Faith, Family


This past weekend, Will and I loaded up the kids, a bunch of Mercer Mayer Little Critter books, a Veggietales cd, and some toys to entertain Asher, and praying for safety and the preservation of our sanity, we headed down to the little town of Kershaw, SC.  A good majority of family from my dad’s side lives in that area, including my grandfather and many great-aunts and great-uncles.  We were going down specifically to see my grandfather.

Ever since my grandmother passed away this past April, my dad and his three brothers have taken turns going down to spend weekends with my grandpa.  This past weekend was my parents’ turn to travel down, so Will and I decided it would be a good time to also head down so that we could spend time with my grandpa without trying to juggle looking after the kids, cooking, and other things all at the same time.  We had also learned in the week prior that my gradpa’s cancer had spread further throughout his body, and I don’t want to miss opportunities to see him.

The three hour or so ride down wasn’t too bad- Eila remained pretty occupied and Asher was able to take his morning nap during a portion of the ride.  It felt great to arrive and get everyone out of the car.  I had been praying on the way down that God would help me know what to say and how to manage seeing my grandpa in pain and looking so unlike the strong, active man I have always known.  As I walked inside his home, I looked into the living room where I knew he would be, sitting in his chair, wearing his pajamas.  He smiled and I could see the mix of happiness and pain in his eyes.  The cancer that is wreaking havoc on his body is showing itself now on his neck, where he has a bulge about five inches long and a couple inches deep.  He remains on oxygen and is very weak, using a cane to walk.  He naps for long periods each day and misses his wife with all of him.

And yet, his spirit is strong within him.  Or rather, His spirit is strong within him.  The light in his eyes, the hope that continues to shine forth, radiates from his faith in the Lord, and from that faith only.  As we sat and talked about his love for my grandmother and all the tests he had to endure, in addition to the radiation treatments that would be coming fast and hard in the next few weeks, I couldn’t help but ask my grandfather if he wanted to go through the cancer treatments.  My great-aunt Rita, my grandfather’s sister, had also asked him that question.  He replied, “I’m halfway between Verdie (my grandma’s name is Verda) and my boys…I’m going to stick around longer for my boys.”

The love he has for my father and my uncles outweighs his pain and desire to see my grandma again.

After eating dinner with my grandpa, my great-aunt, and my parents, Will and I put the kids in their pajamas and prepared to head for home (we knew we wouldn’t pull into our driveway until close to 10pm).   Eating dinner at the table with us had taken all of my grandpa’s energy, so he was lying down in bed by the time we had everything gathered to go.  I went down the hallway with the kids to say goodbye to him.  As I held Asher and bent over to give my grandpa a hug, I fought back tears as I felt like he was saying goodbye.  I told him we would see him again soon.  And we will, whether here on earth or after he has joined his wife and his Savior in heaven and it is our time to leave this earth to be with them as well.

It wasn’t too long after we had gotten back on I-95 that we decided we’d better stop and feed Asher one more time before we hit home.  We stopped at the same church parking lot we had stopped at on the way down and Will and Eila got out of the car while I fed Asher.  As I looked at them through the window, I observed my sweet husband running with my daughter in the grass and swinging her in his arms.  And I burst out laughing.  Because I saw this:

One of the saddest moments I had experienced that day was having that conversation with my grandfather before we left, as he laid on his bed in his navy blue pajamas, looking so small.  But how like our God to allow me my happiest moment looking at my little girl, also in pajamas, hers covered in pastel-colored whales, as she played and rejoiced in her father’s love.  One life near its end, the other at its beginning.

At least, on this side of heaven.


Down in my Heart to Stay

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”  ~Phillippians 4:4 (ESV)

Lately, I’ve been teaching my 2 year old daughter the children’s Bible song “I’ve Got the Joy In My Heart”.  It starts like this…”I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart… My little one loves to shout the “where?” part.  It goes on a few more verses and is a lot of fun to sing, as well as teaching basic but fundamental truths about a relationship with Christ.

I pray that learning these songs and stories about Jesus will take root in her heart so that she develops and nurtures the joy that can only come from a relationship with Him.  God is the master gardener in this way–as we know Him more and more, the seeds of joy He plants in us grow big and beautiful.  Of course, it is our responsibility to make the soil of our heart healthy and rich in order for those seeds to flourish.  So I ask myself- how do we do this?  How do we make our hearts joyful?

I believe it is all about nurturing our relationship with Christ.  When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  There is a pure joy in that alone.  But as many of us may have experienced, that initial seed of pure and true joy can get smothered if left unattended (*note: I didn’t say it dies!).  Without taking time to spend with God in His word, through praise, through prayer, and so forth, we miss out on the opportunity of that joy spreading like a bed of wildflowers throughout our heart…and through our very being.  What’s more, we miss out on the opportunity to have our garden on display for others to see.

God made us to be joyful as Christians.  I don’t always do a good job of showing my joy to others, especially if I’m having one of those days (you know, days where everything just seems to go wrong, or days where feeling depressed hits hard and fast).  But joy isn’t based on circumstance (happiness, however, is).  Paul speaks of this as he discusses being able to be content in all circumstances (Phillippians 4:11).  Rather, the essence of joy is based on the knowledge that God loves us and Has given us the privilege of a relationship with Him.  When everything else can change, God is our constant.  And in God we find the essence of joy.  So joy is meant to be a constant in our lives because we have a relationship with the God the Father, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  How amazing!

We are meant to overflow with joy so that others can see it and say, “I want that.  I want to be filled up and bubbling over like she is.”  Joy in our lives is meant to not only serve as a spiritual blessing to us as Christians, but it is even more important as the joy in our lives is meant to point others to its source: Jesus.

One of my favorite verses is Phillippians 4:4 (see above).  As we rejoice always in the Lord, we are meant to keep our focus on Him.  To further prepare the soil of our hearts for the growth of joy, keeping our focus on the Lord prevents our focus from going towards those things which would steal our joy.

So rejoice!  The God of the universe loves you and His desire for you is to experience the joy that can only come from such love.  Allow that joy to take root in you today!

Dear Father, thank you for your joy.  What an amazing gift to know we can find joy in You no matter what the circumstance!  I pray you would help me to nurture this gift and show it off to others so that they might receive it too.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This post is part of Rachel Olsen’s devotion carnival– go take a look!  It’s a wonderful way to read the thoughts of some other ladies on joy!


A Life Scripted to Music

I find extraordinary joy in music.  It is a wonderful gift we were blessed with and it never ceases to amaze me how music can change your mood, bring people together, or serve as a method in which memories are preserved.  I would imagine most, if not all people with access to some form of music outside of what they create themselves,  have been in a situation in which they have heard a song and are instantly reminded of a significant (or not-so-significant) moment in time.  Kenny Chesney sings about this in his song “I Go Back”.  Found within this song are the lyrics “We all have a song that somehow stamped our lives, Takes us to another place and time”.  Songs do stamp our lives.   I was thinking about this the other day and a large number of songs began to flood my mind that I consider significant to certain memories throughout my life.

Those who know me well know that I am terrible with long-term memory- without pictures or music, most of my memories from my middle school years would be a muddled mess, as would some from high school.  And you can forget about elementary school.  At least most of college is still intact because I am not that far away from those years…yet!

So, for my entertainment at least (and to serve as another way to hold on to some memories), here is my list of some of the music that has served as a script for my life.

1. Jesus Loves Me, Away in a Manger, and Zaccheus.  All Bible songs I learned at an early age and sang with my mom as an itty-bitty.  Also included in this time frame would be the Sesame Street theme song and Won’t You Be My Neighbor from Mr. Rogers.  No extraordinarily specific memories related here, more a general remembrance of that time.

2. Debbie Gibson- Shake Your Love.  I had a pocket rocker back in the late ’80s (when they were created) and thought it was the coolest.  That and my Debbie Gibson tape that accompanied it.  I was approximately 8 years old then and was rocking the side ponytail and slap bracelets.

3. Baby Baby by Amy Grant. Middle school.  I remember distinctly two of my best friends at the time making fun of me because of my love of Amy Grant, and especially this song.

4. Right Here Waiting for You by Richard Marx.  Played this in band in middle school.  My dramatic middle school self almost started crying while we played it during a concert due to my unrequited crush on a fellow band member.  That makes me laugh now.

5. En Vogue. Free Your Mind.  I remember two of my guy friends getting into an argument in eighth grade because one felt the other was too judgmental.  This song was brought into the argument and was quoted.

6. Devil Went Down to Georgia.  High school.  Riding with a friend of mine in his pick-up truck with windows down as he blasted this song.

7. Carolina in my Mind.  I went to UNC, and every time I hear this song I have multiple memories of my time there.

8. Ice Ice Baby.  Also in relation to UNC.  Exam time.  And an awesome RA I’m proud to call one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

9. You Are Beautiful (My Sweet Sweet Song)- Third Day- concert with two good friends when in graduate school at the University of South Carolina.  One of my friend was not a Christian but seemed really into this song- whenever I hear it, I think of her and hope she has come to know Jesus as her Savior.

10.  More- Matthew West.  This is the song that was playing on the radio when Will pulled up the driveway to pick me up for our first date.

11. How Do I Love Her- Steven Curtis Chapman.  The song sang during our wedding ceremony.

12.  I Could Not Ask For M0re- Edwin McCain.  The song Will and I danced to at our wedding reception.

13. My Little Girl (Tim McGraw), All-American Girl (Carrie Underwood), and There Goes My Life (Kenny Chesney).  All songs that made me cry when pregnant with Eila.

14.  Heaven is the Face by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I heard this song on the radio while going to a doctor’s appt to check on my yet unborn little guy, Asher.  I remember beginning to cry as I thought of the pain Steven Curtis Chapman and his family must feel after the loss of one of their daughters, and I also cried due to the baby I carried in my womb and the remarkable, precious gift that life is.

15. Baby Baby- Amy Grant.  Yes, it is on here again, because it was the song playing on the radio (the station was playing some older songs) as I made spaghetti while in labor with Asher.  It was ironic and appropriate and even more memorable since I loved the song as a child and Eila loves it as well!

It’s amazing to look back and see how music permeates so many moments in our lives.  There are so many more that came to mind while writing this but this post would be entirely too long (I think it already is!) and some things, I just like to keep for myself.