Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Fatherless Father’s Day

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So here we are June 21, 2015. Our first Father’s Day without Larry. Our first Father’s Day with out my dad.

There is silence.  Do you hear it? It looms over me every day. The silence of these men who were such an integral part of my life is deafening.

There is emptiness. An aching and deep, deep loneliness. A vast empty space that cannot be filled.

There are tears.  Tears that I barely allow to be shed, because if I give them free reign, I will completely fall apart.  But they are there lurking at the surface just waiting for an opportunity to make an appearance. 

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Father’s Day is a day to honor the men in our lives who love us and whom we love. Who have nurtured us and taught us helped to mold us into the people are today or will soon become. 

My boys have been cheated of their dad. Cheated of time they should have had with him. Time with him to grow and learn and become the men they are meant to be.  I cannot fill Larry’s shoes, although I will try and help my boys to the best of my ability to be good men, Godly men, gentlemen.  I remind them that their dad taught them so much even in the short time they had with him. He taught them to love, to laugh, to mourn, to show respect, to love and help others.  To love Jesus.  Larry was truly a great guy and a gentlemen through and through.

I can only hope that the men in their lives will step in and help to fill that place that Larry left behind in teaching them what I cannot.  That has already started to happen. I see it in the support system I have in church, the fire company and friends and family. I am thankful and blessed that I have such support. Words can never express my deep love and appreciation I have for these men.

My own dad taught me many things as I shared here. I MISS him.

I do know that while the boys and I no longer have an earthly father, here with us, we do have a heavenly father who loves us more than even our earthly fathers could.  That seems hard to believe but I know it is true. He gave up HIS son so we could have an eternal relationship with Him. That is love.  

Sing praises to God and to his name!
Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.
His name is the Lord—
rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

Psalm 68: 4&5

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Dad

On Tuesday, June 16th we said goodbye to my dad. The service was beautiful and many came out to celebrate dad’s life. This is the third family member in less than 8 months we have said goodbye to. It has been a difficult few months, but we are persevering and trusting in God to get us through each day.  Below is what I shared about dad at his service on Tuesday.

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Dad

The first man I ever loved was my dad. I guess for most little girls their first love is their daddy's

Although I didn't know it at the time, dad set the foundation for the man of my future. Someone who would be very special in my life. Dad's have a way of doing things we are not always aware of.

My dad was great at so many things. He could build or fix just about anything. He built most of our house. He was a hard worker and I thought he was pretty amazing.

Dad had a great sense of humor. He was very ornery and loved to tell jokes. I recall many jokes he and I would share back and forth at the supper table over the years. Some were very funny and some were pretty corny.

I would like to share with you just a few memories that stand out in my mind:

When my brother Jimmy and I were growing up we always wanted to go with dad to the firehouse for the weekly siren and radio test. This always involved pulling out all of the trucks and testing each radio. I could not wait to get to ride on the fire truck! You may be thinking we went somewhere, when in reality we only went a few feet, just enough to pull the trucks out of the bay, but to me it was fun and exciting to be able to go along with dad.

When we were waiting for my youngest brother Bill to be born, I decided that I had enough brothers and it was time for a sister (sorry Bill). Dad and I made an agreement that if it was a boy I would move out and if it was a girl he would move out. The day mom went into labor I called home every hour the hoping for the news of my little sister. It was not until I got home that I learned the gender of our newest family member. There was a suitcase in front of my bedroom door. I quickly realized that I was happy with another brother!

Memories are so important. They seem like such little things when they are happening, just little bits of everyday life, but when you look back you realize how precious and important those memories are and they were truly the big things in life!

Dad taught me many things. I don't know if he realized what an impact he had on my life. As parents we can only hope that we are instilling good values and morals in our children, but I think sometimes we are not sure if the values and morals we hope to instill are reaching them. As a daughter I don't think I told him how important those morals and values ended up being in my life, but they have shaped me and helped me to become the person I am today.

Another thing he instilled in me was serving community. He was a volunteer firemen ever since I can remember. He got up at all hours of the night and there were many times in the middle of dinner he would leave to go out on a fire call. I can remember the pager (or plectron for those of you old enough to remember those) going off and dad racing out of the house to answer the call. I thought it was all very exciting and I was proud that my dad was a firefighter! I recall one particular time just after he built a new partition in the kitchen and was racing out the door to a fire call and ran right into it forgetting it was there!

When Larry and I first started dating there was a fire call. Larry got to experience first hand dad jumping up and racing out the door to his truck! He had no idea what was going on. I explained that this was a frequent occurrence nothing out of the ordinary! I guess it must have impressed or rubbed off since not long after we were married Larry too joined the fire company and learned to jump up and run out the door and into his truck, although I don't think he was ever quite as fast as dad was!

The most important thing that dad taught me was faith in God. Growing up we always attended church as a family. I remember very few occasions that we missed going. I have not always been faithful and have strayed from the path over my life, but I always went back and in the last 10 or so years my faith in God has grown tremendously and I have a personal relationship with Jesus. Dad laid that foundation for me many years ago. It is that faith that has gotten me through these last eight months and to this moment. I cannot imagine going through all of this without that faith and knowing I'm spending eternity with Jesus and seeing my loved ones again.

Our family has had it's share of hard times too. All families do whether it is public knowledge or not. We like the world to always see the good times, the happy family, but in reality none of us are perfect, but we love each other in spite of our imperfections, arguments, disagreements and brokenness. We are a family.

Eight months ago my life changed very dramatically in a way I never imagined would happen to me. Dad was diagnosed with cancer and not two weeks later Larry was gone. GONE, just like that. God never promised that we would not face hardships and challenges nor did he promise not to give us more than we can handle, but he did promise to always be with us.

Over these last months I have watched dad slowly fade away and become a shell of the man he once was. Our bodies will fail, whether by disease, or trauma or natural death. There is no escaping it, it is a journey we all will take one day. I am thankful that I have had this time with Dad to see him and spend time with him and tell him I love him. I am thankful for all that he taught me. I will hold his memory in my heart always.

Today is a celebration of his life, to know he is not suffering or in pain.

Death is not an end it is just the beginning. I love you dad.

And finally I would like to leave you with this from Isaiah 43:2

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19th 1984

(I know it has been a long time since I wrote here at My Blessings From Above if you are still here and reading, thank you. There have been big changes  in my life in the past 7 months. My plan is to get back to posting regularly. Probably not daily, but maybe once or twice a week..I hope you’ll stick around)

You read the year right….May 19th 1984. The day two young people stood before God, family and friends and vowed  to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.

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I was almost 22 and Larry was 23…we were young and looking back did not have a clue about what those vows truly meant. On the surface we understood them, but you know being young and in love and ready to conquer the world we knew everything and had it all together. Ahem…..not quite!However you could never have convinced my almost 22 year old self of that! Fast forward to today 31 years later and here I am alone on what would have been our 31st wedding anniversary.

A little bit of back story for those of you who may not know. Almost 7 months ago on October 24th, Larry had a massive heart attack and passed away.  Just like that. He went to work early that morning and by 3 pm I was at the hospital listening to the emergency room doctor utter the words no one ever wants to hear. “I’m sorry Mrs. Gerrells we have done all we can for your husband”. NO! NO! NO! This was not happening to me.  I didn’t get to say goodbye! We have two boys to raise! They were 13 and 9! They needed their dad! I needed my husband! I’m only 52. How could this happen? It was all very surreal. I had just earlier that afternoon returned from taking my dad to his first week of radiation for his recent diagnosed lung and brain cancer just a week prior.  This just could not be happening! But it was and it did. There was nothing I could do to stop it. It was like being blindsided by a bus. I did not see that coming! We were parted by death.

Oh that I could reverse time….go back just a little bit. Just for a minute.  So I could say goodbye, tell Larry that I loved him just one more time give the boys just a little more time with their dad. But it was not to be.

So here I am in 2015 on May 19th remembering my wedding day and wondering how I got here. My situation is not unique…I am sure there are many widows my age and I am certainly not the first woman to become a widow.

Still…it seems a bit unfair…but God never promised fairness or an easy life. I’m no different than you are. I’m not so special that bad things should never happen to me. But still…it is unfair. Unfair to my boys who need their dad. Unfair that I don’t have my husband…..however life goes on….as I have seen in my own life. We have been moving forward, each day just a few little steps at a time.

Let’s go back to 1984 for a minute to our wedding day. It rained in the morning, but by noon the sun was shining. (the wedding was at 1) I got dressed at our church parsonage along with my bridesmaids. My in-laws were separated at the time and my mother-in-law swore she would not attend the wedding. She did and between her and my father-in-law we had an interesting couple of minutes at the church.  At one point during the ceremony the entire wedding party sat down. I went to sit down and could not. Larry was standing on my train of  my gown and I said as much in what I thought was a quiet voice and the entire church heard me announce that he was standing on my train! There was some laughter over that!

The car we used was my Uncle Sam and Aunt Elaine’s. When they dropped my cousin off at the church (she was my maid of honor) the car would not shut off. So when they returned later for the wedding the car ran during the entire service!

During reception my mother-in-law caught the bouquet and Larry was kind enough to shove cake in my face! I wore cowboy boots with gold boot tips under my gown and my grandma made sure everyone in attendance knew it! I spent quite a bit of time showing guests my boots!

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After the reception we stayed and helped my parents clean up the hall we had rented as there was an event there the next day. There is a picture somewhere of me in my wedding gown pushing a broom! Don’t all new brides sweep up after their reception?  After we left the hall we spent a romantic evening at the grocery store getting some items to take with us on our honeymoon. We were poor and in love and had a frugal honeymoon planned! We spent our honeymoon at the beach in Wildwood, NJ. It rained while we were there…we didn’t care. We walked the boardwalk with umbrella’s which of course I got my hair caught in.

We had a great marriage. Was it perfect? NO did we fight? YES! But you know what I married a great man. I really did. He was flawed just like me. We loved each other in spite of our flaws or maybe because of them. I told him numerous times that I don’t know why he put up with me because there were times I could not put up with myself. But Larry did. Always. He always told me he loved me.  Even when I didn’t deserve it.

Larry was kind and giving, generous and faithful. He would help anyone in need and always took time for people.  He left me a note just about every morning of our married life. He was a pure romantic and  loved happy endings, especially those sappy predictable ones.  He was also very stubborn-I don’t want you to think he was perfect, but he was perfect for me. I like to think our personalities complimented each other. He put up with my crazy sense of humor.

There are so many things I miss about him. He laugh, his smile, his sense of humor. His yelling at hockey and football games on television. (I tried explaining to him many times that they could not hear him, but he seemed to think they could?) His unfailing love for me, in spite of me. He was quick to forgive (I can’t always say that about myself) and quick to compliment. He always complimented and encouraged me. I swear I could have worn a bag over my head or cooked a horrible meal (I can recall a really bad meatloaf I made!) and he would always say it was wonderful!  Larry was a hand holder. I miss that. Oh how I miss that! One thing I thought about the other day was that he never called me Michele, he always called me Shell. I miss that so much and no one calls me Shell much these days. Isn’t it funny the things you think about and remember.

Larry was an awesome dad. He loved his boys so much. He was worse than I was the day both of them came home.  He sure loved a happy ending!! And Justin and Kaden made his life complete!

I think of him a thousand times a day. Remembering…..

We were married for 17 years before we started our family, that in itself is a story but I’ll save that for another time. I think of things I want to tell him. What I have learned, what the boys are doing and what is going on in our lives. I miss his comforting presence.  I do journal and write down my memories and current feelings.

We had 30 years together, that is a long marriage. I thought we would see our kids grow up and see those milestones so many families have. Their children graduating from grammar, high school and college, seeing them get married and start their own families. Growing old together. It was not meant to be. I don’t know why. Only God knows that.

So here I am today, May 19th. 2015….we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Kaden’s 10th birthday.  Justin is graduating 8th grade and summer is coming….so many milestones we have celebrated with out Larry, in just about 7 short months. My beautiful cousin Carolyn passed away 2 months to the day that Larry did on Christmas Eve and my dad is fading away in a nursing home from this cancer that is taking his life. My boys have suffered so much loss in these short months since last October, with more suffering to come, and the changes in the world since Larry’s passing are staggering. 

My boys are learning to live life without their dad and I am learning that I can do things I never thought I could do.  My heart is broken for myself, but especially for my boys.  They need their dad. But life does not stop for my wants…it goes on. 

I am so thankful for the continued support of many dear friends, my church and fire company families, I could not do this without that support.  There have been some men who have placed themselves in my boys lives to give them what I cannot and for that I am more thankful than they will ever know.

So I celebrate alone. Remembering a good marriage and a wonderful man. I won’t forget him or our time together. Even though I wanted much more I am blessed with the time I had. Many people don’t get 30 years or decide their marriage is not worth it anymore. I will do everything in my power to help my boys remember their dad and to teach them what he wanted them to know.

I have to admit that when I see a couple together young or old I am envious of their relationship, their obvious love for one another. I miss that so much. But I try to remember that I was (and still am) so blessed to have had a wonderful marriage.

One last thing, I do have hope…hope in Jesus that someday I will see Larry again. We will be together again in heaven. In the meantime I guess my work here not done. I have boys to raise and God to trust in.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Evangelism Study Bible NJJV {Kregel Review}

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I really enjoy reading multiple Bible translations when I am studying God’s word, so when the opportunity to review The Evangelism Study Bible New King James I gladly accepted.

I find that reading more than one translation of the Bible helps me to understand the Bible more clearly. Using this Bible was no exception.

Some of the features of The Evangelism Study Bible:

  • An introduction at the beginning of each book of the Bible.
  • over 2600 study notes about evangelism
  • 125 articles on crucial issues
  • 45 devotions throughout
  • color maps
  • concordance
  • lays flat when open

I found the commentaries and articles in this Bible informative and thought provoking with a heavy focus on evangelism.  This Bible gives lots of cross references that help you find other key verses in the Bible that relate to a verse that is currently being read.

This would be an ideal Bible for someone who is wanting to have more understanding on witnessing to others whether it be around the world or in your own neighborhood.

disclosure: I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Homeschool Planet-{Home & School Mosaics Review}

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When I was given the opportunity through Home & School Mosaics to review Homeschool Planet online Calendar/Planner created by The Homeschool Buyers Co-op I was very excited! I love The Homeschool Buyers Co-op and have gotten several great deals from them and thought this would be something that would help me get organized!

I have tried various planners in the past and one problem I personally have had is getting everything coordinated onto one calendar. Perhaps this is a problem you have as well.

It seems we all have busy schedules these days whether we work outside the home, are work-at-home moms or stay-at-home moms, our lives tend to get busy!  Trying to keep everything on the calendar and keep up with everyone’s schedule can be a challenge!

In our home we homeschool, serve on several committees in our church, attend a weekly Bible study. I am also the President of our local fire company auxiliary and serve as secretary of our homeschool support group. So having a place where I can list all of our activities and the boys school assignments in one place was something that certainly appealed to me!

I found that Homeschool Planet is very user friendly! Within minutes of logging in I had our calendar, schedule and school assignments up and running! This is not just a planner but a calendar and schedule all in one. And it is all online! It does not matter which operating system you use. You can access it with your laptop, tablet or smart phone!  If you prefer using a paper calendar or planner no worries you have the option to print it out as well!

I really love the features of this online planner! You can add anything you can think of that you would want on a calendar, birthdays, important activities, meetings and events as well as your children’s assignments! I love that I can color code so each of us has our own color and can easily see at a glance who is doing what!

I also love that it can be set up for my children have separate login information and to receive emails about their assignments! My oldest just got his first computer and it is going to be so handy to email his assignments to him. Using this planner will also teach him time management. Something he is going to need in the coming years.

You have the opportunity to have different views. You can have calendar view or planner view.

There are so many other features at your finger tips.

  • text messages-you have to option utilize text messaging if you would rather not use email.
  • Keep track of days and hours schooled
  • easily access grades and transcripts
  • Widgets! There are some awesome widgets included with this planner-Bible verse, weather, daily quote
  • The ability to look at the planner for the entire family or just one person. I love this feature!
  • to-do lists. You can create to-do lists for each person in your family!
  • Shopping list-I always have an ongoing shopping list and this helps me keep everything in ONE place!

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Above is just a small sample of our planner!

I really love this online planner! There are helpful tutorials that walk you though setting your planner up!

Currently you can get a 30 day FREE trial of Homeschool Planet! If you decide to continue your subscription, your cost is only $6.95 per month or $65.00 for the entire year!

 

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant {Review}

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

About the book:

The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple---but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges . . . this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.

My Thoughts

I love Christian fiction, especially good Christian fiction! Lynn Austin delivers! If you have read my blog and some of my reviews you know I am a huge Lynn Austin fan! In Keepers of the Covenant Lynn brings to life the story of Ezra! Starting in Esther and the proclamation of the King to execute all of the Jews. Many of us are very familiar with the story of Queen Esther. However the story is told from the prospective of the Jewish people and the prophet Ezra. The devastation of that proclamation and the meaning it had for the Jewish people.

Keepers of the Covenant is a beautiful story! Lynn Austin brings the old testament to life in a way that will make you want to pick up your Bible and read the story of Ezra! God is always in control even when it seems like a hopeless situation!

Be sure to visit the Litfuse website to learn more about Keepers of the Covenant!

About the Author:


Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.

Find Lynn online: website, Facebook

Lynn Austin is back with the next book in The Restoration Chronicles series, Keepers of the Covenant. Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God's unwavering love for His people.

Lynn is celebrating with a Kindle HDX giveaway and a live author chat webcast on October 21st.
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One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 21st. Winner will be announced at the Keepers of the Covenant LIVE webcast event on October 21st. Connect with Lynn for a fascinating evening centered around God's unwavering love for His people. She'll be hosting a Biblical fiction book club discussion, giving away prizes, answering your questions, offering an exclusive peek at the next book in The Restoration Chronicles, and much more!

So grab your copy of Keepers of the Covenant and join Lynn and friends on the evening of October 21st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)
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Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Litfuse in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Odyssey Adventure Club iPad Mini Giveaway!

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 The end of summer is in sight, and OAC is giving away an iPad Mini back-to-school bundle! It might seem like summer just began for your kids, so if they need some added motivation to get their homework done, remind them they can jump on the Odyssey Adventure Club after their papers are written and their math problems are solved.

As members, your kids can also listen to Album 58 before the album is released to the public! Sign up today for just $5!

Here's what part one is about (which you can listen to for free HERE):
It’s a time of surprises as Wooton becomes the celebrity guest at Comic-Connellsville and Whit finds himself in conflict over the upcoming “Let’s Get Together Festival” in Odyssey. Plus, hear an interview with writer-director Paul McCusker about the entire 14-part series.
Album 58 was inspired by Focus on the Family’s The Family Project, a 12-session small group experience that explores the theological, philosophical, and cultural underpinnings of the traditional family, and combines that information with inspiring stories and practical tools to help 21st-century families thrive. Plus, here's a sneak peek of a new episode called "The Lone Lawman"!
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Jason, Whit, Red and the gang rustle up herds of fun while performing a new Kids’ Radio show set in the Old West. “The Lone Lawman” features a confused boy getting mixed up with a shifty band of bank robbers. Can a hero on horseback set things right? See just how wild the West can get in this action-packed send-up of old-time radio dramas.

NOW . . . on to the iPad Mini back-to-school bundle. One grand prize winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
Hurry, the giveaway ends on August 27th. All winners will be announced August 28th on the widget on this page.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to visit this page again on the 28th to see if you won! (You'll see the winner's name in the widget.)