New Look/Under Construction

Hello Friends!

Stay tuned…I’m in the process of updating my blog site. In the meantime, if you’d like to read my devotions, I’m on Instagram under gracedtolive and on the Facebook ministry page I share with Sherry French, Reflections On The Word, http://www.facebook.com/reflectionontheword.

Just to let you know…I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and God-seeking in the last 14 months since I wrote my last blog post and I have to say…I’m kinda glad to be back.

Joy!

Saying Good-bye Is Hard

Family

My Jazzy is dying. For anyone who has lost a beloved pet, you know the grief is real.

It’s been hard to watch her health deteriorate. She was diagnosed with advanced stages of liver disease back in June. Her pancreas is also diseased. We’ve tried medications and diet changes in the hopes of regenerating her liver, but these things haven’t worked so we suspect cancer. We’re just making her as comfortable as possible. We called the vet yesterday and talked about the difficult decision to euthanize because sometimes it’s really the most loving thing to do.

I’ve read some dogs can hang on for days at the end of their lives, but when I look at Jazzy I know she has no quality of life left. There’s no joy in her eyes. The things that used to make her light up don’t phase her anymore. Her breathing is labored. She’s not eating or drinking. She can no longer stand up. She barely moves. Breaks my heart.

I’m only sharing this because there are several other things going on in my life causing me emotional discomfort. For those of you who read my blog you know I’m not one to sugar coat my feelings. One of the things that dog experts advise when a family pet is dying: Don’t let your dog sense how upset you are…

Do you know how hard this is for someone who’s wired to feel all the feels?!? To let it all out?!? To express herself without holding back?!? Get real. I’m sad and that’s all there is to it. BUT, for Jazzy’s sake I’m taking my tears to the next room and letting them flow. What Jazzy gets from me right now are soft strokes across her bony back and soothing words of comfort, It’s okay, Jazzy. It’s okay to leave us. We’re sad to see you go, but you’ve loved us well. You’ve been loyal and faithful and sometimes completely zany, but you’ve served your purpose in life. It’s okay to say good-bye.

In all honesty, my emotions have been on a roller coaster ride since December when I began experiencing health issues, which I’ve recently shared here on the blog. It’s just no fun not feeling well. Not feeling my best. Not feeling like myself.

In the process of riding the ups and downs of this rollercoaster, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and I’ve made a decision.

I’m saying good-bye to my blog.

I’m not saying good-bye to writing because writing is therapeutic for me, but I don’t believe this blog is all it could be. It needs rethinking and maybe I’ll come back in a few months with a brand new design. Change isn’t such a bad thing. Change is good. But sometimes…in order to make those changes we have to say good-bye to the things that have lost their quality of life. Things that have served their purpose for a season but no longer bear fruit.

I don’t write to gain followers as much as I write to share how God is working in the every day of my life. There’s always the hope that someone, somewhere, will find their way here and read something encouraging, uplifting, inspiring. But after 3 years I just don’t see a lot of fruit.

I’ve been struggling with this as I ride this rickety old coaster. There’ve been times it’s even made me sick to my stomach ’cause I love writing. Even when experiencing writer’s block I still wanted to write!

There’s so much more I could be doing to make this blog better and I’m so technically challenged…what can I say? I tried one time to add some plug-ins and ended up in tears. I was so traumatized I couldn’t get on my computer for days, but I can’t be afraid to change! I want change, need change, welcome change because making changes can often produce a more fruitful work.

I think sometimes we get stuck and I don’t want to be stuck. I want to have the courage to  learn. To grow. Sometimes we have to allow God to change us before we can be someone who can affect change in others.

That’s the real beauty of writing, sharing, and journaling my thoughts for all the world to see. I don’t want my writing to be just another expression of myself. I want it to motivate. To move and touch and stir the hearts of others to walk more closely with God. He may very well have another ministry in mind for me other than writing. Who knows?

Sometimes to do the things we want the most we have to give up some things we love. Things we try to hold onto more tightly than we should. We need to learn when to let go. And the irony of that is, sometimes we have to surrender the very things we think we’re called to do. The gift of words, whether writing or speaking or teaching, is a calling. But I can’t make it happen no matter how hard I try.

Only through surrender can God bring a calling to life. And it may not look like anything I think it should look like. God’s dreams for me are way bigger, better, and more beautiful than anything I could dream up on my own.

I’ve been preparing myself for a month of deeper soul-searching in September. I’ll be fasting and seeking the heart of God. I’m deactivating my Instagram and Facebook accounts from September 1-October 1. I won’t be renewing my WordPress account. After September 13, my blog will be completely deleted. It’s time for change and I’m going to prepare my heart to receive it.

I’ll continue to write for the Community Facebook Page I share with Sherry French, Reflections On The Word. For those who’d like to continue reading my devotions, my ponderings and musings, you can always follow me there. But please ‘like’ the page to receive updates in your feed.

Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/reflectionontheword

(I’ll be back on Instagram October 1. I often write mini devotions there, too. You can find me at @gracedtolive. I love posting my photos and bringing them to life with words and I just looooove the IG Community!)

Anyway, I have a sweet friend who needs me today…yes, I’m talking about my Jazzy.

Saying good-bye is hard, but so is change. It’s going to take a while for me to get used to the absence of her presence in our home. The way she greeted me at the door with her little stub of a tail twitching and wriggling. The way she bounded over furniture and ran up and down the stairs. The way she watched over the house and barked at everything that moved. The way she protected me and mostly…mostly…for the way she loved me, even when I wasn’t very lovable.

Jazzy never met a stranger in her life and when she’s gone, I suspect she’ll never be a stranger to my heart. Even so, there’s still room for change there. In that place where I want to hold onto her more tightly than I should, I know it’s time to let go.

So, I will say good-bye. And really. It’s okay.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Making Peace With My Lawnmower

IMG_3269

I like to mow grass.

So sue me.

Back when I was in my thirties and forties I even mowed grass for my neighbors. I was stronger then. Now I just mow for myself. (And my hard-working husband, of course.) I’m not as young as I used to be, but I think mowing grass helps keep me ‘young…-er’.

I look at it like this: I’m not a member of a gym. I don’t lift weights. I don’t treadmill, row, or bike. I need an aerobic workout. Mowing grass gives me that.

I wish I could cut grass all year long, but the mowing season is short-lived in these parts. Some people might think the season is lo-o-o-o-ng, but 4 months out of a 12-month year is only a quarter. Forget mowing in a summer drought. No need to mow fried grass.

I can remember when the thought of cutting grass petrified me. You wouldn’t catch me pushing a lawn mower around. No way. I didn’t even want to be in the same yard with a roaring mower. The only thing about it that bothers me these days is when I see dads mowing their yards while their child pushes a toy mower behind them. I guess they think it’s cute. Or teaching them something. Makes me cringe. I want to stop and yell, “Get your child in the house NOW!! What do you think you’re doing?!? This is dangerous and I’m living proof!”

Seriously, there’s nothing ‘cute’ about the power of a machine with the potential to shoot out rocks and debris like a shotgun. I’ve got 2 broken window panes to prove it. The holes look just like bullet holes.

AND. I’ve got a prosthetic eye to add all the remaining proof you may need.

When people ask me how I lost my eye, I usually tell them, “In a backyard accident as a child,” and that’s enough to satisfy them. Occasionally, someone will press me for more info. I don’t mind talking about it anymore. There’s no pain or discomfort. I’ve made peace with it all. If I hadn’t, these words, “I like to mow grass,” would not even enter my mind. But, yes…

I’ve made peace with my lawnmower.

Funny thing is…that backyard accident wasn’t anyone’s fault. Not my Dad’s. Not my Mom’s. Not mine. It was a FREAK accident. Unusual. Atypical. Irregular. Unexpected. 

Rare.

It was one of those things that doesn’t happen to just anyone. Or in every backyard.

It was one of those things that happened to me. In MY backyard.

I wasn’t following my Dad around with a toy lawn mower as he cut the grass. I wasn’t even running around the yard. My Mom and I were sitting on a bench outside our back porch steps, letting the rays of the summer sun beat down on us. All was calm. All was bright.

All was peaceful.

My Dad was mowing on the other side of the driveway. We had a gravel driveway back then and sometimes the rocks would get lost in the grass.

Funny how life is so freakish sometimes.

When the unusual happens in the ordinary.

When the atypical happens in the common.

When the irregular happens in the constant. 

When the unexpected happens in the assumed. 

When in the middle of calm and bright and peaceful life freaks you out. 

And a lawnmower became a symbol to a little girl of all that’s agitating. All that’s threatening.

All that is disquieting.

But see…here’s the thing, and I’ll make this simple…we all have things that have become ‘symbols’ of what’s wrong in our lives. For me, for so long, it was a lawnmower. And I had to make peace with it.

The only way I could do that was to make peace with God first. And that meant surrender. First of all, of course, was surrender to the gift of grace through Jesus. Then, there was the surrender to His will, His way, His plan, His purpose. For me.

When the freakish things in life rear their ugly heads and rocks in the grass become weapons of destruction I’ve had to learn that surrendering to God first means letting Him in my backyard where, YES!, even the unusual happens. The atypical. The irregular and the unexpected. The places where I’m usually the most comfortable. The most familiar. The most peaceful.

And it means surrendering the symbols that represent what’s wrong in my heart and soul. God wants all of me so He can make what’s wrong right. Like the freakish things of life. He turns them from ‘rare’ to ‘remarkable.’

God entrusted this to me. This rare and unexpected thing. It happened to me because He knew I could handle it. He knew I would surrender it all. My heart. My soul. My mind. My strength. 

He knew I would make peace with a prosthetic eye. And my lawnmower.

And instead of it being a symbol of weakness. It would become a symbol of strength.

IMG_3391

It would become a workout.

Not just to build physical strength. But to build character.

You know, my ocularist-the man who made my eye, said something like this to me at my last visit, “I think it’s hard for people who’ve lost an eye to talk about it because it’s rare. They feel alone. Their personalities have a lot to do with how they handle it. For some, it’s very painful. For others, it doesn’t seem to be too big of a deal, but because they’re all different, how they handle it will be unique to each one individually.”

I’d like to think I’m handling it well these days. Not for me.

For my God.

Because He thinks I can handle a lawnmower just fine. And you know what else?

He knew I would one day actually like to mow grass.

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:12, 16

I Don’t Want To Adult Today

FullSizeRender-6

I don’t want to adult today. I’m writing this blog post at 4 a.m., but I’ve been up since 2. I don’t feel well.

And I just don’t want to adult today.

Right before Christmas last year I had a health scare. Hemoptysis. (Coughing up blood.) Believe me when I say, It was kinda scary. It wasn’t a little bit of blood coming up with a little bit of something else. It was pure, red, and a lot of it. After 4 episodes, it stopped.

Under the care of my family physician, whom I trust completely and absolutely, I’ve seen an ear-nose-throat doctor for a laryngoscopy; an internist for an endoscopy; a pulmonary doctor who ‘threatened’ a bronchoscopy; and finally an endocrinologist who ordered an ultrasound of my thyroid. So thankful there was no ‘scope’ for that. I’m kinda tired of people sticking cameras down my inner parts.

Until the endocrinologist I was beginning to believe all my issues were in my head because pinpointing the reasons why I feel so bad seemed to be elusive. I can’t even tell you the relief I felt to discover I have a tumor on my thyroid.

Yes, relieved. I am not crazy. This tumor is big enough to biopsy.

I’ve had many days since Christmas when I don’t want to adult.

I am tired. Sometimes extremely fatigued.

I have  brain fog. Sometimes all. day. long.

I have a scratchy throat. Sometimes I could swear it’s on fire.

I have air hunger. Sometimes I just can’t seem to breathe enough of it in.

I have trouble swallowing. Sometimes I choke on my own saliva. This cannot be normal.

I have hoarseness in my voice. Sometimes I can barely talk. It hurts. This makes me sad because I love to talk. The sound of my voice has changed. I don’t sound like me. (Insert tears.)

My mouth is dry. It feels funny. Like chalk. My taste buds have changed. (Insert more tears.) Some foods leave an awful, bitter taste in my mouth. This disturbs me greatly because there are some foods out there that are very dear to my heart. Like pizza. I can’t eat pizza anymore. I think I’m dying.

My lips are dry. If I don’t keep them moisturized all the time, the corners crack and bleed. They burn. Especially after I eat foods that have too much spice or salt. I keep at least 6 lip balms in my purse at all times. Some are more soothing than others. It took me months to find one I really love, but I’ve only been able to find it in one store. I need to buy stock in this product. Maybe they’ll give me a discount.

And the weirdest issue of all…I cannot maintain a normal body temperature. I feel like I have a fever, but I don’t. The truth is, I don’t have enough of a temperature. It’s gone as low as 94.8. Right now it’s 95.7. Add the scratchy throat and the hoarse voice and the fatigue and I feel pretty much like I’ve got the flu.

No, I don’t want to adult today.

I’ll be the first to tell you, I don’t think all these symptoms are just because I have a tumor on my thyroid. I’ve been through this before. When I was 19 I had half my thyroid removed because of a tumor. Pre-Cancer. In the beginning doctors said it was cancer, but after it was taken out and biopsied I was pleasantly blessed.

I’ve always been hyperthyroid. I think the pendulum has swung the other way in the second of half of my life. I am now hypo. The low body temps are a pretty good indicator.

I know the importance of the thyroid gland to the over-all, well-being of my body. When I was 19 I didn’t have a computer and a world of knowledge at my fingertips. My family pretty much depended upon the doctors to educate us, but the past several months I’ve done so much reading and researching online I could literally scare myself silly.

I’ve decided to lay off the research. I know enough to know that a sick thyroid can make me sick and that’s that. I felt pretty lousy when I was 19, too.

Next week I see a specialist in Raleigh. I know we’ll get to the bottom of this. I’ll have a biopsy done and we’ll go from there. Until then, I’ll have to adult even when I don’t want to.

When my body screams, I can’t get up, my legs are like lead, I will move my feet.

When my brain screams, I can’t concentrate, my brain is fried, I will push through the fog.

When my voice screams, I can’t talk, my throat hurtsI will open my mouth.

When my lungs scream, I can’t breathe, my throat is closing in, will relax and take a deep breath.

When my temperature decelerates and my lips burn and my mouth rebels, I will adult.

I may not like it, but I will.

And I will trust in the love of God to give me strength when days are long and hard, when I am weary and uncertain. Because if nothing else seems for sure, the love of God always is. It’s steadfast, perfect and a truly wonderful thing.

God loves me. It’s true. And this is a truth to which I cling.

Because if I believe that God loves me then I can believe His love is enough to carry me through the storms of life. His arms hold me tight. His hands never lose their grip and it’s in this place of certainty that I rest. Even as I keep moving forward, keep pushing through, keep taking deep breaths.

And it’s in this place of trust that I will adult today.

 

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40: 28-31

When Second Chances Are The Best Thing That Ever Happens To You

FullSizeRender-5

Friday I celebrated my thirty-seventh wedding anniversary.

37 years. Lord, have mercy. (I say this with great joy!)

I told my Facebook friends on Friday when I posted this milestone that I was going to regale them with a story. How I married the man of my dreams even though we had a ‘not-so-good’ first date. A blind date, no less.

And, listen…I’ve heard my sweet husband tell this story many times over the years so I’m not telling you anything we haven’t agreed on.

We just really did NOT…and I mean, did NOT…enjoy one another’s company on our first date. Blind dates can be so…blind. You have no idea what to expect. You only know what the person who set the date up has told you. This ‘said-person’ was my sister. I mean, if you can’t trust your sister who can you trust?!?

I ask you…

Anyways, I was 20 years old. And floundering. I had spent all my life living in one little community. I grew up with the same kids, attended the same church, even lived in the same house all those years. I was pretty sheltered. I didn’t realize until I went off to college–an all-girls’ college, I might add–just how sheltered I had been. Not to mention, just how insecure I was.

My freshman year of college was miserable. I was so unhappy. Cried a lot. Couldn’t eat. Lost weight. Depressed. When I went home on my spring break my father took me to a doctor and basically said, Please find something wrong with her.

I guess Dad was hoping and praying that all the changes in my behavior wasn’t just in my head.

It wasn’t. But, it wasn’t what my Dad expected, either. As if being born with hearing loss and losing an eye as a child and growing up an asthmatic wasn’t enough, the diagnosis was…Thyroid cancer. But, don’t worry, we’ve never lost anyone to thyroid cancer. 

I finished out my freshman year of college and told my parents, I was NOT going back to that school. I had half my thyroid removed and enrolled in the nearest community college. Moved into an apartment with some girlfriends, dated some guys, had some fun, acted stupid, did things I’m not proud of, and lost all interest in just about everything. So I dropped out of school.

In all honesty, I really didn’t like myself very much. I became more and more introverted. I  had the hardest time meeting new people. I developed an inner fear that I would never be loved by any man because I just wasn’t pretty enough. I had such low self-esteem.

Growing up, I never had to talk about my hearing issues or the fact that I wore a prosthetic eye. It was a small community. Everybody knew everybody else’s business so there really wasn’t a need to talk about it, I guess, but I honestly don’t think I could have, anyway.

I had too many memories rolling around in my brain about my eye accident that I didn’t know what to do with. Memories of hospitals, doctors, bandages, eye patches, loneliness. To sum it up in one word, painful.

I just didn’t want to talk about it all. Meeting new people might mean I’d have to talk about it. So, I introverted myself instead.

Meeting guys and getting to know them was one of the hardest things I had to do at the age of 20. Sometimes I backed off after a few dates. Sometimes I ran like a scared rabbit. A few times I got too attached too soon and ended up dumped.

Without realizing it, I piled on insecurities in one giant heap.

After 5 months of living on my own–and not liking myself very much–I went back home. Back to where I felt safe. Back to where I felt loved. Back to where I could figure some things out.

And this is where the real story begins. The story that began with a blind date.

A blind date means you start fresh with someone who knows very little about you. Nothing of significance. Nothing of importance. No history. No past. What did I have to lose? I’d already lost my self-respect. Let’s face it, when you reach rock-bottom there’s really no where else to go but up.

A blind date actually stirred up something in my heart. Like, a flicker of hope. Because maybe, just maybe, my date would see something inside of me worth liking. Something besides the hearing loss and the fake eye and all my insecurities. I wanted a man who would look at my heart with a heart of his own.

But that first date…how can you really get to know someone in a bar?

Yes, that’s where Wayne took me. To a bar. A loud, noisy bar. A bar where he ordered me a few beers that I didn’t drink so he drank them for me. A bar where the lights were so low I couldn’t really read his lips very well. A bar where the music was so loud I could hardly understand a word he was saying. A bar where there was dancing but I was so uncomfortable I didn’t get out of my seat one single time.

We just sat there. And sat. And sat. And sat.

It was an early night for us that night. Wayne took me home and I really don’t think he got a goodnight kiss. I didn’t think we would ever see one another again.

But even though I was still in my rebel season, still trying to figure things out, still far from God, still not walking in a right relationship with Him, even though…even though…even though…God was still at work in my life.

The restlessness, the emptiness, the miserableness all spoke to the spiritual deficit in my heart. There was a yearning for a life with meaning. I knew God to be The God-of-Second-Chances. The God who never gives up on me. The God who never abandons me. The God who woos and pursues and continues to love all over me when I don’t feel very pretty, when I don’t act very pretty.

God loved me when I was dirty. His love isn’t based on first impressions of us, when we first come to Him, when we first give Him our whole hearts, before we clean ourselves up. His love is unconditional. So often, first impressions can be misleading. No doubt they can be very important, but what if God loved us based on first impressions? How could any of us ever hope to find favor with Him?

I guess some would argue that there are no first impressions with God. After all, He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. He knows us each more individually, personally, and intimately than any one else ever could. His first impression of us is so pure and right and holy.

And ours are not. It’s so sad that we fall so short in our ability to move past bad first impressions. They keep us from seeing others with the heart of God.

Oh, Sweet Jesus…how glad, how thankful, how absolutely grateful I am that You are a Second-Chance-God. How glad I am that I gave my husband a second-chance. How thankful I am that You allowed me to look deeper into his heart and see him for the man he truly is. How absolutely grateful I am that You stirred my heart to move past my first impression.

I don’t know why-other than the grace of God that washed over me-but I wanted to give Wayne another chance. I wanted to see him again because I believed there was more to him than a bar and loud music.

I bought him a plant. I wrote him a note with the words, “Please don’t let it die,” and I delivered it to his apartment. He wasn’t home so I left it on his doorstep.

And the rest is history. Our love story is still being written, but I can tell you this…God gave me just what I wanted. No, He gave me just what I needed. Wayne has always seen beyond my hearing loss and my fake eye. Wayne has a second-chance heart because he gave me a second-chance, too.

I love that my husband sees my heart with his own heart of gold, a heart that is pure and right and holy, kind and good and gentle. A heart that truly loves me the way Christ loves the Church, full of love and devotion, sacrifice and service.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Wayne would lay down his life for me. And if I don’t stop, I’m gonna start bawling like a baby, but can I just say? I love this man. With my whole heart. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him.

Wayne and I have lots of tales to tell. Our marriage has been full of ups and downs, messiness and craziness, tears and laughter. We’ve raised 2 sons together and our family is growing. We now have 2 precious daughters-in-law. One day we hope for grandchildren.

We are blessed beyond measure. We are graced beyond infinity.

And we will be loved into eternity. Because sometimes love…like the love of God…never dies. It lasts forever.

Because God is a Second-Chance-God.

And second chances are sometimes the best thing that ever happens to you.

And to prove it, Wayne and I were married on the one-year anniversary of our ‘not-so-good’ first date on June 3, 1979.