THE JOURNEY JOURNAL, DAY 53: THE FINAL ENTRY

Yesterday, Friday 14 January 2022 marked the end of this Journey and this Journal. I intended to write this late yesterday afternoon–but I was exhausted. At 1:11 a.m. CST, Dad breathed his last breath on earth and breathed his first breath in eternity. Wednesday had been a fairly good day compared to the day before. Thursday wasn’t so good. Around 11:30 p.m. his breathing was distressed–and we called Hospice. The nurse arrived and confirmed our suspicions–his prayer of going home was about to be answered. And at 1:11 a.m., his prayer and mine were answered. As he was taking those final breaths I realized it was my sister Jacque’s birthday. Jacque died in August, and I told him, “It’s OK, go ahead, we will be OK, and tell Jacque Happy Birthday in person.” Just moments later he stopped breathing and a few more moments later, his physical heart stopped beating. But that new Heart Jesus gave him so many years ago never missed a beat!

Today we sit down with the Funeral Director to make those final arrangements. This will be easy because Dad took care of the major decisions a long time ago. Monday night we will greet friends and share compassion and so many memories at the Funeral Home which, by the way, he worked at for many years after his retirement. Tuesday afternoon we will gather in the sanctuary that he literally helped to build and together celebrate one of the most powerful men who ever lived. He never made the national news, but the power of his influence still rings out in our family and in this community.

My brother from another set of parents who were always our neighbor said something that gave me perspective. Joel White told me, “Can you imagine how many people who are in heaven because of him, met him and greeted him there?” And Joel’s thought gave me a moment of great joy–and I know it did for Dad. And in this, my final entry for this particular Journal is: The End Of One Journey Marks The Beginning Of The Next Journey!

For Dad, his journey of missing his wife, two daughters, family, and friends is over. And the face he longed to see most of all–Jesus–is right there before him. And now he’s on a new journey of life with The Father! Our Journey is now about the final steps–working through our grief while celebrating his marvelous life. This Journey includes preparing for Dad’s Celebration Service, grieving together, and all the other things that go with settling Dad’s affairs, and final wishes. And I am confident that because God was with all of us in THIS Journey, He will faithfully be with us in this NEXT Journey–and in all the Journeys yet to be made. We will make it because of the faithful presence of The Holy Spirit–and the legacy that Dad gave us as his parting gift.

THE JOURNEY JOURNAL: DAY 48

This morning at 4:52 a.m. CDT the temperature is 21 and the “feels like” is 12 degrees here at Dad’s. That’s usual for us in Alabama–but I’m not worried because in Alabama the weather changes almost as much as a politician’s opinions. And in that “feels like” temperature I found something to share in this Journey Journal of walking with Dad in this difficult season. As a child, he walked with me; and now I walk with him. If this is the first time to read my Journey Journal, here are the previous posts. (Day 1; Day 2; Day 3; Day 4; Day 5; Day 6; Day 8; Day 11; Day 18; Day 23; Day 24; Day 30) And this morning, the Syllabus from the Lesson Plan of The Holy Spirit is this: It’s A Bad Day For Making Decisions.

Yesterday I got a call that Dad was nauseated and vomiting. In addition, his A-Fib was acting up. So a quickly grabbed a few things and headed north to his home. Fortunately I had the foresight to leave a couple of changes of clothes and toiltrey items at Dad’s. 2 hours and about 20 minutes later I arrived, and found him feeling less nauseated but really weak. The last food he kept down was the day before yesterday’s lunch. For supper he felt like trying some cream of chicken soup, and so far so good.

But earlier he told me that he made a decision, one that I wouldn’t like. He was going to check into getting into a nursing home. He’s been making it pretty good–up until he got sick. Yes, it was a bad day for him. And what he taught me–unintentionally I’m sure–and what The Spirit wanted me to see is that when we have bad days, it’s not a good day to make decisions based on a bad day. I ought to know–Lord knows I’ve made too many decisions because of a bad day. Bad day decisions are usually bad decisions. And I’m asking you to pray with me that Dad will not let a bad day shape such an important decision. In a short time, he will be getting up to start his morning routine. I’m praying that a better day will lead him to a better decision.

The Journey Journal Day 30: Feeling Like A Burden

Today’s Journal entry is about the feeling of being a burden.  That’s where Dad was last night after I got here.  That morning his feeling able to once again stay by himself was strong.  Friday they said he could take off the walking boot because his broken ankle was completely healed.  It was such a joy to him.  He was feeling more able to stay by himself again.  But feeling of taking care of himself gave way to feeling like a burden. 

Honestly, I don’t know what that feeling is like.  I know how it feels to feel like you’re useless—been there, done that, and got several T-Shirts to prove it.  But being a burden?  That’s got to be even tougher.  I am not alone in dealing with someone who feels like this; and he is not alone in that feeling. Paul knew something about this feeling. He addressed in in 2 Corinthians Chapter 8, Verse 14:

Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it.  In this way, things will be equal.

New Living Translation

So, today we will talk more about that—and I believe my part in the conversation has to be helping him to see he’s not a burden.  How can I do that?  Haven’t a clue.  But I do know Someone who knows everything about carrying burdens.  So I will lean into Him and listen as I pray.  I ask you to also pray for us today.

The Journey Journal Day 24: Priorities

At the beginning of this Journey I wrote that I did not know exactly what would happen or where it would lead. I compared it to a class Syllabus that a college professor wouldn’t reveal until each lesson began. I realized this is true–but like most things in life–I didn’t know how true. And this morning a word settled itself into my gray matter.

That word is Priorities! It’s been there all along–it’s just this morning it came into clearer focus. From every Monday eveing until Wednesday evening, Dad has been my priority–as it should be. He has his routines that he wants–finds comfort even in them–and my role is NOT to do them for him, but to assist him. And along the way, other priorities still need my attention. For example, my Tuesday Night Facebook Live Bible Study. Though Dad doesn’t have an internet service provider, thanks to my Samsung phone I have a hotspot so that I can do my preparations between serving Dad.

And the rest of the week I still have other priorities. This Journey has pushed me into evaluating all of my priorities. In this time of year, one of my planned priorities had been deer hunting. Usually by now I’ve been hunting a dozen or more times. But this year I’ve only been 3 times. Two of those wouldn’t have happened but one of our grandsons, Hampton, came down to see us and go hunting. And as much as I miss sitting in a stand enjoying the solace and beauty of God’s amazing creation–it’s not high on my priority list right now.

Priorities do change. It’s the nature of this beast called life on the third rock from the Sun. Saturday, December 11, priorities changed for hundreds of people as that tornado swept across 6 states. They went from planning Christmas and New Year’s Day events to planning funerals and planning how to get through just another day. While before Christmas pictures show neatly wrapped gifts–symbolic of the daily life we want where everything is pretty and neat–life is more like after those presents are opened. Paper, gift bags, boxes, tissue paper, and glitter everywhere. A mess!

How we react and what we do with all those priorities will determine IF will we still be standing at the end of the day or not. This is why we need Jesus so much and why we should be calling out to The Holy Spirit to help us sort through the crumpled up wrapping paper to find what matters the most. Finding what matters the most causes the other “so-called” priorities to fall in place–or vanish all together. Trust God to help you in the aftermath–of both literal tornadoes and the other kinds of tornadoes that upends our life.

Count on God being with you every step of the way. You should and you can depend on God. This is one of the many lessons that Christmas tries to teach us. Be confident in Jesus even if–nay–even WHEN it seems that life is spinning out of our control. Remember–please remember–that the name of Christmas and the name of life every day it happens we need to remember is EMMANUEL–which means God is with us. If Jesus would enter THE world by means of a smelly, dirty stable–and He did–then He will step into our world to help us do the one thing that we can only do–take the next step. My next step–your next step–is determined by our priorities. Make your top priority the live completely surrendered into God’s Love, Grace, and Mercy. My prayers are for the survivor’s of this most recent tornado; and for those going through personal tornadoes.

The Journey Journal: Day 23–Breathing!

This morning I was made aware of another lesson from the Syllabus of The Holy Spirit in This Journey. Last night’s topic was Breathing. I arrived here around 6:30 p.m. with his weekly groceries, unpacked what I brought, then we spent the rest of the evening talking. When this Journey began I bought a monitor because Dad’s bedroom is on one end of the house and the bedroom we use is on the other. This away if he needed any help, we would hear him.

Last night I found myself waking up a few times and I would listen for the sound of Dad breathing. When I heard him breathe or snore, I would go back to sleep. I found it comforting just to hear him breathe. And that got me to thinking about that night of the Resurrection. The disciples we locked in with fear, when Jesus suddenly appeared. And in John chapter 20, verses 21 and 22 we read: “Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And I wondered, “I am listening for Dad’s breathing, but am I always listening for my Heavenly Dad’s breathing?” Ouch!

In times like these we need to hear the Breath Of God over us. He breathes on us with the very same words Jesus said back then: “Receive My Presence!” If your week is hectic–Receive His Presence into your ‘hecticness’. If your week is filled with stress–Receive His Presence into your ‘stressfulness’. If your week is filled with fear, dread, gloom, or any other toxic emtion–Receive His Presence into your ‘moments’. And if, especially IF, things are going good for you now–Receive His Presence!

Like I said, we always need to listen for God breathing over us. It does more than make a difference in how we live–it makes ALL the difference in how we live. His Presence calms us and fills us with peace.

The Journey Journal Day 18: Durable!

The Holy Spirit taught me another lesson in this week’s stay with Dad. The lesson He revealed to me is about Durable! Here’s how it happened. The bed and bedroom me, Debbie, and my son Matthew sleep in has a mattress that, well…it must have a steel plate in it! It doesn’t give a millimeter when you lay down on it. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, it’s hard (see the pun?) to sleep on.

There’s another mattress in the middle bedroom that isn’t as hard. So I asked Dad if it would be OK if I switched mattresses. I was going to do it anyway, but out of respect for him, I first asked for permission rather than forgiveness. He granted me permission. So yesterday afternoon I begin the move. I decided to go ahead and wash the sheets and bedspread even though it hadn’t been used in a long time. That’s when I saw the next subject in The Spirit’s Syllabus.

I recognized the bedspread first. It was the one that was on my bed when I was growing up. I tried to figure out when Mother bought it. Let’s just say it’s over 50 years old. It doesn’t look brand new–but it doesn’t look over 50 years old, either. Removing that bedspread revealed the sheets and instantly I remembered those same sheets–again probably over 50 years old–and they didn’t look new, but they didn’t look over 50 years old, either. I was amazed and the word the Holy Spirit placed in my heart is this morning’s word: Durable!

They don’t make things like they use to! Ever heard that expression? The durability of that bedspread and sheets reminded me of the Durability of our orthodox faith. The faith that has been handed down generation after generation, century after century–has been through a lot of tests and life–but it has survived and endured for nearly 2,000 years. However, today there are those who want to change our Orthodox Faith. They want a faith that fits the times and their own reasoning. “Let’s rewrite the story!” they say.

But why? This new progressive theology that seems so appealing because it’s so new, will not last. It cannot last. It is not making the church stronger–it’s making it weaker. In just the few decades it’s been around, it has only produced chaos and leaves a wake of broken lives. It is leaving people bitter and angry–a far cry from the durability of our orthodox faith.

Nothing manufactured today is as durable as what was manufactured 50 years ago. Changing the Message may be appealing to your mind–but it does nothing to transform and sustain the heart and mind. The Holy Spirit just confirmed that The Orthodox Faith is Durable–and it doesn’t need to be changed to match the values of our culture. What is being called progressive–meaning moving in a forward direction–is really digressive.

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.

2 Timothy 1:5

The Journey Journal, Day 11: The Power Of Remembering!

This morning is a good morning to share my Journey Journal with you. From Monday evening until yesterday evening I was at Dad’s home to assist him in any way he needs or will allow me to do. Thanks to your prayers, physically and emotionally he is doing better. And on to what I’ve learned in this stay. His home is the one I grew up in from age 6 to 18. There are some memories here–powerful memories that I took the time to take a stroll through.

Dad has never had a computer nor an internet provider. But thanks to my cell, I carry my internet connection wherever I am. Every Tuesday evening at 6:30 CDT I do a Facebook Live Bible Study. Tuesday night I did it from his living room. One of my memories of the living room was that we weren’t allowed to use that room except to practice piano lessons, when we had company, Thanksgiving, and at Christmas. I guess one could call it Sacred Space. What could be more sacred than diving into the Holy Writ! On the wall above the piano were several pictures–each with a powerful memory.

Sleeping arrangements now are different. As a kid the middle bedroom was mine and the back bedroom was my sister’s, Jacque. The middle bedroom is now where Dad has his treadmill. But the bookcase he made me is still there. On one of the shelves is what remains of my Bonanza playset I got one Christmas. I noticed other things that we still there, and powerful memories. So sleeping in my old bedroom was out of the question.

I slept in my sister’s bedroom–kept in her favorite color–pink. Powerful memories reminded me how much I missed her. The bedroom suite belonged to my maternal grandparents. In there were pictures of Mama and Papa. More powerful memories! And at the kitchen table, Dad would sometimes tell stories of growing up–sharing his memories of when Papa Burbank was a blacksmith–which he did up until he died. Papa Burbank was also a sharecropper, so the smithy work brought in a little extra income when it was needed. More powerful memories!

This trip down Memory Lane is a reminder to me–the first is never forget the value of taking a stroll down Memory Lane. Such strolls remind us of where we came from–and in my case–how blessed I am to have such a family heritage. The second is that I need to leave and keep creating good memories with my family. It’s a 2 plus hour drive from our home to Dad’s home–each way. This week’s trip was worth every mile and minute because I experienced powerful memories! Until next time. . .

Journey Journal: Day 8

Well, today all I can think of to write is one thing–actually two things. The first thing is that The Journey Continues. But isn’t that the nature of Journeys? I’m not writing about, nor am I near The Destination! Every Journey continues until we reach The Destination. But then, there is always another Journey. The second thing–and this is really important for me. . .and for you: God Is Still With Me In This Journey! And what more could I, or anyone else for that matter, ask. And God is still with you in your Journey.

The Journey Journal Day 6: Prayer Works!

Some days there will not be much to write. This is such a day. But what little I write is really important. Yesterday morning I asked people to pray for Dad’s pain levels. Yesterday his pain level was much less. I am being reminded that Prayer Makes All The Difference! Thanks for your prayers, and keep praying–for us, for the people and situations around you, and don’t forget to pray for yourself!

Journey Journal: Day 5

Yesterday’s Syllabus was all about The Joy–while in the midst of pain. Remember I said earlier that the Spirit is going to be teaching me–that this Journey is a classroom where I am the student and The Spirit is my Professor. Professor Spirit never gives out a Syllabus before the Course begins, but He does reveal that Syllabus one day at a time. I suppose Professor Spirit does this to keep me from anticipating so that I may be enabled for the participating of each day. Allowing one’s self to trust God in the moment is the only way to successfully pass the course. Besides, if I am anticipating, rather than participating, I may well miss what I need to know–after all THE Father Knows Best!

Yesterday’s Thanksgiving Feast was filled with Joy! Debbie and I were there, all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren were present. Everybody brought something–both to eat and to share their presence. Dad was so glad to see everyone–the house was filled with his Joy! And our Joy was to spend this day with him. Last year’s pandemic made it out of the question to happen. But this year–it was a day filled with gratitude just to be together as family. Conversations were going on everywhere. But when it came time for The Moment–for Dad to offer up the Blessing–all grew silent; just to hear him pray another time. Here’s that moment captured for all times.

There was also some pain, a lot of pain. My sister, Jacque, was missing–she was occupied being Thankful in Heaven. One moment I heard her daughter, Christa, laughing out loud. I swear, she sounded like the laughter of Jacque–so much so, I paused a moment from carving the turkey. How I miss her aggravating me! I remembered all those times we were all at Mom and Dad’s home–when either I or Jacque started something. We did this as kids, so why stop doing it as adults! Right?

This wasn’t the only pain. Dad’s fractured leg is still hurting a lot. I want to ask you, readers, to pray that his physical pain will subside and go away altogether. When my Mom’s physical abilities were greatly diminished, she would say with a tear in her voice, “Well, all I can do is pray.” And my answer to her was always, “That’s the most important thing you or anyone can do.” I need you to pray with that same sense–that it’s the most important thing you can do because prayer still works! Dad’s physical pain is so severe that it’s creating another pain.

Physical pain also attacks the mind and heart. Dad has always been the one who lifts us up. Now he is feeling that his life has become a burden to the family he loves so much. His physical pain is making him think that he is a burden to us–and it’s not. He said he wants to go to a nursing home so that he will not be a burden to us. THIS pain of his is rattling me, and the family. I told Dad that all his life he has done nothing but good things for others. Good deeds, if you would. And that everyone knows that no good deed goes unpunished. That’s a joke, folks. I am trying to help him understand that we are now pouring back into his life everything he has been pouring into our life. That receiving is also a part of giving. So, Prayer Request #2: Pray that he will not see himself as a burden–but a joy to us! To enable him to receive back into his life everything he taught us about living!

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT)

The Journey Journal: Prepared For The Unknown

Good morning! Dad is coming home today after his short season of respite care–and Debbie and I are getting ready to go to his home to continue that respite care. And my personal epiphany is that I am prepared for the unknown. How do you prepare for what is unknown? I don’t know exactly–if I did, then the future wouldn’t be unknown, would it? I just know I’m prepared. Don’t ask me to explain the calm that is in me at this moment.

My personal respite season is over–until the next one. Even before this Journey began, God made sure I had my own respire season. It ended on a great note. Thomas, a good friend of our grandson Hampton, killed his first deer yesterday afternoon! So, what lessons have I learned from the first part of this course?

Take joy in others! The look on Thomas’s face was priceless! I had put him and Hamp in one stand, I went to another just to be alone in God’s creation. I wasn’t hunting–but I had my reliable .270 with me just in case a monster buck came out. He didn’t, but a small doe came out and I watched her for over 30 minutes. It was Pure Joy watching that little one.

We need to allow others to help us. My kills are taken straight to a processor–no field dressing, no gutting, no cutting! They do that part for a measly $25.00 fee (then they add the butchering cost). But Thomas and Hamp are going back to their homes this morning. So I proceeded to do what I had always counted on CCC Processing to do for me. Hamp and Thomas might have been able to prepare that deer for their travel–but they needed some help. So, this old Grandpa helped them. Dear Lord, how I appreciate CCC Processing! It’s worth the extra $25.00.

I’m going to need some more help in this Journey–and I am being reminded through you, the readers, my friends, my faith family, and biological family–that help is all around me. And The Best Help Of All is that God is with me every step of the way. And there is no doubt about it–Great Are You, Lord!

Journey Journal, Day 2: Physician, Heal Thyself

The Holy Spirit released the first part of His syllabus, and here is the subject: Physician, Heal Thyself! Yesterday I admitted I was overwhelmed. I knew better–but still–there I was! Has that ever happened to you–knowing better, nonetheless you were in the wrong place? It was something I needed to deal with–to overcome rather than being overwhelmed! And yesterday’s syllabus helped me do just that!

Over the decades, people have come to me with that sensation of being overwhelmed! My counsel to them has always been the same: Take a breather! Step back and for a moment, deal with that sensation by NOT dealing with it. Whatever it takes–take yourself a respite! And the Holy Spirit looked me square in the eyes and declared: “Physician, heal thyself! Saturday, one of our grandson’s Hampton, called me wanting to know if he and a friend could come down to go deer hunting because they were out of school. Remember I was overwhelmed.

And I said the wrong thing–I used this Journey as an excuse to be too busy. I know, shame on me! Sunday afternoon I felt that shame, so I told them to come on down. And yesterday, as well as today, we are deer hunting. Yesterday afternoon I took them to their stand and I headed out to mine. Sitting there looking out over the green field, I felt that unnecessary burden being lifted off my shoulders–and my mind. In an instant, my heart took over my mind. Peace and its companion confidence swept over me. Here’s a picture:

Self-Care is not being selfish, and it’s certainly not a sin! I wasn’t taking care of myself–so I was unable to focus on what it will take to take care of Dad. Make sure you take time to make time to take care of yourself. And again, one of our grandchildren, Hampton, taught me an important lesson. Thanks, Hamp! Excuse me, I’ve got to take them boys out again. By the way, I got one of them in the picture!