Archive | July 2013

Going the Distance

Carol Wedding 1Sunday afternoon, July 31, 1977.

Alabama United Methodist Church.  Alabama, NY.

8 bridesmaids in 8 different colors.  Gardenias in their hair and parasols in their hands.

8 groomsmen in white tuxedos with colorful vests and bow ties that matched the popsicle colors of the bridesmaids.

My girlhood dreams were about to come true.  I had met my prince charming with sparkling blue eyes, a southern accent and a call to ministry.  My life was complete.

I’ll never forget walking down the aisle on that 90 degree summer afternoon.  There was no air conditioning in our colonial church building and the sweat was running down the back of my perfect dress.

I looked at my dad’s face and he had a single tear rolling down his handsome cheek.

He gave me to the man who would protect me, provide for me, love me, encourage me and sacrifice for me.

Craig and I had just graduated from Christian college; we had the stability of being raised in loving, Christian homes and now were about to Carol Engagement picembark upon our own adventure.

Little did we know that life would not be perfect … our love would be challenged but it would endure … and that our faith in the God of our parents would be enough.  Our faith would always be more than enough.

On that day, July 31, 1977, there was no possible way that Craig and I could comprehend the devastation of losing 5 babies … the financial challenges that would bring us to our knees … a depression that paralyzed me for nearly a decade … and the gut-wrenching, painful challenges of ministry.

On that day, July 31, 1977, there was no possible way that Craig and I could comprehend the unspeakable joy of raising 5 healthy children for the Kingdom of God … that we would see the provision of God time after time after time … that the power of the Word of God would deliver this wife from a deep and dark depression into the joy of His presence … and that the genuine call to ministry at this moment in history made life worth living.

What have I learned in 36 years of marriage?  Lessons that could fill at least one book and probably more!  However, in honor of our 36th anniversary, I’ve decided to limit my list to the 36 top lessons that I have learned.

These are the lessons would I like to share with all of the brides of 2013 … and anyone else who would care to listen.

36 Lessons from a Marriage that Is Going the Distance

1 – It really is more fun to forgive.  The first one to forgive always wins.  Always.

2 – Marriage is the greatest lesson in dying to self that you will ever encounter.

3 – He wasn’t made for you … you weren’t made for him … but you were both made for Christ.

4 – Laugh together.  Tease one another. love

5 – Marriage does not make you happy.  Only Jesus can make you happy.

6 – Kindness is the greatest gift you can give your spouse.  Kind words, kind actions, kind heart attitudes are the most valuable commodities in building a relationship that will go the distance.

7 – Be faithful not only in your actions but also in your words and thoughts.  Never use the words “divorce” or “separation”.  Never think to yourself in a fit of anger, “Well, I’m just going to leave him.”  Faithfulness begins in your mind and is out-sourced to your words and actions.

8 – If you want to build a great marriage, be a servant.  Never underestimate the power of serving your spouse day after day … week after week … year after year.

9 – You can’t afford NOT to go on dates.  Go out for coffee.  Switch baby-sitting duties with another young couple who can’t afford a babysitter.  Play tennis.  Go for a walk.  Go to the library and read magazines together. Pack a picnic lunch and take a ride through the country.  Dates don’t have to be expensive to be valuable.

Date

10 – Never talk about your spouse in a negative manner in front of your friends, your children or your parents.  Always say positive, encouraging things about your spouse in his presence and behind his back.

11 – Find an older couple who can mentor you through life’s issues.  Invite them into your home for dinner.  Ask them questions.  Ask them to speak into your life and into your marriage.  Imitate their strengths. couple

12 – Don’t complain and whine … that’s what toddlers do.  If there is an issue with which you need to speak to your spouse, do it in a kind, respectful manner.

13 – Choose a song that is “your” song.  Ours is, “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers.  Every time I hear it, my heart melts all over again.

14 – Pray together.  Pray about your finances and your children.  Pray about your destiny and your health.  Pray that your minds would stay sharp and alert in all the years to come.  There is power when a couple who is committed to Christ is also committed to the power of heartfelt prayer.  Mountains will move and hell will shake as you and your spouse hold hands and agree in Jesus’ Name!

15 – Celebrate life!  Don’t be so serious that you become a kill-joy.  Plan a family picnic and play patriotic music on the Fourth of July.  Make a list of blessings and talk about them the entire month of November.  Write him a poem for Valentine’s Day.  Have the entire family participate in a March Madness Bracket and give an annual prize to the winner.

16 – Create a budget, prayer over it and stay on it.  This will eliminate so much stress in the years to come.

17 – Hold hands.

holding hands

18 – Do something special every year on your anniversary.  Don’t let it pass by unnoticed.  Go out to dinner.  Look at your wedding album.  Call the people who were in your wedding and reminisce together.

19 – Read at least one book together every year and talk about it.

20 – Tell your children what you appreciate about their mom or dad.

21 – Choose a scripture that is “your” scripture.  Ours is – “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” – Psalm 27:4

We first read that Scripture over breakfast one morning in the college cafeteria while we were dating.  That scripture was on our wedding invitation and continues to give us focus as to the purpose of our life on earth.

22 – Turn nothing into something.  Make a special meal “just because”.  Serve him breakfast in bed for no reason at all.  Linger over a cup of coffee and listen intently to the cares of his heart.

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23 – Turn something into nothing.  When he is driving you crazy, minimize it.  When he hurts your feelings, bless him abundantly!

24 – Buy him a gift for Christmas.  Craig and I went many, many years without buying one another Christmas gifts because we were so focused on our children.  How I regret it!  You don’t have to spend a lot to make it meaningful.  Buy him a gift card to his favorite coffee shop.  Buy him a t-shirt with his favorite team’s logo on it.  Buy him tickets to the new movie that just came out.

25 – Say “I’m sorry,” even when you don’t think that it is your fault.  When those 2 sincere words come out of your mouth, it diffuses the tension and erases the guilt in the atmosphere.

26 – Say “I’m sorry,” when it is your fault.  Say it quickly and humbly.

27 – When you are frustrated with your spouse for a minor offense, remind yourself of something that you are thankful for in his or her life.  Don’t rehearse and marinate in the daily little frustrations but spend more time being thankful for who they are.

28 – Tell your children the story of how you met and why you feel in love with their dad.

29 – Remind yourself that God has entrusted you with this human being’s self-esteem, the peace of their days, their home life and their heart.  God trusts you enough to allow you to partner with another human being in this treasure called “life”.

30 – Never, never, never, never give your spouse the silent treatment.  It’s cruel.

31 – Read the Bible together and separately.  Share with your spouse what you read in your quiet time that morning.  Read the Bible together as often as you can.  The Word of God truly works a miracle in marriage.

32 – Listen more than you talk.  Ask your spouse probing and interesting questions to draw him or her out.

33 – Never make fun of your spouse in public or in private.  It’s humiliating.

34 – Never correct your spouse in public.  It’s humiliating.

35 – Do something in ministry together.  Go on a missions trip.  Teach Sunday School.  Go to the nursing home and visit the patients.  Volunteer to clean the church together.  Have a missionary family in your home.  Go to the City Mission on a holiday and serve meals.  The possibilities of ministry are endless!

Text message

36 – Say, “I love you” every single day.  Say it when you are frustrated and mad.  Say it at night and in the morning.  Send your spouse an e-mail with the words, “I love you,” in it.  Send him a text message with the words, “I love you,” in it.

Craig … just wanted to let you know how thankful I am for the man and husband that you are!  Let’s do 36 more years together!!

Carol Wedding kiss

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36 LESSONS FOR A MARRIAGE THAT GOES THE DISTANCE!

The Past, Future, & Present

There is a way to have a healthy relationship with your past…your future…and your present!  The purpose of your past is to look back and find the fingerprint of God.  The purpose of your future is to trust God…He’s been to your future…and it’s GOOD!  The purpose of the present is to wring the joy out of it…find the joy in each moment…THIS is the day the Lord has made!

If I Could Do It All Over Again

sarah and famOne of my dearest life-time friends, Sarah, is about to give birth this week to her third baby. Three world changing children known as Emma, Ethan and little no-name boy. (Sarah and Mike have sworn this new little baby boy’s name to great secrecy.  She won’t even tell me! Imagine that!!) Three new little lives in just barely over 4 years.

emma and ethan

Sarah is one of my heroines.

Because of Sarah, I have been thinking about those years when my house was an absolute mess and yet my heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude and love. I have been remembering the years when the laundry never ended, dirty dishes filled the sink and peanut butter and jelly crusts were all I ever ate for lunch.

Do you remember those days?  After my third baby was born, I counted it a successful day if I was out of my pajamas by 4 p.m.  I realized during those never-ending, noisy years that a long soak in a bubble bath was in some ways better than a trip to Hawaii.

In honor of Sarah and all of those other brave young moms who have chosen to walk the very brave road of large families, here is some advice from the heart of a mom who gave birth to 5 and wishes that she could do it all over again!

1 – Read books to your children.

pretty baby and mother read the booksStart reading to them from the day you bring them home from the hospital. Read “Pat the Bunny”, “I’ll Love You Forever”, “Good Night, Moon”, and the Bible.  Even though they may not understand the meaning of the words … they will understand the love and cadence in your voice.   As they grow into toddlers and pre-schoolers, read “The Little Engine that Could”, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, “Amelia Bedelia” and the Bible.

When they are school age and beginning to read on their own, continue to make family story time a well-loved tradition and read to them. Read “Caddie Woodlawn”, “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch”, “Little House on the Prairie”, “Tom Sawyer” and the Bible.

At every age and every stage, read them biographies of men and women who weren’t afraid to dream big dreams and to live a life of resounding importance. Read them the biographies of missionaries, athletes, scientists and musicians.

And … at every age and every stage … read them the Bible.  A child can never read too many books.

 2 – Play music in your home.

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Start playing music to them from the day that you bring them home from the hospital.  Play the classics of Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.  Play the great hymns of the faith that thousands have sung before this little life ever began.  Play worship music that is impacting this generation. Play the worship music that impacted your early years. Play the worship music that impacted your parents and grandparents.  Play Broadway Show tunes and musicals.  Play your favorite music.  A child can never listen to too much music.


3 – Hold your babies.

You never spoil a baby with love.  Rock them and sing to them.  Quote the word over them as you quiet them in the middle of the night.  It is no small thing to be given a gift from heaven … treat your tiny blessing with heavenly care.  Also … may I just say … never underestimate the impact that holding and rocking our babies will have during the teen-age years. But I will get to that later.  Trust me when I say you can never hold a baby too much.

baby hand

4 – Make a list of priorities. What matters the most to you?

A clean house or 3 home-cooked, gourmet meals every day?  Going for a jog or reading a book all by yourself in the evening?  Laundry that is done timely and folded when it comes out of the dryer or a beautiful garden outside your windows?

You can’t do it all … so set your priorities and stick to them.

Don’t ever feel guilty about everything that you aren’t able to do during this season but know that you are doing the most important things in life.

I remember one day when my highly successful, beautifully dressed mother walked into my zoo of a house filled with children. There were toys everywhere, the floor was sticky and the dishes hadn’t been done in days. That’s right … I said, “days”.  I was sitting in the middle of the family room floor reading books to my three boys when she walked in. I looked at her and said, “Mom, I am so sorry that my house looks like this.” She sat down on the couch, started folding the mountain of laundry and said, “That’s o.k., honey, you are doing the important things in life.”

At the end of every long, busy day, remind yourself, “That’s o.k., Sarah, you are doing the important things in life.”

Your children can never have too much of you. You are all that matters to them.

5 – Make sure that there is a lot of laughter in your home.

Serve green mashed potatoes on St. Patricks Day.  Serve hamburgers for breakfast and french toast for supper on April Fool’s Day. Read a joke every night at the dinner table. Bennet Cerf’s Book of Riddles was always our favorite.

Blow bubbles in the summertime and catch them on the tip of your nose.  Giggle together over the simple, delightful things in life. Don’t make your home such a serious place that it lacks the healing power of joy and gladness.  There can never be too much laughter in a home!

6 – Teach your children to pray.

child-prayingTeach your little ones that God really does listen when one of His children talks to Him.   Teach your babies that there is nothing too small to talk to God about. You can ask Him to heal your pets, give you a friend, help Daddy at work and help sister with her homework.

When you teach your children to pray, also teach them to trust God with the outcome. Let them know that God is loving and good and kind and we can trust our frail lives in His trust-worthy hands.  Teach your children that sometimes God says, “No,” … sometimes He says,  “Yes,” … and sometimes He says, “Have patience.”

A child can never pray too much, ask God for too much or trust enough!

7 – Teach your children to dream.

Teach your children to imagine and to dream!  Encourage their little imaginations to go vagabond as they conjure up days of safaris and castles and expeditions into outer space.  Talk to their imaginary friends as if they were truly a part of your family. What fun!  If you can cultivate a culture of dreams when they are little … then … when they are grown … they will refuse to limit themselves with mediocrity.  Say things to them like,

“If you can’t do it … no one can do it!”

“I believe in you!”

“God has great plans for your life!”

“You are here for purpose and destiny!”

“You are an Esther … a David … a Paul … a Moses … a Deborah!”

When they are grown, your children will know that they had a mom who believed in them then … and now.  A child can never have too many dreams.

8 – Know that the investment you are making today will reap a harvest of blessings and solid relationship in the future.

Do you want to know what I believe, Sarah?

I believe that when you hold your babies during these busy, frazzled, too-muchto-do, I-need-some-time-to-myself, would-everybody-please-leave-me-alone-and-let-mesleep-years … that you are planting a lovely garden of relationship with this little one that will be harvested during the teen and young adult years.

When a mom holds a baby, it layers the baby’s life with a security that can be developed in no other way.  When a mom holds a toddler, it chases away unreasonable fears and builds a foundation of trust that no teen-age hormones can erode.  When a mom snuggles with an infant, for no other reason than just because I love you and want you, it builds a garrison of strength around that baby’s heart that no weapon of the culture can penetrate.

So as you hold little “what’s his name”, Sarah, know that someday he will grow up. You only have 18 short years with him.

18 summers … 18 birthday cakes … 18 Christmas Eves that will fly away in a mere blink of time.  Read to him … sing to him … prioritize him … laugh with him … pray with Him … dream with him … hold him.

Sarah … read him the Bible and … please … give him a great name!  🙂

 

UPDATE – July 28, 2013

sarah and babySarah delivered a beautiful, healthy 8 lbs. 1 oz. little boy on July 28th!  And she gave him a GREAT name…  Everett Patrick (Everett means – “Courageous and unending praise!”)

When You Wonder

little heartWhat moves you?  What fills your heart with the echoes of eternity?

For me, it has always been words and melodies.  I remember as a little girl, hearing “The Christmas Song” sung on “The King Family Christmas Special” and it made my heart ache.  I was probably only 7 or 8 years old that December and it was the first time that the beauty of lyrics and melody made me long for more.  The voices of a 40-memberking family family of 4 generations blended in deep and rich harmonies that made the tears roll down my little girl cheeks.  I knew in that moment that somethings are so beautiful that they hurt.

About 20 years ago, I heard a song in a church cantata that moved me with the same type of deep and eternal beauty.  I remember that it was when I was in a daily battle with depression and most days my soul was a hollow vacuum of nothingness.  I went to church the Sunday before Christmas and was so content to sit near the back, even though my husband was the pastor.

The cantata was cheesy at best and most of the music was woefully off pitch and embarrassing.  The sheer inadequacy of the performance only added to my depression.  Then, the choir director, turned around and faced the audience.  I felt like she was looking right at me.  She lifted the microphone to her lips, opened her mouth, closed her eyes and sang in a rich contralto that echoed through the empty caverns of my heart.

“God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand,

When you don’t see His plan,

When you can’t trace His hand,

Trust His heart.” – Babbie Mason

God spoke to me and I was never the same again.  He spoke through the lyrics and melody of a song written by one of His dear children.

These words have become more than lyrics to me … they have become solid theology.  They have become a dynamic and powerful prayer.  They have become a reminder in the darkest moments of my life that I can trust a God Who is good and wise.

“God is too wise to be mistaken …”

rapsfeld mit sonnenstrahlen

My soul rests in the assurance that God really is too wise to be mistaken.  God is never wrong … not one time.  I never know better than He does … never.  His wisdom never contradicts His Word … and I rest there … in that safe place of trusting an all-wise God.

God’s wisdom never changes because God never changes.  His mind and His heart toward His children thousands of years ago is still His mind and His heart toward His children today.  If the ache of your heart is to know the wisdom of God, then you must read and agree with His Word.

If you read His Word and then question it or doubt it, then you really don’t believe that God is too wise to be mistaken.  When my mind and my circumstances tempt me to question the wisdom of God, I am brought back to a place of trust by the lyrics of the life of David, the psalmist and the giant-killer, “And those who know Your Name, will put their trust in You, for You, oh Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” – Psalm 9:10

God’s wisdom is backed up by God’s power.  If He were only wise, with no power with which to move, than His wisdom would have a lesser effect upon our human lives.  But because not only is He the God of all wisdom, but also is He the God of supreme and eternal power, I know that His hand always moves with the wisdom of His Name.

“God is too good to be unkind …”

little heart

When I read those words, I weep.  My heart melts within me at the goodness of the God Whom I love and serve.  There is no unkindness in God.  Everything that comes into my life is filtered through the wisdom, power and goodness of God.

Anything that God is, He is eternally.  God is eternally and infinitely good.  There is not one atom or cell of cruelty, unkindness or badness in God.  God has never had a bad thought about you or has ever been tempted to be mean to you.

He is infinitely and lavishly good.  He is powerfully loving and wisely kind.

“So when you don’t understand, when you can’t see His plan …”

How many times has THAT happened in your life?!   You don’t understand what God is doing … you can’t see His fingerprint in the dailyness of your day … you don’t hear His voice or see the handwriting on the wall.   You scream out for understanding and He is silent.  You demand an explanation from heaven’s heart and get nothing.  You wonder whether He is in control or not …

What do you do at that lonely moment?  Is there a place for your aching soul to land?

“When you can’t trace His hand … trust His heart.”

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This is what you do at that confusing, lonely moment when you wonder where He is … you trust.  You trust His heart.  You trust His wisdom and His power.  You trust His goodness that is never unkind.  You trust that He is enough to carry you through.  You trust the same God whom David trusted.  You get on your face, open the Bible and trust.

A Miracle in the Making

Joy & CadyCady Morgan Kendall.  She was my daughter’s freshman roommate at college.  Joy and Cady were more than roomies.  They were kindred spirits … passionate about life … filled with the joy of youth … sisters to the core.  Their room became the central location for prayer meetings, wardrobe exchanges, chick flick parties and encouraging conversations. Cady & Joy silly

Cady became a floor chaplain at the university while my daughter went through the RA program.  Cady became a head chaplain for her final two years and Joy was a head RA.  They were leaders of the very best kind.  They led by example.  They are both irresistible, actually.

Cady & JoyCady, a pastoral care major, was my summer intern the summer before her senior year in college.  She was the sunshine of all of our days.  She discipled the young women under her watch … kept my kitchen clean … dreamed big dreams for the ministry … and taught us all the power of laughter.  I remember that Cady was so thirsty for the Word of God … she would gulp in every piece of wisdom, vision and encouragement that I spoke into her life.

Cady began to fall in love that summer with a young man who was in Africa on missions.  I’ll never forget the night that my upstairs exploded in glass-shattering screams.  When I ran up the stairs to make sure that everyone was o.k., my youngest daughter, Joni, informed me that Jordan Lewis had just returned from his missions trip and he had texted Cady!  The friendship began and blossomed into romance.

There was just one roadblock.  Jordan was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer before they went back to school for their senior year.  He endured surgeries and dangerous chemotherapy.  The doctor’s said that he might be blind or brain-damaged.  He was neither … he was strong and healed and triumphant!

Cady & Jordan homecomingJordan returned to college for his final semester of college.  Jordan and Cady were named Homecoming King and Queen and continued to serve God and people with an enthusiasm that touched everyone’s heart.

Jordan was in the process of buying a gorgeous engagement ring this spring when his medical check-up showed that the cancer had returned.  Jordan’s 23-year old lungs were invaded by cancerous tumors.

Without even pausing, Cady looked into Jordan’s face and said, “Let’s get married!”

Cady & Jordan engagement

And so … only 3 weeks after the second diagnosis … Cady Morgan Kendall became Cady Morgan Lewis at a wedding that was so lovely …  so enchanting … so miraculous that it was the stuff of which fairy tales are made!

Cady wedding lanterns

Cady & Joy weddingJoy was her maid of honor and spent the two weeks prior to the wedding planning with Cady … praying for Jordan … and making sure that Cady’s wedding sparkled with delight and personality … just like Cady does!

Surrounded by family from around the world … friends from college … and a team of prayer warriors that makes hell shake … Jordan and Cady promised to love each other and care for each other “ … in sickness and in health.”

Jordan promised Cady before the crowd of witnesses, both earthly and heavenly, that he would live a long, long, long time!

Cady & Jordan vows

We all had the sense that we were watching a miracle in the making.  We all knew that this was no ordinary wedding but that God was truly present on the Oklahoma soil.  I wondered if we should all take off our shoes … it seemed as if we were on holy ground for that singular moment in time.

I was reminded that week-end, that the first miracle that Jesus ever performed was at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  I asked God, with tears running down my cheeks, to perform another miracle at this wedding in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Cady & Dad

Cady & Jordan praying

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I asked God to heal this dynamic, world-changing young man.

I asked God to put life into Jordan’s body and to take out the ugly, evil cancer.

I asked God to give Cady more joy than is possible for one human to contain.

I asked God to use this young couple to be a brilliant voice in the darkness of our world that God really does hear our prayers and that He really does love us.

I asked God to give them children and grandchildren.

I asked God to let them get false teeth, social security payments and rocking chairs together.

Would you join me in praying for Cady and Jordan Lewis?  They are spending this week in Cancun, Mexico without a care in the world.

They are spending next week at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston, Texas, in order to get a treatment plan.

Would you pray for a miracle?  Would you pray that God’s love would drip lavishly into their lives?  Would you pray for life?

What miracle do you need today?  You see … one of the miracles of it all … is that Cady and Jordan want to pray for you!  At their wedding, they had a prayer request box that they asked their guests to fill with personal prayer requests.

Cady and Jordan believe what the Word of God says: “ … pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – James 5:16

Cady and Jordan Lewis

June 29, 2013

Cady & Jordan wedding