Winter Memories

view from my backyard

It’s a beautiful and warm February evening in the middle of winter. The temperature is in the 70’s, a rare occurance even for a Georgia winter, and the sun is shining and pleasant. It’s a great night for a walk around the neighborhood. As I begin my walk down the familiar sidewalks on this most remarkable of winter days, I’m reminded of a similar February day twenty-four years ago. My son had just been born about a month earlier in January and I was taking him out for a walk on the first warm day. When you have a baby born in the middle of winter, you don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to. Our days so far had consisted of a continuous cycle of sleep-change-eat every few hours, so I was excited to get out and show him the world. I bundled him up in the baby sling since he could not yet fit in the baby stroller I had bought, and we took off down the sidewalks on an unusually warm February day.

Now, here I am twenty-four years later, walking around the same neighborhood on another warm February day, minus one small baby of course. My baby is now grown and looking to start out on his own, at almost the same age I was when I took that first walk with him. It doesn’t seem possible. The neighborhood still looks about the same, though neighbors have come and gone. We have new family members and those who have left us. I am older, a little wiser, I’ve shed a few tears and have a few more scars, and oh how I wish I could hug that young mom! But I can also smile at it all, because through all the ups and downs, we get to live life, we get to love our family, we get to have memories, and we get to pass it on to the next generation. Life is not about being perfect. It is about living.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – from the wise Dr. Seuss

A nudge

from the walking trail in my yard

“You haven’t prayed yet this morning.” a little nudging thought seemed to say to me.

I know… I say back to myself in my thoughts, while grabbing my purse and phone and taking that last sip of coffee. … I’ve got to get going for my appointment this morning. I’ll pray when I get back. Besides, there’s nothing going on here in this quiet morning that needs urgent prayer. It can wait a few hours.

I try to read my devotion and pray every morning, but honestly, it sometimes gets away from me. I always feel better when I do. It’s like getting dressed in the morning. When I rush, I don’t always look my best. Those shoes I grabbed in a hurry don’t really go with my outfit. I may get through the day ok, but I don’t feel great.

On this morning, I’m dressed but don’t have on great shoes. I head out for my appointment downtown, and afterwards I check my phone. There’s an urgent text from my son – COME HOME NOW. I call and text and wait to hear back from him as I’m madly driving home. And praying, urgently praying.

It all turned out ok, just some scary scammers that he wasn’t sure how to deal with. But it got me thinking. That nudge earlier this morning. God was giving me a heads up. He knew what was coming. He knew the evil that was lurking in people who are ready to pounce on the unsuspecting or vulnerable. When we least expect it. God wanted to talk with me that morning through my prayer, to reassure me, and to help clothe me for what my son would be facing in just a couple of hours. God was already preparing his angels to surround my son from such evil.

I was reminded there is nothing more important in getting ready for our day than starting the day talking to God. So this morning when I opened my devotion, I found this:

As Soon As You Prayed
God thinks highly of you, and at the very moment you started praying, I was sent to give you the answer. Daniel 9:23
God answered their prayers because they trusted him. 1 Chronicles 5:20

God starts to answer us the minute we begin praying. And many times for things we don’t even know about.

Life.

Life.  That is the only word that comes to my mind at this moment.  I reflect back on the last month or so of changes in my life, also leading me to think back on my childhood and everything else in between, and I have come to this one conclusion: Life.

Life is living – the happy, sad and challenging times.  It is not perfect.  Don’t beat yourself up trying to make it perfect, or even fair.  We have a perfect Savior in Jesus Christ, and that is all we need to make sense of our sometimes tangled lives.

Life is relationships.  Put down the stuff.  Jesus Christ was all about relationships.  Jesus did not continue to dwell on our past sins and transgressions, but rather what are we going to do right now.  If you want to have an idea of what God is truly like, just look at Jesus’ life and actions.  Love, relationships, restoration, living.  He never sought fame or things.  Jesus knew what was truly important and lasting in this life.  Only the One claiming to be Son of God Himself could have led such a perfect example.

Life is temporal and eternal.  I know that sounds like a contradiction, and maybe it is for a little while.  Life on this earth will end, and probably unexpectedly.  If that is all there was, it would be terribly unfair and cruel.  But the God of life, love and relationships did not create us that way.  We have a choice.  Choose to follow the God of life.  It makes all the difference at a funeral.

My Dad ~ 1930-2017

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
– John the Evangelist, 1 John 5:11-13

I know this testimony is true.  I saw it.

My dad laid in the hospital bed of the Intensive Care Unit after having a massive stroke.  IV tubes and oxygen machines were hooked up to him.  He could correctly answer a few questions while laying there, but his mind seemed to be mostly reminiscent of past times in the 1950’s and 60’s.  He was restless and tried to get out of the bed, pulling off his tubes.  My dad never even wanted to be in a wheelchair so I understood.  He was a Navy veteran and strong to the end.  But there was also something else.

I stood beside my Dad’s hospital bed.  He wasn’t able to move his arms very much or focus on people’s faces.  Then suddenly he began reaching his arms up into the air, to the left of where I was standing, and grasping both hands in an open-and-close movement as if he was trying to hold onto something.  He saw something the rest of us did not.  Maybe it was the angels waiting to take him home, or maybe it was Jesus comforting and speaking to him.  It is life’s great mystery that we will not be privileged to know until it is our time.  But I do want to know the God of eternal life and His Son Jesus at that time.

After that, my Dad was more peaceful.  A few days later he spoke his last words, “Goodnight“, and slipped peacefully into the loving arms of Jesus in heaven.

Jesus said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on My way to wake him up.”  Then the disciples said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”  So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died.  I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
– John 11:11-15

In Jesus’ Words: Children are a Blessing (Matthew 19:13-15)

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As a mom, and especially on this recent Mother’s Day, there are no more comforting words to hear than these spoken from Jesus:

~ Matthew 19:13-15  Jesus Blesses the Children ~

Then children were brought to Jesus so He might put His hands on them and pray. But the disciples rebuked them.  Then Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this.”  After putting His hands on them, He went on from there.

Children are a blessing in so many ways.  Whether you have children of your own or have a chance to interact with children in other ways, I cannot think of anything more precious.  Children teach us what is important in life.  They see things through a different lens than us adults.

Children are a promise of renewal.  Even though we have sadness in the world, there is something about seeing a new baby that washes over us like a wave of hope.  Jesus makes all things new and Heaven makes all things fair.  From Jesus’ own words, “Heaven is made up of children and people like this.”  Heaven is a joyous place, for the children.

One of the most important things we can do in this life is to take care of the children, teach them, show them kindness, and let them come to Jesus.  Children are naturally attracted to Jesus.  They are fresh from God.  And a mom praying for her child is a force that can change the world.feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: A Mother’s Faith (Matthew 15:21-28)

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What is most important to you?  For those of us who are mothers and fathers, we almost always answer that it is our children, for their safety and happiness.
God sees us the same way.

What is second most important to you?  Beyond the immediate physical needs that most of us answer in the first question, if we are being truly honest with ourselves, we will most likely answer that we wish to be in good standing with God.  Everyone wants to know who God is and what He thinks about us personally.
God wants to know us too.

Combine these two answers together, and you will have the answers to just about everything in life:  safety and happiness, and to be in good standing with God.  Anything else – our jobs, worries, sickness – are all temporary.

Below is a beautiful story of a woman crying out to Jesus for help with her child.  Jesus doesn’t answer her right away, nor does He with us sometimes, but He doesn’t send her away either.  With the mother’s consistent pleading and prayer, when Jesus knows her faith is where it should be, He answers her.

~ Matthew 15:21-28  A Gentile Mother’s Faith ~

When Jesus left there, He withdrew to the area of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is cruelly tormented by a demon.”

Yet He did not say a word to her. So His disciples approached Him and urged Him, “Send her away because she cries out after us.”

He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But she came, knelt before Him, and said, “Lord, help me!”

He answered, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to their dogs.”

“Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!”

Then Jesus replied to her, “Woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.” And from that moment her daughter was cured.

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