Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Pause, 2013

          It’s been an unusual year, but then what is usual? In March we mourned the loss of a dear friend from high school, one whose acquaintance we had renewed just last summer. In a short time, we shared laughs, fond memories, and deep conversations enough to make up for the lost years. His death was one of those unexpected kicks in the stomach that made us weep not just for our own pain, but even more for that of his wife (also our classmate and life-long friend) and their family.

          Soon thereafter began the wettest spring and summer on record for North Carolina. Heavy rains poured down without a respite for days on end; gardens refused even to sprout due to lack of sun and heat. Slowly, slowly the earth turned green, and then grew more lush than anyone could remember. Bill counted days and watched the grass grow, searching for a break in the monsoons long enough to mow. And what a task: pushing the mower through tall, thick wet grass attached like velcro to the sodden earth, which seemed to suck at the mower’s wheels like quicksand.  We lived inside and looked sadly out to our dogs who seemed to go into a morose hibernation.

          May brought a brief respite from the rain and an unexpected joy with a visit from Lisa and Sam and the wonderful new man in their life, John! In spite of Sam’s difficult time with our North Carolina spring pollen, which was super-abundant due to the unusual rains, we managed to enjoy visiting the fabulous North Carolina Zoo and the nearby Aviation Museum; feeding the llamas and pygmy zebus at the always-fun Lazy 5 Ranch; and fishing and lying in the hammock at the lake. We can hardly believe our Sam will be 7 on December 19! 

Throughout the year Daddy continued to battle “the evil c.diff”– in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities, his body’s struggle to function normally as seemingly bogged down as the lawnmower in our soggy yard. But in August, a breakthrough! As the weather slowly returned to a more normal pattern, so through a miraculous encounter with a God-sent healer a cure was found! Though it’s been around for decades, its unorthodoxy has perhaps delayed its acceptance, which makes little sense, since its cure-rate is an extraordinary 92%! In any case, ever since his fecal transplant (Yes, it’s just what it sounds like!), he has been 100% normal and back to his routine of teaching Sunday School, “radioing” and gallivanting all around Greensboro and even to the lake. We are confident he’ll be around to celebrate the stunning century mark come June 8 of next year!

About the same time as Daddy’s turnaround, we received the news that will change our lives FOREVER. We were all at the lake, including Daddy with his newly healthy gut, when Christian asked me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. As soon as I obeyed, he placed in them a card holding an ultrasound image of his and Andrea’s first child!!! That’s right– in early March we will welcome into the world Carter Rathvon Herring! Mother and child are doing extremely well, and proud Papa is about to bust his buttons! Christian and Andrea recently moved into the parsonage of the church he pastors, Kendall’s Baptist, which is just about 2 miles from our house, so Grandma is rather excited herself!

And now about the Christmas paws– did I spell that right? YES! One sunny day in mid-September Bill looked out across the field in front of the house to see movement. That’s nothing unusual, since we frequently see deer, an assortment of large birds, even coyotes around the pond. But this movement was swifter and caught his eye with its stark black and white coloring. As it came closer its blaze orange collar showed, and Bill realized he was seeing someone’s hunting dog, since it was early in the dove season. He tried shooing the swift, sleek creature away, telling it, “Go back home!” and “Go find your owner!” but to no avail. By this time she was heading for our backyard to check out our two rescue dogs, Tut and Cassie. Bill came in and called my attention to the newcomer, and I joined him in trying to send the dog away, still to no avail. After a few hours our hearts went out to this obviously lost creature and we gave her a bit of food and water. At the end of the day she was still with us, and the next morning we found her curled up on our back porch. We took her picture and posted it around the community and on Facebook, knowing someone was missing their beloved hunting dog. After a week, our hope was waning, but sooner than that Bill’s heart was lost to her. He began calling her “Poppy” after about 3 days; in a week we had purchased her a house and taken down the postings. When we took her to the vet to begin her shots we learned she had heartworms. Neither of us had been through treating a dog with this life-threatening condition, so we had no idea what was in store. In brief, the treatment is also life-threatening and requires constant monitoring, which resulted in Bill breaking his own iron-clad rule of “No Dogs in the House!” Poppy has now been taken to the beauty parlor by her Dad, and sleeps wherever she wants in the house, including our bed! (Does anyone need a very slightly-used igloo dog house???!!!)  

And so we’ve decided on a pause this Christmas – choosing more deliberately than usual which activities will bring the most peace and reflection on the season’s true meaning. Our gift to each other has four paws – an unexpected but joyous interruption in our routine and a delightful excuse for spending time together with a common focus. We intend to revel more in the time we spend with loved ones rather than scurrying around to find the perfect gift at the mall, bake the perfect confection or put up the perfect decoration. Most of all, we are bending our hearts more frequently in gratitude to our Best Friend, Whose birth we celebrate this holy season.

“A friend loveth at all times...” (Proverbs 17:17a)

“Friends are friends forever, if the Lord is the Lord of them

And a friend will not say never, cause the welcome will not end ....

... a lifetime's not too long... to live as friends."  (Michael W. Smith)

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for His friends.”  (John 15:13)


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chapter 5 - Time to Be Married

I had  had Asweethearts@ since first gradeB in reality just friends of the opposite sex to call Amine@ for a brief time. In high school I experienced my first loveB a dear friend from church whom I dated until I left for college. Our dates were usually with our whole group of friendsB to the bowling alley or a movie, or just going to Youth Fellowship and then a Adrive-in@ (the eating kind, not the movie kind!). I broke up with Steve when I went away to college, from some perverse sort of reasoning that we would no longer have anything in common. Yet he continued to be my best friend, the one I called when things got difficult at school, or when I felt lonely.  I was devastated when he told me he was dating someone else, but eventually they married and I got over my loss, moving on to Asmarter@ guys from my university.
         It was in college, I suppose not surprisingly, that another world began to open up before me, ways of thinking I had to this point been protected from, the world of intellectual curiosity where the Enemy is so likely to attack our belief systems.  I continued to go to church and participate wholeheartedly in Baptist Student Union, and most of my friends and dates were still more like me than not. Though I was almost always on the sidelines of the Ain crowd@ and their parties and activities, I began to crave the adventure that my more sophisticated peers seemed to be having.  Within my own circle of friends I was confident, just as I had been with my church group in high school; outside this circle I was wide-eyed and insecure. I was ripe to be swept off my feet by someone more worldly and seemingly wise, who offered the excitement and adventure of the unknown. 
I didn=t really choose Frank.  I didn=t even notice him across the dimness of the coffee house on the top floor of the college library.  Heaven only knows what made him pick me outB probably the bright tangerine tent dress I was wearing, or maybe the huge mound of acrylic Ahair@ piled on top of my head.  What can I say?  It was the sixties!  And at age twenty I was more naive than today=s eight-year-old.  I had had plenty of dates with Anice@ guys who were vastly more suited to me than Frank.  Instead of sameness, though, I craved adventure, and there was no one more exciting and different from me than Frank.  He was brash, self-confident, and loud.  And because he thought he was wise, and I knew I was naive, who was I to question his self-assurance?
Soon, before I had any idea what was happening, he was telling me not only what was right or wrong, but what to think, how to dress, talk, act, even what to say.  How many times did I go back to my dorm room and repeat the words he had put in my mouth to my roommate, or go home and regurgitate his words to my parents?  How shocked my friends and family must have been to hear such new and radical thoughts come from my mouth.
The long and short of it is, even though the only thing in me that responded positively to Frank was my hormones, even though little about our relationship felt good, it felt normal and therefore right, because like my father and my brother, even professors, he seemed so superior to me, so worldly, wise and in control.  And feeling so naive and stupid, a sentiment he took every opportunity to reinforce in me, I suppressed every Agut@ feeling, every instinct that was my God-given legacy.  My heart aches even now for the lost joy and innocence, for the pain I caused my parents and ultimately myself.
We dated through my junior year, typical collegiate dates: basketball and football games, movies, concerts, family visits.  I was proud to be on the arm of someone so intelligent, even though his harshness hurt me and my parents and didn=t really impress my long-time friends.  He was graduating and heading for law school there on the same campus.  I was impressed by his family=s wealth and worldliness: his father was a New York City executive, and the family lived in a beautiful Connecticut suburb. How flattering that someone like this could have an interest in me!  And besides, it was the end of junior yearB all the girls were hearing wedding bells!
We were engaged at the beginning of my senior year; we married one week after I graduated.  It was certainly not all bad, because we found common ground.  The happiest times were traveling, something I have continued to enjoy all my life. He even began going to church with me, and seemed to take a serious interest in it.  But if I had looked then, I am sure I would have seen the black hole, the hole in my heart.  For years, though, I was just aware of the fearB fear of failure myself (just as I always felt I never quite measured up to the other men in my life), fear of displeasing Frank (because of the shame he poured out on me), fear of his unfaithfulness (because I knew I was a disappointment to him).  I grew more and more depressed, felt more and more hopelessly caught in the web of my own powerlessness.  By giving over the reins of my life to another human being, I had taken them out of God=s hands.  Instead of being wrapped in the loving arms of my Heavenly Father, I had let myself be trapped in the cocoon of control I had allowed Frank to spin around me.

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”  (Galatians 5:17)

READ: Romans 11:32, Luke 16:13

PONDER THIS: Examine your heart for a major act of rebellion in your life which had serious consequences. Can you see times God tried to speak to you and you ignored His whisper? If you have not already, you can repent of your rebellion right now, as I had to do myself.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chapter 4 - Assembly by the Sea

          My teen years were as carefree and happy as I believe God intended.  My passion for Jesus was fanned to a roaring blaze, not only by my church, but especially by the North Carolina Baptist Assembly, the AAssembly by the Sea@ at Fort Caswell.  I remember my first glimpse of this special place as vividly as if it were just yesterday rather than over fifty years ago.
I was twelve years old, and felt as grown-up as at least a sixteen-year-old.  My parents had agreed to drive a carload of pre-teens to the assembly grounds on the North Carolina coast, where the youth would spend a week.  I was going along for the ride, but never considered asking to stay.  At this point in my life I was painfully shy, and so was content to ride along and then return home with my parents, likely stopping along the way as my father made calls on the textile mills to which he sold supplies.  It was a great treat for my mother and me to accompany Daddy on these trips during the summer, gliding in the big shiny Buick company car along  Ablue highways,@ stopping in the small mill towns he visited regularly. We=d  spend the night in a modest Amotor inn@ where there were always tiny soaps wrapped in interesting paper for me to collect as souvenirs.
Somehow, though, by the time this particular day-long drive was completed, I had bonded with the other children in our car. Before we arrived at the coast, I had overcome my shyness and was begging to stay for the week.  Driving through the big iron gates of the North Carolina Baptist Assembly, I was immediately enthralled with the spartan white wood buildings clustered inside the old red brick Civil War fortifications.  Or maybe it was just the smell of the sea, the taste of salt when I licked my lips, and the whispering of the wind in the sea oats that hypnotized me.  Whatever the reason, with the two dresses and two sets of underwear I had packed for the overnight trip, I joyously spent an idyllic week that would help mold my teen-aged passion for Jesus.  Every summer thereafter I would look forward to that most special week at Ft. Caswell.  I reveled in the Bible study, the Christian fellowship and the awe-inspiring vesper services at sunset atop the fort.  When I needed to find work my first two summers in college, I was thrilled to be allowed to join the staff, never minding rising before dawn to make jello and slaw, or working in the mid-day heat to sweep the sandy dormitory floors.
I recently had the opportunity to drive through Fort Caswell after some forty years away.  Much has changed, but somehow the sweet spirit echoed down the years in my heart and brought tears of nostalgia to my eyes.  Climbing atop the fort to gaze on the wooden cross that was still silhouetted against an azure sea, I could almost hear the sweet strains of Joey Overby’s trumpet floating on the soft breeze. In my ASenior Autobiography@ written for school when I was seventeen, I confessed, AThree years ago on these sacred grounds [Fort Caswell] I dedicated my life to full-time Christian service....  I have become more aware of God=s eternal presence with me....  To know that my Heavenly Father is guiding me and that my life is in His hands erases all need for any other means of security.@  Perhaps, then, the real cause of my tears was the deep-seated memory of the precious innocence of that time, an innocence I soon lost and yet have now regained.  I thank God that those days were not totally erased from my memory, and that His grace and mercy are great enough to have restored the passion of my youth.

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

READ:  Psalm 95: 1-7, Psalm 100
PONDER THIS: Can you remember a time when you were more passionate about your faith than you are today? Ask God to remind you of that passion and restore it right now.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chapter 3 - The Lake

       I was just six years old when I first laid eyes on the thickly wooded lot leading down to
the rocky lake shore. What did I care except that I loved the water and the woods?  Next thing I knew Mama, Daddy, my brother and I were camping out on the spot in a tiny tin can trailer. The men (my father and grandfather and uncles) worked all day long laying the concrete blocks that would become our lake house and my cousins’ right next door. While my mother cooked to keep the men well-fed, I busied myself gathering pretty red holly berries and “cooking” pine bark “bacon” over a miniature rock fire-pit. Each night we’d fall asleep listening to whip-poor-wills calling and mountain lions screaming across the water.
  The houses were finished by the next summer, and soon there was a dock out front with sporty wooden boat tied to it. Weekends became filled with the high whine of the old green Evinrude outboard mingled with the squeals of cousins and friends echoing off the brown water. I'm sure our parents grew tired of the monotonous tunes of  "Found A Peanut" and "She'll Be Comin'  'Round the Mountain" that accompanied us on all boat rides!
          Hot summer afternoons were cooled down with two special treats. When we kids heard the unmistakable "CRACK!" of a cold watermelon being opened on the picnic table under the trees, we'd climb out of the water and dive into a hunk of the sweet fruit until our faces and arms were pink with the juice, then plunge back into the lake to rinse off.  For high adventure sometimes our parents would put the green globe into a cooler with ice and carry us all in the boat to "Turkey Island" for a watermelon picnic! Other days, we'd hope that a boat ride would end up at Mr. Beatty's marina, where Daddy would bring all us kids an icy orange "push-up" to dribble down our chins on the way home. By evening, when we were nice and sticky, we'd grab a towel and a bar of Ivory soap (""It floats!") and head to the lake for our Saturday night bath, with the adults joining in the fun!
          There was just one difficulty for all of us: the only time we could enjoy our special place was on weekends, and that meant missing church on Sundays.  Soon the problem was solved when my Daddy got together with some of the other new property owners and decided to meet under the trees by the lake and have Sunday School.  Sometimes, if it was raining, we'd just sit in someone's car, often Daddy's big  Buick company car, because it was the roomiest.  Before long, one of the men brought along an old portable pump organ, and my Mama would sit on a stump and work her short slender legs, playing the hymns that we all knew. 
      As word spread and houses bloomed like wildflowers over the ragged lakeshore, our numbers increased enough to purchase a lot and build a shelter. We named it the John R. Bender Worship Center, in honor of one of our beloved teachers, who has since gone on to be with the Lord. We sit on hand-hewn wooden benches, made lovingly by some of the men. There's a tin roof over our heads and a nice concrete floor and electricity to run the overhead fans and the sound system. Eventually our congregation grew so that on big holidays (Fourth of July, Labor Day) we'd have as many as four hundred gathered under the trees to worship. Several years ago an addition was built and named "The Fields Pavilion" to honor my sweet parents who dedicated so much of their lives to this special place. Sadly, in recent years the crowds have dwindled as our interests seem to have turned to more worldly pursuits, such as jet-skiing and tubing behind monster power boats. But some things will never change: we still sing the same old favorite hymns, and there are no walls or windows to keep out the rustling of the breeze in the trees or the birdsongs that add to the music.

My Sanctuary

My sanctuary is simple--
No walls and windows hath it
To keep a solitary soul
Either within or without.

Its choir is winged and feathered,
Its hours have no limits or bounds.
Its Pastor is The Good Shepherd,
His flock comes from all around.

My sanctuary is simple--
'Tis but a bright spot in the wood;
But oh how my heart has been blessed from the start
By the times in this temple I've stood.

                                                                               -- Charlanne Fields, 1968

“How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:1-2)
READ:  Psalm 8
PONDER THIS: In a poem, or just a paragraph, describe the place you feel closest to God. Then stop and thank Him for His wonderful creation.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chapter 2 - Asheboro Street

        Asheboro Street Baptist Church was more to me than music: it was where I first met Jesus. I truly have no memory of not knowing Him. Not everyone has been so blessed, I know, but that doesn't mean He has not always been there beside you, waiting at the door to be let in. I have no idea why He chose to give me the life I've had; I certainly have done nothing to deserve all this grace. But that's why they call it grace-- it's not deserved.

          Some of my earliest memories are sitting in little wooden chairs that scraped noisily on the dull linoleum floors of the Sunday School room. The light filtered through bumpy glass windows to illuminate the teacher and the flannel board on which she placed images of the characters she talked about from her Bible. I saw a golden straw basket placed among the "bullrushes." (They looked like the cattails decorating my grandfather's pond.) I was told the basket contained the baby Moses, who would lead the children of Israel from Egypt back to their homeland. I saw a beautiful young lady in blue robes riding a donkey to a stable where she would give birth to the baby Jesus, who would die on a cross for my sins. I LOVED this baby, because He gave His sweet, perfect life for me, so I could go to heaven to live with God. When I sang "Jesus Loves Me" I never thought to doubt it: I accepted it like I accepted my parents' love for me.
          I was, for the most part, a good, obedient child who followed the Ten Commandments to the best of my understanding. In church, I watched reverently as people went into the pool behind the altar in our sanctuary, were plunged into the water and came up dripping and beaming. Each time in my mind I was in the water with them and came up with a new joy in my heart. When I was age seven, one Sunday evening service as Preacher Parker gave the invitation to come to the altar and I sang the hymn along with the congregation, I felt a burning come over my body as tangible as the high fevers I had often experienced. It was as if a great invisible hand came down and urged me out of my seat, propelled me down the aisle to the feet of my waiting pastor. I KNEW, as much as a seven-year-old could know, that I was the sinner that my precious Jesus died for, and I wanted everyone to know I belonged to HIM. It was as if all the shame of my future life was made known to me for a brief moment, and I knew I needed to claim His forgiveness right then.

          “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” (Matthew 19:14) 

READ: Matthew 18:2-5

PONDER THIS: Recall when you first heard about Jesus. What did you feel? Did you give Him your life?

(PLEASE NOTE: If you are enjoying the music, there's a link on the right to our website, where you can read more about this wonderful group I am privileged to sing with, Wing and A Prayer. You can purchase our CDs on iTunes and Amazon, as well!)


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chapter 1 - The First Nine Years

You can see it in pictures when I was smallB a wispy-haired blond with pale blue eyes always looking off to the side as if listening for angels.  Oh, I wouldn=t have said so thenB just that perhaps it was the alone-ness that made me different.  For my first nine years we lived in the country, no other children close by, so I played mostly by myself with my dolls, building imaginary houses, making up tuneless songs with simple, rhyme-less words.  My childhood was otherwise as Anormal@ as anyone=s, or at least I thought so then.  My asthma kept me from being as active as some, but it was all I knew, so I didn=t mind. 
Daddy was my first Prince Charming. Stunningly handsome even now in his nineties, back then with his thick mane of black hair and dashing moustache he was aptly nicknamed AClark Gable.@  Tall and slender, too, he truly looked the part, especially when he donned his gray felt Homburg hat. It was post-World War II, and we were far from wealthy, but we had a home full of love, and my father provided for his family admirably by being a traveling salesman. I mostly respected (and probably a little bit feared) my father from afar, because he was so often absent-- and when he came home, the administrator of discipline!  I never doubted my father=s love for me, yet I constantly found myself seeking his approval.  I associate him with three things in my youth: ham radio, a new Buick company car every two years, and taking the family to church every Sunday.  
 I remember hearing about the church orchestra Daddy played in and directed before World War II took him off to the Civil Air Patrol, and some of my most vivid childhood memories take me back to adult choir rehearsal on Thursday nights. On Sunday mornings I would sit with an adult friend while Mama played the beautiful old pipe organ  and Daddy waved his arms in the choir loft above me, the two of them creating ethereal music for God’s ears. The Christmas cantatas they led still play in the soundtrack of my memory , as fresh as the pungence of the pine boughs we gathered on my grandfather’s farm to decorate the church the Saturday before Christmas.  I loved helping arrange the lights and red bows that adorned the stained-glass windows.
          My mother was my constant companion and caretaker, and as soon as I went to school so did she, as a school secretary and later a teacher. Mama got me up every morning and took me to school where she worked.  After the bell rang at the end of the day, I would join her in the office until her day ended.  Then we=d proceed home, sometimes stopping at the A&P for groceries.  I was her little helper-- whether it was putting Ablueing@ in the old wringer washing machine, running sheets and pillowcases through the Amangle@ or fixing us dinner on the big electric stove--until she tucked me in at night.
Today she would have been called a Asuper-mom,@ a liberated woman for the 1950s, because she did it all, from running the household day in and day out to driving her own column-shift Nash Rambler to work every day!  I=m sure I didn=t appreciate all she accomplished, because to me it was an embarrassment that my clothes, beautiful as they were, were homemade, as were our curtains and slipcovers and my dolls= clothes.  On top of all this, she helped look after her own parents and sisters, and kept my father and teen-aged brother happy.  And somehow she also  managed to entertain several of my cousins and an occasional neighbor=s child, once in a while taking  us all to Youth Fellowship or Vacation Bible School.
The other male in my life was my brother Charles, who was ten years old when I was born.  As with my father, then, I always admired him from afar, and he probably has no idea to this day how involved in his life I was.  Rather than being either my best friend or my arch-enemy, as often happens with siblings closer in age, my brother became my idol.  There=s an old black-and-white photograph (which Charles probably developed in his darkroom in our upstairs) that brings back such fond memories with me in my child=s rocking chair sitting beside my brother talking on his ham radio. 
When I was small, I had a vicarious adolescence through Charles.  I remember the excitement when he began to drive and polish his Acool@ cars in our driveway, and I had terrible crushes on his friends who came to our house. The music in our home didn=t fail to influence him.  I can still hear the haunting notes coming from his gleaming brass trumpet, the sound as graceful as the curves of the instrument.  Whether he was playing at church or in the high school marching band I must have beamed like the light flashing off the trumpet, I was so proud of my big brother!
I suppose I will never know which was the greater influence on my later yearsB the music that filled so much of my young life or the six years of piano lessons I was forced to take as a child.  Whatever the cause, I don=t remember a time when my head was not filled with music nearly every waking minute (and many sleeping minutes!).  Yet I do not consider myself an accomplished musician by any stretch of the imagination.  I can read notes on a page, yet if I ever knew much theory, most of it is lost to me now.  I have no gift for creating musical combinations or even playing an instrument.  My gift is an ear for harmony, and for the harmony of words.  Perhaps more than anything it was all those early years of going to choir practice with my parents.  Certainly, singing in choirs and musical groups has been my passion since my youth, and I have been privileged to sing with many excellent choirs under several gifted directors.  For all of these blessings of music God placed in my life, I shall never be able to express my gratitude, but most of all to my parents I wish to extend my deepest thanks.
“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.” (Psalm 71:17)

READ: Proverbs 31:30, Proverbs 22:6
PONDER THIS: Take as much time as you need to think and write about your important familial relationships, the people you grew up around, and those that are important to you now. Try to see threads that have come together to make you the person you are today.


Monday, March 4, 2013

A Hole in My Heart - Introduction

Dear Reader,

     This book is dedicated to my family, which as all families do, has changed over the years and is ever-changing still.  No one ever drops outB once you=re there, you=re always there.  Of course my parents, husband, son, brother, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles are there. And a host of friends who are as close as relatives. But so are you, if I=ve ever met you, or even just sat beside you on an airplane, passed you on the sidewalk, read one of your books or listened to your song.  And even if we=ve never met, or never do, I consider you family, and I wish I could look every one of you in the eye and tell you this one thing. But then, I=m only human, so this the only way I know how to let you know, if you happen to be on the other side of the world.  Here it is, this one thing I know:


“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” –John 3:16 (KJV)

          This is my story, but it’s not really intended to be about me. I write it only to help you write your own story, even though yours will not be the same as mine.  Each chapter concludes with a Scripture and a journal question. Please read the Scripture selections prayerfully before taking all the time you need to answer the questions.  I recommend that you try to complete only one chapter per day, as it is my hope that each one will evoke healing thoughts about your own life.
          Also, please be assured that each one who reads these words has already been lifted up in prayer for at least as much healing as I have received during this process. You must remember, too, that not one of us is ever finished learning and growing as long as we breathe. My journey is certainly not over with this book, but hopefully at its conclusion both of us can say we have made great strides along the way,
     Finally, forever and always, TO GOD BE THE GLORY!


     I used to think I was somewhere between Adifferent@ and Ajust plain weird.@  I never felt like I really fit in or belonged-- anywhere except sitting in the golden light in the field of dried grass behind our house, or in the soft, fragrant embrace of the pine forest across the road from the lake cottage.  Now I know that makes me just like everybody elseB touched with more grace and mercy than I deserve.
I once believed that I could see things more clearly, feel things more deeply than others.  Even as a child I shed tears over a beautiful sunset or the salty taste of the ocean on my lips.  I knew without a shadow of a doubt God was speaking to me through the elements of His awesome creation. I somehow sensed these were miraculous evidences of His love for us all, just hints of His greatest miracle of eternal life.  In my child-like way I felt that absolutely nothing was Acoincidence,@ but rather all part of an exquisite, perfect plan. 
     Now, of course, I=ve come to realize that this awareness is there for us all, if we just open our eyes.  I=ve also come to understand that I can=t MAKE you see any more than someone else could make me see when I was blinded.  Blinded by the world, my own fleshly desires.  It is, after all, a gift from God, eventually given to all who SEEKB that is the key.
     My deepest longing, now that I have discovered the key, is to share it with EVERYONEB that=s why I=m writing, I suppose.  If I could, I would open your head and your heart and just pour it in, this knowing, but that=s not how it works.  You have to do it for yourself.  Perhaps, though, by reading my story, you might at least want to open the door, look in the mirror, begin to open your eyes, too.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1)
READ:  John 1:16
PONDER THIS: Today, try to see God’s grace and mercy wherever you go—in a butterfly, a sunset, a green light when you’re in a hurry, a stranger’s smile. Record your observation, and more importantly, what you felt.

Spring Forward

      In just a few days we'll be moving our clocks ahead, as days are growing noticeably longer and trees are beginning to bud. Some of us have the sniffles from that annoying pollen that is required to produce the beautiful rainforest we North Carolinians inhabit. Daffodils are already brightening the dull landscape of winter with their sunny yellow faces. Many folks are looking ahead to summer vacation.
     I confess to you here and now I am forcing myself to press forward on a project that has been heavy on my heart for several years. I have begun it, put it down, picked it up, put it down I don't even know how many times over the past six years, at least. Steadily, however, it has progressed toward what I feel is completion, until at last I believe I am ready to share it with at least my little part of the world.
     I must thank my writer friend and mentor, Judy Colbert, for giving me the idea to share it in this space. Judy, I believe you were the mouth of God "whispering" in my ear through your encouraging e-mail. I will be happy to report to you this week I've taken my first step in publishing the book He has laid on my heart.
     I won't promise how frequently a chapter will appear, although I often claim to be "a completion person" -- once a project is begun I usually am eager to finish it (with the obvious exception of this one!). I also (with a wee bit of trepidation!) invite you to share with friends, AND to comment either on the blog or e-mail me with constructive criticism, either positive or negative. In other words, you are my "test group" or "reading group" and I WELCOME your comments. I truly wrote every word of this with the purpose of helping someone else, not for the joy of talking about myself. 
     Almost from the beginning I saw this as a sort of guided journaling exercise, with my story serving to stimulate introspection in the reader, and so I suggest you read with pen and paper (even better, a notebook!) at hand. You'll also need a Bible. At best, I hope to encourage growth and perhaps even avoidance of some of the pits I fell into. At the very least, I want you, the reader, to be encouraged about your walk of faith, to understand that a loving God has been with you every step of the way. But now I'm jumping into my introduction, so I will simply say, let us begin our journey together as I share with you A Hole in My Heart.

THANK YOU for traveling with me!

     "Who are my mother and my brothers?" He asked. Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."       (Mark 3:33-34, NIV)

     "Keep in loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. "     (Hebrews 13:1-2 NIV)

     "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."     (1 Peter 3:8, NIV)