Christmas 2015

  It's Christmas morning and as a mom I couldn't be happier. With my sons both being grown, 27 and 21 years of age, it is a rare time when I have them both under my roof at the same time. For the first time in a long time I went to sleep last night with my sons both under my roof. It's a small thing, but the older I get the more I realize that it is the small things that most often matter.

  The Griego clan had a wonderful Christmas Eve last night. We laughed, we ate, we opened our gifts to each other and we just enjoyed time together. In this hectic world it's often difficult to find time to just be together. I am very thankful for this Christmas. Everyone loved their gifts and it was fun opening them but another thing I have learned in life is that stuff really doesn't matter. I would gladly burn every last bit of the stuff accumulated over the years to see the ones I love most well and content, safe and joyful. It's the people that matter. Like Paul I have learned to rejoice in plenty and in little. God has abundantly blessed us, with a warm safe roof over our heads, with enough to enjoy some of the finer things in life and with love, much love, but I can recall times where there was none of these things.

 As a youngster I once walked the streets of Baltimore, with blistered feet and no home to rest in. As a child I have lived with the bare minimums and very few "things" to call my own. I have sold my blood to purchase food. I have been very hungry. It is good to remember these times, and to reflect on the blessings God has given.

 As I sit here this Christmas morning, reflecting on the wonder of it all, I rejoice in knowing that there is always an end to a period of waiting. The world waited for a very long time for the promised One to come, waited in darkness and sin, waited such a long time that I imagine folks began to think that they had somehow misunderstood the promise (and many did). But He came, that first Christmas morning, came to humble settings, came as a tiny babe, came to save a lost and suffering world. I do not know what you are waiting for now, perhaps you are waiting on a loved one to get better, perhaps you are waiting on a time when you don't have to struggle so hard to make ends meet, maybe you are waiting on love, waiting on that person that you hope to spend your life with, the truth of the matter is most of us are waiting for something. When you belong to Christ, when you are His, you can know with assurance that there will always be an end time to your waiting. God is at work, and His work is always amazing. So keep praying for the thing you yearn for, and rest in the knowledge that in His time He will bring about even more than what you hope and long for.

 I have been so very blessed this year, I am blessed with a wonderful family. A family that understands loyalty and grace. I happen to have three of the most wondrous men in my life daily and am very proud of them all. We have had some tough times, but these times have strengthened our bond and taught us much about what is truly important. I am so very thankful.

  This Christmas season we saw the launch of a new church, Mosaic Church, and we as a family have begun to see some positive change in the many things we have been praying for. For all these things I am most truly grateful.

  Yesterday we got to watch our son's silly service dog sporting her new sweater, and I got to watch my sons open their gifts from my husband and I.  I got to watch my eldest veteran son hand my younger son a special coin, and tell him that he has everything in him that he will need to be Infantry should he choose to do so, and also told him to just consider it carefully, very carefully.

  I enjoyed sitting around the table with the ones I love most, eating the Christmas Eve feast, laughing and talking and remembering old times long past.

 This morning I was blessed to wake up in a house with both my sons present, and made a nice breakfast for everyone. For me it just doesn't get any better than this.

 I got to watch my granddog running around in her new sweater.

 I am very thankful for this 2015 Christmas.

 


Day of the Birds

 

Hawks are sort of special to my North Carolina family, and therefore they have become rather special to me now also. I have always admired them, but since returning from my last trip to North Carolina, I seem to see them everywhere.

Today as I left for work, I noticed a prairie falcon sitting upon one of the power lines. I was pleased and felt blessed to have noticed him.

 Later on I went to lunch and I was driving back to work from my house, on the dirt road where we live, I saw a red tailed hawk, and he was playing in the wind. He swooped down low over the road, he did several tight turns low to the ground, then he swooped back over the road, all in front of me as I am driving, he did some graceful dives, and swooped once more across the road in front of me and off he flew. I felt very blessed to have witnessed his display.

  This evening I received a text from my son saying that a mourning dove had flown into our house, and he sent me the below photo of it. He and my husband captured the bird. My husband took the bird outside and opened his hands for it to fly and it just sat there in his hands. He had to throw it up into the air to get it to go.

 

So it has been a day of the birds today. I am not really superstitious about such things, but with the swooping red tailed hawk, and then the mourning dove flying into the house, I cannot help but wonder if there is a message to these visits.

So out of curiosity I looked it up and found this "A hawk is referred to as the messenger. The hawk is also about visionary power and guardianship, as the hawk is very protective of the young in its nest. It teaches us about providing for family and self. The hawk teaches us to be observant and to pay attention to what we may overlook. This could mean a talent we don't use, a blessing for which we haven't expressed gratitude, or a message." and this "Ancient legends say that mourning doves are prophets bringing messages of wisdom to humankind: Mourn what has passed but awaken to the promise of the future." they are also called "angel doves".

 


 

 

If our shoes could tell a story.....


Last night was the 4th of July, and for our family it was a night of many firsts. It was my oldest son's first 4th of July since returning from war, and it was my niece's first 4th of July without her beloved husband. It was my nephews, aged six and two, first 4th of July without their dear father.......it was a night of firsts.....

Events that occurred last night led me to much reflection this morning, and I began to think of shoes. There is a saying that one should not judge another until they have walked a mile in their shoes....and I think the events that occurred last night confirmed this.

On a beach in South Carolina, a group of young boys play football during a firework show. It is possible that their loud cries, and their activity irritated those gathered to watch the show. On that same beach a man and woman were gathered....and had already consumed too much alcohol. The man began to yell and curse at the children....frightening them...the mother and uncle and aunt of the children rushed to their defense and a argument ensued.

At this point in our story you may have come to some conclusions of your own, some "judgements" for lack of a better word. Things such as "people should not go out in public drunk"...or "the children should have been sitting and watching the fireworks and not playing football"........

What is know to us is the reason the children were playing, and not watching....the reason was one six year old boy...who did not want to see the fireworks....he lost his soldier father just a couple weeks ago, and the fireworks remind him of his dad...they stir pain and sorrow in his heart, and he tries with everything he has in him...to play it away....to shout..to run....to ignore the fireworks and the display of patriotism in an effort to quiet the pain that has been inside his heart since the very moment his mother informed him of his fathers passing.

I imagine had the drunken man and woman known all these facts, they would have never yelled at the children, they would have displayed compassion and overlooked any irritation they might be feeling towards them.......but they did not know the story....and they reacted in anger, in vile words, and without even knowing what they were doing, they made the heart of this six year old, already broken.....more wounded than before.

What we do not know is why this man and woman reacted as they did. We can only speculate, which leads me to an occurrence going on across the country, near Seattle Washington the night of the 4th, where my oldest son and his friends have gathered together. The fireworks are going off all around, the air is full of the smell of gunpowder, and the sounds of the blasts from all directions has a sense of gunfire, mortars and chaos.....they are all on edge, they distract themselves with music and jokes, and alcohol, but the truth of the matter is, they really are not enjoying this 4th of July, the memories are too fresh, memories of real explosions, real gunfire, screams and wounds and death and destruction...

Is it possible that the drunken man and woman may have been dealing with the same issues? We do not know.....but what we can learn from these experiences is not to judge others, to have compassion without requiring a story...ask yourself always "why is this person behaving in this way"?.. "what might they be dealing with?...what tragedy may have occurred in their life? All we know is that these two drunken people ruined an entire families attempts to escape some of the pain and just try and be "normal", if only for a moment. Perhaps they were making the same attempt, for different reasons....we simply do not know.

It is certain that this world needs more understanding and compassion, more love and more hope, more people trying to at least imagine themselves in another's shoes...even if only for a moment. Examine your own life....have you suffered? Have you felt pain and sorrow? Have you lost someone you love? Have you endured the fires of war? Have you been down and out with no idea how you would buy your next meal?...Is it possible the person you are judging, the situation in which you are allowing yourself to explode on someone, is rooted in the same types of sorrow you have encountered? Everyone suffers, some more than others, but if we as a people, can find it within our hearts to overlook small things that irritate us, and reach out to people instead of pushing them away, or attacking them.....just think of the stories we would hear....and these stories would bring us together, in understanding, in friendship and love.....when we fail to do this, we are filled with anger, and judgement and we see only our own story and we feel the injustice of it all.....and none of these feelings bring peace.

 

Originally published on Blogger, July 5, 2013

Words Spoken for Our Mel Bell

I came to really know Melanie Griego during the first combat deployment of my son Adam, her husband. She lived with me during that deployment. We became very close. Mel and I were worlds apart in personality. I tend to be a fairly unemotional woman, and she was a very emotional woman. She loved to dress up, I always preferred jeans and a t-shirt. She liked doing her makeup, I rarely wore makeup. She liked to sing and dance and had a beautiful voice, I rarely danced and have a terrible voice.

  Mel felt her emotions to the core of her soul, sometimes they consumed her. If she was happy, it was a joyful happy, like a child going to Disneyland, or like a child on Christmas morning. If she were sad, it was the same intensity, things that might only be a small bump in the road for me, were more like a train wreck for her.

 We did many things together, we prayed, we sang, we talked, we argued, we laughed, we cried. God drew us together, and God enabled us, despite our rather drastic differences, to love each other deeply. Mel was the daughter that God never gave me.  She had a huge heart, she felt the pain of others, and she deeply cared, especially when people were hurting. I learned a lot from Melanie, and God used her greatly in my life and in my Christian walk. I will forever treasure the time I spent with her. Not all of it was easy, but every bit of it was worth it. I believe I am a better person today, and a better Christian, because of Mel Bell. She gave you the opportunity to walk out what you believed, she challenged you to live what you preached. I am so very grateful.

Our Mel Bell believed in the Christ, she believed in His mercy and grace. She knew that she was a child of God. Through the circumstances she was given in this life, she did her best to honor Him, it was the desire of her heart to live for Him. Like all of us, she faltered from time to time. We all do. But for Mel, it was much more difficult than it is for you and I. Mel faced living with a mental disorder, one that was consuming her. She tried for years to deny it, to overcome it through sheer will power and she was unable to do so. All the beauty she created, all the good things she did for others, all the love she displayed, often for strangers, was done in the midst of this disorder. If she hurt others, during periods of sadness, during the dark nights of the soul, she was always broken by it. She never wanted to hurt anyone.

  In regards to her leaving us, Mel knew that what she was doing was wrong, she knew it was not what God would want her to do. She asked many questions before she left that we now know were attempts to seek assurance of God’s forgiveness. She loved Jesus and I know she was a little worried, if what she was going to do would cost her His relationship. Family members have told us that in the days before she left, she spent a lot of time listening to Christian music, and singing to God (she had a beautiful voice), she read her Bible (she loved that Bible, she had carried it since it was given to her, on the day she came to Christ), she had marked various passages in it. She highlighted and left her bookmark on Psalm 23, The Shepherds Psalm.

We have all heard and acted upon certain phrases, phrases such as cast yourself upon the mercy of God, cast yourself upon the grace of God, take a leap of faith, and others similar to these. It is my belief that Melanie acted upon these same precepts.

 She clutched a prayer card in her hand and she cast herself upon the grace and mercy of her Lord.

You were not there to catch her……I was not there to catch her…..each of us here, even those of you who did not know her well, wish with all your hearts that you had been there to catch her, all who loved her  wanted to give her peace, to encourage her, to set her free, to keep her safe, to have her know that we loved her, and for our love to be enough to save her……..we all wish that we had been there to catch her……but I assure you beloved, with a faith in my heart so strong that nothing can snatch it from me….I assure you…..THERE WAS SOMEONE THERE TO CATCH HER! JESUS WAS THERE TO CATCH HER! SHE IS WITH HIM NOW AND ALL IS WELL!

God’s word tells us:

““There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

“We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.”

  In closing, in the days to come, as each of us walk out our lives here on earth, I urge you to submit yourselves to God, walk with Him always, through the good times and the bad, through the dark nights of the soul that each of us experience. Cast your cares upon Him, trust Him, trust in His goodness, in His provision, in His purpose….take a leap of faith…….not as our Mel Bell did, for I do not believe this was God’s best for her, He would have brought beauty and grace to her and to others through her life had she chosen to stay with us and to walk with Him here…..but she was weary, and in His grace, in His mercy and in His Divine Providence he allowed her to come on home. So please, do not do it as Mel did, but instead, walk out your lives in faith and  trust in His goodness and mercy, there will be hard times for God has told us that in this life we will have sorrows. Trust Him to see you through them, to the end and help others along the way.

Use all that you have learned from knowing and loving our Mel Bell, in His service. If you place your full faith and confidence in Christ you will see her again.