Happy Anniversary

Psalms 143:8

Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in thee I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to thee I lift up my soul..” 

Thought for the Day:  God’s special plan

Today represents an interesting day and one that, although things changed, should be remembered.  My mama and daddy (Mary Jane and Gordon Henderson) were married on July 2, 1957.  My first husband, David, and I were married on July 2, 1988.  David and I were married on mama’s and daddy’s 31st anniversary – there is a photo in our wedding album of our family’s orange and white van with “Happy 31” drawn on one of the windows .  Well, today would have been David’s and my 31st anniversary.  Of course David was killed in a car accident a few months before our 7th anniversary, but the memory of being married on Mama’s and Daddy’s 31st anniversary still touches my heart. Of course, God blessed me with a mother who wanted her daughter to find a second love, so she brought Mark into my life and as they say, “The rest is history.”  Mark brought me to a new place, a new life, where dreams come true.  Mark brought me to a place with children, two of the most precious boys anywhere.  Mark and I have been now in ministry for 22 years and that is extra special to me.  God knew my story before I was born and planned for every season.  David and I were a team in marriage and had a special time together.  Mark and I have now been another team in marriage for 22 years and we have been together through a full life where we have cried together and laughed together as we witnessed miracles and we lived through grief.  Mark has even cried over David’s death as the memories have occasionally come.

Today, I have parents in Rita and Charles Shaw, David’s parents, and they have also been parents to Mark and grandparents to our boys.  I am thankful to them for the gift of their son, and the gift to Mark and me of welcoming us into their family.  I am thankful to Mark for taking this girl who lived through grief more times than anyone should, and made her his wife to love, cherish, and to be in ministry with.  I am a blessed woman and I do not take that for granted.

Happy 62nd Anniversary Mama and Daddy!  I love you.

Prayer:  God, you know us before born and you know the lives we will lead.  I am thankful that through every step of my life that you have shown me the next steps.  Thank you for allowing us to still have the memories, but for also allowing us to see the path before us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Anniversaries

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God’s Gift

Matthew 18:5

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” 

 Thought for the Day:  When we receive God’s gift.

“Are you still interested in adopting another baby?” were the words we heard when we answered the phone.  Hannah’s Hope was the adoption agency for the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church and they were calling.  We had been on the waiting list for sometime, but were still in awe when the call came.  “There was a baby boy born last night. Would you be interested?”  Our thought was “Of Course!”.  We were very interested but asked if we could take some time to pray about it and to call them back later.  We prayed as soon as we got off the phone that God would give us a sign either way.  I was 49 at that time and Mark was about to turn 52.  We had already promised our 6 ½ year old, Nathaniel that we would take him swimming at a friend’s house so we wanted to fulfill that promise.  We had a great time at our friend, Elizabeth’s, home to swim and headed home on a curvy road that led home.  As we drove, we were quiet and thinking about that sweet baby boy.  Then it happened, Mark gasped!  Thinking there was something wrong, I asked him what was wrong.  He said, “Nothing…He was born ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!”  At that moment, that very moment, we said, “We are supposed to adopt that baby.”  God had given us a sign, a VERY STRONG DEFINITE SIGN, that we were to adopt that baby.  We made it home and immediately called to say we would adopt that baby boy.

Twelve days later, after finishing the adoption papers and making arrangements, we held that baby boy in our arms.  That baby boy, our Jonathan Walker, came into our lives and fulfilled our desire and God’s plan for our lives with children.  My birthday gift has brought such precious experiences to our lives and his love for everyone has shown clear.  There is a special time every year when Jonathan and I share our birthday together.  And, on that day every year, we praise God for the gift He gave 9 years ago.  God has blessed us with two children who are caring and loving to all they meet.  Just this week at Lake Junaluska, I heard from many how our boys were kind in holding doors for people as we walked in buildings, and were considerate to those near them.  As one person said, “In today’s world to see young men so considerate of others is rare.”  I am proud of my two boys…that 6 ½ year old who welcomed a new little brother those 9 years ago and to that 9 year old who brought God’s gift to us.  Thank you, God, for our precious gifts…Nathaniel means “Gift of God” and Jonathan means “God’s gift.”

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for the precious gift of children.  We have been blessed with these two boys who are precious to us and we never take for granted that it was You who gave these gifts to us. 

Prayer Focus:  Adoption

God Knows, God Knows

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to God  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Thought for the Day:  God knows.

What a precious day!  A day I have needed for so long.  We woke up and spent the morning as a family at our church’s “Above All/Love All”, our UMC Mission Event.  Three hours of spending time with my husband and two sons, all making Easter bags and cards together.  I spent most of my time with my oldest son, Nathaniel, decorating Easter Bags.  It was a blessing beyond understanding to be there with him.  Mark spent his time in another part of the room with Jonathan, helping him decorate the bags.  After that, our family went out to eat at The Mall of Georgia.  As we left, and as we walked back to our car, I noticed Nathaniel and his Daddy running to see who could make it to the car first.  They did that often when Nathaniel was little.  When they stopped to look at a car in the parking lot, I grabbed Jonathan’s hand and we started running to beat them to the car.  It ended up that Jonathan and Nathaniel tied – and the laughter of Mama and Daddy began.  I sure hope no one was videoing!

When we returned home, and to no one’s surprise, I looked up to see the glorious sky and I headed to the park.  On this day, the beauty of the day overcame me and I decided to walk up in the hills on an Equestrian walk.  On that walk, there was such serenity and the only sounds I could hear were the sounds of nature.  As I walked today, I found there was a smile on my face and a peace in my heart.  God spent His time with me and I am thankful for His company.

Tonight, I have witnessed my husband and youngest son watching a movie with each other as my oldest son began playing his French Horn.  Over the last few months, we have not heard him play his horn as it is difficult for him to get his rented horn home on the school bus.  Knowing he played everyday at school, we knew he was growing in his playing, but the music I heard tonight coming from his room was beautiful, absolutely beautiful, bringing this Mama to pure pride for her beautiful son.

God gave me the day I needed.  Today, my heart is full.  God knows us, you know, and God knows that my heart has been tired.  He knows my emotions seem to be just holding on.  He knows my concerns that surround every mother watching her children growing up.  I am thankful tonight for serenity and peace.  God knows.  God knows.

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for days like this one.  Thank you, God, for the reminder of love, serenity, and peace that comes from spending mission times with family, spending walking time with God, and spending time loving those around us.  You are indeed our awesome God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those days that are gifts from God.

Mama’s Surprise

Matthew 21:22

And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

Thought for the Day:  Memories

“Donna, did you and Mark find your anniversary gift”, Mama said as she lay very sick with ovarian cancer in her hospital bed.  “No, Mama, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I replied.  “It’s in the guest room closet”, she continued.  As this was one of only a few conversations Mama was able to have in the time of her sickness, we knew it was very important. Later, we drove to Mama’s house and found a beautifully wrapped gift in the corner of her guest bedroom closet.  As we opened the gift, we both teared up because it was obviously planned.  Six months before, my Mama had surprised us by driving to our house with the beginning buildings for a Dicken’s Village.  One by one Mama sent Daddy to the car to bring in another group of buildings from the car.  By the time the gift giving stopped, she had given us ten buildings.  We set up our first Dickens’s Village in our house with those pieces.  So, back to the anniversary gift.  When we opened the gift we saw that she had given us the Dicken’s Village “Kinsington Palace”.  I cried as I realized that Mama had given us a special gift that she would probably never get to see in our village.

This week, we worked hard to put up our Dicken’s Village for the first time in about four years.  As we moved a few years ago, setting up in a new place was questionable and I wasn’t sure where we were going to put it.  My husband and I continued our collection of Dicken’s Village pieces until we had over 50 buildings and who know how many accessories.  We pulled out the boxes of houses from the basement with my son’s help.  As he brought them up, I carefully took each building out of its box and took pictures of each piece where I could remember exactly what I had.  He told me, “Mama, we are missing boxes 3, 4, and 5.” I was a bit nervous when he told me that, but I continued opening the pieces.  Later, I realized why I was nervous, my Kinsington Palace was missing.  We went downstairs and continued looking for the missing boxes, but we couldn’t find them.  As I glanced around in another section of the basement, I spotted boxes 3 and 5 and excitedly pulled them out.  I tore into the boxes, but once again was disappointed…no Kinsington Palace.  We continued the search, but still couldn’t find the missing box.  I realized that I was becoming overly sad because I couldn’t find Mama’s anniversary surprise.  Later, I decided to go downstairs one more time.  As my husband was in the basement working, he overheard me say, “Mama, I would be so excited if you could lead me to Kinsington Palace. God, please help me find that box.”  Seconds later, I looked in a pile of boxes that were in totally a different place.  And, there it was, one misplaced box that had written on the top, “Box 4 of 10”. Thanks, Mama, for bringing me special memories of you as you started me on this Dicken’s Village adventure.  Not being able to find Mama’s gift made this year’s Dicken’s village in the“finding of the gift” again even more special.  We once again found “Mama’s surprise”.

The Dicken’s Village adventure continued as most of the lights did not work after being in storage for those years.  My sweet husband and son worked tirelessly to check the cords and to go in search of new bulbs.  By the time our day, and evening, ended we had the Dicken’s Village completed with all the lights in place.  So, this year’s Dicken’s Village is more special than ever because my Mama, my husband and sons, and God all took part in making it happen.

Wow, that was special.  How excited I was when I found my Kinsington Palace!   In this moment, I am amazed at how quickly I found the missing box almost immediately after I prayed for it to be found.  Why did I wait?  Why did I put off asking God for what I needed?  Aren’t we all like that?  Last week, I received a beautiful message from a dear friend asking me “How do I improve on my prayer life with God?”  Well, obviously I am not so great at it.  But eventually I remember and I pray.  And, when I pray I feel better in whatever circumstance I am going through.  Thank you, God, for answering my prayer….I’m not sure my Mama didn’t give me the nudge to pray.  I wonder…!

Prayer:  Precious God!  Thank you for memories and thank you for reminding us to pray in special ways.  Today I am thankful for surprises that come through prayer.  Amen.

Finding a Place to be Happy

Isaiah 43:19

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading me today?

Today, with the busyness of the school year slowing down for a moment, I have been busy but not in the usual way.  I have to say something unusual and totally out of my normal writing.  Working in a position where there is not a lot of glamour and on some days not a lot of appreciation can be difficult and the awards just seem small.  But “I am Happy!”  I am happy that I became a teacher 31 years ago and I am happy that I am still in the classroom with children.  For a period of time, after moving to a “place far away from home”, it was as if I would never become in this place what I always was before.  In the last twenty-four hours, I have had my heart warmed twice from two different persons in my teaching career.  One was my principal as she shared words of encouragement after a classroom observation that she felt I was embracing the way of teaching in our school system.  I witnessed the students in my classroom excitedly engaging themselves in a lesson and fully understanding activities I had assigned to them.  They were fascinating to watch and my principal was there to witness it. Then today, I received a post on my Facebook timeline from a student I taught in third grade in the early 1990s.  She wanted to let me know that after several work positions, she finally had decided to teach and was going to begin teaching third grade.  Her words were, “As I recall, I had a pretty awesome 3rd grade teacher myself.  I hope I can be half as memorable as you have been to me!”  My heart, oh my heart, is filled with so much love for her for sharing her news with me.

“I am happy”…I am happy because I know I am doing what God led me to do and, although things are sometimes difficult in the education area, I still know I am where I am supposed to be.  On those days that are hard, I start praying.  I especially pray for my colleagues who seem to be having a difficult time, praying that they find bits of happiness enough that they can come past the difficulties. I pray for my students that I can teach them the skills needed but yet show them at the same time that they are loved and that someone cares.  So, from that moment in 1982 when I decided to switch my direction to elementary education (from business – what?!) after walking into my suite mate’s dorm room in college to see her working on a project for students in her student teaching class, I became a teacher at heart.  I still tried other things, but eventually God led me right back to where I was supposed to be.

I am home, I am home, I am home when I am in my classroom teaching children. I am thankful, appreciative, and yes, happy!

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for leading us to places You want us to go.  Sometimes, in the middle of life, we forget who put us where we are and it is easy to let other thoughts lead us.   You are an awesome God, and I am thankful.  Help those around me find where you are leading.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those thankful for where God has led them.

Special Memories

Fulton Parsonage (3)

Lamentations 3:21-25

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion”, says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 

Thought for the Day:  God lets us remember. 

The Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church took place last week.  As we have lived in Georgia for the past 2 ½ years, it was a joy to make the drive to Paducah, KY, to see lifelong friends.  A lot of hugs took place so my husband and I both felt very special.  Both being United Methodist Preacher’s Kids (PKs), it was a great homecoming.  One of our dear friends and his wife are both ordained Elders in the United Methodist Church, and he was a youth in one of the churches where my Daddy served – and he lived across the street from us.  One of those special hugs came to me from John as I love seeing him at conference.  But, he surprised me with the words, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage.”  That was where we lived from my junior year in high school through my freshman year in college.  As I took his statement in, I realized that my memory bank from those years began coming into clear view in my mind.  It was like a gift had been opened and my past memories burst out of the box.

I immediately began sharing my thoughts as they came beginning with, “Have you checked the walls and door frames for small dents?”  During our time in that parsonage, my brother received an electric wheelchair.  For a period of time, as he adjusted to driving the wheelchair, a lot of bumping into door frames took place as he drove circles through the house.  I understand the carpet had to be replaced when we moved.  As my husband and I drove around the neighborhood after conference, I told him about the time my brother decided to take advantage of his independence (in his electric wheelchair) and began a trek around the block.  After a period of time, we realized he was not in the house.  We found him with his wheel stuck in a small hole beside the road.  What a laugh we all had when we realized what he had done! What a memory!

One statement, one precious statement, “Donna, did you know that we are living in the Fulton parsonage?”, took me somewhere special.  Over time, as I no longer have my parents and brothers, I have found that many of my memories have begun to fade.   This experience caused so many memories to come clear in my mind, and to recognize that those memories are there – they just need a little jolt to come to light.  Since my Daddy died 12 years ago, I have found that some memories have faded through pain in remembering.  But now, I realize the joy in remembering can take a lot of the pain of life away.

Prayer:  God, thank you for special friends and special memories.  As we go through life and “life” takes us to new places, it is important to remember our past.  Our past made us who we are and we are your children.  Thank you for bringing our past memories to us as we remember those special times in our lives – those times You gave us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Special Memories

The Hug!

 

1 John 4:7, 4:11-12

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

Thought for the Day:  Show Love to those around you

As a teacher, special moments often happen.  Those moments can happen when a student understands a skill for the first time, or when a friendship relationship happens between students.  One of those surprising moments happened this week as I was standing in my door lining my seven and eight year old students up to go to an activity.  As I stood, I felt a little boy’s arms go around me and he gave me a big hug.  Then, the little boy behind him gave me a big hug.  Then several students came out of the line to hug me.  Finally, my new student of four days, reached her hands out to me from the line.  I walked over to her and as she hugged me, she said, “You are the best teacher in the world.”  My eyes filled with tears and I felt my heart beaming with love for these precious ones.

Looking back over that experience, I began thinking about how many times I reach out for a hug.  I do not do it as often as I should.  I say hello to people and ask how they are doing but I do not reach out for a hug often unless it is one of my own children or husband.  And, how often do I reach to hug my “Teacher, Jesus Christ”?  I talk to Him, I pray to Him, I beg Him, I thank Him but do I “hug” Him?  Today, I want to give Jesus the type of hug I received from so many of my students on Thursday of this week.  I want to give Him a tear of happiness and something that will make His heart beam with love.

Prayer:  Precious Jesus, today I hug you with a hug of love.  So often, You reach to touch me with Your love and so many times I miss it.  You are my Father, my Friend, and my Teacher!  You are my all in all!  So, here it is – a big, loving hug just for you!  Amen. 

Prayer Focus:  A Hug can do wonders!

Rita on my Caller ID

RITA1 John 4:7-1

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

Thought for the Day:  Pray and see who God sends

Yesterday was a hard day!  You know, the kind of day you want to crawl back into bed and do a total redo.  The kind of day you feel you want to run away, but there is no place to run away to.  Those days come, and when those days come, you just pray for God to come in and save the day.  Then I experienced some time alone because my “boys” were out doing a scout outing.  I found myself yelling a bit, crying a bit, and getting a lot of “stuff” out of my system.  Then, wouldn’t you know it the phone rang and on the other end was my mother, no not my mother in heaven, but my Lolli who loves me like a daughter.  How did she know?  How did she know I needed to hear a voice of someone who loves me?  Because God told her she needed to call me.  She doesn’t normally call on Saturday morning.  We talked and cried, and shared so much with each other.

I no longer have my mother and father with me, and I miss them so much.  The three of us could always feel when we needed to call each other.  My mother would call and after I answered the phone (no matter how “happy” I made my voice sound), she would say “What’s wrong?” immediately making me burst into tears.  My daddy would knock on my door at those moments when I was needing him most.  It seemed our cars would almost drive themselves somewhere we didn’t intend them to drive and we would look up to see the other pulling into a parking area.  I believe those were God moments, and I believe that call from Lolli out of the blue was a God moment yesterday morning.  God answers prayers, even when we do not know what we are praying for, in ways that we need.

Prayer:  Father, God, thank you for loving us!  Thank you for loving us and for answering prayers in the most unexpected ways.  Thank you for placing those people in our lives who simply become You to us.  You are our awesome God!  Amen

Prayer Focus:  Friends who become “God” to us.

The Road that Leads Us Home

Psalms 107:4-8

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, till they reached a city to dwell in.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men.  For he satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

 

Thought for the Day:  Where is God leading us home?

December 27, 2017!  Today, I found myself reading a devotional about moving to a new place.  As I read The Upper Room Devotional about a family moving to a new town, my mind went straight back to our situation only a few years ago.  Our situation came in such a way that hurt, and totally came from somewhere we never imagined.  But, then, we realized that God was closer to us and our situation than we had ever felt before.  During our time of grief over a great loss, we found ourselves falling into the arms of God.  We found ourselves loving our time with Him.  My husband began reading daily, for many hours, “Jesus Calling”.  The stories in that book hit home as he read about others who have found peace through Christ.  I heard him say on many occasions, “God gave this to me today!”  I, one day began writing.  “What? Writing? Me?!”  In the depths of our despair, I found myself wanting to share an experience I had as a teen with a teen going through a similar situation.  Next, I found myself saying to God, “I promise I will try to write every day!”  “What? Writing, Me?! – Everyday – What?!” Between my husband’s realizations that God was with us and was taking care of our needs, and my new love of writing, we knew God was with us.  We had ups and downs…many downs, but that knowledge that God was there walking beside us made them a little better to deal with.

Time has passed now, and we now find ourselves in the place where God has led us.  The road has led us “home” in a way.  The road led us through the wilderness of loss and grief.  The road led us through self-change in our relationship with God.  The road led us through searching as we asked God to lead us to the place He wanted us to be.  The road led us through acceptance that God was changing our thoughts and desires from where we thought we would be.  The road led us to something better than we ever imagined – All we had to do was let God take the reins and lead us.

Prayer:  God, thank you for being as close to us as our next breath, even when we don’t feel you.  You are the one who leads us through the wilderness to the place you want us to call “home”.  Help us each day to recognized you are near, and help us let you lead us through.  You are our guide, our friend, and creator.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Finding Home

Joy in Christmas

Luke 2:10-1

And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

 

Thought for the Day:  There is joy in Christmas

The Christmas Season, full of bright lights and many sale signs, seems to come too soon in the year and then seems to go away too fast as well.  As I awoke this morning, I sat reminiscing about Christmases past and how this Christmas will be the first time in many years, where we will stay home on Christmas Day.  I also awoke this morning and began looking at Facebook to see the many pictures of families together.  Some pictures are of friends of mine who posed with their parents and siblings. Some pictures are of homes decorated beautifully for the holidays where loads of family members come to celebrate together.  There are moments when I ponder my life of many losses, and long for my parents and brothers to walk in the door on Christmas morning.  I haven’t seen them in so long.  There are moments when I watch a, yes – Hallmark Movie and long to have an old-fashioned Christmas as portrayed so beautifully.  Sadness does come to me often, as it does to so many, especially at this time of the year.  We can’t help it – it is a part of the life we live.  It comes every year, it comes when we least expect it, and it hurts deep in our hearts. So what do we do about it?

We celebrate what we have!  I have so much and I do not take that lightly.  I have a very loving husband who brings Christmas to my sweet family in beautiful ways.  I have two young sons who love so beautifully and bring excitement into our otherwise quiet home.  But what do we really celebrate?!  We celebrate Jesus!  We celebrate that He came and brought to us life, true life with Him!  I celebrate that I am a part of a Church and the Music Ministry of a Church where we sing, we sing God’s message for the congregation and we praise God.  We sing for those in the congregation who are sitting with huge families and for those who sit alone.  Today, I can celebrate fully because I have my family with my husband and children.  Today, I can celebrate that I have God who loves me and who has brought me through so much.  Today, I can celebrate the we have “family”, other children of God, in our precious church friends who will celebrate with us.

So, do I and do others who have lost so many family members still hurt.  Oh, yes we hurt!  But, do we have the feeling of hope and love in the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ?  Today, I will worship God.  Today, I will take in as much love as I can as I remember Him.  Today, I will remember all those family members who are no longer with me but I will cherish even more the ones who are with me now.  Today, I will remember the “true” meaning of Christmas, “God loves me”.

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for Christmas and for sending your son to earth as a baby.  This day, we celebrate His birth and the joy that He brings.  Be with those who hurt today, God. For there are so many.  Bring joy to their hearts and help all of us share love as we see them today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Christmas Eve