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I watched her wipe her tears as she struggled to decide which bachelor to send home.  Warnings of a particular young man had risen several times, but she had no choice but to ‘follow her heart’ and keep him around.

How many times have we heard that timeles bit of “wisdom?”  How often have we quoted it to a dear friend at a crossroad or even used it to justify our own actions inspite of the warning signs presented to us? 

But hang around long enough and you’ll see the tragic results of practicing such nonsense. When the relationship falls apart, when we can’t pay the bills, when the collateral damage piles around our feet, do we then say…”well, at least I followed my heart”? 

What we should be asking ourselves is ‘”at what point did my brain disengage? ” 

Why are we surprised by the consequences of leaving common sense behind?

We women should be especially cautious.  Know thyself, girlfriend!  We are emotional, fickle and at times a little flakey.  It’s an aspect of our sex that can be charming.  But more often than not, it reaps consequences for which we didn’t plan (and OHHHH how we do plan!)

God has warned us in His Word, “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it?”  And think about it, how often have we said the words “what was I thinking?”, “why did I buy this outfit?” ‘” why did I go out with them?” “why did I agree to organize this party?”  You can fill in your own blanks here.

We are human; fallen creatures born with natural selfish tendencies that can justify…well… just about anything.  But we don’t have to live that way.  We can choose to live wisely.  Admit what we would LIKE to do and then set it aside long enough to ask God for wisdom. 

There are a few guidelines I try to live by when faced with making a decision. They’re not original to me but I can’t really remember where I got the information.  Nevertheless, it’s good stuff.

Never make a decision when you are: Hungry, Tired, Lonely, PMS-ing, Mad or Depressed. 

You are NOT at your best during any of these times.  Bad choices often come from moments of desperation and attempts to fill a void.

Speaking of time; it is your friend.  Perhaps you were given a specified amount of time to make a decision.  Think about the perameters given to you.  Is it a reasonable amount of time? Ask for more, if possible.  Is the pressure you’re feeling truly coming from an outside source, or your own impatience?  How big of a role are your emotions playing in this?

Lastly, check your motives.   This statement speaks for itself.  It requires us to be brutally honest with ourselves.  God already knows our motives.  It’s we mere humans, that prefer “blissful ignorance.”  But getting to that point of truth gets us closer making right choices that affect not only ourselves but those around us.

So follow my heart?  Hmmmm, not so fast.  Let me check in with common sense and the God Who Loves Me FIRST!

Just a few thoughts from my journey so far….

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God has taken me on an interesting Journey over the last 12 months.  I don’t know what it’s all about, but I do know He has a plan and it’s a good one.  One of the things that has always helped me process life has been music.  In college, my time with God was often at the keyboard of a baby grand in a particular building on campus.  I am so thankful for the talented people that willingly go through (what to me would be) a painful process of writing a song.  I reap the blessings of their talents.

This song by Shaun Groves sums up my day, and well honestly my entire life on this planet.  I need a good house cleanin’ about now.  So basically this song was my prayer tonight. 

Welcome Home by Shaun Groves

Take, me, make me
All You want me to be
That’s all I’m asking, all I’m asking

Welcome to this heart of mine
I’ve buried under prideful vines
Grown to hide the mess I’ve made
Inside of me
Come decorate, Lord
Open up the creaking door
And walk upon the dusty floor
Scrape away the guilty stains
Until no sin or shame remain
Spread Your love upon the walls
And occupy the empty halls
Until the man I am has faded
No more doors are barricaded

Chorus:
Come inside this heart of mine
It’s not my own
Make it home
Come and take this heart and make it
All Your own
Welcome home

Take a seat, pull up a chair
Forgive me for the disrepair
And the souvenirs from floor to ceiling
Gathered on my search for meaning
Every closet’s filled with clutter
Messes yet to be discovered
I’m overwhelmed, I understand
I can’t make this place all that You can

repeat chorus

I took the space that You placed in me
Redecorated in shades of greed
And I made sure every door stayed locked
Every window blocked, and still You knocked

repeat chorus

Take me, make me
All You want me to be
That’s all I’m asking, all
 I’m asking

 

I don’t know about you, but I can related to prideful vines, hidden messes, souvenirs from the search for meaning and being overwhelmed at the enormity of needed repairs.  The good news is that He’s busy at work; even when I don’t see the evidence, or much progress.  But I’ve got to do my part and open the doors, unlock the windows and let Him in to do the cleaning. 

Tonight, I turned the key.

 

 

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***Note: this entry is a raw, honest account of a tough night for my family.  If you are in need of something light and happy, please refer to posts from the more fun categories of my blog. Thanks for understanding my need to document this night.****

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I can imagine the brass bands playing the familiar tune down the streets of New Orleans on this particular Tuesday night, before Lent.

But I could hear it in my head for different reasons.

I got the call at work.  Grandpa was having trouble breathing so the Nursing Home/Rehab Center felt he needed to go to the hospital.  He’d been in the facility for less than 2 weeks to recover from a fall.

I assumed it was the effects of yesterday’s indigestion. I was not ready for what I encountered.

“It’s bad, Christa.”  Mom stated looking at me through red, swollen eyes.   Then she turned to my Dad crying “I can’t do this! I don’t want to do this!”  “This” was deciding whether to put her Daddy on life-support.  I immediately pleaded with the Lord to not put her in that position.  He didn’t.  The doctors came in letting us know it was double pneumonia.  And in his case it would be fatal.

“Time?”  was all I could sqeak out.

The answer was between the next 20 seconds and two days.  But closer to the former.

So we stayed by his bed.  Mom, Dad, Aunt Della, Uncle Lloyd and me, his only grandchild.  The doctors closed the curtains to give us privacy.

He was restless, uncomfortable from the oxygen mask and distended stomach.  He tried to talk to us, but it wasn’t clear.  What we could understand were the “I love you’s” in response to our “I love you’s” to him.  We patted him, kissed him, stroked his head, face, arms and hands.  Telling him what we so desperately wanted him to know in these precious last moments.

“I love you, Grandpa”

“You’ve been the best Daddy in the world”

“God is so proud of you,  you’ve served Him so well”

“Everyone loves you so much”

“So many people know Jesus because of you”

“So many people are ‘hitched’ because of you”

“Remember when you were going to baptize me in the lake?  I asked you if it would be ok with God if I peeked under the water to see if I saw a fish.  You said, yeah, you reckon it would be ok with God if I peeked.  So, I peeked.  And my memory tells me I did see a small fish.”  I was seven years old.

He was becoming more still.  His eyes were open but occasionally they’d get wider.  I knew he couldn’t see us anymore, but he could hear.

“Do you see Jesus, yet?  What does His face look like?  What’s it like to look into the eyes of your Savior, the one who made you?”

All of this was said and done while simultaneously watching the monitors.  The waves on the green monitor were getting smaller and less frequent, the numbers lower and lower.  It was a count down with no certain time frame.

He closed his eyes.  I couldn’t take in enough of the details.  It’s strange the things that randomly run through your brain during these desperate moments.  It’s not like ER or Grey’s Anatomy.  The ending is slow and undefined.  No sudden flatline.  No dramatic music.  Just a surreal silence.  Your brain trying to reconcile the reality of death, but not fully comprehending it even as it’s happening before you.  My hand had been over his heart, inspite of not being able to feel the faint beating for several moments.  Then his breathing  had slowed so, I couldn’t tell if he was breathing at all anymore.  The lines on the green screen were pretty flat.

7:43pm

The nurse confirmed it.  He’s gone.   Mom let out what I can only describe as a soft wail.

It had been less than two hours since the ‘fatal’ word had been given.  He did not suffer long.

I belive God.  I believe His Word is true.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Do I truly believe what I’ve claimed for years?   Yes, but why the constant tears, the sharp pain? 

I can relate to the father that said to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

This life is all we’ve known.  It’s all we’ve been seeing, touching, hearing, feeling and living.  Eternity hasn’t been experienced yet.  God knows this and has sweet mercy on us in our weak state.  “He remembers we are dust.”  I’m so incredibly thankful for that.  Because nothing can truly prepare you for this.  It doesn’t matter how long someone has been on this Earth, you’re never ready to let them go.

We can only imagine the sights and sounds he was experiencing at that very moment.   What was happening these first minutes in heaven?  Had he seen Grandma?  Was he catching up with his old preacher buddies?  Or was he simply bowing at his Saviour’s feet?  A man who had been preaching the Word for 73 faithful years, was most likely doing the latter.  I can still hear him quoting the Scriptures on up to the end.  He wanted to go home.  Not back to Oakdale, Tennessee, but to his “home on high” as he told Mom Sunday night.

Thursday, February 26

Grandpa had lived in Morgan County for more than 70 years.  He came from Arkansas to start a church with some of his friends.    And he left an amazing legacy.   The stories we heard as people came through the receiving line at the funeral home were those of a community tightly-knit from spending your entire life with the same people.

“Brother Fred married us 63 years ago.  And he tied knots well because I can’t get rid of my husband.”

“Preacher Copeland drove my school bus and my Mom’s too.”

“Mr. Fred married me – both times.”

“Bro. Fred baptized me.”

“I’ve never heard a bad word about Mr. Copeland.  And never heard him say a bad thing about anybody.”

“He never had an enemy in his whole life.”

On and on the stories came.   What an honor to be a decendant of such a great man.   

Some out of town guests stopped for a snack at a market down the road.  The person behind the counter looked at them and said, “You must be here for Preacher Copeland’s funeral. ”   They were taken aback by the accurate assessment.  We also learned that when the singers got together to practice songs for the service, they spent the first hour crying before they could start practicing.   Fred Copeland was a loved and respected man.

He had a great sense of humor an nicknamed everyone.  I can still hear him calling out to me when I’d visit him, “Come on in here, Heavy!” (Yes, he called me Heavy.) “How’s my graaaaand youngin’?”  He would be wearing his overalls with a thumb tucked in under one of the straps.  If you had been introduced to him, he would say “proud to know ya” as he shook your hand.  And you would have loved him instantly.  Everyone did.

Saturday, February 28th. 

We burried Grandpa today during a cold, rainy drizzle.  Our family has been overwhelmed at the out pouring of love from friends and family.  Sitting with us at the hospital, offering shoulder massages, bringing chess squares, sending love and prayers with Facebook, email and text messages, buying cat food and feeding the cat, driving to East Tennessee, loading flowers & plants in their cars b/c there was no more room in ours.

I just hung up from talking with a precious friend who knows all too well what this week has been like.  She understands that sometimes you want to talk about things and sometimes you just don’t feel like talking at all.    God is so good with the blessing of friends!

Witnessing a loved one leaving this life is a painful blessing.   But life on this earth is not the main event.  This is not “all there is.”  We have the hope of forever with our Savior and our loved ones. 

Grandpa, you are loved and I’ll hug you again, “drectly.”

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December 20th

The phone rang.  It was my manager from Kirklands.  Apparently the corporate office wanted to interview me for an Assistant Buying position.   

I had three interviews in less than a week.  I received an offer 10 days after the first call.

I thought I had been preparing for this day for months.  But the transition my mind had to take in a 10 day span was overwhelming.

I had researched the company and felt good about it. 

For months I had planned, explored, brainstormed, networked, analyzed and prepared- for only God knew what.  But one thing I hadn’t done.

Grieved.

I had not grieved the loss and eventual leaving of an industry I’d lived and breathed for over 15 years. 

And so I grieved.

And then I started thinking about the job.  The opportunity and what it could bring.   The most basic change of having my nights and weekends back would alone be a welcomed change.  Everyone I met during the interview process was so nice.  And I love Kirklands’ products.  Half the items in my house came from that store.

I spent some serious time with the Lord.  Clearing out any pre-conceived notions, making sure my will was completely surrendered to whatever God was calling me to.

And I got excited about it.

January 5th I began my new adventure as Kirklands’ new Assistant Buyer for Lamps, Furniture and Seasonal items.

I am officially out of ‘temporary retirement.’

I have a job!  woo hoo!  God is good.  And His timing….well that just cracks me up!  I joked with Him that I’d try to avoid calling Him “Last-minute Lord” and instead reverently refer to Him as “Just in time Jesus.”   

I bet that made Him grin.

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Well, hello there.  I hope you are doing well.  Yes, yes, it’s been a good while since I’ve written.  A grievous offense in blogdom.

Allow me to give you the cliff notes edition of my last few months.  I have not really wanted to write about it until now.

I had a wonderful job in Christian Publishing, an industry I’ve been in for over 15 years.   The economy tanked and  I was laid off from the wonderful job.  Ministries are often the first to feel a hit when financial strains occur.  Although the following months were full of varying emotions, I knew full well none of it came without first passing through the sovereign hands of God.  I had days of excited anticipation over a new adventure and then days of frustration from the lack of progress in the job hunt.  One can stand only so many hours a day of searching online, filling out applications, sending out resumes and leaving unreturned messages for hiring managers. 

My heart goes out to anyone without a job in this current environment.  It will test your metal.

However, along with the expected stresses came wonderful joys for me.  For one, I got more sleep than I’ve had in years.  Thanks to severence, savings and most importantly, The Sovereign, my season of  ‘temporary retirement’ was a gift.  

I finally got around to all those house projects.   Finish painting the last two rooms.  Sort through years of paperwork, shredding the old documents.  Reorganize the kitchen cabinets.  Decide on window treatments etc.

I was able to get reacquainted with dear friends.  Like going to the mall and the zoo with my friend J and her two adorable little boys.  Having coffee with friends in and out of ‘the industry’ to catch up and even discuss potential future career opportunities.  That’s the wonderful thing about Christian Publishing in Nashville, coworkers become life-long friends.

Of course in that span were the trips to India and Missouri.  I continued to work evenings and weekends at Kirklands which became busier with the oncoming holidays.

Yes, Christmas was around the corner.  I love the holidays but I couldn’t help but feel a little antsy.  What was on the other side of that season? 

I had begun to work on Plan B.  Which was the option of starting my own consulting business which lead to shopping for individual health coverage.

Just what I had always NEVER wanted to do.  Own my own business.  But I had to at least pray and do the research.  Nothing else was developing.  Pray, I did.  And research, I did.  I bought books, and actually read them.  I consulted with friends and friends of friends on the matter.  You can’t imagine the prayers that went up.

The daily-ness of the ‘big unknown’ was beginning to wear on me.  But I never truly allowed myself to dwell on it.   It’s not my way to dwell on unpleasant thoughts of doubt and fear.  In fact, I just let go.  I literally let go.  I put aside the research and even the thought of consulting.  My brain needed a break during the upcoming holidays.

So, I finished my Christmas shopping an learned to make toffee. 

Yep, that’s what I did.  

Then came December 20th.

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You know the scene. Snide comments mumbled under their breath, or even braisenly hurled across the table. 

One person rushes up to another excitedly or angrily whispering the latest rumor.  The more ‘discreet’ ones fishing for information in a more subtle manner. 

Someone receives an accolade while others smart off in jealousy and indignation.

Another experiences rejection for the same act that gave the other an accolade.

Everyone jockeying for position.

They travel in packs.  Watch them for five minutes and you can put a label on them. 

  • The Popular/IN crowd
  • The Bookish and Studious
  • The Misfits
  • The Hoity-Toity Snobs

And never are they more distinguishable than at lunch.

Most packs’ members are pretty set with the occasional shift due to changing alliances to benefit oneself.  But nevertheless one thing never changes:

Drama.  This particular world feeds off drama.

Does any of this ring a bell to you?  Does it have you thinking of High School or Church Youth Group?

It does me.  The sad thing is, I’m not talking about High School or Church Youth Group.  I’m talking about grownups. 

In the workplace.

Husbands, wives, parents. 

Adults.

Note: To those who know me… before you start trying to identify the individuals I’m writing about, let me clarify one thing.  This has been occurring in several areas around me.  Not just one segment of my life, but multiple segments of my life as well as those of my friends and even mere acquaintences. 

It’s rampant.

And to be honest.  I have to ask myself, when have I been a willing and active participant in the above scenarios?  I am examining my own behavior both past and present. 

Weren’t we supposed to grow out of this?

The Truth: we don’t GROW out of sin. 

The above behavior is a result of not taking captive every thought.  Checking our attitudes at the door and our motives before speaking or acting.

 Women are especially adept at such harmful behavior.   What an odd paradox.  The ‘relational’ sex lives somewhere between the bond of sisterhood and the knife of pettiness.

This paradox is the difference between doing what is right vs. what comes naturally.

What is right requires us to not act on emotions.  We women are notorious for making decisions based on how we feel.  All the while knowing those feelings will be different next month, next week, or in the next five minutes.

Most of us women also have a keen intuition.  But it works best when placed in submission to our Creator, who knows all.  And knows us better than we know ourselves.

So, before we speak, before we listen to ‘news’ we know we shouldn’t be hearing, before we lash out at someone whether they’ve earned a lashing or not, even when we’ve been wronged.  (Man, how many times have I done that?! ugh.)

Stop.  Just stop.  If we have to go into a room and shut the door, take a hundred deep breaths or even count to 500.  Just stop.  And make the choice:

How am I going to live?  High School Lunchroom or as an Adult.  A grown up person that claims to follow Christ?

Ouch.

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My Dad never asks me for anything.  So, when he asked me to attend the reunion of his Vietnam Helicopter Company, there was no question.  Of course, I would go.  It’s one of the God-given opportunities this ‘temporary retirement’ has allowed me.  

A road trip to Branson, Missouri with my parents.  I’m such a swinging single.  

The truth is, I’m insanely blessed.  Most people couldn’t survive a five-day road trip with their parents without some form of pharmaceutical assistance.  However, my parents are my best friends and supporters.  Low pressure, low maintenance, lots of love, support and laughter.  Ok, the occasional argument with the GPS lady, and some differing, VERY differing musical tastes, but otherwise, I love hanging out with them.

My Dad is a hero.  He was a crew chief and left door gunner on a Huey Helicopter in Vietnam.  Men in this position didn’t have long life spans, but he survived thirteen, yes, thirteen, helicopter crashes. Meeting up with his brothers, once a year, is vital.  And brothers, they are.  No one else can understand their histories and scars.  It’s a bond understood only by those who’ve actually demonstrated their willingness to die for each other.  The rest of us can only gaze in from the outside, observing their interractions with admiration, gratitude, and even amusement.

I want you to see what heroes look like.  True, they’ve got another 40+ years on them since flying over the tunnels of Cu Chi.  But their honor hasn’t diminished with time.

My personal hero is on the right, front row, red shirt.

So now, when you exercise freedoms like worshipping openly and voting, these are some faces you can thank God for.

I love you Daddy!  Thank you for being my Hero. 

Thanks for being one of America’s Heroes.

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