A Fan of Experience

The scene at last weekend’s Clemson and Notre Dame game was insane! It had rained the 24+ hours leading up to the game so every place you drove, walked or sat was water-logged.

We were already wet from walking around in the rain most of the day in Greenville ,SC. If it wasn’t wet before we got to Clemson, it quickly got wet. I’m talking all-three-layers of clothes — rain jacket, coat and t-shirt — completely absorbed with water. Wet jeans? Yeah, those too.

The parking was madness! We drove around for nearly an hour, more than 3 hours before game time and absolutely nowhere to park our car. Cars were parked on the sides of roads, in grassy areas, in mud, wherever they could squeeze in, which left no really good options for where to park my car. I was willing to pay to park but I couldn’t even find a paid lot! The places that had openings were long, long walking distances away and had warning signs about being towed.

I finally asked a guy — Ok seriously, where can I park my car? — and he told me how to get to a paid lot that had a shuttle to the stadium (yay!). We found it (and it’s tiny little sign), caught the shuttle, and were finally on our way.

We finally make it into the stadium, purchase  nachos and popcorn and soda and climb way up to our nose-bleed bleacher seats. We sat in puddles. Our nacho chips got soggy. Our soda got watered down, not from melting ice but from the rain falling *into* the cup.

It didn’t matter that if we sat our bums were in puddles of cold water because no one sat. If we sat, we couldn’t see the field or the game because the people in front of us were standing, and the people in front of them were standing and so on.

Clemson scored two touchdowns rather quickly and the fans around us were ecstatic with cheers and singing along to the fight song. After the second TD we had learned the cheer and joined in.

C. L. E. M. S. Ohhhhhh (make a circle in the air with your fist) N!

As I observed all of this I thought these people are diehard Clemson fans! They are here in the rain, in the wind, in the cold, decked out in orange outfits that look a little like prison jumpsuits and they are happy and smiling and having the time of their life despite the deluge of water from the sky. Only a diehard fan would do this!

But wait. I’m enduring the same nasty conditions and I’m not a diehard a Clemson fan. I’m not even a sort’ve Clemson fan. I didn’t go to school here and have no connections here. I just happened to be in town this weekend and thought going to the Clemson v. Notre Dame would be a cool experience.

Us, soaked, at the Clemson v. Notre Dame game

Why would I stand soaked to my underclothes to watch the football game of a team for which I have no passion, nor even a mere connection?

Because I’m a fan, not of Clemson (or Notre Dame) but of experience.

I’m a fan of experiencing new and different and unique and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

I didn’t really care so much who was playing, although it was a great match up and a great game. I cared about doing something local, something rare, something I could only do in that location at that moment in time.

When in Rome, do as the Romans, right?

When in Greenville, SC, on Clemson v. Notre Dame weekend, do as they do.

C.L.E.M.S.Ohhhhh N!

prayers for brides

Book Review: Prayers for New Brides

This book is the kind of book I wish someone would have handed me back in 1999 when I was preparing to get married or after the wedding when I was struggling to figure out what in the world I was doing as a new wife.

My impression of marriage back then was love, living together, sex, and doing whatever we wanted together. It’s the thing you did when you loved someone and didn’t want to ever be apart from them. Isn’t that how they portray it in books and movies? Attraction, romance and a pretty dress, a honeymoon and happily ever after. That’s all there is to it.

Despite both my husband and I being believers in Christ, I didn’t really understand back then how marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church, and even now, after 11 years of marriage and five years widowed, it’s still something I’m trying to figure out. Better pre-marital counseling, a Godly wife as a mentor, and a resource like Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress might’ve helped me recognize that sooner and resulted in a more God-honoring marriage.

What I like about Prayers for New Brides is that it’s organized in short, 2-3 page chapters that make it easy to use as a daily devotional. With 40 chapters, this book works nicely as a 40-day devotional, complete with suggested prayers and Scriptures.

You know what would be a great way to use this book if you’re a bride planning your wedding and about to say “I do”? Adopt this a group study, of sorts, for you and your bridesmaids to do together, reading, discussing and praying for your marriage in the 40 days leading up to your wedding. Bonus: Involve the mother of the bride and your future mother-in-law.

What if you’re already married? Well, every marriage could use prayer and a little refreshment, so use the 40 days like touch up paint to strengthen the marriage you’re in.

Single? Whether you’re single and waiting for the right one or single again on the other side of a divorce or death, the prayers and discussions about God’s design for marriage are healthy considerations for determining what kind of future marriage you desire and for understanding what went wrong in a first marriage or how to do things different if given a second time around.

Prayers for New Brides would also make a nice addition to an engagement or bridal gift or even to a recently married woman who could just use a little encouragement.

I’m giving away my review copy to a randomly selected bride, whether you’re recently married, soon to be married, or married many many years. To enter, simply comment on this post with your wedding date and year. Winner will be randomly selected on Oct. 1, 2015.


God’s Heart for Haiti and the Child for Whom I Have Prayed

For the months and weeks leading up to Haiti my prayer was adapted from a Christian song that says “break my heart for what breaks yours.” I prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His about Haiti.

What He showed me is this: while the poverty and starvation and sickness saddens Him, what breaks His heart is the spiritual poverty, spiritual starvation and spiritual sickness.

So going into the trip I was prepared to minister to the spiritual. I didn’t want to go to Haiti and just see what it’s like. I wanted this trip to have positive impact on the country’s future, one community, one family, one child at a time.

So this little boy above was one of my “one child at a time” moments.

He walked in with a group of children, all between the ages of 3 and 7, I guess. An adult sat him on a bench full of children and his little head immediately started bobbing down and back up as he nodded off to sleep and jerked back up.

Without hesitation I walked straight to him and scooped him up, holding him where his head could rest on my shoulder. I was a complete stranger — and one with white skin! — yet this little son was so exhausted he didn’t care. He rested on my shoulder and was out like a light in a matter of minutes. He, and the other children, walked a long way to come to the sports camp. The heat anywhere in Haiti is intense, but in Souvenance there are hardly any shade trees, and it’s very desert-like. So these children, and especially this young boy, were hot and tired before they even played the sports games we brought.

He slept on my shoulder for nearly an hour while I walked around dispensing crayons to our group of color-ers and commenting “bell” (creole for beautiful) to the children coloring.

It was near time for the evening worship to start and I sat down with him. I shifted to hold him like in the photo above and he didn’t stir.

One of the friends with me asked, “What are you going to do with him when it’s time to leave?” Goodness, I hadn’t considered that. No woman had approached me to check on her son, so I had no idea who he belonged to. Someone would come inquiring for him, I assumed, at least the children that he walked with, I hoped. Or if we needed to walk him or drive him home, we’d figure it out.

I learned through the translators that he came with one of the young women in the church and he was her cousin’s baby. These cousins were part of a family who participated in voodoo worship. I asked his name and it was something like Fredrick.

So for the next near hour I held Fredrick while he slept soundly — It was like working in the Haitian church nursery — and I prayed for him. I prayed for his health and rest, that he be protected from the evil practices of his family, that the revolution to set this community and this country free from the bondage of voodoo start with him as a new leader who believes in Jesus and follows Jesus. I believe it can and will happen and that this child could be the catalyst.

Near the end of the church service, he woke up and I could tell by looking at him he felt refreshed. He sat with  me until another child came up and took him by the hand and led him out of the back of the church.

I watched him til he was out of sight, and just like that he was gone.

I watched out the door to see if I could see him and the adult who came to fetch him or he and the other kids walking down the road when he popped back in the door and walked down the church aisle straight back to me. Just as I started to scoop him up again the child came back for him, took his hand and made him leave me. Fredrick cried and protested by the child made him go.

It broke my heart. I kinda fell in love with him and his future in those two hours.

I didn’t see him again the rest of the trip, but I haven’t stopped thinking and praying for him. I really hope I’m back in Haiti some day and that I see him again and that some day 20 years from now I’m privileged to see and hear his story and see him as a mature young man doing great things for the Lord in his country.

I want to see him again and show him the picture of us and tell him “I prayed for you as a baby and I dedicated you to the Lord,” because while he is not by biological child I believe God gave him to me in that moment and I dedicated what God gave me to God and His purposes and God will honor that.

Can’t wait!


Long Lost Journal Entries

Apparently back in the summer of 2006 I started journaling and apparently it was going to be this sweet little mommy journal of all those sweet moments from the boys’ childhoods.

My use of the word apparently will be apparent soon.

I bought a fancy little book and everything.


Finn & Caden, summer 2008

The first entry is so sweet, from July 7, 2006. Finn was one week shy of his 3rd birthday. Caden was 6 months old.

It goes like this:

Finn’s going to be a good big brother. This week John was suctioning Caden’s nose and Finn says, “Don’t hurt my Caden.” He’s fascinated with how Caden is too little for things or can’t walk, talk, etc. I tell him that we’ll have to teach him how to do all those things.

Caden started making gurgling sounds this week.

Aww. Isn’t that adorable? Protective big brothers and baby gurgles.

There’s more.

The second journal entry is three weeks later and is just as sappy.

Tonight Caden has his first bath sitting up. I ran Finn a bath and let him play while I got Caden situated in the baby tub with the seat in it. He love it, making a mess with all his kicking and splashing. We had a better night with Finn too. He ate all of his pizza with only minor protests about wanting or not wanting pepperoni. After Caden went to bed we played with his PlayDoh and tools until near bedtime.

Caden has started blowing bubbles and spitting his bottles and baby food. He also pushed his knees under him tonight like he may want to crawl soon. He’ll be 7 months Saturday!

Awww. Brothers taking baths together and baby bubbles. Cute, cute, cute.

The next entry … oh wait (cue: record scratching sound symbolizing a screeching halt). There’s not a next entry. The rest of the book is void of words. Apparently my sweet fantasy of writing sweet journal entries after my sweet little boys were sweetly sleeping was just that, a fantasy. I’m guessing I became too busy and too tired (still am).

If I were still maintaining this journal today, it would look like this:

Tuesday, June 2

Yesterday the boys were killing me. Caden forgot his swimsuit for swim and I felt so sorry for him I went and bought one at Target (bought a cheap towel too) making me later for work than I needed to be. After picking them up this afternoon we picked up bacon wrapped pizza, which he’d been asking for, and Gigi’s cupcakes for dessert. They ate all the breadsticks before we even got to Gigi’s and then Caden had the audacity to give me attitude that I wouldn’t let him eat the cupcakes in the car on the way home. At his annoyed sigh, I lost the cool I’d been keeping all day. I make a special trip to buy you a swimsuit that you forgot to bring, buy you pizza and cupcakes and you’re going to give me attitude that you can’t have the cupcake right this very minute?? Really? So he had to go to his room when we got home and write three things that he was thankful for that day. He wrote more than three, thankfully, as well as “Forgive me check yes or no.”

I checked yes.

Not 30 minutes later Finn was telling Caden to shut his food hole and Caden retorted with something just as rude.


This morning though, I got into the car to leave and they had packed a lunch for me to have at work today. A slice of the leftover pizza (on a plate and wrapped with plastic wrap, I might add), two ham and cheese rolls (Finn’s favorite), two oranges and a fruit rollup. Also a sticky note from Finn saying “shine bright like a diamond.”


I just might be doing something right.


Priscilla Shirer breaks down what it means to put on the FULL armor of God

If you’ve never had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Priscilla Shirer you are flat out missing out. This woman is empowered, y’all. Like Yoda said about about Luke, “The force is strong in this one.” And by force I mean Holy Spirit. She’s got an anointing, that’s for sure.

She was in my hometown a few months ago presenting a simulcast that was broadcast live around the world, and I and several thousand others were so fortunate to have attended this day of worship and teaching in person and in my city!

She taught from Ephesians on the armor of God, giving us a battle plan for victory and teaching us how to push the enemy back and take back what he’s stolen.

Stop right there. Take back what he’s stolen. Hmm. He’s a thief. But just what has he stolen from me? I wrote down a few things: my marriage, my faithfulness, my integrity, my loyalty, my reputation, the future I envisioned, my ability to trust myself. That’s a lot, and I want it back. Think about it: Just what has he stolen from you?

Before getting deep into the armor, our teacher spent the morning setting up our battle scene

Ephesian 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

The struggle is unavoidable.

There is a struggle, but it’s not against what we think it is. It’s not against the people in our life or the circumstances we are in. In my case, it’s not against my messy habits or my being too busy, it’s against the enemy in heavenly realms. That’s what the verse says. The enemy, Shirer said, wants us to think that life is a playground not a battle ground. But which is it, really? No matter where you go or what you do, you will have a struggle. The enemy can not destroy you, but sure is going to try to distract you.

We may not want the struggle or the war, but quoting the movie Lord of the Rings, she said, “Open war is upon you whether you (want) it or not.”

The enemy has lost and he knows it. He wants us, though, to forget. Let us not forget.

Your enemy is invisible.

Satan is not the opposite of God. God has no opposite. Satan is nothing more than an illusionist and a copycat. If he’s paying attention he’s probably pretty mad I just typed that.

The location to battle is accessible.

The battle is in heavenly realms and we’re stuck here on Earth so what are we supposed to do about it? Well, good news. Ephesians 1:3 tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places …” and Eph 2:5-6 tells us “even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

We have access to where the battle in heavenly places is happening, and that way is Jesus! We have access to to the places where the battle is really happening through Jesus, and there are spiritual blessings waiting on us there. Amen!

Our weapons are not physical.

The armor of God is not an actual armor of strong metal. It’s salvation, it’s truth, it’s peace. It’s intangible but nevertheless real. Also — and this is good — it’s not our armor. It’s God’s. We get it from him, it’s provided to us and we are commanded to put it on.

Victory is irrevocable.

You won! Don’t act out of fear or insecurity. Stand victorious and with confidence that you won!

So there’s 7 weapons: 6 that correlate to physical pieces of armor and No. 7 is prayer.

Weapon No. 1: Truth

What is truth? Truth is God’s standard, not ours. Satan’s greatest tactic is deception, especially distorting God’s truth. He is the master illusionist. One of his greatest illusions is to keep you in the dark about your own deception. When you’re in the midst of deception you don’t even know it, you can’t see it. Everyone else can, but not you.

But there is hope in truth. Ephesians 5:13 says “everything exposed by the light becomes visible.” The light is God’s Word. God’s word will reveal truth. Test it.

Weapon No. 2: Righteousness

What is righteousness? Upright living that lines up with God. Unrighteous living opens us up to a full frontal attack, leaving us unprotected. Righteousness takes on the role of a breastplate, guarding our heart. Living unrighteously exposes our heart, leaving it vulnerable for attack. And once he gets to you heart, he’ll mess with your thoughts and what you hear. Guard your heart with the breastplate of righteous living.

Weapon No. 3: Peace

I don’t have more notes about peace, sorry. I got up during this part to go get a coffee. :-)

Weapon No. 4: Faith

Your faith is a shield!

Here’s something cool I bet you never thought of: the first three pieces of your armor are your uniform. You wear it. Never leave home without your truth, righteousness and peace. They are your belt, breastplate and shoes.

The other three pieces though, beginning with the shield of faith, are not things you wear. They are things you carry, things you take into battle with you. Cool, huh?

So about faith: James says put your faith to work. Faith without works is dead, he says. In Shirer’s words: give your faith a job!

If/when God calls you do something and you say no and/or resist, you are saying that you’re God is not faithful, that you’re God can’t be trusted.

Your/our enemy is sending flaming javelins at you/us to distract us. These distractions can take on the form of fear and insecurity. But our God is faithful! Walk in faith anyway! Doing what God has called you to anyway — aka faith — is the only thing that will make the fiery darts stop! Activate your faith!

Weapon No. 5: Salvation

Salvation is to be worn as a helmet protecting our mind. This isn’t just salvation from hell and to heaven but that are saved from the strongholds of sin and the world. We are saved from bondage and given to freedom.

We are to practice who we are in Christ and what are salvation truly means. Ephesians 1:4- says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will …”

Those few verses alone call us chosen, holy, blameless, loved, predestined and adopted, and the rest of the Word tells us more of the same.

Here’s a video I took of Priscilla Shirer showing us how to practice who we are in Christ. It’s incredible!

Finally, Weapon No.6: The Spirit

This is the Holy Spirit in personal form, a personal Rhema word from the Holy Spirit in us to us. The Spirit is a sword. All the other pieces are defensive. The sword is offensive. We’re to use it fight, not just to protect. How do use the Spirit as a sword offensively? Speak God’s Word outloud. Speak God’s word over your life and chop the enemy to pieces!

john and winston t

Reflections on Losing a Man I Never Really Knew

john and winston t john and winston t b

I received an email today that the man whom I called my father-in-law passed away. He died April 23, 2015. More on why I’m just now finding out in a minute.

Winston T. Smith Jr., age 80 of Murfreesboro, Tenn., passed away on April 23, 2015. Funeral services were held on Sunday, April 26, 2015 from the Williams Cove Holiness Church. Interment followed in the Trenton Cemetery. Bro. Pat Coffee and Bro. Wayne Williams officiated.

Mr. Smith is survived by his daughter, Sandra Darley; sons, Tim Smith and Wendell Smith; eight grandchildren; ten great grandchildren; sister, Earline Allison. Mr. Smith was preceded in death by his son, John G. Smith; sisters, Emily St. Clair, Eloise Pogue and Willie H. Smith.

I’m glad that John was included as his son, preceding him in death, and that my sons are included in the “eight grandchildren.”

See, that side of the family — the “Smith” side — doesn’t really stay in touch with me, so I wondered when their father died if I’d know and how I’d find out. The email telling me was sent by a cousin of John’s, who stays in touch with me about a tract of family land that belongs to John but is cared for by this relative.

I hadn’t seen him in many years. He didn’t come to our wedding, but he came to John’s college graduation. We saw him about once a year from 2003 til about 2007. When John died five years ago I was told that his father was not well enough to receive the news about John’s death, that he was in an assisted living home with dementia.

I have mixed feelings about his passing. It’s one of those times that I wish John were here to tell me how he feels about it and tell me how I should feel, what I should do, if anything. Should I send a card to his siblings? I had to break the news to John’s mother today, and that was sad. I wish he were here to do that.

The reality is though that both John and his dad professed to believe in Jesus, so what that means, to me, is that John knew of his dad’s passing way before I did and that they’re together now, without the tension and problems that were part of their relationship here on Earth. I’ve never doubted John’s salvation, but I know John was troubled about making sure his dad believed and would be in heaven. I hope with all my heart that his profession was sincere.

John and his dad weren’t that close. Their history was hard. His parents split when he was young, and he spent summers and the occasional weekend with his dad. He had funny stories about fishing and country living. His dad lived in the sticks. He was a farmer and a truck driver.

I remember John telling me how hard his dad was on him to succeed and do well in life and to make money, and how he never felt he could live up to his dad’s expectations. When his dad gave him a hard time over and over again about not playing well at baseball, John quit the sport and didn’t play any more. The grief from his dad wasn’t worth it.

His dad was the one who encouraged him to study engineering and gave him money for a computer and other college costs. He pushed him into engineering because it would make good money. Turns out it was a good fit for John; he had a brilliant engineering mind.

My boys have lost a granddad they didn’t know they had. They’ve heard me refer to their dad’s dad and they’ve heard a story or two about when they were babies and we took them out to his trailer in the country. His dad didn’t keep his trailer very clean, and once the boys got mobile it was difficult to keep them from getting into the snuff cans and popcorn kernels that were scattered around.

One time John picked his dad up and brought him to our home to visit with us and we took him out to eat at Ryan’s. I remember that John called him the day before to tell him to be ready, but when John got there he hadn’t remembered and wasn’t ready. John helped him get cleaned up so he could bring him to our home. That’s the last time I saw him, I’m pretty sure. John saw him a few times after that, but we never went back as a family.

John was the only child of his mother and his father, but his father had three children from his first marriage, significantly older than John. Old enough that some of their children were John’s same age. He was never close to those siblings either. When John died, all of his siblings came to his funeral and expressed sympathies. I thought that was kind of them.

It feels strange to me to bear the last name of a family of which I’m not really integrated into, and for my sons to pass on that name and line and not know their relatives of the same last name.


Adopting Hudson

Last March we adopted Hudson, a three-month old red-heeler puppy.

The boys had been begging for a dog for years, as boys their age are prone to do. I knew in my heart that it might be a good addition for them to have a companion to play around with, an animal to care for, all kinds of life lessons and responsibilities would be learned, plus the joy of a pet.

But I also knew in my head that a puppy would be additional work and mess for us all (ahem, me!) and we’re gone so much of the time I worried would we have the time needed not to just care for a dog but to really love and spend time with him.

I mentioned in passing to a family at church that the boys wanted a dog and that I was researching different breeds that might fit in with our life — something low maintenance but fun, trainable but able to be on its own while we’re gone during the day.

A young man at church heard me and said his uncle had a litter of red and blue heeler puppies that he was giving away. I had never heard of a red heeler but when I looked it up it sounded like a possible fit.

We drove out to see the puppies and I assured the boys emphatically: We will NOT leave with a puppy today. We are going to see them, then we’ll talk about it and see what we think.

Of course we thought they were all so cute and adorable little fur balls. But I stuck with my guns and left without a dog.

A few days later I asked my parents (my dad knows dogs) to ride out there with us and give me their opinion on this breed and if these puppies in particular were a good choice for us. We will NOT leave with a dog today, I said.

Dad’s opinion was favorable, so armed with all of the research I’d done and the opinion of my dad, we selected our puppy and made arrangements to pick him up a few days later after we’d had the chance to buy all the things we’d need.

When we picked him up and got him in the car, he cried little sad whines, missing his puppy family I’m sure. But he quickly bonded with the boys and they (we) became his new family.

He’s been such a precious addition and all those things I thought he’d add, he did and more.