Yesterday finally happened. We’ve waited for over two years to honor her the way she deserved.
Julienne L. Walter born 6/30/39, died 3/20/20.
Right at the start of the pandemic she breathed her last in this life. We were sad at the distance (CA) and our inability to gather as a family to celebrate her life.
Grandma Jill, as our kids called her, loved life and laughter. She loved to shop and find little gifts to bless those she loved. She loved being a Mom and a Grandma, and she did them all well. We lovingly called her our “Bonus Mom” because she added so much joy to our lives.
I’d be remiss to not mention her dog, Genna. She was her pride and joy. She also loved good music—Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman were two of her absolute favorites.
We moved Tom’s Dad, her loving and devoted husband of 40+ years, to FL 6 months after she died. But it wasn’t until yesterday, the week of her 83rd birthday that we finally had our moment as a family to gather.
A long-time family friend and retired Bishop, Lou Campese, led the service under the pavilion at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. If you’ve never been there, it is a version of Arlington in Washington DC. Only approved veterans are honored there in memoriam, and since Tom’s Dad is retired from the US Army Reserves, he and his wife were accepted to be buried there.
A side note, when they were living in CA, Dad was honored to be accepted with burial privileges at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego. This is where the original Top Gun movie was filmed.
It took some time to get approved to move his burial privileges from California to Florida. But as soon as he was approved, the plans for yesterday we’re made.
What an honor bestowed on all who have served our country heroically. You can feel the hushed reverence as you drive through the cemetery, passing row upon row of marble grave markers standing at attention to honor the ground where these heroic men and women lay.
Jill, we are happy you are at rest. We love you and thank God for the blessing you were to all of us. May you be remembered in the hearts of all who knew you and loved you. Until we meet again…
We are blessed to have a week at the beach. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this kind of down time together. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to remember.
Whenever I come to the beach I’m reminded of a story I heard as a teenager back in the 70’s.
My friends and I had fallen in love with Jesus. We would often drive the 45 minutes to the beach in my little yellow VW bug, Sunny. He may not have had air conditioning, but I had installed a great stereo with huge speakers. I added long enough wire so I could set them on top of Sunny while we laid on blankets soaking in the sunshine. What a memory.
Barry McGuire had recently come to love Jesus too. He shares a simple story about dolphins, and today I want to share it with you. Take some time and listen.
Then follow this by listening to the song, Callin Me Home. The video photos are captivating and the lyrics beautiful. Happy Monday
I was born in Orlando 12 years before Mickey literally came and welcomed the world to us. I’ve seen changes and met many people from other countries who love coming here because of him.
One of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World is called, It’s A Small World, where little wooden dolls, that are dressed in customary clothing for their country, dance, twirl and sing along with the ride’s theme song. If you’ve been here you’re most likely singing it now and will be for the rest of the day. Sorry.
But seriously I’m not sorry. Our world has become smaller to us personally.
We have had two pastors staying with us for this past week attending the International Grace Partnership Conference that happens every February at our church. One, has been a dear friend since 2016 when we first met him and his beautiful wife. Their home is far away, but our hearts are bound together like family.
Their home is Ukraine. The invasion of Russia began while they were asleep in our guest rooms. Each morning since, we awake to hear if their families made it safely through the night. We thank God over coffee for another safe night for them.
We have laughed together when we heard of how a gypsy band managed to steal a Russian tank by towing it away with their tractor.
We have cried together seeing his wife in a bomb shelter with a smile on her face as she sorts warm clothes and blankets for refugees passing by their town on the way to Poland.
Such a strong community, people and nation who have grown to love freedom these last 30 years, as I have all of my life.
We don’t know what the future holds for them. But My husband and I are grateful to have been able to offer them comfort, prayers and hearty meals at such a time as this.
If you would like to help you can donate through Grace Partnership and designate it’s for Ukraine. All money will go to Hosanna church in Rivne supplying food, clothing and shelter to the refugees passing through their town in western Ukraine. Every little bit helps.
Most of all, pray for an end to this evil attack on Ukraine. They love their freedom as we do. They have families and jobs as we do. They are like we are, but facing insurmountable odds to stay so. I pray we will all come together to help in their time of need.
Realizing more than ever…it is a small world after all.
Crickets are insects that sing at night by rubbing their wings together to make the familiar sound.
Cricket is also a game played using bats and balls.
Finally crickets are what is heard when someone isn’t answering your texts.
But crickets to me are a trigger back to my childhood days.
My grandparents lived on 12 acres of orange groves in the small town west of Orlando called Clermont. The trees blossomed in the winter filling the air with the sweetest scent of orange blossoms. At night this was accompanied by the sound of crickets—a symphony to my young ears.
My grandfather died when I was only 5. My grandmother when I was 19. But crickets transport me back to the 1960’s every January evening.
I’m not one to love bugs. But crickets are a reminder of days gone by. I can still smell my grandmother’s creamed corn simmering on her stove; my grandfather’s freshly refilled pipe billowing in the air as he puffs on it long and slow.
As a kid I didn’t realize how these ordinary moments were carving an indelible memory in my mind.
I’m 62 and just went for a walk after dinner. The crickets joined me and took me back in time. I miss those days, but I’m so grateful for the memories.
Crickets – they represent silence to some, but to me they echo memories loud and clear.
It has been a season of loss for many, including myself. When I got the following article from Desiring God Ministries, it hit a chord in my heart that has resonated ever since. I pray it will do the same for you, but you must read it to the end. Otherwise, the article will leave you in a place of sadness, and I never want to do this for someone who is grieving.
Merry Christmas to all of you! May this serve as a gift from our table to yours. 🎄
Christmas With An Empty Chair
By Greg Morse
My grandfather is no longer here for Christmas.
I scarcely remember one without him, and yet now his absence is becoming the new normal. We no longer gather in his living room to read Luke’s account of Jesus’s birth, sing “Joy to the World,” open presents together, or eat the Christmas dinner he prepared. His chair, once so full of fondness, infectious laughter, and gentlemanly repose, now sits silent, full of memories.
A new sensation now dines with me during my favorite time of year. As the dining table crowds with new faces, new grins, and new babies, nostalgias of past Christmases unfold in the background. Here, more than at any other place or time, days past and days present meet. Here I behold fresh holiday scenes with old eyes. So much is the same, and so much is different.
Loss has made me older.
I look around the table at the bright eyes of the children, and see a joy unburdened. The Christmas they have known is the same today. They can’t see what their parents see. They cannot detect the soft-glowing faces or hear the unspeaking voices. To them, chairs aren’t empty, they’re yet to be filled. They don’t know the ache in our celebration, the wounds that never fully heal.
I now know Christmas as my grandfather had for years — as a mixture of gladness and grief, gratitude and regret, Christmas now and Christmas then. I could not discern the others who dined with us around the table from another life ago — parents, friends, his beloved wife. I never realized his Christmases filled with more than just that single Christmas. I now see the unspoken dimension. I better understand that weathered smile, brimming fuller, yet sadder than once before.
Suffice it to say, Christmases these days aren’t quite the same.
Out with the Old?
With this new experience of Christmas with an empty chair, comes certain threats and temptations.
Jesus once warned about sewing a piece of new cloth onto an old garment; or putting new wine into old wineskins. The wineskins might burst, he taught; the cloth might tear. But here we are. In the mind of the man or woman who has lost, the new is patched with the old; new wine pours into old family wineskins.
Perhaps you can relate. The pressure of sitting and eating and singing where he or she once sat and ate and sang can tear at the heart. You may have lost more than a grandfather. The strain of grief you feel around the holidays nearly concusses. The spouse whose name inscribed upon the ornament is no longer here. One stocking is missing. The beloved child you watched run down the stairs Christmas morning has not made it down for some years now. Christmas, this side of heaven, will never be the same.
I do not pretend to know such depths of despair. But I do know twin temptations that greet those of us who have lost someone. I hope that naming them might help you this Christmas.
Past Swallows Present
The first temptation is to the variety of grief that kidnaps us from life today. This bottomless ache comes when we begin to stare and stare at the empty chair. The grief overwhelms all gladness; the past swallows the present. The good that arrives is not the good that once was, so all current cause for happiness becomes spoiled or forgotten.
This is to step beyond the healthy grief and remembrance of our losses. It poisons the heart by entertaining the question the wise man bids us not to: “Say not,” he warns, “‘Why were the former days better than these?” For, he continues, “it is not from wisdom that you ask this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). This grief poisons the what is with the what used to be. It hinders the ability to go on.
Grief threatens to lock us in dark cellars of the past, keeping us from enjoying the child playing on the floor or the new faces around the table.
Second is the temptation to bow to the over-the-shoulder guilt bearing down on us. Lewis captures this in A Grief Observed:
There’s no denying that in some sense I “feel better,” and with that comes at once a sort of shame, and a feeling that one is under a sort of obligation to cherish and foment and prolong one’s unhappiness. (53)
“The empty chair can threaten to overwhelm all joy in this Christmas or shame us for feeling any joy this Christmas.”
This temptation sees the empty chair frowning at us. “Why aren’t you sadder? How can Christmas still be merry? Didn’t you love him?” The memory, not remaining in its proper place, looms over our shoulder, patrolling our happiness in the present. This shame is a sickness that tempts us to hate wellness.
So, the empty chair can threaten to overwhelm all joy in this Christmas or shame us for feeling any joy this Christmas — both must be resisted.
Melt the Clouds of Sadness
So what do we do? There the empty chair sits.
Fighting both temptations, I need to remind myself: Christmas is not about family around a dinner table, but about Jesus. And Jesus has promised that for his people — for my grandfather — to be absent from the Christmas table is to be present with him.
I ask myself, Should I wish my grandfather back?Would I, if it stood within my power, recall him from that feast, reunite his soul with his ailing body — reclaim him to sickness, loneliness, sin — summon him from the heaven of Christ himself to a shadowy celebration of Christ on earth?
Somedays I half-consider it.
But I know that if I could speak to him now, he wishes me there. The empty chair heaven longs to see filled is not around our Christmas dinner, but the empty chairs still surrounding Christ. Our places are set already. Better life, real life, true life, lasting life lies in that world. That empty chair of our loved ones departed is not merely a reminder of loss, but a pointer to coming gain.
“That empty chair of our loved ones departed is not merely a reminder of loss, but a pointer to coming gain.”
This place of shadows and darkness, sin and Satan, grief and death, is no place yet for that Happy Reunion. The dull Christmas stab reminds me that life is not what it should be, but it can also remind me life is not what it will soon be for all who believe.
Jesus will come in a Second Advent. He will make all things new. Christmases with empty chairs are numbered; these too shall soon pass. And the greatest chair that shall be occupied, the one that shall restore all things, and bring real joy to the world, is Jesus Christ, the baby once born in Bethlehem, now King that rules the universe. He shall sit and eat with us at his eternal supper of the Lamb.
And until then, while we travel through Christmases present and future, I pray for myself and for you,
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!
Our blogging prompt was to share a song lyric that means something to me.
There are too many to even begin to share, so I decided on a twist. I’m sharing the song lyrics I misunderstood as a kid and only recently discovered the correct words. I must admit this is embarrassing, but it’s understandable. I was attached to my record player as a pre-teen. I listened faithfully to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 list every Saturday. Once I heard the #1 song for that week I would get on my bike and ride it to the Five and Dime store (T.G. & Y.) to buy the 45 rpm before it sold out.
Music was my companion and my 10 year old friend’s companion too.
I remember us turning around in circles to the EP version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. Why? Because we were kids and we had nothing better to do. I had a crush on Davy Jones of The Monkees and loved his British accent. My BFF loved Mike Nesmith and his beanie hat. Life was simple for us.
You have to realize we didn’t have Google in the 70’s. If we misunderstood a song lyric, the only way to find out the correct words was to buy the album where the lyrics were printed on the paper sleeve inside the cover. I didn’t have that kind of money, so I improvised, often at the top of my lungs I’m afraid to admit.
I gave my older brother, (who was a huge tease and my biggest nemesis), lots of material to mock me. And mock he did! I can laugh about it now, but as a ten year old I was humiliated more times that I can count.
Songs with lyrics I misunderstood:
“Hold me close I’m tired of dancin…” by Elton John is actually titled, Tiny Dancer, and was released in 1971. The line really says, “Hold me close, tiny dancer.”
“Blinded by the light. Wrapped up like a douche…” by Bruce Springsteen originally, but this version of Blinded By The Light was recorded by Manfred Mann in 1976. The line actually says, “…revved up like a deuce…” A deuce coupe more specifically. A fancy way to describe a sports car.
“I’ll light the fire. You place the flowers in the bras that you bought today.” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Our House was released in 1970. The song has nothing to do with putting flowers in a bra. Haha! As a pre-teen I had never heard the word vase pronounced with an “ahh” sound. The song makes more sense as written, “I’ll light the fire. You place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.” And finally one more…
“Had a F-___ing nightmare, and a little thunder.” I almost didn’t share this one, but this will probably garner the most laughter from you. I know it would have from my brother. Yeah, I really thought that’s what this line said from Steppenwolf’s, Born To Be Wild released in 1968. I have never been one to cuss, so I would always skip this line. I could never understand how the radio station back then was allowed to broadcast such language. It never occurred to me I might have misunderstood the lyrics. The song actually says, “I like smoke and lighting, heavy metal thunder, Racing with the wind, And the feeling that I’m under.” How in the world I came up with those lyrics instead I’ll never know. But I’m grateful to be able to sing the entire song now if I so choose. And with a clear conscience.
I’m curious. Did you ever misunderstand the lyrics to a song? I’d love to hear your embarrassing story–I promise not to mock you. But I might laugh. We can all use some laughter these days.
I remember walking into her disheveled room not sure if she was any good at what she advertised. Her name was Marie Broadmeyer and she was to be my new vocal coach. Although in the 70’s the term was called “voice teacher”.
My Mom had signed both my sister and me up for lessons. We are six years apart; at the time she was 20 and an alto–I was 14 and a soprano. Together we had the sweet harmony that happens when sisters sing together.
Music comes naturally in our family; my Dad’s father had a beautiful baritone voice I’d only heard on a 45 rpm record made of one of his church solos at Roger Williams Baptist Church in Rhode Island. It was rich and soothing as he sang. He always said he loved singing so much he hoped he would die in the church choir. Prophetic, that’s exactly what happened. He gave his final solo performance, sat down in his seat and had a massive heart attack. I barely knew him, but I understood his love of music.
Back to Mrs Broadmeyer.
She was a large, old woman from Germany. Her strong facial features supported her rich contralto voice. We learned she was lauded all over Europe by reading the hundreds of newspaper clippings taped to the faded wallpaper surrounding her baby grand piano.
We had only 30 minutes with her per lesson, so there was no time to hear her story. She had us warm up with vocal stretches that always made me feel self-conscious, but what 14 year old isn’t self-conscious? After she was confident our vocal cords were ready, she would have us sing, O Danny Boy. Her baggy eyes watered as our voices filled the musty room. I used to believe our voices are what brought the emotion, but now I wonder if it wasn’t memories this song brought to mind.
I’ll never know.
Last night I went on-line to see if I could find any information about her life. Was she married? Did she have children? How did she end up in America? Was she born here or did she immigrate? How did this famous soloist end up in a dilapidated row house in downtown Orlando having to squeak out a living by giving voice lessons?
Once again, my immaturity didn’t lend me to ask such questions.
I did find out that she died in 1977 here in Orlando only four years after our time in her living room. She had 4 children, as far as I can tell, the last one dying in 2015. She was born in Germany in 1908 and died in 1977 at the age of only 69. I guess she wasn’t as old as I assumed.
Her husband who was 16 years older, proceeded her in death in 1969. She was widowed only 4 years when we started our weekly visits. I also found several arrival and departure dates of when she sailed to New York Harbor from Europe and vice versa. All in the 50’s confirming her frequent tours to Europe to perform.
This memory was vague as I started to write. But with a little research I was able to piece together quite a story.
Revisiting the lyrics of her beloved song, it seems appropriate to honor her memory with this final verse…
“But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying, If I am dead, as dead I well may be, You’ll come and find the place where I am lying, And kneel and say an Ave there for me. And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me, And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be, For you will bend and tell me that you love me, And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!” – – O Danny Boy
I’m grateful to have known Mrs. Broadmeyer. This ave is for her. May she Rest In Peace.
This is post #12 in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.
Our prompt was to share a time when we stumbled in our lives.
Goodness, this is a hard one to share, but I’ve learned the purpose of stumbling is to help us grow. When shared, it helps others learn from our mistakes. So here goes…
I was 19 and newly married. I had moved from the only home I had ever known to a town I had only visited a few times during my short, five month engagement to Tom Walter.
My grandmother had lived with us for a while before Tom and I got married. She had prayed for my future husband for years. When she met Tom, she loved him and expressed it with food. She made him her chili when she learned how much he loved spicy food.
On one of my trips to Bradenton, I carried a mason jar full of Big Mama’s chili. It was love for him in a jar and it worked. Tom loved her as much as he loved her chili. This recipe still holds a special place in our story. (You can find her recipe under the From My Kitchen tab above).
Just a few months after our wedding, we visited my family only to discover my grandmother was sick. At 90 years old, she was unable to get out of bed. We were home for the weekend but I never went in to see her. I couldn’t bear seeing her frail, so I avoided her. I had no idea this would be my last chance to see her alive.
Just a couple of months later, she died.
I can’t express the regret I felt. I remembered many times as a teen trying to comfort her in her old age. She loved me, her youngest granddaughter, of this I am certain. But I stumbled with the emotion of letting her go. I thought if I ignored it I would get another chance, but I was wrong. So very wrong!
This regret is what fueled my passion to discover and write her story. I have found stumbling happens for a reason; it’s the platform that launches us to a place we would never get to had we not stumbled in the first place.
It’s easy to stand here today in my 60’s and judge my 19 year old response to death and dying, but that’s not fair. I did as much as I was emotionally able to do at the time, and it was for a purpose.￼
God takes our broken pieces and makes them into something special to be treasured—like a stained glass window. Today I’m holding up my broken pieces for you to see. God made something beautiful in spite of my mistakes.
How have you seen your mistakes made into something beautiful?
This is Day 6 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.
Surrender is normally considered a form of weakness. You realize you aren’t going to win, so you decide to surrender before you lose. This happens in Poker, board games or on a more serious note–war.
Surrender is not usually something encouraged. But when it comes to my relationship with God, surrender is not only encouraged, but necessary for me to grow. This is why Christianity is often called the Upside-Down Kingdom. Things aren’t done as we would naturally do them. It takes a lifetime to learn this well.
I love to sing, and hymns are some of my all-time favorites. There are so many ways these hymns speak to my every day needs. Take this familiar hymn titled, I Surrender All. It was written by J.W. Van deVenter (1855-1939). He was a high school art teacher, but when God started stirring his heart to step out in faith into the ministry, he hesitated. Finally, during a revival at his church he surrendered all and became an evangelist.
His greatest influence from the pulpit was a young Billy Graham. They met while Billy was still in seminary. Mr. Graham recounts that he modeled much of his ministry and preaching style after this former art teacher turned evangelist. We make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps. Following is one of Mr. DeVenter’s most popular songs written shortly after he surrendered all with my personal thoughts on each phrase.
All to Jesus
All life is born from our Creator God. Life was His idea and He has faithfully cared for it since the beginning of time. His Son Jesus invites us in to relationship with Him and at age 10 I accepted the call. Grateful doesn’t begin to express how this one decision set my life on a trajectory of goodness and mercy. As I grew in my relationship with Him I realized what was next…
There comes a time in every believer’s life when complete surrender is required. It isn’t a one time fits all kind of surrender. It is a regularly occurring choice to surrender completely my hopes, my dreams, my desires to His plan for me. Sometimes the two are the same, but more times than not, it’s completely unexpected and different from what I would have chosen. Always it is good–whether I see it or not. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Once I’m postured in this way, then…
All to Him I freely give
The key word here is freely–“freely have you received, freely give” as Matthew wrote in chapter 5:8b of his gospel. Jesus never demands what He asks of us. He is patient and understands what we are made of. He knows that our grip on this life is firm. We love what we can see. Loving what we don’t see requires something outside of ourselves; it requires Faith. “Faith is thesubstance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11. Faith is a gift available to all. If you want faith, but lack faith, ask Jesus to help you in your unbelief. He loves us to ask. And only then can we say…
I will ever love and trust Him
This is my daily prayer–to love Him and trust Him more. He is my hope and help on good days and difficult ones too. Our family has endured some very difficult times the last couple of years. I have learned what it means to truly trust Him. I used to say I did, but when life is going as expected it’s hard to tell if one is trusting God or simply resting in the good of life. But when 2019 hit, I was challenged in a way I’ve never experienced. I realized my trust was weak at best. Add to that another challenge with the pandemic, then a grandson born at 24 weeks, 5 days, and my healthy brother dying in only 5 weeks due to complications with Covid. I found that trusting in God was the only safe place where I could collapse. Everything around me was changing drastically; things I had no control over. Yet God reminded me that He is unchanging–always good, always trustworthy. Which allowed me to…
In His presence daily live
I wake up each morning not knowing what the day will bring. I can take that first step in fear or in faith. It’s a choice to love and trust Him. He alone knows what lies ahead of me, and is the One who makes all the difference in how I handle what will happen. Even this blog challenge is a stretch for me in this difficult season of my life, but I had to follow God’s stirring. He wanted me to do this, so I will trust Him.
In high school I was in the Advanced Chorus and Jazz Ensemble. I loved everything about it. Our teacher, Mr. Knepper, was not only an excellent teacher, but he was a prolific composer.
In my junior year he wrote a medley of tunes from each decade from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. It was a 30-40 minute production complete with choreography and matching outfits. It was not only fun, but our audiences loved it too.
We also participated each year in district and state competition. Our ensemble consistently won superior awards which built our confidence. Which lead us to enter solo competition too, including yours truly.
I’ll never forget my song of choice, Joni Mitchell’s, Both Sides Now.
I remember Mr. K telling me so many times, “Sing it like you mean it!” I hadn’t a clue what the song meant; I was only 16 and hadn’t lived enough life to see it all as an illusion.
But today as I cooled off in our pool from pulling weeds, I noticed the clouds.
“Rows and flows of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air.”
I thought of my grandmother and how when I was a child, she would always encourage my imagination by spotting animals in the sky. I loved the game and I loved her attention.
Today, as an aging adult, I see that clouds are so much more than a tool to spawn the imagination of a child.
“But now they only block the sun. They rain and snow on everyone. So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.”
This is one way to look at clouds.
But I see them more as tools to display God’s glory. Some days the clouds are so beautiful I take photos trying to catch the view. I call these “fair weather clouds”
Other times, when a tropical storm or hurricane is nearby, I love watching the clouds race across the darkened sky. And it’s even better when lightning occurs. It’s like watching a symphony take place with a timpani of thunder following the conductor’s lead.
Clouds. They can be peaceful or powerful. Happy or sad.
I’ll never forget seeing the cloud that hung in the air like a memorial over our Central Florida skies when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after takeoff.
Or the beautiful skies on the day the Lord called my brother home to be with him. He loves the song “I’ll Fly Away”, and I marveled at how God filled the sky that day with such glorious fair-weather clouds.
Clouds are beautiful. Joni Mitchell surmised that they were an illusion. She came to this conclusion because they can’t be touched or moved by human hands.
But God! He forms the clouds and has them go and do His bidding. They reflect His character.
Today, He is reminding me He is near even if I’ve yet to touch Him. It’s enough that He has touched my heart bringing faith alive.
Clouds aren’t an illusion, they’re a reflection of who God is. And one glorious day He will return on the same clouds that took Him to Heaven.
“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30 ESV