I have met so many wonderful friends through books. Some are fictional, and some are flesh and bone friends...but all have made a difference in my life in one way or another. We all impact each other's lives. Sometimes it is by something you say that makes me think, and other times it is by a gesture or kindness. And yet other times it may be something that dug deeper, hurt my feelings, or made me sad. Still you made a difference. Through this blog I would like to introduce you to some people who have blessed me with their writing...and I hope you will be blessed as well!

Coffee or Tea?

Thursday, November 8, 2012


     I know I promised to get back on schedule, but life isn't always as accommodating!  We all know the old saying, "If you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans!"...well that is exactly the way my week went. Honestly, I think sometimes the enemy has nothing better to do with his time than to attack me! Then I read the prayer requests of my friends and realize it isn't just me.
     I remember hearing someone tell a story many years ago about a man who had so many worries he couldn't carry them all anymore. Broken and weary he could barely carry them up to the alter and lay them before the Lord.

    "Father", he cried with tears streaming down his cheeks, "I can't do this anymore!".  He used the last ounce of strength to set the load in front of the alter and pointed to it's mass. "It is killing me.  I have tried repeatedly to figure out how to deal with these things and can't reduce my load even a noticeable amount.

    The Lord looked down and understood the man's sorrow. "You can take it in there", He pointed to a door with a wide opening to the man's right, "All I ask is that you take another bag with you when you go".

    The man was delighted and with renewed hope picked the bag up and entered the room.  It was filled with bags of every size from floor to ceiling.  He lifted and inspected all the bags he could to be assured he had selected the lightest smallest bag of burdens he could find. Once he was convinced, he walked over to claim it only to see his own name on the tag. Of all of the bags in the room, his had been the smallest.
     In recent days I have prayed for a 4 year old boy with cancer in stage 4, and watched the praise report come in that most of his tumors had significantly reduced and he was feeling so much better. A dear writer who this time last year thought she might not live to see her children see adulthood, as been declared cancer free! And other miracles being reported every day.  But there are still so many others needing power added to their prayers...a family who's loved one was trying so hard to start her family had suffered several miscarriages, and now in her 5th month she is in danger again and needs prayer.  A large number of families have recently lost teenagers to suicide, and others are fighting to save their lives. With the damage from Sandy on the East Coast we have seen people loose the home they have lived in for generations, along with everything they owned inside. My bag seems to be shrinking in comparison...and still it is overwhelming to this weary soul.
    I have learned the best way to carry those heavy loads is to pray for others. You can see how many people have battles far heavier than yours. So I really have no excuse for not contributing on time. I know you will love meeting Krista Phillips! There is one lady who has mastered handling the frustrating annoyances that break us down...and always keeping up her blog, writing her book and getting it published, and taking care of four girls (one is our Princess Annabelle who fought, and won, her battle with a defective heart since birth). I can't wait to find out her secret!

I am off to the Penn-Del conference of the Assembly of God Women of Purpose with LIZ CURTIS HIGGS as our keynote speaker!!!  YEA!!!  When I get back I will start my blog on my super-hero Krista Phillips.  Thanks for sticking with me!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Who's Your Hero?

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, for a million different reasons. When kids are little, the Super Hero has special powers and wears capes or leotards in bright cheerful colors. When they get a little older the hero takes on the form of a sports hero or actor, and then later someone in a field they are interested in. I know I am showing my age here but I loved Harriet Nelson and Donna Reed as a young girl.  Reality showed me I would never be fancy enough to be Donna Reed, in her rich house with her perfectly manicured nails...so I began to focus on Dale Evans (because she could ride a horse and help catch the bad guys with her handsome hunk of a man, Roy Rogers!). As I got to know more about this fabulous lady I found more reasons to be impressed...things like her faith, her writing, and her family values.  They raised a passel of kids (both natural and adopted) in a modest Apple Valley, Ca. home without the frills and spoiled lifestyle most people attribute to "movie star families".

I recently received a prayer request for a 4 year old boy diagnosed with stage four cancer.  He wasn't afraid because Jesus and Superman were watching over him. WOW! That's what heroes are for, little man. He also became one of my heroes. As I face my own tests and surgeries, I think of him...

I decided to figure out who my hero is, to inspire me with my fight against this terminal illness the doctors have told me there is no cure for. Who did I look up to as an inspiration? I don't really like people much overall. Today's world has brought out an ugly side, or greediness and hate, that rules out a large percentage of the population.  However, as in any good story, you can find the exceptions and they more than make up for the disappointments. This is the beginning of a series I want to write about my own choices for heroes. The people who have made a difference in my own life...to inspire, encourage, and uplift me; and often the lives of others.

Of course Mother Theresa would be the obvious choice with her unselfish devotion to those who most people wouldn't take the time to give a second look. Her life was devoted to helping the people others refused to touch, and inspiring others by her actions. Clearly she was an exception to the world today...There is no competition that can stand up to her unselfish devotion to making the world a better place.  But I am not talking about the Mother Theresa exceptions in the overall  world of  real people.  I want to tell you about a few people who have real lives and families, who bleed when they are cut and cry when they are hurt. These are people who have found ways to use their experiences to help others, by sharing their joy, their pain, and their laughter. But most of all they are people who have walked through the fire and not given up, people who have found a way to laugh at the tough questions, and people who found ways to challenge us for more that just walking through the park.

See that beautiful face on the top of this page? That is one amazing lady! Her name is Krista Phillips.  Do you remember our beautiful Princess Annabelle? We covered her with prayer and watched her grow into a beautiful little girl from the fragile princess who spent her first months of life in a hospital room, connected to tubes and  monitors. (I remember sitting up all night praying for her when she was awaiting a heart to be donated to save her).  Well Krista is Annabelle's mommy! She is also the writer of an inspiring blog called "One Woman's Dream at reflectionsbykrista.blogspot.com.  


Next week I am going to do my entire blog on this wonderful family.  She has four beautiful girls, a loving husband, just wrote her first published novel called "Sandwich, with a side of Romance", and advocates for heart babies every where. In her spare time she runs the girls to sports, church, doctor's appointments, writes her blog, and is working on her second novel. Although she is half my age, she is twice the woman I could ever hope to be. In all of her trials, and times where she never knew if her treasured  princess would make it through the night, I never heard her discouraged or give up. She is a strong, remarkable woman of God!

  Before I close, I would like to ask you a favor...who is YOUR HERO?  Who inspires you to keep on hanging on when things get tough, or holds your arms up when you are weary? Leave your comments so that we might keep them on our wall of HEROES.  Thanks! ~JJ                                                                          

Monday, October 8, 2012

Do you appreciate the little things?

What does it take for you to appreciate the little things in your life? Did you wake up and thank God for the ability to open your eyes and know where you were; or for the clarity of your mind to remember your name and recognize your family? Were you thankful for the electricity to prepare your breakfast, and light your way?  When you turned on the television to update today's events, did you even give it a second thought? Wasn't it nice to be able to flush the toilet, or take a shower? Did you sleep in a bed last night? Were you warm and safe? 

Millions of people in this world don't have those simple things, and they are thankful for a few spoonfuls of rice. Children are raising their younger siblings in cardboard boxes or mud huts without windows, after the death of their parents. And they wake up thankful for the rags they call clothes that some charity group gave them. All around them death feeds on the people they loved. Slowly  killing off the bodies of the young with AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, and diseases we haven't even heard of yet here in America. The median age being 30 years old, an age we would consider the beginning of adulthood. Young girls as little as toddlers are raped and the older ones sold into sex slavery. Few are the ones who haven't seen someone they love murdered. And still you see pictures of the children laughing. They are happy for a few small treasures of candy handed out by a visiting missionary, or a new outfit that is clean. Shoes are a prize no matter what size they are. The highlight of their year is a shoebox full of crayons, coloring books, toys and school supplies they receive at Christmas from the missionaries. (http://www.samaritanspurse.org)

A year ago, my family and I lived in a three bedroom house.  It was old and run down by today's standards, and shared a wall with the half of house next door...leaving little room for privacy. If they sneezed you felt like you should bless them. We had no back yard and the houses in this part of the country are built right on the sidewalk out front, leaving no front yard at all. I sat in my room reflecting all that I didn't have in this life. 
                                                 When I was in my twenties and early thirties we had beautiful homes, antiques that had belonged in my family for years, and new cars. We took cruises for vacations and week end trips every month. We owned a 25 acre farm with a beautiful home that had everything I could ever want. In the fields we had black Angus cattle, show goats, hogs, chickens, horses, and geese to make the picture complete. Our back yard was a lovely garden full of tasty delights we loved to preserve for the winter. We loved to take our golf cart for a ride down by our lake to pick wild blackberries for a sweet dessert. We went camping in 5 star resorts, and stayed in the best of hotels when we traveled. It was a regular treat to eat out in a gourmet restaurant or our favorite home style diner. Then one day all of that ended. My husband of 10 years had found someone else, and sold everything we owned in a one day auction while he took us vacationing in Florida.  I had no idea that while I was riding Mr. Toad's Wild Ride that my personal life was about to take the same twists. 

One day I was saying my life was perfect and Heaven couldn't be much better than my life on earth...then over night it was all gone. My husband disappeared and took all the money he had collected from the auction with him...and my two year old son with him. My life would never be the same. 

Twenty years later, and another husband gone as fast as he came, I sat alone with two babies to care for and a heart full of sadness at my losses. I longed to show these babies the life I lived before, but that was never God's plan. As hard as I worked, the bills always seem to grow faster...never leaving anything for trips or frills; and often never enough to pay the bills. My son reminded me all the time that others had so much more, and why could we have things like that...  

At first I used to cry myself to sleep thinking that someday God would bring me a Christian husband to share my life with and we would take the kids camping, or to see the Grand Canyon, or on that cruise I always promised them. But he never came. Neither did our dreams. 

"I wish we could have gone there" my daughter would cry. 

"It's okay Mom, at least we appreciate what we have." my son would try to comfort me. But I knew it wasn't okay. 

On June 25th of 2012 we lost everything we had worked so hard to acquire. I know I was becoming a horder. I always felt I had to replace my losses, and there was never enough. God knew no U-Hauls would be going to Heaven and needed to lighten our loads.

We were evicted. I thought I had another day before we were to be out of there, so I went to get coffee and some breakfast sandwiches for the kids and we had a truck backed in to load the boxes. At 9 am my son called to tell me they were changing the locks and we had to leave the property. I wasn't even allowed to grab a change of clothes. The constable tried to explain that the property manager had to put everything in storage and allow us to redeem it, but the man refused. He said he was taking everything straight to the incinerator. I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach! And he did as he promised...

For the next week we called and begged to buy our most precious belongings and pictures back from him, but he laughed and refused. Gone were the graduation diplomas the kids worked so hard to earn, my grandmother's pictures, gifts from my children, and books we had collected. All of our clothes, gifts my daughter had saved for her "hope chest", and camera with pictures we can ever replace again. 

We spent the next three months living in a car, or staying in a motel we could rent by the week. Never knowing from one night to the next where we would be. Food was scarce. When we were in the car we worried our pets were going to die from the 90+ degree heat and tried to keep them sprayed down to cool them off. There was no one to turn to. 

My sister writers sent clothes, books and money to help us get through the hardest of days. 

My oldest daughter had decided we were too much drama in her life and turned her back on us. While she relaxed on vacations, or sat watching television in her spacious air conditioned home, we watched our family falling apart. My son couldn't take the stress anymore and he left us to go stay with friends. Now there was just me and Stevie, my 21 year old daughter.

Just when you think life can't get any worse...well you know how that story goes...yep, it did! I went to the emergency room with stomach pains and came home with a projection of 4 to 6 months left to live. I had advanced stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease, a cyst on my kidney, a huge hernia that was draining into my abdominal cavity, blood in my urine, and my back had so much damage I was loosing all feeling in my lower half. I can't lift my legs more than a few inches, or stand or bend...and I walk with a walker.  Every week brings new problems after more and more tests are run.

But remember this blog is about thankfulness. We learned to be thankful! We found a place to live! There are two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen...and we share it with another person. Okay, so there aren't any closets, but hey...we lost everything anyway. The only real draw back is the bathroom is tiny. Only a shower, no tub to soak in...and I can barely squeeze through to the toilet...but at least we have one! (We didn't in the car!) But we have a kitchen and can cook a real meal now! And it is affordable!

If this had been offered to us a year ago we would have turned up our noses and never given it a second thought. But not today.  Today we love it. It has a big backyard for our dog to run, and the cats have found their hiding places. There are lots of windows for them to look out of, and there is a college for Stevie just three blocks away. We have already found some wonderful churches to choose from, and the people here are very friendly. We have a river in our back yard. The little town is like Mayberry, and we feel like we have stepped back in time. It even has a little restaurant that looks like it was straight out of my childhood.  The music is from the 70's, and the prices match.  Where else could you buy a grilled cheese sandwich for $1.69, french fries for $1.89, and homemade pie for $1.89? It is a tiny town, but we are so thankful for it.  We are two hours from where we started, and we would have never found this place had it not been for our  circumstances. God had to get our hearts ready to accept His plan. 

So when I get up, I thank my Heavenly Father for another day on this Earth to make memories with my daughter.  I thank Him, as I stir my morning coffee, for the coffee to drink and the coffee maker to prepare it. I reflect as I take my shower on how nice it is to have running water for my shower, realizing someday soon we might not have either electricity or running water. As I dress for the day I thank the Lord for friends like Tracy Ruckman who loved me enough to send me clothes. As I sit by the running water of the Juniata River and read my books, I pray over all my writer friends who sent us books to read, and blessed us with scriptures to encourage us. And every minute I thank Him for my daughter, Stevie, who didn't let my complaining scare her away, and always takes care of me through good and bad. And I thank God for giving me 20 wonderful years with my baby boy, Floyd, before he had to spread his wings and fly off to become an adult.

I lift up everyone who sent us books and money, or just lifted us up in prayer...for they bring the love of our Heavenly Father to earth, and gave me the strength not to give up.

My word for today is Thankfulness...because no matter how bad life is there is always a reason to give thanks.

        "Without the rain, we wouldn't have flowers and rainbows..."                                        

Monday, October 1, 2012

Irony, how sharp is thy sting!

I know you have noticed my obvious absence in the past months...but any rumors of my death are only partially true. It has become a fad on twitter and other social media sites to post fake death notices about famous people...but fortunately I am not famous (yet!). However, I have gone through a dramatic change in my life and much has happened to give me pause for reflection.

In my last post I was asking the question "What will your legacy be?" after you depart this world. I had no idea how that was about to become relevant to my next post.  Only God knew how the pieces were about to fit together. Immediately following my post my mother died.  We thought she would live forever; she was too ornery to die. My Mother was one of the strongest women I ever knew.  I was shocked.


A few weeks after that was written my oldest grandson was in a motorcycle accident that easily could have taken his life. He has never been one to fear danger, or shy away from speed.  One of my earliest memories of him was the way he used to love riding his little motorcycle (one of those plastic ones toddlers push around).  He would push it to the top of our driveway then fly down hill with the wind in his long blond curls, until he crashed at the bottom. He would laugh, and pull up his overalls for another run. It came as no surprise when he moved away from home and bought one of those fast sleek looking models in a brilliant yellow.  I had seen him drive, and it was never below the speed limit...so I really didn't want to know  when he launched out on the open highways.  All I could do was pray for a band of angels to travel with him and keep him safe. I praise God and thank the angels on duty that night who kept him safe after being hit and left alongside the road; the pictures came across his facebook with tubes and bandages keeping him medicated and out of pain. He had broken his leg, and collar bone, and left other less vital parts of his body bruised and  scraped. Scars to share as signs of honor in a world of young men who cherish sharing such treasures as dearly as Olympic Medals. While I sat mortified at the reality that I could have lost him, he went out and bought a fancy cane and strutted his stuff for all the world to admire. That was just a test run, there was more to come.
Within weeks of each other we received  notices of other losses that took lives far too soon, leaving families crushed beneath the weight of sorrow.   Then it began to hit closer to home.  My oldest daughter's best friend since childhood was enjoying life to the fullest.  He had a wonderful job as an air traffic controller, had just moved to Colorado, was preparing to get married to the girl of his dreams, and to the friends he knew best he was as happy as anyone could be. He would call my daughter several times a day...sharing exciting events; asking advice; hearing about her family; and talking about friends back home. It came as no surprise when the phone rang after she had gone to sleep that night. They had played phone tag all day back and forth, he must have finally gotten in for the night and was touching base. There was no way to prepare for the sound of sobbing on the other end of the phone.

"He's dead" barely made it out of Amanda's mouth. Amanda was his younger sister, and also my daughter's best friend. She called them her brother and sister.
"Stop! Who's dead?" my daughter tried to clear her head and wake up to what she was hearing.
"Lance!" My daughter knew she had misunderstood. It couldn't be Lance, he was just there days ago. She asked again, "WHO?" but got the same gibberish, something about a motorcycle accident, the driver left the scene of the accident, Lance died instantly.
"NOOOOOO!!!!!!" The nightmare continues now, even months later.  My daughter stays in bed and cries in agony for hours. But he isn't coming back.

She is trying to adjust, reading to learn how to grieve, and is setting up a charity in his name to keep his memory alive.

In the midst of the losses, my younger children and I lost our home and all of our possessions.  My son chose to move out and was staying with friends. Another close friend was living there also.  They shared their thoughts, dreams, regrets, and sorrows;  they shared how growing up was so much harder than they thought it would be. Everyone has their own way of adjusting to changes. They both suffered from mood swings brought on from being bi-polar. A few weeks ago she turned 19.  He argued with her over something private and now unimportant. She went to her family home, and they too argued with her. She had been drinking, whether to celebrate her birthday or to self-medicate I don't know. She threatened her brother and her mother, and the police were called. She was arrested and taken to jail.  In her loneliness she made a drastic choice. When she returned home she slipped the rope over her pretty face and around her neck, tightening it so it wouldn't slip off. With tears running down her face she ended her pain with one final plunge. My son feels the sorrow she left behind, with his own tears flowing like raging water after a flash flood. He never got to say he was sorry.

The news said suicides kill more people every year than automobile accidents. In the next few days following this young girl's death I read of seven more young people who took their own lives, and five parents who decided to take their children with them when they took their last breath. Teenagers that will never get to see their dreams fulfilled; young girls who will never walk down the aisle or give birth to their first born child.


Some died by accident, some took their own lives; many suffered long devastating illnesses, and others died shortly after receiving news they were ill.    I am not sure how many had time to think about the legacy they would be leaving behind. I received word that I have cirrhosis of the liver in an advanced state, a cyst on my kidney and kidney disease, a large hernia the size of a watermelon that is draining fluid and blood into my abdominal cavity, severe sleep apnea, and an assortment of other life threatening illnesses that can take my life within the next 4 to 6 months. I have refused to accept this diagnosis and am claiming a complete healing. The Irony here is that I come from a family with a long history of depression, and spent much of my life falling to sleep at night asking God to take me home in my sleep.  When I finally discovered the value of life, and wanted to enjoy every minute of it to the fullest is when I received my diagnosis. Just as I realized how fragile it is, and how much it is to be cherished like a fine delicate orchid...no, I refuse to think that way! I want to savor every hour I have left, whether it be a few or thousands and thousands. I want to make memories with my daughter doing the things we enjoy, and finishing my books while I am still excited to write. I want to spend time with my kids and grandkids, sharing my favorite memories of my childhood and theirs. And I want to leave a legacy as a prayer warrior; one people think of first when they need prayer that storms Heaven and gets results! It isn't too late for that... What will you do to prepare your legacy? Are you ready if today is your day?


Sunday, March 25, 2012

What is YOUR Legacy?

     It seems everyday I see a post where someone I knew left this world, and their loved ones were left with the challenge to write about the legacy they left behind. I have spent countless hours pondering what I have left for future generations.
     I remember seeing a plaque hanging in an office one time that read, "In a hundred years it may not matter what kind of house I live in, the kind of car I drove, or the amount of money that was  in my back account...but it might matter if I made a difference in the life of a child". I knew that was where my legacy would lie.
     But it doesn't end there. Our legacy isn't always some sweet little thing we did to help someone. Sadly some leave a tainted bitter legacy for the descendants to have to learn to live with. Bernie Madoff  left a history that will follow his name long after the last scoop of dirt is thrown in his grave. His sons will forever carry that cancer on their name, even if they had nothing to do with his sins.
     I remember a lady who touched my heart many years ago, back in Gatlinburg, Tn. Her name was Candy Stacey, and she was the cousin of Dolly Parton (but then most natives to that area were).  She bared a strong resemblance, with platinum blond hair and ruby red lipstick. She wasn't afraid to wear bold colors and paint her nails to match her lips. But most of all, Candy always had a smile on her face! We worked together selling camping memberships, and one day she was visibly absent from her front desk where she greeted our guests as they entered the waiting room. When she came back in she had a bandage wrapped around her arm, and looked pale and weak. I guess I was one of the few who didn't know that  Candy had cancer and was taking chemotherapy. When she came back from the bathroom after emptying her stomach one more time, I asked her why she didn't just go home, to which she laughed and said, "Why honey I can't go home. Someone has to be here to greet these people and get them some coffee, and make them feel at home!"
     "Surely they can get someone else. How can you be so cheerful when you feel so bad?" It didn't make sense to me, I would be home, lying in bed, feeling sorry for myself and waiting for someone to wait on me.
     "Oh sweetie, I never know when the last time you are going to see me is going to be, and  I don't want anyone remembering me looking all sickly and not smiling! It makes people feel better if you smile and have fun with them. That is the way I want to be remembered." And that is the way  I will always remember Candy. She went home to be with Jesus a few years later. There must have been thousands she made smile during that time.
     This year someone challenged people to find their "word" for the year, to inspire and motivate them throughout the year. Some choose "purpose" and set out to discover their purpose in life. Others chose "serve" and are working on being a better servant for Jesus. I have chosen "legacy".  I want to discover my own legacy to leave behind. Will I challenge someone to make a difference in  the lives of others? Will I take a missions trip and raise funds to put in wells for clean water for some third world country? Or will I live only for myself? Striving to survive, and forgetting about the effect my life will have on others. A positive difference takes work.
     I hope my prayers make a difference in the lives of those I pray for, but that is in private and not for any recognition. I write, and naturally dream of my words touching someone someday. I want to encourage others and pray it inspires them to make a difference in the life of others in a positive way. But there has to be actions to go with our words and prayers. If we meet a man who is hungry but we don't feed them, and only offer to pray for them, our words are just lost in the wind.  If we live in a big fancy house and drive an expensive car, but fail to offer a cold drink to the homeless man on the corner we pass every day, we have failed to touch his life...even if we pray for him every day. What good will our fancy treasures do us when we are gone?
      A lady named Fran Blakley taught me how to sell timeshare in a real and practical way. She said if she left her jewelry to her only daughter, Debbie, and Debbie decided to take up with some worthless bum, he would probably sell her jewelry before they removed her lifeless body from the hospital. If she left antiques, he would probably have an appraiser out to the house before the funeral. But if she left her memories, Debbie would never lose them. So she took her on a special vacation every year, just the two of them, making memories to last a lifetime. And when she died she was going to leave her timeshare for Debbie to take her own children to exotic places and make memories of their own someday. It was her legacy to her beloved daughter and future grandchildren.
     I share all of this with you because someone touched my life this week in a special way, and I realized her legacy has always been to cheer others on to success and keep them encouraged. This girl was a cheerleader when I was in high school, and never stopped once she left those hallowed halls. She lives a healthy active life we all could take lessons from, but more than that she never stopped caring about people. When I shared a couple of weeks ago about receiving my second ticket in a week's time for no inspection stickers (even though I was on my way to get the inspection) that the $230 was going to be a tough blow on my budget, she immediately jumped into that cheerleader skirt and grabbed her check book! I didn't post that as a request, I was just venting! I tried to protest, but she refused to listen...telling me she understood and had been there herself one time. Those words meant more than the check. The day the check arrived was the last day to pay my electric bill...and of course the check just covered that amount! Without her help I never could have covered that bill. I know I am not the only one she has blessed. It just comes naturally for her.
     I will forever remember these people, and long after their lives have ended, the stories I have shared with my children will keep their legacies alive.
     I hope that someday when my last breath has escaped my lips, that someone will look at their children and smile and say, "I remember her, she ..." and they will tell something that I did that made a difference in their life in a positive way...I want to encourage, bless, and inspire others in the ways these great people have done for me.
     One of the greatest legacys ever offered was over 2000 years ago and people are still talking about it. A 33 year old man loved us enough he died for us. He didn't just die, he was beaten beyond recognition, tortured until his life left his body, and ridiculed and stripped naked as they hung him on a cross. He suffered greater pain than we will ever know...because he loved you more than you are capable of understanding. He did it because he wanted you to be forgiven and live forever in Heaven. Would YOU do that for someone else?  
     What is YOUR legacy? Who's life are YOU touching? Are you offering a drink to the thirsty, or just a prayer? Are you willing to suffer and die for people you don't even know?
     We aren't promised forever to leave our mark in this world, so you better get started...

Friday, March 9, 2012

"Do our pets go to Heaven, Mommy?"

     I remember well hearing a man who was teaching our Sunday School class state firmly that he believed there would be no pets in Heaven. Jaws dropped, and mouths whispered to one another their disagreement. 
     "Well there won't be. You might as well accept that now. They have no souls." he continued to a disapproving crowd. "You show me one place where it says there will be!" he challenged us.
     I found this wonderful book on the internet. Check it out!
     Never being one to keep my mouth shut, and always ready for a good debate I raised my hand. 
     "Ummmm, Pastor Jim, I know you love good food."
     "Yes Ma'am, I sure do!" he grinned.
     "And you are always talking about that great banqueting table..." I teased.
     "Oh yes, it is going to make anything you have seen on this earth look like junk food!"
     "Then I have to ask...is this banquet going to be vegetarian?" I waited for his response. Hey, it might be and I wouldn't mind a bit. I am all for saving the animals.
     "Oh no," he laughed, "I don't eat that rabbit food! It is going to have steak and lobster, and prime rib and fried chicken...all just the way you like it! And if I get my way we will be able to eat all we want and never feel too full." The smile on his face showed he was already putting his napkin around his neck. 
     "Then Jim, where are you going to get the meat? I mean if I am to believe what you say is true, there are not going to be any animals in Heaven...so where is the meat going to come from?"
     The smile slipped down off his face and he suddenly realized what he had been saying. He began to back peddle and try to figure out how he could make his logic fit.      
     Everyone has their own interpretation of what they read, and Pastor Jim was dedicated to reading and studying God's word...but he wasn't a pet person. For anyone who has ever shared their heart with an animal of any kind knows that God created the animals before mankind...for companionship. God loved animals of every kind, that's why He created them. In Genesis it says man was to eat of the trees and plants, but never said God told him to eat His precious animals. 
     I won't argue vegetarianism vs. eating meat because it is a passionate subject that everyone has a strong opinion in. That isn't the subject here.  But there are clearly certain animals that man has come to love more than others and has domesticated as pets. While we might love to own a bear or a tiger, they were too unpredictable to make a pet. So we watch them and admire their beauty at a distance. Man chose the cow over the horse for food, and fish over reptiles. The thought of eating their beloved dogs or cats is completely unacceptable to our society...while some countries prefer them... and eat monkey brains too! 
     God knew we needed more love. We needed a companion we could tell our secrets to, and that would love us unconditionally.
     People who have shared their love with a pet know the relationship exceeds words. Often we love our pets more than we love other human beings. My dogs were more faithful, forgiving, dedicated, and loving than any man I ever knew. They love me unconditionally, forgive me without question, and were home every night.  When I needed someone to share my feelings with, my beloved dogs were always right by my side. 

     Stevie, my youngest daughter is 21. She has always been introverted and kept her feelings to herself...until she met Deuffenschmirtz.  "Deuffy" as she calls him, is her cross-eyed tuxedo cat. I was playing on craigslist reading the pets section when up comes this crazy looking black and white cat with half of a mustache and crossed eyes. Stevie knew immediately she had to have him! The next day I went and picked him up and it was love at first sight. She carries him around on her shoulder, and he allows her to carry him upside down, or wrapped around her neck, or any way she wants to...as long as she carries him. He reaches up with his little paw and grabs her food and shares it with her. And he sleeps right next to her. He breaks all of the cats' rules of conduct. Boo, my son's black queen of the kingdom, is appalled that he acts so humanly.  She would much prefer he shows his royalty. He has brought her out of herself, and made her come alive. She loves him more than she has ever loved anything or anyone.  He is the first thing she looks for in the morning, and the last one she talks to at night. They are one. They are soul mates. He completes her, as I worry no man ever will.
     Dharma was my son's hamster. He loved her, too. Hamsters only live a couple of years, and she was no exception. One year while he was away at church wilderness camp, Dharma crossed over that rainbow bridge.  We all cried. We missed her so much. Her cage sat next to the television, and her vacancy left a huge void. We packed away her little wheel and all of her tunnels, and vowed never to have another hamster again,  to steal our hearts and run to Heaven with them after only two years.
     Rocky and Murphy were friends most of their lives, We got Rocky on Stevie's 1st birthday...he had the same birthday she did and they celebrated together.  Rocky was a mixture of possibly sheltie, cocker spaniel, and maybe springer spaniel too. He was so devoted to his family. I always knew where he was, usually laying at my feet protecting me. For thirteen years he did that. He never held a grudge when I did stupid things. He always just loved me.  He never ran off, always taking his job as body guard seriously. 
     When we moved to the East Coast Murphy joined us. He was my grandson's dog and we couldn't stand to part with him when it was decided he couldn't keep him anymore. He was a deaf Dalmatian and had a mind of his own. He often ran off and I would worry that we would never see him again. But eventually he would come home, tired and thirsty ready to behave. He usually sniffed out a park, or found his way to the kid's school.  Once, when we lived in Amarillo, Tx. I heard my boss say she hated to see dogs running down the busy 5 lane street in front of our store. I responded by saying I hoped it wasn't a dalmatian...but naturally, it was! There he wandered without a care, in and out of traffic, until he got thirsty. My boss and I ran to try and capture him before he got hurt.  Sherry always carried dog bones in her car, so she brought her car around and grabbed the treats, and I slipped around behind him, knowing he couldn't hear me. Sherry got his attention and I grabbed his collar. Murphy happily jumped in her car, always happy to take a ride. He had no idea how dangerous Western Ave. could be during rush hour, or how close he came to going "home" early. I went home and spoiled him rotten. I never appreciated him more than at that moment. Once again he had sniffed us out!
     I look back to the many furry friends who stole my heart..."Ugly Dog" was a little rat terrier we found in the woods in Oregon one year running with her sister, a cute freckled face spaniel who clearly didn't share the same paternity. As time went by people would say, where's the little ugly one? So "Ugly Dog" it was.  But she found a way around that demeaning moniker... she smiled! She showed her teeth and smiled a beautiful smile every time you asked her to, or if she was happy. Yep, a lot like the doggie dentures commercial! Then there was "Shep" our farm dog who was never afraid of anything until a mighty thunderstorm rocked his world one day. I happened to be looking out the window when I saw fire falling from the sky. It struck a massive oak tree in our front yard, which as luck would have it was where ol Shep was sleeping that day.  The lightening swirled around that old tree and hit the ground, leaving a huge hole right where Shep had been sleeping minutes earlier. He hightailed it to the front porch and I found him cowering under rocking chair, shaking with tears running down his face. I never saw him afraid of anything before that. After that he stayed indoors on cloudy days, and looked for cover if it thundered. There was Damien, my oldest daughter's mini pin who thought he was the biggest dog on the block, and Nirat her big black cat who believed he was a panther as he stalked his prey. I will never forget Trixie, or Sandi,  my first dogs who protected me and allowed me to lean on them as I learned to walk. There were so many others, dogs, cats, birds, fish, and guinea pigs. Each one was part of our family and a piece of our heart. I still miss each of them every day.
     In the last year I have cried with so many friends who have said good-bye to their dearest friends, and I know the pain they are feeling. It can compare with the loss of parents and spouses for many of us. I always send them a copy of the poem "Rainbow Bridge" and stop and pray for them to find comfort in knowing they will see them again in Heaven. I know God brought us the animal to bring us His love in a physical form, because I have seen the healing a pet can bring in it's touch. Doctors have even proven that animals aid in helping ailing patients heal faster, the elderly to respond to their therapy,  and service dogs keep their companions alive. There will be a reward for them in heaven, right next to the throne of God. 
                    This is Edgrrr, our newest family member.

  "Yes, baby, our pets do go to Heaven. Even God needs to feel their loving touch after a rough day of healing, or the heartbreak of man's rejection."

Arwyn was my Granddog. She brought so much love in her short time with us.  She was an angel with four legs.

Ruby was the best friend of my dear friend Dale Cannon for over 14 years. She took a large part of his heart when she left this earth. Ruby traveled to knap-ins with Dale and visited all over the country, and in the winter curled up next to him to keep him warm on those cold Minnesota nights.

This was our family in 2000. Rocky, Murphy and Tara were always faithful to watch over us as we traveled across country. Tara was young there and still had color to her hair (but then so did I!).

This was my Tara shortly before God called her home. She always laid right by my side.

It's been almost 10 years since the boys left us to cross that rainbow bridge, and I still cry at the vacancy they left.

Do you have a story about a beloved friend you would like to remember? Feel free to share your story here, and be sure to post a picture! What are your thoughts...do you agree or disagree with my opinion? I can't imagine Heaven without my furry friends...what about YOU?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Remember that feeling... of sitting there in your classroom, waiting for your turn to be dismissed early for recess with your hand lifted up for the teacher to recognise? You may have finished your work early, and an early release was your reward...or the teacher said you could be set free as soon as you finished your test, so you hurried through so you could get to the playground before the others. You eagerly anticipated the joy of being excused from the classroom to play on your favorite equipment for an extra 10 minutes, or to get to see your friends longer than usual. "PICK ME!" your raised hand begs for attention.

Did you ever look back at the rest of the kids and decide not to go because they didn't want you to?

How happy are you for your friends who get special gifts, or win trips that you don't? It is only natural to be disappointed that we don't get the same thing, but is it right to wish they just didn't get it at all? If someone you loved just won an all-expense paid vacation to a place you had always wanted to visit, would you be resentful and sad? Or would you be happy for your loved one for being so lucky?

What would you say to someone who finally reached their lifetime goal, and was moving away from you? Perhaps they graduated and had secured their dream job in their favorite city in the world. Would you be happy for them, or be so upset you went to bed and cried for days?

In the last year, I have seen so many friends go through this experience, as they watched people they loved depart this world and start their new life in Heaven.  Just like the kid in school who looked forward to being released early for lunch, our loved ones worked hard to finish their work so they could reach their reward.  There they were, with their hands lifted high asking God to pick them next...while we watch with tears begging God not to take them yet. Like the little freckled face third grader who couldn't sit still in their seat, they eagerly wriggled and jumped up and down to be seen...and chosen. While we cried uncontrollably, and held on with all of our strength.

Our journey to Heaven required many tasks and trials, and once we finish our work we are allowed to join Jesus and see our loved ones who left before us. It will be far greater than any all-expense paid vacation, because it will never end. Why should we not want this for them? Is our own emptiness more important than their happiness?

I remember when Grandma died on July 2, 1979 and then returned to her body and told me about her after death experience.  When I asked why she came back she responded, "Because Jesus said I wasn't finished here yet." Her work on Earth wasn't done. She didn't know why it was she sent back after seeing Heaven...but I secretly knew. We prayed for her not to die.  I called my family, and they prayed. They called TBN and they prayed. TBN had some Christian Police officers from Orange County on and they prayed...that God would give her a NEW heart, and NOT TAKE HER HOME. But she wanted to go home and be with her parents, and my Grandfather she loved so dearly..and most of all be with Jesus.

I wish I could say the rest of her life was joyful and exciting, but in reality it was full of trials and loses. My mentally ill husband had us moving all over the country and into a new house every 6-12 months. She watched as he cheated on me, and tried not to interfere. She lost all of her worldly possessions after he sold all of our things in a one day auction, and disappeared with his girlfriend-of-the- day...(including her pictures, and jewelry Grandpa had bought her). After my divorce, I disappointed her when I dealt with it the only way I could, and went out to late hours of the night drinking and running around. And she had no social life, no admirers, no friends that we hers alone to turn to.  She died in a county nursing home after my uncle took her to Texas to be closer to him. The last time we spoke she was crying, asking for someone to get her out of there. She wanted to stay in Heaven when she could...

When Robin Daniel was talking to his brother just months before his death he said he knew Jesus would be returning soon but if He really loved him, he wouldn't make him wait that long. Life was hard, and he was growing weak in spirit with all of his trials. That was in December...and February 2nd he was murdered and died within minutes. I couldn't help but feel happy for him, in spite of my own sorrow.

When I go, be happy! I will have been set free. I will join my loved ones in Heaven and there will be no more tears. I won't have to return like I would if I were going on a vacation. I will finally have been "picked". I finished my work. Think of me as though I had been give full plastic surgery to make me beautiful again, with no more wrinkles or sags. And the best part is it will be perfect. I always loved going to women's ministry conferences...but this will be one of the best with all the joy of the best praise and worship services ever known. REJOICE WITH ME!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Do you believe in the coming Apocalypse?

The apocalypse is on every one's tongue lately.  Some laughingly talk about zombie's chasing people down streets and eating their brains...which I totally don't get since we can run and they can barely stand. Others are talking about nuclear disasters similar to the fears of the 50's where people prepared for bomb shelters.  There is a new show coming to reality t.v. called "Doomsday Survivalists" that documents the preparations being made by people stockpiling guns and provisions. No matter where you go, you will find someone who has an opinion on the possibilities of a time when we lose our electricity, technology, transportation systems, and stores. A time when bursts from the sun flares get so intense they knock out the satellites that co-ordinate our computers and keep everything running smoothly. Suddenly we find ourselves without stores; banks cannot access our money; we have no utilities; trash begins to build up; and food becomes scarce. There will be no transportation because every thing relies on computer chips these days.

No one can dispute the natural disasters that took out entire cities, like Joplin and New Orleans; or countries like Haiti and Japan.  We have had history breaking floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, striking everywhere. The sun has increased in intensity, and the solar flares are erupting stronger. It is only a matter of time before we see food famines and people begin to riot. We have become addicted to food, and our sizes have increased so that we require more to satisfy us. People will kill to feed their addictions.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of reading Terri Blackstock's Restoration Series (True Light, Dawn's Light, Night Light, and Last Light.) and it changed my life.  I no longer take every day things for granted. In the beginning the Branning family, from an upper middle class lifestyle  find their life turned upside down when suddenly planes start to fall from the sky, cars stop in their tracks, people will trade their Rolex watches for bicycles and supplies, and fight over trash cans with wheels, and food. Without utilities people cannot cool in the increasing heat, cook, do laundry, or any of the things they accept as part of life. There will be no wter when we turn the facet. They will have to learn to adjust, compost their food products, get rid of their waste products, purify their water, and preserve food without the help of appliances and stores. Within hours the shelves will be bare and all they have to make do with is what they already have at home. Days turn into weeks, then months and years. People kill for their neighbor's food. Police and emergency services are not available.  They commondeer vehicles that ran without computer chips, for emergency services.  Families cannot call and check on their loved ones, newspapers are handwritten and posted in neighborhoods. Criminals were running rampant and taking what they wanted, there was not enough man-power to cover the crime.

These were fiction stories with ample suspense to keep you turning pages until the last book was finished, but the reality remained. It could happen.

In recent months people are starting to wake up to the possibility that this could affect their family, and they would not even have a first aid kit stocked up. Sites have started appearing on the internet telling you what you will need to get by...but for how long?

I asked a group of friends whether they believed in the post-tribulation rapture or the pre-tribulation rapture.  I received an equal amount of opinions both sides backed by scripture. Some believe that we have to endure the tribulation to test our committment to God. Like removing the chaff from the garden, we have to see who is lukewarm and who is truly willing to trust God and give their lives to Him. The Bible tells us there will be no luke-warm Christians.  Matthew 24 tells us the signs to watch for. The prophesies have been full-filled, and the Bible tells us that this generation will not pass without seeing the second coming of the Lord. I am part of that generation. The scriptures tell us that now is the time to trim the wicks and fill the lamps with oil in preparation for the Bridegroom's return. It also says some will say "There's plenty of time, we have heard this before!" and will continue their old ways with no thought for tomorrow. I guess that is like the ant and the grasshopper...some will be gathering their supplies and food, and others will continue having fun, and then panic when the time comes (wanting to take what others have worked so hard for!).

Whether you believe you will be lifted up before these trials begin, or will have to stay and endure the tests and fight for your beliefs, it wouldn't hurt you to be ready for a natural disaster that could cost you your life.

I know people from every economic, and social background that is heading to the high country and taking their provisions with them just in case. Some are buying land close to water for convenience, and installing wind energy or solar panels. Others are forming bonds with others to build a community to work together. Some are hiking way back into the woods, while others want to stay close to cities. I heard of one retired General who chose to move back to base because they have already began preparing with food and supplies for the coming events and will have guards keeping the thieves at bay. Others are reading "Mother Earth News", studying holistic medicine, and learning which plants are edible.  And yet others are going on like there is nothing to worry about.

Perhaps it is the hype of the Mayans about 2012 that brings out our concerns, but the natural events of the last few years has enforced it's possibilities.  I am looking for a cave, with a natural spring...want to join me?

What are YOUR views on this widely discussed debate? Are you a post-tribulation or pre-tribulation rapture believer? Are you doing anything to get ready?  What would you do if you truly believed it was about to happen, but your family didn't? What evidence and/or scripture backs your belief? I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"But Mom, you know people like us can never have a house like that..."

We saw this house on Craigslist, and for just a few minutes I "got the big eye" as my uncle Tillman Turner would say. I read the description and         looked at the pictures at least a dozen times before I showed it to the kids. I have dreamed of this place for years. It had everything I could ever want, even an in-ground pool! I always wanted a pool ! My son looked at me and seriously reminded me, "Mom, you know people like us can never have a house like that!".

The house we live in now is over 100 years old, and has no heat, so we sit around wrapped in comforters and share a small electric heater. There is an oil heater, but it hasn't been serviced in many years and costs a fortune to run. Last December I spent over $700 on fuel oil! Our bath tub doesn't drain so you have to use a bucket to dip the water out and pour it down the toilet. The tempeture control on it doesn't turn so you get lukewarm and cold...which really gets chilly without heat, brrrrr! There is no insulation and the windows rattle with the slightest breeze, so we have covered them with blankets. So here we sit in our living room partitioned off from the rest of the house like a tent, wrapped like mummies, and no one wants to move. Then the landlady announced she is not renewing our lease; and any new lease would be at least  $200 more a month to bring it up to market value of $995 a month. We have no frills here; there is no washer and dryer, or diswasher,...or even a back yard. I haven't allowed anyone in my house in several years because I am embarrassed by it.

When I went to bed I was still pouting over the house I couldn't have.  It was $1500 a month and was about the same cost as this one when you count in the utilities.  I worked my tail off to support my family alone, until I got hurt and couldn't lift or bend like before. When the pain got worse I stopped exercising and began to gain weight. LOTS of weight. I still have a small income, but not as great as I once had. My daughter, Stevie, graciously gave all of her income to support the family until she got laid off last month. My son makes minimum wage and helps when he can. I continually look for work as a nanny in the meantime.

Then God smiled down and stroked my forehead and as I drifted off to sleep I prayed He allowed me abundant blessings. Then I saw visions of children sleeping in cardboard boxes, families in tents living under overpasses and in tent cities, and elderly, with no family to turn to, forced to live on the streets. If they are lucky they might find a warm bed in an overnight shelter they must leave after breakfast. Once they lose their mate and their income declines they become in danger of running out of funds to pay their bills and lose their dream homes to foreclosure.  Time and time again, if they have children, the children place them in nursing homes while they sell off everything their parents owned and disappear. Yes, this really happens! I know one girl who had a yard sale the week she placed her mother in a county run home.  Her mother begged for her television, but her daughter had already sold it.  There were 6 ladies in her room with barely a sheet separating them.  When one used the toilet chair, the smell made two others throw up, and the smell was unbarible. The homeless shelters that allow long term stays (up to three months) are all full, and children live day to day knowing when their time is up they are going to be placing everything in black plastic bags and walking out the door to uncertainty.  There are over one million homeless families in America on any given day. I am not one of them; I AM blessed.

I wanted that beautiful house for my family. I wanted a pool, and nice things for them.  They couldn't remember living in a nice house, or living in any house for over two years in a row. I wanted to give them the best, but I couldn't. I failed.  But here we sit, snuggling together on a couch we didn't have for many months, playing board games and snacking on finger foods for fun. We compete to see who will be the Donald Trump of Park Ave. and Boardwalk, and who will take over the Rail Road empire. My son wants to be a youth minister and help other kids find the best within themselves with God's help. Stevie helps others any way she can. It doesn't get much better than this on earth.

We only had one present each this year for Christmas, but it isn't about us, it is about the greatest gift  of all...Jesus.  It is about learning to see the world the way Jesus does. He would never whine about what He didn't have, so why should we?

We have a house that keeps us dry when it rains, and we have a place to cook and eat, and electricity to heat our food.  We have the heater going, and electricity give us lights in the dark. We have clothes we can layer up in, even if they aren't as clean as we might want. And we are thankful God has taken care of us according to His plan for our lives...maybe He is preparing us for future events.  We are thankful for Psalm 91 that promises God is watching over us.

Psalm 91

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”