The Most Horrible News Ever….but Not Really

I sat in utter disbelief. I couldn’t believe my ears. ”We’ve decided that you, Kristi and David will no longer be attending school in Polk County. Beginning in the fall, you will be going to Tryon. We just feel like this is the right move for your education.”

As the words tumbled from their mouths, anger boiled inside. How could they do this to me?

I’m not sure when they made the decision but they decided to wait until we were on vacation to inform us. Talk about a vacation spoiler. Good thing they waited until near the week’s end to spill the beans. I knew better than to argue because their minds were clearly made up.

I fumed.

Finally, I got up and walked out. I walked toward the beach. Tears burned my face. I muttered every curse word in the book and then some. ”Didn’t they realize I already had my Freshman year of high school mapped out? I didn’t need or want a change.”

I found a payphone and called one of my friends. She, too, was unhappy about the decision my parents had made. I’m pretty sure during the course of my conversation with her I called my parents every horrible name my angry brain could muster. Talking to her did calm me down.

Now, here I sit thirty-six years later and I realize that my parents knew what they were doing. It was not a decision they made lightly but it was the best decision for us.

Winston Churchill says, ”There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction.”

Change is hard. It often causes fear and anxiety because of the unknowns. It also pushes us out of our comfort zones into the world of the unfamiliar. It causes the direction to change

What I’ve learned over the years through this experience is that sometimes the direction of our lives must change because in order for us to learn and grow.

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.

Opportunity to Love More

“Honey, I love her more now than I did almost 67 years ago.” The words flowed from his lips as we sat by her bedside in the early morning hours of May 26, 2010. We both knew she was on a very limited time. Popaw had decided to stay the night with her and I lingered with him until my eyes burned and needed a break from my contacts.

It would be her last night and just as it should be. The two of them together.

As I’ve spent the last nine years replaying much of our conversation I keep coming back to his words, “I love her more now..”. It finally occurred to me that Popaw saw every hardship their marriage endured as a means to love her more. And to be completely honest, she loved him with every fiber of her being as well.

So often when relationships hit a tough spot or an obstacle, our first inclination is to hit the door and run. Take the easy way out. Leave him. Leave her. But what if, we looked at our obstacles or hardships as opportunities to love our spouse more? What if we displayed unconditional love?

Listen. Popaw and Mamaw were not perfect people. They were simply held together by an almighty and perfect God. They recognized early one they could not do marriage without making Jesus the center.

I shared in a previous post that my grandmother was mentally ill. As a result of her mental illness, she was also a hypochondriac and by the time she was in her 40’s had already had thirty or more surgeries. I also shared that she spent some time in the mental ward in Winston Salem and had shock treatments.

To be frank, if Terry had all those issues, I would definitely be tempted to hang in the towel. I mean who wants to deal with all of that plus raise children and work full time? Troy, that’s who. He didn’t see her as being a hindrance. He viewed her through the same rose-colored glasses God views us from and he loved her and devoted himself more to her. You see, he was more interested in maintaining and growing their relationship rather than looking outside to find a greener pasture.

Do you know what happened? She recovered from most of her ailments. She was never able to fully escape the anxiety and worry but she thrived and survived because he loved her.

Interestingly I saw this on social media the other day. I’ve heard the adage, “The grass is greener where you water it”. But I had not seen this.

So often we look to run from the hard when God says, “Wait. Stay. Hang on. The best is yet to come”.

To be certain, Troy and Colleen experienced a blessed marriage and a lifetime of precious memories together and were more in love after almost 67 years than when they first fell in love.

Who doesn’t want that for themselves?

The next time you find your marriage on rocky ground look for the opportunity to love more. I guarantee it will be worth it in the end.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

A Psalm for Saturday

Today’s blog comes in a little differently than others. I found this in one of my many writings. There was a time, and I possibly need to get back to it, when I would just read a scripture passage and journal how it spoke to me.

This particular one was written out on January 31, 2015. Interestingly, as I read through it today, it resonated with me and I found myself thinking, ”Yep, what was true four years ago is still true today and I needed this reminder.”

Here’s the scripture reading:

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God, I cried for help. From his temple, he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Here’s what God spoke to me through this passage.

As my rock, you are my protection and you are not removed from my presence. If there’s any movement it’s on my part, not yours. You are my constant and unyielding even when things around me are unsteady and shaky; You are NOT. You are my rock in both good times and bad because You are constant and unchanging. My emotions sometimes gets the best in me and I waver and wane. You keep me steady.

I need You in both good times and bad times, maybe I need You and your stability more in the good times. Why? In good times I find my self more self-reliant, more pious and more complacent when things are seemingly well- that’s why!

In times of struggle, whether brought on by my own foolish choices or circumstances beyond my control or tragedy, I run to You. I cling to You. I depend on You to pull me through. I want and need Your help.

The paradox- in both good and bad, I need to run, cling, depend on and want your help.

You are my shield. You protect me. You stand between me and my enemies, most of which are in the battlefield of my mind. You are my stronghold and so worthy of my praise and adoration.

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……

The High Level of His Confidence

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know December is a big month for our family. It begins with my birthday and ends with my oldest son, Ryan’s birthday. Sandwiched in the middle is our anniversary, .follwoed by Terry’s birthday and Christmas I know. I know. Why did we choose December, of all months, to get married?

Terry chose it and assumed I would go along with it. I did. Read here, However, a.few years ago I posted the following question ”You planned our wedding before you even asked me to marry you. Did it ever occur to you I might say no?”

He replied, ”Not really. ”

”If I hadn’t accepted your proposal, what would you have done?”

Without missing a beat, ”Well, I guess I would’ve gotten money back on the ring. I just didn’t have any doubts about your response”

This man is mine is so self-assured and self-confident In fact its one of his best attributes One of the many things I admire in him. His confidence is not a prideful confidence; rather an assuring certainty that he can do what he sets his mind on He doesn’t fear the risk a much as he fears not trying.

His confidence is also my confidence. He sees so much more potential in me than I see in myself. He doesn’t mind telling me. He’s a great and genuine source of encouragement to me.

The beauty of his confidence is that it comes with humility He isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong. He’s quick to say he’s sorry. But above all, he recognizes that his true strength and confidence comes from his Lord.

What I’ve learned over the past 24 years is that its okay to fail. It’s ok.to be told ”no” Its ok to back up and punt again. But it’s not okay to fear the unknown and not take a risk. The risk may just be your greatest reward

Pumpkin carving

There’s a first time for everything. This picture is a clear depiction of just that. Terry and I had been married almost 2 years. Until this particular day, I had been carving pumpkins with my munchkins.

As a matter of fact, my friend Nancy is the one who started this tradition with my boys. A few years earlier, she invited me and the boys to come carve pumpkins and roast pumpkin seeds. Neither of us had a clue what we were doing but we managed. The boys had so much fun, I knew we would do it again.

For the next few years, our pumpkins got a little more creative and elaborate. Mainly because my creative brother and mother were there to help. I am not creative. Let’s face it, my idea of drawing a person is a circle and lots of straight lines for torso and limbs.

Then in 1996, Terry got involved. We bought three pumpkins. One for each boy, of course Alex was too little to know or care. Terry took the boys outside to the porch and began to carve away. Ryan told him to make sure to cut the top off first and then they showed him how to take the guts out and separate the seeds. They loved playing in the slimy mess. Then each one wanted a distinct face carved. Golly, I wish I had pictures. I don’t remember precisely the faces but I remember how proud they were of their hard work.

I love this picture for so many reasons. I’ll restrain and limit myself to a few. Firstly, I see the special bond already existing between Terry and the boys, especially Matthew. The tenderness of him leaning in to kiss Terry shows his appreciation for Terry taking his time to carve pumpkins with them. Next, I love that Terry willingly involved himself in what the boys were doing. He didn’t always expect me to do it. Third, it just proves that Terry isn’t afraid to try anything. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do, simply because he believes he can. That’s the way he rolls. One important fact to remember about Terry: he’s the professional at everything he does, at least that’s what he always tell us.

There would be other years of pumpkin carving and roasting pumpkin seeds; however, this was the first time for Terry and the boys.

In the scheme of things it’s the small stuff like this that matters the most. It’s not about the going and the doing. It’s about the being. Being available. Taking time. Being there. Love is always spelled the same way…..TIME. They will remember and so will you. Remember, time is the only thing we can never add to and once it’s gone, it doesn’t come back again.

Young parents, listen to me, the time you invest in your children while they’re young, you will never, never regret. Because all to soon they’re grown and walking out the door. In the famous words of Trace Adkins,

You’re gonna miss this 
You’re gonna want this back 
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast 
These are some good times

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