Thursday, November 29, 2018

When I Pray.


When I pray...

I cast my
  • cares 
  • worries
  • anxieties
on God.

I discuss
  • my thoughts
  • what's bugging me
  • the details and to-do lists of my day
with God.

I confess
  • my failings
  • my bad attitudes
  • my fears
to God.

I listen for
  • His thoughts
  • His ways
  • His comfort

But when I get up from the couch, the real test lies in how deeply I will TRUST Him after all that we just shared together.


Friday, November 9, 2018

Just Start.

Bulls Head Road—near my house.
It was Monday and I didn't want to go for my daily bike ride. This was a bit unusual since I've come to really enjoy riding my bicycle this summer. The ever-changing landscape and activity of local farms on the little country roads have been an inspiration to me. They fill up my senses—to borrow the lyrics of John Denver, who got the inspiration from riding the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado. I can totally identify with how nature inspired him to write.

I feel rejuvenated, inspired and creative when I return from my fifteen to twenty mile ride. My body and my mind both benefit from routine exercise.

These are some of the way rigorous exercise helps me prepare for the upcoming Portraits of White Christmas concert:
  • Gives better focus when I practice.
  • I can remember lyrics more easily.
  • I think more creatively about the content of the show.
  • I just feel better, period.
Yet, as the season changes (both the weather and my schedule), I have to talk myself into it somedays. It becomes the most busy time of year and I struggle to keep up with it. The very thing I need the most seems to easily fall by the wayside. Isn't that the way it always is?

You might relate to some of the arguments I have within myself:
  • Maybe you need a break (but you just had a day of rest on Sunday).
  • Just take a nap instead (you don't feel the need to nap when you exercise).
  • You can ride another day when you feel like it (but who is to say you'll feel like it tomorrow).
  • Missing one day won't hurt (true, but it's easy to miss a second day when you've missed the first day).
  • You have too much to do (you'll always have too much to do!).
I've learned two small words that have helped me in just about every facet of life—even exercise.

JUST START.

So in spite of my lethargic self, I hopped on my bike, dressed for the cold windy weather and braved the elements. I had only been riding a minute or two when I remembered why I love this. It's like someone hooks up an IV to my brain and creativity begins to flow. By the time I'm home, I've made a hundred more plans!

As I braved the wind on the back roads, I suddenly came upon a most breathtaking sight; not one rainbow, but two! Look what I would have missed if I had given in to the temptation to stay home.

Beautiful view only miles from my home.
So just in case you're like me and you need a little help—remember these two words: "JUST START". Once you start, the inspiration and motivation usually follow.

What do you want to accomplish these days? Here's a few steps that usually help me:

1) Write down what you want to accomplish.

2) Set a start date or daily appointment.

3) Set a deadline/goal for yourself.

4) Keep a daily log of what you did.

5) Celebrate your accomplishments!




Thursday, October 25, 2018

Left Behind. (From Nancy Crider Singer in memory of Paul Douglas Crider).

If there's anything I've come to appreciate through all the loss of life in our family, it's the art of learning to celebrate those who remain behind. It can be easy to focus on who we've lost and stay stuck in that grief. But there is so much living to do with those who remain.

As I wrap up this series of blog posts surrounding some the stories of our family's loss, I'm delighted to share one last post from another one of our family members.  Nancy Singer Crider shares what it's been like to be a single mother, after losing her husband (and my brother) Doug. As Doug's family continues to grow, it's a blessing to watch the impact of a life lived well during the brief 26 years he lived.

From Nancy Singer Crider:
In memory of Paul Douglas Crider
"It is bitter sweet to look back 49 years to October 11, 1969 as Doug and I joined together in marriage expecting to share a lifetime together.  I could not have anticipated that 3 years and 9 months later, we would be left behind and he would be present with the Lord. My daughters and I experienced a huge loss to our family.  
There were times when I felt so alone trying to be a single mother, feeling the heavy weight of raising two daughters with two very different personalities.  I felt so inadequate being responsible for guiding these two little lives through life.  
Even though I made lots of mistakes, it was good to know that Christ surrounded us with His love and grace.  I trusted Him to be the strength for us through the good and bad times. Through the love and grace of God, I am learning to rely on Him for strength in life's situations.  
After Doug passed, I built my life around my children.  I sometimes felt they were all I had.  I watched them grow and learn as we tried to learn together to seek God (not always successful - but progressing).  During these growing pains, I sometimes wondered what life would have been like if Doug had lived.  

He had begun to give sermons at Jemison Valley where we attended church.  It was suggested he apply for a lay minister’s license which he received shortly before his death.  He preached his first sermon as a licensed minister and was scheduled to preached again at another church close to where we lived.  However, the accident that took his life was the week after his first sermon.   For a young man at the age of 26 to die spoke volumes to the community. 
As Crystal and Kelly married and started their homes and families, I was blessed with 8 grandchildren around whom I began to build my life also.  They were such a blessing and they loved to spend time at “Mimi’s” house. They would spend time in my basement playing guitars, singing and making videos.  It was such a wonderful time together.  However, they continued to mature.  Then, Derek, one of the grandsons got married.  I was blessed with two great grandsons. 
In more recent years, I had an opportunity to go to Guatemala on a mission trip.  During the first trip, I did some soul searching and discovered a new life in Christ as I surrendered to the filling of the Holy Spirit.  What a change occurred on my life.  I received new guidance on how to seek God in all situations.  
I decided to spend a week at my timeshare (alone) seeking release from concerns related to my family. I seemed to be in bondage. As I laid my concerns before the Lord, he very clearly spoke to my heart as he said, “Give them to me. I will take care of them."  
Wow!  I wrote the names of my children, their spouses, and all my grandchildren and lifted them toward heaven and laid them before the Lord.  I must confess, there are times I take them back and then give them back to Him.  I sometimes wondered if their Daddy/Grandpa was before the throne asking for mercy, grace and wholeness for his family.  I have seen changes in some of their lives since I gave my family to the One who can do all things.
Even through the years without Doug’s presence, I have a feeling he was praying for all his family as we sometimes struggled through life, seeking to follow God - knowing what the final result will be.  To be able to join with Doug and other family members who have gone before us, but to ultimately meet our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and worship Him forever."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Sidewalk.

"What children are exposed to, hear, and see when they are young goes deep. It enters their soft hearts, and it stays there. What happens to them and around them during their formative years affects them for the rest of their lives.

Imagine this supernatural window of time early in life when our spirits are so impressionable as the constructing of a sidewalk. Once the liquid mixture has been poured, you have a very limited amount of time to imprint anything on the cement. However, if you can draw your initials in the concrete before it hardens, it is permanently etched forever. Whatever else makes contact with that cement later on does not have the same impact or long-standing effect as those original markings." —Charity Virkler Kayembe

I've spent most of the summer sharing part of my family's story with you. This past week we passed the 52 year mark of Nathan's tragic death, October 11, 1966. As the author, Charity, stated above, the imprints placed on our hearts as children are permanently etched forever. Fortunately, sidewalks also offer a path to other places if you follow them and so it has been with my own heart. Yes, losing our brothers, Nathan and Doug have certainly left their marks, but as I've paid attention to the imprints in the sidewalk, it has brought healing, understanding and growth. So I keep moving forward with full awareness of the path behind me.

I think this past summer was the right season to go back to the farm where the concrete began to "set" and capture the song that has become a foundation stone in my life and songwriting. I see things from a new perspective.

Please feel free to share this with your family and friends, especially those who have lost loved ones. I think they will understand.

Click HERE to view the music video to Beside the Barn.





Friday, October 5, 2018

"Walking Down the Aisle Without My Daddy." (From Crystal Crider Dailey in memory of P. Douglas Crider).

This morning, I read this verse and it brought me comfort as I thought about what today's post was going be.


"The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die." 
—Psalm 116:15


In last week's blog post, we heard from Kelly, my youngest niece and daughter of my brother, Doug and what it's been like to live without her Father. This week, Doug's oldest daughter, Crystal, shares what life has been like for her without her Daddy. Each offer unique perspectives, just as it is with any family who has suffered loss. Each member processes the loss differently and according to the verse above even the Lord cares deeply about the death of loved ones.


From Crystal Crider Dailey—
"When I think about what it was like to have lost my Dad at such a young age, many thoughts and emotions run through my mind.
As a little girl, I do not recall really being affected by the fact that I did not have a dad, because that was the life I knew. It was my normal!  I did not remember him at all, so for me there was no feeling of loss.  Looking back now, I am able to see that I had some resentment over the fact that because I had a single mom, she had to work— sometimes two and three jobs, to support us, while other moms stayed at home.  
Once I became an adult, it started to affect me more. I did not get to have my Daddy walk me down the aisle and I never got to dance the father/daughter dance at my wedding—you know, the things that little girls dream of. Then as I started having children, there was the sadness that he never got to hold his grandchildren and they did not get to have a grandpa. 
I have often thought that not remembering my Dad was better than having known him and losing him but I am no longer sure I feel that way. I am sad that I have no memories. I listen to people around me talk about their dads, and feel lost because I cannot relate. There are moments when friends have lost their dad recently, or their dad is sick, and they are rightfully upset, but I want to say, “At least you knew him! You have memories! You got to know what it was like to be hugged by your Daddy, to have a life with him!” 
When I run into people that knew my Daddy, they share stories and tell me what a great man he was and I wish that I had gotten to know him. Why did God take him when he was so young?
There were many times that I would be on stage singing and imagine that he walked in the back of the auditorium and that he had never died at all! Sometimes I would be out somewhere and see a man that might be the age he would be now and think that he looked like my daddy might look today and wonder if it was, in fact him. Of course, I knew that was crazy! So many times I had wished it were true, but then how would I deal with the fact that he left us? 
The last several years, I have desperately wished that he were here. I have gone through some very difficult things in my life and longed to have my Daddy be here to guide me and help me. It is hard to long for something that can never be. Loss is hard! But in the middle of all of it, God is so good! I had an amazing Mom who was not only a Godly example, but she braved single motherhood and taught me how be strong in hard times. Now that I am a single mother, that has helped me have the hope that I can be strong and that I will survive. 
I do think that you never get over a loss of a parent, whether you have memories or not. But I do know that my heavenly Father is all I need and I believe that my Daddy is looking down on me and my little family and I pray that I have made him proud!"

Thank you, Crystal. I'm so glad you are a part of our family and I think Doug would be proud of ALL of his family!

(If you haven't read the post about how Doug Crider died, you can read it here.)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

No Kid-sized Sadness. (A tribute to Doug Crider from his daughter, Kelly Joe Crider Albert).


I recently read a paragraph that resonated deeply with me. It helps me understand that even when a child experiences loss, we should never underestimate the effect it is having on them. I can't say it better than this, so I'll just share the paragraph here:

It helps to understand that emotions are basically one size. 
Love is massive. 
Fear is huge. 
And when you take these large emotions and put them inside tiny people, they overflow easily. There is no "kid-sized" sadness. They experience it just as fully as adults do, and without us encouraging them to pray through the feeling, they can easily be overwhelmed by itCharity Virkler Kayembe

This was certainly true of me, as it became evident in my songwriting years later. I processed the grief of losing my brothers, Nathan and Doug through my writing. I know it's also been true for Doug's youngest daughter, Kelly, my niece. Many people say that Kelly and I look alike and we know from spending time together that we certainly act and think alike too! 

Kelly has so beautifully shared her experience with losing her Daddy in her own words....

From Kelly Crider Albert:


"My father’s death has had a big impact on my life. 

Growing up I wanted to have a dad that threw ball with me outside, to help me with the sports that I loved so much. There was always a hole that seemed never to be able to be filled. I really had a hard time being around other people that had fathers that did things with their daughters. I didn’t understand why I felt these feelings till I was older and realized that I needed to mourn the loss of my dad. 

I had the opportunity several years ago to return to the farm where my father was killed. Even though I had grown up for the first six and three-quarter years up there and would visit the family at the farm many times, I never realized then that it was where my father had died. This was a very hard and good experience all at the same time. 

I remember just standing there staring at the place where it happened while Steve (son of the farm owner at the time of the accident) told how it happened. Then Steve put his arm around me like a protective big brother and I broke. I don’t ever remember crying so hard in my life. I do believe that was very good for me to get out though. 

The rest of the family was very willing to answer any questions that Crystal and I had about our dad that day as well. This was very hard for them since it is still very painful for them as well. I hope they realize what a gift they gave me that day though. 

Denny and Kelly (Crider) Albert family.

I love to run into people that knew my dad and hear stories about him. But that can also be bitter sweet for me because it is very clear that I missed out on a great man in my life. I would have loved for him to know my husband, our children and now my grandchild. I love to hear that my sons and my grandson look like him." 


Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your heart with us here.

You are loved and valued,

Aunt Francie

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Family Puzzle. (In Memory of Douglas Paul Crider).

Tom and I used to put puzzles together. I suppose we will again someday when we have lots of free time on our hands. One thing you can always count on, even if some of the pieces somehow disappear, is the picture on the box. It lets you know what the completed puzzle should look like. We would often look at the box to make sure we understood where all the pieces went.

In the case of our family, we've lost a few pieces of our puzzle, but pictures are such a beautiful way to help us remember what the original puzzle was and where the pieces go.

I was only seven years old when another piece of our family puzzle disappeared. In my mind, the picture on the top of this puzzle box is one of our family gathered on the front porch of our farm house in Newville, PA. The Pastor had come to bring us news of the death of my oldest brother, Doug. Another piece missing.

Douglas Paul Crider
Doug had served a couple of years in Africa and I remember Mother telling me that the day he left on the ship for Africa, she promised herself that she wouldn't cry. Apparently she didn't keep her promise to herself. It must have taken a lot of courage to watch your son board a ship taking him across the water in those days.

Doug was serving in Africa when Nathan drowned and he was not able to be present for Nathan's funeral. Mother said he took that very hard.

But now, Doug had returned home and married a young woman from the community. Nancy Singer joined our family and later gave birth to two young children; Crystal and Kelly. They had settled into a community in northern Pennsylvania, where he worked for a farmer.

Douglas and Nancy.
One morning, on the farm where he worked, he took a tractor and wagon out into a field to pick up rocks, put them in the wagon and then back up to dump them over a cliff into a dried up river bed below. When they found him, he was crushed beneath the tractor and wagon, at the bottom of the cliff in the river bed. He was so badly bruised that they had a closed casket at his funeral. I know this made the pain even more excruciating for my Mother and for Nancy.

Doug and Nancy's daughters; Kelly and Crystal, at the graveside.
Doug's death came sandwiched in between the tragic death of Nathan (Mother's two year old son) and all the struggles she had been having with meningitis. With a shunt that seemed to malfunction frequently, I cannot fathom receiving news that your first-born son was found dead on a farm in a distant place.

A year later, her father died of an internal bleeding ulcer. She also had another surge of health issues once again related to the malfunction of the shunt in her head. These years are a blur in my mind and as I write this, I realize that there is probably a reason. It's a lot for a little farm family to handle.

July is quite a month in our family history and so were the 1970's.

July 7, 1947 - death of Paul Crider (Bertha's first husband)

July 18, 1970 - birth of Crystal Crider (daughter of Doug Crider)
July 11, 1973 - death of Doug Crider (Bertha's son to Paul)
October 1, 1974 - death of Avery Sollenberger (Bertha's father)
July 21, 1976 - death of Frances Wingert Sollenberger (mother of Bertha)

July 4, 1990 - death of Chester Sollenberger (Bertha's brother)
July 14, 1997 - birth of Tia Marie Albert (daughter of Kelly Crider Albert) (granddaughter of Doug Crider)

A few years ago, I was scheduled to do a concert at a little church called Jemison Valley Brethren in Christ in Northern Pennsylvania. A few weeks before the concert, I got an email out of the blue from the secretary of the church. She explained that she was looking forward to the concert and wanted to extend an invitation to breakfast at their farm the morning after my concert. She explained that they live on the farm where my brother died and didn't know if I might appreciate an opportunity to visit the site where Doug died.

I couldn't believe what I was reading. I had no idea (or at least had forgotten) that this little church was located in the community where Doug had lived and died.  We often visited his grave in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, but I never really knew exactly where he had lived and died.

I was intrigued and immediately took them up on their offer. We had a lovely breakfast together as they tearfully shared the details of that fateful day back in 1973. It was obvious that they still grieved about the whole thing. But our family has never been one to blame other people for these tragedies. I'm so grateful for that legacy! I'm not saying there weren't any struggles, I just never saw any hint of a root of bitterness over these two tragic deaths.

As we drove out through the snowy field and approached the site, I pondered the way our paths had connected without me ever trying to make it happen. My own musical journey was now leading me back to a place that had once again had a major impact on our family—around the theme of death.

When I mentioned this opportunity to my Mother, she replied, in a very sad tone, "I have no desire to see that place." On another day, when I tried to convince her to fly out to New Mexico to see her only living son before she'd be too fragile to travel, she simply said, "I have had enough terror in my life. I don't need anymore." I never brought it up again.

The effects of Doug's death in my own life were softened by the family he left behind. His little girls, Crystal and Kelly, (my nieces) became like little sisters to me, since they are only a few years younger than me. They'd share my double bed with me when they spent time on our farm in the summer. We'd read Winnie the Pooh stories and giggle in our crowded bed. We'd eat home-made ice cream with our own home-grown honey on top. We played house together. I'd play the piano and they would dance in the living room to the music.


They filled a huge hole in my heart and somehow, their presence made Doug feel like he was still here. I know that they experienced his death much differently—after all, he was their Father!

He would be proud of the family that continues to grow all these years after his death. In fact, he is a Grandfather to eight grandchildren and a Great Grandpa to two darling little boys. Tom and I spend many holidays playing the latest table games with this precious family. It keeps the memory of Doug very alive in my heart. Sometimes, I encounter others who tell me they knew Doug and they begin to tell me stories. I eagerly listen.

I resonated with something Amy Grant wrote in her book, Mosaic;

"I enjoy any passing conversation that starts with, "You don't know me, but I knew your....," because even if you've lived in she same place most of your life, sometimes it takes a total stranger to fill in the missing pieces of your family puzzle."