Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Quiet Christmas Blessing

"For unto us is born this day in the city of David a Saviour , which is Christ the Lord." These are the words recorded in Luke 2:11. And from there eventually develops this wonderful holiday season of good will, joy and giving that we call CHRISTmas.

I love Christmas. I love the reason we celebrate Christmas. I love giving gifts. I love all the twinkling lights. I love Christmas trees. I love caroling. I love the joy on the little children's faces as they contemplate the toys Santa will bring. I love the few days out of the year when people seem more gentle and loving. But, most of all, I love the namesake, Christ the Lord.

This day has been different for us. Christmas Day has traditionally been the day we gather with my family to celebrate and exchange gifts. Because our family is growing and it's getting more and more difficult to arrange schedules, we have moved our gathering to this following Saturday. So, today has been a quiet one spent at home, just the two of us. I have to say, I like it. It has been very nice to just sit quietly and talk or watch TV or play at the computer.

I have a ham in the oven, the pecan pie is baked, the sweet potatoes are ready for the oven, English peas are warming on the stove and the fruit salad is in the fridge. So, the afternoon is free and I love it! I've had plenty of time to think. To think about this year and the blessings I've enjoyed. I've spent a lot of time over the past few days thinking about how sad my life is. And it does have it's challenges, very serious challenges. However, there have been so many blessings.

I'm thankful I had this quiet day at home. Thankful to have had the day to spend with my husband and talk about all the Christmases we have enjoyed together. If this should be our last Christmas together, it will have been a beautiful one filled with love and the joy of the quiet company of my dearest friend in the world. I pray the day has been every bit as wonderful for each of you.

Merry Christmas to all. It has indeed brought joy to my world!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Revelations At The Liquor Store

I recently found a recipe for an old fashioned hot toddy. My grandparents used to give those to me when I was a small child. It's the best thing in the world for a cold or sore throat or even flu symptoms. I don't know why it has taken me so many years to resort to their use again? Probably because I have this aversion to going into the liquor store to buy the whiskey to make them with. But, I need a small amount of rum to make rum balls for Christmas, so I thought maybe I would go ahead and purchase a small bottle of whiskey for the toddies. Well, that seemed like a good idea, but then of course you have to go to the liquor store to do this.

Never say that good husband's aren't useful in just about any situation! Dear hubby had the answer! Well, of course, I should go to the liquor store and I want to buy 'Jack in the black'. Ooooookay. Now, just what is 'Jack in the black' anyway? Turns out it's Jack Daniels whiskey in the black label. Simple enough. So, I head out to the liquor store (I've NEVER been in a liquor store before) to make my little purchase of a small bottle of 'Jack in the black' and a small amount of rum. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience!

I walk in the door and there's this little store chock full of differing sizes and shapes of bottles. The labels are some very simple and some very elaborate. There are things I've heard about....vermouth, brandy, champagne, wine, whiskey, bourbon, the list goes on. There are brands I've heard of.........Jim Beam, Captain Morgan, and so many more. However, the most shocking thing for me was the bottles themselves. They were gorgeous! I mean, I don't drink, but I would buy some of this stuff just to have their decanters! Oh and that's what they were, decanters. Not just simple bottles, decanters.

I browsed through the isles looking at the beautiful decanters and dreaming about what I could do with them in my home. And, do you know what, I never once felt as though the Lord was going to like strike me down for being in the store! I guess I was surprised, because that's what I had always thought I would feel. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the little excursion. Some very nice young man was standing in the whiskey isle while I perused the available offerings. He offered his advice. He says Gentleman Jack whiskey is a very smooth whiskey. Hummmmmmmmm, who would've guessed?!

Eventually, I selected the smallest bottle of 'Jack in the black' I could find and went on the search for my even smaller bottle of rum. I found some small bottles, but much larger than I needed. I only needed 3 tablespoons for my rum balls. I'm walking around checking every nook and cranny to see what I can find and then I spot them. Right there setting on the counter near the cash registers are containers of the small 'airline' bottles of whiskey, rum, bourbon, wine, just about anything you could ask for. So, not knowing how much they contained, I decided that surely two of these little bottles contained 3 tablespoons. I picked up two of the very small bottles of rum and was ready to pay for my little stash.

I walked to the counter and placed my bottles there. The very pleasant young man at the register proceeded to enter my purchases and bag them in a plain brown bag. I thought, I've never walked out of a store with a plain brown bag of whiskey and rum. What will I do if I get stopped by a policeman on the way home? I paid the young man and was ready to head out the door, still wondering what I was going to do about this alcohol and driving home. As I was walking away, the very nice young man said "Thank you ma'am. And, you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed day".

What? Did he say '....have a blessed day...'? That's not what you're supposed to hear in a liquor store, is it?! NO! I had always been taught that only drunks and sinners entered liquor stores, much less walked out with their little plain brown bags. What's going on here? Do you mean to tell me people work in these places who actually know what it is to have a blessed day? WOW! How did I miss this all of my judgmental life?! Have I had my head in the sand? Now I've completely forgotten about my little bag and driving.

I place my bag in the trunk (surely if it's in the trunk and clearly unopened I will be safe, no?). I get into my car and head out of the parking lot. I have a lot on my mind. There's a lot to think about here. Is this yet another of those areas where I have depended on traditions taught to me rather than the leadership of the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts? Have I been so wrong all these years? How have I managed to reach the age of 50 years without discovering this?

I'm thankful the Holy Spirit still guides me, when I let Him. I just wish I could be more open to Him and less wrapped in my own ideas and opinions. Then again, that is up to me, isn't it? I'm the one who has to decide to submit even my thoughts to the Holy Spirit. Not only my thoughts, but my opinions as well. Lord, please forgive me for being judgmental of others and for not allowing Your Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and opinions. Please help me never to be guilty of that again.

I will return to the liquor store, not because I like to drink, but because there are legitimate reasons to visit at times. It's no worse to buy whiskey for a toddy than to buy Nyquil. My gastroenterologist has tried for many years to get me to drink a glass of wine each night to help my digestive problems. I never would because I was judgmental. I will not be guilty of that again. And, I will try some wine to see if it will help my tummy. Why should I be more ashamed of a glass of wine than I would be of all the drugs my doctor prescribes for me? There's absolutely no reason other than ignorance. I refuse to live in ignorance when the Lord has shone a light on it and opened my eyes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Politically Incorrect Christmas Greeting

In this day of political correctness, we are told we shouldn't even say "Merry Christmas" anymore, rather we should say "Happy Holidays" so as not to offend any one's religious sensibilities.

Well, excuse me, but THAT offends me! Not just my 'religious sensibilities', but ME! I am offended that people have become so apathetic and lazy that they will sit by while the politically correct gang try to remove any reference to God or to His Son, Jesus CHRIST from our lives.

Did anyone happen to notice that CHRISTmas begins with the word 'CHRIST'? So what if Christians hijacked a pagan holiday? And? If you want to celebrate your Winter Solstice, go right ahead. If you don't turn your heart to Jesus Christ, you're gonna die and go to hell, but go ahead. It's not want I want for you, nor is it what Jesus Christ wanted for you, but if you're determined to do it, you have the right to do it.

I guess that's the point here. I don't agree with a lot that goes on around me. I don't go around trying to stop people from living their lives, unless their life is intruding in some way upon mine. For instance, I will try my best to dissuade a woman from having an abortion because I know she is committing murder. No less than someone who walks into my home and puts a bullet through my head, she is committing murder.

I crusade against drunken driving. If you want to drink and even get drunk, that's your privilege, just don't get behind the wheel of a vehicle and put someone else in danger because of it. I crusade against illicit drug use because I see what it is doing to innocent children. But, if as a consenting adult, you decide you want to throw your life away, it's your privilege to do so. Just don't go offering it to innocent children and young people. Don't ruin their lives just because you can.

I'm not politically correct. I am a blood-bought, born again Christian, washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, my Saviour. I am an American; not a European-American or an African-American, or an Asian-American or any other hyphenated American. I think if you live in America, you should speak English and do so well enough to conduct your business in that language. If you want to speak your native language, that's great! Do it at home.

I don't believe in reparations to black people because of what they lost. I am grieved in my soul for the things their ancestors had to endure and for any racial atrocities commited against any one of them in this day. However, no black man living in America today, unless he is a recent immigrant from another country, has ever spent one day as a slave.

I am against affirmative action. Playing favorites rights no wrongs and only serves to foster bitterness on all sides. It's time to put the past behind us and move forward. Yes, the wrongs of the past will always be with us. No one can deny that. However, unless we let the past go, while learning the lessons of the past, we will not and can not move forward.

I don't think those who are here illegally should be allowed to stay here. They should be sent back to their country of origin, along with their families. If they would like to come back, let them do so legally and pay taxes like every other American. Of course I have compassion for them and for their circumstances. However, breaking the law is still breaking the law. What are we teaching those children if we allow their parents to get away with breaking the law and even reward them for it?

I don't think it's the job of the federal government to pay for all of our needs. Should the government help those who are genuinely needy? Yes, but I'll also say this, if the church had not stepped back from her responsibility, there would be no need for the government to be stepping in. I don't think a woman who drops a baby every year ought to receive larger and larger checks every month so she can support those babies. If she got out and got a job, maybe she'd have less time for sleeping around and making babies.

I don't think the government should pay for rehab for drug and alcohol addicts. They put themselves there, they should be responsible for getting themselves clean. IF the government is going to help, the recipient should be given civil service positions at an agreed upon wage, minimum wage sounds good to me, until the debt is repaid. Just think how much money municipalities and other governments could save if they used that labor for service jobs like garbage collection, street cleaners, cleaning government vehicles (some could even be qualified as mechanics?), or other service areas.

So, as you can see, I'm definitely NOT from the politically correct crowd! Since I'm not, let me just close by saying...........

And, for all you politically correct folks..........get a clue!!!!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Roller Coasters-{Part 1}

I love roller coasters! I have since I was a child. I love the feeling of complete abandon when you drop off the hilltop and plunge into the dip. I love the anticipation and anxiety that draws your stomach muscles tight when you're climbing the hills. I love the pure fear when you whip around the curves and it feels as if you will fly from the tracks. It all combines for pure excitement and joy in me! I always want to go again, I can't get enough!

Abandon, anticipation, anxiety, fear, excitement, joy..........all adjectives used to describe my feelings about a good ride on a roller coaster. No wonder I feel like my life is a roller coaster ride at present! There's just one problem, I don't like where this roller coaster comes to a stop. When I come creeping into the station to disembark, there will be no smiling, laughing and wanting to go again. No, when I roll into this station, I will be leaving my dear husband behind.

You see, this roller coaster ride started the day he was diagnosed with Stage 4, or End Stage, Liver Disease. He has cirrhosis caused by his struggles with type II diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels, a previous injury to his liver in an automobile accident and a genetic factor of which we were unaware until he was already very sick.

When we tell anyone he has cirrhosis, the immediate response is 'I didn't know you drank'. And, if they don't say it, you can see the question in their eyes. It's amazing that, even in the medical community, so many people think that the only cause of cirrhosis is alcoholism. My husband has been so embarrassed so many times since his diagnosis. We have even had to tell nurses in the hospital that he is not an alcoholic. As a matter of fact, he has never drank very much at all; certainly never was an alcoholic.

For that reason, we have asked his physician to specify non-alcoholic cirrhosis in his diagnosis when being admitted to the hospital. How I wish we had that printed on a tee shirt he could wear when we go out! It would save so much explaining and so many misunderstandings. It might even save a few people from being guilty of judging their neighbor!

If we thought dealing with the diagnosis was going to be hard, we were simply naive about how hard dealing with the disease was going to be. It didn't take long to burst that bubble! He was so tired he thought it couldn't be any worse. He didn't have any real pain, except for that which he had dealt with since the accident. Nothing other than the fatigue really bothered him very much.

As the days passed, the fatigue continued to worsen. Trips to the gastroenterologist reassured us that his liver was still functioning fairly well. We were lulled into a sense of complacency and believed this would take years to make any real changes in him. Then, the inevitable happened.

Barely one year after his original diagnosis, he suddenly became very ill and had to be taken to the E.R. by ambulance. His blood sugar was 30 and falling fast. They immediately began to administer glucose to bring it up, but they couldn't get it to stay up. He was halucinating and talking completely out of his head. He didn't know where he was or even who he was. Tests revealed he was in acute renal failure and now liver failure.

After a week in the hospital, we were released and given a follow-up appointment with his GI doctor. That appointment was in October of 2007. At that appointment, we were told he was now in liver failure and that, if he was interested in having a transplant, this was the time to go for the evaluation. We were totally shocked and speechless. Neither of us could even think enough to know what questions to ask the doctor. He was gentle and kind and told us to think about and pray about it and get back with him within a week with a decision.

Ultimately, for many reasons, my husband decided not to try for a transplant. So, we began the journey of living with end stage liver failure, not just disease anymore, but liver failure. We were told he had maybe 6 months at the outside. We came home and told our families the news. Then, we just put it aside and decided to live our lives and let God handle everything.

The weeks passed and he didn't get any better, but he didn't get any worse either. The Christmas holidays came and went and he was doing amazingly well. Soon March, 2008 rolled in and we were at our 6 month window. Yet, he felt fine. Again, we were lulled into a place of complacency. Little did we know that safe place was soon to be invaded in a horrific way.

{Please come back for the next installment of "Roller Coasters"}

Monday, December 8, 2008

Options Available

During the course of the past week, some friends have been discussing their young children and the large words they use. A very bright little three year old daughter of one friend often uses the word 'orphanage', but that doesn't surprise my friend because her little girl is adopted from an orphanage. However, one day while crossing a parking lot, she also came up the phrase 'mandatory, not optional', which my friend says totally sounded like something her daughter would have heard her husband saying.

Another friend who has a wonderfully intelligent five year old son related that, while doing something he shouldn't, she told him he had to stop and that it was 'not an option'. He promptly replied to her 'But Mama, I want options!' Now, that sounds like me! I want options!

That struck a chord within me. I thought to myself, I so often approach the Lord that way. He will tell me what He wants and expects of me and which way I should be responding to a certain situation. Instead of just listening and then doing as the Lord has commanded me, I become like the 5 year old and reply "But, Lord, I want options"!

Then, the Lord has to remind me that there is always an option. We are never left with only one choice. He has never forced me into any decision or action. He has always been a gentleman and does not use scare tactics or force on His children. It is I who must remember what my options are. They are very simple and there are always two. (1) Do as the Lord has commanded and enjoy the blessings of fellowhip in His perfect will; or (2) Choose to do it my way and disregard the Lord's commands and suffer the consequences for having been rebellious.

Isn't it strange how we as Christians can make something so simple into the 'big unknown'? Books are written, sermons are preached, hours of study are devoted to learning how to live a surrendered life. It's because we want options, and two isn't enough for us. We don't want clear cut options, we want multiple options that allow us to choose just how far to the left or right we can go and still be surrendered.

God never makes things complicated for us. It is we who complicate our lives and our Christian walk. He did everything possible to make it a simple matter to love Him and do His will. He gave the perfect sacrifice in His Only Begotten Son; the One Blood Sacrifice that could restore humanity to fellowship with Himself. Even with His provision, we have a difficult time accepting Him. Is it any wonder then that we have a difficult time accepting that doing His will is a simple 'Yes' or 'No' proposition?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Say "Thank You" To An American Soldier

Follow the directions in the widget to send a free card to an American soldier serving overseas.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What I Feel

I'm sitting here this morning watching my dear husband sleeping peacefully in his recliner. It's not an unusual occurrence; he does it every day. I am trying to figure why it feels so different today. He's snoring slightly, as always. He's holding the newspaper, half folded and drooping into his lap, as always. He's drooling, just slightly, making a spot on his shirt, as always. Nothing is different or odd, but strangely it feels different.

Have you ever had that feeling? As though the perfectly ordinary is somehow different today? It bothers me when I have that feeling. I am very much a person of 'feelings'. Too much so for my own good, I sometimes think. I feel things deeply. Momma used to tell me all the time I was heart sick. I didn't understand what she was saying. She explained that I feel things too deeply. When someone is hurting around me, I hurt too.

I don't mean I feel bad for them, I mean I physically hurt for and with them. It is not unusual for me to walk into a room with someone who is suffering and develop their symptoms before leaving the room. If someone is deeply depressed, my spirit feels their depression and begins to be sad and forlorn. If they are grieving, I become grieved in my spirit. Older people sometimes called people like me a 'sensitive'.

Well, I am a sensitive person, but a dear elderly woman whom I knew as a child told me that I was aware of a realm most people are not aware of. I experience things in a way most people do not. That was a bit scary to me when I was young, but as I grew older, I began to understand it better and it wasn't so much scary anymore as it was painful. Today, I'm feeling that pain for my husband.

He hasn't been awake much at all and he hasn't told me he's suffering today, but I know he is. I feel it. For those of you who do not already know, my husband is suffering with a terminal liver disease. He is a Type II Diabetic and has had uncontrolled obesity and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides for many years. It has resulted in cirrhosis of the liver.

When he was diagnosed, he was embarrassed by it because he was afraid those around us would think he was an alcoholic and nothing could be farther from the truth. Just as he would never take care of himself before the diagnosis, he refuses to take care of himself now. Not because he doesn't love me or want to be with me, but because he has always had an obsession with food. From the time he awoke in the morning until the time he retired at night, he was always thinking about food. It came to him naturally, as his Mom is so much the same. However, she never developed a weight problem. But, she loved through food. And, that's not a good thing for a person who has a weight problem.

So, here we are and he is dying. It took a long time before I could say that word or think it or write it without breaking down and bawling uncontrollably. It's still not easy. Especially on days like today. Today, I feel that the dying is progressing. That's the only way I know how to describe it. There are days when I know we're in a holding pattern. Things are static. Not today. Today, death is active.

Am I saying today is THE day? No, just that today the march is on. That march each of us will make at some point in our life. I pray that, when my march begins, I have the grace and courage that my husband has shown. From the day we heard the news, he has had so much peace about it. He has never complained that God is being unfair to him. Though he suffers both physically and mentally, he has kept a positive attitude.

I've watched him over the past 13 months. There has been no railing against God. No pounding fists and demanding to know why. No poor, pitiful me. Just a calm, assured peace that, when the Lord is ready, He will call and my dear, sweet husband will answer that call and go home to live with his Saviour. He has told me on so many occasions that he doesn't want to leave me, but that he has such a sweet peace about going.

Today, I am seeking that peace. I feel so safe when I'm here in our home with him. But today, even that safety feels threatened. Death is on the march and I know he's marching toward our house. The Lord has stood guard at our door so many times before. But today my spirit tells me Jesus is preparing me for that one time when He will no longer stand guard, but will greet death and turn him away, only to enter and make that final call for my husband.

We have talked about that on many occasions. I don't want my husband to suffer. I want him to answer the Lord's call when the time comes. We will not say goodbye. We will say "I'll meet you later". We will then await the time when death marches to our house again and when he does, I will make the journey knowing that I go to be with my Saviour and greet my dear husband once again. I rest in the peace of that blessed assurance.

So, march on death. I know you're there, but you have no power over us. Your sting is only temporary. Because of our Saviour, your victory has no sway over us. We rest in Jesus, who has conquered death, hell and the grave so that we may have eternal life. Because of His sacrifice, we are free from the curse of death and have passed from death to life. Though we will experience a physical seperation, our spirits cannot be seperated because our souls are secure in the loving hands of our Saviour.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I love the snow! What a thrill to wake up this morning and find a dusting of fresh snow covering my lawn! Here in the Mid-South, we don't get a lot of snow; it's usually more ice than anything else. It wasn't always that way.

I can well remember snows as deep as my Daddy's knees when I was a young child. Snow so deep that I couldn't walk through it, so Daddy had to carry me. Even then, I loved the snow. Daddy and Momma would bundle me up and set me out on the front porch of our little country house and let me play in the snow that had blown onto the porch. I could make snow balls and throw them and build a snowman, just as long as I didn't get off the porch because Momma was afraid she would lose me in the snow bank!

My little sisters and I would play outside in the cold and snow till our little mittened hands would ache. We would run inside squealing and Momma would remove our mittens, hang them near the old wood heater to dry and tell us to go wash our hands in cold water. So we would wash in cold water, squealing and crying out that it hurt our hands! Then, Momma would take us back to the living room and place us surrounding the wood stove and hold our hands out near it. Our hands would be so brightly red, it looked as though we had painted them Momma's bright red lipstick! They would burn and hurt for a bit, then they would feel all toasty warm again. Then, we got hot chocolate and a snack!

Those were wonderful carefree days of laughter and love when we didn't realize how blessed we were. Perhaps it's because all those wonderful memories are attached to the snow that I love it so much. I don't know for sure, I just know I love snow! After the storm passes and the snow has fallen, the skies light up and sun shines brightly upon the pure white snow and it feels like the whole world is pure and clean and fresh. It's like a chance for the universe to have a 'do over'. Maybe that's why I love snow so much. I don't know, I just know I love snow!

Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed the view of fresh fallen snow on the pastures and fields around me. I love to think of the families all snuggled in their warm homes playing games together and laughing. I love getting all bundled up in a heavy winter coat with gloves, scarves and boots and walking into the chilled air. The look of your breath vaporizing before your face! The crunch of the grass crackling under your feet. Everything about a walk in the snow energizes me. It makes me feel as though all is right with the world around me. Maybe that's the reason I love the snow; I don't know, I just know I love the snow.

At one of the darkest moments of my life, my Loving Lord sent a beautiful snowfall to remind me that He was there with me and that I could go on. It was January 19, 1995 and it was the day we buried my Maw McDonald. Maw was the center of my world since I was 8 years old. That was the age at which my Paw McDonald had passed on. I was his favorite and everyone knew it! I loved him so deeply, as deeply as could any 8 year old little girl love her Paw. I was so heart broken when he left us. It was my first experience with death and it was tragic.

After Paw passed away, my sisters and I became Maw's constant companions. We stayed at her house as much or more than we stayed at our own house. She spoiled us without shame! She also became our sitter, which only gave her more opportunity to spoil us. It was a wonderful childhood for three little girls. Where Paw had left off, Maw took up.

One Fall, Daddy and Momma decided to take a week's vacation and travel to Michigan to visit my Maw's brother, Uncle Buster and his wife, Aunt Mayena. Maw would go with us. It was fabulous! Maw, my sisters and I stayed up all night the night before we left baking cookies and making candy to eat on the trip! Maw was as big a kid as we were and enjoyed it just as much as we did!

As a teen, Maw was there for me. She bought me makeup and helped me convince Momma I was old enough to wear it. When I met my then future husband, she treated him just like one of her own from day one. She was the most accepting, loving woman and was an amazing lady all way round. When I got married and moved away from our hometown, she made the trip to visit with me every time Momma and Daddy did, always saying she had to come see her girl!

Then, when Maw became sick and her days were drawing to a close, she depended on us, my sisters and I, to help take care of her. We took our turns sitting with her at the hospital. Despite all our love and attention, her time had come to an end here and Jesus called her home to be with Him. When the day of her services came, it was cold and dreary outside and it seemed as though it made the heaviness in our hearts much harder to bear.

The service was beautiful because her life was beautiful. We gathered in the cemetery for the interment. The minister told stories of her special way of loving everyone around her and brought laughter back to all of us. Then, as the last prayer was uttered and the last flower was laid, as we began to file out of the tent, beautiful huge, wet snowflakes began to fall hard and fast. Tears rolled down our faces and someone said "Well, Maw's in heaven and she's telling us it's all okay and that she's happy and that she wants us to be happy too!" We knew that was true becuase Maw loved the snow, too!

Maybe that's the reason, I don't know; I just know I love the snow!!!!