My Grandmother, Florence Iris Wilkinson passed away in her sleep on Tuesday, November 15, 2006. Her funeral was the following Monday on the 21st. She had lived to the age of 95. She was the longest living grandparent to my siblings and me.
Her funeral was in Dalhart, Texas. She had lived there many years. During her lifetime she had accomplishments such as being a cab driver in Dalhart, selling Avon products, and teaching Sunday school class for several years. But more importantly she was the wife of George Wilkinson for over 50 years and mother to eight children.
Her funeral was sad but not too sad. About 100 people attended. My Mom's brother Harold and sister Rosalee attended. Eight of my siblings attended also: Perry, Richard, Kelly, Sharon, Reuben, Sharon, Nancy, Deena and Daniel. Among several other neices and nephews my son Samuel also went to the funeral. As my sister, Deena played the guitar, my other sister Nancy and I sang the old song, I'll Fly Away. A lady named Mary Perkins sang three other songs, The Old Rugged Cross, Further Along and Without Him.
When the preacher told stories of Grandma from her childhood it made everyone laugh.
Then he asked the audience if anyone would like to stand and tell something about Grandma. Several stood. The lady who owned the cab business told of how she enjoyed working with Grandma. Another woman stood and told that when she was going through a very difficult time even though my Grandma was very old she baked a cake and took it to her home. About three workers attended the funeral from the nursing home where my Grandmother had lived for about two years. They told how they enjoyed her and that she would be missed.
Grandma was buried at Memorial Park Cemetary in Dalhart near our Grandpa and our old brother Kenneth.
Birthdays . . . a time to celebrate and give gifts. I enjoy celebrating my children's birthdays. I always get them a present, but not just anything, something of interest to them, something they'll enjoy like a toy they'll get many hours of serious play out of.
So for Christmas this year I want to give Jesus a present, since it truly is the day we celebrate his birth. Well, what would you give someone that you don't physically see or have a face to face conversation with on a regular basis? If I went to the mall and looked for a gift I could get something related to Christianity but I couldn't physically hand it to him.
Christina Rosetti wrote a simple poem that answers my question:
What Can I Give Him?
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring Him a lamb;
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part:
Yet what can I give Him
Give Him my heart.
That's what I'll do, I'll follow Christina's recommendation. No doubt, I have given my heart and my trust to Him. But I want to place something good in my heart, a gift of thoughts, thoughts of Him and thoughts from the Bible. I know He would like such a present. I made a list of some verses that would work well, that could be memorized and thus used to fill my thoughts with the good things of God. If you have an interest you may want to choose one.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (Mom chose this one.)
Since last Saturday my son Samuel and I have been staying at my Mom's. My Grandmother recently passed away and we'll be with Mom for the funeral and Thanksgiving. She lives in Boise City in the Oklahoma panhandle. Today I went with her to get a CAT scan at the Baptist Saint Anthony Hospital in Amarillo, Texas. My Mom has had some struggles with congestion. The procedure only took 5 minutes. I enjoyed the trip. Samuel went too. The trip was 2 hours one way. We ate our lunch at Wendy's. (We got off cheap, about $8.50 for all of us.)
On the way back I asked if she'd play a game with me and give me a list of 101 things she is thankful for. We didn't make it all the way to 101 but we did make it half way because she said each of her children and each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren count as one.
Mom is thankful to God for:
7 sons and daughters- in-law (she won't tell who's her favorite)
her car that does good
how God always takes good care of her and helps her through everything
her sons who come to visit and fix things like doorknobs and toilets
all her family that were able to come to the funeral
Daniel, Deena, Samuel and I who will get to be here for Thanksgiving
how God takes care of her daughter Penny in Russia
how God is taking care of all her kids all of the time
her financial situation--things always seem to turn out okay when they look hopeless
how she is able to travel alot
how she had a good mother who was strict on them but taught them the Bible
Kenneth and Kyla too (her babies that died)
how our Daddy was a hardworking man
Yep, my personal opinion . . . that list is a good summary of things Mom has continuously told us through time and when she tells us about one or two of them here and there, she'll usually add, "God is so good to me."
I'm so glad the holiday season has arrived. I love Thanksgiving and everybody meeting together. It's important to be seriously Thankful to God for all the good things He had provided throughout the year.
Then our Thanksgiving togetherness will usher in Christmas. I love Christmas and I love to center it around Jesus' birth. I have a big picture book filled with Christmas Bible verses and doors on each page that open to a beautiful scene relating to the verse. At bedtime we read these together. It helps us countdown the days. This year there will be 4 Sundays between Thanksgiving and December 25. In church they'll plan Christmas programs and for the children's choirs to sing. Ginny and I will have fun dressing in Christmas colors each Sunday. And I'll enjoy standing by Danny in the congregation as we sing Christmas Carols from the hymn book each Sunday. All through the season we play lots of Christmas music. Danny's favorite is a Nat King Cole CD. I hope he learns some songs on his harmonica this year too.
We'll want to get our small tree out ASAP and put it on our narrow tall round table like last year. Then we'll hang all of our little Christmas trinkets on the tree that have managed to survive through several years of curious little hands touching them. Underneath the tree we can set up a miniature manger scene and put it near our 1611 King James version of the Bible open to the story of Jesus' birth in Luke 2.
Every year my large extended family meets together, all my brothers, sisters, in-laws, neices and nephews. This year I'm in charge. So I planned it for the 23rd and it will be at a meeting room near our town library. We will stuff stockings with small toys and candy for all our 28 or so yungins. We will also have a dinner fillled with good food that each family pitched in to make.
Oh yeah, and there's the presents. My four have already been thoroughly scouring toy store flyers and then as I listen they seriously talk of all the toys they consider the best. On Thanksgiving Day, I plan to grab a newspaper and thorougly search through the advertisments to find the very best deals. And then like many others I'll be out before the crack of dawn with some hot Cappucino from QuikTrip en route to several different stores.
Christmas morning finally comes. It will arrive after a busy late night. In the midst of all the excitement we will stop and acknowledge it Jesus' birthday with a small prayer. Every year our intentions are also to read the Christmas story first. When we open our presents we do it as a family taking turns.
I hope Jonathan countsdown to Christmas like he has in the past. I know Ginny will definitely want to.
William and Charles are fine young gentlemen. No, they don't belong to Princess Di and Charles. They are the teenagers of two dedicated loving parents, Teresa and Beth. Charles is 16 and William is 15. I became their friend when our small group went to Faith Bible Church in Slidell, Louisiana to repair the flood damaged inside walls. These two young men had an attitude to honor God in all their life. They were mannerly and kind. They regularly opened the door for me and quickly helped when I needed assistant and thanked me many times for the meals I cooked.
I enjoyed just talking with them. We would talk about many different subjects. When we discussed current events such as the war in Iraq. They knew the best sources for good information. I especially liked talking about healthy eating. Each morning they would take vitamins their mother had packed for them. Their mom had taught them well on the best way to eat. They knew why white sugar is bad for you. Brown rice is better than white. Milk and cheese bought fresh from a dairy is better than homogonized. They also knew the many different vegetables they grew in their garden were excellent sources for getting the nutrients you need.
Their Dad taught them the importance of hard work and doing a good job. As our team repaired the walls Terry would carefully instruct them and show them how to thoroughly complete their work. When they're at home they learn responsibility by doing their chores some of which are feeding and caring for their animals and doing dishes.
Many times the two brothers would work together at the church. Once I heard them singing. They were practicing harmonizing as they painted. When I told Terry, he told me they were best friends. I told him I wanted that for my sons too.
During the last night there was a group devotional time and William and Charles played their guitars while everyone sang choruses. Upon return to Tulsa I met their mother and told her about their singing and playing. A beautiful smile filled her face and then she said she had missed that and had requested their neighbor's son to play for her since her boys were away.
The best thing I learned about William and Charles is they are homeschooled. It is obvious their parents truly love each other and their family. They are Christian parents who have poured their life into their children and have gotten excellent results. In fact, the kind of results that every parent would want.
It was noon. It was time to turn off the Saturday morning cartoons. My eleven year old, Jonathan had plans for the afternoon though. He wanted to make some money. "Come on, Ginny, let's go rake leaves." So they left and started asking around if anyone wanted their yards raked. When they came to one yard my son asked the man. He said no. But then the man asked if he could give them a dollar. Jonathan thought the man might be feeling sorry for them so he wisely and politely gave this reply, "What's the fun of money if you can't earn it?" My two children then left.
They didn't make any money raking leaves that day but it didn't bother them anyway. I'm just glad for the attitude towards work that Jonathan had.
In the best selling book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby writes of seven realities of experiencing God. The first one is so imprinted on my mind. It is, God is always at work around you. This is true in every life including our family life.
Tonight Danny was playing the harmonica. He bought it a couple of months back and practices through a list of about 20 hymns on it. He was playing the song Lead Me to Calvary. Meanwhile, Sandy was rubbing her nose through the litter box of our new kitten. Sandy was looking for some excrements to munch on. When my husband saw this he quickly stopped his playing and yelled, "Sandy, No!" Upon hearing her master's voice she jerked back from her task acting guilty, then wagged her tail and came to Danny. When our dog got near him she began trying to lovingly lick his hand with her poop laden mouth. With a fast motion Danny pulled his hand back.
This incident made Danny think of the meaning of the word worship. In the Bible the word has been derived from a hebrew word meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand. When we go to church I wonder if God's reaction to our worship is like Danny's reaction to Sandy. All through the week, we do our sinful deeds. Many times they are intentional and habitual. But whenever we decide to attend church we expect God to be welcoming and excited that we have come.
Remember the statement I told you earlier, God is always at work around you. He was at that moment when my husband was interacting with our dog. It is ironic that the song Danny was playing on his harmonica spoke of the only way to be presentable to our holy sinless God. Here are the words:
Lest I forget Gethsemane;
Lest I forget thine agony;
Lest I forget thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.
That chorus speaks of the importance of taking serious that Jesus died on the cross for us. Since we are humans, we will sin. When Jesus died on Mount Calvary he made us free from sin, that is, if we accept that what He did paid the penalty for such wrongdoings. When we repent and ask God to forgive us through Jesus for doing wrong the Bible says God will forgive us as far as the east is from the west. Repentance means to stop doing the sin in our life. Then when we want to worship God, such as when we go to church, God sees it in a good way. Otherwise, our gift is like Sandy's kisses to my husband hand.
Faith Bible Church of Slidell, Louisiana has been a meeting point for churches to help those whose homes and properties were affected by the Katrina hurricane. Thank God for the Pastor whose name is Keith and his wife Cindy and their trust in God as they have opened the church to Christians from all over the U.S. who wanted to have a part in the reconstruction. At last count, 12 states have been represented and stayed there. Tulsa Bible Church went there for a week. We helped rebuild the inside walls of this hospitable place. The walls were half gone. The flood waters had reached about four feet. In some areas a black tarp was used to provide privacy for the room.
I'm glad to say I'm a member of a hard working team of 10. During the trip I mainly cooked but the guys on our team worked steadfastly to complete the job. Forrest , our lead person, carefully oversaw the work. His goal was to help us do our best. We worked for five days. Some of the days would last 12 or 13 hours. The guys on the team completed mostly all of the wall repair. They filled the walls with insulation, replaced sheet rock, covered rough areas with "mud" and tape, smoothed the walls down with sand paper, helped it get "speckled", put primer on the new part of the wall, removed and replaced wall fixtures and then put on the necessary number of paint coats to make it look nice. There were a few details left like putting up trim. Our church donated the 2 1/2 tons of sheetrock and many other materials to complete the job.
When I saw all of this hard work I love to think of the symbolism in what these guys did. A church has walls to structurally hold it together. But spritually speaking in the church Jesus intended for us (Christians) to hold together and strengthen His church until he returns. He intended for us to have unity, joy, honest hard work, patience, fellowship with Him and each other, and hope. By helping rebuild the walls we are also preparing the building to welcome those who don't know God. And during our stay these qualities were present as the walls of Faith Bible Church were rebuilt.