The Heart of Compassion

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Those of us in the healing professions are trained to achieve success.  Our desire to help others is what brought us into our chosen fields.

Most of us are “fix it” people.  Our ability to fix people is what brings us satisfaction.  And usually it brings satisfaction to our patients as well.

But what happens when we make great efforts and in spite of our best work, our patients don’t respond as we hoped?  Their illnesses are not cured, there are unforeseen complications, and sometimes people die.

In my career as a nurse, I have watched many health care providers react in various ways.

For many, the possibility that they have failed is too much to bear.  They find ways to blame the patient.

Or if the unexplainable happens, they simply label the patient as “crazy.”  The patient’s perceptions are all off.

I have seen some doctors simply tell their patients they are “not a good fit” and perhaps they should see someone else.

If they continue to see the patient, it is only behind the wall of forced “social facade” they would call just “being professional.”  They do the minimum and see the patient only briefly before moving on.

Is it possible our definition of “failure” is far too restrictive?  Is it possible we have come to equate our own power to effect change as the only success?

Have we forgotten we are not The Authors of healing?  We are not the skilled handlers of the instruments.  We are in fact the instruments of Compassion in The Hands of Almighty God!

As many examples of hardness as I have witnessed, I treasure the acts of compassion I have seen.

A patient came into the hospital for diagnostic tests.  He walked up to the nurses station and had a major heart attack.  The code team rushed in, but could not save him.

His doctor was devastated, but instead of leaving when the team left, he sat on the floor and held his patient in his arms and cried.  He was linked in heart and he openly grieved.

I have seen doctors, in a rare show of bravery,  admit their failures to patients, and say, “I’m sorry.  I should have caught this, but I didn’t.  Let’s try this again.”

I have seen doctors admit they simply did not know what was wrong with their patients nor did they know what to do.  But they cared.  They did not leave their patients in the valley of the unknown.  They stayed and comforted them.

I have seen doctors tell patients an uncomfortable truth, but instead of delivering bad news and quickly exiting, they stayed and comforted.

I have had a couple of years of unforeseen medical/dental misadventures.  I have seen many doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care providers.  They have run the gamut of all I witnessed as a nurse.

But I have been blessed to find some who were willing to face their own powerlessness and enter the valley of suffering with me.  Most importantly, they prayed with me, turning over the whole situation to The Only One with All The Answers.

When I expressed gratitude to one of my doctors, he seemed surprised.  He said, “I do what I do because I am called by God to do it.  He gave me all I have and I share what I have through God’s Grace and Mercy.”

He and others like him are the jewels in God’s crown.  They are not only The Hands and Feet of Jesus, but they are also His Face.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.    Ephesians 2:10

I Wanna Grow Old With You!

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As Jay and I have the Joy of growing older together, I think of the real life witnesses of Older Love who went before us.

My parents were married for 71 years.  My father called my mother his “precious wife.”  He called her “darling.”  He called her every night to wash his back at the end of his bath.

He called her to tell him whether she thought the vegetables in the garden were ready to pick.  She laughed that he would ask her because he was the one raised on a farm and she was not.

She fixed his favorite foods every day, getting up early to stir the grits.  She had his lunch ready when he came home midday.  She watched for him out the window, so she could serve it up hot when he came in the door.  She never lost the excitement in her voice when she would call out, “He’s coming!”

They hugged and kissed.  They slept close in a standard double bed.  They frequently repeated  “I love you” even though neither could ever doubt the other’s love.

They did not always agree.  Sometimes they had spirited “discussions.”  But there was always respect.  And they apologized when they felt they were wrong.  They never went to bed mad.

They got down on their knees and prayed together.

When she lay in a hospital bed near the end of her life, and she could not see him, she asked where he was.  I told her he was sleeping in the chair by her bed.  I asked if she needed something.  She smiled and said, “No, I just always like to know where he is.”

He continued to live on earth for awhile after she was promoted to Heaven, but it was clear part of his heart was with her, even before he joined her in Heaven.

I am so thankful for getting to see up close and personal what long lasting, real Love looks like.  I am so thankful to have found the one God created for me to love and the one who loves me so well.  Jay, I want to grow old with you!

https://youtu.be/f28MJ7IMsS8

Going Home

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After my mother died, my father attempted to continue living alone in the same house they had shared for years.  But it was clearly not the same.  The sparkle in his eyes was gone.  He said, “She was a little woman, but she took up a lot of room, because there sure is a big vacuum here now that she is gone.”

He eventually moved to a nursing home.  When we visited, we took him home, thinking he would enjoy it.  We attempted to do some of the same things we used to enjoy together.  But he seem preoccupied.  As much as I was trying to make it the home I had loved, I felt the same as he did.  It was not home anymore for any of us.

On our last visit, we took a country ride.  My father had grown up on a farm out in the country.  He had also had the joy of being a rural mail carrier, daily riding through the places he knew so well.  He would laugh and say, “I know every pig path in these parts.”

His childhood home had unfortunately burned to the ground years before.  The site had long been overtaken by trees, weeds and vines.  We stopped the car just long enough for him to reminisce a little.  Much to our surprise, he started to get out.  When I asked him where he was going, he said simply, “Home.”

He had not been confused, but I wondered if this trip down memory lane was too much for him.  I did not want him disappearing into the wilderness.  And I didn’t want to wake up the rattlesnakes that were common in low country South Carolina.

But he said, “I know the way.  It’s just over there.  You can wait for me.  I’m just going home.”

We convinced him not to go.  But he was clearly disappointed.  We returned him to the nursing home.  At the end of our visit, when I kissed him goodbye, he said what he always said, “I love you with all my heart.”  With many tears, we returned to Kentucky.

A couple of weeks later, The Lord gave me a beautiful “vision” of Daddy.  It came to me in that space in time between awake and dreaming.

I saw him in bed, frail and tired as he was then at age 96.  But then I saw him get out of that bed and begin walking.  The walls of that nursing home parted, and he walked out and began running.  As he ran, his aged body started falling away to reveal a younger self.  He ran faster and faster, getting younger with every step.

It seemed he was running into the country of his home.  He looked back and smiled and called out, “I’m going home.”  And then the vision ended.  He died a few days later.  He never got to officially tell me goodbye, but I knew where he had gone.  He had indeed gone Home.

Tonight I discovered this wonderful song.  It brought back the memories of my father’s home going all over again.  I invite you to enjoy Celtic Woman’s rendition of “Going Home.”

https://youtu.be/zmNvFWFz-7g

Promotion Day — 9/11/01

September 11 will always prompt memories of the lives that were forever changed on that day.  Most of our memories focus on those whose lives were lost, those who lost family and friends, or perhaps where we were on that day.

Our memories come with emotion.  We may feel grief, anger or fear.  We may avoid thinking about what it was like for those we call victims of that day.  But were they victims?

In this blog posting, I encourage you to consider what it is like to meet Jesus up close and personal.

It always intrigued me that Peter, Andrew, James and John, when called by Jesus, at once left their nets and followed Him.  No good byes to the family.  No hanging around to take a shower and pack.  They left their nets at once and followed Him.

Why would they do that?  Was it their own impulsiveness?  Was it the call of adventure that seemed more appealing than the monotonous life they were living?  Or was it Jesus Himself who drew them in?

I believe it was simply Jesus.  He called to them with The Voice they recognized and all they wanted to do was to be with Him wherever He was.

I believe it is the same for all Who hear Jesus’ Call to join Him in the deeper reaches of Eternity.

Jesus said, “My sheep respond to my voice, and I know who they are. They follow Me, and I give them eternal life. They will never be lost, and no one will tear them away from Me.”  John 10:27

Read that again! Give it time to sink in.  No matter what the exit plan from earth is, we will not go as victims.  We will not be lost.  We will be safe.  No one can snatch us away from Jesus.

When He calls, the world around us will fade away.  We will hear only His Voice, The Voice of Love, The Love that created us and carried us, The Love That was with us always and ever shall be.

We will be absorbed into His Wonderful Presence.  We will simply want to be with Him wherever He is.

Movies and tv shows often depict angels as escorting us to our heavenly home.  There is some biblical basis for that.  However, I love what Jesus Himself said about our journey home.

He said He was preparing a place for us and when it is time, He Himself will escort us there.  (John 14:3)

What did those who died on September 11, 2001 experience that morning?  We don’t know for sure.  But when I was praying about it, The Lord gave me a song.

I will share the lyrics here.  Feel free to share with others.  The words and music are copyrighted  by me.  If you share separately from this blog, please note it is written by me.

I’m With Jesus!

© 2001 Carolyn Priester Jones 

Lyrics and Music

(Introduction)

I was working on that morning.

My cup of coffee was half gone.

Suddenly, I felt a gentle breeze.

I turned around to see …

And to my surprise, it was Jesus!

He was standing there with me!

 

(Chorus)

Jesus!

Standing there with me!

Jesus!

Plain as He could be!

Jesus!

He told me not to fear!

He said,

“Follow Me.  We’re leavin’ here!”

 

Others might have been calling,

But I heard only Him.

There might have been other noise.

I’m not sure what might have been.

I just knew …

 

(Chorus)

It was Jesus!

And there was no pain!

Me and Jesus!

We walked and talked again!

Jesus!

He showed The Way to me!

And we walked right through that stormy sea!

 

In a world I left behind,

the headlines might have read

That all of us had perished …

that all of us were dead.

But they would have been so wrong

‘cause I’m more alive than then!

I walk the streets of Glory,

and I walk here with my Friend!

 

(Chorus)

I’m with Jesus!

What a Glorious Sight!

I KNOW Jesus!

And everything’s so right.

I HEAR Jesus!

like I never did before!

I’ve had JOY since

we walked through Life’s door!

 

Very truly I tell you,

whoever obeys My Word

will never see death.

John 8:51 (NIV)

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Remembering Grandmother

Today is Grandparents Day.  My parents had me later in life, so I missed the pleasure of knowing three of my four grandparents.

But the one grandparent I knew was most memorable.  My mother’s mother, Nellie Pender Smith Hinely, was a tall woman.  Even though her knees were locked with arthritis and she walked with a distinctive side to side gait, she had perfect posture.

In fact, she looked a little imposing.  She, like my mother, said, “I only say things one time.  I don’t repeat myself.  So listen carefully.”  I did.  I was not sure what would have happened if I didn’t get it the first time, but I didn’t want to find out!

Grandmother always had a boldness and confidence that came from a center of knowing what she wanted and what she did not.  She was educated as a teacher, but did not enjoy teaching.

She left the expected career choice and was one of the first women to have a job with the railroad.  Even in that time, there were women like my grandmother and her sister who were breaking glass ceilings.

She married Elliott Hinely, who ran a lumber mill in Rincon, Georgia.  They bought some land and built their dream house where they would live for the rest of their lives.  My parents were married in the parlor of that house.

She raised four children to adulthood.  My mother said she was strict, but never punitive.  My mother said she had a look that kept everyone in line without her raising a finger.

Grandmother liked to read.  She read books for hours on end.  She read The Bible cover to cover multiple times.  She even subscribed to magazines of the day, including Cosmopolitan, before it became risqué.

I Raised You Better Than That!

One of my favorite stories was of my Uncle Vernon, Who eloped.  He wanted to come home and “tell Mama,” but he was too scared of her reaction.

Finally he decided to test the waters.  He came home.  He found Grandmother sitting in her chair, reading.  She looked up and calmly said, “You’ve been gone for awhile.”  No questions.  Just a statement.  Then silence.

Uncle Vernon said he was shaking all over.  Finally in a gush of words he told her he had eloped with Louise.  He said Grandmother looked up straight at him with no expression  he could translate, and then returned to her reading.

More time passed as he sat with his mother in uncomfortable silence.  Finally she closed her book, looked up again and asked matter of factly, “Where is your wife?”

He mumbled that she was in the car.  Grandmother then expressed herself clearly.  “You left your wife in the car??  Get her and bring her in.  I raised you better than to leave your wife in a hot car!”

Aunt Louise said she was terrified, but when she came in, “Miss Nellie” welcomed her warmly.

In fact, for quite a few years Aunt Louise and Uncle Vernon lived upstairs in my grandmother’s house with her living downstairs.

The Run For The Toys

My Grandmother took to grandparenting with as much enthusiasm as she tackled the rest of her life.  She had a bag of toys she kept in a closet under the steps and every grandchild looked forward to emptying it and seeing what new things had been added since our last visit.  And we all knew the absolute rule that every toy had to be returned to its proper place before we left.

Let Her Go!

Grandmother was a little more daring with her grandchildren than our parents were.  I longed to go upstairs and slide down the bannister.  My parents said no. They thought it was too dangerous.

When my grandmother heard me begging my mother once again to let me do it just once (I had seen my cousin sneak and do it when no one was looking), she said to my mother, “Pearl, why are you saying no to that child?”  My mother said she was afraid I might fall.  My grandmother said, “She might.  Then she will have an opportunity to learn how to get up.”

And then she gave my mother one of those looks and added, “And you, Pearl,  might learn how to not be afraid.”

Mr. Wattie’s store was across two roads and a railroad track from my grandmother’s house.  He had the best candy anywhere, including my favorite, a candy called Mary Janes.

I longed to go to his store, but I was only permitted to do so if an adult was going to go with me.  I was very sad when I wanted to go, but no adult was available.

One day, my grandmother found me in a funk on the front steps, looking longingly across the road.  I explained my dilemma.  She said, “Well let’s see what your mother has to say about this.”

She called my mother and said, “Pearl, are you still working on not being afraid?  I believe it is time to let Carolyn go to the store.”  My mother explained she could not go right then.  My grandmother repeated, “I believe it is time for Carolyn to go to the store … by herself.”

My mother looked horrified.  My grandmother then proceeded to give me step by step instructions on how to safely cross roads and railroads.  She then let me try crossing one road and returning, ever under her watchful eye.  Then it was crossing one road and the railroad and coming back.  Then crossing both roads and the railroad and coming back.  And finally crossing all the way over to Mr. Wattie’s store and coming back with my prized candy.

Someone always had to watch me make the trek, but from that day forward, I went alone.  I learned safety, confidence and how good it felt to be trusted.  And that candy was really good!

Never Give Up On Anyone!

My grandmother was consistently kind.  She never returned evil for evil.  She never returned unkindness for unkindness.

My grandfather ran a lumber mill.  Mr. Smith (name changed) became miffed about some business dealing.  He refused to speak to my grandparents.  Apparently this went on for years.

Mr. Smith’s morning walk took him past my grandparents’ house.  Each time my grandmother was sitting on the porch, she would call out cheerfully, “Good morning, Mr. Smith.”

Mr. Smith would deliberately turn the other way and refused to speak.  However, my grandmother never gave up.  And then the day came when right in the middle of Mr. Smith’s walk, there came a downpour of rain.  He got soaked and still had a ways to go to shelter.

Grandmother again cheerfully called out, “Good morning, Mr. Smith,” this time adding, “Would you like to come and sit until this storm lets up?”

As the story went, Mr. Smith said, “I believe I will.  Thank you, Miss Nellie.”  He sat with her and they talked and from that day on, were friends.  My mother told me that story to emphasize never giving up on people.

Miss Nellie’s Home-going

My Grandfather died suddenly one night of a major heart attack.   Grandmother lived many years after that independently.  While there were plenty of offers for her to live with relatives, she declined.  She adjusted her life, as more and more challenges of age beset her, but she continued to enjoy every moment.

She died unexpectedly following surgery for a peptic ulcer.  I was still a child, who had had limited experiences with death.  But I knew there was a great “disturbance in the force.”  Besides my grandmother being gone, my ever steady mother was distraught in a way I could not understand … until she died many years later, and I was inconsolable.

My mother told me Grandmother hated black clothes and had earlier told her she hoped none of her family would wear black to her funeral.  My Mother said no one planned how to dress for her funeral, but at one point, she looked up and realized that everyone had worn bright colors, a virtual rainbow of celebration of a life well lived.

I do remember they sang the hymn Rock of Ages at her funeral.  It seems appropriate.  She was a Rock of faith, determination, and persistence.  She loved The Lord and taught her children and grandchildren to love Him too.  And I hope her story will continue to resonate down through the ages.

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Promise

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The word voyage means a long journey.

In September, 1977, the United State launched a space probe called Voyager with a mission of boldly going where no one had ever gone before.

In September, 1977, Jay and I launched a relationship called marriage, also with a mission to explore great unknowns where we had never gone before.

Voyager has had ongoing adventures that even today push it onward farther and farther into the unknown.  It goes on.

Jay and I have had many many adventures and made amazing discoveries about ourselves and the world around us.  September 25, 2019 will mark 42 trips around the sun together.  We go on.

We consider “our song” the Disney song “Promise.”  We began our marriage with a trip to Disney World.  We went back many times over the years.  We especially enjoyed the Epcot Fireworks show called Illuminations.

At the end of the show, as guests are leaving, they play the song “Promise.”

Once, in a burst of spontaneity (and perhaps a little pixie dust), Jay pulled me onto the bridge and began to dance with me.  It was totally out of character.  The man does not dance in public.

But that magical night it was as if the whole world disappeared.  I was a princess.  He was the prince I had dreamed of as a little girl.  It was a special recommitment to continue our journey together.

We were shocked when we opened our eyes to discover we had quite an audience and some who had joined us in the dance.  It remains one of my favorite Disney memories.

As I read more about Voyager, I discovered something else interesting.  The day after our daughter’s birth, Voyager was inexplicably pulled off its planned course.  It headed out of our solar system and soared with new stars.  The heavens welcomed our new earth star! 😘

What a wonderful way God has of telling His Story and making it personal!

Take a few moments and enjoy our song, “Promise.”

https://youtu.be/A5EcwM_Q1zY

When Do Two Hearts Become One?

To my husband —

I’m not sure when my heart began to respond to you.

Was it when you reached under the table shortly after we met and you touched my knee?  My heart responded as to an intruder.  It ramped up for fight or flight.  Fortunately I did neither.

Was it the next day when I saw you riding down the street and just the recognition caused my heart to skip a beat?

How about when you kissed me for the first time and our hearts came close?  It felt right.  My heart told me to stay awhile and run a diagnostic on your heart.  I did.  I was supposed to go home to South Carolina.  I didn’t.

Did I give you my heart when I gave you my body?  Was it when we shared the passion of youthful romance and we learned how to dance in a whole new way, our hearts climbing to the peaks together and then gently returning to earth?

Was it when you broke my heart that I realized how much of my heart I had given you?  Was it when you moved away and my heart hurt?  It was like I had found a part of me I never knew I was missing and then it was gone again.

Or was it when you came back and I discovered my heart knew how to sing?

Perhaps it was when you took my hand in a garden and we shared with the world what we already knew.  Our hearts had somehow become joined and we knew we had to be together forever.

Was it when we discovered somehow God had made a third heart from our two and we discovered a love deeper than we had ever known?

Was it when our hearts did not beat as one and we wanted to go back to our own rhythms?  We discovered how easily a heart can break and how hard it is to put the pieces back together again.

We discovered the truth about hearts.  When they are broken, only The One Who created them can restore them.  And He did.

God gave us healing times when we resynchronized and our hearts did beat as one again.

Was it when we discovered hearts can speak without words?  There were times of unspeakable grief when there were no words to express how we felt and yet … somehow our hearts kept beating together and  they spoke what we could not?

I don’t know where exactly our hearts melded into one.  I just know I cannot envision a world where my heart would beat without yours near by.

When you had a heart attack this year and we were on the way to the hospital, I sat in the front of the ambulance … stunned … in shock … my heart reaching out to you, willing your heart to keep beating.

And then you had the paramedics run an extra rhythm strip and pass it up to me.  It was a tracing of your heart … your gift to me … a reassurance … a special valentine.  Your way of saying, “my heart still beats for you.”

As mine did for you, my love.  The professionals could and did keep us apart while they worked to restore your heart.  But they could not separate us in spirit.  Our hearts have now advanced to where we are together, whether near or far.  Our hearts beat together, as they have for over 40 years.

God brought you back to me and in every moment of my life, I thank him.

They say Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs.  Wherever Adam and Eve went for the rest of their lives, they knew Eve carried a part of Adam inside her.  It was the part that protected her heart.  It was God’s Covenant that bound them together in Him.

And so I carry a part of you inside me.  You are forever The Love of My Life and I love you with all my heart.

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The Cry Of A Lost Sheep

Jesus loved His Church, His Bride, but Revelation reveals He saw the churches in a realistic light.  He told John to write the good things, but He also addressed those areas that needed improvement.

Many churches seem to have forgotten that the sheep the shepherd sought was not a soul yet to be discovered.  The lost sheep was once a part of the flock.

While churches are seeking to attract new members or minister to the community or the world, there are church members right outside the door who are lost, hungry and thirsty, and no longer have the strength or desire to return to the fold.

We must begin by remembering them.  We must pray and ask God to bring to mind those with whom we have fellowshipped in the past and ask ourselves, “Where are they?  What do they need from us right now?”

We must go to them, not try to entice them to come to us.

In the spirit of humility, we must honestly apologize for leaving them behind.

We must bind up their wounds.

We must be the servants God has called us to be.

We must connect on a personal level, getting to know where people live, physically and spiritually.

We have been on all sides.  We have been the shepherd, the comfortable sheep of the flock and now sheep lost from our church and wondering why no one missed us.

We believe our own journey home begins with our repentance for leaving others behind.  And then we must forgive those who have failed us.  May we all join in prayer together.

Oh Lord, please forgive us for failing to seek your sheep.

We have become weary and laid down in green pastures.

We have become too comfortable in the security of our own group.

We have become distracted and not noticed the suffering of others that caused them to wander away and become lost and alone.

We have said we were a community when we had lost part of our community without even knowing it.

Forgive us, please, Lord.  May we all hear Your Voice and come home to You.  For we are the sheep of your pasture.  We belong to You.

“Know that the Lord is God.  It is He Who made us, and we are His; we are His People, the sheep of His Pasture.”  Psalm 100:3

“My sheep listen to My Voice; I know them, and they follow Me.”   John 10:27

…”that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”  John 17:21

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When It Is Time …

This is a true story, but I have changed the names to protect the privacy of those in it.

We have loved having Sam and Beth as our elderly neighbors.  We have lived together in the same neighborhood for many years.

We watched them tending the flower garden, going out to get the mail, carefully driving to the mall every morning … and in recent times holding each other’s hands as they very carefully navigated around the yard.

In the early years, they faithfully came to the neighborhood potlucks.  In the latter years, they extended their good wishes, even when they could not come.

They welcomed new neighbors as they moved in.  They sadly said good bye to those who left.  They talked to the children and petted the dogs.  They asked about our grown children who had moved away.

When we talked, they never gossiped.  Their conversation was filled with gratitude for all The Lord had done and was doing in their lives.  I always went away feeling blessed.

As they got older, there were those who wondered how long they could continue to live independently.  But any crisis they had, they carefully concealed.  If they shared at all, it was usually after the problem was resolved.

Many of us were initially unaware that Beth had become more than a little forgetful.  A brief conversation did not reveal any problems.  But as we continued talking, sometimes she would switch times and places and occasionally forget our names.

Sam became her constant companion, protector and ultimately her caregiver.  He told me a year or two ago that some were encouraging them to move, but, he said, “Beth loves it here.  She loves her flowers.  It makes her happy and if I can make her happy for even one more day … well, that makes me happy.”

Recently Sam developed health problems.  Sciatica necessitated a cane and then a walker.  Then there was recurring hives.  And finally a kidney stone.

Reluctantly Sam began considering moving to a senior community.  While he might have considered the options longer, an opportunity came up suddenly.  He told us he wanted to make the decision while he was still able to be the one making it.

Sam left us the most beautiful telephone message telling of their decision.  He thanked us for being such good neighbors for all these years and told us how much he hated to leave.  But he said through tears, “It is time.”

While my primary sadness is the loss of Sam and Beth as neighbors, their sudden move has affected me on a much deeper level.  It has brought a re-grief of losing my parents and parents in law.

It has shaken the stability of those things and people I like to consider firm, fixed and reliable.

It has caused me to consider a future when my husband and I might be the elderly couple facing the prospect of needing to say goodbye to the home we love.

Perhaps we should begin now, not by packing up, but beginning to unpack our lives, so we can travel lightly to the next stop.

I began practicing today.  I relinquished something that had been very important to me for almost 50 years.  It was time.  It felt strangely liberating.

Jesus assures us He is preparing a place for us and when it is ready … when it is time … He will personally escort us there.  Many think He was speaking of a far away Heaven, but I believe He was speaking of every place He prepares for us along the way.

He prepared the next place for Sam and Beth.  And He will continue to do the same for all of us.  We just have to be ready to gently close the door when it is time and walk with anticipation into our new home.

“After Jesus said these things, he looked toward heaven and prayed, ‘Father, the time has come.’”  John 17:1

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  John 14:2-3

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Sealed With A Kiss!

I come from a family of letter writers.  For you young people, who may not know, people used to communicate with each other by using a pen to put words on a piece of paper.

They then folded the paper and put it in an envelope.  They licked the glue on the flap and sealed it.  They wrote on the front on the envelope the address of the person they wanted to send it to.  They wrote their own address in the upper left hand corner, so if the letter got lost, it could be returned to them.

Finally they licked a small piece of paper called a stamp and glued it  to the upper right hand corner of the envelope.  They bought these little pieces of paper from the post office.

Sometimes if the person wanted to send their letter with Love, they wrote on the place where they sealed the envelope.  They wrote “SWAK.”  This meant it was “sealed with a kiss.”

When they were ready to send their letter, they took it to the post office and slid it through a slot that went to a container where the postal workers would collect it and prepare it to send.  Besides deciding which train to send it on, the postal workers put something called a postmark on it.  It showed the date and where the post office was located.

My parents were great letter writers.  They wrote my brother and me every week from the time we left home until they were promoted to Heaven.  Their letters were filled with common every day news like the weather, church activities, social events, updates on friends and family or what was growing in the garden.

Their letters were also filled with gratitude to God for everything.  Even as they reported on trials and losses in their lives, they sought the silver linings in the grey clouds.

My mother hand wrote her part of the letter.  Even as her handwriting became more shaky with age, still she faithfully wrote.

My father typed his letters under hers.  He used an old manual typewriter for years before he advanced to an electric typewriter.  In later years, when he made more typos, he would apologize and say he did not know what was wrong with his typewriter that it seemed to be making more mistakes.

My father ended his letters with the sign off of the time when he first learned to write letters.  People in that day would end a letter by writing, “I remain” or “I am” and then put their name.  Example:  “I am Horace Priester.”  Sometimes they put a descriptor.  One of my father’s last letters ended with “I am your old worn out Daddy.”

Their letters chronicled their lives.  I looked forward to receiving them.  Their words carried me through some of the best times of my life and the worst.  I saved almost all of them.  Somewhere inside me, I knew those letters were gold that would be treasured long years after they were written.  And they were.

My mother died in 1997.  My father died in 2002.  I grieved heavily.  They had been my ever faithful life line for so many years of my life.  I could not even imagine a world without them.  But there came the day when I opened my old trunk and there were the letters.

My tears flowed freely as I sat in the basement and read “it’s been hot today” … “we shelled beans this afternoon” … “Mrs. Smith has been in the hospital” … “Your Daddy is too sick to write this time, but wants you to know he loves you and he will write next time” … “God has been so good to us” … “we love you so much.”

That day was the beginning of a project of love.  I put the letters in order and collected them into a book called “Letters from Home.”  When I need some encouragement, a smile, a laugh, a throw back to a simpler time … when I need to be reminded of Love, Faith, Gratitude and all that is real in life, I get out my book.

In this world of texting, email and social media, letter writing seems to be a lost art form.  But once upon a time, people got out the paper (and sometimes, fancy paper called stationary) and pen and began with “Dear” and ended with “Lots of Love” (or my mother’s favorite, “Heaps of Love.”)

Perhaps today might be the day when you think of someone special and write them a letter!  And if you love them, you might even want to seal it with a kiss! 💞

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