She Praised God

“I can play it?”  Her eyes lit up with curious excitement. 

“Sure you can.  Let me get my bloodwork done and then we will go down there.”

She turned and gazed at the shiny black grand piano with great admiration. Then she looked up at all the floors it would reach through the open halls and the massive waiting rooms that would all hear her music. With a nervous second thought, she changed her mind, “No, I don’t want to.”

She had already ridden with her Daddy and I the good time of seven hours from home to our hotel. She had missed school this very day, which believe it or not, is a huge negative to her. She had woken up early to sit and wait during my neck ultra sound. She sat again and waited through, not one but two doctor appointments. She now sat waiting again for me to have bloodwork accomplished. After that, it was promised we were done for the day and we could hit the road again. Late night travels would ensure she could go on the field trip with her class the following day. She didn’t really want to make that linger. 

“I’ll let you change clothes into your new dress before we leave like you wanted to.” I offered up as a bribe. 

“Ok.”  She gave in, a bit happy to be persuaded, because she wanted to play that beautiful piano anyway. 

After being poked and prodded, the day of appointments were done. But there was one more thing we had to do at Duke.

Standing in the basement is a grand piano. It is surrounded by cancer patients and their families waiting on the Doctor. The ceiling opens up to four more floors of more cancer patients, families, and waiting rooms. 

She shyly sat down at the grand piano, much finer than her usual instrument and she laid her small nine year old fingers across the keys. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. 

The tunes of the Doxology rang throughout the hospital. It was melodic, soothing, and cheerful for its surroundings. It was even more impressive at the hands of a child. 

But, for her story, it was more. Heaven above raised their voices in song. The angels sang praises to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Time stands still in heaven and Madison’s entire life played out. 

The specialist told her parents that they probably could not get pregnant. They said that even if her Momma did get pregnant, she probably could not keep the baby. And then after no problems and a beautiful pregnancy, a little miracle is born. And then the doctors say that she has 50% chance of having cancer. But where there is no time and they did not have to wait three months to know that she tests negative for the gene. This little miracle girl grows up taking her Momma to doctor appointments at Duke. 

She did not think, as her fingers struck the keys, of the beauty of her little life joining with the angels in song, as she sat in the hospital where science said she would never be. 

Praise God from who all blessings flow!  My little girl was born to praise God. Amen. 

And how many times will she do something so very simple and not even know the impact it has on eternity?

Trading Manure for Priceless Jewels

Menstrual rags are what I have to offer! Nasty!  We wrap it up and do not even want to see it in the trash!  

My unsalty crystals are not even good enough to add to manure!  It ruins poop so it can not even be used for fertilizer!  

He creates the sunsets like it is child’s play. The wings of the eagle are his artwork. He knew the thoughts of Johnny Cash before he was even born!  Gold’s only use is concrete!  The talent of Monet and the voice of Botticelli, his creation. 

And HE PURSUED ME!  It is insanity!  I ran away. I wanted nothing to do with the free gifts he offers to me!

JESUS!  For eternity I will praise you!  A worm like me you transformed into a princess!  Mercies of Jesus!  

My inheritance is that of the King of Kings!  My body will soar past the Olympian and a gold medal will mean nothing for the ease!  My voice will be of beauty that can join with the angels!  

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel!”

Go to school. Rush to your neighbors. The world is scared. Children are hungry. Your cashier at Publix. Your partner in business. Go to the gym and preach the gospel!  

I Didn’t Say It

I believe one of Satan’s greatest tools are the people that call themselves Christians. Digest that. 

I want to jump onto a moving train and hightail it outta there away from them and everything they stand for.  And so did Jesus. There were those darn Pharisees claiming to be followers of God, cleaning the outside of their vessels and making themselves look all high and mighty. There was only one problem. They had no clue who God is!  They did not follow love, grace, mercy, or justice. It was all a show and all for personal gain. 

Fast forward a couple thousand years and we have a whole bunch of westerners claiming the name of Jesus, pulling up their robes and living their lives for themselves. They have no clue who God is!  

“You believe there is one God. Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”

“The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

This is not intended to look at our friend, our brother, boss, the guy next door and say “Yeah, I’m thinking he’s not a Christian.”  It is to examine MY (you are basically reading my personal journal) …MY own life and struggle with the questions:

Does anyone know I am a Christian?  Am I pushing people away from God or loving them to Jesus?  Am I doing what Jesus has commanded me to do?  Am I burdened by trying to live this Christian life or am I so in love with my Savior that I just can’t get enough?

Honestly, there are some people that I wish would just SHUT UP. They are good little Pharisees and they strut their stuff and the world looks at them and declares, “I never want to be a Christian!”  These people are lukewarm and God is going to spit them out.

I didn’t say it. God did. 

Verge of Tears

College sophomore Caroline Hite pulled my thin jacket around and zipped it up to my chin. I wasn’t quite prepared for the cold this Tennessee Fall was threatening. It was dark and I could not see the green circular lawn as I walked the diameter from the library to my dorm room. 

With a dreary attitude, I slumped up the steps to the third floor. With dramatic disappointment, I flopped down on my simple twin bed and gave a large exhale. 

“What’s the matter?” My roommate and best friend inquired. 

“I miss him!”  I was seriously on the verge of tears. 

“Who?” She asked with a tinge of girly excitement, yet knowing that I told her everything and she knew I did not even have a current crush. 

“One day I am going to love someone so much. One day it will hurt to be separated from him…I don’t know who he is…but I miss him now.”

Obviously, I am a hopeless romantic to the core. Randomly, that vivid memory crosses my mind and I smile. I still feel the cold breeze blow against my cheek and I remember that longing that I had in my heart that has now been filled.  James. James is that man that I was missing. 

And today that longing grabbed my beating heart in a whole new way. Bleeding and still pumping, the Holy Spirit grabbed my heart and tenderly yet firmly looked me square in the eyes and said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Did God long for me?!  Like that!  In a perfect, complete way know that he had created me and I was yet to be born?  Does he look at me now, at every detail of my little life and know that he made me to love coffee, know that he made me to crave the words of CS Lewis and while I read “Surprised By Joy” it was an event created to be at the beginning of the world?  Did he long for the day when I would have my own daughter and cry tears of love and joy at the realization that this is just a glimpse of the love the Father has for me?

And I am humbled. How?  HOW!  How can GOD love me?!  Want me?!  Wait for me?!  And I realize, he made me for Him. He has a purpose for me!  Oh God!  Grab me!  Kicking and screaming, wholly addicted to myself, and lazy out of selfishness and begin your work in me.

My toes are wading in the water, but I want to dive in!  

And I walk the diameter of this world. It is dark with arrogance. My heart is not in the right place. But I miss someone. Someone I will be with for eternity. One day I will sing HOLY. HOLY. HOLY. And one day I will be complete and whole and all my questions will be answered and all my hurts will be undone. Dear Jesus, my heart aches for that day I will be with YOU!  And the Good News is that You want to be with me too!

Momma is Packing

“There are three types of people in this world:  sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.  

Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. 

Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak.   They’re the wolves. 

And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”  

-quote from Chris Kyle’s father in the movie, American Sniper 

Oh gracious we have come a long way!  From the pilgrims that died of starvation and sickness while seeking religious freedom to the PC police that call out every single damn little word that hurt their tender little feelings. (As a little side note, these wolves sometimes disguise themselves as “Christians.”)

And I have this baby, this girl that has been running ahead of me since she was born. A tough little cookie that is growing up a Noah in this world of sheep and wolves and where does she fit?

Well, if I may, this woman I am is a natural sheep. I like to graze in my little pasture and lay in the sun and drink from the clear flowing creek and not worry about what is beyond the fence and get along with all the other sheep. 

But then something happened. She is blonde and loves every single animal (even the ugly scary ones) and reads every single written word put before her. 

And I took one look at her and fell so deeply in love and then I stared that big bad wolf in the eyes and said, “Ohhhhh HELL NO!”  

And while I do not always write to one particular group, I realize that I am writing to parents here, and educators, and leaders, and those that care to voice their opinions to influence others. We have two jobs in this life as mom and dad and those caring for children:  protect and prepare. 

Protect.  I have been accused, the finger is pointed and they think they are laying the final blow, “Your daughter is in a bubble.”  My response?  “Hell yeah!”

Do you know what this world is like?!  In big ways, my daughter is protected that she has no clue what it means to be hungry. My daughter is among the few children that still lives with her mom and dad. She does not know what it means to wonder where we will sleep at night or how are we going to pay for medicine or any of the other luxuries that so many of us in our protected culture take for granted every single day!  

But do not think for one second that while I am protecting her, that I am not preparing her!  While we are laying the Biblical foundation at home, we are preparing her faith to be attacked. While we are strengthening her confidence, we challenge her to stand up for the weak. 

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed!  I am just a little sheep!  But you are not only a sheepdog, YOU ARE THE SHEPHERD!  You love your sheep!  You are not afraid of the wolves. And you have sent your sheepdogs into this world to protect. 

So, while I bring my little sheepdog every day to the Shepherd for lessons and while I know that my power and protection come from the Shepherd, when I am just a sheep hanging out with my sheep friends in this world of PC sheep that do not even believe that wolves exist, I have been pushed to the limit where I do not have the luxury to be silent anymore. I am stepping out where I know I am going to get shoved back and I know not everyone agrees with me. (AND THAT’S OK!  I am perfectly content to agree to disagree!) 

But when civilians are being massacred in GUN FREE ZONES, it is ignorance to claim that we need more gun control!  When ISIS is thinking up new cruel ways to murder Christian children, we can no longer tolerate leaders that will not identify radical Islam as our enemy because they are afraid of hurting feelings!  We have moved past that!  

And I will close my, what I hope is seen as a thoughtful opinion backed up with facts and not a rant, with something I believe so firmly in that has been lost in our modern comforts:  The Second Ammendment. 

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So, while everyone likes to talk about “my rights,” what really is my right?  Well, one of them is to carry a gun. Go ahead. Label me. 

Screw Up and Move On

Roast and potatoes were simmering at a low temperature in the crockpot, a fire burning and sending a glow through the room set off the cold weather outside in a perfect comfort of a home that was my dream come true. The floors glow freshly mopped and the last load of laundry has been put away. Madison’s homework is completed to perfection and a little ahead of schedule. We slide into the newly refinished chairs with an afternoon snack and time to spare for a game of Chess. This is my perfection. More so than the winter ice that quickly melts with the change of season, I wish I could freeze and live in this moment forever and ever. An eight year old daughter that still needs me to style her hair in the morning, a husband that will walk in the door after a hard day of work at any moment, and the general good mood that I let determine way too much of my world. 

Literally, the only difference was laying down for a night’s rest. I slept hard and my dream wasn’t over when the alarm clock yelled at me, rudely interrupting my comfort.  As soon as I get started, I am running late. Madison is grumpy and complains about the uniform that she has to wear every day. I am grumpy that James has not brought me a coffee yet. My clothes are not complementing me like I want them to and my hair looks hideous. I stumble past the unmade bed to the kitchen with a sink full of dishes and an overflowing trash can. Where in the hell did this mess come from?!  My good mood is gone. 

To fault, I am an idealist and a perfectionist. My realist husband lives in this same morning as me and he sees (or doesn’t even see) the mess and interprets, “This needs to be cleaned up.”  I see:

I am a failure. My life is awful. I am a horrible wife and mom. Why can’t I wake up early and make eggs and bacon for my family?  Why does this world have to start so early?  It is my fault Madison is grumpy. Where is my coffee?  It is James’s fault. He must not love me. 

It take two cups of coffee for me to move on. But as this same scenario plays in my world almost EVERY SINGLE DAY, I am starting to learn that failures are what matter. Weird, huh?  Here is what I mean:

When I am grumpy, am I a yeller?  When Caroline doesn’t get her way, that determines if I am a selfish or giving person. When Madison’s homework is stressing us to the limit, am I patient?  When James tells me “no” to something I want to purchase, how do I take it?  It is the hard times, not the “my perfect world” times that determine who Caroline really is. 

How can I make a mistake and learn from it?  When I sin, how can I ask for forgiveness?  How can I give my life, all of my life, the good and the ugly to serve my family and others?

When my schedule is packed full, Lord, send me someone for me to help.  When my budget is tight, Lord, show me someone that has less than me that I can strengthen. Oh God, I want those in dire need right in my obvious path!  Because this is the meaning of giving.  That is service. When it hurts, when I am grumpy, when I lack energy, that is when it is not me because I can not do it. That will be God in me. 

Spread the Secret

There are many me, there are lots of me’s that enjoy a big pot roast, me’s walking the isles at Publix, I see me picking up my kid at school, or even the multitude of me’s sitting in churches across this Western World. 

I have lived my life following the crowd of the must have. The media has influenced what I say. Oh!  Don’t get me wrong!  I have spoken out enough to make enemies with those I don’t like anyway, but never enough to get a label. I have lived my life in search of bigger and better, prettier and stronger, richer and more powerful. 

But last week, I took a trip that I didn’t want to take. Remember the day I had to write?  Remember me holding in the tears in Target?  Well, my levels were up where they shouldn’t be up and my oncologist ordered lots of scans. It sounded just like the previous six times that led to surgery. And not all surgeries are created equal. Add the C word for a dramatic effect and as the surgeries multiply, the risks and recovery are harder. Well, that time I wrote about what I couldn’t write about, it was that. Last week, Nana stayed with my girl and James and I took that oh so routine trip to Duke Medical Center. It is worth the drive. It is the difference between life and death. 

A sick feeling rises in my stomach while I try to prepare myself, thinking about things I had not let myself think about before. But my husband slips his hand into mine and then it can’t all be wrong. What I care most about is right. And I get an email from my mentor sent around the 5 o’clock hour and she has prayed in the presence of the Holy One on my behalf. And I get a text and another text and more that dear friends are praying and what more can I ask?

It all begins with an ultra sound, I grab James’s hand and I am prepared for the worst, “Completely normal. Nothing to worry about.”  Followed by a CT Scan and a bone scan:  My oncologist sent in his PA. (Pause here. I absolutely adore my doctor but when he sends in his PA, that is the news I want!)  All normal. 

But, ya see, this is the third time in 2015 that I have lived a similar situation. It never gets easier, maybe even harder, but each and every time I learn something. And they will continue. I am a 19 year cancer survivor. Since 19 long years ago, my blood levels are off. My doctors continue to search and scan to locate that microscopic cancer that they know is somewhere. But their hope, and my prayer, is that I live my life being poked and prodded and that it never grows to a size where they can find it. It has before. Six surgeries. But I live my life with routine medical bills and visiting the best doctors in the world and this cancer is slow growing therefore I proclaim that my life is a beautiful life with cancer. 

And living my life from this perspective teaches me enough to write about it. The thorn in my side can also become the blessing. Although I would have never picked this road on my own, and I would switch lanes at any point that I could, the suffering is never wasted. And what did I learn this time?  

I learned MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Yesterday, I accompanied my eight year old and her classmates to an assisted living home to spread some holiday cheer. My daughter, her friend, and I sat across from an elderly man coloring a picture.  As Madison chatted, like Madison does, the man must have told her a hundred times how smart she is. I smiled and introduced myself. He followed suit with his whole name. I then introduced my daughter and her friend. The sweet man we just met, smiled and told me he had two children, he pronounced the full name of one of his children and then paused with great pain on his face, “I am not smart like her. I forget.”

Not able to fathom the pain of forgetting the name of my own child, we moved on with the conversation. Because my God is awesome, he moved my daughter and her friend to share their recent memory work. They memorized all of Luke 2. (All 20 verses!)  As they recited the story, this precious man beamed. It was spiritual. 

When I do not have the option to take this life for granted, THANK YOU JESUS FOR SHOWING ME WHAT I LIVE FOR!  There was this tiny little baby, he was God Almighty coming to earth to save me!  There is no other religion where god loves me like that!  No other faith that says that I am good enough. No other spiritual life where I measure up to the God of the universe pursuing me! 

There are so many me’s walking around this world. We know God but we don’t want to get too weird about it. Ladies and gentlemen, ISIS is cutting off the heads of the infidel, mass shootings are the new norm, our president does not even recognize our enemy…this world is headed straight to hell!  I will strive to be more like my eight year old daughter:  “Here is the story of Jesus.  And when life hurts more than possible to endure, there is hope!  The story starts with a virgin birth, announced by angels. Hosanna in the highest!  I have good news of great joy for all the people!”  

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Pause the Rushing Moment

Despite the fact that I want to soak up each and every second, the clock ticks on. “Enjoy these moments. She will grow up in the blink of an eye.”  I know!  I really do know because yesterday I held a tiny baby in my arms and now she is knocking on nine. And my coffee grows cold and I am not ready to move on. 

The morning was rushed with so many chores but they all got accomplished so I should count it a success. But I don’t. I don’t appreciate the rush. There is hard work to be done and I understand that, but could you keep the day from passing while I hurry about my chores?  I sat in the car and stared out the window. I am not one that can hold in my emotion. 

A bit surprised by my sadness at this joyous occasion, “What is the matter?”  He asked. 

“It is going by in fast forward!”  

And it did!  It was Thanksgiving Day yesterday and NOW IT IS NOT!

I sit in the morning. My mug of coffee is cold before I am ready for my morning alone to be over.  I want to sit in my jammies for hours without the day passing by, just pause the moment I am in. It is officially Christmas season, the best time of the year. These are the moments, the times that are memories, this is when I make who I am. And I want it to be good!  

But the company arrives and they are gone before I am ready. He is off work and returns before I am ready for him to go. She grows and she is one more step to grown and I want to snuggle just a bit longer. The Christmas song and the warm glow of the fire are a perfect moment that taunt me as they rush so quickly away. Cherishing the moment is not enough. I want to pause.  I want to have forever and eternity. 

Your Children

“Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.” Ronald Reagan

For such a time as the this. I no longer have the benefit of raising my daughter to value her freedom. I do not teach her the history of her founding fathers and tell her to appreciate this great nation that she was born in to. No. I am raising a fighter, a Noah in this land that is handing over her freedom one entitlement at a time. I am raising her to stand against the tyrants that would come and abolish any signs of free America. 

Our nation is looking upon an upcoming election. It used to be that when people were called socialists, it was meant to be an insult. Now we see two candidates step up to the podium. They are two of the frontrunners of the election:  

Bernie Sanders, who claims with his own words to be a Democratic Socialist. Let me remind you that our country is NOT a democracy. We live in a democratic republic. Our founding fathers knew too well not to leave the country to the whims of a mob, therefore setting up a democratic republic, where our representatives were held responsible to the people but the people could not control with their emotional whims of the masses. 

The opposition to Bernie Sanders (one of them. The one I am writing about) is Dr. Benjamin Carson. This man is the epitome of the American Dream. Raised in poverty, he embraced education and hard work, becoming the leading pediatric neurosurgeon in the world. Dr. Carson has a testimony that is held against him. He claims the name of the Lord Jesus Christ boldly, despite the media attacks and attacks from fellow candidates for his past. (That is his message!  That is the power of grace!  Look how God can change a man!). Dr. Carson published a book, A More Perfect Union, in which he prints the Constitution in its entirety. He states its history and he challenges us to hold our representatives, including himself, to the supreme law of the land in the words that gave America her freedom and prosperity for so many years.

I do not hold our government accountable. I do not even hold the Obama administration accountable. I hold families, I hold parents accountable. 

In the last few decades, we have seen a trend of entitlement in our parenting styles. Children are raised being told they are perfect little angels that are entitled to whatever their little hearts desire. NO!

Coming from a mother that adores her daughter, I love her much too much to raise her to be an entitled spoiled brat. I love her much too much to neglect to tell her that powerful word: no.  Though she is still young, I am proud that she is such a hard worker. That is because she is required to do chores around the house she is required to do her best at the sports she chooses to play. She is required to practice piano. She has no option but to read at least 20 minutes every single day.  Never neglecting GRACE!  In this family, we all make mistakes. We forgive. We learn. 

Do you know what has happened?  SHE LOVES WORK!  My girl is the one that always has her nose in a book, she stays up late reading until I force her to turn off her light. Because she does not have the option to turn on the tv. She chooses veggies on her own at a restraunt because she is taught to make wise decisions and given limits where she lacks maturity. My girl complains that her Scienec lab is so short because she loves to learn about Creation. 

I get it!  Parenting is hard!  It is hard every day!  But I love my girl too much not to train her to be the intelligent, strong, kind girl that Christ intends her to be. I love her too much to take the easy route!

Do you feel lost?  Trust me, if you are a parent that is a daily experience.  (For me at least)  Can I recommend two books that have helped me immensely:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

And 

12 Mistakes Parents Can Avoid by Tim Elmore 

READ!  Read to your child. Put down the phone. Turn off the tv. Daily, open the Bible and read. Let your children see you read. Require them to read. And learn. Why do you believe what you believe? 

Honestly, I believe this is not the fault of government. Government does what the people want. It is the fault of parents not teaching their children to work, teaching children that they are perfect little angels entitled to whatever they want, neglecting to teach them the word of God. Change occurs in the family, in the home, and sadly we have seen the erosion of the American Christian family. Dare not to fit in. Dare to be the change. Be the answer. 

Again I quote Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”   

And I will stand and proclaim, “It will not be lost on my watch.”

Talitha Koum

Trees walking around. Her ears seemed to protrude and I noticed them like I had not before. I lost the focus of her beauty and despite my efforts to concentrate, her whole body seemed a jumble of pieces that no longer fit.

The spectacles of which through I saw this world had been removed, or I put on the spectacles, I’m not sure which, but I no longer saw people as I had before.

I had gone through my days with a need to impress others around me. I chose the finest clothes my money could buy, hours upon hours seeking not to be healthy but to have a thin appearance (I know this for sure because I cheated in such an unhealthy way), more hours of application to make my cheeks pink, my eyes colorful, and my lips protrude. My conversation was centered around the appraisal of me. Entertainment, career, family, even my place of religion was centered around my god:  me.

I did not see him coming, there was no reason to even notice that man. I was blindly rushing about my stress. I do not know why, but he ran after me. He grabbed me by the collar, I fought and I struggled and I yelled at him to release me. He did. And I fell upon the ground. Cursing, I complained and was insulted at his presence. There was complete hate in my heart and pulsing throughout my body.

Then two words he said to me, “Talitha koum.” (“Little girl, I say to you, get up”)

I don’t know how it happened, but I was upon my feet. The makeup was removed, I was bare naked but more fully clothed than I had ever been.

For I saw that I was just born. I had walked from death to life. He was all that pursued me and I turned and saw him everywhere. No longer was I a mere body, I had been born a soul.

The lostness of the human race struck me. The beauty of symmetrical bodies, youth, and wealth, all but filthy rags. Useless.

Then I saw her approaching. Her soul a glowing spirit. She smiled of joy and she loved with service. Her humility found herself when she gave herself away. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. I saw but an elderly woman. Poor. Aged. Sick. And at the end of her life on this earth. A mortal useless tragedy. But I saw, as I had never seen before:  the soul is where we find beauty.