The Story and Celebration of Saint Patrick

Lifeway Women St. Patrick’s Day Sharing the Gospel

As a LifeWay Women Ambassador , I am sharing this story today directly from a beautiful post on the Lifeway Women site.  It’s the story of Saint Patrick, a missionary in Ireland.  

‘We don’t know a lot for sure about saints throughout history. What we do know is usually clouded and overshadowed by legends and myths passed down for generations.

Today, we celebrate Saint Patrick. Many of us in America faithfully don green clothing and maybe eat corned beef and cabbage. We don’t think a lot about the man behind the holiday.

Like most saints, the stories of Saint Patrick abound. He has been said to have driven all the snakes from Ireland, his fingers turned into some sort of flashlights on a dark night, and he turned an evil ruler into a fox. Or so the stories go. Blarney? Maybe.

What we do know about Patrick is that he was a missionary in Ireland. He was born sometime in the fourth century in England and was kidnapped as a teenager by Irish pirates. Forced into slavery in Ireland, he most likely worked as a shepherd before escaping to freedom. He was not very religious at the time, but he often prayed in the fields. He credits God giving him a vision telling him to escape.

Once free, he went to France where he stayed for a while in a monastery. He eventually (perhaps after a return to England) began to have dreams where the pagan Irish asked him to return to Ireland to teach them about the gospel. He did not have much education, so he first had to convince the church to allow him to be a missionary. He studied in France for a while, but was always known for his more “rustic” teaching methods.

Many people credit Patrick with explaining the Trinity using a three-leaf clover. He often baptized people in wells, some of which are still called “St. Patrick’s Wells.” Before his death on March 17 (year unknown), he wrote Confessions about his life and mission. His love for the Irish people was clear in his writings. By the time he died, Christianity had taken root in Ireland.

We celebrate saints on the days of their deaths, so today we wear green in honor of Saint Patrick, missionary to Ireland. When I think about Saint Patrick, I am always amazed by the love he had for God and for the people of Ireland. The people who had taken him captive and forced him into slavery were the very ones he loved enough to go back to. Patrick loved his enemies enough to share the greatest news with them.

God calls everyone to share the gospel. He called a former slave to go back to the place of his enslavement to tell them about the good news of Jesus Christ. Patrick knew the weightiness of his task—he sought out an education and approval from the church before going into a place where he may be the only believer. Perhaps because of his unconventional education, Patrick knew how to meet the people where they were. He used everyday items to tell deep theological truths.

May we remember this, too. God calls us to the weighty task of sharing the gospel with those around us—those we like and those we may consider our enemies. God equips us to tell others the story of redemption, how He gave His Son so that we might live with Him forever. This is our calling, on March 17 and every day.

May we also remember those who are risking their lives to share the gospel in hostile environments, who are getting an education so that they may be clear in their teachings, who are learning about the people they will encounter so they can meet them where they are. Today, as we wear green, let’s remember to pray for those missionaries and to look for opportunities to be a missionary right where we are.”

If you would like to be an Ambassador for Lifeway Women, click here to sign up. It’s a fun, free, new program that allows you to help LifeWay Women share the latest news and updates.  You’ll have the chance to earn prizes like Bible studies, event tickets, and other LifeWay Women goodies.

Lifeway Women March Devotional Calendar

With the first day of March coming on Wednesday, it’s time for a new daily devotional calendar.  Lifeway Women is a wonderful resource for inspiration, especially for women, and free art like this month’s family time calendar here.

March 1 — Exodus 14:14 “Sometimes, we wear ourselves out fighting battles that are not ours to fight.”  Pin it to your fridge and share it with your family.

February Devotional Calendar

Lifeway Women February Devotional Calendar

February is my favorite month!  It’s Miss Bee’s birthday month, along with most of the other women in my family.  Three is our family’s lucky number.  Most all of our birthdays are divisible by three, important events in our lives have occurred around the number three, and starting on Feb. 12 with Miss Bee’s birthday, every girl was born three days apart (the first birthday this month is my niece and she was born on the 3rd!).  Pink and red are two of my favorite colors.  I love chocolate and I love, LOVE!

To jump start your February, I am sharing Lifeway Women’s devotional calendar.  Be sure to print a copy and put on your fridge tomorrow and share the scriptures with your loved ones.

Lessons from a Vacation: You’ve Got This

Today was my first day back at work having been afforded the last two and a half weeks off for vacation.  It was so nice to spend time at home with my family in my cocoon of serenity.  Miss Bee returns to school tomorrow.  So, it will be back to early mornings, making breakfast and hurrying out the door. Christmas decor is, for the most part, put away but a pile of “other” stuff sits mocking me to make a decision as to its final resting place.

I am always conflicted the first part of January.  A part of me is glad to put Christmas away for the next year and simplify.  But, it’s also bittersweet because it’s time to stop listening to Christmas music (since it’s been on Pandora since November 1), the fun parties are over and the “spirit” of friendliness and cheer subsides.  The unstructured vacation and relaxation is over, back to the routine.

But, there are a lot of things I look forward to…. like organizing, re-grouping, cleaning and getting back into a routine.  See how that can be a positive, too?

One thing that never changes, is the love God has for me.  His calming nature is all around me if I will just stop long enough to recognize and acknowledge it.  I can choose to get worked up that my calendar is filling up again after a self imposed vacation, or I can take one day at a time and just roll with it.  When I saw the quote from Ann Voskamp in my inbox this morning — “Today, I am going to be a prayer warrior, not a panicked worrier” it was a reminder that I can make many choices today.  I can choose to remember the quiet I experienced during the last few weeks and keep it for the days and weeks to come.  I can remember to be more gentle with my teen when she is cranky and moody.  The quiet did her good this past few weeks.  I saw her funny, relaxed, inclusive, childlike side return — which made me realize that her stressful demeanor is coming from how hard she works at school trying to make great grades and please her parents.

This week I will be sharing things I always do every January to jump start my new year and a few things I would like to try this year. And, of course, we will hear from Haute Holley later this week, along with a few good recipes I have tried out recently.

Have a blessed day my friends.  I really do appreciate each and every one of you taking the time to visit my blog and share it with others.

January Gift List: Ann Voskamp Printable

After all the holiday over indulgence — buying the extra gifts the kids didn’t really need but we wanted to watch them open — more gifts — eating, eating and eating, and exhaustion of wanting everything to be perfect, it’s nice to be able to start anew every January.

This Ann Voskamp printable is the perfect way to re-center and put the focus on being a giver.  No, not more gifts to give, rather the gift of our compassion, grace and forgiveness.

Look at Wednesday’s to-do:  Pray three times today for a person that feels really overwhelmed.  Maybe that person happens to be you.  That’s okay. God delights in hearing your prayers.  Give it forward today.

Milestones and Memories

Well, I am completely worn out.  I am sure you can relate.  For the past three weeks, I have either hosted or attended every Christmas party I possibly could, shopped for or made the perfect gifts, baked cookies, decorated the house, cleaned and re-cleaned the house, designed and sent Christmas cards, and so on.  And fitting this all in with regular life. Raise your hand if this is you, too!  I enjoyed it all while doing it, but I reached my limit and for the last few days it’s been hard to find energy.  I was glad we planned a low-key Christmas day with just the three of us.   And, I am coming down with a cold.

I wanted to share one thing that I did this holiday season that I am most happy about.  If you have been reading along with me for the last six months since I launched Home with a Twist, you’re familiar with the story behind the loss of my parents and the challenges I have had, in particular, with grieving the loss of my mother (read here).  One thing I haven’t been able to do in the three years since she died was visit the cemetery.

This past Wednesday, I was in the area of the cemetery picking up a Christmas gift.  As I got closer, I had this feeling that it would be okay to go by and say hello.  I wondered if the florist at the funeral home had wreaths or poinsettias I could place at their graves.  As I made it to the corner, there in front of their building were rows and rows of beautiful tokens of Christmas.  I pulled in and decided on a bunch of poinsettias to add a pop of color to Mother and Daddy’s plot they share with my grandparents and Daddy’s baby sister who died when she was two.

I parked and walked over.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought.  It did make me cry a little to see Mother’s name carved into the marble.  We visited and talked about Christmas.  I looked over and saw that my Daddy’s little sister, Pauline, died on December 21, the next day.  I can only imagine what that must have been like for him and my grandparents to lose a child four days before Christmas.

As I drove around to leave, I could see the mound of red poinsettias — the only spot of color to be found in that older section of the cemetery.  I could just imagine Mother’s smiling face at how pretty she thought the flowers looked.   She loved color!   It gave me great comfort, not sadness, as I drove away.  And hope, that many more visits are to come.  Perhaps next time I shall take daffodils.

December: Give it Forward Today

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I’m sharing Ann Voskamp’s December calendar printable.  You can find this and other beautiful art, memory verses and stories at her webpage.  Pin this to your refrigerator and make it a family activity to unwrap the season.

Start with today:  Tape a $1.00 or extra change to a vending machine and bring a smile.

A Message of Hope and Gratitude

hope-2I had the opportunity to share my story of grief, hope and gratitude recently at Arborlawn United Methodist Church during our Hope for the Holidays service.

It’s a personal story, revealing things about me you may not know, along with practical tips that have been helpful to me in learning to move through my grieving.  It’s a faith journey that has not been easy, but along the way I’ve learned alot about life and God’s love for me.  It’s about finding gratitude in the pain.

My grief journey began with the stillborn death of my son, John, on Thanksgiving Day 1998.  I hadn’t been feeling movement like I should.  I went in for a checkup and my husband and I were told the devastating news.  There was no heartbeat.  I was sent to Labor and Delivery to be induced.  I remember watching the nurse place a “falling leaf” on the door as a symbol to others entering our room that this was not a celebratory moment for us.  I had also suffered two miscarriages prior to John’s death so this was our third baby to lose.

Following John’s death, I suffered from depression and my world — which had stopped turning — was dark, very dark.  Time stood still like I was living in a silent movie.  Deafening with quiet.  I couldn’t function.  I couldn’t get out of bed without great effort.  I felt disconnected from anything pleasurable.  I was empty and I had nothing left inside of me.

This scripture from 2 Corinthians 12:10 says, “when you’ve done everything you can do, that’s when God will step in and do what you can’t do.”

I told God, “I need you.  I can’t do this by myself anymore.”  This was the first time in my life for me to say these words.

In 2006, my very active, vibrant Mother had a stroke.  Because my dad was blind from macular degeneration, we agreed as a family that my parents would come to live with me, my husband and our daughter.  For the next six years, we would be caregivers to my parents.

Daddy passed away in 2011 from complications related to his diabetes. To illustrate to you how much my faith had grown since the death of my child, the first emotion I felt after Daddy’s death was “joy” which may sound strange.  You see, I had four years to watch him deteriorate, become frail and slowly lose the ability to do things he once found enjoyable.  I had done much of the grieving during my caregiving — something called “anticipatory grief.”  I had also journeyed with him, and my mother, during his time in hospice.  Of course I was sad, but the joy I felt was from knowing he was in heaven, free from illness and pain, and free to to do all the things his physical body could no longer do.  Plus, I had my mother to think about.  I felt like I couldn’t grieve openly because I needed to be strong for her.

Two months later, my brother Jim, killed himself.  Jim had struggled most of his entire life with depression.  Losing my dad was probably more than Jim could bear.  I still cannot put into words the exact emotion his death left me with.  Suicide is so different.  It’s a raw pain, like someone pulling off a bandaid over and over again.  And the support you receive from others is different after suicide.  People just don’t know what to say.  In my heart, I wish Jim could have chosen a different solution, sparing his wife, son and my mother the pain of taking his life.  I will never forget the phone call I received from the police notifying me they had found my brother’s dead body, nor my mother’s face when I had to tell her that her child was dead.  Again, because my mother had lost her husband of 64 years and her 59 year old child within weeks of each other — I felt like my mother needed my strength, not my sadness.

In 2013, my mother died very suddenly from a brain aneurysm. We were literally telling each other “I love you” in the kitchen one minute and five minutes later I was calling 911.  That was a hard loss for me.  I had plans for many more years of living to do with her.  I hurt as deeply when I lost her as when I lost my son, John.  My mother was the first person that loved me, held me close, and knew everything about me. After she died, I felt like I lost all of that.  Right after she took her last breath, I remember this intense feeling of love I had for God.  Thankful that He gave my mother such a grace-filled ending to her life.  She died surrounded by her family with a tear and a smile on her face.  I am grateful God left me with that image of my mother’s beautiful face.

But, after her death I was left with three losses I needed to process and I crashed.  I was no longer a daughter or a caregiver — I struggled trying to figure out who I was anymore.  And, there were times I wasn’t sure I wanted to live anymore.

To put into perspective for you, in two years time, I lost half of immediate family.  Before I had time to process one loss, I was dropped into another, then another.

Okay, let’s set all that aside and talk about some things that have been helpful for me.

In 2006, an author named Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a memoir called, “Eat, Pray, Love” that was made into a movie.  She tells her story of the year she traveled to find herself again after a devastating divorce.  My suggestions are an adaptation of her story…

Eat — Feed Your Soul

Grief can be isolating.  Expect the opposite of who you normally are for a while, but it will get better.  Surround yourself with resources, attend a support group and rely on close friends.  Journal, sing, meditate, go for a walk, or just be still.  Sometimes if we are “doers” we think we should be replacing our grief with things to keep us busy.  But grieving will consume your free time.  Just because you aren’t active doing something doesn’t mean you are not being productive.  Your productivity right now revolves around grieving.  If you are a “to-do list” maker — plan on putting the word GRIEVING right at the top of your list everyday for awhile.  Be diligent in telling yourself “it won’t always be like this.  There is a better tomorrow waiting for me.”  This is an especially important message for you to tell yourself each night before going to bed.  Your brain needs this reassurance.

Pray — all the time

I prayed for sleep, I prayed to get out of bed, I prayed for strength, and I prayed for hope.  If praying is hard for you, or it’s not something you normally do, start small.  God already knows what’s on your heart before you even say it.  As my mother was laying in the hospital bed, I was alone in the room with her overnight.  The room was full of hospital sounds and smells.  I suddenly felt like I was going to be physically sick.  I was so overwhelmed with the reality of what was going to happen.  I closed my eyes and I just started saying over and over again, “God, please replace my anxiety with your peace.”  I must have said it 100 times.  I could feel my anxiety melt away and I was able to regain my composure to face the next moment.  On the days you feel like you can’t live because the pain is greater than you, for me those were the days I prayed the most.

Love — Love Yourself

One of the biggest emotions we struggle with after loss is guilt.  I should have known.  I should have noticed.  I should have taken the time.  I should have said something.  Did she know I loved her?  This is all normal, but remember to be kind to yourself.  We all do the best we can with what we have at that moment.  We cannot see the future, we leave that up to God.

Here are three important points:

  1.  Grieving is a full-time job and is very draining
  2. Lower your expectations of who you think you should be right now
  3. Accept that fatigue is to be expected

Jesus came to help the broken.  I am learning to live my life reaching out to God’s loving arms.  I am learning to find my gratitude through my brokenness. Every moment I choose to me grateful for the time I had with my son, John, my dad, my brother and my mother, is time I am not anxious or afraid about the future.  Because gratitude and fear cannot co-exist at the same time.  Just like He’s done for me, He will see you through this.  It’s God’s promise to give you hope and a future.

Glimpses of Heaven

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Miss Bee took this photo of the sunset over a church

When my daddy passed away five years ago, we gave our family the gift of Hospice care. We chose inpatient care because I wanted my mother to be a wife and partner to my dad, rather than a caregiver.  This meant they could spend time together holding hands and loving each other, rather than her needing to attend to his physical needs.  I am so glad we decided to afford them the sweet, precious moments to say goodbye.

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reflection

A few days before Daddy became unresponsive, he began having conversations with people we could not see.  He’d fidget with his clothing, or pull at his hospital gown.  He would even stare off into space as if he was looking at something.  He was at the point of sleeping most of the day with very little awake time and couldn’t respond with words. One night, I sent Mother home and stayed with Daddy.    As I sat by his bedside, I could see his lips moving very slowly, but with no sound or distress.  I leaned in and said, “I wish I could see what you see. Is there someone here with you.  Do you see Jesus?”  He didn’t reply, but I feel in my heart that his week had been full of visits with important people, perhaps those waiting for his earthly body to catch up with his heavenly one. We encouraged his conversations and the belief that he could see things we didn’t.

About a year ago, a dear friend from church, Dana, was experiencing the decline of her mother’s health, specifically to dementia.  While my dad didn’t have dementia, I felt like there had to be a similarity in the things our parents were seeing.  I shared with her my conversation I had with Daddy, and encouraged Dana to take the time to do the same with her mother.

16-1-1A beautiful thing happened.  Her mother responded with a clarity she hadn’t been able to show Dana in some time.  This past June, Dana’s mother passed away.  Dana emailed me the most beautiful poem she had written for her mother and with her permission I am sharing it with you. Thank you Dana for blessing us with your words.

Glimpses of Heaven

Dementia got its grip on Mother

Conversation exchanges were now rare.

Memories and thoughts seemed stolen from

the one I held so dear.

Ask your Mother what she sees when off into space she stares

A wise suggestion from a friend with experience

You might be surprised what you learn when

visiting with your mom again.

Praying to God for the opportunity to see the one who gave

birth to me just one more time

“Permission granted,” was His answer

“Go seek and see what you find.”

Once the noon meal was over I noticed her staring off at the wall.

The chance to ask the question arose.

So, even somewhat frightened I asked, “Mom, are you looking

at something?”

“Oh, I see a beautiful place” with a look of astonishment on her face.

“And there are lots of people there

and they ALL seem to be okay!”

Realizing that this illness had robbed her of nothing

But only given Jesus His space to show Mom glimpses of Heaven

Preparing her for His grace.

Dana Cook – 6/19/16

Dana is working on developing a webpage to publish this and many other poems she has been called by God to write.

Agape Meal: Faith, Hope and Community

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Mr. Bee and I are in a small group at our church.  We gather twice a month on Monday nights for fellowship and Bible study.  It’s been a great way to meet new people and make new friends outside of our regular Sunday school class.  We may have different beliefs, but our commonality is that we love God and want to seek ways we can be closer to Him.

Every Thursday Broadway Baptist Church hosts an Agape Meal for the homeless and people needing a hot meal and a place to be feel God’s love and a since of belonging.  Agape means love.  So, it’s a love banquet for God’s people.  The church has offered this ministry for over 20 years serving 175 guests, 51 weeks of the year only taking the day off on Thanksgiving when many churches and organizations offer a meal.

Tonight, our small group worked as volunteers to help serve as table hosts and servers. As we drove into the parking lot, there were already guests waiting in line to receive a ticket.  I suddenly felt overwhelmed thinking about our election and the very people that have been the topic of conversation — the poor and homeless — were right before me.  Many people were carrying duffel bags and suitcases with all of their belongings. The streets or a shelter were their next stop after dinner.

agape-meal

When we walked into the fellowship hall, each table was covered in cloth linens set with china, glass and silverware, a centerpiece of real flowers and bowls of home cooked, hot food.  Tonight’s menu was King Ranch casserole, corn, green beans, bread, salad and spice cake.  The mission each week is to treat each guest with dignity, kindness and respect.

Before the meal, the pastor gave a welcome and a prayer.  As we recited the Lord’s Prayer, everyone knew it!  The entire room, not just the volunteers and staff, recited the simplest of prayers we learned when we were children.  These guests may not have brought much with them of monetary value, but their worth was their faith.  They loved God enough to say His prayer out loud and with meaning.  It was beautiful.

Then, we got to work serving food, replenishing drinks, bringing out second helpings, and serving dessert and coffee.  As you can imagine, the guests were thirsty and wanted seconds of everything.  After the meal, worship was offered.  About half of the guests stayed for a few hymns, a scripture lesson and communion.  The pastor asked that the guests at each table share one thing that God provided for that week, and one thing we needed prayer for.  The couple at our table said they were thankful that God provided gas for their car all week.  But, they needed cell phone service in order for him to secure employment.  Suddenly, my Starbucks pumpkin spice latte didn’t seem that important.

We finished the night with prayer.  A simple prayer of asking God for us to be faithful and to have faith.  There are some days when faith is all you have to hold onto.  And then we sent the guests off into the night.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you,

ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  John 15:7