Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rewards

I woke from a dream this morning that kept me in bed just a few more minutes, hoping I could go back to sleep and keep dreaming...

I was sitting in class with other students, the teacher brought over my math test and said, "Absolutely outstanding!" I looked at my grade and I had received a 102. Fabulous.

This may or may not have ever really happened to me in elementary, I was more of an English/Spelling kinda girl but it felt good to get that "atta girl". This comes to me because as parents, we talked extensively to our child last night about his grades. He has the chance to earn a really fabulous reward around Christmas time, something he wants really really bad, but his grades and some behaviors must improve.

As we get older and become parents, most of our rewards change form. We don't always have a need to attain material prizes. If you are blessed to have a child or children with special needs, sometimes our rewards are quite basic in the eyes of most. If your child is in the Autism Spectrum, maybe you work hard from the time you get up until you go to bed, on immitation. One day, maybe years down the road, you see a peer hopping on one foot with your child following, immitating the child. A tear comes to your eye because you knew he could do it, eventually...and being able to see it with your own eyes is the best reward. In our case, the children are deaf. The doctors gave them tools to hear as older toddlers around the age of three but kids don't magically know words. They have to hear them, learn them, know them...before they even consider speaking them. It didn't always come easy for them. Our games at home probably seem much more difficult than any game average children play...but we were working on sounds, hearing, listening, repeating, and much more.


But I received a different reward yesterday...and it felt so good. It was such a simple act. The prayer group at school is collecting snacks for the teachers. In every single classroom, they have snack time at some point in the day. Children bring snacks from home and have about 10 minutes to eat and re-energize before completing the day. Not all kids have snacks. You see, most of our students come from low income families, with over 80% receiving free or reduced lunches. Some of our kids probably only eat meals at school, breakfast and lunch and if they don't have a snack, they go hungry longer. So the prayer group decided to collect some basic snacks to give to teachers so they can have something on hand, even if it's plain crackers, to give those who have nothing. I can't imagine watching my friends eat and pretend I'm not hungry as my stomach churns because I brought nothing.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to deliver two of the teachers some snacks. They were very appreciative. One teacher, took the common Ritz and looked me in the eye and just thanked me. She has many that bring nothing. She told me she was just waiting on pay day so she could buy snacks...that was next week. Teachers have families just like all of us to provide for. As it is, they are all the time picking up crayons here, giving 50 cents for this one to attend a PTO sponsored movie, or something similar. They usually have around 20 kids in their rooms....80% of 20 is 16...do you think they can afford that?

I walked away from the teacher with a heavy heart. We need to really focus as a prayer group and get all of these teachers some snacks for their rooms. So far, we've only donated to a few as we wait for more to be donated. This is a constant need, they could go through a box of crackers in a week. With food allergeries and such we opted to keep the snacks simple, no chocolate/peanut butter cookies or anything.

The reward I felt yesterday was so simple. I knew that in those two classrooms, ALL children would be able to eat at snack time, and at least through next week. But what about the other rooms? I am so thankful for our prayer group that is still relatively new. They've shown me how easy doing good can be, and I love the rewards offered by God. This is something I need to work on with my children. The kind of rewards that cost nothing, are the best rewards offered.

Monday, October 24, 2011

That Baby Sang

It was her idea to sit on a different pew. My daughter and I waltzed in and parked ourselves opposite of where we normally can be found. I had thought the other day that when our preacher was down about a "routine" service that we should all do what an English teacher in high school used to make us do, to keep us fresh...change seats. So when my child suggested that we change pews, I knew it could never hurt getting a different view. From behind us the preacher's wife said that we should all change seats sometimes, and I politely agreed that a different perspective can be good sometimes.

I thought we had all about cried ourselves out this morning. The singing sounded so good. Soon the children went up and sang a few songs and hands were clapping. As usual, more tears where shed at The Altar, and the message was really good. Then, someone asked her to sing. My heart grew extremely heavy as a worried mother walked up to the front with her smallest grandchild. The little girl was so small I couldn't even see her face, just the hair bow her Maw Maw had placed so lovingly in her hair. With part of her daughter standing next to her, they began to sing. Without flaw, that baby sang.

If you looked close enough, you could see the grandmother press harder on each piano key as she fought through the worry that was trying to hold her down. Her daughter was missed by us all today as she continues to recover in a hospital bed. The love for this member could be felt as an Altar Call was requested in her name. We all prayed for her healing, her strength, and her return soon.

I'm so glad that baby sang. Through puffy eyes, we all watched as she didn't miss a beat...
"...and The God Of The Good Times, Is Still God Of The Bad Times"


By the time church was over, I was dehydrated. My head hurt from shedding so many tears in one day and my throat was dry but I went home only thirsty for water last night, and nothing more. As our preacher has told us, if you're hungry He'll feed you and if you're thirsty, He'll fill your cup.

All night long, I had peaceful dreams. I have no idea of the content of them, but I woke several times. I was keenly aware of my senses. It was almost as if everything in my dreams was magnified and clear. The lights were brighter, the sounds were so crisp. I felt fully aware and alert of everything but couldn't remember a thing. 

On the way to school this morning, my son had questions. He said he would be too embarrassed to go up to The Altar. After we talked off and on all morning about the important things in life, he wanted one last chance to get clarity, "So even if you're nice, your whole life, you won't go to Heaven unless you're Saved?"

As a parent, I'd love to pick my children up and carry them with me when I go to Heaven, but I can't. This is something my little family is working hard on, and I'm so thankful I have friends and a church to support us!

And it was Joel

After church, we went back to the house to digest what had just taken place. Part of me was so exhausted but the other part felt renewed, and energized.

I spent the day enjoying all that I've been given but hoping that one day, my children will get to experience what we did that morning. Lots of people go to church on Sundays to hear God's words, His message...but sometimes, there are people that go there to feel Him instead...

My daughter and I decided to go back to the Sunday night service so she stepped into the shower to clean up after a hard day at play. After a few minutes, a soaked child walked up to me dripping water all over my floor. She handed me a piece of paper.


I guess accidentally breaking the soap holder led her to confess about ripping one of my Bible pages...

I asked her to show me the Bible, and she went to my car to retrieve The Book. When she returned she opened right to the page and showed me a tiny tear. She confessed, "I did it a few weeks ago...that day I was really good in church, remember that day?" She hung her head in shame and I lifted her chin. I asked her if this had really been bothering her for that long and sadly it had. She must have been worried sick about telling me. We all know what that feels like.

I closed the Bible and sat down with my child. I assured her that no matter what she does, Christ is the Ultimate One she needs to confess to. No matter what she does, even if Mama and Daddy get mad sometimes, she needs to lay her burdens down with Him, because He's always forgiving, even when people sometimes are not. The child was so relieved to have that off of her chest. I gave her a big hug, and I threw away the soap dish. Somehow, these things became less important today...and I am so thankful.

Later, I became curious about where the rip had taken place. I went back and opened my Bible to the tiny rip.

Joel 2:28 "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions."
...and we haven't even made it to the Sunday night's service yet! (to be continued)





He Waited

As church began on Sunday morning, it was clear that He had waited for us. One after the other, we were led to The Altar and unlike the tears we shed on a common Sunday, we wept in His presence. I knelt and prayed, and though I was not worthy...He still had waited. Unlike Sundays past when I have felt Him, he moved right through me this day. Part of me felt bad for leaving my husband and children on the pew but a bigger part of me knew I was where I needed to be. I could not hear anything, I just prayed. My body was moving, my arms shook helplessly. And from the pew, a husband watched his wife bow down.

Somehow, my feet moved me back to the pew, but I was still unaware of anything but Him. The devil had tried his best to keep me from going to church. I got so car sick on the way, I thought we were going to have to pull over as we often do, but He led us on. I am His child, and He took care of me.

I finally was able to look around and I saw another mother, making her way up front. All of her make-up was gone, and she never looked more beautiful. One of my best friends was asked to sing a song which led to another and another. She had unusual strength this day, when she wanted to fall to pieces. Sometimes she'd begin a verse, but emotion would halt her voice, and more tears would pour from me. When we were assured The Altar was still open and encouraged to listen to The Lord, my husband left the pew. Again, we all followed and I held his back as he shamelessly prayed. This would not be the first time I've seen him cry in church, but it's the first time he's moved his body up front.

With swollen eyes, we made our way out of the church when we had done all that we could for that service. One of our strong members said one day, "I don't see how those that come to church once a month do it..." and with that in mind, I could not wait to come back Sunday night. I was so thankful He had waited this time.

As we got in the car, my oldest child said his Daddy, "I had no idea you were that emotional." That was only the beginning, of my glorious day....(to be continued)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two by Two

I have to admit, I was really afraid I'd miss a really good service today. I had errands beforehand and I knew Sunday School was out of the question...again. I had a strange feeling this would be one of those days that He would come before I could get there, and they would begin Worship service instead of splitting for Sunday School.

I cried secretly off and on all morning because I knew whenever I did finally arrive, most of the back pew would be empty...and it was. One of our young moms is recovering from a major operation and I dreaded looking back and seeing her not there. Even though she's doing fine, it's just sad to know that she'd give anything to be there, yet she's unable.

When we arrived this morning, we all gave our usual pre-service greetings, and the songs began. It only took one member, to request a song before The Lord visited our church. There wasn't a dry eye to be found as song after song, the voices got stronger and voices got louder. Two by two, knees were bending at The Altar. His presence was felt by many and soon, tissues were useless. Grown men gave in to His call without an ounce of shame. Ladies and children were moved down the aisle and His presence was quite clear. Every tear could be heard this day, and it was glorious.

I am so glad, I finally have a place where people listen to The Lord. I know it's not polite in some churches to tell the preacher "I don't care if you get a chance to preach today or not, I'm glad the Lord led me..." but one our members did just that as he received His word, and acted upon it. We didn't even need our Bibles today. I am Blessed beyond. 

And if that wasn't enough, one the youngest girls we have, walked to the front and sang Jesus Loves Me...and that's all I needed.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Than a Bible

On Christmas Day in 1988, a thirteen year old girl gave her Maw Maw a special gift. It was a Family Bible. The Grandmother loved the thoughtful present and placed it on her den table, where it stayed for years. All the grandchildren would come over and kneel at the coffee table and open the Bible, and gaze at the beautiful pictures of Christ.

This Maw Maw was born to be a grandmother...she had to be. She'd make the grandchildren a huge breakfast when they would spend the night even though by the time she sat down to eat, her hands shook so bad she could barely drink her coffee. After she filled their bellies with the massive feast, the grandchildren would take her to the couch to rest while they cleaned her kitchen for her, because they wanted to, and they loved her, and they couldn't bare to see her tremble...
~

We had always heard of a son she had to bury when he was just a baby. We all wondered if that's when the tremors began. She had to bury another son while she was here in the flesh. He'd lost a battle with cancer. She saw others go Home, her husband, her brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors she'd known most of her life. The trembling increased over the years with every soul that departed but she still had her grandchildren, and that's all she really wanted.

It was hard letting her go. I miss her as much now as when I wrote about her funeral (click here for that). But it's so comforting knowing I'll see her again one day.

~

Our preacher was down about what he called a "routine" sermon. I actually enjoyed the service since my own family critically needed those words. But he went on to discuss how wonderful it would be if all of the church members could reunite in Heaven one day and reminisce over the wonderful and glorious days we got down on our knees and prayed together or sang hymns like we were leaving tomorrow. To me, there's never anything routine about going to our church other than the service times.

I had a row full of little girls who chose to sit next me Sunday night. The smallest was holding my daughter's doll and she wrapped that baby in her arms and rocked it the entire time. She bent down and kissed it's cheek and held it a little tighter. She brought both a smile to my face and tear to my eye as her grandmother walked to the front to sing. As always, I thought of my own Maw Maw and as this lady looked up to Heaven, I wondered who my Maw Maw was standing beside right now...did she have that first born baby back in her arms? Was she singing along with Angels as the ivory keys pounded inside our church walls?

I had a song of my own stuck in my head but I never could finish it until now. I've prayed about it since Sunday and all I kept receiving was it's right inside that Bible. I'd been so busy looking, I couldn't see...maybe that happens to all of us sometimes.



So, for the first time, I took out Maw Maw's Bible. I never imagined as a thirteen year old girl, I'd one day get back the gift I'd given to her. I had put away for protection and preservation. Little did I know, it should have never been packed away. I opened the Bible and stuck within the pages I found almost every memorial card she had collected. My Paw Paw's card was laminated, and I hope this is her way of telling me he's with her. Her brother's card, and many more are inside of her Bible.

Time after time she walked the rows,
Leading up to "goodbye" and placed a rose...
She said "see you in Heaven and I love you so,
We'll sing again some day, but for now you must go."

She went back to her house and reached for The Book
She recorded the date and in the pages she looked,
For the comforts of Heaven her loved ones call Home
Her tears are on the pages and so are my own.

She gave me more than Bible, to place upon my table,
Pages filled with His story and pages filled with her's.
The words she wrote with aging hands
As she waited for that Angel Band
She put a Bible on my table, and Jesus in my heart.
~Val Blakely~

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Pantry

With the cabinet doors open, we both stood glaring and bags and boxes of almost any type snack you could possibly ask for. She found what she was looking for, but I did not. She stood there in her new dress offering me various crackers, chips, cookies, grits and oatmeal, but nothing looked good to me. I closed the pantry and said, "I'll wait until after church. Maybe I'll know what I want by then."

Minutes later, we arrived at the little country church, I looked forward to seeing all day. There's a long stretch from Sunday until
Wednesday for me these days. Not that I do anything really bad, it's just that when I walk through the church doors, I arrive with only one thing on my mind. There's no distractions that can get in my way here. I'll leave knowing more, I'll leave seeing better, and I'll leave feeling Christ.

In a cappella, one lady sang with such a pureness in her voice, I knew she meant every word that seeped over her lips.
"Lord in heaven above why did you pick me to love
Why You love me I just can't understand.
There are others more worthy of Jesus than me,
Yet You love me as small as I am"

Another lady soon walked to the front. I'd never heard her say much, and she admitted that as she opened her Devotion. She became filled with His Spirit and she was beautiful. Tears poured from our eyes as her emotion filled the church. The preacher soon spoke, and wouldn't you know it...he spoke to me, as always. He spoke of hungry people and how we need to fill ourselves so full of The Spirit, people know we're full. He said, "If you've ever went to school with someone who was so poor, that at lunch they didn't have anything to eat...and the first thing you want to do is share...we need to be so full, that we're willing to share."

I sat listening to everyone stand up and share, and I'm still so hungry I ate everything on my plate. I know one day, I'll be so full I'll be able to share too. I'm the poor kid and I'm so glad I've surrounded myself with full people. Most of these people have went to this church for years, many grew up here and know only this church. I've never seen anything like it.

I prayed this morning that I wouldn't overlook anything God wanted me to see today. I asked him help me see EVERYTHING He wants to show me, and overlook nothing. I didn't want to waste anything...so I'm thrilled I cleaned my plate today with not a crumb dropped to my knowledge.

I walked outside those church doors and in the dark I saw a child. Though legally blind, she was looking up at the top of the church. I knelt beside her. "Whatcha lookin' at?" She didn't change her gaze but spoke, "I'm lookin' at the light." And I looked up and saw the church's steeple brightly lit with little cross on top. I asked her if she could see the cross and she slowly moved her eyes around until she smiled and said, "uh-huh."

Some people only need a little light to see. I'm thankful, my church shines for me too and that my friends, was enough for one day. But He gave me one more bite.

When we got home, I asked my daughter, "How do you think our preacher knew we were hungry?" She knew exactly what I was talking about and she thought for a minute and she said, "Jesus tells him." And you see why I can't wait til Sunday?

I'm just stocking the pantry!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's kind of like...

Walking through those glass doors, every single visit is kind of like...

...waking up when you're on vacation at the beach. You hear only the calm waves crashing, you see the sun rising and it is the most beautiful day. You smell sea salt in the air and the birds stall mid-air right in front of your balcony as you sit drinking coffee. You have to be absolutely nowhere other than right where you are.

...walking through trails in late October when the trees are donating their leaves to the earth below. You see nothing but color everywhere from the generous limbs and you can feel the cool air sting deep within your lungs but you want nothing more than another refreshing breath. The crows in the background sitting high atop the bare oaks actually sound pleasant and you're glad you chose to walk instead of riding on ATVs.


...staying outside when raindrops begin to fall. The summer's heat has burned your nose and your shoulders but the icy cool rain feels too good to pass up. You look up to the clouds and smile at Heaven because it hasn't rained in weeks. You finally run to the front porch where you watch as the all the living things around you look up and smile, just like you had done. As the puddles fill you watch the ripples each drop brings and before you know it...the sun is no longer hidden behind the cloud. Life around you turns the most vibrant color of green. Birds are chirping and as you look up to thank God one last time for such visions, He places a rainbow in the field by your porch, and you stay there...

Yeah, it's kinda like that. It's hard to describe in words what my church is like...but if I had to, I'd say it's like that.