The Father I Never Knew – On Father’s Day

I was five years old when my parents divorced. By the time I was six, my father was completely out of my life. Their divorce came after more than twelve years of marriage and four children. I won’t go into the reasons of why their marriage unraveled. Neither my mom or my dad are here to tell their side. In the mid-50’s when people divorced, there was no court-mandated child support.  In our situation, Mom worked, and until she married again years later, we lived on what she was able to provide.

This is a picture of my father – Guy Anderson Stephens. Guy Stephens

It’s the only one I have. In those years, pictures were taken regularly, even in poorer families. So why there are no pictures of my father, I cannot say. My Mom said he was a handsome man, charming. He grew up, one of three siblings, on a sizable farm and his family was well-respected in the community.

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My mother, Mildred Jane Byrd, was beautiful and smart. She was the middle child of five. The only girl. Hers was a hard childhood with the Great Depression just one of the factors making her family poor. She had great dignity in the midst of her circumstances and continued so all her life. I love my mama and feel very grateful to be her daughter and friend. When she and my Dad married, she felt confident her hardest days were over. It was not to be so.2009 April May Trip to Georgia 089

When my parents divorced, we became a family of 5. My Mom, my older brother, Robert, me, and my two younger brothers, Dwane and Wade. Wade (not in picture above) was just a baby when we drove away from the house that last day. This picture was taken later, not on that bewildering last day.

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The picture above shows us with our grandmother and cousins in our uncle’s convertible. It’s possible he was as poor as we were, except for the car. I’m holding my youngest brother. Our older brother must have felt great responsibility toward us, with Mom working long hours. I think, too, he felt the loss of our father the most acutely.

For reasons we will never know, our father didn’t stay long in our lives. Some months after the divorce, he took us to a county fair. He bought a bear for me at one of the concessions because he wasn’t able to win it. Then there was the Christmas following – that one glorious, magical holiday when he brought presents and it seemed he would always be close. And then he never came back.

He attended our older brother’s high school graduation years later, but I didn’t see him. And that was that.

Once I learned how to write, I would send him letters (at his parents’ farm) – telling him the news of his children.  For a couple of decades I wrote, imagining my letters helped him stay connected with us, maybe lessening his loneliness for his children.  He never wrote back.

The last letter was to announce the birth of his first grandchild.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but after that, I didn’t write any more.

Years later, after many more births of grandbabies he would never know, I talked to him once on the phone. Someone told my mom that he was in a nursing home and not well. I called him, thinking we could visit together…one last time. As we talked briefly, he thought I was my mom. Too many years had separated us. I did not make that visit.

Guy Stephens Memorial Service (3)

The funeral home leaflet said so little.  It was sent in a note to my mother after the funeral. We did not go.  His death seemed to have happened to some other family. He would be grieved by those who knew him. His parents and siblings and others – these were his family…strangely, we were not.

The longing to know my father and the rest of that family passed with the years apart. As far as we knew, he nor his family (original or remaining) ever tried to communicate with us over these more than 50 years. Until recently.

His last surviving sibling died this Spring. Aunt Pauline. And we have been tracked down, so to speak. Two weeks ago, I spoke for the first time in all these years to a cousin. She is the executor of Aunt Pauline’s estate and we are remembered in her will. I will meet her this week. She remembers meeting my Mom nearly 70 years ago,  when my Dad was courting her She commented on how beautiful and tall she was. What a kindness this may turn out to be.

To finally close the gap on all those years of not knowing that family…my other family. It may be that I won’t really learn much about this father, but I am continually learning more about the Father I have in God. He has never left me. This is one of His countless tender mercies.

[From the leaflet from my father’s funeral]:Guy Stephens Memorial Service (2)

In the Digital Age, the Family Photo Album Fades Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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East to Home – the Eastern Shore of Maryland/Delaware

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The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is one scary, long, breathtakingly beautiful ride (scary, that is, if you’re not so keen about heights or deep water)…but it is the way home for us… The Eastern Shore of Maryland was my husband’s childhood home, and for the past 30 years, it has become another home to me. There’s nowhere else across the USA, quite like the Eastern Shore.

After the up and over bridge experience, we find ourselves cradled on both sides of the road by sprawling farms teeming with life.Blog - Eastern Shore FarmI always want to stop and have a closer look, but our need to push on to get home keeps me in the car, pressed against the glass, watching the grain fields look a blur, as we pass quickly by. I wonder, looking out at each passing farm, what’s going on in that house; what the farmer is doing right then; what’s ready to be harvested or what crop will be sown next.

The land is flat, and you can see far and away the various crops planted and growing alongside the Bay and other wetlands. There are also more inland stretches, where the acres of grain, corn, and truck crops are watered, during dry times, by irrigation systems that stand as tall sentinels across the fields.WP_20140614_006

The seasons are marked by what is happening in the field. It’s mid-June now, and “Locally Grown” signs pepper the side of the highway. The strawberry season is over, and pumpkins will be planted in some of those fields soon. Right now, we can look forward to asparagus, sweet peas, early melons and tomatoes…maybe even the first peaches of the season.

PeachMine was delicious.

The pace of life slowed considerably for us, after arriving at Dave’s parents’ home. It seems like all we do, on the Eastern Shore is eat, nap, and catch up on family stories. Yet, it is not so for the farmers in this rural part of the country.

The fields are always turning over from one crop to the next. I can’t tell the difference, but it’s not all wheat growing golden in the fields. Rye, barley, and wheat are all sown at various times on the Eastern Shore. Soybeans, too. Then there’s the corn. It is in its own special category of goodness. Right now, the dark-green leafy stalks are only knee- to waist-high, but in a few more weeks of warm summer sun, you can almost hear it grow. And I have never eaten sweeter corn than that pulled fresh from the fields of the Eastern Shore.

My husband’s family, for generations, has made their home east of the Chesapeake Bay, either in Maryland or Delaware. Our children have deep and enduring memories of vacations there – on the fishing docks of the Chesapeake or the sands of Ocean City, riding inner tubes on the river behind their uncle’s boat, picking out steamed crabs on newspaper on hot summer nights, playing hard in the winter snow or at games on the long dining room table, falling asleep on the living room floor at MomMom’s & PopPop’s, with cousins all around.  And cooking out altogether, the dads tending the grill and the rest of us talking and laughing in the kitchen. If it’s possible to eat our way through the seasons on the Eastern Shore, we have.

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As we returned home to Richmond, Virginia, today, I was struck at how much life we experience at home on the Eastern Shore. Family, work, play, stories…life. Farms are never still. There are always different crops to plant and bring in. Animals to feed, and young ones to nurture along. Families are also changing with the seasons. Our parents turn into grandparents and great-grands. Our children grow up and don’t get to make the trip as often to the Eastern Shore as they did as youngsters in the backseat of our car. Between schooling, work, and blending families in marriage, it’s hard to get everything in, and I see the challenge for them.

My hope is that in the crazy pull of daily life, we never forget our way home…us or our children, whether it’s to their parents’ home in Richmond, to my family’s home in Georgia, or to the Eastern Shore…in time for the summer corn.

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A Panorama View of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Harvest Time on the Farm – Eastern Shore, MD – Youtube Video

Farm Fresh on the Eastern Shore

Eastern Shore of Virginia – “If You Throw Seeds on the Ground, They Will Grow”

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Worship Wednesday – Yearn with Shane & Shane

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“…so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.” – Acts 17:27-28a

Yearn is a word that has too long been neglected. Owned by sonnet-writers and dreamers, this could well-describe God-worshippers. Last night, I rediscovered it during a lazy evening with friends. One is a Chinese student ravenous to master English vocabulary. We were looking in one of my textbooks and a list of feelings/emotions caught her attention. Many of the words were familiar to her from conversations with American friends, but one stood out unknown and, for us native English speakers, hard to describe: yearning.

As we were trying to describe it, her nearest friend in our group  pulled up a song on Youtube. It is “Yearn” by Shane & Shane.

Yearn

Verse 1 – Holy design; This place in time

That I might seek and find my God, my God

Chorus – Lord, I want to yearn for You; I want to burn with passion over You And only You

Lord, I want to yearn for You; I want to burn with passion over You; And only You Lord, I want to yearn

Verse 2 – Your joy is mine, yet why am I fine

With all my singing and bringing grain in light of Him

Bridge – Oh, You give life and breath; in You we live and move. That’s why I sing

Copyright © 2004 River Oaks Music Company/True Bliss Music/Waiting Room Music/BMI (adm. by EMI CMG Publishing)

When you go to bed at night, do you ever struggle to get your mind quiet enough to sleep? Do your longings push through such that until you pray them out you can’t sleep? That’s how last night was for me. I long to know God’s purpose for these days in my life…I long to be closer to my children…I long for some of my friends and family to know Jesus…I long for….so many things. And sleep finally comes.

This morning the ache of some of those same longings woke with me. Then in the quiet,  with my coffee and the Word, a yearning for God Himself settled those other longings in their proper place.

“Father, I cry out to You. Let me rest in Your arms, that the world might not press in so, disturbing the peace. You only are the One who completely satisfies – otherwise we lean toward wanting more and more of something less. God, bring me to a place where obeying and following You is all I want. My soul gets tormented by things that are undone or not yet – relationships that aren’t where I’d like them to be; responsibilities that seem beyond my abilities; God, draw me to Yourself. Help me to be where You want me to be, and then everything else will be, at least, ordered rightly. Father, I lay down these longings – these relationships; these responsibilities – and lift my face toward Yours, yearning only for You right now. I love You, Lord. Teach me to love You more. In Jesus. Amen.”

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  – Deuteronomy 4:29

Story Behind Yearn

Shane & Shane Singing Yearn (Youtube)

Chords

How to Become a Follower of Jesus

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Our House…as I Dream It to Be

2012 December Christmas in Delaware 066Welcome!  Come on in!  Of course, you’re no trouble. So glad you could come.  It’s been too long.  No, you don’t have to take off your shoes.  Come on in!  Please!

Our house loves drop-ins.  You are always welcome here.  The front door with its beveled glass window that lets all kinds of light through invites you in.  The entranceway always smells like cooking or candles.  Like we were just waiting for you to ring the doorbell.  Your coat fits easily on the hall-tree; a hook is ready to receive it.

You can sit wherever you please.  There are comfy armchairs with ottomans for tired feet, deep worn couches perfect for naps, and soft carpet in front of the fireplace with pillows for those who prefer the floor.  With a flip of a switch, the room glows with firelight.

The kitchen is just beyond the living room.  Big and spacious with room to feed a whole crew of farm workers, and yet cozy enough for just two for tea.  There’s a crystal bowl of apples in the center of the wide table.  The coffee is fresh and strong, or you can have a cup of tea, if you prefer.  Somewhere the scent of cinnamon and vanilla tells you that someone in this house baked just for you… Conversation flows easily at this table as we sip and savor what’s before us.

When we retire to the living room, the front door bursts open with more to love.  Coats & boots off, and little curly-haired lads and lassies enter the room with all sorts of stories of the day’s adventures.  They tumble all over each other, trying to finish one story after another, but details are lost, as they become aware of company.  Then they pull themselves up and march over to say hello and to inquire about your health.  Well-trained, yes, but lovely in their own right…so fresh from Heaven, these little surprising ones.

Should you stay the evening, we will set dinner.  Not wanting to miss a moment of your visit, the slow-cooker tended the meal.  We will eat in candlelight.  There will be music…and laughter.

Then, the little ones and their parent (or two, whomever was able to come) will roll out of the house as noisily as they came in. Generous kisses and hugs mixed with the protests that they’re not tired.  There’s comfort for all that they’ll be back soon.

Should you stay the night, we will offer you your pick of bedrooms off the main rooms of the house.  There are rooms for young couples with large generous beds.  Simple rooms fitting the tastes of those young adults who come home for the night sometimes, just for fun.  Then there are fantastical rooms for the grandchildren…full of costumes, dolls and cars, books, and animal figurines.  All ages have a place here.  The older ones become young again in these rooms.

If the weather allows, we may breakfast on the porch.  The birds will keep you company and whatever we have will seem a feast when we take it outside.  The world opens up to us, on that porch, as the tree branches move lazily in the breeze, and we rock in the swing.  Time seems to stop…or slow down, for sure.

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It’s time to leave?  Oh, look at the time!  How did that happen?  Well, you know your way here, and you always have a home here with us. Come back soon.  Our house…is your house.

What’s your house like? Or as you dream it to be?

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Worship Wednesday – First Night’s Sleep Not Looking at a Jail Term – Redeemed

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They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, Their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, And He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, That they might go to a city for a dwelling place. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. – Psalm 107:4-9

Heroin addiction no longer belongs to the streets…to some sort of fringe person… There was a time I didn’t know a single person addicted to heroin. Now I know several fighting their way out of its grip. One of those has been drug-free for  1 1/2 years. His story is for him to share, and I hope he’ll let me write about his journey one day. For Worship Wednesday, and especially today, I will just give you a taste of the glory that he now experiences.

One way to come off heroin is to be incarcerated. The addiction that heroin births is insatiable and expensive to satisfy. This ultimately leads to some sort of crime, and then the charges and convictions follow. For this young man, he broke the law in several police jurisdictions and within each one, he was, of course, mandated to stand trial in each place, with mounting severity of penalty and potential prison time to be served. Yesterday was his final day in court.

About a year ago, while in a Christian residential drug rehab program, he gave his life to Jesus.  His life before Jesus was pretty much a train wreck, and since he became a believer, he is different. Different in no self-help, “tough it out”, save-yourself way, but completely transformed from the heart outward. He is profoundly changed.

Still…he had charges to face, and his case came up yesterday.

For almost two years, he’s gone to bed every night knowing that he might be in prison for several years because of his destructive behavior. Last night, he went to bed redeemed. In a case before a judge known to be tough on drug offenders and the crimes they commit, he was given probation with no further jail time than he’d already served. It’s over. All the fear and dread related to those months of desperate and paralyzing addiction was settled. That judge showed mercy – so reminiscent of the mercy shown to him by the Righteous Judge of every one of us who has cried out for Him to save us.

Maybe we don’t really think about what it’s like to go to bed…free. Or to wake up the next morning…free.  We’re so used to being free, we can’t fathom what unimaginable joy this young man has had over the last 24 hours. And yet, we are redeemed…just like him.

You may have heard Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave (music & lyrics by Mike Weaver and Benji Cowart). This song speaks so much to this dear young man’s situation…and to our own. No matter our situation, Christ as redeemed us. Whether we are facing a prison term or some other sort of captivity, Christ redeems us in those places…and sometimes, He redeems us out of those places.

Worship with me as we consider how glorious it is to be redeemed.

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave

Seems like all I could see was the struggle

Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past

Bound up in shackles of all my failures

Wondering how long is this gonna last

Then You look at this prisoner and say to me “son

Stop fighting a fight it’s already been won”

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, now

I’m not who I used to be I am redeemed,

I’m redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy

Named by the voice of my shame and regret

But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”

I remember, oh God, You’re not done with me yet

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be

Because I don’t have to be the old man inside of me

‘Cause his day is long dead and gone

Because I’ve got a new name, a new life,

I’m not the same

And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, ’cause I’m not who I used to be

I am redeemed, You set me free

So I’ll shake off these heavy chains

Wipe away every stain, yeah, I’m not who I used to be

Oh, God, I’m not who I used to be Jesus,

I’m not who I used to be ‘Cause I am redeemed

Thank God, redeemed.

Story behind the song

Official Big Daddy Weave video of Redeemed from the album Love Come to Life

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Worship Wednesday – Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance

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Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:22a, 23

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) was an American songwriter. She wrote the lyrics to more than 8000 hymns. Many in church today do not sing the hymns of old, but even my millennial children know all the words to Crosby’s Blessed Assurance.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Saviour all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Saviour am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

The history of the hymn is a quick glimpse into Fanny Crosby’s life. She was visiting in the home of a composer friend who had just written a melody. The friend, Phoebe P. (Mrs. Joseph K.) Knapp, asked her what came to mind upon hearing the melody, and Fanny responded immediately, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” She then completed the rest of the lyrics shortly thereafter.

Fanny wrote both secular and sacred music and taught school. She was also profoundly concerned for the urban poor and lived most of her life in and around the poorest neighborhoods of New York City. She was a vocal protestor against slavery and testified before the U.S. Senate in support of education for the blind.

Fanny Crosby had been blind all her life.  Her physical eyes were dark but her spiritual vision was crystal clear.  She commented often how if she’d been sighted she might have missed the depth of awareness of God and His nearness to her. [Autobiography of Fanny Crosby]

Her songs communicate strong emotion and deep devotion. I am thankful to have grown up attending summer revival meetings and church camps where these hymns were regularly a part of the program.  Some of my favorites are: I Am Thine, O Lord; Jesus is Calling; Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer; Redeemed how I Love to Proclaim it; and To God Be the Glory. Just remembering the titles of these great old hymns takes me back – to warm summer nights; women fanning themselves with paper fans advertising the local funeral home; preachers making passionate appeals as if a matter of life and death; singing “one more verse” of one of those Crosby hymns.

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Or at church camp, by a lake, around a huge crackling fire popping and sending sparks up to the dark night sky; all of us circled around, singing and praying…for our sinful teenaged selves or for the friend on either side of us. Those were experiences deeply imprinted in my life’s story – those experiences, Crosby’s hymns, and the God of those hymns.

Some of my contemporaries write about those experiences as emotional ploys to bring some weak soul to a public profession of faith. All I know is that God grabbed hold of me in a very real way through the music of those old hymnists like Fanny Crosby.

She was one who knew God – who saw Him with eyes that couldn’t see anything else. And at some point, early in her life, she became one who only had eyes for Him…and that intimacy is reflected in her hymns. God Himself is marvelously magnified in her hymns. Blessed assurance.

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (with Lyrics)

Blessed Assurance by Third Day (Live)

Blessed Assurance by The Angelic Choir

In Christ Alone – a contemporary hymn by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Fan Photo by Brian Brown

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Moving House…Again

Moving (2)

We move in a week. Not overseas again, or even to another state.  Just across town.  Because our work in past years gave us lots of opportunities to relocate, we have not lived in a house that we owned for 20 years. This move is to a house we bought. Weird.

I’m taking a break from packing today. Hopefully writing will clear some of the emotions bouncing all around in my head, stirred by the memories of transitions of the past, and by touching all these familiar things I’m putting in boxes.

My husband calculated recently that in all the years of our marriage (30 this year), we have moved to various places and situations 22 times. Next week will be our 23rd move. Who does that?!

One day it would be fun (at least for me) to list those moves and talk briefly about each one.  Moving stirs us up in so many ways, that our lives can not help but be changed. A lot depends on our attitudes and also on what necessitated that move. As I look at the list of all the moves, each brings sharp memories to the front of my mind – some tender, some funny, some perplexing, and some completely course-altering.  That’s for another day.

Today, I’m reflecting on the move itself.  We have friends from church and work helping us move this time. We’ve had a few experiences with commercial movers (both here and in Africa), but this time we’re going the low-cash, high-friend route. Signing up to help someone move is the substance of a pure heart.   No amount of pizza and funny stories afterward balances out giving up your morning on a beautiful, Spring weekend. Helping people move is a true kindness, and we are grateful ahead of time. Since we’ve moved so many times, I thought you might like to know what makes for a good, low-as-possible-stress moving day.  This list isn’t exhaustive, but these are what help me.

Moving House Tips

1) If you know well in advance your moving date, start early to plan your move. There are occasions when a move is abrupt.  With that, you do the best you can (given the other tips – in a rather fast motion). More important than stuff management, if the move is abrupt, is consideration of those important to you in your current situation – your friends, neighbors, colleagues.  It may be tempting to just deal with your possessions and arrangements to move, but don’t let those things rule your life.  If the move has some advance notice, begin sorting and packing early, so time with people isn’t squeezed out in the last week or two.

2) Purging household possessions is often a part of the move. It’s advantageous, really. Anywhere we settle, even briefly, we accumulate stuff. It seems to glom onto us if we slow down. Moving is often an emotionally-laden experience. Purge what you can and pack the rest. As to what to leave behind, “There’s safety in a multitude of counselors.” You may later regret what you left behind. Not to say you still shouldn’t purge, because you should. What you donate or sell or gift becomes a blessing and a memory of you. We have left behind stuff in 4 countries…and still have a house full.

3) Pack seasonal and non-essential things early on, labeling the boxes well, so you’ll know where to store them and when to bring them out.  Now, in non-essentials, if they cleared the purge, you must want them. So just label them in such a way that they don’t end up staying in that same box until the next move.  Or gift them in such a way you can live with. One of my dearest friends is “holding” some of our stuff for us until the day we “settle” somewhere.  She’s both holding onto it for us, and enjoying it “for us” while our lifestyle doesn’t lend itself that way.

4) Use small boxes. Our last move was with the help of a commercial moving company. These massive, muscular men brought all our belongings, accumulated from 3 houses where they’d been either stored or used over the years.  My husband and I LOVE books. One of the young men, after hauling in probably an obscene amount of book boxes, said, good-naturedly to me, “Before your next move, you might want to buy a Kindle.” It didn’t happen, but we use small boxes, and with books, we pack the box 1/2 to 2/3 full, and then use light-weight stuffers to finish it off. Small boxes.

5) Inventory every box. Label in such a way that you know exactly what is in the box, what order to unpack it, and where it needs to go. You might also include details in your inventory that would be helpful to others who may be doing the handling, unpacking, and storing, depending on different situations and locations.

6) Agree on a division of labor of sorts. This will, by necessity, be fairly fluid, but in our household, we have a system that has worked for us all these years. I do most of the packing, and my husband does the terminal cleaning. Now some may think he gets off easy.  Oh no! This so works for us. It goes with our gifts and suits us perfectly. You will work out your own system. He also tapes up a lot of the boxes, and carries most of them. By the end of a move, I literally cringe at the sound of packing tape being stretched off it’s spool to tape a box. 6) Pick a date/time to move that fits the needs of your moving crew. We asked our BSGs (Big Strong Guys) which day (out of 3 possible) worked best for them, and we set the move based on their preference.

7) Make dates to do the one-last-time savorings of your current town/country. As the day gets closer to your move, you’re going to get tired. You’re probably still juggling your work and other life responsibilities, with sorting and packing added in. Still take breaks such that you (and your family) can process the move, and make those last (sometimes sweetest) memories with friends…and the place itself. Say proper goodbyes to your friends and colleagues. Who knows? You may be back.

8) Pack a bag as if you were going on a vacation trip (even if you’re moving just across town). Include everything you’d need the first week (including your checkbook, work papers, toiletries, clothes for various occasions/weather). This lifts so much pressure.

9) On moving day, lavish your crew with love – food and drink (on both ends of the move), pickings from your stuff that will end up donated anyway, and organization. Their time is a gift to you – be ready for them!

10) At your new house/apartment, when the time is right and the proper people are still there (it may just be you and your spouse or roommate), walk about the house/neighborhood and pray over your new home. Make it yours from the beginning. Enjoy!

 

The Clumsy Guide to Moving House

 

1 Week Before Moving Day  – I love to read helps from folks of different locales – makes me perk up

 

Tips for When Your Friends Help You Move

No Fail Tips for Keeping Your Friends Happy When They Help You Move

I don’t know why you are moving house, but it could be because you felt compelled of God to move…in obedience to Him. These verses have been a great encouragement to me through our many years of moving:

So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. – Mark 10:29-30

 

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Worship Wednesday – I Am Yours, and You Are Mine – Oceans

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Thus says the Lord:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God…” Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters. — Isaiah 43:1-2, 16

Last summer I was persuaded to attend a Kari Jobe concert. Live concerts don’t do for me these days what they did once upon a time (so much celebrity focus & the crowd issues). Also Kari Jobe was unknown to me (loved Revelation Song but through other artists).  The concert was billed as a “Night of Worship” which intrigued me. Also, going with a group of young women who all love Jesus sealed the deal.

The venue was a huge church with a cavernous worship space. When Kari and her band took the stage, the room went dark.  The stage was lit with strings of twinkle lights, bare bulb floor lights out front, and backed by a curtain-to-curtain panel on which video was projected.  Lyrics of each song were shown for us to truly be part of the worship. It was, in spite of all the gorgeousness of the artists, truly a night of worshipping God. Kari Jobe and band prayed, sang, and danced through each song, and we with them.

One song, in particular, touched my heart and still ministers to my spirit every time I hear or sing it. It is “Oceans” written by Matt Crocker, Joel Houston, and Salomon Ligthelm. In the night of worship with Kari Jobe, during this song, the stage backdrop was covered by a video of enormous, rolling and tumbling waves. As we sang the lyrics, the waves mesmerized us all. I felt my smallness before a GOD who created oceans. If it weren’t for the desire to praise Him through those lyrics, that visual of those powerful crashing waves would have silenced me in awe of the One so much bigger than His creation.

This praise song, Oceans, brings Isaiah 43 to mind – a faithful God calling out to an unfaithful people.

Lord, give us ears to hear You even amidst rolling waves and raging seas. Fill us with Your faithfulness.

“Oceans”

You call me out upon the waters the great unknown where feet may fail and there I find You in the mystery in oceans deep My faith will stand.

(Chorus) And I will call upon Your name and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise; my soul will rest in Your embrace for I am Yours and You are mine.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters; Your sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.

(Chorus) Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.

Oceans Lyrics

Homemade video (start at 47 secs in) of Night of Worship at another venue (with ocean wave backdrop)

Hillsong Oceans video with Lyrics

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Old Friends…Books of Mine

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We’re packing to move house.  Now, I know wisdom is to purge as much as possible.  These books, that I can hold in my hand, and recognize both intellectually and emotionally, are like old friends.  Just looking at them on the shelf reminds me of the lessons God has taught me through them.  It’s like the joke about the jokes that old men tell over and over around the wood stove in a country store.  After years of telling the same jokes, (the joke goes), they just numbered them and call out the number of whatever joke they want to re-tell that day, and everyone chuckles, satisfied with the pleasure of remembering.  That’s how these books are to me…just seeing them on the bookcase by my bed each evening reminds me of the great truths their authors have taught me over the years.  Books are more and more electronically enjoyed these days, but I love to hold them in my hands, turn the pages, smell the paper…the older the better.  Years of wisdom. Real life. Truth.

Biographies & Autobiographies – the story of a life is so fascinating.  What were the influences? The relationships? The hopes and fears? The conflicts and challenges?  What did they learn that they could teach us – decades or centuries later? McCasland’s Oswald Chambers – Abandoned to God tells the story of the short, full life of the man who gave us My Utmost for His Highest. Most who know Chambers’ books know that he only wrote one, and his wife Biddy, a highly competent stenographer, compiled the 29 other books by Oswald Chambers. He spoke; she wrote. And we all have the rich fruit of both their labors.  A favorite autobiography of mine is C. S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy – The Shape of My Early Life. To hear Lewis’ voice in this volume brings to life all over again his wit (Screwtape Letters) and wisdom as he marks how God drew him to Himself. You’ll see other biographical books in the picture, but I’ll close this section with Noel Piper’s Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God. In her book, she gives the reader biographical sketches of 5 “ordinary” women who lived in different periods of the last 250 years. Ordinary women completely devoted to an extraordinary God. Their legacy includes us who are inspired to live like them…for Him.

Devotional Books – I mentioned Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, which has been a companion to the Bible for countless Christians. A favorite of mine as well.  Here, though, I want to mention four other devotionals.  Two are authored/compiled by women. Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie) Cowman wrote Streams in the Desert (you can find a daily excerpt from this at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/charles_cowman.html). Mary Wilder Tileston gathered the writings of many great spiritual fathers and mothers of our past and presented them to the reader in Joy & Strength (her daily devotionals are also found at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/mary_wilder_tileston.html). One of the Puritan fathers, William Gurnall, wrote the classic The Christian in Complete Armour which focuses on spiritual warfare. All these books have several pages marked with bits of paper for me to return to as needed.

Relationship Books – Anything you ever discover written by Tom Elliff will be rich in humor, wisdom, and love.  We’ve used his books on marriage/marriage preparation many times over, often having to replace them because they don’t always make it back home. Letters to Lovers and Unbreakable are two must-reads. Then there are books that have such a provocative subtitle that your horizon expands before you even make it to the first page.  Such a book is Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage – What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? So many great books in this section I’d love to captivate you with but will close with Gene Edwards’ A Tale of Three Kings. This book is “a study in brokenness” (as the subtitle reveals), illustrated dramatically by the intertwined lives of Saul, David, and Absalom.

One book in my collection of favorites you may have as well, but maybe not in Arabic.  It is The Bible. This book is the enduring Word of God. His Story. Over the last twenty years, during our time living in the Arab world, hearing the Word read or quoted in Arabic was a delight to my soul.  My reading it aloud in Arabic sounds like that of a new reader, a child both new to reading and to the language.  It’s all together a different experience to hear the Bible read by someone in his heart language who reads the same words, that opened life to me in English, but in Arabic. When I think of Heaven, it makes my heart glad to think that we might understand God’s Word in all languages. I won’t mind if there are no books there…but for me, here, they are a glimpse of Heaven…these stories of the saints, this great “Cloud of Witnesses”, spurring us on…to know God and to make Him known; to love Him and our neighbors as ourselves.

For now, for our moving day, these books go into a box marked “Open Early”.

What books are your old friends? I’d love to meet them.

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Mothering…Through the Seasons…Eyes on God & His on Me

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I married later in life.  Mother’s Day was always about my Mom.  Then we had children – a daughter, a son, and a second son who came home to us from across the globe.  So grateful for a gentle and encouraging mom.  And I can number other mothers in my life who God used to guide me through seasons of growing up which did not come instinctually to me…from the earliest years of our children’s lives right into the present and the strange and wonderful days of “parenting” adults.

Every season…every single one…has its unique joys and struggles.  When our children were in their school years, we were in the Middle East managing a cultural exchange program for American students.  The dilemma for some of those who were married was how to be immersed in the culture as well as properly caring for the needs of their little ones.  Language learning to proficiency became a daily scourge in the lives of these young mothers.  In anticipation that they would return to the Middle East later to some job when their children were older, they were hopeful that they could learn the language then…in that sometime later reality.

Truth be told, I was living that reality with children a bit older.  The challenges were still there, and tackling language every day was still a stretching experience in the midst of family and work life and the responsibilities and distractions.

Mothering is an extraordinary opportunity, and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss it in the throes of work-life or perceived expectations of others.  Wisdom came to me through other mothers – women who somehow were able to mother “in the present” and balance the rest of life within that.  It was hard for me to succeed in this, but it was a daily quest, and sometimes I got it right.

One great piece of advice (there were lots of those; this is one) was to remember my goal wasn’t to be “the best mom I could possibly be” (which was heavy with my own and others’ expectations) but to be “the mom God wanted me to be”.  This latter goal always had me yoked with God Himself and was full of grace.  Amazing.   Wherever you are in this journey of mothering, go with God.  He will help you focus on His purposes – for you, your family, and the world.

If you have no children or your children are far from you, I hope you can find joy in the children near to you.  We can learn a lot from each other.

I leave you with @debsfaves – sweet finds online that went up this week for Mother’s Day.  And, I also leave you with two old worship songs of Twila Paris’ – they were already somewhat old when I had little ones, but they nourished my heart, alone in that kitchen, (my newborn finally asleep)…just God & me & Twila.  And my arms go up…in praise…without thinking of anything else…but the Lover of my soul.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa-7jtvi7J4 – Salute to Moms – Mighty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whahbpRd18w – Surprised by Motherhood

http://www.djiboutijones.com/2014/05/the-grossness-of-motherhood/

http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/2014/05/10/about-mothers-day-aka-holidays-out-of-control/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRNFf3ykQvM – The Warrior is a Child with lyrics

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=essnbl7pbAk – lyrics video for Do I Trust You?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pzu-jWpcdw – live performance with Warrior and Do I Trust You?

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