Sunday, April 23, 2017

When Your Plans Don't Turn Out

[My parents, as we were growing up] "When y'all get married and have kids of your own, don't expect us to drop everything, and babysit them all the time. We are going to travel...we are going to see the world." 

Plans. 

Good to have in many cases. Maybe even in most cases. 

But I think it's best to hold our plans loosely...very loosely. 

Because things in my life, have rarely gone according to plan. "My" plan, that is. 

After all, I planned on going to Italy...but ended up in Holland. 

My Dad was raised by parents who thought kids were to be seen and not heard. They thought kids should be clean, neat, and proper, and never act unruly. And their feelings of pride at being grandparents seemed to be based on our behavior and accomplishments. 

I'm not knocking them...it was all they knew. And so it was what my Dad knew, and what he lived. And, as a result, he learned to be...better.

Even tho he was way more invested in our family than the example that was set for him...it was still very different from the way Jim and I have raised our children (please bring me all the grandchildren...STAT). 

That may be part of it, tho...ya think? That we take and learn from the generations before...and then we decide what we want to keep for ourselves, and what we want to let go. 

However we were raised, my Dad and I, we both came to see our need for Jesus...and that's really everything, amiright? 

So, as each of my siblings and I came of age, and left home for college...my parents saw the world opening up to them more and more. They had plans...big plans. They were gonna work a little longer, and then they were going to spend the rest of their days having fun and enjoying life. Oh, they would come see all of us, but we wouldn't be their main destination. They loved us, but they made sure we knew that they were about to have THEIR time. 

But, ya know, God's ways are not our ways...and one day, suddenly and unexpectedly, my Mom just...died. 

And all of those big plans she and my Dad had...they died, too. 

I'm just saying. It's good to work and plan for your (earthly) future...but if you don't embrace the days, each day, and the good things God provides along the way, and the people He gives you to share your life...if you are only living for the "some days..." like, when you graduate, or when you move, or when you get that job, or when you get married, or when you have a child, or when they finally start school, or when they leave home...if you aren't willing to trust God NO MATTER WHAT...what happens if your dreamy future doesn't pan out? How are you going to react? 

This is what I mean by holding our plans loosely. 

Because my Dad? Just when he thought he might have a second chance at that life, with the new love God had provided for him, he had a heart attack, and that seemed to be the beginning of his health issues. 

My Dad's plans for a healthy and active life? Well, he has Parkinson's. 

Like the rest of us, his days were laid out before the foundation of the world. He may outlive us all! But I think he knows that he's not going to get any better...and he accepts it, which is good. Then again, he's always been the most content, most faithful person I've ever known. 

Just last year, he told me, "It's unrealistic to think that I will live the rest of my days with good health..." And, "this is really the only adversity I've had in my life." And, "God has blessed me my whole life. I have no reason to think He will stop now." 

I am thankful for a God who brings us new mercies each morning. I find comfort in knowing that, while my Dad hoped for a different path, he really has embraced all of his days. Ministry takes many forms, and because we are all different...it may look different, even in a marriage. But it has the same goal: care and connection and leading others to Christ. 

My Dad has ministered and served others his whole life...in the places God put him, and with the family God gave him. He, in his quiet, behind-the-scenes way...and my Mom in her large, in charge, and out-in-front way. 

I have peace knowing that my Dad's eternal future is secure...because on a day long ago, he placed his life and his hope in Jesus Christ, and HE is the one who has walked with him through all of the ups and downs of life...and He carries him even now. 

"...Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity..." (Job 2:10) 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Love...Endures Through Every Circumstance

*I've been posting a lot of thoughts about my Dad on Facebook recently. I had some people message me to say that they want to read more "Joshua stories." That they "like those the best."  Well, as long as there's a "Fred," there will be stories, and I'm gonna get back to those soon...just not tuh-DAYYYY. 

As we were leaving my Dad's house, we took one last picture. It was Clara and my Dad...and Clara was holding Rhodes

Rhodes is my Dad's first great-grandchild. It makes my heart swell to see them together. There's about 81 years between them...that's a lot of life, amiright? In 81 years, you experience a lot of sadness, a lot of joy. A lot of moves, ministry, milestones, memories, ups, downs, in-betweens. 

A lot of change. 

After my Mom died, I would see *older* couples out at dinner, or at the grocery, or at a peewee football game cheering on their grandchildren...and I would wish that my parents had gotten to go through life together, you know...to the end. Because I assumed, mistakenly, that the couples I was seeing had been together 40-50+ years. In reality, I had no way of knowing if that was true. 

If you saw my Dad and Clara out strolling, you wouldn't know that each of their spouses had died...and that they had found love again with each other. And that they had made the decision to marry, even tho they knew people might say they were too old; or that it was too complicated; or that there were too many obstacles. 

You know, the same things we tell ourselves when we make decisions concerning relationships, family, work, or finances. 

But these are the places where God shows up and shows out the most, because when we can't...He can; when we think we are too young or too old, God reminds us that men look on the outside, but He looks on the heart...and when we think things are too hard or too complicated, He goes before us to make the rough places smooth. 

And, you know, it might be hard...but the rewards can be great. 

My Dad said, "we aren't guaranteed tomorrow, and we want to enjoy the time we have left on this earth...together." 

And, "no matter how much time we have together, it will be worth it." 

I'm so glad they took that step of faith. Because he did, my Dad has been blessed immensely. And because he did, our family has been blessed immensely. 

My Dad not only got a partner for life, he got another family...with a host of people who love him and care for him. And we got a woman who embraced all of us, and our families. She supports us, encourages us, prays for us...and is the only grandmother on my side that our kids remember. 

At our last visit, I remarked to Clara how pretty everything was at their home. My Dad and Clara built their house, so they could have something new and fresh to start out their marriage. They furnished it with pieces from their pasts, as well as new things they collected during their time together. 

These next few years will likely bring great change for all of us. I hate to think that there may come a time when they might have to move from their home. Even tho I know it's "just a house," it's THEIR house...and it's beautiful. 

But Clara said, "well, when we built this house, we said we would be blessed if we got to live in it for 10 years...this April has been 10 years." 

Recently, I read a quote that pretty much sums up my Dad and Clara's marriage, and it applies to other marriages and relationships as well: "It is impossible to love deeply without great sacrifice." (Elisabeth Elliot) 

"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." 1 Corinthians 13:7

Friday, April 21, 2017

My Dad, Heaven, and BUCK WILD

On our way home the other day, the talk turned to comments about suffering and dying...which led to questions and more comments about my Dad. 

If you read my post last week about my Dad, you know what brought this up. 

Joshua: said, "When Pawpaw goes to Heaven, it will be a happy day for him." 
Me: "Yes, but it will be a sad day for the rest of us, because we'll miss him so much." 
Joshua: "Yes, sad for us. But for him? GOOD." 
Me: "Yes, he will be very happy." 
Joshua: "Pawpaw is going to go BUCK WILD when he gets to Heaven." 
Me: "Why do you say that?" 
Joshua: "Because he'll get to see his family, like your Mom, and all of his friends up there!" 
Me: "yes, he will." 
Joshua said, "I hope I get some of Pawpaw's qualities...he's the 'most godliest' man I know." 
I said, "he is. He is faithful, patient, humble, content, and he's an awesome prayer warrior." 
Joshua: "He is strong. He is my only grandparent who served our country in the military." 
Me: "Yes. He loves God and he loves our country. He was dedicated to his job, but he loved his family more. He loved my mom, and he loves Grandma Clara. He loves all of his grandchildren, and he loves Grandma Clara's kids." 
Joshua: "uh-huh, and not only that...HE HAS ALL OF HIS HAIR. It's not the same color it used to be, but he's still got it!" 

So, in summary...my Dad still has all of his hair...annnnd he is going to go BUCK WILD when he gets to Heaven!

"For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died." 1 Thessalonians 4:14

Thursday, April 20, 2017

He loves me...He loves me not...

"He loves me...he loves me not." 

Remember saying that as kids? 

Holding a flower, and pulling off one petal after another, until you got to the last one that provided the answer...he loves me!

(Or not) 

A simple children's game...but how many times do we use this same philosophy in our lives as adults? 

We let our doubts and insecurities raise questions about our worth...why doesn't he/she love me? What is wrong with me? We wonder what we could DO to make others love us. 

The Bible says: "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:8) 

If we didn't have to "prove" ourselves to God...if we didn't have to make sure we presented ourselves in the best light...if we didn't have to have our stuff together, have a plan for our lives all laid out...in order for God to love us so much that He would send His only Son to die for all of our sins...why do we require others to prove themselves, show us their good points, have their acts together, have a plan for their lives, etc, before we decide whether or not they are worthy of our love? 

And why do we spend even one minute feeling unwanted or unworthy? 

God gave us all of His love when we didn't deserve it...and there was no way we could ever earn it. 

We try so hard to not give our hearts away, but that's part of the reason we are here...to love others the way Christ loved us. 

I had a young friend whose big heart for others often led her into relationships where she was not valued for who she was. Her unique personality and sensitive spirit were not always accepted or embraced by others. I read this quote one day, and it reminded me of her...and it applies to me, and so many of us who have been in similar situations: "You might be too much for some people...those are not your people." 

Honey, THOSE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE...but guess what? GOD is your people. 

All of you out there who know Him, trust Him, believe in Him...HE is your people. He sees us, He knows us...and He loves us, even when we feel no one else does. Stop running after everything else. 

Psalm 23:6 says, "Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life..." 

Isn't that beautiful? 

Jesus pursues you, and He chooses you! And He will choose you again a million times over. 

He provides others to walk this life with us, not to take us away from life and ministry, but to enhance it...to enlarge it...to encourage us...and to help share the burdens and the joys in this life. 

It's almost Easter...the time when we remember the great sacrifice Jesus made for each of us when we were so very unworthy...and we celebrate His victory over sin and death. He loves us...He loves us so...He loves us. 🌼 

Look no further.

"For Your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds." Psalm 57:10

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Joshua's Group Goes to Branson!

A couple of weeks ago, Joshua's Therapeutic Recreation group made a trip up to Branson, Missouri...AND THEY STAYED OVERNIGHT.

I know.

They were all so excited! 

This is a BIG DEAL when you travel with a group of FRIENDS who have varying special needs. Nothing like this had been attempted since the 2015 Trip to Graceland...affectionately referred to as, "The Trip To See All The Bathrooms."

They didn't stay overnight on that trip, and Joshua wasn't able to go on that trip...but we heard they had to stop to potty...a LOT. And that they all had a great time!

I was pretty nervous about this Branson trip. I mean, what could go wrong?

Am I right?

Their first stop was for lunch at the Wendy's in Harrison, Arkansas. Joshua said his lunch was the cheapest out of everyone's: $4.40. Jim was so proud when he found out.

Once they got to Branson, they checked into their hotel, freshened up, and headed out to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede.

If you've never been to the Dixie Stampede, it's pretty fun...loud and interactive. They also expect you to eat your meal without utensils...like the cowboys used to do? I don't even know.

What I DO know is that they don't give you any. And they serve you, like, a whole rotisserie chicken.

WHAT?

But we knew, because we've been there before...and momma didn't raise no fool. Joshua Garland said he "wasn't a Roman OR a Barbarian..." (don't know, didn't ask) so when he got his food, he whipped out some plastic silverware he'd snagged from their lunch at Wendy's, and had put in his pocket.

And then he snickered to himself at how smart he was.

Just sayin'...that WAS pretty smart.

BUT THIS IS WHY PRICES HAVE TO INCREASE AT WENDY'S.

They swam in the hotel pool that night, and then everyone got ready for bed. Joshua said that he took a hot bath before bed. 

Joshua loves him a bath. At home, we will hear him sloshing around upstairs in his tub...and then all the smells from all the soap and lotion and body spray will waft down to our living room.

At home, we call him "BATHsheba."

hahahahaha

Anyway, back to my story: he took a hot bath, and when he was done...he didn't let the water out. OH NOOOO. He told one of the other guys in his room that he had "saved the bath water for him."

AND THEN THE GUY USED JOSHUA'S 'USED' BATH WATER.

Eeek!

I mean, HOW GROSS!

There were some other things he shared about their trip, but I'd better take those secrets to my grave!

I am so thankful for his Therapeutic Recreation program, and for the STAFF who continually push the boundaries of what is possible, and work hard to make all of these amazing opportunities available to all of the participants. 

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; protect the rights of the afflicted and needy." Psalm 82:3