White Satin Shoes

Today we say good-bye. We say good-bye to my husband’s grandma, otherwise known to us “Ma-ma.” She was married at the age of 16, had 3 children, many grandchildren, great grands and great-great grands. She was a woman who worked hard to provide for her family. She was an excellent seamstress, helped her husband in his many pastoral positions, canned and froze the food they grew in their gardens. She loved her family, knew how to laugh at life and was just a good woman.

When we brought Cora to WV for the first time I loved how Ma-ma just held Cora and allowed her to lay on her lap for hours. Being a first-time mom I was afraid this would spoil or ruin Cora, and we’d have to work for weeks to get Cora used to not being held so much. Of course, that didn’t happen, and I realized ┬áit was perfectly OK for a baby to be held endlessly by her great grandmother as long as was possible. When we took Ben to meet his great grandparents for the first time I looked forward to having Ma-ma hold and love on Ben for as long as she wanted. And she did. She showed love to her great grandchildren just as she had her grandson, my husband.

When I got pregnant a 3rd time Ma-ma was so excited to know she was to have another great grandchild. When we learned we were having a girl, and decided on the name, David called Ma-ma and told her. We knew the secret was safe with her and she loved that we were using her daughter’s middle name for our daughter’s middle name. My sister planned a small baby shower for me before Rebekah was born and Ma-ma was most concerned to find white satin shoes for Rebekah. She said the baby girl needed to have them. David’s aunt searched high and low and finally found some to purchase online. They are beautiful little shoes. I took them with us to the hospital so Rebekah could wear them home.

While we were in the hospital having Rebekah we knew Ma-ma’s health was deteriorating rapidly. We were planning to go to WV sooner than we had originally planned. We took lots of photos with the camera and on our phones and texted those photos to my MIL so she could share them with Ma-ma. Ma-ma’s last lucid thoughts were of Rebekah. The last thing she understood on this earth was that she had had another great granddaughter and this little girl would be going home wearing her white satin shoes. Ma-ma will not get to meet Rebekah here on earth, but one day, in heaven it’ll happen. We grieve that Rebekah will not know her great grandma, but we have the hope of heaven one day.

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Is it Taking Over?

We were notified on Sunday that another lady has passed away from our church. Though she’s in heaven and no longer suffering, her loss is felt. This makes 22 members of our church who have died since we came to serve at this church 2 1/2 years ago. It would be an understatement to say this is really taking a toll on the church as a whole and David as well. How do you deal with so much death? It doesn’t matter that most of those who have passed have been elderly, their loss is just as hard and important. In 2 1/2 years we have lost 1/3 of our congregation just to death. It’s a hard reality to swallow. It doesn’t make sense, and I have been struggling with how to wrap my brain around all of this. My initial response is to feel the sadness for my husband as he has to prepare another memorial/funeral service. He has to minister to the family and help them through this time of need and uncertainty. I am then struck with the sadness the family and church family are feeling. They knew these people far better than we ever did. If our sorrow is great I can’t imagine what theirs is like.

It would seem death is taking over. It would seem God is working unjustly here. How much death can one group of people take? I sure hope no more for a long time!!! There is a sense of depression, sadness, and dread over the church, and I would say rightfully so. It seems death is taking us by storm and not leaving many alive in its wake. Why so much death? Why these people? Why this group? I don’t know. I don’t have answers. I don’t understand.

What I do know is we hate it when the phone rings anymore and see a church member’s number listed. David doesn’t want to answer for fear another of the flock has passed on. What I also know is God is in control. Though we don’t understand what’s going on right now, He’s still God, He’s still in control and He’s still good. I suppose we’re not meant to understand at this time. We just need to trust him–and yes, so much easier said then done!

If you think about it, pray for our church. Pray for the MANY grieving families we have in our midst. We have many widows right now, many families missing moms, dads, sisters, brothers. And for the others, their friends. Pray for David as he ministers to the congregation that is left and does his best to help them through this time. And, pray that God will be glorified and that through our non-understanding we’ll remember that God is still God, God is still in control, and God is still good.

 

A Celebration of Life

Saturday David’s grandmother passed away and went home to be with Jesus. We will miss Mammaw, but are thankful we’ll get to see her again in heaven! We are in WV for the services this week. Please keep in prayer the Layne family, as well as David, as they mourn the loss of this lovely woman.

Mammaw meeting Ben for the first time. This was in August, the last time we saw her.

Grief and the Pastor’s Family

Grief. It’s an interesting thing. I’ve always said that weddings and funerals bring out the most interesting things in people. Something about high-stress situations, whether good or bad, just bring out attitudes, words and actions in people who are usually very reasonable. This isn’t always the case, of course, I know that. So, what does the pastor’s family do during a time of grief? David has always been amazed how he is welcomed into the most deeply grievous times for a family when one of their members dies. Pastors are “allowed” to be where others are not.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days because a dear member of our church passed away last week. This man was a dear person and left behind his wonderful wife. He had a quiet faith and a fantastic sense of humor–he was in a competition with Ben to see who could grow back hair the fastest! We had he and his wife over for dinner one night, and though we hadn’t known them a long time, it was a fun time, a relaxed time, and an evening we all really enjoyed. Their relationship reminded me a lot of my grandparent’s.

It was sad to both David and I when we learned of this man’s passing. He and his wife always had a kind word to say to us on Sundays, laughed with us, loved our children and were just sweet people. But, how does the pastor’s family grieve? Obviously, we’re allowed to be sad, to hurt and to grieve, but I think we, especially the pastor, are looked to for comfort and strength. Obviously, we don’t have the long history with the people in our church as the congregation has with each other. But, with the passing of this gentleman it has caused me to think. To ponder. To wonder, how is the pastor’s family supposed to react?

The only thing I’ve come up with is that we’re to react honestly. I don’t think it would be right for us to hide our sadness at the passing of one of the flock. I don’t think it would be helpful to pretend we were not also grieving. But, I also think we need to be a strength for the family, for the widow, for the parent. I think we need for them to know that we, as a pastor’s family, grieve with them, but are there for them if they need us to be. A pastor’s family is welcomed in when others are not simply because the husband (or in some cases the wife) is the pastor. We need to let people know we’re grieving too but balance it with strength so that we can comfort the member who is left behind.

It’s an interesting thing, grief. We don’t know how we’ll react until death happens. But, it does happen and our family is one that finds it hard to hide our emotions. And so, we won’t. We won’t shy away from the sadness we feel, but we will also let this man’s widow know that through Christ she can find strength.

Sigh…

Anger, frustration, not understanding, wondering, second-guessing, questioning, praying, hoping, trying not to become bitter…These are all things I’m feeling and thinking right now. These are things that are forefront on my mind. These are the emotions that are plaguing my husband and I these days.

It’s July. It’s the middle of summer. It’s 8 months from November 2008. We’re still in Osseo. We’re nowhere closer to knowing where God will send us then we were 8 months ago. We’re still waiting. We’re still praying. We’re quickly losing hope, wondering why we’re still here, wondering why we’re still in this holding pattern. Is there some big lesson we’re supposed to be learning here? Are we only here for the “fun” of it? Why isn’t God giving us answers, clues, direction?

It’s very hard not to become despondent. It’s very hard not to lose hope, not to become bitter. It’s very hard not to second-guess decisions made. It’s just hard.

We so much want to be somewhere, be involved in ministry again, doing SOMETHING!!! We’re trying so hard to do what is right. We’re trying so hard to trust. We’re trying so hard to make the Lord pleased.

Oh Lord, hear the cries of our hearts. Please release us from this chapter in our lives. Please send us out to the next place of ministry you have for us.

Dear Grandpa…

My mom just called not too long ago that my Grandpa died this morning around 8:00 a.m. Though it wasn’t a shock (he had a huge brain aneurism) it’s still shocking when someone you love dies, stops breathing, leaves this earth and your life forever.

My grandfather, Riley Monroe Russell, was probably the most Godly man I knew. He prioritized life with God first, family next, everyone else and with himself no where on the list. If you knew, or even met my grandfather, you knew he fought in WWII, loved his country, loved his Father, loved his wife and loved his family very, very much. He worked hard to provide for his family and when he retired he never stopped doing everything he could to help his children and grandchildren. As grandchildren we had our college books paid for us, we knew that if we were in a bind financially Grandpa would be more than willing to help. He was always willing to help his family in any way he could–financially, with his time, words of love and wisdom, etc. When you told him “thank you” he would simply say, “I’ll write it in my book.” ­čÖé We know he didn’t have an actual book, but it was always his response. He didn’t expect to be thanked but rather just wanted to help. The neighborhood children knew they could always count on Mr. Russell to give money to whatever they were collecting for, buy candy, or do what he could to help a child in school. He gave out the most and best candy at Halloween and the kids knew it! My grandfather gave of himself without expecting anything in return. He cared for my grandma for their whole married life. He loved her fiercly and didn’t love her less as her disease disfigured her body. He remarried after Grandma died and loved Hannah just as fiercly. He didn’t love her any less as cancer took over her body and called her home before they had had much time together. It wasn’t easy watching Grandpa suffer as he did in his last months of life. This man who had given everything he had without expecting anything in return had to endure his own sickness. Thankfully, our Father took Grandpa home without any pain and let him enter heaven in his sleep.

We will miss you Grandpa. We miss you already. I’m so glad Cora was able to know you even if just a little. She will grow up knowing what a wonderful man you were. I don’t know what our family will look like after today. You seemed to always be the glue which held us all together. But, you instilled in us a love for each other, the importance of family, and I know we’ll continue on. If there was one word I could use to describe you, Grandpa, it would be LOVE. Love flowed from you like I’ve never seen it flow from anyone else. You’re in heaven now. Not suffering, no longer in pain and with your Saviour. Tell Grandma hi for me. I miss her so much too. I’m glad you can be together again.

For Riley Monroe Russell: a man who loved his God, his family and his country. A man full of life, laughter and love. A man who will be missed my countless people. We love you!

Holding on with My Fingernails

At the end of our rope; by the skin of my teeth; only a breath away…All of these sayings give you the impression it’s not by much that one is holding on. I think of the poster I’ve seen where a kitten is clawing desperately to the end of a rope with this crazed look in her eyes as if to say I hope my little claws will hold me to this rope so I don’t plummet to my death. This is how I have been feeling the last several weeks, this past week in particular. As you know, my husband resigned in November from the church he had been ministering in for almost 3 years. We left behind a lot of grief, hurt, pain and abuse. We knew it was time to go, we knew the Lord had released us, and we knew it was time to go THEN. We were, and still are, confident of all these things. And yet, we’re still here, waiting for a job for my husband. We figured we’d have a good idea where we’d be headed by the time the baby came–end of March. We’re no closer┬ánow than we were then. We’ve said “no” to 3 churches, knowing full well it was the right decision. One church we were quite interested in due to the proximity to our families told us no. However, we were OK with that because we needed to tell them no if given the opportunity. And so, here we sit. We figured by the time my maternity leave was up we’d either be moved, or at the very least, in the process of moving to our new home. My maternity leave is done June 16 and we are still nowhere close to knowing what God has for us. And so we wait. The longer we wait the more discouraged we become. We try to put up a good front to people, to our families, to each other, but the truth is we’re hanging on by our fingernails, and they’re quickly giving way. I feel like that little kitten holding desperately to the rope. What is that rope? That rope is my faith in Christ, my hope in his promise to provide for us, my trust that he will send us where he wants us when the time is right.

For 6 months I haven’t posted as a pastor’s wife. I’ve simply been a wife, an expectant mother and now a mother. But, my husband is still a pastor. He’s not getting paid to be one right now, but he IS a pastor. It’s his gift, it’s what he’s been called to do. And yet, we still wait. Why are we waiting? Why hasn’t God swept us off to a new and exciting ministry? Why are we still living out of boxes and not settling into a new home? Are there lessons to be learned here? Are we supposed to come to some kind of epiphany during this time of waiting? Or, are we simply here to trust Him? To have faith that he will provide? I have no idea. I don’t have any answers. I don’t know how to be upbeat and optimistic any longer. I don’t know how to encourage my husband. I feel my little claws are losing their grip on that rope and soon I’ll be falling.
And yet, I haven’t fallen. It seems just when I think my fingernails can’t take anymore I’m given more strength. Maybe not enough to actually climb that rope, but enough to keep hanging on. I’ve been reading Hebrews 11 this past week. It’s the chapter on faith, and what is often known as the “Faith Hall of Fame.” It talks about Abraham, Abel, Rahab, Noah. People who were asked to do seemingly impossible things but had the faith to do it anyway. God asked Abraham to kill his son Isaac. No explanation was given, and it must have grieved Abraham to even think about killing his son, but he started to obey. When God saw he would obey, He provided a way out for Abraham and provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Noah was asked to build a boat when the land had not experience rain yet. What on earth was a boat needed for? But, he built the ark and God revealed his plan as Noah needed to know it. Abel gave a gift to the Lord out of his own need. God saw his heart in the giving and blessed Abel for it. I see these examples, and I know there are so many more, and I have to wonder, do I have enough faith to be put into Hebrews 11? It tells us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I need to be sure of the hope that God has a great ministry/church for my husband to preach in, and I need to be certain that it will happen even though I can’t yet see how.
If you think about it, pray for me, pray for us. Pray that I will remember this rope I’m holding onto is hope, that I will remember it’s my Father who is giving me the strength to hold on. Please also pray that I will know how to be an encouragement to my husband and show him love during this very dark and low time for him. Thank you.