We Mourn with Hope
I had the opportunity to attend four funerals this past weekend. Due to distance and time constraints, I was able to attend three of the four. One Baptist, One Methodist, and one Presbyterian. They held this in common - Jesus is the way and all these loved ones are safely home.
You might think the word opportunity an odd one to use. Funerals are sad occasions and not an event we look forward to attending. But they provide the chance to support, encourage, and console someone who is either directly or indirectly important to you. Attending shows you care.
Lena Gibson Row is the mother of my dear friend, Sherrie Silverstein. I met Lena once, but I've known Sherrie for 20+ years. Her mother's attributes of caring, strong work ethics, joy of living and traveling are evident in Sherrie's life. Listening to those who knew her best, made me wish I had the pleasure to have visited with her—I think the best eulogies make you sorry you didn't have the opportunity to know the person better.
My next-door neighbors are brothers, John and Grady McFarland. Grady had lived with John for 18 years. I've known him for 8 of those years. Grady loved Westerns, Bass fishing and carrot cake. John's stories of his life with Grady were heartfelt and comical, as brothers telling on each other can be. The pastor quoted Proverbs 22:1 "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." He shared how he witnessed Grady's good name. Grady was respectful and kind to all he met and according to John, could talk to anyone about anything for hours on end.
William "Bill" Reames—I cannot tell you how many wonderful conversations I have had with Bill over the past 30+ years. He was a Baptist minister then his ministry become that of a life insurance agent, which is the field where I met him. We have had conversations about our common beliefs and faith in Jesus Christ and we've laughed more than anything. He poured goodness into my life, and I am forever grateful. He cared deeply for his clients, and I can't tell you how many times he would say, "I wish you could meet my clients., they're the nicest people." Bill was one of the nicest people.
Being the most unexpected, William "Bill" McGuirt's funeral was the hardest. I never met anyone who didn't think the world of Bill. I also worked with Bill for 30+ years. The other lady in our office and I called Bill our other brother. He was always the voice of reason no matter the situation. The insurance world is a small one. My husband, Gil, also worked with and knew Bill. Gil recently shared a story with me that speaks the truth about Bill better than anything I can write.
Gil was asked by a friend to review his insurance coverage, during the course of the review, Gil saw Bill McGuirt's name on the paperwork and asked his friend if Bill was his current agent. The friend responded in the positive and Gil told him, "I'm not touching this. You couldn't be in better hands than Bill McGuirt's." Let me tell you, in the insurance world, you can't get higher praise.
Bill Reames and Bill McGuirt worked in the same agency as I and for many years I watched them go to lunch together. Our agency closed in 2014 and with that, going to lunches disappeared for these two. I couldn't help but think of them going to lunch together again, now that they are both safely home.
The ribbon of truth in all three of the services I was able to attend was that God's children were safely home. Grief is personal. No two people grieve the same and there is no right or wrong. As this new week began I thought of all the family here–not yet safely home. Your world will never look the same. Beds and rooms are empty, absent the sound of laughter, a cough, or the presence of another so dear to you, breathing. I mourn in hope with you.
"And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him the believers who have died." 1 Thessalonians 4: 12-14
January, can you believe it is so quickly here again? A time of resolutions and new beginnings.
Choosing a word to focus on for the year has become something that many do instead of making a resolution. Being a writer, this idea has always appealed to me; alas, I can never choose just one word!
This past August, God gave me a word. It was on my mind constantly, it met me at every turn, like running into a glass wall. I could not escape this word and it was not one I would have chosen on my own. But, when God gives you a word, there is no denying it.
Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I am fiercely independent, some might even call me stubborn (wink, wink to that person(s) - you know who you are). I prefer the word tenacious over stubborn. Once upon a time, my great-uncle gave me the name 'Little Miss. Independence' and my motto when faced with thyroid cancer was never give up, never give in, never admit defeat. Perhaps it is handed down through my ancestors. My great-grandmother was an Elliott, and their motto is "With Strength and Right", the clan crest is a raised fist holding a sword. All of this did not make me favorably disposed to the word the Lord placed on my heart: SURRENDER.
What had I not surrendered to God? What was I holding back? Searching the scriptures revealed interesting truths, not the least of which was the point in Jeremiah where he prophesied that if the people of Jerusalem would surrender to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, they would survive, but if not, they would die. There are times when surrender to the enemy is in God's plan. As is usually the case in my own life, it was disobedience that had brought the nation of Israel to this point, but God provided a way out as He always does.
After more prayer and reading of the word, the still small voice of the Spirit convicted me of all that I needed to surrender to Him: thoughts, actions, what I read, what I watch, were I go, regrets, bad decisions, worries that have no place in my mind. Let it go, He said, give it to Me.
Then, wonder of wonders, He sent me another word in October! Not only does this word thing not have to occur in January, but it may occur multiple times in a year! The next word: ABIDE. I am liking this word a whole lot because I want to abide with my Lord. But do you know what? I should also want to surrender and to truly abide - I must fully surrender. I am still working on that but every day He changes we a little more and a little more to look like His son.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. John 15:4
Many of you know that my daughter, Michelle, and I recently returned from Israel. It was a fabulous trip, a pilgrimage I will treasure the rest of my life. There were many special moments. The first occurred while we were visiting a site by the Sea of Galilee that commemorates Peter’s redemption after denying Christ and Christ imploring Peter to feed His sheep. The scripture is found in John 21..
The disciples were doing that which gave them stability, comfort, income and was their occupation – they were fishing. Their minds were no doubt in a whirlwind, they had expected Jesus to be the Messiah, to rescue all the Jews from the hand of earthly oppression. With Jesus crucifixion, this hope was shattered and the disciples had scattered in fear. By this point, Jesus had appeared to them twice, showed them his hands and side, appeared in the midst of them when they were in a locked room! They were joyful, amazed, and beginning to realize that Jesus was more than a military or political leader. I’ve blogged about this scripture before because it is one of my favorite passages, if you missed that post, you may find it here. The disciples are once again ecstatic when they realize it is Jesus on the shore directing them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. They haul in a load of fish – 153 to be exact. The 153 fish and the significance of this number, what Jesus was saying, not only to the disciples, but to those of us who read His word today, is what I want to share with you.
This being one of my favorite passages, you may be sure I’ve read it many times and have heard it preached on multiple times. It was only last year when I blogged on it for the first time, that the fact that the fish were numbered, was revealed to me. That is the way God works and it is also why we call the Bible the Living Word. Every time you read the Bible, God reveals more to you of His truth; but He can only do this if you read, so I encourage you to prayerfully read. When he revealed the 153 to me, I immediately wondered about the significance.
Our much-loved tour guide, Hedva, explained that the Hebrew alphabet has 22 characters and each character has value. The values are as follows: from 1-9, from 10 to 90 (counting by 10’s) and from 100 to 400 (by hundreds), therefore 9+9+4=22. There are many names given to God in the Bible and they reflect different parts of His character and majesty, for example (this is only a small sample):
Jehovah Jireh – the Lord will Provide
Jehovah Shalom – the Lord is Peace
Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Hosts
Jehovah Raah – The Lord my Shepherd
Yahweh – Lord, Jehovah
Adonai – Lord, Master
Elohim – God, Judge, Creator
Ani Elohim – means I am God and in the Hebrew language, its value equals 153 . . . Let that sink in, it rocked my world!
Throughout His ministry on earth Jesus revealed to his disciples that He was the Messiah, but they did not truly understand it until after the Resurrection and it wasn’t until Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came, that their understanding deepened and they realized that God’s plan was so much more than earthly. I believe that the 153 is there for you and me. Certainly, the disciples would have looked back and realized that even in the number of fish, Jesus was proclaiming to them that He is God. How much more important for those of us today who are searching for the truth, both Jew and Gentile, to see that the Messiah has come and His name is Jesus and He will return to ultimately remove all oppression.
I would love to hear of a time when God revealed a truth through scripture to you. If you’re reading this and wondering what all the fuss is about and who Jesus is, or perhaps you have met those who made you think poorly of Christianity and therefore you had no interest in Jesus, I would like to send you the book of John from the Bible. Meet Jesus and decide for yourself. Message me or contact me via my website www.temabannerauthor.com with your name and address. Your request will be kept confidential and I will not keep your contact info nor use it for any purpose other than sending you this information.
It’s coming! Only days away!
It has been seventeen years since my daughter, Michelle, and I have been on a trip together, and this one is extra special, for several reasons.
It has been 16 months since we lost my son, Steven. With his passing, our lives are forever changed. Michelle and I have drawn nearer to God, calling on our faith to carry us the days we could not walk. Hearing the truth in scripture, its peace and confidence has given us strength to arrive at this moment in time. We now look to our future hope in Jesus Christ.
We've wanted to travel to Israel and prayed and looked for the right time and opportunity. I was delighted to discovered that one of my favorite Biblical fiction authors, Mesu Andrews, was putting a trip together to Israel with a side trip to Petra. When my husband, Gil, suggested Michelle and I go together . . . well, I needed no further prompting! To say we are excited is putting it mildly.
Spiritual pilgrimage, a time to draw ever nearer to our Savior, a time to strengthen our mother/daughter bond, a time of healing, a chance to walk in the steps of Jesus and the prophets, seeing the empty tomb - so many possibilities in the adventure ahead. And for me, the history lover, storyteller, it is also an opportunity to research and absorb the country of Israel - homeland of my heroine, Tirzah, in The Weaver’s Dream.
I hope and plan to post pictures during our journey, follow me on FaceBook or Instagram.
Shalom My Friends!
Music has played a big part in my life – it’s been there for as long as I can remember.
From my mother leaning over my crib to kiss me goodbye because she was on her way
to the symphony with my grandfather, to the days that my sister and I twirled to
John Philip Sousa and danced through our house to the sound tracks of The Sound
of Music and South Pacific. We listened to classical and gospel music before I ever
knew what rock-n-roll was and my father was a fan of Johnny Cash, so Walk the Line
was a well known tune. With a grandmother who played eight instruments, primarily
the violin and the flute, and was at one time first chair violinist for the Charlotte
Symphony, it isn’t surprising that music has been instrumental (pun intended) in my life.
This past year, music has helped my soul heal. God has used it to remind me of His
love and promises. The praise and worship time during Sunday morning services has
been a balm to my heart. Although it is frequently contemporary Christian music that
is played during services and on the radio, the old hymns reach deep into my spirit.
Their Biblical truths are a lesson in themselves. This weekend I’ve been battling a cold –
it’s that time of year too! Last night a coughing attack woke me and when I finally got
it under control, sleep had fled. My mind could not settle, it jumped from one thing
to another with no clear direction and soon it had me angry over something that
hadn’t even happened!
I felt like I was drowning. It had been awhile since I'd allowed anger over past issues
and future probabilities to take me down such a path. I didn’t like it, but once my
mind started down that road, it was hard to change directions. The warning signs
were there, telling me to stop, this wasn’t healthy, wasn’t necessary, I was going
in the wrong direction; but, my mind flew by them like they didn't exist. Then,
something beautiful happened, the Holy Spirit whispered, “Love Tema, love. Do not let
the devil steal your peace, love.” An old hymn that I haven’t heard nor sung in many
years popped into my mind, Love Lifted Me. Immediately the angry thoughts disintegrated, replaced by the peace brought by the words of the chorus of that
song, “When nothing else could help, love lifted me. Love lifted me!” I could not
remember the verses only the chorus, but you can believe I was quick to YouTube it
and found this edition from Alan Jackson. I should not have been surprised that the
first verse so aptly described how I was feeling when I let anger win, “I was sinking deep
in sin far from the peaceful shore . . .” The anger I was experiencing was sinful, it
benefited none, didn’t glorify God and was destroying my peace.
But God is so good! He didn’t let me drift further and further down into the depths,
He reached down and lifted me out with His great love. God is never far away,
He is always right here, His Holy Spirit, always waiting to be acknowledged by each of us.
We celebrated yesterday. We laughed. We shared joyful memories. We did not cry. Truthfully, the last eight months and three weeks has seen its’ share of tears, and I know God has captured each one, because His word has told me so. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your record. Psalm 56: 7-9.
Painful sorrow and deep grief, they march through all our lives at some time. They change who we are, we move forward as different people. Every storm in my life has brought me nearer to God, the loss of my son, Steven, is no exception. During the past months, I have experienced the presence of God’s peace – and believe me, it is a presence, the presence of the Holy Spirit. It never ceases to amaze me how God does work for the good of His children. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. There are, no doubt, many who will say, “How can any good come from the loss of your son? How can peace come in this situation?”
My prayer for Steven has always been that he would be safe, healthy, and happy. I could not have foreseen, and certainly didn’t want, my prayer answered the way God answered it. Nevertheless, today I know that Steven is safe, healthy, and beyond happy. Mere human that I am, I do not understand the ways of God, but I trust His sovereignty. To those who argue this was anything but an answer to prayer, all I can say is, “I’d like you to meet Jesus, He changes EVERYTHING.” When you meet Jesus, you realize that earth is not your permanent home and you know that those who leave this earth and know Jesus, go to be with Him. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss Steven. I miss him every minute. But God gives me a peace that defies explanation. A peace that passes understanding, a peace that gives assurance to my faith.
Today, on what would have been Steven’s 30th birthday, I remember the many wonderful memories of his life and I give praise and thanks to God for the assurance that Steven resides with Him in his eternal home. I ponder what Steven is doing, because contrary to popular myth, we do not become angels and float around on clouds playing a harp. No, in heaven we live like we’ve never lived before and right now Steven is experiencing life as I never have – to God be the glory!
Unlike all my other grandparents, who have always been part of my life, I remember the day I met Granny. Other than my mother, my great-grandmother, known to us as Granny, had the greatest influence on my life.
I was near age three when a woman I didn’t know, came to our house. She looked like a giant and wore a black hat. I was not afraid to politely inquire, “Who are you?”
She smiled and leaned down to my level, “I’m your great-grandmother and I’ve come to help take care of you.” And she did.
To this day it is one of my favorite memories. In fact, it is a rare memory indeed that does not include her. She was born Cora Elizabeth Pence in Charlotte in 1889 in an area then known as Crab Orchard. Today, it is the Hickory Grove/Pence Road/ Harris Blvd/Plaza Road area. From the day I met her until the day she left this earth at the age of 97, she was a guiding force. Not a force that bowled you over or shoved anything down your throat. No, Granny was not like that; she was a force of love. I never heard her say an unkind word to, or about, anyone. The strength of her faith and her values were in every step she took and every word she spoke.
Many were the stories she shared with me and my siblings. They might be about her own childhood or those of her parents. Tidbits of history would be mixed into the stories in such a way that you were learning of the past whether you knew it or not. Some of the stories where funny in and of themselves, but what really made us laugh was how tickled Granny would get when she recalled them. One story in particular would have us rolling.
A group of friends, including Granny, went out for a picnic. If memory serves me, I believe the group was comprised of both boys and girls. While sitting on the ground, a snake, likely a non-poisonous green snake, slithered up the dress of one of the girls. As soon as the poor girl realized it, she jumped up, shook her dress, screamed and hollered. Well, you have to remember the times - a young girl had multiple layers of underclothing. Let me tell you, the sweltering heat of North Carolina is no time to wear layers! Apparently this young lady was quite the rebel and had decided against wearing all those underclothes. When she commenced to shaking her dress, all those at the picnic watching, saw what wasn’t there. With indignation, shame, and embarrassment, she demanded, “Don’t you tell anybody what you saw! Don’t you tell anybody what you saw!” Sixty some odd years later, Granny would laugh so hard while telling us the story, she’d have tears in her eyes and could barely speak for laughing. I know Granny told us the young lady’s name, but I do not remember it; nevertheless, that woman has given several generations a good laugh.
I remember her telling us that a Model-T went so fast they thought it would take their breath away; but this same woman rode the Gold Rush roller coaster at Carowinds at the age of 85.
The tidbits of history she told encouraged my love of the past, putting a face to what was otherwise lost to the hands of time. A trip to Charlotte was a rare trip, and probably only occurred when money from the cotton crop was received. When new shoes were purchased, it might have been her father going to town, template in hand, likely made from a scrap of paper, in the size the child(ren) required. To satisfy a sweet tooth, young Cora would sneak a lump of brown sugar and hide beneath the house to relish it in private. There were nine children in her family and she once asked her mother how she managed with all those children? Her mother replied, “If they hadn’t been mine, there were days I would have run off to the woods.” It is because of the stories she told my mother and then us, that we know so much of our family history.
Granny delighted in gardening. Come March she’d say to my Dad, “Paige, what are we going to plant this year?” I was cringing, working in the garden was the LAST thing this sissy wanted to do - now it’s one of my favorite activities. Every time I rest on my hoe, waiting for that oh so lovely breeze to find its way under my shirt, I think of Granny resting on her hoe, surveying the garden, and waiting for that breeze. I remember the thousands of green beans she must have strung, snapped, and canned, the hundreds of apples she peeled and sliced for drying, and the dozens of ears of corn she shucked and prepared for freezing. I remember the times she would sneak the food off my plate when she thought mama wasn’t watching so I could have dessert. I remember her telling me I had a pretty alto voice and that I was a partying girl. Mostly I remember her love, and I’m mighty glad she came to live with us on that day so many years ago.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
Everyday I realize more and more how blessed I have been to have Nancy-Coe Hall as my mother and how thankful I am that she is still here with me.
As children, our parents took us on what I considered great adventures, mostly camping expeditions, but not always. My mother would read to us about the history behind the landmarks we visited. I credit her with my love of history, not to mention reading. Many are the nights that all four of us children would gather in the "girls" bedroom, where mama would read us stories - we were on first name basis with the librarian and never missed an opportunity to browse bookstores.
More importantly, she has been a prayer warrior over her children and grandchildren all our lives. Don't know why God put me in her care, but I sure am thankful He did. Despite all the ups and downs of life, my mother has kept a positive attitude and is likely to find the silver lining in every cloud. I can always call her when I'm feeling worried or nervous about something and she will encourag and help me figure out what to do next.
She is intelligent, has a wonderful sense of humor and is a lot of fun to be around. As a young married woman, I frequently called her to ask her first one thing then another. I'll never forget one day when I was trying to figure something out and my son said, "Why don't you call Nannie-Coe, she knows everything!" I laughed, agreed, and promptly called her.
When I became a single mom, she was my greatest supporter - there for me and my children, helping us through thick and thin. She saw my children come into this world and was right there when my son, Steven, left this world. She is the strongest woman I know - I love you mama and I wouldn't trade my time with you for anything! Happy Mother's Day!
My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1
A few weeks ago, in preparation for the arrival of my family for Resurrection Sunday lunch, I was busy dusting - the move things, dust under kind of dusting, not the quick swipe kind. On the top of my great-grandmother's’ wardrobe sits an old box my father used to store seeds. Now it plays house to letters and cards of all shapes and sizes, from my great-grandparents, mother, aunt, and children.
The box itself is special. The picture on the front has faded with time, but it carriers nostalgia like the fragrance of spring through an open window. I remember it sitting in my father's workshop, not nearly as full with seeds as it is now with letters. The box made a good landing spot for the seeds that would eventually find their way to the garden behind our house. The inside of the lid is decorated by some mischievous hand - I couldn’t tell you whose.
But the letters and cards inside, Ah, what a treasure they are to me. Most are from my grandmother, Ruth Victoria Martin Teeter. She was gifted, both artistically and musically. She also had a tremendous love for all nature. She shared her knowledge in a way that a young child found easy to understand. She suffered from a muscular disease, Myasthenia Gravis (MG). Today people with this disease generally live a full life, but at the time my grandmother suffered, medical science had few remedies. Physical activities easily exhausted her and muscle weakness caused her to give up driving as well as playing the violin for the Charlotte Symphony. She did not allow the loss of either to stop her. She begin giving music lessons and, in later life, had her art work displayed in a Charlotte gallery. Letters were her window to the world, she kept up correspondence with many friends and family through the years, including some in Japan that she would never meet.
Time spent with her was magical. She always had some interesting gift or item to share with her grandchildren and when you were at her home, you felt like you were the most important person in her world. We would go on walks through the neighborhood and she would teach me the names of the different trees based on their leafs. Or, we might stroll down the hill behind her house into the woods; she had created a spot she called her “thinking spot”. Two concrete mushrooms marked the spot and served as seats. These same mushrooms now grace my rose garden, one as a seat and the other, turned upside down, is a pedestal for my bird bath.
She lived scarcely three miles from my home and, though I saw her frequently, I received letters on a regular basis. Her letters shared the simple things she saw from her window each day - nature. Whether it was a bee, squirrel, or bird, she relayed their daily activity and the importance it played to the world in a manner that entertained and taught the child on the receiving end. Re-reading her letters puts a smile on my heart, I can hear her voice and see the expression on her face. I knew she believed in my ability to be anything I wanted to be, no matter what career I was interested in at any particular moment, she would encourage me. She taught me to knit when I was in elementary school and later, when I mentioned secretarial work, she gave me my first typewriter and taught me to type. As a teenager, when I was interested in journalism, she encouraged me there as well.
To be honest, I must add that her letters could also scold, but these I received later, when as a young adult she believed I needed admonishing - and I did. Words, whether spoken or written, have a tremendous amount of power. The tongue that welds them, or the pen that writes them, should always be used with care and prayer. All these years later, reading over the cards and letters, reminds me of the rich blessing of family, especially grandparents, and what an impact they have on their grandchildren. The picture below is Ruth with her first great-grandchild, my daughter, Michelle. My Uncle Edwar looks over her shoulder. So many precious memories.