It Takes a Village

I have never really put a lot of thought into the statement “it takes a village to raise a child” and that may be because I heard Hillary Clinton say it once and I some how associate that phrase with her.  But in the Christian community, in the church family, it does take the village to raise our children to be people who understand what God did for them, then to teach them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and to live a life that honors God.  That church family of precious believers are the family that pours truth into their lives.  The family that cheers them on, encourages them and often comes to their rescue.

This weekend I saw this village of believers came to rescue the wedding day of my youngest daughter.  My girl had been dreaming of this day at this perfect outdoor venue for well over a year.  Our area of Alabama is known for unpredictable weather.  It is said, if you don’t like the weather, hang around for about fifteen minutes and it will change.  Saturday morning, just as forecasted, was rainy.  Not torrential, downpour rain. But steady rain.  I stood inside the house of the Historic Malbis Nursery watching the puddles form outside, trying to devise a Plan B.  I could not fathom how we would get over 150 guests, the food and the ceremony inside the building.  We decided to wait it out and be flexible with some of the decorations.  Thankfully I had brought a stack of towels “just in case”.  We delayed putting linens and centerpieces on tables.   And we prayed.  Yes.  We asked God to make the rain stop for a wedding.  It seemed shameless and selfish to ask such a thing when people in other parts of the world were praying for food!  But we prayed.  We asked our friends to pray.  We asked social media to pray.  My husband and I went back to the hotel to get ready while our baby girl was in the bridal suite getting hair and make-up done.  We got a phone call right before we were leaving to return to the venue.  We were needed for a “first look” picture asap.  As we rode back to the venue we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to shine.  We just smiled.  God in his sovereignty had chosen to answer our prayer.  As soon as we arrived we were wisked away to see our baby girl for the first time.  We were in awe at the young woman standing before us.  No longer a little girl.  No longer our baby.  But a beautiful young woman ready to marry the love of her life.

When we stepped inside the venue there was a beehive of activity.  Friends were everywhere blowing rain off the outside brick flooring, drying chairs, wiping down tables.  Linens were being put on tables and centerpieces arranged.  The caterer was busy organizing the banquet of food.  The one desire of my girl was to have chiffon draped at the ceremony site with a beautiful wooden cross draped in eucalyptus.  With the rain it didn’t seem an option because of the continued light dripping of rain off the greenery that covered the venue.  One of our friends told me to send him the picture of what she wanted and he would make it happen.  Within a short time I looked out and two wonderful men had intricately draped the chiffon exactly like the picture I had sent them.  I grabbed my daughter as she was headed back to the bridal suite and showed her the ceremony area.  Bit tears welled up in her eyes as she smiled.  She was so happy.

The events of the day progressed.  People kept coming.  Chairs were pulled from the reception area to accommodate the number of guests.  First the pastor, groom and groomsmen.  Then the bridesmaid along with my grandson wearing a sign “Uncle Zach, here comes your bride?”

Then the moment came, my sweet big guy escorting his last daughter down the aisle.  My memory raced back to a year ago as he escorted our second daughter down the aisle for her November wedding.  He had only been out of the hospital for a week from his last week long chemo treatment.  He was weak, bloated and hairless from five months of treatment, but he was there, walking her proudly down the aisle.  Here we were a year later and he looked amazing.  New suit, bowtie, goatee and a huge smile.  He proudly held her arm in his.

The ceremony began and then finished with our girl and her young man washing each other’s feet as their first act of love toward each other as they served each other just as our Savior did for His disciples in the last days before His return to heaven.  It was sweet, it was moving, it was precious.

The reception followed with lots of dancing, hugs and laughter.  They were surrounded by people who have poured into their lives.  People who love them and have watched them in their walk with Jesus.  People who willingly came and made this day perfect for them.

They departed in a flurry of confetti, bubbles and silly string. All appropriate for these to kids who fell in love in their church youth group, then dated for two more years before becoming engaged.  Then they went to their hotel, quickly changed clothes and went off to bowl with a group of friends until almost midnight.  I have to laugh at this last part.  It just speaks volumes about the relationship and personalities of these two kids.  Because in reality they are still kids at heart.  Two twenty year olds stepping into adulthood, filled with love and excitement for what the future has for them.  They have a wonderful support group around them.  A village.  A church family.  They love Jesus and desire to live for Him.  So here’s to a new life for Molly and Zach Johnson.  I have a feeling God has big plans for these two!

As a postscript….I received a text from my baby girl later that night, while they were hanging with friends and bowling.  It said “thank you for making my dream come true today, it was perfect.”

 

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Rocking Out With The Eagles…

Last night I rocked out to the Eagles.  Well.  Not the ACTUAL Eagles, but a really good band that sounded just like the Eagles.  I stepped outside my normal, humdrum, square life and went to a concert with my big guy.  He was so excited.  Our daughter and her husband dropped us off at the door.  Our friends, who met us there, gave us a hard time, saying “It used to be that our parents dropped us off at the door….now your kids are dropping you off at the door.”  He was right.   After finding our seats, which were perfect may I say, 3rd row in the balcony dead center.  I started people watching right away.  I quickly surmised that the average age in the room was again 50!  It’s really fun to watch a room full of 50 somethings rock out to a band that 35 years ago they were jumping up and down, screaming and singing at the top of their lungs.  These adults, now all sat in their seats, heads bobbing, and reminiscent smiles on their faces as they mouthed the words to Take It Easy and Desperado.  I felt pretty cool sitting next to my big guy, as he sang every song, word for word.  Truth is, 35 years ago we wouldn’t have been together at an Eagles concert.  He was too cool and I was about a million miles from cool.  After intermission, The Black Jacket Symphony returned to the stage to play the Eagles greatest hits.  I am happy to say I knew most of the songs….but not necessarily all the words.  Near the end of the concert, people were finally getting a little rowdy….maybe because they had had time to loosen up from drinking, and things were really getting cranked, when the band finally finished their last song.  I was again amused by the orderly and quick manner everyone exited the theatre at 10:30pm, possibly a late night for most!  Uber and Lyft vehicles were waiting outside, people laughed and swayed as they left, enjoying the moment of reliving their youth jamming at a rock concert.

Our daughter and her husband pulled up to the sidewalk and opened the doors for us to get in….”Did you crazy kids have fun?” they laughed.  “We did!” we quickly responded, just like two teenagers.

On the ride home we talked about the songs, the people and memories of certain songs.  Then I told my sweet man, “I’ve loved coming to the concerts with you.  I kind of felt like I was one of the cool people for a change.  But, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not coming to hear Led Zeppelin in January.”  He laughed and said, “I wasn’t even going to ask?”  He knows me.

 

 

One Year Ago

One year ago. One year ago we were being hit by one storm after another. But the ultimate storm of cancer came and stayed….and now, on the other side of that storm looking back, I am once again reminded of God’s faithfulness, His provision, His comfort, His healing power. I read back over the blogs of the past year and I see a woman clinging desperately to the Savior. I am reminded of the woman who reached out to touch the hem of His garment and I understand her in a new way. I know myself, that I have tightly gripped the hem of His garment in my clinched fists refusing to let go. We have walked through this cancer journey saying over and over “I trust you” aloud for ourselves mostly, but also to our God, declaring that while we don’t understand, and while we know His plan is perfect, and while we were even fearful at times, we would TRUST HIM, no matter the outcome. Our faith is stronger, our family is stronger, our love is stronger and our compassion is stronger. Today, after a year of diagnosis, biopsies, surgeries, chemo, radiation, doctor appointments, uncertainties, waiting, frustrations and sometimes fear, we got the official words of cancer free. I hesitated to even post this because we have friends and family still doing battle with this evil disease. But I want those reading this who are in the battle to be encouraged, optimistic and strengthened. God is with you and you can trust Him with whatever the outcome of your journey may be. People have stated over and over that “God is good” and it is so true. But if we had gotten different news, and the battle with cancer had continued, the truth is that God is still good. He is good even when things are seemingly bad in our lives and life’s storms are coming at us so fast they are tearing us apart. When we feel like we can’t catch our breath between storms and we are staring death in the face, God is good. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. So wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever battle you are in, trust Him. “Be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

150 Chapters in 150 Days: Psalm 1

Where are your roots planted? What do they cling to for nourishment? according to Psalm 1 the man who plants his roots in the living water is blessed and will see fruit in his life, and no matter the season, his faith and joy will not diminish or waver, but will find abundance in what he does as unto to the Lord. The Lord provides and meets our needs, we do not need to worry, or seek what the world offers. Our delight, our contentment, our fulfillment is in the truths of His Word. God will guide us if we only will seek Him for guidance.

It Matters. (Found this in some old files of things I had written a few years ago)

I stayed home from work today.  I felt somewhat achy, was it headache?  Was it a tummy ache? I wasn’t quite sure, but I stayed home.  The thought of sitting at my desk pushing papers to and fro, and answering the endless phone calls was all too much to face.  I gave into the aches and pains that usually disappear within moments of my fifty-three year old feet hitting the floor.

After the hustle and bustle of one daughter off to college and work for the day, another daughter starting her second week of her sophomore year and my sweet hubby heading off to work, the house was at last quiet.  I sat on the couch still in my nightgown and looked around my “lived in” house.  “Lived in” is my daughters favorite line to use when I am on a rampage about the house being messy.  “Mom, it doesn’t matter, it just looks lived in?”, they will say.  They don’t understand the inner pressure I struggle with to make my home look like a Better Homes & Garden magazine, or worse, Pinterest!  “It matters to me” I will tell them and then I set off on a mission to clean every nook and cranny.

I sat there on that couch for an hour, in the quiet, just thinking.  I thought about my life and the road I have been travelling for the last fifty-three years.  It isn’t playing out exactly as I had planned.  That sounds like I am unhappy, but I am not, though I am finding myself at a crossroads.  Many parts of my perfect plan have come to fruition.  I am happily married to a wonderful man who loves me more than I ever imagined being loved.  He makes me laugh, he understands me to the best of his ability as a man to understand a woman, and he supports me.  I have three amazing daughters.  The oldest is newly married, the middle daughter is in college and the youngest is in high school.  They are strong in their faith and they are living it out.  Nothing could make me more proud. I attend a wonderful church with many longtime friends.  I have been on mission trips and I have taught Sunday School  for high school girls long enough that I am now teaching the teenagers of the students I taught years ago.  Frightening!

We have experienced hardships just like everyone else.  God has blessed us time and time again.  He has met our needs even when we probably didn’t deserve to have those needs met.  We have learned so much as a married couple and as a family about God’s grace and mercy.  All this matters.

Five years ago I went to work full time after working five years part time.  Our daughters were getting older and more expensive.  My husband had experienced a lay-off from a job he had been at for nearly ten years and had started over at a new company.  Financially it seemed the right thing to do.  Up to that point I had only worked twenty hours a week to help out our finances.  The full time employment came at a time we were really struggling.    Now five years later I am still working full time, mostly because we have become accustomed to the extra money.

This full time employment had never been part of the plan.  I was supposed to have finished my first book, become published and obtained a lucrative book deal for additional sequels.  The plan also consisted of me becoming a women’s speaker and ministering to women through conferences and retreats.  This kind of work mattered.

I got up from my place of contemplation on the couch and decided to do something that matters.  I got to work cleaning up the house.  I made beds, I washed some clothes, I organized a cabinet and I even straightened up the girl’s bathroom.  I had forgotten what it was like to be home in the middle of the day.  The house was peaceful and I was getting so much done.  The last time I had been home during the day on a regular basis was when my youngest was four years old.

At 3:00pm my fifteen year old came in from school.  We sat and talked for an hour about school, friends, homework and anything else that came to her mind.  Things got quiet for a moment and she suddenly said, “I like you being home when I get home from school.”  Then she was off to her room to take a short nap.

I sat there a while longer thinking about that moment.  It won’t be long till she is graduating and then off to college.  This is what matters.  It matters that I am there for her when she comes home.  It doesn’t matter if we have lots of extra money to spend.  Being there for her is what matters.  Preparing my home is what matters.  Serving others is what matters.  Seeking God above all else is what matters.  This is not what the world preaches through every social and public media.  It is subtle.  It is constant.  But it ways in heavy on what really matters.  We become confused about what is important.  We strive to have it all and do it all.  We push our children to be involved in everything and to maintain great grades while forgetting that they sometimes just need to be kids.  We feel like failures when we haven’t achieved some kind of recognized symbol of an extraordinary woman who is perfect at parenting, leading and achieving, all while providing healthy meals, a spotless, well designed home and meaningful moments all chronicled on social media for all to admire.

I cannot compete with the ideal that floats around in my head of how I should be doing everything.  It’s too exhausting.  I will never live up to my expectations.  The realty of life is that my house is not always clean, I do not have a particular set of skills that allows me to have every room decorated and looking magazine worthy.  I am not a great cook!  There I said it.  I have go to meals that are no longer considered healthy or “Keto friendly” or any other kind of healthy friendly.  I don’t have a deep desire to be a chef.  I probably won’t be the granny cooking up amazing treats and creating lasting memories.  I will probably never be a published writer.  As of this writing, I have yet to have the children’s book I wrote achieve even one request for further chapters.

Loving, talking, laughing, hugging are things that matter.  Nurturing is what matters.  Encouraging faith in a God who loves unconditionally and who sacrificed His Son just so we could spend eternity with Him matters.  Cheering each other on matters.  Calling a friend matters.  Writing a note matters.  Listening matters.  Spending time with our sweet Savior matters.  Not measuring ourselves against the world’s standards matters.

Our family is FAR from perfect.  We are loud.  We laugh inappropriately sometimes.  We may be a little judgmental at times.  No one is brilliant.  No one is incredibly talented.  Not one of us will be famous.  We are not rich.  But what matters is we love each other.  We talk about everything.  Our girl’s poor fellas probably find the constant conversation overwhelming sometimes, but we all know what everyone else thinks about everything!  We share meals, we share vacations, we share last minute road trips.  We support their activities, we beam with pride at their accolades.  We go to church together.   I love how my youngest daughter once told us, “Not all families are like ours!  We are freakishly close.”  If freaky means we love each other and we are in constant communication with each other, that  we talk a lot, we laugh, we cry, we fight.  We hug and make-up.  Then yes we are freakishly close.

There is one thing that matters.  Love.

Cast Your Burdens

God is faithful. He is. Really. Even when I am not. I am not faithful to remember all He has done for me when I am in the midst of an overwhelming circumstance. It’s easy for me to say those words to someone else who is crumbling beneath a difficult situation or an overwhelming state of mind. But then just moments later, it seems, I am sitting here, throat constricted, my mind chaotic with possible answers to a problem, instead of taking a deep breath and releasing my burdens into His capable outstretched arms.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”. Matthew 11:29-30

It’s interesting to me, that given this word from the Lord, we still take our burdens to the feet of Jesus, lament and cry and beg for answers or resolutions or even for Him to take them from us, but then we promptly get up, pick up the burden and walk away. I want to learn from Him, I want to lay my burden at His feet and trust His hand. But I am a control freak. I am a dweller. I hold the situation or issue in my hand, study it, dwell on it and try to figure the best way to resolve it. I’m not so good at releasing my burdens into His hands. The crazy part is this: after I’ve struggled over it, lost sleep over it, tried my ideas on it, I finally come to His feet and just fall in a puddle of tears with my hands still clinching the burden. And, just as He promised in these verses, He pries my sweaty hands from the burden, brushes my hair back from my tear stained face as I relax and release it into His capable hands. He comforts me and calms my spirit and I finally rest. I wish that I could say I do not repeat this process very often, but it isn’t true. I am stubborn and willful. I am a child of God still learning that I am not in control. He is. Still learning that life is easier when a burden comes into my life if I instantly snatch it up and race to the feet of Jesus and quickly place it in His hands.

What burden is weighing you down today? Release it dear friend into the Savior’s hands and then pick up His yoke which is about peace and rest, and the. watch Him do His thing in that situation!

V Day

Tomorrow I wake up to the 30th Valentine’s Day with the man God gave me. But this year it is different. This year I will be mushy. I will kiss him every chance I get. I will tell him I love him every hour of the day. I will give him his favorite peanut M & M’s and maybe go have a spur of the moment lunch somewhere. Things could be so different. This past year made the fragility of life so real to me. It gave me a reality check that we are getting older and we need to cherish every day, even the ones when he is driving me crazy and pushing my buttons. Because the truth is I love this man. I know the lengths God went to to orchestrate the events and people to have our paths cross. Even the back story to us meeting is an amazing logistical undertaking. His plan for us to meet was two years in the making! We knew from the beginning that what we had was special and we wasted no time in starting our life together. I love this man because he sees me. Not the fat girl I see in the mirror every morning. Not the failure I think I am. He thinks I am beautiful and smart, and he tells me often. He values my opinion on everything. He calls me friend. He is not perfect, but neither am I. He has held my hand through giving birth and through miscarriages. He has put up with my strong opinions. He has encouraged me in my writing. He has held me close and let me cry when my Mom died. He has told me many times that everything would be okay, when I was shaken over circumstances. He has worked hard to take care of me and his baby girls. He has taken care of me when I have been sick and when I have had surgery, and been so sweet when pain meds made me whiny and weepy. He has made me laugh so many times when I wanted to be mad at him. He has held me close when I needed the security of his arms around me. He held me up and gave me strength to walk through difficult family situations and then the death of my Daddy. This man loves God and has learned to trust His hand this past year. He is the spiritual leader of our family. I love him and I am so proud of the man he has become in the last thirty years. I could not have survived without him walking by my side. My daughters are so blessed to have grown up with a Daddy who was at every event, said yes a thousand times, helped pick out prom dresses and even knows what pantaloons are and all the other parts of a Trail dress. He can brush hair into a ponytail and can cook up some amazing potato gravy and biscuits when his baby girls come asking. He has taken them on motorcycle rides and played with them in the surf at the beach. He has laughed as hard as they have on every ride at Disney. He has given them an amazing example of what a father is supposed to be like. They are strong, opinionated young women who can hold their own with any boy because of him. I love this man and tomorrow I will kiss him and tell him that I am blessed because God gave him to me.