A Granddaughter and Her Papa

There is just something about a granddaughter with her Papa . . .

And there is just something about a child of God who walks with their Heavenly Father.

“For this reason, I bow my knees to the father, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14, 17 & 19

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2

Commit thy way unto the lord: trust also in him: and he shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:5

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Hebrews 12:5-6 NIV

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:19

“Grandfathers are for loving and fixing things.” Author Unknown

“The love between a grandfather and his granddaughter is forever.”

Recently, my daughter-in-law asked our granddaughter why she loves coming to Grammy and Papa’s house so much, and she responded, “Because Papa will be there, and I love Papa. He tells me I am beautiful, and he calls me Tinker Tot.”

That sums it up right there. The relationship between a little girl and her Papa is an incredible thing to watch. The relationship between Lydia and my husband fills my heart with joy and love. Lydia visited us for about 36 hours last week, and she filled our days and moments with wonder, laughter, and smiles. As I sit here tonight thinking back on our time together, I started thinking about God’s plan for our lives, and how sometimes He takes us full circle so we can truly feel the impact of His plan for each of us.

Without God’s plan I would not get to hear the giggles and the conversations between Lydia and her Papa. Without God’s plan I would not get to see the hugs between the two of them or hear her say, “No, Papa!” when he is teasing her about something. Without God’s plan I would not be able to feel the love that grows between the two of them more and more every day.

God’s plan for our lives has truly brought us full circle. From my mother’s childhood, the death of her father when she was three to her mother remarrying my Papa to gaining two new sisters to mother growing up through The Great Depression and WWII to marrying my daddy and them moving to Burlington, NC where my siblings and myself were born. I grew up in Burlington, met my high school sweetheart and we married in 1976. He passed away in 1987, and I brought my son to South Carolina to be with family, where I met my Steve and we married and blended our families. Now, we have three grandchildren of our own. And Lydia has her Papa, just like I had my Papa.

Last week I came across my Papa’s bible, such a treasure, and just holding it in my hands, looking through the pages of his well-read bible brought back so many memories of him and the relationship we had. In my eyes, my Papa had a striking resemblance to Popeye, the Sailor Man. There was just something about him, yet he had a softness about him, a tenderness for his family. He loved to sing gospel songs and he always seemed to be dancing, shuffling those feet with rhythm. Whenever I hear “When We All Get to Heaven”, my Papa is the first one to come to mind. He was a hard worker, at work, at home, and in the community.

I remember walking with my Papa everywhere as a small child, my grandparents did not own a car, so we walked! We walked around the neighborhood, and I specifically remember with fondness walking to the community grocery store, Blair’s Grocery Store, and Papa would buy me a bottle Coke. I remember walking to their church, Emmanuel Baptist Church, the church my mother went to and where my parents were married. I remember playing in the trees in their front yard, swinging on the swing on their front porch, and all the family gatherings.

Memories of my Papa are precious, and I hold them in my heart. I learned many lessons from him, laughed a lot when I was with him, sang many songs, and loved every moment of being with Granny and Papa. As I grew older, the roles changed some and I found myself stepping in to help him – taking him to buy groceries or taking him to doctors’ appointments. I would also go over when he called because he could not find something. There were even those few embarrassing moments when I was at the ER with him, and he tried to set me up with the doctor. Papa just wanted to see me happy because he knew how much I missed Mike. The marriage between my Granny and Papa was a second marriage for both, they were widows/widowers. Papa understood! He also understood God’s plan, and I am so thankful for God’s plan in all our lives.

As I think back now as a Grammy myself, I think about how much patience my Granny and Papa always showed me, how much love they poured on me, and the amount of discipline they gave when it was necessary. I am thankful for all these blessings and for my grandparents.

Then I thought back to Lydia and Papa, and how most of the time they are laughing, hugging, teasing, and playing around with each other; yet there was a moment during this last visit where Papa had to reprimand Lydia. Almost immediately you could see the hurt and sadness in Lydia’s eyes. She ran off and I found her in the corner of the bedroom, crying so hard. She looked at me, and said, “Grammy, Papa hurt my feelings.” Her heart was broken that Papa could tell her no and use a stern voice with her. My heart was broken for her and the reality that parents and even grandparents must help us learn and grow, and sometimes that means saying no. I explained that Papa was just trying to get her to understand that what she was doing could harm someone or one of the animals. I told her Papa would always love her, that there was nothing she could that would make Papa not love her. Eventually, she came back into the living room, and smiled the tiniest of smiles until Papa made her laugh and feel special again.

Wow! I will always treasure the memories of my Papa spending time with me, in their home, walking the streets of their neighborhood, watching me climb his trees, teaching me how to snap green beans, and singing songs. I will always treasure the memories that Lydia is making with her Papa. The relationship they are creating will last her a lifetime.

I will always treasure the moments where God has showed himself in my life, walking beside me and guiding each step I take. I will always love the fact that His plan is always perfect, and where I may not always understand His plan, He knows what we need and when we need it. I will always remember that moment I publicly accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, I was nine years old. I will always remember that moment when I realized how great His love for me truly is and how incredible His mercy and grace for His children are. After watching Lydia’s reaction to Papa telling her no last week, I thought back to the times growing up and even recently as an adult, that I have disappointed God or He has had to tell me no, that is not His plan. I thought of the times of His gentle rebukes and discipline, and how hurt I was that He did not see things my way. Just like Lydia! God’s discipline is gentle, yet firm. His discipline is because He loves us and He wants what is best for us. He wants to take care of us and protect us from evil and harm. Much like Papa wants to do for Lydia. I think of God’s unconditional love, and His forgiveness, and my heart rejoices in God, my Father, and the relationship I have with Him. I know there is nothing I can do to cause God to not love me.

Yes, there is something so incredibly special between a granddaughter and her Papa. But oh, take that incredibleness and multiply it by thousands tenfold, and that does not begin to describe how incredibly special it is to have God in my life as my Heavenly Father.

Made from Scratch, Made with Love . . .

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

“So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Isaiah 55:2

When I think back to my childhood, my teenage years, and even the early years of marriage I think with the fondest of memories to the kitchen and someone cooking, making a meal from scratch, with love for their families.

              My mother is the first one that comes to mind, followed by my Granny and my Mimi. Memories of my Aunt Sue, Aunt Lois, and Aunt Ann follow those, memories of them cooking, the great food, and lots of love and laughter. My childhood and teenage years also include memories of some of the best cooks in Burlington, NC: Dianne Hearne, Helen Chandler, Ethel Smith, Frances Allison, Ramona Glenn, and so many more. They cooked, served, and opened their homes with love. Then strong, sweet memories of Mrs. McGinnis and her incredible kitchen and food, and some of the most special memories of family and love. Later in life there are such sweet memories of Mrs. Murrell, and her sisters Eunice and Juanita, and some of the best cooking ever!

Just so many incredible cooks, who made delicious meals from scratch for their families and friends to enjoy – each item was made and served with love. They filled their homes with the delicious aromas of some of the best meals ever prepared.

This morning I wanted homemade biscuits, and all I could think of was all the times biscuits were made with love for me: before I even had them in the oven I could already smell that delicious aroma that only comes from biscuits made from scratch, with love.

As I worked to make our biscuits this morning, I had my music playing, and of course it must be good old Southern gospel music. The playlist included: Pray for Me, The Old Rugged Cross, Just a Closer Walk with Thee, Sweet Beulah Land, In Christ Alone, Amazing Grace, Take My Hand, Precious Lord, and so many more.

Just ever so slightly, I could hear Mrs. Murrell humming and singing right behind me in her kitchen, her presence offered such a sense of peace and love!

As we sang together, the images of what her kitchen would have looked like while she cooked for her husband and her three boys popped into my mind. I could just imagine the sounds, the sights, and the delicious smells coming from her kitchen as she prepared each meal from scratch with love for her family. It would have been filled with love.

As I continued to bake my biscuits and listen to the beauty and meaning of the gospel music, my mind started comparing the kitchen I grew up in with my granny’s kitchen, then to my Mimi’s kitchen, and then to all the incredible women who cooked and served with love for their families and friends, and then finally to my own first kitchen when I got married in 1976. No matter how much I wanted to be the cook my mother was, it did not come naturally for me. It took several years to feel comfortable in the kitchen, to feel comfortable trying new recipes, and to feel comfortable to create my own new recipes, and then finally to become a cook who was half as good as my mother and all the incredible women in my life.

I remember well the first days and how much I wanted to cook like Mrs. McGinnis, my mother-in-law, I wanted to cook all of Mike’s favorites, but that did not come naturally either. I will never forget our first Thanksgiving together as husband and wife. Mike loved pumpkin pie and I wanted to make one for him. I asked Mrs. McGinnis for her recipe because I wanted it to be just like hers. She shared her recipe with me, and I carefully copied it down on a recipe card, or I thought I did. Personally, I am not a pumpkin pie person, and since this was the first time, I was making one it did not strike me as odd or strange that the recipe called for garlic, 3 Tbsp. of garlic. I just mixed all the ingredients and very proudly placed that pie in the oven. Mike was at work that day at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, or he would have noticed that something did not small right, that something did not smell like pumpkin pie. However, when he came home, I had his slice of pie with cool whip on top, waiting for him. I just could not wait for him to take that first bite. I wanted to see the smile on his face as he took that bite, but what I saw was sort of a smile, but more of a look of surprise, even shock and disappointment. However, he ate the entire slice and did not say a negative word. He told me thank you! It was not until I realized the rest of the pie still sat in the fridge at the end of the week, that I asked him about it. He looked at me with sort of a painful look on his face and told me he loved me and told me he loved that I tried so hard to cook for him, but then he said there was something not right with the pie. I just did not understand! I followed his mother’s recipe completely. Mike asked to see the recipe and when he looked at it, he busted out laughing, not at me but just at the fact that I had included garlic in a pumpkin pie. We called his mother and she confirmed that garlic was not in the recipe. I laughed at myself, bought more ingredients to try again, and was taken off any list to bring pumpkin pies to any future events.

Looking back now though I see how even though it took me years to become a cook life the women in my life I looked up to, I did follow in their footsteps in the most important way – each time I tried in the kitchen, each time I succeeded in the kitchen, and each time I cooked for my family, I have done it with love. Each meal, each recipe may not have been perfect while I cooked and the result may not have always been perfect, or look perfect, but each attempt, each meal, each recipe was perfectly made with love, love my family!

Then my thoughts went to a whole different level, I started thinking of God and at all the things He has create – He started it all from nothing, from scratch, and yet He created this incredible world and everything in it with Love. His love is for each and everything He has created!

We are not perfect; actually we are messy, dirty, and immature, we do not always follow His recipe for our lives, but He loves us anyway. He made us in His image, the most perfect recipe; He stirs us, He mixes us with others, He changes the directions in our lives, He waits for us to become what He wants us to become; and He does it all with love, unconditional love. Each minute of each day, he waits patiently as he stirs us with the Holy Spirit to become the person He wants us to become. Through each moment He loves us; He fills our lives with love, with song, with guidance, and with all the ingredients we need to be that perfect recipe He is creating.

I spent some time today thinking about the times I have made a mistake or committed a sin, and I have thought about the look on God’s face when I sin or make a mistake. I imagined the slightest hint of a smile because He knows me, but even more I see a look of surprise, of shock, and then of disappointment – just like the look on Mike’s face the day I made my first pumpkin pie, the look he had when he tasted my mistake, when he tasted that garlic filled pumpkin pie.

What is even more amazing is that even when I sin or make a mistake and believe me, I am going to make mistakes and sin, God still loves me. He loves me still; He loves me always. Just like Mike still loves me even though I ruined my first pumpkin pie; and then I realized my family still loves me even though every meal I have baked for them over the years has not been perfect.

God’s love for us far surpasses that love, but the love from my mother, my Granny, my aunts, Mike, Steve, family, and everyone else keeps me going; God’s love fills us with His grace, mercy, and His Redeeming Love.

What an incredible feeling to know we are all made from scratch from God’s love!

In honor and memory of all the women in my life who constantly set the example of cooking for their families, and who serve and care for others, each one of you are an inspiration to me. Love you all!

The Power of Prayer

            “Never Underestimate the Power of a Praying Woman”

Psalm 46:5, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.”

Mark 6:31, “Then Jesus said, Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”

Isaiah 43:5, “Fear not, for I am with thee.”

1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

1Peter 5:10, The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”

Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

“When sadness comes, she takes time to smile. When tired, she finds time to relax and rest. When she’s angry, she takes time to cool down. She always reads and meditates on the Bible. Above all these she always prays. Prayer is her priority and her shield.”

“A strong woman knows she has enough strength for her journey, but a praying woman knows it is her journey where she’ll gain her strength.”

As a young girl, I used to sing the song “Known Only to Him” often. My Mimi loved to hear me sing the words to this song, and it soon became one of my favorite songs of all time. The words speak so much truth as to God and His omniscience, the fact that He knows all things. Over the past few weeks with so much going on with my husband’s health I have found myself thinking about this song and the poignant words that were written to convey the message.

When my eyes behold the stars

This heart of mine is filled with wonder

My poor mind cannot grasp their array

But the hand that placed them there, all across the wide heaven

Had a plan when He placed them that way.

Known only to him are the great hidden secrets

I fear not the darkness

When my flames go dim

I know not what the future holds but

I know who holds the future

It’s secret known only to Him.

In this world of fears and doubt

On my knees I asked the question

Why a lonely, heavy cross I must bear

Then He tells me in my prayer

It’s because I am trustworthy

He gives me strength far more than my share.

Writing has always been my therapy, my go to when life gets overwhelming, sad, or dark. I wrote in a diary as a young girl, then grew into journals, then stories, and then writing integrated into teaching and my classroom. I never tire of writing, yet for the last couple of months I just have not been able to pick up a pen, get my thoughts together, and write with purpose. Then the other morning, on the way to take care of my husband, I stopped to look out the door and saw God’s masterpiece sunrise through the clouds, and once again the words of this song played over and over again in my heart, yet I changed the words to go with the beauty of the morning sky. I knew what I needed to write about, the power of prayer.

“When my eyes beheld the sunrise and the sky

My heart was filled with wonder

My poor, overwhelmed mind could not grasp its beauty

But the hand that placed it there, God’s hand,

Placed it there, just that way this morning, as a reminder of His love.”

After I took a few minutes to behold its beauty and reflect on God’s plan for everything in the world, everything He created, I walked back to the bedroom to take care of my husband, again thanking God for His plan; for bringing me to this point in life where I have learned to appreciate the small moments. Oh, those small, quiet moments when I am with my husband and taking of his medical needs, and we have the sweetest conversations about our family, our animals, and just life in general. No TV or other distractions, just us and usually the three animals snuggled close, those are the moments I treasure in this part of the journey of our lives. Those quiet moments are the ones I appreciate so much.

God does not promise us that life will be a rose garden, He knows there are going to be trials and temptations throughout life. He does promise He will always love us, He does promise that if we believe in Him we will have everlasting life, He promises to forgive us of our sins if we confess them to Him, and He promises us His grace, mercy, and love will follow us throughout life. He does not promise us that life will always be perfect! The perfection is God, and His love for us.

God gives us humor, sadness, difficulties, and troubles; yet through all those moments in life, our faith grows and becomes stronger, steadfast, and firm.

God promises us answered prayers – always! Our prayers will be answered, maybe not in the way we want them answered and maybe not in our time frame. But they will be answered according to His will, His plan, and His timing. He faithfully answers all prayers!

The last few weeks have been filled with moments of doubts and fears; from sitting in the hospital waiting rooms, sitting in my husband’s hospital room, and watching and listening to his breathing, to driving back and forth by myself from Greenville, SC to Atlanta, Georgia several times, and then to sitting in my house late at night by myself and just praying out loud that God would guide the doctors and restore my husband’s health.

I believe in the power of prayer, and Steve and I are blessed to have many friends and family members who also believe in the power of prayer. Yet, I never really witnessed or experienced how strong the power of prayer truly is or received the comfort and peace that comes directly from those heartfelt prayers until these last few weeks of Steve being in the hospital. As I sat in the hospital waiting area on the day of his first surgery, and it seemed like it was taking forever, the anxiety was overwhelming! Yet, in the midst of the anxiety, the doubts, and the fear I literally felt the prayers of our friends and family wash over me, like a downpour of rain. I could feel it filling my heart with a peace, a comfort, and an overwhelming feeling of being loved and supported, and then the slightest whisper in my ear, “Lynne, God’s got this! God is in control. Let go and let Him guide and work.” In those precious moments, I was in awe of the power of so many coming together to pray for one, to lift the name of one person to God and the faith that knew His will would be done and it would be done perfectly. Just like in 1 Peter 5:10, “He restored me, made me strong, firm, and steadfast.” In those moments, I could feel His restoring power making me strong, firm, and steadfast. Then when I heard a second major surgery was needed and my husband had a staph infection, I remembered that moment, that strength coming from God, and knew He was there with me, and He would give me strength again to face whatever the future held. Again, the words of my ‘theme song’ as a young girl started playing over again in my head, because I don’t know what the future holds but I KNOW who holds the future.

In this world of fears and doubt

On my knees I asked the question

Why a lonely, heavy cross I must bear

Then He tells me in my prayer

It’s because I am trustworthy

He gives me strength far more than my share.

He does answer prayer, and quite often His answer is to give us strength to face what lies ahead, or to give us wisdom, patience, comfort, and peace. He gives us whatever we need to walk the path He has chosen for us with a grateful heart.

Prayer, faith, and trust in God will see you through all of life’s moments. There is a quote from Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new lands, but seeing with new eyes,” that comes to mind in these recent days of restored faith and a stronger belief in the power of prayer. My husband is home now, and although he has a long road of recovery ahead of him, he is home! He is home because of the power of prayer and our loving Father. My eyes may be 65 years old, but they are seeing life a little differently these days – as if they were new.

These old, new eyes see a world that needs the power of those prayers like Steve and I have been receiving for the past weeks. These old, new eyes see a world that needs to know that God is in control and that He loves us – all of us, He never stopped loving us and He never will.

So many are hurting right now. There is so much anger and hate in our world. Yet, just imagine if we all started praying for each other; for every unkind, hateful word that is spoken against someone else, we say a prayer of love and forgiveness. Imagine the power of those prayers downpouring on everyone and filling hearts with love and comfort. Imagine the feelings of peace and comfort that would pour over all of us just to know we are loved, and we are not alone. I know, there is that happily-ever-after romantic girl that we have heard from before, seeing life through rose-colored glasses. However, I felt how strong the power of prayer is, and whether I am a true romantic, God is in the miracle business, and if we all pray to Him for a healing across our country, our world, I have faith in Him that He could make it happen. Never doubt the power of prayer and the strength of our Father.

None of us knows what the future holds. I place my faith in God because I know He has carried me through more situations than I can count. I have prayed on my knees, prayed out loud in my car, prayed alone, prayed with a friend, prayed silently in a crowd, and prayed with my army of prayer warriors. God answers all of them, no matter how I have communicated with Him. He just answers prayers! God wants to talk with us, He wants to communicate with all of us; what better way to communicate with Him but through prayer. He answers prayers, He gives us strength, wisdom, peace, guidance, grace, mercy, and love!

Known only to him are the great hidden secrets

I fear not the darkness

When my flames go dim

I know not what the future holds but

I know who holds the future

It’s secret known only to Him.

God’s Plan

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

To the two loves of my life:

Life is funny, and I have come to realize that God has a sense of humor because this girl that has always believed in the “happily-ever-after, love everlasting, and one true love” finds herself at the age of 65 having lived a very full life with the blessings of not one, but two happily-ever-after love stories. How incredibly blessed! God’s plan, most definitely. God’s sense of humor, most definitely. The angels in heaven are sitting and watching in anticipation to see how Lynne Westmoreland McGinnis Murrell navigates through life and handles each page, each chapter of the story God is writing. What is even funnier is that in my egotistical thoughts I have been writing a blog about prayer and how miracles happen because of prayer, and where I truly do believe in the power of prayer, yet after tonight I knew God wanted me to lay that one aside and write something that shows my weaknesses, my faults, and how I depend on Him to keep me focused on Him.

I have wrestled with what to write about next for the last two months, since July 24th specifically. God knew all along, He kept putting the signs up and I kept ignoring them. I was not ready to deal with the ‘elephant in the room’.

To say I am and have truly been blessed with two true happily-ever-after loves is an understatement. I do not know of anyone else from my acquaintances that married their high-school sweetheart, worked, and supported each other, had an incredible son together, and lived happily-ever-after until death parted us after 10 years; yet only to find a second love. Now I have been blessed to blend our two families and live happily ever after for the last 33 years together and counting. How do you explain that other that God’s plan, other than God is the author of my story, and it is up to me to live that story well?

I fall short every day of living His story well. July 24th, the National EMS Memorial Ceremony was held and my first husband, Mike McGinnis, was recognized and honored. At the same time the ceremony was being held, my family and I were unpacking in anticipation of a week at the beach. I felt overwhelmed and extremely sad that Patrick and I did not know ahead of time so that we could have been there and had the honor of being a part of that ceremony. My personal shortcoming at that moment was that I let that set the mood for me for the rest of that week. As I look back now, I am incredibly disappointed in myself and the mood that I allowed to set in for what should have been a great week with my family. I had the opportunity to spend an incredible week with my family at the beach, but I kept my focus on the ceremony that I missed, instead of letting myself enjoy the time spent with family.

As I look back now, I disappointed not only myself, but I disappointed Mike and my parents. They were all about family, God, and making the most of the spending time together. Yet, my focus was on a ceremony we missed. A ceremony that Mike would not have wanted the focus to be on him. Mike was a very humble person, he did not want or need accolades for what he did; however, he would have loved that Pam, Perry, and Eastcare were being recognized. He would have loved that their families were there to recognize them, yet at the same time he would have loved that I was with the family God gave me after he was gone. He would have smiled and given me a hug and a thumbs up for placing emphasis on my family instead of him. I failed again.

Don’t let anyone tell you that living life and building relationships with two true loves in one lifetime is easy. It is a blessing, yes! However, it is incredibly difficult to manage your emotions and feelings with the two loves that God has blessed you with. There always seems to be conflict – not between the two true loves, but between your own feelings of love, guilt, and happiness.

Then here we are now . . .

Life is good. Steve and I are retired together. We are enjoying where we are in life right now. Then health issues arise, and Steve became critically ill after two major surgeries and a staph infection. Focus on life changed. He became my everything. He has been my everything for the last 33 years, but now his health and his well-being have become the center of my focus. I have become his nurse, his caregiver, and at times it is overwhelming. I consider myself a very good teacher, yet now I need to step into the role of nurse. Again, God’s sense of humor becomes a part of life. I was totally unprepared at first for this new role. I could help but ask myself, “Does God really know what he is doing? I am not a nurse! Yet here I find myself in that position in life.” God’s plan, God’s timing! Perfect!

God, the angels, and especially Mike McGinnis are having a grand time with this one. Oh my, I can just imagine Mike and the expression on his face as he looks at me from heaven taking blood pressures, temperatures, and blood oxygens, not to mention pushing infusion antibiotics. God, do you truly know me? Yes, He does. And He doesn’t give us more than we can handle if we place our trust and faith in Him first. God knows and He is there, always!

God gives us strength, wisdom, guidance, and the skills needed to get the job done that He places in front of us. Every time! Always! My God is incredible!

Yet here I am tonight and heart is so heavy, so torn between the two loves that God has blessed me with in this life. God has blessed me, truly blessed me with the two incredible men He placed in my life, my two loves.

Right now, Steve needs me. He needs me for so many things. His life may not depend on it, but his recovery from all he has been through does depend on me being by his side, at least for the next 5 to 6 weeks, 24/7.

Yet, tomorrow Mike is being honored at another ceremony for the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride and there is no one else that will be there from his family. My heart is torn, yet in the end I will be with Steve because I love him and he is my here, my now, and my forever. He is the one God gave me after He took Mike to be with Him in Heaven. God is the author of all our stories. His plan is prefect, His timing is perfect.

Here I am tonight at 1:00 am, and finally at peace with where I need to be. I need to be here with Steve and there is a peace in my heart because I know Mike would understand.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

To the two loves of my life:

Life is funny, and I have come to realize that God has a sense of humor because this girl that has always believed in the “happily-ever-after, love everlasting, and one true love” finds herself at the age of 65 having lived a very full life with the blessings of not one, but two happily-ever-after love stories. How incredibly blessed! God’s plan, most definitely. God’s sense of humor, most definitely. The angels in heaven are sitting and watching in anticipation to see how Lynne Westmoreland McGinnis Murrell navigates through life and handles each page, each chapter of the story God is writing. What is even funnier is that in my egotistical thoughts I have been writing a blog about prayer and how miracles happen because of prayer, and where I truly do believe in the power of prayer, yet after tonight I knew God wanted me to lay that one aside and write something that shows my weaknesses, my faults, and how I depend on Him to keep me focused on Him.

I have wrestled with what to write about next for the last two months, since July 24th specifically. God knew all along, He kept putting the signs up and I kept ignoring them. I was not ready to deal with the ‘elephant in the room’.

To say I am and have truly been blessed with two true happily-ever-after loves is an understatement. I do not know of anyone else from my acquaintances that married their high-school sweetheart, worked, and supported each other, had an incredible son together, and lived happily-ever-after until death parted us after 10 years; yet only to find a second love. Now I have been blessed to blend our two families and live happily ever after for the last 33 years together and counting. How do you explain that other that God’s plan, other than God is the author of my story, and it is up to me to live that story well?

I fall short every day of living His story well. July 24th, the National EMS Memorial Ceremony was held and my first husband, Mike McGinnis, was recognized and honored. At the same time the ceremony was being held, my family and I were unpacking in anticipation of a week at the beach. I felt overwhelmed and extremely sad that Patrick and I did not know ahead of time so that we could have been there and had the honor of being a part of that ceremony. My personal shortcoming at that moment was that I let that set the mood for me for the rest of that week. As I look back now, I am incredibly disappointed in myself and the mood that I allowed to set in for what should have been a great week with my family. I had the opportunity to spend an incredible week with my family at the beach, but I kept my focus on the ceremony that I missed, instead of letting myself enjoy the time spent with family.

As I look back now, I disappointed not only myself, but I disappointed Mike and my parents. They were all about family, God, and making the most of the spending time together. Yet, my focus was on a ceremony we missed. A ceremony that Mike would not have wanted the focus to be on him. Mike was a very humble person, he did not want or need accolades for what he did; however, he would have loved that Pam, Perry, and Eastcare were being recognized. He would have loved that their families were there to recognize them, yet at the same time he would have loved that I was with the family God gave me after he was gone. He would have smiled and given me a hug and a thumbs up for placing emphasis on my family instead of him. I failed again.

Don’t let anyone tell you that living life and building relationships with two true loves in one lifetime is easy. It is a blessing, yes! However, it is incredibly difficult to manage your emotions and feelings with the two loves that God has blessed you with. There always seems to be conflict – not between the two true loves, but between your own feelings of love, guilt, and happiness.

Then here we are now . . .

Life is good. Steve and I are retired together. We are enjoying where we are in life right now. Then health issues arise, and Steve became critically ill after two major surgeries and a staph infection. Focus on life changed. He became my everything. He has been my everything for the last 33 years, but now his health and his well-being have become the center of my focus. I have become his nurse, his caregiver, and at times it is overwhelming. I consider myself a very good teacher, yet now I need to step into the role of nurse. Again, God’s sense of humor becomes a part of life. I was totally unprepared at first for this new role. I could help but ask myself, “Does God really know what he is doing? I am not a nurse! Yet here I find myself in that position in life.” God’s plan, God’s timing! Perfect!

God, the angels, and especially Mike McGinnis are having a grand time with this one. Oh my, I can just imagine Mike and the expression on his face as he looks at me from heaven taking blood pressures, temperatures, and blood oxygens, not to mention pushing infusion antibiotics. God, do you truly know me? Yes, He does. And He doesn’t give us more than we can handle if we place our trust and faith in Him first. God knows and He is there, always!

God gives us strength, wisdom, guidance, and the skills needed to get the job done that He places in front of us. Every time! Always! My God is incredible!

Yet here I am tonight and heart is so heavy, so torn between the two loves that God has blessed me with in this life. God has blessed me, truly blessed me with the two incredible men He placed in my life, my two loves.

Right now, Steve needs me. He needs me for so many things. His life may not depend on it, but his recovery from all he has been through does depend on me being by his side, at least for the next 5 to 6 weeks, 24/7.

Yet, tomorrow Mike is being honored at another ceremony for the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride and there is no one else that will be there from his family. My heart is torn, yet in the end I will be with Steve because I love him and he is my here, my now, and my forever. He is the one God gave me after He took Mike to be with Him in Heaven. God is the author of all our stories. His plan is prefect, His timing is perfect.

Here I am tonight at 1:00 am, and finally at peace with where I need to be. I need to be here with Steve and there is a peace in my heart because I know Mike would understand.

Blooming for you, Lord. . . In all my imperfections

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

1 Timothy 4:15-16 “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

For the last several weeks I have watched and waited for this one bloom on my Anthurium to open and bloom. It seemed to be so slow, like it was reluctant to open and let me see its beauty. Finally, this week it opened, yet it was not ‘perfect’ like the other blooms on the plant. Yet, in its imperfection it radiates its own beauty. I saw myself in that bloom – I am not perfect. I sin, I get impatient with others, I have difficulty being still and waiting for God to answer, I have many faults. Sometimes I am reluctant to open myself up for God to use, and quite often I am reluctant to open myself up to others because I do not want to let them see my ‘imperfections.’

The title of my devotion this morning was “Blooming for the Lord”, how perfect is His timing. The scriptures and the words were exactly what I needed to hear this morning. God is our nurturer, supporter, and encourager. He planted us right where we need to be to follow His plan. He knows our imperfections and faults, yet He loves us. He knew our imperfections before we were born, yet He planted us and planned for us to bloom for Him.

As I thought about my Anthurium, I could not help but to compare how anxiously I waited for it to open and bloom for me to the way I envision God anxiously waits for us to open our hearts and bloom for Him. We are imperfect, just like my Anthurium, Cosmos, Mandevilla, Canna Lily, and even my tomatoes. Yet, for each imperfect flower or vegetable, the beauty and the deliciousness are still there for us to enjoy. Just like the beauty God sees in each of us, despite the imperfections.

This morning as I walked around watering all my houseplants and gardens, I noticed how well everything is growing this year. The beauty and growth throughout my gardens are so much more than what I have seen in past years. Then I realized I have been more intentional in their care and nourishment this year. Again, I started to compare their growth to my growth in my relationship with God – how intentional I have been in studying His word and having conversations with Him every morning, and quite often throughout the day. As a result, I feel like I am growing and blooming more in my relationship with the Lord. Growth in any facet of life comes through nourishment and intentional care, our relationship with God demands no less.

God waters us, showers us, nurtures us through His word, His guidance, His love, and His care. We can all bloom, and just like the breathtaking beauty of my Anthurium or Mandevilla, God wants us to bloom into breathtaking disciples for His purpose. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good words, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God nurtures us so that we will become bright and beautiful witnesses of His goodness and glory. Just like each flower, fruit, and vegetable has different stages of life, we have different stages of life and different stages in our relationships with God. No matter where you are in life, staying close in a relationship with God will allow you to blossom and share the beauty of His love for everyone.

So go, grow, flourish, and bloom for the Lord. For we are planted in the House of the Lord.

Psalm 92:12-13, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.”

 “Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.” -Saint Francis de Sales

God Is the Author

Live Your God-Glory Story Well

“Only God can write a story that resonates not just in the power of the imagination or the heart or the mind, but in the very soul.” Jared C. Wilson

“Every day, in everything we do and experience, we are busy hearing, seeing, and telling stories. Human beings are storytellers because God himself is the greatest storyteller. He is the gracious narrator of the most excellent story ever told: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the life of the world.” Samuel P. Schuldheisz

James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I Timothy 1:4 “Nor to devote yourselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardships from God that is by faith.”

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, free of grace and truth.”

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instructions, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”

Joel 1:3 “Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

I have always considered myself a storyteller, telling stories verbally or writing them for others to read. I just love telling stories.

I remember as a little girl how much I loved Show and Tell time in school. I loved bringing in items and standing in front of the class to share the story of how I found this item or how it changed my life in some way. I remember in third grade bringing my new baby sister to school for Show and Tell, well actually my mother brought her to school but she brought her so I could Show and Tell my class about my new baby sister, JoAnne. I was so excited to share the story of how she was born 9 years after me and how my daddy, sister, and brother sat at a local restaurant the morning she was born and came up with her name. I would share stories about bringing her home and suddenly I realized I was not the baby of the family anymore, and I was not so sure I liked having a baby sister.

I remember as a little girl being the first one in the neighborhood to welcome new neighbors so I could share stories with them about my family or things that happened on our street. I was known as the ‘Welcoming Committee”, never met a stranger. I just wanted to talk to everyone and tell stories about life.

As time passed, my love for storytelling continued and became an integral part of my classroom. I loved telling personal stories to my students because it helped them see me as someone like them; someone who made mistakes, cried, laughed, and got angry. Storytelling in the classroom became second nature, especially when I was telling my ‘Patrick stories’. My son, Patrick, seemed to always create situations that developed into life learning stories. One of my favorite Patrick stories to tell was about the time we were at the mall, and he got lost. He was about 4 years old, and it was just the two of us on a shopping trip to the mall. He got lost, but he was not just lost for a few minutes. Those minutes turned into hours, and a very scared mommy. Patrick will tell you that he knew where he was the whole time, he just did not tell me where he was going or what he was doing. As a result, security guards and local police were involved, and if I correctly remember the local TV station came to the mall. His daddy left work and came to help us look. Long story short, Patrick was fascinated with the mannequins in stores. So, he decided to go look around the store at the displays, and eventually made his way to the back of the store where there were several displays of family sets of mannequins. Patrick was pretending to be a member of the families. He would go from one set to the other, hold hands with either the mother or father mannequin and stand still for long periods of time. Eventually, an employee realized what he was doing and that he had been there a long time. He came and found me and asked me to please follow him to the back of the store. That was when I found Patrick, standing there with his little hands in the hands of the two mannequins, standing still and being quiet. When I told this story to my students, I would usually get a lot of giggles, and some shocked silence, and then always the question, “Well, Mrs. Murrell, what did you do when you found him?’ Lots of life learning examples in that story, and a great way to show my students the personal side of me and my family. Storytelling would also open the doors for them to share stories with me and their fellow students. A great way for building community in the classroom.

Then several years ago I was given the incredible opportunity to share my story of “How Love Changed my Life” with the ‘Storytellers Project’ in front of a live audience. I love telling my story any chance I get but standing in front of a live audience was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, but it also gave me a chance to share how God brought two loves into my life.

Recently, though I have been thinking about the most incredible storyteller of all time and thinking about the story He writes of my life, of all our lives. God is the Master Storyteller. Just look at all the stories He has written and directed since the beginning, since His creation story. Each one of us, and those that came before us, and those that will come after us are characters in His story. What an honor!

Learning to trust God to write my story is not always easy. Having faith in the plot twists I have encountered along the way is difficult, even challenging at times; but that is what faith is! Stepping out and following the ups and downs, the twists as well as the straight, easy paths is what faith in God is all about. Romans 10:17 tells us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Christ’s words, His storytelling is where we place our faith. For Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God writes the story for each of us. He writes the plot twists knowing that each twist and turn is meant to help us grow in our faith in Him. Each twist and turn help to shape us into the servants He wants us to be.

God wrote my story beginning with my parents coming together after WWII with a strong Christian foundation and a beautiful love for each other. He wrote the stories of each of them and the lives they experienced before they met, knowing that He had plans for the two of them to come together and grow this family. He wrote the stories of my siblings, knowing what their futures held, and knowing as they walked through the paths he had set before them that they would become the adults they are today, and that the twists and turns they each went through would strengthen their faith in Him.

Our lives are God written and illustrated. Each day he writes from sunrise to sunset what we will experience, and He writes it with such beauty and artistry that nothing else compares to His work as an author and illustrator. He is the Master! God is the author, director, and publisher of our stories. Without Him we would not exist. Our stories would never have started without God has the creator and author. How incredible is that – the fact that He loves us so much that He wanted each one of us to be a part of His incredible story.

In the moments of sadness, anger, frustrations, and fears it is hard for us to remember that He is the author. Yet, when we do remember that He is writing the story, it is easier to have faith and trust Him to know the outcome. We need to remember that what we see now, at this moment, is NOT the whole story. If we could see what God sees and know what He knows our hearts would be at peace, our faith in God would carry us through those moments.

When my first husband was killed in the helicopter crash in 1987, there were many moments that I could not imagine a future without him. I could not fathom where my son and I would go, or what we would do. But now I see I was too busy, and my vision was too cloudy living in those seconds of fear and anger, and not resting in the knowledge that God was writing the story. God knew the whole story; He still knows the whole story because He is the incredible author and illustrator of my story. In Him I will have faith. Each dark and sad moment in life, is part of His story. Our faith strengthens through each one of those moments. That is our testimony for others to see!

Through the twists and turns, the ups and downs, the sunshine days, and the stormy days, whatever comes our way, it is up to us to live our God-glory stories well! Our reactions to the stories He writes for our lives are the evidence of our faith and trust in Him. Our reactions serve as a witness to God’s glory for others to see. Putting your faith into action speaks louder than just saying I have faith in God, we must live that faith in every word and action we take. God writes the story, and we need to show others we have faith in the story He has written for each of us.

What is your story? How do you live the story God has written for you? I would love to hear your stories.

God is Good! He is all-knowing, faithful, and loving. He is an incredible author! We can trust Him to write our stories!

Growing Older Together . . .

“She let it go. She was ready to vibrate higher and become a magnet for miracles. Now she is in this place where everything feels right. Her heart is calm. Her soul is lit. Her vision is clear. She is at peace with where she has been. And at peace with where she’s headed.”

“God will lead and guide us through each season of our lives. All seasons are beautiful and give us the opportunity to embrace change, to shed our old ways, and become renewed in spirit.”

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

“Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:4

Growing older has really been on my mind and in my heat recently, especially since January of this year which is the year of my 65th birthday. I will turn 65 on July 23, and on January 1st I started being inundated with emails and snail mail that reminded me of the fact that I will turn 65 this year. Reminding me that I will be eligible for Medicare on July 1st, 2021. Almost every single day of this year someone has reminded me of my age, so how can it not be on my mind.

How could I possible be turning 65? My nephew has teased me for years about being old, but this is really it. I am getting old. It also really hit me though that if I am going to be 65 in July, then that means Steve will be 70 in October. Some might say we are in the winter season of life, but to me that has a negative connotation. I like to think that we are in the more relaxed, quiet time of life. We have a lot more time for each other, we enjoy the simpler moments, and we just enjoy being with each other.

With the realization that we are getting older, also came some self-reflection. Am I sad to be in this stage of life? Absolutely not! I have lived a very full life, I met goals I set for myself, I have achieved dreams I had as a young girl, and I have been loved, not once, but twice by two incredible men. I have worked since I was 15 years old, and now enjoy being retired. We raised three children and supported them through the decisions they have made in life. We have three precious grandchildren. Our life is too full of the many blessings God has given us and the things we have achieved to be sad about getting older.

My dream as a young girl was to meet the man of my dreams, fall in love, get married, raise a family, and grow old together. I am living that dream.

God’s plan for my life involved meeting and loving two men, starting a young family, saying goodbye way too soon to the first husband, saying I love you and forever to the second husband, blending one incredible family, watching our grandchildren grow, and growing older together with my love.

Growing older together with Steve is a blessing for which I am eternally grateful. Almost 33 years together has taught us many lessons about relationships. We have been growing together throughout our years together, growing in our relationship with God and with each other. We have grown our family together; children, their spouses, and grandchildren. We have grown through sickness and health. We have grown through life changes, death of loved ones, and emotional challenges. We have been growing together our entire marriage, now we are just growing “older together’ and my prayer is that we grow older together gracefully and give praises to God for all the blessings he has given us.

Life at this stage of life just looks different but it is still full of love, laughter, music, God, and family! Our granddaughter says, “Papa, your hair is white like milk.” She is right, it is pure white. I like to think it is white with delight in a life well lived, a family he loves, and a bright future together. After all, Steve says we still have about 60 more years together! ♥

We have learned over the years that a sense of humor is vital in a strong marriage, even more so as you grow older together. Steve and I laugh often, with each other mostly, although there have been times when I just laugh at him, right along with our grandson, because he is acting so crazy or singing a silly song. From the very beginning of our relationship, we have kidded around with each other. His mother used to get so concerned that I would get mad at him when he was teasing me, but the joking and kidding around with each other just shows how much trust we have in each other, how comfortable we are in our relationship, and how much we both understand the importance of laughter. When my mother lived with us, she would jump right in and kid around with him at every opportunity. She was so quick-witted, and their relationship was so special. I think I miss that most about her not being with us anymore, her laughter and her kidding around with Steve. Becoming my mother’s caregiver was a role we both accepted and committed ourselves too. Mother living with us for six years just made our marriage stronger and we are so blessed for having her love, her laughter, and the memories within our home and through our family.

As we grow older together, I think we enjoy the small, quiet moments more now than ever before. Just sitting with each other inside or outside on the deck, listening to music, driving places, having quiet conversations, or just watching TV are moments that after all the years of raising our children, working hard to provide for our family, and taking care of our home, we appreciate so much more now in this stage of our lives.

Growing older together comes with many more aches, pains, and groans than our earlier years. We cannot do all the things we used to do. Steve jokes that one day we will be riding around on our matching scooters racing each other, but the reality is that we both have moments of pain and discomfort that we did not have when we were younger. Some mornings our aches, pains, and groans are in perfect harmony with each other, and we just smile at each other, and ask each other if we can do anything to help. Usually, there is a little chuckle that goes along with the groans and the smiles. When one of hurts more than the other, then we encourage and support in whatever way we can. After all, we promised to love and cherish, in sickness and in health.

Through all the years that have come and gone, through all the aches and pains, through all the gray hair, and all the fluctuation in weight, Steve still says every single day, that I am the most beautiful woman in the world. He even has Alexa remind me every day at 11:30 on every Alexa in the house. He constantly tells me He loves me and that he never gets tired of looking at me or looking into my eyes or seeing the beautiful smile on my face. He makes me feel loved and cherished every day.

I fall in love with him more as time goes by – how could I not when he takes care of me and our family with such love and care? How could I not fall in love with him more each time he smiles at me or when he looks at me in that special way of his? How could I not fall more in love with him as time goes by when he touches my hand with his gentle touch? How could I not love him more each time we share those quiet, simple moments of life? The love he brought to my life in 1988 is still there every single moment of every day, and grows stronger as time goes by.

I remember watching my grandparents as a child and teenager, and thinking I want to be like them when I am older.

  • They were such hard workers.
  • They took care of each other.
  • They had a family that loved them and took care of them.
  • They loved Christ.
  • They loved each other.
  • They enjoyed the simple moments: swinging on the front porch, having family around, laughing, singing, dancing, and just enjoying each day.

Then there were my parents, and I remember the times I would catch them holding hands, hugging each other in comfort and tenderness, dancing with each other, or just the way they would look at each other. I remember the way they loved the Lord, and they lived it in every facet of their lives. I remember how hard they worked to provide for our family, but I also remember the enjoyment they had with each other in their later years, and that they just enjoyed their quiet moments. I would think I want that too in my older years.

Look at us now!

God brought us together!

It is His love for us that keeps us strong and in love with each other.

Growing older together is a beautiful place to be in life.

I am blessed to grow older together with the love of my life.

She Who Kneels Before God

Just Being Real

“Strength isn’t a place of perfection, but a place of perseverance.” Nicki Koziarz

“It’s where our own abilities and efforts end that God can truly shine through us in a way that impacts those around us.” Kim Sorgius

“If you feel unclean, unloved, unhappy, unworthy, or unwhole; Remember ‘all this is unfair about life can be made right through the atonement of Jesus Christ.’ Have faith and patience in the Savior’s timing and purposes for you. Be not afraid, only believe.” Elder Timothy J. Duches

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“She who kneels before God can stand before anyone.” Romans 8:37

“My daughter, you are worthy of being loved – not because of the personality, charm, or sense of humor that I have given you, but because you are so precious to me that I died for you.” God, @littlethingsaboutGod

              I have spent the last week reflecting on my life and to be real, to be honest with God and myself; and in an effort to be transparent and real, I am just going to put what I have learned about myself out there. This blog is titled, “She Who Kneels Before God, Being Real” and that is what I have found myself doing a lot of recently. Kneeling before God and being honest about my weaknesses and strengths, and my relationship with God. I realized this week by learning and recognizing these things about myself I have grown in my relationship with God. It has also given me the opportunity to accept myself the way I am and to know that God made me, He loves me, and He has a specific plan for my life. His plan included the events that have happened over the last week and His plan included the insights I have gained because of those events. He knew I would come to these realizations at this point in my life. I will admit that at the age of almost 65 it seems a little late in life to come to such important realizations, but just like the old adage, “Better late, than never’, I am thankful that I realized these important things before it was too late for me to change and grow.

              Here it is, me being real . . .

  • I am not Wonder Woman, even though I have been called that more than once in my life. I am strong in my faith in God. I am strong mentally, emotionally, and with confidence. I will do all things within my power for my family. I can multitask like crazy, but physically I have limitations. My God gave me strength emotionally and mentally through many experiences. He also provided me with many opportunities to gain physical strength, but in my selfishness, I ignored those opportunities. Unfortunately, because of that selfish attitude, I was unable physically to help a family member that I love. Physically I was just not ready to give her the care she needed, and disappointed myself and other family members. I may be Wonder Woman in mind, emotions, and multitasking abilities, but physically I am not Wonder Woman.
  • I am stubborn! I am determined to do everything for my family by myself. I do not ask for help easily! I do not even ask God for help often. I am stubborn, hard-headed, and determined not to be dependent on anyone. Being this stubborn is a weakness, not a strength. Reflectively, this character trait started in January of 1987. I did not realize how dependent I was on someone until the sudden death of my first husband. He was killed in a helicopter crash on January 8, 1987. In a second, he was gone. After the shock cleared, the fear set in. Everywhere from banking and finances to putting gas in the car to budgets to hanging a picture on the wall was handled by Mike. Suddenly, he was not there anymore, and I was left to handle it all, even raising our son by myself. The fear was overwhelming, and I decided right then that I would never be that dependent on anyone again. I had no idea where to start with banking and budgets, or how to raise our son without his father. Yet, it is not even that I will not ask a family member or a friend for help, quite often I will not ask God for help, assistance, or guidance. I see it as a weakness to ask for help, I need to be strong and independent. Yet, I have come to the realization that this stubbornness also prevents me from seeking God’s guidance and direction when I need Him most. God is always there, He wants me to come to Him, and it is not a weakness to seek His help, His direction, and His guidance.
  • I love God, my family, and my country. I will never be embarrassed or ashamed that I fiercely love God, my family, and my country. Do not ask me to hide my love for any of these, do not expect me to be ashamed or embarrassed. When you walk in my home, you will notice several things. First, you will see the bibles of loved ones, my father’s bible and my father-in-law’s bible, both hold a place front and center in our home. Both of our fathers held a strong faith in God, and they lived that faith. Their bibles should hold a special place in our home. Second, you will notice pictures of family – our children, our grandchildren, our parents and siblings, and grandparents. Memories of those who have left us, and memories of special times in our lives and those we love. Last, but not least, you will see the flag of the United States waving proudly on my front porch. It will wave there every day! How could it not wave proudly every day? My daddy was a veteran of WWII, Steve’s father was also a WWII veteran. Steve’s brother was a veteran and so is Steve. I was raised to love my country, to respect the symbols of my country. I will stand for the National Anthem, and I will stand for the pledge of allegiance to the flag with my hand over my heart. I will love and respect my country and all she stands for.
  • I am perfectly okay with being retired and being available to my family 24/7. That is not to say I do not miss teaching, because I miss the students, the ‘aha’ moments, the smiles on their faces each morning, hearing their laughter, and hearing them call my name. I used to tease my students and tell them I was going to change my name, and not tell them my new name. They would just laugh because they knew I did not mean it. Yet, now I find myself just wanting to hear a student say my name one more time. What I would give to hear my students say my name, “Mrs. Murrell, Mrs. Murrell” just one more time. I miss the camaraderie between teachers. I miss watching my students grow and learn. What I do not miss is the multitude of tasks they add to a teacher’s life. What I do not miss is the putting undue stress on students to score that ‘score’ on the state test. What I do not miss is the undue stress they add to a teacher’s mind and heart for every student to pass those state tests and she is considered a failure if they do not meet ‘that standard’. What I do not miss is the constant change in mandated programs and curriculum, when the old tried and true methods worked well for all ‘those’ making the decisions now. I could go on and on, but I will end this part with this,
    • I love being retired.
    • I love spending more time with my husband and family.
    • I love being able to write.
    • But I do miss being in a classroom filled with students, their voices, their laughter, their smiles, their growth, and even hearing them say my name 14,000 times a day.
  • Then there is the final realization, and it occurred this morning in church. Isn’t God’s timing perfect, and doesn’t he have the most perfect sense of humor, it is as if He was sitting in heaven this morning saying, “Lynne, this is it! This is the moment. I saved the best for the last part of this journey you have been on this week. You are either going to laugh or cry, maybe both, but with either of those emotions, you are going to grow again in your relationship with me. I cannot wait to see your face and feel your heart.” Another weakness of mine is I hold grudges. It is not a pretty side of my personality, and it is one I am not proud of. But it is there – I do hold grudges. I have not watched an episode of 60 Minutes or 20/20 or even Barbara Walters since 1987 because of a grudge. I am not sure if I can ever get rid of this grudge but after this morning, I know I need to. This will be one of those moments when I throw away the independence and go to God for help and guidance. On my knees! There is another grudge I have held for about 10 years, I will not go into details, but just know that this grudge has caused me to be unsettled with a church family and being involved in church life. But that is not all, holding these grudges, holding onto the anger and resentment has kept me from God. These feelings have prevented me from putting God in the center of my life, where He is supposed to be! Here is the lesson God saved for this moment. His timing is perfect! We walked into church and there was a visiting minister. His message was “Full House: Remember the Lord” The sermon was presented by a minister I know very well. He was the youth minister at our former church, and someone Steve and I worked with very closely for about 14 years. He is also one of the ones I have felt resentment towards and held a grudge against for the last 10 years. The message of his sermon was all the things we let in our lives that push God to the margins of our lives, all the things we let into our hearts that keep God from being the center or our lives. “Okay, Lynne, are you listening?” As he began to speak and continued with the message God laid on his heart, I was reminded of the strength of the relationship we had when we worked together to guide the young people of our church family. I was reminded of how involved we used to be. He spoke directly to Steve and I and talked about how valuable we were in the student ministry. His words reminded me of the days, weeks, months, and years that because of the work we did to build God’s kingdom, God was front and center in my life. The message was about “Counting our days we have been fully with the Lord! Count your days in the Lord! Always remember Him! Count the blessings He has given you! Keep God front and center by serving others, by building His kingdom!” God used one of the people I never thought I would hear preach again, speak words God placed on his heart. He spoke God’s words eloquently, and whether he realized it or not there were many words he spoke this morning, that God intended specifically for me to hear. The minister looked right at me when he spoke the words God really wanted me to hear.  God moments! God’s plan! God’s timing! I do not always hear God clearly or maybe it is I choose not to be still and listen, but I listened this morning. I opened my heart and started letting the resentment and anger go! It is time to place God back in my life front and center. It is time to serve Him with gladness and to serve Him here in this community. It is time to set about building His kingdom. It is time to kneel before God and be real with my relationship with Him!

God is our Refuge

Finding Refuge in God

Refuge is defined as a shelter or protection from danger or distress. Finding refuge is like finding a safe place for shelter during a storm.

“I will say to the Lord, my refuge and my fortress, my God, is whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

God does not guarantee us a life free from troubles, He does not promise us that every day will be a rose garden; but He does promise us He will always be there. He does promise us that He will love us. He does promise to be our refuge, our comfort, and our safe place in times of trouble. He is the calm in the middle of the storm.

Life is filled with challenges and obstacles that make it hard for us to stay close to God and to know that He is in control; it is hard to see past the storm and remember that God is there, and He placed the storm right in front of us so we will learn to lean on Him, have faith in His presence in our lives, and to remember He is our refuge. He is our ‘ever-present help in times of trouble.’ How comforting is it to know He is always there!

The last few days I have been thinking about moments in my life where the storm was right there, all around me, and I know now that my faith in God helped me to lean on Him and find refuge with Him. I may not have realized it at the time, but I know now without any doubt, that God was there, and I sought Him out purposely for His strength, His comfort, His wisdom, and His refuge. Faith! Knowing He is there without seeing Him, I just know He is there. Each difficult moment in life, I seek Him out in my heart and in my mind. I seek out His refuge and strength! His presence is the stronghold that gets me through each challenge, each obstacle.

One of the most difficult challenging moments in my life was in 1987, when my first husband was killed in a helicopter crash. I write of this moment often, because it truly was the most life-changing moment I have ever experienced. God was my refuge for those first moments, first days, weeks, and months. He was my refuge for the ‘first times’ I had to do something or make a decision about something that I never imagined I would have to do at age 30. However, there is one moment that truly has never left my heart or my mind over the last 34 years. In this moment, the hurt was so overwhelming and had such an intense grip on my heart and mind, that I could not see or feel God’s presence. I failed to see Him at one critical moment! Mike’s father was not a Christian, and even though we had talked with him and prayed for him, he never professed his faith in Christ. On this morning, as my son and I were walking into their house to get ready for my husband’s funeral, Mr. McGinnis looked me in the eyes and out of his anger, he asked, “Well Lynne, where is your God now? What kind of God lets this happen?” I was stunned and still in shock and could not respond. I simply stared at him, stood silent, and then turned and walked away. Over the years I have gone over this moment so many times, and I know what I should have said, “My God is holding me right now. He is the only thing that is keeping me strong enough to stand here in front of you today. He is the one who is holding me in His arms and helping me through each moment. He is my shelter, and under His wings I find my refuge. He is one who will give me comfort and whisper words of encouragement this afternoon when I bury my 31-year-old husband and say my final goodbye.” But I said nothing! I still wrestle with that moment and the things I should have said. The things I could have said that may have made a difference in Mr. McGinnis making a profession of faith. However, my faith now is in my God and that He was able to work in Mr. McGinnis’s life before he passed away.

Life is filled with moments life this, moments where the problems, the fear, the hurt, and the anger feel more real than the truth. Those feelings are so strong, and so real that it is hard to see past them to see the truth – that God is the only truth we need. God is the refuge that will get us through all those feelings, all those moments. Staying focused on Him is hard, but when we truly find refuge in Him, we are totally immersed in His presence and I cannot thing of anything more incredibly comforting and beautiful than being totally immersed in God’s refuge, His presence, and His comfort.

Finding refuge in God comes to me when I immerse my heart and my mind in His word. When I surround my ears with songs of praise and worship. When I surround myself with the beauty of His creation. When I surround myself with family and friends who also know the truth of finding refuge in His presence. When I look into the sweet, innocent face of my granddaughter. God’s refuge, His comfort, His Love are there in each of these moments, in each storm of life.

The smile of my granddaughter’s face! The beauty in the flower!

Throughout my life there have been moments when I needed His refuge, and He was there every time.

  • A breast cancer diagnosis
  • The death of my father
  • The death of my mother
  • My husband’s surgeries and his life filled with pain and weakness
  • Watching our children go through difficult, challenging moments in life

Yet, I know that God’s presence in my life was the stronghold that I will always cling to, the strength that I will hold onto, and the refuge that I seek in His arms and with His whispers.

In today’s world, I find myself seeking His refuge more and more often.

I find myself looking for it in the smiles on a stranger’s face, in the politeness and the gentle words of an employee helping me in a store or restaurant, or simply the greetings from neighbors as they walk by our house. These simple moments seem further and further apart these days, our world seems to have drifted away from our beliefs in God and the way we were brought up to treat others.

Be kind!

Be respectful!

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Help others!

It is sad and heartbreaking to see the way we treat each other, and it is sad that I seek out a simple smile on someone’s face to have hope that we are not too far gone from where God wants us to be. When I see a smile or hear a kind word, my heart is thrilled, and I know it is God’s way of showing me He is still here, and there are many who still seek His guidance and refuge. God is still here with us, He is still the guidance and wisdom we need, and He will always be the strength and comfort we need to face the storms ahead. There will be many more storms and many more dark days ahead, without God, we cannot make it through. God is still our truth!

I have found myself over the last 18 months seeking God’s wisdom and strength more and more. I do not want fear and anger to take hold of my heart and mind. I want God to be my focus, my refuge, my strength.

“O Lord, my Strength and my stronghold,

And my refuge in the day of distress,

To you the nations will come,

From the ends of the earth and say,

“Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood,

Futility and things of no profit.”

Jeremiah 16:19

My prayer today, at this moment:

Dear Heavenly Father,

To you the nations will come!

To you we will see your truth and wisdom!

To you we will seek refuge and comfort during the days of trouble and darkness,

From you, and you only, we will inherit everlasting life and your love!

Thank you, Father, for your strength, your love, your comfort, your wisdom, and your refuge!

Thank you, Father for your Living Word!

Amen

God’s Living Word, my father’s bible

One Child at a Time

One Child at a time – one day at a time!

              The lessons we learn from our students . . .

1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

Isaiah 58:11, “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives. Some lessons are painful, some are painless. But, all are priceless.” -unknown

Just like the quote above, lessons learned along the paths in life can be painful or painless, but all are priceless. God places us right where we need to be, and God places the people in our lives (even 5th grade students) in our lives just when we need them. He makes no mistakes.

God gave me the gift of teaching, and even though I fought it for a while, I eventually understood and have been blessed many times by following His will and His plan.

As teachers our responsibility is to teach the students, who are in our classrooms, the curriculum, the standards, the subjects, and hopefully along the way life lessons. We are responsible for teaching each child, with all their unique abilities and disabilities, and teach each one using methods and strategies that accommodated their learning styles.

As teachers our responsibility to teach each child is driven by our desire and determination to help each child succeed. We teach because it is our heart to teach, to share knowledge, to observe those ‘aha’ moments, and because God has given us the gift to teach and guide others.  We teach because we understand the importance of a well-rounded education for each student. Yet, I am reminded that along the way as teachers we also learn valuable lessons, and quite often those valuable lessons are from our students.

On my desk sits a homemade gift given to me by a student about 7 years ago. She gave it to me during Teacher Appreciation Week. It is a reminder of a special young lady I had the privilege of teaching and the lessons I learned from her.

Before I talk about the gift though and its importance in my life, let me talk about the school setting and the student. The school I taught at for the last 9 years of my teaching career was a Title One school in one of the highest poverty areas of our city. I requested the transfer to this school because I felt God calling me to move to where I was needed more, where possibly I could make a greater impact. Little did I know that these students would make a greater impact on my life. This precious student and her younger student were being raised by their grandmother, because their mother was unable to care for them. The grandmother was determined to see these two girls grow and succeed in life. There was an instant connection between us when she walked in that first day of school with this student. There is still a connection between all of us, and I am so blessed by their presence in my life. At the beginning of the year, this student was very shy, soft-spoken, and could not maintain eye contact with any adult. In class it was difficult for her to answer questions out loud in class or even small groups. She just could not speak out in front of others. However, as the year progressed, I was witness to her gaining self-confidence, and eventually she became outspoken and a leader in class. It was amazing to watch the transformation and to still be able to watch her grow and develop into a strong, confident young lady. Every day I looked forward to her questions and conversations in class!

During Teacher Appreciation Week, she was so excited to present her homemade gift to me. After realizing the uniqueness of the gift, I was speechless. A lot of time and effort on her part went into this special gift. It was a “Quote Jar” filled with quotes from me or from our discussions in class, from our life lessons. Some were silly but most of them were serious life lessons. We laughed quite a bit in class that year, and were silly often, but a sense of humor is important in the classroom environment. There were about 75 colored popsicle sticks inside the jar and each one had a quote from the year. Imagine my shock when I started reading each stick, and realized she had been listening, paying attention, observing, and remembering things we had discussed or that I had directly taught throughout the year.

As teachers, we try to teach life lessons as well as the curriculum. I was fortunate to be able to teach an all-girls 5th grade class for the last 6 years of my teaching career at this Title One school. I was also fortunate to have an administration who allowed me to use some enrichment time to focus on manners, poise, self-confidence, and how to present oneself to new people. Some of the quotes in the jar were those life lessons I tried to instill in them –

  • Say please and thank you.
  • Better good manners than good looks.
  • Good manners = good karma
  • Your mood should not dictate your manners.
  • Keep calm and respect others.
  • Manners cost nothing.

But there were also those quotes that were just meant to inspire them and help them in life. The fact that she remembered them and gave them back to me in the Quote Jar became an inspiration to me to this day, which is why the jar remains on my desk.

  • Stars can’t shine without darkness.
  • Broken crayons still color. ♥
  • Every end is a new beginning.
  • It always seems impossible until it is done.
  • Never give up.
  • Everything is hard before it is easy.
  • Wisdom is the ability to learn from change. ♥

And probably the most important one for young girls to learn –

  • You do not have to be like anyone else. Be yourself! ♥

My mother instilled in me a love for learning. I never tire of learning new things, studying history, reading, and writing. I think effective teachers need to love learning so they can instill that same love in their students. Our students are always watching and listening, even when we are not directly teaching them. This student’s gift brought that home to me that year, and every time I see it on my desk, I am reminded of this beautiful child who came to me as a shy, soft-spoken little girl, and has now grown into a beautiful, self-confident young lady. I am reminded of the lessons I learned from her that year, that will desire and determination we can overcome the obstacles in our way. Its presence on my desk is a reminder of the transformation I saw in her that year, and the transformation I saw in myself that year as a teacher. I am reminded of how each student is observing, listening to, and learning from the people in their environment, the teacher they have each year in their lives. What an impact we have on their lives without even realizing we are we are having that impact.

Lessons learned through 28 years of teaching were many! I could write a book on the lessons learned from students and their parents. However, one vital lesson learned and realized that year was that students are sponges – they are soaking up everything that is around them, the positive and the negative, the direct teaching and the indirect teaching. As teachers, we need to make sure that what they are ‘soaking up’ from us is all the positive things we can teach directly and indirectly. We need to make sure they are learning from us, directly and indirectly, the things that will empower them to move on in life and be the best they can be.

I said at the beginning of this blog that God places us where we need to be, and He places people in our lives that we need to be around. That year, that one precious year, was part of His plan and I am so blessed by this student, her grandmother, and all the other students from that year. I have had the privilege to stay in touch with many of them and I am amazed by the growth and success I see in each of those girls. Their presence in my classroom was a blessing from God, and one I continue to learn from.