Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going

“Look Up!” you told us. “Cling to what is good” you said. You assured us that “It is well with my soul”.  The past year I’ve clung to that truth with a broken heart and the promise that our Lord is the Great Healer.  The hardest battle I’ve ever fought. Most nights I have felt defeated. Yet the sun comes up and a new day dawns. With each alarm I arise with praise and thanksgiving that I was privileged to have loved you and been loved by you. With each day I ask the Lord to show me Joy.

A year later the landscape of our lives looks nothing as it did when you left. The change has not been well with my soul. Again, I ask the Lord to show me His Glory. Show me Joy. In the sorrow He has been my Comforter. In suffering He reminds me that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.

A year later I have concluded that your death was not about you. It was about a family and a community getting right with God.  How do we conduct our lives? How do we treat those we say we love? What captivates our thoughts? Are we takers or givers? Do our lives show fruitfulness? Do we comfort or abandon? Self serve or serve others?

You knew you were meeting the Lord of Lords face to face. You spent your final months preparing for that meeting. It was magnificent to witness. Your death caused many to ask “Are we ready to meet Our Maker?”

I dreamt about you recently. You were healed. Standing tan and handsome in my garage. I was unpacking boxes. You walked up behind me and put your arms around me. You told me how proud you were of me. You told me that I had handled this year with grace and dignity.  You gave me intricate instructions and details on life going forward. As you turned to leave you said “I’m so proud of you, keep doing the right thing regardless of others behavior. I love you. Always do the right thing.”  There was a crash of thunder and I awake unsure if it was a real or a dream.

Have you put Jesus as your priority? Is He your ‘right thing’? He is real and our lives aren’t a dream. Life  can change in one diagnosis, one poor decision, one hardened heart.

Happy Heavenly 1st Home-Going, Robin Wooten! What a treasure you were! You are incredibly loved and missed. oxox

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so God’s Son may be glorified through it”~John 11:4

The Cheap Seats

I’ve learned that I must keep my eyes focused on Jesus. If I don’t? I’m sucked right into all the buzz that is swirling around me.  Bo Sterns, ALS widow of Steve Sterns and author of ‘Beautiful Battlefields’, penned it perfectly “there will always be people yelling at you from the cheap seats”.

What I’ve found is the people making the loudest ruckus actually have absolutely nothing to say of any truth or any worth for that matter.  They want us to yell back or engage from our home plate. Take our eyes of the prize as it were.  Psalm 34:13 tell us to “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies”. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we aren’t to tear people down but to use our words to build up.

I remember an acquaintance once asked me about my friends. Se wanted to know why were so close. I explained that we don’t gossip and we pray for one another. “There’s no way. Everyone gossips. What? Do you have prayer list?” I explained that, indeed, we pray for one another whenever and wherever we need too. Sometimes that is out loud or it may be a group text. And, no, we don’t gossip. And, yes, this is the beauty of Godly friendships.

That person who is willing to tell you all the scoop? That “friend” will be the first person to gossip about you when you leave the room. “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness”-Exodus 23:1.

Jesus tells us to look at peoples lives and see if they are fruitful.  The people screaming from the cheap seats? Are they angry? Bitter? Can they see beyond themselves? Do they lack compassion? Are they pursuing God or in pursuit of others? Are their branches empty or are they full of fruit?

Any tiny foothold the enemy can get into your life to squelch your testimony? You better believe he will! The bolder the testimony the louder the ruckus and the more ostentatious the the buzz. Ignore the cheap seats. You can pray for the people sitting way up there. Jesus is in the saving business so that we don’t have to be. Hand the spectators over to him.

“Jesus is God, even demons know this”-James 2:19IMG_0429

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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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

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

 

Oh, Sweet Jesus!

I really enjoy cooking. Lately I’ve been on a kick of recreating all of my mother’s 1960’s, 1970’s, and 80’s recipes to gluten free. Usually turns out quite well. I love seeing Jane Condrey’s perfect penmanship on the recipe cards. Sounds weird but I feel a kinship to both she and Cornelia (my nana) when I see their handwriting . My husband, for whatever reason, always praises me for these little cooking extravaganzas. The whole process teaches me a lot, makes me feel good, and in turn makes him happy.

 
Wednesday two of my appointments were rescheduled so I found myself free for the afternoon. I decided to make some casseroles to freeze. Then I had the brilliant idea to make the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls to freeze for bible study next week. Have you had them? Oh, sweet Jesus! You must make them. They are a religious experience.

 

Baking is a whole different animal. My mother could bake anything. Me? Not so much. But I was feeling confident so I plunged ahead. I pre measured all of my ingredients. I neatly placed them on the counter in the order that they would be used.

 

I then started the lengthy 24 hour cinnamon roll baking parade. The very first snag came when the recipe called for “proofing” the yeast. “Huh?” No idea. So I just threw the packet of yeast into the heated milk and butter. I then let it sit for 10 minutes like the back of the yeast packet said. I was suppose to hear a foam sound. “What?” Well, it was bubbling a bit. So I dumped it into the mixing bowl with the already prepared flour, salt, sugar, and eggs.

 
The recipe then called for me to mix the dough until well incorporated. Done. Then I was to kneed the dough for 5 minutes until it was dense and smooth. Can do. I attached my dough hook, set the timer for 5 minutes, let the mixer kneed away for 5 minutes. Next I was to put the ball of dough into a greased bowl, cover with a cloth, and let it rise in a warm spot for one hour.
 
Well, I bet you know what happened. Bingo–didn’t rise. Like not even a lick. Ugh. Wasted ingredients. A whole bag of flower, three eggs, a stick of organic butter, and a lot of time. Geeez was not in the mood to start over. First I had to go back and retrace my steps to figure out what it was that I messed up.
 
One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 7:15:

 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly are ravenous wolves”.

They look good but they will ultimately destroy you. Kind of like my dough that didn’t rise. I had all the seemingly right ingredients. All looked perfect. However I used the wrong kind of yeast. Even though the package looked like yeast, smelled like yeast? Ultimately it was the wrong kind of yeast. The end result? I corrupted my recipe. I killed the dough. It didn’t rise.
 
When I figured out the problem I started again. This time with the correct yeast. The perfect ingredient. And as Jesus explained in the parable of the leavened bread just a small amount of yeast grew my dough. It got fluffy, happy, and it expanded.
 
Jesus forewarned us in Luke 13 that if we let anyone come into our churches (or lives) and distort the truth we will be corrupted. One tiny speck of sin will distort the truth. We will not rise. Ultimately we will fall just like my contaminated dough.
 
Following my grandmother and mothers old tried and true recipes work. Just like reading your bible does. Just like walking with Christ does. It is a recipe for life. The more I use those inherited recipes the easier cooking becomes. I feel drawn to them. As ridiculous as it sounds I feel connected to my nana and my mother by seeing their handwriting and reading their directions. Your bible is your inheritance. As you read it you will feel the Lord speak to your heart. You will see all of the directions for your life. You will find that life just makes sense.
 
Maybe it’s my age but I find that we often make the simple more complicated than it really is. Restaurants taking wonderful traditional southern fare and “infusing” it to make it “new and exciting“. The reality is there is just no replacement for good old fashioned southern food.

Likewise you can change the terminology in the church. You can be seeker friendly. You can preach love. You can preach inclusiveness. God’s word does not make room for our interpretation. Oh, you can spin it to make religion more friendly. Sin will creep in. Our churches become corrupted. Our lives a mess.
 
The Good News (see what I did there) is that Jesus Christ died and rose again for all of us. When we mess up? When we mix sin with flesh or the wrong ingredient in a recipe? God’s grace is readily and abundantly waiting for us to try again.

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock,
and it will be opened to you.”-Luke 11:9