Friday, September 29, 2006

Weekly Word for September 29, 2006

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me . . .
(Psalm 23: 1,2, & 4)

“How do you say goodbye?” As I stood in line, waiting to go into the funeral home, I thought about this question. It is a question we all face. It is a question that many of us struggle with . . .

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .

Ted had gotten the call early one morning. He called me right away, and I could hear the unbelief in his voice. As he told me the news, I couldn’t believe it either! How could it be true? We had just gone to their wedding, a little over a year ago. How could her husband be dead?

As the day wore on, more and more information came to us. He had left for work that morning, but never made it there. He had died in a terrible motorcycle accident.

That evening, I could feel the pain in Ted, as he thought about the young man’s wife and little girl. “What will she do?” he asked. As I looked at him, I didn’t have any answers.

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)

As we stood in line, waiting to go into the funeral home, I couldn’t help but think back to their wedding day. It had been a beautiful summer day, as we gathered at a park near the ocean. The sky was dotted with small white clouds, and the ocean made a beautiful backdrop for their wedding ceremony. As she walked toward her groom, the bride looked so happy in her beautiful white gown. It was easy to tell that this was one of the happiest days of her life.

Later that day, there was music and dancing, as we celebrated this very special day. The couple’s young daughter held on tight to her daddy, as they swayed back and forth to the music. As I remembered back, a tightness filled my chest. How would that little girl get through this awful time? How was she supposed to say goodbye to her daddy?

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The righteous cry and the Lord hears, . . .
(Psalm 34: 15 & 17)

“How do you say goodbye to those you love?” This is a question each of us will face - sometime in our lives. I have had to deal with it, and it has never gotten any easier.

I was 14 years old, when my grandfather died. He was my grandfather on my mother’s side, and I loved him dearly. He was pretty much bald all the years that I knew him, but when he was younger - he had been a redhead - just like me. He was the quiet grandfather, the one that I loved to be with. Both my grandparents on my father’s side had died when we were much younger, and so none of us kids had gone to their funerals. But now, at 14, my parents thought I was old enough to go.

But I didn’t want to go. I was afraid. And so I asked my parents if I could stay home and watch the other kids. I know that they didn’t understand, but I didn’t want to say “goodbye” to him. I didn’t think I could bear seeing him in that coffin.

So, as my parents went off to the “calling hours” and then the funeral, I stayed home with my brothers and cousins. When the services were finally over, everyone came back to our house. There were relatives and friends, all there to tell my grandmother how much they had loved my grandfather. There was food, and even laughter - as people talked about the man they had known. That night, I sat right next to my grandmother, listening to the stories about my grandfather’s life.

It was the very next week, when my parents brought my grandmother home to her house on the cape - and left me there to stay with her. I stayed there the entire summer, listening to her talk about my grandfather, and about the life they had lived together. And then one day she asked me: “Why didn’t you go to the funeral?” As I looked at her, I didn’t have a good answer. I told her that I had been too afraid to go. And at that moment, I started to cry.

“Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love, . . . Do not fear, for I am with you.”
(Isaiah 43: 4 & 5)

“How do you say goodbye to those you love?” That summer, my grandmother taught me about loving, and saying “goodbye”. She taught me that it was alright to be sad, and yet have hope for the future. She never stopped living, even though the “love of her life” had left her. And truthfully, it was as if a part of him had been left behind. Even though she knew he was in heaven, she still talked to him at times. The man she had loved for over 40 years, was still part of her life . . .

“Put me like a seal over your heart, . . . For love is as strong as death, . . . It’s flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the Lord.”
(Song of Solomon 8:6)

“How do you say goodbye . . .” It is never easy to say goodbye to those we love. My grandmother lived on her own for over 25 years - after my grandfather died. During that time she learned to drive a car, and get about on her own. Did she stop missing my grandfather? No. She always loved him, but decided to live on - until the day they would be together - on the other side . . .

“Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it;” . . .
(Song of Solomon 8:7)

“How do you say goodbye . . .” It is sometimes very hard to do. Our little granddaughter has a terrible time saying “goodbye”. She has been dealing with the separation of her mother and father, and so leaving - is very difficult for her. She seems to disappear - so she doesn’t have to say the words. It has made it hard to know what to do, when it comes time for us to leave. And then, the other day, I watched Ted teach her - about what “goodbyes” really mean . . .

We had been babysitting the kids overnight, and we had just brought them back to their dad. As we visited and talked with him, he told us he needed to leave and bring Emma over to her friend’s house. We were all hugging and saying goodbye, as I realized that Emma was already buckled into the car. And then I saw it. She was grinning from ear to ear, and mouthing something to him. Ted was just standing there, using sign language, and telling her he loved her. He never said the word “goodbye” - only “I love you”. She signed it back to him, and then waved as they drove away. As I looked at him, I realized he had just taught her about goodbyes - and loving someone . . .

“Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it;” . . .

“How do you say goodbye to those you love?” It isn’t an easy question, and there are no easy answers. As Ted and I stood in that line, waiting to pay our respects to John’s family, we wondered how his young wife would get through this. How was she going to say goodbye to her very best friend from childhood? Truthfully, I didn’t know the answer.

But what I did know, was that she had loved John for years, and on the day they were married - it had been a true celebration of that love. They had a little daughter - who was the evidence of that love. And so, as I stood there, it was my hope and prayer that it would be that love - that little life - who would help her through this awful time.

Love . . . Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; . . .
(1 Corinthians 13: 7 & 8)

“How do you say goodbye?” It is never easy to say goodbye to those we love. Throughout my life, there have been gifts of love and friendship - all along the way. Each one, has changed my life. My grandfather, my grandmother, and my friend Norma - all taught me about love and faith. And then they left. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye; but their love lives on - through me. Their love, changed my life . . .
But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13)

Each day, as Ted leaves for work, I stand outside on the steps waiting for him to drive away. As he pulls up to the curb, I tell him “I love you” in sign language. As he drives away, I pray. I ask the Lord to go with him - and then I thank Him for the gift of our love. Do I know how long we have together on this earth? No. But what I do know, is that our love will live on - through our children and grandchildren. This love - will live on - - - forever . . .

“How do you say goodbye?” With love. Each of us has the choice before us - to care or not. When we say “yes” to loving and caring - our world is changed - forever. And Love - - - lives on . . .

And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love - abides in God, and God abides in him.
(1 John 4:16)
God bless you, and keep you - until we meet again . . .

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Friday, September 22, 2006

Weekly Word for September 22, 2006

Weekly Word - September 22, 2006

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.
This poor man cried and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
(Psalm 34: 4 & 6)

It was one of those days, when the worries and fears seemed bigger than anything I could handle. There were bills to be paid - as well as shopping and errands to do - but I couldn’t stop worrying. I hadn’t been able to work in almost a year, at least not working to make any money, but the bills were still there to be paid. Ted was working so many hours, and still - we never seemed to catch up. I worried about how tired he always was - I worried about Christmas and how to buy presents - I guess I worried about everything. As I thought about all my worries and fears, I couldn’t help but wonder “why”. Why had I had the accident? Why had I gone through so much? Why did Ted and I have to struggle so hard . . .

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints; For to those who fear Him, there is no want.

(Psalm 34: 8 & 9)

“Why me?” So many times in our lives, we find ourselves asking that question. “Why?” Why do bad things happen to us? Where is God in the middle of our struggles?

I have to admit, I’ve asked those questions quite a few times in my life. As I think about it now, I remember back to times when I wondered if God was even in my life - or if I would even survive . . .

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.
(Psalm 34: 15)

We had gone on vacation to the mountains. It was a yearly event that we never missed. But this year was a bit different. I had gone into therapy just 6 months earlier, working hard to deal with just who I was. I knew it had been difficult on my husband and children, as my emotions always seemed to be so raw. I tried to explain it to them - I tried to keep things normal - but nothing seemed normal at the time. I was always crying, and there were times of panic - as I dealt with being raped and abused as a little girl. So as we headed off on vacation, I hoped - and I prayed - that everything would be alright . . .

The first few days seemed to go just fine. We went to the amusement park, and we went to the beach. We took a boat ride, and then walked downtown to see the shops. Each night we walked down to the beach near our cabin, and fed the ducks that came up on the shore. It all seemed so peaceful, and so beautiful. And then one day, we took a trip to a nearby river. My husband and the kids all had their bathing suits on, and they were going to take tubes and float down the river. My job was to pick them up when then got to the end. So I dropped them off, and got in the car and drove down to the bridge where I would be picking them up. I had to wait for a bit. And so I walked up on to the bridge, just watching the water as it rushed underneath it. As I waited, I thought about my children and my husband. I thought about all the things that we had been through over the past few months. As I watched the water pounding on the rocks below, I started to feel the despair well up inside of me. Why did this happen? Why did he do it? Why did my kids have to go through this? For just that moment, I wondered if my children would be better off - without me . . .

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)

For just that moment, I thought about jumping. I thought about letting go of the pain I felt inside of me. And then - - - I thought about my children - and how much I loved them. I wanted to be in their lives - I wanted to live . . .

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

At that moment, I found myself praying. I asked the Lord to help me to live and get healthier. And He did. But it didn’t happen overnight, or even in the next month, or the next year. It all took time. I hadn’t been abused just one time - but over a period of years. And the emotions of that pain and betrayal took time to heal. It took time to learn just “who” I was, and accept the person I could be.

The righteous cry and the Lord hears,

Over the next few years, I had to deal with “me”. I had to deal with the mistakes I had made, and the ways that I dealt with those I loved. I had to deal with my marriage and the hurts that were there as well. As I got stronger and healthier, my marriage seemed to get worse. Both of us, had hurt the other. Things weren’t getting better. And as I faced the choices before me, it came time to leave . . .

It wasn’t easy, but I started a new life with my daughter. We had moved into a house, and I was working to become a counselor. I was babysitting to make ends meet - and then I got sick . . .

Many are the afflictions of the righteous;
But the Lord delivers him out of them all . . .
(Psalm 34: 19)

I was so sick! I couldn’t even take care of the baby. As I sat in the doctor’s office, I wondered what was wrong with me. She had taken blood, and done tests - and still there wasn’t an answer. As I sat there looking at her, I burst into tears. “What is wrong with me?” I asked her. But she didn’t have an answer. As I drove back home, I was so confused. I had just seen my ex-husband, and the things he had said - had hurt terribly. That night, all I could think about were the words he had said. What if he was right? What if I had made a huge mistake? Why was I so sick? Was God really cursing me?

The Lord redeems the soul of His servants;
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.
(Psalm 34: 21 & 22)
Why? I finally did find out “why” I was so sick. I had been bitten by a disease-carrying tick. The disease attacked my lungs and my heart, and it took quite a few months for me to get better. During that time, I fought with myself - wondering if God had left me. I prayed, and begged - and the Lord answered me . . .

And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

So many times in our lives, we wonder why bad things happen to us. We wonder if God has left us, or if He is even in our lives at all. But the truth is, we also seem to turn to Him - when times are tough. In the midst of my pain and sickness, I prayed a lot. During those times, I turned to my friends for help, and prayer. In the middle of my weakest times, I always found Him there - holding my hand - and answering my prayers. All I had to do - - - was ask!

My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.
(Psalm 34: 2 &3)

Norma didn’t have much time left, and we both knew it. She had just gotten home from the hospital, and her movements were very slow. She had asked me to help her up, and so I did. We slowly walked outside, and I thought she might want to sit near her birdfeeder. But as we got closer, she just kept on walking. Slowly, she made her way to the side of the house. Very carefully, I helped her to sit down. Then, she spread her hands out - to touch the grass below us. We sat there, not saying a word, I watched her take in the world around her. At that moment, I knew she was saying “good-bye”.

As I drove away that day, I remember the sobs that came. She had never asked it, but I finally did. “Why Lord?” “Why?”

I guess that’s when the Lord gave me the dream. In it, I saw myself working in a vineyard type place. There was fruit that was in this square field. I knew that I had a job to do - and so I was working there. And then it was as if I saw the place from farther away. I saw roads and square fields - and I saw her. She was working somewhere else - roads away from me. It was another field, with fruit that was all white. I kept trying to see more - but that’s when I woke up . . .

But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

(Psalm 34: 10 & 11)

That night, Norma slipped into a coma. She left this world just over a week later. Each day I visited her, talking to her as she lay there - wondering what I was going to do without her. And then the last day finally came. I got there that morning, and somehow knew it was time. I asked her husband if I could visit with her alone. As I sat there by her side, I held her hand. And then I started to just talk to her. “What am I going to do without you?” I asked her. As I spoke, I watched her eyes move. And for that brief moment, I felt like she was there. “I will miss you” I told her. “But I know you must go, as you have work to do in Heaven - and my job is still here on earth”. As I talked to her, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling - as I told her how much I loved her.

That day, I told Norma “goodbye”. I know that I will see her again - someday. But I miss her. And even though I know that God has His reasons - I don’t always understand them. And that’s the truth. I don’t always know the reasons for the things that happen to each of us. I don’t know why I had an accident and my back was injured. I don’t know why it seems so difficult sometimes to pay all the bills. I guess I don’t know the answers to a lot of things.

But what I do know - is that God knows all the answers. He knows what Ted and I need for each day. He knows what job I need to do - for the ministry - as well as for my health. All I have to do - - - is ask . . .

“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)

Each of us will face times when we wonder - why. All of us face times of trouble and sorrow. Those are the moments when we need God‘s Love in our lives. He is always there - always waiting. All we have to do - - - is ask . . .

God bless you and keep you - as you walk on this road - we call “life” May you hold tight to His hand - through it all!

In His Amazing Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers

Friday, September 08, 2006

Weekly Word for Sept. 8, 2006

Weekly Word - September 8, 2006

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

This past week was Labor Day - the time of year when we realize that summer is about to end, and “fall” is just upon us. It is the time of year when we have to put away the swimming pools and summer toys, as the children head back to school. It is a time when the days get shorter, and the temperatures get colder. It is a time of change - and also of good-byes . . .

And there is a time for every event under heaven - - -

It had been a summer full of changes. It was a time of sorrow and pain, as well as hoping for new beginnings. As Labor Day came, and we moved Mike into his brand new apartment, I wondered what the future would hold for him and his three little ones. As emotions washed over me - I couldn’t help but think back to other summers - to other moments that seemed to define my life. As I started to remember - the emotions came flooding back . . .

There is an appointed time for everything . . .
A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;

(Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 6 & 7)

It was a time of wondering, and excitement. It was a time of confusion, and fear. It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I had been dating a college boy during my junior year, and all the girls seemed to envy me - as I wondered what I was doing. But summer was here, and I couldn’t wait to go up to the “camp”! That’s what we called it. It was a campground, where my parents parked their small camper every summer. It was on a small lake, and the same people seemed to camp there every year. I couldn’t wait to see my friends again. It was as if we had this small group, boys and girls, that got together - for just the summer. So when school finished up, and the weather turned warmer, I started to get excited about seeing them all again.

I guess I should have wondered about my feelings though. Because I didn’t want my boyfriend to be there. He just wasn’t part of that time - or that group. So in between working at the grocery store, and dating a few nights a week - I spent time at the camp. It was there that I could just be a teen-ager. I didn’t have to worry about anything, not my parents - and not my boyfriend. We all hung out together, wearing bathing suits and shorts, and mostly barefoot. We would encourage the boys to do tricks on their water-skis, and we all laughed when one “wiped out”! We walked a lot, and we did a lot of talking during those summer days.

But it was the nights that I remember the most. Sitting at one of the picnic tables down at the beach; with our sweatshirts and jeans on - we spent hours talking and laughing, wondering about each other - and falling in love. It was here, that I first noticed David. Every time he came near me, my heart seemed to race and I couldn’t stop it. He had dark eyes, and dark hair - and I thought he was one of the cutest boys I had ever seen. During the days, we would flirt and swim, and just spend time talking. At night, I knew that he wanted to kiss me. But I guess I knew that I shouldn’t, because there was another boy - who had no clue what was going on at the camp . . .

A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;

The time seemed to fly by, and the weather was getting colder. Our time at the camp was coming to an end. My boyfriend was heading back to college, and I would be starting my senior year at school. And soon, the camper would be brought back home for the winter. I knew that David liked me, everyone had told me so. But the truth was, I didn’t know what I was feeling. And then David took me for a drive in his car. It was after work, and he had asked if he could drive me home. For some reason, I said “yes”. As I sat in the car, so many emotions filled my being. I could feel how nervous he was, and my own heart was beating way too fast. I knew he wanted to kiss me, and at that moment - I didn’t know what to do.

And there is a time for every event under heaven -
A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost;

I never did kiss him. I told him about my boyfriend, and then quickly got out of the car. As I turned and walked away - I knew everything had changed. The simple freedom of summer was gone, and by the next summer - I was married.

And . . . A time for every event under heaven - - -

The memories and emotions continued, as we worked to move Mike. There were memories of summertime with the kids, laughing and playing in the pool. There were memories of making birthday cakes and parties, as we celebrated their lives. And then another memory washed over me. It was August 1985 - and Jenny was turning 4 years old. As I made her cake, I felt as if I would melt in the heat. I had been cooking all morning, and the temperature was nearly 100. The cake was going to have a Strawberry Shortcake doll on it - and I made little flowers to go around the sides. The radio was playing in the background, and I could see my husband and two children laughing and playing in the pool out back. At that moment, I went to the phone and dialed the number the DJ had just mentioned. When I finished the call, I hung up the phone and went back to decorating the cake. But I waited. And soon, I heard the beginnings of the song I had requested. It was “our” song, and I called out the window to my husband. I asked him to come in, as I wanted to surprise him with it. After all, it was also our anniversary! But he just stood there looking at me - with that look that said he didn’t want to be bothered. As the song played, I turned back to the cake - and tried to stop the tears. It was supposed to be a day to celebrate - but my heart was filled with sadness . . .

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance . . .

It was again summer, and the emotions were of confusion and fear. I had set things in motion, to leave my husband. Jenny had finished her freshman year of high school, and was staying overnight at a friends. As the day began, I said good-bye to my husband. Watching him drive away, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again.

That summer, Jenny and I hid away at a friend’s house. We didn’t have much, and I felt so alone and afraid. But I knew that things needed to change. The marriage had been full of anger and hatred, and the hurting needed to stop. As the summer went on, Jenny and I spent our days walking in the park, and visiting the petting zoo. We also learned about ourselves - and our friends. It was that summer, that we met Ted. It was his wife, who had said “yes” to letting us hide away in their home. Over the summer, we spent our evenings watching tv with Ted. His wife didn’t like television - so it was just the three of us. He was always laughing, and just seemed to make things lighter and easier. He made it safe, for Jenny and I to live there. To this day, I know that he was the one to teach Jenny - that men didn’t have to hurt! He taught us both - to trust. And then, fall seemed to be upon us - and we needed to find a new place to live . . .

A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted . . .

That summer changed our lives. It started a friendship, and it ended a marriage. I learned to live on my own, and to believe in myself. And then, just a few years later - things changed again . . .

It was summertime, and we both were falling in love. We tried not to, but it happened anyways. Ted and I were in love, and we weren’t quite sure what to do. He had just been through his own divorce, and our friendship grew quickly. We talked and talked, every night. And when we got together, my heart seemed to beat so much faster. We promised to stay away from each other - and quickly broke our promises. And then one day in July, my car had a flat tire. The frustration I felt was huge. Most of my time was spent working in ministry, and that didn’t pay very well. So as I looked at my tire, I wondered how I would get it fixed! I somehow made it to the tire place, and quickly asked to use the phone. As I dialed, I prayed he would answer. And when he did, I burst into tears. I tried to tell him about the car, but he just told me he would be right there - and he was. As the garage worked on my car, he took me down the street to the local diner. As I sat there with my coffee, and couldn’t help but stare at this sweet, gentle man. I watched his lips as he talked, and wondered what they would feel like, if I kissed him. I couldn’t believe I was thinking these things, as I sat there worrying about the bill for replacing my tire. As we headed back to the garage, he asked if he could help me out and pay the bill. I just looked at him, and then I nodded my head. After all, we both knew I couldn’t afford it. Driving back to the ministry, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. When we got there, we both headed into the kitchen. To this day, I don’t know why I did it - but I jumped up and sat on the counter. As I sat there, I just looked at him - standing in front me. And that’s when I asked him if I could kiss him. When I said it - I remember wondering if I had really said those words out loud. My heart was racing, and I was sure he could hear it. And then - - - we were kissing. It was one of those moments - that seem to stop time. I had never felt anything quite so wonderful, and yet so terrifying. In that moment, our lives became connected - - - forever . . .

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven -
A time for love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 8 & 9)

The past few weeks, or maybe I should say the past few months, have been full of changes. There have been times of sadness as well as good-byes. But there have also been times of celebration and joy. We were able to take our granddaughter on vacation with us. I will never forget the moment she ran into our arms - greeting us with pure joy and happiness. The time we spent with her was full of laughter and hugs. It was so much fun. And then it was over. When it was time to say “goodbye”, we watched her slip away - unable to actually say the words. As we turned to leave, it was such a contrast from the “hello” we had gotten a few days earlier. As we drove away from the house that night, so many emotions were there. But the memories - the hugs and laughter - will last with us forever.

There is another memory - another moment - that I will never forget. It is the moment when I found out that Mike’s marriage was ending. It was a day in May, and she had called me on my cell phone. As I listened to her, I could feel my chest start to hurt. When we finished talking, I sat there staring out the window of the car, as the sobs overtook me. I knew there had been problems before, but this time, it felt like the end.

a time for every event under heaven . . .

This summer has been filled with many changes and emotions. We spent it helping out with the kids and Mike. We worried and we tried to help - whenever we could. And we grieved - for what was lost. And then it was time to help Mike move. As we stood there - that last day - I knew that one chapter had ended - and another was just about to begin. I don’t know what lays ahead for Mike or the children - but I do know that there is always hope - after the storm . . .

“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)

Each and every one of us will face times of heartache and pain. We all face changes - during our lives. But we also have choices - to walk it alone - or not. It is my hope and prayer that you will ask the Lord to be with you - always. With His help - you (as well as my son) can face - - - anything . . .

God bless you and keep you - until we meet back here again!

In His Love,
Debbie & Ted Ayers