Saturday, February 13, 2016

Melinda Memories

This afternoon, we will gather to remember, celebrate, and thank God for the precious life of Melinda Yeary.  I met Melinda in the fall of 1970, while a student at Texas Tech.  She was one of the teachers in the college department at First Baptist Church and the wife of the University Minister.  Melinda taught A Bible Study class, visited with students, helped with the college activities, and shared the love of Jesus wherever she went.  Her smile, love of life, enthusiasm, encouragement, and sweet spirit endeared her to us all.  She was a true helpmate to Dan.  Little did I realize how much God would bless me with the gift of having Melinda as a friend and mentor through these years.

During college days, I sometimes babysat for the Yeary’s children, Wes and Missy.  When I would arrive, Melinda would have a detailed list to follow so the kids could keep on schedule.  Their meal and snacks were ready, as well as anything else they would need for the evening.  Her organization helped things run smoothly.  In January of my sophomore year, Doak was born.  That added a new dimension of fun and excitement.  After they moved to Houston, where Dan was the Singles Minister at South Main Baptist Houston, I would still babysit from time to time when I was home.  Melinda loved and cared for her family well.

After a few years in Houston, Dan accepted the call to pastor University Baptist Church in Coral Gables, Florida.  The church later called Larry to be their Minister to Youth.  During that season, I continued to observe Melinda as mother, pastor’s wife, and bringer of hope and joy to all she encountered.  Melinda had a servant’s heart.  She readily shared meals, visited with people, taught, helped with needs, all while juggling the schedules of 3 busy kids.  Her joy and enthusiasm were contagious and she was always on the go.  She was full of grace and kind.  Since we lived so far from our families, we often shared holidays, birthdays, and other times with the Yeary family.

Larry, Scott, and I moved to Houston in December of 1978.  Thus began the weekly Saturday calls.  Larry always teased (maybe it was the truth) that the phone calls were cheaper than therapy.  If the boys wanted some unsupervised time they would say, “Have you talked to Melinda lately?”  Those were treasured times of laughter, sharing, catching up, learning, and growing.  While Melinda was in the hospital last week, Missy put the phone on speaker so I could have another chance to let Melinda know that I loved her and was praying for her. 

In May of 2001, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Because of Melinda, I wasn’t devastated when I was given the news.  Once again, Melinda had paved the way as she had already lived with MS for 20 plus years.  Even when activities became more difficult or she had to cut back, she didn’t complain or lose hope.  She prayed, encouraged others, took time to listen, willingly did what she could, never gave up, and truly gave thanks in all circumstances.  Melinda’s ways of serving and ministering to others changed through the years, but her sweet spirit and faith in God were steadfast. 

This past Saturday, Larry and I went to Waco to visit with Melinda.  I was given the gift of being able to tell her one more time the ways God had used her to teach, mentor, befriend, and bless me through the years.  Thank you, Lord, for perfect timing, along with the reminder to take every opportunity to express love and gratitude every chance we are given so there are no regrets.

These final years and days Melinda has continued to model an uncomplaining spirit, a joyful attitude, a trusting faith, and a loving heart.  Even though she was weak physically, she continued to draw her strength from the Lord.  She fought to live and finish strong until her final breath.  It’s been said that when you are squeezed, you spill out what’s inside.  Melinda overflowed with Jesus.  Lord, I want to be like that, too. 

A friend loves at all times.
Proverbs 17:17a

I beg you—I, a prisoner here in jail for serving the Lord—to live and act in a way worthy of those who have been chosen for such wonderful blessings as these. Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another.
Ephesians 4:1-3

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I Corinthians 13:4-7

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
I John 4:11

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Being Recognized

If I were to have written out a bucket list, making a commercial or being written up in newspapers and magazines, would not have been on the list.  But because of the Celltex Therapeutics commercial, as well as the articles that have been written, people have recognized me, even without knowing me.  When Larry and I went to Hallmark a few weeks ago, one of the workers met us at the door and greeted us.  She asked if I was on a commercial on television.  When I said, “Yes” she said, “I told my husband that I knew you and that you were one of our customers.”  Another time we went to a funeral across town.  The funeral director came up to me and said he thought he knew me from somewhere.  He thought maybe he had seen me on TV.  Larry mentioned the commercial and he said that’s where he had “seen” me.  I’ve had friends find articles in their doctor’s office and bring them to me.  People see the commercial or read the articles have let me know.  When we were in Cancun, we rode the elevator to the hospital floor with people who were there for stem cell treatment, too.  As the elevator doors closed, one of the men said, “Aren’t you the one on the Celltex commercial?What a small world.  This past Monday I was at an appointment.  A lady stopped me and said she remembers seeing me about a year ago.  She commented about being amazed at how much better I am walking now.  Whether it’s at the gym, store, or just out in public, people have stopped to speak and/or ask questions.

Being seen and recognized has reminded me that people are watching and paying attention, even when I don’t realize it.  But most of all, I want to be known and seen as a follower of Jesus.  My response, tone of voice, attitude, acts of love and service are on display at all times.  May I always desire to be recognized first as a disciple of Jesus.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Finding Treasures

Last Monday, family members spent the entire day going through Pernella’s possessions and cleaning out her apartment.  She had lived in the same place for twenty years and had been a widow for the last fifteen of those years.  It was amazing how many things she had stored in drawers, boxes, closets, chests, and cabinets.  Pernella’s desire was for the siblings, nieces, and nephews to have whatever they wanted of her belongings and then for the rest to be given away.

I had the sweet task of going through multiple drawers and the cedar chest.  It was definitely a trip down memory lane.  Pernella must have saved every Christmas card, note, birthday card, photograph, wedding announcement and invitation she received from family.  She also saved school pictures of Larry and Terry from either late grade school or early junior high.  We were at a loss to figure out which was which, until we noticed that Larry’s name was on his packet.   Pernella had also saved Terry’s freshman photo student ID card for Sam Houston State University.  We also found a record of contribution to the church building fund, from the church she attended when she was away at school, even though she had very limited resources.

As a child and teenager, Pernella lived away from home so she could attend the Louisiana School for the Deaf in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  She had saved their yearly publications from sixty plus years ago!  I also found a postcard that their mom had written to her while she was at the school.  It was written in pencil, still legible, and postmarked July 30, 1955.  That was one of the treasures I kept because it has Larry’s mother’s handwriting and signature on it.  As an adult, Pernella worked as a teacher’s aide at the School for the Deaf in Houston.

Two of the best treasures we found were Larry’s Dad and Mom’s Bibles.  For years, Larry has wondered where they were and wished he could have them.  Pa Pa’s Bible no longer has the front cover on it.  There is a saying that “A Bible that is falling apart is usually owned by a person who is not.”  That is definitely a true statement in this case.  His mom would read from the green Living Bible for family devotions. 

After moving the furniture and other items that people wanted over to Larry’s sister’s house, we had the joy of sharing food, appliances, dishes, clothes, and furniture with people who had blessed her during her time at the apartment as well as Christian ministries in Kingwood and Arlington.

Even though it was a long day of work, we enjoyed remembering, laughing, celebrating, being surprised, and treasuring memories of Pernella, as we packed up items.  It was easy to tell her favorite types of lotion, tissues, food, and other things, but Pernella’s Bible and family memorabilia showed what she treasured most.

And for the record boys, I have cleaned out five drawers at home this week with lots more to come.  May what I choose to keep or have on display be a true picture of where my heart and treasure are as well.

 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:34

I rejoice in your laws like one who finds a great treasure.
Psalm 119:162 (Living Bible)

Indeed, if you call out for insight

    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:3-5

 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Matthew 13:52

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3

Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power.
Colossians 3:1 (Living Bible)

 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up real treasure for themselves in heaven—it is the only safe investment for eternity! And they will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well.
I Timothy 6:18-19

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stages of Life

These first 3 weeks of January have been vivid pictures and reminders of the stages of life for our family.  Our youngest grandson celebrated his first birthday this month.  Daniel is experiencing many firsts and beginnings as he learns to walk, speak, try new foods, play, and share.  His future is bright, new, and fresh each day.  Along with Daniel, we have also celebrated the birthdays of the two youngest nephews on each side of the family and the birthday of my youngest sister, each in different stages of life.

January began with the retirement of two brothers-in-law from public education.  Mark taught 9th graders math at Deer Park High School for twenty-three years.  He also referees high school football games and will continue to do so.  Kirk retired after 30 years with Pasadena Independent School District, the last 10 years as Superintendent of Schools.  He has recently written and published two books, Put Away Childish Things and The Chase, with more to come.  He previously wrote A Century of Learning to celebrate the Pasadena School Districts 100th birthday.  With three grandchildren, he won’t have to be concerned about dull moments.  Both Mark and Kirk have made positive impacts as they have invested in the lives of students, faculty, and their community.  They are both active members of South Main Baptist Church, Pasadena.  It will be exciting to watch and see what the next stages hold for Kirk and Mark.

Larry’s oldest sister Pernella celebrated her 80th birthday this year.  She was 15 years old when he and Terry were born.  As a result of a high fever when she was less than a year old, she became deaf.  Although she could not hear, her other senses took over and allowed her to have a full life.  Pernella loved the Lord and fully trusted Him.  She was feisty, full of energy and always on the go.  She never wanted to miss out on an event or conversation, even though that was a challenge at times.  Pernella loved a good meal, especially when it was shared with family.  In October, family gathered and helped celebrate her 80th birthday at Chachi’s Mexican Restaurant in Kingwood.  I’m grateful that there were also great family times at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This past year has added additional challenges for Pernella with breathing, due to the deterioration of a heart valve, thus the need for oxygen.  She chose not to have surgery because she was more than ready to see Jesus, her husband, and parents.  She was still sharp as a tack and on the go.  Two weeks ago, Pernella had a heart episode.  In case anything happened, she made it a point to visit her friends that worked at Luby’s, the grocery store, and Walgreen’s and let them know of her condition and that she was ready to go when the time came.  The trips to those places were as much a social event as shopping adventures because she took the time to greet, speak to, and hug the store employees.  Last week, Pernella planned her own funeral service.  She wanted Terry to sing and read scripture, niece Christi to sing, Terry’s wife Debbie to play the piano, and for Larry to speak.  Two of her pastors at Woodhaven Deaf Church would sign so that her deaf friends would know what was being read, said, and sung.  She chose her nephews and great-nephews to be the pall bearers.  This past Sunday evening, Pernella took her last breath on earth and her first breath in heaven.  On Wednesday there was a sweet service of celebration as we thanked God for Pernella’s life and love through the years.

During “Amazing Grace” we sang:
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found.
Was DEAF but now I HEAR. 

 And in these days and upcoming years, we’ll continue to treasure the sweet times and memories with Pernella and thank God for the gift of her life to us.

These past few weeks have been wonderful reminders of the stages and blessings of life.  My prayer is that I will be intentional about making my days count as I invest in others, gain a heart of wisdom, and take every opportunity to let others know they are appreciated, loved and important to me.
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16, 2001

The date appears, with a reminder note, on my calendar each year.  Although some of the memories of that day are very vivid, others have faded with time.  We knew for certain that my dad met God face to face that day because as a college student at Texas Technological College he chose to put his faith and trust in Jesus.  During those college years, many hours were spent at First Baptist Church, Lubbock and the Baptist Student Union (BSU) learning more about what a relationship with his Lord and Savior was like.

Some of the details of that day no longer bring about strong emotions.   Those memories don’t seem to be the ones that I hold on to when I think of my dad.  Death took his life, but it can’t touch the relationship and memories that will forever be stored in my heart and mind.  Even after fifteen years, the love and lessons from my childhood and beyond continue to impact my life.

These years have cemented the value of what he taught us.   

* Faith and church are important.  Not only did he tell us that, but his actions spoke along with his words.  He reminded us often that we would have our friends at school and our friends at church, but it was the friends at church that would be our lifelong friends.
* Always be respectful of Mom, with your words and actions. 
* There were high expectations for learning and educational opportunities.
* I learned to be a list maker, for organizational purposes, from my dad.
* Dad taught us that it is important to express thanks and be grateful for what you receive and have.
* Be respectful. 
* Presence is important.  Dad and Mom made it a point to be at our church, school, and sports activities.  That continued on with the grandkids, too.
* You only have one chance to make a good first impression.
* He taught me to smile first, before answering the phone, when I worked at his office in the summer.  That might be the customer’s first impression of the business and he wanted it to be a positive one.
* Family is one of the best gifts you are given.  Before they were married, Dad told Mom that he desired to raise a family that was close and enjoyed being together.  He would be pleased to know that the family traditions continue.  We still have beach week each summer and get together for holidays, birthdays, and every other chance we can.
* After my brother died, at the age of 38, we knew that part of Dad’s heart died, too.  But on more than one occasion, he reminded me that you can spend time mourning what you have lost or you can celebrate, invest in, and be grateful for the ones you still have with you.  I am thankful that we were all recipients of the gift of that love.
* Humor and laughter are wonderful gifts.
* Family meal times feed the body and the soul. 
* There is a lesson to be learned in each situation.  Sometimes it may be something you want to learn to embrace while other times it is something you need to avoid or get rid of.                                      
* And yes, Dad, I still empty the lint trap on the dryer after each load, to save money and to keep the machine working to capacity.

The memories, love, and lessons continue…

There is a time for everything,
     and a season for every activity under the heavens:
     a time to be born and a time to die, 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a 

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.
Psalm 116:15