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.

A Humbling Tumble -Part 4 The final lesson

Ok. So, we had been hit with remnants of Hurricane Ivan and remained powerless for about a week, once the power is restored life returns to normal, right? No, because there’s nothing normal for a mom of four to be in a wheelchair and/or using crutches.

Like I mentioned before, we had an incredible group of friends from our Bible Fellowship Group. They brought in meals for us, every few days, and did this for almost a month. One couple, came on Saturday after our power had been restored. They knew we had a mess and she called and said, ”We are not just bringing dinner, we are coming to eat with you. But we are bringing our family and found to help clean up debris. ” And so they did. For a few hours prior to dinner, they all worked around our property and the neighbors cleaning up.

About a week after all the hubbub, on. Thursday evening, Ryan had a football game. Terry left me home with Alex and Amy. About an hour after he left, I get a phone call from him, ”Ryan fell on his arm in the end zone and I am taking him to the ER” Now, we have another wounded warrior at our house. Ryan had broken his humerus. Considering the location of the break, they wrapped his arm and put it in a sling. He could only sleep in the recliner and upright position for several weeks. Terry made sure he got his medication on time to help keep his pain at a minimum.

I hope you’re beginning to see why it’s imperative that Terry has been given a great sense of humor.

Then about a month after my surgery, we were back at the Surgery Center with Matthew. He had some major issues with his ears for years and needed to have tubes. It was really no big deal but just another example of life’s hurdles.

Finally, November came and I was allowed to begin bearing weight on my foot and I could start driving again. Hallelujah.

Terry returned to work and our daily routines went back to some form of normalcy. But how normal can you really be with four kids?

In February I was allowed to begin rehab in my foot, which would take about 6 months to complete. Three days a week for 75 minutes. It was a difficult process. I basically had to learn to walk again. The process was painful but with each passing month, I could see and feel progress. And it’s funny how life works that way. We don’t always get to walk the easy terrain, sometimes it’s rough and rocky but in order for you to reach your destination, you must be willing to submit to the process.

In that year, God taught me some valuable lessons. When I struggle with pride, I am reminded that I have absolutely nothing to be puffed up about. Although, I sometimes try hard to find something, especially when it involves my children. When I grow frustrated with Terry and trust me, I do (he does with me too) I am reminded that I have been given a treasure, Just as Terry saw the great need to show us unconditional and unselfish love by taking on the responsibility of being Mr. Mom plus, I too have that same responsibility to him. To love and care for this precious gift God has given to me.‭‭

Friends, we are not promised a life of ease without hurdles and complications. In fact, James tells us:

These things happen in order for us to grow. We persevere through endurance and it stretches our faith. In the same way, my muscles had to he stretched and pain had to be endured for me to to learn to walk again. If I had given up when it for hard, chances are I would’ve walked with a limp.

Can I encourage you today? If you’re going through a trial or hard time, hold onto this truth that God has for you. In the end, it will be for your good and for His glory.

A Humbling Tumble Part 3: Journal entries July 29 and August 2, 2004

This is the actual journal entry I wrote the day of my fall and the next day.

July 29-

The things I want aren’t necessarily the things I need. Therefore, I must ask God to transform my way of thinking and I must allow Him to work within me to act according to His plan and purpose for my life.

I am so blessed; yet, I have neglected to take great care of the gifts I have been given. I am so quick to want more and more, not considering the things I wang may not be things God wants me to have.

The things I desire above all are peace and happiness.

The only way to achieve those things is for me to give God first place in my life. He must have complete reign on my heart and I must be willing to give Him that privilege. He is the source of everything I need. If He chooses not to supply it, then it wasn’t meant for me.

Psalms 37: 16-18 says, ”It is better to have little than to be evil and possess much. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly. Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent and they will receive a reward that will last forever.”

And Psalms 37:23 tells me that ”The Lord directs the steps of the godly, He delights in every detail of their lives.” Wow! God delights in every detail of my life. Day by day He is my source.

Lord, help me to love and respect what you have brought into my life. Help, me to value the quality of relationships in my life and not be concerned with the material things.

Around 5:30 that evening I fell down the flight of stairs.

August 01 –

I’m not certain what God is trying to teach me but I hope I am teachable. Oh, I know to be more careful when attempting to start a grill from a concrete landing pad. But there’s so much more than that He wants me to learn,

Here’s what I know. He wants me to be faithful in every aspect of my life but I think there’s so much more He wants to teach me…..maybe……maybe not.

Psalms 39: 4-5 ”Lord remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered and that my life is fleeting away. My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath. ”

Lord, what I do I need to do today that will impact lives for you?

When I reread these journal entries a whole host of emotions pour out. I remember the struggle I felt because I was being pulled in many different directions. At that time, I was trying to be a career Mom. I was actively selling real estate and doing quite well. However, the more I was away from home, the more I saw my family suffering. My children were struggling because I wasn’t there. Until that point, I had been there. My relationships with close friends suffered because I wasn’t making time for them. You see, I found myself in a place of want which was greater than my need. I knew it and so did God. Sometimes God will allow things in our lives that are hard for a season but are ultimately for our own good as well as those around us.

Maybe you’re just now reading: The fall I am referring to can be found in the previous two posts. A Humbling Tumble Parts 1 & 2.

Oh, Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”Popaw, I love you.”

”I love you back.”

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

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

Best $5.00 I’ve Spent

Two weeks ago was the Tryon Youth Theater’s, running of Matilda. A few weeks prior to the event I asked Terry if he would go with me. He first wanted to know if the place had air conditioning and then agreed to go. The only stipulation was, ”I’m not spending a perfectly good date night to go.” Leaving me with only Sunday matinee as an option.

The truth is, he’s not truly fond of musicals. He will grin and bear it but it’s not really his thing.

I hemmed and hawed and put off purchasing tickets until about a week before the show. By the time I got around to purchasing the tickets most of the Sunday was sold out and there were no two seats together.

Considering he really didn’t want to go anyway, I told him I would just go on Friday night by myself. I’m pretty sure he did a happy dance in his mind.

So, I bought myself a $5.00 ticket and took myself to see the show.

As I walked to the entrance of the Tryon Fine Arts Center, memories began flooding my mind. As I walked past the stairwell, pictured below, I remembered how often during rehearsals some of the cast would venture out to talk and hang out when we weren’t working our scenes. Sometimes idle chatter and other times trying to mend a broken heart.

As I neared the front of the building a wave of excitement rushed over me as I was back on familiar ground. I remembered that same feeling of sheer exuberance before the start of each night. I could hardly wait.

Also, I discovered I had a few friends with children who were participating in the show and was eager to see them. Not to mention, my favorite piano teacher was leading and directing the music.

I sat down, looked over the program reminiscing about days gone by. Remembering how much fun it was to be part of the summer plays. Not only did it give me something to occupy my time with, it also kept me from having to go on vacation with my parents and younger siblings. I would stay with my grandparents in Brevard and drive back and forth for play practice. It afforded me time with friends and also to make new friends. Truly a remarkable experience to be play a part.

Now, back to the show….

From start to finish the show was magical. The cast was so well picked, each actor fit their part perfectly. The energy and sense of togetherness were clearly on display from beginning to end. It was truly a delightful experience.

As the curtain drew on the final scene, a tear fell from my eye. I wasn’t sad it was over, I was happy I decided to go.

Always On Time and Always at the Right Time

Again, I find myself amazed that God poured out these words four years ago. Interestingly, He knew in July of 2015, what we would learn in March 2016, Ned would be diagnosed with Atypical Stage 4 Lung cancer.

You know what? God came to us during that storm. He quieted our souls and we trusted in Him. He continues to pour out his goodness on Mom as well as the rest of our family.

Has it been easy or welcomed? Absolutely not. Would we have chosen things differently? Absolutely yes! But God, in His Sovereignty knew what was best and stood beside us the whole way.

So many people I know have been going through some very significant storms in their lives. For some it’s financial, others relational, illness, others loss of loved ones, and others emotional.

As I have been praying for these dear ones, God continues to remind me that He is with us in our storm. We may not see him but He is there and He will come to our rescue but only when the time is right and always just at the right time.

This picture keeps coming to mind for several reasons. Let me share the story behind it.

Mount Arbel is the place where Jesus retreated to go pray, while he sent his disciples on ahead of him, on the Sea of Galilee, to Bethsaida. While the disciples were on the sea, a squall or significant storm came. They were terrified. Jesus watched from the mountain top. He knew they were in the storm. He knew they were afraid. He knew they needed Him but He also knew they needed to go through the storm. (Mark 6:45-52)

Rick Warren says, “He’s letting you go through this storm for the same reasons he sent the disciples into the storm — to say, ‘I’m all you need. I can handle anything. I will come to you in the ninth hour. And I’ll come walking on the very thing that scares you the most. I’m not asking you to come to me. I’m going to come to you. You need to stop being afraid, and you need to totally trust me in faith.”

Look at this picture of Amy taken from Mount Arbel. The most fascinating fact about this is that from Mount Arbel you can see the entire Sea of Galilee. Just a great reminder that Jesus sees the whole picture. He sees all that life is throwing at us and He will come to us in our storm. We must believe in Him.

His Love is as Vast as the Ocean

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

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

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

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

Heed the Warning

True story. It’s a rare occurrence for me to be behind the wheel of a moving vehicle if Terry’s in the same vehicle. He hates my driving. He says I hit every pothole on the road. He’s probably right because my avoidance seems to be a direct hit.

Anyway, in the fall of 2006, Terry had neck surgery. After his few day stints in the hospital, they allowed him to come; but not before he signed documents stating that he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks.

One thing to note about Terry is once he gets something on his mind he’s very persistent until it’s complete. That’s how he rolls.

The neck surgery required that I drive him around for at least nine weeks. Pure torture for us both. Rest assured.

Every day he would remark about my impeccable skill to hit every pothole in the road. After about a week, he got tired of riding in my van. He decided it was time to look past the era of vans and find something else. So, he asked me to drive him to Asheville. Apparently, he had been looking around and found this used car place.

He wants to test drive a VW Passat (4 doors) and a Volvo wagon. Keep in mind. I’m the one driving. He’s not. We finish the test drive and the next thing I know we are sitting with the salesman, and Terry is making a deal. He’s trading my van in for not one but two cars. (Side note: None of our kids were licensed drivers at the time).

We drive the Volvo home and leave the VW.

The kids all wondered how we were all going to fit in one car. I wondered the same. Terry didn’t seem concerned. He said the boys can ride in the back because it had one of those fold up seats.

I called Ned that evening and asked if he would go back to Asheville with us the next day and drive the other car back home. He agreed.

We picked him up and the look on his face said it all. If you know Ned, you understand exactly what I mean. This is the look!

Surprisingly he didn’t utter a word. I think he knew Terry was on drugs and not thinking clearly. Keep in mind, he did sign a document stating he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks after surgery.

For the next few weeks, it was like a zoo. I used one car for transporting kids and another for transporting Terry. After about two months of chaos with cars, Terry came to his senses. He traded both cars in on a new Nissan Pathfinder with the 3rd-row seating.

The moral to this story: Heed the warnings after major surgery and whatever you do, don’t make major decisions for at least two weeks. Your brain is in a fog and you can’t process clearly.

A Letter to my Seven Year Old Self

Please don’t misunderstand when I share this. I am not searching for sympathy. This girl imposed enough of that on herself when she was younger. I also used it as an excuse for my poor choices and bad behavior.

Why am I sharing?

Maybe this will help someone else. Maybe there’someone out there who’ve walked in my shoes. Maybe you too, have felt worthless or useless. Maybe like me, someone has made a promise they were never meant to make and it’s caused confusion and delusion. I don’t know, maybe someone just needs to hear that ”You are loved and worthy.”

This to me was a freeing exercise to do.

To my Seven-year-old self,

Little girl, you’ve placed the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have chosen a burden and responsibility much too great to shoulder. In fact, you can’t possibly do this. Not only are you not an adult, and trying to do adult things, you need to allow others to care for you.

I know you made a promise to your Daddy the night before he died. I know you intend to keep that promise. That’s how you are. You always strive to do what you say you will. But your Daddy didn’t mean it in the literal way you took it. He just wanted to reassure you that he had faith and confidence that you would do the right thing by helping your Mom, not trying to take his place.

Sweetie, you spent many hours angry and frustrated because you were a child trying to be an adult. You didn’t always enjoy the carefree life a child of seven often does. You grew up way too fast.

Your anger translated into hidden tears at night. It also wedged a gap between you and your Creator, God and your family members. Often times you would burst into fits of rage and no one understood because you never let anyone in your world. You kept it bottled. Plastered a smile on your face and pretended all was well.

You didn’t break the promise to you, Daddy. He is not disappointed with you. Your mom isn’t disappointed with you and your siblings are not disappointed with you. You are so loved.

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.