Category Archives: FAMILY

A Haunting Question. . . Did My Father Make It To Heaven?

Treasured Memories of my Earthly Father

I was sitting with the Lord, enjoying a second cup of coffee, replaying in my mind the rich, soothing baritone of Ed Ames I’d listened to last night. Suddenly, tears were streaming down my cheeks. Baritone voices always reminded me of my Dad.

Daddy’s voice had been strong, deep and marvelously resonant. Though every inch a man’s man, when he talked to me his voice was always gentle.  Just the sound of him talking  – about anything –  soothed whatever was wrong.

Though Daddy passed in 1986, the pain of missing him still burns.  I was a new believer back then.  I had studied, diligently, how to witness to people and I tried talking to Daddy, but I did not do very well  Daddy had not gone to church the last few years of his life and did not seem to want to talk much about God with me.

So, when he passed the question of whether I would see him in heaven began haunting me.  I have talked about my Daddy in previous posts, http://bit.ly/1SIexOu.  But truly, words are inadequate to say how much he meant to me.  Daddy and my daughter, Sharon, shown below when she was 10, remain the two great human loves of my lifetime.

Daddy and Sharon, My Two Great Loves
Daddy and Sharon, My Two Great Loves

Treasured Truth from my Heavenly Father

God sends a comforting thought every time I wonder about Daddy’s eternal home.  God promises when I get to heaven, there will be no more tears, no more sadness. . . that somehow I will see things from God’s perspective.  So that means if Daddy did not make it, the pain of missing him will be gone, which is another mystery of God far, far beyond my understanding.

But I accept this truth by faith.

And the several times each day when  I think of Daddy, I thank God that Daddy showed me what a strong, loving and tender father is like.  The love of my earthly father, Fred Farmer, prepared the way for me to walk in grateful closeness with my beloved Heavenly Father.  That is a priceless gift, and a deeply cherished treasure.

Thank you, Father, for my Daddy and his love for me and all his family.  May those who did not have the good fortune of a Daddy like mine be able to feel the same tenderness from You and the security of a close walk with You.  And if they have hurtful memories, You are the Great Physician.  Please heal those past hurts and put in their place a deep, deep love and passion for You.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Daddy called me “baby doll”

Words can hurt

Words can hurt and words can heal, as we all know.   Bullying labels from childhood can sting long into adulthood.  As a six-foot-tall teenager back in the 60s, my constant greeting from one boy was “Ho, ho, ho.  Here comes the jolly green giant.”  You can see the commercial that led to this emotionally crushing moniker at   http://yhoo.it/1KaYAHH

It took decades, literally decades, before I could accept that God did not make a mistake when He made me six feet tall.

Words can heal,  encourage, and nurture the heart

Fortunately, although I had the painful experiences common to all teens,  I also had a loving, tender father.   On the outside, and in the outside world, Daddy was a John Wayne kind of man – masculine, no-nonsense, strong and often silent.  He was the superintendent of a rock mine and in that role as a leader of men, he had to be strong.

1john wayne

But as soon as Daddy came home each night, my world was complete and my heart was at peace, just because he was there.   Daddy called me “baby doll”, a term of deepest endearment I still use with my own grown-up daughter.  And it is a strange thing – whenever I call Sharon “baby doll” I still feel Daddy’s love – and that feeling gets richer and warmer each passing year.

A father’s love – a priceless inheritance for his family

My parents both did a wonderful job raising their family.  They taught me values that have shaped my life for the good.  As a Daddy’s girl, the tender love of my father was the greatest of all possible gifts.  That love helped me accept the concept of a Heavenly Father who was loving and tender and who would take care of me and keep me safe.

This unfathomable love of God for us is described in Psalm 103, verses 11 through 14.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His [God’s] love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. [emphasis added] (New International Version)

I am grateful beyond words for an earthly Daddy who showed me what my Heavenly Father’s love is like.  And I am so very grateful I get to pass that love on to family and friends!

1montana sky

 

Trusting God – Easier Said Than Done!

Trusting God vs. Overplanning

planning papers 2015

This last week I’ve had extra time to work on my blogs because my teacher son-in-law has been home to help with childcare.  I confess I’ve gotten myself overwhelmed by too much planning.  How can I improve my blogs, how can I EVER get comfortable with Facebook and Twitter?  How can I find more time to write and do all the peripheral work related to blogging without sacrificing these next few  precious preschool years with my grandsons? The answer?  I cannot, of course.

Family First 

All my writing is about how to “focus on your family”, which is the God-directed duty of every parent.  I can reduce my family time and try to bulldoze my way to success. Or, I can choose to trust God and keep priorities in line.  Just as He has worked every single thing in my life out for my good (Romans 8:28!!) so He will continue to do so.

It Does Take Faith!

I admit it takes faith to spend hours with the family when I still have not done so much that the expert bloggers recommend.  But I know, day by day, God and I are taking huge steps, and I am learning to “build my  author platform” so that eventually  publishers will be interested.

God NEVER Leaves Us and He NEVER  Forsakes Us – NEVER!

I can no longer stay up late and get up early to do the writing, as I did when Sharon was little.  However, over the years God has graciously shown me the effectiveness of prayer and faith and  committing all that I do to Him.  God has no favorites.  And just as He enabled George Mueller to accomplish a lifetime of miracles through prayer alone, He will help me with the writer’s life to which He has called me.  Below is a link to a description of this amazing believer’s life.  I read an entire book about him years ago.  I have always remembered, that, as this link says:

 “God answered his prayers. The needs of the orphanage were met each day. Sometimes a wealthy person would send a large amount of money, or a child would give a small amount received as a gift or for doing chores. Many times food, supplies or money came at the last minute, but God always provided without George telling anyone about his needs. He just prayed and waited on God.”

http://bit.ly/1NIky6u

By God’s unfathomable grace, may we all spend more time in prayer about our work for God!  As the hymn at the link below says – He never fails, He yet prevails!  Have faith in God. . . have faith in God!”

http://yhoo.it/1QQqjW2

 

Merry Christmas – and Happy Birthday, Jesus!

If you are like me, Christmas brings back childhood memories and, so often, Currier and Ives pictures of Christmas, like the beautiful one below.

currier and ives christmas 1

However, I am sure that no one will have a completely perfect day today, like we long for when we see such happy, wholesome scenes.

We do have reality.   Kids (and adults!) will get cranky waiting on the Christmas dinner,  brothers and sisters will fight over the new toys, someone will say something hurtful, and on and on with our all too human imperfections.   That is reality.

The far greater reality is that Christmas is about Christ, the greatest gift  that has ever or will ever be given.  Reality is that God loved the world so much that He sent His son Jesus to be our Savior and our Redeemer, to show us the way to live as God would have us live.  (That’s the famous “John 3:16” verse.)

How wonderful if we cultivate a grateful heart — in the midst of Christmas day imperfections.   We can, if we choose, focus on thanking and praising our loving Heavenly Father for loving us so!

nativity

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus into this broken world, to show by His example how we are to live.  Help me to be a channel of Your love to everyone I see.  Help me please You with the “words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart” on this, the most beautiful day.   Happy birthday, Jesus!  I love You!

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (New International Version, 1973)

Cardinals on My Christmas Card – A Loving Pat on the Head

My daughter sent me the most beautiful Christmas card ever this year.  She knows I have loved cardinals for many years.

cardinal card 2012 from b

Inside the card was a photo of my daughter, her husband and my two darling grandsons, 2 and 4 years old.   Just getting them all together and looking good and sitting still for 10 seconds all at the same time and all together for that photo was a true labor of love, I know.

Her personal note (which is, uh, personal) was also beautiful and the kind that delights every Mother’s heart.  How blessed I am!   But just being reminded that she notices what I like and remembers and gets and does things to make me happy is a priceless gift in itself.  Again I say, how blessed I am!

So. . . why do I adore cardinals?   For two reasons – one, they always remind me of my earthly father, Fred Farmer (yes!  I was named after him : – )    He passed away many, many years ago,  creating a hole in my heart that only God could heal.    Daddy liked cardinals and always pointed them out to me.   Anything my father liked, I liked, too of course.

The Northern Cardinal is listed as one of the 100 common birds in Tennessee, my Dad’s native state.  So I’m sure he saw many growing up, just as I did growing up in Florida.

cardinals in snow male and female

Of course, the ones Daddy saw were possibly seen in snow, like the picture above.  And snow just hardly ever happened in Central Florida!

The second reason I love cardinals is that they remind me of my Heavenly Father’s unending love and presence and tender care.   I gave my heart to Jesus in 1981, and Daddy passed away in 1986.  I think somehow in my mind, the two thoughts and all the feelings associated with cardinals and Daddy and God were woven together in my heart.

All I know is that ever since I met Jesus, when I see a cardinal, even a fleeting glimpse, I feel like God has just given me a loving pat on my head and said, though not audibly, “I love you, Freda, and I am taking care of everything.  Everything is going to be okay. ”

It never, ever fails.  I can be in the bluest of moods or frustrated or stressed or whatever other negative thought pattern we humans so easily fall into, but the sight of a  cardinal works a true miracle in my heart.

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for loving me and reminding me in so many, little ways constantly of that love.  Thank You for such a wonderful earthly Daddy.  You know Daddy was a big and strong “man’s man” but he was so tender and gentle with me.    I know his love prepared a place in my heart for Your love, Father.  Thank You, Lord, for my father and for the way cardinals remind me of both of you.  I love You, Lord!”

cardinals

 

Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 2 of 2

The sadness I so often felt at Christmas I knew was in large part because of unrealistic expectations.  It had been that way since my childhood.  It was time to stop that habit of mind!

I now understand and deeply appreciate all that both my parents did for their three children.  They both sacrificed and gave selflessly of their time, energy, and resources so that their children could have advantages they did not.  Through just plain hard work and common sense and thrift, they raised our family’s standard of living year by year.

When I was two years old, we moved to the lovely little antebellum town I grew up in.  My parents had to really pinch pennies at first but by the time I was in elementary school (back then that was fourth through sixth grades), our family was well established and respected in our little community.

However, about that same time I began to notice differences – in cars, clothes, houses – all the trappings of wealth or lack thereof.  My family was working class, and I always wanted more and better toys then clothes, radio or whatever at Christmas than I got.

I never knew, until late in high school, that the parents of some of my classmates – the very ones who wore the “groovy” Villager skirts and penny loafers and flaunted Gucci purses and every other gadget and gizmo that was advertised – did not pay their bills.  Some of them also had other, more serious financial problems created by excessive spending.

My family was working class but our bills were always paid, we always had an abundance of good, healthy food to eat and all the clothes we needed and then some.  I learned even later that some of the small business owners in town had been forced to close their shops because the folks who appeared in the society page owed thousands to the plumber, the contractor, etc.

Once I became a parent, then a single parent, I understood the sacrifices my parents had made.  However, for all these years, even with all the writing about gratitude, this little poison of jealousy at Christmas time has been hiding in the dark corners of my heart.

Dear Father in heaven,  I can only ask for Your forgiveness.  Forgive me for this sin of coveting, or desiring, what other people have.  Forgive me of being ungrateful – after You have been so very gracious and faithful each day of my life to provide so generously for my every need and those of my family.  Thank You, for shining the light of truth into my heart and freeing me from the bondage of jealousy. During this season, when we celebrate the greatest gift ever given – Jesus, Your very own Son, help me keep my mind on You.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14, New International Version)

Below is a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long  that embedded this attitude even deeper in my heart.  May it do the same for you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKfhlHoemPI

 

 

Trees By My Window . . . God’s Touch on My Heart

sketch back porch burleson rd

             When my daughter was eight and I was a new Christian, our second floor apartment at the back of the complex overlooked a home with a grandfather oak and a stand of four Florida pines in the back yard.  I wrote my first poem while watching God change the oak’s silhouette into the filigree of inky black lace one day at sunset.  And those tall, thin Florida pines swaying together, yet somehow alone, in a late night thunderstorm stirred me to start my first book.

                Our next apartment was a 900 square-foot one bedroom, where we lived in from my daughter’s fifth grade through her graduation.  Outside the bedroom window stood another grand old oak of a different sort.  This one had thinner branches that caught the slightest wind all day long.

                When Sharon was 16 and began taking the car to work on Saturdays, I sat in the rocker with a cup of coffee, staring at that tree and writing for most of the day.  The gentle movement of wind through that tree made the leaves reflect the bright sunlight like so many little diamonds.   Those Saturdays looking out at that tree were the first long days I had ever had to devote to uninterrupted writing.  Writing all day helped me get over missing Sharon and start accepting that she would one day leave home..

                When we finally had our own little townhome, after 15 years of apartment rent, we had our very own grandfather oak — that we owned!   My bedroom felt like a treehouse.  My view was through broad, far-reaching branches. I felt like I was in God’s own arms for the 19 years we lived there.

                Next came my daughter’s home in Austin—which I shared for two glorious years as a live-in Nana.  Sharon’s home was surrounded on all sides and as far as you could see by old, established trees.  I smiled as I rocked my grandsons and watched the seasons truly change the leaves, for the first time in my native Floridian life.  As I did so, God was dramatically changing my heart, preparing me for the next phase of our life together.

                Today, in my tiny one-bedroom apartment not far from my daughter’s home (and my grandsons!)  I again have a huge oak right outside my window and in the distance mature trees of all kinds.  As I write each day, He always reminds me that one reason He put trees on earth is because they are “pleasing to the eye.”

                “And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye [emphasis added] and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9 NIV)

                Thank You, dear dear Father, for giving me eternal life, through loving and knowing Your Son Jesus.  And thank You, Father, for sending your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for the way He moves in my heart, just like the wind through the trees.  I like how You explained in John 3:8 that the Holy Spirit is like the wind.   I feel His gentle, loving touch, but I don’t understand where He comes from or where He goes.  I just know He is right here with me, as I look at this beautiful tree.  I love You, Lord!

My Mother’s Ironing Board

The iorning board, with its pale green cover, stands in a corner of my bedroom and every time I look at it, it speaks of how much love empowered the hours of hard manual labor Mom invested in caring for her family.  I also smile, because that work strengthened her hands so much that she rarely had to ask Daddy to open jars for her.

She covered the ironing board for me decades ago now, decades before her strokes began the long, slow decline that has now ended with her enjoying the fruit of her righteous life in heaven now.  She made the ironing board cover more than 40 years ago, when I was privileged to be a a stay-at-home for three tender years.

Having ironed and sewn since her own childhood, she knew the value of a good ironing board cover.  I remember her showing me each step, so I could do it myself, little knowing the one she was making would last my lifetime and beyond.

She cut a thick towel a bit bigger than that distinctive rectangular shape, then covered it with a sheet double-folded.  Starting at one end, she secured all the layers snugly from underneath with about two dozen safety pins, then basted the top in place, carefully inserting the needle through each hole.  Next, she attached the ironing board cover springs, which I don’t think you can even find anymore!

It was during this last step that I remember seeing her hands strain and the tendons stand out.  I noticed, yet again, that her wrists were thick and strong in comparison to her long delicate fingers.  Years of rubbing clothes on a washboard and wringing them out by hand as a young girl and helping with farm chores had begun strengthening those hands.

Then had come diapers on a washboard for the first of her three children (before they could afford a washer), not to mention lifting cast iron skillets every day, sweeping and mopping the entire house, and all the manual labor that homemaking was back in the 1950s and 60s.  Those strong hands and arms were necessary, just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

And I never once heard her complain.  She always described herself as a “homemaker”, not a housewife, and that is what she was and what she did.   Her eulogy, based on Proverbs 31, was easy to write because she had lived out so many examples.

I praise and honor her memory, with deep, deep gratitude.  When I see her on the other side of glory, I think I will spend about a thousand years or so, just hugging her and saying thank you – only then I will have the words to express how much I mean it and how deeply I now understand her unconditional love for her family.

Thank you, Lord, for two wonderful parents.  Show me how to use my words to inspire others to be the same for their own children.

“Taank yoooo”

For the third time I straightened the tangled thermal blanket so that the cottony softness lay gently over my grandson’s face, all the way over his blonde head.  Then I tugged the blanket in around his tiny feet and spooned him in close for a soft squeeze and two mutual “hmmms.”

A soft “Taaank yooooo” came from under the aqua blanket. I gave him another soft squeeze and whispered.

“You’re welcome, baby.  Nana loves you.”

Finally, my two-year-old grandson settled down.  When my hand, stretching lightly across his little frog belly,  felt his breathing deepen, I uncovered just his face and then let myself relax. I might or might not be able to sleep but for sure I had some good prayer time available.  The little rascal slept better if someone was with him for at least the first hour of his afternoon nap at which point, he tossed and turned (yet again!) then settled again, his eyes never having opened.

Monday through Friday, I have the greatest possible privilege  – helping my daughter with my two- and four-year-old grandsons.  I get to see these tender years, and with two children!  I’ve always said the hardest thing I ever did in my life was putting Sharon in daycare at the age of 3, when the divorce happened.

I cherish each day with them, yes, even though they are both all-boy and quite the handful at times.  I learn so much from participating in their innocent joy and spontaneity.  Can anything compare with collecting acorns in a bucket, digging in the sandpile, or building playdough cats?

But the one lesson I absorb each day is how happy they seem to be, with so little, and how totally they give their love and acceptance.

Dear Father, thank You, again, for letting me walk through these precious years alongside my grandsons.  Help me be more like them in their contentment and unconditional love.  And help me remember that my every expression of gratitude to you touches Your  heart as much as Allen’s “taaaank yooo” touches mine. I love You, Lord!”

Forgiveness. . . and My Grandsons Curls, Part 2 of 2

“It had to be cut, it was getting in his eyes, and sticking up all over.   I can’t handle it if you get this upset every time.  I told you yesterday it had to be done.   My throat feels like paper and I am so nervous I feel nauseous.  I am so, so sorry  for what Helga did and I know it hurt but she is gone and we have this beautiful little boy that we’re raising and things aren’t like they were.”

I put my bags on the kitchen counter and reached  for the mini diaper bag I used when I took my three-year-old grandson  on our daily errands.

“I am dealing with it the best I can but don’ ask me to talk about it.  I’m handling it but I can’t talk about it.”

“Mama, I don’t want you to “handle” it!  I’m going to have to cut both boys’ hair for a long time, to save money and so they won’t be traumatized at a barber shop.  But if it’s going to make me you and me both sick every time I’ll pay to get it done.”

I finished packing the diaper bag and managed a tight-lipped “I guess some wounds never heal”, the phrase that had been reverberating in my mind since the phone call.  I could hardly contain the bitterness and rage and most of all, the hurt.

“Well, you’re giving me a wound, too, and it’s never going to heal if you don’t really get over this.  Look, you’ve stopped all the rest of that generational stuff.  You didn’t pass on the abuse and you were the best mom in the world for me and for these babies, too.  They adore Nana.  Let’s stop this problem now, too.”

I begrudgingly opened my arms and enfolded her, still mad.  I had counted getting on whisking my grandson out the door and being alone with him for a couple of hours of silence and baby talk as we shopped so I could settle down.

I was furious with the memory and even more furious with myself for hurting Sharon.  Being trapped into confronting the conflict felt like I was coming apart inside, a feeling that had recurred during counseling with lessening frequency over the years.

“How do I handle this, Lord?” I tried to relax my stiffened body as Sharon, in a tender, loving role reversal, tried to comfort me.

“Listen, Mama.  You did an awesome job being my Mom, all by yourself, all those years,  and you are helping me and Craig do an awesome job with these boys, too.  We couldn’t do it without you. We count on you.  We need you.  I need you.”

At last came a deep sigh, a deep breath, and a heart-felt hug from me.

“I’m sorry, baby.  You know I’d rather die than hurt you.  I will learn how to handle it. . . “   If it kills me, I thought silently.

Sharon  pulled back from me, one brow arched quizzically.

“No,” I said. “I mean I will learn how to really get over it.  I will.  I am okay now.  Thank you for talking me down out of my tree.  I love you baby.”

Twelve hours later, sitting in the dark, stroking my precious, purring Barnabas, thinking silently with the Lord, the answer came.  Out of His deep love, God had arranged the only thing that would make me face the unforgiveness that still lurked in my heart.  As encrusted and decayed by the acid of hate as the rusty orange remnants of the Titanic, only He had known how to plumb that oceanic abyss.

“I am sorry, Father.  Forgive me for my reaction.  To be honest, I don’t like this at all, still, Father, and I am still mad but please help me forgive. I am willing to be made willing.  And thank You for stopping me from hurting Sharon.  I love you, Lord.”

A while later,  Barny was especially affectionate as we shared the pillow on my single bed.  He licked my hand as thoroughly as a mother cat with a kitten, rested his velvety head against my cheek, and placed one feather-soft paw on my neck.  I knew my precious little companion understood that I was upset.  This was not the first time God had loved me through the love of a cherished pet.

Our sleep was sweet that night.  And so have been the rest of the inevitable haircuts—thanks to the amazing grace God bestows on the human heart that is truly repentant and truly trying to follow His teachings.   Grace, grace, God’s marvelous grace!