He’s Always There

Recently I found myself angry over reading a statement someone made. I wasn’t angry at the person, just what was said. Over the past few weeks I have been attempting to discover what bothered me so much about it.

The statement was, “I just love it when God shows up!” It was a simple statement and yet, it made me fume with anger. Why? I really had to wrestle with this question. Was I angry because it meant God has answered the cry of another’s heart? Did it enrage me because there are times when I’ve prayed diligently, only to have God say, “No!” I’ve wrestled this for weeks. I’ve prayed and pondered and finally reached the following conclusion.

The reason I was so distraught and enraged over the statement is because for the past seven years God has been teaching me that He’s always there. He doesn’t just show up. His statement to Moses, “I Am the I Am” in Exodus 3:14 refers to His continuity. He was. He is. He is to come. He doesn’t just pop up here and there. God is everywhere.

Stay with me for a minute. Proof that He’s always been. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. “. Even before the earth was created there was God. He was there. In fact, when you get to the New Testament book of John, the words are restated. Take a look, ” In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

The problem I had is of a personal nature. I spent many years compartmentalizing God. Its is is the very reason the statement wrecked me for weeks. This was my mentality. “I just love it when God shows up. He has delivered on his promise”. And when He didn’t, my heart would harden because I was only seeIng Him as “showing up”.

Folks , if you’re a believer in Christ, let’s get one thing straight. God is there whether we feel Him or not. He is there whether He’s invited or not. He’s there when the cancer comes. He’s there when the child dies. He’s there when the spouse leaves. He’s there when the child wanders and strays. He’s there when you’re at your wits end and don’t know what to do. He’s even there when we mess up, when we walk away from the truth of His word. He’s also there when miracles happen, illness are cured, marriage is restored, children return home. He’s there. He’s always watching and waiting. He’s not just a God for the good times. He’ s a God for all times.

When Daniels three compadres, Shadrach, Meshach and Abddnego were adamant they weren’t bowing down to worship Nebuchadnezzar, even after they were warned they’d be thrown in the fiery furnace, their response and refusal is epic, ” But even if he (God) does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” Daniel 3:18. They had a resolve. They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that whether God reused them or not, they would be ok. They knew regardless of whether God rescued them, He would still be there and present with them.

If you’re not familiar with Natalie Grants song, ” More Than Anything” . I encourage to take a look at the lyrics and in some quiet space and time listen to the song. It’s a powerful reminder that God is always there and sometimes our response limits our ability to see Him for who He really is. I Am,

More Than Anything

[Verse 1]

I know if You wanted to You could wave Your hand

Spare me this heartache, and change Your plan

And I know any second You could take my pain away

But even if You don’t, I pray

[Chorus]

Help me want the Healer

More than the healing

Help me want the Saviour

More than the saving

Help me want the Giver

More than the giving

Oh help me want You Jesus

More than anything

[Verse 2]

You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak

And You know I’d give anything for a remedy

And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today

Oh but even if You don’t, I pray

[Chorus]

Help me want the Healer

More than the healing

Help me want the Saviour

More than the saving

Help me want the Giver

More than the giving

Oh help me want You Jesus

More than anything

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So What if She Gets a “C”

“I want Christians not to be seduced by this culture in which we are living and not to be led astray,” he explained. “And I think there needs to be a voice that speaks out because there aren’t many people who speak out.” Franklin Graham in a recent interview by CBN News. Read full article Here

We are not perfect parents. For every one thing I thought I did right, there are ten things I did wrong. In fact, I often tell Terry if I knew then what I know now, I would have been a great parent. But like most, we were just striving to get through, doing the best we knew how and teaching our children to become responsible adults.

There was always thing Terry and I taught all four of them from a young age. Know why you believe what you believe and be able to give an answer for why you believe what you believe. This was not only as it relates to Christianity but to social and political issues as well. Sometimes they all cross paths and you have to be willing to take a stand.

On Thursday I received a text from Amy. It said, “We are literally watching a movie about prostitution. I’m getting ready to walk out because I’m not watching this anymore.”

A couple of minutes later my phone started buzzing. It was Amy. I knew I’d best answer because I could tell from her text she was already upset.

The words spewed from her lips, “I am so angry. I had to leave. Mom, that movie was suggesting the prostitution is okay. It’s not okay. I’m about to cry. It’s making me sad and hurting my heart.”

I replied, “It should hurt your heart because it hurts the heart of God. Not only that it’s demoralizing to women. It’s wrong.”

“Exactly, Mom. Not to mention the health, mental and emotional problems it creates for women. There is just no reason why it could ever be okay. I mean, it’s a form of slavery. It’s an objectification of women. How is that okay? I know women feel pressure to make money and I know they feel they have to feed their families but that never makes it okay and I wasn’t going to sit there and listen to someone try to convince me it was okay. ”

I told her that I was proud of her because she stood up for what she believes. She gave a reason and she actually stated it plainly on the movie review, which she turned in as she left the classroom abruptly.

She had told us a few weeks ago that the grading system this professor has makes it virtually impossible to make an “A” in the class. So she was hoping for a “B”. After Thursday’s episode she might just wind up with a “C” and I’m ok with that.

We need more people taking a stand against social issues that threaten our society. I am glad she chose to stand up and be a voice to say, “It’s not okay.” That’s a display of character and integrity but more than that it’s also a projection of the fact that she’s tender to the things that breaks the heart of God and as a parent you can’t ask for more!

Unforgettable……forever etched in my mind

Recently I was at mom’s and there was a card left on the counter. I had already heard about the card. Alex told me about it! knew it if it brought tears to his eyes, I was in trouble. It was just a good thing that no one was there.

I knew Mom had left it there for me to read. So, I picked it up and began to slowly read the words Dr Anthony had written to Mom. It began something to the effect that it was way over due but wanted to let her know what a privilege it had been to have known Ned. His words were, “I think of Ned often. He is etched in my heart.”

As I read those words, all of the things that people said about him come flooding back.

A few days prior to his death, I asked family, co-workers and friends to tell me 3 words that came to mind when they thought of Ned. The response was overwhelming and we were able to read all of them to him prior to his death. He knew he was well-loved. In fact those at the Elizabeth House knew how loved he was. During his eight days there, there were more than 100 people who came to visit him.

At Ned’s request, I spoke at his Celebration service. I told the crowd there I was perplexed when he insisted that I speak on his behalf because he frequently gave me a hard time about my excessive talkativeness, dubbing it often as “diarrhea of the mouth”.

As I began to prepare for what God would have me say, I asked specifically for one word. Actually, I asked for a song with a one word title to best describe him. Almost instantaneously, the song, “Unforgettable” popped into my head. “That’s it. Precisely.” Then I began to pray over the scripture passage to use and one of my all-time favorites resonated clearly, Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.”

As God began to weave my thoughts with words, even I was shocked how quickly it all came together.

One of the most important aspects was not to just let people know what I thought about Ned but to also share how others including family, friends and coworkers felt about him.

Listed below are the things people said:

Unforgettable in every way!

Family:

Mom- love of my life

Terry- loyal, family, Nitro

Kristi- selfless, giving, caring, stubborn

David -loyal, dry, caring

Ryan – hardworking, devoted, stubborn

Matthew – my hero

Alex -stubborn, generous, dynamic

Amy- stubborn, strong, caring

Zach- stubborn, caring, strong

Haleigh -ornery, loving, stern

Marshall & June- stubborn, generous and rabid Florida St fan

Jennifer- love for Ann, stubborn, Seminole fan

Mark-smiling, fun-loving, and family oriented. Maxine-musical, faithful, and funny

Co-Workers

Amber- stubborn, loving, Ann

Mike Miller — Do you know how hard it is to describe Ned in 3 words, well here it goes: Friend, Mentor, and Blessing

Elizabeth Kohl — Great sense of humor, Compassionate, Down to Earth

Stephanie Cantwell — I can’t do just three! Wonderful Godly example as a supervisor, leader, husband, father and grandfather. We always knew where he stood but even when we were in the wrong he would discipline with a gentle heart and hand. It was a true pleasure to work with him and call him a friend.

Chris Denny

Here are my three words for The General; grouchy old codger! No not really, he was an example of a solid Christian man who lived his life setting that example, true to his faith and a very kind and caring soul. Once you found it! 😀 ok that was more than three but I couldn’t think of single words to express what he represents to me.

Steve Carter — FAITHFUL, ENDURING, HONORABLE

Jerry Rice – Faithful loving husband

Cheryl Griffin – Happy Papaw Nedward

– Humourous, Direct, Humble

Jerry Hartline – Loyal, Stubborn, Definitely a Christian

Cecelia Rossell – Stubbornly loving and caring

Friends

Doris & Robert- supportive, wholehearted, prompt, outspoken

Jim & Retha- OK Kelly. I talked with Retha. Here’s what we came up with.

Integrity – he always wants to do the right thing. You couldn’t get him to cheat if you wanted to.

Kindhearted – beneath that sometimes rough appearing exterior, he would do anything for you we have observed.

Missions – nobody could do it like Ned, and nobody ever will.

Bob & Carol Friend loyal honest direct. Talented, committed, Nitro

Robert & Norma Ned was a Friend, Christian servant, Missions-minded, Faithful, Focused, Organized, Dry, Frank, Competitive, and Meticulous.

It’s evident that Ned’s life had a profound effect on everyone who knew him!

I think most of us will agree that his stubbornness, while sometimes, abrasive, was the driving force behind the last 19 months of his courageous fight. He touched the lives of many, including those who took care of him.

He loved with great passion! He never did anything half way! He always finished everything he started including finishing his earthly race with dignity and pride!

What he said the day he decided to allow Hospice to care for him!

He left a mark, one way or another, on everyone he encountered. He passing is leaving a substantial void but his legacy is one to be admired and mimicked. Be who you are, no matter who you’re with and no matter where you go!

Ned Whitmire. You truly made your dash count.

Enjoy celebrating your 1st birthday in Heaven. For those of us you left behind, it’s still difficult to do life without you. You were such an integral part of all of our lives. We wouldn’t wish you back but knowing you’re waiting for us makes the desire and taste of Heaven sweeter every day.

Tattoos and Grandchildren

I’d planned to share a different story, maybe next time or not at all. This is the story I am suppose to share with you on the eve of Ned’s birthday.

This picture is the last time he stood between his grandchildren. Little did we know but 21 days after I took this picture, God would call him home.

About two weeks before this picture was taken Ned had been in the hospital and Amy made her “big announcement”. She was getting another tattoo.

Ned’s primary response was directed towards me and Terry, “I can’t believe y’all would let her go and do such a stupid thing and mark herself with a tattoo.”

Terry gently reminded him that Amy was 19 and could make her own decisions and also reminded him that she had worked all summer, “If she wants to spend her hard earned money on a tattoo, let her. It’s her money. I’m not paying for it.”

Ned huffed and frowned. His standard response to anything he didn’t like.

I popped in and said, “I know you don’t like tattoos but at least let her tell you about it. She’s put a lot of thought into it and designed it herself.”

She carefully described the tattoo and its meaning. She told him he had inspired her to draw it. (I’ll share a picture and story at the end). Suffice to say, she had us all in tears and I looked over and saw a tear gently roll down Neds cheek.

His response was something to the effect, “That’s a great sentiment but I still hate tattoos and think they’re stupid!”

No more was mentioned, until the day after she got her tattoo. It was on a Wednesday because he was in the ER. He was miserable and in a lot of pain. They finally got him settled and I said, “Amy got that tattoo.”

He snarled

I pulled out my phone and said, “Look! It even has your signature.”

He glanced and said “I’ve never signed anything “Nitro”. That is not my signature.”

I explained that the tattoo artist took the letters from his signature to make the name Nitro. In fact, the artist was so gifted he was able to turn an “a” in Neds handwriting to an “o” since there was not “o” in his name.

He still didn’t buy it and wanted to argue but I changed the subject to keep him from getting excited.

The first time he saw the tattoo up close and personal was on October 8 when this picture was taken.

He only looked at the tattoo once and said, “I still hate tattoos and I think people who put them on their bodies are stupid.”

We tried passionately to no avail to get him to let us take a picture of him and Amy with her tattoo. He adamantly refused to look at her tattoo. Saying, “Now, Kelly I’ve already told you that I think people who have tattoos are stupid and you don’t want me to think my granddaughter is stupid do you?”

Our best efforts failed; however, as I look back at this picture I am reminded again of how much effort it took him to stand for those photos that day. I am reminded of how strong he was in his fight against the lung cancer. I am reminded of how determined he was to keep on living. More than that, I am reminded of the genuine and real love he had for his grandchildren. They were the spark in his eye and the spring in his step. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for any of them. All they had to do was call and he was there. Always.

The tattoo and it’s story:

Hello all,

Here is a little something I figured I would share with everyone following this page.

Don’t knock it until you read about it. I designed it myself.

Triangle- Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

My papaw Ned believes in the divine purpose for his life, and trust the Lord through it all.

Daisy- April’s birth month flower, and my Papaw’s birth month.

Flowers to me have always represented the beauty in life, as well as the delicacy of life.

“Nitro”- my Papaw’s nickname for being a stubborn, strong, yet caring man. This is in his handwriting.

My Nitro has been battling lung cancer, as you all know, for a while now. He is still believing in the purpose, and beauty of the life he has been given. I have seen strength in him in a way that I have never seen before.

He is my inspiration to continue to push through the hard times, and always be strong.

Thank you to everyone who has supported, and prayed for my grandparents through all of this.

Amy Yarborough

Why I call him Ned

In my previous post, Read here, I said Mom and Ned were married without a hitch. While the wedding did go off without a hitch, the marriage itself came with plenty.

One being that Ned was starting out with the insta-fam, a wife and three kids, and the knowing he would never have a biological child of his own.

Two, we would have to pack our family and move from Brevard to Columbus, NC. Why you ask? Ned’s job. He was a Special Agent with the SBI and he worked Polk and Rutherford Counties. The job required him to live in one of the counties in which he worked.

Prior to their June wedding, they purchased a lot in Columbus and hired Mom’s cousin from Inman to build the house. Around the first of August 1978, we loaded up the fam and moved into our new home.

I wasn’t thrilled. I’ve never been one for change, although my life has been a constant series of change. (This is how I know God has an incredible sense of humor.) The move took me away from my two best friends, Diane and Theresa. It also took me further away from my cousins, aunts, uncles and both sets of grandparents.

Not long after we moved, Ned sat us all down and told us that we could call him whatever we wanted to but his stipulation, “Whatever you start with, you stick with”. David and Kristi both chose to call him, Daddy and I chose, Ned. He never asked again and I never changed my mind. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t think of him as my daddy, it just meant we were both staid on what was agreed upon.

A few weeks after this encounter, he called me into his office with Mom. Probably the only time I wasn’t in trouble for something. No joke, I was always causing some sort of raucous! He and Mom sat me down and he followed up with this, “You know I love you, Kristi and David like your my own. I want to adopt you but that means you’ll have to change your last name. I wanted to ask you because your the oldest and whatever decision you make is fine with me. I won’t love you any more or less than I do right now.”

Without even a moments hesitation, I blurted out, “No. I don’t want you to adopt us. Daddy was so proud to have a son to carry on his name, I don’t want our last names changed.” He graciously and humbly accepted my answer and he never, ever asked again.

What kind of man does that, you ask? A man like, Ned Whitmire. A man with a generous, kind heart. A man who was sure of himself and had no need to demand his own way. A man who prayed and asked God to go before him, lead and guide him. A man who chose to do what God told him to do. That’s what kind of man does such a thing as this. He wasn’t looking to his own interest. He cared more about us than he did about himself or having a son to carry on his name.

So, when we get the stories about his stubborn and contrariness that made him who he was, you’ll first remember that he had a soft and tender side too!

This is the very reason, I call him a unique man. Most men, first and foremost, wouldn’t seek out a woman with three kids and ask her to marry him, much less be satisfied knowing he would never have any children of his own. You see, he found the one God had made and kept for him.

It all began with Fireworks

It all began with fireworks. I guess the should’ve known they were destined to become one!

On July 5, 1976 Mom took Kristi, age 5 and David, age 1, to the fireworks show at Brevard High School. They were delayed a day because of a monsoon rain on the 4th of July. Little did she know that God already had been working behind the scenes to make sure that Ned would be at the very same place with his two nieces, Sheila and Jennifer.

Mom and Ned had both grown up in Brevard and actually attended school together and graduated from Brevard High School in 1964. So, they knew each other but they had never been friends, just acquaintances. In fact Mom wasn’t really impressed with him in school because she dubbed him as the “class clown” and he was in trouble a lot!

At the fireworks show, Kristi sat with friends Betty and Larry Owen. So Mom found herself and David a seat. A few minutes later, Ned saw her and sat down beside her. The last time they’d seen each other was their Class Reunion a few years prior and Ned was engaged and Mom was pregnant with David. Mom naturally assumed he was married and that Sheila and Jennifer were his children.

They talked. Ned’s dad had passed away in March after having colon cancer. Mom told him Daddy “Mack” had died in April, of course Ned already knew that. In fact Mom said that’s probably why he came and sat down beside me! (She’s probably right). Mom said he held David throughout much of the fireworks. Oddly enough when they said their goodbyes, he didn’t ask for her phone number.

After their encountered, Mom said one night she fell to her knees and begged God to bring her someone to help her. She recognized she couldn’t raise three children on her own. And wouldn’t you know, a few days later Ned called. He actually used a telephone book to find her number. He told her The Letterman were going to be in Asheville and asked if she wanted to go with him.

Her response. Wait for it…….”I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my Mother!” I still find this hilarious. Mom is 30 years old and has to consult with her Mom. It wasn’t for approval as much as advice. Mom was afraid of what people might think. My grandmother told her that she shouldn’t worry about what others thought. If she wanted to, she should. Best advice Colleen could give her daughter. So, she accepted Neds invitation and they went to see The Letterman in concert in August.

My Mom had made a promise to herself not to marry until two years had passed after Daddy’s death.

After a year she and Ned were continuing to date exclusively. Mom was sickly at the time. All the stress of Daddy’s death coupled with raising three children on her own began to take a toil on her body. She ended up in the hospital with phlebitis.

During her hospitalization Ned stood by her side. In fact, as he tells the story to me, “I knew she couldn’t run away, so I decided that was he perfect time to propose.” She said, “Yes!”

It was decided they would marry on June 10, 1978. Mom said even up until the day before the wedding she asked God to give her a sign if he wasn’t the one. Obviously, Ned was the one because the wedding went off without a hitch. Ned would often tell her, “You know that the say, third times a charm.” He said this to her because he had been engaged twice before.

You just never know how powerful a fireworks show can be when God is orchestrating the details of your life!

You Are Loved

Have you ever wondered if you’re doing the right thing? Do you feel like you could be doing more? Do you feel like what you’re doing doesn’t really matter?

Lately, I’ve been feeling this way!

A little over two years ago when Greg decided to retire and I found myself jobless, I knew I would never find what I had with him. It was the perfect job. The perfect hours. The perfect boss. The perfect everything. I loved my job.

Right after we closed our doors my niece and nephew needed someone to care for the their babies one afternoon a week. I accepted the offer.

A few weeks after, I was offered a job. The job was for another cabinet shop. Hours were good and the owner of the shop was willing to be flexible. However, it would mean that I would have to give up watching them and doing some other things. Not to mention, Ned had just been diagnosed and I knew I needed to be available for him and Mom. I had an uneasy feeling in my gut. I declined the offer.

As it turned out, I ended up being able to spend additional time with the girls and pickup a few more cleaning jobs. I still felt a sense of worthlessness. Like I could be doing more or I should be doing more. However, I always found myself looking forward to seeing my girls or seeing my people. I would tell Terry time and again, I just want to be a blessing to them.

The few months have been an emotional rollercoaster. In addition to Neds death, our move, Popaw’s illness, I too have had a few issues of my own, mostly related to my back and neck. These issues have made for many sleepless nights and I don’t function well without sleep. I’m not a happy camper. Honestly, I don’t know how people go on little to no sleep. I can’t. Not only was I in physical pain but mentally as well.

Fortunately, I have a great chiropractor and now a massage therapist helping to alleviate my pain. Ibuprofen and Biofeeeze are now my best friends, along with stretching and walking and ice.

Having sleep the past few days has been a key ingredient to being mentally refreshed. I don’t feel like the walking dead now! And I don’t feel like I could cry over spilt milk. (That’s how I know I’m at my breaking point)

Anyway, I’ve been asking God to show me that what I’m doing matters I’ve also been asking Him if there’s something else I should be doing. He hasn’t given a clear answer on that yet but let me tell you what happened today.

After the girls got up from their rest time, we were sitting at the window playing, “I spy.” Hayden looked down and saw a sign on the neighbors porch and said, “Kelly, what does that sign say?”

“Welcome”, I replied. “Do you know what that means?”

“No”

“A welcome is an invitation to come in and visit.” I told her.

“Oh, well we don’t have a welcome sign. But we do have a sign.” She said. She hopped off the stool and went into her room. Bringing back a small sign in her hand, she said, “Tell me what this one says.”

“You are loved,” I told her.

I pointed to the sky and told both girls, “When you see the sky, the clouds, the sun, the moon, the stars, the trees and flowers those things are all reminders that God is telling us “you are loved”. He loves you more than anything. But you are also loved by others too. Who else loves you?”

Scottie, the younger one looked up at me and said, “You love me!”

I gave them both hugs and said, “Yes I do love you. But who else loves you?”

Then they named all the family members they could think of and then Scottie looks at me again and says, “and you love me!”

In that moment, I knew I was doing the very best thing I could do. They know they are loved and they have full confidence in my love for them.

God wants us to have the same confidence in His love for us. He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to die for us. In that moment, He said, “You are so loved that I am willing to give my life for you!” However, we can’t have confidence in His love unless we know Him. Just like with the girls, I’ve spent the past two years building a relationship with them. Which is why Scottie could say with complete confidence in her sweet little voice, “you love me!”

When we begin to realize the vastness of His love for us, we too can look up towards heaven and say, “God, you love me”.

He replies, “You are so loved!”

Ramps anyone?

I literally pulled these babies up from my yard today. Yes, I said yard, not garden. Immediately my olfactory sensory neurons perked up. It was then I remembered a story from my childhood about the potency of ramps.

First, in case you don’t know, ramps are wild onions. Here’s a little background and apparently now they’re in high demand. Read here. Golly, if only I’d kept mine. However, their pungent odor is now permeating my trash can. Good thing tomorrow is trash day. Sorry, had to chase that rabbit.

Back to the story.

Summertimes were always a time we, my sister and I, looked forward to. It meant extra time spent with our grandparents and in particularly with Grandma and Grandpa Reese. We always looked forward to staying with them because other cousins came to stay as well. Sometimes there would be four or five of us at the same time. Unlike Mamaw who loved to have and spoil us individually, Grandma preferred the whole lot of us! I think she did it that way because she wasn’t going to be our entertainer. She knew she wouldn’t have to deal with our boredom if there were others to play to keep us occupied. She was the no nonsensical type anyway. Drama didn’t exist in her realm and she refused to deal with drama.

Anyway, on this particular occasion at Grandmas, I wasn’t staying. It was just my sister Kristi and cousin Stephanie. Grandma was an avid gardener. She had a splendid green thumb. Anyway, she had the girls outside and showed them they could pick and eat even the wild onions or ramps. Eat them they did. I don’t know how many but as officiously odious as the two ramps I picked today, one can only imagine the pungency seeping from them.

Mom came to pick Kristi up from Grandmas. She had an appointment with our dentist, Dr. Cabe. Mom said as soon as Kristi shut the door she said, “Dear Lord, what have you been eating?”

“We ate ramps. They are so good.” Kristi replied.

At this point my Mom’s memory is a little foggy but knowing her like I do, I would imagine she went on a mild tirade using the dreaded middle name saying something along the lines of , “Kristi Lynn Reese do you know what you’ve done? You knew you had a dentist appointment and now you smell so bad, I don’t know if they’ll see you or not. I can’t believe you ate stinky ramps before going to the dentist.”

I am certain Mom was embarrassed to take her in the dentist office reeking but she had no choice. I guess they could’ve refused service. Mom doesn’t remember. I’m sure they didn’t. They just put on their masks and dealt with my sister’s ramp breath.

Isn’t that how we deal with sin in our lives? We know it’s there and yet we mask it and deal with it that way! The only problem is that even with the masking we do, sin stinks. God smells it, we smell it and over time others smell it too. How do we rid ourselves of the pungency of sin? First, we confess our sin. I John 1:9 (KJV) says, ” If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

Why confess when God already knows? Sometimes being able to verbalize puts our sinful ways into perspective. It’s an open admission of what we’re doing wrong and often, it’s where healing can begin to take place.

Sometimes we confess to others, especially when the sin is destructive behaviors or addictions. Trusted friends who won’t heap judgement on us but who will gently love and lead us back to a right relationship with the Father. Ones who have our backs and love us enough to help us get well.

Keep in mind that we all sin. Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Our nature is bent toward sin and it is only by the blood of Jesus that we can be forgiven and set free.

He always pursued me…..He still pursues me!

Before I go any further, God has impressed on my heart that I need to share with you what qualifies me to talk about Him, His goodness, His grace, His mercy, His love and His Son, Jesus. It’s nothing I have done. There’s really no good in me. It is what He has done for me and my heart being receptive to His invitation for abundant life, which is only found through belief in Jesus.

So, let’s start at the beginning. I grew up going to church. Probably from the time I was two weeks old, my parents took me to church. I grew up with flannel graphs. I loved the way teachers could display the story. I loved the visuals. It just made it real. I found it easy to memorize scripture, stories and songs.

When I was 9 and going to VBS all of my friends were going forward for baptism. I followed. I knew and answered all the questions about becoming a Christian appropriately. I even went through a six-week class to make sure that you were sure. I’d already adopted the idea of pretending to be something you’re not just to fit in. I couldn’t just sit the sidelines and watch my friends get baptized. I would be the black sheep. The only one who didn’t. Only I didn’t. I just pretended I did.

The sad reality was that I did know exactly how to become a Christian. I did know all the answers, all the scriptures, all the great stories. I had fantastic head knowledge. I just lacked the heart knowledge. God’s word had not penetrated or permeated my heart, only my head. There is a substantial difference. Head knowledge doesn’t lead to a clear sense of repentance. Head knowledge is still all about me wand what I want. Heart knowledge changes you from the inside out. It convicts and draws us out of our sinfulness and into the abundant life Jesus has for us. John 10:10 tells us, “The thief (devil) comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I Jesus) come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

At nine years of age, I was baptized but I was not saved. I knew I wasn’t saved because I saw how my other friends, and even my sister had life changing experiences. I saw how their behaviors changed. I was the same. Nothing changed, if anything I was more bitter and angry, not less.

I plodded on through elementary school, junior high and high school without ever allowing the love of Jesus to change my heart. On the outside, smiles and laughter abounded. On the inside was constant turmoil and poor choices. Poor choices that lead me down some very dark highways in life. Choices that still haunt and taunt me today, when I allow my mind to wander and the evil one to remind me of my past.

All the while God pursued me. He sent special people into my life to lead, guide and direct me. While these people knew I was flailing, they didn’t grow weary of telling me how much Jesus loved me. In fact, it was more their actions towards me than their words. I still wouldn’t bend or break. My heart was hard. It was stone cold. I liked it that way. I didn’t have to feel hurt or at least pretend it didn’t exist. Oh, I could talk the talk but I didn’t walk the walk.

Heck, I even convinced, we’ll maybe not, Ned that I had prayed diligently over my decision to get married at 19 1/2 years old. He seemed satisfied with my reply but he still didn’t agree with my decision. While the decision itself, as I have told you before, was more because I was in love with the idea of marriage more than I loved the person I married. I had lofty notions or what marriage would be….oh boy, was I ever shocked! But God used this decision magnificently to pursue my heart and bring me into a right relationship with Him.

It mostly began once we moved to Bremerton, Washington after a year of marriage. I was five months pregnant when we moved. So in addition to a major move in our first year of marriage by the year and a half mark, we would also be welcoming a new baby. For someone who doesn’t adapt well at change, change was being thrust on all sides. Not to mention the reason for our move was decommissioning of a submarine and a crazy, challenging work schedule for my husband at the time. It was 24 hours on 24 hours off.

Anyway, I discovered I was lonely and isolated because he didn’t want to live in base housing. So we lived in an apartment about 20 minutes away. I had to make my own way. The first Saturday I was there, he was working until Sunday evening and I decided I would go to church. I had rarely attended church while we were in Charleston. It just felt like the best thing for me to do. The only problem was I really didn’t know my way around. I got out a map and the phone book. It just so happened that the first church that piqued my interest happened to be within 10 miles of our house. I decided it best to know where I was going and how far away I was. Luckily, it only took about 12 minutes. As I rolled upon the little white church, it reminded be of the old country churches. Like the ones where if the walls could talk would tell you great stories of faith. The deep seeded faith. The kind of faith that moves you. I found myself excited for the next day.

For the first time, in as long as I could remember, I got up with an enthusiastic and optimistic attitude about going to this church. I don’t know what I was expecting, I just knew I was excited. Since I was going somewhere new by myself, I dared not get there too early. I walked in just a couple of minutes before the welcome and announcements. The place was filled with joy. I had never seen such joy on the faces of people. I couldn’t put my finger on it then but I know now, it was the joy of the Lord. As the praise team began, there she was, Sherra. I watched intently as she sang. Her voice clear and beautiful but there was more, her countenance. It wasn’t the fake or performance oriented smile, it was real and genuine. Sweet. Tender Her brown eyes glowed as she sang. I was captivated by her. She wasn’t the only one. I just knew that we were close in age and there was something about her that I wanted and I wanted to get to know.

After the service, she sought me out and introduced herself. I am not sure how long we talked that day but long enough to find we had a lot of common ground. She, too, was a military wife. Her husband was a Marine. We exchanged numbers and became fast friends.

I learned quickly the specialness of that little church was the joy that filled the hearts of the people. It was place where grace was given in abundance. A place where folks cared for the needs of others. A place of hope and freedom. It was there that God really began speaking to my hard heart. I allowed him to soften a few calluses. However, I wasn’t ready to make a full commitment. I still wanted to do my own thing, my own way. It was still more about me.

The ten months I spent in Bremerton were some of the best and worst of my entire life. That’s all I’m going to say about that for now.

We returned to North Carolina. He went to New York for ELT school, I stayed behind. My parents had started going to Hendersonville First Baptist Church. I started going with them. God continued to pursue my heart. I met couple after couple that inspired me. Again, I saw how joyful they were. How real and authentic they were. It was captivating.

In 1991, I found myself at a real crossroads, now I had two boys 21 months apart and my marriage was falling apart. Oddly, I was emotionally sound, except the occasional feelings of not being able to care for the boys. I was now living in Hendersonville and very involved at FBC. God was continuing to pursue my heart. Then, on that spring day in 1992, we had a guest Pastor, Mark Corts. He talked about how so often we get Christianity wrong. Often we actually are baptized before we ever really believe in Christ. He said, “Now is the time to get it right. Repent. Believe. Be baptized.

The invitation was offered. My heart beating out of my chest as I stepped forward but for once in my life I didn’t care what people thought. I knew that Jesus had changed my heart. He had pursued me. I wasn’t even worthy of the pursuit. Yet, He loved me and in that moment, that’s all that mattered. I’d spent 13 years doing it my way. It wasn’t working well for me.

I wish I could tell you that everything in my life changed and everything got better. It didn’t and that’s not reality. In fact, for a period of time, things got worse. My husband no longer wanted to be married. I was asked to leave the youth ministry until my divorce was finalized. I was misunderstood and abandoned by some friends. However, God was working in all these things. Did I question my decision? Sure. I question a lot of things. I just knew I wasn’t going back to what I was. I liked the new me better.

This story is important for me to tell you because I am never certain what God will ask me to share. What I need you to understand is that from brith until I was 22 years old, my life was my own. I did some vile things. I hurt people along the way. I was hurt along the way. So, as stories of my past are shared, I was not the same person I am now. That’s what’s really important for you to understand. Also, you need to know that I am not perfect and I still do things and have attitudes and actions that are not always pleasing to the Lord. And this is how I know my heart is changed because, I like when I was younger, my conscious bothers me and God’s love for me compels me to get rid of things that are not pleasing to Him.

The main reason I wanted to share this with you is because maybe you’re like me. Maybe you were baptized before you really gave your heart and life to Jesus. If so, get it right. Do it in order. It’s truly one of the most humbling and awesome decisions you’ll ever make.

In closing, I will leave you with the following quote from one of the wisest men I’ve known. He said this to me and his daughter, one of my dear friends, about a week before God called him home, “When it’s all about me, me is all I see.” Jim Lowry . Think about it. Most often “me” is the reason we can’t see the greatness and vastness of his love, nor can we see His relentless pursuit.

Exhausted, Tired…..a call to pray.

I don’t mind telling you that the past few weeks have been hard. Truthfully, they’ve been very testing and trying and have virtually stripped me of energy and I feel like I’m walking around on the brink of tears and dazed. I’m exhausted and spent, emotionally and physically. My energizer batteries have died. Finished. Caput.

We moved in our new home on February 4. I knew the week following was going to be challenging. I’d already told Terry that it was going to be “hell week”. Mentally and physically I had. prepared, or so I thought, but I wasn’t prepared for the events Monday would bring.

I was in Hendersonville taking care of an obligation when I received a phone call from Mom telling me that Popaw was being taken to the ER. He had taken bad fall because he had some major GI issues which caused him some lightheadedness. He banged his head and fell on his right arm. Knowing full well, it would take forever in the ER, I didn’t rush but but finished up my obligation first.

I got the hospital around 3:00. Popaw was pasty white. He looked terrible. Hadn’t been able to keep any food on his stomach. They ran every test imaginable. It wasn’t the flu. It wasn’t a heart attack. He had not injured his head or neck or arm when he fell. Nothing. Nada. After filling him with two bags of IV fluids, they called it GI infection and send him back to the bridge.

Mom was feeling rotten that day as well and I sent her home to take care of herself. By the time Popaw was finally released, it was about 7:45 pm. He was weak and I knew I’d need help to get him back to his room. Got him settled and finally made my way back home. I had been gone almost 14 hours.

Much of that week was the same, I wasn’t gone quite as long each day but plenty long enough. Popaw wasn’t any better. He had an appointment scheduled Friday with his doctor. When Mom called to remind him I was picking him up, he said, “Oh, I thought she was taking me to the hospital.” He was still feeling rotten and had eaten nothing since Sunday.

Mom and I decided it would be best to get him back to the ER. We ended up taking him to Park Ridge. It took basically the whole day, but they admitted him. His blood pressure and heart rate concerned the doctors there. His blood pressure extremely high and heart rate extremely low, not to mention he still wasn’t able to eat. He kept saying, ” My belly feels full. I just don’t want anything,”

He remained in the hospital for the week following. A lot of touch and go moments and several times we thought for certain his time was drawing to a close. But then something happened and he began to eat again. After 12 days of virtually no food, he ate and ate. During that time, it was decided he would need to go to rehab before going back to The Bridge, due to his weakness.

He was moved to Hendersonville Health and Rehab on Thursday. Then a call from Mom Friday morning saying they were taking him back to the ER. Fortunately the stay was only brief and he was sent back to HHR. The ultimate goal there was to get him strong enough to get back to The Bridge.

Last Sunday he was well enough to return. A huge answer to prayer and a willingness on his part to participate in physical therapy to get stronger. Terry calls him a “strong man”. He definitely is and God still has a purpose and plan for him. That’s for sure.

Due to his poor condition and other commitments I had in town, for the first three weeks since our move, I spent a total of three days in our new home. Most days required me to be gone for at least eight hours and sometimes more. It’s no wonder when friends asked how I liked my new house, I would say, “when I’m there I’ll let you know. What I can tell you is that everyday when I awaken, I am thankful and feel blessed to be there.”

Even the weekends felt jam packed. I just never took time to breathe and process we had made a major move. We left everything we knew to come to a different place, albeit not far away, just new and different.

The past two Thursdays have been particularly challenging. Two weeks ago, I finally had a full day to spend at home; however I have Bible Study on Thursday evening. This means a drive to Hendersonville.(Keep in mind, I could still live in Hendersonville and have to drive as far as I am driving now) I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home. However, I had spent time praying, making notes and preparing. I needed to go. I did go. God painted this breathtaking sky to remind me of his greatness and goodness.

This past Thursday, I had obligations before Bible Study and didn’t finish until 5:30. I only had an hour to get ready for bible study. I even called Terry and said, “I’m on the verge of tears. I’m exhausted and don’t want to go!” His response, “Just call and let them know you won’t be there. They’ll understand.” I knew deep down that wasn’t the answer. I needed to go. I dearly love these women and I needed them.

I went and I can’t tell you how blessed I was to be there. I didn’t go in with a mask on. I didn’t pretend all was ok. I just told the truth. I was vulnerable. Real. It was hard for me. You know what happened? I felt loved. I felt cared for and I felt understood. It alleviated some of the angst and frustration I was feeling. By the time I left, I felt refreshed.

When we made our decision to move, we weighed all the pros and cons. I knew going in that upfront it was going to be more difficult. I was not living in an unreal dream world where everything would be hunky dory. I knew there would be hard times. I just didn’t know how overwhelming they would be when life threw a curveball with Popaw’s illness. I wasn’t prepared for how Popaw’s illness would resurface so many emotions from Ned’s illness. I simply wasn’t ready for the overrun of emotions.

I’m not telling you this for pity or even sympathy. I don’t need those things. What I need is a body of friends remembering me in prayer for the next few weeks. Things seem to have settled and for that I am truly grateful and thankful.

I am also telling you this because through all of the trials and storms, I have seen the faithfulness of God. He is my hiding place (Psalm 32:7) and shelter from the storm. More than that, He is my strength daily. There have been days when I simply had nothing within me to do anything and He has been my strength and portion just for the day. He always gives me what I need. There may to be anything leftover at the end of the day; however, there’s always more for tomorrow because His mercies are new each day. (Lamentations 3:22-24).