The Unfairness of Life

Often we don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I mean it doesn’t make sense when one is healed and another one isn’t. I know I struggled with this for many years. I could never figure out why God would take a 36-year-old man away from his family. But then I would. hear stories of how God healed others in similar situations. It just didn’t make any sense.

I wrestled with this well into my adult years. A seven-year-old can only understand so much. And to be honest, there is still a mystery in it all for a fifty-three-year-old.

The issue I wrestled with the most was the unfairness of it all. It just didn’t seem right to me that God would take my Daddy away from his family, especially considering my brother was only nine months old. Sometimes it still doesn’t seem right but what I’ve discovered is that there is nothing fair in this life. Life does not delve out the same thing to each one of us and we must learn to take what’s given to us and make something from it. Like the old proverb says, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The problem is sometimes we get stuck and moving forward and moving on feels almost impossible. Instead of wondering about the big picture, maybe we just need to remember to put one foot in front of the other. It’s a one step at a time mentality.

My biggest hangup for years was that I would move forward and then I’d fall off the rails. I felt defeated and it seemed that I had made no forward progress. What I didn’t realize then was that I was not going backward, I just needed more time to process before continuing to move forward. Because I felt defeated, I refused to move at all. This constituted a lot of anguish and unnecessary grief not just for me but for others around me. In fact, at times, I felt like I was the only person in the world who had ever been through losing a parent at a young age. I most certainly was not but when you’re stuck, not only do you feel that way, but you give others the impression and implication you feel that way. And guess what? It’s really hard to help someone who feels defeated and cheated by life.

This is where the rubber met the road for me when I realized that I felt defeated because I felt cheated. I felt cheated because I had not grown up with the man I called Daddy. I felt cheated because all of my memories of him were limited because of my age. I felt cheated because my life didn’t look nor feel like those around me.

Friends, that is why I stayed stuck for a long time. But here’s the thing, no one but me could change the way I felt. My grandparents, parents, friends, extended family. No. No. No. I had to be the one to change the way I felt. I had to start looking at things differently. And to be quite honest, it wasn’t until the birth of my first child, that I began to view life differently. Why the sudden change?

As life was growing and forming inside me, my spirit was awakened and renewed by God. I realized that I had a need and no one but God could meet that need. That’s when I decided to make a change. A change that would not happen outwardly for a long time and still has a long way to go but a change that would transform me on the inside. A change that would eventually help me to see that I wasn’t cheated at all. No, I was given another man who would take exceptionally good care of me and my siblings. A man who would love my mother and delight in her. A man who would teach me that whatever you do, don’t do it halfway, give 100 % of yourself 100% of the time. (A lesson I hope to never forget) A man who would love my children, his grandchildren, as much or more than my biological Daddy would have. I wasn’t cheated at all….I was given far more than I deserved.

My life is messy. It will always be messy. There will always be times when life seems unfair and there will be times that I will again feel cheated. But as Martin Luther King, Jr said so eloquently, “I may not be the man I want to be; I may not be the man I ought to be; I may not be the man I could be; I may not be the man I truly can be; but praise God, I’m not the man I once was.”

Maybe you too have felt that defeated and cheated by things that have happened to you, circumstances far beyond your control or maybe by poor choices you’ve made. Maybe life has given you a bunch of lemons and they’re hard to squeeze but you’re the only one who can squeeze the lemon. Maybe you have to take it one section at a time and maybe that section is so small it seems pointless but the idea is to squeeze it little by little until you make your own lemonade.

Give Me Your Hand

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Daddy

Here we are again, another year to remember and celebrate the day of your birth. And yet, a constant reminder that for the biggest part of my life you have lived with Jesus, and I have only fragments of juvenile memories.

Some would argue that I was too young to remember as much as I do and that I may be transposing dreams into memories. However, these nuggets of memories are far too real to be merely dreams.

Maybe it was the trauma of it all that caused me to remember. Or the realization that I wouldn’t have you around long and so I fought hard to remember, especially the touch of your hands, the warmth of your hugs, the way you would tilt your head back when you laughed, your eyes how they’d twinkle when you grinned. The sternness of your voice. (You never had to ask us twice to do something…..ever). The tenderness of your love.

Although your physical presence has been gone for 45 years now, there’s still a part of you living inside of me. And can I just be honest, in the past six months I have felt your presence more than ever? I think it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time at Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem. Albeit much different than when you were there, my thoughts of you being there caused me to wonder…..

Did you know the last time was the last? Is that why you asked your brother, Butch, to stop by the river in Old Fort so you could walk the river bank and hear it’s rush one more time? Is that why you had Mom come with you? I think the answer is, “Yes.” You did know. You knew your health was deteriorating and the inkling that something just wasn’t right.

What you didn’t know. You didn’t know they would find an inoperable tumor resting on your spine, which would quickly paralyze you from your waist down. You didn’t know that you would spend the last seven weeks of your life in Pardee Hospital. But to you the unknown didn’t matter because of the hope you had in Jesus. You knew that death was only a shadow and that you were going to start your new and eternal life in heaven with Jesus. You knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would be healed and whole. And this knowledge is how you were able to endure so much. You knew that your suffering would not be forever and you knew your suffering would be used to advance the gospel. You rested with the calm assurance that God was Sovereign above all things because your hope was being refined through your suffering.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 1:6-9 NIV

I am grateful.and blessed to have the fragments of memories but I am overjoyed to know that while your physical presence has been gone for 45 years the fragments of memories help remind me that a part of you still lives within me and the hope you had in Jesus is the same hope I have in Him today. Oh, how blessed I am to have had a dad like you.

Good News!!!

Right now with so much negativity being spread, I want to share a little good news. As you all know, Amy’s track season was cut short due to Covid-19. The day she received the official news of her season being canceled, she was heartbroken; but she wasn’t dismayed. She knew that she ended her indoor season on a high note and was satisfied.

During one of our conversations I told her, “Amy, I just don’t feel like you’re done. I can’t explain it other than to say I just believe that you’ll get to have your final season.”

She agreed that she felt the same way; although, we didn’t know how things would play out.

She she learned she still had eligibility for a Spring season, she decided that she wanted to drop her name in the NCAA Transfer Portal and see if she would get any offers.

Offers came in immediately and she was elated to know that her stats were good enough for offers. She had several options on the table but one was the best.

On Tuesday of this week, she signed with Charleston Southern for a full scholarship for the 2020-2021 season. She will be pursuing her Masters in Human Resources.

What Covid threatened to take away, God gave back in abundance. It’s a great reminder of a promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Good News!!!

Right now with so much negativity being spread, I want to share a little good news. As you all know, Amy’s track season was cut short due to Covid-19. The day she received the official news of her season being canceled, she was heartbroken; but she wasn’t dismayed. She knew that she ended her indoor season on a high note and was satisfied.

During one of our conversations I told her, “Amy, I just don’t feel like you’re done. I can’t explain it other than to say I just believe that you’ll get to have your final season.”

She agreed that she felt the same way; although, we didn’t know how things would play out.

She she learned she still had eligibility for a Spring season, she decided that she wanted to drop her name in the NCAA Transfer Portal and see if she would get any offers.

Offers came in immediately and she was elated to know that her stats were good enough for offers. She had several options on the table but one was the best.

On Tuesday of this week, she signed with Charleston Southern for a full scholarship for the 2020-2021 season. She will be pursuing her Masters in Human Resources.

What Covid threatened to take away, God gave back in abundance. It’s a great reminder of a promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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.

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.

The Choice We Have When Life Happens

Last week proved to be full of unexpected and unplanned deaths. Beginning with my neighbor, who was only 64. She suffered from a massive stroke on July 5 and was unable to recover. The unexpected drowning of Molly Greene, a lady I do not know, personally, but mutually connected to. Finally the unexpected death of Geoffrey Tennan, a man I knew and loved. Not one of these deaths were expected or anticipated. Life is full of unexpected, isn’t it?

Things happen in life that take us by surprise, lead us into shock and devastation and will do one of two things, draw us closer to God or fall away. I’ve been in both places. I can assure you that the first is far greater than the latter but if I’m being honest, the latter is an easier route.

It’s much easier to become angry with God when things don’t go the way we planned and the reason I fairly simple. We didn’t get what we wanted. Things didn’t go as expected and as Lysa TerKeurst says in her book, It’s Not Suppose To Be This Way, ”Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes, we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes.”

Y’all it’s so easy to trust in God and His goodness when things are plotting along well but when tragedy, an unexpected illness, job loss, financial crises, or betrayal weaves its way into our lives, praising God is generally the furthest thing from our thoughts and minds.

However, because I have been in both places and I know the power anger had over me for so many years. I paid a significant price for my anger and I still marvel that God sought me out and lifted my feet on very solid ground. Psalm 40:2. I have been determined not to allow it to take up residence again. Oh, it wants to and it’s sometimes a daily fight but my God is stronger and He will battle for me.

In any case, over the past eight years, if I listed all of the things that have happened, which were not part of the outcome I perceived, you would be amazed, like I am that, I am not a walking basket case. Albeit, at times I reckon I am and that I am just being completely held together by a God who loves to laugh and say, ”Yep, that one’s a little cray, cray but I love her anyway.”

Here’s what I know and have learned. You cannot trust someone you do not know. If you don’t spend time alone with God, you will never get to know Him. If you don’t pray and ask Him to reveal himself to you, you can’t possibly understand that ”All things (good and bad) work together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose ” Romans 8:28 For me personally, I have to drown out the noises and get alone and still and quiet. (Yes, I did say quiet which will come as a shock to those who really know me)

What I have learned by spending time in His presence is that I can praise Him in the hard times of life. I can trust His heart and know that He has my back. Not only that, but He knows what is best for me.

When Ned was diagnosed with cancer, it rocked our world. The diagnosis was bleak. I remember falling to my knees in prayer before the first visit with Dr. Anthony, his oncologist, and begging God, ”Please God don’t let me become angry. Please keep my heart at peace. Help me to see the good and keep my hope in you. I know you will do what’s best.”

Can I be frank and honest, I tried to muster anger at times. It would’ve been easier emotionally because it was downright hard to remain hopeful and at peace with where things were. But every time I felt anger start to boil, something would happen. A prayer would be answered. A precious memory made. A good report. Something. I could stand back and say, ”Wow, God, look at what you did!” The praise kept the anger at bay and filled my heart with gratitude which in turn changed my attitude.

And so it is with you, are you struggling for peace? Do you want to understand? Has your world.been turned on its end? Are you angry with God because you think He’s the cause of your pain and heartbreak? You will not find answers in any self-help book. You will not find answers by constantly talking to people or going to church or attending a Bible Study or even through a counselor. You must seek to know Him. You must learn to trust Him and you must get alone with Him because you can bare your soul to Him. He already knows and cares for you!

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.

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.