Calloused Knees — The Sojourner’s Last Mile – Part 3

It is raining hard as we make our way down I-95 South — the windshield wiper blades racing back and forth — crimson lights aglow in the stop and go traffic.  We have been on the road about two hours when Ivy awakens.  Our tummies are growing hungry and we decide it might be a good time to stop and satiate them and our emptying gas tank.

I see a sign for WaWa and decide that it is a safe and good place to stop for gas and as we do, we also see a Culvers — well, thank you, Lord, because Karen and I love Culvers and it will be a new experience for Ivy.  We order our food and take a quiet table so that we can get to know Ivy a bit a better and the conversation takes off.

As Ivy explains to us how she found herself stranded in Sanford — she tells us of all the people she has encountered — many not so willing to help her or even speak to her.  She looks at me and says, “Tam — why are you different?  Why were you willing to help me when so many others didn’t want to give me a place to even sit down and rest?”  I know Ivy isn’t asking a rhetorical question — she is asking from the deep places of her heart — a hurting question that begs an authentic answer — not an empty, callous one.

I look at Ivy — I really look at her and see what others are afraid to see and at that very moment I decide to make myself vulnerable — and not pull any punches — because Ivy needs to see Jesus and not Tam…and, I start:

Ivy — most people are walking around life with a great deal of hurt.  Most have gaping wounds that I cannot even begin to understand.  When life has served you up every raw deal that exists — when you’ve been abandoned at every turn — when it took every ounce of energy just to show up that day — most don’t feel that have anything left to give — they bearly have enough to get through it themselves.  I am talking about that young lady who has nowhere to go — maybe her Daddy threw her out on her backside because she announced that she’s pregnant and the young man has left her to handle it all alone — or the single parent who is not even sure how to fill their babies bellies that night and tomorrow is not looking much brighter — how about the gentleman that walked out of the doctor’s office with the stark realization that he has about six months to live and now he needs to go home and tell his wife the life-time they had planned together has been cut short by about 40 years.  I am thinking about the woman sitting on the couch in the  pastors office — weeping — life has been a struggle — never easy — since the age of 5, when for the first time a man touched her in a way he never should have — she doesn’t know how to put the pieces of life together and really doesn’t want to put them together —she only wants to end her life — it is just too difficult to breathe.

You see, Ivy, everyone has a story — everyone is approaching each day from a place of hurt — and many start developing callouses on their hearts.  They allow the callouses to become an armor or shields to protect them from being hurt further.  Often, then, they cannot see people’s hurts because of their own.

Ivy, I am not immune to such hurt either — but I’ve allowed Christ Jesus to soften the callouses of my heart…to take suffering and use it to help others when He can.  Romans 5:3-5 says,

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

It’s a choice, for me, Ivy — I want God to use me and so I choose to have callouses on my knees rather than my heart!

We reach our destination with Ivy and leave her in the hands of her son.  As Karen and I start back, we are reminded of a verse in Hebrews regarding angels unaware — we are encouraged to help them, who are sojourner’s in a weary land — we might be entertaining angels.  I don’t know if Ivy was an angel, but I do know that God is good to entrust Karen and I with her for a short time!

Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Hebrews 13:2

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Calloused Knees – The Sojourner’s Last Mile – Part 2

As it is almost 4:00 p.m. and Miami is over a 3 and a half hour drive from Sanford, Karen, Ivy, and I get into the car to begin our journey.  Ivy is exhausted after being up for the past 48 hours and we encourage her to just sleep, while I drive.

Ivy stretches out in the back seat of the car and settles in for a long nap and Karen and I begin to softly talk about how God works out His purposes for us all…having a willing and ready heart to do as He bids…letting fear go and trusting.  Ah, trust — that’s a big one!

How do we trust God that the woman, all 100 pounds of her, does not have evil intent toward us?  I watched her in the rearview mirror, as she leaned over the back seat into the way back of Karen’s car, and fumbled with her suitcases.  Unzipping this and zipping that and all the while my mind unzipping fears — “Lord, what is she doing?”

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

We snake our way along 46 trying to make our way to I-95 and are overcome with the flood waters.  Hurricane Irma’s remnants have turned the pasture land into a virtual swamp — we are stunned that it is still so high.  The cows have been displaced — horse stables are washed out — lives still floating in a sea of uncertainty.  That seems to be the theme for the day — Ivy’s life sure was floating in a sea of uncertainty too.

I can hear her heavy breathing, as she trusts — trusting that we do not have evil intent toward her either.  Resting in chaos — exhaustion pulling you beyond your boundaries — having nowhere else to go — surrender — how when life has thrown you a curve ball and you have nothing left and you’ve been left?  You are broken and at the mercy of strangers — spent.

As we continue to make our way, we see more of Hurricane Irma’s destruction — death!  There is an alligator on the side of the road that has been hit by a car.  The rising waters had carried him beyond his safe boundaries — then a turtle who has met the same fate as the alligator — and an armadillo — all crushed and left for the vultures to clean up!

I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.  Psalm 31:12

I am certain that Ivy felt crushed and left too.  Finally, the sign for I-95 and the onslaught of rush-hour traffic.  We make our way onto the on-ramp, accelerate, and I think of the line from Peter Pan…” Second star to the right and straight on to morning.”  We still have more than 3 hours to go and Ivy continues to breathe heavily…we continue to talk softly…and God continues to weave a story, while we trust Him and all that He is doing.

Tomorrow I will continue Ivy’s story, please come back!

Calloused Knees –The Sojourner’s Last Mile — Part 1

She called and left a message that would tear the most hardened of hearts right out of their chest.

My name is Ivy and I am 62 years old and 100 pounds.  I am stranded in Sanford and have been awake for the last 48 hours.  I am at the Dennys and the manager said I can stay here until 5:00 p.m. and then I must move along.  I am trying to get to Miami, but son doesn’t get off until 6:00 p.m.  Please can someone help me <uncontrolled crying> I am desperate!

My heart breaks as I listen to her sobbing and pleas of help…of hope.  I am at a loss…how can I help this woman.  “Lord, show me what to do…please!”  She’s in a strange town…far from home and far from family.  I do the only thing I know to do — I jump into gear!

The first thing I do is call my best friend, Karen, and ask her if she can run to Dennys and pick up Ivy.  “Who in the world is Ivy, Tam?”  “She is a lady stranded here in Sanford…she needs our help, Karen!”  “Well, I just walked out of the grocery store and I have cold stuff and what in the world do I do once I get her?”  “Bring her to my house,” I say.  “Okay  — I’m on my way!”

Karen arrives at Dennys, walks in, sees a battle-worn, frail, and tired woman and says, “Are you Ivy?”  Ivy says, “Yes, but who are you?”  “Well, I am Tam’s friend!”  Ivy retorts, “Who is Tam?”  Karen explains that I am her friend and I received Ivy’s frantic message and that she has come to collect her to take her to my house!  The manager helps put Ivy’s luggage in Karen’s car and they drive to my house.

Ivy and Karen enter through my front door and I see a woman that the world has all but abandoned.  She appears every bit as battle-worn as anyone I’ve ever seen — there are chinks in her armor — she needs love…the love of God and a kindred spirit.

I invite her in and offer her a place on the couch next to me —“Welcome, Ivy!”  “Please make yourself at home.”  I tell her that she can rest here until her son can drive up from Miami — she can take a nap — we’ll fill her belly — all is well!  She sits down — in shock — overcome with gratefulness and begins to weep.  I reach over and clasp her hand and say, “All is well!”

Ivy

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  Matthew 25:35

As she pulls out her phone and calls her son, there is relief now in her heart — she is safe — she is loved — she is sheltered.

Then Karen, Dave (my husband), and I begin talking and we hatch a God-breathed plan to take Ivy to Miami ourselves.  Ivy begins to weep again, calls her boy, and we load up into the car and begin our journey.

Join me tomorrow, as we continue our journey with Ivy on calloused knees.

Why I Have Chosen to Jump on the NFL Boycott Wagon

In the on-going debate over certain athletes in the National Football League (“NFL”) protesting, by taking a knee, during the singing of the National Anthem, there are lots of opinions, anger, and disgust.  Facebook has been pillaged with memes, opinions, hate, and a range of other emotions.  To further kindle and fuel the fire, there are several different boycotts against the NFL — some with no defining purpose other than to boycott and others more specific and defined.

My friend, Lauri Rogers, shared on her Facebook Wall the following [taken in part]:

Entertainers are very highly paid because people will pay more to be entertained than, say, have their kids safely watched. I am always amazed at how a person will negotiate such a small amount of money to daycare workers. We don’t even pay or value stay-at-home moms who are even more valuable to our society’s future.

Lauri is spot on! Those who perform the most valuable jobs in our society, i.e., daycare workers, policemen/women, firefighters, teachers, and stay-at-home moms are the least valued.

We don’t prioritize many things well and I feel that we are far too enamored with celebrities and public figures than we need/should be. We, as a society, have given them “god-status” and then after placing them on a pedestal, we want to demand that they acquiesce to our values and standards when we find out that the bill of goods they sold us doesn’t measure up! It is wrong!

My problem(s) with this whole NFL/National Anthem fiasco is that:

  1. Little eyes are watching. If someone does not want to sing or salute or give pause or whatever to the National Anthem that is their own private business and the First Amendment affords them that right. However, do it without making a scene — because in the 30+ seconds you are dropping to your knees in front of a potential million people does not give you the opportunity or platform to explain your protest — it just makes it all about you! Then those little eyes mimic you with no idea why!
  2. While the players who are kneeling are not intentionally trying to disrespect our Veterans, they really are because it is perceived as disrespect. Perception is reality!
  3. The players who went to the UK and chose to not honor our country not only disrespected our country but they bordered on treason BECAUSE they did stand in honor to “God Save the Queen.”
  4. What is their true protest:
  • The National Anthem being played before the game;
  • The continued racism that does exist on MANY levels in our country;
  • Is the National Anthem racists; and/or,
  • Slavery and if slavery, which kind? Black slavery from before the Civil War Era (that none of us was a party to), human-trafficking for sex-slavery, or the continued effort of certain leaders in our society to keep the black man/woman dependent on BIG MASTER GOVERNMENT by giving them just enough to scrape by and “plantationing” them into ghettos or hoods?

There are a lot of issues here — some being mentioned and others being ignored. However, when a football player or baseball player or any other high-profile individual decides to “take a knee” or turn their back or spew their own hate and fake oppression (I call it fake because they, as individuals, are not oppressed when they are making millions of dollars) are only fueling racism and hatred. Wouldn’t these athletes effect more change if they went into the poverty-stricken, low-income, crime infested, pit of oppression that exists in every State, City, and Town in our country, and drop some of their money and much of their time by showing them that they do honor our National Anthem because America is a place where there IS HOPE!?!

So — I am boycotting the NFL and any other over-paid individual who is willing to waste our time instead of getting up off of their knees or laurels and putting their time and money where their mouth is!

Further — I saw on the news last night that there is an individual in Orange County, FL who has started an organization called, Young Fathers of Central Florida to teach young Dads how to be Fathers. I will share the link. But, before I do, I just want to say that this individual, Haki Nkrumah, understands that in order to change what is, that you have to get up off of your laurels and jump in and start making a difference — not just talk about it. Mine is just another opinion in a sea of them —let’s all put our money where our mouth is!

Here is the link:

Sealed in Christ

This morning my husband and I were talking about the devastating flooding in Houston and surrounding areas in Texas and Louisiana.  My husband said that there are reports that people are beginning to panic and some violence is ensuing.  It brought to mind, for me, the account of Noah and his family in Genesis 7:13-23 when God sealed them in the Ark.

Only Noah, his family, and two of all breathing flesh (male and female) were saved from the flood that destroyed all of the rest of mankind.  Here is the account:

On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature.  They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.  The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters.  And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.  Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.
He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.  Genesis 7:13-23 (ESV)

Sadly I began wondering what Noah and his family witnessed once God had sealed the Ark?  I imagine that when it first began to rain the people outside of the Ark were still making fun of Noah and badgering him. They probably continued to dance around, party, and actually enjoy the rain, as it had not rained for a very long time.  I can even imagine them lifting their goblets of drunkness to Noah and his family — taunting them — probably even throwing objects at the Ark.

However, I am quickly ushered to those rain waters getting ankle deep — then waste deep — and then my mind quickly envisions a completely different scenario!  A scenario of desperation — people scratching at the sides of the Ark begging to be allowed in — cries of repentance — maybe even still curses of defiance.  My heart breaks as I think of Mommas and Daddies lifting there children high above the swelling and begging for Noah — for God — to save their children.  Truthfully, it was too late for the world during the days of Noah — judgment had come — it had come drowning them in their sins — no hope — all was lost for eternity, as the time of repentence got swept away before the rain drops began to pelt the earth.  Parched and unrepentant souls were deluged by the fountains of the deep when the windows of Heaven were opened and like a dry desert they were left unquenched by salvation.

There is coming another judgment one day, but not like it did in the days of Noah.  God, who is Faithful and True, promised to never flood the entire earth again in Genesis 8:21 and 22.  You see, Noah’s story and Noah’s Ark are a picture of Christ Jesus — God, in HIS great love for us, sent HIS only Son to die on a Cross for our sins.  Scripture tells us in I John 2:2, that “He [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (ESV)  That means He became sin for us — He made atonement for our sins meeting the demands of the Father, to appease His wrath, so that humanity could be redeemed to God.

When you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to save you, you are then sealed in the Ark of His Covenant.  Jesus’ death on the Cross assured mankind that there is a remedy — that for the saved Believer there will be no eternal, damning judgment.  God’s redeeming provision is in the person of His Son Jesus — and when we accept Him, God seals us in…just like HE sealed Noah and his family in the Ark.

Beloved — which side of the Ark are you on — sealed in the inside or doomed on the outside?  There is still time — today is the day of salvation — will you ask the Lord to forgive you of your sins and be Lord of your life?

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:9-13 (ESV)

You can pray like this — theres is nothing magical about the prayer, as it is just a guide:  “Lord, Jesus, I am a sinner — I have sinned against God and I am sorry, please forgive me.  Your have promised that if I repent of my sins and turn from them that you will save me.  Jesus, save me!”

If you have prayed this prayer and would like more information on how you can begin living for God, please contact me.  I would love to help you connect with a Bible-Believing, Christ-Seeking church in your area.  God bless you!

If you have not prayed and asked Jesus to save you, please do not wait.  He loves you so very much!

Beauty in Life and Death

There is an intrinsic beauty in life — you cannot mistake it — the birth of a baby, the laughter of children, the gathering of family, and love.  I believe that God ordained it so and created these moments to fill our hearts and keep us moving through life without being weighed down too much by those moments that steal our joy and threaten to smother us.

You know which moments I am speaking of — those things which cause our heart to ache to the point of almost breaking — the death of a spouse, burying a child, or a diagnosis that makes you feel that you’re teetering on the edge of a deep crevasse.  These are those that cut you to the quick — they are catastrophic to our souls.

I have known some of those heartaches — I have, as David declared in Psalm 6:6 “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.”  David begs God in the previous verses to save him with HIS steadfast love.    Further, in Psalm 55:6 David submits, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest!”  I know David’s despair…I have felt it.  Yet, God calls David a man after HIS own heart.

In spite of the pain and despair, I have also found an intrinsic beauty in death.  Death is hard — the most devastating things I have ever had to do in life were to bury my Momma and Daddy — at the time I could find nothing beautiful or worth salvaging from such an experience.  I can find nothing beautiful in seeing misplaced children in the Middle East who have been mowed over by evil.  There is nothing proper or intrinsically beautiful about saying, “Goodbye” to a life-long friend…my heart aches and withdraws and wants to stop beating.

I cannot change these things — I cannot make evil disappear — I cannot turn back the hands of time or change the world.  Honestly, I am face-to-face with my plainness and ordinariness.  I’m, like Job, standing in complete recognition that I am not the sovereign God of the Universe.  As Job said, “Who am I to speak of things I do not know?”

However, with all of this sadness, God showed me a wonderful thing!  Life is beautiful because HE created the beginning and end of it.  HE has shown me this through the simple life-cycle of flowers.  You see, my husband and son gave me some Tulips for Mother’s Day and pink Roses for my birthday.  Both bouquets were so lovely — God created them in such splendor.  However, like all things, the time had come for them to wilt and die and that is when I was overcome with what God had created at the end of life.  He had not wasted the life of something so beautiful — He had, again, created intrinsic beauty in the death of these flowers.

Death means you lived!  It means God created you for something beautiful — you are HIS design and He did not spare beauty in sadness or death.  When someone you love passes on remember that HE IS GOOD!

       Tulip
Rose 3

 

 

Where the Dogwoods Bloom

Blue Ridge Mountains Crossing the Virginia State Line was like stepping into a little corner of Heaven last Thursday!  The anticipation of seeing so many loved ones had me giddy with excitement.  My phone started blowing up with texts and messages…”Where are you?”  “Are you in Virginia?”  “I cannot wait to see you!”

Our first visit was supper with my sister, Rene and her husband George!  We met and time began to stand still and speed up at the same.  Oh, how we laughed…at old things, at new things…George’s expressions and my antics.  We ate until we were fuller than ticks then hugged with the joy of knowing we’d see each other again on Saturday with a promise of longer time together.

Friday morning we hopped into the Jeep and started for Powhatan and Holly Hills Baptist Church.  There waiting were Christie and Carol with baby Lilly, but much to my surprise in came Ms. Ruth and Ms. Maddie and an old youth group friend, Paul.  My heart was overcome with gratefulness and I was full with joy.  We’d all known each other what seemed like a million and one years!  We had laughed together, cried together, sang hymns of praise together and shared a kinship not found often in life.

These three ladies, Christie, Carol, and Ruth where all constant in my teenage years.  I loved them…I admired them…I treasured the influence they all had in my life.  Thank you, Lord, for such godly examples of who I should be.

We then rushed deep into Powhatan to see Curtis and his precious kids — a long visit with them.  They are a picture of perseverance —- through the heartache and loss of dear Katrina — they press on!  As I sat on the couch in their cabin — the summer warmth — and Katrina’s presence ever there — oh how we laughed!  As I gazed into their eyes and tried to freeze a memory, I thought how proud Katrina would be of Brady, Abbey, Ryan, Eric, Jacob, and Aaron.  However, the gaze into Curtis’ eyes was the hardest.  This friend that I went to high school with…trying to carry-on by himself…without the love of his life.  My heart ached — such strength!

We spent a couple of hours then back to Richmond with my Aunt Lorraine with the promise of more on Saturday evening…but more on that in a bit!

Saturday we drove over to Goochland to spend time with my Shook family.  There is where time truly stood still!  Walking into my Mammaw and Pappaw’s home built in the 1800’s.  Those precious grandparents now gone for quite a few years…buried out through the pasture at the old church over looking the home place.  Amidst the laughter — there were echos of years gone by — conversations and laughter and tears that whispered from the decades of living!

“Mammaw….what’s Pappaw’s name?” a little voice asked.  “None of your business…he is Pappaw to you!” she replied to my 10 year old ghost.

I could hear Robin, Angela, and me squealing with delight as Pappaw chewed on our ears while Mammaw pretended to fuss at him!  And, as I gazed out the kitchen window, I saw my 11 year old ghost coming through the field, crickets being disturbed by my little legs going through the tall, un-mown hay, almost as tall as me while carrying my fish I had caught in the pond.  I could almost here Pappaw say, “Well, lookie here!” with a big grin on his face.  In my mind I could almost smell fresh mown hay, mixed with yeast rolls, and the smell of that sweet old house.  The old voices over-shadowed by the new sounds….memories faded but not gone….love still abounded….laughter still present…even though grief lurking in the background because of the absence of Mammaw and Pappaw and Momma and Daddy and cousin, Wade!  Time standing  still…while congealing with the future…life moving on!

Then, as promised, we headed back over to Richmond to visit with Aunt Lorraine — hours and hours looking through old pictures.  Aunti telling me stories of my Grandma and Grandpa Keen…stories never heard before until now.  Laughing at Grandma’s antics when I was a girl — oh how I loved her.  As I soak up the fragrance of Aunti — I am reminded of the strength it took for this family of mine to survive!  Looming over our conversations the whole evening where those coal-filled, sulphur-rich Appalachian Mountains — mountains that had etched out a family — family filled with sorrow and love — babies that never took but a breath buried on the side of a mountain — abject poverty — burned homes — oh, but the love of 7 children who found their way to Richmond with a Mommy they adored and cared for and cherished.  Precious memories and an enduring love from this girl raised by such amazing people!

Sunday a journey to the mountain I love and then back to Richmond to meet with yet another dear friend — a friend that if the truth be known helped me live, along with Christie.  I spent Sunday evening with Dave and Ann Talbott — and settled in comfort on their couch.  We all talked late into the evening about so many things — my husband and Dave mostly.  Ann and I shared some, but mostly I sat and thought how good God is to have filled my life with people who love my soul!

Life mostly is dark — but for a week I got to be around people who invested in my being — who have held my heart and loved my soul!  People who understood a little girl, now woman who is fragile and gave me more…much more than I deserved.

In a land where the Queen Anne’s Lace blankets the fields, the mountains grow with black gold and blue ridges, and the Dogwoods bloom is a place I call home…a place rich in love and family and friends.  Sweet with memories of yester-year where flowers bloom in bouquets of kinship and bright with the birth of new memories named Lilly.  God is good to make me a Virginia Girl and I am grateful…eternally grateful.