The Times I Saw Him Cry

I’ve known him my whole entire life and in this time, I have only seen or heard him cry three times. It’s not that he has no heart. In fact, he’s got the biggest heart of anyone I know. Read here. He is the kindest, most gentle and humble man I know.

Oddly, I didn’t see him cry the day he got the call his Dad, my great-grandfather shot and killed himself. He was melancholy and I’m sure he cried. I just didn’t see him cry.

The first time I saw him cry was the day my grandmother, the love of his life died. He had stayed the night before with her and we all encouraged him to go home and get rest. He did. A few hours after his departure, Mamaw died. Kristi and I went to his house to tell him. I will never forget. We stood in his kitchen and told him the news. Tears welled up in his blue eyes and he said, ”I knew it. That was the exact time I awoke and I felt like a part of me was gone.” His words broke and tears flowed.

The second time I see him cry was the day we moved him from his house to The Bridge at Lake Point Landing. He knew it was time to go but leaving his home ripped his heart out. He.felt like the Israelites when God led them out of Egypt. How do I know this? He told me so. Read here

The third time I didn’t see him cry, I heard him cry. I called to let him know that Ned had died. As soon as the words left my lips, he asked, “How’s my little Annie?” I couldn’t answer. Then he began to weep and said, “Honey, thank you for calling but I just can’t talk to you right now.”

My tears turned to sobs and I told him, “It’s okay Popaw. I can’t talk to you either.”

The first time he cried over my grandmother, I thought my heart was going to rip in a thousand pieces and I know Kristi felt the same way. If we could’ve shouldered his grief, we would have. The second time, I felt the sadness of him being removed from all that was familiar into the unfamiliar. But the third time, I wept with him because he hurt for his little girl. As a parent, there is nothing harder than not being an to take away their pain and I knew what he was feeling, not sorrow for his loss, but sorrow for her pain.

Now, we are embarking on the journey of saying, ”goodbye” to him. We don’t know the hour or the day but the time is coming. This time, he won’t cry but I will. But here’s what I know.

Jesus is tidying up and preparing his place and when it’s all complete, he will come and take him home. This is His promise and this is what fuels my hope.

New Living Translation
” When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. ” John 14:3

Was it worth it? …..Absolutely

I’ve been avoiding this post like the plaque. A few weeks ago when God began churning my heart, I told Him, “Not now”. Yes, like I’ve said before delayed obedience is disobedience and I disobeyed.

I think as I write you will see why I avoided writing. However, the urge is so great within me, I can no longer resist.

As you know my biological father died when I was 7. He died from Melanoma and you can read some of his story in my blog post, My sweetest sorrow.

Now, we are at another crossroads with cancer. My stepfather, Ned. He was diagnosed 18 months ago with Stage 4 Atypical Non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer. It sucks. I’m just not going to sugar coat anything about it.

A few months back, well technically a few years ago God began to stir this thought and idea about these two men I have had to privilege of calling Dad.

First, you must understand the first to understand the second.

Mack, my dad, had a strong enduring faith in God. He hoped beyond all hope that one day a cure for Melanoma would be discovered. Knowing full well it would not be in his lifetime, he allowed the doctors at Baptist Hospital (Wake Forest) to try new treatments on him. He was their guinea pig. His philosophy and mindset was to aid in the research and help others in the future.

Another thing to understand about my dad is that he never shied away from sharing his faith. He firmly grasped and held tight to his belief in Jesus. He had strong convictions about sharing his faith and the above picture is a treasure straight out of his Bible. His desire was to see that no one would perish without knowing Jesus. His chief goal in life.

I believe that through his death his chief goal was reached and realized. When Jesus tells us in John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Bear with me while I explain.

When Mom and Ned began dating Ned wasn’t really living out a full life with Christ at the center. He had made a profession of faith but wasn’t really living a life totally reflective of Christ.

As their relationship began to grow so did his love for Jesus. Eventually leading up to his rededication. In perfect Ned style, it was not a haphazard decision, it was done with intent and passion. A decision he will tell you was the best choice he ever made aside from marrying my Mom.

The reality here is that without my dad having died, Ned may have never been able to experience the blessed life that only Jesus can give. If you ask Mack if it was worth dying for he would say, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

—————–—————

That was the original post from September 11, 2017.

When I wrote these words, Ned was still with us and it would only be another six weeks until God would call him Home. Today marks 43 years since my Daddy has been in Heaven. In the past, this particular day has been such a painful hard day, but not today. What’s different?

My attitude. What I’ve realized with both Daddy and Ned was they were willing to embrace the process, to endure the pain to receive the victory. They both knew earth was their temporary dwelling and they both knew where they were going. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross?

He soul agonized over having to endure the cross. He begged God for another way. When He knew there was no other way, He simply said, ”Not my will but yours” At this point, He embraced the process. He endured the cross. And when he spoke, ”It is finished” is His declaration of victory.

You will never get to the victory of the cross without enduring the pain and you’ll never be able to endure the pain without embracing the process.

I found this devotion in my Dad’s Bible. I wonder if it was something he had before his diagnosis or if he found it later. I don’t know the answer but what I know is that He bravely witnessed for the Lord and many lives were changed…….mine included.

Field Trips with Terry, Part 2

Before exiting the Lee Chapel, we were told about two other buildings on campus we should visit, The Reeves Center and Watson Pavilion.

In the Reeves Center, you will.find the Reeves Collection. The collection is a vast array of ceramics made in Asia, Europe and the Amercias. Some.pieces date back to the 1500s.

In their collection are pieces of this china used by George and Martha Washington. This particular collection was only used during his Presidency.

Also in the collection is this bowl This punch bowl was made in China. Its painting tells the story of trade during the 1800s. It’s truly a magnificently detailed piece.

That’s not exactly what caught my attention as much as what our guide said. ”Do you know that many hands made and painted this bowl? It was not made or painted by one set of hands.”

I just have to stop and say, I’ve considered and mulled over that statement for almost a month now. It had quite a profound impact on me.

My initial thoughts, ”Wow! How awesome that many hands made such an exquisite piece of artwork. It’s so intricately designed.” I pondered on that formed while.

Then the lightbulb switched off and on again. This time I wasn’t thinking about the many hands that made the punch bowl. I found myself thinking about the same hands that made the folks who made the punch bowl are the same hands that fashioned me.

Stay with me on this.

God is the creator of all humankind. “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

The very same God who formed Adam formed me and you. I don’t know about you but that makes me feel special, exquisite, unique.

God could have used his angels to make us. He could have used many hands, just like they did with the pottery. That’s not what he did. No, no no. He used the same hands to form and make us all.

His hands.

The beauty is that we are all different. We are all unique. There are no two humans on the earth that are exactly the same, not even identical twins. And yet, we are all made by the same pair of hands.

The Divine hands of the Father.

The Rebel in Me – Part 2

I normally don’t write on my blog daily. I figure we’re all busy humans and have plenty to read on a daily basis without adding another thing in the mix. However, I felt very compelled to share this today. Maybe I just need to get it out there or maybe someone really needs to know how I struggle and how I have learned and continue to learn to walk through the process of a struggling rebel.

Picking up on the topic of rebellion from yesterday’s blog, Read Here I hope it leads you into an understanding that I struggle. It’s hard for me to make wise decisions, at times, because I want to go against the grain.

The reality is that for so many I years, I did just that. I most often did the exact opposite of what my parents wanted me to do. It took me down some very shameful and destructive roads. Roads that I am not.proud of and sometimes cringe when I have to admit, ”Yes, I did that.”

The truth is, for those who knew me then, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Airing dirty laundry here is neither necessary or fitting. However, if you’re an inquiring mind, make your own assumptions chances are you’ll be right. Even if you’re not, its probably something I thought about doing. Just keeping it real. However, don’t ever think I’ve forgotten who I was or what I did. I have NOT. Again, these are the things things that God has used and continues to use to mold me and shape me into who I am!

Obviously, I don’t sit and dwell on the past and ”what ifs”. I can’t. Life is about moving forward. It’s about pushing through the pain of our past and seeing what a glorious future we have to look forward to.

This life.is temporary and will.be full of.hurt.and pain. We.must look beyond.the now and see.the glorious hope.of Heaven.

However, there are times my past still comes face to face with raw pain. When those things come to mind, I no longer run away from them. I no longer stuff them away and tidy them up the box. Although, my rebel self.wants.desparately to do this! The truth is, when raw pain is there, I need to go in search of the root cause. There is a reason it remains raw. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like pain when its raw. I want it to go away.

Here’s how I’ve learned to cope when that pain of my past wants to haunt me or stop me in my tracks or make me feel shameful.

First of all, I pray and ask God if there’s something in me that still needs to he healed. Is there an area of my heart that still has unresolved hurt and pain? Why do I go to God first?

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I figure since He knows me best, He my best resource. The main issue is that sometimes the rebel in.me kicks back, like Romney, and I don’t really want to hear what He has to say. Or the rebel part of me doesn’t want to be broken down to be made whole. You see the fight I have with this spirit of rebellion? It’s real and it’s an ongoing fight.

Sometimes, I use the resources of godly and wise friends to help.me navigate through getting to.the root of my pain. There is nothing more beautiful than having people you can be real with. You know the ones who aren’t afraid of your mess but they’re not afraid to tell you when you’re wrong. They aren’t there to.judge or glean information to share about you with the next person. They’re there because they want to see you break-free and be whole again.

Other times, I must.go and seek the counsel of.a Pastor or.other biblically trained professional. I need the Truth of Gods word.pouring into me. The reality is that its only the Truth that will set me free.

And ye shall know.the.truth and the truth shall.make you free. John 8:32 KJV

When I am aware of the root of.my pain, I can then apply the Truth of Gods word to my hurt and pain. Once the hurt and pain has been appropriately dealt with and the root.has been discovered. The Truth of Gods word then acts a soothing balm of.healing. Also, when dealt with appropriately, it rarely effects me again. I’ve taken care of the ”real” issue. I haven’t given it a bandaid fix.

A bandaid may stop the bleeding and cover the wound, but a bandaid will never cure the wound.

Sometimes, this whole process is daunting. So much so, that I want to give up and give in and just.go back to being my rebel self. Then the Truth floods my soul and I am reminded of ALL that God has brought me through. I see his mighty works and I marvel that in spite of who I am, He loves me! He died for me! (John 3:16) He calls.me the ”apple of his eye”.(Psalm 17:8) He sings over me. (Zeph 3:17)

A Psalm for Saturday

Today’s blog comes in a little differently than others. I found this in one of my many writings. There was a time, and I possibly need to get back to it, when I would just read a scripture passage and journal how it spoke to me.

This particular one was written out on January 31, 2015. Interestingly, as I read through it today, it resonated with me and I found myself thinking, ”Yep, what was true four years ago is still true today and I needed this reminder.”

Here’s the scripture reading:

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God, I cried for help. From his temple, he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Here’s what God spoke to me through this passage.

As my rock, you are my protection and you are not removed from my presence. If there’s any movement it’s on my part, not yours. You are my constant and unyielding even when things around me are unsteady and shaky; You are NOT. You are my rock in both good times and bad because You are constant and unchanging. My emotions sometimes gets the best in me and I waver and wane. You keep me steady.

I need You in both good times and bad times, maybe I need You and your stability more in the good times. Why? In good times I find my self more self-reliant, more pious and more complacent when things are seemingly well- that’s why!

In times of struggle, whether brought on by my own foolish choices or circumstances beyond my control or tragedy, I run to You. I cling to You. I depend on You to pull me through. I want and need Your help.

The paradox- in both good and bad, I need to run, cling, depend on and want your help.

You are my shield. You protect me. You stand between me and my enemies, most of which are in the battlefield of my mind. You are my stronghold and so worthy of my praise and adoration.

God With Us

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention on Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth! John MacArthur

Think about this with me for a minute. The three words. ”God with us” or the singular word, ”Emmanuel”. The implication of these words means we have to look beyond the manager and the infant. We have to look beyond his ministry. We have to look beyond the cross, beyond and the resurrection. What do we need to look at?

We need to look to before the birth of Jesus and after the resurrection. What we need to understand is that Jesus lived in glory with God, the Father. He was the complete deity. He chose to give up his diety to come to earth. He chose to come in the form of a babe. Why? He knew there would be no other way to save us. He knew by taking human form, He could relate to us. He would endure the things we endure. He could relate to all of humanity. He could live and walk among us. The difference being He would be without sin.

So, He chose to set aside His crown and come to earth to live and walk among us.

But it didn’t stop with his birth. The child grew and grew. Then at age thirty began His ministry. For three years, he ministered to people, people like us. He didn’t turn anyone away that would listen. Money didn’t impress Him. Status didn’t mean anything to Him. People’s hearts and lives were of utmost importance to Him. He was mocked and ridiculed. He was misunderstood. Yet, His purpose was clear and He didn’t waver. He came to die.

On the cross, he bore the sin of the world. He took our punishment on himself. Interestingly, years before the prophet Isaiah penned the following words,

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

However, He didn’t stay on the cross, just like he didn’t stay in the manger. His broken body was wrapped and placed in a borrowed tomb. Yet again, like the manger and the cross, the tomb could not hold Him. He didn’t stay there either. On the third day, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Jesus is alive. Jesus then ascends back to His place in glory and the crown is placed back on His head.

While it is good for us to celebrate and talk about the birth of Jesus and the events surrounding His birth. Our primary focus needs to be about His deity. He is fully God and fully man. He is, ”God with us” The choice to come as a babe in a manger made that possible.


O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of Hell Thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

O come, Thou Day-Spring

Come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heavenly home

Make safe the way that leads on high

And close the path to misery

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might

Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height

In ancient times did’st give the Law

In cloud, and majesty and awe

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, o Israel

 

Merry Christmas to all.

His Word Never Fails

Oh my goodness! How many times I’ve read this passage of the angel coming to Mary and yet this one verse, I’ve skipped dozens of times. Wow.

In the very heart of the angel speaking to Mary are the words “Gods word will never fail”. When God calls you out of your comfort zone into a scary place of the unknown, He will be with you. He will go before you and prepare the way. It doesn’t mean the path will be smooth and easy. It means that ultimately His plan for you will be carried through until completion.

Was Mary’s pregnancy expected? Absolutely not! Was her pregnancy welcomed? No! Did she hear an absolute word from God? Yes. Was He faithful to carry out what He said He would do? Absolutely.

Mary was a willing participant, even though she had no real comprehension of the vastness of Gods plan for her. She simply took the words delivered to her by the angel and said “Ok. I am willing to do whatever He asks and may things happen just as you say they will. I trust Him completely”. She couldn’t see the end or even the middle she just knew what she believed and was willing to place complete faith and trust in her belief in God.

I would love to say I trust and believe with the same veracity Mary displays; however, my faith wavers and wanes. Often times I allow my emotions to get in the way of what I know to be true.

God’s Word Never Fails……

Where Hope is Found

On Saturday we celebrated Popaw’s 92nd birthday. Due to an early morning fall and trip to the ER, nothing serious, our plans changed from going to Moms to celebrating in his room at The Bridge. (The assisted living facility where he resides.)

As I rounded the hallway towards his room, a flashback filled my mind’s eye and suddenly it was last year, Friday, October 13, 2017.

Ned had been transferred from the The Lodge to The Bridge. His room, not by chance, was directly across the hall from Popaw’s. It was his first day there.

I was scheduled to meet him and Mom back at the hospital for an echocardiogram. I was there 15 minutes early. I sat down and waited. Surprised by the fact they weren’t there, cause Ned is never late. Always early. Never late. I hemmed and hawed a few more minutes before calling Mom. She didn’t answer. So the next best thing, call Ned.

“Hey, are y’all on the way to the hospital?”

“No. Your Mom’s gone to Walmart. I bet she forgot.”

I put him on hold, Talked to the receptionist, explained the situation. Told her I’d go get him and bring him back, She assured me time was not of the essence and not to rush to get him back.

Got back on the phone with Ned and told him I’d be there in a few minutes.

Don’t you just hate it when they tell you not to rush and you rush anyway. I mean he was already late and I hate to hold people up. I wheeled my car into the parking lot at The Bridge. Briefly I thought of leaving my vehicle unattended under the breezeway but decided to park instead. Good thing I did.

To be honest, I was half expecting to see Ned in the downstairs lounge area waiting for me. Simply because I had told him to stay put in his room and I’d come get him. He wasn’t there. Hopped on the elevator and went to the 2nd floor. As I rounded the corner, I noticed that his door was slightly ajar. I walked in and he wasn’t there. His walker was there…..but no Ned. I peeped in Popaw’s room and he wasn’t there. So, I began my descent down the hallway and thats when I saw him. He was staggering and holding on to the railing with one hand. It was apparent he had no idea where he was. He saw me and said “I was trying to get to the elevator to find you”. Yeppers, he didn’t listen. He didn’t stay in his room and if he’d been more familiar with his surroundings would most likely have been waiting for me.

He was so weak he could barely walk. I gave him my arm and told him to keep using the rail with the other hand. We made it back to his room. Exhausted, he sat down in his wheelchair. I told him we didn’t have to rush to take his time. He began complaining of nausea. Vomiting and nausea were his latest symptoms. He stood to grab hold of the walker and suddenly hurled everything in his stomach into the sink. He sat back down. I finished cleaning the portion of the mess he couldn’t clean. Then I told him I was calling to cancel his appointment. He agreed.

We continued to sit there for a spell before he got sick again. After the next episode, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Can’t someone tell me what’s wrong with me?”

I have to admit. I almost broke. I couldn’t break, not in front of him. It took every ounce of effort and will in me not to burst into tears. The past seven weeks had been such a roller coaster for all of us, especially for him. He’d been poked, prodded, X-rayed, and examined more times than I can count.

I looked at him and said “I am doing all I can to help the doctors figure out what’s going on. I’m trying the best I know how.”

At that moment, we both knew it was the cancer invading his body. We knew it wasn’t going to get better but as long as the doctors gave us a shred of hope, we clung to it. It was all we had.

As it turned out, his stay at The Bridge was short lived. He was there two nights. They couldn’t control his nausea and vomiting and had no choice but send him back to the hospital.

As I’ve reflected on this day, I am reminded that Ned was never without hope. Although there were times when the cancer and side effects from the drugs, looked bleak, hope was always present. There was hope for the drugs to eradicate the cancer. There was hope when the cancer went dormant for awhile. There was hope when the cancer returned that it was still treatable. Even when the new drugs failed to deliver and his problems surmounted, he still had the hope of eternal life with Christ because of his decision to place his faith in Christ. It’s the same with all of us who believe. Our lives may feel like they’re falling apart but Jesus is the hope of the world. He is the reason we can have hope to face another minute, another hour, another day. It is only this hope that assures us of our eternal destination.

Dear friends, if today finds you without hope and in what seems a hopeless situation, turn to Jesus. He is your only hope.

Gazing into Her Daddy’s Eyes

For the past twenty years I have loved watching the relationship develop between Amy and Terry. Truth be told, she loves him far more than she loves me and I’m totally ok with that. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way, He is the epitome of a “great dad”. No, he’s not perfect but he’s good and he loves well.

I can’t tell you how their gazes met when she was first born. I was kinda out of it. Read Here. As she got older when he would hold her and talk to her, her eyes were transfixed on his. He mesmerized her. Actually, I think he secretly hypnotized her into his likeness because they are certainly two of a kind.

Now that she’s twenty, things haven’t really changed all that much. I still see him catch her gaze when they’re together. It’s a beautiful sight. A complete adoration of affection between a loving father and his daughter. The radiance that beams on her face as her gaze meets his is like the full moon illuminating the night sky. It’s magical.

You want to know something? That’s what God, your Heavenly Father, wants from you and me! He wants us to stand in awe of Him. He wants us to be mesmerized by his goodness and grace. He wants our gaze upon Him and the handiwork of His hands.

Do you know why? He knows if our eyes are fully fixed on Him, our souls will be satisfied. He already knows that the things of this earth will fade away. They are temporary, even pain and suffering. This is what He wants us to understand. He wants our faces to beam with radiance for Him and His glory.

In the Palm of His Hand

A few weeks ago at Moms, I decided to go check the concrete driveway to see if Ryan and Matthews feet prints were still visible. Keep in mind it’s been 25,almost 26 years since the concrete was poured. To my surprise, Ryan’s still prominently in tact. Matthew’s weren’t immediately visible until further inspection. Yet, I knew they were there. I helped hold him in the concrete. I watched Ned write his name above his feet print. The tiniest of etching remained. With my foot, I skimmed the surface and could feel the small indentions. Yes, the small feet were still there as well as the etching of his name. However, it wasn’t until I got on blended knee that I could more visibly see.

Isn’t that just like faith? Sometimes it’s clear and visible that we believe what we believe. There’s evidence all around that solidifies our faith. We feel so close to God and we see him working in and through our lives. There’s just no doubt. It’s real.

On the flip side, faith is murky at murky at best. You question everything, maybe not you, but I sure do! You know that you know that you know but where is the evidence that God is real and present? Where did he go? Why did he allow this thing? If he truly cares why doesn’t he do something? In those times, you have to know what his word is truth. You have to be reminded of how you’ve seen him work in the past. You just have to know that you know and when it’s not clear, you may have to get on bended knee to see with more clarity the evidence of faith.

I’ve often heard that faith is like a muscle and it must be stretched. I’m beginning to understand more each day the importance of both. When our faith is stretched it actually becomes more healthy over time with proper exercises. This is why reading, studying and memorizing God’s word is of high priority.

The one truth to remember from God’s word is found in Isaiah.

See, even when we lack in faith and we don’t feel like God is present. He hasn’t forgotten us because we are carved on the palm of his hand.