Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mom

I never would have imagined how much pain my heart could withstand while still continuing to beat or how many tears my eyes were capable of spilling....until my mom passed away.  As I walked into the sanctuary for my mom's funeral, I was afraid my feet would not carry me those few steps to the front pew.  I sat between my brother and sister as grief shook my body and poured down my face.  There were bountiful flowers in every color of the rainbow arranged on the platform and a single 8 x 10 picture of my mom in her favorite pink shirt.  My sister's pastor and church family poured out the love of Christ upon us; the pastor's message was beautiful and full of hope, the program and slideshow were created with love, the meal was abundant and graciously served, and our every need was tenderly met.  For the entire weekend, my siblings and I told story after story as our minds were flooded with memories.  Some stories were full of laughter and fond memories; others brought tears and pain.  It was fascinating to hear accounts of childhood through the eyes of five different people who grew up with the same mom.  Some shared stories about learning to read from our mom, favorite meals cooked with love for birthdays, favorite outfits sewn with her hands, finding mom in the bleachers for every sporting event we played, and on and on.  I could almost smell the enchilada casserole that was always baked in the green corningware bowl and the 'Charlie' perfume she requested on her birthday.  I could nearly taste the popcorn which overflowed the brown grocery sack and the salt water taffy which were special treats at my brother's baseball games.  I remembered playing dolls with my mom and how beautiful her favorite necklace looked around her neck.  I remembered each of us having a turn to pick our favorite bedtime song....knowing our song meant our turn to sit on my mom's lap.
Mother's Day was the day following my mom's funeral.....I desparately missed my mom and wept much of the day. In light of the special day, the pastor shared a beautiful message from the book of Proverbs, chapter 31.  A passionate reminder filled my soul through the preaching on this picture of a Godly woman, as well as the years of memories of my own mom.  Moms are special.  Moms have the ability to touch their homes and the lives of their children and grandchildren in ways that will outlive their days on this earth....that is already true of my mom's life.  I was also reminded how I am filling my children's hearts with memories of their mom each day of my life.  I want their memories of me to be filled with love and tenderness and Godliness.
I long to see my mom again one day.  I rejoice in her spending her days with the Lord.  Besides being in the presence of Jesus, she has perfect sight and has no pain or fear.  Thank you, Lord. 
For we moms who remain on this earth, our daily perserverance in Holding the Fortress is building character, principles to live by, and memories in the hearts of our children.....what a blessed gift and responsibility.  For those whose mom still remains on this earth, remember to cherish her.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My path...God's design

Dearest Friend,
If you are a Believer in Jesus Christ, you are the daughter of THE King.  You are accepted, cherished, and treasured.  You are forgiven, redeemed, and will be ushered into Heaven one day.  Through Jesus Christ, we have eternal life!  Through God's Word, we can know God and live abundant lives for Him.  God loves you personally and knows everything about you and the course of this very day in your life.  His plan is perfect and specific for you.  His plan is perfect and specific for me.  Sometimes I fail to meditate on these truths as I begin my day.  Sometimes I become distracted by the paths of others.   Certainly, there is a vast amount of instruction for our paths that is common to all of us:  love God and love our neighbor, diligently teach our children, correct our children, be wise stewards,  live separated lives, care for widows and orphans, be above reproach, love, submit, obey, and tell others about Jesus......just to touch on a few things that God requires of His children. (I almost chuckled out loud as I read what I just wrote.  I typed those words in a matter of seconds with great ease, yet it will take a lifetime of God's molding me to live in such a way.)  The most amazing thing is that God IS able to perform such a work in my life and wants me to have victory!  God's Word is full of instruction for Godly living, as well as the promise of blessings that He wants us to enjoy! There are Biblical principles to apply to every area of our life.  Additionally,  I believe God has a specific plan and purpose for every believer and family.....for every mom.  God placed our children in our care.....on purpose.  Some of us have many children....some of us have one.  Some of us will have many days to watch our children grow and mature.....some will have just a few.  Some will raise children who will never have the ability to live independently....some will raise children who will leave home at a young age.  Some will spend all of their child-rearing days on the same city block.....others will raise their children in numerous homes.  Some will have the support of their husbands....some will not.  God knows every detail and He has all of the resources necessary for your specific journey....for my specific journey.  I am ashamed to admit I am guilty of desiring a different path sometimes.  There have been times that I have dreaded making another military move.  There have been times that I have complained because my husband would not be coming home for a holiday....much less dinner. There have been times that I wasn't thankful enough for my two children....begging God for more.  Shame on my ungrateful heart.  God knows me.  God knows where I am.  God knows what I need.  God knows how and where He wants to use me.  My path was designed by Him and I can be sustained by Him for my specific journey.  I am challenged to focus on God alone and the path He has laid out for me......it is special and unique in God's tapestry.  God uses us in different ways to touch the lives around us.  Let's live today and every day....doing what God asked us to do.....Holding the Fortress where we are...not comparing our path to another, but keeping our eyes on the Guide.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Encouraging the Courageous

These thoughts are dear to my heart and I ask for your patience as I share them with you; my desire is for you to hear the passion echoing in your own hearts.  Let me start by saying this:  I am married to the man of my dreams and I am madly in love with him.  If you were to ask me, my husband can do absolutely anything and do it well.  He loves the Lord and is a wonderful, loving husband and father.  As amazing as he is, he is merely a man.  There may be things that he struggles with or areas where God is still molding him....he is a work-in-progress like the rest of us until the day of perfection.  We received our copy of the new movie Courageous early this week  We have already watched it several times and have thoroughly enjoyed it.  There is such truth proclaimed through the movie and such a bold call for Godly men!  Both my husband and my son were inspired and excited about the message; indeed, our families need Godly men to stand up and assume their God-given responsibilities.  As I listened to the 'resolution' being read, I was burdened for my husband and the weight of responsibility he carries on his shoulders.  God reminded me how HUGE that is and how much my husband needs my prayers.   Our husbands come in all different shapes and sizes with different backgrounds and personalities.  Certainly each of them are called to Godly living, but each of them are in a different place on their journey.....they have come to know Christ at varying ages and have matured spiritually at different rates.  We have been given such a gift to know them intimately and to know their strengths and weaknesses.....to know how to pray for them.  I want to use my gift of intimacy to encourage and to lift up my husband.  After seeing a movie like Courageous, it would be easy to compare our husbands to another or to be dissatisfied with where they are on their journey.  Rather than being disappointed or 'poking them in the eye' for a failure, we should pray more fervently and do all that we can to help them shine for God.  In my earlier years of marriage, I can remember a woman telling me she thought reading romance novels was a bad idea.  She felt they created a picture of 'manliness' in the mind of a woman that a real-life husband could not measure up to and succeed.  I have had other women tell me they struggle with similar emotions when seeing how other homeschool dads take the reigns with the education of their children....and their husbands do not.  God is still perfecting our husbands......as He is perfecting us.  God will use their trials and mistakes to mold them and shape them.....as He does for us.  God wants them to be victorious and strong......as He desires for us.  God wants them to know Him and to rely on Him.....as He does for us.  We can honor our husbands by praying for them and encouraging them even when they don't 'make the mark'......remembering that Jesus Christ is the 'mark'.  I love to go on dates with my husband!  We have had many couples along the way who have traded date nights with us.  We would trade one night a month to watch the other couple's children while they went out on a date.....then it was our turn for a date.  I can remember one date night about two years ago.....my kiddos were plenty old to stay alone, but enjoyed the opportunity to stay with friends.  As we were visiting before we left, my friend whispered a challenge to me; she suggested I praise my husband for the entire drive to the restaurant.  Now, the restaurant wasn't just down the street......it was about 20-25 minutes from my friend's house! Honestly, once I got started thinking of things to praise my husband for, I would have had enough to say for many more miles.  I'm afraid it is easier to focus on the things we would like to change than to appreciate the things that are wonderful about our husbands.  I pass along my friend's challenge to you:  think of ways to praise your husband.  I believe we can build or break our husbands with our words.  Perhaps encouraging our husbands is one of the most effective ways to Hold our Fortress.  I would like to invite you to share your praise on my blog!

Hope

The last few weeks have provided an emotional roller-coaster ride that I am ready to deboard. I certainly would not dash back to the entrance to get in line for this one again.  As I have shared previously, my mom is quite ill.  The diagnosis given this week is not favorable.  I have been wrestling with a variety of emotions: grief, regret, anger, and....HOPE.  Although the doctor's findings paint a grim picture, there has to be hope.  As I was talking to my sister on the phone last night, we were discussing the desire to provide the best care with the greatest possibility of recovery.  As we threw out questions that needed to be answered and scenarios we were hoping could be created, we asked ourselves, "Are we in denial?"  If 'being in denial' means unwilling to accept my mom's condition will only worsen, then I am certainly in denial.  Of course, I believe her diagnosis must be considered, having proper care in place for her is essential, being aware of the injuries she has suffered and what the long-term effects could be is wise; however, hope still burns in my heart.  I refuse to be convinced that healing is impossible until my mom draws her last breath.  Without hope.....what is valuable about life at all?  My God is a God of hope and miracles!  The Bible is full of accounts of 'hopeless' situations in which God provided hope.  I have heard testimony after testimony of missionaries, pastors, friends, and family members who have witnessed miracles in their own lives.  I have been the recipient of God's miracles myself.  There has to be hope.  There has to be hope for sick family members, there has to be hope for rebellious children, there has to be hope for unsaved loved ones, there has to be hope for the shattered marriage, there has to be hope for the childless, the unemployed, the widowed, and the broken.  Whatever the situation is we are facing, there is HOPE!  God's will for my mom's life (or my life) may not look the way I would have planned it, but I know His will is best.  I know regardless of the outcome of life's troubles, we have reason to hope.....God still sits on the throne and cares about every detail of our lives....regardless of how 'hopeless' they seem.  God still comforts, protects, and provides miracles in our daily lives.  There is HOPE because God is Holding the Fortress.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

If Tomorrow Never Comes

Perhaps you are familiar with the Garth Brooks song "If Tomorrow Never Comes".  Country music isn't my genre of choice, but the lyrics to this song are, at a minimum,  thought-provoking.  The over all message the artist is sharing is the need to assure those most precious to us of our love every day.......because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.  Today is a gift.  Life is a gift.  Love is a gift.  Most days are rather ordinary and these thoughts don't really impact my day as they should.  I become irritated over things that won't matter five minutes from then, much less five years.  I scurry around to and fro accomplishing my tasks and fail to be patient with those who 'scurry' a little slower than I do.  I get 'bogged down' with the daily grind.  I don't consider my words as if they may be the last I speak or the last someone will hear.  I let the day slip away without writing a note to a precious friend, calling my parents, or hugging my children one extra time. ......And then there are the days when the brevity of life is so powerful, it nearly knocks the wind out of me.  There are days when the grief I experience over my mom's failing health feels like a hundred pound weight on my chest; I am begging God for many more days to love her.  As the camera of my mind flashes scenes with my mom, I cling to the memories in which I loved her as I should have.....and regrettably want to discard the times I wasn't grateful for her.  I should have shown more love.  There have been days of my husband's deployment that I have struggled to push from my mind the 'what ifs' concerning his return.....God forbid I spend my days without the man of my dreams.  God forbid he doesn't hear from my lips and see in my actions how much I cherish him.  I should make a more diligent effort to remind him of my love.  As I awoke this morning and peeked at my two children lying in their beds, I thanked God for the gift of life and the gift of spending today with them.  I thanked God for the gift of love.  I wonder....if I knew this were the last day I could spend with them, what would I do differently than I did yesterday?  I would hurry less, be more patient, laugh more, and love much more.  Holding the Fortress is all about love.....love for God, who first loved us, and love for those He gave us to cherish here on this earth.....for as many tomorrows as He gives us.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Motherhood

Mother (according to The Random House Dictionary): 1.  a female parent 2. a woman in control or authority.  Mother (according to Arlana): a woman whose heart has been miraculously transformed into an organ of passionate devotion, protection, and tender care for those children entrusted to her by God.......who fails regularly, but God's grace is sufficient for her.  How do I put into words the desire in the heart of a woman to be a mom or the ache that nearly crushes the soul of a barren woman.  As I longed for God to fill my womb with a second child, the pain was more than I thought I could bear....the desire of my heart is to be a mom.  Praise Him for blessing me with children!  From the time my daughter was a mere toddler, she tenderly lavished her baby dolls with love as she nursed them and rocked them.  God's gift to nurture and 'mother' has been tucked into the hearts of little girls.  As amazing as I think Dad's are (we have a pretty fabulous one around our house), I want to scream from the rooftops how AMAZING I think moms are....and their worth is INVALUABLE!!  Moms have the opportunity to impact the entire world....one little life at a time!  Have you ever witnessed a scene like this: a mom pulls up in her driveway and quickly climbs out of her car, opens the back door and puts a toddler on her hip. She closes the door, sprints around to the other side of the car and opens the other door.  Before she grabs the infant carrier in her free hand, she slides numerous plastic grocery bags on her arm and puts her keys in her mouth.  She nudges the back door shut with her knee and stumbles up the sidewalk with her load.  The neighbor passes this young mom on the walk and asks if she needs help; despite the keys in her mouth she replies with, "Oh no, I've got it!"  Perhaps you have not only witnessed this scene, you have played the lead role in the scene.  Moms are amazing!  I know moms who tend enormous gardens, butcher chickens, make all of their own jelly, pickles, salsa, fresh bread, and 'can' all of their own produce!  Moms are amazing!  I know mom's who spend months at a time bearing the burden of raising a family, home educating, and successfully managing a home on their own as they beg God for the safety of their deployed spouse.  Moms are amazing!  I know moms who rarely sleep because their young children need to be fed, loved, tended to, or nursed to health.  Moms are amazing!  I know moms who stand by their children in the midst of horrific consequences resulting from poor choices, stroke the the backs of their children whose hearts are breaking, would expose their skin to the most harsh of elements to shield their child from the cold, and will read a favorite story over and over until the cover falls off!  Moms amaze me!  Many moms diligently and faithfully serve, instruct, disciple, and cherish their children on a daily basis....with no fanfare.  In the Air Force, military members not only earn rank based on certain criteria, they are also awarded decorations for meritorious service and a 'job well done'.  When the award is presented to the military member, it is usually presented at an official function called a Commander's Call.  All military members in the room must stand at attention while the citation, describing the meritorious service, is read.....and the member receives their medal.  It is a tradition, unique to the military, which honors an excellent performer.  Perhaps we moms will never be honored, on a stage in a crowded room, for our 'meritorious' service.  We will probably never receive a medal for laundry washed, meals cooked, multiplication tables taught, or buttons sewn in place; however, the book of Proverbs describes the honor rewarded to a Godly woman.  And if that is not enough.... God allows us to indulge in hugs and kisses from little lips along the way, pictures colored just for us, and the privilege of watching our children mature.  Be encouraged as you are Holding the Fortress.....motherhood is a precious and valuable calling!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Desiring Excellence?

I thoroughly enjoy the hour each morning when my children practice their instruments.  I don't even mind the repetitive exercises or the mistakes that accompany a newly assigned piece.  This morning, I was attacking the mound of laundry while my daughter was practicing her violin in my room.  It seemed like her 'to do list' this week from her instructor was rather lenghty:  fingering patterns, bowing techniques, polishing review pieces, and conquering a new Vivaldi piece.  She diligently performed each task, despite the amount of work that lay before her.  I know her instructor assigns the load with one goal in mind....for my little girl to be an excellent violinist.  As she was practicing, this thought occured to me:  every area of my life that I desired to see 'excellence in' has required diligent and repetitive practice.  Nearly 15 years ago, I had a bright idea to be an aerobics instructor.  If you had known me at the time, you probably would have laughed out loud....right along with me!  I wasn't coordinated, I didn't have any rhythm, and I was scared to death to be in front of a group of people!  I had only taken a couple of aerobics classes in my entire life and those didn't even go well for me; however, I was determined to make this happen.  I signed up for the certification class and purchased my study materials.  I only had a couple of weeks to prepare.  I crammed, my husband drilled me on the information, and I attended every class I could take.  Well, I passed the course and was now a CERTIFIED aerobics instructor (an uncoordinated one with no rhythm and afraid of people)!  My first classes were terrible!  Sometimes my husband was the only participant who showed up for my classes!  I couldn't find the beat, I forgot my routines, and I fell on the floor!  I practiced and practiced and practiced some more.  I was more determined than ever to be good at my new skill!  It paid off for me....I have enjoyed developing my skills for many years and I love to teach aerobics.    Learning to play the piano was the same way....I started as an adult.  It was very difficult for me to progress, but I desired the skill.  Learning to sew, crochet, and numerous other skills have been no different.  My marriage is an area where I certainly desire to be excellent!  I married the man of my dreams 18 years ago and love him more deeply than ever!  Although I thoroughly enjoy my spouse and he is a delight to me, marriage requires much diligence and determination to see excellence!  Homeschooling my children is the greatest area in my life that I feel requires practice, diligence, and determination to accomplish an enormous task!  As we begin each year, I am overwhelmed by the responsibility!  If there has ever been something 'difficult' that I desire to see 'excellence', THIS IS IT!!  I (alongside my husband) am incapable of accomplishing this task with excellence without the Lord's strength....and He wants to strengthen me for the job!  Whether it is a good day or a bad day, whether I feel like it or not....God has called me to see this through to the finish line....running my race with excellence.  I am not going to lie.....some days are very hard, but it has been worth every effort!  I recently heard a gentleman say, "Don't doubt in the dark what God told you in the light"......or maybe it was "Don't doubt in the day what God told you in the night."  It doesn't matter, I get it.  God has called me to accomplish a great task which will yield great blessing.....His plan doesn't change just because it is hard.  Perhaps the hard days are meant to keep me on my knees.....pleading with the Lord to help me Hold the Fortress.