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

The power of music: using your giftedness for His glory

When I was little, I always loved to hear my Mom sing. Many folks have said, “she has the voice of an angel” or “she sounds like Julie Andrews”. From as far back as I can remember, she sang. She sang in the choir, sang solos and then sang with an ensemble group while we lived in Columbus, NC and then sang with DayStar, the group that Ned was instrumental in starting.

There are a few specific songs, over the years, that really standout when I think about her singing. The first is a medley of “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” and “It took a miracle”. Now, the first song is probably the more familiar song. The chorus line is “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full is his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace”. This song in particularly deals with the depravity of the weary soul and the recognition that Gods word will not fail and as we learn to gaze upon Him, the things we hold onto will becomes less important as He becomes more important.

The other song may not be as familiar. The first verse of the song and chorus are as follows, “My Father is omnipotent and that you can’t deny. A God of might and miracles ”tis written in the sky. It took a miracle to put the the stars in place. It took a miracle to hang the world in space: But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole, it took a miracle of love and grace”. This song references the almighty power of God. Recognizing He is the creative genius behind everything in this world but also that the His greatest miracle is birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus because that is how our souls are cleansed and set free.

By putting these two songs into a medley, it shows our deepest human needs are met when we rely and trust fix our gaze upon Him. When we do this, we see His might, His power and we know that it truly took a miracle of love and completely underserved grace to set our souls free.

You see, my Mom would need to know and understand these things while she was walking the journey of Melanoma with my dad. She would need these truths to carry her through. She would need these truths to rear three children, two of them rebels. She would need these truths to help administer care to her parents and she desperately needed the truth of these two great Hymns to get her through the past two years.

There is another song, that sticks in my head every time I think of Mom singing. It is “He’s Been Faithful”.Lyrics here. This was a song DayStar had in their program. Mom would open the song by talking about how she had learned God’s faithfulness through the loss of my dad. Again, if you look at the song as whole, it relates specifically to realizing that while we will go through difficulties in our lives His faithfulness to us is always there. He is always there. She has needed the truth of these words over the past three months, like never before. She has needed to see Jesus’ love and faithfulness. Guess what? She has. So have I. I have seen it through the deep love of cherished friends. Friends who go the extra mile for her. I have seen it on full display from Pastor Steve, Wally and precious Jimmy Cobb, who visits my Popaw every week. Yes indeed, she has experienced this firsthand and I have had the privilege of watching it unfold.

Music is powerful. It is effective and it touches and reaches places of the heart that mere words cannot. I am so thankful that God gifted Mom with such an extravagant gift and I’m grateful she used it for His glory. Through the songs she has sung over the years, I see the faithfulness of God in her life. Thank you, Mom, you’re a priceless treasure and a true gift. Happy birthday.

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.

Our New Adventure….the story of us continues

Don’t feel like you’re the only one who’s not heard, not many have. Only a few selected, who were more on a need to know basis, and those we needed to tell before the news broke, were in the know of what I am about to tell you.

After four years of renting and three years of searching and praying, God opened the door for us to purchase a new home. However, the new home is not in our beloved Hendersonville. It is in Landrum, SC.

Why in the world would we move from Terry’s hometown and my home of 26 years and the place where we raised four children?

First reason, God said “Go”. That’s the primary reason and good enough.

Second reason, the homes and land in our beloved Hendersonville have escalated to an incredibly ridiculous rate. The homes that would be affordable for us would require an additional $50-80k to remodel, which would extend us way beyond our price limit. And with Terry hoping to retire in 3 years, we have to be smart about our choices.

For the past decade or so, we have talked and discussed the option of moving to SC Considering mostly the Greer/Travelers Rest area, mainly because the proximity to Highway 25.

In the past year and half, we made offers on two houses in Greer. I got cold and clammy feet and we backed out of both deals, much to Terry’s disappointment and dismay. I deflated him and his eager optimism. I just knew neither option was right for us. I couldn’t fit a square peg into a round hole.

We’ve always known about Landrum. Heck, I basically grew up here. Lived in Columbus, NC, approximately 8 miles away from Landrum. One of my dearest of friends, Ashley, lives in Landrum and has since she was born. It just wasn’t a consideration or on our radar. Until.

On one of our weekly adventures of house hunting, we drove through Landrum. We knew about the neighborhood here because a lady who purchased one of our homes in Hendersonville moved here. We had been through the neighborhood several times before. This time was different. This house caught my eye.

The first time we walked in, it felt homey. Although it was a new construction. I could see us here. We looked a few more times and made an initial offer. It was accepted. However, we weren’t comfortable with the first lender we chose, I will not mention names but I will say, he was trying to overcharge on interest and fees. We backed out.

Called our friend Gerald, who works for First Citizens Bank in Landrum. We told him of our plans but asked him not divulge our plans because of the uncertainty surrounding them at the time.

Then Ned’s condition worsened and we dropped the whole idea. I actually have the email sent to the agent telling him, “We can’t do anything right now. My dad’s condition has worsened and I am needed here. If the house is still available when he passes, we will most likely pursue it again”.

After Ned died, within about two weeks, Terry noticed the price of the house had dropped below what our initial offer was. He said, “Let’s go look again”.

We did and we prayed. We asked God to lead and guide us. To direct us and make our path clear. He did. We made another offer and it was accepted.

We brought Mom down to show her. She loved the house. Although the thought of us moving caused her anxiety. At times, I think she was feeling like we were just going to abandon her. I had to remind her that I wasn’t moving a world away. Only 15-18 minutes further away than our house in Hendersonville.

As we moved through the process, I never doubted we were doing the right thing. I was unsettled and didn’t want to say anything just in case something fell through or I got cold feet and stopped the process. It had happened previously and I am a woman and emotionally charged at times, all things are subject to change. All things……

In fact one week prior to closing, I had resigned myself to the fact that God was going to stop the process. For weeks, everything had been at a standstill, and knowing full well that we had to close out by the end of January, the envelope was being pushed. Until, Tuesday, January 23 both the lender and lawyer confirmed our closing on January 31.

Suddenly, my heart sank into my chest and anxiety took over. I told Terry every reason I could conjure up why we shouldn’t go through with the move. I cried like a baby. He looked at me and said, “You know if this is going to cause problems for us and you don’t want to do it; I’ll back out now.” The earnest in his voice, coupled with the mere truth that God had been directing our path, quieted my anxious emotions. Then I began telling him all the reasons I knew this was the right thing to do. As I began verbalizing how God led us to this place and how every detail was working itself out, a calm assurance washed over me and I said, “How can I not go where God is leading? I would rather have a little anxiety over the thought of change than not walk in obedience to Him. Been there done that and it’s not a good place.”

So, on January 31, 2018, we closed on our house in Landrum and with the help of family and dear friends, we moved in on Saturday, February 3. It has been hurdle upon hurdle since moving in. I’ve barely been at home three full days. However, as I finish this up today, Terry and I are sitting on our quaint screened porch, sipping coffee, listening to the birds sing and I know I am home.

In the book Paul A Man of Grit and Grace, Charles Swindoll writes the following:

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!