Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Friday, July 31, 2015

Books and Roses

Hayden receives roses from G.G. a week after her death.

Mother's Day eleven or twelve years ago. G.G. is on the far right. She looks like a giant here, but she is standing on a step with my girls. I am on the far left next to my mother.

      The conversation began around Hayden's book, Hidden Pearls. G.G. couldn't read it. Her eyes were getting too bad, but she wanted to know the story. I had flown in on that first trip to see G.G. in Illinois after her cancer diagnosis and had less than a week to visit her before I had to go back home. There was such a flurry of activity in her day with Hospice care and other visitors that I had to struggle just to get alone with her. There simply wasn't time to read a novel over 400 pages in length, and I knew my voice couldn't hold out that long anyway. So I told her the story from memory. I occasionally flipped open the book to read (and dramatize) an excerpt as G.G. sat in rapt attention. She found my attempts at manly voices and a Spanish accent particularly amusing. Sometimes I would even stand up and perform with more gusto (all as discreetly as possible while my mother slept in a chair next to us - it was late, after all). There was one scene I especially wanted to read to her, a scene of repentance. I wanted her to see what repentance looked like. It was difficult because I knew it would get me emotional.
     During my reading, when I would occasionally get misty or "gulpy", G.G. would yell at me. "Jenny, don't DO that! You're going to get ME started!" I would apologize, blow my nose, and continue. She continually apologized as well, because although it was getting late, she wouldn't let me stop. As opinionated as G.G. could be, she sat silently most of the time, leaning forward, with her eyes wide open like a little girl's. She wanted to know how this book was going to end. We stayed up until one in the morning. When I read her the last page of the story, I closed the book with tears in my eyes. She exclaimed, "That was a really good story!" Then she began to tell me one of her own.
    "When I was a little girl, times were very hard and I didn't think I was going to get anything for Christmas. My three older brothers pooled their money together and bought me a book as a present. I was so surprised and happy that I got a present! It was a book about cowboys, and I loved it! I loved the horses! For several days after Christmas, I would put the book on the table next to the tree and pretend to unwrap it again. Then I would read it again and again as though it was for the very first time."

I stared at her with tears welling up in my eyes.
"G.G, that is one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever heard!"
"It is a true story."

    G.G always had a well-known passion for horses and at one point in her life had a few on her Wisconsin farm. Many of her chachkie statues and collector plates are of horses. Perhaps it was when, as a little girl, she read that precious book over and over again that she first fell in love with them. She liked Clint Eastwood too. Cowboys.

Come to think of it, she also had a passion for presents. She loved getting presents as well. Now I understood why.

"There is a secret I want to tell you," I said. I knelt next to her bed.
I had her interest.  She leaned forward.
"A secret?"
I began to blubber. She rolled her eyes and yelled at me again.
"G.G., your name is going to be in a book."
She looked confused.
"Hayden's next book, in the dedication. Alice D. McGee is one of the names in her dedication."
"Really?!" She smiled.
I began to sob. "I fear you won't get to see it before it comes out, so I want to tell you now."
She knew what I meant.
An idea sprang into her mind and she got excited.
"I want you to make me a promise."
She began to fumble her hand around on her rolling table. She uncovered a wad of cash and shoved a handful at me.
"When her book comes out, I want you to buy her five roses. Five of them. You are to tell her that they are from ME. You are to tell her that I said congratulations."
More tears. More gulps.
"G.G., what a beautiful idea!  Of course I will do that for you!"
I gaped at her. This was just such a creative, sweet and tender idea coming out of my tough and earthy grandmother that I marveled.
Then I remembered. "G.G., the rose in Hayden's story is yellow."
"Then find a yellow one to stick in the group", she said matter-of-factly.

     G.G. died a week before Five Enchanted Roses was released. I'm so glad I told her about the dedication. When I held the book for the first time and flipped to Hayden's story, I read the dedication again. There was no evidence there that G.G. had passed away. I knew there wouldn't be.

    But now I think about another book. There is another book I desperately hope has my grandmother's name in it.  It is called the Lamb's Book of Life, and it was the mission of my sister, me, and the Lord Himself to ensure the engraving of her name there before she left this world.
My sister and I are so hopeful.

      Since my grandfather's death eleven months before, my grandmother had suddenly begun asking questions and wanting to discuss things she had never previously approached with me. My sister and I jumped at the opportunity to share the Gospel with her. Although I had approached the topic of salvation with G.G.in the past, and even attempted to have a Bible study with her several years ago, things never seemed to pan out into any consistency. Last Christmas, our evangelism took on a new fervor. We read G.G. Bible passages and answered her many questions the best we could. My sister even downloaded children's animated Bible stories (to G.G.'s delight) and a large print Bible onto her iPad.

     G.G. believed in Jesus, but she had also been very confused about Him from false teaching she had received as a child. She was largely ignorant of the Scriptures and found it very difficult to let go of idolatrous behavior. Trinkets, the lighting of candles, and ritualistic television programs that weren't even in English were a stronghold we battled every day. We weren't sure if she believed in the real Jesus, or in a false idea of Who He is. Over the months, My sister, Beth and I read Scriptures to her, preached to her, and prayed for her. We continued to answer questions and to encourage her the best we could. When we found out in March about her terminal lung cancer, our boldness grew. We began passionately rebuking false teachings and practices.

     To my surprise, I never saw G.G. grow angry about this.  She seemed fascinated.  This was all so new to her. She seemed to recognize that God was at work around her. She kept asking me why Poppa Jim passed away first. All I could tell her was that I thought she wasn't ready yet, and that Jesus wanted her to figure some things out before she got to see Him. Sometimes she would nod and summarize what I had read to her with such Biblical understanding that my heart would leap. I could see her wheels turning as she tried to fathom a God Who truly loved her - truly forgave her - a God who wanted her. Other times, when she'd become nervous, I'd see her revert back to superstitious behaviors to comfort herself. My sister and I explained the necessity of repentance and forgiveness. We stressed the importance of a relationship with God and the danger of rituals and "deceased" intercessors, and that she was free to speak to Him all by herself whenever she wanted. Beth visited her for the last time only a few days before her decline into the world of unconsciousness. She had poured out her heart once more. She asserted again and again,"Grandma, when the time comes, just cry out for Jesus! He is the only way into heaven! His is the only name you need to call upon!" G.G. listened again, but said little.

   Beth and I don't know what was going on in G.G.'s mind, in her heart, or in her faith all those months and what her final decision had been.
I think, perhaps, that God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to protect us.

If she didn't receive the truth - Surely He is protecting us from grief too painful to bear and great discouragement.
And if she did - Then perhaps He is protecting us from a misplaced pride in "our" success. I would like to believe that if I confidently knew that G.G. had forsaken false teachings and embraced the truth of Scripture, that I would be so happy and grateful that such treachery within myself would never occur; but I have learned to never underestimate my wretchedness.

I don't know why we don't know. But those thoughts come sometimes - until I chase them away.
I prefer to just fondly remember her and to trust Him.

    God is the One Who makes seed grow.  He is the One who draws a person to His Son. His heart, judgement, and timing are perfect. I am so grateful to Him for the time He gave me with her. She is completely in His hands now and therein is my peace.
Someday I will know - but for now there is only great hope.

     I tell a little of her story for your sake. Maybe you need the real Jesus too. Maybe you have questions. Or maybe you need to fight for someone you love. Because truly, when you love someone, you fight for that person. Sometimes we forget the serious danger the people we love might be in. We forget what forever really means, what the gnashing of teeth and eternal worms and fire might feel like; but most of all, we can't imagine what being rejected by the Creator, Himself, Whom we rejected first, would feel like, and to never, ever be loved again. Jesus wants us to read and remember His words; His warnings. He wants us to remember Him, what He did, and that most folks are going to hell. It keeps us fighting. And when appropriate, it also helps us to let go. We are at war, and Satan tries to make us forget.

To His disciples, Jesus said:
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

And to His church Jesus said:
"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelation 3:5-6

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:15

And then there is the book of the Bible itself:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
John 20:30-31

Monday, July 27, 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What We've Been Up To - Summer 2015

     It has been such a special summer!  Since March, I've been able to fly up to Chicago twice to see my grandmother for week-long visits as she rests at-home in Hospice care. My sister and I have rejoiced in the opportunities God has given us to share the Lord with her as we treasure the precious time we have left. I've also greatly enjoyed visiting my uncle while there as well. The girls also officially registered for college and begin at the end of August.
    In Scott's family, we recently had a family reunion where we celebrated his brother, Brian's recovery (and birthday!) from a bone marrow transplant after a grueling fight with cancer. We also celebrated three other birthdays in his family the month of June at the reunion. God has shown Himself faithful and involved in our lives again and again.

My husband, Scott and his four older brothers at their family home on James Island. Can you imagine all these clowns sharing one bedroom growing up? We praise God for Brian's recovery (center front). Love these guys (especially the one on the far right!) Every kid needs a bunch of crazy uncles. As for my kiddos' summer:  I'll start with......

The Boys

 Harrison takes a picture with Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Tajh Boyd at the Ellington Elite Football Camp.  Younger brother, Samuel photobombs.

 About 1000 young people line up by age to do warm-ups.

Harrison does a cone drill.

      Today my three boys are sore. Yesterday, my husband, Scott took our kids to an annual summer event at the Berkeley High School football field in Moncks Corner. Last year, Ellington cousins Bruce (wide receiver - San Francisco 49ers) and Andre (runningback- Arizona Cardinals) began a free football camp for kids ages 6 to 16. The cousins grew up in Moncks Corner and graduated from Berkeley High School. Bruce graduated from USC and played for the Gamecocks. Andre graduated from Clemson and played for the Tigers. Both were drafted a year apart for the NFL.  

Bruce Ellington

Andre Ellington

      A couple of years ago, while shopping at the local Moncks Corner Wal-Mart, I was standing in the baking aisle looking for my particular brand of bread flour. A woman standing next to me was also looking for the same brand. We got into a conversation and she casually mentioned that she had to have her particular brand of flour so she could bake her son's favorite sweet potato pie.  He was attending USC. When she mentioned his name and that he played football - something in my memory banks clicked.  Hmmm, Bruce Ellington. Could this be THE Bruce Ellington my son mentions (uh, excessively) as a rabid Carolina Gamecock fan? Could this be an opportunity for some Mommy points?  This lady seemed SO NICE. Surely she would understand that my son was a fan. After an unusual request, I dialed our home on my cell phone and told Harrison I had someone who wanted to speak to him. She introduced herself to an amazed and delighted Harrison. He somehow managed to get a little closer to Bruce by proxy.  I mean, she did give birth to him, right?
      The next summer, Scott heard about the camp from a co-worker (another relative of Bruce's) and signed up the boys. The camp consists of calisthenics, football drills, autograph opportunities, and lunch with professional players and coaches. It is a teenage boy's dream come true.This year, as my menfolk arrived at the five hour camp, a sweet lady passed them by and said "Thank you for coming" on her way out. Scott thanked her for putting it on. She then mentioned she was the mother of Bruce.  Scott asked her if she remembered an encounter with a lady at the Wal-Mart and a phone call request a couple years ago. She did and got to meet and hug Harrison in person.  He has yet to hug Bruce. Maybe next year.........Thank you Ellington family.  We love you!

And then there are Legos......

Sammy in his "Sammy jammies" presents Scott with his "card".

 The boys created a Nerf gun/Lego shooting gallery with high point values for their tinier targets.

Next week soccer practice begins for Harrison. I do manage to corral the boys at least once a day for some school work.  I have this obsession with finishing textbooks even if the school year is technically over. I also don't want their brains to get dull. It is amazing how much they forget after a few weeks off.  "What do you mean, 'What is a preposition?!'"

The Girls

Aw, her first carrot.......

Emily's garden has been doing quite well.  Her most successful produce this year: tomatoes and peppers (I have nine large, green peppers waiting for me to dice and freeze as I write this) . The mad scientist has also extended an honors anatomy project to do research of her own. Emily has been fascinated with genetics and decided to compare the eye colors of family members to test her researched theories of inherited eye color. Aunts, uncles and grandparents have faithfully emailed her close ups of their eyeballs or allowed Emmie to take a picture herself for an eye color family tree.

My sister, Beth's (Emmie's Auntie Booper) beautiful, blue eye. Trust me, it is not flattering taking a huge close-up of your eyeball. Every wrinkle, eyelash, and eyebrow hair looks gi-normous. (Seriously, how does this girl not have a wrinkle?) Emily is then applying her data to a previously completed research paper on the subject.

She has also continued sketching. And writing.  As I type this, she is preparing her Pinterest story board for a novella she has in mind.........

Her latest creation: "Miss Pole" from Cranford

Speaking of writing.....
     Here Hayden is in a still shot from her attempt to record her answers for a vlog (video) interview for the promotion of Five Enchanted Roses (note: click on title to read early reviews on Goodreads. Scroll to the bottom of the page to "community reviews". Remember, there are five different novellas in the collection, so Hayden's story, "The Wulver's Rose" is usually mentioned last in each review). Video as well as written interviews of the five authors will be on the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog at the end of July. As you can see, the picture above is not very clear, so she is still working on it!
     Hayden is also currently writing two new novels and a novella, so she is continually on her laptop writing (I think she looks like Schroeder from Peanuts).  I also frequently find her hunched in her favorite corner reading a book to review, or cleaning or relaxing with her earbuds listening to music on her iPod.  She and Emily have also starting attending a weekly adult Bible study at the home of some dear, family friends.
     Hayden celebrated her 21st birthday in June. Not only did she get to celebrate at the Wand family reunion and get generously blessed by aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, but then my mother took the girls and I out to Olive Garden for a lunch a few days later. Hayden loves pasta and this is one of her favorite places. Another one of her favorite ways to celebrate is to have a day in downtown Charleston. Scott and I happily obliged and took her to her favorite spots the following week. She loves to walk through the old slave market, look at the lovely items for sale and sample the fare up and down Market Street as shop owners pass out samples of fudge, pralines, and nuts (Hayden favorite sample is in the slave market where she gets to sample dips with pretzels. Mine is the sweet and crunchy dried okra). The smell of sweet grass baskets and horses from the carriage tours fill the air. A downtown trip wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Charleston Place hotel to get her free birthday Godiva truffle and an eight piece box from her parents. Scott and I used to work at the Limited (it isn't there anymore) at Charleston Place when we were in college oh so many years ago.  He worked stock and I was the "pacesetter". We met at the College of Charleston thirty years ago when I was eighteen and he was nineteen. sigh.
    Finally, we went to lunch at California Dreaming where I had also been a waitress during my college days. As we ate our lunch, a storm blew in and we watched a brief, but tiny waterspout form right on the water in the window in front of us. Diners gathered to watch a small sailboat break free and drift toward the bridge until authorities came on the scene to retrieve it.  It was an exciting, fun day!

Five Enchanted Roses will be available for purchase on July 27th. You can pre-order the book (or purchase it on that date) as well as her first novel Hidden Pearls on her website here.


     What about me?  I have been digging into God's Word and seeking His face with more effort as I see the Day approaching! In addition to the daily doings (laundry, people!), I've been emailing with my sister, Beth, to exchange Scriptures, articles, and relevant Youtube videos as well as updates about my grandmother. I've also been meeting with my good friend and prayer partner, Linda, to pray for the church (to wake up!) and for anything else as the Spirit leads. In addition to our family devotionals, my family is also on the lookout for current events being fulfilled in the Scriptures. (For example, my husband observed that the recent surge in shark and coyote attacks could be an example of Revelation 6:8c). We continue to pray for the Lord to move His people to be better equipped and positioned for the dark days ahead without neglecting to serve and share Him NOW.  If you haven't read my entry about my tsunami dreams a few years ago, I encourage you to check it out! Simply scroll to the labels section on this blog, and click the link "dreams". As time progresses, more and more folks are having similar experiences.  It is interesting and ironic how many who are seeking to "stay awake" spiritually are having divine dreams while they sleep! May the true remnant of God's people be strengthened and united as we seek to save!
For God did send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17
Although it is hard sometimes not to grieve and complain about the growing apostasy of our world, I believe it is best to remember and emulate Jesus' words above.
Blessed is he who reads and hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3

Stay in the Word, on your knees, and in fellowship, my friends.  Abide, abide, abide!
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." John 15:4-7