Daddy, I Can’t Choose Just One…

Her plea began, ”But Daddy I need to take my family with me. I can’t choose just one.”

I’m fairly certain this was our annual Spring Break trip with the kids to the beach. Amy was probably five or six at the time. She proudly announced to all of us that she had her things packed and in the car the day before our scheduled departure.

I already had her necessities packed so I just assumed she was eager for our trip.

The next morning we gathered our things and began towing them outside. We had to haul most of out things in gigantic luggage bag on the top of our van. A must when you have limited space and a half dozen bodies in one vehicle.

Once the luggage bag was secure, Terry opened the trunk to fill it up. To his surprise the vans limited cargo space was already half full…….of Amy’s stuffed animals, at least twenty and probably more. They were piled and luckily there was a cargo net which hindered an avalanche of stuffed animals.

Terry called her over and told her that we couldn’t possibly take all of these animals. And that’s when she began her plea, ”But Daddy, I need to take my family with me. I can’t choose just one.”

That’s the first time she referred to her stuffed animals as her family. It was one of those moments you want to bottle up and keep forever.

Aren’t you glad that God didn’t tell Jesus that He could only choose ”just one”? His reason for subjecting himself to the brutality of the cross was for all of us. He chose to die in your place and my place. It is our choice to chose to believe in Him and the power of His resurrection.

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

That was my ”Today”

Brad Paisleys, Today, is probably one of the best songs ever written and sung. It’s such a great reminder that if we can hold on to special memories today, those memories are what will get us through tomorrow.

And I don’t know about tomorrow 
Right now the whole world feels right 
And the memory of a day like today 
Can get you through the rest of your life.

I’ll eventually get back to our Lexington trip but I keep mulling this post over and over again. I know from previous experience when these thoughts don’t go by the wayside, I am supposed to do something about it and so I’ll write.

It was the most gut-wrenching day of my adult life. The moment when the Hospice Doctor tells me, you need to call the family in. ”Ned’s time is short. I don’t know if he’ll be here more than 3-4 days.”

Just to clarify, I asked, ”So, you’re telling me that I need to call my sister to come back and I need to try to get my brother here from Oregon and any of the grandchildren that can come?”

”Yes, and I wouldn’t linger.”

I graciously thanked him and called Kristi. Call one. Check.

Knowing full well that David would unlikely be up a little before 6 his time, I called anyway. I held firm and didn’t get shakey with my words. ”You need to make arrangements to get here ASAP! And please call Zach and let him know.” Call two. Done.

Breathe. Focus. Breathe……reality set in. I had to call my children. All of a sudden, like a tidal wave, I collapsed screaming and crying into Terry’s lap. ”I can’t do this. This is too hard. I can’t call the kids and tell them their Papaw is dying. I can’t. I just can’t.” The weight of it all finally took its toll.

Gently rubbing my back, he said, ”It’s ok. I’ll call them.” I cried harder. I ugly cried. Every ounce of what I’d been holding back was now gaining momentum and no matter how I tried, it wouldn’t stop until it all filtered out. When it was over, I dried my tear-stained eyes, blew my nose and announced with all the confidence I could muster, ”No, it’s something I need to do. I’ll call them.”

The first call was to Ryan. I knew he was working and I wasn’t about to leave a message of such magnitude. I just left a message asking him to return my call.

Next up was Alex. Keep in mind. Matthew was deployed. I would later have to contact him through the Red Cross. Alex had just seen Ned a few days before. He wasn’t shocked or surprised but he was quiet. Knowing he had classes, I tried hard to keep things as upbeat as possible. He would be home tomorrow and that was good enough.

In between, calls, Ryan called me back. He knew. I didn’t have to tell him. I did anyway. Sometimes, its just good to give reality a voice. Hard. But good. Immediately, he asked, ”Mom, are you okay? I know all of this has been hard on you.”

Tears fell as I assured him I was okay. Truthfully, I was okay. His sensitivity made me cry a little.

Finally, I called Amy. There’s never a good time or a good way to do these things. I knew her schedule and she was finishing up classes and would be heading to track practice. With every ounce of strength, I could round up, I said, ”Amy, they’ve only given your Papaw a few days to live. You’re gonna need to come home.” Silence. Dead Silence.

Sniffling she said, ”Mom, I’m crying and everyone is seeing me cry cause I’m walking in the courtyard. I’ll have to call you back. I can’t talk right now.”

It wasn’t long until she called me back and I could tell she’d still been crying, ”Mom, when I told Cale (her coach), he told me to skip practice and come home.”

I pleaded with her to be careful.

An hour and a half later, she arrived. Safe and sound.

It’s what transpires within the next hour or so that touches my heart in ways I cannot even begin to describe.

Amy’s main focus was to attend to her Papaw. He was still coherent but wasn’t talking much. A few words here and there. A nod of the head. Maybe a smile or two. She asked him if he wanted some ice cream. He nodded and she took the spoon and began feeding him. She would ask, “Papaw, do you want another bite and he would nod.” After a little while, he threw his hand up for her to stop and clamped his lips together, indicating that he was done. No more.

Sweetly she leaned close to him and said, ”See Papaw, I can feed you just like you fed me when I was little.”

So, if I’d had a lot of tears left in me at that point, I would’ve been balling like a baby. What a tender and precious moment my baby girl had just experienced with her Papaw.

As it would turn out, Amy fed her Papaw the last meal he ate. It would be a memory etched in our minds forever. A precious memory.

It makes me so grateful for the early morning hard because, at the end of the day, God gave us such a great gift. The gift of His perfect timing and placing us at the right time and place. I think today, that’s what He wants me to remember and He wants me to tell you, His ways are always perfect. He is always on time and His goodness abounds in rich mercy and grace.

Pure Joy

I found this picture and shared it a few years ago! I call it, “Pure Joy”. In fact, I can’t think of one thing that has ever given Popaw( and Mawmaw) more joy than family, especially the grand and great grandchildren.

There’s a story behind this picture.

At first glance it just appears Popaw and Matthew had been playing on the floor. Actually, that was not the case! In fact, for several days, Matthew had been so sick he could barely hold up his head. I’ve never seen a child hurl (puke) as much as he did. We were fortunate to keep liquids in him for more than 10 minutes. He was pitifully sick.

The boys and I had gone to stay the weekend with Mawmaw and Popaw. Snow was in the forecast but it was March. Besides, if you’ve lived in our neck of the woods, the mountains can breakup or dissuade any would be snow storms. However, it just so happened that is was the Blizzard of ’93! Accurately dubbed the ’93 Superstorm . Here

During the wee hours of the morning, Saturday March 13, I was awakened by a cough, then a gagging noise followed by the sound of rushing liquid pouring from Matthew’s mouth. The bed covered in vomit and him sitting in the middle of it all, crying. Mawmaw heard the commotion and came to help. We got Matthew cleaned up and sheets off the bed and just as things settled, Matthew got sick again, Fortunately, we kept it off his clothes. Unfortunately, he just kept throwing up. I knew the best thing to do was keep him from getting dehydrated. This became quite the chore because with every sip of water or chunk of ice, within minutes the volcano erupted again, and again, and again. We managed.

The snow came with a fury. Heaven had multiple dump trucks filled with the white stuff. Matthew continued to hurl. Fortunately, more time elapsed between episodes and water and ice became our friends. Then it happened, within 36 hours of Matthew being sick, Ryan started. His sickness didn’t have the vengeance of Matthew’s. Now, we had two puny little boys and a pile of snow so deep, we couldn’t dig out if we tried. We were stuck. Inside and out.

As if we, Mawmaw, Popaw and myself, weren’t tired enough from taking care of the boys, the unthinkable happened. They got sick, at the same time. I think they took turns back and forth to the bathroom, where they spent the better part of a day. The good news is the virus only lasted for about 24 hours for them. Ryan was recovering well. Matthew still had lingering effects but mostly better. That’s when picture was taken, Popaw was feeling better and so thrilled to see Matthew feeling better that he got down on the floor with him. Played with him and then grabbed him and hugged him.

As it turned out, we ended up staying with Mawmaw and Popaw for about 10 days. Not only were we waiting for the snow to clear, I got sick too.

Honestly, when I look at this picture and remember our time with them, there’s no place I’d rather have been during that time. More than that, for Mawmaw and Popaw, they loved having us there. Mawmaw always felt very useful when she was administering care and Popaw just loved having us around. There was always an inexplicable joy that came from being with them. And there was always “pure joy” whenever there was a child in their arms.

Straddling the Fence

Avoiding the inevitable, that’s what I do best. I would much prefer the easy over the hard any day! Truth be told, the majority of folks feel the same way. The reality is most things take work, hard work, failure after failure, disappointment after disappointment and heartbreak after heartbreak. If I’m being honest, I always shy away from these particular posts because they depict much of my humanness and pride gets in the way. I’ve really had to pull away and almost cocoon to be able to process through it all. I’m not saying I’ve got it all together now but I’m moving forward and pressing on. For me it’s an awakening, an awareness of who God really is and that He is with me no matter what. I don’t mind telling you the past few months have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have floundered around like a fish out of water.

My tendency is to call it “straddling the fence”. Do you know what happens when you straddle for too long? Your crouch hurts. It’s uncomfortable and you have no choice but to go one way or the other. You can’t stay that way.

Oh, sure, I can find excuses for my behavior and compromise my beliefs, little by little, but in the end excuses and compromise leave me feeling desperate and hopeless Truthfully, I may even manage to get both legs to one side but my behind is still sitting on that unyielding strip of wood or hard metal rail. So, what am I going to do about it?

The first thing is to thank God for my blessings every day. As I thank Him, I am reminded of this goodness and grace. I truly don’t deserve anything but He has given the gift of salvation and the hope of eternal life through Jesus. (John 3:16). So, if I can’t find any other reason to thank Him that is reason enough.

Next I can start each day by choosing to find joy. Even if I don’t feel like it, I can still choose it. I can allow the “joy of the Lord to be a my strength”. (Nehemiah 8:10) I can go to God with my whining and complaining and allow Him to remind me that He is my source of joy. David penned this perfectly in Psalm 23

The truth is I am on the fence because I want what I want and I need to get “me” out of the equation. The only way to get over me and my selfish desires is to put Him first in everything. Now, I know that’s much easier said than done. Trust me. I struggle daily but it’s about the journey. It’s learning to trust that His ways are more fantastic and audacious than mine.

The power of music: using your giftedness for His glory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Unforgettable Life

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

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

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

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

An Unforgettable Life

By Kelly Reese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salt, Pressure Cooker, Time……

Funny how our lives go through seasons, just like the weather. When Terry and I first met, even many years before, I loved cooking. It always brought great sense of satisfaction. The idea that I could take different items, put them together and the finished product tasted good, excited me,

My first cooking experience was an absolute disaster and surprisingly I tried again. This was not really a normal pattern of behavior for me because I liked perfection. I didn’t like to do anything wrong. Most often if I failed miserably the first time, there was no repeat failure. I just refused to try again.

Let me tell you about my first cooking experience.

Mom knew I loved helping in the kitchen and she was always more than willing to let me help. So she purchased me Charlie Brown cookbook. As soon as it arrived, I was eager beaver to try out a recipe. I scanned through the book and found. Recipe for egg salad. As most of the recipes in a children’s cookbook, it was easy. We all liked egg salad and I liked the idea of everyone trying something I made for them.

I carefully and meticulously followed the directions. I boiled the eggs. Let them cool. Cracked, peeled and mashed them. Measured and stirred in the mayonnaise. Then measured and dumped in the salt. Stirred it up good and tasted my first creation. The first taste was salty and got saltier as it slid down my throat. Yuk! Why was this so salty?

I had Mom taste it. She said, “Honey, how much salt did you use?”

“A cup. That’s what the recipe said. Look!”

She glanced at the recipe and said, “No honey! The recipe doesn’t call for a cup of salt. Just a pinch! ”

“Mama, it doesn’t say pinch. It says salt right under the cup of mayonnaise. I just thought it meant the same amount.”

Needless to say, my first attempt at cooking by myself didn’t end well. We tossed out that egg salad. Mom insisted that I try again. Fortunately, the next go around proved more successful.

That was when I was 10.

Not only did Mom help fuel my love of cooking but my Grandma Reese added fuel to the fire. I loved watching her in the kitchen. She was one of those who looked everything and measured nothing. She had it down pat. She could whip up a fine spread. Everything she made was good. She always had food and always enough for anyone who stopped by to eat.

My love for cooking grew exponentially when I was teenager. I loved cooking for family and friends. I also enjoyed baking and baking with friends.

I had another small faux pas with cooking when I was 16. Sunday was roast day at our house. A meal that consisted of roast, carrots, green beans, mashed taters, gravy and Ned’s biscuits. One particular Sunday I offered to fix the mashed taters because I was attending a different church and knew I would be hone before the rest of the fam.

I washed, peeled and quartered the potatoes and threw them along with a little water into the famous Presto pressure cooker. It’s just how we did potatoes because of ease and convenience. I turned they eye on high and listened as the pressure built. The only problem I began to notice was that the agitator, or jiggler, as we commonly labeled it, wasn’t jiggling. But I could hear the pressure boiling. Suddenly without warning or notice the top exploded, sending mounds of potatoes streaming though the air and on everything. Wish I had a picture. Potatoes were everywhere, on cabinets, countertops, floors and even hanging on the popcorn ceiling. Mom said she kept finding remnants of potatoes for years. Lesson learned: Properly secure the lid, making sure the handles align properly and make sure as the pressure builds the “jiggler” jiggles,

Fortunately, the potato blow up didn’t diminish my love of cooking.

The first time I had Terry over to meet the parents, I cooked. (This was the time Ned blew up and got his nickname “Nitro”) I’ve always said that’s why he married me in the first place. I enjoyed cooking and he loved to eat. He’s was a bottomless pit and still is sometimes.

Having four children and Terry I learned to cook big. A lot of times, we generally had more than six around the table between family and kids friends, I just tailored my cooking for a crowd. As the kids grew so did appetites but it was no problem. I had a system and it worked. It worked well until one day we found ourselves minus two, Alex playing golf and Amy doing the everything else. Cooking became less and less. It was harder to maintain a system or schedule. It seemed we were gone all the time. When I did cook, everyone was exited and I made sure it was worthwhile. In fact, I always laughed and said my children were spoiled ton good food because about the only fast food they would eat was Chick-fil-A and occasionally Wendy’s.

We got more in the habit of eating out than eating in. Truthfully, with grocery store prices and the food I like to cook, we weren’t spending any more money. We were still eating together when we could.

I really thought after Alex graduated I would find more time to cook. Honestly, I think Amy’s schedule expanded ten-fold. Cooking didn’t happen and when it did, I didn’t really enjoy it. Mostly because I knew so much would go to waste or be given away, I struggled to find balance to cook or four.

Last year, I told a good friend that I was praying that God would restore my joy of cooking. I did better. I found myself fixing more meals at home. Simpler meals, not the complex ones. I found they were tasty and satisfying as the ones I spent hours to prepare. However, during much of the later part of the summer and into fall, I didn’t cook much again. This time, not from a standpoint of disdain, it was a time factor. I simply didn’t have time, especially when Ned got so sick.

Recently, my passion has been restored and I am finding myself in the kitchen more and more. I’m not always a good one to give a recipe. Like Grandma, a lot I do by look and taste. It’s just how I prefer to cook. I’m also one of those will take a few recipes and combine them into one.  So, if I ever get to the point I write and measure everything, I might publish some really good recipes.  Until then, I can tell you approximations and that’s about it.

Baking, however, requires more precision and fine tuning with the measuring.  Although I do tend to get a little vanilla happy in most recipes.  I do find myself, even in baking, adding a few recipes together.  It’s fun to see the end result.

From the time my passion and joy waned, until it was restored took about 5 years.  You read right.  5 whole years!  Of course my crew didn’t starve, we just know a lot of local restaurant owners and servers.

Folks, life is like this.  We go through periods of dry spells.  Periods of time when trials come and they don’t just go away.  I don’t know what you’re going through or how long you’ve been there.  What I can encourage you with today is to hang in there!  God is working while you’re waiting.  He will restore your passion and joy.  I don’t know when.  I don’t know how long.  I just know He will.

How do I know He will?  He has done it for me a time or fifty.  That’s how I know.  My entire life has felt like season upon season of change.  I just know that as I write the following statement from Charles Swindoll’s Book Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, I have come to understand that sometimes these times of trials are allowed by God to make us more into His likeness.

“It is not always God’s will that you be healed.  It is not always the Father’s plan to relieve the pressure.  Our happiness is not God’s chief aim.  He doesn’t have a wonderful (meaning ‘comfortable’) plan for everybody’s lifenot from a human perspective.  Often His plan is nowhere near wonderful.  As with Saul, His answer is not what he prayed and hoped for. ”

What God simply tells Saul is, “My grace is sufficient.”  Can you hear Him?  He whispers that you too.  Repeat that phrase over and over and over and over until you believe it with all of you heart.

When you do come out of the trial, remember that his strength has been perfected in your weakness and as  Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us, New Living Translation
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end”  Remember its all about what He’s doing in you.

Think of it like this.  If we didn’t have the cold, damp, dry, bareness of winter, we could never fully enjoy the bounty of spring.  Know and believe that He is doing a very good thing in you!

Learning about the Good Shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

I am the good shepherd .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Proposal and the Wedding

The Proposal and Wedding

“Ephesians 5:31Amplified Bible (AMP)

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become [a]one flesh.

If memory serves correctly, the closing on the house was on December 7th.  Thanksgiving came and went without a proposal.  Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed.  However, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was talking my sister on the phone and she asked, “When are you getting married?”  I told her that I was clueless and she asked to talk to Terry.

After a few minutes, Terry handed the phone back to me and she was screaming, “Oh my gosh, you’re getting married December 17th!!!”  Stunned and a little confused, I said, “Really?  He hasn’t even asked me, but he’s already set the date?  Ok!”

So I get off the phone and Terry says, “Well I had to give her a date because she’s coming home from Texas and she wanted to plan her trip around our wedding.”

“Maybe he’s not going to ask the old-fashioned way and maybe he’s not even giving me a ring.”  I thought silently.  Oddly, I was ok with that.

The following weekend was my birthday, but I was already committed for the weekend performances of the Messiah; so any celebrating had to wait.

On Monday Terry asked if I would go eat with him at Red Lobster.  As we drove to Greenville, our plans for the wedding were coming together (yes still without an official proposal).  We were going to have a small family wedding in the chapel at First Baptist.

We finished our meal and ordered dessert, as we were finishing, Terry moved his right hand across the table and turned his hand over, revealing a diamond ring he was wearing on his pinky finger. Oh the elation and excitement, I thought my heart would pop out of my chest.  Then, he asked, “Will you marry me?”  By now, several other patrons realized what was happening, so of course, all eyes and ears were on me.  “Of course I’ll marry you.”

And so it was settled…ring and all…December 17, 1994

Obviously, we didn’t leave ourselves much time to prepare or plan. The good news was that Mom had frozen a ton of leftover goodies from my sister’s wedding in April.  We decided that we were not going to have anything elaborate.  It was the second time for both of us.

The Chapel at First Baptist Hendersonville would serve us well.  The perfect place for a small gathering of family.  Immediate family only.  We had to draw the line somewhere.  Keep in mind that Terry comes from a large family.  His Mom and Dad had 6 children and Terry was the baby.  All of his siblings were married and had at least one child, at the time.

Besides, we couldn’t just pick out a few friends and not invite the whole lot of them.  We would hurt people’s feelings.  We just had no cut-off point.  Aside from that, we were funding the wedding ourselves.  My parents had already paid for one large shindig.  We had just purchased a house.  I was only working part-time.  We just couldn’t justify spending a ton of money we didn’t have.

Our plans were made and everything was coming together.  Anticipation and excitement filled the air.  But wait…..a honeymoon.  This discussion would become another source of contention between us.

Keep in mind, we were getting married only a week prior to Christmas and going somewhere for an entire week was out of the question.  Terry kept saying let’s wait and we could just do a honeymoon later.  I didn’t like that idea.  Kristi had been telling me about the cottages in Gatlinburg.  When I checked pricing, Terry erupted in an emphatic, “NO!  We are not spending that kind of money for a few days.”  Disappointment set in.  Again, I knew better than to pitch a hissy fit and cry.  I wouldn’t get my way.  I just sucked it up and decided I would be ok with waiting.

Then it happened.  Clear out of the blue.  The Sunday evening before our wedding we were sitting in church waiting for Pastor Steve to preach.  We sat beside Andy and Alice Lawson.  Alice was a former English teacher at Hendersonville High School.  Yes, one of Terry’s former teachers.  She loved him.  Her sweet husband Andy, a Nationwide Insurance Agent.

Alice put her hand on Terry’s knee, patting it gently and said, “We are so delighted to hear about your impending wedding.  We are just thrilled for you both.”  We graciously thanked her and then she leaned into Terry’s ear and asked, “Do you and Kelly like the beach?”
“We love the beach.” he replied.

“Do you have honeymoon plans?  I know your engagement has been short-lived.” she inquired.

He responded, “No, actually we don’t have any plans.”

Instantly, she leaned over Terry and spoke directly to both of us, “Andy and I wanted to do something for you.  We have a townhouse in Murrells Inlet and we would like for you to go stay there for your honeymoon.  We will get the keys to you this week. ”

If I had any doubts, they suddenly disappeared.  I knew we were doing the right thing and I knew, while our timing was questioned by some, was the best time for us.

The day before the wedding, I made one change.  I called Pastor Steve and told him we were going to add one more song.  I felt very compelled to sing the song, “I see Jesus in you”.

I awakened the next morning to a brilliant Carolina blue sky and sunshine in my eyes.  A flutter of joy in my heart and a little skip in my step.  It was going to be a great day. It was, after all, our wedding day.

Last year I asked Terry a question I’d pondered for awhile.  “You were so certain I would say “yes” to your proposal that you planned the date of our wedding before you asked me.  What would you have done if I’d said “No!”?

He replied, “It never really crossed my mind.  I don’t know.  I guess I would’ve been sad and had to take the ring back.  I’m so glad it didn’t happen that way.”

No doubt it’s been the best decision I made for myself and my two precious boys 23 years ago today.

The lyrics to the song I sang go as follows:  I see Jesus in your eyes and it makes me love you.  I hear Jesus in your voice and it makes me listen and I trust you with my life because you’re his.  I see Him in you….”

This is far from the end of our story.  This is only the beginning……