This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Archive for May, 2012

Top 10 Things I Learned on our Camping Trip

I bugged the hubster long and hard enough that he finally decided we should go camping overnight at the New River Campground, sandwiched between Sparta, NC, and Independence, VA. I didn’t even mind (well, not too much) that we didn’t leave until early afternoon on Memorial Day. It ended up being an absolutely idyllic trip, full of peace and beauty, and I give God all the glory. I thank Him for the joy and love we experienced on this little jaunt.

But there were some things we learned along the way. . .

10. That you probably need to check the tent pack that you haven’t opened since 1776 before you assume that the tent in it is really the two-man tent you needed rather than a three-room mansion of a tent THAT YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO SET UP. (Oh, and it would help to bring a hammer to drive in the stakes so that you don’t have to scramble through the mess in your Ford Explorer to find ANYTHING that will pound them into the ground once you realize your moosehide shoe won’t work.)

9. That you probably should ask the kids where they hid the sleeping bags before you leave home so that you don’t have to sleep on the Smurf sleeping bags your hubster used in his childhood. (Trust me–the dreams of little blue people will make you WISH you could eat the mushroom houses in Smurfland and take a trip somewhere else.)

8. That fishing takes patience. NOTE: This virtue is not in evidence when you move farther down the river with every cast–EVEN when your wife tells you that she is seeing big’uns jump way up the river where she is. (It might help to remember that your wife was right when she pushed for this camping trip which was such a blessing, so she’s probably right about the fish, too. . .Just sayin’. . .)

7. That it’s a good idea to pack a cooler when you go camping so that you can keep the fish you may (or may not) catch or AT LEAST store the leftover pizza from supper. (It may also be wise to listen to your wife who advocated for a medium pizza based on the fact that you ordered the same large supreme pizza last year at this time and ended up throwing part of that one away, too. It did, however, help keep the fire going. See item #6 below.)

6. That it probably wouldn’t hurt to get some better kindling or lighter fluid or something other than an old sock you found in the archaic tent bag to use to start the nightly campfire. (Yes, the sock ended up working or at least we THINK it worked–it may have been all of the trash that I picked up from the Explorer floorboard. Oh, and by the way, metal cans may not be the best thing to throw on your fire.)

5. That men are born with an inherent need to stir up a fire. The hubster’s chair is empty not only because he was taking my picture, but also because he stood up and poked around in the fire pit most of the night. Scientists will probably discover one day that men are born with a gene that pushes them to control fire, which would explain their love of grilling as well. And meanwhile, women are possessors of a gene that says, “Cool. Have at it, guys.”

4. That you should never take a picture of a fish you caught. That way, you can exaggerate its HUMONGOUSNESS with every new version of your fish tale (tail). (Also remember not to try to unfasten old lures from tree branches where previous anglers got them stuck. If those expensive lures are still there, it’s probably because the owner couldn’t get them out, so what makes you think you can? Not that we TRIED it or anything like that, but we know SOME of you folks–again, not us–may be foolish enough to attempt this.)

3. That no camper should leave home without their handy, dandy golf club. These will soon be all the rage for greenhorn campers who need to hammer stakes without a hammer, for folks (er–men–see item #5 above) who need an object with which to poke at the campfire all night or for paranoid campers who need a weapon inside their tent (names have been omitted to protect the paranoid although they’ll just ASSUME you’re talking about them anyway because they’re PARANOID, for goodness sakes!). Believe me, the golf club is a MUST in these situations. Every camper should have one. (Soon to be marketed by Acme on the Tent Shopping Network as the ultimate camping must-have.)

2. That you should not count on catching enough fish to fry up for lunch and will therefore need a backup plan. Such a plan might include a 30-minute drive from the campground to Shatley Springs in Crumpler, NC, where the home-cooked food is scrumpdillyicious and served all-you-can-eat, family-style at your table. Fried chicken and country ham, Good enough to make you cram, Every piece into your jaw, But save up room for corn and slaw; Gravy so good you’ll slap your granny, And biscuits with butter in every cranny; Mashed taters, spicy cabbage and pinto beans, So delicious you’ll know what ecstasy means; Fried apples and cobbler with vanilla ice cream, Everything so good it’ll make you scream. So head on over to Shatley Springs, and be prepared for the joy it brings! (Okay, forgive me; I got carried away thinking about Grandpa Jones on “Hee Haw” when he was asked, “Hey, Grandpaw! What’s fer supper?”)

1. That even a trip to the county DUMP would be full of joy when you are with the one you love. (And that you don’t even mind when he borrows your toothbrush because he forgot his. And that you are touched that he encourages you to read your Christian book and seek the Lord in the beauty of nature while he fishes–ahem, mind you, he’s only FISHING to stay out of your WAY. 😉 And that you will never get tired of the way he dissolves into hysterical laughter when you say something funny such as imitating the loud squawk of the irritating bird that woke you up at the crack of dawn and must’ve spent the money his parents gave him for singing lessons on worm-flavored Margaritas at the local bird cantina. And that you think it’s amazing how you both think the same weird things at the exact same time. And that you realize that harmony and true companionship are to be treasured.)

**We stayed at the New River Campground, 6286 US Highway 21 N, Sparta, NC 28675  (336) 372-8793. (And no, they didn’t pay me to write this blog; they don’t even know about it!)

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Pentecost–God’s covenant with His people!

As you know by now, I am a Christian who is getting back to her roots. My Messiah–my groom–was Jewish, and I want to familiarize myself with His culture. I have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, so I want to understand what the Jews do, how they live, what they celebrate.

So, I study the Feasts of the Lord which were outlined in Leviticus 23. And I see Jesus hidden in each one. I see symbolism that is very pertinent to modern-day Christians. I consider these feasts to be types and shadows, as the Apostle Paul said, of things to come.

Sunday, May 27, is Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) on the Jewish calendar. On the Christian calendar, it is called Pentecost. Since the Feast of Firstfruits (Resurrection Day or Easter Sunday morning), the Jews have been counting up to Pentecost–the 50-day countdown (count-up) that is called the Counting of the Omer. My kids and I have been counting along with them. What an exciting time it is!

We are almost at Day 50. For the Jews, Shavuot can come on any day of the week since their lunar calendar is so different from ours. They begin counting the omer the day after Passover, since Passover is considered a sabbath–no matter what day of the week it falls on.

Most Christians who subscribe to the Counting of the Omer, begin counting on Easter Sunday–the day after the “normal” sabbath, so that Pentecost always falls on a Sunday.

Well, guess what? This year, both Jews and Christians celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost) on the same day–Sunday! It just worked out this year that the day of the week matched for both groups.

This has been the case with every feast we have studied since December. There is a strange intermingling of the Jewish calendar and the Christian calendar this year. Could this be a sign of the times in which we live? The times of the end? The times where the Christians are drawn back to the Jewish roots of Christianity as their religion comes full circle–back to the Christianity of the Book of Acts?

Our community Bible study group started studying the feasts with Hanukkah (not one of the 7 Biblically commanded feasts but an important one nonetheless) this past year. The first full day of Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights which focuses on “increasing the light”) fell on Dec. 21–the winter solstice which celebrates the increasing of the light. Hmmm. . .

Then we learned that the 5th day of Hanukkah is the traditional day that the Jews give presents to their children. This fell right at Christmas Eve/Christmas this year. It won’t work out that way next year since Hanukkah is on different dates on our calendar each year.

When Purim came (again, not one of the 7 commanded feasts but one that is still Biblical), the Israeli prime minister had just visited with President Obama and had given him a special Purim copy of the Book of Esther. Very timely, huh?

When the spring feasts rolled around, the dates again were significant–beautifully situated with Easter. Passover came on the actual day that Jesus was crucified. This doesn’t always happen. Passover could be a Monday some years–not the day our Savior was killed.

The Feast of Firstfruits, like the others, can be any of the 7 days of the week. But this year, it was on Sunday–just as it was nearly 2000 years ago when our firstfruits representative, Jesus, arose from the dead. Next year, it won’t work out that way.

Timing is of the essence this year, it seems.

So now it’s time to celebrate Shavuot–a holiday during which we decorate with flowers and greenery, a time to read the Book of Ruth as a beautiful harvest/fertility/marriage story.

Because Shavuot is a love story feast. It represents the marriage of God to His people. The Jews believe that the Torah (law) was given to Israel on Mt. Sinai on the first Shavuot. That was God’s ketubah (marriage covenant) with His people. His laws were written on tablets of stone.

Then came the most well-known Day of Pentecost of all–the one described in Acts 2. Once again, God confirmed His marriage to His people. And not to the Jews only–this time to ALL flesh. He poured out His Spirit in the Upper Room, bringing to pass His earlier Word that one day He would write His laws–not on tablets of stone–but in the hearts of His people.

Shavuot is the time when the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were brought to the Temple and given to God. Two loaves of leavened bread were offered in wave offerings by the priests.

Let us celebrate this time not only as a renewing of the Holy Ghost within us, but also as a time to focus on the harvest. Jesus said that the fields were white unto harvest but that the laborers were few. Let us pray that laborers be sent into the ripe harvest. Let us volunteer to be part of that work crew.

It’s time to bring in the harvest!

Here is the YouTube video of a teaching I did at the Walnut Cove Public Library on Thursday, May 24, 2012. It will teach you so much about Shavuot/Pentecost. I made a handout to accompany the lesson and have included that information beneath the video below. Enjoy!

Here is the handout info that I gave to the participants in our Shavuot class.

FEAST OF WEEKS (SHAVUOT OR PENTECOST)

What is Shavuot?

A biblically-commanded feast to be kept 50 days after Feast of Firstfruits

–Celebrates the beginning of the summer wheat harvest (late May or early June)

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought   the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 23:15-22

Also called “Pentecost” (from Greek word for 50th)

Held in third Jewish month, Sivan

–Most Jews celebrate it on a fixed date, Sivan 6, which could be a variable day

–They begin counting the day after Passover (“day after the Sabbath”)

–Some Jews, especially Messianic Jews, celebrate a fixed day but variable date

–They begin counting the day after the actual Saturday sabbath that falls during the week of Passover

(will always be a Sunday).

–Torah says to count from when the sickle is first put to standing grain

“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.” Deut. 16:9-10

–Only biblically-ordained feast not following the moon cycle

–Only Jewish feast celebrated totally on its own

–Spring and fall feasts come in sets of 3

–Passover/Unleavened Bread/Firstfruits, Trumpets/Atonement/Tabernacles

–Connected to Passover by the Counting of the Omer

One of 4 feasts already fulfilled in Jesus

–Represents the baptism of the Holy Ghost first seen in Acts 2

Two loaves of leavened bread brought to Temple as a wave offering

This day was a sabbath, no matter what day of the week it fell on

“And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Lev. 23:21

–It was particularly holy–one of only 3 feasts (out of 7 total) in which all Jewish men had to present themselves in the Temple (other 2–Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles)

Jewish tradition: the law was given at Mt. Sinai on the first Pentecost (Ex. 19:1)

What are the Jewish traditions of Shavuot?

Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue

–Deals with harvest/fertility as well as covenant (Ruth/Naomi)

–Supposedly, King David was born and died on Shavuot (Ruth’s descendant)

Houses and synagogues are decorated with flowers (roses, fresh myrtle); green plants; branches

–Based on Ex. 34:3 which implies that land around Sinai was very green and ripe

–This is a harvest festival

Baskets are used for gifts and decorations

–Grain offerings brought to Temple in baskets

–Tradition says that Moses as a baby in his basket was found on Shavuot

Dairy foods are eaten

–Song of Solomon 4:11 implies the Torah (“the beloved”) is like honey and milk

–Promised Land flowing with milk and honey

Many strict Jews stay up all night studying Torah

–At sunrise, they ritually immerse themselves in water

–Just as Israel had 3 days of preparation in the wilderness (Ex. 19:10-11)

All Jews stand while Ex. 19-20 is read (as Israel did at Sinai)

How is Shavuot symbolic of a wedding?

Even before Passover, God saw Israel as His bride

“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Exodus 6:6-7

–Verb “take” here is often used to mean “taking a bride”

God took Israel as His bride by joining with them in a covenant (Torah)

–When He birthed His church in Acts, it became His bride as well

Jewish weddings must have a “ketubah” (written contract specifying what each side will do as part of the covenant)

–At Sinai, Torah was the ketubah in stone

–In the upper room in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit was the ketubah written on hearts

–In the Torah, God’s side of the covenant was salvation, healing, deliverance, blessings

–Why would the NT contract be any less?

Jewish couples stand under a “chupah” (canopy) as they are married

–Israel stood at the foot of Sinai, originally called the “nether” (“under”)

How does Shavuot parallel our salvation?

So far, the spring feasts have represented our initial steps to salvation

–#1: Passover–we accept the lamb (Jesus) and apply the blood (to our hearts)

–#2: Unleavened Bread–we eat bread with no leaven (repentance of sins) and prepare to leave Egypt (the world)

–#3: Firstfruits–we offer the first of our harvest to the priest (we pledge the best of our lives to Jesus as an offering)

Now comes #4: Pentecost–law was written on stone at Sinai

–On the first Pentecost after Jesus ascended, the law was written on our hearts as the Holy Ghost was poured out

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” Heb. 10:16

How does the Acts 2 Pentecost mirror the original?

There were supernatural signs

–Sinai: thunder and lightning

“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.” Exodus 20:18

–Acts: fire from Heaven, mighty rushing wind

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” Acts 2:1-3

Different languages were heard

Sinai: Jewish scholars say God’s voice split into 70 languages for whole earth to understand

Acts: 120 believers spoke in other tongues; each listener heard it in his own language

–Jewish custom holds that for a prayer service to be official, 10 people must be present; 12 tribes of Israel (10 x 12 = 120)

Both took place on a mountain

Sinai: jagged mountain

Acts: upper room high in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion

Law was given

Sinai: Written in stone by the finger of God

Acts: Written in hearts by the Spirit of God

“. . .clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” II Cor. 3:3

A repayment was made

Sinai: 3000 killed for worshiping golden calf

“And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.” Exodus 32:28

Acts: 3000 saved after Peter’s sermon

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Acts 2:41

The first church was established

Sinai: Israel was called a church just after the law was given

“This is he [Moses] that was in the church in the wilderness” Acts 7:38

Acts: First mention of NT church just after Holy Ghost baptism

“. . .the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Act 2:47

Men swayed as though drunk

Sinai: Priests waved the flour offerings with the bread (Lev. 23:20)

— “wave”–Hebrew “nuwph”–to vibrate and sway, to rock to and fro

Acts: Onlookers thought the people in the upper room were drunk

“Others mockingly said, ‘These men are full of new wine.’” Acts 2:13

Interesting questions and a thought about Pentecost

Why was leavened bread offered when leaven represented sin?

Why were 2 loaves offered?

Were the 120 in the upper room up all night before the Holy Ghost came?

Jews could not skip the first spring feasts and then celebrate Pentecost

–Neither can we skip the early stages of salvation and still receive the Holy Ghost baptism

Here is a video that shows the wheat harvest, set to the tune of that old hymn, “Bringing In the Sheaves.” Oh, what meaning that song has to me now!

Expanding horizon

I had looked forward to an intercessory prayer service at our sister church, Word of Faith Divine Worship Center in the Walnut Tree community of Walnut Cove, ever since I had been invited a month or so ago. I knew deep down it would be something I could not miss, should not miss, WOULD not miss.

And so I went, although at the last minute I had misgivings (isn’t that the way it always is?). I was tired and had battled a headache for the past two days. My hubster was going to get up a bit early to spend time with me before work. It was my daughter’s birthday. I had been running the whole afternoon and wanted to rest.

But we push through the flesh when we know that the Spirit beckons. We maneuver through the mess when the message says, “Go.”

And so I went.

One look at my spiritual sisters’ faces–first Rebecca and Amanda, then Sha and next Lydia–let me know I was in the right place at the right time. Just the five of us–the number of God’s grace–like fingers on a spiritual hand, desiring to see things done.

Our hands joined, we began in prayer in the eternal form of a circle with the Eternal One surrounding us. And thus, we began to enter in. . .into His presence, into realms of prayer that lie beyond a “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

The time came to break the circle, but not the spiritual connection–time to find a prayer corner and intercede for our brothers and sisters, our community, our town.

I could feel that precious anointing as I knelt–hands uplifted sometimes, head down on the pew other times. His presence enveloped me as music by “Shekinah Glory” flowed throughout the room. Oh, how we worshiped! Oh, how we praised! And oh, how He met us there.

I was taken into a realm of the Spirit that I hadn’t seen in a while–a place where the outside world ceases to exist for a time. In the Spirit, I saw the people of God walking down an aisle, although we were not in a building. We were walking freely, not bound, but we could only move forward, backward or to each side about three feet either way (unless we left the path).

The path was lovely. (I know our physical path may be full of trials and tribulations, but remember this was our spiritual path.) Although there were barriers to each side, these boundaries of the aisle were beautiful. I saw golden posts lining the path. And the barriers were not fences to keep us in. There were wide spaces between every golden post that we could simply walk through at any time that we wanted to leave the path. No bondage.

Yet the golden posts were there as markers to show us when we were moving too much to the left or to the right. This illustrated for me that God’s way of guiding us is beautiful and non-constricting. We have free will to go anywhere we like, although He always shows us where He would rather us go.

It seemed to be early evening as we moved confidently forward. And up ahead–oh, up ahead! The aisle opened into a wide place, a spacious area. It was as if you were walking up the aisle at a large church and reached the altar area where there is suddenly room to maneuver.

Except this was much bigger than an altar area, and as I said before, it was not in an enclosed space. The wide-open space was full of light, but I could still tell it was late in the day. There was even a purplish tinge to the entire picture. I could see no end to the vista, and the word “horizon” kept coming to me.

I knew He was letting me know that although God’s people have had freedom to move (remember it was not overly constricted in the aisle), soon we are coming to a place of expansion, a spacious place with a far-reaching horizon. I could imagine the feeling that a baby must experience when he/she reaches the end of the birth canal and is out into the open air at last with no restrictions. Or conversely, the feeling that a mother feels when the baby emerges and the pressure releases.

God’s people are coming into a spacious place. We have walked in designated paths for a long time, but the day is approaching that we will be released into a larger plane. Some restrictions are getting ready to be loosed.

A place of freedom to do as we please? God forbid. A place where moral restrictions do not apply? Absolutely not. Rather a place where God’s people will be free to move into expanded areas of ministry. Be ready to be used in ways you may not have anticipated.

As I lay with my head on the wooden pew, the feeling of peace that accompanied the beautiful picture God showed me was overwhelming. I knew that the fleshly world we inhabit might be getting ready to undergo some birth pangs, some shaking, some destruction–but that the spiritual world God’s people move in will consequently expand.

God’s ways have always been the opposite of what the world expects. We give and therefore receive. We bless those that curse us. Things that seem backward in the world’s perspective fit perfectly into God’s plan as the spirit runs the opposite course of the flesh.

Therefore, in the vision that God gave me, as the physical world seems to contract with trouble, the spiritual world we operate in will conversely expand. And remember that the day was fading as we approached our expanded territory–time is short.

When the time came to rise from our prayer corners and rejoin the circle, I pondered whether to say anything about what I saw. Sometimes you don’t blab out everything you know right away. I felt that if He wanted me to speak, He would give the confirmation in an undeniable way.

Sure enough, as my precious sister Sha to my right began to pray aloud, I had this sudden urge to lay my hand on her and speak the vision I had seen, to encourage her that God was bringing her down some narrow paths into a spacious place, with a far-reaching horizon. Before I could make a move, Sha suddenly cried out, “Expand our horizon, Lord!” And when she did, I was stunned enough to open my eyes and jerk my head toward her in amazement.

When Sha spoke out that word with force, I knew that I knew that I knew that He was confirming His Word to me. And I knew that I should share it with my sisters, and so I did eventually.

Keep moving confidently forward on the path He has placed you. Your true brothers and sisters in Christ are moving right along with you. Very soon, we will emerge into that spacious arena with the expanded horizon. And though the world roar around us, we will do His work with a freedom and power we have long dreamed of.

This is what I saw, and this is what I believe. We serve a mighty God!

(As we prayed, this prophetic message played from a Shekinah Glory CD. It is entitled simply “Prophetic Release.” I could only find it on YouTube as a video posted by a church whose mime group performed to it. The mime routine is powerful; it begins after a Scripture reading by a church leader, so hang on and wait for it.)

The Old Paths: Sometimes there ain’t later. . .

My daddy’s best friend Petey who passed away two years ago.

I remember a Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago that I made the weekly journey to my parents’ house for lunch. My daddy’s best canine friend Petey greeted us as he always did. This little Jack Russell Terrier had been our buddy for nearly nine years, a steady guard dog who was as smart as any dog I’ve seen.

The next day we gathered there again to celebrate Memorial Day. I left in a hurry, work looming over my head despite the holiday. I remember thinking I hadn’t seen Petey much or given him the traditional scratch behind the ears.

“I’ll pet him later,” I said to myself.

Petey died the next day.

Sometimes there ain’t later.

That’s what a good friend of mine told me—in those exact ungrammatical words—when I lamented the fact that I didn’t pay any attention to Petey that weekend. Those simple words carry a wealth of wisdom.

Me covering the 2010 North Stokes graduation for the newspaper and feeling so heavy-hearted for my dear friend Dee Luster whose daughter Sonia would’ve graduated with this class. Sonia at her kindergarten graduation is on Dee’s t-shirt.

They came vividly back to me the very next week as I sat at lunch with Dee Luster, a mom who lost her only daughter—16-year-old Sonia—in an automobile accident on Highway 89 in Danbury, NC. When Dee told me how she said her typical “Love ya” to Sonia as she left for school at North Stokes High that September morning in 2008, I realized that Dee had had no way of knowing that would be their last verbal exchange on this earth.

With five children and all of us going in different directions, I spend lots of time on the phone each day with them. At the end of each call, even if it was just a 30-second conversation—“Mom, are my cleats in the trunk of your car?”—I say, “Love you.” Sometimes they respond in kind. Other times they just say goodbye. I’ve wondered if they wish I wouldn’t say that every time.

But what if “there ain’t later”? I want my children’s last memory of me—even if I’m 106 and watching my final game of Major League Baseball on the tube when I kick the bucket—to be of me telling them that I love them.

This is that time of year when we tend to lean toward the sentimental. Graduations abound. I’m seeing it all over the place. My Facebook friends are posting pictures of their children’s graduations from preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, high school. More than one of them has commented on their own post, “Where does the time go?”

Where does the time go? Wasn’t I just holding Meghann in my lap last week, reading Dr. Seuss books?

Tonight the seniors at my alma mater, South Stokes High School, are walking across the stage. Friday night brings commencement exercises for my hubster’s alma mater, North Stokes High School. The students at our other county high school, West Stokes, will march to “Pomp and Circumstance” on Saturday morning. I can guarantee there are many parents and grandparents all over Stokes County experiencing those sentimental feelings.

This time will never come again. With regard to high school graduation, there certainly “ain’t later.”

Enjoy this time in your life, seniors. One day you’ll be like my fellow South Stokes Sauras who had a 1980-86 class reunion a few years back. They renewed old friendships, but never again will they be that close-knit Saura family that they were back when they spent every school day together.

Enjoy this special time, parents. You will never pass this way again. You may look back at the pictures of that graduation day when your child marched onto the track to that familiar music. You may try to recapture the exact emotion you had as your baby’s name was called to receive a diploma. But it won’t be the same. You’ll never again quite remember exactly how you felt.

“Sometimes there ain’t later.” Now is the time.

How can I be making Chelsea’s graduation speech? Didn’t I just teach her how to read yesterday?

I recall an April day many years ago when I—queen of projects—had lots of work to do around the house. Meghann and Chelsea, then just tiny girls, began to beg me to have a tea party on the back deck. I told them I was too busy, but they persisted.

Finally, with a touch of irritation for having my plans disturbed, I gave in. We went outside in the mild spring air with a teapot, cups and snacks. The revelation hit me after just a few minutes that this was an event to treasure. I took a picture of our tea party. When I look at it now and see those little girls with happy smiles sipping from teeny toy teacups, I can muster up a little bit of what it felt like that day.

My tea party buddy Meghann is grown now, a magna cum laude graduate of Salem College.

But I can’t exactly recall the feeling. That was then. This is now. “There ain’t later” for that day. The girls are grown now, working each day with no time for tea parties on the deck with mommy.

My other tea party buddy, Chelsea, graduated from high school a few years back and will soon graduate from college.

While you have today, act as if later won’t come. Make decisions accordingly. Savor the emotions of the present to remember in the future. Treasure that graduation ceremony. Hug that child. Tell your significant other, your parent, your best friend that you love them. Pet your dog.

Losing Petey reinforced my desire to do all of the above.

Because “sometimes there ain’t later.”

(Adapted from my “The Old Paths” newspaper column that I wrote two years ago for The Stokes News)

I’ve hit the mother lode

When it comes to motherhood and having children, I’ve hit the mother lode. No, I didn’t misspell that; I didn’t mean the mother load. I say what I mean; I mean what I say. 😉

You see, when I think of motherhood, I think of blessing–something as valuable as striking the mother lode. Because when I think of children, I think of treasure. The analogy works for me.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-5

My, how the world has changed since Bible days when children were considered a huge blessing. Today we consider two kids as having our quiver full. Or perhaps we want to have one and be done.

They interfere with our lives. They drool. They have to go potty in the middle of the movie. They have to be picked up after practice every afternoon. They want us to play Candyland with them, for goodness sake!

When we hear Deuteronomy 28 read aloud to us, we whoop and holler and shout hallelujah:

“And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. . .Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. . .And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground. . .And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail.”

Ooh, glory–that sounds good! Uh, but wait a minute. Did it say that those blessings include being granted PLENTY of the fruit of our body? Uh, could we skip that part and just maybe go for the plenty of goods it promises us? We like plenty of money and other good stuff–but kids? Maybe not.

What happened in the last century that made us lose the mindset that having lots of children is a blessing?

The Duggars and their 19 kids.

Now I’m not saying that if you don’t have lots of kids, you’ve done something wrong. In this economy, many feel that they can’t afford more than one or two, if any. To each his own, I say. But why do we scorn those who believe in having as many children as the Lord our God will grant? Like the Duggars of TV fame, for instance?

Go ahead. Give me the Zero Population Growth spiel. I can refute that all day long. Did you know that you can still fit the population of the entire world in the state of Texas and give everyone a square foot of their very own? Okay, maybe that’s not enough room for healthy living, but it proves a point. So spare me the overpopulation speech. Believe me, I can argue incessantly against that using facts and figures.

I, for one, am not going to belittle the staunch Catholics or other folks who choose to let God bless their wombs with however many children come along. Again, to each his own.

My great-grandmother Richardson had 11 children. Her husband was the foreman of the railroad in Walnut Cove, a prosperous man who owned hundreds, maybe thousands, of acres on Piney Mountain Road. They weren’t dirt-poor sharecroppers who “didn’t know any better” (not that there’s anything wrong with sharecroppers–my other great-grandparents were just that). Papa and Granny Richardson were prominent members of First Baptist Church, bringing their large brood through the church doors every Sunday morning.

Nobody looked down on them or laughed derisively at them for having that many children. It was considered an honor.

Today we would joke, “Don’t they know what causes that?” Well, of course they did.

Or we would condescendingly say, “Oh, but we are much smarter now; we know how to prevent that.”

Smarter? Maybe. Or then again, maybe we’ve lost something in our modern haste to limit family size or simply abort babies if having them will inconvenience us.

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.” Psalm 113:9

I was a barren woman once. Or so I thought. I became pregnant for the first time at age 24, carried him/her six weeks and lost him/her. I thought it was over already. But God blessed me with Meghann the next year.

A book I have longed for and a heartfelt card from my Meggie on Mother’s Day 2012.

Then I miscarried again when Meggie was two and thought, “Oh no! I’m a one-hit wonder!” But not so. Chelsea came along the next year.

Chelsea walked into church on Sunday morning with these fresh flowers, an adorable card and chocolate for me!

Then came the long spell of barrenness. “But you already had the two children that make up U.S. average family size charts,”  you may say with bewilderment. Yes, but I didn’t feel complete yet.

Years passed and nothing happened. I took my temperature each morning. I bought ovulation kits. I cried, begged, prayed. It was almost six years before Elijah came along. How God told me way ahead of time that Elijah was coming is another story for another day, and a fascinating story it is.

Elijah picked me beautiful roses for a sweet bouquet on Mother’s Day this year. I pressed the others and saved this rosebud so I could watch it open.

Before Elijah was even weaned, I was pregnant with Abigail. Surprised? Yes. Happy? Of course.

My baby girl Abigail gave me a hodgepodge of lovely things for Mother’s Day. She is a generous soul.

But then I began to brag a little. “Yep, just call me fertile Myrtle,” I’d say. I thought I had this fertility thing licked.

Not so. The factory seemed closed after that.

“But surely four was enough?!” you cry in 21st century horror. Well, not for me. I wanted a quiverful–in fact, had dreamed about having a houseful of kids since I was a kid myself.

Unfruitful years passed once again, and I figured the old biological clock had ticked out. But then I found out I was pregnant again when Abigail was four. Oh, the joy! Until 11 weeks later when I lost a set of twins. And then months later, when I lost a single baby.

Some would say, “Sister, give it up! Can’t you see God’s trying to tell you that you’re done? Have some sense, girlfriend!”

If I had listened to that, I would’ve missed out on one of the biggest blessings of my life–my little Malachi. He was born shortly after Abigail turned six and has been a joy that defies explanation.

Malachi apologized first thing Sunday morning that he hadn’t been able to buy me a present. I told him that was not a problem–that he could sing me a song at church for my present. As we gathered around the piano and sang “Dwelling Places,” his little voice rang out so sweetly on the chorus that my mother got teary-eyed.

Would I welcome more children? Gladly. Because I see motherhood as such a gift from God, and I view children as treasures. Who wouldn’t want gifts and treasures?

This past Mother’s Day was perhaps the most special one I have ever experienced. Because I’m not exactly a spring chicken these days (a spring robin or bluebird perhaps but never a chicken), I realize all too well how quickly children grow up. So having all five kids with me this past Sunday was exhilarating.

It wasn’t the presents. It wasn’t the cards, although I loved them all. It was the beauty of being with the treasures God has poured down on me and seeing their unconditional love for me, their very imperfect mother.

We worshiped and studied God’s Word together, we sang praise songs around the piano, we ate lunch with my parents, we sat at the baseball field watching Elijah play a doubleheader, we came home (not the two oldest who live away) to watch a movie together.

When my life seemed to be over at times in the past due to severe illnesses or depressing trials, God used my children to give me the incentive to fight for my life. When the enemy came to my gate and whispered to me that I might as well go ahead and die, my children spoke with him at the gate, just as Psalm 127:5 says. And I hung on until God delivered me from the pit.

I am blessed coming in, I am blessed going out, I’m blessed in the city, I’m blessed in the field.

He has made me a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord!

Me surrounded by my treasures on Resurrection Day 2012!

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