My Forever Blessing

Today, and every November 18, I am given a tremendous gift.  I am reminded that love lasts, that marriage takes work, and that vows mean something.  Today, my parents celebrate another anniversary. And, now, before time runs out, I want everyone to know just how amazing they are.

My parents give of themselves – to so many people.  When we were young, they took in a teenage girl who was pregnant.  My parents Mom&Dadprotected this girl when her own parents wouldn’t.  They showed her love.  They adopted many people when love and support was what was needed.

My parents led the youth group at church when we were really young.  My sisters and I thought we were so cool because we got to do things with the teenagers.  We always had someone over for lunch after church on Sundays.  The best lunch was when one of our guests (a minister), sitting at the opposite end of the table as my mom, asked her to pass him a roll – and she did.  Literally, she tossed a roll all the way across the table.  Sunday family lunches may sound corny because everyone today is crazy busy, but it was so very special.

My parents have always had a heart for the homeless, leading a ministry team that provided food, shelter, clean clothes, and holidays.  To this day, they continue to provide Christmas to a group of homeless men. They have taught me to love people that might not otherwise have it.

My parents showed me grace in unimaginable ways; and isn’t that was grace is supposed to be?  A gift that you wouldn’t even think to ask, but the giver knew just what you needed.  That was, and is, my parents.

Growing up, our family might have reminded you of the Cleavers.  Daddy worked, and Mom stayed home with us.  She was always home when we got home from school.  They made a lot of sacrifices to make that happen – things that I wouldn’t even begin to realize until I started my own family.

I remember Daddy dancing with us (me and my two sisters) in the living room, and helping us surprise Mom when she turned 30. I remember staring out the living room window waiting for him to get home after it snowed (all 3 inches of it). I remember how special I felt when he let me go with him to the Vanderbilt basketball games. (He took up tickets.)

My mom was so much fun that all of my friends wanted to hang out at my house.  My mom believed in me.  She taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to.  She challenged me and still gave me room to be myself.  My mom always listened, was honest, and is to this day my very dear friend.

Grace, surrender, patience, love, forgiveness, honor – just a few of the blessings my parents have demonstrated and taught.  Actually, they still do.

Some things have happened over the last couple of years that have made me realize that life is short.  That I won’t always have time to tell them just how special they are to me.  So, this year, today, I wanted to pause and shout to the world what a blessing I have in my parents.  Perfect? No.  Exactly what I needed? Absolutely!

Mom and Dad, I love you more than you will ever know.


Being Still

He’s been calling me, for weeks.  Honestly, it may have warped into months.  That quiet patient voice that says, “Spend time with me”.  I want to.  I want to give it my all.  I want to rest peacefully in the Spirit that guides my soul, my very being.

Yet the noise that competes for my time wins, day after day.  I am so tired.  Work, family, crossfit, choir, life group, groceries, tasks, bills, errands, children, school, friends, etc.  They are all good things, but not THE thing.  They are not the one that will bring me strength, focus, and rest.

He has been so active all around me.  So many exciting things are evident.  He is doing so much more than I could ever imagine to ask – just like He promised.  Yet, I am so tired.

Today, I stopped at lunch. I turned off my laptop and opened a book. I’ve got two devotional books sitting on my desk.  I open the first; it’s a quick read.

Wait quietly in My presence, while my thoughts form silently in the depths of your being…  Tune your heart to receive these messages of abundant blessings.”  Sarah Young, Jesus Calling.

Totally transparent?  I gave it about the 30 seconds that it required of me to read it.  Then I moved on to the second book, thinking I might slow down for at least 2 more minutes to take it in. I could quickly grab a mental bite.

Ann Voscamp wrote about waiting in the swamp with her youngest daughter, in the dead of night, to hear the frogs singing.  “We wait.  Then one by one, they pop to the light.  We catch our breath.  Dare not move.  Tentatively it comes…  I could sit here forever, listening.”  A beautiful chorus of frogs singing in the shadows.  A precious memory she created with her precious child. She closes with a whisper to her daughter – “You can only hear your life sing – when you’re still.”

I stopped dead in my tracks. Completely stunned.  The same message in two different books. Coincidence?  How about an extremely clear message.  A message of priority.

Just like I would sit out in the dark of night and wait patiently for the lightening and the thunder, I must sit in quiet expectation in His word.  His spirit will speak to me, will strengthen me, will fill me – if only I will stop and listen.

I’m doing what??!!

I am insane.  I’m so scared.  What was I thinking???  I can’t do this!

That’s what I was thinking that first day to crossfit.  But, there was something way deep inside me that was excited.  Crazy excited, if I was really honest.  Could I really develop into a person who was strong, active, and fit?

Once I shared my fears with my co-workers, I found out I wasn’t alone.  Everyone was nervous at some level – well, except those crazy people who were already bought in (Buzz, Erin, Blake, Kyle, Doug – I’m sure there were others).  But, I’m not them.  But could I be?

Several weeks later, and we are still going strong (ok, strong may be a bit “strong”, but I’m moving).  The coaches there are incredible.  Even though I can’t yet see myself as being truly successful, my coach does.  He believe in me.  He is so proud of me that I’m JUST SHOWING UP!  Oh yeah, when I “show up”, he pushes me.  He pushes me HARD.  But he never yells at me in anger or frustration.  His “yells” are works like – Come on, you can do this!  Don’t you give up!  You’ve got this! Only 5 more minutes!

Yeah, if I were honest, I would like to tell him to shut up.  I cannot do this!  And then he yells again – YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!  Seriously?  Someone thinks that out of shape, overweight me is AWESOME?

Crossfit is a world of limitless opportunities.   And I’m the one determining my own direction.  My coaches, both at crossfit and Xceligent, will help me forge a path to get there, but I determine where I want to go.

Where am I going?  Those thoughts of fear and insecurity are going to be gone by the end of this year.  I am going to be strong and determined.  I am going to be the one encouraging the next newbie that they, too, can do anything.

Emmanuel, always

God is with us – all day, every day. If we open our eyes, we can see Him at work. And there are those special times, when He opens the eyes and ears of our hearts, and He teaches us a lesson that we will never, ever forget.

Seven years ago, I had one of the hardest times of my life. Bad, bad things were happening to people I care about. All around me, people I loved greatly were facing losses that tore their lives apart. While none of it happened directly to me, the continued events weighed down my heart. With news of each loss, I fell lower and lower. It was an unimaginable pain, one that I could not bear. I cried out to God on their behalf. Oh, how I hurt. It was mind numbing, paralyzing pain.

God is faithful.

Each December, I remember these folks and pray that God grants them an extra measure of peace and comfort during this holiday season. Joni lost her husband. Laurie went to be with Jesus. Tracey lost her mother. David and Julie each lost their fathers. Laura’s father-in-law was battling the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. Emotionally, I had nothing to give these people. And that fact brought me even lower.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, but this was a time of great sorry and tremendous pain. Every direction I turned, there was another stabbing pain, another paralyzing loss. My friends were hurting. I felt so much pain for them and so completely helpless. And still, God chose to use this time to get my attention.

At church, for several weeks leading into December, we had been preparing our minds for the Christmas season. Everything was centered on God’s tremendous gift – Emmanuel. His name means God with Us.

I found myself at a loss for prayer. I found myself at a loss of focus. I found myself with absolutely no energy to share any type of encouragement. It was then that the Spirit took over. The only thing I could hold onto was the truth – God was with me.

All I could mentally carry was “God is with me”. That became my prayer. It became my lifeline. God is with me. God, you are with me. It became the voice of my soul. God planted this simple seed well in advance of the pain that was to come. And when it was time, He reminded me of His promise.

Now, all these years later, God continues to remind me that He is with me. When I am afraid, I remember that God is with me. If I am worried, God is with me. If I am tired, God is with me. When I am joyful, God is with me. He is with me – always and forever.

As a thank you to God, I’m stopping to remind myself that God is ALWAYS with me. And, just in case I forget – or you need some help seeing a time when He is with you – I want to share a few times for which I am grateful. May you be reminded of His faithfulness.

God is with me –

  • Every time the nurse hung my medicine bag
  • Every time I injected the needle into my belly
  • When my baby boy was given a spinal tap
  • When my beautiful daughter was born
  • When her heart was broken for the first time
  • When they took me away for surgery
  • When my husband lost his job
  • When I found out we had no insurance
  • When He paid our mortgage – several times
  • When our company was about to be purchased
  • When we said yes to … to many things God has asked of us
  • When Daddy baptized Nathan; when Todd baptized Hannah; when Walt baptized Andy
  • When Brother French baptized me
  • Every single time I get on a plane
  • Every time it rains, when it thunders, and even in the snow
  • When we were sitting in the waiting room with Gina
  • When we pray together on the phone

He is always there. Always there through the times of sorry; always there during the times of joy. Always, He promised. Always, I am confident.

Always, Emmanuel. Always, God is with us. May your holidays be full of peace and comfort, as only His presence can give.

Grateful for a Blessing

Heaven is about to welcome another of earth’s most precious jewels. My uncle, Gene Chumley, is winding down. He is going to be with Jesus very soon.

Uncle Gene is up on the list of beautiful spirits, cherished people. He loved God. He served God. He loved God’s people.

Uncle Gene married Andy and me. When others around me were concerned that Andy wasn’t yet a Christian, my uncle reminded me to hold strong to God’s word. He gave me a promise from God’s before the wedding, I Peter 3:1-2. He encouraged me to bank on it – God’s word, God’s promise.

God is true to His word. Andy is now a Christian. Andy loves God’s word.

Uncle Gene would let me ask him tough questions about the Bible. I trusted that he wouldn’t dilute God’s teaching because societal circumstances were changing. He would talk about stuff and not shy away from it. And our topics ran the gamut. We talked about traditions, music, baptism, divorce, you name it. He never judged me because of the questions I asked.

He always sought to bring people together – to set aside differences or conflicts and try to come together and enjoy the limited time that we had together. And believe me, in my mother’s family, there were many challenges (no offense, Mom). I think between Uncle Gene and my dad, I have learned the value in just stepping back and letting some things happen.

Uncle Gene would stand up when it was necessary. He tried not to let the weak get trampled on. But one of his special gifts was loving people through the ugly. He honored my granny (his mother in law, my mom’s mom) because she was family. He, like my mom, taught me that it’s more about doing what is right – in this case, honoring the parent – than it is about being right.

I’m sure he had his faults; don’t we all. But he loved God. He lived it, and he taught it. My life has been blessed because he taught me.

Eleven, 9/11

I have a new friend. He lives in New York. He was in my office a couple of weeks ago when I got up the courage to ask him what it was like to be in the city on “that day”. He described that Tuesday and the days that followed. It made me sick. It hurt my heart. It made me look back through a new lens. I will hold on to those words.

Then, I ran across this blog from Peggy Noonan – Eleven/9/11. (Not wanting the Wall Street Journal to sue me for copyright infringement, I’m just attaching the link.) It is definitely worth the read. It, too, caused me pause.

Yes, it happened to us as a country; but it happened to them as neighbors.

We watched. They lived it.

We can put it in a little box and get it out once a year. They just try to forget.

Me? I don’t ever want to forget. I don’t want to for how blessed I am. I don’t want to forget the sacrifices for me. Nor do I ever want to forget that it can all change in the blink of an eye.

Birthday Candles

A dear sweet friend sent me a birthday card earlier this week and asked that I consider doing what the card suggested – to think of each birthday candle as a symbol of something good that God has created in me. I am sharing, not to brag, but to share my sense of gratitude. The last year has been tough, so I am choosing to look back and see the blessings. Thank you, Dennie, for the suggestion. The list wasn’t easy to compile. I must admit, it’s much easier to list my shortcomings.  But with each candle I added, I smiled. God loves me so very much.

My hope is that you may you be encouraged to stop and see the things that God has created in you.

Countless affirmations of His faithfulness
A heart in which He can dwell
A childlike faith
A tested faith
Honor for my precious parents
An ability to make others around me smile
Ability to hear Him speak
Music that comes from my soul
Two children with loving hearts
Places where I can find Perfect Peace
A genuine smile
I can be silly and laugh at myself
Freedom to worship with abandon
A Love of HUGS
Eyes that see Him in nature
Appreciation for my friends
Wonderful, honest, prayerful, strong friends
Commitment to my marriage
Transparency – what you see is what you get
I can now ask when I need something
The realization that I don’t have to appear perfect
A love of reading
A desire to continue growing
Love of running.  Remember April 2011? I ran my first 5k; can’t wait to do it again.
A story to tell
Knowing I don’t have to walk alone
A strong work ethic
A glimpse of what He is doing around me
Ability to be energized in my own alone time
A way to trust Him when I am in an airplane.
Discontentment for this world, and a desire for Heaven.
Determination (or stubbornness, depending on your viewpoint)
A love of simple things, like Dr. Seuss, the Muppets, and Mater.
Hearing his voice in the thunder.
I can talk to anyone. 
A heritage rooted in faith and reverence for God
A home away from home
Confidence that God loves me!
Patience at home
The ability to hold tightly to God’s promises

How old am I this year? That’s right, I didn’t number the candles. Go ahead, count if you want. But let’s make it easy…next year, my beautiful firstborn will be a senior in high school, my precious baby will start high school, and I will be 50 – all within two weeks. WOW, they weren’t kidding when they said I would blink and the kids would be all grown up.

Thank you, Father, for another year. And thank you for all the beautiful people I get to share it with.

Lastly, Happy Birthday to my Birthday Sister, Gina Butterfield. My precious sister, God has blessed me beyond anything I could imagine through our walk together. I love you.

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