How Can I Keep From Singing: I Won’t Trade My Crown

Compromise.  In some circumstances, compromise is a sign of great maturity and strength of character.  In some instances, compromise is a sign of weakness.  In my life, it’s been both.

When we adopted our sons, they were not infants.  At four and two, Martin and Steven learned to follow rules quickly and they were fairly obedient children.  They were absolute joys to spend time with and we felt so blessed.  Children from foster care often have trouble adjusting and most of them have attachment disorders and problems bonding.  We had none of that.  Kelly and I raised them to be diplomatic.  They shared a bedroom, so they had to learn to compromise about a lot of things.  We were so proud of our parenting.  We puffed up like blowfish when someone would remark about how well-behaved Martin and Steven were.  So prideful!  Remember pride — read “the devil” — comes before a fall!  (see Proverbs 16:18)

Then they became teenagers.  Regular ordinary teenagers who liked to be in their rooms for long stretches of time.  Regular teenagers who were a little mouthy at times.  Regular teenagers who acted like chores were a form of punishment borrowed from a  P.O.W. camp.  In other words, they were regular teenagers.

For the most part, we made good decisions for Martin and Steven.  It’s not that we didn’t get along or that they were completely out-of control, but Kelly and I missed the closeness we’d shared with them during their childhood.  Gone were the goodnight hugs and kisses.  (In their place came silences or occasional grunts of acknowledgement.)  Gone were the mostly cooperative boys who loved sharing a bedroom.  (They each got their own room when they were about 14 and 12 as a way to keep peace.)  Gone was the gratitude for anything we did for them.  (In came sullenness, shrugs, and bouts of mouthiness.)  I became very depressed over the change in our relationships.  I forgot that it’s an unfortunate rite of passage for some teens.  I even forgot how defiant I had been with my own parents.  (Remember that failed marriage of mine?  Totally defiant, sneaky, and disobedient with no apologies!)

Kelly and I wanted to recapture those balanced relationships with Martin and Steven…so we compromised.  We let them get away with things that we’d never allowed before (back talk, poor grades, not doing chores).  I don’t know why I thought this would be a solution to our problem.  Maybe it was because we’d adopted them — afraid if we ever lost that initial connection we had with them that we might  never get it back.  Looking back ten years ago, it was a bad decision on our part because things got worse instead of better.

Then, we stopped compromising.  We started saying, “No” and ignoring how they acted after that.  It took us another year or so to even out the rocky road we’d been traveling.  We started using the Bible as our standard of behavior.  Were things perfect?  No.  Little things would creep up and we’d have to handle them.  Did I almost forget that God was right there with me?  You bet.  But we stood our ground and our boys are better for it.  Martin is a Navy veteran and is a sophomore in college.  Steven works hard as an electrician’s apprentice and just became a new dad (see my profile picture — that’s my precious Joshlyn, and I am her Mimi). We learned the hard way that there are just some things on which you just can’t compromise.

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”   Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘A person cannot live on bread alone but on every word that God speaks.’ ”  Then the devil took him into the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple.  He said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, jump! Scripture says, ‘He will put his angels in charge of you. They will carry you in their hands so that you never hit your foot against a rock.’ ”  Jesus said to him, “Again, Scripture says, ‘Never tempt the Lord your God.’ ”  Once more the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms in the world and their glory.  The devil said to him, “I will give you all this if you will bow down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ”  Then the devil left him, and angels came to take care of him.  Matthew 4:3-11 (GWT)

Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t compromise?  The devil came to Him when He was weak from fasting.  Isn’t that how Satan goes about his business?  He attacks when we are weak and susceptible to his suggestions.  He wants us to compromise, but that is never the solution.  We have to remember that in our weakness, God shows His greatest strength.  He will never give us more than we can handle and if we seek Him at those times, He will give us the ability to stand against the tempter.

Jesus’s experience with Satan in the desert should give us all hope.  Jesus was as human as we are.  The difference is that He lived with the Spirit of God inside Him.  There was nothing He could do but obey His Father and resist temptation.  He just said, “No.”  And take note that He backed it up with scripture!* When I picture Jesus on the cross, I am constantly aware that He could have compromised and 10,000 angels would have swooped down from heaven to minister to him.  His compromise would have cost us eternity.

The song that’s been running through my mind for the past few days is “I Won’t Trade My Crown” by the Down East Boys.  I hope you are blessed when you listen to it.

*Note:  If you will remember from one of my first posts, I made a pact with God to memorize more scripture this year.  I started writing scripture on notecards and posting them on the cabinets in my kitchen.  While I cook or clean, I practice my memory verses!  It’s really making a difference.

shr

“I Won’t Trade My Crown” (Down East Boys)  “http://www.youtube.com/embed/qQVsMNAmTXE?rel=0

Holding Fast

I’m holding fast to You, Lord.

You know my heart is racing.

Fear grips my heart and hides Your Light

In this darkness I am facing.

I’m holding fast to You, Lord.

It’s just like me to second-guess You.

Too often, my unbelief deafens me

When You cry, “I want to bless you.”

I’m holding fast to You, Lord.

I must lay “myself” aside,

Confess my sins and ask redemption

From this prison cell of pride.

I’m holding fast to You, Lord.

For Your comfort, Lord, I pray;

And at last, my soul is set free!

These words of hope, I hear you say:

“Are you holding fast to Me, Child?

For each promise I’ll be true

And you can rest your heavy burden,

For I’m holding on to you.”

— Sandra Hall Rosser 1/27/12

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they stumble they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.  Psalm 37:23-24 NLT

Ten Commandments: One True God

There are ten weeks until the Holy Week that will lead us into Eastertide.  Ten is a nice round number — and that brought to mind the Ten Commandments.  (Exodus 20:1-21 will be my focal passage.)  I’m going to take one commandment a week and concentrate on what that verse means in my life.  I invite you to share what these verses mean to you.

Then God gave the people all these instructions:  “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.  You must not have any other god but me.”  Exodus 20:1-3 (NLT)

For me, my relationship with God is a commitment, very personal and intimate.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that believers are referred to as “the bride” and that Christ is our “bridegroom.”  This life we’ve been given is very similar to a marriage.  God put forth a great deal of effort in my creation and He loved me enough to sacrifice His Son for my sins.  His rescue makes “the wedding feast of the Lamb” possible for me.

I think about all the “gods” that I have put before Him in my life:  romantic relationships, selfish ambitions, having my own way, abandoning His Word, and completely ignoring Him.  Basically, I’ve just left God hanging at times.  You know how that feels?  Longing for that special someone just to give us some sort of acknowledgement and getting passed by as if we were invisible?  I’ll be perfectly honest and tell you that last week, I spent two entire days licking my wounds about a situation that I cannot change no matter what I do.  Instead of going to God and resting in the shelter of His arms, I watched television and sulked.  What a waste of the LORD my God’s affection!

God longs to talk with me daily.  He wrote this awesome instruction book and gave [me] all these instructions so that my relationship with Him would be designed for just for me — just for Sandy Rosser.  I have His full attention at all times.  Sadly, I cannot say that He always has mine.

As we near the season of Lent, it is my intent to eliminate the distractions of the other “gods” in my life and focus on the One True God.  What is my biggest distraction?  I’m not sure at this moment.  In the past, I’ve chosen physical distractions to avoid.  For instance, last year I gave up soda and only had water to drink for Lent.  But let’s face it — soda is not the biggest distraction in my spiritual life.  Looking back, I feel like I sort of copped out.

We started a new Bible study tonight at Culbreth Memorial UMC called Believing God by Beth Moore.  We’ll be there most Wednesday nights from 6:00-8:00pm.  We’d love to have you.  Check us out at www.facebook.com/culbrethmemorialumc.

I feel like I’m on the precipice of something great.  I’m going to put myself completely into this study.  It’s what God requires of me.

shr

How Can I Keep From Singing: It is Well with My Soul

I’m not even done with the first month of 2012 and I am already weary.  It seems that there have been so many problems plaguing me and the people I love.  Of course, some of the problems are new, but some of the problems are just left-overs that have hung around from 2011.  There are even some issues I’m facing that have been hanging around for years — some have taken new forms, but some are just that same old mean, nasty, lingering problems that I’ve known and experienced for the past few years of my life.  I have friends in the same position.   Some of us are fighting depression, the loss of employment, and troubles with family.  Some of us have been lied to and betrayed.  We’ve lost trust in some of the people closest to us.  The people in our lives have confused us and, as my Daddy sometimes says, “We don’t know our butts from third base.”

Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the fiery troubles that are coming in order to test you. Don’t feel as though something strange is happening to you, but be happy as you share Christ’s sufferings. Then you will also be full of joy when he appears again in his glory.  1 Peter 4:12-13 (GWT)

I know that I’m being tested.  I know that you are being tested.  Some of the testing is ugly and brings worldly thoughts into our heads.  Just this past weekend, I thought of someone who, in my eyes, has it made.  I even said to myself, “Now I could live her life and do such a good job of it, Lord, you might consider giving her life to me permanently.  What do you think of that God?”  By the way, God didn’t think much of it.   Instead. He’s spent the last two days showing me how very blessed I am despite my personal sufferings.  He hasn’t let me forget a single thing in my life that is good or the fact that those blessings are directly from Him.

Our suffering as Christians serves five purposes:

  1. Suffering causes us to rely fully on the Lord.  Sometimes, we run away first to try and “make it on our own.”  But when that fails we humbly come to God on our knees, even if it takes years.
  2. Suffering causes sin to lose its power.  No matter what the world does to you, God is always there.  You are not alone.  You have His power.
  3. Suffering causes our witness to become stronger.  When we find success after suffering, we offer praise to The One who gave us the strength to survive.  God gets all the glory.
  4. Suffering causes us to become sensitive to the problems of other people.  We recognize the hurt we’ve experienced in others and we have empathy for them.  It makes us approachable.
  5. Suffering causes us to be esteemed in God’s eyes.  When we don’t give up, God sees the determination in us and we are blessed.

It’s easy to leave God’s Word and prayer out of our lives when we’re hurting.  Who has time to read the Bible and pray when you’re licking your wounds?  This, then, is the time to get up off that couch, put away the bag of chips, put on some lipstick (my friend, John Pat McCall says you can accomplish anything if you’ve got your lipstick on), and ask God what He wants you to do.  I’ll bet His response will be to do something for someone else, expecting nothing in return.  Getting “into” others is a sure-fire way to get “outside” of yourself.

I chose “It is Well with My Soul” for this week’s HCIKFS emphasis because it’s a comfort song and I’ve been in drastic need of comfort and hope this past week.   I chose to share this particular video version because Bill Gaither tells the background of the hymn”s writer, Horatio Spafford.  You will hear about the ghastly things this man had to endure in his life.  His losses were great, but His joy in the Lord was profound.  This is how I want to live my life!  The world may steal my happiness, but it will never take my JOY!

shr

“It is Well with My Soul” (Gaithers with Guy Penrod) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=KYP–c2LTfg

Faith It Forward: Like My Mother Does

Linda Carter Hall - My Mother

My mother, Linda Carter Hall, is big part of who I am and what I’ve become as an adult.  The really wonderful thing about her presence in my life is that she would tell you that she takes very little credit for how I turned out, but that is hardly the truth.   I’m sharing this story as a “Faith It Forward” post because she was one of the first people to teach me how to “faith it forward” even though I didn’t call her particular influence by that title until this past year.  I am writing this to “honor my mother” as God wrote in the Ten Commandments.  (See Exodus 20:12)

My parents were married in 1960 and I came along on April 24, 1962.  My birth was difficult for her because I was two weeks late AND breach (butt first, and for those of you who know me well, this might be the explanation of why I have had to learn some things the hard way).  In 1962, a C-section was only done in dire circumstances and perhaps if she’d had a different doctor, it would have been done at my birth.  The fact that I even have a younger brother after my labor-intensive arrival is a testament to her fortitude!

I was raised (and for you grammar hounds, I know the word should be reared but I’m from the South, therefore I was raised ) in a Christian home with warm, encouraging, loving parents.  I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was nine.  I was pretty oblivious to the some of unusual circumstances of my childhood.  In fact, I did not realize until I moved back home after my failed marriage just what kinds of lessons my mother had been teaching all along.

When my mother was around sixteen, she started losing her eyesight.  She was diagnosed with familial macular degeneration.  (This is a disease that affects her center vision.  When she looks at the world, there is a blackness in the central region of what she sees.)  Imagine seeing the world ONLY by the edges of your sight.  She is legally blind.  I didn’t know the extent of this problem until I was an adult.  I was able to participate in extracurricular activities because she and my Granny Mae (her mother) could always pick me up.  I assumed all grandmothers did this.  I felt so important when I finally got my own driver’s license because I was able to drive Mama anywhere she wanted to go.  It is still a privilege for me to drive her where she needs to go and it always will be.  My mother’s eyesight was never a real hindrance to raising her family and serving the Lord.  It seems God has always made a way.

My mother is musically gifted.  She’s been the pianist at Judson Baptist Church for nearly fifty-four years.  She’s amazing to watch!  I don’t know how many times she’s played for me to sing.  Sometimes, I’ll say “That’s a little too high for me.”  She can immediately transpose the song into a lower key.  If you play the piano or know anything about music, you recognize what a spectacular gift this is!   She also has this smooth alto voice.  She’d never sung in public much before, but after Kelly and I were married, the three of us formed a trio and have been singing ever since.  She and I have also branched out and sing duets.  We will never make it on American Idol or America’s Got Talent, but God has blessed us both with the ability to find and sing harmony without written music.  I feel closest to her when we’re singing God’s praises.  I learned to play the piano because I wanted to be like her.  I’m not a bad pianist, but my mother is truly talented.

Several years ago, Kelly and I were able to purchase the home where I grew up.  My mother lives next door.  Truth be told, I’ve never lived more than three houses away from Mama and Daddy.  I love the fact that my children have been able to walk next door and visit with my parents.  They love their grandparents and have a close relationship with them.  My mother, who is really is Grandmother Extraordinaire, keeps special treats just for them at her house.  In the past, Claire has said, “I’m going to grandma’s house.  SHE has _______.”  (Fill in that blank with “honeybuns,”  “YooHoo,” “donut sticks,” or whatever snack Mama knows they like.  She is the Snack Queen and I don’t even try to compete!)

My mother has taught me some important lessons about life, love, and God.   I consider her my first and biggest influence, although my Daddy is right there with her.  (I will tell you about him on another day.)  When I think of her, I think of the last verses of Proverbs 31.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.  Her children stand and bless her.   Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!”   Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done.  Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.  Proverbs 31:25-31 NLT

Yes, she taught me about quiet strength and dignity.  When she sets a goal for herself, she is tenacious.  I’ve never seen her give up on what she desires to do or learn.  When I was in college, she was my study buddy.  She would grill me on questions from my study guides and encourage me when the going got tough.  I feel like that Bachelor of Science degree I earned in education should be shared with her.  She was just that involved in my learning process.  When I became disabled due to chronic pain twenty years ago and found out that I could not go back to teaching, she told me that God had other plans for me; that I should open my eyes and my heart to that I could see and anticipate what God”s blessings. When we found out about our infertility, she would not let me wallow in self-pity.  She propped me up when all I felt like doing was melting into a puddle of tears.   She was the first to ask, “Do you want to be pregnant or do you want to be a Mommy?”  Of course, I just wanted to be a mommy!

Yes, she has taught me wisdom.  I have apologized to her many times because she has given me wise advice and I have ignored it.  Now that I’m reaching the “half-century” mark in my life, I believe I am wiser because she laid the foundation of her motherly wisdom in my heart, and that means that she taught me to go to the Word and the Lord.

Yes,  she taught me to love deeply and unconditionally.  She, herself,  is kind and I want to emulate that in my life. She and my father have been married fifty-three years.  They are the epitome of true love and my own marriage succeeds because I’ve watched her be the kind of wife and mother that I need to be myself.  She’s my ultimate role model in all things “family.”

Yes, she prepared me for living life in the world.  I’ve done some pretty dumb things in my life, but Mama taught me that forgiveness goes hand-in-hand with that unconditional love.  She taught me that forgiveness is not necessarily for the other person — it’s mainly for person doing the forgiving.  She taught me that God forgives completely and that I should do the same.

Yes, she raised my brother, Raymond, and me to be hard-working, respectful, and courteous.  There were firm rules in our household.  Although I didn’t always understand why those rules were in place, I can look back and see that they were for my own good.  She was protecting me from a vicious, cruel world until I found the strength of the Lord to go out and do battle myself.  I am so grateful that she demanded respect from me.  It’s how I learned to make friends and get along with other people.  (So, if you’re glad to be my friend, thank my mother!)

Mostly, I am grateful to her because she taught me that Jesus is the Savior of the world;  that He died on a cross for me and rose on the third day; and that one day, He’s coming to take me home to Heaven because I am His child.  She read me Bible stories and taught me hymns of praise and thanksgiving.  She took me to church every Sunday.  She encourages me to use my voice for the glory of God.  She encourages me to write and be creative.  There are many capable and worthy women in my life, but she surpasses them all.

Her reward?  She deserves so much.  With everything I do, I want to please her and make her proud.  She is so much more than my mother — she’s my best friend and I cherish her in every way.  I cannot find enough words to say how blessed I am to have her as my mother. I am told frequently that I look just like her and that is a boost to my ego because she’s beautiful.  But every now and then, I’m also told that I act her and that is the greatest compliment I could ever receive because she is a Godly woman — beautiful inside and out.  I love her so very much and thank God for her every day.

If you love your Mama like I love mine, thank God for her.  If she’s with you, give her a hug and tell her what she means to you.  If she’s gone to be with the Lord, say a prayer of thanksgiving, and tell someone what she meant to you and why.  Remember to make EVERY day Mother’s Day.

shr

“Like My Mother Does”  (Lauren Alaina)   http://youtu.be/8IzbX2qDtJY

How Can I Keep From Singing: Faithful Friend

 a
"My Faithful Friend"

I have known my husband, Kelly, since we were both six years old.  We have a long history together and although this post is partially a tribute to him, it is more of a post about the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father and my long journey to submission to His Will.

Kelly and I have been friends since second grade.  We were sporadically in the same academic classes in elementary school but shared nearly every class at Stedman Junior High School (yes, that dates me because our school system moved to the middle school concept almost thirty years ago).  In eighth and ninth grade, we had crushes on each other, also sporadically.   It was in the ninth grade that we tossed around words like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”  He accompanied me to an athletic banquet and to our “Sweetheart Banquet” held on Valentine’s Day that year.  When the school year ended, our chorus class had a party in the Bethany Community Building.  (Those attended junior and senior high school with, know that it’s located in a little community near Stedman, NC.)  The night was really emotional for me.  I realized that in the fall we would all be in high school and that merging with the other junior high in our district was going to mean that seeing familiar faces and the closeness of our friendships were going to change, whether we wanted it to happen or not .  Our chorus teacher, Gregory MacPherson, was not only leaving our junior high school,  he was going to be the chorus teacher at 71st High School — a cross-town rival of our beloved Cape Fear High School, where we would attend in the fall.

It was hot and stuffy in that little community building, so I walked outside.  Tears just streamed down my face.  (I’m really a tender-hearted person and I wear my heart on my sleeve in matters of family and friends.)  Kelly came to check on me.  He made me laugh and reminded me that we would have our drivers’ licences soon.  I was fifteen and had never been kissed, so when it happened, that kiss was burned into my memory forever.  It was magical.  His mom gave me a ride home that night and I don’t know how far up I “floated” as I made my way into the house, but I was walking on air.

Then, the rest of the summer happened.  High school started.  Kelly and I didn’t have any classes together.  I got involved with someone I shouldn’t have and proceeded to make life difficult for my parents throughout most of my high school days.  I married this boy and eighteen months later, I found myself at the end of a divorce that colored my outlook on life and men for quite some time.

Kelly and I dated, again sporadically, after my divorce and I must admit that I made him pay for things that he had nothing to do with.  Once, I was very cruel to him.  I still cringe to this day when I think about my behavior.  If it’s any consolation at all to Kelly, I treated all men the same way.  From the time I was twenty until I was twenty-four, I blamed all guys (and God) for the dissatisfaction in my love life.

But God didn’t let my disobedience to him (and my anger) stop Him from working His Will in my miserable life.  On Christmas Eve 1986, I fell on my knees and begged God’s forgiveness for everything I had done since I was sixteen years old.  (I didn’t know that you can pray as long as I prayed that night.)  I made two promises: first, I’d make a change in my prayer life and add daily Bible reading to my routine, and second, I would not date anyone unless I felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit.  I didn’t know exactly how I was going to recognize “the stirring” but I trusted God to be bold about it.   I looked up scripture about relationships — not just romantic relationships, but how to treat everyone in my life.  I wrote them on 3 x 5 notecards and posted them on the wall next to my bed.  When the new year started in 1987, I didn’t make a list of resolutions, I made a list of the qualities that my future mate should have based on Biblical teachings.  This is the scripture I prayed over first:

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?” 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 NLT 

I thought about the “nonnegotiables:”

  • My future husband must be a Christian.
  • We must attend church together.
  • My future husband must love children and he had to be “father material.”

Those were the three traits on which I just couldn’t compromise.  I decided that I’d rather be alone than compromise.  I listed other traits that I’d like a future mate to possess but everything except those three was up for discussion and compromise.  I finally submitted myself to God and let Him handle things because I had certainly made a disgusting mess of it on my own.  And all the while I was changing my attitude and making my list, God was already working on His plan.

I didn’t know it, but Kelly was working as a paramedic in Charlotte, NC and was just as miserable as I was.  He was a Christian sharing the same crisis of faith as I was.   He was determined to make a change of attitude toward God and had a long talk with his mother, Betty, about it.  She had been praying for Kelly for a long time about this very thing.  What none of us knew at the time was that God was just about to answer all our prayers.  When God moves, He sometimes moves fast, so do not pray about anything unless you’re ready to receive it!

On a rainy Tuesday, January 13, 1987, my mother and I were going into the Winn Dixie (a local grocery store).  I saw Kelly’s mother just ahead of us and rushed to speak with her.  She gave me a big hug and held my hand while we were talking.  She asked me what I was doing with my life (teaching fourth grade at Eastover-Central Elementary School and being the music director at Judson Baptist Church) and what seemed like a hundred other questions.  (Never once did she ask me if I was dating or married.)  I suggested that we walk inside, but Betty said she’d left her grocery list at home and was going back to get it.  My last words to her that night were “Tell Kelly to call me next time he’s home.”  She gave me another big hug and we parted.

The next night, I got a call out of the blue from Kelly!  (Told you God sometimes works fast!)  We talked for nearly two hours, which was a big deal in 1987 because there was no such thing as “unlimited long distance” at the time.  Just before we got off the phone, I casually said “Let’s get together the next time you’re in Fayetteville.”  (I promise this suggestion was offered in friendship because I was serious about letting God lead me in my dating life.)  In fact, Kelly was coming home for a three-day weekend that Friday.  He suggested we go out for dinner on Saturday night, and I accepted.  He also told me that he sported a purple mohawk now, which I didn’t believe — or did I?  It had been a long time since I’d seen him.  Maybe he’s lost his mind!

I was coming home from a graduate class that Friday night (January 16, 1987) and passed his parents’ home.  I recognized his car in the driveway and pulled in, unannounced.  He says it’s because I wanted to check out the purple mohawk thing, and I can’t fully deny that. (He did not have a purple mohawk, thank the Lord!)  All I really know for sure was that Kelly, his parents, and I had so much fun catching up that evening.  It really made me glad we were going to spend more time together the next night.  Let me make it clear that I was still in total friendship mode at this point.  (Remember too, that I had been a “mean girl” to Kelly the last time we’d spent time together.  That he even wanted a friendly dinner with me was more than I deserved.)

Tomorrow, January 17, 2012, is the anniversary of that fateful date.   “Be nice to him,” my mother whispered to me as I left for the evening.  At dinner, we laughed and talked so long, we didn’t realize that the restaurant was closing.  I looked at Kelly with different eyes that night — with God’s eyes.  I saw this incredibly wonderful man who made me laugh; who forgave me for my previous outrageous behavior; who treated me as if I were a precious gift.  For the first time in a long time, I felt cherished.  So at the end of the evening, we kissed.  It was emotional and magical.  I felt like I was fifteen again and standing outside the Bethany Community Building.

Kelly asked me to marry him on February 26, 1987.  His parents, especially his mother, were ecstatic and my parents, though a little shocked at how quickly this all developed, were also happy.  One night soon after our engagement was announced, Betty pulled me aside and shared some details with me, details that show how God was working while I was waiting on Him.  The night we met in the grocery store parking lot, all that hand-holding Betty was doing served a purpose:  she was checking out my left hand ring finger — seeing that I wasn’t wearing an engagement ring, she then proceeded to feel my ring finger to see if there was any evidence that a ring was usually on that finger.  (You know the little groove you acquire when you wear a ring on a regular basis?  If you’ve never noticed, check out the fingers on which you wear your rings.  It’s there!)  If all the evidence I’ve presented to you so far isn’t enough to make you believe that the Holy Spirit was at work, this should.  Betty told me that she’d never, ever done anything like that before (and felt really weird about doing it that night) but the urging was so great, she just couldn’t help herself.  She left the grocery store to go home and call Kelly.  She told him all about our encounter and somehow, he remembered my phone number.  (And if you know Kelly, you will know that was the Holy Spirit stirring as well because sometimes his memory is horrible.)  God truly does work in mysterious ways, folks!

Kelly’s mother died two weeks after we were engaged.  It wasn’t supposed to happen, but there were complications involved when she’d had her spleen removed after falling and breaking her arm.  We don’t always understand things that happen.  At times, in our married life, I’ve felt cheated that she didn’t get to share all the wonderful, marvelous, and sometimes crazy things that have happened to us.  The night before she died, we visited her in the hospital and she asked if she could try on my engagement ring.  Of course, I allowed her this privilege!  She had been a willing instrument of the Holy Spirit.  She willing let God use her and I was not going to deny this wonderful woman the chance to wear my engagement ring! When she placed the diamond back on my hand, she looked at me and said, “I am so glad that you make Kelly happy.  In fact, I feel like I hand-picked you to be my daughter-in-law,” With God’s help, Betty Rosser did pick me.  Oh how she did!

For those of you still looking for your “Prince Charming,” I completely know where you’re coming from.  I don’t know if my story will give you hope, but I know that “all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

In 1996, Twila Paris and Stephen Curtis Chapman (two wildly successful contemporary Christian artists on their own) wrote and recorded “Faithful Friend,” a song that is a tribute to their long, steadfast, Christian friendship.  It’s words cut to the heart of why having a Christian friend/partner is so important.  I love Kelly Rosser more than words can express — he was my friend first and then my true love.  Although “Faithful Friend” is not necessarily a love song in the traditional sense, it is our love song.  One of the perks of being to married to Kelly is that he has this amazing voice and we love to sing together.  We first sang “Faithful Friend”  in a worship service on October 13, 1996 (the Sunday after our ninth anniversary.)   If God is willing and we are blessed to have the opportunity to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this October, we have decided we’re going to sing it as we renew our vows.  I’m telling you now, so you can put it on your calendar.  Save the date:  Sunday, October 14, 2012.  Come and celebrate with us!

shr

“Faithful Friend” (Twila Paris & Steven Curtis Chapman)  http://www.youtube.com/embed/7G4oOsfyFCM?rel=0

Faith It Forward: Remembering Bonnie Carter

                                                                                                                                                          Bonnie Hester Carter

                                                                                                                                                    December 20, 1946 – January 12, 2011

I loved my Aunt Bonnie.  She was an amazing woman:  strong, loyal, intelligent, beautiful, and caring.  She came into my life on March 21, 1969 when she married my Uncle Roger.  Right away, I knew she’d be special because when she came, she brought playmates — my cousins Renee and Robin.  Instant cousins!  And girls!  Because when you’re the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys, it  gets kind of tough.  You either have to play whatever the boys want to play or play alone.  Up until then, I had no allies.  Robin and Renee immediately evened-up the boy-to-girl ratio.

I grew up in a neighborhood that was all family.  There wasn’t a house in sight that didn’t belong to someone to whom I was related.  Right away, Aunt Bonnie and I were family and this is how I knew — Aunt Bonnie was given immediate permission by my mother to spank my behind if I got out of line while playing at her house.  Since our houses were only separated by my grandmother’s house, I didn’t have far to go, or enough time to come up with some sort of story to make me more sympathetic in my mother’s eyes if I came home before she called me inside.   You see, coming into the house early or in a pout were sure signs that something was going on.  Aunt Bonnie had full authority to send me home to play alone, without question, and my mother would back her up 100%.  I vowed never to play alone again, so I was a pretty good cousin for the most part.  My mother got the same authority from Aunt Bonnie so Robin, Renee, and I became fast friends.  I’m not saying that it was smooth sailing every day.  We’d get mad at each other and go to our own houses, but it wasn’t that often.  I don’t think I’ve ever really expressed my gratitude to Robin and Renee for being on my side during childhood, but I love them so much and they mean the world to me.

What I am truly grateful for is that it didn’t matter one iota that we weren’t cousins by blood.  No one ever said anything about the fact that they weren’t born into our family the “usual way.”  I was as close to my Aunt Bonnie as I was to my mother’s biological sisters.  All that mattered was that we were (and are) family.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT 

I’d like to say that these were verses I learned as a child and applied it to how our family operated, but they aren’t.   All I knew as a child was that our family was seamless.  I credit all the adults involved for this gift.  I know that all families are not as fortunate.  Some adopted children are never considered equal and that is a shame.  No, I didn’t make the connect between my life and this verse until we started our home study with the Cumberland County Department of Social Services.  One of the questions we were asked was “How do you know that you will be able to love a child that is not yours by birth?”   Kelly and I had both experienced adopted cousins so our answer was easy — we were already loving people in our families who were adopted.

When we adopted Martin, Steven, and Claire, Aunt Bonnie was ecstatic.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that her birthday became the “adoption birthday” of my sons when we finalized their adoption in 1993,  I think it was only fitting that Martin and Steven share birthdays with the person who first introduced our family to adoption.  Even though it’s very close to Christmas, Aunt Bonnie always gave the boys a small gift on “their day.”

It was then that the verses in Ephesians became so crystal clear to me.  If I, in my sinful, human nature, could love people so much through the miracle of adoption, how much more does my Heavenly Father love me?  He gave his Son so that my adoption to Him could take place because He wanted to do it.  “It gave Him great pleasure!”   And He wants us to adopt each other in the same way.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my Aunt Bonnie’s Resurrection to Life Eternal.  She fought complications with her liver valiantly in the last few months of 2010.  When doctors were sure that there was nothing more they could do for her, she made her peace with her family on earth and waited for Jesus to bring her the Peace of her Father in Heaven.  There has been a huge void in our lives in her departure.   I have missed her since she left us here, but am assured that I will see her again one day because Jesus was her Lord and Savior just as He’s mine.

God chose Bonnie for our family and it was our great pleasure to know her and love her, and to be taught by her that family is more than being born by flesh and blood; family is born of the heart.

shr