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!

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!

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.

Value Life and Be Thankful

February 12, 1998 is always a day of reflection for me. For whatever time I have left on this earth it always will be. If you haven’t been following along and need a refresher. Read here

For the past few days, I’ve truly been mulling over the fact that God in His great mercy saw fit to spare my life that day. Now, here I am twenty-one years later and I still am amazed by His great love for me. I am also grateful that He chose me to love and be a Mom to all four of my children, not that I did it right. It’s just the one thing in life that I always felt a strong calling to do.

I remember the first steps each of my children took because I was with them. I recall their first words. Only one out of the four said, ‘Momma” first, and I can promise you it wasn’t the Princess. I was there when they got hurt and needed stitches. When they broke arms, wrists, and legs. I was there when their little hearts were broken. I watched as they learned to ride bikes, hit golf balls, throw things, play tennis, catch a football, play basketball, play piano, violin, and drums.

Like I said before, I didn’t always get the parenting thing right. I messed up. I yelled when I should’ve spoken kindly. I threatened without following through. I complained about the messes they made. I was more concerned about how my house looked than I was about spending time with my children. I was more concerned with their behavior than I was about their hearts.

To be honest, by the time I realized how much I messed up, Ryan and Matthew were almost grownup and out of the house. Seriously. Fortunately, I had a little more time with Alex and Amy.

Here’s the point. God had a choice to take me or leave me. He left me here. He wasn’t finished with me and I am grateful.

Do you realize that as long as there is life in you, God can use you? Sometimes, I think we get so hyper-focused on life and all of life’s stuff, we forget that we have a greater purpose. A greater calling. Our purpose is, like Jesus displayed in his time on earth, to bring glory to the Father

When we choose to value life and be thankful for the breath in our lungs, we realize how blessed we are.

One of my current favorite songs speaks to this very thing.

Great Are You Lord

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only……..

Listen Here

That was my ”Today”

Brad Paisleys, Today, is probably one of the best songs ever written and sung. It’s such a great reminder that if we can hold on to special memories today, those memories are what will get us through tomorrow.

And I don’t know about tomorrow 
Right now the whole world feels right 
And the memory of a day like today 
Can get you through the rest of your life.

I’ll eventually get back to our Lexington trip but I keep mulling this post over and over again. I know from previous experience when these thoughts don’t go by the wayside, I am supposed to do something about it and so I’ll write.

It was the most gut-wrenching day of my adult life. The moment when the Hospice Doctor tells me, you need to call the family in. ”Ned’s time is short. I don’t know if he’ll be here more than 3-4 days.”

Just to clarify, I asked, ”So, you’re telling me that I need to call my sister to come back and I need to try to get my brother here from Oregon and any of the grandchildren that can come?”

”Yes, and I wouldn’t linger.”

I graciously thanked him and called Kristi. Call one. Check.

Knowing full well that David would unlikely be up a little before 6 his time, I called anyway. I held firm and didn’t get shakey with my words. ”You need to make arrangements to get here ASAP! And please call Zach and let him know.” Call two. Done.

Breathe. Focus. Breathe……reality set in. I had to call my children. All of a sudden, like a tidal wave, I collapsed screaming and crying into Terry’s lap. ”I can’t do this. This is too hard. I can’t call the kids and tell them their Papaw is dying. I can’t. I just can’t.” The weight of it all finally took its toll.

Gently rubbing my back, he said, ”It’s ok. I’ll call them.” I cried harder. I ugly cried. Every ounce of what I’d been holding back was now gaining momentum and no matter how I tried, it wouldn’t stop until it all filtered out. When it was over, I dried my tear-stained eyes, blew my nose and announced with all the confidence I could muster, ”No, it’s something I need to do. I’ll call them.”

The first call was to Ryan. I knew he was working and I wasn’t about to leave a message of such magnitude. I just left a message asking him to return my call.

Next up was Alex. Keep in mind. Matthew was deployed. I would later have to contact him through the Red Cross. Alex had just seen Ned a few days before. He wasn’t shocked or surprised but he was quiet. Knowing he had classes, I tried hard to keep things as upbeat as possible. He would be home tomorrow and that was good enough.

In between, calls, Ryan called me back. He knew. I didn’t have to tell him. I did anyway. Sometimes, its just good to give reality a voice. Hard. But good. Immediately, he asked, ”Mom, are you okay? I know all of this has been hard on you.”

Tears fell as I assured him I was okay. Truthfully, I was okay. His sensitivity made me cry a little.

Finally, I called Amy. There’s never a good time or a good way to do these things. I knew her schedule and she was finishing up classes and would be heading to track practice. With every ounce of strength, I could round up, I said, ”Amy, they’ve only given your Papaw a few days to live. You’re gonna need to come home.” Silence. Dead Silence.

Sniffling she said, ”Mom, I’m crying and everyone is seeing me cry cause I’m walking in the courtyard. I’ll have to call you back. I can’t talk right now.”

It wasn’t long until she called me back and I could tell she’d still been crying, ”Mom, when I told Cale (her coach), he told me to skip practice and come home.”

I pleaded with her to be careful.

An hour and a half later, she arrived. Safe and sound.

It’s what transpires within the next hour or so that touches my heart in ways I cannot even begin to describe.

Amy’s main focus was to attend to her Papaw. He was still coherent but wasn’t talking much. A few words here and there. A nod of the head. Maybe a smile or two. She asked him if he wanted some ice cream. He nodded and she took the spoon and began feeding him. She would ask, “Papaw, do you want another bite and he would nod.” After a little while, he threw his hand up for her to stop and clamped his lips together, indicating that he was done. No more.

Sweetly she leaned close to him and said, ”See Papaw, I can feed you just like you fed me when I was little.”

So, if I’d had a lot of tears left in me at that point, I would’ve been balling like a baby. What a tender and precious moment my baby girl had just experienced with her Papaw.

As it would turn out, Amy fed her Papaw the last meal he ate. It would be a memory etched in our minds forever. A precious memory.

It makes me so grateful for the early morning hard because, at the end of the day, God gave us such a great gift. The gift of His perfect timing and placing us at the right time and place. I think today, that’s what He wants me to remember and He wants me to tell you, His ways are always perfect. He is always on time and His goodness abounds in rich mercy and grace.

Field Trips with Terry, Part 4

Here’s a little video of us after leaving Watson Pavilion. As you can see, it was a dreary, wet and cold day but I am so glad we decided not to allow the conditions of the day to stop us from adventuring together.

In a later blog, I will continue about our trip and add another video or two.

https://vimeo.com/32702971

Sometimes in life, we allow the circumstances or conditions of the day to keep us at a standstill. We allow our emotions to dictate what we do or even how we react. The reality is the choice us ours. We can live as a victim or we can live as a victor. Sometimes, it is just putting ”one foot in front of the other” and walking out the door. Our hope rests not on what is but on what is yet to come!

”But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57

Field Trips with Terry, Part 3

Our next stop, Watson Pavilion, which houses more ceramics, a Japanese Tea Room and portraits of the Washington-Custis-Lee Collection. They were working on a new exhibit so we found ourselves in the portrait gallery. I was reading about the people in the portraits while Terry was looking.

One of the stories the guide had shared previously was about Martha Dandridge, who would later become Martha Custis, and then Martha Washington. Apparently, Daniel Parke Custis struggled to find a suitable wife or at least one his father would approve for him to marry. That is until he fell in love with Martha Dandridge. Considering he was one of the wealthiest men in Colonial Virginia, Martha was lucky to receive the approval of Daniels father, John.

Daniel and Martha had four children in their seven years of marriage but only two of the four survived into adulthood. In 1757, Daniel died. He died without a will, Martha and the two surviving children were granted one third each. Daniel’s death made Martha one of the wealthiest women in Virginia.

It is believed that George knew both Daniel and Martha prior to his death. George and Martha were married a little over a year after Daniel’s death. Although they never had children of their own, George and Martha raised her two children and would later raise their grandchildren as well.

Anyway, as we were gawking at the paintings, I said to Terry, ”Look, Daniel was quite a plumpy little man. Maybe Martha just married him for his money. He’s not a looker.

Terry’s response to me, ”Well, he must’ve married Martha because of her big boobs!. Just look how big they look in the portrait. I mean, you can’t help but notice. Maybe that’s what ole George was thinking too.”

Honestly, it’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked out because I swear, I howled. Up until that point it was so quiet a mouse could be running the floors, you know, library quiet, and it was a dang good thing they weren’t hosting a Japenese Tea party. Oh, my, we had to get out. We were disturbing the peace and I really don’t think it was appreciated 😂

Y’all this is the crazy live with day after day and I tell you, it’s like a very fine wine and gets better and better with time.

Field Trips with Terry, Part 2

Before exiting the Lee Chapel, we were told about two other buildings on campus we should visit, The Reeves Center and Watson Pavilion.

In the Reeves Center, you will.find the Reeves Collection. The collection is a vast array of ceramics made in Asia, Europe and the Amercias. Some.pieces date back to the 1500s.

In their collection are pieces of this china used by George and Martha Washington. This particular collection was only used during his Presidency.

Also in the collection is this bowl This punch bowl was made in China. Its painting tells the story of trade during the 1800s. It’s truly a magnificently detailed piece.

That’s not exactly what caught my attention as much as what our guide said. ”Do you know that many hands made and painted this bowl? It was not made or painted by one set of hands.”

I just have to stop and say, I’ve considered and mulled over that statement for almost a month now. It had quite a profound impact on me.

My initial thoughts, ”Wow! How awesome that many hands made such an exquisite piece of artwork. It’s so intricately designed.” I pondered on that formed while.

Then the lightbulb switched off and on again. This time I wasn’t thinking about the many hands that made the punch bowl. I found myself thinking about the same hands that made the folks who made the punch bowl are the same hands that fashioned me.

Stay with me on this.

God is the creator of all humankind. “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

The very same God who formed Adam formed me and you. I don’t know about you but that makes me feel special, exquisite, unique.

God could have used his angels to make us. He could have used many hands, just like they did with the pottery. That’s not what he did. No, no no. He used the same hands to form and make us all.

His hands.

The beauty is that we are all different. We are all unique. There are no two humans on the earth that are exactly the same, not even identical twins. And yet, we are all made by the same pair of hands.

The Divine hands of the Father.