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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thank Heaven for Girls...

Have you ever noticed that women often have an unexplainable hope when all hope seems useless?  When faced with situations that make many men run for cover, women are often able to survive.  Not only survive, but thrive.  Women are a resilent bunch as a whole.  Resourceful too.  This by no means should be interpreted as man bashing!  Far from it!  I love my guy more than I can say.  I appreciate and respect him tremendously.  But today, I'm thinking about women. 

There have been and still are strong women in my life.  My grandmothers, mom, daughter, sister, mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, sister-in-laws and many of my dear friends have amazing stories of surviving situations and events that at times seemed unsurvivable.  Each of them have made such an impact on my life.  I only have to look around and realize that anything I go through, they have walked the path before me. 

The Bible recounts the stories of many strong women also.  Recently I have been reading about Deborah.  You can read her story and the song she wrote in Judges 4 & 5.

Deborah was a prophetess and judge in Israel. The only female judge and all of Israel was under her jurisdiction.  She ruled in a culture that did not value women.  My first thought when I began to read about her was "Were there no qualified men?"  Of course, God knew her potential, her heart, her integrity and her courage.  Verse 1 tells us that, "Israel again did what was evil in the LORD's sight."  I suspect many of the men were tired, depressed, discouraged, and if we really knew the whole story, some of them were caught up in the evil God was speaking of.

God had a plan.  He always does!  Verse 3 "...Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help."  Deborah was a part of the plan.  Reading her story we find out she was:  a prophetess, judge, warrior, poet/singer, "mother of Israel".  She responded to God's leading and called Israel to fight the Cananites.  The commander Barak said, "I will go, but only if you go with me!"  She went.  Her wisdom and confidence came from a relationship with God.  She knew God's voice when He spoke!  We don't really know if Barak was a man of little faith or if he wanted her there as prophetess.  Whatever his motive, his decision to question God did not please Him.  "But since you have made this choice, you will recieve no honor.  For the LORD's victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman."  Barak's decision brought great honor to Deborah and another brave woman, Jael (read her story starting with verse 17.  Exciting!) .

God uses whom ever is willing, men, women, boys and girls.  He is constantly calling His children to step up in their area of influence.  Deborah didn't let cultural norms stop her.  She was a survivor!  She was godly and courageous.  She obviously had a very secure husband to allow her to become so prominent.  When Deborah's people and her country were burdened under captivity and oppressed untill they cried out, she was serving, working, doing what God had called her to do.  Just like many of us. 

There is not alot recorded about Deborah but what we have is good reading.  Verse 24 says, "And from that time on Israel became stronger and stronger against King Jabin, until they finally destroyed him."  Chapter 5 closes with, "Then there was peace in the land for 40 years."  All because this wife and godly woman was willing to step up and be used by God.  Please take the time to read her story.   Her song in chapter 5 tells much more of the oppression her and her people lived under. 

God placed the stories of these and other courageous women in the Bible for you.  Yep, just for you!  They are apart of His love letter to us.  They are meant to encourage and inspire.  Be of good cheer!  God has a plan!

Until we visit again...
Live blessed,
Carmen

Sunday, June 17, 2012

It's Complicated...

Last year on this day, I wrote my first blog.  It was father's day, my dear husband was under the weather, I had some time on my hands so I decided to give it a whirl.  I've enjoyed the opportunity and still feel humbled at the kindness of my dear friends and a few strangers that stop by.  Thanks for listening.

Father's Day.  Just a couple of months ago, my dad packed up his bags and went to live with Jesus.  He is having an amazing Father's Day this year!  I, on the other hand, am flooded with memories, questions and those kind of feelings that say, "I wish this could have been different".  Does that make sense?  Have you ever felt that way?

If you have ever seen a facebook relationship status that read, "it's complicated" that would describe my relationship with my dad.  We lived together for the first 8 years of my life and then it seemed he traveled in and out.  It was never traditional.  Matter of fact, there have been years when we never saw each other and we lived only 5 miles apart.  It wasn't because I didn't try.  It just never seemed to work out for long.  He lived life in his own way and he lived it to the fullest.  It wasn't until later years that I really got to know him.  He was scheduled for triple bypass surgery (an emergency), the hospital called me as his next of kin and that is when I really got to know my dad. 

Over the past 10 years or so we became daddy and daughter.  We had some great fun times and we have had some low, sad times.  He shared his memories of his earlier years, fun times he had with my uncle, places he traveled, memories of his time in the military, thoughts and remembrance he had of my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.  Most of his side of our family I never really got to know.  He just didn't have time for all of that when his kids were younger.  We went for ice cream,  to the grocery store, Walmart and ate at Piccadilly. 

The other side of our relationship was difficult.  My dad had an addiction that ruled his life at times.  He was in and out of the hospital so many times.  Too many to count.  I begged, pleaded, fused and nagged.  Finally I accepted him for who he was.  I did not accept the addiction, I accepted him.  Some one asked once did I think that my dad couldn't change or wouldn't change.  I don't know.  I do know that he hated his life the way it was.  One of the many times we sat in an emergency room somewhere, the hospital chaplain had stopped by before I arrived.  When I got there, dad said "Do you know that song about grace? The one that talks about how I was once lost but now I'm found?"  I said, "Amazing Grace"?  He said , "Yes.  I really like that song."  I knew that he was telling me that he had made his life right with God.  Dad's life was up and down.  He never really understood how to live.  In the last few weeks of his life, he assured me, his sister and my pastor that he was ready to meet God.  That's good enough for me. 

His last years were spent in pain.  Macular degeneration took most of eyesight and the death of almost very joint left him disabled and unable to do what he wanted to do.  He was a fighter though.  I NEVER saw any one fight so hard to live.  He pushed himself to walk with broken bones, he refused to lay in bed, even when I thought he needed to rest.  He went to physical therapy when he could hardly hold his head up.  For every drink he took that was destroying his body, he would then fight to live.  Amazing.  I told him once, "Dad, I hope I inherited your will to live, your survival instinct."  He said, "you did".  He said, "I can't give up. I'm still alive".  I'm not sure what he was taught when he was in the Marine Corp but whatever it was, he was a survivor.  He often said, "once a Marine, always a Marine".   When dad left this world, his doctor said, "One thing I can say about your dad, he was a fighter." 

At dad's graveside service, our sweet Pastor based his message on the verses of "Amazing 'Grace".  It was so uplifting, so fitting.  My cousin sang it a capella.  Beautiful, like an angel.  Today, as I dressed for church, David Jeremiah spoke on the song "Amazing Grace".  He told of the writer's life and how he came to pen those now famous verses.  Father's day - "Amazing Grace".  I just felt in my spirit that God was telling me, "your dad is here and he is doing great".  Now, I don't have any way to prove that but I believe it and I guess that's all that counts today. 

Dad is finally free!  Grace, well, it's amazing!

Until we visit again....
Live blessed,
Carmen