The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away

The past six weeks have been a wild roller coaster ride in our family.

October 23 – My niece gave birth to a precious little girl, Ruby Leavell Leech. She is a gift from God and has been a true source of joy every day since she was born. Her early arrival made it possible for my brother and sister-in-law to attend the next big family event – thank you, Ruby!

November 2 – Our son, Wes, married Taylor Bobb in Lexington, KY. Wes is our youngest and the first of our three children to get married. Preparing for this happy event kept us busy for months and the wedding weekend was everything we dreamed it would be. Surrounded by family and friends from far and wide we were blessed beyond measure. Taylor is a true treasure – a fun-loving, happy, industrious young woman who loves Jesus and is the perfect match for Wes. They are a great team already and JB and I thank God for the gift of Taylor.

November 13-15 – Women’s Forum at LifeWay in Nashville. Our daughter, Mary Margaret, is in charge of this annual women’s event. It was sold out in August and was an amazing and inspiring time. I am so proud of our girl and her leadership. From childhood we have said, “she could run a small country,” and she certainly is using the gifts God has given her. Keynote speakers at the Forum included Priscilla Shirer and Karen Kingsbury. What a blessing and challenge they brought!

November 17 – Mary Margaret had surgery. I stayed in Nashville to be her nurse. In October she was in San Diego with her work and landed in the emergency room. (Another addition to this fall’s roller coaster ride.) It was a scary experience for all of us, but she got great care along with the diagnosis that she needed surgery soon to remove a benign tumor. Whew! She knew it had to be scheduled, and right after the Forum seemed to be the best time. Praise God her surgery went well and she was an excellent patient. By the end of the week I drove her home with me to recover and stay through Thanksgiving.

Mama – My Mama has lived with JB and me for over three years. She was with my brother and sister in law for over two years before coming to our house. How can the sharpest person you’ve ever known lose her memory? I don’t know, but it happened to Mama, and a broken hip and surgery accelerated her condition. Full-time caregivers have been a blessing; in so many ways God has provided for Mama and we thank Him. However, during these busy weeks, we began to see more decline.

November 27 – Thanksgiving – Rob, our soon-to-graduate-from seminary son, was able to come home early for the holiday. This was a bonus and gift; he and Mary Margaret were delighted to have some extra time together. The newlyweds, fresh from their honeymoon, also came home to join us for the holiday. We stayed close to home and cooked together and all took turns visiting with Mama. On Wednesday night my brother and all his family came to our house for dinner. It is hard to get all our crowd together at one time but it happened; another sweet gift. We had our new baby girl in one room and Mama fading in the next room. Thank you God for family.

You won’t believe it but late Wednesday night Rob and JB were still downstairs and Rob had a seizure. That is when I nearly tipped over. This precious son of ours began having seizures ten years ago. For quite a while now he has been seizure-free and he just had his annual check-up with his specialist and all was well. Go figure. Dr. Mama (that’s me) is certain that stress is a factor. Fortunately Rob was not injured.

November 29 – Our Nashville three (MM, Wes, and Taylor) left to go back to their homes and work on Friday. Saturday morning JB took Rob to the airport. Just before JB got back to the house Mama stepped into heaven — with Theo, my brother, and me right by her side – not a coincidence. It was just the way she would have wanted it, one more gift. Thank you God for a life well lived and a legacy that will live on for generations.

Rob called just before boarding his plane and I told him NeNe had just died. He called his professor and arranged to miss his Monday class and came back to the house. Another miracle of God — when he called Delta to change his return flight to Tuesday evening, the charge was $40. That just doesn’t happen, but God once more gave us a gift.

December 2 – Mama’s service on Tuesday was beautiful and personal and inspiring. JB, who loved her like his own mother, and other family members were the ones who shared. It was all about her and the source of her strength and humor and wonderful characteristics – the God she loved and served. Friends and family showed up and surrounded us with love and food and flowers. Late in the day our children once more left for their respective homes.

December 3 - You won’t believe this but Wednesday morning Rob, back in Ft. Worth, called from the ambulance! He had a seizure in the shower and fell out onto the tile floor, hitting on his face. Once more I wanted to fall apart. But, can I tell you again that in the midst of something terrible, God provides? First, I am grateful his roommate was home and heard him fall. Secondly, I did not know this, but his roommate is an EMT. He knew what to do; that is a blessing and gift. Other than bruising and soreness, Rob is okay and meds are being adjusted.

December 12 – Rob’s graduation from Southwestern Seminary with a Masters’ in Divinity. At this writing we are packing our bags to fly to Texas to celebrate Rob’s graduation. We are so proud!

Stopping for a breath — This recount of the past weeks is not exaggerated. Emotionally, mentally and spiritually, we have been swinging from one extreme to another. BUT, God is our anchor, our provider, our protector, and our guide. We have so much to be grateful for and we have survived and will continue to survive the hard things that life brings our way. This is my current mantra, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”


Shugie

Showing Up

We just had our first wedding and it was so much fun! Our youngest son, Wes, and Taylor Bobb met at Asbury University and were friends for a long time before they began to date. It has been a sweet story to follow (see their website if you want to read more - taylorandwes.com), and we are thrilled that they have joined their lives in marriage. While I could go on and on about the wedding weekend in detail, and I may do that later, today’s post is to acknowledge and thank those who showed up.

I can’t remember exactly when the power of “showing up” first became real and personal and powerful to me. However, twenty years ago my Daddy died and five of my closest friends from Orlando came to Newnan, GA for his funeral. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me; those friends will always be extra dear to my heart. I have never forgotten that  expression of love and have often told other people how much it meant that these friends took time out of their lives to show up for me. It was a huge lesson learned and made me aware that showing up for people in times of joy or need or sorrow is extremely powerful and meaningful.

Showing up for people is powerful.

JB has always been good at showing up for people; I was the slow learner in this department but at least I finally “got it!”  When our children were very young his sister and family came to spend a few days with us in Orlando. On about day two of their visit JB went to work and the rest of us headed to Disney World; JB was to meet us at 1:00 at the park after working half day. He never showed up. When we got home we found a note; some dear friends in Texas had suffered a terrible tragedy and he had flown to be with them. I was furious that he would leave while some of his family was visiting us. Later, much later, I realized he had done the right thing in showing up for friends who needed him. This is just one example of many – before I realized the importance of presence, he dragged me to many weddings, funerals, graduations, and other significant occasions in other people’s  lives. Thank you, JB.

Sometimes it is just not possible.

Over the past twenty years I have intentionally tried to show up for others. Sometimes it just is not possible and that is understandable. But many times we can make adjustments to our schedules and do the thing that will mean so much to someone we know. Because this has been a big deal to me I have encouraged our children to show up for their people and I’m so grateful they have learned this expression of cementing relationships. While in college Rob called one day to tell me one of his friend’s Dad had just been fired from a coaching position at the university. He was upset and asked me what to do. I quickly told him, “just go over there; be with them.” When he replied, “I don’t know what to say,” I assured him that we do not have to say anything. We can’t fix situations but we can just show up and be there and that is enough and will never be forgotten. He went and wound up helping to pack up this man’s office; it was a gift of time and support and presence. All three of our children make the effort to show up for family and friends; I’m glad they developed this habit much younger than I did.

Sometimes we can even help those older than us to develop this good habit. Mama and I were in Florida for fun and we got a call that someone close to our family had died in Georgia. I told Mama we needed to go home the next day. She surprised me when she said, “Really?” I convinced her that we had to leave our favorite place and she then asked, “Well, what are we going to do when we get there?” I replied, “Mama, we are just going to show up.”  We did and we were welcomed warmly by those who greeted us and appreciated our presence in a time of loss and grieving.

So, back to our wedding weekend. My heart overflows with gratitude for those who came. The wedding was in Lexington, KY and for all of our people it was a destination wedding – travel plans and hotels required, as none of us live in the area. My brother and sister-in-law were able to come from Georgia due to the early arrival of their grand daughter – thank you, Ruby Leavell Leech! And our friends came – from Texas, Canada, North Carolina,and Florida! JB’s extended family came in mass! They take seriously getting together for every family occasion and we are so grateful.

Being together with our people provides sweet new memories to be savored and time to tell old stories over and over again. No social media relationships can even come close to the significance of being together in person.

No social media relationships even come close.

In summary – first, thank you to family and friends who blessed us with your presence and participation in our family’s celebration of Wes and Taylor’s marriage. We will never forget.

Secondly, be aware that we can give the wonderful gift of our time and presence to our family and friends. It is a win, win opportunity, so let’s take advantage every chance we can!


Shugie

Old Family Tradition Shedding New Light

We all have family traditions – some we love and carry on; others we’d probably prefer to forget. One of my earliest childhood memories is The Trip Psalm. Every time our family got in the car to go anywhere, if just to Atlanta for dinner, we said the 100th Psalm aloud. Even when traveling with some of my cousins we always said our family Psalm, as this was a tradition in much of our extended family. This was such a “must do” for us that I assumed every family did the same. Evidently I was a little bit blonde and a lot naive.

This tradition became my own and was one I brought into my marriage and family, so our kids know the routine as well. While I love Scripture and the choice to make it a priority of everyday life, unfortunately, some things that we do over and over tend to become just that – a routine but lacking in meaning. But God has a way of bringing our attention back to the main thing. Recently while driving somewhere by myself I began to recite The Trip Psalm.  For some reason (maybe God!) the words took on fresh meaning. The rich message in this Psalm has continued to reverberate in my heart and mind. While I currently enjoy using the ESV translation, I am sharing Psalm 100 with you in the King James, the way I memorized it years ago. It would be a good idea to read it in several translations to get more understanding for yourself.

1 “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”

What a great imperative! God wants us all to have joy and to express it. From my experience with people and observation of many lives, joy trumps happiness. So many people say they want to “just be happy.” Happiness tends to come and go, but joy is an inside job that sustains and always contains hope even in dire circumstances. So, yes, let’s choose to make a joyful noise to God — all of us!

2 “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.”

Too many people, including Christians, moan and say, “I just don’t know what to do.” Here is a start – serve God and serve with a glad heart. Down deep we all know that when we take time to help others, give time and talent and resources to good causes, it makes us feel much better. So let’s do it. If you still wonder what it is you could do, keep reading the Bible and put God’s commands into practice personally. Help a friend, encourage a brother, feed the poor, visit the sick, care for the widows and orphans, love one another … these are just a few to get you started. And then thank God that you can serve, praising him with singing. Years ago when I sang in a choir I dragged into choir practice most Wednesday nights, feeling exhausted and preferring to have just gone on home. But, without fail, when I left each week I was soaring and filled with energy. Ironic… or amazing…? To quote an old song that bears truth, “nothing improves my day better than praising Him.” Try it for yourself.

3 “Know ye, that the Lord, he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.”

Pause on this one, because it is big and oh so important. God, the creator of the universe, the sovereign Lord of this world, loves you and wants you to know him. We can try to outsmart God, but all that we have came from him, whether we acknowledge it or not. Oh, can I urge you to know him? Have you ever studied how a shepherd loves and cares for his sheep? It is a beautiful analogy and a wonderful promise to us. Things may be blowing up all around me, but I am secure knowing that I am his sheep and he is my shepherd.

4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Giving thanks is a choice. I visited with a friend this week who is 87 and has some pretty painful physical challenges. But let me tell you, she spent our entire visit telling me how thankful she is for so many things and people in her life! I was encouraged and blessed by our visit. Any of us can find reasons to complain, but just as easily, we can find things for which to be grateful. It is our choice. So let’s choose to thank God, to praise him and to bless his name. Every person I have ever met has the capacity to be wrong, even with the best intentions. Let’s don’t put all our confidence in other people who may one day disappoint or fail us. Rather, let’s relate to God and accept him as Lord and sovereign; then we have no need to worry; he will never fail us; he will never leave us; he will be with us through all the good times and every single hard time. Give thanks and bless his holy name.

5 “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

I love verse 5! Trust me, I have found and know for sure that God is good. Also, my own failures have been reason enough for his mercy to run out on me, but it never has. Truly, his mercy is everlasting, and don’t we all need that mercy… in different ways, but we all need it, right? A popular song has a line filled with truth and hope for each of us, “your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me.”

Finally, his truth does endure to all generations or, in other words, forever and ever. Our culture tries to tell us that God’s truth is old, outdated, narrow, and not relevant.  But that is such a mis-representation of God’s truth. God’s truth is reliable and does not bind us but sets us free. Read his word; let him speak to you. You will find out that he is good and that he knows you and loves you and has a plan for your life. You may not like it, you may reject it, but “his truth endureth to all generations.”

Thank you, family, for teaching me the importance of God’s word that continues to impact me and speak to me for years and years and years to come.


Shugie

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