We’re Hopping Here!

blog hop #1

Wow!  I have been asked to participate in a blog hop!  Until a couple weeks ago, I did not even know what that was.

However, when my sweet friend and sister-in-ministry, Katie Oldham from Happily Whole, asked me to participate, I decided to give it a shot.  I have know Katie for nearly a year now, as we both write for aNew Season Ministries.  She is a beautiful lady, inside and out, who love the Lord with all her heart and uses her gifts to nourish women, inside and out.  Thanks, Katie, for the invite!

So…here goes my post…

What am I working on?  Well, clearly, not enough, as evidenced by the lack of posts lately.  Ha!  On my blog to-do is our summer – the missions trip to SC (some posts written, but I have not told all that God did in us and through is there).  I also have some season-of-life issues to write about as I reflect on the changes in me and my world over the past few months.

How does my work differ from others of the genre?  God keeps showing me again and again that in His economy, all we go through is praiseworthy.  This blog helps me keep that in perspective.  I journaled for years prior to putting it out here in the public realm, and it was always helpful to me.  I would use pieces for devotions at church and with my work in widows’ ministry, and always got a good response…so I decided this might be a way to meet more people and share with them what God has done.  Lord willing, it helps them see their lives as a series of blessings from God., regardiness of the circumstances.

Why do I write about what I do?  I guess I answered that in part above…but here are some more details.  I get teased for being a glass-is-always-half-full gal, the perpetual polly-anna.  I don’t look at those qualities as being bad.  I like being positive!  When I start to feel a little down, I look to what God has done that week, that day, in my life.  He is always there working, no matter the circumstance, and sometimes I just need a perspective adjustment.  I need eyes to see the truth of His love swirling around me, to see the joy even on the darkest of days, to see who I am in Christ, regardless of what I have done or not done.  Maybe by sharing my journey, I can awake someone else to the joy in theirs.

How does my writing process work?  Many years ago I had a friend who was a song-writer.  He said that you could never throw away the little pieces of paper in his house before carefully looking them over because there were often song ideas scribbled on them.  I write kinda like that.  When the inspiration comes, I jot down a phrase, a word, sometimes a whole post.  I have them in a file (when I can find them and keep them from the dogs and kids) for further development later.  Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and write.  Often I come back from my daily walk with a burning idea I need to write down.  The boys know that if I make a bee-line for the computer without much conversation to let me get my thoughts down before they escape.  I usually write with pen-and-paper first and then transfer to the computer…old school, I know.

Whew!  A lot of info!

I have the joy of introducing you to one of my dear friends and sister writers for aNew Season Ministries, Linda Lint.

closeup-lindaBlog:  Sparrow Scrolls.  My sweet sister Linda writes of her journey into widowhood from a place of total reliance on the Lord.  Her love for her Savior permeates each word she writes.  I love that she is honest in her posts – honest about the hard stuff and honest about the hope she has in Christ.  Read her blog; you will be blessed!

Blessings in the ER

Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. – Psalm 17:7

My sweet Jackson had to go to the ER today…sprained or broken ankle…on the weekend.  I do not overreact to boys’ injuries.  I have had too many of them between the four of them.  But, based on where his pain was…and because it was the weekend…off we went.

On the way in the car, Jackson and I prayed…for the doctor and staff, for the pain, for the visit going quickly, for it not being broken.

We got the initial paperwork done quickly and easily and went back to the examination room.  After just a few moments, the nurse came in, followed almost immediately by the doctor.

Dr. Brian introduced himself and shook my hand…a nice firm handshake.  I liked his bedside manner immediately…warm and easy.  He introduced himself to Jackson as Brian and asked him questions about his injury.

That was when I noticed his pin on his scrubs:  Jesus is the reason for the season.  Answered prayer right there.  Praise God!


But, as much as Jackson and I were happy to see that answered prayer, we had another blessing coming.

When Dr. Brian came back in to give us the x-ray report (not broken) and talk about how to treat the sprain, I just had to tell him.  I told him that we had prayed for the doctor in the car on the way to the hospital and that seeing his pin meant so much to us.

This sweet man got almost teary.  He thanked me for sharing that with him and told us we had touched his heart.  He blessed us, but we were able to bless him right back…just by recognizing that God was in the room, giving Him credit where credit was due.

It matters, people.  When God blesses you, share the blessing.  Tell the person who blessed you what an answer to prayer they were.  Pass on the blessing.

It’s what it’s all about.

We are here to make waves for Christ…positive waves of love that have a cumulative effect.

So, I am thankful for Dr. Brian and his kind manner with my little boy.  I am even more thankful for a God who allows me to be part of His work here on earth.

Blessings, everybody!

Not Too Early for God

He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11a

Uh…what do you mean you are here?…we did not expect you…until tomorrow.

My first thought was disbelief; my second, embarrassment…acute embarrassment.

We had arrived at our family missions trip in Appalachia…the five of us…a full day early.

But…God had a plan, and it was soon revealed to us.

We had never done anything like this as a family.  We were excited…and just a bit nervous…about our week.

Now we were here…and here a day early.

A thousand things flitted through my mind:

  • Did I make a mistake on the date or did they?
  • Where were we staying that night?
  • Had I gotten other things wrong in my planning for the trip?
  • What did this mean for the rest of our week?

The lovely couple who were care-taking were not stressed by our early arrival.  They assured us that it would work out, that God had a plan for our early arrival.  That took some of the stress from my mind.  They called the owners of the ranch and secured a place for us to stay for the evening.  Problem #1 solved.

Now, what were we going to do since we were here early?

God quickly answered that question for us.

You see, our team leads, Dave and Sheila, needed us.  When we called them to inform them of our arrival, they were at the store, purchasing food for the 60 of us for the week.  They came back to the ranch, loaded to the roof with stuff…just as we arrived back from dinner.  We were able to jump right in and assist them.  Praise God!  And we continued to assist them…filling in for other advance team members who were forced to cancel for this trip.

God, in His providence, had provided extra hands for Dave and Sheila’s work, hands they would normally have had, but did not in this case.  He knew of the cancellations…and put right on my calendar to arrive a day early.  And we Wrights gloried in the opportunity to assist.

By the time the rest of the missions team arrived, we had “moved in,” become comfortable, shared some of our story with Dave and Sheila, and fallen in love with them.  We all recognized God’s hand in our early arrival

We Wrights were able to greet all who arrived, help carry luggage, and help set the tone for a week of ministry.  God was using gifts He had already worked on with us for His glory.

My embarrassment and confusion over how we arrived early was replaced by joy in the fact that we had.  God was in control of the week; that was highly evident.  He had set us there, early, to help get the ball rolling in the right direction.  Praise Him!  Praise Him!  Praise Him!

And this was just the beginning!  Please stay tuned for blogs the rest of this week, illustrating what He did in us…through us…it was truly a glorious week in the Lord.

AIM Appalachia July 2013

In Praise of “Fathers”

You know who are.

Or maybe you don’t…

You’re the one who took my boys to the movies for their birthdays.

You’re the one who hugged them on the day they were asking for it.

You’re the one who wrestled with them on the church floor.

You’re the one who talked sports with them and included them in fantasy leagues.

You’re the one who carried them around on your shoulders as if they were your own.

You’re the one who showed up at their games and cheered them on, and consoled them when they lost.

You’re the one who took them hunting, fishing, and four-wheeling.

You’re the one who taught them to use a mower, edger, trimmer, and weed eater.

You’re the one who prayed for them, asked about them, invested in them.

You’re the one who helped this tired momma with the raising-of-boys process.

I am not sure what life for us would have looked like if their dad was still here…but I am blessed beyond measure that you all were here to take of some of the man slack!

Well done, good and faithful servants!

A Clean House

Yesterday was the big winter cleaning of our house.  You can probably hear my boys groan from there.  They have good reason for groaning.

It is usually a painful day…for a very good reason.

I will never win any housekeeping awards.

I have the best intentions, but…

Life gets in the way.  Homeschooling, my activities, the boys’ activities, sports, travel…many things are more exciting and enjoyable, to our way of thinking, than cleaning the house.

Oh, we fake a good game.

If you have been over, you may not realize just how messy we really are.  There’s a reason for that, too.  We tend to clean the main floor only, and only do cursory cleaning anywhere else.  (By the way, don’t try to go up the stairs to my bedroom without an invitation…I might have to tackle you!)

Aren’t we like that with our faith, too?

We put up a front…pretending we are fine, clean on the inside and out, while really we are stressed and hurting.  We stumble along, ignoring the relief that could be ours in the form of friends who sincerely desire help us…all in the name of appearances.

A different kind of white-washed tomb…but just as deadly, to my way of thinking.

Aren’t we called to be here to share in community?  Do we think all our friends are perfect, with no problems?  Don’t we want to assist them with whatever is going on?  Don’t we get joy from helping them?

Didn’t Jesus accept from others all the time, as an itinerant preacher, even as He gave?

I tell you the truth…one of the best parts of this widow-walk is the closeness that comes from needing others.  I have learned, albeit painfully, that no man (or woman) is an island…nor should they be.

There is a divine dependence that comes from walking this walk…and it truly is a beautiful thing.

There is no way on God’s green earth that I can do all the stuff I need to do on my own.  And in that statement, I am freed from trying…from trying to be perfect, from trying to be all things to all people, from trying to walk alone.

And that’s a truth I need to remember each and every day.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” — John 15:4-5

Thank You, Lord (A Poem)

Beside my bed I kneel and pray
And thank You, Lord, for another day.
For friends and family near and dear
And knowing You are always here
To guide me, love me, hold my hand
And to always understand
Even when I am pouty and sad
Or I am having the worst day I have had
I remember Your love and constant care
And then I have not only enough for me but also to share
With my boys, my church, my community
And all those who have blessed me
Forever I will remember Your love
From now until I go above
To the world that is waiting beyond for me
Because You were willing to die on a tree.

Paving Stones

We have a group of widows (and a few widowers) who meet together a couple times a month for support.

This group has been invaluable in my life for healing…and to create a sense of normalcy.

Right after Keith died, God was gracious enough to give me 5…yes 5…new friends who were widows.  I met these ladies in a variety of ways:  friend of friend, new nurse at the doctor’s office, chance encounters.  Meeting with them was wonderful in those first months of loneliness, pain, confusion, etc., etc., etc.  They had only a few things in common:  the Lord, me, and the 300-lb gorilla of widowhood.

Realizing what a joy this is…and being of a sort of Julie-the-Cruise-Director mentality, I organized them to start meeting together.  Our times are mostly fellowship, but it is fellowship without the awkwardness.  We get each other.

All of us have in our lives dear friends and family who want so badly to help, but are just not sure what to say, how to say it, how to be supportive.  They are not sure how to deal with us on this grief path.  And they have no idea how to lead us.

Sometimes you can almost see their inner turmoil.  Do I laugh at the jokes?  Will there be tears?  What is the proper response both she…and I…should make here?  What if she wants to talk about sex or dating?

It would be funny if it weren’t so painful–for all involved.

Our group is called Travelers on a Different Journey.  We did not choose to be here, but we rest in God to get us through, trust in Him for all things, and lean on each other to guide the way.  The fellowship in the Lord is sweet, the people sweeter.  We have around 25 involved in the ministry.

My sweet friend Theresa, widowed 14 months before me, puts it this way, “I may not be able to pave a smooth road for you, but I can tell you where the potholes are so you can avoid them, or at least slow down.”

And this group works!

It is never more evident than on a light like last night.

We met for dinner at PF Changs (yum!).  One of the gals brought a friend, Wanda, who was widowed not quite a year ago who had not yet met the group of us.

Well, Wanda fit right in!  We gained a sister, and she gained a group of them.  I know that my journey will be a little sweeter for my association with her, and pray that hers will be as well by association with us.

Life is hard.  Sometimes it is harder.  But God is good and He is there every step of the way, to provide paving stones to smooth our path.

I am so thankful for my pavers!!

I pray you see the pavers He has provided along your journey.

And of course, that you know and trust the ultimate Paving Stone…Jesus Christ! 
I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation.  The stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone; the Lord has done this,and it is marvelous in our eyes. 
— Psalm 118:21-23

Testimony Today

I gave a testimony at our church this morning:

Testimony 11-11-12
            Today, I am grateful for many things.
            First of all, today is Veteran’s Day, a day dedicated to those brave enough, devoted enough, to be willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others.  I praise God for the men and women willing to be of service to their country, regardless of the cost.  There are many veterans in this room.  Thank you for your service to this great country of ours.
            Today is also my 17th wedding anniversary.  Two days ago, Friday, was the 5th anniversary of Keith’s graduation to Glory.
            Today, for me, is bittersweet…but mostly sweet.
            It is in this loss that our family has really learned to be grateful.
            I have much to be grateful for in having been married to such a wonderful, Godly husband.  His Christian example has helped to make the boys and me into the people we are today, and his dedication to Christ and Christian principles have allowed us to go on without him…and even to thrive.
            I look around this congregation and see much to be grateful for as well.
            Several of you were there on the day Keith and I married.  You have been with us since the beginning, welcoming each of our boys in succession, watching us grow and change with each passing year.
            I see even more who have been there every step of the way since Keith’s death.
            In these past five years, the boys and I have confidently, consistently, completely felt your support and love.
            Whether it was Mother’s Day or birthday gifts, home and car repairs, or support for the boys as they become men, this congregation has listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and helped out my family.
            That’s what community is supposed to be…the church as described in Acts.
            I can never fully express what that means to me…and to them.
            Mostly, though, on this day I am grateful to a God who loves me in spite of my failings with a passion that I learn more of each day.  He holds me in the palm of His hand…and He always will.  He loves me enough to hone the rough edges…and to make glory out of my ashes.  He quite literally floors me with His love.
            I am thankful that in my grief and sorrow, He has not left me but instead has allowed me to grow ever closer to Him, being my Husband in a new and special way.
            I have learned many lessons over the past 5 years.  Some of them have been painful; some of them have been very painful.  But the most important lesson my family and I have learned is that God is always there.  On the good days, on the bad days, in the middle of the night, on the road trips, as the boys grow.  Always.
            And I am grateful.  So, so grateful.

Five Years…Wow!

Five years ago today, my beloved husband journeyed on to Glory.

So much has changed in that time…yet so much has stayed the same.

When Keith died:

  • there were no IPads and the IPhone was brand new
  • we had not had an African American president
  • Osama Bin Laden was still at large
  • Haiti had not been severely damaged by an earthquake and Japan had not suffered a tsunami
  • we had not suffered a good-sized earthquake in Northern Virginia
  • Kosovo had not declared itself an independent country and been recognized as such
  • Facebook, Twitter, and blogs were not commonly used by everyone and did not provide a major vehicle for communication
  • the housing market was slipping but had not crashed

In our own family:

  • I was still taller than all of my children
  • we did not have a dog at all, much less two
  • Jackson and Tanner could not read
  • Alex did not play guitar and had no interest in being in the praise band
  • we were not out for much of anything past 7:30 at night
  • I did not get up at 5:00 to spend precious quiet time with Jesus every morning
  • we did not have company at every holiday, and any time we could think of an occasion to have people over

Yet so many things have stayed the same:

  • I am blessed and  privileged to still be able to homeschool my boys
  • I live in the same home, the dream home Keith so lovingly painted with all 17 paint colors I wanted
  • I have friends who have stuck by me for these five years, taking care of me and the boys, from the moment Keith died until now
  • Our church continues to be a home and a haven, blessing us and allowing us to bless them
  • God is still God – in His heaven, in control, in my corner, in my life…each and every day, and in each and every situation
  • I am His beloved daughter and by His grace I can stand – each and every day

And because of these blessings…because of this God and His love for little old me, I can have survived these five years.

And, by His grace, I will survive many more. 

As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.  My mouth will tell of Your righteous deeds, of Your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all. — Psalm 71:14-15

Like Glue

Another lesson on perspective yesterday.  (Note to self:  all of life is really a lesson in perspective.)

I walked a few minutes later than I normally do and therefore got to talk to my friend Renee after Joel got on the bus.  Great conversation!  Love getting to know this sweet sister in Christ!

Before our conversation ended, Carol and the other Renee came up as well.  I got to introduce these precious women to each other (yay!)…and to invite Renee to our Bible study (here were walking examples in Carol and the other Renee of the ladies in our group)!

God is so gracious!

Before Keith died, this Martha-to-the-max probably would not have taken the time to get to know any of these women.  I would have been too focused on my schedule, my kids, my life.

Not on the greater community.

Now, none of my prior focuses were bad.  In fact, God gave me charge of those things to steward.  They were, and are, my primary responsibility.

But the world has gotten smaller and bigger at the same time since Keith died.  I can and should do more.

I see another call on my life…being glue.

I met Carol and the first Renee simply by walking.  We have lived just a couple blocks from each other for years, but met because of speaking to each other while walking.  I gained acquaintanceship with two sisters in Christ!

Now, due to walking (and my big mouth), they now know each other.  The community grows!

Christ had twelve intimates, but I don’t see any evidence that He ever turned down getting to know another person.

I praise God that we can grow in community in the same way…simply by walking and being open to the people we meet along the way!

And this is love:  that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. — 2 John 1:6