Closer Than an Aunt

My sisters and I sometimes joked that God sent us the wrong daughters. One niece was studious, like me; and another niece is good with money, like me. (My third niece is artistic and definitely her mother’s daughter!)

My daughter did not keep her room clutter free and likes to play pool; both traits of my sisters. I like every room perfectly clutter free and never did take an interest in pool. When my daughter was growing up, I said it was like living with my sister again. I’m sure my nieces heard the same statement.

The relationship of aunt is a special one. My sisters were the best aunts. I didn’t do as well. In my defense, my children were born first, 21 months apart, and when my nieces were 2 and 4 I had my third baby. I had my hands full.

* * * * * * *

Deborah was the first woman listed as a nurse, not a handmaid. She would have been a second mother to Esau and Jacob and would have been where they turned when they were sick or hurt. She would have been closer than an aunt. No wonder there was great grief at her death.

Genesis 35:8, “But Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried beneath Bethel under an oak. It was called Allon Bakuth.” Modern English Version

* * * * * * *

“…she would have been of invaluable service to his young family. Old nurses, like her, were not only honored, but loved as mothers; and, accordingly, her death was the occasion of so great lamentation. She was buried under the oak – hence called “the terebinth of tears” (1 Kings 13:14).” Critical and Explanatory Commentary, Vol. I

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Forgive

There was one awkward moment at our family Christmas. I walked away quietly thinking, “This moment does not define me. It happened, but the awkwardness will pass.”

The next day, my family was commenting on how much they enjoyed Christmas. I said, “Yes, and there was only one awkward moment!”

None of them could remember it and I didn’t elaborate! There were opportunities to have my feelings hurt, but I consciously refused to let it hurt me.

Forgiveness is not optional.

Matthew 6:15, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Modern English Version

Dear Father God,

Thank You for the wonderful Christmas. Thank You for taking the hurts from me. Thank You for keeping me from saying anything that hurt others. 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Cardinals

Sunday, January 1, 2017

I tore off the December picture and threw the rest of the 2016 calendar away. I started to fold the picture for my scrapbook when I remembered I posted a photo of it on frugalfish.org. Why was it hard? Why did I want to keep it? The picture was a Cardinal.

“A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed.”

When my dad died, in the spring of 2010, a two cardinals built a nest in the bush next to my mother’s bow-window. Protected from predators, they didn’t realize they gave Mom a front row seat. It comforted her to see the little family every day. She waited for the eggs to hatch and watched the baby birds grow.

You don’t understand and appreciate comfort until you mourn.

Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are those who mourn,  for they shall be comforted.” Modern English Version

My father-in-law loved the St. Louis Cardinals. He passed that love on to his children and grandchildren. It comforts us every time we see a Cardinal. We are seeking them out: Christmas ornaments, gift bags, the calendar, cards, and mugs.

Cardinals are not the only symbols that bring comfort. When I see a daisy, I think of Peyton because it was her favorite flower. Whitney and her sisters look for hearts because it reminds them of their mom, Kerry. Acoustic guitars make me think of my dad.

Pat looks for pennies. She says, “Every time I find a penny, it means God loves me.” As she got out of the vehicle for her first radiation treatment, she saw two pennies on the ground. God knew she needed extra encouragement that day.

Dear Father God,

You are the God of all comfort. Thank You for comforting us as we grieve for John. Thank You for the signs that tell us of Your great love. Thank You for the assurance that we will see John again.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Every

My father-in-law was tough. He started working in a foundry when he was 17 and a junior in high school.

He was in the hospital with a blood clot, COPD, and emphysema.They sent him home and readmitted him a day later with pneumonia. It was painful just watching him try to breathe. We prayed for him and believed for a miracle.

Then he had a stroke and slipped away peacefully that night. The odds were against him but we prayed anyway because Jesus heals every kind of sickness, disease, and illness.

Matthew 4:23, 24, “. . . And he healed every kind of disease and illness. News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed – he healed them all.” New Living Translation

 

Luke 4:40, “. . . No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one.” New Living Translation

I added these verses to my prayer list. I have one page with names of those who are battling sicknesses and diseases. I am not discouraged even though my father-in-law died because the day of his death was written before he was conceived.

Psalms 139:16, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” New Living Translation

Dear Father God,

Thank You for the life of my father-in-law. Please comfort his wife and children. Thank You for the work ethic he passed on to his children and grandchildren.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Prove

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

When I read today’s verse, I thought God was directing me to get that box of clothes to Goodwill. God was directing David to do that. (Insert laughs here.)

Luke 3:8, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. . . .” New Living Translation

How do you prove it?

  1. Give to the poor, 3:11.
  2. Share food with the hungry, 3:11.
  3. Don’t extort money, 3:14.
  4. Don’t make false accusations, 3:14.
  5. Be content with your pay, 3:14.

God wanted me to deal with our stuffed refrigerator. Last week we had a few meals brought in from our church family. We had a two meals with my sister-in-law’s family, but she brought food, too. We also had food brought in by our kids. (Yeah, I know they are all adults now.) 

Being “Frugalfish,” I know how to stretch food. I froze a little, (we don’t have a deep freezer), and alternated the leftovers between lunches and suppers. I cooked on Christmas Eve but that was the only time. I had cooked hamburger and a cake that needed eating today.

My daughter goes to her Aunt Melinda’s every Tuesday. Melinda feeds her and they watch a show they both like. She told me Melinda was making nachos for supper. I gave them the hamburger and started to send the cake – but David objected! I saved 4 pieces of the cake and sent the rest with my daughter.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for my church family, family, and friends. When grief made our appetites disappear, a lasagna appeared and restored them! Give me the words to thank them properly.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Star

A Christmas Story

Her mother told her conception felt like someone lit a candle deep inside your belly. No one could see it or feel the tiny spark, but you knew it was there. Love for your husband, who planted the seed, overwhelms you and you can’t stop smiling about your shared secret.

Mary thought about that conversation as she lay on her pallet looking at the stars. She remembered being surrounded by the greatest love she had ever felt when the angel appeared. It was as if she were walking on air, wrapped in a cloud of light.

She also felt a spark. She knew what the angel told her had come true. But in the darkness, she felt alone. She knew the consequences of becoming pregnant before marriage.

That’s when she noticed it. A star that was brighter than all the others. She had never seen this star before. She recognized the familiar constellations and this star was not part of them. She felt reassured that God was watching over her.

Meanwhile, far to the east, 3 separate men noticed the same star. It confounded the astrologers because they had not seen it before. It was not notated on any of their charts. They got together to compare notes.

When Mary learned cousin Elizabeth was pregnant, she traveled to visit her. Elizabeth amazed her when she told Mary her baby jumped for joy when they hugged. She knew her child was the Son of God. God had a special plan for Elizabeth’s child too.

Before retiring, Mary stepped outside and looked up. Her star had moved with her! It seemed over her head. God was still watching over her.

It astonished the astrologers; the star they had been carefully adding to their charts had moved! All three of them had placed it exactly in the same place on their charts. They started over making new charts.

After 3 months, Mary returned home. Her pregnancy was showing now, but she trusted God and Joseph. The same angel visited Joseph after she shared her news. He told her he would marry her after the child was born. They were legally engaged and it could only be broken through a divorce.

The wise men were stumped. They worked so hard on those new charts and the star seemed to have moved back! How can this be?

There were Jews still living in the east. They were descendants of the ones who decided not to return to Jerusalem after the exile to Babylon. The wise men met with a few of the trusted Rabbis and asked about the star. The Rabbis told them that a Messiah would be born who would become the King of the Jews. The wise men decided to go to Jerusalem to meet this king.

It was a long journey and they were only a few weeks away from Jerusalem when the star started moving again. Discouraged because they had come so far, they decided to keep following the star.

Meanwhile, Mary and Joseph had to leave Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem. Joseph had to go there for the census Caesar Augustus ordered. They traveled slowly. Joseph let Mary rest every few hours because she was near the end of her pregnancy.

The day they reached Bethlehem, Mary could no longer pretend she was aching from the trip. She knew she was in labor. She looked up and the star was still there, directly overhead. God was still overshadowing her.

She longed for a warm place to lie down. But Bethlehem was a small town with only one inn. She could see families camping along the side of the road.

When Joseph led her into the cave she welcomed the waves of heat. There were many animals in the cave and hay stored in the back of it. She gratefully stretched out on the hay mow.

The wise men had enough of following a star that kept moving! They decided to go to the reigning king to see if his heir had been born. King Herod was old and his wife was not pregnant. The wise men asked to speak to some Rabbis. The Rabbis knew the scriptures and told them the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

The wise men set out for Bethlehem, relieved that the star had stopped and stayed. It shone brighter than it ever had before.

They found Joseph, Mary, and Jesus under the star. They presented three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They camped on the edge of Bethlehem and marveled at the brightness of the star. It was as bright as morning. They had met Jesus, the Bright Morning Star, (see Revelation 22:16).

Matthew 2:2, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” New Living Translation

Dear Father God,

Thank You for enabling me to conceive three times. Thank You for being with me during the months of bed rest. Thank You for the three gifts you gave to me: Luke, Laura, and Derek. 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Fiancee

My sisters believed in long engagements. One sister planned to marry on 11-11, but God had other plans; she married on 9-3. (She was not pregnant.) We all love weddings and look forward to a committed couple taking the next step. But they will take that step when God ordains it and not sooner.

I think of Mary’s mother. As soon as it was obvious Mary was pregnant, I’m sure her mom wanted the wedding to take place now! But God had other plans.

Luke 2:5, “He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.” New Living Translation

Matthew 1:25, “But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” New Living Translation

The engagement was for a year, but it was as binding as a marriage. You could not break an engagement, you had to get a divorce. They were not supposed to have sex until after the wedding ceremony.

If Joseph had married Mary before going to Bethlehem, then people could deny Jesus was born of a virgin. Joseph told everyone the truth: 1) they were not married, and 2) he did not have sex with her until after Jesus was born. That wasn’t the first time a wedding took place after the baby was born.

Dear Father God,

Forgive me for bugging my sisters about their weddings. I know they will marry when You ordain it. I pray my future brother-in-law will forgive me for pressing him. Thank You for the men You sent to share their lives with my sisters.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Daughter-in-Law

Ruth was the best example of a daughter-in-law. Back then, she would have lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth took care of Naomi.

I try to be a good daughter-in-law, but the best I can do is to check up on her. (Her “fur-babies” make my allergies go nuts.) She’s probably ready for me to stop “mothering” her.

“Did you sleep last night?”

“When was the last time you ate?”

If the way you treat your mother-in-law is the way your daughter-in-law is going to treat you, then I must be doing something right!

Ruth 2:11, “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. . . .” New Living Translation

When Mahlon died, Ruth’s dream of children died. But God gave her children in spite of her circumstances. When all hope is lost, is when God does his best work.

“But death is just a hook behind the door. Where I’ll leave my dirty clothes.” Perfector by My Epic

 

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Told

I don’t like taking Prednisone. In fact, I vowed I wouldn’t take it unless I absolutely had to. When my dad died, the doctor told me I had to take it because my emotions are reflected in the hives around my mouth. But that was 6 years ago. I’m doing so much better now.

When I opened my Bible, it fell open to this verse:

Judges 21:23, “So the men of Israel did as they were told.” New Living Translation

The men of Israel did not want to let the men of Benjamin marry their daughters. They vowed to never give their daughters to them. The men of Benjamin kidnapped their daughters; they wanted to take them back!

Their daughters moved to another tribe. It’s possible they never saw them again and they didn’t get to watch their grandchildren grow up. They didn’t like the consequences but they did as they were told.

************

The visitation for my father-in-law was a happy time. There was a lot more laughter than tears. It was full of hugs, smiles, family, friends, and good memories. I didn’t have a problem with hives. . .

. . . Until the next morning.

I woke up with red, burning hives from my nose to my chin. The closer we got to the funeral the worse they got! (I thought it was something I drank that had red dye in it, but when I checked the ingredients list later, that wasn’t it.)

I was grateful they left the keyboard in a side room and I was able to play and sing from there. I kept my head down. I was to read the memories written by his granddaughter; David had to do it. Instead of being a comfort, he had to cover for me.

I felt like the world’s worst wife. It was awkward. But awkward moments pass. They don’t kill you. And they don’t change you. I’m still David’s wife and he still loves me. But I wish I had paid attention to what God was trying to tell me and done as the doctor told me to do.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for loving me even when I don’t listen. I am grateful that You did not leave when I didn’t do what you wanted. Thank You for getting me through the awkward moments. 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Photographs

There is nothing stronger than the love of a parent. And no parent has too many children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.

We just spent 2 days going through photographs and making picture boards of my father-in-law. The best pictures were of him holding each grandchild after they were born. His face seemed even happier in the pictures with his newborn great-grandchildren. No matter what we did, he never stopped loving us.

Judges 17:2, “One day he said to his mother, ‘I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.’ ‘The Lord bless you for admitting it,’ his mother replied.” New Living Translation

This mother showed how quickly we forgive our children after they admit their sin and make restitution. We want them to do the right thing because we know their actions are seeds they are planting. We want them to only harvest good things.

At visitation I witnessed the harvest from John’s life. It was not diamonds, gold or land but friends whom I had never met that hugged me as if their life depended on it. When asked for memorabilia, we had difficulty thinking of something to set out. He didn’t invest in things; he invested in people. He was a good man and he was kind to others. They, in turn, were especially kind to us in our grief.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for laughter during tears. Thank You for a family that holds us close when we feel liked falling. Thank You for friends that bring joy to our hearts even in grief. Thank You for never letting us walk alone. 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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