It’s coming! Only days away!
It has been seventeen years since my daughter, Michelle, and I have been on a trip together, and this one is extra special, for several reasons.
It has been 16 months since we lost my son, Steven. With his passing, our lives are forever changed. Michelle and I have drawn nearer to God, calling on our faith to carry us the days we could not walk. Hearing the truth in scripture, its peace and confidence has given us strength to arrive at this moment in time. We now look to our future hope in Jesus Christ.
We've wanted to travel to Israel and prayed and looked for the right time and opportunity. I was delighted to discovered that one of my favorite Biblical fiction authors, Mesu Andrews, was putting a trip together to Israel with a side trip to Petra. When my husband, Gil, suggested Michelle and I go together . . . well, I needed no further prompting! To say we are excited is putting it mildly.
Spiritual pilgrimage, a time to draw ever nearer to our Savior, a time to strengthen our mother/daughter bond, a time of healing, a chance to walk in the steps of Jesus and the prophets, seeing the empty tomb - so many possibilities in the adventure ahead. And for me, the history lover, storyteller, it is also an opportunity to research and absorb the country of Israel - homeland of my heroine, Tirzah, in The Weaver’s Dream.
I hope and plan to post pictures during our journey, follow me on FaceBook or Instagram.
Shalom My Friends!
Music has played a big part in my life – it’s been there for as long as I can remember.
From my mother leaning over my crib to kiss me goodbye because she was on her way
to the symphony with my grandfather, to the days that my sister and I twirled to
John Philip Sousa and danced through our house to the sound tracks of The Sound
of Music and South Pacific. We listened to classical and gospel music before I ever
knew what rock-n-roll was and my father was a fan of Johnny Cash, so Walk the Line
was a well known tune. With a grandmother who played eight instruments, primarily
the violin and the flute, and was at one time first chair violinist for the Charlotte
Symphony, it isn’t surprising that music has been instrumental (pun intended) in my life.
This past year, music has helped my soul heal. God has used it to remind me of His
love and promises. The praise and worship time during Sunday morning services has
been a balm to my heart. Although it is frequently contemporary Christian music that
is played during services and on the radio, the old hymns reach deep into my spirit.
Their Biblical truths are a lesson in themselves. This weekend I’ve been battling a cold –
it’s that time of year too! Last night a coughing attack woke me and when I finally got
it under control, sleep had fled. My mind could not settle, it jumped from one thing
to another with no clear direction and soon it had me angry over something that
hadn’t even happened!
I felt like I was drowning. It had been awhile since I'd allowed anger over past issues
and future probabilities to take me down such a path. I didn’t like it, but once my
mind started down that road, it was hard to change directions. The warning signs
were there, telling me to stop, this wasn’t healthy, wasn’t necessary, I was going
in the wrong direction; but, my mind flew by them like they didn't exist. Then,
something beautiful happened, the Holy Spirit whispered, “Love Tema, love. Do not let
the devil steal your peace, love.” An old hymn that I haven’t heard nor sung in many
years popped into my mind, Love Lifted Me. Immediately the angry thoughts disintegrated, replaced by the peace brought by the words of the chorus of that
song, “When nothing else could help, love lifted me. Love lifted me!” I could not
remember the verses only the chorus, but you can believe I was quick to YouTube it
and found this edition from Alan Jackson. I should not have been surprised that the
first verse so aptly described how I was feeling when I let anger win, “I was sinking deep
in sin far from the peaceful shore . . .” The anger I was experiencing was sinful, it
benefited none, didn’t glorify God and was destroying my peace.
But God is so good! He didn’t let me drift further and further down into the depths,
He reached down and lifted me out with His great love. God is never far away,
He is always right here, His Holy Spirit, always waiting to be acknowledged by each of us.
We celebrated yesterday. We laughed. We shared joyful memories. We did not cry. Truthfully, the last eight months and three weeks has seen its’ share of tears, and I know God has captured each one, because His word has told me so. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your record. Psalm 56: 7-9.
Painful sorrow and deep grief, they march through all our lives at some time. They change who we are, we move forward as different people. Every storm in my life has brought me nearer to God, the loss of my son, Steven, is no exception. During the past months, I have experienced the presence of God’s peace – and believe me, it is a presence, the presence of the Holy Spirit. It never ceases to amaze me how God does work for the good of His children. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. There are, no doubt, many who will say, “How can any good come from the loss of your son? How can peace come in this situation?”
My prayer for Steven has always been that he would be safe, healthy, and happy. I could not have foreseen, and certainly didn’t want, my prayer answered the way God answered it. Nevertheless, today I know that Steven is safe, healthy, and beyond happy. Mere human that I am, I do not understand the ways of God, but I trust His sovereignty. To those who argue this was anything but an answer to prayer, all I can say is, “I’d like you to meet Jesus, He changes EVERYTHING.” When you meet Jesus, you realize that earth is not your permanent home and you know that those who leave this earth and know Jesus, go to be with Him. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss Steven. I miss him every minute. But God gives me a peace that defies explanation. A peace that passes understanding, a peace that gives assurance to my faith.
Today, on what would have been Steven’s 30th birthday, I remember the many wonderful memories of his life and I give praise and thanks to God for the assurance that Steven resides with Him in his eternal home. I ponder what Steven is doing, because contrary to popular myth, we do not become angels and float around on clouds playing a harp. No, in heaven we live like we’ve never lived before and right now Steven is experiencing life as I never have – to God be the glory!
Unlike all my other grandparents, who have always been part of my life, I remember the day I met Granny. Other than my mother, my great-grandmother, known to us as Granny, had the greatest influence on my life.
I was near age three when a woman I didn’t know, came to our house. She looked like a giant and wore a black hat. I was not afraid to politely inquire, “Who are you?”
She smiled and leaned down to my level, “I’m your great-grandmother and I’ve come to help take care of you.” And she did.
To this day it is one of my favorite memories. In fact, it is a rare memory indeed that does not include her. She was born Cora Elizabeth Pence in Charlotte in 1889 in an area then known as Crab Orchard. Today, it is the Hickory Grove/Pence Road/ Harris Blvd/Plaza Road area. From the day I met her until the day she left this earth at the age of 97, she was a guiding force. Not a force that bowled you over or shoved anything down your throat. No, Granny was not like that; she was a force of love. I never heard her say an unkind word to, or about, anyone. The strength of her faith and her values were in every step she took and every word she spoke.
Many were the stories she shared with me and my siblings. They might be about her own childhood or those of her parents. Tidbits of history would be mixed into the stories in such a way that you were learning of the past whether you knew it or not. Some of the stories where funny in and of themselves, but what really made us laugh was how tickled Granny would get when she recalled them. One story in particular would have us rolling.
A group of friends, including Granny, went out for a picnic. If memory serves me, I believe the group was comprised of both boys and girls. While sitting on the ground, a snake, likely a non-poisonous green snake, slithered up the dress of one of the girls. As soon as the poor girl realized it, she jumped up, shook her dress, screamed and hollered. Well, you have to remember the times - a young girl had multiple layers of underclothing. Let me tell you, the sweltering heat of North Carolina is no time to wear layers! Apparently this young lady was quite the rebel and had decided against wearing all those underclothes. When she commenced to shaking her dress, all those at the picnic watching, saw what wasn’t there. With indignation, shame, and embarrassment, she demanded, “Don’t you tell anybody what you saw! Don’t you tell anybody what you saw!” Sixty some odd years later, Granny would laugh so hard while telling us the story, she’d have tears in her eyes and could barely speak for laughing. I know Granny told us the young lady’s name, but I do not remember it; nevertheless, that woman has given several generations a good laugh.
I remember her telling us that a Model-T went so fast they thought it would take their breath away; but this same woman rode the Gold Rush roller coaster at Carowinds at the age of 85.
The tidbits of history she told encouraged my love of the past, putting a face to what was otherwise lost to the hands of time. A trip to Charlotte was a rare trip, and probably only occurred when money from the cotton crop was received. When new shoes were purchased, it might have been her father going to town, template in hand, likely made from a scrap of paper, in the size the child(ren) required. To satisfy a sweet tooth, young Cora would sneak a lump of brown sugar and hide beneath the house to relish it in private. There were nine children in her family and she once asked her mother how she managed with all those children? Her mother replied, “If they hadn’t been mine, there were days I would have run off to the woods.” It is because of the stories she told my mother and then us, that we know so much of our family history.
Granny delighted in gardening. Come March she’d say to my Dad, “Paige, what are we going to plant this year?” I was cringing, working in the garden was the LAST thing this sissy wanted to do - now it’s one of my favorite activities. Every time I rest on my hoe, waiting for that oh so lovely breeze to find its way under my shirt, I think of Granny resting on her hoe, surveying the garden, and waiting for that breeze. I remember the thousands of green beans she must have strung, snapped, and canned, the hundreds of apples she peeled and sliced for drying, and the dozens of ears of corn she shucked and prepared for freezing. I remember the times she would sneak the food off my plate when she thought mama wasn’t watching so I could have dessert. I remember her telling me I had a pretty alto voice and that I was a partying girl. Mostly I remember her love, and I’m mighty glad she came to live with us on that day so many years ago.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
Everyday I realize more and more how blessed I have been to have Nancy-Coe Hall as my mother and how thankful I am that she is still here with me.
As children, our parents took us on what I considered great adventures, mostly camping expeditions, but not always. My mother would read to us about the history behind the landmarks we visited. I credit her with my love of history, not to mention reading. Many are the nights that all four of us children would gather in the "girls" bedroom, where mama would read us stories - we were on first name basis with the librarian and never missed an opportunity to browse bookstores.
More importantly, she has been a prayer warrior over her children and grandchildren all our lives. Don't know why God put me in her care, but I sure am thankful He did. Despite all the ups and downs of life, my mother has kept a positive attitude and is likely to find the silver lining in every cloud. I can always call her when I'm feeling worried or nervous about something and she will encourag and help me figure out what to do next.
She is intelligent, has a wonderful sense of humor and is a lot of fun to be around. As a young married woman, I frequently called her to ask her first one thing then another. I'll never forget one day when I was trying to figure something out and my son said, "Why don't you call Nannie-Coe, she knows everything!" I laughed, agreed, and promptly called her.
When I became a single mom, she was my greatest supporter - there for me and my children, helping us through thick and thin. She saw my children come into this world and was right there when my son, Steven, left this world. She is the strongest woman I know - I love you mama and I wouldn't trade my time with you for anything! Happy Mother's Day!
My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1
A few weeks ago, in preparation for the arrival of my family for Resurrection Sunday lunch, I was busy dusting - the move things, dust under kind of dusting, not the quick swipe kind. On the top of my great-grandmother's’ wardrobe sits an old box my father used to store seeds. Now it plays house to letters and cards of all shapes and sizes, from my great-grandparents, mother, aunt, and children.
The box itself is special. The picture on the front has faded with time, but it carriers nostalgia like the fragrance of spring through an open window. I remember it sitting in my father's workshop, not nearly as full with seeds as it is now with letters. The box made a good landing spot for the seeds that would eventually find their way to the garden behind our house. The inside of the lid is decorated by some mischievous hand - I couldn’t tell you whose.
But the letters and cards inside, Ah, what a treasure they are to me. Most are from my grandmother, Ruth Victoria Martin Teeter. She was gifted, both artistically and musically. She also had a tremendous love for all nature. She shared her knowledge in a way that a young child found easy to understand. She suffered from a muscular disease, Myasthenia Gravis (MG). Today people with this disease generally live a full life, but at the time my grandmother suffered, medical science had few remedies. Physical activities easily exhausted her and muscle weakness caused her to give up driving as well as playing the violin for the Charlotte Symphony. She did not allow the loss of either to stop her. She begin giving music lessons and, in later life, had her art work displayed in a Charlotte gallery. Letters were her window to the world, she kept up correspondence with many friends and family through the years, including some in Japan that she would never meet.
Time spent with her was magical. She always had some interesting gift or item to share with her grandchildren and when you were at her home, you felt like you were the most important person in her world. We would go on walks through the neighborhood and she would teach me the names of the different trees based on their leafs. Or, we might stroll down the hill behind her house into the woods; she had created a spot she called her “thinking spot”. Two concrete mushrooms marked the spot and served as seats. These same mushrooms now grace my rose garden, one as a seat and the other, turned upside down, is a pedestal for my bird bath.
She lived scarcely three miles from my home and, though I saw her frequently, I received letters on a regular basis. Her letters shared the simple things she saw from her window each day - nature. Whether it was a bee, squirrel, or bird, she relayed their daily activity and the importance it played to the world in a manner that entertained and taught the child on the receiving end. Re-reading her letters puts a smile on my heart, I can hear her voice and see the expression on her face. I knew she believed in my ability to be anything I wanted to be, no matter what career I was interested in at any particular moment, she would encourage me. She taught me to knit when I was in elementary school and later, when I mentioned secretarial work, she gave me my first typewriter and taught me to type. As a teenager, when I was interested in journalism, she encouraged me there as well.
To be honest, I must add that her letters could also scold, but these I received later, when as a young adult she believed I needed admonishing - and I did. Words, whether spoken or written, have a tremendous amount of power. The tongue that welds them, or the pen that writes them, should always be used with care and prayer. All these years later, reading over the cards and letters, reminds me of the rich blessing of family, especially grandparents, and what an impact they have on their grandchildren. The picture below is Ruth with her first great-grandchild, my daughter, Michelle. My Uncle Edwar looks over her shoulder. So many precious memories.
Scripture tells us that on Good Friday Jesus was crucified and on Sunday, He was resurrected. But what about Saturday, the day in between?
Saturday, the day in between?
We’ve seen the movies, The Passion, King of Kings, Ben Hur and many others. They show us the humanness of Christ, the treachery of man, and the power of God. We hate the injustice, but as Christians, we know the necessity of Christ dying for us. Without His death, we’d have no bridge to the Father. We rejoice when Sunday comes and the tomb is empty! What happened to Jesus on Saturday? Where was He? What was He doing?
Today, on this day in between, I want us to think about what He endured. The suffering didn’t end with His death on the cross. He did not release His soul from His body to float around earth for a while and then return to his body. No. He descended into hell. For us. Otherwise, the debt would not be paid, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Strong’s Concordance, defines death in this particular scripture as the Greek noun thanatos and here it speaks of Christ punishment, with the implication of future misery in hell. I don’t like to think of hell, or the fact that I was squarely on the wide road to it, until I met Jesus and He changed my direction. But it bears a great deal of thinking about, because Jesus went to hell, so that when we believe, repent, and accept Him, we do not go to hell.
Imagine how the disciples felt on that in between day. They believed Jesus was the Messiah, and indeed, He is; however, they expected the Messiah to be a warrior, to free them from earthly oppression, to make them rulers of the land. God’s plans are always bigger and farther reaching than ours! On that in between day, while the disciples scattered and hid from the authorities in fear, Jesus was fighting a battle in hell that would free them, and us, for all eternity, not just the oppression of earth, brought about by the devil and his ability to entice us to sin.
Here is further validation. After the resurrection, Mary Magdalene sees Jesus in the garden and she does not recognize Him, she believes he is the gardener. Once He opens her eyes, she realizes who He is and she wants to touch Him. He does not allow her to because He tells her He has not yet ascended to the Father, read the full story here. If he had not ascended to the Father and He had not been on earth during this period, from where do you think He had come? Hell.
We do not like sermons about hell and many do not believe there is a hell. Frequently I’ve heard it joked about, as if hell is a partying place where all the people that want to have fun get to go. If we really believed, and could conceive of the torment and hopelessness that is hell, we would not joke about it or tell someone to go there. Hell was never intended for humans. Hell was intended for the devil and his followers AKA demons. We have no problem believing angels exist, but seem to baulk at demons. Demons are the same creatures as angels, they just followed the wrong dude - Satan.
The Good News is this: Christ left heaven and came to earth for us, He died for us, He beat hell for us and His resurrection is proof of His having beat hell. Here’s a great scripture for this in between day, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
Marantha my friends!
Some might call it a tuna melt - but it really began as the tuna burger. This, you must understand, was before Julia Child ushered in the period of gourmet cooking. Open faced, toasted hamburger buns topped with tuna (mixed with just the right amount of mayo), canned tomatoes (I use the petite chopped), and enough cheese to make the tomato look like it’s taking a nap. You might ask what this has to do with a legacy - it’s a fair question.
My grandmother, Ruth Victoria Martin Teeter, first served this concoction to my mother, where the recipe came from, I have no idea. My mother made them for us, I made them for my family, and both my children make them. It isn’t about the recipe. It’s about the meal. I think we would all agree that society as a whole revolves around meals - always has.
One of my favorite parts of the Bible is where Jesus reinstates Peter after Peter has denied being Jesus disciple. Jesus had warned the disciples that the time was near when they would all desert Him. Peter vehemently denies that he would do such a thing, even goes so far as to proclaim he would die for Jesus. Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him three times before the rooster crows that day. This comes to pass and Peter is devastated, sick at heart, and weeps bitterly.
Later, after the resurrection, some of the disciples go fishing, among them, Peter. Nothing unusual in this, they were fishermen before they were disciples. They catch nothing and are heading back to shore when a man on shore suggest they throw their net on the right side of the boat. They are doubtful, but figure it won’t hurt to try. The result? They struggle to haul in the net that now holds 153 fish! Yes, the Bible gives you the exact number - think there could be a tuna in that net? John is the first to realize that the stranger on shore is Jesus. Peter is so excited at the prospect of seeing Jesus that he jumps overboard and swims to shore, leaving the rest to tend the fish.
Can’t you feel Peter’s excitement, his love, his joy?! When he reaches shore, Jesus has prepared a meal - isn’t our Lord awesome! He is always feeding us, literally and spiritually! Jesus asks Peter the same question three times, “Do you love me?” To which Peter replies, “Yes”. You can read the full story here and here. I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Each time Peter replies, Jesus tells him what he wants him to do in life. Who of us, at some time, has not denied Christ? Isn’t it wonderful to know that when we ask for forgiveness and repent, He forgives us? He then strengthens us and changes us so that we do not repeat the past.
God’s love is greater than we can imagine. The closest I can come, is the love I have for my children. I would gladly give my life for them, but I can’t say I would give their lives up for anyone. But God gave His son for us. WOW! How does this relate to that tuna burger?
Never underestimate the value of time spent around a meal. The last supper was were Jesus told Peter he would deny Him and it was another meal where He reinstated Peter. A few other examples: Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast and twice fed thousands with only a basket full of bread and fish. And let’s not forget that the original sin was all due to the desire to eat an apple!
Today, a lot of meals are hurried - we rush from one activity to another. My memories of meals with my parents and sibling and those I enjoyed with my children, are priceless. Recently I spoke with a friend of my daughter. It was the first time we had seen each other in many years. When she realized who I was her response was, “The last time I saw you was when you made those tuna melts for us! I make them for my family!” Her words made my heart smile and warmed me from the inside out. Something so simple can make memories not only for your family, but all who dine at your table. Share the love - even if it is the shape of a tuna burger.
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn - Let me start by saying this isn’t a book review. It’s about how this book inspired me. I’ve read it twice. The first time, I had recently returned from a trip to China with my sister. She and my brother-in-law where traveling to adopt their second child and I went along as a helping hand. After reading this story, I was convinced I should take Bibles to China. I didn’t. Recently, that same sister challenged me to encourage reading by posting the cover of some of my favorite books over a period of seven days. Safely Home had made such an impression on me that it has remained one of my favorites - after posting it to social media, I decided to read it again. This time the impression became indelible. Why? Because I’m different. When you meet Jesus, He changes your life in ways you cannot begin to image. You see everything in life in a different light - in His light.
As a child, one of my first desires was to be a missionary. It may have been the allure of travel, something I still enjoy. Followers of Jesus frequently quote the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and low, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” Matthew 27:19-20. It is also found in Mark 16:15-16, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.’”
While I still desire to go beyond the boundaries of my hometown and country, sharing the saving truth and love of Jesus Christ, I realize that my inability to go does not make me any less a missionary nor excuse me from the Great Commission. Some go, others may enable those going to be successful, by their gifts and their prayers. This story showed me and reminded me of those who are being persecuted and the difference between the United States and other countries, be it China or any other country, that does not allow the freedom to worship God as we do.
As believers we need to lift our brothers and sisters in Christ up in prayer every day. Especially those who are being persecuted. Our national news seldom reports the truth of the persecution Christians in other countries face daily. We are their voice crying out to God on their behalf, it is more than our responsibility, it is an opportunity. An opportunity to be united as believers, an opportunity to speak with our creator, an opportunity to strengthen our own faith.
As I read Safely Home, it once again reminded me that those who are persecuted are stronger in faith than those who are not. I am blessed to be an American. But I am an American not because of anything other than it was God’s will that I be here - what am I doing to help those who God put in other countries? How would I have fared had I been placed there instead of here - I fear I would not have had the perseverance and faith of my persecuted brothers and sisters. Who's to say that persecution won’t someday come to the shores of America - even now I see it’s tentacles. Would it not behoove me to pray without ceasing so that should I face such a time, my faith will be strong?
There are sources that bring you the news from these countries, here are a couple of the best that I’m aware of, check them out at your leisure, Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs. Join me in being committed to praying, not only for the missionaries and citizens in oppressed countries, but also believers in America. Pray that America will be awakened, dare I say revived, to the great need and the part we each have in fulfilling the call of the Great Commission.
No, not that kind of high, although I’ve been there too, once about a time. I’m speaking of a Christian high. Some might call it being filled with the Holy Spirit - but it isn’t. In reality it is an emotional high.
You’ve been to church, the music was awesome, inspiring to the point you are visibly moved. The preaching was off the chart and the fellowship was all you desired. You walk out the door “feeling” pretty doggone good! Your relationship with God is firmly in place, you’ve got a song in your heart, if not on your lips; all in all you’re pretty happy with yourself, got your halo all shined up.
But, by the time you’re in your car, ready to leave, your halo has done more than slip. Yep, it’s fallen all the way off as you act the fool in the parking lot because someone didn’t let you out or cut you off or you “felt” slighted in some way. WHAT?!!!!! You know I’m speaking the truth. It is easy to get wrapped up in emotions. Emotions are quick to change.
Years ago I heard singer/songwriter, comedian Mark Lowry talk about not “feeling” saved - that stuck with me. Your relationship with God is more than a feeling. As a follower of Christ you are filled with the Holy Spirit but that doesn’t mean you always feel like you can climb the highest mountain. Like any relationship, it is a two way street and takes some amount of commitment to deepen and grow. There was a time when talking to God required a sacrifice. Why? I wondered the same thing. Simple answer - SIN. Sin prevents communication with God. Why? Because God is holy. God did not like that sin prevented us from talking to him and that constant blood sacrifices, using a blemish free animal, were required. So, He sent the perfect sacrifice, His son Jesus Christ. John 3:16 says it best, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If we acknowledge our sin, accept the sacrifice and turn from our sin, “ . . . He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong.” 1 John 1:9.
While we won’t reach perfection on earth, we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, do better each day. I’m thankful that God is faithful and just, even when I fail miserably.
If this post helped or blessed you in any way, let me know - I love hearing how God works with the simple words He gives me to use. Please share it so others may be likewise blessed.