In Quietness

It is the wee hours of the morning. I have just completed a list of things in preparation for what is now today. Stopping, I am taken with the quietness. There are no cars speeding past, no noises from the apartment above me, no emails flying in requiring a reply, no phones ringing. All is at rest seemingly.
What a perfect scenario for basking in the presence of God without distraction. When sitting down to read God’s Word, even soon after rising, I find myself so distracted with the cares and plans of the day. There is a constant re-focusing and a frustration that my concentration is not what I would like it to be. Thus, during this brief respite, I will rehearse the goodness of God and offer to him the praise and Thanksgiving due unto his name.

God and I have shared some sweet moments in recent days as I have once again been confronted with my own mortality. The latest CT scan shows that the cancerous tumors in my lungs continue their steady, albeit small, growth. The paralyzed vocal cord is directly related to one tumor specifically that is putting pressure on a nerve. While I do not sense that my demise is imminent, I do sense that my time is drawing nearer. We are still talking years, but not many years.

Thus we have diligently sought to know the mind of God: Do we continue pro-actively fighting this disease? In all the reading I have done on the particular ovarian cancer cell that is now in my lungs, I have learned that it is a rare form of ovarian cancer, that it seldom metastasizes. It is further characterized as slow growing but very tenacious. I have not read that this cancer is curable. The praise and thanksgiving to God is that I have survived over 20 years since the original diagnosis! They don’t track survival rates beyond 10 years because most women who have ovarian cancer do not live that long!

Recently the Lord spoke to me through Hosea 6:11, “Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee….” It was as if the Lord was saying, “You have something to look forward to but your work is not yet done. If you expect the harvest I have set for you, you must continue planting, watering, tilling – working!” So, with great quietness of spirit, peace of mind, and fervency of heart, the approach is to continue a protocol that we trust will give physical strength and stamina to “keep on keeping on” as Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., so often admonished his “boys and girls.” If any healing occurs, it will be because God ordains healing. We are not focused on healing. We are focused on doing the will of God from the heart as long as he gives strength and enablement.

In discussing various options with my family recently, one of my sons said, “Mom, nothing you do will alter the number of days God has ordained for you.” That helped to confirm in my heart that regardless of how many days are left, I want them lived well and “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6).

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord be praised!

Another Husband for Mother

Mother continued working in a local hospital where she met another patient who fell in love with her. By this time, the divorce from Vernon was behind her, my sister and I were well into high school, and some of those six brothers were pressing on towards the teen years. No doubt Mother was feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of continuing as a single parent. One week before my high school graduation in May 1963, she married Kelsey. He was a good man who worked for the state of Arizona maintaining a stretch of unpaved mountain road out from Globe, a city about 80 miles east of Phoenix. It was obvious that he loved Mother and wanted to take care of her. He was even willing to be a father to the boys; but as time would prove, he came a little late to that task. Nevertheless, he did his best.

I was no longer attending a Nazarene church but instead had been invited by friends to an independent Bible church where I was growing in the Lord and had a strong youth group for fellowship. Through the influence of the youth pastor, I felt the Lord wanted me to attend a Christian school in South Carolina, so I made application and began working to earn money for college.

In July, Mother took my sister and the boys with her to Globe. Because of work, I stayed in Phoenix. They were enjoying an afternoon at Roosevelt Lake when tragedy struck. My seven-year-old baby brother, who had been sitting on a rock with Mother monitoring his every move, suddenly fell off the rock into the water and was immediately sucked down into a deep hole. Mother, who could not swim, instinctively dove in but could not reach him. She subsequently passed out and somehow floated to shore. My sister and brothers were witness to all of this. Miraculously, just as this was happening, Kelsey, who had been grading the road that day, was the first person on the scene. My brother’s body never surfaced, and divers had to be called out to retrieve it. Mother told me later that when she came to in the water, she knew she could not save Lloyd. The faces of all her children kept flashing before her face. She knew she had to make it to shore and save herself for their sakes. Seems there were lots of miracles at Roosevelt Lake that day.

It was at my brother’s funeral that I realized I had a different view of death than most people. Yes, there was a sense of loss, but I was excited that he was in Heaven with Jesus! However, that excitement kept me from fully entering into the grief my mother was experiencing in the loss of her child. Credit youth and immaturity if you will, but I soon learned the depth of her grief when I received a letter from the college to which I had applied. Without my knowledge, Mother had written the school saying she did not think it was a good idea for me to enter in the fall, that I did not have the finances and she could not help. The school was asking me how I wished to proceed in light of my mother’s letter to them. In her mind, she had just lost her youngest in death. Having her oldest go so far from home for college was akin to losing another child. Out of respect for Mother, I agreed to postpone college. In God’s timing, he allowed me to enter school in the fall of 1964. Through his faithfulness and provision, I graduated four years later. Only one other of my siblings has obtained a college degree.

Today there are six of the eight Roberts children still living. I am the only one who does not live in Arizona. Years ago, we lost another brother who had fought in Vietnam. He finished his tour of duty and returned home only to be taken in a freak motorcycle accident. God even brought good out of that loss as several of his organs were donated to save the lives of others.

During my college years I was greatly burdened for the salvation of my brothers. At night from my bunk bed in the dormitory I would cry out to God for their souls. Finally, in a breakthrough moment God gave me the assurance that each of my brothers would come to know him. As the years passed, I watched God fulfill that promise.

To those readers who have followed this narrative of my childhood, the message that I pray comes through is that God is loving in all his ways, deliberate in EVERYTHING he allows in the lives of those who belong to him – and I belonged to him before I knew him because HE had chosen ME before the foundation of the world! That baby girl conceived in sin and reared in poverty and abuse was at all times under the watchful eye and protecting hand of a loving heavenly father.

There is much of God’s grace that was manifested in the ensuing years of marriage and rearing of my own children, and he may allow the sharing of those stories in due time. For now we will stop this narrative and continue in another vein – all for the purpose of displaying his glory in order to bring “Light for the Night – encouragement for the dark places of life.” The Lord be praised!

A Bright Spot

Writing from the perspective of years, I look back over my life and see how God was protecting and shielding me from many things. Even the fact that my childhood memories are so spotty is a blessing. But the recounting of my life and childhood would be incomplete without sharing the story of my salvation

We were faithful to the Nazarene church every time the doors were open. One of my brothers was born on a Sunday and Mother had him in church the next. He did not miss a Sunday for several years. The Nazarene church used to give out pins for perfect attendance. The first year pin was followed by the second year crest that encircled the pin that was then followed by bars for each succeeding year. The Roberts children each had long strings of pins. But church attendance does not a Christian make.

I believe I was nine years old when I understood that I was a sinner. It was during a Vacation Bible School week. If I could visit the Rose Hill Church of the Nazarene today, I think I could go to the exact pew where I got on my knees and asked Jesus to be my Savior. Even though in later years I would question my salvation, there is no doubt in my mind that this event was real and I knew what I was doing. Afterwards, I felt different, as if a real change had taken place. Because we were always in church, I don’t think there was a noticeable outward change. But I knew Christ was now in my heart.

The pastor was a good man who preached the Gospel along with Nazarene doctrines. I remember hearing many sermons on being “saved and sanctified.” The church believed there was a second step after salvation that believers needed to take called sanctification. There was also a great deal of emphasis on holiness. There was not any preaching on the security of the believer. Even though my grandmother “loved Jesus,” she was never secure in his love for her and always felt there was a chance she could lose her salvation. If you would ask my grandmother if she knew for sure that she was going to Heaven, she would say, “I hope so.” Then she would study her Bible, teach Sunday school and work as hard as she could be to be sure that did not happen. I was standing beside her bed shortly before she died. It was not until then that Mama seemed to have the peace that she truly was going to be with Jesus.

I had a Godly Sunday school teacher who loved the girls in her class. Everyone looked forward to being old enough to be in “Aunt Lottie’s” class. She had a quiet, serene demeanor and a smile that warmed your heart. I felt sure she lived the closest to Jesus that anyone could live, and in her presence I felt truly loved. She knew my home situation and tried to encourage my mother. What a sweet memory from my childhood – one of a very few.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact year in my life when Mother filed for divorce from Daddy, but I think it was when I was in the sixth grade. In time, she met a man through her nursing, one of her patients, who helped us move away from the house across the cow pasture from Mama. By this time, Daddy had been released from the hospital and was under a court order to stay away from us. Once the divorce was final, Mother married this man who had two children of his own. It was not a happy union.