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Albuquerque

10 Sep

 

 

 The Lord will guide you always;
    He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11

 

As the captain instructed the flight crew to prepare the cabin for landing, I glanced out my window and caught my first glimpse in eight years of Sandia Mountain.  Within minutes, our plane flew over the Crest and the familiar view of the city of Albuquerque sprawled out below us.  Tears welled up as our great Southwest plane made a large circle over top of the South Valley, allowing us to recognize buildings and landmarks.  Once landed and inside the airport, memories of days gone by of the arrival and departure of countless Work & Witness teams pulled and yanked on our hearts.  Needless to say, by the time we entered the airport again 6 days later, our hearts were pretty sore.

 

Following the biggest tug on our hearts, the first item on our itinerary that Wednesday evening was to drive to the former campus of the Nazarene Indian Bible College, which is where we called home for 9 years.  As we pulled in and parked our rented car behind the chapel, we grew silent as we looked around us and saw the extreme disrepair and neglect in every direction.  As we slowly walked around on the very sidewalks that our Work & Witness teams poured, tears once again filled our eyes.  A sadness consumed our thoughts as we remembered students and their families, dedicated staff and volunteers, and hundreds of sacrificial team members who gave of their time, their resources, and their lives to make the campus of Nazarene Indian Bible College a place for men and women to answer the call of God on their lives.  Eight years ago the property was sold.  The Van Hooks packed up and moved back east.  The rest is history.  Thankfully, while visiting with those who purchased the 17 acre facility, leadership changes have taken place along with immediate plans of major cleanup and repair.  Tim and I will be praying for the Sandia Church as this huge task looms before them, and that they will redeem that which has fallen … that which over 66 years ago was a gift from God to the Native American people and to the Church of the Nazarene.  May it once again become Holy Ground and a place that the community can be proud of.

 

Dusk had stolen the daylight as Tim and I finished our pilgrimage to NIBC.  The sky was dark as we headed north on I-25, but the beautiful lights of the city illuminated our drive and encouraged our hearts as we made our way to the home of our friends, Daniel and Jennifer.  Having just enjoyed the first meal of our ABQ vacation, Lotaburger green chile burgers, we were excitedly greeted by our hosts and were grateful for their warm hospitality!  We were blessed beyond words with the entire lower level of their home, complete with a beautiful guest bath and bedroom, furnished in southwest décor!!

 

August 28, 2014

7 of us met for lunch at the Sandwich Company

Aug 28, 2014

Stevie and Jenee with their children

While Tim and Daniel were busy taking care of guy things, Thursday was my day to spend with the girls.  Mani/pedis were on the morning agenda, as well as an afternoon surprise massage … all special treats with and from my friend, Jenee.  In the middle of our fun day, we met 5 other of my friends for lunch, where we all talked at once and tried to catch up on the past 8 years of life.  The evening was extra special as Tim met me at the beautiful Yarbrough home where Jenee prepared a delicious dinner, complimented by red and green chiles. What a blessing to sit around the table with Stevie and Jenee, their 4 children, Jenee’s father and his lady friend…to participate in family conversations, to watch the various personalities interact, and to soak up every morsel of every moment.  As we all went outside to play in the backyard, I couldn’t help but to thank God for His answer to a shared prayer that was prayed over 9 years ago – His answer was the drug addicted life of Jenee Noriega.  Thank you, Jesus!

 

Aug 29, 2014

Breakfast at Barelas with Mario, Vinny and his 2 boys

Aug 29, 2014

Emilio and Martha

The next morning brought us back down to the south valley where our children grew up, where we met two of our son’s best friends from high school for breakfast … at Barelas Coffee House.  Mario and Vinny – and Vinny’s two little guys, Javier and Joaquin.  What a treat to sit and visit with these boys – now all grown up with adult lives of their own!  My heart swelled with lots of love and pride, along with gratefulness to a God who blessed my son’s life those many years ago with the friendship of these two fine young men.  What an awesome start to our Friday!  Since we were so close, we drove back down to our old stomping ground, this time stopping to visit our neighbors who live behind the NIBC campus.  Emilio and Martha were thrilled to see us, inviting us inside their home where we shared stories of kids and grandkids, work and life.  Taking us out to their large garden before we left, they sent us away with two bags full of freshly picked green chile, jalapenos, and other veggies.  What a treat!!

 

Aug 29, 2014

Dinner at Henriettas with the McKinneys and Mary

Later that evening, Tim and I made our way back across town to find our dear friend, Mary Jimenez, and the 3 of us drove the familiar route to Los Lunas for dinner, where we met Tom and Laurita McKinney.  Once again, sitting inside Henrietta’s and across the table and beside dear friends from NIBC, I found my heart was full and running over.  Several years, a lot of life, and many changes have all taken place … but I will always remember the scripture that Tom, without hesitation, proposed to be the theme verse for the 50th anniversary celebration of Nazarene Indian Bible College in 1998.  Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8   As we realized that time had even taken an adverse toll on one of our favorite restaurants, I was comforted by evening’s end to know that Jesus had Tom and Laurita and Mary safely in His unchanging hands.  It was a fun time of catching up, laughing and remembering many, many good times in ministry together!   It was a very heart-warming evening!

 

Sept 1, 2014

Our gracious hosts … Daniel and Jennifer

The weekend arrived and we had set aside Saturday to spend time with our gracious hosts.  Following an adventurous time of early morning travel east of the city, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at a country corner restaurant in Edgewood.  I enjoyed two over easy eggs on top of a chile rellano…oh my goodness!   Since I was literally 5 minutes away from my sweet friend, Sonja, I drove over to visit with her for a couple hours as we chatted the afternoon by.  That evening was quiet, relaxing, and spent at home with Daniel, Jennifer and their bird, Pepe.

 

Aug 31, 2014

Sarah and Cynthia with Sarah’s twins

Sunday was truly a marathon day as there were many people and many places on our agenda!  I arrived at Sandia Mountain church at 9:00 am, where I was given a facility tour by Cynthia Myers … as I greeted and hugged friends, surprising many, and chatting with several.  My allotted hour flew by all too quickly, but my next stop was over 20 minutes away and I needed to hurry.  As I drove to Rio Rancho, I began to pray for Jenee as she was going to be preaching this morning … and I didn’t want to miss it.  Entering the service just moments after it had started, I stood beside my friend as our voices harmonized, both of us in tears as we worshipped the One Who brought us together over 9 years ago.

 

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing
praise to the King of kings
You are my everything
and I will adore You.

 

Aug 31, 2014

Pastor Jenee

As Jenee got up to preach, I hung onto every word … incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be there at that moment.  My mind kept traveling back to 2005 and 2006 when Jenee was a brand new Christian, struggling to stay above the drugs and the lifestyle that had held her captive for 19 years.  Watching her, not only as she preached, but in the everyday … and even on the phone, the joy of Jesus and her love for Him literally radiates from the inside out of Jenee.    Following her message, there was a small reunion of friends that took place as I greeted old friends from Sandia … and then Stevie’s cousin JoeJoe!  What an awesome morning!  As I drove back across Paseo Del Norte to the northeast side of Albuquerque, my heart was full and running over…thrilled to be back in Albuquerque and to see so many dear faces.

 

Tim had gone to Heights First Church with the Denigs, representing us there and seeing so many people from our past, including Dr. John Griffin from NIBC.  Tim and I shared stories from our morning while we sat and enjoyed a delicious Sunday dinner at Los Cuates with our friends, Daniel and Jennifer.

 

Aug 31, 2014

Bernita, Sandra and Ophie at Apache Ave.

Sunday evening simply topped off a grand and glorious day as we spent the evening with our Native American friends at Apache Avenue Church of the Nazarene.  We all gathered in the fellowship hall for dinner at 5 pm, giving us time to visit and to enjoy some awesome blue corn enchiladas and green chile stew.  We then moved into the sanctuary where we sang hymns in Navajo and enjoyed the evening message by Dr. Julian Gunn.  Nearly 40 people were there, dear friends and acquaintances from our years spent in Albuquerque – some we rubbed shoulders with on a daily basis and others we saw when worshipping together in various church settings.  Tears once again flowed down both of our faces as our hearts swelled with memories of those days, so ordained by God.

 

Sept 1, 2014

Vinny and his momma, Therese

Our final day was filled with packing green chile for the flight home, thanks to Vinny and his Momma for spoiling us rotten!!  “We’re going to be doing chiles tomorrow – let us do them for you so you don’t have to take up your time working on chiles!”  Even though we fussed and said no, they insisted.  Monday morning, we walked away with 30 pounds of roasted green chiles, already peeled and in small freezer bags, frozen, a recipe for chile rellanos, some homemade steak and green chile sauce and a huge smile on our faces and gratefulness in our hearts!!  You don’t find folks like that out east.  You just don’t!  We stopped at a roadside chile stand and picked up 15 more pounds of fresh, non-roasted chile to take home.  Once home, much to the curiosity of our neighbors, Tim roasted them on our charcoal grill, we peeled them and froze them whole for chile rellanos.  Needless to say, our freezer is full of yummy New Mexico goodness and we are happy!!

 

Sept 1, 2014

Green chile

We are grateful for our two Southwest Airlines ‘frequent flyer’ tickets that took us to Albuquerque and even more grateful for their “2 bags fly free” policy that took us and our green chiles safely back to PA with no additional costs!  We have been home now just over a week and we still find it difficult to grasp that we finally went back for a visit … what took us so long?  It had been 8 years since we left.  We both have our unspoken theories, I’m sure … but we did go back. The same God who called us to go as missionaries to the Native American in 1997 met us there when we returned to visit in 2014.  Blessing upon blessing filled those 6 days … and we are anxiously anticipating another trip in the future.  Probably when the freezer has no more green chile.

 

Won’t you join me in rejoicing in the fact that our God is the same, yesterday, today and forever?  Our circumstances change, our children grow up, friendships take on a different perspective, we get older, and our world all around us is always adjusting to a new day … but Jesus Christ will never change!

 

Until next time,
Debbie

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

 
“Please excuse the mess … site under construction.”  In the midst of our recent move, our domain name expired causing us to unexpectedly and immediately change email addresses … causing a crash to my morselsofmercy site and its format of family pictures.  There is a fix to all things, but I simply have not felt like I could justify the time needed to put everything in its proper place again.  So, please excuse the mess.  At least there is new verbage and an update to my crazy but blessed life. The pictures on the sidebar will be a pleasant surprise for another day.
 ***************************
** If you are interested in viewing all of the pictures from our trip to ABQ
that I posted on Facebook,
feel free to click this link … whether you have Facebook or not … enjoy!!
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How Long Has It Been?

1 Aug

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you;
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8

 

OH.  MY. How long has it been?  Over two months, you say?  I deeply apologize for not writing sooner, but it certainly was not done so out of neglect.  My heart’s desire and priority is to write and to do so often … but life and its priorities often trump my heart.  Such is the case of late.

 

Life has been full…full of excitement, busyness, travel, heartache and change.  As brief as possible, I will back up and attempt at highlighting the past couple of months.  Where do I begin?

 

Our new home

Our new home

Let’s start with one rainy Sunday afternoon in April.  We had our realtor show us a house that had just been listed the day before.  As we walked through the front door, we sensed immediately that this home was different than any of the others we had looked at. It was bright inside with big beautiful windows and high ceilings, large and nicely painted rooms, and the price was right. Three days later we made an offer.  Within 24 hours, we knew we were going to be buying a house!

 

De-clutter became my new motto.  I started with closets and drawers, and I was serious.  It was time to look at each and every article of clothing and make a decision.  Items that didn’t make the cut began gathering in large bags in the front hall, later to be donated, while drawers and closets were neatly organized and ready to be packed for the move.  I spent hours and hours and more hours in the basement sorting and going through boxes of stuff that we hadn’t had room to do anything with for years!  As the stack of donated items grew, a true sense of accomplishment began to settle on me, helping to make my tired and sore feet feel better!  I also sorted through keepsakes.  Years and years of them.  I’m not a hoarder by any means, but I am a keeper.  There is a difference.  I love to keep things that bring back memories of special people, times, and places.  Well, my life has been full of all of these, and I’m talking literally full!  I decided it was time to continue the de-clutter process and down-size my treasures by taking a lot of pictures and scanning letters and documents.  As the trash bags filled with countless items, my heart and home began to feel liberated.   I am a blessed woman, and this whole process greatly reminded me of this fact!

 

The sellers were relocating out-of-state and their timeline was flexible, so we agreed on a closing date of June 12.  This gave us plenty of time to continue to methodically de-clutter, organize, pack, and be ready without a huge rush.  Moving is certainly not a foreign word to us, but moving just on the other side of town is definitely a different concept…and even nicer reality!  And then God gives us the best house-warming gift of all when Verizon flew Ryan into Baltimore for a business trip just 2 days after we closed on our new home.  Our entire family (minus Brittany) was together for Father’s Day, and then the following weekend for the big move.  What a hand-picked blessing from God Himself to my heart, allowing me to share this special time with both of my children.

 

More on the house later …

 

May 2014

NIBC friends

Just 2 weeks before we closed, for Memorial Day weekend, we drove to Wadsworth, Ohio for a weekend with friends.  This event was put on the calendar last fall – a reunion of sorts for friends who had worked / volunteered at the Nazarene Indian Bible College in Albuquerque while we were there a few years ago.  There were 12 of us who gathered there that day … to reminisce, to catch up, to laugh and cry, and to thank God for bringing us all together then and now.  Since that day in May, one of our dear friends, Carol Hileman, has gone on home to be with Jesus.  She and her hubby, Leonard, were the cooks at NIBC for many years.

 

Nearly every waking moment in the month of June was consumed with either packing or unpacking.  An occasional motorcycle ride, yard sale, or trip to Lowes was thrown in the mix, but it was a blur of busyness.

 

Cole Michael Lillianne Hope

Cole Michael
Lillianne Hope

July has been more of the same, with a few more opportunities to sit down and appreciate what has actually taken place.  Then a couple weeks ago, the house was filled with the awesome sounds of little people and their love for Mimi, Papaw and life!  What a great weekend of getting them settled into their new big bedroom that they now share, exploring the small stream that runs through our back yard, and soaking up every morsel of love they give to their grandparents!

 

July 2014

Me, my brothers, and our Mom

Then this past weekend, my heart was filled with more love of family as Kim, Cole and Lillie drove out to Indy with me to attend the Wells family reunion, hosted by my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Russell in Brown County.  There were over 70 of us there … I know my Daddy would’ve loved every minute of the time together!  In his honor, I edited my parents’ home movies and put together a “Wells Family Version” … nearly 80 minutes of clips from 1961 to 1987 ~ Christmas parties, birthday parties, family picnics, weddings, vacations, etc.  Several family members took a copy home, anxious to see themselves back in another time and in another place.

 

Kim and I added an extra few days to our trip to visit with some friends and other family, making our trip complete with lots of fun, great memories, and tons of pictures!  And considering that our time on the road was longer than expected, Cole and Lillie travelled very well and made Mimi and Momma very happy!

 

So, here I am today.  I’m finally making the time to do what my heart has wanted to do for weeks!!  I also feel like I need to post a sign that says “Please excuse the mess … site under construction.”  In the midst of the move, our domain name expired causing us to unexpectedly and immediately change email addresses … causing a crash to my morselsofmercy site and its format of family pictures.  There is a fix to all things, but I simply have not felt like I could justify the time needed to put everything in its proper place again.  So, please excuse the mess.  At least there is new verbage and an update to my crazy but blessed life. The pictures on the sidebar will be a pleasant surprise for another day.

 

As I put closure to my thoughts today, my heart desires to express yet another dimension to my life.  As I sit here in my little town in south central PA, my precious friends in Crowley, Louisiana are literally watching the sands of time quickly empty the hour glass on Joe’s life.  My recent visit to Cajun country in April will always be one of the most cherished trips of my life, as I spent several days with Becky and Joe and their family.  Those were the days when Joe, even after just having his 7th surgery to remove melanoma, would get a burst of renewed energy and go into the kitchen and cook an entire meal for us, excited to be of help, although he couldn’t eat any of it himself.  In his raspy yet cheerful voice, Joe and I reminisced about days gone by … and about what God was doing in his heart and life even then as he continued to face this dreaded and vicious disease.  That was April.  A couple weeks ago after receiving the devastating results from his latest scans, Joe was given 3 months to live and was put on hospice care.   The miles between me and Becky are so, so many, but yet our hearts are very connected, as I was so frequently reminded in these past few months as I sorted through my treasures, finding multitudes of letters, cards, pictures, and keepsakes from a lifetime of friendship.  After returning from my trip to Louisiana, I picked up my own copy of Jesus Calling, which is the devotional book that my best Bud reads every day.  Somehow I wanted us both to know that although we cannot talk every day, our hearts were on the same page … literally.  This morning’s words comforted me …  since I cannot be there with my precious friend during these long exhausting days of caring for her dying husband, Jesus reminded me that she is never alone … “My Presence watches over you continually.  I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.”

 

Won’t you join me just now in whatever situation you find yourself in … of knowing and embracing the truth that you are never alone – His Presence watches over you continually.  He has engraved you on the palms of His hands.

 

Until next time,
Debbie

 

 

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you;
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8

 

See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are ever before Me.
Isaiah 49:16

 

Crowley, Louisiana

18 Apr

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace
to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

 

My flight into Baton Rouge landed earlier than scheduled, which allowed some quiet time to sit on a park bench in front of the airport as I waited for my gracious chauffeurs to arrive.  I appreciated the extra time to catch my breath in prayer and anticipation of the next few day’s visit with my dear friends.  Life and its unpredictable way of turning circumstances up-side down and throwing them in your face has done just that to them.

 

Becky's wedding

Becky’s wedding – November 1978

 

As Joe told one of his nurses the other day, Becky and I have been bosom buddies before we had bosoms.   She and I were inseparable as little girls and then into our teen years, growing up in the Southport Church of the Nazarene where our families attended for many many years.  Our love for one another was strengthened by our mutual love for Jesus, piano and singing, Bible quizzing, fun weekends and nearly every Sunday afternoon either at her house or mine.  Memories are piled on top of memories – People called me Becky and they often called her Debbie.  If you saw one of us, you were sure to find the other.  I was by her side on that evening in November 1978 when she said I do to Joe, as she was by mine less than two years later. She shared her maternity clothes and we gave each other baby showers.  But as God sometimes does, He calls pastors and missionaries, so the many miles then between began to separate.  That separation seemed to stretch the very cord of friendship while the busyness of ministries, families, life and other relationships weaved their way into hearts.  But there we were, just a few days ago,  reaching back into time, trying to fill in the gaps with stories full of details and facts of how God has guided and directed our paths through the years…our paths that crossed only on rare occasions … the last being in 2001.  This visit was long-over due, but nonetheless was God-ordained from the start.

 

Becky and Joe's grandson, Layne Joseph ... he picked a flower for 'Aunt Debbie' ... Sha!

Becky and Joe’s grandson, Layne Joseph … he picked a flower for ‘Aunt Debbie’ … Sha!

Frequent flyer points and a burdened heart for my friends encouraged my trip to Crowley, Louisiana, where Joe and Becky have been pastoring for the past 22 years.   It was beyond wonderful to hug my friends, to visit with their children, and to love on their grandson … “Sha!”  Becky’s mom, Pauline, was also there, her sweet smile, big hugs, and stories about Bob warmed my heart with memories.  I ate tasty food, unique to the Cajun culture – fresh shrimp, boudin, crawfish étouffée, and fig jelly, among many other delicious meals.  Within a short walking distance from their house is the Quere de Torte Bayou, which surprisingly looks like an extremely muddy creek.  We drove through a nearby town that stakes the claim to be the frog capital of the world.   While out and about, I noticed that the landscape in every direction was littered with houses on stilts, crawfish ponds and rice fields, while the sky was buzzing with cropduster planes dropping seeds to plant those rice fields.  We visited the ‘Alligator House’ where we held baby gators and gratefully saw bigger ones behind tall fences.  We looked through old photos and smiled at younger faces and slimmer bodies ~ all from a different time and a different place.  However, given the circumstances of cancer and its evil and relentless grip, a special highlight to my visit was to walk into a hospital room Thursday morning and be cheerfully greeted by the patient as he fondly said “Skeeter!”  This is a name Joe gave me back when we were teenagers … as I stood in the outfield swatting mosquitoes instead of catching softballs, on any given Tuesday night at Back Door.   My dear friend’s husband, bearing fresh wounds and battle scars of melanoma cancer on his head, face, and neck, looked like a million bucks to me as we came to take him home after his 7th surgery.  Joe’s charm, his huge heart of fun and tease, his kind and compassionate spirit, and the love and joy of Jesus that fills him to the brim … all of this together and more cushioned anything disturbing that I saw.  It was my extreme pleasure to spend those few days in Joe and Becky’s world – to get a feel for the daily routine that keeps everything and everybody in its proper place at the right time.  I was constantly in awe of the abundance of Strength and Peace that Becky has, that only Jesus Himself can supply to my friend.  I pray that my short visit was a God-given distraction for all in the midst of these uncertain days.

 

Me with Becky and her momma, Pauline

Me with Becky and her momma, Pauline

Sunday came … what a true blessing to be surrounded by such loving and kind church people who warmly welcomed me!  I sat among them in the choir and worshipped with them in song, and for old time’s sake, Becky and I sung one of our all-time favorites from long ago, Fill My Cup, Lord.  Next time she and I are together, I’m requesting that we on-purpose spend some quality time at the piano and we sing until our hearts are content.

As that southern Louisiana congregation sang the final verse of And Can It Be last Sunday morning, the words jumped out at me as an anthem … “Bold I approach the eternal Throne!”  These words have marched across my mind all week as I have not only prayed BOLDLY for Joe, but I have bombarded Heaven for my precious friend, Sandie, and for our friend and former SWO District Superintendent Dr. Carlton Hansen. My own Aunt June just recently had surgery and will soon be starting treatments.  My Uncle Johnse has been fighting the fight of cancer for many years.  I just found a colleague of mine from my days of Work & Witness USA/CANADA, Laura Sylvester … her husband is battling this horrible disease.  Cancer.  I don’t understand, but thank God I’m not suppose to.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Won’t you please join me in praying BOLDLY?  Without a doubt, Joe, Sandie, and Dr. Hansen need a miracle!  Doctors and medicine have nearly exhausted their resources.  I’m sure you also know people in your life who need a miracle.  Let’s unite in our efforts and go BOLDLY to the Throne of Grace.  If we do so, we will obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  I’ll meet you there.

 

Until next time,
Debbie

 

 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth
concerning anything that they ask,
it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered
 together in My name,
I am there in the midst of them.”
Matthew 18:19-20

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace
to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

** If you are interested in viewing all of the pictures from my recent trip to Louisiana that I posted on Facebook,
feel free to click this link … whether you have Facebook or not … enjoy!!

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202372872097926.1073741851.1076414018&type=1&l=7b94ce523e

Company is (was) Coming!

25 Jan

Love the LORD your God with all your heart
Deuteronomy 6:5

The scheduled visit was put on the calendar a few weeks ago which pumped great incentive and fresh motivation through my veins to get my house in order. It’s not like my house is in shambles on a regular basis, but there are details and areas of my home that need some extra attention to make it worthy of a guest.

Besides her normal responsibilities as mom, wife, and pastor’s wife, my sister-in-law, Amy, has been the sole care-giver of her recuperating husband and is in need of a small vacation. Her husband was in a motorcycle accident in August, which required surgery and many months of therapy, and recovery. David encouraged Amy to take a break and fly out for a short visit. Her flight was booked and plans were being made, and I began doing special projects around the house…you know ~ the kind you do when someone is coming to visit.

Our guest room is only a guest room when the air mattress is filled and covered with bed linens. That happens on occasion when the parents come with our Little Loves. Other than that, it looks like it could be an office, due to the desk, swivel chair and filing cabinet. But it hasn’t ever functioned as an office since we’ve lived here. We both have laptops and they go where we go, which is hardly ever upstairs…except when our Little Loves are here and then we are in the bedroom across the hall.

Treasures on my book shelf

Treasures on my book shelf

The spare room

The ‘office’

Last weekend, cleaning supplies in hand, I decided it was time to get the guest room ready for Amy’s arrival in a few days. There were piles upon piles of paid bills, insurance policies, statements and receipts all over the desk top, from months and months of neglect of filing and organization. I quickly scooped them all up into a couple boxes and stuffed them into the closet, where I will tend to them later when I have more time. I made sure the bed was in order with plenty of air and clean sheets, after which I sat down at the desk to begin the task of dusting. For the first time in a very long time I took a good look at this room. As I drew in breaths of the sweet smell of unlit vanilla candles, the real contents of this room began to speak to me. Items that represent life, friendships, love, ministries, and Jesus. A semblance of this room, minus the air mattress, was in our home in Albuquerque and again in West Harrison, Indiana. It was always somewhat of a sanctuary for me then … a quiet haven to retreat to for my daily devotions, prayer, and writing. Pictures are everywhere of my friends, wall plaques and hangings that were special gifts, and a gazillion things kept, saved and cherished from some of life’s most precious people and moments. But to be perfectly honest, I have avoided this room for the past couple of years. From the tiniest little smiley face sticker stuck to the bulletin board to the bookshelf full of books, this room reminds me of another time and another place, a place far away from where I am today. At least that is what my head has been telling me…but as I began to dust ceramic cows, picture frames, and hanging snowflakes, my heart began to tell me otherwise. I have missed being in the sweet, quiet, sacredness of this room. So, with a few minor changes and tweaking that will bring the room up-to-date, just maybe I’ll pull the glider/rocker from Cole’s bedroom from across the hall and find that even in a different time and a different place, there is still a place for this room and all its treasures.

Getting back to Amy’s visit, she was supposed to be here now. But life as we know it is quite unpredictable. Tim was sick last weekend and I have been sick with the flu all week. Thankfully, Amy was flying Southwest and it was not a problem to reschedule her flight for another date. In the mean time, my little room is freshly dusted and ready for me to start enjoying its sweet presence once again!

Maybe we should all ask ourselves if we are ready for company that is scheduled to come. For the most part, my house was ready. But there was one room that had been neglected and unkept … just enough to ruin the entire visit for the one coming. Jesus is coming someday ~ is your heart ready? Do you have a room in your heart that you have neglected and have kept closed off? God requires our whole heart … not just part of it.   Won’t you join me in allowing God to make our heart His home?   Listen to Women of Faith sing My Heart, Your Home  http://youtu.be/Of3IVr3G-Bc

Come and make my heart Your home
Come and be everything I am and all I know
Search me through and through
Until my heart becomes a home for You
A home for You oh
Home for You oh
Let everything I do open up a door
For You to come through
Then my heart would be a place
Where You wanna be
‘Til my heart becomes a home for You
‘Till my heart becomes a home for You

~~   ~~   ~~   ~~   ~~   ~~   ~~   ~~

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Love the LORD your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today
are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.
Tie them as symbols on your hands
and bind them on your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9

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Louise

21 Oct

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.
Revelation 21:4

Things happen that we don’t expect, changing the course of the usual to the unusual. Take today for example. I sit here at home on a Monday because I caught some awful bug that has made me achy with a fever and a nose that won’t stop running. A dear friend in Louisiana was diagnosed with melanoma cancer last December and had his third surgery this morning. And another precious friend of mine is going to bury his wife in Maysville, Kentucky this afternoon.

Munchy Monday girls, including Louise ... the beautiful blonde in the back row!

Munchy Monday girls, including Louise … the beautiful blonde in the back row!

It was just a little more than 2 weeks ago when I made my annual trip to Indy for my birthday weekend. As always, one of my favorite highlights is to drive down to my old tromping grounds just outside of Cincinnati and meet up with my Munchy Monday girls. This time was no exception as 12 of us gathered on a covered back porch overlooking a beautiful evening. I was blessed by being with some of my dearest friends … even if for a brief couple of hours. Although I do talk to several of them on a regular basis, it’s always good to get to see them and breathe the same air. Louise was one of those friends. I call her every Monday morning on my way into work.  This morning was the first Monday affected by the unexpected, changing the course of the usual to the unusual. Louise died last Wednesday.

Louise Doyle

Louise Doyle

This lovely 82 year old blonde was a classy lady. Her makeup was never out of place, her clothes were always in style, and she loved to be in the middle of the fun! The first time I met Louise was at a Southwest Ohio District Ladies’ Retreat, which was being held at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center back in 2006. I was brand new to the area, brand new to Higher Ground, and brand new to the district, so I on purpose went around to the different tables of ladies to meet them. From the first moment of introductions, Louise and the Fairfield ladies warmly welcomed me and I quickly learned their names and made a point to become friends with them. Louise and I seemed to have a special connection, which was bonded even tighter after I moved away a few years later. Our weekly chats on the phone have kept us both current in each other’s worlds and allowed us a chance to share prayer concerns with one another.

“Hey you!” Louise would say as she answered the phone, expecting my call every Monday morning around 8:10 am. Last Monday, she was full of stories about their recent trip to Pigeon Forge to attend the General Prime Time Retreat, along with concern about a mutual friend who was not well and in the hospital. Our usual parting words as I arrive at work are “Talk to you next week!” Little did I know that early Wednesday afternoon I would receive a call at work and the voice on the other end would say, “Puddin? This is Papa Ray … we’ve lost Louise.”

There is still a birthday card on my shelf with her name inside. There are handwritten recipes in my file from her, and pictures of our Munchy Monday girls with her in the middle of it all up in my office. There is a Louise-sized empty spot in my heart and in the heart of all who love her!

Won’t you join me today in doing something unexpected? An act of kindness, some words of love, or a prayer for a troubled soul … something unexpected and positive that will change the course of the usual to unusual for someone today.

Until next time,
Debbie

General Assembly

28 Jun

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Me and Linda Clark

Me and Linda Clark

Within moments of my delayed arrival, I made my way to the registration desk, where I picked up my visitor bag full of information and found my dear friend, Linda.  Linda’s husband pastors a church on the SWO district, and we have been friends since my days at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center.  She was one of the few people I had made specific plans to spend time with, so we sat down to visit as we ate our food court pizza.  Having a friendship that is based on long-distance communication and not personal interaction, it was a special treat to get to actually spend time with her.  Since an unexpected trip to the ER with my mother was the alternate activity of the morning, the time together with Linda went by too quickly.

After Linda and I said good-bye, I headed back into the building that had already been haunting me with memories from 8 and 12 years ago when Tim and I were there as official exhibitors, experiencing the ‘other side’ of General Assembly.  Feelings of the heart began to surface as I walked around by myself for a little while, running into friends, acquaintances, and colleagues from our former lives when we worked for Nazarene Indian Bible College and the General Church.  There was a hint of sadness in my spirit as I remembered the multitudes of visitors that came by our NIBC booth in 2001, many of them we had worked side by side with as their Work and Witness teams had come to Albuquerque to work at NIBC. Those were extremely long and exhausting days at General Assembly, but oh how wonderful!   Every evening, we went out to eat with someone new … often including our friends Rusty and Nancy Bellomy as well.  Oh, how life has changed since then.  As I strolled through the World Missions side of the exhibit hall, my already-wounded heart took another leap back into time … remembering back to 2005 when Tim climbed up on tall ladders as he literally helped to construct the large exhibit.  Our then USA/CANADA Work & Witness booth was visited by our former W&W team members, along with others who were excited to work in various areas of the country.  And yes, life has changed so much since then.  Before leaving the area, I saw John Cunningham, a former colleague who knew first hand the passion and calling I had for missions … it did my heart good to stand and visit with him for a few moments.  We spoke of family and grandchildren.  That conversation brought me back to reality and where God has placed me now.  I was able to walk out of the exhibit hall with a smile inside.

Several weeks before, I put a post on Facebook asking my Nazarene friends if any of them were coming to Indianapolis for the Assembly.  I received a few comments, which I noted, but I also made some phone calls to friends who didn’t respond.  I was greatly disappointed that my friends Becky and Nancy were not coming from Louisiana and Nebraska, as well as Jenee Noriega and her family from New Mexico.  Since my flight into Indy was bringing me out for several days and there were few friends on my priority list, my mom and I planned for a two-day trip to West Virginia to visit my bed-fast uncle.  (Another story for another blog).  In the mean time, little hints were beginning to be dropped on Facebook of a possible upcoming surprise.  After begging to be told, my heart soared into the Heavens to find out that Jenee Noriega and her brood was coming to Indianapolis!  MY Jenee in MY Indianapolis!!  I don’t expect most of you to understand the depth of my heart here, but I could literally write an entire book about this young woman and how God miraculously transformed her 19 year drug-addicted life and sin-ravaged heart into something brand new!  Jenee was the tangible and personal answer to a prayer prayed by two friends in ministry who desperately wanted to help the addicted.  Clean and sober now for nearly 10 years, Jenee and Stevie have a testimony that is exciting, vibrant, and relevant still to this day.  Knowing that I wasn’t going to see them until Saturday, even as I walked off of my plane Wednesday evening, I smiled as I took deep breaths, knowing that I was breathing the same air as my precious friend and her family! As I traveled to West Virginia the following day with my mom, and I saw the pictures that Jenee was posting on Facebook of her family already at the Assembly, I told story after story to my mom about Jenee and her previously messed-up life.  It has now been 7 long years since we said good-bye in Albuquerque … since I have seen her face-to-face, since I have held her precious children in my arms, and since I have hugged that big man-of-a-husband we all fondly call Stevie.

Jayla & Destanee with Scottie Albuquerque 2005

Jayla & Destanee with Scottie
Albuquerque 2005

Anxious to finally find them, Jenee and her family left the Kidz Zone and I my nostalgic walk in the past … and we met in the wide hall way among hundreds of people going this way and that way – but it didn’t matter to us!!  Hugs and kisses, laughing and crying, smiles and quizzical looks from the children, taking pictures and more pictures!   As I held Jayla and then Destanee in my arms and squeezed them tight, my heart nearly burst as I realized that these two girls had no idea who I was, but I knew them!!  I brought out a picture of the two of them sitting on my back porch swing beside Scottie … they were out watching the hummingbirds play around the feeder that morning.  This was a picture I no doubt printed out at the time and mailed to their momma, who was in the Bernalillo County Jail.  Tim and I, along with others, were helping Stevie take care of their girls while Jenee was in jail for relapsing on cocaine.  The girls laughed at the sight of themselves so many years ago, but had no memory of the moment.  Bre’ Asia will soon be 7 years old … I was there and was one of the first to get to hold her after she was born.  I still say that she was the whitest black baby I’ve even seen!  And now there is Davion … born on Sept 4, 2007 – this was my first time meeting this handsome young man who looks so much like his daddy.  What a joy beyond words … a joy that took away the sadness and replaced it with a grateful heart.  The remainder of my attendance at the General Assembly was accompanied by this precious family.  The girls were ushers Saturday evening, so this allowed us special seating, which was a nice perk.  An added treat to the night was to stop and visit with Pastor Gregg and Robin, Kristen and her two little girls, and Grandma!  After the evening service, hungry tummies of all ages were satisfied as we enjoyed hamburgers and milkshakes at Steak & Shake.   It was so nice to be able to hug them all good-night, knowing I would see them again the following morning!

Stevie, Jenee Jayla, Davion, Destanee & Bre' Asia

Stevie, Jenee
Jayla, Davion, Destanee & Bre’ Asia

Once back to my childhood home, with a heart that was full to the brim, I crawled in bed beside my mom and talked and talked and talked.  I once again told story after story, this time, current ones from today…how the Joy of Jesus so radiates from Jenee and Stevie’s hearts that It literally overflows onto whoever will listen!  My favorite listener was my own Pastor Bud, for in those brief but jam-packed moments, Jenee and Stevie shared their testimony, excitement, and gratefulness to a God who delivered them from addictions and sin.  I finally wound down long enough to sleep a few hours before heading downtown again for the morning worship/communion service.  This time, Mom and I went together in a van with Bill Denny and a few others from my beloved Southport Church … conveniently dropped off at the front entrance.  After finding seats and saving more for Jenee and Stevie’s family, I stole away for a few moments to mingle with the crowds and to give hugs to Sandia friends, Cynthia and Pete, Julia, Therese and a few others.  Later as I sat between my mom and Jenee, sharing the experience of communion with both, along with thousands of Nazarenes world wide who love Jesus, my heart tried to absorb every morsel of that moment.

Me and Cynthia Myers

Me and Cynthia Myers

Good-byes were necessary that early afternoon as I climbed back into that church van and mom and I headed home.  Just as I was reminded by my brief chat with John Cunningham, life is full of a lot of things these days.  Family is most definitely at the top of the list.  For the final few hours I had left with my mom, we spent it enjoying family…eating together, laughing, watching the antics of my brother’s 16-month old grandson, and simply loving life and thanking God for His gifts.

The Church of the Nazarene has General Assembly every 4 years.  Church business meetings, elections, worship services, workshops, reunions, and wonderful fellowship always takes place.  It has been in Indianapolis 5 times since my first attendance in 1989. Once again, my own personal trip to General Assembly was full and overflowing!  I have come back home with a refreshed heart!  Sometimes the distance seems so far and the miles so many, but God reminded me that He always has my best interest and His plan at work.  I am deeply grateful!  Won’t you join me in thanking God for His plan?

Until next time,
Debbie

Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

 

“God’s purposes are bigger than our hearts”
~ Still written across the top of my computer ~

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

Where Were You?

31 May

You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
Psalm 139:2-3

It was unusual for me to turn on the small television in the kitchen first thing in the morning, but that day I did. I was shocked and shaken as I watched a plane crash into the second twin tower in New York City. Tuesday, September 11, 2001 ~ just moments after 7 am local time in Albuquerque, NM.

Seven months pregnant and needing a diversion to the normal routine of our day, I sat down in front of the TV with our 2 ½ year old Kimberly to watch the Space Shuttle Challenger lift off from the east coast of Florida. Along with the rest of the world, I was aghast at the sight before my eyes as the smoke plumes streaked across the sky, indicating that something had just gone horribly wrong. January 28, 1986 ~  right before lunch that day … Indianapolis, IN.

It was a Friday morning. Having been back in Indy several times since Daddy had taken a turn for the worse, areas of our house had progressively gotten out of control … like the front hall closet. I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by the contents of that small area, sorting and trying to bring some organization back to my life when the phone rang. Thankfully the phone was right there beside me, since I had just talked to my mom about a half hour before. She had called from the hospital, giving me an update on my dad. This time, at first I wasn’t sure who it was, for she was crying, but I quickly recognized the voice of my Aunt June. My mind immediately couldn’t make sense of what she was telling me, for my mother had just told me that the doctor said that even in his extremely critical condition, Daddy seemed to be improving. But Aunt June was telling me that we just lost him. Middletown, PA … June 24, 1994 ~ around 9:30 am.

I had been out mowing the yard and pulling weeds – with a new grand baby just an hour away, I would’ve much rather been in Baltimore that day, but the chores at home still needed my attention. It was Friday – my day off from work, and I had just walked into the garage to get something when my cell phone rang. I remember smiling inside as the name of my friend popped up on the front screen of my iPhone. I answered with excitement, but quickly realized from the tone on the other end that this was not an ordinary social call. Her voice sounded very serious and matter of fact as she shared with me that she just found out that she has breast cancer. My heart immediately began to hurt and my brain began to reel with questions as I listened to the details she had to offer concerning symptoms, tests, diagnosis, and treatment … June 1, 2012 ~ in my garage in Red Lion, PA.

Sandie and I became the best of friends somewhat by default as we shared the very same small office space in the back of magnolia Music in Hershey, PA in the early to mid 1990’s.  Having initially met Sandie and Kevin at church, they offered me part-time work in their music store where I did a variety of duties and tasks, including collection calls on past-due accounts. I worked along side of many different people during those 6 years of employment, but none as close as Sandie and I. Not only did we share the work load of the office, but we shared the joys and the sorrows of life. We cried and prayed together. We laughed a lot. We kept each other sane as we also shared that very small office space with her husband, Kevin, who, for some reason, gave me a nickname … and still calls me ‘Trouble’. Not only did we work together, we used to vacation together, along with another family. We would camp at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, where we almost got evicted from the campground due to Scottie, our barking miniature schnauzer. Oh the memories! Our three families used to ride bikes on the weekends together. Those more adventurous ones would mountain bike on Saturdays and then the kids and I would join in on the fun after church on Sundays as a bunch of us would ride along the streets in Hershey and outlying areas around our church. We would often go to one another’s homes after church on Sunday nights, play miniature golf, or go swimming in the Walters’ pool. What fun we had!

Girls breakfast out during a visit to PA in March 2003

Girls breakfast out during a visit to PA
in March 2003

Through the years and as life separates by time and distance, our friendship stayed intact. We would both have to admit, though, that it was only attached by threads at times, due to the many miles between Albuquerque and Hershey. But when our family would return to the area for our annual Christmas visit, we would almost always re-connect and catch up. Even when just a few years ago we moved to the Cincinnati area, we made a point to see one another when possible. Now that we have moved back to central Pennsylvania, we have no excuses. Especially now. Since her first diagnosis, Sandie and I have made the time to have lunch together, and then along with our husbands, we have begun to meet for Sunday lunch on a regular basis. Just a few weeks ago, we all went on a nice Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride together, stopping mid-way for an ice cream cone and a ‘butt break’. We laughed about how we used to spend our Sunday afternoons riding together 20 years ago … and how we have gone from pedals in our 30’s to motors in our 50’s!

A year has gone by since that day in the garage. From those initial tests, Sandie found out that the breast cancer was also in her liver and her lymph glands. They immediately began a cocktail of treatments by IV, which she received on regimented intervals, leaving her without hair and energy. Over the course of time, PET scans showed great improvement, allowing a slight change in the medication given. Due to the nature of this particular cancer, however, she and the IV treatments will be life-long companions. A recent test result confirmed new growth again in the breast, so a double mastectomy was elected as the best form of total eradication. Surgery was a week ago this past Tuesday. A few days later, with lunch and Starbucks in hand, I spent a delightful afternoon with my friend and her puppies, Mocha and Weezly. We reminisced about years gone by, laughed a lot, filled in some of the details that had fallen through the cracks of time, and laughed some more. As our hearts were soaking up every morsel of life, conversation flowed, tender moments of expected concern were shared, and a time of prayer sealed our time together as we said ‘till next time’. With a prognosis that doesn’t promise her gray hair and a rocking chair on the front porch, I can promise her my undying friendship and support, my continual prayers, and my love.

Sandie and Kevin

Sandie and Kevin

Where were you? Where were you when you received that call, or when you heard the news? What were you doing when the crisis of your life took you to your knees and caused you to cry out to God? As I think back to those moments in my own life … I was just me … being me, doing what I do, being in the moment. Just as I am … makes me think of the old hymn of the church as sung by Travis Cottrell, with an added chorus … click here http://youtu.be/TGXDfxWM2r0 to listen

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Wherever you find yourself to be, in that moment, won’t you join me in going to Jesus, Just as I am?

Until next time,
Debbie