Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 2014 Update

We are still here in Michigan, but the weather hasn't been too extreme thus far.  In fact, we've had no accumulation of snow this month as of yet.  We've even had mild weather, one day up into the 50's.  So as long as the roads are dry, no matter the temperature, I am getting out to walk.  My only complaint is that it is so overcast most of the time...seems like sun rarely shines through.  Therefore there is a dreariness about the days.

I'm a person who likes to keep busy.  I haven't found the outlets I need to keep me active.  This is a flaw within me.  I like to be busy, but I don't know where to look for what works.  I'm spending way too much time watching Hallmark movies, UP channel movies, game shows, and HGTV.  I read also, but I'm just sitting around too much!!

Our plans have changed for our Christmas family get together.  We are not going to Branson after all.  I was able to find another family who wanted to use our unit.  The timing was just not working out for our family as a whole.  So we are going to spend a few days in Chicago and a few days in St. Louis, with family.  I have prepared games to play and prizes to win...our only form of "gift exchange" this year.  The real gift is being all together.   

I gave my husband his Christmas gift two weeks early.  We stopped by our local kennel and picked up Daisy, a 5 yr old Jack Russell, and have brought her home for two weeks foster care.  She has lived in the kennel for two one wants to adopt a Jack Russell, I guess.  We do not prefer that breed either, but we don't mind giving her a two week break from the kennel.  She's actually a very good dog.  She hardly barks at all, very rare when she does.  She loves to play tug-of-war and chase and go for walks.  She's quite active, which is good for my husband...he needs a diversion from his computer now and then.  Daisy is highly trainable, so he is teaching her tricks.  She also likes to lay in our laps when we are relaxing.  She sleeps in a pen at night.  One of the best behaved dogs I've ever been around.  It will be hard to take her back, but we are not ready for a full time commitment to another dog yet.  We want to be moved and settled again before we take on a new family member.  We plan to rent, and some places do not allow pets, so we want to keep our options open.  

I was teaching a women's Bible Study this fall on the book of Galatians.  That ended last week.  It was a good study, averaging about 12 women.  We brought finger foods, punch, and coffee to our last meeting and stayed behind talking and eating.  If we have another study, it won't be until spring when the weather is more dependable.  Most of the women are elderly, and I won't ask them to come out in ice and snow and frigid temperatures, to protect their health.

I had a walk down memory lane last week.  I went to visit cousins from both sides of my family...reliving times past, and catching up on current events in the families.  I don't do that too often, so it was good for me to be with them.

This weekend we are celebrating Paul's mom's 80th birthday.  She has a twin, so we will be celebrating with both of them.  It's an occasion where both of their families will be getting together...a nice party for them.  So now I will be with Paul's maternal side of the family.  Holidays are all about getting together with others...families and friends, right?  That's what makes them more enjoyable.

I haven't sent Christmas cards out for quite a few years...ever since emailing became the mode of communication.  However, this year I felt like I wanted to send cards with notes to let people know how much they mean to me.  We came through our toughest year financially, and it was through prayers and loving support that we made it.  So I have spent the last few days writing notes in the cards and mailing them out.  The last batch goes out today.  I have particularly focused on the lonely, the elderly.  My heart goes out to them.  

Jesus is still the Reason for the season.  He is my everything...He is my all.  Through my quiet times with Him, I have strength to face my days.  I want to represent Him well.  That is my true purpose in life.  Thank you for taking time to read this post.  May you sense the love of Jesus in your heart in this moment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 2014 Update

I have not posted for quite a while, and yet some of you keep checking back faithfully.  Thank you.  I do hope eventually to get back to my series on "My Story, God's Story".  I only got about half way through my life while I was writing it last winter.  Perhaps this winter I will start in again while I am shut in on the cold blustery days.

This fall I have been teaching a women's Bible Study on Galatians:  "Gleaning Galatians - To Be Set Free".  We met in the back room of the campground snack bar until mid-October.  Now that the snack bar has closed for the winter, we are meeting in the campground Prayer Cottage.  This study should be completed in early December, as I know women will be getting ready for the holidays by then...decorating, shopping, all the things we look forward to as we prepare for time with our families.

We have made plans to meet with our family in Branson, MO this year.  I made reservations for a time share with three bedrooms, and that should pretty much take care of us, along with the sofa bed in the living room.  We will have a new family member join us this year, and we looking forward to getting to know her better.  She comes to us from the state of Texas, so she has a warm southern accent, and I love to hear her talk!

We had our first snow fall last week, but just flurries in the air...nothing that stuck to the ground.  We've been busy keeping the leaves mulched, and hopefully we are getting to the end of that forever task!

I'm still out walking 2-4 miles a day, so I so thankful for the days that have sun shining!!  And that's what we have today, so I need to get walking!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 23, 2014 - 39th Anniversary

I want to tell you all about this very special day.  It's a cool story.

Started out with hubby sending me an email/anniversary love note...looking forward to having an anniversary lunch together on Sunday after he gets home (around noon).

I had planned special things to do each day while he was gone, usually involving a friend, or being with people.  Today I decided I would just take myself out to McDonalds for lunch (had a coupon) and go to Meijers to get hubby some cokes and Klondike Heath ice cream bars...he loves both of those things and has not had coke since he left the US.  The other part of my gift to him is having pizza for dinner tomorrow, since he's not had a pizza in two weeks, and it's his favorite meal.

Well, after my lunch at McD's I decided I would go ahead and go to Helzberg Diamonds jewelry store and turn in a card I had for a free pearl necklace (or earrings...but I don't wear earrings since I have hearing aids).  I felt like God prompted me to go ahead, even though I felt cheap taking something for free and not buying anything.   

When I walked in I was the only customer there, and the store assistant manager (female) and a store clerk (female) both greeted me.  I showed them my card I had received in the mail, and they were "excited" for me to get a free gift.  I said I couldn't afford to buy anything, was that okay.  Oh sure.  They took me to the back counter and showed me the earrings and the necklace.  (I already knew I could buy the matching pieces for $29.99, according to my card). 

I told them, "You just need to know.  Today is my 39th anniversary, and my husband is out of town.  He's been unemployed for the last year and there is no way he could afford to get me a gift.  I didn't want to come to this store and take something for free without buying anything, but God reminded me that He was giving me this gift on behalf of my husband through you, Helzberg Diamonds."  They both were touched and as they were ringing up my free receipt, the Asst. Mgr. put a pearl bracelet on my wrist that matches the necklace, giving it to me free also.  Then they told me on the bottom of the receipt is a web site where I could take a survey and might win $500, but that the company loved to hear stories like mine, so be sure and share it on-line with them.  

Since they weren't busy, the Asst. Mgr. asked me if I had ever seen a diamond magnified.  Since I had not, she took me in a special room and showed me this beautiful solitaire diamond ring and put it under a magnifying machine.  Wow.  She told me what the colors meant, according to the cut of the diamond.  I asked her how expensive that diamond ring was, and she said $11,000.  Whoa.  I don't know what size the carat was.

I told the girls that when my husband and I got married we just went to a store called Service Merchandise and bought matching wedding bands for $99 a piece.  I had taken mine off over 15 years ago for a surgery, and could never get it back on.  They said they sized rings and to bring it in. Then I said some day, when my ship comes in, I'm going to have a real diamond, I'm going to get my nails done by a professional (they both had beautiful nails), and I'm going on a cruise.  I told them, "You are never too old to have dreams...dreams are free."

Then I said, "I just have to witness to this once again.  This past year while my husband was out of work, God has taken care of us in so many special ways.   We were not able to collect unemployment as he had worked for a non-profit, but God provided in His own ways.  Then today for Him to give me a pearl necklace and bracelet, was just a very special gift from Him...and He is a God so worthy of serving.  Thank you for being His agents today."

Other customers came in then and I left.  What a precious love story for our 39th anniversary.  I'm anxious for hubby to get home and tell me what special things have happened to him these past 10 days. more thing.  I came home, did the on-line survey, and decided to find my wedding band so I could take it in to get it re-sized sometime.  Put it on my finger, and it slipped right on!!  That's what walking 4 miles a day will do for you!  Makes your fingers skinny!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 2014 Update

I know I have not published anything in this blog since March, and I need to do so.  Because I have not been in the frame of mind to continue on with "My Story, God's Story", I have just avoided making entries in this blog.  I do want to continue with my life story, but I've taken a break for now.

We came back to Michigan in April as we wanted to prepare our house and cottage to be sold, hopefully this summer.  We have had several lookers, just nothing serious yet.  Since we don't know the wisdom of selling and moving versus sitting tight, we leave the timing of the sale in our Agent's hands...the hands of God.  

Ideally we think we would like to sell the house and keep the cottage.  We would like to live in the south for most of the year, and have the cottage to come back to in the summer.  Michigan summers can be so beautiful, so relaxing.  This summer has certainly been just that!  We've only had one day over 90 degrees so far.  Since we are not running the air conditioning this summer, using only windows and doors for fresh air, it's nice to have the milder temperatures we have been experiencing.

Our two granddaughters spent two weeks with us this summer, coming to one of their very favorite places to visit.  It's been an annual trek for them for many years.  At least one of them, the older one, has been here for a summer visit for as many years as we have lived here.  This is our 11th summer on the campgrounds.  They have friends here, and so many things to keep them busy.  They would rather we did not move away from here.

We had a very good campmeeting last week, good in attendance and good in Spirit.  Once campmeeting is over, it seems like the summer is downhill, fading away into fall.  Fall is also a beautiful time in Michigan, it's just that the grounds are so much more empty after the RVers go back home, and then the snow birds start trekking south.  We were so fortunate to be with our family in St. Louis last winter, for surely Michigan had one of its worst winters on record.  We don't look forward to being here in the months ahead, but we will trust God to lead us one day at a time.

Our lives are taking some major changes, just starting to unfold.  Looks like doors are finally opening for Paul to return to the work force.  This time, however, it will be in a different setting than we have ever experienced.  One of his life's goals from the early years was to be self-employed as a consultant/contractor for engineering process safety.  He has taken some classes to better prepare himself for that, on top of his 30 years of experience in those kind of fields for various companies, in various locations.  In the very near future he will begin his first assignment, and he is excited about it.  

The beauty of being a self-employed contractor is that he won't be forced to retire.  As long as he is physically able, and mentally capable, he can continue to work at the pace he chooses.  Secondly, he can choose which contracts he wants to take on, and when he needs time for other ventures.  And he works from his home office, when he's not on assignment.  He doesn't have to relocate for this position, but can choose where he wants to live.  It sounds like an ideal arrangement for us at this phase in our lives.  

Meanwhile, I am open to what God may have for me to do to keep my mind and hours occupied.  Last week while sitting in a waiting room at a doctor's office, I picked up a Weight Watcher's Magazine.  It's the first one I've ever looked at, and I was so impressed with how much good information was in the magazine.  I asked if I could purchase the magazine to take with me.  Since it was an older issue, the office just gave it to me.  I see myself making some life changes because of items I read in this magazine.  Somehow I want to make it into a blog...I think a separate blog from this.  I see myself adding to it sporadically as I feel inspired to share things I am learning.  It has to do with well-being.  It's time in life to focus on what is truly important, and get rid of the fluff, including the extra weight and baggage...whether in body or mind.  

This has been a catch-up and an introduction to what's coming next.  If I do make this a separate blog, you will see it listed in the right hand column with my other blogs.  I need to spend time developing the format and title and what I want this blog to look like.  Hopefully you will see it arrive on the scene very soon!

Meanwhile, I will continue "My Story, God's Story" in the days ahead, once I get my inspiration rolling again.  Thanks for checking in and checking back!!  I am amazed every time I see how many hits my blogs are getting.  And how many places the hits come from!!  That's what makes blogging fun...being able to communicate to the world through my own publishing.  I still do not use Facebook or Twitter or any other more popular means of communication...I am an old-fashioned, simple-minded woman, who still makes it her ambition "to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders, and you will not be dependent on anybody."  (I Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Friday, March 21, 2014

14 - My Story, God's Story - Back to Cleveland, TN

We are still in St. Louis, MO with our son.  We have wrapped up most of our projects here, and we still await our next assignment...our next phase in life.  God knows we are anxious to move on, but we don't want to get ahead of Him, nor get out of His will.  Waiting is not easy.  It plays with the emotions.  But to us there is no other option.  We belong to God, and He can do with us as He pleases.

Now, on with the story.  We were excited to be moving back to TN after 4+ years in Joliet, IL.  I have not mentioned before that back before we moved to Joliet we had purchased a couple of acres in a new subdivision in Cleveland.  We had hoped to build our own home.  After four years in Joliet, we decided perhaps it would be best to sell our lot as we didn't know if we would ever be moving back to TN.  The very week we gave the developer notice to go ahead and sell the land, Paul got notice we would be going back "home" (that's how much we loved TN).  So we quickly told the developer our plans had changed.

After moving back to Cleveland, we rented for a year while having our house built.  We built the home with the idea that perhaps our elderly parents (either Paul's or mine) would maybe someday need to move in with us.  We had a bedroom, a bathroom, and a family room built off the kitchen at one end of the house, with French doors to the back screen porch.  That would give anyone living there privacy, and use of the kitchen.  Turns out neither of our parents joined us, but we did eventually have a seminary student spend two years with us, so it served its purpose. I am way ahead of my story.

Paul still had to travel for the company, but he had more time at home than before.  He liked coaching, so he got involved with coaching basketball at the Boys Club in town, and then after we moved into our new neighborhood, he became a Little League baseball coach in our school district.  Both of our sons were on his teams.  He eventually became the president of the Little League.  It was a great outlet for him.

My time was spent planning and overseeing the Sunday School program at our church.  Didn't make sense to me, but I was elected the SS Superintendent  (me being both a woman and a Yankee...not your typical church leader in the south).  I loved it...I felt like I was finally doing what I was gifted to do.  The SS grew in size, even though it was still a small church, and we started a women's ministry.  I was on the church board representing SS.  It didn't take long to see I didn't belong there, and before too long I realized I didn't belong in that church.  Rather, I should say I was not accepted.  

It was a crazy time in my life, and hard to recall everything.  I know that I was climbing the mountain tops, loving God and loving others and fulfilling my "calling".  I have since discovered that when you are being blessed, that is one of the most vulnerable times when satan likes to enter in the back door like an angel of light.  When I thought God was honoring me, satan was setting me up.  What happened during that year of my life was a turning point for me.  I will not give details, as it involved other people, and it would be unfair to only tell my side of the story.  I will talk about my walk with God, however.

I had chosen to be a stay at home Mom after we moved back to TN.  I wanted to enjoy my children and be available when they needed me.  Only thing, it seems they didn't need me as much.  They had school and baseball and friends.  They were no longer toddlers, they were growing up.  Both excelled in school, and both were good ball players.  I was restless,  needing something to keep me busy.  When I was elected Sunday School Superintendent, that was exactly what I needed to occupy my time.  

At first things were great, and I felt so fulfilled.  There were two very important people in my life, however, from which I could not seem to gain approval, and eventually that need for approval robbed me of my peace and joy.  I let my guard down, and I failed God and myself miserably.  

I didn't understand what all was going on in my life, but I knew something was seriously wrong.  I started listening to talk shows on the radio that dealt with women's disorders and decided I must be having early menopause.  Things I used to enjoy I had no desire for.  I didn't feel adequate as a mom, nor a wife.  I became very withdrawn and started avoiding friends and outings.  I was full of anxiety, could hardly go to the grocery store without panic attacks.  Eventually I understood I was clincally depressed.  I needed help, but I felt that as a Christian I should be able to work things out with God, and I didn't need outside help.

During this time I was suicidal, and believed the boys and Paul would be better off without me.  You can see the devil was attacking my mind and spirit.  The way I spent time with my sons was to teach them how to do their own laundry and clean their bathroom.  Today they will both say they were grateful for that time in their lives when they learned how to do things for themselves, but I will always regret stepping out as a mom.

We ended up leaving the church and going to a large one in town where I could just sit on the pew and heal.  For the boys, it was a good switch, for they learned the books of the Bible, and learned more about the God's Word than ever before.  Paul was directing a young adult choir and using his talents.  We made good friends, and enjoyed visiting and playing games with them.

I had a friend convince me to go see a Christian psychologist that had helped her, so after a year of struggling with depression on my own, I first of all went to see a medical doctor and then a psychologist.  I got on medication for helping the chemical imbalance my body was going through, and my self-esteem was being renewed through counseling.  I was sitting at the organ playing songs and singing along one day when I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me, "It will all be over by Christmas".  I didn't know what that was late summer at the time.  Did it mean someone I loved, or myself, was going to die?  What was going to be over?

I spent a lot of time in prayer at the foot of my bed, and I journaled while reading through the Bible.  Every time a scripture spoke to me, I wrote it in my journal.  In the mornings I would listen to Dr. Charles Stanley on the radio, and it was like God talking directly to me.  He answered so many of my questions, He explained His Word to me, He gave me directives.  

I was on a journey of emotional healing, including learning to forgive myself.  I knew God had forgiven me, but I was so angry at myself for some stupid behaviors that caused my downfall.  What I learned was that God's grace covers our sins and shortcomings.  I had taken that for granted before this private journey of mine, but during this time I truly began to understand grace for the first time.  I needed it, and God lovingly granted it to me.  

This journey was horrible at first, but the strength I found in reading God's Word, listening to Him, and journaling my thoughts was so profound that after my healing was complete, and I went on in life on a "normal" basis, there were times when I almost wanted to be back on that journey.  God was so close to me then.  He knew how much I needed Him, and He was there for me in a very real, very intimate way.  He loved me, He approved of me, He accepted me.  If He was all I had, then I could go on and face the world about me, for He was all I needed.

It took about a year and a half for me to come out of the dark tunnel I had been in during my depression.  Guess was around Christmas time when I felt totally healed and ready to join life again.  Remember what the Holy Spirit had said to me?  It would be over at Christmas, and it was.  Now I want to back up and insert another time God spoke to me.

It was in the springtime, prior to my depression, and I was cleaning the house with Christian music playing through the intercom.  Every now and then I would just stop and lean against the wall and cry tears of joy.  God was so real to me, blessing me with His presence.  I sat down to journal, asking Him what was going on, and as I looked out my bedroom window down toward the trees in the backyard, I saw a hand beckoning me.  I asked God what He wanted from me.  He spoke to me:

"Carol, you've been enjoying this season in your life, haven't you?"  I responded, "Yes, Lord, you have blessed me so much, I am so full of joy."  He continued, "Carol, you've been walking across mountain tops with a friend.  Would you be just as willing to walk down through the valley with a friend?"

That stopped me.  What friend? What valley?  But as I gave it deep contemplation, I said, "Yes, Lord.  I don't know where I am going, and I don't know who the friend is, but I will walk through the valley because I know you are already there, beckoning me.  I want to be close to wherever you are, so here I am...lead me and I will follow."

I had journaled all of that back when I was going through it, that's why I can recall this "vision" so clearly.  That happened just a few weeks before things went haywire in my life, and I stumbled head long into depression.  I was so angry with myself for being so stupid and allowing the devil to trip me up.  Depression, by the way, is anger turned inward.  I learned a lot about depression by reading books and listening to the radio speakers who were professionally trained.  

Prior to this I had never understood depression.  Now I know what my grandmother was going through in the final years of her life.  I wish I had known back then so I could have come along side of her and been her companion...someone who would just sit and cry with her, if need be.  But I avoided her, just like others did, and it only made it worse for her.  She died when I was in my early 20's.  How I wish I could have made this up to her.  I loved her so much, but didn't understand how depression affected one's life.  

I talked to my mom about it while I was going through it, and she said she had never struggled with depression.  She struggled so much with cancer and physical ailments, but not mental and emotional anguish.  She was always there to listen to me, which was what I needed, but she felt so badly she couldn't help me.  She didn't realize how much being my listener and supporter during that time meant to me.  She is also in heaven now.  She was my best friend as an adult, and I still miss her after 17 years of her being gone.  No one has ever replaced one I could talk to as openly as I could talk to her.  She truly loved me, in spite of my short comings and faults and failures.  One of God's greatest gifts to me was my Godly parents.  Dad is gone now too...nine years since he went home.  I'm glad they are both safe at home, and I wouldn't call them back to this world for anything.  Many times I wish I could join them!!

When I started writing this blog entry, I really didn't know what I would say, or where it would lead.  I thought I would be focusing on my delight to be back in Cleveland, but there was this black hole in my life that I knew I would need to cross again.  It was part of my journey in which I grew in wisdom and strength, and helped shape who I am today.

During my depression, I did experience panic attacks and withdrawal.  I didn't want to see or hear anything evil, so I quit watching TV, quit reading the newspaper, and quit reading any secular magazines.  I was totally focused on the Bible and inspirational books written by Christian authors.

When I started gaining some strength I knew I needed to get out of the house and start facing life again.  Since I regretted not finishing college, I decided to go back to school.  I signed up for classes at the local community college, focusing on English and psychology.  I was given several writing assignments in my English class, and even those were therapeutic for me.  I wrote about what I life, what I was going through, what I was learning.  By the end of that semester, I decided I needed to get into a Christian college environment if I wanted to study psychology.  I didn't care for the secular slant.  God meant too much to me to not be included in studying about human behavior.

In the fall of 1987 I registered for classes at Lee (College) University...a Church of God institution.  I thought I would be the oldest one there, but even in the registration line I met several others who were making mid-life career changes and wanted to train for God's service.  It wasn't long before I realized that I had just entered into an oasis.  I was still taking medication for depression, but somehow I knew that getting a degree was going to be the best therapy I could have.  And that's where I will leave my story for this entry into my blog.  It's long enough...but it was part of the journey that had to be shared all together.  Oh...the friend I went through the valley with was none other than Jesus Christ.  He was there with me every moment of the way.

I would just like to end this encouraging anyone, any woman, who is experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, to please get some professional Christian counseling.  It may be what you need to turn your life around also.  I'm sorry I fought it so long, thinking I could heal myself, with God's help.  If you have cancer, you get a medical specialist to help treat you.  If you have mental or emotional anguish, get a psychological specialist to help you get back on the path again.  You won't regret it.  Just be sure and take God with you!!  He's the Source of truth, and He loves you more than anyone!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

13 - My Story, God's Story - The Joliet Years


After God affirmed to us that moving to Joliet was in His plan, we were anxious to get there.  We lived in a rental house until our chocolate house was completed.  We did all the painting on the house, inside and out, and hung wall paper, and stained trim.  The house was a a tri-level, but then had an additonal basement level another few steps down.  That was a common design in that part of the country.

I was a stay at home mom, and to keep myself busy and the boys entertained, I did preschool at home, with structured lessons.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that Dad introduced the boys to the computer, and they had lessons on the computer as well as games.  Plus we had a beautiful large park and playground with a picnic area that was located just down our backyard.  The boys also had their sand box and tree house to play in.  Once a week we went to the local library for the boys to participate in a children's program which contained story time, music time, and crafts.  It was all a very nice arrangement.

We met good friends at church who also had two sons about the age of our sons.  Sharyl and I would sometimes meet at the mall and walk around with our boys.  Other times we would meet at a McDonald's playland and let them play while we visited.  We took turns going to each other's house with our husbands, and played games while the kids played GI Joes, or Transformers, or PlayMobile sets.  Those four boys were very good buddies and got along wonderfully.

Bill and Sharyl have been life-long friends...friends who came to visit us in other states that we lived in.  Those kind of friendships are rare, at least with us.  We were shocked and saddened a few years ago to hear that Sharyl had died in her sleep.  She was the life of the party, a popular high school teacher and Sunday School teacher, and for years led children's church.  We had to stand in line for over two hours just to walk by her casket the day before her funeral.  I am so grateful to have known her and called her my friend.  This has been a little side-track here, but our years in Joliet found us spending a lot of time with Bill and Sharyl and boys.  

Our Joliet Years were also marked with many childhood diseases and accidents.  Both boys had the measles and chicken pox during those years.  In fact, our youngest one had the chicken pox while his leg was in a cast.  It was an itch you couldn't get to for scratching!  The same leg was broken twice.  Here's the story:

We had gone back to Tennessee for the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville.  We stayed with some friends in Cleveland, and on Sunday we had a picnic at a local park.  Our youngest one was playing on the monkey bars when he fell.  We thought he had just sprained his leg, so we didn't get it examined until the next day.  Then we found out he had fractured it.  He had the cast on a few weeks (a walking cast), and after it was removed and his leg was wrapped in elastic, his father went to sit down on the couch next to him, and accidentally caught our son's foot and fractured the same spot a second time.  What a trooper our little boy was!!  We have movies of him playing ball outside and running around the bases with his cast on!  Nothing was holding him back.

Another time the boys were playing in their bedroom, and the young one had another accident.  He fell and hit his forehead against the edge of the plate where the door latches, and cut his forehead open.  I took him to emergency (Dad was out of town), and they had to stitch his forehead.  I was there when they put a shot in the split to numb it.  He just laid there and bravely didn't say a thing, while the tears trickled down his face.  He has always been strong when it came to pain.

Another time when Dad was out of town our oldest son was running a fever.  He was quite lethargic and didn't want to be up and around, so I kept close to his side.  By midnight his eyes were glazing over and I knew I needed to do something quickly.  I called a grandma type figure from our church and asked if I could leave the young son with her, as I had to take my other son to the emergency room.  She was glad to help.

Ends up I spent the week in the hospital with our son.  Paul was out of town the whole week, but Doris was very capable and enjoyed keeping our other son.  The son in the hospital was severely dehydrated, once again we were close to losing him.  I'm glad I rushed him in when I did, or it may have turned out differently.  I had prayed and asked God what to do that night, as I was so scared about how sick he seemed to be.  I do feel it was God's nudge that had me take him to the hospital instead of waiting to see the doctor the next day.  Another intervention from above.  I knew God had a purpose for this son's survival.  I felt the responsibility to raise him to honor and obey God.

During our years in Joliet, both sons started school.  It was so hard for me to put them on that school bus, yet I knew that was part of raising children.  Paul and I were called into a special meeting at school regarding our sons.  We were told that they were very advanced, and it would be easy for them to get bored in school.  Rather than have them skip grades, they were going to offer them extracurricular assignments to keep them challenged.  

For our part, we were told success in life did not depend on intelligence, rather it came from healthy self-esteem.  It was important that the boys were happy with themselves and not pushed to prove themselves by their grades.  I don't think I am wording that exactly right, but I just know once again I felt the responsibility as their mother to keep their lives in balance.  Being a mother is not an easy task when you take the position seriously, and I did.  I was very privileged to be given these two marvelous sons to raise and guide in their early years.  I did not want to fail them nor God!

After our second son started school, I took a part time job.  I knew I would get restless at home by myself.  My job had me home about an hour after our son got home, so he stayed with a neighbor until I picked him up.  He had playmates there so he didn't mind it at all.  By the end of his kindergarten year, we were moving again.  Paul had received a promotion in his company which took him back to his former plant.  We loved Tennessee, we had good friends back there, and winters were much milder than near Chicago!!  Make no mistake, we had good years in was the perfect setup for our young sons, in the neighborhood, in the church, and at school.  But to go back "home"!  How loving God is!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

12 - My Story, God's Story - Moving to Joliet


Our sons were both born in Cleveland, TN.  When they were 2 & 3 we made a temporary move to Lake Charles, LA.  Since Daddy was working 18 hour days, 7 days a week, Mommy had to be creative to keep the boys entertained, as well as herself.  We were in that temporary move for nine months.  We thought we would be going back to Cleveland, TN, but God had other plans.  

As I write our story, I am not going to track Paul's company positions, for I could hardly keep track of them.  He was a chemical engineer who was fully dedicated to his work, and received many job opportunities and promotions along the way.  Some of those opportunities/promotions meant moving.  

When he and I went on an interview trip to Joliet, we stayed in a Holiday Inn for a couple of nights.  The first day, while he was interviewing, I spent the day with a real estate agent looking at houses.  This was a nightmare.  The country was in a season of high interest rates (16-18%), and houses and taxes in Illinois were so much more expensive than Tennessee.  When I looked at what would be in our price range, I didn't like what I saw.  I didn't want to give up our nice home in TN for poor housing in IL.

We asked the company to let us stay for the weekend and give us more time to research this move.  Church was very important to us.  So not only did we want to find a house that would work for us, we wanted to find a church.  A church that preached holiness...sanctification.  

We believe sanctification to be a second work of grace after a person received salvation from Jesus Christ...a forgiveness of past sins.  It is a work that allows the Holy Spirit to do a cleansing within us.  I like the story I have heard that explains this so simply.  It's like moving into a new house when one becomes a born again Christian.  Jesus wants to come in and live there with you.  You invite Him, but you say to Him, "Jesus, this house is yours.  Only there is one room that is locked, and you have to stay out of that room.  It's MY room.  It's private.  Don't go in there, Jesus."  

But something doesn't seem quite right.  I say I love Jesus, but I won't allow Him into my life (house) totally.  The more I am living with Him in my house, the more I want Him to be able to clean every room, even my private room.  So I totally surrender my whole house to Him...He takes control, and I live with peace, and a desire to always please Him.

Another way sanctification has been explained is that in salvation we are forgiven of our past sins.  Salvation, however, does not take away the desires to keep sinning, so we struggle in our Christian walk.  Up and down, in and out.  We get tired of living like that, and we truly do want Jesus to be in control (through His Holy Spirit).  So we sign a contract with God.  We don't list the details, we just sign a blank sheet and give it over to God.  Whatever He wants to put in that contract is okay with us.  We trust Him completely with our lives.  We want to live in obedience to Him, to please Him, to daily walk with Him in charge of our paths.

I was raised in a holiness denomination.  I was saved at age 11.  I went to church whenever the doors were opened.  My parents were strong Christians, and our family was committed to the church, helping the church in any way we could.  As a teenager I would testify to being saved and sanctified, and I thought I was because of how many times I went to the altar.  But also as a teenager, I slipped up many times.  I didn't always live in truth and purity.  

By the time I had two little ones in our home, I was tired of struggling so much with bad attitudes and anger and frustration...mostly directed at others in the church.  I knew something was wrong with me.  I didn't feel like the Christian I claimed I was.  

We attended the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene (which occurs every four years) for the first time in 1980, held in Kansas City, MO...the church headquarters.  All of the General Superintendents (there were six of them) spoke at the services, and they all focused heavily on being sanctified...being set apart for God's use, God's purpose.  I began to hunger so deeply for that work in my life.  I was so tired of struggling in my Christian walk.  I began to seek to be sanctified.  I read whatever I could get my hands on that explained it.  I listened to sermons about it.  I went to the altar asking God to sanctify me.  

In my weariness I finally knelt at a very crowded altar (it was lined from one end to the other), and I told God that I wanted to be sanctified.  I told Him I knew it was His will for me according to scripture (I Thessalonians 4:3).  Then I told Him whether I felt like I was sanctified or not, when I got up from that altar, feelings or no feelings, I was going to claim His sanctification.  I started to stand up, and about that time the Holy Ghost train went from one end of the altar to the other, and people started shouting and praising God like I had never heard before.  The Spirit fell on us in a mighty way.  I fell back to the altar and was unaware of anyone else around me. 

I had a vision of being on the sand at a seashore all by myself.  The gentle waves kept rolling in and drenching me.  As they receded out, again and again, I felt so squeaky clean.  I had never felt this way before.  When I looked up (in my vision) I could see so much clearer than before.  Everything was so bright, so beautiful.  My heart was totally at peace, and I felt like I loved everyone and everything.  It was an out of body experience for me.  I knew God had done His work in me.

From that experience when I am asked what is the evidence I received that God had filled me with His Spirit...Sanctified me...set me apart to do His will...I say that He filled me with His Divine Love.  He changed me from the inside, and instilled His love in me for others.  My attitudes changed.  I was given patience and understanding I never had before.  To be sure, I was still human...I was not made perfect.  There would be many times in the years ahead I would not always act out of love and patience and understanding.  However, the Holy Spirit was always there to remind me I was to follow His way, not my own.  Maybe that meant making restitution, making things right.  Maybe that means continuing to develop the attitude of Christ Jesus in me.  I just know that I am surrendered to the will of God.  No matter where He leads me, I will follow.  That is the only way to have real peace.  Thanks be to God, He gives me peace.  No matter what my trials are, when I turn it over to Him, the fear and anger and frustration melt away, and He fills me with peace.  

That is why when we were making our move to Joliet, I wanted a church that believed in and preached holiness/sanctification.  So back to our weekend where we sought God's will on our move to Joliet.

We woke up on Saturday morning and knelt by our bed and asked God to show us His will in this move.  We wanted to find a house that would work, and we wanted a church where sanctification was preached.

We took off driving.  I believe God was in charge of that trip.  We were driving more in the country, and we turned down a road that took us by a new county park with a walking trail with workout stations, a playground, tennis courts, and ball fields.  In front of this park was a row of brand new houses being built.  We stopped and walked through a house that was almost completed.  I was standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window (Paul was out in the back yard), and I felt God speak to me in my spirit and say that I should trust Him, that if we moved to Joliet, this was the kind of house I would have.  

We called the realtor's number, and found out he lived in that row of houses.  He came over to this house and told us that it was already sold, but that there was another house on the end lot that was almost finished.  It would be an extra large lot as it was at the entrance to the park.  Also, even though current interest rates were averaging 17%, these homes had a preset interest rate of 12%.  That sounds high today, but it was a 5% savings back then!  Plus, if we wanted to do some of the finishing on the house, we could save off the purchase price.  It was an unbelievable deal!!!  It was nicer than our TN house, and located right on a park for our boys!!  The yard was super large, lots of room for a garden, a tree house and sand box, a place to play t-ball beside the house.  A sidewalk for learning to ride bikes.  It was perfect for us with our two young sons.  God is SO GOOD!!  

On Sunday morning we went to a Nazarene church.  They were in the midst of Bible School, having sessions on Sundays through the summer, instead of one week long VBS.  The adult class was having a special study on sanctification.  Did you get that?  Sanctification!!  That was our second fleece.  In our hearts we knew God was leading us to Joliet, and we said yes!

We found a rental house to live in until our house was completed.  We named our new house the Chocolate House, as it was painted a dark brown.  Daddy built a tree house over a sandbox out back near the garden he planted.  Our back yard was sloped, which made for great sliding in the winter.  I enjoyed walking the park trail and taking the boys down to the playground.

I will do a second blog on the rest of the Joliet years.  Next time.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

11 - My Story, God's Story - Two Precious Sons Come Along

Time to write another entry on my story, God's story.

Believe it or not, I had decided I did not want any children.  However, my doctor convinced me at age 26 I would change my mind.  I decided to just leave it in God's hands.  However, I did not want more than two children, and it would be nice to have a boy and a girl.

Christmas season 1977 found me in a Chattanooga hospital delivering our first child - a beautiful baby son with lots of dark hair.  He looked much like his Daddy.  We named him after a city in Kentucky that I had written in my Bible two years earlier as we passed through that town on a trip to Michigan from Tennessee.  It just sounded like a neat man's name, and I had a nickname for his as a child.  (He outgrew that by fourth grade...sad to say.)

God intervened in our lives once again by blessing us with our first born son.  Even his name meant "Gift of God".  While I was in the hospital recovering from his birth (back in the days when you didn't go home again right away after giving birth), I had plenty of time to journal about this blessed event.  

That first night our baby had a catch in his breath, and to better inspect the reason why, they transferred him to ICU in a children's hospital.  Turns out he had a staff infection, often fatal, according to the doctor.  He had to be in an incubator for 12 days for treatments.  We were allowed in to be with him for a short while after getting robed.  With sterile gloves on our hands, we would reach in and stroke him and let him squeeze our fingers...he had a very strong squeeze.  

I was so grateful for the day we could finally take him home and hold him close.  I was enamored with him.  He had his picture taken every time I put a new outfit on him, and in all his various settings....infant seat, crib, swing, play pen.  (Funny how that tends to happen with the first born, and not so much when the next baby comes along!)

We didn't know very many people near where we lived, so I would take the baby out to the mall and push him around in a stroller, just to get out of the duplex.  By April we were ready to move back to Cleveland and buy our second home.  It was a modest tri-level located near a golf course, where we could golf all we wanted for $25 a month for the both of us!  That was a while ago!!  In fact, that golf course is no longer there...sad.  It had a pool and tennis courts, which we also used on occasion.

I enjoyed being Mama, but needed an outlet, so I started taking a class at the Community College near by.  I soon found out baby #2 was on his way.  Baby #1 was only 16 months old when #2 showed up, rather quickly!  Glad we weren't driving back to Chattanooga to the hospital, or we would have pulled alongside I-75 and had a baby without any medical assistance.  As it was, we got to the Cleveland hospital, and before the doctor arrived, or before Paul had time to sit down and start reading his book, Son #2 was on the scene.  That was quick and easy, compared to my first time of giving birth.  

During my pregnancy we could never come up with a girl's name, but I had a boy's name picked out, just in case.  The closer I got to the baby's birth, the more I decided a second son would be nice.  He would be a good playmate for his brother, and I could save money on clothes.  Baby girls are way too expensive, I had decided!  So we were prepared for a second male child in our home, and glad for his safe arrival!

God granted us two loving, darling baby boys to enrich our lives and to keep us laughing and finding joy in our days.  If I had never had babies, I would never have made an Easter Bunny Cake, or filled Easter Baskets and Christmas Socks.  I chose to stay home during these preschool years and raise our sons so they would have our values, not the values floating around in Daycare.  I loved watching bigger brother sharing his Popsicle with his little brother, while they sat in a round plastic swimming pool.  

They became close buddies from the get-go.  One with dark straight hair, one with white/blond curly hair.  Go figure!  One favored the Spanish genes and one favored the German genes.  But if you put jackets on them and drew their hoods tight around their faces, you couldn't tell them apart.  One wanted desperately to be totally athletic, and was very competitive.  One was very athletic, but had no interest in competition.  Wouldn't you know.  I guess that brought balance between the two of them.

I also found my role expanding from mother to teacher.  We had home preschool, structured lessons and crafts and computer time.  Remember Texas Instruments - TI99-4a?  That was Daddy's influence on our growing sons...reading, math, spelling, and playing games...learning hand-eye coordination.  By the time they reached kindergarten, they were both advanced in their classes and in the gifted programs.  I give credit to the early computer exposure.  Sure enough, one grew up to be a computer whiz, and his career is enhanced by his natural skills and knowledge.  He gets that from Dad also.

Daddy was given a temporary assignment in Lake Charles, LA with his company.  It was to be about 18 months in length, so we loaded up the family and moved south.  Thank goodness the assignment only lasted 9 months.  Hubby worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week. I was left alone with the babies in an area where the only people we knew were from the church.  We became close friends with the pastor and his wife, since they were new to the area also.  They had older teenagers, and became substitute grandparents to our boys.  Curley and Preacher...a deep friendship grew in those nine months.  I still make "Curley's Spaghetti" today...a family favorite.  

We had a very nice family vacation in Texas while we lived down in that area.  We made the loop across Louisiana to Houston, down to historic, romantic San Antonio, up through San Marcos and Austin, saw the capital, took a brief run through Fort Worth and Dallas (stopped to see the historical marker of JFK's death), and back down to Houston.  We attended a 15 inning Astros' ball game (boys slept in the seats), and we spent a day at Six Flags over Houston.  From there we went out to Galveston Island for a day before heading back to Lake Charles.  The boys were too young to remember the trip, but it stands out in my memory as a great vacation, after not having a husband around for almost nine months!  We didn't know when we would be that close to Texas again.  I say the best thing about Lake Charles was living only five hours from Houston, even though we only made it there one time.  Lake Charles represented alligators, snakes, and roaches to me.  I was glad to move away from there!

When we left Lake Charles we thought we were going back to Cleveland, but God had other plans for us, and the company moved us to Joliet, Illinois.  We had rented our Cleveland house, and found out renting is a disaster.  After fixing up the house, it was put on the market for sale, and it didn't take long to sell.  I think I'll leave the Joliet Years for the next segment of my blog, even though I've already given some insights to the boys' lives during that period.  I'm just writing what flows through my mind as I journal this time of my life.  Would that I could relive it!!  And this time, NOT make so many mistakes!!!  Isn't that every parent's wish?  That's why we have grandchildren, right?