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.

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.

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

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.”

Sometimes You Gotta Speak Up

A few weeks ago I found myself in a tizzy over a bad haircut. The only thing it wasn’t my bad haircut it was Sammy’s hair, my dog. No matter how hard throughout the day I tried to ease up on my frustration and disappointment, it kept lingering, like an obnoxious headache that won’t go away.

First of all, let me explain the story. I always schedule Sammy’s haircuts on the same day as mine. (I’m probably the only dog mom who does this) It’s easier to remember. Like me, he has to go every 5 weeks. He has hair that grows like mine, only his more expensive than mine to upkeep. Also, considering my hairdresser and his groomer are on the same side of town, it just makes more sense. Besides, I can run errands if I have to wait on him for any length of time, which is also rare.

Anyway, this particular Friday, Terry was waiting for me to get back home to go eat breakfast. After I’d waited thirty minutes beyond normal, I called and was told he was on the table and would be done in twenty minutes or less. Within about ten minutes, I received a call telling me he was finished.

I immediately went to pick him up. As I was paying and making another appointment, a new gal, abruptly put him in my arms and walked off. Once I got in the car, I phoned Terry to let him know I was on my way home. Less than a minute into our conversation, I began to notice all kinds of things that were wrong with his hair. Immediately, I began naming each one and the list kept growing and I became more irate. Finally, he said, “Well, what are you gonna do about it?”

Without hesitation, I exclaimed, “I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”

Before I lost my nerve, I hurried to dial back the groomer. The first words out of my mouth were, “I know my regular groomer did not groom Sammy today because he looks horrible. I just want you to know how terribly disappointed I am with his haircut and from now on, I need you to make sure that no one else cuts his hair.” I wasn’t absurdly rude or demanding, I was more matter of fact and direct.

I fumed all day long over his hair. I even had to take scissors and even out his crown.

By evening, I was still fuming when I took dinner to Terry. As we talked, I had to ask the question, “Why am I so bothered and upset over a dogs haircut?” And then it dawned on me, “I was upset for two reasons. The first reason, I had not to be told beforehand that my regular groomer wasn’t doing his hair. I wouldn’t have left him. But the biggest reason for my angst was due to the fact my dog cannot fend for himself. He has no voice to speak up and I must be his voice because I can and he can’t.

This reminded me of how I had to speak up for Popaw and Mom when they couldn’t speak up for themselves.

It was Thursday, April 18, the day after Popaw’s stroke. Mom and I had talked on the phone around 9:00 pm and she told me that she was going to ask Teresa, the night shift nurse, to call and ask the Elizabeth House to come to get Popaw on Friday, I was in total agreement, for two reasons, Popaw wasn’t getting any better and Mom wasn’t getting any rest. The sitter service was understaffed and we could not get any helpers to come sit with Popaw. Mom’s only reprieve on Thursday had been from 9 am- 2 pm and I could already see how detrimental it was becoming for her.

On Friday, the most horrible weather day of the year, she called around 9:30 am to inform me that the Chaplain, not a nurse, from Hospice, had come by to tell her that because Paopaw’s symptoms were being managed at The Bridge, there was no reason to move him to the Elizabeth House. “It’s for patients whose pain is uncontrollable or symptoms are indicating the end of life is near.”

Her response to him, “Okay. I understand.”

However, her voice to me was full of exhaustion, anxiousness and a desperate plea for help.

I couldn’t get there immediately because of weather but Terry and I had already decided that we would go spend the day with him and give her a break. We just had to wait out the weather.

I was in the process of blow drying my hair and it hit me hard. What could I do? Who do I know? Something has to be done!

I pranced in the kitchen and told Terry my frustrations. Explained my concern for Mom and her well being as much as getting Popaw in a peaceful, restful state. He was still agitated and they were not administering drugs on a regular basis, only PRN or “as needed”

Suddenly during my raging fury, I told Terry I was going to call our friend. He serves on the Hospice board and at least he could direct me in the right way.

I called him immediately and explained the situation. He told me to be patient and he would make a few phone calls and see who I needed to speak with. After a little while, as promised, he called me back. He had talked with a few people. They could see where Popaw had been under Hospice Care and graduated out but couldn’t see he had been taken back under their care.

After a few more phone calls it was confirmed that Popaw was under Hospice care.

The next thing I needed to do was talk to the Director of Nursing at The Bridge to have her make the call. Fortunately, we had just braved the crazy weather and arrived at The Bridge. So, I didn’t have to make a phone call, I could just speak with her, face to face.

As I sat and listened to her, I was appalled to learn that they had already called twice and asked Elizabeth House to take him. Their reasoning had been the same as with my with the exception that the Hospice nurse, who had assessed Popaw, on the day of his stroke, continued to state that his condition was being managed at The Bridge. Not only were they concerned about Popaw but they also expressed concern about my mother and her state of mind, as well as her need for help. However, with the new information provided by my friend, she made the call once again.

By the time I got to Popaw’s room the medication was wearing off and he kept trying to get out of bed. Fortunately, he was much weaker on Friday than Wednesday so it was easier to keep him contained.

Around 2:00 pm, Mom received a call from the Hospice nurse handling Popaw’s case. I could tell Mom didn’t know exactly what to say and finally, she said, ” You need to talk to my daughter.”

The words spilled out of her mouth and hit me like a ton of bricks. The progress I thought that had been made halted abruptly when I heard the exact same words as Mom heard earlier from the Chaplain. I had to take a deep breath and pause before I retaliated.

For the next thirty minutes or more, she got an earful. I was as cordial and as respectful as I could be but I realized I had to fight for what I thought was right, both for Popaw as well as Mom. My final words to her went something like this, ”I am not a trained medical professional but I have seen, witnessed and experienced death and I am telling you that Popaw is in his final stages of death. Furthermore, I would like to remind you that Hospice and Elizabeth House exists for patients as well as family members. If for no other consideration, my Mom needs the benefit of him being moved there for her peace of mind and rest.”

At the end of my rant, she assured me, ”I will take this into compliance and see what I can do.”

I went back to the room and was completely satisfied that something would happen, I just didn’t know what or how soon. I knew I had not allowed my emotions to get in the way of reason and to be honest, I was quite pleased with how I had handled the situation. I think I knew how proud Ned would’ve been and that what made me the happiest.

I sent Mom out with Terr to get a bite to eat. While they were gone, I was completely satisfied to sit alone in quietness with Popaw. He’d been given some more medicine and finally settled down again.

Mom’s phone rang and I knew it was the Hospice nurse. She called to inform me that Popaw would be transported to Elizabeth House at 6:00 pm and he would be in his room by 6:15.

My heart was full and my conscience was satisfied. I knew this was the right move for both Popaw and Mom. I knew he would never return to The Bridge.

Popaw only spoke a few words that day, but as they were in the process of transporting him, I leaned over the stretcher and said, ”Don’t worry, Popaw. We are taking you to Elizabeth House. They will take great care of you there and they will keep you at peace and rest.”

”Oh, well.” he said and it was well with his soul and mine, too!

There are times in life where we need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We don’t have to be irrelevant or irrational, but sometimes we must be tenacious and persistent.

And by the way, my regular groomer did call back and offer to fix Sammy’s hair but unfortunately, any fix would’ve required more cutting and he had already been cut way too short in some places. I declined and thanked them for their offer and stated I would simply wait until it grows out and bring him for his next appointment. Unfortunately, I still look at him and wince but I know he’ll look better next time.

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 4 The final lesson

Ok. So, we had been hit with remnants of Hurricane Ivan and remained powerless for about a week, once the power is restored life returns to normal, right? No, because there’s nothing normal for a mom of four to be in a wheelchair and/or using crutches.

Like I mentioned before, we had an incredible group of friends from our Bible Fellowship Group. They brought in meals for us, every few days, and did this for almost a month. One couple, came on Saturday after our power had been restored. They knew we had a mess and she called and said, ”We are not just bringing dinner, we are coming to eat with you. But we are bringing our family and found to help clean up debris. ” And so they did. For a few hours prior to dinner, they all worked around our property and the neighbors cleaning up.

About a week after all the hubbub, on. Thursday evening, Ryan had a football game. Terry left me home with Alex and Amy. About an hour after he left, I get a phone call from him, ”Ryan fell on his arm in the end zone and I am taking him to the ER” Now, we have another wounded warrior at our house. Ryan had broken his humerus. Considering the location of the break, they wrapped his arm and put it in a sling. He could only sleep in the recliner and upright position for several weeks. Terry made sure he got his medication on time to help keep his pain at a minimum.

I hope you’re beginning to see why it’s imperative that Terry has been given a great sense of humor.

Then about a month after my surgery, we were back at the Surgery Center with Matthew. He had some major issues with his ears for years and needed to have tubes. It was really no big deal but just another example of life’s hurdles.

Finally, November came and I was allowed to begin bearing weight on my foot and I could start driving again. Hallelujah.

Terry returned to work and our daily routines went back to some form of normalcy. But how normal can you really be with four kids?

In February I was allowed to begin rehab in my foot, which would take about 6 months to complete. Three days a week for 75 minutes. It was a difficult process. I basically had to learn to walk again. The process was painful but with each passing month, I could see and feel progress. And it’s funny how life works that way. We don’t always get to walk the easy terrain, sometimes it’s rough and rocky but in order for you to reach your destination, you must be willing to submit to the process.

In that year, God taught me some valuable lessons. When I struggle with pride, I am reminded that I have absolutely nothing to be puffed up about. Although, I sometimes try hard to find something, especially when it involves my children. When I grow frustrated with Terry and trust me, I do (he does with me too) I am reminded that I have been given a treasure, Just as Terry saw the great need to show us unconditional and unselfish love by taking on the responsibility of being Mr. Mom plus, I too have that same responsibility to him. To love and care for this precious gift God has given to me.‭‭

Friends, we are not promised a life of ease without hurdles and complications. In fact, James tells us:

These things happen in order for us to grow. We persevere through endurance and it stretches our faith. In the same way, my muscles had to he stretched and pain had to be endured for me to to learn to walk again. If I had given up when it for hard, chances are I would’ve walked with a limp.

Can I encourage you today? If you’re going through a trial or hard time, hold onto this truth that God has for you. In the end, it will be for your good and for His glory.

A Humbling Tumble Part 2

Like I said in last weeks post Read here, many stories came out of my fall.

First of all, I alluded to the fact that I was in a prideful state at the time of my accident and I needed that good dose of humility.

Let me explain, about 10 months before my fall, I had taken a leave of absence from all of the ministries I which I had been involved in, all of which had been both successful and rewarding. Fortunately, I never saw anything as being my own success but knew the success was a result of my obedience to God.

However, I was very self-reliant. That is not necessarily a bad thing but self-reliance can lead to pride because it becomes all about me and what I can do by myself. My motto was, “Why ask for help when I can do it myself. I trust myself more than I trust others.” You know what I was doing? That kind of foolish thinking kept others from reviving the blessing God may have intended for them.

In addition, I also became very legalistic and I wanted to impose my own convictions on others. Just because I am under conviction doesn’t mean that others are under the same conviction. Folks, this is a very dangerous place to be because this is a place where you start judging others.

God began showing me a little of this as I began to step away from my commitments. However, it wouldn’t fully be realized until the fall.

You see, another thing that God did during this time of stepping down from all of my commitments, was preparation for God to call us out of our comfort zone and familiarity at First Baptist Hendersonville and lead us to unfamiliar territory and Biltmore Baptist Church.

So, about five or six months before my fall, we had left a familiar body of believers and were joined with a new body. It only took one Sunday to know with great clarity that God had led us there.

However, I wasn’t as eager and excited to involve myself in various ministries. The only thing I felt called to do was to be a greeter. Trust me when I say that sometimes your reputation precedes you. Somehow the ministerial staff knew about the work I had done in the past and were eager to involve me any way they could. However, I knew I needed to step back and wait before I committed to anything else. This was probably one of the first steps I took towards some form of humility. But God in His infinite wisdom knew that would not be enough.

The best part of not being overly involved is that I really had an opportunity to get to know people. Terry and I both had time for relationships with others. Our Bible Fellowship Group was large and very active. We intentionally had many group outings which also involved our children.

But there was still a level of humbling I needed. I was still very self-reliant and I was also very guarded with my emotions. I was not one to readily ask for help with anything, and now I needed help with just about everything. Sometimes, I catch myself back in this way of behaving and thinking.

And so, when I couldn’t do for myself, I had to depend on others. First, it was my parents, who’ve always been generous and selfless. Knowing that all of our bedrooms were upstairs and that I was going to be a bit wobbly at first, they offered to let me come stay with them until I could navigate stairs safely. Not only did I stay with them but Ned gave up the comforts of his own bed and slept in one their upstairs bedrooms and Mom slept with me and helped me get up and down throughout the night and also administered my meds on a regular basis.

The first week after surgery, I was ready to go home but I was still wobbly and unstable, more from the drugs than anything. Fortunately, by the end of the second week, I was completely off the narcotics and much more confident with crutches and a wheelchair.

I also had to call on friends and other family members to help with the kids. I couldn’t drive and although Terry was taking FMLA time off, he still needed help navigating four kiddos around.

I was taken from a place of self- reliance on total dependence. If you don’t think that’s humbling, try it sometime.

Then, I went home. After two weeks, the only way for me to climb stairs safely was to sit on my backside and scoot up and I would come down the same way. My doctor had given a clear warning that anything that would cause me to bear weight on my foot could potentially unravel the surgery and cause me to have another one.

The day I went home we had weather warnings from Hurricane Ivan. After two weeks of being scattered, we were finally home together, all six of us. By nightfall, the winds had picked up speed and rainfall began. As I scooted up the stairs I remember praying for God’s protection of us. I also remember thinking if we needed to get back downstairs quickly Terry would probably have to carry me.

We went to sleep and were suddenly awakened by a loud thud! Our power was out and all we could hear was the popping and cracking of tree branches all around us. Considering it was dark, Terry couldn’t see where the limbs and branches were falling. We just knew they weren’t falling on the house. Another great thud and this time we knew a tree had fallen close by, but again, nothing on our house. Rest assured there’s nothing like being utterly helpless in the midst of a storm. I couldn’t help myself, much less help Terry with getting the kids to safety, if needed. To say the night drug on is an understatement. I have never been so thankful for daylight.

As the light of day dawned, it became clear to us how God had protected and provided safety for us. One of our great oak trees fell away from our house, and onto our neighbors’ car. The other large oak, belonging to our neighbor across the street, had fallen across the road and about 15 feet away from our house and into an open space. But our entire road was blocked. Nobody could come in and nobody could go out. Power was out and no hope of quick restoration.

What a welcome home!Ivan

Terry was the only one in the neighborhood with a chainsaw. He and Ryan and Matthew went to work. He would cut and they would haul away. Alex and Amy also helped what little they could. I busted myself on the gas stove making everything I could to keep the crew fed. I found that I could roll my wheelchair close to the range and then perch on one leg to cook. It wasn’t easy but I was learning that I wasn’t in a totally helpless state. It made me feel useful because I obviously couldn’t help with any outside work.

We had been powerless for about two days when a friends power was restored and he brought up a generator for us. It was such a huge help. It was still tough getting in and out of our location because of all the debris but Terry made a path.

The biggest lesson I learned during this time was that God’s protection over me and my family was great. He kept us safe through the night. He provided Terry with the ability to make a safe path for us and our neighbors to be able to get out. He provided me with the ability to be able to cook and with food. And He used a friend to supply us with generated power. I guess you could say, I learned to ask for His help and protection, He answered me. Not only did He answer me, But He also showed me that I am safer in His arms than anywhere else.