Thursday, October 19, 2017

Just a Thought

Why i love preschool ministry at my church

When I look at the prayer list on the back page of the weekly preschool announcement page,  I see our stories.   I see that we are praying for our teachers in Houston who’s homes have flooded from Hurricane Harvey, I see that we are praying for teachers who have family in Mexico who have experienced an earthquake, I see that we are praying for a  teacher’s family from Puerto Rico (another hurricane), and a teacher’s family seeking political asylum in the U.S. 

When i think of our kids ministry, I count 12 languages spoken.  English, Spanish, Portuguese, Igbo, Swahili, Cantonese, Mandarin, French, ASL, Vietnamese, Japanese, and of course, baby talk...

And when I look back at our prayer list, I see a miracle.  I see that the Father has chosen to knit us all into this beautiful kingdom of His, from every Nation, Tribe and Tongue, and make us one...right here in Houston, Tx at Champion Forest Baptist Church.  Nothing makes me happier than serving Him here.   Just wanted you to know.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Grieving Harvey

September 25, 2017

It's now been a month since Harvey made landfall.  We will never be the same.

I was called to the front desk in the middle of a typically busy Sunday morning.  There stood Elizabeth.

Persecuted for their faith, her family fled from India when she was a little girl.  But her faith has been forged on the battlefield of life and suffering many other times throughout her days, and is now hammered into a beautiful masterpiece at 81 years old.

Deep, rolling accent, sometimes i only figure out about every third word, but I love her dearly and cherish her reciprocated love and encouragement.  She still serves faithfully in VBS, and only recently stepped down from teaching preschool Sunday School to care for her beloved husband Samuel, who changed addresses about a year or so ago, and now daily sees the face of the Father.

Grabbing my hand, her voice choking, she begged me to pray for her.  Elizabeth's home flooded with over five feet of water, and she stood there in tears, a month later,  having lost everything...  Everything left after 81 years, everything left of her dear Samuel, everything left from her long ago childhood in India, every picture, every shred of life.  Everything.  Yes, it's only things, it's not eternal.  But it was everything.  Period.  Everything.

We prayed.  She needed more, so i walked with her down the hall to the Resource Room and we sat.  She broke down.  She talked.  She cried.  Her deep grief is so very painful.  I wiped tears that slowly filled my eyes, and handed both of us Kleenexes.  Yet in the middle of the pain, a flash of joy would cross her face, giving me a glimpse into her very beautiful soul.  Scripture flowed from her heart like conversation. Then more tears.  An hour passed before she gathered herself up and we walked back to the front desk.

Sunday morning came and went.  Elizabeth needed me.  Preschool ministry survived without me.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Best Friends

Her mom crossed over last week, so I stood by my best friend at the  graveside yesterday. 

We first met in college, but only met.  Our connection began in early marriage when we neither one had two thin dimes to rub together, but plenty of time to talk deeply and plenty of kids to raise.    Our first borns are two weeks apart, our middles are  8 months, our babies… four days.   We did things together.  In fact, we sort of grew up together.  We discovered that together was easier than alone, most of the time.  We served together in two different churches as preschool and children’s ministers (her kingdom vision always amazed me) and how energizing was it to bounce ideas off of each other until they were created and perfected!  We laughed together until our sides split, cried together when life sucked, went antiquing together to drown our sorrows.  We helped set up and tear down some of  the kids’ weddings together.  We prayed together.  Things like that.  Together.

There are often best friends in different seasons of life, but occasionally one lingers…and how precious is this irreplaceable friendship.  How sweet the joy that rises between us, even at a graveside.  

You are forever a part of all that I am.  The colors of my tapestry are deeper and richer from the creativity and strength woven into it by walking through this life together.  I love you, Cyn.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Children Are More Valuable Than Things

As I sit here holding the little hummingbird wing onto the little acrylic hummingbird fan pull for the second time in its life,   I wonder how many hundreds of things I’ve glued back together through the years.  Pieces of bone china angel wings , the lenox vase, picture frames, pieces of this, pieces of that, hummingbird wings.  I have a stockpile of things that are still broken and still need repair.   Things most people would throw away, and my children most certainly will when they go through my “things” after me,  wondering what in the world they are and why in the world I saved them.  But here I sit with my little hummingbird, patiently waiting for the glue to dry so I can finish my other chores around the house. 


I gave the hummingbird fan pull to my dad one year after he reached the stage of “whatever- I- want-or-need-I-just-go-get-so-there’s-nothing-really-you-can-get-me-for-a-present”.  It might have cost $12.95.  Or less.  Who remembers?  But he loved hummingbirds, and the ceiling fan in the den of the house in Paris, Tx with a 12 foot ceiling, was always running, so it seemed just thoughtful enough, just whimsical enough.  When Mom sold the house, and we kids packed it up, it was one of the last things I saw, still hanging from the ceiling fan…so someone got it down  for me.


I don’t remember how it broke.  One of the sons, or son-in-laws, probably throwing something -- doesn’t matter.  I stuck the wing tip in the desk drawer for repair at some later date, when I had time to patiently hold the wing on for a few minutes.  Don’t really have time today, but here I sit, typing with one hand, holding the hummingbird wing with the other,  and thinking about gluing things together.


One of the first things we learned in our marriage was this:  Everything I have, I have because God has given me.  And one of the first things I learned about parenting was this:  children are more valuable than things.  Maybe that’s the reason for all the glue.  They never really meant to break things, just like they never really meant to spill things.  It wasn’t ever premeditated.  They act childish, they are children, after all.  Accidents happen.  Fine motor skills are much harder to master than gross motor skills.   Eyes get big, lips quiver.  They weren’t concerned with getting spanked, they were just petrified of disappointing me or seeing a tear roll out of my eye and  finding out they had just destroyed another family heirloom that had belonged to my precious grandmother.  So I tried hard to be nonchalant, hugged them tight and said, “It’s o.k. baby, it’s not eternal.”  Because I believed it with all my heart… Things are just things.  They’ll burn.  But kids ARE eternal, and molding those little hearts was the most important thing in all the world.  


I remember sighing deep down inside every time the Lenox vase got knocked over and another piece chipped off.  It was maybe the only thing we owned that was really valuable (as the world sees it), and had been given to us as a wedding gift.  We would have never had the privilege to, or been able to splurge enough to, buy one for ourselves.  So I glued.  In fact I glued until it would no longer hold water.  A few Christmases back, Mom thoughtfully gifted me with an identical replacement vase she spent hours searching for.  And how my heart smiled!


So this Christmas I glued the camel foot back on, Joseph’s hand back on Joseph’s arm, and Joseph’s arm back on his body, and now the hummingbird wing again.  Everything I have, I still have because God has given me.  And children are still more valuable than things.  And thankfully, that will never change around here. 


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Happy Moving Day

It slipped up on me until I saw the date on my phone this morning, but fifteen years ago today, Dad went home.   His absence still hovers around us in quiet places after all these years.

Dad’s missed multiple graduations – they would have bored him to death like my piano recitals, but he’d go because that was the grandfatherly thing to do and he so loved our three kids.  He wouldn't even miss the college ones, or Jeff’s commissioning, if he could have physically made it, and he'd be so proud of who those three are becoming.

And  he's missed three weddings – he’d fall in love with the ones our children chose, because he would know they chose well.

And four great grands that he would absolutely adore --  Titus, our favorite boy, smart, quiet and thoughtful.  Elli, our happy hearted one, with big blue eyes, who keeps us laughing.  Leala, our noticer of life with curly red hair and increasing opinions of her own.  And beautiful strong-willed baby Asa…who looks just like her dad and acts just like her mom.  He would love them each the best.

I miss my Dad.  There was something magical about his blue eyes, they always twinkled with joy.   There was something reassuring about his presence.  Something wise and thoughtful about the way he lived his life. 

Happy moving day, Dad.  Have you in my heart.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Wedding Recap:


Watching our son get married was a bit different for me than watching our daughters. Those of you who know me well know that I absolutely adore my daughters, but there’s something about a mom and her son… Somehow those little boys get under your skin in an unexplainable way. I looked at my hand-some, grown up man-of-a-son, holding the hands of his beautiful bride and vowing to love, lead, provide and protect her, and as I did he caught my eye and smiled his crooked little smile in my direction.

For the life of me I still saw a five year old with chubby little cheeks, a freckled little nose, dancing blue eyes, and a crooked little grin from nerve damage at birth. The pediatrician called it Bell’s Palsy, and reassured me at the time by saying, "Some day a little girl will fall in love with that crooked little smile. You’ll see." He was right. I remember the days Jeffrey climbed up in my lap in the rocker when he had fever, and we rocked for hours, or the days he snuggled on my shoulder for re-assurance, or the many days he urged me to come watch him shoot baskets in the afternoons, or the marathon Monopoly games we played, ten minutes at a time, before bedtime all winter long...Prom, graduation, college, graduation from Navy OCS. Time flies is an understatement.

As best we can, we cherish the moments. As best we can, we slow it all down and drink it all in. As best we can, we trust our kids to Jesus.

So if anyone is interested, I started crying when Titus (my 7 year old grandson) escorted his 86 year old great grandmother (my mom) down the aisle. It was a beautiful day to welcome a new daughter to the family, and a beautiful beginning to happily ever after. Congratulations Jeff and Jenna Marshall!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 30, 1949

Bill and Virginia.  A love story.

Today would have been my parents 65th anniversary.  So i called Mom and asked her to tell me about the day she got married... Mom was 21 and Dad was almost 21, and this what she recounted. Parentheses are mine.

"It was a Sunday afternoon, January 30, 1949.  There was 8 inches of ice on the ground.  The roads had been closed for over a week when Dad  (that's what she calls him when talking  to me)  finally got home from Stillwater.  It was between semesters.  We got married at the Methodist Church in Ft. Towson, Oklahoma. Mama Jo (Mom's mother), Granny (Mom's grandmother), Aunt Ruth (Dad's aunt who pretty much raised him), Mrs. Wilson, and the preacher and his wife were there.  Mama Groves (Dad's mother) wouldn't come.  (No surprise there, she didn't like any of the women her sons married.) 

Granny made me a white wool gabardine dress with gold buttons.  She sewed for the public, and it was a very nice dress.  Dad wore a suit. We took the last bus out that afternoon, as it began to snow again, and headed for a borrowed efficiency apartment in Oklahoma City.  Paul Artie (Dad's uncle) offered it to us for our wedding night - it was free...and since we had a total of $40 in our pockets, the price was right.  Our window was broken on the bus, and we almost froze, it was so cold.  There was so much ice everywhere that trees and limbs were broken all along the way and it looked like a disaster area.  (I googled it, and found out it was -16 degrees that day in Ft. Towson...record low for that day.  EVER.)  Dad said it was a hell of a day to get married.

Paul Artie had been out of town for a while, so when we got to the little apartment, it was frigid.  We turned on the open flame gas heaters and everything else to try to warm it up.  Woke up with the worst headaches in the morning, skin felt creepy and we were just miserable all around.  Dad asked me if I felt funny - then we both jumped up and started throwing open the windows and turning off the gas, realizing the gas had eaten up all the oxygen in the apartment and we had almost gassed ourselves.  I was just about then thinking to myself, 'if this is what marriage is like...i want out!'"

They eventually made it on to Stillwater...and began to live happily ever after. For which i am thankful.

Mom and Dad, you did it right, and showed us what true love is.  For better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health,  til death do us part.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Dr. Kilmer's Swamp Root Kidney Remedy

On a road trip without Duane last weekend, i stopped at a few antique stores along the way to pass the time, and found the greatest little bottle.  Engraved in the glass:  Dr. Kilmer's Swamp Root Kidney Remedy.

So i bought it, took it home, and looked it up.

Dr. Kilmer was the most famous purveyor of quack medicine in the 1890’s. And his legacy lives on, in this little bottle. It got me to thinking, what will people remember about me and what is important to me?

What legacy am I leaving? Are we leaving? I posed that question to my preschool coordinators at our weekly staff meeting and asked them what scripture comes to mind.

• 3 John 4. I have no greater joy than to know my children walk in the truth

• Psalm 78:4 We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord

• Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child.  Prepare them to trust God, teach them of His faithfulness

• Isaiah 63:7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord

Our conversation continued on towards speaking the name of Jesus in your home, and how important that is, and how it lingers in the hearts of your children long after you’re done. Which brought me to a story I had already been thinking about on my road trip and wanted to share.

We got a phone call one October morning at 6 a.m.  MY mom asked to speak to Duane instead of me, and told him my dad had a massive heart attack and the doctors said we needed to fly to Memphis asap. I was 7 months pregnant with Jeffrey, our girls were 5 and 7, and that wasn’t a phone call any of us were expecting. We didn’t have 2 thin dimes to rub together at the time, but the 4 of us hopped a plane, and flew to Memphis. Long story short and as love would have it, my Dad was given more time. Duane flew home with Kari, our second grader after a few days, but Ashley, our kindergartner, stayed with me another week until we thought perhaps she should go home and get back to school, too. I neede to stay longer and help mom, though.

I might as well have buckled my heart into that airplane seat, because it was like ripping mine out to send my five year old home alone on an airplane. Ashley was excited and bouncy, but I leaned down and held her freckled little face in my hands and said, “Ashley, I love you. Dad will be waiting for you in Houston. If you get scared, just close your eyes and whisper to yourself, Jesus – Jesus”.

Fast forward 26 years to this Christmas.  My 85 year old mom was with us and we were drawing questions out of the question jar to "stimulate conversation."  The question, “What was the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” Mom quickly answered, "The hardest thing I’ve ever done was sending Ashley home by herself on that airplane after Dad’s heart attack."  Ashley looked me dead in the eye, 26 years later and without a moment's hesitation said, “and I still remember exactly what you said to me – "If you get scared, just close your eyes and whisper to yourself, Jesus – Jesus – Jesus.”

There’s power in the name of Jesus.
Speak it in your home, speak it to your children. Leave a legacy. "We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord…His power, and the wonders he has done."

Friday, November 23, 2012


November 16
Gorgeous day, driving East Texas backroads, windows down, Christmas music blaring, fall is showing off, colors on trees, leaves dancing across the road, life is good, God is amazing, restore my soul.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Best Advice Ever

Decided to share four of the wisest things i've ever heard in all my life.  File under "Best advice ever."  Credit given in parenthesis.
1.  Best safety advice:  "Never walk down a hill backwards with your eyes closed."  (cousin Joe Kelly Groves, at age 4)
2.  Best advice for understanding people:  "She's really a nice lady, she just didn't fall off the same watermelon truck as everyone else."  (Roy Crowell, Minister of Education)
3.  Best ministry advice:  "Walk slowly among the flock."  (Gail Linam, mentor during early ministry years)
4.  Best relationship advice:  "It is better to be kind, than right." (unknown or unremembered)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Come Weary Saints

Come weary Saints.

I did not write all of this, merely compiled things. But I live here today.

As the people of God , we find ourselves tired. Scripture teaches there is weariness to the Gospel. "Let us not become weary in doing good..." (Galatians 6:9). We must not faint. We must not lose heart. We must not move on but move forward. But it has been a season of weariness, exhaustion, seemingly insurmountable challenges.  When it's most difficult, it's even hard to remember we are advancing the Gospel to the next generation.

Christ said, "Come unto me, all who are weary and burdened..." (Matthew 11:28). Christ bids me to come to Him, rest, die to self-indulgence and my way rather than the narrow way. The broad way seems much easier and less tiresome. It is not.

Yet the Lord time and time again speaks into my heart life giving words…"Therefore since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."  2 Corinthians 4:1 

"The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable," Romans 11:29

But I am weary.   

As believers, we know that our most painful problem—separation from God—has been solved. Jesus Christ, the only Savior, has taken our sin upon himself, enduring God’s wrath in our place and rising from the dead to assure us of our forgiveness. But all our problems don’t end when we turn to Christ. We grow weary in battle. We still get sick. Marriages end. Children die. Our plans, great or small, are disrupted.

Scripture assures us that God is sovereignly using our difficulties as tools to make us more like his Son. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Ro 5:3–5) While we know these things are true, in the midst of our hardships we can lose perspective. Problems can loom large, and our hopes can grow dim.

Come weary saints -- redirect your focus to the God whose love has been forever demonstrated at the cross of Calvary. May your faith and joy in the Savior be strengthened for the challenges you face, now or in the future.

Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
Sovereign Grace Music

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and trust
Is the deep, deep love of Jesus

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Favorite Moment of Today

I copied this from my daughter's blog, because i have pondered it every day since she posted it on May 2, and every time i just makes me smile. I asked her permission to post it on my blog, since hers is "by invitation only" for a while.

Titus and his speech teacher Miss Anna.

Our church now has a link on our web site called, "Prepare for Worship." Here you can read what the sermon will be about as well as listen to the songs we will be singing that morning. We have started using this in our home on sunday mornings to teach our children the words beforehand so they can join in with us. We love it! The kids bust out with their instruments and we repeat the chorus of each song multiple times to help with memorization. It prepares my heart just watching my children worship. Amazingly sweet.

So, one song we practiced yesterday for church was "Stronger." (click the word to hear the song!) Titus totally resonated with the chorus and internalized it pretty quickly. I noticed that as he sang, he was annunciating his sounds very clearly. It happened to be some of the sounds he has been working on with Ms. Anna, his speech teacher. Specifically his middle "g" sound (stronger) and his medial "k" sound (broken), etc.

I have been asking the Lord to give me a greater boldness and creativity in sharing the gospel lately with three kids and staying home a lot. The Lord laid on my heart to ask Titus if he wanted to sing this song for Miss Anna to both show her his sounds and tell her about Jesus. He enthusiastically agreed. I don't know exactly where she stands with the Lord but am striving to use these little opportunities to build relationship, love, and testify. favorite moment today. Kneeling beside my four year old (ok the tears are streaming now as i write) and helping him sing this song to his precious speech teacher. Here were the words he sang so sweetly...

"You are stronger, You are stronger,
Sin is broken,
You have saved me.
It is written, Christ is risen,
Jesus You are Lord of all!"

Miss Anna was all smiles.

After a month of destructive tornadoes and on a day in which the Lord brought justice to the oppressed through the death of a terrorist I closed up explaining how Christ is stronger than the pain and hurt in this world. What an honor to be able to explain Christ through a song of my four year old.

That was this mother's favorite moment today, and I can't imagine how much joy it brought the Father.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To the Ends of the Earth

Came across this visually astonishing video recently, and wanted to pass it on.

It is Psalm 67 set to music, based on the cry for God to shine His face upon His people that we, in turn, might be a light to the nations. (Basically the content of the whole semester of the Perspectives class I'm taking.)

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.” Ps. 67:1-4

Those with a heart for the Nations...enjoy.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Welcome Home

A reminder popped up on my computer today about Frances' birthday coming up in a few days. Not meaning to be melancholy, because i really am happy for her- moving to a new location and living the astonishingly perfect life...pain free, no tears, sweet rest, closer to Jesus that i can imagine...

But i've really been missing her lately.

I just know she'd be so involved in getting me ready to go to Africa, have all these amazing ideas of fabulous creative things to do with the kids, hand me a list of things to bring back for the resource room, pray me there and back. And she'd already be fussing at me for not being better planned and already having my suitcase packed days ahead of time. Because she surely would have.

I was blessed to attend a Michael W. Smith Christmas concert in early December where i heard him sing, "Welcome Home", a new song from his latest project, Wonder. It fit right where my heart was at the time, and ministered to me having just lived through the tedious, emotional days of loving her to the Homeland. So every time i hear it now, my eyes fill up and spill over just a little bit, and i so miss the sparkle and life of my friend. But we do not grieve as do those who have no hope. What a blessed promise.

Welcome Home

I can't believe that I'm here, having to say goodbye.
And i can barely see you through these tears i cry.
I close my eyes.

I can hear the sound, as angels gather 'round
Saying, "This is where you belong - Welcome Home!"

There are the days that my heart aches wishing you were here.
But i know where you are the hurt and the pain disappear.
There's no more tears.

I can hear the sound, as angels gather 'round
Saying, "This is where you belong - Welcome Home!"

Happy birthday, Frances! I'll try to do good in Africa!!!

(And someone tell Duane that this would be a great song to sing at my funeral...right before the fireworks!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm Mary...

One Christmas, Mom and I were Christmas shopping in a Hallmark store in Houston, two preschoolers in tow. We had just picked the girls up from Mother’s Day Out and run in for a minute. It was one of those hoity-toity stores where the clerks follow you around from aisle to aisle just waiting for you to break something, so we each quickly grabbed the hand of one of the kids.

Ashley had on that cute little red Christmas jumper with straps that tied at the shoulder and were finished with green Christmas tree appliqu├ęs that hung down the front of the dress. I don’t know when or how she got away, but after only a few minutes, I looked up and saw my little red- headed pixie climb up on a rocking horse in the window display, pull the back of her dress up over her head like a shawl, pooch her skinny little stomach out as far as she could manage and loudly announce, “MY NAME IS MARY. AND I AM JUST ABOUT READY TO HAVE THIS BABY.” I grabbed her off the rocking horse, turned to Mom and said, “Lets go, Granny. Ashley is about to deliver,” and we rushed out of the store in stitches!

Every Christmas we look back and realize that at every turn of the road we never really realized how blessed we were. The kids were only little a few minutes, it seemed, and we sometimes didn’t find the time to enjoy every minute of it!

This year is no different, except now it is easier to see... Christmas blessings from me and my house, to you and yours.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Nuts and Bolts Nativity

The little church we went to when our kids were preschoolers had very limited resources. Looking back, we probably didn’t need that much, to start with... We just had one class of babies, one class of one year olds, one class of two year olds, and so on. So maxxing out at about 5 preschool classes, we just didn’t need THAT many resources. Except in December. Except at Christmas.

It really was a challenge to share the one Nativity puzzle we owned among all the Sunday School rooms when everyone ultimately needed it the same day. We decided that when one teacher finished using it, they could run it down the hall to the next room so the next class could take a turn.

I’ll never forget the day it happened. My friend Emily was teaching the four year old class. She set up the block corner and added the one container we had with all the various sized nuts and bolts in it. Nuts and bolts are a great “manipulative” and a wonderful home made puzzle, as the kids can spend a lot of time matching the correct sized nuts to the correct sized bolts. Promotes cognitive thinking skills as kids match the sizes, fine motor coordination as they screw and unscrew all the nuts, and all that preschool developmental jazz.

But in the middle of Sunday School, in the block center, the most astonishing thing happened in the four year old class that long ago December day. As I was delivering the puzzle to Emily’s room, she waved me off. “We don’t need it today. Look.” It was there on the floor in the block center .

The biggest nut and bolt had become Joseph. The medium nut and bolt had become Mary. The itty bitty one was, of course, the baby Jesus. And all the other nuts and bolts were gathered around in worship.

The kids had figured it out as they played in the center and Emily told them the Bible story.

Teachable moment…. Especially for me.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Don't Forget the Wonder

It’s Christmas again.

I remember the year it seemed like Christmas for the very first time…sharing the wonder of His birth with our then little two-year old daughter, Kari. She was hearing the angels singing for the very first time, seeing the lights and the Star, and knowing the joy of His birthday is such a fresh, sensitive way.

If she asked me once, she asked me a hundred times, “Mommy, Jesus was born in a barn???” And it bothered her so much that she renamed her only baby doll “Baby Jesus” and prepared Him a bed in her room, beside hers, in a tiny doll bassinette with lots of warm blankets, and pillows and …and that’s the secret of joy, isn’t it? Prepare Him room. Let every ♥ prepare Him room.

And don’t forget the wonder…

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Christmas Musings

I guess I learned to love Christmas from my Dad. It was, hand’s down, his favorite time of year. Enchanted by the delicious magic of it all, his blue eyes twinkled brighter at Christmas than any other time. The things I remember most are the things Mom and Dad did with us, and in making our own entertainment we were rich beyond imagination… Driving around looking at Christmas lights, watching people at the mall (especially children), huge extended family holidays at Mama Jo’s old sprawling Oklahoma farmhouse with more people than you could count,

lying by the tree and watching the lights twinkle to the Christmas music Dad always kept playing. (Back in those days, the lights were bigger and had individual “twinklers”, not like the strands we have today. Dad named them after choir members at church to get an even bigger laugh…the one that always came in late was “Dave”, etc.)

Family was priceless, friends were always welcomed, snuggles were longer and warmer, and Christmas came amidst the beauty of it all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Precious Hope, Precious Saint, Precious Friend

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints. Psalm 116:15

I could simply stop here and let the Word speak for itself about Frances Ivins. Precious hope, precious saint, precious friend.

Precious Hope.
Jim, thank you for leaving your door open, so we could love her to the end. Frances was so astonished at everyone who wanted to come see her when she got home, and how loved she felt. She left with as much grace as she lived with.

We were able to hold hands and chat a few days ago. She told me she was at peace. She knew where she was going. She loved angels, was always giving me something with angels on it. So I bought her a little angel at the Craft Show, made from olive wood from Bethlehem, and pressed it into her palm the night I went to see her at the hospital. We had just found out it would only be a few days. She said, “I’m taking it with me.” We cried. But she wasn’t afraid. She was at peace. She knew she’d be welcomed by her Creator, the One who invested in her soul so much of His creativity.

I can imagine her delight in the perfection of Heaven. Her wonder when she met her Savior for the first time, and touched His face. And He said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome home." Precious Hope.

But in a few weeks, after she worships a few days, and feasts a few days (she hasn’t’ been able to eat for a while, and she loves a good Mexican food lunch), she’ll probably have her little part of Heaven redecorated and organized, the pearly gates oiled and leveled, and the streets of gold swept and scrubbed. If I know Frances.

Precious Saint.
She made it easy to love her.
Her heart was big . Her vision was Kingdom minded. Her touch made everything better.

We became friends when Frances started working in the Resource Room. Things just clicked for us. She was trained in good preschool ministry long before I arrived, and we had the same heartbeat for doing it the right way. Frances helped many inexperienced teachers tow the line of biblically and developmentally appropriate activities by her gentle guidance and helping them see a better way to teach, guiding them to use the curriculum, giving them a better activity to use instead of the one they had picked out, or jazzing up a mundane Bible learning activity with a little bit of pizzazz.

She did it for the kids. She gave in and filled orders way after the stated deadlines, b/c if she didn’t’ the kids wouldn’t have anything on Sunday mornings …she told me time and time again she did it for the kids. She kept little pictures of children taped to her computer screen who needed praying for, when she got a picture or an email about a child who was ill, or in need. She did it for the kids.

But she did it for the teachers too. She supported us. She enhanced us. She trained us. She suffered through us, and with us and prayed for us. I can see her rolling her eyes at me with all my last minute plans, and saying, “oh brother!” BUT she’d stay late or come early to do what she could to make me successful…whether it was decorating for a teacher’s meeting, or blowing up a balloon arch for an extra umph on Promotion Day or decorating for Christmas ADVENTure. We moved Nativity Scenes around from here to there, sometimes with minutes to spare…and she and Jim came earlier and stayed later than everyone else to make it happen, and put it back in order when it was done and everyone else had long gone home.

Nothing was more beautiful or satisfying than when Frances decorated the chapel for Christmas ADVENTure, our family worship celebration to begin the Christmas season focused on the true, biblical meaning of Christmas. The plaid bows she had artfully made were fluffed just right on the pews, the Christmas lights sparkled in the pine trees, and the manger scene sat right under the stained glass – the focal point of the entire worship celebration. I remember her happy smile, because it was all so breathtaking…and her heart was that the children would walk into the chapel with wonder, and be astonished at the simplicity and beauty of the baby King.

She was our backbone. She had an unparalleled commitment to kids ministry, to excellence. To organization. She was classy. And her love, her big heart, and her work ethic made us all better.

Frances did all things well. She was humble. She wanted to point to the Father, never to Frances. Always behind the scenes, never wanting the glory… Precious Saint.

Precious Friend.
For me, a trusted friend. She always called me her boss, and I always corrected her and said, “friend.” But the level of trust we shared was unspoken. She was so organized. She worked hard. She kept an eagle eye over things for me downstairs in the preschool area. She took the Resource Room to the next level – churches all over the convention come to tour her Resource Room and ask how to set one up like it. She was visionary. She kept things running that I never even knew about, she expected and provided excellence. I know there were times she actually scrubbed bathroom floors or light switches with toothbrushes, to make sure they were clean enough, because I know she loved her church, loved her job, understood kids ministry, and wanted things CLEAN! She would say, “The Lord deserves our best. We can do better than this.” I know she also had Pa building things in his workshop so we’d have all the things we needed at half the cost! She worked part time in the Resource Room for many years, but it wasn’t just a part time job for her—she enlarged her boundaries, she lived and breathed it, worked at home on her computer at night, always thinking of things, always pinching pennies to keep us under budget, always excellent—so we finally had to make her full time to try to compensate for all those extra hours! Frances even texted me one night from the hospital at 11:50 p.m., in ALL CAPS: I MISS MY JOB!!!

But how could we ever repay her? She served wholeheartedly. Her creativity. Her joy in serving, behind the scenes. Her way of making everything special—just going the extra mile. Her persnickityness to have everything in its place and everything in order. That was our Frances.

She always threw a party on the Thursday of Vacation Bible School. Now anyone who has ever taught in VBS knows that on Thursday you literally hit the wall. That’s the day you’re totally exhausted, the kids are tired and cranky, you haven’t made up your beds or had a home cooked meal all week long, and you’re wondering if you’re going to make it even one more day. So Frances throws a swimming party. So we can relax and chat and laugh, and soak up some little measure of friendship… She cooks this amazing Mexican taco casserole (who knows when in the world she has had time to do that), has an immaculately clean house, and invites her resource room staff and various friends over for lunch and the afternoon. As long as you want to stay. A friend party.

A true friend of the heart, we trusted each other. Nothing to hide between us, we prayed for each other. And each others kids. And each others grandkids. She Understood. Knew each others strengths and weaknesses. Knew each others hurts and pains. Let our guard down, together. Because of love. Because of trust.

She crossed over in faith. We grieve, but not as the rest who have no hope. We love you, precious friend. Have you in our hearts.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Alaska from the Back of the Bike, Day 10

Wednesday, June 30

Hiked to Russian River Falls, a 2.3 mile hike, where we watched the salmon jumping the falls. Absolutely astonishing! We hiked part of the way up with a friendly guy from Texas, enjoyed the conversation. Pretty scenery on the way back down the Skilak River Road, but it was gravel and pretty dusty…not Duane’s favorite type of surfacing on the motorcycle.

The blue sky came out in its full intensity, so we decided NOT to waste the beautiful afternoon and took another half day trip down to Homer, an artist community at literally the tip of Alaska on the Cook Inlet. Most of the days have been cloudy to partly cloudy most of the time, so you just don’t want to waste a bee-yoo-tee-full day! So off we go again.

Along the highway across the inlet, you can see the Ring of Fire volcanoes. Mt. ReDoubt and Mt. Eliamna are the closest. So incredible that God cleared it up for us, because this day is absolutely breath taking! You can see steam rising from the top of the volcanoes.

At Homer, we walked to the lands’ end and bent down and touched the ocean. Picked up a few rocks to bring home. They are black, like river rock, but they have a white stripe running through them.

A while back I decided to forgo the crummy tourist souvenirs and purchase something on a trip that helps us remember the adventure and is worth keeping. We usually decide on a piece of art, or pottery, or something like that. Our bed and breakfast had some whimsical Alaskan pictures that caught my eye, so I asked Dick about them. He said they were by a native Alaskan painter, Barbara Lavallee, and they had purchased them in Homer…so we went to an art gallery in search of some prints. Nabbed one, Tidepool Pals, and had it shipped home.

Dinner in Homer at Captain Pattys. Fresh grilled halibut and clam chowder. Mmmm… can’t get enough of this fresh halibut.

The way back was hazy. It is still daylight, you know, at 11 p.m., but we couldn’t see across the inlet at all. However, we began to see eagles riding the thermals and drifting above us, or simply nesting in trees. On the way home, we saw a Mama Moose, too. I smile as my head hits the pillow.