Monday, December 6, 2010

From Jhen: On Getting Baptized

(From Lessons I Learned From My Kids When I Was Supposed to Be Teaching Them)
On Getting Baptized

When she was five years old, Jhen relentlessly asked us if she could be baptized.  My husband, Jim, and I were hesitant – neither of us were keen on infant baptism, and we  weren’t sure Jhen knew exactly what it meant to be baptized.  She had prayed at the dinner table to receive Jesus into her heart many weeks previously, but baptism?  Such a big step for a  such a little lady!
One day, after worship service, our little lady ran off, and we were quite upset:  it was against our rules to run off away from our line of sight.  We eventually found her talking to our Pastor, and the scolding I was about to give her never happened as I watched her skip happily toward us, her face beaming.
“I told Pastor I want to be baptized,” she announced breathlessly.  “I told him I already asked Jesus into my heart a long time ago.”
A few nights later, Pastor came over to counsel her.  He talked to her about salvation, being born again, growing spiritually, et cetera, and he did his best to use words a five-year-old could understand.  I sat in another room and asked the Lord to lead and guide Pastor and us as we “witness” to our little girl.  We didn’t want to be hindrance to her spiritual growth, but baptism?  Such a big step for a such a little lady!
After Pastor left, I tried to talk to her and ask her about her decision, and all she did was complain about the fun she was missing outside as her sister and friends played.  Oh, well, I thought to myself, so much for that.  Baptism?    Too big a step for such a little lady.  
Later that evening, I was eventually able to coax her with a fudgesicle to join me in the back patio to have our discussion.  I asked her if she knew what sin was.  She said sin was doing something that makes God sad.  I asked her if she ever sinned, and she said yes, and that made her a sinner.  I asked her what sin does.  She said it keeps people from being with God.  I asked her if she knew what Jesus did for her sin.  She told me Jesus’ blood washed away her sins when He died on the cross;  she went on to say that she asked Jesus to forgive her for all the times she made Him sad.  Such a big thought for a such little lady!
Then I began talking to her about being born again, and spiritual growth, and all that good stuff.  I noticed that her eyes began to wander, and I knew I had lost her.  When I came to the part about the Bible being our spiritual food, I finally regained her attention.  Her eyes lit up as she her words came out.
“Momma, ‘member when Jimmy was just born, you had to feed him ALL THE TIME?  That’s like when you and daddy and Pastor Mark and Miss Janet tell me stories from the Bible or you ‘splain to me what the verses mean --  that’s like you’re all feeding me spiritual food, huh?”
She continued, my little lady, to “’splain” to me that as a baby  gets older, Mama has to be careful not to give food that’s too hot – Baby would get burned; too hard or too big – Baby would choke; or too spicy – Baby would get an upset tummy.
As she went on, my prepared speech on conviction, commitment, and competence went out the window.  Sure, she was still a little girl, and if she accepted Jesus as her Savior, it didn’t make a difference whether she were baptized next week or next year.  Baptism was not required for salvation, but it was the first step of obedience.  Who was I to stand in her way?
First things first, Mom, hold off on the meat.  Give her the infant formula that she can easily digest, and we’ll go from there. 
Such a BIG lesson from such a little lady.  She was baptized the following Sunday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In a Heartbeat

In a heartbeat, two souls meet and suddenly two hearts beat as one.

In a heartbeat, a harsh word or an angry glare changes the course of an evening, but in the next heartbeat, a gentle word of love and grace changes the course of a lifetime.

In a heartbeat a dream becomes reality, and a shell of a house becomes a home filled with love and laughter.

In a heartbeat, reality becomes a nightmare, and a life full of love and laughter becomes an empty shell, and the heartbeat stops.

In a heartbeat, the world falls apart as a heart shatters in a million pieces and nothing will ever be the same. But in each broken piece is a heartbeat.

In a heartbeat, there is hope.

In a heartbeat, there is healing.

In a heartbeat, there is life.

One heartbeat at a time.

We miss you. Our hearts are broken that you are no longer with us, but we will go on, one heartbeat at a time, until we meet again. Until then, rest with Jesus as we rest in Him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When God is Your 911

When God is your 911, the 411 is that all things work out 828.  Romans, that is.

Exactly a year ago today, I received a phonecall from my brother that  my nephews were in a serious car accident.  One of them walked out of the hospital the same day.  The other did not.  The first seven days, we didn't know if he would ever make it out of the hospital.  The rest is HIStory -- how God used what could have been a tragic accident and turned it into a triumphant incident.

A picture may be  worth a thousand words, but this video is worth a thousand tears and ten thousand hallelujahs.

Monday, November 29, 2010

From Jimmy: On Giving Versus Getting Rid Of

(From Lessons I Learned from My Kids When I Was Supposed to Be Teaching Them)

On Giving Versus Getting Rid Of

            When Jimmy was about 8 years old, he collected  trading cards, mostly basketball cards.  There was always something about the way his eyes would light up when presented with a fresh, unopened pack of trading cards.  He would carefully PEEL the packet open, and then slowly fan the cards to see if he got a “good” one.   He would set aside the cards he deemed were “worth SO much” (mostly Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant ones) and then discard the rest of the pack into his “give to Momma’s class” stack.  He was meticulously careful about not folding corners, leaving smudge marks, and keeping his valuable cards in mint condition so as not to lose their value.
            One day, some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time came over for a visit.  Jimmy wanted so much to give something to these friends, so he asked his dad and me if we would care if he gave a gift to his friends.  We told him, no, we didn’t mind, and that he was being very thoughtful and generous.  While the grown-ups visited, the young ‘uns traded cards, and we heard squeals of delight, and Jim and I shared a secret smile, knowing Jimmy had just bestowed his gift upon his friends.
            Later, after they had left, we asked Jimmy how his gift-giving went.  He said his friends LOVED his Kobe Bryant mint condition rookie card.  HIS KOBE BRYANT MINT CONDITION ROOKIE CARD!  His dad and I saw red when we heard.  “Son, you had all these other Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan mint condition cards – triples of them!  Why didn’t you just give away the ones you had a lot of?  That was your one and only rookie card!  That was worth a lot!” I cried.
            He looked at us, puzzled.  “I know that, Mom.  That’s why I gave it,  because it was worth a lot.  If I gave them one of the other ones I had extras of, I wouldn’t have been giving a gift, I would have just been getting rid of a card.”
            Then he went back to rearranging his trading cards.

How often do we deceive ourselves into thinking we are giving to God and His cause, when all we’re really doing is getting rid of our extras?


Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Am Thankful...

...For my parents who loved Jesus enough to get me to want to love Jesus too…
...For siblings who were built-in playmates – our escapades never cease to make me smile…
...For a hero uncle who rescued a little girl…
...For a princess aunt who didn’t believe everything she heard about me, instead gently reminded me that I am loved…
...For a pastor friend who cried at the thought of not seeing me in Heaven someday, and who introduced Jesus to me; I was 10, he was…old (well at least to a ten-year-old!)…
...For a pastor’s wife who invited us to their house for lunch the first time we visited the church, and has been a great friend ever since…
...For in-laws who never saw me as a competitor for their son’s affection; rather, they see me as contributor to his success…
...For life-long friends who’ve had my back when others sought to stab it…
...For a daughter who fights for the underdog, and for her husband who fights alongside her…
…For a granddaughter whose smile lights up a room, whose laughter brightens my day, and whose hugs warm my heart…
...For a daughter who faces her fears by serving her Savior, and for her boyfriend who served beside her…
...For a son who follows his heart, and for his wife who walks beside him…
...For the boy who loved me for who I was back then, and for the man who loves me for who I am now…
...For a Savior who loved me from the start and will continue to love me without end
...For God from Whom all blessings flow.
I am thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Beauty of Grace

     One day, Jhen got grounded for not doing her chores, so she was confined to her room for the remainder of the day. It happened to be a particularly beautiful day, so Jacky and Jimmy went outside to play in our big backyard.
     While Jacky and Jimmy frolicked in the immaculately kept grass, Jhen was in her room with her face pressed against the window, watching her sister and brother as they enjoyed the freedom of the outdoors.
     “Daddy, can Jhenny come out to play?” asked Jacky.
     “She’s grounded,” replied Jim, “so she has to stay in her room.”
     “But she’s looks so sad and lonely,” observed Jacky. “Can’t you please let her out early?”
     “She didn’t do as she was asked, and she was warned. If you don’t want her to be lonely, you could always go inside and keep her company,” suggested Jim.
     “But it’s such a pretty day, Daddy. It’s a day made for playing outside! What can I do to convince you to let her come out and play?” Jacky ventured.
     “What do you suggest?” countered Jim.
     “Well, if you let her play with us today, I’ll take her place tomorrow,” Jacky offered hopefully.
     “You’re willing to be grounded tomorrow just so Jhen can play today?” asked Jim with surprise.
     “Yes, Daddy. Please, let her come out to play?” insisted Jax.
     “But Jacky, you’re supposed to go to Disneyland tomorrow with the Buskirks!” reminded Jim.
     Jacky looked back at the window where her sister was longingly watching Jimmy, and a momentary shadow crossed her face as she thought about what her dad had just said. Then, with tears in her eyes as she thought of the sacrifice she was about to make, she said, “I know, Daddy. But it’s today that I want Jhenny to come and play. So if you let her come out and play now, I’ll be grounded for her tomorrow. I won’t go to Disneyland with Heather. I’ll call her, she’ll understand.”
     Jhen got to go outside to play in the sunshine with her brother and sister, and Jacky still got to go to Disneyland with Heather and the Buskirks.

     Such is the beauty of grace.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

Words & Music: Hal­dor Lil­le­nas, 1918  

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!

 Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned,
Saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder,
Giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power,
Making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven,
For all eternity;
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Ten Commandments of Marriage

Ten Commandments of Marriage
Current mood: content
Category: Romance and Relationships

I wrote this for my friend Jackie about 15 years ago, and have recently found it. Thought I'd share it with all y'all.

Thou shalt have only God before each other. Your relationship to God should be the only one more important than your relationship to each other. No one else, not relatives, parents, children, nor friends, should come between the two of you.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any ideal images of each other. Accept your spouse as he or she is, not how you would want him or her to become. Let God be the One to make the changes in both of you. Don't place undue or unfair expectations on each other.

Thou shalt not take the vows you have spoken in vain. Your marriage vows are more binding than any contract you will ever sign. They are spoken before your friends, family, and your God. To take them lightly would make a mockery of what God has made holy.

Remember thy anniversary and keep it holy. Yes, holy. Holy means set apart. Each day with each other should be special, but set this day apart to remember and rekindle the fires of your early times together. What you do or give does not have to be expensive, it just has to come from the heart.

Honor thy spouse's mother and father. Remember, anyone who could love your spouse as much as you do can't be all that bad! Keep them in your prayers, as God will use them to give you wise counsel just as He would use your own parents.

Thou shalt not kill thy spouse's self-confidence. Words spoken carelessly can kill motivation or confidence. Instead, choose your words wisely so that you may build and lift each other up. Then back up your words with actions that show how special you think your spouse is.

Thou shalt not steal time from each other. Your time spent together is special and you must guard it carefully. Do not let the matters of the world take away from your joy in each other.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy spouse. Put-downs and insults, even in jest, can wound deeply. Instead give well-deserved praise and avoid criticism. Remember that "constructive criticism" rarely is. Speak highly of your spouse to others, and the only person who should hear your complaints about your spouse is your spouse.

Thou shalt not covet thy spouse's triumphs. Instead rejoice in your spouse's every accomplishment. Marriage is not a competition, it is a commitment for better or for worse!

Thou shalt not commit adultery. End of discussion.

JoAnn Hammer

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I've Got the Blues

 I'm feelin' blue.

Have you ever seen the ocean when it is calm and absent of whitecaps? When it is dark, dark blue, shimmering with the light from the sun as it peeks over the horizon at sunrise, with the promise of a bright, new day? That kind of blue.

Have you ever seen the sky from 7000 feet, free from smog created by man? When it is clear, dark blue, with not a speck of clouds, not a hint of storm, fresh with the promise of peace? That kind of blue.

Have you ever looked in someone's eyes when there's no one else but the two of you? When those eyes are deep, dark blue, full of laughter, love, and life with the promise of friendship? That kind of blue.

Thank you, Lord, for the blues.

Monday, October 25, 2010

MomSense Monday: From Jhen, Spell-A-Thons and Silver Dollars

Spell-A-Thons and Silver Dollars

When Jhen was in kindergarten, one of the PTA fundraisers was a Spell-a-thon. All the kindergartners in her school were given a list of 50 words. They had two weeks to learn the words, and gather monetary pledges for each word spelled correctly. Students who spelled all the words correctly – a hundred percent – would also get a shiny, fresh-from-the-mint silver dollar. 
Jhen came home with her list, excited. Her goal was to get all the spelling words right for one reason only: she wanted that silver dollar. She vowed to do whatever it takes to learn all the words.

“What would you do with that silver dollar?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise!” she whispered with an air of mystery.

She studied her words diligently, and nagged us to quiz her several times a day. At school and at home, she would write her words in order, again and again, going through several pencils and pads of paper. Before her prayers each night at bedtime, we would give her a “practice test”. I would correct her test, put a giant 100 % on top of it, and she would smile her secret smile as she got one night closer to her silver dollar. While I asked friends and neighbors for pledges, she asked God to help her “get a hundred”.

On the night before The Big Spelling Test, as I was getting paper and pencil ready for her final practice test, Jhen stopped me. “I’m not practicing tonight, Mom,” she informed me. “Tonight I’m just gonna relax because I already know I’m gonna get that silver dollar.” So she said her prayers, ending it with “and thank You for the silver dollar.”

As expected, she came home the next day with the shiny silver dollar, still in a sealed cellophane bag. “Now will you tell me what you’re going to do with the silver dollar?” I begged as I hugged her.

She flashed a giant grin as she whispered in my ear, “I’m gonna give it to Jesus!”

“Jesus will love it! Dad and I and Jesus are SO proud of you – you worked so hard!” I pulled out a dollar bill, and told her she could give the dollar bill to Jesus, and we could put the silver dollar in her scrap book. She refused. I offered her a five dollar bill. Still she refused. Finally, I told her I’d give her a twenty-dollar bill to give to Jesus if she’d give me the silver dollar to put in her scrap book. Adamantly she shook her head.

“Mom, I didn’t work hard for the $20 bill. I worked hard for the silver dollar, and that’s what I wanted to give Jesus!”

That Sunday morning, Jhen reverently placed her shiny silver dollar, cellophane and all, in the offering plate. And somewhere in one of the dusty boxes in the garage, is an old silver dollar taped to a $20 bill taped to a yellowed page in her kindergarten scrapbook.

Jesus doesn’t look at the face value of a gift, He places value on the heart of the giver. 

Jhen in her Valentine Tea Party Garb in Kindergarten

Sunday, October 24, 2010

People to People

    I used to love it when Uncle Bobby and his brothers would come down from San Francisco, because that meant learning new songs having  a jam session with "the band".  Uncle Bobby taught me how to sing harmony -- the note that wasn't written in, but he heard it in his head, so he had me singing the same section over and over and over until I got it right, and then he would bring all the vocal parts in one at a time until I got used to hearing MY part and how it sounded with the rest.  I miss that.
     I also knew that I'd learn a new song whenever he would visit.  Sometimes he'd call me ahead of time, tell me what song he wanted me to learn, and on what record I'd find it.  The following song is one of my favorites that he taught me.

How do you share the love of Jesus with a lonely man?
How do you tell a hungry man about the Bread of Life?
How do you tell a thirsty man about the Living Water of the Lord?
How do you tell him of His word?

How do you tell a dying man about eternal life?
How do you tell an orphan child about the Father's love?
How do you tell a man who's poor about the wondrous riches of the Lord?
How do you tell him of His Word?

How do you tell a loveless world that God himself is love?
How do you tell a man who's down to lift his eyes above?
How do you tell a bleeding man about the healing power of the Lord?
How do you tell him of His Word?

People who know go to people who need to know…Jesus
People who love go to people alone without Jesus
For there are people who need to see, people who need to love,    
People who need to know God's redeeming love.
People who see go to those who are blind without Jesus
And this is People to People, yes,
People to People all sharing together God's love.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WifeSense Wednesday: Off the Wall

I woke up that morning…well, I didn’t actually  wake up because I hadn’t slept at all that night.   Who could sleep when you had a date with Bud Stud?  OK, so it wasn’t a date, more like an after school  field trip -- to a German movie with the German Club.  The plan was for him to pick me up, and we would all go to Carl’s, Jr. and then to Ventura College where a German movie was playing.
After that first note, we started writing each other letters;  not love letters per se, more like “I-think-I-might-like-you-like-a-lot-lot”  letter, and we’d exchange them during second period.  He also started walking me to my classes, and even carrying my books.  A couple of  times, after school, he came over to my house during weed pulling time, and he helped me weed the lawn.  He got more weeds pulled in ten minutes than I did in ten days.
He even met me at the Ventura County Fair  on the day of the parade – we had arranged to meet at the gate where the drill team was going to be dropped off .  He told me that he had won a stuffed animal, but he gave it to Alice.  He bought me lunch, but didn’t  buy any for himself – he said he wasn’t hungry  (I found out later that it was because he was broke).  We walked around in companionable silence until it was time for him to be picked up, and that was the end of that.
As a senior, Bud Stud had last period dismissal, but one day, he surprised me by meeting me at my locker after my last class.  He took my books from me, and began walking  me toward  the girls’ locker room where I had to get changed for drill team practice.  When we stopped just outside the locker room, he shoved the books into my arms, and before my face could register surprise, he leaned over quickly, kissed the side of my mouth, and then took off running.
The next time I saw him, he asked me if I wanted to go with the German Club to watch a movie on Friday night, and handed me a permission slip.  The next day, I gave him the permission slip signed by my dad, and told him I’d love to go.
The morning of the German Club movie was Oktoberfest, and I had the morning free from class.  The first hour, I had free, but the next two I had to work at the Drill Team’s Orange Julius booth.  We had agreed upon a meeting place, where he was already waiting when I got there.  As soon as I said hi, a pair of  boys with fake badges accosted me with a warrant for my arrest, which said someone had purchased a fifteen minute jail time for me for having long hair. 
Actually, it was two back to back sentences, both purchased by Bud Stud.  To give him credit, he stayed outside the jail talking to me the entire time… he said he like having me as a captive audience.  Once I was free, we walked around the quad and looked at different booths until it was time for both of us to serve in our respective booths. 
We agreed to meet again at lunch, which we did, and sat together on the grass in the middle of the quad.  When the bell rang, we got up to walk to class, and right by the stairs where we usually parted ways at this time, he stopped and out of the blue asked, “Would you go out with me?”
“Where to, and when?” I answered.
“I mean would you be my girlfriend?” he clarified.
“I have to have my parents’ permission,” I replied.
“O.K.” was all he said before he left for his class.
He was waiting for me at the end of class, and handed me a slip of paper.  “Here,” he said, “I’ll pick you up at 5.”  And then he was gone.
The slip of paper was another  German Club field trip permission slip, but the part that  said  “my child has my permission to attend the German Club field trip to Ventura College  from  Friday, October 20, 1978  to Friday, October 20, 1978” was crossed out in red ink.  Above it, in the handwriting I’d grown to recognize and love, also in red ink, it said, “JoAnn Cajiuat has my permission to be Jim Hammer’s girlfriend from Friday, October 20, 1978 until October 20, 1979.
I got home and  handed the permission slip to my dad.  “What’s this?” he asked.
“Jim Hammer  asked me to be his girlfriend, and I would like to say yes.”
“It’s fine with me if it’s OK with your mom,” my dad replied.  I  hugged him and kissed him on the cheek after thanking him, and ran into their room where my mom was putting on make-up.
Nay (Tagalog for Mom), Jim Hammer asked me to be his girlfriend, and I would like to say yes, and Tay (Tagalog for Dad) said it was OK with him if it was OK with you.”  Then I handed her the permission slip.
She laughed, got a pen, and signed where it said  “Parent Signature”.  Then she said, “You can be his girlfriend for a year.”
I thanked, hugged, and kissed my mom, and then ran upstairs to get ready for my “date”.  But before I started, I took down the other pictures off my Wall of Fame, including Bud Stud’s.  I ripped up the others, but Bud Stud’s – I mean Jim Hammer’s – I pinned back on my wall, the one right next to my bed.
I was indeed his girlfriend for a year.  Or two.  Or thirty-two.
That was 32 years ago.  Today, for lunch, in celebration of the day he asked me to be his girlfriend, Jim “Bud Stud” Hammer took me out to lunch – at Carl’s Jr. where he took me for our first dinner date, right before the German Club movie.  I’m still his girlfriend, and he is still my Bud Stud.
20 October 2010.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Totally Random Tuesday: "Your Will, Lord, Not Mine."

     In May 1994, after suffering from debilitating headaches for more than 5 years, I received news that that rocked my world, not the good kind. I had been going to a chiropractor for a year, to help with my headaches, and was waiting for my insurance company to approve neck therapy. The news came from Beaver Clinic's Insurance Review Board: Request has been denied. Call your neurologist as soon as possible.
     I called my neurologist, and they had been waiting for my call. I was told to have someone pick up a neck brace from the clinic, and I was to wear it at all times, and I was not to drive, and I was to not to make any sudden, jerky movements, and I was to avoid being in a car as much as possible, since if I got rear-ended at a stop sign, it could be fatal, or at the very least, could cause permanent paralysis.
     So, I did what they said: went out only to church and medical appointments. I went to a neuro-surgeon, the best in the West Coast. He told me my problem: a congenital defect -- I was born without the dens (that's the bone on C2 that supports C1 and helps your skull pivot and roll). My neck muscles had been keeping C1 in place, but as I was getting older, the neck muscles were getting weaker. Whenever I look up, down, or turn left or right, C1 was sliding into my spinal cord, causing all kinds of problems with my organs and their functions.
     The solution: Take some bone from my hip, use it to fuse C1 and C2 together. Take 2 3-inch titanium screws, and screw C1 and C2 in place. Just for good measure, take 24 inches of titanium wire, and tie C1 and C2 together.
     The good news: there is a 90% chance of complete recovery (just no more bungee jumping) and only a 10% chance of paralysis.
     The bad news: the procedure is so close to the brain stem that one little glitch could be fatal, but Dr. Abu-Assal was known for his steady hand. There is a 50/50 chance of surviving the procedure (but 90% recovery should I survive). I would have to wear a halo for 6 months (that's a brace that's secured by four screws attached 1/4 inch into the skull), and a neck brace for the rest of my life. The operation would take about 4 hours.
     The decision: Go for it. I was scheduled for surgery August 19.  Sometime in June, after a doctor's appointment, I took a detour to Wal-Mart, and they had set up a temporary glamour shot studio.  I got glamour shots done, and paid $300 for a 17X20 canvas oil rendering of the shot of my choice.  I did this because I wanted a nice picture of me to put on top of my closed casket should I not make it out of the operating room alive.
     Sunday, July 31, 10:45 AM: Coming out of Sunday school, I lost feeling on my entire left side, and then I passed out. I was taken to the hospital, and they ran a slew of tests that ran into the next day. They bumped up my surgery to Monday, July 31 at 5 PM.
     Monday August 1,  5:00 PM: several people from church were in the waiting room, praying. I had an I.V. already in, I had said see you later to Jim, and I was waiting alone in the holding area for the anesthesiologist.
     While I waited, I talked to God. I reminded Him I had a 9-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 6-year-old at home. I gave up my schooling to be home with them, and it would be cruel to take away their mom. I reminded God that I had given my spare time in service; that if I wasn't at home serving my family and friends, I was at church serving Him. I reminded Him that I was the best person to be the mom for my kids, and hadn't He chosen me for them in the first place? So I told Him I'd better wake up from this surgery.
     Monday August 1, 7:30 PM The surgical team came in with the news: No surgery that night. As they were setting up the instruments, they noticed that the screws were not the right kind. They were sure they got the right ones, but on the double-check, it was confirmed that the screws were not the 3-inch titanium ones needed. They'd been scrambling to find the right screws, making phone calls to other hospitals, with no luck. They ordered the right ones from the manufacturer, and at best they should arrive in 3-5 days. In the meantime, I couldn't eat anything in case they have to do any emergency surgery for anything.
     Tuesday, August 2,  5:00 PM: While other patients were being served dinner, I was frustrated, discouraged, and utterly defeated in my hospital bed. I had been reading my Bible and singing praise songs in my head all day, and by this time, I was ready to talk to God again. I thanked Him for my family and friends, for blessing me with the time at home with my babies, and for Jim who would continue with raising them in a godly home if I didn't make it. Then, I finally said, "Lord, You know best. I am now ready for Your best, even if . . . especially if . . . that means I go home to be with You. I know You will not abandon Jen, Jax, and Jimmy. Help them to remember how much I loved them. I know Jim will rely on You - help him to remember You'll always be there for him. So I'm ready. Lord, Your will, not mine." I felt an overwhelming sense of peace as soon as I said "not mine", and I fell asleep.
     Tuesday, August 2,  5:25 PM I woke up, looked up at the clock, it was 5:25 (5 is our family code for I love you, and 25 is 5 fives, one five for each of the five Hammers), and I was reminded of God's love. At 5:30, Dr. Abu-Assal and his nurse Dexter came in with the good news: Loma Linda just happened to find two of the exact screws we needed, about half an hour earlier! The surgical team had been summoned, and surgery scheduled for 7 PM that night.
     Wednesday, August 3, 3:00 AM After a 7-hour operation, I woke up in the recovery room with nothing but a Philadelphia collar (the styrofoam kind). Jim came in the room, shocked at my bruised, bloated face, and the sight of the collar. He had been expecting a halo. He called the nurse, who looked at my chart, and in a panic, paged Dr. Abu-Assal. Dexter came, and explained what happened: when they opened me up, they saw that the base of my cervical bones were thicker and wider than normal -- another congenital defect --, and would secure the screws without the help of the halo!

Wednesday, November 1, 1994:  
I was back at work as a substitute teacher.

Today I am a living testimony of God's love, grace, and provision. God's way is WAY better than mine, and I am humbled to know that He kept me as the "best" wife and mom for Jim, Jhen, Jax, and Jimmy. I still pray "Your will, Lord, not mine."  I originally wrote this blog in 2002.  My prayer remains the same.  Even now.  10.19.10




Monday, October 18, 2010

MomSense Monday: On Heat and Shadows

Lessons I Learned from My Kids (When I Was Supposed To Be Teaching Them)
     He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1
On Heat and Shadows
     One particularly hot Sunday morning, when Jimmy was around 4 years old, I was detained on the way to signing Jimmy in to his Sunday School class. While I chatted with a friend, I watched Jimmy in front of me, looking like he was dancing his own version of the “Hokey Pokey” in the middle of the church courtyard. He lifted his right arm over his head, then straight out to his side. Then he stuck his right foot in front of him, then out to his right. He did the same thing with his left foot.
     When I was done with my conversation, I began to walk toward the Children’s Building, and Jimmy was intently watching the ground as he maintained an even distance ahead of me. Thinking to outwit him, I began to slowly walk in a zigzag path, and sure enough, he maintained the distance between us, but I remained behind him.
     When I stopped, he stopped. When I zigged left, he zigged left. When I zagged right, he zagged right. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me. “Jimmy, what are you doing?” I asked.
     “I figured something out,” he replied, without turning to face me. “Look at your shadow, Mommy,” he instructed. “Can you see my shadow?” he inquired.
     “Nope,” I replied, “I don’t.”
     “Now watch,” he commanded as he raised his hand over his head. “Now, do you see my shadow?” he questioned.
     “Well, I see the shadow of your hand,” I answered.
     “Well,” he continued matter-of-factly, “every time I can see any part of my shadow, I can feel the hot on that part of my body that’s not in your shadow. So, I’m staying in your shadow so I don’t feel the hot!”
     Then he “followed” in front of me to his Sunday School class, making sure he was protected from “the hot” by staying in my shadow.

Any part of ourselves that is not in the shadow of the Almighty will definitely “feel the hot”.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Makin' the Moves

Bud Stud couldn’t wait to get home from the beach so he could get to his yearbook.  According to Alice, two girls thought he was cute.  He  knew one of them – she had been in a couple of his Spanish classes with Mrs. Ontiveros, but he also knew she had a boyfriend.  He’d seen her at the park with Juan, and after that fiasco at the prom, he had made up his mind to stay clear of girls with boyfriends.
He turned to the sophomore section of the yearbook, looked for her name, and at first glance, he thought to himself that his parents would never approve.  His friend Rob flat out said, “NO WAY!”  His folks expected him to someday date a nice All-American girl – preferably blond and blue-eyed like himself.  Nope, this was NOT going to wash with his parents, but he thought he’d ask around anyway.
None of his buddies knew her, but from what Alice had said, she was squeaky clean, didn’t have a boyfriend, drives a van with “JESUS SAVES” in red, glow-in-the-dark lettering on the back.  Not a problem, as long as she doesn’t push religion down his throat.  She was also on drill team, and they were practicing at school everyday for the rest of summer until school started.
So, he and a couple of his buddies went to Channel Islands’ campus to watch the drill team practice, and sure enough, there they were, and there she was.  She looked nothing like her yearbook picture,  but his friends still didn’t think she was worth his time.  But hey, SHE liked HIM.  She had his picture up in her wall.  That right there demanded he MAKE time to learn more about her.
One of the perks of being vice-president of the German Club was that he got to work Registration, and got to register for classes early.  He had seen her at the orientation meeting, so he knew she would be working at the Foreign Language table with Mrs. Ontiveros.  He’d already registered for a class with Mrs. Ontiveros for Spanish 3, but he found out that she was taking Spanish 3 with Mr. Varnava, so while she was on a break, Bud Stud walked to the Foreign Language table and asked Mrs. Ontiveros if he could switch classes.  It was a lot easier than he had thought, because Mrs. Ontiveros was grinning at him from ear to ear when she switched his homeroom to second period Spanish class with Mr. Varnava.  “She’s a very sweet girl,” winked Mrs. O conspiringly.
On the first day of school, he was early to Mr. Varnava’s class, and sat at his assigned seat.  He recognized people as they trickled into the room – Gale, Norma, Gricelda, Debra – all nice girls.  Then SHE walked into the room, looked at the seating chart, sat at her assigned seat:  front row, in the center of the class – and began chatting with Gale.  He walked quietly to Mr. V and asked for permission to sit behind her.  Mr. V nodded with a grin, and  he picked up his books, moved to the seat directly behind her, and sat down.  This was going to be a great year.
A few weeks later, he decided he was going to take a chance and make his move, but he’d never done this thing before.  At least not since sixth grade, when Lucrecia became his “girlfriend”, but he blew it when just as she closed her eyes for their first kiss, he had run away instead. 
So now, how does one tell a girl he likes her?
“How does a guy say that he likes a certain girl?  Was that the way?”  the note began.  I had found the note tucked in my Spanish textbook, written in pencil on lined notebook paper in neat, rounded cursive. 
I was on cloud nine, ever since the day Bud Stud asked the teacher if he could move his seat to the one behind mine.  He never said much, except to answer a question in his marginal Spanish. 
I looked forward to Period Two, which was homeroom and therefore fifteen minutes longer than other classes, and it was also Spanish 3.  Sometimes, when the bell rang at the end of class and I stood up, I’d feel a sharp sting in my scalp, and I’d find a strand or two of my hair wrapped around the screw at the back of  my chair. 
Sometimes I’d get up and feel unfamiliar weight on my head, and as I would spin my head around, pencils would start flying around me…tied to single strands of my hair.  Sometimes there would be only one pencil, but more often than not, there would be three or four or more.  I’d look around, but no one would make eye contact with me, and most especially NOT Bud Stud.  Even Gale would just smile at me.  So, I would walk out of second period trying hard to hide a smile, with my head held high and pencils hanging from my hair.  Sometimes a pencil or two would fall to the floor, with a strand or two of hair still attached to it (hmmmm…that might explain my lack of hair now!), but I didn’t care.  I picked them up, and during third period I’d carefully remove the other pencils from my hair, and add them to my ever-growing pencil collection at home.
So, after weeks of silent, speechless torture, instead of my hair tied to the chair or pencils hanging from my hair, there was this note, and it said he liked me.  Bud Stud liked ME.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friendship Friday: Armie

When I was I elementary school in the Philippines, we used to play long jump at recess. The object of the game was to jump a particular distance, and we usually used someone’s shoe to measure. If any part of your body touched the starting line or the distance marker, you were out. We always started at three shoes. Each player took a turn jumping, and once everyone had a turn, the next round started, and the marker moved another three shoes (keep in mind, we were 8/9-year olds, and Filipinos had small feet).

The first few rounds were really easy, and most of us were very silly in the beginning. Some would take a running start, stop inches before the starting point, and just step over the marker. Some would just casually walk over it. Still others would create elaborate steps and dance movements and dainty walks, just to get over the marker. And so it went, until the first person was out, then we started to get serious.

If you got OUT, you can call on someone to “save” you, and if that person clears it, you are safe. If, on the other hand, the “saver” touches any of the markers, you are out and so is the “saver”. The only time you couldn’t be saved was when there were only two players left.

Now, those of you who know me know that I am not an athlete, and I have never been. However, not one for being left out, I always played long jump. Of course, I never took it seriously, I played just to fit in. I never even had to put any effort in it, because there was one classmate who always saved me.

Armie, even in back in second grade, was the most athletic person I knew. She could outrun, outjump, out-hit, out-DO all the girls AND ALL THE BOYS in our grade, and I, like the rest of my classmates, was in awe of her. I used to LOVE to watch her -- I was sure she was flying! She absolutely excelled at recess! She was also one of my closest friends, and I knew I could count on her to save me if I asked her to. And because I often asked Armie to save me, I often took second or third place, and we all knew that Armie would take first. In every game, though, I always got out, albeit towards the end.

There's only one time in my recollection that I didn't get out. It was in 4th grade, and the distance to jump was at least three times my height. I remember thinking, “How in the world did I get this far in the game? I can’t jump that far! (but in Tagalog of course, because my English at the time was not quite so extensive)” I was just about to give up when Armie grabbed my arm and said, “JoAnn you HAVE to try. I can’t save you if you don’t even try.”

So I went back as far as I could, took a running start, and at the right place, closed my eyes and took a giant leap. I was airborne for what felt like an eternity, and then one foot touched the ground, and then the other, and I ended up in a crouched position. I opened my eyes, and there was the marker – at least a yard in front of me, and I was crestfallen. Then I heard her say the words: “ I’ll save you. If you ask me to, I will save you. Trust me.”

And so I said, “Save me!” and got out of the way. Armie took a running start, and then she flew, and landed effortlessly on the other side, clearing the distance with room to spare. With a big grin, she ran to me and cried, “See, you’re saved!”

Just then the bell rang to end recess, which meant the game was over. I remember being on cloud nine the rest of that day because for once in my life, I was not out, because a friend had saved me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thanks: My GPS

     I am very thankful for the built-in GPS in my car – I try not to leave home without it.  It has taken me to places I never would have dreamed of, through which I never thought to drive, (like the Antioch Bridge between Lodi and Antioch, pictured below);  areas through which I wouldn’t  normally pass; and routes which I didn’t even know existed.

     I wish I could say that car’s nav system keeps me from getting lost.  Au contraire – I am almost always lost (for this reason, I give myself an hour’s head start so that I am only half an hour late going to unfamiliar places).  My nav system merely CONFIRMS that I AM lost!
     Part of the reason for the constant disorientation is the fact that my brain has a difficult time processing left and right directions, as well as North, South, East, and West.  It might have something to do with mild sydlexia.  When The Voice says “In the half mile, make a right turn, then immediate slight right,”  for some reason the car turns left, and then I’d have to watch Sarge (that’s what I started calling The Voice, because it is so bossy) recalculate.
     Sarge isn’t without drawbacks.  After all, the system is only as good as the input.  For example, just today, I plugged in the address for Jim’s work.  It took me to an empty field across a Toys R Us warehouse.  I’d been to Jim’s work in Stockton before, and I didn’t remember a Toys R Us warehouse.  I didn’t realize that the difference between 1976 W. Charter and 1976 E. Charter was 4 miles of road, 20 minutes of traffic. 
     A 5-year old software can also cause problems.   For instance, today, Sarge told me to take the Antioch exit.  THERE IS NO LONGER AN ANTIOCH EXIT!!!  The freeway signs now say Charter.  It was a good thing I was watching the blue line on the screen, instead of the road.  I was able to take the Charter exit which was labeled Antioch on the screen.  Never mind that it took me to Toys R Us instead of Caltrans!
Still, even with all its drawbacks, I am thankful for Sarge, because I know that even with unexpected detours and other bumps in the road, Sarge will eventually get me to where I need to be.

     There is another GPS  upon which I rely – this one has no errors, no miscalculations, is never outdated, and will never steer me into a questionable direction or situation, and would NEVER put my well-being in danger.  When I was lost, it steered me to The Cross.  It gives me the direction I need, and even the routes I need to take.  It tells me that although I CAN go there (All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. I Corinthians 6:12a), I shouldn’t.  This GPS – God’s Problem Solver – is my Bible.  I don’t leave home without it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Momsense Monday: On Knowing His Voice: Learning from Sheep and Soccer

Lessons I Learned from My Kids (When I Was Supposed to Be Teaching Them)

On Knowing His Voice

I am the Good Shepherd.  I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . my sheep listen to my voice;  I know them and they follow me.   John 10:14, 27

            Right before a soccer game one Saturday morning, Jacky anxiously came up to me with a look of panic in her face.  She had known that her coach would be out of town that day, but somehow she had hoped he would be there anyway. 
            "Mom!" she wailed, "Coach Dan isn't going to be here today!  Coach Bob is taking his place!"
            "So what's the problem!" I asked.
            "I won't know what to do.  I'm used to looking for him in the sidelines and hearing his voice to tell me what to do.  Now I'm afraid.  Pray with me, Mom, please?"
            So the two of us walked off, and prayed that God would keep Coach Dan safe, that Coach Bob would be able to coach the team wisely, that Jacky would remember all that Coach Dan had taught her, and that there would be no injuries.  We also asked for victory, but Jacky added that if the other team needed the victory more, that would be OK, too.
            The first half of the game was exciting, but our team was behind by two goals.  The girls seemed tired and discouraged, and seemed to have given up.  At half-time, Jacky came over to me very frustrated. 
            "They're giving up, Mom.  Some of them aren't even listening to Coach Bob, they're just giving up." She looked up at me with fierce determination in her face.  "Well I’m not giving up.  I want Coach Dan to be proud of me, and I'm gonna play like he's here!" 
            And so with that resolve, she rejoined her team.
            In the second half, true to her word, Jacky played her heart out,  and Jacky scored two goals to tie the game.  Her spirit of determination caught on, and the team scored another goal to win the game.
            Afterwards  I asked Jacky what made the difference in the second half,  since Coach Dan still wasn't present.  "Easy," she replied, "I tried to remember everything Coach taught me, and even though it was Coach Bob saying it, it was Coach Dan's voice I heard in my head.  I could hear him say, "Go wide, Jacky, go wide!" or "Not down the middle, Babe!" and "SHOT, JACKY, SHOT!"  I didn't listen to all the yelling from the side, I just concentrated on hearing Coach Dan."  Then happily she skipped off to join her teammates.
            "My sheep hear my voice," said the Good Shepherd, "and they follow me."   Jesus isn't with us in body right now, but we know He'll be back, we just don't know when.  Until then, though, we all have decisions we have to make, paths we have to follow, and risks we have to take.  The Good Shepherd may not be physically in sight for us to obey, but we can listen for and hear His voice and follow it.  We know what He expects from us, and so we do it.
"SHOT, JACKY, SHOT!"  Take a risk, my child, take the shot.  Remember everything I've taught you, and then do it!
~ o ~
            Coach Dan and his team took the League Division championship, and  went on to take his team to the Commissioner's Cup finals, with a season record of 12-1-1.  His All-Star team went undefeated to first place, but that is another lesson on another day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

He’s Everything To Me

When I was a little girl, there was a song that I loved to sing, especially in times when things weren't going the way I hoped they would go.  My dad had brought back an LP album named Suzanne Johnson:  Suzanne Goes Folk and one of the songs on there was "He's Everything To Me".  I remember playing it over and over until I memorized all the words, and I would sing it in my head whenever I could -- walking to the jeep stop at the top of Torres Bugallon on the way to school, walking back to school after lunch from my friend Brenda's house,...anytime I was lonely or upset, happy or just thinking, I would sing this song.

He was everything to me then...

In the stars His handiwork I see, in the wind He speaks with majesty
Though He ruleth over land and sea,what is that to me?

I will celebrate Nativity for it has a place in history
Sure, He came to set His people free…what is that to me?

‘Til by faith I met Him face to face and I felt the wonder of His grace
Then I knew that He was more than just a god who didn’t care – who lives away out there and

Now He walks beside me day by day ever watching o’er me lest I stray
Helping me to walk the narrow way –

He’s everything to me…
He’s more than a story – more than words on a page of history
He’s the air that I breathe, the water I thirst for
And the ground beneath my feet – He’s everything…
…everything to me.

...and He's still everything to me now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Beach Buds

I had to be at work by 3PM, but it was only 10 in the morning, so I decided to take my siblings with me to the beach.  It was the end of July, the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, and we hadn’t been to the beach much, and school was starting in a month, so today was as good a day as any.  In fact, registration was in three weeks, and Drill Team practice started in a week, which meant this was my last week to go to the beach.
I had gotten my driver’s license in March the second half of my sophomore year (never got held back in school, only “back started” since the Philippine and American school years did not coincided, and whereas I should have been placed in 6th grade when we moved to Guam, they put me in 5th grade instead supposedly because of my limited English), and so gone were the days of riding bikes to Bubbling Springs or to the Library.  My family had a white 12-passenger Chevy Sport Van with 18-inch, red reflector  “JESUS SAVES”  lettering in the back.  I became the chauffeur of what was dubbed The Hallelujah Mobile (THM). 
So we packed THM with blankets, straw mats, towels, and a cooler full of junk food and we headed to Hueneme Beach, picked out a spot, set up camp, and began our favorite sport:  boy watching.  To my dismay, we had forgotten our pair of binoculars, so  my ever resourceful sister Jean fashioned one by touching the tip of her forefinger to the tip of her thumb on either hand, putting them together, and began scanning the shore with her makeshift binoculars.
“Hubba-hubba” she crooned, “Fox alert along the edge of the water.  Two of them!”
“Lemme  see,” I shrieked, as I grabbed her binoculars, nearly knocking her sideways toward me, and I peered through her hands. 
“Make your own binoculars,” she laughed, and yanked back hers.  “I think that’s Rick Dionne!”
Per Jean’s instructions, I fashioned my own pair of binocs and scanned the shoreline.  Sure enough, there they were, Rick Dionne and another fox, kicking the water as they walked along the edge.
“Oh my gosh, that’s Alice!”   exclaimed Jean at the very same time I gasped, “Oh my gosh, that’s Bud Stud!”
Alice was Jean’s classmate, and Bud Stud’s photo currently occupied the Far Left spot on my bedroom’s Wall of Fame.  In case you forgot or haven’t read,  there were five photos on my Wall of Fame, ranked in order, Far Left being the one that, should Serendipity cause him to meet me, was most likely to get a yes if he proposed marriage.
For a while, we just enjoyed boywatching (ok, so I drooled and imagined myself walking barefooted on the beach, hand in hand with Bud Stud) for a little bit, and then Jean got bored.  She jumped up and announced, “I’m gonna talk to Alice.”
“Alice! Alice”  Jean called, waving her hands over her head.  I watched in horror as Alice turned around, and ran toward Jean.   They met halfway, exchanged a few shrieks and giggles, and then Alice and Jean were both running toward our blanket.
“What’s this I hear about you being in love with Bud Stud?” asked Alice.
“I’m not in love with him, I just have a huge crush on him,” I clarified, “but YOU CAN’T TELL HIM ABOUT ABOUT IT!”
“Why not?”
“Just ‘cuz!  Besides, I just think he’s cute.  I don’t know enough about him to be in love with him.”
“Liar!” accused Jean.”She has his picture on the wall in her room and she watches him pass by our house every day with googoo eyes!”
“I’ma go tell him” grinned Alice.
“Alice, please don’t,”  I begged.  Then I covered my face with the current classic literature I was reading and lied down, hoping the sand dunes would hide me from Bud Stud’s line of sight.  I didn’t think Serendipity would be  kind enough to strike me dead with a lightning bolt on a cloudless day at the beach in the middle of Summer.
To my great consternation, Alice announced again, “I’m telling him.  He needs to know!” and off she ran.
My sisters gave me the play by play of what was going on, but I wasn’t listening, I was too busy planning rest of my life.  Maybe I could go live with relatives in the Philippines.  Maybe I could join a convent, then dismissed the idea – one had to be Catholic to become a nun.  Maybe I could…
“They’re gone,” announced Jean.
With a great sigh of relief, I took the book off my face and sat up.
There he was, along the edge of the water, just standing next to Alice, who was pointing at me.
And then he lifted his arm, held it up for a few seconds, and waved.