Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishing you a Wonderful Christmas!


Isaiah 9:6-7

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Merry Christmas and the new year full of blessings!

Pressing on in Him,


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Life's Gifts

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at 
home with the Lord.     II Corinthians 5: 8
Sometimes it takes us years to recognize the gifts God gives us.  I can look back on my younger life and see times when I was disappointed in my circumstances; but now I can see that God's hand was right there on me, through it all, guiding my days and those around me to draw me nearer to Him.  I am thankful!

John's Aunt Cathy did not, at first meeting, seem like a gift in my life.  I was young when I met her twenty-one years ago this month.  She loved her "Johnny" so much and didn't want him hurt by the likes of me.   She made it plain to him (in front of me) that he could take me or leave me.   Now I can laugh at the memory.  Back then, well, let's just say my thoughts towards her fell far short of charitable!   And I begrudged her for that attitude for quite a few years.  Unless someone clued her in to my feelings, I don't think she ever realized.  I eventually grew out of those feelings and understood that she had her heart exactly in the right place when she uttered those words - she was thinking only of her beloved great-nephew who had already suffered  through a divorce.  She did not want to see her boy's heart broken again!  She has always been closer to him than a typical great-aunt, part grandmother, part friend.  

We saw her eight days ago in her home.  We detoured from our usual route home from his mom's house at the end of our Thanksgiving weekend to make a special visit to her and her husband, Uncle Bob.  I am so grateful we did!

She gave me a few more of her special trinkets.  She began gifting me this past summer when she gave me a tiny little book full of poetry about mothers and motherhood; it had been a gift to her from her beloved (deceased) daughter, Jacque.  I was so honored for her to share that with me (of all the people in her life!)  This trip I was given some bells (at least one of those from Jacque) that now reside on my kitchen windowsill and a purse.  She also gifted us with her crockpot.  I cooked our Sunday lunch in that crockpot today, feeling a bit sad.   She was culling and sharing her excess because she and Uncle Bob were planning to move into an assisted living unit this week.  But instead, Uncle Bob found her unresponsive in her bed a few days ago.  She passed peacefully (in Uncle Bob's arms) into eternity a little less than twenty-four hours after he found her.  

Aunt Cathy, you will be greatly missed!   You taught me more about love than I ever realized at the time.  And you taught me also about reconciliation and redemption.   You were a gift in my life and I look forward to seeing you again someday!  In the meantime, you behave yourself and smile your beautiful smile that shines in your sparkling eyes.  I love you!

 P. Catherine Welmer
19 April, 1933 - 6 December, 2013

Pressing on in Him,


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Give Thanks...day 14

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...

On this fourteenth day of thanksgiving, I am grateful for all the friends, acquaintances, influencing people in my life currently, past, and future.

I have already written of my thanks for my "besties," those special women with whom I am closest.  But there are so many good people in my life and so many people who have been in my life who are special and have brought a contribution of goodness, care, and delight my way.  Our paths crossed and we touched one another in some way.  Maybe we are still in touch, maybe we aren't.  But nonetheless, God has used so many people to enrich my life in numerous ways!   I hope I have blessed others in the same way I have been blessed.  From social media friends whom I have known since elementary school to the friend with whom I worked with for years but with whom now I have totally lost contact to the elderly men who bag groceries at a local store I frequent.  I share history with those online friends, memories of our formative years and our experiences as a group.  I also have wonderful memories of time with that co-worker where we laughed, cried, encouraged one another through the endings of significant relationships, got into mischief together, and vented our frustrations at a job that provided lots of stress but not a lot of income.  Those men at the store provide a laugh for the day or in the case of one whom we knew before his days at the store, when he was at a local car repair business we frequented, he always asks about the family, how we are, what my husband is up to these days.

Even though these people from my past or present may not currently be my closest friends, my life is and has been blessed by their presence.  They have made their mark on my days and soul.  I trust that all through my life, God will continue to bless me with loving, kind, encouraging souls to help me along this journey and I pray that I will also serve that purpose in those lives along the way! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Give Thanks... day 13

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  Proverbs 31: 28
Day 13 is dedicated to someone special in my life. For several reasons, I decided it is mother-in-law day here at East Tennessee Blessings.   My husband's mother has been part of my life now for 21-22 years.   She has had a rough year.  She lost the love of her life this past February shortly after his seventieth birthday - just four months short of their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  His sudden death was shocking to all of us, most of all to her.  
She is a good woman, generous beyond anyone I know!  She loves gifting those she loves with whatever is within her means to give.   She is fun, likes to learn about new things, go on adventures.  She is an avid reader who has "introduced" me to several wonderful authors.
Mostly though, she is dedicated to her family.  She spent her prime years raising  three kids and caring for her husband.   When the kids were raised, she began helping to raise the grandbabies.  She has helped both daughters and one daughter-in-law through a total of seven births and recovery.  She cooked, cleaned, rocked babies, took care of toddlers, whatever needed doing.  She also has helped through several different surgeries and health issues we have each had through the years.  
When I became her daughter-in-law, I brought two children with me into the family fold.   She stepped up, loves them, and welcomed them into her life generously.  
Most of all I am grateful for her because I am married to a man who knows that our life needs to be built on the foundation of faith and living for our Heavenly Father.  That is because of her "dragging him to church" all those years ago.  Many of those Sundays, she was the single mom (spiritually speaking) taking those three kids to worship.  She was grateful to have  been raised in a Christian home and that was her deepest desire for her own children.  
I want to also mention here along with thankfulness for her, I am grateful for my sisters-in-law.  My husband and the two of them keep me laughing when we are together with the stories of their growing up years.  And they both have provided my husband and me with awesome men for brothers-in-law.  I must also mention those wonderful nieces and nephews.  They are all wonderfully talented teens and young adults who also are seeking to serve our Father with all their hearts!
The reason I chose the thirteenth as her day is because this special lady was born on the thirteenth of the month and also because she has a major surgery tomorrow and I need to solicit prayers on her behalf.
So if you are reading this, please take a moment and utter a prayer for Dorothy.
Thank you Lord for this gift in my life!  I love you Dorothy-Mom!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Give Thanks... day 12

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...

Just over two years ago, our minister announced that there was a new volunteer opportunity for our teens and any adults who could come along as chaperones/co-volunteers.  He said that our little group would be going the following Thursday to Hope Central.   One of the moms asked me after the Sunday morning service, "What is Hope Central?"   I had no idea.  After consulting one other mom and her not knowing either, we went to our minister and asked.

He explained that Hope Central is a ministry located in a small house in an inner-city neighborhood of Knoxville.  The churches of Christ in the Knoxville area are working together in that place to minister to the needs of inner-city children and their families.  

The following Thursday afternoon, my sons and I showed up along with our minister, his two teenage sons, and  five to ten other teens.   Some of them painted an interior room of the house that first day while another group went next door to the church building and worked on a project there.  I spent  a bit of time chatting with the Executive Director about the ministry plans for Hope Central. 

The next Thursday we returned to the little house and we began to meet school age children from the surrounding neighborhood - elementary, middle, and high school students.   We soon fell into a routine of feeding them, tutoring those who needed or wanted it, a short Bible study time, and then fun and games outside.  Some weeks we had 20-25 kids and other weeks we had 3-5 kids.  

Somewhere along the way, we added a preschooler or two.  We switched days with another congregation last school year; this year we are back to ministering there on Thursday afternoons.  We sometimes have just one or two teen volunteers; sometimes we have so many teens, we are stepping on and over one another.  We mostly have fifteen to twenty-five neighborhood participants each week; but we have had as few as three.  Some weeks, we have a peace-filled afternoon when most everyone behaves appropriately; other days are filled with pandemonium.  

Our first year of ministry, I helped facilitate a mommies and babies class for young moms.  It was a six week class that lasted about eight weeks due to scheduling problems.  We talked about God and His plans and instructions for us as parents.  We learned baby massage; we talked about our husbands, partners, baby-daddies and the part they play (or don't play) in our and our children's lives.  We prepared a simple meal together and everyone got to take their supper home to share with their families.  We even arranged to have family photos taken just in time to gift our participants with them for Christmas that year. 

This school year and last year, I didn't attempt to repeat that class; I find I have my hands full with helping coordinate our food ministry each week and trying to get to know some of the families and minister to them in whatever ways they need- currently I am a prayer warrior for one family; another family I am helping with transportation issues to and from doctor appointments; helping to furnish and transport furnishings to the apartment of our full time extraordinary kitchen helper lady who found herself on her own again in midlife!   And of course, lots of hugs are given out,   encouraging words and "I love you" spoken (and occasional reminders of proper behavior), and loving with Jesus' love each day that I serve.  

I love helping these souls and have found that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.  My prayer is for God to use me to show His love, His care in each situation that comes along.  It is sometimes a struggle to remember that I am to see these children (and their adults) the way God sees them and to remember Jesus' words,  

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 19: 14

 It is apparent that God is using these children and families to grow each of us who serve them into His servants, His tools, and into the likeness of His Son, our Savior.  

Today I am grateful for Mrs. Veta, and her husband, who had the vision for this ministry and who made it come to life and invited all of us to come along beside her to keep it happening.  I am grateful for the growth of the program and the plans for the future; and I am grateful to and for all these precious children and families whom we serve who are sharing their lives with us and helping us to grow spiritually as our Father has called us to do.  Truly, we are blessed richly by this chance to offer hope in His name in that special little house.  

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’                 Matthew 25: 35-40

Monday, November 11, 2013

Give Thanks... day 11

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...

Today I am grateful for this wonderful country in which I was born and live!  And I am also especially grateful  for all our military who have  served and fought to keep this the land of the free, including my own wonderful son-in-law Jason!

 Jason was home on a two week furlough from his second tour of duty in Iraq when he and my daughter were married in Las Vegas eight years ago.  

I also want to thank all those military spouses and extended families who support and love their soldiers/service people during those excruciatingly, trying deployments!  The sacrifice is beyond what most of us can grasp!

Thank you veterans, soldiers, and future soldiers for your service and may God bless you richly with His best love and care!  

 God Bless America! 

Courtesy of:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Give Thanks... day 10

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...
Today I am grateful to my Father in heaven who gives me a new start each day and has removed my mistakes, sin, through His Son, my Savior, as far from me as the east is from the west!  Thank you God!

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;     
His mercies never come to an end;  

they are new every morning;
    great is Your faithfulness.
'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
    'therefore I will hope in Him.'"

Lamentations 3: 22-24 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Give Thanks... day 9

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18: 24

I am blessed in my life with friends who are like sisters to me.  We refer to each other as sister friends; I truly am closer to them than I am my siblings.   I know they are always there for me in times of need, sorrow, and joy.   We all lead very busy, full lives as working moms, aunts, grandmothers, career women.  But we work at disciplining ourselves to make a niche dedicated to the nurturing of our relationships, both individually one with the other and as a small community.  We enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, a sweet tea/soda pop break, whatever we can fit into our busy schedules.  We encourage one another, laugh riotously with one another, and console one another through tears and sorrow. 

I truly cannot adequately express the appreciation I have for these women, my closest friends, sisters of my heart.  I thank God for them continually.  I love you sisters!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Give Thanks...day 8

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...
I rejoiced with those who said to me,  "Let us go to the 
house of the Lord."   Psalm 122: 1
Today I am grateful for my church family.  One might think I am speaking only of my current congregation.  The precious people worshipping there are certainly part of  whom I am writing; but they aren't the only ones.  
Growing up in upper East Tennessee, I worshipped with three different church families at different points in my life between the ages of newborn and 27.  
I have written before about being born at the hospital across the street from the church my family attended.  My daddy ran across the street after my Sunday morning, 9:45 am birth and taught his Sunday school class.  We were part of that church family for my first three years.
For the next three to four years, our family went to a very small congregation in a community situated between two of the three cities making up the tri-cities.  I found some wonderful people in that church family with whom I am still in contact.
Because my siblings had grown into their teenage years, and the small church didn't have (m)any young people, my parents decided to move us back to our hometown congregation.  That is where I attended until I was married with my first baby.  I am still in touch with and feel a lifetime connection with many of the souls I knew and with whom I worshipped. 
Years before that time, a group of Christians had decided to do a church plant in the part of town with our local college/university.  That plant was successful and the small congregation grew.  That is where my husband and I attended church with our baby girl; our son was born into that church family.  I found so much love and support during a very difficult period of separation from my husband during that pregnancy and the first few months of our son's life.  I have many friends still from that church including one "bestie" friend whom I see several times a year. 
I recently celebrated my 25th anniversary of living in Knoxville.  I have been part of two congregations in this hometown.  I have attended my current church home for nineteen of those years - blessed by amazing love and spiritual growth in this family of believers.  I have never seen a church which better displays the love of Christ in a real, living way.   The generosity when someone has a need is astounding.  The Bible  teachers are phenomenal!  
Our other church home was a safe haven during a stormy part of life and I am so glad we had that experience of a very large church family.  I recently wrote in another post about one of my church homes but it holds true for all of them - 

"when you are part of the Lord's body, home is close; family is just under the steeple; it showed me a glimpse of heaven for which I long - unity, love, family."
I don't see the majority of the people of whom I am writing with any type of regularity; but we maintain contact through social media with an occasional face to face meeting.   When we do see one another or when I spend time with my current church family, I know I belong.  There is love and joy when I run into one of my brothers or sisters in Christ causing me to long for heaven and eternal unity.   I am grateful for my entire extended spiritual family!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Give Thanks... day 7

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...

It turns out I am not done with thanks giving for my family!   When I was 12 years old, the most wonderful event in my life to that point occurred!

My friend, Elizabeth P., had come over to spend the day with me.  We were in the basement with tennis rackets "practicing" (using our very limited space to hit our shots against the wall.)   My mom had left us home alone because something very important was going on in town.  

I believe it was mid afternoon when the phone rang.  I ran up the stairs.  (Phones, at the time, still hung on the wall and stayed there in one place in one's house.)  My mother was calling to tell me that I was an aunt to a beautiful little baby girl!  Oh the joy!   I ran back down those stairs screaming, "I'm an aunt, it's a girl!"  Elizabeth and I jumped up and down and screamed and acted like twelve year old girls for quite some time.   Later that evening, my mom and I went to see this beautiful little person and her parents.  She had been born at home and her first bed was a drawer from a chest of drawers.  She was amazing (and still is!)

Just over a year later, her little sister joined the family.  Also born at home, she just added more joy to my life.  I was privileged to help my mom care for these precious girls for an entire summer just a few years later.  What fun!   There is a part of my heart which has always held them as my first children.  I am as proud of them as I can be and love them deeply.

Another little sister joined their ranks born almost perfectly in the middle of my first two children.   I spent some time with her in her infancy but really didn't begin to get to know her until she was a young adult.  She also makes me proud and I love her greatly!  She lives only two hours away but we still don't get enough time together!  I would love to change that.

Years later, two boys were added to that particular branch of the family tree.  I have not been privileged to spend a lot of time with them; but they are mine and I am theirs; we are family and I love them and hope to be closer with them if and when they want that relationship.  

A little over a year after my second child was born, another sister-in-law gave birth to another beautiful little girl!  A day less than three years later, she was joined by a handsome little brother.  We spent some time together in their childhood, but not a lot.  I have gotten to know them both better and developed relationships with them in their teenage years and now into their young adulthood.   I am blessed that this niece lives only an hour away and I see  her more than all the others.  She is a wonderful young lady who is an all-around lovely person.  I have enjoyed getting to know her immensely and I'm inspired by her.  Her brother lives several hours away in the middle of the state.  I usually get to see him only once a year or so.  He is fun and funny.  I always enjoy my time with him and wish our visits could be longer!

So on this seventh day of November, I am grateful for my fabulous nieces and nephews.  God richly blessed me when He placed these wonderful young people in my life.   I love you all!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Give Thanks... day 6

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.  Philippians 1: 3
I cannot move on from my family-themed posts without mentioning my beloved siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins!   As is probably true of most people, at least in the United States, we have had varying degrees of interaction and relationship throughout my years of life.  
I am thankful for the siblings God gave me.  I am the baby of the family (they were nearly 7 and 9 1/2 when I was born) and I know they both probably got tired of me wanting to be their age when I was young.  I thought that they and their friends "hung the moon."  They both have taught me lessons in my life that are invaluable.   I have had periods of closeness with each of them and periods of separation and near estrangement with both.  I pray we keep those hard times behind us and stay close to each other!
Growing up, I had an aunt and uncle in Alabama who were like second parents to me.  That was especially meaningful after my daddy's death; my biggest fear for several years was that my mama would die also.  It brought me great comfort to know that my aunt and uncle were willing and ready to take me as one of their own if the need should arise.  Their children were like my brothers and sisters growing up.  We played, sang, and dreamed together whenever we got to spend time with one another.   In a way, they were better than siblings because we didn't have any rivalry between us - just pure fun and joy during our time together.  I also was fairly close with cousins in middle Tennessee as a child.  God blessed me richly when He gave me cousins!
In adulthood, I grew closer to my other aunts, uncles, and cousins.  They have all been close to my heart and have seen me through some rough times, some happy times, and I feel blessed to have them in my life.
The most meaningful thing to me about my relationship with most of my extended family is that we share our faith in the Creator.   At the reunions we have had over our adult years, worship of the Lord has been an integral part of our time together.  Those times have been a rich, meaningful time of devotion.  The history we share and sense of belonging with and to one another I think must be a foreshadowing of our worship around the throne when we have all passed into eternal life.   I praise God and feel so grateful for this family with which He blessed me.