Thankful

 terry

As  I stood at the pulpit, gazing through swollen eyes at my note cards, I glanced over at the pallbearers. There sat my husband in his dark suit coat. His eyes were red and tears streamed down his face. It was the darkest moment of my life, but in that moment God’s grace shone in the form of a man: my husband. I can’t explain what it meant to me to see that he was grieving the loss of my father almost as much as I. I watched him stand in the triple digit heat beneath the tent at the grave site in honor of my dad. He would be there through all the long, lonely nights that followed. He’s there even now, when the pangs of loss hit me at odd times. He doesn’t make jokes or brush me off. He cares. Terry is a gift of grace in my life. His love has made the searing pain of death bearable.

My husband is the most courageous man I know. He’s never boxed, run a 5K or been in the military. But he’s a hero. When a man stood in his face and accused him of purposely “killing our church”, he took it, even though his heart was hurting from the losses more than anyone. When a man shouted out at business meeting that he was a liar, he took it calmly. He stands for God’s Word even when he stands alone.

I am thankful that Terry stays true to God’s Word, and to me. I’m thankful that when I’m at my wit’s end, which is more often than I’d care to admit, he stays around. He is a friend I, or anyone, can always count on. He’s the man you want to have in your corner, on your team or in your canoe. I’m so grateful for my wonderful husband. He is a gift from the Lord, and I am thankful.

With love,

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Thankful

We were so blessed to be able to go to Arkansas for Thanksgiving with my side of the family. We had been looking forward to the trip since last year and, at the last minute, the threat of icy roads dampened our hopes as to whether we would be able to make it. However, the Lord allowed us to get there and back home again safely, with zero road delays due to the weather! We also got to use our Pike Pass for the first time, which allowed us to go through the toll booths without stopping. That was a luxury!

We were able to see my sister and her family, my brother and his family (except for my niece, Amber, who was working), my Aunt Kathleen and all of my aunts and uncles on my mom’s side of the family. Oh, and my Mom! 🙂

I was unable to get photos of everyone, but I still got quite a few!

 Two of my handsome nephews from North Carolina, Andrew and David Allen.

 Lauren really got into the game of charades at mom’s house. 

My niece from Texas, Ashlea, enjoyed charades, too.

 David Allen taught everyone how to play a bluffing game called “Mafia”. It was pretty fun. I got to be the mafia once and eliminated everyone in the town. I guess I’m kinda ruthless.

 I am so glad that he taught me that game. I like mafia. The game, not the real mafia.

Then some of the gang played Uno.

 Here’s my other NC nephew, Stephen. He’s a cutie, too! 🙂

 It got rather intense.

My brother-in-law had fun. 
But, I guess Matthew didn’t.

I caught my brother, sister-in-law and oldest nephew, Levi, deep in conversation. 

 On Thanksgiving Day, my Uncle Gary and Aunt Linda invited us all up to the family farm in Batesville, Arkansas. They opened their home up to us and we all enjoyed a delicious meal.

 My Uncle Gary and my brother are now deep in conversation. Hmm… I’m beginning to see a pattern here.


 Here are a few of the cousins waiting for meal time. Later they got to ride the “mule” on the farm. That’s a 4-wheeler, not an animal.

 My uncle got this framed aerial photo of his farm. This is only part of it, but I thought it was lovely.

I was able to get a photo with my Uncle Gary before we left. He is my Mom’s youngest brother, and an amazing man.

Another fun thing that I was able to do while we were with family was learn to knit! I have been meaning to teach myself for years now, but never got around to it. Two years ago, my talented sister picked it up and taught herself. She has knitted scores of things since learning, she’s definitely a natural. Then, a few months ago, my second oldest daughter showed an interest in learning. We tried to teach ourselves from Youtube videos and books, but only managed to learn how to cast on. Over the holiday, my sister was able to show us the knit and purl stitch! So far, I have only knitted some of the ugliest pieces you’ve ever seen, but I think I’m improving. I love learning new things!

I have so much for which to be thankful each and everyday. My heart overflows when I begin to count my blessings, and at the top of the list is my wonderful family.

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Thanksgiving Traditions

My family and I enjoyed a visit with my mom, brother and sister and their families in my hometown this Thanksgiving. I was also able to see my uncles and aunts and a few cousins over the week.

I must admit that, while I did count my blessings on Thanksgiving Day, I didn’t feel as grateful as usual. Each one of the kids got croup the week before Thanksgiving. My husband and I had it the week of Thanksgiving. The coughing, stuffiness and body aches didn’t make for a very cheerful holiday. I didn’t feel like talking or eating, two things for which this wonderful holiday is known! My brother got sick the first day he was home, and my sister was also feeling badly due to an infection. To be honest, I wish I could have spent the holiday in bed, but I’m glad I took the effort to see my loved ones. I was able to visit with my nephews from North Carolina, whom I hadn’t seen in over two years! They sure have grown up. Lauren had a good time riding bikes with the middle cousin, Andrew. Leslie and Laci enjoyed playing with the youngest cousin, Stephen. The oldest boy in the family is almost too old to play…in fact, he’ll be driving next year! Wow. I got to see most of my brother’s kids from Texas. It’s amazing how quickly kids change. One year they are kids, the next year they’ve been promoted to the adult table!

We headed up to Batesville to visit my mom’s side of the family for Thanksgiving Day. I enjoyed the two hour drive with my husband, though neither of us felt much like talking. I loved seeing the hills and valleys, sprinkled with fall color. It was very relaxing. My Uncle Gary and Aunt Linda opened up their home to us for the “big meal”. We had turkey, ham, corn, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, cranberry salad, and other delicious sides. Dessert was Dutch apple pie, pecan pie, chocolate pecan pie and chocolate cupcakes. It was scrumptious and I still managed to put away my share despite feeling sickly. 🙂

We usually begin the holiday by stopping by the cemetery and honoring my Dad’s memorial there. Some of the family did go to the grave, but I refrained this year for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was a windy day, and since I wasn’t feeling well to begin with, I didn’t care to be out in the weather. Second, it is a tearful way to begin the holiday season. Dad is doing fine; he’s in heaven. I’m already struggling through some trials, so I didn’t feel it necessary to add to my sorrow. I miss Dad everyday. Every. Single. Day. Almost daily I wish I could get his counsel, or hear his laugh. Some days I wonder what our lives would look like if he had not had to leave eight years ago. I do my best to honor him by living a life for Christ. And, yes, there are some days that quitting sounds like a fine idea. But, then I think of Dad. I can see the glistening of tears in his eyes if he knew I were giving up. I can sometimes see him cheering me on from the battlements of Heaven. I hear him saying, “Hey, partner, I know it’s hard down there in the flesh, but the trials are worth it. Keep going! You can do it! Jesus is more wonderful than any human could ever express. Please don’t quit.” I don’t have to be at the graveside to remember his faithfulness, his joy or his love. Memories of him help me to keep going, just one more day. I don’t dislike visiting the grave, but sometimes I just want to remember his life, not his death. This Thanksgiving was one of those times.

We came home last Friday after a very full week. It’s always hard getting back into the swing of regular life after spending time with loved ones, just having fun. We hit the ground running with laundry, laundry and more laundry! This past Monday, we decorated our Christmas tree, ordered our Christmas cards and took care of some household chores. We got back to school yesterday and it’s been busy ever since, but that’s a good thing. I like being busy! 🙂

Laci made a few Thanksgiving art projects from her K5 materials a few weeks ago. I didn’t have a blog when Lauren made these crafts, but I did photograph them (before digital cameras!). I had just begun blogging when Mitch was doing these and…I think I took pictures! I definitely took Leslie’s pictures, and put them HERE. Then I blinked my eyes, and it was Laci’s turn.

The Indian headband and vest. I had to make it slip over her head because I got the wrong size paper sack for making a vest! I think it still turned out to be cute. 🙂

The Pilgrim girl bonnet. 

The Pilgrim boy hat and the “Thanksgiving Picture Book”.
Fact: All kids (especially Kindergarteners) like arts & crafts. 🙂

Here are all the cousins! Well, all except Amber. I think she was spending time with her other cousins. 
L-R, back row: Levi, Ashley, Lauren (holding Matt), Andrew, David Allen, Nathan.
Front row: Mitchell, Leslie, Laci and Stephen.

Mom with her kids, me, Kevin and Melanie. It was nice to all be together for a few days.

My brother, Kevin, and his wife, Kathy.

My sister, Melanie, and her husband, Walter. 

I didn’t participate in a “giving thanks” meme on my blog this year, but I’d like to share a few things for which I’m thankful:

I’m thankful for tears, which cleanse my heart of sorrow and demonstrate genuine joy.
I’m thankful for the word “hello”.
I’m thankful for the quiet moments, which allow me to meditate on lessons, life and love.
I’m thankful for the sunshine, which not only lights each morning, but casts shadows on creation, giving it depth and diversity.
I’m thankful for a certain strong, reticent man in my life, who shows his love for me in personal, pure ways.
I’m thankful for five rowdy, hyper children whose voices reverberate through the house.
I’m thankful for a talkative teenage girl, for a ten year old who writes letters, for a seven year old who straightens my shoes, for a five year old who can quote TV commercials, and for a two year old who holds my hair when I rock him.
I’m thankful for a mother with a tender heart and a strong will.
I’m thankful for a Savior who gave up everything for a girl who had nothing.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! Thank you for reading.
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Down, But Not Out

I have spent the majority of this week sick in bed. Congested, achy, coughing and miserable. Just today I have felt life flowing in my veins again! We are planning to be away next week for Thanksgiving, at least, I am hoping that I’m up to the trip. Our entire family has passed croup around, but I think everyone is well now except for me. I’m a bit behind on school, making Christmas gifts, and just about everything else, but at least I’m here! Down, but not out…not yet, anyway. I’m so thankful to my husband for keeping us all afloat the last few days. He’s cooked and cleaned and done laundry and rallied the kids to get their chores done, too! He’s been my life saver!

In case I don’t have time to write again, I want to wish you all a great Thanksgiving. One lesson I’m learning really well this year is that there is always something for which I can be grateful. I am blessed beyond measure. Everyday is Thanksgiving Day for me!

With love,
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Thankful for the Cemetery

Holidays will never be the same. You might not think that one person’s absence can make life look so completely different, but it can. It has for me, anyway. Nothing is the same. My most precious treasures now are my memories. Sometimes, I fear that if I live to be 80, I’ll have lost that wonderful blessing of “remembering.”

Today, my wonderful Uncle Gary and Aunt Linda are having all of us come to their home for the big meal. Before we go by, we’ll be stopping by the cemetery. Not exactly my favorite time. I get a lump in my throat as I approach the place where my dad is buried. Grief revisits me. The memories pass through my mind like a movie on fast-forward. The realization that those times are over, forever, is hard to take. I wish I could make new memories with Dad. I wish I could see him again, now.

As I near the ground where he is laid to rest, and reach the gravestone, I’m reminded of that scorching hot day we all gathered to inter him there. Our tears watered the several tissues. That ground supported the bodies of four people who could hardly stand. The ground was hallowed by our grief, by our memorial to Dad.

As I think of going to the grave today, I get a lump in my throat and that feeling of dread. I might start crying. But I’m deciding to do something different this Thanksgiving Day. I’m thanking the Lord for that hallowed ground.

I’m thankful that I have memories that flash across my mind like a movie – I could have had to bury my dad when I was much younger – before memories could even be made! Many people come from divorced homes, and only get weekends with the other parent. I had mine all the time.

I’m thankful for what that memorial in the graveyard represents – the resurrection! My dad was born again, he was saved, I will see him again! There is absolutely no doubt about it.

I’m thankful for the place where is laid to rest. He is buried with my Mom’s family, my grandparents, my uncles. He is buried near the farm where my Mom grew up, where I visited often as a child and made so many wonderful memories. I have the world’s best aunts and uncles who love me more than I deserve. If I had lost my parents when I was young, they would have taken me in and loved me like their own. They are wonderful people. It’s a blessing that, when I’m overwhelmed with grief, I am also overwhelmed by their love.

I’m thankful for my mother who will stand next to me on that hallowed ground. I’m thankful she is still with me, to talk to me, pray for me, encourage me, and love me. I know there are times that she’s missed Dad so much that she’s wanted to go on to Heaven, too. But I am so glad that she is still here. I need her! I need her love, her wisdom, her prayers.

I’m not going to dread facing the loss of my Dad today. Instead, I’m going to be thankful for everything, including a trip to the cemetery.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day ~

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Wonderful and Excellent is He!

Is. 28:29 This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

I really loved this verse this morning. The verses before it are about the prediction of the Assyrian takeover of Ephraim. Ephraim’s fate is a warning to Judah. To wrap up this chapter, Isaiah says that all of this is from the the LORD. He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.

Is is just me, or does it seem like a strange time to praise God? Isaiah’s “forecast” for the tribe of Ephraim is not a pleasant one. He begins chapter 28 with “Woe to the crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!” It surprised me to read the final verse, which clearly gives praise and glory to our Heavenly Father.

Why does that surprise me? Probably because I’m the last person in the world to give thanks and praise to the Father while going through a trial. Probably because a lot of my prayers sound whiny to the Lord, or panicky. Probably because I want only fun and happy things in my life. But, I know from experience, or rather, experiences, {plural} that it is through trial and heartache that I see the Father’s power the most. It is in the storms of life  where I become the closest to Him. I receive miracle-type blessings from Him everyday, but especially in the lean times.

You know, that’s something to praise Him for! Yes, I can say with Isaiah, “This [blessing or trial] also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.
I give thanks and praise to my Father, for wonderful and excellent is He!

My Heart Is Full, and Overflowing

This will be my last post until November 26th. I will be leaving to go home on Monday to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my Mom and my sister and her family. I am really excited about it.
Thanksgiving often gets overlooked. We are all in such a rush to get to Christmas that we forget about the sacrifices the Pilgrims made so long ago that have made our lives possible. God’s grace alone saw them safely over to the New World from Holland aboard the Mayflower. It was no wonder they knelt immediately at Plymouth Rock to give Him thanks. When they arrived, and nearly froze to death or died of starvation, it was God alone who kept them alive. It was God who allowed them to meet the Indians that helped them that first year. What if they had isolated themselves from the Indians because they were “different”? They would’ve starved to death for sure. They showed thankfulness to the Indians by inviting them for a big feast – sharing in the bounty that God so graciously provided.

We live today in a world that’s very different from the Pilgrims’ day. Kids don’t know how to say “thank you.” Most people don’t send written thank you notes for gifts anymore. What has happened? Have we no time to be thankful for that which God has given us? I hope I don’t become captive to the attitude of “un-thankfulness.” I want to always remember to thank God, and others, for the kindness they show me. As I consider all He’s given me, my heart is full and overflowing. I’d like to share some of the blessings for which I am thankful:

My Parents, Ron and Carolyn Courtney, for looking to the cross when trials came into our lives and making Christ so real to me. For staying faithful to a church that was falling apart, all the while trusting God to send His man, which He did! For not quitting no matter what happened. My Mother used to quote from Job,”Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

My Salvation – God graciously convicted me of my sin on June 12, 1993, and I accepted His gift.

My Husband – A man who loves the Lord, and me. His humility has enabled him to have a walk with the Lord that few can have. He is a loving and encouraging companion as I walk life’s road.

My Children – Why would God allow someone like me to be a mother? And not once, but four times? He is so merciful and loving to me.

My Church – We waited for seven years on God’s perfect will for a church to pastor, and on Sept. 11, 2005, God answered! He had a people and a place that He was preparing just for us. What if we hadn’t waited on Him?

My Friends- I don’t have a vast number of friends, but I have some faithful friends. Friends who have known me for years, and like me anyway. You are a gift – thank you.

My relationship with the Lord – He has provided for me when no one else could. He has listened to me when no one else would. He’s given me strength to stand against wrong and He’s been by my side when I stood all alone. He has kept every promise. He’s never let me down. I’ve not always understood His ways, but I’ve always known He was with me through every trial. He speaks to me, He isn’t just a God who lives way out in the galaxy – He’s my very best friend.
Those I’ve led to the Lord – I’ve led many people to Christ, and that is a blessing. We are only commanded to go, not win them, so to see some saved is a bonus.

Yes, as the song says: “I’ve got so much to thank Him for.”