19

“There are three things that amaze me — no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.” Proverbs 30:18-19 (NLT).

I fell in love with him.  It was 1989.  He walked into my church.  My eyes tracked his steps. “Where has he been all my life ?” I asked myself.   It was on that night in late May when I talked with him for the first time.  He was home from N.C. State for the summer.   He came to my church because his parents had recently started coming to our church.  I had just finished my freshman year of college at UNC-Greensboro.  I was drawn to his dark eyes and tried to keep glancing into them whenever possible.

 We officially started dating on July 23 of that year.  He had turned 19 in June then I turned 19 in September.  It was during that year when I fell in love with him.  Our families had Sunday lunch with each other allowing us a unique opportunity to get to know each other.  On our first outing together, a “first date”, an unlicensed driver plowed into us as we traveled to see a Christian comedian.  The police officer took us back to my car which we had parked at our church.  I had never been to his house but I had to take him home that night because his truck was undriveable.  I sat in a chair in his den while a black cat jumped into my lap and two dachshunds barked around my feet.  Since I was never a fan of pets except my Grandma’s dog, I felt sweat building on my forehead while also wanting to not wish to let him know my huge fear of animals. As the summer wore on,  we’d swim in his family’s pool which gave me the chance to interact with his animals.  I finally got to be at ease with the dogs and cat.  I liked to grab a Wendy’s Frosty after church on Sunday nights with him and watch TV.

When fall came, we parted and he moved into his dorm in Raleigh. I settled into my dorm too with a friend.  Although we were two hours away, we would visit each other as much as possible on the weekends.  He arrived at my dorm room door one fall night dressed in a bow tie and black coat wearing faded blue jeans and holding a dozen roses.  I could see him walking up to my old dorm through my window.  I have pics of that moment.  We were 19 and in love.

We had long phone conversations where I did a lot of the talking.  I wanted him to know me. He was all ears.  We drove to Asheville where we toured Biltmore house on a rainy Saturday. Our sophomore year of college ended.  We worked in church camp cleaning dishes and hanging out.  He was my boyfriend.  My boyfriend who loved Jesus like I did and still do.

One weekend between session 1 and 2 of UNCG Summer School, we drove 8 hours to our first trip to the Outer Banks.  My college friend, Melissa, had invited us to stay at her boyfriend’s family’s house near Cape Hatteras.  It was a long drive for sure.  On Saturday while my boyfriend and hers surfed, Melissa and I held on to a single boogie board and talked as we floated in the ocean water.  We were very close to the black and white diagonally striped mammoth known as the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  Before we realized it, the current had taken us out farther than we wanted to be.  We started trying to swim back to shore which didn’t seem like it was way too far, but it became increasingly more difficult.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but we were caught in a rip current which keeps swimmers from swimming back to shore unless they swim parallel to shore.  The rough waves crammed my head several inches below the water again and again while my feet dangled.  I squeezed my eyes tightly shut to keep my new contacts from getting lost.  They were my first pair of contacts and I didn’t want to have to explain how I lost them to my parents.  Melissa graciously allowed me to hold on to the boogie board for dear life while she bounced up and down as the waves took her under.  She would yell, “Get ready.  Here comes another one!” allowing me to brace myself for a series of tormenting moments.  When I would open my eyes, I would see Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  I was glad to see it since the only other option was to be carried under the waves for good.

I found out later that it was my boyfriend who noticed Melissa and me and thought it strange that we were such a long ways from the shore.  He began to swim toward us.  He reached me first and held me followed by the lifeguards who hoisted my weak body on to a long red life saving board.  Melissa was also rescued.  We arrived on the sandy shore exhausted and depleted.  My left tricep had a nasty dark blue bruise.  My breathing slowed to normal while I coughed salt water up.  I embraced my boyfriend who had lifted me out of those dark waves.  Because of him, I was alive and well.  I teared up as I thanked my precious friend for sacrificing and letting me have the boogie board or else I would have surely drowned. She kept me calm as we endured the worst physical battering of my life.

I knew that this boyfriend of mine had been used by God to rescue me and allow me a second chance on life.   God helped me make the connection between the words of an old hymn which I love and my near death experience in the ocean.  It is “Love Lifted Me”.  I cry when I picture Jesus rescuing me from sin through His death, burial and resurrection.  Jesus and Gene came to me when I was far from peace.

Verse 1:

I was sinking deep in sin

Far from the peaceful shore

Very deeply stained with sin

Sinking to rise no more.

But the master of the sea

Heard my despairing cry.

From the waters lifted me

Now safe am I.

Chorus:

Love Lifted me

Love Lifted me.

When nothing else could help

Love Lifted me.

Love Lifted me

Love Lifted me.

When nothing else could help

Love Lifted me.
A month after our ocean rescue, he arranged for us to have dinner at a restaurant then dessert by candlelight by his backyard pool.  We were celebrating our first anniversary.   I wore a white skirt with a blue and white striped shirt which he had given to me.  The candlelight danced on the pool water.  He gave me a Precious Moments music box with a boy and girl and a tree with a sign on the tree:  “I love you.” were the words on the tree.  He had told me that he loved me long before that night, but I remember that night very well.  I love how he looked into my eyes.  He and I couldn’t be happier.

We finished college and I moved two hours away to teach third grade.   We took a break a couple of times but those moments only brought clarity to us about who and what we wanted.  I earned a Master’s Degree but a month before I graduated, on Nov.9, 1996, he proposed to me.   We had waited about getting married until he was accepted into Veterinary School but the news came in the Fall of 1996 that he would attend N.C. State’s Vet School.  Our time had come!

We planned our wedding for June of 1997. This June, we will celebrate 19 years of marriage.  Technically, we started dating 26 years ago.  The 19 years of marriage have passed bringing joy and hurt.  My friend, Melissa, gave us a framed quotation which are lines from our wedding vows.  I have gazed into our curio where it has sat through the years.  It’s words pulled me back together and reminded me of what I had promised to him on many of an occasion.  Here are the words that she had written in calligraphy and framed:

Our love has gone through many phases and been filled with beautiful moments such as with the births of our two children.  I treasure our marriage because it has provided great joy and endured valleys of sadness and uncertainty.  We love each other differently than when we were 19.  It amazes me to know that we have forgiven mistakes and given grace to each other.  We had no idea as nineteen year olds what we would experience while living out our lives together.  I think that if we had known, we would not have been so bold as to get married.  But, we did.  My boyfriend became my husband, my husband who still looks into my eyes and just knows me.

I am amazed, like King Solomon, that a man can love a woman like Gene loves me and that I can love him.  We are very different individuals.  Through the years, though, he and I have overcome obstacles that stood between us and made the choice to love and stay together.  He makes this choice daily.  I make the same choice daily to love him.  I pray for him and ask our Lord to protect his heart and our marriage from all evil.

There is nothing ordinary about our love.  He rescued me when we were 19.  Now that we are 19 years into marriage, I can say that God rescues us as we sometimes feel an emotional disconnect.  Our hearts start to connect again and we are brought back to life.  Usually, it is after the Holy Spirit moves on our hearts that we realize our flailing reactions to the battering that life gives us.  We apologize and forgive.  We laugh hysterically.  We watch movies not just on Friday Night Family Movie night.  He loves to fall asleep holding me.  I will admit, it is an amazing place!

Happy Anniversary just a bit early, my Gene.  I love you.  I am in love with you, still.

Mother Margot

Discover. Play. Build.
Thank you to Ruth Ayers for providing a space to link our celebrations at www.ruthayerswrites.com.

Psalms 92:4 “For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.” NIV

Today I am celebrating life:  Specifically, the lives of all of the babies in heaven and all of the lives of children on Earth.

My precious friend, Margot, published a blog post today.  This is her first Mother’s Day weekend in which she is holding her baby.  She and her husband held on to hope and prayed for God to grant their desire to have a healthy baby.   I have previously blogged about what I learned by praying for them as they experienced many hurdles to becoming parents.  I have rejoiced as she has given us updates each week on how her baby is doing, but seeing Margot rejoice in her blog today, caused me to want to celebrate all the more,  especially as we enter Mother’s Day weekend!

She included in her blog a list of “firsts” that she has experienced during the last six months since her child arrived.  Seeing her list of “firsts” has helped me to celebrate with her in the miracle of life which she holds each and every day.  Knowing that she loves on her little baby each day and has experienced so many “firsts” with her gives me confidence that God had a special plan to help Margot, her husband, their families and friends.  We have seen how God provided in their miraculous story which is a constant reminder to me to trust God in all things.

I smile and cry happy tears when I read how she composed her list of firsts.  Some of her lines about her child go like this:

“She’s the first one to make me…

She’s the first one to provide…

She’s the first one to teach me…..

She’s the first one to light….”

There is such joy in being a mom which is abundantly evident in Margot’s blog today.  I am a believer that we can trust God to give us the desires of our heart.  Margot’s baby arrived last Fall and all of us who were watching and waiting online breathed a sigh of relief when the pictures started popping up on social media to let us know that baby had arrived.  They were on the other side of the world to welcome their miracle.  While Margot and her husband waited on God for an answer to prayer, they had no idea what would be in store for them.  They are now getting daily does of love from their baby and are being filled with joy.

God is using their answer to prayer to make them rely on Him more and more, to provide for them, to teach them and to light their hearts.  They have other children who are in heaven.  We miss them and celebrate them.   I know, though, that this child whom they hold in their arms, is God’s gift to them.  For this child they prayed, like Hannah in the Bible when she prayed to have a child.

I celebrate my friend Margot on this Mother’s Day weekend!

Father God,

Thank you for providing a miracle.  I thank you for how you are daily filling Margot and her husband with your joy and love.  You are the one that we praise for this miracle.  We rejoice in your deeds.  The work of your hands in forming this child is abundantly evident.  You know how to weave us into the people we are.  I ask that you continue to bless Margot, her baby and her family.  She does not take for granted what you have done.  Bless her always, dear Lord, for her faith in you and allow hope to continue to spring up in her heart.  Thank you, Jesus, for answering prayer for Margot and her husband.  Thank you for listening to all of us as we believed in you to create a life and to allow us to experience that life on Earth.

For it is in the Strong and Mighty Name of Jesus I pray.

Your daughter,

Lisa

 

 

Attacked In My Yard

Early on a recent Saturday afternoon, I plugged up the electric hedge trimmers and headed out to manicure four green bushes by our house.  I couldn’t stand how overgrown they had gotten.  They were a mess.  There was a Knockout Rose bush right in the middle line up of the bushes.

Although my hair was down for the first 10 minutes, I pulled it into a pony tail eventually because of the humidity and instant sweat that was building.  I had a feeling it would rain that afternoon.  When I started my yard work, it was partly cloudy with sun.  Some clouds were dark.  It wasn’t long before I knew that storms were coming but I needed to finish trimming the bushes and mow the front lawn.  I pruned the bushes more and more until I liked how they looked, but realized I had made a huge mess of little limbs which were laying all over the pine straw under, behind and around the bushes.

I was working hard to finish.  My bright idea to go and get the blower turned out to cause an even bigger mess.  Blowing the mess made it worse as it blew not only the limbs but also the pine straw and dirt out of their home. I knew I needed a broom and rake, so I put the blower down, accepted my reality of now having an even larger mess and grabbed the new tools from the garage.  Lifting the limbs from behind and around the bushes was much easier with the rake, but some stray trash was left around the bushes.

When I lifted the trash with my bare hands, I got a rose thorn in my finger.  After experiencing the pain for a few moments, it stopped hurting once I pulled the thorn out.  Raking the trash and seeing it come forward from behind the bushes, I knew that I was almost done. I picked up limbs and moved them across our concrete sidewalk and threw them joyfully into the front yard.  I decided to start sweeping all of the dirt, limbs and pine straw that had blown into our driveway and on the sidewalk.

As I swept the trash and debris into the front yard, I was suddenly side swiped with a horrible thought about my past.  I praise God for healing my heart and continuing to make me whole.  Somehow, though, I knew that this was an attack from the enemy just like that thorn had come out of no where and pierced my skin.  I stood almost paralyzed with my broom while I relived in my mind the hurt and hopelessness.  Within seconds, though, I thanked God for how He has been so gracious to heal me with His love, knowing my heart has been and still is tender, and how he has delivered me from all of my troubles.

Knowing that the Holy Spirit was with me allowed me to take heart and move forward with my chores in the yard.  I suppose that the enemy of my soul felt it was his opportunity to attack me.  Fortunately, I know the tactics of the devil and decided to ask God to help me not to dwell in the memory.  I remembered my deliverance and how God is making all things new in my life.  The old has gone.  The new has come.

It was time to mulch the limb debris so I drove the lawn mower from the backyard where my husband was going to be using it later.  I powered it up and began to drive over the limbs from the bushes.  After I mowed once across the lawn, I felt the first raindrop.

I mowed as fast and furiously as I could.  I would not allow those pesky dandelion weeds to stay there another day. Intentionally, I mowed them down.  Drips of rain flowed between my eyebrows and down my nose.  My glasses were completely drenched.  I finally finished having mowed most of the area in our front yard.  I felt a peace about mowing in the rain and just kept going until it was done.

As I entered the house, I realized how wet my shirt had gotten.  It was soaked along with my hair.  I wiped my arms and changed shirts.  I was so thankful to take refuge in my home.  It was great to do the yard, but even better to come inside away from the drenching drops of rain.

As the next day came, we went to church.  My pastor, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, used the following verse as his text:

Luke 4:3  “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.”

He mentioned that we, like Jesus, are attacked by the devil when we are alone or feeling lonely.  I was alone in the front yard while my family was in the back yard.  They had jobs to do but I had to do my part of the yard work too.  It was after I had pruned and manicured the bushes and was sweeping up the mess, when I was pierced with the thoughts from the enemy of my soul.  I understand now that the devil had waited for the opportune time.  Wow.  In that moment while sitting in church, I realized that I had just been tempted the day before to believe a lie when the attack of the devil had bombarded my mind in the yard.  Thankfully, I believed truth and not lies and moved ahead in peace and victory.

Matthew 4:11 from The Message says:  The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.”  Just as the devil left Jesus, he left me too as I prayed in my mind while holding that broom in the yard.   I am thankful that as the cleansing rains came, I had already run to Jesus.  He sheltered me and kept me safe.  I believe also that his angels ministered to me to help me persevere through the rest of the yard work.

Later on in the afternoon after Sunday lunch, my family did errands.  I shopped with my daughters for impatiens plants for our backyard and paint for our front door.  We later drove to the mall and found some dresses for my oldest child’s graduation and school dance.  Sun was shining with clouds.  After our final stop, I couldn’t believe that it was raining when we exited the store.  We quickly put our bags in the back of my van and jumped into our seats.  My skin was soaked seemingly more than my shirt.  I wiped my skin with my shirt.  I said, “This is the second time in two days that I’ve gotten rained on!”

There is such great joy to be covered again and protected from the rain.  The key is to know that I am with God whether I’m in the rain, in the shelter or trying to clean up messes on partly cloudy days.

Psalm 61:4  “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”

My heart’s desire is to dwell with God forever and take refuge in Him.  By relying on Jesus when I am in a deluge of memories of mistakes or hurt over what others have done, I have the resolve to rely on Jesus and the truth of His Word.  I have to lift up my heart and know that I do not have to stay where there is no shelter.  The Holy Spirit and the Word of God direct me to truths that I can count on which will protect my mind and my heart.

Hallelujah!

As I have thought about that day in the yard, I remembered the zeal with which I started the yard work and the perseverance that it took both physically and mentally.  My arm and back muscles were sore for several days.  My heart also had to recover from the attack by continually praying, trusting God for peace and reading His Word.  It helped me to talk to God about moments that threatened my peace and joy.  The Bible tells us that it is the enemy’s job to steal, kill and destroy.  I know that Jesus came to give life and to give it more abundantly.

What a contrast to know that I trust in the Maker of life itself, the one who overcame death, hell and the grave, the Redeemer of my soul through His blood shed on the cross of Calvary and my soon coming King!   He is faithful to always be with me.  The Holy Spirit allowed me to realize the truths found in Psalm 86:13, 15 in the MSG version of the Bible:

“You’ve always been great toward me – what love!  You snatched me from the brink of disaster!…You, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit.”

Another lesson I have pondered from my experience is that when you clean up messes, beware of thorns.  I thought I could handle picking up the debris with bare hands much like I have thought that I could deal with hurt, sadness and loneliness.  Some issues that have affected me are like those thorns laying in wait.  When something triggers us and we get a memory revived in our mind’s eye, it is important to take any issue to Jesus.  And, realize we are under attack.  As I continue to focus on God’s word and pray to Him, I realize that the attack is only temporary.  He is working all things out for my good.

Thank you, Jesus!

The final lesson I’ve been internalizing is that the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness where the tempting began from the enemy, but did not intend for Jesus to stay there.  I know that it was not the Father’s intent for Jesus to stay in that wilderness.  It is not His will for me or you to constantly entertain the enemy if he appears or a situation happens that seems like a wilderness experience.  I need to know the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to bring Scripture to my mind if I am under attack or read it straight from a Bible.

Jesus repeated Scripture when the devil tried to trick him.  Jesus had a strategy:  Use the Word.  He was the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, but He also spoke the Word.  There is Power in the Name of Jesus and there’s power in His Word.  His word lights my path so even if there is darkness that is trying to invade, His Words are sweet and make me wise.  Oh, how I hope in his Word and His Word holds me.  I have been so blessed by the Psalms in all of my thinking about this attack.  I’d like to end my post today by sharing the Word:

Psalm 119:97-117 King James Version (KJV)

97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.

102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.

103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.

105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.

107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.

108 Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.

109 My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.

111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

112 I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.

113 I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

114 Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

115 Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.

116 Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.

117 Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.