To All You Planners Out There

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It’s just not one of my gifts.  It’s not.  I really just don’t like it.  “I’m actually no, I’m not a planner. I wouldn’t say I’m a planner. I would say I’m a kinda fly by the seat of my pants gal. You know moment to moment, yeah that’s me, that’s…yeah”  That’s right.  I quoted Vivian, Julia Roberts character in Pretty Woman.  It’s not that I don’t like things planned.  I do.  I very much enjoy when I attend events or parties or dinners that are well planned and thought out.  I actually appreciate it and acknowledge that things often just go better when there’s been some planning involved.  I just don’t particularly want to be the planner.  I have other gifts.  I’ve come to terms with that.

I got a phone call from my mom one morning a few weeks ago.  When I answered her call she said through a sobbing voice, “You had the best daddy.”  Now I know I had the best daddy.  I’ve always known.  He set the bar really high.  My daddy passed away almost 5 months ago, and as I type that, I still have a hard time registering that I can’t just pick up the phone and call him or run over to the house I was raised in and see him.  Since he “moved out” of his home here in East Tennessee to his eternal home in Heaven, there have been quite of few of those phone calls between Mom and me similar to the call I got that morning.  I could tell by this call, though, that something had happened to cause Mom to start the conversation this way.  Over the last several months doing all the things one has to do when a loved one passes away (call insurance companies, banks, social security office, and on and on) my mom has seen a quality in my dad that we never saw while he was here with us.  Planner.  We have truly been surprised several times recently by some things my daddy planned.

Since that phone call from Mom that morning, the Holy Spirit has been stirring in my heart the concept of planning and preparing.  I can list lots, and I mean LOTS, of wonderful traits my dad possessed.  Planning just wasn’t one of them.  He had a larger-than-life personality and mentality.  He was the provider and protector of his family.  It wasn’t just his role as husband and father.  It was who he was.  He took this responsibility to the point of err, because he really thought he would always be around to take care of everyone.  He was a man of great faith, not a worrier.  I just think he believed he was the tool God would use to provide and protect.  And he was right.

He was the tool God used to equip me with what I would need as a middle-schooler, a teenager, a young adult, a wife, a friend, a step-mother, a nanny and a woman in her 40’s whose daddy has passed away.  Daddy equipped me with the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the basis for everything.  He is the foundation and He is the covering.  He is the load-bearing wall that is holding the whole thing together.  And what heavier load to bear than my sin.  He is the beginning, middle, and end.

This kind of equipping doesn’t just happen.  It does take planning.  It does take intentionality.  I’d be an idiot to believe that as long as my grandkids were emotionally and financially healthy that they are well-equipped for the years ahead.  Man, I’d love for them all to be able to graduate from college with no debt and really good manners.  But the thought of them having nothing but a bank account on the positive side and a good job to navigate the messy world that will attempt to deceive them and scream for their attention and allegiance is enough to drive me to my knees.

When the bottom falls out of their “plans”, when disappointment breaks their hearts, when friends betray them, when their marriages get really hard, when people they love get sick or die, when they lose their job, when their kids get sick…that full bank account, that diploma, that nice car and well-respected position will provide ZERO.  Not one of those will bring comfort, peace, guidance, or wisdom.  It will be their choice as to what tools they pull out of their toolbox, but my desire is for them to have access to the right tools for the job.

Father, help me plan for the future of my grandkids by equipping them with your Word.

You shall love the Lordyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV

Puppy Love

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This is Zoey, our grand daughter.  Sitting very, VERY closely beside her is our dog, Heidi.  Heidi is a big 4-year old Weimaraner.  She came into our home as a puppy with a whole lot of resistance from me.  I’m not an animal person.  I’m not a dog person.  I think part of the reason for this is while growing up I was never attached to any of our pets.  We had dogs and a couple cats but they were kept outside, you know, where God intended.  But after years of begging from the grand kids and silent guilt-trip glances from my husband, Doug, I gave in…reluctantly.  But if we were going to have a dog, I was going to do my research.  I certainly didn’t want a dog that needed to be groomed more than I do. More specifically, I didn’t want a dog that needed any grooming at all.  Not a lot of shedding.  Kid friendly, of course.  Easily housebroken.  Not yappy.  Oh yes ma’am, I had a list of requirements.  I had a list of requirements like most girls have for their future husband.  Except pertaining to a dog, of course.  (But looking at that list, those requirements are interchangeable for a dog or a husband.)  With the boxes checked, research complete, we landed on a little girl Weimaraner.

 

Being new dog parents, we did what any intelligent people would do.  We took our brand new puppy camping after having her for only a few days.  I believe this is somewhat equivalent of taking a newborn baby to the beach – minus the diapers – a lot of work!  The trip wasn’t a total loss, however, but it rained.  And it rained.  And it was muddy.  And it rained.  And did I mention WE HAD A PUPPY? Aiden and Zoey, were 8 and 4 years old, so needless to say the camping trip involved a lot of, “Take your shoes off outside!” and “Don’t step in that!”  Without a doubt, our puppy had more baths than any normal puppy should have.  My nose was very sensitive to the wet dog smell we non-dog people tend to have.

Fast forward to the present.  I’m still not a dog lover or any kind of animal lover, but I’m mad about Heidi, and Heidi is mad about her family.  I was sitting by the pool several evenings ago when Zoey sat down in front of me.  Shortly after, Heidi, who has ZERO concept of personal space, sat down beside Zoey.  Zoey is her pick, her favorite.  When I looked at the two of them sitting so closely I began to think about friendship, my friendships.

I don’t want to hyper-spiritualize the subject, but I’m so grateful for the friends God placed in my life.  Tonya, my best friend for over 40 years, and I have so many memories growing up together; growing up as kids and growing up as wives, tending to aging parents and losing our fathers.  Our families, our church, our faith all interwoven over a lifetime.  I don’t have any memories before Tonya.  A friend like her is rare.  Jennifer (aka, Booty) and I met when she dated my brother over a decade ago.  I clearly didn’t handle the breakup well, so we remain BFF’s.  We’re the most alike in that we have a very similar “it’s fine, I’m fine, it’s not that big-a-deal” demeanor.  She speaks my love language…sarcasm.  She’s also one of my biggest prayer warriors.  Kathy, who was my pre-school teacher at church, continued teaching me in Sunday School as I got older.  That teaching turned into mentoring long before the term was trendy.  She didn’t know she was mentoring me and I didn’t know I was being mentored.  But here we are, many years later, friends.  There’s no one else I’d rather study Scripture and talk with about Jesus.

I think of Heidi, and how unlikely it seems that I would become so delighted by a pet.  Likewise, I can name a number of friendships that on paper seem highly unlikely.  But God, in His wisdom and in His love, gives us these special friendships that we wouldn’t pick out on our own.  I’m continually in awe of how lavishly He pours out His love in unlikely ways.  His love for us is ridiculous.  And I’m so thankful.

Other Mothers

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Any legitimate blogger would have never started a blog only to post two times then take over two months to post again.  Oh well, I never claimed to be legitimate.  At some point I’m sure all the words that have been marinating in my mind and heart during those two months will come tapping out of my fingers.  Until then, I’ll share what unexpectedly overwhelmed my thoughts today, Mother’s Day.

I have an exceptional mom.  She’s always been exceptional.  She was and is all the Hallmark cards and Proverbs 31 attributes rolled into one.  I AM BLESSED.  But the thoughts that came pouring into my mind today were about the other mothers.

Let me explain.  I have women in my life who I’ve witnessed mother kids, both small and grown, that do not share one bit of DNA.  My best friend since we were 3-year old toddlers at church married a man who had a young boy from a previous marriage.  Fresh out of college and on the brink of 22 years old, she was an instant parent.  That precious boy was cared for as if she had carried him for 9 months herself.  That boy is now a 31-year old man.

Then there’s the friend who married and her husband had a sister 10 years her junior.  Little did she expect, at least I would think, that she would become the mother figure to her young sister-in-law.  That’s right, mothering her in every way.

One friend and her husband foster children.  Two of the children who have been fortunate enough to come into their home became permanent residents when they decided to adopt them.  Their daughter was very delayed  in her progress due to drug/alcohol abuse during pregnancy.  That didn’t deter them.  Different blood types didn’t matter.  My friend is the mother of those two children.

Another friend, again married a man who had twins from a previous marriage, with little to no involvement from the biological mother.  She and her husband chose not to have any more children.  Who could blame them?  Twins!  She loved, nurtured, and mothered those children.  Those twins are grown now.  The marriage ended for reasons I don’t know and don’t need to know.  As a result of the broken marriage, my friend and the children she poured her life into now have an estranged relationship at best.  Does her heart not break the same?

One precious friend is the mother to 3 children, each adopted.  Is she anything less than their mother because they don’t have shared blood coursing through their veins?  Of course not!

See I relate to these women.  I met my husband when his children were 7 and almost 9 years old.  We married and chose not to have any more children.  We chose not to adopt. We chose not to foster.  We chose the two that were already present.   We refer to them as “our” kids.  They have a mother and my husband has been exceptional in that he tried to always make clear to them that I was not there to try to take the place of their mother. I’ll tell you why we call them “our” kids.  When we married and God made Doug and I  into one, what was his became mine and what was mine became his.  I just happened to have a lot of clothes and shoes and he happened to have 2 precious kids!  Our kids are grown now and have children of their own.  And those are our grand babies, three of them!

All the women above have sat up in the middle of the night with sick kids, been taxi to ballgames, practices, track meets, band concerts, and changed countless diapers. We’ve studied for tests, attended parent/teacher conferences, and made sure school projects were complete.  We’ve dried tears and cried tears.  We’ve been to doctors appointments, the dentist and orthodontist more times that we can remember. We’ve planned birthday parties and family vacations.  We’ve been the paparazzi for proms and sat through seemingly endless graduations.  We’ve cheered, celebrated, consoled and been disappointed right along side of the other parents.  We’ve loved these kids fiercely and without reservation.

So to all you “other mothers” out there.  I see you.  I know what you do.  I know how you love.  And I know how sometimes, days like today, leave you feeling a little undervalued, a little overlooked.  For what it’s worth, there’s some of us that know your value.  We know sometimes you’re the glue that’s holding the whole thing together.  Keep loving selflessly.  It’s not about us anyway, is it?  It’s about loving like Jesus, without fame or recognition.  May we be thankful to Him and honor Him by loving those He has allowed us to mother without necessarily holding the title.

Inside Joke

I’m just going to go ahead and put it out there…my humor is not for everyone.  And that’s okay.  Today as I was roaming around the grocery store, and I do mean roaming because I was looking for spaghetti-O’s of all things, I had what I thought was a super funny exchange with one of my BFF’s.  I have a couple of those.  One of them, let’s call her Tonya (because that’s her real name) I’ve known for over 40 years.  We’re told we first met in our church when we were three years old.  I have no trouble believing that because I don’t have any memories prior to Tonya’s friendship.  She is truly that lifelong best friend, and I love her dearly.  And both of us still go to that same church where we were toddlers. My other BFF is Jennifer, whom I often refer to as J Booty, Booty, or just Boots.  I’ve known her for probably about 15 years or so.  Now there’s someone who shares my same brand of humor.  And if any of the three people who actually read this blog are offended, I’ll forward your grievances to her.

Please read the following in your best sarcastic tone as that is how my fingers are moving across the keyboard.

Today’s topic?  Selfies.  That’s right.  A word that’s been created because we, such a humble lot, can be both the photographer and the photographed.  Now I will say, I like a good picture of myself as much as the next person.  On second thought, that really depends on who the person next to me is.  Nonetheless, I’d rather see a decent picture of myself than a bad one.  What I can’t seem to understand is getting into my vehicle, checking my rear view mirror, and thinking, “You, girl, need to share this with others on social media!  Don’t keep all this to yourself!”  I’ll have the occasional day when I get in my SUV, pull down my visor, flip open the mirror, and think I’m having a pretty good make-up day.  But never has it occurred to me that others would benefit by seeing what I see in that little 3X5 inch reflection.

Back to my friend, J Booty, and our shared sense of humor.  We tend to use selfies as an ongoing source of entertainment.  Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.  We can all be transparent here.  You know there are repeat offenders.  I’m not talking about the ones who post a selfie of a new hair-do or new glasses.  And certainly the newly engaged gal gets a pass.  I’m talking about the ones who show up regularly on your Instagram or Facebook feed.  And in an attempt at humility, the selfie-offender will slap a Bible verse across it or an accompany said selfie with an inspirational quote.  Clever hashtags are a must as well.

So before I started wandering around the grocery store looking for spaghetti-O’s, I was feeling a little extra snarky today.  I need to insert  a credit here to my mother.  I had no idea where spaghetti-O’s could be found because I DO NOT like them.  I do not like them because I was spoiled by home cooked food my whole life.  Store bought green beans and corn along with instant potatoes get a sideways glance and half eyeroll from me. There needs to be an isle at the grocery store for all the yucky, convenient, food that is not real food.  Tonya called me while I was on the hunt for this can of mush and I even asked her where I could find it.  Okay, let’s get back on track with my snarky-self.  I really needed to laugh so I did what I knew would fill that need.  I got out my handy dandy cell phone, tapped that little camera image that turned the camera to face me, and took a selfie.  I tried to get that weird above-the-head angle that all the pro-selfie people have got down pat.  I then text the picture to Booty along with a few hashtags, one of which was #pleasetellmeimbeautiful.  (I told you my humor wasn’t for everyone.) Well, let me just say, my BFF did not disappoint!  She appropriately put a Bible verse across it for me and gave me permission to use her design.

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I absolutely cracked up!  I asked her if I should post it and her response was, “The world needs to know that adding a verse to your picture doesn’t make it inspirational.”  What was I to do?  Now she has made it seem that I would somehow be withholding a great public service if I didn’t post it.  You’re welcome.  And I’ll pass your thanks on to Booty.  Listen, if I’m going down in flames, I’m taking her with me!

On a bit of a serious note, I do realize these are the times in which we live.  I have a 7-year old granddaughter who I think is as cute as can be.  But she is already aware of social media “likes” and “followers”.  I so want her to know that her value isn’t one iota dependent upon what others deem attractive or physically desirable.  My desire for her is that she finds her worth in the One who made her.  The One who values her so much that He gave his life for her and it has nothing to do with how many compliments she gets.  He gave her the ultimate “like” or “thumbs up” when He laid down His life for hers even before she was born.  Proverbs 31:25 describes a woman who is “clothed in strength and dignity”.  We’ve all seen those photos that are lacking just a bit of dignity.  Couldn’t our culture as a whole use a little more dignity?  I just love 1 Peter 3:3 speaking of wives saying, “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (ESV) Peter isn’t speaking against braided hair, jewelry, and the latest fashion trends.  Peter gives us ladies a reminder that those things are not what make us precious in God’s sight.  And therein might be the root of the thing.  Is my desire to be precious in God’s sight?  Or is my desire to be liked and followed by my peers or even complete strangers?

Isn’t it just like the Holy Spirit to speak to us unexpectedly?  In my experiences with Him, I can answer “Yes.  Yes it is.”  It is just like Him to say something to me I need to hear when I least expect it.  He’s really kind like that.  And merciful.  I so need His mercy.

Soooooo…if you’re a selfie-queen, carry on!  No judgement here.  Maybe a little light-hearted sarcasm, but like my momma always says, “If ya got it, flaunt it!”

 

Worth Protecting

In one of the first few days following Billy Graham’s leaving his earthly home and moving to his eternal home, I read a post on some avenue of social media that made reference to Rev. Graham’s legacy and how his children have protected it.  It might have even been one of his children who posted it.  How’s that for giving credit to a source?  My high school English teachers would be so proud right about now.  Not that they’re reading this.  But I’m not in high school and they’re not the boss of me anymore.  Even though my reference is clearly, well…unclear, God made Himself crystal clear to me when he used that unidentifiable post to put a couple thoughts in my head.  More accurately, He prompted me to ask myself a couple questions.

You see, my daddy’s health is in a rapid decline.  As a matter of fact, it’s late into the night and I’m sitting by his in-home hospital bed.  The very same home I grew up in, the home that welcomed countless friends and family, the home where Jesus was talked about daily, still feels very much like my home.  However, the living room has been converted into a pretty top notch hospital room…only bigger and with Netflix streaming.  The nights I get to spend with my daddy give me lots of time to remember.  Remembering is important.  So important that in Joshua 4, the Lord told Joshua to get twelve men, one from each tribe, and have them get a stone out of the Jordan River and put it where they’d be staying for the night.  The reason?  To remember.  It would be a reminder how the Lord cut off the river so the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the very presence of God dwelt, could go across.  Samuel was another man who used stones to remember how God enabled the Israelites to defeat the Philistines.  When the generations to follow asked what the stones were for, it would prompt their memory of God’s great faithfulness to His people.  So as I sit here with my father, I’m able to look around and see “stones” all over the place.  This house, with all its familiarities, is full of stones; reminders of God’s faithfulness.  I’m so thankful I’m able to look at my daddy and reflect on the life he has lived and see it as a stone of remembrance.  His life, as well as my mom’s, is a consistent reminder of not only God’s faithfulness but also His unfailing love, forgiveness, provision and protection.

 

 

I know, I know.  I said I was prompted to ask myself a couple questions.  Here’s the first one.  Am I protecting the legacy my daddy is leaving to me and my brother?  I truly want to.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not one of those who think my parents never did wrong or struggled.  In spite of difficulties or struggles, they lived their lives completely dependent on their Creator both in word and deed.  I’m reminded when James warns of deceiving ourselves by being just hearers of the Word and not doers. (James 1:22)  Nope.  They aren’t just hearers.  They hear and do.  I have been so overwhelmingly gifted by God to have parents who have impacted me and so many others for the cause of Christ and, quite simply, out of their love for Christ.  So I’ve had to ask myself that hard question.  Am I protecting the legacy and heritage of faith that is being left for me?

The second question is just as difficult.  Here it is.  Am I creating a legacy that’s worth protecting?  What???  Get out of my business, Holy Spirit!  The truth is, I’ve never really thought about what the ripple effect of my earthly life will be when I get to change my permanent address to heaven.  Okay, maybe I’ve thought about it.  But I haven’t pondered and wallowed around in it.  Yes, I’ve tried to be diligent in living a life that points my family and friends to Jesus…while I’m here.  But I haven’t considered the effects of my life beyond my earthly expiration date.  Well, I sure am thinking about it now!  That’s why I started this post with all the “remembering talk”.  My daddy’s time on earth is getting close to the end, and you better believe his life will have great impact even after he’s gone to be with Jesus.  But will mine?  Will I leave my grand babies, Aiden, Zoey, and Palmer a heritage of faith worth protecting?

 

 

I get it. Really I do.  Some folks didn’t have the Christ-centered example laid out for them that I had.  As a matter of fact, some people have a family history when the only time the name of Jesus was spoken was alongside a string of profanity.  Nothing there I’d want to protect.  And I dare say there’s a bunch of folks that fall into that category.  But that doesn’t let any of us off the hook.  Maybe you don’t have a Godly legacy to protect, but you sure as heck can build one and leave it for those who come behind you.  Or is someone going to remember me, or you, and try to bury my example the same time my body is put in the grave?  Oh, what a tragic waste of a life that would be.

I pray and trust the Holy Spirit to use my life, both to protect the heritage of faith I’ve been given and build a legacy worth protecting.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22)

Starting in the Middle

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Hello there, middle-age.  When did you get here?  Gaaahhh.  I guess the correct question is, when did I get here?  But here I am smack dab in middle age.  The middle can be a tough spot.  Have you ever tried to start watching a movie in the middle?  Or even better, have you ever been watching a movie and someone wants to join midway through?  (Insert eye roll) Who’s that?  Why is she crying?  Why is the police chasing them?

Books. What weirdo starts reading a book in the middle?  Of course we’re not talking about Psalms.  Psalms is in the middle of The Book and I’d do well starting in the middle of that one.

The middle of the birth order can be so difficult it has it’s own syndrome.  Ask my friend, Jennifer.  The middle of the road isn’t really a place we want to find ourselves either.  Literally or figuratively.  The middle I guess can be okay sometimes but there’s a reason the phrase “stuck in the middle” exists.  I mean doesn’t the word “start” lend to the idea of the beginning?  It just feels like such an oxymoron to me to start something in the middle.  If I were going to run a marathon (which I can promise WILL NOT HAPPEN) I wouldn’t jump in on mile 13.

Do you want to know why starting in the middle is so hard?  It’s context.  We need context.  Most things don’t make sense without it.  The least of all is people.  I’m blessed to have a few people who have known me from my beginning.  They know my start and they know why and how I am like I am.  They know my accomplishments, and they also know my lowest of lows.  They’ve celebrated and grieved and sympathized and laughed and cried with me.  They have context.  The middle can be a really comfortable place when we have context.

This is a beginning for me.  Writing isn’t necessarily something new to me.  I’ve been writing since middle school.  The new part is writing words for actual real life people to read.  I’ve never written for any other reason than an outlet for my thoughts.  To be honest, that’s still the reason I’m even writing this blog.  But for many years I’ve had a nudge in my spirit to put my words down and share them.  I’ve procrastinated.  Obviously.  Middle-aged, remember?  There’s just something about starting something new when I’m already halfway through life. Heck, I could be more than halfway through.   Jesus may take me home tomorrow.

If starting in the middle seems unnatural to you, I’m right there with you.  We’ll just be awkward together.  Hopefully along the way we’ll both gain some context that will help us make sense of this middle-aged gal beginning something new.