Archive | Home RSS feed for this section

Completely

20 May
 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength. 
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

 

I was honored with an invitation to be the guest speaker at a ladies’ annual spring banquet last Friday night.  The church was located back in my old tromping grounds of southern Indiana, so I was blessed beyond measure to have 12 of my dearest friends from the Cincinnati area come and see me!  The evening’s festivities began with cupcake chat, singing, and a delicious dinner.  What a joy it was for me as I sat there eating, talking, and listening to the different conversations around the table … trying to soak up every moment of being with my friends so I could tuck away the evening’s morsels of memories and savor them later. 

Most of the gals, plus my Momma!

With satisfied and full tummies, we all made our way back up to the sanctuary for the remainder of the evening.  Moments before I was introduced and welcomed to come up front, a young lady began to sing a very special song.  As the music started to play for her accompaniment, my heart began to swell and my eyes began to fill.  I sat there in that pew, totally transported to another time and another place. 

The time was September 13, 2006 and the place was Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center in West Harrison, Indiana.  Having packed every item we owned, leaving behind our place of ministry in Albuquerque, NM for the past 9 years and friends too many to count, a new life was before us.  After traveling for 3 days and 1400 miles, we were almost there.  As I followed behind the big yellow moving truck and exited off the interstate, I slipped my Sandia Women’s Retreat 2006 Worship CD into the player and found this special song on purpose.  The message of the words penetrated my being as I once again had to let go and surrender everything to His control.  With tears streaming down my face, we pulled onto the grounds of our new home, ministry, and life.  I sang this song as an act of worship … my heart filled with sadness in leaving friends and ministry behind, and my soul filled with the uncertainty of a new place, new work and ministry, and new people.  Right there in that moment …  Click here to listen

COMPLETELY 

The secret of life is letting go
The secret of love is letting it show
In all that I do
In all that I say
Right here in this moment

The power of prayer is in a humble cry
The power of change is in giving my life
And laying it down
Down at your feet
Right here in this moment

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

This journey of life is a search for truth
This journey of faith is following you
Every step of the way
Through the joy and the pain
Right here in this moment

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

Right here, right now, and for the rest of my life
Hear me say

(Chorus)
Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

I am yours and yours alone
Completely

 

As I sat there last Friday night once again listening to this song, I could still smell the freshly mown grass, I could see the deep plush green of everything (as opposed to the very little green and mostly brown that we had grown to love in Albuquerque), and I could still feel the intense ache, fear, and loneliness that enveloped me at that moment in 2006.   But as that young lady continued to sing, my Jesus wrapped His arms of love around me and whispered in my ear … “Look around you.”  There I was, literally surrounded by 3 rows of women who specifically came to see me.  These weren’t just any women.  They were the ones I rubbed shoulders with on a regular basis … at work, at district functions, Munchy Monday, … all from my life at Higher Ground.   We have laughed together, cried together, prayed together, and lived life together.  They were the result of my letting go, laying it all at His feet, and saying I am Yours and Yours alone … completely.  

I am overwhelmed with how personal and loving my Jesus is to me.    He took the past 5 years, placed it all in a box for me, and wrapped it up with a nice pretty bow on top.  He placed a tag on the outside and wrote “I love you, Debbie!” Those girls, especially, know what that means to me.  They are the jewels inside that shine above all the other stuff. 

With tears still in my eyes, it was my turn to come up front and speak.  Temporarily laying my notes to the side, I had to share my journey through those last 5 minutes and express my love in return to my Jesus.     

Take my heart
Take my soul
I surrender everything to your control
And let all that is within me lift up to you and say
I am yours and yours alone
Completely

I am Yours and Yours alone
Completely

I will share the rest of the story … next time.
Debbie

Snow

19 Jan

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom,
and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude
in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:15-17

 

The white fluffy stuff has quite the romantic and cozy deceptive charm about it. A bowl of popcorn, mugs of hot chocolate, a favorite person, and a roaring fire in the fireplace…all the while the landscape outside is being transformed from a dreary and bleak site into a white winter wonderland. Along with the glistening beauty and the snowy glow comes the hush…the hush of freshly fallen snow.

The above description is what I call the billboard version of snow or the glossy magazine cover version that truly doesn’t depict reality. Oh, not to be mislead … to a degree it is all true ~ insert the scenario of your choice and add in the bright white hush. But there’s far more to the story of snow than the Hallmark movies would like for us to believe.

South central PA, where we now call home, has been on the outside edge of some of the largest snowstorms of the season for the east coast. Some of our neighbors just an hour or so away have had to dig themselves out of deep accumulations and deal with extreme conditions due to the blizzards that have come their way. Our families and friends we have most recently left behind in Indiana continue to be harassed nearly every 4 or 5 days with a new batch of precipitation, whether it be snow, ice, or rain. Tim is certainly counting his blessings this winter since someone else has the privilege and challenge of constantly plowing the roads and keeping the sidewalks clear of snow at Higher Ground. And once again, the immediate weather forecast is for another bout of snow to soon hit those we love … and it is still January.

Cole sledding in the snow

Our first round of snow at our house in PA took place while we were in Indiana for Christmas. Upon our return, the roads were dry, our driveway was mostly all clear, and the grass was already poking through the melting mess. Then last week, we were gifted with an overnight blanket of the fluff that measured right at 4” on our back deck. The highlight was a few days later when our 22 month-old grandson and his dog brought their parents up for an evening of playing in the snow. Since our house is built into the side of a hill, the side yard was a perfect spot for a little boy to enjoy his first and many more fun times in his sled. What fun we all had in the snow as we looked at it not only through the eyes of a toddler, but through the protective and loving eyes of his parents and the heart-warming eyes of his grandparents.

Two nights ago, more snow fell, along with a crunchy coating of ice. Tim was prepared and parked his work truck at the top of our driveway/hill, making for a guaranteed exit the following morning for work. For me, I was quite proud of myself for getting out our beast of a snow blower and actually getting it to start on the first try. As it crawled along the driveway, it quickly became bogged down with the heaviness of the ice and refused to cooperate with me to clear the way. Reluctantly, I took it back to the garage and instead grabbed the shovel. Grrr! As the morning wore off into early afternoon, I slowly made progress, one shovel of heavy snow/ice at a time. I was reminded of the hours I use to spend at Higher Ground behind a vacuum cleaner or cleaning the many windows of the dining hall … and how I passed the drudgery of that time away by praying. I immediately began to bombard Heaven for the many people in my life who I love … who need Jesus in one way or another. Before I knew it, the driveway was cleared, I had my exercise, and my heart had reached out and touched the portals of Heaven on behalf of many of you.

I know that snow is far more than a picture on a Christmas card, but I can’t help but live my life in such a way that in all things, I give thanks.

Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Remember when we were little kids and how exciting it was to sit beside the radio to listen in hopes to hear our school named on that long list of those that were cancelled for the day? How fun was it to bundle up in multi-layers of clothing and snow suits to the point where we could barely move … and head for ‘dead man’s hill’ (that’s what it was called in the woods near our house) and to spend hours sledding, making snow people, and having snowball fights?

Won’t you join me today and throughout the remainder of this winter, to give thanks in all circumstances ~ for the memories, for the fun times with today’s little people, and for unexpected opportunities to spend time in prayer for others. Spring is coming … but let’s make the most of what is before us today.

Until next time,
Debbie

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7

“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
Isaiah 1:18

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My word that goes out from My mouth:
It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:9-11

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

Ornaments

29 Nov

 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:16-17

 

After the busyness of the past several days of precious family time, I find myself, in the quietness of my thoughts and the sacredness of the holidays, wondering where Thanksgiving is suppose to end and Christmas is suppose to start.  Can we honestly celebrate one without the other?   How fitting that both special days are so close on the calendar!!

Our daughter and her little family spent much of this past week with us in our home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  With a 20 month-old toddler around, we laughed a lot, were entertained by the simplest gestures and words, and watched a few episodes of Dora the Explorer.  Turkey Day itself was shared with a total of 23 around the dinner table at ‘Park Place’ … the home of  Tim’s oldest sister.  This is becoming quite a holiday tradition as the individual Van Hook kids have married and had kids, and their kids are now getting married and having kids…and we can all gather at Aunt Debbie’s house to visit.   What a blessing this year as four baby boys were born into the family since last Thanksgiving!

Once family all went home, I rearranged the living room furniture in order to make room for our Christmas tree.  My thoughts and prayers were going out to several friends who are struggling with life.  My mom’s best friend suffered a heart attack during the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning.  The medical staff at the hospital in Greenwood was able to save Nellie’s life with an immediate surgery and procedure … A big thank you goes out to those who work on special days when most of us have time off!  Another friend in Albuquerque lost everything in an apartment fire last week.  A dear friend in Cincinnati is leaning hard on Jesus since her husband’s cancer has returned.  Another precious friend is going through the holidays for the first time without her father, who passed away in August.  It seems that everywhere we look, life is full.  It is full of joy and it is full of sorrow.  Even through the sorrow, we can still have joy as we have SO much to be grateful for! 

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

 

With the tradition of Karen Carpenter, 4 Him, and Amy Grant filling our home with songs of the season, my heart was still celebrating Thanksgiving as I opened boxes packed full of 30 years of life.  Inside were memories all wrapped up in garland, lights, holiday tins, a musical moose, stuffed Christmas veggies, gingerbread houses made of clay, and ornaments.  Ornaments that tell stories about people, places, events, and times.

As I hung each ornament on the tree, my heart was overwhelmed by God’s love and His mercies, for they ARE new every morning and every year.  Testimonies to His faithfulness hang all over my Christmas tree!  Homemade treasures made out construction paper and paper doilies, complete with school photos, represent sweet blessings all grown up now.  Friendships old and new, special places like Kauai and Venice, and many ‘1st’ ornaments, for the various locations we have called home.  An attitude of prayer filled my living room as I gently placed each memento on the branches, thanking God for the people who came to mind, and seeking Him on their behalf … wherever they are, whatever they are doing this Christmas season, and for their part in my life  ~ sometime between 1980 and 2010.

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 1:16-17

 

I look forward to this special prayer service next year.  My own personal Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration.  I know that my home would never be displayed in a trendy home décor magazine, but that’s ok.  The simple decorations and the tree, complete with icicles and unique ornaments never to be found in a boutique shop, adorn a most sacred chapel of worship. 

Won’t you join me in continuing to give thanks for His blessings as we enter into this Christmas season to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior?

Until next time,
Debbie

You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
You are my God, and I will exalt you.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
His love endures forever.
Psalm 118:28-29

 

 

 

 

Uncle Kyle

4 Nov

Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your
strength and with all your mind ; and,
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Luke 10:25-27 

 

 

My father was one of 17 children born in the Owen Wells family from Virginia.  Daddy passed away in 1994, and this past Sunday morning, his oldest brother met him at the feet of Jesus.  Uncle Kyle would’ve been 91 years old next month. 

Memories are sweet, pictures are priceless, and his relationships were real.  He was a wealthy man, rich in love of family, love of friends, love of Jesus, and his love for music was the centerpiece of every family event.  He would sit and pick a banjo, mandolin, or strum a guitar, all the while singing a favorite hymn or a Bluegrass melody as his sisters would add the harmony.   

Heaven’s music is sweeter, the attendance of the Wells family reunion around the throne has increased, and our hearts are filled with awe as we mourn OUR loss but rejoice in his gain. 

While I’m back in Indiana for a few days to join my family in celebrating Uncle Kyle’s homecoming, won’t you join me in allowing God to search our hearts as we once again realize the brevity and sacredness of life … and to be reminded that we too will pass someday.   Eternity lasts forever … where will you spend yours?

Till next time,
Debbie

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.
 “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: ” `Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and,
`Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Luke 10:25-27

Jesus Loves Me

29 Sep

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son
 into the world that we might live through him. This is love:
not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends,
since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another,
 God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 
1 John 4:9-12

 

In previous years of experience, after having just moved to a new location … new job, different house, an unfamiliar area, and still undecided on which church to regularly attend, Sundays were usually a difficult day for me.  This past weekend, however, was not that way at all.  Please allow me to take you on a journey  …

When our family lived in the state of Pennsylvania back in the ’90s, I baked homemade cinnamon rolls quite frequently on Sunday mornings.  They were tasty and quick to devour just moments before heading out the door to Sunday School and church.  Knowing that we were driving down to Baltimore to attend church with our daughter and her little family this past Sunday, I was inspired to bake these decadent treats once again and take them with us to share.  With a slight chill in the air as it was raining outside, the sweet aroma of the rolls baking put a warmth in the heart from the memories of when we were much younger with much smaller children…and this put a smile on my face. 

Reminders of ‘home’ greeted us on our hour drive to the Arndts as I received texts from a couple Higher Ground friends, checking on us and sending their love.  Rolls and coffee were enjoyed in the usual fashion, just moments before going to church.  Grace Pointe Community Church of the Nazarene is currently gathering its congregation in a really nice school building as new construction is taking place nearby.  A quick glance in the bulletin advertised Caravans, creating a smile of joy as I imagined my grandchildren earning badges while they learned the Articles of Faith and other core values in this Christian scouting program.  As I stood there in the auditorium sharing in the worship experience with my family, I took notice of the pulpit bearing the Nazarene logo “Holiness Unto the Lord”.  A heart full of gratitude for a prayer answered, knowing that a heritage of holiness upbringing will continue another generation in this Arndt/VanHook home.  The music filled the hall, nothing elaborate with a full orchestra or 50 person choir, but a simple platform of instruments and singers that lifted their talents and hearts in worship as they led us to the Father.  There were songs I didn’t know, but the message of these words spoke to me …

“All that is within me cries.
For You alone be glorified Emmanuel, God with us.
My heart sings a brand new song.
The debt is paid these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Such a tiny offering, compared to Calvary, nevertheless we lay it at your feet.
Such a tiny offering, compared to Calvary, nevertheless we lay this at your feet.”

 

Then there were songs I did know, songs that continued to draw me into His presence …

“Blessed be your name, In the land that is plentiful
Where the streams of abundance flow, Blessed be your name
Blessed be your name, When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name, When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be, Blessed be your name
Blessed be your name, On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out, I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say…
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord, Blessed be your glorious name

You give and take away, You give and take away
My heart will choose to say , Lord, Blessed be your name”

Pastor Bolerjack began to relate a story concerning his son who is an avid OU fan and attended the OU vs UC game the night before.  I sat there and had to sort of shake my brain loose and think “Where am I?”  I now live in Pennsylvania, but at this moment am hearing this story in Maryland.  Pastor’s son lives in Oklahoma and attended the game, which was in Cincinnati.  Wow!  A connection … a real BIG connection to our hearts!  I know Tim was anxious to chat with the pastor following the service to tell him that we just left the Cincinnati area and Higher Ground, which is where the University of Cincinnati Bearcats annually hold their pre-season football training camp.  Having just watched the exciting game ourselves, it was quite fun to share this connection with him.  We also inquired of his relationship to R.T. and Pat Bolerjack, who we found out to be his uncle and aunt. More connections were made as we shared of our friendship with them from our days at Nazarene Indian Bible College in Albuquerque. 

Moments before at the end of the sermon, as the piano began to play a very familiar song, my heart was moved to tears. A few months ago while working in the kitchen at Higher Ground and it was an extremely busy and tough day, I suggested to my friend that when we felt frustrated and and worn out, we should start singing Sunday School songs to help us through our shift.  Just the day before, this friend had texted me that her work day had been very rough, and at one point she began to sing her Sunday School songs.  I then told her that I’m so glad that she could sing Jesus Loves Me. As I stood there the next morning at the close of the service, the melody of that childhood tune began to fill that church auditorium.  Once again, I felt the extreme love of Jesus, His approval of me, my walk, and my relationship with Him. 

I knew right then that I would write about all of this … a personal, very intimate connection with God Himself, knowing that He hand-picked details of this day, at this time in my life, just for me!  Somehow, I need to express that just believing there is a God, religion, and all the churchy stuff of life is not what it’s all about.  It’s even so much more than a daily routine of Bible reading and prayer time.  It’s a relationship with God, communication with One Another, and as I read this morning in Streams in the Desert, it’s a ‘Peace that breathes music in my breast.’  Do you hear the music? … “Jesus Loves Me!”

Till next time,
Debbie

Every Day Matters

24 Sep

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life
will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it
for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
Luke 9:23-25

 

I’m down to the final days and the final room of unpacking boxes.  Yes, I know. It has taken longer than it should have to get settled.  But I have set a goal for myself that by this time next year, when our year lease on the big brown house is up, I will have substantially gotten rid of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that I have kept for the sake of keeping it.  You know, “so and so gave that to me” or better yet … “I have kept this all these years but do not remember where it came from.”   In order to weed through things like that, it takes time. 

So back to my final days and the final room.  This room was saved for last because I knew it would take me the longest.  It is officially called ‘the office’, but there is very little office work accomplished in this room.  There are two desks, filing cabinets, receipts, pens, paper and paper clips … oh!  And stamps.  But little else that could give someone reason to call it an office.  In truth, it’s more like the Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut combo restaurant!  Ours is the Office/Library/Museum Room.  Along with the office, which we have already covered, is the Library.  I have a very large bookcase, which is full of all sorts of books, from Chilton mechanic manuals to Little House on the Prairie, and everything in between.  My assortment of reading material mostly consists of books regarding the Christian life, written for a variety of different readers … woman, wife, mother, Grami, friend, husband, son, the troubled, the sick, the young, the old, and much more.  The final part of our trilogy room is the Museum.  Cows, plaques, pictures, magnets, forks, mugs, special notes, candles, pillows, old computers, footballs, posters, peacock feathers, a walking cane, forks, and SO much more.  I love people, I love memories, and I love to be surrounded by it all!  This is my room of treasures.  (except the old computers … they belong to desk #2, but still qualify as part of the Museum!) 

So back to my final days and the final room.  Yesterday afternoon, I was working on a bulletin board that I have always kept at my desk.  It was full of pictures of my family, cut out and cropped to fit a gazillion photos in one area so I could be blessed every time I looked at it.  Several years has gone by since I created this collage, and life has brought a couple new faces into our family.  So, I took out a few outdated photos and added a few current ones.  I was also combining little trinkets and special treasures from another board I kept at my desk at Higher Ground.  From that board, I peeled off the words  “Every Day Matters”   and stuck it to the bigger board I was working on.  This small three-word phrase comes from J.C. Penney’s sales ads and catalogs.  I remember the first time I saw it and thinking how true it was!  Every day does matter. 

 Here are some excerpts from my favorite devotional book, My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers  ~  July 28

“We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.”

Every day matters.  Yes, ultimately Heaven is our goal, but it is the journey that really makes the difference.  We must recognize that God is walking on the seas of our lives and that we must allow Him to be the God of our winds, waves and even the calm and peaceful days.  If we don’t allow Him to be the Lord of it all, then scripture tells us that Heaven will not be our end.  Every day matters.

So back to my final days and the final room.  My goal is to have less stuff in a year, and what I do keep will be carefully gone through and well organized.  But a few weeks ago as I helped carry box after box after box into the moving truck … and then back out again two days later, my projected goal and its task seemed daunting.  A year from now will show the difference, but it will be the every day between now and then that truly matters. 

There are countless circumstances in our lives where every day does matter.  Relationships, our jobs, our health, …  you finish your own list.  Please join with me in all these areas of our lives to embrace the truth that Every Day Matters.

Until next time,
Debbie

Love Notes

16 Sep

The angel went to her and said,
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you.”
Luke 1:28

 

Just this morning, on a paper towel tucked away in his lunch box, I wrote a few words of affection to my husband.  During the recent visit to our daughter and son-in-law’s home, I caught a glimpse of a note lying on a dresser in their bedroom.  It was from him to her, no doubt written in the wee hours of a morning before he went to work … for her to find as she woke a few hours later to the giggles and sweetness of their toddler.  Earlier today, I slipped a couple cards into the mail, with sentiments of love and prayer for friends. 

Two weeks ago this evening, Tim and I pulled down into the driveway of our new home.  Life had already set an incredible pace of busyness several weeks previous, including packing, work, more packing, and more work.  Once the big white truck was unloaded and returned, that pace continued for a few days in order for our household to function while our kids came to help us get settled.  Boxes were emptied, their contents placed throughout, allowing the house to quickly become our home.  What joy it was to cut open the protective tape from the sides of each box and to randomly come across a love note written somewhere on the box!   The gift givers were my precious friends from Higher Ground with whom I’ve worked side by side in the kitchen now for about a year. 

“Is the salad bar finished yet?    Love ya, Chrissy”

 

“Don’t worry  –  Be happy!     Love, Pat”

 

“Are you there yet?  Gonna miss you!  Don’t be too persnickety!
Ha! Ha!   Joy”

 

“Debbie, do you miss me yet?    I promise to come visit you! 
I wuv you so much!  Love Courtney”

 

“Hi   Miss you already    BP”

 

“- Tim and Deb –
Do you know that you are blessed and highly favored? 
Have a great day!
Love, Pat”

 

“   😮     I love you   BP”

 

 

“I’ll fly away!”

 

As the girls were using the products from these boxes, instead of their usual routine of breaking down the boxes for easy disposal, they took them to the back, often with a marker and a message.  How delightful it has been during these days of unpacking to reach into a box and find a simple greeting  …  a love note. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting
and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be
 thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I Tim 3:16

 

Throughout the New Testament, the various authors of the Bible penned letters which became God’s personal love notes to us.  Scriptures offer direction, love, correction, accountability, encouragement, and friendship.  With God’s Word as our only true example of love, will you join me as I desire to stay alert to the nudgings from the Holy Spirit … and to give notes of love that will express support, prayer, encouragement, accountability and friendship?

I have several more boxes to unpack  …  and I do so with great anticipation of more love notes!

Till next time,
Debbie

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts,
known and read by everybody.
You show that you are a letter from Christ,
result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3

 

The Fork

4 Sep
 
 

 

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5-6

 

It’s September 4th…a special day marked on my calendar.  Today is the first Saturday in our new residence in Pennsylvania.  No alarm clock to wake up by with no real agenda … except to keep unpacking boxes and to make this house our home.  Sigh … the tearful good-byes, the long trip on Thursday, and the stresses that accompany the initial move seem a bit distant right now as I sit out on the screened-in porch, enjoying the recent welcomed change of temperature and some Constant Comment in my Schnauzer mug.

On Facebook, I named the photos taken and posted during the last couple weeks “Crazy Last Days at Higher Ground”.   That really says it all.  Packing and working, sleeping very little, and spending some last minute cherished moments with friends and family … non-stop!  This past Monday evening was a special edition of Munchy Monday when the girls threw a ‘See you Later’ party for me.  The usual spread of delicious food, warm hospitality, and fun fellowship was blended quite heavily with lots of tears, prayer time, and gift giving.  At one point in the evening, long past the time of dinner and dessert, plastic forks were passed out and each lady held hers in her hand while this story was told to us …

A Woman and a Fork  

 
There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things “in order,” she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.  

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.  

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.  

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.  

“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.  

“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”  

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.  

That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.  

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.  

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…..like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!’  

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”  

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.  

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.   During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.   He was right.

The best is yet to come!  How I appreciated that simple act of encouragment  as I sat there surrounded by my precious friends and co-workers.  I’ve experienced moving far away a few times already, and it is very difficult on my heart to leave friends and family behind.  But it is receiving text messages like this one that helps cushion the ache …

“Four years ago you came to Higher Ground. 
Three years ago my life took some pretty crazy turns. 
It took me awhile but I ended up just where I needed to be. 
God is at work again, as you leave us to touch the lives of others.”

I’m grateful for the blessed opportunity to serve and to love while at Higher Ground … and I look forward to the same privilege, honor, and responsibility throughout the rest of my days.  Won’t you join me in picking up the fork and saying “the best is yet to come!”

Until next time,
Debbie

I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

 

 

 

House Hunting

12 Aug

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and He will direct your path.
Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Some people hire a guide and hunt for exotic animals, others hunt for keys in the bottom of their purses, untold millions hunt for a good parking place at the mall, and then others comb through the ads on Craigslist for hours upon hours to narrow their search for a home.  The last description of hunting is of me.  Ever since the final decision was made a few weeks ago to accept a new job just south of Harrisburg, PA,  nearly every waking moment that I wasn’t working was spent sitting here with my faithful companion looking at countless ads and blurbs on houses for rent.  I have been house hunting.

After I became accustomed to the SCAMS that are out there, advertising in full color a gorgeous home that truly is too good to be true, I began to sort and organize the ads that offered the home amenities that were most important to Tim and I.  Things like 3 bedrooms, central air, at least a one-car garage, and plenty of storage space were the prime attractions.  Location was significant, along with the most crucial issue being the cost.   Once all of these factors met in agreement, I began to make a list of places to look at.  I’m not sure what we did before we had Craigslist, Google maps, and a GPS, but I do know that I’m grateful for these technological wonders that allow us to do what we need to do with greater ease and less stress. 

My 4 Hunting Guides

The highlight of the hunt was hiring the guide.  In my case, I hired 4 of them.  My mother eagerly jumped at the chance to assist as long as the first leg of our trip was on an airplane.  After checking prices and finding that Southwest could get us there at a bargain price, we purchased our tickets and began making plans.  We met up with our other hired hands at the Baltimore airport where they whisked us away to rest before starting on our journey the following morning.   The smallest one in the party was incredibly cute, always wanting to point at cars on the road, tractors in the fields, and growl at tigers in his books. 

Little houses, old houses … small closets or no closets … narrow bathrooms and fancy bathrooms … black walls, bright yellow walls, and holes in walls … tiny retro kitchens and large kitchens … small garages, messy garages, and no garage … a total of 8 showings scheduled and only one decision to make.  With help from the Ultimate Hunting Guide, the little town of Red Lion, PA and the big brown house with green doors will soon become the haven of rest that God Himself has hand-picked for Tim and I.

As the weekend of hunting came to a close, Mother and I tucked away some very special memories of ocean breezes, little boy kisses, delicious meals, and precious family love.  There is much work ahead to do … closets and drawers to clean out, boxes to pack, moments to embrace, hearts to love, and a new chapter of life to anticipate.  Won’t you join me in continuing to acknowledge Him …   for He will direct our paths!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and He will direct your path.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Until next time,
Debbie