Give Me Your Hand

Hopefully, by now you all know that I am very much a realist, and I don’t live in a dream-world facade. My world and my life are about as far from perfect as it gets. However, I try to find good humor in things, especially hard things. I try to look at the brighter side of things and find meaning in the little things. I don’t discount or hide sadness or hard times behind humor, I just know that a day without laughter is not a day lived well for me.

On my first visit to see my Aunt in the hospital back in August, I bounced in her room like a happy-go-lucky Tigger. I quickly walked over to kiss her on the cheek but in my eagerness to kiss her I clumsily stepped on her feet. She quickly withdrew from me causing me to almost lose my balance and fall right into the chair with her. We both had a good belly laugh at the situation.

Later in the day as I was leaving I started towards her again. Quicker than a wink, she thrust her hand out and said, “I think it’s safer for you to just kiss my hand.” From that time until the day of her passing she would always give me her dainty little hand to kiss.

On Saturday, December 4, when Terry and I got to the Elizabeth House her nurse told us that she had been so sleepy they couldn’t get her to take her meds. Finally, we aroused her enough for the nurse to get them down but her eyes remained mostly closed. She would answer a question and she chuckled a few times so I knew she heard us. Before we left, I said, “Okay Aunt Trisha Terry and I are leaving. Give me your hand so I can kiss it. She pulled her hand out from the covers and held it up for me to kiss.” Although that would be the last time for me to kiss her dainty little hand, I still have to chuckle when I think of how quickly she responded to my request.

Moments like these are the ones I will treasure forever. These moments bring me great joy and comfort amid sorrow. These remembered moments remind me that even in the hard times of life, laughter and joy can be found. It’s not focusing on what you’ve lost, it’s remembering what you had and being grateful for the little things and precious memories.

Hope and Anticipation

On Wednesday, December 1, Aunt Trisha’s Pastor, Suzanne, came to visit. She arrived shortly after Aunt Trisha decided to have Hospice manage her care. A visit already planned before the decision was made, a divine appointment.

As Suzanne talked with Aunt Trisha, she asked her if she was at peace with her decision and she replied, “Yes.” Then she asked her if she had peace in knowing that God would be soon coming to take her home. She acknowledged that she did. Afterward, Suzanne said, “Now Pat, you know we are in Advent Season. A season of waiting and anticipation of the arrival of Christmas. Also, for Christians, it’s an anticipation of His second coming. But for you, you are awaiting His coming for you. How beautiful that you are waiting to be made whole again.”

Friends, I must tell you, I was completely blown away by her statement. I, too, am doing a study on Advent, but I had never put it in the context Suzanne brought to light. In that moment of wisdom, there in that hospital room, peace, joy and hope permeated the room and any fear of death removed.

When you watch someone go through as much as I witnessed with her, it is such a comfort to know that she no longer is struggling. She is made whole. In fact there’s a beautiful promise we find in Revelation 21: 4-5 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

As you celebrate Advent this year, remember it’s not just about Jesus’ birth, or even His second coming, we too, can anticipate the day that He will make all things new and that includes us who believe in Him.

Was it worth it? …..Absolutely

This was originally posted on April 5, 2019, but stories like these are meant to be told and retold. For me, it’s such a great reminder of how lucky I have been to have such a great story to share.

I’ve been avoiding this post like the plague. 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 stories 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 sugarcoat 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 were 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. He desired 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 living out a full life with Christ at the center. He had made a profession of faith but wasn’t living a life 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 the 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?

His 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.

TETELESTAI – It is Finished

What do these three words mean to you, “It is finished”? Before you answer let me put it to you like this. Your answer will determine your future. Yes, really. This is the climax of why Jesus came. It is the very reason He was born. It was His purpose. Think about that for just a moment: Jesus was born to die.

Jesus wasn’t just born to die an ordinary death. His death changed the trajectory of our future, at least for those who chose to believe. His death would defeat sin and conquer death. His death would be the death we deserve to die. Jesus was always God’s plan for salvation…..always.

Let’s observe for just a minute all that was taking place on Good Friday. It looks and feels like anything but good. Jesus has been sentenced to death because of His claim to be the Messiah. They put a crown of thorns on his head. They beat him. They spit on him. They slapped him. They mocked Him. They even cast lots for His clothes.

Jesus knew both the horror and joy this day would bring. This is why he begged, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”Luke 22:42. He knew what He would endure. He knew he would be beaten, mocked, shamed, and nailed to the cross. But that’s not the part that ripped his heart out. He knew that He would have to endure separation from God. He had never been separated from His Father. But He also knew it was the only way and so He willingly obeyed. Did he have to? No, He didn’t. He could’ve made excuses. He could’ve told God that it would be way too hard and to find another way. Yet, He willingly submitted to God’s authority because He knew that God’s plan was best.

After making their way to Golgotha, He was nailed to the cross. There he hung on the cross between two thieves. And here’s where the rubber meets the road for these two men. Here’s where the heart of the matter is. One asks Jesus to remember Him and one doesn’t. They both are faced with the same choice. So, what makes the difference? The difference resides in their hearts. One sees himself as a sinner in need of a Savior. The other doesn’t see his need at all. In essence, it’s the same choice we are faced with. Will we acknowledge Jesus for who He is and admit that we are sinners in need of Savior. After all, we are told that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

But wait, there’s a little more here to the story. After Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” Luke 23:43 It was around noontime and complete darkness filled the sky for three hours. This was the darkest time history has ever seen. This was Jesus’ darkest hour. This was the time he agonized over the most. It was during this time that He was separated from God. This is when the sin of us all was being poured upon Him. All sin! Everyone’s sin. My sin. Your sin.

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

John 19:28-30 NIV

When Jesus proclaimed “TETELESTAI”. He meant, “It has been finished. It is now finished. it will be finished”. Past. Present.Future. And this is the very good news of Good Friday. But the question remains: What do these words mean to you?

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.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

A true story.

February 4, 2018, Terry and I loaded up and moved from the mountains of Hendersonville, NC to the Foothills of Landrum, SC. We moved primarily based on cost.

I fought the move. You’d have thought it would be the other way around, considering Terry was moving from his hometown and I was moving back within 8 miles of where I grew up.

There were determining factors of the fight:

  • I was afraid. (That is a story for another time.)
  • I don’t like to change. We had already been through so much with Ned’s death. I didn’t want more.
  • I really didn’t like that God was asking me to go. I knew it was the right move for us to make but I just couldn’t believe He was actually asking us to trust and go.

So, I came reluctantly and with a foul attitude.

Within the first ten days of our move, Popaw fell extremely ill and due to the move, I ended up in Hendersonville 9/10 of the time.

I kept asking God, ”Why?”

He kept saying, ”Wait.”

I cried out to Him. I cried to Terry. I bemoaned to a few of my friends. I just couldn’t shake the desire to go back home to Hendersonville.

Last fall, my Bible Study girls did ”The Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer. In the very first week, she had us do a little exercise that truly resonated in my heart. She had us write down in a circle the most difficult person, most pressing problem and/or overwhelming circumstance. Then on the line beside the circle, we were instructed to write the words, not the real problem. This fight that was going on inside of me was not a fight against flesh and blood but a fight against the world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces in the heavenly realm. (Ephesians 6:12)

While I was beginning to understand that the real enemy was the devil himself, my heart still ached and longed to go back home. But instead of talking about it as much and crying to others, I began to spend more time crying out to God. In that time, I also wrote on a prayer card a very specific prayer.

• God, either help us sell our house and return to Hendersonville or overwhelm me with your peace here.

I prayed this prayer every day. As began to pray, I noticed my stress of being here in Landrum lessened. My heart still longed for Hendersonville, but I began to enjoy what I had here.

Then in late March, Terry got the itch. He always gets the itch. It’s rare that he stays in one place too long. ” Let’s put that house on the market and see what happens” I was haphazardly reluctant and cautiously excited, all at the same time. We’ve been there. Done that.

So, we placed a ”For Sale” sign in our front yard. We had calls and a few showings. Nothings substantially sound, until one lady came. She loved the house and left saying, ”I think this is the one for me.”

Terry was excited. I thought I was too. Then it happened, suddenly I began to feel sad. I love my house. I love our quaint neighborhood and more importantly our neighbors. I began to pray, ”God, if this is what you want, allow. It to happen.”

On Thursday, she called to say she was going to purchase the house across the street and be our neighbor. She wanted a brand new house. I was not sad. I was relieved.

Then, I got my act together and decided to list on Zillow. This proved a huge success. We had a few other showings and then an offer. The offer was ridiculously low. We went back and forth most of the day. When I realized they weren’t willing to pay the price we wanted, Terry and I agreed to take the house off the market, at least for a while.

I need to interject here to say, we could have easily taken their offer. We would have made money. However, the consideration being offered would not have been good for our neighbors and the price valuation of our neighborhood. Sometimes, it’s not about what you can put in your pocket. You have to consider others.

I am so excited we are going to stay. God has done what I began asking of Him, almost a year ago.

Is there something that is troubling your heart? If so, realize that it’s probably the enemy trying to weave and work his craftiness. Cry out to God. Be open and honest with him. Ask specifically. Pray without ceasing. Do what He tells you to do. Walk in obedience to Him. He will make your joy complete.

Honey, Did We Give Them A Good Deal?

Popaw was always about making sure that he never took advantage of people, especially when it came to a business deal. His upbringing had a lot to do with that. His father, Robert, was a man of many trades one was buying and selling milk cows.

In the words of Popaw, ”Anytime Daddy would sell a milk cow, it always came with a guarantee. He would always tell the purchaser if the cow didn’t milk, he would take it back and return their money. He said he couldn’t recall a time his dad ever had to take one back.

My grandparents lived very modestly and way below their means. In truth, they were never possessed by their possessions. So often they would just give what they had away, even if they could resell it. Several of these things included cars and boats.

In addition, my grandparents were extremely generous. Honestly, almost to a fault. When they heard of anyone in need and it was within their means to provide, rest assured, they would. When they gave it was a true gift. There were never any strings attached. They simply gave and I can assure you their ability to give increased with each gift.

If there was an anything Popaw held tightly to, it was his house. It brought him joy, safety, and security. His home also became dangerous for him to continue living alone. It was truly a sad day when we had to move him. But like everything else in his life, he adapted and went on.

We waited about three months before we began completely clearing out and prepping his home to sell. Before we had all the clutter cleared a neighbors grandchild was interested in purchasing the home.

Popaw and Mom asked if I would just handle the transaction. Even though I didn’t keep up my CE for my license, I still kept up to date with changes in the industry. I knew the required paperwork and how to fill in the blanks.

The transaction took place without a hitch. The house was sold and now belonged to someone else.

One day shortly after the sell, I was visiting Popaw and he said, ”Honey, I’ve got a question for you. Did we give those folks who bought my house a good deal? We didn’t take advantage of them, did we?”

”Absolutely, we gave them a good deal. I knew you’d have it no other way. In fact, we gave them a very good deal.” I replied.

”That’s good to know. I don’t like to feel like I’ve taken advantage of anyone.”

And with that, he never mentioned the sell of his house again. He was satisfied knowing we had given the new owners a good deal.

The longer I am without him, the more I realize how much he truly impacted my life, my values, and my beliefs.

The moral: life is far too short to place a high value on things. It is much more advantageous to place a high value on people because they are your real treasures.

Special times with Popaw

By now you know that not only was Popaw one of my favorite people, he was also my hero.

Over the next few.weeks, I have plenty of stories to share. This particular story happened within the last three years.

Before Ned’s diagnosis with cancer, Mom.had predominantly been responsible for Popaw’s health care.

Prior to moving him to the assisted living facility, Mom would. commonly meet him at his appointments. However, when he no longer had use of the car, Mom had to take him.

With Ned’s.illness and all.of.his appointments, it became increasingly harder for Mom.to.keep.up.

One day. I announced to.her that I would start.managing his healthcare. It was the one thing I could completely take off her shoulders to allow her focus to be more on Ned. Besides, I reasoned, if something happened to her, I would be the one responsible for him. It just made.sense.

I viewed it as an opportunity to help her and spend some. extra time.with Popaw. I enjoyed his company and he enjoyed mine.

Our first trip to the doctor without Mom would be unique and different for him. He was so accustomed to her taking him, I knew it would be slightly awkward. I decided, on my way to pick him up, to pop in my Selah cd because he would recognize all the Hymns.

In classic Popaw style, he got in my car and immediately began to thank me. ”Honey, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such good treatment but I sure appreciate you taking care of me.”

After a few minutes of small talk, the car grew silent except for the cd playing. The silence was soon interrupted by a sound I now wish I had recorded. The raspy bass voice of my Popaw singing, ”I sing because I am happy. I sing because I am free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

At that moment, any twinge of nervousness he had about me taking over his care, or any fear I had that I wouldn’t do it the right way was completely absorbed by the fact that we both knew and understood a valuable truth at that moment. God was taking care of both of us.

Can I be really blunt here?

To say I miss this treasure of a human being is an understatement. There will never be another like him. I am thankful I didn’t waste the time of frivolity and that my earlier choices had dictated time I would get to spend with Popaw.

Listen here

Made for More Than This

Do you ever sit back and think, ”I was made for more than this?” It’s happened to me on more than one occasion. However, as God began transforming this rebel heart, I remember distinctly having this thought permeate my mind for weeks.

It all began when I was twenty barefoot and pregnant. We’d moved to the Bremerton, Washington. I was alone. Oh, I had a few friends but they had decided to live in base housing. We chose townhome living.

After a week of being there, I decided to look in the phone book for a list of nearby churches. Considering I didn’t know anything about the area, I reasonably set out the day before to find the location of the church I wanted to attend.

Fortunately, it wasn’t far from our townhome. It was a small church with a down-home country feel. One of those little white churches in the Wildwood but this was more like the little white church in the evergreens. I can’t even recall the name.

The next day, I readied myself and went. I had no expectations. I just desired a sense of community and hoped I’d find it there. Little did I know that I would discover far more than the community.

From the moment I entered until the time of my departure, I felt welcomed, loved and accepted. This unique community of believers would provide the backbone for teaching me how to love and accept unconditionally.

During this time, I began to realize that Christianity is far more than religion. It’s based on a relationship with Jesus. These people truly loved and devoted themselves to Jesus and each other. The Bible was their moral compass and from that, they did not waver.

I loved these people and they truly loved me. For the first time in my life, I could really be me. No pretense, no undue expectations, no condemnation, just love in its purest and most rare form.

I wish I could tell you that my rebel heart was totally transformed. It wasn’t but God began showing me through the love and devotion of these precious people that I was made for much more than the path I was headed down.

As I reflect on this experience, I am reminded of how God relentlessly pursued me. He loved me back to himself. He used this small church and its people in an unfamiliar place to teach me how to love and accept others and more importantly to love and accept myself. It’s called grace and mercy.

A Special Day…..with a nervous twist

On February 6, 1966, Popaw had the honor of walking both of his daughters down the aisle. Yes, a double wedding ceremony with, you guessed it, matching dresses. What a joyous occasion of all and a certainly a day not to be forgotten.

Just look at those sweet smiles. They all look so relaxed. Trust me, Aunt Trisha and Mom were very relaxed, or soon would be. Popaw is just naturally relaxed.

My precious Mamaw had some serious bouts mental illness during her lifetime. It wasn’t something that was brought up on a regular basis. However, there was a period in her life when she had to be given shock treatments and spent some time away in a mental hospital. Fortunately, after that time her issues were controlled through medication.

At this point in her life, she only needed Valium to calm her nerves. She was a bundle of nerves. Apparently, on this day she was more than a bundle of nerves. She was so nervous, she decided that Mom and Aunt Trisha would be nervous too. So, she gives them both a Valium and they take it. Little did they know how one little pill would affect them.

Mom doesn’t recall exactly when the pill kick in. She just remembers that by the time they got in the car to head to Florida, she was sound asleep by the time they reached Ceasars Head, which is about 15-20 from where the reception was held. And she slept and slept and slept, only waking for a potty break and food. She awoke when she and Daddy reached their destination.

I recently asked her, ”One thing I am curious about, did you have sex on your wedding night?”

She began laughing and said, ”Yes, but I couldn’t do much. I was too tired. Your Dad told me that I would never take one of those pills again.”

The moral to the story: just because you’re a nervous wreck doesn’t mean others feel the same way and never give your child a Valium on their wedding day.