I had just hung up my mobile phone letting Tom know I was on my way home. I put my phone down as the radio took over when my Bluetooth disconnected.
My phone rang again, but I didn’t recognize the number. I am so glad I answered.
Apparently when I set my phone down I accidentally pushed the emergency sos button. It was the 911 call center calling me to make sure I was ok. I was shocked at what happened and assured him I was fine. He asked my name and confirmed where I was on the road. He seemed ready to rush to my aid. I was a bit embarrassed.
I had no idea iPhone offered this. As I was hanging up the phone, Tom called, but I missed him before he hung up.
He had received the same emergency sos call from my phone with my location. It said, “Debra Walter called her emergency sos from this location.” He was about to dart out the door when I called him back.
He was shaken up thinking I had been in a bad accident, since I didn’t answer him when he called.
I share all this to let you know how this service works. I had no idea! I’m relieved to know it’s so efficient. I felt horrible that I caused my husband such distress, even if it was only a few minutes.
This was only a test of our emergency sos system.
Take away? 1. Don’t take any moment for granted; life is precious. 2. Our iPhone emergency contacts work well! 3. Be sure your phone screen is off before setting your phone down. You never know who you’ll call next!
The year was 1968. I was 9 and loved my new obsession. They were the hot new gadget that every kid collected. They came in every color imaginable and they were addicting like the finger widgets of today.
Clackers, for those too young to know, were clear, marble-type balls made of tempered glass, they hung one on each end of a string with a loop in the middle. The idea was to clack them together up and down over and over to see how long you could continue without the balls clacking your wrists.
As Forest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” I was stupid and had the bruises to prove it. I was trying a new trick—throwing them up in the air and trying to catch them.
My parents had just purchased a brand-new Pontiac. It was parked in our driveway; a trophy my parents’ hard work had earned. It was shiny and new like my clackers, only the glass on its windshield wasn’t shatterproof.
My dad came home for his dinner break from the store and was obviously upset. He told my Mom about a huge crack in the windshield of their beautiful trophy. He suggested to my Mom that a rock must have shattered it from the road.
I had a hard time finishing my dinner. My conscience was cracked.
My brother died on a Monday. It was unexpected. He was supposed to get better, but he didn’t. We were left reeling from this new reality and aware that we had to plan his Celebration of Life service. It would be small–immediate family only. But good friends made it possible for us to offer a Live Facebook of the service as well as a You Tube video available now at the bottom of this post.
Following is what I shared. I have much more to say about this experience and what God is showing me through the sadness, but not yet.
Bill Gray – 1954-2021
I want to thank all of you who are joining with us on-line how much your prayers and encouragements have meant to our family these last 5 weeks. It has been one of the hardest seasons we’ve faced and you have helped carry our burden. Words seem inadequate, but it is all we have to give. Thank you.
I am Debi Walter, Billy’s little sister, and Bettie is Billy’s older sister. I am sharing today on behalf of both of us what my brother means to us. Bettie was born in 1953, Billy in 1954 and I was born in 1959. My Dad was a pharmacist with his own store and soda fountain. It was a great time to grow up.
Billy took great delight in teasing both of us as often as he could. But I still believe I got the brunt of most of his attention. He made up all kinds of games with the excuse of being able to tease us. Like “Flinch”. If he acted like he was going to hit you and you flinched, then you had to let him hit you. Being 5 years younger I usually let him and had the bruises to show for it. I’ve heard he was a lot like my grandfather. They both loved to fish and loved to tease those they loved—unmercifully.
Billy and his good friend invented the group hug. But it wasn’t a pleasant experience when it first began. If you were caught in the middle between the two of them it always hurt. But they laughed and I learned to laugh too. Now the group hug has become a tradition in our family whenever we are saying goodbye. No one ever knows who will end up in the middle, but the younger ones fight to be caught in the center of it all. Lots of love goes into those hugs. Like holding on tight because we don’t want to let go.
Another game was a take on the pool game Marco Polo. But instead of calling out “Marco” with your eyes closed, you called out “splash”. Wherever you were in the pool you had to splash. The idea was to tag someone making them “it”. I always managed to be “it” because I wasn’t fast enough to tag anyone, especially my brother or his friends. One time I remember being caught between two of them while they both splashed me. My brother accidentally splashed my ear and caused my ear drum to rupture. He felt bad and I felt worse because I wasn’t able to swim for the rest of the summer. I was often the casualty of his games.
It’s strange how stories from when you were young that used to cause heartache, become the very things you’re grateful for as adults.
My brother loved me and my sister very much. But I didn’t realize this until we were adults. Being the baby of the family I know I was bratty. I most likely asked for much of the undesired attention he gave me.
On family vacations I would always end up in the middle of Bettie and Billy in the backseat. Invariably, Billy would say, “Hey Bettie, want a fight between you and me?” And they would both start slapping me. I would cry. My Dad would yell for us to stop. And Billy would grin in my face, bragging that he got me.
Yeah, that’s what we did on road trips before iPhones, screens and DVD players were available in cars. We played games, sang songs and ate candy my Mom packed from my Dad’s candy counter at the pharmacy.
When Billy went away to The University of Florida (Go Gators!) My sister was already married to Dennis, so I was home alone. I missed him so much. And I think he missed me too. He sent me a card once that he had drawn of our toothbrushes side by side. His had racing stripes on it and He said he couldn’t wait to have tooth brushing races again. It sounds silly, but as a 15 year old this card meant so much to me. It was true the adage that says, “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. It certainly did for us.
He graduated from U of F the same year Bettie graduated from nursing school at Valencia, the same year I graduated from high school. Major events for all of us that prepared us for our life ahead.
Our family attended Powers Drive Baptist Church. This is where we made many lifelong friends. Many of whom are watching today. It was at this church where we each were saved, baptized, and married. We grew up realizing the power, love and support there is in being in a community of believers who love Jesus. We are so grateful for the impact this church and its members had on our lives.
In 1978 Billy found the love of his life, a cute blond named Sherry Newmons. He brought her home to our house for Sunday afternoon dinner. We could tell this was the one he had waited for and we fell in love with Sherry too. At this same time Tom and I began dating and got engaged too. Once again we were doing a major lifetime event together. In 1979 we got married only 5 weeks apart. My poor parents! They never complained about how difficult having two weddings so close together would be. But it was fun sharing this season of life together.
All three of us had our children at the same time, which was fun watching cousins become friends.
That’s our history. When my Dad died in 2004, my brother took on the role of caring for us in the ways my dad had—providing medical advice and help whenever it was needed. He helped us through some very frightening times, most recently with two of our grandchildren. I’m so grateful for the way he loved us, cared for us and was there for us.
My sister and her family are here today and I know if she were able she would also talk about their adventures. Bettie and Billy had a special bond. They were only 14 months apart so they did everything together. Just recently Bettie and Dennis and Billy and Sherry went on vacation to see the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Tom and I were unable to go, but I am so glad they had this time together. The photos and memories they made are precious today.
I don’t know what the future will look like without Billy here to make us laugh, give the best hugs, share funny stories, offer support or to help us in our times of need. But I do know that Billy would tell us all—what really matters is this – make sure we know and love Jesus by living our lives for Him and his glory.
Billy is seeing his Savior face to face and I believe if he could he would say, “Whatever you do make sure you are ready when it’s your turn to enter eternity. Live for Christ! You never know when your days on earth will be over. Make every moment count!”
As a writer I have noticed something that concerns me. It is the affect social media is having on my limited, daily amount of creativity. All the interactions with others–their thoughts, their photos, their humorous GIFS, etc…are robbing me of my ability to write well and often.
So what do I do?
The answer is obvious, but it goes against the flow of our culture. To not be engaged on social media feels like I’m on a deserted island while everyone I know is across on another island having a party. I have never liked to miss the fun, and this is proving that to be true.
But I still have writing goals and desires.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. If social media is taking a toll on my worthwhile goals then I must rein in my freedom in this area.
I thought being home so much would have increased my writing. But I was wrong. The only thing it increased was time playing my favorite games (Words with Friends and Design Home). I know this because I have a screen time monitor that lets me know how much time I’ve spent each week on my screens.
It all comes down to discipline and making wise choices. I also need to set goals and limits on time wasted. We all need down time. But when down times begins to rob productive time, it’s time to make needed changes. This will benefit me and hopefully those who will read what I write.
My Smart Phone has a feature under screen time that allows me to limit the amount of time I use certain apps each day. I am going to start something I’ve never done before. Hold my screen time accountable.
How is screen time robbing you of creative energy?
“Take imagination breaks…Relaxed attention is one of the most important states of mind for creativity, and sometimes it has to be learned.” – Nita Leland
It has been over a year since I’ve written a post. I’m sorry. 2019 was a difficult year in many ways. The first half of the year was hard, but the second half of the year was 100 times worse. I wasn’t sure if we would make it through without devastating losses in our family.
But God! He was my comforter, my sustainer, my guide and my hope.
I was excited to begin a new year. 2020 seemed to start with bright prospects full of focus. We began by cleaning out closets, drawers and our entire kitchen. Having lived in our home for 27 years it was time to tackle this as if we were moving. We loaded up a car full of items to donate which felt so good. We were on a roll…
But God! He had different plans.
He knew all along that this year would be interrupted with a world-wide pandemic. We have been sheltering-in-place for 6 weeks now. One would think we would have our home completely organized and clean by now. But one would be wrong to make such an assumption. It seems 2019 was a partial eclipse that lasted longer than a normal one. Then 2020 arrived with a total eclipse–an eclipse of my heart.
Last year our family was unable to gather together due to many health restraints. This year we are unable to gather together due to a worldwide lockdown. I am tempted to be sad for the times together we are missing.
But God! In our sadness He wants to draw our hearts closer to Him.
And He has. An eclipse makes you realize how much light is available even at night. If you take the moon’s reflection of the sun away, the night is so much darker. I am grateful for the moon, the stars and the glorious sunshine. Life has slowed, but my heart is no longer eclipsed. God’s kindness has dawned brighter and brighter to us, to our children and to our grandchildren. The two words that mean so much to me now are…
But God! He has slowed our schedules to enlarge our hearts towards Him.
He is the our bright and morning star bringing with each day new mercies from which to draw. And His mercies never fail.
How is God helping you each day? Let’s share and in so doing bring Him the glory He deserves.
Yesterday I was given an unbelievable honor. I was asked to speak at the funeral of the pastor who led me to the Lord. It was a privilege I didn’t take lightly. I prayed that God would help me capture with words what this man meant to me, and that He would give me the strength to read it. He answered my prayer and following is what I shared.
Anyone who knew Dick Milham was impacted by his love for the Lord, for people and for life itself. He was a faithful friend and made himself available to our family on countless occasions.
Our family started going to Powers Drive Baptist Church in the early 60‘s when I was only 4 years old. I don’t remember when Pastor Milham started leading our church, but I’m grateful God sent him to us.
The year was 1969. I was ten years old and sitting in the pew between my mom and dad as I did each and every Sunday. But this time when the familiar hymn began to play–
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
My heart nudged me to go forward. I was afraid, so I asked my Dad to walk with me. When we got to the front, Pastor Milham met me and said he wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing and that there was no hurry. He asked if I could come to his office and discuss what this decision would mean for me? I said ok.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one, dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Over the next three weeks I went to his office while this dear man with a huge heart for young people explained the Gospel. He made it clear that this decision would change my life forever. And it did!
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yes, All I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Once he knew I understood the decision I was making and what Christ had done for me, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized on December 21, 1969.
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
I’ve know many friends over the years who, as adults, were re-baptized because they said they didn’t understand what they were doing when they were young. Because of Pastor Milham’s kindness and patience with me I have never had that experience. I knew exactly what I was doing and it has been the foundation of my life to this day.
My sister, Bettie, shared this memory she had with me and said how it has helped her countless times throughout her life when facing trouble.
During a Sunday message Pastor Milham must have been going through some tough times and shared this analogy with the church: He got in a boat and rowed out into this big lake to have time alone with the Lord and maybe he could get some answers. As he was out there a big storm blew up all the sudden. As he saw the far shore line he started to get worried about getting back to shore, but noticed a piece of paper in the lake a few yards from him. He heard the Lord tell him to row for that paper, then there was another and then another and before he knew it he was back on shore. He realized then the lesson the Lord was teaching him, there may be something really big and almost unreachable in front of you but if you take it step by step or paper by paper and keep your eyes on the task you will get there.
Just as I am, though, tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Pastor Milham was the real deal. He shared his life with all of us, and was there for all the moments when we needed him most. He came right away when my Dad was dying from brain cancer and sang by his bedside because my dad loved to hear him sing. There were no accolades, no audience’s applause, just my dad needing to be reminded of the truth of the Gospel.
Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Pastor Milham, you are now before the throne of God and your faith has been made sight. What a celebration must be taking place as all of those who were influenced by your life, faith and love, have welcomed you home.
I am forever grateful for the foundation of Truth you laid for me that I am still standing on today. I pray my life will influence others for God’s glory the way your’s has impacted mine.
I have done it for years, and it has always been a happy habit that I enjoy. It has been easy for me to remember dates on the calendar and special things that happened on that day 1, 5, or even 10 years ago because I have journaled consistently for nearly 3 decades. My husband and I still celebrate our first date, the day he proposed and our wedding anniversary.
Thirteen years ago the dates on the calendar began taking a sad turn for me–my dad died on January 3, 2004; My daughter moved out-of-state with her husband and three children in May of 2011; My Mom passed away on December 15, 2012; My son moved to TN with his wife and three children on March 24, 2014; the list goes on and on.
This year we’ve faced more challenging dates on the calendar–my Mother-In-Law fell and broke her hip, our daughter needed surgery and it was scheduled right between Christmas and New Years Day. Not to mention the friends who have moved, friends who have endured incredible suffering and life-threatening illnesses.
What used to be a fun habit can now at times bring torment and despair. It’s all on how I choose to remember. A friend recently gave me a plaque with this quote on it by Dr. Seuss. It says,
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
I tend to look back and remember precious times that are no more and feel sad. God is helping me to change this habit, but old habits don’t die easy. I don’t know if I’ll ever celebrate Christmas without remembering my parents and what my siblings and I walked through with them on the road to eternity. It was the most precious hardship I’ve ever endured.
Isn’t that how it is with life? We long for the happy moments, but it is the intensely sad ones that often become the most precious to us. Most of life’s important lessons we learn come to us through tears.
What dates on your calendar bring you joy? Tears? Do you think it’s good to remember or better to forget? I’ve decided it’s good for me to remember, but to limit those things on which I allow myself to dwell. Remembering the hard parts may not be the best for me. I must choose instead to remember what I learned through it all and focus on that!
This year I pray I’ll be more aware of how quickly my heart attaches to dates and their meaning on the timeline of my life, and resist the downward spiral of emotions that comes so easily to me. I want to instead remember the good with smiles of gratefulness for what once was and let go of the weight of regret for how things have changed. Life is too short to look back unless it is to give thanks to God for it all.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading with my own eyes. There I was sitting at my computer reading a message addressed to me on Ancestry.com from a man with the same first name as my Dad’s, saying we were a 1st or 2nd generation match through our DNA. What?!
Although I was shocked, it wasn’t a complete surprise to me. My Mom had told us just weeks before she died in 2012 that my brother, sister and I had a half-brother somewhere out there. News which at the time I didn’t understand or appreciate, but now I’m grateful to God that she didn’t let this secret die with her. She said all she knew was he was a boy and he was named after my Dad.
Mom had purchased a DNA test kit through Ancestry.com to have a documented sample of our family’s DNA on the site where she had invested so much time recording our genealogy through the years. Unfortunately, due to her advanced illness, she was unable to do the test. I told her before she died that I would do the test and send it in so her investment didn’t go to waste. Low and behold, it was my DNA that matched this man’s DNA who was contacting me cautiously through the Ancestry website.
My first reaction was uncontrollable tears. Then I called my brother and sister to see what they wanted me to do with this information. We all agreed to contact him and see where it would take us.
I discovered the man contacting us wasn’t our brother, but his son. Of course, I wanted to be sure his dad knew he had contacted us and that he wanted to meet. After double-checking we were happy to hear he was as excited to meet us as we were to meet him. We connected on Facebook–an amazing tool God used in such a marvelous way. We shared stories, photos and joy–much joy.
Finally, this past Saturday night we planned for us all to meet for dinner. The anticipation was palpable on both sides. Thanks to social media I have this photo of my newly discovered brother waiting for us to arrive at the restaurant.
The first hug was surreal since Stan looks so much like my Dad. The conversation was non-stop as we told our stories of how we had come to this place at this moment in time. We all had an overwhelming sense of God’s kindness to bring us together. The server at the restaurant did a great job keeping the food and drinks coming, and when we told her our amazing story, she joined in our joy.
My Mom always said, and I’ve quoted this in my book, “When someone dies a library of information dies with them, unless someone takes the time to write it down.” How grateful I am that Mom didn’t let this secret die with her. Although it wasn’t understood at the time she told us, she was caring for us by letting us know that she knew of my Dad’s past and was okay with it. This allowed us to fully embrace our brother with gratitude as a gift from God.
There are so many more dots I could connect of God’s faithfulness to bring us to this point, but suffice it to say–
“The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.” – Psalm 126:3 ESV
I’ve been thinking about how God has allowed me to see the biggest dream of my life come true–I wrote, edited, completed and published the book I had in my heart to do for 25 years. And I couldn’t have done it without my Mom, my husband and my writing group. The support of others in making a dream come true is crucial.
The quote used in my title is from the Disney movie, Cinderella. Her life was certainly one of abuse and unfulfilled dreams, yet she never stopped hoping. Her dream was to be free from her wicked step-mother’s abuse, but when it finally came true it was so much more than she ever hoped or imagined.
I’m reminded of this Scripture…(emphasis mine)
“14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every familyc in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV
What dreams do you have? Have you shared your dream with those closest to you? Have you prayed about it and given your desires to God to do with as He will? I encourage you to take some time and submit all your dreams to the One who is able.
I must confess I have a new obsession.
It’s the TV show on HGTV, Fixer Upper. I’m sure you’ve probably enjoyed it longer that I have. You see, I didn’t really give them a chance–I formed a first impression opinion of Chip and Joanna that wasn’t true. It wasn’t until a good friend shared with me how amazing they are in incorporating their faith with their dreams that I discovered otherwise. I felt horrible for allowing a first impression to rob me of getting to know such an amazing couple.
I found her testimony on You Tube that is filled with encouragement to continue hoping for your dreams to come true. Listen in to what she has to say…
I love the fact that Chip played a huge part in seeing her dreams weren’t tossed aside. He not only used his words to encourage her, but he acted by giving her the space she needed to hear God speak.
If you have dreams you’ve forgotten or tossed aside. I encourage you to…
Take a second look in 2016.
Submit them to God.
Tell a couple of close friends and your spouse, if you’re married.
Seek out those you respect who have similar dreams.
Expect God to speak.
If your dream is from Him, it’s only a matter of time for it to happen. If your dream isn’t, then know that He something even better in store. The key is to not give up looking with expectancy at what God will do. He is faithful and has promised He will return–now that’s a hope we can cling to.
(Note: In case you haven’t perused my blog much, check out the Oklahoma Recipes tab at the top. I’ve added some recipes that go with my book, and I’ve included the page where the food is mentioned. I hope you’ll give them a try. Food makes ordinary moments a celebration.)
As most of you know, all 7 of my grandchildren now live far away from me. It has been a difficult and emotional transition for me–one where I’ve shed many tears, and prayed often for God to help me see this new season from His perspective. And He has!
What I miss most as the Faraway Nana is being able to do fun things with them in my home–like baking, reading, picking flowers, going for walks around the block, watching their favorite movies while munching on hot, buttered popcorn, coloring pictures and playing Polly Pockets–to name just a few.
I was having one of those days when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself when God dropped an idea into my head.My four oldest grandchildren tell me often that they miss Nana’s House, which has always been like a jab to heart. But this time God gave me an idea, and a new tradition was born.
Nana’s House Newsletter
I told Bristol, Norah, Willow and Bradley that if they couldn’t come to Nana’s House, then Nana’s House would come to them. 🙂 I began publishing a monthly newsletter called Nana’s House. In it I put personal notes, little contests, crafts and something they can all enjoy from the 7 year olds down to the babies. When finished I stuff all the supplies needed for the crafts as well as candy treats into the Priority Mail Flat Rate small box and send it on its way. I take a picture of the receipt with the tracking number and text it to my daughters, so the kids can know when their little package will arrive.
This has helped me more that I could have ever imagined. I still get to go to the craft store and pick out something special for them to do. I still get to highlight funny things they’ve said or done. I still get to hear their voices squeal with excitement when they see another newsletter is on its way. The only thing I haven’t figured out how to do is hug their little necks and do nosies with them. Which brings me to the next thing I’ve done to help with the distance…
What fun we have had Skyping, and now using Google Hangouts (which works better when you are connecting three phones). We have colored Easter Eggs together, baked cookies and read books. I’m currently reading a series of books to the girls titled, The Doll People. They color while I read to them, and it has been wonderful. I love how they have absorbed the story and beg me, “Nana, just one more chapter–pleeeaaassssee?” We’re currently on book two, The Meanest Doll In The World. After this there are two more, so I think we’ll be able to enjoy this adventure together for quite a while.
My younger grandchildren love to talk with Nana on FaceTime because they can carry me with them to their room to see their new toys. I have had the best conversations with Stella (aged 2) all the while looking at the ceiling.
She takes the phone to her room, sets me on her kitchen set and fixes me the best cups of coffee. I’m always asking her to prop me up so I can see her face. 🙂 We are still working on that one, but I wouldn’t trade staring at her bedroom ceiling for anything. She’s precious.
I love writing. I love penmanship. I’ve heard that public schools are no longer teaching handwriting, and it makes me sad to realize this is going away. I always loved learning to write my letters. I practiced over and over again, until I like how it looked. This gave me an idea to start writing letters to my grandchildren once they learn to read. I print until they learn cursive writing. Once they do, I will write to them in cursive. The younger ones who can’t yet read, don’t like that the older ones get this special treat. But, I pray it will motivate them to learn to read for themselves. Cards are also a fun treat for the younger ones when it’s not their birthdays. Such an inexpensive way to show them how special they are to me.
Being far away from those you love is not easy, especially since they grow up so fast. For a long time I resisted finding joy in the distance, but I’m beginning to see that there is much good that happens when miles separate you from those you love. In this day and age we can still connect in ways my grandmother would have never imagined possible. When she moved away from her family to Jenks, Oklahoma, she didn’t know if she would ever see their faces or hear their voices again. Their only means of communication was through snail mail–although back then, it was delivered by horse. We are blessed that no matter how faraway you are, you can connect in so many ways as often as you like. What a small world.
Are you separated from your little people? I hope my ideas will inspire you to embrace the distance and make it something special.