The Empty Chair

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our family and friends.

Last year I began writing this and today God allowed me to finish it. I believe He reserved it in particularly for this day and this year. I know the empty chair well. We have been acquainted for many years and while I still feel it’s emptiness in various forms. I know many of you have felt it too. And if you haven’t already you will. Here’s what the empty chair has taught me.

The Empty Chair

Do you have an empty chair this year? Maybe a loved one is no longer there. Maybe a child is unable to come home. Maybe a spouse has left for greener pastures. Maybe you have to share children with the other parent. Whatever the reason, the chair that was once filled with the presence of a physical body now is empty.

While laughter and endless chatter may fill the room, the emptiness of the chair looms. Regardless of whether you’re participating in the company of others, you still feel it’s emptiness. You can’t shake the feeling of longing for the chair to be filled. Not filled by another, but filled with the one who is gone.

The truth is the empty chair is hard, no matter if it’s temporary or permanent, it’s a reminder of what was and is no longer. Time changes things. It’s inevitable. But how we react to or view the empty chair is our choice.

It’s okay to feel the emptiness left by the missing one but it’s not okay to allow the weight of the emptiness to steal the joy of being with those who are still present. You see, if you mourn too much for the empty chair you miss being present with those who are still with you. And who knows but God who may vacate another chair next year.

Our Story Continued…. First Official Date

I don’t think I’ll soon forget our first official date. It happened about two weeks after we met.

I was excited and nervous all at the same time. I wasn’t sure where we were going but I knew that I had to do one of the following.

  • If I ordered a big plate of food, I needed to eat all of it
  • Or I could order a salad and eat all of it

Here’s why I knew this. Prior to our official first date, Terry had already shared with me about things that bothered him about taking women out was wasting food. He didn’t care as much about the cost as the wastefulness. And if I haven’t clearly established, Terry loves to eat and is not wasteful. In fact, he’s more like a human garbage disposal. (Oh, to be this way and maintain such a great boyish figure).

And just a side note: Our son Alex is just like him!

Anyway, he picked me up and told me we were going to Applebee’s So, back in the day, it was the place to go. Besides, I think it was a test to see what I would order and how much I would eat. (He didn’t realize that my maiden name “Reese” is synonymous with food. We Reese people can throw down)

Anyway, because Applebee’s was the happening place, back in the day, we had to wait about 40 minutes to be seated. Once we were seated, Terry ordered an appetizer. Couldn’t tell you what it was but I certainly helped him eat it. I don’t recall what we ordered for our dinner but I do know that I didn’t order a cheap meal and I remember him saying, “Are you going to eat all of that?”

I told him I would give it my best shot. Little did he know that his comment inspired me to eat my entire plateful.

Our plates were empty when we were offered dessert, I opted for the brownie for us to share. Needless to say, I held my own with the brownie too!

Shocked and awed by the end of dinner, he proclaimed, “Well, I see you can eat!”

Apparently, it didn’t scare him off because he continued to take me out and eventually asked me to marry him. 😊

For more of our story start here: How we met

The Stolen Magazine

Do you know you don’t have to show children how to misbehave or be selfish? It’s embedded in their thinking as soon as they’re born. Yes, really!

I certainly was no exception, just ask my Mama. She’ll tell you! I was horribly difficult and hard. Full of sass and of myself, just ask her. If she tells you differently, she’s just trying to be nice and she’s not telling the truth.

I mean any child who would hold their breath until they pass out has issues and I certainly had my share and in truth, I still do.

Anyway, I vividly remember going to the drug store in downtown Brevard one afternoon. I cannot remember why we went, I just remember the magazine rack was calling me the minute I walked in. I was a huge fan of Sesame Street and there it was staring me right in the face. A Sesame Street magazine. Full of entertaining articles and games. It beckoned me. I took it off the shelf and decided that I needed to take it home with me. Sadly, Mom didn’t agree and told me to put it back. It wasn’t that easy. In my mind, it was already going home with me and so I clung to it for dear life as Meanwhile, Mom kept telling me to put it back.

Then I did the unthinkable, she turned her back and I slid the magazine under my shirt. Oh, I knew what I was doing was wrong but I was going to have that magazine one way or the other. If she wouldn’t buy it, I would take it. Besides, they had several and wouldn’t miss just one.

Surprisingly, I made it all the way home with the magazine. I carefully placed it on the floorboard. After we got home, I ventured back out to the car to retrieve my magazine. Apparently, Mom thought I was acting slightly sneaky or sly and so she came out the door just in time to see me with my stolen magazine. She was mortified, to put it mildly.

“Kelly Annette, is that the magazine from the Drug Store?” (You always know when the full name comes out it’s never going to end well)

“Yes.”

“I didn’t buy it for you which means you stole it. You took something that didn’t belong to you. I am so disappointed in you.”

She fumed a bit more and then finally said, “You and I are going right back to the Drug Store and you are going to take the magazine back and apologize for taking it.”

I think I have purposefully forgotten the ride back to the Drug Store, probably a good thing.

Mom was so embarrassed by my behavior but she marched me right back into the store and then she made me stand there and notify the sales clerk of my wrongdoing. Now, I was the one who felt embarrassed. I knew I had done wrong when I did it but now I had to come face to face with my crime and it didn’t feel good.

Needless to say, I learned my lesson about shoplifting.

When I think back on that day, I am reminded of a few things.

First, I wanted something so badly I took matters into my own hands and I did something wrong to get something I wanted. I justified my actions by reasoning that one wouldn’t be missed. And it makes me wonder, how many times since then I’ve tried to justify my actions or behavior.

Secondly, Mom made me take responsibility for my actions. Did I want to apologize and take it back? Not at first, I really wanted to keep it even though. I knew it was wrong. But because Mom insisted that I do the right thing, I had to take responsibility for myself. At the time, it may not have seemed like a big deal but later in life, I’ve had many opportunities to take responsibility and ask for mercy. I also learned there’s more shame in not taking ownership of bad choices than admitting my mistakes.

Third, I learned a valuable lesson in doing the right thing even when it hurts. Initially, I didn’t feel remorse for taking the magazine. In fact, my apology and admission of a crime, at the time, was very forced and not heartfelt. However, over time, I did feel sorry for taking the magazine. I began to realize the predicament I had caused Mom and myself. It took a long time for her to trust me in a store again and I don’t know if she ever took me back to the Drug Store again.

In truth, if Mom had not made me do the right thing, I don’t know if I would strive to do the right thing today. Parents, teach your children. Train them to take responsibility for their actions. Teach them hard lessons but love them through it.

Forgiveness

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to be part of The Women’s Conference at NewSpring.

I didn’t go with any big expectations. I only expected that God would meet people at the point of their deepest need. To be honest, I’m not really one of those women who get a big charge out of weekends like these. Maybe it’s because when I was younger and we had these weekend retreats/conferences, and I would get on such a mountain top ride only to be letdown when Monday rolled around because life went back to the same old ways and patterns. Aside from that it’s been so long since I’ve been to one of these events, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. That being said,

When you don’t go in with false expectations chances are you won’t be disappointed.

While much of what Lysa had to share came from her book, It’s Not Suppose To Be This Way there were many things she said and illustrations she used which were not in her book.

Side note: If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. It is a story all of us can find a connection with because we all have things that don’t got according to our plans, hopes or dreams! (I would offer to share my copy but I’ve marked it all up)

However, if you would like a free copy, drop a comment on the blog and two winners will be randomly selected and notified on Sunday, November 10. (This is a totally self-sponsored giveaway and also how much I want you to have your own copy of this book. It’s just that good!)

Now back to the conference. Opening night began like this Watch here. I don’t know about you but the encouragement of knowing that I belong to Him and I have a seat at His table set the tone for the whole event. After the opening, the names of all the women attending the conference scrolled across the screen. To know that each name had been spoken before God Almighty prior to the conference was both impactful and powerful.

As Lysa began on Friday, she talked about forgiveness. A topic that is very familiar to her and one familiar to me. A topic I’m certain she wished God would’ve taught her in another way like most of us who’ve been there do! Forgiveness is a very heavy subject and brings with it a ton of emotions.

As she spoke I wrote a few phrases that I wanted personally to remember that were not things I read in her book.

Here are a few and I will expound more later:

  • Forgiveness is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
  • Forgiveness is only possible with cooperation with what Jesus has already done.
  • Forgiveness is a daily process Matthew 6:9
  • The weight of un-forgiveness is heavy and painful
  • The best time to forgive is before we’re offended. The next best time to forgive is now.
  • Forgive so you can keep your heart swept clean.

Look at the the fifth statement: “The best time to forgive is before we are offended. The next best time to forgive is now.”

What does it mean to forgive before we’re offended? She explained it this way. If you look at the Lord’s Prayer Matthew 6:9-14. First of all, immediately after we ask God to provide our daily bread. In the next breath, we ask God to forgive us in the same way we forgive others.” (Ouch) Then skipping to verse 14, ”For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Double ouch) If we can get ourselves to place where we forgive before the offense has even been committed, it is already covered by the blood of Jesus. That doesn’t mean our feelings may not be hurt, it simply means that we have already taken the initiative to not hold anger in our hearts and we are not allowing the sun to go down on our anger. Ephesians 4:26

However, if we have allowed the sun to go down on our anger and our hearts are becoming nothing but fertile soil for bitterness, then the next best time to forgive is now because it is being revealed that a root of bitterness is beginning to take hold and grow. Because what happens, if anger and an unforgiving spirit takes up residence for too long the weightiness becomes too heavy for us to bear and we begin taking it out on those we love who’ve played no part in the cause of our anger.

There are so many good quotes about forgiveness. But I love this one

You see forgiveness isn’t for the other person. Forgiveness is for you. And like Lysa said, “Forgive to keep your heart swept clean.”

But what about when your heart has been shattered and broken into? How do you forgive? The same way Christ forgave us, make the choice. But what if the hurt is deep and the pain cutting like a knife? Your feelings are real. Don’t push those aside. The heartache is there. Let it hurt. Cry. Scream, Shout. Write it out. Because your hurt matters. But remember, it won’t always be this way. The pain will lessen. The heartache won’t sting as much. But if you don’t get rid of the anger, it will eat away at you and affect other relationships. Don’t give it a foothold.

And how do I know this? Because I have experienced this. I came to a crossroads in my life and had a choice to make. Forgive or not! I knew ahead of time I would never hear the words. “I’m sorry.” I also knew if I kept holding onto that root of bitterness my life would never move forward. It was a choice I had to make. I made the choice to forgive. In doing so, I found freedom and in that freedom I discovered that I could love again with a whole heart.

The practical application Lysa shared was an exercise her counselor asked her to do. He gave her a stack of 3 x 5 cards and asked her to list her hurts one by one. When she was finished, he gave her red felt and said, “Now, stand over each of the hurts and proclaim, “I forgive ..” Then drop the red felt and say, “For whatever my feelings cannot forgive now the blood of Jesus covers it.” This was a very tangible way for her to see that not only her feelings mattered but that she could forgive because the blood of Christ would cover it.

I don’t where you may be in life right now. Maybe all I well and you were just interested in what I had to say. Maybe you’ve had an experience in forgiveness. If so, I would love to hear about it. Maybe you’re in a place where it seems to hard to forgive and it seems easier to hold onto anger. Maybe your feelings are so raw right now you can barely breathe. Wherever you are in this process it is my hope that this has encouraged you to move onto the the next step. I can promise you this, there is sweet freedom when you get to a place of real forgiveness!

Tattered and Torn

When Ryan, now 29, was a baby he had a security blanket, addition to his pacifier. At 8 months of age with limited vocabulary skills, he named it “Draggy”, which was appropriate because he quite literally dragged the blanket everywhere. His attachment to the blanket wasn’t the blanket material, but the edges of the blanket itself; hence the dragging of the blanket. He would rub the outside fringe of Draggy against his face and between his fingers. It was almost impossible to pry it from his grip. The only time Draggy got a bath was when Ryan was sound asleep and we could sneak it from his bed.  

From time to time, Ryan would misplace Draggy and we would spend hours hunting for him. As soon as we would find draggy, Ryan would hug it tight and squeal with delight, “I love you Draggy”

As time went on, Draggy continued with us everywhere, but because he was so well used, he began to deteriorate, little by little. Thankfully we were able to have draggy repaired. Eventually, time would tatter and tear Draggy beyond repair. However, until that time came, Ryan didn’t care how Draggy looked, or how tattered and torn he was. All that mattered to Ryan was Draggy belonged to him and it was his and Draggy made him feel safe and secure.

Isn’t that what God desires of us? Oh, how he longs for us to find safety and security in His arms. He loves us so much that it doesn’t matter if we come to him tattered and torn to pieces by our choices, mistakes, and failures, all He wants to do is throw His strong gentle arms around us and squeal with delight, “I love you because I made you and you are precious to me!” Like Ryan, He doesn’t care how tattered and torn we are because He made us and we belong to Him.

Psalm 139:13-18 ”For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. You saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand–when I awake, I am still with you.”

A Brighter Hope for Tomorrow

A long time ago someone told me that it was okay to yell at God. Stunned and horrified I said, “There’s no way I could do that.”

My friend reasoned, “God can take your anger better than people. He already knows what’s in your heart and mind. You may as well just tell Him.”

At first I thought it was the zaniest thing I’d ever heard. A truly foreign concept until I came to a point in my life where the rubber met the road, things weren’t going as planned and my dreams were shattered and hope a fading memory.

I truly didn’t understand why God was allowing this to take place. I struggled. I cried. I tried to find the answers. They never came. One dead end led to another.

After several failed attempts and sitting facing another mountain of paperwork for a battle already in its second year, I lost it. I took the daunting papers lying in front of me and hurled them across the room. Screaming, all the while, at the top of my lungs. Shaking my fist in anger telling God what I really thought about the situation and telling Him how I thought He should answer my cries for help. It wasn’t a pretty sight and I’m thankful no one but God saw it. I don’t know how long it lasted but long enough for me to go through the tirade of emotions. Once I regained composure and picked up the mountain of paperwork, I felt as if the albatross has been removed. The weight had been lifted. The burden eased. It’s almost as if I threw away all the things that were binding me to the situation and giving it God.

Many times in our lives we find ourselves in places we never thought we’d be. Our world is turned upside down and nothing resembles what we had hoped or imagined. At these pivotal moments we are going to one of two things, we are either going to cry out to God or we will walk away from God.

Many times throughout the course of this three year trial, I desperately wanted to walk away. Many times, I wanted to give up because I wasn’t getting the answers I wanted. I wanted God to step in and take it all away. As a matter of fact, He didn’t answer my prayer in the way I thought He should. He answered in the way that was best for me.

He made our marriage stronger. Relationships with family and friends much sweeter. He made me more aware of His presence in my life. He ushered in hope when things seemed hopeless. He took something that turned to a pile of rubble and made it brand new. In essence, He restored all that had seemingly been lost. Only God can take a mess and turn it into something beautiful.

In reality looking back over this time, I realize that God was preparing me in advance for another time that would lead down roads of winding paths, dark shadows, rocky terrains and uphill climbs. Had I not cried out to God then and seen the goodness of my Shepherd, there’s no way I could’ve trusted in Him when wave after wave slammed against me so hard I barely had time to come up for air.

You see the one thing I’ve learned is that in time, God ”will restore and give back the joys I once had.” Lamentations 5:21. My problem is being patient with the process. I tend to live in the mindset of Veruca Salt, ”I want it now!”

What I’ve come to realize is that through the process of not getting what I wanted, God was in the process of giving me what I needed and restoring what the locusts threatened to eat and destroy.

Have you been in a seemingly hopeless situation? Are your prayers not being answered in the way or timeframe you desire? Are you tired and weary because the journey is much too long and seems way too hard? Rest assured, my friend there is hope and it’s found in no other name but Jesus. If you will choose today to let the waves come as they may and trust in His power and might, the waves may not end but at the end of the day, you will have hope for a new tomorrow.

I Am Safe

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

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

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

It’s my own paraphrase of Psalm 23.

I am safe

God is my Shepherd

I am safe

I am without nothing

I am safe

As I choose to follow Him

I am safe

He leads me to green pastures and beside still waters.

I am safe

He restores my weary and wounded soul and gives me hope

I am safe

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

I am safe

Darkness may lead me through a valley that seems endless but

I am safe

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

I am safe

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

I am safe.

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

I am safe

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

I am safe

You fill me up until I am spilling over

I am safe

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

I am safe

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

I am safe.

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

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

Touched by His Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes You Gotta Speak Up

A few weeks ago I found myself in a tizzy over a bad haircut. The only thing it wasn’t my bad haircut it was Sammy’s hair, my dog. No matter how hard throughout the day I tried to ease up on my frustration and disappointment, it kept lingering, like an obnoxious headache that won’t go away.

First of all, let me explain the story. I always schedule Sammy’s haircuts on the same day as mine. (I’m probably the only dog mom who does this) It’s easier to remember. Like me, he has to go every 5 weeks. He has hair that grows like mine, only his more expensive than mine to upkeep. Also, considering my hairdresser and his groomer are on the same side of town, it just makes more sense. Besides, I can run errands if I have to wait on him for any length of time, which is also rare.

Anyway, this particular Friday, Terry was waiting for me to get back home to go eat breakfast. After I’d waited thirty minutes beyond normal, I called and was told he was on the table and would be done in twenty minutes or less. Within about ten minutes, I received a call telling me he was finished.

I immediately went to pick him up. As I was paying and making another appointment, a new gal, abruptly put him in my arms and walked off. Once I got in the car, I phoned Terry to let him know I was on my way home. Less than a minute into our conversation, I began to notice all kinds of things that were wrong with his hair. Immediately, I began naming each one and the list kept growing and I became more irate. Finally, he said, “Well, what are you gonna do about it?”

Without hesitation, I exclaimed, “I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”

Before I lost my nerve, I hurried to dial back the groomer. The first words out of my mouth were, “I know my regular groomer did not groom Sammy today because he looks horrible. I just want you to know how terribly disappointed I am with his haircut and from now on, I need you to make sure that no one else cuts his hair.” I wasn’t absurdly rude or demanding, I was more matter of fact and direct.

I fumed all day long over his hair. I even had to take scissors and even out his crown.

By evening, I was still fuming when I took dinner to Terry. As we talked, I had to ask the question, “Why am I so bothered and upset over a dogs haircut?” And then it dawned on me, “I was upset for two reasons. The first reason, I had not to be told beforehand that my regular groomer wasn’t doing his hair. I wouldn’t have left him. But the biggest reason for my angst was due to the fact my dog cannot fend for himself. He has no voice to speak up and I must be his voice because I can and he can’t.

This reminded me of how I had to speak up for Popaw and Mom when they couldn’t speak up for themselves.

It was Thursday, April 18, the day after Popaw’s stroke. Mom and I had talked on the phone around 9:00 pm and she told me that she was going to ask Teresa, the night shift nurse, to call and ask the Elizabeth House to come to get Popaw on Friday, I was in total agreement, for two reasons, Popaw wasn’t getting any better and Mom wasn’t getting any rest. The sitter service was understaffed and we could not get any helpers to come sit with Popaw. Mom’s only reprieve on Thursday had been from 9 am- 2 pm and I could already see how detrimental it was becoming for her.

On Friday, the most horrible weather day of the year, she called around 9:30 am to inform me that the Chaplain, not a nurse, from Hospice, had come by to tell her that because Paopaw’s symptoms were being managed at The Bridge, there was no reason to move him to the Elizabeth House. “It’s for patients whose pain is uncontrollable or symptoms are indicating the end of life is near.”

Her response to him, “Okay. I understand.”

However, her voice to me was full of exhaustion, anxiousness and a desperate plea for help.

I couldn’t get there immediately because of weather but Terry and I had already decided that we would go spend the day with him and give her a break. We just had to wait out the weather.

I was in the process of blow drying my hair and it hit me hard. What could I do? Who do I know? Something has to be done!

I pranced in the kitchen and told Terry my frustrations. Explained my concern for Mom and her well being as much as getting Popaw in a peaceful, restful state. He was still agitated and they were not administering drugs on a regular basis, only PRN or “as needed”

Suddenly during my raging fury, I told Terry I was going to call our friend. He serves on the Hospice board and at least he could direct me in the right way.

I called him immediately and explained the situation. He told me to be patient and he would make a few phone calls and see who I needed to speak with. After a little while, as promised, he called me back. He had talked with a few people. They could see where Popaw had been under Hospice Care and graduated out but couldn’t see he had been taken back under their care.

After a few more phone calls it was confirmed that Popaw was under Hospice care.

The next thing I needed to do was talk to the Director of Nursing at The Bridge to have her make the call. Fortunately, we had just braved the crazy weather and arrived at The Bridge. So, I didn’t have to make a phone call, I could just speak with her, face to face.

As I sat and listened to her, I was appalled to learn that they had already called twice and asked Elizabeth House to take him. Their reasoning had been the same as with my with the exception that the Hospice nurse, who had assessed Popaw, on the day of his stroke, continued to state that his condition was being managed at The Bridge. Not only were they concerned about Popaw but they also expressed concern about my mother and her state of mind, as well as her need for help. However, with the new information provided by my friend, she made the call once again.

By the time I got to Popaw’s room the medication was wearing off and he kept trying to get out of bed. Fortunately, he was much weaker on Friday than Wednesday so it was easier to keep him contained.

Around 2:00 pm, Mom received a call from the Hospice nurse handling Popaw’s case. I could tell Mom didn’t know exactly what to say and finally, she said, ” You need to talk to my daughter.”

The words spilled out of her mouth and hit me like a ton of bricks. The progress I thought that had been made halted abruptly when I heard the exact same words as Mom heard earlier from the Chaplain. I had to take a deep breath and pause before I retaliated.

For the next thirty minutes or more, she got an earful. I was as cordial and as respectful as I could be but I realized I had to fight for what I thought was right, both for Popaw as well as Mom. My final words to her went something like this, ”I am not a trained medical professional but I have seen, witnessed and experienced death and I am telling you that Popaw is in his final stages of death. Furthermore, I would like to remind you that Hospice and Elizabeth House exists for patients as well as family members. If for no other consideration, my Mom needs the benefit of him being moved there for her peace of mind and rest.”

At the end of my rant, she assured me, ”I will take this into compliance and see what I can do.”

I went back to the room and was completely satisfied that something would happen, I just didn’t know what or how soon. I knew I had not allowed my emotions to get in the way of reason and to be honest, I was quite pleased with how I had handled the situation. I think I knew how proud Ned would’ve been and that what made me the happiest.

I sent Mom out with Terr to get a bite to eat. While they were gone, I was completely satisfied to sit alone in quietness with Popaw. He’d been given some more medicine and finally settled down again.

Mom’s phone rang and I knew it was the Hospice nurse. She called to inform me that Popaw would be transported to Elizabeth House at 6:00 pm and he would be in his room by 6:15.

My heart was full and my conscience was satisfied. I knew this was the right move for both Popaw and Mom. I knew he would never return to The Bridge.

Popaw only spoke a few words that day, but as they were in the process of transporting him, I leaned over the stretcher and said, ”Don’t worry, Popaw. We are taking you to Elizabeth House. They will take great care of you there and they will keep you at peace and rest.”

”Oh, well.” he said and it was well with his soul and mine, too!

There are times in life where we need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We don’t have to be irrelevant or irrational, but sometimes we must be tenacious and persistent.

And by the way, my regular groomer did call back and offer to fix Sammy’s hair but unfortunately, any fix would’ve required more cutting and he had already been cut way too short in some places. I declined and thanked them for their offer and stated I would simply wait until it grows out and bring him for his next appointment. Unfortunately, I still look at him and wince but I know he’ll look better next time.

Are you looking for joy?

December 31, 2017:

Reflections. An image produced by a mirror. The moon reflects the light of the sun. Water casts shadows of the moon. The human mind recalls the events of the past and in some ways, those reflections become a forever change.

As the year draws to a close, I am amazed and astounded by the events that have unfurled this year. When I think back to the start, I know that as a result of the events of this past year, I am forever changed.

A simple prayer to begin the year would bring a sweeping and much-needed change. It went something like this. “God, would you just help me to find joy in each day, whether I feel like it or not? Help me to choose joy.”

2015 and 2016 had taught me that many circumstances are beyond my control but my attitude is the only thing I have control over. Most often when tragedy struck in the previous year or so, my response had been less than pleasurable. At times, downright ugly. There were periods of time when I didn’t want to be around anyone, including myself.

I decided about halfway through 2016 that something had to change. It was up to me. It was hard. I didn’t always succeed in keeping a decent attitude but I kept pursuing the goal.

As the year 2015 closed I felt a bit more confident that my attitude was much better than the previous year but I still had a long way to go. That’s why I begged God to help me find joy in each day. Little did I know what that would look like. But God did.

He knew the challenges Ned would face with his cancer. He knew how many times we would end up in and out of the hospital. He knew I would be needed and He provided me the time and He sent me on time, every time.

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not boasting in what I did, I am simply telling you that I made myself available to be present for my parents because I knew that was what God was asking of me.

The scripture verse I clung to during that time was Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility consider others above yourself.” I told God upfront that I wanted to be there for them wholeheartedly. I didn’t want to go with a bad attitude or begrudgingly. I just wanted to be there.

As I reflect on this time, I realize how much it changed me. Now, when hard times threaten to destroy my joy, I am reminded that my joy isn’t found in the circumstances or my feelings. No, joy is found in the giving of yourselves to others and it’s found in being obedient to what God is asking you to do.

So, what things threaten to rob you of your joy? Is it the death or illness of a loved one? Is it a heartbreak you were not expecting? Whatever it is, I have good news. It doesn’t have do stay that way.

A simple prayer of asking God to give you joy that rises above your circumstances is all it takes. It may take awhile to learn but know with certainty that God wants nothing more than to give you His joy, which is deep and lasting.