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

Archive for June, 2012

Your springtime is coming

Sometimes in the midst of summer’s heat, there comes a day like today–a day that seems to be set out of time. The humidity is suddenly incredibly low. Skies are the vivid blue of early autumn rather than the diluted blue of midsummer. The air is fanned by a gentle breeze that remains cool throughout this rare day when late June temperatures have plummeted from the mid-90s to the upper 70s.

When I awakened this morning and saw the type of day I had been given, I felt a special essence surrounding it. I was mentally transported to late September when summer’s heat gives way to pleasing temperatures. My 14-year-old daughter Abigail must’ve felt the same thing. She kept repeating, “It feels like fall!”

Even now at 8:08 p.m., I sit on the deck and marvel at the stellar beauty of the day. Little birds peck in my flowerbeds near me and chirp merrily. The begonia given to me by my precious Aunt Audrey last fall delights my eyes with its pinkish-red blooms. I think of how I wondered if it would live until spring when she placed it in my care last October.

But somehow–despite my tendency to let summer’s leftover hanging baskets die inside throughout the winter–this lovely begonia survived. And now it blossoms luxuriously, lending beauty to my summer days on the deck.

You know what? I feel like that begonia now. And I feel in my Spirit that many of you readers do, too.

You’ve been through troubles and trials in your life and you’ve wondered if you would make it through the long winter that seemed to linger. Sometimes the days felt mighty cold, and you would’ve given anything for a little warmth. You woke up many mornings to a gray sky of life and prayed the sun would somehow break through your circumstances. Maybe you are still there.

Well, guess what? Our God will never fail us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). Hang on a little longer; your springtime will come. God is intrinsically a God of redemption, renewal, revival, regeneration, restoration, refreshing. He wants to renew YOU, restore YOU, regenerate YOU, refresh YOU, revive YOU, redeem YOU.

Just like the begonia that struggled to make it inside a house when it longed for the outdoors, that often suffered from lack of water due to the dry winter air inside, that needed more sunlight than it could get through my bedroom window–you, too, will once again feel the refreshing spring air, soak in the spring rains, flourish in the light of the abundant sun.

Maybe you have already come through that dark winter and are currently being refreshed by your springtime season. Then reach out to help and encourage others who still linger in winter’s chill. That’s why I’m writing this to you.

Do I have trials and tribulations? Sure do. Are things perfect in my situation? Of course not–this world is not Utopia. Do I worry sometimes and feel gray? Yep.

But despite these things, I feel like the begonia. Today, I have been so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the gratitude I feel toward God that I had no way to express it. I have a peace I have never had before, a love for people that oozes out of me until I don’t know what to do sometimes, a confidence in the favor of God in my life that I never knew until I came out of that dark winter of 2007-10 (yep, that long).

If you haven’t gotten there yet, HOLD ON! Our God is indeed faithful and true. His plans for you are of peace and for you to have a good end. Praise Him even when the results seems to be negative. Contact me and I’ll praise Him with you and encourage you.

Some of you don’t feel that you deserve to be happy. Admit it; you don’t. You feel that you have failed God so much in the past that you don’t merit the good things He wants to bless you with.

Hate to tell you this, but guess what? You DON’T deserve the blessings. Neither do I. But our God delights to bless His children. Quit thinking you’re not worthy; that can chain up your blessings. Sure, we’re unworthy in ourselves, but the blood of Jesus has made us worthy.

So, yes, because of Christ’s sacrifice, you do deserve the happiness He desires to pour upon you. You got divorced, you say? You spent some years seeking fulfillment through alcohol or drugs? So you tell me you had sex before marriage or maybe even with someone else while you were married? You hurt somebody really badly in the past? You gossiped relentlessly about a brother or sister in Christ? You had a bad attitude a lot of the time while your children were little?

Okay, join the ex-sinners’ club; come have a seat on the front row with me and most everyone else in the world. We’ve all been there, done something similar to that in some degree.

Did you repent? Are you not committing that act(s) today? Are you working diligently, with God’s help, on your attitude? Are you trusting God to fully deliver you from any addiction that lingers?

Then move on and enjoy the life you’ve been given by God. What’s done is done, and you can’t go back and undo it. And if you feel that because of the mess you made, you really shouldn’t be happy now, then think again.

Our redeeming God doesn’t want you in sackcloth and ashes for the rest of your life. He doesn’t expect you to figuratively wear widow’s weeds forever because of your dark past.

But a word of warning from one who knows: SOME PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY SELF-RIGHTEOUS CHRISTIANS OR THE ONES YOU HURT BY YOUR PAST BEHAVIOR, DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOU HAPPY AND THRIVING. Shocker, huh?

There will be those–yes, Christians primarily–who think you smile too much “after what you did and how you behaved back then!” They want to see you pay the price, be miserable, hurt on and on. I was told by a friend of mine once that a woman I knew from church years ago gets so angry when she sees me in public and I am so full of joy; she thinks I should remain in sorrow for some of my actions of the past.

That is not God’s way. If only she knew how many nights I cried myself to sleep, how many days I wondered if the sun would ever shine again, how many times even now that I hurt with longing to be with my kids when they go to their dad’s house periodically, she might be satisfied with the degree of my pain.

I even overheard a “Christian” the other day on a cell phone, talking to someone who has obviously been done wrong by somebody else. That “counselor” was telling the person not to worry–that the bad person would “get theirs.” Even if they seem to be prospering right now, the “Christian” said, never fear–they’ll get what’s coming to them. The tone was very vindictive.

Yes, unless we repent, we will reap what we sow. But should we as Christians be so vengeful as to wish somebody would “get theirs”? I think not. But this Christian obviously wants someone to pay a heavy price.

If I spent the rest of my life bemoaning the less-than-satisfying way my life turned out and/or the sins I committed, then I would be of no use whatsoever to the Kingdom of God. He has set me free from my past, given me a present that is so full of joy and peace I want to explode, and promised me a glorious future with Him.

I know I’m talking to somebody who is nodding their head right now, saying, “YEAH! I know exactly what she means!” Get back up, shake yourself, commit your future to God and move on. Quit living in the realm of shame, you redeemed person you! Get your smile back. Laugh a little.

About two to three years ago, I realized that I was laughing again. I had not been aware of the fact that I had spent the last few years before that not laughing much at all. And it hit me that my laugh was now totally different. It was louder, full of bubbling joy, frequent. I honestly think I laugh more than anyone I know. I would even startle myself when I would burst into laughter at commissioners’ meetings while covering them for the newspaper when Stanley Smith would say something funny.

And I knew then that God had restored my joy–nay, even doubled it from before those dark winter years. Like the begonia on my deck, I am flourishing, and God’s favor follows me. Life won’t be perfect from here on out in this fallen world, but I have the assurance that my GOD will work ALL things (even bad ones) together for my good (Romans 8:28).

He’ll do the same for you. Hold on to God’s promises–YOUR SPRINGTIME IS COMING!

The Old Paths: Down by the crick

Lower Cascades at Hanging Rock (Photo by my friend Monty Stevens of Westfield, NC)

The weather outside is frightful, but the creek is so delightful. Yep, yesterday was the first full day of summer, and it is as if the weather decided to make sure we knew it. Suddenly the mild June that we had marveled over morphed into a hot, sultry monster.

And I love it.

Call me crazy, but I love summertime. I start thinking about homemade ice cream, home-grown ‘maters slapped on mayonnaise-laden bread, lightning bugs sparkling in the night and the bubbling of the refreshing creek.

I have a creek in my backyard, and it is one of my favorite things about this property. It’s not what it once was, due to this hot weather, but still its refreshing waters trickle merrily in sight of my window. I think creeks, streams, rivers are some of God’s best gifts to us.

On most farms in days gone by, the old paths meandered down to a creek. There clear waters flowed lazily downstream, wandering toward some larger body of water, murmuring in bubbling brook-language.

The creek, sometimes pronounced “crick” by old-timers, was often a haven on sultry days when summer’s sun blazed down on rural fields. When the tobacco was in the barn or the garden vegetables all gathered at the end of the day, a trip down to the creek brought a refreshing coolness to scorched skin and weary muscles.

My third-grade teacher, Mrs. June Harris, has fond memories of her childhood creek on the Sanders Smith farm on Rosebud Road in Walnut Cove. “It was part of our entertainment,” she explains. “We didn’t have toys and all these electronic things the kids have today.” When the older folks would pull tobacco plants, Harris “got to play in the creek,” catching minnows in the cool water.

Photo by LIL OLE ME! 😉

My creek memories involve Belews Creek, which flowed through Grandpa Bray’s farm when Belews Lake was just a distant future prospect. Mama and my Bray aunts–Sylvia, Louise and Sammie–would take us cousins down there to play when summer’s heat seemed unbearable. I distinctly remember my cousin Richard and I playing in the clear water, avoiding the shadowy, wooded banks where holes and crevices stared darkly out at us, holding the threat of snakes. Cousins Mark and Tana were older and braver and ever tried to torment us younger ones.

Long ago, rural residents used farm springs, or branches as they were sometimes called, to keep things cool. Often a family had a milk well in the branch where milk was kept cool in pre-refrigerator days.

Photo by YOURS TRULY–ha ha!

My daddy’s creek memories are far more detailed than mine. He recalls leading the horses, cows and mules to the spring just beyond his boyhood home where he still lives. Down at Belews Creek on the farm, Daddy made a wealth of memories. He used the creek for practical purposes like watering tobacco plantbeds in the spring. On summer Saturday nights, he and his three brothers often took a bar of soap down there to get cleaned up for Sunday morning.

On summer days, Daddy might cut a reed, fasten a line and hook onto it, dig some worms and fish for knottyheads or horneyheads in the creek–sometimes catching 25-30 of them. Other days he would make a minnow seine from two tobacco sticks and a piece of window screen. With this contraption, Daddy caught minnows to take to local ponds to catch bass.

A friend of my daddy’s–Hardy Southern–taught Daddy how to catch cootiensnappers–hard worms that lied under piles of wet leaves in the creek bed. The boys would sometimes look under rocks to capture spring lizards, another favorite bait for bass.

On summer nights, my daddy might gig for eels in Belews Creek. He made his own gig by driving about five nails in the end of a two by four and cutting the heads off the nails.  By the light of a lantern or a pine branch, he and his friends would gig eels to be eaten by their families. One night they gigged a snake and “ran like chickens,” he says.

Swimming was probably the most common use for farm creeks on hot summer days. Daddy still laughs when he remembers the day he, Leon Hawkins and Monroe Joyce got caught skinny-dipping by old man Binkley. They had snatched a watermelon from a feller’s patch in the bottoms and put it into the water to cool while they swam “naked as jaybirds,” he recalls.

I can’t exactly swim in my little creek, but I am refreshed daily just to look at it as I go about my daily chores. And every now and then, I walk through the lush green grass to the clay-laden banks and listen to the peaceful murmuring of the ever-moving waters.

And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a caring Creator who delights to give us such pleasures–even something so simple as a little creek that meanders along through sunshine and shadow.

This sentiment is echoed in a poem written by a good friend of mine–Inez Heath Brown–as she reminisces about the creek of her childhood days. . .

Memories

There’s a creek that flows near the bottom land beyond the old cornfields,
It winds itself with many crooked paths and has been there many years.
The water flows over the rocks and sand, it is clear and feels so cool,
And when you wade down the wet and soothing stream
You realize who and what is in command.
We often played there when we were young, we all had so much fun.
And now many years have passed, but the memories are our own
And the mighty old creek and cool swift water
Still keeps flowing on. . .

To see a beautiful, one-minute video I shot at a local creek (although not in the heat of summer!), click on this link. Hope you enjoy the loveliness of the site!

http://www.facebook.com/v/2516227586630

Seize the day! (The birthday, that is!)

I hear so many people say that a birthday is just another day. Probably even I have said that once or twice, but I didn’t really mean it– shame on me for saying it.

When we get to the point that we realize we have probably already lived more years than we have left and when we remember so many dear friends and loved ones who left us too young, we suddenly realize what another year of life really means. The American Cancer Society has deemed itself the official sponsor of birthdays; that alone speaks volumes of how precious each birthday should be.

I’ve heard people argue that the Bible never says anything about celebrating birthdays and that we shouldn’t make a big deal about the day we were born because it is somehow arrogant. I beg your pardon, but I DISAGREE.

If we expect that day to be all about us and what others can do for us on that day, then yes, that’s arrogant. But if we view the day as a reminder from God that He has blessed us with yet another year to live and do His will, then THAT is a good perspective.

I thank GOD for this birthday! I thank God for His blessings in my life. I choose to use my birthday to be with those I love the most and to reflect on just what God has meant to me in the past year. I also take stock of my life and become determined to make the next year an even more productive one for the Kingdom of God.

On June 6, 2012, I choose to praise my Maker and to practice His presence and to worship Him for WHO HE IS. He is the one who planted me in my mother’s womb, brought me forth with health and started me on my way. His blessings have been poured out so abundantly on me that I just can’t tell it all! He called me, He chose me, He filled me with His precious Spirit and He loves me unconditionally. There is no better birthday present than that.

I thank Him for the hubster choosing to take a day off work so that he can be with me nonstop on my special day. I told him not to, but he insisted. After a few hours of sleep upon coming home from a long night at work tomorrow morning, he will be mine to command! Bring me my favorite food, scratch my back, play Skip-Bo with me, watch a chick flick with me, cheer for the Yankees with me (not gonna happen–ha ha!).

Okay, now I’m getting arrogant, thinking the day is all about me–ha ha!

Seriously, having that kind, thoughtful and adoring man near me all day and night will be a superdeedooper present. (Speaking of presents, I might go peek in the drawer where he hid those packages that came in the mail! Nah, surely I can wait until morning!)

I thank Him that my little kiddies will be with me all day and night, too! They will run and jump into bed with me early in the morning and be so excited to give me the presents and cards they have made. Malachi couldn’t hold back any longer today and gave me his present a bit early–a heart-shaped rock painted red on one side, blue on the other. Abigail followed suit and gave me a rock she had painted for me–pink and purple and blue and other lovely colors and dots.

I thank God that my other two daughters may go out to eat with me tomorrow (one of them called and mentioned that anyway). Both of them have already wished me happy birthday while I’ve been typing this after midnight! They have always made every birthday precious to me just by remembering me and being near.

I thank God that my mother wants to take me out to eat tomorrow, too. I REALLY want to see her–the woman who laboriously gave birth to me at age 19 at the exact same SECOND that another woman was giving birth in Danbury at Stokes-Reynolds Memorial Hospital! Dr. Jack Fowler said that had never happened up there to his knowledge (small hospital, you know). My mama always told me that special story, and I wondered what had happened to that other little girl born at 10:55 a.m. on June 6.

Well, guess what?! When I was taking Driver’s Ed, on my very first day of in-car training, I was placed in the back seat with a tall blond girl named Debbie Whitt from King. We began to chat while we waited for Mr. Leonard, and we freaked out when we realized we were the two record-setting baby girls who had been born at the exact same second in Danbury! Her mother had told her the same story! We are now Facebook friends, and she messaged me last week about how special we were–ha ha!

I thank God that I can stay home on my birthday and enjoy the day–made possible by my unselfish hubster who insisted that I quit my job last fall (as I had desired to do) and follow my dreams of Christian ministry, raising children and writing books. I plan to play games, watch movies, eat good food, play on Facebook, read a good book, fellowship with family and have a prayer/praise session that raises the roof off this little house!

And I thank Him for the little things that I hope to enjoy on this birthday–a cool spring day when June is often already so hot, the barking of my sweet hero beagle Rocky Balboa, the smell of my vanilla lotion when I put it on, the thought that–God willing–I will see Derek Jeter and my beloved NY Yankees in Atlanta next week, reading the poem “And What Is So Rare As a Day in June,” the beautiful black horse in the lush green meadow behind my house, the sound of my children’s voices all around me, the hubster’s corny yet hilarious jokes, some kind of ice cream treat and who knows what else?!

My birthday advice to me and to you: Life is short–yea, even a vapor. Even the Good Book says so. Go for the gusto. Remember the blessings He has showered on you during the last year of life. Thank Him for what He’s doing right NOW and for simply Who He is. Look ahead to whatever life you have left with the mindset of following Him more closely and walking in divine order. Celebrate His wonderful gift of life by making a difference in this world.

Carpe diem (seize the day!)

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