Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Untie the Ribbons

Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons. 
                                                                  ~Ruth Ann Schabacker
Mom with our Ethan 

Rev. Duncan, a former pastor of my mother’s, shared these words at the funeral, November 4, 2014:

When I think of Dottie Cessna, I think of this..."She lived in the moment." She took each day, each moment as God gave it to her and she packed into it all of the prayer, encouragement, fun, excitement, creativity and love that she possibly could. She lived in these moments with a purpose - to live to the fullest the life that God had given to her. Hers was not a mundane day-to-day existence. She kept up with the best of them, only slowing down a little when her physical demanded it.

A special day was not just merely a happening, it was an event. Whether she was going to visit family, or receiving a visit from family, she was excited and ready for the adventure. What was she doing? She was taking the ordinary and turning it into something special.

One year for their anniversary I had made Brother and Sister Cessna a cake, and my family and I made a pastoral call to drop it off. Of course she offered for us to share it with them. I had used a piece of yellow gingham ribbon to add some color to the cake which had to be removed before the cake could be cut. I didn't think any more about that ribbon, but I was to see it again. Shortly after that visit a card was given to us - handmade of course. Guess what was on it? A short piece of yellow gingham ribbon. She had taken the ordinary and made something special from it.

When we think of Dottie Cessna, I believe we would have to admit the same about her life. She took what each one of us has today, those seemingly ordinary days of life, and used them for God's glory and the encouragement of others. So today, we can take those beautiful memories, tuck them into our ordinary lives, and turn them into something special.

Pattern found here

One of Mom’s favorite maxims was, “Sometimes you have to
 make your own sunshine.” One way she answered the sunshine call was to encourage someone. Almost every one of our shopping days included Mom buying something for her “drawer” – small gifts to have available when it was time to encourage others. 

Decorative file folders, note cards, books, a linen hand towel, or food gifts in unique containers – she loved gifting. The young, the elderly, and everyone in-between were encouraged when she changed their ordinary days to “something special.” 

Even the smallest of gifts were wrapped with ribbon. Mom shared my delight of ribbon. Often when shopping together, we’d each buy a spool, and share. The artist in her loved the healthy colors, and the last time we shopped for ribbons, she bought the new two-sided rolls. She was excited about a new project I’m working on that involved ribbon, and told me I could inherit her ribbon collection when she died. Neither of us knew that in four months, that would be our reality.

I’m picking up her mantle. I’m determined to take my ordinary days and use them for God’s glory and the encouragement of others. Ordinary days tied with ribbons of joy and grace.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Do All to the Glory of God

Mother, the ribbons of your love are woven around my heart. 
                                                                         ~Author Unknown

The next few posts will celebrate my mother.

My parents’ pastor is young – very young. Not only is Hillsdale Church his first pastorate, my mother’s funeral was his first funeral. Mother would have been so proud of him. He was organized and articulate, and his love for my mother was evident in every word. Here’s a peek into his words.

Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat (Matthew 25:34-35).

When my wife and I came to visit Hillsdale, we didn’t really know anyone. We were strangers and the wonderful people from the Hillsdale church took us in. I remember different people from the church coming and bringing food for our Sunday dinner. Everything was cooked to perfection and very delicious, but I really only remember one dish in particular.

I remember a beautiful crystal bowl and within that bowl was a culinary work of art. It was Sister Cessna’s fruit salad. I soon realized that this was a very special fruit salad, and a very special person made it. She did not just open a Sam’s Club jar of mixed fruit and call it a fruit salad. Everything possible was hand selected, fresh, carefully cut up, and arranged in an artistic fashion.

My wife will tell you that I do not eat fruit. I grew up around fresh fruit, and the sour, unripe, gas-processed-modified-fruit-substitute that is commercially available does not appeal to me. I may go weeks and barely consume fruit.

But this was different. Hours must have gone into making this the best fruit salad known to man, and somehow that labor of love added a wonderful welcoming touch to the delicious flavor. And the amazing thing was that she could duplicate it occasionally for special guests like evangelists, singers, and missionaries. We were strangers to Sister Cessna, and she was a stranger to us, but she made us welcome. We were hungry, and she provided food.

What is your fruit salad? Are you offering water and clothing, or feeding the world around you? I’m sure my mother never dreamed that her fruit salad would be included in her eulogy, yet it was because her offering was “to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. ~Albert Einstein


Dorothy (Dottie) Jane Gromley Cessna, of Indiana, Pennsylvania, went to be with the Lord Saturday, November 1, 2014. Born in Grant Township, September 13, 1936, she married Carl R. Cessna December 31, 1954.  In addition to her husband, she is survived by two daughters, Melodie LaVan (Steve) of Indiana, Pennsylvania, Pamela Kuhn (RB) of Muncie, Indiana, and one son, Craig (Becky) of Lancaster, Ohio. She will be greatly missed by her grandchildren, Pamela Satterfield Asbury, Jordan Satterfield, Melanie Kuhn Clemens, Jennifer Cessna, Andrew Cessna, Emily Kuhn, Luke LaVan, and Lori Spurgin, as well as eleven great grandchildren.  Also surviving are two sisters, Rosa Lee (Jim) Roodhouse, and Jean Keith. Preceding her in death were her parents, Tom and Ruth Gromley;  stepmother, Eulale Gromley;  one sister, Julia Kritzer; one son-in-law, Rev. Ray Satterfield; and two granddaughters, Carla Satterfield and Sarah Kuhn.

Dottie had been a faithful member of Hillsdale Wesleyan Methodist Church since 1956, where she served in several offices many years, including church membership secretary, Sunday School teacher,  and Women’s Missionary Society president,  as well as denominational YMWB treasurer and WMS auditor. She had a great appreciation for the arts, continuing as an active member of the Indiana Arts Association; through the years, Dottie created numerous one-of-a-kind china-painted items, specifically fashioned for her children and friends.  More recently, her artistic ability was expressed in meticulously-crafted greeting cards intentionally designed to encourage family and others she loved. Dottie and Carl were so anticipating the celebration of their sixtieth wedding anniversary the children had planned for January, 2015; their love for each other was unequalled, as evidenced through their obvious affection and mutual respect, providing beautiful examples for their children and grandchildren to follow.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Delighting in the Holy

Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian. Thomas Brooks

I was away for a week. Only one week. Seven days. But when my littlest grandboy saw me, he jumped into my arms, hugged my neck, giving me an exuberant kiss on my cheek. Did I feel loved? Yes! Did I think Camron was delighted to see me? Yes! His sweet boy arms and excited “Mamaw” made my day!

So often God speaks to me through His favorite people – the little ones  the ones Jesus rebuked His disciples for sending away. The ones He gathered to Him and prayed blessings over. The ones who listened as He told story after story. 

God spoke, and I was left with the question, How excited are you to see me? Sometimes when I listen to the words of Scripture, I have to bring my wandering mind back. Sometimes I am blessed by the words I hear. But excited? Hug-your-neck kind of excited? 

It was in those moments I heard the promise of Ezekiel 37:5, I will breathe into your dead bodies and you will come to life. Don’t you just love how God speaks through Scriptures we have memorized as a child? Every promise comes with a condition. God can’t breathe new life into me if I’m not there to accept it.

So there I’ll be each day, Bible open or audio cued – waiting excitedly to hug on God, as I meditate on the holy and heavenly truths.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Feel the Stretch

If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry reaching children for God. ~Dwight Moody

Tucked away in Romania is an orphanage operated by missionary Sally Sebo. While Sally was home in the states doing deputation, a ten-year-old girl listened as the missionary shared her excitement about what God was doing in the orphanage. 

This ten-year-old leaned close to her mother and whispered, "I'm going to visit that orphanage someday." Those of you who have read my blog a while know where Kayla fits in -- one of the two sisters who are Emily's best friends (and the girl behind the kay's kaptures photos on my blog). 

The how of God working His plan for Kayla to go to Romania is amazing. So many times it is just when you begin to wonder what is God thinking? that life comes together in a way that leaves you breathless and in awe. This year, during Kayla's 18th birthday, eight years after her whispered declaration, she visited Sally Sebo's orphanage in Romania.  

So often we think our hearts can only hold love until it reaches the top. But, as Kayla found, the heart is made of elastic, so she packed in many stories to bring home with her. On the other hand, Kayla left a part of her heart among the gypsy children of Romania. 

Jesus showed His love and servanthood by washing the disciples' feet. Now, over two thousand years later, sometimes the best way to wash a child's feet is to tell them about Jesus. Sometimes our servanthood is to hug on the orphans. And sometimes God wants us to expand our hearts right in the country where we live, loving with intentionality.

Here are 5 ways to love children with intentionality -- as we hug them, allow our hearts to expand with love for them, and wash their feet. Because after all, in our busy lives, it's easy to overlook the ones who come only waist high.  

1. Smile: It doesn't matter where you are, catch a glimpse of a child's eyes, and smile. They may hide in their mother's skirt, duck their head, or give you a tentative smile back. Perhaps your smile will be the kindest thing they will see that day.

2. Give: Yes, there are organizations that do amazing things for children. And when you find a worthy one, it's important to support it. But what about giving of your time? Shawn and Melanie co-teach a Sunday School class, investing in children's lives each week. What about your possessions? I recall visiting my parents one week (400 miles from here), and when on our way to church, Daddy took his car (brand new!) into a trailer park to pick up some kids. The roads were a muddy mess by the time we got to their home. Needless to say, a lot of mud took up residency in that car. Did that matter to Daddy? No. He treated those kids with love.

3. Pray: My friend, Tanya, heads a prayer group for children and young people. Many from unstable homes, friends of her daughter. Invariably, others who know of the group ask for prayer for a young person who may have tried to commit suicide, is being bullied, has a physical need, etc. It's a joy to pray for those she assigns to me each Wednesday. 

4. Invest: RB's mother was in her eighties and widowed -- still inviting kids to stay with her on Saturday night so they could attend church Sunday morning. One Saturday night a girl locked herself in the bedroom. This eighty-year-old-lady climbed through the second story hallway window, walked across the back porch rooftop and climbed back in through the bedroom window. We were aghast, but rejoiced, knowing guardian angels would care for her as she invested in the children she loved so much.

5. Bond: I don't know how many young girls my mother has been pen pals with though the years. A pastor's daughter, a friend's daughter or a girl with all brothers, a niece... My mother became friends with these, and shared notes, tiny gifts, and a lot of love, encouraging each one in their Christian walk. My favorite place to find bonding treats is Target's dollar spot (especially when the 50% off sign is present) -- so many girl lovelies. 

This isn't an exhaustive list, but at least it provides a place to start while you allow God to speak to you as you begin to feel the stretch in your heart. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Encouragement by Color

Your never know when one kind act or word of encouragement will change a life forever. ~unknown

What do you think of when you think of Encouragement? My regular readers know that to me encouragement means sheltering. It's allowing others to sit under our sheltering tree to find soul rest from the despair the enemy brings to us, the harsh words from someone professing to love us and life happenings that threaten to overwhelm us. 

Encouraging others is a direct command from God. Therefore encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Think outside the box when selecting someone to encourage. God often impresses someone on my heart and it's not until later I know the "why." And sometimes I never do...and that's fine, too. The beauty is in the obedience. 

Pinterest gives us encouragement ideas from the most creative minds around the world. No longer can someone use the excuse "I don't know what to do." One way I am enjoying using Pinterest ideas is in what I call The Colors of Encouragement.  

1. A Box of Sunshine (all yellow) for Sick...Discouraged...Winter Blahs

Monday Sunshine

Great List of Sunshine Ideas

2. Orange You Happy (all orange) I'm Your Daughter...Sister... Friend...Mother

Your Deployment is Almost Over

It's Your Birthday

3. Tickled Pink (all pink) to be your Daughter..You Have a New Baby, You're Engaged

Box of Pink

New Baby

4. I'm Feeling Blue (all blue) without You...Soldier...Child in College...Far-a-way Friend

Blue Without You

Soldier Deployment

These baskets do not need to expensive. Here's some ideas to keep the cost down:

1. Melanie runs colored paper through a paper shredder. Instant basket filler

2. Buy items in packages (i.e. gum, candy, notebooks, etc., then use them for several baskets. 

3. Shop the dollar store, Michaels' and Target's dollar spot. For children look in the party supplies. 

4. Find baskets at yard sales and spray paint them to match your gift.

5. Make some "theme colored" gifts ahead that you can grab when making a basket:

What color are you painting with this week?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Lover of My Soul

“I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!” ~John Wesley

They were conservative in their appearance and in their lifestyle. Soft-spoken and southern in their speech. Rev. Blackwelder was my pastor during my teenage years. Being friends with his daughter gave me many opportunities to visit their home. It was there I first saw sandwiches made with thick slices of onion. Just onion and salt and pepper. And it was there I learned to cut off the lights instead of turning them out. 

One thing I loved was hearing Rev. and Mrs. Blackwelder's smooth, blending voices singing, "Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly." Every time I hear this song, I am reminded of the Blackwelders. Written by Charles Wesley, this hymn has quite a story behind it. 

During one of Wesley's preaching crusades in Ireland, he encountered some people who didn't agree with his doctrine. They wanted to silence him in the only way they knew how -- to kill him. He found refuge in a milkhouse on Jane Lowrie Moore's Island Band Farm. The mob came to the farm and demanded that Moore tell them where Wesley was. 

Moore  went to the milkhouse under the pretense of getting refreshments for the mob. "Quick," she told Wesley, "Go out the rear window and hide under the hedge."

Huddled under the hedge, Wesley could hear the sounds of his pursuers searching for him. With their angry cries around him, Wesley was inspired to write this hymn of the Savior's protecting care. 

Jesus, lover of my soul,
     Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
     While the tempest still is high!
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
     Till the storm of life be past;
Safe into the haven guide,
Oh, receive my soul at last!

Other refuge have I none,
     Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
     Still support and comfort me!
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
     All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
     With the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
     More than all in Thee I find:
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
     Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name;
      I am all unrighteousness:
False and full of sin I am;
     Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
     Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
     Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art
     Freely let me take of Thee:
Spring Thou up within my heart,
     Rise to all eternity!

The words that Rev. Blackwelder sang became a reality last week. "Safe into the haven guide, Oh, receive my soul at last."  He's living with the Lover of his Soul, yet his influence lives on in my life.

Do you remember singing this song?