Wednesday, August 26, 2009


My father leans back in the wooden dining room chair. His hands wrapped around a John Deere coffee mug. The coffee is more to warm his hands than his stomach. I see the look in his eyes and the crooked grin ... I know there's a story about to unfold. Mom says I have that same smile. I hope so and I hope that my children will mark a story on its way with that same expression.

After a supper of homemade pizza and a dessert of vanilla ice cream and fresh blueberries ... my husband and I join Mom and Dad for conversation. My house is always a "family circus", as my parents call it. The four of us crowd around the dining room table and visit in between the craziness of my three boys. These are times that I know I will keep close for many years.

I'm listening close, trying to memorize the details. I guess one might say I'm a bit sentimental. I'll admit it, I am. I love stories. I love to hear them and tell them. I want to pass these tales down to my children and someday my grandchildren.

Tonight, the tale was of two young boys baptized in a small creek. I hadn't heard this one before. My father was recounting the day of his baptism. I guess in all the stories my father has told, I've never wondered about his salvation. I just knew he was saved and baptized. This evening, I learned he was washed clean in a muddy creek. Right along with him ... a long time family friend, Bob. At my father's telling, I could just picture him at near nine years old wadding into the water with his friend, Bob.

I found myself wondering what sins were drowned on that day? Maybe, spitting chew on the rump of a white mule (one of my favorite stories from Dad)? Did either of those boys know the difference their choice would make for their children, grandchildren? I'm sure they didn't at that time.

I've known Bob for years. He and his wife have been a part of my life for ... well forever. I remember dancing to Donny and Marie albums with their daughters. My sister and I spent lots of time in their basement and garage ... playing ping-pong, listening to scriptures during youth group meetings and just enjoying their entire family. Bob's wife played piano at my wedding. She helped prepare the meal we shared on the day I was married. Have I ever told them how special those times were to me? I hope so.

One Sunday, after a church service, my sister and I joined their family for lunch at Clark's cafeteria. I recall Bob's oldest daughter dabbed perfume behind our ears. She said her grandpa liked the smell and it made her feel special. I know it made my sister and me feel special. Did I ever tell her how that made me feel? I hope so.

I wonder if either boy knew or even thought that someday their children would make memories together. Did they know we would need them and their stories? I see my father's friend nearly every Sunday. He and his family are a part of my past, present and future.

Tonight I'm thinking about my Dad and his friend. I'm remembering good times, special times. I'm praying my boys have special people and memories. I want my boys to know their roots and to love those roots.

Are there people in your life that have made impressions, ones that will stick with you forever? And, are you leaving impressions that will last long after you are gone from this earth?

There's a song that I love ... Randy Travis' "Three Wooden Crosses" ... It isn't what you take with you when you leave this earth, it's what you leave behind you when you go.

Joel 1:3 "Tell your children about it, Let your children tell their children, And their children another generation."

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Life Touched by Treacher Collins

"Mama, when will I be like Alex?" My niece lets her little feet dangle into the cool lake and she looks out across the choppy water at her big sister splashing into the deeper waves.

"Hope, you know God makes us all different. You won't ever be like Alex." My sister wraps Hope in a warm embrace, holding her carefully by the water's edge. They sit together dangling their feet from the dock's edge.
"You know what I mean, Mama." Hope's voice takes on urgency, frustration.
"Yes, you want to know when you can swim like Alex." Here, my sister sighs and places a gentle kiss against Hope's red curls.
A quick nod is the only response from the little person held by the embrace.
"I don't know if you'll ever swim like Alex. Right now, let's just do what we know you can do. Let's put our feet in the water and watch Alex and Daddy play."
Again, just as so many times before, my sister does what I could never do ... she explains to her youngest daughter that life may never be what we call fair. For the time being, this explanation is satisfactory. Hope turns her attention to the water tickling her toes. And, she smiles. That smile that lights up her world and ours. It's the smile of a child touched by Treacher Collins.
Hope has never jumped carefree into a pool of water. She has never fallen playfully into a drift of snow and she has never danced in the rain. And ... she never complains or feels sorry for herself.
In order for you to understand this moment in Hope's life, I should take you back to the day of her birth ....
On a beautiful, crisp winter morning, we welcomed the second of my sister's girls into this world. Anyone who knows me would tell you I was gushing with excitement. I have loved each of my nieces from the very moment I set eyes upon them. They are each beautiful in their very own special way. I will change their names in this blog to protect their innocence. However, anyone familiar with me will know the identity of these children. Anyone who does not know me ... I pray you will be touched and perhaps somehow changed by this story regardless of their names.
Alex is the eldest of my sister's girls. She is a tall slender girl. She loves dance, the Jonas Brothers and everything bright and cheerful. Alex has her father's bright blue eyes and her mother's grin. She was born with a quiet spirit and a love that would someday later prove to be a safe place for her baby sister to run when the world was cruel.
Hope is the younger of the girls. She too is a redhead but this is where the similarities end and Hope becomes her very own little person. On the day of Hope's birth, I drove my sister to the hospital and dialed my brother-in-law's work number countless times to let him know that the moment he left home, his wife had gone into labor. Hours later, we would learn Hope was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome. TCS is a craniofacial syndrome that affects the ears, nose and throat. Hope was born with lobes and no ear canals. Her lower jaw was too small and the doctors were forced to put in a trach. Because of this, she has a feeding tube. Hope hears with the help of a bone conducting hearing aid. These limitations are the reason she has never and for the time being can't enjoy some of the things we take for granted ... swimmining, playing in the snow ... dancing in the rain...
Alex and Hope are sisters. They love each other fiercely. I know this love because it's exactly how I feel about my sister, Mary. Everyone needs a safe place to run when the world gets crazy. Hope and I have something in common. We have a big sister that we admire, adore and look up to ... our safe place to run.
I have so much more I want to say about my sister, my nieces ... I'll save those things for another day. Today, I want this blog to be an encouragement to those touched by special needs ... an encouragement to those parents of children with special needs. There will be tough days, painful days ... days filled with blessings.
This I say to my sister, my nieces and my brother-in-law ... you are loved. You will always have a safe place to run when the world is unfair, scary ....
Psalms 139:15-16 "My frame was not hidden from You. When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. and in Your book they all were written. The days fashioned for me. When as yet there were none of them."

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Mighty Warrior

The mighty warrior prince raises his sword for battle. A fierce enemy awaits just beyond the forest edge. Its eyes glow red. Scales layer the beasts exterior. Shards of moonlight slice through the darkness and reflect off the black scales. The prince listens quietly in the night. No sound escapes his hearing. The crunch of dried leaves beneath clawed feet and the heaving breath of a giant enemy meet his waiting ears. The prince wets his drying lips and begins to whisper low and firm. A quiet prayer whispered in nearly quiet night. The words of this warrior take flight in the gentle breeze and ascend heavenward. He does not fear the darkness for he serves the master of light and the conqueror of all darkness. A beast far worse than any this prince has fought before emerges from the tree line. It breathes deep and exhales a fiery blow. Flames close in on the prince and he raises his shield. Fire bounces back toward the enemy and the warrior prince runs quickly to thrust his sword beneath the shimmering scales. A painful roar breaks the night air as a giant falls in defeat.

This morning I sat in dim light at my kitchen table. That is the only time I am able to find for quiet devotions. I generally pour my first cup of coffee and begin reading before six every morning. This morning was no exception. I opened my bible to Proverbs and started to read. Halfway through the second verse, my middle boy crept out of the hallway. He was up long before his usual time. He slid onto my lap and leaned back against my chest. I was frustrated that I wouldn't get my "quiet time" and then realized this could be a quiet together time. I changed course and opened my bible to Jeremiah 29:11 and let him read to me. He's still young, so the words were slow and broken. In that moment, I was struck by a vivid picture in my mind. When I see a little boy awake before dawn, God sees a warrior preparing for battle.

Have you ever thought about how often God used youth to accomplish much? Throughout the bible we are told of children that were given courage to do mighty works. One example would be David when fighting the mighty Philistine, Goliath. Even though the King was worried David would be too small and was only a child, David feared nothing because of his faith. I love this story and, even more, I love David's response to Goliath's taunting ... "you come at me with a sword, with a spear and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." I get chills reading that scripture.

In Ephesians, we are given a clear message that spiritual warfare is very real and also very defeatable. We must put on the full armor of God. Now more than ever, our children need this armor to achieve great things and to hear the call of our heavenly Father.

So, I ask myself and other parents ... are we giving our young the encouragement to do great things? Are we laying a foundation of faith in their lives ... a foundation that will provide the full armor of God? I'm afraid I have fallen short in this area. In my attempt to keep them little as long as possible, I sometimes hold them back from achieving great things.

My quiet time with God is important and I will strive to find that time. But, from now on, I will enjoy every moment with my mighty warrior.

Ephesians 6:10-17 "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Heard the News Today

I heard the news today. I turned the television on and heard ... there are innocent children dying in the streets of a foreign land. Our soldiers are sacrificing their lives and innocence for our freedoms. Politicians are arguing over the present state of our country. Town Halls are filled with angry citizens screaming for their voices to be heard. The unemployment rate moves up and down like a yo-yo. The local factories are famous on the evening news when they lock out their employees. Party lines are drawn between the liberals and conservatives, each one blaming the other for America's downfall.

I heard the news today and, just as many times before, I became angry, scared and depressed. Why even watch when there is nothing that has a "feel good" moment in it? But, I watch regardless. I want to know if the unemployment rate is changing. Why? Because, if it changes for our nation than perhaps it will change enough to bring work to the factory where my husband used to spend his days. He hasn't worked in five months. I watch to see if the war is nearing an end, it never seems to end. I listen, I want to know what will happen with health care. Will my parents get the care they need according to the present plan. I don't know because I don't understand the foreign language our politicians seem to speak. I'm a common person, I would prefer that someone simply lay it out in clear explanations. But, I continue to watch becoming more confused and angrier with each word.

I found myself wishing for a place where party lines could be crossed. A place where no one cares if you're a republican, democrat, conservative or liberal. I long for the feeling of "community" and "coming together."

I heard the news today that there is a child fighting for life. A child battling a disease that ravages through the body and stains every inch ... just like a drop of dye in a glass of water ... this disease seeps in and stains everything. I heard the news and was no longer a conservative republican, no longer one of many American citizens arguing over my beliefs or opinions ... I was a mother on her knees praying for another mom who must somehow take her baby's innocence with the news that he is dying.

In that moment, party lines disappeared. The children dying on the streets of a foreign land became one child dying in our country. The soldiers sacrificing their lives for freedom became one mother willing to sacrifice her life for a child she adores. The town halls filled with angry citizens became one home filled with a family hurting and screaming for a way to understand this disease. The unemployment rate became the rate of survival from something even doctors struggle to understand.

I heard the news today and realized there is a place where party lines can be crossed. A place where no one cares about your political party. That place is on your knees in prayer for a mother, father and child.

I heard the news today and went directly to that place. Join me there. Come to the place where God can erase the party lines and cleanse the stain on a child's life. Pray for this child as if you were praying for your own.

Romans 15:30 "I urge you brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Angels Unaware

Hebrews 13:2 "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels."

Recently, I heard someone telling a tale of their experiences. It seemed they were attempting a joke or laugh at the expense of another human being. Honestly, I can't tell you a thing from the ramblings but the unnecessary remark about a homeless individual. The words were placed dead center of the story ... "a panhandler begging for money, food." It was a trivial comment for this person but it struck a nerve within my heart. How could anyone make light of another who is forced to beg for their next meal? The remark stayed with me for several days.

Shortly after hearing the story, I was listening to my radio. On came a song spinning the possibility that beggars might just be angels sent here to be sure we're doing our part here on earth. I can't tell you the artist singing this song but I can tell you the memories it pulled forward in my mind.

I grew up in a family heart set on blessing the needy and less fortunate. My parents were active within the local chapter of Salvation Army. They contributed time, effort and finances. I'm talking about the days when phone calls came late at night saying someone was "hard on their luck" needing a place to sleep or a warm meal in their belly. I remember many a time such as that in my childhood home. The phone would ring long after bedtime, my mother's soft "hello, Fleming's" and then my father would take over the call. A firm "I see, of course we can help" and then my father's good name that any credit used would be paid the following day. I would listen to their hushed voices as I curled deeper into my warm blankets. The darkness outside seemed to creep in my bedroom and threaten the safety I felt.You see, I knew the call meant someone was cold, hungry and hurting ... while I lay warm and well fed in the comfort of our house ... that frightened me. Then ... out of that darkness I would hear my father's voice, steady and true, lifted in prayer for the person needing help on a cold winter night. Peace followed, spreading a tender hand of calm through our home. I would fall back to sleep listening to my parents talk about the phone call. I could hear the tears in my mother's voice as she said "it was a good reminder that we are blessed."

Don't misunderstand me or think that I am totally naive. I know that there are those that beg in order to feed an alcohol or drug addiction. I am very aware that some lay sleeping on a park bench from a decision of their own mind. But, I ask you this ... are there not decisions you've made foolishly? Have you ever made a choice that somehow altered your future in a less than favorable way?

I believe we all suffer consequences of poor decisions. So, how is that you or I can sit back judging the beggar? Our poor choices might be easily hidden within the confines of our homes. Does that mean they are any less poor than those of the addict walking the street? No. The sins of addiction are evident for all to see. Other sins take quiet root and hide from the unsuspecting eyes of passersby.

I know that the person making light of the panhandler did not see their words were cold, callous. I know too that this person is full of God's love and works hard to bring His word into the lives of many people. I just think this person was caught in a moment where their words were less than chosen well. We've all been there, haven't we? In an odd way, I'm thankful that this person made reference to the panhandler. It brought back memories and reminded me that I need to be more compassionate each day.

Perhaps the panhandler interrupting my day is an angel making sure that I do my best with my time here on earth. Or, perhaps ... I'm the answer to that beggars prayer.

Proverbs 3:28 "Do not say to your neighbor, "Go and come back, and tomorrow I will give it" When you have it with you."