The Best Thirty-Six Hours

Our day began by taking Amy to Southern Manners for breakfast. Terry can’t handle the pressure and decides to order a large, fresh cinnamon roll.

After breakfast, we came home and packed our bags. Helped Amy get her car.loaded and took off in different directions. Amy heading back to school for her final hooray. Terry and I headed to Charlotte.

About four months or so ago Terry announced, ”America is playing in Charlotte and we are going. I’ve already bought tickets. Spared no expense and got us great seats.”

After checking in to the Hilton Garden Inn, we ventured out for a little snack. About two blocks up from the hotel we.saw.this French bakery and cafe, Amelias.

It certainly did not disappoint in ambiance and flavor. Food was excellent and reasonably priced for the quality.

After a little rest, we trekked back to Epicenter to check out Blackfinn. Our waitress, Jessie, took our drink order. While waiting, the manager, who we saw upon arrival came by our table. Terry started talking to him about his hat. And he asked,

”So, do I have to grow a beard like yours to wear a hat like that.”

He laughed and said, ”Yes but you want to try it on?”

Next thing I knew Terry had the hat on his head and Zach is introducing himself to us.

We decided on a couple of appetizers, fried deviled eggs and shrimp and crab dip. Both get a thumbs up. Tasty and delicious.

Jessie suggested we ride the Lynx to NoDa and go to Haberdish. Then take a Lyft from there to the concert.

I am a huge fan of public transportation in big cities. It’s the best and most efficient way to travel, in my humble opinion.

When we arrived at Haberdish, we looked over the menu but weren’t able to commit to any food, except another appetizer. This time we chose, Biscuits and Bacon Jelly.

Again, we were not disappointed in the least. Well, maybe a little disappointed that we couldn’t find room for their food. The atmosphere proved to be stellar as well and rest assured, we will make a return visit there.

Our Lyft delivered us safely to the Ovens Auditorium. We had about thirty minutes before the opening act. Terry went off to the bathroom and I sat down beside this couple.

As you know, I’m not usually lacking for words so I struck up a conversation with them. By the time Terry returned and we all were conversing we learned that he was Dale Earnhardts personal barber, Steve Ellsworth (look him up)!

Finally, it was showtime!

The opening act, Michael Tracy, out of Charlotte! To be honest, he is definitely worth a listen. I was uncertain at first but after his thirty-minute opening act, I was sold.

Then after a.thirty minute intermission,

America brought the house down. Their opening song, ”Tin Man.” Can I just interject, from start to finish, they entertained and rocked the crowd? By all appearances, it was a sold-out performance. To he honest, we had such good seats,

I couldn’t see the whole balcony.

When Terry said the seats were primo; he was being truthful. We were literally five rows from the stage and our seats were in the center!

After playing for a solid hour and a half the concert ended with ”A Horse With No Name” Absolutely the best song to end on.

Our Lyft driver came promptly and transported us back to our hotel.

This morning we decided to venture out to the Epicenter for breakfast. We chose the Red Eye Diner. A classic breakfast. Good and reasonably priced,

We left the hotel and ventured.to the Billy Graham Library

A place I’ve itched to go for years!

Again, it did not disappoint. Truthfully, it was the cream of the crop.

From the time we entered until the time of our departure, there was a quiet calming peace, indescribable.

If I gleaned nothing else, the simplicity of. the message Billy Graham always preached spoke to the heart of millions. He never took away from or added to the Gospel.message. Jesus, born of a Virgin, came.to save! We are all sinners. Today is the day of your salvation. You are not promised tomorrow. Today is the day of salvation. What a magnificent proclamation of the Gospel!

If I could sum up those thirty-six hours of our lives, I would say ”Amazing and some of the best of our married lives.”

A perfect city view from our hotel window

Oh, Well

I’m not precisely certain when Popaw began using the phrase, ”Oh, well” but it was definitely within the last few years of his life. Fortunately, Popaw retained his mental faculties, with the exception of being able to recall what he had eaten. When asked he would often respond, ”I can’t recall but I know it was good because I cleaned my plate.”

But this phrase, ”Oh, well” had multiple meanings for him. He used it when he couldn’t conjure up a response. He often used it when he would hear something he didn’t necessarily like hearing. But most often used to mean, ” It’s okay. I am satisfied.” In other words, Popaw simply took the cards he was dealt and played them out. He knew where he was going and was content until the end.

Of all the times I heard him use the phrase, these two times will stand out above the rest.

That was a hard day for me and my Mom. The call came around 9:30 am and by the time I got to The Bridge, they had him sitting in his lift chair. At first game, he looked calm. He recognized me but his speech was muffled and difficult to understand. After a few short minutes, he began fidgeting in the chair and aggressively attempting to get up. But there was a problem, he couldn’t walk. The stroke had affected his ability to walk and he couldn’t comprehend.

It took hours of sitting by his chair with my arm held up to gently nudge him back down. Over and over again, Mom and I would tell him, ”You’ve had a stroke. You can’t get up. Your legs don’t work anymore.”

Finally, the meds arrived, and once they got into his system, he was able to calm down. Once calm, his speech was clearing and his mind was less foggy. His irrational behavior had subsided. Although there were times he would want to get up and go to the bathroom. Again I would firmly explain that he had a stroke and couldn’t walk. Finally, we reached a conjuncture with him and he understood precisely what I was saying. He looked at me with a smile so soft and tender, I could’ve cried, and said, ”Oh, well.”

The following morning I stopped in briefly to check on him. Mom had gone home after a night of restless sleeping there with him. A sitter was with him until 2:00. As soon as I walked in the door, a smile spread across his face from ear to ear and he lit up at the sight of me. He beamed. ”Hey Sweetheart, it’s so good to see you.”

I leaned over, kissed him on the cheek and said, ” It’s so good to lay eyes on you this morning.”

We chatted for a few minutes then I kissed him goodbye, assuring him I would see him later in the day. Little did I know that would be our final conversation.

The sitter, as I was leaving, said, ”You must be someone really special because I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes light up the way his just did for you.”

”Not really, I’m just his granddaughter. He’s that way with all of his family. ”

Upon my return, things had gotten progressively worse and they were having to medicate him more often. I knew deep in my heart where things were heading.

The next morning there was a horrible rain and wind storm. Terry and I had to wait until 11:00 am before we could leave for Hendersonville. Popaw wasn’t any better and I knew something had to be done. (It’s a story for another time)

Finally, by 5:15, I received a call from Hospice informing me they would be coming to pick Popaw up by 6:00 and transport him to the Elizabeth House. I was alone with him when the news came to me and he was restless.

I put my hand over his heart and said, ”Popaw, the ambulance is coming to get you soon and they will be taking you to the Elizabeth House. We are taking you there so you can be made comfortable.”

He turned his eyes toward mine and said, ”Oh, well.”

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once. I knew what that ”Oh, well” meant. It is well with my soul.

”Popaw, I love you.”

”I love you back.”

Those would be the last words he would say to me!

Popaw, thank you for teaching me that life isn’t about the things, it’s about being content in all circumstances knowing that God is in complete control.

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!

All Roads Lead Somewhere

About once a week, sometimes more, Mamaw and Popaw would make treks from Brevard, NC, to Columbus, NC. They couldn’t help themselves. They had to come and visit. Honestly, it was more Mamaws begging and pleading that brought them there.

Quite often, if we weren’t traipsing through the woods with Popaw or doing something outdoors with him. He would get tired of the women’s conversation and would ask me, ”Honey, do you want to go for a ride?”

I think he often sensed my longing to get out of the house as well.

I gladly jumped in the car with him and off we’d go. Popaw loved back roads and if you’ve never been to the Columbus/ Tryon area, they are plentiful.

Our adventures took us all over Polk County. Each time we ventured out on a different road. One time our adventure took us to Fox Mountain Road. A road very unfamiliar to me and of course to Popaw as well. We drove and drove, took twists and turns. I finally said to him, ”Popaw, do you know where you’re going?”

He said, ”No, but I know which way North is and I’ll get us back home. One thing you have to remember is that all roads lead somewhere. If you know which direction is North, you can find your way back.”

Popaw grew up hunting. He always had a keen sense of direction and his Dad would often ask him to guide them out of the woods when they were coon hunting.

You know, Popaw made a good point when he said that all roads lead somewhere. It’s true, they do.

It makes me think of this poem by Robert Frost

Popaw always took the roads less traveled but he always knew which direction he wanted and needed to go and it made all the difference in his life.

What a legacy he left behind for us to follow!

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.

His Love is as Vast as the Ocean

This was written four years ago. It still holds so much truth I just decided to blog it. Now, my boys are both on dry land for a while and I am able to communicate with them.

Last week as I sat looking at the vastness of the ocean, I was reminded of several things. One, the endless love God has for me. Two, the limitless love I have for my children. Three, two of my boys are somewhere out there under the sea. I may not have knowledge of where they are, but God most certainly does.

Just like I cannot measure or even understand how much God really loves me. My children have no clue how much I adore and love them. No matter where they go or what they do, those lives are a part of me. In the same way, we are a part of God. We are His unique and wonderful creation.

We are never so far away that His love cannot reach us, even in our deepest darkest moments. He is there. He knows exactly where we are and precisely what we are doing, every moment of every day. Knowing this is sometimes my greatest solace when praying for Gods complete protection for all of my children, but especially for the two, I cannot communicate with on a regular basis.

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.

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.

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.”