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.

Honey, Did We Give Them A Good Deal?

Popaw was always about making sure that he never took advantage of people, especially when it came to a business deal. His upbringing had a lot to do with that. His father, Robert, was a man of many trades one was buying and selling milk cows.

In the words of Popaw, ”Anytime Daddy would sell a milk cow, it always came with a guarantee. He would always tell the purchaser if the cow didn’t milk, he would take it back and return their money. He said he couldn’t recall a time his dad ever had to take one back.

My grandparents lived very modestly and way below their means. In truth, they were never possessed by their possessions. So often they would just give what they had away, even if they could resell it. Several of these things included cars and boats.

In addition, my grandparents were extremely generous. Honestly, almost to a fault. When they heard of anyone in need and it was within their means to provide, rest assured, they would. When they gave it was a true gift. There were never any strings attached. They simply gave and I can assure you their ability to give increased with each gift.

If there was an anything Popaw held tightly to, it was his house. It brought him joy, safety, and security. His home also became dangerous for him to continue living alone. It was truly a sad day when we had to move him. But like everything else in his life, he adapted and went on.

We waited about three months before we began completely clearing out and prepping his home to sell. Before we had all the clutter cleared a neighbors grandchild was interested in purchasing the home.

Popaw and Mom asked if I would just handle the transaction. Even though I didn’t keep up my CE for my license, I still kept up to date with changes in the industry. I knew the required paperwork and how to fill in the blanks.

The transaction took place without a hitch. The house was sold and now belonged to someone else.

One day shortly after the sell, I was visiting Popaw and he said, ”Honey, I’ve got a question for you. Did we give those folks who bought my house a good deal? We didn’t take advantage of them, did we?”

”Absolutely, we gave them a good deal. I knew you’d have it no other way. In fact, we gave them a very good deal.” I replied.

”That’s good to know. I don’t like to feel like I’ve taken advantage of anyone.”

And with that, he never mentioned the sell of his house again. He was satisfied knowing we had given the new owners a good deal.

The longer I am without him, the more I realize how much he truly impacted my life, my values, and my beliefs.

The moral: life is far too short to place a high value on things. It is much more advantageous to place a high value on people because they are your real treasures.

Opportunity to Love More

“Honey, I love her more now than I did almost 67 years ago.” The words flowed from his lips as we sat by her bedside in the early morning hours of May 26, 2010. We both knew she was on a very limited time. Popaw had decided to stay the night with her and I lingered with him until my eyes burned and needed a break from my contacts.

It would be her last night and just as it should be. The two of them together.

As I’ve spent the last nine years replaying much of our conversation I keep coming back to his words, “I love her more now..”. It finally occurred to me that Popaw saw every hardship their marriage endured as a means to love her more. And to be completely honest, she loved him with every fiber of her being as well.

So often when relationships hit a tough spot or an obstacle, our first inclination is to hit the door and run. Take the easy way out. Leave him. Leave her. But what if, we looked at our obstacles or hardships as opportunities to love our spouse more? What if we displayed unconditional love?

Listen. Popaw and Mamaw were not perfect people. They were simply held together by an almighty and perfect God. They recognized early one they could not do marriage without making Jesus the center.

I shared in a previous post that my grandmother was mentally ill. As a result of her mental illness, she was also a hypochondriac and by the time she was in her 40’s had already had thirty or more surgeries. I also shared that she spent some time in the mental ward in Winston Salem and had shock treatments.

To be frank, if Terry had all those issues, I would definitely be tempted to hang in the towel. I mean who wants to deal with all of that plus raise children and work full time? Troy, that’s who. He didn’t see her as being a hindrance. He viewed her through the same rose-colored glasses God views us from and he loved her and devoted himself more to her. You see, he was more interested in maintaining and growing their relationship rather than looking outside to find a greener pasture.

Do you know what happened? She recovered from most of her ailments. She was never able to fully escape the anxiety and worry but she thrived and survived because he loved her.

Interestingly I saw this on social media the other day. I’ve heard the adage, “The grass is greener where you water it”. But I had not seen this.

So often we look to run from the hard when God says, “Wait. Stay. Hang on. The best is yet to come”.

To be certain, Troy and Colleen experienced a blessed marriage and a lifetime of precious memories together and were more in love after almost 67 years than when they first fell in love.

Who doesn’t want that for themselves?

The next time you find your marriage on rocky ground look for the opportunity to love more. I guarantee it will be worth it in the end.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

Special times with Popaw

By now you know that not only was Popaw one of my favorite people, he was also my hero.

Over the next few.weeks, I have plenty of stories to share. This particular story happened within the last three years.

Before Ned’s diagnosis with cancer, Mom.had predominantly been responsible for Popaw’s health care.

Prior to moving him to the assisted living facility, Mom would. commonly meet him at his appointments. However, when he no longer had use of the car, Mom had to take him.

With Ned’s.illness and all.of.his appointments, it became increasingly harder for Mom.to.keep.up.

One day. I announced to.her that I would start.managing his healthcare. It was the one thing I could completely take off her shoulders to allow her focus to be more on Ned. Besides, I reasoned, if something happened to her, I would be the one responsible for him. It just made.sense.

I viewed it as an opportunity to help her and spend some. extra time.with Popaw. I enjoyed his company and he enjoyed mine.

Our first trip to the doctor without Mom would be unique and different for him. He was so accustomed to her taking him, I knew it would be slightly awkward. I decided, on my way to pick him up, to pop in my Selah cd because he would recognize all the Hymns.

In classic Popaw style, he got in my car and immediately began to thank me. ”Honey, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such good treatment but I sure appreciate you taking care of me.”

After a few minutes of small talk, the car grew silent except for the cd playing. The silence was soon interrupted by a sound I now wish I had recorded. The raspy bass voice of my Popaw singing, ”I sing because I am happy. I sing because I am free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

At that moment, any twinge of nervousness he had about me taking over his care, or any fear I had that I wouldn’t do it the right way was completely absorbed by the fact that we both knew and understood a valuable truth at that moment. God was taking care of both of us.

Can I be really blunt here?

To say I miss this treasure of a human being is an understatement. There will never be another like him. I am thankful I didn’t waste the time of frivolity and that my earlier choices had dictated time I would get to spend with Popaw.

Listen here