Posted in Family

Counting Gifts, Tears & Joys

Ann Voskamp said,  Life is full of loss and time keeps charging forward.  Jesus said when your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.  When your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness . . . count gifts.  It keeps your eyes good.  It offers you the definite gift of greater joy.  It draws open the curtains of night when the sun is going down – when loss threatens to bury us.”   (from Ann’s One Thousand Gifts video series, session 2).

So we count gifts . . .
6,041 days of Matthew’s life on earth
A grandson, full of life, born on this day, two years ago
 Another grandson, with Matthew as his middle name
Closer to heaven’s reunions
Joy in the morning
Skittles

Today is a good, hard day.  It’s a sad day.  It’s a joyful day.  It’s a day of beauty from the ashes. It’s a day of hope and LIFE. It’s a day we remember where we were 15 years ago when our son, Matthew Norman took his last breath here and entered the presence of Jesus.  It’s a day that temporarily wrecked us and split our hearts.

How could such a dark day turn into a joyful day? When does joy in the morning return on anniverseries of this day?  BUT GOD . . . God redeems days.  HE alone brings beauty out of the ashes.  He IS restoring the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25-32).  God did not want us to continue to sink in that pit each year on this day.  Matthew beholds Jesus.  He LIVES in the presence of God and though we miss him with every part of our beings and hate how he left us, God forgave him before he even chose to try what took his life. 

78822807_958892957822914_1929441447010893824_nAnd He gave and gives us JOY for this day, one being the amazing gift of a precious life.  Two years ago today our grandson, Dante was born, within the same hour our son left this Earth 13 years previously. ONLY GOD could plan that.  I’ve wept with my daughter, questioning God how we can celebrate on such a day and  yet in awe as we accept the gift of love and life He showed us on THIS day.  There is life – here on Earth and in Heaven!  To see the sparkle in our grandson’s life – playing with cars, snuggling his mama and eating a donut with sprinkles.  His little joys are our gifts.

Tears still come . . . some did today.  One daughter brought home a handful of boxes of candy and asked if I wanted one, saying, “Matthew would do this.  Ohhh I miss him so much.” (Matthew loved giving out candy.) But these tears are temporary.  LIFE is eternal.  And we hold and love on lives here, thankful for the promises of eternity, because of Baby Jesus born to later die for us.    Joy in the morning will last forever some day . . . another gift.

Yes, it’s a hard day and it’s a beautiful day.  And I am thankful.  Yes, even for this day.  We celebrate life. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights . . .

(James 1:17)

If you do not know Matthew’s story, please read it and talk with your children.  His death may save your child’s lives.

Posted in Family

A “Good & Perfect Gift” on a Day being Restored

There has been a long pause here with writing.  Life, new grandbabies, joys, heartaches, homeschooling, public school,  graduations, running with more extra curricular activities than in years past, and just life!  God paused the writing.  I used to “think” writing a lot.  But God stopped a lot of my mind thoughts with that.  I like writing, but the writing went elsewhere, including a lot of snailmail letter writing.  The last few weeks as another heaven anniversary of our son approaches, my writing mind wanders more.  We have an amazing joy on Matthew’s anniversary date. I was anticipating it to be good.  We have something to celebrate on his heaven date.  There is joy again. But . . . there’s still the ache that resurfaces at unpredictible times.  

Friday afternoon I came home to the kids watching old videos from the year our son died.  To see his face as I remembered him those last months, to hear his voice and laughter.  Oh how I wanted to reach through that screen and hug that boy.  And then, there were areas I sure did not want to see.  Where he died (which within weeks after his death was totally gutted and remodeled). I didn’t want to remember.  It sucked the breath out of me.  And satan reminded me of my failures . . . where I messed up . . . what I could have done differently . . . the what if’s.  My husband and I got out for dinner.  He felt that air sucked out of him too.  I am thankful we can share our hearts on this together and “get it” where most (thankfully) don’t understand.  We text one of the kids asked for videos not to be on when we got home.  I am thankful they have joy seeing it.  But sometimes, even the joyous times, just plain hurt.

Saturday morning a friend posted this quote by Henri Nouwen:

One thing I want to ask you is to not allow the dark forces of your soul to draw you into a deep pit. When you give too much attention to the voices of despair, you will find yourself quickly moving downwards into depression. Don’t trust those voices, but continue to give special attention to the voice that speaks of hope, the same voice that said to Jesus, ‘You are my beloved Son. On You My favor rests.’ Trust deeply that you are God’s favored child, and try to speak and act and even think out of that knowledge, even when you don’t always feel it.    (Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life)

My friend Deb did not know the whispers I was hearing.   I needed to get out of my downer mood, and remember the joys I can so celebrate and not listen to those voices of dispair.  I know Matthew would want us to.  He is alive, just not alive by our sides.

A few hours later our house was filled with four grandkids running and crawling about while parents went to a Christmas party.  And the next day, yesterday, we celebrated our youngest grandson’s first birthday.  There’s something really special about his birthday.  He was born one year ago, on the day Matthew died.  And not just on the same day, but within the same hour.  ONLY GOD could do this.  I would not have picked this date for our grandson’s birthday, but God did.  Just as God said in Joel 2:25,  “I will restore the years that the locust has eaten“, He could do for us with the date and time.  Matthew cannot be replaced.  We will miss him until the day we see him again on heaven’s shore, but God can bring joy again, a reason to get up on December 11th, to celebrate again, and to even restore those lost years, with remembering all God did to uphold us through the years, to keep our family and marriage together.  And so on December 11th we have learned even more of the “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”  (Romans 12:15) because  “to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: time to be born and a time to die.” (Ecclesiates 3:1,2)

fbthdrI am thankful the grief of missing Matthew hit days before. As I told my friend, there will always be that gray cloud on the 11th, but there’s more blue sky showing and the gray cloud is not right over our heads. The sun is poking through because of the Son. I can’t help but think Matthew knows we have a reason to celebrate.  He rejoices in God’s presence.  On December 11th, I am thankful for two lives – Matthew’s life in heaven, to know without a doubt he is there with Jesus and for this precious one year old.   I cannot rejoice Matthew died.  His death did not steal all our joy and Satan did not win, but because of God’s son’s death and ressurection, Matthew lives in heaven and THAT I can rejoice over!  And now to celebrate here on Earth, our youngest grandson’s bright cheery smiles and sweet cuddles. God gave our family an amazing gift for this day to carry us through many years ahead.  Our other grandson also has Matthew as his middle name.  God is good – always.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights . . . ” (James 1:17)

46098992_10156814070791170_356668893307076608_o-e1544500954170.jpg
Our two sweet grandsons

If you do not know Matthew’s story, please read it and talk with your children.  His death may save your child’s lives.

Posted in Family

Happy 17th Birthday Angela Hope

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ometimes holding her seems like it was just a dream…sometimes a bad dream; most of the time a bittersweet dream that I know someday I will wake-up from for a happy, never-ending good-bye.  Angela Hope

Today marks Angela’s 17th birthday.  Jessica reminded me today that Melody and her would have both been 16 at the same time for just over a month together. This when I get the lump in my throat. I wonder what it would have been like with the three girls so close in age.  But it’s ok.  They have eternity for that.

A few weeks ago I read this blog post:  We Lost a Child, and Gained Something Greater. So this year, this is a short remembrance.  It’s worth stopping reading here and reading that article.

AngelaDaises
In Memory of our 15 year old baby girl, Angela Hope

 

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Posted in Family

Upcoming Movie: The 33 (the true story of the Chilean miners)

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ugust 5th marked the 5th anniversary of the 33 Chilean’s who survived a half mile underground for 69 days.  On November 13, 2015, Alcon Entertainment and Warner Bros. will release a new movie based on this real-life event when the gold and copper mine collapsed, staring Antonio Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips.

Warner Bros. has made a special trailer (see below) for Christian and conservative outlets that spotlights the faith themes of the film.  I thought my readers may be interested in seeing it.

CNN also had a special on their story last week, sharing how the Chilean’s faith got them through their ordeal. One Chilians said, as everyone celebrated the rescue of the 33 miners, many pointed to a higher power — a 34th miner — who they say was with them all along.”  It is also worth watching the special on CNN.

Posted in Family

Press Release: God’s Not Dead 2 – Coming out Spring 2016!!

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asn’t it amazing to see how well, God’s Not Dead movie went over?!?! I just received the following press release, to share!  I am excited to see this sequel!  

GND2 - First photo(Los Angeles, CA) Pure Flix, the largest independent faith film studio just wrapped production for God’s Not Dead 2: He’s Surely Alive.This film is the highly anticipated follow-up to the immensely successful God’s Not Dead, which grossed over $60 million last year at the box office. God’s Not Dead 2 features a star-studded cast that includes: Melissa Joan Hart (Melissa & Joey), Jesse Metcalfe (Dallas),David A. R. White (God’s Not Dead), Hayley Orrantia (The Goldbergs), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Sadie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), Robin Givens (Head of The Class), Fred Thompson (Law & Order), Maria Canals-Barrera (Cristela), with Pat Boone and Ray Wise (Robocop).

Other returning cast favorites include: Trisha LaFache (Amy Ryan), Benjamin Onyango (Reverend Jude), Paul Kwo (Martin Yip), andNewsboys (Michael Tait, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein, and Jody Davis).

About God’s Not Dead 2:
Scheduled to be released in theaters Easter 2016, God’s Not Dead 2 will have audiences standing unashamedly and firmly in their faith during a time when it seems increasingly unfavorable and divisive to do so in the public square. The film takes audiences back to Hope Springs, Arkansas … home not only of Hadleigh University, but also of Martin Luther King Jr. High School, where beloved teacher of the year Grace Wesley (Hart) helps students understand and enjoy history. Grace’s love of teaching, her love of life, and her love of people all come from the same place: her love of Christ. So when Brooke (Orrantia), a hurting student grieving the loss of her brother, finds Grace at a coffee shop, their conversation naturally leads to Grace sharing with Brooke the hope she finds in Christ. However, when Brooke asks an honest question about Jesus during a lesson Grace is teaching about Dr. King and Gandhi, Grace’s answer lands her in big trouble—almost before she finishes giving her reasoned response. With the principal (Givens) and superintendent teaming up with a zealous civil liberties group represented by an attorney with no love lost for God, Grace faces an epic court case with, the help of a sympathetic and charismatic defense lawyer (Metcalfe), that could cost her the career she had always dreamed of—and expel God from the classroom once and for all. In a story that could easily be pulled from today’s headlines, it’s good to remember some things will always remain the same: “God IS Surely Alive!”

Posted in Family

His Eye is on the Sparrow – and on the homeless man – you – me

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often see him  at the gas station, walking down the sidewalk, and a couple of days ago, in McDonald’s.  He greets and smiles at people.  He makes most people nervous and avoid eye contact.  He smells.11650727_10153477225120439_1192076113_n (2)

He is our local homeless man. He is usually looking for pop cans, digging through the trash at the gas station, grocery store or along the streets.  Sometimes he is pushing a small cart.

This particular morning, I was stressed. Our situation with one car and the kids needing and wanting to go everywhere during the summer, me dealing with a knee that tells me I can’t do it all, and the joy gets sucked out.  I was having a private pity party at McDonald’s while my husband ordered us some senior coffees.  Yup, feeling old too.

And then he sat down across from me.  And my pity party dissolved.  He probably just turned in pop cans.  His pants were too torn to carry a wallet.  So, he carried his money in a plastic grocery bag. He was smiling. So were his eyes. If he can smile and have joy, where’s mine? I carry a large purse with my laptop, wallet, essential oils, cell phone, etc.  My nails were polished (and chipping) and he wore gloves someone probably gave him for while he looks for pop cans.  And I was complaining about a car and being tired and how to do it all.

A McDonald’s employee brought him over a coffee and breakfast meal.  Someone blessed him with it. His eyes shined more as he opened up a simple breakfast sandwich he did not have to use his pop can money with. God provided for this man.  I have seen over and over how He has provided for us.

An old hymn comes to mind, my dad used to sing . . .

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

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Posted in Family

Finding new joy in the morning

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t’s been about a year off from regular blog writing here. Little did I know when I took a “short time off” from blogging  that God was preparing me for taking more time off when our lives hit a sandbar in the middle of the treacherous ocean and needed extra recovery time.  11693160_10153489341700439_1256981516_nSlowly, we are seeing how God is bringing beauty out of ashes, redemption and once again, joy in the morning.  It’s been some pretty long nights, and the clouds still become quite overcast at times, yet, we appreciate the rainbows more than ever.  I am learning more to stop and see and enjoy the small things that God created for enjoyment. Our baby lamb following our small MorkiePoo dog around, thinking it’s a dog, even into the house, brings new sparks of joy and laughter.  Our almost two year old granddaughter brings such new delights and joy filled air, especially when she says all on her own, I wuv you gama”. And a new grandbaby due in a few short weeks certainly brings wonderful renewed anticipations with new joyful mornings in the horizon.  Life is precious and worth fighting for, no matter what age.

My heart is not into sharing details but God was and is with us along this rocky terrain, even when He seems distant. When bad seemed bad enough, the storms was at the darkest when my dad died last September.  I traveled to his funeral on my birthday when it had been my hope to visit him, knowing his days were short.  I’ve sweet phone conversations tucked away in my heart and a message my dad left on my phone I replay every so often, hearing his caring, yet weakened voice that I now imagine back to it’s strong baritone boom. The hug good-bye I was yearning for, is postponed and exchanged for a “welcome home” hug someday, when all will be redeemed including heart, mind and body, all completely healed. I so look forward to it as never before. I imagine him talking to my son, Matthew, whom he only had met once on earth, and meeting our daughter, Angela, for the first time.  I wonder what their talks are like.  I am a bit jealous!  I miss talking to him more as time goes on since it was really my only contact with him for many years.  I miss his encouragements and him telling me he’s praying. Despite these heartaches, I am reminded in this song,

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

So we continue this race, not always bravely, while Jesus always remains faithful.  He’s shown Himself in amazing ways when the pit was pretty deep, dreary and lonely and tears seemed ceaseless.  One of the major life changes for us, after 22 years of homeschooling, our five youngest children went to public school – not without tears from this mama or our youngest.  It was not all good – nor, was it all bad.  Our children did amazing and had many wonderful caring teachers, including numerous Christian teachers that went out of their way to help our children adjust…and my youngest’s teacher encouraging me with a hug when I left him in tears, also telling me she’d be praying for him, and me.  Another retired teacher, an elderly grandfatherly figure in the children’s lives, would visit them at school, eat lunch with them and participate in special activities at school with them and even took them shopping before school started for backpacks and school supplies. They did great academically, and honor roll awards line our refrigerator. I am thankful for good friends the children have found and the opportunities they have had to share Jesus and be a light in a dark world. Most mornings my send off words to them has been, “shine for Jesus“.   They did, better than me many days!

During this past year, I did not stop writing.  Though I did not write here, I wrote many letters and filled up many journal pages writing to God.  My mind writes a lot – and I think of how I should write things down – and too many times, I don’t.  The Psalms remain my healing balm. Susie Larson’s Daily Blessings hit my heart almost on a daily basis this past year, with yes, Jesus, I need that.   Here’s today’s for “An Expectant Day” and maybe it will stir your heart as it did mine:

May God Himself restore to you something you lost and never thought you’d get back again.
May He heal a soul wound you thought you’d never get over.
May He pour out an abundance of joy and hope that makes you celebrate before the answer comes.
And may thriving, rich faith mark your life in every way.
You have access to the Most High God.
May you live accordingly. Have an expectant day today! 

And so, I will jot some thoughts down here and there, most likely in a different format. I will be doing more with product reviews and sharing links to my Amazon reviews I continue to do.  Thank you to the many who wrote notes asking where my blog posts are.  I’m sorry I did not answer most, but your prayers were and are appreciated.