The Lady in the Window

It’s funny how the brain works and how suddenly out of nowhere, a random thought occurs or a memory which was buried deep within suddenly resurfaces. This coming June will be 10 years since my dad’s mom, my Grandma Alice, passed away. She was 90 years old when she was found sitting at the window of her kitchen. Grandma had spent many hours at that window, a window positioned in such a way that a comfortable chair next to it allowed for a view of the church next door, the railroad trestle, the homes of several neighbors, including a granddaughter and her family, and the main road which ran through the small town.

From early childhood, I remember countless times when visiting Grandma that we’d find her relaxing in her chair at the window. Often during visits, we would sit around the kitchen table while Grandma sat in her usual window seat. Some of my strongest memories of Grandma are of her in that seat or of the visits on warm summer evenings when we’d gather on the large front porch. We’d spend hours out there – Grandma usually on one of the gliders, while other family members sat on porch chairs or gliders or on the wooden ledge at the top of the porch’s wall around its perimeter. The wooden ledge was a favorite spot of mine, but reserved only for the older grandchildren and adults. Sitting there came with a warning to be careful and not fall off to the ground 7 feet below. I’d often sit with my back leaning against one of the porch posts with my legs stretched out and resting on the ledge. From that front porch, we’d talk to neighbors across the road or wave at passersby in their cars or on motorcycles as they honked their horns. It was a carefree time. 

Graduation day with Grandma Alice in her yard (June 4, 1982)

In Grandma’s aging years, she had become forgetful and would sometimes be confused in her thinking. During one of our visits, we had a conversation about that kitchen window and the chair where she sat. Grandma remarked that she enjoyed sitting at the window and waving at neighbors or to those in vehicles as they passed by. I know for sure that she did because anytime that we passed by her house without stopping to visit, we’d make sure to slow down enough to catch a glimpse of her at the window, to look for her wave, and to wave at her. I waved at Grandma in that window dozens upon dozens of times throughout my life. As our conversation proceeded, Grandma, as serious as could be, went on to tell us that she needed to be at that window, for if she wasn’t at the window, then the people wouldn’t wave at her. There’s no doubt that Grandma was convinced of that.

Our family still chuckles over Grandma’s declaration every time it’s retold. And yes, it is true. My Grandma Alice, The Lady in the Window, took her last breath while sitting in her chair at the window. On her final day at the window, my dad, who faithfully visited her every day, made the short drive from his house to see his Ma. On that early summer evening, as he approached the side porch of the house and looked toward the window, he noticed that she was still, and that she hadn’t waved. I’ve wondered different times about who the final person was that she waved to and who the final person was that she saw wave to her. 

Grandma waited and she watched. She was ready at that window every day. I know that Grandma was always ready to wave to her neighbors and even to strangers who would pass by. I don’t know if on that last day, she expected Jesus to call upon her. She believed in Him. She claimed Him as Savior. She had sat in the pews of that small church learning about the Gospel of Christ. But, did she expect to see Him that day? Did He wave to her or did He gesture for her to go with Him? I trust that she was ready to meet Him on that day.

Grandma Alice, Christmas 1994, age 74

Are we waiting and watching for Jesus? Are we ready for Him? Are we dressed for service with our lamps burning? When He knocks, will we open the door? Have you opened the door of your heart to Him?

HOPE NUGGET: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes…..You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” [Luke 12: 35, 36, 37a, 40]

With Wings as Eagles

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” These words from Isaiah 40:31 were the last words that I spoke to my mother-in-law on July 30, 2011. Her husband, 5 sons, 4 daughters-in-law and grandchildren had gathered around her hospital bed to say final goodbyes. One by one, we took turns at her bedside to express our love and “see-you-later” to her. As I stood there, already grieving what I knew would be a great loss, the verse from Isaiah played over and over in my mind. I had asked God to give me words that would comfort Margaret. She was a woman of faith. A woman who passed on a heritage of faith to her children and through them to her grandchildren. 

Mom and Dad Huff and their boys

Why am I writing a blog post about her today? It’s not the anniversary of her entry into heaven. It’s not her birthday. She came to mind today, I believe, because this is the first day of November, Thanksgiving month. The month which is associated with thankfulness. I’m thankful for Margaret. Thankful that we had so many years with her. I’m thankful for the influence of faith that she had on her family, the greatest gift that she could have left for us. My husband has said more than once that he would not want to disappoint his mom. I’m certain that the desire to honor his God-fearing (and God-loving) mother influenced his decisions and kept him on the “straight and narrow.” I’m also certain that her influence affected his own decision to follow and serve Christ.

A joyous memory: the trip to Niagara Falls

Our family hasn’t been the same since that day when God welcomed her into His presence for eternity. In spite of the hole left in our family and in spite of our continued grief, we will joyfully celebrate this 9th Thanksgiving without her. We will celebrate, knowing that she is with her Father in Heaven, with her Savior Jesus. How do we know where she is? Through hope. The hope of Christ in God’s promise to those whose faith is placed in Him. The hope that she had in knowing that she was redeemed by the one who died for her so that she would have eternal life. It is the same hope on which I hang my hat as well.

My favorite photo of Margaret, a spunky redhead

HOPE NUGGET: Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. [John 5:24]

Unmerited Blessings

After picking fresh blueberries this week, I decided today to use some to make homemade waffles. My sweet granddaughters and I enjoyed pulling out the Charlie Brown & Snoopy Waffle Maker box and preparing waffles in the shapes of Peanuts characters. Food always seems to taste better when it’s fun to prepare and when it looks appealing!

Grammy & the girls picked blueberries and made waffles!!!

The waffle maker brought back a memory from a few years ago. I had received an unexpected package in the mail and remember wondering what it could be. Upon opening the box, I was surprised by the gift of the waffle maker. It was a thoughtful and kind gesture from a young man who had become a special friend to our family. He knew that I was a big fan of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts characters, so he’d taken the time to shop for a gift that he knew I’d enjoy and that I would put to use.

A Special Surprise!!!

Not only do we like the Peanuts characters, but our family likes homemade waffles too! It’s a special gift for those reasons, but is also special in a way that our friend probably doesn’t even realize…each time it is used it reminds us of the special young man who God brought into our lives. A young man who, even though from another country and another culture, and who speaks Chinese as his primary language, has crossed those barriers and shared the blessing of his life and his family with ours. Why? To build friendships, to show love and kindness to us.

God did that, and so much more for us. He crossed barriers to reach us. He left his sinless heavenly home to enter this sin-filled earth so that a bridge could be made. A bridge that was built with the cross of Christ. On the cross, Christ, once and for all, removed the barrier between God and sinful man. He made it possible for man to have a relationship with God. A possibility, a choice, made available to man from a holy and loving God. Through grace, He has provided this gift to all, to any who will receive. It is the will of God that none should perish, but that all should come to Him in repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Will you receive the gift that He is offering you today?

HOPE NUGGET: But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

The Faith of a Child

When he was just a month old, my husband and I dedicated our second-born son to the Lord before the congregation of Neighborhood Assembly of God Church in Okinawa Japan. In the ceremony conducted by our pastor, Charles W. Butterfield, we made a commitment that we were serious about fulfilling….to raise our son in the Christian faith and to do our best to teach Him to love, serve and follow Jesus. 

Fast forward seven years to Blue Springs Assembly of God Church in Missouri. Our little “spitfire,” as Pastor Jeff Kelderman referred to him, was now seeking permission from us to be baptized. He had witnessed others make the commitment to follow Christ and subsequently confess their faith publicly through baptism. Our tradition of faith holds to what is called “believer’s baptism,” baptism which is based on one’s profession of faith in Christ. Our little guy, without any prompting, had made that profession. He was now persistent in his desire to be baptized. We knew that he was young, but after his continual requests, we spoke to Pastor Jeff who saw no reason to hold him back.

Parenthood is extremely challenging. It’s scary and stressful and exhausting. Flawed parents raising flawed children. But it’s worth it. Every moment. Thanks be to God, parenting is also very rewarding. When you catch a glimpse of your child in his room with his little hands raised in the air and eyes closed while worshipping God to a Michael W. Smith song or when as a third grader, he asks to sing a worship song in front of the church congregation, you whisper a prayer of thanks to God. When you have the privilege of watching him become a godly man who, with his wife, are raising their two little girls in the Christian faith, you thank God for His faithfulness to His promises.

We realized early on as parents that even young children are able to comprehend simple and sometimes deeper truths of the Bible and that we should not underestimate them. God has a way of speaking to their hearts and He certainly has the ability to impart faith in them. There is no greater responsibility for Christian parents than to teach their children the word of God and to keep the Christian faith the priority of the home and of their lives. Children are capable of learning and understanding the things of God so much so that Jesus even presented them as examples of the type of faith that adults should have. In Matthew 18:3, He said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

HOPE NUGGET: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. [Proverbs 22:6]

Stepping Out in Faith

Nearly 2 months ago, I tentatively stepped out in faith and created a blog. I would like to say that I boldly stepped out in faith, but that wouldn’t be true. I’m not sure when the idea first came to mind, but I awoke one morning, and then another, and then another, with the inspiration for the theme of the blog. Another time-consuming venture that I would get myself into. Even when trying to ignore the idea, I couldn’t shake the thought that I should begin the process. So after some research into how to set up a blog and in spite of my reluctance, I finally took the steps to join.

I had grown increasingly frustrated and disheartened with the negativity that I was seeing and hearing from media sources, in the news, on social media, and in conversations. Bickering and arguing. One-upping. Name-calling. Snarky comments. Criticism and finger-pointing. Rudeness. Attempts to prove one’s cleverness. And no, not just from politicians. From Christ-followers, at least from those who referred to themselves as such. And from some: the affirmation of sin, by means of agreement.

I’d had more than enough. My focus needed to be on the hope of Christ. The hope that no matter who’s in office in our great land that Jesus is still The King. The hope that no matter what laws are passed, whether they are righteous or moral or immoral, that my righteousness comes from God through faith. The hope that as the numbers of those who remain true to the teachings and cause of Christ appear to diminish, that greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world. 

Sometimes when God prompts you to take on a new responsibility or challenge, it is for your own benefit. Sometimes it’s for the benefit of others. Sometimes it’s both. I just knew that I was in need of encouragement and hope. Discouragement had set in, along with disappointments and frustrations. In my intro post, I wrote that it can be easy to lose sight of hope. I knew that if I felt this way that I wasn’t alone. There were others out there just like me. 

🎵 “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim…” 🎵

So, as long as I receive inspiration to write blog posts, I’ll be committed to the responsibility. I’ll seek to offer hope – through encouragement, through truth, through the Scriptures. I’ll seek to help other Christians to do the same. I’ll especially seek to glorify and honor God through my words.

Hope nugget: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [Colossians 3: 1-2]

Fear Not

“Fear, he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps. Fear, he is a liar, he will rob your rest, steal your happiness.”

The truths written down in lyrics to Zach Williams’ song “Fear Is a Liar” strike a chord with me – he has taken my breath and he has stopped me in my steps. There have been times when fear has kept me awake at night. I have allowed fear to dictate some of my choices, some of my responses to situations, some of my interactions with others, and at times to steal my happiness. I admit that too often I have allowed fear to control me. 

I clearly remember a period of time as a child when entering my room at bedtime – my routine was to flick the lightswitch on the wall to ‘off’ and then take a running leap into my bed before whatever evil was lurking beneath could reach out and grab hold of my leg. I was an expert at diving swiftly into the bed and under the covers. A child’s unfounded fears and irrational thoughts. The fear of situations that never came to pass or which had no possibility of becoming reality.

Now as an adult, the choice is mine: I can live in fear, giving it the ability to rule my life or at least moments of it…or I can choose to cast out my fears by surrendering them to God. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Entirely. Even though our irrational fears as children tend to become more rational as adults, residing in fear is an unfortunate waste of life for far too many. When we spend time living in fear, our mind is shut off to the goodness of God and His many blessings, instead with our focus on those fears which usually never come to pass.

I’ve heard it said that “fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible. Christians can be sure that God desires much more for us than to live in fear. He understands that the uncertainties and troubles of life can leave us anxious and fearful. His word tells us over and over again that we can trust Him, that we need not be afraid. His word tells us that “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Resting in God’s perfect love will help to dispel our fears.

Hope nugget: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1) *read remainder of chapter

Suffering Saints

The intro verse to this blog of Hope is: “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15)

Peter wrote his letter to offer hope and encouragement to fellow suffering believers during a time of great persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero. Peter suffered; he was persecuted. He was beaten, jailed, threatened, and eventually executed.

Time will tell if current generations of Christians will face sufferings and persecutions similar to the experiences of those first-century Christians. If we do, or even if our faith is strongly challenged by others, we should be reminded of what Peter spoke of in verse 14 of the same passage: “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” 

Verse 15 goes on to give important instructions for a godly response in making a defense of the Hope in us…“yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

The hope that we have in Christ should be evident enough to others that we are asked about it. Then when we are asked, we should be prepared to answer gently and respectfully. By doing so, our conscience will be kept clear, we will be seen to have good behavior in Christ, and any accusations made against us will be unfounded and will bring shame to our accuser.

Hope nugget (key verse of 1 Peter): “….so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  (1 Peter 1:7)

Sacrificial Love

This past weekend, our family spent an afternoon at the movie theater watching “Toy Story 4.” It was an enjoyable day and if I were to do a movie review, I’d give it a two-thumbs up! On the drive home, my husband pointed out that a strong pro-self-sacrifice theme was woven throughout the story. I won’t share any spoilers, but recommend that you go see it for yourself.

It is easy to draw an analogy between the self-sacrificial content of the movie and the self-sacrificial life of Christ. While the characters in Toy Story are imperfect and flawed and develop self-sacrificing and other positive characteristics over time, Christ is the ultimate and perfect example of sacrificial love. Christ went as far as to lay down His life even for His enemies. That means us. We were all at enmity with God. Separated from Him by sin. The gulf was wide and impossible to cross. Good works couldn’t do it. Religion couldn’t do it. Our righteousness (never mind, it is as filthy rags) couldn’t do it. The perfection of Christ as the Son of God gave Him the ability to take our place as a sacrificial substitute. Even when we were His enemy. Even though we didn’t deserve it. The cross offers Hope. To all. You can hang your hat on it.

Hope nugget: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   (Romans 5: 6-8)

Why the blog title? Why…Hope?

Hope. With it, comes a sense of peace, rest, contentment, joy. Without it – fear, anxiousness, sadness, uncertainty. A number of years ago, I was approached by a youth worker at a local youth shelter where I was employed in the classroom. The shelter was a temporary and emergency placement for dependent or delinquent youths ages 10 through 21. The youth worker was aware of my involvement with a young adults Christian ministry and asked if our group would be willing to volunteer in ministry to the shelter residents. This was the beginning of a very busy and rewarding time for the young adults Christian group. Within the same facility, though separate, was the juvenile detention center. After several years, the ministry at the youth shelter expanded into spending time and interacting with youth who resided in the detention center which was made up of alleged delinquent or adjudicated youth, some facing very serious charges.

The intention and ministry of the young adults group was to build relationships with the youth while sharing the love of Christ. You can imagine that most of the youth there faced many uncertainties and difficulties, some self-imposed, others through no fault of their own. Many were hopeless. Too many had not experienced the genuine love of family, but found themselves being bounced from one placement to another throughout their young lives. Our mission was to offer them hope. Not a temporary or fleeting hope that would leave when we walked out the door or upon their release from the shelter or detention facility. We offered eternal hope, the promise of hope from a God who loved every single one of them. A hope that they, as I often told them, could “hang their hat on.”

Hope nugget: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Hanging My Hat on Hope…

Throughout the seasons of life, each of us wears different hats at different times, sometimes multiple hats at once. Life is busy. It’s complicated.

None of us journeys through life without experiencing moments of joy and blessings. Neither do any of us get through without facing times of stress, sadness, fear.

At times, it can be easy to lose sight of hope.

Hope, though, is always available. Hope is a gift offered to all. Hope is God-given.

This is a blog about having Hope at all times, in every moment, in every circumstance.

It’s a blog about everyday life and The Reason to always have Hope.

So, do you hang your hat on Hope?

A Hope nugget for you:

“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15)