Remember and Celebrate

It seems perfectly fitting that today, Palm Sunday, while Christians around the world are commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I am finding cause to celebrate your triumphal entry to Heaven.

Forty-four years ago today, Jesus finished your place and called you home. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3. Jesus unbound you and set you free.

Your bindings were not literal chains but those of a physical nature. For almost four years leading up to your death, your body suffered greatly. Cancer raged. While the chemotherapy gave you time, it also depleted you of your strength. Then forty-nine days or more before you took your final breath, your chains became your hospital bed. The tumor resting on your spine was inoperable and caused paralysis from the waist down.

While the cancer and chemotherapy were taking its toll on your physical body and binding it up, nothing could contain the Spirit of God that welled up in your soul. You understood what Paul said in Philippians 1:21. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” You knew the end of your story was going to turn out well but you also knew for what time God gave you was a great responsibility to live your life worthy of your calling. And you did! You understood what most of us fail to even understand now, what really matters: Loving God with all of your heart and loving others. You loved others enough to share with them the Good News of Christ because you wanted them to experience the same peace and joy that you had been given.

Daddy, can I tell you something? Your life is still making a difference. The prayers you prayed are still being worked out. Your legacy continues. How do I know? Because your life continues to make a difference in my life and it leads me to desire greater wisdom and knowledge of Jesus and a greater love for people. I found this in your Bible and I am convinced it’s a prayer that you prayed for all of your children. God, answered your prayer, He allowed your actions to shine and He did remember you

And so today, as we enter into Holy Week by remembering Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I will remember and celebrate your triumphant entry into the arms of Jesus!

Disappointments

Have you ever been disappointed? You’ve wanted something for so long and finally, you get it, only it’s not exactly what you expected. However, later on, it becomes crystal clear that the exact thing you wanted wasn’t what you needed and that thing you got was exactly the perfect thing.

“I want a dog”. If I heard it once I heard it a thousand times. “But Daddy, please.”

“Amy, I am not going to get a dog until you get older. I am not raising two babies at once.”

Oh, don’t feel bad for her. She had an ample share of cats. In fact, all of her journal entries in First through Third grades either included a story about one of her cats or her friend, Hannah, and sometimes both. I’m not exaggerating. I read those darn things about two years ago and laughed until I cried.

Finally, Terry told her that when we got a house with a bigger yard she could have her dog. And let me tell you, she didn’t forget.

As soon as we moved to our house with over an acre of property, the begging kicked into overdrive. She was determined to wear him down.

She didn’t and refused to relent because he had a plan. Not really, but let’s just pretend he did.

Christmas was drawing near and Amy started chirping again about a dog.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Amy wanted a big dog. A German Shepherd was her preference but any big dog would do. When she was little and would petition for a dog she would often say, “I want a big dog like Clifford the big red dog!”

Well, it just so happened that Alex, Amy and I ended up at the local pet store in Hendersonville a few days prior to Christmas. We saw and held several breeds of dogs and I took pictures and sent them to Terry.

My favorite was the Bichon. I was particularly fond of this breed because not only were they cute little white balls of puff, resembling cotton, with coal-black noses and big round black eyes but the best part was they were hyper-allergenic and don’t shed! But I also knew Terry would make the final decision. Trust me when I say I pleaded my case to the max for this dog.

I’ve written about how Sammy was chosen. Read Here

Anyway, so Terry picked him out and gave him his name. We took him home on the evening of December 24, 2008. We somehow managed, with the help of Mom, Ned, Ryan and Matthew to keep the dog quiet until Amy and Mom got into bed.

Amy’s room was directly over Ryan and Matthew’s room. They were responsible for his care and keeping him as quiet as they possibly could. The only snafu was locking him in his crate. He whined incessantly until they took him out. Apparently, his cries were loud enough for Amy to hear because she kept tapping my Mom and saying, “Mawmaw, do you hear that? I hear a dog. Don’t you hear it? I’m getting a dog for Christmas!”

Mom said Amy continued to try her best to pry it out of her. Mom had to turn over and pretend to be asleep. I really don’t know how she did it without laughing at Amy’s persistence. This is my very relentless child who doesn’t give in or up easily.

Finally, Amy drifted off to sleep. However, I don’t think Ryan got any sleep and Matthew had very little. Sammy kept them awake.

Christmas morning came. Terry had decided that Sammy would be the last gift of the day. So, we kept him in his crate in the basement and I think the boys put a towel over the crate to dissolve some of the noise.

Finally, after the last present was unwrapped, Terry snuck downstairs and got the puppy. Amy was in the living room and Terry put him down on the other side of the wall and let him walk around.

“See, Mawmaw, I knew I heard a puppy last night. I told you I was getting a puppy.” She picked him up and loved on him a bit but then her disappointment surfaced, “He’s cute but I wanted a German Shepherd!”

Sammy just wasn’t what she expected. She was disappointed. Fortunately, her disappointment didn’t overshadow Christmas Day.

For years, she would mention not getting a big dog and then one day, not too long ago, she said, “You know, I’ve realized that Sammy has been the perfect choice for me and our family.”

Now, let me go back to the original question: have you ever been disappointed? I want to take it a bit further. Have you ever been disappointed because God hasn’t given you what you asked for? Maybe He didn’t come through when you expected but He did come through. Maybe you didn’t get the promotion when you thought and knew you had earned it but eventually, the promotion came. Maybe he didn’t give you the job you wanted but He provided a job. Maybe He didn’t heal your loved one on earth but gave them the ultimate healing in Heaven. I don’t know what has disappointed you. I know there have been many times in my life I’ve been disappointed.

However, what I’ve come to realize is that disappointments are part of life. Life is not a whimsical merry go round and singing “Kumbaya” around the campfire. Life is hard and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it doesn’t feel fair and sometimes it doesn’t feel good. But can I tell you what I’ve learned? Just because He doesn’t answer in the time and the way we think He should does not mean that He is not good. On the contrary, only a good, loving and wise father gives his children what is best for them. In the same way that Terry knew Sammy would be the best fit for the family.

Matthew 7:11. “If you, then, though, you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

Celebrating 25 years -Day 1

Yesterday was the beginning of our celebration of 25 years. It is a little early but not by much. Our trip to Charleston could not have been any wetter and I am so glad Terry was driving and not me. It poured buckets the whole three hour journey!

We had the opportunity to stop by and visit with our son, Matthew before he left for work.

For the first part of our journey, we are staying at the Hampton Inn Charleston-Historic District It’s actually right across the street from Embassy Suites where we normally stay. The primary reason I chose this hotel is because the beds at Hampton Inns are generally more comfortable and firm than at Embassy Suites. We’ve stayed enough between the two Hilton brands to know this is a fact. We prefer the amenities of Embassy, especially the cooked to order breakfast but sometimes it’s about sleep over amenities!

Fortunately by the time we checked in around 2:30, the rain had mostly stopped. A few sprinkles here and there but no more downpours.

If you know anything about us and Charleston, the reason we stay downtown is because we love to walk, or “hoof it” as Terry would say.

We began our journey at the corner of Hutson and King Street. Normally we always go left on King Street but we decided to go right. We’ve learned that while most of the shopping is left on King, the restaurants are to the right and we needed a little snack.

Chances are we walked about a mile until we decided to crossover and check out the restaurants on the other side. After stopping at least half a dozen times, combing through menus we finally decided to go to Ink N Ivy.

Our waiter, Jimmy, had the best disposition and the sweetest smile. He’s a recent college graduate and is planning to go to law school. In conversation, we told him that we were in Charleston celebrating our 25th anniversary. Before we finished our snack, the manger greeted us with a lovely piece of Chocolate Creme de menthe cake in celebration of our anniversary.

The picture doesn’t really do it justice. Trust me, it was delicious and well worth the extra calories. (Anyway, if you’re ever in Charleston it’s definitely a must to eat. And if you’re a Brussel sprout like me, you’ll love theirs. This was not our first rodeo here and most assuredly won’t be our last)

We had to walk off our little snack so we set our feet in motion down King Street to the shops. Along the way we found this store. Of course we couldn’t by pass a chance for Terry to get in the festive Christmas spirit with an ugly Christmas sweater.

Now that you see his Highness in full array, don’t you want to go get your own ugly sweater?

After walking over three miles, we finally ended up at one of our all-time faves. Pearlz . For some reason, every single time we visit Charleston we wind up here. The consistency of good quality food and service brings us back. We even talked to several locals last night who are regulars for the same reason we flock there. Here’s how they serve up the shrimp cocktail.

Adorable isn’t it?

Finally after good food we hoofed back the almost three mile journey to our hotel.

We must’ve been exhausted from all the walking of the day because we both crashed as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

A perfect ending to a fun start of our anniversary celebration.

Risk and Reward- Our Story Continued

There’s a picture that hangs now on the wall in our guest bathroom. It has traveled for many years and houses with us. It hardly works with any of our decors but it’s such a part of our story, I will not part with it.

This picture is of the 13th hole at Augusta National called Azalea. It’s the first picture we bought together as a couple and we actually purchased it on our honeymoon almost 25 years ago.

This isn’t the exact picture we have but close to it. It’s interesting to me that it’s the first picture we purchased as a couple and here’s why!

  • I wasn’t keen on golf. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to spend hours chasing a little white ball around.
  • It represented the first major conflict we had as a couple before we were married
  • I was no good at it.

So, why in the world would I go along with Terry and choose that picture. To be honest, I liked it. Something about the colors of the azaleas in full bloom contrasting with the white sand bunkers and lush, meticulously manicured bent grass drew me in and I wanted it as much as Terry. I don’t remember exactly what we paid for it but I do remember it was on sale!

I’ve done a little research to learn that this particular hole on Augusta National is one that is considered one of the greatest risk-reward holes in golf. It’s also considered one of the easiest holes on Augusta National because now most pros can reach the green in two shots giving them an opportunity to possibly eagle the hole or at least make birdie. However, the key is a good tee shot and a good second shot. If the tee shot isn’t good, golfers have a chance to make up for it with their second shot, but placement on the green will require strategy and careful consideration. Even the pros can putt the ball right off the green into Rae’s Creek, the tributary that protects the green. Just ask Tiger Woods. A poor second shot can land you in Rae’s Creek. However, for many golfers who play this hole under par, there is no reward without taking a risk.

I find it very interesting that we would have chosen such a beautiful depiction of what God would do in and through us over the past almost 25 years.

For both of us to love and trust again was risky. In some ways, I think Terry took a much bigger risk than I did because he chose to take on the responsibility of not one but three of us. He risked a lot to marry me. He also willingly gave up a lot to marry me.

Because of the deep wounds from my past, my risk was giving my heart fully to him. It was a choice that I had to make. I had to learn to trust him and this was not easy for me! It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t instant and complete trust when we did get married. It developed over time.

It’s also interesting to me like mistakes on the hole can leave you in a place you don’t want to be. Mistakes in marriage can also land you on unfamiliar territory and you have to carefully consider how to make your next shot better. But if that next shot lands you in the water, you simply take a stroke penalty and continue play. You don’t give up until the ball goes in the hole. But there are times when you get it right and it’s truly a remarkable feat.

Folks, I can tell you that our marriage is no picture book fairytale. Oh, but being determined to pick up each other’s faults and failures and love each other no matter what has been the best risk with an ever so great reward!

There’s rarely a time when there’s not a risk involved in a reward. There will be times of failures, setbacks, disappointments but its just deciding if the risk is really worth the reward.

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.

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.

In Spite of Who I Am…..He Loves Me

Now that you’re aware of my rebellious nature. I want to share a little story with you. One I don’t think I’ve ever shared.

One day in the early part of my high school years, I came home one afternoon from school. Completely drained and out of focus to complete any homework assignment, I sat down on my piano bench and started to play.

The piano was my therapy.

I’m not sure why but no one was home this particular day. As I began to play and unwind, I noticed behind my book was a white sheet of paper with words written on it in Ned’s horrific handwriting. Curious, I began to read.

As I read tears welled up in my eyes, as the words spilled off the page and into my heart I began thinking, ”Wow! God loves me in spite of who I am or what I’ve done.” I would love to tell you that revelation changed my behavior, at that point in time, it didn’t. That would come years later. You see, I had a lot of head knowledge about God but I had built up far too many walls to allow him to penetrate my heart. It would take years to breakthrough.

However, as time marched on and my heart became more pliable and moldable and I let go of the things that were holding me in captivity, I’ve always remembered the words of this song and I remember that day so vividly. And you know what, He has never let go of my hand. Many times, I’ve let go of His but His love for me knows no bounds and I am so thankful.

Listen here I’ll never let go of your hand

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.

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.