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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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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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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Release

I’m turning into Elsa. She was the queen in the movie, “Frozen.” Her famous song was, “Let It Go.”

Everyone grieves differently. Some start with the denial stage. Others start with the angry stage. There is no wrong way to grieve – except trying to get revenge.

Judges 15:7, ” ‘Because you did this,’ Samson vowed, ‘I won’t rest until I take my revenge on you!’ ” New Living Translation

I love western books and movies. It didn’t matter if you were enemies when wounded, they took you to where you could get help. They also said repeatedly,

“Don’t speak ill of the dead.”

We cannot bring them back. We cannot change details of past events. When we review old hurts, we only hurt ourselves. We have to give our hurts to God. Only He can heal them. He can’t heal them until we . . .

“Let It Go!”

Dear Father God,

Help us be kind and forgiving to each other as we walk through the next few days. We all grieve differently and we are all hurting. We can’t do this! We don’t want to say goodbye! We know You are with us always and we know You are the one holding us up. Thank You for carrying us through this valley of grief. 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Father-in-law

Thursday David called to tell me his dad, John, had suffered a stroke. I went right to the hospital with his sister. John was in the hospital with COPD, emphysema, and pneumonia.

By late afternoon, he seemed better and was even breathing easier than the day before. He got to see all of his grandchildren and I expected him to recover.

At 2:30 am Friday morning, we got the call that he slipped away peacefully. We dressed and got in the van. The song on the radio was “Tell Me” by Carrolltown. We listened in silence, soaking up the message as we drove a mile to the hospital.

I don’t know how people walk through this valley of grief without Jesus Christ holding them up. How do they wade through the avalanche of details in planning a funeral without the peace only Jesus gives?

Judges 5:3, “Listen, you kings! Pay attention, you mighty rulers! For I will sing to the Lord. I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel” New Living Translation

We don’t sing to the Lord because he requires it. We sing the song that He sends, and we derive comfort from it. This is the chorus of “Tell Me.”

“Tell Me” by Carrollton

“Tell me I am loved. Tell me I am known,

that you died for me I am not alone.

Tell me I’m your child, the one your heart beats for

and I will find my strength knowing I am yours.

You’ve always known what my heart needs

and you tell me.”

Dear Father God,

Thank You for giving us a song even in the darkest of nights. I pray for Jane, his wife, and his kids: David and Melinda. I pray for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I pray for his sisters and nieces and nephews. You are the God of all comfort. Thank You for giving us comfort and carrying us during this difficult time.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Mourning

A man and his wife, in our county, died violently yesterday. We will not focus on how they died, but on how they lived.

“He was my first sergeant in the national guard.”

“He was a fireman, like me.”

“He was a good man.”

“She was my uncle’s cousin.”

“She was a homebody, like me.”

“They lived two blocks away.”

Jeremiah 8:21, “I hurt with the pain of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief.” New Living Translation

Dear Father God,

Hold their child close. I pray for the family members and the grieving community. Living in a rural area means each life touches our life. Someone we know is: related to them, worked with them, volunteered with them, lived close to them. I ask you to comfort each one. Thank you for grieving with us.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Marge

Today we celebrated the life of Marge. I worried that I would not have the right words to bring comfort. I found them in today’s chapters.

Isaiah 60:20, “…Your days of mourning will come to an end.” New Living Translation

Isaiah 61:2, “He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come…” New Living Translation

Isaiah 61:3, “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give you a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” New Living Translation

  1. Mourning will end. We know this is only a season.
  2. The Lord sends his favor to those who mourn. It was muggy and overcast for the outdoor service. The sun was not beating down on us, even though it was in the 80’s, and the rain did not come until well after the dinner.
  3. He promises a crown of beauty for ashes to those who mourn. There was much more laughter than tears. And even after the tears, smiles broke through like sunshine.
  4. He will send a joyous blessing instead of mourning. Four days after Marge died, her only son became a grandfather for the first time. Savannah Grace is an 8 lb. 7 oz. blessing with black hair and dark blue eyes.
  5. Festive praise instead of despair. Her great-grandchildren sang, “Jesus Loves Me.”
  6. They will be steadfast and strong like an oak tree. Many who spoke mentioned her strong faith that they shared.

Dear Father God,

I pray an extra dose of comfort for Marge’s family today. Thank You for being with them during this time of grief. Help them to stay steadfast and strong.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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R.I.P.

I scratched two names off my prayer list on Friday: Marge and Gary. I added the names of their family members to the list of grieving.

I met Marge when my son became engaged to her granddaughter. We were together at showers and birthday parties. We both liked sending cards, volunteering at church, and watching westerns.

My dad led Gary to the Lord. He graduated from Elim while my dad was serving there on staff. He would come to our trailer and throw me, and my sisters, up in the air. He was a tall man and we felt like we were flying! I shared his love for ice cream and Jesus.

Isaiah 57:1, 2, “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.” New Living Translation

Gary witnessed to every doctor and nurse. He knew his time was short. He listened to the CD my father made, and said, “I’ll be seeing you soon, Charlie.” (Dad passed away in 2010.)

When Gary was a teenager, he washed cars at the service station where my dad was working as a mechanic. Once he squirted dad with water. Dad retaliated with a grease gun! Gary loved telling us that story. I can only imagine the fun they are having in heaven now!

Psalms 116:15, “The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die.” New Living Translation

I prayed for healing for both. I wanted Gary to meet his great-grandchild. But this day was written before Gary and Marge were born.

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,

Please bring comfort to the families of these two godly people. I know they are resting in peace. Help us to honor their memory by keeping our faith strong. Thank You, Lord, that we do not grieve without hope; for we know we will see them again. Give each relative strength as they navigate these difficult days of grief.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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