Memorial Day…A time to remember

will never forget my first visit to Arlington National Cemetery. I was about 10 years old. Mom and Ned took us to Washington, DC for a summer vacation. Glancing around all I could see were tombstones for what seemed miles. At that point, I didn’t realize the magnitude of what I was seeing; but I do remember being overcome with emotion at the sight of all of the graves.

When I was 13 my grandparents took me back for a visit to D.C. as we watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was overcome with emotion. I understood by that time that their sacrifice meant freedom for me. I understood that they willingly chose to fight for our freedom and willingly sacrificed their lives.

At 17, nothing could have prepared me for the raw emotion that would surface. I had seen and read about it in books but until you stand on the D Day Beaches and visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial that honors American soldiers who died in WWII. The impact and realization that these men and women belonged to someone caused me to fall to my knees and weep. For the first time, I felt the overarching magnitude of sacrifice. Families were altered forever because their loved ones were not coming home.

Normandy, France 1986

In March of 1994, I visited Pearl Harbor National Memorial and the USS Arizona. Again the sheer magnitude of lives lost in battle overwhelmed me. However, in 2008, Terry and I took a trip back to D.C. He had never been. Not only did we visit the Arlington National Cemetery, we also visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall. On this wall more than 58,000 men and women’s names are listed, a sobering realization that war, whether declared or not, is not for the faint of heart. In his book, A Rumor of War, Phillip Caputo sums it up like this, “There was so much human suffering in these scenes that I could not respond to it.”

USS Arizona Memorial 1994

Today is our day to reflect and remember. Reflect on our history, from the past to the present, we have men and women whose lives have been lost because “Freedom is not free.”

My Love-Hate Relationship with Weeds

Weeds. Annoying. Unsightly. Stubborn. The things that drive me insane but at the same time have become my therapy. During the quarantine when I needed an outlet, I could always excuse myself to go pick weeds. Sometimes for thirty minutes and other times for an hour or more. The beauty of having healthy Bermuda grass is that the weeds are very easy to spot. However, some are so dang stubborn I use a screwdriver to dig them up (It’s a great way tool to use).

Considering we’ve had torrential downfalls this past week, not only did the grass grow the weeds did as well. On Wednesday afternoon I noticed how prominently the weeds were on full display in our yard. It was as if they were screaming, “A few days of rain and no picking bring us out.” If it hadn’t been still raining I probably would’ve gone out to pick the weeds right then. But like a lot of things these days, I had to wait, a great exercise in patience, which has never been a very strong virtue.

Thursday afternoon when I arrived home, the rain had finally subsided and the sun was peering through the clouds. Considering a few hours had passed without rain, I decided it was a good time to go mow the grass and pick those pesky weeds. It took twice as long for me to mow because I was picking weeds with almost every swipe. Fortunately, most of the weeds came up easily due to ground saturation. There were some that wanted to hold on for dear life and others that refused to move at all without the aid of my trusty screwdriver.

After the mowing was complete, I stood back to observe my work. The grass not only looked better, but weeds also were not screaming at me. Did I get every single weed? No. I did get the vast majority.

I am learning that my life is much like those pesky unsightly weeds. There are weeds that pop up all the time. It may be in the form of anger, bitterness, sadness, hurt, disappointment, loneliness…..you get the idea. As those things surface, I can do a few things:

I can leave the weeds alone and allow them to continue to grow. If I do, their roots will grow deeper and they will be much more difficult to remove. Plus they get more unsightly.

I can pluck the tops and leave the root. If I leave the root, the weed will resurface.

I can pull the weed, root and all; even if I have to use my digging tool. Chances are if I pull it from the root, the weed will not resurface. It has been dealt with.

The greatest thing about being able to deal with these weeds in my life is that I am learning to have a healthy relationship with God through His Word. It is much easier to see these weeds surface. Sometimes, I would rather not deal with these weeds. Far to often, they’ve been a part of my life for a very long time and that means that their roots are embedded deeply and they are much harder to remove. While their removal is harder and sometimes a lot more painful, God’s Word brings health and healing.

Again I am reminded that I have NOT arrived as a Christian. My life is a work in progress. God is patient with me and I have to be patient with myself. I will not rid myself of all the weeds but with God’s help and through His Word, I can deal with things as they come to the surface.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 ESV

It’s Your Graduation Day

Dear Amy,

Today is your graduation from college day! Wow! You made it. You overcame some great obstacles and you finished well, both on the field and in the classroom. I know this is not the Pomp and Circumstance we were hoping for, but it doesn’t make us any less proud of your accomplishments and the way you held together through some very adverse situations throughout your college years. You have endured well.

I will never forget about four weeks into your Freshman year, I was feeling pretty low. I was missing you. Maybe not missing you as much as the activity that always surrounded you. I had been asking God for quite some time to grow our relationship to a deeper level. That day, you called me and you were homesick and tired. The 5:00 AM practices were not exactly what you bargained for. The class load was heavy. Being away from home for the first time was hard for you. You cried, and Amy rarely cries. I almost cried with you. But instead, I encouraged you to keep on. I told you that it would get easier. And you actually believed me, maybe for the first time in your life. It did get easier. You found your rhythm.

You didn’t come home after your Freshman year, you stayed, worked a job, and worked out with your coach. You wanted to improve and that was the only way you knew it would happen. You were dedicated, not only for yourself but for your team.

Your Sophomore year, you moved into an apartment. Apartment life was much better than dorm life for you. You made tons of new friends. You also lost your biggest fan in October of your Sophomore year, your Papaw. Instead of allowing a shadow of despair to overtake you, you used his influence and his life to propel you to do better. You loved social life but you didn’t falter in your classwork or on the field. You performed well and you were part of the Southern Conference Women’s Championship Team. Again, you decided to remain throughout the summer and work with your coach, continuing to improve your skills and strength.

At the start of your Junior year, you were pumped. You were excited, not only for the school to start but you were ready for track season. You had worked hard and diligently. You were where you wanted to be athletically. However, a wrench was thrown into your plans and you learned very quickly that things aren’t always what they’re supposed to be. Your coach resigned and went to another team. You were devastated. But instead of quitting, you endured. You struggled a bit during the indoor season but you had no coach. Finally, during the outdoor season, a new coach was hired. You performed well. I know you wanted better finishes but considering the circumstances, you put your best foot forward and you encouraged your teammates to do the same.

During the summer you again remained in Cullowhee to work with your coach…..but one day, you thought it was a good idea to be funny and try to cannonball dive into 2 1/2’ of water. It didn’t turn out funny or to be a good idea at all. But we did see God’s hand of protection over you. The injury you suffered was only minor compared to what it could’ve been.

This injury put a halt to things for about a month. It afforded you some downtime which was much needed and gave you lots of time with your Mawmaw. She spoiled you and took great care of you. She loved every minute and I didn’t hear any complaints from you either. It also gave you perspective on life and how quickly things can change. It only took a split-second decision, didn’t it?

You recovered from your concussion. You returned to Cullowhee and resumed your practice schedule. Then classes began and you were back in the groove once more. One final rodeo: The Senior Year.

There was so much anticipation leading into October. Practice was going well. You were feeling more confident than you had in over a year. Then the unthinkable, your new coach announces that he is leaving to take a new coaching position. You were not quite as devastated the second time as the first time; but again, you had no time to prepare for this blow. A new coach was hired more quickly but you as well as your teammates still felt very alone. But again, you persevered and continued to practice and try to better yourself and encouraged your teammates to do the same.

Then on January 2, in a moment, a blink of an eye, you saw your life pass before you. The wreck happened so quickly you didn’t even know how to respond. By the time I arrived, you were shaking and in shock. When you put your head on my shoulders and cried like a baby, while I held you in my arms, through your sobs you kept repeating, “Mommy, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” The accident wasn’t your fault but sadly the only witness, who knew the accident wasn’t your fault, fled the scene, and didn’t leave his name. I calmed you down and told you, “Amy, you don’t need to worry about this. It will all be okay. You are alive and not hurt and that’s all that really matters. Right now, the only thing you need to worry about is finishing well in track and finishing well in school. That’s your job right now.” You agreed. Again, we saw God’s mighty hand of protection covering you.

On February 29, 2020, at the Southern Conference Indoor Championships, you took the bull by the horns and you finished in 3rd overall in the Shot Put. Not only did you finish in 3rd but you also had the best throw of your college career. You endured. You finished well.

A week later you would leave for Spring Break, only to learn that once you returned from Cancun you would have another week of Spring Break and then all of your classes would go online. Then the following week, the biggest blow, all spring sports would be canceled. It felt cruel and hard. Again, this is just not how things should be.

You didn’t allow the announcement to unravel you, instead, you put more effort into finishing well in the classroom. On Wednesday, you turned in your final paper. You completed your studies at WCU with excellence. You finished well. You endured. You persevered with grace and dignity.

Life is sure to throw some more adversities your way; however, I want you to remember that God will always see you through. His grace has brought you safe thus far and His grace will lead you home.

Today is your Graduation Day and it might not look the way it should but let it always be a reminder that in life things don’t alway work out the way we envision them; but in the end remember what C.S. Lewis says, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” And always remember that your Daddy and I are proud of you and your accomplishments; but we are most proud of the character that is developing in you.

Happy, happy Graduation Day!

I love you,

Mom

Photos by: Sarah Scoggins Siak

Let it be enough

I posted this photo along with the following explanation and because it seemed to resonate with a lot of folks, I am just going to go ahead and post it here. This is a struggle bus I ride on a daily basis and I am learning just to let what I do today be enough.

This is hard for an individual like me. The one who’s always thinking I could’ve done more. The reality is finally setting in and I am beginning to see that it’s not the amount I get done in a day but rather the heart with which I do it that gives me the most satisfaction. There’s a verse in Philippians 2: 3-4 that says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” For me, it is better to do a little with the right heart and motives than a lot without a heart and for self-satisfaction and personal gain.

Why I Can Celebrate A Risen Savior

Before you read this post, I want you to know that I have spent a great deal of time praying over this post. Not only have I prayed over sharing this, but I have also prayed for you, my readers. I can tell you that this particular writing came through a recent Bible Study God placed on my heart about nine months ago. I realize that it’s significantly more lengthy than I normally write. Please bear with me. For me, personally, this has been a life-altering study and today, of all days, it is why I can celebrate Easter because Jesus took my place and He conquered sin and death. He is my Victory.

The truth is you don’t get to know someone intimately without spending time with them. I spent a lot of time with my Popaw. I knew him well. I knew him so well that when he asked for water it was not a common request. At that moment I believe that God was clearly showing me and Mom that Popaw would soon meet Jesus.

For years doctors, as well as family, tried vehemently to get Popaw to drink water. However, Popaw refused. He preferred his coffee and tea always reasoning, “I’m getting my water from coffee and tea. Besides, I don’t know how you can enjoy drinking something that has no flavor.” Mom even bought flavored water drinks to try to encourage his intake of water. It proved to be a useless, futile attempt. Popaw was adamant, he would not drink water.

So, after we finally got him somewhat calmed down the day of his stroke, I asked him, “Popaw, do you want something to drink?”

He responded, “I want water.”

I asked a second time, “Did I hear you correctly you want water?”

Nodding his head and opening his dry mouth he said, “I want water.”

Mom and I both stood there in utter disbelief and shock. Mom looked at me, began to shake her head and uttered, “He never asks for water. Never. He doesn’t like water. I cannot believe what I am hearing.”

I gave him water that day. I knew his time was short. I knew that God was helping both of us process that Popaw would not be with us much longer. However, if I had not spent a great deal of time with him, if I had not gotten to really know him, I would not have known his request to be so odd or unusual. I knew him. I gave him water on Wednesday and he died the following Tuesday.

I believe with all of my heart that the reason John wrote the Book of John is that John wants us to get to know Jesus like He knew Jesus. He is telling us, in essence, the very reason Jesus came was for us to know Him because when we know Him, we will believe in Him. Consequently giving us the right to become heirs with Him. (“But to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 ESV)

Look with me at the following verse. I have taken the liberty to give it to you in several different translations. I encourage you to read it in others. Each translation has it’s own uniqueness which helps aid in our understanding.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, the glory of as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son. Generous inside out, true from start to finish.” MSG

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
‭‭John‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“And the Word (Christ) became flesh and lived among us; and we (actually saw His glory, glory as belongs to the (One and ) only begotten Son of the Father (the Son who is truly unique the only One of His kind, who is) full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception.” John 1:14 AMP

When you read the words, “And the Word became flesh.”? What does that mean to you?

To me it means, Jesus put skin on. It didn’t make him any less God but he took on human flesh. And what that means for me, personally, is that He became human so that He could experience life the way I experience life. He can identify with me.

Think about it like this. The best counselors are those who have walked in your shoes. The ones who have lived through the hard times and made it through. In order to understand us, Jesus was willing to put skin on. The truth here is that he has endured all that we will ever endure. Mock, ridicule, injustice, betrayal, separation from the Father, and death. Knowing this means that He understands and that is what makes Him the “Wonderful counselor” Isaiah talks about. (Isaiah 9:6)

The writer of Hebrews expressed it like this: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

Then John goes on to say, not only did he become flesh but “He makes his dwelling among us.”

In order to really understand what that means we have to go back to the original Greek text and see that the word “dwelt or lived” is literally translated as “tabernacled” which means to pitch a tent.

If you’ll remember the tabernacle during the days of Moses was God’s dwelling place. Now, this tabernacle was constructed with human hands and under the direction of God. And if you’ll remember on the priests could enter the Holy of Holies and there was a veil that separated them from seeing God. Now, because Jesus came in human form, not made by human hands, we have God in flesh living among us. He is our Emmanuel, “God with us.” He is near. What a revelation!

You see, Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God!

Pastor Emile Wolfaardt puts it this way: “A little more than 2,000 years ago, God stepped onto our earth, pitched His tent and set up camp right in the middle of us all. That is what the word ‘dwelled’ can mean — to set a tent. In other words, the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. And when He did that,well men it was the most profound revelation of God man would ever know on this earth.”

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11-12

And now because Jesus put on skin and dwells among us, “we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”

First of all, I think it’s important to remember who is writing this book, John, the disciple. Remember he communed with Jesus on a regular basis. He had a relationship with him. and to remember that he along with Peter and James was with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Look with me at Matthew 17

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” Matthew 17:1-8

So yes, John has seen his glory but we too have seen his glory. We see His glory when we believe that He is our Savior and He is the only way to the Father. Then we see His glory displayed in and through the lives of others who believe.

What does His glory look like?

“Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Exodus 33: 18-20

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, “ Exodus 34:6

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4

“For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” 2 Corinthians 4:6

“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Revelation 21:23

His glory is as brilliant as the sun. And His glory is clearly revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Before Christ, no one could see the face of God and live but this scripture tells us that not only is Jesus, the only Son of God, but Jesus himself is God. When Jesus took on flesh, He became the ultimate manifestation of God’s glory. When Jesus went to the cross, died and rose again, He returned to glory.

But John doesn’t stop there, he tells us that He is full of “grace and truth.”

Theologian J.C. Ryle eloquently writes of the grace and truth that came together in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ: “This constant undivided union of two perfect natures in Christ’s Person is exactly that which gives infinite value to His mediation and qualifies Him to be the very Mediator that sinners need. Our Mediator is One who can sympathize with us, because He is very MAN. And yet, at the same time, He is One who can deal with the Father for us on equal terms, because He is very GOD.”

What do you think of when you hear the word grace?

Do you think of the time while Jesus was hanging on the cross and he cries out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?” Luke 23:34

Here is the epitome of grace and truth.

The truth is that it’s our sin that cost him his life. That is the reason Jesus took on flesh because there was no other way. The sacrifice had to be spotless and perfect. But do you realize what the implications of our sin really cost Him?

Think back to the Garden of Gethsemane. Three, not once, twice but three times, Jesus prayed fervently for God to take the cup from Him. He came with flesh on for this purpose. He knew all along what His purpose was but His spirit was in such agony that He asked God to “take it away but only if there was any other way.” Why would Jesus beg God to take it away? Because He knew for the very first time since before the beginning of all time that He would be separated from God, the Father. Just ponder that for a moment…..I think most of us know what it feels like to be separated from someone we know. Think about how your heart groans and longs to be reunited. But this, this is far worse than any separation we can imagine. And when we begin to realize the vast implications of what our sin really cost Him, it becomes more difficult not to see His grace in light of His truth and not stand amazed with awe and wonder.

He gave us what we didn’t deserve and took our punishment upon him. Isaiah penned it like this “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 ESV

And if He bore our sins and took our punishment and we have come to faith in Him, then it is profitable for us to remember ”So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 NIV

The truth is He willingly put on flesh in order to take on our sin because there was no other way. He bought our freedom with His blood. And Hallelujah, on the third day he arose and burst the gates of Hell wide open. This is why I can celebrate Easter. Jesus is me Victory!

Remember and Celebrate

It seems perfectly fitting that today, Palm Sunday, while Christians around the world are commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I am finding cause to celebrate your triumphal entry to Heaven.

Forty-four years ago today, Jesus finished your place and called you home. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3. Jesus unbound you and set you free.

Your bindings were not literal chains but those of a physical nature. For almost four years leading up to your death, your body suffered greatly. Cancer raged. While the chemotherapy gave you time, it also depleted you of your strength. Then forty-nine days or more before you took your final breath, your chains became your hospital bed. The tumor resting on your spine was inoperable and caused paralysis from the waist down.

While the cancer and chemotherapy were taking its toll on your physical body and binding it up, nothing could contain the Spirit of God that welled up in your soul. You understood what Paul said in Philippians 1:21. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” You knew the end of your story was going to turn out well but you also knew for what time God gave you was a great responsibility to live your life worthy of your calling. And you did! You understood what most of us fail to even understand now, what really matters: Loving God with all of your heart and loving others. You loved others enough to share with them the Good News of Christ because you wanted them to experience the same peace and joy that you had been given.

Daddy, can I tell you something? Your life is still making a difference. The prayers you prayed are still being worked out. Your legacy continues. How do I know? Because your life continues to make a difference in my life and it leads me to desire greater wisdom and knowledge of Jesus and a greater love for people. I found this in your Bible and I am convinced it’s a prayer that you prayed for all of your children. God, answered your prayer, He allowed your actions to shine and He did remember you

And so today, as we enter into Holy Week by remembering Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I will remember and celebrate your triumphant entry into the arms of Jesus!

A Fast Spreading Infection

An infection, especially a bacterial infection, left untreated can wreak havoc quickly. Oh, I’ve heard about incidents where folks left infections untreated and serious problems resulted from not taking care of the problem. In some cases, amputations of appendages and even death. I just didn’t realize how quickly an infection can spread until I had one.

One day in late May, I decided to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure. It’s not something I normally do. It’s one of the luxuries I don’t care to spend money on, except occasionally and for special occasions. This particular day, I just needed a “pick me up”.

The next day, as the day progressed, I noticed that my left thumb was tight and it was trobbing a little. But when I glanced down at it, it had the appearance of a bug bite. It was the end of May and the mosquitos were out. I brushed it off and didn’t think anything else about it until later in the day.

During dinner with Terry I jokingly said, “Look at my poor thumb. It’s swollen and it has a fever.”

He said, “Well, when you get home put some ice on it. It looks like a bug bite.” (See, I told you, in my previous blog, his answer for everything is “ice”. )

By the time I arrived home my thumb was throbbing. It felt as if my heart was beating in my thumb. Not to mention, the swelling was getting worse. My thumb was so tight I could barely move it. So, I did what Terry suggested. I put ice on the darn thing and began my Google search to determine what bit me. After several searches and looking at pictures of bug bitten fingers, mine didn’t exactly fit the bill. So I Googled, “Why is my thumb swollen around the nail?” One of the first articles talked about bacterial infections related to manicures. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had the manicure the day before and that’s exactly what happened. I had gotten an infection. Then I recalled an odd comment the nail tech made to me, “I don’t like that color. Why you choose that color?” (And yes, he said it this way because he’s Asian) I also remembered during the process of cutting my cuticle he gouged me a little in the lower left corner of my left thumb. As I looked at my fat thumb, I could see tiny remnants of dried blood from the small gouge mark. No wonder he didn’t like the color, I thought as I recalled events from the previous day. But honestly, if the infection hadn’t set it, I doubt I would’ve even noticed it.

I slept very little that evening. My thumb was having a throb fest. By the next morning, it was more red, swollen and feverish. In fact, I couldn’t bend it. Terry, Alex and Amy suggested calling the doctor. I tried arguing but they kept saying, “You don’t complain about pain unless it hurts.” That is true, I do have a high tolerance for pain and sometimes it’s a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse. Also, I knew from what I read the night before that I did need to seek medical attention.

My dermatologist wasn’t available until Friday and my PCP was out of town but I did get in to see the PA. As soon as she looked at my finger, she said, “Wow! Bet you won’t go back to that nail salon again!” She explained that this type of infection can go south very quickly and she was very concerned. She prescribed a 10-day antibiotic and told me that I had to soak my finger five times a day in Epsom salt and water. Then I had to use warm compression on it after the soaking. She suggested I do this for the next three days and then cut back as the infection got better.

As I was leaving I was trying to find some humor in all and said, “Well, I knew my thumb was sick because it was running a fever.”

“To be honest, you are running a fever and that indicates the infection is already spreading. Your body temperature is 100.4,” she responded.

“Wow! I never run a fever and my normal body temperature is 97.6, not 98.6. I sure am glad I came today and didn’t wait, ” I answered back

“If it gets worse or your fever gets higher, go to the ER immediately. Do not wait.” She earned as I was leaving.

Driving home, I kept thanking God that the pain was so intense that I had to go to the doctor. Otherwise, I would’ve waited and the outcome may have been much worse.

Just to help you understand how seriously my doctor’s office took this infection, the PA called me for the next three days to make sure I was improving.

As I sit here and recount this story, it reminds me of how sin infects our lives when it’s left unchecked. You see, sin is like a bacterial infection. The longer we wait around to take care of it the longer it will take to get it out of our lives. Ravi Zacharias says, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

Jesus stands ready to forgive and make you well. But you have to call on Him and trust Him through the process. Just like I did with my doctor. Do you remember when the Pharisees and Scribes came complaining to the disciples about why Jesus kept dining with the sinners and tax collectors? ”And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This is my normal thumb size
This is two days after the manicure and you can see how swollen it is. If you look closely, you can see the tiny gouge mark in the bottom left corner of my thumbnail.
This was two days after I started on antibiotics. It’s still swollen but now you can see exactly where the infection is because of the red streak.
A side view of my fat thumb.

Did I go back to the nail salon and call them out? No, I didn’t. I do not think it was intentional; however, I have not had a manicure since that time. Will I go again? If don’t know. Every time I think about going, I am reminded of how costly this manicure could have been. And you know what, that’s exactly the same way I need to think when I am tempted to fall back into my same old pattern of sin. I need to be reminded of how much my sin cost Jesus. His life.

Why She Throws

Many times people ask, “How did Amy get involved in throwing?” It’s a fair question because it’s not a typical sport. To be honest, until Amy got interested and started competing, the sport didn’t interest me at all.

Amy has been involved in recreational and competitive sports since the age of five. She played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and tennis. Terry coached her in basketball from kindergarten through sixth grade. He often joked and said, “I could teach that girl to play football.” It’s true. She probably could’ve held her own with the proper protection. She was rough and tough.

In 8th grade, she was playing in the conference volleyball championship and she strained her back, or so we thought. Of course, her being the tough girl she was not about to come out of the game. She continued to play. It was obvious she was in pain but all athletes play with pain from time to time. She was no exception.

The first thing we did when we arrived home that evening was put on ice her back. (Side note: all of my kids will tell you that “ice” is Terry’s answer to everything.) She was a little sore the next morning but didn’t moan too much. I gave her some ibuprofen and took her to school. We kept icing and using ibuprofen for a few days and she wasn’t grumbling or in substantial pain. Basketball practice was already well underway and they were getting ready to begin their season. She and her friend Kasey were the two starting guards. All was moving along as planned.

They played their first two games and Amy performed well. She complained a little with her back but nothing major until one evening when Terry and I picked her up from practice. She quietly got in the car and immediately I knew something was wrong but didn’t ask. I turned around to look at her and saw big goose egg tears streaming from her face and she said, “It’s my back.” Amy doesn’t cry. This was serious.

We were very fortunate to get her with Dr. Maxwell an Orthopedic Spine Specialist, within a few days. After x-rays and examining her, he identified her injury spondylolysis. He told us these are common injuries seen in gymnasts but that hers was sustained from hyperextending her back while hitting the volleyball.

When asked if she could play volleyball again he said, “First of all, let me ask you a question. If you have a metal coat hanger and bend it back and forth numerous times, what happens?”

“It breaks,” she replied.

The room grew silent and still. After giving us time to pause and reflect on what we had just heard, Dr. Maxwell continued. “Yes, and if you were my daughter, and I have a daughter who played volleyball, I would tell her that it is not a good idea to continue. It’s entirely up to you and your parents. However, for the next six weeks, you cannot participate in any sports and that includes basketball and we will have to wait and see about track season. When I do release you, you are going to have to be very careful and if it hurts, you have to stop what you’re doing. ”

Ouch! It was a huge blow. This was not part of her plans. The wind had just been knocked out of her sails.

At the end of six weeks, he released her and she was able to play in the last few games of the season. Immediately after basketball, track practice began. Fortunately, running didn’t irritate her back too much. Then one day came home one day and announced that Coach Bond asked her to try thwoimg shot put because of her arm strength and length. It didn’t irritate her back either and she discovered she was pretty good at it. She taught herself to shuffle and throw.

During the summer she also started taking lessons and playing tennis again. Sometimes certain motions would irritate her back and so she would just stop and try it a different way.

After tennis season her Freshman year, she tried out for basketball and made the team. The day before team practice was due to start she said, “Daddy, would you be disappointed if I didn’t play basketball? You’ve always told us that we give 100% to everything we do. And you’ve always said that if we start, we don’t quit. Yarborough’s are not quitters! I don’t think I can give my best because my heart isn’t in it. I feel like I’m doing basketball more for you than me. My heart is in tennis and track and I really want to work on those two things.”

Terry said, “No, I am not disappointed. I would rather you tell me now. I’ve never pressured you into playing any sport. I’ve always supported whatever you’ve chosen to do.”

The choice was made and she didn’t play basketball. She did exactly what she set out to do. She improved in both tennis and track, specifically her throwing. By her senior year, she improved enough to win the state title in the discus and 2nd place in the shot put her senior year. More importantly, she received an invitation to WCU as a “preferred walk-on” and is now a scholarship athlete.

And that’s how that happened. And you can bet your bottom dollar if someone had told me twenty-two years ago. that my little girl would be a thrower girl, I would’ve laughed in their face and said, “Not my girl”

The reality is that sometimes we may think we know the path we want to take and “we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Psalm 16:9

Unsightly Nose Hairs

Sunday on our way to church I pulled the visor down to open the mirror. I do this regularly on Sundays because I put my lips on. Truthfully it’s about the only day of the week I wear lipstick. I mean occasionally if we’re going out I will but that’s why I wonder if I’m truly southern. Cause don’t all good Southern girls put their lips on?

As I was meticulously applying the lipstick because I don’t do do-overs, I noticed the most unsightly nasal hairs. It really freaked me out. I’ve never noticed how prominent they were and I doubt anyone else does either because they are very light in color. It was more the way the light was filtering into the car. However, because I found it almost grotesque, I immediately picked up my phone to do a google search for nasal hair removal.

Do you know what I found out? I can cut those little boogers back but to remove the hair follicle could be dangerous and detrimental to my health. I mean who knew that this tiny little unsightly and seemingly useless haphazardly placed hair could actually be helpful and healthful.

Here are a few important facts about nasal hair (in case you didn’t already know):

  • Nasal hair is one of our body’s defense mechanisms against disease
  • When you breathe in and out your nasal hair catches harmful debris and keeps it from getting into the body.
  • Nasal hair also helps maintain moisture in the air we breathe

From my research, I learned that plucking or removing nasal hair is not a good idea and can lead to serious health issues. However, if they’re so unsightly you can’t stand them, you can trim them with scissors. Although you need to exercise caution in that as well.

Here’s the thing that stood out to me the most. How intricately we are fashioned. Think about it. Even the smallest of detail, like an unsightly nasal hair, has a purpose. Only a very creative God could do such a thing. Let’s just take a look back at how he created us.

  • First, we were made by the hands of God. Yes, His very hands. Take a look at Genesis 2:7, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground”. Remember for all of the other creation, He spoke it into existence. But for humankind he formed, indicating he used his hands. He made something from nothing.
  • Second, He breathed life into us. Yes, the very same God who formed us, breathed life into us. Take a look at the rest of Genesis 2:7, “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature.”

I find it both fascinating and mind-boggling that the very same God who created the world, hand-crafted me and then breathed breath into my lungs. But what I find more fascinating is the intricate details with which the human body is created and that each one has its purpose and each one serves their purpose.

So, the next time I see those unsightly nasal hairs, I won’t be so quick to think of ways to get rid of them. Instead, I will see them for what they are, protective measures with purpose.

Do you need a little red wagon?

When my oldest son, Ryan was about 13 months old and showing no signs of interest in walking, I along with our beloved pediatrician became concerned. Oh, there was no concern for fine motor skills or cognitive development. He was already talking a blue streak. He manipulated objects meticulously with his hands and his eyes always seemed to be studying how things worked. He crawled and could get anywhere he wanted to go. He would pull up and stand but wasn’t really interested in holding your hands to walk and absolutely no interest in walking on his own.

One day during a routine office visit the pediatrician suggested purchasing a little red wagon made by Fisher-Price. (Like the one below( She said it would encourage walking. Also, it would serve as a dual purpose ride-on toy as well.

We made our purchase immediately upon leaving her office. We excitedly gave Ryan his new toy. We attempted for days to encourage him to stand and push the wagon, he rejected our efforts. He wasn’t keen on using it as a ride-on toy either. Oh no, not my Ryan. He was far more interested in the seat. He quickly noticed the seat lifted up. He spent hours lifting and lowering the seat. After a few weeks, he discovered there enough space to hide things under the seat. Often when we were missing items, we would ask Ryan and he would crawl to his wagon, lift the seat and proclaim, “Here!”

Finally, after about a month, he would use the handle and walk a little but if he had somewhere he wanted to go quickly, his knees hit the floor and he crawled. I guess you could say we were making some progress. Just not fast progress. It would be another month before he would officially take his first real steps and walk.

As I think about this story, it reminds me that some things happen immediately and some things take time. Sometimes, we need help and encouragement to take the next step. Sometimes we are like Ryan, satisfied to be crawling when we should be walking. It’s a place called complacency.

Have you been there? Are you there now? I have been and I can tell you that it’s not a good place to be. You don’t flourish when you’re complacent. You know why? Because you’re so satisfied with yourself or the way things are you don’t see a need to change. It’s sometimes referred to as the silent killer.

The Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary defines “complacency” as “a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder.”

So, how do we combat complacency?

Get a little red wagon and learn to walk. Actually, yes.

Let’s break it apart

  • First, recognize areas of your life that need growth and change. Ryan needed to learn to walk and we had to get something that would promote growth and change. Again, keep in mind that sometimes these things take time. Don’t get discouraged or give up easily if change and growth don’t happen quickly. Winston Churchill says, “There is nothing wrong with change if its in the right direction.
  • Be willing to admit your weaknesses. Everybody has them and sometimes we need help to overcome our weaknesses. Ryan needed the assistance of the little red wagon.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks. In order for Ryan to learn to walk, he had to take the risk to fall. Granted he fell a lot at first and I think this is the scariest part of taking any risk. There may be some failure along the way but is rarely does a reward happen that doesn’t have a risk involved
    Avoid the trap of laziness Ryan became lazy about walking because crawling was easy for him. He could get to everything he needed or wanted. He didn’t realize until he started walking/running that he could move a lot faster. Most often its self-absorption that will keep us in the trap of laziness.

The best way to avoid becoming complacent is to do the following:

Put one foot in front of the other

Hope for the Waiting

Are you in a season of waiting? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve been there a time or two. Sometimes the wait has been a considerable period of time, like years. Can I be honest? I grow tired and weary from the wait. At times, my heart grows numb and wonder how much longer?

The reality of this season, as I’ve learned, is for God to use this time to prepare my heart for what He has in store for me to do. I am reminded of this when I read, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which he prepared in advance for us to do.”

However, while I know the truth and I know fully that He intends to use this period of time, regardless of length, for His glory; I still grow weary. I grow weary from the emotional upheaval and of it all. I grow weary when I see others moving forward and I feel stuck and confined. And yet, I wait and hope and pray.

‘Hope has a thick skin and will endure many a blow,’ wrote John Bunyan (1628–1688). ‘It will endure all things if it be of the right kind, for the joy that is set before it… it is hope that makes the soul exercise patience and long-suffering under the cross, until the time comes to enjoy the crown.’

The hardest part for me is the “feeling stuck”. You’re paralyzed. To go back is not wise and there’s no way to move forward. You’re sitting in neutral and going nowhere. Have you ever been there?

I believe it’s in these times that God’s voice can be heard the loudest. If we’re willing to listen.

Why you ask?

Think about it like this, when my children were in the tweens and teens and I wanted to have good meaningful conversations with them, I would get them alone in the car with me. When they were alone with me there were not the usual distractions keeping us from conversing, except their own stubbornness. Also, they had no where to go. They were stuck with me. Now, they could choose to engage in conversation with me or not but most often they would. In these moments of engagement I truly began to understand the heart of my child. His/her wants and desires. Fears. Ambitions. Heartaches. During those moments, I could speak truth into them. I could speak blessings over them. I could give them wise counsel.

It’s the same idea when we’re at a standstill or stuck during the waiting period, God wants us to engage with Him. He wants us to pour our hearts out to him. He desires intimacy with us. More importantly, He wants to speak His truth into us. The only way this can happen is when we don’t look for other things to distract us and we look to Him. Or we don’t allow our stubbornness to ignore that He’s eager to hear us cry out to Him because He wants to speak wisdom, truth and blessing into us!

It is in these times that we are perfectly positioned to hear what David penned so beautifully in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His namesake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

If you’re in a season of waiting, I have really good news for you. You are not alone. So hold on tightly to the truth of His Word and know that in due time He will lift you up and remember this, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Overwhelming Peace

Has there ever been a time when you know that God is asking you to do something really hard? It may not even make sense but you know you’ve got to do it. Yet, you’ll argue, hem and haw just to prolong the inevitable! Or maybe you’re just one of those really obedient folks who instantly jumps for joy and says, “Okay God, sign me up!” (If you are, good for you. I wish I could be that way)

I think we’ve already established, that’s not me! I’m going to ask and beg and plead before I submit. If I’m really being honest, it’s because I’m motivated by selfish desires and trust issues and that’s why I find it hard to yield. (And my Mom always thought my sister was the strong-willed one, Ha!)

Terry and I moved in February 2018 and I didn’t quite leave kicking and screaming but I may as well have. I agreed to move and clearly saw how God paved the way for us to move. There was no doubt that we were following God’s leading. However, my heart was not prepared to leave. In fact, I’d pretty much decided that things were going to fall apart and we would be unpacking and staying.

Guess what? That didn’t happen. We moved.

For the first few weeks, I felt as if I were in a drunken stupor. Half dazed. Probably pinched myself a time or fifty thinking I was sleepwalking! I wasn’t resting well and I was spending more than twelve hours a day in Hendersonville and not all by choice. My grandfather became very ill and was hospitalized. Rest finally found me and I began to feel more humanized but still not clearly processing the turmoil binding up inside.

Next came the anger. I had to literally talk myself into being nice. Man, it was hard. Thankfully I didn’t have to pretend in front of Terry but I probably should have spared him from some of my angry outbursts and crying spells. Emotionally and physically, I was spent and defeated.

I’m going to interject here and tell you why there was so much turmoil going on inside me. I’m not telling this for you to feel sorry for me, I don’t feel sorry for myself. I just think it puts a little more perspective on why I was so emotionally and physically spent.

In October of 2015, one of my dearest friends died and so did my Aunt. In December 2015 the business I worked for closed. In March 2016 Ned, my dad, received his cancer diagnosis. June 2016 Amy, our youngest and only daughter, graduates college and leaves the nest in August of 2016. In May 2017, Ned’s cancer returned and in October he died. Then we made the big move on February 2, 2018. So, there was one thing right after another, not to mention my two oldest boy were deployed during that time. To be honest, I think the move was like the tidal wave that broke me. By then, I was much to tired to stop it.

Honestly, I knew it would be hard to leave a place I loved, a place I called home for 26 years, I just wasn’t prepared at all for the emotional impact. Fortunately, I didn’t get so overwhelmed with grief and despair that I became caught up in the doldrums of depression. (It would’ve been easy to go there because it’s easy to get caught up in thinking ”I’m the only one.”)

And so, I began to take my problems to God. I prayed. I screamed. I cried. I just told him everything I was feeling. As I began to pour out my heart to Him; slowly, the dark cloud began to lift and a slight ray of light emerged. At that point, I was able to talk more freely, without anger and rage, to Terry and explain how I felt. I also felt more comfortable sharing my feelings and asking people to pray for me. But I had to understand why I was having such a hard time before I could ask for prayer.

As more light filtered in and the clouds began to dissipate, I embraced my new surroundings and peace began to fill my heart. Actually, it was an overwhelming peace. And you know what’s crazy? I actually wrote out a prayer more than a year beforehand: God either moves us back to Hendersonville or overwhelm me here with your peace. I kept praying that prayer over and over. And to be honest, I really thought God would move us back but instead, He overwhelmed me with peace.

There’s a powerful verse tucked in Isaiah 26:3 ”You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You”

The reality was that I had to get to a place where I absolutely trusted in the Sovereignty of God and then He poured within me His perfect and overwhelming peace.

So maybe God is asking you to trust in Him and do something that seems hard or difficult but you know deep down in your being that you’ve got to do it. Maybe it will cause some confusion and chaos for a while but can I tell you something? Trust Him. He knows what’s best.

Disappointments

Have you ever been disappointed? You’ve wanted something for so long and finally, you get it, only it’s not exactly what you expected. However, later on, it becomes crystal clear that the exact thing you wanted wasn’t what you needed and that thing you got was exactly the perfect thing.

“I want a dog”. If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times. “But Daddy, please.”

“Amy, I am not going to get a dog until you get older. I am not raising two babies at once.”

Oh, don’t feel bad for her. She had an ample share of cats. In fact, all of her journal entries in First through Third grades either included a story about one of her cats or her friend, Hannah, and sometimes both. I’m not exaggerating. I read those darn things about two years ago and laughed until I cried.

Finally, Terry told her that when we got a house with a bigger yard she could have her dog. And let me tell you, she didn’t forget.

As soon as we moved to our house with over an acre of property, the begging kicked into overdrive. She was determined to wear him down.

She didn’t and refused to relent because he had a plan. Not really, but let’s just pretend he did.

Christmas was drawing near and Amy started chirping again about a dog.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Amy wanted a big dog. A German Shepherd was her preference but any big dog would do. When she was little and would petition for a dog she would often say, “I want a big dog like Clifford the big red dog!”

Well, it just so happened that Alex, Amy and I ended up at the local pet store in Hendersonville a few days prior to Christmas. We saw and held several breeds of dogs and I took pictures and sent them to Terry.

My favorite was the Bichon. I was particularly fond of this breed because not only were they cute little white balls of puff, resembling cotton, with coal-black noses and big round black eyes but the best part was they were hyper-allergenic and don’t shed! But I also knew Terry would make the final decision. Trust me when I say I pleaded my case to the max for this dog.

I’ve written about how Sammy was chosen. Read Here

Anyway, so Terry picked him out and gave him his name. We took him home on the evening of December 24, 2008. We somehow managed, with the help of Mom, Ned, Ryan and Matthew to keep the dog quiet until Amy and Mom got into bed.

Amy’s room was directly over Ryan and Matthew’s room. They were responsible for his care and keeping him as quiet as they possibly could. The only snafu was locking him in his crate. He whined incessantly until they took him out. Apparently, his cries were loud enough for Amy to hear because she kept tapping my Mom and saying, “Mawmaw, do you hear that? I hear a dog. Don’t you hear it? I’m getting a dog for Christmas!”

Mom said Amy continued to try her best to pry it out of her. Mom had to turn over and pretend to be asleep. I really don’t know how she did it without laughing at Amy’s persistence. This is my very relentless child who doesn’t give in or up easily.

Finally, Amy drifted off to sleep. However, I don’t think Ryan got any sleep and Matthew had very little. Sammy kept them awake.

Christmas morning came. Terry had decided that Sammy would be the last gift of the day. So, we kept him in his crate in the basement and I think the boys put a towel over the crate to dissolve some of the noise.

Finally, after the last present was unwrapped, Terry snuck downstairs and got the puppy. Amy was in the living room and Terry put him down on the other side of the wall and let him walk around.

“See, Mawmaw, I knew I heard a puppy last night. I told you I was getting a puppy.” She picked him up and loved on him a bit but then her disappointment surfaced, “He’s cute but I wanted a German Shepherd!”

Sammy just wasn’t what she expected. She was disappointed. Fortunately, her disappointment didn’t overshadow Christmas Day.

For years, she would mention not getting a big dog and then one day, not too long ago, she said, “You know, I’ve realized that Sammy has been the perfect choice for me and our family.”

Now, let me go back to the original question: have you ever been disappointed? I want to take it a bit further. Have you ever been disappointed because God hasn’t given you what you asked for? Maybe He didn’t come through when you expected but He did come through. Maybe you didn’t get the promotion when you thought and knew you had earned it but eventually, the promotion came. Maybe he didn’t give you the job you wanted but He provided a job. Maybe He didn’t heal your loved one on earth but gave them the ultimate healing in Heaven. I don’t know what has disappointed you. I know there have been many times in my life I’ve been disappointed.

However, what I’ve come to realize is that disappointments are part of life. Life is not a whimsical merry go round and singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire. Life is hard and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it doesn’t feel fair and sometimes it doesn’t feel good. But can I tell you what I’ve learned? Just because He doesn’t answer in the time and the way we think He should does not mean that He is not good. On the contrary, only a good, loving and wise father gives his children what is best for them. In the same way that Terry knew Sammy would be the best fit for the family.

Matthew 7:11. “If you, then, though, you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

Celebrating 25 years-Day 2

Yesterday we took to the streets again. We were hoping to finish up Christmas shopping but nothing hopped off the racks and into our hands. We tried. Believe me!

I even went into several boutiques to try and find unique gifts. The only thing I ran across was this tea towel and I didn’t think Amy would appreciate it

At least not yet, so I didn’t buy it.

For brunch, we decided to give Virginia’s on King a try. Partly because Terry saw fried chicken and biscuit on the menu.

Yes, Terry did chose the chicken biscuit and I opted for the farmer’s omelet. And true to my southern roots, I always have grits when I’m in Charleston. Both dishes were lovely and we left happy and full.

After visiting with our oldest son, Ryan, seeing his new home and briefly petting his skittish cat, Faye, we headed back downtown.

I wanted a rooftop experience and we noticed that the Pavilion had scores of heaters so we knew we would not be too cold. We ventured up and were not disappointed with the view. (Terry was disappointed with the cost of a bottle of beer. I told him we went up there for the experience. He agreed.)

If you look closely at the pic you will see a boat with Christmas lights. Boats decked out in festive lights and parade around Waterfront Park.

We ended our evening dining at Fleet Landing with our son, Ryan. Again, we’ve eaten here multiple times, not every trip but close. This is why I can highly recommend eating here. The food is always consistent and good and we’ve always had excellent service.

My half-eaten plate of blackened triggerfish with grits and asparagus. Yummy goodness.

I recommend that you use the Open Table App and make a reservation.

A perfect ending to another lovely day. Anytime we get to spend time with our older boys is a very good day.

Risk and Reward- Our Story Continued

There’s a picture that hangs now on the wall in our guest bathroom. It has traveled for many years and houses with us. It hardly works with any of our decors but it’s such a part of our story, I will not part with it.

This picture is of the 13th hole at Augusta National called Azalea. It’s the first picture we bought together as a couple and we actually purchased it on our honeymoon almost 25 years ago.

This isn’t the exact picture we have but close to it. It’s interesting to me that it’s the first picture we purchased as a couple and here’s why!

  • I wasn’t keen on golf. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to spend hours chasing a little white ball around.
  • It represented the first major conflict we had as a couple before we were married
  • I was no good at it.

So, why in the world would I go along with Terry and choose that picture. To be honest, I liked it. Something about the colors of the azaleas in full bloom contrasting with the white sand bunkers and lush, meticulously manicured bent grass drew me in and I wanted it as much as Terry. I don’t remember exactly what we paid for it but I do remember it was on sale!

I’ve done a little research to learn that this particular hole on Augusta National is one that is considered one of the greatest risk-reward holes in golf. It’s also considered one of the easiest holes on Augusta National because now most pros can reach the green in two shots giving them an opportunity to possibly eagle the hole or at least make birdie. However, the key is a good tee shot and a good second shot. If the tee shot isn’t good, golfers have a chance to make up for it with their second shot, but placement on the green will require strategy and careful consideration. Even the pros can putt the ball right off the green into Rae’s Creek, the tributary that protects the green. Just ask Tiger Woods. A poor second shot can land you in Rae’s Creek. However, for many golfers who play this hole under par, there is no reward without taking a risk.

I find it very interesting that we would have chosen such a beautiful depiction of what God would do in and through us over the past almost 25 years.

For both of us to love and trust again was risky. In some ways, I think Terry took a much bigger risk than I did because he chose to take on the responsibility of not one but three of us. He risked a lot to marry me. He also willingly gave up a lot to marry me.

Because of the deep wounds from my past, my risk was giving my heart fully to him. It was a choice that I had to make. I had to learn to trust him and this was not easy for me! It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t instant and complete trust when we did get married. It developed over time.

It’s also interesting to me like mistakes on the hole can leave you in a place you don’t want to be. Mistakes in marriage can also land you on unfamiliar territory and you have to carefully consider how to make your next shot better. But if that next shot lands you in the water, you simply take a stroke penalty and continue play. You don’t give up until the ball goes in the hole. But there are times when you get it right and it’s truly a remarkable feat.

Folks, I can tell you that our marriage is no picture book fairytale. Oh, but being determined to pick up each other’s faults and failures and love each other no matter what has been the best risk with an ever so great reward!

There’s rarely a time when there’s not a risk involved in a reward. There will be times of failures, setbacks, disappointments but its just deciding if the risk is really worth the reward.

The Empty Chair

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our family and friends.

Last year I began writing this and today God allowed me to finish it. I believe He reserved it in particularly for this day and this year. I know the empty chair well. We have been acquainted for many years and while I still feel it’s emptiness in various forms. I know many of you have felt it too. And if you haven’t already you will. Here’s what the empty chair has taught me.

The Empty Chair

Do you have an empty chair this year? Maybe a loved one is no longer there. Maybe a child is unable to come home. Maybe a spouse has left for greener pastures. Maybe you have to share children with the other parent. Whatever the reason, the chair that was once filled with the presence of a physical body now is empty.

While laughter and endless chatter may fill the room, the emptiness of the chair looms. Regardless of whether you’re participating in the company of others, you still feel it’s emptiness. You can’t shake the feeling of longing for the chair to be filled. Not filled by another, but filled with the one who is gone.

The truth is the empty chair is hard, no matter if it’s temporary or permanent, it’s a reminder of what was and is no longer. Time changes things. It’s inevitable. But how we react to or view the empty chair is our choice.

It’s okay to feel the emptiness left by the missing one but it’s not okay to allow the weight of the emptiness to steal the joy of being with those who are still present. You see, if you mourn too much for the empty chair you miss being present with those who are still with you. And who knows but God who may vacate another chair next year.

Our Story Continued…. First Official Date

I don’t think I’ll soon forget our first official date. It happened about two weeks after we met.

I was excited and nervous all at the same time. I wasn’t sure where we were going but I knew that I had to do one of the following.

  • If I ordered a big plate of food, I needed to eat all of it
  • Or I could order a salad and eat all of it

Here’s why I knew this. Prior to our official first date, Terry had already shared with me about things that bothered him about taking women out was wasting food. He didn’t care as much about the cost as the wastefulness. And if I haven’t clearly established, Terry loves to eat and is not wasteful. In fact, he’s more like a human garbage disposal. (Oh, to be this way and maintain such a great boyish figure).

And just a side note: Our son Alex is just like him!

Anyway, he picked me up and told me we were going to Applebee’s So, back in the day, it was the place to go. Besides, I think it was a test to see what I would order and how much I would eat. (He didn’t realize that my maiden name “Reese” is synonymous with food. We Reese people can throw down)

Anyway, because Applebee’s was the happening place, back in the day, we had to wait about 40 minutes to be seated. Once we were seated, Terry ordered an appetizer. Couldn’t tell you what it was but I certainly helped him eat it. I don’t recall what we ordered for our dinner but I do know that I didn’t order a cheap meal and I remember him saying, “Are you going to eat all of that?”

I told him I would give it my best shot. Little did he know that his comment inspired me to eat my entire plateful.

Our plates were empty when we were offered dessert, I opted for the brownie for us to share. Needless to say, I held my own with the brownie too!

Shocked and awed by the end of dinner, he proclaimed, “Well, I see you can eat!”

Apparently, it didn’t scare him off because he continued to take me out and eventually asked me to marry him. 😊

For more of our story start here: How we met

The Stolen Magazine

Do you know you don’t have to show children how to misbehave or be selfish? It’s embedded in their thinking as soon as they’re born. Yes, really!

I certainly was no exception, just ask my Mama. She’ll tell you! I was horribly difficult and hard. Full of sass and of myself, just ask her. If she tells you differently, she’s just trying to be nice and she’s not telling the truth.

I mean any child who would hold their breath until they pass out has issues and I certainly had my share and in truth, I still do.

Anyway, I vividly remember going to the drug store in downtown Brevard one afternoon. I cannot remember why we went, I just remember the magazine rack was calling me the minute I walked in. I was a huge fan of Sesame Street and there it was staring me right in the face. A Sesame Street magazine. Full of entertaining articles and games. It beckoned me. I took it off the shelf and decided that I needed to take it home with me. Sadly, Mom didn’t agree and told me to put it back. It wasn’t that easy. In my mind, it was already going home with me and so I clung to it for dear life as Meanwhile, Mom kept telling me to put it back.

Then I did the unthinkable, she turned her back and I slid the magazine under my shirt. Oh, I knew what I was doing was wrong but I was going to have that magazine one way or the other. If she wouldn’t buy it, I would take it. Besides, they had several and wouldn’t miss just one.

Surprisingly, I made it all the way home with the magazine. I carefully placed it on the floorboard. After we got home, I ventured back out to the car to retrieve my magazine. Apparently, Mom thought I was acting slightly sneaky or sly and so she came out the door just in time to see me with my stolen magazine. She was mortified, to put it mildly.

“Kelly Annette, is that the magazine from the Drug Store?” (You always know when the full name comes out it’s never going to end well)

“Yes.”

“I didn’t buy it for you which means you stole it. You took something that didn’t belong to you. I am so disappointed in you.”

She fumed a bit more and then finally said, “You and I are going right back to the Drug Store and you are going to take the magazine back and apologize for taking it.”

I think I have purposefully forgotten the ride back to the Drug Store, probably a good thing.

Mom was so embarrassed by my behavior but she marched me right back into the store and then she made me stand there and notify the sales clerk of my wrongdoing. Now, I was the one who felt embarrassed. I knew I had done wrong when I did it but now I had to come face to face with my crime and it didn’t feel good.

Needless to say, I learned my lesson about shoplifting.

When I think back on that day, I am reminded of a few things.

First, I wanted something so badly I took matters into my own hands and I did something wrong to get something I wanted. I justified my actions by reasoning that one wouldn’t be missed. And it makes me wonder, how many times since then I’ve tried to justify my actions or behavior.

Secondly, Mom made me take responsibility for my actions. Did I want to apologize and take it back? Not at first, I really wanted to keep it even though. I knew it was wrong. But because Mom insisted that I do the right thing, I had to take responsibility for myself. At the time, it may not have seemed like a big deal but later in life, I’ve had many opportunities to take responsibility and ask for mercy. I also learned there’s more shame in not taking ownership of bad choices than admitting my mistakes.

Third, I learned a valuable lesson in doing the right thing even when it hurts. Initially, I didn’t feel remorse for taking the magazine. In fact, my apology and admission of a crime, at the time, was very forced and not heartfelt. However, over time, I did feel sorry for taking the magazine. I began to realize the predicament I had caused Mom and myself. It took a long time for her to trust me in a store again and I don’t know if she ever took me back to the Drug Store again.

In truth, if Mom had not made me do the right thing, I don’t know if I would strive to do the right thing today. Parents, teach your children. Train them to take responsibility for their actions. Teach them hard lessons but love them through it.

Forgiveness

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to be part of The Women’s Conference at NewSpring.

I didn’t go with any big expectations. I only expected that God would meet people at the point of their deepest need. To be honest, I’m not really one of those women who get a big charge out of weekends like these. Maybe it’s because when I was younger and we had these weekend retreats/conferences, and I would get on such a mountain top ride only to be letdown when Monday rolled around because life went back to the same old ways and patterns. Aside from that it’s been so long since I’ve been to one of these events, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. That being said,

When you don’t go in with false expectations chances are you won’t be disappointed.

While much of what Lysa had to share came from her book, It’s Not Suppose To Be This Way there were many things she said and illustrations she used which were not in her book.

Side note: If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. It is a story all of us can find a connection with because we all have things that don’t got according to our plans, hopes or dreams! (I would offer to share my copy but I’ve marked it all up)

However, if you would like a free copy, drop a comment on the blog and two winners will be randomly selected and notified on Sunday, November 10. (This is a totally self-sponsored giveaway and also how much I want you to have your own copy of this book. It’s just that good!)

Now back to the conference. Opening night began like this Watch here. I don’t know about you but the encouragement of knowing that I belong to Him and I have a seat at His table set the tone for the whole event. After the opening, the names of all the women attending the conference scrolled across the screen. To know that each name had been spoken before God Almighty prior to the conference was both impactful and powerful.

As Lysa began on Friday, she talked about forgiveness. A topic that is very familiar to her and one familiar to me. A topic I’m certain she wished God would’ve taught her in another way like most of us who’ve been there do! Forgiveness is a very heavy subject and brings with it a ton of emotions.

As she spoke I wrote a few phrases that I wanted personally to remember that were not things I read in her book.

Here are a few and I will expound more later:

  • Forgiveness is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
  • Forgiveness is only possible with cooperation with what Jesus has already done.
  • Forgiveness is a daily process Matthew 6:9
  • The weight of un-forgiveness is heavy and painful
  • The best time to forgive is before we’re offended. The next best time to forgive is now.
  • Forgive so you can keep your heart swept clean.

Look at the the fifth statement: “The best time to forgive is before we are offended. The next best time to forgive is now.”

What does it mean to forgive before we’re offended? She explained it this way. If you look at the Lord’s Prayer Matthew 6:9-14. First of all, immediately after we ask God to provide our daily bread. In the next breath, we ask God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others.” (Ouch) Then skipping to verse 14, ”For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Double ouch) If we can get ourselves to place where we forgive before the offense has even been committed, it is already covered by the blood of Jesus. That doesn’t mean our feelings may not be hurt, it simply means that we have already taken the initiative to not hold anger in our hearts and we are not allowing the sun to go down on our anger. Ephesians 4:26

However, if we have allowed the sun to go down on our anger and our hearts are becoming nothing but fertile soil for bitterness, then the next best time to forgive is now because it is being revealed that a root of bitterness is beginning to take hold and grow. Because what happens, if anger and an unforgiving spirit takes up residence for too long the weightiness becomes too heavy for us to bear and we begin taking it out on those we love who’ve played no part in the cause of our anger.

There are so many good quotes about forgiveness. But I love this one

You see forgiveness isn’t for the other person. Forgiveness is for you. And like Lysa said, “Forgive to keep your heart swept clean.”

But what about when your heart has been shattered and broken into? How do you forgive? The same way Christ forgave us, make the choice. But what if the hurt is deep and the pain cutting like a knife? Your feelings are real. Don’t push those aside. The heartache is there. Let it hurt. Cry. Scream, Shout. Write it out. Because your hurt matters. But remember, it won’t always be this way. The pain will lessen. The heartache won’t sting as much. But if you don’t get rid of the anger, it will eat away at you and affect other relationships. Don’t give it a foothold.

And how do I know this? Because I have experienced this. I came to a crossroads in my life and had a choice to make. Forgive or not! I knew ahead of time I would never hear the words. “I’m sorry.” I also knew if I kept holding onto that root of bitterness my life would never move forward. It was a choice I had to make. I made the choice to forgive. In doing so, I found freedom and in that freedom I discovered that I could love again with a whole heart.

The practical application Lysa shared was an exercise her counselor asked her to do. He gave her a stack of 3 x 5 cards and asked her to list her hurts one by one. When she was finished, he gave her red felt and said, “Now, stand over each of the hurts and proclaim, “I forgive ..” Then drop the red felt and say, “For whatever my feelings cannot forgive now the blood of Jesus covers it.” This was a very tangible way for her to see that not only her feelings mattered but that she could forgive because the blood of Christ would cover it.

I don’t where you may be in life right now. Maybe all I well and you were just interested in what I had to say. Maybe you’ve had an experience in forgiveness. If so, I would love to hear about it. Maybe you’re in a place where it seems to hard to forgive and it seems easier to hold onto anger. Maybe your feelings are so raw right now you can barely breathe. Wherever you are in this process it is my hope that this has encouraged you to move onto the the next step. I can promise you this, there is sweet freedom when you get to a place of real forgiveness!

Sammy and the Hawaiian Rolls

As many of you know, we have the best dog in the world, Sammy. He’s a little white puts of fluff with a big personality. He’s great company. He’s overall a very good dog. He’s never been one to chew or gnaw on shoes or furniture. (I’ve heard horror stories) However, when me or one of my tribe inadvertently leave food within his reach; he’s most assuredly going to help himself.

One time we had a friend visiting for the weekend and he brought some cake back with him from a party and forgot to bring it upstairs. When we arrived home from church Sammy’s face was blue from the icing. One time, Ryan had gotten two cheeseburgers from McDonald’s. He ate one and was saving the other for later. But because he left it within Sammy’s smell and reach, when we arrived home the burger had been unwrapped, no tears in the wrapping. The bun opened up and the meat no longer there. Also, there was a time when Amy left chocolate which caused us quite a scare and I’ll spare you the details.

The back story on this particular event. It was after Ned died and my Bible Study group insisted on bringing us a meal. It was quite delish. We had some leftover Hawaiian Rolls and I left them out on the counter. Keep in mind, the counter height is 36”. (I may not be absolutely certain of a lot of things but that is the one thing I am confident is accurate) Apparently, I left the bag untied, just twisted up to preserve freshness. Anyway, we were gone the next evening for a stretch of time. And walked in the house to find this.

Somehow Sammy managed to jump 36” high pull the bag down, drag the bag to the carpet, pull the bread tray out of the bag, with no rips in the bag, and eat the tops off the bread. I’m really not making this story up.

I was already inspired by a friend who had written a poem about an officious onion. Which inspired me to write the following :

Enveloped in plastic

On the counter I lay

Protected and safe

Until yesterday

The family went away

For dinner and stuff

Leaving their dog to roam

Little white puff and stuff

That little pup

He jumped and jumped

Pulling me down

To the ground I thumped

Grabbing my corner

He pulled me about

Till he got to the carpet

And then pulled me out

My tray was half full

A bountiful feast

He ate off my tops

Like a savage little beast

Lessons from Winnie the Pooh

I must confess, I love Winnie the Pooh. I mean how can you not? He’s a “chubby, little cubby all stuffed with fluff.” He’s so simple and yet so profound. I think that what I love most about him. Not to mention, my oldest and youngest both adored him when they were young.

I’ve known plenty of people in my life, including me, sometimes who’ve sat around in my own little corner waiting for someone to call. Waiting on that invitation to hangout and much to my dismay, the call did not come. The invitation hasn’t been issued and I am disappointed.

But what if I decide to initiate and move from my little corner and into theirs? What if they’re awaiting my invitation? What if they need me more than I need them? Or better yet, what if I find by moving out of my comfy, cozy chair, I am actually moving beyond myself and growing in the process of going?

You see if I stay where I’m always comfortable and expect people to come to me, I am making it about me. In the end, I am going to be disappointed and disillusioned because I was putting hope and expectation for others to meet my needs. However, if I get over myself and go to their corner of the Forest, then I am taking the focus off me and making it about someone else.

In doing this, I have learned that often the reciprocal is true. Once I step out of my comfort zone and into theirs, more often than not, they’ll eventually step into mine. But sometimes they won’t and I just have to be okay with that. You see in a relationship it’s not about what I can get out of it but what I can put into it that matters. If I am putting in time and effort because I am attempting to draw something from it, my attempts are a wasted effort and are of no value to me or them. You see, there’s a beauty when we can give of ourselves and expect absolutely nothing in return.

So, what if they fail to reciprocate? Sure, you may feel a twinge of disappointment but all is not lost because, in the process of getting out of your little corner in the Forest, you’ve learned that it’s not about you.

Tattered and Torn

When Ryan, now 29, was a baby he had a security blanket, addition to his pacifier. At 8 months of age with limited vocabulary skills, he named it “Draggy”, which was appropriate because he quite literally dragged the blanket everywhere. His attachment to the blanket wasn’t the blanket material, but the edges of the blanket itself; hence the dragging of the blanket. He would rub the outside fringe of Draggy against his face and between his fingers. It was almost impossible to pry it from his grip. The only time Draggy got a bath was when Ryan was sound asleep and we could sneak it from his bed.  

From time to time, Ryan would misplace Draggy and we would spend hours hunting for him. As soon as we would find draggy, Ryan would hug it tight and squeal with delight, “I love you Draggy”

As time went on, Draggy continued with us everywhere, but because he was so well used, he began to deteriorate, little by little. Thankfully we were able to have draggy repaired. Eventually, time would tatter and tear Draggy beyond repair. However, until that time came, Ryan didn’t care how Draggy looked, or how tattered and torn he was. All that mattered to Ryan was Draggy belonged to him and it was his and Draggy made him feel safe and secure.

Isn’t that what God desires of us? Oh, how he longs for us to find safety and security in His arms. He loves us so much that it doesn’t matter if we come to him tattered and torn to pieces by our choices, mistakes, and failures, all He wants to do is throw His strong gentle arms around us and squeal with delight, “I love you because I made you and you are precious to me!” Like Ryan, He doesn’t care how tattered and torn we are because He made us and we belong to Him.

Psalm 139:13-18 ”For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. You saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand–when I awake, I am still with you.”

I Am Safe

I am finishing up an online bible study with P31OBS. The title of the Study is Psalm 23 The Shepherd With Me by Jennifer Rothschild I highly recommend doing it with a group or online.

From the onset of the study, Jennifer said one phrase that I have constantly been reminded of, “You are safe with your Shepherd!” Now I don’t know about you but I love to feel safe. In safety, I find myself at peace and rest.

Anyway, throughout the entire study I have kept that phrase in the forefront of my mind. Today I wrote this little poem and thought it my resonate with you the same way this study has resonated with me. My hope and prayer is that you’ll too find that you are safe with your Shepherd.

It’s my own paraphrase of Psalm 23.

I am safe

God is my Shepherd

I am safe

I am without nothing

I am safe

As I choose to follow Him

I am safe

He leads me to green pastures and beside still waters.

I am safe

He restores my weary and wounded soul and gives me hope

I am safe

His paths always lead me into righteousness because His name is at stake

I am safe

Darkness may lead me through a valley that seems endless but

I am safe

You are light and Your glory shines through through the darkness and I have nothing to fear. Your rod and staff protect me.

I am safe

You set a glorious feast for me and invite me to come and dine

I am safe.

My enemies are present but You are my shield and protection.

I am safe

You make me fragrant when I sit in Your presence and lift my head and there is no guilt or shame.

I am safe

You fill me up until I am spilling over

I am safe

You surround me with Your kindness and deep compassion and they chase me for the rest of my days on earth

I am safe

One day I will dwell in Your house forever and ever. Amen

I am safe.

Just for clarity sake, here is Psalm 23:1-6

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walke through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me, in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house for the Lord forever .

Touched by His Hands

This buffet rests on the longest wall in my house, near the front door. If I told you when we first walked into our house before we purchased it, I told Terry, ”Its a perfect spot for the buffet!” would you believe me? It’s true I did.

I acquired this piece in a roundabout way. It actually belonged to my grandparents, who had acquired it from my grandmother’s eccentric Aunt (and a great story for another time). Mom laid claim to it years ago but when we moved Popaw from his house, Ned said, ”Ann, you have nowhere to put that thing and if we downsize you certainly won’t have room for it. Besides, I don’t really like it.” Mom asked if I wanted it. At first, I hemmed and hawed because I really didn’t have room for it. I finally concluded that we would just leave it for the folks buying Popaw’s house- until one day as we were wrapping up clearing out the house and the light switch turned on in my head and I knew it had to come home with me.

Terry didn’t complain but we did have to store it in our basement until we moved because there was no room upstairs.

For months I contemplated taking it to a local guy in Hendersonville who meticulously and beautifully restores fine antique furniture. Ultimately I refrained from doing anything to it and just left it alone.

At first glance, you see the beauty of the piece but upon closer inspection, you will find places where Popaw attempted to fix a few places. They are mainly at the bottom. The color hues are slightly off and can really be seen when light hits the spots. But to be honest, I would have to point them out to you because they don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

If I had taken this piece to be restored I would have taken away it’s character and what truly makes this special to me. The beauty to me resides in the fact my grandfather’s hands touched this piece. He left his mark on it, making it like no other. He added a depth of meaning that restoration would have eliminated. His hands made it special.

Do you know that in the same way, God’s hands make us special? Let me explain.

As we see the creation story unfold in Genesis 1 we see the words, ”And God said” repeated five times. He spoke everything into existence until he came to the final day of creation. On this day He did something different.

Then God said, ”Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them
. Genesis 1:26-27

On this day, God didn’t speak things into existence, he created man. He made the man with His hands and in His image. In Genesis 2;7 says, ”He formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being”

Don’t you realize that God could have spoken man into existence? But He didn’t. He chose to use His hands to create and make us in His image. He gave each one of us our individuality and uniqueness. His very hands made us and that makes all of us special, flaws and all. This alone makes Him very personal to me and I hope it makes you feel the same way.

Maybe you’re like me and most often I see my flaws and failures. I see what a mess I really am but that’s because I’m looking at the piece all wrong. I’m looking at the flaws and I am not seeing the beauty of the whole thing. And what a great reminder to have such a magnificent work of art in my house to serve as a great reminder to me. Just as I see the flaws of where Popaw’s hands attempted to fix a few spots, the beauty is in the piece as a whole and that I have something that his hands touched. Just as God made him in His image and likeness and His hands formed me and made me, flaws and all and yet He sees me as a beautiful work of His hands. Ephesians 2:10 (my life verse) tells me this, ”I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which He has prepared in advance for me to do.”

Friends, whether you’re a believer or not, the truth is you were touched by the Hands of Almighty God!

Sometimes You Gotta Speak Up

A few weeks ago I found myself in a tizzy over a bad haircut. The only thing it wasn’t my bad haircut it was Sammy’s hair, my dog. No matter how hard throughout the day I tried to ease up on my frustration and disappointment, it kept lingering, like an obnoxious headache that won’t go away.

First of all, let me explain the story. I always schedule Sammy’s haircuts on the same day as mine. (I’m probably the only dog mom who does this) It’s easier to remember. Like me, he has to go every 5 weeks. He has hair that grows like mine, only his more expensive than mine to upkeep. Also, considering my hairdresser and his groomer are on the same side of town, it just makes more sense. Besides, I can run errands if I have to wait on him for any length of time, which is also rare.

Anyway, this particular Friday, Terry was waiting for me to get back home to go eat breakfast. After I’d waited thirty minutes beyond normal, I called and was told he was on the table and would be done in twenty minutes or less. Within about ten minutes, I received a call telling me he was finished.

I immediately went to pick him up. As I was paying and making another appointment, a new gal, abruptly put him in my arms and walked off. Once I got in the car, I phoned Terry to let him know I was on my way home. Less than a minute into our conversation, I began to notice all kinds of things that were wrong with his hair. Immediately, I began naming each one and the list kept growing and I became more irate. Finally, he said, “Well, what are you gonna do about it?”

Without hesitation, I exclaimed, “I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”

Before I lost my nerve, I hurried to dial back the groomer. The first words out of my mouth were, “I know my regular groomer did not groom Sammy today because he looks horrible. I just want you to know how terribly disappointed I am with his haircut and from now on, I need you to make sure that no one else cuts his hair.” I wasn’t absurdly rude or demanding, I was more matter of fact and direct.

I fumed all day long over his hair. I even had to take scissors and even out his crown.

By evening, I was still fuming when I took dinner to Terry. As we talked, I had to ask the question, “Why am I so bothered and upset over a dogs haircut?” And then it dawned on me, “I was upset for two reasons. The first reason, I had not to be told beforehand that my regular groomer wasn’t doing his hair. I wouldn’t have left him. But the biggest reason for my angst was due to the fact my dog cannot fend for himself. He has no voice to speak up and I must be his voice because I can and he can’t.

This reminded me of how I had to speak up for Popaw and Mom when they couldn’t speak up for themselves.

It was Thursday, April 18, the day after Popaw’s stroke. Mom and I had talked on the phone around 9:00 pm and she told me that she was going to ask Teresa, the night shift nurse, to call and ask the Elizabeth House to come to get Popaw on Friday, I was in total agreement, for two reasons, Popaw wasn’t getting any better and Mom wasn’t getting any rest. The sitter service was understaffed and we could not get any helpers to come sit with Popaw. Mom’s only reprieve on Thursday had been from 9 am- 2 pm and I could already see how detrimental it was becoming for her.

On Friday, the most horrible weather day of the year, she called around 9:30 am to inform me that the Chaplain, not a nurse, from Hospice, had come by to tell her that because Paopaw’s symptoms were being managed at The Bridge, there was no reason to move him to the Elizabeth House. “It’s for patients whose pain is uncontrollable or symptoms are indicating the end of life is near.”

Her response to him, “Okay. I understand.”

However, her voice to me was full of exhaustion, anxiousness and a desperate plea for help.

I couldn’t get there immediately because of weather but Terry and I had already decided that we would go spend the day with him and give her a break. We just had to wait out the weather.

I was in the process of blow drying my hair and it hit me hard. What could I do? Who do I know? Something has to be done!

I pranced in the kitchen and told Terry my frustrations. Explained my concern for Mom and her well being as much as getting Popaw in a peaceful, restful state. He was still agitated and they were not administering drugs on a regular basis, only PRN or “as needed”

Suddenly during my raging fury, I told Terry I was going to call our friend. He serves on the Hospice board and at least he could direct me in the right way.

I called him immediately and explained the situation. He told me to be patient and he would make a few phone calls and see who I needed to speak with. After a little while, as promised, he called me back. He had talked with a few people. They could see where Popaw had been under Hospice Care and graduated out but couldn’t see he had been taken back under their care.

After a few more phone calls it was confirmed that Popaw was under Hospice care.

The next thing I needed to do was talk to the Director of Nursing at The Bridge to have her make the call. Fortunately, we had just braved the crazy weather and arrived at The Bridge. So, I didn’t have to make a phone call, I could just speak with her, face to face.

As I sat and listened to her, I was appalled to learn that they had already called twice and asked Elizabeth House to take him. Their reasoning had been the same as with my with the exception that the Hospice nurse, who had assessed Popaw, on the day of his stroke, continued to state that his condition was being managed at The Bridge. Not only were they concerned about Popaw but they also expressed concern about my mother and her state of mind, as well as her need for help. However, with the new information provided by my friend, she made the call once again.

By the time I got to Popaw’s room the medication was wearing off and he kept trying to get out of bed. Fortunately, he was much weaker on Friday than Wednesday so it was easier to keep him contained.

Around 2:00 pm, Mom received a call from the Hospice nurse handling Popaw’s case. I could tell Mom didn’t know exactly what to say and finally, she said, ” You need to talk to my daughter.”

The words spilled out of her mouth and hit me like a ton of bricks. The progress I thought that had been made halted abruptly when I heard the exact same words as Mom heard earlier from the Chaplain. I had to take a deep breath and pause before I retaliated.

For the next thirty minutes or more, she got an earful. I was as cordial and as respectful as I could be but I realized I had to fight for what I thought was right, both for Popaw as well as Mom. My final words to her went something like this, ”I am not a trained medical professional but I have seen, witnessed and experienced death and I am telling you that Popaw is in his final stages of death. Furthermore, I would like to remind you that Hospice and Elizabeth House exists for patients as well as family members. If for no other consideration, my Mom needs the benefit of him being moved there for her peace of mind and rest.”

At the end of my rant, she assured me, ”I will take this into compliance and see what I can do.”

I went back to the room and was completely satisfied that something would happen, I just didn’t know what or how soon. I knew I had not allowed my emotions to get in the way of reason and to be honest, I was quite pleased with how I had handled the situation. I think I knew how proud Ned would’ve been and that what made me the happiest.

I sent Mom out with Terr to get a bite to eat. While they were gone, I was completely satisfied to sit alone in quietness with Popaw. He’d been given some more medicine and finally settled down again.

Mom’s phone rang and I knew it was the Hospice nurse. She called to inform me that Popaw would be transported to Elizabeth House at 6:00 pm and he would be in his room by 6:15.

My heart was full and my conscience was satisfied. I knew this was the right move for both Popaw and Mom. I knew he would never return to The Bridge.

Popaw only spoke a few words that day, but as they were in the process of transporting him, I leaned over the stretcher and said, ”Don’t worry, Popaw. We are taking you to Elizabeth House. They will take great care of you there and they will keep you at peace and rest.”

”Oh, well.” he said and it was well with his soul and mine, too!

There are times in life where we need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We don’t have to be irrelevant or irrational, but sometimes we must be tenacious and persistent.

And by the way, my regular groomer did call back and offer to fix Sammy’s hair but unfortunately, any fix would’ve required more cutting and he had already been cut way too short in some places. I declined and thanked them for their offer and stated I would simply wait until it grows out and bring him for his next appointment. Unfortunately, I still look at him and wince but I know he’ll look better next time.

Are you looking for joy?

December 31, 2017:

Reflections. An image produced by a mirror. The moon reflects the light of the sun. Water casts shadows of the moon. The human mind recalls the events of the past and in some ways, those reflections become a forever change.

As the year draws to a close, I am amazed and astounded by the events that have unfurled this year. When I think back to the start, I know that as a result of the events of this past year, I am forever changed.

A simple prayer to begin the year would bring a sweeping and much-needed change. It went something like this. “God, would you just help me to find joy in each day, whether I feel like it or not? Help me to choose joy.”

2015 and 2016 had taught me that many circumstances are beyond my control but my attitude is the only thing I have control over. Most often when tragedy struck in the previous year or so, my response had been less than pleasurable. At times, downright ugly. There were periods of time when I didn’t want to be around anyone, including myself.

I decided about halfway through 2016 that something had to change. It was up to me. It was hard. I didn’t always succeed in keeping a decent attitude but I kept pursuing the goal.

As the year 2015 closed I felt a bit more confident that my attitude was much better than the previous year but I still had a long way to go. That’s why I begged God to help me find joy in each day. Little did I know what that would look like. But God did.

He knew the challenges Ned would face with his cancer. He knew how many times we would end up in and out of the hospital. He knew I would be needed and He provided me the time and He sent me on time, every time.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not boasting in what I did, I am simply telling you that I made myself available to be present for my parents because I knew that was what God was asking of me.

The scripture verse I clung to during that time was Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility consider others above yourself.” I told God upfront that I wanted to be there for them wholeheartedly. I didn’t want to go with a bad attitude or begrudgingly. I just wanted to be there.

As I reflect on this time, I realize how much it changed me. Now, when hard times threaten to destroy my joy, I am reminded that my joy isn’t found in the circumstances or my feelings. No, joy is found in the giving of yourselves to others and it’s found in being obedient to what God is asking you to do.

So, what things threaten to rob you of your joy? Is it the death or illness of a loved one? Is it a heartbreak you were not expecting? Whatever it is, I have good news. It doesn’t have do stay that way.

A simple prayer of asking God to give you joy that rises above your circumstances is all it takes. It may take awhile to learn but know with certainty that God wants nothing more than to give you His joy, which is deep and lasting.

A Humbling Tumble -Part 4 The final lesson

Ok. So, we had been hit with remnants of Hurricane Ivan and remained powerless for about a week, once the power is restored life returns to normal, right? No, because there’s nothing normal for a mom of four to be in a wheelchair and/or using crutches.

Like I mentioned before, we had an incredible group of friends from our Bible Fellowship Group. They brought in meals for us, every few days, and did this for almost a month. One couple, came on Saturday after our power had been restored. They knew we had a mess and she called and said, ”We are not just bringing dinner, we are coming to eat with you. But we are bringing our family and found to help clean up debris. ” And so they did. For a few hours prior to dinner, they all worked around our property and the neighbors cleaning up.

About a week after all the hubbub, on. Thursday evening, Ryan had a football game. Terry left me home with Alex and Amy. About an hour after he left, I get a phone call from him, ”Ryan fell on his arm in the end zone and I am taking him to the ER” Now, we have another wounded warrior at our house. Ryan had broken his humerus. Considering the location of the break, they wrapped his arm and put it in a sling. He could only sleep in the recliner and upright position for several weeks. Terry made sure he got his medication on time to help keep his pain at a minimum.

I hope you’re beginning to see why it’s imperative that Terry has been given a great sense of humor.

Then about a month after my surgery, we were back at the Surgery Center with Matthew. He had some major issues with his ears for years and needed to have tubes. It was really no big deal but just another example of life’s hurdles.

Finally, November came and I was allowed to begin bearing weight on my foot and I could start driving again. Hallelujah.

Terry returned to work and our daily routines went back to some form of normalcy. But how normal can you really be with four kids?

In February I was allowed to begin rehab in my foot, which would take about 6 months to complete. Three days a week for 75 minutes. It was a difficult process. I basically had to learn to walk again. The process was painful but with each passing month, I could see and feel progress. And it’s funny how life works that way. We don’t always get to walk the easy terrain, sometimes it’s rough and rocky but in order for you to reach your destination, you must be willing to submit to the process.

In that year, God taught me some valuable lessons. When I struggle with pride, I am reminded that I have absolutely nothing to be puffed up about. Although, I sometimes try hard to find something, especially when it involves my children. When I grow frustrated with Terry and trust me, I do (he does with me too) I am reminded that I have been given a treasure, Just as Terry saw the great need to show us unconditional and unselfish love by taking on the responsibility of being Mr. Mom plus, I too have that same responsibility to him. To love and care for this precious gift God has given to me.‭‭

Friends, we are not promised a life of ease without hurdles and complications. In fact, James tells us:

These things happen in order for us to grow. We persevere through endurance and it stretches our faith. In the same way, my muscles had to he stretched and pain had to be endured for me to to learn to walk again. If I had given up when it for hard, chances are I would’ve walked with a limp.

Can I encourage you today? If you’re going through a trial or hard time, hold onto this truth that God has for you. In the end, it will be for your good and for His glory.

A Humbling Tumble Part 2

Like I said in last weeks post Read here, many stories came out of my fall.

First of all, I alluded to the fact that I was in a prideful state at the time of my accident and I needed that good dose of humility.

Let me explain, about 10 months before my fall, I had taken a leave of absence from all of the ministries I which I had been involved in, all of which had been both successful and rewarding. Fortunately, I never saw anything as being my own success but knew the success was a result of my obedience to God.

However, I was very self-reliant. That is not necessarily a bad thing but self-reliance can lead to pride because it becomes all about me and what I can do by myself. My motto was, “Why ask for help when I can do it myself. I trust myself more than I trust others.” You know what I was doing? That kind of foolish thinking kept others from reviving the blessing God may have intended for them.

In addition, I also became very legalistic and I wanted to impose my own convictions on others. Just because I am under conviction doesn’t mean that others are under the same conviction. Folks, this is a very dangerous place to be because this is a place where you start judging others.

God began showing me a little of this as I began to step away from my commitments. However, it wouldn’t fully be realized until the fall.

You see, another thing that God did during this time of stepping down from all of my commitments, was preparation for God to call us out of our comfort zone and familiarity at First Baptist Hendersonville and lead us to unfamiliar territory and Biltmore Baptist Church.

So, about five or six months before my fall, we had left a familiar body of believers and were joined with a new body. It only took one Sunday to know with great clarity that God had led us there.

However, I wasn’t as eager and excited to involve myself in various ministries. The only thing I felt called to do was to be a greeter. Trust me when I say that sometimes your reputation precedes you. Somehow the ministerial staff knew about the work I had done in the past and were eager to involve me any way they could. However, I knew I needed to step back and wait before I committed to anything else. This was probably one of the first steps I took towards some form of humility. But God in His infinite wisdom knew that would not be enough.

The best part of not being overly involved is that I really had an opportunity to get to know people. Terry and I both had time for relationships with others. Our Bible Fellowship Group was large and very active. We intentionally had many group outings which also involved our children.

But there was still a level of humbling I needed. I was still very self-reliant and I was also very guarded with my emotions. I was not one to readily ask for help with anything, and now I needed help with just about everything. Sometimes, I catch myself back in this way of behaving and thinking.

And so, when I couldn’t do for myself, I had to depend on others. First, it was my parents, who’ve always been generous and selfless. Knowing that all of our bedrooms were upstairs and that I was going to be a bit wobbly at first, they offered to let me come stay with them until I could navigate stairs safely. Not only did I stay with them but Ned gave up the comforts of his own bed and slept in one their upstairs bedrooms and Mom slept with me and helped me get up and down throughout the night and also administered my meds on a regular basis.

The first week after surgery, I was ready to go home but I was still wobbly and unstable, more from the drugs than anything. Fortunately, by the end of the second week, I was completely off the narcotics and much more confident with crutches and a wheelchair.

I also had to call on friends and other family members to help with the kids. I couldn’t drive and although Terry was taking FMLA time off, he still needed help navigating four kiddos around.

I was taken from a place of self- reliance on total dependence. If you don’t think that’s humbling, try it sometime.

Then, I went home. After two weeks, the only way for me to climb stairs safely was to sit on my backside and scoot up and I would come down the same way. My doctor had given a clear warning that anything that would cause me to bear weight on my foot could potentially unravel the surgery and cause me to have another one.

The day I went home we had weather warnings from Hurricane Ivan. After two weeks of being scattered, we were finally home together, all six of us. By nightfall, the winds had picked up speed and rainfall began. As I scooted up the stairs I remember praying for God’s protection of us. I also remember thinking if we needed to get back downstairs quickly Terry would probably have to carry me.

We went to sleep and were suddenly awakened by a loud thud! Our power was out and all we could hear was the popping and cracking of tree branches all around us. Considering it was dark, Terry couldn’t see where the limbs and branches were falling. We just knew they weren’t falling on the house. Another great thud and this time we knew a tree had fallen close by, but again, nothing on our house. Rest assured there’s nothing like being utterly helpless in the midst of a storm. I couldn’t help myself, much less help Terry with getting the kids to safety, if needed. To say the night drug on is an understatement. I have never been so thankful for daylight.

As the light of day dawned, it became clear to us how God had protected and provided safety for us. One of our great oak trees fell away from our house, and onto our neighbors’ car. The other large oak, belonging to our neighbor across the street, had fallen across the road and about 15 feet away from our house and into an open space. But our entire road was blocked. Nobody could come in and nobody could go out. Power was out and no hope of quick restoration.

What a welcome home!Ivan

Terry was the only one in the neighborhood with a chainsaw. He and Ryan and Matthew went to work. He would cut and they would haul away. Alex and Amy also helped what little they could. I busted myself on the gas stove making everything I could to keep the crew fed. I found that I could roll my wheelchair close to the range and then perch on one leg to cook. It wasn’t easy but I was learning that I wasn’t in a totally helpless state. It made me feel useful because I obviously couldn’t help with any outside work.

We had been powerless for about two days when a friends power was restored and he brought up a generator for us. It was such a huge help. It was still tough getting in and out of our location because of all the debris but Terry made a path.

The biggest lesson I learned during this time was that God’s protection over me and my family was great. He kept us safe through the night. He provided Terry with the ability to make a safe path for us and our neighbors to be able to get out. He provided me with the ability to be able to cook and with food. And He used a friend to supply us with generated power. I guess you could say, I learned to ask for His help and protection, He answered me. Not only did He answer me, But He also showed me that I am safer in His arms than anywhere else.

A Humbling Tumble

“Matthew! Matthew!”, she bellowed at the top of her lungs. “Hurry! Come quick! Mom’s fallen and she can’t get up.

Those words echo in my mind, even today. She was six and in first grade. The look of concern on her face almost made me cry. But I knew I couldn’t. I was scared and hurt. She was scared because of what she had witnessed.

Matthew came quickly! He knew from the sounds of his sisters screams he was needed pronto.

The sight of me lying on the pavement at the bottom of the concrete stairs told him all he needed to know. I had tumbled. Amy had watched the entire process unfold.

“Mom, are you okay?” He asked.

“I can’t get up! I need you to call your dad.”

He made Amy stand guard while he went in to call. Trust me! I wasn’t going anywhere. My heart was throbbing into my foot so violently I thought my foot was going to explode.

Matthew couldn’t get Terry on his phone. He knew I needed help. So, who you gonna call in a crisis situation? Papaw, Nitro Ned, of course, because he’s going to come to our rescue.

Within a few minutes, he arrived and assessed the damage. When he tried to get me up and realized I couldn’t bear weight on my left foot; he knew I was hurt and needed medical attention. So, he took me to the ER and waited. He didn’t leave when Terry got there. He stayed to make sure I was ok.

It took forever to see a Doctor then afterward x-rays were needed. Then more wait until the radiologist report. Finally, the conclusion was a hairline fracture.

They wrapped my foot. Gave me Tylenol with Codeine and sent me home. No crutches. When they wheeled me to the exit, I could still bear no weight. So, with Ned on one side and Terry on the other, they became my crutches.

By the time I got home, Ned had already called Troy and Colleen (Popaw and Mamaw) and told them what had happened and they were on their way from Pisgah Forest to our house with crutches, about a thirty minutes drive for them.

I settled into the recliner, with my foot elevated, and settled in for what would be a restless nights sleep.

For the next few days, my foot, even with ice baths, would continue to balloon out, giving the appearance of a blown-up rubber glove, fat in the middle with stubby appendages. I could barely feel or see my toes, and the pain wretched.

Seeing no progress at all, I decided I should go see my GP. He based his assessment on the cardiologist report. However, he ordered a new set and decided that I needed to stabilize the fracture, even though it was dubbed, ”hairline fracture”, and put me in a walking cast. This would be a huge benefit because at least it helped with the pain and somewhat with the swelling.

The next X-rays would reveal much of the same. In fact, the report was almost identical, except they said, a possibility of a second hairline fracture.

I was getting around good with the boot. I could drive and do just about anything, except bear weight on my foot. The top portion of my foot was also extremely tender to the touch. I couldn’t even put a sock on my foot. It was far too painful. But there was no pain as long as the boot was on. It became my foot’s best friend.

After another few weeks and literally no improvement, I told Terry that I was taking my X-rays and making an appointment with our friend, Dr. Chris Estes. I knew something wasn’t right and I needed an orthopedic surgeons opinion.

They asked for the hospitals X-rays but also did X-rays of their own. Before he even looked at my foot, he put the X-rays on the light and shook his head and said, ”Kelly, I am so sorry. I am so sorry to tell you this. Your foot is fractured in four places. This is not my specialty and I can’t touch it.”

After a few minutes of waiting, he came back to tell me that an MRI was scheduled for Wednesday and I had an appointment scheduled with Dr. McKibbin in Asheville on Thursday.

I took the MRI report with me on Thursday and met with Dr. McKibbin. The MRI concurred with Dr. Estes x-ray and Dr. McKibbin put a name to it. ” You have a Lisfranc fracture . We commonly see these among horse riders who fall off their horses. It normally happens when there is a substantial bending a twisting of the foot on impact. Surgery is needed immediately or you will totally lose your arch. Some damage has already been done. I want to do surgery tomorrow!”

As the words spilled from his mouth, I was trying to process all he was saying. Surgery. Tomorrow. Really?

Suddenly it occurred to me that I had no clue what this surgery and the aftermath would entail. I tried not to appear stunned by his words and I calmly responded, ”Before I agree to surgery tomorrow, I need to understand what this is going to look like. I have four kids at home.”

”Well, the surgery will be 3-4 hours just depending on what I have to do. You will have four screws in your foot. You cannot drive for at least nine weeks and you will be in a wheelchair and/or using crutches for at least nine weeks”

All I kept hearing, ”nine weeks” and the only thing I could muster was, ”Will it make any difference if we wait until Monday? I have to make arrangements for my kids.”

Thankfully, it didn’t make a difference and so I was able to get things in order before the surgery. Terry would take FMLA and take the kids to and from school and their sporting events. I would stay with Mom and Ned for the first two weeks, until I was more steady on my feet. Friends offered to keep the children and our Bible Fellowship group would bring meals for several weeks, after I got home.

There are many stories within this story that I hope to share but I’ll wrap this one up with how I actually fell and why I needed to fall.

Below is a picture of the steps I fell from.As you can see there is a landing area at the top of the concrete steps. Terry and I had been staining the deck and as a result had moved the grill to the landing area. The grill was facing the steps leading up to the deck. The afternoon of the accident, I was planning to grill chicken. I started the grill to heat it up and brought the meat out to cook. I sat the dish of meat on the side of the grill in order to open the lid. Somehow during the process of opening the grill, I stepped back a little and found myself in a freefall. I knew me couldn’t prevent the fall; however I was falling backward and I knew I needed to fall face forward. Digging my left foot into the second on third step, I managed to get myself turned and fell face forward. Luckily, only minor scapes and scratches on my hands and arms.

I don’t consider myself lucky to have escaped what could have been a tragic or even deadly injury, no, no, I consider myself protected by my Shepherd. You see, God was there with me. He knew beforehand what was going to happen and while there wasn’t a prevention from my fall, He did protect me from a more serious injury. To be honest, the injury to my foot wasn’t minor, and took a year for me to walk normally again. However, when I see the stairs and am reminded of how bad it could’ve been, I am thankful.

Like I mentioned, God knew beforehand what was going to happen and still allowed it to happen. Doesn’t that sound like a harsh and cruel God? I mean why would He allow this to happen?

At this point in my life not only was I self-reliant, which is not necessarily a bad thing, I had also developed a self righteousness to the point of becoming legalistic. I needed a big dose of humility. God knew this. He knew the best way to teach me humility was to get me in a place of reliance on him. Reliance on others to help out. A place where I asked for help because I simply couldn’t. This was a harsh reality and a real “come to Jesus moment”.

I would love to tell you that I don’t continue to ride this struggle bus but I do. Not so much in the legalistic and self righteous way but most assuredly in the area of self reliance and my ” I can do that all by myself ” mentality.

There’s a verse tucked in Proverbs 16:18 that states the following: “Pride goeth before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.”

What Drives Your FOMO

One evening at the Charleston Harbor, we stood and watched this sailboat.

I have never been on a sailboat. I’m not even sure my stomach could take it.

I found it fascinating to watch as the sailboat came from one direction, which initially seemed so far away, sailed right in front of us and then continued to move in the opposite direction until it was again barely visible.

A thought raced through my head, what have I missed out on by never going sailing? I pondered this thought, it didn’t take long for me to answer my own thought. Nothing, absolutely nothing because I have no desire to go.

The funny thing is that longer I lingered, the harder I tried to convince myself that I must be missing out. They looked like they were having a blast.

Funny how this is the very way we get caught up in things that are not good for us.

We watch others around us. They seem to be having a blast without us. Even though we know it’s beyond anything we desire, we continue to watch and observe. We convince ourselves that we must be missing out on something. In today’s world, it’s called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). So, we cave in, even when we know it is not good for us and most times not even something we have a desire to do. It’s simply because we might be missing out.

It is this fear that leads to many failed marriages and solid relationships. This fear drives wedges, even great chasms in families This fear drives, even the best and brightest, to do detestable things.

So, how do we combat this fear of missing out?

Examine the motive. Why is this so compelling? Am I just trying to fit in? Am I afraid my life has or will pass me by?

Examine the heart. “The human heart is deceitful of all things and desperately deceitful. Who really knows how bad it is?”Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT ) Is there some hurt of pain from your past that had been unresolved that may be the driving force behind your decision.

Count the cost. Every decision both good or bad will cost something. Is it really worth the cost? Is it something you’re willing to live with the rest of your life. Is it a choice you can live with the rest of your life? Be willing to pay the price.

If I had someone tell me this long ago my choices might have been vastly different. Who’s to say? The fact is that I fight my own battles with FOMO even now. This is the reason I’ve always asked God to never let me forget where I came from. It keeps me humble and pliable and keeps my heart from wandering too far away.

How Do You Still Have Hair?

A few weeks ago during a lunch conversation with my friend she looked at me and started, ”I don’t know how you do it. How do you still have hair on your head?”

She was referencing a recent stunt Amy, my daring, brave and impulsive, adult child attempted. She failed miserably because the concrete doesn’t move.

As I sat explaining the events as they unfolded, and showed her thr video of a life-sized human tucked in a watermelon position, almost fetal position, traveling headfirst into a shallow 2 1/2’ of water and my friend realized end magnitude of possible injury Amy could have suffered was thr point at which she uttered the aforementioned inquisition.

It was not the first or second time I’ve heard that statement. It’s one that has begged he to search deep and discover why I do after four rather rambunctious children have a single hair left on my head. Lord knows there were times I could’ve have pulled mine and theirs out.

As I’ve shared with you, my Mamaw had some mental illness, as a result, she was a worrywart. If there wasn’t anything for her to worry about she had a knack for conjuring up something in the overactive mind of hers. I definitely learned from her what not to do. I simply can’t live in fear of what might or might not happen. It’s far too taxing on the mind and time-consuming.

My Grandma Reese, on the other hand, knew what it takes to raise children without dread, fear or worry. She was left with four boys to raise when Grandpa went to war. She was a staunch disciplinarian. You didn’t sass, talkback, to her. She demanded immediate obedience. She just didn’t take crap off her kids, or anyone else for that matter, even her grandchildren knew to obey.

Furthermore, she had sass. Which I suppose is the reason she didn’t allow it in her children.

While, I picked up my sensitivity, love of laughter, love for books and storytelling from Mamaw. My spunky sass, talkative nature and worry-free attitude definitely came from Grandma. In combination, they seem to work for me.

More importantly, than my generic make-up is the fact that I have a great big God who says this:

I don’t know a lot about fishing but I’ve been a time or two in my day. When you cast a line, you throw it out. Friends this is precisely what God is telling you to do. Throw your cares on me. Leave them there. Don’t reel them back in.

So many things have happened in my lifetime, but one of these took place nine years ago when I said goodbye to my two older boys and sent them off to Basic Training for the US Navy. In less than three months time we went from a family of six to a family of four. The most difficult part of having service members is the lack of communication, especially during deployment. There were a few times both were deployed during the same timeframe. One of the East Coast and in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The other on the West Coastand in the Pacific Ocean and North China Sea. (It just happened to be during the time of unrest with North Korea)

Needless to say, if I had spent my days worrying about all the ”what ifs”, I would never have accomplished anything. Instead, I chose to, every day, throw my worries and concerns on God. In fact, I strive to begin each day by giving God my concerns especially where my children are concerned.

As a Momma, I want them covered and bathed in prayer. The good news is that prayer knows no bounds. It can break through barriers and can reach the depths of the ocean. And on Saturday, July 20th, He kept the concrete from breaking Amy’s neck. She did have a mild concussion and a few scrapes and raccoon eyes for about two weeks.

In conclusion, the only reason I have a single hair left is that I choose to take my cares and concerns to God. Yes, I do sometimes reel them back in and I have to cast them back out; however, I am fully confident that the One who gave these children to me is far more competent to watch over them than I am and why am I going to worry and stress when there is absolutely nothing I can do anyway.

Pardon for the Interruption

Do interruptions cause friction in your body, you just grow tense and every muscle stiffens and you become irritated and angry? Or do you welcome interruptions and see them as opportunities?

Would love to say the latter is how I typically handle interruptions but if I’m being honest, I genuinely disdain interruptions. I get so hyper-focused on what I’m doing and want to get ’er done.

As I’ve grown up, I have learned to become more flexible. Let’s face it when you raise four kids and have a husband whose middle name is ”spontaneity”, you have to learn not to get too irritated or behave irrationally by some minor ”We interrupt this show to bring you an important….”

What if that break in the action is actually important? What if that crying baby is awakened by fever and needs attention? What if your spouse just needs you to talk to them? What if that child needs advice and they’re coming to you and not running to other sources? What if that friend has had a rotten, horrible day and just needs to vent? Or what if the greatest decision your child could ever make, rests solely on your willingness to excuse the interruption and make the best of it?

I have always, not always, but more than 3/4 of my life, an early riser. I like to get up early. My mind is most clear and I always like to spend time praying and reading my Bible before the pitter-patter of little feet let me know the zoo was up and showtime was beginning. There was only one problem, Alex. He was always an early riser. I couldn’t complain much because he would go to bed early. I learned to navigate by getting up slightly earlier than him. Most days it worked out fine. I would be finishing up and he would come to sit on my lap for morning snuggles.

One morning he arose particularly early, I had barely poured a cup of coffee before he comes and hops in my lap. I thought he was drifting off to sleep. I reached down to grab my Bible and he said, “Mom, I want to ask Jesus into my heart.”

My heart skipped a beat as I asked, “Do you want to do it now?”

“Yes.” He answered

And so right there in the solace of the early daylight hours, Alex asked Jesus into his heart. The most important interruption of my life.

The next time something threatens to interrupt your already scheduled program, remember, it’s quite possibly a divine intervention.

Oh, Well

I’m not precisely certain when Popaw began using the phrase, ”Oh, well” but it was definitely within the last few years of his life. Fortunately, Popaw retained his mental faculties, with the exception of being able to recall what he had eaten. When asked he would often respond, ”I can’t recall but I know it was good because I cleaned my plate.”

But this phrase, ”Oh, well” had multiple meanings for him. He used it when he couldn’t conjure up a response. He often used it when he would hear something he didn’t necessarily like hearing. But most often used to mean, ” It’s okay. I am satisfied.” In other words, Popaw simply took the cards he was dealt and played them out. He knew where he was going and was content until the end.

Of all the times I heard him use the phrase, these two times will stand out above the rest.

That was a hard day for me and my Mom. The call came around 9:30 am and by the time I got to The Bridge, they had him sitting in his lift chair. At first game, he looked calm. He recognized me but his speech was muffled and difficult to understand. After a few short minutes, he began fidgeting in the chair and aggressively attempting to get up. But there was a problem, he couldn’t walk. The stroke had affected his ability to walk and he couldn’t comprehend.

It took hours of sitting by his chair with my arm held up to gently nudge him back down. Over and over again, Mom and I would tell him, ”You’ve had a stroke. You can’t get up. Your legs don’t work anymore.”

Finally, the meds arrived, and once they got into his system, he was able to calm down. Once calm, his speech was clearing and his mind was less foggy. His irrational behavior had subsided. Although there were times he would want to get up and go to the bathroom. Again I would firmly explain that he had a stroke and couldn’t walk. Finally, we reached a conjuncture with him and he understood precisely what I was saying. He looked at me with a smile so soft and tender, I could’ve cried, and said, ”Oh, well.”

The following morning I stopped in briefly to check on him. Mom had gone home after a night of restless sleeping there with him. A sitter was with him until 2:00. As soon as I walked in the door, a smile spread across his face from ear to ear and he lit up at the sight of me. He beamed. ”Hey Sweetheart, it’s so good to see you.”

I leaned over, kissed him on the cheek and said, ” It’s so good to lay eyes on you this morning.”

We chatted for a few minutes then I kissed him goodbye, assuring him I would see him later in the day. Little did I know that would be our final conversation.

The sitter, as I was leaving, said, ”You must be someone really special because I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes light up the way his just did for you.”

”Not really, I’m just his granddaughter. He’s that way with all of his family. ”

Upon my return, things had gotten progressively worse and they were having to medicate him more often. I knew deep in my heart where things were heading.

The next morning there was a horrible rain and wind storm. Terry and I had to wait until 11:00 am before we could leave for Hendersonville. Popaw wasn’t any better and I knew something had to be done. (It’s a story for another time)

Finally, by 5:15, I received a call from Hospice informing me they would be coming to pick Popaw up by 6:00 and transport him to the Elizabeth House. I was alone with him when the news came to me and he was restless.

I put my hand over his heart and said, ”Popaw, the ambulance is coming to get you soon and they will be taking you to the Elizabeth House. We are taking you there so you can be made comfortable.”

He turned his eyes toward mine and said, ”Oh, well.”

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once. I knew what that ”Oh, well” meant. It is well with my soul.

”Popaw, I love you.”

”I love you back.”

Those would be the last words he would say to me!

Popaw, thank you for teaching me that life isn’t about the things, it’s about being content in all circumstances knowing that God is in complete control.

When I Prayed for Patience God Gave Me Alex

I distinctly remember one of Mom’s friends who always said, ”Be careful what you pray for because God will answer. I prayed for patience and God gave me twins.”

Since I’ve already established the fact that I am one of those, it should come as no surprise that in my mid-twenties I began praying for patience. It truly was the one thing I felt I got the short end of the stick on. So, I began praying for patience a few months before Terry and I got married.

When we had been married about six months, Terry looked at me and said, ”Let me tell you something, if you and I are going to have kids together we need to do it soon. I am not going to be a sixty-year-old man raising a teenager.”

So, that settled that and within a few months, I was pregnant.

Overall, the pregnancy was easy. We had a slight hiccup when I was around thirty weeks and they discovered I had placenta previa. It’s actually how we found out that Alex was a boy because they had to do several ultrasounds to make sure the placenta moved up; otherwise, a c-section would be needed. Fortunately, it moved and Alex came the natural way.

He was an easy baby. He wasn’t fussy. Slept through the night before he was two months old. He was quite the rambunctious toddler and required a lot of adult supervision because he was like a little Houdini, and could wrangle his way out of any contraption including his ultra-expensive car seat.

But then, after Amy was born, he turned into a ball of fury. At times, he was uncontrollable and unmanageable and the problem was you never knew when he would fit into these fits of rage. We tried the normal punishment like timeouts and spanking. They were not useful or productive. Most of the time, it only made him angrier. In fact, there were times, I literally had to sit down on the floor and hold his hands and feet until he calmed down.

This was not easy for any of us and especially not me. I was also going through a terribly rough time because my endometriosis had kicked into high gear. Physically and emotionally I was spent.

I had a friend who encouraged me to get on Zoloft. I did heed her advice and that helped me. It didn’t help my child.

Finally, I convinced Terry and the Pediatrician that he needed to be assessed. I had been reading about bipolar and was certain that was our culprit. Through the same friend who suggested Zoloft for me, she also gave me a recommendation for a renowned child psychologist at Duke.

We got our appointment set. Beforehand, they asked me to write everything I could recall about the four years of his life including my pregnancy and his birth. By the time I was finished, it wrote like a novel. (Maybe I should have kept a copy)

Prior to seeing the doctor, I had picked up a book called Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD, and Jim Fay. Terry and I had already started implementing some of their ideas and they were working. It also was helping with the other three children as well.

After our four hours long appointment, the doctor concluded that Alex had high- level anxiety and slight ADD, which he said required no medication. He told us that consistent discipline would achieve the best results for him. (He had literally observed us with Alex for two hours before coming in to meet with us) I told him about the book. He said it was one that was on his recommendation list.

He surmised that the anxiety was an onset of my almost tragic birth of Amy because that’s when the noticeable change happened. Due to the fact, I almost lost my life, when Terry brought him to see me I was lying in a bed with a very swollen face from all of the fluids. Then when Amy and I came home, I couldn’t pick him up for three weeks. People were in and out helping me but the most I could do for him was allow him to crawl into my lap. He was only sixteen months old and could not verbalize so it came out as anger.

Once we began fully implementing the idea found in the book, our lives changed substantially. I learned patience in a way I never thought I would and there was a complete sense of freedom in teaching my children to make choices. The main premise of the book is to teach children in order for them to become independent. That is the ultimate goal.

Now, I wish I could tell you that I am always patient but that is not the case. I still ride that struggle bus. What I can tell you is that when I prayed for patience and God gave me Alex one of my life’s most precious gifts.

In Spite of Who I Am…..He Loves Me

Now that you’re aware of my rebellious nature. I want to share a little story with you. One I don’t think I’ve ever shared.

One day in the early part of my high school years, I came home one afternoon from school. Completely drained and out of focus to complete any homework assignment, I sat down on my piano bench and started to play.

The piano was my therapy.

I’m not sure why but no one was home this particular day. As I began to play and unwind, I noticed behind my book was a white sheet of paper with words written on it in Ned’s horrific handwriting. Curious, I began to read.

As I read tears welled up in my eyes, as the words spilled off the page and into my heart I began thinking, ”Wow! God loves me in spite of who I am or what I’ve done.” I would love to tell you that revelation changed my behavior, at that point in time, it didn’t. That would come years later. You see, I had a lot of head knowledge about God but I had built up far too many walls to allow him to penetrate my heart. It would take years to breakthrough.

However, as time marched on and my heart became more pliable and moldable and I let go of the things that were holding me in captivity, I’ve always remembered the words of this song and I remember that day so vividly. And you know what, He has never let go of my hand. Many times, I’ve let go of His but His love for me knows no bounds and I am so thankful.

Listen here I’ll never let go of your hand

The Most Horrible News Ever….but Not Really

I sat in utter disbelief. I couldn’t believe my ears. ”We’ve decided that you, Kristi and David will no longer be attending school in Polk County. Beginning in the fall, you will be going to Tryon. We just feel like this is the right move for your education.”

As the words tumbled from their mouths, anger boiled inside. How could they do this to me?

I’m not sure when they made the decision but they decided to wait until we were on vacation to inform us. Talk about a vacation spoiler. Good thing they waited until near the week’s end to spill the beans. I knew better than to argue because their minds were clearly made up.

I fumed.

Finally, I got up and walked out. I walked toward the beach. Tears burned my face. I muttered every curse word in the book and then some. ”Didn’t they realize I already had my Freshman year of high school mapped out? I didn’t need or want a change.”

I found a payphone and called one of my friends. She, too, was unhappy about the decision my parents had made. I’m pretty sure during the course of my conversation with her I called my parents every horrible name my angry brain could muster. Talking to her did calm me down.

Now, here I sit thirty-six years later and I realize that my parents knew what they were doing. It was not a decision they made lightly but it was the best decision for us.

Winston Churchill says, ”There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction.”

Change is hard. It often causes fear and anxiety because of the unknowns. It also pushes us out of our comfort zones into the world of the unfamiliar. It causes the direction to change

What I’ve learned over the years through this experience is that sometimes the direction of our lives must change because in order for us to learn and grow.

The Choice We Have When Life Happens

Last week proved to be full of unexpected and unplanned deaths. Beginning with my neighbor, who was only 64. She suffered from a massive stroke on July 5 and was unable to recover. The unexpected drowning of Molly Greene, a lady I do not know, personally, but mutually connected to. Finally the unexpected death of Geoffrey Tennan, a man I knew and loved. Not one of these deaths were expected or anticipated. Life is full of unexpected, isn’t it?

Things happen in life that take us by surprise, lead us into shock and devastation and will do one of two things, draw us closer to God or fall away. I’ve been in both places. I can assure you that the first is far greater than the latter but if I’m being honest, the latter is an easier route.

It’s much easier to become angry with God when things don’t go the way we planned and the reason I fairly simple. We didn’t get what we wanted. Things didn’t go as expected and as Lysa TerKeurst says in her book, It’s Not Suppose To Be This Way, ”Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes, we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes.”

Y’all it’s so easy to trust in God and His goodness when things are plotting along well but when tragedy, an unexpected illness, job loss, financial crises, or betrayal weaves its way into our lives, praising God is generally the furthest thing from our thoughts and minds.

However, because I have been in both places and I know the power anger had over me for so many years. I paid a significant price for my anger and I still marvel that God sought me out and lifted my feet on very solid ground. Psalm 40:2. I have been determined not to allow it to take up residence again. Oh, it wants to and it’s sometimes a daily fight but my God is stronger and He will battle for me.

In any case, over the past eight years, if I listed all of the things that have happened, which were not part of the outcome I perceived, you would be amazed, like I am that, I am not a walking basket case. Albeit, at times I reckon I am and that I am just being completely held together by a God who loves to laugh and say, ”Yep, that one’s a little cray, cray but I love her anyway.”

Here’s what I know and have learned. You cannot trust someone you do not know. If you don’t spend time alone with God, you will never get to know Him. If you don’t pray and ask Him to reveal himself to you, you can’t possibly understand that ”All things (good and bad) work together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose ” Romans 8:28 For me personally, I have to drown out the noises and get alone and still and quiet. (Yes, I did say quiet which will come as a shock to those who really know me)

What I have learned by spending time in His presence is that I can praise Him in the hard times of life. I can trust His heart and know that He has my back. Not only that, but He knows what is best for me.

When Ned was diagnosed with cancer, it rocked our world. The diagnosis was bleak. I remember falling to my knees in prayer before the first visit with Dr. Anthony, his oncologist, and begging God, ”Please God don’t let me become angry. Please keep my heart at peace. Help me to see the good and keep my hope in you. I know you will do what’s best.”

Can I be frank and honest, I tried to muster anger at times. It would’ve been easier emotionally because it was downright hard to remain hopeful and at peace with where things were. But every time I felt anger start to boil, something would happen. A prayer would be answered. A precious memory made. A good report. Something. I could stand back and say, ”Wow, God, look at what you did!” The praise kept the anger at bay and filled my heart with gratitude which in turn changed my attitude.

And so it is with you, are you struggling for peace? Do you want to understand? Has your world.been turned on its end? Are you angry with God because you think He’s the cause of your pain and heartbreak? You will not find answers in any self-help book. You will not find answers by constantly talking to people or going to church or attending a Bible Study or even through a counselor. You must seek to know Him. You must learn to trust Him and you must get alone with Him because you can bare your soul to Him. He already knows and cares for you!

Importance of Regular Screenings: The Colonoscopy

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t go see the doctor any more than is absolutely necessary. Monday, July 8 was necessary. When you turn 50 you’re encouraged to have a colonoscopy and I turned 50 last December.

The good news is you can now order Cologuard, an easy at-home test. However, if you have a family history of colon polyps or cancer, it’s not recommended. In my case, there is a history of polyps and my gynecologist referred and recommended I have my first colonoscopy at 38. Good thing because I had ten polyps, none of which were cancerous, but my gastroenterologist said, ”Its highly likely if you had waited another year, your news would be different,”. My next colonoscopy revealed two more polyps. Again, non-cancerous.

I went into last Monday’s procedure fully anticipating the discovery of more polyps considering it had been nine years had passed between the second and third.

To be honest, three days prior, I had worked myself up so much over it, I almost canceled. I had to keep reminding myself it was for my benefit as well as my family’s.

It’s true the prep is the worst part. In a sense, I dreaded that as much as the procedure itself. However, I learned from the first one what to do and what not to do.

I can no longer stomach any form of Gatorade. I thought I would puke my guts out if I ever have to drink another one. Crystal Light was much easier to stomach the second time but I decided to try a new method and it worked much better. (Maybe reading the entirety of the pamphlet helped too.)

I purchased some Sparkling Ice. No sugar, just carbonated water and full of flavor. Had Ginger Ale (Schweppes because it’s the best IMHO) and vegetable broth on hand. Of course, my friend, water infused with lemon, remained a.faithful.companion throughout the grueling process.

The best description I can give you of the CoLyte solution is strong saltwater. Four liters of it needs to be consumed prior to the procedure. Three liters within four hours and the other liter three hours prior to the procedure.

I found that by not mixing it with Crystal Light, I had a much easier tolerance for it. I would take big gulps, chase it with the lemon-infused water and then throw a piece of peppermint (Brach’s ) in my mouth. It worked.

When Dr. Rohl came by prior to the procedure, he asked if I had been having any issues. I assured him there were none and I said, ”I’m certain you will find hemorrhoids and polyps.” He agreed it was possible because of past history.

After a quick twenty minutes, they woke me up. Dr. Rohll came in with the results. ”Well, you were right. We did find hemorrhoids. However, you had no polyps. It was the cleanest colon I’ve seen all day!” 😂

Listen, I will be the first to admit I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m sick. I put off things sometimes, like physicals and bloodwork. (I am going in a few weeks) I don’t put off seeing my dermatologist on a regular basis, every six months to be exact, because of malignant melanoma on my back about 15 years ago. I don’t put off having regular mammograms. And I won’t put off having my next colonoscopy due again in five years.

My prep facilitator told me of a 62-year-old man who had not had a colonoscopy until the week previous to mine. He was eaten up with cancer and could have possibly been prevented if he’d been going for regular screenings.

So my advice to you is if you are having any sort of bowel issues as I did in my thirties. Do something about it now. If you’re fifty, start regular screenings. It just may save your life.

All Roads Lead Somewhere

About once a week, sometimes more, Mamaw and Popaw would make treks from Brevard, NC, to Columbus, NC. They couldn’t help themselves. They had to come and visit. Honestly, it was more Mamaws begging and pleading that brought them there.

Quite often, if we weren’t traipsing through the woods with Popaw or doing something outdoors with him. He would get tired of the women’s conversation and would ask me, ”Honey, do you want to go for a ride?”

I think he often sensed my longing to get out of the house as well.

I gladly jumped in the car with him and off we’d go. Popaw loved back roads and if you’ve never been to the Columbus/ Tryon area, they are plentiful.

Our adventures took us all over Polk County. Each time we ventured out on a different road. One time our adventure took us to Fox Mountain Road. A road very unfamiliar to me and of course to Popaw as well. We drove and drove, took twists and turns. I finally said to him, ”Popaw, do you know where you’re going?”

He said, ”No, but I know which way North is and I’ll get us back home. One thing you have to remember is that all roads lead somewhere. If you know which direction is North, you can find your way back.”

Popaw grew up hunting. He always had a keen sense of direction and his Dad would often ask him to guide them out of the woods when they were coon hunting.

You know, Popaw made a good point when he said that all roads lead somewhere. It’s true, they do.

It makes me think of this poem by Robert Frost

Popaw always took the roads less traveled but he always knew which direction he wanted and needed to go and it made all the difference in his life.

What a legacy he left behind for us to follow!

Always On Time and Always at the Right Time

Again, I find myself amazed that God poured out these words four years ago. Interestingly, He knew in July of 2015, what we would learn in March 2016, Ned would be diagnosed with Atypical Stage 4 Lung cancer.

You know what? God came to us during that storm. He quieted our souls and we trusted in Him. He continues to pour out his goodness on Mom as well as the rest of our family.

Has it been easy or welcomed? Absolutely not. Would we have chosen things differently? Absolutely yes! But God, in His Sovereignty knew what was best and stood beside us the whole way.

So many people I know have been going through some very significant storms in their lives. For some it’s financial, others relational, illness, others loss of loved ones, and others emotional.

As I have been praying for these dear ones, God continues to remind me that He is with us in our storm. We may not see him but He is there and He will come to our rescue but only when the time is right and always just at the right time.

This picture keeps coming to mind for several reasons. Let me share the story behind it.

Mount Arbel is the place where Jesus retreated to go pray, while he sent his disciples on ahead of him, on the Sea of Galilee, to Bethsaida. While the disciples were on the sea, a squall or significant storm came. They were terrified. Jesus watched from the mountain top. He knew they were in the storm. He knew they were afraid. He knew they needed Him but He also knew they needed to go through the storm. (Mark 6:45-52)

Rick Warren says, “He’s letting you go through this storm for the same reasons he sent the disciples into the storm — to say, ‘I’m all you need. I can handle anything. I will come to you in the ninth hour. And I’ll come walking on the very thing that scares you the most. I’m not asking you to come to me. I’m going to come to you. You need to stop being afraid, and you need to totally trust me in faith.”

Look at this picture of Amy taken from Mount Arbel. The most fascinating fact about this is that from Mount Arbel you can see the entire Sea of Galilee. Just a great reminder that Jesus sees the whole picture. He sees all that life is throwing at us and He will come to us in our storm. We must believe in Him.

His Love is as Vast as the Ocean

This was written four years ago. It still holds so much truth I just decided to blog it. Now, my boys are both on dry land for a while and I am able to communicate with them.

Last week as I sat looking at the vastness of the ocean, I was reminded of several things. One, the endless love God has for me. Two, the limitless love I have for my children. Three, two of my boys are somewhere out there under the sea. I may not have knowledge of where they are, but God most certainly does.

Just like I cannot measure or even understand how much God really loves me. My children have no clue how much I adore and love them. No matter where they go or what they do, those lives are a part of me. In the same way, we are a part of God. We are His unique and wonderful creation.

We are never so far away that His love cannot reach us, even in our deepest darkest moments. He is there. He knows exactly where we are and precisely what we are doing, every moment of every day. Knowing this is sometimes my greatest solace when praying for Gods complete protection for all of my children, but especially for the two, I cannot communicate with on a regular basis.

Heed the Warning

True story. It’s a rare occurrence for me to be behind the wheel of a moving vehicle if Terry’s in the same vehicle. He hates my driving. He says I hit every pothole on the road. He’s probably right because my avoidance seems to be a direct hit.

Anyway, in the fall of 2006, Terry had neck surgery. After his few day stints in the hospital, they allowed him to come; but not before he signed documents stating that he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks.

One thing to note about Terry is once he gets something on his mind he’s very persistent until it’s complete. That’s how he rolls.

The neck surgery required that I drive him around for at least nine weeks. Pure torture for us both. Rest assured.

Every day he would remark about my impeccable skill to hit every pothole in the road. After about a week, he got tired of riding in my van. He decided it was time to look past the era of vans and find something else. So, he asked me to drive him to Asheville. Apparently, he had been looking around and found this used car place.

He wants to test drive a VW Passat (4 doors) and a Volvo wagon. Keep in mind. I’m the one driving. He’s not. We finish the test drive and the next thing I know we are sitting with the salesman, and Terry is making a deal. He’s trading my van in for not one but two cars. (Side note: None of our kids were licensed drivers at the time).

We drive the Volvo home and leave the VW.

The kids all wondered how we were all going to fit in one car. I wondered the same. Terry didn’t seem concerned. He said the boys can ride in the back because it had one of those fold up seats.

I called Ned that evening and asked if he would go back to Asheville with us the next day and drive the other car back home. He agreed.

We picked him up and the look on his face said it all. If you know Ned, you understand exactly what I mean. This is the look!

Surprisingly he didn’t utter a word. I think he knew Terry was on drugs and not thinking clearly. Keep in mind, he did sign a document stating he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks after surgery.

For the next few weeks, it was like a zoo. I used one car for transporting kids and another for transporting Terry. After about two months of chaos with cars, Terry came to his senses. He traded both cars in on a new Nissan Pathfinder with the 3rd-row seating.

The moral to this story: Heed the warnings after major surgery and whatever you do, don’t make major decisions for at least two weeks. Your brain is in a fog and you can’t process clearly.

A Letter to my Seven Year Old Self

Please don’t misunderstand when I share this. I am not searching for sympathy. This girl imposed enough of that on herself when she was younger. I also used it as an excuse for my poor choices and bad behavior.

Why am I sharing?

Maybe this will help someone else. Maybe there’someone out there who’ve walked in my shoes. Maybe you too, have felt worthless or useless. Maybe like me, someone has made a promise they were never meant to make and it’s caused confusion and delusion. I don’t know, maybe someone just needs to hear that ”You are loved and worthy.”

This to me was a freeing exercise to do.

To my Seven-year-old self,

Little girl, you’ve placed the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have chosen a burden and responsibility much too great to shoulder. In fact, you can’t possibly do this. Not only are you not an adult, and trying to do adult things, you need to allow others to care for you.

I know you made a promise to your Daddy the night before he died. I know you intend to keep that promise. That’s how you are. You always strive to do what you say you will. But your Daddy didn’t mean it in the literal way you took it. He just wanted to reassure you that he had faith and confidence that you would do the right thing by helping your Mom, not trying to take his place.

Sweetie, you spent many hours angry and frustrated because you were a child trying to be an adult. You didn’t always enjoy the carefree life a child of seven often does. You grew up way too fast.

Your anger translated into hidden tears at night. It also wedged a gap between you and your Creator, God and your family members. Often times you would burst into fits of rage and no one understood because you never let anyone in your world. You kept it bottled. Plastered a smile on your face and pretended all was well.

You didn’t break the promise to you, Daddy. He is not disappointed with you. Your mom isn’t disappointed with you and your siblings are not disappointed with you. You are so loved.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

A true story.

February 4, 2018, Terry and I loaded up and moved from the mountains of Hendersonville, NC to the Foothills of Landrum, SC. We moved primarily based on cost.

I fought the move. You’d have thought it would be the other way around, considering Terry was moving from his hometown and I was moving back within 8 miles of where I grew up.

There were determining factors of the fight:

  • I was afraid. (That is a story for another time.)
  • I don’t like to change. We had already been through so much with Ned’s death. I didn’t want more.
  • I really didn’t like that God was asking me to go. I knew it was the right move for us to make but I just couldn’t believe He was actually asking us to trust and go.

So, I came reluctantly and with a foul attitude.

Within the first ten days of our move, Popaw fell extremely ill and due to the move, I ended up in Hendersonville 9/10 of the time.

I kept asking God, ”Why?”

He kept saying, ”Wait.”

I cried out to Him. I cried to Terry. I bemoaned to a few of my friends. I just couldn’t shake the desire to go back home to Hendersonville.

Last fall, my Bible Study girls did ”The Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer. In the very first week, she had us do a little exercise that truly resonated in my heart. She had us write down in a circle the most difficult person, most pressing problem and/or overwhelming circumstance. Then on the line beside the circle, we were instructed to write the words, not the real problem. This fight that was going on inside of me was not a fight against flesh and blood but a fight against the world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces in the heavenly realm. (Ephesians 6:12)

While I was beginning to understand that the real enemy was the devil himself, my heart still ached and longed to go back home. But instead of talking about it as much and crying to others, I began to spend more time crying out to God. In that time, I also wrote on a prayer card a very specific prayer.

• God, either help us sell our house and return to Hendersonville or overwhelm me with your peace here.

I prayed this prayer every day. As began to pray, I noticed my stress of being here in Landrum lessened. My heart still longed for Hendersonville, but I began to enjoy what I had here.

Then in late March, Terry got the itch. He always gets the itch. It’s rare that he stays in one place too long. ” Let’s put that house on the market and see what happens” I was haphazardly reluctant and cautiously excited, all at the same time. We’ve been there. Done that.

So, we placed a ”For Sale” sign in our front yard. We had calls and a few showings. Nothings substantially sound, until one lady came. She loved the house and left saying, ”I think this is the one for me.”

Terry was excited. I thought I was too. Then it happened, suddenly I began to feel sad. I love my house. I love our quaint neighborhood and more importantly our neighbors. I began to pray, ”God, if this is what you want, allow. It to happen.”

On Thursday, she called to say she was going to purchase the house across the street and be our neighbor. She wanted a brand new house. I was not sad. I was relieved.

Then, I got my act together and decided to list on Zillow. This proved a huge success. We had a few other showings and then an offer. The offer was ridiculously low. We went back and forth most of the day. When I realized they weren’t willing to pay the price we wanted, Terry and I agreed to take the house off the market, at least for a while.

I need to interject here to say, we could have easily taken their offer. We would have made money. However, the consideration being offered would not have been good for our neighbors and the price valuation of our neighborhood. Sometimes, it’s not about what you can put in your pocket. You have to consider others.

I am so excited we are going to stay. God has done what I began asking of Him, almost a year ago.

Is there something that is troubling your heart? If so, realize that it’s probably the enemy trying to weave and work his craftiness. Cry out to God. Be open and honest with him. Ask specifically. Pray without ceasing. Do what He tells you to do. Walk in obedience to Him. He will make your joy complete.

Why Their Standards Are Set So High

Yesterday we had the opportunity to celebrate the marriage of Blaire and Hunter. Blaire and Amy have been friends since elementary school. Like Amy, we have had the privilege of watching Blaire grow into a beautiful young woman.

It occurred to me yesterday that this is a new season of life for us. Our children’s friends are now getting married and having babies. And you know what that means, my kids are all old enough to get married too.

Before the wedding, I said to Terry, ”You know this could be Amy in a few years”

He said, ”Don’t rush it. She’s got plenty of time.”

Considering all of our children are now old enough to be married, and are not, I have to ask myself the question ”why?”

First of all, maybe it’s because Terry has told them forever, ”Don’t get married before you’re 30!” Ryan will be 30 in December.

Second, until recently the older two haven’t really had time for relationships and they all have very high standards. Besides, it’s difficult to get married when you don’t have a significant other. 😊

So that begs a different question, ”Why are their standards so high?”

I believe there are three very good reasons.

The first reason is because of the display of love and devotion they witnessed through watching MaMaw and Popaw. They saw what it looks like for a man to love and devote himself to a woman. They also saw how she adored and loved him. They observed how he tenderly provided care for her for ten years prior to her moving into an assisted living facility. They saw love in rare form.

Next, they watched and observed how Mom and Ned loved each other. They listened in as they would sometimes get on each other’s nerves but then would kiss and make up. They watched and observers how Mom took such great care of Ned as his health declined. They saw how his love for her propelled and fueled his desire to get better. He loved her with every fiber of his being and she loved him back in the same way.

Third, and maybe most importantly, these kids of mine have had on display for almost 25 years, the way a man should love a woman. Terry has taught the boys to respect women and he’s taught Amy she’s worthy of respect. He’s taught them that even through hard times, you love, you laugh, you cry and then you do it all again. You never give up and you never give in. He’s taught them the value of commitment. He’s taught them perseverance and determination. He’s taught them not to settle but to look for Gods best.

So on this Fathers Day, I am rejoicing in the legacy left behind by two great men, and I am most thankful to celebrate my man today. He is God’s gift to me and our four children.

Honey, Did We Give Them A Good Deal?

Popaw was always about making sure that he never took advantage of people, especially when it came to a business deal. His upbringing had a lot to do with that. His father, Robert, was a man of many trades one was buying and selling milk cows.

In the words of Popaw, ”Anytime Daddy would sell a milk cow, it always came with a guarantee. He would always tell the purchaser if the cow didn’t milk, he would take it back and return their money. He said he couldn’t recall a time his dad ever had to take one back.

My grandparents lived very modestly and way below their means. In truth, they were never possessed by their possessions. So often they would just give what they had away, even if they could resell it. Several of these things included cars and boats.

In addition, my grandparents were extremely generous. Honestly, almost to a fault. When they heard of anyone in need and it was within their means to provide, rest assured, they would. When they gave it was a true gift. There were never any strings attached. They simply gave and I can assure you their ability to give increased with each gift.

If there was an anything Popaw held tightly to, it was his house. It brought him joy, safety, and security. His home also became dangerous for him to continue living alone. It was truly a sad day when we had to move him. But like everything else in his life, he adapted and went on.

We waited about three months before we began completely clearing out and prepping his home to sell. Before we had all the clutter cleared a neighbors grandchild was interested in purchasing the home.

Popaw and Mom asked if I would just handle the transaction. Even though I didn’t keep up my CE for my license, I still kept up to date with changes in the industry. I knew the required paperwork and how to fill in the blanks.

The transaction took place without a hitch. The house was sold and now belonged to someone else.

One day shortly after the sell, I was visiting Popaw and he said, ”Honey, I’ve got a question for you. Did we give those folks who bought my house a good deal? We didn’t take advantage of them, did we?”

”Absolutely, we gave them a good deal. I knew you’d have it no other way. In fact, we gave them a very good deal.” I replied.

”That’s good to know. I don’t like to feel like I’ve taken advantage of anyone.”

And with that, he never mentioned the sell of his house again. He was satisfied knowing we had given the new owners a good deal.

The longer I am without him, the more I realize how much he truly impacted my life, my values, and my beliefs.

The moral: life is far too short to place a high value on things. It is much more advantageous to place a high value on people because they are your real treasures.

Opportunity to Love More

“Honey, I love her more now than I did almost 67 years ago.” The words flowed from his lips as we sat by her bedside in the early morning hours of May 26, 2010. We both knew she was on a very limited time. Popaw had decided to stay the night with her and I lingered with him until my eyes burned and needed a break from my contacts.

It would be her last night and just as it should be. The two of them together.

As I’ve spent the last nine years replaying much of our conversation I keep coming back to his words, “I love her more now..”. It finally occurred to me that Popaw saw every hardship their marriage endured as a means to love her more. And to be completely honest, she loved him with every fiber of her being as well.

So often when relationships hit a tough spot or an obstacle, our first inclination is to hit the door and run. Take the easy way out. Leave him. Leave her. But what if, we looked at our obstacles or hardships as opportunities to love our spouse more? What if we displayed unconditional love?

Listen. Popaw and Mamaw were not perfect people. They were simply held together by an almighty and perfect God. They recognized early one they could not do marriage without making Jesus the center.

I shared in a previous post that my grandmother was mentally ill. As a result of her mental illness, she was also a hypochondriac and by the time she was in her 40’s had already had thirty or more surgeries. I also shared that she spent some time in the mental ward in Winston Salem and had shock treatments.

To be frank, if Terry had all those issues, I would definitely be tempted to hang in the towel. I mean who wants to deal with all of that plus raise children and work full time? Troy, that’s who. He didn’t see her as being a hindrance. He viewed her through the same rose-colored glasses God views us from and he loved her and devoted himself more to her. You see, he was more interested in maintaining and growing their relationship rather than looking outside to find a greener pasture.

Do you know what happened? She recovered from most of her ailments. She was never able to fully escape the anxiety and worry but she thrived and survived because he loved her.

Interestingly I saw this on social media the other day. I’ve heard the adage, “The grass is greener where you water it”. But I had not seen this.

So often we look to run from the hard when God says, “Wait. Stay. Hang on. The best is yet to come”.

To be certain, Troy and Colleen experienced a blessed marriage and a lifetime of precious memories together and were more in love after almost 67 years than when they first fell in love.

Who doesn’t want that for themselves?

The next time you find your marriage on rocky ground look for the opportunity to love more. I guarantee it will be worth it in the end.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

Special times with Popaw

By now you know that not only was Popaw one of my favorite people, he was also my hero.

Over the next few.weeks, I have plenty of stories to share. This particular story happened within the last three years.

Before Ned’s diagnosis with cancer, Mom.had predominantly been responsible for Popaw’s health care.

Prior to moving him to the assisted living facility, Mom would. commonly meet him at his appointments. However, when he no longer had use of the car, Mom had to take him.

With Ned’s.illness and all.of.his appointments, it became increasingly harder for Mom.to.keep.up.

One day. I announced to.her that I would start.managing his healthcare. It was the one thing I could completely take off her shoulders to allow her focus to be more on Ned. Besides, I reasoned, if something happened to her, I would be the one responsible for him. It just made.sense.

I viewed it as an opportunity to help her and spend some. extra time.with Popaw. I enjoyed his company and he enjoyed mine.

Our first trip to the doctor without Mom would be unique and different for him. He was so accustomed to her taking him, I knew it would be slightly awkward. I decided, on my way to pick him up, to pop in my Selah cd because he would recognize all the Hymns.

In classic Popaw style, he got in my car and immediately began to thank me. ”Honey, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such good treatment but I sure appreciate you taking care of me.”

After a few minutes of small talk, the car grew silent except for the cd playing. The silence was soon interrupted by a sound I now wish I had recorded. The raspy bass voice of my Popaw singing, ”I sing because I am happy. I sing because I am free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

At that moment, any twinge of nervousness he had about me taking over his care, or any fear I had that I wouldn’t do it the right way was completely absorbed by the fact that we both knew and understood a valuable truth at that moment. God was taking care of both of us.

Can I be really blunt here?

To say I miss this treasure of a human being is an understatement. There will never be another like him. I am thankful I didn’t waste the time of frivolity and that my earlier choices had dictated time I would get to spend with Popaw.

Listen here

Made for More Than This

Do you ever sit back and think, ”I was made for more than this?” It’s happened to me on more than one occasion. However, as God began transforming this rebel heart, I remember distinctly having this thought permeate my mind for weeks.

It all began when I was twenty barefoot and pregnant. We’d moved to the Bremerton, Washington. I was alone. Oh, I had a few friends but they had decided to live in base housing. We chose townhome living.

After a week of being there, I decided to look in the phone book for a list of nearby churches. Considering I didn’t know anything about the area, I reasonably set out the day before to find the location of the church I wanted to attend.

Fortunately, it wasn’t far from our townhome. It was a small church with a down-home country feel. One of those little white churches in the Wildwood but this was more like the little white church in the evergreens. I can’t even recall the name.

The next day, I readied myself and went. I had no expectations. I just desired a sense of community and hoped I’d find it there. Little did I know that I would discover far more than the community.

From the moment I entered until the time of my departure, I felt welcomed, loved and accepted. This unique community of believers would provide the backbone for teaching me how to love and accept unconditionally.

During this time, I began to realize that Christianity is far more than religion. It’s based on a relationship with Jesus. These people truly loved and devoted themselves to Jesus and each other. The Bible was their moral compass and from that, they did not waver.

I loved these people and they truly loved me. For the first time in my life, I could really be me. No pretense, no undue expectations, no condemnation, just love in its purest and most rare form.

I wish I could tell you that my rebel heart was totally transformed. It wasn’t but God began showing me through the love and devotion of these precious people that I was made for much more than the path I was headed down.

As I reflect on this experience, I am reminded of how God relentlessly pursued me. He loved me back to himself. He used this small church and its people in an unfamiliar place to teach me how to love and accept others and more importantly to love and accept myself. It’s called grace and mercy.

Grandma Reese

Sassy, sweet and not afraid to work her hands to the bone. The epitome of love in action is how I would describe her.

Her sass gave her the ability to walk through some of life’s most difficulties and the ability to raise seven children

Her sweetness gave her the ability to dote on and love her grandchildren and great grands.

Her hard work ethic gave her the ability to always provide for her family.  While she didn’t work outside the home; her hard work was done in the home.  She was a green thumb when it came to gardening and fabulous cook.  She could whip up a meal in no time flat.  She could quilt, mend, and make her own clothes.  Truly, she could do just about anything but drive

Life would throw her some curve balls so she had to be able to handle them.

My grandfather joined the Navy during World War II and left her and four young boys behind.  She told me, “Every day I would get those boys up before dawn and take them outside to help me.”

She knew the pain of having a still born but she knew the joy of having a quiver full. However, I believe one of her most difficult trials came when my daddy died.  Often she would say to me, “I never thought I would have to bury a child.  I always thought I would go first. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to watch.”

She would tell me about the pain and agony he was in and how it broke her heart to see him that way.  But she was quick to always say,  “The smile never left his face.”

She knew the heartache of losing her beloved.  Grandpa died unexpectedly of a stroke in 1991 and she would live as a widow for the next 18 years.

She knew the joy of grandchildren.  She had nineteen.  She loved us all well.  She enjoyed having us in bunches or individually.  She didn’t care how many or how few.  In her mind there was always room for one more.

She even had the privilege of knowing most of her great grandchildren!

Oh, how I loved her and spending time with her.  If I would call her ahead of time , she would always cook a pot of green beans for me.  She knew they were my favorite.  If I didn’t call and just showed up; she’d rummage around in the basement and bring up a quart or two of green beans and insist I stay and eat.  I didn’t refuse because one thing about having Reese blood, food is an essential. Besides that was her way to expressing love. She always had more than enough to feed everyone at the table.

Today is her special day!  It’s the day of her birth!  She celebrates in heaven and I’ll celebrate her on earth.  Happy birthday, Grandma!

Sallie Clark Reese   April 15, 1916-August 17,2009