By Kenneth Jackson

By Kenneth Jackson

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"To Hell and Back"

That may sound like a strange title to a post, but it just kept coming to me over and over because that is where I feel like I have been.  This is not a journey that anyone would want to take.  I will try to put into words what is on my heart to share with you.  After months of dealing with physical issues with my left leg and foot which the doctor felt was coming from a  nerve root being irritated , I was put on prednisone (which in all my 63 years I had never taken.)  Since I am extremely sensitive to any medications--including almost dying from a reaction to one years ago--after a few days, I began to have an adverse reaction and was told to stop the medicine.  Then a week later, I had a steroid spinal injection----not knowing how it would affect me.  Since that time many other symtoms started--being "hyped up" on the inside, extreme agitation, sleeplessness and many other physical symtoms--now having such intense ringing in ears that prevents sleep many nights.  At times, I thought I was losing my mind.  I could not think straight--even thinking I was not going to make it.  The purpose of this blog is not to go on and on about what I am going through, but rather to share with you something I realized in the midst of it all.  There are times in our lives--hard times which can be anything from intense grief, physical suffering, mental or emotional suffering---any time that is just extremely difficult when we are literally "carried" by others.  During this time, I could not seem to think straight, I could not pray, I could not hear the still, small voice of God's Holy Spirit--I was just trying to get through and not doing a very good job of it.  I did not praise my way through--I did not rejoice always--I did not sing in the midst of suffering---rather, I did a very human thing---I just cried.  I was being "carried" by others. God's Holy Spirit--the Comforter---also means "one who is called alongside to help."  Most of the time during the last month, all I could do was cry out to God to help me!!!  I began to think about the story of "Footprints"--where there are two sets of footprints during our life when the Lord is walking along beside us, but during the hardest times of our lives, there is only one set of footprints---those times are when He is literally carrying us.  I began to thank Him for carrying me through---it seemed to be all I could do.  During this time, my greatest encourager has been my husband, Lynn.  He has constantly told me that I WAS going to make it through--that I WAS going to be all right and that God would see me through.  Honestly, at times, I doubted what he was telling me.  It was like I was in a fog and was losing my way.  Many times, he cancelled his plans to stay with me.  During the worst of nights, when I thought I could not take it any more, I clung to Lynn for dear life.  He did everything for me and patiently took care of me.  He has been one of those "called alongside to help."  Many of you--my family and friends--have been one of those also.  I have received calls, e-mails, texts from all of you who have been called alongside to help me---even from some I write in prison telling me that I have been weighing heavily on their hearts.  I believe it is the Lord Himself who puts other people on our hearts to pray or call just letting them know we are thinking of them or seeing if there is something we can do for them.  That is what has happened over and over to me.  Even with a lawyer I just met for the first time who held hands with Lynn and I and prayed for me!!!  The real treasures in our lives here on earth are our family and friends.  We have seen with all the fires how quickly all our "stuff" can be gone in a matter of minutes.  You and I have something much more precious than all our "stuff"---which can literally be burned up in minutes.  We are blessed with family and friends.  They are the ones who will carry us through everything!!!  I thank our God--the Creator of the Universe----for carrying each of us through those hard times in our lives and for sending many alongside to help.  I believe He does this every day---putting others on our hearts.  I pray we will all be obedient to either pray, call, text or e-mail that person on our heart who is in desperate need of a word of encouragement.  I am so thankful for all those who the Lord has called alongside to help me.  How BLESSED you and I are!!!!  Even at times when we doubt His Word, we are remined over and over that "His GRACE is sufficient"---He sends many to us and we see His life coming through others to encourage, comfort and to "carry" us through.
I recently visited with Kenneth and his story will be the next post.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"The Mountain Won't Move!!"

Have you ever hit a "bump in the road" that ended up being more like a mountain?  These "mountains" can be anything from a relationship problem with a person, trials, difficult situations---it can be anything that we would really not like to deal with.  It is just human nature to want smooth sailing in our lives.  When we come to these hard times, many times our first thoughts are "Oh, God, why me?"  What did I ever do to deserve this?  If you will just get me out of this, I promise I will do this and that!!"  Haven't we all bargained with the Father at times?  Then we begin to pray and ask Him to remove the mountain or change it.  Oftentimes this is a person that we are asking God to change or to remove from our lives.  We look at scripture and see where it says if we have faith as the grain of a mustard seed, we can say to the mountain to be removed and cast into the sea and it shall be done--so we begin to say to the moutain to be removed---but sometimes, it will not budge!!  Then we begin to think that surely this cannot be from the Lord---it has to be an attack of the enemy (the old devil!!) so we then begin to rebuke and command him to leave---yet sometimes, the mountain is still there!!  We do everything humanly possible to get the mountain gone---but it will not move!! Sometimes, we become consumed by this moutain--it is all we think about--how we can be rid of it, go around it, be ejected out of the situation, get away from the person or problem!!  FINALLY, when we get to the end of "self" and all our human efforts have failed to change or move the mountain, THEN we look up--up to the Creator of the universe--the Holy One of Israel--our very present help in time of trouble--the great "I AM"--our constant companion--our covenant partner--and call out from our innermost being--"Lord, help me!!  Father God, how are "we" going to get over this mountain to the other side?  I have found that every time I pray and ask the Lord to change a person or remove them, that it never happens---but rather I have found that it is the attitude of my heart towards this person that the Lord is after---it is my heart that needs changing.  I have found out that over and over when I pray and ask Him what are "we" going to do about a certain mountain looming in front of me, that I hear the still, small voice of His Spirit speaking to my heart over and over--"We" are going to trust in the Lord with all our heart---"we" are going to cross over the mountain--no matter how arduous a journey it is---He is going to see me through--every dark valley---over every hard mountain--through every difficult situation--whether it is a person or not.  My journey will not look anything like your journey---it is an individual, one on one, personal relationship with the Father---we cannot compare our path with anyone else's.  He leads and guides us individually.  Beloved, are you facing a "mountain" in your life today?  Have you tried everything to get the mountain to go away and yet it will not budge!!  Could it be there for a purpose?  Is there something in us that needs changing?  How do we get over the mountain?  I think the song "Amazing Grace" says it all---"Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come.  It is GRACE that brought me safe thus far, and GRACE will lead me home."  The prayer of my heart for you and me today is that we will all hear what the Apostle Paul heard from above--whispered to our hearts and reminding us over and over--"My grace IS sufficient."  Hallelujah!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"The River of Life"

Isn't the beautiful painting for the blog amazing!!! Kenneth,the artist I told you about in my first post, painted this for me.  Over the phone, I described to Kenneth what I was wanting and he did the rest!!!  I will try to explain to you how I envision the river of life.  I believe that God's grace and life are like a river that flows from His throne into us.  This river of life flowing into us brings many blessings--- His love, grace, mercy, peace and forgiveness.  It is like a river on earth that flows, and everywhere the river flows and touches, the river brings life--to plants, trees, flowers and it also sustains life--life springs forth where the land is dry, barren and parched. Also, a river can be so powerful that it is a source for producing power-- electricity. So it is with God's river of life that flows into our hearts bringing life and sustaining life in us---His life. Sometimes, we are dry, barren and parched and in need of His life and light.  Also, we need our "power source", the Holy Spirit--His presence in us, to be able to do what He wants us to do and say what He wants us to say.  This amazing river of life that flows into us is meant to then flow out of us to others who are in need of the same love, grace, mercy and life from the Lord.  If nothing flows out of us, then we will be like the Dead Sea---everything flowing in, but nothing flowing out--or we will just sit and soak up all He gives and become "satisfied sponges." I believe all we have received from the Lord is to flow out of our innermost being to others.   One thing is for sure, none of us can make this happen or cause His life to flow out of us---He does it.  It is all by His GRACE--God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  He also does it His way and in His time---ususally when we least expect it and in ways we never thought He would--always reminding us that He is in control--not us!!  As I told Kenneth about the river of life, I then asked him to paint what he saw.  All I can say is "wow!!."  I believe this picture shows the glory around the throne and is just amazing.  Thank you Kenneth for blessing all of us by letting the gifts, that the Lord has given you, flow out to us.  As soon as Kenneth and I can get together, he has graciously allowed me to tell you his story.  He finished his time in prison in January, after being incarcerated for twenty years--half of his life.  You will be blessed by hearing his story.
Today, I believe that somehow, someway--probably when you least expect it-- you will experience His Grace Flowing out of you--- bringing His life and His light to those around you in desperate need of His touch.
Revelation 22:1--Next the angel showed me a pure river of water of life, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.       

Monday, August 1, 2011

"No Fishing Allowed"

Since today is the very first day of a new month----a new beginning--- I am reminded of something years ago that someone told me about the past.  I think all of us at times look back in our past and wish we had not done something or not said something.  I believe we all say-- "If I had only done this or said this, or IF only I had not done this or not said that", or we say--"If we had it to do over again, we would do it differently."  A very wise person told me something about the past.  She said to put up a "No Fishing" sign--- don't go fishing up past adversity, past failures, past heartaches and past blunders.  Don't go there--NO fishing allowed!!!  We cannot go back and change what is already history--it is impossible.  We can learn from our past, but then we need to move on--to PRESS ON!!  Absolutely nothing in the past has the power to hold us back unless we allow it to.  I have heard that "sorrow looks back, worry looks around, but faith looks up."  As humans and being slow learners, sometimes we look everywhere--back and around-- first before we look up.  I don't know if you need reminding today about letting go of the past, but I do!!  I seem to keep "fishing up" the past and rehearsing it over and over in my mind----which does no good at all!!!  Life has NO rewind button--we cannot go back and have "do overs" with anything in our past.  As I thought about this, the scripture from Philippians 3:13&14 came to mind---"...but this one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I PRESS FORWARD toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." 
I pray His Holy Spirit will remind you and me--- when we begin to get out our fishing poles and start fishing up things in our past----that we will hear His Spirit say loud and clear---"NO Fishing Allowed!!!"
Our God is a redeeming, restoring God--He can redeem all that is in our past.  PRESS ON!!--the best is yet to come!!! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Are You In Pain?"

As we enter into a relationship with the Father and begin walking and talking with Him, He takes us on many journeys---journeys to reveal Himself to us and teach us about His ways.  I recently have been on a journey to see others through the eyes of God---in two different ways.  One is about being in pain---this is more than physical pain--there is mental anguish, emotional pain, spiritual pain, grief and sorrow are types of pain--pain can be in any area.  One night as I was lying in bed with sciatic pain down my leg, I began to think of people in different types of pain.  I began to see something.  All those people in pain "just want to be free of the pain."  When people are in pain, they turn to many different things to get relief or to be comforted.  Some are addicted to pain medication, others are drug addicts, alcoholics, some addicted to food.  My "drug" of choice has always been sugar---using it to comfort me and even numb the pain I was in at the time.  Some are in such pain that they commit suicide--at that moment, not living looks like a better option than living.  I have been at that same place many times.  ALL of us just want to be free of some type of pain.  We as humans usually judge and condemn all these people---I have over and over---but when we judge others for what they do and say, we are actually judging the motives of their heart and ONLY God can do that.  We cannot see into a person's heart to know their motives.  The Father is the only just judge because He sees into the heart.  I began to see that when Jesus was walking this earth, when He came across people in pain, He was "moved with compassion" for them. As His followers, when we come across those in pain, aren't we also to be "moved with compassion."  On this journey to see others through His eyes, I was driving on a two lane highway behind a car who was driving about 50 miles per hour and driving with half the car on the shoulder and half in my lane---preventing me from passing the car.  I had a line of cars behind me, but there was a yellow stripe in the highway.  When I was able to pass the car and saw that it was an elderly woman who seemed to have a death grip on the steering wheel, I began to be moved with compassion for this woman and out of my mouth came the words "Bless her heart, she is doing the best she can." Judging the actions of others like this woman causes us to have "road rage" and then we begin to curse people instead of blessing them.  How do we look at others in some type of pain or people who irritate us by what they say and do-- and see them through the eyes of God?  Only if He does it for us, will we ever be moved with compassion and bless others instead of cursing them.  This is GRACE--God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  As His grace flows into our hearts, then His grace will begin to flow out of us to all those who cross our path every day.
"Oh, Father God, cause us to see others through your eyes---eyes of grace and compassion--eyes that see people the way You do so we will bless instead of curse those whom you created and love."  Amen and Amen

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Lay Down The Whip"

Have you ever beat yourself up over past mistakes, failures and sins?  I know this well because I have been the "queen" of carrying around a load of guilt and shame---a load so heavy that it is no wonder that I stayed in a pit of depression for years!!  Sometimes we wonder how we can live that "abundant Christian life" that we hear about.  Jesus said that He came to give us life and give it abundantly, but so many people go around with no joy, no peace and carrying heavy loads.  I believe that one reason is that we are continuing to live under condemnation and guilt even though we know in Romans 8:1 that scripture tells us that there is NO condemnation (guilt) to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but the spirit.  We are meant to live "guilt free."  When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from ALL iniquity.  Not only does He forgive us---He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west and casts them into the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them NO MORE!!! They are GONE!!  After living years of carrying such a load of guilt and shame, I had a "divine appointment" about two years ago with someone from another state who I had never even met.  I had no idea that the Lord would have me "bear my soul" to this complete stranger, but when I did, this is what she said to me---"I see you with a whip in your hand and you are taking that whip and beating yourself over your back until you are red and bleeding.  Every time you whip yourself, you are saying to Jesus that the beating that He took for you was not enough---that you have to continue to whip yourself; but, the beating He took was MORE than enough so that you do not have to."  This is pure GRACE--He did it for us.  This revelation brought life and healing to me.  She was telling me it was time to "lay down the whip."  Beloved, is it time for you to lay down the whip and drop that heavy burden you are carrying?  Hear His words in Matthew 11:28-30---"Come unto Me, ALL you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find REST unto your soul.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  I pray today that we will all hear the still, small voice of His spirit saying to us "Lay down the whip" and I believe He will continue to remind us over and over---because we are slow learners---to not pick up the whip again, and I believe we will hear Him speak to our hearts-- "My GRACE is sufficient---you don't need the whip anymore---I have set you FREE!!!"  Amen and Amen

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Be Content"--but how Lord?

Has your path ever crossed someone else's path and you looked back and wondered if it was "chance" or a "divine appointment?"  This happened to me recently in Mardel's bookstore in Waco.  I looked up and there was my cousin, Karen, who lives in Brownwood, who I rarely ever see.  She had come to Temple to have her hair cut and heard there was a Mardel's in Waco.  She said she NEVER comes to Waco.  In her basket was a book--"One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  Karen told me about the book, and I bought one.  This book came to me during a time that the last thing I was being was "content." Due to swelling in the foot of the leg where I had surgery years ago, the only way I could get relief was to keep the foot elevated which then caused back pain and leg pain.  I had been throwing a big "pity party" about the whole thing and having to "rest" the foot.  You would think that "rest" is easy---it isn't--it is contrary to our human nature.  I did my share of "murmuring and complaining."  Then, I began to read the book---the author's story of her journey to the miracle of joy, trust and resting in the Lord.  She began to read in scriptures that "giving thanks" always preceded the miracle.  When Jesus fed the multitudes, He gave thanks, broke the bread and the miracle happened.  The night before He was crucified, He gave thanks and broke the bread, then the miracle of His death and resurrection happened.  Ann began her journey by starting a "blessings journal" where she began to write down one thousand gifts of grace--blessings--to give thanks for.  The result was not only the miracle of joy but "being content."  Paul tells us in Philippinans 4:11---"I have learned in whatever state I am, in this to be content."  We as humans are slow learners and we try to do it in our own strength, even saying "I WILL be content, I WILL be content--I WILL, I WILL!!!!--only to find out that our striving to be content never works!!  When all along, He wants to do it for us---Grace--God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Only the Father can teach us and take us to the place of truly "being content."  It is pure GRACE!!!  He does it!!  It is also "giving thanks" that comes pouring out of our hearts--not just words--and we find out that we cannot be murmuring and complaining at the same time that we are "giving thanks."  What are those "gifts of grace--blessings" that you and I can "give thanks" for today?  I am truly thankful to God for allowing me to share His life with you in this blog.  I give thanks to Him for each one of you taking the time to be part of this journey----this amazing journey of GRACE!!!  His grace is sufficient to teach us and take us to the place of "being content" in all things.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Following Him Into Prison"

One recent "step" I took in following the Lord was going into the Boyd Unit---a medium security men's prison located between Teague and Fairfield--to bring the message at their Sunday morning church service.  When asked to do this, at first I remember saying that it would be a joy and privilege and yes, I would do it; however, as the time got closer and I began to realize the message that God was putting on my heart, I began to do what Moses did.  I began to argue with God!!  How could I go into a men's prison and speak to them about submitting to authority and dying to self?  He led me to Exodus 4:12 where Moses was arguing with God about why he could not do what God was calling him to do!!  He was telling Moses to just "take the first step--go!!" and God would do the rest!  I knew the Lord was wanting me to just go, and HE would do the rest, but He was also wanting me to take this step into prison with no notes at all!!  I began to argue that I needed an outline, cue words or something!!  What if I forgot to say something?---I needed to know where I was starting, where I was ending and all the points inbetween, but NOTHING would come except to trust Him.  I wanted to be in control of what I was going to say, and He wanted me to step out in faith and give me what I was to say at the time I was speaking.  In order to do this, I had to "die" to what I wanted to do, which the message to the men was "Out of Death, Comes Life."  In following Jesus, His path led to the cross--a place of death and dying, but out of His death, we live.  It is the same in our walk with Him, it will take us to the cross--a place of dying to self--and out of our willingness to die to what we want, then He lives in and through us.
Something truly amazing happened when I was willing to walk into the prison with nothing except depending on Him.  As I stood there looking into the sea of faces of 218 men, I told them that there was NOTHING that I had to tell them---nothing that I could say to them that would mean anything---it would be only words, but when I stepped out and began to speak, He did what ONLY He can do.  Almighty God took plain, simple human words and breathed Life into them and caused them to be Words of Life.  By the power of His Holy Spirit, He dropped into my spirit what He wanted me to say to the men that morning. After the message, I stood there humbled and amazed as man after man came up to me.  One man was crying so that I could not understand one word that he said.  Another had only been at the Boyd Unit three days.  He showed me the scars on his arms where he had tried to commit suicide.  He came up and gave His life to the Lord right then!!!  Another man said the night before he had prayed and told God that he had to know if He was real or not---this was it--he had to know, and what I said in the message was exactly what God told him the night before.  Another man said he had prayed and prayed three weeks before for God to send someone--and He sent me.  Man after man came up and told me what all the message meant to them.  When I got into my car to drive home, all I could say was "wow."  I was so amazed at what God had done by the power of His Holy Spirit.  I had just seen the miraculous happen and our amazing God of all grace had allowed me to be a part of it!!
I am telling you this for you to see what God is doing inside prison walls.  He is doing the miraculous---transforming lives by the power of His Holy Spirit.  That morning last month, I was NOT the message--I was ONLY the messenger.  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah, IS the message.  He always has been and always will be the message. You and I are just "tag alongs."  He allows us to come along and see all that He is doing in the lives and hearts of people---not only in prison but out here in the "free world."
What a blessing to be a "tag along"-- to follow Him and see today what He is doing, but it is never us---it is ALWAYS Him!!  Don't you want to be His "tag along" today?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"One Step at a Time"

You and I were created to be in a relationship with the Father through faith in His Son--to walk and talk with Him.  As we begin this journey with Him, Jesus says to each of us-- "Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  We are to follow and HE does the rest--He causes us to become the men and women that He wants us to be--we can't make it happen--it is completely by His grace.  We are to simply follow, but how do we do that?  I believe it is to be "one step at a time."  It is an amazing journey He takes us on when His Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us.  His Holy Spirit is the very presence of God in us and one of the attributes of His Spirit is to be our guide---to lead us every day.  Sometimes this takes us to places we had never imagined ourselves going and doing things we never thought we would be doing--like having a blog!!  Two years ago, I knew nothing about prison and did not know anyone in prison.  I really wasn't interested in it either, but the Lord had other plans.  I had no idea about all the men and women who are incarcerated in six different prisons that would cross my path.  I just took the next step, and the Lord did the rest.  Recently, one step took me to speak to some women at a local church about prison ministry.  After talking to the women, a young woman came up to me and asked how difficult it was to write to someone in prison.  She said her cousin was in prison and she thought her family needed to reach out to her cousin.  I told her all you needed was the TDCJ number assigned to her cousin and the name and address of the prison.  I came home and googled her name and it told that she was at Mountainview and gave her TDCJ number.  I forwarded the information onto this young woman.  I do not know if she has contacted her cousin or not, but as I began to think about the young woman in prison, the Holy Spirit began to lead me to take the next step and send her a copy of the book "Heaven is For Real" by Todd Burpo.  It is the story of a 4 year-old little boy whose appendix ruptured and he went to heaven.  Then he began to tell his parents about what he saw and what Jesus told him.  It is an amazing book--a must read--- if you have not read it.  Since individuals cannot send books to those in prison, I sent it from my church to her.  Only churches and bookstores are allowed to send books.  Anyone can send letters or cards to individuals who are incarcerated.  I received a thank you note this week saying how much she appreciated the book and that it came at a time when she was going through a hard, stormy time.  Another amazing thing is that I go to Mountainview women's prison twice a month---once for a Kairos prison ministry second Saturday meeting and then another time for a Women's Aglow meeting.  I might even get to meet this young woman if our paths cross in the future!!  Yesterday, I sent her a daily devotional--"Streams in the Desert" that I read each day because I knew that was the next step to take for this person I do not even know.
Every day there are people that our God wants to bless and people that He will bring across our paths.  As we commit the day into His hands, ask for His grace and His presence, and depend on Him to show us the next step to take, He will do the rest.  What is the next step that He is leading you to take today?  Sometimes, we can be so concerned about what we are going to do tomorrow or looking to something in the future that we miss out on what is right in front of us---our next step.  He will lead and guide you where He wants you to go, and I believe He will do it as we take "one step at a time."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Me??--have a blog!! Are you really sure Lord??

Since this is the first posting for my blog, I felt like I needed to explain to you how it came into being.  Last fall, after doing a Kairos prison ministry weekend, I began to send e-mails to family and friends about the women I had met at prison.  Everyone was very interested in hearing about what God is doing inside the prison walls in the lives and hearts of men and women.  I would also send out e-mails about different messages that the Lord was putting on my heart to share--things that were not about prison ministry.  Sometime in the fall, my niece Allison, who has a blog--lullabylubbock-- suggested having a blog.  At the time, I knew nothing about the world of blogging and had no idea how to do it--especially since I am so computer illiterate!!!  All I knew to do was pray and ask God that if it was something He wanted me to do then He would have to make it crystal clear.  That is exactly what happened!!  In March, after sending out a prison e-mail, a friend of mine, Susan (who is a technology expert) responded and said that she sent my e-mails onto other people and she felt like there were other people who would be blessed by receiving them.  Then she asked if I had ever considered having a blog and she knew how to do it and it was easy!!!  I told her she had just given me my crystal clear answer from the Lord!  She spent hours with me patiently explaining how to set up the blog.  It is definitely a work in progress.  Sometimes the blog will be about people that I have met in prison. I write to 7 females in two different prisons and 10 males in 4 different prisons.  What our God is doing in the lives of those who are incarcerated is nothing short of miraculous!!  Other times, I will be sharing a message that the Lord has put on my heart.  He is already flooding me with many things to share with you.  So, where do I go from here?  I believe it is to be one step at a time---or more correctly--one post on the blog at a time--always depending on the leading of His Holy Spirit and sharing with you that amazing river of life---His life---that he pours into our hearts bringing His unconditional love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.  Then that same river of life is to flow out of us to a world in desperate need of Him.  One of the last e-mails I sent out was about my Mother who passed away in April.  The message I gave at her funeral service is the first post on the blog.  She was my hero is life and this blog will always be in her memory--my precious mother who laid her life down so that my brother, sister and I could live.
A very talented artist, Kenneth, a young man I met while he was in prison, is painting a picture of the river of life flowing down to us. This picture will then be added to the blog. When he has it finished, I will let everyone know and hopefully, Kenneth will let me tell all of you his story--he is now out of prison and doing well:)

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Mother

Friends and Family,
I was given the honor to speak at my Mother's service.  It has been on my heart to share with you what I said about my Mother who was my hero in life.  I heard someone say this morning---"Faith is caught--it is not taught."  This is my Mother's example:  it is  long in typing it. but if you should have some time to read it and want to, I wanted you to know the Mother I was blessed to have.

It is my privilege to tell you about our Mother.  She was Mother to us, she was Granny to her grandchildren and she was Bubba to her sisters.  Mother was the youngest of five girls--the baby---and her sisters called her Bubba and her nieces and nephews called her Aunt Bubba.  When Bryce, Beth and I met together to talk about what to say today, we all agreed that it was impossible to put into words what all this one person--our Mother was to us.  There are not enough words or enough time to tell you what she did for us.  Life was never about Mother and her needs or wants--it was always about us.  We saw in life what few people experience.  There is a scripture that says there is no greater love than when a person lays down their life down for another.  That is what Mother did for us--she literally laid her life down for us.  She raised us by herself.  If Daddy were here, he would be the first one to tell you that.  He always gave Mother all the credit.  She sacrificed and worked hard to provide for all our needs.  Mother was 16 years old when she eloped with our father.  By the time she was 21, she had three children--first me, then Bryce and then Beth.  We grew up out in the country on a dairy.  We were so poor--Bryce said "dirt poor," but we didn't know it.  We thought everyone grew up on fried spam and bologna sandwiches.  I was grown before I knew that spam wasn't real ham!!  Beth says she still loves spam!  But when we ate our fried spam, we sat at the table holding our fork correctly, with elbows off the table, not chewing with our mouths open, and asking to please be excused when we were through.  We couldn't leave the table until we had eaten everything on our plates including vegetables.  Bryce figured out a way to get around that.  Our table had hollow chrome legs and Bryce would stuff his green beans and peas down the legs of the table!.  Years later when we moved, all those dried green beans and peas came pouring out of the legs!!  Mother made sure that we behaved.  We never talked back to our Mother.  She had a fly swatter and we did not want that on our bare legs.  I remember calling my brother a name one time when I was very young.  I only did it one time.  We were expected to behave when we went to anyone's house and we were never allowed to ask anyone for anything--even at our grandparents's.  Mother would never ask for help.  Even when we did not have enough food, she never asked for help from anyone including her parents or Daddy's parents.  To support us, Mother went to work as a waitress when we were very young.  She would take us to our Aunt Dicey's who kept us while Mother worked.
Beth remembers when she was in high school and doing a yearbook for Capri--a club she was in--that she waited until the last minute to type it.  Mother never waited until the last minute to do anything--she was so organized, but Mother got a green typewriter ribbon because the club's colors were green, and after she worked all day on Friday, she stayed up the whole night to type the yearbook.  The next day, the club got a first place ribbon---because of Mother.  Beth said she remembers when she, Bryce and some friends tied a tire with a rope to a car to ride on when it snowed, that Mother was right there in the middle of them!!! 
Our brother, Bryce, even though he was not the baby, Beth and I always called him "baby Bryce" who could do no wrong.  Mother loved all of Bryce's friends and they hung out at our house where Mother fed them her famous tacos, chicken fried steak, hamburgers and much more.  In junior high, all of them put together some money and bought Mother a huge box of Valentine's candy and signed it "To Mom."  She was a second mom to many of them.  One of them, Jackie, in these last years, would come to visit Mother and bring her Chunky Monkey ice cream.  In high school, six of Bryce's friends got together $16.00 dollars apiece to buy a 1949 Dodge.  The only problem was that they were under 18 and couldn't sign to buy it and could not get anyone else to sign for it----except for Mother.  Bryce remembers Mother laughing all the way down to the car lot.  Beth remembers when they drove up at home in the car---Mother was in the front seat grinning from ear to ear.  They painted the doors all different colors and would drive around all hanging out of the car----all because of Mother.  After moving away, Bryce would come to Odessa to play in golf tournaments and stay with Mother.  One time, she asked him how he played.  Bryce told her he played just terrible!!!  Mother said that it was very windy and he didn't know the greens, but never saying he played bad.  She always turned everything into something positive.  Once when he came in and she asked him how he played, Bryce told her he had shot a 68.  Mother grinned real big and teared up and told him that he could have beat Tiger Woods!!  She was our greatest encourager and our greatest supporter.
You know what type of person someone is if their daughter-in-law loves them and thinks they are wonderful which is what Jo thought of Mother.  You have to understand that Jo married "baby Bryce" who Mother had always cooked wonderful, delicious, home-cooked meals for him, and Jo is not known for her culinary skills!  One time, Jo called Mother and asked her if a fourth of a cup or a third of cup was the most!!!---but Mother did not say anything negative about it.
When I was in the fifth grade, our class had elected a king and a queen who had to walk down a long aisle for the program.  My one pair of shoes at the time were worn out and I ran the heel over on them.  I did not want to ask for a new pair of shoes.  Mother somehow scraped together the few dollars to buy me a pair of shoes so I could walk down the aisle.  I will never forget them.  They were bright, shiny new penny loafers.  When I was in high school, I had an old flute.  Mother bought me a brand new Hanes opened-toed flute.  She paid for it in monthly payments of $25.00.  It was very expensive and a huge sacrifice on her part, but she wanted me to have it.  When I was in high school, Mother worked as a waitress at the Golden Rooster.  She worked the lunch run and then worked late at night for the night shift.  When I got up early in the morning to go to band, I would get my lunch money out of her tips which she had on the ironing board in her room.  I remember that I got fifty five cents---the price of a lunch at school.  I would never get more than that because I knew how hard she had worked for it and sometimes it was as much as the tips she had gotten the night before.  Mother kept a little notebook with the years she worked and each week listed.  Then she wrote down the days of the week and how much she made in tips each day---sometimes $3, $4 or $5 dollars--or more- or sometimes less in tips---this was how she provided for all our needs.  Later, Mother worked her way through Columbia Business School and went to work as a secretary at KOSA T.V. station.  She gave it her all and went from a secratary to National Sales Representative in a very short time.  It was a hugh accomplishment.  In her fifties, she took up golf.  She tackled it like she did everything else.  She had a little notebook where she wrote down every round that she played.  She wrote what she shot on the front nine and the back nine, how many putts she had, who she played with, how she played and what the weather was like.  When she made her first hole-in-one, Bryce, Lynn and Chad were there to witness it and see how thrilled she was!!  One of her golfing friends a few years ago told me that Mother made everything fun.  When they went to tournaments,  Mother hummed all the way there and they would sometimes count the telephone poles.  Beth received two phone calls yesterday from two of her golf friends.  One told Beth that mother was always kind to her when sometimes others were not.  Another told Beth that our Mother was one of the most beautiful women inside and out that she had ever known.
Mother was a granny at the age when some people are just having children.  Mother was one of the most vivacious, energetic, postive, upbeat persons you will ever meet.  She didn't just take her grandchildren places---she did everything with them.  She skated with them, swam with them, bowled and played golf with them.  Christi said how she never wanted to come home from Mother's.  Allison, when she was only five years old, flew to Odessa to stay with Mother.  When Allison got home, she asked Jo if Granny was going to die.  Jo told her that some day she would.  Allison said that would be the saddest day of her life.  Beth said how Mother would make elaborate Easter baskets for her four children with games, toys and candy in them.  Mother would bring them to Beth's front door, park way down the street, ring the doorbell and run to her car.  Cory told Beth that he had just seen the Easter bunny and he left in a van!!  One time, Sadie was afraid to go to school because of a girl in her class who was mean to her.  Mother went up to the school and got Sadie moved to another class!!  Chad remembers when Mother took them to the Playdium in West to swim and when they asked her to take them to the Natural Caverns that she took off to take them.  It wasn't until after they got past Waco and realized it was over a hundred miles that they turned around and came back.  She was up for anything with her grandchildren.
Seven years ago, the first caregivers for Mother were two granddaughters---Tina and Sadie, Beth's two daughters.  Daddy got them to come and stay with Mother in the afternoon while he ran errands.  Then when we needed more help, Becky, who was in Mother's Sunday School class came to work, then Robbie.  When Robbie could no longer work, then Leeadria came.  When Tina moved to Dallas last summer, Betty came.  When Becky passed away, here came Rebecca who had never been a caregiver, but fell in love with Mother.  Tina and Sadie took such loving and kind care of Mother.  They did for Mother things they thought they would never be able to do, but they did them because of their love for Mother.  All the caregivers put Mother at the top of the list of those they had cared for.  Mother never complained and never demanded or asked for anything from them.  She always said thank you for everything they brought to her or did for her.  Becky said that when she would begin to complain or gripe about something in her life that all she had to do was look at Mother who never complained.  The only thing Mother ever said to me was about five years ago when she told me that she did not know that death would be like this---where you had to suffer so. After Daddy passed away and Beth and I were sitting with Mother telling her about the schedule for the caregivers---at the time, we had round the clock care for Mother, we were telling her that Beth and Teddy were going to come spend the night, then Becky and Robbie would come, then Tina and Sadie would come as we went over the schedule.  Mother said--"I'm a lot of trouble."  We told her that she was a piece of cake.  She never wanted to be a bother or trouble to anyone.  Mother was telling Becky, one of her caregivers, what she wanted at her funeral.  She told her the songs she wanted sung and she said she wanted Tina and Sadie to carry her casket.  Beth called me and told me this--we had to laugh because how were Tina and Sadie going to carry it by themselves!  That is why the 8 grandchildren---five girls and three boys---are the pallbearers today.  Tina and Sadie lovingly lifted and carried Mother in life while taking care of her.  Now one last time, they are going to lift and carry their Granny with the help of all the other grandchildren.
Bryce and I want to thank Beth for what all she did for Mother.  Because of Beth, Mother has been able to stay in her home these last five years since Daddy passed away.  Beth handles the estate, takes care of Mother's home, buys groceries, manages the four caregivers who stay around the clock with Mother.  She gets new caregivers when we need them.  She changes the schedules of the caregivers when needed and she and Teddy come and stay with Mother when the caregivers cannot be there.  She also does this while working full time.  When Beth was at work, Teddy would come and help Becky get Mother into the car to go to the doctor.  He would follow them there and help unload Mother, come back after the appointment and help with Mother again.  Sometimes, Mother would slip into the floor--as happens when caring for someone--and the caregivers would call Beth and Teddy to come.  Teddy would lovingly lift Mother out of the floor because he loved her.  I asked Beth once how she did all of this--but I know how she did it.  She was following right along by Mother's example.  In life, we do things that sometimes are hard, but we don't complain, and when we finish doing them, we do not complain about having to do them---just like our Mother.  Life for Mother was never easy, but everything that life brought to Mother, she always handled it graciously---never complaining.  Bryce and I will never forget everything that Beth has done for Mother.  Beth always said that at the end of Mother's life that she just wanted to be able to say that we did the best we could.  We did the best we could because of our sister, Beth.
Sadie's youngest son, Dawson, a little surprise blessing, would come to Mother's.  Mother watched the movie, Shrek, over and over with him.  He would sit in her lap and when she was on a walker, he would sit on the seat and ride.  Mother's caregivers had worked out hand signals when Mother could no longer get out words.  Mother would raise one finger for yes.  One day, Dawson asked Granny if he was her favorite.  Mother raised one finger.  Sadie told Mother that she thought Cody was her favorite.  Mother raised one finger.  Dawson then told Mother that both of them were her favorite!!  We were all her favorites---her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren.
There was a special place in Mother's heart for Bryce.  No son has ever been loved as much as Bryce.  No daughters have ever been loved as much as Beth and I were.  Several weeks ago, one of Mother's caregivers called me and asked if I could call Mother and cheer her up.  Mother was weepy and teary that day, which she usually was not.  I called her and said--"Mother, I want you to know how much Bryce, Beth and I love you---how much you are loved and how sorry we are that you cannot say what you want to say, do what you want to do and go where you want to go.  If you want to fly away and be with Daddy and the Lord, go ahead and go.  Bryce, Beth and I will be okay.  We will be okay because of you and the way that you raised us.  When you get to heaven, I believe when your feet hit the ground, that you will take off running--with your curly hair flying and you will be free.  You will be free of the body that failed you.  Mother's body failed her, but her mind did not.
These last days when Mother was at hospice house, she rested peacefully.  The peace and calm was felt in the room with her.  She ministered that to us.  Bryce's birthday was on Tuesday.  Monday, Beth said that Mother would not go on his birthday.  Tuesday morning, the nurse told us Mother was not doing it by the book---her body was showing the signs of going, but her blood pressure was not going down as her pulse rate was rising.  On Wednesday morning, I wish you had seen her face.  When Beth came in and looked at her, she said her face looked like ivory.  There was not a wrinkle on her forehead or her face--it was beautiful.  She was getting ready to go home to glory.  Later that day, Beth, Tina and Sadie and I were all around her.  She had told Tina and Sadie when they were taking care of her---"I don't know what I would do without you girls."  Sadie told her "I don't know what we would do without you, Granny."  She had also told Beth and I the same thing--that she didn't know what she would do without us. What would we ever have done without our Mother?  As her breathing began to slow and her little heart would beat--then stop--then start beating again, Beth's phone rang.  It was Bryce.  Beth put the phone up to Mother's ear and Bryce told her that he loved her and that she had been the best mother in the whole world.  Not long after that, she slipped away without making a sound like she did not want to be a bother or trouble to anyone in death just like she had been in life---but, she waited until after Bryce's birthday and until after he had called and talked to her.
We will never forget our Mother and what all she did for us.  She has walked before us, set an example and left hugh footprints---footprints that we will never be able to fill.  We will remember her in many ways.  When we are playing on a beautiful golf course, we will think of her and how much she would want to be there.  If we ever make a hole in one, we will remember her and how she would love to hear about it.  But, I think the way we will most remember her is when we are eating at a restaurant and when we tip the waitress and hear the still, small voice of the spirit saying to give more, give more, then we will remember her----that waitress might have children at home that need their lunch money out of her tips.  We will remember her when we drive through a fast-food place and hand the person the money to pay and say to keep the change--or when we pay for the meal of the car behind us---or when we are in an airport restroom and see an attendant there and give them some money and thank them for their hard work---we will remember our Mother.  There is a song "Angels Among Us"--sent down to us from somewhere up above. I believe God in His mercy and grace sent our Mother to us--to love us, teach us and care for us.  This is also what all the caregivers are---they were sent to us---Tina, Sadie, Becky, Robbie, Leeadria, Betty and Rebecca.  We never advertised for help---when we needed help---they came to us.  This is also what all of you here today are.  You have been sent to us to comfort us in our loss--by these flowers, by your e-mails, texts and cards---because of your love and concern for us.  Thank you for your presence here today and your care and concern for us.  This song is for our precious Mother and for all of you.