He Is Enough

“Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money including greed, lust & craving for earthly possessions and be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have; for God said, I will never forsake you or leave you”-Hebrews 13:5

If you live in the South this time of year your social media starts blowing up with pictures of the beach. The mass exodus has begun. Historically, at least for us here in Eastern NC, April kicks off beach season. Hands down my favorite time of year. Getting back out on the water. Breathing the salt air. Beautiful sunsets. Glorious views. The whole season. Everything. Soothes my soul.

They tell me there’s a real thing called FOMO: fear of missing out. I totally get it. It’s easy to scroll through Instagram or Facebook and see who is at the beach. What large fun family gathering is taking place. Who went where over Easter break. It’s far too easy to be dissatisfied with the circumstances you’ve been dealt. Rather than walking out your season as God called you? You scroll through social media and compare yourself to everyone else’s perfectly orchestrated lives full of staged grandeur.

We all have a hole inside that is empty, burns and is raw. It longs to be filled. Social media deceives us into believing the world can fill us. That’s simply a lie from the enemy. The only thing that can fill the hole is Jesus. If we don’t fill it with Jesus? More things, more dissatisfaction, more FOMO.

This Easter as I sat without my husband and entire family in church I realized how quickly time is moving. A year ago we were a family. Today? Life looks very different. We still feel the absence of Robin in every aspect of our life. I honestly don’t know how people survive lifes tragedies without God. If that hole wasn’t filled in my soul? I believe my entire being would have collapsed at the weight and magnitude of the year.

As I scroll through my newsfeed the next couple of weekends? When my heart in envious for saltwater? When I have a lump in my throat longing for what once was? I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God is promising me that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

He is enough.

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His Wondrous Glory

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I recently read a commentary that perfectly depicted how many of us are walking out our faith as we enter into Holy Week:  defeated from a long cold winter.  Dry bones. Let me paraphrase the commentary:

Winter is departing and with the resurrection the dead season is gone and new life begins. We are changed because of the dead season but not barren. Christ brings new life if we choose to leave winter and spring forward.

I adore this analogy. Just when we think we absolutely can not take one more second of the season? The Lord gives us a glimpse of His wondrous glory.

Christ gives us the choice to commune with him in new life because of the resurrection. Because of Jesus. A chance to move forward in anticipation of new hope and new life. How many of us choose to let fear keep us from moving forward? How many of us can’t quite let go of the past season in order to embrace the new birth of a bright fresh new season?

My puppy Henry, as frustrating as he is, has been my saving grace since my husband passed away last July. Henry and I have struggled mightily over who is in charge. One thing Henry has taught me? He doesn’t remember when I’ve scolded him or if he does he doesn’t show it. He leaves the past season in the past. He eagerly awaits my entrance every single time I come into his peripheral  vision. He only sees the here and now. He only sees the good. Regardless of how I’ve behaved he’s eager to welcome me by bouncing and literally hugging me with his two front legs and paws. He loves me unconditionally even when I don’t deserve it. Shouldn’t we all be welcoming Jesus and  new seasons exactly in the same manner in which Henry does? Jesus most certainly treats us with the same regard.

It’s sobering thinking about what Jesus physically endured for us. When I have that picture in my mind? I am embarrassed that I can’t let go of some of the dead bones from the winter season. Jesus. Brutally beaten to a pulp to take away our sins. We certainly don’t deserve it. He did it freely for us.

When we are walking around with dead bones? That is bondage.  That’s us allowing the enemy to steal our rightful place in the Kingdom. This week let us all spring forward into thanksgiving and praise for the One who died to give us the freedom of new life.

“Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible”-Luke 1:37

PURE JOY


One year ago your swanky wheelchair was delivered. I filmed as you took that machine for its first test drive.  PURE JOY as you attempted donuts at the end of the driveway. Laughter as you threw caution to the wind.  We had no idea you’d be gone just four months later.

Biblically the Hebraic meaning of the number 8 is ‘new beginnings’. Ironically in this 8th month, since your move to heaven, my life is projecting forth with almost too many new beginnings for my comfort.  My house is under contract (it ain’t a done deal till it’s closed), I’m in the process of packing up my home and 27 years of memories in just 8 weeks time,  finding a new home, still dealing with estate issues, my oldest daughter is preparing for a new job out of state and my youngest daughter is studying abroad as soon as her spring semester is over. Oh, and did I mention I haven’t done my taxes yet? This will be a life changing season of new beginnings. One of complete and total independence. It’s also a season of being completely alone for the first time in my adult life. A time of total dependence on the Lord.

You taught us all so much in the last eleven months of your life. As cliche as it sounds you captivated us with your seize the day mentality and your child like wonder. You led us spiritually to a deeper understanding of seeking the kingdom of God first.

You are loved and missed more than words could ever convey.  I’m excited to start this new chapter and simultaneously so very sad.  If your girls and I can do 1/8th of the job you did demonstrating complete trust, peace and joy in Jesus? Well, we will have done something magnificent. Happy 8th month Home Going, Robin Wooten!

“No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one this: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead”
-Philippians 3:13

Blown Fuse

It was a warm sunny spring afternoon in our little married student housing cinderblock apartment. You had just come in from class. I was hand drying dishes when the phone rang. I cradled the phone on my shoulder next to my ear while holding a glass still damp with dishwater in my free hand. The voice on the other end of the line said three words that were so terrifying I dropped the glass. It shattered everywhere. You came running into the kitchen. “What’s wrong? What is it?!” I hung up the phone in disbelief. No, actually, shock. “I’m pregnant”.

We were told we could never have children. In fact, just 9 weeks earlier I had a DNC at Duke. Unbeknownst to us I was evidently pregnant during the procedure. The fetus should have been aborted.  We stood in the kitchen looking at each other. I started to cry and you grinned from ear to ear.  “What are we going to do, RW?”  “Have a baby, Mama, have a baby .”  We were 24 years old.

You’ve been gone 7 1/2  months and my sensory receptors feel exactly like they did 20 some years ago when we found out I was pregnant with our oldest daughter. It can’t be real. But it is. It’s shocking to the system. Paralyzing.  “What do I do now?” “How do I do this?” All ridiculous reactions because I have been doing life without you for months now. Days are filled with activity and purpose. It’s the daily routines of our marriage that stop me cold in my tracks. Driving to supper club by myself I glance over to your empty seat and it takes my breath away.  It’s as if my mind and my heart have blown a fuse. I know you are not coming back. I know you aren’t going to be sitting at the dinner table or in the church pew.  I know this. But for whatever reason your absence is surreal in these moments.

Naomi, Job, Hannah, David, Mary, Martha & Jesus all experienced deep grief. I find comfort knowing Jesus wept over his friend. He loved Lazarus. He knew he was going to die.  Jesus knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus. Guess what? Jesus still grieved!

This reminds me that where there is deep love there is deep grief.  It doesn’t mean your faith is any less or that the testimony isn’t as valid. It doesn’t mean you are stuck and not moving forward. It simply means you loved deeply and now you are deeply grieved. And for today? That is okay.

“For your love & kindness are better to me than life itself!”-Psalm 63:3

Locked In

This week I learned what a true hero my husband was. Yes, I get that, we all sanctimoniously elevate our deceased loved ones to sainthood but—for real.

Thursday I had an MRI of the brain. Pretty routine until they told me they would put a cage over my face. If you’ve never had an MRI? Imagine a tanning bed that closes while having a Freddy Cougar mask over your face then locked down.

The young tech was delightful. “Mrs. Wooten are you claustrophobic?” “Mrs. Wooten I have Sirius XM what music would you like to listen too?” “Mrs Wooten are you medicated?” This made me laugh 😆 Had I known about the mask ahead of time I would have been not just medicated but “heavily” medicated.

I was put in the tube and the young gentleman asked me again “What station would you like to listen too?” “63 The Message” I said. Jesus was needed desperately. He put the cage over my head and very kindly said “Ok, I’m going to slide you into the tube now. Don’t move you will be in here about 18-20 minutes. That’s about 6-7 songs”. And I was slid into the abyss with my hands by my side unable to move one inch.

Immediately panic set in. I couldn’t remember any scripture so I just started saying the Camp Seafarer blessing 😂😂😂. My breathing slowed. Michael W. Smiths “Amazing Grace” started playing and finally I was calm.

And then it hit me: “This is ALS!” This is how my husband lived the last months of his life: unable to move “locked in” but completely aware of everything going on. And the miracle of it all is that my husband not only praised God through the whole duration of the illness? He laughed! He rarely panicked. He was so focused on living & preparing for getting out of the tube, so to speak, that he saw his circumstances as merely temporary.

What a lesson Robin Wooten taught me! Why do we think that all “bad” or uncomfortable circumstances have to be forever? Scripture clearly tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” .

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Who Are You?

Two years ago I was a wife. Two years ago I was a mother of two college students. Two years ago I was a homemaker. Two years ago I snapped this photo of Robin and our daughters while vacationing in Charleston. Two years later? Robin is in heaven and I am a widow.

When asked today who you are how do you respond? Are you a wife? Mother? Teacher? Doctor? Realtor? Business woman? Who do you say you are? Who do you identify as or with? Think about that.  “I went to Saint Mary’s too!” “My husband was on the board with your sister!”  “I, too, was a Chi O!” “Our family had a beach place there for years also!” When the layers of identity  labels  are pulled off who exactly are you?

When I stripped away the title of Robin’s wife, Olivia Whitford’s mother, Carrington’s mother, Marc’s sister, Dawn’s sister in law, Sam’s aunt, George and Jane’s daughter, a girls school alumnae and a particular college university graduate? Who exactly was I?

When your kids are grown, the beach house is empty or sold, your spouse is gone, the job is over, your role has played out who are you? When you simply are just you with no titles or attachments who are you?

Last week I was captivated with the  celebrations of Billy Graham’s home going services. It is estimated that he reached more people with the gospel than any other human being in history. His message was so simple. There were no titles, no tag lines, no pretense.  Billy Graham knew exactly who he was in Christ. The world was captivated by the Holy Spirit living inside of him.

My life has changed ten fold in these past 7 months. I’ve  been trying to figure out who I am without titles. The reality is we all have a Royal Title and Royal Lineage if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior:  Child of the Most High. I do love some good jewelry 🙂 and look forward to crowns in heaven! This title is THE most important one of all. We put all of these layers and titles on to cover up the One title that the whole world needs to see and hear the most:  Child of God.

“Until I come, devote yourself to public reading of scripture, to preaching and to teaching Gods word”~1 Timothy 4:13

 

I’m Coming Out

I’m coming out. Coming clean, if I may. Brutally honest. I’ve been struggling. Walking the tight rope between self pity and pride. That uncomfortable gray area somewhere between “help me!” and “what are you talking about? I’m fine!” I know that I’m not fine but I’m too prideful to risk pity.

My very best friends have no idea what my day to day life is like. I’m a master deflector. I’ve learned to brilliantly navigate through relationships. With the utmost love and genuine care I invest my time and ear listening to my friends trials and triumphs. I was a journalism major and I’m an accomplished interviewer. I’m not nearly as quick to let others uncover the real scoop about my life. And as of late this is by design.

And yet how can I write about my relationship with Christ if I can’t be truly honest? How can I have genuine, sincere, meaningful relationships if I don’t want to be exposed? Honest? And why is it that some topics transparency is acceptable and others show weakness or failure in the eyes of the world?

How about you? What difficulties are you hiding from the world? What pain do you go to great lengths to hide? Do you unload on your spouse and kids behind closed doors only to repaint your persona once you step outside of your four walls?

We live in a confusing time in history. As a human race we rally around the obscure only to crucify what we deem as weak. Broken. We base self worth on selfies, homes, cars, education, vacations, and our vain accolades to promote our children. We place the highest value on busyness, being seen, self promotion, and self enrichment. In other words, success is perfection that we must create, orchestrate, and perform in order to be of value or worth. Everything is a fight to win perfection.

We turn cancer patients into “survivors”. Those battling disease into “warriors”. Addicts are “recovering”. Marriages that fall apart into “battles”. We take every day human life experiences and rally behind them to make them socially acceptable by simply labeling them something to justify the “weakness” that person is walking through.

Does anyone find this crazy? Doesn’t the bible clearly tell us in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “For when I am weak, then I am strong”? God knew and God knows we all face weaknesses and that is a good thing!! It is in that weakness that we let Him take the burden from us. It is in that weakness that we have the opportunity to shine. The enemy has convinced the world that weakness is failure and can only be corrected by self help. And if we label it something then it’s socially acceptable to be the walking wounded. Otherwise we are just broken.

Today is World Scleroderma Day. Since scleroderma is part of my testimony I thought I would share with you what it’s like living with a chronic, incurable and ultimately terminal illness. It sucks. It’s watching your body become broken. It’s loosing independence. It’s living with disfigurement. It’s painful. It’s isolating. It’s sometimes terrifying. Its heartbreaking. It’s embarrassing. Often shameful. Exhausting. Expensive. I have absolutely no control. Zero.

And yet the disease has allowed me to see the bigger picture. The disease has let me personally know Jesus. The disease has let me see that pre- scleroderma I was infected too. I was diseased with self. Self everything. I do not believe that God makes bad things happen. But I do believe God brings to light who we really are when bad things do happen.

I’m broken. God knows, people, I am broken. And I’ve spent the last month screaming at my husband because of all I can’t do. I take pills to be able to swallow. I take pills to make my non existent digestive system function. I take injections for my joints. I take vitamins and probiotics to fight the never ending pool of bacterial overgrowth in my gut. I inhale things to get the fluid out of my lungs. I swallow more pills to keep flushing my kidneys. I get injections in my skull to fight the blinding headaches. I rub prescription creams all over the ulcers on my extremities. I only eat foods that won’t make me violently sick or choke. I inject myself with chemo drugs every Sunday hoping to achieve remission. I can’t stay awake during the day and I can’t sleep at night. I am a trapped in a body that I can not control.

In the worlds eye–and admittedly in my mind during quarterly melt downs–I’m a failure. But guess what? This ain’t forever.! And through all of this I still see Jesus. I see Him in the sunrise. I see Him in the sunset. I see Him in my garden. I see Him in the texts from friends. I hear Him in phone calls. I hear Him in my husbands voice as he whispers “I’d take it for you if I could”. I hear it in my grown children’s “I love you, Mama”. I feel Him in the sunshine. I feel Him in my dogs warm snuggles. I feel Him in music blaring from my car stereo.

Through weakness I have become strong. Strong enough to be dressed and ready for the world and most days with a smile on my face. Strong enough and smart enough to hunt down, diagnose, and research every new symptom that pops up. Strong enough to know when I’m not strong enough to push through. Strong enough to live outside of my circumstances by investing in relationships other than focusing solely on me. Smart enough to know that life isn’t a do over. Life is the the question “what are you going to do? Are you going to make a difference? Let Jesus shine? Or are you going to succumb to mediocrity?”

I am physically broken but in Him I am perfect. In Him I have a label… “I am His”.

“Never give up”-Luke 18:1

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