How Should We Love?

In the book of Acts we see the infancy of the church. As we read we find that as early as the third chapter of Acts, the body of believers was established after Peter addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 3:42-47 we see the response of the believers, who devoted themselves to the teaching of Christ and to fellowship with one another. Some of the highlights of this passage: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship”, “selling their possession and goods, they gave to anyone who had need,” and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The early church understood the need to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, making sure that everyone in the church knew they were a part of the family of God. They became a living, breathing, body of Christ–a fellowship of believers who lived with glad and sincere hearts. They loved one another. Oh, the church wasn’t perfect, as we see throughout the rest of the New Testament. And the fact remains, that Satan is our enemy and would love nothing better than to sow discord and deceit into the mix so that believers turn their hearts from God.

I could write all kinds of blogs about the things that are wrong in today’s church. But I am so glad to be a part of a body that can still show their love and their willingness to be the kind of church that is modeled in the New Testament.

This past Sunday we had prayer time for two very special people in our church–Emily and Kathryn. You see Emily has been need of new kidney for quite some time, and Kathryn, the very special sister in Christ who stepped up, was found to match. On Tuesday, Kathryn gave the gift of a kidney to Emily, her Christian sister. When I think of the kind of love that allowed this event to happen I am in awe.

Many prayers have been said over Emily as she went through the process of waiting for a kidney. You see, a few years earlier she needed a liver transplant and that gift was given to her through organ donation. Because of the medication needed for the liver, it affected her kidneys to the point where she needed the transplant. Despite her health issues, she has put her trust in the Lord. Emily has been an example to all the believers who gather in our church. She has served and worshiped with us, has always been a huge encourager to others, and has studied God’s word diligently. Kathryn, too, has been a devoted Christ follower and serves Him willingly and lovingly. When God put this on her heart, she answered his call.

Today the latest word is that both women are doing extremely well and are actually ahead of the curve on their recovery. Her doctor even commented on how well Emily is doing. I am pretty sure she probably told him it was all because of God. I can only believe that it is in answer to the many prayers going up on their behalf.

Sometimes I wonder, when did the church get so far away from how they were in Acts? I hear occasionally of small groups of Christians establishing house churches and trying to go back to the Biblical model that we read about in Acts. It has merit. But I think our biggest need is to just to love one another. Oh wait, I think that is what Christ meant when he said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Then he added, “The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

So how should we love? Maybe we should love enough to even give a kidney if God calls us to do so!

The Little Yellow House

One of my favorite aunts passed away yesterday (dare I say my favorite?). I only have two aunts left out of 14 originally. She was kind and compassionate, hospitable, and patient. She was generous with her love. And even though she had bright red hair, she did not have the temper that is such a stereotype for redheads! Although I do have to say I saw her aggravated occasionally, usually with my uncle. But it must not have been too bad because they were married over 65 years.

I have lots of fond memories of spending time at her little yellow house that was truly a home. I loved her green Fiesta Ware dishes that were square instead of round. I enjoyed eating her “cheesecake.” It was not until later that I learned it technically was pineapple fluff, not a true cheesecake. But it did have a graham cracker crust and cream cheese in it.

I was always excited to see her little yellow house at the corner of the Nortonville Gravel Road and her road. When I think back on how small that house was, I am somewhat amazed that a family of 5 could live there! And she hosted so many dinners there. I loved staying all night, even though it meant I had to kick my cousin Randy out of his tiny room for the night. There was no basement and I remember going to the root cellar to get canned goods for her and even one time going down there when there was a possible tornado. When my uncle finally built additional rooms on the house, it still remained yellow–such a happy color in my mind.

When I decided to move back home from Ohio, it was Aunt MaryAnn who came with my mom and helped load up all my belongings. I was probably more excited to see her than I was to see my mom. She has always just been there–loving and encouraging, gentle and kind.

She loved Christmas and one time when I took some friends from church home with me, we went to my aunt’s house just to see her collection of Santa Clauses. It was pretty amazing. She was so glad we were there. My friends commented on how gracious and welcoming she was.

Her life has never been easy and she lost a daughter many years ago and has one son who has made poor choices over and over again, which led to his life in prison. But she has one son who is a lot like her–compassionate, strong, kind and loving. She never complained of her lot in life and always still loved others. She cared for grandchildren and loved them unconditionally, she opened her home on more occasions than I can count and probably even know, and she endured difficult back pain that necessitated surgery. All without complaint–well at least to my knowledge.

And while the last few years have been spent with Alzheimer’s, she would still smile through her confusion when she had no clue who you were. It was hard to watch as her health went downhill with the advent of Alzheimer’s. I remember the last time I had a conversation with her at a family reunion. I reminded her gently who I was after I could see the look of confusion on her face. She asked me how Tom was doing. He was my husband, who had died a few years earlier.

Alzheimers is an ugly disease and it does not have mercy on anyone. As it did not on her. The things Alzheimer victims forget are a lifetime of memories and skills learned since childhood. The lack of recognition of the ones who love them most is debilitating for everyone. My cousin and his partner have been primary caretakers for both her and my uncle during the past several years–and believe me–that is a huge undertaking. It was not easy for him and my uncle to watch her slowly slip away to the disease until she was at a point where she could no longer be cared for at home.

Aunt MaryAnn, I am happy to think that you are smiling and chatting away in heaven with those who have gone before you. No more sickness, no more tears, no more sorrow. Enjoy your rest.

Dinosaur Days

Today it is once again gloomy, with weathermen predicting anything from sleet, to snow, to ice, and to rain. And really, who knows? But I know on days like this I sometimes just need a little laughter in my life.

A few months ago, my grandson left his toy dinosaur at my house. I guess I was just a little bored, because I tagged my son in a post on facebook.

“Will you please tell your son that I have been trying to take good care of T-Rex after he left him at my house. But today I found him in my refrigerator trying to eat all my pepperoni. It was a tough battle to get them back, but I got ‘er done!”

T-Rex was still at my house a week later, so this time the post read “Well, it would seem that I made it on Nana’s Naughty List. I was supposed to go home with my boy when he was here, but I have been having so much fun I wanted to stay here. So I hid and no one could find me. I got really hungry waiting to be found and FINALLY Nana found me today. When her back was turned, I headed straight for the refrigerator. I ate all her pepperoni before, but I found something even better this time. BACON. Unfortunately, she found me before I could eat more than one piece. But it sure was good and so worth it, even though I did get scolded. Guess now we wait for when my boy comes back.”

From T-Rex: “It is 2 more days until my boy picks me up from Nana’s house. This morning I saw Nana make some apple cider from this thing. I figured I would have some too. I waited and waited with my mouth wide open and nothing! I guess Nana is still put out that I ate her bacon. So much for getting a drop of apple cider!”

T-Rex got to go home the next time my grandson came over. But it sure was fun while he waited at my house. I can see why people enjoy Elf on the Shelf so much. I think that those posts got more likes than almost anything I have put on Facebook.

The thing is I think a lot of people forget to laugh. I just can imagine Jesus laughing and cooing at a baby brought for him to hold. He certainly loved the children who came to him. And I am sure some of them had grubby, dirty hands from playing before they came to be held by him.

Chuck Swindoll said, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.” Used properly, laughter indeed helps us by providing added endorphins to our bodies. I have a friend who goes on vacation with me frequently. We have so much fun together and she makes me laugh so hard over the silliest things and I am sure my endorphins go up. I love that God put her in my life.

I encourage you to take time to find the joy in life and laugh a little—or a lot!

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2

My Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day that brings joy to some people, and stress to others. My cynical friends will say that it is just a day for merchants to sell more merchandise, and indeed I noticed the flower prices in my local grocery store went up substantially the week before Valentine’s Day hit. But my more romantic friends will anticipate receiving flowers, candy, or any number of things to celebrate their love.

The first year after my husband died, I found Valentine’s Day a difficult holiday to face. Now the thing is, it had never been a big deal day in our home. We didn’t do fancy dinners, or spend unnecessary money on a dozen roses. We were lucky if we gave each other cards some years. But we were together, and we loved each other. There was something about that security of knowing someone loves you and that you love someone that makes the day special. After he died, I found myself longing to be back where we were. But you cannot go back, you can only go forward.

For the single person who has never known the love of a spouse, for the widow or widower who has lost their loved one, or for the ones who find themselves in a difficult marriage and wondering if love will ever be theirs again, Valentine’s Day can be burdensome.

So you find ways to cope and find joy in the day. For me, it is taking joy in sending cards to my grandkids–although I must confess, somehow I missed doing that this year! The joy comes in watching other couples celebrate the day and being glad they are able to celebrate. The joy comes in not letting jealousy or envy get in the way of being happy for others who have found love and stayed the course in their relationships. Believe me, it took me a while to decide I would find the joy in the day instead of being envious of those who had their Valentine.

The joy also comes in knowing that I have the ultimate love, the best Valentine a person can ever receive, in the love of Jesus Christ. When God sent his son, it was like he was sending his Valentine to the world (I know that is not a theological concept, but I am just making a point here.). And for me, thinking about love, only leads me to think about Jesus. The lover of my soul. The rose of Sharon. The person who laid his life down for me. The one who was the Word when God created the very flowers we give as gifts. So Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. May you celebrate knowing that no matter where you are, no matter how alone you feel, God’s Love is the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift.

Snow Days

Today I am looking out my window and watching the snow steadily fall with a quiet whisper. As it accumulates and covers everything with a blanket of white, in my mind I am revisiting my childhood. Days like today have a sweet poignancy for me. They remind me of days that are past, but memories that are priceless.

I can envision the snow drifts piled along the fences and covering some of the roads. There was no snowplow with its big scoop to shovel the snow on our quarter mile lane. If it was a weekday, we put on our snow boots and walked to the main road and waited until the school bus came. But when we had snow on a weekend–then the fun began. We lived in the country and watching tv on snowy days was not an option.

After chores were completed, we would drag out the sled and pull it to the highest hill in our pasture. We would sled until our feet were numb and our faces were frozen and then trek home to gather in front of the pot-bellied stove and thaw, our feet tingling as the feeling came back. Oh yes, even in the 60s, we had no central heat and no running water. I would often envy my friends who had both.

As it would grow dark, we would listen to wind whistling through windows covered with ice, as we gathered in the one room that was warm enough for all of us. My dad would get out the games and we would play Monopoly, Parcheesi, or WahHoo (our name for Aggravation) on the board my cousin’s husband made for us.  As we started playing, my mom would be in the kitchen making home-made doughnuts and hot chocolate (nothing like the packets we use today!). As we would moan if we were put in jail, or accuse a sibling of cheating, we were building precious memories. We would laugh or pout, depending on whether we were winning or losing. Those times were also building a life-long love of games for me.

As we played, my mom would be in the kitchen making doughnuts and hot chocolate. It never occurred to any of us to help her; we were having too much fun playing games. She would bring the platter of doughnuts into the living room, and we would take a break long enough to retrieve our cups of hot chocolate and enjoy the melt-in-your mouth goodness of her doughnuts. We would spend the next two or three hours together, not realizing how many memories we were making.

Doughnuts made by my niece Stephanie. The tradition continues.

I wish I could say I was as diligent in making memories with my children on snow days. Instead, they would go sledding on McKelvey Hill with all their friends or watch a movie on television. If I could go back, I would do it differently. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs.

So, what about you? I encourage you to take the time to make some precious memories with your loved ones on days like today. Make a snow angel, bake cookies together, play a game, build a snowman, and yes, maybe even watch a favorite movie. Build memories that will last a lifetime so that someday you will look back with fondness, and maybe even a little nostalgia, to the memories you have created. Oh, and if you want–make doughnuts. Here is my mom’s recipe.

Mom’s Doughnut recipe – from memory written in her handwriting

I Love You More

When I was growing up my parents were not good at saying “I love you” or giving out hugs. It really wasn’t until my early 30s that I started hearing those words when I would come home for a visit. Do not misunderstand me—I knew my parents loved me, they proved it over and over by their actions. But they did not say it until I was older. I am not sure why it changed, but I remember being surprised the first time my mom actually said “I love you” when she hugged me goodbye. Those were words I treasured because I did not hear them very often.

When I was in high school, I remember going to my friend’s house and she would say to her mom, “I love you” and her mom would always reply, “I love you more.” I would longingly think how nice it would be to hear those words. They really were not a contest about who could love the most, but an affirmation that their love was deep and abiding.

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Welcome Home!

This morning when I opened my facebook, I saw a picture of my friend’s parents when they were much younger. The news was both heartbreaking and joy making. Nita Hargrave had gone home to her heavenly father and to those who had reached heaven before her, including her husband.

My heart aches for her children and grandchildren who will miss her dearly. But my heart also rejoices for them — because they have the privilege and joy of knowing she loved God and them with all of her heart.

I met the Hargrave family when I was a young 17-year-old college student. I roomed with their daughter, Debby, for many of my young adult years. I do not think they will ever know the full impact they had on my life. Continue reading

A Defining Day

On May 16, 1981, I woke up with a great sense of excitement and a little bit of apprehension. It was cloudy and rainy, but I did not let that dampen my anticipation of the day. In some ways it seemed like I had waited a lifetime for this day, but in others it seemed wonderfully new.

As I showered and  dressed, I realized that my whole life was about to change. No longer would my decisions impact only me, they would impact us. No longer would I be able to take off and go somewhere without a thought for telling someone where I was going. No longer would I eat toaster pastries for supper and consider that a meal.

A little voice inside my head said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” No. Wait. Continue reading

The Holidays Are Coming

holiday_stress_shutterstock_62603809I love the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of my favorites. For many people the holidays are a joyous time to be around family and friends, however, for some individuals it is a time of stress and turmoil. For the perfectionist, unrealistic expectations of the perfect house, perfect gifts, and perfect entertainments can take a toll. For the lonely and those who have recently lost loved ones, the holidays can accentuate their very aloneness. For others, the thought of being with certain family members makes them cringe. The reasons for holiday stress are many and varied, but most of us experience it to some degree.

One of the hardest things I have learned is to Let Go of Unreasonable Expectations. Here are some expectations that contribute to stress during the holidays. Continue reading

Welcome Home

October  27 is a bittersweet day for me. It is a day that leaves me kind of weepy, sad, and nostalgic all at the same time. It is also a day that reminds me of the joy of having Christ as my Savior and the hope of heaven. Eight years ago today my husband of 28 years woke up in a glorious new place, and sometimes I envy him for getting to experience what I long for someday. Then five years later to the day, and almost to the same minute, my Mom silently drew her last breath and was welcomed into heaven.

Tom & LindaI miss them both, and selfishly, I would love to still have them here by my side. But the reality is that life goes on without them. I have had bad days and good days, but the good ones outnumber the bad ones. I have learned I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have grown a little wiser and I have learned some lessons about life.

Here are some of the lessons I learned: Continue reading