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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Dream Big. Pray Bigger!

Have you ever had a big dream?

Not one of those nightmares where you can’t find a bathroom; or worse, you forgot your Aldi quarter.

No, this would be a dream that sets your heart on fire with hope.

I used to dream of opening a bakery slash coffee shop. It would be a place where friends would meet to enjoy homemade baked goods with a hot cup of comfort. Everybody would know everyone else’s name… kind of a Cheer’s without beers.

Someone approached me about opening such a place in my home town. The building and finances were available. I was so excited! David and I drew up a floor plan and included a private room off the back where folks could have Life Group meetings. Often we pulled into the parking lot of my future coffee shop and prayed together that the Lord would work out the details.

I began collecting recipes and trying out new desserts on friends and family. Someone gave me a huge industrial mixer. Another friend who owns a coffee shop in Lexington spent time sharing advice on managing such a place. He even had a very expensive industrial cappuccino maker that he gave me to try out at home for a while. With his help and the help of my daughter who had previously owned a bakery, I drew up a business plan. We tossed around names for the shop and searched the internet for ideas. I talked with city officials as well as the health department so we would do things in the correct order.

We continued to pray for God’s blessing and guidance. I dreamed about that place night and day. Our goal was to have it up and running in the fall of 2010.

Then the wheels fell off.

Finances for the coffee shop fell through. Plans were pushed to the back burner. But it no longer mattered as my health deteriorated. I had quit my job of twenty years at the front desk in a small school to pursue my big dream. Suddenly I couldn’t work at all. In fact, I could barely function or do stuff around the house without being in a great deal of pain. Though we still pulled into the parking lot of the empty building to pray, it no longer seemed right. We had our answer. Like a dump truck load of reality, the wisdom we asked God for came. It was not His will for us to pursue the dream.

I have to say, I was sad for a while. It’s hard to hear the word no. My idea notebook was tossed aside. Little by little I gained peace of mind regarding the project. Red flags popped up here and there causing me to give thanks that the plan fell through. On the days when I hurt too much to get out of bed, I praised God that no one was counting on me for their cuppa joe. That could’ve gotten ugly!

Eventually we pulled into that parking lot one last time and said a prayer of thanks as we let the dream go. Praise God He is wiser than our big ideas, even when our best intention is to glorify Him.

I was reminded of that difficult time in our lives the other morning. A squirrel had dreamed of how wonderful it would be if he could get the top off our bird feeder and crawl inside.

So he did.

Then the lid snapped shut and he couldn’t get out.

I hate to admit how hard I laughed. Finally he was able to poke his head through the top and scamper out.

One of the mantras going around right now is “Dream Big.”

It’s fine to dream. But it’s wise to pray bigger. God might save us from crawling into something where the lid snaps shut and we can’t get out.

Only by looking back can I see that He saved me from a world of grief.

Praise God! He is wiser than our dreams.

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He was known as the mean cousin. But I liked him. When we were little, we used to play together at my grandmaw’s house. The warning was always the same. “Don’t knock over those spit cans or you’ll find yourself cleaning up a mess.”

For those of you not familiar with spit cans, they are either peach or coffee cans whereby one can spit snuff or tobacco juice. Conveniently placed between platform rockers, we learned to avoid them at all cost. The best way to do that was to take our rowdiness outside or into a back room.

The den, or the front room as it was called, had the only heater. That room was hotter than a hooker’s doorknob on payday.

Wait a minute. Everybody knows I am a follower of Jesus. Should I say stuff like that? I told David what I wrote and asked what he thought. He commented, “I’ve been in your grandmaw’s den and remember how hot it was. That sounds about right.”

Anyway, the front room was hot, and crowded, and hazy. Those who weren’t dippin’ or chewin’ were smoking cigarettes. This was North Carolina in the early sixties after all. So me and my mean cousin would go elsewhere to see what we could get into.

Upstairs was haunted. Every kid knew that. Plus one of my drunk uncles was usually passed out up there.

Yes, mine was a magical childhood.

Grandmaw’s bedroom downstairs was off-limits. But she had a cedar wardrobe that I thought smelled like heaven. I’d send my cousin off to the barn or somewhere and slip into grandmaw’s room. The few church dresses she owned were hung neatly in that wardrobe so I’d climb in behind them. Sitting quietly in my hiding place, I’d breathe in the scent of cedar. By the grace of God, no one ever caught me or I would’ve been labeled the sneaky one.

I bumped into my mean cousin recently at a Christmas gathering and had to ask who he was. The last time I saw him he didn’t have a beard down to his chest. He reprimanded me for ditching the past holiday dinners where the bulk of the cousins get together. I think in his own way he was saying he missed me. At least that’s how I took it.

After the meal I found my mean cousin again. He warned me not to skip the party next year then added, “It was good to see you.”

For a moment we were seven years old, running through grandmaw’s backyard toward the barn. We climbed the ladder to the loft and hid near the trap door for a quick escape. I always felt safe when he was around. Suddenly I missed him very much. In fact, I can’t even remember why he was considered mean. Perhaps part of Christmas is about learning to give grace. Every family probably has at least one crotchety old guy, a drunk uncle, or a mean cousin. Maybe they’ve worn that label so long they don’t know how to be anything else. At the first Christmas Mary was likely labeled immoral, Jesus illegitimate, and Joseph foolish. Thank God He is not interested in outward appearances. Labels fall away and we’re welcomed into His fold.

Grandmaw’s Wardrobe

He sees through both the tough exterior and the self-righteous façade. He pulls us from our hiding places and loves us where we are. Whether you’re considered mean or just down right sneaky, may you draw near to the Savior this Christmas.

He misses you very much.

Oh, and stay away from those spit cans at all cost!

 

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Mama’s House

We lost her last May. Our lives will never be the same. She fiercely loved her family, her home and her yard. In fact, my beautiful mom-in-law had a LOT of interests. Crafts, ceramics, decorations, gifts from a multitude of loved ones; it all had to go somewhere. We spent the summer cleaning out her house. Merciful heavens at the junk treasure! That old saying was never more true.

“No kid ever says when their parents die, ‘I wish they’d had more stuff!’”

Though we got the inside sorted, the outside would certainly not meet her standards. The woman would have surely cut back her giant snowball bush by now. Like all true southern women, she swept her patio every day. And even though she could hardly drag her bad leg, she would have already raked leaves several times. Yard work was her passion. When the pile of leaves got too large to push any further, she’d rake them onto an old blue sheet then pull them to the ditch. Then she would haul the hosepipe there so she could soak them down. That way they would stay put until the city crew came by to vacuum them up. Mama had a system. God forbid that anyone suggest otherwise.

We live across the road from her house. Currently her yard is covered with autumn leaves accompanied by a wreath in pink spring flowers on the door. Mama would not be pleased. She changed her wreaths religiously with each season. It comforts me however to imagine her in her new home. She made it clear that she loved the Lord so it’s easy to picture her in Gloryland visiting with my own mama. The two of them probably have more important things to chat about than leaves in the yard or wreaths on the door.

Man I hope so.

While I write this, an appraiser and a potential buyer are inspecting her house. Before they came, I removed the pink wreath. I left it as long as possible since it was the last one she hung before she died. Hopefully they’ll be able to see past the leaves to the lovely home Mama kept for over fifty years.

I know it’s crazy. Though I hope it sells, my heart hurts at the possibility. I keep thinking about taking her a loaf of cranberry pumpkin bread. It was her favorite and I have cranberries in the freezer that she bought me. My husband commented that we won’t know which yahoos to vote for this year since Mama’s not here to give us the scoop. His sister Gail still picks up the phone to call her as they were used to talking several times a day. His other sister Jo stops by sometimes just to sweep the patio.

Christmas will be the hardest I think. She would have turned ninety-two on Christmas Day. The whole family always met at her house on Christmas Eve for steaks with a side of mayhem. This year someone else’s family will likely fill the space. When they move in I hope they’ll love and appreciate the house as much as Mama did.

Maybe I’ll take them a loaf of cranberry pumpkin bread to welcome them home.

I’m sure Mama would be pleased.

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A New Season

Don’t you love the turning of one season to another? Currently our fridge holds watermelon on one shelf and carrot muffins with cream cheese icing on the other. Okay… so I ate the last muffin yesterday but you get the point. While I enjoyed it with a steaming mug of coffee, David ate the juicy remains of the last watermelon of the summer.

He’s dressed in shorts and a t-shirt while I’m wrapped in a soft throw looking out the window at golden leaves. One by one they carpet our yard and seem glad for the cooler weather.

So am I.

We haven’t seen our hummingbirds for a couple weeks so David washed the feeder and put it away. Apparently those little guys have gone wherever it is they go in anticipation of colder days ahead.

Personally we’re going through a new season too. Back in the spring of our lives we were busy birthing babies and enjoying all things small. Our house was small, our budget was small, our kids were small. But our dreams were big. Expectations for the future included large: a larger house with plenty of room for grandchildren and extended family; a large budget for big vacations and bigger gifts. As we anticipated our future together we expected our needs to be little and our life to be big.

As we entered the summer of our marriage, the house got big and the family got bigger. Oh how we loved it. So much activity and laughter! Our babies brought their babies and renewed our joy with each visit.

Now suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of autumn. Our house is small again since it’s just the two of us. When the family piles in we stack them up like loaf bread and love every minute. However, when they leave we collapse in our respective recliners and praise God. Our strength is completely spent. As my friend Ann says, “Tail lights are a beautiful thing.”

We never saw it coming.

Unlike the hummingbirds, I think I always expected it to be summer; to be strong and full of life.  Now suddenly here it is fall and my hip hurts. I can get down on the floor to build castles, but I’m never sure what it might take to get me back up. Though my husband is a burly man he struggles with kidney stones. He has always been the strong one. Now he finds it hard to do ordinary tasks lest he activate an attack. I hate to admit it, but we might be closer to winter than fall.

At times I feel we’re on a sled going down an icy hill so fast that we must hold on for dear life lest we take a tumble and break a hip. What used to be adventurous now feels kinda scary.

When did this happen?

For breakfast we poured our Aldi-O’s, split a banana, and thanked God. As we enter this next season at least there are still two in our little house. When I sneeze I still hear someone say “Bless you!” And if I dare to build a castle on the floor with the grandkids, there is somebody near to help me up.

Perhaps I should celebrate this new season. Too bad I ate the last muffin. So here’s to all my aging friends. I toast you with half a banana lifted high in hopes that you will take joy in the small things: like golden leaves floating gracefully to earth; companionship; lifelong friends; and hummingbirds which will return again next year.

And may your coming season be filled with more thankfulness than fear.

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Carry Me

I’m so proud. I have a bang. And three eyelashes. It’s been a year, two weeks and one day since my very kind friend Jennifer came over and cut my hair down to the fuzzy nubs. She is a professional and has done this many times for others going through chemo. But for me it was a first. She brought all her gear to my tiny bathroom, pulled up a chair for me and set about her work. I dared not look in the mirror. I was just thankful she offered to come by the house instead of having me meet her in the salon. When she finished, I turned to look and immediately burst into tears. She held me and let me cry while I tried to make jokes. I tend to handle hard things with humor. It didn’t work this time. She wasn’t buying the comments about my high forehead reaching all the way to the back of my neck. Instead she took the other seat in the room and told a story of her past. It was heart wrenching and very personal. I don’t know what prompted her to share something so private at that particular time. But I’m glad she did.

It wasn’t like, “Oh honey, you think that’s bad. You haven’t been through anything yet!” It was just a gentle recounting of something very hard that somehow she made it through. Then quietly she took my hand and said, “You have God in your life and you’re strong. You will make it too.”

She hugged me again then left. I checked another mirror and cried some more. I seriously doubted her words and really didn’t care whether I lived or not… except for my beloved David.

Day after miserable day I could barely lift my bald head. If it wasn’t for hurrying to the bathroom to empty the few contents of my stomach, I wouldn’t have moved at all.

But here I am, one year, two weeks and one day later, with a bang and three eyelashes. With an eyebrow pencil I draw in what’s lacking on my face. If only it came with an eraser for those dark circles. But like Popeye the Sailorman, “I ams what I ams.”

Besides, Jennifer was right! I DID make it! I even find myself smiling and trying to do normal things again; like work in the yard.  In my head I am strong and have big ideas of where to move my Lenten roses. I want to divide my beautiful blue hosta and split the chartreuse ones so I can share. The holly bushes are devouring the front of the house and my heart shaped garden around my bottle tree is being attacked by wire grass.

But for today I must let it go. I will rejoice in how far I’ve come. Food tastes really good again and sleep comes each night without a fight. Hot flashes are less and I no longer feel like I may burst into flames from the inside out. Occasionally I have a case of internal combustion but so far it hasn’t scorched my bang nor my three eyelashes. In fact I fully expect to wake one day with three bangs and seven eyelashes and maybe even bushy brows. But for now I will remind myself that when I was weak, the Lord was strong. Like a little kid I reached up toward my Daddy and said “Carry me.”

And He did.

PS:

Just as I finished writing this, I got a call. The growth the CT scan revealed on my liver is benign. No sign of cancer. I’m bawling like a baby and thanking God again for His tender mercy. Next thing you know I’ll have bangs… plural!

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The Paper Chain

He made a long paper chain for me to count off the days. Chemo had worn us both down to the very last nerve of our already fragile psyches. Since my cancer treatments started in May and would continue until the end of September, it had been a very long hard summer. But suddenly we had something to look forward to. A friend graciously offered her house at the beach for us to get away for a week-end and leave the Big C behind. If I could just get past that last chemo and take a few weeks to build up my strength, then we could get a glimpse of the ocean. And everyone knows that saltwater is good for what ails you.

Day after day I tore one ring off the paper chain and prayed for better days. We scheduled our trip for the last week-end in October and hoped for decent weather and better strength. Finally the time came and the last of the paper chain was torn away. The forecast was beautiful. Food was planned and packed since I have a hard time eating. We tried to think through everything we’d need for our little trip as I was still so weak.

We arrived at the house on Friday afternoon. The place was gorgeous and overlooked a marshy creek bed with lots of wildlife. We unpacked and took the golf cart toward the beach. The access where we parked was rather steep and involved a lot of steps. Resting often I was glad to spot a bench at the end of the long walk. There before me opened up the view of the ocean. Waves lapped gently on the shore and the water shimmered in the sunlight. After a short rest we took our chairs down onto the beach. But out of nowhere we were swarmed with biting flies. Have you ever been a part of such a lovely experience? It was not pretty. Though we had some serious repellent, probably harmful enough to kill us, it did not deter the flies. They seemed to lap it up like grandma’s Sunday gravy.  Suddenly I had sympathy for the Egyptians back in Moses’ day. We could not stay. Those nasty creatures followed us all the way back to the golf cart and didn’t leave until David picked up some serious speed.

Saturday a new day dawned and we wondered whether to try again. But I was so sick and needed to maintain a close proximity to a toilet. Sorry delicate readers– just keeping it real. David brought Cream of Wheat to the little patio table on the deck facing the marsh. We prayed for a good day and wisdom to know what to do. The sun was warm for October 29th so we lingered and watched the giant cranes and herons as they watched the tide come in with their breakfast.

Then we spotted him: a huge old buck wandered from a cluster of trees and just stood there for our viewing pleasure. One by one other deer joined him, some even splashing in the water that rose to where they were. We sat in the perfect place just far enough away that they didn’t notice us but we could enjoy their movements in the rising tide. It’s a picture I’ll never forget.

Sunday morning came and we decided to give the ocean another try. Again we armed ourselves with repellent and sunscreen and mounted the golf cart. This time we drove a little farther and found an access which was constructed more like a ramp instead of a stairway. Gradually it wound through the wooded area then offered benches overlooking the ocean. Sparkling water spread before us along with fishermen and families enjoying the sunshine and surf. Though I was too weak to walk in the soft sand, the bench worked just fine. We sat there soaking in the beauty of it all for what seemed like hours. It definitely cured what ailed me.beach

Sometimes it feels as if a trial will last forever, much like this story of our lovely week-end. Like biting flies, pain and despair quickly gobble up what little bit of strength we have.  I’m so glad we hung on and tried again to find that happy place. The next time I feel like giving up I plan to pull up those scenes I promised never to forget.

The majestic old buck with head raised sniffing the wind; the graceful doe frolicking at the water’s edge; the beautiful ocean pounding the beach then pulling away for another time; all just because the Lord made such a wonderful world. No, cancer is not so wonderful. But because of it my eyes are opened like never before. I never knew such joy could be gained by being still and watching the world. And never before has anyone made me a paper chain, counting down the days til we could simply be together.

 

 

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Not Real Brave

About a month ago I announced to the world that I have breast cancer. Just like that I put the news out there before God and everybody. I get accused often of being a ‘private person’ which is kind of hilarious considering the stuff I share with complete strangers. However the accusation of being private is fitting. I really hate having people all up in my business. David and I tend to keep to ourselves and just play the cards we’re dealt. Our way of coping is less about sharing and more about making light of things in order to deflect the attention. But lately it seems that he and I both have been impressed that the Lord would rather we allow others into this place we lovingly call Clarkville.

Our family creed has always been the same as the state motto for North Carolina. “To be rather than to seem.” Well… that and “If a little cheese is good, a lot of cheese is better.” Sometimes I wonder if our family mantra is more akin to Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong.”

Poor Murphy. We feel your pain. Though we truly want to honor the Lord our lives are not always real pretty. I hope you are surrounded with as many good people as we are. For it seems the Lord does not expect us to bear our burdens alone. We’re learning that it’s important to allow people in. It’s not up to us to manage our image or to come off looking like we have it all together. Lord knows we need help.

But how do you say that and not come across like a whiny butt? Or needy? Or even ungodly? Aren’t we trusting God to get us through this? Do we not have the precious truth of Scripture emblazoned upon our very souls?

David said something very valuable to me one day. I love him even more for it. He said that Christian women have it hard. Because we know the Lord, it’s almost as if we’re expected to lose our hair and Flopsy and Mopsy and still go hopping down the bunny trail as if we can happily do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.

Those were not his exact words. My version is a very loose paraphrase. The man has loved me for forty some years and would never say Flopsy or Mopsy. But you get the point.

Sometimes it seems that if we call ourselves Christians it’s supposed to be okay to lose our hair then go out in public feeling hideous.

I’ve got news for you.

It’s not.

It hurts like Gehenna and I’m not good with it at all. I’m sad and crying like a fool even as I type the words. Apparently I am not real brave.

But you know what?

I’m pretty sure God knew that about me already. Step by step, day by day He’s turning my weakness into strength. This morning He took my hand and led me to a crazy verse about Moses of all people. It says that he “Kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisible.” –Heb.11:27

Isn’t that odd? God commended Moses because he continued to put one foot in front of the other by trusting the God he could not see. What a picture of faith.

By His grace I will do the same.

At some point I’m going to have to leave the house without hair. It’s one thing to shave your head and look like Kelly Pickler. It’s a whole nother crapstorm to be sick as a dog and sixty-stinkin’-one with your head in a ball cap.

No, I didn’t find a wig. All the ones I tried on made me feel like a Muppet. That was a different cry-fest. So while I still have eyelashes and eyebrows I took the first selfie of my life so I could change my profile picture.

So here I am, in front of God and everybody trying to “be rather than to seem.” The smile is fake but it’s all I’ve got. And right on cue sweet David brought me homemade cheese grits to settle my tummy.

Because if a little cheese is good…

You know the rest.photo cap

PS:

Special thanks to my beautiful friend Jennifer Naves who made a house call when my hair began falling out. With the skill of a gentle surgeon she cut away the curls and exposed the fact that life is still a wonderful joy to be held tightly.

Sweet Jennifer, you make me want to be brave. Much love from Clarkville!

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