His Splendor

Saturday my husband and I spent the afternoon at the farm. Two things never cease to amaze me: (1) my husbands zealous love of the land (2) God’s splendor. Which leads me to wonder does God cause that thirst in our souls for His creation? Is that quench a picture of how He wants us to long for Him?

 

I will tell you that the saltwater is something that my soul literally craves. I’ve been known, on more than one occasion, to drive the hour and fifteen minute trek down to the beach just to see the sunrise or sunset. If there are weeks at a time that we can’t pop down, even for the night, I feel a sense of longing. A kind of mourning.

 

I think this is how my husband feels about the farm. I love watching him walk the fields. Checking out animal tracks. Explaining the history of the old tobacco barns and corn cribs. Tell me stories of working the fields with his granddaddy as a little boy. Showing me where various farm hands lived throughout the generations. Verbally painting me the picture of the tenants eating daily lunch of tomatoes, chicken, biscuits, and tea at his grandmothers. His memories of riding shotgun with his granddaddy checking the crops. He’s transfixed in memories and affection. A sense of love and pride for that land.

 

Saturday we went down to the creek i.e. the swamp. On the banks, with spanish moss softly swaying in the cool breeze, we just listened. Listened to the trickle of the water. Listened to the wood ducks. And we watched. We saw a bobcat. At least a dozen deer. And the most spectacular sunset. No cars. No planes. No voices. Literally just the sounds of God’s creation. Complete and total peace. Hallowed ground.

 

God has created a spectacular world for us. The enemy has done a spectacular job of distracting us from it. Spectacular because he’s so very good at it. We believe the lie that we can’t miss out on our television shows, social media, sporting events or action packed filled vacations. We’ve stopped being still. We are “bored” with just being still.

 

I have to believe that God is presenting us with all of His splendor. Right here on earth. No matter how distracted the enemy keeps us God keeps calling us to Him. He is constant and consistent. The stars, the sky, the moon and the sun. Their beauty is unprecedented. Yet we don’t ever look up to the heavens. Ironically we constantly look down. At our phones. At people.

 

The enemy’s time is limited here on earth. God is the Alpha and the Omega. He has no beginning and no end. His majesty is forever. The things of this earth? They have a shelf life.  God is forever. His wonder and glory have no end.

 

This week look up! Thank Him for the promise of a new day. Thank Him for the beauty of the sky, the moon, the stars, the sun. Thank Him for loving us enough to shower us in His splendor.

 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”-Revelation 21:6

 

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Delight Yourself In The Lord

These are a few things that absolutely delight my soul: my husbands face, our daughters, my in-laws, our dogs, my friends, salt water, the sunrise and sunset, and flowers. All of these things, in the words of my mother, “warm the cockles of my heart”. These are truly joys in my life.

 

When my husband walks into the house at the end of the day I feel joy. Even if he’s had a rough day I feel everything is in order when he’s home. I’m at peace. Likewise if I’ve had a really busy day nothing makes me smile brighter than opening the back door to two tails wagging as they greet me. Waking up in the morning to coffee, the sunrise, quiet time and flowers on my kitchen table? Heaven on earth.

 

One of the first scriptures I ever memorized was Psalm 37:4-5 “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” In my naivety, as a new believer, I thought that if I loved the Lord He would allow prosperity into my life which would make me happy.

 

Amazingly He has blessed us beyond measure. There was a season when it wasn’t enough. I still wasn’t happy. I wanted more. And I loved the Lord with all my heart and soul. But I loved the luxuries of this world more.

 

And then the stock market crashed. All of our marital identity, comfort and stability was hanging in the balance. Within a five year time span our little bubble of a world was rocked.

 

My mother became terminally ill and passed away. I was diagnosed with Lupus. Our oldest daughter left for college. Our youngest daughter came home from boarding school. My father became terminally ill. We pulled our youngest daughter out of college. Our oldest daughter was diagnosed with a systemic disease and had to move back home. My father came to live with us and passed away 13 days later.

 

I remember praying one morning “Lord, how did this happen?! Your word promises me the desires of my heart! Lord I can’t do this anymore!” In the still of that morning I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “I have given you the desires of your heart you just have to see them”.

 

Just as quickly as the chaos came the calm started to slowly return. It felt like it took years. God was sorting it out. There is still daily chaos. My perspective has changed though. I see Him first. And through Him I see the love and beauty that was poured into the creation of my husband, my children, our pets, the ocean, the sunrise, the sunset and the flowers. I see the care that He took in placing specific Godly women in my life. I see how sweet He was to put in-laws in my life who  love me as their own daughter. He chose all of these things for me! These are the desires of His heart for me.

 

We have to let God be God. We must remove ourselves from our throne. Take off  our  crowns. Recognize that the King of Kings is in charge. He loves us. He sees the bigger picture. Trust his faithfulness. Let Him wear the crown today. Let Him show you the true desires of your heart~the things that bring you inexplicable peace and joy.

 

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”-Lamentations 3:22-23

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When The Storms Come

As I am writing this our neck of the woods is preparing for a stormy day. The schools announced last night that they would be dismissing early today. Many businesses downtown are closing early.

 

Living so close to the coast Eastern North Carolinians are well versed in early Spring storms. Tornados, hurricanes, floods of biblical proportions, and N’oreasters. For the most part life goes on as normal. Based on history people are usually well prepared.

 

I’m always amazed (and somewhat amused) by the people banging on the doors of the grocery store in the midst of a storm. We live in the rural farming coastal flatlands. Weather is a topic of discussion to everyone at some point in the day. It is second nature to keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and extra batteries, candles and bottled water on hand in a “prep kit”. Okay maybe we just do it because I’m married to an over achieving Eagle Scout. Storms are part of our landscape. Be prepared.

 

How about the storms in your life? Are you caught off guard? Do you panic? Or are you calmly prepared? When we aren’t grounded in Gods word? When we aren’t bonded in Godly friendships? When we are totally entrenched in the world? The storms come and we cry out “Lord, what in the world?! Where are you?”

 

When we are walking with God on a daily basis He prepares us for life’s storms. The storms are still going to come. With Jesus? The storms are easier to navigate.

 

One of my favorite Psalms is 89:8-9 “Lord God All-Powerful, there is no one like you. You are strong, Lord, and always faithful. You rule the stormy sea. You can calm its angry waves.” No matter how large my storm may be a great and mighty God is in charge. An all powerful Lord is there to calm my seas. Don’t you love that?!

 

The good news? Storms come in seasons. They don’t last forever. Some may blow through very quickly. Others may linger. But they all resolve. Some end with a peaceful calm. Others leave a path of destruction. If we are prepared with our prep kit ahead of the storm ? We just hang on and trust that He will guide us through. We have the absolute guarantee that God, forever faithful, will navigate for us.

 

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me. He drew me from deep waters”-Psalm 118:16

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Monkey Business

For the past three weeks I have not watched television. Okay that’s not entirely true. I’ve watched Fixer Upper on HGTV on Tuesday nights. But that’s it. All weather and news updates I’ve read on the Internet.

What I’ve found is that my husband and I don’t miss it. We’ve been watching series and documentaries on Netflix and YouTube. We’ve been going to bed almost an hour earlier and reading a half hour longer. This revelation has prompted us to consider removing our cable all together.

A friend recently said “You still will see the same junk on Netflix that you see on cable”. Well, yes and no. What we have both found is that without watching TV you don’t channel surf. You consciously choose what you are going to watch. If it has nudity, sex, foul language you forward through it.

Twenty seven years ago (as a wedding gift) we received three porcelain Japanese monkeys. Each of the figurines represents the principal “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The gift giver enclosed a card:  “see no evil, listen to no evil, and speak no evil . Your marriage will be prosperous and free of monkey business.” Pretty clever. Actually there is a considerable amount of wisdom in those words.

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior our slate is wiped clean. The bible tells us:

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”-2 Corinthians 5:17 

All of our “junk” is forgiven and forgotten. The garbage is disposed of. We are made brand new in His image. So, if we are all clean and shiny on the inside? Why in the world would we subject our eyes, ears, and mouth to the filth of the world?

Think about it another way. You total a brand new car. It’s your fault. Your Dad forgives you no questions asked. He then turns around and buys you another brand new car. You do not deserve it. You learned your lesson and you promise your dad to drive responsibly. And you do. However you don’t wash the car. It is filthy. But you haven’t wrecked it so you think you are doing just fine. Your Dad repeatedly asks you when you are going to clean the vehicle. “I will! Dad I promise! I’m doing great though, aren’t I? The car is dirty but No traffic violations”.

Jesus provides us with this remarkable gift of new life. He wants what we hear, see, say, and do to reflect all that He has bestowed us. It doesn’t matter that we are just following the “rules”. If we are still living in the muck we have missed the point. God calls us to live righteously.

After three weeks of clean watching? I have noticed more of the beauty in and around my home and neighborhood. I am acutely aware of not only my words and actions but those around me. My heart is lighter, brighter, and more optimistic. I feel renewed. Without all the noise and messiness of the day to day influences of life? I clearly see what He wants me to see. Strive to be who He wants me to be.

Paul puts it this way “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”-Romans 12:2

Turn the television off. Turn off the radio in your car. Read, study, pray, praise. It’s an amazing world He has given us!

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”-Philippians 4:8

Words Matter

In a culture where perverseness is second nature we often forget our tongues are powerful. It’s a sad but true fact.

If you grew up south of the Mason Dixon you most assuredly had a mother or grandmother who reminded you, on more than one occasion, that words matter. One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. Meaning that how you convey your words matters.

Simply do a google search “what does the bible say about our words?” and you will find more than a dozen scriptures. God wants us to understand that our words matter. Matthew 12:34 tells us “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” What we feel in our hearts is reflected off of our tongue.

I don’t know about you but I sometimes struggle with nice words. I consider myself an optimist. I also am a realist. The two traits combined often lead me to say exactly what I think. Not a good thing.

This past year our family had many a heated argument where hurtful words, unleashed in the moment, reflected our aching hearts. The problem with this is that you can’t take those words back.

Hurtful words may be a reflection of how you feel in that very moment. You may not feel that way in five years. Or even in five minutes. The person on the receiving end of those words?  They will likely not forget them. God calls us to speak carefully. Righteously.

“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”-Matthew 15:11.

Words Matter.

The good news? Because Jesus Christ has forgiven so may we.

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”-Proverbs 15:4

 

At Rest

My husband has every card I’ve ever given him. I mean every single one. Like since 1984. He also has saved every note our daughters have penned. They are neatly organized in his bedside table. I have a whole stack of love letters I saved from him during college. Other than that I’m just not emotionally attached to cards. Which is funny because I love words and my husband is a man of very few words.

I can, however, tell you about every piece of jewelry, china, silver, and artwork my husband has given me. I can recall when it was given and where. I can recollect that period of time as if it were capsuled just for me. Some pieces have strong emotions attached to them. Seasons of passion and seasons of pain. To me, that’s what makes them priceless. That’s what illustrates our story.

When we were dating we spent a lot of weekends on his family farm. Being a man of few words he loved to drive the fields and just observe. We would drive through soy bean, tobacco, and cotton fields in his grandfathers 1964 pickup truck. The floor boards on the passenger side were rusted. You could see the eastern North Carolina sandy soil beneath you. Tobacco leaves swishing up through the floor as we bumped along in that old three on the tree truck.

One of the things I love about my husband to this very day is that he taught me to be still. To observe. To watch. To appreciate the flatlands we live in. To see the story in the land. Architecture in tobacco barns. To take in the sunset in silence. To take notice of all the beauty that surrounds us. I believe that God used my husband to set the stage for me to be able to see Gods glory much later in our marriage. 

I wish I could articulate to our daughters just what love and marriage truly mean. Our daughters are at the age of being bridesmaids and attending the weddings of their friends. The beautiful dresses, gorgeous rings, and extravagant receptions. But do they truly comprehend what the joining of those two young people mean? If it was all meant to be perfect then we wouldn’t need Him.

I read the most fabulous quote recently by Lysa TerKeust “Most of us spend years chasing things in this world that we think will make us feel loved. But everything this world has to offer is temporary. Everything. The kind of love our souls crave is lasting, eternal. And only God can fill up our hearts with that kind of love.”

My husband gave me a beautiful oil painting of an old pickup truck for Valentines Day. The artist had entitled it “At Rest”. Few things have moved me like this painting. It reminds me of the farm, young love, and all the bumps in the road over the past 27 years of marriage. The epiphany that through it all we are finally at rest with one another. We no longer expect the other to fill that empty hole. We know, now, that only Jesus Christ can truly satisfy our souls. That our spouse was never intended to be our god. 

I love my husband more than words could ever adequately describe. He is my very best friend. My confidant. My partner. But he alone can not complete me. He compliments me. And hopefully our earthly love is a preparation for the eternal love that we have in Christ. 

“We love because he first loved us.”-1 John 4:19

  

This Ain’t No Dress Rehearsal 

Recently I cornered my husband and made him engage in an unpleasant conversation. My funeral. Morbid? To me, the I have to plan everything girl, it was a normal conversation. He did not want to participate. “Elizabeth, that’s ridiculous. We both know I’ll go first. And when I do make sure it’s on the way to work”. Confused I said “Huh?” With a chuckle he replied “My life insurance will be worth more if it’s work related”. I was the one not amused.

The facts are indisputable: (1)we are all going to die (2) our earthly bodies have to be put somewhere. Like I said I’m a planner. I want to make sure that my family has planned for my home going. My husband plans estates for a living. I plan our lives. This only seems fitting to me.

I explained to my husband what I had in mind. In fact, a friend of ours came up with a fabulous idea. It’s so good that I asked her permission to share it. I do not want a large church service. I want a private family graveside service. I’ll leave the details up to my family. The rest I want to plan.

I want to throw a party. I want you to show up ready to celebrate! To throw down! I want everyone who has had the pleasure or displeasure of knowing me to come. There will be a band. (Liquid Pleasure would be perfect!) I want you to dance, laugh loudly, and love on every familiar and unfamiliar face that you see.

I want you to indulge in good ole’ eastern North Carolina barbecue, chicken salad, shrimp, fried chicken, biscuits, caramel cake, lemon squares, 12 layered chocolate cake, sweet tea and the adult beverages of your choice. I want there to be blue and white ginger jars and silver vases full of roses, tulips, hydrangeas and peonies.

If it’s warm I want you to see a room full of seersucker, bow ties, sundresses, pearls, sandals, and little girls barefoot in smocked dresses. Little boys in monogrammed John Johns. Am I painting a picture for you? Does this sound like a combination of Easter and a wedding reception? Because that is the point!

When this diseased body finally goes? I will be resurrected out of this temporal life up to heaven to be with my Bridegroom forever. It is a reason to have the largest party eastern North Carolina has ever seen. Not because of who I am (believe me I’m no one ) but because of where I will be going. Does that sound like the most phenomenal day ever?! It will be! No more tears no more sorrow. Healed, whole, and in our eternal home with our Savior.

You don’t think I’m serious do you? Neither did my husband. But I can assure you I have thought this through. And just to keep it exciting I want my family to play a video that I’ll prerecord. I will explain in no uncertain terms: (a) where I am (b) Why I am there (c)How I got there.  And I’ll give the invitation to anyone present to give their lives to Christ right there at the country club. Heck, on the dance floor if that suits your fancy! I live in a small town. People will be talking about it for years to come as a spectacle  or a miracle. “Did you hear about that Wooten funeral? Yes, the tacky one! I heard  they held a revival at the country club” or “Did you go to the Wooten reception? Oh my gosh, greatest day ever!”

I’ve buried two parents, walked a child through addiction, another through illness and been told my life expectancy is 10 years tops. This  ain’t no dress rehearsal. The only “do over” we get? A new life in Jesus Christ. It’s too important to miss! Who cares if your neighbors think you are nuts. Who cares if it’s not politically correct. It’s the right thing to do. It is securing your eternal place in heaven. It’s the most important thing you will ever do.

As we prepare for the Easter season prepare your heart for Him!  Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose again so that you may have eternal life with Him.

The parties just getting started what are you waiting for?

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”-1 Peter 3:15