Dad Walked In

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Twelve years ago today, I got the terrible news that my dad had suddenly gone to Heaven.

Just a few days ago, my sister was recalling how difficult it was for me to adjust to her move to Chicago when I was in fourth grade. I was so lonely for her. My school days were bleak, my nights were scary, and the days stretched out before me in an endless row of the mundane.

Into my loneliness stepped my father.

As Melanie and I were talking, I realized that it was at that time that I became so close to my dad. We had always shared a special bond, but it grew even more after Melanie left for college. Dad began taking me on bike rides. He asked for my help when working on the lawn mower or the cars, making me feel needed. He made the little errands out-and-about extra special by telling stories, listening to mine, pointing out the various types of wrenches, and of course, there was our staple: the hot fudge milkshake. Not chocolate  – hot fudge. He lived joyfully and it was contagious.

The Lord has been so good to me. He gave me a wonderful sister, my best friend, for nine years. When she moved away, the Lord supplied me with a dad who called me his “partner”, who laughed at my jokes; who told me, “You can do anything you put your mind to”; a man who liked me just the way I was.

When the Lord called Dad home twelve years ago today, I was not alone. I have a husband who reminds me very much of a man he only knew for seven short years. Terry is my friend. He laughs at my jokes. He tells me, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” He is a man who likes me just the way I am.

I miss my dad very much, but even on this sorrowful anniversary, I am reminded of my faithful Heavenly Father who has not left me comfortless. (John 14:18)

When it felt as though all the world had walked out, Dad walked in. How I wish he could walk in just one more time.

With love,

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Eleven

Eleven years ago, my dad left this home for his heavenly one. If you follow my blog, I’m sure you think I’m delusional about my dad. (I might be delusional, but that’s a whole other blog post!) I do realize that he wasn’t perfect. I know that he wasn’t anything special to the world. He wasn’t a millionaire or a business tycoon. He wasn’t super popular, either. He was just, you know, a regular guy. He loved his family and lived a quiet life puttering around at home when he was off work. He liked playing his trumpet. He had a great laugh. He was really easy to talk to. He was just run-of-the-mill dad. Or so I thought.

One day, I went out into the world. I met all sorts of people. I discovered that many of those people were full of hate, anger, jealousy, and lies. Suddenly, I didn’t have a “run-of-the-mill Dad”. I had an extraordinary dad. The evil of this world stood in stark contrast to his courage, honesty and humility. I admired him for that, more than he knew.

As the years have rolled by, I’ve pondered what my life would have been like if God had taken Dad home when I was young. Oh, how harsh the world would have been! How lonely and hard my life would have become! I am so grateful that before Dad went home to Heaven, he had securely placed my hand in the hand of another wonderful man. A man who, like dad, makes the cold world disappear into foggy mist by his very presence. A man who has made me laugh when I’ve wanted to cry, lent his shoulder for my head when laughter just couldn’t overpower the tears, and held tightly to my hand in the darkest days.

On this anniversary of a devastating day, I can say that God’s grace is not just sufficient, it is abundant.

With love,

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Verses I Love: Isaiah 41:10

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Today’s verse is Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

When I was ten years old, my dad got melanoma. I was old enough to be aware of the danger of cancer, but too young for it to feel personal. After all, my dad had worked for the American Cancer Society when I was very small. He made sure we lathered up with sun screen before we went outside for any length of time. He knew all the warning signs of cancer. He memorized the acronym “CAUTION”, each letter stood for a symptom of cancer, and he would randomly rattle them off to us. In the summer, it was common to see people at stoplights with their arms hanging out of open windows, holding a lit cigarette. I would watch as the tendrils of smoke wafted up gingerly. Out of the stoplight-silence, Dad would murmur, “Suck on that cancer stick, lady.” They couldn’t hear him, but I could. Time would fail me to tell you about “Larry the Lung”; or the time a neighbor kid offered me a bubble gum cigarette. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that I have *never* smoked a single anything. So, I guess I felt that we were prepared when we found out about the melanoma. And, indeed, the Lord was merciful to us. Dad survived the cancer.

But two years later, he would lose his job from the American Heart Association, where he had worked for several years. This was a very hard trial for him. I’m not sure if it was harder for him than the cancer scare, because I was a very unobservant ten year old. By twelve, though, I had “matured”. I knew Dad was worried. The promotion that had wedged him out should have been his. But, he didn’t hob-knob with the right people. He didn’t drink socially or attend parties where alcohol was served. Instead, Dad was out building volunteer boards in every county in Arkansas. Towns like Ward, Nashville, Searcy, Stuttgart, Blytheville, Pine Bluff and Bald Knob. He was the first Director of Field Services to raise over one million dollars for the Heart Association in our state. But politics can hurt. He learned that the hard way.

Dad was tempted to stop tithing to our church. Mother encouraged him during his darkest hour. “God says to prove Him, Ron. Let’s do it. Let’s see if He will keep His word,” She said. They kept tithing. But Dad, like me, was prone to worry. To combat this, he did the only thing he knew to do: he claimed God’s Word.

I can still see the little 3 x 5 card in the corner of the master bathroom mirror, bearing his unique scrawl:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. – Isaiah 41:10

He had another card in his shirt pocket. He would whip it out in quiet moments, read it, then quote it. “Valerie, see if I’ve got this right,” He’d say, handing me the card.

“Fear thou not, for I am with thee. . . Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. . .” He would say it all, perfectly. I would hear it.

I suppose it’s no shock that God did keep His word. He did provide for my family, abundantly, above anything we could have imagined.

Years later, as I was grieving the sudden passing of my wonderful dad, I would receive a sympathy card from a lady in our church. I have no idea now what the sentiment printed on the card said, but I remember the words she had neatly written out:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. ~ Isaiah 41:10

As I read it, I could hear his voice saying it all over again. Of course, I wept tears of joy and thanksgiving to the God Who was strengthening me and upholding me.

Dad raised a lot of money in the state of Arkansas to help people with cancer and heart disease. But more importantly, he raised me. He left behind a legacy of love for the Lord that is worth more than anything in this world.

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A Remembrance

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Ten years ago today, my dad walked through Heaven’s gates. He actually saw Christ face to face! I’m not sure what it was like, but I will know someday because of God’s grace. That thought scares me a little, I admit. I cannot imagine with my meager human brain what that moment will be like. I do know it will be thrilling! Today, I feel sorrow mixed with anticipation. I miss Dad everyday, but I am eager that Christ might return today for His children. I’m not hoping to die, but I am comforted that when I do, I shall see Him face to face. Mrs. Carrie Beck said it best in 1898:

Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

Refrain:
Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkened veil between,
But a blessed day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.

What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
Death is swallowed up in vict’ry,
And the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face—oh, blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ who loves me so.  — Carrie E. Beck

Jesus Christ who loves me so. What a thought. Will you see Christ face to face someday? Get that settled today.

With love,

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It Is Well

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I thought I had posted this on my blog somewhere before, but I can’t seem to find it. I wrote it shortly after my dad’s sudden death and it was published in the Baptist Bread on December 28, 2009. I recently uncovered a photocopy of the article, which I’d placed in a zipper bag. I’m sure I intended to place it at his grave as a personal memorial, but I never did it. I think my mother was worried it would become mere litter as it endured the days, nights, rain and wind in the cemetery. I realized that it didn’t have to be at his tombstone to be a memorial. Perhaps the fact that it was published at all is memorial enough? Perhaps – and  I hope this is true – that my life, my testimony is an even greater memorial to my amazing dad.

I still own the rights to this short piece about my dad, so I’d like to share it now for Father’s Day. Thank you so much for reading.

2 Kings 4:26 Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well:

My dad was not a pastor or a preacher. He was, however, the greatest Christian I have ever known. I was an eye witness to his daily walk with the Lord. Since I had no younger siblings,  my dad was my best friend. We did almost everything together. I saw his strengths and his weaknesses. I watched him face the daily grind in the secular workforce and never once lower the banner of “Christian” from above his life.

I was not worried when my mother called me on July 28, 2004, to say he was in the hospital. I had peace. I headed to our Wednesday night church services with my family as usual. On the way to church, my heavenly Father impressed upon my heart that my dad, my “partner” in youth, was going to the place for which he had lived; he was going home to Heaven. The sermon that night was from the above passage entitled “It is Well.” The hymn, “It Is Well with my Soul” was Dad’s favorite! On that night, the Lord gently wrapped his loving arms of comfort around me and said, “He’s coming home tonight, but it is well.”

I served my Savior as a child because of my parents’ faithful walk with the Lord. I serve Him today because of my own. I know from experience that though the burdens press heavily upon me, with Christ’s presence, it is well!

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Uncovering a Memory

If you read my blog, you know I love to read. It’s probably my favorite hobby. Sometimes, though, I can’t read because I know as soon as I sit down, I’ll doze off. (I hate that!) Yesterday, after church, I knew I’d better keep moving or I’d fall asleep. I’ve been meaning to organize my cookbooks and recipes since *ahem* Christmas. I’m not a great cook, but I give it my best shot. Over the years, I’ve developed several favorite, easy, standby, easy, yummy, easy recipes. Some are here on the blog. As I worked, I ended up tossing several that we didn’t like, copied some on fresh 3 x 5 cards, or glued them on cards from magazines.

I still use the recipe file that I made as a project for my 9th grade Home Economics class. Yes, that was a while ago! As I was sorting, I came across a recipe for Enchilada Pie, an old standby, that I hadn’t made in years. I saw that I had written the date that I first made it in the upper right hand corner of the card:

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Seeing this card brought back so many memories. Please notice the purple ink. I wrote almost every card in purple ink. I learned the hard way that it tends to bleed over the years. I remember that after we made this in class, I couldn’t wait to make it for Mom and Dad! I remember going with Mom to buy the groceries. I picked out everything and she paid. I prepared it all on my own, set the table, and served this delicious meal to my wonderful parents. I can still see them, sitting there, gratefully devouring my “gourmet” feast, then guzzling some tea. They complimented me and drank more tea. They raved about it, and sipped more tea. Finally, mom said, “Mmm…you know, this is kind of spicy.” She wiped her mouth and swallowed more tea. Dad said, “Yes, it is a bit on the hot side, but it’s good!” Then he gulped some more tea. I sat watching them with a satisfied expression, not really noticing their three refills of tea, and then I started on my portion. Yes. It. was. SPICY!

“When I made it in Home Ec. it wasn’t this hot, Mom!” I exclaimed.

She got up, a napkin still to her lips with one hand and gently looked through the top portion of our trash can with the other. She pulled up the empty can of enchilada sauce and held it up. It read, “HOT” in big yellow letters.

Whoops.

We all had a big laugh! Then, with sadness at the thought of wasting food, Mom threw away the remaining Enchilada Pie. None of us were spicy food lovers.

I did make it again – with mild sauce –  but somehow, it wasn’t quite as memorable as that first time. What can I say? Some of us were not meant to be chefs.

Fortunately, I do have other talents.

I think.

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Missing a Great Man

As I mentioned in a previous post, my family and I do our best to go back to my home in Arkansas every Thanksgiving. We then travel from Benton to Batesville, where my mom’s family lives. My Uncle Gary still farms my grandparents’ farm there with my cousin, Don. It is also where my dad is buried.

Every year, my mom uses this trip to put a new flower arrangement on the tombstone. She goes up one or two other times during the year, as well, but at Thanksgiving everyone goes. Last year, I was having such a rotten year, that I just couldn’t bear to go. I think of Dad everyday and I know he’s not in the ground – he’s with our Lord. But last year, I just couldn’t handle the cemetery.

I did go this year. We gathered around the grave in a circle, trying to block out the gusts of wind. We prayed and thanked God for the greatest man we ever knew, we thanked Him for salvation – the promise of Heaven – and then we sang together. We sang, “When We All Get to Heaven”, loudly and cheerfully, right there in the cemetery.

As the youngest child of Ron and Carolyn Courtney, I am honored to have been placed in their family.

We got there before everyone else, so I snapped several photos. This one of Laci, missing the Papa she never met, says it all.

But I prefer to remember him this way:

He was my “partner”, and I’m so glad I hugged him a lot while I had the chance.

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