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Uncle Johnse

26 Jun

Though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me.
Psalm 23:4

Uncle Johnse and Aunt Bert

As kids growing up, routines and the traditions of life become a part of who we are. For our own family of 5, summer vacation consisted of 2 parts – we always spent one week in Holland, Michigan and the other week with family. Family, meaning West Virginia and Big Stone Gap, Virginia … with Chattanooga thrown in from time to time. Between my brothers and I, I’m sure we could write a book or two, each chapter telling a different story of our favorite memories, many of which took place up a hill and down a small lane in Switzer, West Virginia. Aunt Bert never let us go hungry and fed us till we could eat no more … and to this day, I still make my iced tea like she taught me. Barbara and I spent hours on the back porch playing jacks and twirling her baton while the boys were off getting dirty somewhere. Speaking of dirty, then Uncle Johnse would come home just in time for dinner, looking like he had been playing in the coal all day, which he had. I can still hear the front door open as he walked in … his gravely voice chuckled as we came running to greet him, excited to see him after a long day apart. He always made us feel like we were the most special kids around, letting us climb up inside his coal truck, sitting there behind the steering wheel and pretending we were as big a deal as we believed our Uncle Johnse was.

I remember being at home and my parents talking about Uncle Johnse getting severely burned in a coal mine fire. To this day, my little-girl thoughts and imagination still fill my mind with visions of what that must have been like for him and how scary it must have been for Aunt Bert, Mike and Barbara. I hope he knew that no amount of scars or wounds would have ever affected our love and affection for him.

There were several things in life that Uncle Johnse loved — from my perspective, anyway … Family, Cadillacs, coal trucks, to sleep with the TV on, horse shoes, and Aunt Bert. Oddly enough, some of my fondest memories were hearing them sometimes bicker and fuss back and forth, but at that the end of the day, they were always snuggled up together, either on the floor or on the couch, sound asleep in front of the TV, which was left on all night.

Time has a way of slipping by all too quickly, and little kids grow up and become adults and begin having children and then grandchildren of their own. That’s what happened to us, but a resemblance of that engrained tradition from our early childhood remained in our hearts and Uncle Johnse has always been our hero. Weddings, funerals, phone calls, road trips and Aunt Nan’s reunions have kept us close through the years. Uncle Johnse’s December 26th birthday has and will always be a red-letter day on our calendars, and I will miss our usual exchange of silly names — I called him Dirty Bird and I was his Yard Bird.

Uncle Johnse was a hero to many of us — a special man who loved life, loved his family and loved the Lord. This past Sunday morning, Heaven’s front gate was opened and Uncle Johnse walked in … his gravely voice no doubt chuckled as he once again saw the love of his life, excited to see her after such a long time apart. My own Daddy, gone 23 years ago tomorrow, and their brother, Kyle, were no doubt standing nearby, anxious for a hug from their brother … and the reunion of all reunions has just begun.

*******

Tim & I with my brothers & their wives
June 23, 2017

It was an honor and privilege to attend Uncle Johnse’s funeral this past Friday with my husband and my brothers and their wives … and to participate in the service by reading this writing.  As we left the beautiful lush mountains of West Virginia the following afternoon, my heart was full and overflowing with gratitude for special family memories and love that already stems across the great divide and into eternity.

Until next time,
Debbie

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.


 

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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

 

Four Generations

4 Aug

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God;
he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love
to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. 
Deuteronomy 7:9

  

4 Generations

Hot sandy beaches, warm ocean waters, delicious food, and lots and lots of fun!  We are on vacation!  Blending in with the other thousands of people who are visiting the Delaware coastline this week, we are unique in that we are the only one that has ‘us’ in it.  We have 8 people in our ‘us’, and we range between the ages of 73 and 2 years old, with a lot of precious life in between.  Four generations fill this beach house with the noises of life, laughter, and love  ~  and here I am … right in the middle of it all. 

Sometimes I wonder how much love one person can experience in a lifetime.  The first love of my life, obviously, would be my mother.  I felt the comfort of her beating heart long before my tiny ears could hear anything.  Still to this day, the sound of her voice puts a smile on my face and a sigh in my spirit.  Mom!  I consider it a privilege to have her by my side this week as together she and I enjoy my family, each other, and God’s signature on the beautiful east coast. 

I will never be able to fully express my heart and the love it feels when I think of my own two children.  Next to Jesus and the salvation He offers to me, there is no greater gift I have ever received than Kim and Ryan.  Thousands of miles have sometimes separated us, but I keep a connection through continual prayer that welds my heart to theirs.  I daily claim these two promises …

The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you;
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
 Deuteronomy 31:8

For I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able
 to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.  
2 Timothy 1:12

To share this week with Kim and her husband,Troy… and Ryan and his girlfriend, Brittany, is beyond words for me.  I will, on purpose, soak in every morsel of time spent with them and tuck it away inside my heart for another time… to once again feel the joy of their love and being with them.

Mimi’s love is like no other love.  It’s reserved for the little one who resembles so many different people in his life, but yet tie all of that variety into one bundle, and you have Cole.  His silly antics, his fresh new perspective on life, and his HUGE love for tractors and his Uncle RyRy have been the best entertainment of all!  But I consider myself blessed beyond measure to be me … and to observe his parents, his Papaw, his Uncle and Brittany, and his ‘Mimi Wells’  all experience Cole’s wonder, his excitement, his trust, and his love for life.  I have the best seat in the house … to watch everyone else enjoy my little grandson.  What joy!!  Of course, he and I have our own special moments together.  I volunteered for afternoon Mimi duty. Leaving the middle generations at the beach, my momma and I have been bringing Cole back to the house for lunch and his nap.  This allows some special snuggle time for Mimi and Cole … and special quiet time for mom and daughter.  Sigh …

Sharing all of this week of family fun with me, of course, is Tim.  He reaches a milestone of life himself this week as he turns 50 years old on Friday, August 5th.  Sharing his birthday with our daughter, who will be 28 this year, has always been a unique time of celebration ~ this year being no exception.  What fun to do so with our entire family gathered around to sing, give gifts, and to be festive in honor of these two people we love. 

As the week is beginning to wind down, and everyone will be going in their own direction of home, my heart will be full and overflowing with gratefulness to my God who has so graciously blessed my life with being me  … right in the middle of 4 generations.  To be loved, to be needed, to need, and to love.  Thank you, Father, for the morsels of mercy, of life, and of love. 

Until next time,
Debbie

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
Psalm 89:1

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100:5

 

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

**  Blog photo of sand castles, ocean & Cole were taken at Bethany Beach on August 3, 2011.

Dear Daddy

23 Jun

He asked you for life, and You gave it to him—
   length of days, for ever and ever.
Psalm 21:4

 

Father’s Day was just a few days ago … and tomorrow is June 24th.  I just wanted to tell you that I love you and miss you.  You have been in my thoughts and on my heart so much lately … more so than usual.  I think it’s because of a combination of things.  My job has me sitting in an office at an elder care law firm, where clients come and go, discussing serious subjects like health care, money, relationship issues, and death.  My thoughts of you and mom at this stage of life are never too far from my heart these days.  Another reason would be that Tim and I are now grandparents to little Cole, and I often dream about how much fun and joy this little boy would be bringing to your own great grandpa heart.  I’m sure he would have given you a name that’s special … like Papaw Johnny.  I like that!  Cole loves tractors and trains, loud cars and trucks, motorcycles, fire trucks, and balls … all the usual things that a two year old boy likes.  He’s at the age now where you would have had him outside helping you to wash the cars … and he would’ve kept you entertained by his constant chatter the entire time!   Oh what fun the two of you would’ve had. You would’ve fixed him a fried bologna and cheese sandwich for lunch and he would’ve  loved it because it came from his Papaw Johnny!  I look forward to telling him all about you someday when he’s old enough to understand about a great grandpa’s love, life, death, and Heaven.

It’s been 17 years now … tomorrow.    So much has taken place in our family since that day.  Births, relocations, deaths, graduations, divorces, weddings, accidents, surgeries … but we have remained intact, always loving, praying, and supporting one another. 

Mom is doing really well these days.  You know she fell last spring and shattered her elbow.  What an ordeal that was!   She pretty much lost all of her summer since she was so limited in the things she could do.  But she is a trooper and has shown quite some spunk when it comes to making sure she stays active.  She bought a riding lawn mower a few years ago so she could still be responsible for taking care of the yards…and she does a great job, too!  She is the life of the party when our families invite her to come along on vacations, and she enjoys the convenience of hopping on an airplane and quickly and comfortably arriving at her destination.  I know she misses you, though.  When we lived in Albuquerque and she would fly in to visit us, I knew her heart was aching to share the experience of that special place with you.  Just like she does now when she is surrounded by family and friends … I see it in her eyes.  She’s wishing you were still by her side to enjoy these slower and less hectic years of life.

You left quite a legacy in your sons … their looks, their humor, and their character.  You would be most proud of the men they have both become.  Me?  The best thing you passed along to me was the tenacity of never letting go of Jesus.  I know that life was not always easy for you and there were some really difficult circumstances that knocked you down from time to time.  But you always kept grasping the hand of Jesus who would always pull you back up.  Thank you, Daddy, for your faithful example to my own heart and life. 

Me and Daddy 1968

The reality of Heaven became very intimate for me since you died.  I have always pictured in my mind’s eye that you will be waiting at the front gates for me with arms wide open, saying “My Bobby Naw!  My sweet little girl!”  On that day when my heart is reunited with yours, I will also see Jesus face to face!  What a glorious day that will be!

Well, I will hush for now, Daddy.  I promise to meet you here again, from time to time, on the pages of my heart. 

Until next time,
Your Bobby Naw

 

Scriptures that I read to Daddy while he was in the hospital …
and later read at his funeral.
(When I was a child, Daddy was often referred to as “King”.)

The king rejoices in Your strength, LORD.
   How great is his joy in the victories You give!

You have granted him his heart’s desire
   and have not withheld the request of his lips.

You came to greet him with rich blessings
   and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.

He asked you for life, and You gave it to him—
   length of days, for ever and ever.

Through the victories You gave, his glory is great; 
   You have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely You have granted him unending blessings
   and made him glad with the joy of Your presence.

For the king trusts in the LORD;
   through the unfailing love of the Most High
   he will not be shaken.

Psalm 21:1-7

 

 

Class Reunion

30 Jun

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude
 that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language,
standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.
They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
  Rev 7:9           

Some had arrived early.  Others were right on time, while there were those that did not make it at all.  Glasses and hearing aids were the predominant accessories of the morning, with an overall sense of comfortable and belonging.  Nods and smiles of recognition were shared by all as the tables filled with excited classmates from the class of ’56. 

Mom (3rd from right) & her classmates

My mother graduated in 1956 from Nashville High School, located in Brown County, IN, better known in these parts as ‘Little Nashville’.  Twenty-two young people received their diploma, marking the beginning of the rest of their adult lives.  Eleven of the 17 graduates who are still living gathered this past Saturday for breakfast at the Brown County Inn to celebrate another year.  A few spouses and a daughter (that’s me!) joined in the fun of catching up on the latest, looking at lots of family pictures (of course, I brought 2 photos of Baby Cole!) and making plans for next year. 

Mom's childhood home

Surprisingly to me, the party broke up in less than 2 hours.  I’ve come to realize that sometimes the seniors in our world are busier and more productive than the rest of us!!  Apparently they all had somewhere else to be and things to do!!  Since I was my mom’s official chauffer for the day (she’s STILL not able to drive yet), I decided that we would meander the streets of Nashville and see what we could find.  I quickly changed my glasses, so to speak, from those that saw all the little quaint shops full of tourists, trinkets, and tasty treats to the spectacles belonging to a little girl growing up in a small town where everybody knew her name.  Our first stop was on the south edge of town in front of a little white house with a big front porch … the house is now brown and the front porch is now enclosed as part of the home.  My mother, her two older brothers, and their parents moved to this very house in 1938 when she was 9 months old.  The rock ledge and sidewalk out by the road were laid by her daddy, and the huge tree out front was the same one that she used to climb in.  We drove down Blood Alley, directly behind the old Bond’s funeral home and I listened with great interest to how this little drive got its name.  As we sat back behind the old homestead, she told another story of how she and her neighbor friend nearly caught the entire south end of town on fire.  Her own dad, who was the town mechanic and fire truck driver, was the one who came to dowse out the flames that had spread through the fresh autumn leaves.  As we slowly made our way from one side of town to the other, mother became quite animated by the memories and tales that accompanied those happy days, most likely feeling the impossibility that it all took place so many many years ago.  In the center of town are the old State Bank and Post Office.  Mom remembers riding with her dad in the big wrecker truck to the Post Office one day…she was about  10 years old.   As they pulled away and turned left, the passenger door, on which she was probably leaning, came open and out she went, clinging to the door as it swung out wide in the corner.  Can you imagine?  Other stories included Camel Hill Road, where the town’s people would shut down part of the street for the kids to snow sled down in the winter, the old jail house, which was already a museum when she was a little girl, Miller’s drug store with the soda fountain counter, and the original Nazarene Church that my Pappy helped build on the north side of town.

What a fun day we had!  It’s always a good time when we can reconnect with friends and memories from our past, realizing that by the grace and mercies of God, it all contributes to the people we are today.  It also causes me to focus on the grand reunion yet to come! 

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count,
from every nation, tribe, people and language,
standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.
They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
Rev 7:9           

 

Just like on Saturday, some arrived early.  Others got there at the scheduled time.  But there were some that did not make it at all to this day of celebration.

If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chron 7:14

 

Join me with a humble and seeking heart … and in great anticipation of the best reunion of all time!  We will clasp hands with friends and loved ones around the throne of God, singing His praises throughout all eternity!   SOMEDAY!

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!”
Rev 19:6-7

 

Until next time,
Debbie