Tag Archives: Church

Best Buds

21 Oct

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. 
Proverbs 27:9

There she was … on the escalator, smiling and riding down toward me. The next few days were planned with outings and activities, but at that moment, it was just good to see her again and to give her a big hug!

 

Several months before, Becky had hinted that she would like to come see me in the fall, but I knew how fragile life had been since Joe died more than 2 years ago, along with the fact that she is the primary caregiver of her 89 year-old momma. Airline tickets were purchased and the dates put on the calendar. Anticipation mounted as time drew closer. Several incidents took place that made us wonder if we would have to postpone, but God knew that Becky needed the respite and time away.

 

Best Buds at Hershey Chocolate World

Best Buds at Hershey Chocolate World

On our first full day together, we enjoyed an afternoon of fun and a tasty lunch at Hershey Chocolate World. This was followed by a drive-thru tour of our former life in Middletown, where we built our home in 1991, and then where Kim and Troy were married in Hershey. Later that evening I was honored to have Becky join me as I hosted the October Refresh meeting … the monthly small group that meets in my home. Ten of us ladies gathered to reminisce about childhood friendships and to be reminded that God is all about relationships, most importantly ours with Him!

 

Lancaster County PA is the heart of Amish country in PA … and that is where we spent the following day. Nearly every moment was a Kodak one, and how we both embraced the beauty of the day, the culture, and the sites! It was a perfect day filled with friendship, fun and delicious food!

 

Vintage photo albums provided Saturday morning with hearts full of warm memories, laced with fun and laughter as we flipped through pictures of old boyfriends, church teen activities and friends. The giggles eventually turned into sighs and expressions of sweet sentiment as photos of her Joe and my Tim began to fill the pages with the early days of falling in love, getting married and starting families … the love stories that have been ours for over 3 decades now. At some point, we had to close the albums and quietly remind ourselves that today and tomorrow are new days, full of the promise of new memories yet to experience!

 

Dinner at Dobbins House Gettysburg, PA

Dinner at Dobbins House
Gettysburg, PA

And experience we did! For our final hoorah, we spent the afternoon with my hubby, meandering our way through Gettysburg and catching glimpses of monuments, acres and acres of battlefields, and even a few true historians who dressed for the part. We took advantage of the gorgeous warm sunshine and beautiful autumn leaves as we enjoyed our time together.

As a keepsake of our special time together, Becky’s daughter provided prayer/friendship beads for us to creatively string and use as a reminder to pray for one another. Also, my husband caught the lyrics of a song he was listening to as he was riding the motorcycle over the weekend.  He brought the CD inside and played it for me and Becky … Here are the lyrics.

Click here to listen … https://youtu.be/jk8cPNTBOwc

Reunion of Friends by Phil Keaggy

Look at you, look at me, Together once again.
This is a day to celebrate reunion of friends.
Sha la la la la la la la la la.

Time to dance, time to sing, Time to join our hands.
This is a day to celebrate reunion of friends.

We can recapture the years that slipped away,
We can relive all the memories still,
So don’t you be sad for our prayers
Have been answered today.
It’s time to celebrate.

See you laugh, see you smile, Blessed with innocence.
This is the day to celebrate reunion of friends.
This is the day to celebrate reunion of friends.

We can recapture the years that slipped away,
We can relive all the memories still,
So don’t you be sad for our prayers
Have been answered today.
It’s time to celebrate.

We can recapture the years that slipped away,
We can relive all the memories still,
We can rebuild all His mercy, peace, and grace.
And there is no dream that He can’t fulfill
So let’s celebrate today.

 

Becky’s early Sunday afternoon return flight to Louisiana came all too quickly, but we both felt incredibly grateful for this special weekend that God gifted to us.  As childhood friends and life-time best buds, we recaptured, relived and celebrated! Won’t you join us as we rebuild all His mercy, peace, and grace, knowing that there is no dream that He can’t fulfill!   So let’s celebrate today!

Until next time,
Debbie

 

In God’s wisdom, He frequently chooses to meet our needs
by showing His love toward us through the hands and hearts of others.
Jack Hayford

 

 

Advertisements

Sunshine on the Eastern Shore

14 Jun

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Psalm 97:1

 

Many years ago in Hershey, two cute little blond-headed kids came to our Wednesday night Caravan program. They were brought faithfully by a friend of their momma. Some of us ladies began praying for this momma … that she would come to church with her children and fall in love with Jesus. Soon after, the momma did come to church with her kids, and she fell head over heels in love with Jesus. A vibrant personality, contagious cheerfulness and a glow that is unmistakably Jesus is the reason for my term of endearment for Miss Mary Sunshine.

 

Mary was eager to jump in head-first, with no hesitation, into whatever God asked her to do! So in September of 1997, Mary moved to Albuquerque, NM, just a few months after we arrived there to be part of the ministry team at Nazarene Indian Bible College. Mary became our neighbor, our co-worker, my prayer partner and a dear friend.

 

June 10, 2016

On our way to Virginia

Life’s been a journey since that time in our lives nearly 19 years ago. Much has taken place for us both, including a few changes of address. But right here, right now, we find ourselves only 6 hours away from one another. This past weekend, that gap was temporarily closed when Tim and I packed every nook and cranny of our Harley Davidson and rode the 260 miles to see our friend. Mary moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in November of 2015 and was recently installed as the new Pastor of the Bloxom Community Church of the Nazarene.

 

Mary’s enthusiastic spirit and visionary heart has begun the restart of a church that once thrived in Bloxom and reached into the surrounding communities … hosting camp meetings and revivals, youth camps and gospel sings. The rich heritage that many locals remember, along with God’s call and the contagious excitement of the new pastor, Bloxom is beginning a new chapter.

 

June 11, 2016

After dinner group photo

Life-long friends with hours to catch up on, local seafood to eat, roads with beautiful sites to explore on the motorcycle, and three precious Chihuahuas to love on … what a fun weekend! A lot of things have changed since those days of praying for that young single mother, but the one forever constant is her glowing love for Jesus. No matter her circumstances or where she calls home, she will always be my Miss Mary Sunshine!

 

Won’t you join me today in celebrating friendships, God’s undeniable call, and His love that continues to redeem lost and broken lives?

 

Until next time,
Debbie

 

P.S.  Click here http://www.bloxomchurchofthenazarene.org/site/cs/Index.asp to go to the church website to see how you can help with the restoration process of the property.  Many years without a pastor or congregation has taken its toll on the buildings and grounds.  Consider taking a work team to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and I guarantee that Mary Sunshine will be a gracious hostess!   Drop her an email and schedule a time to be the hands and feet of Jesus to that small but growing church!

ohmary02@gmail.com

Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
Psalm 80:19

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,
and those who lead many to righteousness,
like the stars for ever and ever.
Daniel 12:3

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made His light shine in our hearts to give us the
light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

Happy New Year ~ 2015

30 Jan

You make known to me the Path of Life;
You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.
Psalm 16:11

Some may think that I’m a bit late, but I choose to say that I embraced every moment of the Christmas season that I could. Now that the trimmings and the tree are all down and put away, and everyone has gone back home, I am going to devote some specific time to send greetings to all of our family and friends as yet another year has completed its chapter in our book called life.

Snowstorm that brought 23" of snow!

Snowstorm that brought 23″ of snow!

One thing most of us across America had in common in 2014 was our crazy winter weather! Our little town always seemed be in an overactive band of snow, burying us under several more inches than others in south central PA. Mimi and Papaw’s ‘big hill’ provided a lot of fun times and memories for our little loves when they and their parents could visit.

 

Enjoying a nice spring day in Maryland

Enjoying a nice spring day in Maryland

Needless to say, warm and sunny spring days eventually came, which brought new adventures, the first of which when Ryan flew in for a few days in March. He came bearing gifts for a belated Christmas celebration, and in turn we sang Happy Birthday to him!

 

In April I made a long-over due trip to Louisiana to visit dear friends, a journey of the heart that will forever be changed and grateful for much that has often been taken for granted. Mother’s Day weekend was spent with my mom in Indy, with the added joy of meeting my newborn niece, Remington. Then just a couple of weeks later, Tim and I spent Memorial Day weekend in Ohio at a small reunion of friends who volunteered and worked with us on the campus of Nazarene Indian Bible College in Albuquerque. What a blessed time we had together in those days and again at this gathering!
Mingled in between trips, the grand-kids’ birthday celebrations and the everyday routine of work and life, we were packing and preparing to move. We finally found a house to buy and de-clutter became my new motto. By mid-June, we were moved in and getting settled, excited to spend time with Ryan who was once again out east … this time on a Verizon business trip with some added time for family!

 

My Mom and our family at the Wells Reunion

My Mom and our family at the Wells Reunion

The adventures continued as Mimi loaded Momma and the kiddos in her van and we drove to Indy for the Wells Family reunion in July. What fun to share those of my little family with my precious aunts, uncles and cousins! The traditional annual August 5th weekend birthday celebration once again found us at the shore with Kim and her family, enjoying the surf, sand, and sun. Then a few weeks later, Tim and I took advantage of frequent flier points for a long-over due visit to our beloved Albuquerque! The hospitality of our host family was a blessing, the itinerary of visits with friends and church family was heart warming, and just the experience of being there in that special place we called home for nearly 10 years was simply over-whelming.

 

In Florida with Becky and her mom Pauline

In Florida with Becky and her mom Pauline

September arrived with an invitation to meet my life-long ‘best bud’ in Florida for a few days of respite with her, following the death of her husband on August 1st. Beach therapy was the theme for our time together as childhood friends tried to make sense of life and its uncertain path … all the while being confident that God is the one true certainty on our journey.

 

Another leg of our journey was our annual motorcycle trip to Toms River, New Jersey and our visit with Pastor Del and Patsy Bieber. What fun we had as we spent time with their family, shopped at a local flea market, ate some outstanding food and as always, enjoyed our Sunday morning of worship with our seaside friends. Several weeks later, it was our privilege and pleasure to host these friends in our own home as Pastor Del preached in a local revival service.

 

Tim's Mom with her children

Tim’s Mom with her children

Indiana became our destination of necessity throughout the fall months due to the 6 week battle with cancer and passing of Tim’s step-father on September 23. Life with its reminder of our fragility and total dependence upon God once again knocked on the doors of our hearts. After a lot of prayer and thoughtful consideration, Tim’s Mom …has moved back to PA to be closer to the majority of her children.

 

My brothers Tim and Jay, me and Mom

My brothers Tim and Jay, me and Mom

Christmas season! We attended Christmas programs and parties, spent time with family and friends, and simply enjoyed the beautiful season in our new home. Christmas Eve travels took us to Indiana for a few days to celebrate Jesus, His birth, and several other family birthdays with my Mother, brothers and their families. Our trip was highlighted on Sunday morning when my brother Tim and his wife, Courtney, dedicated Remington Kimber Wells to Jesus.

 

The final hoorah for the year was awesome as Ryan and Brittany flew in from Seattle and our entire family spent several days together in our home … still celebrating Jesus and Christmas, New Year’s, and Brittany’s January birthday. Gifts were exchanged, countless games of Memory (and others) were played, creative paper airplanes were flown, and so much tasty food was prepared and enjoyed! Girls went shopping, family came to visit, a few movies were watched, and we worshiped together on Sunday just a few hours before good-byes were said. Every moment of every day, I tried to soak up each and every morsel and speck of family love I could … to hold me until next time!

 

As we begin a new year, I would like to share a page from ‘Jesus Calling’ …

June 12
Let Me prepare you for the day (year) that stretches out before you. I know exactly what this day (year) will contain, whereas you have only vague ideas about it. You would like to see a map, showing all the twists and turns of your journey. You’d feel more prepared if you could somehow visualize what is on the road ahead. However, there is a better way to be prepared for whatever you will encounter today (this year): Spend quality time with Me.

I will not show you what is on the road ahead, but I will thoroughly equip you for the journey. My living Presence is your Companion each step of the way. Stay in continual communication with Me, whispering My Name whenever you need to redirect your thoughts. Thus, you can walk through this day (year) with your focus on Me. My abiding Presence is the best road map available.

 

2014 is behind us and a new road lies ahead. May the comfort and the peace of God’s constant Presence be the Guide and Direction for you and yours for this new year.

You make known to me the Path of Life;
You will fill me with joy in Your presence,
with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.
Psalm 16:11

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go
with you and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

Until next time,
Debbie

***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***

If you would like to read the unabbreviated version of 2014 and more,
please feel free to visit my website and read till your heart is content!  https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com/

***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***

Mother’s Day Weekend

16 May

This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it
Psalm 118:24

This time last week I was waking to the sound of a couple barking dogs and feeling refreshed after my long journey on the road. My iPhone and I left work on Thursday afternoon and arrived in my mom’s driveway several conversations later. Driving the long distance between my house in PA and hers in Indy is always improved as I talk to friends and family along the way.

It was December since I had last been with my momma – when she flew out to celebrate an early Christmas with our family … and an October birthday visit was the last time I had been in Indy. No matter how much time has passed, mom’s Chihuahuas, Ginger and Walker, always greet me at the door with an exuberant welcome! It felt good to be home … my childhood home, where my parents raised me and my brothers.

The moms and daughters at Steak & Shake

The moms and daughters at Steak & Shake

The weekend started out with a bunch of hugs and laughter when mom and I met my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for lunch Friday noon. The same fun-loving, silly mold was used for these two ladies and we’re always guaranteed a great visit! A celebration of Amy’s birthday made our time together even more special! Until next time, sweet ladies …

 

Aunt Debbie and Remington Kimber Wells

Aunt Debbie and Remington Kimber Wells

Another form of a birth day celebration was next on our agenda as we drove the few miles to my youngest brother’s home to meet my 6 day-old niece. Remington Kimber was bright-eyed and awake for our visit, giving plenty of opportunity for several photos to be taken. What a doll baby – lots of dark hair, pudgy little nose, and a sweet momma and proud papa besides!

 

Once back to the house, I ventured out to the garage to see how daunting my next task was going to be. 17 years ago when our family moved from PA to Albuquerque, we left several boxes for safe keeping … items we didn’t necessarily need right then, but didn’t want to get rid of, but knew we didn’t have the room to store them where we were going. Since I drove out, and since we’re finally buying a house that has plenty of room for such storage, [‘Buying a House’ … an upcoming blog] I began to open boxes of keepsakes … or not so keeping. Such mixed feelings overwhelmed me as I found mold and mildew that had wreaked havoc on some of the contents, creating a pile of trash instead of treasures. My favorite find was a particular set of 3 long boxes that I knew were filled with memories from my high school years, CB radio days, and mementos of young loves. Oh my! [‘Keepsake Treasures … or Not’ – another upcoming blog] Gratefully, the items that held most value to my heart were fine and I began to load my car till it was full and overflowing – barely leaving enough room for travel bags and driver! The grandkids will be excited to find some ‘new’ toys to add to their assortment of playthings at Mimi and Papaw’s house – but probably not as excited as their mom and Uncle Ryan will be! Care-A-Lot car and castle, complete with all of the Care Bear gang … Hot Wheels, Match Box cars, and even a Tonka truck or two!

 

Mother's Day with my momma

Mother’s Day with my momma

TV shows, computer updates, and enjoying the front porch swing filled in the gaps between projects and family time. 15 of us gathered for dinner on Saturday evening, laughing at the antics of 2 year-old Jaxon as we all took turns cuddling Baby Remi.

 

Mother’s Day was filled to the brim – an unexpected and extremely special visit from Louisiana, [‘Joe Talhelm … a Film Documentary’ …  another upcoming blog!] church service with family and friends, lunch out with my precious baby niece and her family, followed by my long drive home. It was a day that was without a doubt ordained by God … a gift. I’m trying my best to always seize the moment – to appreciate every aspect of the day, giving praise to the One who raises and sets the sun. Won’t you join me in seizing each moment … every morsel of time … and every blessing?

Until next time,
Debbie

** If you are interested in viewing all of the pictures from my recent trip to Indy 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.10202527516323935.1073741854.1076414018&type=1&l=0aaf67d0b2

Happy New Year from the Van Hooks!

1 Jan

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Mimi and Papaw with their loves

Mimi and Papaw with their loves

Just a few days ago, Tim and I celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our little loves and their parents in their Baltimore home.  A couple weeks previous, God blessed us with an extra special Christmas visit from my mother when we received our 4th snowfall of the season while she was here.  What fun we all had as we took turns sledding down our big hill and watching the pure delight in the eyes of our little loves.  And now as the New Year arrives, we anticipate a belated Christmas celebration with our kids from Seattle.  We learned long ago that there’s so much more to celebrating Christmas than what we do or where we are on the 25th of December.  It truly is a season … a Spirit of celebration that centers our focus on the gift of Jesus and His birth.

And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate)
and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us;
and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty),
such glory as an only begotten son receives from His father,
full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.
John 1:14 Amplified

 

For out of His fullness (abundance)
we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with]
one grace after another and
spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing
and even favor upon favor
and gift [heaped] upon gift.
John 1:16 Amplified

 

Out of His abundance, God provides for our every need …  Tim continues to be busy working for Kitchen Saver as the Installation Manager, and I remain at the Elder Law Firm of Robert Clofine where I work in the office.  When not working and the weather permits, Tim and I enjoying riding our ‘new’ motorcycle which we bought in June.  When not on the bike, we love spending time in the kitchen, looking for new recipes, creating healthy dishes, smoking meats, and eating tasty foods.  We grew a small garden this past summer, freezing much of what we grew and buying even more at local produce stands.  Our freezers are once again full and overflowing, providing us with tasty treats throughout the next year.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls in Oregon

Out of His abundance, God provides one grace after another!  I think of our trip to Seattle in the fall … what a great time we had with Ryan and Brittany!  They are gracious hosts, always providing us with warm hospitality, great food, and wonderful memories of another special time together!  This particular time, we included a short trip to Portland, Oregon and another few days to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  Our other travel destinations were Indiana, West Virginia, New Jersey and Ohio, not to mention the trips here and there all on the motorcycle and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  Of course, we can’t leave out the all-important short journeys back and forth to the south side of Baltimore to see our little loves and their parents.  And in April, Kim’s house was full and running over as Uncle Ryan and Auntie Britt, along with Mimi Wells came to visit and to be present at Lillianne’s baby dedication.  We have certainly been blessed this year by being with friends and family!

The Arndt Family

The Arndt Family

Out of His abundance, God provides His favor!  The Arndt family purchased a house in January of 2013, and have had no problems spreading out into all corners and cubbies of this nice large home.  Both Troy and Kim turned 30 years old when celebrating birthdays this year, while Cole will turn five years old in March and Lillianne two in April.  Troy continues to be employed by Booz Allen Hamilton and has two remaining semesters in the process of earning a master’s degree in Cyber Security via an online program through UMUC.   Kim enjoys being a stay-at-home mom, with a new twist to the routine as Cole attends preschool three mornings each week.  Their family is extremely involved in various ministries at Grace Pointe Nazarene Church in Severn, MD, where they have an awesome network of friends and church family!

Ryan and Brittany   at a friend's wedding

Ryan and Brittany
at a friend’s wedding

Out of His abundance, He provides favor!Ryan is still employed by Verizon Wireless and is currently working at a store in Bellevue, WA – literally in Microsoft’s backyard.  Brittany changed jobs this year and loves her new position … working for the University of Washington at Harborview in the Internal Medicine Department as a Project Coordinator for the residents and medical students.  She has her sights set on medical school, so her spare time is spent studying so she can take the entrance exam this coming spring.  In Ryan’s spare time, one would most likely find him with a good book at a nearby coffee shop, playing Frisbee, or watching the sport of the season.

Out of His abundance, God provides spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing!  If nothing else existed in my life, knowing Jesus as my Redeemer and Savior would be enough.  But God has gifted me this year with special blessings that I will forever hold dear to my heart!  I was able spend time with special friends that I had not seen since we left Albuquerque 7 years ago.  Also, my continued prayers for my co-workers, boss, and myself have finally begun to tear down guarded walls of tension that have made for a better work environment and opportunities to talk about Jesus.  My prayer list is full of names that belong to people I know and love – some with illnesses and diseases, others with relational troubles, those that have lost loved ones, while still others need to know the life-changing love of Jesus.  I’m daily learning that a life of true obedience to God is one of spiritual blessing … overflowing from His abundance!

Well, another year has quickly flipped the pages of our calendars … a year full of God’s gifts, favor, spiritual blessings, and grace.  As we move forward into 2014, let us not forget that it is in Him that we live, and move and have our being.

For in Him we live and move and have our being.
Acts 17:28

Our prayer is that you had a wonderful Christmas, and that it will be followed by an awesome and an abundant New Year!
Tim and Debbie

Please feel welcomed to be a regular follower of my blog at
https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~

For those of you who receive my blog via email,
check out the new photos on the actual website at the above address.

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~

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

 

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