I Am Safe

I am finishing up an online bible study with P31OBS. The title of the Study is Psalm 23 The Shepherd With Me by Jennifer Rothschild I highly recommend doing it with a group or online.

From the onset of the study, Jennifer said one phrase that I have constantly been reminded of, “You are safe with your Shepherd!” Now I don’t know about you but I love to feel safe. In safety, I find myself at peace and rest.

Anyway, throughout the entire study I have kept that phrase in the forefront of my mind. Today I wrote this little poem and thought it my resonate with you the same way this study has resonated with me. My hope and prayer is that you’ll too find that you are safe with your Shepherd.

It’s my own paraphrase of Psalm 23.

I am safe

God is my Shepherd

I am safe

I am without nothing

I am safe

As I choose to follow Him

I am safe

He leads me to green pastures and beside still waters.

I am safe

He restores my weary and wounded soul and gives me hope

I am safe

His paths always lead me into righteousness because His name is at stake

I am safe

Darkness may lead me through a valley that seems endless but

I am safe

You are light and Your glory shines through through the darkness and I have nothing to fear. Your rod and staff protect me.

I am safe

You set a glorious feast for me and invite me to come and dine

I am safe.

My enemies are present but You are my shield and protection.

I am safe

You make me fragrant when I sit in Your presence and lift my head and there is no guilt or shame.

I am safe

You fill me up until I am spilling over

I am safe

You surround me with Your kindness and deep compassion and they chase me for the rest of my days on earth

I am safe

One day I will dwell in Your house forever and ever. Amen

I am safe.

Just for clarity sake, here is Psalm 23:1-6

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walke through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me, in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house for the Lord forever .

Touched by His Hands

This buffet rests on the longest wall in my house, near the front door. If I told you when we first walked into our house before we purchased it, I told Terry, ”Its a perfect spot for the buffet!” would you believe me? It’s true I did.

I acquired this piece in a roundabout way. It actually belonged to my grandparents, who had acquired it from my grandmother’s eccentric Aunt (and a great story for another time). Mom laid claim to it years ago but when we moved Popaw from his house, Ned said, ”Ann, you have nowhere to put that thing and if we downsize you certainly won’t have room for it. Besides, I don’t really like it.” Mom asked if I wanted it. At first, I hemmed and hawed because I really didn’t have room for it. I finally concluded that we would just leave it for the folks buying Popaw’s house- until one day as we were wrapping up clearing out the house and the light switch turned on in my head and I knew it had to come home with me.

Terry didn’t complain but we did have to store it in our basement until we moved because there was no room upstairs.

For months I contemplated taking it to a local guy in Hendersonville who meticulously and beautifully restores fine antique furniture. Ultimately I refrained from doing anything to it and just left it alone.

At first glance, you see the beauty of the piece but upon closer inspection, you will find places where Popaw attempted to fix a few places. They are mainly at the bottom. The color hues are slightly off and can really be seen when light hits the spots. But to be honest, I would have to point them out to you because they don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

If I had taken this piece to be restored I would have taken away it’s character and what truly makes this special to me. The beauty to me resides in the fact my grandfather’s hands touched this piece. He left his mark on it, making it like no other. He added a depth of meaning that restoration would have eliminated. His hands made it special.

Do you know that in the same way, God’s hands make us special? Let me explain.

As we see the creation story unfold in Genesis 1 we see the words, ”And God said” repeated five times. He spoke everything into existence until he came to the final day of creation. On this day He did something different.

Then God said, ”Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them
. Genesis 1:26-27

On this day, God didn’t speak things into existence, he created man. He made the man with His hands and in His image. In Genesis 2;7 says, ”He formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being”

Don’t you realize that God could have spoken man into existence? But He didn’t. He chose to use His hands to create and make us in His image. He gave each one of us our individuality and uniqueness. His very hands made us and that makes all of us special, flaws and all. This alone makes Him very personal to me and I hope it makes you feel the same way.

Maybe you’re like me and most often I see my flaws and failures. I see what a mess I really am but that’s because I’m looking at the piece all wrong. I’m looking at the flaws and I am not seeing the beauty of the whole thing. And what a great reminder to have such a magnificent work of art in my house to serve as a great reminder to me. Just as I see the flaws of where Popaw’s hands attempted to fix a few spots, the beauty is in the piece as a whole and that I have something that his hands touched. Just as God made him in His image and likeness and His hands formed me and made me, flaws and all and yet He sees me as a beautiful work of His hands. Ephesians 2:10 (my life verse) tells me this, ”I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which He has prepared in advance for me to do.”

Friends, whether you’re a believer or not, the truth is you were touched by the Hands of Almighty God!

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.

In Spite of Who I Am…..He Loves Me

Now that you’re aware of my rebellious nature. I want to share a little story with you. One I don’t think I’ve ever shared.

One day in the early part of my high school years, I came home one afternoon from school. Completely drained and out of focus to complete any homework assignment, I sat down on my piano bench and started to play.

The piano was my therapy.

I’m not sure why but no one was home this particular day. As I began to play and unwind, I noticed behind my book was a white sheet of paper with words written on it in Ned’s horrific handwriting. Curious, I began to read.

As I read tears welled up in my eyes, as the words spilled off the page and into my heart I began thinking, ”Wow! God loves me in spite of who I am or what I’ve done.” I would love to tell you that revelation changed my behavior, at that point in time, it didn’t. That would come years later. You see, I had a lot of head knowledge about God but I had built up far too many walls to allow him to penetrate my heart. It would take years to breakthrough.

However, as time marched on and my heart became more pliable and moldable and I let go of the things that were holding me in captivity, I’ve always remembered the words of this song and I remember that day so vividly. And you know what, He has never let go of my hand. Many times, I’ve let go of His but His love for me knows no bounds and I am so thankful.

Listen here I’ll never let go of your hand

The 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!

Always On Time and Always at the Right Time

Again, I find myself amazed that God poured out these words four years ago. Interestingly, He knew in July of 2015, what we would learn in March 2016, Ned would be diagnosed with Atypical Stage 4 Lung cancer.

You know what? God came to us during that storm. He quieted our souls and we trusted in Him. He continues to pour out his goodness on Mom as well as the rest of our family.

Has it been easy or welcomed? Absolutely not. Would we have chosen things differently? Absolutely yes! But God, in His Sovereignty knew what was best and stood beside us the whole way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Letter to my Seven Year Old Self

Please don’t misunderstand when I share this. I am not searching for sympathy. This girl imposed enough of that on herself when she was younger. I also used it as an excuse for my poor choices and bad behavior.

Why am I sharing?

Maybe this will help someone else. Maybe there’someone out there who’ve walked in my shoes. Maybe you too, have felt worthless or useless. Maybe like me, someone has made a promise they were never meant to make and it’s caused confusion and delusion. I don’t know, maybe someone just needs to hear that ”You are loved and worthy.”

This to me was a freeing exercise to do.

To my Seven-year-old self,

Little girl, you’ve placed the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have chosen a burden and responsibility much too great to shoulder. In fact, you can’t possibly do this. Not only are you not an adult, and trying to do adult things, you need to allow others to care for you.

I know you made a promise to your Daddy the night before he died. I know you intend to keep that promise. That’s how you are. You always strive to do what you say you will. But your Daddy didn’t mean it in the literal way you took it. He just wanted to reassure you that he had faith and confidence that you would do the right thing by helping your Mom, not trying to take his place.

Sweetie, you spent many hours angry and frustrated because you were a child trying to be an adult. You didn’t always enjoy the carefree life a child of seven often does. You grew up way too fast.

Your anger translated into hidden tears at night. It also wedged a gap between you and your Creator, God and your family members. Often times you would burst into fits of rage and no one understood because you never let anyone in your world. You kept it bottled. Plastered a smile on your face and pretended all was well.

You didn’t break the promise to you, Daddy. He is not disappointed with you. Your mom isn’t disappointed with you and your siblings are not disappointed with you. You are so loved.

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.

Why Their Standards Are Set So High

Yesterday we had the opportunity to celebrate the marriage of Blaire and Hunter. Blaire and Amy have been friends since elementary school. Like Amy, we have had the privilege of watching Blaire grow into a beautiful young woman.

It occurred to me yesterday that this is a new season of life for us. Our children’s friends are now getting married and having babies. And you know what that means, my kids are all old enough to get married too.

Before the wedding, I said to Terry, ”You know this could be Amy in a few years”

He said, ”Don’t rush it. She’s got plenty of time.”

Considering all of our children are now old enough to be married, and are not, I have to ask myself the question ”why?”

First of all, maybe it’s because Terry has told them forever, ”Don’t get married before you’re 30!” Ryan will be 30 in December.

Second, until recently the older two haven’t really had time for relationships and they all have very high standards. Besides, it’s difficult to get married when you don’t have a significant other. 😊

So that begs a different question, ”Why are their standards so high?”

I believe there are three very good reasons.

The first reason is because of the display of love and devotion they witnessed through watching MaMaw and Popaw. They saw what it looks like for a man to love and devote himself to a woman. They also saw how she adored and loved him. They observed how he tenderly provided care for her for ten years prior to her moving into an assisted living facility. They saw love in rare form.

Next, they watched and observed how Mom and Ned loved each other. They listened in as they would sometimes get on each other’s nerves but then would kiss and make up. They watched and observers how Mom took such great care of Ned as his health declined. They saw how his love for her propelled and fueled his desire to get better. He loved her with every fiber of his being and she loved him back in the same way.

Third, and maybe most importantly, these kids of mine have had on display for almost 25 years, the way a man should love a woman. Terry has taught the boys to respect women and he’s taught Amy she’s worthy of respect. He’s taught them that even through hard times, you love, you laugh, you cry and then you do it all again. You never give up and you never give in. He’s taught them the value of commitment. He’s taught them perseverance and determination. He’s taught them not to settle but to look for Gods best.

So on this Fathers Day, I am rejoicing in the legacy left behind by two great men, and I am most thankful to celebrate my man today. He is God’s gift to me and our four children.