Yes, Daddy, there is coconut in heaven

Daddy and his birthday cake0001
“It’s never coconut…”

This is a fun post I wrote back in 2012 at Buzz in the Hive.  I thought since today is Father’s Day it would be a nice tribute to my daddy, James Raymond Reeves.  Enjoy!

Missing my Daddy so much today.  You see, today marks the first anniversary of his death.  He died at 3:23 a.m. on March 19.  I woke up this morning at 3:48 thinking of him.  He’s come and gone in my dreams many days this past year.  I am glad today has come, the “firsts” are all done this year in terms of birthdays and anniversaries.

I was looking back at my notes section of my iPhone and saw the entries I made on March 17, 2011.  I had titled it “Things I am Grateful For”:

“Buying daddy popcorn from the hospital volunteer after his appointment today.  Hearing the volunteer tell Daddy thank you for your service (Daddy has on his Army Air Corp ball cap).  Seeing how excited Daddy was to taste the salty, warm popcorn.

Watching our kitty Hobbes sit on Daddy’s stool in the bathroom waiting for his daily treat and fresh water from the faucet.

I looked into my daddy’s blue eyes the other day.  He didn’t know it because he is blind.  I never noticed how pale blue they are.

The time I had with Daddy earlier this week to tell him how much I love him, what a great father he has been and how lucky I have been to be his daughter.

To hear my daddy’s sense of humor even toward the end of his life.

To have those last conversations of ‘I love you’s and thanks you’s’.

Holding your hand tonight as you slip away.  What do you see?

At the same time I weep, I also laugh.  Daddy had the best sense of humor, something he passed along to his granddaughter.  Living with him the last 5 years I learned a lot about his likes and dislikes.  So I’ll end with a few of Daddy’s favorite things…

1)  Diet Dr. Pepper became his signature drink.  Long ago it was the real Dr. Pepper, but after being diagnosed with diabetes he switched to diet and liked it just as much.

2)  Coconut Cake — classic photo of Daddy blowing out someone’s candles, maybe his, and the look is priceless “yep, still not coconut.”

3)  Hand lotion.  Any kind.  He kept it right by his chair and slathered the stuff on every night.

4)  Candles and those little tin cans of cherry smelling stuff you’d put in cars.

5)  Baby Ruth candy bars.  We sent one with him to heaven in his casket.

6)  Yellow, legal note pads.  He got a set of these to take, too, with the Baby Ruth.

7)  Instant read thermometers. He had them everywhere, especially in the vents of the A/C in the cars.  He loved cold air. Growing up he always kept the thermostat on 68 degrees.  I loved it!

8)  The mountains.  He loved cool, mountain air.

9)  Clean, organized spaces.  He did not like clutter.  Mother and he were very different on this personality trait.  She loved “piles” of things, he threw everything away.

10)  His girls.I Love You Daddy.  Happy Father’s Day!

The Longest Commandment — Rest

life beautiful magazine 2

A few years ago my small group at church studied Max Lucado’s Traveling Light.  It breaks down the promise from the twenty-third Psalm, the popular scripture in the Bible mostly associated with funerals that starts with “The Lord is my shepherd.”  I am learning that this story God unfolds is not associated with sadness, but in the joy God promises and the burdens He wants to bear for us.

Here’s a little backstory…

When you think of a shepherd, you think of sheep, right?  Can’t sleep, count sheep.  Sheep shall safely graze. But, here’s something interesting Max discusses in the book, “for sheep to sleep, everything must be just right. No predators.  No tension in the flock. No bugs in the air.  No hunger in the belly.  Everything has to be just so.  Unfortunately, sheep cannot find safe pasture, nor can they spray insecticide, deal with the frictions, or find food. They need help.  They need a shepherd to lead them and help them ‘lie down in green pastures.’  Without a shepherd they can’t rest.  Without a shepherd, neither can we.

Max further points to the Ten Commandments.  First, did you know what commandment in which God tells us to rest?  It’s the fourth commandment. Did you also know it’s the longest commandment?  “God needed only five English words to condemn adultery and four to denounce thievery and murder.  But, when it comes to the topic of rest, one sentence would not suffice.” Six days you will labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord.  You shall do no work.  Rest comes on the seventh day.

Okay, so I bring all this to you because this is the time of year when we need to find it within ourselves for that last surge of energy to get through final exams, year-end teacher gifts, planning a graduation celebration, volunteering for field day or school parties, the solutions for what’s for dinner, I’m hungry, what can I have for a snack, I need a different color binder, you signed up to bring snacks for soccer tonight, the teacher needs you to call her, did you sign that form, have you mailed the invitations, did you pick out my photo proofs, did you pick up my dry cleaning, did you proof read my speech, and so on…

Take a moment.   Maybe it’s not actually on Sunday.  Times have changed and Sunday may have to be a day of work for some.  We go shopping on Sunday (remember Blue Laws where nothing was open on Sunday).  But, imagine the shepherd and how delighted he would be to see his flock resting in an open field without a care just one day, or a few half days, or maybe just an hour.

On Sunday, I was sitting on the patio enjoying this mild Texas breeze.  I am always moved to be thankful when I am outside.  I looked over at my latest issue of Life:Beautiful magazine and the front cover stared back at me:

life beautiful magazine

“In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.  God’s message is plain:  If creation didn’t crash when I rested, it won’t crash when you do.”

Rest doesn’t have to be in the literal sense — it could be taking the time to read, watch your favorite television program, play a round of golf, sipping coffee at Starbucks or maybe it is a literal two hour honest to goodness nap. But, during whatever time you can set aside for just you, God would delight in your acknowledgement that He moved you to just be.  “His pasture is His gift to us.”  How can you repay Him?

The Season of Lent — Free Downloadable Guide

March 6 is Ash Wednesday which begins the season of Lent, a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.  Ash Wednesday emphasizes two themes: Our sinfulness before God and our human mortality. The service focuses on both themes, helping us realize that both have been triumphed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In earlier centuries people were sprinkled with ashes as a sign of sorrow for their sins and their commitment to seek renewal in Christian life through this season.  You can read more about it here.

The season of Lent is 40-days (not counting Sundays) of prayer and preparation in which we, as followers of Jesus, are invited to consider anew the disciplines and practices that we employ in our daily lives to help us in becoming better disciples.  My church has put together a book with devotionals for each day of Lent, to help keep this season at the forefront of our minds.  Click here for the link to learn more or download a copy here.

To help us find ways to remember the holy in the midst of our routines—something we should strive for every day—here is a great link on the 10 Ideas for a More Meaningful Ash Wednesday… things like worship, serve, give, and pray and some other creative suggestions.

If you don’t have a church home I extend an open invitation from my family to yours to join us at Arborlawn United Methodist Church.  We offer three worship services with childcare and you can join me in Sunday School as well.

There’s always room for everyone at the table of Christ.  Peace be with you this season.

What are Your Spiritual Gifts?

Have you ever thought about how your passions can serve God?  Have you ever wondered what your gifts are?  We are so quick to recognize other’s strengths, but we stop short of taking a moment to identify and celebrate the gifts we can offer others.  It is not bragging to tell others what we are good at, in fact it brings great joy to God when you do, because ultimately He knew those talents before you did and has helped nurture them along the way.  Your gifts can make a difference!

Every child of God is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, specially gifted to play a unique and valued role in the body of Christ. No one is without gift or purpose.

Spiritual gifts are not our talents or skills. They are the grace of God at work within us, empowering us to match our deep passions with the world’s deep need. The gifts are given to individuals, but they are given to build and strengthen community and to meet the needs of those around us.

Begin the journey. Discover your gifts. Talk about your gifts with others. Strive together to understand your gifts and how you can use them to serve God, neighbor, and world. You have been gifted. You have been given a purpose. (umc.org)

The United Methodist Church has a great online resource to help you explore and identify your spiritual gifts.  Start here with this video, then take the spiritual gifts assessment here.

One of my gifts is Compassion.  People who possess this gift rarely ask “should I help,” but instead focus on “how to help.”  Compassion makes us fundamentally aware of the Christ in others and springs from our desire to care for all of God’s creatures and creation.  Another spiritual gift I possess is hospitality.  Although, it’s not specifically one of the twenty gifts identified in this assessment, it’s a gift I freely offer others by welcoming people into my home and church.  I have been spiritually renewed recently with the new Sunday school class I am helping to co-lead at church.  It’s designed specifically for new members to the church, people new in their relationship with Christ or visitors wanting to make a connection.  It has been so fun to make new friendships and help others.  If you are local to Fort Worth and looking for a new church home or know someone who is seeking a church family, please let me know.

Here are some Spiritual Gifts FAQs you might find helpful.  I’d love to hear what your gifts are and how you plan to use them.  Have a beautiful Monday!

 

Happy Thanksgiving – Quotes of Gratitude

Thank you for this past year of loving support for my blog and newly launched podcast.  I sincerely appreciate all the sweet comments you leave for me each day.  Here are some beautiful quotes of gratitude to reflect on the day.  Happy Thanksgiving. #seekjoyineveryday

Kahill Gibran, The Prophet, 1923
“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”

Oprah Winfrey, What I Know for Sure, 2014
Being grateful all the time isn’t easy. But it’s when you feel least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective. Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest, most powerful way to effect change in your life—this I know for sure.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything, 2006
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, 2012
“Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”

Stephen W. Hawking, New York Times Magazine Interview, 2004
“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, 1994
“My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.”

Stephen King, The Eyes of the Dragon, 1984
“I think that real friendship always makes us feel such sweet gratitude, because the world almost always seems like a very hard desert, and the flowers that grow there seem to grow against such high odds.”

Helen Keller, The Open Door, 1957
“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.”

William Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1623
“They do not love, that do not show their love.”

 

 

Source: Unto Us, So much is given:  9 Quotes about Gratitude by Tom Blunt. Signature Reads.

March Monthly Devotional and Tips for Starting a Bible Study

As an ambassador for LifeWay Women, I always enjoy sharing all the good stuff they offer on their website including this month’s devotional calendar.  You can access the free downloadable calendar here.

And another favorite publication is Life Beautiful magazine.  If you are feeling called to start a Bible study, this is a terrific article on everything you need to know to Build a Better Bible Study.

Have a lovely weekend!

 

 

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift for Your Love Language

Sometimes I find an article so good that there’s no way I could re-write it myself, so I might as well just share it.   It’s a post from DaySpring, a faith-based company that makes beautiful cards, devotionals and gift items.

Several years ago my friend Tricia led a study on the book by Dr. Gary Patterson titled “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.” In his book The 5 Love Languages, author Gary Chapman offers thoughtful guidance for our most special relationships. Between busy schedules and long days, expressing love can fall by the wayside.  Do you forget to compliment your spouse, to give gifts ‘just because,’ or to linger in your spouse’s embrace?  The things that say “I love you” seem to either not get said or not get through.  The 5 Love Languages is about saying it—and hearing it—clearly.  No gimmicks, no psychoanalyzing…just learning to express love in your spouse’s language, whether it’s with words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, or physical touch.  You can take the quiz included in the book to determine your own personal love language.  Here’s the description of each love language from the article:

Receiving Gifts:

The ‘receiving gifts’ love language doesn’t mean you can grab any stuffed bear off the shelf on your way home from work. It’s not just about the gifts. Your spouse wants to know what makes the gift special. Meaningful gifts say you’ve been thinking of them throughout the day. This Valentine’s Day, a bouquet of flowers and a picture frame with a photo of the two of you is a wonderful gift for this love language—but make sure you tell them why the photo is your favorite.   As you can imagine, this is my top love language.  It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gift, flowers from Costco are a wonderful reminder that Mr. Bee was thinking of me.

Quality Time:

Spending time together doesn’t have to mean going out. Dinner and a movie is a fun way to spend an evening, but it’s impossible to talk to each other at a movie theater. Instead, make some gourmet-flavored popcorn together and watch your favorite romantic movie at home. This will allow you to talk about how the main characters’ love story inspires your own.   An example of something recently that Mr. Bee and I did was we took a nap together while watching a rerun of NCIS.    At one point I had to move him a little because he was breathing on me and I thought it was going to burn a hole in my back.  But nonetheless, it was sweet.  We are so busy that we often don’t take time to just snuggle for 30 minutes.

Words of Affirmation:

Building up your spouse with heartfelt words of affirmation has even more impact when you tell them why you love them. Give her a handwritten card that expresses your favorite things about her and watch her light up as she discovers what you admire about her. She’s likely got every card you’ve given her tucked away in a memory box, so add to her collection at every occasion.   After gifts, this is my second love language.  Mr. Bee and I leave each other little notes around the house, stuck in a sock drawer or on a grocery list.  But, honestly, just being told thank you for doing the laundry or the house looks nice, is good enough for me.

Acts of Service:

Taking over a project for your spouse is a surefire way to their heart if they cherish acts of service—checking something off their to-do list will fill them with love. Making him his favorite meal for dinner—even if you’re not fond of it—can speak volumes to someone whose love language is ‘acts of service.’ This is one of Mr. Bee’s love languages so I try to do things for him that I know he would appreciate like doing his laundry or finishing up the yard work.  And seriously, there is nothing more sexy than a man washing dishes.

Physical Touch:

There are many activities you can try if physical touch fills your spouse’s love tank. Get your wife a necklace or bracelet—but place it around her neck for her so she can connect with you through physical touch.  For men, this is usually at the top of their list.  It’s just the way they are wired.  But, just a simple, unsolicited hug or taking their hand while you are coming out of the movie, means alot to them.

Read the entire post here as it also suggests gift ideas that match each love language.  Dr. Chapman also wrote a book to help determine the love language of our children “The Secret to Loving Children Effectively” you can find here.

I think it would be a fun Valentine’s Day to purchase the book, each take the quiz, then plan your evening based on the results!

Home Life Family January 2018 Printable

Happy New Year!  As much as I enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, January is exciting to usher in because it offers a chance to start something new.  I’ll be sharing a twist on the typical new year resolutions, but until then if 2018 means you want to resolve in getting to know God, through prayer or scripture, I am sharing this month’s Lifeway Women calendar of scriptures.  Download and print a copy, post on the fridge or next to your bedside table.  You’d be surprised how your life can blossom into the spectacular if you invite God into your heart.

And finally, thank you so much for bringing me into your homes each day.  I delight in sharing my life with you through my blog.  I always welcome new ideas and enjoy reading each of your comments.  Please know how much it means to me to spend a little time with you everyday and to hear you say, “I just love reading your blog!”  Here’s to great things ahead.

The Season of Advent

The season of Advent, which comes comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit,” begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians.

During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.

Growing up in the Methodist church it was always a treat to see the lighting of the Advent candles at church each Sunday.  Something about jewel toned candles and the smell of the wax candles still brings back fond memories.  This is the traditional representation of the Advent wreath:

Here are some other ideas for a twist on the Advent candle…

And, there’s always the Advent calendar which teaches people of all ages to join with the church in anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ–the true meaning of the Advent season. They come in all shapes, sizes and varieties from traditional to modern.  Miss Bee enjoys getting one each year that she can lift the numbers and a piece of candy is inside. Some calendars focus on doing a new activity each day with the family or acts of service for someone else.

There are all sorts of fun twists I found to create your own. I’ve pinned them to my “Feeding my Soul” Pinterest board.

Ann Voskamp has a “Night before Advent” activity on her blog full of fun games and activities to do with children including a printable Advent calendar.

And here are some more examples of clever ways to put together an Advent calendar.

Adorable Woodland Inspired Advent Calendar using an over-the-door organizer. livelaughrowe.com
Don’t you just love brown paper bags!

And, then this adorable “Christmas Countdown” I purchased from Chip and Joanna Gaines at Target.  You can slip these downloadable activity cards and candy inside each pocket.

How do you like to celebrate Advent?  Do you have family traditions passed down through the generations that are special to you?  I’d love to hear them so be sure to leave a comment!

A Message of Grief, Hope, Gratitude and Thanksgiving

This time last year in 2016, I had the opportunity to share my story of grief, hope and gratitude 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. To all the people struggling with loss and emptiness during this week of Thanksgiving, we hear your prayers and lift you up toward the Lord.

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 be 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.

 

Since the death of my son John, I was faithful in my promise to God to help others heal, find a sense of hope to move forward in their grief journey and to develop skills to help others in the future.   For 17 years, I have served as a lay facilitator for our Grief Support Ministry Team at Arborlawn United Methodist Church, in Fort Worth, Texas, where we have worked with hundreds of people by offering year around grief support groups along with the Hope for the Holidays services the week prior to Thanksgiving.  For more information, please visit www.arborlawnumc.org or email [email protected]