When the News You Get is “Bad.”

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The phone rang, and I heard my son rushing to get dressed.  It was different than when he would get ready for school.  There was an urgency in his actions that morning.  His dad was already up waiting for him to go hunting on the morning after Thanksgiving.  The sky outside my foggy windows was just beginning to show a lightness from the sun that would soon appear.  I covered my head back up with the blankets and thought about all the shoppers and the hunters that were making journeys into the early morning darkness.

But Adam wasn’t going hunting, he didn’t have on his hunting clothes….he had been called out to a fire.  At 16, he volunteers at the local volunteer fire department.  He stopped at the door and turned back.

“It’s Mrs. Sandra’s.”

My heart dropped.  News that someone is in trouble hurts your heart, but when you personally know that person…your heart breaks.  I started praying.  I jumped on FaceBook (the source of all news) to see if anyone else had heard, and I put out a simple prayer request, since I didn’t know all the details.  I prayed it wasn’t major.  I gave Adam a little while to get to the fire and do his thing before I texted him for news.  His response was simple.

“Bad.”

My mother’s heart kicked in, and I wanted to be there for my son, who was responding to a fire at the home of his best friends.  My friend’s heart kicked in, and I wanted to be there for my dear friend.

I started getting dressed.

When we pulled up, the yard was full of emergency vehicles and cars from the volunteer fire department.  They had gotten there first…but it was too late.  The house was already engulfed in flames.  We found Sandra and her children covered in blankets watching their home of over 17 years burn to the ground.

“Why?” (When just the night before her entire family had gathered for a Thanksgiving meal in the same house now holding fire within its walls, that she had a cleaned for days before the event and had all the leftovers in the fridge.)  “Why was God doing this?”  I held Sandra as she cried out, knowing that God loved her, but not understanding why He allowed such pain into her life.

And then she started remembering everything that was in the house, now gone forever.  Treasures from her mother and father in a chest–all she had left of them.  TJ’s things were lost, her foster son who had been killed in a car accident just a couple of years ago.  All of Travis’ and Justin’s boyhood memories from the past 16 and 17 years.

Treasures that had been passed down to her.  Treasures that she was saving to pass down to her children.  She could see every one of them in her mind and where they were in the house, as the ceiling caved in and the walls started to fall.

Her sons watched as the metal frame of their beds crashed into what used to be the living room–the only thing recognizable from their room from the second story.  Their father held them, as only a father can hold sons that are young men.  Stressed relationships were put to the side as he once again stood by the side of the mother of his children.  It didn’t matter at that moment that they had divorced when the boys were little–tragedy brings family together.

Just a few short hours before, she had posted on FaceBook all her blessings from having the family together in her home and pictures that she had taken with all her children and grandchildren.  Now they all stood in the yard with her.

Her blessing list had changed in the matter of a few moments.  But as the sun started to shine through the black smoke, she was reminded over and over again that she was loved by each person that came to hug her and offer their help.  She was reminded that what mattered the most was standing in the yard with her.  Her children…her friends.  She even reminded us that God can bring good in all situations.

God was still in control.

And as I stood watching a home being destroyed, I thought about Mary.

She was in the midst of God’s will for her life–for everyone’s life!  Mary nearly lost her husband, probably lost her family–all to do what God asked.  She gave up the comfort of her home and rode astride a donkey in her final days of pregnancy and then had to give birth alone in a barn.  Strangers came to her instead of family….and they came with the news that the king wanted to kill her child.  She had to leave in the middle of the night, to a strange place for who knew how long.  And yet….

Luke 2:19 HCSB Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.

All Mary had in the world was wrapped in a blanket in her arms and leading the donkey.

It was enough.

It was what would be passed down from heart to heart for more generations than her young mind could possibly ever imagine.

After the shock subsides and the pain over what was lost eases, Sandra will continue to pass on the one thing that can never be destroyed…..

He was wrapped in a blanket and laid in a manager….in tomb…for you…for me.

I know that many of you have received a text, a phone call, or a doctor’s report that simply was “bad”.  You’ve been knocked down to your knees and all you can do is cry out to God and ask “why”.  In all honesty, you may never have the answer to the “why”, however, never forget that God loves you and He will love you through the trials and tribulations that come.   He can give you a peace that is the foundation that keeps you from sinking into a pit of despair.  He is with you.  He understands.  He is wrapping His arms around you.  He loves you.


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Treasures Wrought Up

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Come onto the front porch, friend, and sit a spell. I have a WONDERFUL story to share with you!

Once upon a time, we took a journey to purchase a home that was unique. In many ways we were adopting a special treasure built by someone else’s hands.

The home itself had been built by a dear friend’s husband and his sons by 1976 (the husband would later die of cancer, leaving my friend a widow and then a newlywed). They lived in a barn for five years before the home was finished. The plans were unique. The home was built entirely by this family. Some of the techniques used were way before their time. The tile floors, which you see, look like a fine Italian tile. They are actually scored-in concrete.

The home itself was gorgeous. I had seen it all my growing up years, never thought it’d be my own home someday. It was a Mediterranean-style home filled with Spanish accents–archways all around the home, a terrace-like roof that was huge, balconies, french doors and large windows throughout.

It was placed on 23 1/2 acres with three stocked ponds. There was a built-in swimming pool that they built before the house was even completed. The house was placed way off the road, so there was a very long driveway to the home. Plants and flowers and trees surrounded it.

We loved the home, as much as the previous owners and builders did. It was a treasure. We filled it with children and family and youth and college students and friends. It was continually open for events. We had dreams to build a prayer walk. We had dreams to host minister’s families for get-aways.

Some of those dreams came true.

Our hearts were mostly in the right place. We used it as a resource from God’s own hand to share with others. But there was a bit of pride tied up in the whole thing–not a bunch, but a touch of pride.

Chris prided himself in telling about shooting two deer during deer season from the roof of the home, in his slippers, while on a comfy chair, reading Band of Brothers. No kidding, it really happened. I nearly fell out of bed from the sound. Chris and the kids would camp outside in the woods or on the roof. We watched the meteor shower late one night. We were so far out in the country, the stars were so clear to see. Chris shot clays and targets. We had huge fourth of July get togethers with beautiful fireworks.

I loved to swim. I swam every day for an hour with Steven Curtis Chapman playing on my CD player. I loved having a dog to run around. I loved having bunny rabbits, planting flowers and hosting parties and such. I also loved painting and decorating every single room. I loved my quiet times with the LORD on the roof, singing and sometimes walking around and praying. It was a set-apart place.

It was wonderful. We still enjoy sharing the stories of times spent there.

But that pride. mmm. well. It was there. So one day in my story, we had to move away.

I remember one day we came back to town. I walked alone up the driveway to the home. The doors were broken-open in the back. The house was empty, except for critters I did not see. There were dog prints on the floor and animal droppings in the home. It smelled musty. I walked around and saw the remnants of what was…and I cried for the waste of it.

Within a year, the property and house were completely destroyed by mining. It was a very sad day.

Some time ago, I was feeling fussy. I was complaining to God about the loss of a dream. And He reminded me of these words:
Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
 
This life. These things. They are all subject to being lost and destroyed. Your life is a vapor and it goes so fast. We cannot feed our souls with material things. So in light of my story, where are your treasures?
I want to live this life holding fast to Him. We lost a lot of material stuff and even relationships on that journey. We held fast to God. And you know what? He is taking care of us. He is enough.
All of the treasures we built while there at our wonderful home were destroyed. However, some of those treasures are lives that we touched and faith that we spurred on. Those things will last.
Each person, each life that we touch in Jesus’ Name, that is the stuff that lasts. Take care of the things and people He has given in your care. Remember, it’s all His. From Him and to Him and through Him, we live and and we worship and we bring His Name glory!

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Storing Away in the Attic

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Anna took the stacked dishes to the pantry and gently placed them next to the few cups already there.  She touched one of the cups and noticed a small chip on the rim.  One of dishes she had just washed had a crack forming down the center.  She would mention those to her mother and suggest that it was time to make a new set of dishes.

She touched other items on the shelf, jars of oil, flour, dried herbs, with more hanging in bundles from the ceiling.  Anna bent to adjust the lids of the larger containers sitting on the floor, not that they were askew.  Her mother never left her home out of sorts…including the pantry.  With reference, she pulled a large basket out.  It was heavier than it had been the last time she had pulled it out.

Glancing out the window, she saw that her mother was combing some wool under the shade tree.  Freshly sheared lambs were recovering nearby.  Her uncle and aunt were guiding sheep into a holding pen.  They would soon come out the other side much like the younger ones…with little wool left.  Anna thought that she should really be out there helping them and she would have been…if the basket hadn’t caught her attention.

Placing the basket on the table, she removed the wooden cover.  A musty smell made her eyes water and she held back a sneeze.  Glancing once more out the window, assuring herself that she would not be disturbed, Anna turned her full attention to the contents of the basket.

It was not the items on top that she sought…but those buried underneath.  She laid aside a gown that she had worn as a small child, sandals no bigger than her hand, a wooden toy she remembered playing with, a soft blanket that her mother had wrapped her in when she was born.  For just a moment she brought the blanket to her check and felt its warmth.  The weave was tight with a pattern of dyed wool running through it.  Anna knew one day this blanket would hold her child.  She touched the small round under her dress, patting her unborn child lovingly.

Then the treasure she sought was uncovered.  There were parchments tied with string, yellowed with age.  A wooden cup, so plain in design one would wonder why it held such reverence to the family.  Some pieces of wood, darken with age and, Anna knew, blood, and broken stones.  A square of wool tied tightly lay at the very bottom of the basket…this she pulled out and laid on the table.

The string holding the square had become knotted and she worked to get it undone.  Finally it was loosened and she opened the square like opening a package.  Anna pulled the strips of rags from the square.  They were dirty and still carried a faint smell of oils and death.

The treasure Anna sought was simply strips of linen cloth that had once wrapped a dead body.

“I was wondering what was keeping you inside.”  Anna jumped as her mother placed a hand on her shoulder.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”  Anna’s mother went to the nearly empty basket and touched the items still inside.  She raised the wooden cup up, holding it as if it were the finest crystal.

“It is I who should apologize.  I should have come to help you once the dishes where put away….but then I saw the basket and I remembered the discussion at the dinner table last night.  I wanted to see it.”  Anna started to fold the rags back, but her mother stopped her.  She picked up a strip, holding it lightly in her hand as if it would break.

“I wrapped your Uncle Lazarus in these many years ago.  Mary and I each poured the oils over his body before the men took him away to be buried.”  Martha smiled with a faraway look in her eyes.  “I don’t know why I kept these few pieces of his burial cloth.  I guess to remind me that he was once dead.”

Anna rose and went to the open door and watched her Uncle Lazarus and Aunt Mary as they rested and drank some water that her younger sisters were serving them.

“You mean to remind you that even though Uncle Lazarus has been in the grave for four days, Jesus told him to rise and he did?!”  Anna added.

“Yes.  I was tempted to wash them, they already smelled so badly from where his body had begun to decay.  But I decided to leave them just as they were that day we pulled them from his living body…I suppose so that you and your brothers and sisters could see them and know that it wasn’t just a legend….the stories we tell you are truth.”

Martha allowed Anna to refold the rags and began to replace the items back into the basket.

“These rags are to remind you that Jesus conjured death.  He loved us so much that he gave us back your uncle…but even more than that, He wanted to prove to the people around him that he was the Son of God.”  Martha took the pieces of wood and stone and held them out the Anna.

“These are to remind us of the day that He died….no, He was killed…on the cross. This is His blood.  These stones are from the one great stone that was rolled away so that we could see He was no longer in that tomb.  This cup….this cup was from the last meal He shared with us before He was taken up into heaven.”  Martha took each piece and placed them in Anna’s hands, who in turn placed them in the basket.  Martha then turned Anna around to face her and placed her hands on the grandchild held securely within her daughter’s body.  “Anna, you must remember all the stories that we have told you about Jesus…you must teach them to your little ones.  When death takes us…I’ll not have much to leave you…but this basket holds reminders of the most precious treasure I could ever give you or your children….the love of my Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Martha replaced all the other items into basket, except the blanket.  “We’re going to need this very soon.”  She smiled to her daughter.  “Take this basket and put it back into the store room….but never forget what it holds.”

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What treasures are you storing up for your children and your grandchildren?  Are they ones that will rust and decay away….or are they priceless memories and tales of how Jesus, your Savior, worked miracles in your life?  It may be the peace He gave while you were cleaning the house or it may a miraculous event that shouted His glory to everyone.  Whatever it was….pass these down to your children.

Here in the attic of Martha’s home we’ll learn what treasures she stored away for her family and for us.

Let’s go play in the attic!

Deborah

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