The power of music: using your giftedness for His glory

When I was little, I always loved to hear my Mom sing. Many folks have said, “she has the voice of an angel” or “she sounds like Julie Andrews”. From as far back as I can remember, she sang. She sang in the choir, sang solos and then sang with an ensemble group while we lived in Columbus, NC and then sang with DayStar, the group that Ned was instrumental in starting.

There are a few specific songs, over the years, that really standout when I think about her singing. The first is a medley of “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” and “It took a miracle”. Now, the first song is probably the more familiar song. The chorus line is “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full is his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace”. This song in particularly deals with the depravity of the weary soul and the recognition that Gods word will not fail and as we learn to gaze upon Him, the things we hold onto will becomes less important as He becomes more important.

The other song may not be as familiar. The first verse of the song and chorus are as follows, “My Father is omnipotent and that you can’t deny. A God of might and miracles ”tis written in the sky. It took a miracle to put the the stars in place. It took a miracle to hang the world in space: But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole, it took a miracle of love and grace”. This song references the almighty power of God. Recognizing He is the creative genius behind everything in this world but also that the His greatest miracle is birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus because that is how our souls are cleansed and set free.

By putting these two songs into a medley, it shows our deepest human needs are met when we rely and trust fix our gaze upon Him. When we do this, we see His might, His power and we know that it truly took a miracle of love and completely underserved grace to set our souls free.

You see, my Mom would need to know and understand these things while she was walking the journey of Melanoma with my dad. She would need these truths to carry her through. She would need these truths to rear three children, two of them rebels. She would need these truths to help administer care to her parents and she desperately needed the truth of these two great Hymns to get her through the past two years.

There is another song, that sticks in my head every time I think of Mom singing. It is “He’s Been Faithful”.Lyrics here. This was a song DayStar had in their program. Mom would open the song by talking about how she had learned God’s faithfulness through the loss of my dad. Again, if you look at the song as whole, it relates specifically to realizing that while we will go through difficulties in our lives His faithfulness to us is always there. He is always there. She has needed the truth of these words over the past three months, like never before. She has needed to see Jesus’ love and faithfulness. Guess what? She has. So have I. I have seen it through the deep love of cherished friends. Friends who go the extra mile for her. I have seen it on full display from Pastor Steve, Wally and precious Jimmy Cobb, who visits my Popaw every week. Yes indeed, she has experienced this firsthand and I have had the privilege of watching it unfold.

Music is powerful. It is effective and it touches and reaches places of the heart that mere words cannot. I am so thankful that God gifted Mom with such an extravagant gift and I’m grateful she used it for His glory. Through the songs she has sung over the years, I see the faithfulness of God in her life. Thank you, Mom, you’re a priceless treasure and a true gift. Happy birthday.

An Unforgettable Life

I always say that when you believe in God, there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything is ordered and ordained by God, including discovering my Senior writing project from 1987. I found it yesterday and I know that it’s what I am suppose to share with you today.

A little back story before I get to the rewriting my story from 1987. I dearly love my Mom. She and I are not what some mothers and daughters are. We are not besties. We never have been. She always desired to be my best friend but we have always been vastly different. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not close. I would do anything for my Mom and she would do the same for me. I have a vivid memory. It’s scary sometimes. I remember vividly when my Mom was pregnant with my brother and when my dad died. I remember hearing her cry at night, when she thought I was sleeping. I felt her grief and agony when Daddy died. I had to be strong. I had to be brave. I had to hide my tears because I knew my tears would bring her more grief.

Doing this project during my Senior year of high school, really helped me express and release a lot of feelings I harbored and stuffed over the years. While this did not bring ultimate healing for my heartbreak over losing my Dad, it helped start the process.

I am now 49 years old, I turned in the final draft on May 18, 1987.

An Unforgettable Life

By Kelly Reese

I can remember back thirteen years ago when I was carrying my third child.  Many sleepless and restless nights, I lay crying for fear of my baby’s birth and my husband’s death.  Yes, it is still very clear in my mind.

When I first felt the flutters in my stomach, I ignored them.  Then the weeks and months passed, and the fluttering was still there.  My mother said, “Ann, you are crazy if you think that you are pregnant.  There is no way.  You are just overworked and tired from Mack’s illness.”  So I decided that she was right, until I went to the doctor.

The doctor informed me that I was over three months pregnant.  I was terrified.  “What will I tell Mack?  What will he say?” were my thoughts.  I hoped that it was just a dream, but it wasn’t.  When I told Mack the news, I wept frantically.  He put his strong arms around me and looked at me with his big blue eyes and said, “Don’t worry, God will take care of us.  God has given us a gift.  He has a purpose for this baby.”  His reassurance and understanding gave me temporary relief; however, I was still scared to death.  I was more frightened my husband would die before the baby was born.

For three months I cried, until I finally accepted the fact that this baby was coming regardless of what I wanted or how I felt.  Mack was always supportive, although his condition worsened.  The girls helped as much as they could.

My oldest daughter, Kelly, was six at the time.  She knew that her father was dying and seemed to understand why.  In fact, sometimes I think she understood more than I gave her credit.  Maybe she understood even more than I did.

At the end of the nine months, the baby finally arrived and Mack was still alive.  The night before David’s birth was restless and uncomfortable.  I knew the baby wasn’t going to wait much longer.  It was almost as if he were saying, “Mommy, it’s time for me to live in this world, but I’m scared.”  The next morning I had to go to the doctor. Immediately, he sent me to the hospital.  That afternoon, June 23, 1975 fireworks could have exploded, even though, it was the 4th of July, as excitement and jubilation filled the room.

After cleaning the baby, the doctor brought him to me.  I asked, “What is it?”  The doctor refused my plea and handed my the baby wrapped in a blanket.  “Find out for yourself, ” he said.  With Mack by my side, I carefully unwrapped the small bundle of joy, and to my great surprise it was a little boy.  I cautiously glanced at Mack, who stood with tears in his eyes, as he said, “I told you God had a plan.  I may die before morning, but at least I know I have a son.”  His joy in trusting God made me feel ashamed of my reactions before David’s birth, and I began to cry.  Then I looked at the baby, and he looked at me with glowing blue eyes as if he were saying, “Mommy, I know how you felt, but you love me now.”  And I did love that miracle in my arms.

The months passed quickly and David grew strong and healthy as Mack grew weak and frail.  David’s birth brought such joy into our lives along with many changes.  The girls helped me take care of him and Mack as much as they could.

Mack became weaker and weaker.  The doctors knew his time was drawing near.  But Mack wouldn’t give up without a fight for his life.  He knew that he couldn’t change the circumstances or make them go away, but he refused to give into death.

Seven weeks before his death we were taking a trip to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.  After arriving, Mack’s legs began to get weak.  By the time the nurse arrived to take him to his room, he was paralyzed.  They kept him in Winston-Salem for the next week; then upon his request, moved him to Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville.

I spent many hours traveling back and forth to the hospital, taking the children at least five times a week to visit him.  In fact the visited him the night before he died.  Evidently he knew he wouldn’t see them any more because he told the children how much he loved them.

The next morning I left early for the hospital.  When I arrived, I knew that it wasn’t going to long, especially when I heard Mack saying things that did make sense.  Then with those radiant blue eyes he looked at me and said, “I hope that one day they will find a cure, but it won’t be while I’m alive.  I love you, Ann.”

Mack died on April 5, 1976; he was thirty-six year old.  David was nine months old. Later in the day,  I thought, “Lord, I’m too young to be widowed and left with three small children.”  Then I remembered what Mack told me, “With faith in God, miracles can happen.” I turned around teary-eyed and watched my little miracle sleeping soundly in his crib, knowing that my husband was right.

After two years I remarried; but since the beginning of my last pregnancy, I have had an unforgettable life

Give me a few days to gather my thoughts and I will share what I had to say about the man who raised me and I call “Unforgettable”

Learning about the Good Shepherd

I had a plan to write a New Year’s blog which was obviously interrupted. That’s the thing I’ve learned, sometimes God stops me. He puts ideas and thoughs on hold or changes the direction of my writing entirely.

As 2017 came to a close, I was reminded of how it began. Laughter and joyous celebration. The anticipation of a new year. The thankfulness in our hearts because Ned was doing well and looking forward to sharing another year with him.

As we moved into February, I  felt the spirit of God working and moving in our lives. During this time, I received an unexpected text from a dear One asking me to pray about starting a Bible Study with her.  I didn’t need time to think or pray about whether this was God’s will or desire.  I had already been praying for a year and a half for God to open up the doors for a Bible Study.

In March we began our study with Finding I Am by Lysa TerKeurst. In this study, like the title suggests, we were encouraged to find and explore the I Am statements that Jesus makes about himself through the Gospel of John.

The most memorable declaraione for me,personally, is the following:

I am the good shepherd .

John 10: 11-18 New International Version (NIV)

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

It reminds me of my deep need for a shepherd. One who protects me from danger. One who looks for me if I lose my way. One who calls my name and I hear his voice and I know Him and He knows me. Most importantly one who is willing to sacrifice His life for me. I am just a sheep in desperate need of shepherd.

It’s no coincidence that at the time we were studying this particular statement that Ned’s condition would begin to turn iffy. His breathing quickly becoming more labored. CAT scan would reveal swollen lymph nodes. Bronchoscopy and biopsy confirms cancer has returned. His fear. Mom’s fear. Our greatest fear confirmed. Our hopes quickly dashed. Disappointment set in. But wait! There is hope. Hope is always there. Why? Because Jesus always there. He is our Good Shepherd and He will never leave us, even in the most trying and difficult of days.

A few days before Ned’s CAT scan would reveal the swollen lymph nodes, Alex graduated from Blue Ridge Community College with his Associates degree. Mom and Ned were able to be there to celebrate with him. Ned was complaining o shortness of breath but still managed to walk a mile to watch Alex graduate. The blessing and joy of being there for Alex, outweighed any struggles he was having that day, Again, the Good Shepherd providing for his sheep.

At the close of May, our daughter Amy would make conference for WCU Track & Field . Mom and Ned were unable to attend this event. However, Terry and I were able to go for the two-day event and watch as Amy finished 9th in Hammer Throw, 7th in Shot Put, 8th in Discus and Javelin Throw, We had a more cause to celebrate and see how Jesus was graciously caring for us.

The molecular testing on Ned’s biopsy showed that he was. “Great candidate” for the drug Keytruda. His efficiency PDL-1 rating was 90% indicating the overall response of his cancer to the drug would be favorable. The overall side effects were substantially fewer, a lot less than his previous chemotherapy treatments. Overall response of current patients using the drug e was also favorable.. Obviously there were risks and they were clearly and audibly disclosed. I sat in the office with Ned as Kate Kennedy, Dr. Anthony’s P.A., discussed them. The percentage of severe risks were extremely low, The drug, by all appearances, would be a perfect match for him. On June 13th I sat with him while his first treatment was administered. He was excited at the possibility of this new treatment being just right for him.

It wouldn’t take but a few days before Ned developed a rash and intensified cough. Side effects, common ones, from Keytruda. Fortunately, the initial dose of prednisone cleared his rash. It didn’t do much for the cough. After the second round the rash returned and the cough remained. It was irritating and uncontrollable at times. There would be random outbursts. Periods of lull but nothing completely diminishing the cough. This time they gave him more stronger dose of steroids and added some cough suppressants. The cough becoming a total nuisance began causing pain in his right side and back. But it was too early in the ballgame to make a judgement call on the effectiveness of the Keytruda. We all felt highly confident in the advice and assessments given from. Dr. Anthony and Kate. We knew Ned was in good hands. Another wonderful provision from our Good Shepherd.

The day after Ned’s third round of Keytruda, Alex went over the visit. He was leaving for college on Friday. He came home and said, “Mom, Papaw is pitiful. I’ve never seen him so weak. Something is right”. I told him it was probably just due to the treatment from the previous day and I would check on him the next day.

Wednesday was a better day. I didn’t get too worked up. He said he just felt tired and if he could get rid of that “stinking aggravating cough, he would feel better”.

I decided to start researching every medication and supplement he was currently taking. Looking at all the common and non-common side effects. Dang! Getting that involved in drugs and their side effects will cause you to question the value of medication.

On Friday, Alex and Amy both went to visit before Alex’s departure. They came home saying , “Mom, Papaw isn’t well. He’s so weak he struggles to get out of his chair.” Now, one thing to understand about my kids is they’re not the melodramatic type. If anything they are fairly low key and don’t get worked up quickly. So, I knew it wasn’t good,

We decided to go by on Saturday before we took Amy to school, just to check on him. He said he felt a little better but I wasn’t convinced. He looked terrible. His side and back were in excruciating pain. He wasn’t able to sleep in his bed. He found more comfort on his chair or the couch. When we got ready to leave with Amy, she bent down to give him a kiss. That wasn’t good enough for him. He said, “Hang on, I’m getting up so I can hug you before you leave.” At that moment, when I watched how challenging it was for him to stand, I knew things were on a downward slope. This just wasn’t our Ned or Papaw.

Due to taking kids back to back days to college, Terry and I already decided to forgo driving to Greenville to church. We went out for a celebratory breakfast and predetermined to go check on Ned. Before we got to our breakfast destination I got a picture test from Mom. Ned was sitting slouched over at the table. Arms crossed and head down. Caption read: He tried to come sit and take his meds.

As soon as we get there, their dear friends are already there checking in. They had seen a substantial decline since Thursday. They were concerned. We were all concerned. Ned was being stubborn and refusing to let Mom call the doctor.

Did I tell you that Ned met his match for stubbornness when he crossed paths with me? If not, he did! I didn’t just insist he call the doctor. I called for him. With him in the background saying, ” I don’t know why you’re bothering to call. There’s nothing they can do.”

Dr Anthony was quite perplexed when I shared with him the radical decline. He tried to get Ned to go to the ER. Ned convinced him that he didn’t need to go and would be ok until he saw him the next day. Reluctantly, Dr Anthony agreed.

Thus began the poking and prodding to find the cause. After researching Ned’s symptoms and side effects Keytruda as well lab results. It was discovered that Ned’s body was not tolerating the Keytruda and it was creating an adrenal insufficiency.

Obviously, Keytruda would be stopped and full intent to go back on chemo drug Alimta. However, the symptoms needed to be managed first. The only problem with symptom management was the need for other drugs. The need for other drugs constituted various other side effects. Yet, hope remained.

A bone scan revealed 3 distinctive spots not present during a previous bone scan. The cancer was now metastatic and would need to be addressed sooner rather than later. However, Ned’s body was not strong enough for treatment due to the side effects from Keytruda. Keep in mind the side effects Ned had were not common. Only a very small percentage of patients develop these issues. Like the rarity and uniqueness Ned’s cancer, his body reacted to drugs the same way.

On September 13, Kristi, my sister would call and FaceTime me to show me how pitiful he was. He had barely talked, wasn’t eating, couldn’t get comfortable. He and mom sitting on the couch. He was slumped over and she was sitting with her arm around his slumped shoulders. I told Kristi that I was calling the doctor.

This call would result in EMS coming to get him. He would not return home. Well, not his earthly home.

At some point, God will probably open my mouth to share about the last 6 weeks of his life but many parts of that story are still raw and painful. Suffice to say, he was blessed with good care everywhere he was taken. Jesus, the Good Shepherd continuing to provide.

On October 29, God called him home and he gladly went. His body was tired. His fight was long and hard. We Had hooked beyond all hope that God will heal him here on earth. God said, “No! His work is done here and I want him with me”.

All during and through Neds illness and death our family witnessed a huge outpouring of deep love and support from family, friends and former co-workers. Again, The Good Shepherd giving us all we need. Protection. Food. Love. Comfort. Sacrifice.

The key thing about Jesus, The Good Shepherd, is that he was willing to lay his life down for yours. When dark shadows refuse to reveal light. When the tests are screaming bad news. When your bank account is dry. When your hope runs on empty. When you feel like you can’t go on. Remember. Jesus paid it all. He felt everything you are feeling. He’s the only one who fully knows and understands. Because of the high price he paid for us, He is our hope. He is our joy. He is our Good Shepherd, if we’ve put our hope and trust in Him by inviting Him into our hearts.

Look how David so eloquently describes the Lord as his Shepherd.

In closing, 2017 will go down in the yearbook as one of the most difficult years on record for me and for my family.  However, even through the most challenging times, the many tears we cried, watching our loved one lose his life, Jesus was and continues to be our constant source of strength and hope.

A big thank you to all who continue to read my blog.  I’m not sure where 2018 will take us, but I know that God already has it mapped out.  As He leads, I will continue to write.

Alex’s friend Derek: A life that made a difference!

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. ”

“Ok. Glad to know you’re safe” I replied.

He said, “I think the accident just happened and if I had not stopped by the house to change clothes, I might have been part of it.”

He was headed out to dinner with friends and had been at work. Not wanting to wear his work clothes, had stopped by the house for a quick change.

I called Amy to make sure she wasn’t involved. Fortunately, she was no where near Kanuga Road. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home.

I called Terry to tell him a bad accident had happened and traffic was diverted. As soon as I got out of the car, at our house, I heard MAMA whirling above. At that moment, I said to Terry, “Dude, this is not good. I hear MAMA! We need to pray for the people involved!

Everyone arrived home safely and the next morning, I woke up with the accident on my mind. There was a feeling of uneasiness about it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I drank my coffee and finished my Bible Study. Then I began to research about the accident. Here’s what I found Wreck on Kanuga. As I read and listened to the accident report. I began to well-up with tears. The teenager, Derek, wasn’t doing anything wrong. He had left work and was heading to get gas before going home.

I didn’t know this family or the young man, or so I thought. I just knew my heart was in shambles for this family.

I remember telling Terry when he got up how heavy my heat was for the Miller family. I told him I couldn’t imagine what his parents were going through.

I went to get ready and suddenly, while blow drying my hair, like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Derek is Alex’s friend from work. Derek is the one Alex eats out with all the time. Derek is the young man I met one night while I was out having dinner with a friend and Alex and his friends were eating there too.

By the time I was finished getting ready, Alex was up and knew that his friend had been killed the night before.

Talk about a somber moment. He said, “Mom, I was most likely the last person to talk to Derek! He finished his shift, a little before me and asked if I wanted to go out and eat. I told him I already had plans for that evening but we could go out after all the next day because we were both scheduled to work.”

Alex was heartbroken. Devastated. He knew that God had spared him because of his couple of delays. He was shocked and dismayed. Shaken badly.

There was nothing that I could do or say to take away the deep pain my child’s heart was feeling. Now, not only was my heart breaking for the family, my heart hurt deeply for my son.

Over the next few days, I observed as Alex processed his grief. He didn’t sit around and wallow in his grief. He went to the Millers. He spent hours with Derrick’s Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. “family. He grieved with them.

As the time approached for the memorial service, Alex told me that he felt compelled to speak on Derricks behalf. So, he had taken the liberty of calling Derricks brother, Colby, and mentioning it to him. The family was elated because they had been praying that one of Derek’s friends would speak.

We watched as Alex prepared his testimony about Derek We listened as he read us what he was going to say. Although we didn’t know the family, personally, we went to the service to support our boy.

As he concluded his Eulogy, I will never forget what he said about his friend. “The thing that I am going to miss most about Derek is seeing Jesus live in him!”

It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you’re in, remember the impact you can have on another’s life. This young man was 17 years old and he had an impact on his friends and others. They noted and saw the difference that Jesus made in him.

It’s not about a degree or pedigree. It’s about the difference that Jesus makes when He’s invited to come into our lives. It’s not about impacting the world. It’s about impacting those that God puts in your path. He can use you, just like he used Derek in Alex’s life.

Whole and Beautiful

At times over the past few weeks, I’ve felt a certain disconnect. So much so, after being around my family the other evening, I called my friend to talk it over with her.

She said, “It’s very normal. You’ve been through a lot of emotional upheaval the past few weeks. It’s your way of coping Its ok. Just know that it won’t last!”

Sometimes, I would prefer if my friends were wrong. But then again, that’s why I call the trusted and true because they know.

The above conversation took place on Wednesday evening. By Thursday morning, I was a mess.

Terry said, “What’s wrong! Why are you crying?”

Between sobs I said, “I miss him.”

“I know. I miss him too. I miss my Mom and Dad too. It’s ok to cry. ”

After I dried up, I recalled the conversation from a few nights before with my cousin, Greg.

It was Monday. The evening before my Uncle Howard passed.

Standing by my car with my door ajar. Greg said, “There’s something you need to know. I need to tell you”

My ears were perked and ready.

“On Saturday evening, Dad was standing, in his own strength. Suddenly he fell back into my arms and stopped breathing. I just knew it was the end. I held him for a few minutes. He began breathing again. I got him back into bed. Then he sat straight up and said, ‘I don’t know why God brought me back.’ Greg was confused at his comment and questioned him further. Uncle Howard responded, ‘I went to heaven. I saw Mack (my Daddy) and Linda (their sister) and they were beautiful. I just don’t know why God sent me back'”

Fighting to keep composure to drive home, I looked at Greg and said, “I know because somebody needed to hear this.”

Maybe it was me! Maybe I needed confirmation that all those who’ve gone before me have been made whole and beautiful. Maybe you need the same confirmation. Maybe someone who’s dying needs to hear, if they’ve given their heart to Christ, they will be made whole and beautiful. I don’t know who needs to hear it but someone surely does and maybe it’s just me!

The influence of a life well-lived

Some days are just a little harder than others. It’s funny how, even after all this time, I still see myself as the little girl climbing on your lap to sit. I can almost remember the smell of your skin.

As I watch my little, well not so little, girl with her daddy, I wonder. Would you and I have been so close? Would I look at you with adoration? Would you have been my hero?

I would hope so! I think it’s quite possible. Yet, I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know.

In the seven short years I knew you, the overall impact of you and the legacy you left behind, impacts me on a daily basis.

I think of your sure and steady faith. I think of how you knew and believed God for all things, not just some things and not just the good. I think of how strong you were! Most of all I think of your smile and the joy that illuminated your face, even on your hardest and most difficult days.

When I remember these attributes of your character, it gives me hope to carry on. It gives me the ability to push through the hard days and know that joy awaits me! It gives me hope and a steadfast endurance.

I simply stand amazed that after 41 years, your life influences and impacts mine.

God blessed me with you!

Happy 78th birthday Daddy!

Love your little girl!

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.

18….5….8

I’m not giving measurements here I’m proving a point. The point being. I wasn’t meant to be there!

Be where, you ask?

Be at the bedside of Ned, my dad, the night he died.

At the midnight hour on October 29, my sister and I left the Elizabeth House. Ned was snoring when we left. Our brother, David, was staying in the room with him, while Mom and her friend Norma slept outside the room.

Exhaustion overwhelmed me on the 10 minute drive home. Stepping into my house, I knew I had to get in the bed.

In typical fashion, I plugged my phone up! It stays in my kitchen. I always keep it on vibrate. I detest the ringtone and have trained my ears to hear the moan.

Terry’s phone sleeps beside mine and his irritating ringer is generally always on.

Amy was also home with us that evening and she sleeps with her phone, like most teenagers do!

In other words, a call should be heard. Right?

Wrong!!!

At 2:30 AM, drowsy Amy comes into our bedroom, crosses in front of the bed, and over to her dad’s side and starts chanting, “Mom, Mom you need to wake up. You have a phone call”. She hands me her phone and the first thing I do is hit the end call button! (That’s how out of it I was.). I hand her the phone back and say call back.

After a couple of rings, my brother answers and says, “Sissy, he’s gone.” He can’t talk and hands the phone to my sister who says, “We’ve been trying to call you. Daddy died at 2:00! We’ve called the funeral home and they’ll be here to get his body in about 30 minutes. Do you want to come see him before they take him?”

I blurted out a quick and emphatic, “No! I said goodbye earlier and he was breathing. I don’t care to come.”

Upon hanging up, I tried laying back down but the exhaustion had subsided into mountains of tears. I knew Terry needed sleep and if I kept crying, he wouldn’t get any. So, I got up!

Tears streamed down my face. It was the ugly cry. I fought back the urge to thrust myself to the ground and scream. (Fully aware that the entire household would get no sleep if I did)

Between sobs, God reminded me of two very important things.

First, at the very beginning of Ned’s 19 month journey, I had asked God for a few very specific things. One that He would show me when to go and when not to go! Two that I would go with the right attitude and heart and never, ever go based on guilt. Three that He would always get me there right on time, every time!

Second He reminded me of the anger and frustration I felt towards my Mom after my biological Daddy died. I saw him the night before his death. I was not allowed to go to his funeral. I remained embittered with rage, directed at Mom, for years because she didn’t allow me to go. She would always say, “I didn’t want you to remember him that way. I wanted your last memory of him to be a live memory.

Just then it dawned on me, God had orchestrated this whole thing, 41 years ago. He knew I didn’t need to see either Dad dead but alive. He knew my last memory of both should bring me joy! Joy that the struggle had ended and “He (Jesus) will swallow up death in victory” Isaiah 25:8

The numbers above represent the number of calls made between 1:00AM and 2:30AM on Sunday October 29, 2017.

My phone was called 18 times. Terry’s phone was called 5! Like afore mentioned, Terry’s annoying ringer is usually on. However, because he had been with me at the Elizabeth House, it was turned off. Amy’s phone, which sleeps on her pillow was called 8 times before it woke her up!

Was I suppose to be there?!! Absolutely, positively NOT!

I trusted God to take me and without fail or falter, He did. Every time and right on time. It was never his intention or plan to have me there when Ned took his last breath. Just as it was never his intention or plan for me to see my daddy lying dead in a casket.

The lesson I learned is that when I ask God and believe that He is good to keep his word, He will not disappoint or fail me. Never!!!!

My Red Cross Experience

One thing I feared most was that one or both of my boys would be unreachable if something happened to Ned, or any of us for that matter.

I feared and dreaded the “red tape” I might endure with the American Red Cross. I never had reason to contact them.

On Wednesday, October 25th, that changed. Facing the reality of the depravity of Ned’s illness, I could no longer hesitate.

I was given instructions and the number to call from a lady at the Elizabeth House. She informed me that it may take a little time giving the information but assured me the process was easy.

The initial call consisted of giving information about Matthew. It was easy. After about two hours, our nurse Jen, told me she had talked with Red Cross to validate the information about Ned’s condition. Within 8 hours, I received a call from Diane. She would be managing my case.

She informed me that if I had not heard anything within 8 hours to call her back. I did. She knew Matthews boat had been notified. However, we had gotten no response. So, she put out another plea.

The next day she called and assured me the boat had received notification. She said, “Hopefully, you will hear something from Matthew soon! Please let me know the minute you hear anything.”

Later in the evening, a call came through. I knew immediately it was Matthew. Our connection wasn’t ideal; but, I was able to tell him his Papaw was still alive. Our call was dropped.

Upon returning to the Elizabeth House, after my brief conversation with Matthew, I found out that he had been able to talk to Ned and Mom. What a blessing.

I immediately called Diane. She was thrilled to know we had talked with Matthew. I thanked her profusely.

A few minutes later, I get another call from the Red Cross, informing me that if Ned dies, I am required to open up a new case.

In the wee hours on Sunday, October 29, I received the call about Ned’s passing. Needless to say, sleep was not on the radar after that call. I cried. I prayed. I cried more. Then at 3:45 AM, I once again called the American Red Cross, only this time I had to open two case files, one for each of the boys. Although, I could call and talk with Ryan directly the proper channels have to met for emergency leave. It’s the process.

Several hours later, Diane called. She wanted me to know that she had sent notification to both commands.

The following day, she called again. Just checking to see if I had heard from either boy. Fortunately, later in the day, I was able to inform her Ryan had been granted leave. He would be home.

Tuesday came and went. Wednesday morning she called again. She said, “I have verification that command received the message but they haven’t replied.” I explained that I was very aware of Matthew’s importance on his boat and also aware he may not get to come home.

I told her several times how instrumental she was and how her continual communication with me was much appreciated. I cried while thanking her for going the extra mile for me.

Then she said, “I normally don’t share my story but I will share with you. The reason I became a volunteer is because I had the same situation happen to me. My son was deployed when my father died. I called the ARC. They didn’t follow-up. I even held up my dads funeral for 10 days waiting to hear from him, which caused issues with other family members. When I finally received notification, I was told that he was on special assignment and they could not even deliver the news to him, much less allow him to come home. Due to the lack of communication, I was determined not to allow this to happen to other families.”

No wonder she was so remarkable communicative, She knew. She understood. Instead of being angry and complaining about the system that failed her, she did something about it.

But her story continues.

Diane is a Gold Star mom. She has buried one son. Diane has another son who was shot at Fort Hood in 2009. She has not just sat around mourning the loss of one son and the substantial damage to another. She gives and she gives. She goes way beyond the call of duty. She’s just a volunteer.

Diane’s story is only one of many whose families have lost loved ones fighting for our freedom. This family, like so many others, is the reason we celebrate Memorial Day. These men and women have placed their wants, desires and needs aside to defend and protect the United States of America. Let’s say to the families how much we appreciate them for supporting their loved ones decision to become part of something bigger than themselves. Just like Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends” For years and even now men and women have been called to give up their lives for our freedom.

The Highest of Highs and the Lowest of Lows

Talk about a flurry of emotions yesterday. This one picture brought back everything from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

The day was Friday October 9, 2015. Early that morning I received a phone call from my friend Ashley. She was delivering the news we all knew but didn’t want to hear. There was nothing more the doctors could do for our friend Gary. His time on earth was drawing to a close.

I couldn’t even get mascara on because every time I started tears would flow. It was difficult to get ready that morning. I had to pick myself up because I had a mission. I had to go find shoes for Amy.

I collected my thoughts and got myself together. Combed every shoe store and department in Spartanburg, until I finally found a pair of shoes Amy agreed to! The funny part is that after 2 1/2 hours of shopping, the shoes didn’t work and we ended up returning them.

Anyway, I left myself time to run by the hospital to see Gary. It was a sad day for all of us! We had all hoped beyond all hope that he would recover.

That evening, Amy was crowned Homecoming Queen. I remember thinking, “Wow, God! Only you could take the blow off my otherwise hard day.”

Now, two years later that picture represents so much more. Truthfully, it was about the time that Ned started to cough. Chances are the lung cancer was already there. We just didn’t know it.

Amy was so eager to get out of her dress that Mom and Ned missed the photo-op with the dress and crown. Graciously, she put the crown back on but wasn’t about to change her clothes. The best part and I didn’t even catch it until yesterday was that she had her “Nitro” shirt on. This shirt was their HHS FCA shirts. Oddly enough, Nitro is the name Terry gave Ned years ago.

The urban dictionary defines Nitro the following way:

Ask: Describes a person, place or thing as being unequivocally, quintessentially spectacular and dumbfounding.

Without a doubt he has lived up to his name. He is very memorable. If you’ve ever met him; you’ll never forget him and he is definitely one of those folks who can leave you leave you astonished and amazed. You never quite know what he will say or what he will do!

I am just reminded by this picture how much can happen in the course of two years. It reminds me to not take things or people for granted. It reminds me that relationships are much more important that things. It also reminds me that even on the darkest of days, there is always light, hope and joy!