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]

Make me a servant

“Make me a servant, humble and meek, Lord, let me lift up those who are weak, And may the prayer of my heart always be: Make me a servant today.” The lyrics to this 80s gospel song by Kelly Willard is a wonderful prayer for the start of the new year, and for the start of each and every day. In my early days after becoming a Christian, it seemed like we often sang this chorus. It had a big impact on me. Though the words are simple, I knew that they had deep and important meaning to my newfound faith. I knew that choosing to follow Christ would mean a complete and necessary change of lifestyle for me. I knew that making the commitment to serve Christ would mean sacrifice. It would mean a sacrifice of time, talents and treasures.

But finding ways to serve didn’t feel like a sacrifice. It felt right and good. The hours that I had been devoting to myself and to the ones close to me would need to be shared with others, sometimes for others who I barely knew or didn’t know at all. The gratitude and enthusiasm I had for being accepted as a child of God into God’s Kingdom spurred me on with a strong desire to serve. I remember not yet having a solid grasp of the Bible’s teachings, but I did have an interest and willingness to learn. Because of that, one of the natural places for me to begin to serve was in children’s ministry. I had young children of my own, and through teaching them and the other children of the church, I learned more of the Bible stories that are taught to kids. It was a time of growth and service.

Since then, I’ve continued to have the desire to serve. There’s definitely satisfaction in doing so, along with rewards for all involved. I came to realize that my interactions with others and my acts of service made as much or more of a difference to others as the words I spoke. In recent years as the leader of a young adults ministry, weekly meetings were held and Bible lessons were taught, but if my words to the young adults hadn’t been combined with the outreaches and activities that we were involved in, and in serving one another in various ways, the ministry would have been much less effective. I’m still working on perfecting an attitude of servanthood, both in word and in deed. Having a servant’s heart means having a meek and humble attitude, as the song declares. Servanthood isn’t a chore. It isn’t to be avoided. Instead of asking ourselves, “Why should I have to do ‘this or that,’”we should be offering our services for the benefit of others. Servanthood might mean investing some “sweat equity” into a task (credit for this term goes to my friend Sharon who shared it with me recently).

True leadership requires servanthood. The greatest leader and servant of all time is Jesus Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2: 6-7). Christ is the ultimate example of servanthood and He is the standard after which we should model ourselves. It isn’t always easy; it can be exhausting. But ohhhh…..serving others is extremely rewarding and is the essence of Christianity and Christian ministry. Dear God, make ME a servant. So, Christian friends, let’s humble ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and serve God and others.

HOPE NUGGET: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Happy Birthday, in Heaven

Thirty-two years ago today, my sweet nephew Daniel entered the world and forever changed our lives. At his sixth month in utero, it was determined that Daniel had hydrocephalus, often referred to as “water on the brain.” Hydrocephalus is a condition in which there is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain. The diagnosis of hydrocephalus meant that brain damage would most likely occur during development due to the pressure caused by the fluid buildup.

As can be imagined, receiving this news about their baby was devastating for my sister and brother-in-law, a young and newly married couple. Daniel was indeed born with severe brain damage which led to a host of disabilities. Daniel had a feeding tube and a colostomy and was unable to walk or talk. He was completely dependent upon his parents for his full care. When he was just a year old, Dr. Ben Carson – yes, That Ben Carson – performed surgery on Daniel. He informed Danny’s parents, Leslie & Cy, that the corpus callosum was not formed. The corpus callosum is the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain that allows information to pass between the two halves.

Being born with brain damage and an unformed corpus callosum though didn’t stop Daniel from learning, even learning sign language! Daniel loved music, toys with lights and sounds, and interaction with those around him. The sillier a person was when they played or interacted with Danny, the better he liked it! He laughed so hard sometimes that tears streamed down his cheeks. Daniel’s life brought blessings to our family that we would not have known without him.

If you ask Cy and Leslie how they did it – how they handled caring for a highly-involved child for 12 years, how Cy held down a job the entire time, how they managed numerous surgeries and extended hospital stays, how they took care of a second son born about 5 years later, and how at the age of 12 years they said their final goodbye on this earth to their dearly-loved firstborn son, they would say that God gave them strength through their dependence on Him. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever [Psalm 73: 25-26]. They would say that Daniel was a blessing and never a burden. They would answer without hesitation that they would willingly do it all over again.

Despite the many challenges that came during his 12 short years of life, Daniel’s joy was infectious and his laughter was contagious! He gave and received more love & happiness than many people do in a lifetime. He was a pleasant boy and it showed even on his worst days, even on the many days when he was very ill. It’s hard to find a picture of him without a smile on his face! You will always be loved, Daniel!! HAPPY 32ND BIRTHDAY IN HEAVEN!! 

HOPE NUGGET: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. [Lamentations 3: 22-23]

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]

Not by Might, Not by Power

Fellow believers in Christ, does it seem like you’re getting nowhere when trying to make a difference in the Kingdom of God? Is it harder and harder to remain a Christian and to stand for righteousness in a society whose moral compass is disintegrating farther and farther away from the principles of God’s word? Are you discouraged by dwindling numbers in your church congregation? Do you feel like walking away and starting new somewhere else or do you feel like throwing in the towel altogether? 

It could be that you are right where God wants you to be. Have you considered that His desire is for you to be completely dependent upon Him? Perhaps you need to know that it’s not by your might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord that moves mountains (Zechariah 4:6). Zerubbabel was given the task of leading the first group of the return of Jewish people to Jerusalem after their exile to Babylon. After the return, he was appointed governor and oversaw the Temple construction. It had been about 70 years since Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed. Zerubbabel and the people faced their fair share of challenges and disappointments, but the Temple was completed and dedicated with much rejoicing. Even though Zerubbabel’s temple was smaller in size than Solomon’s, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” said the Lord (Haggai 2:9).

The church fellowship I attend in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania has diminished in size over the years. Our congregation has faced challenges and disappointments that we never would have expected. In our place of worship where services were attended in recent years by 100-plus worshippers, the average attendance has dropped into the 20s. It can be quite discouraging, especially for those of us still there who had experienced the times of numerous activities and successful outreaches with more than enough enthusiastic volunteers. The church prospered and grew and it seemed as though God’s blessing was upon it.

Grace Fellowship Church of Everson….come visit us!

Despite the low numbers and despite the many changes that have occurred in a relatively short period of time, our small church is mighty. We are mighty in our faith and in our commitment and service to God. Within the past few weeks alone, we have shown love and compassion not only to those within our congregation, but to many outside of our church and in our community. God reminded me of some of those specific ways in which He is working in and through our fellowship of believers: *supporting members of our congregation at the passing of a family member by donating funds in memory of their loved one to an organization which makes and gives wigs to cancer patients free of charge, *visiting with an elderly congregant who is hospitalized, *donating to keep our community’s Christmas lights up and running (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL Christmas lights of any small town in the USA!), *paying the heating bill of neighbors in town (strangers to us) who were in need, *purchasing items for 20 gift bags to be given to Pediatric ICU patients in a nearby hospital this Christmas, *donating to a fundraising campaign for our local library, *having a prayer walk to pray for specific homes in our community, *participating in a pro-life community event. And besides holding weekly worship services, Sunday School classes and prayer meetings, we minister each Wednesday evening to boys and girls who attend our Awana children’s program!

Besides all of that, there’s much more that we’re involved with on a regular basis, such as supporting missionaries in the U.S. and abroad and monthly layette donations to a local crisis pregnancy center. We have not allowed our size to discourage or to dissuade us from being the hands and feet of God. He has remained faithful to us and continues to give us the strength and the hope we need to be His servants and to be used as He chooses. Maybe you’re in a similar situation or maybe even in a larger congregation that needs encouragement because you think you’re too small to make a difference. That’s just not true. If you are faithfully following Christ in obedience, staying true to the word of God, and seeking Him in prayer to use you and to use your particular body of believers, He’ll take care of the rest. Let Him have His way. Remember that it’s not by your might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

Our small community in Everson Pennsylvania has the most wonderful display of Christmas lights! Grace Fellowship Church members help to hang the lights each year and help to keep the lights burning with our donations.

HOPE NUGGET: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. [Galatians 6:9]

Camouflaged

Gardening season in southwestern Pennsylvania has reached harvest time. The row of green bean plants in our garden has grown very big and bushy. Gathering beans from those plants is a challenge. It requires squatting or being down on knees, trying to separate and lift the tangled bushes and stems from each other enough to spot the elusive green beans underneath. It’s not as easy as one might think! I don’t know if the picture below gives a good perspective, but the beans are hidden very well amidst those bushy plants. One would never know that quarts of green beans were hanging in there if just walking by that row of green plants without intentionally looking or investigating more closely.

As I picked those beans a few evenings ago, I wondered if that’s what the church looks like to the world. Are we camouflaged so well that we blend in with the world? Are we hidden so well that others need to go to a lot of effort to find us? Or, do we stand out to others, letting our lights shine before them that they see our good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven? [Matthew 5: 16]  If our lights aren’t shining…why not? Perhaps it’s that ugly three-letter word: Sin. Maybe we blend in so well because we look just like everyone else. Maybe it’s because we act like those who aren’t followers of Christ. Our actions cause us to be indistinguishable from the rest of the world. We are lustful, gluttonous and greedy. We are lazy, envious and prideful. 

We neglect to attend or serve in the church, but in its place are sure to find time for pleasure and recreation. Are Sundays set aside to gather with the church to worship God or are Christians instead involved with other seemingly more important activities on that day? Does the way we go about life look like it does for everyone else? Are Christians avoiding sin and offering ourselves as living sacrifices to the Savior of our souls? Are our lights shining brightly enough that we can be easily seen by those who are in need of salvation? Do our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family have the impression that God is the priority of our lives? Do they see by our words and actions that we live to please Him?

Maybe if those green beans were neon or yellow or any other color besides green, they would be much easier to locate. Maybe they would then be easier to identify as the bean and not mistaken for the stem or leaf of the plant. Maybe if Christians would walk and talk more like Jesus, they would be more easily identified by others as belonging to the kingdom of God. Maybe then they would be making a greater impact on this world rather than spending so much time wringing their hands over the direction that the world is going. Just maybe.

HOPE NUGGET:  Spoken by Jesus:   I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  [John 17: 14-16]

Taming The Tongue

A few years ago, a Christian leader who I was associated with, posted a facebook comment about Bruce Jenner which was meant to be humorous, but which I saw as childish, unnecessary and unbecoming of any Christian, let alone by one serving in an influential leadership position. I wanted to voice my opposition, but stayed quiet and responded by simply using the dislike button. Later, I noticed a meme, which I assumed to be a further attempt at humor, shared as a reply to that initial post by a Christian friend of that leader. The meme was insulting and derogatory with images of Bruce Jenner as an Olympian and Bruce as Caitlyn on Wheaties cereal boxes. This time, I hoped that because the meme was a bit outrageous, that my associate would delete his post or at least the meme. It didn’t happen. I waited. Nothing. Days later, still there for the world to see. I finally disliked the meme and wrote something like “Christians don’t help matters by posting comments like these.” 😥 The meme was eventually deleted, but the initial post made by the Christian leader who I was associated with, remained.

Recently, a young adult Christian friend and I were having a facebook chat. She pointed out that a number of times she has seen those who proclaim Christ agreeing with or sharing the photos or memes of “Facebook took this photo of Melania down – share our beautiful First Lady” (We’ve all seen them). While that’s not bad in itself, what IS bad is what’s often being implied and by what can be seen in the comments added … “FINALLY, we have a beautiful and classy lady in the White House again!” And “Finally, she is so much more beautiful than Michelle or should I say MICHAEL” and “Yes God bless her. She is so classy, not GROSS like Michelle the Monkey!” 

If you participate in this kind of horrible nonsense, shame on you. It’s wrong. It’s not Christlike! I will tell you that I don’t believe that Bruce Jenner is a woman, but a man who is in need of psychological help. I will tell you that I am more of a conservative than liberal in political ideology and policies. I will also tell you that I don’t believe it’s appropriate or helpful to spread hateful or ugly memes or comments about Jenner or to compare the looks of Melania and Michelle, by insulting one or the other. I will also tell you that I believe they are both beautiful and attractive women. 

The insults and lies come flying from all directions, from all political persuasions, from left and right and are wrong no matter who makes them. Christian friends, we must control our words. We must consider how our words will affect others. We must ask ourselves if our words will be a blessing or a hindrance to others. We must speak words of truth and guard what comes out of our mouths and off of our keyboards and from our pens. We must allow God’s word to be our source of guidance for our words and actions. We must obtain wisdom for our behavior through prayer and through the reading of the scriptures. 

HOPE NUGGETS:




CHRISTIANS, THE WORLD IS WATCHING…AND LISTENING…(So is Jesus)… A few words of warning from the Bible: ~~~“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). ~~~“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). ~~~“I tell you, on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak” -Jesus- (Matthew 12:36).