What is it about Charleston?

Several weeks ago, Terry and I ventured on a little getaway to Charleston, SC. I'm always happy to go and always sad to leave. There's really nothing about the "Holy City" that I do not like. For me it's like a lighthouse on a hill beckoning this ship to come. It calls me and I go!

Why is my heart so excited and happy to go? I've pondered over the past few weeks and I keep coming back to the same conclusion.

Charleston is where life really began to take on a new meaning for me.

I was a young, silly 19 year old who had lofty ideas of what being married would look like. In fact, over time, I've realized I was most likely more in love with the idea of marriage than I was with the man I married. I was committed, nonetheless.

We married in August of 1988 and moved to Goose Creek, SC, a community right on the outskirts of North Charleston. Since we only had one car, most often, I would take him to work or he would ride in with a buddy.

He was in the Navy, a submariner and Nuke. His work hours were long and taxing. Giving me plenty of time and reason to explore my new home.

Time and again, I would find myself walking the streets of history in downtown or daydreaming of living on the Battery, while walking through Battery Park. Other days, I would find reason to head to Folly Beach or Isle of Palms to soak up some rays and put my feet in the sand.

Only after 2 months of marriage, he was deployed for six months. Suddenly, I found myself in a place where I knew very few people. With the encouragement of my back home support group, I decided to sublet our apartment and go back home to Columbus, NC.

Retuning wasn't difficult because I could still go to Charleston whenever I wanted. It was a good setup.

Frankie, my first husband, returned in early February from his 6 month deployment. Like a few others, within 6 weeks, we were expecting our first child.

I wish I could tell you there was great elation in such good news. There wasn't. A part of me felt excited and the other part of me was wondering what in the world am I doing.? I'm enjoying life. I love the parties, the nightclubs, taking dares to jump in pools fully clothed. I knew I would have to give up, at least a portion, of my lifestyle. Truthfully, I wasn't sure I was ready.

Little by little, I gave it up. Funny how I didn't really miss it once I was removed from it. This was my first notion and inkling that God was pursuing me. No, I'm not one of those who turned on a dime instantly. I'm just saying, I knew I wanted something more for my child than the lifestyle I was currently living. It was about my move away from being selfish and only thinking of myself and putting someone else's need above mine.

Not only do I love everything Charleston I'm also deeply humbled and thankful for the lessons Charleston taught me. It's really where my heart still calls home and sometimes I must go. One day I may stay.

Disappoints will come

And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:5-8

At some point in our lives we all face disappointment. There's no escaping and no way around it. It's going to happen. It's not even a question of if. It's a matter of when.

A few years before the disappointment of losing my father to melanoma, I had a life altering blow.

This blow happened by way of a cute little character, "The Pillsbury Doughboy". (Pictured above).

I loved the commercials. A talking, little white doughboy that would giggle when when touched in the belly.

My mom found out that you could order them and so she did. She kept telling me that I would have my very own Doughboy. Anticipation, coupled with lofty ideas of the fun I would have with my very own doughboy, were immediately shut down the moment he arrived.

I ripped into the box. Fully expecting this little guy to talk or at least giggle at the push of his belly. (I was only about 4). He did nothing. Not only did he do nothing, he was hard and plastic.

I'm not sure how long I cried over my disappointment but clearly I haven't failed to forget. I remember the devastation. Felling deflated. Unprepared. Utterly disappointed.

That's what disappointment does. It leaves us feeling depressed, confused and sometimes overwhelmed. We struggle to find the answer to why. Why now? Why me? Why, oh why?

Luckily, my disappointment didn't last long, at least not my first recollection of letdown.

The thing I've learned, is that often disappointments come as a result of our expectations. You see, I had these lofty expectations because of the commercials with the cute, lovable doughboy.

Isn't that what we do with people? We place undue and lofty expectations on people, especially those closest to us. Our spouse. Our children. Our parents. Our closest friends. And when they fail to meet our expectation, we get disappointed. We feel letdown. Angry. Hurt.

And then the worst of the worst happens, we get disappointed with God. He fails to answer our prayers or so we think. A loved one dies. A marriage falls apart. A child goes astray. Infertility. Abuse. Financial ruin. The list goes on and on. Again those feelings of hurt, anger and disappointment consume our thoughts and our minds.

Having spent a good portion of my younger years and even into my early adulthood being utterly and overwhelmingly shattered by lofty and unrealistic expectations, I am fully aware and attune to these feelings. And I would be lying if I told you that, from time to time, they still creep in.

What do I do when I'm feeling disappointed and letdown? The first thing I do is look to see where I was placing my expectation. People are going to let you down every time. You simply cannot put your full expectation in them. No matter how good they are, we are all human. We are going to mess up.

Secondly,, I take every ounce of frustration and tell it to God. Sometimes, I even wrote it out. That includes when I am feeling like my unanswered prayers are bouncing off the walls or when he says, "no". When I do this, I am reminded of his great promises to me!

You know what happens when I am reminded that He loves and adores me? Or that He will be with me wherever I go? Or that this life is only a temporary dwelling and He is preparing a place for me? I am thankful. I am grateful. I am humbled. I become overwhelmed with joy and peace. Disappointments and trials are gonna come. It is what is. It's how we respond that will change everything, even us. He is our hope.

Don’t Blink

Who doesn't love the sight of an almost 4-year-old and his Popaw (great-grandfather) sitting at the table working a puzzle together? Classic  Timeless. A bridge between generations.

When Ryan was about a year old, he was completely mesmerized by puzzles.  The wooden puzzles with frames and giant size pieces.  You know the ones,  4-8 pieces, pegs at the top  It was easy to teach him how to manipulate the pieces to fit in their appropriate shape. Before long he graduated to the more advanced puzzles.  The ones with 10-15 pieces that you actually had to figure out by color and fit together inside the frame. Ryan got bored with those rather quickly.   So, he graduated to the 25 piece puzzles with no frame.  We taught him the easiest way to do the puzzle without a frame was to find the end pieces and work them first and then put tighter the inside. It worked.  He could put those puzzles together in a jiffy.  Again,  he got bored quickly and he graduated up to the 100 piece puzzles, when he was about 3 1/2.   By the time he was four, putting together 200 piece puzzles became his challenge. He was diligent about picking out the end pieces and working the outside until he discovered the picture on the box. The picture on the box opened a whole new world for  him see colors and patterns and how they would fit together. While he would still separate out the end pieces, he could work both inside and outside at the same time.

More than the fact that Ryan was a puzzle whiz, is the time that others, especially Popaw would take to sit with him and work puzzles.

Popaw always understood that his time would make a difference. He never got too busy to spend time with those he loved.  Ask anyone of my children, my sister, my brother, or their children.  He's always placed far more value in people than things.

Time is the most valuable gift we can give others and it's often the thing we fail to give.  We find distractions or busyness to consume our time. We're always moving to the next item on our agenda. These are the things that often rob us of time we need to be investing in others.

Jesus was always investing his time with people too.  There are countless stories in the Bible where we are told that Jesus lingered.  He stayed longer than planned.  Why?  He knew that by investing his time in people, He could win them over.  He could gain their trust.  He also knew at the core root of people is an insatiable need to be loved and made to feel important.  Do you realize when you give up your agenda and just spend time with someone, you're saying, "You're more important.  The agenda can wait."? People can't.

So often when my children were young, I was eager to move onto the next thing on my agenda.  Most things were "good things" but those things took time away from them.  Time I could've invested in reading a book, playing a game, working a puzzle, etc.  My children, without a doubt, know they are loved and adored; but I could've made them feel so much more important if I had been willing to, like Popaw, set aside my agenda and give them my full attention.  I went to sleep and now they're 27, 25, 21, and 19.  Don't  blink.



It’s more than enough

Ever been to one of those fabulous Japanese Steakhouses?

For two consecutive years that’s where Alex has wanted to go for his birthday. Both years I found myself thinking while the food was being so skillfully prepared, “It’s not going to be enough for everyone at the table”. Both years, I’ve been terribly wrong in my thinking. It’s always been more than enough.

Truthfully, I’ve been to Japanese steakhouses far more than just twice and I know from prior experience that there is always enough. Always.

Funny how I treat my relationship with God the same way. I’ve lived long enough and had many experiences both good and bad that have taught me that He is more than enough. But just let the weight of an unanswered prayer, a strained relationship, an expected loss, an unexpected illness creeps in!  Bam!!! I’m all up in arms and overwhelmed looking at my circumstances rather than to Him

You see most times, I’m only seeing a portion of the much larger picture. God sees the whole. Just like the chefs know the exact amount of food to prepare, and the best way to serve the food; God knows what we need and when we need it the most and He gives us far more than we need or deserve.

The hardest part for me is the wait. It’s in that period of time that I continually forget what I’ve already have learned.

Where I Belong

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6


We often find ourselves trying vicariously to live our lives through our children. I suppose that’s why God gave me children who have strong wills and independent spirits.  I learned very early on that I would be rearing children, not living my life and dreams through them, helping and guiding them to make wise and sometimes difficult choices.

Matthew has always had a mind of his own. He always made friends easily, but he rarely ever allowed those friends to control his thoughts or emotions. Matthew could think for himself and he was always extremely pertinacious. As he grew older, we talked about the possibility of home-schooling him, but he said to me one day, “Mom, if God can use me to make a difference in one person’s life, then I want to stay in public school. One person is worth it all.” Matthew did, over the next few years, make a difference in the lives of several of his friends.

At the end of Matthew’s sophomore year, he said, “Mom, I want to be in the military. I want to join the Marines and be on the front lines. Don’t bother signing me up for the SAT or ACT. I’m not going to college.”

My first through was, “Sure thing, Buddy. You’re only 15 and likely to change your mind in a few months.”  Besides, what 15 year old could possibly know he wants to fight on the frontline for his country?

While he spent the next year talking, I ignored him, until the start of his Senior year and he was still talking about it. I called his dad and told him Matthew’s plan, needless to say, he was not a happy camper. Having served in the Navy and knowing the potential Matthew possessed, he convinced Matthew to talk with a Navy recruiter.  Only after lengthy discussions with the recruiter, did Matthew decide the Nuclear program in the Navy best suited him

After Matthew’s decision was made, I really didn’t think it was what he wanted to do; however, as he focused more on the Navy, his excitement accelerated. His hope was to go in immediately after graduation; however, due to the economy the Navy had a significantly higher number of recruits; so, he would have to wait a year. While he was disappointed, it also gave him more time to spend with friends and family and also take a 3 ½ week trip to Europe. The wait also made him more eager to join. At that point, my reluctance and disbelief in his choice diminished.

If there were any doubt left in me, I definitely had closure, if any doubt remained, when Matthew wrote the following words,  “I just want you to know that joining the Navy was the best decision I have ever made. I have definitely found where I belong.” (Letter from Matthew, dated 11 July 2010) Wow! The words resonated my heart and soul, my precious boy has found his calling. I don’t think there is any greater feeling of accomplishment that a mother can feel when she knows that her children are where they belong.



Restraints and Containment

 “Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10: 7-10

Have you ever tried to contain something that is not containable?  Surprisingly, maybe not so,  I had a child that did not yield to a restraint or containment of any kind.  He was like a little Houdini.  Before he could walk he would climb out of his crib, high chair, over the baby gate and out of his car seat.  If it was meant to restrain or contain him.  Forget it.  Not happening.  No way.  No how.

I think his first stunt was crawling out of the bed.  We didn’t know he could get out and during the night, to our surprise, he showed up in our room trying to get in bed with us.  The next day, we lowered his mattress as far down as possible.  It worked, for a few days.

We didn’t have a nanny cam so I decided to watch him one afternoon to see how the little rascal was getting out.  Clever little boy.  He would use his changing table to pull himself over the bed railing.  Once atop the changing table he would climb down the table by using his toes in the hardware of the drawers.  Keep in mind.  He was not walking, at this time and he was upstairs.  Good news was he couldn’t reach the door knob so at least we could keep the door closed to avoid an accidental fall down the stairs.

His next escaping adventure was with security gates.  Somehow the little stinker could just, with upper body strength pull himself over and unfortunately sometimes the gates themselves would fall.  We decided to invest in two pricy thick security gates.  Again, our efforts proved to be in vain.  The gates worked for a few weeks.  He couldn’t pull himself over these.  They were a little higher and much sturdier than the previous ones.  However, these heavy duty thick plastic gates were made to look like a lattice fence.  Alex, figured out he could, again, use his toes, connect them between the open spaces and climb right over.  All this before he could walk.

After he learned to walk, he was much more difficult to contain.  He climbed on everything and had no fear of anything.  He frequently dug himself out of the high chair while being strapped in.  No clue how he managed to get out of the restraint.  But he did.

Then one day, we were headed to Concord to visit my sister and her family.  We heard a little rustling from the back seat and I turned to find Alex completely out of his car seat and sitting in the seat between his carseat and Amy’s.  We stopped put him back in and harnessed him well, or so we thought.  A few minutes later Matthew from the rear seat is laughing saying, “Mom, he’s out again.”  I looked back just in time to see him crawling out of his carseat and looking very proud of himself.  Needless to say, the next few days we researched car seats and found one that was supposed to have a better restraining system. As always, it worked for a little while but he somehow managed to slip his arms up through the restraints, no matter how tight or high the restraint was.  He knew if he could get his arms out he could wriggle the rest of his body out.

The good news was over time, he finally learned it was for his safety but honestly there was no containing that little booger when he was little.

When I think about how active and daring and challenging and scary, at times, it was raising him as youngster, I stand amazed how self-controlled and cautious and wise he is today.  He didn’t initially realize that the restraints and containment were for his protection and safety. When he did realize they were meant for his protection,  it had to be his choice to adhere to them, not mine. He chose well.

Just like us.  We sometimes feel restrained or contained by following Jesus.  We fail to see the benefit so we buck the restraint.  We decide to crawl over the fence.  When we do this we are left unprotected and that’s a scary place to be.  Jesus doesn’t want to hem us in to harm us but to keep us from danger.  To keep us safe.  Until we get to the point, like Alex, to see that it’s up to us to choose the safety and security that Jesus provides, we will continue to escape the protection every time.


A premise with a promise

One of the most magnificent sites to see is a rainbow after a storm.   The first mention of rainbow is in Genesis 9:13-15  “ I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  

The significance is two-fold, any time there is a first mention of something in scripture it begs us to pay attention. There is a reason that rainbows were not mentioned before this time, and there is an even greater significance for later.

Before the flood, there was no need for God to make a promise never to flood and destroy all life.  Prior to this time, God had dealt with wickedness and hardening of hearts with other consequences.  However, the wickedness and sinfulness which pervaded the earth, at the time, left Him with no choice but to destroy all life.  As harsh as it sounds, let me remind you, God gave the people time to change their ways and their hearts.  During the time of construction, up until God closed the door, there was time for people to change their hearts and minds, which is further evidence of the wickedness of man’s heart.  They were unwilling to break or bend.  They were enjoying the pleasure of their sin and they didn’t believe the flood was coming, even though they were warned.

For forty days and forty nights the rains came, wiping out all forms of life, with the exception,  all life in the boat.  “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede.” (Gen 8:1) After 150 days the boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat and then approximately another 220 days past before God opened the doors of the Ark.

After everyone was safely on dry ground, Noah built an altar and worshipped the Lord. God, being pleased with the “aroma of the sacrifice” made this promise to Noah, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood.  I will never again destroy all living things.” (Gen 8:21)

There it is.  The promise.  God made the promise to Noah in Chapter 8 but then in Chapter 9, He goes one step further.  The rainbow.  This is where the premise of the promise becomes a reality.  Here is where the rubber meets the road.  The moment when God says, I not only give you my promise but I’m giving you this rainbow to show that I remember my promise and so that you will have it as a reminder of my promise.

Life throws so many curve balls and sometimes we don’t even see them coming.  We have our plans mapped out so perfectly and then, bam, the unexpected happens.  Sometimes we do a forewarning, just like the flood and have time to prepare and sometimes we don’t.  However, when life happens we often forget God’s promises to us. We get so overwhelmed in the despair of the situation, it’s hard to see the light at the end of tunnel. This is the other significance, personally for me, of the rainbow.  When I see a rainbow, I am reminded of God’s promises.  I am reminded that He also remembers and keeps his promises,  even if my life seems to be out of control.  I can rest comfortably knowing that God has my back.  I can find freedom from worry, fret, despair and grief because I know that He is a promise maker.  He is a promise keeper.

Am I saying I don’t feel angst, worry, fear, dread, unworthiness, etc?  No, absolutely not.  I am just saying the sight of the rainbow or the thought of the rainbow brings my wandering heart back to rest solidly on His promise.  This is why he not only made a promise but gave a premise for the promise to remind us that He will never forget his promise.