Category Archives: family

A Mother’s Request

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S – “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?” She said to him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’” Matthew 20:20-21

O – The mother of James and John was like all of us who are mothers. We want the best for our children. She was asking Jesus to give them a place of honor. She thought they deserved the best. When she asked that they have this place, she didn’t know what she was asking for. She didn’t know how much Jesus would have to suffer. She thought she knew what she was asking but her perception was limited to earthly things. Jesus knew what was ahead for James and John.

A – What is in my mother’s heart when I pray for my son? When I kneel at the feet of Jesus, what am I asking for? When I ask Him to bless my son, do I know what I’m asking? Do I know what it will take for him to fully trust God? I know what my perception is. I know what I want his life to look like and that doesn’t involve suffering and hard things. Like this mother, I tend to picture great things. But God’s perception is different from mine. He knows everything from beginning to the end. He knows what is best and He knows exactly what our son needs. I have to trust Him. His ways are not my ways.

P – Father I do trust you. I know you love our son more than we can imagine. As much as we love him and want the best for him, it doesn’t begin to match the love you have for him. Please work your will out in his life. Give him strength and endurance for whatever is ahead. Help his faith to grow. May he know the depths and heights of your love for him. Thank you Father that we can trust you and know your plans for him are for his eternal good. Help us to walk by faith and not by sight.

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One Last Tear

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My mom’s breath began to slow. It was 10 seconds between breaths, then 20, and then 30. There was one last breath. I realized that the first sound I heard on this earth, my mom’s heartbeat, was about to stop. Sobbing, my two sisters and I clung to our mom as a tear rolled down her cheek. Then her spirit was gone. In an instant, her body became an empty shell. As I gripped her hand, it became as lifeless as an empty glove.

One last tear was shed.

Did she cry for her daughters who were hurting? Did she cry at having to say goodbye? Maybe it was a happy tear as the veil was torn away and she saw glory. My sisters and I believe she shed a tear for us. She loved us well and with all her heart. In that moment, it was clear that this body we live in is just temporary housing. When her spirit left, the body was just an empty tent left behind. She wasn’t there anymore.

It had been a difficult ten weeks. From the time my mom first fell and broke her hip and then faced one setback after another. She finally was put on hospice and we sat by her side for a week as her body slowly weakened. Here are some thoughts I meditated on as I sat by her side:

Dying is hard.

Regret is devastating.

Moments are fleeting.

Opportunities pass.

There’s a last time for everything on earth.

Seize the moment.

Love well.

Make eye contact while you can.

Say I love you often.

A person’s tent is just that – a tent not the person.

Jesus conquered death.

Hug while you can.

Grief will not be rushed.

Grief stops time.

Rushing doesn’t improve life.

Trust requires patience.

Trust is shown in a gentle and quiet spirit.

Waiting patiently requires us to stop and be quiet.

Faith is the evidence of things NOT seen. It’s trusting without seeing.

I wrote this as I sat with her that morning:

This is probably the last time I will hold my mama’s hand.

Let me hold your hand one more time.

Feel your touch.

See your face.

I will always love you.

Always have you in my heart.

You’re my mom.

My dear heart.

You loved me fiercely and were always glad to see me.

“Hi sweetheart!”

“Hi Darlin!”

“Love you so much.”

These will echo in my mind.

Soon Mama, you will never have another pain.

Never be lonely again.

You will know everlasting joy and see the face of Jesus!

Strong, stoic, hardworking, determined,

Giving, generous.

Loved by many.

She loved us with a fierce love.

She was so proud of her girls.

She is with Jesus.

Singing, rejoicing and praising.

Free from suffering, pain and loneliness.

Free of guilt, hurt and sorrow.

Life is a mist, a vapor,

a puff of smoke,

a flower that blooms in the morning and dies at night.

Live purposefully.

Live intentionally.

Walk with Jesus.

Follow His voice.

Simplify, listen and just follow.

“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” Psalm 103:15-16 (ESV)

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14b (ESV)

“’O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (ESV)

I originally published this at Internet Cafe Devotions

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Fiction That Gives Hope

Jennifer Slattery writes fiction that’s entertaining and keeps me turning the pages but at the same time manages to teach me about God’s grace and challenges me to reach out to those around me who are hurting.

    Restoring Love is a follow-up to Jennifer’s first novel, Beyond I Do. Restoring Love shows us what happens to Ainsley’s mom, Angela several years after the events in the first book. Angela is a woman who has made lots of mistakes in her life and had stopped believing her own life could be redeemed until she sees the grace and forgiveness her daughter shows her. As Angela moves on to find a new start, God opens doors for her to show that same grace to Bianca, a struggling mom who lives across the street. With her husband in jail, a rebellious teenage daughter and two challenging young sons, her life is in crisis.

Will Angela be able to give Bianca the same kind of help she herself once desperately needed? And what about Mitch? Why has God allowed this man into her life? Why would any decent man be interested in her ever again? With her history of promiscuity, abortion and manipulation of others, she feels unworthy of love. This story makes me wonder how many people around me are hurting in ways I can’t imagine and who around me needs a word of encouragement or for someone to be willing to give sacrificially. Restoring Love is a love story, a redemption story, a story of hope, a challenge to forgive and a picture of what Jesus meant when He said others would know His followers by their love.

If you want a book that goes beyond being escapist fiction and has the potential to change lives, I highly recommend Restoring Love.

And don’t forget to read Ainsley’s story in Beyond I Do!

Find more about Jennifer Slattery and her other books here:

Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud

Jennifer on Amazon

 

 

 

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First Christmas in Heaven

I wrote this when my father-in-law spent his first Christmas in heaven in 2007. Today my mom will spend her first Christmas there. I miss her and wish I could just have one small glimpse of her joy.

I love you mom!

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Christmas in heaven.

Can you imagine?

Not just celebrating the babe in the manger,

but falling at the feet of the King of Kings.

 

Not just viewing dozens of Crèches

made of every conceivable material

but being in the presence of the Holy One,

Immanuel,

Jesus Christ Lord of Lords,

The Great I AM!

What a glorious celebration!

 

Our little “celebrations” are barely

even shadows of the eternal celebration in heaven.

 

To think that our loved ones

are experiencing the full meaning of Christmas

for the first time.

 

God with us!

 

They are now in His presence for all of eternity.

The full joy of Christmas

with none of the negative effects caused by sin.

Pure joy unmarred by selfishness, worry, stress,

materialism or worldly distractions.

 

Can’t you see them worshipping before the throne?

 

Filled with the joy of heaven.

Free from the sorrows of earth.

 

Living the meaning of Christmas.

 

We love you.

Keep celebrating and one day

we will worship there together, forever!

Susan Aken   Christmas 2007

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT)

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There is Hope

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My dad went to be with Jesus in 2000. One of the last times I saw him alive was on a visit I made to the VA home where he lived in another state. I was only able to visit him there two or three times a year. He had been in the home about four years and he hated it. As a former reformatory guard, he referred to it as “lockdown”. But my mom was no longer able to work and take care of him by herself. I wanted so much to encourage him somehow and on this visit I felt the urge to share these verses:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (ESV)

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Looking at my mom, he choked, “Did you hear what she said”? He was blessed and encouraged. He would not be stuck in that bed forever. Jesus was preparing a better place for him.

This world is a place of suffering. We may have moments, even days when we are personally free of suffering. But truthfully, with how the world has shrunk so that we know what is happening around the world instantaneously, suffering confronts us hourly if not by the minute. Suffering in this world is a reality and has been since the day Adam and Eve sinned.

Our encouragement, our hope is in knowing it won’t be this way forever. Even if we live into our hundreds, life on this earth is short. Those who believe in Jesus will then live with Him for eternity free of suffering. Someday, He will return to earth and those still alive on earth will see the end of evil and pain.

The tragedy is for those who never know or do not believe that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and set us free and then enter into eternity without Him.

The longer I live, the faster the days go by. Life on this earth is fleeting. Even if I manage to have a life of ease and comfort it won’t last long.

“For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14b (ESV)

I feel it.

The longing we each have in our hearts for a perfect place free of pain and sorrow will be fulfilled in heaven.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

Believe in Jesus. Believe He died for your sins and rose again.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:13 (ESV)

Believe in Him and know you will spend eternity in perfect joy.

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Originally published at Takin It To the Streets

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Christmas in Heaven

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For many, there are loved ones

who will be spending their first Christmas in heaven this year.

Christmas in heaven.

Can you imagine?

Not just celebrating the babe in the manger,

but falling at the feet of the King of Kings.

 

Not just viewing dozens of Crèches

made of every conceivable material

but being in the presence of the Holy One,

Immanuel,

Jesus Christ Lord of Lords,

The Great I AM!

 

What a glorious celebration!

 

Our little “celebrations” are barely

even shadows of the eternal celebration in heaven.

 

To think that our loved ones

are experiencing the full meaning of Christmas

for the first time.

 

God with us!

 

They are now in His presence for all of eternity.

The full joy of Christmas

with none of the negative effects caused by sin.

Pure joy unmarred by selfishness, worry, stress,

materialism or worldly distractions.

 

Can’t you see them worshipping before the throne?

 

Filled with the joy of heaven.

Free from the sorrows of earth.

 

Living the meaning of Christmas.

 

We love you.

Keep celebrating and one day

we will worship there together, forever!

Susan Aken   Christmas 2007

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT)

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How Do We Make Marriage Work?

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After recently celebrating 32 years together, I was thinking about what keeps our marriage going. These are the first things that came to mind:

Forgiveness is essential! Forgiveness is the cornerstone of our marriage. We’re both in need of forgiveness. Each of us remembering how much we need forgiveness helps us to forgive the other. We’re frail human beings who make selfish decisions and mistakes every day.

Grace. Grace is each of us letting the other be human. It is not our job to judge each other or hand out punishment. We both need grace! God gives us so many good things even though we don’t deserve them. How can we withhold good from each other?

Love. True love (as demonstrated by God) is thinking of the other person before self. True love is choosing to act in love toward another. Every day we choose to give love and build each other up or we choose to withhold it and tear each other down.

Feelings and affection. As we choose to show love in words and actions, our feelings grow stronger. The more we show affection, the more our desire for affection grows. Love doesn’t happen by accident, it is intentional.

Letting go of expectations and the fantasy marriage in our head. We all enter marriage with expectations and this “picture” of how our spouse will behave. There came a point in our marriage when I had to begin letting go of that picture. I have to let him be who he is and love him for who he is.

No comparing! We all will see someone else’s spouse doing something we wish ours would do. We don’t see what that other person does we wouldn’t want to live with. Comparing is futile and creates discontent.

It is not our job to change each other. Any change that happens in each other’s life is God’s work not ours. There’ve been times God worked in each of our hearts to bring about a desired change but it was not because of our efforts.

Prayer! Should be #1. The one most powerful and effective thing we can do for our spouse is pray for them.

Providing a safe haven. It’s a tough world out there. When we come together, we need to know we’ll be accepted (not criticized or nagged) and loved. We need to know we’ll be safe.

Words are powerful! Words of affirmation renew and strengthen while a critical word crushes the spirit. We have tried not to use words that tear each other down but when we do (even if it is non-verbal such as “silent treatment”) forgiveness is key.

Commitment. Knowing we are committed to our marriage and to each other carries us through a lot

Yielding instead of demanding. Choosing to yield instead of always demanding our own way brings harmony and peace. On the other hand, I have learned that expressing what I feel and desire is important. Balance is important. It’s give and take.

The Lord Jesus Christ! He’s most important. Without Him we’re selfish, demanding, judging and critical. He’s the strength of our lives and our marriage and as we spend time reading the Bible and praying we learn to love and give.

Do we do these things perfectly? Of course not! But these are priorities on this journey. We have to make these choices everyday.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:13-14 (NIV)

The tongue has the power of life and death…” Proverbs 18:21a (NIV)

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Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

What are your thoughts about what makes marriage work?

Share with us here or at Living by Grace.

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