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Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Foursome . . . And Then There Was One

For nearly 70 years the two couples were friends, family, a foursome knit together by common experience, by love, by friendship, by blood.

The two men, brothers, were born just 11 1/2 months apart. Arlyn, the older of the two was a sickly child. Although the two boys started school one year after the other, because of Arlyn's illnesses they were soon in the same class and remained so until they graduated from high school.

The girls, Dorothy and Jessie, met and became friends in 7th grade when Dorothy came to the "central school" in town from her one room country school. While in high school, the two girls worked together one summer in a laundry. They walked many--MANY--blocks from the house where they boarded with Dorothy's aunt and uncle to the laundry. On the way to and from work, they passed a Catholic church. The unfamiliar sound of the nuns chanting morning prayers unsettled them a little. At the laundry they each had their own set of duties, one ran a mangle that pressed the sheets and the other ironed uniforms.

High school passed quickly and graduation was before them. At their class night before graduation, they did a skit that showed Arlyn married to Dorothy and Floyd married to Jessie and living in a duplex. The skit proved to be a self-fulling prophecy. Floyd and Jessie married first and moved into half a house owned by his parents. When Arlyn and Dorothy married a few months later, they moved into the other half of the house.

While they were sharing the house, the two couples continued their friendship. Both women were pregnant during this season. Jessie gave birth to a son and later Dorothy to a daughter. They crocheted together, visited, and helped each other through the early days of marriage. Each couple created a home side by side with the other to care for their budding families. However, after a few short months their paths took different turns.

Arlyn worked on the family farm and Floyd and Jessie went to Bible school in preparation to go to India as missionaries. Although separated by many miles and different life experiences, when Floyd and Jessie returned from India, they settled again in the same small town where they were born. The two couples continued their long time friendship.

For about 2 weeks each year all four were the same age. Floyd was the youngest of the four and Arlyn was the oldest. Between Floyd's birthday and Arlyn's birthday all four would be the same age, then Arlyn would turn a year older and it would be another 11 and 1/2 months before they were all the same age again.

Life was busy with raising children and building their businesses. Grandchildren came along. The blessings and the hardships of life happened.

In their declining years the two women often talked on the phone about mutual interests and the men worked together to track their church's finances. When the Arlyn reached the end of his life, Floyd visited him often during the week he was in the hospital. Unable to drive that far, Floyd's son brought him faithfully. After Arlyn came home to be cared for by hospice and his children, Floyd and Jessie continued to visit, once bringing a yummy rotisserie chicken for Arlyn's family for supper.

As Dorothy faced the grief and loneliness of widowhood, Jessie called her with encouraging words and the comfort of her friendship until Jessie's voice became too weak to be heard over the telephone lines.

Now only one of this foursome remains. Arlyn, Jessie, and Floyd have been welcomed to their heavenly home, rejoicing to be with their Savior, rejoicing to be reunited with their loved ones. Dorothy remains, longing for her husband especially, missing the other dear ones who've gone before. One day the foursome will be reunited and together they will worship the Savior they loved all their lives long. Until then, Dorothy's family cherishes the days and hours they have with her.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Trusting Heart

          ”Jump!  I’ll catch you.”
          The smell of sawdust and freshly cut lumber permeated the air. Mooing of cows provided a background symphony. My father and brother were building an addition onto our barn.  I was sitting on the edge of the hayloft, my eyes wide, and stubborn in my fright.
          Below me stood my brother arms outstretched ready to catch me. He is 14 years older than I am, and by this time he was a strong young man and fully able to catch me and put me safely on the ground.  I was afraid. I sat on the edge for several minutes.  He tried to coax me into his arms, I thought about it; I started to jump and then pulled back. I thought about it some more.  He was so sure, but I wasn’t.  What if he missed?  What if I knocked him over? What if . . . ? It was just too risky.
          I never did jump. Somehow we found a way for me to climb down which took much longer, I’m sure, but it was “safe.” 
          God says the same thing to us sometimes, “Jump! I’ll catch you!” He is big enough and strong enough and wise enough to call all the shots, and yet sometimes we don’t trust.  We wonder if God is really big enough, if He will really keep if promises. Bad things happen after all and God does allow them, what if . . .?
          Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (nicknamed Rack, Shack, and Benny by Veggie Tale lovers) were up against a situation that required them to JUMP! King Nebuchadnezzar built a statue 90 feet high and decreed that everyone had to bow down to it. Rack, Shack, and Benny couldn’t. They were good Jewish boys who loved God and wanted to obey Him. Yaweh's law said that they could bow to no one save Him. They refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar. 
          King Nebuchadnezzar was not a nice man. In the past when he was displeased with people he had chopped them up into little pieces and made their houses into dung piles. Going up against this man doesn’t sound particularly appealing. Why not just bow down? They could bow on the outside and make it look good, but keep worshiping God at home, right? No, they needed to obey God. God said, “Don’t worship any image.” 
          Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t bow down and others noticed and reported them to the King. He was angry, in fact the Bible says he was “furious with rage” and ordered them to be thrown into a fiery furnace that had been heated seven times hotter than usual. I love Rack, Shack, and Benny’s response, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
          The King had them thrown in. The soldiers who threw them in were killed from the heat. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the furnace and later they emerged from the fire. Alive. The Bible says, “They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them”  (Daniel 3:27).
          Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego obeyed God. They jumped when God said to and He caught them.
          In the distance you could hear the sound of waves, an ocean breeze hit our faces, the sun was hot overhead, and the screech of seagulls filled the air. Anna and I were at the playground at Harvey Cedars and her toy camera had stopped working.  She asked me to fix it.  Secretly I wasn’t sure I could, but hoped I wouldn’t disappoint this little 2 ½ year-old little blonde angel. I started to take the camera, but she held on. I said, “Anna, you’ll have to let go and let me take it if you want me to fix it.” Immediately she let go, and thankfully I was able to fix it. 
          I didn’t trust my brother to catch me. I looked for my own way out of my predicament, but I’ve always wished I’d trusted him instead. Rack, Shack, and Benny trusted God. Anna trusted me. 
          Job goes through loss and heartache and stress that we can only begin to imagine.  In the end God says, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?  Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (Job 38:2-3 NIV).  Then God proceeds to remind Job through a series of questions of just who He is.  He reminds Job of His power, His wisdom, His care of His creation, of His faithfulness, and His constancy. In the end, Job recognizes the sovereignty of God. He acknowledges God’s right to call all the shots. 
          Trust . . . are you willing to trust God? Are you willing to take the hard and difficult things of your life to God and place them in His hands? How easily we define God by how our circumstances look rather than look at the truth of who God is and seek to understand our circumstances from His perspective. 
          Are you willing to trust God with all of the stuff of your life – big and little, painful and easy? God doesn’t fix our lives until we place all the “stuff” that troubles us in His hands.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Jubilee List

A year ago, I faced one of those big birthdays, you know the ones that end in a zero. As the day grew closer and closer, I felt more and more distress. Then, through the influence of others, I made a choice to turn this year that I was dreading into one of celebration and trying new things. So, I made a list of 50 things that I would love to accomplish before my next birthday in 2015. I didn't finish all 50, but I did finish many of them.

1. I had red cake for my birthday.
2. I opened an IRA.
3. I launched a coaching practice.
4. I visited a butterfly garden . . . with my dear friend Anne.
5. I went to Friendly's with my Mom.
6. I met my dear friend Valerie at Cracker Barrel to catch up after too many years apart.
7. I received a book of memories and kind words of affirmation.
8. I had a steak dinner at Texas Roadhouse.
9. I completed a scrapbook of spiritual lessons I had learned over the last 10-ish years.
10. I had a free birthday meal at Denny's with my Mom.
11. I got a kinda smart phone (although it's turned out to not to be as smart as I thought it was :)
12. I found shoestring licorice (Not easy to find, but I found some at Yankee Candle Headquarters).

13. Saw the ocean also with my dear friend Anne.
14. I finished crocheting a purple baby blanket.
15. I went to Applebee's with my sister Karen. (Although we see each other often, it's rare for us to do something fun, just the two of us.)
16. Met my sister Lucy at my Mom's house for a visit.
17. Completed the Christian Coaching 201 course.
18. Watched the Gilmore Girls series from start to finish.
19. Completed a Grief Coaching course.
20. Had a Bones season 8 marathon with my twin nieces.
21. Replenished my supply of purple ink pens. (Not easy to find.)
22. Made apple towels for my kitchen.
23. Made patriotic towels for my kitchen.
24. Had a picnic and rode a carousel with 5 of my nieces.
25. Read the Kathy Reichs "Temperance Brennan" series through the last completed book (#17)
26. I learned to make a ripple afghan - baby sized.
27. I crocheted a brown and tan afghan for myself that I had wanted to make for years.
28. Had a Christmas party with some of my nieces.
29. Gave my wardrobe a style makeover.
30. I wrote an e-book. Now it needs to be edited and published.
31. I made a pot roast meal.
32. I learned to make spiral scarves.
33. Worked on my "Sometimes When I am Down" scrapbook.

The remaining items on my list, will be rolled over to this year, because they are still things I want to do. There are family members that I wanted to spend time with, do something fun with and didn't get to. There are changes I want to make, books I want to read, and projects to be completed that I still want to complete.

Even though I didn't finish all 50 items on my list, I am happy for the 33 I did accomplish, for the new experiences, for skills learned, for people I spent time with. My Jubilee List helped to add some spice and pizzazz to what had the potential to be a depressing year.

Onward and forward to finishing my last 17 items on this list, plus some others that I want to add on for the coming year.

What fun new thing(s) have you tried in the last year?