Yesterday, I met up with my sister and our mother in Winchester, Virginia. We had arranged to meet there so that I could take Mom home with me for a visit.
While we transferred our mother’s luggage to my car, my sister gave me grave notice: Mom is declining rapidly. Indeed, I could see it myself.
During the long drive home, different memories of my mother’s involvement in the lives of my children came to mind.
When they were little, my son and daughter thrived on my mom’s stories about her childhood on a large farm in rural central Pennsylvania.
She told them fascinating tales about her life in an old farmhouse without electricity and phones, about the Great Depression, and the closeness of her parents and siblings. The kids loved her Sunday accounts of church followed by afternoon visits from family members and friends.
Once my children were in school, she encouraged them to do well academically and instituted an incentive program for good grades. She paid “good money” for A’s and B’s, but no other grades warranted payment.
My daughter recently told me how she intentionally worked hard so that she would get a good “paycheck” from Grammy each report card.
Mom knew the importance of being well-rounded and purchased a piano for us so my son and daughter could take lessons.
When the children joined the school band and needed private trumpet lessons, Mom helped out with the cost of music lessons.
Mom encouraged the children to participate in team sports. There they learned the life-long benefits of competition, teamwork and endurance.
She drove five hours from her house to ours so she could attend our children’s concerts, plays and award ceremonies at school. She enjoyed watching their soccer games, both indoors and outdoors in all kinds of weather. I don’t think she ever missed an event.
Not only did she love being at these important occasions, she knew how much the children counted on her presence and she didn’t want to disappoint them.
When our children reached middle school, both of them began mowing lawns and weeding flower beds in the neighborhood to earn money, and when they were old enough, they worked at local businesses in addition to their regular mowing jobs.
Mom never failed to tell them how proud she was of their work ethic.
The children deposited their report card paychecks as well as the pay they received for mowing and their regular summer jobs into their own savings accounts.
I should add that not a penny of those paychecks were ever spent, but all of it was saved. It was money that would be needed for college.
Another lesson from my mother’s Great Depression days. Always save something. Never spend everything.
When our son began high school, my mother, by then in her 70′s, flew across the ocean for the first time in her life. She spent several weeks traveling throughout Europe. She couldn’t believe what she saw there.
True to her nature of wanting to mentor others, she returned home and told me that she wanted to send my children to Europe. BUT, they would have to first earn the trip. And, of course, Mom had a plan for this.
She told my son and daughter that if they were able to graduate from high school in the top ten percent of their class, she would send them to Europe as a graduation gift.
Coincidentally, the children’s Latin teacher took a small group of students to Italy every other year on a two-week study tour. “Perfect,” my mother told me. “They won’t believe what they’re going to see over there.”
Upon returning home from Italy, each child independently concluded that they wanted to choose a career that would enable them to travel abroad in the future. “Mom, you can’t believe what’s over there!”
What legacy are you creating?
She is strong and respected and not afraid of the future. She speaks with a gentle wisdom. She is always busy and looks after her family’s needs. Her children show their appreciation, and her husband praises her. He says, “Many women are good wives, but you are the best of them all.” Proverbs 31:25-29.
How did your mother or grandmother touch your life and inspire you? Please let me know. Perhaps it’s something I can write about in a future article and use to inspire others to soar.
If this article touched you in some way, please let me know. Seriously!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
“Hey, I’ll call you and we’ll have lunch.” Ever say that to someone? Yeah, me, too.
Ever follow through with that? I’m serious!
Do you ever follow through with that comment? Or is it just something that sounds nice to say to someone, but you never get around to making that phone call? Hmm, that’s what I thought.
So, if that’s the case, why don’t you make the statement in a more truthful way: “Hey, why don’t I call you and we’ll have lunch, but I’m sure you’ve already figured out that I don’t really mean it.” Wooh. Well, isn’t that what you really mean? I know. Truth hurts.
I was 23 years old when I moved to Philadelphia as a newlywed. Because the only person I knew was my husband, I was anxious to make friends. As I began to meet other women, they would invariably say to me, “I’ll call you and we’ll get together for lunch.”
I would smile, my heart full of joy, because I believed that a budding friendship was forming. I would happily go home and wait for the woman to call and set up a lunch date. And I would wait. And wait.
Then one day, after being falsely told for the thousandth time that the person would call so we could have lunch, I overheard a mother tell her young child, “Honey, say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Say what you mean and mean what you say. What a revelation!
Tell me, dear friend, which one do you prefer:
“Why don’t we do lunch? What about next Monday? Or is Wednesday better?”
“I’ll call you and we’ll have lunch. But you and I both know I’m not going to follow through with this invitation.”
Know that whichever statement you select tells a lot about the person you are. Is that a wince or a smile?
It doesn’t stop with lunches. Do you promise others that you’ll help them with a project or that you’ll call them later to chat? Do you promise to go to the movies with a friend and then, at the last minute, call and renege because something better came up?
There are times when it’s necessary to back out of an engagement. But on a daily basis, are we making promises we do not intend to keep?
Are your words honorable and true? Or are they undependable?
You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on the lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
Yesterday’s article was about Doug Birkhimer’s battle with a rare and deadly cancer and a lone mourning dove that God sent to let Doug know that he would survive. Today’s article deals with the way Doug’s story had a profound effect on my life.
My husband unexpectedly lost his job right before Christmas in 2008. With no income and two kids in college, we knew our cash would be depleted quickly. We were not in an enviable situation.
Several months earlier, Doug had shared his dove story with my husband, Tim, and me. It’s the kind of story that stays with you long after it’s told. So, full of fear after learning of Tim’s job loss, I asked God to send a dove to me as a sign that things were going to be alright.
No dove appeared, but parts of a Bible verse from Isaiah swirled in my head. I heard the words “Those who wait upon the Lord shall soar like eagles” over and over as though they were being engraved into my memory. I called our minister at Hampton Presbyterian Church, Ted Martin, and asked him to explain what “wait upon the Lord” meant because I wanted to clearly understand what God was telling me. Ted explained that it meant to keep my focus completely on God through prayer and scripture reading.
Because I had asked God to send a dove to me as a sign that everything would be okay, I looked everywhere for one. Days, then weeks, then months went by. Not one dove. Anywhere. Only parts of a scripture.
Tim and I felt the Lord telling us to sell our house. It sold quickly. We felt certain that God would provide a job for Tim by the time we had to move out. But when our settlement date was only days away, we realized that a job for Tim was not in God’s immediate plans for us.
We were rattled, unsettled. We had believed that God had wanted us to sell our house and we had obeyed. But now that the house was sold, we had no job and no home.
My widowed aunt who lived halfway across the state invited us to move in with her. We put our possessions in storage and left our beautiful house, our neighbors, our church, our friends, our community and our life as we had known it. It was extremely difficult to understand why God wanted us to leave everything and everyone we knew.
Life with my aunt was challenging. She had never had children and had lived alone for a long time. Suddenly, her house had two adults who never left. Tim searched daily for a job. The days turned into weeks then months. We knew my aunt wanted us to leave, but we had little money and no place to go.
Tim and I not only read the Bible, we studied it. I prayed almost constantly while Tim looked and looked for a job. Our Christian friends stayed in close touch and regularly encouraged us. I struggled with patience. We had been at my aunt’s for over a year.
People began telling me that Tim would never get another good job. They said that Tim was too old, over-qualified and that he had been unemployed for too long. They said that we needed to face reality and accept that we were going to be poor for the remainder of our lives. With all the remaining strength left within me, I replied to each naysayer that Tim and I serve a powerful God who is not confined by Tim’s age, abilities or length of unemployment.
Then there was ”the look” in our children’s eyes when they came for visits. “Where is God?” they sometimes asked us. “Isn’t Dad ever going to get a job?” “The story isn’t over yet!” I told my crying daughter one day as I struggled to keep from crying myself.
One day, I laid flat on the floor, face-down in deep humility, in our bedroom and I surrendered to the Lord as poured out my heart to Him. I said, “Lord, our home is gone. Our entire way of life is gone. All we have left are our possessions. Go ahead, take those, too, Lord. I understand now how truly meaningless they are. If what You want is my full attention, God, then it’s Yours. And even though there’s no end in sight to our misery, I praise You, God. I praise You. Because I know You are right here with Tim and me and I know You love us.”
A bit later, I looked out the kitchen window. For a minute or two, I watched it underneath the birch tree before it dawned on me what I was seeing. A dove. A beautiful mourning dove. Just like the one God sent to Doug Birkhimer to let him know that he would survive his battle with cancer.
Just like Doug, I, too, was exhausted and I was in desperate need of hope. People were telling us to accept the worst and even though Tim and I believed that God could still get us out of our terrible situation, we were struggling to keep hoping, to keep persevering.
As I stared at the dove, I asked God if He had sent it to me. I asked God if this dove meant that Tim and I should keep believing God for a job, for a miracle? I felt an immediate conviction that this was the case. I kept my eyes on the dove until it finally flew away and then I hurried to tell Tim what I had just seen and experienced.
Our hope was renewed. The appearance of the dove when we were at our lowest could not be a coincidence. After all, with God, there is no coincidence. We praised God mightily for the hope that came with the sighting of the dove. It wasn’t long before Tim and I began seeing it regularly in my aunt’s backyard. And each time we saw it, the peace of God came over us and we felt great joy.
Finally, my husband was scheduled for a job interview while I went to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Retreat near Asheville, North Carolina. On God’s Mountain, I received the phone call. Our months of unemployment were over! God had given Tim a job. Not just any job, but a wonderful job that would allow us to have a place of our own once again. Proof that, with God, nothing is impossible! (Luke 1:37).
I had promised God that I would lay on the floor and shout praises to Him when Tim finally got a job. And even though I was in the middle of a crowded public lobby, I did just that. At first, people wondered why that woman was lying on the floor shouting and crying praises to God, but when they learned the reason, everyone began praising God! It was a moment I will never forget.
Every now and then when I’m facing an overwhelming challenge, I will look outside and see a lone mourning dove. I cannot help but think of Doug Birkhimer and how God used Doug’s suffering to give Tim and me Godly hope in the midst of a terrible situation. Tim and I went through a terrible fire, but we’ve come out with a faith that has been tested and highly refined. I know that God is with me, with Tim, and that no matter what we face, no matter what happens to us, God is with us and we are His.
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More
Do you ever wonder why you go through terrible ordeals? What is the point of suffering, you want to know? Come along with me today. I want you to meet my friend Doug Birkhimer. God used Doug’s intense suffering to bring hope into my life and the lives of others.
Doug Birkhimer is a very nice man. Someone you would enjoy having as a neighbor, a fellow worker, a friend, a relative. He is pleasant, unassuming and quick to help. He is also a man who has a strong relationship with God.
In March, 2004, Doug had become very ill and was diagnosed with mantle cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage 4-a. Not only is this is an extremely aggressive cancer of the lymph nodes, spleen, marrow and blood, it is very difficult to treat. Needless to say, the survival rate was bleak.
Doug received a stem cell transplant and then underwent chemotherapy which left his immune system virtually depleted. These treatments, the best that medical science had at the time, left him exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and near death.
During the late spring, Doug went regularly for chemo treatments. By the time he arrived home, he was so fatigued that he laid on a chaise lounge in his backyard for part of the afternoon. The beauty of the outdoors comforted him.
Doug wondered if he was going to survive. Weak and ill, he sure didn’t feel like he was going to beat the odds. Doug was a man in desperate need of hope, so he asked the Lord to give him a sign that he would survive the brutal cancer.
Doug no more than asked the Lord for a sign when his attention turned to some mourning doves eating seed on the ground underneath the bird feeder. Suddenly one of the doves began walking straight toward Doug. It jumped on Doug’s foot, then onto his knee and finally flew onto the top of his head where it sat quietly for awhile.
Throughout the summer when Doug returned home from chemotherapy treatments, he sat in his backyard to rest. Once Doug was seated, it wasn’t long before the dove flew into the yard and sat either on the back of Doug’s chaise lounge or on his abdomen where it gently spread its wings. The area around Doug’s abdomen had contained a tumor before the stem cell and chemo treatments. The dove never missed coming to see Doug after he had a chemo treatment.
One day, a neighbor invited Doug to lunch after a chemo treatment. She told him that she thought they should eat on the deck because it was such a nice day. Toward the end of the lunch, the woman commented that there was a bird flying back and forth overhead, almost as though it was looking for something. ”Or for someone,” Doug told her.
Sure enough, the bird, a mourning dove, began circling and landed on Doug, gently spreading its wings over Doug’s abdomen. Doug told the shocked woman about the dove’s regular visits and how he believed this was the sign that he had asked God to send. A sign that Doug would live.
One day, it rained and Doug stayed inside after arriving home from his chemo appointment. Doug’s wife, Joyce, told him to come to the diningroom, that his dove was at the window. Doug could hardly believe his own eyes. There on the window sill sat the dove, pecking on the glass to get Doug’s attention. Joyce said, “Well, you’d better go out on the porch. I don’t think he’s going to leave until you do.” So Doug walked out to the porch and sat in a chair for his daily dove treatment.
The day after a pet-scan revealed that the cancer cells were gone, Doug went to his backyard and sat. He waited all afternoon, but no dove circled, flew by or landed on him. It was the same the next day and the day after that. It was then that Doug knew for certain. He had asked God to send him a sign that he would survive the cancer and this gentle mourning dove had been God’s reply.
Doug has now been cancer-free for seven wonderful years. He lives a full life and joyfully tells others how God answered his prayer with a dove. As Doug tells it, “That lovely mourning dove did not bring “mourning.” She was a sign of new “morning,” an assurance of life in the face of death, a sign from God for which I prayed.”
How did Doug’s dove story affect my life? I’ll talk about that in my next posting. So, come back for the rest of the story. Until then, enjoy the wonderful day that God has made for you.
“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in Truth.” Psalm 145:18.
Do you have a story that you would like told about the way God has worked in your life? If so, please leave a comment and let me know. Be sure to tell me how to contact you.
Did Doug’s dove story make an impact on you? Please drop me a line and tell me.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More