Monday, September 30, 2013

6 Things to do if you receive the “C” diagnosis

Thought I might need to follow up on "6 Things to do when it's scary and you're waiting" because sometimes when an unexpected result from a pathology report comes back, we need some help figuring out what to do next. Here are "6 things to do if you receive the 'C' diagnosis"
 
I know firsthand the baffled feeling that immediately follows a cancer diagnosis. It’s as if you’ve been struck by lightning, and all your circuits are blown.

It happened to me as the flowers bloomed on a lovely spring afternoon in May.

How could anything bad happen on a day like that?

 
 

If you or someone you know has just been diagnosed with the “C” word, you realize it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what your name is, where you live,  who your friends are, or what the season is, cancer can strike anyone at anytime.

I remember after I returned from the doctor, I sat down on a bench outside my back door, and felt paralyzed, not knowing what to do next.

When the shock wears off, you’re going to need a plan to get through the next few days.

Here are 6 things to do to help navigate these present choppy waters:

1.  Don’t put your trust in statistics. Everyone wants to make a good treatment decision, so information is critical to that goal. However, surfing the internet ten hours a day, reading every possible scenario, constantly absorbing what can be negative survival rates takes a toll mentally. You are not a statistic. You are a precious, beloved child of God. God deals with you individually and hears every prayer you pray. Make an informed, intelligent decision, but put your trust in a mighty God.

2. Hang out with Godly encouragers. If possible, limit your interaction with people who went to the Eeyore School, but be prepared for a few negative remarks. Someone may want to tell you in detail about Aunt Susie’s long, terrible and terminal fight with cancer  (I heard stories like this). NOT what you need to hear right now. Choose to spend time with people who offer you hope and the word of God. If the caller ID flashes the name of a negative person, you don’t have to answer.

3.  Stay engaged. Don’t adopt a sick person mentality. Continue to live your life as normally as possible. Of course, things will feel upside down, but go to your son’s soccer game, your daughter’s ballet recital. Attend that family wedding.

4.  Ask for help. If you need assistance in some way, others may not know unless you tell them. Usually, people are more than willing to bring a meal, to pray for you, or just be with you. But they may not think of it on their own. It’s okay to need help.

5.  Stay grounded in scripture. When the fear monster rears its head, holding to the word of God will sustain. And as I suggested in 5 Things to do when it’s scary and your waiting, make sure you remind yourself of scripture throughout the day.

6.  Look for beauty. God can use a cancer diagnosis to reorient our lives to the goodness of his hand. Notice the small gifts of grace in your life. You may find it transformative.

Of course, when treatment begins, some of these suggestions are not as feasible as others. But you get the idea.

One of the scriptures God brought repeatedly to me was Romans 5:3-5. Here it is from The Message:

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”

I believe cancer is part of the brokenness of this life, but if God has allowed it, he can definitely use it. So, even during this time of finding a new normal, round up those containers for all that God would pour into your life.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

6 things to do if it’s really scary and you’re waiting

I was speaking with a friend who’s awaiting a health diagnosis, and found myself repeating something I’ve said many times before.

I’ve heard that if you find yourself repeating information, you probably need to write about it.



 

I’ve had six surgeries, and five of them had impending pathology reports. That doesn’t count the umpteen diagnostic tests I’ve had which required waiting for results.

Early on, my husband Jerry would come home during one of the waiting times, and find the milk in the kitchen cabinet, the dishtowel in the refrigerator, and a glass in the trash. I’d think I was fine, but my subconscious said otherwise. I’d just distanced myself from the fear, but I found some ways through.

So here are a few tips in no particular order to help you live more fully during the time you wait:

1.  Clean. Don’t laugh. I found that balancing my checkbook during waiting times could be disastrous, but I have a bathroom floor, which was put down when Johnson was in the White House. It requires hand and knees cleaning, and never quite looks right. I’m telling you it sparkles right before I have a surgery. Some might say it gave me an element of control when circumstances seemed out of control, but using my hands to do something constructive helps me not to focus so much on the impending result.

2.  Post scriptures around the house. When your mind takes a sharp left into the scary place, it’s easy to get lost unless you have a road sign to help lead you out. Scripture does that. Let the words of God be the last ones you think about at night, and the first ones you wake up with in the morning. Make your waiting about waiting on the Lord. So get that printer going. Biblegateway.com is my friend.

3.  Anchor yourself in the moment. I wish I had back the time I used to waste worrying over some result. Enjoy your family now. Enjoy time with friends now. Don’t let a health scare steal your precious time with your family.

4.  Make sure your support group is intact. You need a team. You can’t do this on your own. Sometimes, when I’ve been waiting, I couldn’t even pray. You need people to lift you to the Lord, to remind you of His promises, to encourage you.

5. Learn to receive. Women are such givers; it’s often hard for them to receive grace. If someone offers to help you, or be with you, or grants you some kindness, say, “Thank you.”

6.  Get outside. The beauty of nature draws me out of myself, and I think most people find that true. Bask in the wonder of God’s creation.

I looked back to articles I wrote right after I had breast cancer, to check for anything else that I could share here. Even, so close to the hard days, I wrote that God always does something beautiful in the waiting. One of the loveliest experiences I’ve ever had came during one of these times.

When my big breast cancer surgery had to be delayed, we took a short beach trip. I’d have surgery the day after we returned. One night on the boardwalk, a band began playing familiar music. My husband and I found ourselves dancing along the boardwalk under the stars while our children played at our feet. It seemed we were dancing right in the face of cancer.

And we were.

To this day, I can still feel the warm breeze, and the music playing, and being held in my husband’s arms.

Watch for these moments during the time you wait. It can be extraordinary.

And don’t worry if you do put the milk in the cabinet. The days are getting cooler now. It’ll keep.

"But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind" (Isaiah 40:31 The Message)
 

 

Monday, September 23, 2013

What to do with rejection



I came across some wisdom this week I thought might be of benefit to not only writers, but others, as well. So stay with me here.

Writers hone a manuscript for months and years, trying to raise the writing to the highest possible level. Let’s face it; it’s never going to be perfect. Leonardo da Vinci is sometimes credited as saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At a point when one can’t stand to look at our manuscript one more second, we submit it for consideration.

After writing tens of thousands of words and years of investment, someone like an editor or an agent considers the work and makes a decision.

And then the rejections can come, but more often we don’t hear from the submission. We can only deduce after months of waiting, that a rejection is implied.

Therefore, the writer attempts to shake it off, and . . . start all over. Writing tens of thousands of words, investing more years and producing another manuscript.

More rejections. More silence.

Write, submit, reject, repeat.

I saw a graph recently that indicated the average time it takes to get a royalty contract is ten years. That’s right, ten years.

And after the tens of thousands words turn into hundreds of thousands, and then  a million, one can start to believe that little voice in the head that says, “You are a failure.”


I received  Rachelle Gardner’s blog for Books and Such
this week entitled “What is the opposite of success?” In it, she writes the opposite of success is not failure, “the opposite of success is learning."
 

Taking that view helps one reframe those rejections, because sometimes within them can be one kernel of information that might help us craft future work. Years ago, in a rejection, an editor remarked positively on quotes I’d included in a manuscript. By God’s grace, I was able to allow that comment to inspire a whole story line that turned out to be my screenplay, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, which was a finalist for the Kairos Prize. If I had failed to listen to that editor, I might have missed the next thing God had for me.

Gardner says, “The point is not to wallow in failure, but instead to appreciate the learning.” If we can flip the rejection, we’ll often find a bridge to the next thing God has for us. I think of Malcolm Gladwell who wrote in Outliers, that, “. . . researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” Ten thousand hours of labor at that which you long to excel.

In many ways, it boils down to continuing to read and learn, and working really hard.

For those of you attempting to do things which make you vulnerable to rejection, and you’re getting  those, “Thank you for your interest, but . . .” messages, keep up your courage.

If you’re like me, prone to wallowing occasionally, let’s get up and press on. We’re just learning.

A lot.

For writers out there, please subscribe to literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog. It’s one of the best in the industry.
 
"That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good" (Romans 8:28 The Message).
 

 

 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An empty nest and what to do with it


Dropping in to offer up prayers for those affected by the tragedy in the Washington D.C. Naval yard. With a heavy heart, I submit it's all the more reason to invest in young leaders.

I looked on the internet and didn’t find much when I googled “what to do with an empty nest.”


 
It all happened so quickly. They were here and then they weren't.
Cracked the shell, ate the worms, and took off.
I’ve heard tales of women who said, “Sure am glad the kids have moved out of the house.”

But I don’t get it. Not at all.

I’m watching a couple of fledgling cardinals now at the feeder. Mottled in appearance, part down, part feathers, they peck away; maybe unaware their mama still sits up in the trees nearby. She deserves an award to raise her brood in the yard stalked by that terror known as Mama Kitty.

I’m thankful for my kids’ independence, that they’re doing what they want to do, that one of them is months away from graduating university. And the other only a year behind.

I write devotions, and blog posts, and novels, and proposals, and screenplays, and synopses, and articles, and crazy stories about kittens, but I miss them. I miss my kids. And when I say that, I don’t mean I think they should move back to keep me company, or change the arc of their lives. I just mean I miss them. And the last one now gone for going on three years, and that feeling hasn’t changed.

I miss their opinions and their sideways looks. I miss their laughter. I miss talking with them, hearing what they think.

 So, this is what they mean by the empty nest.

The cardinals split the air, wings spread.

I keep writing.

I don’t know when the feeling of empty nest gives way to something else.

I don’t.

But I do know to look around and see where else I might be of service to another generation. And that’s why I’m volunteering at this year’s Catalyst Conference in Atlanta.

From their website: “Catalyst Atlanta is a powerful gathering of young leaders, a movement of influencers and world changers who love Jesus, see things differently, and feel a burden for our generation. We seek to learn, worship and create together with a momentous energy passionately pursuing God.” It’s my privilege to offer anything I have that might help them on that course, even if it means just showing them where the restrooms are.

In October, around 13,000 young leaders will gather at the Gwinnett Arena. If you’re there, look for me, I’ll be the oldest volunteer on the staff. But I don’t care. It gives me a chance to hang out with people who are going to be changing the course of history in the decades to come. It’s an opportunity to experience how God is moving and shaking in these generations sometimes called, X’s, Y’s, millennial’s, or new boomers. Whatever, you call them, they’re looking for God, and as best we can, we need to support them in that pursuit.

So, since the nest is empty, this Mama is taking to the air, too. I might be sitting in a tree nearby. And if your nest is empty, or even if it's not, come join me.

It’s gonna be good.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jerry Jenkins, Robert Duvall, and telling the story


My husband, Jerry, and I had the opportunity to attend the Atlanta launch for Jerry Jenkins’ newest book, I Saul.  I’d met the author before and had several classes with him, but we arrived early anyway, because my husband wanted to make sure he had time to deliver a special message to Jenkins—that someone dear to my spouse had come to know the Lord through Jenkins’ Left Behind books.

As Jenkins signed a book for me, my husband stepped up and relayed his message, his voice often breaking in emotion.

Jerry Jenkins, his eyes tearing, said, “I never grow tired of hearing that.” And my Jerry handed Jenkins another book to sign which he intended to send to this one who is now very close to God.

















As we left, I kept thinking about Jenkins’ response, “I never grow tired of hearing that.” It made me think of lines from an old hymn by Katherine Hankey.

I love to tell the story;
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting 
To hear it like the rest.

The old hymn reminds us that those who know the story of Jesus best, long to hear about his love and mercy as much as those who have never heard.
 
I love to tell the story,
It did so much for me;
And that is just the reason
I tell it now to thee.

Inspires us to tell the stories of Jesus and what he is doing around us every time we have opportunity to those who have heard and those who haven’t.

Sometimes, when I’m researching a post, I come across something unexpected. I wanted to find a version of “I love to tell the story,” for those of you who haven’t heard it in awhile. While searching, I came across a version with Emmy Lou Harris, and of all people, Robert Duvall.

Turns out, it’s from the movie, The Apostle, which came out during the years I had small children. Didn’t see a lot of movies then unless they were animated. I’m still catching up. I know the movie met with some controversy but still, Duvall was nominated for an Academy Award and received the Grace Prize at the sixth annual MovieGuide awards. The MovieGuide Awards sponsors the Kairos Prize in screenwriting for which I’ve been a finalist.

Here’s an excerpt from an article at Crosswalk:
“Robert Duvall received the Grace Prize for his outstanding performance in THE APOSTLE from presenter and last year's award recipient, Stephen Collins, star of TV's 7th HEAVEN. The Grace Prize is presented annually ‘to the one actor who, through his or her performance, best exemplifies God's grace and mercy toward us as human beings.’ Morgan H. Grace, Jr. sponsors the award, which exemplifies Ephesians 2:8, ‘For by Grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.’

Duvall said after receiving the award, that in making the movie, he wanted it to be ‘an expression of grace.’ He said, ‘I want to thank you for this award because we tried hard to show that there was a power higher than ourselves.’”

Talking about telling the story. Whatever one may think of the film, it’s hard to not enjoy this version of “I Love to tell the Story.” Hope this blesses you as much as it did me.  
 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The bell and if you're wondering whether it can ever be beautiful again


My neighbor, Margaret, had a little bell by her back door, and when my children were tiny, every time we visited, I’d hold my son and daughter up so they could ring the bell. As they grew older they could reach the bell themselves making it sound to alert Margaret they were there to play cards, drink sodas, and eat cookies.

But as the years went by, the children grew into teenagers, and their interest in ringing the bell waned. My neighbor repainted her house and took the bell down.

I saw it one day on a shelf in her utility room. Made of cast iron, it had grown rusty in the southern humidity and looked a bit like scrap metal.

“What are you doing with that bell?” I asked.

“I guess I’ll get rid of it,” Margaret said. “Do you want it?”

I nodded.

I took the bell home and put it on a shelf myself trying to decide what to do with it. A short time later, our dear neighbor died.

Recently, I came upon the rusty bell, took if from the shelf and decided to see if sanding and a new coat of black paint would make a difference. It did, and I put it by the studio door. I included a photo of it in my blog banner.
 

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

 Not exactly a sight to behold and not anything one might actually call lovely, I believe my bell to be beautiful.   I can see it from my office in the sunroom, and it reminds me of bright days, and children’s laughter, and my wonderful neighbor. And occasionally I give it a little jangle when I go to the studio.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 reads, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

How God makes everything beautiful in its time is beyond my understanding. A whole lot of things look really ugly to me right now. And yet, that’s what the book says.

But, I remember situations which looked impossible decades ago, and yet now, I see God has redeemed them and reframed them in the context of eternity.

Sometimes we may feel set aside, but just like my neighbor's rusty bell, God gives us new life when we submit to him for what can feel like sanding, but under his care, we once more ring out with purpose.
 

 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 Remembered


I couldn't let the 911 anniversary pass without observing it somehow, so I'm slipping in with this repost. In the summer of 2001, our family traveled over 7000 miles by car from the South to the West to the East and back. I wrote a travel memoir of that summer entitled Dream Summer which I shared here. It concludes with this remembrance of September 11. As I reread, I couldn't help but pray again the verse from Ecclesiastes 9 that I included here, that as we face this Syrian crisis, that God would give our leaders a "wisdom which is better than weapons of war."
I'll be back here tomorrow with a new post.
It was a trip of a lifetime, a dream of a summer.

We returned from our travels in late August to resume care of my mother at the rehab center and to relieve so many who had visited her during our absence. Still not progressing in any way, we asked that she once more be taken to a local hospital for evaluation. 

After still more tests, she was diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer on September 3, 200l. She’d been hospitalized more times than I can remember during her eight-month stay in the center and visited doctors on a regular basis before her fall. Still, no one caught this until it was too late. Had I known her condition I would have not left her those weeks of the summer, but I didn’t know and I think somehow God, for reasons I don’t fully understand for me and my mother, shielded us from this knowledge.

The sadness was so great. She suffered a stroke as well just a couple of days after her diagnosis so her condition rapidly deteriorated.

On September 11, I was feeding her breakfast when I noticed the clock...8:45. I had to go home so my husband could go to work, and I could start homeschool. In the few minutes it took me to drive home, our world changed forever. In our schoolroom, I took the apple with the eleven stamped on it and placed it on our calendar. A few minutes later, the phone rang. The caller identification indicated it was another homeschooling mom. Homeschool Moms don’t call each other during instruction time, so I knew it was important. I answered.

She told me the news of two jets hitting the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It was so unbelievable, I said nothing, and when my children were working alone, I excused myself to go upstairs and turn on the radio. I heard the news on the radio but wanting to think it might be an Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” type scenario I then went to the television in the den. There I saw shocking pictures and wondered how it could be true. As I watched, the Pentagon disaster also unfolded.

 For many weeks in the summer, we had devoted ourselves to seeing America. What we learned in our travel studies is that what we have today has come at a great cost. As I learned the news of that September morning, I realized the very freedom so many had given their lives for was under attack. I began to have flashbacks of Mt. Rushmore, Gettysburg, Old North Church, The Freedom Trail, Concord, the lights of the Capitol building. Some of the places we’d visited were closed for a time. Freedom was under attack and all that represented freedom was being protected.

A travel memory from another time came to mind. On a November night in l983, some business associates and I found ourselves at the top of the World Trade Center at a restaurant called, “Windows on the World.” It seemed as we ate our overpriced chicken that we could see forever and as we ate, it began to snow. A magic moment. That memory stood in stark contrast to the images of the grizzly events on September 11.

In the days to come, it would be hard to separate the grief I had over my mother from the pain I felt for those who lost loved ones in New York or Washington. I spoke with a Hospice chaplain who was losing a parent and who of course worked with many others experiencing loss. He said everyone was having the same problem. All the sadness just got mixed up in the same pot. 

In the summer of 2001, I think our family gained some understanding of what it means to be an American citizen and how many have laid down their lives so that we night have ours. For the heroes, who include the man who helped begin our freedom trail one dark night in April 1775 to 21st century firefighters in a cataclysmic disaster, to those serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in these intervening years, we give thanks. Special prayers for the families who have lost loved ones in these conflicts. For it is these courageous ones that have made our “Dream Summer” and the telling of it possible. For the heroes that are yet to be, we pray a firm resolve and that scripture from Ecclesiastes 9 that God would grant them a “wisdom which is better than weapons of war.”

And from the mountains of Montana,

To the prairies of South Dakota,



To the lovely shoreline of Massachusetts, 

To our own sweet home in the South,

We pray indeed that God would bless America.

Monday, September 9, 2013

My 400th post and if you're wrestling over whether to quit

I’ve often said that if God calls us to something, we don’t get to quit just because it’s hard or the results aren’t what we hoped they’d be.

And yet, in the past few weeks and months, I’ve wrestled with continuing this blog. It’s been a serious time of reevaluation.

 Is it effective? Is it meaningful? These are the hard questions I’ve asked myself.

Three years ago, I felt God calling me to start it. The excitement of something new and the challenge to generate a post every few days propelled me forward. But the excitement waned a bit after years of labor and almost 400 posts. Each post takes hours and hours, sometimes days.

I’m always working on a novel manuscript or a screenplay as I’m simultaneously trying to come up with my next blog post. At times, I felt I’d spent my last idea.

I have a folder I keep near me, even when I travel to remind myself of why I do what I do. In it, I’ve written the scriptures, and dreams, and all that I believe God has spoken to my heart about this writing journey. When I start to doubt, I take it out, and reread, and as the early Christians did, I rehearse the things that God has done. As I’ve written introductions to my top twenty posts, I’ve done a little bit of rehearsing, too. I remember why I wrote what I did.  I’ve reflected on your comments and Facebook postings.

Many years ago, God gave me the image of a ship as a metaphor for this writing journey. Though I haven’t felt good enough, or experienced enough, or smart enough, nevertheless, God has called me to board the ship.  In my folder is also a picture of a white ocean liner from a cruise advertisement which came in the mail just after God gave me the ship image.

And so, as best I could, I have tried to get on board.

As I’ve struggled, because of a link at Holy Experience, I came across a post by Sharon Jaynes, “When you hit a wall of rejection.” She writes about how an illness kept her from boarding a ship to the Greek Isles for a long planned vacation, and how after being told, “You are not fit to sail,” she had to decide whether to take a very long, circuitous and difficult route to get to another port,  and perhaps board the ship.

She likens it to the other kinds of ships we might be seemingly forbidden to board.
 “You might even stand on the dock of your precisely prepared hopes and dreams and watch as your friends get on the ship without you.

And if that happens, you will have a choice. You can give up and go home. Or you can do what you need to do to get on board. You can take a cab, take a plane, take a bus, take a ferry, and do whatever you need to do to get on the ship God has sitting in the dock for you.

Pressing on might seem a bit crazy. Persevering may bring unplanned expenses.  Pushing forward could try your stamina beyond what you thought possible to endure. But the alternative is to go home and cozy up with the remote while others sail away without you.

I don’t know what your ship is today. Perhaps it is getting published. Perhaps it is starting a business. Perhaps it is starting a ministry. Perhaps it is hosting a blog.  But chances are somewhere along the way, someone whose opinion matters, will tell you to ‘go home’ – that you’re ‘not fit to sail.’ And you’ll have to decide.”

Yes, we all have to decide about pressing on. Writing this blog is only one part of the big picture of writing. And if I’m honest, my struggle is not just about writing here but about writing in general. Oh, I’ll always write, but continuing to send out new manuscripts trying to get another book in print (as I’m about to ask my agent to do, again) and constantly risking rejection is tiring.

Sharon Jaynes’ post was a specific answer to prayer. She has helped me push past the obstacles, to not curl up with the remote, but continue to press on towards boarding that ship. Thank you, Sharon, for not giving up, too.

When I first started, I told the Lord that I would write for the one or two—that would be enough. And so, I’m back to that. Back to writing for you, whoever you may be. And if you’re reading here, you’re probably suffering in some way, because I often write about wringing joy out of the heartaches of life—about reframing our difficulties.

Joel Osteen writes in I Declare, “Get your fire back . . . Create a fresh new vision for your life.”

So, today, in this rambling 400th post, I’m gearing up for the future and whatever God has. I spent several days developing some new blog banners, one of which I’ve posted recently on my site.
 
I’m one of the most technologically challenged people you may know, so I’m especially thankful I was able to put the banner together. Even my son was impressed. I couldn’t help but remind him that I started with a typewriter.

As I finish up this post, I’m looking at that blog banner above and realizing the picture on the left with me and my husband was made on a dock at Amelia Island in front of dozens of boats. I didn’t select it for that reason; in fact I tried several options before deciding on that photo.  I’m thinking God wanted it up there to remind me to continue to launch out with Him.

How about you? Are you trying to board your ship, too?

To read Sharon Jaynes’ post in its entirety, click here.
 
"Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward--to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back (Philippians 3:13-14 The Message).
 
Back here on Thursday.

 

 

Friday, September 6, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: A Wedding and A Little Bit of Heaven


This post brings back such sweet memories from a summer evening in 2012. With it I conclude my excerpts from One Ringing Bell's Top Twenty. Thank you for joining me in this look back, and please join me on Monday for a new post which will be my 400th entry at One Ringing Bell. Can't tell you how thankful I am that you've joined me for this journey. Many Blessings.

Many years ago while attending a friend’s wedding held in an historic church in an old Southern city, I was touched by the beauty and spirit of the service. However, I couldn’t have imagined how God would speak to my heart at the reception. The bride’s brother ran a restaurant business in a nineteenth century Greek revival house and arranged serving tables throughout the many rooms.  

As I navigated the elegant rooms to taste the delicious food, I was delighted to encounter people I didn’t even know were there, many of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. Over and over I experience glad reunions. When I left that evening, my heart was so full of joy, I felt I’d had a little foretaste of heaven. I imagined heaven might be a little like that grand house and  we'd spend the first thousand years or so strolling the glittering streets reuniting with people who’ve preceded us, or getting to know those we missed here on earth.

Last night, I again experienced that foretaste of heaven when we attended the nuptials of the daughter of family friends. I had such a sense of anticipation even before we opened the doors of the church.







Once inside, one of the first people we hugged had just traversed the broad circumference of this whirling planet to be there, dear Tammy from Asia.


We caught up a bit and then greeted and embraced other friends, long cherished, and seldom seen.
Rita Springer
When we took our seats, I was surprised to find a woman I much admire, singer-songwriter Rita Springer was to sing. Can’t tell you how often I used her song “I Want the Joy” during prison ministry. Later after the wedding, I had the privilege of meeting her and sharing how much God used her music to touch those women’s hearts.

When at last the beautiful bride entered on the arm of her weeping father, the spirit of the Lord was so mightily with us, our hearts almost burst with worship to the one who thought of this sacrament called marriage, and helps us understand that in the larger context, we are the bride and Christ is our bridegroom.
At the reception, we continued to run into folks we’d known many years ago, or made the acquaintance of others with whom we’d like to have spent more time.






But, just as the evening really began, we had to leave, because as my husband said, “Sundays a comin’.” We had a long drive back and an early alarm this morning.

But one day, yes, one day, all of those who belong to Jesus shall have all the time in this world or any other. We’ll chat, sing, embrace, and love on each other in a place where there is no long drive or early alarm. We’ll dance the first dance and never stop. We’ll be endlessly together at that great wedding to come.

But while I’m here, I’m thankful for these grace filled glimpses of glory. These precious moments keep us looking forward and looking up.

Right now, I’m singing in my heart the recessional song used at the wedding, the song with which the newlyweds began their life together—a contemporary version of a nineteenth century gospel song:

"Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!"

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (I Corinthians 13:12 Message).

“Hallelujah! The Master reigns, our God, the Sovereign-Strong! Let us celebrate, let us rejoice, let us give him the glory! The Marriage of the Lamb has come; his Wife has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6-7).

 Happy day, indeed!


 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: On the Prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is a post from a series entitled Dream Summer about our family's pre 911 trip across this country in 2001. This entry in the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty was originally posted in August of 2011. For more in this series, click on the Dream Summers label.

I kept noticing on the South Dakota map a notation that read, “Little Town on the Prairie.” It was in De Smet, and I remembered that as being the setting for several of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. So we made an unplanned detour, which turned out to be a real jackpot.



 The people of De Smet take pride in this piece of their history. On the location of Laura’s parent’s, Charles and Caroline Ingalls homestead, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has recreated an authentic homestead, barn, and schoolhouse. Our family was up for wagon rides, playing in the barn, and running through the prairie. Bethany, our gift shop queen, bought a bonnet and apron actually hand made by the women in De Smet.




We boarded one of the wagons to ride through the prairie to the school house they moved there to mimic the one Laura taught in when just a teenager. Written on the chalkboard was a quote from Laura, “It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.”

I’ve often thought of that line and the story of the winter the Ingalls spent in town which Laura captured in the book The Long Winter. Snow upon snow kept the train from getting through to De Smet with supplies and the family lived off brown bread alone for nearly two months. Along with the rest of the town, they were close to starving, but thankfully the train made it just in time.


I looked out over the homestead and imagined myself Laura, a tiny girl in a vast prairie. I could see how she could love it. The prairie, just as all God has made, has its own charm. 


Charles and Caroline spent their latter years in town at a house, which Charles built in l887. Laura, of course, met and married Almanzo Wilder and moved to Mansfield, Missouri. All this talk of the Little House adventures made me want to know and see more. I looked at the map to see how far out of the way Mansfield, Missouri was. Not too far. So for our final stop on the way home, we plotted the path from De Smet to Mansfield. On our way, the children and I tried to imagine making this trip in a covered wagon with a little girl.


It was in Mansfield that Laura began to put down her experiences growing up. Laura’s first Little House book, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932, and followed by many others in the series, all written in Mansfield. In the museum adjacent to the house I found it fascinating that they have original manuscripts for some of the books, written long hand in pencil on nickel tablets.
 
Also in the museum are some of the items that traveled from De Smet to Mansfield: the writing desk, which for all of Laura’s readers is so familiar as the place where she temporarily lost her precious money for the house in Mansfield. Also, a quilt, a cupboard and of course there was Pa’s fiddle. Her house is so beautifully preserved, I felt almost like an intruder as it seemed that at any moment she might come through a doorway.



As much as I love home and longed to return there, I wanted to linger in Mansfield and savor this time--remember the way the rooms looked and the grain of the wood on the writing desk. Over the next year in homeschool, we’d try to read all of the Little House Books set in the places where we’d been.

We recalled what it felt like to run through the prairie, to ride in the wagon, to play in the barn and  just  how far it was from De Smet To Mansfield. We’d remember what it was like to sit on the porch of the Little House on Rocky Ridge and we’d often thank God for the life of a brave little girl named Laura.

Laura made a note in her Bible of several Bible chapters which were especially meaningful to her. 

From Psalm 48, "Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise..."           


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