Category Archives: Scenic views

It’s in His hands

Been thinking a lot lately about God’s provision in my life.   The times I prayed and He answered and the times I didn’t know to pray and He still answered.  I’m trusting Him now for some things;  and it can get discouraging to pray and not get the answer right away. That’s when I need to “encourage myself in the Lord.”  I thought I would write about a couple of (to me) miracles God did in my life and one He did in someone else’s, both as an encouragement to me and maybe to those reading this as well.

The first “miracle” is rather well known among the congregation of the church I attend.  My late husband’s sister was in need of roof repair;  there was a rather large leak in the ceiling of my nephew’s bedroom, a leak in fact,  that was dangerously close to an exposed light bulb. She couldn’t afford to get a new roof and I had no money to help her with it either. Bob had passed by then, as well and we had no other help.  Every time it rained, she prayed that it wouldn’t cave in or start an electrical fire in that ceiling lamp.  One night she says she cried out to God and He gave her peace about it.  The very next day, as she pulled into her driveway after work, she saw roof tiles scattered all about her front yard.  Her first thought was that the roof had finally given way.  She got out of her car somewhat in shock, to see a couple of men come around from the backyard.  One asked her if she was the homeowner to which she said yes.  He explained to her, rather apologetically, that there had been a mistake; they’d had a roofing job to do and had pulled half of her roof down before finding out they were at the wrong house!  As that bit of news sunk in, he further explained that since it was their fault, they would replace what they had torn down at their expense!  And of course, the side of the roof they had torn down was exactly the side she had needed replacing.  This story has gone far and wide across Facebook and in other churches in our area.  This wasn’t just a “miracle” for her, it was one for all of us—-God provides—He definitely does!

Years before that;  Bob and I lived in a trailer park on Rte 340 in Crimora.  It was one of the nicer trailer parks in the area and we enjoyed having our own place after years of living in the upstairs apartment of his parent’s house on Staten Island.  But there came a time when we wanted to try and buy a house.  One of the perks of living in VA was the lower prices for housing than in NY.  Bob had a good job driving for a beverage distributor and I was a cashier at our local Kmart.  We found a real estate agent and started looking at houses.  In the midst of this, my husband’s job cut his pay by a lot.  We were disappointed and decided to forego the house hunt figuring we could no longer afford one.  Right before that had happened, Nancy-our real estate agent, had told us of a small house in Crimora;  and we had plans to look at it.  But then he got the pay cut and we never followed through.  A couple of months went by and little by little, Bob started getting some of his salary back.  It wasn’t as good as it had been but it was enough for us to think we might be able to start house hunting again.  We decided to see if that house in Crimora was still available and Nancy informed us that the owners had never put it on the market but if we were interested in seeing it, they would be open to letting us.  We met her there and as we were walking around the property, Bob told me he really felt like this was our house.  We put a bid in on it and it was accepted.  Going through the process of applying for different loans, we found out that between Bob’s and my total income,  we were eligible for a first time home owners loan and that we didn’t need any money down.  If Bob had never gotten that pay cut to begin with, we would have made too much money and not been able to have gotten that loan!  So God allowed us to go through that pay cut and it was for a very good reason. One other thing worth mentioning happened while we were going through the process of buying the house that I reside in today.  We needed to furnish our last 3 pay stubs to the mortgage company; Bob found two of his, but couldn’t find the third.  We looked everywhere, in all the logical places but to no avail.  We had a spare room in the trailer, more of a junk room; we never really went in there for any reason.  But while looking for this pay stub, Bob went in there and saw a paper sticking out of a decorative stein he had sitting on a table.  He pulled that paper out and it revealed itself to be the missing pay stub.  To this day I cannot explain to you how it got there!  But I guess God knows.

Five years ago, in the fall of 2010, Bob got a promotion at his job that he never put in for. He was working at the Dollar store down the street from us–a job he had gotten in Oct 2009 after being out of work for a year.   His first manager was a really nice guy who Bob respected and worked hard for.  Bob had even helped him when the man moved.   That manager moved on to a different position within the company and Bob got a new manager in the spring of the following year.  Unbeknownst to Bob, when the position of Assistant Manager at the store came up, his former manager put him in for it.   And his present manager agreed!  So without ever applying for it, Bob got it.  He had been working mainly in the stockroom, unloading trucks and stocking product on the sales floor.  This new position came with other responsibilities, some he was less pleased with than others;  but we welcomed the raise in pay and the benefits that included health care.  He would have to wait three months to get the health care but we had no reason to worry about that or so we thought.  It was in the fall of 2010, that his back problems started.  He had never experienced a back ache or strain in his life but he was experiencing excruciating pain that September.  His family doctor put him on Vicoden, which did relieve his discomfort initially. It kept getting worse though and his doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  We went to a chiropractor but that didn’t help and seemed to make matters worse.  He went to the emergency rooms of both local hospitals but all they did was give him more painkillers and even then, somewhat begrudgingly—one doctor all but accused Bob of being there for the drugs.  All the while my husband got worse and worse, until finally, he couldn’t get up off the couch and walk.  To go to his last doctors appointment before we finally found out what was going on, my formerly robust and active 47 year old husband was in a wheelchair.  But do you know when we finally found out that Bob had a very rare form of blood cancer?  We found out after the health insurance became active and because it was not a pre-existing condition, his insurance covered all the treatments and 80% of the hospital bills.  Can I say that God did that?  Can I tell you that it’s without a shadow of a doubt in my mind that God knew we would need that insurance, so He got Bob a job he never applied for?  That He didn’t let a diagnosis come through until we were covered by the insurance?  We had lost my sister by then and she had left me some life insurance money which ended up paying the difference between what the insurance put out for his 9 day hospital stay and what was left over.  Again—God’s timing is something else.  I think about it now and it just amazes me—how if this had all happened when he had been out of work for that year, I don’t know where I would be at the moment.

God does provide.  These are some of the bigger ways in which He came through for me; but He comes through for me everyday in small ways too.  I don’t always understand what He’s doing;  and there are some things I will never understand.  But sometimes it takes looking at the big picture to make me see that His hand was always in the situation; working it out in ways only He can!

My Dad

My dad, George Elstad, just turned 88 years old on May 19.  The youngest of seven brothers and sisters, he is the last one still living.  His parents were born in Norway, but came to America separately if I’m not mistaken, met and married sometime after.  Dad was born in Brooklyn, New York, where he lived for the first year or so of his life, until his family moved to Staten Island and to a little (then) town called Eltingville, which consisted at the time of a lot of woods and farms.  Dad was a “late in life” baby, and the majority of his siblings were years older than him, in fact, his sisters were all teenagers by the time he came along.  It was left to them to babysit him and he will be the first to tell you that they babied him to the point where he got away with a lot of behavior that he shouldn’t have and it resulted in him being very spoiled.  Dad made friends easily in school and kept many of them for many years afterward.  A few years ago in fact, he went to his 50th High School Reunion (Tottenville HS), there weren’t many students left, but he had a good time.  Dad felt he had a calling on his life to be in the ministry; and during a stint in the Army during the last month of WWII, when Dad was stationed in Austria—he was there as a Chaplain’s Assistant.  When he returned to the States and Staten Island, he got involved in his church’s youth ministry.  Dad will tell you that he did anything and everything at his church just to serve the Lord in some capacity, he’ll tell you that no job was too small for him. Somewhere along the line, my mom started going to the same church he was youth pastor of, and they met and started dating.  I don’t know the absolute particulars of the circumstances, but at one point, Dad broke up with mom to date another girl!  Obviously, that didn’t work out and Dad and Mom got married on November 7, 1953.  It rarely snows in NY before Christmas, but a blizzard hit the day before their wedding and a lot of guests didn’t get to attend.  (There’s an old wives tale that says rain on your wedding day is good luck, apparently snow must be even better, Mom passed away two months shy of their 42nd anniversary).

If you read my tribute to my mom, you know that the doctor’s told my parents that due to some medical condition, they didn’t expect mom to be able to have children.  But mom and dad believed in God and the power of prayer, and didn’t let a little thing like a doctor’s report take away their faith.  My brother Kenneth arrived on April 1, 1957, my sister Millie, on December 8, 1958 and I came along on December 4, 1962.  Mom got pregnant one more time, but miscarried what would have been my youngest brother, two years after she had me.  In fact, mom and dad had just bought a house in Mariner’s Harbor when they found out she was carrying me.  Dad had dreams of being a full time pastor, but had to work to feed his growing family so he got in the line of Credit Management,  he worked for a time in New Jersey and eventually ended up in companies in Manhattan.

Dad can be like a big kid sometimes and he’s great with children.  He had the most fun with us when we were small;  I look back fondly on Friday nights at our house, with Dad sitting on the floor with us kids and playing Monopoly.  We had two piano’s in the house at that time and Dad would sit and play kids songs for us, like Old MacDonald.  He would read to me for hours.  And one of my favorite memories is walking to the store with him, maybe I was 6 or 7, him holding my hand and me trying to keep up with his longer than mine, steps.  He took us to the Staten Island Zoo and the South Beach Amusement Park. He took us to Yankee games, him—not a sports fan at all—but he took mom and us because we loved the team. He would bring a book with him, and when the crowd went wild, would look to my mother and ask if something good had happened.  It was probably comical to those who sat around us, but that is my dad—he’s not afraid to be who he is.

Dad would take us for rides to Pennsylvania—mom liked to look at scenery and we’d always stop at family type restaurants on the way home. He’d also take us up to see my maternal grandmother when she lived in Massachusetts. School let out in NY usually on the last day of June or so; and the very next day, we’d be on the road to Gardner to see my Nana.

Dad made the mistake of telling us about the times when he was a kid—when he would “harass” the guy that used to sell produce out of a truck—Dad would yell, “Vegetables!” at the top of his lungs. Many years later, when I was a teenager, me and my friends would pester my dad to take us for a ride around the Island and he seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. He says we embarrassed him though as we would find people to yell to, just like he had told us about doing when he was a kid. One time,  when we were stopped at a light near Latourette Golf Course and a golfer was just about to hit the ball, my sister yelled, “Fore.” He looked up at her and shook his head…..amuses me even now to think about it. Dad would admonish us, but then again he never turned down an opportunity to take us for a ride, so I’ll just leave you to come to your own conclusions about that.

Dad started a home church in our living room sometime in the early 70’s. There was a tavern across the street from us, which made for some interesting conversation among the neighbors I am sure, bar songs on one side, hymns on the other.  I wasn’t much into church at the time;  but every New Years Eve, we always had a watch night service at 11 p.m. and then food and games until the wee hours of the morning. My siblings and I always looked forward to that.

My dad’s faith has always been strong and unwavering but it took a hit in 1975 when my brother was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma–a very rare and very deadly form of bone cancer.  My brother was 19 years old when he had to get his entire left leg amputated in an attempt to rid him of this cancer. Unfortunately it spread to other organs and Kenneth lost his battle on September 18, 1976.

My parents and their congregation had prayed for and believed for his healing; but God’s idea of healing and theirs was different. I’m sure my parent’s were devastated, yet I don’t remember seeing them cry. Dad rejoiced that his son was walking the streets of glory with two legs instead of the one–but I’m sure he grieved for his first born.  Dad firmly believes that he will reunited with his children and I believe I will see them as well, when we reach heaven.

The home church ceased to be sometime after my brothers death.  I think it had more to do with low attendance than anything else.  In the early 80’s Dad had an opportunity to start a church in an actual building in Port Richmond.  Christ Assembly on Castleton Avenue was born sometime around 1981, and eventually my parent’s would sell the house in Mariner’s Harbor and move into the small apartment above the sanctuary.  My sister and I moved to New Jersey in March of 1982 and I would start dating my future husband in September of that year.  Ironically enough he and his family lived on my old street and his mom and sister went to my Dad’s new church.

Five years later, Dad would marry me and Bob in that church.  There was no question in my mind that Dad would officiate, even if neither one of us was a christian at the time. Mom walked me down the aisle and gave me away and Dad married us!  Dad retired from being a credit manager and got temp work on Staten Island instead.  He made mom his assistant pastor and the two of them ministered to a small, but faithful group of parishioners until Mom’s death in 1995.  Dad carried on for another few years after that, but I’m not sure his heart was in it, and he made the move to Virginia in 1997 after retiring from the ministry. Once here, he had different jobs, a more notable one was tour guide for the Grand Caverns in Grottoes—he did well there and it was a great job to have in the summer since caverns are notoriously cool as opposed to the oppressive heat outside.  He also delivered for a pizza place—my dad, of all people—who likes to get lost on purpose just to check out new neighborhoods!  He’ll tell you that whoever made the map for Waynesboro must have been drunk, as streets end abruptly in one place, only to continue somewhere else several miles across town.  Finally, he got an office job and it was there that he met a lady named Barbara who had a mother named Helen and who thought the two of them should meet. The rest, as they say, is history.  Dad and Helen got married in 1999 and Dad’s second marriage just celebrated it’s 16th anniversary.

If you knew my dad on the Island and haven’t seen him in many years, rest assured he’s still the same man you knew back then.  His hair is grayer and he looks older, of course, but he still has a dry sense of humor (some say it’s the Norwegian sense of humor) and an unwavering faith in his Lord.  I know I could write more on his behalf and that I haven’t even scratched the surface on who my dad is—but I know that he would be perfectly happy as long as you know how much he loves God and trusts Him and he would want you to have that relationship with Jesus as well.


Step by step

I used to walk around my neighborhood all the time;  I am sure the neighbors took notice of it, and maybe they noticed when I stopped too.  There were a couple of factors as to why I stopped, one, I sprained my ankle and got out of the habit.  Two, I live in the country, and have already been too close for comfort to a momma bear and her cubs, which makes me somewhat skittish.  Three, since being widowed nearly three years ago, I don’t like walking about the roads alone with no one waiting for me at home to notice if I don’t come back. But recently, I have started walking for exercise again, and a couple of weeks ago, Mother’s Day to be specific, I decided to make a trek I had only done perhaps twice before.  It entailed walking halfway down my street to where another street meets it at a fork and walking that road in it’s entirety. Round trip it is 14,000 steps or close to 6 miles.  It was a beautiful morning for a walk, the sun was shining, not too hot and a breeze could be felt every once in awhile.  Not much traffic either and hardly anyone outside, which was fine with me.  I took a small bottle of water with me, and my phone and I started along the familiar stretch of road.

I knew I had quite a lot of ground to cover and, though I wasn’t in a hurry, I wasn’t planning on just strolling either.  Since this was the same trail in which I saw the bear, about ten years prior, I kept my eyes open for any such sightings again.  But all was calm, and I stopped to take pictures along the way of the pretty scenic views that I came upon. On that road, a little ways up, there is a bright yellow house.  It belongs to one of the well known families of the area and it certainly stands out.  Up even further, maybe a half mile or so;  there is a small dilapidated shack, with no door or windows, just openings where they should be.  Legend has it that it was the childhood home of another person from the well known family and that the person now lives in a very grand estate next door.  He keeps the old homestead as a reminder as to where he came from.

There used to be a place on this road that was home to at least 6 or 7 fairly large dogs.  I was always leery of them, some were friendly and some were not and all would come running and barking if they saw me.  Thankfully, they don’t seem to be there anymore.

It started to get hot as I walked, and I finished my bottle of water pretty quickly.  At some point thereafter I felt a little light headed and I regretted not bringing more water, nor eating anything before I left.  Still I plodded on until finally I saw the end of the road where it meets Route 340 near a trailer park.  I knew I had at least two and a half miles until I got back home and I also knew I didn’t feel quite right.  Plus I had an added problem of pebbles that kept finding their way into the hole in one of my sneakers.  I would stop periodically to take off my shoe and empty it of the contents, only to take a couple of steps and find myself in the same situation.

I was more concerned about the dizzy, light-headed feeling, however.  A friend of mine had told me how he “speaks” against things in Jesus’ Name, so I did that, out loud.  I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, “I will make it home okay, I will not pass out;  I will feel better soon, in Jesus’ Name.”  It didn’t take long at all for that to become a reality!  In fact I didn’t even realize it right away, I had become engrossed in something I was looking at on my phone as I walked; but then it occurred to me, I felt back to normal.

And when I realized that, my steps felt lighter.  I had been laboring under the uncertainty of whether I would end up having to knock on some stranger’s door and ask for a glass of water; or if I might end up with heat stroke and pass out.  I knew that I had a lot of steps to make to get back home and it had been all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. But once it was over and I felt like myself again, it was a breeze to walk the rest of the way home.  I quite enjoyed it!

So it occurs to me that this is what it’s like in life—the way seems really hard sometimes, and I don’t know how or if I’m going to make it.  It’s all I can do to go on.  It seems like I may collapse.  The journey is long, arduous and not much fun, if I’m honest.

Still, there is Help when I need Him, when I call on Him, when I speak in His Name.  He can make my path straight; and my steps lighter.  How much easier it is then to walk in the way that He has set before me!


A Father’s love

It has always been a special thing for me to watch a daddy with his child;  nothing sweeter than to see a big strapping man being tender with his little one.  Maybe it’s the contrast of muscle and brawn mixed with little fingers and toes.  You know without a shadow of a doubt that the same hands that are cradling that little head would protect that child to the death of the one who might bring it harm. Maybe it’s the fact that a lot of men don’t let themselves appear vulnerable, but with their babies, they just turn into a big puddle of goo. I always savored moments with my dad;  I have fond memories of him and I walking to the store when I was 6 years old, and him holding my hand the whole way.  Or times when he would take us kids to the playground or the zoo or the small amusement park that used to be on Staten Island, and times when he would read me stories or play monopoly on the floor with us.   I used to think it was tough being a preacher’s kid (and it was, at times), but I’ve since met others with different experiences than mine to the point where I can better appreciate my father’s love for us.

There is another to whom I address as Father;  and it’s my relationship with Him that is the basis of this blog post.  It occurred to me recently,  as I watched a friend and the gentleness he exhibited with his grandson—that’s God and me.  Just like an earthly dad cradles his baby, gently strokes his back or kisses the top of his head or even, just stares at him in love—that is God the Father’s reaction to His children. Honestly it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea;  but if He is my Father, than of course, He is better than any earthly father could ever be.  And since God is Love—He is more loving than any human father is capable of being.


Can you imagine being cradled in God’s arms as He looks on you with love?  Can you imagine Him kissing the top of your head or smiling at you?  It’s almost too marvelous to contemplate.


For the longest time my “picture” of God was a stern man standing a few feet away, His arms folded in front of His chest and a scowl on His face—I felt like He was displeased with me, impatient for me to hurry up and mature; and only put up with me because I’d gotten saved.  I’m not sure where I got this image from—but it’s dead wrong!

This Father loved me so much He sent his only Son to die for me!  This Father loved me before I ever knew Who He was.  This Father kept me safe and sane when I was doing self-destructive things;  He knew what He was getting and He wanted me anyway!

I remember my dad telling me one time when I was a teenager, that it didn’t matter what I ever did, him and mom would always love me and accept me.  I knew that I was loved unconditionally by them and that went a long way;  it didn’t necessarily stop me from doing things that brought me trouble, but I knew I could never do anything that would cause them to disown me.  My Father loves me even more than my earthly parents ever could. He sees my heart and understands my motives.  He knows me better than I know myself.

A lot of people have the same mistaken “picture” of God that I had.  Some of them had abusive earthly father’s and that messes with their understanding of Who God really is. Or maybe their dad’s were distant, either emotionally or physically.  Maybe they were brought up in a legalistic religious atmosphere where a wrong teaching of the nature of the Father was taught.

If you want to know Who the Father is—-take a look at a loving earthly father and know that God is all that times a million.  My heavenly Father loves me more than I will ever know; has saved me dozens of times from dangerous things that I haven’t even known about (and some that I have), He watches over me when I’m sleeping and keeps me safe from all harm.

I used to be deathly afraid of thunderstorms—afraid to the point of locking myself in a windowless room such as a closet and pressing my hands over my ears in an effort to block out the sounds of the thunder. The only time I wasn’t put in this near panic state during a storm would be if I was drunk.  I gave my heart to the Lord in December of 1993;  and the following June I was sitting on my couch so engrossed in whatever I was reading, I failed to notice that the room was getting dark and a storm was brewing.  It started to thunder and I waited for the fear but it never came.  Lightning flashed across the sky and I was unmoved. I was amazed,  I couldn’t help but praise Him for delivering me from this terror of thunderstorms–I had never asked to be released from it, He just did it.  That is the Father’s love for His child;  He could have stopped the storm in it’s tracks, but instead He drove out the fear so that I could be victorious over it.  That fear has never returned and it never will.

One of my favorite glimpses of my Heavenly Father can be seen in a parable that Jesus told of the Prodigal Son.  The son took his inheritance and ran through it, so that in no time he was left penniless. He decided to go home and be a servant to his father, who he was sure had disowned him.  Instead, the father waited for his return each day and looked down the road to see if his son was coming.  Finally that day came, when the father saw his son afar off and in his excitement, ran and met him.  The father would not hear of his son becoming his servant, in fact, he threw a party instead—it was a time of celebration because his son had been lost, but then he was found.

Do you not see?  This is how the Father feels about us!  We make mistakes but when we sincerely apologize to Him, He quickly forgives.  He waits for us, and when we are coming but still afar off, He meets us more than halfway.  He wants to help us, we merely have to ask.  We’re His children, He is not waiting for us to mess up so that He can disown us; but even if we do mess up, He will restore us.  It says in the bible that all heaven rejoices when one sinner is saved—that’s the nature of my Father–He celebrates when one of His kids comes home!



While I’m waiting

A funny thing happened while I was attempting to write this newest entry to the blog.  I’ve been mulling over topics for a few days, not really sure which one to choose, when finally this morning, I decided to write on Waiting.  I’ve been in a season of waiting for a while;  life was chaotic for a few years, but now, even though it’s quiet by comparison, I’ve been feeling restless for change.  I’ve been praying for a couple of things;  things that are perfectly within my reason to want and to ask for;  but the answer seems to be—Yes, but wait.

So just a little while ago, I proceeded to access the blog in the method that I had done since I got it, to click on the bookmark I have for it in Google Chrome.  It took me directly to the blog, except my editing tools weren’t there;  I was seeing it as a guest would.  I tried everything I knew, which wasn’t much and then I started researching on Google to see if others had also run into this problem.  I backtracked in my mind as to what my actions had been the last time I visited the site as administrator.  I realized that I had tweaked something last night and wondered if I had messed things up irrevocably.  I was feeling a little panicky.  Was I going to have to start all over?  That felt like a major bummer.

Obviously, since you’re reading this, I was able to get the problem fixed.  But the thing is, until I got with the right one (in this case, tech support) who knew how to get me where I needed to be;  I was spinning my wheels and making myself anxious about it in the meantime.

One of my favorite Bible teachers likes to ask—If God is telling you to wait, what will your attitude be as you do so?  In other words, you’re going to have to wait anyway–will you do it begrudgingly, with complaint and in a bad mood?  Will you have a pity party and invite all to come?  Or will you do it cheerfully, knowing that this, as with all things, shall pass? Either way, you’re waiting;  one mood will make it seem longer and the other, being more enjoyable; will make it seem like a breeze.

When I was a teenager on Staten Island, I didn’t drive, so it was either walking or taking the bus that got me where I wanted to go.  A favorite hangout was the mall, which was probably a couple of miles from my house, so me and a friend would take the bus there.  If you missed the bus, it was a good twenty minutes before the next one came.  If you just missed it, you knew you had that long to wait;  worse was not knowing how long it had been since the other one had come.  It got boring to wait, even with a friend there, and especially if it was cold or raining.  So we would try these little tricks that seemed to work (and did work 50% of the time) to “get” the bus to come.  The most popular one was to light a cigarette.  You couldn’t smoke on the bus, so you hoped by lighting the cigarette, Murphy’s Law would send the bus right then, making you waste it.  I know it sounds silly, but don’t we still do this kind of stuff?  Don’t we think we can force God’s hand if we do A, B or C?   Abraham and Sarah would have saved us a bunch of trouble if they hadn’t tried to help God by producing Ishmael.  But they couldn’t wait.

I like to think I could handle knowing what’s coming, especially the good stuff.  But like Abraham, if I knew even part of the promise, I would probably try to help, thereby messing it all up.  It’s like how mom might make a beautiful cake, put it on a table and tell the children not to touch it because it was for later.  Children being children (and probably we adults would do it too), they would be all in it as soon as she left the room.  God gives me a glimpse of something around the corner, and in my enthusiasm, I rush towards it.  I get “my fingers in the cake.” Thankfully, God already knows that I am going to do that and I don’t mess anything up to the point of it being permanently damaged; but still, if God has already got the answer worked out, I merely have to sit back and wait for it to come to pass.  That’s the only part I have to play in the scenario, so why do I feel this need to help?

Waiting involves patience. Wanting to help God along, involves impatience.  We live in a microwave world—wanting everything ten minutes ago. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He’s not moved by a clock;  to Him, a thousand years is but a day.  It’s a fact—for some answers, He’s going to make us wait.  The question remains: what will we do, how will we act, while we are waiting?


Coincidences or God moments? You decide.

I started to call this, “Dead horses on the highway,” but I wasn’t sure anyone would read it. But that happened one time—Me and Bob and his parents were on our way home from Virginia after visiting his sister.  We were making good time and decided to stop at a rest area to use the bathroom.  We were only in there ten minutes tops, but when we came out and met at the car, one of my father-in-laws tires was completely flat.  We couldn’t understand how that had happened so fast and were slightly annoyed (okay we were quite annoyed).  It was hot that day and while me and Bob’s mom sat on the curb, he and his dad changed the tire.  Back on the road maybe a mile or so, we hit traffic.  We got to a horrible sight,  a horse trailer had gotten involved in a wreck and there were dead horses on the highway.  Without thinking, I blurted out, “If we hadn’t had that flat tire, we might have been right in the middle of this.” Now, I wasn’t a Christian at the time, in fact the only one in that car that was, was Bob’s mom.  But I automatically felt the truth of my words, and I figured we were kept safe because of her.  Looking back on it now, I think I had it backwards,  we were kept safe because the three of us weren’t ready to go into eternity. Since then, both Bob and his dad have passed away but my dad led my father in law in the sinners prayer and Bob made his decision months before his death.


Bob and I hit a rough patch somewhere in the early 2000’s.  We weren’t getting along very well and he would stop talking to me.  The air in the house was tense;  and I would have rather been alone than been in a house with someone who was going out of his way not to talk to me.   So given the chance, I would pick going to church or to an outing to get away from it.  The church had just started a Ladies Choir that I became a part of and we were invited to visit another church to sing.  Bob made it known he wasn’t thrilled with me going, and I didn’t know until pretty much the last minute if I would attend. I would have to leave straight from work to meet everyone at the church parking lot so we could make the hour drive to the place we were going to sing at.   That morning before work,  I got up to take a mile walk and while I was doing that, a song popped into my head.   Now, Contemporary Christian songs and hymns make their way into my mind all the time, but this one wasn’t one I would normally think of.  In fact, I couldn’t remember another time when I had thought of it, although I’d heard people sing it.  After I came back from my walk, Bob and I got into a bad fight about my going out that night.  Still, I left for work, not totally sure if I’d go with them or just go home.  But as the day wore on, I decided I was going to go to sing with the choir. My feeling was—why go home where we would either just have a bad fight or I would be ignored completely, when I could go enjoy myself singing with these ladies I had come to love?   When we got there, another group that consisted of the lady who played piano for us and two brothers got up to sing first.  One of the brothers asked the lady to sing a song she had written.  As she adjusted the microphone, she told us, “John wants me to sing a song I wrote;  but I really feel impressed upon by the Lord to sing this other song instead.”  I will never forget the feeling of awe I experienced when she proceeded to sing the song that had been so strongly on my mind that morning during my walk! I just knew that God was going to work everything out!  And as it turned out,  Bob and I would stay up half the night after I got home talking things out and working towards repairing our rift.   I told him about the song and he asked what I thought it meant.  I told him, “God wanted to let me know He knew exactly where I was and what I was going through.”



Another song popped into my head one Friday;  I was battling depression but the song, Amazing Grace, kept playing in my mind.  When I got to church Sunday morning, our pastor had a guest speaker in (I don’t remember this man’s name and I don’t think he was ever back).  I couldn’t tell you what he preached about, but when he gave the altar call, I went up for prayer because I was still struggling. Others were up there and he would go to each one, ask them what their need was and pray accordingly. As this was going on, my pastor had gone over to the organ and started playing the melody of Amazing Grace, which of course, I noticed immediately.  The speaker came over to me, never asked me what my need was, put his hand on top of my head, sang the first verse to Amazing Grace and walked away!  He never did “officially” pray for me, but I knew God had done a work as only He could.



November 2010 was a bad month.  My sister went missing on November 8th, we were alerted of it when she didn’t show up for work.  I couldn’t get in touch with her and we didn’t know where she was.  Meanwhile, Bob’s back pain was getting worse.  During that week, as I prayed to find out the whereabouts of my sister, I got the clear impression that she had gotten saved and was at peace with the Lord, which was reassuring but didn’t answer my question as to where she was.  As the week went on and still we didn’t hear from her, I knew it was looking ominous.  Sunday,  November 14, as I laid in bed,  I thought about the story in the bible about the three Hebrew boys, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego and how the Lord was in the fire with them.  I felt like me and Bob were in a “fire” ourselves, with his increasing pain and the mystery of what happened to my sister,  but I also felt reassured that like them, we weren’t alone.  I went out into the living room, where Bob was laying on the couch watching John Hagee on TV.  I told him what I had been thinking about. As I got ready to go to a morning service, we continued to watch the television service he had been watching.  Usually when Pastor Hagee would finish his preaching, Bob would change the channel, but he left it on for the ending prayer.  When that was over, John Hagee looked into the camera and said, “You may feel like you’re all alone, but just like God was with the three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, you’re not alone.”  Yeah, both our mouths dropped open.   Later that afternoon, we’d get the answer about my sister.  The police up in New York called my dad and informed him that they believed she was deceased. We had to leave to go to Staten Island early the next morning to identify her and unfortunately it was her.  Dad and I talked later on and he told me that when he’d gotten off the phone with the police on Sunday that he’d felt momentarily worried but that he sensed the Holy Spirit tell him, “Don’t worry she’s with me,”  which confirmed what I knew from four days earlier.  Yeah God was with us!



The last one I want to share with you might seem small in comparison to the others, but to me, it is sweet in it’s simplicity.  A couple of weeks before Bob passed away, when we knew all treatments were failing and there weren’t too many options left, I was sitting outside at the picnic table under my apple tree.  I was crying out to God, asking Him, “do You even care what’s happening here?  Do You even know?”   I said, “if You know where we are, send someone by and I’ll know You’ve heard me.”  I expected to get a call from someone from church (which shows I had faith that He had heard me, by the way).  I went in the house, opened my laptop and looked at my email.  There, I found a message from one of my former managers, who I hadn’t worked for in quite some time.  I had never gotten anything from her that was of a personal nature, but the whole of the email was of her concern for me, to let me know that she was thinking of me, and wanted me to know it!  As I thought about it later, I realized that if someone from church had called or stopped by I could have passed it off as a coincidence, but this was certainly not, this was out of the ordinary.



The cynics among us will say they were all coincidences;  the believers will say they were all God moments and I think you already know where I stand on the issue!  But it’s up to you, feel free to believe what you want.  But I just wanted to share these stories with you, there might be some one among you that needed to know, God hears and He cares!

Life goes on

“Life goes on, or so they say—but what will happen in another day?

You are gone, though your memory remains and I am left here with all this pain.

Everything would be fine, if you didn’t go.  But life goes on or so I’m told.”


I wrote the above when I was 14 years old;  a year or so after my then 19 year old brother Kenny died. There were more lines to it than that, but these are the only ones that remain in my memory. This was back in 1976, when we didn’t know as much about the grief process as we do now.  If there were support groups to join or books to read, I certainly didn’t know about them.  But even with it’s awkward rhymes and slightly off key meter, this poem resonates for me, even now, 38 years later.

Kenny’s death wasn’t the first death for me to come to terms with, he wasn’t even the youngest person I knew to die.  There was a kid from the old neighborhood who got hit by a car on his way home from a basketball game one night.  But Kenny, being my brother, was the closest relation I had to lose their life so young.  He was 6 years older than me, always taller, always seemed wiser.  I can’t say we were very close, the age difference was a deterrent to that;  he saw me as his whiny brat of a little sister and I saw him as some one who liked to boss me around.  To this day, even though I long ago surpassed his age, if I think of him (and occasionally I do), I always “picture” him as older than me.

It’s funny how life seems to have come full circle.  I lost my brother to a rare and deadly form of bone cancer called Ewing Sarcoma;  I lost my husband to a rare and deadly form of blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma.  Both cases were discovered because of pain in the left thigh.  A fairly large lump became noticeable in my brother’s case;  it was misdiagnosed a couple of times, until finally the right doctor took the right tests and came up with the answer.  When Bob complained of pain in the same place, I made him check for lumps but having found none, I breathed a sigh of relief.  And like my brother, Bob’s doctor couldn’t pinpoint his problem.  A simple blood test would have given the answers;  but it wasn’t taken and we didn’t know to request it.

Whereas Kenny’s tumor grew on his bone;  Bob’s tumors grew in his bone marrow—there was a real possibility that if one got big enough it could have broken his bone, but thankfully that never happened.  Kenny’s cancer was aggressive and so was my husbands. Kenny was diagnosed in late 75 I believe, had his leg amputated in April of 76 and passed away in Sept of that same year.  Bob was diagnosed in Jan 2011 and passed 18 months later.

Thankfully both gave their lives to the Lord before they passed away.  So, though my brother was missing a leg here on earth, he’s walking on those streets of gold perfectly intact!  And though my husband was in such horrible pain and couldn’t stand up straight, much less walk and definitely not run;  the minute he went to heaven, all that was put to rights!

In the short 19 years of his life, my brother didn’t let much stop him;  even after he got his leg amputated, he would hop on the other foot with one crutch (if that) to get around.  His friends still talk about him to this day.  That’s the kind of legacy I would want to leave!  And as for Bob, he believed for healing right to the very end;  but he was also not afraid to go, as he told several people in the weeks before June 16, 2012.  But before that, you couldn’t keep him from working on his cars, doing his yardwork (which he loved) and puttering around with his carpentry projects.  After the initial phase of grief let up;  I too have embraced this need to enjoy life as much as possible—to laugh at least a couple of times a day and to appreciate all that God has blessed me with.

Life does go on, but it’s short.  Don’t take the ones you love for granted, tell them often how you feel.



Finding beauty in dark places

A green sprout in a blackened fire-ravaged forest.  A child’s laugh at a somber gathering. Finding something intact after a tornado races through a town and leaves devastation in it’s wake.  Yesterday I took a picture of a row of Redbud trees that had dark blue storm clouds as their backdrop.  Something about the two colors together, made me see the beauty in the scene.

As I thought about that today, I came up with the title to this post—Finding beauty in dark places.   Since late 2010 I have been in my share of dark places that seemed for a time to have no discernible end. There is a Light at the end of every tunnel, but the path is winding and you can’t always see Him.

Unless you have been on a grief journey, you really don’t know what it’s like (and I hope you can go as long as possible without knowing).  I have lost a lot of people in my 50+ years.  A brother, a sister, my mother, grandparents, my husband, his parents, and friends. Not to mention assorted beloved pets.  And yet the green sprout of life springs forth every time after a period of grieving, at least in my case.  The muted colors of winter only last so long and then before you know it,  the yards are green and there are splashes of yellow and red and orange dotting the landscape in the form of flowers.  So it is with the dark places—at first, so black you can’t see much ahead of you—you have no idea how to even put one foot in front of the other, nor do you have much interest in doing so.  You will be like that for a good while, but then a ray of light will push through;  a laugh escapes, a memory surfaces that doesn’t sting.  And though you’re still in that dark place, you find that there is beauty to be had there.

You will find beauty in friends that come and hold your hand or remember you on the especially hard days like birthdays and anniversaries. You will hold on to God as if for dear life but that’s a good thing too.  Your eyes will adjust to the darkness and you will notice there are places where light is finding it’s way through even so.

I wish the journey was straight, but it isn’t.  Sometimes you have to go back over a path a couple of times before you can move on.  But it’s in those times that you notice things you hadn’t before, you find out you’re doing okay and you’re getting stronger which is beautiful in itself.  Recovery was a gradual thing for me;  I had always felt like I had a cloud of sadness over my head following me around. I smiled for the masses but inside I was hurting.  A day finally came when I reached the end of that tunnel and all was sunshine and Light.  The relief that comes when sadness lifts off of you is like none other;  what can I compare it to?  A breath of fresh air, a burden off one’s shoulders?  Perhaps, a very long exhale when you hadn’t realized you’d been holding your breath.

I don’t like having to grieve;  I don’t like the dark places at all and wish that I never had to be in any, but as long as I have a heart that beats, and as long as I choose to let myself love and be loved, those times are inevitable.  Love is the ultimate beauty in the dark places, even if and especially if, the only One left to love is God.  That’s the one thought I could always console myself with—I love Jesus, He loves me;  He will never leave me, nor forsake me and best of all, He will never die!