Archive | October 2012

Rejoicing in Heaven!

This week started off in the BEST way!  I got a call last Sunday night from Julie and I could tell by the excitement in her voice that something good had happened.

“Anastasia got saved tonight!”  Julie was bubbling over with joy.

“Oh, praise the Lord!  Tell me how it came about!”  I exclaimed.  We had been praying for this since the day Julie and David had made the decision to adopt her.

The Sanchez family had just moved to California and this was their first Sunday there.  They visited one church in the morning and a second one that evening.  It just so happened that the church they attended that night was having the Lord’s Supper (Communion.)  The service had already started by the time they discovered that, however, and Julie and David whispered between themselves.  We believe Communion is only for those who are born-again believers, and then after they have confessed to the Lord whatever sins might be standing between them and Him.  They knew Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah had been saved and baptized, but were unsure about James and Anastasia.

Since they had brought them home from the Ukraine, David and Julie, and even the other three kids, had been faithful witnesses to the two newest members of the family.  They had not failed to have family devotions every night with them, and Anastasia and James had quickly taken up daily reading their Bibles when they saw how important it was to their American siblings.  There was a language barrier at first, though, and even when they could get across what was necessary for daily living or fun and games, talking about spiritual things or deeper concepts was more difficult.  Julie and David were very careful not to push James and Anastasia, as well.  When they finally came to accepting Jesus as their Savior, it had to be totally their decision, not because they wanted to please their new parents, but because they saw their need for salvation and truly wanted to be saved.

Now Hannah, who was sitting next to Julie, whispered.  “What should we do, Mommy?”  She had taken communion back in Alabama at their old church, but now in this church they were visiting for the first time, she was unsure.  The other kids were looking to David and Julie as well for direction.

Julie whispered back, “Well, if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, you can take communion.  Pass it on!”  Anastasia and James were sitting at the far end of the pew and though it seemed a little silly to say pass it on, as if it were a game of Chinese Telephone, it was the only way Julie could think of to get the message to them.

Anastasia took communion.  James did not take the bread, but took the juice.  The experience opened a floodgate of questions when they got in the car to go home and afterwards while they ate supper.  What was communion all about, anyway?  How does someone get saved?  What about baptism?  Their understanding of English was so much better now so it was easier to have this conversation.

When they were done, Anastasia took Julie aside and said, “Can I talk to you Mama?  I have some other questions.”  They went into her bedroom and it was there that Anastasia accepted Jesus as her Savior!  She prayed in Ukrainian, so Julie couldn’t understand what she was saying to the Lord, but when she was done the joy on her face was genuine and she was ready to run off and tell James he needed to get saved, too!

“No, no!  Wait!” Julie told her.  “Don’t push him!  He needs to do this on his own when he is ready.”

Anastasia agreed and went off to get ready for bed.  A moment later she came running after Julie.  “Mama!  Mama!  Now that I am saved, when we find a church, can I get baptized?”  This newborn baby believer was eager to bring others to Jesus and tell the world that she is a Christian!

They could see that James was under conviction.  He was unusually quiet and something was bothering him.  Before he went to bed David asked him if he wanted to talk.  “I have questions,” James admitted, “but I don’t want to talk about it tonight.”

In the morning, David had gone to work and James and Joshua were the only ones up.  “I prayed and prayed last night,” James confessed to his brother, “and I cried and cried.  Why did I cry?”

“Maybe because you know you need to be saved?” twelve-year-old Joshua suggested.  “Why don’t you talk to Mama when she wakes up?”

Julie was barely awake when James came in to talk to her.  He was concerned about the bad things he had done, and that if he got saved he would still do bad things.  Julie answered his questions and quietly encouraged him.  A few minutes later James, too, confessed his sins and accepted Jesus as his personal Savior!  Julie said the joy and relief was written all over his face.  He went around beaming all day!

Our prayers had been answered!  These two precious kids from a distant country had been rescued from what would have surely been a dismal, hopeless life, and now they were saved from an eternity without Christ, as well.  Their lives were changed, here on earth and forevermore in Heaven.  They were rejoicing, we, their family are rejoicing, and the Bible tells us there is rejoicing in Heaven as well.  Even the angels rejoice when a lost one comes to Jesus!  See what Luke 15:1-10 has to say:

Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.  And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.  And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?  And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.  Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?  And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.   Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Lost in the Parking Lot

It happened more than a year ago but I will probably never live it down—at least among my grandchildren.  Julie and I had gone to our favorite ladies’ wear store, Cato, to shop their clearance sale.  This boutique was in the same shopping center as the big WalMart super store, with many other small stores in between.  When we came out of Cato, we debated on whether or not to drive the car closer to WalMart or walk.  We knew we would have a lot of groceries, etc, when we came out, so we decided to move the car.

The parking lot was packed.  We inched up and down several lanes, weaving around people and their carts, waiting as cars backed out of their spots, dodging careless, impatient drivers.  I concentrated on not getting hit or hitting someone else.  Finally after several minutes of this, I had had enough.  I claimed the next empty parking spot I saw and pulled in quickly.  At last!  I breathed a sigh of relief and looked up.  There we were—right back in front of Cato’s!

Julie and I burst out laughing.  No!  We tried again and finally found an acceptable parking spot closer to WalMart.  Then we made the mistake when we got home of telling the kids about it.  “Ha ha!” they laughed.  “Grandma got lost in the parking lot!”  The matter was exacerbated when I had two or three other (shall we say) negative experiences in unfamiliar parking lots in the days following.  It became a familiar phrase—“Grandma got lost in the parking lot!  Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

That was a year ago.  The other day I got a chance to talk to the kids on the telephone.  When it came to Hannah’s turn we chatted for a few minutes and then she asked me what I had done all day. “Oh, I did some work on the computer; I made some phone calls and wrote some e-mails; I washed some dishes and did some laundry…and oh, yes!  I did a little shopping on the internet!  That was fun!  I bought a blouse for the banquet we are having at Kohls.com!  I’ve never gone clothes shopping on the internet before!”

Without missing a beat, eight-year-old Hannah said in her sweet little girl voice, “Well, at least you didn’t get lost in the parking lot, Grandma!”   I laughed from the comfort of my recliner.  How my grandchildren love to tease Grandma!  And I give them plenty of material to use against me, I suppose.

We all get there eventually as we get older, don’t we?  How many times have I come out of the store, not lost myself, but looking for my lost car?  And I know I am not the only one on that count!  I see them all the time—seniors wandering around the parking lot, necks craned and a blank look in their eyes, muttering, “Where did I leave my car?”  I can only smile sympathetically at them and wish them the best.  Of course, now that I have a panic button on my key fob, as a last resort I can push the button and there she is—honking and flashing her lights at me several rows over.   “Here I am, Mama!  Come and get me!”

I wish I had a similar button for my keys, the TV remote, my glasses, the cheese (in the silverware drawer, of course!), the ice cream (not in the freezer, but a soupy mess in the refrigerator), etc.  I am always losing things.  It would worry me that I am headed for Alzheimer’s, except that my friends and family who are of like age do the same goofy things.

Along with the aches and pains, the slower walk, loss of hearing and sight, and oh yes—the gray hair under all the “highlighting,”  those senior moments are just par for the course when it comes to getting older.  One of my dad’s favorite sayings used to be “Of all the things I’ve ever lost, I miss my mind the most!”  Somehow I don’t think senior discounts, which I always forget to ask for anyway (figures!) or perks quite make up for all the negatives.  The best reward I can think of for getting old are those same sweet, precious grandchildren who love to tease me about getting old!  (They love to tease, but then if I say anything about being old, they loudly protest, “Grandma, you’re not old—or fat, either!”)

Well, the brain does get old and forgetful.  Bob and I have taken to keeping a white board on our refrigerator and writing reminders, large and small, on it.  I walk past it a hundred times a day and see those reminders, and it really has helped, at least with appointments, things to do and when to do them.

Likewise, the Bible is full of reminders.  Over and over we are told to “Remember…”, “Forget not…,” be “in remembrance,” or “in mind of.”  God wants us to remember His great works; His mercy; His lovingkindness; His commandments and covenants; His Word.  We are to remember Jesus Christ and His Gospel; remember one another and those in authority over us and the poor; remember where we were and how far we have come now in Christ.  We are told not to forget His blessings; His laws; to get wisdom and understanding; to do good and be hospitable.  We are to be in remembrance of His holiness; to be in remembrance of the sacrificial body and blood of Christ through the ordinance of Communion; be in remembrance of one another.

The Bible is like my little white board.  Every time we walk through it, we see reminders of how we are to live and think and how we ought to relate to God and one another.  We see reminders of His laws and commandments, His promises and His blessings.  We are reminded of His nature and His great works—both in this universe and in our own personal lives.  The more we are in God’s Word, the better we will remember all these things—even if we are getting old and our brains may not be as sharp as they once were.  Somehow, the Word of God remains—even when we cannot remember why we walked into a room or our children’s names!

God’s Word is full of these reminders, but I will leave you with only one passage today since it speaks to both our getting old and to our grandchildren, the crowns of our lives.  “For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.  As for man, his days

are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.   For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.  But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103:14-18)

Westward — Go!

It has been a tumultuous year for the Sanchez family.  Their four and a half year adoption journey finally ended with the addition of James Oleg and Anastasia Hope to their family.  Now, just three months later, another journey begins—this time measured not so much in time, but in miles.

David has been at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for over two months already while Julie and their five children stayed behind in Alabama to pack up and rent out the house.  After being separated for three months during the adoption process, and now again the last couple months, the family is eager to be reunited once and for all! Today is the day—David arrives back in Alabama for the big move!

There is a lot of excitement going on in the Sanchez household today!  As much as they hate to leave their home in Alabama, they are happy to get on with the move since they have no choice in the matter anyway.  There will definitely be nice things about moving to California.  They will be just minutes away from the beautiful California coastline on the Pacific Ocean.  The beaches there are not for swimming, but rather the rugged, rocky sort populated by seals and sea birds.  The climate there is moderate—sunny, breezy—and a big change from the extreme heat and humidity of Alabama.  Their active family will be able to enjoy the outdoors rather than hiding out in the air conditioning.

There will be even more excitement on Tuesday when Grandpa arrives to help with the move!  Bob is flying down there to help David load the trucks and then make the trek to California.  It will be quite the caravan going westward a few days later.  David will drive one truck, while Bob drives the other, and Julie will drive the Suburban.  Moving a household of goods plus five kids, three adults and two dogs over 2200 miles will most likely be slow-going.

In the meantime, Robbie and I will be back here at home, alone for the eleven days that Bob will be gone.  I am truly happy that Bob can help, and happy for the family to be back together again after all the upheaval they have gone through this whole year.  I am happy that they will be living in such a pretty place—but sad that it is so far away.  Long before the big move, however, I already bought airline tickets to go visit them in December!  This Grandma didn’t even wait for an invitation, or for them to get moved into their new home!

Robbie, though, will be unable to go to Sissy’s house—his favorite thing to do—as long as they live in California.  He is too fragile and incapacitated now for the long trip by either car or plane.  That makes me sad.  Hopefully, they will be able to come here sometime during the next three to four years, although with a family of seven now, that won’t be easy.  Robbie loves to Skype, though, so we will just have to make it a point to Skype more often.

We are praying for safe travels—that no one gets hurt loading or unloading (especially David after his recent back surgery); for protection from accidents or breakdowns, sickness or any other bad thing that could happen along the way.  Please pray with us, won’t you?

Abraham and Sarah come to mind when I think of making a big move like this.  The Bible tells us that Abraham was a very rich man. He had thousands of cattle, sheep, goats, camels, as well as a huge household of servants and his own family.  They lived a nomadic life in tents, but still it was no easy task to move it all whenever the Lord called them to move on.  Hebrews 11:8 says, however, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”  God had big plans for Abraham as we see in Genesis 12:1-5.  “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.  So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.  And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.”

Abraham lived righteously before God and God blessed him.  He led him to the Promised Land.  God made of Abraham a great nation.  The whole world was blessed because of Abraham’s faith and obedience!  God will bless us, as well, when we trust him by faith and follow in the path He has set out for us.  I love to read the promises that God has given those who follow in His path.  He promises:

The desires of your heart — Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.  Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.  (Psalm 37:4, 5)

Mercy and truth – All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.  (Psalm 25:10)

Protection — Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  (Psalm 139:3)

Guidance – When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path.  (Psalm 142:3)

His presence — Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  (Proverbs 3:5, 6)

Blessings along the way – The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  (Psalm 37:23)

There is nothing to fear when God changes our pathway or moves us in some direction we had not expected.  If He calls us to move on, then go!  Blessings await us!