Sunday, December 7, 2014

Her Legacy... Love

The definition of love: 1. An intense feeling of deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, and endearment. 2. A person or thing that one loves.
We all possess the ability to love, and most of us love many people.  We love our family because their blood flows through our veins, and in and out of our heart, which connects us to them on such a deep level that we love them even though we may not always like them. Others become family through marriage, adoption or simply by invitation because they have no one to love, and no one who loves them.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times. Friends who love us, even when they see us at our worst, possess a love with no strings attached. We've chosen to love them and they've chosen to love us in return. There are many more people who we label as someone we love; a teacher, pastor, co-worker, boss, neighbor or mentor. But our highest and best love is our love for God, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.  Perfect love. Not the love we experience here, where the sin and evil of this world can taint our best love. But pure, holy, perfect love.
We tend to throw the word love around carelessly, applying the term to everything from our homes and cars, which are costly items we've worked hard for, to an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen at a price of one dollar and some change.
A tragedy that happened a week ago has caused me to think about how and why we love certain people who are woven in and through our lives. When word began to circulate that this precious, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend and mentor no longer inhabited this earth, but had suddenly been transported to her heavenly home, the accolades began.  The word "love" was used over and over. Every facebook post I read was an exclamation of that person's love and admiration for her. But I also noticed how many people said they hoped she knew how much they loved her, or they wished they'd told her how much they loved her. Now that it was too late, they worried that she didn't know.
As family and friends grieved over the news, the next few days began to tell her story.  Her love story.
Some stories were funny. others were nostalgic, but the ribbon of love began to tie them all together as people began to tell their own personal experience of how she'd loved them. It might have happened many years ago or a few days ago, but the magnitude of the lives she touched began to emerge into a beautiful tapestry that was her life.
Her love for Jesus was played out in every little baby she rocked, every toddler she chased, every teenager sleepover she hosted and every mud cookie she made for those who loved to eat them. Her home was open to everyone and many card games were played at her table. She was a daughter of the King, a jewel He designed to give those who knew and loved her a glimpse into His perfect love for us.
My children and grandchildren have experienced her love for many, many years and they will grieve and miss her. But they will also be better people for knowing her. We all will.

In loving memory of Deborah Owens Gilley 10/06/1950-11/29/2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Intentional Servant

For many years before there was a Take Them A site, I've signed up on a sheet of paper passed around the room, to cook a meal and deliver it to someone who was sick, or had lost a loved one, or had a new baby or was simply an overwhelmed care giver. Unless there was a valid reason I couldn't help, I always did.  Until now, I've never been on the receiving end of that type of love. Love cooked up in someone's kitchen in the form of vegetable soup or pumpkin soup, which we had delivered to us a few nights ago. the form of thinking of something to prepare for a family in crisis, taking the time to shop for the ingredients and the time to stand in front of a stove and stir in the goodness from the thoughts about that family as the pot simmers. Taking food from your kitchen to theirs is such a personal, loving, unselfish gesture. But, when you can't do that, something store bought or restaurant prepared is just as good.  Within the next few days we will be on the receiving end of two meals ordered and paid for by people who are concerned about us and who love us.  They live across country and though I wish they were close enough to bring food from their kitchen to mine, they are not, so they thought of the next best thing. They were intentional about serving us, so they discussed how they could do that.  They didn't call and say what can we do?  They called and said this is what we are going to do.  Intentional.
I've thought a lot about that in the last few days.  I wondered how many times I might have asked that question, "what can I do?" to someone who needed help, but they didn't know exactly how to express their needs. so they didn't, though there might have been many. I hope in the future instead of saying, "what can I do?"  I will say, "let me come pick up a couple of loads of laundry," or "how about I pick up your kids from school, take them to my house for a couple of hours."  There are so many needs.  Ask for a grocery list and make a run. It doesn't have to be a long list, maybe just milk and bread.  Or maybe that sick person would love a frappuccino from McDonald's or better yet, Starbucks. Offer to vacuum their floors, change the sheets on their bed, load the dishwasher, take them to a doctor's appointment and the list can go on and on.
As caregivers to our daughter Amy, and her family, I can tell you any little thing is appreciated. We've had four meals provided in the two months we've been here.  They didn't ask what they could do, they just provided.  Two times we've had people take the boys for a few hours.  It was good for the boys and good for us. We've had someone willing to come to the house and stay for a couple of hours to assist my mother-in-law as she takes care of Amy while Howard and I rushed to the grocery store for a weeks supply. And then there are those that say, "let me know if you need anything."  And that has led me to this article, because I don't know what to say, or what to ask for.  Can you bring us a meal?  Can you take the boys to your house to play for a while?  Can you come and stay with Amy while we run errands?  You see, I don't know what they really want to do.  What if I ask them one of those questions and they really deep down don't want to, but don't know how to graciously say no. So, from now on I will be specific when I ask someone if they need help. I will make suggestions about what I am willing to do. And maybe we need a new sign up site, an I Am Willing To Do site.
I am a mentor to the MOPS group at The Heights Baptist Church and we are constantly in the midst of providing meals to new moms.  What a blessing.  A hot meal provided by loving hands.  The hands of Jesus!  The next time that sign up sheet appears in your email, type your name in and bless someone.  Then call and see what other need you can provide.  Be an intentional servant.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Treasured Memories AKA Grandchidren

Home...I've always loved being at home.  When I was a little girl I always wanted to spend the night with a friend, and I promised Mother that this time I would stay until morning.  I would beg her to let me go and she would sometimes give in, knowing that as soon as dark descended I would be brought back to her in tears.  I remember the emotions that started to surface as it began to get dark...the yearning for my mother and the warmth of our home and my bed. It's called homesickness for a reason!  I have to confess, and some of my childhood friends know this, I couldn't stay away from home at night until I was in the seventh grade.  I lived in Lake City, Arkansas until I married my husband and moved to North Little Rock. Two years later I began to recover from the worst case of homesickness anyone could ever imagine, and I was truly surprised that I'd survived.  I missed living in that small town where just like in the TV show Cheers, everyone knows your name. When I went back for visits and someone called me Linda Ruth, I knew I was in my hometown.  That was a long time ago, and many of those people have either passed on to Heaven or moved away. I have a few friends who still live there, but most last names I no longer recognize.
My home is currently in Virginia and has been for the last twenty-three years and seven months.  I didn't want to live in Virginia, but the military decided that for us when my husband received orders to report to Ft. Lee for a three year tour of duty.  Three short years and then we would head back to Arkansas, at least that's what we'd planned. But after living in cramped quarters on Ft. Lee for eighteen months, we began to look for a home to rent in Colonial Heights. With nothing available that would work for our family in the price point we felt comfortable with, we changed our search to a purchase. That proved to be difficult as well. After much searching, we finally bought a house we could afford and that would accommodate our family, but I told my husband it was the ugliest house on the block. We moved in and began the long journey of making that house our home.  Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.  For me, the beauty of my home isn't the paint on the walls, the furniture in the rooms or the d├ęcor that is my own personal taste.  It's the memories that have been layered one upon another during the days we've spent being sheltered in this structure of wood and brick.  The memory of the first time my granddaughters, Taylor, Emily and Bailey came for a visit and Taylor cried when she had to leave.  Or the time Taylor came and stayed two weeks, but was really, really ready to go home to Arkansas. The sleepovers.  Our grandson Todd stayed at least two or three times a week until he was about twelve, and thankfully by that time his younger brother Trey had begun staying overnight (and still does). Their sister Ashley reminded me of myself.  She wanted to sleep over, but always had to be taken home right at bedtime, which fortunately was only two blocks away. After the first time she successfully stayed all night, it was never a problem again.
We have many summertime memories in our backyard swimming pool.  The grandchildren from North Carolina always love to visit and I remember many times watching Kailey, Jeremiah, Sophia, Mackenzie, Eva, Josiah, Ruby, and Uriah, all tumbling out of their big white van with excitement and yelling our names as they ran across the yard to the front door.  I love looking through old pictures and seeing how much they've all grown.
Jackson, Reid, Emma Kate and Hudson, visited a few months ago from Arkansas (with their parents, of course) and we went to a museum where we'd visited a few years before. They'd dressed in period clothes for a photo and were delighted to find some of those same clothes still there.  So another photo was taken to compare to the first one.  More memories.
Saying goodbye to Canin and Isaac when they moved from Virginia to Missouri and then on to Colorado are memories that were painful.  But, visits back to our house with their younger brothers, Jesse and Heath have given way to good times once again.
A few years ago God blessed us with grown grandchildren, Kristen and Ryan and we have memories of their first visit to Virginia to share in this madness of our great big family.
Our beautiful grandchildren, 2013
Zealand Paul, Grandchild #25, he was still baking when this post was written!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Thirty Days of Change

For the last thirty-six days I've lived in Colorado Springs with my husband, our daughter, Amy, her husband Kent and their four boys, and my mother-in-law, Eva. Our grandson, Canin, has graciously given us his bedroom and has been sleeping on a mattress on the playroom floor. He did say that where he was sleeping was more comfortable than his own bed, but I know he misses having his own room. If you didn't count, there are nine of us living here, which causes a lot of laundry and food consumption.  And sometimes the walls close in and the house becomes smaller and smaller, so I go for a walk or sit in the sun for a few minutes.  God has blessed me with beautiful fall weather with temps in the seventies.  He knows my southern heart.
My home in Virginia where I live with my husband sits empty, my piano silent, the falling leaves littering my front yard (until my grandson, Trey, rakes them for me) and my home computer waits for me to return and finish my book, A Patch of Cotton.  My life is on hold while I, my husband and my mother-in-law, do all the things that need to be done to keep Kent at work, Amy comfortable, and the boys in school. My sweet MOPS Moms in Virginia can relate to the things I am about to say.  My grandsons are Heath, six and in the first grade, Jesse, seven and in the second grade, Isaac, ten and in the fifth grade and Canin, eighteen and in his first year of college.
Here are a few of the questions I've asked or statements I've made in the last thirty days that I probably haven't said on a daily basis in the last forty years!  "Who peed on the toilet seat?" "Don't hit your brother."  "Why are you crying?" "Whose shorts are these and why are they on the floor?"  "I've told you and told you, don't wear your socks outside without your shoes." "If you don't bring the four jackets home today that you left at school there will be no playing games, watching TV, nothing.  You will sit in a chair until bedtime (he brought the jackets home, score)." "Okay, please, one at a time, I can't hear all three of you at the same time." "Finish your dinner." "Yes, I know you want froot loops for breakfast... again." "Do you have homework?" "Yes, we'll dress up for Halloween and go to Trunk or Treat at the church."  "Stop swinging that sword around, you're going to put someone's eye out with that thing." "I love you, see you in the morning."  "Have a good day at school."  "How was your day?"
And I have to admit a few times I've said, " oh sure, go ahead, I don't care," because the battle wasn't worth it. Parenting or grand-parenting is hard and repetitive, the same every day. It takes courage to raise children and even more courage today than it took all those years ago when I was raising my own children. These boys are bright, and good students, and were given glowing reports from their teachers to their dad last week. But, they are boys and require lots of love and attention, and sometimes I feel as though I need a whistle, like all referees, to stop the squabbling before a trip to the ER is necessary. They may fight among themselves, but they love each other and each one would quickly come to the defense of the other.
Since they are all boys my husband has the job of showers, because they won't let me anywhere near the bathroom!  And he is the homework guy. We have each found our place in this home and family where we do our best work. Sometimes though, I wake up in the middle of the night and God and I have a heart to heart.  It's hard not to ask why, or how, or when, so most of the time since He knows what I'm thinking I ask anyway.  And His Spirit that lives in my heart assures me once again that He's got this.  Whatever the this is, He's got it. Only He knows the why, the how and the when, so I take deep breaths while I listen to His voice and my husbands slumber and try to sleep again to have the energy to face the dawn that is so quickly coming. But I do believe we're exactly where we're supposed to be, even though it is not easy or pleasant, and sometimes just downright hard! Since we are blessed enough to have the type of jobs that allow us to leave our home for an extended time, we really don't know how long we will be here, we just know we will stay until we are no longer needed.
                                                              Beautiful Autumn

Monday, October 20, 2014


Everyone Ready?

Friday, August 22, 2014

What If?

K-Love is my favorite radio station, and I enjoy the uplifting stories as much as the music. One of the DJ’s told a story about having her coffee paid for by the person who had checked out before her. Of course we all know this is called “paying it forward.” She was surprised and felt blessed, even though in the past, she had done the same thing for other people. She shared about another event when “paying it forward” continued at a place of business for eleven hours. We need to hear those stories, to be reminded that many people are good and kind. Later as I was checking out at the local grocery store, her story still speaking to my heart helped me to see a need and gently nudged me into action. I only needed a box of spaghetti, and I was in a hurry. I was on a roll, I thought, as I quickly found what I’d come for and headed to the check-out. I went to the Express lane since I had less than twenty items. One item, that’s all I had, just one! But, isn’t it always the same, the express line clogged with people who can’t count. I looked for another lane, but the only other lane open had several people impatiently waiting, and I was sure the Express lane would be faster. The clerk was scanning groceries for the customer she was serving, and as the counter started to empty, the lady who was in front of me and next in line began trying to unload her cart. She was slow and struggling to lift some of the items up onto the counter. At first, all I could think about was the large package of frozen Sister Shubert rolls I had purchased at Sam’s Club that were surely prematurely baking in my hot car. But then I looked at her, really looked at her. She was probably in her eighties, and appeared weak and somewhat withered. Instantly I felt compassion. So I began to help her. By this time, the line behind me had extended out into the store with many more people who were also in a hurry. The clerk was obviously stressed and not very friendly. The lady checking out became confused when it came time to pay her bill. The clerk was curt and impatient which caused the customer to be even more confused. Finally, the lady behind me graciously asked if she meant to pay with a check. The mention of a check must have reminded her, and the lady reached into her purse, pulled out a check she’d already signed, gave it to the clerk and paid the bill. I loaded her bags of groceries into her cart and told her I would come help her get them in her car. After I paid for my spaghetti and left the store, she was still slowly making her way to her car. As we loaded her groceries into the trunk of her car, she said she suffers from COPD and the heat made it difficult to move any faster. She also said she knew she slowed things down and that people were upset with her because they were in a hurry. I told her those same people might be a little slow someday too. She thanked me and we said goodbye. All the way home, and for the rest of the day, I wondered how many people had passed her by and not really looked at her. I also wondered how many people I had passed by and ignored. Maybe not everyone would have needed the same type of help. What If people just wanted to be seen? What If some just wanted to be acknowledged with, “hello, how are you today”? What If you let the person speeding toward you in their car in the parking lot have that one empty spot? What If you slowed down to let the person in the fast lane who had sped past several cars (too fast, I might add) just ease in front of you at the exit? What If you hurried to open the door for the mom pushing a stroller, carrying a toddler, with two other young children holding on? What If you answered a sharp remark with grace? What If you spoke to or waved to everyone you passed in your neighborhood? What If you took a meal to a sick friend or neighbor? What If you volunteered at your local nursing home, even if you only had an hour to spare? What If you smiled at the people you passed in the store, actually looked at them and smiled? What If you held the door open for someone? What If you offered, without being asked, to get your neighbors mail, feed the cat and watch their house while they are away on vacation? What If you are nice to your server in the restaurant even when they aren’t? What If you helped a co-worker, even if it “isn’t your job”? What If you remembered to always say please, thank you, your welcome, and have a nice day (and mean it)? What If you kept your word, your promises and your commitments? What If you knocked on every door of every house on your street, introduced yourself, told them where you live and told them if they ever needed anything to be sure to let you know? Manners have disappeared and language has become crude and offensive. If you don’t go through the light when it turns green fast enough, the person behind you will honk their horn. There was no such thing as “road rage” until a few years ago, now our highways seem to be heavily traveled with armed, angry people. Fights break out in department stores on black Friday over electronics and other “good deals.” I know there are good people, kind people, people who volunteer in many places, help their neighbors and maybe do all the things I mentioned above. But What If everyone did? What a wonderful world that would be (sounds like a good line for a song). The incident at the grocery store gave me pause and I was convicted of my own occasional selfishness and lack of concern for others. My speech isn’t crude and I still have manners, but I admit to being rushed and becoming impatient when I am being detained by others. I will try to change.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Friends of all Ages

Deuteronomy 11:18-20 Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

My youngest friend is only seventeen, and the oldest, who recently passed away, was ninety-one. True friends can be any age.  It is the connection, the hearts of two people that seem to know each other, that creates a solid, long term relationship. Everyone has acquaintances, people you've known for years that you might consider to be your friends. But a true friend will jump in the trenches with you, listen and then be brutally honest.
Sometimes a good, long phone conversation can cure the ills of the world, or at least our own personal world. Last night was such a time.  A young mom of four who has been a friend for a few years texted me with a message that a return text wouldn't suffice. So a long phone conversation ensued.
When we are in the trenches, and sometimes they do feel like war trenches, where we hunker down and hope the fighting we hear in the next room will miraculously stop, but it doesn't and we are coming undone, then we just need to vent. A two-year old toddler can overwhelm two adults with lightening speed, leaving the parents to question their abilities to see this little person through to adulthood. And when that toddler has siblings at other stages of development, the parents began to feel that everything they are doing is WRONG!
Since I don't have answers to most situations, I listen and I share.  And I remember. Once when my boys were ages one and four, they were sick, really sick.  For days all I did was hold one or both of them.  My house was in shambles, I was in shambles and I remember thinking I would not survive. I did.
She shared some of her stories and told me how she felt she wasn't doing things right, worried about making mistakes that would scar her children in the future. So I told other stories, things that happened a long time ago, things I said or did to my children that can still haunt me today. As we talked we began to laugh which is sometimes the best medicine.
 But, she said, your kids are successful adults with wonderful families, you must have done something right.  I did, I said! I prayed and I asked God to fill in the spaces that I left blank.  To give them grace in the places where I failed to teach them the right way. To give them strength in the places where I'd been weak.  We are human, we aren't going to get it right every time.
My friend had stolen an hour away from her family to have a much needed talk.  But I could hear the children, they'd found her, she had to go back to her present day life with her precious husband and family. Hopefully, with strength and hope restored to face another day fulfilling the most important calling in the world, motherhood.
 My memories were tucked away and I returned to my husband in the home we share where there are now empty bedrooms. But our conversation had helped me too.  As I told some of my own worries and stories from long ago, I realized something I've always known, but too often forget, God answers prayer.  He did fill in the blanks  And, He will fill in the empty spaces for her too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Freedom to Parent

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
The necessity of God's intervention to experience freedom, both from imminent, life threatening dangers and from terrors produced by the imagination when all one's senses must be kept on constant alert to dangers lurking around every corner. (taken from the Holman's Study Bible for Women)

I have been involved with the MOPS program at the Heights Baptist Church as a mentor for several years. For those who aren't familiar with MOPS, it is an international organization and the acronym stands for Moms of Preschoolers.  It was started in 1973 by a group of moms who needed each other to lend their own experiences and support as they raised and nurtured their babies and pre-schoolers. A place where they could land softly when the stresses of motherhood became too much to bear alone.  And sometimes a place where they could also share their fears.  And fear has prompted this post today.
Our MOPS group has a facebook page that is very helpful to find a multitude of things needed in this journey through the landmine called parenting. Yesterday there was great discussion on allowing your child to play freely in their neighborhood without  parental surpervision.  The discussion was polite and very understanding of everyone's views.  I wasn't surprised, because we have some of the brightest, loving, understanding and Christ following moms you will want to meet.  The conversation ranged from a few who allowed their kids to play in their cul-de-sac with others, to a few that won't let them out of their sight, for several reasons.  Some reasons were because they lived on a busy street, or their children were still too young, or the moms weren't quite comfortable with where they lived. Some of the moms who were comfortable with not being present was because of where they lived or that they had a large fenced in backyard, etc.
My job as a mentor is to listen, sometimes offer advice (when asked), support and share from my own experiences as a mom. I try to stay involved, and facebook offers me a glimpse into their lives outside of our meetings.  When a conversation occurs such as the one yesterday, I am interested and sometimes concerned with the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis.  When I went to bed last night I couldn't stop thinking about everything I read about the fear of losing a child.
Since I grew up in a very different era and also raised my own children many years ago I always try to think about the differences. I lived in a small town as a child and raised my own children in that same place. Were there registered sex offenders then? No, they weren't registered, but they were there.  Did child abductions occur then?  Sure they did, but if it didn't happen in your town or close by you never heard about it. The difference I think is the media.  I researched child abductions and before there is criticism about what I am about to say, I know, I know, not everything you read on the internet is true!  However, I've heard this before and if you pay attention to the news when an abduction occurs, most of the time it is a parent or a relative who has absconded the child.  When I hear about a child abduction, right or wrong, I sigh with relief when I find out it was a parent or family member.  So, how do I feel about this issue?  A little sad.  I think about the freedoms I enjoyed growing up and that my own children also experienced the feeling of safety as they played with the neighborhood kids. It's another individual decision that parents have to make for their own children. My only advice would be to be aware of sensationalism from our news sources.  After all, they are out to make money and they very rarely come back and admit they were either wrong or they added into the story what they think, not what had really happened. And pray, for relief from fear and for discernment.  I sure do love my MOPS Moms!  Note: I realize abduction is not the only issue, could be bullying and many other things.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wannabe Writer

  Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

     Welcome to my blog!  I confess I'm a wanna-be writer.  I've loved the printed word since I began learning to read.  For years I've been an avid reader, and the passion for the rest of the story can seriously interrupt my life, until the last page of the book is turned.
     Six years ago I began writing a book about my parents.  Their love story had been tucked deep inside my heart for many, many years.  I yearned for the opportunity to tell about the life they shared to a really good author, maybe Nicholas Sparks, and watch him work his magic into a riveting book and possibly a movie, so the rest of the world could know what I knew.  But, successful authors are hard to reach!
     So I knew if their story was told, it was up to me to do the telling.  Where do I begin?  How do I do this?  This thing I want to tell the world about the two people who gave me life.  I began to pull to the surface the memories, some happy and some painful, written in black ink on stark white paper and bound into a book that I was bold enough to share with others.  What would they say after they read it?  Had I been capable of explaining what I felt?  Then would they know what I knew?
     My bookHer Final Gift, was the result of four years of struggle and yes, sometimes tears, to tell the love story of Harmon and Eula Dunlap. It was gratifying to see it in print, and know that their story in book form was resting on bookshelves in many homes all across America. No, it didn't make the New York Times bestseller list, but it did touch many hearts.