God knew...

I used to sing a song during our Preschool Chapel - one verse started:  My mouth is filled with laughter - Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-.  My mouth is filled with laughter - Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.  My mouth is filled with laughter - Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.  The joy of the Lord is my strength.  we would "hold our bellies" and always ended up just laughing together - and it was JOY!!!  God knew~

In our house, sometimes we laugh WITH each other and sometimes we laugh AT each other! 

1990 - Frank and I had prayed diligently about moving from South Carolina back toward home and family.  Although we had been blessed with a wonderful church and the very best friends, we longed for home and family as our children (2 girls at the time) grew up.  Thankfully, God provided for the quick sale of our house, which meant we needed a place to live for 6 weeks as I finished a semester of teaching.  Those very best friends suggested we move in with them for that "short" time.  So, we did - They also had 2 girls, and it was a grand plan that worked amazingly well!  We were all up and out of the house by 7:00 am; we took turns cleaning and cooking.  We laughed together... a lot!!

The morning that we were to leave was dreadfully sad!  We all cried as Bert and Lori left for work.  Frank and I stood there just looking at each other trying to decide when to get in the car and what kind of note or thank you gift to leave.  As we tearfully stood in the kitchen, Frank came up with a great idea.

 I began to giggle through my tears and agreed it was the PERFECT plan.  We headed to the local Food Lion to make our purchase - we received many funny looks and questions as we checked out.  We needed two carts and a couple of extra bags to haul our stash to the car.

You see, anytime any of us left the house during that six weeks, the same directive followed them, "don't forget to pick up paper towels... we are out AGAIN!"

So, yes you guessed it, we bought 50 rolls of individually wrapped paper towels.  We spent the next hour laughing our heads off as we hid each roll in every place you can imagine... the bathtub, under the couch, in each bed, in all cabinets, in the fireplace, on top of the ceiling fan... you get the idea.  Then we jumped in our rental truck and headed to Louisville. God knew~

Our sweet friends came home, as they told us later, dreading even opening the door to a quiet empty house.  Almost immediately they began finding our hidden gifts.  For weeks they would call us each time they found a new roll in an unexpected place.  We still laugh about the fun!

As I think about our move to Louisville, it was filled with unexpected laughter and joy.  We really did think that we were coming just because of our desire to be closer to family.  Less than six months later, we found out that Katie, our 4-year-old needed open heart surgery.  Can you just imagine where the best pediatric cardiac surgeon in the country was practicing medicine at that time... Louisville, Kentucky.  God knew~

Recently a friend shared with me a portion of Exodus 2:25... simply this, "God knew".  The context surrounds the time when God visited Moses to let him know that he would be headed back to Egypt for the God-sized task of leading the Israelites to the promised land.  God had heard their cries for help and knew.  Some versions say He was concerned; He acknowledged; He remembered.  Now I realize this thought of our all-knowing Heavenly Father is NOT a surprise, but it IS a glorious reminder.  I am so thankful that He knows each tear, each giggle, each fear and each joy, and He promises HIS presence.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.  Psalm 126:2
and all the while.. God knows... Trust HIM with your laughter and your sadness...

Hey, can somebody, go pick up some paper towels??

Picture Perfect

Aren't they beautiful, a picture perfect moment - if we had social media then, I would definitely have posted - showing my success as a mother (the beautifully decorated mantel, their matching outfits, they are in a perfectly straight line and they are all smiling... well, sort of).  I would also have wanted it to convey Frank's photography mastery and the fact that he had helped set up the picture and supplied the funds for the matching outfits! 

1997 - 16 years ago, and I clearly remember the moments leading up to this "Norman Rockwell family moment."  So, let's be honest here, the moments before were more like the perfect storm! 

Let me just give you a few highlights:  It took us at least an hour to get them in the den, dressed for the picture.  Katie, a 6th grader, thought it was the dumbest thing we had ever done - "I am much too old for this!" was her comment, along with a few others.  Kellie, 2nd in line, was very unhappy with the fact that her sweater had to match Mollie's, her younger sister, and not Katie's, her older sister.  The sweater was also extremely "itchy", and we had dealt with numerous tears!  Mollie didn't understand why SHE couldn't sit in bouncy seat; she was tired and didn't want to stand up!  :(  Her pants had stripes on them, and she HATED stripes!  Clay had fallen out of the chair 3 times before this picture, because he kept leaning to the right, but we didn't want to strap him in, because it would RUIN the picture!  He had completely covered the first Christmas outfit when he projectile vomited all over himself... I think he had a 101 degree fever at the time!

I truly am laughing out loud right this minute as I reminisce about the amount of stress I felt.  Hear my clearly, I was thrilled to send this picture out with our Christmas cards that year - I was appreciative of the sweet comments about our children.. but I knew the "secrets" of that day.

Is there anything wrong with wanting a lovely picture of our families to share with others the joy they bring us - Absolutely not!!  I assume when our Kellie gets married this April, that we will be sure to snap some glorious pictures of all the family - creating those lasting memories.  My point here is that NONE of us are living a perfect life with perfect kids and a perfect marriage... whew, what a relief!  There, I said it loud and clear!  If you are a Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace fan, you can even shout it, "We are NOT perfect!"  I don't really think any of us have the misconception that we ARE perfect; I just think, for me anyway, I wasn't sure I wanted everyone else to know. 

So what do we do with that?  Do we string out all our disappointments, failures, and disasters on social media or in every conversation we have?  Of course not, but we aren't afraid to share struggles and challenges with those we have the privilege of influencing. 

Since the first of the year, I have been coupling Psalms with Romans in my reading... interesting combination.  I look  to Psalms to help direct my praise and worship and then to Paul in Romans as he challenges me/us to "be honest, faithful and nonjudgmental".  The Romans were a bit uppity in the fact that "they" had followed the law of circumcision, and the "others" had not.  Now I'm hoping this would not have been media worthy discussion 2,000 years ago, but it was a "we've got it all together" kind of comparison.

Early in Romans 1 Paul says, I want to be with you so that, "we can be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."  Read it in the King James Version, "That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me."

And in The Message it reads, "But don’t think I’m not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you."

Oh sweet friends, did you hear that!  We are all in this together - comforting, encouraging, giving to each other!  Oh, how I love God's word!!! 

Honestly I wish I had the before picture of the one above... I might just share it with you... and with all social media options!  Hang in there - you are encouraging me and so many others!!

Too tired to...

He had cried for 5 days - with little break for sleep or any kind of rest.  He was only 6 months old, so that meant I had not slept for those same  5 days.  Clay had been admitted to the hospital with a horrible virus that including high fever, unexplained pain, and extreme irritability (me, too!).  Because he was dangerously dehydrated, the only place the nurse could insert an IV for fluids was in the top of his head.  I had never seen that necessity, and it sure seemed to me that the minute she inserted that IV, his crying intensified. 

I could only imagine how frustrated the other patients and their parents on our floor must have been.  No matter what I did, he cried.  Frank would bring something new to try each time he would come to the hospital - a different kind of pacifier, a toy he might like, another special blanket... nothing brought comfort.  I prayed for him to rest; I prayed for relief from fever; I prayed for lessening of pain; I prayed for just a moment of calm (for both of us).  It was somewhere around 2:00 am, and I was exhausted - I AM his mother, why can't I help him?  Out of sheer desperation I called a dear friend and mentor for help.  She had led our small prayer group/Bible study so beautifully, and I needed some wisdom.  She quietly listened to my seemingly hopeless plight with gentle patience.  I ended my speech with my greatest concern - I couldn't pray anymore - I was too drained, exhausted, nothing left.  Something must be very wrong with my faith.

I love, have counted on, thought through, and clung to often Romans 8:26, that tells us,
"the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."  I thought she would start there with her encouragement, but she didn't.  Her words went something like this...

Susan, you have been faithful in your walk with God.  You have been thankful in joys and challenges.  You placed your stake in the ground a long time ago when you asked Jesus to be the Lord of your life - your "stake" of faith.  Think of this, as you grew and learned, you began to spin around that stake.  Your faith was growing; you understood more; you were seeking HIM.  Your "bundle" became fuller as you continued to grow and add to it.  There are times in life when difficulties come, and you begin to pull the fluff of that bundle off - times when you question circumstances or just don't understand timing, still you trust and by pulling off a piece of that fluff, you remember and acknowledge God's faithfulness.  There may be times when you pull all the fluff off down to the bare the stake.  Your stake is solidly planted in good strong soil and with a trustworthy foundation in Christ.  Rest in the assurance that your faith is not shaken, but these are the times that you "remember the works of His hands", and that you simply rest in the fact the He is carrying you.

We survived the night and the illness, but I never forgot that picture.  I even created my own thoughts of the fluff which looked a little more like cotton candy.  I know I didn't convey it in these words to you with the intensity and eloquence of my dear friend, but I do remember.  I was both encouraged and relieved - it was a powerful moment in my life.

Fast forward a few years... A friend was dying; she had fought a good fight with cancer, but she was nearing the end of the battle.  She called me late one night with a question.  "Susan, I'm worried about my face."  Her face had begun to droop a little, and I assured her that her face was fine, really only noticeable when she pointed it out.  "Not my face," she persisted, "my faith!"  She went on to tell me that she just couldn't pray anymore... she was just too tired.  I began to weep with her, but almost as quickly as my tears flowed, so did my thoughts... the stake... the fluff.  I relayed the picture the best I could, and she relaxed a bit.  She knew that she was resting in the arms of her Savior and Lord.  Lisa passed away a few days later.  Her face and her faith looked beautiful.

Our precious Savior has promised to be with us every step of the way on this journey toward Heaven.  Your word picture may look a little different than this one, but I do believe we are enriching and deepening our relationship with Him as we spend time talking with and listening to Him.

You are so loved, my friend!

"The Lord appeared to us in the past saying, I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."  Jeremiah 31:3

How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F???

Happy New Year, Friends!  May 2014 bring to your family grace and peace and a renewed understanding of God's love for each of you.

If you are anywhere close to my age, you might remember the commercial asking the question, "how do you spell relief?  I actually found it on youtube from 1981 - Roger Staubach was the emcee interviewing people on the street receiving the same answer from everyone.  R-O-L-A-I-D-S... 

According to the commercial, Rolaids does relieve "100% of acid indigestion and heartburn". 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the "things" we needed relief from were relieved by chewing on a couple of chalky tablets!

I've done a little research, and depending on which "list" you look to, there are several common stressors that beg relief:  major change in relationships (death of a spouse, divorce, separation from spouse), financial challenges (including economic concerns, loss of job, change in financial circumstances), health issues, move, concerns with children, work related stress, etc.  I found extensive lists that caused me additional stress even as I read them!

Some of you have heard our family's story.  The short version, please, my husband always says!  In 2004 Frank had a first, and what we expected to be, only back surgery.  In the past ten years he, honestly we, have endured numerous surgeries, various treatments, loss of business, loss of home, loss of ability to work, endured 7 moves (yes, I said 7 different residences in 3 years), and still he lives with constant pain and the side effects of an internal pain pump along with oral medications.  The extremely ambiguous diagnosis - failed back  syndrome resulting in chronic pain.  I am beginning to feel stressed this very moment. 

Our family has traveled a challenging road.  I can honestly say sometimes the biggest stressors are the simplest things - like driving a car.  You know, when we want to go someplace, we get in the car, turn the key, and off we go.  Because of medication Frank rarely drives for obvious reasons.  He loved to drive - I hated to drive... Hmm...

So, what stresses you - family, work, loss, uncertainty.... and what DO we do - how DO we find relief? 

FIGHT OR FLIGHT - That is what experts tell us is our response to stress. Do you agree?  I think there might be one additional word that we should add - P-E-A-C-E or maybe add R-E-S-T - well, neither of those seem like a response, they seem to be almost a nonresponse. 

I have come to believe that the response to the stress is the key, and honestly its not so much how the stressor actually turns out... it is where and to whom we turn to...

There are verses after verses that we can all quote, and I believe them all -
 "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you."
"And our God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus."
"Ask and it will given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you."
"He will give relief to you who are troubled".

And so many more.  For me it has really just boiled down to one pressing question -

Do I trust HIM or not?

 Hours of ongoing prayer surround that simple question.  I can say without reservation a resounding YES, of course I trust HIM.  My reality of that answer is a daily decision to remind myself that HE is sovereign, HE is my loving Father, HE has promised to never leave me.  In every moment, in every decision, in every frustration, with every tear, with every disappointment, with every joy, with every celebration, with every pain.... yes, I trust HIM.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you.  2 Thessalonians 3:16.