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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
It’s exam week at my daughter’s high school. In fact, it’s not just exam week, but end-of-course testing. When the second semester starts in a little over a week, she’ll have an entire new course load. Last night, Claire asked if I could help her study for her Earth Science exam. Her teacher had prepared a study guide with over 100 questions. Mrs. Gentry had taken time to go over the course notes with the students so that the class would have the correct information with which to study. When we got started, Claire quickly and confidently answered fifty-three questions in a row before she stumbled over an answer. We would go on to other questions, and then go back to the ones that she didn’t get correct. I remarked how impressed I was with her success. She admitted that she knew some of the material well, but she just memorized some of the answers from the study guide because it had been so long since they’d studied some of the material. I told her that memorization was the beginning of true knowledge; after all, you have to start somewhere. And I promised that I would pray for her to have total recall when it came time to take her test. Doing well on it will ensure that she makes the A-B Honor Roll this semester. She’s worked really hard, and I like to see hard work rewarded.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
I love the Word of God, but I should know it better than I do. One of the ways I want to improve my relationship with God is to put His word to memory — not just to know it in general, but be able to recall verse content as well as the reference. As my Granny Mae used to say, “You need to know the Bible chapter and verse.” I often use a concordance or www.biblegateway.com to look up a verse of scripture when I can recall a specific phrase from the verse but not the reference, but my grandmother didn’t need either. It was not uncommon for me to enter her home and find her open Bible on the kitchen table because she studied the Word of God all the time. She knew the Word of God and used it to do good. She was “equipped to do every good work” for her Savior
When I was a child, we would memorize scriptures during Discipleship Training class for Bible competitions. I learned those verses for memory’s sake. I could memorize 100 scriptures and their references and be excited to know them. I still know a great many scriptures, but it’s sad for me to admit that in the last forty years, I should have surpassed my abilities as a nine-year-old and I haven’t. The Bible is so important to know because it is an instruction book. It is logos, or the written word of God. (There is also rhema, which is the Word of God spoken to us by the Holy Spirit.) Christ is Logos. Christ is the Word of God, Himself.
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:1-5 NLT
Jesus gave us a great example of the importance of committing scripture to memory and being able to recall it. After the baptism of our Lord, He went into the desert. There Jesus was tempted by Satan, who (by the way) was offering to bestow things upon Him that Satan didn’t even possess. Jesus successfully fended off this attack by Satan by recalling scripture and using it to refute him at every turn. This is how we, as Christians, can defeat the devil. But if you don’t know what the Word of God says, then you can’t bring it to memory. If we knew God’s Word better, we’d be less likely to believe the lies of the devil and we could do more good than we could imagine.
I’ve decided to go back to my Bible competition days and challenge myself to know God’s word “chapter and verse” and use it as a tool to fight the devil. It will start with memorization, but it will lead to my true knowledge. That true knowlege will bring me closer to God. What a wonderful reward that will be! Won’t you join me?
first (adjective): being before all others in time, rank, and order of importance.
I usually love being first. Being first is an acknowledgement that you are the best or that you’ve won something. When Randy Travis first debuted as a country artist , I entered a radio contest sponsored by WKML (the premiere country station in my hometown). The album “Old 8 X 10” had just been released and to win the contest, you had to write a story about a photograph. I wrote about a my great-grandparents whose photograph hung in my Granny Brook’s living room. To my great surprise, I won! The prizes included front row tickets to the Randy Travis concert, a hotel package, a limo ride to and from the concert, and a chance to meet Randy himself. In someone’s opinion, I wrote the best story so I got “first prize.” Sometimes, it’s awesome to be first.
Sometimes, though, being first is a scary, exhausting ordeal. It’s not a “prize” at all. Sometimes being first means that you have to go things alone, with no one telling you what will happen or how things will turn out. Going first can create anxiety and discomfort. Being first is, at times, a double-edged sword.
“We love each other because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 NLT
Jesus was first to love us, even before we knew Him. Being the first (and only) Savior was both a blessing and a curse. God wanted us to have eternal life and the only way we could receive it was for Jesus to forfeit His life for our souls. Our souls are dirty, sinful, and selfish things. Despite that, Jesus gave His clean, sinless, perfect self as a “trade in” for our souls. When all is said and done, Jesus thought we were worth it. He put us first, when we deserved to be last. He remembers us when we deserve to be forgotten.
One of my favorite hymns of all time is “O How I Love Jesus.” It was written by Frederick Whittfield around 1847, when he was a seminary student in England. He was a wonderful poet with over thirty successfully published poems. “O How I Love Jesus” was the first of his poems put to music. Within five years of its composition, “O How I Love Jesus” was being printed in small tracts. Because printing was expensive and not available to all congregations, “O How I Love Jesus” was so popular, it was “line taught” (the pastor or the song leader announces the lines of a song as it’s sung) in churches all over the United States and Europe. This is a song that resonates with Christians because we marvel at how great the love of our God is for us. Don’t you just love the words of the refrain?
I found a great instrumental arrangement of “O How I Love Jesus” on YouTube. As you read the words and listen, remember that Jesus put us first so that we could live with Him forever. Indeed, sometimes being first is an awesome thing.
If you follow this blog, you are going to learn that I lovealliteration. (Like “She sells seashells by the seashore.”) I’ve decided that Fridays are going to be “Faith It Forward Fridays.” What, you may ask, do you mean by “faith it forward?” The idea came to me at the same time God was urging me to write the blog in December of 2010. I need to give you a little background information about why God sent me this idea. Be patient because I’m working from a long list of blessings, but you’ll see the point by the end of this post.
“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT
I was so thankful for every nurse, doctor, housekeeper, food service person, volunteer, and support personnel at the UNC Cancer Hospital when Kelly was there for treatment. I could not have made it without my family members, our faithful friends, or our church family. We were even blessed by complete strangers during five months of Kelly’s chemotherapy. (A stranger paid for my coffee at Starbucks one morning. Another paid for my lunch one day in the cafeteria.) God was showing me His faithfulness at every turn. He sent messengers to us with His love and support — phones calls, visits, cards, delicious food and snacks, shoulders to lean on, prayer partners, cash and gifts cards, and whatever we needed. He even sent someone (DALE WALL, I will love you FOREVER for this) to come and take our dirty laundry to her house, wash it, fold it, and return it to us. Five months of doing our laundry — how can I ever re-pay you? When Kelly needed a warm-up jacket, he sent our cousin, LESLIE RICE, with not one, but two jackets. Our cousin, NOEL PELLISH, visited often, brought snacks, and gave us some much-needed comedic relief. She made it her mission to send Kelly a joke or a cartoon every single day until he was no longer in chemotherapy. And she did it! Every day that the mail was delivered, we got something that made us smile. That’s every dayfor six months or longer! What a commitment.
My parents, LONNIE & LINDA HALL, kept Claire when we had to be in Chapel Hill. I know your parents are supposed to love you. Mine always have and I’ve always said that they have given me unconditional love (and I’ve needed it at times when I’ve been a truly rotten person). But their unconditional love and support were one of the reasons that I just simply didn’t fall apart. My Mama wouldn’t let me. She was ferocious in her faith and it made me stronger to have her on my side. Without my Daddy, a strong, faithful man who loves Kelly as his own son, and our wonderful friend, STEVE KEMPF, we would’ve had to close our business. My friend and “sister of the heart”, ELLI DRAKOS, was a constant source of hope . Between my Mama and her, I just couldn’t have a “feel sorry for myself” day. Our kids, MARTIN, STEVEN, & CLAIRE, showed maturity beyond their years. I didn’t think we could be any closer than we were, but their support cemented the unconditional love of our family forever. Other family members that kept us going spiritually and financially were GLENN & ROBIN ROSSER ODOM (who brought Diet Pepsi by the barrel because the UNC Hospital System is a “Coke Products Only” facility — you must realize that Kelly is a “Diet Pepsi Only” person to know what a huge blessing this was), MARK & SHANNON HANCOCK, BARBARA SARGENT, RAYMOND & TOMMIE HALL, DIANE & JOEL HANCOCK, DOT VICK, KATHY VICK, DAVID & PATSY SMITH , AND HILDA & BOB JACKSON.
Our church, CULBRETH MEMORIAL UMC in Fayetteville, NC, came to our aid by collecting a love offering for us, not once but twice. Our AUNT MELBA ROSSER, PEGGY ROSSER WHITE, SYDNEY WHITE, AUSTIN WHITE, & LYNN WHITE (family members that go to church with us) brought Claire to visit and made our room look like Santa’s workshop. There was a tree with tinsel and cling decorations for the windows. We had the best looking room on the whole floor! Plus, Aunt Melba knew that Kelly would need an electric razor (you cannot use a blade when your platelets are low) and she made sure he had one. Her daily calls were a rock for us to lean on. DONALD & SHIRLEY MELVIN, being hospital saavy, gave us a bag full of change because there are tons of places that you have to pay with coins when you’re “living” at the hospital (like when you want a drink or have to pay for parking). More church family members offered to help in various ways: MICHELE BEDSOLE typed and got the church bulletins ready when I couldn’t. (As the part-time church secretary, to me, this was a gift that is truly priceless!); DEBBIE GRIMSLEY gave us a book entitled What Cancer Can’t Do. (It was uplifting and a needed source of hope.) JAY & BETH JOHNSON and EDITH JOHNSON sent us money to help pay for parking. MORGAN & BRANDON BOWEN (from my Sunday School class) took Claire for a night on the town during a time when Kelly & I had been away a particularly long time. ERIKA NICOLE HOLLAND (another Sunday School class member and our church’s music minister) worked Christmas cantata practice around when I could be there and called us nearly every day. MARLA HOLLAND sent us several goodie bags. She’s also been my prayer partner for the last five years. PEGGY ALLEN sent notes of encouragement and a generous donation. I have to give a special thank you to JODIE YOUNG BAILEY (my friend and Bible study leader), whose blog “Faith and Fiction With a Touch of Southern Grace” was my middle-of-the-night source of hope and inspiration. When it’s quiet and dark, the devil can whisper in your ear and tell you lies. Jodie’s words of wisdom brought me through some long, dark nights. She writes with honesty and powerful faith. I encourage you to give her a read at www.jodiebailey.com .
Then the NCSU Police Department (where Kelly works as a patrol sergeant) came with more food, more decorations, and more gift cards. When Kelly had to go on family leave, KRISTIN WILLS was the one who made sure the paperwork was correct. (She did everything except Kelly’s signature.) Others like ANNA RODENBERRY , CPT. JON BARNWELL, LT. LARRY ELLIS, BILL DAVIS, BOBBY GUY, STEVE BARHAM, MIKE MULLINS, GREG BARNES, LT. FRED PARMLEY, LT, MARTY MOODY, FORMER CHIEF TOM YOUNCE, AND CHIEF JACK MORMON just came by to tell Kelly how much he was missed. I don’t even know all the names of the people who contributed to Kelly’s family leave time, but it was enough that he was able to receive his full paycheck for seven monthS. Seven months! Thank you for your generosity.
We celebrated our 30th high school reunion (Cape Fear High School Colts!) on November 5, 2010, just before Kelly’s diagnosis. When our classmates found out about Kelly’s leukemia, they immediately visited, gave us gifts cards, prayed, put us on their churches’ prayer lists, and offered to take care of our children. LORI SIMPSON EPLER, JIMMY POPE, CAROL HOWELL HARTLEY, BEVERLY FAIRCLOTH HOBGOOD, ALLEN GUY, TODD MOBLEY, & ROBIN MCWHORTER WALLACE — may God bless you eternally for your faithful friendships. I think it’s a remarkable testament to friendship when the people you went to junior high and high school with are still close enough to be family. To those who followed Kelly’s progression on Facebook and the Care Pages, your faithfulness in sending notes and lifting up prayers will be rewarded by God, who sees all things.
Former students that I had taught in elementary school and young adults whom I taught in the children’s and youth choirs visited us and sent gifts cards. A special thanks to CHARLIE & JENNIFER STALLINGS MASSEY for remembering us in such a generous way. My dear friend, PAUL LAWING, taught Sunday School for me on two occasions when I had to be in Chapel Hill. MONICA WISE, BOB DEES, LYNN PRYER, TAYLOR & AMANDA BRANTLEY, NEILL MCINNIS AND OUR FRIENDS AT THE CHOCOLATE LADY & FUSION SALON (both in downtown Fayetteville, near our shop) kept in contact with us and let us know that we were missed in our little Hay Street community of businesses.
Our dear friends at the FAYETTEVILLE INDEPENDENT LIGHT INFANTRY (FILI) prayed for us at every assembly. BRUCE DAWS and T. V. O’MALLEY brought the largest fruit basket I’ve ever seen when they came for a visit. Thanks to GINNY POWERS and MAURICE ROBERTSON for their faithful calls and prayers. And there are probably hundreds of others who lifted us in prayer that I will never know about. Thank you, thank you, thank you! May God bless you richly.
My friend, Michele, has a great signature line on her emails: “Every now and then, God’s answer to a prayer is me.” It echoes the very heart of 2 Corinthians 5:20. We are His ambassadors. We speak for God. We are the only way that the world “sees” God. We have to listen for His still small voice and act in our faith because it’s easy to become hard-hearted in this world. I love the movie “Pay It Forward.” It has a great message. So my idea is to take the premise of that movie and put a Godly spin on it. Acting in faith to do things for others from which we may never even see the results. Recently, a young woman paid for my coffee at the Kangaroo convenience store near our home. I thanked her and her response was, “Remember that Jesus loves you.” That’s what I mean when I say “Faith It Forward.” It doesn’t even have to cost money. Bring your neighbor’s paper to them when you go out in the morning. Hold a door for a mother who’s pushing a stroller and dealing with her other kids at the same time. If you’re in the grocery store, offer to carry someone’s bags to their car. We can be ambassadors in small things for the God of all things. Just dial in with your heart and faith it forward.