Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Yet another facet

10:16 p.m. Today's project was to grasp the enormity of my late husband Steve's impact and influence on the City of Riverside, particularly on the scores of thousands of students of the Riverside Unified School District.

I received a letter on District letterhead from the current board president Gayle Cloud, stating that the January 22nd meeting of the Board was adjourned in Steve's memory! I was surprised, and tearfully so, as yet another aspect of Steve's life of serving Christ by serving others was brought to my remembrance.

Steve surely forgot the 13 years of public service we were called to as a couple and a family, but Steve himself has not been forgotten. He was a man who himself had not held office, but was seen and known for his smile, kindness, willingness to work with educators, other parents, and civic groups, into whose home the Mayor even came for a sit-down visit. Steve never wavered in wholehearted support for me from the moment in 1990 when I revealed to him that God had told me to run for the local school board. He participated as needed, or stayed home with the kids, through two years of preparation, in order for me to chair PTA and School Site Council boards as president for both Taft Elementary and North High School.

He cheerfully helped me set up PTA meetings and stayed late with me to clean up, making friends and quickly learning to become conversant on public education issues. Our standpoint was biblical and conservative; our purpose was to put parents back in the leadership of the school district, as truly equal partners with the administrators. Above all, we were determined to publicly stand for God and the parental rights guaranteed by law, ie., that parents may determine the upbringing of their children as they see fit according to their strongly held beliefs. And, as God had directed,  I ran for the Board of Education, winning resoundingly, to see the schools return to partnership with parents, as they were when I grew up. Parents didn't worry about immorality being promoted in public schools decades ago. And in my first term alone, many practices were halted, such as condom demonstrations on cucumbers and sex education given without written parent permission; Planned Parenthood was stopped from establishing a clinic at Ramona High School; and solidly legal rights of Christian teachers were upheld, such as being allowed to pray and have Bible studies during off-duty time. And the right for students to gather annually for "See you at the Pole" before school was reinforced.

Student Christian clubs were also given the same rights and standing on high school campuses as secular or academic ones. Our son Sean led the first Christian club established at North High School in 1991, but full rights were granted after my election. Our election, that is, really, it was God's election!

I couldn't have done any of these things without strength and guidance from the Lord, and my tireless precinct-walking husband (and kids); nor without the hundreds of signs Steve singlehandedly put out around the district. Steve and I had it down--he and I could flyer a precinct, door-to-door, selecting registered "high-propensity" voters, with me speaking to voters and him leaving my literature, in a single afternoon.
After grueling times for parents like myself who had to teach our own kids to read using phonics, I rallied hundreds of parents, and made one presentation after another, to get new reading curriculum instated.Steve attended meetings at home and at school as his work permitted.

In the community, Steve was actively involved along with me, with Eastside African-American and Latino pastors and youth workers to bring constructive activities to the youth there. He never missed a Black Republican or Martin Luther King banquet or formal fundraising event, such as the ones that raised enough money for a huge bronze statue of Dr. King to be placed at City Hall. Steve also put on a tux for many Junior League Balls and other community charitable events, and even went on the Home Tour, to raise funds for scholarships. The "quiet man" whose preference was to work behind the scenes, became publicly recognizable, and deservedly so!

I doubt Steve ever wrote "politics" on any essay at school on future ambitions. Yet, because of my right hand man's (or better yet, God's man's) active public involvement, thousands of public school children received a superior education in neighborhood schools; administrators who once dreaded my presence put on fundraisers for me by my third election contest; mayoral committees had solid Christian conservative input; citizen taxpayers were clearly represented.

Now believers here in Riverside have a major challenge before us--to save the cross atop Mt. Rubidoux by raising funds to purchase the .43 acre it stands on. The formerly healthy, committed and enthusiastic Steve would have been with me at the upcoming community rally, and walked up the mountain afterwards without breaking a sweat. (I'll do my best). How he would have willingly joined the fight as a citizen and a believer. His children and I will carry on and honor the faith he professed, you can be sure.

As I thought of Steve's selfless and steadfast service to his beloved Riverside, the Lord brought Nehemiah to mind. In the 5th century B.C., after leading a group to the land of Israel from the captivity in Babylon, Nehemiah directed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. He cleansed the nation of pagan worship and appointed those to serve in leading the worship of the one true God. In the last sentence of the book, Chapter 13:31, he wrote,

Remember me, O my God, for good!

We remember you, dear Steve, and we thank you!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Down to 10 lbs

3:43 p.m. Today's project was to pick up my late husband Steve's remains from the mortuary. Acheson Graham does everything from printing the programs, arranging the flowers at the service, to holding services at their facility, to cremation. He had chosen cremation, so the urn I'd picked out early in the month was packed and ready to come into my possession.

I'd asked the kids if they thought it would be good to have the urn displayed in the house, and none, including me, were for that idea. The "urn" I selected was not any kind of precious or alloyed metal, but a dark blue leather cylinder that would have been much more to Steve's taste. Since Steve went to heaven at 8:17 p.m. on January 1st, and is seeing and experiencing the most magnificent of all things he'd ever dreamed of or desired, it almost seems moot to worry about what he would select of our paltry earthly style choices. Typically, when given a choice, he'd always say, "Get what you like," or "What's the cheapest?". So I did select something we both would like and far less expensive than the grandiose, ornate goldtone, silver and brass urns we wouldn't even have room for.

I thought about burial customs in the Bible. Genesis 23:19-20 says,

Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron [incidentally where David was crowned king of Judah, generations later]) in the land of Canaan. So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.

So caves were a family burial place. To this day, if families choose burial in a cemetery, they often will purchase a family plot of ground. Even the military allows both service member and spouse to be buried together, or their cremated remains to be together in an engraved niche. In  scripture, life circumstances or travel did not permit burial with ancestors, as happened with the death of Rachel, Jacob's beloved wife, who died giving birth to Benjamin in Genesis 35:18-21.

So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel's grave to this day. Then Israel journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.

Where collecting slain soldiers and leaders' bodies from enemy territory was necessary, proper burial was not possible. In I Samuel 31, when the men of Jabesh Gilead in Israel heard that the Philistines had fastened King Saul's and his son's bodies to a wall in Beth Shan and put his armor in the pagan temple of Ashtoreth, to celebrate their victory over the Israelites in war, they took action. The men marched all night to collect the bodies. v. 11-13:

Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and traveled all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth Shan; and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

Peaceful ceremony and burial in a family plot or not, public mourning was done for King Saul and his sons.

Jesus Christ our Lord was taken down from the cross, a savage and cursed method of death--Deuteronomy 2:23,

...he who is hanged is accursed of God. The body was not to hang overnight, that the land might not be defiled; it had to be buried.

Jesus indeed took the curse of the sin of the entire world upon Himself on the cross many centuries later. And even Deuteronomy 2:23 was fulfilled--His body did not stay on the cross overnight; it was taken down and buried in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb.

For our family, when Steve's mom Ruby chose cremation for her husband Lorenz and for herself, it lifted and settled the niggling question as to whether a Christian ought to be cremated, a controversy in decades past. (Perhaps the pagan funeral pyres of the Indian subcontinent were brought to mind). Because scripture states emphatically that "absent from the body is present with the Lord" (paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:8), it makes no difference once the soul has left the "house." One scientific study had people weighed immediately before death and immediately upon death, and amazingly, the person lost some ounces! The soul is as real a part of our person as our hair or our skin.

With these thoughts in mind, I pondered how much the remains of a grown man of approximately 160 lbs would weigh. I think this idle curiosity kept me from fixing on the rather grotesque task of picking up Steve's ashes and driving them home. The Lord was protecting me from feeling too horrified to carry out my task, it seems.  My daugher asked me before I left for the mortuary, "Can't you just tell them to get rid of the ashes?" But remains are the property of the family, who then, by the permit granted by the County of Riverside (which I have) may dispose of the remains, or keep them. Disposal three miles out from the shore into the ocean is often suggested, but that is out of the question for lack of a boat or finances to arrange that undertaking.  

I was nervous waiting for Steve's ashes and the urn, but was very surprised after signing the release form for the contents, at how heavy it is! Must be 10 lbs., very light beige-colored, densely-packed powder. It reminds me of whole wheat flour. I honestly had expected dark grey or black ashes.

As you can tell, the whole experience is rather surreal. But I drove straight home and set it on the bench near the posterboard full of pictures of Steve with all of the family, in th living room.  I'll let the kids know that they can come and look if they feel the need to. Then I will put the urn away, probably in the back of Steve's side of our bedroom closet.

Fifty-seven years of living, down to 10 pounds at the end of a fine Christian life. "Dust to Dust." How certain and how glad I am that this earth is not my home!

Are you?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Around and in front of me

8:37 p.m. Today's project was to tell my high school English teacher, Terry Alexandris --or "Mrs. A.," as I call her--about Steve's death. It  wasn't very cheerful news for her 86th birthday. I do love that lady! Let's face it, at 61, it's pretty neat to be called "baby girl."

I was in Redlands, as I often am, to visit with my daughter Heidi before attending my weekly Mary Kay meeting. Heidi wouldn't be home until 4:00, so I pulled into a gas station to fill up, and called Mrs. A. Our conversation continued, hands-free, past my alma mater Redlands High, and continued in the parking lot of a 7-11. She just could not believe Steve's dying at the young age of 57, especially since she last saw Steve dressed to kill for my 40th class reunion dinner at the Redlands Country Club in 2009. We'd stopped by to visit with her before she actually drove ahead of us to help us find our destination. Those streets on the elegant south side of Redlands get pretty twisty-turny!  God used her to guide us on an unfamiliar path, in a neighborhood forgotten since  my teens. The Lord is always with His children. Psalm 31:3 praises and petitions Him:

For You are my rock and my
Therefore, for Your name's sake,
Lead me and guide me. 

The last time Mrs. A and I visited, she'd enjoyed a facial in her home and then treated me to dinner at Panera Bread. Steve was already living at Raincross by then, walking about but not personally functioning without 24-hour help. I had told her about the drastically lower life expectancy Steve had, and she was barely able to take it in. A long-time widow herself, Mrs. A. still describes her George's death in 1977--in perfect health, playing tennis, when he suddenly dropped dead. She had nightmares for a very long time, but God did finally heal her and give her peace.

One question Mrs. A kept repeating  was, "Do you have any of your chidren nearby?" And I told her that my daughters and their husbands, and their in-laws. fine people who know the Lord and who all live in Riverside, are always there for me. Both of my girls' fathers-in-law were at the house today, working upstairs. I do have so much family around me, a true gift from God! And my sons who live in other areas help me and encourage me as much as possible whenever they can, and their wives are just great. As for extended family on both sides, they care and show it so much! My nephew Brady called me this evening, just to see how I'm doing. He is such a blessing to me, with a heart full of the Lord Jesus.

And that doesn't even take into account my friends at church and supporters in the community--I have heard from many, many of them, so loyal and here for me in our difficult days. From the pace of cards that still arrive, a few a day, I sense that the news of Steve's death is moving through Riverside, no obituary needed. Neighbors and former school district colleagues are greeting me with condolences in the usual places where I shop or spend time. It's hard, having to explain the condition Steve was in, how desperately ill he was. Ready or not, I'm called to share with them the way he trusted God with his life, and how he prevented any life-extending measures from being taken, because he was ready to cast off his ragged earthly tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1, 4) and begin his real life, "the life hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). People are devastated at first, but go away comforted, and, I pray, convinced that Jesus is real, Jesus saves, and there is a heaven that is real, a destination for those who trust the keeping of their souls to Jesus for eternity.

It's funny how my friend and prayer partner Monica was prophetic about what God would call me to do, the same thing I'd done for her: comfort others with the comfort I myself have been comforted with. (II Corinthians 1:4)

In all of these things, God has been my guide. Psalm 48:14 declares that we can trust our Heavenly Father:

For this is God,
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even unto death.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Mailpersons

8:37 p.m. Today's project was to update some financial items while my son-in-law Nick and his dad painted the "kids' room" upstairs. Running errands made a good secondary reason to be out of the house, because I can't abide the smell of paint--it gives me a headache. I also planned to pick up packages of contact lenses and stop in to Starbucks to enjoy a nice frappucino treat and make booking phone calls for my buisness.

I've been up since 5 a.m., because I didn't want to miss the first conference call of Mary Kay's "Director Now!" training being offered by six national directors. The call wasn't until 7:00, but I wanted to complete my full devotional time, then put Jada out, feed her, and be able to fully concentrate on typing the most striking ideas on my Windows Notepad program. [I was thrilled with the coaching, by the way, made a decision, and plan to step forward to the next level of my business].But all details of my day's happenings were purely of God, and in his perfect timing. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says,

He has made everything beautiful in its time; but we are to bring our issues, activities, sins and needs to Him nevertheless.  Psalm 32:6 exhorts,

 ...everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found.

While parked at the local Canyon Crest Towne Centre, I made calls and found that I needed to mail original certified copies of Steve's death certificate to the insurance claims departments. I only received them last Friday, so it was the Lord who told me to call the companies for information. So, thinking to beat the 11:00 mail pickup at the UPS store in the shopping center, I raced home, grabbed three copies, inserted two of them in large white mailing envelopes, and parked at the UPS store. The mail truck was parked right next to me, thank You Lord, but the mailman had already left for other store deliveries. "Fooey!" I thought, upon hearing, "Our next postal pickup is at 4:30, so just put your mail into the collection bin," from the cheery clerk.  I was not about to do any such thing for mail headed back East. I actually, seriously considered walking around the Towne Centre stalking the mailman, but thought the better of it, and just sat in my Jeep right next to his driver side to wait so I could hand the packets to him personally.

Made some booking phone calls, and kept a lookout the mailman. I figured, "he can't leave without his truck, so waiting for him will work." But who should come striding up to the truck but a nice mail lady! We chatted a bit and she took my envelopes. From there, I took the third death certificate to the bank, and had the information documented. Finally, I could head to Starbucks and make calls. I had gotten my frappucino, and was sorting through my customer profile cards and lists, when in comes an old friend from my school board days, wife of an administrator in Riverside Unified! We caught up on news--she'd heard about Steve's death--and she filled out my skincare survey for a future facial booking (despite the fact that she now owns a spa). Talk about timing--the Lord knew when I needed to be at my table with a vanilla spice frappucino!

Back at home, I walked out to my mailbox just in time for our own mailman to pull up. I told him about Steve, and then we talked at length about both of his elderly parents' demise, and the details of their last hours. It had been years, but it seems he remembered everything like it had just happened. I suppose I belong to a strange fraternity now, of those who have been at the bedside of a dying loved one non-stop, and can give excruciating details if one wants to hear them. I find that I do want to listen, because I'm not scared about death any more. Since I know Steve's wishes were honored in the manner of his death, and that he's whole and healthy and living in the presence of the Lord, I have peace.

The Lord wasn't done yet--He had still another excellent timing arranged. As I wrapped up my conversation with the mailman, here came a youngish fellow around the corner walking what appeared to be a Golden Retriever puppy. We said "hi," I commented on his dog (who turned out to be a golden-chow mix) and he continued, "I'm the new neighbor behind you! Been meaning to come over and meet you. " He and I discussed the fence issue, and the $6,000 quote he'd gotten from a contractor. [newbie]! I laughed and told him that my son-in-law Pavel's dad builds cedar fencing, and since we could split the cost of the four mutual sections he needs at $80/section, his cost would only be $160, including cleanup. He was happy to exchange cell numbers, because he was going to install the whole fence and then ask the other neighbors for payments.  Riverside, population 300,000, is such a small world--his son attends the same elementary school where my daughter's mom-in-law teaches.

The point of retelling these incidents is that there are no coincidences with God. To allow enough time for my back-fence neighbor to walk to my house, the empathetic conversation with my mailman had to be lengthy. For me to meet a friend and likely customer at Starbucks, I had to spend a precise amount of time parked next to the mail truck and later seated in the bank.

Blessed as I was today, however, God's perfect timing was far more critical for world history and the salvation of mankind when He sent His Son.  Galatians 4:4-7:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoptions as sons.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

This is my salvation story--is it yours?


Monday, January 21, 2013

Crickets! Why does it have to be crickets?!!

4:42 p.m. Today's project was to find out whether we still need an opening to the crawl space above a closet in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Steve had originally gone into the space under the roof to add insulation shortly after we moved here in 1988, and later, he would remove the cover to pull out dead rats and then reset the traps. We'd kind of wait until we'd hear shuffling movements above our bedrooms, and then wonder what the horrible smell was above my daughters' beds. Dead rat, disgusting!

A number of years ago, we hired Dewey Pest control to regularly come out, bait and empty traps, as well as work on keeping rats from eating produce in my garden, or the grapefruit on our trees. The current bait trap has been so efffective, and the "treat" so yummy to the nasty disease-carrying creatures, that we haven't had a rat in the house for over a year. Thank You, Lord! I'm sure rats serve a purpose in creation, but we've decided that we don't care to have them share the house with us! God gives us decisionmaking power over the property He entrusts us with. We can be wise and prudent with our property, share it appropriately with others in need, or lie about our "good deeds" and intentions, like Ananias and Sapphira did in Acts 5: 1-11, which cost them their lives. They kept back a portion of the proceeds of a land sale, but claimed that the amount they donated what all that they received. Lying about the transaction was the sin that led to their deaths. Peter reinforced the principle of property ownership when he said in verse 3-4,

Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own?And after it was sold, was it not in your control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.

Rats are now under control, Jada gets her flea collar changed regularly, we have a termite service, and no bits of food are left for cockroaches, so I haven't seen any, and we don't seem to have the ant invasions we suffered with when the house was new 24 years ago. But since we know that in this world, as my mother would say, "there's no rest for the weary," now I have one, two, or three crickets sneaking in here each evening. I have about an hour late every evening where I let Jada in, give her a treat, and then we relax in the family room to watch a couple of innocuous--but not doctrinally correct--tear-jerking episodes of "Touched by an Angel" that I record. I keep the tv on the Gospel Music Channel, which is devoted to Christian and family programming, and get a chance to watch programs we were too busy with the family every evening to enjoy decades ago. It's wonderful to watch television with no profanity or lewdness, especially the Christian music videos in various genres. Then with bedtime comes my evening devotional, a chapter of a Christian novel and one of a challenging book on growing in one's walk with the Lord, leadership and/or ministry, and  I have a restful sleep despite the loss of Steve.

God is so good!

Of course, there's got to be a "fly in the ointment" (Ecclesiastes 10:1). For the last month, every night I have seen a cricket walking on my kitchen floor or making its way across the family room carpet. I even saw a big one on my staircase wall! "HOW DARE THEY!" I mutter, and go for the broom and dustpan I now keep handy, smash it, and dump it into the downstairs toilet. I flush away one, two or three of the hideous creatures each night, including any spare legs that might have come loose. Ugh.

I know that they been hiding away in the garage in boxes of books, papers and folders that have been disrupted by the general cleanup my son-in-law has been doing for me with since November. They must be coming in when Jada and I go in and out of the garage, or, there is the dreadful prospect that they are already here in the house. Seeing a huge lizard, or even a snake, like we would at my dad's house in the Redlands orange groves or here across the road from us in the wilderness park doesn't unnerve me. But a trail of ants can make me vomit, and spiders are ugly despite the cleanup work they do on tiny bugs, but these crickets are truly getting on my nerves.

When we see problems in our Christian lives that are hard to resolve, even if they are not overly serious, it should cause us to take stock of our walk with Jesus and see if we are taking all possible means to focus on Him. Are we digging deeply into His word, asking the Holy Spirit to assist our efforts to understand it; are we listening to outstanding Bible teachers and pastors for increased learning and clarification; are we daily spending time alone with Him in prayer and worship? Are we, as the Lord leads, memorizing verses, passages, chapters or even books of the Bible? If not, why not? Psalm 119:11 says,

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Confess sins speedily, make things right with those around us, and let God show you what to do to resolve life's issues and irritations. God's solutions and plans of action for us, given by the voice of the Holy Spirit, are as many and varied as the stars in the sky. And He has answers for you!

As for those crickets?  I'll be starting a bug service right away!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

So, how are you processing today?

8:41 p.m. Today's project was to attend the action-packed, exiting January Jam, hosted by many Mary Kay directors, in Corona, about 20 miles to the west of Riverside. Despite the fact that I arose at 5 a.m., I arrived at 8:30 instead of 7:15 as planned. I had two legit excuses, however: I couldn't go outside to change our dog's water and clean up the yard until daybreak, approximately 6:30.  Then following devotions, one of my contact lenses tore while in my eye! The enemy just does not like hundreds of Christian women getting together to encourage and instruct one another. Wish I could hear all of the other ladies' "delays and obstructions" stories this morning! When we encounter setbacks, and experience Satan's attempts to rip off our blessings, we need to remember what Jesus said, John 10:10,

The thief is not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.I have come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

And so we did!

Today's first thought about my personal grief process accompanied a hug from a lovely colleague as I came in and sat with our group. I really wanted to remain cheery and excited like I was, but tears rose up, never quite making it down to my cheeks. Hugs seem to be a trigger for me, but that isn't surprising since my friends are so very sad. They don't know how dreadful Steve's last year was, and the horrific downward slide he had in his last months. When I have time to mention Steve's choice to go home rather than have his life artificially extended in what he knew would be the final stages of dementia, they understand and give God praise for naturally ending my husband's mental and physical suffering on this earth, that He might receive him in heaven.

Other times of difficulty for me occur when I look at pictures of Steve in his prime as a middle-aged father of a great family, a man at the top of his profession, and active in the things of God. As recently as six years ago, I couldn't have imagined his end coming so swiftly.  We have hundreds of photos of all of us throughout the bottom floor of this house, but for some reason, I break down and cry over at my piano, where there are many pictures of both of us, of all of us. I wonder if my tears are those of disblief and even a kind of reality check? "How can he be gone?" I ask myself and God, while just shaking my head in dismay. Is this mourning for things undone, or words unsaid? It's possible, of course. But we had a very blessed, full and rich life, not perfect, but God did allow us 31 years in which to enjoy married love, raise a family, and to serve others in the name of Jesus. We were (and are) "heirs together of the grace of life," I Peter 3:7.

As for our adult children, I believe in keeping dialogue open, and talking very descriptively about their reactions and the way they are processing their dad's death--how are they individually mourning? I want them to know that there is no time frame or right way to go through this life passage, that random, unbridled tears are normal. Jesus created both life and death, and He will walk each one through the "valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4)--including my eventual passing and their own.

Reactions I have heard among the five are crying jags, dreams of their dad, general depression, anxiety attacks, and like me, inability to completely focus.  Or, the more proactive approach for a few of them is staying busy at work one enjoys. It's a God thing, I'm convinced, but I participated in 5 Mary Kay events this week, and began calling customers again, as I gained confidence in the steadiness and cheerfulness of my phone voice. (Before I felt prepared for live conversation, it was "texting only"). With a week of loving encouragement behind me, I am sensing God moving me forward in my career. And with insurance matters handled, I'll need to be an even wiser steward as a single person, a widow with no husband to consult with.

Isaiah 54:5 assures me, your Maker is your husband.

So be it, and hallelujah, your will has been done, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Finger of God

9:59 p.m. Today's project was to view an amazing Christian movie, "The Finger of God." My son Steven, whose church in Fresno is very active in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, had loaned it to the family.

I was invited to watch it with my daughter Heidi aftr she popped over to help me with a task here at the house, and watched me finish up my lunch, delicious homemade chicken and veggie soup. We made a quick Starbucks run and then drove through San Timiteo Canyon to her house in Redlands. I took a hanger full of business attire for my Mary Kay meeting this evening, because in between, I'd be taking my dad out for his weekly grocery shopping. No time to change.

We settled down on her family room couch and began to be seriously blown away by the stupendous miracles God has been working through ordinary people of every age and race, here in our country and around the world. I'd have to describe those individual miracle workers filmed live as "ordinary people with extraordinary faith." One young man quoted John 14:12, where Jesus said,

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

The man said, "What works did Jesus do while He was here on the earth? He walked around healing people. ..we have to believe and preach the Gospel...and we will do greater works than the Lord did here on earth, because the Gospel says so!" Believing college students in Redding California, go out on Friday nights looking for people to heal! They wait for a word from the Spirit, then get into their cars and head on out.

And heal people.

From gold teeth appearing in believers' mouths; to manna, gold dust and unidentifiable, perfect gems falling down into believers' Bibles during prayer and praise meetings; to a new eyeball given to a girl; and multiple people being raised from the dead, to three-year-olds praying for the blind to receive their sight--and they did--I realize that God is even more powerful, and His Spirit is even more alive and on the move today than I could ever have imagined. And I've been a strong believer in the gifts, using them as the Lord leads.

[I asked Heidi if she remembered how she, as a three year old, would lay hands on other tots and pray for their healing. In one particular instance during a park day with my ladies' home Bible study, she saw a little boy fall off a swing. She ran over to him, laid hands, and prayed, "In Jees' name, Amen," and then went back to playing! That"s what I call faith-filled prayer.]

I just don't see the gift of healing boldly used any more, not publicly anyway, and have been antsy about this omission, ever since listening to the head of 7 Mountain prayer ministry covering the Central Valley of California. Marta Escarcega taught high schoolers in Steven's fellowship, Peoples' Church, in a session which I was privileged to sit in on, about believing, persistent, and faith-filled prayer that covers their city. No wonder I always feel a peace when I visit my son! The Holy Spirit is alive and well up there!

In the documentary, one man in South Africa was beaten to death, his brutalized body taken to a local hospital, where he then woke up, to the amazement of all. He was COMPLETELY healed. (There aren't even any scars on his face)! He and his fellow believers decided to forgive the murderer and would not press charges, to the outrage of the police. The murderer now devotes his life to telling others of the miraculous change in him, from murderer to gospel preacher!

At the upper echelons of the Anglican church in Baghdad, a top diplomat who negotiates between Iraq and the Pentagon, was approached by a Muslim  leader asking him to provide meat for Eid, the holiday that follows Ramadan. This despite many of the diplomat's church workers being murdered. He prayed, and the Lord provided a shipload of hundreds of tons of meat for the feast! Lesson learned? God even wants to love and bless those opponents of Christianity--and bring them to faith in Jesus through His infinite love and His infinite provision.

I John 4:17 says, He is, so are we in this world.

Believer, are you willing to be so and do so?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In the land of the living

I would have lost heart, unless I
had believed 
That I would see the goodness of
the LORD
In the land of the living. 
Psalm 27:13

8:44 p.m. Today's project was to plunge back into my Mary Kay business with vigor, and frankly, with excitement, after taking almost a month off since December 22nd to see Steve through his last days and celebrate his life with hundreds of people last Saturday. 

Since God has designed this life to go forward, there's not much choice but to go along with His plans. We found out the sex of our new grandson last week; and Desmond--along with his expectant parents--are moving into my house on February 1st. Lots of redecorating and even renovations have already begun, so that the "young Loves" can move comfortably into their rooms. There is plenty of moving and tossing of extra items that have been stored in the house only because there was plenty of room for them. (It's pretty easy for one person to spread her belongings throughout an eleven-room house)! We'll make it work, Lord willing, with inspiration from the Holy Spirit, because we have to. You see, my son Kriss, his wife, son and Cocker Spaniel are arriving in April!

More progress: I've taken blooms off of two flower arrangements I received early on, before they spoiled, to freshen my downstairs dried flower decorations. It's amazing how beautifully roses and carnations dry. We still have huge arrangements from our church family and the ones I ordered from the mortuary. So much bright yellows and blues, oranges and reds, colors Steve loved. How I thank the Lord for such beauty He created, for the flowers that bring such joy into my heart and home! Jesus said in Matthew 6:28-29, 

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as all of these.

Yesterday, I delivered the six padded folding chairs two friends had loaned us for our family dinner, not only to give them personal thank you cards, and to be considerate, but I also needed to reclaim the rear cargo area of my Jeep for my inventory cart, to get back to business. I've just been eager since Saturday, grateful that even during my hiatus, God sent me a few sales, including a check from my sister for her foundation, right after the memorial service.  His encouragement shows me that I am still alive, and am still called to a business that allows me to minister to women from every race, age, and walk of life. I truly believe, as Spurgeon pointed out in his quote contained in my last post ("The quiet man," January 13) that we are to witness for Christ in whatever occupation God gifts us for. 

Is it too soon to go back to work? After all, life insurance and final details of Steve's body's cremation are not completed. My youngest son just left for home yesterday afternoon, not nearly as sick as he was Saturday and Sunday. If you consider that most jobs only allow 5 days' bereavement leave, I've been blessed to be able to take over twice that much time since January 1st when Steve passed into heaven. I have already returned to church and will get back to Home Fellowship and Bible study next week. But I think the best indicator of right timing was that it was easy to slip back into fellowship with Christian Mary Kay directors and other Red Jackets like myself. I found myself attentively listening, taking notes and asking questions of the National Sales Director who trained us, absorbing the excitement of the hard-earned recognitions the leaders were receiving. My MK friend Cara, now a director, and I traveled to this daytime meeting, and then to a much smaller meeting this evening where I met more new "sisters," also believers, with whom I could share Steve's illness and departure. I am even now contacting and setting up appointments with potential and current team members and customers, and am eager to do more, to get back up to speed in the next few weeks.

The Lord is speaking, stretching and strengthening me for the days ahead, in the land of the living, as He has for 32 years. I wait daily, as I have for 32 years, for God's words of direction. He is faithful, absolutely and always! Psalm 27:14:

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your
Wait, I say, on the LORD! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The quiet man

5:29 p.m. Today's project was to delve into my Morning & Evening devotional by Charles Spurgeon first thing this morning. We had an anointed memorial service for Steve yesterday at Riverside's Harvest Christian Fellowship, very well-attended. The eulogies by pastors, friends and a close co-worker were amazing, and when my children all got up to speak, they (for lack of a better phrase) brought down the house, with tears throughout. I truly learned aspects of my husband's personality and ways that a wife wouldn't know--the man he was at work, men's Bible study, in ministry.

As the Holy Spirit does, He gave me the gift of a Spurgeon's devotional for January 13 that points out that every  person may preach the gospel--even the quietest, humblest soul. Let me quote a good portion of his writing for this day:

" 'I have yet to speak on God's behalf.'--Job 36:2

We ought not to court publicity for our virtue, or notoriety for our zeal; but at the same time, it is a sin to be always seeking to hide that which God has bestowed upon us for the good of others. A Christian is not to be a village in a valley, but a "city set upon a hill;" he is not to be a candle under a bushel, but a candlestick, giving light to all. Retirement may be lovely in its season, and to hide oneself is doubtless modest, but the hiding of Christ in us can never be justified, and the keeping back of truth which is precious to ourselves is a sin against others and an offence against God."
"If thou canst not speak with the trumpet's tongue, use the still small voice. If the pulpit must not be thy tribune, if the press may not carry on its wings thy words, yet say with Peter and John, 'Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.' ...Utter the praises of Jesus in the house if not in the temple; in the field, if not in the exchange; in the midst of thine own household if thou canst not in the midst of the great family of man. ...Hide not thy talent; trade with it; and thou shalt bring in good interest to thy Lord and Master."

Yesterday, I was struck by the way that Steve did shine his light exactly where he was placed. He testified by word and deed in the home with family devotions and fatherly guidance: at church where he served in several hands-on capacities; and in the workplace as a maintenance technician in the plastics industry.  His former co-worker Robert was struck by the way Steve would lay hands on a machine whenever its malfunction became too difficult, and head bowed, would pray. Lo and behold, the machine would start up!

That's practical, prevailing, powerful prayer!

Let us all follow Steve's example, and serve Jesus daily wherever we are. Colossians 3:22-24 sums up my late husband's life and practice:

 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Time to stand still

Today's project for the afternoon was to take some sheets and cover up my adorable Bacon Avocado tree. There is a serious frost warning out for Riverside tonight, and I didn't want to run over to our local nursery and purchase a frost cover for $14.00, so I pulled a few sheets from the  linen closet upstairs.

As I kept tossing the sheets over the tree, which has branches going in assorted directions, I remembered to shoo Jada out of the garden, because the wind had blown down two two fence sections that block her egress from our property. Hopefully, I will have the entire back yard properly fenced with cedar boards soon. It's a sorry-looking patchwork now, after 24 years and various canine escapes.

One thing I kept noticing as I repeatedly put up a sheet, or section of a sheet, was that the tree didn't stand still! The branches slanted this way and that, bent over, popped back up and shifted from side-to-side. What? I was rather cold out there even with a jacket on, and needed to get this task accomplished, so this was annoying. My first thought was "the obstinacy of inanimate objects!" But that quote wasn't a good fit--a tree is alive. (just not independently mobile).

But God had a word to say to me. He has something He wants to accomplish in my life today and tomorrow--the day of Steve's memorial--but I keep moving around in agitation and busyness! With all of the wonderful members of the Body of Christ, as well as our family, doing so much to arrange for a Spirit-filled memorial service, a beautiful reception at Alice and Brent Bechtel's home, and a relaxed and more intimate family gathering and dinner, I found myself micromanaging one task, asking two different, very reliable ladies to do the same job "just in case." Of necessity, involvement and some direction on my part as Steve's widow has been called for--with the church and pastor, mortuary, life insurance, the kind of major items that only I have the authority scripturally and legally to act upon. But for me, a traditionally very strong delegater, to not let folks take their own initiative, as many of them have, even in one small area, is not of the Lord. I wasn't resting in Jesus; my trust had slipped a bit. We have heard and we have seen Psalm 46:10a,


But do we know how important this is, not only to us for peace of mind, that "peace that passes understanding" (Philippians 4:7), but to God? Hear the rest of the verse, God speaking:

I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

When believers stay prayerfully still, acknowledging that only God can handle any and every situation in exactly the right way, we exalt His name to everyone who hears of His work in  our lives. We exercise trust, something we humans are very reluctant to do! We're suspicious, aren't we? It's as if God were like one of us, selfish, wavering, up one day, down the next, lacking foresight and wisdom, and completely unaware of what we are capable of. God even declares His righteousness as opposed to man's actions in Psalm 50:21:

These things you have done, and I
  kept silent;
You thought I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before
  your eyes.

Therefore, instead of rushing forward and ending up being rebuked for making a hash of things, why not TRUST Jesus and let Him work in our lives?

My dad enjoyed the book Jesus Calling that I gave him for Christmas last year, and now he's passed it back to me for 2013. I hadn't heard much about this pocket-sized book before I purchased it last year, but then began hearing it quoted, and now I understand why. Today's selection begins,

Trust Me by relinquishing control into My hands. Let go, and recognize that I am God. This is My world: I made it and I control it. Yours is a responsive part in the litany of Love. I search among my children for receptivity to me. Guard well this gift that I have planted in your heart. Nurture it with the Light of My Presence.

As I prepare for a wonderful day tomorrow, for the gatherings that will honor my husband and my Lord Jesus, I relinquish control to the One who can never be mistaken, never does wrong, and loves me more than anyone ever could, since before I was born, until the day I go to be with Him--and with Steve!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The active Body

4:15 p.m. Today's project was to put together the picture poster boards for display at Steve's memorial service, and later at the public and family receptions. Knowing they had time off this week, I asked Heidi and Pavel over, with their "kid" Sammy the whippet, to help out with themes, placement of photos, running out for double-sided tape and to bring Mom a delicious frozen caramel mocha coffee drink from McDonald's after they got lunch (elsewhere)!

We divided the board themes into travel, special events, and family times. The travel board includes Steve and our son Sean's trip with Ib Hansen and his son Ken by private plane on a camping trip to the Grand Canyon, as well as an elegant photo from our 25th wedding anniversary Alaskan cruise. Steve LOVED to travel. Special event pictures like the kids' weddings share a board with Steve earning "Employee of the Year" for 1993 at Mission Plastics and an injection molding machine. Family times are, well, family times, so much fun and commotion, the happy racket of five children having fun, the zanier the better, as far as we were concerned. And look out,  it's Steve behind the monster mask!

How blessed we were, whether Steve the solitary man who was given a wife and little son (Psalm 68:6), or me, the single mom whom Steve made the joyful mother of four more children (Psalm 113:9b). Now I realize why Christians tend to think of memorial services for believers as celebrations. Because God's work in the deceased person's life was so astounding, in both good times and bad, that we who remain, whose story is still being written, are left in awe of a completed earthly life story. God keeps His promises. Always and in all ways! The most important, and wonderful promise God makes, sealed by the Holy Spirit, is that which Steve is enjoying fully now--eternal life with the Father through Jesus Christ the Son! In 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 the Apostle Paul says,

For all the promises of God in Him (Jesus) are Yea, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Another project I worked on today was to contact the instructors of our Heart to Home women's ministry, to ask them to be praying about teaching a class starting March 12. We have many talented women in our church body who teach  younger wives and mothers skills for blessing their families and caring for their homes. It may seem odd to send out the email this week of Steve's memorial, but I want to reassure them that the good work that Jesus began for our ladies will resume. Titus 2:3 adjures the older women to be "teachers of good things, that they admonish the younger women..."

Jesus has not changed, His gifts and callings have not changed, as we are exhorted from Romans 12:6:

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, let us use them...

On Saturday, so many gifts of the Spirit will be in evidence, from the Harvest church office administrating; Pastor Jeff teaching; Mark Murdaugh leading worship; a beautiful video of Steve's life created by our daughter Heather; friends and family testifying for Christ in honor of Steve; our daughters-in-law and church friends preparing and hosting receptions; young people serving in any way needed; guests comforting our family.

This is the Body of Christ in action!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Not one thing has failed

10:42 p.m. Today's project was to wrap up details with an old friend for the public reception we are having at her house directly after Steve's memorial service on Saturday the 12th. Amazingly, the Lord provided some money to assist through my son Kriss' colleagues at his work, so the food will be supplied!Other sweet sisters in the Lord have come forward with offers to help set up and serve during the reception.

In all of this trial, I've seen my adult children spring into action, each using their talents for their dad's memorial, not to mention their mom's mental and emotional well-being.And the kids' spouses have been wonderful, working hard to get this house in order, creating the video to be shown during the service, going with me to drop off a picture of Steve for his memorial brochure, and then to pick up Steve's clothes from his room at Raincross Assisted Living. My oldest son and his wife are hosting a family meal at their home later after the public reception, and a "Steve's Favorites" playlist is being formed for all of us to enjoy when we gather.

But there is sadness despite our busy, uplifted days together. Phone calls and hugs from firends can bring on tears, but that's the flow of expression of loss--ours, not his. Steve's enjoying the presence of Jesus!

While comforting a dear friend in her tears for my loss of Steve, God gave me Joshua 23:14b, where the dying leader exhorts the children of Israel after they had conquerd the Promised Land. This one and the verses following, embody God's great works in Steve's life that declare and demonstrate His faithfulness.
Joshua tells the people,

And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. 

Steve moved on his own as a single man to Riverside from Orange County to buy a three bedroom, two bath home in 1978.  He immediately joined Calvary Chapel Riverside, serving in useful ways at church and participating in events for singles. But God soon put His plan for Steve's new life role in motion in 1980, by bringing a new believer, a single divorced mother with a five-year-old son, Sean, into his life at a home Bible study. We were married the following year. Psalm 68:6:

God sets the solitary in families.

We speedily began to build our family, adding Kriss, Heidi, Heather and Steven from 1982 to 1988. Steve legally adopted Sean in 1984 as well. Jesus said, in John 10:10b,

I have come that they (My sheep) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Steve now had a large family, a truly abundant life, and a correspondingly large need to earn an income that would support seven people, committed as we were to my caring for the children at home. God blessed Steve with an incredible ability to fix, rebuild, or create anything that would make a plastic injection molding machine worth millions of dollars for the parts they produced--work! Amazingly, Steve was so excellent in his profession that his income would double every two years. Nationally renowned, he would be consulted by machine  manufacturers' reps for repairs to their own product. Headhunters would constantly call him to lure him to other companies. Though the plastics industry had some down times in a few years, Steve was never without work. Our family was healthy, loving Jesus, and with kids brought up in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Steve was active with the kids, in sports, scouts, car repairs, and most importantly, with family devotions he led nightly after dinner. I can still remember the hand motions to "Awesome God," and "Deep and Wide." And all of us marching around to the Sunday School song "Father Abraham" before falling down laughing--it just doesn't get any better!

With my election to three terms on the Riverside school board, Steve and I were able to travel (with us paying his expenses of course) to conferences in several places around the country--that was his dream, to see his beloved USA. The family trips up north to Monterey every few years are some of our best memories. God granted Steve his desire to visit both Alaska and Hawaii and Washington, D.C., fulfilling His promise in Psalm 37:3-4:

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires
  of your heart.  

Knowing that his life would be foreshortened, God gave Steve and me two grandsons, Adrian and Xavier, in 1995 and 1997, through our son Sean. Steve was only 40 when the older one was born. Steve enjoyed those boys so much! His favorite trip in our RV was with them, and our two labs, to Yellowstone National Park in 2009. The grandeur of God's creation as we camped through Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming--with a stop in Cheyenne to visit the folks in our rental house--just blessed his heart. And we have a baby grandson, Clark, as well, whom Steve absolutely delighted in.

When Steve's late older brother Larry became very forgetful, we prayerfully decided to invest in long-term care insurance. The Book of Proverbs continually recommends using prudence, looking ahead and planning; thus, God's leading allowed Steve to have the best of care at home and in residential care, until he passed away into heaven. Many of his caregivers, both in-home and at Raincross, are believers, and one very dedicated young caregiver even became born again due to the godly influence of our home, which included his reading the Bible aloud to Steve daily, and then taking up the Gospel of John for himself.

Psalm 16:11 states God's will and plan for the believer:

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

God does not guarantee any of us a long life, any more than He guarantees a trouble-free or pain-free one. But for those who love Him, serve Him and others with all their heart, He promises and delivers the abundant life He promises throughout His word. Steve did not live a lengthy time by today's standards, but God packed his life with love, faith, family, fellowship, usefulness and the respect of his family, professional colleagues, and those with whom he served in ministry.

His legacy lives on in our five children and me, who, even though grieving, can speak in faith regarding their father's life of trusting God, 

Not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you.

We love and miss you, Steve!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Oh, the people you'll meet!

11:30 p.m. Today's project was to visit the Acheson-Graham mortuary, where my husband Steve's body--now an empty shell, because he's in heaven with the Lord-- is located prior to cremation.  I needed to go in to meet with Eulinda and firm up final contract details.

She took a very long time with me and let the discussion flow freely. This is a good thing, because I tend to intersperse short inspired phrases and concepts that the Lord brings to mind in close-to-appropriate places in discussions! I'm sure that in dealing with grieving family members, Eulinda has seen all manner of behavior. But as a professional, she manages, to get the subject at hand back on track. We created a plan that will accomplish all that needs to be done to honor Steve's memory. The details of the service will be worked out with our family, mostly me, and Harvest Christian Fellowship.

I asked her how she got started in this unique career, and she told me that when she was in her twenties, she really admired the way that people from the funeral home handled her grandfather's arrangements. She found a school of mortuary science in Los Angeles, and became a mortician. "We were trained right along with the nurses," she told me. I thanked her for her heart for helping families.

Isn't it wonderful that the Lord has designed people for different kinds of service to mankind? Or different ministries, as I see it. I don't know if Eulinda is a believer, but she certainly helped me have peace and  calm in my mind and spirit as I made choices and decisions that would honor our God and best suit Steve. And I greatly need the guidance, having never been responsible for decisions about a memorial service before. (Below is a beautiful statue of Jesus in the mortuary's Garden of Prayer).

Commenting on my Facebook post about my gratitude toward the mortician, Thomas Klock wrote "It's great to see that God has His hands on us in all things, good and bad from our perspective. May He continue to help you and connect you with the right people through all of this." And I can absolutely say with the sons of Korah, who wrote Psalm 46:1:

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

10:58 p.m. Friday, January 4th, Today's project was to enjoy the treat and privilege of spending the day with my daughter Heidi and a young lady named Sarah. I'd seen Sarah's name before and know she is a friend of Heidi's from the Young Adult ministry at our church. Our destination was the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. What a thrill for me, a true history and arts buff! (Or nerd, whwhichever)!

Sarah generously drove, and we spent a wonderful day of fellowship together, just in awe of the way God has gifted artists and craftsmen from the earliest times of civilization. Many of the painted, sculpted, and gilded treasures in the European art exhibit were of the life of Christ and His disciples, or depicted Biblical events. In the Japanese Pavilion, quiet and calm prevailed, except in the corner with the Samurai armor and sword!. And in the "object art" area, I made the girls laugh when I said that the Andy Warhol painting of a Campbell Soup can started a whole new direction in art! Yes, I can truly say that an important interest of mine, art, was nourished today more than it had been for a number of years. Even though we are dust, God knows our frame (Psalm 103:14); and He knew what would minister to our individual souls before He formed us (Psalm 139:13-16). 

We wrapped up a fun and relaxing day with a delicious meal and meaningful conversation at the Johnny Rocket vintage-style eatery. Sarah was kind enough to drive me home, a jog out of the way into Riverside before heading out to Redlands where both girls live.

Thank You, Lord, for bringing new and uplifting people into my life this week. Each one is helping me, as Philippians 3:14 declares, to

press toward the goal  for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On Steve's passing: He made it work

7:04 a.m. Today's project is to start a whole new phase of life, that of a widow. My husband of 31 years, Steve Kruckenberg, died last night at 8:08 p.m. He went quietly, having decided, due to his unshakable belief that "absent from the body is present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8), that he would allow no extreme measures to prolong his life. I had made arrangements with Raincross Assisted Living to stay overnight in his room, on the advice of my retired paramedic brother-in-law, that Steve wouldn't last through the night. A bed was already made up for me in the far side of the room. But God called Steve home while I was just getting ready, taking off my jewelry for the night. Heidi and Heather and their husbands came not long after the hospice nurse pronounced Steve dead at 8:18 p.m. and made her call to the coroner and the mortuary I'd selected. She also dressed Steve for the sake of dignity, in a warm outfit I had chosen from his closet.

In the last moments of gathering the belongings I'd been bringing every day for my lengthy stays, I stopped and would go over to Steve, kiss his still-warm face, and just talk a bit to him about my love for him. Then I'd re-cover his face, take some items to the hallway where the kids were waiting, and come back in. I'd uncover his face, finally for the last time, examining it for vestiges of the dear, handsome face I'd known and loved for so long. I told the kids that I didn't really believe their dad was dead; it just couldn't be true. I started crying when I got our youngest son's text for his dad from Matthew 25:

Well done, good and faithful servant. 

I texted back,

Enter into the joy of your Lord.

On my last trip out of the room, I got the details I needed about the removal of Steve's body and thanked the staff members. I can see why family members sit in a room with a departed loved one for a while. It just can't be real, it seems impossible! Juxtaposed with the odd thought that Steve would wake up again, was the certain knowledge that he wouldn't. It's as if the Lord Jesus gave me a peace and closure for the end of this earthly relationship called marriage.

Steve's great regret that he tearfully expressed to me last year was that "everyone has something to do but me.  I just wanted to help people." And indeed he did, for decades. With his God-given talent and ability  to instantly understand machinery, his accuracy in measurement and creativity in problem-solving, Steve not only earned a good living to support us, but volunteered his time to anyone with a need for help. He could make anything work! I remember his hanging a door for the backslidden alcoholic husband of a gal who came to my home Bible study years ago. He shared the Lord with that man for hours as they worked, and a change was wrought in him. Gifted hands, gifted heart. Glory to God!

In the timing and manner of his death, by God's grace, Steve still "made it work." His physical strength caused him to last past Christmas, which blessed us, as we all got the chance to visit with him and pray over him at the skilled nursing facility. He just could not defeat the pneumonia,  nor combat the 102 degree fever that he had. When he failed to swallow even an ice chip in the third evaluation given by a speech therapist, it was time to bring him home to his room at Raincross to spend his last days, however many there would be, on hospice comfort care only.

Steve had many visitors and prayers said over him in the last five days of his life. Just the fact that so many people were off for Christmas vacation was a gift from God, enabling almost all of our children and even our grandsons from San Diego area to be here and say their goodbyes. Our family was able to witness openly as we shared Steve's life story; and the "peace that passes understanding" (Philippians 4:7a), that God was giving us in the midst of this trial of a lifetime. And in the manner of his dying, Steve was a tremendous witness. One night caregiver told me that on Saturday when she came in to check on him, Steve was looking up, and had his arms outstretched to the Lord. "That man is so blessed!" she declared, and was telling everyone in the memory care Connections Village about it.

In Steve's Bible, where I just now turned to the above verse, I saw he had underlined Philippians 4:4-7 in red, and I'll close with the exhortation that if you have not asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, or if you have wandered far from Him, please make a change today. Don't go into 2013 lost and alone. Jesus loves you, and will make a life for you that is like nothing you have ever known, and then will receive you into heaven one day--maybe even today--as He did my Steve last night! 

  Rejoice in the Lord always.Again I will say, rejoice!
  Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding,  will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.