I see the end of my book in sight this weekend.

 

 

I am grateful that I can read and enjoy doing so.

I am grateful for time alone last night to watch the DVD from Zak and Katrina. I am so proud of my kids and grateful that they shared a little part of their life with me.

I am grateful that I do not have the flu.

I am grateful for memories of game night last year on this day with the Johnson and Ferguson families, to remember Mom and her love of family and games.

I am grateful that God gives so many different talents to people, and that many people share their talents with others, like this guy:

What a gift.

I am grateful for Dr. Seuss books.

And I am grateful that it is Friday.

 

Joy unspeakable and a box of happiness.

I am grateful for Moira who brought beautiful gerbera daisies yesterday for all of us to have at our desks. Bonus #1, working in this awesome office.

 Image

I am grateful for Joyce who bought a big bag of Skinny Pop popcorn and shared some with me yesterday afternoon. Bonus #2, working in this awesome office.

I am grateful for another business like Jimmy John’s who has discovered the marketing genius of delivering free samples – Corner Bakery Café brought beautiful menus and little gift bags of star cookies to our office yesterday. I WILL eat there, and I WILL take my Dad there, too.  Bonus #3, working in this awesome office.

 

I am grateful for my devotion this morning in the David Jeremiah devotional that my Dad gave to me. I sometimes struggle with allowing guilt and shame to seep back into my life, although I know that I have been forgiven and I no longer have to wear that guilt. Last Sunday in the 9 am service, the orchestra played the most beautiful arrangement of “Jesus Paid It All,” and it has played on my internal jukebox several times this week. I love how I was reminded of it once again this morning. And I also love the reminder of the verse from “It Is Well with My Soul,” that my sin has been nailed to the cross and I bear it NO MORE. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul (yep, just try to keep the hymn out of your mind now. You’re welcome.):

In this age of financial crisis, newspapers are full of articles about loans being “forgiven.” The debt loads of entire nations are sometimes forgiven. There’s talk about student loans being forgiven, or homeowners being forgiven for unpaid mortgages, or institutions forgiven that are too big to fail. But one financial expert warned that there’s no such thing as free forgiveness. Someone has to bear the burden of the debt.

Regarding our sins and souls, Jesus paid it all. We come to Him with a load of guilt and confess all our regrets. We tell Him about that moment of foolishness that causes shame. We admit the stupid thing we did or said. The tragedy we caused. The hurt we inflicted.

As we confess it, He forgives it. As we lay it before Him, He washes it away with the blood of Calvary. What God has forgiven should no longer have dominion over our minds. In the blood of Jesus, we have relief from our captivity of guilt and fear. It’s nailed to the cross and we bear it no more.

There is unspeakable joy…for the person who knows release from guilt and the relief of forgiveness. – Stuart Briscoe

 

I am grateful for the sound of a cardinal singing high up in the tree outside the office this morning.

I am grateful to have been found trustworthy today.

I am grateful that God has us all wrapped up in His arms and we don’t really have anything to worry about in the grand scheme of things. Life is an adventure, and I am grateful that I am not stuck in a rut, I am okay with not being too comfortable, and as long as HE knows my future and is already there making preparations, I can relax and enjoy this crazy world as I know it. For those I love who are facing some tough decisions this weekend, may you feel His arms holding you tightly.

And finally, I am grateful for “children’s” breakfast cereals. Talk about happiness in a box… Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Captain Crunch, Quisp, Frosted Flakes, Golden Grahams, Frankenberries and Count Chocula, Apple Jacks. Man, oh man, oh man. Happiness and crunchy goodness, all in a colorful box. (Can you tell it’s a “fast day” and I’m knawing on celery?)

 

If I HAD a corndog, I’d definitely share it with you.

I am grateful for laughter today. I heard two ladies laughing on their way into the building this morning, and it made me smile to hear happiness.

I am grateful for the little things that make me laugh. Like this short video that Joyce sent to me on Friday, because she knew that it might be a hard weekend, and she wanted to share a smile with me. I did more than smile. This little guy is adorable and his message should be shared with others, so I am. Take three minutes and smile. Or laugh out loud at his “raspberry:”

Things we should all say more often.

I am grateful for a family of squirrels that took up residence in the flower pots under the bird feeder this morning and decided that they didn’t care if I was two feet away – the sunflower seeds were THAT GOOD.

I am grateful for my Aunt Estalene and Uncle Floyd, and I am grateful that they have so many people who love them and will surround them with care and concern this weekend.

I am grateful for a full house at Bingo last night. Everyone was there, and Whoppers were had by all.

I am grateful that Sam had a safe trip and seemed to thoroughly enjoy all that Texas had to offer, including the authentic Mexican restaurant and the big farmer who talked very “Texan.”

This morning, my church devotions centered on the death of Jesus, and Angela LaVallie wrote about being a part of an Easter production when her brother portrayed Jesus:

One year, my brother portrayed Jesus, and when he struggled down the aisle of the church, carrying the crossbar of the cross while soldiers whipped him (he wore padding under his costume to soften the blows), the horror of a dear loved one being punished and tortured unjustly became more real to me than it ever had before.

One of the things that always strikes me when reading about Jesus, but especially after seeing his life animated through various actors, is his humility. Most people are drawn to a humble person. Not necessarily someone who is weak, but someone whose priority is putting others’ interests above his own. Throughout the Gospels, that’s what Jesus did. He taught about loving our neighbors, and he looked out for the lost and lonely, the sick and poor. Ultimately, he gave up his life by a humiliating death on a Roman cross. Even though he asked God to “take this cup from [him]” (Matthew 26:39 and Mark 14:35-46), he was willing to do whatever it took to put the future of humankind above his own life.

We become like whomever we emulate. When we choose to follow a King who is humble, who puts the well-being of others above his needs, we have a chance to become more like him. It is easy to see the grandeur of a leader who seems all powerful and strong and larger than life because of wealth or might, but we have a king who shows us a better way.

And then I read my other devotion, which seemed to fall right into place with the theme for the day. Pretty cool, so I am grateful how that just seems to work, and grateful for the reminder today to be more like my King:

Keep your focus on Me. I have gifted you with amazing freedom, including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind. Only the crown of My creation has such remarkable capability; this is a sign of being made in My image.

Let the goal of this day be to bring every thought captive to Me. Whenever your mind wanders, lasso those thoughts and bring them into My Presence. In My radiant Light, anxious thoughts shrink and shrivel away. Judgmental thoughts are unmasked as you bask in My unconditional Love. Confused ideas are untangled while you rest in the simplicity of My Peace. I will guard and keep you in constant Peace, as you focus your mind on Me.

And finally, that little guy reminded me that I should be grateful for corndogs. So I am.

Whoppers and Pine-Sol make the world a better place.

I am grateful that tonight is Bingo night and I will get to spend time once again with some very cool senior citizens. Prizes tonight? Boxes of Whoppers. Gotta love Whoppers. Especially out of a milk carton. Ingenious…

I am grateful for a new adventure in my life. I begin 30 hours of training next Monday to become a CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocate. Today, I had my interview and fingerprinting and spent two hours speaking with Nina about the challenges that come with this volunteer position. I am grateful for the opportunity to talk with this woman who is obviously passionate about advocating for abused and neglected children in Kansas City. I am grateful for the small hints she gave that indicated she also is a follower of Jesus. And I am grateful to know that someone from my church is on the Board of Directors, just because it makes the world a little smaller in my mind.

I am grateful for these sentences that were a part of my devotions:

  1. Spiritual blessings come wrapped in trials.
  2. Adverse circumstances are normal in a fallen world. Expect them each day.
  3. Rejoice in the face of hardship, for I have overcome the world.

My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.  James 1:2 CEB

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2 The Message

I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world. John 16:33

~~~

I am grateful for fleece clothing that is warm and feels really good.

I am grateful for reminders of Jeanine, Deb, Ginny, and Shirley. I miss you, friends. I love my job, but I miss having a close friend sit right behind me or beside me to make the day all the better.

I am grateful that on this “fast day,” I am not really that hungry.

I am grateful for a fairly clean house, which also makes me grateful for a central vacuum system, for those glorious smells of cleaning supplies, for rugs that are fluffy again, for a shiny wood floor, and for a sparkling refrigerator and microwave, inside and out.

I am grateful for gentlemen who hold doors open for women.

And I am grateful for that blog post from yesterday that still has me thinking, which makes me grateful once again for these young kids who have it all figured out, okay, not ALL figured out, but really do have a handle on life and make so much sense, and they share it with the rest of us so that we can ponder and discuss and work on changing our part of the world for the better.  I don’t know who you are, theboeskool, but you make me pretty proud.

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.

 

 

I am grateful for oil changed and a good report on a clean engine.

I am grateful that my life could be considered by some as boring.

I am grateful for the youth choir kids.

 

 

I am grateful for a nice conversation with Zak.

I am grateful for a nice electrician who is fixing the circuit problem here at work today and grateful that he is working inside and not out in the cold wind.

I am grateful for Lisa, Ian, and Abbie because they took wonderful care of Natia this past weekend.

I am grateful for time to sit at Subway at noon and read my book, “You’ll Get Through This.” I just wish I had a highlighter in my purse.

I am grateful for road trips full of conversation and long periods of quiet reflection.

And I am grateful for this insight today. It’s more than enough to keep me thinking:

 

Protesters, Police, and a Third Way

And now I am happy all the day.

I am grateful for hymns. Grateful that they are such a huge part of my internal jukebox. I am grateful for the message this morning about the death of Jesus, and for my pastor who quoted “At the Cross.”

At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away – 
It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day.

I am grateful for a car ride with Dad and Dwight and Sam, to reminisce about Mom and memories of a year ago.

I am grateful for an email from Danny with his kind words of love and his fun memories of Aunt Grace that blessed us yesterday as we rode back from Wichita.

I am grateful for Mom’s best friend, Delores, who sent us cards this week, knowing we would be re-living and remembering last year.

I am grateful for the opportunity to see Adam swim one more time and feel the pride of being the Aunt of the really good-looking leader on the Hutch High swim team who cut time in all of his events.

I am grateful for the joy the K-96 “honking tree” gives me, and I am grateful for a brother who sacrificed so much time to take its picture and create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece for us.

I am grateful that Aunt Drula is doing okay, is home, and that Aunt Ivol is there to take care of her for awhile.

I am grateful for January sunrises. Yesterday morning and again this morning, I was able to see the magnificent beauty of God’s artistry in the early morning. I walked outside and my first thought was, “Mom chose the most beautiful time of the year to meet Jesus.” My thoughts traveled back to one year ago today, when we were greeted by that beautiful pink and orange sunrise on the 9th floor apartment and began the day of Mom’s final steps. I wrote this in the middle of the night, not knowing that this would be the day:

One Foot in Front of the Other.

Written Jan 26, 2013 3:01am

 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.   – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

But it was such a good day on Thursday morning.  

After having slept so soundly through the night, Mom awoke to a beautiful sunrise peeking through the blinds in this 9th floor apartment. From the bedroom, I brought out two shirts as possibilities for dressing – Marlene chose the brighter of the two, a bright orange striped pullover that came from the Et Cetera Shop. When I showed Mom what she was going to be wearing for the day, she had the best grin on her face, as if to say, “That’s the one I wanted to wear all along!” We visited with her, she indicated that she would like some ice water on a sponge, and she even faintly requested some yogurt. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her request – she hadn’t eaten anything of substance for days – and so I began offering her small bites of strawberry yogurt from a great-granddaughter’s pink baby spoon. She surprised us all by eating almost a third of the small container!  Her eyes were bright and focused, she had her glasses on to see pictures from Katrina and recognized pictures of her great granddaughter Parker singing in the children’s choir, she silently interacted with Ron and Pam, Marlene, Dad, and I – it was such a good start to the day.

And then about mid-morning, she fell asleep. And we haven’t seen “Mom” since. It is like she has been walking with us down this final path, and that morning, she looked back and said, “Okay, I have to go now and finish my walk alone. Don’t worry about me. Jesus is holding my hand the rest of the way.”

We are observers of her journey now – not participants.

Friday…Uncle Willard, Larry Thornburg, and my cousin Dan Ferguson led us in a time of prayer and singing “Amazing Grace” and “It is Well with My Soul” around Mom’s bed. One more memory and opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move in this cramped apartment.

Friday…Steve arrived. All is well. Mom’s oldest has come home to say “goodbye.” Instead of the concern and discussion about when and if he might be able to make the trip, we are all feeling one less burden and a sense that Mom can let go now. And it’s a feeling of relief – Steve is home, the family is complete.

Friday…Mom’s breathing is very shallow now. She will take 20-30 second pauses that make me stop typing to look up and silently beg, “Come on, Mom, BREATHE. You can do it.” How many more breaths will she take? How many more steps are there?

Each Step I Take

Each step I take my Savior goes before me,
And with His loving hand He leads the way,
And with each breath I whisper “I adore Thee;”
Oh, what joy to walk with Him each day.

I trust in God, no matter come what may,
For life eternal in His hand,
He holds the key that opens up the way,
That will lead me to the promised land.

Chorus:
Each step I take I know that He will guide me;
To higher ground He ever leads me on.
Until some day the last step will be taken.
Each step I take just leads me closer home.

Mom, one foot in front of the other. Just a few more steps…

~~~~~

At 5:42 pm that evening, Heaven’s gates opened and Mom was finally home.

Image

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant.

Written Jan 27, 2013 6:21pm

I just knew when I got up yesterday morning that it was going to be the day. Mom’s color had changed. Her breathing was shallow and seemed to take more effort than she had left in her. She didn’t move in her bed any longer. She just slept. 
 
I held her very warm hand in mine and there was no gentle squeeze returned. As my brother Dwight put it, “She is shrinking before our eyes.”
 
We attempted to have a “normal” day, if that is what you call this vigil. Leftovers for lunch. Dad went to the drug store for coffee and ordered donuts for church. Angela took a walk to the Et Cetera Shop. Dwight was at the apartment all day while Marlene went to a swim meet. Sam and I went for a long walk and bought potatoes for dinner. Steve went to the motel and took a nap in the afternoon. Aunt Ivol and Uncle Fred stopped by for a visit. And none of us were really in the apartment at the same time. Until 5:00 p.m. 
 
Returning from our walks, Angela, Sam, and I were in the kitchen getting potatoes in the oven and broccoli cheddar soup on the stove for dinner.
 
Dwight and Angela went to Mom’s bedside to check on her, Dad and I joining them a few minutes later. Marlene was talking to her sister on the phone, and Sam and Steve were visiting in the kitchen. 
 
We weren’t at her bed very long when we realized she was at the end of her long walk home. Everyone gathered around the bed, “My Jesus I Love Thee” was playing, and we watched her last few gasps, as “I Surrender All” began to fill the room. Her husband of 62 years was holding her hand and her family surrounded her as the gates of Heaven opened wide to welcome her home. What a horrible, touching, unforgettable, priceless moment. 
 
“I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
 
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now…
 
…All to Jesus I surrender;
 at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
 
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.”
 
A few minutes later, we were standing in the living room waiting for the mortuary to arrive, many tears shed and hugs given. Angela looked down on the floor and picked up a quarter that was shining up at her. She held it in her hand, feeling that it wasn’t a quarter at all but a silver coin with an angel on one side and the words, “Someone is watching over you” on the other side. The living room is small. We have all lived in this room for over a week now. And that coin just happened to appear at that moment? 
 
I choose to believe that was no coincidence. Mom was still being Mom, and I believe it was God’s way of letting us know she is okay, and we will be okay, too.
 
Mom spent her life pointing the way to Jesus. Mom impacted more people than we will ever know. When all was said and done, Mom fought the good fight. She finished the race, and she will be absolutely beautiful wearing that crown. 
 
Well done, Grace Johnson Ferguson. We are blessed to have known you.

~~~~~

I am grateful for CaringBridge, for Michelle who gave me the idea to create Mom’s page, and for all of the people who wrote words of encouragement and support on the website during those two weeks last January.  It has been comforting to re-read the entries in the last few days. Crying is healing and necessary and I am grateful that God gave us that capability to let out our sorrow and pain.

And finally, I am grateful for my Dad’s story yesterday afternoon about his flowers. Ever since Mom passed away, he has continued to buy that small bouquet of flowers each week and places them on the little white table. I saw his arrangement on Friday evening – a little bunch of pink, white and lavendar crysanthemums and carnations that were so pretty. Dad had gotten them a week earlier and hadn’t been very impressed with them. They weren’t “spectacular” by any means and according to him, were pretty ordinary. And then, Friday morning, two days ago, he came out of the bedroom to get ready to leave for work, and it was like the flowers had decided to burst with beauty. They were full and lovely. It’s like they were prepared to celebrate the 1st anniversary of Mom’s homecoming with us. Happy anniversary, Mom.

If only I could say this one more time: Good night, Mom. I love you.

 

 

I am grateful for memories of happy times and I can only hope that the unhappy times will fade…

There were many years in my former, self-absorbed life that I was not the best daughter, and I didn’t appreciate my Mom the way I should have. There were the little things that annoyed me – there were the times I was so embarrassed of her – there were the times she was so mean and was so unhappy and not pleasant at all to be around, so what did I do? I treated her terribly by avoiding her. I talked badly about her to others or made fun of her. I pouted and made life miserable for her when I was around. I made her feel like SHE had done something to upset ME. Oh, how I wish I could take it all back.

I look back now at all of the wasted time that I spent, so selfish and more concerned with my own happiness and fulfillment, and I wish I could have those times back to do over again. Now that I am older and my own children are gone, I understand my Mom’s feelings. I understand why she was the way she was. I understand her loneliness. I understand the pain she felt when her children were hurting. I understand her broken heart. I understand her constant feelings of not being good enough. I understand her need to constantly apologize. I understand her trait to always feel like everything was her fault. I also understand her need to be loved, her unconditional love for her kids and grandkids. I understand her devotion to family and insistence that we have get-togethers, no matter what. It’s sad that we have to live some pretty hard life to get to this place where we finally understand the importance of relationships.

It’s sad that I had to experience life on the “other side” to really understand what it means to forgive, to accept, to love unconditionally, faults and all. It’s sad that I wasted so many years and only had a fraction of time to love my Mom the way she deserved to be loved.  

I am so grateful that my Mom spent the time to write her experiences so that we would have a glimpse into her life that shaped who she was and why she was. There were incidents in her early days that we would have had no idea she experienced had she not written them down, and her writings were like puzzle pieces that when put together, made all the sense in the world. THAT’s why she was like that. THAT’s why she reacted that way. THAT’s why this was so important to her…

I am grateful for my Mom’s gift of writing, for her “heart on the sleeve” personality, for her transparency.

~~~~~

A year ago today, the following is what we were experiencing…I am so grateful for the time I had with my family in the apartment, so grateful that we were able to be together with Mom in her last days here:

In the stillness of the evening, all company and family is gone. Dad has retired for the night, anxious for a good night’s sleep after a restless night last night. All that is left in the living room is the sound of the c-pap machine, the fluctuated breathing from the woman who raised me, a distant train whistle, and the soft sounds of Pandora hymns coming from the computer speakers.

A few minutes ago, I sat in the recliner and watched my brothers lean over Mom and tell her “goodnight.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I witnessed such a tender, personal encounter.

Watching Mom sleep and listening to these hymns reminds me of my childhood, taking a nap on the hard pews during church services in the old sanctuary at the Friends Church. She had the best lap for a pillow. And she would run her fingers through my hair while I fell to sleep listening to old hymns and Josephine or Carolyn’s  piano playing – oh, that felt so good. I can still feel the soft tickle on my scalp. What a safe, secure place to be. In the lap of one who loves me more than life itself.

My girls’ ensemble used to sing a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir song, based on Psalm 121…My Help Cometh From the Lord. I love how the Holy Spirit brings to mind all of these memories and weaves them all together for me just when I need them.

My Help Cometh from the Lord

 

I am so glad that God does not slumber or sleep and watches over my Mom as she rests. I hope she can sense that she is in the lap of One who loves her more than life itself and feel Him running His fingers through her hair. And I hope that we will have another night to lean over her and say, “Goodnight, Mom. I love you.”

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

PS: I am grateful for John. My first nephew, and a pretty amazing young man, even as a Razorback. Happy birthday, Rico Suave.

And finally, I am grateful for memories of happy times. Make happy memories this weekend, friends. And let the bad memories fade…