Fighting Fear with Faith and Hope

Bone.  Marrow.  Biopsy.

Three words I hoped I’d never hear again.  But that’s where we were on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at the UNC Cancer Hospital when Kelly’s blood work numbers came back askew.   Not all the numbers were bad.  In fact, all the numbers were in the normal range — except for the one number that really counts, his absolute neutrophils.  Neutrophils are white blood cells that fight off infection.  Kelly’s neutrophil number was 1, meaning he had about 1,000 of those cells to fight off infection in his body.  That’s a problem because normal absolute neutrophils will range from 1.8 to 7.7.  In July, his absolute neutrophil number was 4.2 — the best it’s been since he went into remission.  When he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, his neutrophil number was 0.

Neutrophils.jpgNeutrophils (The most abundant white blood cells in most mammals.)

Image Source:  www.wikipedia.com

When we were discussing options, Dr. Foster looked at Kelly and said, “Another bone marrow biopsy is an option.  I know a biopsy is uncomfortable.”

Uncomfortable,” Kelly replied wryly.  “Is when your underwear rides up.  Bone marrow biopsies are excruciating.  But it’s the only way we’ll know for sure what’s going on, so let’s do it.”

So, this past Monday, two years, ten months, and 27 days from the first time he had a bone marrow biopsy, he lay on a gurney at the UNC Cancer Hospital having his sixth one.  He was face down, waiting patiently while Dr. Van (his other cancer doctor) was preparing the site where the needle would be inserted.  I was holding his hand and it just didn’t seem like it was enough, so I got on my knees by the gurney and laid my head next to his so that we could be face to face.

Image Source:  www.riversideonline.com

We prayed.  We cried.  He gasped in pain as they numbed his hip.  Silent tears rolled down his cheeks as Dr. Van used three separate vials to aspirate marrow samples.

Image Source:  www.bing.com

It’s hard to watch the man who is your earthy rock go through so much pain.  It makes you feel so small.  And I remembered several scriptures and began to pray them:

 All you who put your hope in the Lord be strong and brave.  (Psalm 31:24, NCV)

Always respect the Lord.  Then you will have hope for the future, and your wishes will come true. (Proverbs 23:17b-18, NCV)

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31, NIV)

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.  (Roman 12:12, NCV)

When I had no more words, I sang.

I sang “How Great is Our God*” by Chris Tomlin.

I sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness*.”

I sang “He is with Us*,” by Love and the Outcome.

I sang “Amazing Grace*,” which led into “Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone*,” by Chris Tomlin.

We were holding each other’s hands so tightly that our fingers were white.  So I poured out my tears, a language that only God truly understands.  And in near silence, Dr. Van continued to work.

Image Source:  www.bing.com

And Kelly broke the silence, not with a gasp of pain, but with these prayerful words, sung so softly that I might have missed it if I hadn’t been so close to him:

In seasons of despair and grief, my soul has often found relief… I’ll cast on Him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.*”

Almost immediately, Dr. Van said, “There is power in the Blood.  And I know that you both know that God has this — either way.”

I usually write something about weight loss on Wednesday — physical weight loss.  Today’s post is about losing the weight of a spiritual burden.  I took a great deal of fear with me into that procedure room, but I came out feeling light and full of hope.

What will the biopsy show?  We don’t know.  But we know God’s got this — either way.

*To listen to each song, just click on the title.  “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is sung by George Beverly Shea, who for years was the voice of the music at all the Billy Graham Crusades.  Kelly loves Billy Graham and loved to hear GBS sing.

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Faith It Forward: Tricia Edwards Smith

O death, where is your victory?  Where is your power to hurt? (1 Corinthians 15:55 ERV)

Thursday, October 17, 2013, the angels came to collect my friend, Tricia, and escort her home to Jesus.  Her long and arduous fight with cancer was done.  After years of praying for it, she was finally healed.

Todd & Tricia

Image Source:  www.facebook.com/tricia.smith

But her fight has not been in vain.  In her fight to live, I saw an extreme display of faith that has forever changed me. I watched as her family, her church, and her community rallied around her to offer her strength through prayer and an outpouring of love through deeds of kindness.  The irony of it all is that while we were offering Tricia our strength, she was giving us hers.

Her husband Todd, and sons Carter, Aaron, and Nathan brought her such joy and she was the light of their world.  Her parents, Nancy and Landon Edwards, raised Tricia in a Christian home, full of love and laughter.  Todd and Tricia established the same kind of home for their family.  She had a close, loving relationship with her brother and sisters, Mike Edwards, Pamela Edwards Pritchard, and Teresa Edwards Pritchard.  Her nieces and nephews adored her.

Her friends were another source of joy to Tricia.  A Facebook page, “Friends of Tricia,” was established so we could share with her our thoughts and prayers.  Hundreds of messages were added each day.  She was never far from my thoughts and when I had even the smallest bit of time, I would read each and every message (many of them prayers) and lift them up to God as well.

Never one to think of her own needs first, she was constantly looking out for the needs of others and it led her into healthcare.  As a critical care nurse, she loved caring for others and she was good at her job.  She worked well into her battle with cancer, refusing to let it keep her from the profession she was so obviously made for.  It was not only her medical knowledge that she imparted to her patients — she shared the love of God and joy of serving the Great Physician. Even if you didn’t personally know Tricia, you could take one look at her and know that she was warm, giving, and selfless. She had a million-watt smile that could light up a room and she always had a kind word and a hug to share with everyone she met.

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Image Source: http://www.klove.com/encouraging

Tricia’s greatest source of strength and joy was her relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s why, even in the last days when Hospice was called in, she wasn’t afraid.  As others tried to comfort her, she sought to comfort them — to let them know that no matter the physical outcome, she was spiritually ready.  She took satisfaction in the knowledge that this world was a temporary residence for her.  She trusted completely that she was just biding time on earth, simply in transit to her true home — Heaven.

I love what her niece, Erica, shared:  “I’m praising God for the life of my Aunt Tricia. So jealous of the angels today. Thank you for your many prayers. Our family appreciates each one. Please pray for continued strength as we go through this arm in arm and only through the grace of The Lord Jesus.

I heard a loud voice from the throne. It said, “Now God’s home is with people. He will live with them. They will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain. All the old ways are gone.”  (Revelation 21:3-4 ERV)

We will grieve mightily because we will miss her happy, humble presence — a woman with a gentle spirit and a heart as big as all outdoors!  Her family will especially miss her.  On special days to come — holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and the days her grandchildren are born — there will be a yearning for her physical presence. There will be an ache that cannot be soothed because those will be days when there would have been memories to be made with her — that she would have loved to make.  But she leaves such a rich legacy behind that it will almost seem that she is here — and she will here, living in the hearts and accomplishments of those who loved her.

Today, Tricia is rejoicing because she is in Heaven, completely healed, and in the presence of our Lord.  Tricia can finally say, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have served the Lord faithfully.” (2 Timothy 4:7 ERV)

I have seen glimpses of faith in my life, but life-altering portraits of faith have been few and far between.  Faith has a new face for me now.  Faith looks like Tricia Edwards Smith.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Tricia Smith Charitable Fund, send your donation to:

Fayetteville Community Church

2010 Middle Road Loop

Fayetteville, North Carolina  28312

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Celebrate Me Home” (The Perrys)

To follow me on my Facebook page, “Loved by the King,” click here.

Letting Go (with No-Carb Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken Recipe)

I remember a conversation I had with my husband, Kelly, so vividly it’s like it was yesterday.  This was just a few months after we were married in 1987.  We’d decided that I’d come off birth control and we’d start our family.  I said to him, “By next year, we’ll have a new Rosser to take to big family Thanksgiving dinner at your Aunt Ruth-Marie’s house.”

In the same conversation, we were discussing the longevity of my teaching career.  I was teaching at Eastover-Central Elementary School and was honored as their “Teacher of the Year” for 1987.  That was huge for me because I’d only been teaching for three years.  To have my peers vote to give you, a virtual newbie, an honor like that was overwhelming for me. “Yes,” I said confidently. “I will be teaching until I am blue-haired, squint-eyed, wrinkled beyond recognition, and walking with a cane.”

As confident as I was that day, neither of those things came to pass.

Image Source:  www.getv.org

Instead of getting pregnant, we found out about our infertility. “One in a million chance,” was what the doctor told us.  Of course, I told him that God was the Great Physician, and without much consulting with the Great Physician, Kelly and I decided that our journey included donor sperm and monthly visits to Duke Fertility Clinic.

Within the next year, I injured my back at school while moving a science kit.  It only weighed ten pounds, but something happened that morning that I can’t quite put my finger on.  All I knew was that I was in excruciating pain.  Five years and seven surgeries later, I was medically retired from a profession I thought I’d be a part of until I was…well, you know what I said in the first paragraph.

After six unhappy months of in vitro at Duke, Kelly and I finally let God have the infertility issue, and we adopted.  It was the oh-so-right thing to do.  We could not love our children anymore if they were our biologically.  At nearly 25, 23, and nearly 16, they bring us so much joy. They like to tell me that they may not have grown in my womb, but they grew in my heart.  I kinda think I’ll keep ’em.

The one thing I fought God on at every turn was the fact that I was not in the teaching profession anymore.  I spent YEARS filled with anger at how that dream of mine had taken wings and flown. Even with the joy of adopting my children and the absolute miraculous ways He brought each of them to us, I held God accountable for not healing me physically and returning me to teaching.

In 2002,  I did let most of the anger go and for the most part, I was able to move on with my life and be relatively happy. But the little sliver that I harbored in my heart, kept me out of God’s will.  Seven years ago, I really had a come-to-Jesus moment that forever eradicated any anger I had and brought me to my knees to beg for His forgiveness.

I walked into a church where I was not a member because we were looking for a new church home.  At the end of the service, a woman came up to me and said, “You know, we need someone to work with our children and when I saw you walk in today, I knew my prayers had been answered.”

That woman was my Aunt Melba Rosser.  We were visiting the Kelly’s home church.  I was just visiting to be nice.  I did not think we’d really choose to become members of Culbreth Memorial UMC.  For heaven’s sake, I’d been a Baptist for forty-four years!  But this is where God led us, the church family He chose for us — and even though He hasn’t healed me physically (yet — I’m not ever ruling it out!), He healed me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

This church  took me just as I was, knowing that some Sundays I might not be able to show up because of my chronic pain.  I have a fantastic group of parents that pitch in and do things that I can’t physically do.  We started with a very small group of five children.  Now I work with fourteen: one children’s choir, one youth choir, and a drama team.  We’re growing every year.

The one thing I realized I’ve always been teaching — God gave me three children to teach.  And that I’ll still  be teaching for years to come, just in different circumstances.

Is it the life I envisioned that day back in 1987?  No…it’s better!

What had you envisioned that was not in God’s plan for you?  What did He lead you to instead?

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No-Carb Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken (Serves 4-6)

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Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, 4-5 pounds

1 bottle of McCormick’s Rotisserie Chicken seasoning

1/4 cup of water

Nonstick Canola Spray

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Directions:

1.  Remove the giblets and neck from chicken.  (I freeze them to use for making chicken stock.)

2.  Rinse chicken thoroughly inside and out.  Pat dry.

3.  Spray crock pot with nonstick spray.  Add 1/4 cup water.  Turn on crock pot to “low.”

4.  Use the McCormick Rotisserie Chicken season and coat the chicken liberally with it.

5.  Place chicken in crock pot.

6.  Cook chicken on low for 6 hours.

7.  When done, remove chicken and place on a platter to rest for 10 minutes.

8.  Skin and de-bone chicken.

Serve with vegetables or salad or use in a sandwich.  I freeze the chicken diced or chopped in 1-cup portions in quart bags to use on salads throughout the week at lunchtime.  This is moist, delicious, and cost-effective.

Tips:   I was in Wal-Mart yesterday and checked the deli prices for one of their rotisserie chickens — $8.88 for one not nearly as big as the ones I cook.  I try to find whole chickens on sale and buy them in bulk.  They will keep in the freezer up to nine months.  On sale, I can usually get whole chickens for about $ .69/pound.  (Aldi has frozen chickens for $ .89/pound every day — which is not a bad price either.)

Nutritional Information (1 cup cooked chicken):  231 calories, 5 g fat, 119 mg cholesterol, 104 mg sodium, and 43 g protein.

A Very Special Music Monday: Like My Mother Does

Image Source:  www.quotesandwishes.com

I love you, Mama.  We are so much alike it’s scary…but in a good way.  Linda Hall, you are my best friend and role model. You taught me to be a good daughter by watching how you loved and cared for your own mother, my Granny Mae.  You taught me that a mother-in-law can be a source of joy through the relationship I watched you have with my Granny Brook. I realize that because Betty died so soon after Kelly and I were engaged, I’ve missed having her as a source of strength, example, and faith.  Thank you for loving Kelly like he was your own son.  You’ve made such a difference in his life.

My children love you.  You did the job of two grandmothers because you knew that Betty couldn’t be here to share the task with you.  You have offered them your love and advice.  The fact that Claire still gets up on Saturday mornings to have her weekly shot of “Grammy” time is a testimony to the great love and respect she has for you.  The fact that Steven waited so patiently (okay — maybe not-so-patiently) for your rental house to become available so that he could raise his family in the place where he was raised is a testament to our family’s great love and support of each other.  And even thought Martin is still living at home, working on his education, it means a great deal to him to be able to walk over anytime and see you.  I know their adoption papers say that they are not blood-related to you, but your spirit flows through their veins and your influence has shaped the persons they’re becoming.

Four Generations:  My Mom and Joshlyn (center), Steven (right), and Me (left)

Photo Source:  Sandra Hall Rosser

I’ve watched you struggle with eyesight issues all of my life.  Of course, I didn’t know you were handicapped until I was in high school.  You could do everything, except drive, and I just thought Granny Mae drove us everywhere because she loved being with us.  You play the piano like a professional and have been the pianist at Judson Baptist Church for fifty-four years.  You worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Cumberland County Schools and touched hundreds of children’s lives with your love and Christian influence.

You’ve seen me through bad choices, rough situations, emotionally crippling times, and countless other faults and sins I’ve endured in my fifty-one years.  Although I didn’t always appreciate your advice when I was younger, the older I get, the more I realize that you were right more times than you were wrong.  Even when you were wrong, you admitted it, and that made an impact on me.  As a parent, I’ve made countless errors, but I always admit when I’m wrong because it lets my kids know that I am human and need forgiveness.  I’ve even begun to hear that phrase that is music to my ears:  “You were right, Mom!”

In wishing my Mama a happy birthday, I have to acknowledge two other very important women who added to my spiritual and emotional education:  Eula Mae Carter (my maternal grandmother) and Mary Alice Westbrook (my paternal grandmother). I lost them over a decade ago.  Granny Mae’s birthday would have been on September 5.  Granny Brook’s birthday would have been on September 7.  I believe that I have received wonderful traits from my “September Superwomen.”

She watches over her family
    and never wastes her time.
Her children speak well of her.
Her husband also praises her,
   saying, “There are many fine women,
    but you are better than all of them.”
Charm can fool you, and beauty can trick you,
    but a woman who respects the Lord should be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned;
    she should be praised in public for what she has done.                                                                                            (Proverbs 31:27-31, NCV)

My Granny Mae was a woman after God’s own heart.  She lived right beside my family as I was growing up.  My greatest memory associated with her is that she always had her Bible on the kitchen table and open to whatever she was studying.  I had the great privilege of having her as my senior high Sunday school teacher.  She lost the love of her life in her fifties and never re-married.  She worked hard all her life.  She loved me unconditionally but she never minded telling me when she thought I was wrong.  She was a woman who kept her opinions about other people close to the vest — not much of a gossip.  (Sorry, Granny Mae.  I’m striving to be more like that daily.)

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Three Generations:  Granny Mae (center), Mama (right), and Me (left)

Photo Source:  Reflections Photography/Diane Atkinson

She was the reason I was able to participate in any after school activities.  Because my mom was visually impaired (and I was not aware of the ramifications of this until I got my own driver’s license at sixteen), she and Granny Mae made sure I could stay for chorus, cheerleading practice, and any other activity where the school bus couldn’t take me home.  I cherish those times — the three of us coming home from school, sharing what kind of day I’d had with two of the three most important women in my life.

The thing I’ll never forget about her is that when Martin and Steven first came to live with us, she started making breakfast for them on Saturday mornings.  “I don’t know how long they’ll be with us,” she said.  “But we’re going to make memories while we can.”  When we found out that we could actually adopt them, the Saturday morning breakfasts continued and family from all over the neighborhood began to show up.  It was like a having mini-family reunion every week.  I miss that.

My Granny Brook was also a woman after God’s own heart.  She did not believe in mincing her words — you knew exactly where you stood with Alice Westbrook.  She lost her first husband when my father was two years old and married my Granddaddy Percy, who loved my daddy like he was his own child.  Living directly across the street from her while I was growing up meant that I could visit anytime I wanted.  She always had a garden and the best-stocked freezer!  Summer corn and butter beans in February was always a treat.  My husband says she made the best fried chicken, corn, and butter beans ever cooked on this planet.

IMGGranny Brook (left) and Daddy (right)

Photo Source:  Sandra Hall Rosser

The thing for which I’ll always be grateful is that she lent me the money to go college.  My tuition wasn’t much by today’s standards, but it was more than I could manage without a loan in 1980.  She loaned me the money, interest free.  She was proud that I would be the first college graduate in our family and that I wanted to be a teacher.  She loved my children and they loved her.  Martin and Steven got spend more time with her because they were ten and eleven when she died.  She and my grandfather used to take them to the Autryville Cafe for lunch.  Steven always called it “The Chicken House” because he always got a chicken leg and french fries for his meal.

Claire was only four when my grandmothers died.  Her memories are sketchy, so I always tell her stories.  My Granny Mae and Granny Brook considered her their “little princess” and no great-granddaughter was ever loved more.  I remind her that her middle name, Melinda, is a combination of her grandmothers’ names: “M” from Mary Alice, “E” from Eula Mae, and “Linda,” which is my mother’s name.  She carries a huge legacy in that name and she is proving to be a smart, strong, God-fearing young lady.

It’s my mother’s birthday.  I want to have her around for years to come.  The song I’ve chosen today is not necessarily sacred on face value, but the underlying meaning is sacred for me.  It’s generational in nature because I am what my mother is because she is what my Granny Mae was.

Happy birthday, Mama.  I don’t mind being told that I do things “like my mother does.”  It’s a great compliment.  I hope I make you proud.

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Like My Mother Does” (Lauren Alaina)

Music of My Heart: Joe Lupton

When I taught school, I was pretty brazen.  If I wanted something, I was not afraid to ask for it.  If the answer was “No”, I was not afraid to ask again…and again…and again, until the person usually just said “Yes” to shut me up. (I didn’t realize how annoying this trait was until I had children.)

Image Credit:  http://hamsandwich66.blogspot.com

In this post, I want to introduce you to someone who bolstered my faith and definitely knows how to “Faith It Forward.” His name is Joe Lupton.

I spent some of my student teaching at J. W. Seabrook Elementary School in Fayetteville, NC.  This school was special to me because it’s where I attended elementary school.  My supervising teacher in the spring of 1984 was the great Frances Piland.  I learned so much from her and my teaching style mimics hers.  She knew how to get to a student by any means necessary — even if it meant paying for a child’s field trip or making sure a child ate breakfast in the mornings at school because she knew that there had been nothing for supper at his house the night before.  That is a teacher who is worth more than her weight in gold.

Image Credit:  www.seotrafficlab.com

After I had taught at Eastover-Central Elementary School for the first five years of my career, I got a chance to come “home” to Seabrook.  It was my first experience teaching sixth grade, but I found that I loved it.  Although my degree was elementary education, we had music in my classroom every single day.  In fact, it became the greatest disciplinary tool in my arsenal:  misbehave during the day = no music for you.  I rarely had disciplinary problems and I attribute a lot of this rare phenomenon to music.

During the 1989-90 school year, I had an exceptionally musical class.  Around Thanksgiving of 1989, one of my most animated students, Duane Tabb said, “Mrs. Rosser, you ever thought about doing some Michael Jackson?”  Until that moment, I hadn’t, but if I could hook some students with MJ and if I could find the right song, I thought I’d give it a try.

Image Credit:  www.free-scores.com

One day after the Christmas holidays, I stopped for gas at the convenience store.  Low and behold, there was a MJ cassette tape on sale in a little rack beside the cash register.  It was $1.99 and I bought it.  On that tape was Man in the Mirror.  As I listened to it, I knew that this song would be the song to teach my kids.  Kristian Johnson, another student, brought me a tape of From a Distance by Bette Midler.  Both were wonderful songs with messages that taught Christian concepts.

Image Credit:  www.chartstats.com

These kids learned the songs with such expertise.  They added dance moves and sign language.  It was amazing.  One day, our principal stopped by and listened to us.  Mr. Strickland was so impressed he asked us to sing at the final PTA meeting in May.

In 1990, the choice of karaoke tapes was very slim.  I couldn’t find MJ or Bette.  So, I thought about who I could get to play this on the piano so the kids could sing without words on a tape.  I had met the choral teacher at Stedman Junior High School just once, but his piano talent was widely known in our neck of the woods.  That was when I decide to ask Joe, choral teacher and pianist extraordinaire, to come and be our accompanist for the evening.

Image Credit:  www.dimensionsguide.com

I called him after school one day in late March and asked him if he’d consider doing this for me.  Without a single second of hesitation, this man who didn’t really know me from Adam, said “When is the performance?  I’d be glad to.”   (I was SHOCKED!  It was a big favor for a casual acquaintance.)  But as it happened, our final PTA meeting fell on the same day as his spring choral concert.  (My heart fell.)  Then Joe said, “If you’ll send me the sheet music by the school courier, I’ll make you a tape.”  (Again, I was simply without words for the generosity of this man, and for those of you who know me, I’m NEVER without words.)

 

Credit Image:  www.brucemctague.com

He did this huge favor for me (and even provided a better cassette tape than I sent him because he knew that tape quality affected the sound of the music).  He barely knew me.  But he did it.  I have always been touched that he would take time out of his day (and money out of his pocket for the cassette tape) to play two songs for a brazen teacher and her sixth graders.

Image Credit:  www.cafepress.com

Joe is now the organist at Pleasant Grove UMC in Durham, NC.  He has touched hundred of students in his teaching career.   He’s still the same amazing person and a superb musician…and he’s fighting pancreatic cancer.  He has good days and bad days.  But he’s a fighter.  You can follow him on his blog, The Big C, Not Middle C.

 Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord.   Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second command is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There are no commands more important than these.”  Mark 12:31-32 (New Century Version)

Joe’s act of kindness is the essence of what Christ teaches, and I’m so glad that Joe is my brother in Christ.  He recognized me as his neighbor and then did what Jesus would have done.   I mentioned this memory to him the other day and he exclaimed, “I’d forgotten about that!”  I never have.  And I never will.

 Joe Lupton  (photo credit: his)

I want to ask you to pray from my friend, Joe.  Cancer is tough, but God is tougher.

And Joe, I just want to say, “Thank you.  You made a difference in my life.”

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Don’t Worry. Trust Jesus!

Photo Credit:  http://capubianco.wordpress.com

The Beach Boys sang, “Don’t worry, Baby.”  Stevie Wonder sang, “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing.”  Bobby McFerrin (and Bob Marley) sang, “Don’t worry.  Be happy.”  These are only three of 3, 473 songs that came up when I did a Bing search for “songs about worry.”  While all those may be well and good, my Savior has a few things to say about not worrying that mean a lot more to me than any pop song ever could:

“Don’t ever worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Everyone is concerned about these things, and your heavenly Father certainly knows you need all of them. 33But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.  So don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:31-34 (GWT)

Bobby McFerrin Photo Credit:  www.pacificmozart.org

How I fail at the “not worrying” directive!  For the last twenty-four hours, I’ve been holding on to some fear and worry about a situation that simply cannot be changed by my worrying.  My thoughts about it have been incessant.  It’s left me with a queasy stomach and a lack of appetite, which might be good for my diet (which I will be giving an update on next Wednesday, by the way) but it’s not doing too much for the increase of my faith and belief that God is in control.

So, I’m giving it up.  I’ve had a little cry and begged God’s forgiveness.  I know that my doubt goes against the whole of my “Believing God” Bible study that is coming to a close next week.  Perhaps Satan is trying to make me believe that I’ve been wasting all of my study time with Him and Beth Moore, but I’ve decided to throw it back in his face.

Image Credit:  www.barnesandnoble.com

If you don’t know the five-statement pledge of faith about believing God, here it is:

  1. I believe God is Who He says He is.
  2. I believe God can do what He says He can do.
  3. I believe I am who God says I am.
  4. I can do all things through Christ.
  5. The Word of God is alive and active in me.

So, take that old devil.  I will not be shaken anymore.  I will not spend anymore time in fear.  I will concentrate on how God is going to take care of the problem without any need of my worry to help Him along.  He’s got this all by Himself.

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Things My Father Taught Me: Lonnie Raymond Hall

My Parents & Me on my Wedding Day

The first man I ever loved turned 70 years old yesterday.  That sentence might register high on the “Ick” Factor unless you know that I am speaking of my father, Lonnie Hall.  But in all truth, he was my very first love.  It is because of his love for me that I learned to love God.  It is with much pride that I introduce you to him.  Apart from my mother, he has had the biggest influence on my Christian life.

It should not surprise you that Kelly, my husband, and my Daddy are very much alike in many ways.  My Daddy loves my Mama in such a way that it’s the standard I used when I was looking for a man who would love me for a lifetime the way Christ loved His church.  Over my life, I have seen the kinds of choices that other female friends have made who did not have the kind of love I received from my father. Some of their lives are pretty messed up.  I know every day how blessed I am.

Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.  Proverbs 23:22 (NLT)

To honor his birthday,  I want to share with you five things my father taught me:

  1. Always be honest.  When I was nine, my father left instructions for me to water the dog.  I did not.  When he came home and found the water dish empty, I said, “The dog drank it all.”  Had this been a small bowl, I might have gotten away with this blatant lie.  However, the water “dish” was actually a huge trough-like metal structure.  If we would’ve had twenty dogs, that thing wouldn’t have been dry at the end of the day.  I was punished.  He talked to me afterward and though I don’t recall word-for-word what the conversation was, the impression it’s left with me for the past forty years is that God hates a liar and so does my Daddy.  It’s important to tell the truth because your reputation is all you have.  When you ruin your reputation by becoming a known liar, you are of little use in God’s kingdom.
  2. God is first;  family is second; all others can wait in line.  I learned to love going to church at an early age.  It’s not the building I loved, it was the fellowship of believers.  There have been seasons of my life in which I’ve removed myself from this fellowship.  These were the most miserable times of my life.  Church is where I go to commune with my Christian brothers and sisters and to give my support to them.  I have often said I don’t know what people who don’t have a church family do in times of trouble.  Likewise, family events are not to be missed unless you are sick or dead.  All of my childhood years, my paternal grandparents hosted a huge family meal in June for my Granddaddy Percy’s birthday.  I can’t say that I was always happy to see that annual event roll around, but I always had a great time after I got there.  Now that my grandparents are gone, I long wistfully for the years that the party was held in their front yard.  It has morphed into a yearly family reunion now and we hold it at a local restaurant.  It’s just not the same as finding my Granny Brook’s fried chicken and butterbeans on plywood tables held up by saw horses.
  3. How you treat your employer says a lot about your character.  My Daddy didn’t call into work sick a lot.  If there was ever a time he missed work., it was probably because my brother or I was sick.  He held his job in esteem because it was what paid the bills.  He showed up and worked hard because to do less was to be ungrateful to your employer and to God, who supplied you with the job in the first place.
  4. Love your children well and be involved in their lives.  My father did a great many things in his life that he would never have done except for me.  He coached my softball team.  He came and watched me in forensic speech, school plays, and beauty pageants.  He came to every football game and basketball game when I was a cheerleader at Cape Fear High School.  It wasn’t until after I graduated that I noticed he stopped going to those ballgames.  I thought he went because he was a sport enthusiast, but he went because I was there, participating.  And if you know how much Lonnie Hall hates a beauty pageant, you will get a glimpse of how much I know he loves me.
  5. Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.  This lesson I learned as much from his actions as from his words.  I saw him living the Word of God at home and serving in his church and community.  It thrills me that we will one day be in Heaven together and that it’s partly because of him that I’m there at all.

My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.  Keep their words always in your heart.  Tie them around your neck.  Proverbs 6:20-21 (NLT)

The day that Kelly and I got engaged, my Daddy asked one thing of us:  to find a church, attend it together, and build our family with God at the center.  It’s a formula that’s worked for my parents for fifty-two years.  It’s been working in my own marriage for nearly twenty-five.  We have kept  “his words in our hearts” and they’ve never failed us.  They’ve never failed us because the words of my father are the words of his Father.

Thank you, Daddy.  I love you with all my heart.  I will always be your little girl.

Photo Credit:  Sandra Hall Rosser 1987