I came across this article by Daughter by Design…had to pass it on…Blessings, April…Thoughts From The Porch.
It seemed as though our family had just gotten to the funeral home. We were seeing my husband, Jim’s dad for the first time since we stood and watched him leave his earthly shell only to enter into his eternal home. As we stood there hand in hand, the room began to fill up with people. People who knew Jim Hawkins, Sr.
The gentleman who drove us to the burial site asked us if Jim’s dad had been a politician or public figure. It is usually public figures that command such an audience at such a life event during the week. Our response was that Jim, Sr. was just an ordinary man who loved life, people and was a faithful servant.
Sunday, as Jim and I returned home, I reflected not only the past week’s events but I reflected on the past three years. Three years ago my precious father-n-law got the news he had mesothelioma and was given six months to live. Despite the diagnosis and prognosis, Dad H. kept on living and had hope. He knew that it would be the power and support of friends that would hold him, my mother-n-law, Louise as well as the rest of the family up. In other words, he taught us how to live through a storm.
In this reflection, I thought back on this last Christmas. We gathered together at my husband, Jim’s home to celebrate one more Christmas together. Jim and I went early to decorate the tables and to help get the Christmas meal together. As we were preparing for our family’s Christmas gathering, the doorbell rang constantly with visitors wanting to come see Jim’s dad. The phone rang constantly with people checking in to see how Jim’s dad was doing. Needless to say, it was a non stop procession of shepherds taking care of one their flock. Later on, I said something to Dad H. about the amount of people who had called or came to visit. I said to him; “you’ve hardly had a minute’s rest this weekend with the visitors/family coming in and for the phone calls.” He turned and smiled at me and said; “I would never have it any other way. I can’t imagine going through what Louise and I have been through alone.” In his short and few words, he was saying that there is no excuse for anyone to walk alone in a storm.
Jim Hawkins, Sr. was a shepherd. He grew a garden every year where he shared the fruits of his labor with family and friends. If someone needed something fixed or just an extra helping hand, he was right there helping. In other words, when he saw or heard of a need he was right there for his family, friends, community and church. A shepherd.
At the end as hard as it was for him to allow others to do for him, he knew he needed to allow others to shepherd him and his family. He had said several times to me over the last several months that it was the love of people and their prayers is why he was still with us. These shepherds praying to the Good Shepherd is why we had more than just the six months given three years ago.
In many of my writings I have shared the importance of encouraging others, loving others and being a Shepherd to someone in a storm. Yet, in these past days, weeks, months, and years, I have been reminded that sometimes we have to allow others to shepherd us. God didn’t promise us that we would have nothing but easy days but there would be storms to come in life.
It is when we are faced with a raging storm, we MUST share with others what is going on. It is sharing your storm with others that gives not only you the strength you need but it gives your family the strength they need as they walk through the storm with you. After all God created us to walk together with not only him but also with the earthly shepherds he places in our lives.
My bible sits opened to the 23rd Psalm. As I read it this morning, it takes on new meaning for me.
‘The Lord is my shepherd’…..he will give you everything you need and will send his earthly shepherds to walk with you…
‘He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside peaceful waters, He renews my soul”….he sends his shepherds to pray for you , it is the sweet smiles and hugs of his earthly shepherds that bring you peace…it is through these earthly shepherds we are reminded of his presence and love for us…
‘He guides me along the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm. Your rod and your staff give me courage’…..allow the people God places in our lives to be God’s ambassadors and rod and staff to us in our time of need…
In your times of difficulty, know that there is no reason you have to weather the storm alone. God sends his shepherds in the storm. All you have to do is let them know your storm.
Blessings and Peace
When I was growing up I could not wait to get to my grandmother’s house after church not just because I knew she would have the table set with a delicious Sunday meal but there would be the Sunday paper laying beside my Papa’s chair. I would pick up that paper and go straight to the comic section. On the front page would be Peanuts. It never failed that as football season was beginning the familiar cartoon of Lucy and Charlie Brown and the football would be in print. Of course, we knew what would happen in the story. Lucy would have the football in her hand and would summon Charlie Brown over and would convince him to get a running start and kick the ball. Yet, we knew the end result would be Lucy pulling the ball out from under Charlie Brown and Charlie would land flat on his back.
In recent weeks, I can relate to Charlie Brown’s yell at God. My yells have been; “how long, Lord?” ” what else God?” and “why?” There have been moments of recent when I have thrown my hands in the air and said; “Good grief!”. I am reminded of what God tells us in regards that he will not give us more than we can handle. I have continually repeated the quote; ” I just wish God wouldn’t trust me so much!” as I try to work through all that life is dishing out at me at the moment.
There are moments in life where we have our plan all set up. We are ready to get that running start to tackle all those things we want to do. Yet, the realities of life take place. The ball is pulled out from under us. We land flat on our backs. We get up and start again and just like season after season with Lucy and Charlie Brown the football, we go for that running start then “wump!” it seems we are right back laying on the ground wondering how much longer and/or how much more.
I mentioned earlier that I have had experienced this scenario in recent weeks. Yes, I have thrown my hands up in the air. I have cried and yelled at God. After the yelling, crying and throwing the hands up in the air, I am reminded of who I am. I am a Daughter of the King. He is right there with me. I am reminded that this is a part of his refining me into becoming more like him and his image.
Not only am I reminded that I am a Daughter of the king, I know that I am blessed with another family outside of my immediate family. This family includes two small groups, a loving church family along with loving friends from my childhood I have re-connected with on Facebook. It is their messages, phone calls, cards and the knowing that they are praying for me, my family and the situation that helps me stand back up on my feet again. They are there to stand by not only me but they are standing by my family as we walk through a valley along with the Prince of Peace. It is in knowing that I have this loving extended family that I experience a peace that surpasses all understanding.
At this moment you may have just had the football pulled out from under you and you are asking God how much longer or you are throwing your arms in the air saying; ‘Good grief!”. If you are in this situation, I pray that you are a part of a loving extended family that can walk with you through the valley. I do know God’s Son is on the journey beside you. All you have to do is acknowledge His presence and allow Him to walk with you and stand by you.
You may know someone who is walking through a valley right now. It may be you are wondering what you can do for them. The first thing to do is PRAY. Pray for this dear person, their situation and all those who are involved in the situation. Let them know that you are there along with Christ standing by them and walking with them through this valley. It is one thing to say you are praying for them and thinking of them but put action behind those words. You can do this by sending a card, calling and seeing if there is anything you can do to lighten their load. It may mean going to the hospital to relieve a family member so that they can get some needed rest.Let them know it is okay to cry, it is okay to be angry and it’s okay for them to be feeling what they are feeling at that moment. It may mean that you just simply need to wrap your arms around them and allow them to weep. In other words, it is important to stand by them.
One of the greatest love letters in the bible is the book of John. In John 15:12-13 we are reminded the importance of friendship and helping one another out when one is walking in a valley:
Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I am commanding you to do.
The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.
Yes, Lucy could be pretty mean to Charlie Brown. Yet, when it came down to the surface of it all, Lucy was there to listen to “Chuck”. In the end, she reminds him not to give up and she stands by him as a friend. It is important to remind those who are having the ball pulled out from under them to never give up and that they have a loving God who has blessings in store even in the valleys of life.
To my friends and family, know that when the ball gets pulled out from under you, I am there for you. I’ll Stand By You and the Prince of Peace is standing by you, too.
Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:
In the Fall of 2012, I attended a thirty year class reunion. While visiting and becoming re-acquainted with friends, one of my friends reminded me of my “love” for math and doing math homework in study hall. I honestly do not remember study hall but I do remember my “passion” for math.
In our conversation, this friend told Jim how I would sit in study hall and work through an algebra problem then turn to the back of the book where the answers were and then in frustration I would shake my head, erase my answer and start again. Yes, I remember the frustration of looking at a math problem and not understanding what was before me or how to solve it.
It is hard to believe that we are already on the thresh hold of a soon to be new year. As Christmas decorations come down, thoughts of the year gone by go through our minds. Within those thoughts are precious memories that have been made over the soon to be previous year. Then there are those thoughts of regrets, the could have’s, the should have’s, and opportunities that we know we can never go back and get. In a moment we see a glimpse of what was important to us and what should have been more important to us and sometimes followed by an ache in our hearts and maybe a tear down our cheek.
People are talking about the new year on the horizon. They are sharing their expectations, hopes, dreams and of course the list of resolutions. It seems the two top things of resolutions are usually people wanting to be disciplined on a better diet and exercise to obtain that perfect figure before summer vacation.
Although my husband is already in his 50′s and I will soon start that decade myself this year, life has taught us many lessons. Yes, there have been some missed opportunities that we will never get back but there are moments where we stopped and took that extra five minutes to help someone with a small task that would make their day, week or life a little better. Stopping to help may have made us a little late for something we had planned or completely miss a social gathering of sorts but in our hearts we knew what we did matter more than being on time to the next engagement or attending the next engagement.
Years ago it was said that technology would become so advanced that it would make our lives easier. In a lot of ways that prediction has held true. However, in some ways I feel as though technology has been a thorn among the roses. Technology has caused people to work even longer hours and even work when they are away from the office. For a lot of people they can’t even take time to be with family, friends, or enjoy vacations without having to check in with the office. Back in the day, when you were out of the office, you were out of the office! Technology has even taken away the old-fashioned sitting in the living room and visiting with one another. It has become a vacuum and a device that has in some ways changed our priorities, the way we look at life and how we look and treat each other.
The other day I heard the song, My List by Toby Keith. It is one of my husband’s favorite songs and has become one of my favorite’s as well. We like the song because Toby points out what is really important in life. He shares how easy it is to miss the opportunities that mean the most. The opportunities that we don’t take time to enjoy and then stand one day with a tear of regret rolling down our cheek.
This song also got me to thinking about my resolutions for the new year. Typically, I don’t make resolutions because I know within a few weeks the very things I said I was going to do or not do are soon not to be in action. However, this year I have made my list.
- Each day I wake up I will say thank you God for giving me another day.
- Hug my family a little tighter.
- Seek joy in all things.
- Laugh a little more. Seek the humor in life.
- Capture ALL the moments I can with family and friends.
- Be forgiving and ask for forgiveness when I mess up.
- Let go of the past mistakes but learn from them and move on to new beginnings.
- Respect other’s thoughts and ways of doing things. Just because they don’t think like me or do things how I do them mean that they are wrong.
- Take time to take that loop by the park and river and absorb its beauty, the laughter and smiles of the people who are also enjoying the view.
- Watch a few more sunsets and say thank you to God for walking with me one more day.
- Go for more walks.
- Say more thank-you’s.
- Send more personal hand written letters to friends and family to let them know they are in my heart, thoughts and prayers.
- Take that extra five minutes to stop and help that one person who may be struggling with something whether it be holding a door for someone, letting someone into traffic or simply listening to a story that want to share.
- When God places someone or a situation on my heart stop and say a prayer for them. If it is a person, try to give them a call or send a note that God placed them on my heart that day.
- Seek God’s blessings in all situations especially in the storms.
- Ask God to shine his light through me so others will see and experience his grace through my words and actions.
- As I take down Christmas next year, to be able to look back with very few if any regrets. To be placing the ornaments in the box with a smile, a heart of gratitude and a heart full of memories that no one can take away nor money can buy.
- Enjoy life!
- Start living!
Praise the Lord, my soul!
I want to praise the LORD throughout my life.
I want to make music to praise my God as long as I live.
As we enter into a new year, it my prayer that each day that our actions will be that of praise, thanksgiving and worship to our Creator!
Listen and watch the video below. As you watch, I encourage you to make your list for the New Year. After you make your list, ask God to guide you through the New Year and through your list. Put the list in a safe place and then this time next year pull it out and seek where God has led you. My prayer is that your thanksgivings and precious memories will out weigh the could have’s and should have’s. May this be the year that you start living!
Have a Blessed New Year!
Thank you for visiting my porch this past year.
I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you in 2014.
- Capture ‘The Good Stuff’ (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
As Christmas Day gets closer, families and friends are making plans to gather together to celebrate the Season. For a lot of families it will be the only time that they gather all year. In other words, the Christmas Season is a time for coming together with people near and far.
Over the years, I have over heard conversations, heard comic routines and seen movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation that show and/or express the downside of these family gatherings. Family members off to a corner to talk about another person and it is usually not anything of building that person up. There is always a family member that has to one up what anyone else has to share or is doing in their life. Scenes such as these can set the stage for not very fond memories and a very stressful Christmas. It is scenes and situations such as these that make me sad to observe and hear about. After all, the reason for the Season is celebrating a person who came to this world to demonstrate what grace is all about and how we are to accept each other flaws and all. He came to this world so that we can experience the good stuff.
In the song, The Good Stuff it is an older man telling a young man how important it is to capture all the good moments as you are starting out in a marriage and in life. We can carry the theme of this song into the Christmas Season. Instead of looking for ways of criticizing a family member or friend because they don’t do things the way do, I encourage us to seek the good qualities in each person. Let’s take the time to laugh not at each other but with each other. We need to embrace the hugs the conversations and laughter as much as we can because we never know who may not be with us the next time we are together.
For most families, there is going to be a grandparent, aunt or uncle that is going to tell a story of Christmas past that we have heard a hundred times before. Instead of rolling our eyes back and saying; “here we go again” take heed the words found in Proverbs 2:11 about being quick to listen. It might be this one Christmas that we may catch a part and/or meaning of the story that has an impact on our life. Also, it is important to remember that these stories are a part of who we are and they are a special heritage that needs to be handed on down to the next generation.
Then there comes to the moment when we exchange and open gifts. I am sure there will be a gift where we will think; “oh, you shouldn’t have”, “you really shouldn’t have” with a fake smile on our face as we give the giver a fake thank-you hug. Instead, we need to be that extravagant receiver that I talk about in my blog, The Extravagant Receiver. We have to realize that the giver took the time out to think of us and the joy they have felt as they prepared the gift. Let’s not steal their joy but embrace the joy. In other words, capture the good stuff.
Last but certainly not least, we need to capture the good stuff of what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about a baby being born that would grow up to a man who would die for us so that we can experience the good stuff in life.
My Christmas wish for you is that you capture all the good stuff you can not only during this Christmas Season but in the year ahead.
- Ten Ways To Stuff Your Stocking (pennythots.com)
- First Things First (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Time In Africa (profarms.wordpress.com)
- Extravagant Receiving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Extravagant Giving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- 1915 Letter To Santa May Make Today’s Kids Feel Pretty Greedy In Comparison (PHOTO) (mukeshbalani.wordpress.com)
There is a picture of a tear that has been going around on Facebook that says; “ever have a memory to roll down your cheek?” I recently had one of those moments. For me, it was hearing the song, Don’t Blink and not some Christmas song that caused this gal’s dam to break.
As I listened to Kenny sing about how life goes by so fast, I reminisced on Christmases past. As I reminisced, I looked about the family room and other rooms of little reminders of not only Christmases past but of those who have had a special influence and place in my life and heart.
In the picture there are four items that represent Christmases past and the meaning for Christmas for me. The first item is the train under the Christmas tree. Growing up it was a tradition for Dad to set up the train under the Christmas tree. My brother and I would sit there for hours making up destinations of where the train would be going and we would also add a little cargo to the cargo cars as we played. Though the train only went around in one continuous circle my brother and I reached many destinations in our imaginations.
The other item in the picture is an elf. I remember the year Mom and Dad went to Sears and Roebuck to buy new Christmas ornaments. I was probably about six or seven at the time. Mom picked out candy canes, gingerbread houses, gingerbread men and these elves that would decorate our tree. Over the years these ornaments became damaged because of the wear of time and due to the moves they had to make as we moved from one place to another. However, out of those ornaments were two elves. One elf for me and one for my brother. This elf sitting on the ladder is the elf that has now gone with me from place to place. Each year I place it on the ladder going up the tree and each year I remember the Christmases from childhood. Oh, I could go on about the different Christmases and what made them so special but that will have to wait for another day and time.
Beside the train lays a sweatshirt with a reindeer painted on it. This sweatshirt was a craft that my son, Drew made when he was in pre-school. On it is an old pizza stain that won’t come out but it does not stop me from getting it out year after year and having it on display somewhere in the house. When I reached into the closet to get this special shirt out the words; the secret to life is don’t blink came to my mind. It seems like it was just yesterday where Jim and I were out shopping for Drew’s first Christmas. And, this year we are Christmas shopping for him and his wife, Megan’s first home. It made me think of all the Christmases we have spent with Drew and I saw how time has really flown by. It is so true of what Kenny says in the song; “it’s important to put first things first” and “you can’t flip over the hour glass.” A tear rolled down my cheek as I longed to have that little boy back but also another tear rolled down my cheek with pride knowing what kind of man he has grown up to be.
Earlier, I mentioned the ladder. Jim’s parents gave us that one year in our early years of marriage. Jim’s mom has had a ladder by her tree through the years and she thought we needed one, too. Needless to say, I was excited to get it knowing that is was a part of bringing some of Jim’s Christmas past into our home. I don’t have them in the picture but there are snow flakes made by his sweet grandmother that go on our tree as well.
The train not only reminds me of Christmases growing up but it is a reminder that God sent his Son, Jesus and through Him there is a destination. The destination is heaven. By accepting Christ into my life, I have my ticket to heaven.
The elf on the ladder is a reminder that no matter where I go Jesus is there. Just like this elf being with me all these years and going through all the moves I’ve made, Jesus has always been there and will always be there with me. It is up to me to acknowledge His presence and make sure I include him in all that I do and invite him to go with me in all the places I go.
The sweatshirt reminds me of how time really does fly and the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL situations everyday. There are opportunities put before us each day of being a witness for Christ. We are given opened door opportunities to invite people to join us on the journey and yet so many times we don’t embark on them.
The snowflakes are a reminder of family. Though we are related by blood or by marriage,just like each snowflake we are each different and unique in our own way. Each one has something that they can and have contributed to the family and to the world in order to make things a little bit better for someone else.
The ladder reminds me of the story of Jacob. A ladder aids us in being able to reach something. Therefore, the ladder represents our connection to God. The ladder being Jesus whom is the very reason for the Christmas Season.
As I listen to the song, Don’t Blink again, I think of the song written by Mark Lowry and composed by Buddy Greene, Mary Did You Know?. Can you imagine what was going through Mary’s mind and what her heart was feeling as she watched her son carry a cross that he would soon die on? You know she thought about the moments of his coming into the world and the hours she must have watched him at play. Just like any mother she probably reminisced about his favorite foods and stories they had shared around the table. As a mom myself, I know it had to be a moment in time where she wished she could go back in time but couldn’t. Mary knew first things were first. She knew that though she carried and gave birth to this child of hers that He was God’s Son He was sent so that we may obtain the ultimate ticket to the most wonderful destination.
“The secret to life is don’t blink.” This lyric holds true not only for those moments we have with our family and friends. It also holds true for us in our Christian walk. There are opportunities out there for us every day to be the hands and feet of Christ. Yet, there are moments we sit and look back and realized we blinked. It is when we blinked we missed the opportunity of being a true ambassador for Christ.
This Christmas as I look at photos from Christmas past, hear the same old stories told like they have never been told before sing the old carols from years past, I will not only be reflecting on my life of memories with family and friends but I will reflect on my Christian walk. It is in the reflection where I will see where I blinked and will be made more aware of the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL that I do.
This Christmas may you put first things first and that is keeping Christ first in your life. May you capture all the opportunities put before you to be his witness. May you also capture all those special little moments that soon become memories with your family and friends this season.
Sharing from my archives
Originally posted on Thoughts From The Porch:
For us Southern Belles, not only is getting the tree and fireplace mantle in perfect shape but getting the dinning room table is at the top of list in what absolutely has to be done at Christmas. For me, candles are essential when setting the table not only at Christmas but year round. Having candles on the table holds meaning for me.
My grandfather on my dad’s side was a retired Army Colonel. When we visited my grandparents’ home, Mom would always make sure we were brushed up on our manners especially before going to the dinner table. Dinner at Papa Hill’s house was an event every night. The good china and silver were used. And, there were always candles on the table that were lit before we came to the table. No one sat down until Papa Hill took his seat at the head of the dinner table As a teen I would roll my eyes and think; “why can’t we just use the everyday dishes?” I would think this because I knew I would be the one helping after dinner hand washing all the china and silver and putting it all away.
Over the years in my adulthood, I have reminisced on those dinner affairs and their true meaning. For Papa, dinner with his family was special to him. He cherished having his family around the table for not only a meal but for a visit. Many a story and tale were shared around the table as we savored the pot roast, mashed potatoes green beans and apple pie. Grandmother had so lovingly prepared. Along with no one sitting until Papa sat, no one got up until they were properly excused by an adult at the table.
As I reminisce about dinner with Papa and once I had been properly excused from the table, I also remember being in the kitchen with Grandmother up to my elbows in suds helping her wash the china and silver. It was those moments in the kitchen where Grandmother would not say a lot but here and there she would gently and lovingly smile and give you a little wink. She was a quiet lady with little to say but her smiles and winks said it all. You knew all was right in the world.
One evening in May, 2002 I stood by my Grandfather’s bedside just a little before mid night. Jim and I had volunteered to take the night shift of staying up with him at the hospital. From the looks of things, we had a pretty good idea that Jim and I would not be there all night. Late in the night, Jim sat by Papa’s side checking vitals until Jim noticed Papa’s breaths were getting further apart. As these breaths were getting shallow, I came over and took Papa by the hand. While holding tight to his hand, I looked at him and thanked him for all the cherished memories he had given us around the table that was always beautifully set with linens and candles. Then, I said “Papa, the table is now set for you. God has the candles lit and He has your place ready for you to take your seat at His banquet table. ” A few seconds later, Papa joined Jesus at the great banquet table.
The table is set. It is Christmas. The candles, fine linens and china are on the table. A meal will be prepared and the candles will be lit where new memories will be made and old stories shared. As I light the candles, I will not only remember my loving grandparents who showed by example that we are all special but I will also be reminded that Christ is and has always been the center of our family.
How about you? Is your table set? If you haven’t already, add some candles to your table. Let your family know how special they are and remind them that Christ is the center of your home by lighting the candles. Sit around the table and make memories and share old stories. The teenagers may roll their eyes a little but let them roll. One day, they will be thankful that they have such warm memories.
This post is dedicated in loving memory of Col. Carl R. Hill, Sr and Virginia Louise Hill