2017 in review

00582D66-ACB2-4A7E-8022-40B752F905EAWhat a full, and unusual, year 2017 was. The highlight of the early part of the year was our 24th anniversary trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon. We had an amazing time. The first morning we were there I did something I’ve never done before: I read, journalled, and had coffee in bed. I felt I was in the lap of luxury. 

Cannon Beach is very beautiful and I’d recommend it to anyone for a vacation. Surely it is one of American's prettiest beaches. It's certainly the prettiest I've enjoyed. It has a quaint, lovely village with lots of good shopping. 

It was still pretty chilly, which allowed us to beat the tourists. The cool didn’t keep us from enjoying the beach. We read and napped on the beach, but we didn’t play in the water except for our one daring escapade which was the highlight of my vacation. 

Several weeks after our trip to Oregon, I went to New Orleans for my niece Emily's wedding. I loved seeing my sisters, nieces and nephews, but it was a whirlwind of a trip.

When I returned home, it was a blast to welcome my niece Mindi and her chillens to the Sunshine Coast. I enjoyed Mindi lots and her 10-year-old Ezra nuzzled himself right into the depths of my heart. What a sweet, gentle, enthusiastic child. We rented a limo to pick them up at the airport. What a hoot to see their expressions when they saw it.

In June, Daddy was told he would die soon with leukemia. I immediately went to Arkansas. The day after I got there, Stephanie and John Mark welcomed their fifth child, Remington Creede. What a delight to get to meet him shortly after his birth. He's my sixth grandchild but the first that I've met in the hospital. 

God blessed my siblings and me with lots of time with Daddy before his death. In June, we all gathered around him and he rallied well. I stayed for five weeks to help out before coming home. During my stay there I lost my job. I was wooed to the job by its flexibility and that I could have all the time off in the summer I wanted so, I wasn't too concerned about being with Daddy. As things unfolded it became clear that "all the time off I wanted in the summer" was too good to be true. It was a fun job and I miss the laughs, but I will never regret the time with Daddy. Losing the job was a small price to pay to have that extended time with him. 

I came home the first of August and was called back to Arkansas two weeks later. Daddy had taken another turn for the worse. I stayed another six weeks then came home again. Three weeks later, Daddy got really bad. I booked my ticket on the 19th and he died in the early morning hours of October 20. I had prayed regularly that we would all be with him when he died. In keeping with his private nature, he chose to die alone. My heart hurts to think that he was all alone, but as I learned in my hospice volunteer training, people often choose to die alone. I had hoped to pray, read Scripture, and sing him out of this life and into the next. It wasn't meant to be.

21522498-B123-4BB3-9171-218064B44F22We chose a casket that was made of barn wood. It couldn't have been more appropriate. Had we had all the money in the world, we still would have chosen it. It was perfect for Daddy. The first night we saw Daddy at the funeral home, he looked perfect and we were thrilled. It was an intimate time for us. I felt carried by our Lord and my siblings, although we expressed it differently, did too. Before we left, we said Psalm 23 together. It was a "God moment"; such a blessing to be inspired to do that and share that time with my brother and sisters. 

Before the funeral started, we played Daddy's kind of music - Hank Williams, Bob Wills, etc. - to go with a video of pictures of him. One thing I'd do differently given the chance, would be to have someone taking pictures and videoing the service. I missed lots as I was very "in the moment". I wish I could watch the funeral again and I wish I could see people's expressions as they watched Daddy's video and heard his music. The funeral was wonderful. Mindi (his favorite granddaughter) read his obituary and added some stories and laughs. Jimmy sang two songs, one being "On the Wings of a Dove." He sang beautifully; some of us joined him for the chorus. God blessed me with a special grace to give the eulogy. Miraculously, I wasn't very nervous, was able to deliver it well, and it received lots of laughs - mostly from the family. Dee, Daddy's best friend, led us in Psalm 23, Daddy's favorite scripture passage and one he and Dee read frequently together. Daddy had requested Donny Jewell preach his funeral. For Arkansas, it was a very custom funeral. I'm proud we did it that way. Daddy would have felt very honored by his funeral. There were lots of laughs, but lots of sweetness and respect too. He received military honors, a very touching aspect of the service. About six or seven old veterans solemnly saluted him and thanked him for his service. It was beautiful how much respect they showed and it made us cry. At the graveside, they presented Michael with the United States flag. The veteran, well into his 80's, knelt down in front of Michael and gave him the flag on behalf of a "grateful community." He ended by saying, "I knew him personally and he was a good man."

The funeral was well attended and a highlight of it was that the Torix family was there. What a blessing to see them. I appreciated their respect for us and Daddy so much. They had to drive several hours to attend. Another blessing was all Corkey's kids were there and joined us for the family dinner and the graveside. 

Daddy appointed Michael as his executor with me to do it if Michael could/would not. Michael chose not to do it, which left me with the position. It has been an honor, and again, God has graced me with what I need to do it, and I think, do it well. I had to stay in Arkansas several additional weeks after the funeral to fulfill some executrix-type obligations. One of the jobs I chose to do was cleaning Daddy's house. Daddy lived like a pauper and lived in squalor. I felt like I was honoring him in the huge job of cleaning his house and selling his "treasures." I made trip after trip to the thrift store, antique stores, and the dump. In the end, the house looked better than it has in decades.

When it was all said and done, I spent nearly five months in Arkansas this year. The time with Daddy and my siblings before and after his death, were truly the highlights of 2017. I experienced special graces the second half of the year that still amaze me. Ever since I started wearing my Brown Scapular and Miraculous Medal, the graces have rained down on me. But that's a story for a different day. Suffice it to say, I'm very grateful to Blessed Mom for her intervention and intercession in my life. She has been a game changer in my spiritual life.

Daddy left us a nice little inheritance. I invested most of mine in crypto-currencies and, at this point, have tripled my money. It is a risky investment, and I could lose it in a moment, but so far so good. As I contemplated putting my inheritance into that volatile market, I thought it would be easier to lose the investment, than not invest and regret it in a few years if it really did become the currency of the future. Another grace of the year is having more money than I've ever had before, yet being able to hold it with an open hand rather than a closed fist. That is a real God thing.

Gordon and I are both delighted that the year and its fullness is behind us. Despite a death, it was a year that was richly blessed. I'm very thankful to God. 


dear darian, the annunciation

AnnunciationDear Darian,**

Have you ever considered when the Trinity chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus? I never thought about it until I began to meditate on the Annunciation.

We know from Scripture that God is intimately involved in the process of us becoming people. He knit me in my mother’s womb.[1] He isn’t a distant God. He is real and up close to us, whether we feel him or not. If he was intimately involved in our gestation, imagine the attention given to the creation of the woman who would carry him in her womb. I can’t help but smile as I consider his joy in designing her. If we had the privilege of designing our mother, she would be the most wonderful person on earth. Perhaps Jesus hand-crafted her. I imagine him smiling as he chose each characteristic. “Dimples are cute. I’ll give her dimples.”

Did God tell the angels the plan of sending Jesus to earth to be born of a virgin? Imagine he did, and that at every conception on earth, they asked Jesus wild-eyed, “Is that baby going to be your mother?” One day he answered, “Yes, that’s my mother. She’s going to be beautiful; you’re going to love everything about her.”

As she grew in her mother’s womb, the angels took exceptional interest in her. Remember how awestruck you were at Holly’s ultrasound? It’s almost surreal to watch a child in its mother’s womb on a screen. Imagine that somehow the angels were privy to every detail of her being knit together in her mother’s womb. Mesmerized, they watched her development with glee alongside Jesus. Maybe before she was conceived, he told them stories of things she would do in her childhood. Maybe he told them some pranks he would play on her as a child on earth.  

And then she’s born and the angels spend the next 15 years watching her with admiration and interest. They’re curious how this crazy idea of Jesus becoming human will work. Finally, the big day arrives and Jesus, their beloved Jesus, calls all the angels together to tell them that it is THE day. Today Gabriel will go to Mary. He’d performed many missions, but this was the most glorious of all. He was elated. He loved Jesus beyond description and this girl he’d been watching for many years – oh my, how he adored her. He was delighted that he got to be involved in Jesus’ going to earth and that he got to make the annunciation to Mary. A greater honor he’d never known. The magnitude of this honor, well, even an angel sometimes feels stumped trying to express his elation.

The angels love Jesus. They spend their every moment loving and adoring him. This is a huge day. Their Jesus, is going to earth as a baby, but first this precious young girl must be willing to say yes! They know her well, they’ve watched her for years, but this request is huge. How will she respond?

Heaven is silent, as if all the angels are holding their breath, when Gabriel stands before Mary. He represents all of heaven when he speaks, “Hail, full of grace.” He calls her “full of grace,” rather than Mary. In heaven, did they call her Full of Grace as they watched her grow? From a heavenly perspective, might that have been her name? The angels stand in hushed excitement to see her response to Gabriel’s announcement. “The Lord is with you,” he says. The Blessed Trinity smiles. The angels loved her sweet voice as she asked how it would happen. They watched as her tiny hand instinctively touched her womb at the thought of Baby Jesus resting there.

Yes! She said yes. Did Jesus leave heaven at that moment to become an embryo? Did the Holy Spirit immediately overshadow her and conceive Jesus at that moment? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how those details transpired?

Love,

Valerie

[1] Psalm 139

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.


daddy's obituary

Curtis Houston Callahan 

May 8, 1933 - October 20, 2017

Curtis Callahan PhotoCurtis Houston Callahan died peacefully of leukemia at the home of his son and daughter-in-law on Friday, October 20, 2017. He was 84 years old. He was born May 8, 1933 in Potter, Arkansas to Herman and Delia Callahan.

He was a veteran of the Korean War era and was honorably discharged from the US Army in 1953.

He married Geraldine Piearcy in 1956 and they raised four children on the same farm he was raised.

As a young man, he worked in the timber industry in Colorado, Wyoming, and Arkansas. After all the children were born, he raised chickens and cattle. In 1985, he retired from farming and spent the next seven years working at Rich Mountain Manor nursing home, which he loved because of his penchant for caring for the sick and elderly. The last 10 years of his working life was with the Polk County Road Department.

Curtis had a rich social life. He and his friends held court most mornings at McDonald's. If the docket was full, they resumed at noon. He enjoyed visiting the sick, whether friend or stranger, and was honored to be a pallbearer at numerous friends' departures.

Curtis could tell a great and animated story. If he told a story about a dog, the listener could see the dog's tail wag. He kept his kids entertained with his odd idioms and colorful speech. "No. No. N-O, No!" "Don't argue with her. If she says it's cold in August, you better start shivering."

He enjoyed life: his flowers (where others might notice the weeds, he only saw the flowers); animals (he still mourned his beloved Jack Russell Tippy's passing); and his daily walk (he continued his walking custom despite shortness of breath and pain to the last week of his life).

Diagnosed with leukemia in June, he continued to enjoy life. He kept his wicked sense of humor and his many eccentric habits. He maintained the appetite of a teenage boy up to his last week. But his illness did provide one benefit: lots of quality time with his kids. They will be forever grateful to God for that privilege.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Herman and Delia Callahan, his brother, Corky, and his beloved one-year-old daughter, Debbie.

He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Lawana of Hatfield, his three daughters and their husbands; Diane and Steve Schultz of West Fork, Arkansas; Stacie and Jimmy Pineda of Boone, North Carolina; and Valerie and Gordon Dykstra of British Columbia, Canada; 16 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren, and his dear friend, Dee Roberts.

His funeral will be Tuesday, October 24 at 2:00 p.m. at the Bowser Family Funeral Home Chapel with Pastor Donnie Jewell officiating. Visitation will be Monday, October 23 from 6-8 p.m. at Bowser Family Funeral Home in Mena.

Pallbearers will be his grandsons: Jeff Shreve, Randall Shreve, Salomon Hernandez, Christopher Rose, Jordan Pineda, and Clay Newcomb. Honorary pallbearers will be his gang from McDonald's.


dear darian, the immaculate conception

ImmaculateDear Darian,**

Because Mary had the most important role in human history, our Lord took some extraordinary measures as he knit her together. He saved her, sparing her from original sin from her conception. This is the Immaculate Conception. (Many confuse the virgin birth of Jesus with the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being without original sin and the virgin birth refers to Jesus’ birth. This is a common mistake.)  

Many people get hung up on this dogma. I did. Sometimes it’s argued, where does it begin? If Mary needed to be immaculately conceived to bear Jesus, wouldn’t Mary’s mother need to be immaculately conceived, and wouldn’t her mother, . . . It wasn’t that Mary HAD to be immaculately conceived, but it was fitting for her to be. I heard a teacher, Dr. Taylor Marshall, liken it to the Queen of England roller blading in Central Park. It’s not impossible for her to do it, but it wouldn’t be fitting.

I had a hard time accepting the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. When I was studying it, the girls were on drugs. I prayed for their deliverance from drugs and recognized that it was only by God’s grace I never tried drugs. I was never exposed to drugs, therefore was never even tempted by them. God used that thought to speak to me. I was saved before getting into drugs and I prayed that God would deliver them from drugs. Both of us would be saved from drugs: me preemptively, them experientially. It was that train of thought that led to my accepting the Immaculate Conception dogma.

A favorite author of mine, Peter Kreeft, wrote this: Mary, too, needed Christ for her salvation, just as we do, but she was saved before she sinned, while we were saved after we sinned. It is like one person being saved from a disease by an inoculation to prevent it, and another person being saved from the same disease by an operation to cure it – by the same doctor.”[1]

Jesus was Mary’s before he was anyone else’s Savior. She knew him and worshiped him before anyone else. What a role to play.

Mary’s role in our faith is phenomenal. It seems I barely wrap my head around a truth about her before I learn of another one. But with each new awareness, I realize anew how profoundly her role is to take us closer to her son. She never, ever detracts from Jesus. In her Magnificat, she says, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” In a nutshell, that is her role. Her job is to magnify Jesus in a way that it’s as though he is under a magnifying glass. She holds the magnifying glass for us and Jesus looms larger for us.

Marianology was the hardest part of Catholicism for me to grasp. Before my confirmation I spoke to a priest about it. I reminded him that Jesus tore the veil to make it possible for me to go directly to him. Why do I need Mary? He said, because Jesus gave her to us as a gift. she was a perfect mother to him and he wanted to share her with us. His love is perfect and he doesn’t withhold good things from us. It’s not that we can’t get to heaven without Mary. But in his generosity and love, from the cross, he gave his blessed disciple John his mother. “Behold your mother.” And we, as his blessed disciples, are still enjoying the gift of Mother Mary.

Love,

Valerie

[1] Catholic Christianity, pg 410

**My dear son-in-law, Darian, was the first person I sponsored into the Catholic Church. He was the first in my family to see the Truth I saw. I wanted to help him along the way and started a book called, "Dear Darian."  In it I wrote about things I was learning, especially things I was learning through praying the rosary, hoping it would help him on his journey too. Well, Darian's spiritual life was on steroids and my little essays didn't seem needed as he was reading much greater minds than mine. So, my "Dear Darian," has instead become blog posts.


happy birthday, rachael

RachaelToday is Rachael's 22nd birthday. How she blesses us. She is prayerful, worshipful, and studious. She has a great personality, is funny, and comfortable in her own skin. She has a beautiful smile, is ambition, sows into the lives of others, and is not ashamed of the gospel. She is herself, never trying to be someone else. I love her so much.


my eucharistic miracle

HostThis time last year, I was selling insurance and hating it. I asked Gordon what he thought about me going part-time and he was opposed to it. On the Sunshine Coast, there's definitely not an abundance of jobs to choose from. I lived for weekends and most nights I went to bed with dread at having to go to work the next day. After Gordon said no way to my going to work part-time, I sank to despair.

I recalled the woman who was healed of her bleeding by touching the hem of Jesus's garment. I prayed something to this effect: "Jesus, I can hardly bear the thought of spending the next 15 years in this job. You can fix my heart and take away this loathing. Tomorrow at Mass, I will touch so much more than the hem of your garment. I beg you to help me. I'm sinking."

During communion the next morning, I took the Blessed Sacrament and instead of immediately putting in in my mouth, I said, "Jesus, I'm touching so much more than the hem of your garment. Please help me." Then I consumed the host. I felt no different, but I went back to my pew, knelt and continued to express how much I needed a new mindset. Later in the day I noticed I wasn't feeling the incredible Sunday afternoon and evening dread that I usually felt thinking about work. The next day I went to work and almost enjoyed it. Over the next few days, I realized there were a few things about the job I was starting to enjoy. Days and weeks passed and I found myself liking the job more and more. Not actually loving it, but definitely enjoying some aspects of it.  God had given me my first Eucharistic Miracle.


2017 goals

  • Five chapters of Bible audio with Gordon daily
  • Call Mama twice weekly
  • Call Stephanie and Christopher monthly
  • Kidney donor to Jason S. (potential)
  • Boiled eggs for breakfast (140 calories)
  • Daily lunchtime prayers for souls in purgatory
  • Daily rosary and Divine Chaplet 
  • RCIA
  • Philosophy and theology certificates
  • Prayer and devotional at supper with Gordon
  • New Orleans for Emily's wedding in June
  • Mindi and her kids up in June
  • Cannon Beach Oregon in May
  • Christopher up in July
  • Arkansas in August
  • Edmonton in April
  • Start Book Club
  • Cenacle every Tuesday at church
  • Become a Hospice volunteer.