Friday Night Coincidence

When I left Eastern North Carolina, after living there my entire adult life, I was standing on God’s promise “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord”-Isaiah 66:9. Honestly, I was both skeptical and excited. The past year I’ve been living in the land of the dry and thirsty (Hosea 13:5); and although He was faithful to take care of me, I still felt very alone in the wilderness.

“Jesus Come” has been my headspace. No memory verse. Nothing fancy. Pretty simple. I’ve always been a terrible student when it comes to scripture memorization. I have a wonderful friend who sends me scripture every morning. Y’all, read that again, a text every single morning since the day of Robin’s diagnosis! I have each scripture she has sent me filed, in order, by book of the Bible. I’m also categorizing scripture by the occasion to help people in need like my friend did for me. The point being, I could be wrong, but I think the Lord looks at our effort, our heart, and our ministry to others. How do we serve (don’t get that confused with works)? Where is our walk heading? Do we trust Him solely or is it just conversation for the company we keep? I decided because I had lost so much, that my new life, was all His. I have no idea what that’s going to look like. I don’t even know what that means. I just know my whole life is surrendered to Him.

We’ve all had that experience that seemed almost unworldly. When you left an encounter dumbfounded or with goosebumps (Holy Spirit bumps), saying to no one in particular or your significant other, “ You are never going to believe what just happened! That was so strange!” Both Google and Merriam-Webster define coincidence this way: “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.”

On Friday night I heard running and jumping above my unit, which is very strange because I am on the top floor. So I went next door to the private library and it was quiet. So I investigated further by going outside onto the sky view terrace to see if anyone was up on the observation deck. Let me preface by saying for the month that I have lived in this beautiful building I keep running into this lovely blonde haired woman with two adorable dogs. We live on the same floor, she is always impeccably dressed, and we park in the same area. We always say “Hey” but we’ve never been introduced. So when I walked out onto the terrace? There she was! She also had heard the noise and came outside. It was a gorgeous night and the sun was setting and there is a spectacular view of the golf course so we both stood there and talked. For over two hours. Turns out we both went to the same women’s college in Raleigh for two years and then on to different NC universities. We both buried our parents right before suffering devastating losses with our husbands. We both have daughters. We both are without extended family. We both are devout Christians. We are the same age. She has a chronic illness. She was a stay at home mother. She sold her home on her own, moved here, and is trying to listen to God for her next step. Like me, she is saying “Ok Lord you are all I’ve got —send me where you need me”.

Coincidence? Absolutely not! I am not a theologian nor do I claim to be. I’m just a woman who has believed in God her whole life but didn’t say “I’m all in, Jesus” until my early 30’s. And even then, I was still trying to chase the things of this world, just as every single young family does. It was not until I was 40 that I said, “Ok, Lord, really, like I am exhausted! I want all of you because I know there is something more”. Does that make me an expert? Nope, sure doesn’t. In fact, from the outside looking in, to a non-Christian, my life is riddled with a lot of devastating events. I’m sure anyone on the fence would be saying, “why in the world would I want to believe in a God who allows such horrible things to happen?” My answer to you would be that we live in a fallen world that is overwrought with sin. God allows us to choose. If he chooses for us it would be a dictatorship but he is a loving God. Many times the things we choose are not right for us. Many times the things we allow to stay in our lives will not benefit our growth further down the road. We may not have the vision at the moment but He does. I don’t mean deaths or disease but I do mean the weeding and pruning of relationships. It can be painful and hard. But inevitably if you look back I can almost assure you that you can see why those relationships had no future.

Will my new sky view deck friend become my new best friend? I have no idea. Was it a coincidence? No way. That was God’s affirmation to me that He is with me. He is with you. He is answering her prayers and my prayers with like-minded friends here on earth. We are not alone.

Oh, and all that loud ruckus we both heard that brought us each outside? We asked around and no one else had heard a thing.

Coincidence?

“I will walk by faith even when I can not see”-2 Corinthians 5:7

He Is All We Need

My weekend in the mountains of Asheville was the first vacation I have ever taken by myself. I’ll admit I was squeamish.  I have wrestled with fear over the past two years. Anxiety is actually just fear, which if you break it down, is simply the enemy. As July approached I realized my anxiety had reached almost unbearable limits. July is a huge month. The Fourth of July, second to Christmas, was our favorite family holiday and this year I would be alone. July also marks the two year anniversary of my husbands death. It also would have been our 30th wedding anniversary. Emotionally the enemy was having a heyday with me.  I decided “no more”. 

This I did know: I had allowed other people’s actions to dictate my response to life which had resulted in anxiety i.e. fear. I had not allowed who God says I am to define me any longer. So I made a reservation in Asheville at the last place Robin and I stayed, as husband & wife, while he was still able to walk.  I needed to spend the anniversary of his departure to heaven gaining earthly closure. I needed to hear God’s voice.  I needed to declare the Blood of Jesus over the enemy!   Also, 1-40/Old Fort Road takes my breath away…as in terrifies me.  I needed to tackle that mountain ⛰ literally and  figuratively!

What made the last year of Robin’s life so beautiful was the fact that we intentionally submitted fully to God. We found wonder in the immediate. We forgave. We let go of the past. We welcomed in. We loved unconditionally. We offered grace upon grace. I allowed Robin to lead as a biblical husband, something I had never done before, because I wasn’t willing to give up my  voice, pride or control. He was my earthly bridegroom. He spoke words of affirmation. He was my center that year even in the midst of dying. When he died I lost my center. My love for the Lord had not changed; however, I was worn down and the enemy waged war.

Off to Asheville I went to find God’s voice again. I shot skeet. I sat in a field &  watched geese. I talked to horses. I spent an evening watching lightening bugs light up a meadow. I sat on a bench at the inn observing families and couples come and go. I watched the clouds roll over the mountains and roll back out. I listened to babies cry. I watched couples fully engaged and  couples completely miserable. I listened to live music. I watched a fierce lightening show which cancelled my horse back riding expedition. I went to bed early and woke up without an alarm clock.

It occurred to me that all of these things are God’s courtship with us. He is always there. Of course, I know that. When was the last time I really looked at lightening bugs with wonder, as if the Lord was saying “Elizabeth, I’m lighting up this dark season to show you new light”? I hadn’t. I listened to those babies cry, not out of annoyance, but out of thanksgiving. So thankful that God gave me two beautiful daughters. I shot skeet.  Robin & I just loved it! Our family of four loved shooting. I’m so thankful to God for those memories & that season.  I spent time at the horse stables. It brought back memories of my husband & I pulling a horse trailer all over the south for our youngest daughter to show.  It was as if God and I were on a first date telling each other about ourselves. I would give him a memory and He would show me something magnificent that He had created. It was a lovely 48 hours where I just let go of burdens. Pain became memories of love. 

What did I learn? I learned that Jesus is my Bridegroom. He is my center. My words of affirmation. He desperately loves me.  He desperately loves you. He lights up our skies to get our attention but we are too busy on our phones. When we are in a dark place he sends us lightening bugs to magnify his love and light our way. He exalts His love in the sunrise and the sunsets but we simply do not see Him. He sends us rain storms to wash away our pain. He gives us magnificent lightening shows to demonstrate his fierce blessing on us. He is literally all we need.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation so why should I be afraid?”-Psalm 27:1

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

New Beginnings

 

Apparently today is National Widows Day. I’m not a fan. I’m not sure who decided this was something to celebrate. It’s not like we chose to be widows. It’s a title that, quite frankly, leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It’s a title that was thrust upon us widows without our permission.

I far more prefer to think of today as maybe “National New Beginnings Day”. I didn’t choose to be a widow. I am; however, choosing to go on with life. New  Beginnings as it were. That’s something worth celebrating! When my husband arrived in Glory at 12:32 AM on July 21, 2017, it was his New Beginning. “The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”~2 Corinthians 5:17.

I also don’t celebrate National ALS Awareness Month. ALS is the disease that took my husband. I applaud and am in awe of those who tirelessly advocate for research, science and a cure. For me, and this is just me, the cure for any illness is first and foremost our salvation in Jesus Christ. The rest? Incredibly important–do not misunderstand me–a cure to any illness is vital. But if we don’t prepare our hearts and souls for heaven? Secure our eternal salvation? This life and our legacy will have meant nothing.

So call me a stick in the mud. You won’t be the first or the last. I am not celebrating National Widows Day. Because I don’t want to be one. But I am one. So that leaves me in a precarious position today. I’ve decided instead of celebrating my widowhood I’m celebrating all the glorious things God has done for me because of my husbands death.  Now that’s a new one isn’t it?

I can’t bring Robin back. Lord knows I miss that man with all that I am. My entire being aches at the thought of him. I am still here though. I am alive. I survived. So I am choosing joy. It is, indeed, a choice. A hard one. But not impossible.

Happy National New Beginnings Day, Robin Wooten!

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and the new things I declare;
before they spring forth I will tell you of them”-Isaiah 42:9

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

Our Portion

“My dear and precious friends, whom I deeply love, you have truly become my glorious joy and crown of reward. Now arise in the fullness of your union with our Lord I plead  with Euodia and Syntyche to settle their disagreement and be restored with one mind in our Lord. I would like my dear friend and burden-bearer to help resolve this issue, for both women have diligently labored with me for the prize and helped in spreading the revelation of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers. All of their names are written in the Book of Life. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a single thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day,  offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things”Philippians 4:1-9

As I read this letter from Paul to the Philippians I have a huge smile on my face. I’m smiling because though saved? Not much has changed amongst us fallible and squabbling people in 2,000 years has it? The perfectionist in me finds this somewhat of a relief.

There is so much to love about all nine of these verses! My favorite being:

         “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing”

Paul goes on to say:

“Be saturated  in prayer throughout  each day, offering your
faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude”

And my very part:

“Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that
transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you”

The enemy has convinced our society that all answers to life and all fulfillment of life can only be found in the material. Guess what? We have bought into the lie! Every aspect of our culture involves instant gratification. The irony is it seldom gratifies us longer than an instant.

For eleven months our family had the privilege of witnessing my husband live out Philippians 4. He was saturated in God’s word, precision focused on what is righteous and true, full of joy and laughter and not worried about anything except  the present. I can only describe it as a supernatural season. We knew we were a part of something bigger than we were and very special. I believe Robin’s illness (ALS) and testimony were used not only for God’s glory but as a wake up call for our family and many in our community.

When we focus on what is good, righteous and true? Immediately we are able to identify what and who or whom is unhealthy and or hurtful in our lives. It also helps us to be appreciative, thankful and filled with over flowing gratitude for all that we do have verses  all that we think we should have. Jesus should be our portion. Our everything because we are His everything.

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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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