The Preacher

pic of dad for Preacher blog

I don’t recall a time in my life when my daddy wasn’t a preacher.

I’m told I was about five when he and Mom sold everything they had, packed up a Uhaul, and headed to Colorado Springs to attend Bible College.

You know, I’m still amazed when I think about that.  My mom was always so reserved, almost shy.  But, clearly, she had guts.  I mean, who packs up their whole house, sells everything and moves across the country with three children with no job and or place to live waiting for them?

The planner in me curls into the fetal position just thinking about it.

As a mother of young adults, I ask myself what their parents thought of this plan? Or lack of plan? Or whatever was going on here…

I can just imagine the conversation.

“Yes, mom, we are moving.”

“Moving?  Moving where?”

“To Colorado.”

“What’s in Colorado?”

“Colorado Springs, there’s a Bible college and we’re going back to school because we feel called into ministry.”

“Oh. (Dramatic pause to make a point.) You have good jobs and a home here, do you have a job there?  A place to live?”

“No, we have neither of those things.  The Lord told us to go, so we’re going.  He’ll provide.”

“Let me get this straight, you have no real money, no job, no place to live, three children and you’re taking off on the promise that the Lord will provide?”

“We don’t have all the answers, we don’t have ANY of the answers; we just know we HAVE to go.  Will you pray for us?”

(Long silence.)  “Yes, I’ll pray….pray you’ll get some sense knocked into your head.”

Of course I have no idea if it actually went this way…maybe I’m thinking how I would feel if it were my kids.  And as a follower of Jesus, I feel embarrassed to admit that.  Why is it so shocking when people step out in faith?! Why don’t we celebrate it instead of discourage it?

Something to think about.

So, Mom and Dad and three little ones arrived in Colorado.

Mom said they drove straight through from Florida to Colorado because they had no money for a hotel.  Can this story get any more touching?  They were young, the kids were young.  Some might say they didn’t know any better than to trust God would provide.  They hadn’t lived enough life to know we have to use common sense.

But I choose to believe they knew EXACTLY what they were doing.

They packed up a truck and backed out of the driveway, trusting in a promise that no one else quite understood.

Trusting God for big things starts with big obedience.

Upon arrival they enrolled in Bible College and found a basement level apartment.  Dad then found a part time job at a grocery store.  He cleaned the store at night and attended school during the day.  The apartment was small so we had to be real quiet when Daddy was sleeping.  Because there was no washer or dryer Mom had to wash the clothes in the bathtub and hang them to dry all over the small dwelling.

When Mom told this story I don’t remember her complaining about the living arrangements, she knew in her heart it was exactly what they were supposed to be doing.  All of the inconveniences were part of the journey to the life God had in store for them.

I honestly believe it became her sacrifice of praise to the Savior she loved so much.

She took Jeremiah 29:11 to heart.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

She trusted and had hope for our future.

The years flew by and hardship always prevailed during this season.  The Lord did always provide, but it wasn’t easy.   I’m sure the lessons learned while leaning so heavily on God were foundational for the life of ministry ahead.

I remember living in Louisiana.

It was my dad’s first church assignment fresh out of Bible College.

He was definitely a “freshie.”

There were a lot of Cajuns in New Iberia, LA and they spoke their own special kind of English.  Kind of like English with a French flair.  I loved our little singlewide snuggled up next to a giant ditch that separated us from a cow field.  I spent many hours running those fields and picking black berries from the ditch.  Broken white shell was used to cover driveways and country roads instead of rock or concrete.  They were sharp as a blade but before we moved I was able to run across them like they were carpet.

I have good memories of flying across the broken shell driveway, my stringy brown hair swinging behind me, to play with my best friend across the street.

They were good days from a kid’s perspective.

The next move landed us in Forest City, Arkansas.

We lived in a giant two story house, a far cry from the snug singlewide in Louisiana.

Next to the house was a giant hill, and we spent many a day sliding down it on flattened cardboard boxes. If you’ve read my blog, you know I found the communion wafers in the fellowship hall and used to sneak in the kitchen to eat them.

Lord, forgive me, they were just so good!

After Arkansas we moved to Pace, Florida.

We spent a number of years in the panhandle, it was here I graduated high school.  Daddy loved this area since it was so close to where he grew up.  It’s safe to say my daddy will always be a Florida boy at heart.  He loves the smell of salt water and to him there’s nothing better than backing his boat into the water.

Especially if it involves a fishing rod.

When we made another move it was deeper into the peninsula of Florida.

Archer, Florida was a hop, skip and a jump from Gainesville. And this is where his love affair began with the Florida Gators.

Ever heard of ‘em?

It was during his long stay in Central Florida that he became a Gator MEGA FAN. If this is not a term I think it should be.  It is the only phrase I can think of that adequately describes him.  He has worn his Gator tie to church more than one Sunday morning.  I think at one point he even had an orange blazer although I’m not sure.

The last move he made in his long, prestigious ministry was to Brewton, Alabama.

Lower Alabama

L. A.

He’s lived here by far the longest and has fallen in love with the area as well as the church.

It was in Brewton he lost Momma.

I’ve shared with you again and again how much he loved her and how he sat by her side until the very end.  She was his partner, his love, and worked right alongside him in ministry.  She believed great things for our family and God has honored her prayers.  There’s no telling where I might be had it not been for her good example and longsuffering for an immature girl who wanted to be good but struggled with obedience.

I’ll always look back on those days of Mom’s sickness as the most bitter of my life thus far.  But, I heard a great quote recently that has helped me to put her life and seemingly untimely death into perspective.

“You’re either praying for a miracle or you are the miracle.”

Momma was and is the miracle.

These days made a deep impression on us all and we will never be the same.

I would be leaving an important part of the story out if I didn’t tell you God has brought a precious woman into my dad’s life.  He is happily married these days and I will sing Hallelujah forever because of it.

You see, it doesn’t always end up the way you planned, but it is God’s plan, and HE KNOWS BEST.

When I think back on it, Daddy has had a successful ministry.  He’s touched countless lives and has led the charge in building some sort of building everywhere he pastored.  I have vivid memories of him and Momma laying cinder block at the small church in Pace, FL.  They were building a sanctuary and the volunteer list was short.  He and Mom went out on almost a daily basis and worked hard in the Florida sun.  Before they left for the next assignment, a new church building was standing.

He’s slept in hospitals when a church member was ill.  He’s eaten in more homes than I could ever count.  He loves fried chicken, btw, in case you want to have him over.  He would want you to know he has to eat baked chicken these days to keep his sugar regulated, something he’s not real happy about.    He’s prayed over sick children, baptized hundreds, preached thousands of sermons, loved on mean folks, been talked about good and bad, visited nursing homes and sat by the bedside of the dying.  He’s been prayed for, prayed about, he’s led many to Christ and I am convinced we’ll never fully know his impact until we get to heaven.

Daddy has a thousand colloquialisms, but one of his favorite things to say is, “Well, if they’re talking about me, then they’re not talking about someone else, so let ‘em talk.”

He loves deep and his humor has helped him to keep his sanity.

We don’t go ANYWHERE without running into someone he knows.  “Hey, preacher.”  Words carved into my mind because I’ve heard them thousands of times.  And every time, he stops and takes time for the person calling out to him.

He told me he plans to retire the pastoral side of ministry but he will always be a preacher.

All in all I’d say their step out into faith was a raging success.  God provided again and again.  They touched countless lives because they had the faith of a mustard seed.  Some called them ignorant, some said they were crazy, others called them irresponsible.

But, God called them to go.

And because they trusted, they saw God work in amazing ways.

I’m so glad they listened.

 

Advertisements

A Hard Goodbye

Tait

Dear Tait,

I remember when you came to us.

It was Christmas.

Well, you were too small to be there in flesh and blood so we pasted a picture inside of a book about dogs and gave it as a gift.  I wish you could’ve seen their faces, the kids, I mean, when they opened the brightly wrapped package.  They were giddy with joy, a puppy after all is a big deal to three wiggly kids in the dead of winter.

It was still winter in Iowa when you finally arrived ten long weeks later.  You were so small. We put you in an old playpen and stared at you through the mesh. You whimpered and peed all over, we held you and cleaned up mess after mess.  We tried to take you outside but the snow was so deep and you were so little.

I hope you remember how much you were loved.

When you fell asleep for the last time, I hope you dreamed of a good life.

We moved before you were a year, you probably don’t remember being dragged across the country so your family could start a new chapter. By this time you slept in your own bed in the room with your kids.  You were persnickety then and you never changed.  You sure didn’t like the hot weather of the deep South, your long hair was a curse.  You also hated going to the groomer, it was ill fated that you had to endure both all of your life.

I’ve cried a thousand tears for you.

The house feels empty.

You never were one to play.  Or take a walk.  We teased about your disposition.  But, you never failed to meet us at the door day after day.  You were such a part of our lives, the kids don’t have many vivid memories before you.  You went on countless road trips, stayed close to Christian when he would wake up in the night with yet another ear infection.  You were beside Abbie when she had her tonsils out and thought she might die of pain.  You were loyal to Travis and slept by his bed for years even after he left for college.

You lived through the changes with us.

You did life with us.

How can you be gone?

One thing you never thought was funny was eating late.  You made sure we always remembered.  You had to drink out of a hamster water bottle because your face was so flat we thought you might drown drinking from a bowl.  Thanks for being okay with a pink one since the pet store was all out of the blue ones.

When my mom died, you sat by my feet in the living room when I thought my heart would surely explode in my chest.  You were never one to be overly affectionate, but you sat with me and I felt your presence.

You rode in numerous cars as we passed them along to the kids and bought newer ones.  I know you hated every ride, we really did have your best interest at heart, I promise.

You wore bandannas after being groomed and I’m sure you despised us for it, thanks for tolerating our inexpiable desire to make you “cute” even though you were all boy.

I wonder if you’ll ever forgive is for feeding you only dog food because the vet said people food was bad for you.  We really wanted you to be healthy.  I can only imagine what the neighbor dogs thought when you told them your plight.

I’ll always remember you prancing around the back yard, tail high, looking for something, we never knew exactly what.

And I’ll remember how much the kids grew while you were with us.

Thank you for sitting with me when the house was empty.  For being near as we dropped one, two and finally three kids off at college.

This note to you wouldn’t be totally honest if I didn’t mention how ornery you could be at times.   How much you didn’t like company.  Well, I guess you liked a few people, but not many.   You’ve given us many laughs over the years as you snubbed your nose at yet another well-meaning guest.

It seems the years went quickly and then you didn’t have a skip in your step anymore.  Your eyesight faded and then your hearing.  We tried to be gentle with you, I’m sorry if we scared you trying to pick you up.  It must’ve been difficult not being able to see or hear.  We only wanted to help.

And then you couldn’t walk.

And still I couldn’t let go.

How do you say good bye to nearly sixteen years of good life wrapped up in fur?

I hope you can forgive us.

We loved you and will miss you.

The lady at the vet said letting go is the greatest act of love we could give to you.  She said sometimes old dogs hold on for their owners.

Were you holding on for me?

Were you staying present like you have so many times before?

We’ve had so much change and some disappointment lately, were you trying to see us through?

I guess I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

But, I need you to know that no dog will replace you.  We’ve picked a picture we feel captures your personality and we’re going to hang it in the house.

You will always be a part of the family.

Always.

This Christmas, we will remember you.  We’ll hang your collar on the tree and take the time to talk of your antics and you’ll make us laugh once again.

Thank you for the memories.

We will never forget you.

I believe you’re in heaven, waiting for us.  You’ll probably fuss about something, but you’ll be there.

Present, just like always.

Love, your human mom

If I’m Being Honest…

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

It’s been a bit since I wrote anything on my blog.

It took me a minute to figure out why I was procrastinating.

I used to love to write to all of you.

Sharing life and swapping secrets was one of my favorite things.

Then, not suddenly, but definitely, the joy of writing here began to fade.

Until finally, I wasn’t writing at all.

Why?

I kept asking myself.

I moved a few hundred miles from home and life got really busy.

That was my quick answer.

But, only recently did I realize the real reason.

I wasn’t being vulnerable.

The things I wrote were true and enjoyable, at least I hope they were enjoyable.

But, slowly, they began to feel scripted, controlled and strategically placed.

In the beginning, when this whole writing first started, I found relief in sharing the grief of losing my mom.  But, after a while the heavy grief lifted and because I didn’t want my blog to forever be about the saddest, most difficult thing that’s ever happened to me, I began to tell stories.

Stories about childhood and funny things that happened to me plus the occasional spiritual mountain or valley I’d experienced.

All of it true.

All of it earned the hard way…through experience.

But, as the number of blog followers grew, the level of expectation also grew.

I began to feel like I needed to get it perfect every single time.

I would read other blogs or articles and stories and see all the flaws in mine until finally…

I didn’t want to write anymore.

It felt less than, subpar and pointless when so many others did it so much better.

I’m not looking for a pity party, and I’m not fishing for compliments.

Really, I’m not.

I’m just ready to be open and honest about my love of words and my fear of failure.

My fear of letting you down and myself down.

It’s tough to type that last sentence.

I am not strong and courageous.

“Fearless” isn’t even in my vocabulary.

But, I am HONEST and I guess I began to feel dishonest by making everything seem so neat and packaged with a bow on top.

My life, my REAL life, is anything but.

I stress eat.

I gossip sometimes.

I’m afraid of dying.

Sometimes I’m afraid for no reason.

I blow things up in my mind and make them much bigger than they are.

I obsess over what “could” happen.

I’m addicted to Coke Zero.

I love donuts.

I don’t trust people easily.

Sometimes I’m not as happy as I seem.

I hate to lose.

I don’t like board games because I always lose. (Refer to line above.)

I worry about my kids EVERY DAY.

I pray all the time because I lack faith.

I am lonely often times in the middle of a crowd.

Because I am friendly, people assume social settings are easy for me, but that’s not true.

I analyze everything I say when I walk away from a conversation.

And then I beat myself up for something I said, always.

I obsess over my failures for days.

I’m weary of saying “I understand” when people hurt me because I don’t.

I have a hard time truly forgiving even though I may act like it’s easy.

I am not put together even though my outfit may be.

I sat in church two weeks ago and cried because, well, I don’t really know.  I just needed to cry.  The Lord is pushing me into deeper waters and I feel like I can’t swim.

I’m treading water.

I know it makes some of you uncomfortable to read something this vulnerable, and that’s okay.  I need to be this way. I feel fake writing and publishing as though I’ve got it all figured out WHEN I DON’T.

I need you to understand that I am trusting you with my heart.

I heard a podcast recently that explained the difference between being transparent and vulnerable.

Transparent is when we share what we’ve been through.

Vulnerable is sharing where we are.

Sometimes that’s the “messy middle.”

There’s so much to learn here in the middle.  So many lessons to grab onto and stow away in our heart.

Even while in the messy middle, I see the Lord at work.

I think that’s what makes life bearable.

Well, now that I’ve shared this with you, I feel like something heavy lifted off my chest.

I do plan to post stories, I do plan to keep on practicing and getting better but I also plan on being not just transparent but vulnerable.

We need it in our society, we need to know we can be far less than perfect and still be loved by God and others.

We can admit our flaws without trying to justify them.

We don’t have to hide them because that only makes us part of the bigger problem.

The idea that we’re not good enough if we aren’t perfect.

As though the journey to better places has to be hidden until we arrive.

The messy middle is a secret.

But a lot of good life and lessons happen along the way.

I hope to share more of them.

They won’t all be tidy and neat but they will be HONEST.

Isn’t that what so many of us are looking for in this crazy world?

Honesty? Transparency? Vulnerability? Loyalty?

Man, we need those things so much!

So, here I am again!

I’m back!

I’m going to keep it real.

I hope you will too.

90 Seconds of Light: Yoga

Yoga pic

I went to yoga today for the first time in a while.  Turns out turning yourself into a human pretzel is good for body and soul.

As I was standing on my head, well, practically, I congratulated myself for being there.

You see, this move has exposed something.

I’m not brave.

Not like I used to be.

When I was young I was almost fearless about trying new things and exploring new places.  The change made me happy. I loved all the new sights and sounds, they gave me energy.

But with age comes challenges and hardship, loss and grief.  Somewhere between struggle and pain, I lost my brave heart.

Since we moved to South Carolina, and because I know so little and so few people, I’ve had to make a choice: stay home, where I feel safest, or venture out on my own and take the risk.

Home sounds appealing, like the feeling of a warm blanket wrapped around me…safe and sound.

But, I’ve made a decision, I want my bravery back.

Which is why I stood on my head today.

I knew most of the faces in the gym where I’d been a member for thirteen years.  It was comfortable and easy.

Today, I didn’t know a single person.

Not one.

This is true of almost every place I’ve been lately.

I sleep in an unfamiliar house in an unfamiliar neighborhood and shop in stores I’ve never even heard of.  I’ve attended a church service with only my husband and daughter as familiar faces.  I don’t how to get anywhere, thank goodness for Google Maps.  Well, most of the time, sometimes even Google lets me down.

You get the idea, it’s ALL new.

I had to give myself a pep talk to go to yoga today.  To sit in a class where no one knew my name and pretend to be braver than I felt.

I took a deep breath, walked in with my pink yoga mat slung over my shoulder and my pink backpack on top of the mat.  Would it be too revealing to tell you I have a pink towel with red hearts all over it to wipe my face between workouts?

Sometimes I forget I’m so old and I like twelve year old pink things.

But, I did it.

Just me and all of my pink accessories.

And, you know what, it wasn’t that bad.

Everyone I came in contact with was friendly and one even asked my name.  Pretty sure we’re going to be besties, she doesn’t know it yet though.

I’d made it such a big deal in my mind, I almost convinced myself it was too hard.

Too scary.

Maybe that’s part of the rocky road to bravery.  Showing up, in spite of the fear. Swallowing the butterflies and walking in, even if it is on shaky legs.

When I walked out of the gym today, I was definitely on shaky legs but not because of fear, but because apparently the yoga teacher REALLY believes in our abilities.

Probably won’t be able to walk right tomorrow.

But, that’s okay, because I can be brave even with a limp.

 

 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
― Emma Donoghue, Room

South Carolina

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

I’m sitting in my new home in my new town with boxes piled high around me watching my daughter and husband piece together a bookshelf for her room.

I can’t believe I’m here.

Can’t believe I live in a new state where I know exactly ten people, this number includes the lady at the local grocery store who runs the coffee bar and the neighbors who live behind us.  That’s an improvement over last week when I only knew one.

My bones are tired.  If you didn’t know your bones could be tired then you’ve probably never moved across the country while in menopause.

It wasn’t an easy road to get here and, now that I’m here, I find there is road construction everywhere.  I mean that both literally and figuratively.

The day we left our small town and headed to South Carolina the sun was out in full form, the balmy heat caused sweat beads to form on my forehead.  But, I wasn’t sweating just because of the heat, I had to say good bye to my Dad.

This is the man who nursed my mother until she took her last breath, had open heart surgery, struggles with diabetes and is living with cancer.

I thought I might swallow my tongue trying not to cry myself into an emotional wreck.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved when it was over.  Saying goodbye is so hard.

Then, with sweat running down the back of my neck, we pulled out of the drive way and turned our caravan north.

My husband drove the giant U-Haul pulling a trailer, and I followed close behind in my SUV. I cried when we passed the final interstate exit for what had been our hometown for thirteen years.  It was tempting to take the exit and head back to where we came from, but I knew leaving was the right decision.

Moving has proven to be harder than I anticipated.

Oh, I knew I would be sad, but I didn’t expect to keep feeling sad day after day.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like this new place, there’s so much to see and do. But I left behind so many people I love, and it rips at my heart to think about it.

I tried to explain to my husband how it felt, but I’m not sure words can capture the emotions.

It’s kind of like you’re involved in a really good story, you’re the leading role (since it is your life), and suddenly you’re deleted from the plot and left to wonder how it will all play out.  Or have you ever watched a movie and it ended before you were ready?  Like what happened to the couple who finally declared their love in the last scene?  Did they get married?  Have kids?  Or what about the guy who overcomes a deadly disease?  Did he live another twenty years? 

Like seeing the whole movie and then cable goes out five minutes before the end.

Add personal emotional investment, and maybe you’ll get an idea of how this feels.

The house we bought is beautiful, the prettiest we’ve ever had.  But, it’s just cement and wood, it holds no memories yet.  I told you we met our neighbors, and they are so nice, I think we will become good friends…eventually.  I’ve eaten at so many good restaurants, such a change from where I came from since we only had about five good choices.

If you’re from the small town that was my home, I’ll let you decide which five restaurants I’m talking about.

And to top it off, the Lord answered my prayers and each of my boys got summer jobs.

Yes, I should be shouting hallelujah, but new jobs mean no time off and that means few, if any, visits to, you guessed it, South Carolina.

It’s Sunday now and a few days have passed since I started this blog.  Normally I try to write and finish my thoughts in one sitting.  I feel it captures exactly where I am in that moment.  But, with all these changes it seems my mind is unable to stay focused for long.

We have worked like dogs unpacking and now a couple of rooms resemble normalcy.  When I start to feel overwhelmed with it all, I go and stand in one of those rooms and I feel my blood pressure creep back down to where it should be.

This morning we attended a church that came highly recommended.

When we walked in I was so weary I really didn’t think I would be able to worship.  I was still so tired.  But, maybe it’s the Bible Belt raisin’ in me, I didn’t want to miss another Sunday.  So, I dragged my resistant bones into the sanctuary and sat down, desperate to receive something.

Something more than caffeine and an iced latte could provide.

The music was playing when we took our seats.

It was uplifting and I could feel my emotions respond to the joy ringing through the instruments falling on us like cool spring rain.

It was refreshing and tears began to fall.

Because the lights were dimmed, I allowed them to fall freely.

Salty tears have been a companion these days.

The message was meaningful and challenging and I found myself convicted.  I asked God for strength and forgiveness several times, whispering confessions and hopes quietly for only the two of us to hear.

When we rose to sing the final song, I closed my eyes and lifted my hands in worship.  It was in that moment I felt the affirmation I needed from the Lord.

I am in the right place.

This new place with all of its uncertainties and loneliness is EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.

“Lord, this is hard, harder than I thought it would be.  But, YOU KNEW how I would feel and none of this is going to be wasted.  You promise in your word that you use the seasons of my life for my good and your glory.”

This was the prayer pouring from my heart as the lyrics and music washed over my soul.

God is faithful.

He is.

By the time you read this I will probably still be on this emotional roller coaster.  Happy to be in this new place one minute and miserable and lamenting our decision to move in the next.

But, I will HOLD ON to the TRUTH of his faithfulness to me in these days.  I will put my head down and humble myself as he takes me to higher heights and deeper depths.

Several of my friends have encouraged to treat these “new to this community” days like an adventure.

I plan to do that.

Adventures of discovery and recovery.

Literally and figuratively.

 

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him—”

1 Corinthians 2:9