drive one hot rod at a time
Only say one word at a time
And only think one thought at a time
And every soul is alone when the day becomes night
And there in the dark if you can try to see the light
In the most pitch black shape of the loneliest shadow
Well then you ought to sleep well
‘Cause there’s hope for sure

High Steppin’/The Avett Brothers

 

 

Being upheld

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“Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.” – Psalm 54:4

 

My husband got me a copy of Gordon J. Keddie’s Prayers of the Bible: 366 Devotionals to Encourage Your Prayer Life.  Today I was struck by this verse. I thought of those in my life that God has sent to uphold me, to support , stand by and sustain me. Beginning with my mother, who though we didn’t always agree, she never left me. I think of Marshall Heath who supported Chuck spiritually and arranged for some financial support for us when we went off to Clearwater Christian College. During that time, Ann and Moose Wacker also gave us financial support and sent encouraging letters, one of which I came across recently that brought them back to my mind.

Years later, Chuck’s Aunt Amy did the same when we moved to Georgia. Her financial help was a reminder of her love for us and support of our ministry. So many others, too, have helped us and loved on us over the years. They have upheld our souls in prayers and in preaching. And God, our ultimate Helper, has allowed us to to the same for a few others along the way.