Thursday, May 26, 2011

Red, White, and Blue

  In my early years, I was raised in a military family. My father was a graduate of West Point and my stepfather, father-in-law, scores of uncles, and a brother-in-law served our nation during wartime and beyond. It is a calling not just for the individual, but for their families as well.
My nephew
    I am especially mindful of my nephew who is currently serving in Afghanistan and his wife and two children who are living in Germany. He has been deployed for a year. This is his third tour of duty to a war zone, his second in Afghanistan. He and his wife have spent more days apart than they have together, not an uncommon occurrence in military marriages.
  Think about it. This time around it is 365 nights that this mommy will put her children to bed by herself and climb into a bed that is meant for two but now sleeps one. She will wipe countless noses, change innumerable diapers, tend to a multitude of childhood illnesses and cuddle, hug, and snuggle her little ones as she shepherds them through their daily lives. She will record the milestones in their lives and feel that familiar ache because her husband is missing them.
   For all intents and purposes, for these 365 days, my niece will be a single mom. Although she will talk to her husband and maybe Skype him occasionally, it will not be easy. Some days it will be more than hard. But she will get through because she knows that her man is making an even bigger sacrifice than she is. He is daily risking life and limb in a far-away rugged country in the precious name of freedom, and that is probably something she does not like to think about too much. My guess is that it always hovers at the back of her mind, but that she daily chooses to live her life, parent her children, tend the home fires, and invest in her community as she waits for her husband and trusts God daily to keep him safe.
   I am thankful for those who have served and are serving our country in uniform. However, today I want to lift up the red, white, and blue for those wives and husbands who tough it out every day without their loved ones by their side. We certainly laud and appreciate the sacrifice of your husband or your wife, but we also remember you and the incredible sacrifice of love that you are making as well. Here's to you, military wives and husbands and families wherever you are!
My nephew and his lovely wife

Their precious family!
  If you would like to get involved in supporting a special program, check into Buy a Soldier's Bed, something my niece is coordinating for soldiers in their division returning from deployment to Afghanistan.       You can download the descriptive flyer here:
   And this is the donor form:
   The picture below gives you an idea of what their living situation is like in Afghanistan:
   I can think of no better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to support troops in their transition from a war zone. Ahh, for the comforts of home!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


   Hope: I cannot live without it. For me hope is about as far from wishful thinking as you can get. Hope is what drives and secures my faith. It is what anchors me to what it is that I can and will and do believe to be true about my God. The beautiful Book of Hebrews tells us that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hope is casting a net into the waters to catch what you cannot see with the eye but what you know is there beneath the surface of the sea. For a long time I struggled with the notion of faith and the constancy of hope in the life of the believer. I finally found the simplest explanation to be the one to which I return over and over again. I cannot see the wind but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is there. Only recently we have been witnesses to the fact that this unseen force can twist itself into tornadoes to wreak horrific destruction on places like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri. Yet this selfsame wind that destroys can also be as gentle as a baby's touch as it caresses and soothes the savage seas or the drought-stricken land. But seen or unseen, there is very little doubt that wind exists. And so it is with hope.
   It was beloved Paul who taught us in the First Book of Corinthians that all else can pass away, but these three abideth still: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. Faith, hope and love comprise the triumvirate that is woven together to bring strength and purpose and veracity to the life of the believer.
   It has been a hard and dark season for one of my children. I have alluded to this in my previous posts that specifically referenced depression. As a mother it has sorely tried and tested my faith to see one whom I carried and bore become entangled and robbed and made bereft by the scourge of a mental illness.
    However, today I stand on hope. I stand on what I cannot see, but what I know to be absolutely and immutably true. This child of mine belongs to God. He has a claim on her that will never be set aside. It is eternal. She is His even more than she is mine. In my weakness as a mother I keep grabbing her back, only to find myself engaged in a tug-of-war with the Most High God. I cannot win this struggle and I don't want to. I am the powerless one here and He is all-powerful. So daily I surrender my claim to this child and ask Him, the lover and keeper of her life and her soul, to be faithful in things great and small. And I hope. And I surrender as I cling to hope. Remember that this is not wishful thinking nor some psychological exercise in futility. This is God-breathed, God-inspired, God-wrought HOPE. And it is His gift to me, and to her, and to all you who believe.
   Hope. That strong anchor that holds in the vale. Hope that does not disappoint and does not fail. Not my hope, but the surety of my faith that is bound and held together by the love, His marvelous marvelous love that is irrevocably tied and bound to the Hope of God. The Hope that is God. This is where I am resting.


My eldest son took these pictures in Charleston. The tree reminds me of the oaks of righteousness, a planting for the display of His splendor. The picture of the Ravenel Bridge reminds me of an anchor...the tether that binds our hope to the very heart of God.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Beach Love

The Daughter with her daughter!
She looks just like her mommy did at this age!

What's not to love about the beach? While I find the silvery white beaches of Northwest Florida to be incomparable in their beauty, I am wooed by the song of the sea wherever I can find it. There is just something about the music of the waves beating upon the shore that sets my heart at rest. It's akin to a piece of heaven to me.

It was also a delight to find that the South Carolina beaches are so toddler friendly. The sand is hard enough to roll a stroller everywhere, and the tough surface meant that Little One was free to run unrestrained to her heart's content. Little Two was a bit too young to tell us what she thought about the beach, but this sweet smile should give you a clue...
Morning play time for the cousins in their jammies 

Dressed and ready for Charleston!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Some South Carolina Love

   We are back from the Isle of Palms. This is where we stayed.   It was glorious.  It was even nicer than it appeared in the rental agency pictures, if you can believe that?! There were eleven of us on this trip, and we even rattled around in the house a bit. It was THAT big. One of the nicest things about the house is that The Husband and I took the upstairs master. That meant all of our adult children and their children were on another floor. It was genius. And there really were ocean views. Complete with waves. Oh, and an elevator which made hauling groceries up three flights of stairs a piece of cake!

Here are a few of my favorite memories from the week:
Little One just chillin'...check out those shades

Little One and her Pappy
Heading out to catch some waves!
Uncky playing a game of toss with Little One!
Little Two poolside

Little Two proves she's also a beach babe!
Little Two's father insanely showing off his tree climbing skills
 (some boys never seem to grow up!)

Uncle Brother and his "girl"

Little Two and her daddy hitting the beach!
More of this daddy and his girl

Friday, May 13, 2011

Looking Upward and Forward

Source: via Kathy on Pinterest

 It's been a long week around here. It was one of those times when life threw me a curve ball. All my perfectly laid plans were suddenly trashed. On Monday, I went down for the count with a freak back injury. What woman doesn't have back issues from time to time? But, I knew this was different when I had to renew my Lamaze breathing techniques after a twenty-four year hiatus. I was literally puffing and blowing my way through the pain, accompanied by some strange yelps that kept unexpectedly coming out of my mouth. I also cried. I don't usually cry when I am physically hurt, just when I am frustrated or emotionally devastated or deliriously happy or deeply touched or ...I think you get the idea. But physical pain does not usually bring me to tears. However, I could not sit. I could not stand. I could not walk. I could not do much of anything. You should try going to the bathroom when you can't bend or squat. There are very few times I have an interest in being a man, but this was one of them. Hair washing went out the window. Toothbrushing became an exercise in contortionism. The normally simple became the difficult. I temporarily quit bathing. But, alas, I did not stop eating. And, thankfully, I kept talking to God, even though it was clear that He and I were having a bit of a difference of opinion.
   Later I was able to see some humor in all of this, but not when I was in the thick of it. Moreover, I am thankful to be alive and well in this modern age. With a lot of ice, now alternating with heat, some physical therapy that included (Ahhhh...) deep tissue massage along with electrical stem, and with the aid some very helpful and timely pharmaceuticals dispensed by my doctor, I am thinking I just might be able to get on that airplane tomorrow and depart for this magical destination:

Source: None via Heather on Pinterest

Hallelujah is all I can say!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How Could I Forget Thee

     "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child 
she has borne? Though she may forget you, I will not forget thee. See, I have 
engraved you on the palms of my hand." Isaiah 49:15-16

     No mother would ever forget her child, for once conceived, a mother's children are hers forever. Yet the Lord makes it clear that His love for us exceeds that of a mother for her child. How can it be? And yet, He tells us again that no man can fathom the depth and heighth and breadth of the magnificent love He holds in His being for each of us. It is a love that defies description. A love that extends beyond all measure. It runs so deep that it forever scarred the hands of the One who gave Himself up for us. Even Isaiah who gave us these beautiful words could not have imagined the terrible price it would cost Christ to "engrave" us on the palm of His hand.
   Every mother alive would shudder to think of those selfsame nails piercing the hands of any of her children, yet that is precisely what happened to the Only Begotten Son of God. And it was love that compelled Him to go to that cross. Love for for you and for me.
   I began this Mother's Day by being thankful for my own Momma and her many sacrifices of love that have enabled me to become the woman I am today. It was she who rejoiced with me over the impending arrival of each little one; it was she who came at every birth and tenderly taught me how to love and care for my babes; and it was she who has supported and championed me at every turn of my life as a mother. I owe her so much.
   My heart is also filled to overflowing as I consider the treasure of the three sons and one daughter who have afforded me the priceless treasure of being a mother. There are no words to express the joy I hold in my heart for them.
    Yet it is to the Lord Himself that I owe the greatest debt and the one debt that can never ever be repaid. For it is He who has given me and those I love life and breath and everything else. They and I are engraved on the palm of His hands. Those beautiful nail-scarred hands. It is simply too much to comprehend.
Source: None via Kathy on Pinterest

Thursday, May 5, 2011

MINE: God Works In Mysterious Ways

   I have two former students whom God has joined together to be part of an amazing story. The first of my students is now married with a beautiful family. She and her husband had two beautiful biological daughters when God began putting the idea of adoption on each of their hearts, independently of one another. This young wife and mother began to blog about her story and many of us were able to share in the family's journey as they began the process of waiting for the child they believed in faith that God had for them. It was a far from easy journey. Rebekah and Nathaniel began to save their pennies, and Rebekah launched an online clothing store to help fund the adoption.The family waited patiently as others who had filed their paperwork after theirs saw their domestic adoptions move forward. The couple met with one birth mother and were certain that her son would be their son, but it was not to be. The disappointment and grief they felt during this time were very real. Then came the news about another birth mother in Louisiana. Their hearts were hopeful as they sat down with this mom and thankfully, this time the story had a different ending. Last year at the end of May, Caleb Nathaniel Wright was born. Here are some pictures of this precious family.
You can read all about their journey to adopt Caleb here...but don't stop now, there is so more to this story!
   Shortly afterward Rebekah began to hint on her blog that God had something big in the works. If you live in Nashville and you know anything about adoption, you have heard of Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman and their amazing story (yes, their three oldest children were students of mine at CPA, as well) and the organization that they founded known as Show HOPE. It is such a God story, so vast, so mighty, and so powerful that it gives me chills to think about it. Led by their eldest daughter's unwavering passion for adoption and developed over their multiple journeys to China to claim their daughters, the Chapman's have been called to create and be a part of something amazing. From a tiny seed of faith, a mighty oak has grown. Countless families have opened their hearts to the idea of adoption and found support, encouragement, and funding from Show HOPE. There is also a very special home for orphans in China known as Maria's Big House of Hope. If you don't know the story about Maria and how the Lord is using a life that was short in length but great in impact, you can go here to find out more. It was in China at Maria's Big House of Hope where Rebekah's story begin to intertwine with another student's story at another level and in the way that God only can draw them together.
    Flash forward from Rebekah's graduation from Christ Presbyterian Academy 12 or so years ago to a young woman sitting in my office at CPA ten years later with her parents. This girl with the big dark eyes and long dark hair is gently weeping as she tells me that she does not believe college to be in her immediate future, instead she believes that God has something different for her: she has a heart for missions that will not wait and cannot be denied. I watch as her parents swallow hard.
And so it is that this young woman, Caitlin Ruff, ends up living and serving in China in none other than Maria's Big House of Hope. I don't want to tell you how the stories blend together into one seamless strand that can only come from the Hand of God. I want you to discover it for yourself.
     This is the story of a boy in China named Isaac and his journey to become, not an orphan, but a child who was chosen by and through the grace of God to be the son to Nathaniel and Rebekah and the sister to Anna Walton, Olivia, and Caleb. It is also the story of this couple who followed the calling of the Lord to make room in their hearts for more and then more. And it is the story of a high school girl who said to God when she was but a girl, "Here am I, send me." Yet ultimately, it always was and always will be God's eternal story. It is hope begetting hope. It is a story that we never tire of hearing, never tire of seeing come to fruition, never tire of dreaming of for others or ourselves. It is God's story that cries out, "Behold what manner of love the father has lavished upon us that we should be called the sons and daughters of God." For we are adopted ourselves forever into His glorious family, are we not, indeed?
   I can promise you joy as you read Caitlin's words as she tells Caleb about the special family God had planned all along for him. After reading it, you will see why I think the story should simply be called "MINE!"
    Go to I am a Child of God to read about Rebekah's perspective. Then go to Show HOPE's blog to Caitlin's entry entitled Isaac's Gift: A Profound Privilege, for the other half of the story. Then stand back and be amazed! Surely our God reigns!
All photos are taken from the aforementioned blogs

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Time to Laugh

  The Teacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time to laugh, as well as a time to weep. Today I am needing to find the joy in little pleasures. These images did the trick. They left me with a silly smile on my face!

Source: via Kathy on Pinterest

Source: None via Kathy on Pinterest

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Secret of Depression

   We are back in the middle of a battle around here. One that is never easy. People used to talk about cancer and refer to it as the "C" word, but the problem with depression is that people do not talk about it even by another name or acronym. Depression. It is the secret. It might be your secret. It might be my secret. Or a family secret. But it's a secret. And if you cannot talk about depression then you certainly cannot talk about mental illness. You say the word mental illness and people automatically either think the worst or they become extremely uncomfortable. There seems to be no middle ground. Well-intentioned people either want to give you a five-step cure, ask you about sin in your life (if you live in the Bible belt), or tuck their tail between their legs and run away. Depression is not like other illnesses. You can scrape your knee and put a bandage on it, you can cut yourself and get stitches. You treat strep throat by taking antibiotics and even though you cannot cure the common cold, you can alleviate the symptoms. But no one is comfortable talking about the debilitating aspects of depression and how it affects both individuals and families. I have to confess that I am probably not either, if truth be told. But I am not going to run away. I am not going to pretend that everything is fine when it is not.  I wrote the following post last year when a family member began yet around round with this dread disease. I am going to post it again; but just so you know...what I really want to do is scream and cry. Not for me, but for my loved one and for every one who finds themselves afflicted with this disease. I hate it. Can I say that again: I HATE this disease. I hate DEPRESSION. I HATE DEPRESSION.
Here's my post from last year. I don't think I can write anything new today. My heart is aching too much.
    It is a dragon that can slay the bravest of hearts. It does not discriminate. It can strike when least expected and is able to construct elaborate ruses, feints, and ambushes that are designed to take the traveler completely by surprise. Yet on the other hand, it can be a frustratingly predictable adversary who keeps its annual appointments with alarming and despicable regularity. It is not a respecter of maturity, of age, of wisdom, of status, or position. It decries human understanding and loves to masquerade under many disguises. It has held captive the likes of Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis, Ansel Adams, Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Elijah, David, and more. It has also stalked my family. I am well acquainted with its name, its face, and its modus operandi. Sometimes it brings paralysis, other times indifference, and yet at other times it will spread a web of lies that look so real that they become an alternate reality the traveler is somehow tempted to believe. 
    It is an illness, a sickness, and a disease that can ravage the mind, the body, and the soul. David the Psalmist understood all too well. More than once I have understood the depth of his words:  "“I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. …I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (Psalm 38:6,8 - NKJV). I am talking about that terrible foe, that enemy, that dragon known as depression.
    I think my most difficult struggles with depression have not come as a result of my own struggles in this area (yes, I, too, know this foe), but have come instead when I have had to watch this despicable scourge lay waste to someone that I love. It is not that I have not seen victory...because I have, but I have also recently seen this enemy return once more to camp at the door of my house. I know the verses upon which to stand. Thank goodness I hid so many of them in my heart when I was but a child. I know about the wonderful armor and the weapons of our warfare against this dragon and his brother, The Dragon of Old. I know and believe that the Word of God is a powerful offensive weapon and is sharper than any two-edged sword. I know the Truth that will set not only me, but others free. I believe it. I really do. But I see the dragon breathing fire and stalking his prey. It makes me tremble.It makes me weep. Then it makes me mad. 
  All I gotta say is that it better watch out. St. George the dragon-slayer has nothing on this momma. 
St. George and the Dragon by Gustave Moreau
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” ~ Romans 8:1-2

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:37-39