Fascinated by the Sky

I have a fantastic fixation, likely an obsession, with the sky, clouds, sunrises, and sunsets. Truly sometimes I find myself just driving around to catch the last glimmer of daylight in the sky. I also love to watch and observe shapes the clouds form in the sky. I have seen a host of things from angles to horses and even a white puff of fluff that looked like my dog. Heck, I even have Terry seeing things in the clouds now.

I don’t know what precisely what fuels my obsession-compulsion; however, when I gaze at the sky I find myself encapsulated with its beauty and I say, ”Wow, God. You made this for me!”

The first mention of clouds is when God set the rainbow in the sky and promised to remember His covenant and not destroy all life again. ”I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. ”I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 9:13-15 (NIV)

Again clouds are mentioned during the time of Moses and the Israelites,
”By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light so that they could travel by day or night.” Exodus 13:21. The cloud of the Lord was their protection. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. It served as their protection. In the same way, God used the fire by night to guide them. This way they weren’t limited to the times they could travel.

But quite possibly my favorite verse pertaining to clouds is the following

It is such a great reminder to me that one day God will right all the wrongs. He will not leave the guilty unpunished but He will be patient and give everyone time to change their hearts and minds. This isn’t a weakness. There is greatness in His power to be long-suffering. He will bring reconciliation and restoration when true repentance is sought. His methods are not ours but when wrath comes it will be swift and quick. He doesn’t play. He’s not giving idle threats. And the Pulpit Commentary says the following, ”The clouds are the dust of his feet, Large and grand as the clouds look to us, they are to God but as the dust raised by the feet in walking. As an illustration of this statement (though, of course, the fact was utterly unknown to Nahum), it has been remarked that recent scientific discovery asserts that clouds owe their beauty, and even their very existence, to the presence of dust particles in the atmosphere. The aqueous vapor, it is said, condenses on these particles, and thus becomes visible.

Maybe in writing about my fascination, I am discovering that in looking upward, I stand more in awe of Him and I am more fixated on where I am going and not where I am.

His Word Never Fails

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Word Never Fails……

Where Hope is Found

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Palm of His Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wave of Emotions

I was totally unprepared for what happened yesterday. Totally caught off-guard but I also know there’s potential for a wave of emotions to flood at any given time. I just didn’t expect it to be yesterday.

As I was driving to Moms yesterday, I was listening to 106.9 (The Light). They were talking about Billy Graham and his humility. In this particular segment, they were talking about the fact that Billy and Muhammad Ali were friends. In fact, Muhammad was invited to Billy’s house in Black Mountain. Muhammad expected to be chauffeured to Billy’s house. That didn’t happen. Billy Graham picked him up in his Oldsmobile. His house was a simple log home, not extravagant like Muhammad Ali expected. Just the true humility Billy Graham displayed, time and time again, caused me to pause and think and cry a little because I realize how shallow I can be times. How superficial my wants and desires truly are. So, I am already emotionally charged.

As I turned down the road I’ve been down thousands of times and entered the driveway to my Mom’s. The garage door opened, the familiar sight of two cars parked in their particular spots. Suddenly, at that moment, all my mind could conceive was, “I want him to be here. I want to walk through the door and see him sitting in his chair. I want him here to celebrate Mom’s birthday.” But he wasn’t there and I knew it. I had to pull myself together before going in. After all, it was Mom’s birthday and I was there to celebrate with her.

Later in the evening, after telling a friend and Terry about my episode, I came to the conclusion that there will be days like today. There’s no rhyme or reason why it hits you suddenly and there’s no preparation. You just have to let the emotions come as they will and know it’s ok. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to want to see your loved ones again. I think that’s what makes our desire so much stronger for eternity in Heaven because we know that we will never have to say “goodbye” again.

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……

The Day Everything Changed

This is my friend Gary. We go back a long way. Met at Tryon High School when we were 14 and Freshmen, ready to set the world on fire

Gary and I always had a unique friendship. We had a lot of common ground. In particularly, we both loved taking active roles in clubs and community. We both loved debate. Gary had a big personality. Magnetic. Charismatic.  The person everyone enjoyed being around.  If you were lucky enough to know Gary, you’re lucky enough.

After high school graduation, Gary and I kept loosely in touch until he moved to Simpsonville, SC in the early 2000’s. I can’t remember how we reconnected but he would, on occasion, meet me for lunch, with my kids, when I would take them to their Pediatric Dentist in Greenville.

Then he moved to the Raleigh area. Again, we kept in touch loosely but then tragedy happened. Both of Gary’s parents were killed in a car accident. After their deaths, Gary made the choice to come back home and help his sister run the family business. He sold his home. Packed his belongings and came back to Columbus, NC.

This is where our longtime friendship grew again. Terry and I would occasionally have Gary up to eat with us. Then I got a crazy hair-brained idea that we should start a dinner club with other local friends. We did. About once every 8-10 weeks, we would meet at local restaurants or each other’s homes.

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Then two years ago in late August I received a call from Monica, Gary’s wife. Gary had been admitted to the hospital earlier in the week and things didn’t look good for my friend. Without hesitation, I immediately went to Spartanburg Regional to see what was going on. Upon arrival, it was evident that my friend was in great distress. In fact, doctors weren’t certain he would live through the night. He did. Thus began an almost 7 weeks roller coaster of ups and downs.
During Gary’s hospitalization several friends volunteered to sit with him on a regular basis. This gave Monica a reprieve and also allowed her some time to work or get other necessities taken care of. Gary was not always joyful when I would show up. Mostly because there were times when my Terry mentality kicked into high gear and I didn’t shy away from confronting him on some pertinent issues.
One of the hardest conversations we was over the death of his parents. This was a real turning point for him. I asked him if he was angry with God and I asked him if he had ever grieved the loss! His answer to both did not shock me. “Yes, I am angry with God. No, I never had time to grieve.”
I knew and understood what that felt like. I was even able to tell him my story and how God had finally set me free from the bondage of anger that raged within me.
After that conversation, several days passed before I saw him again.
The next time I walked into his room, everything changed. His attitude. His countenance. His outlook. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I was seeing. But having an inquiring mind, means you ask the question. “Gary, you did it, didn’t you? You finally forgave God. You finally gave your heart to Jesus.”
A sweet smile spread across his face and a simple, “Yes!”, flowed from his mouth. In that moment, I knew for sure that no matter the outcome of Gary’s situation, everything was going to ok.
Gary’s life on earth ended a few weeks later and on that day Gary’s life in heaven began. The best part is I will see my friend again.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeith in him should  not perish, but have everlasting life”  John 3:16

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A premise with a promise

One of the most magnificent sites to see is a rainbow after a storm.   The first mention of rainbow is in Genesis 9:13-15  “ I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”  

The significance is two-fold, any time there is a first mention of something in scripture it begs us to pay attention. There is a reason that rainbows were not mentioned before this time, and there is an even greater significance for later.

Before the flood, there was no need for God to make a promise never to flood and destroy all life.  Prior to this time, God had dealt with wickedness and hardening of hearts with other consequences.  However, the wickedness and sinfulness which pervaded the earth, at the time, left Him with no choice but to destroy all life.  As harsh as it sounds, let me remind you, God gave the people time to change their ways and their hearts.  During the time of construction, up until God closed the door, there was time for people to change their hearts and minds, which is further evidence of the wickedness of man’s heart.  They were unwilling to break or bend.  They were enjoying the pleasure of their sin and they didn’t believe the flood was coming, even though they were warned.

For forty days and forty nights the rains came, wiping out all forms of life, with the exception,  all life in the boat.  “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede.” (Gen 8:1) After 150 days the boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat and then approximately another 220 days past before God opened the doors of the Ark.

After everyone was safely on dry ground, Noah built an altar and worshipped the Lord. God, being pleased with the “aroma of the sacrifice” made this promise to Noah, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood.  I will never again destroy all living things.” (Gen 8:21)

There it is.  The promise.  God made the promise to Noah in Chapter 8 but then in Chapter 9, He goes one step further.  The rainbow.  This is where the premise of the promise becomes a reality.  Here is where the rubber meets the road.  The moment when God says, I not only give you my promise but I’m giving you this rainbow to show that I remember my promise and so that you will have it as a reminder of my promise.

Life throws so many curve balls and sometimes we don’t even see them coming.  We have our plans mapped out so perfectly and then, bam, the unexpected happens.  Sometimes we do a forewarning, just like the flood and have time to prepare and sometimes we don’t.  However, when life happens we often forget God’s promises to us. We get so overwhelmed in the despair of the situation, it’s hard to see the light at the end of tunnel. This is the other significance, personally for me, of the rainbow.  When I see a rainbow, I am reminded of God’s promises.  I am reminded that He also remembers and keeps his promises,  even if my life seems to be out of control.  I can rest comfortably knowing that God has my back.  I can find freedom from worry, fret, despair and grief because I know that He is a promise maker.  He is a promise keeper.

Am I saying I don’t feel angst, worry, fear, dread, unworthiness, etc?  No, absolutely not.  I am just saying the sight of the rainbow or the thought of the rainbow brings my wandering heart back to rest solidly on His promise.  This is why he not only made a promise but gave a premise for the promise to remind us that He will never forget his promise.