Friday, January 27, 2006

Weekly Word for Jan. 27 thru Feb. 3, 2006

Weekly Word - January 27, 2006

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
(Philippians 4: 4 & 5)

It was getting down to the wire, and I still hadn’t written a story for the upcoming week. I had spent the last two days doing things around the house, starting to get a few things packed away, for when we moved. The day before, I had decided to pack up some of my pictures that were hanging on the walls. I went from room to room, taking down pictures, and stacking them in the living room. I had put two empty boxes there on the floor. As I wrapped each picture in newspaper, I then gently put them into a box. Filling up one of the boxes, I sealed it up and moved on to the next. But just then, I looked up at my walls. They seemed so bare without the pictures on them. I wanted to continue wrapping up the pictures, but instead, I started to walk around the apartment. I should have felt happy, after all, we were moving to a much bigger apartment. But instead, I felt depressed. As I got to the study, I stopped. There, I looked at the wall that had held all my children’s pictures. I had hung up all sorts of pictures of the kids - - - but now it was empty. As I looked at it, I couldn’t stand how I felt! I wanted my children’s pictures back up . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

As I looked at the bare wall, I decided that I needed to put the pictures back up. So, pulling the boxes apart, I found the pictures of my children and grandchildren. As I put each back up in it’s place, I wondered what was wrong with me. After all, I knew that it was a good thing for us to be moving - but still - I felt so down . . .

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving - let your requests be made known to God.
(Philippians 4: 6)

My husband had taken a new job - in Connecticut. We lived in southern Massachusetts. He was going to have to drive about an hour or more each day, just to get to work. But at the time, I didn’t care. He had already been traveling to work for a couple of years. So this new job wasn’t too much farther for him to travel. At least that’s how I looked at it. I liked where we lived. The children were happy and had lots of friends. Mike was doing great in the small parochial school there. And in another few years, Jenny would be going to that school. For me, living in southern Massachusetts was good, it was home.

He traveled for a few years, but he made it known that he wanted to move. So he kept showing me ads for houses, and telling me how great Connecticut was. But still, I didn’t want to move. But he kept pushing, and so we started looking . . .

I had said “no” to every house he showed me. That is, until we walked into “that” house! When I walked into it, I immediately loved it. I don’t know why I loved it, but I did. It had lots of windows, and the living room and dining room opened into the kitchen. He knew I liked it, and so he wrote up the contract that week-end. As I signed my name, my stomach felt in knots. I liked the house, but I still didn’t want to move!

Be anxious for nothing, . . . Let your requests be made known to God . . .
And the peace of God, . . . shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4: 6 & 7)

That spring and summer, we got ready to move. We had to wait for the owners to finish building their new house, and so the kids and I spent one last summer in our old house. We sat on our deck, we played in the pool, and we spent time with our friends. I didn’t know how I was ever going to say good-bye to my friends.

Finally, it was moving day! Everything was packed, and there were boxes everywhere. As we sat in the living room, our friends Charlotte and Ron came over to visit. They lived right next door, and I knew I would miss them terribly. Charlotte had spent so many mornings in my kitchen - drinking coffee and talking about anything and everything. We went to every birthday party, and their family felt like part of ours. As they left that night, I knew that things were never going to be the same - - - ever again . . .

Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, . . . let your mind dwell on these things.
(Philippians 4: 8)

I didn’t sleep at all that night! I spent the night worrying and crying. I didn’t want to move - - - but we did anyways . . .

I lived in that new house with my husband for 10 years. I made new friends, and started a new life. My children grew into teen-agers there, and Mike headed off to the army from there. And then it was time to leave again . . .

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . . He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; . . .
(Psalm 23: 1 - 3)

I didn’t want to leave, and I told my lawyer that! If there was any way to fix this marriage - I wanted to find it. So I had everything drawn up, with the condition that if things got better, I was going to cancel it all! As the date grew closer, I searched for a reason to stay. I hoped, and I prayed - and I wondered what I was going to do. And then I stopped wondering . . .

As I drove home from work that evening, I really did wonder if things might actually work out in our marriage. I had music playing on the radio, and like usual - I was singing along. But as I turned into my driveway, I heard her. She was screaming and crying, and it took a moment for me to see what was going on. There she was, on the garage floor, with her father towering above her. I didn’t hear what he was saying, but I could see he was furious. Before I could get out of the car, he kicked her. When she saw me, she came running - sobbing and trying to catch her breath. I tried to listen to what they both were saying, but I couldn’t really get past what I had seen. She had disobeyed, and I knew that she had been wrong. But had she deserved to be dragged and kicked? I didn’t think so. That was the moment - that changed everything . . .

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23: 4)

It seems like a lifetime has passed since that day - so many years ago. So many things have changed since then. I did leave my husband. We did get a divorce. Over time, we both changed - and the anger and hatred disappeared. And then I found love - - - I found Ted . . .

Thou has anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows . . .
(Psalm 23: 5)

When I look back over time - to all the changes and moving I have done - I am able to see the good things that happened because I said “yes” to moving. I have to admit, I always complain about it. It is never easy for me. But somehow, with the Lord’s help, I find a way . . .

Last week, I got a note from a good friend. She wrote how much she liked my stories. And then she wrote: “your life was changed because of your friendship with Norma - I like the stories you write about her”. As I thought about that, I realized that if I had never moved to Connecticut - I would never have met Norma. If I had never left my first husband - I wouldn’t have found Ted. “If” I hadn’t said “yes” to change - - - I wouldn’t be “me” - today!

Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me - all the days of my life,

(Psalm 23: 5 & 6)

Again, we are getting ready to move. As I look around our little apartment, I see the “home” Ted and I have made together. There are pictures on the walls of each room. There are souvenirs and mementos from places we have gone, and times we want to remember. All of these will be packed and taken with us. So why was I still having trouble with moving?

The people I have met, each time I have moved, have brought about changes in my life. I am so thankful for the gift of Norma’s life. I would never have wanted to miss one moment - of the time we shared together. I am also thankful for the friends I have met, in each place I have lived over the years. It will be hard to say good-bye to our new friends we have made here; especially little Michaela who lives upstairs. She is only 7 years old, and feels like part of our family. When she heard we were moving, she had to come down to see me. When I opened the door, there she stood - looking up at me with tears in her eyes. As I knelt down to hug her - I knew I would never forget this little girl, who had found a place in my heart.

Quite a few years ago, when Ted’s wife first left him, I gave him a present for Christmas. It was a plate with a picture from Thomas Kinkade. It shows a house next to a small brook, with a bridge leading to the house. The lights are on inside of the house, and dusk is setting all around it. The words on the picture read: Home is where our hearts feel welcome.

No matter where Ted and I live, our love is there - and so it becomes “our home”. I know that I will cry, the day we move from this little apartment. But I also know, my heart - and my home - is where the Lord - and Ted is . . .

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4: 12 & 13)
Where are you going? Where is your heart, and your “home”. My hope is that you will ask God to be in your life, and to help you to find your way - - - home . . .

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity - to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29: 11)

God bless you in the coming week ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Weekly Word for January 20 to 27, 2006

Weekly Word - January 20, 2006

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks;
For this is God’s will for you . . .
(1 Thessalonians 5: 16 - 18)

Happy Birthday! I love saying that! I love birthdays! Quite a few of my friends and family would tell you that it is because I love cake! And to a certain degree - they are right. I absolutely love cake! But that is not why I love birthdays. For me, it is so much more . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
(Philippians 4: 4)

I was making a birthday cake, for someone very special to me. As I poured the ingredients into the bowl, I thought back over other birthdays - and other lives I have celebrated . . .

It was late April, and it was Norma’s birthday. She was a year older than me, and somehow I always thought of her as more knowledgeable and having much more wisdom than I did. So on this birthday, we were getting together for lunch. I had her presents all wrapped, along with her card. (I was never as good at picking out cards as she was, but I tried.) As we sat down, the girl brought over some coffee for us. We both absolutely loved coffee! So after the girl took our order, I gave her the presents I had brought. As she opened the first present, I waited to see what she thought. For some reason, when I saw it in the store, I had to buy it for Norma. It was a figurine of a little girl, sitting on a suitcase. There was a bible passage on the bottom, that was about the Lord leading her and guiding her. As she opened it, she said: “I guess I am going to be traveling!” And I laughed as she said it. We never guessed the road that was laying before her . . . .

Rejoice always . . . In everything give thanks . . .

I remember the last birthday celebration with Norma. Again, we went out for lunch - just the two of us. She wasn’t feeling very well, but we decided to go out anyways. I had a present for her, and I wondered what she would think of it. So after taking a sip of her coffee, and placing our orders, I gave her the present I had with me. As she opened it, I hoped she would like it - although I knew that it wasn’t an ordinary gift. After removing the wrapping paper, Norma opened the box. Inside was a small plate with a picture on it. It was a Thomas Kinkaide picture of a lighthouse. In the picture, clouds were heavy in the sky and huge waves were crashing against the rocks the lighthouse was standing on. There was a passage underneath the picture, and as she read it - I could see the tears in her eyes.

On that April day, the cancer in Norma was growing pretty fast. She and I knew that it was going to take her life, at some point down the road. This was her 2nd battle with it, and this time - there was no treatment left to try. As we celebrated her birthday - the day she started this life - we were also getting ready to say goodbye . . .

For who is our hope - or joy - or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming?
For you are our glory and joy.
(1 Thessalonians 2: 19 & 20)

Norma left this earth three months later, on July 15 1998. She had slipped into a coma, and as I sat talking with her - I asked her how I would go on without her. Who would be my friend, the one that listened to me - and prayed with me? As I said goodbye, I couldn’t help but wonder at this amazing lady, and why she was leaving us. Her life, changed mine - - - forever . . .

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! . . .” “For I am the Lord your God, . . . Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you, . . .”
(Isaiah 43: 1, 3 & 4)

As I put the cake into the oven, I continued to think back over the years - to other birthdays - and to the people who had touched my life . . .

“Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you, . . .”

It was all there on the video, “our” birthday from so many years ago. Jenny and Mike were still young, about 8 and 12 at the time. My whole family was there, my parents, my brothers and their families, as well as my grandmother. As I watched the video, there she was. It was a party for me, my husband, and Nana (as we called her). It was a birthday party for us all! Nana was sitting with her presents stacked in front of her. Smiling and laughing, she opened one. As she did, Jenny inched forward to help her. Nana let her pull on the paper, and together - they opened it. Inside the box was a white lace blouse and purple vest. Lifting them up, a soft “ooohh” came from her lips. Excitedly, Jenny asked her if she liked them - as the gifts were from us. “Oh, I love them!” she said. Picking up the next present, she shook it and asked Jenny what she thought it was. As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched my Nana enjoying the party. She again let Jenny help her open the present. But this time, she slowly opened the box, letting only her and Jen peek inside. She then pulled out a black and white jacket saying: “I love it!” as she put it in front of her.

The video continued, and there on the television I saw the three of us sitting in front of a cake. “Happy Birthday” was written on the top, and candles were already lit. As everyone sang - my Nana smiled and laughed - and soon we were blowing out the candles. She smiled and she waved, and then the tape ended. And my Nana was gone once again . . .

But let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, Let them ever sing for joy;
And mayest Thou shelter them,
That those who love Thy name - may exult in Thee.

(Psalm 5: 11)

As I took the cake out of the oven, I hoped that it would turn out alright. I wanted the cake to be perfect, as it was for a very special person. The cake was for Ted’s birthday. Putting the cake on the racks to cool, I remembered the very first time we celebrated Ted’s birthday.

His wife had left him, his marriage was over - and I wondered what he would be doing for his birthday. He looked at me a little strangely. “Nothing” he said. I wanted to have a cake for him at the bible study, but he really didn’t seem to care either way. “Birthdays are special” I told him. But he didn’t seem to agree with me.

As the friendship grew, I finally learned about this man who’s heart had been hurt so many times. I asked him about his birthday, and if he had ever had a party. He told me about a few times, but that was about all he could remember. I asked if he had any with his wife, and again he shook his head. And just then, he told me about one birthday, a very special one - when he had been a boy . . .

you are precious . . . you are honored - and I love you”

She had just married his dad, and was going to make him a cake! As his birthday drew near, he was very excited. All his family was there, his brothers and sister, as well as his step brothers. As they gathered around the table, she brought out the cake. The look on her face, said she wasn’t very happy. She had just frosted the cake, only to have it fall apart as she was finishing it. Disappointed, she wished she had done better. But to Ted, he didn’t care what it looked like - - - she had made him a cake! As everyone sang, he smiled and laughed. And then with his hands, he scooped up the cake . . .

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you righteous ones, And shout for joy all you who are upright in heart.
(Psalm 32: 11)

As he told me the story, he started to laugh. She had gotten so angry with him, as he ate the cake from his hands. He didn’t understand why she got so mad - because to him - he loved his birthday cake . . .

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name: ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.”
(John 16: 24)

Happy Birthday! I love to celebrate birthdays! But I especially love to celebrate Ted’s birthday! His life and my life - are now “our life.” My children are now his - and our grandchildren are a huge part of our lives. He loves me - - - and I love him. He knows my flaws, and loves me anyways. Because of him, I can be “me”. Our love, makes each of us better. Our hurts are healed - by the love we share, and together we have made a brand new life. And on his birthday? I want to celebrate his life - the life that he gave to me - so that we could become “one” . . .

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime;
Weeping may last for a night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
(Psalm 30: 5)

Birthdays - They are celebrations of “life”. They are times when we thank God for those who have touched our lives, and changed them forever. I thank Him everyday for the gifts of Norma, and my Nana, and all those who I have loved. And I thank Him for every moment I have been given - to be Ted’s wife . . .

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.
(Psalm 100: 1 & 2)

What do you celebrate? It is my hope and prayer that you will celebrate Life and Love - - - that you will say “yes” to the gifts He has waiting - just for you. When you do, your life will be changed - forever . . .

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity - to give you a future and a hope.
(Jeremiah 29: 11)

God bless you as you celebrate - each brand new day - that God has waiting for you!

In His Amazing Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Friday, January 13, 2006

Weekly Word for January 13 - 20, 2006

Weekly Word - Jan 13, 2005

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity - to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29: 11)

Ted and I love football! When he first met me, he was so surprised that I shared the same passion that he did. In his experience - he had never met a woman who loved football. But then again, in his experience - he had never met someone quite like me . . .

Ted and I were getting ready for the week-end. It was going to be a week-end of watching a lot of football! It was the “playoffs”! It was the time of year when the best teams from the whole year - played against each other. The winners advanced to play another week, and the losers were done for the year. So as we got ready to watch, we hoped that our favorite teams would win. The first game on Saturday didn’t quite go as we had hoped - but the “big” game was still to be played. The second game was between “Our Patriots” and a team that everyone said was very good. As the sports announcers went over each team’s record and how they had played that year - they seemed to think that the other team might beat us. This past year had been full of injuries - and the team hadn’t played very well. And even though they had won the Super Bowl the year before, some questioned their ability to play now. As the announcer continued, he told us about what the coach had said to his players. The coach had told them to focus on just that one game - just that one day. These were his words: “If you live in the past - - - you will have no future . . .” When I thought about those words - they seemed like words that were very important - for all of us . . .

Thus says the Lord, “Restrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears: For your work shall be rewarded,” declares the Lord, . . .
“And there is hope for your future,” . . .
(Jeremiah 31: 16 & 17)

“If you live in the past” - - - She was 16, and had just started working at the grocery store. It was her first “real” job. He was 20, and was home from college for the summer. He had worked at the grocery store since he was in high school, working his way up to assistant manager. So when he seemed to pay attention to her, stopping to talk or bag groceries for her - she wondered why. She didn’t consider herself pretty, or very popular - and if anything - she felt like no one would really want to go out with her. But he seemed to like her, and she really liked that feeling. So when he asked her if he could drive her home - she said “yes” - even though she knew her parents would say “no”. It was going to be a very late night - as all the employees were required to work that night. It was the night when everything in the store needed to be counted. She had told her parents that she would be late - but lied and told them she was getting a ride home from another girl. As she got there that night, she expected to spend time talking with him.
Instead, he walked right by her. The hours slowly ticked by, and still he hadn’t stopped to say hello. As it got later, she got more and more upset. What was she going to do? How would she get home?

When she finished counting all the candy and gum that she had been told to count, she went to find her boss - wondering what else she needed to do. “You can go home” she was told. And she looked around - wondering where he was. But he wasn’t there. And so she asked another girl for a ride. Sadly, she was sure that the boy had decided he really didn’t like her . . .

“Then you will call upon Me, . . . And I will listen to you.”
(Jeremiah 29: 12)

He wondered why she had left without him. Confused, she didn’t know what to say. And so she apologized, wondering what had really happened. Over the next few weeks, he spent more and more time with her. He took his break when she was on break, and they spent time talking about their lives. She told him she rode to work on her bicycle, and soon he was riding along beside her. Then the day came when he asked her if she would “go out” with him. Would she be his girlfriend? Before she could answer though, he told her that he knew she would break up with him down the road! Confused she wondered what to say. He told her that every girl that he had dated, all of them, had hurt him. And he knew that she would do the same. Looking at him, she told him “I’m the one that will get hurt, because those who I thought loved me, have always hurt me”. As she said it, she turned away. “Let’s bet on it” he said to her. And she turned around to see what he meant. “The first one to break up with the other - will owe them $50” he said. And to this day, I still don’t know why I agreed to the bet. But that was the beginning of our life together . . .

The Lord is my shepherd, . . . He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; . . .
(Psalm 23: 1 - 3)

“If you live in the past” - We were married for 21 years. During that time, we both hurt the other! There were times when I would remember the bet - and determine to stay with him - just to prove him wrong. But the truth was, we had both been hurt in our lives, and we brought those hurts into our marriage. I wanted him to love me - - - I wanted to love him. And sometimes, we did. But a lot of the time, we hurt each other.

The righteous cry and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34: 17 & 18)

“If you live in the past - - - you will have no future . . .” So many times we bring our hurts from the past - into our future. And then we wonder why we have so many hurts and troubles . . .

Many years ago, I had a good friend I met through counseling. She had come for help, when her marriage was pretty close to ending. Sarah (not her real name) came to the center as a last hope, because her husband had cheated. When Sarah met Ron, she knew that he loved music, and loved a good time. On their wedding day, Ron had gotten into a fight and was arrested. And so she spent her wedding night alone. It was the beginning of a marriage filled with hurts. Ron worked during the day in construction, and spent his nights playing in a band, usually in bars. Sarah was left home alone, with the babies that soon came along. So when I first met Sarah, I was sure that soon she would be divorced.

I thought their marriage was finished - - - but God didn’t! He offered them another chance - for a brand new marriage. Ron turned out to be just a big kid, always wanting to play, and not understanding what he needed to do to be a husband, or even a man. Sarah had spent so much time yelling and screaming, that Ron wasn’t sure he wanted to be home with her. As I got to know each of them, I saw two people who really did love the other person. As I watched, the Lord brought them back together. Sarah and I spent many afternoons having coffee, and talking about this miracle that was happening. Her husband was finally listening to her. She was finally reaching out to him. I loved watching what God was doing. But then - the past just seemed to catch up - with them both . . .

There is an appointed time for everything, And there is a time for every event under heaven -
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 3)

My heart always hurts, when I think about Sarah and Ron. I still don’t know all the reasons why they went back to the way they were before. Sarah started to yell and scream. And Ron, again, ran away. This time though, there was no ability to forgive. And the two finally did get a divorce.

When I think about that time, I wonder about the pain that was still in both. It seemed that neither were able to totally let go of the past. And then I wonder, were the scars just too big - to be healed . . .

A time for every event under heaven - - -
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 8)

The other day, I put in a cd that I hadn’t listened to in quite a long time. The cd has quite a few love songs on it. But one song, is very special for both Ted and me. It was the song that was playing, the day when we could have decided to end our relationship. As I listened to the song again, the words brought back so many emotions. I remember driving to his apartment, wondering how the day would go. I remember the feeling of sheer joy, as he opened the door. Then I remember his eyes, as he looked at me as we talked. We didn’t know what to do - as we sat there talking. We were best friends, but should we be more? We loved each other, but would we hurt the other? The song is “Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Good-bye” by Vince Gill. These are the words that I heard that day: Kiss me like you’ll never see my face again - As soft and tender as you can . . . As the song continued, I wondered if the hurts we had both gone through in our lives, were part of how we felt now. As I sat there, I begged God to help us. I loved Ted so much - and I didn’t want to let go - and the Lord heard me . . .

About a month before I ever heard the song, I had to leave to go see my children and my ex-husband. Ted was working at the ministry, and so I told him I was leaving and waved good-bye. As I drove away, Ted could feel the anger build inside of him. He knew that I was always getting hurt by this man, and wondered why I continued to go. And then he stopped, realizing how much he cared for me. “Please Lord, if they are supposed to get back together, it is alright - You can use me” he prayed. As he prayed, he could feel how much he loved me. He wanted the very best for me - and the Lord heard him . . .

“For your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”
(Mathew 6: 8)

From that day on, we never let go. From that day, we knew that we belonged together. We also knew that each of us had been hurt, through many years of living on this earth. But we knew that together, we could help each other to let go of the hurts - hanging on to the Lord and each other . . .

“If you live in the past” - It took time for me to forgive those who had hurt me throughout my life. And truthfully, I haven’t forgiven everyone or everything. But with God’s help, I try. Everyday, Ted and I ask the Lord to lead us and guide us, taking the hurts, and healing our hearts. Every day, we hang on to each other, and thank God for our love - and the Life that He has given us . . .

“Pray then, in this way: Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done . . .”
(Mathew 6: 9 - 12)

Are you ready to stop living in the past? Are you ready to forgive - and be forgiven? It is my hope, that you will ask God into your life - and into those hurts and pain. When you do, you will finally be ready for a brand new future - and Life . . .

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity - to give you a future and a hope.”
(Jeremiah 29: 11)

God bless you in the coming week ahead!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Weekly Word for January 5, 2006

Weekly Word - January 5, 2006

There is an appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under heaven - - -
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1)

It is 2006! When I think about that fact, I can’t help but look back at the year that has just left us. It was a year filled with so many changes in our lives. There were times of great sadness, as well as times filled with joy. There was uncertainty and fear, as well as healing and laughter. As I think back over the past year, the past month, and even the past week - - - I realize how uncertain our days can be. And in a moment - our lives can change forever . . .

A time to give birth, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 2)

As I woke up that morning, the blackness of the skies seemed to fit how I felt. I didn’t look forward to the day, and all that lay ahead. Ted had to work that day, and so I was left to go alone. I was heading to a funeral, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. As I drove up to the church, the skies seemed to open up, and the rain came pouring down. Getting out of the car, I pulled my raincoat closer together as I headed up the stairs and into the church.

The funeral was for Bill. We met Bill the very first day we had moved into our new apartment. He was an older gentleman who lived two houses down from us. He liked to sit on his front porch and watch the people go by - always saying “hello“ to everyone. So when he saw Ted’s white truck sitting in front of the house, he just had to come down and find out who we were. Ted and I found ourselves talking to Bill for quite a while, hearing about the neighborhood and a little bit about Bill’s life. As we turned to head inside, Bill said: “You are both so nice, your smiles warm my heart”. And then he turned and headed for another neighbor’s house.

From that moment on, Bill always said hello when we went by. His eye sight wasn’t very good, and so he didn’t always recognize us. But when he did, the conversations would start. He loved to tell “old men” jokes that sometimes made others blush. But I just laughed as he told them, liking him despite his bad jokes!

“Blessed is the man whose hope is the Lord.”
“For he will be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river, . . .”
(Jeremiah 17: 7 & 8)

As I sat in the pew, listening to the service, I thought about the man who’s coffin was now at the altar. I couldn’t help but think back over the past year - and the few times we spent talking . . .

Bill had locked himself out of his apartment. It was early spring, and pouring outside. I was working in my office when I heard the doorbell. There was Bill standing on the front porch. He was wearing only his t-shirt, sweats, and slippers - and I could see he was very upset. I tried to get him to come into my house, but he wouldn’t budge off of the porch. He wondered if I could help him by calling his family to help him get back inside. Having no luck with the phone calls, we headed back to his house - hoping to find a way to get him inside. We must have looked quite strange, as we tried to figure a way to get me up and through one of his windows. When we finally gave up on that idea, I told him to wait on his porch as I ran back to my house. There, I called the fire department. As I told them about Bill, I asked if they could help. They told me they could, and I ran back to tell Bill that help was on the way. “Stay with me until they come” he asked. And so I sat down next to him, waiting and talking. He told me little bits about his life, about his family, and then he told me about his wife. She had died a few years earlier, and he told me how he believed she had made him a better person. With tears in his eyes, he told me how he still missed her. When the firemen came, they quickly got his door open, and he was soon back in his apartment. And I - well I went back home - thinking about Bill.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
(Mathew 5: 3 & 4)

As the service continued, I thought about the last time I visited with Bill. It was summertime, and I had decided to take a walk. As I got in front of Bill’s house, he was there sitting on the porch. His eye sight had gotten very bad, and so I had to tell him who I was. “Oh Debbie, it’s you!” he said. And I laughed and told him it was me. I knew that a few people on the road avoided stopping to talk, as Bill loved to talk - and for long periods of time! But on this day, I stopped. I can’t remember all that we talked about, but I do remember bits and pieces. We talked about church - and we talked about faith. We talked about his family, and then about his wife. He told me how he knew his wife had helped him to be more patient with his children. He told me he was more caring because of her. He told me he wondered if God could forgive him for being “who” he was, because he hoped he would see her again - when he left this world. As he talked, the tears were there again - as he told me how much he missed her . . .

For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.
(Psalm 86: 5)

The funeral service continued, and I wondered about so many things. I hadn’t known Bill very long, but he felt like a friend to me. As the service was almost over, the priest blessed the casket and all who were there - and then he called Bill’s grandson up to speak. I had never met him, but I liked him instantly. He told about his grandpa Bill, and about all the people who his grandpa would stop and talk to. His grandpa seemed to have the ability to just talk with anyone and everyone. He laughed easily, and smiled a lot. As his grandson continued to talk, the tears came. I sat there listening to him tell about the man I only knew a little bit. A man who was a friend - and knew how to love . . .

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
“The one who does not love - does not know God, for God is love.”
(1 John 4: 7 & 8)

As I drove away from the church, the tears continued to fall. I hadn’t known him very long, but I felt like the world had lost someone who knew how to be a “friend”. As I wiped away the tears, I headed home to change clothes. I really didn’t have much time to mourn though, as I was needed to babysit my grandchildren.

As I opened the door, two little girls came running - grabbing my legs and yelling “Grandma, it’s you!” I laughed and scooped them up, loving them both so much. As I walked into the living room, I heard the baby fussing in his crib. As his momma brought him down the stairs, he looked over at me and smiled. I couldn’t help but smile back at this beautiful little boy.

The rest of the day was spent playing with the children. I fed the baby, watched Abby dance, and read stories. And then, as she was playing on the floor, Emma looked over at me and said: “I love you Grandma!” It was said so simply, and yet it made my heart feel so good - on a day when earlier it had felt so sad . . .

And there is a time for every event under heaven - - -
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1 & 4)

We all face days of sadness and goodbyes, but there is also the promise of laughter and love. This past year has been a time of struggling with personal hurts and pain - as well as celebrating new life and healing. As I think back on this past year, I am grateful for so much! I am thankful for the gifts of loving my children and my husband. I am also thankful for the friendships in my life - even those I have had to say good-bye to. Their lives, made a difference in my life!

When I look back over the past year, I think about that one day - so full of every emotion. It was a day of “good-byes” as well as “I love you”. It was one day - of living “life”.

Each moment we take a breath on this earth, we have the ability to touch another life. Just like Bill, we have the choice before us - to say hello - or to walk away . . .

But let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And mayest Thou shelter them, That those who love Thy name - may exult in Thee.
(Psalm 5: 11)

As you face this brand new year, each day is a mystery waiting to unfold. Each moment holds the choice - to love or to care. There will always be times of troubles and sorrows - but the Lord also promises love and great joy! Will you ask Him to walk with you each moment of each day - showing you how to live “Life”? When you do - our world is changed forever - as you say “Hello” to those you meet - along the way . . .

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
(Psalm 30:5)

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
(John 15: 11)

God bless you in this brand new year of 2006!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers