A Thousand Words is Worth One Picture: Cruise

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I didn’t anticipate the sheer giddiness that overcame me when we put out to sea in August on our first cruise. I had spent the last four weeks trying to make sure everything was packed just right, passports came through, evening wear was not super wrinkled, that I had enough motion sickness blockers to cover me the whole week, and all the other planning that goes into a cruise the first time. When those giant engines roared to life and the ship put out to sea, I laughed. I laughed for joy.

Hearing the words ‘International Maritime Law’, seeing dolphins and flying fish, and finally, finally sailing out past all that is mankind to only ocean awoke a part of my childhood I had long forgotten. Memories of Peter Pan’s ship, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Horatio Hornblower, and the Pirates of the Caribbean, and other books and movies where they sailed the seven seas in search of treasure flooded me as the wind hit my face tasting of salt. I wanted to sing “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me.” I wanted to sail by the stars in Her Royal British Navy. I wanted to re-live childhood dreams.

I only then realized how much time me and my siblings spent reading and watching movies about the days of sailing around the world in clipper ships. I only then realized that while I had always loved the ocean from the shore, I had never loved the ocean on the ocean. It is truly something that grips you and never let’s go.

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We’ve all seen pictures of the open ocean, or the moon gleaming on the water, but a picture can’t tell you about the open feeling of only sky and sea. Nothing as far as the eye can see but sky and sea. It can’t tell you about sailing through storms. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing north, east, west, or south. Turn in a circle and only sky and sea. Weight lifts from the shoulders, burdens seem small in the beauty of open ocean. Mixed with this beauty, akin to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, is the tiny drop of horror. You look around and nothing. On a cruise ship filled with enough food to feed a small nation the horror of emptiness lies remote, buried. But, a well-read home-schooler remembers tales of ships lost at sea. All that water and not one drop of it safe to drink boggles the mind. The beauty mixed with just a drop of fear draws you to stare out into the empty space. And it’s not just the lack of food and water, it’s the life below the surface.

Dolphins raced through the waves created by our massive ship, flying fish, tiny and almost impossible to see, flew out across the ocean, and sea gulls called in our wake, but you look for the shadows under the waves. Imaginations can run wild when you know an unexplored world lives below what you can see. This is what is captivating about the open ocean. Beauty and fear.

While we were on the cruise, there was a super moon. It shone out across the water pulling along a bright golden tail and lighting up the ship. It looked like a cheesy ocean post card and I kept waiting for a dolphin to leap through the moonbeams. We watched the moon until our eyes were heavy with sleep and bed called in an inescapable lullaby.

The sun rose over blue oceans turning clouds pink and lavender. What a glorious way to wake up. Sleeping on a ship was some of the best sleep I’ve ever had. The gentle rocking, the sense of nothing, the going on forever lulls you down into the depths of unconscious dreaming.

Formal night delighted me with finery and laughter. Movies from the twenties came to mind and I half expected Hercule Poirot come around a corner with his perfect mustache.

In a picture, you see the open ocean, you see the blue water with hints of purple and bits of green, but you don’t really see the open ocean. You don’t see how your eye instinctively looks to the horizon, that far distant line of blue meeting blue. You don’t see how the ocean is the perfect shade of denim with just enough dark wash and just enough light. At the corner of your eye dances the sparkle of the sunshine slipping across the top of little waves. Above, the sky is a very clear blue with a strong white under tone too strong to be a baby blue. It is a true and real sky blue broken by a wisp or poof of cloud here and there.

The voices of the other guest sound out, excited children call out to each other, breaking through the soft, muffled woosh of the ship cutting through the water. A gentle sway reminds you you’re not on solid ground and the smell of coffee delivered to your door reminds you you’re on vacation.

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I could dedicate a whole other article to the storms we sailed through. They were spectacular. After one we almost missed due to dinner, we saw the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. The rain trailed from blue clouds like beards off an old man’s face. The sun turned the sea and sky pink, orange, orange, and pink. A double rainbow arched across the blue expanse.

The sea is a dangerous thing and someday I’ll return to her again.

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This article is dedicated to my Husband, the Coles and the Garricks. It was wonderful to spend so much time with all y'all!

This article is dedicated to my Husband, the Coles and the Garricks. It was wonderful to spend so much time with all y’all!

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The Conference: SBFC-SW

It’s the wee hours of the morning and there are lights on at Heritage Baptist Church. The warmers are growling to life, the coffee is dripping, bacon and biscuits perfume the air while not quite awake girls crack eggs.

It’s time for our annual Southern Baptist Founders Conference-South West.

Thursday-Saturday, we welcome men, women, children, and families from all over Texas and our outlying states into our church for preaching and fellowship. Neither of these would be complete without some food, and the food wouldn’t happen if the Lord hadn’t provided our church with men and women, boys and girls who love to serve. It was my privilege last year and this to direct a group of these women, boys, and girls in the kitchen. What a joy to work with them and serve the church.

Preparation for the conference starts weeks in advance. For my part, I’m planning menus, picking Glyn’s (the previous meal master) brain, lining up help, and trying not to think about it. Cindy Cason feeds me numbers as soon as they start rolling in and the speculation on the number of guests begins.

This year, Liz Groves and I tackled the bulletin boards in the weeks before the Conference, hoping to spruce them up a bit. It turned out to be a much bigger job than we anticipated which narrowed our focus from all of them to four.

Picture by Liz. Me, Liz and Imogene.

Picture by Liz.
Me, Liz and Imogene.

Picture by Emily Shiflet. The finished product.

Picture by Emily Shiflet. The finished product.

During this time, a flurry of emails goes out to the families of HBC with lists of the food needed and slots to fill. Women commit and file their instructions away. Some will bring burgers, some salads, some fruit, some wait in the sidelines in case there are empty slots just days before the Conference. Everyone takes on an extra burden to make sure there is enough food and I can’t thank these women enough.

The Sunday before plans are laid with helpers for decorating, and arrivals.

Now it’s the week of the conference.

Monday morning is shopping!

Wanda, my extra Mom, and big conference helper with me at Sam's.

Wanda, my extra Mom, and big conference helper with me at Sam’s.

Tuesday enough bacon is cooked to feed an army!

If you cook enough bacon you can almost make yourself sick of it. Almost.

If you cook enough bacon you can almost make yourself sick of it. Almost.

Wednesday is TAARBC’s meeting and biscuit cooking!

Enough biscuits for three meals.

Enough biscuits for three meals.

Now’s the day! Thursday. Heritage is alive with activity. Decorations go up. Helpers arrive. Food arrives in abundance. The first meal is laid out and shared with friends. Success!

The decorators and cookie cookers!

The decorators and cookie cookers!

Friday is the long day. Early in the morning, before even the sun is up, women in aprons, smiling teens, and lots of coffee arrive. Breakfast is served at 800 am, and without even a pause, lunch is begun. Clean up, clean up, clean up. A few hours to visit with friends old and new comes our way and then prep for dinner begins. Friday night is our biggest meal of the Conference and this year was no exception. Happy and exhausted, I send everyone home to start again on Saturday.

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Most of these girls have been serving food for years and we have new recruits being trained. Spending the week with them is one of my favorite parts about the Conference. Picture by Emily Shiflet.

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Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Picture by Emily Shiflet.

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Seeing people who are dear to your heart is one of the other joys of the Conference. Emily Shiflet and myself.

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The greatest serving crew a woman could ask for, plus lots of other wonderful young people who come every year. Picture by Emily Shiflet.

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Many of our servers took off work or gave up valuable study time to help. We are so thankful for them. This is Raelea cleaning up after one of the meals. Picture by Emily Shiflet.

Saturday we have one goal. Get everything settled enough to hear Pastor Steve’s sermon. We can do it. Again, coffee, bacon, biscuits, eggs. Again, clean up, clean up, clean up. But this time, this morning, things have to be put back into place for Sunday lunch. Tables are moved, refrigerators are evaluated and reshuffled, more coffee is drunk.

We made it.

Tired helpers sneak into the service, glad to hear a man we love give the word of God, glad to have served, glad everyone was fed, glad it all tasted moderately good.

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls? It was an honor serving with you and we’ll do it again next year…or actually maybe in January, or December. 🙂

Thank you Emily, for sharing your pictures. Thank you ladies, for giving your time and encouragement and support, thank you young people for giving your energy, laughter, willing work, and for our very strange conversations between meals. I love you all.

 

 

 

A Thousand Words or One Picture: My Back Yard

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I have tried many times to capture the view from my seat on the back porch. Don’t ask me why a writer uses a camera and then complains when she doesn’t like the picture. Let me try to capture this beautiful view with words. Let me paint a mental image with words like green, buzz, twitter, soft breeze, warm sun, tree, twigs, and others.

From where I sit, early in the morning, the backyard is dappled with light and shadow. The sun rises above the privacy fence. It breaks apart into a million dancing filaments as it’s capture in the leaves of the large oak and young pecan that grace the yard. The sun stripes the rich green of the grass inviting me to lay in nature’s carpet with hands clasped behind my head and eyes on the sky.

Plants in pots awaken. My elephant ears perk up welcoming the sun with leaves the size of my two-year-old niece. Vines and flowers stretch and awaken as the light edges their leaves.

All around me, if I sit still enough, are the sounds of life. Traffic on the road makes up the monotonous background which my ears tone out. I’m far more interested in the faint call of the chickadees in the neighbors pine, the arguments of the sparrows in the martin house, the skittering of small bugs busy about their morning. If I sit very still the wrens that nest in our yard will come and hop about. The lizard who claims the back porch will step from hiding into the sun and we will share in the beauty of the morning.

A picture may be worth a thousand words but a thousand words will tell you of wind and birds and the color green. My seat on the back porch is my favorite place to be for there I’m surrounded by God’s creation, by flowers, trees, plants, sky, sun, leaves, birds, and bugs.

When I raise my eyes from the page to gaze away for a moment, maybe trying to think of a name for someone or deciding what they would say, the first thing I see is my leaning lamp-post trapped in the shad between the pecan and the oak. It whispers of Narnia and a way to the land of a Lion and brave beavers.

Beside it sits my birdbath with its cement mushrooms. It always makes me smile. The mushrooms bring to mind little folk both Hobbit and Fairy. Beyond the tree’s shadows, ever dancing in the Texas breeze, rest the rusted out swing-set. In my mind, it will someday be the bearer of flowers and vines, but first things first and second things never. It must wait its turn. For now it’s my piece of post-apocalyptic ‘art’, which makes people scratch their heads and wonder about mine. But like everything else, it conjures memories. They may be morbid scenes from action flicks where we’ve lost control of technology, but even those are happy memories of late nights with Dad. Beyond sci-fi memories dwells the idea of magical secrets. Under the veins will be an old swing set. Beyond the ivy will be a lost bike. Through the trees you’ll see a dirty gazing a ball and under the bush an old sundial. Creating my own secret garden is a lifelong endeavor, but knowing that frees me to one-thing-at-a-time, here and there, no need to rush.

Beyond the dreams of one day stands my neighbors fence. Beyond that sentinel of privacy climbs the tops of trees. Just enough trees to sooth the eye with their greenery, but not enough to hide the all-encompassing big blue sky. Nothing in Texas is as amazing as the sky that goes on and on and on. This alone will keep me tied here and when I get to Heaven, I hope my ‘mansion’ is built in a place with wide-open skies and lots of trees.

Now, I hope you understand why a picture just won’t do.

(In case you’re wondering, this article isn’t even a thousand words. It’s just about 700. Again, I think my gift is more writing and less picture-taking.)

About Myself!

A new writing friend, Bethany Jennings, whose blog I have quickly grown to love, shared some more detailed info about herself and then asked me to do the same. I have a great fear that I won’t be as weird as I think I am. 😉 Deanna Brown, Raelea Hiller, Josh Magill and Rob Akers, I think you should do this also, if you’re interested!

Info

Name: Names. Names are a funny thing. I was born Abigail Doris Vincent. I’m now Abigail Doris Jones. Nobody calls me that . . . except my brother-in-law and sales people. Everyone calls me Abby. I tried to switch to Abigail but it just didn’t feel right. So Abby it is. Not with an e, or an i, or any other strange letters. Just plain old Abby. Lord willing when I’m published, my books will say, “by Abby Jones”. I’ve been informed that my name sounds like the name of a western writer. Living in Texas, I’m okay with that.

Age: 34. I can’t believe I can say I’m 34. Feels strange.

Gender: Female with a strong streak of Tomboy.

Me:

Me with Some of my Biggest Fans!

Me with some of my Biggest Fans!

Favorites:

Food: Hamburgers. Oh, I love a good, thick, 1200 calorie burger. Yum. I also love pizza, sandwiches, and chocolate. My go-to stress food is anything with cheese on it like tortillas and cheese or nachos.

Drink: Coffee. I generally take it black, but I’m not opposed to a fun latte from any local coffee shop. Not to be completely annoying, I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I also love a dark red wine, martinis, and margaritas or any girly drink. I drink water cause I want to stay alive. 🙂

Book: The Bible is not only my guide in life, but contains moving stories, unique characters and beautiful imagery and poetry. More than all of that, it is the very Word of God and we would do well to pay attention when He’s talking. After that, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Jane Eyre, Shutter Island, The Thirteenth Tale, Neverwhere, The Killing Zone, Black Hawk Down and With the Old Breed. I could go on and on. Is it bad to say that two of my all time favorite books are ones I’ve written? When Skies are Gray and Happy Thoughts.

Song: How Firm a Foundation, Amazing Grace, It is Well with My Soul, Christ Alone, And Can it Be are my favorite Hymns. Outlaw Torn, Master of Puppets, Sanitarium, Orion, Suicide and Redemption, Bad Company, Beautiful People, Into the West are some of my favorite songs and I could go on and on and on. Also, add in almost all Christmas music.

Movie: Rambo (4) is my favorite movie, followed by Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, Vampire Hunter D, and Willow. I also love Princess Bride, Stardust, LA Confidential, Rambo 1, Avengers, Lone Survivor, We Were Soldiers, and Die Hard. Can I talk about TV series here? If I can’t, too bad. Star Trek: Next Generation, Firefly, Band of Brothers, Chuck, 24, and Sherlock.

Band: Metallica, Linkin Park, the Civil Wars, Two Steps from Hell, Avenged Sevenfold, Five-finger Death Punch, Flogging Molly, Mumford and Sons, Florence and the Machine, the Pogues, the Dubliners.

Solo Artist: Johnny Cash. Need I say more?

Place: Not to sound totally cliché but my favorite place is my home, anywhere with my family, or my church. I think mountains are glorious and beaches are amazing. I love Texas the best. 🙂

Subject: Theology, writing, storytelling, philosophy.

Sport: Um…yes. Sports. I have enjoyed watching Golf in the past. I enjoyed playing baseball, soccer, basketball, and football as a kid. I don’t really get into sports that much as an adult.

Male actor: Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Stathem, Viggo Mortensen, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Martin Freeman, and Russell Crowe are probably my favorites. I really don’t care to know anything about their real lives, but I consistently enjoy their movies.

Female actor: Eva Green, Gina Torres, Claire Danes, Cate Blanchett, and Liv Tyler. I had a lot harder time with the Female actors than I did with the Male. It’s probably because I enjoy action flick type movies more than I do movies with strong female leads. And I find that women tend to play less type-cast rolls, so I may like Cate Blanchett or Liv Tyler in some movies and hate them in others.

We're on a ship!

We’re on a ship!

Life:

Schooling: Home-schooled all the way baby! 🙂 I also attended the local junior college for three years and earned an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. I made the Dean’s List every semester and graduated with honors. I hated school. I often think that maybe I should go back and get a BA some day, maybe in English with a minor in Myth, or a Zoology Degree, but then I think of a billion other things I’d rather do with my time and money.

BF: First and foremost, the man that I married. He has stood by me, challenged me, encouraged me, and honestly put up with me for years! After him, my dear baby sister, Liz. We’ve been best friends for years. But, I have so many women I love so very much! My sister Emily! My extra sisters, Ruth and Joy. My Mom and my extra Mom. My wise woman, Deanna, who I couldn’t live without. Rachel and Elayne, Stephanie, Heather, Raelea, Bethany, Jordan, Leslie, Ani, and so many many more! I love you all so very much! This list wouldn’t be complete without my Dad on it. He was my hero as a little girl, my mentor as a young lady, and now we just like to cause problems. 🙂 My extra Dad is one of my most favorite people in the world.  Also, I must put in a word for my two brothers: Matt and Jason, you have always been the most wonderful of friends and I count it an honor to be your sister. Brad and Brian, my two extra brothers, are equally amazing!  I’m one blessed woman.

Political Ideology: Conservative bordering on Libertarian.

Religion: Reformed Baptist. Yes. Reformed meaning Calvinistic in my theology. Baptist meaning I believe you should be baptized following your conversion.

Tattoos: none.

Piercings: I have five places to stick earrings in my ears. 🙂 I did have my eyebrow pierced when I was twenty-two as my Christmas present from my husband. Now, I just stick with the earrings.

Languages: English and Texan.

Reason behind your blog’s name: To remind myself that obeying the word of God is more important than what I want to do. I used to have a blog that focused on the vampire stories I was working on. Last Fall, I became convicted about not using my writing to encourage my church family and other believers. After much soul searching (read kicking and screaming) I realized that I had to put my writing in submission to the Lord and trust Him with it. If I couldn’t do that, I needed to ditch it completely. The Lord gave me far more grace than I deserved. He gave me many friends who encouraged me without just caving to my fears. He gave me courage. I started this blog to specifically use my ability to write to encourage my church and other local reformed churches. The Lord has blessed me beyond belief. I pray He uses the gift He gave me as He sees fit.

 Why you blog: I blog for all the reasons I mentioned above. I also blog because, as a writer, it’s a great way to use and hone my abilities while I work on my full-length novels. It lets me communicate directly with my readers and build a base for my future books. We live in a day and age where it’s easy to connect with other people all over the world. I’m very thankful I get to share the ramblings of my fingers across the keyboard with so many others. It’s humbling and exciting. Someday, I hope to share my novels with you, my readers.

 

Well, that’s a little about me. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope I’m not too strange . . . no wait! I expected to be stranger. Hmmmm.

Music, the Silver-Lining

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Hope in the darkness. It’s hidden in the midst of great sadness.

I don’t normally dedicate my articles to specific people, but this is for Emily Shiflit. Emily and I were having a discussion about music when we first met each other. She mentioned that some of the songs I brought up seemed short on hope. She wanted to know why I liked songs that seemed hopeless. She shared some of the songs she liked. The lyrics were great, but the music grated on me. Why? What is it that I look for in music? Is the music I enjoy hopeless? If so, why do I like it? Is it all subjective? Lots of thoughts and too big of a discussion to fit in a Facebook message or text, hence a blog post.

Self-examination can be very revealing, encouraging, saddening, or just interesting. I’m normally a happy and upbeat person. I often see the silver-lining, so to speak. But I love things that are sad, gray, and melancholy. I like the rain that falls from the silver-lined cloud. I also feel, or have an angry passionate streak, which tends to come out in my love of heavy metal and Irish Punk music. Then, there’s the nostalgia side of me that loves Christmas and folk music. Like most of you, I’m an odd person.

But what is it about contemporary Christian music that generally just grates on me? Why is it that I turn on the Christian radio station and instantly start gagging? Why is my ‘Lord’s Day’ playlist so short?

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I love the imagery in the lyrics of this song. Remember that winter will fade and spring will come again. There is something very Narnian about it.

The focus is only on the silver-lining. The music, for much of contemporary Christian songs, is…mambsy pambsy. This was a term which me and my siblings invented, or stole from a book, which communicates someone being weak in a refusal-to-get-their-hands-dirty-and-get-the-work-done sort of way. It’s weak, wimpy, and almost a waste of space. This is how I view the music of most contemporary Christian artists. I’m not talking about the lyrics, just the notes they use to communicate truth. Music should match the truth being communicated. Their music is soft, inoffensive, mild, and annoying. There is no brokenness communicated in the music. There is little longing, little anger, little sadness, and thus little truth, little hope, and little salvation. The smaller you make God, the smaller you make salvation. The smaller you make the offense, the smaller you make grace.

When I was a child, I listened to a lot of Christian music. When I was a child, happy music was my fare. But when the rain came, when my faith was tested, when the trials of life crowded in around me, and the depth of my own depravity came to light, I found praise songs and most contemporary Christian music lacked depth. They were fine for the spring of life when all is green and bright, but they quickly burned away when the hot summer sun glared down upon them full of damnation and driving away every cool shadow. The Christ in those songs couldn’t have endured the cross. The Christ in those songs didn’t love me anymore than my boyfriend did. The praise didn’t include standing on the very cusp of the pit of hell and being rescued when you deserved to die. They didn’t include sin. They didn’t include my worthlessness. They were happy and thus weak. They failed to understand that to have a silver-lining you must have a very dark storm cloud blocking the sun.

Seeing the silver-lining should never deny the thunder cloud hiding the sun. 

It is truth that makes the silver-lining shine. Remember, hope is a light in the midst of great darkness. That means you have to pass through that darkness to reach your hope. So, why do I love Mumford and Sons even though the hope in their songs is often hidden behind sad, and somewhat angry folk music? Because that’s real life. Hope is often hidden deep beneath darkness.

Why do I love Metallica’s Master of Puppets? Because we are enslaved to our sin and it is damning. That comes through in the song in a far more real and visceral way than most contemporary Christian music.

Dark, heavy, but true. This is what sin does to us.

Dark, heavy, but true. This is what sin does to us.

The Bible teaches us that Christ did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. Christ didn’t come to make us perfect and give us perfect lives. He came to make us like Him. Not only should the lyrics communicate this struggle, this war, this perpetual battle between flesh and spirit, but so should the music. Our modern ‘worship’ is all about feeling good, but go back and listen to some old hymns. Listen to the sober tone to their music. Listen to how the music swells and grows, drops and dives, as the sinfulness of our own hearts is exposed by the light of God’s grace.

I don’t hold to separating out Christian and Secular, since God gifts both saint and sinner with artistic talent. I think lessons and truths (small truth, big Truth only comes from the word of God) can be gleaned from both. I also know that our emotional reaction to art has much to do with what we bring to the table. A song that speaks to you may seem insignificant to me, while a song that makes me weep may annoy you. Isn’t art an amazing thing? Isn’t it amazing that God saw fit to include it in our lives?

Emily, I hope this helps explain why I love the songs I love. Thanks for sparking the conversation that lead to this article! And please, don’t take this as me thinking my songs are better than anyone else’s favorite songs, this is more an exploration of self. I’m sure there are plenty of counter arguments to what I have said in justifying my own song choice. One of the interesting parts about getting older is how I have returned to the roots of contemporary Christian music with a renewed love of old hymns. The truth set to sober, serious, heavy, music feeds my soul when I sink down in the pit. They help me more easily remember the truths of scripture and sometimes memorize scripture themselves. For me, it’s a returning after years of avoiding “Christian” music almost all together. God is always good. He does not give us only sunny days, but provides us a song in the rain.

 

One of the Christian bands that I, so far, enjoy. Their lyrics are pretty good, not great, but good, and I like their music so far.

Gungor is one of the Christian bands that I, so far, enjoy. Their lyrics are pretty good, not great, but good, and I like their music. They have that haunted tone that I love so much.


 

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A Hero Passes On

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Louis Zamperini

I was sad to find out that one of our greatest American Heroes passed away yesterday. I rejoice that I will someday get to meet this brother in Christ and share the story greater than his survival–the one of his salvation. His I will share over and over with my nieces, nephews, and any who will listen. I praise the Lord for the grace he showed this broken man.

Slice of Life: Silly Songs are Important

Slice of Life

Slice of Life

So, this is a slice of life, random sort of article that jumped in my head and decided to shove its way through the line of other blogs waiting patiently to be written. I only have a small window of opportunity to write this morning because a group of lovely women are about to descend on my house to share their stories and let me share mine. (Insert happy squeal here!) (Also this happened on a Thursday, but I’m posting it on a Monday.)

I tend to have vivid dreams. Often I wake up disconcerted, emotional, and sometimes freaked out. Twice, I have literally dreamed a serial killer was in my house. I woke up screaming when he touched my arm. I dreamed once that policemen came, arrested my husband, and threw him in jail for 13 years. I might need to watch how often I read about Christians persecuted in other countries. Or, what I’ll do is keep muscling through it no matter how many bad dreams it gives me cause I need to know. I don’t need to stop having bad dreams. They won’t ultimately hurt me. I do need to know what my brothers and sisters in Christ face on a daily basis. That’s more important than comfortable dreams.

This morning, I woke up feeling very ‘misunderstood’. Ha. Looking back, the dream was so stupid, but as dreams often go, it was more about the emotion involved than it was the events. My husband, one of my sisters, and I were trapped somewhere and none of our friends could come pick us up. I think we were near the ocean or something. I remember water and tree branches. For some reason, my husband and my sister were being mean to me. I don’t remember anything specific other than my husband handing my sister his phone to give directions instead of me. I do remember an overwhelming sense of being upset and them not caring. We finally reached a friend who headed over to pick us up along with all our stuff, while also planning a Dungeons and Dragons game for us to play. (Remember, this was a dream.) Again, I cried and screamed while my husband and sister made fun of me or just totally ignored me—they would never ever do that in real life. It was so silly.

It made me think of a song my mom taught me: “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.”

(Just picture five children chanting this song over and over. Not creepy at all.)

In today’s world, my mom might be considered a bad mom. She did things like spank us, make us clean our plates, learn to play together, let us  ride our bikes without helmets, hike for hours on end all over creation, shoot guns, and other things like that. She also taught us that song.

And boy, am I glad she did.

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Looking back, we sang the song cause we thought it was funny and gross. (We were and still are into gross. We enjoyed the song about never laughing when the hearse goes by, too. ) We learned from that song that there are times when you will feel like everyone hates you. You will be tempted to put on the airs of a martyr and sulk because nobody is doing anything like you want them to. No one is paying any attention to you. Nobody loves you. We all experience points in our lives where we feel that way, but very often it’s about as realistic as eating worms. See, I woke up feeling rotten. I felt like my husband didn’t care one bit if I was upset, and that my sister didn’t care either. I woke up feeling ignored. That’s a horrible feeling.

Did I wallow in that feeling? No. I held it up against reality and realized my husband, even when he is super busy, cares about me. My sister, either of them, would never ignore me if I was crying, even if I was crying in a childish, pouting sort of way. It was only an emotion, and a passing one at that.

It’s important to teach kids how to judge their emotions. Why? Emotions lie. Emotions aren’t the epitome of humanity. They lie. When we indulge in them, we end up with kids who are out of control and just looking for the next emotional high. We have bullies and the bullied. See the bully is getting an emotional kick out of hurting others. No one is demanding self-control from him. The bullied is also getting an emotional kick out of sulking around feeling bullied. When I was a kid, my parents taught me not only that my martyr feeling was only good for worm eating, but that you stood up to bullies and you stood up for the weak. My parents taught me to defend others and myself. They taught me self-control so that I could withstand the lies of my own emotions and not follow their whims. They protected me, not from the dangers of zero trophies on my wall, but the dangers of my own heart. They protected me from the real dragons, not the made up ones.

Emotions are to be enjoyed, but not worshipped and not trusted. They flit and fade just like my dream did as soon as I opened my email and realized I have things to do, a house to clean, writers to encourage, and a husband who is happy to come home.

Ladies Tea

I recently had the honor of co-hosting our Annual HBC Ladies Tea. My co-host and I went for a whimsical theme, with pretty food, cute hats, and lots of fellowship.  Here are some of the pictures I was able to take. My apologies, I’m not the photographer in the family, so some aren’t that great. 🙂

The Lord blessed us with women from four local Reformed Baptist Churches: Sovereign Joy Community Church, Covenant Community Church, Bethesda Baptist Church, and our own Heritage Baptist Church. The woman from Faith Community Baptist Church were with us in heart.  We had many women who wanted to come, (I think I had forty RSVPs), and ended up with 24 women and four beautiful babies in total!

Getting the muffins made!

Getting the muffins made!

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Muffins on the cooling rack!

Muffins on the cooling rack!

Yum! Gluten free Pina Colada, and Butternut Squash.

Yum! Gluten free Pina Colada, and Butternut Squash muffins.

Mugs and teapot at the ready!

Mugs and teapot at the ready!

All the work has been done and now the day arrives!  The Atterholts arrived at 1100 to help set up, decorate, and ready all the food!

Decorations going up!

Decorations going up!

Everything ready for all the special Ladies!

Everything ready for all the special Ladies!

Rachel, on the left, was my co-host! Her sister Arianna sang a lovely song at the tea. Naomi was my right-hand applying all her organizational skills to serve. And Patricia made sandwiches and kept everyone in stitches!

Rachel, on the left, was my co-host! Her sister Arianna sang a lovely song at the tea. Naomi was my right-hand applying all her organizational skills to serve. And Patricia made sandwiches and kept everyone in stitches!

Let the Tea Begin!

(At this point I was so busy meeting, greeting, having fun, and fellowshipping, I kinda forgot to take pictures. Sorry.)

Something unique about each of the Ladies who attended!

Something unique about each of the Ladies who attended!

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Drinking tea, talking about tea, and making new and dear friends!

Drinking tea, talking about tea, and making new and dear friends!

And to finish us off, here are two pictures of me with my little niece who is wearing my baby dress. I’m just slightly smitten. 🙂

She's not as happy as I am. :-)

She’s not as happy as I am. 🙂

Love my little Imogene!

Love my little Imogene!

Thank you to all everyone who helped by bringing food and chairs. We missed everyone who couldn’t make it but wanted to be there! There are rumors floating around about doing it again in the fall…except with a coffee theme instead. God has given us a wonderful church family, here at Heritage, and a wonderful group of sister churches! We are blessed to be a part of this family of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Ladies! I for one am looking forward to many years of fellowship together!

 

 

Death of a Friend

Re-posted from my old blog to share with others:

September has been a very busy month.  It started with a head-cold, then a wedding during the cold, than a dear friend passing away, then a conference.  I coordinated the wedding with the cold and almost no voice.  I was the person in charge of the five meals for about 200 people attending the conference.  It was crazy.  But what I’m sharing today is about my friend who passed away.

These are notes I took while sitting in the hospice room for the last few days of his life.  These are very intimate notes, but I feel it is important to share them.  I’m leaving them much as they were when I wrote them, so please excuse the rough draft format.

9/14/13:  Early AM

I’ve never been with someone when they died.  I’ve been to relatively few funerals.  My fear and repulsion for hospitals and any and all things medical coupled with the one too many things I know about crime scenes and thus how the body decays after death has led me to fear the side of a dying friend for many years.

But, I have entered a stage of life where I can no longer avoid hospitals and death.  God’s grace is sufficient and like a good hobbit I screw up my courage and visit my friends.  I have found love to be a great motivator.

So, here I sit, having been in the hospice room for almost 12 hours and only three of them spent asleep.  My brother “breathes” loudly in the hall.  My husband is finally lying down covered by my St. John throw, faithful to his friend to the end.  Glenn is sleeping for the first time in days and Flo stays by his side, nurse, wife, and friend.

We have kept the night watch.  We have been with Harry as he struggles to breath – labors! – and as his body shuts down.

I’m amazed that I have done this.  I have visited Harry, my Grandma and spent all day with my father-in-law in the hospital.  And while I have not changed my revulsion for them, I am here.  I haven’t “felt” the hand of God, but I have thought, “I love these people and I must do my duty.” (Maybe that’s what the hand of God feels like.)  It is so ordinary and I am so thankful for it.  For the quiet working of God to aid me to be motivated by love.

So, Brother Harry lays dying.  Not real quickly I must say.  He has no family here, only his church.  But as far as I am aware, he has not been alone at all.  Men and women have gathered to sit at his side, hold his hand, stroke his brow, pray, read the scripture, sing.  We have sung his favorite hymns and the hymns he wrote.  We watched him try to sing with us.  We felt him squeeze our hands when his favorite passages are read, and like Sam at Gandalf’s death, we have spoken often of his banana pudding.

So, I sit and watch a friend die.  A man I love because he encouraged my husband.  And you know what I think….Harry’s gonna get to see Glenn Wilkinson before the rest of us.

My facebook post that day:  For the believer death is but a door to heaven.  It is the ending of one story to begin the real story in the presence of Christ.  And dear believer….this story has the best ending through the path to it has been dark.”

A quote sent by a friend: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” – JRR Tolkien

9/14/13: 9:00AM while Price reads Revelations out loud to Harry.

Listen.

Listen for his last breath,

Feel the twist in your gut,

Is this the one?

A moment of bi-polar emotion.

Fight. Fight to stay alive!

Go. Go. Let go.  We will soon follow.

So we gather.

We hold tissues tight in our fists.

We sing in broken voices.

We share intimate moments of tears.

We hold his hand unsure of being held.

We talk unsure of hearing.

We read unsure of comprehension.

And we listen

Together, we listen for your last breath.

Even now, when he lies lost in dark halls of his mind laboring to breath, hot with fever, he serves his church.  Even as his last few hours slip away, we are encouraged, brought together, given new opportunities to serve, given new love for each other.  As you come closer to haven’s door, we, gathered around you, examine our own future deaths and find peace.  We see the love of the saints.  We see you surrounded by hymns and the Word and by tears and laughter and we know we are not forsaken.  Even in death, You are with us, our mighty brother who already conquered death!

(I have, on my next page, the words written out from Before the Throne of God Above and Into the West.) (http://instagram.com/p/eP6SugTFFU/)

9/15/13:

Watching Harry, I’m struck by God’s beautiful multi-tasking. I’m beginning to understand joy in the midst of suffering.  Our church hurts, yet here we are gathered around Harry with all the members singing, praying, reading the scripture.  We are laughing and crying, crying with people who I’ve never cried around, watching people cry who I’ve never seen cry.  And we are united.  So as the Lord takes Harry home, as he finishes the work which He began, we are made stronger.  We are untied and we are challenged.  As the Lord takes him home, he is using Harry to help us love each other more.  He is using Harry to sanctify us.  Harry’s faithful testimony has been mentioned again and again.  And the Lord even used that.  If Harry hadn’t been faithful, he might have died in his apartment alone, but God used his faithfulness to preserve Harry.

“I have so many friends, and I don’t know why,” is what Harry told his niece before he became mostly unresponsive.

9/18/13:  (Harry passed on the morning of the 16th.)

I spent the weekend carefully watching my husband.  When did he become the man I always wanted him to be?  When did he get so strong?  As I watch him hold the hand of a dying friend, as I listen to him sing and read the scripture, I couldn’t be more thankful for this man, my friend.  He sacrificed his time, sleep, his work to stay by Harry.  The Lord granted his request to be there with his at the end.  But the part that I remember and cherish the most is him holding Harry’s hand and reading the book of Revelations barely able to keep his voice steady.

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(We were there at the end, when Harry died, along with my parents, our other pastor, Glenn and Flo, and Ben.  It was the first time I held someone’s hand as they passed away….I know it will not be the last.  But I do know that God is good.  He will finish the work.  He has conquered death.  I hope and pray my death serves my church as well as Harry’s did.)