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.