Are you looking for joy?

December 31, 2017:

Reflections. An image produced by a mirror. The moon reflects the light of the sun. Water casts shadows of the moon. The human mind recalls the events of the past and in some ways, those reflections become a forever change.

As the year draws to a close, I am amazed and astounded by the events that have unfurled this year. When I think back to the start, I know that as a result of the events of this past year, I am forever changed.

A simple prayer to begin the year would bring a sweeping and much-needed change. It went something like this. “God, would you just help me to find joy in each day, whether I feel like it or not? Help me to choose joy.”

2015 and 2016 had taught me that many circumstances are beyond my control but my attitude is the only thing I have control over. Most often when tragedy struck in the previous year or so, my response had been less than pleasurable. At times, downright ugly. There were periods of time when I didn’t want to be around anyone, including myself.

I decided about halfway through 2016 that something had to change. It was up to me. It was hard. I didn’t always succeed in keeping a decent attitude but I kept pursuing the goal.

As the year 2015 closed I felt a bit more confident that my attitude was much better than the previous year but I still had a long way to go. That’s why I begged God to help me find joy in each day. Little did I know what that would look like. But God did.

He knew the challenges Ned would face with his cancer. He knew how many times we would end up in and out of the hospital. He knew I would be needed and He provided me the time and He sent me on time, every time.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not boasting in what I did, I am simply telling you that I made myself available to be present for my parents because I knew that was what God was asking of me.

The scripture verse I clung to during that time was Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility consider others above yourself.” I told God upfront that I wanted to be there for them wholeheartedly. I didn’t want to go with a bad attitude or begrudgingly. I just wanted to be there.

As I reflect on this time, I realize how much it changed me. Now, when hard times threaten to destroy my joy, I am reminded that my joy isn’t found in the circumstances or my feelings. No, joy is found in the giving of yourselves to others and it’s found in being obedient to what God is asking you to do.

So, what things threaten to rob you of your joy? Is it the death or illness of a loved one? Is it a heartbreak you were not expecting? Whatever it is, I have good news. It doesn’t have do stay that way.

A simple prayer of asking God to give you joy that rises above your circumstances is all it takes. It may take awhile to learn but know with certainty that God wants nothing more than to give you His joy, which is deep and lasting.

A Humbling Tumble Part 3: Journal entries July 29 and August 2, 2004

This is the actual journal entry I wrote the day of my fall and the next day.

July 29-

The things I want aren’t necessarily the things I need. Therefore, I must ask God to transform my way of thinking and I must allow Him to work within me to act according to His plan and purpose for my life.

I am so blessed; yet, I have neglected to take great care of the gifts I have been given. I am so quick to want more and more, not considering the things I wang may not be things God wants me to have.

The things I desire above all are peace and happiness.

The only way to achieve those things is for me to give God first place in my life. He must have complete reign on my heart and I must be willing to give Him that privilege. He is the source of everything I need. If He chooses not to supply it, then it wasn’t meant for me.

Psalms 37: 16-18 says, ”It is better to have little than to be evil and possess much. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly. Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent and they will receive a reward that will last forever.”

And Psalms 37:23 tells me that ”The Lord directs the steps of the godly, He delights in every detail of their lives.” Wow! God delights in every detail of my life. Day by day He is my source.

Lord, help me to love and respect what you have brought into my life. Help, me to value the quality of relationships in my life and not be concerned with the material things.

Around 5:30 that evening I fell down the flight of stairs.

August 01 –

I’m not certain what God is trying to teach me but I hope I am teachable. Oh, I know to be more careful when attempting to start a grill from a concrete landing pad. But there’s so much more than that He wants me to learn,

Here’s what I know. He wants me to be faithful in every aspect of my life but I think there’s so much more He wants to teach me…..maybe……maybe not.

Psalms 39: 4-5 ”Lord remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered and that my life is fleeting away. My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath. ”

Lord, what I do I need to do today that will impact lives for you?

When I reread these journal entries a whole host of emotions pour out. I remember the struggle I felt because I was being pulled in many different directions. At that time, I was trying to be a career Mom. I was actively selling real estate and doing quite well. However, the more I was away from home, the more I saw my family suffering. My children were struggling because I wasn’t there. Until that point, I had been there. My relationships with close friends suffered because I wasn’t making time for them. You see, I found myself in a place of want which was greater than my need. I knew it and so did God. Sometimes God will allow things in our lives that are hard for a season but are ultimately for our own good as well as those around us.

Maybe you’re just now reading: The fall I am referring to can be found in the previous two posts. A Humbling Tumble Parts 1 & 2.

How Do You Still Have Hair?

A few weeks ago during a lunch conversation with my friend she looked at me and started, ”I don’t know how you do it. How do you still have hair on your head?”

She was referencing a recent stunt Amy, my daring, brave and impulsive, adult child attempted. She failed miserably because the concrete doesn’t move.

As I sat explaining the events as they unfolded, and showed her thr video of a life-sized human tucked in a watermelon position, almost fetal position, traveling headfirst into a shallow 2 1/2’ of water and my friend realized end magnitude of possible injury Amy could have suffered was thr point at which she uttered the aforementioned inquisition.

It was not the first or second time I’ve heard that statement. It’s one that has begged he to search deep and discover why I do after four rather rambunctious children have a single hair left on my head. Lord knows there were times I could’ve have pulled mine and theirs out.

As I’ve shared with you, my Mamaw had some mental illness, as a result, she was a worrywart. If there wasn’t anything for her to worry about she had a knack for conjuring up something in the overactive mind of hers. I definitely learned from her what not to do. I simply can’t live in fear of what might or might not happen. It’s far too taxing on the mind and time-consuming.

My Grandma Reese, on the other hand, knew what it takes to raise children without dread, fear or worry. She was left with four boys to raise when Grandpa went to war. She was a staunch disciplinarian. You didn’t sass, talkback, to her. She demanded immediate obedience. She just didn’t take crap off her kids, or anyone else for that matter, even her grandchildren knew to obey.

Furthermore, she had sass. Which I suppose is the reason she didn’t allow it in her children.

While, I picked up my sensitivity, love of laughter, love for books and storytelling from Mamaw. My spunky sass, talkative nature and worry-free attitude definitely came from Grandma. In combination, they seem to work for me.

More importantly, than my generic make-up is the fact that I have a great big God who says this:

I don’t know a lot about fishing but I’ve been a time or two in my day. When you cast a line, you throw it out. Friends this is precisely what God is telling you to do. Throw your cares on me. Leave them there. Don’t reel them back in.

So many things have happened in my lifetime, but one of these took place nine years ago when I said goodbye to my two older boys and sent them off to Basic Training for the US Navy. In less than three months time we went from a family of six to a family of four. The most difficult part of having service members is the lack of communication, especially during deployment. There were a few times both were deployed during the same timeframe. One of the East Coast and in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The other on the West Coastand in the Pacific Ocean and North China Sea. (It just happened to be during the time of unrest with North Korea)

Needless to say, if I had spent my days worrying about all the ”what ifs”, I would never have accomplished anything. Instead, I chose to, every day, throw my worries and concerns on God. In fact, I strive to begin each day by giving God my concerns especially where my children are concerned.

As a Momma, I want them covered and bathed in prayer. The good news is that prayer knows no bounds. It can break through barriers and can reach the depths of the ocean. And on Saturday, July 20th, He kept the concrete from breaking Amy’s neck. She did have a mild concussion and a few scrapes and raccoon eyes for about two weeks.

In conclusion, the only reason I have a single hair left is that I choose to take my cares and concerns to God. Yes, I do sometimes reel them back in and I have to cast them back out; however, I am fully confident that the One who gave these children to me is far more competent to watch over them than I am and why am I going to worry and stress when there is absolutely nothing I can do anyway.

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!

Importance of Regular Screenings: The Colonoscopy

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t go see the doctor any more than is absolutely necessary. Monday, July 8 was necessary. When you turn 50 you’re encouraged to have a colonoscopy and I turned 50 last December.

The good news is you can now order Cologuard, an easy at-home test. However, if you have a family history of colon polyps or cancer, it’s not recommended. In my case, there is a history of polyps and my gynecologist referred and recommended I have my first colonoscopy at 38. Good thing because I had ten polyps, none of which were cancerous, but my gastroenterologist said, ”Its highly likely if you had waited another year, your news would be different,”. My next colonoscopy revealed two more polyps. Again, non-cancerous.

I went into last Monday’s procedure fully anticipating the discovery of more polyps considering it had been nine years had passed between the second and third.

To be honest, three days prior, I had worked myself up so much over it, I almost canceled. I had to keep reminding myself it was for my benefit as well as my family’s.

It’s true the prep is the worst part. In a sense, I dreaded that as much as the procedure itself. However, I learned from the first one what to do and what not to do.

I can no longer stomach any form of Gatorade. I thought I would puke my guts out if I ever have to drink another one. Crystal Light was much easier to stomach the second time but I decided to try a new method and it worked much better. (Maybe reading the entirety of the pamphlet helped too.)

I purchased some Sparkling Ice. No sugar, just carbonated water and full of flavor. Had Ginger Ale (Schweppes because it’s the best IMHO) and vegetable broth on hand. Of course, my friend, water infused with lemon, remained a.faithful.companion throughout the grueling process.

The best description I can give you of the CoLyte solution is strong saltwater. Four liters of it needs to be consumed prior to the procedure. Three liters within four hours and the other liter three hours prior to the procedure.

I found that by not mixing it with Crystal Light, I had a much easier tolerance for it. I would take big gulps, chase it with the lemon-infused water and then throw a piece of peppermint (Brach’s ) in my mouth. It worked.

When Dr. Rohl came by prior to the procedure, he asked if I had been having any issues. I assured him there were none and I said, ”I’m certain you will find hemorrhoids and polyps.” He agreed it was possible because of past history.

After a quick twenty minutes, they woke me up. Dr. Rohll came in with the results. ”Well, you were right. We did find hemorrhoids. However, you had no polyps. It was the cleanest colon I’ve seen all day!” 😂

Listen, I will be the first to admit I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m sick. I put off things sometimes, like physicals and bloodwork. (I am going in a few weeks) I don’t put off seeing my dermatologist on a regular basis, every six months to be exact, because of malignant melanoma on my back about 15 years ago. I don’t put off having regular mammograms. And I won’t put off having my next colonoscopy due again in five years.

My prep facilitator told me of a 62-year-old man who had not had a colonoscopy until the week previous to mine. He was eaten up with cancer and could have possibly been prevented if he’d been going for regular screenings.

So my advice to you is if you are having any sort of bowel issues as I did in my thirties. Do something about it now. If you’re fifty, start regular screenings. It just may save your life.

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!

Heed the Warning

True story. It’s a rare occurrence for me to be behind the wheel of a moving vehicle if Terry’s in the same vehicle. He hates my driving. He says I hit every pothole on the road. He’s probably right because my avoidance seems to be a direct hit.

Anyway, in the fall of 2006, Terry had neck surgery. After his few day stints in the hospital, they allowed him to come; but not before he signed documents stating that he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks.

One thing to note about Terry is once he gets something on his mind he’s very persistent until it’s complete. That’s how he rolls.

The neck surgery required that I drive him around for at least nine weeks. Pure torture for us both. Rest assured.

Every day he would remark about my impeccable skill to hit every pothole in the road. After about a week, he got tired of riding in my van. He decided it was time to look past the era of vans and find something else. So, he asked me to drive him to Asheville. Apparently, he had been looking around and found this used car place.

He wants to test drive a VW Passat (4 doors) and a Volvo wagon. Keep in mind. I’m the one driving. He’s not. We finish the test drive and the next thing I know we are sitting with the salesman, and Terry is making a deal. He’s trading my van in for not one but two cars. (Side note: None of our kids were licensed drivers at the time).

We drive the Volvo home and leave the VW.

The kids all wondered how we were all going to fit in one car. I wondered the same. Terry didn’t seem concerned. He said the boys can ride in the back because it had one of those fold up seats.

I called Ned that evening and asked if he would go back to Asheville with us the next day and drive the other car back home. He agreed.

We picked him up and the look on his face said it all. If you know Ned, you understand exactly what I mean. This is the look!

Surprisingly he didn’t utter a word. I think he knew Terry was on drugs and not thinking clearly. Keep in mind, he did sign a document stating he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks after surgery.

For the next few weeks, it was like a zoo. I used one car for transporting kids and another for transporting Terry. After about two months of chaos with cars, Terry came to his senses. He traded both cars in on a new Nissan Pathfinder with the 3rd-row seating.

The moral to this story: Heed the warnings after major surgery and whatever you do, don’t make major decisions for at least two weeks. Your brain is in a fog and you can’t process clearly.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

A true story.

February 4, 2018, Terry and I loaded up and moved from the mountains of Hendersonville, NC to the Foothills of Landrum, SC. We moved primarily based on cost.

I fought the move. You’d have thought it would be the other way around, considering Terry was moving from his hometown and I was moving back within 8 miles of where I grew up.

There were determining factors of the fight:

  • I was afraid. (That is a story for another time.)
  • I don’t like to change. We had already been through so much with Ned’s death. I didn’t want more.
  • I really didn’t like that God was asking me to go. I knew it was the right move for us to make but I just couldn’t believe He was actually asking us to trust and go.

So, I came reluctantly and with a foul attitude.

Within the first ten days of our move, Popaw fell extremely ill and due to the move, I ended up in Hendersonville 9/10 of the time.

I kept asking God, ”Why?”

He kept saying, ”Wait.”

I cried out to Him. I cried to Terry. I bemoaned to a few of my friends. I just couldn’t shake the desire to go back home to Hendersonville.

Last fall, my Bible Study girls did ”The Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer. In the very first week, she had us do a little exercise that truly resonated in my heart. She had us write down in a circle the most difficult person, most pressing problem and/or overwhelming circumstance. Then on the line beside the circle, we were instructed to write the words, not the real problem. This fight that was going on inside of me was not a fight against flesh and blood but a fight against the world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces in the heavenly realm. (Ephesians 6:12)

While I was beginning to understand that the real enemy was the devil himself, my heart still ached and longed to go back home. But instead of talking about it as much and crying to others, I began to spend more time crying out to God. In that time, I also wrote on a prayer card a very specific prayer.

• God, either help us sell our house and return to Hendersonville or overwhelm me with your peace here.

I prayed this prayer every day. As began to pray, I noticed my stress of being here in Landrum lessened. My heart still longed for Hendersonville, but I began to enjoy what I had here.

Then in late March, Terry got the itch. He always gets the itch. It’s rare that he stays in one place too long. ” Let’s put that house on the market and see what happens” I was haphazardly reluctant and cautiously excited, all at the same time. We’ve been there. Done that.

So, we placed a ”For Sale” sign in our front yard. We had calls and a few showings. Nothings substantially sound, until one lady came. She loved the house and left saying, ”I think this is the one for me.”

Terry was excited. I thought I was too. Then it happened, suddenly I began to feel sad. I love my house. I love our quaint neighborhood and more importantly our neighbors. I began to pray, ”God, if this is what you want, allow. It to happen.”

On Thursday, she called to say she was going to purchase the house across the street and be our neighbor. She wanted a brand new house. I was not sad. I was relieved.

Then, I got my act together and decided to list on Zillow. This proved a huge success. We had a few other showings and then an offer. The offer was ridiculously low. We went back and forth most of the day. When I realized they weren’t willing to pay the price we wanted, Terry and I agreed to take the house off the market, at least for a while.

I need to interject here to say, we could have easily taken their offer. We would have made money. However, the consideration being offered would not have been good for our neighbors and the price valuation of our neighborhood. Sometimes, it’s not about what you can put in your pocket. You have to consider others.

I am so excited we are going to stay. God has done what I began asking of Him, almost a year ago.

Is there something that is troubling your heart? If so, realize that it’s probably the enemy trying to weave and work his craftiness. Cry out to God. Be open and honest with him. Ask specifically. Pray without ceasing. Do what He tells you to do. Walk in obedience to Him. He will make your joy complete.

Seeing Where I’ve Been.

According to Mom, when I was little, I preferred riding in the car with my back facing the road. One day when she and Mamaw were in the car with me, most likely going shopping, Mamaw was holding me. I started to cry and no matter what she did, I could not be soothed. Mom said, “Mother, put her on your shoulder. She likes to see where she’s been not where she’s going.”

I’ve thought about how people live their lives in much the same way. Sometimes we get so focused on where we’re going in life, we forgot to look back to see how far we’ve come. But there’s a danger also of being so hyper-focused on the past we don’t move forward.

Here’s the reality I’ve learned in my life. My past teaches me. As I recall past events in my life, I am reminded of how great the hand of God has been in my life. I see His protection. His leading. His discipline. My past has a hold on me only if I allow it. The old things are gone.

My future is definitely something to look forward to with great anticipation. However, I’ve learned not to put great expectations on what the future may hold because my expectations may disappoint me. The best part of my future is knowing that I will eventually die. When that happens, all of my hope, dreams, and expectations will more grand and glorious than I can fathom.

I am learning to just be present in the present and to know that each day comes with opportunities. Every day, I can be a blessing to someone. Every day, I can enjoy a new sunrise or sunset.

The truth is, I need my past to learn. I need my future to grow. I need today to because it will never come again.