Sunday, March 14, 2010

the business of dying... the hope of living

As many of you may already know, last week my Grandfather passed on into glory. It did not come as a shock as he had suffered a stroke in early February and was under hospice care. In fact, in the last two years of Grandpa's life his body just started shutting down - preparing him (and us) for his ultimate debut into heaven.

My last memory of Grandpa (before the full effects of dementia and Alzheimer's kicked in) was of him standing before our family on Christmas day and sharing with us how much God had blessed his life. This was a man whose focus was on Jesus... whose hope was in the Lord... whose eternity was secure in God's grace. This was a man whose life was about love... he loved his wife, his family, his friends... but most of all, he loved his Master. Yes, I remember the heart attitude behind Grandpa's last Christmas speech and the appreciation he carried for a Savior that had proven faithful. I remember thinking with awe, "WOW! What a testimony!" For it was one of those monumental, defining moments of time that will forever surface in my mind each and every Christmas hereafter.

Anyway, this Friday I accompanied my grandmother and other family members to the funeral parlor to wrap up all the loose ends relating to Grandpa's passing. My grandparents have always been very, very frugal individuals and had predetermined many years before that they wanted their bodies donated to science. All arrangements and costs had been taken care of long ago, so our visit on Friday was to finalize Grandpa's final wishes and wrap up any paperwork required by the powers that be.

So, there we sat around the desk of a very sympathetic funeral director who checked off the many details surrounding my grandfather's past. He ran down his list confirming as much information as possible: Name of the deceased... check. Address of the deceased... check. Social Security Number of the deceased... check. Former occupation of the deceased... check. Remaining survivors of the deceased... check. Final wishes of the deceased... check.... etc. etc. etc.

As I watched my grandmother and family members answer the questions posed by the funeral director, I started reflecting: here before us was the business of dying... the final details that follow one's passing. Whether any one of us chooses to acknowledge it or not, someone at sometime will likely be answering these questions about each of our lives... about each of our deaths here on earth.

On my behalf, it is likely that someone will sit before a funeral director or coroner and confirm what they knew about me, Victoria Anderson. They will decide upon the wording for my obituary. They will review and summarize the basic identifying factors about my existence. Everything that will be agreed upon within this meeting will be reported within the confines of a simple 8x10 piece of paper and signed by the witnesses present. They will come to an agreement that the information pertaining to my life was accurately documented, and that I am no longer alive on this planet... that Victoria Anderson no longer exists in this earthly realm. Finally, they will decide what to do with my bodily remains. They will determine whether to hold a memorial in my honor. They will ration out my worldly possessions. Then... after that, my story will conclude and life will go on... without me. A sobering thought, don't you think? Especially when we are soooo consumed with ourselves. Especially when all that is happening today seems to overshadow anything else. But the truth is, both you and I will one day die. Every soul that has been or will be cannot avoid or escape this outcome. We each have a predetermined date with destiny and will, indeed, meet death face-to-face.

While considering all this, I went back to that last Christmas when Grandpa made his speech. I thought about what he actually said. He did not summarize the same details the funeral director concluded. No, Grandpa's life held more than the documentation of an earthly address or factual information. Grandpa's life was important to him because it included the blessing of Jesus. He trusted the words of his Savior. Because of Christ, he lived joyfully in the now of everyday and rejoiced in the hope of what an eternity in God's presence promised. That last Christmas, Grandpa thankfully took note of what God had already granted him, and paced himself toward faithfully reaching the glory that awaited.

So, as I sit here this morning writing to you this blog, I find myself going over the real check list to remember about my Grandfather: Here lived a simple man.... check. A man consumed with sin in need of a Savior... check. A man who followed the call of Christ and trusted Him as Lord over his life... check. A man who now rejoices in the presence of his faithful Redeemer... check. A man who followed THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE directly into the arms of The Almighty... check. Here lived a man who confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Death has come, but fortunately this ordinary man was saved from destruction. His sin was forgiven. His life redeemed. He was purchased by the blood of the Lamb at Calvary and is now in the living, healthy presence of JESUS forever! Here is a man whose faith has been rewarded with the glorious hope of living... with the presence of pure, holy LOVE! Here is a man alive, new, free! CHECK!!!

Friends, death on this earth is a certainty. Life here is brief. And each of our days are numbered. For this world is temporary... fleeting... finite. Despite all that seems so important in your day-to-day... in your moment-to-moment... do not miss what really matters. Do not overlook WHO really counts! Do you have the hope of salvation? Do you know the love of the Redeemer? Are you following THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE? Are you with JESUS?

I pray that you may know the hope of living in His glory forever. May your life point all those you encounter to seek after His grace. May those who witness your living testimony stop in awe and recognize Jesus in every step, every breath, every moment. With Christ, may you enjoy your new LIFE today and every day hereafter!

"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth... Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10 & 12)

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

"If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. For, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (Romans 10:9-10, 13)

"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:16-17, 38-39)

"I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)


Blessings!
Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

it all started with a Star Trek jacket

Yesterday morning, as I was blow drying my hair and "primping" for the day, the doorbell rang and a package was delivered. Before I go on, let me just say who doesn't love getting a new package in the morning? Even if you know in advance what the parcel may contain, it still seems like a little gift from the delivery man, doesn't it?

Anyway, that was the case for me... I knew what this package contained. For last week I had ordered the cutest knit jacket from one of my favorite online stores. It was one of those items I just HAD to have because it had a unique collar and came in a peacock green-blue color that I absolutely love. Since I've been losing weight, I decided that I could periodically splurge on a special, new piece of clothing from time-to-time as my size proved to be shrinking. So yesterday, the first NEW article of clothing arrived.

I was so excited, I couldn't wait to try it on and wear it. Rather than wait for an important event or particular occasion, I immediately put my new jacket on and headed out the door to our office. Once I arrived at work, my husband took one look at me and said, "That coat looks like something out of Star Trek."

Wait... what? Star Trek? I'll have you know that this coat is ALL THE RAGE! (...according to the world of Victoria) This coat is COOL! He agreed that he liked the color and then teased me a little more with one last, "Beam me up, Scotty." Then he prodded me to get to work. And that was that.

While acclimating myself to my office and thinking about how men just don't get it, I started to get a strong urge. An urge to forgo jumping back into my work and instead going online to order the same jacket in the color black. I could justify the extra purchase because I'd wear the black version at my Grandfather's memorial service this upcoming Saturday. Yes, yes... I NEEDED the jacket in black. Nothing else I owned would do.

To my computer I ran and quickly logged on to order another knit jacket - this time in black. Ahhh, good. Got it... and the last one in my size. Now that's done. Now I really must get to work. But wait, I could really use a new pair of shoes to go along with my new black jacket. And while I'm at it, I could get a new bag to match. No, no. I must work. I must get these to do's finished. I'll think about all that later. But not too much later, because time is of the essence.

For the remainder of the day, all I could think about was what I still "needed" to get. New shoes and a bag. New shoes and a bag. I didn't even think about the many, many pairs of shoes I already own, or the endless amount of bag options collecting dust in my closet. No, I just thought about why a NEW pair of shoes and a NEW bag were a good idea. New shoes and a bag. New shoes and a bag... this is where the mind of Victoria was focused on March 9, 2010.

By the time I got home, the first place I went to was my computer. I was ready to shop til' I dropped! Never mind my budget or other financial responsibilities... all I could think about was BUYING! I didn't know exactly what I'd end up with... shoes, a bag, maybe even a new necklace.... it didn't matter, I just knew that I was in NEED OF MORE. And the more I started surfing the Internet, the more ideas and items I saw that I desperately needed. Surely I could justify their purchase... you know, for Grandpa's memorial and all.

Sigh.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit got a hold of me. At one point, I glanced down at the sleeve of my knit jacket and remembered how much I really like it's peacock color. Then I realized that in less than eight hours, the jacket was already "so yesterday" to me. It was no longer new. In fact, Chuck was right... it really did look like a Star Trek top! (I'm sooo not cool!)

Mind you, my new black jacket, however, was on it's way... and it was still fresh in my mind. IT was something to get excited about! Then I heard God's still, small voice ask me, "Victoria, why is the black jacket cool and the peacock jacket so yesterday?"

Well, it's simple Lord... the black one hasn't yet been delivered. It is not in my possession yet. But when I get it, all will be fine. I'll have everything I need.

"But Victoria... it is the SAME jacket! Just a different color. And am I not all that you need?"

I sat there a minute blank faced. What the heck is wrong with me?

I immediately got up and went to my closet and looked at all the shoes and bags and clothes the Lord has lovingly provided to me throughout my adult life. Then I gulped. What kind of psycho needs another pair of black shoes when she already owns at least seven pairs? SEVEN PAIRS!!! And don't even get me started on how many bags I have. If I never bought another purse, I would still have more than enough to accommodate every outfit that I could possibly come up with for the rest of my life! While some folks in other countries (heck, in my country) are struggling for food and shelter, I'm obsessing about another new bag? Tell me, what is wrong with this picture?

When I realized how hungry my need to consume stuff had become (in less than a full day, mind you), I became embarrassed before my King. Now, I know it is not a sin to look cute in a new jacket... or to reward yourself for weight loss when you have the means to do so. But my urge to GET MORE MORE MORE was no longer about that. No, Satan had convinced me that I didn't have enough. He even used my Grandfather's passing as a means to justify that I needed more stuff. (What a jerk!) That evil enemy managed to persuade and redirect my focus. And I took the bait! As a result, my appetite was no longer about praising Jesus for an accomplishment resulting in His strength and guidance. No, my eyes were clouded with the cobwebs of new clothes... new shoes... and a new bag. So much so, that the thought of these items completely monopolized my mind for the greater part of yesterday. Rather than praising Jesus and meditating on His words and His way, I was looking to varying department stores for their thrilling forms of temporary fulfillment. How pathetic! If God hadn't stepped in, I would have likely ended up buying all sorts of nonsense that I really don't need and can't afford. And I'm confident that just like my Star Trek jacket, each item purchased would lose their novelty in less than a few hours. How ridiculous.

The psalmist prayed it best, "Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word." (Psalm 119:37) Yes, Lord. Turn my eyes away from these worthless things... let's get me back into your living word NOW!

Yesterday carried a great lesson for me. Among the many issues noted about my sinful appetite to consume and hoard more than I will ever need... most importantly, yesterday God's intervention made me rethink the whole idea of rewarding myself with fancy clothing when I see significant weight loss from my body. Rather than distract myself with more stuff (which is really weight in a different format), I think it would best honor Jesus if I gave those funds to someone who really does NEED. Sure, I'll still have to purchase some smaller sizes to clothe myself... but not in two different colors. Not with matching shoes, bags, jewelry. No, I have enough. He's given me MORE THAN ENOUGH. All those things, though exciting at first, are really worthless trinkets. They will one day collect dust. They will one day BECOME dust. No, nothing can compare to the blessing and honor of my Redeemer! Yes, He was right... He is ALL that I really need.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Words by Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)


I don't know about you, but it is clear to me how quickly I can lose focus on what really matters and become a selfish, hungry monster. Without my Savior and His focus... without His eyes to guide me, my appetite to feed my own fleshly longings would never be satisfied. In fact, my corrupt nature would overpower me so that I could not think straight. It is clear that to really LIVE, we must stop submitting to the enemy's distractions and allow Jesus to fill us up and preserve us rather than continue binding ourselves to this sinful world. Let's direct our hunger toward God's infinite faithfulness. For every new morning is a gift from The Master and a sign of His eternal love and presence in our lives. (Now that's a gift worth receiving!!!)

I am thankful for the many lessons that God brought to the forefront yesterday. I am grateful that He loves me enough to stop me in my tracks and expose my sin so that I can repent and be set free in His grace again and again. How great is the love of our Almighty Father in Heaven who only wants what is truly best for us? He is soooooo wonderful and good to His children. His way is the only way to lasting peace. Praise be His glorious Name forever and ever and ever! Hallelujah, I am free and I have more than enough. Precious Father. Sweet Jesus. Holy, Holy Spirit. YOU are my all in all. Amen!

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Blessings, ladies!
Blog Post Written By Victoria Anderson

Monday, March 8, 2010

memories of Mel

On Thursday, March 4th at 6:30 p.m. my stepdad and Victoria’s grandfather, Mel, went to be with the Lord at 93 years of age. He’s someone I wish you all could have known. Anyone who knew Mel would have wonderful anecdotes to tell you about him, but for now I just want to share a few of my memories.

Mel and Mom married when I was 16 years old. We moved into a new home and began life as a new family. Within the year there was another member who joined our group. After being an only child for so long, I couldn’t believe I finally had a baby sister, Debbie, and was she ever the joy of our lives. I also gained an older stepbrother, Mel’s son, Duke. Interestingly, Debbie was born the same night as Duke’s wedding rehearsal and dinner. Mom asked me if I would represent her at Duke’s wedding the next day. I was thrilled to attend.

Mel came to know Jesus as his Savior and Lord. As time went by, I noticed he no longer practiced certain lifestyle habits. One day I asked him how he could just stop these practices cold turkey. He said, “Bevie, when the Holy Spirit tells you to do something, you do it!” And that was that! What a profound impression that made on my teenage mind. From then on Mel was committed to serving Jesus and was very active in church ministering in several different capacities. After he retired, Mel and Mom enjoyed working together on many church projects.

Mel loved to play golf and was out on the greens as early as possible on Saturday mornings. When he wasn’t on the course, he would practice putting on the driveway or in the living room during the winter months. One of his proudest moments came when he made an officially recorded hole-in-one. After his 18 holes of golf, Mel joined Mom and they would go for their Saturday bike ride through the suburbs. When they returned home, Mel would mow the lawn and do yard work. Both he and Mom were very physically fit and were able to enjoy walking and exercising together up until two years ago. I don’t know how many hundreds of Bible verses Mel memorized while exercising.

Mom was a loving stay-at-home mother and always kept a beautiful, organized home. Mel contributed greatly by doing Mom’s painting and wallpapering projects as well as performing any necessary repairs and maintenance.

Just as there wasn’t a person who didn’t like Mel, there wasn’t a food group that Mel didn’t enjoy eating. He loved to get together with family, relatives, and friends which also meant there would be lots of good food.

Mel always treated me as his own flesh and blood. I knew he loved me, would have done anything for me, and was always there for me quietly cheering me on in any of my endeavors. Our first Christmas together, his present to Mom was a beautiful cashmere sweater. I was wowed. But when I opened his gift to me I was flabbergasted! He had also given me a cashmere sweater. I felt like a teenage princess. When Mel was president of his transportation fraternity, he asked me if I would type up the reports and paperwork for the group. I can’t tell you how important and wonderful it made me feel that he would entrust me with the responsibility. Years later after I was married and my husband’s health problems increased, Mel and Mom were always available to take care of Scott and Victoria when we had to rush to the hospital for medical emergencies. I remember several times tracking down the folks to restaurants where they left their meals to come help us. At one point, it was evident we needed more reliable transportation and Mel said to Mom, “Honey, buy the kids a new car!” When I expressed an interest in going to Israel, Mel said to Mom, “Honey, send Bev on the Bible Lands Tour!” Of course, I couldn’t accept such generosity but I share these incidents to give you an idea of what a wonderful, generous, loving person Mel was to me.

By the time my sister married and had her family, the folks were retired. After breakfast and mall walking, they would go over to her house to help in any way possible. As an example, when it was time to replace all the windows in the house, Mel took on the enormous task of staining and varnishing each one before they were installed. Because Debbie’s husband had a very busy job with teaching and extracurricular activities, Mel would take care of the yard work and home maintenance. Mom would do the laundry and help Debbie with projects. While Debbie and her husband were on vacation one year, Mom and Mel decided to help complete painting the entire interior of their house. When the grandchildren were little, we would all enjoy getting together each week with Mel and Mom for lunch and other activities.

I remember Mel recounting some of his life experiences. During the Depression it was difficult to find work to put food on the table for a family with five children. So Mel, as a teenager and the oldest sibling stood in lines with many others waiting for the chance to be hired. When it was finally his turn at the head of the line, he was asked what he could do. He looked at the workers on the other side of the fence and said, “I can do what they’re doing.” During World War II, Mel served as a Marine throughout the Pacific including Iwo Jima. At one point, so far from home, Mel learned his brother was in the area. I can’t even imagine what a joyous, yet bittersweet, reunion that must have been! In her later years, as it became more difficult for Mel’s mother to care for herself, Mel and his brothers and sister helped her in their own special ways. Mel regularly visited her and cleaned her apartment.

Mel and Mom were always together. I can count on one hand the times they were apart for any length of time. Even when Mel went out-of-state for three months to facilitate a new plant opening, Mom went along with her portable sewing machine and preschool Debbie. When they could no longer live together, it was made all the more poignant by their loving displays of affection when Mom visited Mel in the nursing home.

Two years ago at our Christmas gathering, Mel got up and told us all how much he loved his wife and family and how grateful he was to the Lord for the life he had been given. It was a precious, unforgettable moment! From that time on, Mel deteriorated into dementia and physical disability. After several hospital stays last year, it became necessary for him to live in a nursing home. February 13th, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and made one of the last things he could enjoy - eating - very difficult. Then March 4th, this devoted husband, proud father, doting grandfather and great-grandfather, and caring brother and uncle was released from his imprisonment and brought into the glorious presence of his Lord and Savior whom he loved and served with all his heart.

I am so grateful and honored to have shared 51 wonderful years with Mel, my Dad-at-heart. His kindness, generosity, encouragement, and love of Jesus have made an indelible impression on my life. Of this wonderful man it can be said he fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. And now there is in store for him the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to him and to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

Finally Home
by Don Wyrtzen

When surrounded by the blackness of the darkest night
Oh how lonely death can be.
At the end of this long tunnel is a shining light,
For death is swallowed up in victory!

Just think of stepping on shore
And finding it heaven
Of touching a hand and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial
Of waking up in glory and finding it home.

Blog Posting Written by Momba (Beverly Drong - Victoria's mother)

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