October 29, 2009

Up and At ’Em!

H

i All!! Thank you so much for your prayers. I am feeling quite well. I slept in my recliner last night, thinking I’d be restless—plus it requires a LOT of my neck muscles to sit up. However, I never woke up until 6:15 this morning. After a slice of toast, a glass of milk and my dose of Advil, I dozed again. It’s 1:30, and I’m trying to take it easy, as the swelling behaves more when I do. I’m eating mostly softer foods, because chewing is pretty painful right now.

On Tuesday, a gal from Sunday school brought over dinner for the family—a BIG dinner (we’re still munching on leftovers). The neighbor brought over a casserole to freeze for when we need it. Today, an orchestra friend brought over a HUGE meal, and I know another one is coming Saturday night. I have received a ton of phone calls, emails, and well wishes. God has more than abundantly provided what I have needed through His body of saints! My facebook friends have sent many cheery messages, too. I’m rather spoiled, you know!

The good news is that I can move all the muscles in my face. The funny part is that I have an injury from the anesthesia procedure that has left me with a bruised and swollen lower lip on the opposite side, so my smile is a little crooked from that. But I found today that I am able to whistle, so I’m fairly confident that there is no facial nerve damage. I’m not sure if I could ever explain how important it is to me that I can continue to play clarinet, nor even why, but I am thankful that I will most likely be able to play for Christmas Sweet.

I have a post-op visit on Monday. The doctor will remove the sutures and I should have the pathology report back. I will keep you up-to-date on the outcome of that biopsy when the report returns.

There is much for which to praise God, and with David I will say,

Praise the LORD, all nations!
   Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
   and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!
—Psalm 117

 

October 27, 2009

Perfect peace

UPDATE (10/28) Another update from Mary’s daughter’s Facebook status:

MOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYY’S HOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMEEEEEEE!!!

She’s very tired but she can move her face.

UPDATE (10/27-5:00 pm) This from Mary’s daughter, Lanelle:

Mom is now in her own hospital room, she said she's very sleepy. They successfully removed the tumor... and she can smile, wiggle her nose, raise her eyebrows... so that probably means that she will be able to play the clarinet!!!

M

ary goes in for her surgery today. I’m sure she would prefer a different way to be at peace, and yet she is at peace. She knows God is in control and will do exactly the right thing through this surgery. She has already been an inspiration to many of us.

Edwin Markham (1852–1940)

At the heart of the cyclone tearing the sky
    And flinging the clouds and the towers by,
        Is a place of central calm;

So here in the roar of mortal things,
    I have a place where my spirit sings,
        In the hollow of God’s palm.

As you go about your business today, please hold Mary and her family before the throne of grace. God delights when his children come to him.

I know Mary appreciates all the prayers, love, and concern.

 

 

October 23, 2009

October 22, 2009

Milestones

On Monday our family went to the NC State Fair. Lance and I had our first taste of “letting go” this year: Brooke met up with her friends midday, and Lanelle spent most of the day with her friend, Jaclyn. Meanwhile, the boys and parents watched a really neat BMX/FMX show, walked the midway and exhibits, and I even won a bear from the guy who guesses your age. He guessed 7 years too young!! You can see more pictures of our day here

I can’t explain to you how much fun I had just being with my family. We didn’t spend a lot of money on rides or entertainment, but of course, we HAD to sample fair food! But the best part of the whole day was just playing together.

Now, I’m counting the days to some milestones.

First, this Sunday I will have the privilege of being part of the orchestra for a special evening of praise at our church. Our worship pastor had vocal surgery this summer, and we all prayed diligently that his incredible voice would be restored and not harmed. God was truly gracious in answering that prayer. David is a talented musician who has a beautiful heart for serving the Lord. Over the years, he’s written a good deal of music, and this will be an evening of sharing those songs. In addition, our new orchestra director, Gary Hallquist, arranged the choir and orchestra music for these songs. It is amazing to be in the presence of such God-given talent, and it’s even more amazing that I get to share the platform with them every weekend. We will be doing a live recording that evening, and when it becomes available, I’ll share a link where you can order the CD.

Of course, the next milestones will be my pre-op visit on Monday, and my surgery on Tuesday. I will update you as soon as I’m feeling up to returning to the computer, probably just a couple of days after surgery. The results of the pathology report should come back within a week of surgery, and I will know for certain whether the tumor was cancerous or benign.

Psalm 112:1,7–8

Hallelujah! Happy is the man who fears the Lord, taking great delight in His commandments. He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord. His heart is assured; he will not fear. In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.

Because of the prayers of my friends and my hope in the Lord, the last several days have been full of peace about my upcoming surgery. I’m just not afraid! I know, both from past experience, and from scriptures like Psalm 112, that God can be trusted. I am equally convinced that God has a bigger plan than just my personal comfort or well-being. He desires to proclaim His great name and His glory through this particular trial, and I count it a privilege to be on His team.

I am praying that as you watch the unfolding events in our family’s journey through this current “fire,” you will catch a glimpse of the incredible God we serve, and how He lovingly cares for His own.

I have three specific prayer requests this week.

  1. Pray that I do not get sick this week so that I will not have to reschedule surgery. I can tell that the tumor has increased in size, and I’m just ready to bid the thing goodbye.
  2. Continue to pray that the nerve branch that controls my mouth is protected, so that I may continue to play my clarinet. I seriously want to whoop it up after surgery and send you a picture of my puckered up lips!
  3. Please pray that I will be the person who is described in Psalm 112, so that others may see what a Great God we serve and desire to know Him also.

 

October 20, 2009

A capella harmonies from one voice

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am Tsui is a student at Yale University. He’s a musician, composer, singer, performer, etc. And he’s amazingly good. He wrote an outstanding a capella arrangement of Michael Jackson songs. Then he engaged a friend of his to make a video of him singing his arrangement—all seven parts, by himself. This is amazing:

You can order this and other arrangements at Sam Tsui’s web site

 

October 19, 2009

One step at a time

Oswald Chambers

Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly; many things lie unsolved, and the biggest test of all is that God looks as if he were totally indifferent.

W

hen our previous landlord told us to vacate the house we were living in we quickly found ourselves in a situation over which we had no control. We had to relocate and we had to consider the many things that are involved with a relocation. In our case those things were mainly:

  • Where will we live?
  • Where will we attend church?
  • Where will our son attend school?

The home God has provided

Right from the start we agreed on some basic assumptions about the last two things on the list:

  1. No school system is fully prepared for our son and it would be almost impossible to research the school systems in a way that would tell us in which system we should place our son. So we agreed that we would have to leave this priority in the hands of God because we certainly could not do it on our own.
  2. The sunrise behind our house
    about two weeks ago
  3. The other assumption regarded what church we would attend. I have a devastatingly terrible record at locating good churches for our family to attend. After disastrous church associations of eye-popping proportions, we had to agree that this was another area that we should not research, but should leave up to God.

David leaning on the church

So we moved ahead with the first thing on the list—finding a house. We worked diligently toward locating and purchasing a house. As our landlord’s move-out date loomed ever closer, and our mortgage approval was not forthcoming, we switched our focus to rental properties—only to find that we were not able to secure a rental property either. We began to have serious concerns that we would find ourselves homeless. We spoke to our landlords to see if we could stay in the house a bit longer while we tried to find a new place to live. They told us that was not an option. The move-out date they had given us was firm and non-negotiable. We realized that this priority, too, had to be turned over to God because we simply could not do it. And so we did—all three of our primary priorities were placed in God’s loving hands.

The church we’ve attended for the past two weeks

With less than two weeks remaining before our move-out date, God provided an incredibly beautiful home for us. It is far better than any of the houses we had looked at for purchase or lease and it is absolutely perfect for our family’s needs and even our taste. This house was not remotely like anything we were looking for, but God provided on this front far better than all we could ask or think.

We moved into the house and began the slow process of visiting area churches to see which one God had prepared for us. We knew He had a church for us, but now it was up to us to look at the churches and remain open to his leading. And so we have visited multiple churches, of varied traditions and cultures. And until two weeks ago, we did not sense God’s hand of guidance and approval. Until the Sunday before last.

Part of the interior of the church

We had run through most of the local churches in our new town, so we decided to check out a church that is a significant distance away from our home. The church we visited is unlike anything we were really looking for and is much farther away from our home than we were hoping for. But when we visited this church the Sunday before last, we immediately felt a peace about this church that we believe is the leading hand of God. Even our son loves this church.

One of the sights along the way to church

We returned to the church again yesterday and the sense of God’s leading persisted. The preaching has been outstanding. The congregation, although tiny and demographically different than what we had expected, seems to be a close-knit family that cares deeply for one another and also cares deeply for the lost in their community, across the nation, and around the world. The pastor demonstrates great love and concern for the people under his shepherding care.

The pastor of the church we have been attending

And the significant drive to and from the church is through some of the most scenically beautiful country I have ever traveled. So the drive to and from the church is tremendously calming and therapeutic.

On this front God again appears to have provided far above all that we could ask or think.

The final concern is our son’s schooling situation. This is still up in the air and has presented us with unique and frightening concerns. As of a meeting this morning, we have run out of options in the local area and if our son is not able to maintain in his current situation, they will have to move him to a day treatment center far away from our local area. This seems to us to be a terrible option.

Taken from the driveway of the church

And so, once again, we leave it in God’s loving hands. I have not been able to accomplish any of the things we saw as supremely important. But so far God has provided for us far beyond anything we could ever have imagined. He is a loving and gracious God.

Please pray along with us that God will provide in this situation in a way that brings glory and honor to himself and brings blessings to our son. The home and the church are so much more than we deserve, and yet God saw fit to bless us so graciously with these things.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by.” Life is like that; one stitch at a time taken patiently, and the pattern will come out all right like embroidery.

And so, like Abraham pleading one more time for God to stay his hand of destruction against Sodom and Gomorrah, I am asking God for this one more thing. Please provide for our son’s education. We will praise God while we are waiting for him to provide, and we will praise God for his providence once it has been revealed.

 

Remembering Jacob Arminius

J

acob Arminius died 400 years ago today. His theology has impacted Evangelical culture and teaching in a way I believe has been greatly detrimental to discipleship, orthodoxy, and evangelism. An understanding of his life and teachings is a good way to get a handle on the importance of holding to proper biblical theology. Failure to conform to biblical theology may cause devastating repercussions for many years to come.

The Exiled Preacher gives a quick, but good, synopsis of Arminius’ life and teachings here.

 

October 17, 2009

Sermon in Shoes

A

Facebook friend asked me yesterday what the secret was to my family life, happiness and dates with hubby. What an interesting question! My reply to her was “That secret is wrapped up in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and the satisfaction that comes from knowing Him. That has affected my family life as well—we have learned to reflect the unconditional love of our Savior toward each other, and to enjoy each others strengths and abilities rather than dwelling on what we don’t have.”

I went searching today for some of the scriptures that remind us that our hope, our joy, is in the Lord, not in the circumstances we find ourselves in. Here are some passages:

Isaiah 55:2
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
   and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
   and delight yourselves in rich food.

Psalm 107:8,9
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

John 15:9-13
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

emphases mine

Sermon in Shoes

Do you know, O Christian,
you’re a sermon in shoes?
Do you know, O Christian,
you’re a sermon in shoes?
Jesus calls upon you to
spread the Gospel News;
So walk it, and talk it,
Live it, and give it,
Teach it, and preach it
Know it, and show it,
A Sermon in Shoes.

We do NOT have a perfect family. We struggle with attitudes and behaviors that are not Christlike, from Mom and Dad down to the youngest kid. But what peace, joy, and happiness we do have is a direct result of our “abiding” in Christ. When we think rightly, we walk rightly. When we obey His command to love each other the way He has loved us, we have His joy in our hearts, and that joy overflows. So whatever good someone sees in our family life, or in my life, it is truly a result of God sanctifying us and making us more like Him.

This reminds me of a children’s Bible song I used to sing in Jr. Church, “Sermon in Shoes,” lyrics in the callout box to the right.

 

October 16, 2009

It's Friday!!

A

few decades ago, this guy used to be the opening act for serious rock concerts. He opened for Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Led Zeppelin and a few other big name rock acts. And he often had the crowd in a greater state of frenzy than the headlining rock bands. All with a single very old instrument and the music of the greatest musician of all time—J.S. Bach.

 

October 14, 2009

When abortion becomes birth control

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bortion has been decriminalized in the United States for a generation. America has killed tens of millions of its citizens before those young lives were able to contribute to our society. And during this same time we as a nation have become desensitized to this killing.

Irene Vilar

So now that we have adults who have never lived without government condoned, supported, and promoted abortion, we are beginning to see the results of the slippery slope we were warned about when it all began. Irene Vilar, pictured here, has just written Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict, in which she tells us of the 15 abortions she had in 17 years. [News story]

I have not read the book and don’t know what Ms. Vilar is attempting to communicate through this story, but her story shines a light on what happens when we cease to recognize the innate dignity and value of human life—in all its stages—from conception through natural death. May God have mercy on our nation.

 

October 13, 2009

Waiting

W

aiting is not my strongest character trait. But then, I don’t know too many of us humans who wait well. While looking for guitar chords on a Christian Tab site, I found the lyrics to this song. Then I went to YouTube to hear it, and found this video. I loved the movie Fireproof, and if you haven’t seen it, you MUST!

So “While I’m Waiting” for surgery and the pathologists report, I’m going to think often of this song. I even printed out the chords so I could learn it on guitar. I hope this encourages you to stay focused on serving, obeying, and worshiping while you wait.

 

October 12, 2009

Front Royal’s Festival of Leaves

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nother weekend has passed and another huge reason to thank God for our new home town has come to our attention—the Front Royal’s Festival of Leaves.

Soon after we moved here (about two months ago) we made plans to attend the 39th Annual Festival of Leaves in downtown Front Royal. It sounded like a fun day with many events, lots of crafts, and a ton of history. We were not disappointed.

Two Confederates in front of our town hall
protecting us from the Yankee marauders

Front Royal is a thoroughly southern town. We have noticed this a good bit since we moved here, but the Confederate spirit of this town was on full resplendent display this past weekend for the Festival of Leaves.

As we walked into the central part of the town we saw Confederate soldiers, ladies dressed in mid-19th century dresses, and Confederate National and Virginia flags waving in the breeze. Of course, we were armed with our cameras and ready to capture what we saw.

The marching band from David’s school

After visiting many of the vendor stalls along Main Street, we headed to the parade route and were treated to a fantastic parade that featured bands, gymnasts, and representatives from the the locals schools and other community groups. The Front Royal regiment of Confederate soldiers kicked off the parade and got a rousing response from the crowd as they passed in front of us. The folks on the floats threw candy to the kids in the crowd. It was fun to watch the interaction between the people in the parade and the people in the crowd. In a town as small as Front Royal, many of these folks know each other and interacted with each other as the parade progressed.

We enjoyed seeing the marching band from David’s high school along with many other Skyline High School representatives. These kids are very impressive and it was great to watch them in action. The representatives from Warren County High School were also impressive. There is obviously a tremendous amount of talent here in Front Royal. We hope that David will find some clubs at the high school to get involved in to help him focus his interests. There are many that he has already expressed interest in.

When the parade was over, we headed back to the central area of town to see some of the other features of the Festival of Leaves. And we were treated to a wealth of history about this town.

Miss Blue Ridge

The town of Front Royal was overtaken by Yankee troops and was under Yankee control during part of the War Between the States. On May 23, 1862, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson captured the town back for the Confederacy and the state of Virginia. While the town was under occupation by the Yankees, one of the women of the town became a Confederate spy. Belle Boyd’s house was open to the public and we were able to see the room where Belle locked a Yankee journalist while she went to inform Confederate leaders of some important Yankee plans she had managed to pry from the man now locked in one of the rooms in her house.

Our local troops kicking off the parade

We got to tour the Warren Rifles Confederate Memorial Museum, where we saw an amazing assortment of artifacts from the War. Included among these artifacts were letters from Confederate soldiers to their families, bibles carried by the soldiers, cannon balls, mortars, swords, rifles, pistols, dresses and uniforms, and a portion of the actual rope used to hang John Brown in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. They also have some wonderful artifacts from Mosby’s Rangers, including wood from the tree a few of the rangers were hanged on under orders of Yankee Col. Custer. It is an outstanding museum.

Major General William Mahone [csafreemans.com]

A man and woman dressed in period garb sat outside the museum. David noticed that the man had the exact same sword that I have hanging on the wall of my library at home. This reproduction Confederate battle sword is a beautiful piece of work. But when I bought it I was surprised to find a small stamp on the back of the sword that says, Made in India. So I asked this man if he had noticed the same thing on his sword. He said, “Not much of anything is made in America anymore. That’s what happens when the Yankees take over.” Yep, I love this town!

We also got to tour another of the old houses there in town. In this house there was a woman spinning wool into thread. She explained the processes for wool, flax, and cotton to us and explained some of the economic impact of these processes as they contributed to the dynamics related to the War Between the States. It was fascinating and David ate it up. This living history really awakens David’s desire to learn.

Otelia Butler Mahone [csafreemans.com]

At the end of the day, David kept saying, “this was really fun,” and “this has been such a great day!”

Kim and I have always loved the south. Kim was born and raised here in eastern Tennessee and Virginia. But I was born in Maine. God, in his grace, saw fit to move my family to Virginia when I was only three years old. But it wasn’t until now that we have lived in a truly southern town and we really love it here. We’re praising God for his goodness and mercy.

Check out more pictures at my Festival of Leaves Facebook album.

 

October 09, 2009

October 08, 2009

God’s smiling face

 

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his morning David called us into the dining room. “Look at the sky,” he said, with awe in his voice. Kim went into the dining room and then called to me, “Rich, you’ve got to see this. It’s beautiful.” So I went to see what they were looking at.

The sun had just begun to rise over the mountaintops. The clouds had taken on a beautiful orange and red glow with purple and magenta fringes. It was awe-inspiring. And it was God’s handiwork on display.

I grabbed my camera, went out to the porch on the side of our house, and took a few quick pictures.

William Cowper

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face

This brings to mind a little bit of the conversation that Mary and I had regarding her last post updating us on her medical situation. Mary is facing some very difficult things right now. Fear of the unknown seems to raise its head over and over. My family just came through one of the most fear-inducing trials we have ever been through. And other friends of ours (mine and Mary’s) have recently been through similar situations.

But all of us who have been through these situations are believers and we recognize God’s goodness and faithfulness to his people. And we rest in that knowledge and surety. That doesn’t necessarily keep the fear at bay, but it comforts us to know that our God has things under control and he promises that he will work things out to his glory and to our benefit along the way.

Psalm 103:8–13

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

This morning’s sky is one of the unexpected and undeserved blessings that God has given my family after bringing us through our trial. For quite some time we didn’t even know if we would have a house to live in. And now we live in the most wonderful house we can imagine with a gorgeous view of the mountains and sunrises and sunsets that defy description. This is God saying, “you are my child and I love you.” Our trials don’t always end with obvious blessings or with things that we cherish in such a tangible way, but God’s blessings are ever-present before the deep waters, during the deep waters, and after the deep waters have been passed through.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord.
—Jehovah Jireh, as quoted by Jeremiah the prophet
(Jeremiah 29:11–14).

October 06, 2009

I trust to You my body and my soul

 

It’s been some time since I’ve updated our readers on my journey. Here’s a basic summary of what’s occured over the last three weeks:

I found a swollen gland in late spring under my left ear. I called the doctor to report it as Lance was concerned—I just figured it was a gland that hadn’t returned to normal after an illness. The doctor said it probably wasn’t anything, but to call him if it changed or began to bother me.

At the end of August I called because it had gotten bigger. I went in to see my family doctor on September 14th, and he ordered a CBC, and scheduled a quick visit to a surgeon. The CBC returned with normal results, which was encouraging, but not convincing. I saw the surgeon later that week, and he ordered a CT scan. I got the results several days later, and there was a definite mass on my parotid salivary gland (in front of the ear and below the back of the jaw). He recommended that I see an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor.

Me & Lance

I visited Raleigh ENT, where Lanelle and Lance have seen allergists. Dr. McMahon performed a fine needle biopsy and recommended that we see the head and neck specialists at UNC. The biopsy came back without lymphoma, and the cells they found were benign, but that’s not 100% positive until they see the actual tumor. Dr. McMahon scheduled a visit for me at UNC hospital in the Head and Neck Surgery department, and I saw Dr. Weissler on Monday.

Dr. Weissler confirmed that about 80% of the tumors in this area are benign, so chances are good that it is not cancer. A pathologist will look at the actual tumor once it is removed and make a final diagnosis. If there is cancer, radiation follow up will be recommended.

Philippians 4:4–8

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The major problem with this surgery, and why a specialist was recommended is that this gland surrounds the facial nerve. Damage to that nerve can cause facial weakness and even paralysis. Most of the nerve damage and resulting muscle weakness recover within a year, but sometimes it’s permanent. Since I am a voice and clarinet music instructor, it’s important that the nerve and muscles at my lips remain undisturbed. I did find out from Dr. Weissler that the corner of the mouth is the most common post-surgical weakness reported. I also play clarinet every week in the church orchestra, and every year I play in a series of concerts we put on at Christmas. Silly as it is, the "palsy" appearance is less of a concern to me than not being able to play in Christmas Sweet. So I'm specifically asking God to spare that nerve branch from damage. “Even if he doesn’t” as the three Jewish boys told Nebuchadnezzar, “I’ll still praise Him.” He will give me another area in which to serve should He choose to set this one aside. Still, He loves to bless His children, and He wants to hear our hearts in truth, so I’m asking specifically for this.

Dr. Weissler scheduled surgery for October 27th. It will be a four-hour surgery and require an overnight stay in the hospital. My Type 2 diabetes will be monitored during surgery and they will regulate my blood sugar as necessary. He said that I should be “back to normal” in a week from surgery, but there is no way to predict what the resulting nerve damage will be. During the surgery, they will remove both the superficial lobe of the parotid gland as well as the tumor. A cut will be made from the front of my ear, down my neck, and back up to the jawline (move over Frankenstein—I’ll be sutured just in time for Halloween to greet my guests at the door....). The scar should be nearly invisible at the end of a year. The pathology report will come back a week after surgery, and if it shows no cancer, I’ll be done with the whole thing.

This has been an interesting journey for our family. Moms tend to be taken for granted. You just suppose that they will always be there. I have been blessed with some incredible kids, and they are praying for me, encouraging me, and doing special things for me. My husband, who has always been my best friend and very attentive, has gone even further, making me feel cherished and indispensible. The news that we are not facing lymphoma and that it is most likely a benign tumor has set us at ease some, but the last three weeks have cemented our relationships in a special way.

 

This past weekend, Lance “wife-napped” me to the mountains and some of our dear friends took the kids for three days and two nights so we could get away alone to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. Other friends loaned us their cabin for the weekend. It was an amazing trip as we NEVER get away alone. He spoiled me ROTTEN, too! Praise God for the generosity of the Castros, Blacks, and McKays.

Me & Burl

I’m also thankful that God has given me a sense of humor. It really makes these rough waters easier to navigate. As Lance and I visited a museum on Grandfather Mountain, we found an interesting exhibit of a burl bowl. The picture above shows the article that was posted at the exhibit. It explains that a burl is a tumor, and how it is formed. I showed the exhibit to Lance and said, “I think I’ll name it ‘Burl.’” I stuck out my neck and had Lance take a picture of “Me ’n Burl.” Some of you might find that repulsive, but for me, it is hilarious. I believe that humor is the foundation of sanity. Learning to laugh at life instead of letting it bury you in its burdens is a discipline worth the pursuit. A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. —Pr. 17:22

video

Thank you, friends, for praying for us as we weather this current storm. God has already answered many prayers and afforded us things we weren’t even asking for. Your continued prayer will strengthen us for whatever this journey holds in the next few weeks and months as well.

Click here for pictures from our anniversary weekend.

October 05, 2009

Blog Header - October 5, 2009

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oday’s header photo is from the amazing National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. This large memorial is beautiful, respectful, and informative. It is well worth the trip to see it, even though Bedford, Virginia is quite rural and not near much of anything else.

This memorial is donor-supported rather than federally-funded, which is probably part of the reason for its excellence. The presentations of history at this memorial are also not tainted with political correctness or party affiliations. It’s just plain and accurate history about the amazing bravery of the soldiers who fought to save the world from Nazi tyranny.

Should you plan a trip near Central Virginia, make sure you include a stop at Bedford, Virginia, to see this memorial. You’ll be glad you did.

October 04, 2009

Where He leads me I will follow

 

S

eemingly a lifetime ago I had a very good friend. This friend of mine helped open my eyes to a wider world, became a positive catalyst to my rebel spirit, caused me to seek the truth in God’s Word, and convinced me to question man’s traditions whenever they came in conflict with God’s commands or with God’s graciousness. Dean was an amazing friend who greatly impacted my life.

In those days it was much harder to keep in touch than it is now. Dean and I lost contact with each other about 25 years ago. Then, by God’s grace and through the medium of Facebook, God reconnected us. It has been a joy getting reacquainted and finding out what has happened over the past two and a half decades.

Even while I have tried desperately to move out of the Washington, D.C., area, God has kept my family here. But God moved Dean from where I left him (Clark Summit, Pa.) to a new location. Many twisted and difficult paths took him across the country, but just as God used pain and pressure to bless my family greatly by moving us to a beautiful and wonderful town, God has blessed Dean with the responsibility of shepherding a flock of believers here:

Reconnecting with old friends is gratifying in many ways. But it is especially sweet to see God’s sustaining grace in the lives of my old friends and to see that God is blessing them in peripheral ways, just because he loves us all and his character shines through in his blessings.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

October 03, 2009

Blog Header - October 1, 2009

I

love to use Photoshop to create composite images. A composite image is actually two or more images merged together. I began to experiment with composite images at our previous church (Old Forest Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA—recently renamed Redeeming Grace Baptist Church [rgbaptist.org], obviously so named in honor of R.G. - Rich Gelina), when the pastor wanted to use computer projection for the praise music lyrics and for rolling announcements during the prelude. I researched projection systems and software and in a few weeks got things rolling for projection in the services. But the backgrounds were boring, so I decided to dress things up a bit.

I took photos around the church grounds and merged other elements into these photos. I placed our church’s logo or name into well-known scenes. I even merged our VBS posters into scenes from famous movies such as Star Wars.

These experiments gave me a taste for the power of Photoshop’s compositing capabilities and I thoroughly enjoy working with photos this way.

Today’s header photo is of the sidewalk clock that stands at the center of our hometown—Front Royal, Virginia. Last Saturday, when we were exploring the town and taking pictures, I tried many different angles for this clock, but none of them really showed what I wanted. Then, while waiting on the side of the road for my wife to check out some of the local shops, I noticed the clock framed by two large trees. I liked what I saw and took the picture from right there.

Then, when I got it onto my computer at home I realized that it might make a nice header photo. So I created a sign of the blog title and merged it with the clock photo. I angled it 3-dimensionally and placed it over the shop behind the sign. I applied a slight blur to meld in with the out-of-focus background of the photo and reduced the opacity so the white of the lettering would not stand out as brighter than the other white areas of the picture. And today’s header photo is the result.

I love Photoshop!

BTW: Today we are visiting the National Zoological Research Facility here in Front Royal. The facility hosts many endangered species and they open their gates one day each year for visitors to come and see these unusual animals. Today is that day. Photos are forthcoming.

October 02, 2009

3 steps forward, 2 steps back

 

I

remember being taught to lift weights differently than I had thought I should when I first began. I had been trying to lift the most weight I possibly could in order to gain bragging rights. But then someone pointed out that you gain very little by lifting the most you can only one time. Much more is gained by significantly lower weight, but many repetitions. Eventually, the bragging rights go up because the consistent up and down of the lower weights significantly increases the total weight you can lift at one time.

I have noticed a parallel in life. I have goals and desires that I want to accomplish immediately. I already have the skills and abilities for some of those goals, but I would need the cooperation of others to achieve them. That cooperation is part of the lower-weight/many-repetitions process of life.

Some progress comes in one area and it looks like I am headed toward the accomplishment of a goal, but then in another area I hit a set-back. So I adjust my focus to this other area and begin to see some success and accomplishment toward the goal and the previous area where I had seen prior success hits a roadblock or setback. It’s a never-ending process of gaining a few yards, dropping back and punting. Then waiting to get the ball back, struggling for a few more yards, dropping back and punting. Then waiting....

It can be frustrating, especially so when the ultimate goals have been in place for decades and when I get close the set-back hits and discouragement sets in. And I think discouragement is the true battle—not the set-backs or roadblocks. I have to keep lifting the lower weights over and over again with each repetition bringing on greater strength—each repetition moving me a few inches closer to the ultimate goal.

I’m reading a book that is a bit of a departure for me in my casual reading and the following passage from that book brought these thoughts to mind:

I argue because I must. Sometimes I argue to discover the efficacy of a thought or the validity of a plan. Sometimes I argue to tap the knowledge of others. We constantly affirm ourselves. A single corn plant growing in the basement cannot pollinate. It requires other stalks, the sun, the wind. Life—the search for truth, the pursuit of justice, the explosion of creativity—cannot bloom in isolation....

Without argument the nation becomes a wasteland where nothing grows, nothing blooms, nothing is created, nothing lives.... The art of argument is the art of living.

How to Argue and Win Every Time, by Gerry Spence

October 01, 2009

A harvest meditation

 

Seasonal wisdom from Spurgeon

Song of Solomon 7:13

Choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.

T

he spouse desires to give to Jesus all that she produces. Our heart has “all manner of choice fruits,” both “old and new,” and they are laid up for our Beloved.

At this rich autumnal season of fruit, let us survey our stores. We have new fruits. We desire to feel new life, new joy, new gratitude; we wish to make new resolves and carry them out by new labours; our heart blossoms with new prayers, and our soul is pledging herself to new efforts.

But we have some old fruits too. There is our first love: a choice fruit that! and Jesus delights in it. There is our first faith: that simple faith by which, having nothing, we became possessors of all things. There is our joy when first we knew the Lord: let us revive it. We have our old remembrances of the promises. How faithful has God been! In sickness, how softly did he make our bed! In deep waters, how placidly did he buoy us up! In the flaming furnace, how graciously did he deliver us. Old fruits, indeed! We have many of them, for his mercies have been more than the hairs of our head.

Old sins we must regret, but then we have had repentances which he has given us, by which we have wept our way to the cross, and learned the merit of his blood.

We have fruits, this morning, both new and old; but here is the point—they are all laid up for Jesus. Truly, those are the best and most acceptable services in which Jesus is the solitary aim of the soul, and his glory, without any admixture whatever, the end of all our efforts.

Let our many fruits be laid up only for our Beloved; let us display them when he is with us, and not hold them up before the gaze of men. Jesus, we will turn the key in our garden door, and none shall enter to rob thee of one good fruit from the soil which thou hast watered with thy bloody sweat. Our all shall be thine, thine only, O Jesus, our Beloved

C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Devotional