Steve & Betty

Sharing the Good News of Jesus!

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“The Red Balloon”

For most of my life I remember that my maternal grandmother, Mae Horton, had difficulty walking. Her knees were not cooperative in a day when knee replacement surgery was only experimental and not overly successful. Granny eventually ended up in a wheel chair. This immobility did not stop Granny however, her mind was forever in motion and she did not stop learning, loving and reaching. Granny ruled from her favorite chair. We all knew that Granny was in charge, including sweet Grandaddy. What Granny said went and NO one dared to dispute her. In spite of her dictatorial matriarchal rule, we all loved Granny and we KNEW she loved us.

My baby sister, Brenda, and I spent a great deal of time with Granny and Grandaddy from the time we were born. Our paternal grandparents had died before our father and mother were married, so we never knew them. Granny and Grandaddy Horton lovingly filled this void. In 1987 I moved to Central Florida and my visits were limited due to the distance. My sister continued to see Granny and Grandaddy regularly, as she lived less than 2 miles from them on Florida’s East Coast. Brenda and Granny had always been extremely close, as she helped my Mama care for Brenda when she was born. My Mama was not well for awhile after Brenda’s birth and I was only 18 months at the time and still required much care myself. Their relationship was magnetic. Brenda was in and out of Granny’s house throughout the week and always stopped in if she was going shopping to see if Granny and Grandaddy needed anything.

You would think from the previous paragraphs that this is going to be about Granny and it partially is, but not solely. This is about my sister, who loved and lived and longed to stretch her wings and fly from the time I first recall recognizing her as a person. This is also the story of the “Red Balloon”.

Twenty years ago and prior to my Granny’s death, Brenda had a wonderfully amazingly imaginative dream.

In the dream she was pushing Granny in her wheelchair down the walkway in front of Granny’s house. She was taking her for a “walk” around the neighborhood. It was a perfectly beautiful day. The sky was bright blue and almost cloudless, except for a few cottony clouds floating in on the eastern breeze from the Atlantic Ocean, less than a mile away. Brenda and Granny were enjoying this special time together and looking up in to the sky. About the same time they both noticed a tiny red dot descending. As the dot came closer and grew larger they realized that it was a balloon with a string attached. It was the type of balloon that our children were always given when we shopped for groceries at Publix; they were filled with helium and had a ribbon attached for holding onto. It was odd that this Red Balloon was descending instead of ascending, however. All the balloons we had seen before would ascend if not firmly grasped in our children’s sweet little hands. Many balloons were lost in the Publix parking lot.

This Red Balloon continued it’s descent until it was directly in front of Granny. In childlike awe, Granny reached out and grasped the ribbon. Immediately she and the Red Balloon began to ascend. Brenda watched helplessly as Granny and the Red Balloon begin their ascent into the Stratosphere and disappeared. Before Brenda could become totally frantic, she saw the slightly larger dot begin to descend once again. As it drew closer she could see that Granny was still grasping the ribbon. Slowly the descent continued until Granny, clutching the Red Balloon, was standing in front of the wheelchair. Granny then released the Red Balloon to continue it’s return through the layers of atmosphere, walked wordlessly, easily and painlessly to the back of the wheelchair and pushed it back into the house. Granny’s knees were completely whole after her mysterious and wonderful ascent into the ‘heavens’ .”

Although in actuality, Granny’s knees were not whole, this dream was a lovely gift to both Brenda and Granny. Brenda shared the dream with Granny and it tickled her. Granny had a fantastic sense of humor and adventure. I believe that often Dreams are God’s communication with us and this Special Dream gave Brenda a peace about the hereafter that she had not known prior to receiving this “heaven sent video”.

Brenda became widowed almost 4 years ago. Her “Mr. Bill” was the “love of her life”. And after losing him the void was fathomless. My sister had also been quite ill herself for many years, and with each passing year she grew more twisted with crippling scoliosis, causing her organs to become compressed and damaged. She was a truly gifted artist and her home was filled with paintings and sketches of paintings she planned to do, but her body failed her before she could complete the ideas she had stored in her brain and on post-it-notes throughout her house. Grasping a brush or a charcoal pencil for any length of time had become excruciatingly painful. But like Granny, her mind never stopped creating beauty.

On July 28, 2016, I received the most horrible phone call that I had received to date; my Brenny had died. I was overwhelmed with grief and intense loneliness. My seemingly “forever sobs” were deep and ragged. The one remaining person who knew me best and longest was gone and I would never be able to share another “sister moment” with her.

But God is Good, as the movie, “God’s not Dead”, reminds, “all the time”. So while sitting in a chair in my Brenny’s house a few days after she had died, God granted me a sweet gift of the reminder of the “Red Balloon”. In the twenty years since my sister dreamed of the Red Balloon and Granny, she had been through so very much, physically, mentally and emotionally, but on Thursday, July 28th, 2016, I believe she reached up and grasped her own Red Balloon and left all that behind. The last text she attempted to send in the moments prior to her leaving this earth was, “Oh I see…”. Obviously I will never know what she truly saw, but I choose to believe it was her own “Red Balloon” and that she grasped it with the childlike delight she possessed in everything she attempted right up to the very end of her earthly life. 

Red Balloons.php

On Sunday , August 7th 2016, a group of Family and Friends released red balloons into a blue, cottony clouded sky in her honor. I know Brenny would have been applauding with glee.

When Life Happens….

It has been too long since either Steve or I have shared here. Unfortunately, life has caused us to not always be available to put “pen to thought”. I feel challenged to once again begin sharing with those of you who wish to follow our journey with this Eulogy I was privileged to share at my mother’s Celebration of her Life in June 2015. I pray you are encouraged.

 

 

Betty Joyce Horton Stallings
b 7/4/1931-d 6/10/2015

Our Mother, Betty Joyce Horton Stallings, was born on the 4th of July, 1931. As a child she always thought that the fireworks and other celebrations were in recognition of her birthday. To be honest, my sister, Brenda and I wondered why our birthday celebrations never compared to Mama’s.

I am glad she had those special thoughts, because coming from a family that did not have a great deal of monetary wealth, she learned early that if she wanted something that was not in the family budget she had to work for it. When she wanted a bicycle she sold watermelons. She even commissioned her friends to sell for her and receive a percentage of the profits. She baby sat, weeded gardens and grew and sold vegetables to purchase a trumpet. Her efforts enabled her to buy such a nice trumpet that the other band students begged to play it.

From the beginning it was obvious that Mama’s skills were not in the areas of normally accepted domesticity for her era. If Brenda and I needed something sewn, Big Granny would be our go-to-person. Mama didn’t bake cakes, so our birthday cakes came from Langbehn’s Bakery. But she could take a piece of wood and with her band saw and imagination create magical things, including our slingshots and rubber-band guns, which made us the envy of all our friends. She was an expert marksman and with her 22 rifle, which was an anniversary present from Daddy, she kept our yard on 45th Street free of venomous snakes. Mama was Daddy’s right hand when it came to preparing the cars he painted in his Automotive and Paint and Body Garage. She had a light touch and could smooth out the surface of the cars so that you would never be able to tell where the damage had been. Because of Mama, Brenda and I grew up knowing that we could do and be whatever we desired. Nothing was labeled as being just for girls or just for boys. Mama was truly ahead of her time.

If you knew Mama you know that she had a very special relationship with Jesus. Consequently, I can not share anything about Mama without including Him. Mama began following Jesus at a very young age. She began practicing her faith as a young girl by sitting the family dogs down and teaching them about Jesus’ love and encouraging them to receive Him as their Lord. I imagine there was a little “Hellfire and Brimstone” thrown in to keep their attention. As she grew up there was less “Hellfire and Brimstone” and more love. She wanted everyone to know the Love of Christ and receive Him as their own personal Lord and Savior. She taught Sunday School, Children’s Church, and led Youth Group. She facilitated Bible Studies in group settings and as a one-on-one mentor.

My Mama would be the first to say that she was not a “Saint” and that anything that was good in her was because of her placing her trust in Jesus. While in Junior High I told a classmate that my mother was perfect. The classmate said that was impossible, nobody was perfect. I very quickly told her that she was wrong according to Matthew 5:48, that reads, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I have since learned the true meaning of that verse and that my Mama was not perfect, but one of the things I loved about her so much and strive to immolate, is how easily she loved others. She was one of the least judgmental people I know. She believed her assignment as a Believer was to share the Love of Jesus to all she met, but allow Jesus to do the changing. I personally am a recipient of her non-judgmental love.

My Mama was an anointed and gifted writer. Many of you have been recipients of her letters/epistles, but she would be the first to say that she was only the Scribe for the words that Holy Spirit revealed to her. Much of the material that she used in Childrens’ Church and Youth Group was original. But every time she put pen to paper to write a letter, story, poem or song she felt humbled to be chosen to share God’s message.

Before we could read for ourselves Brenda and I learned much of what we know of the Lord at our Mama’s knees, looking at pictures and listening to stories from our Family Bible. One of the most important things she taught us is that the Church is not a building or a denomination. Instead it is the people who are Followers of Christ who make up the Church. When I was still in elementary school my Mama was inspired to right a song about this very thing. These are the words from the chorus.

“Take me out of the Ivory Towers,
From behind the Stained-glass windows,
From off the Plush pews.
Let me walk among the people, as I use to do.
The world is looking for reality.
They’ll only find that in me,
But only as they see me in you.”

If Mama was standing before us today she would sing these words in her beautiful vibrato alto voice and encourage each of us to live in such a way that the world can feel and see Christ’s Love. Mama’s earthly journey is over, but her legacy lives on in each of us who knew and loved her.

In closing I wish to share John 14:27, a verse that meant so much to Mama. Those who received letters from her would recognize it as one that she often wrote on the back of her envelopes for all who came in contact with them to see.
“Peace I leave with you, Peace I give unto you: not as the World giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Shalom,

Betty

 

“Loving From A Distance”

I looked down and saw a pair of turquoise eyes looking up at me. As I walked through the house doing chores, he followed me from room to room. Each time I stopped, so did he and looked up adoringly with those gorgeous eyes of his.  That Miney, my sweet cat, loves me, is indisputable, but behind those beautiful eyes and inspite of his love, I still see his fear and lack of trust. Each time I attempt to caress him he dashes off and watches me from a safe place. Miney knows that I am the one who feeds him  and makes sure his water bowl is full. I’m the one who gives him the special treats he loves so much.  And he loves to be in my presence as long, as I don’t get to close.

Am I like Miney, Lord? Do I love you sometimes from a distance? Do I look at you adoringly, but fearfully? Am I grateful for all that you give me,  yet run when you want to give me a special caress?

Trust! That’s what it is all about…..Miney loves me, but he just can’t bring himself to fully trust me. This breaks my heart, for he is one of three feral kittens I rescued from sure death two years ago and still he doesn’t trust me.

I was rescued too!  When I was heading down a path that led to total destruction, God reached down and changed my course. I love him so much, but I’m still working on trust.

One of these days I’m hoping that my Miney will trust me enough to curl up in my lap, like his brother and sister, Eeny Meeny and MoMo. I have a feeling that God, is saying the same thing to me. “Come on Betty. Just climb up here and let me hold you closely.”

Is He possibly saying the same thing to you?

Shalom……..Betty

Lost Dogs

Walking down the “road of life”, I often see people at the grocery store, at work or in my neighborhood. I see them, but I don’t really see “them”. Most people are fairly good actors and actresses, so you don’t always see what’s going on in their hearts and souls.

I hadn’t really thought much about this until awhile back. I was driving down a two-lane country road with my mind in sort of a thoughtful state. I looked a few hundred yards up the road and saw a small animal coming out of the woods. As I drew closer, I saw that it was a dirty, mutt of a dog, with its’ tongue panting wildly. What I noticed most was its’ eyes. They looked confused, lost and hungry. I slowed down and experienced worry and concern for this little animal in the midst of this barren strip of road. Compassion overwhelmed me. I knew there were houses and farms up and down this road, but concern for the dog caused me to whisper a prayer for its’ safe return home. I watch as it darted off the road.

When I finished praying, the thought came into my mind, “why don’t I have that kind of compassion and love for the people I encounter on the “highways of my life”? Is it because the dog was no threat to me, and I often feel threatened by people? Was it that the dog seemed totally helpless? Or possibly that it was easier to love a creature that wouldn’t reject my love? I don’t know. But I believe God was sending me a message and showing me the need to love and have compassion for those I pass on my busy “highways of life”.

Chances are they too are hungry, searching and longing to be home. Those I meet on a day-to-day basis may have lost their way. The “fleas” of this world may have tormented them beyond reason. Their “paws” may be bloody and torn from life’s rough road. I pray that I may look into their eyes and see their needs; and that I will take the time to share God’s Love in prayer and action on my own journey home.

Shalom, Steve

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