A Glorious Day

As I sit waiting for the dryer to stop, my mind has drifted into another time and place. Well, technically the place is practically the same and maybe that’s why my mind has escaped the reality of the present and drifted into the past.

I remember vividly as if it happened yesterday, and yet it was at least 15 years ago, possibly more. I know for certain I journaled it. I’m just not certain where that journal is right now, but when I find it, I’ll post it

It began like all mornings. Terry and I up before the crack of dawn or the rooster’s crow. In order to get him off to work by 6:30 am and get the 4 kids up and ready and out to door by 7:15 Besides being a necessity to rise early, some days those few stolen moments were the quietest of my day. I treasured them. I longed for them. I needed them.

For weeks leading up to this day, I had been struggling with the kids ns their attitudes. One thing to note, I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I do not have compliant, non-opinionated, willfully obedient children. They all have strong personalities. I remember journaling about the difficulty I was having with discipline. I felt as though one or all four head-butted everything I asked them to do. Most times, they would concede because I was far more stubborn and bull headed but not without a fight.

Anyway, this one particular morning. I was journaling and pouring my heart out to God. I was sitting in my room with tear-stained eyes because I just didn’t think I could handle it anymore.

As I’m wiping away the tears, I hear the creaks in the wooden staircase, indicating that someone was coming upstairs. As I pull myself together, Matthew peers into the doorway, ran into the room and bounces on my lap, in a single bound. Yep, like Super Matt. He wrapped his arms around me and looked out the bedroom window. He looks at me and glances back to the window exclaiming, ”My what a glorious day!” Turning my head, I peer through the window and saw it too. A magnificent sunrise beginning to spread across the dark sky.

Yes, indeed a glorious day unfolding before me, I just needed the eyes of my child to remind me.

As I continue to ponder that day, I am reminded of how many times I cried out to God and He brought me peace and joy and reminders of his goodness through the lives of my children.

Do you know when we cry out to God in earnest plea, He turns his ear, and hears and answers the deepest cry of our heart?

In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me, turn your ear to me and save me. Psalm 71:2

The key to this verse is recognizing the righteousness of God and believing that He alone has the power to rescue, deliver and save. Oh friend, don’t keep drowning in your sorrow. Cry out to Him. He will gladly come to your rescue, maybe in the form of a child.

Straddling the Fence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Childhood Wasn’t All Bad

In spite of the difficult circumstances, there were times that I could be completely carefree. These were the times when I could shut off the voices and drown out the reality of what was going on. These were some of the most spectacular days of my childhood. The times I wasn’t going through the motions of pretense but I was actually enjoying being a child and being me.

Some of my best childhood memories are times spent with my dear friend, Theresa and her sisters, Missy and Tina.

We lived within walking distance of their house. We became the best of friends. She was the only one in my kindergarten class that didn’t join in making fun of me when I got glass and the dreadful eye patch. She was always sweet and kind. Many days were spent with her and her sisters and Kristi, my sister, climbing trees. Playing in the creek and catching salamanders. Racing. Playing kickball. Catching lightning bugs. We spent a lot of time outside.

The hardest part of being that carefree child was the reality I faced whenever I would come home. My circumstances hadn’t changed. I’d just been able to forgo them for awhile and forget their existence. Reality has a way of slapping you in the face. When I was little, I didn’t want reality. I wanted to live in a world of pretense. In that world, my heart didn’t hurt. In that world, my dad wasn’t dying and life was good.

The thing I’ve learned as I’ve grown up is that it’s still ok to be imaginative. It’s ok to be completely carefree. However, reality must be faced and you’re heart is going to hurt. You don’t have to allow the circumstances of your reality to overwhelm and overcome you. You can face any uncertainty with Jesus.

Here’s what I know. All of us are going to through something. Maybe you, like me, lost the innocence of your childhood. Your set of circumstances may vary vastly from mine. Maybe life has taken you to places you never thought you would be. Maybe you’re there because of poor choices. Maybe you’re there because of circumstances beyond your control. God wants to use this thing, whatever it is, to bring “beauty from ashes”. (Isaiah 61:3)

Remember as Charles Swindoll says, “We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…..I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

A loss of innocence

A “loss of innocence” is a common theme in fiction, pop culture, and realism. It is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child’s life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them.

I’m just going to go ahead and give you fair warning.  This whole subject makes me want to curl up and cry like a baby. Honestly, I have a time or two.

I’m not sure at what age I realized that my life wasn’t normal and did not look anything like others my age.  I think my awareness began long before it should have.  I know by the time I was four, I was keenly aware things were not like my peers.

By the time I was one, my mom discovered a hideous mole on my dads back.  She encouraged him to have it checked out.  He did and it was malignant.  Melanoma. They removed a large portion around the perimeter of the mole. The portion was so large, it looked like a crater to me.  My little hand fit in the crevice of the dug out space.

Getting clear margins and feeling hopeful, the doctor said, “All should be well if you see no signs within 2 years.”

Nearing the end of the 2 years, another spot appeared.  This time, the cancer had spread.  Chemo would be necessary.  Considering the year was 1972, the best facility for treatment was at Baptist Hospital (aka Wake Forest Medical Center) in Winston Salem, NC.

Thus the journey began.

An entire week, every month, my dad would go for treatment.  Sometimes we would go but not often.  My dads brothers were gracious enough to take turns driving him and picking him up.

In addition, my aunt and uncle who lived in Winston helped with his care as well.  Days turned into weeks and weeks into years.

His body was worn and beaten.  He allowed them to try new treatment drugs on him in hopes to help others, not himself. He knew his time was coming to an end and so did I.

I think my mom tried as best she could to keep life as normal as she could but let’s be real, how many 5-6 year olds do you know whose parent is on chemo and gone for a week every month?  I didn’t know any at the time.  Not one of my friends and I’m not even sure they knew or understand how different my life was than theirs.

I learned, even then, to pretend that I was tough and strong. I could be like the others. You know, “fake it till you make it”. All the while, the voices in my head were screaming, “You’re different, You’re not like them.”

Then it happened, during a routine eye exam in Kindergarten, my teacher discovered I was not seeing 20/20. She informed my Mom. Mom took me first to an optometrist who had no couth told me I needed glasses pronto.. In fact, he was such a nice guy, Mom and I both left the office in tears.

Fortunately, we were given another recommendation and that’s when we met Dr. Gleaton. Not only did he have a terrific personality and calming nature, he also explained the necessity of glasses. Unlike the previous bully, he told me I had a “lazy eye” and would need to wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen the lazy one. By the time we left his office, I felt good about having glasses. Until I actually wore them for the first time.

Oh, the sneers and jeers. The jabs. The taunts. The snickers. I sat on the bank with tears streaming for what seemed like hours. Day after day. It made me see how cruel this world can really be and I was just six.

Now the voices were louder and eviler than before. Not only did I feel different. I felt unattractive, unworthy and yes, even unloved.

Here I was a kindergartner with a dying father and now being made fun of because I had to wear glasses with a patch.

Want to know what I learned? It’s called stuffing. Yep, just hide what you really feel and pretend you don’t care, even if your heart is being ripped to shreds.

On one hand, my father was sick and dying. I saw the cruelty of the disease stripping away his energy and zest for life. I saw how the chemo weakened his strong body. I had no one I could talk to, no one who understood. I don’t even know if anyone had any idea how aware I was.

Then my friends basically turned their backs on me., except one. It was just plain hard being a six year old for me.

Do you know what that year at the tender age of six created? A little thing called insecurity, which actually isn’t so little at all. Insecurity has followed me most of my life. There have been times when I’ve felt less insecure than others; but it’s always there, lurking about, waiting to pounce like a lion.

I have these voices that tell me time and again:

  • You’re not good enough
  • You’ll never be pretty enough
  • You’ll never escape your past
  • You are not worthy

What I’ve learned over the past 26 years, is that these voices will come but they don’t linger very long. I have weapons to fight against them now. I have the voice of truth echoing in my ear:

  • You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 3:20)
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14
  • You are forgiven and free (John 3:16)
  • I paid a very high price for you and I say you are worthy (I Corinthians 6:20)

A loss of innocence at such a young age has always been a challenge for me. There was a point several years back when I heard or read something to the effect that it is important to grieve the loss of innocence when it’s been stripped from you. I’d never really contemplated the need to grieve over what was taken from me as a child; however, the more I thought about what was lost, the more I realized I needed to grieve. By taking time to grieve, it has given me some real insight to how this substantial loss has influenced and affected many areas of my life. A life that God is in the process of helping me break free

Exhausted, Tired…..a call to pray.

I don’t mind telling you that the past few weeks have been hard. Truthfully, they’ve been very testing and trying and have virtually stripped me of energy and I feel like I’m walking around on the brink of tears and dazed. I’m exhausted and spent, emotionally and physically. My energizer batteries have died. Finished. Caput.

We moved in our new home on February 4. I knew the week following was going to be challenging. I’d already told Terry that it was going to be “hell week”. Mentally and physically I had. prepared, or so I thought, but I wasn’t prepared for the events Monday would bring.

I was in Hendersonville taking care of an obligation when I received a phone call from Mom telling me that Popaw was being taken to the ER. He had taken bad fall because he had some major GI issues which caused him some lightheadedness. He banged his head and fell on his right arm. Knowing full well, it would take forever in the ER, I didn’t rush but but finished up my obligation first.

I got the hospital around 3:00. Popaw was pasty white. He looked terrible. Hadn’t been able to keep any food on his stomach. They ran every test imaginable. It wasn’t the flu. It wasn’t a heart attack. He had not injured his head or neck or arm when he fell. Nothing. Nada. After filling him with two bags of IV fluids, they called it GI infection and send him back to the bridge.

Mom was feeling rotten that day as well and I sent her home to take care of herself. By the time Popaw was finally released, it was about 7:45 pm. He was weak and I knew I’d need help to get him back to his room. Got him settled and finally made my way back home. I had been gone almost 14 hours.

Much of that week was the same, I wasn’t gone quite as long each day but plenty long enough. Popaw wasn’t any better. He had an appointment scheduled Friday with his doctor. When Mom called to remind him I was picking him up, he said, “Oh, I thought she was taking me to the hospital.” He was still feeling rotten and had eaten nothing since Sunday.

Mom and I decided it would be best to get him back to the ER. We ended up taking him to Park Ridge. It took basically the whole day, but they admitted him. His blood pressure and heart rate concerned the doctors there. His blood pressure extremely high and heart rate extremely low, not to mention he still wasn’t able to eat. He kept saying, ” My belly feels full. I just don’t want anything,”

He remained in the hospital for the week following. A lot of touch and go moments and several times we thought for certain his time was drawing to a close. But then something happened and he began to eat again. After 12 days of virtually no food, he ate and ate. During that time, it was decided he would need to go to rehab before going back to The Bridge, due to his weakness.

He was moved to Hendersonville Health and Rehab on Thursday. Then a call from Mom Friday morning saying they were taking him back to the ER. Fortunately the stay was only brief and he was sent back to HHR. The ultimate goal there was to get him strong enough to get back to The Bridge.

Last Sunday he was well enough to return. A huge answer to prayer and a willingness on his part to participate in physical therapy to get stronger. Terry calls him a “strong man”. He definitely is and God still has a purpose and plan for him. That’s for sure.

Due to his poor condition and other commitments I had in town, for the first three weeks since our move, I spent a total of three days in our new home. Most days required me to be gone for at least eight hours and sometimes more. It’s no wonder when friends asked how I liked my new house, I would say, “when I’m there I’ll let you know. What I can tell you is that everyday when I awaken, I am thankful and feel blessed to be there.”

Even the weekends felt jam packed. I just never took time to breathe and process we had made a major move. We left everything we knew to come to a different place, albeit not far away, just new and different.

The past two Thursdays have been particularly challenging. Two weeks ago, I finally had a full day to spend at home; however I have Bible Study on Thursday evening. This means a drive to Hendersonville.(Keep in mind, I could still live in Hendersonville and have to drive as far as I am driving now) I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home. However, I had spent time praying, making notes and preparing. I needed to go. I did go. God painted this breathtaking sky to remind me of his greatness and goodness.

This past Thursday, I had obligations before Bible Study and didn’t finish until 5:30. I only had an hour to get ready for bible study. I even called Terry and said, “I’m on the verge of tears. I’m exhausted and don’t want to go!” His response, “Just call and let them know you won’t be there. They’ll understand.” I knew deep down that wasn’t the answer. I needed to go. I dearly love these women and I needed them.

I went and I can’t tell you how blessed I was to be there. I didn’t go in with a mask on. I didn’t pretend all was ok. I just told the truth. I was vulnerable. Real. It was hard for me. You know what happened? I felt loved. I felt cared for and I felt understood. It alleviated some of the angst and frustration I was feeling. By the time I left, I felt refreshed.

When we made our decision to move, we weighed all the pros and cons. I knew going in that upfront it was going to be more difficult. I was not living in an unreal dream world where everything would be hunky dory. I knew there would be hard times. I just didn’t know how overwhelming they would be when life threw a curveball with Popaw’s illness. I wasn’t prepared for how Popaw’s illness would resurface so many emotions from Ned’s illness. I simply wasn’t ready for the overrun of emotions.

I’m not telling you this for pity or even sympathy. I don’t need those things. What I need is a body of friends remembering me in prayer for the next few weeks. Things seem to have settled and for that I am truly grateful and thankful.

I am also telling you this because through all of the trials and storms, I have seen the faithfulness of God. He is my hiding place (Psalm 32:7) and shelter from the storm. More than that, He is my strength daily. There have been days when I simply had nothing within me to do anything and He has been my strength and portion just for the day. He always gives me what I need. There may to be anything leftover at the end of the day; however, there’s always more for tomorrow because His mercies are new each day. (Lamentations 3:22-24).

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.

Things that catch us off guard

Continue hanging out with me and we’re likely to discover all kinds of interesting maladies. What if I told you that you could go to sleep and wake up half-blind in one eye with no symptoms as a prerequisite? Trust me. I didn’t know about this condition either, until December 18.

Around 8:00 am the morning of December 18, Terry came groggily into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, sat down and said, “I have something in my eye”. After a few minutes of blinking and rubbing, he asked me to look in his eye.

“There’s nothing there”. I told him.

For the remainder of the day, he tried using eye drops, checking in the mirror and trying to blink it out…..nothing.

The next day, the same thing.

On Thursday, he was still complaining, only now he’s telling me, “It feels swollen and I’m only seeing out of the top half of my right eye.” Immediately, I insisted he call Asheville Eye Associates. I know the quality of professionals they have and I don’t trust my eyes to just anyone and felt he should do the same. He didn’t delay. He scheduled an appointment for December 28.

Having discovered the importance, when there’s a potentially serious health issue, I went with him. After about 2 1/2 hours the diagnosis was given. Ischemic optic neuropathy. Essentially what happens is the optic nerve swells and doesn’t allow blood flow to pass properly to the eye. It’s a condition that is more common in people over 50. At first, there was concern of infection and a potential culprit related to a heart condition. However, after blood tests and and echocardiogram, infection and heart problems were ruled out. This was very encouraging to us.

He was scheduled to return in late January; however, there was no improvement and we knew that he would be referred to the Neurological Opthamalogist, Dr. Wiggins. Instead of going through another process only to to be sent to another doctor, Terry opted to schedule with Dr. Wiggins, who is also my doctor. His appointment was scheduled for February 19, with the understanding if any major changes, he would need to call immediately. Fortunately for Terry he had no changes for the worse.

On Monday, we went for his visit, Dr. Wiggins confirmed the diagnosis. He was encouraged because he felt Terry had a very slight improvement in his vision since December. With ION it can take 3-4 for the swelling of the optic nerve to diminish. At that point there is no guarantee that his vision will be restored. It’s possible, not likely. The other issue associated with ION is that there is a 25% chance the same thing will happen to the other eye. The only preventive at this point is keeping his cholesterol, which is hereditary problem he’s had for years, down and also to take an aspirin daily to help improve blood flow.

Fortunately the eye issue has not caused major problems. It has not inhibited him at all. The only thing is he just has to exercise caution on his right side. However, it took us by surprise and was scary because until we got the second opinion, we weren’t certain exactly what to expect.

Interestingly, as I was thinking about this eye disease, I was reminded of how things catch us off guard. We are unprepared for the changes life throws at us. There’s no preparation time, the wind is knocked out of your sails. Times when you’re hardly able to breathe.

The disciples had that same experience.

Look at the following verses from Matthew 8:23-27

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Don’t miss the first part, Jesus got in the boat and the disciples followed him. Jesus didn’t follow them. They followed Him. Then the storm came….unexpectedly, suddenly, no warning and the waves sweeping in the boat. Just like when life catches us off guard. The waves keep pounding. There seems to be no end. And like the disciples, we feel helpless and afraid. Jesus is sleeping. Our cries, our prayers of desperation feel as if they’re bouncing off the walls. Going unheard. Yet, He is completely aware and completely in control. Maybe we, like the disciples, need to recognize our deep need for him to come in a calm the storm or calm us. Because the reality is, sometimes he doesn’t calm the storm, he calms the child in order to walk through the storm.

An Unforgettable Life

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

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

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

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

An Unforgettable Life

By Kelly Reese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salt, Pressure Cooker, Time……

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

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

Let me tell you about my first cooking experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was when I was 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex’s friend Derek: A life that made a difference!

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. ”

“Ok. Glad to know you’re safe” I replied.

He said, “I think the accident just happened and if I had not stopped by the house to change clothes, I might have been part of it.”

He was headed out to dinner with friends and had been at work. Not wanting to wear his work clothes, had stopped by the house for a quick change.

I called Amy to make sure she wasn’t involved. Fortunately, she was no where near Kanuga Road. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home.

I called Terry to tell him a bad accident had happened and traffic was diverted. As soon as I got out of the car, at our house, I heard MAMA whirling above. At that moment, I said to Terry, “Dude, this is not good. I hear MAMA! We need to pray for the people involved!

Everyone arrived home safely and the next morning, I woke up with the accident on my mind. There was a feeling of uneasiness about it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I drank my coffee and finished my Bible Study. Then I began to research about the accident. Here’s what I found Wreck on Kanuga. As I read and listened to the accident report. I began to well-up with tears. The teenager, Derek, wasn’t doing anything wrong. He had left work and was heading to get gas before going home.

I didn’t know this family or the young man, or so I thought. I just knew my heart was in shambles for this family.

I remember telling Terry when he got up how heavy my heat was for the Miller family. I told him I couldn’t imagine what his parents were going through.

I went to get ready and suddenly, while blow drying my hair, like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Derek is Alex’s friend from work. Derek is the one Alex eats out with all the time. Derek is the young man I met one night while I was out having dinner with a friend and Alex and his friends were eating there too.

By the time I was finished getting ready, Alex was up and knew that his friend had been killed the night before.

Talk about a somber moment. He said, “Mom, I was most likely the last person to talk to Derek! He finished his shift, a little before me and asked if I wanted to go out and eat. I told him I already had plans for that evening but we could go out after all the next day because we were both scheduled to work.”

Alex was heartbroken. Devastated. He knew that God had spared him because of his couple of delays. He was shocked and dismayed. Shaken badly.

There was nothing that I could do or say to take away the deep pain my child’s heart was feeling. Now, not only was my heart breaking for the family, my heart hurt deeply for my son.

Over the next few days, I observed as Alex processed his grief. He didn’t sit around and wallow in his grief. He went to the Millers. He spent hours with Derrick’s Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. “family. He grieved with them.

As the time approached for the memorial service, Alex told me that he felt compelled to speak on Derricks behalf. So, he had taken the liberty of calling Derricks brother, Colby, and mentioning it to him. The family was elated because they had been praying that one of Derek’s friends would speak.

We watched as Alex prepared his testimony about Derek We listened as he read us what he was going to say. Although we didn’t know the family, personally, we went to the service to support our boy.

As he concluded his Eulogy, I will never forget what he said about his friend. “The thing that I am going to miss most about Derek is seeing Jesus live in him!”

It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you’re in, remember the impact you can have on another’s life. This young man was 17 years old and he had an impact on his friends and others. They noted and saw the difference that Jesus made in him.

It’s not about a degree or pedigree. It’s about the difference that Jesus makes when He’s invited to come into our lives. It’s not about impacting the world. It’s about impacting those that God puts in your path. He can use you, just like he used Derek in Alex’s life.