An Anniversary Letter To The Bride In Me

February 21, 2004:

 

I cannot believe I am even writing this, but it has been FIFTEEN years since I became a married woman and Frank’s wife. 15 years! It’s true that time speeds up the older you get. There have been some really low lows and some really high highs during this time span. It’s only just begun! Compared to many inspirational couples out there, 15 years is just a drop in the bucket. But it’s our drop, our bucket and it’s our start!

I recently headed over to my mom and dad’s house. My beautiful winter-wonderland A-line dress has been stored in their attic since 2004. Who else stores stuff at their parent’s house? Haha! (Thanks, Mops and Pops!)

Since that unseasonally gorgeous day in February 2004, I have had 3 kids and many ups and downs with my weight. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know this. You’ve seen me extra-fluffy, mid-range fluffy and anything in between. In saying this, I wasn’t sure my size 6 dress that my 20-year-old self wore would fit this 35-year-old postpartum x3 body with an extra 15 years on it!

But it did fit. It was special because our oldest daughter (who’s 10 years old) was zipping it up for me and she said, “Mommy, you think it will zip? I don’t know…” I said to her, “Oh YES!! You do what you have to and zip this bad boy up!” She didn’t have to try too hard. It was so encouraging to be able to get back in that $600 dress. David’s Bridal got me good with it. It’s totally 2004! Fashion has evolved for sure, but for the time and for me as I became Frank’s wife and walked down that aisle to the Highland Cathedral–it was pure perfection. Bagpipes, anyone? Yes, please!

While most recently wearing it, I actually took a selfie with myself in my bridal portrait. It hangs on my parent’s wall along with my two beautiful sister’s bridal portraits. My sisters and I were so very privileged to have our dad marry all three of us on our special days. So very special! When you walk into their house, all three of us girls are right there on the left in our portraits and dresses. As I was taking it and looking at my 20-year-old face, I had such an overwhelming sense of thanksgiving for what God has given in His precious gift of marriage and the man He selected for me. I also looked in my eyes that looked back at me and thought, “Wow. You young bride, you. You really have no idea what you’re about to get into…”

My 35-year-old self is right. I didn’t. I just want to share some of my heart with you all on our anniversary. Everyone’s story is so uniquely them. This is our’s. I’m going to be very open and truthful with you all and quite vulnerable here, but that’s how I roll. It’s not worth reading if it’s a bunch of fluff and untruths to “look” like I have it all together. That would be a misconception. You’ve come to the right place if you want raw truth. Definitely keeping real, so consider this your fair warning! Haha.

A letter to myself. From my perspective 15 years down the married road. A letter to that eager 20-year-old:

Dear Bride,

Hey girl. Looking snazzy in your 2004 wedding dress. You’re beautiful. Everything is as you envisioned. From the Austrian crystals in your tiara to your shoes. As you took your long bath this morning, shaving all the things and such and pampering, you’re pondering the events that are about to unfold…and the love you have for this man.  You’re just hours away from committing yourself to him. He’s so incredibly meaty because of his values and his dreams and his relationship with the Lord. He’s not the cheap-o stuff you sometimes see floating around the dating pool. He’s a handsome one, huh? Well, speaking from this far down the road–he gets sexier every year and he only gets more and more handsome. Holy smokes! You’ve got a lot to look forward to. Just sayin’. He loves God, and he lives out his love for you. He’s a man’s man. He loves you enough to commit his life and loyalty to you…that’s something. You are a treasured daughter of God, and He gives GOOD gifts. Frank is a gift. He’s wrapped up a nice package of a tuxedo, and he’s waiting for you at the end of the aisle. He’s going to sing to you also–although you don’t know that yet.

He’s going to have a near impossible time keeping his eyes (and his hands) off of you at the reception, too. So werk werk werk it, girl. The BATTLE of not having sex before this day has now ended. THANK YOU, JESUS. Praise the LORD. I know your mind was in bed almost the entire day. It was a sprint to the finish line! You made it though. I’m proud of you. You both were obedient to what God says in His Word. That’s no small thing. But…I want to talk about the other stuff with you. All the love-making and amazing highs that will still happen through the years are just a portion of what you’re about to get into, you know. It’s a big thing–that’s what she said–but not the only thing. There are other fish to fry when it comes to marriage besides sex and making love. I know you’re having a hard time believing that right now.  So, listen up.

How about having to be the first one to say “I’m sorry” for starters. This is something you have no clue how hard it will be. It’ll be on the tip of your tongue a million times after a heated argument is simmering down, but Frank will be the one to usually say it first. Sometimes you do, but he’s a lot more mature than you are. You will push him to his physical limits in the anger department. I wish you’d learn to shut your mouth sometimes–especially in the next couple of years when you’re still really learning each other. You are both aware even now that you’re both very strong willed and strong in your personalities. There will be many huge fights that will happen. Many of them caused by your lack of biting your tongue. You won’t remember what many of the arguments are even about. You will always meet each other again, at square one. You’ll find each other again. And again. And again…after bent steering wheels and holes in the wall from a fist punch. If this were any other man, you may have driven him to actually punch you. Frank would never, even now, but your quick and careless tongue…was a lot like the fool in Proverbs. Yeesh. Your older version hasn’t perfected holding her tongue at 100% capacity just yet, but she’s lightyears ahead of where you’re standing now, sweet girl. 

It will be years before you really learn what “submit” means. I am still learning this, but again, am so much further than you are now. I’ve got a hint for you though, you hotheaded bride. Submit. It’s not a “dirty” word. It means accepting and bringing yourself under authority for your own good. You’re about to vow this to God, Frank and everyone else. You’re going to forget it quite often–or throw it to the wind. Either way, a wife submitting to her husband is a freeing thing to do. It’s for your own good because it’s living in obedience to God. He’s the Master marriage designer. Can’t pick and choose which parts of marriage you want to live by, honey. Going into a marriage isn’t like going to the grocery store and leaving the stuff you don’t want to buy on the shelf. It’s all or nothing. Just like when you accepted Christ as your Savior: All of you for all of Him. The laying down of your pride (and yourself) will be one of the hardest things you’re going to face though. Just a heads up, your older self hasn’t mastered this one yet, either. There are still those times (albeit fewer and further between from where you are now) when I am still straight up obstinant and disobedient and just ugly. 

Here’s a breath of fresh air though! It’s not a letter of doom and gloom, I promise. You’re going to do a lot of things right! You will build a strong home and a strong foundation with this man. You both will build your common interests, things you enjoy together. You’re going to love his cooking, too. He’s good now, but you wait a little further down the road. He’ll watch your shows with you and you with him. You’ll be each other’s anchor when various health stuff comes up. You both will be strong for each other. Life isn’t solely constructed of the “big” events. It’s made up of all those tiny little things that happen in our every day. You guys are going to be able to become one unit in pretty much every area. That takes time. I think it’s a lifetime pursuit of love for another that drives us to create a more intricate web around our commonalities.               

One of the biggest things I can say to you is that you’re loyal in your love. You’re loyal to him with your mind, soul, body. You haven’t strayed from your bed. You haven’t strayed with emotional affairs, either. Starts in the head before it gets in the bed. You’ve remembered this and tucked it away for reference. And your loyalty isn’t because of the lack of “opportunity”, either, but because of your love for him and your commitment to him as your husband and your vow before the Lord. You’ve had your eyes set on one man, and one man only. You love him fiercely. Your love for him is more firey than the fights of your early years. And that’s saying something. He will also be loyal to you. You’ve never doubted his undying love. You’ve never once had suspicions. You’re continuously thankful for this state of trust between you both, and you haven’t taken it for granted. You’ve learned to be vulnerable with him. To open your heart and let him see in. Even when you’ve wanted to “appear” strong, you’ve been able to learn how to be completely vulnerable with him when you feel anything but. You’ve done that right.                

You will keep your sense of humor alive! Frank doesn’t always strike one as “funny”, but he really is. In your dating life, you got to see it here and there. You both will do a pretty bang-up job of laughing together. He’s hilarious. Mostly because of his Frank-isms, but he’s also funny in many other regards as well. Especially at about 8-10 years in, laughter will lighten many a heavy weight in your lives together. It’s just getting better from where I stand now, so…yeah. It’s exciting!               

In the “kid” arena, you’re going to have three stunning daughters as far as I know. They’re all so different in their appearances and personalities. They are absolutely gorgeous. God has given you and Frank your ultimate Neopolitan ice cream! You have vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. A blonde, brunette and a redhead. You and Frank, so far, have taught them deep things about God and why they were created. You’ve instilled much in them thus far, and I pray that this later version of yourself along with their daddy continues to do this day by day, week by week, and year by year. They bring pure joy (on most occasions) and your hearts will be filled with much thankfulness and gratitude for the gift and blessing that they are in your lives. (You had fun “making” them, too.) Your first daughter was a “surprise”, but…come on. How “surprised” can you really be with all the “practicing” you’re gonna do? Let’s get real here.               

I want to end this letter to you, my 20-year-old version, in saying the most important thing to you: God will be so faithful to you and your family. So faithful. I can look back at things you don’t know are going to happen yet, and see God’s hand move miraculously countless times in your lives together. Things like God providing wisdom and finances for you both as you dig and scrape your way out of financial bondage. You guys will ask for wisdom on buying your first home. God provides it. You ask for opportunities for ways of making extra income. God provides. He’s faithful in your extended family and in those relationships. He provides peace. He provides joy! He will provide some incredible friends. He will provide some of the most extraordinary people to walk with you on your journey. How mightily blessed you are even now in the family and friend department! You’re going to ask for wisdom on how to love Frank well, and He provides. You’re going to learn how to respect him as your husband–something you find out that every husband (and man) on Earth craves. To be respected. You’re going to learn all kinds of things, and God is there every step of the way. You’re going to screw up more times than I care to admit even now, but you will learn from your mistakes and you and Frank will grow in your adoration and love toward one another like you can’t even imagine from where you are now, you young thang, you. And speaking from where I am now, I know God has been faithful before as I’m telling you and He will be faithful again and again even in my future and our next 15 years of marriage. He is SO good and never ending in His love, joy, peace, faithfulness and the list goes on…

Now, go have the most amazingly BLESSED 15 years ever. You go do it, girl!!

 

With Much Appreciation for Your Choice in Marriage to Frank, 

Your Future Self

 

February 2019:

 

 

The Forgotten Regrets

What seems like many eons ago (really, only just 6 years ago),  I worked at a general surgeon’s clinic here in Charlotte, NC. I was there for seven years total, but learned so much about myself. Dealing with patients, co-workers, circumstances, and even just the day-to-day. Insurance. Insurance calls. Deductibles and payments. Billing. Front desk. Filing. Phones. Medical records. Scheduling. Medical assisting from time to time. And, ETC. In all of it, I had my opportunities to chose. Chose what, exactly?

I felt that literally every day I was at work, I had the opportunity to select my mood and my attitude. I almost checked-in with a “yes” or a “no” on whether or not I’d be someone who was shining Jesus or someone who was just not. In other words, I let my flesh take over and do as it would which felt good temporarily but left me with an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Some days, I put my flesh down and gave God glory through my words and actions, and that felt GREAT. It was my choice though. Every day that I clocked in, I was someone who either had a positive outlook and actions or someone who was a Debbie Downer. I never was the Debbie Downer in the “Eeyore” sense of the word, but more in the sarcasm-with-a-sense-of-humor: which naturally fit more with my personality. I’m an upbeat person. I’m energetic. I’m ‘bubbly’ I guess you could say? Anyways–don’t let that particular personality type fool you for naturally positive. It still takes deciding to be genuine without cynicism and deciding to show Jesus. One can still be incredibly cynical and self-centered but “upbeat”. That was my “M.O.”, my modus operandi, during this season in my life.

There were many times I did shine God’s love. I chose to hold to Philippians 4:8. {Whatever is true, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, excellent and noble}. Gosh, those days felt INCREDIBLE. It was like my soul got a shot of crisp and lovely peace. It felt fresh. It felt right.

But there were also many times I just did not show any part of heaven whatsoever. Regrettably. Sometimes it was through the form of gossip, speculation, judgment. Self-centered motives. You know, office stuff. If you’ve ever been part of an “office”, that is. It’s almost like an actual farm. (Literally, that was one of the nicknames some co-workers and I called it! “The Farm”.) I was brutal in my gossip and slander at times. I nicknamed and name-called. Looking back even now and truly reflecting on those years: It was truly noteworthy and witty humor. At the expense of others. However, hilarious in heaven’s eyes? Or Earth’s? Which one is fleeting and which one actually matters? Well, it was toxic. Straight up poisonous to my soul. Being a gossip and a slanderer will eat you up from the inside out. And on days when I really got going, I felt so dirty and eaten up with sin. I knew I was wrong. I was so convicted.

But, I will say– there were also times of genuine, good fun and laughter in the midst of it all. I have many fond memories! I still laugh to myself thinking of some of them. I did have some of the world’s best co-workers, and I still keep in touch with a few of them even today.

But goodness, God is really digging up some of my history lately. I need to deal with it permanently. Sometimes our future growth is hindered when the “old” us hasn’t been completely put to death. The enemy of our souls knows when to bring up things from our past to slap us in the face and distract/hinder true growth and progress. I’m displaying my soul here. I hope you, too, can search your heart for any of those gnawing things that need to go to the gallows. If it comes to mind and we don’t deal with it, it’s basically like us telling Jesus that what He did on the cross wasn’t “strong” enough to forgive us of our past crapshoots. Right? It is NOT God’s original design for us to live with regrets. Regrets feel like lead tied to your ankles as you go down in the sea.

You know what I regret? I regret playing along with my flesh so many times while working there at that clinic. So many times, I justified why gossip was right (because “they” were so wrong) or why what I was doing with talking about others in their flaws was “OK”. I regret feeling like a victim at times. I regret the gossip and the slander and the speculation. I regret the office “politics”. I just regret not showing Jesus 100% of the time. The thing is, I knew that ‘everyone’ knew I was a Christ-follower. I didn’t make that hidden. I just look back even now {as painful as it is to reflect on reality} and think: WOW. My words. My actions. Did they say anything about Jesus? At all? Yeah, at times. At the easy times. But harder ones when rubber met with hot pavement? Nah. I don’t think so, to be honest (not for much of the time, that is). It’s regrettable. Seemingly, so much time lost. Now that I am looking back on this as a bad C-rated movie, I am asking God: Take this regret. REDEEM this time. What your Son did on the cross has already covered this and may I move on from here. I won’t carry these past-doings and burdens any longer!

One other instance I particularly remember was with a patient. This was a very sweet patient with no ill feelings that come to mind even now. Only a sweet, smiling face amidst her pain of scars and stitches. I remember her name was Gail. She had survived a few surgeries due to pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to many parts of her body. One of the bigger surgeries she had is called the Whipple. Look it up; it’s a pretty gnarly surgical procedure. One of the doctors I worked for was one that was sought out for being a world-renowned surgeon for this type of surgery and even a believer in Christ himself. Such an inspiration! He may have had his hard days that I could see in his eyes when I was asking him about a very large payment due before surgery or even after, but he didn’t waver or let his tongue slip in a direction that would pinpoint to something that was not Jesus. I saw exhaustion many a time in his eyes as he came in the office at 8am from a surgery that had lasted way longer than expected from the day before. We had to reschedule his “day” of office appointments quite often to accommodate his LONG days (and nights). Imagine all that rescheduling. For but one patient. Yes, but for one. That was his “M.O.”

Back to Gail. Gail was his “for one” kind of patient. Survived all kinds of odds. Was back at the office for all kinds of things from weird intestinal symptoms to infected stitches–at least once every week for weeks after the Whipple.

I remember one particular sunny late afternoon though. Our office closed at 5pm on the dot every.single.day. She had driven up probably about 4:59pm to visit our office. No doubt, she was hoping for someone to still be present so she could get something looked at. I remember someone driving her, because I remember her being at the passenger side of the car.

Everyone else had left the office.

I was literally the last person that day to leave our parking lot. I had some billing stuff to get done before the next day, and I got it done.

I went to my car, as usual, started it, drove towards the EXIT as I saw it that day. I saw nothing else but a huge EXIT sign on that parking lot. I wanted OUT of there that day.

I drove up to where I could take a right or a left to get on the road home. I remember stopping and rolling down my window when I saw a patient standing outside of their car. I recognized Gail. I exchanged a couple of short sentences and a few “upbeat” things with her. Rays of sunshine were shining through her hair from where it was setting through the trees. I still remember her face. She had a look of desperation-but-peace. If I could describe her face now, over 10 years later, I wouldn’t do it justice. BUT, let me try! It was a face of:

“I got here JUST in time. I am hurting. I am scared. I need help. I think I can be helped? My family thinks I can be helped? I’m tired. I think this is what is done fighting feels like. What do I need to do? Am I being irrational? Is there anyone here right now to help? Can YOU help?”

GOODNESS! I’ll never forget the look on her face as she stood by the silver car she came in. The sun was still shining through her hair to make it look kind of auburn-ish, like mine. She was weak, so she held on to the door of the car. The day was perfect though–the sun was beautiful. It was warm for November. I remember stopping my car and talking loudly to her through my opened window. I remember telling her I was sorry the “office was closed” and I would make a note to have Dr. _____ call her tomorrow. I sure did. I made a “note”. I didn’t take the time to get out of my car though. I didn’t take the extra minutes out of my “precious” day to have a real ‘face-to-face’ with this person. I just didn’t. Looking back now? I wished more than anything I would have. I don’t think her outcome would have changed. But mine–probably would have. I had the chance to show kindness and I opted out. Man. It hurts so much to relive this. She watched me drive away.

Gail passed away not two weeks after this encounter. I remember seeing it come through on the fax machine in the nurse’s station. I remember the punch in the gut it seemed like. I almost took it personally and saw her face on that warm afternoon in my mind’s eye. I had the opportunity to show kindness and compassion. Not that anything I could have done would have made her stay on Earth. No way! BUT…what if? What if she would have had something to impart that I needed to hear? She knew Jesus. That was evident in her walk–and her visits at our clinic. What if I would have taken those extra minutes and went the extra mile for her? If nothing else, just to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

I guess this breaks my heart so much now because God has really grown and nurtured my compassion and kindness levels since that part of my life. I am not where I need to be, but will any of us ever be? Not here! But we can constantly grow and learn and glean more of heaven’s love and spread it all around.

So, those are my two big, ugly ‘forgotten’ regrets that God restored to memory so I could cast them off for good. I am not the same person as I was then. I daresay the same for you. If you’re struggling with past stuff, dig it up just to nail it up {on the cross}.

Witnessing History: In the Making. Washington, D.C. October 6, 2018

We were in Washington, DC this past weekend for our almost 10 year old’s birthday trip. She’ll officially be 10 on October 21, and we gave her the option of having a big party or a trip. Smart girl chose the trip! To DC. It was seriously the trip of a lifetime. We have three girls total, and were able to leave the youngest two with grandparents here in Charlotte, NC where we’re from. It was glorious for the big sister to have her mom, dad and grandfather (my father-in-law) all to herself for 3.5 days in an INCREDIBLE city! We were originally scheduled and booked to take our trip the middle part of September. Due to Hurricane Florence making her way across the East Coast and serious rain bands up into the Virginia/DC/Maryland area, we used much wisdom and decided to reschedule our trip. We believed God for the best in re-routing our well laid out plans. God provided an amazing price for 3 nights and 2 rooms in a luxury hotel through some friend’s family. It was a miracle! We saved hundreds of dollars. We are so thankful how God worked it all out on our behalf! And even in having to reschedule due to a hurricane, His blessings remained cemented in our “original” plans.

But beyond all of that, He had another plan for us. Almost like a mission of sorts; although, we had no idea when we called the reschedule.

Real quick, here’s a recap of America’s headlines the past few weeks (just in case you haven’t heard, which I doubt.) Judge Brett Kavanaugh. President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee. He’s a conservative judge who stays close to our Constitution. (He’s also pro-life. Which, in my book, is one of the biggest things anyone in politics can be.) He was accused for sexual misconduct that happened years ago in their high school years by Professor Christine Blasey Ford. He denied all allegations and called it false. Ford was seen as a heroine for standing up for herself and speaking up. You can read all the interweb’s stuff for yourself and watch all the videos and news clips. You are welcome to come up with your own conclusion. Good luck, though. It’s dicey at best. It’s down-right-sweaty-underwear nasty. LOW blows. I’m not sure if something exactly like this has happened in our recent history as the United States–maybe? Don’t think so though. {…end of the ‘politically correct’ segment of this blog post. Keep reading at your own risk…}

Well! What’s to follow is what my heart perceives about it all. AND…what we got to witness for ourselves with our own eyes! What an honor. And all because we had to reschedule our trip from a storm. We did not plan or even REALIZE until that morning of October 6th that the vote of “YES” or “NO” was happening for Kavanaugh. We had so much going on in “real life” here in Charlotte and in “trip life” that it got lost. But there was no way we weren’t going to the Supreme Court House while we were in DC at THIS time. Are you kidding?! (We did leave right before the vote was announced in Kavanaugh’s favor. We didn’t know for sure his win was in the bag yet (although we sure did pray for it!), but we left regardless. Because, riots and protests. Wisdom said leave.) Here’s the thing: We prayed like we believed like it made a difference. We stood within feet of where the vote was taking place and prayed. All of our prayers make a difference no matter where we stand, but there’s something about standing in a place at a time. And in the midst of feeling like a minority. I can guarantee you that we were a minority in the crowd we were in on Saturday! A minority for not only our political standards, but our faith in the one true God. Yup–I have a sneaking suspicion based on what we saw–we were pretty much by ourselves.

I’m sure there were a handful of other folks similar to us, but I didn’t see ’em. Sure, I saw the “hell, fire and brimstone” folks. Those words they spew and throw-up on the passerby does NO good whatsoever. Those words of almost ‘hate’ in the name of ‘love’ drives the sword of doubt deeper into a lost soul. I can’t stand it. I think they’re trying to be Billy Grahams in his finest sound-bited moments: IT DOES NOT WORK. It just doesn’t. There’s nothing loving about it. Sure, what they’re saying is true, but it’s a CLANGING SYMBOL because there’s no love there. {See 1 Corinthians 13:1}. Billy Graham not only had LOVE in his words, but he had a tremendous anointing. Man cannot manufacture this without God’s design for their lives; if they do, it sounds like the ugliest of music. Anyways!! I digress. Back to the matter at hand.

The Supreme Court House in Washington on October 6, 2018–mid afternoon. As I mentioned, we had our almost-10-year with us because this was her birthday trip after all! I knew that she’d be exposed to the very unedited version of godlessness in the rawest and most uncaring-est form we can see in public. I knew she would see and hear things that are contradictory to how we teach her from God’s Word. I knew she’d see folks who are just mad. Mad at the world, mad at the government, the President. (If you don’t mind, I’m going to switch my ‘verbiage filter’ off for the remainder this post and just say what I saw and what I really feel about it…reliving this and having to think of “nicer” synonyms is exhausting!)

We stopped and talked to a guard that was standing by the Capitol Building, and he zeroed in on Layna, our daughter. He was so kind! He gave her stickers and told us that the crowd was gathering just behind the Capitol and that things were ‘heating up’. And to be careful.

Sho’nuff. As we walked up the sidewalk/walkway to the left of the Capitol, we were hurriedly passed by some pissed off women. Some men as well. There were a few though. Mostly seething, venomous and fanged women coming because of their hate for what ‘Kavanaugh’ was the face of. It’s not ONLY the face of someone who they see as a sexual offender, but he is conservative. They hate that, and you could feel the hell from their hearts about it. (He may have had his high school “shtuff”. I don’t know–do you though?! Were you in that room?) Besides the point. Kavanaugh and what he stands for and the weight his vote carries represents a huge threat to the gates of hell. Hell responded accordingly.

We saw costumes of all kinds. And the people watching was just about the best I’ve EVER seen! No vagina hats or outfits though, thank God. But these folks are the SAME people who wore the vagina paraphernalia in the “women’s” march some months back, I can assure you. As we walked up to the main scene: NBC news people, International news people, other big stations represented. There were huge cameras everywhere. There were sad, sad people everywhere. There were huge poster signs saying all kinds of things against Kavanaugh. One of the more abundant ones said: “#KavaNope”. There were loud shouts of accusations and lots of ‘words’ of agreement as Elizabeth Warren spoke and the crowd went wild every time she would spew her lighter fluid on the flickering flames. Other people started speaking as well. Standing back but just being in the midst of it…was something. I didn’t have a feeling of defeat or triumph. There was no feeling either way. There’s no winners here in this crowd. Of course, Kavanaugh winning the seat he did is HUGE. But…I’m talking about what it was like to stand amongst the crowd of venomous hate and accusatory tones. God was there, because He’s everywhere. He loves those who hate Him and who mean to slander and to kill anything that resembles His original meaning for this World–and this country. But we’re all only on this big ‘ol ball of mud for a short time, and eternity is–well, forever. Many of these people may never know the Lord, and that broke my heart. Still does re-living it. This was the ultimate display of the lack of God in people’s lives.

Let me hit on victimizing real quick, just because. I have a huge problem with it. HUGE. Ford may have had an encounter. With circa High School Kavanaugh? Who knows. With someone else? A LOT MORE LIKELY.

Ok, so here’s some different scenarios and the DANGER-*flash*-DANGER-*flash*-DAAANGER of victimizing:

False victim: “Help! I’m a victim!” {Reponse once investigated: “You’re a liar.”}

Real victim: “Help! I’m a victim!” {Reponse once investigated: “How do we know you’re telling the truth?”}

See? Crap like this creates an unsteady foundation for the TRULY victimized out there. NO doubt there are horrible people in this world meaning to do horrible harm. But when the society-shepherd cries wolf too many times–who will believe the TRUE victims? The very things like the #MeToo movements SHOOTS themselves as soon as they allow any false accusations in (because, numbers and hashtags, guys…) It immediately waters down what they’re trying to accomplish. It dilutes the purpose. I, and the world, are thinking…”You Too–what?” Sucks for those truly harmed. It really does. Also SUCKS for the people being blamed when they’re innocent. Scapegoat, anyone? “Guilty until proven innocent?” You can’t win with that foolery. You just can’t.

Back to Washington on October 6, 2018…

The air was physically so thick, one could have literally used a knife to cut it with it. There was such a clashing of heaven and hell–I could almost hear the warfare just above us/amongst us. A clashing of heaven’s sword in the battle of the Free World. Hell holds on dearly and the whispers of lies keeps the iron hard and quenched. It’s all there. The reason I keep saying this was an honor to be a part of is this: PRAYER. You (if you have relationship with Jesus Christ) and I, carry the Kingdom of God with us. Jesus said in Luke 17:21 that we carry the Kingdom of God if Jesus is in us. We carried the Kingdom onto that hellish ground on Saturday. I know there were MILLIONS of others praying for this historic vote. God saw and heard and He answered accordingly. Never think for one moment that your prayers don’t matter or they’re not heard. THAT’s a lie. They do!

Layna had many questions once we left that noisy and tumultuous spot. Like, why was there a lady right in the middle of the crowd, without a top on? “Why was she showing her boobies to the world?” “Why was everyone so mad?” “What is that costume supposed to be?” Lord have mercy. For a mom of a 10 year old, it wasn’t easy. But for the adult-Layna and the woman she’ll be one day–it was very good to see this. She’s already a Christ-follower, and for her to witness this all in real life was VERY good for her. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but she’ll be seeing this more and more as she grows. As will your kids if you have them. I’m not saying exposing them to this kind of stuff is always the way to go. This was the path of our trip, and God orchestrated literally every step–this was the right thing for us this day. There’s a reason we were there and she saw all of that. There’s a reason it was just us and her and we were able to immediately submerse her into GOD’S Truth about this whole thing. She saw it though, and I know as she ages and sees, unfortunately, more sadness from millions of people without the Lord–she’ll have this to think of and what we told her God says about it. And His heart for each one of those people. Even the lady showing her boobies to the world. He loves her, too. We have prayed specifically for her pretty much every day since Saturday.

Funny story, and then I’ll land this bad boy! After walking away from the Supreme Court where more and more people were starting to gather: We decided to sit down and rest and pray more right where the left side of the Capitol Building is. As we were praying out loud and people kept looking at us as they passed by: I saw two Indian ladies coming up the walkway. One was hobbling pretty bad with what appeared to be quite the gimpy leg. Bless!! I was sitting on the far right, and there was plenty of space someone could sit. Well, I closed my eyes for a quick minute as we continued to pray, and as soon as I opened my eyes: I saw the limping lady “coming in for a landing”. I thought she was going to literally land in my lap. Haha! She plopped down right beside me (like just inches away) and started staring at me. The lady with her looked annoyed, but this was the sweetest little lady ever! All I could gather from her very broken English was she was from Calcutta and she was “Whew!!! Tired!!” I tried to make more conversation and talk about how Frank makes killer Indian food (which he does! Yum!) and she seemed to appreciate it, but couldn’t understand anything besides the names of the Indian dishes I was mentioning. Haha! It was hilarious. She got up and hobbled off after a couple of minutes. That was that. I love randomness sometimes!

Thanks for staying with me on this very lengthy post! There was no way to condense it–I was all in on this one. I hope I did what we experienced even a little bit of justice via my words. The biggest heart-pondering of mine with this entire thing is this:

PRAY LIKE YOU BELIEVE IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. BECAUSE IT DOES!

See below for a video that Layna took. This was from her perspective. Also, a few snapshots I got!

Supreme Court 3

Supreme Court 2

Supreme Court 1

My Need to Know as You Fight My Foe

Gideon. Quickly becoming one of my favorite stories in the Bible. There are so many reasons for this, and I’m going to do my best to write a few of them out in word form for you and to convey what’s on my heart about this incredible story. There’s more where this came from, but here’s what I got for now!

There’s something to be said when the angel of the Lord visits you and says: “The Lord is with you, oh mighty man of valor.” Especially when Gideon has all these retorts of why he’s not a mighty man and why the Lord isn’t actually there in this dire situation of an ever-encroaching enemy. He sounds so much like so many Christians today, actually! (Myself included at times, truth be told.) He thinks since he’s from a small tribe and seemingly insignificant compared to them, he’s got nothin’ on those other guys. He’s still someone who loves the Lord, but he sure doesn’t see himself full of valor. He probably thought: “You’re kidding, right?” Here’s what he said back to the angel:

“Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us to the hand of Midian.”

Let’s paraphrase this in 2018 verbiage: “PLEASE, sir. Stop RIGHT there. There is absolutely NO way God is with us in this hell-on-earth we’re enduring…why in the world would God bring us this far to just leave us hanging?”

Don’t let the title of this post be misleading. A lot of you already “know” the story of Gideon. (Well…you think you do.) And if you do, instead of being puffed up because you’re aware of how the story goes–ask the Lord for a new revelation on it instead of dead-ending in all of your humanly knowledge. Often times, our knowledge of something is like a guardrail that keeps us from the land-of-the-living versus the “well-traveled road”. The well-traveled road is for sure a safe bet to travel on, but…is it the road of truth or just the comfortable one? Most likely, in this day and time–the road of truth is NOT the “comfortable” one.

This Sunday, our church got a fantastic word from our pastor. Most of the message was based out of Judges 6, and how Gideon put limitations on himself based on…well, himself. And his army. Why he didn’t have enough manpower to fight the Midianites once his army was whittled down by the word of the Lord from 22,000 men to a mere 300 men and why he basically just wasn’t fit for the job. It’s a fascinating story: full of fleeces and unleavened bread and angels and armies. Of Gideon “just making sure” that his army-shrinking commandments were from God. Especially in Judges 6:36-40! My favorite: Of God’s awareness of the need-to-know state that we have. And His response to us. We’re so needy, aren’t we? Can’t really blame the dude though…I mean, let’s get real. He was basically called out from an angel while hiding out in a winepress, and all of the sudden he’s leading an army of 300 men against an army that is described as being like “locust in number”. Yeah. Don’t judge him too quickly! I have personally found and reluctantly admitted some similarities between “the early” Gideon and myself. I think you could probably too if you looked! There is literally something for everyone in this story if you go on Judges 6-8 treasure hunt!

God even proceeded this extreme caution of Gideon’s the night before the Midianites were defeated! God told him (paraphrased) “GET UP! Go down and look at the camp of guys you’re about to tear up–but…if you’re too afraid to go by yourself, take your servant.” Haha! I would personally be crapping my pants. So, taking a servant and still going down is an improvement. Anyways, God foresaw Gideon’s humanly state and gave him direction on how to STILL get stuff done, but how to side-step his fear with courage. I LOVE that.

The ultimate ‘wind in the sails moment’ in this ENTIRE story is undoubtedly Judges 7:13-15 where Gideon overhears one of his enemies telling another soldier about a dream he had that symbolized Gideon’s army kicking their butts. The Word says that Gideon immediately WORSHIPED after hearing this. Can you IMAGINE that amazing wind of HOPE he must’ve felt? He’s come all this way for all this time and asking all these questions of God…and here’s proof from a dream that one of his enemies had that this is all REAL TIME.

And when our curiosity is met with answers, we sometimes still need proof to move on to the next step–God provided it for Gideon when he asked. He literally did every time. God saw. Like Gideon, we too, can get in the thick of things while moving mountains and inching forward to take back the land that was promised to us. There were little nuggets and signs all along the way to Gideon that he was on the right track. But Gideon always always asked. It’s important for us to realize, too, that while we’re moving our own mountains in life–it’s ok to ask the Lord: “Hey God. Give me a sign. You still here? This is still You, right?” He’s not exhausted by these requests, trust me. The only thing we need to guard against is unbelief. {Unbelief is a hard substance that cracks when it’s in the molding process. Belief is moldable clay that can make beautiful things.}

Also, another thing I LOVE about this story is how Gideon made himself “milestones” when He did hear from the Lord. When He asked for confirmation that he was on the right track, and heard–he built alters to go back to and remember God’s faithfulness in His answers to him. What would our walks with the Lord look like if we had all our points of references marked when we TRULY heard from the Lord? Some of you may have all these moments written out, and I wanna be just like you when I grow up! Not to mention, the whole reason God whittled down the army’s numbers from 22,0000 to 300 is so we HAD to say: “That was the Lord!” There was no mistaken. When we have these “milestones” in our own lives, let’s remember what God has done and notate His goodness, protection and faithfulness over us.

The last huge nugget from this story that I have have for now is taking our own limitations off of God. He certainly doesn’t abide under our man-made ceilings. He’s trying to rip them off of us, and at the same time it seems we’re trying to build our roof over God. How ’bout we all agree right here and RIGHT now that this is asinine? He’s a limit-less God with a perfect plan. WE are humankind. We don’t come without our baggage of limitations. We seem to be married to our limitations sometimes, though. Let’s just not expect God to operate under our ceiling of limits! He won’t do it! He CAN’T do it. Have you thought about how big He is lately?

Welp, Fellow Gideons, that’s what I have for now. Still chewing on so many morsels from this table of goodness that is the Word of God. More to come later I am sure of it.

Happy Midianite-slaying to you!

Hurricane: Blossom & Flourish

Well, hello from North Carolina! Yep! I’m in the Queen City {Charlotte}. We’ve had our share of wind, rain, power outages, downed trees and flooding during the historic Florence’s stay. Needless to say, however, we have not been hit with such the force that our Eastern NC cities were by this lady. A little power-outage and a little rain–absolutely nothing to complain about here. Yes, I know there are still severe repercussions in the surrounding areas which are not child’s play. I know that. But…in comparison to the big picture here? Exactly. Nothing ‘but a thing’. (Compared to the Eastern parts of the state, that is). Read on.

She started out like all of them do: off of Africa’s coast. And little-by-little she made her trek eastward. She shifted a little here and there, but not by much. It was a historic route, really. She didn’t veer too much towards the Caribbean or southward–she stayed steady. East. She knew what she wanted: straight to the Carolina’s east coast and then inward-westward, upward. North and South Carolina were in the same boat that floated with the wave of the unknown. This hurricane simply had us guessing which of the Carolina’s she wanted the most. It was a crap-show come landfall anyways, so…yeah. Who cares which of the North or the South it was. It was something else!! If you view any kind of news/media coverage at all: You’ve seen. You’ve heard about it. Maybe–you’re even living it.

I have family on the East coast. My mom was raised in Columbus Co., NC. I have cousins, an aunt, a late-uncle. His name was Eddie. My mom’s only sibling. He LOVED hurricanes, and embraced their natural power. He had a terminal illness with his kidneys that started when he was 13 years old. He passed away in 2001. But BOY did he live for these incredible storms when they came! He, as his norm, would travel to Wilmington, NC 3 times a week for dialysis for decades. I remember him as being the most cohesive part of fun and livelihood but pure understanding of mortality that I’ve ever met. He was the person you’d interview if you were doing a piece on “living on the edge” but yet “responsibility” AND “fun”. Marry those together and you’d have an Eddie Lennon. My mom is his female clone. If you’ve met her, you know this! Her name is Kim Lennon Abernethy.

I have a ton of extended family on the East coast. My DNA is in part the exact same as their’s. And may I add that I love the hashtag #EasternNCStrong? IT’S GREAT! You should use it whenever you post about #whatsnext for our NC Coasts and if you’re a praying person: How are you praying for NC? {Literally: Our state?} If you’re in NC, this is YOUR state? How are you praying? Are you praying like you believe it makes a difference?

Last week, way before Florence made landfall–I was praying for what was to come. Who ever knows? Our technology is incredible these days and with weather–we were darn near close. I saw somewhere that our models showed a landfall that was just 20 miles away from where the eye of the hurricane landed. INCREDIBLE! Almost unprecedented. And even after it made it’s landfall and made it’s way near inland–where we are are in Charlotte–we saw relief fleet after relief fleet driving on our highways and byways to the aid of others. AMAZING. Some not even from our state! Some from states FAR, far away. Someone was driving those trucks in that fleet. Someone with a family and friends from another state–yet here they are driving a truck with a trailer carrying lifesaving “stuff” for the one in need RIGHT here in NC. To say my heart swelled with gratitude and thankfulness is a sad understatement. It was something else! They were (and are) here to HELP. It wasn’t their state that got hammered. It wasn’t their need. But yet, here they came (and come). And that goes for the Coast Guard and ALL the local first responders. I was (and am) HUMBLED to see it all, and beyond thankful for it in regards to my state–North Carolina.

But, what the heck with the title of this post? What does blossoming and flourishing have to do with hell-on-earth and devastation? It’s all in the name. Why Florence? Why now? Why NC? (and SC?) She could’ve hit Santo Domingo. Which, would’ve been sad had we seen it on a pretty and cleaned up headline (but not too close). I also saw a report that folks are saying they literally just finished cleaning up Hurricane Matthew back in 2016 and here comes Florence in 2018. What the SAM HILL?!

I looked up the meanings of names, just because. “Matthew” means ‘a gift from God.’ “Florence” means ‘to bloom and flourish.’

We see something from far away and think “Gosh. That’s so very unfortunate. Lemme pray.” {Not to say we don’t pray. I know I do.} HOWEVER! This rotating thing of furry and destruction is in our own backyards, per se. What in the world? You mean, Santo Domingo isn’t the one getting the direct hit? You mean, Bermuda isn’t getting cozy and going “EYE”-to-eye” with this rotating storm of devastation? You mean…IT’S US here in the United States? YEP. That would be correct. Storms are no respecter of countries or persons. And Florence has said her piece and put the fish in different rivers and ponds than before. She’s shut down major highways and roads. She’s dislodged the family from their home. She’s taken lives. Heartbreaking. But…what next? Do we stay flooded in our tears? Yes. For a time. Grieve. Be mad. Hurt. Open that stinky fridge that’s been without power and smell it. It stinks. Those family photos. They are ruined. That furniture–it’s gone. Those “things” are swept away within a matter of days…

Here’s where the title of this post comes into view. We will not be shaken. We trust in our God. I don’t know the state of each and every person affected–but I do know this: There is NO Higher name to be called, but to the God of our universe and to each and every one of our souls. He hears and He knows. He is not taken by surprise. There is not ONE day that God is not true to His faithfulness. He WILL make something gorgeous here. It may look different, but what doesn’t have to be different is the way we praise Him through this storm. Our praises will be our new floors and will turn into our new ceilings for generations to come. There will not be a day through this re-build that He won’t be with us. Pray THAT in.

I have seen more than ever with anything–even Hurricane Matthew most recently–people coming together like a matched up Rubik’s Cube. Fellow humans {and States} with resources coming together to patch the holes that were made by nature. This storm has mobilized folks from states away to come to the rescue and the substantiation of those affected. It’s so humbling and incredible to watch.

Florence means: “to bloom, flourish”. Imagine the most beautiful flower you’ve ever seen. See in your mind’s eye: A rose bush. Nothing on it yet but green leaves. It looks like any other bush or shrub. It looks like a well-rounded area covering. But then, a bud. A little bud that is opening oh-so-slowly. Florence took her time. She was (and is) in NO rush to leave her dumping grounds. She took her time, and to be honest as I’m writing this–she’s still taking her time. There’s outer-bands of rain fall to to be seen and river-rising to be risen. Florence is larger lady, and the ‘fat lady hasn’t finished singing yet.’

I believe there’ll be a newness and a freshness that has been unprecedented in this area. Something that is historically new. For those of you ‘researching’ folk: What does ‘historically new’ mean? In our life time or record–it’s not been done yet.

It’s here. And I believe it will be beautiful. It’s something that hasn’t been done yet, and that’s 100% true. I don’t know what it will look like, and I don’t know what it will entail. BUT, I do know that it will be perfectly fitting for what the future is supposed to hold. Even for where I live (Charlotte), there are areas that don’t typically flood that are flooded. What does flooding do? Provides LOTS of water, right? What does water do? It provides many opportunities for growth! It’s the opposite of a drought. If you pray, pray that every single person involved would channel this opportunity of water to where it needs to go to make something new and beautiful. For the ‘insured’ person, it means new stuff. For the ‘uninsured’, it means a new beginning. For the person with both insurance and incredible sadness: A LIGHT and a new beginning that can be seen. A new beginning and a “new normal” that can be walked towards. (or swam towards).

Pray for the most beautiful beginning or re-beginnings. There’s a flourishing-something here with this storm, and God wants to re-configure something here. It’s hard. It SUCKS. It is absolutely awful. It’s horrific. It’s hellish in nature, but God will take this and make something gorgeous out of our ashes. Beauty for ashes, right? Or…in this case, beauty for excessive water. Beauty from a hurricane, from a storm, from “stuff” in life.

I believe a flourishing rose will be found, and it may be found through YOUR prayers. Thank you for petitioning the Lord like you believe it makes a difference!!

God’s Fun Blessings

God is a God of infinite things, because…well, He’s GOD! One of those infinite things is fun. He cares about fun, and He takes great joy in seeing moments of pure elation on His kid’s faces. Like when we’re on roller coasters, for example! (Minus the moments of terror…haha.)

A little backstory here. We home school our girls. When our oldest daughter, now 9 years old, “graduated” from Kindergarten, I took her to Carowinds for a Mommy/Daughter date. Just us. We had a blast! We were given tickets that someone had won on a radio station that they couldn’t use. We gladly got the good out of those things!

Our middle daughter, who’s 6, just graduated from Kindergarten. I wanted to take her to Carowinds as well, just like I did with our oldest student as a gift of fun and time for their hard work. I gave her a couple of different options if she wanted to do something different, but of course she wanted to be just like her big sister. These one-on-one dates are so sweetly important. Especially when you have multiple kids!

I started looking at our calendar for dates and ticket prices and all that jazz. It’s no secret that Carowinds tickets aren’t cheap. I picked a couple of dates for potential times I could take her, but something kept holding me back from purchasing tickets.

I heard the Lord say He wanted me ask Him for the tickets versus just buying them. I started praying for them and asking Him to provide them. I had no leads or any idea where they’d come from…no “radio station” drawings coming up or anything of the like.

I saw a post that a non-profit called Hopematch posted on Facebook. We have known the founders of Hopematch for almost 18 years now! They are very dear friends to us. We have served on the board before and have helped with operations. (Hopematch is an incredible organization for the Charlotte area! Look them up sometime.) Anyways, the post was for a drawing for SIX Carowinds tickets: To enter, I had to post “Back to School” pictures of our kids! I posted the picture of them at our first day back to our weekly co-op. I thought to myself: “Ok, God! Thank you–this is perfect. This must be how You’re going to provide the tickets you told me ask for! Yay!”

The day of the drawing, I watched the video of the founder draw the name from the pile. She looked at the paper and read a name other than my own. I was happy for the family! But I felt back to square one with what God had asked me to do. I was so close to just purchasing the tickets, because the park was about to close for the season and we were running out of time.

Isn’t that often how life works? When we walk with the Lord and hear His voice (withOUT a shadow of a doubt!) and things still don’t seem to be working out in the natural–it’s so easy to get frustrated and think: “WHAT GIVES, God?! You do see the timing on this, right?” Well, I got a text not even two days after this drawing from my dear friend, the founder of Hopematch, that said something like this:

“Hey! So the Carowinds tickets drawing. The family who won said they felt they needed to give these up to someone else. I did another drawing and it was your name!”

I was astounded and immediately humbled for my doubt. I mean, God only is the Creator of the INFINITE universe and all that is in it, including heaven…did I not think He could handle silly tickets to an amusement park? (We were also able to borrow a friend’s seasons pass and got free parking!) I think my heart knew it would all shake out, but getting my head to cooperate with my heart was another ‘nother. Anyone else relate?

So, my two take-aways from this amazing testimony of God’s faithfulness are these:

1) Make myself available to hear the Holy Spirit’s “still small voice” on a second-by-second basis in my day. Be sensitive to His words and His thoughts towards me and mine. Make sure that I am hearing Him correctly and clearly. He’s always speaking!

2) Have some faith, woman! 🙂

My little girl and I had an INCREDIBLE day at Carowinds! We were there for nearly 8 glorious hours. Our conversations about people and life and everything else in between were perfect. (And yes, there were SIX tickets total: We were able to pass the blessing on to one of my sisters and her little family and a couple of friends as well! The blessing kept pouring over–isn’t that just like God?)

Naturally, we spent most of the day in Camp Snoopy, because…height on a 6-year-old. Haha! She wanted desperately to ride the “big roller coasters”, but I explained it’s just not time yet. She’s got to grow! That was an awesome segue way into all kinds of revelations we talked about with growing up and how God makes our time on earth perfectly timed to heaven’s watch.

Also, people watching. Always a pleasure of mine. I can’t write a blog post about going to an amusement park and not talk about the amazingly stellar people watching opportunities! There were so many incredible sights…it’s truly hard to whittle it down. My favorite was The Wedgie Picker. I mean like, truly one. You know how you stand in line for what seems like a short eternity for certain rides, and I guess wedgies can also get impatient. There was one individual who was fighting that thing for the duration of the time we stood in line together. She’d shake a leg, full-on yank it out, and even try the less obvious by pretending to shift side to side. For a good 30 minutes this went on. That was one stubborn wedgie, I tell ya! Not long after this, we were standing in line with another family. A very Southern-accented family. Someone in the nearby proximity had gas, and it wasn’t me. Wasn’t my daughter, either. (I asked). But GOOD-NESS. Whatever they ate could’ve given Pompeii a run for it’s money! Finally, this family’s little boy who just couldn’t take it any longer {in the most awesome Southern-accent ever} yelled: “Mama!!! I smell POOT. Somebody pooted! You smell that POOT?” Haha!!!

Back to the basics. Let’s quickly get off that rabbit trail! So, God is a God of fun. He delights in our delight. He desires for one of the many aspects of our life to enjoy good fun, and sometimes–like in this case–to trust Him for it. Listen to that still small voice and be patient! I am so very grateful for the family who originally donated these tickets to Hopematch and for the family who listened to God in passing on the blessing. Let’s be like these families, too! Let’s listen and obey and that can sometimes mean passing on the fun!