Jim

Give thanksAs I continue this month-long series of posts of thanksgivings, today I am thankful for my husband Jim. Why? For so so many reasons. Actually I was thinking that I could probably do a month-long series of posts on why I’m thankful for Jim.

It has been an adventure, for sure, these past thirty-some years. And I cannot even imagine this journey with anyone other than Jim. He is consistently feeding his mind and spirit through God’s Word — most mornings he is up by 5:30 privately reading and praying before our time together at 7:30.

He provided well for our family when the kiddos were still home and he takes good care of me now. And this is not just from a financial perspective…he made major changes in his medical schedule to be able to spend time with his family, even though it also meant major salary cuts. Time was his gift to his family. And what a testimony when he receives hand-written notes thanking him for being dad, or skype calls asking for advice. A blessing.

Thankful for a man who can do it all! Seriously. He can run a medical ministry. He can organize conferences. Just received a note from a medical student inviting him to please be his spiritual father and mentor. Wow! But he also runs to the grocery store, vacuums, washes dishes, irons his own shirts. He serves me whenever he can.

I love that he takes the time to listen to my concerns, to hug me as I weep, to encourage me when I’m down, to smile at me just when I need to see it. We are happy being home with each other — even known to dance when the music is right — and we’re happy having company. We genuinely love to be with each other. Not that we didn’t have our rough moments, but life is better now than ever before. (I always thought that was crazy, you know, when people would say that they loved their husband more after 30 years than the day they were married…yeah, right. I was just trying to make it through another day with three young children and a busy husband. So glad I didn’t give up along the way!)

We’ve learned a lot about each other and ourselves over the years. And we’d do it all again. (Maybe one day I should post about those years — might be an encouragement to others…)

Thankful for a faithful, God-honoring, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled man.

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December 16, two days later

Sunday. The 16th.

Approaching that date, as I see it coming, always affects me. Seventeen years ago my dad died on that date.

And it seems like yesterday.

And it seems like forever ago.

I remember a friend in Salisbury speaking wise words, comforting words, true words to me at that time. Among other things, Wendy told me that her father had died years earlier and she would still find herself in tears from time to time. Suddenly. Without much notice. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one.

I was thankful that the 16th fell on Sunday this year. My Sundays are busy — teaching children’s catechism before the worship service, worshiping with Jim, enjoying tea/cookies with brothers and sisters in Christ right after the service.

DSCN3890This year we were hosting the steering committee of the Coalition for Children at Risk for a Christmas celebration late Sunday afternoon. We wanted a time for members and their spouses to get together in a relaxed atmosphere, eating tasty treats and laughing heartily with each other. We all work hard throughout the year and it was so nice to have some peaceful joyful time together.

We had a somewhat lively white elephant exchange of gifts. Most of us were quite happy with our final gifts — what grammy wouldn’t want another picture frame?!

As soon as our guests left, Jim locked the door, turned and looked at me and asked, “Is it the 19th?” (The 19th was the date of my dad’s funeral.) “No, it’s the 16th.” Tears spilled over onto my cheeks, Jim hugged me close, I thought of my mom, my sisters, and my children. And then we moved on to the kitchen to finish putting leftovers in the fridge and washing a few dishes.

Thankful for a husband who lets me remember without making me feel stupid.

Thankful for a family that remembers.

Thankful for a dad who taught us all the importance of family… through words and by example.

Missing him even now.

(He would SO love his great-grandchildren…)

September 14

I know that this seems quite impossible to everyone, but our sweet little first grandson is turning TWO years old today!

It’s hard to put in words how I feel about this…especially since we are not even on the same continent so I can’t join in the festivities.

I remember how absolutely amazing it was to become a mother. And how surprised I was at just how much love I felt for my children — all three of them. Was it possible to even HAVE that much love inside?!

And now I’m a grammy. My heart swells just thinking about three special little boys in America. And I thank God for skype. Seriously!!

How I wish I were hugging the birthday boy! But how thankful I am that I’ll be able to hear his laughter in a little while. And I will tell him how much his Grammy and Poppy love him. And are so proud of him. And wish that he’d stop growing so quickly while we’re gone. And we’ll blow kisses to each other. And say, “Loobloo tebe.” And I’ll long for a touch. REALLLLLY long for that hug. And I’ll laugh at his antics. And grin as I remember my own children’s birthdays. (The girls turned 2 a week after their little brother was born — oh, I so remember THAT birthday!!)

And I’ll rejoice that we have each other even if only online for a time. And I’ll praise God that this little boy has two parents who love him dearly. And who are bringing him up to know Him.

And I’ll pray for the countless orphans in the world who wish someone would remember THEIR birthdays. And I’ll give some extra hugs to our hospitalized orphans that we visit each week.

Here comes the bride

I love that I get to be included in some really special events simply because I’m married to Jim!

One such an event: a wedding last Saturday.

I blogged about it on our Ukraine Medical Outreach ministry blog.

Tune my heart

Over and over again, this hymn ran through my head while I was taking a shower this morning. I wasn’t even sure which hymn it was until I slowed down and repeated the melody to myself (wouldn’t want to sing out-loud in a flat whose bathroom wall leads to another’s flat! As an aside, I do miss those days of belting songs out as we drove along the way — now we have no car.  Not sure what they’d think on the metro or bus if I just randomly started belting out a song in English! May be another post one day. Um, don’t hold your breath…)

I stumbled over some of the lyrics, but knew that I needed to review them this morning. This is my grandson Milan’s hymn…his mother plays it in the car, in the home and sings it when rocking him to sleep. It almost always calms him down.

So, here we go. All y’all get to review it with me:

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, thou fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above;
praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of God’s unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wand’ring from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be;
let that grace now, like a fetter,
bind my wand’ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander — Lord, I feel it —
prone to leave the God I love:
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

And again I say: here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. So prone to wander. Lord, keep me from straying left or right.

Tune my heart to sing thy grace.

Family ties

I cannot even begin to express the joy we feel and the blessings we receive as we open our home to visitors, especially those who are here to adopt. We have made some lifelong friends and we have received way more than we have given…in our humble opinions.

From time to time, we even are given books that have had special meaning to the donors. Once read, the visitors didn’t necessarily want to carry the weight back to the States…particularly when they’ve added children and THEIR things to the return trip.

One such book is Radical Together by David Platt. As most of my regular readers know, Jim and I read Scripture, another book, and pray together each morning. I highly encourage this beginning to your day…it literally keeps you on the same page!

One chapter in and I was already reduced to tears. The author challenges us to rethink our priorities, as individuals, as families, and as church bodies. He questions whether we’ve put EVERYTHING on the table and have let God direct our finances, ministries, families. And oftentimes it is GOOD things that are getting in the way of His best.

I suddenly found myself picturing Abraham and Isaac. Putting EVERYTHING on the altar. And then I saw myself and my heart concerning Milan and Lydian, our two new grandsons. How do you give them up? I realize that some would say that we’ve sacrificed a lot simply by moving to Ukraine, but I would have to disagree. We have received so much more than money could ever buy. We may have forgone some luxuries…okay, lots of luxuries…but are those things really missed? Not really. Except when we want to purchase more than we can carry…a car would be nice at those times. Or during the extreme heat of the summers here…air conditioning would be refreshing.

But do I need to also consider visiting my children and grandchildren less often? Oh, Lord, please don’t let it be so. Once a year isn’t too often, is it? Thankfully we enjoy skype so we do get to see them change and grow. But to not see them in person during these early years would be so very hard. My heroes are those missionaries from the past who moved to potentially NEVER return to their home countries.

I know it. I’m a spoiled missionary. I have a lovely flat, an adoring husband, and fabulous children…and now grandchildren. We belong to a church family that preaches the Truth. We’re supported by churches and individuals who see our work as valuable to the Kingdom. We have friends here, both nationals and expats, who would do anything to help us if we needed it. We have prayer warriors reminding the Lord of our work and needs. We have personal access to the throne room of the King!

And yet, I want more. Selfishly. I want more time with my precious family. My heart aches when we part.

Yes, I get over it. We have so much to do here that it doesn’t take long for my days to fill. And I truly love what I am doing here…

But, honestly, in those quiet moments I miss family and my friends in America. (I almost wrote ‘at home’ rather than ‘in America’ but there is no doubt that ‘home’ is here.)

Pray for me as I come to your minds. Pray that I will not put my family before God…that HE will always be my first love. And recalling that HE gave me my family to love and to cherish. What a gift! May they not become obstacles, idols.

And remembering that HE gave up His own Son for me. Can I do less for Him?

To God be the glory.

Guy and Esme

Oh, my goodness, this is such a sweet video.

(Thanks, Wendy, for posting this on facebook!)

In the kitchen

I’ve been busy baking cookies — new variants this year. Of course, I will always have my favorites…is there really a Christmas platter that doesn’t have cut-outs?

I must say that one recipe was slightly confusing. It began with preheating the oven. Mixing, blending, sifting. The normal things. Then it says to chill overnight. What? My oven has preheated! Oh, well. Oven off and then made them the next afternoon…super chocolatey crinkles. It’s the first time that I’ve made them and the chocolate was a dark chocolate candy bar from here in Ukraine. A lot of work, but worth the wait!

Managed to not burn myself. Until this afternoon. Nothing major, just annoying.

So enjoying listening to hymns and other Christmas music as I bake. Lots of time to ponder the words and marvel at the love that has been bestowed upon each of us. Unconditional love. And the grace that has been poured over us. I don’t know about you, but I can always use an extra measure of grace.

He paid my penalty. And when my trials and tribulations come — which He has said will come to those who believe — I need not be surprised or discouraged. As a friend reminded me yesterday in a post she had written, we are in spiritual warfare in this world. The battle is His. He will fight it His way. And He will be victorious.

O Come Emmanuel.

Unwanted babies are safe here

Just ran across this link through a blog by Tim Challies: challies.com.

Imagine if every church should make such an offer.

Thomas and Heather

What a pleasure to meet the woman who has stolen Thomas’s heart!

Thomas is the son of one of my dearest friends who currently lives in Huntsville with her pastor husband. We had heard that Thomas was engaged — and, in fact, knew a little about the actual evening that he proposed — but we had not yet met Heather until this weekend. Let’s just say that he done good.

We look forward to wedding pictures in June!