Thursday, December 11, 2014

Unto Us a Son is Given

My boy had a birthday this week and oh, how it brought back memories. Years and years of waiting for a child can be heart wrenching.

Infertility is a cruel friend. It visits every month and leaves you lonely and empty. There's the empty womb, the empty nursery, and the gaping hole in your heart. It holds you captive and taunts you at baby showers and other social gatherings as your friends and family rejoice with each new birth. You hold your smile until you can politely escape, then the tears explode all over your face. It destroyed my already fragile self esteem.

And then when you think all hope is gone, God gives you a miracle. He provides in such a way, you know it's from His hand.

My baby boy was born right before Christmas, and I dare say He was, and is the most precious gift I've ever received at this time of year. The sting of infertility lost its power over me. A little one now filled a nursery planned just for him, and the hole in my heart was filled and overflowing with a love that only a mother can understand.

When Claire, the missionary, placed him in my arms in Guatemala, he smiled at me and his one dimple buckled in his cheek. It was a moment forever etched in this momma's heart. He was seven pounds of true love.

Another baby was born long ago under the sign of the star in Bethlehem. He was the long-awaited Messiah, though no one treated Him as such. God Himself, in the form of a baby, came to set us free from the sting of sin. He was born to fill in the gaping holes of loneliness and emptiness in every human heart and soul. He was born to die so we might live. There is no greater love than this. Not even a mother's love can compare to His perfect love.

I've tried to imagine Mary and her role as His earthly mother, how she must have felt throughout His life. I can't imagine, however, watching my son die for the sins of someone else. But, she did. She was there when He was crucified. A mother's love is fierce and can do what it needs in the face of adversity.

He made provision for her as well by asking the apostle John to look after her, the compassionate son to the end.

As I told Andy in his birthday card, I say the same thing every year. I told him how proud I am of him and how much I love him.

I wonder if Jesus and Mary had their moments, mother and son, when she told Him how proud she was and how much she loved Him. After all, He was God's greatest gift to mankind and she was a witness to His ministry from the beginning.

Mary had no idea that generations and generations of people would celebrate her son's lowly birth. She knew He was special and she was called to a special task, but she would never know the lasting impact of future Christmases because of her journey to Bethlehem. She would never know the gazillions of dollars spent to promote His birth. What would she think?

What is Christmas to you? Do you try to fill it with lights and trees and food and endless shopping? If you do, there will still be a gaping hole in your heart.

The message of Christmas is very simple...

A baby was born who would grow up and die on a tree so we might have the gift of eternal life. He made the ultimate blood sacrifice to have a relationship with a holy God. We celebrate His birth to remind us of the bigger story. Just like my son is not a baby anymore, neither is Jesus. He's alive and He's coming back for us. Our days are numbered. Our calendar, that began with his birth, is moving toward That Day.

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

Don't get caught up in the presents that you miss His Presence.

Merry Christmas,

P.S. My blog post this week is dedicated to Mr. Joe Pinson, who went to be with Jesus on Andy's birthday. He will be celebrating with the King of Kings in person this Christmas. He was one of the most special people I've ever met and I will miss him terribly. He was a faithful reader and encourager of people. But most importantly, a follower of the great I AM.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

And Now We are Five...Meet Cameron

When children enter your world, life takes on new meaning. Strollers, diapers, and scheduled feedings give way to cheerleading, soccer and piano practice. One day you turn around and she's coming through the door waving her left hand with lots of bling.

Along the way, you've been sending prayers to heaven on her behalf. You've asked the God you love to protect her, guide her, and guard her heart. You've prayed for the direction of her career, her teachers, her friends, and her life mate.

The entire time you're praying it seems like it's, "some day."

For my little girl, "some day," came this past year.

And four became five...
Cameron waltzed into her life and swept her off her feet. It was a storybook romance. They dated a short time and married this summer. I'm now a mother-in-law...a title I hadn't prepared myself for, but am enjoying.

As the holidays are upon us we have to navigate the blending of traditions with two families for the first time.

My new son-in-law and I sat down recently for lunch and I thought I'd share some of our conversation...with his permission of course.

As I've gotten to know him better, I've come to realize he is an answer to one of the prayers for my girl. And I give thanks.

Cameron grew up in Anderson, had a similar childhood as Bailey. He describes himself as, "extremely strong willed." (For anyone reading who has a child with a similar disposition, please be encouraged by what you're about to read.) He has two older brothers and says, "I really had three daddies because of the age difference between me and my brothers." There are seven years between him and his middle brother, Timothy.

He was active in sports as a young boy. Football and wrestling were his primary sports where he was a Three-Year Letterman in Football at Westside High School earning All-Region and All-Area his senior year. He was a Four-Year Letterman in Wrestling earning All-Region and All-Area twice in his high school career. He was runner-up in the SC State Wrestling Tournament his senior year.

His oldest brother, Stephen, went to The Citadel and Cameron says by sixth grade he knew he too, wanted to follow in his brothers' footsteps and attend this prestigious school. He loved the structure and discipline of their program. He said, "If you didn't pass you were the only one to blame."

Cameron with his second love
His childhood dream was realized when he entered The Citadel as a freshman knob. Cameron knew from the day he set foot on campus there was one more goal to be accomplished...The Summerall Guards. His brother, Stephen, was part of this elite group of men. This is a strenuous, six month training program, designed to weed out the weak. Cadets are not eligible until their junior year of study. Hundreds begin, sixty-one men are chosen at the end of the training period. Their service begins the first day of their senior year with a grand ceremony, a passing of the torch from one class to another.

Not only did Cameron pass all the tests and make the Guards, but he was elected to the same position as his brother of Supply Sgt., number three in rank. They are the only brothers in Citadel history to hold this position.

Cameron said The Cidadel prepared him for life. It taught him structure, discipline and responsibility. He is also a man of great faith. He was raised in a home where discipline, faith in God, and love went hand in hand. He said his mom and dad were a team. He trusted their advice on everything.

You may ask why I tell you all these things about my new family member. Well, there are several reasons. I write about family, my faith, my journey...the struggles AND the joys. My life has been a series of pain and happiness, joy and sorrow, thankfulness and regret. I've written a lot lately about my pain. I decided it was time to rejoice in something good. Cameron has been good for Bailey. As they say to one another, "They are God's provision for each other."

If you are in the throes of parenting, don't give up or in. The days of diapers and carpools will end quickly. Be on your knees, for one day you'll be watching her walk down the aisle or come out the side door and their short life will flash before your eyes. You'll say to yourself, "Did I do everything, teach everything, did I, did I, did I?"

My advice to you now that I'm on the other side is love them and be there for them. Pray for them. Ultimately, God is their keeper. He knew the intention of my heart and He knows the intention of yours. And in those times when we can't pray, His spirit does. He utters the prayers that we are too weary and broken to pray over our children. So be faithful and He will provide what your child needs when they need it.

He did for mine.

Thanksgiving is a time to remind us to count our blessings, to draw our attention to the One who provides, who heals, who protects, who saves.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 6, 2014

When Bad Things Happen, Be Thankful

We often hear people ask the question, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?"

This is a deep theological question that leaves most of us with our mouths gaping and no answer. We're rendered speechless and refer them to the local pastor or some kind of book, such as James Dobson's book on the subject. In fact, volumes have been written in an attempt to answer this dilemma that stretches back to the beginning of time.

I was reading Oswald Chambers this week and this sentence jumped out at me…

"Why shouldn't we experience heartache?"

He goes on to say, "Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us collapse at the first grip of pain. We sit down at the door of God's purpose and enter a slow death through self-pity. And all the so-called Christian sympathy of others helps us to our deathbed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, as if to say, "Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine." If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?" Oswald Chambers

Ouch. I'm guilty of self-pity. And I don't like pain. How many of us do? I'm afraid I've collapsed at the door of pain many times and prevented my healing. 

He also describes a God who uses tough love on us to produce a child who can eventually, "arise and shine." His methods will differ with each child, just as we parent our children based on their personality and temperament. But we can rest in His unchanging and unconditional love while in the process.

I'm not there yet. I've a ways to go.

I'm beginning to understand how He can use a broken vessel much better than one that's never even had a crack. If you've never had a need, how can you empathize with one who's hurting. As He has put me back together, I want the affects of His love and mercy to pour through me and touch those whom I come into contact. There has to be a purpose for the messy life or it was all in vain. I don't believe He would've allowed it unless He planned to use it.

So this Thanksgiving season, I'm going to raise my hands in surrender and thank Him for a messy, broken life. He can use it however He chooses. 

How about you? Have you been broken and asked the question, "why?" You've done all the right things, played by the rules and life hasn't been fair? 

I've asked God that question my entire life and He was silent until now. Your answer will be different from mine. It's alright to ask, He's big enough for our questions.

Just know He loves you with a love that is holy and surpasses anything the human mind can perceive and He will be faithful. His promises have stood the test of time. And when He's finished, you'll be thankful for the brokenness, for without it, you wouldn't have needed Him as much.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

When He Calmed the Child Instead of the Storm

As I sat on the beach one evening watching the waves crash to the shore my mind drifted to another land and another time.

The scene was on the Sea of Galilee and the waves were turbulent on this dark and stormy night. The fishermen on the upper deck of the boat feared for their very lives. They sought help from the One who slept beneath deck to rescue them from certain death.

His words, "Peace be still," would calm a raging sea and allow them to maneuver the boat safely to shore.

..."then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. And the men marveled, saying, what sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"
Matthew 8:26-27

How many times have I needed His words, "Peace be still," spoken over a storm in my life?

There's a song that says, "Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms His child..." His very presence is peace, if we'll be still long enough. That's the difficult part. Life and its daily battles are continually pressing in, robbing us of His joy and peace.

We are no different than the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were that stormy night. We fret and worry, then run to everyone else to solve our problem when the answer lies beneath deck, or deep within our heart, in the person of Jesus Christ.

He's there all the time...waiting patiently for our cry for help.

I thought peace would only be mine if He calmed the storm, but this time He calmed the child.

What storm are you facing? There's nothing He can't handle or doesn't already have the answer. Trust Him, for He is faithful.


Friday, September 19, 2014

What I Would Say To A Younger Me...

Someone said to me recently I live in the past. This is true. I'm a contemplative person by nature. I think though, our past shapes our future through the choices we make.

I celebrated a birthday this week, a rather significant one. I won't mention numbers, but it's caused me to think about the past while also contemplating the future.

If I could give wisdom to my younger self, the little girl Cindy, the teenager Cindy, these might be some of the suggestions I'd offer to ease her into an unknown world...

1. Soak up every word your momma says. Watch the way she walks, while she can still walk. Memorize her face, her hands, and her voice. Listen to her wisdom and imitate her walk with Jesus.

2. Forgive those who hurt you...enough said.

3. Make sure you know the stories of your mom and dad's childhoods. Ask them to share in detail what it was like to grow up in the 40's and 50's. Listen to their love story over and over.

4. You are stronger than you think.

5. You are an introvert and there's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't mean people don't like you, it means you are the one who holds back, not them. It's ok to be quiet and reserved. Don't be ashamed of who you are. One day you'll understand what it means to be an observer of people, and they will fascinate you. 

6. Study more in school, you're smarter than you think. And in that same vein, finish your education.

7. Take heart, my sweet self, one day you will stop chewing your fingernails into the quick. They will grow like your mom's and she would be proud. 

8. If you could see into the hearts of your friends and classmates, they have fears too. They have family drama, heartache, pain, and "stuff" they can't talk about. Be a friend, extend grace.
Bus and Wilma Summers at my high school graduation
(my mom's best friend)

9. Don't worry so much about popularity. It will fade with time. Care more about how you treat people. Care more about the choices you make and the influence you have on others.

10. And is still the pinnacle of a girl's high school life. Can you believe it? Enjoy it and the friendships you make. You will love them until you're old enough to get an AARP card. You don't know what that is, and your grown up self refuses to own one.

11. You won't grieve your mom's death until she's been with Jesus thirty-eight years, but you'll find God teaches you more about Himself in the waiting. He is sovereign so you must trust His process.

12. Appreciate the beauty of your special relationship with your mom's best friend. She will become like your "other mother" and love you as such. She and her husband will show you what it means to, "do unto others." 

13. Don't stop writing. You have a creative mind if you'll give it air to breathe.

14. You have some surprises along the way, many twists and turns. You'll marry young and he'll be a fine man. Two of your greatest blessings come from foreign soil. They will teach you about unconditional love. You will love like you never thought possible, and you will be loved. 

15. Enjoy life and the journey. Learn to appreciate the unique way you were created. Most of all, follow your Creator; Seek after Him and study His Word.

I wish I could spare you the pain and hardship you'll face but just know there is One who is faithful and will never leave you...even in the darkest of days. He is there and one day, you will come to know His strength was made perfect in your weakness. 

If only it were that easy to write back to our younger selves. Hindsight, right? We would still make mistakes and get it wrong.
Text message gift from a dear friend

Is there a younger one in your home who's struggling with some of these issues? Think about what you would say to your younger self, and then try to make a difference in the life of a child. We all have childhood memories we'd rather forget. Children today have the same struggles with a lot more stress heaped on them.

This may seem like a silly idea but maybe, like me, it helps you to recognize and appreciate the path your life has taken when you reminisce on where you've been and where you're going.

Birthdays are a celebration, a time to pause and remember. To my younger self I'd say, "You will be blessed with many people who will love you and those you will love...treasure them for they are gifts from God."

And then it's time to look ahead...


Friday, September 12, 2014

A Dock For Dreaming...

Autumn in the South, what could be better? The blue Carolina sky above beckoned me to sit awhile and soak up the last of summer and the beginning of my favorite time of year.

Life has a way of causing us to stop, or at least slow our pace. I'm a dreamer, I'll admit. I love nothing better than pondering the mysteries of the past and present while trying to anticipate the future. And if water is involved, I can sit for hours. My best writing has come as a result of water.

I sat in a chair on a dock one morning. The sounds caught my attention. Birds were talking to each other, fish were jumping, and waves were gently lapping against the sides of the dock. Cattle came down to feed and get water across the cove. It was one of the most pleasant mornings I've spent in a long while, except for the morning I spent on the same dock with a dear friend.

I asked myself why I don't give myself permission for rest. For some reason I've programmed myself to believe it's selfish to ask for "me" time.

Not only do our bodies need rest, our souls, our minds need rest. We need rest from computers, cell phones, housework, yard work and a myriad of other tasks that call for our attention.

God has given His handiwork, His creation, to enjoy, not just to slave over. I get caught up in the work of gardening but don't enjoy the garden. Does this resonate with anyone?

My time on the dock was, the chair, nature, pencil and paper. Creativity had no boundaries, no schedule, but I did, and I was sad to leave.

However, I will return...

How about you? How do you find rest? How do you carve out time and what are your favorite ways to recharge your soul? I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you link up to she's talking about the same issue this week. Rachel Ann has some great thoughts.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

When a Dog Reminded Me Not To Be Anxious

My son's dog, Beau, comes to visit me every weekday morning. He arrives wagging his tail, and the ritual begins.

As he meanders past me for a quick pat on the head, he laps up the leftover kitty milk, then proceeds to the laundry room for the remainder of the cat's breakfast. He's not finicky, no siree. He likes any flavor...salmon, chicken, beef, unlike my cats. We have to change it up every day, they have discriminating taste buds.

I save the cat food cans for him. He licks them clean and I don't have to worry with odors. He waits patiently until all cans have been disposed of. He knows how I hate pesky odors.

Next, in his morning fun he runs to get the paper, waiting at the entrance of our driveway. A donut or biscuit await his return as he drops it on the front porch.

After all this lively activity he's ready for his breakfast. He gobbles it down like he's if he hasn't had a bite all morning. Then he's off to chase the squirrels away from my bird feeders. It's his job after all. He appointed himself as my squirrel dog. He takes it seriously.

Beau is also a sensitive dog. When I cry, he whines and gently licks my tears. He paces around me and it's obvious he's affected by my emotions. He's also sensitive to noises. Much like me, he prefers the quiet.

One morning recently, Beau and I were on the back porch. It was a cool morning with a hint of fall in the air. I was emotionally and mentally spent and couldn't enjoy it though.

Have you ever been anxious and worried about something you could do nothing about and yet, you continued to fret and worry? I like to think I have it all together, but I don't.

As Beau and I were pondering life, loud, clanging noises from somewhere in the neighborhood began to penetrate our silence. He became agitated, almost frightened, and started pacing. He tried climbing in my lap, not easy for a sixty-five pound dog. He gestured to go inside and came to get me to go with him. When he saw I was staying outside he got as close as he could to me. I stroked his head while I talked softly to him, telling him it would be alright. I told him not to be anxious, I was right there and wouldn't let anything happen to him.

As I said the words aloud, my voice caught in my throat. These words came to mind as tears welled up in my eyes...

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Just as I comforted Beau with soothing words and strokes of love, His words were comforting for my anxious heart. They reminded me how much I'm loved and held in His grip.

My situation is still there, it hasn't changed. But there is One who tells me not to be anxious. He tells me to present my requests, with thanksgiving, and He will give me peace that will guard my heart and mind.

What are you wrestling with? What are the loud noises clanging in your world making you anxious? Present them to the One who can offer peace in a time of trouble. He's ready to bring peace to your anxious heart and quiet the sounds of distraction. And sometimes He chooses to teach you through a big, lovable dog, named Beau.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 0r 1814? My Recent Visit to The Grove

I had an opportunity to visit my favorite inn on my way to the beach recently, The Grove Bed and Breakfast in Marion, South Carolina. Dear friends, Denley and Ann Caughman, are the owners of this gorgeous, historical home.

My stay included overnight accommodations in "Miss Annie's" room, which has been redecorated from floor to ceiling in recent months.

Words can't begin to describe the attention to detail. The elegance, the love of history and southern splendor this victorian plantation home exude are a thing to behold.

After a restful night of sleep, my morning began quite early. I wanted to get a few pictures of Denley preparing breakfast. After all, one doesn't eat a meal cooked on a wood stove in the month of August, in the south, in 2014...1814 maybe, but usually not in 2014.

Pictures needed to tell my story...
Denley preparing potatoes

Denley has been cooking on a wood stove as long as I've known him, nearly thirty years. When my children were babies, and he was our pastor, we'd occasionally have breakfast with their family on Saturday morning. It was tradition for him to cook breakfast on the wood stove, in their modern kitchen, in their modern home. A treat indeed.

He has continued his cooking adventures and joined Ann who is an amazing cook.

Many utensils are original to the home
Servant's Kitchen
                                    The Grove is complete with a servant's kitchen where Denley shares his skill of cooking with others. He teaches classes on cooking gourmet dinners on his wood stove.

Did I mention Ann is a good cook? Excellent is a better word. She has the gift of hospitality and also teaches classes on etiquette to local groups. I've learned much from her through the years on elegance and style. She has a way of making friend and foe alike feel comfortable.

Stepping into the servant's kitchen was like going back in time, but the yummy tastes I experienced were timeless.

Timeless...friendships made through Christ.

I spent the night with these dear friends in their home, but also their place of business. They treated me with love and kindness. yummy as it looks

A weary traveler can find rest for the night but they can also find rest for the soul. Denley and Ann offer so much more, they offer themselves. This bed and breakfast is an extension of who they are. They are servants of the living God and when you stay with them you experience His presence in a subtle, but felt way.

When I left the next day, I left my burden behind and journeyed on my way.

I can't guarantee the same for you, as far as the shedding of burdens, but I can promise you'll have the finest food, served by the finest people I know. And the inn itself, well, you'll need to visit to understand why I love going.

Please share if you've stayed in a similar place, or maybe you've stayed at The Grove. I'd love to hear your comments.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Two Years Later...

Sometimes God takes you around the world to teach you something about Himself...and sometimes He lets others participate.

Some of you may know of my mission work in Russia. I traveled to Ekaterinburg, Russia on two separate occasions in 2010 and 2012. Both were life changing in their own unique way. The latter has had a far reaching impact in my life that continues to this day.

In the months leading up to our departure in 2012, I'd come out of an emotional and heart wrenching year of my dad's illness and death. My children were leaving the nest permanently and my world was changing.

Fear began to send me in a downward spiral into a pit of depression and emotional upheaval. In the midst of all this turmoil, I was leaving my home and family to venture to a foreign land without any close friends, whom I'd traveled with before. Most everyone tried to talk me out of going, but I knew I was supposed to go.

On the other side of the ocean was a young woman I was destined to meet. There was a plan for us and nothing would stand in the way.

Her name is Ksyu. Her American name is Sue. Thirty years separate us in age...if that matters. I think not.

Our group was there to facilitate an English camp. Sue and I met the first night at dinner. I sat across the table from her. She seemed as lonely as I was. I asked her what she liked to do. She said she liked to draw pictures of people.

Sue's drawing of me
By the end of the evening she'd drawn my picture and even in the silence, neither of us were lonely anymore. We had to move to her room an hour or so into the process, the picnic shelter we were meeting in was closing. Several hours later she allowed me to view her took my breath away.

Not only did she capture my face and features, she captured the angst of my heart.

She and I made a connection of the mind and heart that allowed me to share some of my story. In our small group the next day I shared of my broken childhood and family. It also gave me and others a door to share the good news of Jesus.

Our stories. Our lives. Shared.

Relationships born.

Soon after we returned from Russia, Sue made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

Two years later...

Sue and I still talk regularly. One of the interns who was working in Russia while we were there visited our church recently. She reported that Sue is a vital part of the Christian community and has led many to Christ.

Her smile is contagious and there is a sweetness about her that is genuine. She is a light of hope in a dark country where war and rumors of war are crouching at the door.

Yet, she continually asks how she can pray for me and my family. She asks how my children are doing and wants to know how my writing is coming along.

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, 
but also to the interests of others." 
Philippians 2:4 ESV

We hope to see each other again one day and I know we will. Our world is getting smaller and I believe somehow we will meet face to face on American soil.

Sue with her niece
See what I would have missed if I'd let my fears and worries overrule God's plan.

As my pastor preached on Sunday, how many people are we afraid of because they're different? We must take every opportunity to share our lives with the "Sue's" we meet; whether they be in Russia, our schools, churches, playgrounds, grocery stores, ball fields, or wherever you find yourself looking into the face of another.

I learned so much during the summer of 2012. It was the launching pad for my journey of truly learning to trust Him in all things. I'm so hard-headed He had to take me all the way to Russia to get my attention, through a girl named Sue...

She has no idea how much our experience together gave me strength to face the next year of my life.

Simple faith. Shared lives.

Whose life can you make a difference in today? There is a world waiting for you, one life at a time.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Train Up A Child

"Train up a child and when he is old he will not depart..."

I've often thought that verse of scripture in the Bible is overused and taken out of context. However, I've come to see it can be applied in many different ways.

We have influence over our children and the children in our world with whom we come into contact.

Andy at the reception
Recently, we had a big event in our family...a wedding. As the time drew near and plans were being made for family to arrive, the need for housing arose. My son, Andy, offered his home and I didn't hesitate to accept.

From the time he was able to crawl he has witnessed his parents arrange tables, prepare food, clean our house, and welcome guests. His life has been filled with Sunday School functions, youth parties, soccer team cookouts and weekend get-togethers with friends.

I shouldn't be surprised that he was willing to open up his home for our family.

Train up a child...

Every detail for their arrival was planned, right down to the matching towels in the guest bathroom. He made sure they had breakfast before he had to be at the church at 7:30 a.m. for pictures on the morning of the wedding.

(L to R) Matt, Emily, Judy, Jeff, and Andy
Andy is quiet by nature but loves making people feel at home. All those years of entertaining in our home have seeped into the skin of my son.

As I've had time to reflect on the wedding and the events surrounding the celebration, it has caused me to ponder. Has he been a witness to other characteristics? Has the fruit of the spirit been demonstrated as, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Train up a child...

Our children are always watching, parenting never ends. As we age, they are aging too. We are continually modeling a new stage for them. How I live my todays could be how they live their tomorrows.

Some of you may have heart children that you minister to. Love them unconditionally and show them the way. They may never see love displayed in this manner.

Train up a child...

I'm so proud of Andy and how he cared for his family and friends for his sister's wedding. It was a tremendous help to me and his dad and deepened his relationships with family. And isn't that the most important thing anyway?

Train up a child and when he is old he will not depart from it. You may think your words are falling on dry ground, but keep speaking them with love. Live your faith in front of your children and they will know what you believe through your actions. Little eyes and ears are attuned to you even when you think they aren't paying attention.

One day, like me, you'll wake up with grown children who make you proud.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Eden and America…Any Similarities?

I walked into my garden one Sunday morning recently. I'd had a restless night of sleep and needed to calm my heart and soul. As I listened to the birds sing, the quiet of the moment caused my thoughts to wander…

Looking around my garden and the beauty of my flowers and plants, the different shades of green, the starkness of white in the irises, the hope of flowers yet to bloom, I was reminded of a garden of long ago…Eden.

The lushness of Eden must have been incomparable to anything we can imagine. The best thing about Eden though was the Presence of God. The Bible says in Genesis 3:8 "And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…"

I can't imagine, in my 21st century mind, what that must have been like.

I can imagine, however, the horror Eve must have felt when she was thrown out of paradise. One decision cost her everything. She listened to someone who deceived her and now she was branded and thrown out of the presence of the Almighty. Angels with flaming swords were assigned to guard the entrance to her former home. She could never return.

No longer could she walk in the cool of the day with the One who loved her most.

Isn't that what all of us are searching for, our Garden of Eden, and someone to love us?

Since the beginning of time and the original garden, God put inside each one of us a hunger for Himself and His Presence.

One of my gardens
I believe that's why so many people are drawn to gardening and gardens. They are alive with beauty and hope. When we are in the quiet of His creation, He speaks with a still, small voice, words of love and truth.

When I sit in my garden, for any length of time and meditate, chat with family or a friend, I'm rejuvenated.

Most of us, and I'm including myself, search for meaning in worldly things. We look for love in people and possessions, in social standing and power, or through politics and education. We allow the serpent to slither up to us and whisper lies, asking the same question he asked Eve, "Did God really say…?"

If we are not anchored in the truth of His Word we believe the latest trends and beliefs fed to us by Hollywood and Washington. It's time we educated ourselves instead of believing everything fed to us by the political and social thinkers of our society. Our very lives depend on it.
We are celebrating a day of freedom in our country…the greatest country ever established because of her constitution of freedom for all people of color, creed or religion. However, we have turned our backs on the God who gives us ultimate freedom to worship Him in truth and spirit.

He will not allow us to continue in this spirit of freedom.  Just as He had to throw Eve out of the garden for her disobedience, He will also judge our country in the same manner.

He walked with Eve in the cool of the day, enjoying her presence, just as she enjoyed His. His heart was broken because of her sin, but He provided for her and for Adam. A tremendous price was paid for their disobedience.

God has blessed our country for over two hundred years but He will not continue to tolerate our habitual and in-your-face sin against Him. I don't want to wake up one day and find my freedoms stripped away because of ignorance, laziness, or disobedience.

Our Pledge of Allegiance still says, "One nation under God…" I would beg to differ that point right now. We have turned to many other gods.

It's not too late if we'll join together and pray as a nation of people who still believe in the one true God, ask His forgiveness, and turn our hearts back to Him.

Otherwise, our Eden as we know it will be stripped away from us.

And worse than that, the protection and relationship we have known from Almighty God in years past…g o n e.

Join me this Independence Day in praying for our country. Let's not find ourselves looking back at Eden one day thinking if only...


Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Little Five-Letter Word

In a blog post at the beginning of the year I mentioned the fact that I was not a person who chose a word for the year; one to meditate on, study and incorporate its meaning into my life.

I decided if I were to choose such a word, mine would be "trust." A little five-letter word, but oh, so powerful. It seems to have found its way into everything I read this year. Interesting…

Now that we've marked nearly half the days of the year off our calendar, I decided to check in on how I'm doing…with trust that is.

How many of us have grand plans and goals in January and then life sets in and we lose our way?

Picking a word sounded like a good idea, but the fact is, I have to trust when my heart is broken because the Word says:

 "I rely on your constant love, I will be glad because you will rescue me." Psalm 13:5

I have to trust when nothing is going right, or the way I'd hoped.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. " Proverbs 3:5-6

It's easy to trust when life is giving you everything you want or need. But when you get kicked around and life and circumstances seem to throw you to and fro, trust is something altogether different. Ask a cancer patient at the end of their treatment if they've learned to trust their doctors and caregivers. It's only when we're challenged in areas of our lives that we can truly develop and grow. 

Trust is a choice we make.

After writing this post, I opened Jesus Calling to read these words the next morning:

"Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me. I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence. By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you. I eagerly await your first conscious thought. I rejoice when you glance My way…"

I believe I can TRUST the one true God who has a plan for my life and it is good. 

He has a plan for your life as well. No matter what you're going through, you can trust Him. We're not promised tomorrow, we must take each day as it is given. As Jesus Calling said, "I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence." What more could I want or need, in this life? 

I think next year I'm going to choose a word such as "vacation" or "sabbatical." Yes, both of those words sound good! 

How about you, how are you doing with your word for the year? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dear Dad…What My Father's Day Card Would Say Today

Anyone who's lost a parent can identify with me on special holidays such as Mother's Day and Father's Day. It doesn't matter if you had a great relationship or a stormy one, these days evoke emotions in the core of our being. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll face our feelings, deal with them and live a healthy life, emotionally, that is.

If your relationship was one that was deep and meaningful, you treasure the memories you have and recall them with fondness. If not, you stumble through life with a hole in your heart.

For many years it was difficult for me to choose a Father's Day card. They were sappy and filled with lines such as, "You were always there for me," and, "I can always look up to you." I'd walk around the Hallmark store reading each one carefully until I found the perfect card that expressed my feelings…very difficult as I said.

While I knew my dad loved me, I questioned many things he did after my mom died, which shattered my trust, and eventually I came to question his love for me. We also didn't communicate well and that contributed to the breakdown in our relationship.

Because of the sovereignty of a loving God, my relationship with my dad was healed before he died. If I could send him a card today it would read something like this…

My husband and Dad at the only game he would
ever attend of his beloved WV Mountaineers
Thank you Dad for marrying a wonderful woman, my mom. Thank you for loving her completely, not perfectly, but faithfully and unconditionally for seventeen years until she went to meet Jesus. Thank you for taking care of her, for carrying the burden of her illness for ten long years, emotionally, physically, and financially. You paid a high price for losing a wife at a young age.

Thank you for taking me to church where I was taught about a savior, named Jesus. I met that savior personally in the basement of our little church when I was five years old. It gave me a foundation that would establish a pattern for my life. 

Thank you for giving me happy, early memories and shielding me from the ugliness of cancer. Thank you for making me feel safe. Thank you for your discipline…like the time I had to go to bed early, while everybody else was still outside playing, because I rode my bike in the street. I remember you tucking me in bed, telling me you loved me, but I had disobeyed.
Dad and Bailey celebrating her second birthday

I'm sorry we lost our way when you remarried.

Thank you for loving my children unconditionally and abundantly. They adored you. They were the life line that brought us back together. Children have a way of doing that. Thank you for remembering their birthdays and making them feel special with a trip to their favorite fast food joint. I'm not sure if I should thank you for all the candy you fed them. I turned my head on those days. Mom would have loved it since she worked for a dentist.

Thank you for trusting me, and my family to care for you and love you when you needed family most. I will never forget our time together. Every day, every hour was planned by God to knit our hearts back together again.

Andy and Dad at Christmas circa 1992
But most of all, my dearest Daddy, I want to thank you for your humility and your heart. It took a big man to admit he was wrong, that he made many mistakes. 

I'm so thankful for the man I called my dad. His memory will live on in his final, "I love you's, and his final hugs. And the way he could say, "awe shucks."

We still laugh at how he could never call my cat by the right name. Her name is "Livvy," but he called her, "Liddy, Libby, Linny and several other versions. He brought laughter to our home for a year and we will never forget him.

It took too many years for me to find the right card for my dad…I'm sorry I had to write this too late for him to read it.

Don’t wait too long to tell those you love how you feel. Offer and receive forgiveness where needed. Your dad won’t always be here to read your words or hear your voice. Trust me on this one.

Have a blessed Father’s Day,

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Treasure At The End Of The Rainbow

Have you ever made a plan to go somewhere and then everything went haywire? That happened to me recently. I won't mention where we were going for I would embarrass myself way too much. There's humility and then there is stupidity. I would fall into the last category.

This particular outing had been on my calendar for awhile. I'm notorious for planning something and then unplanning because of my love of home. This time, however, was not the case. The problem was I didn't make reservations for a place to stay.

The internet, credit cards, and fax machines allow us flexibility in planning or buying anything we want at the touch of a computer key, and I let that override my common sense. Also, the fact that spring is here and I've been spending glorious hours in my garden has left me in a pollen-induced haze.

All this aside, I SHOULD have been on top of this but I wasn't. The day we were leaving, I was still looking for reservations. Fortunately, my...ahem, persistence paid off and a place was booked. I was printing off the parking pass, literally, while the car was running.

If it could go wrong that day, it did. 

Our son could not find the title to a vehicle he was selling, and called, as we were walking out the door. I'm a meticulous record keeper. All the titles to our vehicles are kept in a folder in the safe, except that one. He needed it for something earlier and it never found its way back to the folder. That incident, and a dozen other things beckoned us to stay home.

But, we got in the car on a dreary day and went anyway. Rain poured intermittently. A latte helped improve my mood. He slept while I drove, typical for us.

As we made our way to our destination the most beautiful double rainbow appeared. The colors were the most vivid I've ever seen in my fifty something years. So of course, he had to take a picture, or two, or three…at my insistence. Because you never know when you might need a good rainbow picture.

By the time we arrived, it was already dark, still raining, and we were bone tired.

I couldn't wait to see the scenery that awaited as the sun rose. I was not disappointed, the view was breathtaking.

As I reflected on the beauty of my surroundings, it occurred to me the time spent away, the rest I so desperately needed, and the planning I was able to do were my treasure at the end of the rainbow.

God used the rainbow in the Old Testament to remind Noah He would never again destroy human life as a whole, with water. He set the arc of color in the sky to remind us He is God, He controls all things, even our plans and reservations.

What a gift that time was to me. 

We've all heard the myth of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There is a treasure far more important than gold. I've learned that time spent with Him is more precious that any pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The treasure He gives in the stillness of my soul is priceless. I could have found that at home too, but He had to move me out of my comfort zone to remind me to be still and know.

And my sweet boy, who is so much like me, found the title to his truck. He kept searching and found his treasure.

My prayer is that my children see the value of a treasure that is priceless…one that is found, not at the end of a rainbow, but at the feet of the One who made the rainbow.


Monday, June 2, 2014

A Blog Hop: My Writing Process

I'm participating in a blog hop this week thanks to my friend Kendra, whom I met at She Speaks last summer. Kendra is a sweet soul that you'd love the instant you met her. She has an inviting spirit that welcomes you into her world and makes you feel loved.

Blogging has been around for several years but gained in popularity in 2006-2008. Many of the trailblazers have moved on to establish themselves in the national spotlight earning six and seven figure yearly incomes. Their books have been published and some have found themselves in front of a television camera…and it all began when they hit "publish."

Each of us has a different purpose for writing our blog posts. Through this fun blog hop, maybe I can answer some of my own questions about why I blog.

1) What am I working on?
Currently, I'm working on a book about grief and forgiveness. The basis of the book is my life story but I'm not going year by year. I have a co-writer who is helping me with the early years. As I began the process of writing, those years were too painful to capture through the written word and I found it easier to speak the words. The later years, after forgiveness and healing had occurred, were much easier to write. My co-writer is translating my spoken words while I'm working on the process of how forgiveness and grief are tied together.

My part has been laid aside for now due to the planning of my daughter's wedding. I'll resume writing in September. Keeping up with my blog is all I have time for at the moment.

2)How does my work differ?
There have been many books written on grief or forgiveness. I'm not sure if there have been any written with both subjects linked together. The ingredient that makes mine unique is the time element. I didn't grieve until thirty eight years after my mother's death. I have an experience to share that differs from most people. Also, losing a parent as a teenager, then being separated from the second parent on a daily basis gives me a voice that speaks to another group of people.

3)Why do I write what I do?
I love what Kendra said in her blog hop post, "My writing is an extension of who I am and how I think…" That really spoke to me.

I believe that's why I write. I have something to say. Since I was a little girl, I've been an observer of people, all kinds of people. Most of the time I'm quiet, but on the inside I'm having dialogue and writing stories constantly. As I work in my garden, wash dishes, or iron, stories or parables come to mind to illustrate a biblical principle. I love sharing stories from my childhood or my children's growing-up years. There is a wealth of wisdom in the passing of time. I write to share what I've learned through this life journey to help those coming along behind me…and if I can share it in a way that promotes family or leads someone into a deeper walk with God, then even better.

4)How does my writing process work?
As I said above, writing for me comes through normal, every day activities. My ideas come through life experiences. I will write a complete post in my head. Most of the time, I try to stop what I'm doing and write down a few key sentences, then go back to whatever I was doing. The key sentences will be enough to jog my memory to fill in the gaps and write the post. The blog posts that have had the most page views have taken the least amount of time to write…thirty minutes or less. The post with the most page views took fifteen minutes to write. This doesn't include editing, but I get the general concept on paper and it's just a matter of adding commas and paragraphs.

I've found writing to be fulfilling and healing. Whether I'm blogging, writing on my book or gathering material by people watching, I'm excited to see where God leads in this new chapter in my life.

Visit Kendra's blog, Tending the Garden at