Crowns and Heaven

“Mama what kinda crown you want?”

“Whatever kind you think will be good Mags! Thanks!”

She had asked me from the kitchen. Her Daddy had spent the better part of the last several days working at a makeshift office on the kitchen table. It’s fairly portable and we “clear the table” for meals. I had taken over the living room office, in preparation for some jam-packed weeks to come.

Scott Martin rarely complains, he just unpacks and packs up his work stuff, transitions with ease and with an almost alarming flexibility just “rolls with it.” Once he sat on our unmade bed, held a borrowed microphone and recorded radio segments for some not so local radio stations because the Martin homeschoolers with an armload of new science books had taken over every room but our bedroom.

He knew “partly sunny with a high of 89” might not bode well with “Look at this blobfish!!! It’s just like it says ‘a rainbow of ugly!’ Bahahaha” thereby eliminating another opportunity at recording said weather segments. He never once complained. I would have. I’d’ve raised the dead yelling about it. He just keeps on rollin’ with it.

The night she asked me about the crown, I entered the kitchen-slash-office-turned-crafting-center to prepare for dinner. As I entered the multipurpose room, the chaos and disarray of it all slowly absorbed into my already weary mind. I started to open my mouth to complain but instead choose to look not just see. There at the table, my youngest, the one that struggles desperately, chatting away. Nonstop asking her Daddy questions,

“Is there really a dark side of the Moon? Has anyone seen it?”
“Do blind people dream in color?”
“Why didn’t Noah put the dinosaurs in the ark?”
“If you lived in a treehouse where would you go to the bathroom?”
“Why do I only like blueberries in a muffin?”
“Can we take our dog to a dog psychologist to see why he keeps getting on the kitchen table?”
“What makes Pepper so spicy?”

He nodded and worked, she kept crafting and cutting, all the while talking, like a magpie that never quits chirping she went on and on. We have learned she questions when she is anxious. A week of unknowns had thrust her into an anxiety-ridden baseline that causes her counterparts their own anxiety. They’d long ago sought shelter elsewhere; The Scarlet Letter preferred to their youngest sister’s anxiety influenced behavior.

Her Daddy sat working. She stood. Evidently she’d been standing a while. He nodded and responded appropriately. He patiently answered her questions for the umpteenth time. He encouraged her crown making from paper, noting she “is good at arts and crafts.” He joked with her and made her giggle. He patiently reminded her for the second time it was time to clear the table for supper. She smiled and acknowledged that even though “Mama wouldn’t let her watch tv she was sorta glad.” He agreed, he was sorta glad too.

As I took it all in I took a picture. That paper crown perched perfectly atop his head. He wore it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. If it’d have been a new custom-made baseball cap with his favorite team he would have worn it just as proudly. It wasn’t until later I saw that she’d made it to match his shirt. As I watched them briefly just before my presence interrupted them, gratitude washed over me. Gratitude for this exchange. Grateful for patience that extends beyond my own. Gratefulness for a Daddy for who loves his children wholly. Grateful that he sees the fragility of the one before him and he loves her anyway.

Grateful for a glimpse again of the King and how He loves me, brokenness and all. I suppose when I get to Heaven I’ll know for sure, but for a brief moment in time that night, in our humble kitchen I saw from behind what Heaven is like and it is a beautiful thing indeed.

air-atmosphere-beautiful-533833.jpg

A Testing of Faith

A testimony by guest author Alecia Singleton

No one wants to face trials, but out of trials comes a triumph. God is ever faithful and He keeps showing himself strong. Psalm 46:1 sticks out in my mind.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

I had been sick, but thought it would go away.

I was having dizzy spells that first started mild and progressed over time. The dizziness became so bad that it did not matter if I was sitting, standing or laying down, I felt like everything was spinning. I was sick beyond sick. I did not see an end in sight.

I was first told to go to the ER. They were thinking that it was my heart, however, my heart was fine. I had gone to my primary doctor and they ran many tests and all came back normal.

I went back to see my primary doctor and there was another doctor seeing me, because my doctor was busy. This doctor asked if anyone had checked my thyroid? I said no and she proceeded to order a full thyroid screening. The results came back showing an under-active thyroid. I was thanking God that we finally had an answer. But my next thought was, what is an under-active thyroid and is it treatable? Thankfully, this is a treatable disorder, but the other part to this, it also could be cancerous.

I was blessed in the aspect that I had no cancer. They began to treat the thyroid condition with medication, but I was told that the medication that I was on could eventually cause problems with my liver and that I needed to decide if I wanted to have surgery to remove the thyroid and be on meds for the rest of my life or allow them to perform a radiation treatment on the thyroid. I opted to have the surgery, because there were too many what ifs about the radiation treatment.

I was referred to see a surgeon. During the consultation with the surgeon, he asked if I sing and I said yes, and his next words were, “I have to let you know, when the surgery is over, you will not be able to sing again.” I spoke with authority letting him know that God blessed me with my voice and I believe when this is over, I will be able to sing again. The surgeon said, “If you are able to sing, you will not be able to sing loud or high.”

I had my Thyroid surgery on March 16, 2005, and the surgery went fine. I received confirmation, no cancer. My voice was raspy, but I expected that right after surgery, but as time went on, my voice was still raspy.

Three months went by and my voice was still raspy. The devil brought it back to me what the surgeon said that I would not be able to sing again. I said God you have got this. I began to pray the word of God over me from Hebrews 13:21:

“Now may the God of peace… equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

I could sing, but my voice would just cut off. I had to continue to trust God and believe His promises. I had to tell God that I made a declaration to the surgeon that I would be able to sing and that His Word told me that I would not be put to shame. One year later, my voice was still not back to normal, but it was much better. I began to sing to the glory of God. I told God that if He allowed my voice to come back, that I would always glorify him.

I am here to tell you that God is so faithful, He met me at my point of need. I knew what I could hear and I knew it was not right, but God, in his time, He healed my voice and I do not take my voice for granted. I know the power of God through the testing of my faith. When you see and hear me sing, I am not just saying words, I am singing, because I have experienced Gods hand at work in my life. I will always sing to the glory of God.

Alecia

 

Seasons of Life

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved too much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:3-5

Several years ago our church women’s ministry held an event in the fall called “Celebrate the Seasons.” It was a wonderful night out to celebrate the seasons of our lives around dozens of uniquely decorated tables representing different seasons of the year. The fall and Christmas decorations were rich and lavish. The winter tables looked crisp and white. Spring tables abounded in flowers and bunnies and such as you might imagine. For the table I decorated, I chose a summer theme, and as part of my decor used tiny lightbulbs in mason jars to remind us of lightning bugs. It was a fun night of celebration and encouragement.

As I write today my mind is stirred up with memories and rather melancholy. Fall is in the air and my spirit is feeling very fall-ish. I’m in the autumn of my life enjoying my empty nest and the pleasures of adult children and grandkids. But this fall season of life seems to scream at me sometimes, “Winter is just around the corner for you.”

A dear friend and mentor of mine passed away mere hours ago. I met her when she was in the autumn of her life, me a mere summer’s child at the time. I have vivid pictures in my mind of moments of wise advice from her, prayers over me when I was worried sick over a teenage child, and gentle rebukes at how I should treat my husband and my own aging mother. As this contemplative mood overwhelms me today I am not discouraged, maybe just a wee bit sad at the rapid pace my life is taking to its final breath. But I am also spurred on as an older woman to take these thoughts captive and try to share them in a coherent way for your encouragement.

Whatever season you find yourself in today, be thankful for it and make the most of it.

beautiful-bloom-blooming-414160If you’re in the spring, plant your habits carefully so that they serve you well through life. Accept yourself & love yourself because God definitely does. Invest your life in the things of God and in people in your life. Love your husband well. Play with your kids and really listen to them. Don’t stress over anything – God’s got this!

“Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,… Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:1-3, 6

andaman-sea-beach-beautiful-459252If you’re in the summer of your life enjoy the pleasant pastures in which God has placed you. Put your past behind you and seek Him with your whole heart as He is preparing a new thing for you. Let go of anger, regret, and shame. Confess your sins, make amends where needed, and realize your Father in heaven has truly forgiven you.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

action-bicycle-bike-763398If you’re in a stormy season, hold His hand, trust His great love for you, have faith, and remember that these rains are watering the fertile soil of your life. Learn lessons from scripture: 1) Keep your eyes on Jesus when the waves are high and 2) Your Father is the one who can calm the waves with His voice: Peace be still.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

adventure-cold-daylight-416821.jpg

If you’re in the winter of life, I can’t offer help from experience. I have not been there yet. I can say Keep on! Keep on pursuing righteousness! Keep on being an example! Keep on loving others! Keep on running the race! Keep on letting His word offer comfort and challenge! Please keep on, I’m watching you and learning from your example.

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Jeremiah 16:31

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

leaves-2901684_1280For those of you raking leaves in your life, like I am, it’s not over. It’s time for us to get our second wind. It’s time for us to reach back and give a hand to those coming up the path just behind us. Speak out with the wisdom you have learned. Pray faithfully. Keep learning. Love well. Make it more than ever your goal “To know Him and make Him known.” It’s time to harvest what we have planted and tended for our whole lives.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:7-10

There are so many lessons to learn in each season of life. One little blog article can’t really do this subject justice. But hopefully you’ve been encouraged today. In closing I’ll leave you with a few things Mrs. Joyce taught me through her words and by her actions. Here are just a few that spring to my mind:

  • Be confident in who God made you to be. (I remember her making a “throne” of the chairs for herself to get her seat at the most comfortable position for her.)
  • Be kind. (She was. To everyone.)
  • Offer godly advice or none at all. (She did.)
  • Laugh and enjoy friends and be full of the zest of life. (I’m remembering a women’s retreat to Knoxville when she teased our high school daughters telling them they ought to get a tatoo of Beth Moore’s initials! We rolled with laughter!)
  • Study God’s word diligently and share your wisdom with others. (She modeled this constantly.)
  • Love your family wholeheartedly in word and deed. (She adored her family and shared ceaselessly about them. She also made great vegetable soup and shrimp & grits for them and for those of us blessed to eat in her home.)
  • Pray with people God brings into your day. (This she did for me.)
  • Prayer accomplishes much, so don’t quit praying for that child you are so worried over. (She taught me this at a crucial time in life.)
  • The one who cooks doesn’t have to clean up! (My favorite!)

Take or leave any of my advice. What you really need to do is go to the Word of God and follow every single word. I loved you greatly Mrs. Joyce. See you in heaven when I get there!

pexels-photo-68564 clouds

(In honor of Mrs. Joyce McCombs.)

Olympic Faith

True Story: In a race I once beat an Olympic Bronze Medalist in Track.

Every time I mention said winning in front of said Olympian she laughs, it’s a hearty laugh and often I will mention our race just to hear her Nigerian accent and laughter all roll out together in a determined defense. She claims I cheated. I maintain I did not.

I’ve never been what one might call athletic, the concept of organized sports is really quite foreign to me. I know this will boggle the minds of some, but sports, most of them anyway, do not make much sense to me. Despite years of football indoctrination from a lifetime of SEC Football exposure, the sport of football is a subject where I lack understanding. One would think purely by osmosis, or at the very least, genetic makeup I might have gotten more than a minimal understanding of sports. Athletics, competitive in nature, boggle my mind. I have tried over the years to understand but I can not.

I’m more of an expert stick man artist kind of gal. I can Macgyver a harmonica out of a couple of popsicle sticks, some paper and rubber bands in no time flat, but Heaven Help if someone asks me what the down means or a touchdown or something. I only know a safety is loosely translated as going to someone else’s house and beating them up. It took my coworkers one full Saturday shift during Football Season to explain that concept to me. They soon gave up any further teaching, abandoning me as many have that I just will not get it.

My sister is as much of a Football Fanatic as I am not. She cheers for her school, The Alabama Crimson Tide. She tailgates and touchdown dances, and I don’t even know what all, I just know she loves her team and by sheer happenstance, my wedding anniversary tends to fall on one of the lesser important of the game weeks. My Birthday is an altogether different story. Often it falls on the Iron Bowl weekend and I know that means Alabama and Auburn will be playing each other, families will be divided, and about a metric ton of Ro-tel Dip will be consumed by Alabamians across the state. Game Time is also a good time to pick up some Christmas gifts because just about everyone but me is somewhere, eyes peeled, consumed by one of the most dramatic quarters of a competition for nearly a whole year… or so I am told.

2000-158-19_Medal_Olympics_1920_Antwerp_Gold_Obverse_7268561188_cropped

When third grade boys inevitably ask me “Who I go for?” (That’s Alabama slang for which team do I prefer to win; it took me 3 years of teaching third grade Sunday School before I caught on.) I leave them scratching their heads with my answer. “Well, my sister went to Alabama and she and my Husband like them so I like them, but I like Auburn’s history and it fascinates me so I like them too, but My money and my Husband go to Mississippi State so I figure I like them too.”

“But Mrs. Amy, Who do you go for?” I usually just shrug. I digress yet felt it necessary to explain how unnatural a competitive athletic experience is for me.

I suppose that is why I find it funny that by chance circumstances on that fateful day I would beat a medal-possessing track athlete. Perhaps therein lies the answer to my sports disconnect.

My friend, the Olympian, is one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. I had known her sometime before I even knew her amazing history. Another coworker had mentioned it in passing and because it was the honest truth she did not deny it. I was floored. Once I got hold of the fact that she held a for reals, hard-earned medal, I ran with that one. I would question and quiz her daily. I would listen to her stories, woven together in the thread of her native tongue intertwined with words like Alabama and the University and nursing and back home. Commonwealth and games and I would listen and I would watch.

Once I learned of her medal I asked her why she didn’t wear it to work like everyday? She laughed her hearty laugh and I jokingly said “Well where do you keep it? Your panty drawer?!” Again she laughed, there was no denial, and she said “I used to have it hanging on a nail.” I rolled! She kept her medal in her unmentionables drawer! Later as I pondered that one I learned a great and valuable lesson. I can laugh all day about one’s greatest treasure being stowed away with one’s underpants, yet there are days I am no different.

The King’s Word says, I’ve been given a great inheritance, and I’ve been guilty of cramming that baby in my panty drawer and never giving it a second thought. My Salvation, the Lord’s Grace, THAT is a great reward, it is THE greatest reward, but if one were to observe me they would have no clue whatsoever that I held such a tremendous inheritance. A Heavenly reward that supersedes all earthly riches. I walk around some days like a Pauper with that Treasure stuffed down in my drawer next to a bunch of mismatched socks.

My friend, Faith, has also taught me that her treasure, her true treasure isn’t in things. Never once had it occurred to me that mine might be. But it was, it has been, and it’s one I am committed to work on surrendering daily.

Once we were having a discussion about children and it dawned on me like a slap across my face, Faith gives birth to Hope. As a matter of fact, Faith did give birth to Hope and on my birthday (I know the King must’ve planned that one just so that I could understand). I’ve never known humility like hers. I’ve often said she’s taught me more about Jesus in my adult life than near anyone has. I love her, her humility, her joy. I found a picture on the Internet once when I googled her name. It was prompted by Shelton Martin yelling at the Olympics on our television one summer, “C’mon you can win one for YOUR underwear drawer too! Go USA!”

It dawned on me, that is where he thinks one keeps one’s hard-earned medal. He has nothing to tell him otherwise, or at least what his experience dictates. As I thought about our friend, how I love and adore her, I googled her name and found the image. I giggled. It reflects her perfectly. She is laughing and smiling. Her Joy apparent. As I surveyed it, I was once again aware she had taught me yet another lesson, her joy comes from within, from the Savior she serves. He is her joy and her strength and it is to Him I am grateful for having a plan that includes such a Faithful friend.

book-1421097_1920

 

Psalm 56

If suggests a possibility.

When implies a certainty.

When I am afraid,
I will trust in you. (v. 3)

Not if I am afraid.
But when I am afraid.

Fear is a certainty on this broken planet.

Sin separated us from the safety God intended in the Garden. Fear replaced fellowship with God as Adam and Eve scrambled to hide themselves and cover their actions.

What are we afraid of?

We fear rejection, loss of reputation, loss of resources, isolation, pain, and, most of all, death.

So when David writes about fear, he writes about when, not if.
He writes about the only antidote to fear: trust in God.

When I am afraid. Fear happens.
And when it does, I will choose to trust in God.

How does David know that trust dispels fear?

He knows God’s Word.

In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mortal man do to me? (v. 4)

When we study God’s Word like David did, we will know God’s character. We will know His love for us. We will know His plans for us. We will learn to have an eternal perspective on our circumstances.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
When fear comes, I choose to trust.

In God I trust; I will not be afraid.
When fear comes, I choose to trust.
And when I choose to trust, I don’t have to stay afraid.

God’s Word tells us not to be afraid of what people can do to us.

David asked “What can mortal man do to me?” Man can only kill the body, not the soul. Eternity with God is secure for those who know Him.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28

Paul encourages us with the truth that no one can separate from the love of God in Christ Jesus. With His love, we can endure hardship, persecution, and the sword.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

When David was afraid, he traded his fear for trust in God. We know David’s fear was intense because he cried tears as he called on God for help.

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me. (v. 8-9 ESV)

God sees and values our tears. He keeps a record of them. Our tears and our fears are important to God. He does not dismiss them.

God is for us.
We can trust Him.

Fear happens.
When, not if.
I love the honesty of God’s Word.
I love that the truth that meets us where we live and shows us the way to the Father.

I love that God’s Word doesn’t make fear a small thing, a weak thing. Fear is treated as an important emotion to recognize. We aren’t told to just get over it. We are shown the way to bring our fear to our loving Father and exchange it for trust in Him.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

In God I trust; I will not be [stay] afraid.

This I know, that God is for me.

I will present my thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God in the light of life. (v. 12-13)

Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank you for showing me what to do when I’m afraid. When I am afraid, I will trust in You. Thank you that no one and no circumstance can separate me from Your love. This I know: You are for me. You have delivered me and given me the gift of salvation through Your Son, Jesus. I want to walk with You today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 56