Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Christmas Surprise

Author:  Susan L. Prince

About two months ago I began playing with the idea and plotting logistics.  It was then that I first realized that Christmas was on a Friday and then it dawned on me that the weekend after Christmas would fall on the work rotation that would normally be my weekend off.  I am a retailer however, and so many times during the holidays, it is virtually impossible to get any significant time off.  This has been accepted by my family and has been ever since I started a retail career in 1995. 

I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about surprising my parents on Christmas Day by showing up unannounced if my work schedule allowed for it and she said "do it!"  Being a Northeast Ohio native though, I also know that more plays into a trip up north than just a work schedule and that would be having to add the familiar phrase "weather permitting" as a coda to every travel plan. 

So I watched to see if I would indeed have Christmas weekend off, and when it was apparent I was going to, I started to watch the extended weather forecast.  I also needed to make arrangements to spend the night somewhere on the way to Ohio on Thursday night in order to get some miles behind me and get an early start Christmas Day to arrive with enough time to visit with my parents.  It is a ten hour drive from Humboldt, TN to Medina, OH, and I lose an hour on the way up, so I was hoping to arrive late afternoon. 

I was being particularly careful not to tell many people about my plans because I really didn't want somebody to accidently "forget" that it was a surprise to my parents and say something on Facebook.  Very few were aware and that helped to keep the secret under wraps.  I also had to find out if my parents had plans for the holiday, which they did, but that was all taking place on Thursday, Christmas Eve, when my sister and her family were going to be visiting.  So, Christmas Day was all clear!

Mom called me earlier in the week and I asked "so what are your plans for Christmas" and she told me that they were going to have a quiet day at home.  She asked me what my plans were and almost threw me off when she said "I suppose you have to work on Saturday".   Knowing I was not working and not wanting to lie to Ma,  I fumbled my reply a little bit but mustered an "uhh, I have plans for Saturday".   Whew.

My friend's parents live in Nashville and welcomed me into their home late Christmas Eve.  They didn't just offer me a bed for the night, they welcomed me with smiles, hugs and love.  What totally blessed me was that Ellen's mom and dad both rose early in the morning, 6:00am, to see me off.  Not only that, her mom cooked a great breakfast and we all ate together before my trip.  Who would have thought that we would all be up that early on Christmas Day when there were no children under the age of 37 in the house!  LOL   I left well rested and well fed.  It was an awesome beginning to my Christmas Holiday.  I was so excited and felt overwhelmed by the blessings I had already received that morning and I hadn't even left for home yet.

On my way to Ohio I started heading north on 65 toward Louisville.  I was talking with my friend on the phone while she headed to work in Jackson.  We were disconnected at some point and then I got a call from my mom.  She was calling to wish me Merry Christmas and she told me that she wished that someday I'd be able to make it home for the holidays, but understands it isn't so easy when one works in retail.  She asked what I was doing and I said that I was driving "home" from a friend's house in Nashville.   She assumed I meant to my home in Humboldt, TN, but I was meaning my home, HER HOME, in Medina, OH!  That was fun!  I was playing with words and she had NO CLUE!  I sure did enjoy that!

So, I drove and drove and drove for eight hours.  I was good until I hit Columbus, OH and then the drive was getting long and I was anxious to just get there.

A couple of hours later, when I was finally in Medina County,  I tweeted "I wonder what my ma is doing?" to which she responded "Was just wondering what Sue was doing. I am watching a little TV and crocheting.....oh, and missing Sue!"

She had NO IDEA that in a few minutes I was going to be knocking on the door and that I would be spending the rest of Christmas Day with her!

I got to the house and pulled in the driveway.  Because the living space of their house is at the back, I did not fear that they would see and/or hear me pull in, so as soon as I turned off the ignition in Janeway, I went up to the front door, sent a tweet "About to blow my parents' mind! First Christmas in 15 years that I am home and they have no idea I am at the door!" and rang the doorbell.

I stood a bit to the side so that I would not be seen through the window to the right of the front door.  The door opened but I could not be seen, nor could I see in, because there was a wreath on the outside screen/storm door in the line of sight.  I poked my head into the middle of the wreath and looked up to see my dad standing there.

I immediately said "Merry Christmas" and dad looked a little confused.  He had no idea to expect me to be there, so it caught him off guard, just for a split second, and then he exclaimed "SUE!"   He quickly worked to unlock the door and let me in and Ma, having heard dad say "SUE!", made her way from the kitchen to the foyer to greet me.  Dad gave me a big bear hug that only dad's can give.  It was a sweet moment.

Both of my parents had tears welling up in their eyes and then Ma had her chance to hug me.  Then Dad hugged me.  Then Ma hugged me.  I was getting passed back and forth!   It was AWESOME!  It felt so good to be in their arms!  I WAS HOME!

We were all so happy to see one another that not many words were spoken in those moments, so we just held on to each other.  One of the most favorite moments of my life for sure!

Then Ma had to go get the camera and post this pic on FB and captioned it "Oh my gosh, Sue just walked in the front door!"  

This Christmas surprise is one that won't easily be forgotten!  Oh it was fun!

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Testimony of Spiritual Growing Pains Through Friendship

Author:  Susan L. Prince

I have one of the best and deepest friendships one could have with my friend and sister in Christ, Katie. We became quick friends when I responded to her prayer request ten years ago. From that moment on, it was apparent that God brought us together to enjoy a friendship.

We have shared many laughs and deep conversations. We have loved deeply and served one another in different ways. We studied God's Word together and grew spiritually.  It was a relationship that set God at the center and as a result, our friendship flourished and we both were blessed by it.

As with any relationship, they often come with struggles.  Our friendship has not been immune to that, but today we can praise God because He grew us into friends, grew us through our friendship, and grows us through our struggles relationally to this day. We have been able to teach each other many things and for that I am ever thankful.  It has not been an easy journey at times, but I know "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." 

Many changes have occured in both of our lives over the past few years especially; the kids have both grown and moved on, Katie is now married and living in another state, and I am living alone in this house our "framily" once shared.  We are where God intends us to be at this time, and I am confident that the gift of friendship that God has given to Katie and me will continue for all our lives.

Recently I had the opportunity to share with Northbrook Church some of what I have learned through the mistakes that I made in my relationship with Katie and how I failed to yield my will to God's, especially with regard to submitting to one another and submitting to spiritual authority.  This sin of failing to submit resulted in me falling out of God's will and that naturally leads to suffering dire consequences, and in my case lead me into a spiritual desert place which I have shared about before. 

I shared last June on the Sisters' Weblog A Little Something I've Learned About Spiritual Authority.  (it is a three part series run back to back so you can read all of it scrolling up the page.)   The past few years have been difficult for both Katie and I, some of which is documented on this blog.  I know some of my actions and words have been hurtful to Katie and for that I am sorry, but again, Jesus is the Lord of both of us, so in His amazing ways, He is restoring our friendship to something even better!  I am forever grateful for His mercy and grace. 

I want to make available to you the testimony I shared with my church on Sunday, 11/14/09.  Sin had damaged my relationship with my Father, but His love is faithful and He used circumstances and His people to help open my eyes to spiritual truths that only He can teach me.  You can listen to the audio file of my testimony HERE, and catch the entire message Chuck delivered HERE.  Below I will include the list of six things I learned about this type of submission as a summary.

Things I learned about submitting to one another:
  1. We are to put aside our pride and recognize that we can be easily deceived.
  2. God puts us in a body of believers purposefully so that we can edify others and speak into each other’s lives – as iron sharpens iron
  3. Our brothers and sisters in the Lord love us and exist to encourage us in the Lord.  They do not wish to harm us.
  4. Those walking in the spirit have Godly insight into your life, and this is especially true for our spiritual leaders.
  5. God commands us to honor spiritual leaders – He has entrusted them with an awesome responsibility and He divinely equips them to watch over our spiritual well being.
  6. If we fear God, we will submit to one another because we WANT to promote His glory and we WANT to build one another up in order to fulfill our destinies in God’s plan.

Listen to my testimony delivered to Northbrook Church for the message "Submit to One Another"