“The reason one writes isn’t the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky


"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph" ~Matt Hardy


“A mother keeps a garden of the heart, planting the seeds of faith and character that give her children hope and purpose for the years ahead.” ~Anonymous


“If your story is never told, it becomes something else...forgotten.” ~Anonymous

Friday, June 21, 2013

When Harry Met Gabby

There are some people you meet in life that you will never forget.  A word they said and where you met will always hold a treasured place in your memory.  I knew such a person.  This is his story.

Situated on the central coast of Italy, an hour west of Rome sits a small coastal town that in the latter l970's was a transiting center for Russian Jewish emigrants.  They were legally leaving the Soviet Union and either beginning a new life in the homeland of their heritage, Israel, or temporarily living outside of Rome, awaiting sponsorship from the multitudes of organizations helping Russian Jewish families at that time.  Australia, Canada, and America were destinations opening their doors to the "tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free".

Here on a warm spring day I met Harry.  I am Gabby.  Actually it is "Debby", but for some reason the Russians had a bit of a difficult time saying the "De", so hence, I became "Gabby".  Not a problem, as long as it sounded like it came from an exotic shortened version of Gabriela and not that I had a problem with a running mouth.  Of which I do, but that is beside the point.

Harry was a short, gentle, white-haired grandfatherly man from Odessa, whose name was actually Evgeny.  They all want to "Americanize" their names, so he chose Harry.  Okay for HRH Prince of England, but I would have gone with something different for Evgeny.  Nevertheless, that is what he chose.  He was the kind of old soul you immediately wanted to take home and keep. The grandfather you wanted to take care of and protect from harm.  His wife, on the other hand, looked like a commandant from Siberia.  No smile, untrusting and not at all happy I had come into their lives.  Never mind that I was a full head taller than he and at least 40 years younger.

We met by word-of-mouth advertising for English classes.  Our team was living and serving the local Russian population by teaching English as a second language, preparing them for life in their new land and introducing them to their heritage. We held Bible studies for those who were interested.  But these were a people who, though Jewish, had for the last 70 years been denied knowledge of their background.  We often were met with blank stares when asking them, "Do know who Abraham or Moses are?"  Turn around and ask them about God and the look was one of "you can't be serious?"   We loved these people and decided from day one, to serve them and help in any way we could to prepare them for life ahead.  As far as introducing them to a relationship with Christ, it was a process of acquainting them first with Genesis one and beyond....the very existence of a Creator was foreign to them.  

I met with Harry three times a week, teaching him conversational English, often in his room.  Three to four families would share one apartment, each family occupying one room, with a common kitchen and bath.  Crowded, but they were used to it from their life in Russia.  Trips to the supermarket, clothing and shoe stores, and many a dinner in our home were also the backdrops of our time together.  An older man on Italian streets, not knowing the language, being jostled in the hustle and bustle of Italian life, was a learning experience in itself, not to mention the stress.  But Harry flowed with the best of them and was exuberant and anticipating what lay ahead for his new life.  He was a sponge soaking in everything He could to make it easy for his wife when they arrived in America.  

The day came after about three months, when Harry got word they had a sponsor and were accepted to go to America.  The anxious packing, saying good-bye to their roommates and friends occupied the last days.  A good-bye dinner at our apartment on their final evening in Italy wrapped up these weeks of waiting in Italy for him and his wife.  Over spaghetti, salad and garlic bread, the atmosphere was bittersweet.  Thrilled and nervous as they were heading to their new life, sadness of our time together coming to an end. 

As we said our farewells at the door, his wife hugging me tightly with tears in her eyes, my heart again melted at God's goodness in loving others.  Loving and serving without any expectation.  She had accepted me.  Harry was another emotional scene altogether.  This is the moment I have remembered so vividly the last 34 years since I said good-bye.  Overcome with emotion, he lifted his head and said, "Thank you for being so kind to us.  No one has ever been so kind.  In Russia, we were treated with disrespect because we were Jewish.  We didn't know why.  But you, Americans, treated us like we had value...no one has ever done that.  Thank you."  

As we struggled with our own tears, we replied, "No, it is not because we are Americans."  There were actually Canadians and Australians on our team.  "It is because of God's love.  He sent us here to help you because He loves you.  He goes with you to America.  Remember He loves you."  

They said "Thank you", walked off into the night and flew to New York the next day.  Sadly, I lost track of them after a few years  But Harry is still in my heart.  I have never forgotten him and I know that God watched over Him, revealing His love to Him each day, in the hopes he would recognize that love and respond.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Love That Never Quits

Recently I read that Psalm 136 is a compilation of God's great works and his unending love.  It is a piece of David's poetry that you turn to, to remind you of a love that never ends.  I knew this writing, and read it zillions of times - times when I really NEEDED to be reminded that He was actually there and cared about me.  So as I returned to this psalm, it was good...until I hit on something I seemed to have missed in past readings.

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.  His love endures forever."

The Message version says..."His love never quits."  

Forever....a very long time.  Never quits...pretty definite and to the point.

Get through verse 9 and all seems to fit pretty nicely.  Then you hit verse 10...

"to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, his love never quits."  Babies were being killed and his love was not quitting.

verse 15..."...he swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; his love never quits" A whole army of men with families destroyed; they were obeying orders and serving.

verse 17 & 18..."to him who struck down great kings...and killed mighty kings...his love never quits"    More death.

Why?  Where is this never ending love being shown?

Now, in the context of this history, the Pharaoh, his army and these kings being referred to were known to be against the purposes of God.  They were "struck down" and "swept away" to rescue the chosen people of God, the people of Israel.  So, historically and in the eyes of God's people, his love never quits.

But what do we do with this truth today?  Does God's love stay and never quit in the middle of our daily questions.  In the middle of our wars.  While we are waiting to be rescued in the middle of our suffering?

When babies are being killed.....His love never quits.

When there is needless suffering and people are being annihilated.....His love never quits.

And maybe closer to home...

a young baby or child dies ...... His love never quits.

a husband leaves because he just doesn't want to be married anymore, or worse, he leaves for another woman (or vice versa)..... His love never quits.

a husband or wife is diagnosed with a debilitating disease....His love never quits.

a loss of a loved one suddenly and unexpected...His love never quits.

a job loss and no end in sight to the financial devastation.... His love never quits.

a child turns his back on God ..... His love never quits.

we are betrayed or misunderstood by a friend ..... His love never quits.

we cannot seem to get past our addictions and live in victory ..... His love never quits.

abandoned by a father or mother, abused by a dad or mom, or family member.... His love never quits.

a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or fire which takes everything you own on this earth....His love never quits.  (And I have experienced the fire which takes it all)

What do we do with "His love never quits" in our world and the messiness of lives today?

I don't have neatly wrapped up answers, but I do know I can look back over what He has done in my life and remember His goodness.  Whatever battle or suffering I (or we) may face, I can recount His goodness. Which is what they are doing in Psalm 136.  When I remember, recount and rehearse in my mind what God has already done, I am encouraged to move forward.  In my tears and anguish, I know He is loving me and will take care of me.  When I need courage, when I need to have Him wrap His arms around me and remind me He is there, as I praise Him for what He has already done, I know He is faithful to meet me in my need.

Just yesterday, I was praying to the Lord for our financial need.  We are back in the "missionary" phase of our life, not traditionally employed, and trusting God for His provision as we minister and go to the people He has called us to.  Full time given over to teaching and seeing healing come to the lives of those who have been wounded by fathers or the lack of them.  And we rely on God and those faithful to Him for our provision.  So I was praying.  I was recounting His goodness in the past. And there was a whole lot of goodness!!   I was praising Him and not forgetting all His benefits (Psalm 103:2).  But I was wondering how we would survive the summer.  And I was wanting to see "His love never quits".

Afterwards, I checked our emails and God showed up in the form of family and loved ones....letting us know some funds were on the way to bless the ministry.  We would make it through July!  God's love never quits!

Yes, life is messy and it hurts.  There is pain and there is loss.  But I KNOW that TODAY God is the same.  We need to remind ourselves of the past and His faithfulness.    Financial pain can hurt; loss of life or devastating illness to a loved one can mean unfathomable pain, but I know He will not let go of us.  Remind yourself.  I think that is partially why God kept telling the children of Israel to "write it all down" because we so easily forget.

In the facing forward, sometimes we have to look back...

"He remembers us in our low estate, His love never quits
and He frees us from our enemies.  His love never quits.
He gives food to every creature, His love never quits.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, His love never quits....it endures FOREVER.:  verse 23-26

For friends of mine whom I know are hurting....whatever road you or I are facing today, my heart to you is.....HIS LOVE NEVER QUITS.

photo:  National Geographic.com 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Father and fathers

Father's Day brings a myriad of emotions to us.  For some, it is a joyous day to celebrate that man who has given so much of himself to us.  For others, it brings pain for the father we never knew.  The disappointment of not having our fathers live up to our deepest expectations of what a father should be. I wanted to post a poem that celebrates fathers, but as I prayed and looked, I am overcome once again at the "fatherlessness" of our world.  As we have traveled and ministered to those who have been deeply wounded by the lack of a father, or by what a father has done to them, I am reminded of the original Father and His deep love and care for us.  How His heart aches over our pain and lack of what should have been there for us.

We have a friend who has an incredible dad.  He was abandoned, orphaned, mistreated, and yet, through it all, his faith in God was his survival.  What happened in his life could have wounded him and turned him away from anything good.  But in his hardships, he always forgave. He didn't let what he didn't have, direct the outcome of his life. This man today in his eighties is one of the world's greatest husbands, fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and has the most gentle spirit you will ever meet.  We asked our friend once, "If your dad could tell us one truth in all he has learned over his life, what do you think that would be?"   His answer resonated deep within our hearts.  "You have a Heavenly Father who will ALWAYS be there for you, no matter what."

This weekend we celebrate our dads;  those of us who have great reasons to celebrate those men in our lives who have been wonderful fathers and husbands.  Heap accolades on them, appreciate them and give them the honor they deserve.  It is so right to celebrate and honor them.

And for those who would rather this day just get skipped over...remember this truth; HE did not skip over YOU.  These are not just words...they are Truth.  Take them deep into your heart and spirit, even if you cannot identify what a "father" even means.  Maybe even for the first time, celebrate Father's Day with your Heavenly Father being the one you celebrate.

I found this poem and collection of Truths...I hope it resonates deeply within a heart that needs to hear it.

My Child,

You may not know me, 
but I know everything about you. 
Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up. 
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways. 
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. 
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image. 
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring. 
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived. 
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation. 
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake, 
for all your days are written in my book. 
Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth 
and where you would live. 
Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb. 
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born. 
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented 
by those who don't know me.
John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry, 
but am the complete expression of love. 
1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. 
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child 
and I am your Father. 
1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. 
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father. 
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. 
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs. 
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. 
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love. 
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless 
as the sand on the seashore.
Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing. 
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you. 
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession. 
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul. 
Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things. 
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart, 
you will find me. 
Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you 
the desires of your heart. 
Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires. 
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you 
than you could possibly imagine. 
Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager. 
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you 
in all your troubles. 
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted, 
I am close to you. 
Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb, 
I have carried you close to my heart. 
Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away 
every tear from your eyes. 
Revelation 21:3-4

And I'll take away all the pain 
you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you 
even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. 
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being. 
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, 
not against you. 
Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression 
of my love for you. 
1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love. 
Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, 
you receive me. 
1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you 
from my love again.
Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I'll throw the biggest party 
heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7

I have always been Father, 
and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child? 
John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you. 
Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Is it really June?

I turned around and June was already on my doorstep...really!  When did this happen?  Somehow in the chaos of finishing off school, weeding the flower beds, planning graduation parties and sending my husband off on another trip, this month snuck up on me.  Taking a big deep breath, I am looking behind and in front with the anticipation of some "free" non-structured time to pursue some interests.  Isn't summertime supposed to be less stressful and busy?  Someone tell me it is so :)

These last nine months I followed the path of my youngest son finishing off his school years.  A bit of an emotional roller coaster, but what a fun ride!  As we watched him and a group of his closest friends, my heart was grateful for the adventure.  The sigh of "we did it!" echoed in my spirit. This was especially poignant for me as he is our youngest.  We have watched an incredibly cute young boy develop into an amazing man of character. His band of "brothers" walked that procession together and we moms and dads swelled with pride.   These boys had spent their high school years together in a small discipleship group at church.  They played, worked and grew together.  Standing to receive their diplomas, these young men turned their heads to us and lowered their heads.  Stamped across the top of their caps were the letters "I LOVE MOM".

And yes, there wasn't a dry eye among us.  

We moms are still breathing in life from that moment.  It will be the highlight of our summer and one of those treasures we hold dear to our hearts.  In three short months, our little boys will venture off to college and life will change.  I know this because I have sent off three before this one.  Life will never be the same.  And that is okay.  I think.  

I reached a milestone this week.  Four children, now adults, school years finished, empty nest...well not quite.  We are in a season of change, transition and finding our way.  Economics and life have placed us all in the same house for the time being.  And that is okay... for now :)  

As I mulled and climbed over this milestone, I am challenged once again to launch out and make use of the new season ahead of me. I am planning on taking a few weeks and writing more.  I began about a year ago to put our "stories" on paper.  My files are getting larger I am happy to say.  I am taking a few online courses and reading more on writing.  Someone said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write."  I like that.  I love to read.   My summer, or at least the next two months of it, will take on a writing mode.  Some of that will appear in this blog, some in my private domain as I practice, experiment and venture into a world of having my stories critiqued.  Up to this point, stories have been gathering dust...in my files and in my mind.  It is time to bring them out.   

This morning I read in Philippians 1:12 "...that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the Gospel."  Who doesn't want their life to advance the Gospel?  By telling my stories, what life has taught me, in my own simple way, God's love for us and His care over our lives can be told.  A story isn't a story until it is told.....

How many of you have a story to tell?  Are you at a season where you could be writing it all down?  This world needs to hear from you!  You have something to share and someone needs to hear it!   No one else has lived your life, known your joys, known your pain, known the growth and lessons God and life have taught you.  Perhaps it is time to tell....

June is before us.....July and August around the corner.  My prayer for you is these months will hold time for you to pursue your dreams and enjoy the love of family and friends.