Lenora and Her 90 Days

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On October 7th, I started with parago.  On October 13th, Lenora Farnell Amos arrived (I believe) in Heaven or wherever we might being going before we get to Heaven.

Lenora was my great-aunt (by marriage) Ruby Pearl Leath Vernon’s niece.  Lenora’s mom Doris Farnell was Aunt Ruby’s sister.  So Lenora was blood to Aunt Ruby, where as my mom Starr was Aunt Ruby’s niece by way of Ruby’s husband Oscar Vernon being my grandfather Arthur Vernon’s brother.  Lenora grew up in Longview and lived her last years in what we call Spring Hill, Texas.  Per the World Wide Web, Spring Hill doesn’t really exist anymore (it is now part of North Longview) but it will always exist in the hearts of many a kid who spent time with Ruby, Doris, Momma Nora, Aunt Ethel, and Aunt Stella.

It would be easy for me to go off on tangents about all of those wonderful women I just mentioned and their husbands but this post is supposed to be about Lenora and her first 90 days and the first 90 days of her family who lost her so unexpectedly.

Lenora, was a force like those women she followed in the steps of.  As a kid who loved to look at my Aunt Ruby’s photo albums when we would visit, I was mesmerized by Lenora.  She was younger than my mom (Starr was born in 1940 and Lenora came to be in 1948) and she and her husband Jim, were so cool to me as a youth.  Why?  They were beautiful on the outside and they were in local newspaper clippings that Aunt Ruby had saved in her photo albums so they were my closest touch to fame.  They were big fish in a small pond whereas I grew up in a family that is one of thousands small fish in a the great big Dallas Fort Worth pond.  And Lenora had been a cheerleader which was huge to me because of course that was a super secret desire that someone like me would NEVER speak out loud however often I tried to perfect my Herkie at home.

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A – Lenora as cheerleader, B – Lenora at an earlier age (I believe), C – Buck’s family

Momma Nora passed away in the early 80s and I think Aunt Stella died not too long after that from complications with her Alzheimer’s.  Nora, Stella and Ethel were sisters.  Nora was Ruby and Doris’ mother, plus she and her husband Cole also Buck (James) and Kenneth who I think may still be living.  Aunt Ruby passed away later in the 80s and after Aunt Ethel went to Heaven in the 90s, my family kind of lost touch especially with Starr having her years of battling cancer.  Mom passed away in 1999 and that seemed to pad lock those years away.

In 2009, 10 years later, Steve and I were contracted for a wedding in Kilgore which is down the road a bit from Longview so I started using the internet to see who I could find knowing that Lenora was who we knew was left.  I found a listing for Lenora’s son Alan and ultimately found him on Facebook and sent a message asking if his mom was Lenora.

When we went to photograph our bride’s bridal portraits in the area, we reconnected and found Lenora’s daughter Angi living with her kiddos Julianna and Jace now living in the house that Uncle Oscar had built for Aunt Ruby on Chigger Ridge Lane, the “street” they had built.  After Aunt Ruby’s passing, Doris (Lenora’s mom) was given this home and then when Doris passed away in January 2007, it became Angi’s home.  Aunt Ethel’s home was still there as a rental property being managed by Lenora and family and where the little white house had been on the corner, was a new home recently built by Lenora and Jim so they could be closer to Angi, Julianna, and Jace.

I swear the little white house that had been on the site before Lenora’s new home was a smaller replica of the house Uncle Oscar and Aunt Ruby had lived in in another part of Texas that I remember visiting where Aunt Ruby would rake the long shag carpet in the front room.  What sweet memories those are – I had to be 3 or 4.  And they had this amazing swing made out of pipe and chain that Aunt Ruby would push you in and run under you so that she pushed you well over her height which was high for a kid.  And Aunt Ruby telling her scary story of the man who came back in the middle of the night looking for his big toe, saying “Where’s my big toe” louder and louder.  My Uncle Oscar memories from this time include going with him to the “store” which was an old wooden store with mainly convenience items but it was by no means a modern convenience store like 7 11.  He would buy me candy – specifically I remember cigars that were made out of bubble gum or some candy.  But for me to have a pink candy cigar was so cool to me.

Anyway, that first visit to reconnect when we went for the bridal session opened up a whole new chapter for Evah and I with Lenora and her family.  And this time around, we got to see how beautiful Lenora and Jim were and are inside.  Now Lenora was known as LeeMom and Jim is Big Daddy.  Lenora would give us the scoop on our visits and Big Daddy would tell us about quality programming that we didn’t yet know about with Swamp People and Duck Dynasty.

In 2011, Evah stepped out of her comfort zone, for her at the time, and drove with the Amos family to Orlando for a week in Disney World. During this time, she got to know this family and its individual parts much better which further strengthened her ties.

Then in May of that year, Alan married Christi and they were so kind to invite us as family.  It still gives me chills.  It was so nice to be guests at this wedding which was held on a Friday night.  Steve and I drove down earlier in the day and met the extended family at Jason’s Deli – many of the kids and cousins who I had played with when staying at Aunt Ruby’s during those long ago summers, who were now mom’s and dad’s of big kids.  Evah came along after school let out.  This afternoon was significant because that was when we started really discussing going to Hawaii with Evah who was reluctant for the travel and now after that 2011 family trip, she is the one trying to get the rest of us to get to Hawaii.

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The wedding was spectacular in so many ways.  We had decided that Steve wouldn’t want to stay until Sunday but Evah and I wanted to stay and go to church on Sunday to Elmira Chapel which is where Aunt Ruby (and later Lenora) worshiped every Sunday.  Behind this church is a children’s play are that was dedicated to Aunt Ruby, a woman who never had children but was loved my many.

On Saturday, as Evah and I figured the family would be engaged in their own thing and we didn’t want to intrude, we headed to Marshall, Texas to see what was to be found.  Our mom loved to go to Marshall Pottery so that was one of our stops before finding a nice lunch in an antique mall in downtown Marshall.  At some point, Lenora called to ask where we were.  I remember her saying, “Why in the world would you go to Marshall?”  She told us they were having a cookout that night and essentially we had better be there.

Boy, that little call showed a major display of love which still stirs tears in me.  Here is the mother of the groom with blood family in from all different parts of the world it seemed and she still made time to locate us and include us.  With a mom in Heaven and a dad who has pretty much forgotten us, just that reaching out meant so much and was pretty much the essence of Lenora (and those ladies who graced her ancestors).

This is the side yard to Angi’s home (which was her grandmother’s before her and our mutual great-Aunt Ruby’s before that)
The smaller storage house holds memories to Daddy Long-legged Spiders and trying to help Aunt Ruby carry a heavy table from there to her back door when I was pretty much a weakling.

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This yellow Hummer was Lenora’s favorite way to scream through the East Texas Hills at high speeds.

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Here you can see the house I mentioned.  The fun part of this is the young blonde boy with the teal and black and older girl off to the left are the children of the man (Paul) in the blue top.  Paul’s mom is in the black sitting behind Paul’s son.  The young man in the red shorts is Paul’s nephew.  Now scroll back up to the photo of Lenora as a cheerleader and Paul is the little one in the photo #C of Buck’s family.  Julianna and Jace are in the pink and yellow tops and they were Lenora’s only grand kids at that time.  Alan and Christi have since had Cason.

I get off topic so easy… but I hope this all helps you get to know these special people better.  Back to the original topic of Lenora and her first 90 days in Heaven.

God took Lenora with very little notice to her or her family.  She was in the hospital not too long before, with some warning symptoms but when she said “Goodnight” that night, I don’t believe anyone expected it to be her last time.  Losing anyone, with or without warning is devastating and when the best people leave or are taken (because God can give and He can take away), it can be earth shattering as I imagine it has been for her family.

When my mom died, she had been sick so terribly long that the end was a relief because her pain was done.  We had time to prepare our hearts and say our “See ya later”s because I do believe I will see her again.  But what a big hole she left and I know the same can be said for Lenora and possibly multiplied because of the closeness she shared with her grandchildren and her daily interaction she had with her daughter in helping with the children.

I can only imagine the last 90 plus days for the Amos family was pretty much their Hell on earth.  Her loss came before Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and each of these were big events and happenings for Lenora.  I pray that they have found laughter when they have come together in their healing and that they have leaned on one another during these times.  With the loss of Starr, it was the laughter that I never expected.  When we would get together, there was so much of it that it had to be a blessing from up above.

But then what about Lenora’s last 90 days?  Was it like college or a trip around the world – exciting, new, shiny, so engaging?  Possibly you missed home a little and from time to time might even experience home sickness but otherwise, your off to learn something amazing you never had a clue about before, hanging out with new, really interesting people, checking out the sunrise in some foreign land and eating something simply delicious.  I hope that is what it is like.  And like when a young adult leaves the nest, it is us that has to adjust until we get to see our loved ones again.

As writing this entry today, I heard the MercyMe song “I Can Only Imagine” which the Holy Spirit uses regularly to let know He is here living inside of me with the inner tingling I get.  Enjoy.

Thank you Father for letting me to get to know Lenora and her specialness.  What a celebration there must have been when she arrived and I look forward to having  an iced tea together in the future.

90 Days

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October 7, 2013, I was blessed to start a full time position with parago in Lewisville.

This position was a long time in coming but I so believe it happened as God would have it.  Due to the other responsibilities I had from our photography business (that we started to phase out some), managing a family business with my brother and sister, enjoying other fun endeavors from substitute teaching and volunteering plus that striving for the multiple certifications, my quasi searched for a job seemed to waiver from the outside view of Kim.  But it was interesting to me, how important and defining it became for me.

Why?  Because never had I looked for a roll where I wanted to focus on doing God’s will and deciphering was not easy at all.
Why?  Because as usual, I had to get in the way and kept trying to help God show me the way.

Wow – like He needs my help!  He who created the universe and our complex brains and hearts.  Thankfully God blessed me with a sister with the gift of prophecy who can and has told me like it really is.  Come to find out all that time I was getting all tied up inside worrying and wasting time re-engineering my resume, I was supposed to be soaking up what I did have.  That which I had made difficult to see for the forest of trees and our worldly influences.

If anything, I have learned where you are is where He wants you to be.  Of course this is another incredibly humbling lesson, but oh so powerful because it is yet another reminder of who is in control.  And because He is in control, this lesson has helped me to trust Him even more.

So I love my job and the people I am working with and even the medium that I’m working with.  Why?  Because it does give me a sense of control which I do seem to crave.  Controlling or managing what?  Paper that will ultimately end up in the trash.  Words on paper that many people gloss over.  And people’s expectations as well as hopefully I bring a little sunshine to their day.  Who knew God needing me to do this?  I do know He knew I was good at this and I know He knew I needed to be with these people as much they needed a little Kim in their lives.

But that is my 90 day plus view which is not necessarily the same view I had throughout my entire 90 days.  As it have been a looooooooooong time since I start a probationary period with a company that was important to me and my future growth, this 90 days was scary too.  Why?  Because after finally getting it, I really didn’t want to mess it up.  Where was that confidence of who was in control?  Was I relying solely on myself and my ability to learn this role that is similar to past roles I have had in the past but in an industry totally new to me?  Well, yes of course!  Why?  Because that is how quickly I roll back into thinking I could possibly control any of this.

What can I control?  My attitude, my positive point of view and how I react to the bumps and bruises along the way.  That and when I get up, when I get to the office, whether I take a real lunch or not, or how long I stay.  And of course giving my best effort in trying to learn everything involved.  But if I did all of this and they still let me go before my probationary time was over, wouldn’t I still be right where I was supposed to be?  Yes.  So why did I waste an ounce of worry over this?  Cause I am me.

This Casting Crowns’ song, Already There has become one of my favorites for this reminder and as I love the behind the hand story, I had to share that too.

Back But Not The Same

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This post was originally written in October 2011:

I returned home from El Salvador late last night so ready to see Steve and to sleep in my own bed.

What a trip it was!  On the way there, I mentioned to Jenny, the other married lady traveling alone, that I have been on several trips (Alaska and Africa) that I expected to change my life and even though I loved them both and want to return one day to both places, I couldn’t really say that they had and I wondered if this trip would be the same.

It is hard to say what exactly what the change was and to pin point specifically when it happened.  I think it might have been little tiny layers of unconditional, completely self-giving love in such a short period of time.

We arrived late Thursday night as the children were returning from an evening church service and headed to bed. We aren’t really supposed to see them after 7 pm because they have so much to do to get ready for the next day and don’t need excitement from us to mess up their schedule.  The two ladies, Katie and her mom Susie, who had been there before had hugs from the kids who recognized them and the as we were introduced, the kids shook our hands and then they were gone while we tried to settle ourselves.

These kids get up at 4:00 am to get ready for the day, do their chores, have breakfast, then do the dishes before heading to class at 7 am .  As they are kids, there has to be some complaining here and there but we never saw it.  They are just so grateful for all they have which a safe place to live with the family God has given them, clothes, food, they get to attend a private school that wealthy families send their children to and they have their hermanas (house mothers) who keep them in line and love of them the best they can.

The next morning, which was just a week ago, I went ahead to the breakfast area that is set aside for us.  Unless we are eating the same thing, the visitors don’t get to eat with the kids as it sounds like the visitors whom are paying $25 / day for room and board and the opportunity to help the home plus get love and to love on the kids get different foods for our more demanding tastes.  As our group of 8 was small, it was easy set up for us each day versus the groups of 20 or 30 which takes longer to set tables etc.

As I was early, I was waiting outside and enjoying the magnificent light and cursing for not bring a camera to lunch.

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It was amazing how popular the pipe cleaners I found at Dollar Tree were…
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Sue with the little ones (not the wee ones)…
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Skip to today – January 18, 2014

Yes, this was one of those posts that never was completed.  In fact, now that I think about it I have yet to really scrapbook or finish a directory of this special trip in 2011.  And oddly what jumps to my mind about this now, 2 plus years later is that when I returned from El Salvador, God dropped in to my lap the introduction of International Student Foundation (ISF) which led me to meet Ryan and Alex.

Katie and Bobby had their daughter and I don’t think any of their family has returned.  Jenny and I found a special bond through that trip and we now enjoy special hugs whenever we see each other at St. Laurence.  Megan Mecca (who recently became a mom herself) has made more recent trips to El Salvador but we haven’t had any additional formal trips there again.

And now that I have a job, I should start sponsoring a Shalom Home youth like some of our church members do…

2013 in Review

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Good morning 2014!

This morning I woke up, checked my now ancient Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone (it is only 2 years old) and saw that my 81 year old mother-in-law had made some Facebook updates so I use the phone to navigate there.  That my mother-in-law is actively on Facebook inspires me.  Anyway, this takes a while so I decide to actually visit Facebook on my now beyond ancient Mac computer (in has to be maybe 5 years old).

Upon logging in, I see what’s happening with friends and family and check out some photo of how others celebrated ringing in 2013 while I was cozy in my bed, unconscious beside my hubby Steve.  I ended up on my page to see what others might possibly see and note that it is probably time to update my profile pic that I stuck in there as a lark sometime this year and that was taken on our Hawaii vacation in 2011 as I was pouring maple and coconut syrup on my celebratory banana pancakes.  Ah, the water under the bridge since that photo was taken.

Off to the left nav, I see a curious button enticing me to check out my 2013 Year in Review.  I hesitate for a moment because back in 2007 (yikes almost 7 years ago!) when I first got on Facebook to promote our photography business to high school seniors, I innocently clicked on an advertising ad (like what you see on the right nav) that said something like, “Test your IQ compared to this ____”.  I don’t reminder what the blank stated but there was a photo of a blonde, fluffy looking girl.  I took the bait and quickly learned who was not smart – ME.  Why?  Because I inadvertently invited a whole lot of email SPAM with that one little click.

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Considering that the placement of this 2013 Year in Review option is near all of my somewhat possibly “protected” info, I decide to start 2014 by taking a walk on the wild side and clicking this without asking Steve’s input.  Thankfully it does not look like the end of my cyber world or my computer’s health yet.

The response was another page which showed me a pretty different look at my 2013 than I think of it as I look back over the year.  I’m thinking the ranking is based on quantity of comments or likes by others which says a great deal too.  This the order of “my 20 biggest moments” that was shown, which does seem to be in chronological order:

1 – Galveston with my BFF Kimberley in January on the sun rising on the Gulf
I went with Kimberley and her co-worker Bobby on this road trip so I could study for my Project Manager Professional (PMP) certification test in Kimberley’s hotel room while they were away during the day and evenings working a lumber company trade show.

2 – A photo of seagulls on a walk on the Galveston beach with Kimberley and Bobby
I remember during this walk, Bobby sharing with how devastating everything had been on his visits to Galveston in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.  It was on this trip that I experienced Buc-ee’s for the first time.

3 – Leaving New Horizons Computer Learning Center
After passing my PMP certification in February 2013 – this was a big accomplishment and helped me realize that going go back to school for my Masters maybe didn’t make sense for my future after all.

4 – A photo of an air popcorn popper used as a demonstration by a teacher I was assisting as a substitute aide at Southlake Carroll High School in March.  Neither the special ed/Life Skills students or the regular ed students had ever encountered such a thing before.  All they have ever known is microwave popcorn or what you get at the movies or in a bag at the grocery store.
It is nice being old enough to “remember when” fondly.

5 – A photo of a wedding cake at an April wedding receptions I photographed at The Park Cities Club which holds many wedding work memories for Steve and I.
  By design, after photographing a wedding on our wedding anniversary again (that time was in 2012), we slowed our wedding business down considerably  as other changes were taking place.

6 –  A photo of the sun rising taken from the parking lot at Southlake Carroll High School.  I had just heard the song “You Are”, by Colton Dixon and the following lyrics which were oh so appropriate for the lovely show from that parking lot,
“If I had no voice; if I had no tongue, I would dance for you like the rising sun.
And, when that day comes and I see your face.  I will shout your endless, glorious praise.”

7 – A Thank You for all of the birthday wishes on my May birthday via Facebook.
 One of the few nice things in my opinion about Facebook.

8 – A photo of our nephew Jon Driskell marrying his bride Annie in Nashville in May.
A great trip with Steve to spend time with family in wonderful weather and seeing a part of the world that the Cooleys once lived in.  The header photo on my Facebook page above is a photo taken that Friday night in Nashville at a light art exhibit at a local botanical garden which was very neat to get to see.

9 – Sunflowers in Waxahachie, TX after visiting my friend Lola Carlile the weekend her first grandchild John graduated high school as the salutatorian back in early June.
  Spending time again with Lola is a big treat that I have missed out on in years passed.

10 – A photo taken at Fuzzy’s Tacos with the blue ribbon I had won at the Dallas PMP Toastmaster’s meeting I had attended that same morning.
Pretty cool that I went to learn to be better with public speaking and ended up winning a ribbon.  Yes, I think they were being extremely kind to the newcomer but the table topic was Expense vs. Cost, which I do know well thanks to the photography business.

11 – A photo of fried eggs made with Coconut Oil and a spatula my sister Evah had given me.
Making my own sunny side up and over-easy fried eggs were big for me in 2013.  Prior to this year, these (my fave type of eggs) only came from breakfast restaurant outings.  Not sure how good this was from my cholesterol levels though.

12 – A Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) video of my family (Eric, Evah and Steve) on Grapevine Lake in June.  This was Eric and Steve’s first time to try SUPing and Evah and my 2nd time.
  I had high hopes for more SUPing in 2013 but this was our only occurrence.

13 – The sun rising in August when I had started walking again in the mornings.  My message was, “Thanks be to God!”.
These morning walks were short lived as I started substituting again that month and having morning meetings with my friend David Dickerson and then ultimately starting my full-time job in October.

14 – A Tropical Sno snow cone in September.
Kind of proud to say I only had one of these the summer 2012 and one the summer 2013 whereas previous summers had mucho more.  Delicious but hi-caloric sugar flavorings that can’t possibly be natural.

15 – October 2 morning walk with Barbara Dodd to feed the fish and say hello to the Grapevine crossing guards.
Barbara and Joe moved from Irving to Grapevine in 2013 and it was so nice to get to spend more time with them as they were now less than a mile from our home.

16 – Canton with sister Evah on October 4th.  When we scheduled this trip little did we know I would be starting my new job at parago the following Monday.  Evah needed the getaway and it is our preferred alternative to the Texas State Fair with similar food.  We didn’t over spend (as we have in the past), but it was a very warm day – so warm that we didn’t feel comfortable to call on our East Texas family for a visit when we were so hot and stinky after that day in the sun.
We should have gone ahead and made the trip because we missed out on seeing our beloved Lenora Amos one more time before she passed away 10 days later.  Now we have to wait until we get to heaven to see her again.

17 – A photo of Steve preparing our Thanksgiving turkey – which happened to be his first solo turkey ever.
It was delish!  Remember the juniper berries (which is an inside joke).

18 – A quick photo of a flower growing up through the concrete in front of the Grapevine Post Office sidewalk December 1st after a St. Laurence Church sermon about God sightings everywhere, looking for them and being open to seeing them.
My smartphone has become my favorite camera since getting it in 2011 (I think) because it goes everywhere with me and I can quickly edit and post with it.

19 – Christmas Eve photos taken as the buses for Celebrate Jesus were arriving at the Omni Dallas Hotel with 500 homeless men, women and children from the viewpoint of the bus I volunteered on.  Celebrate Jesus gives these homeless people “a room in the inn” the same night that we celebrate our King being born into a manger because there was no room in the inn due to the crowded city for the required payment of taxes at that time.  Celebrate Jesus, takes these neighbors to the hotel where they are given new clothes, either a new backpack or a suitcase for their things, the room, entertainment from an amazing celebratory meal, church service, movies and a Christmas gift plus staying in a luxurious hotel with heat, a nice bed, a door, and a bathroom they share with their roommate.
  I learned about this Celebrate Jesus event on Christmas Eve 2012 when I was sick with the Flu and very emotional about life but I knew I wanted to make a point to be a part of this in 2013.  Thankfully what is and what becomes is because of God and not what each of us thinks or expects because this year alone demonstrated to me once again God’s greatness and His grace.

20 – hmmmmm, Facebook only actually posted 19.
Does that mean someone there can’t count?

So that was Facebook’s take on my 2013 highlights.  Here are mine from me, not based on show but on impact to my heart and my life and please note that they aren’t in any particular order of importance :

1 – Passing the PMP exam on the first try and all that went in to it and the other certifications I earned.
2 – To Walk on Water, You Have To Get Out of the Boat Bible study in Allen, TX with Road pals.
3 – The Healing is a Choice Bible study in Richardson at The Road.
4 – My Road Adventure Part 5 in April.
5 – Steve’s training and graduation from being a AA Flight Attendant.
6 – Meeting Cindy and helping her with Quickbooks.
7 – Gateway’s Pink Impact (Women’s Retreat) with Evah and Kimberley.
8 – The Bait of Satan Bible study in Allen with Road pals and my sister.
9 – Mexico City for less than a day with Steve on work trip.
10 – Nashville with Steve and Driskell family.
11 – 4th of July in New York City with Steve on work trip.
12 – The Prodigal God women’s summer Bible study at St. Laurence.
13 – Time with Barbara, Lola and Sandy Dempsey and losing Lenora Amos.
14 – Alex Fuller.
15 – Part-time job at Home Goods and our new living room.
16 – David Dickerson and Christian Counseling Associates marketing opportunity.
17 – parago job offer and my first 90 days there.
18 – First bout of Sciatica pain.
19 – Oral surgery and recovery.
20 – Selwyn Sanderson.

Dear Father in Heaven, Jesus and Holy Spirit who lives inside of me,
I am so excited to see what you bring my way this year.  Thank you for the lessons of 2013 and the love and comfort!
Your loving, always mesmerized by your grace daughter,
Kim

Restoration and Resurrection

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God has had me on an adventure of restoration and my own personal resurrection it seems these last few weeks.  I can’t say that “it” started with my attending Road 5 at the amazing Road Adventure but the transformation that has been happening to me as of late was definitely nudged on and encouraged by the self value and God’s love for me that I often overlook.

The layers of what has transpired recently is many fold which indicates to me that this is God’s work in my life and He deserves the glory.  And that this significance for me to be taking place through Lent and as we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection seems to drive the points home to my heart even deeper.

Different people celebrate Easter differently and I personally love how my church home, St. Laurence Church really takes the time to make sure we have the touches and feels for how very important the last days of Jesus’ life were.  During Lent, we have the Stations of The Cross every Wednesday night and this year we were were provided with booklets that encouraged greater association between our lives now and what was happening then to tie everything together closer and making the experience even more powerful.

Then there is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday which signifies the night of the actual Lord’s Supper, complete with our clergy washing the feet of our congregation in service to us as in John 13:14-17. Here is a photo from last year’s service.

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This year I missed this service to attend the first meeting of a Bible study my sister and I are participating in on the book Bait of Satan by John Bevere.  But from that night’s study, I came to better understand that false prophets could be and often are in today’s world those who viciously gossip and pull others down for their own gain.

Maundy Thursday ends with Christ moving to the Garden of Gethsemane where he is ultimately betrayed by Judas Escariot with a kiss.  While Jesus prays in the garden He comes to his followers who are there with Him and finds them asleep and says to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matt 26:40).  With this is mind, at St. Laurence the light of Christ and the Host are moved to a smaller chapel which is made to be like a garden during the services leading up to the Easter Vigil.  And on Thursday night from 8 pm to 8 am Friday morning, someone waits and honor in our “garden” with Jesus.

I went to wait and pray from 10 pm to 11 pm Thursday night.  The “garden” smelled heavenly with all of the roses and flowers and I was able to read back through the Maundy service I missed.  Here is a photo taken from outside of the chapel and then the moon coming up over the church as I left around 11.

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Friday, is Good Friday which is held for fasting and service.  Our church makes and serves a spaghetti lunch at The Union Gospel Mission in Ft. Worth and after being there the last 2 years, I had to miss this one but here are our peeps who were there.

St. Laurence peeps at UGM

At 3 pm, which is the hour that Jesus died in, I was very aware of the silence around me as I worked at my computer.  Friday night, we have a mass where we honor the cross as that is what Jesus died upon and we have the Host that was held over from the previous night and leave the church in silence mourning Jesus’ death for us.

Saturday, I met friends at the North Richland Hills Gateway Church for a visit and then worshiped with them at their 4 pm service.  As St. Laurence is so traditional, it is nice to compliment it with a little praise and worship and I know God is in both places.  Pastor Robert’s Easter message about the moment in time that Satan lost his battle and Jesus conquered him and returned the previously deceased saints to Heaven with a stop at the tomb in Jerusalem painted a vivid picture I needed that added a significant layer to my restoration.

I know God and Jesus wins, but I forget that the win has already taken place.  I let Satan and his negative thoughts steal in to my head, heart and soul from time to time like he does so many other places and heads, hearts and souls.  And often I find, I will actually even help Satan dig deeper into me by not rebuking him and reminding him that I know he is a LOSER.  He is very smart and perceptive.  He knows my buttons and my weaknesses and he doesn’t hesitate to play with them to make me question.  So it was good to get the reminder that the battle has already been won.

Saturday night at 8:15 pm, service at St. Laurence started in complete darkness with only the lights from the world coming through our lovely windows.  From there, a candle is lit and from that one candle every candle (one for everyone there) is lit representing Jesus’ resurrection and the spreading of His light in us.  It is very powerful and moving.  Everyone is dressed in their best besides the Easter finery they will bring out on Easter morning and we had a christening and a baptism along with our own re-commitment of our faith.

Sunday I chose to go help my friends from The Road Adventure in a fundraising opportunity.  Ten of us met at the Cotton Bowl and ran a concession stand during the Dallas Cup Soccer finals.  I learned a lot about making nachos and stuffing hot dogs in to bags and enjoyed a great day with friends who like to serve too.  And in return, God gave me a gift that I would have never expected.

It was actually a pretty slow day for the concession stand because many were at their churches (hopefully) and enjoying special Easter lunches with their families.  My family was dispersed with Steve flying back and forth to Miami (that’s another story for another day) and ironically it was the 14th anniversary of my mom, Starr going to Heaven.  Since it was so slow, there was people watching for the few people who were there, visiting with friends, lots of leaning and stirring nacho cheese and chili.

About 3pm, a gentleman came up to be served and of course, all of us on our side of the stand gave him some attention as we had a live body.  I guess it was my voice that gave me away (that has happened before) because we were all sporting oversized ball caps and lovely blue aprons, but this gentleman recognized me about the same time I recognized him.  Come to find out, this was someone who impacted my life greatly and not in a way I would have wished for.

I learned some amazing lessons from the situation but as some of my closest friends have wondered, why did I have to learn those lessons.  Now about 20 plus years later, I guess I’m starting to get it.  He said, “I know you” and I said, “I know who you are too”.  I’m not exactly sure when I said it, but I said something like, “I’m glad to see you are alive (or maybe I said not dead), because I have wondered that over the years.”  He gave me an interesting look to that and we exchanged lots of smiles and a few pleasantries and then he was gone back out of my life.

After he walked away, my friends said my comment was harsh but it was honest and true.  This gentleman would have been perfect living in a time like the wild west where there weren’t the civilities that make sense today.  He was my dance with fire and I did get burned but I survived and I see now that God did use my lack of wisdom at the time to grow me.

Having the interaction at such an unexpected time and place in my life but still so perfectly timed by God further drove His point home to me.  Ironically that morning, in my prayers I had personally addressed Satan (remembering Pastor Robert’s message from the night before), telling him he was not welcome in or near me and to F-off.  So I’m not sure who instigated this but I’m giving the glory of the outcome to God because I know He did make something good out of that life adventure.

Last night, I finished up the Healing is a Choice Bible study (by Stephen Arterburn) with some ladies whom have become heart close girlfriends and our leaders Rich and Kip had this be our study ending song, The Hurt and The Healer by MercyMe.  I have heard this many times but to see the words, was right on target for everything.

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it’s rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide”

WOW!  I don’t want to give this person more credit than is due for any part of me dying, because other experiences including losing my mom to cancer 14 years ago has helped little parts of me to die but these scars of mine are becoming more and more understood.

Thank you, Jesus – the words are not enough but you know where my heart is.

Thank you, Mom – for watching over me then and now and even when we didn’t speak for weeks because of this guy hurting me and me allowing the hurt because of my fear.  Are you smiling as big as I am?

My Three Wisemen

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This Christmas I got a little surprise – the flu.  It arrived Thursday, December 20th as I was finishing a conversation with a recruiter who found me on LinkedIn.  After our chat, I headed off to a late lunch, time at school, then ran to the grocery store for food and my favorite cold remedies and to bed.

By Saturday morning, I had figured out it wasn’t a simple cold and we tried to get a little help but that didn’t work out, so back to bed I went.  Christmas Eve I woke up about 2am wired from the Sudafed I had taken the previous night to make the humming in my head stop.  And something happened that hadn’t in a while, I started writing in my head.  As I haven’t written in a while, my head was stumbling over itself with all the topics and issues my heart seemed to be heavy with.  The biggest one was Christmas Eve 16 years Later which I might yet get too one day.  And then there was My Three Wisemen.

As I lay there thinking about my last year and thinking about some of the people I pray about, I decided that I now have three wisemen.  The three wisemen were princes who traveled the fields and lands following that amazing star which ultimately led them to the new born Christ.  Whether they knew each other before this encounter, I’m not sure but because of Christ, they did come together and placed great gifts at the son of God’s feet.

My three wisemen are three gentlemen all under the age of 24 who I got to know a little this year.  They were relationships that were started to help each individual young man but as usual, ended up teaching me a lot.  They were relationships that I hoped would last longer but now I see that may not be the case.  So now I pray for them as they move on to live the adventures of their own lives and I pray that they are happy and secure.

These three guys don’t know each other and the likelihood is they will never cross paths but in my head and my heart it is easy to group them together, I guess because I was touched by each of them.  I’m excited for their futures and what they will make of themselves.  And just maybe they will be a little nicer to people they don’t know because someone they once met was nice to them.

As I write this, I hope that each of them is warm and that they not ever feel alone.  With each I have briefly visited with about God and Jesus and I know Jesus will take care of them, I just pray my three wisemen’s paths to really know God’s unending grace and love will be short and in turn long and enduring so that they can then reach and touch others.  I am praying for their wisdom and the gifts they will one day lay at the son of God’s feet.

Be safe and be wise, my three wisemen – Jose, Ali and Ryan.

Praying for St. Laurence Church

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The lovely St. Laurence Church in Southlake, Tx just off of Kimball and 114 became my church home the Fall of 2010.  For years leading up to the summer, when I would take the “back roads” to get to Costco or 1709, I would pass this picturesque church and think to myself, when I am ready to go to church, that is where I want to go.

Why?  Because it was and is just so pretty and perfect looking. Not too big, but not too small.  Surrounded by established trees and honestly, you could tell from the outside that there wasn’t a jumbo tron video screen on the inside.  It was St. Laurence Episcopal Church and if you could say I was raised in any church, it would have to be the Episcopalian Church so that part seemed to fit too.

In 2010 when God woke me up from concentrating solely on myself, I knew it was time to finally visit St. Laurence.  So I called my sister Evah who was attending St. Matthias Church in Dallas, where my dad and his wife serve the Lord and where my mom chose for her ashes to be kept.  Evah would be able to guide me on what to do and how to act, as I knew just enough about Episcopalian Church services to be confused.

It was Fourth of July weekend when we walked in for the first time and let me tell you, the inside is even prettier than the outside.  We selected a pew on the right side and it seemed to be a sign from God that He was glad that we were there when the sun shown thru one of the very few circular stain glass windows and landed on us like a spotlight.

After the service, Joanne Visney, a lovely lady whom we sat behind, invited us to the Parrish Hall for refreshments and she was kind enough to introduce us to others.  I remember, everyone kept apologizing about how few people were there as it was Fourth of July weekend but it all seemed perfect to me.

I can’t remember if that was the weekend after the junior or high school mission retreats or if the following weekend was but after getting our bearings, we decided to try sitting in the Southern transept because the sun shown through those windows and we hoped it might not be as refrigerated there from the air conditioning.  It wasn’t really the case but I came to find that those were my favorite seats because I had a front row view on everything.  As God knows, I prefer sitting up front in any learning situation so that I can hear better.

 

At that point, Evah hadn’t been attending her church very regularly mainly due to the long drive from her home in Arlington.  St. Mathias is the church my parents chose when they looked for a new church home after they remarried one another.  Evah was in her teens at that point and went through confirmation class with our mom there.  Evah had been attending St. Mathias for at least 15-20 years.  That summer, Evah attended with me every Sunday until the Fall came.  She missed her church home and family and the way they do things at St. Mathias so she returned to their services about the time that I started taking confirmation classes at St Laurence.

St. Laurence quickly became my church home and participating in the Christian Formation class helped me to know others in the church and to better understand all the ends and outs and whys behind the ceremonial aspects of our church services.  By the Spring, after some little pushes from God via the movie “Waiting for Superman” and attending The Road Adventure, I visited Gainesville State School with the St. Laurence prison ministry group headed up by Carl Lapiska and found a major calling in that area.

I was confirmed in June, 2011 and continued to jump in with both feet.  I participated in Vacation Bible School, helping my friend Jean with her pre-school class, helped with our GRACE Feed The Children week and returned to Christian Formation to be a sponsor.  In January 2011, since I wasn’t yet confirmed in the church, I couldn’t vote in the annual church meeting and by January 2012, when I could vote, I was voted to be a three year member of the church’s Vestry team.

Fast forward to today.  Today, the Texas Supreme Court is hearing arguments between The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopalian Diocese of Ft. Worth and many other Texas Dioceses regarding church property.  St. Laurence Church chose to separate from The Episcopal Church before I ever started to attend St. Laurence for a variety of reasons.  And if I understand correctly, The Episcopal Church believes that even though our church chose to leave the actual building and property belongs to them and they want it back or they simply don’t want us to have it.

This is happening all over the United States and in many other states, TEC has won.  Whether it is fair or not, or even right in God’s eyes, we are hoping that through today’s arguments that a decision will be made.  We know that if we lose the church property and the beautiful building that the members who were there before me contributed to a built, that actually brought me there, we will be okay and we will simply find a new home for our church family.  It is simply a building – the church is God, Jesus and the body that we make together.

The other two possibilities are that the court will find in our favor or they will say this needs to return to lower courts for an actual full court case.  The latter option is what we pray does not happen because that will keep us in limbo for many more years to come and expenses to be wasted on lawyers, courts, etc.  So today, we are praying that our heavenly Father, Lord of All, King of Kings and creator of the heavens and earth, brings clarity to the Texas Supreme Court judges hearing the case so that a final decision can be made in the months to come.

If we must leave our building behind, we know we will survive, prosper and grow stronger in the Lord through the adventure and bonding that will come from rebuilding.  Some of our church family may not stick around because the bricks and mortar or no fuss is what they prefer and that is okay too.

What a blessing for me that the building brought me to this extended church family and it will always hold a special place in my heart as it will for many others who have raised their families there, had their children christened there, their weddings there and their funerals there.  And what a charge, the Lord has lead me on by placing me and my fellow Vestry team members on during this time.