I really thought I won..

Junior Miss Pageant - 1979 - it wasn't just a beauty pageant, we were reminded by the director... over and over.  There was a fitness routine (I wasn't terribly coordinated.), a talent competition (I wasn't the greatest singer.), points given for academic achievement (My grades were... okay.), an evening gown competition (I wore my prom dress.) and THE INTERVIEW (I do love to talk.)

I thought I was a shoe-in... then we began the week of practice.  The fitness routine was more like a college dance team performance.  There were several girls with a 4.0 GPA, really?  I think the question in the interview that stumped me was about how to improve the world... World peace is always the best answer, right?  I did not fall during the evening gown competition.  I must proudly say that I sang my heart out as intently as Olivia Newton John with, "Hopefully devoted to You."  Picture this:  I wore my mom's cheerleading outfit from the 50's; yes the skirt hit just below my calf.  Get this cheesy decision - I sang to the my giant teddy bear that somebody won for me at the county fair.  You get it, right, a high school girl thinking of going away to college, but so committed to her teddy bear and her childhood - I obviously thought it was a tender idea that would surely pull at the judges' heartstrings.

There we all were lined up on the stage with the announcer waving the card with the names of the four runners' up and the winner!  She reminds us, and the crowd, that this pageant was a scholarship award, not a beauty contest (good news for me).  The purpose was to award a winner for being successful in all the judged categories.  She went on to explain each category with clarity so that everyone could fully appreciate the judges' scoring decisions.

Just come on... with the winner.  You see, the announcer was standing just in front of me.  Back then my vision was a solid 20-20.  I could see the list of names that she continued to wave as she talked.  I knew the names were surely listed from bottom to top - top name, of course being the new Cookeville Junior Miss winner.  From what I could make out, the first name looked to be 4 or 5 letters, and, with a little anticipation, I realized the last name looked reasonably long... could it be... Susan Southerlan... was that an "S" I saw beginning the last name?  I quickly scanned the stage... I was certain I was the only girl with a last name beginning with "S" that was reasonably long. Finally, we were ready for the results.
4th runner up - not me - was it really possible?
3rd runner up - not me - my song must have been really good..
2nd runner up - not me - my parents are going to be so proud..
1st runner up - not me - oh no, I don't have a speech prepared.
and the winner is...
Marty Hefflelfinger

Are you sighing with me?  Did the wind just woosh out of your sails?  Do you feel salty tears welling up in your eyes?  Disappointed...for sure; devastated... absolutely; defeated... only for moments.

Funny how quickly the full feelings I experienced that evening flood back over me so clearly some.. gulp... 35 years later. 

Could I (or you) begin even in this moment to list many disappointments that have come with this life?  Some, like the Junior Miss pageant, offer a bit of a giggle now.  Some offer a moment of pause, and then some, still sting with a vengeance. 

I've been hanging out in the Old Testament recently... in the prophets..  Isaiah spoke with such authority and intensity.  The first 39 chapters seem to focus on the judgment on Judah calling them to repentance while the last 27 offer God's plan for restoration and ultimately salvation through Jesus.   I love verse 23 of chapter 49 - Isaiah has spent many words establishing the power of God and what HE can do to the enemies of Israel as they trust HIS leadership and plan, then I almost here Isaiah whisper in my (and your) ear...

Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed.

It really is that simple, isn't it?  We who hope in the Lord will not be disappointed.  He will not fail us, He will not forsake us, He will always be faithful, He will always keep His word. 
Today may be the very day you need to once again acknowledge the reality of the fact that IF you have chosen to follow HIM, no matter what, our hope in HIM is absolute and we will NOT be disappointed...

And the winner is...  _ _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _!!

Her scarred/bleeding hands couldn't compare...

Are you a visual learner?  I am, and thankfully, God in His gracious nature, continues to teach me through His word, through others and definitely through circumstances/events in our family.

Two perfect pictures that our Father created for me to remind me clearly of the sacrifice that was offered through our Savior, His son, Jesus.

Now I would never begin to compare any of my children to the perfect Son of God, but these pictures were clearly painted through the tender moments with each one.

The first came just hours after Katie (then 4 years old) had experienced open heart surgery to correct a heart defect.  The surgery had gone well, and she had was progressing through the recovery room and then into a regular room as expected.  During the night she spiked a fever and the concern was, of course, infection.  After several hours of bloodwork every 30 minutes to monitor specific numbers, it was determined that an X-ray was necessary.  So she was wheeled down to X-ray with 102 temperature and an extremely weak and tired little body.  The technician allowed me to stay in the room with her.  As I watched from a distance, the technician stood her against the wall and asked that she raise her arms above her head.  Her fresh stitches covering a thin line from the middle of her chest stretching to just under her arm were raw and painful.  She was so weary that as she stood, her head slumped just a little resting her chin on her chest.  As an aching momma would, I begin to pray and weep a bit at the sight of her...  I couldn't take or fix this hurt for her. 

Then I saw her tiny precious hands... above her head, and it took my breathe away.  Try to see this with me.  Because of the challenges that a nurse had experiencing with iv's, she had been "stuck" numerous times on the top of both hands.  As I observed the "iv" scarred/bleeding hands, I was totally overwhelmed.  I certainly couldn't compare the pain/suffering that Katie had experienced to the nails that were driven into the hands/wrists of Jesus, but it was a tender clear picture for me.  HE chose to accept the will of HIS Father to pay for my sins.  I loved that baby girl standing there with all my heart and can honestly say, I would have taken every ounce of her pain from her if I could have.  My thoughts, then and now, go the our Heavenly Father as HE allowed the death of His perfect Son as a sacrifice for all of us... HE was the perfect Son, without blemish.

The second came with Mollie.  It was the Thursday before Easter, 2004.  She was 10 years old and was so very pumped that on this day, her 4th grade class was to visit the capitol in Frankfort.  It was a trip that every 4th grader looked forward to and talked about all year!  She was up early before 5:00 am.  I assumed because of her excitement, but I soon realized that something was terribly wrong.  She was experiencing extreme, the kind that you can't stand up with, pain.  After many tears and much discussion, we headed to the hospital to later learn that her appendix needed to be removed.  She did great after the surgery and was totally determined to attend Easter Sunday services.  The reminder of the joy of the resurrection of Jesus, came to me on Friday afternoon.  Mollie was released from the hospital on Friday morning because she was progressing so well.  I received a call from her precious 4th grade teacher, Mrs. D. that afternoon.  Her words brought much food for my thought. 

"We went to the hospital to see Mollie this afternoon.  As we entered her room, the covers were thrown back, disheveled.  She was obviously not here.  A nurse came in to let us know that she was gone.  We are so happy to know that she is already home..."

"He is not here; He is risen, just as He said."  Sunday is coming... He is risen.. He reigns.. He loves us with a love that gave His life for us.  All the saints in Heaven never stop saying,

Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is and is to come!
You are worth, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they were created and have their being.

Celebrate HIS resurrection this weekend like never before... no matter your circumstance, no matter your frustration, no matter your challenge.. HE is RISEN, INDEED, and all the people said...

a beautiful rainy day that the Lord hath made...


a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh...

Not one drop of rain for 5 1/2 days.... :)  Thirty minutes before the wedding was scheduled to begin, the downpour came.  Kellie had said from the beginning that she was sure she wanted to be married on the beach... even if it rained - Tim agreed... but there we were.  Her sweet daddy, trying to encourage and help make the best plan, assured her that it was, in fact, pouring.  We need to move it inside, sweetie.  Her daddy has always been able to help, to fix things, to make it all seem a little better and a little brighter...  but her sweet daddy couldn't control the rain, so his thought was move to move the ceremony inside.  She frowned and respectfully disagreed with his thought.  So... let's head to the beach.  Graciously our sweet Heavenly Father allowed the rain to continue just until Frank uttered the famous words , "Susan and I" when asked who gives this bride to be married.  As Frank joined me on the front row, the rain ceased... for about 27 minutes until Tim and Kellie were pronounced husband and wife. 

The  torrential "showers of blessing" continued throughout the evening dictating the plan B indoor reception.  Surrounded by dear friends and precious family we celebrated the beginning to a lifetime of memories for our newlyweds! 

A thoughtful friend gently whispered through  my frizzed-out hair, "You know how at holidays everyone just wants to be close to each other to visit and laugh.  I nodded in agreement.  What room have we always said everyone gathers in... the kitchen, right?  Look around, we're all in the kitchen - laughing, celebrating, enjoying!

Thanks, friend, this is THE DAY that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it ... in sunshine and rain... in sickness and health.. whether rich or poor...

God be praised for THIS day!!