The Empty Chair

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our family and friends.

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

The Empty Chair

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

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

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

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

Our Story Continued…. First Official Date

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more of our story start here: How we met

I’m Not Living Past 92

What if I told you that when Popaw was around 87, he predicted that he would die at age 92, would you believe me? It’s true. He did. One thing to note about my grandfather he was a very practical and logical thinker.

One day while visiting him at his house he made the following statement. ”Well, the way I see it I won’t live past 92.” Of course, inquiring minds have to know the reason behind the statement. So, I asked, ”Popaw, why do you think you’ll die at 92?”

”My grandfather and great grandfather both died at 92. I suppose if my Dad had not killed himself at 85, he would’ve lived that long too.”

So, at age 90, he suffered a massive heart attack, we should not have been surprised that he made a full recovery. Albeit, he was not happy he had been resuscitated. However, he was happy when he got well enough to leave the skilled care nursing facility and return home assisted living facility. Read here

Then at age 91 1/2, he became deathly ill, and literally stopped breathing at one point, wound up in Hospice Care for a period of time and then graduated out because he was doing so well. Again, we should not have been surprised. He wasn’t because he would frequently say, “Well, I’m ready to go but God’s not ready for me.”

He turned 92 on October 14, 2018. He had ongoing issues but overall remained relatively healthy. Until around the first of January. Mom and I both noticed he wasn’t going down to eat dinner with his friends as much. He would often say that he had little to no energy.

Several times he wound up in the ER dehydrated and eventually ended up back under the umbrella of Hospice Care. But on the morning of April 17, 2019, when I received the call from the Hospice nurse telling me he had a stroke and essentially spelling out for me that based on her observations he was likely in the final stages, I had no doubt that this time would be his time. And it was, on April 23, 2019, at age 92 1/2 my grandfather passed peacefully from this life and into his heavenly home.

Sometimes I wonder if God gave Popaw the foreknowledge to know that by year 92, he would have his place ready? One of the questions I failed to ask! Or was it just his logical, practical mindset that led him to believe that he would die at 92?

Here’s what I know! Regardless of if he knew for certain or he was just making an educated guess, I believe it’s what drove him to do his very best with the time he had left. I also believe it gave him the will to keep going when he would miss Mamaw. Often times he would say to me, “Honey, I miss Colleen more and more every day and I can hardly wait to see her again.”

Sometimes, I do think that God may have given him a little foretaste and foreknowledge of what was to come for him and you want to know why, because my Popaw was a man who not only talked of God, he walked with God.

He always said the best decision he ever made in his life was to give his heart to God and the second best decision was marrying Colleen!

The best decision I made was spending time with him.

The Stolen Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

Needless to say, I learned my lesson about shoplifting.

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few and I will expound more later:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sammy and the Hawaiian Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

Enveloped in plastic

On the counter I lay

Protected and safe

Until yesterday

The family went away

For dinner and stuff

Leaving their dog to roam

Little white puff and stuff

That little pup

He jumped and jumped

Pulling me down

To the ground I thumped

Grabbing my corner

He pulled me about

Till he got to the carpet

And then pulled me out

My tray was half full

A bountiful feast

He ate off my tops

Like a savage little beast

Lessons from Winnie the Pooh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Ned….year two

I just posted this on my Facebook and Instagram but thought I would share it with my readers because not all of you follow me on social media.

Dear Ned,

How can it be that two years have passed since I’ve seen your face? I remember leaving you peacefully snoring. I kissed your head and told you that it was okay for you to go if God called you home. For once in your life, you listened to me! Maybe it was then you decided I was using my “noggin for more than a hat rack”.

When David and Kristi finally, after about 28 failed attempts, with the news of your passing, I didn’t come back to see you one more time. I left and you were breathing. I know your death was peaceful but I wanted to remember you as I have always known you, alive. And you know what, I am so glad I chose to remember you this way.

Now, every time I look back at old photos I don’t see you lifeless and breathless, I see you very alive. It makes me think of the song y’all used to sing, by Bill and Gloria Gaither

“Fully alive in Your Spirit

Lord make me fully alive

Fully aware of Your presence Lord

Totally fully alive

Fully alive in Your Spirit

Lord make me fully alive

Fully aware of Your presence Lord

Totally fully alive”

You know what, you are more alive now than you were here on earth and you’re enjoying every minute. I know you’ll be glad when we get there because you loved us well here but in the meantime keep cheering us on until we see you again!

I guarantee this smile has not been wiped off your face since your arrival in Heaven. How great it is to know that you are fully alive in his presence today. But let me tell you one thing, we still miss you like crazy.

Tattered and Torn

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

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

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

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

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

A Brighter Hope for Tomorrow

A long time ago someone told me that it was okay to yell at God. Stunned and horrified I said, “There’s no way I could do that.”

My friend reasoned, “God can take your anger better than people. He already knows what’s in your heart and mind. You may as well just tell Him.”

At first I thought it was the zaniest thing I’d ever heard. A truly foreign concept until I came to a point in my life where the rubber met the road, things weren’t going as planned and my dreams were shattered and hope a fading memory.

I truly didn’t understand why God was allowing this to take place. I struggled. I cried. I tried to find the answers. They never came. One dead end led to another.

After several failed attempts and sitting facing another mountain of paperwork for a battle already in its second year, I lost it. I took the daunting papers lying in front of me and hurled them across the room. Screaming, all the while, at the top of my lungs. Shaking my fist in anger telling God what I really thought about the situation and telling Him how I thought He should answer my cries for help. It wasn’t a pretty sight and I’m thankful no one but God saw it. I don’t know how long it lasted but long enough for me to go through the tirade of emotions. Once I regained composure and picked up the mountain of paperwork, I felt as if the albatross has been removed. The weight had been lifted. The burden eased. It’s almost as if I threw away all the things that were binding me to the situation and giving it God.

Many times in our lives we find ourselves in places we never thought we’d be. Our world is turned upside down and nothing resembles what we had hoped or imagined. At these pivotal moments we are going to one of two things, we are either going to cry out to God or we will walk away from God.

Many times throughout the course of this three year trial, I desperately wanted to walk away. Many times, I wanted to give up because I wasn’t getting the answers I wanted. I wanted God to step in and take it all away. As a matter of fact, He didn’t answer my prayer in the way I thought He should. He answered in the way that was best for me.

He made our marriage stronger. Relationships with family and friends much sweeter. He made me more aware of His presence in my life. He ushered in hope when things seemed hopeless. He took something that turned to a pile of rubble and made it brand new. In essence, He restored all that had seemingly been lost. Only God can take a mess and turn it into something beautiful.

In reality looking back over this time, I realize that God was preparing me in advance for another time that would lead down roads of winding paths, dark shadows, rocky terrains and uphill climbs. Had I not cried out to God then and seen the goodness of my Shepherd, there’s no way I could’ve trusted in Him when wave after wave slammed against me so hard I barely had time to come up for air.

You see the one thing I’ve learned is that in time, God ”will restore and give back the joys I once had.” Lamentations 5:21. My problem is being patient with the process. I tend to live in the mindset of Veruca Salt, ”I want it now!”

What I’ve come to realize is that through the process of not getting what I wanted, God was in the process of giving me what I needed and restoring what the locusts threatened to eat and destroy.

Have you been in a seemingly hopeless situation? Are your prayers not being answered in the way or timeframe you desire? Are you tired and weary because the journey is much too long and seems way too hard? Rest assured, my friend there is hope and it’s found in no other name but Jesus. If you will choose today to let the waves come as they may and trust in His power and might, the waves may not end but at the end of the day, you will have hope for a new tomorrow.