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

Posts tagged ‘family’

Forever and Ever, Amen

**This was originally published on Thursday, April 7, 2011, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

I’m catching my breath after a whirlwind weekend. Besides the typical weekend routine of church activities and ball practices for multiple kids, my sister, brother and I threw a 50th anniversary party for my parents. It was worth every ounce of energy expended.forever and ever--young couple

A golden anniversary is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It should be celebrated and remembered. Fewer and fewer couples make it to that milestone in this day and age, and thus I spent much of the weekend pondering what makes a happy marriage.

I’m not talking about what makes a marriage last, because I’ve seen some miserable marriages that lasted several decades. I’m talking about what makes a marriage happy.

On Friday, I went to Ingles grocery store to buy the cake for my parents’ surprise party. I was rushing to get into line at my niece’s register, but an elderly couple made it there just before I did. Although I was in a supreme hurry, it turned out to be a blessing that I was behind this charming couple.

I heard the lady comment that she and her husband would celebrate 68 years of marriage this year. I stared unabashedly at her. “Did you say 68 years?” I interrupted in my never-met-a-stranger way.

She smiled a dimpled smile and said yes. I told her she didn’t look nearly old enough to have been married that long. She proudly told me, “I’ll be 87 my birthday.” My eyes bugged out as I told her truthfully that she looked about 15 years younger than that.

Then came an even bigger shocker. She told me they only dated for two weeks before getting married.

Huh?!

Don’t we tell our children they better get to know someone well before they make that vow? Don’t we teach them that marriage is a decision that must be well-thought out? How can you think out such a thing in two weeks?

This sparkling-eyed lady became even more animated as she told how she had met “Mr. Right.” She said that as soon as he walked into her office all those years ago, she thought he was the best-looking thing she had ever seen. They fell for each other on the spot, dated two weeks, tied the knot and aren’t far from 70 years together.

“When you see a good thing, you better grab it while you can,” she grinned like a mischievous little girl. Meanwhile, her tall husband, who also looked much younger than his years, stood to the side smiling tolerantly yet affectionately. He teased her a little, and you could tell those love fires were still burning.forever and ever--old couple

Here is a marriage, like that of my parents, which has survived an amazing number of years, not with the bitter silence and withdrawn emotional state of many marriages, but with laughter and love. Too many times I’ve heard older couples say they don’t see a need for a 50th anniversary party because there’s nothing to celebrate. That pretty much tells you the sad state of their marriage.

Obviously, the secret to a happy marriage is not necessarily a long courtship with well-thought out plans.

I’ve heard that children whose parents have a happy marriage have a better chance of having the same thing. Statistics in the last decade have not proven this to be true. My brother and I were both the product of a happy home but ended up divorced. I take my share of the blame for the breakup of my marriage and will grieve over it, to a degree, for the rest of my life.

On the other hand, my good friend up in Sandy Ridge came from a broken home yet has been married happily for 30 years; so has his sister. Kurt Warner, who was one of my favorite pro football players, tells of growing up in a broken home with many trials and tribulations, yet his own marriage has endured happily for many years—a real testimony for a professional athlete.

happy marriage recipeI knew a couple in Mt. Airy who were blissfully married for well over 50 years when the husband died. The wife, usually a stoic woman, fell apart, wondering aloud how she was going to live without him because they had been so close. Yet two of their three children ended up divorced. This proves yet again that growing up with happily-married parents does not ensure marital bliss for someone, and vice-versa.

Although the precious lady I met in Ingles talked about her husband’s stunning good looks 68 years ago on the old paths, we all know that physical appearance fades. The most stunning woman will eventually wrinkle and go gray. Even Botox and Miss Clairol can’t completely fix the ravages of old age. The hottest man around will see his looks decline as his hair thins or falls out and his love handles develop love handles.

So physical appearance obviously isn’t the secret to a happy marriage.

Of course I believe a reliance on the Lord is a key, but I’ve seen many a Christian stick it out “for the sake of the children” while being absolutely miserable for the long haul.

Some of you are thinking, “People just need to be committed and keep their word!” I agree, but remember—the subject of this column is not what makes a marriage last, although I believe that is supremely important. It’s what makes a marriage man that makes u laughhappy.

Laughter surely plays a key. My daddy was telling us at Sunday dinner about the April Fool’s joke he played on my mama this year. He said he was cracking up the whole time she was falling for it, and she said that when he reminded her what day it was, they both just fell apart laughing. A couple who can laugh together like that after half a century has found a secret.

I’m convinced that finding someone you laugh often with is a treasure.

Kindness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, loyalty, humility—all of these are keys to a happy marriage. I’m obviously no expert, but I want to be. No one wants a failed marriage.

To that adorable couple whose names I don’t even know, to my parents and all others who are making marriage work well—I tip my hat to you. Keep laughing and keep loving…..forever and ever…..Amen.

**I am posting this old column to my blog on May 24, 2017—a little over six years since I ran into that charming couple at the grocery store. For all of these years, I have wondered who they were. Today I found out. As I was looking for an obituary for a friend’s grandmother, I “happened” upon one for a sweet-looking lady named Laura Jane “Janie” Mills Willis. Her face struck me as one I had seen before, so I read the obituary of this supposed stranger. Turns out she wasn’t a stranger after all! She was my “mystery woman” of the serendipitous grocery store encounter! I am rejoicing to have found her at last, but I am sad that she is gone now. Janie died peacefully at her home at the age of 93. Her beloved husband died in 2014—three years after he stood smiling lovingly at her in the Ingles checkout line. They achieved that 70-year mark for marriage. Although they are now gone on to be with the Lord, their love story will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life. Meeting them that long-ago day was truly a divine encounter.** 

http://www.forbisanddick.com/obituaries/Laura-Jane-Willis/#!/Obituary

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Laura Jane “Janie” Mills Willis

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Free Country, Ain’t It?

**This was originally published on Thursday, June 16, 2011, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

free-country-2

When someone tells me something I can’t do, I am sometimes tempted to spout off that familiar line many of us have used before: “Free country, ain’t it?!” (And yes, you have to use improper grammar to give it that defiant tone.)

Well, there were days back in 2011 that I wanted to shout out that defiant line.

You see, one of my heroes had been arrested. She wasn’t dealing drugs. She wasn’t driving while impaired or embezzling money. In fact, she’s one of the most God-fearing people I know.

Her crime? She had been compassionately and skillfully helping women in North Carolina have their babies at home. She had been by their side to support them, give them excellent medical attention, help them have their babies in an environment that was the only setting used for thousands of years—their own home.

“What’s so wrong with that?” you may ask. “Grandma had all of her kids at home.” Yes, your grandparents (and maybe some of my older readers!) probably delivered their babies in the comfort of their own beds. Thank God we still live in a free enough country that women are allowed to have their babies anywhere they like without fear of prosecution.

baby-feet

But North Carolina has a dilemma. Homebirth is legal, but having a midwife (one who operates independently without physician supervision) on hand to assist is illegal—not for the mother but for the midwife. Had my midwife friend been assisting with a homebirth in Virginia, it would have been legal for her. Such midwifery is also legal in Tennessee and South Carolina (our other bordering states). Yet North Carolina legislators have thus far refused to legalize this practice which is legal in 28 other states.

Let me clarify that Certified Nurse Midwives are allowed to attend homebirths in North Carolina IF they have a medical doctor willing to act as backup (sometimes a tough thing to find), but Certified Professional Midwives—who are also highly trained and usually very experienced—are not allowed to deliver babies at home.

I just don’t get it.

Before you jump on the bandwagon of saying all births need to be in the hospital for the safety of the mother and the child, I suggest you study the statistical evidence for midwifery in the U.S. Then get back to me.

When I am deciding on an issue, I study the statistical evidence, but I also like to talk to those who have been there, done that. Personal testimony is valid and crucial. So when it comes to the issue of having babies at home, let’s find someone who has been on both sides of the fence.

Hmmm, whom can we find? Oh. Okay. ME.

Yep, I’m coming out of the closet. I have had three children in the hospital and two at home in the very bed my parents bought for me when I was five years old.

Am I against hospital births? Absolutely not. I had some great experiences at the hospital—terrific nurses, a doctor I absolutely adored and relatively good care. I even loved the hospital food. So I’m not against hospital births.

I am, however, for the freedom to choose my birth experience.

freedom-sign

As I alluded to earlier, I could pick up roots and move a few miles up the road to Stuart, VA, and have that freedom. But since 1983, homebirth midwifery by CPM’s has been illegal in North Carolina.

I chose my midwife as my pregnancy/delivery/postpartum healthcare provider in 1997. She was a Certified Professional Midwife with extensive education in the field she had felt called to enter. Her experience was massive, her resume impressive.

I heard glowing reports of her skills, although I am sure there were some patients who had bad experiences with her. Lest we think such negative occurrences are limited to midwifery, let us remember that malpractice suits against hospitals and OB-GYNs are big business these days. Nobody who assists with the birth of a baby is going to be immune from what sometimes happens in this fallen world—occasional tragedy—OR what we all face as fallible humans—someone who doesn’t like us or what we do.

But I had nothing but the best experiences with my midwife. She was there in my bedroom when sweet Abigail was born in 1998, and she made it in the nick of time when Malachi made an abrupt appearance in 2004. However, it was not just the actual delivery in which she specialized.

I got prenatal care such as I never got from a standard physician’s practice. Month after month, I made trip after trip to her office where she examined me extensively each time—carefully monitoring my uterine growth, blood pressure, sugar, protein and all of the other factors that must be considered in pregnancy. When she questioned the placement of the placenta, she even sent me for a sonogram.

She made a home visit several weeks before my due date to examine the birth setting and make sure everything was in order, such as me having a birth kit readily available. When labor began, she was Johnny-on-the-spot and never left my side.

As much as I loved my OB-GYN, I labored alone for the majority of my time with my first three children. The doctor came in a time or two for a brief check before finally staying as long as necessary when the nurses said I was ready for delivery. I totally understand that in a hospital, nurses and doctors have many other patients and cannot be attached to a pregnant woman’s side. I am not complaining. But that is one of the perks of midwifery—a steady, comforting presence that is constant, which tends to make for a less stressful delivery.midwifes-hands

Had I been a high-risk case, my midwife would have been sensible and recommended that I deliver in a hospital. Midwifes are not stupid. They do not want babies or mothers to die. In the rare case of an unforeseen complication during labor, the midwife will call for medical transport to a hospital. Statistics prove that the typical midwife’s baby/mother loss record is lower than, or comparable to, that of the average OB-GYN.

Legislation has been introduced in Raleigh several times to legalize midwifery, but thus far, no cigar. The 2011 arrest of my midwife prompted friends of midwifery—including some OB-GYNs, thank God—to speak up once again in favor of this ageless method of birthing babies.

At the time of the 2011 arrest, I empathized with my midwife’s patients who were on the verge of delivery. My Abigail—expected on March 29, 1998—was already four days overdue when my midwife was arrested on April 2 of that year. My panic was not something a pregnant woman needs to experience. Thankfully, my midwife was released on April 4, in time for Abigail’s birth two days later.

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Abigail is 18 now, and little Malachi recently turned 12. As I taught him about midwifery today, he was astounded to learn that general midwifery is illegal in our state when so many other states have legalized it and are seeing great success with it. He looked down at a picture of the beautiful and caring midwife who helped me give birth to him and then at a picture of me holding him in my bed just minutes after his birth. When he looked up at me after that, his eyes were full of fiery determination.

“Mom,” he said very solemnly, “when I grow up, if midwifery is still illegal here, I WILL take it to court and change the law.” I pray things turn around before then, but if not, I do not put it past my amazing son to find a way to successfully reverse this unfair law.

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I worry that physicians who oppose legalizing midwifery are primarily looking at their personal financial picture or feeling that nasty spirit of control which can overtake any of us in any profession. If they argue that it is a case of safety, I will gladly put the statistics for OB-GYN practices and midwives side-by-side and say, “Case closed.”

My first child born in a hospital suffered respiratory distress and complications, due to negligence on the part of the OB-GYN (not my regular one who was on vacation), which resulted in long hospitalization and unnecessary expenditures. My second child—hospital-born—very nearly went through the same traumatic experience. My third child—again, birthed in a hospital—would have had a surgery performed on him accidentally had I not caught the error.

My point is that bad things can happen no matter where you give birth. I do not understand these women I have read about who knowingly chose homebirth, and then when something went wrong for them, blamed the midwife and began lobbying against homebirths. Should I lobby against all hospital births and say all OB-GYN’s should not deliver babies just because things went wrong with my hospital births? How ludicrous.

Since Eve, women on the old paths have been bearing their babies in the comforts of their own homes. Yes, there were losses, but midwifery healthcare has improved by leaps and bounds since those times. Why not let women have the birth experience that they choose—whether it be in a hospital or at home with a dedicated midwife by their side?

Free country, ain’t it?

Or is it?

To read more, check out:

Parents Ask State to Legalize Midwives

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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