A few days ago, a young man stepped into my husband’s office. It’s not unusual. Our church stands on the edge of a city. Many people approach him for help. But this young man didn’t ask for money. He asked to be baptized.
He’s going to be baptized this Sunday, my husband told me excitedly.
We were so excited. Of course we were! We love baptisms! We love it when babies get baptized, and my husband carries them through the congregation to meet their new church family.
But as beautiful and special and meaningful as infant baptism is, it’s the parents who request that for their babies. When a grown man walks in off the street and requests that for himself, you simply know that God is at work in powerful ways.
But would he actually show up? I wondered if he would be brave enough to come, early on Sunday morning. Continue reading →
It’s the first time there’s been no room for me to sit on the steps with the children as they gather to hear me read.
I look around, at all those little ones peering up at me, and somehow, it feels totally appropriate to kneel, in front of them, under the cross and flame. You’d think, with all those children, I’d be in a huge United Methodist church, perhaps in the big city of Grand Rapids. But I’m not… Continue reading →
When one year closes and a new one begins, hope is ushered in.
While we’re busy making our New Year’s resolutions, the master of new beginnings is waiting quietly in the wings, whispering hope into our hearts, just like this:
“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”
This is our great God of hope doing what God does best… assuring us that the past is the past; filling us with hope; cheering us on into this new year; encouraging us to keep moving forward; holding our shaky hands every step of the way.
I’m excited to announce that here on the blog, I’ll be starting something brand-new, and I want you to be part of it. Continue reading →
During the month of December, a jolly light up Santa would always stand proudly on our front porch. He was there, smiling to the world, ready to herald the arrival of Christmas. But a few years ago, we decided to upgrade to the Holy Family.
We arranged Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus on the front lawn, tracked down our extension leads, and plugged them in. Beautiful! The baby Jesus brought light to our neighborhood, which of course, is what Jesus always does.
My husband and I watched from the window as the children who lived in the street came to admire the display. It gave us a good feeling to advertise the true meaning of Christmas.
Oh Glenys… this is the phone call you never wanted.
I hear the tremor in my brother’s voice. He’s 4000 long miles away, and I say a prayer in my head.
God, whatever this is, give me strength.
Dad is dying.
I can hear those three words like it was yesterday. My heart is beating fast and I kneel by my front window like I always do when I don’t know what else to do.
That was one year ago today.
My little grandsons are running around the house. There’s Christmas music playing. I’m setting the table with a cheery red cloth, preparing for a party. And then the next day, I’m on a plane, England bound, where I get to kiss my dad for the last time as he lies with his eyes closed and his hands folded in that quiet, quiet room, with a stuffed dog at his feet and an acorn tucked in his pocket.
Please, God, let me know you are real.
Let my dad be living in heaven.
Let my faith not be in vain.
Let my words, let my words that I write for children, be true.
Because sometimes, just sometimes, there’s this little nagging doubt that creeps up inside me and I wonder what life is all about, and if I really will get to see my dad again, like I told him with absolute certainty on my knees that day in front of my window.
I love you Dad, and I WILL see you again.
I could hear his breathing.
My voice was strong, and in that moment, I was convinced, just like Paul, that NOTHING,not even death itself, can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But today, I’m not strong. I’m not convinced. And I’m trying hard to hold on to my faith, my God, like I’m drowning in the ocean and it’s my only life-line, my only hope and it’s slipping fast through my fingers.
But what is faith? What is hope, the writer of Romans said, if it can be seen?
The day after I kissed my dad goodbye, as he lay in that simple wooden box, I stood in the street just a few doors down the road, while my sister and nieces played Christmas carols in the brass band. The icy wind blew my sister’s hair, and the rain in Wigan was cold. I wondered if my dad could hear them play his favorite carol, as he lay there, all alone.
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
I know my dad has been raised. I know my dad has gained that second birth. I just miss him terribly, and there’s this big, empty hole in my heart that no one can fill.
And so as my family gather in England today to celebrate and remember the life of the most Christ-like man I have ever known, the one I was utterly, utterly privileged to call Dad, I will take a walk in these Michigan wintry woods, and I’ll admire the splendid trees, all covered in soft snow, and I’ll listen for the birds he loved so much, and I’ll thank God that my dad, my wonderful dad, is in heaven.
The countdown to Christmas is in full swing. with just twenty days left and little lights twinkling everywhere.
My Facebook feed is full of folks sharing their newly decorated Christmas trees, and just to add to the magic of the season, it started snowing yesterday, at least here in Michigan. I woke up to this wonderful world of white right outside my window.
Christmas is coming. Jesus is coming. That little baby, hope of the whole world, light of all life.. He is coming.
Christmas is simply the best time to begin making memories and establishing family traditions with our children.
At my final blog stop in the Christmas Love Letters from God tour, I’m sharing ideas for seven meaningful, memorable family activities to enjoy around the Christmas tree. Be sure to check out number seven… that’s my favorite one!
I remember when my mum discovered ‘catalogs’… the perfect, stress-free way to shop for Christmas for all eight of us. We would pore over the pages, and then she would order what we wanted.
One year was a big disappointment. It must only have been a few days before Christmas when she broke the devastating news to an expectant ten year old:
Glenys, I’m sorry, but your pogo stick didn’t arrive.You’ll have to choose something else.
I didn’t want anything else. I wanted a pogo stick so I could boing up and down the driveway to my heart’s content. I don’t even remember what I chose as an alternative.
But what I DO remember is coming downstairs that Christmas morning, waiting patiently outside the living room for all my siblings to line up, and then opening the door to see…
a POGO STICK!
It had arrived after all, and my dad had dutifully hidden it away in the back of his wardrobe so it wouldn’t be seen. (He’d also forgotten to tell my mum). How excited she must have been to be able to surprise me with that gift after all.
I was a happy little girl, and spent the next several months boinging away happily to my heart’s content, up and down the drive. It was the best surprise ever.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without surprises. A little baby, in a manger, who would grow up to be King of the Whole World… what could be more surprising than that?
Traci Smith, a Presbyterian pastor in San Antonio, has a Christmas surprise for her two young sons. She wrapped up 25 books and beginning December 1st, they’ll open one book a day until the 25th.
I’ll never forget the thrill of writing the dedication in my first book.
This book is dedicated to the oldest and youngest members of my family…. I wrote.
To my dad, Harry Hughes, who first told me the wonderful Story of Jesus. And to my grandchildren, Xander, Sam, and Brixham, who are just beginning to hear the wonderful Story for themselves.
When I penned those words I was nervous. I wasn’t sure whether my dad, frail at 90, would ever be able to hold that book, or turn its pages, or see that it was dedicated to him, or even remember that his daughter was the author. But he did. I have the photographto prove it:
And how glad I was, because he never did get to hold my second book. He died while it was in the mail on its way to him, all wrapped up in Christmas paper, on route over the wide sea from Michigan to England.
If he could have opened it, he would have seen that I dedicated that book to my first granddaughter, newly arrived into the world.
For Colette, my first granddaughter, I wrote. How my dad would have loved to meet her, and lift her high onto his shoulder. But it wasn’t to be.
There is a time for everything, Solomon wrote, a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to weep and a time to laugh.
Isn’t that true?
When the time came for the third title in the series, Christmas Love Letters from God, I was ready when my editor asked, Who would you like to dedicate this book to?
I knew, straight away, whose name would be printed in the front of this book, and why. And so when Laura Sassi, children’s book author, welcomed me to her blog, and asked me to share the story behind its dedication, I was happy to do so.
Do you know who I dedicated Christmas Love letters from God to?
Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, this first grandson of mine managed to turn five years old, swiffed his blonde hair to one side, and knocked on the doors of kindergarten.
Gone are the days of painting at grandma’s and singing songs at the library together. Gone are the alphabet rhymes and the sensory bags filled with birdseed and pasta. My boy is grown up.
I picked him up from after-school for the first time just yesterday. I was there when the doors swung open and he jumped down from the yellow school bus, laughing and jostling and chatting with his little kindergarten buddies. I watched him swing his back pack onto his shoulder, his laces all undone and his blonde hair blowing in the wind.
He didn’t see me for a few minutes as I glimpsed into his new world. But then, his eye caught mine… and there he was after all, my little grandson running, running, and squealing with joy.
Gandma!!! he squeals in delight.
(Yes, that’s right… I didn’t mis-spell that word. He still calls me Gandma sometimes).
And I swing him high into the air, back-pack and all, and hug him close. All is not lost. This little boy still loves to see me, and he’s not embarrassed to show it… yet.
This is my Gandma Glenys, he announces loudly and proudly to all his friends, and hugs me tight around the legs as if I might escape. But where would I go… if not with him?
I tuck him into bed that night, and I tell him:
I love you to the moon and back.
He thinks for a minute, before he responds: I love you to… (a little pause here) the mountains and back.
How did he fill my heart like that? I kiss that little blonde head as he snuggles under the covers and closes his eyes.
And I think to myself, seize this time Gandma. Hold on to it like it’s the last thing you’ll ever have, because that gorgeous autumn tree, that one you took a photo of just the other day? It’s leaves are almost all gone.
And if I could hold on to a season, I surely would… before the ground is covered with what was once so lovely.
One of the most marvelous things about becoming an author is what happens next. And it’s marvelous because what might happen is totally unpredictable.
Time after time in this publishing journey, I have seen the principle of Ephesians 3:20at work in my life. And don’t you just LOVE how The Message Bible puts it?
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
Oh, yes indeed! Here’s five things I never, ever, in my wildest or craziest of dreams, could possibly imagine happening:
That I would hear, time and time again, how adults have been impacted by these books, not just little ones. (Which I guess just goes to show that although my target audience is children, God’s target audience is the world.)
That Christina Embree, a United Methodist Children’s Ministry Director in Kentucky would take Christmas Love Letters from Godand work out the perfect way for families to use it to journey through Advent and into Epiphany together. (I am the author, and I have never thought of using the book in that way!)
I don’t know what your dreams are… for yourself, or your children, or your future, but what I DO know is this:
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!
There is nothing that our great God cannot do.
So keep believing! Let the wonderful, mysterious Holy Spirit keep working quietly and deeply within you.