Changing perspective

Last year when we moved Popaw from his house to The Bridge at Lake Point Landing.  It was a tough transition for him.

He was being taken from his home of 44 years and his independence was being seized right out from underneath him.

He had fought the idea, for a while, but it was finally apparent he could no longer safely remain by himself.  He knew it too and didn’t put up much of an argument about going.

He said, “I know it’s probably best.”

Move-in day came. A host of friends from Mom and Ned’s Sunday school Class came to help.

It was hard. Hard for him. Hard for mom. Hard for us all. It’s only the second or third time I’ve ever seen Popaw cry. It wasn’t the ugly loud cry. It was silent flow of tears rolling softly down his cheeks. It was heart wrenching!

After getting him settled, everyone left, well, everyone except me. For some strange reason, I decided to linger with him a little longer

He was flipping through channels as we were chatting.  He ran across some preacher who was talking about the Israelites.  He talked about how they had been taken from their homes, wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years and then God led them to the land of milk and honey

Popaw looked at me and said, “Well that’s exactly how I feel, everything’s been taken from me. My house.  My car.  Everything I’ve known for many years. I feel like I’m in the desert now. Then they bring me ice cream and it’s like God gave me my milk and honey.  Milk because ice cream is made with milk and honey because it’s sweet.”

I sat there thinking, “Wow!  What an incredible perspective.”

The truth is, that’s the way he always sees things.  He always finds the good in any situation.  His kind heart and gentle spirit give him the ability to look beyond even the most difficult of circumstances and find the good.

Sometimes my biggest problem is that I fail to look at things from a different perspective.  I see the negative and I stay there. I feel the weight of overwhelming circumstances. I feel the blows of life and fail to look for the good. The sad truth is when I fail to see the good, I most often times miss the blessing.

The truth that the Israelites learned while in the wilderness was that God’s provision was always there   Not only did he guide them a cloud  by day and a pillar of fire by    night.  He gave them food daily.  He took care of them.

Popaw has seen, felt and experienced the goodness and richness of God  He has experienced God’s ultimate protection and provision for a long time.  However, I believe the moment he was moved from his home, he felt empty.  He felt alone  He felt like a fish out of water.  But he determined not to look at all he’d lost.  He looked at what was ahead.  He chose to see the goodness of the Lord once again

 

You Can Get Back Up Again

Who had a Bozo the Clown blow-up bop bag? did. I remember being so fascinated by how quickly he bounced back up. So much so, I would give him my best shot or 50 and he always bounced back….unless he was low on air and then he wouldn’t bounce back as quickly.

Have you had the wind knocked out of sails? Have you been blind-sighted or sucker-punched? Have there been times when you just wanted to go far, far away to a deserted island and never come back? Or maybe you just want hermit away in your house and never come out? You certainly didn’t feel like bouncing back and getting up on your feet again and facing the world with all of its uncertainties. I certainly have faced times like these.

So, how do you bounce back when you’re punched again and again and again? The first thing to remember is that you’re not the only one. There are many people in this world and many suffer from heartaches and disappointments, many of them are far greater than yours. That doesn’t mean yours aren’t real. They are real. Your pain is real. Your heartache is real. Your sorrow is real. Even the apostle Paul did not discount pain and suffering. He just had a different perspective. His perspective was quite simple and yet profound, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice” Philippians 4:4 (KJV) I believe what he is saying is that our response to difficult situations is to recognize that God is Sovereign and He is in control. Rejoice in the fact that He is God and He is good.

Does that mean we cannot question or doubt his goodness? Absolutely not. If that were the case my doubts would have never lead me to the place of understanding that God is sovereign above all things. God loves an honest doubter and in time He will reveal Himself to you if you’re honest about your doubts and you seek Him.

The second thing is to keep in mind that your suffering has a time limit. It will not last forever. Will it go away before you die? I don’t know. Only God knows the answer to that but one day, all pain and suffering will come to a screeching halt. Gone forever. How do I know this? The Bible tells me so, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NIV). This life and all of its sorrows, trials, and pain are just temporary.

Thirdly, know that you have a friend in Jesus. He knows all about you. He understands everything you’re going through. He came not only to dwell among us but to understand us. Hebrews 4:15 says it like this, “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.” (NIV) So, if you’re struggling to grapple with whatever you are facing and you do not think anyone understands, knows, and believes that Jesus does. This will change your life. As the psalmist says, in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV)He is always present. Always stands ready to help. And He is always near.

Don’t run away from the things that threaten to take you down because in time you can bounce back again. Sometimes you may bounce back more quickly than others but don’t be discouraged because You are not alone and you will get up again.

Lessons On Change

If y’all know me, you know that I think a bit on the abstract at times. Let’s just face it I am weird and I know it. Just ask my tribe. They’ll tell you. For example, Alex makes fun of me because, in the latter part of fall, I begin to count the days until December 21. December 21 marks the winter solstice or the shortest period of daylight hours. Why? Because I know as soon as December 21 comes and goes my daylight hours will increase. Also, I know that June 20 marks the beginning of summer and the longest period of daylight for the year. Early dawns. Late sunsets. Long summer days. Short nights. To get through the long winter nights I need to remind myself that spring is on its way, summer and fall will surely follow.

Fall just happens to be one of my favorite times of the year, even though the daylight hours get shorter. The colors of fall. The smells of fall. The sounds of fall. It reminds me of days gone by, times when life was a bit more carefree. Raking leaves into heaping mounds only to jump in and scatter them again. Bobbing for apples. A piping hot pumpkin latte and conversing with friends. Painting or carving pumpkins. Roasting pumpkin seeds. Watching my children run and play for hours with leaves crackling beneath their feet, tossing leaves high into the air and chasing after them. Fall festivals. Trick-or-treating with our kids. Family gatherings. Football games. Campfires. Bonfires. Hayrides. Apple pie. Pumpkin bread. Fall is a time for friends and family and making lasting memories.

Last year as I watching the leaves turn, I began to wonder, “Does change hurt the trees?” Because curious minds need to know and I know how much change hurts me. So I began to do a little research and I discovered some amazing facts. First of all, the shorter hours of daylight in the fall are a signal that the leaf needs to prepare for winter and they stop producing chlorophyll, which is what gives leaves their green color. Each leaf inside has its pigment and this is what produces the color in fall. The trees know to take its nutrient from the leaves but when the leaves stop being productive they dry up and fall off. Another reason the leaves dry up and fall off is to protect the tree during the harsh winter months of rain, ice, and snow. In other words, sometimes the leaves should dry up and fall. The good news is that in spring as the days lengthen, the trees know it’s time to start production once again.

This may be elementary for some of you but it was enlightening for me.

It teaches me that I need to view change from a different perspective and vantage point. Change is sometimes very predictable as in the case with seasons. Change is sometimes hard but necessary. Change is sometimes harsh. Change is sometimes as highly unpredictable as the weather, especially mountain weather. Ask the meteorologists, sometimes they make an educated guess at best. Change is sometimes cyclical. Change is sometimes lasting for example the loss of a loved one. There will always be a void that will never go away. Change is sometimes necessary for growth. Change will always be hard for me because change makes me vulnerable. It makes me feel out of control of both my circumstances and my emotions. Both of which I like to control.

However, as much as I dislike change if I’ll remember this lesson: While the leaves provide nutrients for the tree during the spring, summer and fall, it is the root system that provides nutrients, anchoring and the storing of food during the process of photosynthesis. The root system really provides everything the tree needs for survival and regrowth in the spring. The same is true with me. I can withstand the seasons of change if I am deeply rooted in Jesus and know that He provides me with everything I need.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that send out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year or drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

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

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.

A Celebratiom of Life

Monday was a beautiful spring day in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Crisp morning air followed by blue skies and sunshine. A gentle breeze to keep it cool and comfortable. A perfect day to celebrate a beautiful life.

When my grandfathers younger sister died in August of 2017, on the way home from her service, Mom told me that when Popaw died she wanted me to speak at his service. Little did I know what a task and challenge I would face.

Popaw took his breath last Tuesday. I had almost a full week to prepare. One would think a week would be enough time. Normally, it would. But this was not normal.

Stories and memories were swimming in my mind. I could barely finish one thought before another would interrupt. Not one story won. Each story held a specific and special meaning and not one more meaningful or important than the next.

How could I tell one story without telling ten? Honestly, I struggled. There’s no way to choose just one and we hadn’t the time for more.

So, instead, I chose to speak about the character man Popaw displayed because his character has had a profound impact on my life. So, I asked family members to send me three words that came to mind when they thought of him. Here’s the list.

Mom, Aunt Trisha, and Uncle Onald: kind, faithful, pleasant, Godly, easy going, trustworthy, loving

Kristi: giving, loyal, wise and intelligent

David: Hero, unconditional love, father.

Ryan: kind, wise, patient

Matthew: observant, loyal gentle

Alex: calm, wise, virtuous

Amy: generous, tender-hearted, earnest

Zach: Generous, loyal, caring

Terry: hero, wise, loving

Me: generous, wise, joyful

As I prayed and thought over these words, I realized they all had a commonality. They all speak to the character of the man behind them and his integrity. Popaw was man-marked by integrity. Integrity derives from the Latin word integer meaning whole or complete. Popaw was the whole package. But his full wholeness was not realized until April 23, 2019, when God called him home. At that moment Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6 became Popaw’s reality, ”For I am confident of this thing, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”

Popaw was a humble, gentle and kind man who exercised patience, generosity, and wisdom throughout the course of his life. He was a man marked by unconditional love, faithfulness, and complete joy.

I rarely remember a time I didn’t see him smile. His smile was infectious and kit up a room. In fact, at the very moment, he breathed his last breath Robert, a family friend, and I were standing over him talking about his sweet smile.

Popaw knew his strengths and weaknesses. He was not a perfect man but he was truly a blessed man. I am not speaking from a monetary perspective, although he always had enough. When I say blessed I am talking about the constant joy that welled up in him and spilled into those who knew him. This is not a common joy but one that comes from knowing the Lord.

Last week our Pastor, Bruce Frank, said, ”Until Jesus is enough for you, nothing will be enough for you.

I am here to tell you that Jesus was absolutely enough for Popaw. This is why his life was marked by integrity, wisdom, and kindness. He knew the joy of being content no matter what.

His life exemplified the following:

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward, you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. —Psalm 73:23–26

The Times I Saw Him Cry

I’ve known him my whole entire life and in this time, I have only seen or heard him cry three times. It’s not that he has no heart. In fact, he’s got the biggest heart of anyone I know. Read here. He is the kindest, most gentle and humble man I know.

Oddly, I didn’t see him cry the day he got the call his Dad, my great-grandfather shot and killed himself. He was melancholy and I’m sure he cried. I just didn’t see him cry.

The first time I saw him cry was the day my grandmother, the love of his life died. He had stayed the night before with her and we all encouraged him to go home and get rest. He did. A few hours after his departure, Mamaw died. Kristi and I went to his house to tell him. I will never forget. We stood in his kitchen and told him the news. Tears welled up in his blue eyes and he said, ”I knew it. That was the exact time I awoke and I felt like a part of me was gone.” His words broke and tears flowed.

The second time I see him cry was the day we moved him from his house to The Bridge at Lake Point Landing. He knew it was time to go but leaving his home ripped his heart out. He.felt like the Israelites when God led them out of Egypt. How do I know this? He told me so. Read here

The third time I didn’t see him cry, I heard him cry. I called to let him know that Ned had died. As soon as the words left my lips, he asked, “How’s my little Annie?” I couldn’t answer. Then he began to weep and said, “Honey, thank you for calling but I just can’t talk to you right now.”

My tears turned to sobs and I told him, “It’s okay Popaw. I can’t talk to you either.”

The first time he cried over my grandmother, I thought my heart was going to rip in a thousand pieces and I know Kristi felt the same way. If we could’ve shouldered his grief, we would have. The second time, I felt the sadness of him being removed from all that was familiar into the unfamiliar. But the third time, I wept with him because he hurt for his little girl. As a parent, there is nothing harder than not being an to take away their pain and I knew what he was feeling, not sorrow for his loss, but sorrow for her pain.

Now, we are embarking on the journey of saying, ”goodbye” to him. We don’t know the hour or the day but the time is coming. This time, he won’t cry but I will. But here’s what I know.

Jesus is tidying up and preparing his place and when it’s all complete, he will come and take him home. This is His promise and this is what fuels my hope.

New Living Translation
” When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. ” John 14:3

Ramps anyone?

I literally pulled these babies up from my yard today. Yes, I said yard, not garden. Immediately my olfactory sensory neurons perked up. It was then I remembered a story from my childhood about the potency of ramps.

First, in case you don’t know, ramps are wild onions. Here’s a little background and apparently now they’re in high demand. Read here. Golly, if only I’d kept mine. However, their pungent odor is now permeating my trash can. Good thing tomorrow is trash day. Sorry, had to chase that rabbit.

Back to the story.

Summertimes were always a time we, my sister and I, looked forward to. It meant extra time spent with our grandparents and in particularly with Grandma and Grandpa Reese. We always looked forward to staying with them because other cousins came to stay as well. Sometimes there would be four or five of us at the same time. Unlike Mamaw who loved to have and spoil us individually, Grandma preferred the whole lot of us! I think she did it that way because she wasn’t going to be our entertainer. She knew she wouldn’t have to deal with our boredom if there were others to play to keep us occupied. She was the no nonsensical type anyway. Drama didn’t exist in her realm and she refused to deal with drama.

Anyway, on this particular occasion at Grandmas, I wasn’t staying. It was just my sister Kristi and cousin Stephanie. Grandma was an avid gardener. She had a splendid green thumb. Anyway, she had the girls outside and showed them they could pick and eat even the wild onions or ramps. Eat them they did. I don’t know how many but as officiously odious as the two ramps I picked today, one can only imagine the pungency seeping from them.

Mom came to pick Kristi up from Grandmas. She had an appointment with our dentist, Dr. Cabe. Mom said as soon as Kristi shut the door she said, “Dear Lord, what have you been eating?”

“We ate ramps. They are so good.” Kristi replied.

At this point my Mom’s memory is a little foggy but knowing her like I do, I would imagine she went on a mild tirade using the dreaded middle name saying something along the lines of , “Kristi Lynn Reese do you know what you’ve done? You knew you had a dentist appointment and now you smell so bad, I don’t know if they’ll see you or not. I can’t believe you ate stinky ramps before going to the dentist.”

I am certain Mom was embarrassed to take her in the dentist office reeking but she had no choice. I guess they could’ve refused service. Mom doesn’t remember. I’m sure they didn’t. They just put on their masks and dealt with my sister’s ramp breath.

Isn’t that how we deal with sin in our lives? We know it’s there and yet we mask it and deal with it that way! The only problem is that even with the masking we do, sin stinks. God smells it, we smell it and over time others smell it too. How do we rid ourselves of the pungency of sin? First, we confess our sin. I John 1:9 (KJV) says, ” If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

Why confess when God already knows? Sometimes being able to verbalize puts our sinful ways into perspective. It’s an open admission of what we’re doing wrong and often, it’s where healing can begin to take place.

Sometimes we confess to others, especially when the sin is destructive behaviors or addictions. Trusted friends who won’t heap judgement on us but who will gently love and lead us back to a right relationship with the Father. Ones who have our backs and love us enough to help us get well.

Keep in mind that we all sin. Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Our nature is bent toward sin and it is only by the blood of Jesus that we can be forgiven and set free.

Salt, Pressure Cooker, Time……

Funny how our lives go through seasons, just like the weather. When Terry and I first met, even many years before, I loved cooking. It always brought great sense of satisfaction. The idea that I could take different items, put them together and the finished product tasted good, excited me,

My first cooking experience was an absolute disaster and surprisingly I tried again. This was not really a normal pattern of behavior for me because I liked perfection. I didn’t like to do anything wrong. Most often if I failed miserably the first time, there was no repeat failure. I just refused to try again.

Let me tell you about my first cooking experience.

Mom knew I loved helping in the kitchen and she was always more than willing to let me help. So she purchased me Charlie Brown cookbook. As soon as it arrived, I was eager beaver to try out a recipe. I scanned through the book and found. Recipe for egg salad. As most of the recipes in a children’s cookbook, it was easy. We all liked egg salad and I liked the idea of everyone trying something I made for them.

I carefully and meticulously followed the directions. I boiled the eggs. Let them cool. Cracked, peeled and mashed them. Measured and stirred in the mayonnaise. Then measured and dumped in the salt. Stirred it up good and tasted my first creation. The first taste was salty and got saltier as it slid down my throat. Yuk! Why was this so salty?

I had Mom taste it. She said, “Honey, how much salt did you use?”

“A cup. That’s what the recipe said. Look!”

She glanced at the recipe and said, “No honey! The recipe doesn’t call for a cup of salt. Just a pinch! ”

“Mama, it doesn’t say pinch. It says salt right under the cup of mayonnaise. I just thought it meant the same amount.”

Needless to say, my first attempt at cooking by myself didn’t end well. We tossed out that egg salad. Mom insisted that I try again. Fortunately, the next go around proved more successful.

That was when I was 10.

Not only did Mom help fuel my love of cooking but my Grandma Reese added fuel to the fire. I loved watching her in the kitchen. She was one of those who looked everything and measured nothing. She had it down pat. She could whip up a fine spread. Everything she made was good. She always had food and always enough for anyone who stopped by to eat.

My love for cooking grew exponentially when I was teenager. I loved cooking for family and friends. I also enjoyed baking and baking with friends.

I had another small faux pas with cooking when I was 16. Sunday was roast day at our house. A meal that consisted of roast, carrots, green beans, mashed taters, gravy and Ned’s biscuits. One particular Sunday I offered to fix the mashed taters because I was attending a different church and knew I would be hone before the rest of the fam.

I washed, peeled and quartered the potatoes and threw them along with a little water into the famous Presto pressure cooker. It’s just how we did potatoes because of ease and convenience. I turned they eye on high and listened as the pressure built. The only problem I began to notice was that the agitator, or jiggler, as we commonly labeled it, wasn’t jiggling. But I could hear the pressure boiling. Suddenly without warning or notice the top exploded, sending mounds of potatoes streaming though the air and on everything. Wish I had a picture. Potatoes were everywhere, on cabinets, countertops, floors and even hanging on the popcorn ceiling. Mom said she kept finding remnants of potatoes for years. Lesson learned: Properly secure the lid, making sure the handles align properly and make sure as the pressure builds the “jiggler” jiggles,

Fortunately, the potato blow up didn’t diminish my love of cooking.

The first time I had Terry over to meet the parents, I cooked. (This was the time Ned blew up and got his nickname “Nitro”) I’ve always said that’s why he married me in the first place. I enjoyed cooking and he loved to eat. He’s was a bottomless pit and still is sometimes.

Having four children and Terry I learned to cook big. A lot of times, we generally had more than six around the table between family and kids friends, I just tailored my cooking for a crowd. As the kids grew so did appetites but it was no problem. I had a system and it worked. It worked well until one day we found ourselves minus two, Alex playing golf and Amy doing the everything else. Cooking became less and less. It was harder to maintain a system or schedule. It seemed we were gone all the time. When I did cook, everyone was exited and I made sure it was worthwhile. In fact, I always laughed and said my children were spoiled ton good food because about the only fast food they would eat was Chick-fil-A and occasionally Wendy’s.

We got more in the habit of eating out than eating in. Truthfully, with grocery store prices and the food I like to cook, we weren’t spending any more money. We were still eating together when we could.

I really thought after Alex graduated I would find more time to cook. Honestly, I think Amy’s schedule expanded ten-fold. Cooking didn’t happen and when it did, I didn’t really enjoy it. Mostly because I knew so much would go to waste or be given away, I struggled to find balance to cook or four.

Last year, I told a good friend that I was praying that God would restore my joy of cooking. I did better. I found myself fixing more meals at home. Simpler meals, not the complex ones. I found they were tasty and satisfying as the ones I spent hours to prepare. However, during much of the later part of the summer and into fall, I didn’t cook much again. This time, not from a standpoint of disdain, it was a time factor. I simply didn’t have time, especially when Ned got so sick.

Recently, my passion has been restored and I am finding myself in the kitchen more and more. I’m not always a good one to give a recipe. Like Grandma, a lot I do by look and taste. It’s just how I prefer to cook. I’m also one of those will take a few recipes and combine them into one.  So, if I ever get to the point I write and measure everything, I might publish some really good recipes.  Until then, I can tell you approximations and that’s about it.

Baking, however, requires more precision and fine tuning with the measuring.  Although I do tend to get a little vanilla happy in most recipes.  I do find myself, even in baking, adding a few recipes together.  It’s fun to see the end result.

From the time my passion and joy waned, until it was restored took about 5 years.  You read right.  5 whole years!  Of course my crew didn’t starve, we just know a lot of local restaurant owners and servers.

Folks, life is like this.  We go through periods of dry spells.  Periods of time when trials come and they don’t just go away.  I don’t know what you’re going through or how long you’ve been there.  What I can encourage you with today is to hang in there!  God is working while you’re waiting.  He will restore your passion and joy.  I don’t know when.  I don’t know how long.  I just know He will.

How do I know He will?  He has done it for me a time or fifty.  That’s how I know.  My entire life has felt like season upon season of change.  I just know that as I write the following statement from Charles Swindoll’s Book Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, I have come to understand that sometimes these times of trials are allowed by God to make us more into His likeness.

“It is not always God’s will that you be healed.  It is not always the Father’s plan to relieve the pressure.  Our happiness is not God’s chief aim.  He doesn’t have a wonderful (meaning ‘comfortable’) plan for everybody’s lifenot from a human perspective.  Often His plan is nowhere near wonderful.  As with Saul, His answer is not what he prayed and hoped for. ”

What God simply tells Saul is, “My grace is sufficient.”  Can you hear Him?  He whispers that you too.  Repeat that phrase over and over and over and over until you believe it with all of you heart.

When you do come out of the trial, remember that his strength has been perfected in your weakness and as  Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us, New Living Translation
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end”  Remember its all about what He’s doing in you.

Think of it like this.  If we didn’t have the cold, damp, dry, bareness of winter, we could never fully enjoy the bounty of spring.  Know and believe that He is doing a very good thing in you!

First Week….First Christmas tree and first sleepless nights!

Our story continued……

Our first week of marriage had some rough spots. So, if you’re under the impression that we’ve somehow just sailed through the past 23 years, I’m sorry to disappoint you and tell you that we’ve had our share of struggles.

Obviously our honeymoon couldn’t last a full week because of Christmas coming. We headed to Murrels Inlet on December 17 and returned on December 21.

Since we had closed on the house the 7th of December, we were all set up and ready to move in. We picked the boys up from my parents and went to our new home.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree and I wanted to put on in the picture window. I asked Terry if he and the boys would go find us a tree. In the meantime, I could finish unpacking those few remaining boxes and get the lights and ornaments ready for the tree

When they arrived back with the tree, I was disappointed, to say the least. The tree poorly misshapen, dry as a bone, needles falling with each move. Terry assured me that was the best they had to pick from. It reminded me of the Charlie Brown tree, only larger and a little more full.

Once we got the tree set in the stand, we realized the trunk wasn’t exactly straight. It had a slight curve which caused it to be cattywampus! A clearly defined lean-to the right. (If I ever find a picture, I’ll share it). We straightened it with the base as much as we could.

Finally, the tree was ready for lights and decorations. Now, I have a thing for blown glass tree ornaments and had purchased a ton of these before Ryan was born. Since the boys were both small and wanted to help, I knew better than to let them hang the ornaments. I hung them around the middle and top and let them hang the non-breakables around the bottom, where their little hands could reach.

Once decorated, the once frail looking tree, had life. Our first tree! We were all proud of it. The only foreseeable issue was the lean-to and the distinct possibility the tree could topple.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our first full day as a family of four. Then came the first night.

Considering that the boys and I lived with my parents and Matthew didn’t sleep through the night. He was accustomed to getting out of bed and crawling in the bed with me. If I wasn’t home, he crept downstairs and got in bed with Mom and Ned. Terry was well aware of this and had already told me that Matthew was not sleeping with us.

“He’s 3 years old and old enough to be sleeping by himself  Besides, he’s in a bad habit of not sleeping through the night becasuse you and your parents have allowed him to get in bed with you.  I’m not sharing my bed with a 3 year old.  I’m sharing my bed with you.”

We tucked the boys in  They shared a room because that’s what they were accustomed to, even at Mom’s.  They went to sleep right away.  Terry and I went to bed.  He locked our bedroom door to keep Matthew from coming in.  We had nightlights all over the house, thanks to Mamaw.  Like clockwork, around 2:00 AM, Matthew gets out of the bed.  Our house was small and I could hear the pitter-patter of little feet, not to mention, we had some creaky floors.  He came to the door and turned the knob.  It was locked.  He knocked gently on the door.

Terry said, “Matthew, go back to bed.”

At this point, he started to cry and knocked louder.  Terry kept reassuring him he would be fine and needed to go back to bed.  I was crying too.  It was breaking my heart to hear him cry but I knew I had to break the cycle.  It’s just hard and especially when Matthew was my baby, at the time.

After a few minutes the crying ceased,  I drifted back to sleep.  The next morning we were up early.  Upon opening the door, we found Matthew curled up outside our bedroom door with a blanket.

The next night, the same thing, only there was less crying and Matthew did go back to his room  The third night, he came and only a gentle knock at the door.  No crying.  He went straight back to his bedroom.  That was the last night he got up in the middle of the night. From that point on, he slept straight through the night, at least when he was home.

I remeber telling Terry I felt like he was ripping my heart and Matthew’s heart in pieces. Truth is, he was.  It needed to happen.  We just weren’t ready, at first.  It was traumatic for all of us.  Terry didn’t want to hurt either one of us.  He just knew what was best.  I hade to learn to trust that about him and so did Matthew.

We had a wonderful first Christmas and our tree was still hanging on, by a thread.  We planned to take it down on Decebmer 28.  It didn’t quite make it.

The boys were rough-housing, typical boy stuff you know?  They can’t help themselves. They dashed through the dining room into the living room and somehow Matthew’s hefty little self hit the tree.  Still, to this day, have no clue how it happened.  It just did and suddenly, like the great mulitude of angels singing, there was a great mulitude of cracking and breaking of glass.  Remember, I had all those lovely blown-glass ornaments around the middle and top section of the tree.  The thud.  The crash.  The breaking of glass.  I knew what happened and in a fit of rage, I screamed at both of the boys.  Sent them to their rooms and started crying over those shards of broken glass.

I didn’t think one time about the fact that neither one of them had been injured or cut by the glass.  At that moment, all I could think about was my lovely, beautiful ornmanets destroyed.

I was so angry that I made Terry angry.  He didnt yell and scream at the boys but he did give them a good talking to.

Then he and Matthew both tried to console me.  Matthew said, ‘Momma, I’m sorry.  We can get you some new ones.”

I didn’t want new ones.  I didn’t want to be consoled.  I just wanted to be angry.

A little while later, after I finally calmed down, Terry came to talk to me.  He let me know very quickly that I had behaved like a child.  Sadly, I knew he was right.  He also reminded me that the cattywampus tree was probably destined to fall anyway.  He also reminded me that those boys were little.  They were going to play rough.  Things were going to get broken.

After this incident, I would love to tell you I never had a childish outburst again, but that would be a lie.  What did happen after this particular outburst was my attitude towards things of value began changing.  I began to see the importance of lives over things.  I began to see that the hearts and lives of my children were far greater than any blown-glass Christmas ornament on my tree.  I slowly began to change my perspective.

The other valuable lesson through our first days together was learning that Terry and I had to communicate.  We had to talk about our feelings about things and we had to work them out.  We didn’t always have to approve of eachothers behaviors or attidudes but we did have to learn to effectively communicate.  If we were going to make this marriage thing work, we had to talk but more importantly, we had to learn to put God at the center of everything.  It was a choice that we had to make then and one we are still making today.