Joy In Heaven

Mom's 90th birthday party last year. L. to R.: Me, Mom, Bill (my brother), Bettie at top (my sister)

Mom’s 90th birthday party last year. L. to R.: Me, Mom, Bill (my brother), Bettie at top (my sister)

My last post talked about Grace’s birthday which was March 2, 1889.

I want to share another birthday with you–my Mom’s, who would have been 91 today. She passed away 3 months ago, but it feels like only yesterday. I guess you’re never prepared to say good-bye to your mom. After all she is the one person who has known you literally from birth. If it wasn’t for her willingness to go through the pain of pregnancy and delivery, I wouldn’t be here.

So much has happened in the past three months:

  • We cleaned out her home, put it on the market and got a contract the first week. We’ll close before the end of March.
  • My niece found out she is expecting her 3rd baby in July, which is Mom’s 11th great-grandchild.
  • My son and daughter-in-love found out they are expecting their 3rd baby in September, which will be our 6th grandchild and Mom’s 12th great-grandchild.
  • My book is doing well, receiving 5 star reviews along with great encouragement for me to write the sequel.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Life continues when someone dies. Only those who are mourning actually slow down to ponder the loss. We do well to ponder in such times.

My heart is heavy today for another family in our church that we love dearly.

Tomorrow we will attend the memorial service of a newborn baby who never took a breath in this life. Her parents and three big brothers have slowed down to mourn the fact that she will never come home to see the nursery prepared for her. She will never try on any of the cute baby clothes received at her baby shower. She will miss so much that was planned for her.

But what she has far outweighs what she’s missed.

Consider this: She took her first breath in Heaven. She was embraced from the womb by her Savior. Her life will impact hundreds who hear the testimony of how God has helped her parents face the tragedy many parents fear. God’s faithfulness will be on display at the memorial service tomorrow in a way many will find perplexing.

flier

 

Her name is Esther Grace. Her parents believe she was born for such a time as this, like the story of Esther in the Bible. If you don’t know the story, I encourage you to read it. She faced the plan marked out for her, not knowing if God would give her life or death. This is true faith on display and it brings great glory to our Heavenly Father who deserves such praise.

The service is at 2p. tomorrow. Won’t you pray for this dear family that they would sense God’s nearness in their dark night of the soul.

The good news is the fact that there is great joy in Heaven today. Let this fact fuel our resolve to press on towards the mark, for we know that we do not run in vain.

What things are you facing today that requires such faith? How can I pray for you?

We’ve Always Done It That Way

I was visiting my mom today. 🙂 We were talking about strange traditions, and I remembered a story I once heard. It went something like this:

One day a Mother was showing her daughter how to make roast beef. As she prepared the meat she cut it in half and placed it in the roasting pan. The daughter asked her why she cut the roast in half, to which she replied, “I don’t know. This is how my Mama did it.”

The next day the daughter asked her grandmother why she cut her roasts in half before cooking them, to which she replied, “I don’t know. This is how my Mama did it.”

The following day the daughter visited her great-grandmother who was living in a nursing home. She curiously asked why she used to cut her roasts in half before cooking it, to which her great-grandmother replied, “Oh, land sakes, it was because my wood stove was too small for the roast to fit whole. I had to cut it in half to have have enough to feed the family.”

My Mom laughed out loud when I told her this story. How many times are traditions created out of necessity? What starts out as a need quickly becomes a preference handed down from generation to generation.

Do you have any traditions that seem strange to you? Have you ever asked how they originated? You may be surprised to hear the story. You never know until you A.S.K.

All I Can Say Is…Wow!

Stella Grace at 4 months

This week I am more and more aware of God’s kindness to have brought me this far in the writing process. I have heard from dozens of people as they’ve read Through The Eyes Of Grace, and it brings tears to my eyes. Grace’s story is affecting others for good. I have heard moms tell me they are going to have their daughters read my book in hopes of inspiring them to know their own grandparent’s stories. I have had people stop me to tell me their story of regret towards their parents or grandparents who are no longer around to ask. I have even had some tell me of their dream to write a similar story to honor their family legacy.

All I can say is, Wow!

God is taking my little mite and using it for His purposes. If you’ve read my book and found it enjoyable, would you take time to write a review on Amazon about it for me? Your words will help others decide if they would enjoy it as well.

I must say that what I love most is hearing from you. Your words of encouragement are washing away years of disbelief that I could ever accomplish such a feat. Now that I have, the temptation is even greater to discount my work, which I’m sure saddens the Lord who is the One who enabled me to do it in the first place. I want to be quick to give Him the glory for the big picture story of His grace that He weaves into each of our lives.

How has your family impacted your appreciation of God’s grace at work in you?

Mimeograph Memories

I am so close to publishing my book I can smell the ink on the page. I remember as a child loving the smell of mimeograph work sheets at my elementary school. It’s sad to think children today will never know what I’m talking about. This leads me to the reason I’ve written my grandmother’s story. For as long as I can remember, my mom has shared much of it with me, with all of our family. By God’s grace I’ve finally captured it in written form and will soon be able to share it with you.

My mom is a great historian. She has worked tirelessly for years on our family genealogy.  In fact, she’s currently working on the timeline for the sequel to Through The Eyes Of Grace. She is an amazing inspiration to me, and one of the main reasons I’ve been compelled to share this story with you. If it weren’t for her I would have nothing to share. Like the forgotten smell of ink on white paper.

What stories are in your family of which you’ve yet to hear? It is your story and deserves to be handed down to the next generation. Do you have someone in your family like my mom? Someone who is documenting your amazing history? If not, let my book help you become your family’s historian. I’ve provided a Family Questionnaire at the back of the book to help you ask good questions of your elders before it’s too late.

Here are a few of the over 50 questions provided:

  • What is your earliest memory?
  • Where did you grow up? Did you have a house? An Apartment?
  • What kinds of toys did you like to play with?
  • What do you remember most about your family’s traditions?
  • How did your parents meet?

Teasing Comes Naturally, I’m Afraid

Uncle Billy teasing Norah

Yes, I’m prone to teasing, ask my family. I get it naturally from my brother who is the master! But I’ve learned my brother is a lot like my grandfather who died when I was only 4. I don’t remember much about him, except that he loved his eggs scrambled in a pan with hot sausage served over a bed of grits. And you know what? This is how I like breakfast as well. He also smoked a pipe and would let me help him light it whenever I was around. I still love the scent of pipe tobacco, I guess because it brings back fond childhood memories.

So what does teasing have to do with today’s post? I want to “tease” you with the first half of the Prologue to my soon-to-be published book. I’m hoping it will entice you to want to read more. All good stories have a strong hook–read the following and let me know if I’ve managed to tease you for more! If so, you’ll have to wait another week to read the rest.

Prologue

June 1979

With a nervous exhale I opened the heavy door.  The clock tower struck one, two…fading away as the door closed behind me.  The foyer was dark and smelled of centuries-old stories, never to be told.  A hush followed each group of well-meaning guests as they entered the sanctuary.  I was next.  My hands were clammy; I felt nauseous.  I wasn’t ready to see…her, not in this way.  My eyes were darting back and forth, desperately searching for something when I saw it; right in the middle of the large oak table was a gift wrapped in lavender and lace.  As my eyes adjusted, I noticed my name scribbled on the card; who on earth? I couldn’t believe…

“Miss?” The usher interrupted my questions with his extended arm.  I supposed it was his job to escort me to where the rest of the family were seated.

My knees threatened to buckle under me as we started down the aisle.  How often I had come to this church with Big Mama.  She was a founding member and loved it dearly.  And if she had anything to say about it, I would love it too.

As I passed one pew I expected to see Mr. Pemberton stand and greet me with a butterscotch candy from his white suit pocket.  He always sat in the back, but not today; Mr. Pemberton was long gone, and now Big Mama was too–nothing would be the same.

“Greetings, friends! On behalf of the family of Grace Stella Oswalt, I would like to say thank you for coming to show your respects to such a God-fearing woman.”

I made it to the family pew just in time.  Sniffles sounded in unison as I held my breath trying not to join in.  I knew if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop.  Mama knowingly slipped a handkerchief in my hand as the preacher continued.

“Grace, wife of the late William Marion Oswalt, was the mother of six but is survived only by her daughter, Claire; nine grandchildren and many, many great-grandchildren…”

Six children? I didn’t know Big Mama had six children.  I knew my Uncle Vic and Aunt Ruby.  What happened to the others?

“Please stand as we sing Grace’s favorite hymn on page 56 of your hymnals.”

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound…

What else didn’t I know? For a moment I felt a deep sadness for the stories that would be buried with her.

…I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.

It was true.  Big Mama loved this hymn.  When I was little she would often play it on her piano as I sat next to her on the bench.  Her voice would crack, and I would sing off key, but the words never lost their meaning for her.  When we got to the third verse, she always seemed caught up in another world.

…through many dangers toils and snares.  I have already come.  Twas grace hath brought me safe thus far.  And grace twill lead me home.

Glancing at my watch, I hoped it was almost over.

“The family would like to invite you to join them graveside following this service, and then for dinner in the church social hall,” the pastor announced.

What? Another service and dinner, too? I hadn’t been to many funerals in my nineteen years, and this was the first in our family.  It was as painful as I feared it would be.

My Mom knew what I was thinking without a word.  Heaviness pressed against me; the back door offered my first chance to escape.  I jumped to my feet ready to be the first one out the back, but a tall, sliver of a man appeared.  I was unaware of the tradition–family is always escorted out separately.  He said nothing, only pointed with his opened palm towards the side door.  I had missed my chance and silently followed Mama to a waiting limousine.

 

Officially Yours

It has been mine for the past 25 years. Ten  years ago I began the process of making it yours, and in the Fall of 2012 it will be official – officially yours that is.

I have prayed, cried, and labored over this project. I have gone from being a novice writer to a full-time writer of a blog, our neighborhood newsletter, and my own journals. The project of which I speak is my first novel titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace, and is based on the life of my grandmother. The story takes place in Oklahoma just after the turn of the 20th century. Oklahoma was called Indian Territory then, and is still home to hundreds of Native Americans today. I didn’t know her story until after she died when I was 19. I was her youngest grandchild, and how I wished I could have heard these stories from her first-hand. What lessons I could have learned from her, but at 19 I was too young to appreciate the value of asking good questions.

My Mom was her youngest daughter. Of my grandmother’s six children she outlived all of them except for her. My hope is that her story will compel you to ask good questions of your own parents and/or grandparents. My Mom says that every time someone dies a library of information is buried with them. Sadly, this is true. Unless we ask and remember their stories will be gone in one or two generations. What a gift to know those stories and pass them onto your children and grandchildren.

I’ve provided at the back of the book a list of great questions to help you get started in discovering your own family history. We all have a story, but we may not know all the details. My prayer is that you will not only enjoy reading my book, but that you will find yourself drawn to talk to loved ones about it.

Through The Eyes Of Grace is my gift to you.

If you are interested in reserving a copy of my book, simply sign up to receive my blog posts by e-mail (see right column). This will guarantee you’ll be one of the firsts to hear of it’s release. 

Blessings to you and yours,

Debi