He Loved Us First

I was never a real fan of Valentine’s Day growing up. In junior high, with uncontrollable acne, and nails I bit to the quick, I was the “ugly duckling” compared to the other girls who garnered most of the boys’ attention. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in on Valentine’s Day. One year, the student council thought it would be a great fundraising idea to have students pay twenty-five cents to buy a rose to give to their “Valentine”. All day long, roses were given to, you guessed it, the most popular girls and guys in the school, and all the ugly ducklings, myself included, went home empty-handed and heart broken.

When I became a mom, I was determined my kids felt loved and honoured not just on Valentine’s Day but everyday. I made a point of telling them how much they were loved, and that God loved them. When those challenging teen years came along and they faced those disappointing Valentine’s Days with no cards from any admirers at school, my husband, Charles, bless his heart, always came home with bouquets of flowers for his girls. He presented with great fan fare, a larger one for me, and two smaller ones for his daughters. For years he was their one and only Valentine! I too, always made sure my husband, son, and my girls got a chocolate heart-shaped treat from me.

This past week, we picked up my daughter’s wedding gown. The wedding invitations will likely go out in the next few weeks. Slowly, but surely, the wedding plans are coming together. A year ago, on February 1st, Carmen’s handsome “Prince Charming” asked her to marry him. On July 18, they will be wed. I remember seven years ago, they had only been dating a short while, when he surprised her with a huge bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day. It was the first time we met Jack and to say he left quite an impression on all of us would be an understatement. I snapped a picture of the happy, young couple just before my sweet husband came home with his usual Valentine’s flowers for his girls. Up until that day, he had always been her Valentine. When he saw Carmen holding Jack’s bouquet, he looked slightly embarrassed and stoically shook hands with Jack. Almost as an afterthought, my husband then shyly presented Carmen with his small bouquet of daisies. Although she appreciated his gesture, she only had eyes for Jack. Charles’ mannerism showed me that his Father’s heart was just a little broken. It was obvious another one of his girls had found their forever Valentine, and he was no longer the most important man in her life. It’s a tough realization for any good father.

As we have been planning her wedding, there’s a poignant song that my husband thought might be a fitting one for their father-daughter dance: “ I Loved Her First”. I well up with tears every time I listen to it. The love a father has for his precious child, all the memories he’s made with her, goes hand in hand with the knowledge that one day he will trust another man to hold her heart from that day forward. I know my husband’s tender heart, and it will be an emotional day when he walks his “Baby Girl” up to the altar on her wedding day.

I don’t know if it was intentional when the lyrics were written, but when I hear that song I can’t help thinking about how our Heavenly Father loved our daughter even before Charles did! It puts a whole new spin on the song! God loved us all first!

Valentine’s Day is a perfect day to remember the heights and depths of our Father’s Love for His children. My children are blessed to have a wonderful, Godly father, who always places their needs ahead of his own. They benefit from his wisdom, his practical advice, and his persistent prayers. They know their father has experienced God’s Love, and that Love influences everything Charles does.

As we celebrate this special day that celebrates LOVE, I wish all the young couples who will be wed in 2020 a happy day today and a blessed wedding day. I also wish the very best to all those dads who will dance with their daughters on their wedding day. I understand your pain and your joy. I especially wish MY Valentine of 42 years a wonderful day! Happy Valentine’s Day, Charles!

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A Whole New World

I had been putting it off until I was done all my treatments. The doctors had said my hearing would most likely be affected by the chemo, but I was already wearing hearing aids so I thought, how bad could it get? There’s lots of things they don’t tell you up front when you start cancer treatments. It’s only later, when you start having some side effects that were not expected, that the doctors start listing off a few more of the “obscure” ones. For instance, when I had breast cancer in 2001, they did not tell me I might experience problems with my teeth and nails years later. It was only when my teeth started to chip and even fall out that I knew something was terribly amiss! My nails became extremely brittle and chipped constantly. My dentist clued me into making sure I was taking calcium supplements. When my family doctor diagnosed me with osteoporosis ten years ago, he said chemo can effect the bones and bring on early osteoporosis. Dry skin, and being more sensitive to sunlight are also common delayed reactions to chemo. I’ve been told that radiation also has some long term side effects that could show up years after treatment. Nothing surprises me anymore. The doctors are quick to say, and I have to agree with them, that despite the side effects associated with chemo and radiation, it’s infinitely better to deal with them than succumb to cancer. Still, I keep praying less invasive treatments can be used to combat cancer.

Having gone through chemo before, I was prepared for all the nastiness this time. I have prayed my teeth, bones, and nails have been somewhat safe-guarded with a healthy, calcium rich diet and supplements that I have taken over these many years. I am hoping my exercise regimen will help regain my strength too.

I knew I was not hearing as well after my first battle with cancer, but I chocked it up to playing my music loud and proud during my teen years in the 70’s. I experienced more profound hearing loss after a severe bout with a flu and cold in 2014, when I was teaching in a Junior High School. Unfortunately, I am allergic to the flu shot, so I was susceptible to all the nasty bugs the students contracted. Just before Christmas that year, I was fighting a cold, laryngitis, and the flu, and a raging ear infection. As a result, I ended up needing hearing aids. I only learned this past year that chemo may also have contributed to some of my hearing loss.

My oncologist did warn me this time to get my hearing tested because I might experience more hearing loss. So I put it off until last week and then I picked up some brand new hearing aids. I never realized how poor my old hearing aids were in comparison with these new ones. The technology is so much more advanced than even six years ago, so when I put the new ones in, I couldn’t believe the difference! It’s like I’ve discovered a whole new world! The real heartache I’ve had these many years of having hearing loss is not being able to enjoy music as much because it all seemed so tinny sounding even with hearing aids. Being a music lover and frustrated I couldn’t hear the nuances and subtlety of the instruments in the melody anymore, I stopped listening to music for pure enjoyment. So it’s not surprising the first thing I had to try with the new hearing aids in was to turn my car radio on. I expected to be disappointed, but when I heard the sweet sounds again so clearly, I was overcome with emotion.

I find I am much more emotional after this last go round with cancer. I unexpectedly tear up at the simplest of things. A stunning sunset leaves me breathless. A Super Bowl commercial by Google has me weeping. A hug, an unexpected compliment, an act of kindness, a smile from a friend, a poignant quote or an impacting Scripture verse…I store away all experiences to recall with joy later. I especially find myself overwhelmed with praise when I can now hear a beautiful hymn, so powerful in its message, the melody so familiar and now so clear I can barely sing the words. My heart overflows with thankfulness that I have come through this and every “storm” in my life thus far and can give testimony to God’s provision and care in every situation.

It is a whole new world for me once again. Every day is a gift. I know I can’t take anything for granted, but while I still have ears to hear I can sing with gusto, “Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!”

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Finding Space

Having some renewed energy lately, I’ve been tackling a few early Spring cleaning projects.  I spent one morning digging through kitchen drawers and cupboards and organizing them.  Clutter at times overwhelms me, so this was long over do. When I was finished, I was amazed by how much space I had!  Everything tidy and in its place, I had no problem finding any item I needed quickly and easily. With this kind of success I decided I would then tackle my bedroom closet. Once I had discarded, recycled, and donated items that no longer brought me “joy”, (thanks Marie Kondo), I found with great delight more space. The challenge now is not to fill up the drawers, cupboards and closets again with unnecessary junk and be disciplined to keep my new-found space tidy.

I was challenged last Sunday by a powerful message given by Dr. Steve Booth, who was the guest speaker at our church. Steve and his wife, Susan are professors at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. Not only was Steve my professor in New Testament studies when I attended the CSBS, we boast a twenty year friendship with the family. Their son, Caleb, a brilliant artist, designed the covers for my Wounded Trilogy books. They have been so faithful to pray for me over these many months and years. I am truly blessed by them! This Sunday, continuing the sermon series Pastor Gary has been teaching through, Steve brought a message that continued the focus on the importance of reading the Bible daily.

As a Christian, reading the Bible has become a critical discipline in my life. Using different reading plans over the years, I know the daily “nourishment” I receive from being in the Word. I have experienced His Comfort, Provision, Wisdom, Direction, Encouragement, and Love because His Word is “alive and active” in my life.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

The challenge everyday is making space in my own heart to prepare to meet God, read, and meditate on Scripture. Then I need to be willing and able to apply the lessons God wants me to learn from reading His Word. Steve referenced the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) and though I have read and studied this passage at length, Steve referenced a conversation he had with George Guthrie who wrote “Read the Bible for Life”. Guthrie, an avid gardener explained that in order for seeds to germinate and sprout properly, they not only need fertile soil but also enough space to grow. I had always focused on the type of soil (the heart) being prepared to read and understand the Word of God, but the concept of making space for God’s Word was new to me. In the Biblical parable, the first three soils are inhospitable to proper seed growth because there is inadequate soil preparation and lack of space for the seed to grow. The fertile soil is prepared, free of weeds and has space enough for a seed to sprout and the plant to grow tall and healthy.

The application is clear. To make space for the Word of God I must:

1. Prepare my heart. I must clean up the “space” in my heart before, during and after reading His Word. I must remember the Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” I must try to remove the heart clutter, the things that crowd out the meaning and message of His Word like unconfessed sin, and unforgiveness. I need to make room in my heart for growth.

2. Set aside time (space) each day to read the Bible. I must make reading the Bible a priority.

3. Focus. If my mind is cluttered with daily concerns and my never-ending to-do list, I won’t focus on what I’m reading. In fact, my mind will not have sufficient space to comprehend what I’m reading because it’s too overwhelmed and disorganized with other things that can hamper my ability to hear from God through His Word. Therefore, I need to ask God to give me clarity whenever I read His Word.

It’s amazing how full God’s Word can fill up my heart space!

I thought my readers might enjoy Steve’s entire message, so I’ve posted the link to our church’s YouTube channel. Feel free to also enjoy the rest of Pastor Gary’s Sermon Series on Bible reading. The messages will bless your heart!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DqxmuIfBrrE#menu

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