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The Same Air

15 Jun

You will guard him and keep him in
perfect and constant peace whose mind
[both its inclination and its character]
is stayed on You, because he commits
himself to You, leans on You,
and hopes confidently in You.
Isaiah 26:3
The Message

Oh my!!  My heart ~ such inexpressible longing …With fingers poised on the keyboard, I will try to sort out my feelings and aches.  Oh how much good it would do my heart to pull up next to a kindred spirit, to take a few deep breaths in, and to pour out what is inside.  Not just to share, but to lay down a very burdened heart.  Since writing has always been my therapeutic refuge, here I am.  Please remember that the venting is more for my good and you are simply along for the read.

The past several days have been consumed with news ~ the bad nearly smothering and snuffing out the very life of the good.  It all started with a desperate attempt at getting all the yard work done before spending the remainder of the week in Baltimore to visit with my mom and Kim’s little family.  In a rush, I neglected to tend to the proper maintenance of the riding mower.  It ran out of oil.  It died.  It’s bad enough that we now have to buy a different mower, the deceased one wasn’t even ours!  It belonged to our landlord.  Sigh …

In one week’s time, there were 3 people who I knew that passed away.  Frances Zeilinga was the mother of one of my oldest brother’s childhood best friends.  Even though I hadn’t seen Frances for many years, there is a sense of finality when parents of our friends are beginning to pass away.  Just a few days later, my own childhood best friend’s father passed away.   Becky’s daddy had been miraculously healed of cancer many years ago and God blessed him with nearly 30 additional years to enjoy life and family.  Just a few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with cancer once again, endured a battery of treatments and was finally beginning to feel better.  Then simply in his sleep last week, he bade farewell to his earthly body and was welcomed into the arms of his Savior, leaving behind his wife of 6 plus decades, children, grandchildren and greats.   Another couple days later, Pam Carnder’s ‘fairy tale’ finally ended when her beloved husband, Steve, passed away after his long 5 ½ year battle with cancer.  Pam and I worked together at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center … a faithful participant of Munchy Monday, my 2009 summer prayer partner, and a dear friend.

Cancer is rearing its ugly head in the life of another dear friend.  Back in the ‘90s when our family lived out here in PA, but in the Harrisburg/Hershey area, Sandie and I were pretty much inseparable ~  we worked together, went to church together, and our families often vacationed together.  Recent visits for evaluations, tests, and results have proven to be alarming and quite sobering as she is facing extensive treatments and procedures in attempt to defeat this disease at its own evil game.

Just yesterday, another precious friend with whom I’ve shared life and also death … in the hills of West Virginia, Cindy suffered a heart attack and was life-lined to a larger hospital where she had a stint inserted in her severely blocked artery.  Having just spoken to her on the phone and hearing her weak voice just added to the ache that is mounting inside.

The trees on the grounds of Bonita Park

If the morning reports or the evening news has caught your eye in the past week concerning the wild fires that have devastated south New Mexico, this has also heaped sadness and sorrow to my already bleeding heart.  Bonita Park, the New Mexico District (Church of the Nazarene) Camp and Conference Center, was in the direct path of the Little Bear wildfire, which incinerated much of the 200 acre camp.  While living in Albuquerque for nearly 10 years, Bonita Park became very dear to me … several retreats, family camps, and many precious friends had homes there.  Gratefully, the main buildings which support the functionality of the campground, were spared ~ Offices, dining hall, the tabernacle, the local Nazarene church, and some dorms.  But nearly all of the residences, belonging to camp staff, camp volunteers, retirees, and leaseholders who have had camp property since the early beginning years of Bonita Park, perished in the flames.  Original buildings whose walls breathed the holiness tradition and heritage on those sacred grounds are now reduced to ashes.  Scheduled summer retreats, reunions, and camps, including the anticipated annual family camp are all now written in pencil on the camp calendar, waiting on God’s intervention in all areas.

Precious memories have flooded my heart and my mind these past several days as I have thought about each circumstance and each person.  And here I sit in York, Pennsylvania.  The memorial service for Becky’s dad is in Florida.  Steve’s funeral was yesterday in Cincinnati.  West Virginia is several hours away, and even Sandie, who lives the closest, is an hour away.  I won’t even think about how far away New Mexico is.  And then when I get all mushy inside like this, I can’t help but cry alittle more for my son who lives in Seattle … so far away.  Have I mentioned that my heart hurts?

Not everything has been bad … two new healthy babies have been born to nephews and nieces in the past 2 weeks, and my mother-in-law received a good and treatable report from the doctor concerning a health issue.  Also, my precious mother came out last week to meet her little great-granddaughter for the first time.  We had a very special time enjoying the wide span of ages included in the 4 generations.  For these good things, I am grateful!

In the mix of the good and the bad, playing in the background is the extreme static of my own life, reminding me that the dial is not placed just right on the station, and it’s consuming my world with a lot of noise.  Even though the air around me is filled with smoke, illness, death, and static, in order to survive, I am allowing Jesus to carry me close to Himself.  Jesus and I are breathing the same air.

Until next time,
Debbie

19-21I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
   the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
   the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
   and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

 22-24God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
   his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
   How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
   He’s all I’ve got left.

 25-27God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
   to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
   quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
   to stick it out through the hard times.

Lamentations 3:19-26
The Message

The header picture are deer out in the woods of Bonita Park
March 2006

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Manure

21 May

Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose
and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 4:5

Tim and I

This was one of the best weather weekends of the year so far…absolutely beautiful!!  Not willing to waste the gorgeous sunshine on yard work, Tim and I hopped on the motorcycle Saturday afternoon and set out for a nice ride through the country.  Families with children were out in their yards playing together.  Couples like us were out working in gardens or tending to their flowers.  Swimming pools were being opened.  Yards were being mowed.  Yard sale signs were posted, directing shoppers to their treasures.  Treasures were littered all over lawns, tables, and in garages … and yes, we stayed the course without stopping.  Bright balloons were tied to a mailbox, pointing the way to a birthday party.  A church parking lot full of vehicles and the marquee at the road announced congratulations to the bride and groom.  Ice cream shops, pizza parlors, gas stations, and post offices.  Life everywhere!  How fun to truly take a back seat to it all and watch the world in full bloom of activity as we rode by!  Just as we went around a bend, the houses on both sides of the road were beautifully landscaped, lawns were well manicured, and the flowers were pristine ~ and then it hit us!  Well, it didn’t literally hit us, but the stench of the manure slammed into our full-faced helmets and immediately made its way through the vents and into our noses.  The initial whiff was not so bad since reflex usually dictates a shortened breath.  But once I began to inhale again, the thick odor was still there and getting worse as we traveled.  I looked over at the field beside us and saw the guilty spread, fertilization at its best.  With every breath I took, I felt sorry for all the home owners living within a mile of that farm.  I could hardly breathe … my eyes were burning, my stomach was churning, and I was slowly suffocating.  Just as I was about to pass out and fall off the back of the bike, we finally rode into the clearing of fresh air.  Slow deep breaths cleansed my lungs while I began to mentally write this blog.

I don’t know about you, but this is so exemplary of real life.  Busy with the usual and normal things – just like I saw all afternoon while on the back of that motorcycle.  The way is nice, in fact quite beautiful at times.  Well manicured and maintained, beautifully blooming, and even enjoyable.  And then WHAM!  The manure hits … and yes, in real life, it truly does hit!  It stinks, it makes my tummy hurt, I find it hard to breathe, and I feel like I’m going to pass out and fall off the ride.  But just like I did Saturday, I hold on tight to the Driver.  I know that He doesn’t like it either, but to get where God has purposed for me to go, I have to pass beside the fields of manure.  And there isn’t only one freshly fertilized field to endure, but many.  The crazy thing about manure is that it’s extremely valuable to the field over which it is spread.  It gives nourishment and fertilization, which without the key element of manure, the very life and existence of the crop would be damaged due to lack of nutrients.  It’s the same in my own personal life … God allows the manure in my life to nourish and fertilize life-giving qualities to my never-dying soul  ~ like dependency, trust, grace, forgiveness, and love.

Won’t you join me today in putting our trust in the One who is in charge, knowing that He will get us through to our final destination, including manure fields and all?  He will get us through …

Until next time,
Debbie

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaiah 43:1-2

 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this
all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down,
but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the
death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed
in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given
over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed
in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work
in us, but life is at work in you.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12

***  For my friends who subscribe to Morsels of Mercy and automatically get a copy sent to your email, check out the blog on my website to see the latest pictures of our granddaughter, Lillianne.        https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com

 

Express Girl

17 Feb

But now, this is what the LORD says–
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
 I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1

 

 

I’m Debbie, the Kelly Girl!   Well, sort of…   Those of us dating back to the era of the ‘60s are very familiar with this term, originally signifying a woman who accepted temporary clerical work in office settings for her source of income.  In all reality, however, I am an Express Girl!   After being so frustrated with Craigslist and their onslaught of SCAMS and bogus ads, I was referred to an employment agency for help.  Express Employment Professionals are not only looking to find permanent part time work for me, but they also offer temporary assignments that are short term and fill a void for companies in need. 

I am currently working for the County of York, Pennsylvania in the Department of Information Services.  Located in the downtown area, I have experienced quite a change in my daily life style since becoming an Express Girl.  To prevent paying nearly 2 hours worth of wages just in parking each day, we spent some research time on line to determine the best alternative, and I now ride the Rabbit Transit to and from work.  I have a photo ID that clips to my clothing, allowing me access to the necessary areas, and I am continuing to tweak my new skills at answering a 22 line telephone system.  These temporary days of being a county employee begin early, full of new experiences and interesting people, and are filled with great anticipation of pulling back into the garage and closing the door to the outside world at the end of the day. 

Having been out of the employment loop for a while, along with the unknown of city traffic, downtown parking, and an unfamiliar work environment, unsettledness was found knocking on the door of my heart for a few days.  Now, I know to Whom I belong and am confident that none of the circumstances of my life march past God unnoticed.  To remind me of these truths throughout my work day, I jotted down some notes that I received from my Constant Companion … and the blue note card now sits on my temporary desk, ready to encourage and settle any unsettledness that might try to return.   

 “Dear restless heart, be still, for peace is God’s own smile…”
From Streams in the Desert ~ Tuesday, Feb 15

    

“But now, this is what the Lord says – He Who created you …
fear not, for I have redeemed you;  I have summoned you by name … you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1

“Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,
‘Peace be with you!’”
John 20:26

 

 “Let us sing Hallelujah by ANTICIPATION”
From Streams in the Desert ~ Wednesday, Feb 16

 

I am always in awe of how God takes care of me!  The Red Sea was rolled back personally for me in waves as I experienced His undeniable intervention on my behalf these past few days.  While I heard various ones around the office comment on how crazy quiet the phones were,  I felt like standing up and informing them all that it wasn’t an odd occurrence … it was MY God taking care of me and allowing me the time I needed to learn this new phone system!  Then after researching and noting the scheduled bus stops and transfers and having accepted the fact that I would be walking 2 – 3 blocks to where I needed to be, God WOWed me!  Since the bus driver undoubtedly recognized an amateur passenger, he inquired of my final destination, informing me that if I stayed on the bus at the transfer center, he would then drop me off at the next stop which is directly behind the Administration Building, leaving me with a 30 second walk to the door!  YAY GOD!!  At the end of the work day, all I do is take the same 30 second walk back to the bus stop and within 15 minutes, I’m picked up and headed toward home.  $1.18 each way and I’m singing His praises!! 

 

As an Express Girl, my desire is to truly represent the various meanings of the word EXPRESS …

Verb 1                         To articulate, communicate and convey

Adjective 1                   Fast, direct, nonstop and prompt

Adjective 2                   Precise, definite, exact and specific

Verb 2                          Squeeze out, extract

As these days of temporary employment transition from downtown York to possibly other assignments as an Express Girl, I will be praying.  My prayers are that as I learn new things, meet interesting people, and experience the expected unknowns, may my need for dependence upon Jesus ‘squeeze out’ and extract His love from within me.  My short term missions will require quick, nonstop, prompt, precise, specific communication between my Lord and I … that will be reflected gently to my ever-changing world by a heart that loves Jesus.  Won’t you join me in being an EXPRESS person … depending on Jesus and then taking Him to our world?

Until next time,
Debbie

Merry Christmas from the Van Hooks!

21 Dec

Our beautiful children!

Once again, we are in awe of God’s blessings, His great mercy, and His precious gift of His son Jesus as we celebrate this Christmas season and enter into the New Year.  As the song writer penned … “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand, but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.”

 

Bahama Cruise

This year has been eventful!  Our grandson, Cole Michael, celebrated his first birthday in March.  How quickly that year seemed to fly by, and how quickly this little guy is growing and changing!  Following our trip out to PA for his birthday party, we headed on down to Florida for our vacation.  In celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary (July 11th) we enjoyed a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas, then soaked up some Florida sunshine for several more days before heading back to reality.  Reality consisted of the normal things of life, like home and work, but it also suddenly included helping to take care of my mother who fell and shattered her elbow while we were away on vacation.  After surgery, months of physical therapy, doctor visits, and lots of help from us kids and her church family, Mom is continuing to gain use and strength of her right arm and hand. We are so grateful for the Lord’s touch on her as she has slowly healed!

Our son-in-law, Troy, graduated from Penn State University this past May.  With his degree in Security and Risk Analysis, his new career as a consultant relocated this little family to Glen Burnie, MD, located on the south side of Baltimore.  Up until their move, Kim worked at the Courtyard by Marriott where she was the Assistant General Manager.  Now she is blessed by being able to stay home with Cole full time, employed by the cutest little toddler around!   Kim enjoys working out at their local gym where she takes Zumba and other exercise classes.  She is also involved in the Mom’s group at Grace Pointe Church of the Nazarene.

As the busy days of spring collided into the even busier days of summer, Tim was offered and he accepted a new job in the state of Pennsylvania.   September 1, just two weeks short of beginning our 5th year at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center, we relocated to Red Lion, PA.  He is now employed by K/S Remodeling Systems, where his talent for detail and craftsmanship is utilized on a daily basis to refurbish and remodel kitchens.   This is very similar to what Tim did when we lived in PA back in the 90s.   We are renting a very nice home that is very roomy and spacious for when our family gathers in, which happens quite frequently since we moved.  Kim and her family only live an hour away, so we are overwhelmed with the blessing of being able to watch Cole grow and become his own little person.  His favorite things in the whole world are tractors, and Dora the Explorer, fire trucks, cars, animal crackers, puzzles, and his dog all coming in tied for second place!   He is so much fun and has brought such joy to Grami and Grampi’s life!

Not wanting to miss out on the excitement of our move, Ryan flew in for a visit and spent a week with us.  Since it was his first time out to see his sister’s new home as well, we all took the time to relax and enjoy some of the favorite sites of Baltimore for a few days.  The highlight was our trip to the beach and to play in the sand and ocean with Cole.  Once we got back to our house, there were boxes to unpack, and furniture to arrange, all the while we had lots of fun and cooked lots of yummy food in our big kitchen!  Family time is such a blessing!!

Regis Philbin, Mom, myself, and Kim

Christmas began early in December at our house this year.  Kim and I surprised my mom with a trip to New York City and tickets to be on LIVE with Regis and Kelly!  What a fun time we had!!  The following day, Ryan and his girlfriend Brittany flew in from Seattle to join the festivities that had already started a few days prior.  We enjoyed lots of family fun playing Wii, going bowling, watching movies, and enjoying a houseful of good cooks.  “Fake Christmas” was celebrated as gifts were exchanged, stuffed stockings were emptied, and Cole rode around on his new tractor. 

Cole and his new TRACTOR!

As many of you already know, I love to write and started a blog back in February.  Morsels of Mercy is just that ~ short stories inspired by God’s mercies through my journey of life!   https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com     Many of the details of this past year that I skipped over here in my Christmas letter you can read about in my blog.  Enjoy reading!!

Christmas week is now upon us, and we will be back in Indiana for the holiday.  As we travel the many miles and gather with our families, my heart and thoughts will be turning toward many of you who are hurting this Christmas season.  I will be praying that you will find Jesus to be so much more than a baby in the manger, but that He will be your Healer, your Comforter, your Strength, your Everything. 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great mercies
we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning:
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!!
The Van Hooks

 

Tim & Debbie
Troy, Kim, Cole & Tadpole
Ryan & Brittany
My mom, Wilma

Our family