Monthly Archives: April 2016

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LOVE THAT LASTS FOREVER

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Michael looks into my eyes and takes my breath away. I have no doubt that our hearts were knitted together long before we met. We were made for each other. Thirty-one years after we said our vows on April 27, 1985, our love is stronger and more beautiful than ever.

During the hard years when the children were young and the stress seemed insurmountable, there were times when I actually felt nothing toward the man I had vowed to love forever. The misunderstandings and the hurts had taken their toll on my heart and it all seemed impossible to repair.

I began to understand why God desires that we pledge our love to each other for the rest of our earthly lives. It takes a lifetime to learn the true meaning of forgiveness and how to love unconditionally.

Through prayer and faith, our relationship was transformed. Christ renewed our love and restored our marriage.

With God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37).

After more than three decades, our love is deeper than I could have ever imagined. Christ’s love is the strength of our marriage. Where there is love, there will be beauty because love never fails.

Real and lasting love grows out of hearts that are knitted closely with God. The purest kind of love is filled with patience and kindness. It is not jealous or self-seeking. It does not remember past offenses. It rejoices with the truth. It never gives up on a person, is always full of faith, and will endure the hardest circumstances and come forth as pure as gold. Love that is built upon the rock of Christ is eternal and lasts forever.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” — 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7(NLT)

This piece has been revised from a previous post. The photo was captured the day we renewed our wedding vows in 2010.

A SMALL TOWN SOUTHERN WOMAN

Mema - 12-25-15

Heaven is rejoicing today over the birthday of my beloved grandmother. Mema was born on April 20, 1920 and she entered her heavenly home in February of this year. Although I miss her, my heart is filled with joy in knowing she’s where she wants to be. She lived a long, beautiful life and finished well.

Mema was the classic example of the woman described in Proverbs 31. Her example to me is a priceless gift. The seeds of her love will grow eternally in my heart and in my spirit.

My dad (Mema’s son) asked me to write the eulogy and share it at the funeral. I was so blessed to stand at the podium and share a few thoughts about Mema’s life. Today, in honor of my grandmother’s birthday I’m sharing the eulogy again.

A Tribute to Mema

Anyone who knew my grandmother could appreciate that she was a simple Southern woman who greatly loved her husband, her children, and her grandchildren. It was obvious she treasured being a wife, a homemaker, and spending time with her family. I believe her greatest joy came from serving people and she especially loved serving her family. Mema was very generous with her time and her resources.

My grandmother, Ethel, married the love of her life, Alvin Harper, when she was nineteen years old. Her marriage to my grandfather was one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever witnessed. Her loving devotion to her husband for seventy-two years is an inspiring example to me and for all the women who knew her. She stayed committed and loved my grandfather through the good times and hard times, the way God intended for a wife to do.

I asked Mema to tell me her favorite memory from the life she shared with my grandfather. With certainty, she said her favorite memory was raising their kids and having them come back home to visit when they were grown. Her words and the life she lived revealed what she valued most.

She spoiled the whole family with her meals that were made from scratch. I have vivid memories of watching her spend hours preparing the most delicious Southern cooking I’ve ever tasted. Shortly after we would sit down at the dinner table, she would always apologize for not making the food taste good enough. Everyone at the table would chuckle and assure her that the meal was exceptionally good.

I don’t know of anyone who could make a better breakfast than Mema. One of my best memories is waking up to the smell of her homemade biscuits and gravy. As soon as I was awakened, I would see the table filled with a whole variety of amazingly good homemade food.

Hanging out with Mema when I was growing up was one of my favorite things to do. I was blessed to live right next door to her for a number of years. I learned to be a hard worker by watching Mema work so hard to provide good food and create a cozy home for her husband.

I remember the way she went the extra mile for her family and did things like drying beans every summer and called them “leather britches.” She was very gifted at sewing, quilting, and she could do just about anything crafty. She made dolls and stuffed animals for me. She sewed beautiful clothes for me during my grammar school years. She gardened and canned vegetables and made the most amazing jams, jellies, candies, and homemade popcorn balls. I will always remember how Mema wanted to give us candy or some sort of treat when we were leaving her house.

She had a wonderful way of making everyone in the family feel well cared for. The many times I slept over at her house, she would come to the bedroom repeatedly to bring more blankets and make sure I was warm enough. Now, I have a habit of sleeping with layers of thick blankets because of Mema’s love and concern for me when I was a child.

Mema grew older gracefully and developed a great sense of humor. She often made me laugh with her wittiness. She referred to our family as country folks a number of times. She truly was a small town country girl with a charming personality.

I’ll never forget the many little phrases she would say daily. She would get enthused about the simplest things, and with her country accent she would say one of her trademark phrases: “Well, I wish you would look.” “Heavenly days.” “That’s as old as Methuselah.” “Well, I’ll say.” “I’ll swanee.” “I want you to look.”

I will always cherish the memory of her most used and all-time favorite phrase to say: “That beats all I’ve ever seen.”

Her thoughtfulness, kindness, and her desire to serve people carried over into her elderly years. It was just a part of who she was.

After moving to a senior living facility, she would often show concern for her table mates. She wanted to make sure they were okay and had everything they needed.

Mema blessed the lives of many people at her assisted living home. My heart was deeply touched at the large number of staff members who told me how sweet Mema was. Time and time again they said, “Ethel is a sweetheart; she’s my favorite resident.” After she left the Oaks Senior Living Home, the staff openly expressed how much they would miss her. She will be missed, indeed.

My grandmother’s life greatly impacted me and taught me the value of putting God and my family above all else. I’m grateful that she taught me the beauty and fulfillment that comes from being a wife, a mother, and a homemaker.

When I think of Mema’s life, I am reminded of the scriptures in Psalm 91, verses 14-16.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Mema loved the Lord and she honored Him with her life. Christ honored her and satisfied her with a long, blessed life.

I can imagine Mema’s reaction when she stepped into heaven. As Jesus and my grandfather greeted her at the pearly gates, I feel certain that she got her first glance and said with the greatest enthusiasm ever: “That beats all I’ve ever seen!”

I’ll love you forever, Mema.

The photo of my daughter and my grandmother was captured on Christmas, 2015.

FINDING BEAUTY IN MUNDANE MOMENTS

Spring - 2016

The routine things of life can weigh us down or they can be opportunities to find the divine in the mundane. Every day is an opportunity to see God’s beauty and His hand working in our lives.

One of the things I love most about Jesus is that He makes the most ordinary days seem absolutely extraordinary. Walking a dog in the park, a trip to the grocery store, or simply doing yard work can be filled with magnificence because of the awareness of God’s constancy in our lives.

Being aware of God’s presence makes life beautiful no matter what.

During the past week, a young mom began chatting with me while I was standing in the check-out line at a store. She told me several things about her little girl and I shared some things with her about my grown children. It was refreshing to talk with her.

As she stepped away to walk toward the exit, I noticed that “JESUS” was written in big, bold letters on the back of her t-shirt. With a smile, I said, “I love your shirt.” While telling me it was a favorite shirt of hers, she turned around so I could read the words.

With bubbling joy, I said, “Those words are written on the key chain that belonged to my grandmother.” She smiled and it seemed obvious that she knew she had blessed me.

As she walked out of the store I said, “God bless you.” My heart was overjoyed over a short encounter with a stranger.

My beloved ninety-five-year-old grandmother passed away in February. My dad gave me Mema’s jewelry box shortly after her death. Tucked inside with the jewelry, there was a key chain with these words: “The key to my heart is JESUS.” The phrase was new to me and the key chain instantly became my favorite. The words reminded me that only Christ can fully satisfy the heart. He fills the empty hole that’s left when a loved one dies.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was chatting with someone I’d never met—a woman wearing a shirt with words similar to the words on Mema’s key chain. I stopped believing in coincidence many years ago.

I believe things that seem like they happen coincidentally are actually divine appointments to reveal God’s perfect love for us.

God used a woman’s kind heart and her t-shirt to touch my spirit. God says He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is present with us always.

If we look for God with our whole heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). We can have eternal joy in all circumstances because of His love and presence.

Have you seen God’s hand working in your life lately? Do you realize how deeply He loves you?

No matter what we’re going through in this broken world, Jesus is enough. He is enough to satisfy the longings we have. He is enough when we are experiencing pain. His beauty is waiting to be unveiled in the most unexpected ways in the mundane moments of life.

LORD,

You are amazing. Nothing satisfies the soul like You do. Let us seek You with our whole heart. Help us to look to You and expect You to meet our needs. Let us see Your hand working in our lives every day in the most amazing ways. Let us gaze upon Your beauty today and always. I pray in Your name, Christ. Amen.

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”— Psalm 27:3 (NIV)

Photo Credit: My husband, Michael, captured the picture while we were out enjoying a walk.