by Audrey on April 3rd, 2016

I wrote the following back in 1998: 

“Busy hands,” I heard my aunt whisper as we gazed into the coffin where my grandmother’s body looked so lovely, even in death. Both of us seemed to be alone with her although we were standing next to each other in a room filled with hundreds of people.

“Busy hands,” my aunt whispered again as I turned to look at her. Her eyes were fixed on her mama before she focused on me. Then she elaborated, “You know, mama’s hands were always busy. Think of the hundreds of biscuits she made in her lifetime.” My aunt’s eyes were filled with tears, looking like a dam trying to keep a waterfall from overtaking her.

I said nothing as I looked at this child of the grandma I loved so much.

I had been so lost in my own grief but I was beginning to realize, more deeply, that all of us who loved my grandma were partaking in this grieving process together. It was a bond that unified us even in our silence.

Busy hands. That’s all my aunt needed to say to bring images of countless times I had seen my grandma knead dough for biscuits while I stood next to her, countless times I had sat beside her while she crocheted, and countless times I seemed to have just walked in at the right time to “lick the bowl” where the cake batter seemed to linger -- leaving extra for little hands to dip into. Somehow Grandma’s pound cakes never seemed to be bothered by missing batter.

Countless times, I had seen her sitting at her treadle sewing machine -- she never did get a new one -- mending old clothes or making new ones until the years crept up on her and it became too difficult for her to thread a tiny needle. Funny. Now I sit at an old treadle sewing machine that holds my computer. A place for busy hands.

And countless times, I had been grabbed as a little girl, running past my grandma’s kitchen, only to be stopped by her reaching into her apron pocket to pull out a handkerchief to wipe my runny nose. It was a handkerchief that all the cousins shared. I smiled at the memory of my Grandma’s laughter when countless times, as a grown-up mama, I would share the story of the “chasing handkerchief” from a little girl’s perspective. She had a grand sense of humor.

I sighed as I looked into her now stone-cold face wishing somehow she could laugh again and reach into her apron pocket for a handkerchief to wipe my runny eyes.

As I stood over her I understood more clearly that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” -- this body was just an empty shell, but this was the body that carried my grandmother’s heart, this was the body that I knew and loved.

Scripture teaches that the body is important; that there is as much hope for the body as there is for the soul. Someday, Jesus will resurrect this body from the grave and reunite it with my grandma’s spirit. She will have a glorified body ~ without spot or blemish. Somehow, looking at her aged body lying in the coffin, I was comforted in the truths from Scripture. I knew that my grandma was enjoying His presence in a place where a handkerchief is not needed . . . because there are no runny noses there and God is the One who will wipe every tear from our eyes.

But if she could, my grandma would be right there with her handkerchief. Busy hands. Now they were still. I placed my hand on hers one last time.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, the Apostle Paul states:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus . . . Therefore comfort one another with these words.

I’ve thought about these words a lot since my grandmother’s death in June. And I remembered how I felt when a close friend, who didn't know the Lord, died years before. I thought about the difference in the grief. I grieved for my friend; incredibly so, but I could not be comforted in the same way as I could with my grandmother’s death.

The difference? Hope. For the non-Christian, only eternal death awaits. In a horrible place called hell.  I grieved for my friend, because as far as I knew, he did not know Jesus Christ. Once he died, his eternal destiny was settled and there is no hope for him. I cannot hope for his salvation, I cannot pray him into heaven. It is settled. Non-Christians cannot “comfort one another with these words.”

For the Christian, though, eternal joy awaits! We shall always be with the Lord. There is a great reunion waiting for us. We will not only be reunited with those we love but we will see Jesus! The Bible teaches that we will live together with Him. And even though we grieve when someone we love dies, our grief leads us to the comfort found in the salvation of Jesus Christ. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus and we are to comfort one another with these words.

Sometime in September …

Jameson and I pulled into a parking space on Bay Street. For such a long time I had said I was going to get the jeweler to restring my pearls. And finally I had remembered to bring them. I put a dime in the meter and . . .

Walking into the Old Bay Marketplace, Jameson and I shared a coke and discussed jewelry. He didn’t know much about pearls but now he wanted to know everything.

After we dropped off the pearls and made our way back to the van, I noticed I still had 20 minutes left on the parking meter. Making a quick decision, Jameson and I headed into one of Bay Street’s gift shops.

We ooh-ed and ah-ed over all the cute stuff as we looked at little turtles, novelty socks, old-fashioned toys, stationary and doorstops. Jameson asked if I would purchase one of the little animals he had spotted and would I please help him decide which one? I took a quick inventory of my “cash money” situation; I didn’t want to write a check for $1.75 and besides I didn’t even know if they took checks. Yes! A five-dollar bill for a little momento of our excursion.

Before I paid for the turtle; however, I told Jameson I wanted to look at the back of the store. I still had about 10 minutes before the meter would expire. We made our way through the shop with Jameson holding his turtle, when suddenly I felt transported into another time. There across from me in this back room of the little gift shop was an old treadle sewing machine ~ one like my Grandma’s.

As I gazed at the machine and then around this little area, I saw that I was surrounded by cloth, lace, and crocheted things. Emotion gripped me. Funny how it hits you . . . in the middle of anywhere . . . when you’re not even thinking about sorrow or grief; in fact, you’re doing quite well. But when you least expect it, emotion reaches into your being, clutches your heart, forces its way up to your face and then drags teardrops from your eyes. Your wound, you thought, was healed. But here it is, open again. Sigh. It hurts and you really don’t want to cry. Not in this store.

And you wonder, "Does God have purpose in our emotions?" I know He says that He desires a broken and contrite heart; He loves to comfort the afflicted. God is attracted to our weakness and He wants to meet us in our sorrow to cause us to look to and learn from Him and then choose to trust Him . . . even while we cry. It's called faith.

I felt God’s gentle stirring through the pain of my heart and then I began to weep softly and quietly as my mind formed a picture of my grandma’s busy hands, working at her sewing machine and seeming to say to me as she did whenever she found me crying, “Come here and let me wipe your eyes with my handkerchief.”

I did go there, as my mind instructed. I walked over to the sewing machine in this little shop. And there, lying on the top of the workspace before my waterlogged eyes was a little lace handkerchief. My heart smiled through its open wound.

“You know, Mama’s hands were always busy,” my aunt had told me.

Yes, Grandma’s hands were busy. Busy loving me and everyone else God brought her way. My grandma had this way of making you feel that you were the special one -- because, in her eyes, you were. No matter your manners, your insensitivity to her schedule, whether you thanked her or not for all the things she did for you, no matter how long since she last saw you. She always seemed as if she had been waiting on her backporch just for you.

So, in September, it was only natural that I would think of her when I walked into a room that captured her essence. Seeing all the lacy blankets and crocheted gifts made me so aware of the eternal impact she made in my life. I couldn’t escape it and I knew God wanted me to be flooded with a keen sense of fresh grief. Just as He was when He wept for Lazarus, when He suffered on the cross, when He longed for the salvation of Jerusalem, when He was in anguish over my sin. The Scripture teaches that He Himself was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief . . . Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried.” (Isaiah 53:3-4) He can and does sympathize with us.

Lace and crochet. These were a part of who Grandma was. Oh she didn’t keep the beautiful things she made -- she gave them away. To all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and anyone else God brought her way. I can’t even fathom the hours she put into making blankets, Christmas lace heirlooms, and pound cakes. Busy hands.

And as I continued to look around the back room of this little shop, I was not only reminded of my grief but also that a heart spent getting to know God will express itself in giving to others. Whether in handmade treasures, in time, in preparing and teaching the truth of God’s Word, in “feeding the 5000,” washing the feet of the saints, encouraging others, or giving a drink of water in His name. Somehow while my parking meter was running out of time, I was running into an encounter with God while shopping on Bay Street. He met with me personally.

Jameson and I headed home.

When I drove into my driveway, I sat in my van for a long time. Jameson didn’t say anything as he sat with me. In fact, I didn’t even realize he was still there. I stared at the marsh and the water and then -- without warning -- the floodgates opened and the dam broke. I cried rivers of water . . . salty tears . . . enough to cause the tide to overflow its banks.

I sobbed from my innermost being. If anyone had seen me, it might have appeared like I would never recover. But I must say that I did not grieve as one who has no hope. That afternoon on Bay Street was a reminder to me that a heart spent getting to know God will overflow into the lives of others. Jesus said “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’” It was clear that my grandma believed in Him. Her life was an overflow of her relationship with Christ. So it was natural that the sorrow in my heart would overflow in rivers of water escaping from my eyes. The tears were cleansing my soul.

And when I seemed to be overtaken with grief on that September afternoon, God reminded me too, how a heart that loves deeply will hurt deeply. Paul described it as “sorrow upon sorrow.” He told the Philippians that his friend and fellow worker Epaphroditus “was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” God is moved through our distress and He is the One who either ministers to us personally or He sends someone with tangible “flesh and blood” to help us bear our burdens. And in so doing, we “fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) The tender memory of my grandma awakened a further passion within me to make my life count for Him. Our sorrow needs to propel us toward the Savior, not away from Him.

Oh how much I’ve learned and have yet to learn from my grandma’s life. She gives me hope! But more than the hope her life gives to me, it is because of her Savior that I can really have hope. Oh how I want God to use me to make a significant eternal impact in the lives of my family and everyone else God brings my way.

My grandmother wasn’t perfect. She was the first to say so. And I don’t want to portray her as anything but an ordinary woman who walked with God in the everydayness of life. That was the essence of who she was -- she made God bigger by her life.

Since she has gone home, I miss being able to audibly hear her voice, but her legacy to me is seen in the tangible things she made with her hands. And although I can’t hear her anymore . . . when I wrap myself up in the blanket she made for me . . . I feel the love and the legacy of her busy hands.

And you know what? On that September afternoon when I was unaware of Jameson’s presence in the van, I suddenly felt a hand touch my arm.

Carl had obviously left one of his handkerchiefs that he uses to wipe his brow on Sundays on one of the seats. Jameson had seen me crying, no doubt he felt compassion for me so he picked up the handkerchief and in a 5-year-old way, thrust it before my eyes. Then he said, “Are you sad? Here, do you want me to wipe your eyes?”

It was as if I sensed the Lord Jesus seeing me, having compassion on me and saying to me just as He did to the widow of Nain, “Do not weep.” I went on in the strength of God’s care the rest of the afternoon.

by Audrey on March 22nd, 2016

​Once, when my children were young, I experienced a long, discouraging day. I guess I had stretched myself a little too far in the preceding weeks and I was feeling the effects.
First, I had been bothered by some things over which I had no control and was misunderstood. Then, I had surgery on my arm which threw me for a loop because it was much more painful than I had anticipated.
Then, more discouraging news. I was down and it showed. Then two of my children got into an argument and so it seemed to be the perfect time to deal with that. Bad timing for them. So, as can be so typical for mothers, my children’s spat became larger in my eyes simply because I was stressed about things that had nothing to do with them.
Well, tension filled the air as I ranted. Then as quickly as my little tornado blew through the room, I walked away leaving confused children who weren’t sure what to do next.
It was evening. Time for the children to get in bed. Before I could do that however, I had to go get my two oldest boys from the farm where they had been cutting grass. I drove in silence feeling rather alone and miserable. As I pulled up, Jordan looked in the window and asked, “Mom, what’s wrong? You seem upset.”
Those words stung. I offered no answer. Somehow the fury in my tornado died with Jordan’s question. I slithered down in my seat like a worm trying to hide in the dirt. We drove home in almost the same silence as I had driven in earlier. I didn’t say much because I couldn’t be trusted. But I thought. For some reason the words of the old hymn “At the Cross” came to my mind.
Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature’s sin.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do!

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day!
Isaac Watts must have felt the weight of his sin to be able to write such a hymn. To think that my Savior was quite aware of all my “tornadoes” when He died upon the cross is truly amazing to me. Mr. Watts is right, my feeling terribly guilty can never repay the debt I owe -- my debt was paid by Christ at the cross. And just as I received the free gift of salvation, I must receive His gentle rebuke, confess my own sin, and restore the relationships I had broken.
I didn’t respond so quickly. I wanted to feel sorry for myself a little longer I guess. When we got home, the children were quick to do everything I said. I had no trouble with disobedience.
Time passed. I did the mom stuff. But I had no joy and I was not “happy all the day.”
The lights were out in the children’s rooms. I walked down the hall and then peeked in GraceAnna’s room.
Normally, she would have said something to me -- but not tonight. I guess if I had been a young girl of eleven who had just been treated unfairly, I wouldn’t have said anything either.
As I stood in the doorway of her room, I wanted to go in and hug her but I felt so unworthy. How could she want to receive a hug from a mom who had treated her so unjustly?
“Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in, When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature’s sin.”
The words of Isaac Watts echoed in my mind.
She spoke. “Mom, would you come kiss me goodnight?’’
Now why in the world would she want a kiss from me? I didn’t deserve it. I hadn’t even asked for her forgiveness. But she forgave without a request.
After that I walked to Grant’s room. Even before I got there, he said, “Mom? Is that you? Will you come in here with me?”
Wow. I said, “Sure, I’ll be there in a minute.” I knew I had to apologize to everyone first.  And then I went to tell my son a story before he fell asleep.  I’ve never regretted it.
As I confessed my sin to each of my children, I thought of how undeserving I was for their gentle and gracious spirits.
But even more than that I thought about how undeserving I am to find grace and mercy at the cross. Why would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
But He did. My Savior bled and died for this worm. He died, not so that I could wallow in self-pity, but so I could receive His forgiveness and then move on.
All these years I’ve mothered, I have so wished to be the perfect mom. I have so wished I could make every right decision and so wished I would never ever blow it. Perfection. Seems like such a noble goal.
But I am still learning that Jesus is the only perfect One. He is the only One Who will never ever blow it, Who always makes right decisions. And He is the Only One Who can enable me to live in such a way to please Him. I could have called out to Him when I was stressed. I could have received His help when I was burdened. I could have rested in His grace when I was misunderstood. I could have allowed Him to defend me when I was misunderstood. I could have trusted Him to help me deal fairly with my children. But I didn’t choose His way of escape, I didn’t choose to please Him.
And you know what? He would have helped me had I run to Him when I really needed Him. But He was still ready to help me after I chose my own way. And when the guilt of my sin was crushing me because of my own doing - He was the One right there rolling away the burden of my heart. He’s just that good.
The next day, GraceAnna, Jameson, and I enjoyed lunch together at Subway. As we were sitting in one of the yellow booths, with the sun shining brightly through the window, I said to GraceAnna, “I don’t want to be a mean mama like I was yesterday. I’m asking the Lord to help me. Will you pray for me?”
She agreed to pray but then she gave me a deliberate focused gaze, as if to make sure I really understood her point. “Mom, do you really believe that just because of one time I would think you’re a mean mom?”
One time. She said one time. I knew there had been lots of times but she said “one time.” Her words seem to slap me in the face. I am a sinner. I know that I am not and neither will I ever be perfect. No matter how hard I try, I will mess up but . . . how much will I mess up? What will be the pattern of my life? What direction am I heading? Am I learning from my sins and moving forward? Am I messing up more and more or less and less? Did I want to continue having outbursts or did I want God to purge this sin from me?
No, I didn’t want the pattern of my life to be one of outbursts. I had prayed for this. I had asked God to help me. And I thought about how distraught I was over this particular sin with my children. God was showing me how good it is to be grieved over sin because that’s how a saved and growing Christian feels when he sins.
It’s proof positive that God is working and perfecting and molding and shaping.
And that girl - GraceAnna - through her simple observation so encouraged me! Now, if only those people in Subway knew the joy of such a slap in the face made by young fresh-cheeked girl with a dorito in one hand and a sandwich in the other.
OK, I really did feel like dancing in the middle of the Subway line.
But I didn’t.
So many years later, I still think about the lessons of my outburst. I’m not perfect, I’ve had some more, but God in His grace is still working on me.

by Audrey on March 18th, 2016

A number of years ago, at the close of a long day, I drove up to our little neighborhood post office to get the mail. It was dark, I had a rare headache, and I was alone. After I pulled the letters from our box, I got back in the car but before driving the quarter mile to our house, I decided to go ahead and open one of the letters. The words from a missionary friend captured my heart:

"How different is God's view of pain from ours. My instinct is to avoid or grumble underneath it. His is to embrace it for what it will produce in us. When I was in the first stages of labor with my son, a woman we had briefly met through our organization came to see me in the hospital. She shared Hebrews 12:2, and said that just as Jesus endured the cross for the joy of the salvation of His people, she wanted to encourage me to receive the pain for the life that would be entering the world. I thanked her politely, but I confess, I thought she was a little presumptuous. She had never been pregnant. What did she know about having a baby?! Well, in the middle of a long labor, as I felt myself tense up with the onslaught of a contraction, the Lord used this woman's words "receive the pain" to call me to relax into the contractions rather than brace against them. 

'Receive the pain' has often been my mantra for choosing to press through life's unpredictable and painful circumstances these past fifteen years. And just as my son was the wonderful result of that brief time of pain, I am trusting that God will not allow this and future pain to be without purpose and result, as my hope grows in resting on His character and not my circumstances."

I sat in my car while unexpected tears quietly dropped from my eyes splattering on her letter. She had written James 1:2-4 from the Phillips translation in her letter:

"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, do not resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you a quality of endurance. But let that process go on and you will find that you have become men of character, full of maturity, with no weak spots."

God's word and her application of His words penetrated my heart. See, at that time in my life, I realized that I had been carrying around some pain for quite some time - praying, yes, but more than praying or trusting, I had been bracing against it.

I don't like feeling pain. But at times there have been circumstances sorrow in my life that have brought great pain, heartache, and asking God to show His face through them - stresses He brought to me and still, I struggled with it.   I struggled so many times by asking God for wisdom and grace, what to do and say, how to feel, how to guard my own heart, seeking Him about what He wanted to teach me through the trials, what not to do and say.

And just as recently, on that particular morning during my quiet time, I had asked God for some very specific words of encouragement. While waiting for His encouragement and longing for it, I still carried my burden all day. I fasted. I prayed.

Then as quietly as the evening came, God sent His message to me through a missionary friend on the other side of the world. God revealed to me in just a few seconds that I needed to receive the pain of life.  I was reminded that all of the pain of this life is temporary. And I can smile with assurance through, yes, even the greatest wailing in the deepest part of my soul, knowing God is at work.  

I learned that evening that I needed to relax in Who God is and to stop bracing against what God was doing.

Even now,  I sometimes forget that God is working in ways that I cannot see. His work, His surgery, often hurts. I sometimes forget that He cares more than I do. I sometimes forget that He wants to use my pain, not as some intruder, but as a welcomed friend who will help me grow to maturity.

It is my prayer that I will always receive the pain and allow God to accomplish what concerns me.

I don't know but when I got to my home, I felt lighter, my headache was gone, and my attention was turned away from myself to my missionary friend. I had allowed the friend of pain into my life.  So I prayed for my missionary friend and asked God to send her some very specific words of encouragement, as He had done, through her, to me.


by Audrey on December 17th, 2015

​My daughter-in-law asked me if I would be willing to encourage the moms in her homeschool group.  She told me it would be casual and I only needed to share for about 10-15 minutes.
I was honored.  I wrote down a few thoughts so I could remember and what you are about to read is what I shared with them plus a little more.
I applauded them.  I told them they  are doing something great though it doesn’t seem so great in the mundane, routine, noisy, and cluttered days. In the everydayness.  But I assured them, what they are doing is a great thing. 

It takes young men and women of courage and discipline to raise children for the glory of God.  God asks us to do it and for many, this includes the task of educating our children at home.  
He promises to help us. We cannot do it on our own. 
All of us are probably very familiar with Psalm 127:3 which states “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord.”
This is so true.  Yet this phrase is found in the larger context of the chapter.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

I love this passage.  When I was expecting our first child, I did a watercolor drawing of Pooh Bear holding balloons – with the familiar part, “Behold Children are a gift of the Lord.” 
But here’s the thing – Unless God builds our houses, we labor in vain.
I told them - Though I don't know you, I pray for you.  Stay the course. You are equipped. You are capable. You will be tired and overwhelmed at times but He is with you and if you will trust and obey - your joy will be full even in those times when you are tempted to think you are a failure and you just can't do it anymore.  And believe me, that is a good place to be if, when you are there,  you will look up and fix your eyes on the One Who wants to strongly support you. 
As I asked the Lord what to share with them in those few moments we had together, my thoughts gathered around two areas. 
First,  I shared briefly my journey to home educate my children. Now that I'm on the back side, I see even more clearly how God never left  me - He always guided and He was my help. 
I first heard of home education back in 1982 when my oldest child was a few months old. I was listening to James Dobson and he had a guest on his program who was discussing this alternative. I was interested but I remember thinking - "that's for specially-equipped people. I'm not one of those."
However, I remember wanting to read the book his guest had written but as those things go ... I never did. And besides, I thought of school as "so far away."
Three children later, my oldest was ready for kindergarten. We enrolled him in the local Christian school deciding we would make any sacrifice necessary to pay for it. He did wonderfully academically-speaking but there were a few issues that concerned me.  
Over the summer, and after we had enrolled him for 1st grade, I walked into our church's library and there on the table was the book I had heard about when he was a baby. I remembered it and so I checked it out. As I read it over the summer, I sensed that I needed to homeschool. I asked my husband about it and also asked him to read sections of the book - which he did - and together, we made the decision to home educate. 
I was now pregnant with our 4th child who would be born right at the beginning - late August - of our first school year. 
I didn't really know how to introduce our choice to family and friends - it was not the norm by any stretch of the imagination. This was 1988. 
I followed the curriculum plan of the Moore Foundation and thus our journey began. I loved it. I loved being with my children. I loved conversations with them. I loved teaching them. 
But at some point in those early years, I began to feel very overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all. I heard from naysayers - people bringing up concerns that I hadn't even thought about.  So for whatever reason, or for perhaps many reasons,  I was feeling the weight of it all.  I began thinking - "What if I mess them up? What if I miss things? What if they need more?  What if they hate me for doing this?  What if, what if, what if …."

And so the second area my thoughts gathered around was the passage of Scripture that God used at that time in my life to encourage me.  And I can’t even begin to share how this passage has been a constant in my life for over 30 years now.
It’s Solomon’s prayer which is found in 1 Kings 3. 
 In verse 5 God says this to Solomon:  “Ask what you wish Me to give you.”

And to this day, I am still overwhelmed by Solomon’s prayer.  First, he talks about the goodness of God, both to him and his father,  as he says, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.”

Then he makes his request, Now, O Lord My God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?

I remember thinking, way back then, when I had my four little children (my fifth, at this point, was just a thought in the heart of God) – "Who am I to educate them?  How can I do this?  I am in the middle of these children whom You have chosen to give me and I believe You’ve called me to this task – but their needs are so great.  I live in a nation that thinks formal schooling is the best option … Oh God, I need Your help.  I, like Solomon, need an understanding heart … I, too, feel like a little child … I sometimes don’t know what to do next …”

God’s answer to Solomon is so encouraging …
It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.  God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.   I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.  If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days. 

You know, Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.  God gave great wisdom to him and God was pleased with his humility at this point in his life.  And because of the humblest of prayers from the humblest of hearts – yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in …. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?, God gave not only wisdom to him, but oh so much more!

The people belonged to God.  God had chosen Solomon to lead.  Solomon was overwhelmed with this responsibility and he called out to the One Who had chosen him.  He knew he couldn’t do it alone – or AT ALL …  remember he said this to the Lord, Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. 
God reminded me through this passage that though the task is overwhelming – God chooses.  He chooses us to be mothers and He chooses the children He gives.   And He also reminded me how much I need to pray like Solomon. 

God was so pleased with his prayer – He gave him so much more – things he didn’t even request!   Sometimes when I look at my grown children today, my heart is overwhelmed with how God has worked.  He is so faithful.

Reminds me of Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think ,according to the power that works within us,  to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
And you know what else? God constantly reminds me that there is absolutely no room for pride as we mother our children, as we home educate them, as we do what God asks us to do.  The older I grow, the more I realize this.  It’s all God.

All of us are like children – we don’t know anything – but God knows everything.  All throughout Scripture God shows us through narratives and He tells us point blank that He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Scripture shows us that God is attracted to weakness – He comes near to  those who cry out to Him for His help. 

I need to have a constant heart like Solomon – realizing that I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in ….
And think about it, Jesus is the One Who tells us that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like children.  Childlike in our faith – dependent on the One Who saves us.  We can’t save ourselves.  We can’t even help.
And likewise, with all God asks us to do, we must be like children.  Dependent on the One Who can help us.
Jehoshaphat, when facing the enemy in 2 Chronicles 20, expressed this same kind of heart when he prayed, O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

God, pleased with this kind of prayer, answered, Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
I am just a child. I am often fearful, dismayed.  I don't really know what I'm doing. I don't know how to go out or come in. I'm in the midst of all these children - I need God’s wisdom. I need Him.

Again, there is absolutely no room for pride.  The moment pride enters -  “I got this.  I know what I’m doing.  My way is the best way,” we set ourselves up to fail.
I want God to have it. He knows what He’s doing.  His way is the best way. 

 So as you've taken on this task of home educating your children, what is your heart like?  On Whom are you depending?  Yourself?   Your education?  Your great organizing skills?  Your great plan?  Your wisdom? 

Or are you depending upon God?  Are you asking for His help?  Do you realize that unless He builds your house, you labor in vain?

You know, there was one thing I didn’t share with the moms on that morning when I offered some encouragement.  I didn’t tell them the following story from the early days of my mothering. 
It was spring of 1984. We were at Duke University and in those busy years of discipling and training students, becoming a mother and being involved in our church, I didn’t know then how God would use the event of one night to shape me and prepare me for the years ahead.
Carl was away from our home in Durham, North Carolina.  I was a young mom with 2 small babies.  My older was 2 and my second was a few months old.  Carl had traveled to Texas to help write Bible study materials for Cru.
On the second night of Carl’s trip I remember putting both my boys in bed with me.  I don’t really know why.  It just seemed more comforting to have us close together when Carl was away.
      Sleep felt good. 
      Later, I found myself coughing yet I felt as if I couldn’t move.  I thought I smelled smoke but I was so sleepy,  it didn’t seem real.  I fought the urge to get up. 
I continued to cough and the urge to get up became alarming.   Suddenly I sat up in bed. Why was it so foggy? It was dark; yet there was a flicker of light coming from the kitchen which cast an eerie shadow.
I jumped up as I realized the house was filled with smoke.  I ran to the kitchen and saw a smoldering towel on the stove.  In my haste, I grabbed the towel and threw it in the sink not realizing with that one act, I was creating a bigger fire.  Flames burst upward toward the kitchen cabinets from the fragments of the towel.  I threw the towel in the sink and turned around to see fiery shreds of it left on the burner.  I don’t remember how I put the two fires out but somehow I  found the baking soda and dumped it everywhere.   I turned on the water in the sink.  The fires were now out but the smoke thickened.  I ran to open up windows and doors and then stopped - what was I thinking?  I needed to get my boys out of there.   It was 3:30 in the morning.  Somehow I carried them both out into the night air.  Then I sat on the deck steps and cried. 
      A breeze was blowing.  My children slept in my arms.  I kissed them both as tears rolled down my cheeks. I looked to the heavens.  The sky was as clear as I had ever seen it.  The stars were as many and as bright as I could ever remember.  And in that night air, God brought two passages of Scripture to my mind:
 Psalm 127:
Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it:  Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.  It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.  Behold, children are a gift of the Lord;  the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They shall not be ashamed, When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

and Psalm 139,
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar.  You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all.  You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;  Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.   If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,  And the light around me will be night," Even the darkness is not dark to You,  And the night is as bright as the day.  Darkness and light are alike to You .  . . . And in Your book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me,  When as yet there was not one of them.  How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.  When I awake, I am still with You. 
      God impressed a great truth to me that night.   He is the source of all I need as a mother.  He is the One on Whom I need to depend to build my house.  As I gazed into the heavens, I really sensed His presence.  I knew He was the One Who had awakened me.   And there as I  felt the breeze, I asked the Lord to show me His ways,  I asked for the good way, and I asked Him for His grace to walk in it.  I loved the Lord before that night but then I loved Him even more.  I knew what Jesus taught in the gospel of John, “If you love me, you will obey me.”  That night was the beginning of my knowing God’s presence in my life in a whole new way.
We need Him.  We need His wisdom.  We are but children.  We don’t know how to go out or come in.
But He does.

by Audrey on August 28th, 2015

​You never know when it will be the last time.  Things that have been a part of your life for as long as you can remember will end.  At some point, you will have your last experience, your last bite, your last laugh, your last visit, your last tear, your last breath.
It's been almost a year since my daddy was welcomed into heaven.  I'm coming up on the anniversary of my last two visits with him in this life. The first of the last was at the beginning of September.  He was so energetic.  It was such a fun, good time.  I didn't know it was to be the last time I visited him in the home where I grew up.  I didn't know that and I didn’t know it would be the last time I would hear his voice.  

The last of the last was just barely over two weeks later and it was just sad.  He was already in the hospital by the time I got there.  God gave sweet time to all of us who loved him.  Mama, my sister, and brothers were close and overwhelmed with the sorrow we shared. Yet ...

​Losing my daddy in this life has exposed sad parts of my soul that I didn’t know existed.  Death in this life is so final.  Having him here is all I have ever known. 
So yes, it's been almost a year since my last two visits with him on this earth.  But we will visit again.
I've thought about many things as I've walked this grief road.  My mind has relived childhood memories.  I have felt  hollowness.  Yet  God has made my heart happy as He has allowed me to visit often with Mama and recall visits with Daddy.
When Carl and I and our little family moved from Texas to South Carolina 25 years ago, I had no idea the blessing it would be to live just two hours from my parents.
I could drive up and see them and be back in the same day. I made that drive often as my children were growing up – some times more than other times.  Sometimes I did it on a whim, sometimes on a plan.  I don’t regret one single trip.
And because they lived so close to the Interstate, I could drop in unannounced like when I was on my way to other places or on my way back from other places.  Just stop in. Just knock. Surprise!
There was a time I took my youngest son and one of his friends to see them. My dad joked around with them. My mom made fried potato skins and they both told them all about their old school days.
And when my youngest boys were still at home, the three of us made many trips to see my parents. We'd spend a night .... or two  .... or three.  Both my younger boys developed a closeness with my parents during those years.
I don't regret. One. Single. Minute.

And here’s the thing.   Holidays and family gatherings  are terrific!  It’s so great to be with siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. I loved (and still do love) those times.
But ..... I really, really loved the times when it was just mama and daddy and me. And I really, really loved the times when it was mama, daddy, me, and sometimes one or two or sometimes all five of my children.

In the last three years when my daddy "got down" more consistently – I was there more consistently. I drove up sometimes for a day, sometimes to spend a night or two.   I made a conscious effort to go at least twice a month - sometimes more and every once in a while, less.  I don’t regret one single trip.

My only sister and I would let each other know too ... if we were going.  We'd try to meet there and visit.

On those times when it was just me, I had time to listen to Daddy.  Just sit with him and listen.
Unhurried. Sitting on his bed with him - looking at old westerns, discussing politics, actors he liked, watching infomercials. Talking about the Lord.

There were times we said nothing. There were times he talked about what I was like as a child and what I was like in high school. He reminded me how stubborn I was.  Sometimes both he and I would whisper an apology or two about things over the years.

Me? My disobedience. My ungratefulness.

Him? He told me he “reckoned he had teased me too much through the years about my Yankee husband.” I still remember his face and his words when he said with a grin, "I guess I just need to quit that.”
I told him how most of the time it was quite funny  . . . oh my, how I'd love to hear him tease me about my Yankee husband right now.

I often told Daddy how grateful I was that he was my dad. Did I ever tell him when I was growing up?    I just took for granted that he provided for me, that he made me sit in that swivel rocker when I was being a brat, that he protected me, that he was there.

So in these last three years, I made up for lost time. I told him how grateful I was that he led me to Jesus Christ. I told him how much I loved my happy childhood.

Good times. 
One of my visits, well, I just didn’t want to forget it.
I wrote it down as soon as I got home.  This is what I wrote (I may have gotten a few details wrong but Mama can let me know) :
There we were - sitting in the room next to my 80-year-old Daddy and I asked him about the early years.  Not the early years in general. And not his childhood or teen years.  I asked him about his early married years – those years of his becoming a husband, becoming a dad, and what happened in his life for him to become so intentional about his faith.
He began to tell me. And as he struggled with some of the minute details of dates and places, we called Mama into the room.  Together, they told me their story.
​When Mama and Daddy first got married, she was in nursing school and at that time, there was no housing for married women.  Before her marriage, she lived in the “dorm,” but then had to find a different place to live.
I imagined my mom – the beauty that she was (and still is) – as a young bride.  I imagined her so in love with my handsome daddy and he with her.  It was the early ‘50s.  My dad’s job was two hours away from the nursing school where she was a student.  So together, they found a bedroom/bath rental in someone’s home. 
They both, as they were telling their story to me, almost in unison, said the address of the house.  They looked at each other and suddenly I knew they were whisked away to that time period.
If this were a movie, the color would fade to black and white,  Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable would play in the background, and images of a woman with a hat and bobbed hair alongside a young man with a white starched shirt and combed back wavy hair would appear. 
But in this moment in 2013, I saw the look in the eyes of two people still in love and as they continued to tell the story, I felt like I was watching that movie. It was like they were alone and I really shouldn’t be there – but I was and I was captivated.
I was witnessing a steadfast “I-choose-love” so strong.  I was witnessing a chosen love – the kind of love that had stood the test of time, stood the test of many trials, and had embraced the joys and sorrows of nearly 64 years together.  And this “I-choose-love” was still standing.
Their new place was across the street from the hospital – right in town – within walking distance of everything she needed.  This was important because my dad commuted to his job during the week and came home for the weekends.
Later, they discovered they were going to be parents.  My older brother was soon to be born and they needed another place to live.  After some searching, they found a rental house with two bedrooms. 
They talked about that little house – then my dad looked at my mother and with a slight smile, he said, “I can still see him climbing over the fence.” 
I was wondering, “Who? Who did he see climbing over the fence?”  But my mom knew, “I can too,” she said.   And it was then I knew … they were seeing my brother, their little blonde boy.
And again they looked at each other and then my mom looked down.  I don’t know what she was thinking at the moment.
But to them, I knew it was like yesterday – so clear – so vivid.   And it was like I could see him too.  I imagined a fence I had never seen and a little tow-headed boy in suspenders trying to scale it.
My dad continued, “He liked to play with the little boy who lived in the house behind us – oh and we were friendly with the family – they were a good family.” 
My mom added, “Yes, we built the fence to keep the children safe, to keep them from wandering.”  And then she smiled a far-away annoyed smile,  “But somehow he managed to climb the fence.  But neighbors, we helped each other, and it was safe.”
It was during this time in their lives that, as a young couple, they traveled ten or so miles to go to the church where my mom grew up.  As they talked, Daddy said, “We just went to preaching.” 
(I thought about this for a moment.  I’d always known my parents to be at church for everything and to never be late for anything.)
And at that moment my mom added, “And we were always late.”
It’s funny but you never think of your parents as being young once.  I mean they are my parents.  They have always been adults.  They’ve always been there.  They’ve always been responsible.
Well, one Sunday, when they were late as usual, my mom was so frustrated she blurted out, “I hate being late!!  Why do we always have to be late?”
At that moment, they were coming up to a crossroads and Daddy decided to turn right and go to a church that was closer to where they lived.
They both recalled how when they got to this random church, a man greeted them.  He helped them with the children, took them to meet people, and everyone made them feel so welcomed.
My mom then said, “It was like we were the most important people in the world.”
Mama and Daddy started going to this church every Sunday and they not only went to “just preaching,” but they attended Bible classes and other church events. 
Mama looked at me, “And they gave me a baby shower when I was pregnant with you.  I had never had a baby shower.  They showed so much love to me.  Then when I was pregnant again so quickly after having you, they gave another shower - except this time it was for me.  I received bath soaps and pretty things - I was so overwhelmed.”
She continued, “We loved that church.  And the people?  They acted like it was an honor to take care of and teach y’all - our children.”
It was there, in that church, where my dad got serious about his faith.
​He told me how he had become a Christian when he was younger but as he grew older he became, in his own words, a little apathetic.  But seeing Christ lived out in the people of this church made an impact on him.  Hearing the Bible taught at this church made an impact.  And the older men?  They took an interest in this young husband and father. 
My parents never forgot it.
Then …
My dad got tired and as he did, my mom moved from the chair to sit on the bed next to him and she held his hand.  He drifted off to sleep.  I didn’t hear any more of the story that day. 
But I saw an “I choose love.”  ​I witnessed it.  And I don’t regret one single minute.

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