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!

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.

Value Life and Be Thankful

February 12, 1998 is always a day of reflection for me. For whatever time I have left on this earth it always will be. If you haven’t been following along and need a refresher. Read here

For the past few days, I’ve truly been mulling over the fact that God in His great mercy saw fit to spare my life that day. Now, here I am twenty-one years later and I still am amazed by His great love for me. I am also grateful that He chose me to love and be a Mom to all four of my children, not that I did it right. It’s just the one thing in life that I always felt a strong calling to do.

I remember the first steps each of my children took because I was with them. I recall their first words. Only one out of the four said, ‘Momma” first, and I can promise you it wasn’t the Princess. I was there when they got hurt and needed stitches. When they broke arms, wrists, and legs. I was there when their little hearts were broken. I watched as they learned to ride bikes, hit golf balls, throw things, play tennis, catch a football, play basketball, play piano, violin, and drums.

Like I said before, I didn’t always get the parenting thing right. I messed up. I yelled when I should’ve spoken kindly. I threatened without following through. I complained about the messes they made. I was more concerned about how my house looked than I was about spending time with my children. I was more concerned with their behavior than I was about their hearts.

To be honest, by the time I realized how much I messed up, Ryan and Matthew were almost grownup and out of the house. Seriously. Fortunately, I had a little more time with Alex and Amy.

Here’s the point. God had a choice to take me or leave me. He left me here. He wasn’t finished with me and I am grateful.

Do you realize that as long as there is life in you, God can use you? Sometimes, I think we get so hyper-focused on life and all of life’s stuff, we forget that we have a greater purpose. A greater calling. Our purpose is, like Jesus displayed in his time on earth, to bring glory to the Father

When we choose to value life and be thankful for the breath in our lungs, we realize how blessed we are.

One of my current favorite songs speaks to this very thing.

Great Are You Lord

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only……..

Listen Here

Why I call him Ned

In my previous post, Read here, I said Mom and Ned were married without a hitch. While the wedding did go off without a hitch, the marriage itself came with plenty.

One being that Ned was starting out with the insta-fam, a wife and three kids, and the knowing he would never have a biological child of his own.

Two, we would have to pack our family and move from Brevard to Columbus, NC. Why you ask? Ned’s job. He was a Special Agent with the SBI and he worked Polk and Rutherford Counties. The job required him to live in one of the counties in which he worked.

Prior to their June wedding, they purchased a lot in Columbus and hired Mom’s cousin from Inman to build the house. Around the first of August 1978, we loaded up the fam and moved into our new home.

I wasn’t thrilled. I’ve never been one for change, although my life has been a constant series of change. (This is how I know God has an incredible sense of humor.) The move took me away from my two best friends, Diane and Theresa. It also took me further away from my cousins, aunts, uncles and both sets of grandparents.

Not long after we moved, Ned sat us all down and told us that we could call him whatever we wanted to but his stipulation, “Whatever you start with, you stick with”. David and Kristi both chose to call him, Daddy and I chose, Ned. He never asked again and I never changed my mind. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t think of him as my daddy, it just meant we were both staid on what was agreed upon.

A few weeks after this encounter, he called me into his office with Mom. Probably the only time I wasn’t in trouble for something. No joke, I was always causing some sort of raucous! He and Mom sat me down and he followed up with this, “You know I love you, Kristi and David like your my own. I want to adopt you but that means you’ll have to change your last name. I wanted to ask you because your the oldest and whatever decision you make is fine with me. I won’t love you any more or less than I do right now.”

Without even a moments hesitation, I blurted out, “No. I don’t want you to adopt us. Daddy was so proud to have a son to carry on his name, I don’t want our last names changed.” He graciously and humbly accepted my answer and he never, ever asked again.

What kind of man does that, you ask? A man like, Ned Whitmire. A man with a generous, kind heart. A man who was sure of himself and had no need to demand his own way. A man who prayed and asked God to go before him, lead and guide him. A man who chose to do what God told him to do. That’s what kind of man does such a thing as this. He wasn’t looking to his own interest. He cared more about us than he did about himself or having a son to carry on his name.

So, when we get the stories about his stubborn and contrariness that made him who he was, you’ll first remember that he had a soft and tender side too!

This is the very reason, I call him a unique man. Most men, first and foremost, wouldn’t seek out a woman with three kids and ask her to marry him, much less be satisfied knowing he would never have any children of his own. You see, he found the one God had made and kept for him.

Ned and Sammy

One of my favorite stories to share about Ned is the love that developed between him and our dog Sammy. In order to do the story justice, I need to start from the beginning.

We had a dog growing up. A basset hound named, Duchess. She wasn’t the most loving dog. A good dog but not one that was allowed to come hangout in the house, primarily because she smelled and she shed!

She lived many years and Ned took really great care of her as she aged but he wasn’t all together fond of dogs.

Almost always on Christmas Eve, Mom and Ned would spend the night at our house. They were always eager to be part of watching their grandchildren open their gifts on Christmas morning.

In 2008, it was no different. Although, I did ask Ned if he was sure he wanted to stay because Amy was getting a puppy.

He replied, “Of course your Mom and I want to stay. I just don’t understand why you feel the need to get a dog. They’re nothing but trouble and you have to find someone to take care of them when you’re gone. Don’t ask me because I am not keeping yours or anyone else’s dog!”

I’ll bet as soon as he saw the delight in Amy’s eyes the next morning, he, too, was smitten by the 1.9 pound puff of white fluff.  However, he wasn’t about to cave-in at that point. He was way to stubborn!

After about 6 weeks, we were sitting at Amy’s basketball game and I told him we were going out of town the next weekend.  Jokingly I said, “You want to keep Sammy?”

His response, not shocking, “Now, I told you I don’t like dogs.  I am not keeping your dog.  I told you they’re a lot of trouble and you had to get care for them when you go out of town.”

I replied, “No worries.  I’m already boarding him.  I just wanted to see if your mind had changed.  You may not want to keep him now, but I’ll bet you will.  He’s so cute and sweet and he doesn’t shed.”

He huffed and said, “I’m not keeping your dog.”

After another few months, we had to board Sammy again.  It was not a good experience for him or us.  He was mistreated.  That didn’t make Ned happy either.  However, he still wouldn’t yield.

Then we found Emily.  A friend’s daughter who agreed to keep him.  He enjoyed staying with Emily and her family.  He was well-loved and cared for there.

One weekend, Emily wasn’t available and I decided to give Ned an opportunity to say, “yes”  By this time, Sammy was more than welcome in their house.  He was actually invited to come anytime we were visiting or having family functions.

I called and we chatted a few minutes.  I was prepping him for the big question.  “So, we’re going out of town this weekend and don’t have anywhere to leave Sammy.  I don’t want to board him.  Will you keep his cute little self?”

Without an ounce of hesitation, he responded, “Yeah.  I’ll keep him but I’ll tell you one thing right now, that dog is NOT sleeping in my bed. ”  I assured him that I would bring Sammy’s crate and he could put him in the crate at night.  I did forewarn him that he would cry because he was accustomed to sleeping with us.  I told him, “He likes his crate but only in the daytime and only when you’re not home.”

We left and Sammy was happy as a clam to be staying with Mamaw and Papaw.

The next morning, I get a call from Mom.  I just have to tell you what happened.  “We put Sammy in his crate last night.  (They put the crate in the laundry room which is on the opposite side of their bedroom)  He started to cry.  He was so pitiful.  I went to brush my teeth.  I told Ned, ‘if he doesn’t stop crying I’m going to get him.  I’ll take him upstairs with me and we will sleep on another bed.  I just can’t stand hearing that little thing cry.’  By the time I got ready for bed and came back into the room, Ned had the dog in our bed.”

She sent a picture and I can’t find it.

Needless to say, Sammy stayed with them anytime we went out-of-town, except for the past few times and Ned was too sick.  Good for Sammy, Alex was home and willing to take care of him.

The above picture was taken two Christmases after Sammy arrived.  Again, on Christmas day when Mom and Ned were at the house to watch their grandchildren open their gifts from Santa.  My what a difference two years made…….

This year will look and feel so different for us but I am so thankful and grateful for the many Christmases we had together!

What I am thankful for today

I don’t mind telling you that the past two days have been a bit of

a struggle!

It began as I was getting ready Sunday morning. As I hopped in the shower to get ready for church, I began to think about my Dad and Ned.

Tears began to fall. I struggled to put makeup on. Finally, I maintained composure and finished up.

We made it to church. Our current series is on being #ThankFULL or full of thanks.

The message began with a short video. It made me tear up! Not ugly cry but definitely a flow! Dan Lian delivered quite possibly one of the best messages on being able and what it means to thank God, even in our trials.

Here’s a short summary from my notes. I encourage you to watch online

We can be thankful.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy….

Trials and Temptations

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Testing of faith produces perseverance

Testing of our faith is good!

Testing produces the genuineness of

Faith

There is nothing more important than genuine faith

A trial reveals in whom you have your faith

Producing of perseverance…

Our resolve is being developed!

Resistance strengthens you!

As a loving Father, God what’s to teach me to carry the load….not take it from you

Finish its work….

Trial is time-sensitive.

God has got more in store for you.

You have to let the trial run its course

Allow perseverance to finish its work

God doesn’t always want to lighten the load but to strengthen you for the load!

This trial is testing my faith and testing my faith is good!

I will persevere in this trial and it will make me stronger

Future me will look back and be #ThankFULL of this trial

As we neared the end of this message, he asked us to stand and repeat the last three phrases together. Once. Twice

Through tears and a quivering voice, barely audible, I repeated all three. Thankful he didn’t ask us to repeat more than twice!

After coming home, I had the privilege to attend a beautiful celebration of life service for a dear friends’ daddy.

During the reception, I talked with my sweet cousin by marriage, Denise, to learn that my uncle wasn’t doing well.

Yesterday, I had the sweet joy and privilege of visiting him and a whole host of Reese people. We don’t do things in small numbers. We are not a small number family.

When I got home last night, I realized I had not written a #ThankFULL post for the day. I tried. The words wouldn’t come.

So what am I #ThankFULL for today? I am grateful for this journey God has me on right now. I have no clue where it’s leading or how he’s working. I just know that He is good and He is able to teach me to carry the load and rest in Him.