Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- When I Get To Heaven

I have to be honest...Before Hannah became a resident there, I really didn't think much about Heaven.  Sure, I wanted to go there someday, but I didn't really know anybody there, other than my grandparents, and, of course, Jesus.  And I looked forward to that day (distant, though it seemed, which was fine with me) because I knew it would be amazing to see Him..."I Can Only Imagine" and all that. 

Well, now that Hannah is there, my feelings have changed greatly.  I look forward every day to the moment I arrive there.  I must admit, though, I am a little conflicted about something. 

Would you think less of me if I told you that if Jesus is the first person I meet when I arrive, while He's hugging me, I'm going to be on my tiptoes peering over his shoulder looking for Hannah?  It's just the truth.

Brad read a book last week on the beach in which a father said he hoped that his child was sitting on Jesus's lap when he got to Heaven, so he could see both of them at the same time.  That would be pretty cool.

But Hannah was seventeen when she died, and I just can't really picture her sitting on Jesus's lap. 

And that's not really how I think it's going to be when I arrive in Heaven anyway.  Here's how I picture it.  I have no theological basis for this whatsoever...these are just my thoughts.

If I were to go there today, I think that Hannah would be the first person I would see.  As a matter of fact, for some reason, in my mind, I picture her grasping both of my hands and pulling me into Heaven from wherever I am.  We would fall into each other's arms and laugh and cry and hold each other for a long, long time.  When we had gotten our fill (it might take awhile), she would take me by the hand and together, we would greet all of our family members who were there....grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-great-great-etc. grandparents, and so on. 

All of this would take place at a very leisurely need to hurry like we do every day in this life...we have all the time we could ever possibly need.

After visiting with all the family, next I would want to meet the children of all the bereaved parents we've talked to over the last few years.  Most of them I never got to meet on earth, but their parents have become so precious to me, and their stories have been so amazing, I've just got to meet them.  And since I have this idea in my head that everytime we meet a bereaved parent here on earth, Hannah meets their child(ren) in Heaven, she'll be able to introduce me to all of them. 

After visiting with all of these amazing people, I would want to meet the Old Testament patriarchs...Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, Noah, David, Solomon, etc.  Can you imagine?  And then the folks from the New Testament...Mary and Joseph, Anna, Simeon, the woman at the well, Lazarus, Mary & Martha, the disciples, Paul, Silas, Timothy...the list could go on and on!  What a thought!

And by this this the point where my heart is about to burst with joy and gratitude and awe and only desire would be to meet the One, the One who made all of this possible through His sacrifice.  And my daughter, my daughter who is now so far superior to me in wisdom and grace, will ask me, "Are you ready?"  I will be speechless, only able to nod my head in affirmation.  And, still leading me by the hand, with the familiar ease of introducing me to a good friend, she will bring me to the throne of glory.  And I will tremble uncontrollably, fall to my knees, worship the One who died for me, and then finally, finally my joy will be complete.  Oh, glorious day!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wacky Wednesday -- "How 'Bout Cupcake?"

I just had to share this video that Bethany and I saw on America's Funniest Home Videos the other night. As a sweets fanatic myself, this is a child after my own heart!   Hope this video makes you smile, too!

P.S.  If you receive blog updates by email, you may need to link directly to my blog itself to view the video. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday -- "Flywheel"

Several months ago, I was at the checkout counter at our local Christian bookstore, perusing their $5.00 deals, when this video caught my eye.

I knew that this movie was made by the same folks who did "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof", and I figured it would probably be worth five bucks.  Hannah loved the movie "Facing the Giants", and someday I will write more about that.  But I brought "Flywheel" home, put it in the TV cabinet, and promptly forgot all about it.

The other day, I was digging through there looking for something else, and I ran across it, still unopened.  I decided that the next time we had a free evening, we would watch it.  Well, tonight, Brad and I had an evening at home all by ourselves, and I pulled it out and popped it in the DVD player. 

To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much.  I remember the first time I saw "Facing the Giants", and it took me a little while to get past the rather stilted acting and predictable dialogue before I became completely absorbed in the story.  I thought "Fireproof" was better as far as the acting and its overall quality.  Knowing that "Flywheel" was the first attempt by Sherwood Pictures, I had prepared myself for a somewhat cheesy, predictable story with inexperienced actors.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised!  No, the production quality and the acting were not exactly up to Hollywood standards...but that was actually kind of refreshing.  The story line was engaging, and contained enough twists and turns to keep me guessing about how things were going to work out.  I guess I've become kind of a sap over the past few years, but several scenes moved me to tears.  It was a beautiful story about salvation, redemption, restoration, and faith, and it was a great reminder of how important it is to trust God, even when it feels like everything is flying out of control. 

"Flywheel"...Definitely a good way to spend an evening with the family!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Mourning -- Heavenly Wisdom

Will you indulge me for a few minutes of shameless boasting?  Thank you.

Hannah was a very intelligent young lady.  She was a straight-A student all through school, even in the second semester of her sophomore year, when she underwent brain surgery and radiation therapy.  She won nearly every academic award given during her freshman and sophomore years, including overall "outstanding student" both years.  Her biggest concern when she was in the hospital prior to her surgery was getting behind in her schoolwork and losing her opportunity to be the valedictorian.  She was an extremely competitive student (to a fault), and always went above and beyond what was required of her in class. 

Her junior year was off to a great start, when her cancer returned in late September.  She had to drop out of school for a few months to do another round of extensive radiation and to start a new kind of chemotherapy.  By mid-December, she was well enough to return to school for a few days before Christmas break.  On her first day back to school, she walked into her World History class, only to find out that they were taking a test that day.  The teacher gave them a few minutes to look over their notes before taking the test.  Of course, she could have been exempt from taking the test since she had not been present for any of the material, but she chose to look over a friend's notes and take it.  She got a 100%...after only a few minutes of studying completely unfamiliar material.

Right after Christmas break, Hannah's health began to deteriorate rapidly, and she never did return to school.  It wasn't long before the cancer attacking her brain brought her to a state of almost child-like simplicity.  It was a heartbreaking thing to watch, and to be perfectly honest, it just felt so unfair.

And then Hannah went to Heaven.  And I believe that as soon as she entered her new home, her intelligence was not only restored, it was transformed into wisdom.  A wisdom beyond anything I can even imagine.  And I believe that the longer she is in Heaven, the more wisdom she gains. 

Now, when I feel sad about all that she had to suffer through, the indignities she had to endure, the losses she had to experience ... I picture her, surrounded by the splendor of Heaven, saying, "C'mon, Mom.  It's fine.  All that stuff you're thinking about -- that was just a second, just the blink of an eye -- it was nothing!  None of that matters now.  I'm better than I've ever been.  Just wait 'til you get'll see!" 

And won't it be awesome when I do get there, and I'm able to sit beside her and learn from her what she's been taught by the Master Himself!   After I've spent the first thousand years or so just hugging her neck, that is!  What an amazing experience that will be....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- Seaweed

We have been on vacation this week, thus the lack of posts since last Thursday.  We arrived at Panama City Beach, Florida, last Saturday, and will be enjoying our last day at the beach tomorrow. 

We have really enjoyed the opportunity to get away.  The condo where we are staying is lovely, the weather has been perfect, and the sunsets have been spectacular...

The only down side of the week has been the "June Grass"...thick, slimy seaweed that, according to the locals, usually only shows up in June.  This year, it has made its appearance in the middle of July.  Here's the view off our 18th floor balcony on the day we arrived...

And here's the view a couple of days ago, on a particularly still morning...

You can see that the water is actually very beautiful, and is a lovely aquamarine color when the sun shines on it, but that seaweed has just not given us a break.

We've still had a lot of, eating, walking out on the pier,

and Bethany and her friend even went parasailing...

We even took the obligatory family photo on the beach (although we didn't really coordinate our wardrobe very well)...

So what have I been thoughtful about this week?  Well, I've thought a lot about Hannah, and how it still just doesn't feel right to take a family vacation without her.  I've thought about Heaven, as I've looked at the beauty of God's creation all around me.  I've thought about the future, as Bethany will be starting her junior year in just a few weeks.

And I've thought about the seaweed.  Hannah would have hated the seaweed.  It really hasn't bothered us much....we've gone right into the water just as if it wasn't there.  The other thing she wouldn't have liked are all the schools of little fish we've been seeing (in the clear spots between the seaweed).  She had kind of a funny fear of fish swimming around her like that...and I'm really not sure she would even have gone into the water with all that seaweed...not being able to see what was around her feet and legs.

Hannah actually had a lot of little fears.  Before she was diagnosed with cancer, that is.  After her diagnosis, it seemed as though she was never afraid of anything again.  She faced brain sugery, radiation, chemotherapy, going bald, countless MRIs, and more...all without fear.  One time, when they were lying in bed together at night, Bethany asked Hannah if she was scared that she might die from her cancer.  "No," she replied, with disdain in her voice, as if she couldn't believe Bethany even asked her that question. 

How did she do that?  How did she go from being a world-class worrier to a fearless warrior?  The only answer is her faith in God.  Her belief that her storm was fully under His control removed all fear. 

I'm so thankful for the example my teenage daughter set for me.  And I'm so thankful that my God is powerful enough to change a worrier into a warrior.  If He could do it for her, He can do it for me, and you...and you....and you....and you....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- A Challenge

Taken from Joni Eareckson Tada's book, "A Place of Healing:  Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty"...

"If you're facing what seems to be an overwhelming situation in your life this week, I want to encourage you to stand firm.  Don't let this thing fill up your whole horizon.  Don't let your anxieties swallow you up or drain your faith dry.  Rather, stand firm and take action.  Take it as an opportunity to do a little research of your own into God's Word.  Compare Bible verses with each other; investigate the examples of Paul or Joseph or Daniel or Peter and how they dealt with bad news and suffering in their lives.

What a waste of an illness or injury if we read--or go on talking--day and night about that illness, that injury, and not about the God who allowed it for His own sovereign reasons.

My friend Dave Powlison has some very good advice in that regard.

Dave is a professor at the Christian Counseling Education Foundation.  He's also fighting a war with a cancer that seeks to ravage his body.  Used to being a man on the go, Dave has been forced to slow down and learn some new lessons in patience as he walks through this unexpected season of life.  I've never had to face cancer myself  [Actually, Joni is now facing a battle with breast cancer], but as I've watched Dave, I have drawn so much encouragement, so much help and hope, just observing the way he approaches the challenges of this disease.

As you well know, cancer is such an alarming word; it immediately spreads fear and doubt.  Dave has gone through the usual chemotherapy routines--the waiting, the uncertainty, and the awful reaction to the drugs.  But I'm amazed at the way he has kept his emotional balance...and his courage.

In the face of all the fear, pain, and sickness, just listen to what Dave wrote to me not long ago:

'Joni, I have learned that for every one sentence you say to others about your cancer,
say ten sentences about your God, your hope, and what He is teaching you,
and the small blessings of each day. 
For every hour you spend researching or discussing your cancer,
spend ten hours researching and discussing and serving your Lord. 
Relate all that you are learning about cancer back to Him and His purposes,
and you won't become obsessed with fears and doubts.'

The truth is, in this world it's a 100 percent guarantee that we will suffer.  But at the same time, Jesus Christ is 100 percent certain to meet us, encourage us, comfort us, grace us with strength and perseverance, and yes, even restore joy in our lives.  Your Savior is 100 percent certain to be with you through every challenge.

The Bible tells us time and again that God is faithful, and greater is He who is in you than any ache or pain or even terminal illness.

Remember today, if you start talking about your health issues--or any problems, for that matter--be sure to talk also about the grace of our wonderful Lord to sustain and save!"

And this is the challenge that has me thinking on this "Thoughtful Thursday"!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tell About It Tuesday -- World Magazine

I've been what I would describe as a compulsive reader for as long as I can remember.  You may recall that I don't actually remember learning how to day, when I was about 3 1/2 years old, I just could.  And since that day, I've never stopped reading.

When I was a kid eating my breakfast cereal every morning, I would sit and read every word on the cereal box, even the ingredients.  (Remember when they used to have games on the back of the box?  And always a secret toy surprise inside, too.)  Riding down the highway, I would read every single billboard.  (At least I didn't read them all out loud, like my grandparents used to do.)  I even remember reading whole sections of our Funk and Wagnall's encylopedias when I didn't have anything new to read.  When I was in junior high, a teacher caught me with a paperback book tucked inside my textbook, and she was so angry she literally tore my book to shreds in front of the whole class.  Can you imagine...a teacher physically tearing up a book because a kid was reading too much?

When I was growing up, our bathroom at home was always well supplied with copies of the Reader's Digest.  I loved testing my vocabulary with the "Word Power" quizzes and chuckling at the "Laughter Is the Best Medicine" stories.  Every issue contained an article called "Drama in Real Life", in which someone would be trapped in a blizzard on top of Mount Everest or be attacked by a mama grizzly bear protecting her cubs, or some such misadventure.  That was always the article I turned to first.  The Reader's Digest sure helped pass the time in the bathroom.

So in an effort to keep up the family tradition of having quality literature available in the bathroom at all times, I've been a subscriber to World Magazine for a number of years. 

What is World Magazine?  Think Newsweek or Time, but written from a Christian worldview.  The editor-in-chief is Marvin Olasky, once a self-professed atheist who embraced Communism, and now an evangelical Christian who embraces conservatism.  It not only contains well-written articles on politics and current news events, it includes book, music, and movie reviews, op-ed pieces, interviews with newsmakers (both Christian and non-Christian), and human interest stories ... all written from a Christian perspective.  Sports, business, education, health, national and international news...they are all covered.

It is published every two weeks, and each year they publish a special "Books" issue (my favorite), as well as featuring an annual "Daniel of the Year"...a person or persons who have taken a strong stand for Christ, in spite of persection or oppression.  They also highlight various compassionate conservative projects taking place around the nation, which are always interesting to read about.

The writers of World Magazine are unabashedly pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and pro-compassionate conservatism, all the while acknowledging that we live in a fallen world where lost people are going to behave as lost people. 

As Christians, I think we have a responsibility to be aware of what is going on around the world, as well as in our own American backyards.  We should thoughtfully and prayerfully elect people to office who share our world view, and hold them accountable at the ballot box if they do not conduct themselves in an ethical and moral manner.  We should be knowledgeable about the culture in which we live, being in the world, but not of the world. 

So, if you would like to keep up with what's going on in the world, and would enjoy having your news written from a Christian perspective (and you're seeking some high quality bathroom reading material), I highly recommend World Magazine

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Mourning -- Missing The Future

When an older loved one dies, like a grandparent, you miss that person, and you miss the life you had with that person. 

But when your child dies (or a young spouse, I would imagine) you not only miss the life you had with that person ... you miss the future that you would have had with that person.

Does that make sense ... that you can "miss the future"?

This past Saturday evening, we attended the wedding of a co-worker's daughter.  The wedding was a beautiful affair, complete with a glowing bride and beaming groom, numerous smiling attendants, proud parents and grandparents, and a lavishly appointed reception.

And as I sat and watched the nuptials unfold, all I could think about was how much I missed the future.

-- I missed the son-in-law whom I will never meet.

-- I missed going wedding dress shopping and finding that "perfect" dress.

-- I missed all the wedding preparations ... showers, invitations, music, flowers, cakes, etc.

-- I missed hearing Brad say, "Her mother and I", in response to the pastor's question.

-- I missed "You may kiss the bride."

-- I missed the cutting of the cake.

-- I missed the leaving for the honeymoon.

-- I missed the grandchildren who will never be born.

And I ached for Brad, who will never walk Hannah down the aisle, and for Bethany, who will not have a sister to stand beside her as her maid of honor.

Ahhhh, but thank God there is another wedding to come in the future.  And I'm not talking about Bethany's, as much as I'm looking forward to that someday (but not anytime soon!). 

I'm talking about a ceremony much more elaborate and awe-inspiring than any earthly wedding.  Here is what the Word of God says about that wedding...

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  'Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.'...Then the angel said to me, 'Write this:  Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'  And he added, 'These are the true words of God.'"  Revelation 19: 6-9 NIV

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth -- Favorite Children's Books

My favorite quote from the movie "You've Got Mail" is when Kathleen, the heroine, says this..."When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."  Don't you love that?  If you were a reader as a child, I know that quote rings true with you.

So, in honor of summer reading season, here are the ten books that "became a part of my identity" as a child...

1.  "The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh" by A. A. Milne.  The illustrations, of course, are beautiful, but my favorite thing about the Winnie the Pooh stories was the way the author used the text on the page to illustrate the blustery days and the floody woods.  I absolutely love these stories. 

2.  "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum.  Of course, I loved the movie (Who didn't?), but the book was soooo much better!  There's so much in the book that didn't make it into the movie....the Quadlings, the china princess, the Hammerheads, etc.  I also loved "The Patchwork Girl of Oz."

3.  "Misty of Chincoteague" by Marguerite Henry.  I loved books about horses, and this one was my favorite.  Stunning illustrations and a simply beautiful story.  Other books by Henry are good as well, including "Stormy, Misty's Foal" and "Brighty of the Grand Canyon."

4.  "Anne of Green Gables" by L. M. Montgomery.  A beautifully written story about Ann with an "e", a spirited red-headed girl adopted by an elderly brother and sister who intended to adopt a boy to help out on their farm.  As a shy, introverted child myself, I was absolutely enthralled by Anne's adventures.

5.  "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom.  I guess this is not typically a children's book, but I read it as a child and loved it.  Being of Dutch heritage myself, I was fascinated by the insight into the Dutch culture of that period in the early part of the book, and inspired by Corrie and Betsy's unwavering faith in spite of great suffering in the latter part. 

6.  "Bambi" by Felix Salten.  Yes, there really is such a book, and it predates the Disney movie version by nearly twenty years.  And as is usually true, it is sooooo much better than the movie version.  I loved it so much that I read it multiple times.  (That's actually true of every book on this list, but I think I read this book more times than any other.)  I remember checking it out of my elementary school library in Wisconsin over and over.  And then a couple of years ago, I ran across it at our school library ... in a stack of books about to be discarded!  I snatched it up and am thrilled that it is now part of my own personal library. 

7.  The "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  All of them.  I read them over and over.  I wanted to be Laura.  I also loved the TV series, but nothing could match the beauty and simplicity of the stories in these books. 

8.  "Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell.  I loved how this book was written from the perspective of the horse.  I remember being able to almost feel the bit in my mouth and the blinkers over my eyes as I read this one.

9.  "Charlotte's Web" by E. B. White.  What's not to love about Charlotte's Web?  Wilbur was truly some pig, Templeton was such a nasty beast, and Charlotte A. Cavitica was the perfect heroine.  And Fern...well, I wanted to be Fern, too.  After all, her pig's life is saved, and then she gets to ride on the ferris wheel with Henry Fussy.  What could be cooler than that?

10.  "The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe" by C. S. Lewis.  I absolutely loved this book as a child, but I never could seem to get into the other books in the series ... until a couple of years ago, that is, when I read the entire series.  In fact, I believe I got far more out of the series as an adult than I would ever have gotten out of it as a child. 

How about you?  What are the books that became a part of you because you read them as a child?  I'd love to hear from you on this topic ... just leave a comment below.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Free-for-All Friday

A few random items on this Free-for-All Friday....

1.  Remember the little girl I posted about a few weeks ago?  Well, last week sweet little Glory girl got to come home from the hospital for the first time in her eleven months of life!  And I'm happy to report that she's doing well and enjoying spending time with her siblings and parents.  She still has a long road ahead of her, but this is a huge step in the right direction!  Please continue to keep her in your prayers...

2.  We now have brochures printed with all the information about the various "While We're Waiting" retreats for moms, dads, and couples.  If you would like for me to send you one (or more) to share with friends or family, please email me or leave a comment below with your address, and I'll be happy to put some in the mail to you!

3.  Bethany started back to basketball practice this week.  This may not seem like a big deal ... but this return to basketball comes after a fractured bone in her forearm, followed by a partial tear of the plantar fascia in her right foot, followed by a recent flare-up of mono.  So, to say I am thankful for something as seemingly minor as a return to basketball practice is an understatement.  She is doing well, and I am so proud of her for a multitude of reasons. 

4.  We are heading to northwest Arkansas this weekend to attend a wedding.  I have not been to a wedding since Hannah went to Heaven nearly 2 1/2 years ago.  Hmmmm....that could be the topic of my next "Monday Mourning post.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday -- The Casey Anthony Case

Daniel 7: 9-10 -- "As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.  A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened."

I have no idea whether Casey Anthony took the life of her beautiful little girl or not.  I certainly have some opinions about the matter, based on the evidence presented.  And I can say with confidence that Casey Anthony's behavior is not typical of any bereaved mom I have ever met.  But I also can honestly say that I'm very glad I was not a member of that jury.

But whether or not this young mother bears any responsibility for her child's death, the fact remains that a two-year-old girl is dead, and it is questionable at this point whether justice will ever be served.

In this life, anyway.

I participated in the "Daniel" study by Beth Moore this past fall, and in one of the videos she said something that really struck me.  According to Beth (I like to pretend we're on a first-name basis), whenever the Bible refers to God as the "Ancient of Days" it is referring to Him as judge.  And she pointed out that as the Ancient of Days, He always has been and always will be. 

That means that He knows ... He knows about every injustice that has been committed since the beginning of creation.  And He knows who committed each one. 

So when we feel outraged at the injustices we see all around us ... we can rest in the knowledge that the Ancient of Days is on His throne.

And here's the best part.  We already know what's at the end of the Book!

Daniel 7: 13-14 -- "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed."

P.S.  For an excellent summary of a Christian response to the Casey Anthony trial, click here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wacky Wednesday -- Dining Dogs

Sorry for the brief hiatus in posting (so much for my plan for daily posts this summer)!  We had a house full of company over the Fourth of July holiday.  My aunt and uncle from Indiana came for a visit and brought their beautiful boat...

So we've been spending the last several days hanging out with them and my parents, and doing all sorts of fun lake activities like this...

Anyway, things are settling down a little bit again around here...just in time for Wacky Wednesday!

A dear family friend, "Mema", sent me this video the other day, and I really got a kick out of it.  It's lots of fun to watch....Enjoy!