Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Almost Thanksgiving


by Cindy Hester

Wow, it is almost Thanksgiving. It is amazing how the world moves on seemingly oblivious of your absence despite the tremendous mark you left on it. I’ve been pouring over pictures from last Thanksgiving. How could we have known you would not be with us this year? If I had known, would I have done anything differently? One thought immediately comes to mind. I wish I had taken more time to savor the moments of that special day. I wish I had slowed my pace and captured my thoughts to live more in the moment...to worry less about the insignificant things...to focus on each word, each gesture, and each expression on your face. I wish I had lingered a moment longer whenever you hugged my neck in welcome.

With that said, I am so grateful to have the memories of last Thanksgiving and the many Thanksgivings before. I am thankful you were and still are a part of my life. I am blessed to know that to be absent on this earth is to be present with the Lord. I am fortunate to share your memory with a family who enjoys keeping that memory alive through stories of love, laughter and shared experiences.

I am sure that every day is Thanksgiving in heaven. I look forward to someday knowing the inexplicable joy you now experience. Until then, may I never take moments shared with family and friends here on this earth for granted. Lord, help me to live in the moment...focusing on each word, each gesture, each expression on the faces of those dear to my heart. And help me to linger a moment longer when giving and receiving those hugs of welcome.

Happy Thanksgiving.

This piece is dedicated to all my dear friends who lost their parents this past year. Please know that my heart is with you, especially this Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dearest Dad,



How can I put into words how much you are missed? I find myself drawn back home to be near you once again, if only in memories. I visited you today in many places. I left a little something from my heart on your grave site. I talked with you as we sat in the swing at the farm. I held your picture close as I sat in the study that was your sanctuary for early morning talks with God and where you prepared so many sermons to share. I felt your loving embrace as I snuggled deep into the recliner where you spent time napping, reading your newspaper, watching the Astros, or simply catching up on the evening news.

Momma feels the void even more deeply as fall approaches. She holds so many precious memories of you during this time of year. You would be so proud of her. She has displayed such strength and grace throughout the transition since your departure to heaven. I see in purest form how whenever God joins a man and a woman together they are no longer two, but one flesh. I see much of your strength and wisdom in Mom. I also see the pain of losing someone who is so much a part of you. She misses you so.

I hope you will forgive us, but we are turning your hay barn into the gathering place we always dreamed of out at the old home place. Somehow I think you would be proud of this place and what it represents. Working on this project has proven to be especially healing for us all. It has strengthened family bonds. It is the culmination hope for us. It is here that we gather to remember the past, enjoy the present and create memories for the future. It is on this dirt that our family heritage in Texas began. It is here that time slows and gives us pause to pass on the stories of this precious home place. It is here where our great, great grandparents lived and walked. It is here where your very life on this earth began. It is here that loved ones come to life in the memories of us kids, and in the imaginations of our children and grandchildren. It is here they will continue to know you. And it is here your presence is so strongly felt and remembered.

Your memory does live on, even in the youngest of the babies. Hollie and Kase point to your pictures and say, “Paw Paw.” Tyce and Drue still draw pictures for you sitting at your desk in your study. The most poignant moment took place yesterday as we were leaving to come back to La Porte. Little Randy ran to give Maw Maw Hood a hug goodbye. He then turned to ask if he could give Paw Paw Hood a hug. I explained that you were in heaven, but he could give your picture a hug and kiss. He gently picked up your picture from the desk and handed it to me. Standing in front of the picture frame, he lovingly took his little hands and traced your outline. He then gently pretended to remove your silhouette from the picture and held you next to his heart, squeezing you tight. Once done, he placed you back in the picture, and then tenderly placed a kiss on your cheek. You made such a lasting, loving impression on all generations of our family.

Somehow I feel like you know all these things, but I felt the need to tell you…just like I need to say one more time that you are loved.

From my heart to you in heaven,
Cindy


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Day by Cindy Hester

Last night I cried. I cried so hard that I thought my heart would break. Charlie was playing music - music that stirred my very soul. I remembered your smile, your laughter, your gentleness, your fatherly embrace. I longed to hear your voice on the phone. I ached to see you and Mom walk through my door for an unplanned visit. My soul screamed in quiet agony wishing to be planning our next family trip to New Braunfels.

It all seemed to happen so fast. Last Christmas we all had a sense something would change. There was an eerie difference in that gathering of children and grandchildren. We all discussed it, but we couldn't quite put our finger on the source of it. It seems that you also knew. Looking back at pictures I see a telling look in your eyes...a foreshadowing of things to come. From there it all just seems like a whirlwind of surreal events and emotions. Now here we are without you on this earth.

This was the sadness I carried into my dreams last night. I guess it is all a part of saying goodbye. Grief is definitely not an event, but a process. The alarm clock brought these emotions flooding back as if I had only pressed pause to go to sleep. But that was before the sunrise.

Stepping out into the fresh morning air, God commanded my attention drawing my eyes upward to the most beautiful display of His splendor. The golden sun, hues of matching shades blending into a tapestry that no earthly artist could create. The sun's warmth bathed my face as if God Himself were reaching down from heaven to dry my tears. At that moment I felt the connection between this earth where I am bound and the heaven that is now Dad's home.

It is in moments such as this that my hope is renewed. It is these glimpses of God's majesty that remind me of the limitless beauty awaiting where Dad is. It is in these purposeful messages that God lovingly reminds me that He understands the pain of separation I feel. He omnisciently watches over me as a parent watches over a child anticipating Christmas morning. He knowingly smiles at the joy that awaits, but He asks me to trust, to hope, even to embrace this time of anticipated joy. Herein lies our hope...and thus begins a new day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Surrender

Surrender
by Cindy Hester

To Dad and Mom from Cindy...I love you.

We walked into the cold room
With anxious hearts and minds
Grasping for a promise
Some hope of any kind.

The doctor hung his head low
Avoiding every eye
The truth was too apparent
I wanted him to lie.

My father brave but hurting
Sat stoically upright
The facts were all he wanted
So ready for the fight.

My mother stood beside him
With strength sent from above
No one could doubt her fervor,
Her loyalty, her love.

I begged God for His healing
To spare my Dad this pain
My heart cried out to heaven
My tears, they fell like rain.

We wanted so to spare him
So much for us he’s done
We could not end this nightmare,
His daughters and his son.

Our family stood beside us
Giving of their time
Their selfless acts, they meant so much
They wouldn’t take a dime.

Our precious friends prayed with us,
Their hearts always close by
Brought so much peace and comfort
They let us talk and cry.

Another doctor’s visit,
A few months down the road,
His kind eyes laced with sorrow
I wanted to explode.

I know that it is sad news
Right from the very start
The way he takes my hand in his
A handshake from the heart.

He clears his throat, diverts his eyes,
And nervously he speaks
This news he starts to give me
I’ve dreaded now for weeks.

The cancer’s taking over
Dad’s body is so frail
The chemo’s wreaking havoc
It’s putting him through hell.

It’s time to end this torment
Fully place Dad in God’s hands
Completely seek His wisdom,
Accept His divine plan.

I don’t know how to tell him
He’s fought so hard and long
He’s tried so hard to beat this
He’s tried to be so strong.

I know he trusts God’s guidance
I know he trusts His plan
But I also know he’s human
After all, he’s just a man.

I bow my head in silence
God’s wisdom now I seek
Please give the words I need to say
Don’t let it sound so bleak.

It’s then God speaks so softly,
He reminds me of His love.
He brings to mind the many joys
Awaiting up above.

He talks of signs and wonders
I’ve yet to see and know
His love and His compassion
Is great and overflows.

He knows the plans He has for me
For Dad, for Mom for all
To prosper, not to harm us
He will not let us fall.

So I give You my dear father,
To do with as You will
A miracle of healing,
Or a home on heaven’s hill.

I know Your grace will guide us
Whatever lies ahead
You gave us hope eternal
When you died for us instead.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Peace, be still."

I awoke a few minutes early this morning (fewer minutes than I had prepared to awaken) to spend time in prayer before this crazy day began. I had trouble sleeping last night...partly because my mind was still on holiday, and partly because it was busy reclaiming issues I had placed in God’s hands earlier in that day.


After hitting the snooze button for the third time, I mustered the energy to drag my sleepy self to the living room and plop down on the couch. As I came in for a landing, my mind began whirling with the overwhelming day ahead. I immediately began laying my requests before God. So many concerns came to mind that I found myself near the point of panic. Tears streamed down my face, my heart breaking with untamed emotion.

It was at this point I experienced a moment I hope I never forget. It was as if someone firmly grasped my arms bringing me into the present quieting my mind. In the midst of the deafening silence I heard a gentle, soothing voice clearly say, “Peace, be still.” God brought to mind the events surrounding when Christ spoke this command in the days of the New Testament, “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. “And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?”--Mark 4:37-40

Wow! My Heavenly Father had been up long before me, just waiting for me to come to Him. He already knew I was in the midst of the storm. He already knew the waves were beating against my ship and it was now so swamped that I could go under any minute. He wanted me to know that He has my back. He's chillin' in the back of my boat (okay, so I am taking a little liberty with the scripture here...). He isn't afraid...for me or for Himself. He holds the power to calm the seas. He holds the ability to keep me safe. He keeps me safe in the roughest of waters. He keeps me safe in the darkest of nights. He keeps me safe in the strongest of winds. He even keeps me safe when walking through the valley of the shadow of death. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Psalms 23:4

The promising command was clear, and my heart and mind could do nothing but obey. Tears ceased flowing, and a sense of strength rose from deep within. My soul drank in the peaceful quiet. Reminders of God’s faithfulness began coming to mind, and requests were followed by thanksgiving and praise. I was reminded anew that God is in control, and I have only begun to know the wonders of His matchless grace and love.

My heart still aches, my anxious soul still seeks wisdom, but in the midst of it all I know I can rest in the fact that I am held fast in my Father's arms, that He understands all I feel and that I can entrust all those I love into His loving care.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!


Today is the birthday of one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, gracious women that has ever walked the face of the earth, my precious Mom. How do I put into words what you mean to me? How blessed I am to still have you as a part of my life. I'm sad to say I have often taken for granted the ability to pick up the phone to hear your voice.

This past couple of years, I have gained a deeper appreciation of just how priceless our time is together. I have recently watched two dear friends lose their mothers long before their time. Watching these daughters who were also young mothers brokenly saying their final goodbyes, my heart ached, and I was reminded of just how blessed I have been. I am so grateful for the opportunityI have been given to share so much of my life with my Mom.

From big events, like the birth of my children, to simply sharing a laugh over the phone...these moments are etched in my mind and tucked away in my heart.  I wouldn't trade them for all of the money in the world. You gave me wonderful memories of being loved and cared for as a child. Memories of stopping what you were doing to take the time to let me crawl into your lap to read a story. Memories of you sitting on the end of my bed listening to me cry and tell you about my fears. Memories of you literally having to drag me to school because I would much rather have been at home with you. Memories of you lovingly taking care of me whenever I was sick. Memories of you praying with us at night before tucking us in. Memories of you loving me and standing by me through those awful teenage years. Memories of you lovingly wearing that dirty diaper yellow dress I made in homemaking the year you were 5 months pregnant with my little brother...and on Easter Sunday to play the piano, no less! (Now, that's a mother's love.)

You did this and so, so much more. The times you held me and listened to me cry after my world fell around my feet after my marriage came apart at the seams. The times you helped me while I was a single Mom raising three children alone, desperately wishing I could provide for them even a small portion of the love and security I felt as a child. Memories of the many prayers you prayed for us all. Memories of your love and memories of your encouragement that helped me to forgive and to move on to love again.

I could go on forever citing countless ways that you have given of yourself to so many who have needed your kindness. You have allowed Christ's love to shine through your loving, gentle personality that so illustrates your aptly given name...Grace. I am so proud to be your daughter, and I pray we have many years of laughter, love and memories ahead. I know this has been a tough year for you, but you have handled it all with such dignity and, of course, with grace. My wish for this birthday is that the toughest of days be filled with peace and joy, and that the good times far outnumber the bad. I also want you to know I am here for you, as you have been for me. I love you, Mom. You are a precious mother and friend. Happy Birthday!

Your forever grateful daughter,
Cindy

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I have made a commitment to write a poem to each of my grandchildren, but I also promised myself that I would wait until the inspiration hit to ensure each poem was unique to each child. I wrote Randy's poem not long after we found he was going to be a part of our lives. The inspiration for Hollie's came from a nickname that Charlie gave to her. Tiffanie decorated her room in butterflies, and the theme stuck with many of her baby accessories. We had the opportunity to go visit her in Indiana when she was only a few days old. It was a wonderful trip, but it was so hard to leave her there. Everytime we saw a butterfly it made us think of Hollie. Well a couple of months ago, her Paw Paw started calling her his July Butterfly. That led to Hollie's poem. Love you little girl.

My July Butterfly
A poem to Hollie
By Cindy Hester (Maw Maw)

With hair of gold and eyes of blue, you came into the world,
A little taste of heaven, a precious little girl.
I held you tight within my arms, as hours passed on by
With grateful eyes raised to the skies, my July Butterfly.

Your tiny hands amazed me, each detail, crease, and line,
A masterpiece... perfection... exact per God’s design.
Your story yet unwritten, “Protect her, God,” I cried
My thankful hands raised to the skies, my July Butterfly.

I want you to remember, as you mature and grow
No matter what your choices, no matter where you go,
My love will always be there, and when I’m not close by,
With hopeful eyes gaze at the skies, my July Butterfly

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Message From God

There were many blessings resulting from even the darkest days during Dad's fight with cancer. There were also those exhausting struggles and trials that threatened to pull us under the current of fear and despair. I guess one can never be prepared to helplessly stand by watching a loved one slowly fading away.

It was after one of those days that I was making my way back home from the hospital in Lufkin...my heart heavy and my mind tired. Dad had been so, so exhausted. His speech was slurred, he could barely hold his head up, and he had fallen asleep three times during his daily outing in the wheelchair . I had unloaded on hospital staff during a frustrating, emotinally draining meeting that seemed to get us nowhere in the fight to understand why Dad was not improving.

I always found it difficult to leave him. I feared it would be my last chance to say goodbye and have him return the farewell. I knew you were not supposed to think that way, but such was the reality of dealing with a terminal disease like cancer. This day had been especially difficult for me. Dad was fast losing his determination and belief that he would see his home again, much less get better. Depression seemed to be setting in, and depression often leads to despair.

I had been driving for two hours crying out to God for mercy and direction. It seemed that the closer I got to home and to my husband, the faster I drove. I could not wait to get to the comfort of home. As I drove past a local church, I fought the urge to stop in for Wednesday evening services. My heart longed to be in the presence of God's people. I seemed to feel His very presence surrounding the complex.

I so desperately needed God's direction. Dad needed a change...a change in hospitals, a change in doctors. He needed to be moved to the medical center. He deserved be under the care of a group of phycisians who had access to cutting edge technology. He needed to be in a cancer facility that could concentrate on the latest set of issues resulting from his particular type of cancer, and one that had the resources to combat the effects of the intensive surgery he had undergone to remove the complex malignancy resulting from this cancer.

The surgeon had only been able to remove a portion of the malignancy that was attacking his body draining it of every nutrient and blocking body functions necessary to stay alive. The remaining cancer in both lymph nodes and surrounding area remained in tact. I had never felt so helpless. A change was needed and needed soon. As I drove, I continued to pray, begging God for his guidance and mercy. I cried out for peace if Dad was where he wanted him to be, and for urgency to act if not. The urgency to act only became stronger.

As I drove on through the tears, something drew my attention to my rear view mirror. My heart sank as I saw the red and blue lights flashing behind me. I carefully pulled to the side of the road mentally preparing for the lecture that was sure to come. Shining his light into my back seat, the officer cautiously approached my window requesting me to produce my driver's license. In a stern, businesslike voice he asked, "Where have you been?" I thought this was a slightly strange question, but I honestly answered that I was returning home from the hospital in Lufkin where my Dad was being treated for cancer. Seemingly unimpressed, he asked if I was aware of how fast I had been driving. I confessed that I had several pressing matters on my mind and that more than likely I was exceeding the speed limit.

The officer's expression softened slightly. He stood gently tapping my license on the ticket pad obviously pondering whether to write a ticket. He firmly reminded me that I would be of no use to my parents if I were to be killed or injured in an automobile accident. He lectured on about how I did not want to live with the responsibility of injuring or killing someone else as a result of my use of excessive speed. I nodded and agreed all the while fighting back the tears threatening to flood down my face. He handed back my license stating that it was customary to write a ticket for anything clocked over 77 mph, and I had been clocked at 80 mph. Under the circumstances and since I had a clean driving record, he decided to let me slide on this one as long as I promised to slow down and drive cautiously. I gratefully took my license from the officer and thanked God for His mercy because I had fully deserved that ticket.

I pulled back onto the road, and the officer pulled in right behind me. This made me nervous, so I pulled over into the middle lane. The officer followed suit. By this point I was beginning to feel a little agitated. I continued along, cautiously watching every move I made as I drove. This scenario lasted another ten minutes or so, and then once again I saw the red and blue lights flashing in my rear view mirror. My mind began racing trying to imagine why I was being pulled over a second time. Did I have an unpaid ticket I was unaware of? Did my husband? Was this a case of mistaken identity? Whatever I imagined at the moment surely ended with my being handcuffed and hauled off to jail!

As the officer approached the back of my car he said, "Don't worry Ma'am, you haven't done anything wrong." My mood immediately changed from being anxious to puzzled. The closer he got to the driver's side door I saw a completely different demeanor than that of the stern officer I had spoken with a few moments ago. Instead I saw an humble yet professional officer with something definitely weighing on his mind. He said, "You are going to think I have lost my mind, but I could not let you go any farther without getting this off of my heart. The moment I saw your car speeding past me, God impressed me to stop you. I most assuredly had reason to pull you over, and I definitely could have written you a ticket, so I thought I had satisfied God's requirement by letting you go without the ticket." He took a deep breath and nervously continued. "As soon as you pulled away, however, God kept impressing that I was not done. I have been arguing with Him over this for the past 10 minutes, but in obedience to Him, I had to surrender."

At this point he handed me a spiral notebook and a pen. He cleared his throat, then boldly forged ahead. "I would like for you to please write your Dad's name down so that my wife, my family and my church can pray for him by name." I broke down and began to sob. He continued, "I am a great believer in God's divine power of healing, and I have a strong church family of believing prayer warriors. I can see you are broken, but God wants you to know that everything will be allright...regardless of the outcome, He is with you all, and everything will be allright...just follow His direction."

I was completely blown  away by God's perfect timing. I was humbled by the fact that He used the most unlikely circumstance to reveal not only His mercy, but also His promise. I will be eternally grateful to the stranger who was obedient and brave enough to allow God's words to flow through him. This provided encouragement not only to me, but to my Dad and to each member of my family. This man will probably never know what that simple act of obedience meant in confirming that God not only exists, He cares. Nor will this man realize the many lives who will be touched by the sharing of this occurrence.

My prayer is that you too will experience God through the obedient actions of one of His children...Dear God, help it to be me...

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