Heaven

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My uncle, Larry Byer was a really good musician, but that was not something I recall from years of hearing him play. It is something I’ve been told over the years. I never occurred to me that so many people in my family were talented musicians, but apparently there were a number of them. Uncle Larry played the guitar, the mandolin, and the piano. My grandfather, his dad, George Byer played the mandolin and the violin. My dad, Al Spencer and my Uncle George both played guitars. They had a regular band, and their jam sessions were like a big party at the Byer house. I knew that my dad, Al Spencer and his siblings were talented musicians, because I was told that over the years, but Uncle Larry is on my mom, Collene Spencer’s side of the family, and somehow, I just didn’t know. It’s possibly because by the time I was born, Uncle Larry was married, and starting a family of his own with his wife, Jeanette Morton. In fact, their son, Larry is just nine months younger than I am. These days, most of these band members are playing in Heaven, and I would sure love to hear that music.

Uncle Larry was always a guy with a great sense of humor. He loved a good joke, and maybe that was what my Aunt Jeanette first saw in her husband of 55 years, before he went home to be with the Lord. Uncle Larry loved a good joke and wasn’t above pulling pranks either. I suppose he came by it honestly. I think just about everyone in my family…from both sides are tricksters and pranksters, and it had to come from somewhere, so I think there are a number of the aunts and uncles who had a hand in it. My mom was born between the two brothers in the family, and so she got a double portion of the pranks boys tend to play. Personally, I think she totally loved being the girl between the boys, because they included her in all the mischief.

Like all of my veteran loved ones, I am very proud that my Uncle Larry served in the Korean War. He didn’t talk much about his time in the service, but like most of the men of the war eras, he was proud to serve his country. Uncle Larry was an honorable man and an honorable soldier. After that he came home and started a family with his best friend and wife, Jeanette Morton. They married on February 11, 1956, and their first child, Larry was born on February 9, 1957. Tina followed on November 12, 1958. Uncle Larry worked for many years at Texaco Refinery, and when they closed down there, he transferred to Louisiana, until his retirement. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.

In a time of world chaos, one thing stands out…Jesus. We all need Jesus. It’s hard to believe that a sinless man would be willing to carry the sins of the world. None of us could or would do that. We would most likely fear death too much…at least at such a young age. It is believed that Jesus was about 33 years old. Most of us would feel like we had too much to live for at that age, and yet, Jesus endured the scourging, the “trial” that was nothing more than a lynch mob, and the horrible suffocating death on the cross, because He saw joy set before Him…JOY, how could that be? How could Jesus see the torture and death that was coming to Him as joy, because mankind could still come to Heaven…that was His joy.

He saw the joy of a world that could be back in right standing with God. Something we could never have achieved on our own. This world was in a seriously horrible place…even more so than the chaos we are in right now. The wages of sin is death, and we had all sinned. It was going to take the death of a man to pay for the sins of the world, but that man had to be sin-free. In the beginning, a sinless man sinned, thereby giving away his birthright of eternal life. So that meant either all mankind had to die and go to Hell, or a sinless man had to die to pay the price for all of us. Enter Jesus, and thank God He was willing to pay that price for us.

That was what Jesus did for us when He went to the cross on Good Friday. I don’t know if many of you really know what scourging is, but let me tell you. The Romans were famous for their horrific types of torture. The “whip” they used to beat (scourge) Jesus usually had nails or pieces of metal or glass attached to them. The purpose of these things being attached to the whips tails was to rip the flesh off of the victim. By the time they were done, internal organs were often visible. Then they took Jesus, after making Him carry His own cross, and nailed Him to that cross. The way they nailed Him to the cross meant that He had to push up with His feet to be able to get air into His lungs. The more tired the victim became, the less they would be able to raise themselves up so they could breathe. It was a matter of slow suffocation. That was what Jesus endured to give us the opportunity to have eternal life again. Nevertheless, it was and is still our choice. I just can’t imagine how anyone could choose not to receive that totally free gift of God. I know I will not refuse that gift.

After being in the grave for three days, Jesus arose from the dead triumphant with the victory, and the keys to the kingdom, which He gave back to us. We can have it all…because He lives. He is risen!! He is alive!! And because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow, no matter how ugly this world looks today. Victory is mine!! Heaven belongs to me!! I am free, because Jesus paid the price for me…and for you too…should you choose to receive. Praise God…Jesus is risen!! Happy Resurrection Day everyone!!

It’s hard to believe that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has been in Heaven over four years now. She was such a big influence in my life for over 43 years. She was my second mom, and I loved her very much. I know that not everyone can really say they love their in-laws, but I was blessed in that I could. My mother-in-law was a capable homemaker, and she did all the “homemade” things she could. From her cooking and baking, including “murder” cake (a fudge-lovers dream) and the best caramel pecan cinnamon rolls you have ever tasted, to her clothing and knitted sweaters, she was someone who was impossible to “live up to.” I say that in a loving way, but you couldn’t out “homemake” my mother-in-law. And her work was perfect. Still, she was one that was willing to teach you what she knew, without making you feel inadequate.

For almost all of her married life, my mother-in-law was a homemaker. I believe there was a short time…maybe a year early on, when she worked, but mostly, she had a family to take care of and that was her career. I know that many people think that a woman should have a career, but the truth is that most of them would just love to be able to stay home and raise a family. There are a few out there, who are blessed to be able to do just that, and she was one of them. Now don’t get me wrong, a homemaker works as hard as any other career, and maybe harder. They have to wear many hats…nurse, chef, maid, seamstress, accountant, counselor, chauffer, teacher, and many more. They don’t work an 8-hour day, their day starts early and often goes into the late night. Still, my mother-in-law loved her job, and she loved her family. She also found time to make things like afghans that she could sell at craft fairs in town. She also made dish cloths and hot mits. Her things were beautiful and sold very well. She reminds me of the verse in the Bible, “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants,” Proverbs 31:24. That was what she did.

I think though, for my mother-in-law, that one of the greatest things to have happen was that her first great grandchild was born on her birthday. Her mother, Nettie Knox, had the privilege of having her first great grandchild, Corrie Petersen, being born on her birthday. Then, Corrie managed to give her grandma the very same gift…her first great grandchild born on her birthday. Mom and Chris Petersen loved that as much as Corrie and Grandma Knox did. It was their special thing. And today marks the 26th anniversary of that gift…as Chris turns 26 years old. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom Schulenberg. We love and miss you very much.

My grandma, Hattie Byer was a mother of nine children. She had her first child, my Aunt Evelyn Hushman on November 9, 1928, when she was 19 years old. She had her youngest child, my Aunt Sandy Pattan on October 26, 1945, when she was 36 years old. She had nine children in 17 years. That is a lot for any mom to handle, but Grandma Byer was well able to handle her children. She was a tiny woman, barely 5 feet tall…in her tall days, but her kids knew that her absence of height had nothing to do with her ability to discipline her kids. Messing with Grandma was not a healthy idea.

While Grandma could easily handle her nine children, she could also bring the sunshine and happiness into her home. Grandma got her kids together to do the chores, and while they were working, they would always sing, laugh, and tell jokes. Grandma had no problem making chores fun…well, as fun as possible. Nevertheless, the kids all have fond memories of those days when everyone was together at home doing chores and making happy memories. We all like to think back of our childhood with its fond memories. Of course, some family memories are better than others, and the memories that Grandma Byer created for her children were of the very best kind.

I remember spending time with my grandparents. If you behaved yourself, you were going to have the best time, but I’m here to tell you that if you got out of line, Grandma was not worried about whether or not her children would be upset about her disciplinary tactics. Of course, we…the grandchildren…knew that if we got in trouble with Grandma…trouble with our parents automatically followed. The best we could hope for was that Grandma didn’t tell our parents what trouble we were in. It was our only hope of avoiding the inevitable “whooping” from our parents was to pray that Grandma kept our secret. Today is Grandma Byer’s birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma. We love and miss you very much.

My youngest sister, Allyn Hadlock has always been a gentle soul. From the time she was just a little girl, she had a heart that always remained soft. The rest of my sisters and I always said that Allyn was “always good.” She didn’t get into mischief, like the rest of us might have. I could never figure out how she did that, probably because I had a mischievous side, and did get into a few scrapes I life…oh nothing serious, but enough to not be the sister who was “always good.”

Over the past couple of years, many people have been seeking the Lord concerning all that is going on around us. My sisters and I are no different, and we, having been raised to know the Lord, find ourselves pressing into Him in these times. My niece, Jessi Sawdon was telling me about my sister’s mothering ways with her children, and I can tell you firsthand…our parents are very proud of her. Jessi says, “One of the things I love most about my mom is her ability to always seek the Lord first. She’s instilled that in us kids and I can see all of us following this same path. And that’s exciting. Like the rest of our family, she had a strong faith, but dang, when times are tough, she is the first one there to help us make the right confessions and remind us of what the Lord has promised us. She makes everything look effortless, even though I know it’s not. She used to tell us to let Gods light shine through us. It will make everyone wonder what we’ve got, and they’ll want it too. She does that every day. I don’t think there is a better gift than her (even though it’s her birthday), and I feel so blessed that she has been such a strong spiritual leader in all our lives and has never wavered.” Allyn’s second daughter, Lindsay Moore agrees with Jessi, as do her son, Ryan Hadlock and youngest daughter, Kellie Hadlock, that Allyn has grown in her walkwith the Lord, and well as in her work and home life. There is no greater tribute than that, if you ask me.

Of course, one of Allyn’s most precious roles, these days, is that of Grammy. Grandchildren are one of the greatest gifts your kids can ever give you, and Allyn has embraced the title of Grammy with joy and happiness. She has four grandchildren on Earth, and two waiting for her when she gets to Heaven. All are loved and are an amazing blessing to Allyn, and to my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock. They so enjoy the time they get to spend with those precious kids…which as any grandparent knows, is never long enough. You always want more time, especially when the grandchildren live in a different city. Thankfully, for Allyn and Chris, they two that live in different cities, are still in Wyoming, so visits are more frequent than if they lived in a different state. This way, they visit often, and Allyn loves that. Today is Allyn’s birthday. Happy birthday Allyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

A year seems like a long time, but in reality, it goes by so fast. One year ago today, my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven. She had a stroke, and recovery was not to be. Rachel left behind a husband, Ron Schulenberg; daughter, Cassie Franklin; sons, Riley Birky and Tucker Schulenberg; her dad, Cliff Franklin; and brother, BJ Franklin, grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey; as well as lots of family and friends. Life wasn’t always easy for Rachel, but she was in a great place. She and my brother-in-law were so in love, and they had been happily married almost 11 years. Ron had adopted her son Tucker, and we are all thankful for that, because no one knew the future, but Tucker needed to be with Ron.

Now, a year after Rachel left us, a number of things have changed. Her daughter, Cassie was in a bad situation, and Rachel was worried about it. Cassie was able to walk away from that situation, and I know that Rachel would be so glad. Rachel’s son Riley struggled through the years, but Rachel always stuck by him. Today he is engaged to a great girl, Sierah Martin, and together they are raising her little boy, and expecting a new baby in August 2022. Rachel would have been glad. Tucker is getting ready to go to high school next year. High school…how could that be!! Tucker should still be that 2-year-old boy who firat came into our lives when Rachel and Ron got married. Ron and Tucker are doing ok. They are working hard to take care of each other, and about that, Rachel would be glad. Tucker went to a grief camp that included horses last summer, and not only did he find a love of horses, but he found out that a school friend also lost his mother about two years ago.

Ron probably hides his feelings more than most and tries to use physical labor to help him through it, but we are having monthly family dinners, and trying to pull him into socializing more. It’s hard, and we don’t pressure him, but rather we let him, as well as the kids, know that we are there for them in whatever way they need…and I think Rachel would be glad. Rachel was a loving caring person, and that is impossible to replace. The hole left in our hearts when she left is impossible to fill, at least without God. Rachel knew Jesus as her personal Savior, and so we know that she is living a wonderful life in Heaven. While that doesn’t make us miss her any less, it does remind us that she is happy, and she is looking forward to the day we all join her there. Happy first year in Heaven, Rachel. We love and miss you very much.

It’s hard to believe that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has been in Heaven for four years now. Her passing took time. Alzheimer’s Disease is a slow killer, in comparison to other diseases. That doesn’t make Alzheimer’s Disease any less devastating, and in fact, it just might be more devastating, because before the end comes, the patient has already lost their memory. Still, if you look for the good in the situation, you might just find that while they may not remember many new things, including who you are, now that you are grown up, they have many old memories that can really enrich your life…if you are willing to listen to their stories.

My mother-in-law often wasn’t sure of our names when we came to visit her, but by the look on her face and the alertness of her posture, you knew that she knew that you belonged to her. Many people place a lot of emphasis on the patient knowing their family’s names, but that is just setting yourself up for sadness. And you miss the recognition that comes without the name. My mother-in-law did so much for so many people…from knitting, to crocheting, to sewing, to cooking, my mother-in-law did a lot for the people around her. She lived a good long life, much of it raising the vegetables and meat for the family. She saw eras of time that people today can’t understand. With depression and recession, boom and bust, mining and agriculture, she had a diverse viewpoint, and that made her, unlike the rest of the people around her knowledgeable in different ways of life.

As her disease progressed, my mother-in-law, lost her recent memories, but she retained the old memories, and she passed them along to her family…often in the funniest ways. One minute you might find yourself telling her what time to get on the school bus, the next you think you have her all figured out when she tells you that they are having dinner at your house…like you aren’t you. When you try to play along, and ask her what the “imaginary you” will be cooking, suddenly she was back and making you feel ridiculous, by saying, “I don’t know, what are you cooking?” I know people consider Alzheimer’s Disease to be a tragic, devastating disease, and I suppose it is, but when people think about how devastating Alzheimer’s is, they are thinking of themselves…what they are missing out on, not thinking about the patient…who won’t remember grief or loss, who gets to become younger in their mind, and who ends up without a care in the world. Attitude is a big part of dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, and I don’t mean the attitude of the patient, I mean the attitude of the family. It makes all the difference in the world. Four years ago, my mother-in-law left us for Heaven, where her mind is clear again. I am truly happy for her, even though we miss her very much.

Depending on who you talk to, you will hear a variety of thoughts on Christmas, from it being a pagan holiday to it being a Christian holiday, to Jesus being born in the spring…which is interesting to me, because my nephew, Barry Schulenberg celebrated his December 11th birthday on June 11 for a long time so that it wasn’t so close to Christmas…thereby spreading his gift receiving out over the year. Noe a bad idea. Really, my point is that the time of year really doesn’t matter. It is the fact that you are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior. I don’t think He cares, one way or the other, if we have the date wrong. Birthdays are often celebrated on a day other than the actual day…and Christmas has also been celebrated on a day other than the 25th of December, due to work schedules, illness, and distance.

The point is that Christmas…on whatever day it is celebrated…is the celebrate Jesus’ birth. Our Savior, the Son of God, the Word of the Trinity, took on flesh to become a human and gave up Heaven to come to Earth to die for us, that we might live in Heaven with Him and that we can become the Righteousness of God, even here on Earth. That is the reason we celebrate Jesus, and the reason we always will. People can call Christmas whatever they want to, but those of us who serve the Lord will always know exactly why Christmas is important. They can never take that away from us.

Jesus was the greatest gift God ever gave to the world, and that is why we give gifts to this day It is to remember the greatest gift ever given, because of a love that is beyond anything we can possibly imagine. If you want to really understand the love of your Heavenly, remember how much your parents love you, and then multiply it by infinity. That is the love of God. The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting Life.” God is Love, and He gave His Son for us. Praise God, Happy birthday Jesus, and Merry Christmas to all of you.

December 12, 2007…a day that rocked my world. It was a day I never expected to see…the day my dad, Allen Spencer went home to be with the Lord. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that someday my parents would be in Heaven, but it didn’t. Nevertheless, these days, all we have are the memories, as we wait for the day when we will all be together again in Heaven.

My dad was a great guy. He was a girl dad, and he wore it well. I don’t know how he managed to survive having five daughters and a wife, all vying for one bathroom, but he did. Ours was probably what the song writer meant, when he wrote “Love Grows Best In Little Houses.” It never felt crowded. It always felt just right. I wonder if my parents knew, when I was just 3 years old that the house they bought then, would be their forever home. At that time my older sister, Cheryl Masterson and I believe my younger sister, Caryl Reed were there, as well as I was. Two more daughters would join the family in that little house, now forever home. There were a few changes, like converting the garage to a bedroom and a utility room, that gave a little more space. Then, in my parents’ later years, an enclosed porch was added. The house just always felt like home…to all of us. Of course, it was our parents that really made the house a home. Their love filled the house, and we were always blessed by them and their love. Any house can hold a family, but love is what makes a house a home.

The first time the house ever felt empty, and maybe a little wrong, was after my dad went home to Heaven. Mom’s lifelong companion was gone now, as was our dad, who had always made us feel like princesses. We could see him in every room, but these were just memory visions. His love still lingered in each and every room. We knew that he still loves us, of course, but everything suddenly felt wrong…like the world kept going, but he had stopped. That is what happened, of course, but it felt to us like life had stepped out or its proper order. We would notice the same thing a few years later, when our mom, Collene Spencer went home to join Dad in Heaven. The house was still filled with the memory visions of them and their love, but it was kind of empty and lonely somehow.

Each year as we remember their homegoings, we are reminded of just how precious they were to us, and how we want to make them proud of how we have lived our lives. They raised us well, and taught us to love God and country, and to always try to do the right things. Now, we look forward to the day we will join them in Heaven, because that is where they are waiting in our future in Heaven, and what a joyous day it will be when we join them there. We love and miss you both on this, the 14th anniversary of your homegoing, Dad, and we can’t wait to see you again.

As another of my parents, Al and Collene Spencer’s anniversaries comes around again, I find myself wondering how it could be that they have been in Heaven for so long now. Dad left us in 2007 and Mom left in 2015. They were so in love, for so many years, and now they are back together again, and I know they are so happy. Mom and Dad got married when she was just 17, and they were parents just 10 months later. That was common in that era. Most couple got married, and the babies started coming in rapid succession. For Mom and Dad, that meant a new daughter every two years, with the exception of my sister, Caryl Reed, who followed my breech birth at three years later. I suppose Mom should have had a C-section with me, but it seems the doctors thought it wouldn’t be a problem, if they just dislocated my hips for the birth. A strange thought these days, but I did survive, so I won’t complain.

Mom and Dad, were not to have a son, and I think that as the years went by, they considered their daughters to be a blessing…or at least we hope they did. When it came time to take care of them in their later years, they were very glad they had daughters, because we became caregivers without even questioning the idea. We all agreed that our parents were worth every sacrifice that might need to be made. They were such good parents to us, and we all feel honored to have be given such wonderful, loving parents to raise us and show us the right way to go in life. We never had to try to find God in our life, because we were raised in church, by our responsible parents, and I think each of us can honestly say that there is no time in our life when we didn’t know God. We didn’t have a day when we found Jesus. He lived in our house from the day they married, and we always knew him.

Mom and Dad had a wonderful, loving relationship, and they were demonstrative about their love. They kissed in front of us…daily. Dad gave Mom a love pat on the derrière when he got home from work, and we all knew it was in love. Dad always called her “Doll” and for years, I thought that was her name. He always sent flowers on their anniversary and her birthday, and chocolates on Christmas, and of course, with her January 1st birthday, there was always a big party for New Years Eve. Mom always treated Christmas and his birthday with the same special kinds of things, although, not the same ones as he gave her…of course. They loved spending time together, and eventually worked together. They relished their time together in retirement too…wanting nothing more than time together. Sometimes people fight when they are together too much, but not my parents. They just enjoyed their life together.

They loved going camping and made sure that my sisters and I always got a summer vacation trip. Dad loved to travel all his life, and so teaching his girls (Mom too) a love of travel was a big thing for Dad. He may have been outnumbered by girls, but I think Dad considered it a blessing, except when he needed in the bathroom, and it was occupied. How he survived that little house with just one bathroom and 6 women trying to get ready, I’ll never know. Nevertheless, with the many trials of having girls, Mom and Dad wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was a wonderful life. Happy 68th Wedding Anniversary in Heaven, Mom and Dad. We love and miss you both very much.

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