Monday, March 31, 2014

Because I'm Happy........

"Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth..."

One of the top new pop songs out there today...and should you come across it while scanning through the radio stations, scan quickly or it will get stuck in your head for eternity! In our house, we have been singing it for weeks.  And once one of us finally gets the tune out of our heads, it doesn't take long for another of us to start singing it and begin the whole process over again....

"Because I'm happy........"

Happiness.  I hear a lot about how God wants us to be so happy.  For forty-two years I have lived out different ideas of what would make me happy.  As a young girl, I would have told you THINGS made me happy. I was always convinced I would some day grow up and make enough money to have a really nice car and a really big beautiful two story Colonial type house.  And I did.  But my last really nice car got totaled in a Nor'easter on the Boston Turnpike, and that great big beautiful house that I always KNEW would fill that giant hole in my heart?  Well, lets just say all it did was fill up my in all the time it took to clean it...and I can promise you THAT did not make me happy!

My New England Dream House! Sketch by my daughter:)
 Once I had the house, I knew I would just be happy if I could find a way for my marriage to work better, or when the baby stopped teething, or once we got over the flu, or get the picture.

The amazing fact is, the word happy and it's various forms are only used a little over thirty times in the Bible, many of those used to refer to how WE can make God happy, not how He wants US to be happy. Happiness is completely circumstantial and can rely so much on what is going on around us.

"Sin isn't just a mistake, it is willfully choosing our own happiness over the promise of God."
Author Unknown

The fact that happiness is mentioned so little in the Bible does not leave me hopeless though because what is mentioned is JOY.  Not once. Not twice, but over 300 times!!!!  And if our joy is found in Christ alone, then happiness will follow as a major bonus! Maybe not in our timing, but certainly in His. It won't be something you have to seek and search for.

Psalm 4:7

The Message (MSG)
6-7 Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say.
“More, more.”
I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
7-8 Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together.

We can say God wants us to be happy..and maybe He lets choose an example from the Bible.  What then does it mean when God allows Daniel to be put in the lions den?  Did He want Daniel to be happy in the lion's den?  Or did God want Daniel to show the joy that can only come from faith in God?  What if Daniel had sat in that lions den and said, "I just know God wants me to be happy?"  Then, I believe, his theology would have gotten completely messed up, and he would have ended up confused and mistrusting of the one true God he believed so faithfully in.  "Wait a minute," Daniel might have said, "If God wants me to be so happy, then why am I even in this lion's den to begin with?" But joy...Daniel could look every last lion in the eye, his faith intact, and still have joy because "the joy of the Lord WAS his strength"! (Neh 8:10)

 What is it today, right here, right now, that you think could bring you more happiness than the joy you would get from following Christ?  I can share with you what I had to learn...I had to learn to stop concentrating on my own happiness, and instead concentrate on the JOY that came each day from knowing Christ, even if He didn't fix my marriage on Day 1 or Day 441.  I had to learn the Joy that came from Christ when I found contentment and peace, first in a renovated barn and now a 100 year old cottage, that I never acquired in our big beautiful Colonial New England home.  A wife can't say that she is "happy" her husband spends the majority of time far away from home , but she can say she is forever joyful to witness her husband live out God's will for his life.  If I were searching for the happiness in teary goodbyes, sometimes lonely days, and the knowledge of where he spends his time, I would be forever miserable.

So my friends, if I wanted to wrap this all up and give it to you as a gift, I guess my gift to you would be to say, stop thinking about what can make you happy.  Instead, just for today, focus on the joy that comes from truly living in Christ, wake up tomorrow and do it again...I promise you the benefits of living this way day in and day out are better than anything Happiness can offer!

Til next time ya'll!
God Bless and Love Everyone!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Homecoming is North of Positive!

One day I had a not so uplifting thought and I verbalized it (yeah, it happens).  My clever husband brought it to my attention.

“Well, that was a little south of positive.” Simply stated but oh so true!

The first thirty years of my life I stayed parked a little south of positive…. with the emergency brake on to boot.  My positive meter didn’t shoot up until I came to know Christ.  I really do try to keep it there regardless of what is going on around me. This is Homecoming week here at Hills of Mercy and, I promise you, I am WAY north of positive about that!
Courtesy of (in)

I can now count the decades since this handsome guy walked through the office of my college workplace.  The moustache might have gotten to me first, or maybe it was the mullet, but in reality I am pretty sure it was his attitude.  Talk about north of positive! This guy was always whistling or smirking or singing and UGH did it get under my skin!  I had just been thrown from a recent engagement like a wild horse bucks an unwanted rider so I did not want this handsome guy lurking around and messing with my Eore mentality.  It took him a couple of days to ask me out. Three hundred and sixty-some days later, I finally agreed to our first date!

Our life would grow and fall apart and eventually grow again, only this time, beyond our wildest dreams. I witnessed as this man blossomed from not knowing what he wanted to do with his life to becoming an awesome businessman.  My Yankee was actually in a business meeting on that horrible day when those jets flew into the Twin Towers.  It never occurred to me as the ensuing wars continued on that our lives were about to change forever.  

One night we were watching the news.  The touching story was featuring men who were deploying for the second and third times.

“Why do they have to leave their wives and children over and over but I get to sit here enjoying mine?  It doesn’t seem fair.  I have military experience.” He was speaking of his time in the military way before I had ever entered the picture.

I have mentioned that I can be naive.  Which is precisely why nothing crossed my mind that evening when he spoke those words. It would be weeks later when he was gone on a job interview for longer than I expected that I finally suspected something was up.
I was upstairs homeschooling our kids when it occurred to me how long he had been gone.  In an instant God put it on my heart that whatever was about to happen was not only going to be huge, but it would be okay. 
Time ticked by until I heard his car in the garage and then him bounding up the steps two at a time.  He stood in the doorway of our ‘classroom’ with the most excited look on his face.

“I know that we did not talk about this and I hope that you can understand and you are not mad at me… but I just… well, I just re-enlisted.”

“It’s okay.” I told him.

“What do you mean its ok? That’s it?”, he said.

“Yes," I explained, "you are going to think I am nuts but while you were gone, God gave me peace about whatever it was you were going to tell me."

“Wow," he said, "that’s amazing because the whole day I was praying that God would help you to understand and not be mad."

And yes, just like that, in an instant, my businessman became my protector, one of our countries great protectors, and I became a military wife.  His career has advanced over the years to even bigger and more amazing things, keeping us apart more often than we are together, keeping him in harms way a good part of the time.

So by now you probably get what Homecoming week is?  It never occurred to me that I would be the wife of someone who spends their time in a war zone.  And I had no idea how to be this person.  No training.  No military spouse support group.  No base living with other military wives.  Time and time and time again I get asked how I do it.   And there is really no great formula.  God showed us this was my husbands calling. We look at it as a gift....a huge adventure and goodness knows we love adventure around here. 

And there is one other thing I find helps me cope…..I stay a little north of positive!!!!

Til next time ya'll...(which may be a while because we have a Homecoming to celebrate!) In the meantime, I am linked up today at Woman To Woman.
God Bless and Love Everyone!!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

He Knows

"Love - 15", "30 - All" "40 - 15" scores....I heard them in my SLEEP this weekend!  That is because we were blessed, and I mean BLESSED to play right here at home, at the Greenbrier Resort, in a United States Tennis Association tournament all weekend long. And by we, I mean Baby Girl played, Momma just did what Momma does best, that is, CHEER.  Except that I am a football Momma too , and you just can't cheer at a tennis match like you can a football game..takes some getting used to I tell ya!
Baby Girls Motto:)
 Everyone here seems to have their own opinion about the Greenbrier Resort.  Say what you will about it, I may be more than a little infatuated with it, despite the fact that it goes against every single thing we moved here to simplify.  Because of Baby Girls love of tennis, we spend a lot of time at the Greenbrier during the week and each time we check in at the gates, it never escapes me what God already knew when He brought us here.

The Greenbrier Resort - one of my favorite places to be here in WV!

More then several years ago now, New England winters were killing us.  We had over 75 inches of snow and something just no longer felt right about our location.  So we began praying, "God, if you want us to move, you will have to show us where and let us know it is right." 

Months went by and we had nothing to go on.  I knew I wanted a small town with low crime.  My husband knew he wanted a small, New England looking town with much less snow than what we were dealing with.  We knew Florida was out because we had both lived there and neither of us really wanted to live there again.  We were afraid Georgia or South Carolina might be a little too much like Florida, but we knew we wanted to stay on the East Coast to be close to our families.

North Carolina looked like a pretty good option and I began searching an area around Asheville.  We even thought we would consider Virginia maybe.  In doing my research we really liked places like Charlottesville and Christiansburg.  But each time I would look more into any of these places, the craziest thing would happen!!!  This little town in West Virginia would pop up on my search results. I noticed there was little to no crime..and snow???  Maybe 20 inches per year compared to the 75 + we were accustomed to.   We could certainly handle that!  The problem was, we had nothing else to go on and, because of my husbands job at the time, we were in no position to just pick up and take a trip to WV to check it out. The Yankee wasn't really overly convinced anyway, but he did say, "Do a Google image search and if it looks like a small little New England town, we will check it out further."

Imagine my excitement when I did that search and it looked EXACTLY like a small New England town.  I am pretty sure hubby thought I had fallen and injured myself or something the way I screamed like a banshee for him to come look at the computer screen.  He took one look and said "Call the first real estate agents name you see and get more information."  He didn't have to tell me twice.

Her name was Kathy.  I called and told her my name and where I was calling from. 

"WHERE are you calling from?" She asked me to repeat the name of the town.
"You won't believe this," she said, "But my husband and I moved here from a few towns over 35 years ago to raise our own kids and we have never regretted it."

Further conversation went on to reveal her husband and mine had the same first name,her husband was ten years older than her (my husband is ten years older than me), and two of her children were even born in the same hospital my husband was born in.  I mean, REALLY, what on earth are the chances of that!!!  Here I was calling this woman over 750 miles away and she was from Massachusetts!!! I could not wait until he got home from work to tell him about THIS!  I just knew it was where we were supposed to be.

 My excitement spilled over as I rushed to tell him all Kathy had shared with me.  How could it not be as obvious to him as it was to me that this was where we were supposed to go?  The only problem was, I was met with complete silence!  Because of everything we had been through years before, I had learned that the only way I was going to find out God's true will in this matter was to stay quiet myself.  And I did.  Days went by and my husband never said a word.  I prayed and prayed..not to get to move to West Virginia, but I prayed that God would reveal His will through my husband. Ladies, God can and will use our husbands in miraculous ways if we will only pause and listen!

It is difficult to recall how many days went by, but one day, out of the blue, he came home from work and called us all into the great room.  With a silly toddler boy on one knee, his first grade princess on the other and me standing in front of him, he looked at all of us and said, "I have a question for you guys....WHO WANTS TO MOVE TO WEST VIRGINIA?"  Though our closest neighbors were really far away, I am fairly sure they heard our entire family erupt into cheers that evening.

The arrangements slowly unfolded and one year later I was on the phone with Kathy, without whom none of this would have happened, trying to find a place to rent in a town we still had not been too.  Now THAT is faith!  I had found two places that seemed ok, but you know what it is like when you just don't have that peace about something..neither of these places gave me peace at all, and yet I was at a point where I had to give them an answer the following day as to which one I was going to choose.  Still without an ounce of peace that night, Kathy called me out of no where.

"Did you answer either of those places yet?" she asked.  When I told her no she went on.

"I drove home from work today a way I never go and I saw a "For Rent" sign, so I pulled in.  Turns out it was my sons best friend from high school.  Don't say no right away, it is a renovated barn and I think you are going to love it."

And I knew.  I didn't need to see the pictures the landlord was going to send to me.  We had been praying for the perfect place to rent until we decided if we liked the town enough to stay and I just knew, site unseen, we had found it.

Eventually the day came when it was time to drive here and prepare the barn for The Yankees homecoming (stay tuned for this story, because it will be coming this week some time probably!).  We came through town and I could tell I loved it, then passed some amenities that it was nice to see we had, then headed about a mile out into the country.  We turned a corner and this is what I saw...
Now I would not be able to say if this site does to ya'll what it does to me, but let me tell you, had I not been following Kathy, I would  have literally pulled off the side of the road and sobbed.  I gasped so loud that my kids were worried that there was something wrong with me, "What is it Momma?" "It's just that God is sooooo good!" I told them.

It was all I could do to hold in my tears of joy as Kathy introduced me to our new landlords and they showed the kids and I around the barn and around the property.  And this view?  The first thing I saw when we rounded the corner?  It actually ended up being our view from our kitchen window!!  After they all left I sat on our back deck (with an equally gorgeous view, only this one involved cows, really, really close by!) and cried and thanked God for bringing us to this amazing place.  Our life of simplicity in the country had begun.

Fast forward to now, and we have a little tennis player on our hands.  Ok, she's not so little any more, but let a Mom hold on to her babies for as long as she can.  I don't remember ever seeing a tennis court in Massachusetts.  I know they were there, they must have been.  But K had loved tennis since she was tiny.  We have little bitty tennis pictures of her playing with Papaw in Florida, her face beat red from the hot Florida sun, hair in pigtails, tennis racquet in hand, her "serious" tennis face that she still wears today.  And we come here, and what happens  in this little teeny-tiny town?  She gets to play on a facility several days a week that hosts Tommy Haas, Pete Sampras, and even McEnroe for crying out loud!  She gets to be trained by Jenny, formerly the assistant WVU Womens coach, and Terry, who was the head coach at WVU for 15 years! It's amazing the way they have taken her under their wing. She would not have had this opportunity if we had stayed put and not listened to Gods promptings.  We had to move to the middle of no where for her dreams to come true.

I don't love the Greenbrier for its pretense and for what it means to some people. I love the Greenbrier because each time I check in at those gates, I am flooded with the gratitude over the plans God was waiting to reveal for us.  We just had to ask, He already knew! And He is waiting for you to ask today..whatever decision you need to make, big or small, just ask, sit back and's amazing what He can do when we get quiet enough to listen to His direction!

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

Til Next Time!
God Bless and Love Everyone!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Parlor Fire - Choice #2

"Throw it in the fire." 

These were my husbands instructions to us as we sat around our parlor.  First, I have to invite you into our home and our way of thinking, because in examining myself, I don't think I ever would have used the word "Parlor" if I were NOT married to a Yankee.  We have two living rooms in our home.  There is THE living room, you know the one, where you spend 99.9% of your time.  The television is in there, our bookshelves, the dogs sleep on the couch, it's basically a mess, and it is also basically the room we call home.  The other living area, what I would normally call the Family Room, is in excellent condition, rarely frequented, but it is my husbands favorite room of the house, and HE calls it a Parlor. And, no, it does not have a fireplace.

I could never wrap my mind around calling it a parlor without feeling like I was pretending to live in a mansion.  (The reality is, we live in an adorable 100 year old cottage/bungalow type home), or feeling like I had stepped back into the 1800's, which I believe is the time frame when people actually still used the word parlor????  Then, one day, I was asking one of the kids to bring me something from there and I said family room and they didn't know what I meant. I said parlor and boom, they knew because Daddy calls it the parlor.  So now, it's The Parlor.

Some time ago that Yankee of mine called us all into the parlor.  As we sat down he began to tell us that he had some things he wanted to get rid of.  We were going to pretend there was a fire, right there in the middle of our parlor.  Then, each of us would think of some "things" that we wanted to unload.  We would speak out loud about what these things were, and then throw them in the fire. How easy it would have been to run into my bedroom closet, get some old clothes or any other "things" to put in that fire, but no, this stuff had to come from within.  Sadly, I did not have to dig too far to find something to burn.

We had lived in WV for quite some time when we had a gut-wrenching blow by some people we had really considered family.  It hurt...bad.  We were lied to and treated unjustly.  And I was really, really crushed.  There was zero desire in my heart to act Christ-like toward these people (tell me you've been there right?  I'm not alone on this one???)  Even though we rarely, if ever see them (amazing for such a small town), I would still feel angry each time I did see them.  I am sure my unforgiving attitude towards them was really hurting THEM!  No, it just doesn't work that not forgiving I was only hurting ME and in that, I had to learn that once again, I had a choice.  I could choose to forgive.

Then, our Pastor, Roger, pointed out the most interesting fact in Bible study Monday night..the bible says in Luke 17:

3-4 “Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” (MSG)

Never before had I noticed that the Bible states that if the person who you feel has wronged you ASKS FOR YOUR FORGIVENESS, THEN you forgive.  Hmmmmm, this really gave me something to think about.  Because, even though the people who hurt us have never asked for our forgiveness, don't I still have a choice to forgive them?  Technically, no, because a person literally can not be forgiven if they have not asked to be forgiven, if that makes any sense. But that doesn't let us off the hook!!!

There is still a choice here.  Because even if a person has not asked to be forgiven, you still have the choice to let it go, you have to. Holding on to wrongs will eat you alive from the inside out.  It will cause physical illness, depression, and cause us to miss out on the blessings God has in store for us here on this earth.  What would have happened if my husband and I had continued on with our marriage, but we had never forgiven one another?  Our children would have paid the price.  Bitterness would have taken over and our lives would never have grown. Individually we would have paid the price in so many ways. Our home never would have become the way God intended it to be.

A photo from our "Parlor"

I made the choice to take my bad feelings towards those folks and throw it in the fire.  It did not come full circle for me until I heard Roger speak this week that, by throwing it in the fire, I let go of what had been done to us, preparing my heart for the ability to literally offer forgiveness should they ever ask. Forgiveness doesn't just happen automatically. It doesn't just swoop over us like a tidal wave any ol' time it feels like showing itself.   Just like choice #1, love, I must also choose to forgive.

I pray that you also use this principal to forgive yourself.  Whatever it is that is hurting you today, that you feel you brought on yourself, God is just waiting for you to ask Him to forgive you and the second you do that, let it go!!!  Without it, the same cycles will just continue repeating themselves over and over, causing a huge waste of time, but with that one little choice, forgiveness, an entire new world will open up to you!

Til next time and Choice #3....

God Bless and Love Everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I've Had Choices

Caught up in the rolling waves of life, we tumble and get tossed and go every which way.  Our emotions grab us and we feel helpless to all life throws at us.  I don't know about you, but that pretty much sums up the first thirty years of my life!

Keeping it simple, keeping it real, and by all means, keeping it as country as possible, I will use the immortal words of the late George Jones for all of you out there who can appreciate the reference:

"I've had choices since the day that I was born
There were voices that told me right from wrong"*

Even though I had choices since the day I was born, nothing was ever a choice in my mind.  Life happened, life attacked, and it would take giving my life to Christ to ever so slowly begin to learn the choice lessons I am about to share with you over the next few days.....

The first thing I learned back in those days seems so simple to me is a CHOICE!  Let that sink in for a minute because, once it does, it will rock your world.  Love is not an emotion.  Viewing love as a choice will make every single relationship that you have stronger.  The definition of the agape love that is in the Bible is, in fact, an action!  I often refer to a fabulous site for help with biblical questions, it is called  This site defines agape love as this:   

"Agape is a sacrificial love that voluntarily suffers inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return"

Read that again...without expecting anything in return. And did you see that list?  Suffers? Inconvenience?  Discomfort? Death?? Who does that?  Ohhhhhhhh.... wait a minute...I know the One who DID do that..and because of Him, I can do it too.  It is a selfless act that comes to us much easier and more naturally than one would think when they are living in their emotions only. goes on to quote Ephesians:

 5 1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (MSG)
And it sounds difficult, but I promise you it is THE most freeing choice you will ever make.  The instant I learned that I could choose to love my husband, despite the fact that we were in a never-ending pit, was the moment our world began to change.  It was the instant he began to see the change in me he had been hoping to see. Making the choice to love during such an insane time was the miracle we needed to change everything. Amazingly, when he realized that I honestly was not expecting anything in return, THAT was when he began to love me more than ever before!!!!

I pray that you, my friend, reading this, can examine the one person in your world today that God has called you to love with full agape love, keeping in mind, it may not even be someone who is currently showing you ANY love at the moment, but that's ok, luckily that is not a requirement for you to make the choice of showing love to someone right here, right now.  Who has God put on your heart?

Til next time when we will discuss the next CHOICE on the list! In the meantime I would love to hear from you..please feel free to leave a comment here, or like our Facebook page Hills of Mercy Hollers of Grace and comment there:)

God Bless and Love Everyone!

Ps...I linked up today over at To Love Honor and Vacuum!  Great name for a blog, don't ya think??

* song and lyrics by George Jones

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Time Warped and Lovin' It!! -Sharin' A Link

They are always to be expected, those funny looks I get from women when they ask me what they should do about this problem or that problem with their husband and I tell them to shut up!!!!  Not shut up from talking to me, but to shut up for a change when it comes to having to let their husbands know every nagging thought that has ever crossed their minds.

I have been told I am REALLY old fashioned.  The fact that I "submit" to my husband doesn't mean that he rules our roost and I never get to have my say.  Quite the opposite, the more I submit and allow him to be the head of the household, the way God intended, the more smoothly things go and the more my hubby actually sees things the way I see them.  It is truly an amazing reality.  The less I speak, the more God allows my man to hear what it is I really need!! It was a hard thing to learn.  I had to practice A LOT but I love it!

Still, it can feel a bit alienating at times when there are not too many who understand how this works.  That is why I was soooooo excited to come across this blog, THE TIME WARP WIFE.  She has lived her own War Story and taken to heart every "old-fashioned" biblical lesson about marriage along the way.  I urge you to check it out, even if your marriage is in a great place.  I look at it all the time and will always find and apply ideas I read there.

Ok GUYS, you are NOT off the hook:)  There are resources out there for you too!  If you follow The Time-Warp Wife you will see that there are things that apply to you as well and you will also come across links and resources to help you as well. I would also go to The Respected Husband. I know there are many men out there who want to save their marriages or just improve them even, and my hats off to you...IT CAN BE DONE!  Don't give up!  My husband will be the first to tell you how happy he is that he held on!

Another thing I am apparently old fashioned with is technology, as in, I DON"T GET IT, so please bear with me until I find some help with this blog.  People are commenting that they CAN NOT leave a comment on this site and I can't determine why that is.  In the meantime, feel free to go to Facebook and search HILLS OF MERCY HOLLERS OF GRACE.  If you click "like", you will be able to comment and see each time I post something new!  Thanks for all of the kind words, everyone has been a real encouragement as I begin this journey God has put on my heart.

Til next time!
God Bless and Love Everyone!

Monday, March 17, 2014

War Stories

My marriage is perfect!!  Actually my parents marriage was perfect.  And now that I think about it, what a coincidence that my husbands parents had a perfect marriage also.  WOW! What are the chances of THAT?  Ok, if you are still reading, and if you believe any of the three lies I just listed above, then follow me on this, because it is really, really important.

In another lifetime, I tried to bond with someone over something we had in common.  I had high hopes this person and I would not only be lifelong friends, but more like lifelong family.  The occasion arose where I had to give this person a card with a gift.  In the hopes of creating that bond I seized the opportunity and wrote "I will always be here for you especially since..." then continued to list the thing that could have one day bonded us for life.  The air sort of came out of my sails slowly when the person looked at me, closed the card and said "Oh no, we don't share our war stories." I remember all those years ago, even though I wasn't a Christian, thinking, "We don't? But I thought we were supposed to?"

War stories are actually God's gift to us.  If we all hid our war stories, I believe it would be completely impossible for us to help others in the way God intends for us to.  He gives us our war stories, not that they will be hidden and stuffed away in a closet somewhere, but so we can in fact shout them to the world and give Him the glory for getting us through them, however He so chooses to do that.

And if I want to do what God has called me to do and I am completely honest, then I must admit one of the biggest war stories of my life thus far was, at one point, my marriage.  There could be some WV friends reading this whose jaws may drop to the floor at that revelation.  But I have never, ever hidden the fact if someone asked.  And about a year ago, the occasion rose where I was able to help a few people based on my own war story.  It  never occurred to me to NOT share my story or to keep it to myself...and I am glad I didn't, because God used my war story to save at least one other marriage.  God using me to help save that one marriage, made every second, every miserable minute of my war story worthwhile.....but there is WAY more than that which makes this story worthwhile.

Years ago, when our babies were still babies, my husband and I fought....a lot.  There are people who will say I was always in the wrong, there are people who will say he was always in the wrong, after all, there has to be a bad guy right?  Truth be told, we were BOTH wrong, taking turns on who was stepping over which line at any particular moment.  Inevitably, we decided that divorce was the only answer, though we lived with that decision for quite a while, neither of us ever took the steps to make it happen, instead, we seemingly made the decision to keep arguing.....only each scenario became worse.  We grew apart and so miserable that I would revel in the times when I would pull into the garage and see that his car was not there, just so I could actually have some peace and quiet. He was quite happy to stay away from home because it was much more peaceful than having a nagging wife.  And me? I was happy to play victim.  I was married to the unhappy guy and I let everyone know it and made sure everyone felt good and sorry for me. Was I really supposed to believe that I might have played a part in any of his unhappiness?  Absurd! I was a GOOD wife!

I had begun some sort of relationship with God not too long before this through my husbands near death experience..though I hadn't  yet grown a centimeter in that God- relationship when the marriage problems started getting worse. And my husband?  He belonged to a denominational religion, but he probably wouldn't mind me saying he hadn't actually grown in his faith in his lifetime, he had simply gone to church.

In the meantime I had started going to a different church.  Everyone knew my story because I was really good at playing victim at church and asking everyone to pray for my husband!!!!  We had ladies devotion before church each Sunday morning and I look back on it now and think, "Those poor women, they sat Sunday after Sunday listening to me blubber and slobber over my story!"

Then one day it all changed.  Someone had given my friend Laurie the Stormie Omartian book "The Power of the Praying Wife" to give to me.  I read that book in one day, all the way sirens were blaring in my mind, light bulbs going off behind my eyelids, as though Jesus Himself were screaming "HELLO, here I am and I can help you save your marriage."  My marriage could be saved!  I had zero hope up until this point and had resigned myself to living a life of argumentative hell, or possibly divorce.  There was just one catch.........the book said that I had to change.....

Whoa, whoa, whoa....sirens stopped, light bulbs went dead..didn't Stormie realize that I was not the problem here?  I had been touting myself as the innocent party for quite some time now, why on earth would I change?  But I was desperate and I would give anything at this point, including giving UP control.....of my entire life. I hit my knees after reading that book and I knew exactly what I had to do.  I gave my marriage and my life to Christ and told Him that whatever direction He took with it all, I would be ok and I would stop playing the martyr, change in any way I could, and learn all He wanted me to learn.  Slowly, this all began to happen.  Not only did I not learn it all overnight, I am still learning, still changing all the time, but I did begin praying for my marriage and my husband, sometimes ten or twenty times a day.  At first, well, for a long time actually, things got worse. So I dug deeper into what I could learn.  I devoured Joyce Meyers "Help Me! I'm Married"  I still have that book today to keep as a constant reminder, packed away in the cellar somewhere, page after page highlighted and dog eared.  I also bought a little book that turned out to be really valuable. Lee Roberts "Praying God's Will for My Husband".  And I kept re-examining ways that I could change. I had never even shown my husband respect before, so that alone was a process and a half for me to learn. And it was a phenomenal place to start.

One of the books I had read said that I should really be praying for God to bring people into my husbands life to help him too, just as I had been blessed with so many people to help me, so I started doing that.  Some time later, I pulled into our driveway to see a strange truck I had never seen before.  When I walked into our living room, there, in front of the fireplace, BIBLES open, sat my husband and his best friend from high school who, not only had we not seen in years, but who I also had no idea this man had come to know Christ.  I said hello to them as though I was not witnessing the miracle of the century, went up to my room and thanked God for his proof that He was listening.

In rereading this blog, the process seems so simple due to lack of detail, but those friends and family who were with us during those years (yes, I said years, as in the multiple years this all took to get better) will bear witness to the fact that it was ugly, nasty, heart wrenching, and most times, completely hopeless.  We actually lost "friends" for not getting a divorce!  And the couple whose marriage was saved because God used our story to help their story, if they could write here, they would tell you how bad our story was, how bad their story was, and how much we can actually do to make it work, even in the worst of scenarios.....Which brings me to the line from from Friday's post

"Staying married was the only way to work your problems out"

It's been years and years and years since the healing process began..and for a long time now I have been married to my best friend, my biggest supporter and the person I go to for everything.  Do we still argue?  Heck yes, only we learned to argue in a different way.  There is no perfection here, only the real deal. Just a couple of weeks ago we were able to go away together for two days while a dear friend here watched our kids. It was truly the most magical time we have had together in our 20+ years of togetherness. I literally shutter at the thought that we could have given all of this up all those years ago.

I pray if you are reading this, that you don't let go, even if it seems as hopeless as, trust me, our situation seemed!  Please don't listen to "caring" friends and family who tell you they just don't know if you should be married to your spouse anymore.  No one can realize the blessings on the other side unless you have actually lived it. They are immeasurable. Just as my parents didn't have a perfect marriage and my husbands parents didn't have a perfect marriage...but we, as their children, have been able to witness......

**watching my in-laws dance on their 50th wedding anniversary, not knowing that just a few short years later, Memere would lose the man she had loved since she was 18 and he had whistled at her walking down the street....

**and we are blessed to witness today, the 49th anniversary of my parents, their love for each other clearer today after 49 years than it was the first time Mom ever cheered on the sidelines for one of Dad's football games.

One of my husbands favorite expressions our daughter and I love lately is "I HOLD ON"...and he does so because he learned from the best, first his parents, and then later when he met my parents. And for all of their holding on, my Mom's, my Dad's, Grampy's, Memere's and my husbands, I will be eternally grateful!

Til next time!
God Bless and Love Everyone!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Automatic- One Persons Opinion on Child-Rearing

The buttons that allow me to turn the station on my radio might as well have imprints of my finger permanently grooved into them.  One minute I am a country fan, one day pop, the next minute  OLD country,  and occasionally an oldies fan.  Of course, to me the oldies are the songs I love to hear my dad walking around singing, "Papaw's music" my kids call it. The Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers and the classic hits of the 50's.  But according to todays radio, the oldies are the 80's songs I grew up with, YIKES, that can make a person feel old (notice I said COULD, not much makes me feel old, because, well, I'm not!!).  Sometimes I just need to keep it on the Christian station to keep myself centered and to feel uplifted at the end of each song.

Correct me if I am wrong, or throw a big hallelujah my way if you agree, but more often than not anymore I find I skip over the country station, it's just not what it used to be!  Pretty sad as I have been listening to country music as long as I can remember.  Some of my first memories involve riding around in my mom's 1975 or 76 (maybe?) Cutlass.  Mom would drive and my big brother would be in the passenger seat, but I was the baby, my seat was the arm rest that came down in the middle, and we would all three be singing "Heavens Just a Sin Away" by the Kendalls or some great George Jones tune.  I miss great old songs like that! And singing with Mom is what developed the love of singing that I hold to so dearly today.
My big brother and I

But yesterday as my finger just kept skipping trying to find something country worth hearing, I hear the word "Automatic". ......

"Hey, whatever happened to waitin' your turn
Doing it all by hand,
'Cause when everything is handed to you
It's only worth as much as the time put in
It all just seemed so good the way we had it
Back before everything became automatic"*

I am of the age where I remember the "old" way of doing things.  And my parents, they grew up tough, in a place where things were made even tougher, so they grew up on "super-automatic".  Nothing was handed to them, and they did everything by hand, and I mean everything.  I am only 42 years old, but I remember going to my Dad's mothers house in the 70's and she would still be in the basement hand-cranking her laundry through this contraption that looked nothing like anything I had ever seen before.  They had farm work or work around the house that had to be done before they could even begin their walk to school.  And I have been to the place they were blessed to call their childhood home folks, it literally was two miles uphill both ways in the snow!  Compared to the way my folks grew up, they spoiled me rotten.
But one thing they taught me was that NOTHING was automatic.  They brought me up the old fashioned way and I will be eternally grateful.  Good behavior was not rewarded. This seems to be a newer phenomenon in the world of child-rearing. I was EXPECTED to behave.  Of all of the many traits my parents passed on I think it is this one I appreciate the most. From them, I learned to teach my kids that when we walk into peoples houses, you behave, you don't touch things on people's tables, you say please and thank you, and you stay quiet until someone talks to you.  Have you ever gone into someones house and noticed that they have taken all of their knick knacks off of a table because they were expecting you to bring your child over and they knew your child would mess up all of their stuff?  This is the "automatic phenomenon"  because the child "automatically" thinks they should be able to touch everything. It's just a thought, but maybe they could be taught NOT to touch the things on the table because it is not AUTOMATIC that the child should just get to do whatever he wants to do. After all, when they grow up and enter the real world, how will we have served them as parents if we have taught them that they can automatically just do anything they want to do?

Do kids know how to wait anymore?  My parents taught me to wait, and trust me, I fought it and I didn't always like it, but when I hit the real world running, that lesson sure came in handy!  Thanks Mom and Dad!!!! And did I mention, even with that I was still spoiled?  My parents put clothes on my back, they bought me my first car, they sent me to college. Way, way easier life than either of them had ever had, and yet they were still able to teach me discipline and that everything was not automatic.

They are called "The Good Old Days" for a reason.  It is more important than ever that we be vigilant with our children. In today's world,  they get everything instantly and "fairness" has overtaken our schools.  It used to be that if a child stood out due to their good behavior, good grades, or good deeds, they could rightfully be acknowledged for that, but those days are  gone because it isn't fair to the children who don't earn these things. We have been in schools where the teachers actually meet before the end of the year awards ceremonies to be certain that each and every child receives an award.  This teaches the children that the awards are automatic and to me, belittles the children who worked so hard to earn those very awards. 

So I will work hard to continue to instill the traits in my children that my parents instilled in me, because, when someone looks at me at says my children are really well behaved, I give the glory to God, for giving me the children to begin with and the credit to my parents, for teaching me that everything was NOT automatic!  I was able to pass that down and I pray my children will pass it down for generations to come as one of the greatest gift their Mamaw and Papaw ever gave them:) The first greatest gift their Mamaw and Papaw ever gave them is in the song too...

"Staying married was the only way to work your problems out"

But you will have to stay tuned for that one, as Monday is their 49th wedding anniversary and I can't think of a better time to do a marriage post than on my parents 49th anniversary ;-)  Til next time, God Bless and Love Everyone!!!!

*lyrics and song by Miranda Lambert


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Seeing is Believing

We didn't even really believe, my husband and and I, so the tragic events turning out with a happy ending were nothing short of LIVING proof of His mercy.  Why He chose to bless us back in 2000, I will never fully know here on this earth, but as the clock continues to tick and each year passes, I begin to see glimpses of the plan God must have had for us back then.

Fast forward to this past weekend when I was able to spend some quality time visiting with some dear friends of ours Billy and Sherri. When we moved to WV, Billy and Sherri were two of the first people we met as we quickly signed our little five year old up for pee-wee football (and before anyone comments on the dangers of signing a  five year old up for's WV guys, football sign ups are a requirement to continue living here:) and Billy was his coach.  They probably don't realize it, but initial contact with them was just another sign to us that we had made the right decision by moving here.  They were immediately added to our ever-growing list of over the top nice people we would eventually call our "football family'.   But over the last few months, tragedy struck these guys as they found Billy fighting to survive in the hospital. Watching them go through this has kept our events so close to my heart these past few months.......

On a cold early December day in 2000, The Protector and I rode to the hospital for his outpatient procedure.  The doctor had already assured us that this 45 minute procedure would be in and out, he could recoup over the weekend and be back in his business suit by Monday morning.  That is why I laughed it off when we passed a hearse and a chill ran through The Protectors spine and he made some ridiculous comment regarding dying. 

"Oh please," I scoffed at him, "I have been with you for over 8 years and have never seen you with so much as a cold, you will be fine!"

I was so convinced of this, that it never occurred to me to worry after an hour passed in the waiting room and no one had come to get me.  When the second hour passed I naturally just assumed there had been a delay in the surgery.  By hour three, people began leaving the waiting room to go see their loved ones and were replaced by new surgeries that were coming in.  I tried to contact a nurse or anyone who could help me, but received no response.  The day wore on until, after hour seven, I was the lone person in the waiting room when the surgeon finally arrived to tell me the simple explanation...the surgery had been a little more difficult than he had originally thought, and he finally had to stop, but my husband would have to spend the night and the procedure would be finished first thing the following morning. Naivety has always been one of my good or bad traits, depending on the this case, it didn't work so well in my favor.

I returned home to grab our six month old baby girl, K from the neighbors and we settled in so that I could start all over at the hospital in the morning.  I arrived before the surgery because I most certainly wanted to see the Protector before he went in.  To this day there are probably skid marks on that hospital room floor where I stopped upon laying eyes on my husband.  The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade had been a short couple of weeks before, we had been there, but here lay my over the top healthy husband so swollen, that if I had tied a string to him, he surely would have floated all the way from Massachusetts back to NYC.

"He is fine," the doctor assured me, "he just has some fluid left over from the surgery, but we are going to take him back in and complete what we started yesterday."  I did mention I can be naive right?

On the bright side, I didn't have to wait seven hours this time.  On the not-so-bright side, he looked even worse when I was finally able to see him.  Fourteen years later, it is difficult for me to recall certain specifics, I just remember next was the realization that his kidneys were not functioning, AT ALL.  He had gone into complete renal failure.  I called in his brother because at this point, I needed help figuring out what to do.  What I didn't know then because I didn't really believe in God, but I do know now, is God was about to use The Protectors little brother in a big way.  See, they were both businessmen at the time (these were my hubby's pre-Protector days), and his little brother JP had just had a BIG business meeting with the head of nephrology (kidney specialist - I didn't know what this was either at the time, and frankly, could have lived without learning a lot about a lot of things I was getting ready to learn about) at a major Boston hospital.  So JP put in a call to this doctor while we waited for the hospital we were in to take care of our loved one....the problem was, they never did.

Hiccups.  That is what was doing us in...renal failure and 24 hours straight of the hiccups.  Who gets the hiccups for 24 hours straight?????  Apparently someone whose pancreas has shut down gets the hiccups for 24 hours straight because that was what happened the next day.  My gut told me something was really wrong..JP's gut was telling him the same thing..The Protectors gut was just saying "CAN SOMEONE STOP THESE HICCUPS ALREADY???"  And yet, at some point, the hospital deemed him in good enough health to go home and come back for dialysis on a regular basis until....IF..his kidneys began working again.  JP said no way.  The doctor he was talking to in Boston wanted my husband transported by ambulance so that they could re-evaluate what might be going on with him.

At this point, all of my husbands many siblings and his parents were always at the hospital with me, and I couldn't keep pushing K off on the neighbors because I slept at the hospital every night.  My parents lovingly flew to Boston to get her and took her back to Florida with them.  We were without our baby girl for the first time in her little life, but honestly, I knew she was in good hands and I don't remember once having the time to even think about it.  And my parents could not have gotten her a moment too soon...I headed to Boston, and on the radio came our wedding song, "You Are The Love of My Life" by Sammy Kershaw.  I cried for the first time since the ordeal had started.  I suppose I should have prayed or something, but it never crossed my mind.

We had traveled to a different hospital thinking this was just going to be a second opinion of all that had happened.  Siblings went home for the night, I got as comfortable as possible in the hospital chair I would call home for another night (I know, who am I kidding right, there is ZERO comfort there!) and I began to relax a little, for one second maybe, before I heard "Babe?"  at least I thought that was what I heard...I looked over at The Protector and he was holding his throat.  He mouthed the words, "I CAN"T BREATHE" and his face was full of panic.  At least when the pancreas shuts down, you get the hiccups as a clue.  When the lungs stop working, there is only ONE horrible sign.  In what was way too long for my liking, they got him in ICU and on life support, his entire body was shutting down and no one could tell us why. It was with great dread that I called my brother-in-law, who had just finally settled into bed himself, and told him he was going to have to come back to the hospital.

The days that follow all sort of blur together to me...teams of doctors were working on my husband, but no one had any answers, no one knew how to fix him.  Days turned into weeks, we finally had out of state siblings fly in at the request of the doctors because it was not looking good at all. People kept telling me they were praying for him, and that they had other people praying for him, and I knew this was a kind gesture and I would nod my head and smile and say thank you.  The ultimate prayer came from my father-in-law.  Having already suffered the tragedy of losing two children, Grampy hit his knees and begged, "God, please don't take another one of my babies." But I am ashamed to say, even after hearing that, I never prayed at all.

Christmas was well on its way.  It looked as though we were going to be stuck there forever, so I went to the corner CVS with one sister-in-law and we bought Christmas decorations and decorated his ICU room, even though he was unconscious and had no idea I was doing it.  Snow storms came and went, but I never knew the difference as I stayed in that ICU or took occassional strolls around the hospital with a sister-in-law or two. And just when it seemed like it could go on forever, the doctors asked for a special meeting with JP and I because she knew we were the main two there in charge of my husbands care, even though previous doctor meetings had been briefings with the entire family.  We included one other of my husbands other sisters in on this meeting because she was still at the hospital that evening.

 "We have done everything we can." the doctor began, looking directly at me to be sure I was understanding her words, "We do not know what is causing this and we do not know how to heal your husband.  Tomorrow, we will be taking him off of life support and it is our belief that he will not make it."

I honestly do not even remember what I thought.  I literally went numb and can only remember that, as soon as the doctor walked out of the room, JP jumped up and yelled, "My brother is NOT GOING TO DIE." 

I left them both and wondered the hospital until I found my favorite place to sit.  A long bench perched in front of a wall made of glass. I came here often because I imagined it would be the Protectors favorite place to sit due to the fact that it awarded the perfect view of the Citgo sign and Fenway Park.  The sun had almost completely set and I remember thinking what a beautiful view.  Instantly I thought, who could have made such a gorgeous sight as the colors in that sunset, and I KNEW that it was God.  And in an instant I knew how important all of those prayers were, and in an instant I knew I had to say one myself.  I had never prayed before, so I did all I knew to do, I bargained.

"God, its me, if you will save my husband, I promise I will wash away the me of the past 8 years and be the best wife possible.  Amen"

In an instant, I knew I believed.
 John 8:58
Believe me,” said Jesus, “I am who I am long before Abraham was anything.” (MSG)

If you stay in ICU long enough, everyone sort of becomes like family, so it was with great sadness that I awoke the next morning to find out that the gentleman in the room next to ours had passed away.  As I tried to comfort his wife at the elevator, JP suddenly rounded the corner, his arms lifted triumphantly in the air.  Apparently they had tried to take The Protector off of life support while I was out of the room, and, as suddenly as he had stopped breathing, he began breathing all on his own.

We went home on New Years Eve, almost a full moth after the first out-patient procedure.  Mom and Dad flew to Boston a few days later to bring K back home to us.  It took weeks and weeks after that for him to fully recoup and return to a normal life.  My life would never be normal again, for although I didn't commit my life to Christ after the harrowing events of that December, I saw Him for the first time, and I began what would become over the next two years, a walk that would save me from hard times yet to come.  I had seen the mercy of God in a time when I didn't even believe in Him and His mercy changed my world forever!