How do you relax? There are as many ways to “get away from it all” as there are people, but for me, the answer is hiking. I love to get out in the forest following a trail, just to see where it will take me. It is so quiet and peaceful. The birds chirping and the occasional butterfly flitting by, just serve to enhance the beauty of the moment. I’m not really a winter person, though I live in a state that sure gets it, but I live for late spring through early fall, when I can get out on the trail with my husband and just enjoy nature at its finest.
We have hiked many trails over the years, but by far our favorite is the trail to Harney Peak in the Black Hills. This is not an easy trail, and definitely not for those who aren’t in good shape, but it is so worth it. On this trail, you will find yourself deep in the forest of the Black Elk Wilderness Area of the Black Hills. It is a well traveled trail, but there are many times that you are by yourselves. And the views along the way are breathtaking. When you get to the top, there is a fire tower that used to be manned, but after it was struck by lightning, resulting in fires, several times, they decided it wasn’t the best place for a fire tower. So it became a favorite destination for hikers and horse back riders. The top of the peak is 7242 feet above sea level, which is the highest point East of the Rocky Mountains until you get to the Swiss Alps. The climb takes you up 1142 feet and is 6.8 miles round trip. It takes us 4 hours to make the whole trip, however we always spend at least an hour on top having lunch. The view from up there is completely amazing. You can see 5 states from the top. It is a trip I can never take too many times. We have taken the hike 6 times, and plan to continue to go once a year. Now that is my idea of relaxation.
Hiking has not only been good for me physically, and I have to stay in shape to be able to continue to hike, so it is a really good motivator, but sometimes I think it has saved my sanity. In such a busy world, it is nice to get back to nature so that you can unwind. I highly recommend it.
Many people are busy making…and breaking New Years Resolutions this time of year, but mostly breaking them. Why is it that people have an obsession with New Years Resolutions? Of course, it is really an obsession to improve ourselves, but unfortunately the resolution is rarely combined with the main ingredient needed to achieve success…will power. If we really think about it waiting for New Years Day to start making our improvements is actually the biggest indicator of it’s future failure. If we really want to improve ourselves, and we are determined to succeed, we wouldn’t want to wait for the new year to get started. That is truly the procrastinator’s dream. The idea is that if we have a deadline, somehow we will miraculously develop the necessary will power to succeed, when in reality we spend the interim making our situation worse, but trying to squeeze as much of the bad behavior into our lives before the deadline. It’s during that time that many people gain 10 pounds, or smoke more cigarettes than they normally would. Just the thought of having to quit always seems to serve only to increase the bad behavior in anticipation of losing it. And then, to top it off, most people give up on the New Years Resolution by February. The main reason for that is a serious lack of real commitment to reaching our goal in the first place. If you are really determined to change your situation for the better, you wouldn’t wait. You would make the decision to do it today…no matter how far that is into the year or how close it is to the end of the year. Waiting one more day is the key to failure. Making or not making a New Years Resolution is entirely a personal choice, but usually the need to change presents itself far before the new year, so if you find yourself needing to make some changes, just do it now. Don’t plan to do it later, because very likely you never will.
Few things impact our lives as much as loss does, especially the loss of a child. I was talking to my nephew, Steve at my mother’s New Years Eve party, and the conversation turned to his little daughter, Laila, who passed away on November 22, 2010 at the age of 18 days of complications from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and as we talked, I could see deep into his heart.
Steve, normally a happy, smiling person is now struggling with feelings so raw that it is exhausting. He feels the need to be strong for his family, and all too often, I think many people take his strength for granted. Sometimes the smallest things in our lives are the things than have the ability to bring us to our knees, and for Steve that is Laila. From the day she arrived she stole his heart. It was so obvious in the way they looked at each other, that she would be “Daddy’s Little Girl” and Steve, well he would have a new home…wrapped around her tiny little finger. Steve and Jenny have 3 sons, but this child was the long awaited daughter, and while they would have felt the same loss over any of their children, this hit very hard. Laila was sweet and beautiful with olive skin and dark hair, just like her mommy, in fact I believe she would have looked just like Jenny as she grew up.
To say the least, Steve was smitten. He is such a good daddy, very involved in the lives of his children, and Laila would have been so blessed to be a part of this family. It just breaks my heart to see the pain of loss that is etched on Steve’s face now, and to know that there are those who simply don’t understand his feelings. This is a deeply loving man, who is such a big blessing to his family. He is also a very strong man, and I think that sometimes people don’t think that he could have the deeply loving emotions that he carries inside toward those of us that are fortunate enough to be a close part of his life.
Steve loves with all he has, and he has a big heart, so there is a lot of love to give. And really he asks for so little back. He works hard to support his family and doesn’t want Jenny to work, but rather wants her to be able to stay at home and raise the children. He is a deeply spiritual man as well, and loves his Lord and Savior. He makes sure his family is in church every week, and while many would not see this as unusual, the truth is that Steve wasn’t raised in church, but committed his life to the Lord after he met Jenny. But truly, the defining aspect of Steve’s life is being a husband and father. He lives for it, and when something like the loss of a child enters his life it just tears him up. My heart just aches for this loving man with a father’s heart and empty arms. I love you Steve, and I wish I could ease your pain somehow, but as with Jenny, I can only pray for peace in your father’s heart and comfort for your empty arms.
Mistakes are a part of every human life, and most of us would agree that we hope that the people around us will overlook our mistakes most of the time. It is our hope that people will show mercy to us, like God shows us mercy, unearned pardon for wrongs we have done. And not just God or our friends, but we hope we can talk our way out of tickets and other errors we make, and if we are kids, detentions, groundings, and other forms of punishments. Most of the time our attempts at talking our way into mercy seem to fail miserably, as many people will tell you after they pay for their traffic tickets. While these are usually punishments we have earned, is there something wrong with showing mercy? There shouldn’t be. When people around us make mistakes, whenever possible we should forgive them. Especially when there was no harm done…really.
For example, I was driving in the parking lot at Albertson’s on New Years Day, when a car coming across several rows of parking area pulled right out in front of me. It all happened so fast. In a flash of white she was right in front of me. Thankfully, there were no cars right in that area, and I wasn’t going very fast, so I was able to slow way down and move to the right to avoid the collision that seemed inevitable. As I looked into her very scared and totally apologetic expression, I thought of how many times I could have been in her shoes. No harm was done, so really what would be accomplished by making her feel stupid. Truly it would have done no good, and having been on the receiving end of a justifiably angry driver who had barely avoided hitting me, and yelled at me when I was then stuck at a red light, I decided I really didn’t want to put someone else through that, so I smiled a relieved smile, as did she, and we both went our way, feeling much better I’m sure.
We need to remember that since everyone makes mistakes, and we are sure to make them mistakes again some time, maybe we should allow some mistakes to slide sometimes, unpunished, offering instead mercy, even if we are right, and the mercy is undeserved, because at some point, we might receive the same kindness we have shown.
Every year my mother’s family has a Family Christmas Party. This year was our turn to host the party, and my aunts and uncles asked us to do an update of the Byer Family Phonebook we had given them as a gift 13 years ago when we hosted the party. As I was working on the updates, which included names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays for all the family members, and anniversary dates, I had time to reflect on the legacy that my grandparents left behind. George Byer married Harriet “Hattie” Pattan on December 24, 1927 in Valentine, Nebraska. They had 9 children, 7 daughters and 2 sons. From that beginning to now, there are more than 90 families, and approximately 300 people that have their roots in that marriage, and we are growing every year. That in itself is quite a legacy, and the one my grandparents would have been most proud of. I remember my grandpa saying to my grandma on their 50th wedding anniversary, “Mommy, look what we started, and there’s not a throw away in the bunch.” And that was 33 years ago. I wonder what he would have thought now. My goodness, we have grown. It is amazing what has come of what those two very special people started 83 years ago.
That was just the legacy my grandparents left us in numbers, but their true legacy was in the lessons they taught their children, who then passed them on to their children, and so on. My mother has told me many stories about growing up during the Depression and the years that followed. Times were tough then, but my grandmother always seemed to make enough food for the family and anyone who might come knocking at the door to partake of her well known generosity and down home good cooking. There were almost always extra mouths at the table, and sometimes extra people sleeping on the floor. Times were not only tough then, but very different from our present day. These days, we wouldn’t dare open our home in such a way, as it just isn’t safe, but back then, there was something called honor, and even if a man had to take a handout, most would help out around the place to pay for it, and wouldn’t think of slapping his host in the face by stealing from them or hurting their family. Yes, things were different, very different from the kind of unsafe world of today.
My grandfather was a gentle quiet man, who dearly loved children, and they loved him. He always seemed to have several of his kids climbing all over him (and later grandkids and great grandkids), wanting to brush his hair, and as little girls do, even paint his nails. He took this all in stride and never brushed them off, even though I’m quite certain he took quite a teasing from the guys at work. He would later say when asked that the guys all knew he had kids at home and they just accepted it as “the way it was” and didn’t think anything of it. I always loved to go over to their house, because grandpa always seemed delighted to see us. He would open the door with a hearty, “Come on in kid.” It wasn’t that we got to do anything so special when we were there, it’s just that he and my grandma had a way of making fun out of nothing special at all. They didn’t have amazing toys or video games, they just always had things for us to do. And, you just knew you were loved.
So often in today’s world, people lead such busy lives that they have little time to see their kids, much less spend any quality time with them, and we are all guilty of being too busy for our kids, but the greatest gift my grandparents gave their children and grandchildren was the gift of themselves and quality time as a family. They have both been gone for decades now, but their legacy will live on in their descendants for many years to come.
As I was leaving church last Sunday, I caught sight of my niece, who had lost her baby daughter a little over a month ago, and as she smiled and waved, I could see behind her smile the deep sadness that lies in her heart. Then she turned to get into their pickup and I thought of how she must be feeling, the pain that is always with her now, the loss that she will always feel, the mother’s heart and empty arms. It is an ache that will stay with her for a long time.
I have never lost a child, so I couldn’t really understand how awful that must feel, I just know that my heart aches for my niece, who I love very much. I wish there was a way that I could ease her pain, but there just isn’t, and when I try, I feel like I make things worse for her by stirring up the thoughts and memories again. Memories of a life too soon over and the promise that life held gone. Yes, we know she is in Heaven with her Lord and Savior, and that she has seen the Father, and been held in his arms, she has seen her grandparents that have gone before her, and her little cousin, also a baby daughter whose life was too soon over, but for those left behind it is hard to take joy in those things, because we want them here with us, selfishly perhaps, but none the less that’s how we feel.
I don’t think there can possibly be a more painful experience than losing a child, no matter what the circumstances, or how old they are, because parents shouldn’t bury their children. It is just not the proper order of things. Our children should live a long life, filled with joyful experiences and happy moments, and when it doesn’t work out that way, our whole universe feels like it is out of sync.
This isn’t a story with a happy ending, or an encouraging moral, it is just a story of reality at one of its most painful moments, the loss of a child, the moment that you can see the impact of that loss, the mother’s heart and empty arms. I love you Jenny and I wish I could take your pain away, but since I can’t, I can only pray for peace in your mother’s heart, and comfort for your empty arms.
As this year dissolves into the next, I find myself reflecting on the things that have happened in the past year. This was a year of many changes, and some very sad moments. I don’t always deal well with change, and I can say that really, I don’t like it much, but some changes are good ones. One of the agents at work retired, and that has opened the door for me to step into some career changes. I was apprehensive at first, but I find that I like the new work I am doing. I will have to carve out my place again, since this is a different arena than the type of policies I was writing before, and much more difficult to sell, it would seem. I know I can do it, it is just a matter of setting my mind to it, and learning the ropes. My daughter has also made some changes, in that she is now licensed and doing the job I used to do. Her daughter is also working for us now, and that has been a big help, as taking Amy out of the secretary position potentially left us with a backlog of clerical work, which Shai is tackling very well, if I might say so. All in all, I would say that the changes at work will be really good ones once we all get settled into our new positions.
Christopher has kept Corrie, Kevin and me quite busy going to as many games as possible. He is becoming quite an athlete, and has made us very proud. Josh went to his first dance, and had a very nice time, and in the new year he will be keeping us busy in the sports arena as well. Caalab has taken to playing the guitar and is getting quite good at it. I think he would own 20 guitars if he could afford them. Travis is also in a band now, and they have played several gigs this year. Bob has spent most of the year doing what he always does…working on cars, but at least I know where to find him. All in all, my family is doing very well, and any changes there are good ones too.
Loss, on the other hand is much harder to get used to. This year we have had to say good bye to several friends, and my niece’s darling little baby daughter. Loss is always so hard. Our hearts feel like they will never heal and the pain just lingers on and on. Nothing you say can help change the pain and sadness that loss brings, especially the loss of a child. It changes you forever. You will never again feel the innocent joy of having a child, because you know how quickly that joy can change into indescribable pain. It saddens me deeply to see my niece and nephew-in-law in so much pain. They are normally such happy people, and now there is a new look behind the smiles they wear…sadness. Even their smiles show it. It can’t be masked. It will be a long time before that will soften.
This year marked 3 years since my Dad went home to be with the Lord. It doesn’t seem possible that he has been gone 3 years. I still miss him terribly each and every day. He was a stablizing factor in the lives of our family. You knew that he would always know what to do in any given situation. You felt secure in that knowledge. He was the leader of our family, in every way, but mostly spiritually. He taught us the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord, along with our Mom. They lead by example, and we always knew that above all, we must reach out to the Lord, our Savior, and for that I will be eternally grateful. They also taught us not to harbor anger…never let the sun go down on your wrath, forgive and make amends before you went to bed. A good thing for all of us to do. I can only hope that in some small way, my Dad’s legacy will live on in the way that I live my life…at least that is my goal, to live a life that would make my Dad proud.
As 2010 draws to a close, I can only hope that 2011 is filled with joyful times and void of sad times. So as the January 1, 2011 dawns, I wish all of my family and friends a very blessed and happy New Year!!
We all go through events and times in our lives when we really notice how painful life can be. It’s part of being human. God didn’t promise us there would never be hard times, He just said He would never leave us or forsake us. The one thing we must always remember is that each person deals with pain, loss, hurt feelings, and every other difficult life event differently. Sometimes we try to decide for them how they should be dealing with difficult times, but that only makes them feel more stressed out about their feelings. Each of life’s painful experiences is dealt with by a type of grief process, and that process is as unique as the human being that is going through the event. Some people might cry, while others might get angry. Some people might turn inward, while others might yell or even laugh at things that aren’t that funny. The main thing to remember is that they are going through something that hurts, and if you love them, you will be understanding of their feelings at a very difficult time. You may need to allow them some space, or they might need a hug, and they will definately need your prayers. This difficult time will pass, or at least get easier to bear, and when they are feeling better they will be grateful for your kindness and understanding. Your friend or loved one is in a vunerable situation right now, and the things you do can either help or hinder the healing process. Life hurts sometimes, but we have the ability to show love, and that love can make all the difference.
In church today, we sang one on my favorite songs. The song goes like this. “I’m consumed by the cry of Your spirit. I’m consumed by Your calling on me. And may my life forever be, consumed by Your fire in me.” The service went on this way, “What consumes you?” I began to think about the things that we allow to get in the way of our walk with God. Oh we always think we have a “really good” reason for skipping church this week. I mean we were up late last night, we were so busy getting things done around the house, it’s my only day to sleep in, I have a cold, and…well, the list goes on and on. I wonder what God thinks of our excuses. And just how would we feel if God suddenly had some excuse as to why He couldn’t be bothered with our “petty little lives” today. You see, we always expect God to act on our behalf…whenever we call on Him that is, because, well He’s God, and that’s His job, that’s what He is there for.
But, is that really a “relationship” with our Loving Father, or are we simply “going through the motions” and hoping no one will notice that our Faith Walk really leaves something to be desired. Our God is a loving God, and if we turn and call on Him, He is faithful to help us, but as we choose to step further and further away from a true “relationship” with Him, we begin to get to a place where we call on him less and rely on worldly advisors more and more, and when we really need to press into the Lord, we suddenly find that He has stepped back and let us go our own way. You see, God is a gentleman. He doesn’t force His way on any of us. He gave man a “free will” when He created us, and if we choose to go to hell, well He will stand up for our right to do so. But it will be the last thing He wants for us. It breaks His heart to see it. We are His children, His family. He wants nothing more than to have a real relationship with His kids. He is no different than any other parent in that way, but His love, and a relationship with Him offers us so much more than any earthly parent, because with God, there is only Love. Even when we are in sin, even when we turn our backs on Him, even when we refuse to listen or even give Him 1 hour of our “precious little pathetic lives” each week, He still loves us. He still LOVES us!!! How can that possibly be? Well, it’s because He is the God of second chances. He keeps taking us back, even when we don’t deserve it. It makes me feel very ashamed of myself for the times that I have let the silly, worthless, unimportant cares of this world get in the way of my relationship with my God, my Father. And Father, for those times, I ask your forgiveness.
The really good news is that when we ask His forgiveness, He is faithful to take us back and treat us like kings again. So today I want to ask you this question again, “What consumes you?” Is it God and His love for you, a loving, perfectly wonderful relationship with a Father who only wants the very best for you, or are the cares of this world, and the cares of your little life so far more important that you can’t be bothered…can’t even take 1 hour out of your week; and maybe a little bit of time to read your Bible; to spend time with your God…who gave you your very life. Think about that…..
“[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” Romans 8:1
Before we were saved, we were lost in our sin and condemned to Hell. We had no hope, but God, who knew that after the fall of Adam we would not be able to keep His laws, loved us anyway. Our world had come under the control of Satan, and we were separated from God; condemned. God had to find a way, within the laws that put our world into being, to bring about the atonement that would restore man’s relationship with God. Since the wages of sin is death, and the only one qualified to reverse the curse that had been brought upon mankind, was someone who was sinless and yet human, God had to find a way to bring a sinless person into this world. It would take a long time to find a man on the earth who was willing to partner with God to bring this to pass, because God was now outside of His creation looking in. God would partner with Abraham to bring about a race of people who would be His special treasure and the ancestors of His Son, who would soon put off His Heavenly glory to take on an earthly body, in order to go to the cross to buy back God’s people. He would pay for us with His earthly life, beaten and hanging on a cross, which was the most humiliating way to die in that era. But Jesus loved us and willingly made this sacrifice for us.
Jesus would enter our world, having given up all the privileges of His status in Heaven, as the Son of God. The cross was so much more than simply the shedding of blood. There was a covenant made between God and Jesus, the Son of Man. Blood covenants in Middle Eastern culture are forever. Jesus had taken our sins, our sicknesses, our separation from God and through the shedding of His blood, He paid the price required to buy our freedom from the curse and condemnation. All that was left was for us to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and our lives would be forever changed. We would walk after spiritual things and be free from condemnation forever. The sacrifice Jesus made is free for anyone who will receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Lord, thank you for the atonement for my sins that you have freely given. Now I am a new creation. I am no longer condemned, but an heir to the throne. I receive your salvation in Jesus name. Amen