Beyond The Sunset

In the fall of 1997, my parents were in a car accident.  My mother spent a couple of months in the hospital, never able to return to her earthly home. 

My husband and I had planned to go on a cruise to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary.  We were going to cancel it. 

However, my mother was insistent that we go.  In fact, she was so insistent she told everyone from family to friends to her doctor that we “had to go on that cruise.”

As Mother’s condition continued to deteriorate I was doubtful it was the right thing. However, she continued to insist. When I asked her doctor, he said, “It seems pretty important to her. Maybe she wants you to go and take pictures to add to both your memories.”

So, on October 12, 1997, my husband and I set out on our maiden voyage.

It was described by some of the seasoned cruise staff as the worst turbulence they had experienced in years of sailing. 

As soon as we left port, the ship began to toss and turn and tilt from side to side.  Everyone held on to anything they could find in an effort to regain stability.

Finally, we decided we might fare better if we went up on deck and tried to visually equilibrate with the horizon.  It seemed to work. 

As we stared into the heavens, the sea seemed calm.  In fact, it was no different, but our focus was different.

Now that God had our attention, He outdid Himself with artistry. 

He painted one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen.  We spent some time on deck, just admiring His Work before we went back inside to attempt supper.  My husband took a picture of me with the sun going down behind me.  

Later that evening, we received the call that my mother had passed into Glory earlier.  I was stunned.  At that time, my only comfort was that I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I was where she wanted me to be.  But I did not know why.

 Weeks later, God revealed the first clue.  My nephew had been present at the hospital at the time of my mother’s death.  He had been asked to step out of my mother’s room for the nurses to care for her.  He had done so. 

Before the nurses came in, my mother quietly left for Glory.  He was concerned that had he remained, she might have remained.

I assured him that my mother, being the lady she was, would never have left while he was there.  She would have considered it rude! 

And besides, I wrote him,  I believed God’s Glory came and filled her room. It was a private, intimate moment, just for God and my mother to share.

I stopped in mid-sentence and thought, “Wow Lord, it must have been been wonderful to see Your Glory!”  At that moment, I heard Him say in my spirit, “You did.  Your Mother and I arranged it!”

Suddenly I thought of the sunset.  I asked my husband when he had taken that picture.  He replied that it was easy to remember, since it was just before we went inside for supper.  The sunset occurred at the very time of my mother’s death!

I now knew with absolute certainty that I had been sent to that place in time to have a front row seat to His Glory!  But God had more to reveal.

 

While I was reflecting on the wonder of the time of the sunset, God brought to mind a memory from the past. 

As I was studying the pictures of the sunset … for just a moment, I moved back in time to high school.  In my English class, we received points for every poem we memorized.  Mother loved poetry and eagerly helped me select poems to memorize.

We both searched through books of poetry.  As I remembered, it seemed I could still hear her voice, her words spoken with enthusiasm. 

“Why don’t you memorize this one?  I just love this one.  It’s got such a good message.  It would be a good one to remember always.”

So I memorized “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson … without knowing that God had planted seeds… and that many years from that moment, those seeds would sprout into a beautiful sunset on a turbulent ocean, within moments of my Mother’s ascension into Glory.

God allowed me to remember that poem with a new understanding.

Sunset and evening star,

and one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crossed the bar.

The bar is that point in the water when the currents are stirred up the most by the force of the waters from the sea and the movement from closer the land colliding.  We had indeed been present at the crossing of the bar!  God and my mother arranged it.

“A person may plan his own journey, but The Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning!” Psalm 30:5

When the sun sets in one place, it rises in another.  And now you know why I love the beauty of sunsets!

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I Could Never Forget You!

My parents lived a happy, independent life into their nineties.  One day on the way back from the grocery store, a car hit them.  My mother was never able to go home again.

I spent a remarkable week with her when she was in the hospital.  It was remarkable because, even in the midst of intense suffering, she refused to let satan gain even an inch.

She lay in bed and prayed for every family member by name, invoking God’s richest blessings on each of us.  She prayed for the doctors, nurses and anyone who worked in that hospital.  She raised her hands to The Lord and just praised Him for the wonderful life she had had.  She sang hymns of praise through her pain.

She tenderly expressed love to everyone.  Most touching was hearing her say to my father, “Horace, God has been so good to us throughout our entire life.  How could we do anything but trust Him now?”

She held his hands and said, “God made you for me and me for you.  And He will take care of us.  God will take care of you.  He will.  I know He will.”  

The day I was to return home (I lived in another state), Mother was a little confused because of an electrolyte imbalance.  Just before I had to leave, the doctor came in.  He asked the usual questions to determine her mental status.  He asked her if she knew her name, where she was, etc.

Then he pointed to me and said, “Do you know who she is?”  My mother smiled the smile I loved so much — the one that seemed to just open the floodgates of Love.  And then she said,  “Of course, I know her.”

She grabbed my hand, looked directly into my eyes and said, “Carolyn, I could never forget you.  I love you so much.”  And then she fell asleep.

That was the last time I saw my mother in her earthly body.  Her Benediction is a Gift I treasure.  She is a part of me and her continued love as a member of that “great cloud of witnesses” sustains me every day.

I can never forget her.  I love her so very much.

Love one another, as I have loved you … John 13:34

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Packing Your Bag In Advance

F71817E5-A7FA-498A-8A82-BA625E852177My mother always straightened up the house before she left it.  She said, “One day you will not be able to come home, and your house will be as you left it.  What do you want others to find?”

She approached her spiritual life in the same way.  She memorized scripture and poetry with “good messages.”  She said she prayed that she “would always have her good mind.” 

She added, “Your mind is like a chest of drawers.  You control what you put in there today.  But one day someone else may open those drawers.  All they will find is what you put there.  Put good things in your mind and in your spirit.”

Mother taught a Sunday School class for years.  When she was old, she had difficulty reading.  She told the class she thought she needed to give it up to someone else.  However, the ladies of the class would not hear of it. 

They said she had so much spiritual insight and Words of God’s Truth, they could not do without her teaching.  They read the lesson to her to see what she would say.  The ladies of the class said she had so much of God packed inside of her, that it just overflowed to them.

The day did come when Mother walked out of her house for the last time.  She and my father were in an automobile accident.  She spent the remaining months of her life in a hospital.  There were times when she appeared confused, due to her condition and medication.

But when that “chest of drawers” of her spirit was opened, beautiful things poured out.  She prayed and praised God for her life.  She remembered and called Daddy, Richard and me by name. She remembered all our spouses, grandchildren, great grandchildren, friends, and on and on.  She prayed for each individually.

Her chest was a treasure chest filled to overflowing with all those good things she had put there in advance of the time they would be found.

What is in your spiritual chest?  When it is laid open for all to see, what will be found there?

I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119:11

Neither Do I Condemn You!

F71817E5-A7FA-498A-8A82-BA625E852177I was a well behaved child and teenager.  While some of my friends were rebelling, I “colored within the lines” well.  However, later in life, after some difficult times, I set out to reinvent myself.  I must say God is a much better Creator than I.  The “me’s” I tried to create were total flops.  

I praise Him, not only for restoring my life, but for renewing it when I surrendered to His Loving Creation of the “me” He intended all along. At some point when I was searching for my way “back home,” I talked to Mother about a “friend” who had committed all kinds of sins.  I told her that my “friend” really wanted to make a turn around, but was afraid that she could never make anything right again.  I asked Mother what I should tell my friend.

She looked at me with all the Love in The Universe.  I saw a few tears fall before she hastily mopped them up with her apron.  She came and put her arms around me.  She just held me for a long few moments.

I felt forgiveness coursing through my body.  She then stepped back and looked at me directly.  In that moment I knew she knew it was not my friend.  It was me.  I wondered what she was about to say.

She said, very tenderly, “You are right to tell your friend to ask God’s Forgiveness.  But tell her she must be sure to accept His Forgiveness.  Tell your friend she needs to thank God that He will forgive her.  Tell your friend she needs to forgive herself.  And tell your friend that she is free now.  Tell her to walk free.”

And just as quickly, she asked me what I would like for supper.  From time to time after that, she would ask me, “How is your friend?”

I told her my friend was doing much better.  She said, “That’s good.  I pray for your friend.”  She never asked me what my friend’s name was, as she usually did when she was going to pray for someone.  She knew.

My Mother showed The Pure Love of Jesus.  She did not condemn.  She loved.   

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  John 8:11

Let Go and Let God!

Most parents like the feeling they can protect their children from anything bad.  It Is easier when we can just grab them out of harm’s way.  However, the time comes when they must make their own choices.  Those choices are not always what we would want for them.

Mothering becomes hardest when our children are far from the nest and flying into danger.  

In my grown up life, far from my parents, Life dealt enough blows that I reached a point of not trusting anyone.  Confused and alone, I made bad choices.  And then I felt too much shame to go home. I was no longer sure of who I was.  I set out to create a new me.

I quickly discovered God was a much better Creator than I was.  But while I was learning lessons the hard way, my Mother was still on the job, on her knees in prayer for me.

Later in life, when we remembered those times, she said, “I prayed for you constantly.  I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew God did and He was with you every second.  I thanked God that He was with me and He was with you.  I thanked God that He knew what to do when I didn’t.  I trusted Him for both you and me.”

Her Love and Prayers brought me to a place where I knew once again I needed to ask God for the directions.  He brought me home.

If you are lost, breathe in The Truth of  Words from Proverbs.  If you are a Mother, Father, or anyone praying for someone who seems lost, these words are for you too.

Have faith.  God is with you both.

Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

When Are You Going To Do It?

My mother was very focused.  She was an organizer and planner.  She was a leader, not just in our family, but also in many organizations.

If I said, “I think I might do …” and then I’d lay out some dream, my Mother would say, “How are you going to do that?”

And I would say, “Oh I’m not doing it now.  I was thinking I might do it one day.”

She would then counter with, “When?  When are you going to do it?”

She said, “Success is in the details.  When we take a trip, we know where we want to end up.  We may change course on the way, but we still have some idea of when we are going, where we want to go and how we might get there.”

My Mother taught me how to combine dreams with reality.

Many of my dreams have been accomplished with focus and figuring out the details and deadlines for getting where I wanted to go.  However, as Mother reminded me, God is The One with The Plan.   She winked and added, “He knows where you are going and how you are going to get there, but He will let you help ‘pack the car’ for the trip!”

What have you been thinking about doing?  When are you going to get started?  What steps will you take to accomplish your goal?

Step 1 is talking it over with God.  Right now is a good time to do that.

“For I know The Plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, Plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

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Who Writes Your Story?

My mother never simply read a book to me.  She acted it out.  She changed her voice to be each character.  She put the book down and acted out the parts.  She was so funny!

But not only would she act out the stories, she would encourage me to get in on the act.  She would say, “Today, you be the rabbit!”  And I’d act out the parts to the tune of her laughter.

Then the day came when she stopped right in the middle of a story.  I wondered if something was wrong with her.  Instead of completing the story, she said, “What do you think happened next?”

I said, “I don’t know.  You haven’t read that part yet.”  

She said, “No … you finish the story.  Don’t let other people be the only ones to tell the stories.  You tell the story too.  Your story may be better!”  So I’d make up a part of the story that came next, and then she would chime in with a part, and sometimes we never read what the author intended.

Later as I began to write stories and plays, I realized the seeds of telling a good story had been planted by my mother.  Even today, I find myself thinking of alternate endings to tv shows and movies.

Who is writing your story?  Are you living a life someone else chose for you?  Do you sometimes feel you’ve made too many mistakes in your life for your story to ever have a happy ending?  

Perhaps God is prompting you right now to consider what you would like to happen next in your life.  He’s ready to act it all out with you … and yes, He can do millions of Voices too!

Finishing is better than starting … Ecclesiastes 7:8

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Where Does The Road Go?

My mother enjoyed painting.  Her paintings were all over our house.  One picture was of a road that wound around a curve and disappeared into the distance.

I asked my mother where the road went.  Instead of telling me, she asked me, “Where do you think the road goes?”  I would come up with various destinations and tell her all about them.  She would ask me questions to help me make more complete scenes in my mind.  And then she would tell me what she saw.  We spent many happy hours traveling that road together.

As I was nearing college and considering an uncertain future, I asked her again, “Where does the road go, Mother?”  She smiled and said, “It can go anywhere you would like it to go, Carolyn.  But be sure to ask God for the directions!”  

She never forced her views on me.  She gently guided me and allowed me to choose the roads I chose in life, even when some were not the roads she would have chosen for me.   The journey was always easier when I asked God for directions.  (And thank God — He allows U turns!)

After my mother died, I felt lost.  I had lost my traveling companion.  I didn’t know what would be around the next bend or on the other side of the hill.

I asked her where the road went.  Immediately I heard her answer in my spirit.  “It can go anywhere you would like it to go, Carolyn.  But be sure to ask God for the directions!”

And then she added, “I’m just a little ahead of you.  But you’ll catch up.  Keep going!”

Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. Luke 3:5

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The Unseen Guide and Protector

F71817E5-A7FA-498A-8A82-BA625E852177As I grew, I developed a streak of independence.  I frequently said rather defiantly, “I can do it myself.”  Mother let me do many things.  When I crashed, she never said, “I told you so.”  She simply picked me up and assured me things would go better the next time.

On the first day of school, we forgot a form that had to be completed.  My mother assured the teacher she would bring it after school.  When I arrived home, I announced I would take it back to the school.  This would involve walking four blocks, turning onto a busy street, walking a few more blocks and then crossing that busy street.  

When my mother told me she would walk with me and we’d take it together, I informed her I was in the first grade and I could take it “all by myself.”  To my surprise, she said, “OK.”

I bravely started down the street.  The neighbor’s big dog barked.  I jumped and considered going home.  I looked around.  There was no one in sight.  I walked on.  I felt a little disoriented.  Even with my new glasses, things didn’t look quite the same when I was walking alone.

But I made it all the way to school and proudly delivered the form and returned home.  If my mother looked a bit tired, I never noticed.  Years later, she told me of how she had followed close behind, hiding behind trees and fending off the dog herself.  She also told me how proud she was of me when I was very careful crossing the street.

We may think we are walking alone in life, but we aren’t.  Even when we are being stubborn, God will guide us.  Even when we take a wrong turn, He is there, gently guiding us back on The Way.  We are never truly lost because we are with Him.

Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,  “This is The Way; walk in it.”     Isaiah 30:21

 

The Biggest Power We’ve Got!

As we approach Mother’s Day, I think not only of my mother, but of the man who made her a mother.

I think of my father, Horace Richard Priester.  When I think of the many things he taught me, one lesson stands out.

He often repeated, “Pray about it.  Prayer is the Biggest Power we’ve got.”  

Growing up, when I awoke each morning, I would find my mother on her knees next to their bed praying.  

My father would be praying in the living room, on his knees next to a chair.  

The house was filled with The Spirit of God, Who was welcomed by my parents.

They both recounted with joy the many ways God had answered their prayers through the years.  But one prayer that was answered brought tears to my father’s eyes every time he remembered.

My parents were married for ten years before my brother was born.  My mother said they wanted children, but it just didn’t happen.

She said even though it made her sad, she knew God knew best what The Plan was for their lives.  She said it was fine to ask God for what we believe we need, but we should be open to what He desires for us.

After ten years, my mother became pregnant.  My parents were ecstatic.  The pregnancy went well.

However, after my mother went into labor, there was a complication.  At one point, the doctor came out and told my father he did not know if he could save either mother or baby.

He asked my father if he could save one, which would he prefer to be saved.  My father told the doctor he wanted both to be saved.  He refused to make a choice.

The doctor went back into the delivery room.  My father said he paced more than any other man in the waiting room … and he prayed for hours.

He said he asked God to save them both, but he left The Plan to God.

And while one man of faith looked upward and waited, God pulled back the curtains of Heaven and answered.  

My mother survived.  And they welcomed their son, Horace Richard Priester, Jr. Into the world.

My parents were married for another 62 years before my mother’s death.

Eleven years after my brother was born, I entered the world.

They had us two children.  They had four grandchildren.  They had nine great grandchildren.  They had two great great grandchildren.

All of us are bonded in The Love of a Great and Merciful God, Who answered the prayer of a man, who refused to give up … and who trusted God with the Plan.

Horace Richard Priester, IV is soon graduating from Clemson University.   I’m sure his great grandfather will be observing from Heaven with a big smile of thanksgiving.

“Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His Power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

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