Thursday, January 26, 2012

9 Months

Yesterday marked 9 months since Mom and Dad were killed.  It weighed on me all day.  I could not sleep at all last night.  My stomach churned and I was physically ill throughout the night.  I thought I had food poisoning.  In talking to a veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he thought perhaps I was suffering from that, too.

Maybe he's right.  All of us who were close to Mom and Dad have endured a very traumatic event.  What I do know for sure is that I kept thinking, "It's been 9 months.  I could have birthed a baby in 9 months but still we do not seem to be any closer to having any closure to this.  No arrests.  No justice."  I do not understand why it is taking so long.

In choir tonight as we were singing "I Will Not Be Shaken" it struck me that it does not matter if if an arrest is never made.  I will continue to trust God and know that He is in complete control.  His justice is just.  He knows who killed them and they will not be able to escape His judgement. 

Psalm 18:1-3 (The Message)

I love you, God— you make me strong.
   God is bedrock under my feet,
      the castle in which I live,
      my rescuing knight.
   My God—the high crag
      where I run for dear life,
      hiding behind the boulders,
      safe in the granite hideout.
I sing to God, the Praise-Lofty,
      and find myself safe and saved.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Family Dinner

In one of he groups I'm a part of at church we've been discussing a book about how the church is losing it's youth.  We're not retaining young people.  The biggest reason is that parents do not live out their faith.  Sadly, many parents do not even know why they go to church and do not have a personal relationship with God themselves.

On a Christian radio program I was listening to briefly tonight they were discussing the important of the family dinner in the life of the family.  Statistics show that children in families that eat dinner together in a traditional way (sitting down together without TV and other distractions) at least 3 times a week do better in school, they are more secure, they are far less likely to suffer from depression, and they are more likely to stay in church.

When I was growing up, family dinners were the norm.  It was a rare evening that we didn't sit down and eat together.  Even when my brothers and I were teenagers we managed to eat together most nights despite our busy schedules.  It was something Mom insisted on.

We shared about our day.  We talked about what we were doing in school, the latest book we were reading - whatever was going on in our lives.  We shared and laughed.  We fed our souls and our bodies at the same time.

Time is much shorter than you may think.  If you still have kids at home, please, make time as often as possible to sit down and eat together.  It's the best way to teach them about the love of God.  It could make all the difference in the world in your kids lives!

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (The Message)
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!  Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Music was always a big part of our home when I was growing up.  Dad had a beautiful tenor voice and sang often at church.  There are so many songs that I have a hard time listening to now because I remember Dad singing them.  Whenever we visited my grandparents church (my Dad's parents) Gram Willingham always (and I do mean ALWAYS) wanted Dad to sing "Home Sweet Home". 

For some reason, Mom didn't think she had a good voice but she did.  She was always singing around the house.  I loved hearing her!  I've been told that Mom's mother (my other Gram) had a great alto voice and used to sing in a quartet. I'm sad to say that I don't ever remember hearing her sing.  But her brother, my great Uncle Connie, had a wonderful bass voice.  He would sing with a men's quartet at New Home General Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff.  I loved listening to them!  They would sing peppy, old-fashioned gospel music.  Real toe tappers!

Tonight at choir practice we were singing a gospel song and it made me think of Uncle Connie's quartet.  I began wondering if all my family members who have gone on to heaven gathered to sing praises together.  What beautiful music they must be making!  I look forward to the day when I can join them in singing praises to our Lord.

Music has long been a source of comfort to me and while I may cry when singing songs like "How Great Thou Art" I still love to sing them.  The tears may roll down my cheeks but I'll continue to sing.

Isaiah 52:8-10 (The Message)

Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:
   "God has comforted his people!
   He's redeemed Jerusalem!"
God has rolled up his sleeves.
   All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.
Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,
   sees him at work, doing his salvation work.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I know you have all heard the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine".  Well, it is true!  Dad was a big proponent of that idea.  I have been a bit under the weather the past couple of days and it brought to mind what all Dad had told me about the effect of humor on healing.

I know he had been studying it but I have not been able to find those notes yet.  I do know that he was convinced that laughter is one of God's greatest avenues toward healing. 

Some friends of mine have a daughter who was nearly killed in a jet ski accident.  She is now confined to a wheelchair unable to eat or even speak for over a year now.  They look forward to her day of healing.  She has already come a very long way but still has so far to go.  I am sure it is agonizing for them to see their beautiful young daughter suffering so. 

In her Caring Bridge update today my friend spoke of how she and her husband can see the effects humor is having on their daughter.  It is nothing short of miraculous really but it does not surprise me in the least.  God gave us laughter for a reason.  Please keep their daughter Danielle in your prayers!

The past few months have been very hard for me and I cannot pinpoint why but I do know that my life must go forward as it is.  I cannot change what happened.  I have replayed the day before Mom and Dad's deaths over and over in my head.  If only I could have convinced them to stay one more day!  I am sure my friends do the same thing.  If only they had not allowed their daughter on the jet ski that day.  We all have many "what if's" but none of us can go back in time.  We can only go forward.

I am reminding myself as I remind you to laugh.  No matter what your circumstances are, laugh.  Laugh whether you feel like it or not.  Even if you have to force a laugh.  Laugh with gusto.

Psalm 30:3-5  The Message (MSG)

God, my God, I yelled for help
      and you put me together.
   God, you pulled me out of the grave,
      gave me another chance at life
      when I was down-and-out.

All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
      Thank him to his face!
   He gets angry once in a while, but across
      a lifetime there is only love.
   The nights of crying your eyes out
      give way to days of laughter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mom's Birthday

Today is Mom's birthday. Mom was such a kind, humble and gentle woman.  She was loved dearly by everyone who met her.

Helen Loetta Mitchelle Willingham was born January 6, 1932 in Poplar Bluff, MO.  She was the daughter of a German dairy farmer and a homemaker (who later got her LPN degree and worked as a nurse at Lucy Lee Hospital).  She moved once in her growing up years.  Her dad (known to most as Pop) built a new stone house across the road.  Big move, huh?  Mom liked to say that she wasn't a hillbilly...she was a swamp lily!  And what a beautiful flower whe was!

Mom was raised in New Home General Baptist Church.  She knew the value of hard work.  She had loving, Godly parents.  She was the oldest of 4 children with 2 younger sisters and a younger brother.  On Sundays her parents would invite lots of people over for Sunday dinner.  Gram always had a huge spread on the table.  Pop and Gram would often send potatoes, eggs - whatever they could spare - home with people.  This was depression times and many people went hungry but Gram and Pop worked hard to garden, raise chickens, cows, etc and their family ate well.  For some people the Sunday dinner was by far their best meal of the week!

When she graduated from Poplar Bluff High School, she went on a class trip to Washington, DC.  That was the first time she had ever left Butler County.  When she was 20 years old she met a Navy man who was on leave.  A few short weeks, she married him and moved to San Diego CA where he was stationed.  He got on a boat and she didn't see him for weeks and even months at a time!  Can you imagine this naive young country girl living by herself in this big city?  Thank goodness my Aunt Sis (Mom's younger sister - Marilyn) joined her later.

That was just the beginning of the incredible journey their marriage became!  Dad was called into the ministry while serving in the Navy.  Once he finished his service they moved to Indiana where Dad went to school at Oakland City University.  When Dad graduated they had 3 boys and a baby on the way.  I was born in Cape Giradeau, MO while they were pastoring a church in Chaffee, MO.  Mom certainly had her work cut out for her! They ended up serving the Lord in churches, orphanages, and Bible colleges in southern Missouri, Florida, Jamiaca, Hondurous, and China.  What an amazing life!

Through it all, Mom was faithful to pack up yet again and move one more time.  It wasn't easy for her.  She would have preferred to stay in one spot but she selflessly followed where ever God called them.  Without Mom's help, Dad would not have done a tenth of the things he accomplished - although Mom would object to me saying that.  Without a doubt, she was Dad's number 1 fan!

And she was my number 1 fan.  What a wonderful mother she was.  She loved her family.  All Mom ever wanted was for all of us to be together.  For their 50th wedding anniversary all of us (their kids, grand kids, and her sister and brother-in-law) got together at Lake Pomme de Terre in Missouri.  We had a wonderful vacation together, boating, swimming, fishing but mainly enjoying each others company.  I'm so glad we did that.

Mom would always send the sweetest notes in her beautiful handwriting.  She would encourage and gently nudge her children and grand children with her notes that were lovingly and thoughtfully written.  After she died I found letters in her file cabinet that she had written and then corrected, re-worded and obviously then re-wrote and mailed the final draft.  I never knew she had taken so much care in her writing to make sure she made her point without offending or discouraging anyone.  More than anything she wanted to encourage her children and grand children to live for the Lord.

I still have many of the notes and letters she wrote me.  One she wrote me when I was 17.  It was a short note and in it she wrote out 2 verses that she encouraged me to memorize and use them to guide my life.

Proverbs 3:5-6  King James Version

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

I memorized it in the King James version but I love the way it reads in The Message version:

Proverbs 3:5-6 The Message

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
   don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he's the one who will keep you on track

I love you, Mom and I'm listening!

Happy Birthday!