Update on Thanksgiving In The Changes

Well, yesterday morning Hospice brought in a portable x-ray and it reveals a fractured tibia from the Wednesday evening fall. He has been taken to a local nursing home for what is called “5 days of respite care”. He will then be brought back home Wednesday afternoon. He is going to require 24/7 care for now, maybe longer. Assisted living is no longer an option–for now, maybe never.

We are adjusting our schedules and seeking out trustworthy people to hire when we cannot be there. Now there’s a task. And if you are looking to combine your faith and a new career/business–this field is wide open. AND because he will be back in HIS home Wednesday, we are still planning and having our Thanksgiving Celebration at the home where I spent over 12 of the most important years of growing up. I will be remembering with Gratitude all that this home has given to me.

This adjusting of my schedule may mean I will not have the time to write every day. But I will keep you posted. Maybe even journal this journey here on this blog. Your prayers are being felt by me and my whole family. You’re doing a great job–so don’t let up. My prayers for him are that his pain will diminish and he will again that be more mobile. Besides, he’s ready for his Home Going and I am so thankful for this; He will be able to see his Jesus, his wife of 73 years, his 2 daughters already there.

I am seeing this season of life as yet another classroom; and the Holy Spirit is my teacher. I haven’t yet seen His Class Syllabus nor the subjects He will be covering. I can trust Him because He has proven Himself every time to be faithful and loving to me. So, I will be watching, listening, and hopefully learning some lessons–about my relationship with Him. And who knows, maybe I will learn something that will help me minister to somebody else. After all, God never wastes any good scars. Until my next Journal Entry, I am deeply indebted and grateful to you who take the time to read this blog. Now, unto Him, who can do so much more than we can think or even imagine–to HIM be all of the honor and glory. Now and forevermore! Amen and Amen!

Thanksgiving In The Changes

I know today isn’t Thanksgiving Day–but it is Thanksgiving Day that I’m thinking about this morning. I’m not thinking about all that food–but I am thinking about all the changes that are about to happen with our family. It was just a few weeks ago that Dad had to be taken to the hospital because his heart was in severe A-Fib. But Dad is a tough old bird–95 to be exact. And a couple of days later he was back at HIS home–that same home he had built in 1962. We decided to ask him if it was OK with him–after all, it’s his home–to have Thanksgiving at his house. We would do all the preparations–and he agreed. All of us realize this may well be our last Thanksgiving Day with him.

And now it appears that a big change is about to happen. For over 3 years he has been living by himself. But recent events are bringing about a change that he, nor us, wanted to see happen. Last week he fell, but he was unable to get back up, so he had to use his alert button to get paramedics there to assist him in getting back up. No injuries. Then this Wednesday he fell again–and again needed assistance to get back up. But this time he twisted his ankle–and it really hurts.

I called him yesterday afternoon to see how he was feeling. The conversation I knew that would happen one day–happened Thursday, 10 November 2021. Fighting back the tears he told me it was time for a move to assisted living. But, in his own words, “I want to hold on until after Thanksgiving.” These words are from a man who is a fierce warrior in life. He worked for 30 years in a plant, the last several years while also serving as a bi-vocational pastor, spending his vacation time going to school. When he bought the place to build his home he bought an extra lot for the garden. It fed us and many others over the years. He continued that garden into his late 70’s. And after retirement from being a pastor, he spent many years working at a local funeral home.

Last night and this morning my heart is breaking for him. In April we had to convince him it was time to quit driving. That was a horrible day! We’ve had assistance coming into HIS HOME 3 days a week–something he did not like at all. He’s been losing his independence–something no fierce warrior ever wants to do. He and I have talked about his funeral–and that really wasn’t hard at all to do. This fierce warrior has been running The Race and has kept The Faith. But this change–and at Thanksgiving–is difficult beyond even my ability to find words.

Honestly, I am dreading next Thursday. But it is supposed to be a happy and joyful day. And this dark cloud is hanging over us–trying to crush my heart. I mean, how can you even pretend to be Thankful when you know what will happen very soon thereafter? Well, this is where YOU come in to play. I know my attitude must as genuinely hopeful as Dad’s has been over many years, some of which there wasn’t much hope.

Pray for us, please! I have been so blessed to have This Fierce Warrior for 95 years. He has loved me–forgiven me–and encouraged me all the time. I know I shouldn’t be so down and out. I’ve had him longer than most sons have had their Dads. But my heartache isn’t for me–it’s for Him! For all the times he has been strong for me–now I must be strong for him! I must genuinely show thankfulness and joy next Thursday. But the only way it will happen is if God helps me. And thanks for listening to my heart this morning.

Grudges And Garbage

Today’s thoughts will be short. I am heading back home to be with my family. My sister is still near death–and I need to be with my Dad. So here goes. The idea that is in my heart and mind is this: The Fragileness Of Life. In just a couple of days–a couple of minutes–a couple of seconds–in an instant, what was isn’t anymore.

One of the most precious gifts, after the gift of Jesus and The Kingdom, is family, followed by friends. Yet relationships are broken, not by death–but by Grudges! Fortunately my sister, Jacque and I, we don’t have any Grudges. And for this I am most thankful. But not everyone in life can say this, and it’s sad–so very sad. I’ve seen it lot–and still see it today.

It’s not just hard, but impossible to deal with Grudges when one party isn’t able to communicate with the other. Grudges is just another word for Garbage! Why do I say this? Think about it. It piles up big over time. It’s useless. It’s ugly. It stinks! We expect someone else to take care of it. And it pollutes environments.

And the stinkiest stench is from those who call themselves “Christians”. If you really listened to Jesus, how can you hold a Grudge? His mandate is clear: FORGIVE! And I am amazed at how some Christians, think they have found loopholes that allows them their Grudges. Here’s a few:

  • “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget!” Okey Dokey! Does God remember every single sin of yours that has been forgiven? Do you really think that Jesus is still carrying around that rugged old cross?
  • “Well, they just hurt me too much!” Oh? Really? Do you really think that the Cross didn’t hurt Jesus too much? That Jesus carrying all of your sins while suspended on the Cross was only slightly painful? Maybe a 2 out of 10 on the pain scale?
  • (This one is the biggest pile of Garbage) “Well, I do love them, I just don’t like them, and I’ll never have anything to do with them ever again!” OK buckaroo! You’re about to fall out of your saddle. Is that how Jesus treats you? Is that how God loves you? They will say, “Of course not!” Then what about these words?

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, JUST AS GOD through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

To you who make the intentional choice to hold a Grudge and refuse to mend the fences–listen to this one who is about to say goodbye to his sister–Life is fragile, too fragile to hold Grudges. You really haven’t forgiven anyone if you still hold a Grudge. And that, my friend, is the antithesis of Jesus. Your Grudge isn’t paying the other person back what they deserve. It isn’t punishing them. You are punishing yourself–and you are being covered up with stinky, ugly, disgusting Garbage–and the odor is on YOU!

7 Things That God Finds Disgusting: A Person Who Sows Discord!

At last, we reach the end of the things that God finds disgusting–or if you prefer the King’s English–Abominations. Here are the links to the previous 6: Haughty Eyes; A Lying Tongue; Hands That Kill The Innocent; A Heart That Plots Evil; Feet That Race To Do Wrong; and yesterday’s A False Witness Who Pours Out Lies. And here is the seventh thing that is both disgusting and an abomination to God!

There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: 
 a person who sows discord in a family.

Proverbs 6:16, 19 (New Living Translation)

We all have them. You know what I’m talking about. That one family member that we hope and pray and pray some more–that they will not show up at the next family gathering. It’s that relative that excels in creating that atmosphere of strife and contention in the family. The ensuing bickering leaves hurt feelings and hard heads that storm off. It’s not just at that gathering where the strife appears, but it continues long after the occasion that led to it. That’s the thing about Strife and Contention–once they happen they develop and life all their own and can be difficult to end.

Why does Solomon mention this about Discord in a family being so Disgusting to God? For a couple of reasons. One reason is that he lived in that strife and contention growing up. Remember his half-brother Absalom led a insurrection against their father, David? The other, and more important reason, is that family is God’s smallest battle formation against evil. And everyone knows that any family not united for God, cannot stand up against the attacks of Satan.

Let’s go deeper with the definition of family–being more than biologically or legally related. What about us as followers and disciples of Jesus? Didn’t He call us to be the Sons and Daughters of God? That sounds like Family to me, doesn’t it to you? And to Sow Discord (remember that means Strife and Contention) in the Family of God, within the Body Of Christ? To God that is an Abomination and absolutely Disgusting! It brings to mind a Yiddish word: Feh!

Change In Names–Saturday Stories 25 January 2020

(Today’s story happened in 2004, but it will always be a part of the unfolding story of who I am and who I am becoming)

Would It Be OK?

When Debbie and I started dating, it wasn’t long before I met her granddaughter, Rileigh Breeze.  I quickly became known by her as “that ‘nother Randy.”  I was known as “that ‘nother Randy” because they had a long time family friend also named Randy.  So, when Rileigh Breeze talked about “Randy”, she needed a way to clarify which “Randy” she was talking about.  Now to her, it just made sense to call me “that ‘nother Randy” since the first “Randy” had been a part of her life for longer than I had been.  One day she was telling her “Auntie” something Randy had said.  But she quickly added, “Not Randy Randy, but Grammaw’s Randy.  You know, that ‘nother Randy.” 

It wasn’t long before I was known in Debbie’s family as “that ‘nother Randy.”  And I was OK with that designation.  It certainly eased the confusion as to which Randy was being discussed.  It made for clarity in communication, and besides, it was a cute and humorous way that Rileigh Breeze had made this distinction between the two Randy’s. Without something to make us distinctive, it would be confusing to know which one was which.  (If you think it would be confusing to have two family friends named Randy, how about 3 different people not only sharing the same first name, but also the same last name.  Yes, there are at least 3 different people named, you guessed it:  Randy Burbank; and yes, we are all cousins.  And please, no comments about the “Bob Newhart” show:  This is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl.)

Debbie and I had been dating almost a year when I asked her to become my wife and partner in God’s ministry.  Not long after we announced to her family that we would be married, Rileigh Breeze was talking with her Grammaw about what this meant and the changes that would occur; the biggest of which would be that Grammaw would move across the state, 2 hours away.  As best we can remember, during the conversation, she asked, “Grammaw, would it be OK if I called him Grampaw instead of that `nother Randy?”  And the first time she called out, “Hey, Grampaw” I knew something special had happened. 

Of course, she melted my heart, but something else happened.  Our relationship changed from one of friends, to that of family.  Even though there is not a genealogical connection, even though there is no shared DNA between Breeze and myself, she is and will always be one of my granddaughters, and I will always be her Grampaw.  The cultural designation would be she is a step-granddaughter, but not in my heart.  Debbie and I do not have step-grandchildren, only grandchildren. It was amazing to me the first time I heard Rileigh Breeze call me “Grampaw”.  Our relationship changed and took on a lot more depth; and it all happened when she called me by the name:  Grampaw.

Moral Of The Story

When God calls us by name, there is, without a doubt, a sound of love in the way He does it.  I knew there was a deepening of love between Breeze and myself, but it didn’t hit me until she called me by the name, “Grammpaw”!  God is constantly calling to us by name, and I want to encourage you not to be too busy so as to miss that moment.  Every time God calls you by name is a sacred and powerful moment that offers to change our relationship with Him with ourselves, and with others.

And why does God call us by name?  Because He has said:  “For I have ransomed you.”  Ransom is an interesting word in the Hebrew language.  It means:  “to act as a kinsman (family member).”  God wants us to know we can experience a family relationship with Him.  When I married Breeze’s Grammaw, I was no longer a friend, I was a family member and she acknowledged that with my new name.  God wants us to know that we are kin, we are family. 

A Letter

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I’m back to a time and place where I can write again.  Wednesday, May 23 at 6:30 p.m. my Mother went home completely healed of her vascular dementia.  Over the past few months I watched a godly woman suffer.  In the last 2 weeks I watched her suffering intensify.  My prayers, and the prayers of many more, were for her to be released from her suffering.  On Tuesday Hospice told us it was only a matter of days.  My Dad refused to leave her side at the nursing home, so that night I stayed with him.  My wife Debbie came to relieve me Wednesday morning so I could go home a catch a nap.  She called me just a couple of hours later saying I needed to come back.

Surrounded by family, telling her it was OK to go home, her breath left her body and her soul was embraced by the One who had embraced her for nearly 90 years.  This picture was from 23 years ago at their 50th Wedding Anniversary.  They renewed their wedding vows and it was my honor and great joy to preside over that ceremony.  I had already been grieving for Mother and grieving more for Dad.  We went to his home that evening to make ready for the funeral.  I am still amazed at the great strength he has even at 92.  But then, I shouldn’t be amazed because he is a man of great faith.

Earlier in that week my daughter, Leslie Faith, called.  She and her family were about to leave on a family cruise.  They had purchased this family vacation 2 years earlier and did not purchase the “insurance” in case something like this happened.  She asked me, and Dad, her Pappaw, if we would be OK with them still going.  Of course we both said “Yes” because family time was important to Mother.  Leslie called me back and asked if it would be OK if she wrote a letter to be read at Mother’s funeral.  Being a writer myself, I was all over that and gave her my blessings.

This morning, I want to share with you what she wrote, and was read at Mother’s funeral yesterday.  I am proud of Leslie Faith’s gift of writing and would like to think maybe she got this from me.  By the way, we call her Leslie Faith because my Dad and Mother had another child named Marilyn Faith.  She would have been the oldest, had she lived.  The name “Faith” was special to Mother.  Here are words that were formed by the example and teachings of my Mother to us all:

 

In a way this is one of the easiest letters I’ve ever written and in a way it’s one of the hardest.  Finding the words to sum up the life of Helen Irene Gautney Burbank isn’t the easiest of tasks.  She was a loving and devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend.  Her love and loyalty knew no bounds.  She led what many today would consider a simplistic life, but she was fulfilled and knew a joy that eludes so many people today. 

Mammaw would be the first to say she was far from perfect.  She was an avid collector of things (yes that’s the nice way of saying she was somewhat of a hoarder) and she worried about everyone else so they didn’t have to.  She kept things that most people wouldn’t – be it a drawing on a bulletin from one of the grandkids or some trinket present one of the kids gave her for Christmas when they were little.  They may have been knickknacks or even junk to someone else, but they were treasures to her.  And for reasons that pass all understanding, she could not smile in a picture, although she smiled all the time in real life. 

Although Randy and Jacque might try to disagree for reasons unknown to the rest of us, she spoiled her children.  The grandchildren know we were spoiled.  She encouraged our imagination – who knew that old medicine bottles, wooden swords and capes made from old fabrics could create hundreds of countless hours of fun?  She taught me how to play Rummy and Dominoes.  She tried to teach me how to crochet – if only I had her patience.  She made us clothes when we were little.  She introduced me to Madame Alexander Dolls and the yearly Christmas bears.  There were our Christmas stockings every year.  And what did we want in them?  The latest toys or money?  Nope!  We wanted the oldest jar of pickles she had.  We wanted the homemade hot sauce.  We wanted the butter beans.  The chicken stew.  We wanted what she and Pawpaw made and had made with love.

She was firm in her faith and she loved the Lord her God.  She loved her family.  Unconditionally.  Without fail.  She always looked for the good in people and she refused to see anything but the best in those around her.  If one of us made a mistake, she was the first one to say, “Well, that’s alright!  I know you’ll do better next time!” And she honestly believed that we were capable of doing better and we would do better.  She never let the disappointment she might have felt in any of us overshadow her love for us.  Love, loyalty and faith weren’t just words to Helen Irene.  They were a way of life.  The only way to live life.  She didn’t let the loss of her first child define her or break her.  Yes she was heartbroken about losing Marilyn, even when she talked about it all these years later.  But she continued to make a life for her family.  And she made sure we all knew about Marilyn – that Marilyn lived on through the rest of us.  And just as I am sure about her love for her family, I am sure that she is now rejoicing to be reunited with Marilyn and Mamma Gautney and so many of her loved ones that have been waiting on her. 

The selfish part of me is sad that she’s gone from this earth.  The selfish part of me misses her already.  I miss the meals we had together (especially her mashed potatoes) because no one could cook like her.  It’s something about a homemade meal made with love that you just can’t duplicate no matter how hard you try.  I miss her phone calls.  I miss her laugh.  I miss her calling me “Tinker Bug” or “Mammaw’s Little Angel”.  I miss her.  But that’s the selfish part of me.  The rest of me know she’s so much better off.  That she more than earned the reward that awaited on the other side of Heaven’s gate. 

I have struggled with the possibility of not being there for her funeral.  She was always there for me – made time for me no matter what.  She never once told me she was too busy and to come back later.  But then I think about what she always told me about family.  About how family is there for you no matter what and that you should always take the opportunity to make memories with them.  I have 37 years of great memories with my Mammaw Burbank.  I pray I am making memories with my family now – memories she would be proud to share with me.  I pray I am doing what she would want me to do – what she would do in my shoes.  I pray that I am honoring her memory in a way that she would want.  I pray that as I grow I become more like her.  That I have her faith and her ability to see the good in people.  That I give more second chances and forgiveness.  That I create loving and happy memories with those closest to me.  That I always put God and family first. 

Mammaw always said that she led a blessed life, but I think she underestimated how much of a blessing she was to the rest of us. I know that I was deeply loved by Helen Irene Burbank and I know that she knew I deeply loved her.  She always saw the best in me, so maybe that’s why I always saw the best in her.  I may never be the “collector” she was or the cook that she was (although I do think I’ve got Jacque beaten by a country mile), I do hope and pray that I love my family like she loved hers.  That I am the example to my family like she was to me.  That I have her ability to forgive, to see goodness in people and to not be hardened by the trials of this world.  I hope I can follow the example she set.  I hope that my Pawpaw can look at me and see just a little bit of her in me.  I hope as we can all look at ourselves and see just a little bit of Helen Irene and realize how better off we all are because of it. 

LESLIE FAITH BURBANK SPENCER