My Blog

chalkboard vignette

 

When I was growing up, my most cherished memories include sitting around the table with my family after dinner, swapping stories about our day and reminiscing over favorite times. Sometimes we’d sit for an hour or more, not wanting our conversation to end (or to do the dishes!). That’s why I refer to my blog as the Kitchen Table. I’d like for you to pull up a chair and enjoy sharing stories around my virtual kitchen table. I hope you’ll browse through my latest blog posts and connect with me by leaving comments. My prayer for you is to be encouraged and inspired by the words I share here each week, without even having to help with the dishes. 🙂

It’s Just a Splinter!

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Blog, pride | 5 comments

“The marks humans leave are too often scars.”

—John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

window display

Our window display at Christmas

I stepped up into the display window of my flower shop, not noticing the jagged edge on the old shutter we’d used for a Halloween backdrop. Immediately, I felt a surge of pain below the outside corner of my left eye. I hurriedly jumped down from the window and ran to my sister-in-law and partner, Sandra, at the back of the store. Not thinking it was anything serious, I asked her to pluck the splinter out of the skin.

She sat there rigidly, trying to compose herself. “I don’t think that’d be a good idea.”

Knowing Sandra had a weak stomach when it came to anything as minor as a nose bleed, I turned to our employee, Dee.

     “Can you pull out the splinter, Dee?” I pleaded. She wasn’t one to flinch at the sight of blood.

     “Uhh… I think Sandra’s right.” She turned and looked at Sandra, not knowing what else to say.

Sandra pursed her lips and slowly said, “I think we need to go to the emergency room.”

     “What?” I couldn’t believe they thought I needed to go to the ER for a silly splinter. It didn’t even hurt that much. I headed back to the bathroom to look in the mirror.

Me with a customer in our flower shop

Me with a customer in our flower shop

     “Don’t look at it, Carol. Please,” Sandra begged.”It’s really big. I don’t want you to freak out.” 

Because it was about a quarter of an inch away from my eye, I could only see a small shape in my peripheral vision.

     “Exactly how big is it?”I asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

Sandra spread her index and thumb about two inches apart.

     “No way!” I cried. “That means it’s down to my cheekbone!”

My stomach started churning as she hesitantly nodded her head. I didn’t want to contemplate the extent of the damage.

Finally, I was convinced I needed to go to the hospital. Sandra led me to her car, being careful to avoid the mirror beyond the open bathroom door.

When we got to the hospital, the ER nurse confirmed Sandra had given me wise advice. They took us back and began preparing me to have the splinter removed.

     “We’re going to have to give you five shots around the wound so we can get it out without much pain,” the doctor calmly informed me.

Me and Sandra

Me and Sandra during our flower shop days

He wanted to give me how many shots? In my face? That’s when I got scared. I looked over at Sandra, who was almost green from having to sit in the hospital room for so long.

     “It’ll be ok,” she said, trying to act brave. She wasn’t fooling me, though. I could tell she was as scared as I was. That wasn’t comforting.

     “Maybe John will get here by then,” she said, more for her sake than mine.

She’d tried getting in touch with my husband, but since he was on a job site he couldn’t make it for a while. When the doctor came to inject the Novocain, I asked Sandra if I could hold her hand. This was before I’d had my first child and had no idea what real pain was.

After the shots kicked in, the doctor removed the splinter. It was fairly painless and I thought they’d let me go home after it was removed.

Not a chance.

     “We’ve had to call in a plastic surgeon. He’s on his way so you’ll have to wait a while longer to beEmergency released,” explained the nurse.

I couldn’t believe it. But, since I still hadn’t had the courage to look at it, I had to take their word.

John finally arrived, relieving Sandra of her duties. She darted out of the hospital like a mouse being chased by a cat.

After about an hour, the plastic surgeon came in.

     “I can’t believe I need a plastic surgeon for just a splinter,” I told him as he began assessing the situation.

He looked at me intently and said,”It may not seem like a big deal now, but if we don’t stitch it up perfectly, you’ll be reminded of that splinter every time you look in the mirror. It would leave a prominent scar.” He continued, “You’re too young to have to deal with that the rest of your life.”

A shiver ran down my spine. “All right then, let’s go ahead and get this over with.”

Today, over twenty years later, I can’t find the scar. The plastic surgeon was meticulous in his work and it paid off. If Sandra hadn’t convinced me I needed to go to the emergency room that day, however, I’d probably be looking at an ugly scar instead.

It’s funny how I couldn’t see the severity of the problem, but it was obvious to everyone around me. plank in eyeIt reminds me of the scripture in Matthew 7:3-5;

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

How easily we judge others for minor infractions while our sins are blaringly conspicuous. I never would’ve thought that splinter called for an emergency room visit, but once I saw it from others’ perspective, I understood how serious it was.

We need to consult the Great Physician often in our own lives to see if there’s anything hindering our witness. If so, once we’ve confessed it, allow God to perform the plastic surgery necessary to make us more of a reflection of Him. If we’re faithful to do this, we’ll have only the memory of the sin instead of the scars.

Let’s spend some time in prayer this week asking God to show us if there’s anything hindering our witness for Him.

The French Door Connection

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:19

trailer den

Me in our little den in the trailer

I sat in the middle of the den floor crying. I’d had enough of our little mobile home in the country.

“Can we please move into town?” I begged my husband, John. “It’s lonely and scary out here. I can’t take it anymore.”

After some discussion, he looked at me doubtfully, “Okay, if you can find a house in town for under $45,000, we’ll look at it.”

John left, thinking he’d saddled me with an impossible task. He didn’t realize how desperate I was to leave this little trailer in the middle of a cow pasture.

We’d married almost three years earlier. At the time, we were thrilled to have our new mobile home moved onto his parents’ farm. It was exciting setting up house and coming home every day from work to my new husband and our small home.

But six months after we married, John and his brother decided to start their own business. So began the long days for my husband as he worked two jobs while I came home to dark and solitary evenings. In order to get to our humble abode after work, most nights I’d have to stumble out of the car in my high

John's brother, David, in their new business venture

John’s brother, David, driving their new business venture

heels and pantyhose onto the gravel driveway to open the farm gate. After more than two years of this, I decided we needed a change. I prayed John would be receptive to moving and that God would lead us to the right home. Once John gave me the go-ahead, I quickly began my search for a cute, but economical, house. Our hometown is small, so it didn’t take long to assess the selection.

I found the first house on a less-than-desirable street in town, but it had curb appeal. John asked a builder friend, Dickie, to come with us and inspect the house while we took the grand tour, expecting only good news.

Dickie emerged from under the house shaking his head. “It’s not a sound house. The floor joists are sagging and that’s gonna cost you a lot to fix.”

My dreams for that house flew right out the window.

Soon after, I heard about a house coming up for sale on one of the nicest streets in town. I tried not to get my hopes up. It was exactly $45,000 and had great potential—a 1920’s charmer with lots of character. The wide, welcoming porch would be a perfect spot for a swing and some rockers.

Even though it had only one bathroom, which was terribly outdated, the rest of the house seemed to need only cosmetic work. The exception was an odd sun porch filled with several broken windows and, strangely enough, a toilet in the middle of the open room.

toilet on the sunporch

The toilet on the sun porch

sun porch

The sun porch

When Dickie came to inspect the house a few days later, I held my breath, especially when he crawled under it and into the attic. He looked serious as he met us back in the yard. “This is a good house. Solid and well built. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this one.”

our first house

Our first house

Yipee!! I thought, trying to contain my excitement. I knew my husband wanted me to show my poker face to the seller.

“We’ll talk about it and get back to you,” John said as he steered me to the car.

Several days later we put in an offer and eventually came to an agreement with the seller. We had a house! The next few weeks were spent painting, wallpapering and re-tiling the bathroom. It was becoming our dream home.

faux fireplace

Corner “faux” fireplace before

buffet

Buffet in dining room before

Only one thing bothered me. There was an opening framed with beautiful trim between the den and dining room. Imprints of hinges in the trim hinted that a pair of French doors used to hang there. I’d always dreamed of having French doors in my home and was disappointed someone had taken them out. We looked in the ramshackle garage out back, only to find some old shutters.

kitchen before remodel

Kitchen before remodel

As we worked on our little home, I lamented to my mother-in-law, June, about the missing doors. After pondering the situation for a while, she remembered something. “You know what? I think there’s an old set of French doors out in one of the barns. I’ll look to see if they’re still there.”

I was skeptical. That particular old barn had been moved years earlier from about a half-mile away to the existing location–with the doors inside.

She called me later to say the doors were still in the barn, not one pane of glass broken. I was shocked they were still intact after their precarious journey. We still, however, needed to measure the opening. Miraculously, they were a perfect fit.

french doors

My daughter, Elise’s, first birthday party. The french doors in the foreground are the ones we found in the barn.

June holding Elise

My mother-in-law, June, holding Elise, with the doors in the background.

John and I took the old doors to my in-laws basement where we could paint them, determined to bring back their original charm. I envisioned how beautiful they would be hanging in our new home.

While we were cleaning the doors, June had another revelation. “I got to thinking about those doors and I remember now where they came from.”

She piqued my curiosity.

“The Parks, the original owners who built your house, were good friends of daddy’s. I remember Mr. Parks asking if he could put those French doors in our barn because they were always in the way. Daddy obliged him and they’ve been in that barn ever since—probably close to fifty years.”

Astonished, I realized those doors were meant for us to find because that house was meant for us. Long before I was even born, God made sure those doors were tucked safely away with my future husband’s family, only to be brought out when I asked. I knew we were exactly where God wanted us.

fireplace after

The “faux” corner fireplace after

Our little den at Christmas

Our little den at Christmas

Our dining room table set for Christmas

Our dining room table set for Christmas

During our eight wonderful years in that home, we added two children, a new deck and vinyl siding, along with many sweet memories. We also tore down the original sun porch and built it back with a new bathroom, complete with a shower and walls.

sun room

The sun room after the renovation

Our newly remodeled home decorated for Christmas

Our newly remodeled home, decorated for Christmas

Elise's first snow

Elise’s first snow in front of our house

I’m amazed as I look back over God’s protection and orchestration of our buying that house. It was perfect for us. Eventually though, our little family outgrew it. The day we left our two-bedroom bungalow was bittersweet, even though we were moving into a much larger, brand new home.

Elise helping me bake cookies

Elise helping me bake cookies in our kitchen

Elise and June

My mother-in-law rocking Elise on the front porch

Elise

Elise in her room

Bringing Jacob home from the hospital

Bringing our son, Jacob, home from the hospital. We moved three weeks later.

God had put us in that house to let me know He cares about all the details of my life, from the dark and lonely nights, to the search for a budget-friendly house, to the lack of French doors in our new home. God sees all of our hopes, dreams, and trials and wants us to know He can be trusted to provide. Who would’ve thought He’d make sure a set of original French doors would be tucked safely in a barn for 50 years until a young woman asked for them?

How has God shown His provision in your life?

Are You Being Dragged Out of Your Comfort Zone?

Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Blog | 6 comments

In last week’s post I shared how a woman named Julie was there for me when I needed someone for support. In this post I want to share the rest of that story…

And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12

Julie

Julie as a teenager. This is her personality–fun!

Sometimes the most unexpected people come into your life and make an eternal difference. That happened to me over 20 years ago when an old acquaintance from our youth group made her way to the front pew of the church where I was sitting, alone. She understood I needed to know someone cared, so she courageously stepped out of her pew to be Jesus for me that day.

Julie Bagwell is two years younger than me, so when we were in the youth group together we never hung out. She was the outgoing, social type while I was introverted and quiet. I’d seen her a couple of times since I graduated high school—but we never really connected—until that day.

After she’d left me with the preacher, I didn’t see her again until she contacted me a few days later. She invited me to her home and asked if I’d be willing to give some input on renovations she wanted to make to her house. I gladly accepted, especially since I wanted to thank her for being a friend when I desperately needed one.

While we discussed some of the changes she wanted to make to her house, she asked if I’d be interested in going with her to meet a friend, Frieda Younts, after we finished. I didn’t even know Frieda, except for having seen her at church.

“So are y’all getting together for lunch?” I asked.

Frieda

This is sweet Frieda.

“No. I’m going to her house so we can meet for prayer.”

My heart dropped.

“Oh. I’ve never prayed in a group before.”

“You don’t have to pray,” Julie said. “Just join us as we pray.”

I was terrified. Why would anyone want to do that instead of going out to lunch? But I decided since the Holy Spirit had been working extra hard on me lately, it was probably more of an invitation from Him than Julie.

Frieda was kind and welcoming, putting me at ease immediately. I honestly can’t remember if I prayed or not, but I do remember how they prayed. It was just like they were talking to a friend; like Jesus was sitting right there with us. I’d never heard anyone pray that way before, and it was freeing.

That began our beautiful friendship, still going strong after over 20 years. These precious ladies taught me more about Jesus through their example and love than anyone I’d ever known. They were Jesus with skin on.

me, and friends at the grand old opry

My sister, Lisa, me, Julie, Frieda and another friend, Jeanie, on our first road trip ever!

Not long after my recommitment, our pastor approached me with a question. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in assistant teaching a new ladies class with Julie. I didn’t even have to think about it. I accepted the position.

God grew me in multi-faceted ways through that class. Not only did I learn to teach His Word, I also learned to love. Teaching isn’t just about sharing knowledge; it’s about loving the listener. My whole world began to open up.

Even though I loved teaching, I still hesitated to venture any further than inside the church doors. But Frieda and Julie faithfully dragged (Julie wouldn’t take no for an answer) me out of my comfort zone. The first conference we attended together, Renewing the Heart by Focus on the Family, was in Nashville, Tennessee. I’d never seen people expressing their love for Jesus in such an outward way. The music led me straight to the throne while the speaking lit a fire in my soul. It was exhilarating.

From there I attended an Ann Graham Lotz conference at The Cove with Frieda. God spoke to me in such a personal

with ann graham lotz

Julie, Ann Graham Lotz, Julie’s Aunt Barbara and me at The Cove

way there that I’ve never been the same.

I could go on and on, listing the conferences and seminars we’ve attended together. Each one drew us closer, causing us to become more than just friends. We are now spiritual sisters in Christ. But the key has been our faithfulness in coming together often and sharing what God’s been revealing to us personally. We’ve leaned on each other, loved on each others’ kids and families and even lovingly rebuked one another when it was called for. We were such spiritual babies when we started this journey, and God has been faithful to instruct us in His ways.

Ten years ago we decided to put on a conference together at The Cove Camp in Asheville, N.C. We wanted an inexpensive retreat for women who were worn out with life. I remember Julie and I talked on the phone for hours trying to come up with just the right name. We finally settled on Operation Resuscitation. When we began running radio ads for the event, I had women tell me

Operation Resuscitation

Operation Resuscitation Event

they ran to the phone when they heard the name. So many ladies were depleted from life and needed their faith to be revived. I’ve always felt this was a gift God allowed us to be a part of, seeing Him work in the lives of those sweet ladies who attended.

Even though it was exhausting, the Operation Resuscitation event ignited a passion in my soul for women’s ministry. After God called me away from teaching, I began to develop and coordinate women’s ministry events. I’d found my sweet spot. Frieda and Julie were always there, ready and willing to help and support as needed.

None of us attend the same church anymore. God trained us together and then called us away one by one, me being the last to leave. It’s been hard adjusting to not having them in my life as frequently, but we’re still teaching each other how to do this Christian life. God blessed me with two fantastic friends all those years ago. I’m so glad Julie took that first step—dragging me the much of the way. I love you, Julie and Frieda. Y’all are the bestest friends a girl could have.

Lysa and Sharon

Lysa TerKuerst, Julie, Sharon Jaynes and me at a Proverbs 31 event

Me, Frieda and Julie celebrating Frieda's birthday at her favorite mexican restaurant

The Three Amigos!

Frieda, me and Julie in beautiful Blowing Rock, N.C.

Frieda, me and Julie in beautiful Blowing Rock, N.C.

Me and my crazy friends!

Me and my crazy friends!

If you feel God calling you to venture out of your comfort zone, listen and be obedient. You’ll never know what crazy awesome blessings God has in store until you do.

Do you have friends like these in your life? Please share your spiritual sister story!

The Freedom to Raise My Hand

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Blog | 12 comments

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

The stained glass window in our church

The stained glass window in our church

As I stood there singing a song I’d heard all my life, suddenly the words took on new meaning. I gripped the pew in front of me. Sweat beaded on my forehead. My heart beat wildly as the compassionate eyes of Jesus in the stained glass window drew me toward him. Before I knew it, I was walking the aisle of my church to confirm once and for all I was going to heaven. Everything else seemed to fade into the background as I held steadfast in my decision to determine that day if I would spend eternity with my heavenly Father.

I had made the same walk when I was a little girl of seven—heart pounding in my chest and tears streaming down my face—as the invitation was given. I didn’t understand everything that was happening; I just knew I couldn’t leave church that night without telling Preacher Jim I wanted to be saved. I was terrified at the thought of going home without making that commitment.

But I was even more afraid of walking down front by myself. For some reason my parents weren’t there that night; only my six-year-old little brother, Ricky, and me. I begged him to walk with me. He didn’t want to, but I convinced him to do it anyway. We walked down together, everyone assuming both of us were making a commitment.

After the service, I remember Preacher Jim dialing our home and handing the phone to me so I could tell Daddy the

Ricky and me

Ricky and me at six and seven years old

good news. I couldn’t even speak. All I could do was cry into the phone.

Ricky and I were baptized shortly thereafter. No one questioned the state of our salvation.

No one but us, that is.

I didn’t think about it much during my childhood years, but when I became a teenager I began questioning whether or not I’d made a real commitment as a child. After all, what major transformation can a seven-year-old have? It tormented me, but I’d never had the courage to talk about it openly.

It seemed every time we had a revival service, the pastor would always end the message by asking everyone the question I hated most. “With every head bowed and every eye closed, if you were to die tonight, raise your hand if you know you would go to heaven.”

The majority of the congregation always seemed so sure as they lifted their hands. I knew because I always peeked around as I struggled to decide if I was worthy of raising my hand, if I had truly been saved that day.

This question became an albatross, weighing more heavily on me as time passed.

Then one ordinary Sunday morning when I was about 28 years old, we had a visiting pastor. His style of preaching

Me at 28 yeras old with Elise

Me at 28 years old with Elise

reminded me so much of Preacher Jim that I became like a little girl again, drawn to this man of God.

When the invitation was given, I finally broke free of my fear and made my way to the front of the church, sobbing and spilling my doubts to this pastor. I was ashamed I’d carried this secret so long.

When I was finished, he had me sit down while he concluded the service. This wasn’t our normal protocol. I was expecting to be taken out to speak with someone, not take a seat on the front row in the sanctuary. Mortified, I wanted to run out. Instead, I sat down and felt as if the eyes behind me were boring into the back of my head. My husband’s parents were in that service. What would they think of me?

I felt someone sit down beside me. Looking up, I saw Julie, a girl from my youth group. We were never close and I didn’t realize she’d even begun coming back to our church after leaving several years prior. Even so, her presence was the comfort I needed at that moment.

After the service the pastor took me to the choir room to talk. Julie walked with me, but left when I was safely tucked out of everyone’s view.

I poured out my heart to this sweet man, telling him I didn’t want to leave without knowing for sure I was saved. He looked at me tenderly and said, “Romans 10 verses 9 and 13 say ‘if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved… Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Still looking into my eyes, he said, “Carol, I believe you did make a real commitment that day and Satan has kept you bound all these years because of your doubt.”

Those simple words destroyed the wall that had been separating me and God for years.

I walked out of that room free of any doubt that I would one day meet Jesus in heaven. Once I confirmed my salvation, it was as if the floodgates of the Holy Spirit’s storehouse opened and God began using me in ways I never thought possible. Satan had been having a heyday over my doubt and God couldn’t use me because of it. Now I have the blessed assurance of Jesus that allows me the freedom to raise my hand without fear.

The only thing weighing me down after that was knowing my brother never made a true commitment when we were kids. I felt guilty, worrying he’d never make that decision, and began praying fervently for his salvation. About one year later he told me he’d recently given his heart to Jesus during a revival service. Hallelujah! He hasn’t been the same since, because he’s been touched by God’s grace, just as I have.

Free to raise my hand

If you’re questioning your salvation, don’t wait another day to find out once and for all where you stand. Don’t let Satan win this all-important battle for your soul and the power to influence God’s kingdom through Christ working in your life. I’ve never doubted my salvation since that day over 20 years ago. It may seem frightening to reveal your fear to others, but I can testify to the fact that you will never regret it. In fact, I believe you’ll be blown away, just as I’ve been, by the awesome blessings God has in store for you.

These People Deserve an Award

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Blog | 8 comments

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. ~ Proverbs 5:18

Young love

Young love

At first they didn’t like each other. At all.

He remembers the first time he saw her. February 1st, 1964. She was standing at the kitchen sink in a pair of red pedal pushers washing dishes. He was a soldier stationed in Virginia who’d come to South Carolina with his Army buddy, Tommy, just to meet her. She was Tommy’s girlfriend’s best friend and they thought the two would hit it off. They didn’t.

But then, something clicked. They began seeing each other regularly. He hitchhiked from Virginia almost every weekend just to see her. This transplanted Yankee from New York State had fallen in love with a Southern girl, and thus began their story.

They still celebrate February 1st every year.

They also celebrate another momentous day each year, their wedding anniversary. This year, however, is extra special.

Last week my parents, Don and Christine Limoges, celebrated their 50th anniversary. Like most couples who achieve this milestone, it’s an amazing accomplishment for many reasons. Marriage is hard. I know I’ve said that many times, but it’s true. No one should ever go into marriage thinking it’s going to be all hearts and roses. It’s not.

My mom tells me stories from when they were first married. Because my dad was in the Army, they had to

Me, Mama and Daddy in Germany

Me, Mama and Daddy in Germany

immediately move to another state. Just a few months after they married, he received orders stationing him in Germany. My mom was pregnant with me on the way over and she talks about how lonely it was there. She knew no German and there was only one English-speaking radio program that ran for a half hour every day. My grandmother shipped her boxes of books she would read over and over again. After I was born, at least she could to talk me, but I’m sure I wasn’t a stimulating conversationalist 🙂

There were many other hard times. When I was 17 months old, Daddy was sent to Vietnam. My mom was left with me and my six week old brother to live with her parents for a year. She says she never watched the news while he was away. She was terrified of what she’d see. I can’t imagine being a twenty- year- old mother of two and not knowing if my husband would ever return. But he did, safe and sound and he wanted to re-enlist. Mama told him she’d leave him if he did. I don’t think she could’ve gone through that again.

The day Daddy came home from Vietnam

The day Daddy came home from Vietnam

Daddy eventually found a job as a truck driver and that became his career.

Not long after, my sister came along and made our family complete.

There were many ups and downs along the way. Daddy was gone a lot because of his job and Mama got lonely sometimes taking care of three kids. But they made it work.

Then, five years ago, Daddy was diagnosed with leukemia. We couldn’t believe it. The good news, however, was that he had the best kind you can have (if there is such a thing). That year for their 45th anniversary, he wanted to make sure everyone knew how special my mom was to him and planned a ceremony to renew their vows. Mama doesn’t like a lot of attention and didn’t want to do it at first, but Daddy was afraid he wouldn’t be here for their 50th. This was important to him.

We celebrated their vow renewal ceremony at their little church. My sister and I were the bridesmaids and our brother walked Mama down the aisle. She looked beautiful as she walked toward Daddy in front of all of the guests. He looked like he could hardly contain himself. My daughter sang Love Lifted Me, a song my dad had requested because he said that’s what Mama’s love had done for him. It was a tender, sweet ceremony. A day we all came to treasure.

Mom and Dad's 45th anniversary

Mom and Dad on their 45th anniversary

Rick walking Mom down the aisle

My brother, Rick, walking Mom down the aisle

family photo at the ceremony

Family photo at the ceremony

 

Two years later, Daddy was diagnosed with lung cancer. He’d smoked for 50 years before giving it up over seven years earlier. We were all afraid of the consequences he’d have to suffer for it. But God (don’t you just love those two words?), healed him from that cancer after having two-thirds of one lung removed. No radiation or chemo. Miracles do still happen.

That was three years ago. Mom and dad are both doing well physically, praise God.

Mom and dad

Mom and Dad

So this anniversary was extra special not only because of the passing of years, but also because Daddy was here to celebrate it. Mom and dad took the whole family out to dinner for their anniversary (with the exception of my niece’s family who are stationed in Korea). Dad said there was no better way to celebrate than to treat the people he loves with a special dinner.

Christmas kiss

Christmas kiss

We did have a surprise party for mom and dad last month while we were on vacation in the mountains. Almost all of Daddy’s immediate family was able to come, as well as my Mom’s sister and nieces. It was great to be able to celebrate with those we rarely get to see.

mom and dads 50th anniversary party

Mom and Dad at their 50th anniversary party

A few weeks ago at church, another couple was recognized for their 50th anniversary with a plaque. At first, I thought that was a little strange. Then I realized what an accomplishment it was. In a society where marriages are dissolving all around us, they deserve to be honored with an award. Maybe it will give others hope that it can be done.

anniversary cake

Here’s to my parents for hanging on through the good times and bad for 50 years. You are an inspiration to us all. We love you!!

Is there someone in your life who’s inspired you in your marriage? I’d love to hear their story!

Learning To Let Go

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Blog, Uncategorized | 5 comments

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. ~ Psalm 127:3

Senior Year!

Fourth year leaving Elise at college. Senior year! Yay!

I moved my daughter, Elise, back to college this past Monday. This is the fourth year in a row I’ve done it. And the first time I haven’t cried. I guess I’m growing up 🙂

Even though the tears haven’t fallen yet this year, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been affected; especially last Sunday night. The now familiar melancholy feeling always pays me a visit just before she leaves; reminding me how lonely it can be without her. Even though my guys love me, she’s the one who truly gets me.

I remember the first time I was overwhelmed by this feeling. It was the Sunday night before

I started back to work after Elise was born. She was just six weeks old and I cried as I packed her little diaper bag and fretted over how well the daycare would take care of our new bundle of joy. Would they hold her and kiss her and make her feel loved? Did they

packing Elise's diaper bag

Me packing Elise’s diaper bag that night

understand the prayers we’d flooded heaven with for God to send us this little blessing? As it turned out, they were wonderful and we made lots of new friends; teachers we will always remember because they poured their hearts into Elise and, eventually, our son, Jacob.

Letting go of her that first day I took her to daycare was hard. I didn’t want to leave her

me and Elise

Me and six day old Elise

there. And I cried on the way to work.

Twenty one years later it’s still hard letting go. But it is getting easier, as it should be.

A few weeks ago Elise and I were bemoaning the fact that we didn’t get to go to the beach this summer. We had a vacation, but it was in the mountains. The beach just makes it feel like summer. When we asked John and Jacob about possibly going for a few days before school started, they weren’t interested. They have no use for sun and sand and told us as much. They couldn’t appreciate how much we’d missed lazy days on the beach getting a tan or relaxing by the pool. As we were whining about the summer we’d missed out on, Elise looked at me and said, “Why don’t we go, Mom? Just you and me?”

Enjoying Charleston

Enjoying Charleston

The thought had never occurred to me. Immediately I began searching for affordable rooms in Charleston and booked one right on the water, with a pool and a balcony. We only had one week between the time we decided to go and school starting, so we took advantage of that small window of opportunity for one last hurrah of summer.

We had a great time together, walking through the market, lying by the pool, eating breakfast on the balcony and staying up late watching chick flicks. We shopped, ate, took a carriage ride and enjoyed every historic detail of Charleston. We even took in a play one night and had to run five blocks in the pouring rain afterward just to get to our car. As we were running through the downpour, I whined as water drenched me to the bone. But Elise said, “It’s only water! Look, we’re making memories, Mom!”

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

She is so smart.

It didn’t matter that my hair was stuck to my head or that my mascara had run down my cheeks all the way to my neck. What matters is that we made a memory. What mattered is that I got to spend time with my daughter.

One day Elise will be married and have her own children to tend to. She won’t have as much time for me, so I should consider every

moment precious. I need to remember to live in the moment.

I’m so glad Elise suggested we get away. Now that I’ve taken her back to school, I have more sweet memories to savor of our time together. Precious memories I won’t soon forget.

This coming Tuesday my son, Jacob, will begin his senior year in high

freshman year

Dropping Elise off her freshman year at college

school. Heaven help me as I learn to let go all over again!

Do you have a story of letting go you’d like to share? 

I’d love to hear it!

The Legacy of Grandma Limoges

Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in Blog | 4 comments

A person’s own family is, without doubt, the greatest wealth that we will ever possess. Treasure every moment and take time to ensure that the story you create is one that you will be proud of and look back on with a huge smile. ~ Anonymous

 

Daddy's siblings

Daddy with his siblings
Greg, Francis, Cathy, Maurice and Karen

Last week I was on vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for a reunion with my dad’s family, the Limoges. Daddy is one of nine children, so just having a partial get together requires quite a bit of strategy. All of his six remaining siblings were able to attend, except one. His sister, Mary, is in poor health and has difficulty traveling. But even among the chaos of 36 people, she was missed. I’ve always loved listening to stories of her hilarious misfortunes. They usually have us rolling out of our chairs. We’ve always said,”If it’s gonna happen to anybody, it’ll happen to Mary!”

Mary and Patty

Aunt Mary with her daughter, Patty

Grandma Limoges, the matriarch of our family, was also missing. She passed away in 2008, so she’s been gone quite a while now. Nevertheless, we always remember the short, feisty Yankee woman who loved having her grandchildren lay on her plump bosom while we slept on long car rides. She was tough—I guess you’d have to be to raise nine kids—but she could also be gentle and funny. And she loved having 26 kids call her Grandma.

My dad grew up in upstate New York, one mile from the cold St. Lawrence Seaway on the Canadian border. He was the second oldest, and because he was responsible for much of the work done on their dairy farm, had to drop out of school in the ninth grade. Of course, my siblings and I frequently heard stories about walking uphill to school in the snow during winter, both ways. 😉

Disneyworld

Me, my brother and sister with our dad and Grandma at Disney World

Because Daddy’s family lives 17 hours away, we only saw them two weeks during the summer, every other year. We have lots of stories of going to New York on family vacations, and of taking Grandma Limoges with us as we trekked to other destinations across the south. One memory stands out among the rest.

 
When my dad’s youngest sibling, Greg, was a Marine stationed at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, Daddy decided we’d take Grandma to visit him. After spending the day with Uncle Greg, we found a motel to stay the night before we headed out early the next morning. There was a group of Marines staying in the room next to Grandma’s who weren’t thinking about anything but partying the night away. She, however, wanted to get a good night’s rest. The two objectives didn’t mix well.

All night long, the Marines hooted and hollered while they drank and sang and banged on the wall. Grandma asked them to keep it down, but they ignored the stout 5’0” woman.

The next morning after having had barely any sleep at all, I’ll never forget seeing Grandma barreling out of her room headed for the motel room next to hers. Standing in front of the door with her big pocketbook swinging from her arm, she unexpectedly reared back and started kicking their door as hard as her little feet would let her.

Grandma L with aunt carol

Grandma Limoges with my Aunt Carol

She screamed at the top of her lungs, “How do ya like that, huh? Doesn’t feel so good to be woke up when you’ve partied all night, does it?!” She threw in a few more savory words to make her point. I remember looking at my brother in disbelief, our mouths agape.

She finished her tirade and marched off, mumbling incessantly about the lack of respect those guys had. A couple of confused soldiers finally opened the door, but I don’t remember them ever saying a word.

Years later, after I married, Grandma came down again to visit. I remember my mom calling me one Saturday and asking if I wanted to go shopping with them to an outlet an hour and a half away. I’d just started my usual Saturday ritual of cleaning our little trailer and turned Mom down. Back then I was meticulous about making sure I cleaned house from top to bottom every week, whether it needed it or not. How crazy was that? After some thought, though, I came to my senses and called mom back. I almost missed a great day with my mom and Grandma because of my rigid schedule.

Grandma Limoges with us

Grandma Limoges with Ricky, me, Mom and Lisa on one of our many trips

When I look back at the relatively few times I spent with Grandma, I can’t believe I prioritized my house cleaning over spending time with her. After all, I’d have many more Saturdays to clean my house, but not many days to spend with Grandma.

Now, when I have the opportunity to spend quality time with my family, I try to give them priority over everything else. God willing, my house will be there to clean, over and over again, just as our little trailer was. But my family may not. Parents and grandparents don’t live forever and kids grow up and move away. The years I’m living in now are the sandwich years because we still have our parents, and our kids still live at home. It can get busy sometimes, but family is always worth the time you spend with them.

I’m glad we took the time to come together for our family reunion. It’s hard to stay connected when we’re so far apart, so every opportunity to see them is a blessing. And Mary, we missed you! Hope to see you next time!

The Limoges Family Reunion

The Limoges Family Reunion

What have you been missing out on because of mistaken priorities? It’s not too late to put down the dust cloth and go out for ice cream!

The Misadventures of Life in the Trailerhood – Part 2

Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Last week I shared Part 1 of our early years of marriage. I know you’ve been waiting all week to find out what happens 🙂 , so without further ado, Part 2 of our misadventures…

trailer den

Me in our little den

Living in the country also comes with other perils that don’t include farm animals; namely thieves. Since John usually worked late into the night and I was home alone, he wired a burglar alarm to all our doors, hoping that would deter any criminals. The only thing was, I kept forgetting it was on, especially on Saturdays while I cleaned house. I can’t tell you how many times my father-in-law had to come bang on my front door to tell me I’d hit the sliding glass door with the vacuum cleaner again, never hearing the alarm screeching across the entire countryside. How embarrassing.

Unfortunately, David and Sandra had to deal with the real thing. They were robbed three times while they lived in that spot. The first two were in the little trailer and David’s tennis shoes and a couple of guns were the only missing items. One of the guns was found later after being used in a robbery in New York State. But the biggie came after they’d moved into the double wide.

Sandra and I’d been gone all day, spending an enjoyable Saturday together shopping through some cute little shops in the North Carolina Mountains. After dropping me off at my trailer, she headed home, about a quarter mile away. A few minutes later David called, saying they’d been robbed again. Sandra had forgotten to turn the alarm on that morning before we left, only realizing it when she walked through the door and felt that sickened feeling that was all too familiar. But this time it was different.

Sandra and David

Sandra and David

Sandra had spent the entire evening before cleaning her home from top to bottom, even bringing out the old toothbrush to scrub all of the little crevices that usually get missed. But you’d have never known she’d even picked up a dust cloth. These thieves were just plain mean. They took all of the sugar and flour out of Sandra’s canisters and dumped them over the entire house, as well as pulled the mattresses and sheets off every bed. They also cleaned out every piece of jewelry she wasn’t wearing that day, including some sentimental pieces that were irreplaceable. The violation David and Sandra felt was overwhelming. Not to mention terrifying. What if the thieves came back? Needless to say, sleep didn’t come easy for any of us that night. That was, however, the last time they experienced a robbery in their home. Looking back, we can see God’s hand of protection over them, because they were never home during any of the break-ins.

When I think about the difficulties we all endured during those years in the trailer, I realize how God used that time to humble me. Even though I was excited at first to have our own little trailer, I learned not everyone is impressed with the fact you live in a mobile home on a farm. Especially when you’re an architect, like me, or the assistant manager of advertising at Bi-lo corporate office, as Sandra was. God allowed some things to happen that brought fear and frustration, but through it all, He protected us and helped us learn to rely on Him a little more than we had in the past.

It’s been more than 25 years since we lived in those trailers on the farm. God really does have a sense of humor, because, after we each moved into town for a few years, we eventually all ended up back on the hallowed family ground. Understandably, it took a little more coaxing on David’s part to get Sandra to come back, though. This time it’s different because we were each blessed to be able to actually build our dream homes, directly across from each other, complete with clean water and a monitored alarm system (this time the police come instead of John’s dad when we accidentally set it off!). John’s dad recently sold all of his cows, except for the one that was smart enough to get away, so we don’t have to deal with escaping bovine anymore. But we still have our misadventures every now and then, making new memories for the next generation of Ropers. Thank goodness they usually don’t compare, though, to the good old days in the trailerhood.

Sandra, David, John and me

Sandra, David, John and me

What funny memories do you have from your early years of living on your own?

Please share them 🙂

The Misadventures of Life in the Trailerhood -Part 1

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

This week I thought I’d share some fun stories from when John and I first married. I hope you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane!

Laughter is what makes a home warm…  ~ Catherine Pulsifer

our first home

Our first home

I have nothing against mobile homes. As a matter of fact, some of the sweetest memories of our first years of marriage took place in one. However, I’ve had more than my share of exasperating moments there as well.

When John and I married nearly thirty years ago, we were blessed by the fact that John’s parents were co-owners of a mobile home dealership. I was so excited the day we went to the lot filled with mobile mansions, as our friends liked to call them, to choose which 14’x70’ home we could 1) afford- we got a discount, but not a free trailer- and 2) envision us starting our lives together in. We finally settled on one with a bay window and garden tub. Soon after, we had it moved to John’s family farm.

Our trailer wasn’t the first to be moved to the Roper farm. Three and a half years before, John’s brother, David, and his wife, Sandra, had bought a smaller, used trailer when they first married. They got a really good deal on it because it had been wrecked (I still laugh when I think about that. Whoever heard of a wrecked trailer?), but you could barely tell there’d been any damage, so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. It was small, though. Tiny.

Now, Sandra was–and still is–a very petite, thin woman. She’s the perfect size for a small home. David, however, is

David and Sandra

John’s brother, David and his wife, Sandra

built like a lumber-jack. He felt like the Jolly Green Giant compared to the tiny rooms, doors and bathroom. Once, he became so aggravated trying to find something to wear in the minuscule closet, he ripped the door off its hinges and threw it in the backyard.

Another important feature their home lacked, besides space, was air conditioning. David and Sandra invited us over for dinner one night and it was so hot, an entire stick of butter melted in its dish before we finished eating. I thought David was going to melt into a puddle right along with it, he was sweating so profusely.

Despite the fact that little trailer fit Sandra’s size, it was far from her dream home. Hoping one day soon they could move, she squeezed every penny until it screamed. Eventually they did move, to a very nice, brand-new double wide mobile mansion in the same spot. It still wasn’t her dream home, but at least David’s clothes could actually fit in the closet.

***

We had things to deal with in our new home, as well. Because it was cheaper to have a bored well than drilled, we thought that to be a practical decision. Not long after we moved in, though, we discovered why we should have spent the extra money–brown water. Every time we had a hard rain, mud would slide into the well, preventing us from drinking our water for a couple of days. We could, however, shower with it. Let me just say that muddy water doesn’t do much to enhance your hairstyle.

our dining room

Our dining room

Trying my best to make our little house into a welcoming home, I decided one Saturday to brighten up our little corner of the cow pasture by planting some lovely impatiens. I was so proud of our newly landscaped yard.

Coming home from work the following Monday I was anxious to behold my handiwork. Pulling through the gate of our gravel driveway, I looked up and, instead of seeing my beautiful impatiens, saw Black Angus scattered all over the yard. They’d eaten every single flower.

I’d just discovered the perils of living in a cow pasture–cows. We’d fenced off a small portion of the pasture for the trailer and driveway, so the cows had plenty of room to wander. But if they found one little hole in that fence, they’d make a run for our front yard. And run they did, straight to my flower bed.

our bedroom

Our bedroom, where Tilligan peeked in the window

Shooing them away, I bolted out of the car, tears of frustration spilling down my face. Why bother? became the motivating question for having an unadorned yard for the next three years.

Cows weren’t the only animals on the farm that interrupted our little paradise. One warm spring evening, John thought it would be nice to turn off the air conditioning (a window unit in the kitchen) and open the bedroom windows for some fresh country air. I had to agree it was nice, until we heard something right outside our bedroom window. John and I looked at each other, terrified of the lurking intruder. Slowly, John sat up and turned toward the window at his side of the bed. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw a huge nose pressed against the screen with eyeballs staring back at him. Tilligan, the old white horse who shared the cow pasture, had gotten out of the fence and wandered to our window. I’ve never been so glad to see a horse in my life.

 

Join me next week for Part 2 of The Misadventures of Life in the Trailerhood 🙂

The Laundry Blessing (?)

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men. ~ Ephesians 6:7

My laundry room

We’ve gone through at least 5 washers and dryers in 29 years!

“Where’s the laundry room? You left out the laundry room.”

My face flushed as I realized my client was right.

About a year ago I was asked to design a house for a couple who wanted a unique floor plan that required a little more creativity than I usually have to expend. After several hours of work, I finally had a plan I knew they’d love. After revealing the design, I waited for the accolades to roll off their tongues. Instead, I heard that one major criticism. In 27 years of designing houses, I’d never once left out a laundry room. How on earth could I forget about the room where I personally spend major chunks of my day? Ugh!

Needless to say, it was back to the drawing board–literally.

***

I don’t know about you, but in my home the laundry room is considered the most important room. It’s command central. It’s also a disaster on most days. Oh, it might be clean for a few brief hours, but then when everyone starts slinging off boots and muddy clothes, you’d never know I’d darkened the door that day.

a typical day in the mud

A typical day in the mud

To make matters worse, my son, Jacob, has started working with my husband laying out water and sewer lines for the summer. That means I have two men jumping in and out of ditches, gluing pipe together and doing anything else required that usually involves as much dirt and grime as a guy can get into. Oh joy.

Last week was particularly brutal for my washer and dryer. My husband, John, thought it would be a great idea to plant wheat this year. Since I’d never experienced having my husband work in a combine all day harvesting wheat, I was blissfully unaware of the coming avalanche of work clothes that would be added to my daily pile.

Five showers. That’s how many John took in just one day while harvesting wheat. Every time I turned around there were new mountains of greasy, dusty, wheat-covered clothes lying on the floor in front of the laundry room door. How could one man be so picky about cleanliness when he worked in sewers most days?

Jacob tried to ease my frustration by explaining that since the air conditioner had broken in the combine, the doors had to be left open while he cut. This, coupled with the fact it was 90 degrees and John was sweating profusely, caused the wheat to be drawn to him like a magnet and almost blocked his vision of the approaching field.

Okay. I get it. But it didn’t ease my washing machine’s groan, or mine, as it reached its maximum capacity.

Thankfully, he finished cutting the last of the wheat on Saturday. I don’t recall ever seeing my man so dirty, exhausted, and happy—all at the same time. He was in farmer’s heaven, beaming a smile through all the grime.

john and david on combine

John and his brother, David, on the combine

When I saw how delighted he was with his work, I couldn’t be upset with him. God gave him a desire to work the land, so who was I to complain about a little (or a lot) of laundry?

Many days the frustrations of picking up clothes, blankets, cups, shoes (the list could go on infinitely) can overwhelm me. I get mad and start to spew at my family, wanting to ask the question my mom used to ask us in jest (mostly), “What’d your last maid die of—overwork and underpay?” I always laughed at that question, but now I can appreciate the significance of it. That’s sure what it feels like.

I remember something I read by Lysa Terkuerst years ago. She was complaining under her breath about her family’s lack of desire for picking up after themselves… until she had a profound thought. The feet that held the scattered shoes, the hands that held the cups sprinkled about, and the wads of blankets that snuggled the bodies belonged to the people she most loved in this world. The evidence of life in her home was a blessing—not a curse.

I can’t say I love all of the mud clopped through my kitchen, or the dishes strewn about, but I do love the people who leave the mess. I love them so much it hurts sometimes. And I can’t imagine my life without them. As the words in a Martina McBride song declare, I have been blessed. Truly and immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.

The combine

John on the combine

Is your family getting on your last nerve? Stop and remember the blessing they’ve been to you. And don’t forget to thank God for them.

Have you had an epiphany concerning your own family? Please share what you’ve learned so we can all benefit from it.