God Returns the Gift of Teaching Music

It was July 2012, during my morning quiet time.  The prayer arose from perhaps just
                     the dust
                                 of a tiny seed of faith.

“Father, if you want me to teach piano again, send me a student.”
                                                                Not a flippant prayer, prayed on a whim.
It came from months and months of asking God and seeking wise counsel:
                                                                          husband, doctor, daughter, friends….
                                                                    My next thought
almost blew the fragile fragments of faith … away ….

Apart from previous students and their parents, who even remembers I taught beginning and classical piano for 15 years?  

It is amazing what God can do with seed dust faith.  Just over a week later God’s answer  arrived by e-mail …    from the African bush.

Jan,
We are leaving for a 5 and a half month “furlough,” … now called “Stateside Assignment.”  We’ll be staying… in a mission house that belongs to the association. Aline has said that she’d like to learn to play the piano. The first person I thought of is you!! After all, you were Jênifer’s teacher. Would you be willing & up to giving Aline some “beginner” lessons for the 5 months we are there? Please feel free to say NO if you are not up to it and I’ll ask around at church. But if you can, you are my first choice. =)
We must get together SOON!
Love,
Heather

I almost fell over laughing.
 Ok God, I get it.

Heather,
I’ve wanted to return to teaching but was concerned about accepting a group of students and my health not holding up.  This would be a perfect opportunity to “test” (my health) since Aline will be my only student and the commitment is not until she graduates from highschool!  I would love to teach her!  jan

A tiny seed of faith,
broken and bruised and pummeled to dust,
pushed, tossed, and blown across the vast oceans
and into the African bush
– by the breath of a loving God
Who knows
there is a little girl
living in the African bush,
with music in her heart and a desire to play the piano.

It was as if my Abba, Father tilted the earth on its axis and leaned over with a kiss from heaven that spanned two continents.  I told son and daughter, “God had to go all the way to Africa to find a piano student for your mother. Oh, the love of God…”  

Heather answered my questions about Aline’s attention span, fine motor skills, and school progress and I prioritized goals considering our time limits.  Many of today’s popular  piano methods delay note recognition for weeks and even months.  After hours of online research, multiple trips to music stores, I chose Bastian, but with a plan to supplement with other material and begin note reading the first lesson.

My goals for Aline: Teach her the fundamentals of piano and music theory, including beginning improvisation using the I, IV and V7 chords in the key of C which meant time spent on ear training, and finally, emphasize technique.

I have a strong background in piano technique. In college  my piano professor confirmed: my hands are too small, my fingers too skinny, I could not walk and chew gum and I had arms like a praying mantis. (That last observation was mine.)  Piano technique in college was paramount in helping me overcome those obstacles and because I had to overcome them, I’m a better teacher for my students than if it had just come naturally  to me. Technique is more work to teach and to learn and once Aline returned to Africa and resumed lessons, that would most likely be the weakest part of her instructions in the future.  However, Aline’s limited time in the states made me extremely conscious of the need to nurture her love for music even if we failed at some of our goals.

I fell in love with Aline. Precious, precocious, smart, funny, beautiful, with a love for God and for music…

Lesson 1: Aline learning the correct hand position.

                       Lesson 1:  Aline learning the correct hand position.

 Aided by grandfather, Opa, who “paid” Aline to “teach” him piano after her lessons each week, she soared.  (Paulo plays guitar and Heather has a Minor in Music.)

Aline teaching her grandfather, Opa.

 Aline teaching her grandfather, Opa.

Like most beginners, Aline’s hands moved over the keys like a crippled little spider. I demonstrated new technique and she simply did it. She amazed me. Improvements that often take months to learn, she tackled in a week or less. There were times when they traveled and she practiced on a keyboard;  I showed her how to practice on a plane or in the car with no keyboard..

Aline learning to play the piano.

Aline learning to play the piano.

Right before Thanksgiving, I asked Aline, “What’s your favorite Christmas songs?”  She loves Away in a Manger and Jingle Bells. The Christmas books for her skill level had one recognizable song and the rest was “filler,” which only added to the cost.  For Christmas, I wrote an arrangement of her two favorites. We worked on them during lessons and she enjoyed sharing her music with family and friends last Christmas.
Aline 5 away in a manger

Aline sharing Jingle Bells and Away in a Manger with family and friends.

Aline sharing Jingle Bells and Away in a Manger with family and friends.

Aline worked hard and together (with the help of her grandparents of course) we accomplished all of my goals in a little over five months.

Aline’s piano lessons continue in Africa. She uses a keyboard because the African bush would quickly ruin a piano.  The closest teacher is more than an hour away; her lessons are once a month and her grandparents are supplementing. This past spring, Heather e-mailed and asked me to buy Aline’s next set of piano teaching materials. A local mission team took them to her last Spring.  I never had to postpone a lesson with Aline; after she left I asked God to send me the students He wants me to teach. Again, God’s answer came in an unexpected way….

Last Spring, my painting was not quite ready for the next art show at Art on the Avenue but we wanted to support Debbie, M.J. and the other artists and so on opening night, Al and I prepared food and went to enjoy an evening of art and live music… and on this night, a fellow musician and friend from the past was there.

In the 80’s, Sue Tomlin and daughter, Karen, lived in our above ground basement apartment when we lived in the grand old house at 907 Summit Ave.  Music flowed from that house at the top of the hill with Sue’s violin, my piano, and Al’s amazing solo tenor. In addition, we had Sue’s violin students, my piano students, and occasionally Sunday afternoon practices with the Macon Symphony’s string quartet.    Former neighbors recall those days and tell me they miss our music. That night at the art show, Sue asked, “Are you still teaching piano?  I’m booked but I have some referrals.”  I went to the art show to support the gallery and came home with piano students.

A tiny seed of faith,
broken and bruised and pummeled to dust
pushed, tossed, and blown across the vast oceans
and into the African bush
– by the breath of a loving God.
Who knows
there is a little girl
living in the African bush,
with music in her heart and a desire to play the piano.

To God be the glory………………..

The Comment button is the light colored  Balloon at the right top of this Blog Post.
 Terrible design.  I’m trying to change it.

Giveaway I Did It Corrected

I Did It Cropped Reprint Margin8 X 10 Reprint on acid free archival paper  (actual image  8.125″ X 6″)
I Did It
Artist: Janice Everett Gray copyright 2012
Art website: http://www.JanGrayWriterArtist.com
Art that tells a story….

Ways to enter:
– Commenting on the blog regarding this post allows one entry.
– “Share” on FB for an additional entry.
Leave a comment on this post when you share on FB.

-“Like” http://www.JanGrayWriterArtist.com
leave a comment on this post that you “Like” the art website for another entry.

If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text or pictures without permission. pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013    

Remembering My Sweet Doc, Dr. E. C. Sheehan


Doc smiling_0212

He often sang, “I long to see my Savior most of all,” and quickly added, “And right after that my sweetheart.”  His heart’s desire was met a year ago on September 14, 2012,  when God called him home, a month before his 98th. birthday.

Doc young_0021-cropLouise Sheehan young_0016-crop
            E.C. Sheehan                                 Louise Kirby (Sheehan)
E. C. Sheehan was headed for a successful career in pro ball when he tried to negotiate his first kiss from the beautiful young lady with blue eyes.  “If I hit a home run tonight will you give me a kiss?” He hit the home run and rounded the bases, looked up in the stands and she was gone. He later laughed and said, “I didn’t get a kiss until we married… but that wasn’t my fault.”
MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Our last July 4th celebration with both of them together at our house.

We could count on one good lively “spar” between them every time we were together. They were a team and as iron sharpens iron, they refined one another. He would begin to tell one of his stories, “It was September 1946….”

She would interrupt, “It was not September; it was July and it was 1945.”
He insisted, “No Louise. It was September 1946.”
My children’s eyes bulged as the tension built.
She wouldn’t give in. “Clennon (Clinton) I know it was 1945 and it was July.”
He dug in his heels: ” Louise, you are prevaricating.”
“I am not prevaricating, it was July 1945 and this is why….”
(The first time this happened, I searched Webster for “prevaricate” after they left.) Then suddenly the momentum of the discourse would slow into a loud silence as we waited….

And very slowly, the first evidence of surrender would start with a twinkle in Doc’s eyes… that spilled onto to his cheeks where a grin would start to swell like an ocean wave until the words rolled over his tongue and tumbled from his lips,
“You’re right, Louise; it was July 1945.”

We never knew who was really right about the date and in the end it never seemed relevant to the story as he told it 50 plus years later!  But they kept each other sharp and oh, how we loved them.
They became family to us.  Vacations and often the holidays, they were with us. We laughed a lot. Cried a little. Fought occasionally. Prayed. Forgave and laughed some more.  If I reprimanded Ben for running in the house, it was almost always Doc who was chasing him.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
 Mama Sheehan with me, my daughter, family and friends @ Evening to Rejoice, Mabel White Baptist Church.

I recall winning only one argument with Doc. It happened a few months after Mama Sheehan’s death. We took him to the lake for seafood and it was late when we returned to Carlyle Place (a senior living community) but he wanted us to stay and visit. When we left, Al usually got the car and pulled it up to the door and Doc always wanted to go out and open my car door. That night the doors to assisted living were locked. I was not going to leave him outside trying to find a way to get back in and he was not going to stay inside and let me take 10 steps to the car where Al was waiting. Neither of us would give in and we were playing tug-of-war with the door and I could tell by his steel-blue eyes we were at an impasse.  In desperation I said, “Clennon,” trying to sound like his beloved sweetheart when the two of them were in a disagreement.  He immediately let go of the door, threw his arms around my neck and wrapped me in a big hug, laughing loudly, big tears streaming down his cheeks. After a goodnight kiss on the cheek I headed out the door – alone.  Al opened my car door and as we pulled away I looked back to see Doc and a nurse still laughing and wiping away the tears.  It is the only dispute I recall ever winning with him.

Always eager to share the gospel, he posed the question to waiters, strangers on the beach, anyone who would listen: “Do you know my best friend?”  He preached the message that today we call “grace.”  He knew it as “the exchanged life.” Our life in exchange for the life of Christ living in us. He had not come to an understanding of these truths until he literally came to the end of himself and that is where he found me in 1990.

The losses were stacking up after months sick in bed and everything that had previously defined me was either drastically changed or gone. Doc kept saying, “Let go and simply let God be God in your life.”  I didn’t know how to let go. Our children were ages three and ten; they needed me and Al needed me.  I told him, “I can’t let go. If I let go, I’ll drown. What about Al and my kids? I need to be caring for them.”  Using my analogy he answered, “Roll over and float.” Those words changed my life. Suddenly, the life of rest in Christ became real and over twenty years later, I immediately know whether I’m swimming or floating…resting in Christ.

In August 2011, Doc’s son, Kirby, gave us one of Doc’s Bibles; Doc had written the sweetest note to us on the inside cover. The next day I wrote in my prayer journal:

Doc jan kirby Bible0010-crop

Journal Entry: August 14, 2011
I was just reading his (Doc’s) Bible and recognized the scent I’m so familiar with when he hugs me or kisses me on the cheek.  The scent of his body and his cologne is on the pages of his Bible! Oh, if it could be said of me that I loved Your Word so much that the scent of my hands touching the pages was throughout my Bible ….

We shared many precious times together, up until the end…..

Doc and Al Tobe_0171
 Al  and Doc feeding the ducks after eating seafood at Lake Tobesofkee with Kirby and our family.DSC_0101Celebrating his 97th. birthday at our house with Kirby and my family.
DSC_0007-cropJust hanging out together at our house. Doc, Kirby, Tuffy (Kirby’s best buddy), Al, me and our two cats.Kirby salli0206   Kirby, our cat, Salli, and Tuffy tucked in next to Kirby.Tuffy 210Tuffy liked to play in the pillows on our sofa.  Doc enjoyed animals more in his last months than in prior years. I still have BBQ stains on the seat of a dining chair where Doc would sneak Al’s BBQ pork chops to Tuffy.  The stain remains; I’ve had no desire to remove it….tuffy

Simon fetching 0031-crop
Doc enjoyed playing fetch with our cat, Simon…. and Tuffy and our cats became reluctant friends.
DSC_0059
 We enjoyed a late birthday celebration for Kirby.
DSC_0060
  Doc K, Tuffy_0040-crop
 And the fellowship was sweet…. Note the smile on Tuffy’s face, too.
Painting CP with Doc_0073 - Copy
There was an afternoon in the sun at Carlyle Place.  He called us and was lonely. I had a painting deadline and so I thought I would paint and Doc could read one of our favorite authors to me and we would discuss it. I painted very little and Doc set aside the book and talked. Sweet memories….
DSC_0071-cropDr. Tim McCoy, pastor of Ingleside Baptist Church, unveiling Doc’s portrait, painted by David Walsh and dedicated at the Thanksgiving celebration service, November 2011.
Doc Tim_0066

Doc Tim0061-crop

Doc andTim 0085 (2)
 
Doc luncheon_0098
 The Thanksgiving luncheon at Ingleside Baptist Church, following the dedication of the portrait.Doc luncheon_0096-crop

Harriet Newton
Doc enjoyed visiting with Harriet Newton and many friends who have appreciated his ministry and loved him for so long.

I think it was Oswald Chambers who asked: Have you ever witnessed someone doing something and it forever changed the way you saw that simple act?

It was June 28, 2012 and Kirby, Tuffy, Al and I went to see Doc, just out of the hospital.  He was in bed, a rarity that early.  Kirby’s adult daughter, Sandi, requested to hear her grandfather sing “Jesus Loves Me” to her over the phone. To hear a 97-year-old man, flat on his back sing “Jesus Loves Me” with tears filling his eyes and with such deliberate intent, still passionate in his love for Christ…  Jesus Loves Me will never be a simple children’s hymn to me, ever again.  

Journal Entry regarding last visit with Doc Wednesday night, Sept 12, 2012:
We found him in his wheelchair in front of the nurses’ station. He was extremely weak and couldn’t look up at us.  The aid and Al put him in his bed and that gave him some relief and allowed us to see each other. I started talking… and he said, “Hello Darling.”  He’s never called me that but I thought I had heard him call his daughter, “Darling.”  (I chose not to tell him I was not Jackie.)  …. I told him how much I love him and how precious he is to me. I told him that God had kept him here to get his last kid raised and he had done a good job … I would miss him terribly but I would be ok…  his ministry  would continue through me and thousands of others he’d influenced. He was crying and smiling weakly… When I stopped he looked me in the eyes and (very clearly) said, “God bless you. I love you Sweet Girl.” He often called me that. It was one of his pet names for me and (the one he most often used) … he knew it was me. (We prayed with him.) Al and I sat beside his bed until we knew he was sleeping soundly.
Friday morning I was babysitting our grandson. He loves music. I put his bouncy seat in front of my piano and sang and played  “Jesus Loves Me” as he clapped and jumped and laughed. My tears were flowing and I was laughing at the same time as I shared God’s love with our sweet baby. DSC_0014 (3)-crop - CopyCarson piano_0112 - Copy-crop - CopyCarson piano0116 - Copy-crop - Copy Daughter, granddaughter and Al arrived for lunch. I removed our grandson from his bouncy seat. The phone rang. It was Kirby. Doc was near death; hurry. We rushed but within five minutes Kirby called back. Doc was in heaven.The three of us arrived at CP at the same time and went into Doc’s room. Staff and nurses present. Crying. They closed the door and left us alone to say good-bye. Tears flowed but no regrets. I had wanted to be with him when he left us but instead I spent that morning loving my grandson and singing “Jesus Loves Me” to him… and that is just what Doc would’ve wanted … sharing the love of Jesus….

If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text or pictures without permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013    

God Intervened – We Got Married … Our Amazing Love Story

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. I accepted Al’s proposal for marriage on Valentine’s Day, the night I planned to end our relationship.  Moody (also known as Moody Magazine and Moody Monthly published our story in their January/ February 1998 issue.   It is a Valentine’s Day love story of God’s love for us and below is how it appeared in Moody.

Moody front cover 22-crop

Moody article 35-crop

Biblical Facts or Fables?
                 by Al Gray as told to Jan Gray

My high draft number let me miss Vietnam when I began college in 1970. Yet my life was in turmoil.

Many of my friends were enjoying free sex and doing their thing.  I was raised in the church, but now I questioned everything.  At the university, higher learning included Peanuts comic strips and the great literary value of Beatles lyrics.


Moody Inset 038-crop

I took a Christianity course in which the professor taught the Bible as a book of fables.  Every miracle was challenged: Man was not created; he evolved from apes.  The Genesis flood wasn’t worldwide.  The Red Sea was the Sea of Reeds.

I deduced that yes, there’s a God, but He doesn’t interact with man.  The Scriptures are men’s writings and have no basis for guiding my life.  I wasn’t merely skeptical.  In doubting the credibility of the Bible, I rejected Christ.

My older brother became involved in Eastern religions, and I shared my doubts with him.  He invited me to hear a so-called Messiah.  Afterwards, I was disgusted.  I wasn’t immoral, but I had a strong sense of my sin. Eastern mysticism offered no relief from guilt.

I attended church through my senior year in college.  I wanted to be with friends and look for girls. There I found Jan.  Pursuing her brought me into a closer relationship with the church and I met people who were different.

We attended a Sunday school class on Genesis.  The teacher shared scientific information to support Biblical creation and a worldwide flood. This class provided my first opportunity to see that the Scriptures can be scientifically supported.  Perhaps Christianity was not a fairy tale faith.

I continued to examine the lives of my friends at school and could see the results of their belief system.  “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Rom. 1:22,24).  I wanted my life to be different from their “if it feels good, do it” philosophy.  Their relationships appeared shallow.  They could not relate to authority or each other.

Valentine’s Day came and Jan and I agreed to make cards for each other. On Feb. 13, 1974, I was in her parents’ den working on her card.  As I examined the qualities I appreciate in Jan, I knew I wanted the same for my life.  I had memorized John 3:16 as a child: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  I knew the guilt of my sin.  I also understood that God sent His perfect Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin.  Because He overcame death, He was greater than my guilt and sin.  I bowed my head and asked Him to forgive my sin, and to be my Lord and Savior.

Jan rejoiced and wept as I shared my conversion with her.  I had no idea that God had been dealing with her, also.  “I was planning to break up with you tonight,” she said.  “I promised God  I would only date committed Christians.”

I sat there dumbfounded.  I had no idea that she was about to end our relationship.  She explained, “I didn’t want your conversion to be based on us.  I knew you had to make a personal commitment to Christ apart from me.”  Jan accepted my proposal for marriage that night.

A couple of years later, during my morning Bible study, I noticed Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  God reveals Himself through creation.  Because I had believed evolution’s lie, I was blinded to God.  I knew I wanted to help others avoid that pitfall.

Jan and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary in 1997.  We have two children. Our daughter is 18 and has a strong commitment to Christ.  Our son is 11 and growing in the Lord.  I want my children to know they can trust the Scriptures and their scientific and historical accuracy.  We have discussed evolution and other philosphies and researched their fallacies.  God has even opened the door for me to share this information through editorials in the local newspapers.

Al graduated suma cum laude from Mercer University in 1974 and from Mercer’s School of Business with an MBA a few years later.

And we were married June 7, 1975….  Obvious evidence that God does intervene and interact in our daily lives.  I had made up my mind to end our relationship, forgetting it was also Valentine’s Day!


DSC_0052

Holding hands 044-crop

Tomorrow we celebrate out 38th wedding anniversary and our commitment to Christ remains the foundation for our marriage through the good times and the bad.  Our children are grown and we delight in the antics of two amazing grandchildren.

It’s been quite a ride and I continue to be amazed at how God intervenes and works in our lives.  There have been times when we’ve taken each other to places neither of us wanted to go but we’ve done it together.  Our roller coaster adventure started right after our marriage vows – when we were forced to leave for our honeymoon… with our “Genesis” Sunday school teacher and his wife! (My fault… some people came to our wedding to get even.)  But that is another story for another day…..

DSC_0046

It is not about us.  It is about HIM. My, what a Savior!

Happy Anniversary, Buford!
Loving you always,
Daisy

If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:    http://www.NewMorningMercies.com.

Please do not copy text or pictures without permission.

pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013    

Our Military and their Families Count the Costs

Everything changes when someone you love is in a war zone.  Normally, if I’m home alone and a stranger comes to the door, I don’t go to the door.

But -
when our son was deployed …
I rushed to the door….

When I heard a car arrive next door, I frequently wondered if it was in our driveway and silently prayed-
              Don’t let there be a knock at our door.  Please God, don’t let our doorbell ring….

The US news media failed us during our son’s 2012 deployment to Afghanistan. News sources who previously covered war news exchanged casualty reports for the constant ad nauseum rhetoric of the upcoming 2012 presidential election. They analyzed and reported the same quotes hour after hour for months. People frequently told us:  “I thought all our troops were home.”    A friend whose son was simultaneously deployed asked me how I knew about US and NATO casualties days ahead of him.  My most reliable news sources were online casualty sites, British news, and US military sites. A so-called Afghan insider attack might get a little press but even that was soon replaced with repetitious election news that told us nothing new.  We lost the most military to “insider” attacks last year… before the election.  Weeks before his return Ben’s base was attacked by Afghans in our military uniforms and we waited 24 hours for news he was safe.

As President Obama ran for reelection he told us terrorists were on the run and the war was basically over.  The election of a new president is always important.  Relevant news coverage regarding the election is important.  However, one reporter imbedded with a convoy in Afghanistan might have changed the course of the election. Maybe….  At least people would’ve had the truth.

Roadside bombs are now bigger, planted deeper.  Bombs planted to kill US and NATO military convoys in 2012 were detected and detonated only to be replanted two days later and kill as our convoys returned from their mission. That doesn’t sound like terrorists running away from the action.

As Ben’s homecoming drew closer our anxiety increased.  It appears we lose so many in the last month of deployment.  I’ve speculated the reason(s) but not researched the facts.

Our soldier’s words are always carefully chosen when we communicate during deployments.  So much he can not say and so much we know we can not ask. In addition, he’s very protective of me and so I was honored and stunned when four weeks before Ben’s scheduled return he simply said, “I’m concerned. Our last month is going to be brutal.”

So thankful he told me … that he trusted me enough to know I would not make his hardship about me.  I found myself praying with each breath and counting the days.

Five days before Ben’s projected flight out of Afghanistan, I was upstairs in my studio painting his Welcome Home banner.

DSC_0001

Someone knocked on our door.  A rare occurance in the middle of the day.

And then… I heard two men talking in the driveway.

No windows upstairs on that side of the house.

I rushed downstairs to the front door.  No one.  My heart pounded – like someone bouncing a basketball inside my head.  I went to the back door. Nobody there.

   The mail arrived hours ago….

UPS delivery?

I opened both doors.

No packages.

I  heard a vehicle pull away but couldn’t get to the opposite end of the house fast enough to identify it. Would the Army send Ben on a mission so close to coming home?  I searched for his latest FB status.  Nothing recent and so…

I messaged Ben’s girlfriend, Sue.

Ben and Sue DSC_0047-crop

Sue is the angel who often kept me updated when I couldn’t reach Ben. Sue messaged back to me:  “Ben left last night on a double mission.”

Fear.  My knees weak and heart pounding.  I started to e mail prayer sisters but felt I shouldn’t take the time.  I could panic over all I did NOT know (my natural bent) and husband would come home to a hysterical wife in two hours or I could pray for God’s protection for our son and those with him. It was easy to locate that wrinkled, smudged page where months earlier we had recorded Bible verses to pray over Ben during his deployment; it was on Al’s bedside table.  We used it to pray God’s Word over Ben every night.

Knowing Ben might already be in heaven I chose to trust God with his safety.  Ben trusted me enough to tell me the truth: “I’m concerned. Our last month will be brutal.”   Our son’s courage set my example.   I cried and prayed until I fell asleep in an exhausted heap, trusting our son to His Heavenly Father’s care.

Later, Al came home from work and walked in with a package UPS left inside our garage.  It was the computer Ben ordered. The day before, Dell called to report it had NOT been shipped and that it was scheduled to arrive in 13 days. Dell was wrong. It was UPS knocking at my door.  They had never left packages inside our garage in the past.

Ten days later, we welcomed our soldier home.  Details of his last month in Afghanistan were shared with us and his sister and brother-in-law that evening. Ben almost lost his life three times that last month in Afghanistan.  His return is a gift and a miracle.

DSC_0162

US and NATO troops and those who love them count the costs of the war in Afghanistan on a daily basis.  The truth about the deaths in Afghanistan was not given the adequate coverage by the US media during our last election.  The truth needs to be told.
Did you know we lost an American service member yesterday in Afghanistan?  Twenty-one (21) Americans have been killed in Afghanistan so far this month in addition to 4 NATO allies.  Please take the time to look at this link for a list of those killed in Afghanistan as of May 26, 2013:

http://www.icasualties.org/OEF/Fatalities.aspx

The stats for the months before last year’s election compared to previous years:

http://icasualties.org/oef/

Please pray for our military who are still deployed. Pray for those who are returning with injuries and can’t get the medical care and emotional support they need.  We are losing more to suicide than we lose in battle in Afghanistan.  Please pray for grieving loved ones and struggling families responsible for the care of our injured military. As you’re able, please support organizations that help those who are injured and their families

If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog: http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text, art or pictures without written permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013    

The Stormy Pain Slammed Weekend Dawn

Last week was an amazingly, productive week and it was fun to see God bless.
He continues to “establish the work of my hands” (Psalm 90: 17).

CREATOR and Created,
His life in exchange for mine
working it out.
HIs abundance surpassed
expectations and deadlines -
theirs and mine.

AND THEN
in a Stormy Pain Slammed Weekend Dawn
Lightening strikes and jolts
this blissful time as husband rests.
I try to wait – be still.

DSC_0008 - Copy

He hears me stir and asks,
“Are you ok?
You should have waked me.” -
No whine or sigh
His tiredness rises to meet my need.

DSC_0058-crop

The creative rhythm now seared and stopped.
Writing, web design, painting, piano, sewing
Studio Door Closed
Shut.

Momentum Lost
in a Stormy Pain Slammed Weekend Dawn.

      And in this too…
HE IS GOD.

DSC_0026

I know that I know that I know…
My Father CREATOR loves me…
His sufficient grace is new
Last year. Last week. Yesterday.
Now.

Creator Father whispered- WAIT.
In the stormy, pain slammed weekend dawn.
In the WAIT that too is grace.
He waits with me….

CREATOR and Created,
His life in exchange for mine
working it out.

  One of the most difficult “working it out” struggles with chronic/acute illness is finding the will to start over when the momentum of life is interrupted multiple times a day, a week… and when it is put on hold for years.  I’ve done it all the wrong way and with God’s grace the right way….

  Last week I was building a website for a local nonprofit. I not only met the goal but accomplished more than the agreement for the first stage of the project. It was fun!  The week before I was making slipcovers and preparing ideas for the next art show.  There is daily time alone to pray and read and write and time at the piano.  Time with husband, adult children and being entertained by grandchildren….  Online visits with my “prayer sisters” and friends. Sunday School and church when able~ It is a different life than this teenage “people” person thought she would live as an adult. It was not my choice but it is His best for today.
DSC_0007

And then in the early hours of Saturday morning TN struck, again. How many times and how many decades?   The productive rhythm stopped.  Hoping it would improve I stumbled to wait it out.

Denial? A bad decision?

Doctors and family repeat it often,
“Chasing pain does not work. Get on top of it fast.”
Am I a dog chasing cars?  Sometimes there is little difference.
All I can say is, “Duh…” and just look dumb.
What’s my excuse?

I was having fun and didn’t want it to end….

  It looked like I might just win this time. Pain was a little better Saturday night and then, WHAM. Slammed again and down for the count on Sunday.  Sat up and did a little writing Monday – unusually productive so soon… On Tuesday Al came home with lunch… in bed and still waiting….

  Going down is hard.
Getting up and starting over – just as hard.
“Out of the wreck I rise” and….
Nothing EVER looks the same.

DSC_0147

The pristine perfect plans that germinated and grew last week – now look like wilting weeds. Who wrote that garbage in my latest Word document?  I’ve learned not to trust my vision too soon.  It takes time to find the rhythm and momentum and start the creative dance again.  Too much too soon means too many stumbles and inevitable disaster.

Been there.
Got that t shirt
two decades ago. It says….
I’m a terrible wife and mother.

Years ago,  I climbed out of bed to two young kids, a busy husband, and a once lovely home that suddenly resembled a frat house for college dropouts.

                Unnoticed strangers had worn our clothes …
mountains peaked on the laundry room floor.  

Opened the refrigerator.  What’s that (gag) awful smell?
Chicken Rigamortis ?
Purchased right before I went down – uncooked and ruined.

  How does one even WANT to start over in a wrecked house  with invading strangers and “stinkin chickin” ?
Years ago, I learned a truth that helps me gain perspective…
and start over…and start over…and start over….

 When applied, it worked when we had small children and it works two decades later.
God’s truth is timeless….

“But we trusted…and beside all this…today is the third day” (Luke 24:21)

In the Christian classic, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers speaks of us wanting to see God’s power and that that is proof of our spiritual immaturity.  It is proof of our spiritual dejection.  “Dejection springs from one of two sources- “I have satisfied a lust or I have not. Lust means I must have it at once. Spiritual lust makes me demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Who gives the answer….
“Whenever the insistence is on God answers prayer, we are off track. The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer.
“…and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people around us. If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him.  One of the most amazing revelations of God comes when we learn that it is in the commonplace things that the Deity of Jesus Christ is realized.”

The Discipline of Dejection, February 7th 

DSC_0149

  Today is Thursday.  I was up long enough yesterday to start a pot of soup. Day finished.  Today I rolled out of bed and did “the duty that lies nearest.”  I stripped the bed, threw the sheets in the washer and got in the shower.  Next task – more laundry.  I am so happy to wash clothes!  I’m completing this blog post and will reheat leftovers.  And in the midst of these commonplace, everyday tasks….

DSC_0118

                                          God showed up.

Grace… to cover the last five days… and so much more.
My, what a Savior!

If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:
http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text, art or pictures without written permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013    

Our Soldier Came Home…

 and in Memory of Those Who Didn’t

As I prepared to write this tribute, I told our soldier, “This isn’t about me.  I write from a mother’s perspective … this is your story.” I didn’t want to share what is only his to tell.

Ben’s reply, “Mom it is your blog. Write what you want to write….”

I can finally attempt to put into words a post long past due. It deserved to be written last October – but ….

There are no words to describe when a loved one goes to war.

There are no words to describe when that loved one returns.

There are only foggy vignettes blurred by tears.

When Ben returned from Afghanistan there were four soldiers on his “sensitive equipment” flight. We decorated a wall at the battallion office and waited three hours …

DSC_0022

DSC_0029
but his flight was canceled and he was stuck at a base on the northeast coast.

DSC_0042

Five-year-old granddaughter sat on the curb and cried, ” I want to see Uncle Ben.” We ate dinner at 11 PM.
I fell asleep smiling. Ben was almost home.

DSC_0043

The next night we returned to battalion headquarters with balloons to entertain Papa and grandchildren.  We hung our welcome home banner a second time and waited a few more hours.

DSC_0152

DSC_0153 500px width

DSC_0004-crop

Finally, a soldier at the end of the building called out, “they’re here.” They came through the door at the end of the hall.  Ben, the highest ranking, held back for those with him to enter first.  He was still looking out for his guys. The respect for our son by those with him was obvious.  The room soon filled with hugs and tears….

DSC_0158

DSC_0162

DSC_0177-cropblog

DSC_0179-crop

DSC_0183-crop

Ben wanted time with family… and American food… and for me to put the camera away.  His first meal… a lot of cold milk and chocolate chip pancakes.  His blue eyes reflected the clearness of a strong healthy mind and a grateful heart…grateful to be home. Grateful to be alive…. His sister and brother-in-law and his dad and I, we all listened intently for almost three hours as Ben recounted some of the details of his deployment.

Our son’s safe return is a miracle.  Ben was the gunner responsible for the safety of his convoy. They traveled the distance from Savannah to Miami on some of their missions…hundreds of miles one way. Their missions often prolonged by broken down trucks and waiting for more vehicles with equipment for detecting IED’s … because the ones they employed a couple of days earlier, at the start of their mission had all been destroyed by roadside bombs.  He described seeing IED’s detonated going to their destination that were already replanted and detonating on their return trip hours later.

In his last month of deployment our nation was about to elect a new president and we were being told the war in Afghanistan was winding down.  Those were some of Ben’s worst weeks in Afghanistan.

Ben described watching the truck directly in front of him hit an IED. The body of the marine driving it was never found.  On one mission they stopped on the road for two hours.  When they began to move forward, the truck behind him pulled up to where Ben’s vehicle had sat all that time and an IED went off beneath it.  On another mission they were outside their truck and came under attack.  Ben heard the sound of rapid gunfire swoosh past his head, barely missing him. He pushed a marine (not in his convoy) into his truck.  As the gunner responsible for the convoy he opened fire on insurgents in a hillside above them and called for reinforcements.

It still amazes me that anyone would volunteer for a job like this.  To sit in the presence of such courage is humbling.  To realize it is our son often leaves this “crafter of words” … speechless.

The week before Ben was fighting the enemy.

The day after he arrived home was spent furnishing his apartment. As we shopped he was constantly dodging my hands.  I just wanted to hug him and look at his smile; he ducked and slipped past most of my attempts as we shopped, laughing and teasing me. During deployments, I often went to his bedroom and sat alone and prayed – his scent still lingered in his room. Suddenly he was within reach…almost….

We arrived at Ben’s apartment on base with our car and his truck packed full. I thought it would take us hours just to empty the contents but as soon as we arrived, soldiers poured out of their apartments. In less than ten minutes, both vehicles were empty. And then ….

It was time for us to leave.  Al had to return to work.  I had an art show deadline in four days. Ben needed time to readjust and to simply … be.

Al and I had planned to celebrate with an hour at Tybee Island before heading home. Our favorite pasttime is walking on the beach holding hands… an extremely rare treat these days. But as I hugged our soldier I knew there was no way I could go to the beach.

I fought back tears… so thankful for our soldier’s safe return.

“Could we go to Warrior’s Walk instead of the beach?”

“That’s a good idea,” was Al’s immediate reply.

Ben looked pleased.

DSC_0220


DSC_0263-crop

DSC_0219

For over two hours, we walked the memorial at Ft. Stewart.  And all the tears I had fought back for nine long months streamed down my neck, soaking my clothes.  Tears of gratitude to God for Ben’s safe return, tears of gratitude for our military and their huge sacrifice each day, and tears for those whose loved ones are still fighting in Afghanistan.

AND tears for those who did not come home alive.  Tears for those who love them so much and whose lives will never be the same….

And the most I knew I could do was pray….

Each tree on Warriors Walk represents a soldier from Ft. Stewart whose life was lost in Iraq. (Ben’s first deployment was Iraq and his group was the first from Afghanistan to deploy from Ft. Stewart.) Families regularly place items beneath the tree of their soldier … symbols of things they loved and enjoyed during their short, young lives ….

This memorial stretches on and on and on….  We walked through it and prayed for those left behind until the sun went down.
DSC_0317
DSC_0297DSC_0282DSC_0280DSC_0281DSC_0312DSC_0324DSC_0325


If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:
http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text, art or pictures without written permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013  

 

Let the River Remind You… for my friend, Ned

I know God has called me to write.  I know He has called me to write about finding Him during difficult times… during times of loss.  When Billy Graham’s magazine, Decision, published my first article on this topic in the 90’s, publishing moved much slower than today.

I was published in a world where editing, editing, editing was the rule.  Blogging is different.

I have 29 unpublished, partially written blog posts and time is running out because life goes on and people are hurting.  Not publishing when I know God is telling me otherwise is disobedience….

This week I saw a request for prayer by a friend on Facebook. I replied to his post to let him know I’m praying. Later in the week I was sitting in front of my easel painting when he came to mind. I’ve learned to take that as a signal to pray.  As I prayed for my friend I felt God prompting me to put the paint brush down and do what He’s called me to do – write.  God used the suffering of my friend to convict me of my own disobedience.

Thank you, Ned.

I met Ned and Meg a little more than 25 years ago. They both love the Lord and have given so much to the cause of Christ and hurting people.  We were co-laborers in the early years of Sav-A-Life and the local pro-life movement.

Meg is the tail on Ned’s kite.  Today Ned is hurting and because they are one, Meg hurts too.

Ned is as an energetic guy who enters the room like a flash of lightening.  Some people fill a room when they enter.  That is my friend Ned.

He’s fun. A bit crazy. Somewhat unpredictable?  (I dare anyone to argue this point….)

Ned’s presence is obvious because we just never know what to expect when he’s around.

Ned is motion personified.  When he talks he does it with his whole body.  His mouth moves and his arms go in opposite directions and sometimes he is a blur of rapid movements with a mouth.  (That must be the key to his ability to stay trim because he is almost always talking.)

Put a guitar in his hands and he can praise the Lord or Rock N Roll… often both at the same time.  There is no such thing as Ned the church member, Ned the business man, Ned the musician… there is simply … Ned.

Ned loves the Lord.

Ned loves Meg.

Ned loves his family.

I am blessed because of Ned and Meg.

It is no secret I’m a beach bum at heart. I’ve always yearned to live on the water … any water.  The sound of moving water is healing for me: ocean waves, rolling river, rain… anything short of a dripping faucet is music.

I hear God speak when I’m still and the sound of moving water helps my heart to listen more easily.  “His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory” (Ezekiel 43:2 NASB). I also love the wildlife that surrounds water.  A friend once stood over a frog statue in my garden and prayed, “Lord Jesus, bless the plague.”  We had put in a koi pond because I wanted a frog choir.

Frog statue resized PICT0179-crop.

Several years ago, I was in a lot of pain physically and emotionally and the cure my previous doctor was offering was worse than the illness.   Knowing how much I love water and the music of a frog choir, Ned and Meg invited us to their home on the river.  Al and I spent a wonderful evening of fellowship with them, sitting on their deck and simply – being… just the four of us.  For me it was a taste of heaven.

Ned, I know how hard it is to wait for healing.  I understand the isolation, boredom, and the frustration of being dependent on others.  I’ve experienced the toll an extended illness takes on career and on finances. I know the feelings of guilt that I’m a burden to those I love.  The title of my first published article in Decision was, I Felt Like a Church Liability.

However, my greatest pain and loss has become one of my greatest blessings.

If I could trade places with anyone on earth and have their life instead of my own, I would NOT do it.  In God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted… not even time when it appears we’ve been set aside.  God is using this time to prepare you to be a blessing in new ways.

You are not waiting on physicians.  You are not even waiting on your body to heal.

You are waiting on God.
He is worth the wait.

I remember thinking that if I let go of all I thought I was suppose to be doing that I would drown and perhaps others would go down with me.  (Our children were ages 3 and 10 at that time.)   I expressed my frustration to My Sweet Doc (Dr. E. C. Sheehan).  His words have remained timeless for me and so today I pass them to you.

Ned, when your heart and mind are racing and all you can think about is what you think you should be doing, let the river remind you … stop struggling against the current and roll over and float.

Ocmulgee DSC_0169

You are floating in Christ and He will get you to the destination… and you won’t be late.

“But there the glorious Lord will be unto us as a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby” (Isaiah 33:21).

Ocmulgee DSC_0153

God bless you dear friend and brother in Christ.  I am praying for you and your bride.

If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:
http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text, art or pictures without written permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013  

 

When Starting Over is Not Planned….

New Every Morning is about starting over when starting over is not something planned with enthusiastic joy…

but is instead the result of loss.

In my case, it was the loss of my health, two careers, my church… the ways I tried to relate to and serve the Lord, my family and others. In other words,  life as I had known it.

For you, it might be the loss of your mate or a child or your home or your friends.

or…

Perhaps your loss is the result of something you’ve chosen that you knew was wrong… but you chose it anyway.  We live in a fallen world and we are all – “fallen.”

DSC_0022 piano resized
I deliberately started this blog, however, by sharing little vignettes of what is most important to me… my relationship with Jesus Christ, my family, the “body” of Christ – His church, nature- our favorite pasttime is walking on the beach holding hands, the arts.  I first shared these little vignettes for one reason.

My illness does not define me.

I am not “the suicide disease.”  I am NOT trigeminal neuralgia.

I have so many interests and people I love… things I enjoy doing and want to do and hope to do again.

I am a child of God, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a writer, an artist, a former musician who still loves music….

Some of the writing I’ll eventually share started out as a book I titled, Your Walls are Ever Before Me.  I began writing it in the mid 90’s and at one point it looked like I had captured the interests of a well known publisher.  The chief editor read my proposal (several chapters from the book and a detailed outline for 30 more chapters) at a writer’s conference and liked it and said she thought they should publish it. At her request, she took it back to her fellow editors and they kept it for nine months. Eventually it came back with a rejection letter and concerns over marketing and my inability to travel.  That was years ago…1998.

A lot has happened since then and while the heart of the book I wrote back then remains relevant, today I am much less inclined to tell a suffering soul…

“God will never give you more than you can bear”

… unless there are tears in my eyes.

DSC_0202- dying willow crop resize
God has promised that He will “complete” the work He began in us.  He is “the author and finisher of our faith.”  I’ve said more than once that if I had written the “script” for my life it would read much differently from the current version…

I would’ve really messed it up.

Today, if I could exchange places with any person on the planet, I would NOT do it.

That was NOT my initial response.  My husband has often read, Foxes Book of Martyrs, and shared some of the stories with me.  I don’t think God will ever call me to martyrdom because I would be a total embarrassment to the kingdom of God.  When I began to realize my life was changing so drastically, I went down kicking and screaming.  I remember crying out to God one morning, “I can’t believe You would leave me here in so much pain like this.  I love You and I was serving You. ”  Yes, I would make an embarrassing martyr for sure….

My Utmost for His Highest, a book of short daily devotionals by the late Oswald Chambers frequently puts things into perspective. It is amazing how often the devotional corresponding to the date is exactly what I need.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” … “I have called you friends” (John 15:13, 15).

Chambers expounds on Jesus’ words:

“Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him…. It is far easier to die than to lay down (my) life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling (of God). “

DSC_0204-crop ak stick water
Sometimes things come into our lives that have absolutely NOTHING to do with us.  I came to understand that my illness and all the subsequent losses isn’t about me.  It is about HIM and HIS purpose.  Jesus Christ – the “author” of life.  He is MORE than able to complete the story ~

276 oak memas resizedcropped

 If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:
http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text, art or pictures without written permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013  

Memorial Day Tribute


In honor of our son currently serving in Afghanistan and in memory of those who have lost their lives defending our country, I decided to republish, Our Soldier Called Home, a mother’s perspective. To those who know they will never hear that precious voice again, my heart breaks for you and my prayers are with you.

Our Soldier Called Home, a mother’s perspective

Every time I hear of a casualty in Afghanistan, I grieve for the life that is lost and for those who are left behind. I often wonder if each mother saw that precious adult child’s history flash across her heart and mind when that dreaded knock came to her door. My heart breaks with hers and I suspect that her memories are similiar to my own.

The perspective of a mother is often much different from that of a dad, even after children are wonderfully capable adults. Dad looks at his son and sees a grown man who deserves his respect and it often ends there. But a mother sees more when she looks at her children. Simultaneously she sees all the stages of her adult childrens’ lives when she looks at them. It flashes like a storyboard across her memory with vivid snippets, sweet memories and challenges that have led to the current moment. The mother of a solder comes to the same conclusion as the dad’s. Her son or daughter deserves her respect and honor.

Img007  ben street hockey
In recent weeks, in addition to the loss of American lives the British have lost many and the bond I feel with those families is intense. Our son is serving his country not far from the place where these casualties took place. Afghanistan is no longer a faraway place; my mind, heart, and prayers are there constantly. We’ve already “done” Iraq. Now there are new challenges and more reasons to Pray. Wait. Pray. Listen. Pray…and always hope.

The recent news on the war front had not been good and we had been waiting for more than a week for word from our son. And finally, the phone rang and it was the voice I longed to hear. As usual, his first words were, “Hey Mom. What’s up?” We talked for over 30 minutes with me leaning into the phone reaching out to hold on to every breath, word, pause or inflection that comes from him. The static is frustrating and the connection weak, and I push the phone harder into my ear as if that will somehow keep me from missing something precious.

I know better than to ask the questions I so desperately want to ask. I measure my words when we talk, so fearful of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. I find myself repeating, “I love you. I’m praying. We are all praying. You are brave and you are wise. I’m ready for you to come home.” His dad isn’t home and he’s going to regret he missed this call. Our son talks and I mostly listen. Then I hear the back door open and familiar steps come my way. Our son needs his dad too and the connection is too weak for us to use two phones. They talk for another 30 minutes and then it is time for him to go.

DSC_0065 al phone

“Your mom wants to speak with you one more time.” I know our son is tired. He just returned from a mission and it is midnight in his world. He could’ve gone to bed but he took the time to call. The tears have been running down my neck and into my clothes and I’m all wet…so thankful to hear his voice. I strain to cover my weakness in the presence of his courage and I take the phone. “I love you. I am praying. We are all praying.” “I love you too, Mom.” We both wait on the other to hang up and when nothing happens I repeat my words and he does the same. Still he does not hang up and we both wait. It is only a split second but it stretches across to the other side of the world and it seems much longer. “Mom, I have to go. Others need to make calls too.” “Stay safe son. Thank you so much for calling. I’m praying. Goodbye for now.” I hang up before I hear his click on the other end for no other reason than to prove to him that I can turn loose without him forcing me but because of the delay I hear him hang up as I put the phone down.

I look at his dad who smiles weakly and says, “I’m so glad he called. It is such a relief to hear his voice.” I lean my body into his and the tears run freely in warm familiar arms but my heart is stuck right now…on the muddy and dangerous roads of Afghanistan. The warrior child is a soldier… well trained, wise beyond his years, physically fit and alert. The fat baby legs that went from crawling to running in a split second 25 years ago … those toddler legs that rolled his mother down an embankment in a public park, head over heels dressed in a skirt … those strong legs now wear the boots of a man with men of his own to train and protect.

Img009 ben at fortsons Ben in Headgear
How can I be so weak when my son is so strong? I turn to my Source, to our Heavenly Father Who sees us both as we are and I pray for our son, “The glory of the Lord is my son’s rear guard.” Husband’s eyes are studying me for clues for his next move as he asks, “What would you like to do now?” We move to the next task but my heart and mind are still in a far away place as I think, He’s now safe in his bed after a long, hard week … asleep.

 If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:
http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text, art or pictures without written permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013  

 

What’s in a Name ?

Becoming a grandmother and choosing a name… not the name for the child.  That job was her parents’ … but what would this child call me?

My Aunt Lettie said, “Oh, there’s nothing like being a grandmother.  You’re just going to love it when your time comes.”
Lettie and Katie resizedPICT0139
Aunt Lettie and Granddaughter, Katie

I wasn’t too sure I was ready for this grandmother gig.  I was 51-years-old when daughter announced it was about to happen.  I wanted a baby for daughter and husband – they would be the most amazing parents.  Right after marriage, preparations began : “First, we’ll get a plant… if the plant lives…then we’ll get a dog and if the dog does ok…then we’ll have a baby.”  Three years later I had never seen a more well behaved, loved and spirited animal… but I noticed her house plants were dying so I thought I had more time for my mini-crisis – Me a grandmother?

I conferred with the co-grandmother of our unborn grandchild (the first for both families) at the beginning of daughter’s pregnancy.  “What do you want this baby to call you?  What does your husband want to be called?”

There was only one thing settled in MY mind and that was the name for my husband.  Both my grandfathers died before my birth but I grew up with wonderful stories about my mother’s father. All my life I’ve longed to know the person everyone in our family called, Papa.  I wanted my grandchild to have a Papa and there were so many of the stories about my grandfather that remind me of my husband – the ability to play and laugh, and love for our Heavenly Father and for family. His name was no big deal to him, he was just ready to play!

DSC_0006_01
Papa and Granddaughter, age 3, in the slide tunnel at Burger King.

As daughter’s tiny frame was overtaken with our growing grandchild, co-grandmother and I planned for the future.  In the beginning I told her, “You just wait, we’ll be the sexiest grandmothers ever.”  Close to the end of daughter’s pregnancy she shot me an e mail, “I looked in the mirror this morning and sexy is NOT happening.”

I confided: “She hasn’t shown up in my mirror either,”  … and quickly changed the subject:
“Decided on a name yet?”

They had decided Poppy was the name for the other grandfather but we grandmothers were continuing to struggle. My son was a lot of help!  NOT!
“That kid will call you what it WANTS to call you. You just wait, my kids will call you, granny.”
I cringed.

Recently, I saw the e mail address for a cousin on my father’s side of the family.  She has this grandmother thing down and she does it so beautifully.  Joan is the only person I know with “granny” as a part of her e mail address but she is still what my generation calls “cool.”  She’s the only person I know who can pull it off – a cool granny and still really be “cool.”

Even my own grandmother whom we called Big Mama chased us down if we teased her and called her granny.  With her tiny body, barely 5 feet tall, there will never be another Big Mama in our family; she was one of a kind.  If I had grown up to be the Boston Strangler she would’ve found a reason to praise me: “Well, at least she’s good at it.”  When we were little, cousin Sherri and I fought every time we visited Big Mama, “She’s MY Big Mama.”  “NO, SHE’S MINE!”  Grandmothers love unconditionally on a level that surpasses the laws of man and My Big Mama loved us both.  She lived to the age of 96 and loved ALL her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Our grandchild’s birth drew closer and my friend and co-grandmother chose, Gigi.  I love it. It fits her well and it sounds sort of like her name, Jeannie.  So they would be Gigi and Poppy.  Husband would be Papa and I would be …

After months of struggle it came to me. Take the name of the best grandmother I knew even if she hated it.  My grandmother’s name was Molly Rebecca and in her honor, I chose the name Mama Molly.

My Aunt Lettie was right, there is nothing like being a grandmother.  The first time our baby granddaughter said my name it came out with the L sounding like a W, “Mama Mowwee,”  … and I melted. My heart sings and I am ten years younger when I hear our little granddaughter gleefully announce, “Mama Molly’s here” as she runs into my arms for a hug. I can hardly wait for the first time our newborn grandson speaks my name.

Anna kate with stick
I love to hear her call my name… “Mama Molly!”

Shakespeare posed the question: “What’s in a name?” Names are important because they define us but my name is not nearly as definitive as the names for our Heavenly Father. There are many names for God found in the Bible and those names carry more meaning and were chosen with greater care than this grandmother could ever imagine.

The book of Isaiah, calls Him, “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Stone, Servant, Shepherd, Refuge, Redeemer, the Foundation.”

Hebrews refers to Him as “the Author and Finisher of our Faith,” “High Priest,” and “Great Shepherd.”  He is also known as “the Great Physician, the Vine, the Word.”  So many more names than this small list are in God’s Word and they all describe our infinite God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

Romans 8:15 says that we have received the “spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father.”  Abba is a personal name, sort of like “daddy.” And we can come to our Heavenly Father, assured of His unconditional love because of the name of His perfect son, Jesus … and for every Christian, that is the name above all names – the most precious name of all.

If you have been blessed by this post, feel free to share the link to my blog:
http://www.NewMorningMercies.com

Please do not copy text, art or pictures without written permission.
pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013