In memory

Memorial: preserving the memory of a person or thing; commemorative.

Memorial Day is not just the beginning of the summer holidays.  It’s not just another three-day weekend when we get to sleep in or catch up on yard work.  It’s not just a time to gather with friends and family for a cookout.

It’s about remembering.  Remembering how much our freedom cost.  Because freedom is never free.  It is costly, expensive. The price is the lives of men and women who laid down their all.

My grandfather was a World War 1 veteran.  My father and my father-in-law were WW2 veterans.  I have family members and friends who served in the military.  And I have a young friend who is in boot camp right now.  I’ve heard stories of sacrifice and of being away from home and hearth and all that is familiar.

I’ve watched the news as flag-covered caskets were lowered out of airplanes, rolled into halls where mourners came to pay their last respects.  Did I even consider that this life was an exchange for mine?

When I see the veterans march in parade or stand to salute the flag my admiration for them swells and tears fill my eyes sometimes.  They have sacrificed in a way in which I am not acquainted.

This morning I sit in my home with the freedom to choose how I will spend this day.  I am not concerned about bombs or military forces coming to take me captive.  I can travel through multiple states to visit my family-too-far-away.  I can attend the church of my choice.  I can vote my conscience.  I can carry a weapon to defend my self.  I can work and earn a wage.  I can go to college and pursue my calling and my dreams.  I can shop where I want.  I can get to a doctor or a hospital and expect good treatment.  I can write words on the world-wide web.

My freedom is precious.  I value living in the United States of America.  She has her problems, no doubt, but her flag waves red, white and blue because of people who gave the ultimate for me.  The living and the dead.  They served their country.  They served me.

And I will not forget.

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14 minutes, 14 inches

What could you do with 14 minutes in your day?  How could you use 14 extra inches of space?

A group of us have been meeting each week to learn about the Sabbath principle in the study called “Breathe” by Phyllis Shirer.  It has been a learning curve for us women who are used to filling our days, our schedules, our homes, and our lives with so much.  We look around and see no margins, no space, no breathing room because of all the things and events we have gathered into our existence.

“Breathe” has presented a different way of living.  It’s the way God commanded His children as they walked away from Egyptian slavery and into a life of freedom.  These former slaves didn’t know the meaning of pausing to rest or ceasing their labors.  They entered their freedom with a slave mentality, and it would take drastic measures to change their way of thinking.

God wanted to teach them that He was their sustainer and provider.  He would feed them and protect them and meet their needs if they would only follow His instructions.  They were told to gather manna six days and then rest on the seventh day, eating what remained from their sixth day gathering.

Like  us, they tested this theory and tested their God which created quite a stink in the camp because they refused to listen and learn that God really means what He says.  And He always gives commands that turn out for our good.

So this past Tuesday, we were offered a challenge.  We are to take a 14 minute Sabbath rest each day, and we are to clear 14 inches of space during the week.

My mind begins to swirl with thoughts of plastic containers in my lower kitchen cabinet; a pantry overflowing with boxes, cans, and jars; a freezer that is stuffed; a closet that contains more clothes than I ever wear; storage spaces that are filled to the brim.

It truly is a challenge to begin thinking less is OK when we’ve spent much of our lives thinking the more the better.

We purchase out of want not need.  We gather on our six days and also on our seventh because Wal-Mart and Lowes and Kroger and Walgreens are all open.  The washer and dryer run equally well each and every day; and I can shop on-line, search the web, and connect with social media 24/7.

Our schedules are packed with multiple events on too many days. TIme passes and we look at the people in our house and wonder when we’ve had a real conversation.  We collapse into bed at night and are already thinking of all there is to do tomorrow.  Our brains are as tired as our bodies.

And then we wonder why we are exhausted, living life too full but enjoying it less.

But Jesus came to offer an abundant life not an abundance of things and a fully packed day after day after day.

The women of our group take the challenge.  How we do this will be different for each of us.  But we will try with all our hearts.  Because the point is not just to follow someone’s directive or to complete the assignment.  The point is to give place and time to remember our Creator, to pause and give thanks for the bounty of gifts His has given, to cease our work for a little while and know it is enough.

Our God is sovereign over all.  He is our sustainer, our provider, the boss of the universe.  His commands are not to deny us but to give us a full and rich life, one that relies on Him to supply our every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.  In obedience we work and we rest.  We have time to play with our children and grandchildren; time to enjoy the fruits of our labors; time to worship and find joy in our God.

God is in control of it all.  It would behoove us to sit up straight and pay attention.  He’s not joking.  He really means what He says.  Come sit awhile.  Rest.  Breathe.  It’s good for you.

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Sunday grace

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As the wind blows the leaves of trees,

As the clouds roll and cover the sky,

As the rain falls on the dry ground,

As he sun breaks through the sky again,

As the robin sits on her nest and warms her eggs,

As the birds burst forth in their songs,

As the butterfly floats from flower to flower,

As all the creation performs its created appointments

And thus gives praise to their Creator,

May we also

Praise the Lord.

Sunday grace, friends.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad.

Our God reigns!

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Random thoughts about things I can’t live without

100_3159Sometimes my thoughts are random, not exactly inspirational, just regular.

Years ago I read an article by Lucy Pritchett in Today’s Woman magazine.  Ms. Pritchett listed 13 Things she considered a necessity.  Now we are not talking about people.  Any one of us would choose our family, friends, and beloved pets over any material possessions.  If the house burned down, we would be thankful all our loved ones were safe even if everything else were gone.

But let’s say you were invited to stay the week at a lake, a cabin in the woods or a deserted island and all you could pack would be the bare necessities.  What would you take?  What would you want at hand?

Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you NOT to choose something electronic.  That will be hard, I know.  Some of us list our smart phones as the most important object we possess.  Try not to this time.

What’s the point in an exercise like this?   Brain work.  A thought processes.  Use of the imagination.  Revelation.

This will make you ponder what you really value and what you could live without.  It could reveal something about who you really are.

So here is my list.

1. My Thompson Chain Reference Bible.  It is my favorite reference Book.  I can find most things I am looking for here.  And i need a daily dose of God’s Word.

2. Journal with writing instruments.  Because what good is paper without pen and pencil.  I do have a preference for what I use to write with: Cadoozle pencils and an old cartridge pen that I still have from high school.  Writing is therapy for me and I would certainly want to record this experience.

3. Coffee with half and half cream.  This may take the form of some sort of coffee pot or a Star Bucks hidden in the woods, but I’ll leave that to the imagination.

4. A piano.  I know what you’re thinking – where’s she going to get a piano on the beach?  Well, I can dream, can’t I?  And dreaming of playing the piano while the ocean breezes blow sounds like a bare necessity to me.

5. Fresh flowers.  They brighten the house in spring and summer.  They add color and cheer.  They are just pretty.  And I need beauty.

6. Indoor plumbing.  Yes, this is a necessity for this part county-part city gal.  I can do without electricity better than indoor plumbing.

7. Good walking shoes.  I won’t be staying inside all day.

8. Flannel shirt.  Comfort and warmth in plaid.

9. A well-worn pair of jeans.  Let me just say that the current skinny jeans fad does not look comfortable to me.  Jeans are supposed to be the ultimate comfort clothes, aren’t they?  Or have they become such a fashion statement that we have lost our love of comfort?

10. Eggs.  So many different dishes can be created from eggs.

11. Sunrise and sunset.  I know I could not pack these but I love both so very much.  They are God’s gifts to me each morning and evening.

12. Classic hoop ear rings.  They will dress up or down.

13.  Public library.  Preferably close so I can walk to it.  Free books and information at my fingertips.  And hopefully some friendly faces.

Well there is the list.  At least it is the least today.  Next week, next year, it could change.  It will depend on the season of my life.

I certainly hope my family and little dog are with me to enjoy the experience.

Why not try the exercise?  What are your 13 Things?

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Sunday Grace for the mothers

For the mothers who labor in pain to birth a child, no matter if it comes through a birthing room or an adoption proceeding.

For the mothers who lose sleep and lose car keys and lose themselves sometimes because of their children.

For the mothers who change diapers, change dirty clothes, change schedules, change their lives to do what’s best for the babies.

For the mothers who fix the same cereal, who read the same story every night, and who pick up the same toys at end of day.

For the mothers who tuck in sleep heads and kneel to pray with tears of joy and intercession for the children who grow taller each day.

For the mothers who attend soccer games, boy scout events, recitals, school plays, graduations, and weddings.

For the mothers who open their hearts to children by law and call them their own.

To the mothers who welcome the lonely, the misunderstood, the broken, and the sinners like them.

For the mothers who give time to their grandchildren, their second generation and second chance at love.

For the mothers who never stop praying, never stop hoping, never stop believing, who never, ever give up.

For the mothers who care for their own mothers as they age and grow feeble.

For the mothers, God’s gift to children.  And the world.  We love you.

Sunday grace, friends.

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Bill and me, pregnant 1973

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For all the women

Mother’s Day blogging is upon us.  I am reading them this week.  I’ve written my share.  What else is there to say?

As a mother of a grown up son, I long to hear the words, “well done.”  I want to hear that I did a good job, or at least that I didn’t leave permanent physiological damage.

We women are known for comparing ourselves with other women.  We wonder if we are keeping up, if we are good enough at this high calling, or are we failing at the most important task of our entire lives?

Looking back, I see lots of places for a do-over.  But life does not offer a rewind.

Perhaps that’s why we enjoy grandmothering so much.  We get a little bit of a chance to do things differently, realizing that some things we thought were so important just were not.

I miss my own mother on Mother’s Day.  I always will.  When she was alive, I tried to tell her how much I loved her, how I appreciated her role in my life.  I hope I did it enough so that she felt like she had done her work well.

Mothering is the most rewarding and sometimes the most heartbreaking of jobs.  We celebrate and we cry.  We hold close and then we let go.  We teach and instruct only to come to the place when we must keep our mouths shut.

It’s not easy being a good mother.

Yet is it the way God planned for children to be raised, nurtured, loved, trained, and set off on their own as young adults, just so the cycle will repeat itself.

God’s tender compassionate heart is reflected in mothers.  They don’t give up on their children.  They don’t turn away from them when they make mistakes, end up in jail, turn out badly.  They keep loving, keep praying, keep hoping for better days.

I am thankful for women who have poured their love into my life in so many ways. While some will have the title of “mother,” others will not, but their hearts still mother in ways only women can.  God made woman that way.  She is unique, a creature like no other.

William Ross Wallace said it well:

Woman, how divine your mission,
Here upon our natal sod;
Keep—oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Where would we be without the love of mothers, the love of good women?  Blessed are they.

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Leaving a mark

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My grandfather, Charles E. Lockard, died in 1964.  I was just a young teenager, loving this quiet man who had preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Fairdale area and built a church where he pastored for over 20 years.  When I pass by the small church, I always think of him.

In 2014 I went in search of the grave site of my grandparents.  It was a walk in the cemetary to find the location, and may I tell you it was a moment of emotion as I stood there looking at two names, names of people who profoundly impacted my life.

Until recently, the tombstone that marks the final resting place of my Grandpa Lockard’s body had no death date on it.  For some reason, the date was never cut into the granite stone.  It was a joint stone with his wife’s and his names engraved.  My grandmother died in 1951 and both her birth and death year were listed.

I’m not sure why my mother, the eldest child and executrix of the will, did not make plans for the engraving.  A few years ago when I realized that task was still not completed, I began to think how I could get it done.

In 2013, my dear father died and was buried.  Like my grandfather, he and my mother were side by side in death as they were in life.  I was determined I would not leave his death date unknown for so many years.

I met with a funeral home and contracted for the two stones to be marked with the proper dates.  I was going to check this task off my list.

Yesterday Sweet William and I went to the cemetery of my grandparents to check on the final results. Once again we walked the cemetery searching for the graves we knew to be there but somehow all the trees and bushes looked the same.  Again we wandered a bit.  Finally coming upon the name Lockard in large letters, there was the final death date of 1964 looking as if it had been there for 50 years rather than just a few months.

The mark was made.  The stone was set.  The job was complete.

Those indelible marks made in granite stone are planned to outlast me and my children and my grandchildren.  Future generations will be able to see dates of long past relatives, virtually unknown to them except for the stories passed on.

But the mark on my heart and my life are even more permanent.

My grandmother, Bertha Ray Lockard, died when I was just two years old.  I barely remember her.  But I know her.  I know her from the stories of many people who loved her.  I know her from the three children she bore and raised.  I know her by the wisdom she imparted to so many.  Though I had little time with her, she left a mark on me.

I got to enjoy my grandfather more years.  I remember him preaching in the pulpit and singing, “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.”  I remember how he would come sit in the chair right next to the organ in my aunt and uncles house every time I sat there to practice.  I remember how he said funny things not really meaning to, how he made pancakes for breakfast, how he could eat almost a dozen Krispy Kream donuts on the way home for Sunday night service while bringing home another dozen for the family to eat.

He also left a mark on me that is indelible.  Part of who I am is because of who he was.

We leave marks on people all through our lives.  Sometimes they are marks of pain, acts of abuse, emotional beatings that cut to the very quick leaving scars on a life.

But there is just as much opportunity to leave positive marks on a life.  Words of encouragement, praise for a job well done, loving arms and open hearts can help heal some of those ugly scars.

I know what kind of marks I want to make.

As Sweet William and walked hand in hand out of the cemetery, I said, “One day it will be us here.” Some cemetery will hold our remains.  And what will we leave behind us?

I’ve already left a lot of marks on people.  I wish they had all been good, kind, loving impressions.  In the time I have left on this earth, I want to remember that my actions and my words, even my attitude, are marking those with whom I live and work and those people the Lord brings into my path.

And I hope with all of my heart that the imprint left is love.