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.

by Audrey on April 22nd, 2015

This is a repost from 5 years ago this month:

GraceAnna was in the States for a few months while Grant was on the ship. Last Thursday, Carl and I took her to the airport for an early morning flight back to Japan. It's hard for me to believe my little girl flies around the world now - by herself - in and out of airports in unfamiliar countries and being around so many unfamiliar people. When she was in high school, she went on mission trips with our church so she has experience with international travel - but it's not the same as the kind of traveling she is doing now.

We said that same teary goodbye - the one I always do when I must hug my children bye. With my boys, I try to walk away quickly. With GraceAnna, since we're both glassy-eyed, I linger a bit. Knowing that she would soon be back with Grant on the other side of the world and also knowing that God already has them stationed in Beaufort beginning this summer made it fun tears. We were laughing while the tears were dropping. How silly we are.

Thinking about so many changes that go with being a parent sometimes overwhelm me. Anyway, on Sunday morning - way early - I heard my phone buzz on the nightstand. I checked it and this is what I read - all the way from Japan. And no, it wasn't from GraceAnna:

"Cool story for you. We are sitting in the middle of the Mall at the Kadena Airforce BX (It's the military version of a mall) and this young man and beautiful young lady in a peach colored dress walks by us. My son yells out, 'Dad! Mom! That was Pastor Broggi's daughter - - Remember his teenage daughter?"'(BIG SMILE for me). 

"My daughter chimes in, 'Yes Mama that is really her - - I am sure.' I am like, okay guys, let's run and catch her. I don't think she'll mind that two little ones remember her and are yelling for her in JAPAN. We are running behind this couple and I am telling my son who is waaaaaaay ahead me, 'Scream out her name, so she'll stop.'

"He says very politely, 'Momma, I can't call out her first name - she is an ADULT now - it's GraceAnna, Momma, don't you remember her name?'

"So, I yell out 'GraceAnna Broggi' and sure enough, this beautiful lady stops in her tracks and it was her: GraceAnna Broggi Castleberry. She turns and does her big Audrey Broggi smile, while I huffed and puffed.

I am so tired from the middle-aged trot that I tell her that our kids are her kids. Very politely, she smiled and asked the kids, 'So where are your parents and what are their names?'  She was full of Grace and charm ... Wow, that is all I can recall. She is so pretty, Mrs. Audrey.

We chatted about Beautiful Beaufort with the Castleberry family. It was nice to see a smiling face from Beaufort today. We discussed my son being baptized in the River there. It was really a nice Sunday chat.

Seeing your daughter was really uplifting for us. We've been here in Japan for just over 2 weeks.

It was a nice treat to see GraceAnna at the end of the day. I got a big ole Beaufort hug from her. A day that started poorly has ended very well for us. 'Them Broggis' are just a family that keeps on blessing. What a wonderful memory for our children today."

Then sometime later, I received an email from GraceAnna telling me about the same encounter. She added that the son sent her this message:

"Mrs. Castleberry,

It was nice to see you and meet Mr. Castleberry at the mall in Japan today. Running in the mall with my sister and mom was really fun and we all enjoyed running indoors. Our day started really rough, it just didn't go as planned and my mother is a scheduled person. I believe the chance encounter with your family made our day a lot better. Tell Dr. Broggi that I am going to Greece, Italy and France this summer as a Student Ambassador. I remember his teachings, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel." I am trying my best to Reach Teach and Unleash the word of God."

Sometimes we cry sad, painful tears and believe me, I've had my share of those. But sometimes we cry exciting, fun tears and somehow when those fall, your eyes don't even get puffy.

by Audrey on March 10th, 2015

​I remember those days…

Days when I would be so tired at night my eyes closed before my head hit the pillow and I couldn't  even remember falling asleep.

Days when sleep would not come because all I could think about was that child, that fever, that struggle

Days when the things they said made laugh so hard my eyes watered and my abs hurt

Days when the things they said made me wail in the deepest part of the night

Days when it seemed like I spent the entire day teaching them to behave and spanking when needed and insisting they just sit in a chair and be still 

Days when we read book after book after book and when I got to the last chapter they said, "please read some more"

Days when we would shop and I would buy new clothes for them and I would let them choose some of their outfits and they were so excited and then later they would ask, "Why did you let me choose that?" And "Why did you let me wear that?"

Days when it was time to go to bed and I would sit in the rocking chair and sing songs to them and hear the click click click of the rocker and think how much I loved being a mother and nothing could be better than this moment

Days when I did not realize how fast time would pass even though many women who'd walked before me told me it would.  It was so easy to think they just didn't remember or they just didn't get it or understand how long and hard some of my days were.  But they knew.  

Days when I would tell my children, "I'm saving those for my grandchildren," and all the while thinking grandmothering was so far away

Days when it got dark earlier than expected and we would sit in the living room and turn out all the lights and look at the raccoons playing in the yard

Days when it seemed like time was standing still and other days time was fast forwarding and I couldn't keep up

Crawling, walking, running, driving, graduating - all those things just happened

Days when the day went by so fast and I didn't blink yet  it still went from sunrise to sunset and I wondered, "What happened?"

Days when I would hold them so tightly and think if I just hold them, they will stay this age a little while longer 

Days when they told me I was the very best mom in the whole world

Days when they told me I was the very worst mom in the whole world

 Days when I felt like both the best and the worst mom all wrapped up into one

Days of going to the beach and running and hearing their voices in the wind and knowing that they were growing up yet wanting to hold onto every minute

Days when they threw temper tantrums in the store and screamed so loudly that I thought everyone was judging me and I couldn't wait to get out

Days when their behavior was so amazing that people would ask me how is it that I have such well behaved children

Days when the heartbreak I felt was so deep I did not know if I would ever recover

Days when my heart was so full  with joy and pride and amazement that I did not know if I would ever recover

Days when I looked at their daddy and thought I cannot imagine raising them without him

Days when the house was so noisy and so filled with activity I wondered if quiet could ever exist again

Days when quiet was so loud and noise was so quiet

Days when I just held onto God but mostly He just held onto me

He is so faithful.  He really is.  

by Audrey on October 7th, 2014

My daddy went home to be with the Lord on Sunday, September 28, 2014.
I’m still sad but at the same time, it's a sad filled with joy.  Broken hearted Joy.
I’m not sad for him.  I’m sad for me.  I miss him and I know the world will never, ever feel the same for me in this life.  But, it will be good again.  It will just be different.
Within the last month before my daddy died, I read these words by Jonathan Edwards:
“All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken hearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble broken hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit; and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior.”
These words are so true.  And they were ringing in my heart those days in the hospital, those days of watching my daddy fade from this life.  God knew I would cling to those words and to the phrase, “a humble broken hearted joy.”  This is the way I feel.  My heart is so broken, yet in ways unspeakable, full of joy ~ only because of Christ.  In this life, God gave me gracious affection and a heart full of love for my daddy.  He and Mama gave my brothers, my sister, and me,  a happy childhood home. 
Back in 2003, I wrote:
I always called him Daddy –  I still do.  When I was a little girl I was afraid of many things . . .  the dark, thunderstorms, snakes and spiders, unfamiliar places. 
Back then I loved and still, to this day, love home.  I like stability, familiarity, routine. 
I remember my first day of school.  I didn’t want to go - I just wanted to stay home.
Home was a happy, safe, familiar place filled with affection.
Mama drove me to school that first day and we got to the school early. I was the first student in my class.   My teacher had wavy gray hair, glasses, and a nice smile. 
She told me in which desk to sit.  As I did, I looked around the room and noticed brightly colored letters on the walls and a huge chalkboard behind the teacher’s desk.  I watched my teacher as she worked at her desk.
She spoke with me a little; I don’t remember what she said but I do remember getting used to my desk and somehow thinking this new place would be OK.  It was becoming familiar.
The class began to fill up with other children.  I watched them come in.  Then I saw an adult come to the teacher, then to me, and they told me that I was in the wrong room.
I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I gathered my things and followed the adults out of the room, all the while looking for my mother.
I saw her and she saw me.  As I think on it now, she must have seen the tears in my eyes because she quickly made her way over to me and said how sorry she was and told me that I would like my new teacher, I really would.
She told me that this teacher had taught her and my dad when they were in school.
I still remember standing in the little foyer of the classroom, in front of the cloakroom, just outside the new unfamiliar big room, holding tightly onto my mother’s legs
My new teacher took me by the hand and brought me to my desk and said, “I taught your mommy and daddy.” 
Somehow that comforted me.
It was also during my early years that I had a frightening, recurring dream.  I would wake up in the middle of the night terrified because I dreamed that spiders and snakes were crawling all over me. 
Scared and trembling, I always got up and ran to Mama and Daddy’s room.
Their room was safe, protected, and secure.   Daddy was there.  When I appeared at the side of their bed, on my mother’s side, she would say, “Get in and don’t wiggle.”
I wasn’t going to wiggle. I didn’t want to go back to my bed where the spiders and snakes lived.
Having my mother’s arms wrapped around me, and hearing my daddy’s breathing on the other side of the bed, knowing he was right there comforted me.
I had other fears.  I was terribly afraid of thunderstorms.  I remember one storm in particular when the thunder popped, the lights flashed, and I ran to Daddy’s room. 
I just stood in the doorway.  He was studying at his desk – he didn’t even look up but he obviously heard me because he said, “Come on in, Audrey.”  I did.  And I was secure.  I was with my daddy.  I just sat on his bed while he worked until the storm was over.
Something about him being close made everything OK.  He was strong – like a tower – I ran there and I was safe.  The storm could rage but I felt safe because I was with my daddy.
One night, however, daddy taught me to trust Someone other than him or my mom or the secure things around me.  I don’t think it was his intention yet it is the lesson I learned and one that I still carry with me to this day.
My childhood home was in rural South Carolina - the same 40-acre farm on which my dad grew up.  And one night, he decided he had a job for my sister and me. 
It was one of those really dark nights out in the country.   There were no street lights and even the sky was dark; no moonlight or starlight.  And it happened to be a night when Daddy needed something out in the barn that was just beyond the pasture behind our house. 
He handed a flashlight to my sister and me and sent us out.
I was stunned.  He was telling us to go out into the dark night with just a flashlight.  Didn’t he know I was frightened? 
When I was growing up, we didn’t question my dad.  If he told us to do something, we just did it.  I thought Daddy knew everything and I thought he was so great.  If I ever put anyone on a pedestal – it was my daddy.
All these years later I still remember walking out of the back porch hearing the screen door slam behind us. The light from the porch wasn’t very bright.  It certainly wasn’t going to guide us all the way to the barn.  And the flashlight was dim.
But we began our journey.  
After a few sluggish steps, I whispered to my sister, “Are you scared?”
“No,” she whispered back as she held on tightly to my hand.
I remember seeing the light from the flashlight dancing on the scary ground in front of us.
There we were out in the darkness – alone and quiet, hearing all kinds of noises which I would later learn were just the pine trees swaying against each other in the night air.  But to me they sounded like ghosts, bad guys, and boogie men. 
I whispered again:
“Hope, let’s sing.” 
And so we did.
The pine trees continued to sway, the light on the ground danced, and the sky was as black as ink but as we trudged on towards the barn we began to sing - softly and meekly,
“Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely, He sees and knows all the way you have trod; Never alone are the least of His children, Have faith in God. Have faith in God.”
And then we got louder on the chorus.
“Have faith in God, He’s on His throne; Have faith in God, He watches o’er His own.  He cannot fail, He must prevail; Have faith in God, Have faith in God”
We sang all the verses and before long our focus wasn’t on the dark night or the bad guys or the noises – our focus was on God.  And we made it back home that night with whatever it was my dad sent us to get.
I don’t remember that part.  What I do remember, however, is that God seemed to reach down out of heaven to hold my hand and extend His care to me.  He etched in my memory His tender care, through a hymn, on a dark night. 
God has used that night many times in my life.  Though I don’t know how much Scripture I knew at that time – God took what I did know and brought it to my mind.  I knew the hymn because we sang it often at the little church Daddy pastored.   It was in that little church that I would take my seat every Sunday on the second row and listen to my daddy open the Word of God. 
I took notes of my dad’s sermons in the Bible my parents gave to me for my birthday in 1964. 
Over Psalm 24, I wrote:  “Preached by Daddy on March 9th”
On the pages between Revelation and the maps, I wrote:
“Notes by Daddy’s sermon.  Daddy preached on covetness on December 24, 1967.   Preached by Daddy on December 24, 1967.  When we get gifts on Christmas they are just temporary.  People ask each other what we want for Christmas but we never ask God what we can give Him.  Sometimes people just give other people gifts because they’re expecting one from her or him.  People try to decide what they want to give a person, but somebody says, ‘why don’t you give them this, but the other person says, they have already got that.’  We don’t give God our lives because we are afraid He will use them.  We think about how much it will cost us.”
On another page, I wrote:
“Daddy preached in Ephesians and 2nd Thessalonians and Romans on June 29, 1969.  We cannot accept what Jesus did unless we accept Who Jesus is.  If we live we live to the Lord, if we die, we die to the Lord.  No matter if we live or die we do it to the Lord.  We are responsible for our life, for all of our life.  We are supposed to put Jesus first, not second or third, but first.  No matter what we do Jesus owns us, He is the head of our lives.”
Every Sunday and every Wednesday night, I listened to Daddy teach the Scriptures and my heart was pierced with God’s truth.  I don’t know if the people in the pews were listening but I was listening.  I still remember the day when I felt the weight of my sin – as a 6 year old girl – heavy on my shoulders.  I heard Daddy preach “Whoever will call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.” 
I knew I was a sinner.  I had lied, I had deceived my sister, I had laughed at unholy things.  I had disobeyed my parents.  I knew I wasn’t good.
I heard him explain that people can never be good enough to get to heaven.  I heard him tell how Jesus died in my place, as my substitute, and made the way for me to have a personal relationship with God.  I heard him tell the old, old story - over and over again. 
My daddy did that.  He told me the story of Jesus.  And it was through hearing the Word of God that I came to know the Word, Who became flesh and dwelt among us.
I remember the day I walked down the aisle of the church, hugging my daddy and telling him that I had trusted Christ as my Savior and Lord and I wanted every one to know.  This was my public profession of faith.  It was a few weeks later that my daddy baptized me.  I remember that day, too not only because of its significance in my life, but also because there was a spider in the water!  I was scared of spiders but Daddy reached for my hand, told me it would be OK because I was with him.  He was there.
So many years have passed since I sat in the pew of that little Baptist church.  And in those years, my daddy served as pastor of other churches in the Carolinas.  In each one, I  learned so many things from the life of this man.
Though my daddy wasn’t perfect, I knew he loved God and I saw him live his faith.
In all my growing up years, he continued to watch over me. 
Once when I was 16, not long after I got my driver’s license, my sister Hope had come home from college for the weekend.  On Sunday, Daddy asked me to take her to a friend’s house so she could ride back to Chapel Hill with her. 
I had instructions from my father to drive straight there and straight home.  I did what I was told - at first.  But after dropping off Hope, I noticed that half the school was playing baseball at a field one block away.  It wouldn’t be out of my way, I thought, to drive by the park and say hi, would it?
“Go straight there and come straight home,” my dad had instructed.  At first, I listened as I turned down the road that would take me home.  But then as I was getting ready to pass the next road I thought, “Surely my dad wouldn’t mind if I just drive by the field.  It’s not really out of my way.  I am still going straight home.  And besides if I had chosen to go this way at first, I wouldn’t even be making this turn now.”
So I made a choice.  I turned.  Instead of heading straight home, I was heading straight for the park.  I wanted to see who was there, say hi to my friends and then I would go straight home.  My dad wouldn’t even have to know.  Well, as I approached the yield sign, I slowed down and looked both ways.  But the sun was shining in my eyes and I didn’t see anybody, I really didn’t. 
I can still remember hitting the steering wheel, seeing the glass shatter, and hearing metal crunch.  I felt the force of my dad’s blue Buick slamming into a car.  I looked up, shaking and in front of me I could see the driver of the other car getting out – his head bleeding.  All the people from the field were quickly gathering around us.
I heard police, saw lights.  I was crying in my car until my history teacher came and helped me out.
 I remember screaming, “My dad is going to kill me!  My dad is going to kill me!!!”  I screamed it over and over.  My teacher was trying to tell me that my dad would be glad I was OK.  “No he won’t, he’ll kill me,” I continued, sobbing uncontrollably.
What a thing to say.   I can’t even remember a time when I was growing up that my dad ever even yelled at me.  He spanked me.  He made me obey. Sometimes he had to cup my face in his hands and be stern with me, stubborn that I was. But he was gentle.  I was never, ever afraid of him.  I never, ever knew him to lash out in anger even when I deserved it.
But here I was screaming for the whole town to hear, “My dad is going to kill me!”
Well, my daddy didn’t kill me.  He didn’t yell at me.  He didn’t even lecture me.  He just appeared.  Comforted me.  Took care of everything and took me home.
Some time later, I was sitting in my room doing homework.  My daddy came home from work, opened the door to my room, and gave some papers to me.  Then he left.
I looked at one of the papers which informed me that his insurance had gone up.  Another one was the bill for fixing the car.
I felt so ashamed.  He didn’t have to yell.  Or lecture.  I got the point.  And he still let me drive.
Two years later when I was a senior, it was my daddy who took me to buy the dress I would wear for homecoming at my high school.  I’ll never forget it.  Homecoming is a blur in my memory but the day spent with my dad is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.  I still have the dress.
Some time passed.  One Sunday afternoon in January of 1978, after I had been home from college for the weekend, I was in my room packing my stuff before I drove back to Chapel Hill.  My daddy again walked in my room and gave something to me.  He said he thought I would like it.  This time it was not papers.  It was a box.  I opened the box and there I found a burgundy leather-bound study Bible.
I was surprised because it wasn’t Christmas or my birthday.  My dad knew; however, that I needed this Bible at this time in my life.
A few months later, I met Carl.  The first time I saw him he was sharing his testimony at a meeting I attended.  Then later he was teaching God’s Word to a group of college students, including me.  I took notes in my Bible. I was amazed at his passion for Christ.
It wasn’t too long before I walked down another aisle in another church where my daddy was pastor.  This time instead of walking by myself to meet my dad, I was holding onto his arm before he gave me away in marriage.  As I let go of his arm and took Carl’s, my dad turned around and married Carl and me.  Later, when Carl was ordained, my daddy served on Carl’s ordination board.  Often, when we visited my parents, my daddy would trust Carl with his pulpit.  He mentored my husband.
I grew up as a daughter hearing my daddy preach and grew into a wife hearing my husband preach.  It’s been good. 
My dad is now 70 years old and hasn’t served as the senior pastor of a church for a few years now. He still mentors young pastors and counsels people when they ask.  I have often missed hearing him preach.
But a few weeks ago, the pastor of my daddy’s home church asked him to deliver the morning message.  Mama told me about it, my son Jordan asked me about it, and then GraceAnna and I drove up to hear him.  It was Jordan’s birthday and he and his fiancé drove from Columbia to hear my daddy    
I entered the church and took my seat.  I hadn’t told Daddy that I was coming.  When I saw him make his way out of the door next to the stage, it was like traveling back in time.  Everything was so familiar.  My daddy in his suit, holding his Bible, and looking out at the congregation awed me.  There he was – the man I had listened to all my life.
When he got up to open God’s Word, I instinctively reached for my pen.  I took notes on Daddy’s sermon.  He preached from Philippians 4.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.  I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.  Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
It was homecoming at my father’s church.  It was time to encourage God’s people to stand firm in the Lord as true companions, as faithful people.  Sometimes God’s people forget the “cause of the gospel” and get bogged down in petty things.  Paul knew that Euodia and Syntyche had gotten bogged down – they weren’t getting along.  My daddy then urged the people.  He said that church membership should mean something to a believer because -
The Church Needs:

1. People who are faithful.Jesus said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

2. People who are willing to work anywhere just to serve the Lord.People with a vision to grow, to care about the unsaved and the unchurched. “Jesus said to them, ‘Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.’”
It is a sin to know that the fields are white for harvest and to do nothing about it. 

3. People who are willing to share, to give, to tithe. “And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.  A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.  Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.’”

4. People who are not afraid of giving too much to God.  

I listened intently.  My daddy’s hair was a little more gray, he was not quite as robust as the dark-haired man who awed me when I was a child. But the truths from God’s Word were robust; His Word stills awes me.  And I have come to realize that it wasn’t so much my daddy who awed me so many years ago; it was my daddy’s God. 
Then my daddy closed his message by saying something that grabbed me.  He said:
 We need to be people who are not just Bible-toters but Bible-readers and Bible-obeyers.
I keep thinking about that.   See, in the South, Bible-toting is part of the culture.  Going to church is a natural part of life.  I was reminded that we need to do more than just tote our Bibles around.  I have come to realize that growing up in my daddy’s home stirred a hunger in my heart to know and obey the Word of God.  So much of what God has done in my life over the years is linked to my daddy.
Walking on a dark path with just a flashlight and a command, I have learned to have faith in God.  When my pathway is lonely, I have learned to have faith in God.  He sees and knows all the way I have trod.  I am never alone because I am His child. He’s on His throne.  He cannot fail.  He must prevail.
Psalm 139:
 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.

Hebrews 13:
He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.

Sitting and taking notes in a little country church in the ‘60’s I learned that my life belongs to God.  He can use me no matter what it costs me.  I know what He did and I know Who He is. If I live I live to the Lord, if I die, I die to the Lord.  No matter if I live or die I do it to the Lord.  Jesus is first, not second or third, but first.  No matter what I do Jesus owns me, He is the head of my life.
Philippians 1:   “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Sitting and taking notes in another country church in the fall of 2003, I was reminded that God wants me to be faithful to the end.  He wants me to be willing to work – anywhere – just to serve Him.  He is the One who gives His vision for unsaved people - the fields really are white for harvest.  It is a sin for me to do nothing about it.  I want to share, to give, to tithe.  I don’t want to be afraid of giving too much to God.  And most of all, I want to be a Bible-reader and Bible-obeyer, not just a Bible-toter.
I think often of my days growing up in the country, outside of a little town in South Carolina.  I think about the familiarity of that place and how my life as a little girl centered on home, family, and church.
And I think about my life now as a grown woman.  It really hasn’t changed all that much some 40 years later.  It still centers on home, family, and church.  I still take notes on sermons.  I still listen to great men preach.
Oh there have been times when it seemed that God has handed me a flashlight on a really dark night and sent me off to do something for Him that I was afraid to do.  And I have been stunned.   Didn’t He know I was frightened?  How could He do this thing?  I’ve been scared of boogie-men and bad guys, first days of something new, thunder claps, spidery dreams, and swaying pine trees. 
Yet He persists. He convinces me of His presence.   And I don’t question God as much anymore.  If He tells me to do something, I just do it.  He knows everything and I think He is so great.  He’s the Only One Who belongs on a pedestal. 
He has sent me to many places – some places I have wanted to go and some places I have not wanted to go.  I’ve been off to two liberal universities - one as a student, and one where I worked, I've lived halfway across the country and traveled halfway around the world.  I have walked in small, dirty villages where the people have nothing and I have lived in the middle of the greatest affluence of our land.  I have been amazed at both the complexity and simplicity of our world.  I have been both afraid and exhilarated when faced with the unfamiliar and unexpected.
But I want to tell you something.  Nothing and I mean nothing, compares to a South Carolina back porch, a South Carolina farm, and a South Carolina man who taught me Who Jesus is and what Jesus did.  Nothing compares to knowing that God sees and knows all the way I have trod.  Nothing.
See, it was just outside that little town in South Carolina where the Lord raised up a man to tell a small girl the story of Jesus - Who would never leave her alone. Thank God for such a man.  Perfect man?  No.  Good man?  Yes.  It is my prayer that God raises up a new generation of real men who will be the leaders, providers, and protectors of their children – who will, without apology, tell the story of Jesus. 
“Tell me the story of Jesus; write on my heart every word.  Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.  Tell how the angels in chorus sang when they welcomed His birth.  Glory to God in the highest, peace and good tidings to earth.  Fasting alone in the desert, Tell of the days that are past, How for our sins He was tempted, Yet was triumphant at last.  Tell of the years of His labor, tell of the sorrow He bore; He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.  Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, writhing in anguish and pain; tell of the grave where they laid Him, tell how He liveth again.   Love in that story so tender, clearer than ever I see:  Stay, let me weep while you whisper, love paid the ransom for me.  Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word; tell me the story most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.”
Thanks Daddy.
Today, God has taken me to a new place – I will live the rest of my life without my daddy’s physical presence.  But I know it will be OK.  I join many who have walked this rode before me.  My daddy walked this rode when he was a young man.  He lived most of his adult life without his parents. 
I miss him. I know I will always miss him.  I will reminisce with Mama, my siblings, my husband, my children, and grandchildren with great fondness.  I still have so much to say - so much to write.  

I will always have a gracious affection and a broken hearted joy when I think of him.  Heavenly sweetness.  A humble broken hearted love.  I am so grateful for the love of God.
“All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and fragrancy, are broken hearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble broken hearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires. Their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble broken hearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit; and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior.”

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