Pleasant Places

Today my heart is once again clinging to God and His Word for strength, help and comfort.

Elias, our 22 month old grandson, is a fighter. He has been since he was born.

  • Born at 24 weeks and 5 days, after his water world broke at 22 weeks
  • He was in the NICU for 116 days
  • He was born with CMV which led to microcephaly and cerebral palsy
  • He exudes more joy than most of us on our best days
  • He is a miracle whom God rescued

Now another challenge has confronted him. He has cancer—rhabdomyosarcoma—behind his left eye to be specific. Of the two strands, his is the one less threatening, but still serious. He had a biopsy of his protruding left eye revealing a 1” tumor intertwined with nerves and blood vessels—inoperable. The pressure in his eye threatens glaucoma.

God rescued him yet again. Heather happened to read the story of a little boy who’s eye started bulging. It turned out he had this same cancer hiding behind the eye. After reading it, Heather thought Elias’ eye looked a little bulged. Her doctors all said to watch it and see if it changed. Most likely it was just swollen with allergens.

Had she not read this story we may not have noticed the threat as quickly. She has tried to go and find this article to no avail. Could it be God was leading her in a miraculous way?

Elias will have to do many more hard things to fight this beast. One happened yesterday when they inserted an NG tube through his right nostril. To say he didn’t like it would be an understatement! I am grateful I wasn’t there to experience his protest. Nana has limits. The good part of this, Elias will get all the nutrition he needs to gain some weight before chemo begins. It is also giving Heather the first break from around the clock feeds since he was born.

What’s next? Tomorrow he will have a bone marrow biopsy as well as a spinal to see if there are any cancer cells hiding there. He will also have a PET scan.

A two week hospital stay is likely this time. And once again we wait.

But God! He is not absent or indifferent. While I can’t say why He allows these things to happen. I can say that He has rescued little Elias for a reason. His joy is infectious, ask anyone who has followed his story—and there are many! He has shown us all how to keep going making the most of each day.

I love this little guy so much.

The Lord impressed Psalm 16:5-6 on me yesterday at church:

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
‭‭- Psalm‬ ‭16:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

My circumstances are not the boundary lines around me. If they were it would be hard to agree with David that my lines are pleasant places. No. God has also said in His Word that He goes before me and behind me. HE is the lines that surround me giving me boundaries of His grace. I can rest knowing He’s my Shepherd no matter what threatens.

Indeed, the lines have fallen in Pleasant Places!

If you would like to help, our oldest daughter set up a Go Fund Me campaign to provide for their many needs in the months to come.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/elias-angel-fight-cancer

Interviews

I’ve had two recent interviews that I need to share with you. They were both significant moments where time seemed to stand still as I listened to myself answer questions from across the screen or room. Stories of the last three years and God’s faithfulness in each step.

The first interview was with my husband. A friend who hosts a podcast, Counseling Over Coffee, asked if we would be willing to share what it’s been like to have a grandchild with special needs. I like what her daughter, who has two boys on the spectrum called him, not disabled, but different-abled. Elias has continued to surpass expectations. We had so much to share our interview quickly became a two-episodes. You can hear the first interview here.

The second interview was unexpected and one of those “connect-the-dots of God’s faithfulness to me” moments.

Norah is our second oldest grand-daughter. She will be 15 next month which in itself is huge! Almost three years ago she battled a wicked disease called PANDAS. It is a miracle she has survived these past three years. Most of you are aware of this part of her life. If not, you can read it here.

She was given an 8th grade assignment to interview a grandparent. She came up with all the questions and asked them to me over Facetime. We got off to a good start…

“What year we’re you born?” 1959.

“Where were you born?” Orlando.

“How do you come to know Jesus?” This is when time seemed to slow to a crawl.

I realized Norah was asking me all the questions I regretted never asking my own grandmother. She died when I was 19. I was her youngest so she was 90 and had lived a full life. I just didn’t hear the answers to these questions until she had died.

I regretted my missed opportunity. How I wished time had slowed in that season of my life to ask such questions.

“How did you and Papa meet?“ We met at a Jesus Festival held here in Orlando.

“Have you ever seen God do a miracle?” Yes! I’m talking to her now!

Just this exchange was a moment—me sharing with her the miracle we both saw from two different perspectives.

“What gifts has God given you?” In 1989 God impressed on me that He had given me a gift of writing. He said He wanted me to keep a journal. And I’m still writing to this day—I am currently on my 78th journal.”

“You have 78 journals?” I do. I realized that writer’s write and God wanted me to learn how to write by writing. She smiled.

Through all my years of journaling I learned how to write, and this allowed me to finally write my grandmother’s story in my book titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace. It took me 12 years, and my Mom was the first to read it. To say it was my life-long dream would be an understatement. I have recorded with words the story I never took the time to discover when she was alive. But God helped me uncover it one question at a time.

What questions come to mind when you consider the story of your life? Do your children know the answers? Do your grandchildren? I encourage you to write them down so when they finally think to ask, the answers will be available for them to discover.

Hands

Hands are a vital part of our bodies, Most of us have two with one being dominant. We don’t realize how vital they are until we can’t use one or both. My friend Bonnie has been recovering from a severe injury making one hand unusable for the last few weeks. She’s in a real pickle. (Pun intended to make her smile).

Our hands are used to grab things, sort things, signal others as they come or go. But this week our hands are doing something I’ve grown accustomed to, but don’t like.

Our hands are letting go.

Our cabin in Banner Elk, NC, will soon belong to someone else. We know this is God’s leading and our hearts are at peace. But the actual moment of locking the door and driving away will be fraught with tears.

Letting go is an act of faith. It’s believing that there is something new to embrace that we can’t yet see. Our hands must be open to receive in the same way they must be open to give.

Have you also had to let go of something you enjoyed? Even when you didn’t know why?

This is where our faith is evident, because it’s based on that which we can’t see. We prove our trust in God knowing that He sees the beginning from the end. He knows all the days marked out for us. Time is in His hands alone.

So as we drive away tomorrow and wave goodbye, we will keep our hands opened to embrace what’s next.

Tears

I began the following post during the holidays. I’m just now sharing it with you…

We are doing what we usually do this time of year…driving to visit our kids and grandkids who live out of town. We spent Christmas with our son in Tennessee, and now we’re heading to spend New Year’s with our daughter in Georgia.

Today, driving backroads through North Georgia, we came to an historical marker that has significance in my family.

The Trail of Tears.

It begins in South Carolina and meanders it’s way to Oklahoma—formerly known as Indian Territory until 1907 when Oklahoma became a state.

The deal was that Indians would forfeit the land they knew and loved in exchange for 160 acres of deeded land in Indian Territory, west of the Mississippi River.

My ancestors reluctantly made the trek, but due to controversies within the tribe they broke off and settled in Texas. Horn Hill to be specific.

Many indigenous people died on this trail, thus the name. But many made it to their “promised land”. Although they had many tears too.

I don’t like change.

I can’t imagine a group of settlers telling me that what was once mine is no longer so. I must now relocate to and unknown land and start anew. Yet this is what thousands of indigenous peoples did. They had no choice but to take the next step.

My grandfather and great-grandfather ended up with two 160 acre plots of land east of Jenks, Oklahoma. Their names were recorded on the Dawes rolls.

Such a legacy. I would love to hear their take on this process. I do know that they eventually mortgaged their allotted land to invest in citrus in Central Florida. It was their next step.

They moved here in 1922 and never looked back. They even allowed their land to foreclose because they loved Florida so much more.

What is the next step in your family’s journey? It may involve lots of tears, but may also come with lots of hope for a brighter tomorrow. All we can do is take the next step in faith trusting in God who leads us into His perfect plan.

Crickets

Such an interesting word with multiple meanings.

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.

What sounds or smells take you back in time?

My Word for 2022

This year my word came slowly as I contemplated what God was currently saying to me. I was impressed, “Let Me take you deeper into My love and My joy for My pleasure.

Deeper – Honestly this word scares me a bit.

But if I’ve learned one thing through the past few years it’s that I can trust God to be with me every step no matter what comes.

Deeper means I will discover things I’ve never seen before; like a scuba diver is privileged to see wonders others can’t see, what will I learn in this deeper place?

Deeper means I will learn new things about God’s character.

Deeper means that I will hear God’s heart for the world around me and hopefully be moved as He is moved.

Deeper means my roots will be anchored in cool wells of the spring water of the Word, bringing healthier fruit.

Charles P. Jones wrote a hymn in 1900 titled, Deeper, Deeper. Following our country’s Civil War. This inspired a new focus on struggles and hardship in his life seeing them as a means to relate to Christ in His sufferings for us.

Deeper, deeper! blessed Holy Spirit,
Take me deeper still,
Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus,
And His perfect will. [Refrain]. Deeper, deeper! tho’ it cost hard trials,
Deeper let me go!
Rooted in the holy love of Jesus,
Let me fruitful grow. [Refrain]”

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 ESV (emphasis mine)

The Holy Spirit lives within me, and He can lead me to a deeper knowledge of and love for God.

I plan to read through Charles Spurgeon’s, Beside Still Waters, and allow this famous preacher, who was himself familiar with pain, suffering and hardship to speak to me.

I pray I won’t be the same next New Year’s Day.

My Christmases Past

It was an annual event in our home. It happened every summer, but it’s focus was Christmas.

My Dad was a pharmacist and owned his own drug store with everything imaginable for our seasoned shoppers.

There was a jewelry department—with costume jewelry, 14k gold options and sterling silver. They were displayed neatly on velvet lined trays that rotated around the glass case much like a Ferris wheel. Push one button to rotate forward, another to rotate backward. I loved looking at every shiny piece.

We also sold perfume, sunglasses, greeting cards, toys and of course drugs for anything that ailed you.

My favorite was the toy aisle, which is why I had a significant role in our annual summer event.

My parents purchased merchandise for our shelves from The Allen Drug Company. An independently owned drugstore distributor.

Every summer they put on a “wholesale only” trade show for retailers to select what they wanted to make available to their customers for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

My Dad invited me to come and help them purchase toys that kids my age would want. As payment for my expert opinion I was allowed to choose one toy for me.

It was a child’s dream come true.

Some now nostalgic toys that were new to me then:

  • Slinky
  • Gyro wheel
  • Clackers
  • Silly Putty
  • Weaving loom
  • Etch-A-Sketch
  • Lite Brite
  • Easy Bake Oven
  • And so.much.more

My dad also raffled off a giant toy and candy-filled stocking every year to one lucky child.

As a pre-teen I enjoyed gift-wrapping the items our customers purchased, a free service. We had a giant roll of red striped paper on a steel cutting wheel that worked much like a roll of aluminum foil does today.

We had a new contraption that made bows in no time. With lots of ribbon choices, each gift was a unique work of art. I loved creasing the corners and taping the gift perfectly. I still enjoy wrapping gifts today as much as I did then.

Remembering my Christmases past has been a delight to behold. What memories do you have of Christmases past?

It’s Sunday

Of all the things my parents instilled in me, it’s the love of the local church and commitment to this community that stands apart.

I have so many memories of our little baptist church in the 60’s; the Sunday School class where I would embarrass myself at the young age of 12 by asking out loud, “What is circumcision?” The snickers from the guys in my class and the speechless response of my teacher let me know I shouldn’t have asked THAT question.

I was involved on Sunday nights too, with youth choir and the evening service. What my parents lacked in talking to me about my growth in God, they made sure I heard of it on a regular basis from these faithful stewards of God’s Word I. Our church.

I remember asking my Dad to walk with me down the aisle at the age of 10 (fifty two years ago this week). I felt God calling me and I was afraid. His presence gave me the confidence I needed to go forward, “Just As I Am”. Today would have been my dad’s 99th birthday. He’s been with Jesus now for 18 years and I miss still.

My grandmother (Grace) and my Mom were faithful to pray for me. I am reaping the benefits of those prayers even though they’ve both been gone from this life for a long time.

This gives me motivation to pray for my own children and grandchildren as often as it comes to mind. My prayers will outlive me for they circle the Throne of God as “incense before Him” as it says in Revelation 5:8.

The pandemic has caused many to abstain from going to their church’s service. Online capabilities has made it easier than ever to be a couch Christian. Oh, but what we miss when we neglect to gather.

Our pastor often says, “You never know what you’ll miss if you don’t come!” So true!

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Who knows what questions (even the embarrassing ones) are waiting to be asked and remembered for a lifetime. It’s all part of my story. We now have the privilege of being part of the story of others, unless we neglect this privilege.

May your Sunday find you seeking God and asking or answering good questions

A Letter To My Teenage Self

Today’s prompt is to answer this question: What would you say to your teenage self based on what you know today?

When I was a teen I thought I knew a lot about life and how it worked. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I would say to myself—take it easy and enjoy the process. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. You don’t even have to be in control. You never will be anyway!

I would say—God is leading every step you take, even when His footprints are unseen. What you can’t see you don’t know, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.

I would say—take time and talk to your grandmother. When she gave you her ring when you were 16, pause and ask her the story behind why she was doing this. You won’t have much longer with her, and you will regret not knowing what you don’t know.

I would say—laugh more at yourself and stop taking what everyone thinks of you so seriously. What really matters is what God says about you. Focus on Him and all the other stuff will dim in comparison.

Relax.

Embrace every high and low of the road ahead. These are the lessons that will carry you to maturity.

Read your Bible everyday. Not because you have to but because you don’t know what you don’t know. This is the place to begin discovering those answers.

Be grateful, humble and kind. Everyone has a story. And friendship is the key to unlocking them. It begins with a smile and asking good questions. It takes being a good friend to have good friends. You never know what you don’t know until you ask.

This is my 29th post in The Ultimate Bog Challenge to post everyday in November.

A Personal Breakthrough

Today I had a personal breakthrough.

Normally when it’s time to leave any of my grandchildren I am an emotional mess. My sadness would cling to me for weeks. My poor husband learned to let me grieve the what could have beens and trust God to speak to me words of comfort. Everything in him wanted to help me, but he couldn’t. The waves of grief surrounding my broken heart were too big for human rescue. I needed God.

Today He broke through! As we huddled together with our daughter, son-in-love and four precious grandkiddos, in what our family calls “the group hug”, an amazing thing happened; there was only laughter—no tears.

But God.

Maybe it’s because we know the separation is only temporary. Lord willing, we will make more memories. But even if we don’t due to some unforeseen circumstance, this thing I know, we will have no regrets. We have shared our love and made memories that will last long after we are gone.

Maybe it’s because of the trauma our family has faced, making these goodbyes seem like gifts, not punishments.

And maybe, just maybe it’s because God is maturing me to trust Him with the things that are precious to me. I no longer hold tightly to those I love, but I hold tighter to God who holds them faithfully better than I ever could.

I remember getting on my knees one morning and desperately asking God to help me let go of my last child who was moving to Arkansas to start her new life as a Mrs…

“Dear God,

I humbly bow my knee in surrender to Your Lordship in my life. And I choose to worship You with joy, trusting in Your faithfulness to me and to them.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

It didn’t happen over night. I have prayed this prayer countless times in desperate moments. Times when the rising tide of my emotions attempted to take me out to sea.

But God.

He has been and will always be the anchor of my soul. I experienced a calm today as I walked out of my daughter’s front door. I expected stormy seas and instead found beautiful trade winds.

But God!

This is my 28th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.