Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Christ is born!
Glorify Him!

To all who read here, I wish you a Merry Christmas and much love, joy and peace in the coming
New Year :)

and to share my favorite Byzantine hymn (with English subtitles) with you:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Izzy Update from her Mother

If you note some tension in my sister's words here, it's due to the fact that lies and misinformation persist on the internet regarding her daughter, Izzy.  I'm hoping those who continue to Google about Izzy will find themselves here to read the truth:

"Ok ~ Here it goes ~ Izzy is doing VERY WELL. She's going to school each week and walking with 2 legs like a pro. Not that it's anybody's business, but Izzy IS NOT getting hospice care nor has she been at the hospital recently. For those who didn't quite understand my post before ~ I'm gonna say it one more time ~ My Almighty God from up above is taking extremely good care of Me and My Daughter. Izzy has no tubes or IVs running through her, no doctors or nurses giving chemo, no wheelchairs to depend upon and no excuses to prevent her from living the life she wants to live. Each day the Lord takes her hand and gives her the strength, happiness, and faith she needs to lead a good life. Please don't destroy that by letting pure ignorance take over your mouth. Understand?!"  JC McManaway, Izzy's mother, posted on Facebook this evening, 12.20.2011

If you are one wishing to learn the truth, please share this with your message boards and community outreach groups.  Also, for those who have inquired about sending Christmas cards, thank you for your goodwill, but receiving 1,000,000 cards was never Izzy's request.  They currently have enough mail to go through for a year : )

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Gift of Grace Among Tangled Webs: An Izzy Update

“The sword of our soul does not acquire a keen sharp edge unless another’s wickedness hones it.” 
-St Gregory the Great
I write not because there is new information to share about Izzy, but because it is necessary to put into perspective the chaos occurring on some fronts of this spiritual battle.  Yes, spiritual battle.  Whether you believe it or not, all things of this earth have a spiritual component;  we are either striving for the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of Self while walking this earth.  Some are on the front lines of such battles, while others like to believe they live in the void, totally removed from any religious belief or inclination*.    
For those on the front lines, this post is for you because you’ll understand what I’m talking about, knowing that Ephesians 6 belongs to you personally.
Any Christian who walks a path close to God is bound to encounter the attack of satan and his legions, indeed this is one indicator that you’re walking a path of faith.  It’s the high road, the narrow way in which the saints walk and beckon you who love God and the Kingdom of Light.    It’s the proverbial path less traveled, the one that takes effort, self-control, patience and perseverance, but offers greater rewards than our feeble minds can fathom.
This is the path my family treads, or attempts to tread every day.  We know it’s the way and yet we’re aware of the tangled webs looming at every curve.  We know that every good gift is from above and the wicked twisting of those gifts by our enemy.  The internet can be a tool of God, bringing people together in prayer and thanksgiving...touching lives for good in a matter of seconds, connecting many parts of the world in less time than it takes to say morning prayers.   It can also be a tool in satan’s arsenal; never doubt he knows and preys upon the weakness of men.
I will confess and tell you that one of my greatest faults is a short temper, giving in to anger that causes me to say and do things I shouldn’t...and then falling on self-righteousness to justify my actions.  I struggle with it... I’m aware of how my enemy will use this characteristic against me.  It’s a sticky web to fall into because when I cave to anger, I am no longer serving the Kingdom of God, I’m only serving my own chaos.
Another of those consuming webs is inherent in Facebook, the unleashing of the tongue that causes much harm (Psalms 39:1 and Proverbs 12:18).  The tongue of the wise brings healing, but reckless words pierce like a sword!  I could write ad nauseam about the anger I feel when reading audacious words about Izzy’s health and my sister’s beautiful family, but do you see what this accomplishes?  One sin feeding into another perpetuates chaos, the black cloud of hell.  God is the author of peace and clarity, conversely, satan is the author of lies, confusion and chaos.  When you write on Facebook, take just a moment to consider which Kingdom you are extending.

For those who love the truth, you will want to know that Izzy is well.  She is at home, joyfully anticipating Christmas, going to school, enjoying her new pets... happy!    For those who do not love the truth, you probably haven’t read thus far and it doesn’t matter to you anyway.  To give truth to those who do not love truth is to only give more reason for argument.  My role is to steer clear of those webs of untruth, of gossip and chaos inasmuch as is possible.  And, as you love our Lord and Saviour, I would encourage you dear reader, to stay away from deceit, loose tongues and gossip.  Let it end with you.
Your role, as much as Izzy is concerned, is not to do constant battle with those who wish to ensnare you in rumors and gossip, it is to declare the truth in peace and let it go.   It is not your role to call or message my sister and her family with every vile action or word that you hear, see or read.  Doing this perpetuates chaos, not peace.
Make no mistake though, for those who are entertained by deceits or harmful words or the details of other people’s lives; it is by your neglect and indulgence that brings harm to yourself as well as others.  If you wish to follow Christ, listen to His greatest commandment:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (St. Matthew 22)  Loving God means furthering the Kingdom of Light... it means practicing self-control, praying ceaselessly and using your words to bring peace, not confusion.
I am praying for all of you reading, for you must have a love of Izzy to be sharing in this post.  My prayer today is that each of you will have peace, contentment and joy.  It IS possible to experience God’s grace even in the mire... in fact, in my own life, I’ve experienced it time and time again and it is in this way that we can rejoice for our trials because, in the big picture, they only beckon us closer to God when we persevere and seek the Kingdom of Heaven. †

*It's called Secular Humanism...the religion of our modern age.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

An Open Letter to the Demons of Hell

“The devil...the prowde spirite....cannot endure to be mocked.”  Thomas More (1779-1852, from Ireland)

Wormwood and Screwtape*, I have no idea if you’re still employed in the service of your captain, your Father Below, but I have some words for those who do his bidding in the heart of my family:
You seek to shock, to enrage, to engulf in disbelief and anger.  You think yourself so cunning and clever in driving the hammer between fatigued hearts.  You think to torture and prod and bend the undead to your twisted will.  And in the grand show of your malice and contempt for those who love your Enemy, you would send your dark ranks to lace the battle with mockery, lies and hot tongues to seal your prize.
You would have us within your snares, believing we are incapable to withstand such assault, taking gladness at pain amidst chaos and lies.  You laugh at the ease of your task,  being deceived of your absolute slavery to a consuming hate.  For Your Father Below will have no equal, no individuality; you are a chained slave to one singular wickedness as you grin at a seeming victory so near.
Except, there, in the stillness of night, when just a glimmer of star shining bright escapes the cloud covered sky.  There!   It is the Voice ringing clear on crystal notes that beckons mortal souls to strive on, to look up and see the eagles so near and reach out for the gift of GRACE.  
Give heed to that doubt ticking in the back of your skull, for while you rule this earth there is One who does not abandon His creation as they strive against you.  And oh, but the weapons in our cache, that are ever unlooked for, which come raining down at the most unexpected times.  I know it makes you writhe, I know your armies tremble at the power of your Enemy, our King.  I know your legions have quaked at the coming of Our Lord and begged for mercy.  I know of the shattering of tombs when our Lord used your strongest weapon against you!  Do you think we forget!?
Do you think us all mindless spirits, numbed from flaming arrows and vice?  Do the ranks not aim for the head of the serpent in times of war?  So it is and has ever been that your legions will assault those on the front line, those whose lives and voices are beacons on dark hills, showering light and hope to your Enemy and all who serve Him.   They come!  You cannot quench the Light,  though at times it is only a glimmer, it shall never be put asunder for you are unable to break it, unable to contain it for you cannot fathom its purity.
You may distort, you may twist and bend goodwill, but you are the fool, for every weapon you’ve made, there is one to destroy it and her name is HUMILITY.  For her earthly raiment adorns the race you hate and she was made in the light of the Heavenly Kingdom.  May the fear of her haunt you until the end of days when you shudder at your utter defeat.

Mark it well what you think is the weakness of your prey.  Close in and cast your obnoxious fumes in our face and know that your nearness advances our faith and causes the beacon flame to reach higher and burn brighter.  We know your aims and how you loathe the servants of your Enemy.  We know we are but food to you and we know what makes you glad...
            We are not as unprepared as you might think.

                                             Your lifetime adversary
                                              and servant of your Enemy.

©2011Amy L. Thornton
*If you've never read C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, I highly recommend you do so.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beholding a Tapestry of Miracles: Izzy Update

If you are on the outside peering in, you may see the frustration amid the joy, the weariness amid the many daily activities plus sibling rivalry in full force... but there is tenderness there, too.   What you cannot see and what I’m here to tell you about is the view from the other side;  while you may behold the knots and loose ends, we’ve been given a glimpse of the magnificent tapestry on the other side. 

The outpouring of concern and care has been and continues to be immense.  My family is continually grateful, if at times, uncertain how to cope with it all.  Izzy is doing well and I know I’m overdue to write an update but in truth, there isn’t much news to report.  She had her full round of radiation and her pain is managed by medication, although Jenny just told me recently that she is needing it less and less.  Praise God!  Izzy has gone back to school and is an active little 4 year old.  She gets around well with her artificial leg, even though she sometimes doesn’t want to wear it (it’s much more fun having mom & dad carry her around ; ‘ ) )   

 A few weeks ago, my family traveled north to Morgantown for the WVU Children’s Hospital Annual Auction & Fund Raising Banquet.  It was WONDERFUL,  ELECTRIC, FUN and INSPIRING!!  Many of the families, whose children have received treatment, or are currently being treated, were present.  It did my heart so good to see these smiling children dressed up, not only enjoying a delicious banquet with scrumptious desserts, but receiving gifts and taking part in the evenings’ activities.   Soon after, they filled the dance floor and their energy was contagious!  I cannot remember the last time I had danced and laughed so much!

One of the Cards of Hope, designed by Izzy, Zoe and Zavery McManaway

Izzy was a little out of sorts and spent most of the evening on her daddy’s lap, but before the night was over, she danced to a Justin Bieber tune and asked her Uncle Will for a slow dance, too.   Another highlight was the live auction and seeing the children’s artwork go to the highest bidder.  They were all so proud, and rightly so, as their work had been selected for greeting cards as part of the Cards of Hope, sponsored by WVU Children’s Hospital.  And what a BLESSING to meet Joe & Tara Quigley, the founders of Timmy’s Fund Folks, if you ever want to witness first-hand the love and mercy of our risen Saviour, just make the acquaintance of these two people.  Tara & Joe lost their son, Timmy, to cancer in December 2004.  Their grief and sorrow was turned outward toward helping other families in similar situations, working to meet their needs financially and spiritually and their non-profit has grown by leaps and bounds through their tireless efforts.  It was an honor to meet their family and by their work, I am humbled and inspired to do more, more, more!

Izzy dancing with her daddy 

Children dancing at the WVU Children's Hospital Auction and Banquet

Izzy dancing with her Uncle Will

Another part of this brilliant tapestry involves the working of God in others’ lives through the inspiration of Izzy.  Her faith, her resilience and attitude touch so many people; we’re at a loss to count them.  I’ve promised, however, to endeavor to share some of these stories with you because it’s important that you know why bad things happen to good people.  Mind you, I’m not seeking to give you a definitive answer on that one, as who can know the full scope of the workings of God, but for our part, for our little place on this earth, I can tell you with certainty that Izzy’s suffering is not in vain.
This comes first and foremost from Izzy’s mother, my beloved sister and friend: Izzy is going through this battle so that others may be brought to Christ.  
Let me say it again:   Izzy battles cancer so that other people, from marginal christians, to atheists, to very bitter hearts, may turn toward God.  Our family bears witness to this over and over again.  One case in point:
About two months ago my sister calls and asks if I would be willing to go with her to a prison to visit an inmate, an old friend.  I was surprised, a bit apprehensive, but when she told me of her deep conviction that God wanted her to go ... how could I not go with her.  And so we went.
You have to understand that this is so out of the ordinary.  We are not ones involved in prison ministry or even find it comfortable to be in that type of atmosphere, indeed, I thought Jenny was going to be physically ill when we arrived in the parking lot of the prison.  But she felt this was something she had to do.  We prayed together and then she went in.  I waited in the car and entertained my writers mind watching the variety of people going to visit incarcerated loved ones.
Over an hour later, she emerged with a smile on her face.  Her countenance was calm and assured, knowing she had done the right thing.   Her purpose in the visit was to tell this old friend that she was praying for him and also to make a strong request:  “Please pray for Izzy;  I know you have a lot of idle time and I would appreciate it if you would pray for her.”
The friend was humbled to see her, incredulous that she had wanted to see him.   He had known about Izzy and was moved by Jenny’s request.. he readily agreed to pray for her.  It gave purpose to his days.   We didn’t realize just how much this unexpected meeting had affected him until a visit by his sister came a few weeks later.  At her brother’s bidding, she came to bring gifts to Jenny’s girls and also a letter and poem, written by her brother. 
His words are too personal to share in this public forum, but suffice it to say, our whole family was moved to tears at the care and love expressed there.  He wrote a poem especially for Izzy that will be treasured always.  A poem in which he prompts her to turn to God in all things and know she was created by God.  And I was told by his sister just recently that he carries a photo of Izzy in his Bible.  It is no small thing that a radiant light would be brought forth from a soul who had been darkened by fell deeds.  

Just to give you an image of that heartfelt, hand-written poem...

Remember, friends, the thief on the cross was to be with Jesus in paradise because of his humility before Christ!
                    To God be the glory for all things †

Friday, November 4, 2011

Remembering Jack, part III

Last Good-bye  
In the end it was colic that claimed him, a very common cause for older horses.  We had hope on that first evening of vet treatment that he would rebound, but the following 12 hours proved us wrong.  

Our last evening together....

Photo by my husband.  On my last evening with Jack, after  the vet
had been out, my family surprised me and came up to the barn that night.  We gathered
around Jack's stall and prayed for him.  

When I arrived back at the barn around 6 am on Wednesday, October 19, it was a pitiful scene awaiting me.  Laura was in the red barn, with Jack laying down before her.  I rushed in and saw that he was suffering.  He kept laying his head down flat and then pulling up, as if he wanted to stand.  This went on for some time and then, amazingly, he stood and so we walked around together.  Ginger, the mare most devoted to him, was near and also a cat that I had not seen before.  A little black and white thing.  She kept coming around, rubbing against Jack's muzzle as if in greeting... or parting.   I believe animals know more than us at times   -they have a pure sense, uncorrupted by sin, from their Creator.   
And something else I want to remember, the sky was spectacular that morning.  It was still dark and the stars were amazing... very clear and Laura was naming the constellations as we slowly walked under those beautiful heavens.   We walked and walked and walked... his abdominal pain was too great to stand still.
Laura told me that before I arrived, at about 5:30 am, Jack wanted to walk, so she put a halter and lead on him and followed him.  He walked to their house and looked out over the fence toward the rest of the horses.   Then he walked to the other end of the farm, toward the front fields, some 80 + yards in the other direction.  He then returned to the barn to lay down.
As Jack & I walked together for hours that morning, I sang hymns to him, rubbed his belly and ears and prayed for him, too.  I was thankful for the pain medication Laura had administered to him at 4 am.  By 8:15 am, the mineral oil the vet had administered the previous evening as a remedy, came trickling- at times pouring- out his nostrils and tears welled in my eyes.  
Some animals in pain and distress will lash out or become despondent..Jack did neither.  He remained his gentle self until the very end;  his eyes looked at me with those brown depths of sincerity, as always.
It's awful to be walking your horse to his gravesite... absolutely awful.  I believe though, that it is important to be there for your pal until the very end, to send them away in an atmosphere of love.  I am thankful to my vet, Dr. Lynn Sparks, for coming to meet us right away.  Her exam revealed that we were doing the right thing by putting him down... a heart rate over 200 bpm, purple gums and tongue, short rapid breaths.. he was slipping away, his body shutting down.    Why did I think he would live forever?
I stayed very close to his face, on the left side, speaking softly, telling him I loved him and thanking him...watching his beautiful eye.  Very soon it was over.  After she administered the drug, he stood on his hind legs and fell over in a sickening thud and breathed his last.
In hindsight, thinking on that exact moment, it was almost as if he was rearing up and heading to heaven.  At least, I like to think so.  Laura thought this, too. 
I could never ask for better support and love than was shown to me by Laura & Gary and Dr. Sparks during those final hours.  I also have my dad and James Green to thank for helping to dig the gravesite right away and treating Jack's body with the utmost respect and care.

Sunrise Service
My family, too, deserves much praise.  We have a way of coming together when it really counts, of being there for one another in times of heartache or distress.  We've always held a funeral when a beloved pet passes away and Jack was no exception.
On Sunday, the 23rd, we rose very early in order to hold a sunrise service at Jack's gravesite.  We live about 40 minutes away from Beauty Mountain Farm and so, it was asking a sacrifice of our children, who love their beds on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  We left a few minutes after 6 a.m. and made it in plenty of time before the rising sun.  

Our daughter, in the early morning chill (32ºF) at sunrise

Along with the rakes we brought to smooth out the gravesite, we had candles, a heavy, resin cross, a bible and incense.   Revelation talks about incense burning in heaven, as well as horses being present in that blessed realm and so, this seemed very fitting.    As the fragrant aroma of incense pleases our senses, so too, do our prayers please our Heavenly Father.

Will, my husband, working on gravesite... incense and cross in foreground.

Our makeshift headstone, with cross and burnung incense,
adorned with goldenrod and red clover

I said a prayer, asking God to have a place for Jack in heaven and that he would enter it with a mighty rush.  A poem also was shared, one that had been mailed to me by another horse-loving friend.   And then I spoke about the importance of animals surrounding Jesus' life on earth.  They were present at His birth in the stable and one little donkey was so blessed as to carry our Saviour upon his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  The animals must be important to God, otherwise he would not have made a place for them in the ark or tell us that He knows when one sparrow falls.  
Will said a few words, too, about the history of the horse as a helper to man in bringing forth food from the earth and for transportation.  He mentioned the war horse as well, always willing to carry his rider into battle and even though war horses are long gone, he was sure Jack would carry me anywhere I wanted to go.

Photo by our in the middle, feeling lost.

It was a beautiful, touching service and I wasn't that surprised to see the other horses looking over the rail at us, some distance away.  Not surprising either that Brio stayed with us the entire time.  He is one of many farm dogs at Beauty Mountain.  All of them loveable, but Brio has unique qualities.  He's a gentle giant of a dog, a Maremma, a watchdog and companion.  He seems to me an old soul... easy to smile with his lolling tongue and wagging tail, but somber, too.  He's a quiet observer and likes to be near people, especially the kids, I've noticed.  Brio must have wanted to say good-bye to Jack, too.

My husband and children working on Jack's gravesite with Brio

Our son with Brio ...a very warm companion.

Jack is gone but many, many wonderful memories remain.  My life was made better by that gentle, benevolent soul.  The world seems a bit colder now that he's gone.  

As I like to imagine he entered God's Kingdom... in a mighty rush!

Jackson, May God grant you a special place in the Kingdom of Light and may God be merciful and allow me to see you again someday.

To God be the glory for all things

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Remembering Jack, part II

Milestones in Life
Jack was there to see many changes in my life.  He met some of my high school friends as we set off early on Saturday rides and was also present the day I first met Will, my future husband.    Jack also went to college with me in Bristol, VA when I attended Virginia Intermont.   He stayed at Maplewood Farm, a picturesque farm on rolling land with a large pond and many trails extending into the valley.   It's very accurate to say that Jack was always a calming and therapeutic aspect in my life.  During high school, because I was very often at the farm each day after classes, he provided a healthy outlet and alternative to activities where peer pressure was in full swing.
In my college years,  time with Jack at Maplewood meant glorious days exploring the outdoors, practicing new techniques I was learning in my horsemanship program and nurturing a warm friendship with Jennie Placak, who cared for him.   That blessed friendship lasted long after I left Virginia Intermont, actually until my friend, Jennie passed away in 1995. 

Jack running at Maplewood Farm in Virginia, 1988
On the day of my wedding in October 1992, it was to the barn to visit Jack where I spent the early hours of that bright happy day.  All in all, over his 28 years with me, Jack lived in six different places and in each new environment, it didn't take long for him to fit in with a new herd.  He even had a calming influence on other horses, too.   One mare that we had for a time was especially flighty and given to moments of craziness.  We blamed this on her time spent on the track in Kentucky.  When she was turned out with Jack, they would run and kick and carry on.  After settling down, I could always find them grazing together... she followed Jack everywhere through the fields.  
Jack was also there to greet each of my babies when they came into the world in 1997 and 2001.  To each he did the same, a sniff of their head, wide-eyed in seeming wonderment at something so small and making sounds he had never heard.
I've had several other horses in my life, beginning at age 6, but I never developed the bond with them that I did with Jack.  I'm not sure exactly why this is, but that something special, that benevolent spirit always apparent in Jack, must have had something to do with it.  He was also curious and kind to other animals.  For example, two stories came to me from Angie, another friend that kept Jack on her farm in Scary Creek, WV during the mid 90s:

Jack at Scary Creek, Scott Depot,WV in 1995

Once while going out to collect Jack and others from a pasture for their evening meal, Angie had a halter and lead on Jack and was making her way back to the barn.  Jack was moving very slow in the tall grass and Angie turned back to encourage him to move on... but he kept going slow, as if searching for each new place to put his feet.  Finally Angie halted, thinking maybe something was wrong with a hoof.  As she turned to look down toward his feet she noticed the white ball of fur, her older dog nearly hidden in the grass, walking just underneath Jack!   Jack had been aware and didn't want to step on him.

Happy days, rolling and scratching his back...Scary Creek, Scott Depot, WV 1995
On another occasion, since Jack was kept in the stall periodically, one barn cat preferred Jack's robust rump to any other place in the barn for taking a nap.  Angie said she had seen the cat snoozing in that warm spot and apparently Jack didn't mind at all.  
Photo taken by my husband at Black Acre Farm in 2005

Even as I brought several dogs with me to the barn, Jack greeted each one with curiosity, stretching out his head and neck to take in a sniff of the new critter.   And, I swear, he liked to watch them.   Even on his last day, it was another horse and a cat that were present to say good-bye.

Jack as he most often preferred life ~  muddy!  Black Acre Farm, 2004

Later Years
It is with some guilt that I write this because as life seems to move on at that incredible pace, with it comes inevitable changes.  By 1999, the show arena days were long past and with the birth of our first child, the trail riding days began to fade.   I still went for rides occasionally and often took my son to the barn, but these were the days of spending time grooming and mostly just watching Jack run in the fields. There is a great joy in that.

Dad, Jack and my son on board, at the beautiful Black Acre Farm in Gatewood, WV  2002

It was time well spent, as I recall our son scrubbing buckets, learning to brush Jack and clean his hooves and also how to ride bareback.  Happy moments for us, but I wondered if Jack missed all the daily activity of the earlier years.  Years that also included mentoring a young girl from an abusive home life by teaching her to ride and care for a horse.  That episode taught me anew that Jack's gentle loving spirit had no boundaries.   He brought joy into her life, too.

Happy times shared with friends - Laura & I  with Jack and Jingle, one of the farm dogs 2009

Photo by Laura Davis, Beauty Mountain Farm.  Jack grazing at lower right

Jack & I with the minis, 2009
Jack's final years were spent on the lush property of Beauty Mountain Farm in Edmond, WV the home of Gary Reynolds and Laura Davis.  I had moved him there in 2007 in order for him to be on a residential property, knowing he was not getting any younger and would need more supervision.   Again, as had been the case multiple times, Jack brought me to cross the path of others who have become very good friends.  I could not ask for more love, companionship or grassy fields to surround Jack in the senior years of his life.  He enjoyed the company of not only Laura's family, but the gladness of other horses and a few llamas, too.  

With miniature horses at Beauty Mountain Farm, 2009
Jack had a history of good health and so, it was hard for me to watch him grow older and lose muscle mass and take on an "old man" frame. We had struggled to keep weight on him and I fretted about the winters, although his dense winter coat seemed to be enough to keep him warm.   

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