Happy Birthday, Daddy

Fragments. Slivers. Bits, pieces and memories of a seven-year-old child. That’s all I have and yet what a profound and powerful impact they have on me. Your smile. Your strong arms. Your eyes. Your firm but gentle ways. You’ve been gone much longer than you lived but your legacy continues to live. Sometimes I wonder how can this be? How can a man’s life of 36 years continue to have an impact on others 46 years later and especially mine?

I believe that your simple “yes” to God made all the difference. I have no clue at what age you put your faith in Jesus as Lord, what I do know, is that you lived according to His Word.

Did you question the goodness of God when you received the diagnosis of Melanoma at age 30? Did you wonder what in the world God was doing because you had an almost-two-year-old with another child on the way? Did you ask why me? Did you ever get angry?

Maybe there were times when you questioned God but I believe most of the time you just completely believed in the sovereignty of Almighty God and you knew for certain that He had all things held together. You knew that your healing would ultimately come from God. He would perform an earthly miracle or He would heal you in Heaven.

Do you know why I believe this? Because I think held fast to Psalm 23. You knew for certain that you were safe in the arms of your Shepherd. You knew that He would take you to green pastures and lead you beside the still waters, even amid pain and agony. You knew he would lead you in paths of righteousness by allowing you opportunity after opportunity to share your faith, for His name’s sake. You knew and realized that death was only a shadow and shadows cannot hurt you. It was just passing through to eternal life with Jesus. He was there all the while protecting you and comforting you. You knew the table He prepared was bountiful and plentiful even though the enemy tried to steal your joy; you continued to be joyful despite the pain. Your cup continued to overflow. And you could believe this because of the goodness and mercy following you all the days of your life. God blessed you with an amazing family, great parents, siblings, and friends. God’s mercy allowed you six additional years from the onset of the diagnosis allowing you to witness the birth of your third child, the only son. And for 46 years you have dwelt in the house of the Lord and you will continue to be there forever.

Year after year it never ceases to amaze me at how much your life continues to impact mine. Thank you for being faithful to the Lord. Thank you for saying “yes” to His call. Thank you for holding fast to His Word.

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

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

Sometimes I Struggle

Help! I feel like I’m drowning in my own overactive mind and imagination. I have these feelings of grandeur and yet I’m so trapped in my thoughts I cannot escape. They haunt me. They sit around and wait until I get motivated and then POW like a streak of lightning they’re back. They are both inhibiting and debilitating. I know them well and it’s called procrastination coupled with fear and anxiety.

Once I allow You to free me from my overactive thoughts and imagination, I can do anything I set my mind to and the crazy thing is that I accomplish both small and large tasks with zing. It’s just sometimes my mind wants to keep me from accomplishing anything.

So today I am calling it what it is. It is called anxious and afraid. I am anxious because I don’t often know what I should be writing and I am afraid because I don’t think people care. And so, today, I am going to pray and ask the Lord to help me through this anxiousness and fear.

First of all, he didn’t put the spirit of fear in me. The devil is crafty and I am allowing him to inhibit me with fear. Therefore the first course of action is going to be for me to proclaim that God has not given me a spirit of fear. God has given me a spirit of peace because I dwell in Him and His presence dwells in me.

So why am I allowing the devil to cause fear and anxiety? I am allowing him to tell me that I am not good enough. There are so many better writers out there than me. Nobody wants to hear your voice. Nobody cares what you have to say. Everybody is saying the same thing and you’re no different.

But essentially what I am telling God is “I don’t trust you.” You know why? Because God has called me to this journey of writing. That’s why. He called me and sought me out. I know that He has used my words to make a difference in people. People have told me so and I have no reason to doubt . Besides, isn’t my story, my story? Sure, I may have learned some of the same life lessons but maybe in a different way and maybe in a way that others can understand. My voice is unique and it’s a part of who I am.

Lord, You make my voice unique. You give me words that spill from my thoughts onto the keyboard and onto the page. What do you want to say in and through me? I don’t want to be a resounding gong, nor do I want repeat what others have said. I want my own voice, the voice that You have given me. The one that is unique to me.

I don’t take this assignment lightly. I know that it is a gift from you. A calling.

As I was reading and learned this morning, part of taking care of my spirit is being obedient to you. Also through Leviticus and Ezekiel, there are harsh warnings about disobedient. I mean, Aarons son’s flagrantly disobeyed and they were consumed by fire. You repeatedly gave the Israelites stern warnings about their disobedience and even when Ezekiel’s wife died, You asked him to keep proclaiming your word and not to mourn. Oh, how You wanted their hearts to return to you. But they were stubborn and obstinate. I don’t want to be stubborn and obstinate. I don’t want to be like Moses and list all the reasons why I am unqualified because the truth is: If you have called me to this, You will equip me for this. Therefore I don’t have to allow all these voices in my mind to counteract what you are clearly calling me to do.

And so I will write. Every thought, every word, every sentences that You bring into my thoughts and I will write them down. Then I will allow time to think and pray and process and together with Your help, I will weave and craft them into the masterpiece that You desire. A masterpiece that will bring honor and glory to You.

Love is the Better Choice

For months I have been silent, well silent for me. It is golden, right? Maybe, maybe not. I am going to try to steer clear of getting on a soapbox because I could certainly do that as well. Actually, I could quite possibly in the course of one writing hit on many but my rants are pointless because what I would rant about I would actually need to be pointing fingers back at myself for doing. Let’s face the real fact, I am a flawed individual. Pure and simple. I make mistakes. I make poor choices. I do dumb sometimes. But because of the grace of God I am forgiven (past, present and future) for my sin and shortcomings.

What I want you to know and what I need for you to hear is that I love you. I love you because like me, you are created in the very image of God. And whether you believe it or not, God said of man, “It is very good.” (Gensis 1:31). That means all of humanity is very good. However, going on a little further in scripture we see that we are the ones who muck it up. Look at Ecclesiates 7:29 (MSG), “Yet I did spot one ray of light in this murk: God made men and women true and upright; we’re the ones who’ve made a mess of things.” This is called freewill. Because we are created in the image of God, He also gave us the right to choose. His desire is that we choose to live in fellowship with Him but He will never force us. He will only pursue us.

Personally, I am saddened by all the negativity fluctuating these days. But you know what breaks my heart more, the fact that I see brother rising against brother. I see so much hatred and so little love. This is so upside down from the way it’s suppose to be. How have we gotten so far away from knowing that love is far greater than hate? We, and I am speaking to those who are Christians, have taken our eyes off of our first and greatest love, God. Because we are told that the greatest commandment is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40. Folks, we can do better. We have to do better. We are made in the image of God and because we bear His image we should do better. We should strive to love our fellowman.

I’ve been reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. If you’ve never picked up this book, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is power packed with so much truth. He is so pragmatic and practical but mostly he’s a deep thinker and he processes through what Christianity really means. Look at what he says about good and evil : “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

The small seemingly insignifcant choices we make today will make huge impacts down the road. He also says earlier in the chapter, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find on the greatest secrets when you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” We are not all going to think alike. We certainly do not look alike. We do not behave alike but what we all have in common is that we are ALL created by God. We are the only thing in creation that He did not speak into existence. We are formed by the very hands of God and He breathed into our nostrils the breath of life and that is why we should strive to love one another deeply because “love covers over a multitude of sins.” ( I Peter 4:8)

He Is There…He is with You

To be honest, I wrote this five years ago and it never ceases to amaze me how timely God is. I needed this reminder today and maybe you do as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News!!!

Right now with so much negativity being spread, I want to share a little good news. As you all know, Amy’s track season was cut short due to Covid-19. The day she received the official news of her season being canceled, she was heartbroken; but she wasn’t dismayed. She knew that she ended her indoor season on a high note and was satisfied.

During one of our conversations I told her, “Amy, I just don’t feel like you’re done. I can’t explain it other than to say I just believe that you’ll get to have your final season.”

She agreed that she felt the same way; although, we didn’t know how things would play out.

She she learned she still had eligibility for a Spring season, she decided that she wanted to drop her name in the NCAA Transfer Portal and see if she would get any offers.

Offers came in immediately and she was elated to know that her stats were good enough for offers. She had several options on the table but one was the best.

On Tuesday of this week, she signed with Charleston Southern for a full scholarship for the 2020-2021 season. She will be pursuing her Masters in Human Resources.

What Covid threatened to take away, God gave back in abundance. It’s a great reminder of a promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Good News!!!

Right now with so much negativity being spread, I want to share a little good news. As you all know, Amy’s track season was cut short due to Covid-19. The day she received the official news of her season being canceled, she was heartbroken; but she wasn’t dismayed. She knew that she ended her indoor season on a high note and was satisfied.

During one of our conversations I told her, “Amy, I just don’t feel like you’re done. I can’t explain it other than to say I just believe that you’ll get to have your final season.”

She agreed that she felt the same way; although, we didn’t know how things would play out.

She she learned she still had eligibility for a Spring season, she decided that she wanted to drop her name in the NCAA Transfer Portal and see if she would get any offers.

Offers came in immediately and she was elated to know that her stats were good enough for offers. She had several options on the table but one was the best.

On Tuesday of this week, she signed with Charleston Southern for a full scholarship for the 2020-2021 season. She will be pursuing her Masters in Human Resources.

What Covid threatened to take away, God gave back in abundance. It’s a great reminder of a promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Memorial Day…A time to remember

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

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

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

Normandy, France 1986

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

USS Arizona Memorial 1994

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

My Love-Hate Relationship with Weeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Your Graduation Day

Dear Amy,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy, happy Graduation Day!

I love you,

Mom

Photos by: Sarah Scoggins Siak