Will I See My Papa Again?

50th anniversary

It was a warm summer night and the sun had not yet set.  My brother and I were hanging out with our friends at the close of our youth group meeting.  Our youth pastor, Bryan, came up to us and said, “Your mom is in the office and wants to see you.”

That was very unusual.  My mom didn’t attend our church and she never came on a Wednesday night.  When we entered Bryan’s office, Mom told us that we had to call our grandfather, “Papa” as we called him.  He lived in Wisconsin and we only saw him and our Grammy twice a year; at Christmas and during summer vacation.  We loved them dearly, yet I didn’t understand why mom had driven all the way into the city to make sure that we called him on the church telephone.

“Your Papa is going into surgery early tomorrow morning, and I wanted you to talk to him before that,” Mom explained.

With the excitement of the approaching summer vacation and my graduation from High School, I had completely forgotten that Papa was scheduled to get a hip replacement.  He was in his eighties but still seemed fairly young to me.  He and Grammy loved to go hiking, yet in recent years his hip pain had made even walking very difficult for him.  The past summer, Papa didn’t breathe a word about his pain, yet I saw him trembling and breathing with slow, shaky breaths whenever he sat down or got up again.  Grammy was anxious to get back to their active lifestyle and urged him to get the hip replaced.

I wasn’t worried about his surgery.  He had gotten his other hip done a few years back, and it seemed rather routine.  I took the phone and told him that I loved him and hoped his surgery went well.  I thought my mom had been silly to insist upon this call. After all, we would see him in person soon.

That was the last time I ever had the opportunity to talk to my Papa, and how thankful I am now for that phone conversation and my mom’s intuition.  Days later we learned that something had gone wrong after the surgery, a nasty infection.  Papa’s vital signs went haywire, and he was about to die.  The doctors were doing everything they could to stabilize him.  In the scary chaos, they asked Grammy if they should put Papa on life support.  She looked at the love of her life, the man she adored, her partner for more than 63 years.  She saw him dying and thought the doctors were asking her if they should save his life or let him die.  Of course she chose to save his life.

She told me later that she didn’t understand what life support really meant.  If she had known at the time that it meant hooking her beloved husband up to all sorts of tubes and equipment, keeping his body alive in a sort of artificial limbo state; she never would have agreed to it.

Yet there he was, in the hospital bed, being sustained by machines.  Grammy’s heart was broken and so were ours.  Everything had changed.  No more hiking trips.  No more happy summer vacations listening to Papa’s funny stories.  No more Christmases with my grandfather and his white hair all mussed up from getting out of bed so early in the morning.

There could be a miracle.  I believed in miracles and I prayed for a miracle for Papa.  I thought about what a precious man he was.  He had met Grammy when he was 21 and Grammy was only 16.  He walked her home from the ice skating rink and never had eyes for another girl.  They waited 10 years to get married so they could save money to build a house.

wedding day

Harold and La Vera Gisselman on their wedding day

That adorable house was still their home and one of my favorite places in the world.  To read more about my memories, read my article, “The Term is Over” and “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy.”

He was called into the army during WWII, but never left the United States thanks to his excellent typing skills. That was a very good thing, because during that time, my mother was conceived!

Harold and Dana

After the war, he began working at a bank as a teller and worked his way to becoming the bank president.  He was known by many of the people in the small city of Wausau, and was affectionately called “Chick” even though his name was Harold.  He was always easy with conversation and jokes and was great fun to be around.

He was a very honorable man and attended a Methodist church.  He didn’t talk much about his faith.  In fact, when I had a life-altering salvation experience at the age of 14 and started attending a Charismatic church, he didn’t seem that interesting in talking about it.  I wondered if he really had a relationship with Jesus.  Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take him to heaven?  I didn’t know.  The thought of never seeing my Papa again terrified me.

That week I graduated from High School.  The graduation ceremony was lovely.  I had some of my closest friends back to my house afterwards to celebrate.  We stayed up most of the night, talking.  There is so much to talk about when you are on the verge of the rest of your life; with missions trips, college, and careers all on the horizon.

Then we got into a circle, grabbed hands, and began to pray.  We prayed for each other, prayed for our futures.  Then I began to pray for my Papa.

“God, I ask that you would do a miracle and heal Papa.  If he doesn’t know you, Jesus, DON’T LET HIM DIE!  Heal him and speak to him and let him know your love.  If he does know you, if he is going to heaven, then let him die.  I don’t want him to have to suffer indefinitely, unable to talk or really live.  If he is saved, please take him to heaven,” I prayed.

I looked up at the clock and it said 2:30am.  It was time to wrap up this party.  My friends returned home and I fell asleep in my living room, curled up on the recliner.

In the morning my mom gently shook my shoulder.  “Last night your Papa died,” she said.

I was so sleepy, that I didn’t respond except to let out a sad, “Ohhhhhh.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt.  My mom expected me to be quite distraught, and she hated to give me the news on the day after I graduated.

Later, when I was fully awake, I asked my mom, “What time did Papa die?”

“It was 1:30am,” she answered.

My heart sank.  He died before I had prayed that prayer.  I didn’t have any assurance that I would see my Papa again.

Then I remembered.  Papa had passed away at 1:30am Wisconsin time.  That was 2:30am our time here in Pennsylvania, the exact time that I had asked Jesus to carry him to heaven!

 

How Does God Feel About Mothers?

 

bc2I never considered it a sacrifice to be a mother.  I have always thought it was a privilege and the most amazing calling.  It is powerful and world-changing to be a mother, to grow and nourish the next generation.

Yet, now that I have been a mother for 17 years, I am getting a bit weary.  I have realized that I really don’t have my own life.  My days are filled with the needs of my husband and children.  I find myself daydreaming about what it would be like to be alone in the house with nothing to do except exactly what I WANTED to do.

Most of the time, I enjoy being at home with my children.  It is my favorite place to be.  I just assumed that it was my children’s favorite place to be as well.  One night Chris was working late and I was sitting at the dinner table with all of my nine children.  A peaceful meal is so refreshing to the soul; enjoying the smells and flavors, exchanging stimulating conversation.

A meal is never a peaceful affair at my house.  That night the children were all so loud, I couldn’t follow any one conversation.  Several of the boys were discussing topics not appropriate for the table.  The three-year old kept getting up and wandering around, and the 6-year-old kept standing up on the bench.  In an attempt to regain control, I lifted my voice and shouted above the noise, “Everyone be quiet!  We are going around the table and I want each one of you to tell me your favorite part of the day.  The rest of you just listen!”

The chaos quieted to a dull roar, and the children shared with me what they most enjoyed about their day.  The elementary school boys all enjoyed playing kickball at recess.  Cadin, who is fifteen, just started Cyber School after being homeschooled.  He had to go take the PSSAs for the first time.  He had never had to sit for 7 hours in a classroom before, and I thought he would hate it.  Yet, when it was his turn to share, Cadin said, “My favorite part of the day was taking the PSSAs.”

“Really?! Why is that?”  I asked.

“Because I didn’t have to be at home,” he answered.

“You don’t like being at home?” I asked, feeling very hurt.

“Well,” Cadin started with an apologetic voice, “I got to get a break and I didn’t have to do any chores.”

“I understand how he feels,” said Areli, my 17-year-old daughter.  “My favorite part of the day is when I do school, alone in my room.”

Now the small ache in my heart was growing.  “Well, I never actually get to be alone,” I said.  “Except maybe when I am in the bathroom.”

“You do get a nap every day,” Areli countered.

“That is true, and I so appreciate that nap!  But I am still not alone.  I have to share the room with the baby and wake up when she wakes up.  I am really never alone.”  I said.

Cole, the 15-year-old cynic, chimed in, “That’s your own fault for having so many children.  You and Dad went a little crazy,” he pointed out.

I felt the wind go out of my sails.  My own children didn’t even appreciate my willingness to carry them, give birth to them; give up sleep and privacy and alone time for them.  They couldn’t see the purpose in this crazy, loud, mess that is the Brandenburg household.  Sometimes I lose sight of it too.

When I look down the corridors of history, I don’t see the stories full of mothers heroically laying their lives down for their children.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and enslave.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and set free.  I see stories of kings and rulers.

When I turn on the TV, I don’t see news stories about the amazing mom who changed 24 diapers in the last 24 hours with only 3 hours of sleep the night before.  I see lawmakers and lawbreakers, politicians and rebels.

When I watch an awards show, I never see a mom who looks like me get up on stage and accept a prestigious award for her amazing ability to check items off a to do list and keep 9 children clothed and feed.  That is for the talented artists who receive the praise of millions of adoring fans.

What I thought was my little fan club was now telling me that they would rather be out of the house or alone instead of spending time with me.

I turned to a book that always helps me gain an eternal perspective, The Final Quest by Rick Joyner.  He shares a prophetic experience he had when he was in the throne room of heaven. He started in the very back of the room.  On his long walk to the front where the Lord was, he passed crowds of believers who had already died.  The multitudes standing at the back were more glorious than Rick had imagined people could ever be.  He was shocked to find out that these were in the very lowest rank in heaven.

One man he had known on earth explained it to him this way, “There is an aristocracy of sorts here.  The rewards for our earthly lives are the eternal positions that we will have forever.  This great multitude are those whom the Lord called ‘foolish virgins.’ We knew the Lord and trusted in His cross for salvation, but we lived for ourselves more than we really lived for him…there is no greater folly than to know the great salvation of God, but then go on living for yourself.”

This man was still more glorious and full of joy and peace than Rick had ever imagined possible.  It was simply because even a moment in the lowest part of heaven is much greater than a thousand years in the highest life on earth, and every person there had received so much more than they actually deserved.  As Rick moved toward the throne, he learned from the mistakes of those in the lowest ranks, and discovered that those same mistakes resided in his own life.

A great Christian leader during his life on earth told him, “What looks good on earth looks very different here.  What will make you a king on earth will often be a stumbling block to keep you from being a king here.  What will make you a king here is lowly and unclaimed on earth.”

Later, a famous reformer stepped forward and Rick couldn’t believe that he was in the lowest rank. The reformer told him, “God does have a different set of history books than those on the earth.  You have had a glimpse of this but you do not yet know how different they are.  Earthly histories will pass away, but the books that are kept here will last forever.  If you can rejoice in what heaven is recording about your life, you are blessed indeed.”

Then the reformer gave Rick some advice, “The high calling is not out of reach for anyone that the Lord has called.  I will tell you what will keep you on the path of life – love the Savior and seek His glory alone.  Everything you do to exalt yourself will one day bring you the most terrible humiliation.  Everything you do out of genuine love for the Savior, to glorify His name, will extend the limits of His eternal kingdom and ultimately result in a much higher place for yourself.  Live for what is recorded here.  Care nothing for what is recorded on earth.”

As Rick continued walking towards the glory of Jesus, he saw that each rank was many times greater than the previous one.  He described it like this, “When I was still not even halfway to the throne, what had been the indescribable glory of the first rank now seemed to be outer darkness in comparison to the glory of those I was now passing.  The greatest beauty on earth would not qualify to be found anywhere in heaven.  And I was told that this room was just the threshold of indescribable realms of glory!”

Rick learned from those who had fallen short of their destinies and also learned from those who had overcome and remained faithful to Jesus.  “Those who stumbled did so in many different ways.  But those who prevailed all did it the same way: They did not deviate from their devotion to the first and greatest commandment – loving the Lord.  In this way, their service was done unto Him, not to men. These were the ones who worshipped the Lamb and followed him wherever He went.”

Finally after what seemed like years of traveling, Rick reached the throne.  “Near the judgement seat of Christ, those in the highest ranks were sitting on thrones that were all a part of His throne.  Even the least of these thrones was many times more glorious than any earthly throne.  Some of those on the thrones were rulers over cities on earth and would soon take their places.  Others were rulers over the affairs of heaven, and still others ruled over the affairs of the physical creation, such as star systems and galaxies.

“It was apparent that those who were given authority over cities were esteemed even above those who had been given authority over galaxies.  The value OF A SINGLE CHILD (emphasis added) surpassed that of a galaxy of stars because the Lord has chosen men as His eternal dwelling place…

“At one point the Lord looked toward the galleries of thrones around Him.  Many were occupied, but many were empty.  He then said, ‘These thrones are for the overcomers who have served Me faithfully in every generation.  My Father and I prepared them before the foundation of the world.  Are you worthy to sit on one of these?’

“…I looked at those who were now seated on the thrones.  I could recognize most of those seated had not even been well-known on earth.

“Many of those on the thrones had been missionaries who expended their lives in obscurity.  They had never cared to be remembered on earth, but wanted only to be remembered by Him.  I was a bit surprised to see some who had been wealthy, and rulers who had been faithful with what they had been given.  However, it seemed that faithful, praying women and mothers occupied more thrones than any other single group.”

I have read this passage many times and every time my eyes flood with tears and my heart swells like it will burst!  My Lord has so honored mothers that many sit with him on the highest thrones in heaven!  My Lord so honors mothers that he allowed Rick Joyner to write down the revelation so that we could read it and be encouraged.

Mothers, let’s receive His grace to walk this path like eternity depends on it.  Jesus gave Rick this wisdom, “Those empty seats could have been filled in any generation.  I gave the invitation to sit here to everyone who has called upon My name.  The seats are still available.  Now the last battle has come, and many who are last shall be first.  These seats will be filled before the battle is over.  Those who sit here will be known by two things: They will wear the mantle of humility, and they will have my likeness.”

I am right where God wants me to be.  I am in the perfect place to love Him and to serve Him.  I don’t need to be famous or acclaimed or recognized or talented.  I just need to be who He has made me to be.

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I don’t need the world to understand the importance of what I am doing.  I don’t even need my children to understand and appreciate me.  I know that Jesus understands and he sees.

I don’t feel at all able to walk this path perfectly.  I am full of selfishness and I get off track so easily.  I realize that I can’t even do the basics, loving my husband and children, on my own.  I need His great grace!  But I am in the perfect place to receive His Grace…every…single…day!

Nobody Knows in Advance Which Day Will Be the Day of Their Death

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For my Grammy, that day was February 4, 2011.  Sometimes you get an inkling that this life is drawing to a close.  With Grammy, I was completely shocked.  I was thinking that she could live another ten years, being from a family of long livers.  She was even improving and starting to eat and walk again.  I had no idea that February 4th was her day.  I simply thought it was my last day with her for a time, since I was flying back to Pennsylvania on February 5th.  I am so thankful for that last day with her.

Grammy was cozy in her new room at Harbor House, a memory care facility.  She was confused about a lot of things, but she kept on insisting that she was going to move back to her apartment at Primrose.  She had spent the Christmas holiday in rehab after a stroke.  She was unable to get any of her mail.  So she and I spent a long time on her favorite love seat, reading every single Christmas card she had received.  I was amazed by how many people still sent her cards and how detailed their letters were.  She remembered every single person and told me nice things about each one.

Then I read to her the scripture God had given me when I was praying for her before this trip, Isaiah 43:1-4.  I saw Jesus carrying her through this strange new trial like a lamb on his shoulders and he was saying, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.  You are precious and honored in my sight and I LOVE YOU!”

Grammy paused from her talking for a moment.  I wondered what was going through her mind, and I hoped that she felt God’s love.  Then she started right back into discussing moving back to Primrose.

Soon she became very tired, and we tucked her into bed for an afternoon nap.  She looked comfortable and peaceful.  I kissed her on the cheek and said goodbye.

Chris and I spent the evening with relatives.   What a wonderful evening we had!  We returned our rental car since a shuttle would be taking us to the airport in the morning.  Our relatives drove us back to our rented room at Primrose.  Chris and I were so worn out from our busy week.  We wanted to just flop into bed and sleep as much as we could before our early morning flight.  However, we still had to pack our bags.  As we were getting everything ready to return home, we received a phone call.  A young nurse from Harbor House informed us with a shaky voice that Grammy had passed away!  She had slept away the afternoon.  One of the nurses had tried to rouse her for dinner, but Grammy said she was too tired and just wanted to keep on sleeping.  When they checked on her again, she had no pulse.

My heart started to beat fast. Was this supposed to be happening?  Grammy dead, this soon?   I had left too early in the day!  I should have stayed at her side all evening.   I had missed the moment when she left this earth.  I immediately felt sad and guilty.  Chris quickly pushed those thoughts aside.

“There was no way that you could have known.  You did just what you were supposed to do this week.”

I began to feel a peace fill me.  All I could do was what I had done.  Grammy lived a long life and died peacefully in her sleep.  She didn’t have to suffer.  May we all have a death so sweet!

We called our relatives and asked them if they could drive us back to Harbor House.  We wanted to say our final goodbyes.  I had never experienced death so closely before.  When I entered Grammy’s room, she looked just the same as I had left her, peaceful and snuggled under her blankets.  I expected her to open her eyes and see me standing there, yet she was still.  I felt that I was standing on holy ground.  Jesus himself had just been there to gather Grammy into his loving arms and carry her home.  His presence still lingered, and it was so sweet.

I really couldn’t know Grammy’s personal relationship with Jesus, what transpired in the depths of her heart and spirit before she died.  But the presence of Jesus in the room gave me the peace that I would see her again in heaven.  None of us can make it to heaven on our own.  It is the same as trying to get to the moon by jumping our very highest.  It doesn’t matter how hard we try or how well we train, we just can’t reach the moon.  Jesus lived and died in order to carry us there.  He is alive right now, constantly loving us and praying for us that we will trust him to do it.  So let’s do less jumping and more trusting. There is nothing to fear and EVERYTHING  to look forward to. For those who trust in Him, death is a reward and it is holy.

The Term is Over: the Holidays Have Begun

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It doesn’t take much.  Just a cool breeze, the smell of bread in the toaster, or the sound of a train whistle.  I am transported to my carefree childhood summers, spent at my maternal grandparents’ home in Wisconsin.  The memories flood my mind and I am filled with a sense of peace and order…and a terrible longing to go back there again.  Not just to the home, but to the time when I didn’t have the responsibilities of adulthood on my shoulders.  To the time when my days consisted of sitting in the sun reading an old book I found in the attic (like Louisa May Alcott’s Old Fashioned Girl), or feeding chipmunks out of my hand, or playing Cowboys and Indians in the yard.

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The memories are a bit fuzzy and golden with age.  I remember more of the good and less of the bad.  I remember the cleanliness and order of the home, the cool wood floors and the shaggy aqua carpet.  I remember the wall paper in the kitchen, decorated with pictures of fanciful boutiques.

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I remember eating Papa’s homemade rhubarb jam at the kitchen table that boasted an eating surface made entirely of glass.  How enchanting that table seemed to me.  It was like the table in Alice in wonderland through which a shrunken Alice saw the all important key.  The tragedy of being able to see your heart’s desire but being unable to reach it was not lost on me.

I remember the sun room that served as the bedroom for my brother and me on those summer nights.  We would lie on the perfect sofas, full of swirling colors and patterns from the 60s and listen to Alice and Wonderland on the record player as we were falling asleep.

I said goodbye to my grandmother at her funeral on a frigid Wisconsin winter day.  I felt like I wanted to say goodbye to her home as well, which contained most of my memories of her.  My husband drove me to 921 Humbolt Ave.  Grammy had sold it years before, but I was surprised by how different it looked.  Sure, it was surrounded with snow rather than all the greens and reds and oranges of summer.  But it just wasn’t as beautiful as I remembered it.  And there was a hot tub outback were Grammy’s cucumbers used to grow!  Was it that my memories were just better than reality…or had the place really changed so much under new ownership?  One thing was clear to me; I could never physically return to the place that had brought me such joy.  I could never relive the memories in that house of the people who were so dear.  I felt a grief flood my soul at the irrevocable loss.

I felt a similar grief and bewilderment when I drove past the childhood home of my father after his passing.  I had wonderful memories of that little house as well, the home of my Grandmother and Grandfather Beyer.  The yard was like a fairy wonderland, full of trees and ferns and mosses, dotted with bird seed for the always welcomed feathered friends.  The inside was always exactly the same.  Every piece of furniture, every old and charming knickknack, just where it had been the last visit, always polished and dusted.  The only change I remember over the years was the addition of a large TV the sat on the floor.  My brother and I thought we had hit the jackpot as we watched the early years of MTV on that TV.

Grandfather always had to show us some wildlife slides, play a classical piece on his record player, or read us the Robert Louis Stevenson poem about how the robin ate the “fellar raw.”  He would always let out a loud chuckle after he read that line. Grandmother wanted to sit on the sofa with us and read Snip, Snap, and Snur.

Their kitchen always smelled like coffee and contained one of my favorite treats…malted milk tablets.  The upstairs had beds for all of us, a strange bath tub, and a little kitchen that we never used.  We visited during the Thanksgiving holiday each year.  I remember my mom addressing what seemed to be hundreds of Christmas cards, spread out over their living room.

When we drove past the home after my father’s internment, I was shocked at what I saw.  The yard had been cleared of most of the trees and looked barren.  The house was tiny and rather unpleasant.  What had happened to the 75 Prospect Street that I remembered.  It was gone forever…and I mourned that loss.

But are they truly gone?  Need we mourn when something beautiful on this earth passes away, or is destroyed, or is changed beyond recognition?  I found a lovely picture of hope in The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis.  It is one of my favorite books containing one of my favorite descriptions of heaven.  The Pevensie children, along with their Narnian companions, find themselves in a beautiful land after Narnia had been destroyed.  They grieved for their beloved land, but they began to notice that this new place was oddly familiar.

  “Kings and Queens,” he (Farsight the Eagle) cried, “we have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are.  From up there I have seen it all – Ettinsmuir, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea.  Narnia is not dead.  This is Narnia.”…

            “The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “Listen  Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of.  But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end.  It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a show or copy of something in Aslan’s real world.  You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy.”

I believe that it is true.  We need not mourn over what we lose here in the shadow lands.  All that is stunning and marvelous and true and real and loved in this world will be healed and restored and renewed and made to be all that it was intended to be from the beginning.  All that is precious to us in this life is being kept safe for us in the “real” life that we will someday enter into, if we trust Jesus to take us there.

Then we will say, like the noble Unicorn in Narnia, “I have come home at last!  This is my real country! I belong here.  This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”

We will hear Aslan (Jesus) say, “The term is over: the holidays have begun!”

And it will be a holiday full of sights, sounds, aromas,  and tastes that are as familiar as being home for Christmas, cozy and surrounded by family.  Yet they will be brighter, fuller, more majestic, and more magnificent than anything we had ever imagined.  After millions and millions of years, the wonder of it all will still be fresh and new.  All mourning will be long forgotten and our joy will be everlasting!

Endless Ocean

waves

I have been  listening to a CD called “On The Shores” by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser.  One song in particular, “Endless Ocean”,  has captured my imagination.  Click here to listen to this beautiful song.  Better yet, listen to it while you are reading this article to get the full affect!

The words are captivating and mind boggling.

 

“In the beginning, You were singing

In the end You’ll still be, singing over me

In this moment, You’re right beside me

You’re everywhere, You’re in the air that I breathe

 

You are an endless ocean

A bottomless sea

 

In my sin, You kept loving

There’s no end to Your forgiveness, and mercy

Every morning, You keep coming

Waves of Your affection, keep washing over me

 

All those angels, they are swimming

In this ocean and they still can find no shore

Day and Night, night and day

They keep seeing new sides of Your face

 

There’s no end to the affection, You have for me”

 

You have probably heard the saying, “If God was small enough to fit inside of our brains, He wouldn’t be big enough for our problems.”

I had a teacher at YWAM who loved to teach about the limitless intelligence of God.  He was fond of saying with a smile on his face, “I think I’ll trust God because He is much smarted that I am. In fact, His intelligence fills the entire universe, which is always expanding.  And you know, my brain is so small that it actually fits inside my head!”

I have begun to encounter the God whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts, who is never limited by time or resources.  He is the God who can actually create something out of nothing.  Time and again He has revealed some dazzling truth to my heart, something that before that moment of revelation had been a non-reality to me.  So many times I stood face to face with impossible circumstances, yet found the faith to pray.  So many times I saw God do something that had NEVER, EVER entered my little mind and probably NEVER would have entered my little mind in a hundred years.

I heard a preacher once who said, “Every verse in the Bible is pregnant with divine meaning.”  I love that imagery. We can read a scripture and our mind in renewed.  We have something wonderful to think about.  Yet that scripture is a seed that can grow and bear fruit again and again and again, forever.  Ever have God descend upon you like a clap of thunder through a verse that you had memorized years ago and thought you already knew inside and out?  Then He reveals some deeper meaning in that familiar verse, and your world is rocked to its foundations!

We will be eternally learning new things about God, discovering new truths, being undone by greater beauties, being thrilled by higher heights.  Heaven will be full of adventure and explorations.  Yet the adventure is not just for heaven, it is for now!

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven.

This broken world is full of problems.  The earth seems to be sick and dying because of the selfishness and shortsightedness of the very ones who were supposed to rule and steward it.  Yet God has the answer to every one of those problems.  His answers are found inside the hearts and minds and imaginations of His people.  How will His people access these innovative and groundbreaking solutions?  By continually beholding the One who is always showing new sides of His face.  We can never reach the end of Him!  We will never be bored by Him!  It is true that we could never contain Him, that His presence will fill us until it is bubbling out all over the place.  All the trials and struggles of this life are intended to stretch us and expand us so we can hold more of Him; so we can experience more of His endless affections towards us.

I have experienced more love and mercy from my God than I had ever dreamed existed.  I have come to Him with a broken heart and a life in shambles because of my wrong choices and have heard Him say, “You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you!”

He has lavished His love on me over and over, so much that it seemed almost inconceivable!  Yes, my mind is officially blown. Yet I know that what I have experienced is merely the first rays of sun peaking over the horizon at dawn; merely a small wave lapping at the shore.

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Oh, how excited I am to venture into the deep waters and swim in this endless ocean of wonder and intelligence and love…forever!

 

Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad!

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My Father, George Redman Beyer, passed away last year on July 31.  In honor of him, I would like to post here the words I spoke at his memorial service.

 

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All you who knew George, whether it was for 5 minutes or fifty years, knew that he was very kind, calm, patient, slow, methodical, and very intelligent.

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He loved history and could remember facts and figures with an almost photographic memory.  Most of those official blue and yellow signs you see around the state of PA were written by my Dad.  When I was little I couldn’t remember the name of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, so I just told people that my Dad was a Historical Marker Maker.  They gave me funny looks.

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I got even stranger reactions when I told them that we were Quakers and went to Meeting instead of Church.  Dad was always a man of peace.  I almost never heard him criticize other people and I almost never saw him get angry.

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In recent years, he had to bear with my five wild boys running around the house with nerf guns, squirt guns, and cap guns.  Still he was very patient with them.  He spent hour after hour after hour reading to all the grandchildren, snuggling on the sofa.

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He answered question after question, read book after book.  He rejoiced at the birth of every new grandchild and enjoyed them immensely.

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This was an intense week for our family.  Dad was sent to the emergency room on Monday with blood clots in his lungs.  He stopped breathing and received CPR three times.  When I saw him that evening, he was unconscious and the hospital was still trying to stabilize him.  That night I prayed those deep, desperate prayers.  I love it how God draws so near to me in times like these.  I felt like He said to me, “This will end in death, but it is OK.”  Then I saw a picture in my mind.  I saw my dad as a young boy, running in the summer twilight.

scan23He had perfect shalom, “perfect peace, nothing broken, and nothing missing.”  He was running into the arms of God the Father.  They both had such joy and excitement about being together.

On Tuesday the hospital thought they might be able to stabilize Dad and wake him up.  Then we received a call that he had taken a turn for the worse, and we better get in there as soon as we could.  Again I began praying in the car, and I was desperate with God.  I said, “You can’t let him die if he’s not ready, if it is not his time.  I haven’t done enough. I haven’t told him enough about you.  I haven’t shown him enough love.”  Again the sweet presence of God surrounded me and said, “It is already done.  I have already done it all.  All that is left is to trust me.

So as we sat in Dad’s room watching him peacefully pass away, I again thought of him running into the arms of his Father.  I heard the Father God say to him, “George, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do in your lifetime.  I want you! You are my reward; You are my pearl of great price.”

Mom told me in hospital that Dad had recently attended a conference at Life Center and loved the Song, “Abba” which means Daddy. (Click here to listen to the wonderful song.) We sang that song in Worship tonight.  This confirmed to me that he had a longing in his heart to know God as his Daddy, and now his heart’s desire is fulfilled.  He feels for the first time the full strength of the unconditional, all consuming love of the Father.  Dad had loving parents and a loving family.  Loving relationships are the joy of this life.  But they are just the first morning rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon.  Now he is standing in the brightness of noonday, and I am so happy for him!

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I love how God gives us signs to explain what is happening in the unseen realm.  He gave me a sign.  My mom had transplanted lot of flowers from her yard to into my yard.  The irises and hyacinths have been blooming for many years now, but I have never seen the resurrection lily.  I just thought it had died, and I had forgotten about it.  But the day after my Dad died, I looked out my window and I saw it blooming!

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I love you Dad!

My Little Piece of Heaven

 

Our first apartment as a married couple was a little piece of heaven, a sweet and tiny oasis of newlywed bliss (well, usually…except for those times when we were fighting over whether we should throw the budget out the window and buy a Vfirst apartmentCR.) It had the charm and character of an older building.  It was situated in an established neighborhood with tree lined streets.  We used to take long walks and imagine which one of the beautiful homes we would buy one day.  We were excited that it had a garage, a rare find for an apartment building.  We were delighted when we pulled into the garage that first time, only to realize that there was no extra room for the driver to open his door and actually exit the vehicle while still in the garage.  On a particularity hot summer day, the second story apartment became just oppressive.  We realized that running two air conditioners at once was too much for the old electrical panel to handle. Just minor details that added to the charm.

After a year we decided to shake off the dust of that boring, little town and find a real adventure in Colorado Springs.  There we found another piece of heaven in a garden level apartment.  Oh, the sweet memories of our younger married days!  It had a spare bedroom and a cozy fireplace.  It also boasted mice and a snake (totally uninvited!)  In the big snowstorm of 1997, hundreds of travelers got trapped on the highway between Colorado Springs and Denver.  Chris thankfully found shelter in a Denver hotel.  Meanwhile, I was being buried alive in that underground apartment, feeling claustrophobic and horribly bored.  The little apartment was sparsely furnished with only a bed, dresser, and kitchen table.  We would sit on the carpet in the living room to watch movies.  That’s right!  We did own a TV and VCR by this time.  Our lives were full of blessings!

After six months we found the perfect townhouse that seemed just massive to us; two bedrooms and two bathrooms!  It was new and pristine with an open floor plan.  Heaven again relocated to be with us in this lovely place.  We had our first babyplumtree 4 and settled her into the extra room.  I can’t describe how beautiful it was, that cherub sleeping in her own crib in her own room.  We had our second child and added another crib.  We had our third child and added a set of bunk beds.  Then we had our fourth child, and she ended up in our walk in closet.  The walls felt as though they were closing in on us, and the concrete slab in back wasn’t what our children needed for a back yard.

We were able to sell that little piece of heaven (finally!) and find a little larger piece of heaven to rent; a rrental house Colorado 2eal house with a real fenced in yard!   With four, then five young children, I felt like I had won the lottery!  The fence was not an effective barrier for the little neighbor boy down the street, who would escape by climbing over his fence and into the neighbor’s yard and eventually into our yard…all without his parents having a clue.  They would find him wandering around the neighborhood doing interesting things, such as “selling” free ice cubes door to door out of a soggy cardboard box.  My children didn’t feel inclined to follow little Nick, but rather played contentedly in our own back yard, safe and secure, and life was good!camp hill

Having had more than our fill of adventure in Colorado, Chris accepted a job back in the boring, little town where we had started.  Yet now it had been transformed into our Promised Land. The 5 day trip camp hill 2across the c ountry was like crossing the Jordan.  As we drove into Central Pennsylvania, I could hardly believe it!  We had arrived!  We had reached our own little piece of heaven in a rental house on Market Street.  Sure, there was constant traffic and sirens passing our house 4 or 5 times a day.  Sure, there was a lot of air pollution and mold in the house. (We have never been so sick as a family as we were in that house.)  Yet, out the kitchen window I could see a stunning dogwood tree, showing off its incamp hill 3credible blooms just for me. And the view from the living room – Amazing!  I wou ld sit in my recliner and nurse baby number six while my eyes would feast on the sight of the magnolia tree.  For two weeks out of the year, it would look so glorious; I thought that this must be what the Garden of Eden looked like.

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I was content in my little piece of heaven, but my husband found a house online that he was interested in.  There were no pictures of the inside.  The outside looked old and outdated, hidden in dark awnings.  But there was a huge front porch and my imagination painted the inside with much charm and character.  I t was less than a mile from our fist apartment. When we actually got inside to take a real look at it, it was better than I had imagined.  “This is it!” we thought, “Our piece of Heaven!”

Miraculously God gave us that house which cost twice the amount we were qualified to borrow, and that is where we live today.  I love the custom woodwork, all original from 1924.  I love the high ceilings and wide hallways.  The large downstairs bathroom, which used to be part of the original doctor’s office, has built-in shelves and cabinets and a counter just perfect for a baby changing station.  I imagine that when Dr. Christian was drawing up the plans for this house to his own specific needs, God was quietly whispering in his ear.  He was giving his loving “suggestions” that would make this the perfect home for the Brandenburg family 80 years later.  It is true; the house is very old.  The lead paint on the windows is chipping, the porch is rotting, and the doorknobs come off in your hand if you pull too hard.  Yet, this is where heaven resides, and this is where I want to be!  Our seventh and eighth babies were born in the bedroom upstairs.  The older children have grown into teenagers here.  The younger boys ride their bikes on the sidewalk and play with the neighbor children. I love to watch them in the back yard, glowing golden in the setting summer sun.sept 3fun outside 012fun outside 035fun outside 037

It is true; we have a lot of people sharing five bedrooms and one bathtub!  We have our eye on a much bigger place; seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, and ten acres of wooded land.  And when we finally get there, heaven will be there too!  I am sure that even that divine home will have its issues.  Maybe it will feel like too many square feet to keep clean and heat.  Maybe the mosquitoes will be breeding in that idyllic lake out back.  Whatever the issues are, they are just details.  The real truth is, heaven is wherever the center of God’s will is…and for me, that is in the heart of my family’s home.