Silent Night – Beautiful, Broken World

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Our daughter Abigail shared this post from 2013 yesterday on the anniversary of what our family refers to as “the accident”. If you already saw her re-post, just ignore this one. It is a sweet, timely reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Silent Night
By Abigail Woody Hardy
It was December 5th, 1992.  As I rushed with my parents into the emergency room entrance late that night, a gurney sped past us.  Like a snapshot, I can remember, the sight of a leg, knee up in the air covered with a white sheet and below the knee, unnaturally, something large and black was bisecting the bloody leg.  Is that really what I saw?  I was too unsure to ask my parents.  I could tell they were more scared than they were willing to admit to me.
I sat in the waiting room of the ER.  I felt lost and unsteady as my parents went back to talk with the doctors.  Words like “accident” “coma” “racing” “head-on” were punctuating the air of the waiting room as people from our small church slowly filled it. 
Things like this do not happen to us.  Not to kids coming back from a church youth group trip.  Surely not, God. 
The van, driven by our church’s youth group leader and my Dad’s closest friend, had been hit head-on by a man in a Corvette.  He had been racing 120 mph down the curving road, some pieces of his car left hanging high in the trees. 
My oldest sister Hannah had been in the back of the van with four other junior high students from our church youth group, and two adult leaders in the front.  Kirsten, the energetic college student from WCU who helped with the youth group, died instantly.  Hannah was in a coma.  Mr. Brown, the driver, was the victim we had seen as we rushed into the ER with the brake pedal stuck through his lower leg and a broken pelvis and ribs.  He had been pinned in the car and had prayed with the kids and kept them calm until the emergency services arrived and were able to cut him out.  Another student had a serious head injury and the other three had escaped with broken bones or scrapes and bruises.
My sister had been airlifted to Memorial Mission in Asheville soon after my parents and I had arrived at the local ER.  When I got to visit her in the hospital the next day, I remember the sight of my mother, holding her hand, singing hymns and Christmas carols to her unresponsive body. 
On the third day, as my mother sang Silent Night to her daughter, she heard my sister’s voice join with hers.  Hannah had woken up.
This is the meaning of Christmas, lived out by the people I lived with. 
Mr. Brown, speaking peace to panicked kids as his own pain loomed like a giant wave above him. 
Kirsten, losing her life in the middle of obedience to Christ’s call on her to minister to kids.
My mom, singing Silent Night over my sister in total faith that God is our healer and restorer.
My sister, given back life through no merit or effort of her own, and, oh, so thankful for that gift.
And, yes, the tears fall when I sing Silent Night at Christmas.  Because this is a beautiful, broken world that our Almighty God was born to save.

Father God, we have joy and we have pain in this life.  I thank you for redeeming our pain and making our joy complete.

5 Years…really?

Beautiful Daughters

Beautiful Daughters

I saw the date on my first blog post the other day and it hit me…

I have been writing this blog for 5 years!
(plus two weeks)

I started “blogging” because I was challenged by a Bible teacher and friend with Jesus’ mandate to His disciples…go make disciples.

“Who are you discipling?” I was asked.

I had to think a bit and I realized that I was sharing what I hoped was Godly insight with several young mothers, including our three daughters.

  • But was I discipling?
  • Was I being intentional?
  • Was I prayerfully, thoughtfully sharing what God had deposited in me over the years?
  • Was I just “shooting from the hip” so to speak – sharing whatever popped in my head.

 

I realized that God wanted me to be VERY intentional – that if my daughters and other young mothers were going to be drawn to be like Jesus through me, I must take this role prayerfully and seriously.

So, through the help and encouragement of our daughters, I started blogging.

I am an artist and teacher.

I am not a writer.

But with the gracious editing of my husband, Phil, also known as Mr. Spellcheck, Mr. Grammar, Mr. Punctuation, Mr. Proof Reader…need I go on?  – I have written once a week (almost) for 5 years.

I must say in all truthfulness that God has shown me so much about myself through this journey – the main point being that in my weakness – He is made STRONG!

God is faithful.

I thought I would share that very first post from April 23, 2011.

Dear Beautiful Daughters,

We often hear young women who stay at home with their children say things like,

  • “I’m just a mom.”
  • “I just stay home with my kids .”

Using the word “just” seems to minimize the value of the most important responsibility you will ever have. As women of God we are to serve Him first and foremost. Once He blesses us with children, God has entrusted us with those He loves with an everlasting love and He wants us to be faithful in our service as mothers.

If we ever doubt the absolute importance of our ministry as mothers we must read Matthew 19:14. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

If our Lord thought that children were so important, shouldn’t we?

In Matthew 18:2-4 we read “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I love this next part – it blessed me so much when my children were little – verse 5 ” And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Amazing! Every time I welcome my child into my arms, snotty nose and all, I am welcoming Jesus!

Being a mother to your children is the GREATEST job you can have at this time in your life. It is more important then working on Capitol Hill, as an RN, teaching special needs children, or any other career.

Be thankful if your husband supports you in staying home with your children while you are able. Tell your husband how much it blesses you and do that often. Men feel great pressure to provide for their families and your appreciation will mean so much.
…with love and thankfulness for the blessings you are in my life.

So, I will continue to write as long as I sense that God has given me something to share. I still have so much to learn, I invite you to join me on this journey.

As women, we are all our Father’s daughters.

 

Unfinished Projects

Projects, some finished, some in process.

Projects, some finished, some in process.

How many unfinished projects do you have stashed away?

I have many. I have my 20 year projects, my 15 year projects, my 10 year projects, and the projects I planned to finish this week…..all 38 of them.

You get the picture. I start something with great excitement and anticipation of its completed glory, only to get bogged down in the pressures and responsibility of everyday life.

Or, things get a bit difficult –  like my points don’t meet at the corners on my log cabin quilt squares. So, I put all the parts of that project in a bag and put it in the closet and wait for a “better time” to work on it.

Meanwhile, I start another project!

Well, I am retired now and I have begun finishing projects! Yes, and to be honest, I really had no idea I had so many projects stashed away.  I am not allowing myself to become overwhelmed – I am chipping away – one by one.

So family – be forewarned – these finished projects are potential Christmas presents!

While working on these projects, it dawned on me that I am an unfinished project. God began His work in my life 57 years ago when I became a Christian and He is still not finished.

  • He has not given up
  • He has not abandoned me for a more “exciting” project
  • He has hung in there even when I have resisted His alterations
  • He has not hidden me away on a shelf, embarrassed by my obvious lack of following His instructions

In Philippians 1:3-6, Paul writes the following to the Christians in Philpi.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

I am SO THANKFUL that God is not like I am. He is a loving, kind, and patient Father. He is willing to keep working on me. I love the part of the verse that says – “he who began the good work in you will carry it on to completion”.

What a precious promise! I am an unfinished project…..and God will keep working on me until He is finished.

The Word is Out

I am going to retire from teaching at the end of this school year.

It is with sadness and joy that I made this decision. Sadness – because I love to teach and I love the students. Joy – because I will be entering a new phase of life.

I began my teaching career 40 years ago during the 1974-1975 school year. I taught at Almond School in Swain County and I knew I had found my calling. Almond School was a small K-8 community school with amazing parent involvement and excellent teachers. I was mentored by some of the best. I taught in Swain County for three years during which time I met Phil. We got married, and June 9th of that 3rd year we had our first child – he was born the last day of school.

Miss Gayle Barker -1975

Miss Gayle Barker -1975

 

For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I have not taught school all 40 of those years. I stayed home with small children, volunteered at our church’s Christian School part-time and volunteered for the Jackson County Department of Public Health. Volunteering for the Health Department turned into a part-time job that involved teaching in all the schools in Jackson County.

I returned to full-time teaching and finally – as my mother loves to point out – starting using my college degree – art. Teaching art has given me a sense of fulfillment and pleasure that has confirmed for me that I was right where I was supposed to be – Smoky Mountain High School.

The decision to retire is based on three situations that confirmed this was the right time –

  • my parents, who had lived with us for 8 1/2 years, moved into a retirement community in my hometown of Wheaton, Illinois where my brother and his wife live. My father will be 91 next week and my mother will be 87 the week after. I miss them and want to go visit them more frequently.
  • our oldest daughter now lives in Maryland with her husband and four children and I plan to make that trip more often. I don’t want to miss so much of their young lives.
  • our youngest daughter will be having our 12th grandchild in August and I want to be available to assist her in every way I can. Our son-in-law said he would build a shed in the backyard so I could move in. How sweet!!

I really believe that teaching was my calling professionally and even more so spiritually. God has given me a love for high school students – even the ones who challenge my sanity – maybe especially those. I have enjoyed seeing the joy of discovery on the faces of students and hearing their excitement when they master a new skill in art class. I have learned so much from my students as well. That I will miss.

Mrs. Gayle Woody - 2015

Mrs. Gayle Woody – 2015

I am not retiring from my desire to honor God in all I do.

I will just be doing different things.

One of my underlying messages to students has been that life DOES NOT END AT 25, or 30, or 40, or, 50 – even 63!   I plan to exemplify that truth in the years I have left.

Colossians 3:16-17 are verses that have guided me since I was in college – especially verse 17.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

God is faithful. I anticipate with joy what lies ahead  – as I leave with sadness the co-workers and students of Smoky Mountain High School.

I have been richly blessed.

Unplanned Pregnancy?

Abi and Caleb

Everywhere we look this season there are reminders of the birth of Jesus – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I love that.

It may be commercial and less than sincere at times, but I love the fact that Jesus is acknowledged and celebrated in front yards, in light displays, in store windows, and many public places. Stars reminiscent of the star over Bethlehem shine from the tops of trees, buildings, and mountains.

Yet for his earthly parents, Jesus conception created some very real concerns.

Mary did not plan her pregnancy – in fact the timing was very problematic. She was engaged to marry Joseph. How would he take this news? It took a visit to Joseph by an angel to validate the legitimacy of Mary’s pregnancy. She was also near the end of her pregnancy when her husband said that they must travel to Bethlehem. Before prenatal visits and ultrasounds Mary did not know her “due date”. Yet, God had it all prepared according to His plan. He knew just when and where His Son would be born. He had angels ready to announce it to the shepherds and placed an extraordinarily bright star to shine over the birthplace. Even though there was no room in the Inn, God chose a place that has allowed people from every tongue and nation to identify with the lowly birth of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings – Jesus.

In Luke 1: 46 -49 – Mary praises God for what the angel told her about her impending pregnancy.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Mary knew in her heart that God was in control of her life and her pregnancy. What a place of peace and rest! Mary did not know what the future held – but she knew He who held her future.

I had an “unplanned” pregnancy. Statistically, about 50% of the mothers reading this did as well. I would not change the birth of that precious child for anything in this world. God knew what He was doing and I am so thankful!

I learned something from a friend years ago. The Bob Bryan family had three older children and a gap of about 17 years and then another child. People often asked if this late-in-life baby was planned. Bob would answer “Yes, this baby was planned from the foundations of the world.” What a true and meaningful response!

Each baby is planned by God as stated in Jeremiah – “I knew you when you were formed in your mother’s womb.” There are no “accidents” in God’s plan for each life.

As we celebrate with our children and grandchildren this year, may we remember that each child was planned by God and each has immeasurable value because of that fact. May we all treasure these moments to celebrate Jesus birth together and as Ann Voskamp states –

“May God’s greatest gift be our greatest joy.”

Merry Christmas!

Angel Adahlyn

 

Thankfully Joyful

image

Thankfulness leads to joy.

If you don’t sense any joy in your life – make a conscience effort to be thankful.

British writer and literary critic G.K.Chesterton said, “The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful.” (from the book Defiant Joy, the Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K.Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte. p. 221) The defining quality of Chesterton’s life, as described by his contemporaries, was joy. Chesterton had a significant impact on the spiritual beliefs of a generation. That impact lives on even today. Chesterton saw reasons for joy in small as well as big events in his life and that joy spilled over in his writings and public discourse.

If we cultivate thankfulness for our children, despite the whining, diapers, messes, etc. , we can experience joy in our homes.

If we cultivate thankfulness for our spouses we will experience joy in that relationship. That joy will spill over to bless our children, grandchildren, and others around us. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to love our spouse.

Paul’s prayer of thankfulness for his fellow Christians in Phillipi is an example of how we might feel and pray for our families.

Phillipians 1: 3-9

3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

May God give us eyes to see all we have to be thankful for.

Silent Night (3)

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Silent Night
By Abigail Hardy
It was December 5th, 1992.  As I rushed with my parents into the emergency room entrance late that night, a gurney sped past us.  Like a snapshot, I can remember, the sight of a leg, knee up in the air covered with a white sheet and below the knee, unnaturally, something large and black was bisecting the bloody leg.  Is that really what I saw?  I was too unsure to ask my parents.  I could tell they were more scared than they were willing to admit to me.
I sat in the waiting room of the ER.  I felt lost and unsteady as my parents went back to talk with the doctors.  Words like “accident” “coma” “racing” “head-on” were punctuating the air of the waiting room as people from our small church slowly filled it. 
Things like this do not happen to us.  Not to kids coming back from a church youth group trip.  Surely not, God. 
The van, driven by our church’s youth group leader and my Dad’s closest friend, had been hit head-on by a man in a Corvette.  He had been racing 120 mph down the curving road, some pieces of his car left hanging high in the trees. 
My oldest sister Hannah had been in the back of the van with four other junior high students from our church youth group, and two adult leaders in the front.  Kirsten, the energetic college student from WCU who helped with the youth group, died instantly.  Hannah was in a coma.  Mr. Brown, the driver, was the victim we had seen as we rushed into the ER with the brake pedal stuck through his lower leg and a broken pelvis and ribs.  He had been pinned in the car and had prayed with the kids and kept them calm until the emergency services arrived and were able to cut him out.  Another student had a serious head injury and the other three had escaped with broken bones or scrapes and bruises.
My sister had been airlifted to Memorial Mission in Asheville soon after my parents and I had arrived at the local ER.  When I got to visit her in the hospital the next day, I remember the sight of my mother, holding her hand, singing hymns and Christmas carols to her unresponsive body. 
On the third day, as my mother sang Silent Night to her daughter, she heard my sister’s voice join with hers.  Hannah had woken up.
This is the meaning of Christmas, lived out by the people I lived with. 
Mr. Brown, speaking peace to panicked kids as his own pain loomed like a giant wave above him. 
Kirsten, losing her life in the middle of obedience to Christ’s call on her to minister to kids.
My mom, singing Silent Night over my sister in total faith that God is our healer and restorer.
My sister, given back life through no merit or effort of her own, and, oh, so thankful for that gift.
And, yes, the tears fall when I sing Silent Night at Christmas.  Because this is a beautiful, broken world that our Almighty God was born to save.

Father God, we have joy and we have pain in this life.  I thank you for redeeming our pain and making our joy complete.