What’s in a Name?

This year, as I have become more serious about walking, a whole new world of names has opened up to me.

I now have conversations that involve the words ‘shoe last’ and ‘wicking fabric’ and ‘yoga head wrap and ‘polar fleece’  I have brand knowledge of such brands as Reebok©, Adidas©, Champion©, Polartec©, New Balance©, and PrAna©, to name a few.

It is a whole new world!

But…especially at this time of year…I cannot help but think of other names…names that are infinitely more important…

Names like Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Mighty God, Prince of Peace

This year as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the boys and I are working our way through Carol Garborg’s The Family Book of Advent (http://www.christianbook.com/advent-stories-activities-celebrate-meaning-christmas/carol-garborg/9781609365417/pd/365417?product_redirect=1&Ntt=365417&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP).  Each day, we read devotions, complete object lesson activities…and write the names of our Lord and Savior to hang on a wreath (we are doing a tree instead).

Each time we hit a “name alert” in the book, we are reminded of the richness, the completeness, the depth of love our Lord has for us.  He came to live and die so He would understand us…and so He could save us.  Mind blowing, when you think about it.

And much, much more important than walking gear.

I pray the whole world sees that!

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:9-11

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Testimony Today

I gave a testimony at our church this morning:

Testimony 11-11-12
            Today, I am grateful for many things.
            First of all, today is Veteran’s Day, a day dedicated to those brave enough, devoted enough, to be willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others.  I praise God for the men and women willing to be of service to their country, regardless of the cost.  There are many veterans in this room.  Thank you for your service to this great country of ours.
            Today is also my 17th wedding anniversary.  Two days ago, Friday, was the 5th anniversary of Keith’s graduation to Glory.
            Today, for me, is bittersweet…but mostly sweet.
            It is in this loss that our family has really learned to be grateful.
            I have much to be grateful for in having been married to such a wonderful, Godly husband.  His Christian example has helped to make the boys and me into the people we are today, and his dedication to Christ and Christian principles have allowed us to go on without him…and even to thrive.
            I look around this congregation and see much to be grateful for as well.
            Several of you were there on the day Keith and I married.  You have been with us since the beginning, welcoming each of our boys in succession, watching us grow and change with each passing year.
            I see even more who have been there every step of the way since Keith’s death.
            In these past five years, the boys and I have confidently, consistently, completely felt your support and love.
            Whether it was Mother’s Day or birthday gifts, home and car repairs, or support for the boys as they become men, this congregation has listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and helped out my family.
            That’s what community is supposed to be…the church as described in Acts.
            I can never fully express what that means to me…and to them.
            Mostly, though, on this day I am grateful to a God who loves me in spite of my failings with a passion that I learn more of each day.  He holds me in the palm of His hand…and He always will.  He loves me enough to hone the rough edges…and to make glory out of my ashes.  He quite literally floors me with His love.
            I am thankful that in my grief and sorrow, He has not left me but instead has allowed me to grow ever closer to Him, being my Husband in a new and special way.
            I have learned many lessons over the past 5 years.  Some of them have been painful; some of them have been very painful.  But the most important lesson my family and I have learned is that God is always there.  On the good days, on the bad days, in the middle of the night, on the road trips, as the boys grow.  Always.
            And I am grateful.  So, so grateful.

Five Years…Wow!

Five years ago today, my beloved husband journeyed on to Glory.

So much has changed in that time…yet so much has stayed the same.

When Keith died:

  • there were no IPads and the IPhone was brand new
  • we had not had an African American president
  • Osama Bin Laden was still at large
  • Haiti had not been severely damaged by an earthquake and Japan had not suffered a tsunami
  • we had not suffered a good-sized earthquake in Northern Virginia
  • Kosovo had not declared itself an independent country and been recognized as such
  • Facebook, Twitter, and blogs were not commonly used by everyone and did not provide a major vehicle for communication
  • the housing market was slipping but had not crashed

In our own family:

  • I was still taller than all of my children
  • we did not have a dog at all, much less two
  • Jackson and Tanner could not read
  • Alex did not play guitar and had no interest in being in the praise band
  • we were not out for much of anything past 7:30 at night
  • I did not get up at 5:00 to spend precious quiet time with Jesus every morning
  • we did not have company at every holiday, and any time we could think of an occasion to have people over

Yet so many things have stayed the same:

  • I am blessed and  privileged to still be able to homeschool my boys
  • I live in the same home, the dream home Keith so lovingly painted with all 17 paint colors I wanted
  • I have friends who have stuck by me for these five years, taking care of me and the boys, from the moment Keith died until now
  • Our church continues to be a home and a haven, blessing us and allowing us to bless them
  • God is still God – in His heaven, in control, in my corner, in my life…each and every day, and in each and every situation
  • I am His beloved daughter and by His grace I can stand – each and every day

And because of these blessings…because of this God and His love for little old me, I can have survived these five years.

And, by His grace, I will survive many more. 

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.  My mouth will tell of Your righteous deeds, of Your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all. — Psalm 71:14-15

A Good Day to Remember

We are a military family.  We always have been.  We always will be.  No matter what happens.  It is something of which we are very proud.

Keith was buried at Quantico, the Crossroads of the Marine Corps, as per his will.  Each Memorial Day, you can find us there.

It is a good day for remembering.

We remember Keith:  his quirky smile, his annoyed face (the “ferp” face), his infectious laugh.

We also remember bigger things:  that freedom isn’t free, that men and women are in harm’s way even as we barbeque, that others carry burdens as big as ours.

It is a day for the waterproof mascara.

I wish you could see Quantico National Cemetery today.  Four-hundred-plus next-of-kin flags grace the drives, waving proudly, bravely, majestically.  It is a day of pageantry there as we listen to the Marine Corps Band, and Taps and a three-round volley play a tattoo in the hearts of all present.  It is worth every tear.

As we sing God Bless America, I can really see it and know it in my heart.  A little, upstart group of colonists, under-trained and under-prepared, beats the great military power of the day.  It is a story with blessings of Biblical proportions.

God has blessed America.

I pray that we will always remember that and act accordingly.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. — Galatians 5:1

In Praise of Girlfriends

You know who you are.

Or maybe you don’t…

You’re the one who complimented me on my children’s behavior on the day I felt like a failure as a mother.

You’re the one who called at dinner time nearly nightly to get the debrief of the day.

You’re the one who laughed with me about men and marriage and sex on the days I wanted to cry and wallow in self-pity.

You’re the one who bought the flowers Keith would have bought for our anniversary.

You’re the one who thought to include us in your holiday gathering rather than let us be alone.

You’re the one who called from miles away to tell me you were holding me and the Lord was holding me.

You’re the one who saw to it my grass was mowed when I was overwhelmed with the kids and would have let it grow over the top of the house.

You’re the one who brought over a check on Christmas Day to cover expenses you had no idea I worried about.

You’re the one who watched my kids so I could have dinner with a friend without the constant clamor of “Hey, Mom, guess what…”

You’re the one who cleaned my bathroom on your hands and knees just as it was beginning to resemble one in a gas station.

You’re the one who prayed for me while you were getting ready for church Sunday mornings, figuring I was facing some challenges (I was).

You’re the one who checked in on me while I was driving long distances, and insisted I call when I got there.

You’re the one who cried with me at the cemetery on Memorial Day, and brought flowers for Keith’s grave.

You’re the one who took me for my first pedicure on Mother’s Day and sat laughing with me.

You’re the one who shared out of your bounty for the holidays to make sure I had something to open, too.

You’re the one who still called me with your prayer needs, realizing that I needed to take the focus off me and do things for God.

You’re the one who pulled up a tissue and sat down, chocolate in hand, to spend an hour with me.

You’re the one who listened when Jesus whispered in your ear that I needed you.

And for that I thank you.

From the bottom of my heart.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

A Happy Mother’s Day

My love language is gifts.  (read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, www.5lovelanguages.com)

That means that the holidays and I continually do this great dance to see if my needs will feel met.  It’s just the way it is.  Not right or wrong, just reality.

When Keith was alive, we exchanged gifts at each holiday.  I was usually happy to give him hints, pick it out myself, or call some house project my “gift.”

But not for my birthday.  Then, I needed a surprise.

Since Keith’s death, God has continued to send me surprises.

Even for Mother’s Day…maybe especially for Mother’s Day.

We are on the eve of my fifth Mother’s Day without Keith and each year God has touched the heart of someone to bless me in an amazing way.

One year, a dear friend took me for a pedicure while her hubby and my boys cleaned out and washed my car.

One year, I looked out the window to find my sweet neighbors mulching my front beds.

One year, friends came over to make breakfast at my house.

One year, flowers arrived the Saturday before.

It is almost like Christmas morning when I was a kid, when I eagerly tripped down the stairs to see what Santa left me.  Wise Santa, my parents told me, always knew what I needed and of my list what would be the best gift.

This year, God had a gift planned as well.

My dear, sweet friends from a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers, www.mops.org) group felt led to make Mother’s Day baskets for our widows’ group.

When they asked me months ago whether they could do this project, I was touched.  When I saw baskets, I was flabbergasted.

These were not tokens.  The ladies went all-out in filling the baskets until each one was a rich, loving expression, mom-to-mom, of what a struggle it is, what a joy but a pain it is to be a mom.  They may not be single moms, but they got it, appreciated us.

When we picked them up, they overflowed the back of my car.  I cried.

But that was the beginning of the gift to me.

I got to have the joy of delivering these precious baskets to each of the ladies, to see their faces, feel their gratitude, wipe their tears.

God in action!  And, praise Him, I got to be part of it!

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18

Flowers and Candy

For those of you who saw my last post, I had been more distant from the Lover of my soul than I had wanted.

I had the opportunity on Sunday to tell some people how much they have meant to me and my family, something as a people I don’t think we do enough of.  I shared how they had blessed us and I think that blessed them as well.

Then my Lover sent flowers and candy to my soul.  My connection with Him deepened in just that moment.  I felt His presence to the point of tears.

Funny how often the fix for me is to look outside myself and do something for someone else!

Here is the prayer that winged its way from my heart onto the page at that moment:

Gracious and awesome Lord – I am humbled by Your love and care for me and my byos.  It brings me to my knees emotionally to think of what good care You take of us.  Even though today, especially, I miss Keith more than ever, I wouldn’t change my life, where we have gone, where we are going, for amything because You are there, there, there!  I can’t imgine my life not being as it is now.  I glory in serving You, in being Your instrument to allow others to step up and help us and therefore bless us and further Your kingdom.  Help me to never, never forget that — or my boys to forget that.  I love You!  Help me to live for You always, always, always!