100TH BLOG POST! - A Note to the 12 Year Old Me...and You

100th post
100th post

This is my 100th blog! Who knew that my thoughts, opinions, feelings and prayers were significant enough to fill 100 blogs?! God knew ... He knows everything that is in my heart. I believe that He is actually in the process of going for the treasure in me and you ... after all ... He is the One Who put it there in the first place. In honor of my 100th blog ... I wanted to share something significant and impactful. I have pondered many possible topics ... a few inconsequential meanderings ... and several themes that you would quickly forget. And so ... this is where I have landed ... If I could talk to the 12 year old in you ... and in me ... this is what I wish someone would have told me when I was 12. I want to save you from some of my ridiculous mistakes and to challenge you to be more than you are.

And so ... to the 12 year old Carol ...

1 - It really is more important to be kind than to be pretty.  People will forget how you dressed for a certain occasion, what color eye shadow you wear and how often you get your hair cut. But they will never forget your heart. They will long remember and be impacted by your genuine kindness and friendship.

2 - Don’t date in high school ... it is a total waste of time. Focus on things in high school other than the opposite sex. Develop Godly relationships with other girls. Reach out to girls who are being bullied and be their friend. Go on missions trips. Teach Sunday School. But please don’t give your heart to a string of hormonally charged males who care more about how you look than who you are. Wait for the right man at the right time. He is worth the wait ... trust me ... I know.

3 - Practice the piano or take gymnastics lessons... Keep playing soccer and writing in your journal. Take ballet and learn to give speeches. So often when the teenage years and hormones hit, girls become distracted from their childhood dreams.  Don’t allow your dreams or the disciplines of your little girl years to become lost in the foolishness of parties, social media and dating.

4 - Keep in touch with your childhood and high school friends. That sweet Girl Scout song holds a lifetime of truth in it, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” There is absolutely nothing like going out for lunch with someone who has known you since you were 8 or 10 or 12.

5 - Hold your babies ... they grow up so quickly. Someday you really will meet the man of your dreams ... and you really will have babies together ... and you really will be a mom. When that day comes, remember that the bonding process that takes place during the newborn days is more valuable than a beautiful nursery, designer clothes or a full night’s sleep. Rock your babies ... sing to them ... hold them ... snuggle them ...pray over them. These really are the most precious moments of your entire life.

6 - Increase your vocabulary. Listen to the words that other people use and make a list of the words that are unfamiliar to you. Look up the meanings of the words and try to incorporate them into your daily speech. Sign up for “Word of the Day” from dictionary.com and challenge yourself to use that word in a conversation. There is nothing quite as captivating as a vocabulary that is not peppered with slang but is filled with the beauty of interesting words and enriching phrases.

7 - Don’t just read the twaddle of the day. Travel to England between the pages of “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice”. Experience other times and places through the magic of great literature. Go to the Civil War in “Gone with the Wind” and through the pages of “Little Women”. The passport of your mind is too valuable to stay merely in one country and in one time period. Linger over a cup of tea with Ruth Graham in her biography, “A Portrait of Ruth” and travel to China with Amy Carmichael in “God’s Missionary”.  The world is so much bigger than your little corner of it ... so envelop yourself in meaningful literature that will enlarge your capacity to dream. Trust me ... I know.

8 - Listen more than you talk.  Women have a horrible habit of talking more than listening. Don’t be that girl. Ask questions of others and then truly care about their answers. Don’t feel that you have to say everything you think, feel and believe but be someone else’s safe place.

9 - Don’t always drive on the interstate ... take back roads as often as you can.  Arriving at your chosen destination in the shortest possible time is not nearly as important as seeing the beauty along the way. Stop at an old bookstore ... buy lemonade from a child ... walk through an old cemetery and read the tombstones ... linger over a well-tended garden.

10 - Respect your parents in every season of life. Listen to their wisdom and never discount their input. You really don’t know better than your parents. The world and your peers will tell you to mock them, tolerate them, disobey them, ignore them and sass them. God calls girls from every generation and every historical juncture to honor them. I don’t think that you have a better idea than God.

11 - Please dress modestly. Please!! Your body is not a show and tell stage for the world to gawk at! Your body was not meant to be paraded for every boy to see what you have been given. Pieces of your underwear should never be easily seen under your shirt, skirt, or shorts. You may think that jeans with rips around your private areas are stylish ... they are not. They are seductive. You can be stylish without being sexy. I dare you! Try to do it! Be a young woman of virtue who refuses to cave into the culture. Have a backbone when it comes to how you dress ... be lovely and not lascivious. (This is a word that you are going to have to look up! See #6 and follow the instructions there! You can do it ... this is a word that you do not want used to describe you!)

12 - And please ... don’t gossip! Don’t be a drama queen! The circumstances and events that you are going through today will quickly pass. Pray your way through every situation and allow God to give you peace. When you talk about others ... let it always be in a kind and encouraging way. When others are gossiping ... think of something good to say about the victim of their verbal abuse. Your words hold power and with your words you either wound someone or encourage someone.  Who do you want to be?

13 - Remind yourself on a daily basis that it really does pay to serve God. He has better plans for you than you can even imagine.

14 - Choose Godly friends who dress modestly, obey their parents and refuse to gossip or be drama queens. Your life will be better for it.

15 - Read your Bible every day. Connect your soul to eternity through this one simple, yet life-altering, choice. You can never underestimate the power of reading a Psalm a day ... a Proverb a day ... or about the life of Jesus Christ every day. If you desire to be the very best version of “you” imaginable ... you will read your Bible.

There are days that I wish I could be 12 years old again and anchor myself to these solid principles that somehow alluded me the first time around. However, we all only get to do life one time. We all only have one chance to be 12 ... and 16 ... and 23 ... and 37 ... and 45 ... and 58. And so today I will hunker down once again into the important stuff in life and be the very best version of “me” possible. While my feet yet remain on the soil of planet earth, of worldly culture and of a civilization that touts compromise, I will maintain my focus on all that is glorious and eternal.

Happy 100th blog to me and to you! And to all of us ... who are no longer 12 ... let’s fill the rest of our days with all of our hearts set on that which is noble and pure.

“Finally, sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,  if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” - Philippians 4:8

100th post Girls Rule

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Dream Big

Do you have a dream you've put on hold?  It's time to dream again!  It's time to pray big prayers again!  You will NEVER be able to outdream God!

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Going the Distance

Carol Wedding 1
Carol Wedding 1

Sunday afternoon, July 31, 1977.

Alabama United Methodist Church.  Alabama, NY.

8 bridesmaids in 8 different colors.  Gardenias in their hair and parasols in their hands.

8 groomsmen in white tuxedos with colorful vests and bow ties that matched the popsicle colors of the bridesmaids.

My girlhood dreams were about to come true.  I had met my prince charming with sparkling blue eyes, a southern accent and a call to ministry.  My life was complete.

I’ll never forget walking down the aisle on that 90 degree summer afternoon.  There was no air conditioning in our colonial church building and the sweat was running down the back of my perfect dress.

I looked at my dad’s face and he had a single tear rolling down his handsome cheek.

He gave me to the man who would protect me, provide for me, love me, encourage me and sacrifice for me.

Carol Engagement pic
Carol Engagement pic

Craig and I had just graduated from Christian college; we had the stability of being raised in loving, Christian homes and now were about to embark upon our own adventure.

Little did we know that life would not be perfect ... our love would be challenged but it would endure ... and that our faith in the God of our parents would be enough.  Our faith would always be more than enough.

On that day, July 31, 1977, there was no possible way that Craig and I could comprehend the devastation of losing 5 babies ... the financial challenges that would bring us to our knees ... a depression that paralyzed me for nearly a decade ... and the gut-wrenching, painful challenges of ministry.

On that day, July 31, 1977, there was no possible way that Craig and I could comprehend the unspeakable joy of raising 5 healthy children for the Kingdom of God ... that we would see the provision of God time after time after time ... that the power of the Word of God would deliver this wife from a deep and dark depression into the joy of His presence ... and that the genuine call to ministry at this moment in history made life worth living.

What have I learned in 36 years of marriage?  Lessons that could fill at least one book and probably more!  However, in honor of our 36th anniversary, I’ve decided to limit my list to the 36 top lessons that I have learned.

These are the lessons would I like to share with all of the brides of 2013 ... and anyone else who would care to listen.

36 Lessons from a Marriage that Is Going the Distance

1 - It really is more fun to forgive.  The first one to forgive always wins.  Always.

2 - Marriage is the greatest lesson in dying to self that you will ever encounter.

3 - He wasn’t made for you ... you weren’t made for him ... but you were both made for Christ.

love

4 - Laugh together.  Tease one another. 

5 - Marriage does not make you happy.  Only Jesus can make you happy.

6 - Kindness is the greatest gift you can give your spouse.  Kind words, kind actions, kind heart attitudes are the most valuable commodities in building a relationship that will go the distance.

7 - Be faithful not only in your actions but also in your words and thoughts.  Never use the words “divorce” or “separation”.  Never think to yourself in a fit of anger, “Well, I’m just going to leave him.”  Faithfulness begins in your mind and is out-sourced to your words and actions.

8 - If you want to build a great marriage, be a servant.  Never underestimate the power of serving your spouse day after day ... week after week ... year after year.

9 - You can’t afford NOT to go on dates.  Go out for coffee.  Switch baby-sitting duties with another young couple who can’t afford a babysitter.  Play tennis.  Go for a walk.  Go to the library and read magazines together. Pack a picnic lunch and take a ride through the country.  Dates don’t have to be expensive to be valuable.

Date

10 - Never talk about your spouse in a negative manner in front of your friends, your children or your parents.  Always say positive, encouraging things about your spouse in his presence and behind his back.

couple

11 - Find an older couple who can mentor you through life’s issues.  Invite them into your home for dinner.  Ask them questions.  Ask them to speak into your life and into your marriage.  Imitate their strengths. 

12 - Don’t complain and whine ... that’s what toddlers do.  If there is an issue with which you need to speak to your spouse, do it in a kind, respectful manner.

13 - Choose a song that is “your” song.  Ours is, “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers.  Every time I hear it, my heart melts all over again.

14 - Pray together.  Pray about your finances and your children.  Pray about your destiny and your health.  Pray that your minds would stay sharp and alert in all the years to come.  There is power when a couple who is committed to Christ is also committed to the power of heartfelt prayer.  Mountains will move and hell will shake as you and your spouse hold hands and agree in Jesus’ Name!

15 - Celebrate life!  Don’t be so serious that you become a kill-joy.  Plan a family picnic and play patriotic music on the Fourth of July.  Make a list of blessings and talk about them the entire month of November.  Write him a poem for Valentine’s Day.  Have the entire family participate in a March Madness Bracket and give an annual prize to the winner.

16 - Create a budget, prayer over it and stay on it.  This will eliminate so much stress in the years to come.

17 - Hold hands.

holding hands

18 - Do something special every year on your anniversary.  Don’t let it pass by unnoticed.  Go out to dinner.  Look at your wedding album.  Call the people who were in your wedding and reminisce together.

19 - Read at least one book together every year and talk about it.

20 - Tell your children what you appreciate about their mom or dad.

21 - Choose a scripture that is “your” scripture.  Ours is - “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” - Psalm 27:4

We first read that Scripture over breakfast one morning in the college cafeteria while we were dating.  That scripture was on our wedding invitation and continues to give us focus as to the purpose of our life on earth.

22 - Turn nothing into something.  Make a special meal “just because”.  Serve him breakfast in bed for no reason at all.  Linger over a cup of coffee and listen intently to the cares of his heart.

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23 - Turn something into nothing.  When he is driving you crazy, minimize it.  When he hurts your feelings, bless him abundantly!

24 - Buy him a gift for Christmas.  Craig and I went many, many years without buying one another Christmas gifts because we were so focused on our children.  How I regret it!  You don’t have to spend a lot to make it meaningful.  Buy him a gift card to his favorite coffee shop.  Buy him a t-shirt with his favorite team’s logo on it.  Buy him tickets to the new movie that just came out.

25 - Say “I’m sorry,” even when you don’t think that it is your fault.  When those 2 sincere words come out of your mouth, it diffuses the tension and erases the guilt in the atmosphere.

26 - Say “I’m sorry,” when it is your fault.  Say it quickly and humbly.

27 - When you are frustrated with your spouse for a minor offense, remind yourself of something that you are thankful for in his or her life.  Don’t rehearse and marinate in the daily little frustrations but spend more time being thankful for who they are.

28 - Tell your children the story of how you met and why you feel in love with their dad.

29 - Remind yourself that God has entrusted you with this human being’s self-esteem, the peace of their days, their home life and their heart.  God trusts you enough to allow you to partner with another human being in this treasure called “life”.

30 - Never, never, never, never give your spouse the silent treatment.  It’s cruel.

31 - Read the Bible together and separately.  Share with your spouse what you read in your quiet time that morning.  Read the Bible together as often as you can.  The Word of God truly works a miracle in marriage.

32 - Listen more than you talk.  Ask your spouse probing and interesting questions to draw him or her out.

33 - Never make fun of your spouse in public or in private.  It’s humiliating.

34 - Never correct your spouse in public.  It’s humiliating.

35 - Do something in ministry together.  Go on a missions trip.  Teach Sunday School.  Go to the nursing home and visit the patients.  Volunteer to clean the church together.  Have a missionary family in your home.  Go to the City Mission on a holiday and serve meals.  The possibilities of ministry are endless!

Text message

36 - Say, “I love you” every single day.  Say it when you are frustrated and mad.  Say it at night and in the morning.  Send your spouse an e-mail with the words, “I love you,” in it.  Send him a text message with the words, “I love you,” in it.

Craig ... just wanted to let you know how thankful I am for the man and husband that you are!  Let’s do 36 more years together!!

Carol Wedding kiss

FREE DOWNLOAD HERE -36 LESSONS FOR A MARRIAGE THAT GOES THE DISTANCE!
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The Past, Future, & Present

papavero

There is a way to have a healthy relationship with your past...your future...and your present!  The purpose of your past is to look back and find the fingerprint of God.  The purpose of your future is to trust God...He's been to your future...and it's GOOD!  The purpose of the present is to wring the joy out of it...find the joy in each moment...THIS is the day the Lord has made!

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If I Could Do It All Over Again

sarah and fam
sarah and fam
emma and ethan
emma and ethan

One of my dearest life-time friends, Sarah, is about to give birth this week to her third baby. Three world changing children known as Emma, Ethan and little no-name boy. (Sarah and Mike have sworn this new little baby boy’s name to great secrecy.  She won’t even tell me! Imagine that!!) Three new little lives in just barely over 4 years.

Sarah is one of my heroines.

Because of Sarah, I have been thinking about those years when my house was an absolute mess and yet my heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude and love. I have been remembering the years when the laundry never ended, dirty dishes filled the sink and peanut butter and jelly crusts were all I ever ate for lunch.

Do you remember those days?  After my third baby was born, I counted it a successful day if I was out of my pajamas by 4 p.m.  I realized during those never-ending, noisy years that a long soak in a bubble bath was in some ways better than a trip to Hawaii.

In honor of Sarah and all of those other brave young moms who have chosen to walk the very brave road of large families, here is some advice from the heart of a mom who gave birth to 5 and wishes that she could do it all over again!

1 - Read books to your children.

pretty baby and mother read the books
pretty baby and mother read the books

Start reading to them from the day you bring them home from the hospital. Read “Pat the Bunny”, “I’ll Love You Forever”, “Good Night, Moon”, and the Bible.  Even though they may not understand the meaning of the words ... they will understand the love and cadence in your voice.   As they grow into toddlers and pre-schoolers, read “The Little Engine that Could”, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, “Amelia Bedelia” and the Bible.

When they are school age and beginning to read on their own, continue to make family story time a well-loved tradition and read to them. Read “Caddie Woodlawn”, “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch”, “Little House on the Prairie”, “Tom Sawyer” and the Bible.

At every age and every stage, read them biographies of men and women who weren’t afraid to dream big dreams and to live a life of resounding importance. Read them the biographies of missionaries, athletes, scientists and musicians.

And ... at every age and every stage ... read them the Bible.  A child can never read too many books.

 2 - Play music in your home.

Photoxpress_2259741

Start playing music to them from the day that you bring them home from the hospital.  Play the classics of Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin.  Play the great hymns of the faith that thousands have sung before this little life ever began.  Play worship music that is impacting this generation. Play the worship music that impacted your early years. Play the worship music that impacted your parents and grandparents.  Play Broadway Show tunes and musicals.  Play your favorite music.  A child can never listen to too much music.

3 - Hold your babies.

You never spoil a baby with love.  Rock them and sing to them.  Quote the word over them as you quiet them in the middle of the night.  It is no small thing to be given a gift from heaven ... treat your tiny blessing with heavenly care.  Also ... may I just say ... never underestimate the impact that holding and rocking our babies will have during the teen-age years. But I will get to that later.  Trust me when I say you can never hold a baby too much.

baby hand
baby hand

4 - Make a list of priorities. What matters the most to you?

A clean house or 3 home-cooked, gourmet meals every day?  Going for a jog or reading a book all by yourself in the evening?  Laundry that is done timely and folded when it comes out of the dryer or a beautiful garden outside your windows?

You can’t do it all ... so set your priorities and stick to them.

Don’t ever feel guilty about everything that you aren’t able to do during this season but know that you are doing the most important things in life.

I remember one day when my highly successful, beautifully dressed mother walked into my zoo of a house filled with children. There were toys everywhere, the floor was sticky and the dishes hadn’t been done in days. That’s right ... I said, “days”.  I was sitting in the middle of the family room floor reading books to my three boys when she walked in. I looked at her and said, “Mom, I am so sorry that my house looks like this.” She sat down on the couch, started folding the mountain of laundry and said, “That’s o.k., honey, you are doing the important things in life.”

At the end of every long, busy day, remind yourself, “That’s o.k., Sarah, you are doing the important things in life.”

Your children can never have too much of you. You are all that matters to them.

5 - Make sure that there is a lot of laughter in your home.

Serve green mashed potatoes on St. Patricks Day.  Serve hamburgers for breakfast and french toast for supper on April Fool’s Day. Read a joke every night at the dinner table. Bennet Cerf’s Book of Riddles was always our favorite.

Blow bubbles in the summertime and catch them on the tip of your nose.  Giggle together over the simple, delightful things in life. Don’t make your home such a serious place that it lacks the healing power of joy and gladness.  There can never be too much laughter in a home!

6 - Teach your children to pray.

child-praying
child-praying

Teach your little ones that God really does listen when one of His children talks to Him.   Teach your babies that there is nothing too small to talk to God about. You can ask Him to heal your pets, give you a friend, help Daddy at work and help sister with her homework.

When you teach your children to pray, also teach them to trust God with the outcome. Let them know that God is loving and good and kind and we can trust our frail lives in His trust-worthy hands.  Teach your children that sometimes God says, “No,” ... sometimes He says,  “Yes,” ... and sometimes He says, “Have patience.”

A child can never pray too much, ask God for too much or trust enough!

7 - Teach your children to dream.

Teach your children to imagine and to dream!  Encourage their little imaginations to go vagabond as they conjure up days of safaris and castles and expeditions into outer space.  Talk to their imaginary friends as if they were truly a part of your family. What fun!  If you can cultivate a culture of dreams when they are little ... then ... when they are grown ... they will refuse to limit themselves with mediocrity.  Say things to them like,

“If you can’t do it ... no one can do it!”

“I believe in you!”

“God has great plans for your life!”

“You are here for purpose and destiny!”

“You are an Esther ... a David ... a Paul ... a Moses ... a Deborah!”

When they are grown, your children will know that they had a mom who believed in them then ... and now.  A child can never have too many dreams.

8 - Know that the investment you are making today will reap a harvest of blessings and solid relationship in the future.

Do you want to know what I believe, Sarah?

I believe that when you hold your babies during these busy, frazzled, too-muchto-do, I-need-some-time-to-myself, would-everybody-please-leave-me-alone-and-let-mesleep-years ... that you are planting a lovely garden of relationship with this little one that will be harvested during the teen and young adult years.

When a mom holds a baby, it layers the baby’s life with a security that can be developed in no other way.  When a mom holds a toddler, it chases away unreasonable fears and builds a foundation of trust that no teen-age hormones can erode.  When a mom snuggles with an infant, for no other reason than just because I love you and want you, it builds a garrison of strength around that baby’s heart that no weapon of the culture can penetrate.

So as you hold little “what’s his name”, Sarah, know that someday he will grow up. You only have 18 short years with him.

18 summers ... 18 birthday cakes ... 18 Christmas Eves that will fly away in a mere blink of time.  Read to him ... sing to him ... prioritize him ... laugh with him ... pray with Him ... dream with him ... hold him.

Sarah ... read him the Bible and ... please ... give him a great name!  :)

UPDATE - July 28, 2013

Sarah delivered a beautiful, healthy 8 lbs. 1 oz. little boy on July 28th!  And she gave him a GREAT name...  Everett Patrick (Everett means - "Courageous and unending praise!")

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When You Wonder

little heart
little heart

What moves you?  What fills your heart with the echoes of eternity? For me, it has always been words and melodies.  I remember as a little girl, hearing “The Christmas Song” sung on “The King Family Christmas Special” and it made my heart ache.  I was probably only 7 or 8 years old that December and it was the first time that the beauty of lyrics and melody made me long for more.  The voices of a 40-member family of 4 generations blended in deep and rich harmonies that made the tears roll down my little girl cheeks.  I knew in that moment that somethings are so beautiful that they hurt.

About 20 years ago, I heard a song in a church cantata that moved me with the same type of deep and eternal beauty.  I remember that it was when I was in a daily battle with depression and most days my soul was a hollow vacuum of nothingness.  I went to church the Sunday before Christmas and was so content to sit near the back, even though my husband was the pastor.

The cantata was cheesy at best and most of the music was woefully off pitch and embarrassing.  The sheer inadequacy of the performance only added to my depression.  Then, the choir director, turned around and faced the audience.  I felt like she was looking right at me.  She lifted the microphone to her lips, opened her mouth, closed her eyes and sang in a rich contralto that echoed through the empty caverns of my heart.

“God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand,

When you don’t see His plan,

When you can’t trace His hand,

Trust His heart.” - Babbie Mason

God spoke to me and I was never the same again.  He spoke through the lyrics and melody of a song written by one of His dear children.

These words have become more than lyrics to me ... they have become solid theology.  They have become a dynamic and powerful prayer.  They have become a reminder in the darkest moments of my life that I can trust a God Who is good and wise.

“God is too wise to be mistaken ...”

rapsfeld mit sonnenstrahlen
rapsfeld mit sonnenstrahlen

My soul rests in the assurance that God really is too wise to be mistaken.  God is never wrong ... not one time.  I never know better than He does ... never.  His wisdom never contradicts His Word ... and I rest there ... in that safe place of trusting an all-wise God.

God’s wisdom never changes because God never changes.  His mind and His heart toward His children thousands of years ago is still His mind and His heart toward His children today.  If the ache of your heart is to know the wisdom of God, then you must read and agree with His Word.

If you read His Word and then question it or doubt it, then you really don’t believe that God is too wise to be mistaken.  When my mind and my circumstances tempt me to question the wisdom of God, I am brought back to a place of trust by the lyrics of the life of David, the psalmist and the giant-killer, “And those who know Your Name, will put their trust in You, for You, oh Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” - Psalm 9:10

God’s wisdom is backed up by God’s power.  If He were only wise, with no power with which to move, than His wisdom would have a lesser effect upon our human lives.  But because not only is He the God of all wisdom, but also is He the God of supreme and eternal power, I know that His hand always moves with the wisdom of His Name.

“God is too good to be unkind ...”

little heart
little heart

When I read those words, I weep.  My heart melts within me at the goodness of the God Whom I love and serve.  There is no unkindness in God.  Everything that comes into my life is filtered through the wisdom, power and goodness of God.

Anything that God is, He is eternally.  God is eternally and infinitely good.  There is not one atom or cell of cruelty, unkindness or badness in God.  God has never had a bad thought about you or has ever been tempted to be mean to you.

He is infinitely and lavishly good.  He is powerfully loving and wisely kind.

“So when you don’t understand, when you can’t see His plan ...”

How many times has THAT happened in your life?!   You don’t understand what God is doing ... you can’t see His fingerprint in the dailyness of your day ... you don’t hear His voice or see the handwriting on the wall.   You scream out for understanding and He is silent.  You demand an explanation from heaven’s heart and get nothing.  You wonder whether He is in control or not ...

What do you do at that lonely moment?  Is there a place for your aching soul to land?

"When you can’t trace His hand ... trust His heart.”

IMAG1733-1-1
IMAG1733-1-1

This is what you do at that confusing, lonely moment when you wonder where He is ... you trust.  You trust His heart.  You trust His wisdom and His power.  You trust His goodness that is never unkind.  You trust that He is enough to carry you through.  You trust the same God whom David trusted.  You get on your face, open the Bible and trust.

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A Miracle in the Making

Joy & Cady
Joy & Cady
Cady & Joy silly
Cady & Joy silly

Cady Morgan Kendall.  She was my daughter’s freshman roommate at college.  Joy and Cady were more than roomies.  They were kindred spirits ... passionate about life ... filled with the joy of youth ... sisters to the core.  Their room became the central location for prayer meetings, wardrobe exchanges, chick flick parties and encouraging conversations.  Cady became a floor chaplain at the university while my daughter went through the RA program.  Cady became a head chaplain for her final two years and Joy was a head RA.  They were leaders of the very best kind.  They led by example.  They are both irresistible, actually.

Cady & Joy
Cady & Joy

Cady, a pastoral care major, was my summer intern the summer before her senior year in college.  She was the sunshine of all of our days.  She discipled the young women under her watch ... kept my kitchen clean ... dreamed big dreams for the ministry ... and taught us all the power of laughter.  I remember that Cady was so thirsty for the Word of God ... she would gulp in every piece of wisdom, vision and encouragement that I spoke into her life.

Cady began to fall in love that summer with a young man who was in Africa on missions.  I’ll never forget the night that my upstairs exploded in glass-shattering screams.  When I ran up the stairs to make sure that everyone was o.k., my youngest daughter, Joni, informed me that Jordan Lewis had just returned from his missions trip and he had texted Cady!  The friendship began and blossomed into romance.

There was just one roadblock.  Jordan was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer before they went back to school for their senior year.  He endured surgeries and dangerous chemotherapy.  The doctor’s said that he might be blind or brain-damaged.  He was neither ... he was strong and healed and triumphant!

Cady & Jordan homecoming
Cady & Jordan homecoming

Jordan returned to college for his final semester of college.  Jordan and Cady were named Homecoming King and Queen and continued to serve God and people with an enthusiasm that touched everyone’s heart.

Jordan was in the process of buying a gorgeous engagement ring this spring when his medical check-up showed that the cancer had returned.  Jordan’s 23-year old lungs were invaded by cancerous tumors.

Without even pausing, Cady looked into Jordan’s face and said, “Let’s get married!”

And so ... only 3 weeks after the second diagnosis ... Cady Morgan Kendall became Cady Morgan Lewis at a wedding that was so lovely ...  so enchanting ... so miraculous that it was the stuff of which fairy tales are made!

Cady & Joy wedding
Cady & Joy wedding

Joy was her maid of honor and spent the two weeks prior to the wedding planning with Cady ... praying for Jordan ... and making sure that Cady’s wedding sparkled with delight and personality ... just like Cady does!

Surrounded by family from around the world ... friends from college ... and a team of prayer warriors that makes hell shake ... Jordan and Cady promised to love each other and care for each other “ ... in sickness and in health.”

Jordan promised Cady before the crowd of witnesses, both earthly and heavenly, that he would live a long, long, long time!

Cady & Jordan vows
Cady & Jordan vows

We all had the sense that we were watching a miracle in the making.  We all knew that this was no ordinary wedding but that God was truly present on the Oklahoma soil.  I wondered if we should all take off our shoes ... it seemed as if we were on holy ground for that singular moment in time.

I was reminded that week-end, that the first miracle that Jesus ever performed was at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  I asked God, with tears running down my cheeks, to perform another miracle at this wedding in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Cady & Dad
Cady & Dad
Cady & Jordan wedding 2
Cady & Jordan wedding 2

I asked God to heal this dynamic, world-changing young man.

I asked God to put life into Jordan’s body and to take out the ugly, evil cancer.

I asked God to give Cady more joy than is possible for one human to contain.

I asked God to use this young couple to be a brilliant voice in the darkness of our world that God really does hear our prayers and that He really does love us.

I asked God to give them children and grandchildren.

I asked God to let them get false teeth, social security payments and rocking chairs together.

Would you join me in praying for Cady and Jordan Lewis?  They are spending this week in Cancun, Mexico without a care in the world.

They are spending next week at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston, Texas, in order to get a treatment plan.

Would you pray for a miracle?  Would you pray that God’s love would drip lavishly into their lives?  Would you pray for life?

What miracle do you need today?  You see ... one of the miracles of it all ... is that Cady and Jordan want to pray for you!  At their wedding, they had a prayer request box that they asked their guests to fill with personal prayer requests.

Cady and Jordan believe what the Word of God says: “ ... pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” - James 5:16

Cady and Jordan Lewis

June 29, 2013

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You Are Raising Today the Ones Who Will Change History Tomorrow

Last week I read an article in the Huffington Post that deeply troubled me.  You can read the article here "Grown and Flown"  written by Lisa Endlich Heffernan. I wrote a reply to her article that has generated a lot of conversation on Huffington Post.  You can read my reply Here  as well as my entire blog post HERE.

fjord
fjord

Truthfully, in retrospect, what troubled me about Lisa’s article was the fact that she has chosen to live in a place of long-term regret.  I believe that as a healthy woman, it is important that when one looks back over one’s life what is most easily and vibrantly seen are those things that stir up gratitude and thankfulness.  And so my heart breaks for Lisa and for the sadness that fills her soul simply because she chose to stay at home with her children.

I know that the conflicting opinions between stay at home moms and working moms create a volatile issue among women today and truly it is not in my heart to make anyone feel guilty over their parenting choices.  I chose to stay home and I am glad that I did.  The sacrifice that my husband and I made financially still impacts our lives during our empty nest years and I turned down many prestigious and exciting career opportunities.  But if I had it to do over, I would do it again.  And again and again and again.

However, I am also wise enough to know that not many women are able to stay at home all day every day while their children are growing up. 

My heart breaks for single moms who would love to stay home but can’t.

My heart breaks for women whose husbands are underemployed or have lost their jobs and so these women must leave their children under the care of others for 40 or more hours a week.

My heart aches for young widows who must provide food on the table, medical insurance and the monthly mortgage payments alone.

Unfortunately, we live in a two-income world and in order for a family to have any financial latitude or stability at all, many women are forced to work outside the home.

I know all of these things ... and this is what I want to say from the heart of a mother whose children are now healthy adults pursuing with passion and focus the dreams that are within their magnificent hearts.

Spend as much time with your children as you can.  If you must work outside the home, then give up other things that would take you away from quality and quantity of time with your children.  Rather than going to the gym 5 nights a week ... go during your lunch hour so that the evening hours are times of reading books, playing games and snuggling.  Rather than going to Weight-Watchers, book club and making coffee dates with friends, have people in your home and make it a family night.

time shadow
time shadow

Always remember that love to a child is spelled T-I-M-E.

            If at all possible, during the pre-school years, work only part-time or not at all.  Habits are developed, character is set, self-esteem is created and home values are established during the important pre-school years.  No one will do the job that you, the mother, will do.  No one can take your place ... not a daycare ... not a nanny ... and not even a wonderful grandmother.  Do not underestimate the importance of a leisurely morning of homemade pancakes, followed by an hour of reading books and snuggling on the couch and then time spent together making messy crafts and singing silly songs.  These years will never come again so wring the joy and purpose out of each one.

pretty baby and mother read the books
pretty baby and mother read the books

            If you must work due to extenuating circumstances, don’t spend one day in guilt but joyfully give everything you have and everything you are to your children when you are together.  Make every week-end a time of celebration and love.  This does not necessarily mean spending wads of money. Your meaningful and delightful time together can include making cookies, going for walks, doing crafts, reading books, going to the library, planting a summer garden, blowing bubbles, making snow angels, counting the stars and a thousand other activities that just say, “We’re together!”

            Re-evaluate your spending habits and financial goals to see if you can lessen the hours spent away from home.  If you are working in order to go to Disney World, buy a boat or live in the lap of luxury ... think again.  Your kids want you more than they want designer clothes, $1,000 birthday parties or colossal Christmases.  They want you.

            When you are together, try to lay aside the computer, your phone, the iPad and anything else that makes your child feel unimportant in your life.  Focus on your child’s dear face, their precious and creative words, the inflection in their sweet voices and the heart they are offering to you, their mom.  Today’s e-mail, twitter and Facebook posts are rubbish in comparison to the soul of your growing child.

mother with children sits on the grass
mother with children sits on the grass

Whether you work 40 hours a week at a prestigious job, 20 hours a week at a mediocre job or stay at home all day long, know that the gift of parenting is unequalled in importance or in prestige.  Remind yourself that your career does not equal self esteem, your income does not define your importance and the demands of a boss are not nearly as important as birthday parties, ball games and ballet recitals.  Make choices based upon long-term investment in your family rather than the short-term clamor of today.  When you are with your children during those precious hours, whether long or short, give them your whole heart and attention.

            Parenting is not easy but it is worth it!  When my children were small, I used to love to mow the grass.  I would beg Craig, my husband, to let me mow our acre yard every week from April - November.  He would stay inside with the children and I would sweat with delight as I pushed our lawn mower through the weeds and grass that filled our yard.  I have figured out in these latter years, that the reason I loved mowing the lawn so much is because I saw immediate results.  I could look behind me and see exactly where I had been and the difference that my sweat and woman-power had made.  Parenting is not like that.  As a mother, you sweat, push, walk, pull, talk, encourage, scold, exhort and rarely see an immediate result.  However, in the long haul of parenting, you are making a difference.

You are today raising the ones who will change history tomorrow.

You are raising the dreamers, the doers, and the doctors of the next generation.  You are raising presidents, authors, pastors, thinkers, mothers and worship leaders.  You are raising men and women who will live on in history because of your impact.

You are fixing the mistakes of our generation by raising the next with honor and integrity.

You are splashing a dark and ruined world with the miraculous legacy  fashioned by a stable home and of parents who were engaged in the lives of those whom they treasured the most.

Whether you work 40 hours a week or have been given the delightful opportunity to be a stay at home mom, value the lives of those whom you have created by an act of love.  Their lives will never develop well without you and you will never become the person you were meant to be without them.

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Grown and Flown - Why I Have No Regrets Being a Stay at Home Mom

family pic

I wrote this blog as a rebuttal to the recently published article in the Huffington Post by Lisa Endlich Heffernan - "Grown and Flown - Why I Regret Being a Stay at Home Mom"

Dear Lisa -

I read your article that was published in the Huffington Post.  I didn’t know whether to cry or protest with alarm ... but then I realized that I was just really, really sad for you.

I am sad that you are looking back with such mountainous regret.

I am sad that the lives of your magnificent sons can be compared to degrees, computer skills and the complexity of the women’s movement.  I am sad that you have chosen to measure the worth of your life by your achievements rather than by the health of your relationships.

I really don’t want to be judgmental so forgive me if I come across as such.  Just as you have opinions about your choices in life, I have opinions about mine.  I am content knowing that I didn’t need a realtor, a car dealer or a travel agent to help me decide whether or not to stay home with the most valuable treasures that I have ever been given.  I didn’t make my decision based upon chaos but upon conviction.  Truthfully, I don’t care about finances or diminished earnings as much as I do about the emotional health and magnified blessings of raising my 5 children well.  I didn’t bolt out of the workforce but I chose to make a decision that would define me for all of my days ... I stayed at home with 5 of the most incredible human beings ever created and with joy.

My most expensive mistake would have been staying in the work force and accepting the prestigious jobs that were offered to me.  I realized over 30 years ago what has been confirmed to me time after time after time:  you cannot put a price tag on time spent with your children.  Earthly wealth, bonuses and power advancements pale in comparison to the value of simple time spent raising, nurturing and loving children.

I thought that I would take the opportunity to give the “other side” from the perspective of a mother looking back at 3 rich decades of staying at home to raise 5 incredible children.

You said, “I let down those who went before me.”  Lisa ... that is called peer pressure and no valuable decision is ever based upon the expectations of others.   I didn’t want my life to turn out like Betty Friedan’s or anyone else’s.  I wanted to choose my own road.  I chose to swim upstream in an age where women were effectively crashing the glass ceiling.  By choosing to stay home, I have supported and strengthened the most vital people in my personal world.

You said, “I used my driver’s license far more than my degrees.”  Not me ... I have wrung the substance out of my college degree every day that I have stayed at home with these miracles whose last name is “McLeod”.  My college degree was in English, Communication and Music.  Music filled the very heart of our home and my children grew up knowing the music of Gershwin, Chopin and Tchaikovsky. They knew the great hymns of the faith, the patriotic music of our country and all of the little ditties that I wrote and sang endlessly to them.  I read to my children every day they were under my watch.  We read “Pat the Bunny, “The House at Pooh Corner”, “Carry on, Mr. Bowditch” and “Little Women” until I had them memorized.  I taught my children to love words and books and great authors.

And speaking of driver’s licenses, Lisa ... although we had 5 children, we chose only to have 1 car until our oldest son was in high school.  It was the price that we paid for living on a one- family income.  What a glorious price!

So, unlike you, I did use my college degree in the home although that blasted driver’s license was what went virtually unused in my life.

You said, “My kids think I did nothing.”  Perhaps you need to re-evaluate the value system that your 3 sons are embracing.  My kids, who are now pursuing their dreams and passions with whole-hearted intensity, know that I sacrificed that which is temporary for that which is lasting.  I, as an empty-nest mother of 5, know deep within my soul that not only did I NOT do “nothing” but that I enthusiastically and with no regrets did EVERYTHING!  My kids, healthy young adults in their 20’s and 30’s, still call me for advice, send me sweet text messages, and now fan the flame of the dreams that are flourishing within my heart.

You said, “My world narrowed.”  Au contraire, Lisa Endlich Heffernan, my world expanded and exploded!  Who knew that a grin on the face of a baby would be more beatific than Victoria Falls or the Grand Canyon?!  Who knew that the giggle of a two year old would hold more rich substance than the London Symphony Orchestra?!  Who knew that playing a rousing game of Candy Land with a 5 year old was much preferred over boring, endless and political business meetings?!  Who knew that going to piano recitals, basketball games and National Honor Society Inductions would fulfill me more than stamps on my empty passport?! Who knew?!

You said, “I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work.”  Lisa, my new friend, I hope that no one allows you to actually think this selfish thought!  Even the liberal media ought to confront you on this regardless of their parenting choices.  America is built upon the spirit of volunteerism.  Our most grateful thanksgiving, as a family, was the year that we served soup at the homeless shelter downtown.  When our two older boys were active participants in the local basketball league for middle school boys, I saw that it had been taken over by politicking, obnoxious men. I volunteered to be the first woman commissioner and got the job and although I invested hours into this realm of service, I received absolutely no pay.  I loved making decisions that I believed were in the best interest of children of all playing skills and not just potential olympians.  Volunteers have the power to change the world whether or not they ever receive the paycheck that the Chairman of the Board earns.

You said, “I worried more.”  Truthfully ... I worried less.  Had I been stuck behind a desk in some corporate castle I would have worried my brain and my heart out!  I loved knowing who they were playing with every day and what language was being used in my yard.  It brought me peace to volunteer at their school and observe everything from the top administration to the dear lunch ladies.  Lisa, if you have a problem with worry it is NOT because you were a SAHM.  It is because you have chosen to worry.

You said, “I slipped into a more traditional marriage.”  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with tradition itself.  However, it is two adults who must agree on what type of marriage they are building and it is definitely not dictated by parenting choices.  My marriage remained vibrant, challenging and fulfilling during all of the years in which we were raising the rambunctious, creative and competitive clan McLeod.  Craig and I often yearned for more time alone but we were the ones who had chosen to have 5 children and we gave ourselves to it wholeheartedly during those years.  Craig did laundry and unloaded the dishwasher.  I mowed the lawn and took the car in for repairs.  Craig read books, wiped noses and changed diapers.  I watched sports, fixed leaking faucets and pitched unending baseballs in the front yard.  I loved our non-traditional, traditional commitment to one another and to our children.

You said, “I became outdated.”  Lisa ... girlfriend ... you are really stretching here for reasons that you regret your choice to be a SAHM.  There is nothing outdated about a love that sacrifices that which is momentarily preferred for that which is the long-term best.  The most significant women of every generation have known the fulfillment and power of laying down that which is culturally acceptable for that which is priceless.  I actually believe that I stayed trendier and more hip by choosing to stay at home.  I knew the language that my kids and their friends were talking.  I wasn’t held captive every day by a stodgy old boss who was stuck in yesterday’s mindset.  I listened with great interest to political ideas of teen-agers and their friends.  I participated in late-night chats about dating, the pros and cons of piercings and what colleges offered what types of scholarships.  If you became “outdated”, Lisa, it is because it is what you chose to be.  Becoming “outdated” is not the cause and effect process that most SAHM’s experience.

You said, “I lowered my sights and lost confidence.”  I understand that every woman faces the struggle of self-confidence but this is not a unique struggle that only stay at home moms experience.  If you had been passed over for a grand and much deserved promotion, you might have lowered your sights and lost your confidence in that role.  If you had run for a national election and lost, you might have lowered your sights and lost your confidence in that choice.  So, Lisa, don’t blame your lack of vision and confidence on the significant role that you played as your children’s primary care-giver.

As a woman who has made the same choice to stay at home while raising children just as you did, I just want to tell you that I don’t regret one minute of it or one long-term lasting effect of that singular choice.

You see, in every generation, mothers are able to accomplish what no other nanny, daycare or even grandmother can do.  To be a full-time mother is a glorious privilege and the highest call of personhood that a woman can fulfill.  Never minimize this world-changing choice with false regret or by second-guessing yourself.  Lisa, I salute you!  Thank you for choosing to stay at home and invest yourself in something that was rich and real and vital ... the lives of the little boys under your watch.

Now, as I sit at home alone in my immaculate and quiet home, I realize that I did indeed have it all!  Today I will sit behind my computer all day long meeting my next book deadline and creating speeches that will help women live well.  However, my heart aches for the echoes of laughter that used to resonate within the walls of this home.  My mind is filled with the faces of those little people who loved my grilled cheese sandwiches and threw their arms around my neck.

The difference between you and I, Lisa, is that I do not live in a world of regret but in a world of contentment.  I chose to be a SAHM and I am grateful for the years of never-ending mothering.

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What's on Your Destiny List?

Pencils and agenda

Many people create a "Bucket List"...a list of fun things to do before they leave this earth. I want to encourage you to write a "Destiny List"! There are things that God wants YOU to do, at this time in history, that cannot be done by anyone else...

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One in a Million Dad!

This Sunday is Father’s Day which has become a bittersweet holiday for me on two fronts.  Let me explain ...

My father went to heaven in 2002 and I remember one of the first thoughts that I had was, “I will never get to buy another Father’s Day card for my Dad.”  I had always been a “daddy’s girl” and something precious and stable was gone that day from my life.

It hit me in that moment that the man who had loved me since the instant I was born, although no longer with me in the physical, would ever live on in my heart.

Norman Frederic Burton was just a month short of being 81 years old when he died and how I loved every minute spent in his presence!

I had a Dad who loved the Word of God and taught me to love it as well.  He believed that the Bible was the final authority on everything.  I believe it, too.

I had a Dad who was a giver ... he generously gave to the Kingdom of God even when it meant personal sacrifice for him and for our family.  I hope that I am as generous as he always was.

I had a Dad who loved creation and the wonder of God’s world.  He took me to see the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, the Grand Tetons and to beaches along both shores.  He taught me to love the rich, dark soil in our yard and to cultivate things of beauty from that soil.  Whenever I spend time outside drinking in all that God created, I somehow feel closer to my Dad.

I had a Dad who believed in honesty and integrity.  He not only believed in it but he lived it.  He was a man who never lied and paid his bills on time.

I had a Dad who loved my mom.  He was crazy about her from sun-up till sun-down.  He never spoke an unkind word to her or about her.  I loved watching them dance on our 1960’s gold carpet in the living room.

I had a Dad who could fix anything.  From flat bicycle tires ...  to overflowing toilets ...  to leaky roofs ...  to removing splinters from my fingers.  He even had the knack of mending my broken heart a time or two.

I had a Dad who was never ashamed to go to the grocery store ... canned an entire year’s supply of tomatoes, green beans and applesauce in our pink and green kitchen ... and rocked babies to sleep in his arms while whistling.  He made donuts and zucchini bread.  He created gorgeous needlepoint pictures and did the dishes every night after dinner.  He was the manliest man I have ever known.

I never thought that I would find a man who could live up to the reputation and example of my Dad.  But I did ... which brings me to the second reason that Father’s Day is bittersweet for me.

The second reason that Father’s Day is bittersweet is because our children are all grown now.  We no longer wake up to homemade Father’s Day cards, burnt breakfast in bed or Father’s Day crafts made in Sunday School.  Our three boys are now fathers themselves and our daughters are still praying for the men who will father their children.  I gave my children the greatest gift I could find ... a man who would father well.

mcleod family young
mcleod family young

Craig, the father of all 5 of my children, is a one-in-a-million kind of Dad.

He coached too many baseball teams to count.

He played endless games of H-O-R-S-E and P-I-G in our driveway with three little boys who grew up too quickly.

He went to ballet recitals and piano recitals with no complaints but with bouquets of flowers in his arms for little girls who are now beautiful young women.  (I only had to pinch him a time or two to stay awake!)

He read books time after time after time.  French Fry Forgiveness ... Peanut Butter and Jelly Secrets ... The Door in the Dragon’s Throat ... Carry On, Mr. Bowditch ... Charlotte’s Web ... Trapped at the Bottom of the Sea ... The American Girl Books ... Little House on the Prairie ... and any book at all by an author by the name of Matt Christopher.

He played Monopoly, Clue, Chess, Checkers, Trouble, Uno, Kemps, Mau, Speed Scrabble and Candyland until other fathers would have been writhing in pain.

He has watched “Beauty and the Beast”, “Cinderella”, “Peter Pan”, “The Sound of Music”, “Hoosiers”, “The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe”, “Mary Poppins”, “Remember the Titans”, “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Little Women” and “Father of the Bride” when lesser men would have been screaming, “UNCLE!”

mcleod kids adults
mcleod kids adults
craig and joy
craig and joy

He stood with me in prayer and encouragement through long days of depression and infertility.

When the money was tight and bills were ferocious, he never asked for anything for himself but gave and gave and gave to this family.

He has discipled his children with love, integrity and the power of believing in their dreams.

He has loved them through wins and losses, A’s and F’s, and popularity and loneliness.

He has led by word and by example.  The 5 children who have grown up in our home have seen a man who has relentlessly followed Christ every day of his life.

My 5 children have seen their father refuse to speak ill of those who have mistreated him.

They have seen their father walk in victory and joy during days when other men would have given in to depression and discouragement.

Matthew, Christopher, Jordan, Joy and Joni have all been fathered by a man of God ... that is no small thing in a culture of compromise, moral mediocrity and the relentless call of busyness.  Their father has stood head and shoulders above the rest while cradling their 5 precious lives in his heart.

craig with sleeping sons
craig with sleeping sons
craig helping chris
craig helping chris

Most of all, our 5 children have been raised by a prayer warrior.  Any success or accomplishment in their lives has happened because they had a daddy who knew the power of prayer.

And so I face Father’s Day 2013 with both joy and a touch of sorrow.  I am so grateful for a father and a husband who loved with their whole hearts.  I am eternally thankful for two men who chose to submit their lives to the greatest Father of all.

Happy Father’s Day!

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The Other Women

baby hand
baby hand

When Matthew, our oldest son, was a mere 24 hours old, my husband, Craig, found me sobbing in the hospital rocking chair.  I was holding my new born baby boy and crying my heart out.  Just literal gut heaves ... it wasn’t a pretty sight. Craig came into the room and rushed to my side, “Honey!  What’s wrong?!  Is something wrong with the baby?”

“No,” I replied through gulping sobs, “Someday ... I’m going to have to give him to another girl!”

And so it began ... the dread that someday Matthew ... and then Christopher ... and finally Jordan would no longer belong to me.  I was their first love and ached to stay in that place of prominence.  Someday, I mournfully realized, another woman would take first place in their hearts.  I would be relegated to the back seat.  Good ole’ what’s her name.

The years of learning how to tie shoelaces, shooting baskets in the driveway and family game nights quickly passed by and we sent our boys off to college.  I knew that as they began this new season in life, a new season in my life had begun as well.  It was only a matter of time and I was a goner.  Finished.  Washed-up.

Matthew called during the first semester of his Junior year in college and told us that he wanted to invite a girl to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s with us.  Her name was Emily.  As this blonde girl from Minnesota walked into our front door, she also walked into my heart.  I immediately knew that I could love her like she was my own.  She played games with the younger kids, fixed the little girls’ hair and helped like a champ in the kitchen.  Yep ... she was a keeper.

Christopher brought home “just a friend” during one of his Christmas breaks as well.  Liz joined 2 or 3 other college friends at our home and even though Chris didn’t see it yet ... I loved this girl!  She had sparkle and compassion.  She was obviously head over heels in love with our son and we thoroughly approved.  The night that Chris proposed to Liz at Rockefeller Center beside the Christmas tree by singing her an original song was a night of joy and dreams coming true for the entire family.

chris and liz
chris and liz

And then ... my youngest son left me!  He, too, went to college thousands of miles away from home and fell in love with the girl of my dreams for him.  Allie’s zest for life and commitment to be a prayer warrior wiggled its way into my heart and I couldn’t love her more if I tried.  Jordan needs Allie like the flowers need the rain and the earth must revolve around the sun.  She is his perfect match.  Head to toe.  Heart to heart.

jordan and allie
jordan and allie

What was I so worried about?  Why did I think that gaining a daughter-in-law meant losing a son?  What it really meant was enlarging our family - and I love big families!  What it really meant was the opportunity of seeing my sons so gloriously in love and so completely fulfilled.

Each one is a gift and yet so different ... Emily, Liz and Allie.  The girls that I prayed for from the days that my boys made their grand entrance onto planet earth are the girls that God chose for each beloved son.

“Emily ... my prayer for you is that you will find daily joy in the smiles of your children and the strength of your husband.  I pray that God would reveal Himself to you in miracles big and small.  I pray that you would know that God is enough in each season of life and that He would give you the capacity to love like He loves.  Thank you for loving Matt.  I love you dearly.”

“Liz ... my prayer for you is that you would allow God to use you to the maximum!  I pray that you would feel the compassion of His heart and be a vessel for His love on planet earth at this time in history.  I pray that Jesus would fill you with wisdom, with discernment and with the joy of His presence.  I pray that His Word would come alive to you. Thank you for loving Chris.  I love you dearly.”

“Allie ... my prayer for you is that time spent on your knees would be the most productive moments of your life.  I pray that God would enlarge your capacity to hear His voice and to obey His leading.  I pray that your desire to go to the mission field would be fulfilled in His time.  I pray that you would be a missionary at home, at school, at work and in the neighborhood. Thank you for loving Jordan.  I love you dearly.”

If I could tell that young mom in the hospital rocking chair anything that I have learned in  giving my boys to “the other woman”, I would tell her that life is sweeter and richer because of the girls that God brought their way.  I would tell her that when you embrace the girl that your son chooses that it brings no pain but the fulfillment of a dream and the answer to a prayer.

I would tell that young mom in the hospital rocking chair to get a grip ... God is extraordinarily good in all seasons of life.  We don’t raise our sons to keep them locked up - we raise them to give them as a gift to the world and as a gift to the girl of God’s making and choosing.

Well done, God.  Well done.

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Sheltered in His Arms -by Lisa Buffaloe

winter ashberry snow
winter ashberry snow

The call came late at night. ‘One of the boys is missing … It’s Jack.’ Hastily, my dad put on his coat and drove to the Boy’s Home where he worked as Executive Director. Rain and ice pelted the car and the windshield wipers brushed away furrows of frost. The tires struggled for traction on a glazing coat of ice covering the bridge. The Christian home offered refuge and safety for children and Jack was one of their best kids. Dad arrived at the home. Shielding his head, he dashed for the covered porch. Nothing had changed, the boy was still missing. Grabbing a slicker to put over his coat, he stepped back into the rain.

That week, Jack had been given a new calf by the ranch manager and told if he cared for the calf properly, the animal would be his.

Flashlight in hand, my father ran and slipped his way to the fenced area at the barn where the calves were kept. Icy rain slid down his neck as he searched for Jack’s calf. Dad climbed the fence to look farther and stumbled over a broken bale of hay.  After spotting a crumpled coat on the ground, he reached to pick it up. His throat tightened as salty tears mixed with rain.

Inside the coat, Jack lay asleep. His back to the rain, ice crystals forming on his jacket, he sheltered the only thing he had ever owned of value—a small red calf.

Years later, my dad continues to share this true story. Other than groggy and cold, Jack was fine.   And the calf received the royal treatment with a bed made from bales of hay. Like Jack did his young calf, God wraps us tightly in His love, protecting us through the storms and cold of this world.

You are cherished by the God of the universe.   No difficulty or problem will ever keep Him from your side.

Heavenly Father thank You that we are safely sheltered forever in Your loving arms.

Devotion taken from

Living Joyfully Free

by Lisa Buffaloe, page 33

Lisa Buffaloe October 2012 headshot
Lisa Buffaloe October 2012 headshot

Lisa Buffaloe is a writer, blogger, speaker, happily-married mom, founder and host for Living Joyfully Free Radio. She is passionate to tell others about God’s wonderful love, healing, and restoration. Her past experiences—molestation by a baby-sitter, assault, rape by a doctor, divorce, being stalked, cancer, death of loved ones, seven surgeries, and over eleven years of chronic illness from Lyme Disease—bless her with a backdrop to share about God’s unending love and that through Him we find healing, restoration, and renewal. She is the author of Living Joyfully Free, Nadia’s Hope, a  2010 Women of Faith Writing Contest Finalist,  Prodigal Nights a 2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest Finalist, and Grace for the Char-Baked.

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Be a Prayer Warrior for Your Children

Happy Mother's Day!!  I want to share some mothering encouragement with you today...whether you are in the early season of mothering...the season of sending your babies off to college....or holding grandbabies...this is for YOU! 

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1000 Lives to Give

Inscribed on a missionary’s gravestone are these words, “If I had a thousand lives, Korea would have them all.”

This one woman had more dreams and vision for Korea than one lifetime could accomplish.  I don’t know her name, but her words move me deeply.  Her passion for Korea brings my heart to its knees.  Korea would have her first life ... and her thousandth life.

Her life was lavishly poured out for the people of Korea and I believe emphatically that this woman died with no regrets.  She only wished that she could give her life for Korea again ... and again ... and again.  One thousand times over!

I feel the same way about motherhood.  Perhaps my tombstone will boldly proclaim, “If I had a thousand lives to give ... motherhood would have them all.”

I was raised in the baby boom years of America;  my role models were my mom and her friends who cooked dinner every night while wearing high heels.  These women made enough spaghetti sauce in one week-end to feed the entire state of Rhode Island!  The coffee pot was always warm, the clothes were perfectly folded and the kitchen floor was wet-mopped every morning by 8 a.m.  “Success” to my mother and her friends was being president of the PTA and chairing the annual church turkey dinner.

I was sandwiched between that sweet, stable tradition and the voices of Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinham.  While Jane and Gloria were burning their bras and protesting the war in Viet Nam, I was being taught the proper etiquette of how to write thank you notes while wearing proper white gloves.

When I started college in the fall of 1973, I had grand anticipation in my heart!  What was God’s destiny for me?  Would I marry a pastor or be the next Barbara Walters?  Would I teach third grade?  Or be a Pulitzer Prize winning author?

I asked God to challenge me to stand on my tip-toes every day of my life.  I promised the God of Creation that I would never settle for mediocrity but that I was His girl at this time in history to make a profound and lasting difference.

What I didn’t realize was that His idea of making a difference ... and my idea of making a difference ... were 2 completely different things.

baby
baby

On January 29, 1981, at the University of Alabama Medical Center, I discovered the reason for which I was created:  as Matthew Craig McLeod was placed into my arms, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again.  I was a mom!  I was a mom!!

As I looked at his miraculous little face and counted his ten tiny fingers and toes, I realized that I was responsible for his soul.  God, the Creator of the entire universe, had put me in charge of his gifts and talents; I was responsible for discipling this little man who was filled with heavenly potential.  In my arms was God’s answer for the next generation.

After giving birth to my first taste of heaven on earth, I became pregnant 9 more times.  5 of those babies died in my womb; 4 of them completed our clan of boisterous, creative and energetic McLeod’s.  The ones who went to heaven taught me to appreciate the ones who were left under my care.  The ones who danced in eternity taught me how to be a defiantly joyful mother ... while the ones on earth have made me happier than one woman deserves to be.

Moms ... next time someone asks you, “And what do you do for a living?”

Don’t ever say, “I am JUST a mom.”

The words “mom” and “just” are mutually exclusive ... they contradict one another at the very core of meaning.

If you are a mom, you are a teacher, mentor and coach.You are a nurse, a chauffeur, and an administrator.You are a counselor, a best friend and a psychologist.You are a pediatrician, a pastor and a maid.You are the a CEO ... a CFO and the FBI!You are on the maintenance staff, the executive staff and the creative staff of your corporation known as “Family”!You are responsible for Homeland Security.You are raising up the next generation who have the capacity to change the world.

In every generation, mothers must answer the call to be what no one else can be for their children and to do what no one else can do for their children.  The future of the church, our nation and the world depends upon what we do with the children under our care.  What could be more significant than that?!

What will be written on your gravestone?

“This was one busy lady!”

“This woman knew how to make money ... and spend it!”

Or, perhaps, like me, you will be gratified with these simple words,

“If I had a thousand lives to give ... motherhood would have them all.”

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Counting the Stars

ヒ マ ワ リ

Do you feel discouraged today?  Are you wondering where God's promises for your life are?  Listen in on this conversation between Abram and God that took place over two thousand years ago...and let it sink into your soul today...because it also applies to YOU.

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Living to Inspire

Frisches Grün an altem Baum 1

A while back, I was stopped at a red light waiting to pull out of Wal-Mart. I noticed a homeless man in front of me holding a bucket and a sign that read, “Please help.” As I sat there those couple of minutes, I began to think about this man.

I wondered why on earth wouldn’t he just get some sort of job. He looked strong and healthy enough to work, but instead, he stood there all day asking others for help.  After awhile, I concluded that this man was simply lazy and wanted others to take care of him.

While thinking these critical thoughts about this poor man, I watched the gentleman in front of me roll down his window, smile and drop some money in the man’s bucket. When I saw this, something in me changed. Compassion welled up inside of me. Before I knew it, I too, was rolling down my window, smiling and putting money in the man’s bucket.

I no longer cared what this man had done or not done. I just wanted to be kind to this stranger. Why?  Because I was inspired by someone else’s act of kindness.  Their actions changed my outlook and my attitude. This is a simple illustration with a profound truth - we all have the ability to motivate others to do good things.

Hebrews 10:24 tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” As a Texan, I know what spurs do. They are those uncomfortable nudges that cause us to move in the right direction.

God has positioned us as women to help move each other and those around us in the right direction. We are wives, moms, co-workers, friends and sisters, and our lives have incredible influence to those in our world. In doing so, it’s important to remember that it’s not all in what we say, but it’s in what we do day in and day out that makes the greatest impact.

It’s how we treat our husbands and care for our kids. It’s in how we encourage our friends and reach out to those in need.  It’s how we choose to do the right things when we feel like doing something else. It’s how we stay committed and faithful to the people and place God has called us.

Today, let me remind you of this: every day we are spurring someone on to become a better person.  If we’ll seek to motivate others, we’ll be amazed at what our right actions will produce and inspire in the lives of those in our world.

Tamara Graff - white chair
Tamara Graff - white chair

Tamara Graff

Victoria, TX Faith Family Church

www.faithfamilyvictoria.org

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When We Don't Understand

day 13 email pic
day 13 email pic

The Body of Christ across the world has been weeping this week ... weeping for a family whose son is no longer with them. Rick and Kay Warren are generals in the Church at this time in history.  Their leadership, message and integrity have made a profound and lasting impact that will long outlive their days on earth.

But today, they are simply grieving parents.  I grieve with them.  Although I don’t know them personally, I am committed to holding up their arms in prayer.  I am committed to standing with them in these dark, dark days of their life together as parents.

Have you ever been so desperate that you contemplated taking your own life?  Do you know someone who stands at that crossroads today?

I know that people identify me as “that joy girl”.  Some people don’t even call me “Carol” ... they call me, “Joy”.  Some people believe that I am Mary Poppins with a Bible ... or Pollyanna with a glad purpose.  But those sweet identities don’t begin to describe my call or my beliefs.

I know that life is real and hard and can be devastating at moments.  I also know that we serve a God Who cares more than we can imagine.

I also know that we are all wired differently  ... some of us can let the sludge of life fall off our emotional shoulders without a second glance.  Others of us, take the grime and disappointments of life and keep it forever in our hearts as a defining component of our souls.

I am not a doctor, a psychologist or a counselor.  I am just a girl in love with the Bible.  I have experienced the stabilizing difference that consistently reading the Word of God has made in the roller coaster that my emotions had constructed.

This is what I want to say to you today ... if you are depressed.  Get help.  Talk to your family doctor or go to a Christian counselor.  Do everything that they tell you to do.  But don’t ever forget the part that your spirit plays in your emotional health.  Take the best advice of doctors and counselors, but also take my advice.  Read your Bible every day.  Meditate on it.  Worship your way through the storm.  There is healing and miraculous power in that place.

If you have experienced mental illness, there is no cause for shame.  Find a medical professional whom you can trust and build a professional relationship with this person.  Take their medical and professional advice and take my advice as well.  Read your Bible every day.  Meditate on it.  Worship your way through every storm.  There is healing and miraculous power in that place.

I don’t understand why the heartfelt prayers of Godly parents were not answered in the way that they had hoped.  But I do know that we serve a God, filled with eternal loving kindness and compassion, Who is weeping with those parents today.  He knows what it is like to see His Son die.

God knows the pain of the Warren family and is with them even in the valley of the shadow of death.  It’s a promise that He would meet us there in that place that no parent would ever choose to walk.

I can also tell you that as Rick and Kay Warren, mommy and daddy to Matthew, walk through that dreaded valley, that when they look behind them, they will see something else.  They will see the goodness and loving kindness of the Lord in hot pursuit.

There is so much about this life that we don’t understand.  I don’t understand war ... or bulimia ... or abortion ... or sex trafficking.  I don’t understand adultery ... or child abuse ... or cutting ... or tragic accidents.  You can add “suicide” to that list, too.  I don’t understand suicide, do you?

But I do know that God has a plan for each one of our lives.  His plan trumps pain, discouragement and depression.  God, in His omnipotence and eternal kindness, will use even the brevity of Matthew Warren’s life for His purpose and plan.  God really is that big and that good.

I don’t believe that using phrases like “God works all things together for good,” are platitudes at times like this but that they are precious promises meant for application at moments exactly like this.  Knowing that God really does work all things together for my highest good and for His eternal glory, have kept me going in the darkest days of my life.  God promised that when we didn’t like life or understand life, that He was behind the scenes touching life with His eternal goodness and glory.  I can worship a God like that!  I can worship Him in spite of my human questions.

Let me tell you one last thing that I believe ... you may not believe this but I do.  I have thought long and hard about it ... prayed about it ... and studied the Word of God concerning it.  I have talked to great men and women of the faith about it.  This is what I have come to believe about suicide ...

rapsfeld mit sonnenstrahlen
rapsfeld mit sonnenstrahlen

Matthew Warren walked into heaven’s entrance on Saturday morning.  He was welcomed home by God, Who loves Him unconditionally, and by Jesus, Who paid the price for his sins.  Why do I believe that?

Because I don’t believe that suicide is the unforgivable sin.  I believe that God understands the desperation of mental illness and chronic depression.  I believe that God’s love for me is greater than my most desperate moment in life.  I believe that His forgiveness overrules my choices.

This blog post may have left you with more questions than it does answers ... but my prayer is that you will read these few things between the lines:

God loves desperate people.  He loves desperate people who choose well and He loves those who decide to be with Him rather than continue on this journey known as “life”.  His love for us is not based on our human choices but it is based on His eternal nature.

God’s forgiveness covers all of our sins.  Past, present and future.  The cross changed everything for people.  The cross changed everything ... even for desperate people.

There will always be somethings about life on planet earth that we don’t understand.  We are humans.  But in those moments when confronted with that which we are unable to understand, God has given us a greater gift.  He has given to us His peace ... the peace that passes understanding.  I am praying that is what He gives to Pastor Rick and Kay in this moment.  Not understanding ... but peace.

Ciel d'orage
Ciel d'orage

Would you join me in praying for them today?

“Dear Jesus, I love You so much.  I come to You today on behalf of my brother and sister in the Lord, Rick and Kay Warren.  I pray that You, the God of all comfort, would comfort them today.  I pray that Your gracious Holy Spirit would be their constant and kind companion.  I pray that You would give them strength for the journey.  I pray that You would use them mightily in the days to come.  In the powerful Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.”

Oh ... and one more thing ... if you know someone who is depressed ... be their friend.

If you know someone who suffers from mental illness ... love them and their family without judgement.  Spend time with the person who is struggling.  Words of encouragement and genuine acts of friendship may be all that they need to just keep going one more day.  It is, after all, what Jesus would do.

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You Are A Valuable Vapor!

sky_night_theme_from_here_this_has_a_static_wallpaper-other
sky_night_theme_from_here_this_has_a_static_wallpaper-other

Do you know how valuable your life is?! The Bible says that "one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day". Life is a vapor...it passes by with the blink of an eye! BUT, we have the opportunity in one day to make it worth a thousand years of living! Make today count!  

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It's All That Matters!

cross
day 21
day 21

The cheering, worshipping crowd.A farewell dinner.

What kind of man betrays a friend?!

Prayers.  Desperate prayers.  Earth-shaking prayers.  Blood dripping prayers.

An trial rigged by the father of all lies.

A ruler in confusion.  He should have listened to his wife.

What kind of friend denies a friend?!

Beating.  Scourging. Bleeding. Whipping.

Did He scream?

A painful crown meant to ridicule not define.

A cruel walk up a triumphant hill. One. Agonizing. Step. At. A. Time.

The jeering crowd.

What kind of friends run and hide?  Were they only in it for the miracles?

Inhumane soldiers gambling for a piece of His clothing while He hung nearly naked.

Course jesting. Raucous laughter.

A mother’s broken heart. Heaving.  Remembering His little boy ways.

A desperate thief who believed at last. He breathed out earth and breathed in heaven.

A Centurion understands and believes.  Truly.

Darkness at noon.  The roar of the earth.  The ripping of history.

It is finished!  Complete!

A borrowed tomb.  After all, He wouldn’t need it for long.

the west at south

A brilliant morning.  The day breaks and all shadows flee.

Nothing ... nothing ... absolutely nothing ... would ever be the same again.

An angel’s announcement, “He is not here ... but HE IS RISEN!”

Women who were told, “Go Tell!”

Some call it “Easter”.  That works, I suppose.  Easter, for me, conjures up a black and white picture of a blonde little girl sandwiched between 2 siblings.  This little girl, now her in her late-50’s, was decked out in white, ruffled socks, a pink polyester coat with a matching pink straw hat and lacy gloves.  Everyone in the days of black and white wore gloves on Easter Sunday morning.  It was requisite!

That particular little, blonde girl remembers those black and white Easter Sunday mornings as if they were yesterday.

We were always up long before dawn for the Easter Morning Sunrise Service.  It was the only day of the year I was out of bed before daylight began to slither its jeweled fingers across the inky sky.

The church smelled like pancakes, maple syrup and sausage when our sleepy family of 5 walked into the front doors.  My mom scurried to the organ and my dad got us settled somewhere near the front, left hand side.

Our Methodist congregation burst forth the news as the sun broke through, “Up from the grave He arose!  With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.”  I can still hear it.  I can still hear the voices of Duane Grehlinger and Shirley Green.  Bob Dix and Reverend Tauscher.  Although their voices broke on the high notes and struggled for pitch on the low notes, they believed what they sang.  That’s what counts about Easter...that you believe.

After breakfast in the cold church basement, warmed by the steaming pots of coffee and laughter of friends who had truly become family, we traipsed home across the yards of our neighbors for an hour or so before Sunday School and the 10:00 service.  During that sweet hour, we would find our Easter baskets, have our hair re-fixed and listen to the Easter story read by my general of a father.

Dad loved the Bible, he loved my mom, he loved the garden and he loved us.  He was quite a man.  Dad believed in Easter.  He taught me to believe as well.  Did I mention that he was quite a man?

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; and He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” - I Corinthians 15:3-8

Paul, the one who was untimely born, calls Easter the event “of first importance” in anything that he has ever known or written about.  These are some pretty impressive words coming from one of the most learned men of the day.

Paul’s words echo through the ages, Nothing compares to the message of the Risen Savior.

When it comes down to it, there is nothing more important in your life than Easter. 

When you get to the end of your life all that will matter is Easter. 

There is nothing that deserves your earthly attention so much as Easter.

Oh ... I remember the days of white ruffly socks, little pink purses and lacy gloves.  I remember the thrill of finding the Easter basket and looking forward to the sumptuous dinner that was to follow.  I remember singing, “We serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today!  I know that He is living whatever men may say!”

Daffodil Cluster
Daffodil Cluster

What I didn’t know in those innocent days of celebrating a spring holiday was that someday ... I would believe, too.  And at the very moment that I believed, Easter changed from being a mere 24 hours in the early spring to a lifestyle of hope and joy.  I no longer refer to it, either mentally or verbally as “Easter Sunday”.  For me, it is “Resurrection Day!”  And, trust me, it is incomplete without that exclamation mark!

Jesus really was born in a manger ... He really did live among us ... He was put to death on the old rugged cross ... and He was buried.

But what happened next was the true miracle ... He rose from the dead!  He conquered death triumphantly! 

Jesus had the first Word ... the middle Word ... and the last Word!  Because death could not hold Him ... it cannot hold you either.

Will you stay in your world of black and white presumptions?  Or will you join the chorus of all the ages and sing with gusto, “Because He lives ... I can face tomorrow ... Because He lives ... all fear is gone!”

Because when you get to the end of your life ... the resurrection will be all that matters.  It was all that mattered to Duane Grehlinger ... to Shirley Green ... to Bob Dix ... and to Reverend Tauscher.  It was all that mattered to Paul and it was all that mattered to my dad.  He was quite a man.

And ... it’s all that matters to me.  It is my message of first importance.  Resurrection Day!

Please make sure that you don’t forget the exclamation mark ... while you’re at it ...let’s make it two!  It is, after all, the message of first importance.

Resurrection Day!!

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