And Then There Was Grandma Winnie

iPhone 161EMy grandmother, my last living grandparent in the world, went to be with Jesus today. Her husband of 64 years died in December 2012, which I wrote about in the post entitled Mourning.

She was a strong woman; very matter-of-fact. I remember after my grandfather’s funeral, we were sitting in the small house that she’d lived in forever, sitting at the table, just talking. And she abruptly said “Well, it’s 12 o’clock, time for lunch” and started preparing it. She raised seven children – two boys and five girls – in the tiny house. Her husband passed away quietly in the room right off the living room, where she had gathered her children for school.


I know that this passage speaks of wisdom, but oh how I had this clear visual of her. In one hand, her long life; in the other, the riches and honor that awaited her, along with her husband and her Savior. She was a tree of life, bearing seven children and raising them to be loving parents themselves. Once, when I was much younger, I asked her what made her decide to have seven children; she looked at me with a sort of shock on her face as she told me that “That wasn’t my decision, dear; that was God’s.”

The Children and Grandmother

The Children (from youngest to oldest per usual) and Grandma Winnie

A world without grandparents is darker, for sure. The ways that they enrich our lives are immeasurable, and the roles they play are unique. Remembering that in all things, in every situation, by prayer and with thanksgiving, I give thanks for the years she had, and the long, full life; for the lessons she taught; for the love she shared with my grandfather. I rejoice that she is reunited with the only love she ever knew. I thank God for her place alongside our Lord, after a life of being a good and faithful servant.

It’s not easy for those left behind; the seven children, now adults, that now face a world without parents. Those seven children have produced fifteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren – with more to come, as many of the grandchildren are just coming of age. I pray for peace and comfort for them as they face another devastating loss, as they try and navigate this world that seems new and foreign. May they feel the power of God in every moment, and may every moment be an opportunity to draw closer to Him.

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The people, or marriages, that exist solely because of their legacy, circa 2005 (and missing some additional people).

Back to Zero

I’ve had writer’s block for almost two years now, which is why the site has been so quiet. I’ve had moments where something will break through, but it never really stays. I’ve been alive, though – raising kids, being a wife, working full time, and staying involved in our church.

And recently, I’ve taken up running. It doesn’t come easy, and I do not particularly enjoy it while doing it, despite genuinely looking forward to it. It’s hard work, and I have to work for every bit of it. I run the equivalent of a 5k on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I love how lit up my Apple Watch is on those days. It shows how hard I’ve worked, even if I don’t feel it in my step.

The other day, I was lying in bed, and I checked the final counts to put it into one of my apps, and it was gone. Gone were the bright circles showing how hard I’d worked that day. It was blank.

Zero steps.

Zero exercise minutes.

Zero stand hours.

It was midnight, and everything had reset. It was back to zero.


It reminded me of the lesson in our marriage series that we do – that all the points we get for nice things we do reset back to zero at midnight. We have to work every day at loving our spouse in ways that make them feel loved. We cannot expect the work we put in yesterday or last week or six months ago to carry us through tomorrow.

It all resets at midnight.

And that extends to all aspects of our lives. As much as I want people at work to remember the time I handled things proactively instead of reactively, that only carried through the end of that day. Today, I was frustrated and short when someone needed my help – and that’s the only thing that counts for today.

But I don’t want to work hard today. Today, I want a short cut. And there are none to be found.

And I see my desire for shortcuts in my parenting.

I took you to the park yesterday…

I read you two days ago. ..

We spent all that time together this weekend…

And I see it in my spiritual walk.

But I just attended that Women’s Conference…

I read the entire chapter of Romans last week…

I just finished a bible study…

Why do I need to do more work today? 

Well, because everything resets at midnight. Like the steps, the work we did yesterday will prepare us for tomorrow. It will make us stronger for tomorrow. It will make us better equipped for tomorrow, but it will not carry us through tomorrow. It will not do the work for us tomorrow. Anyone who has trained to run or built up their base will tell you that progress is slow, but regress is quick. It takes months to build up the stamina to run a long race, but only weeks of inactivity to lose a significant chunk of the progress you’ve made.

So go, and keep going. Keep doing. Start each day with the goal of loving your people well, going above and beyond for your coworkers and spouse and kids. Acknowledge that the clock resetting at midnight is a gift of a fresh start – a whole new day to give the world your best you.

Because tomorrow, you’ll be right back at zero again.

This Life

Marriage.

Hubbin and I have been together for almost eleven years now. That seems so crazy; I feel myself torn between thinking about how long that sounds, and trying to remember a time without this man. I cannot, and that makes me smile.

I know there’s a lot of jokes about marriage and it being a trap, or how the wedding day is the best day of your life, but I feel like that could not be further from the truth. There are hard times, absolutely; it’s hard to live forever with any one person. Anything worth having takes work.

I was happy on our wedding day, but I would say that today, I am happier. The couple in this photograph have no idea what is in store for them.

weddingThey have no idea that they will face things that take so many marriages down. They don’t know that they’ll mourn the loss of a baby together, and in different ways that will seem to pull them apart. They’ll go through job changes and career changes, and she’ll lose herself for a period of time, but he’ll have faith that she’ll be back one day. They know they’ll probably have a child together, but they don’t know that they’ll have a Charlotte. He doesn’t know she’ll find Jesus, and she doesn’t know that he’ll teach her who He is by the way he loves her.

They look happy, don’t they?

But this couple?

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They ARE happy.

They experience a love they never knew was possible. Their lives may not look like a fairy tale, with the sports and the too small house and the kids and the full time jobs and the commuting and all the responsibilities that go along with those things. They know, however, that they are indeed living the lives of fairy tales.

My love, you will never know the depths of my love and admiration for you. And how today, when you texted me that your life insurance was complete, I may have hyperventilated a little bit at the thought of ever having to use it. I simply could not live without you. And I don’t want to, because I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have you in it.

And yes, I can tell him all these things here, and yes, I do. I say them here to show that there is goodness and beauty in marriage that you cannot begin to even dream about on your wedding day.

We had terribly hard things that caused our road to diverge, and we took this path.

And it has made all the difference.

The Top Five Lessons I Learned From A Dead Plant

Today’s blog post is by my dear friend Brooke – I know you’ll be as moved by it as I was. 

I was just starting my first day of work and my boss was giving me a bit of a tour.  She pointed and said, “Well, here’s your new office.  As you can see, we have the usual: Desk, computer, printer, phone.    Also, there’s a dead plant over there in the corner.  You can go ahead and throw that away.”

Little did I know that twelve years later I would be sitting here thinking about all the lessons that dead plant has taught me.  As it turns out, it wasn’t dead.  It just required a little love and attention; and just a little bit of faith.

At first I was clueless about what to do with it.   I had never had a plant; or for that matter, been responsible for any living thing.  I was only in charge of taking care of myself and quite frankly, I wasn’t doing a great job of that either.  But, I figured in its current state, the bar had been set pretty low.  How much damage could I possibly do?

It’s probably worth mentioning that I was in a fragile state when my plant found me.  I was coming out of an emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationship that had ended with police, court rooms, and restraining orders.  I was technically homeless.  The lease on my apartment had ended and as my roommates scattered, I had no real direction.  I also didn’t have a job.

Luckily, through the grace of God, I was given a place to live.  I was also given a strong reference for a good job.  So, I survived.  Barely.

With that being said, I realize now that I was not emotionally or mentally prepared for the stresses of true professional responsibility.  Sometimes in the frustration of my work day, I would close my office door and sit down on the floor next to that pathetic looking plant.  I would take a few minutes to prune the dead leaves.  I would talk to it.  I would water it.  One day I even gave it some Minute Maid Limeade.  What the heck? I had nothing to lose.  But it came to represent a moment of comfort for me.  Relief.  Release.

In time, the dead plant began to turn green again.  One day, I even noticed a bloom.  I couldn’t believe that this poor plant had somehow managed to come back to life…in spite of me.

Over the years, the plant became my constant companion.  I left that job almost as soon as I started it, but the only thing I took from my office was – you guessed it – my plant.

I put it in the back seat of my car for my drive to Richmond and made sure that it had a prominent place in my new home.  My friends were always drawn to it in some way; they always noticed it.  They asked about it: Where did I get it?  What did I do to take care of it?

As I previously stated, I wasn’t necessarily able to care for ME, much less concern myself with the additional needs of this plant.  But I provided just enough for it to survive.  Not to flourish. Just survive.

For many years, that was the story of my faith.  My relationship with God was such that I did just enough to survive.  I was so bogged down by mental and emotional stress, fear, and pain.  I couldn’t see things clearly. I couldn’t see that the reason I carried such a heavy burden was because I had not returned to my roots.   I couldn’t see that if I was disciplined enough to put forth a little extra effort into my walk with God, I would flourish.

Many years have passed now and many lessons have been learned.  As I sat with my plant last Sunday morning, I realized I have learned the following:

1 – We are only required to plant the seed.

God will help us do the rest.  Once the seed of faith has been planted, we will have a natural thirst and hunger to grow.

I have experienced incredibly dark seasons in my life.  I have denied my God, doubted him, been angry with him and resisted him.  But my attempt to resist him was futile.  For the seed had already been planted.  Because the seed had rooted in my soul, I now carried a thirst that could only be quenched by him.  Until I returned to him for nourishment, I would continue to feel a void in my life that nothing else could fill.

2 – I have continued to grow, in spite of myself.

I often neglected this plant.  I have said for many years: this plant has grown in spite of me.  There have been times I would forget to water it.  I didn’t give it new soil or Miracle- Gro.  Once, during one of my many moves, I actually forgot that I had put it in the trunk of my car. A snow storm hit and the plant remained in my trunk for a week, in twenty degree weather, with no light.  But it didn’t die.

In many ways, and in many seasons, my relationship with God had a similar pattern.  Although I knew him, I recognized his importance in my life, and I valued him – I would still have periods where I would ignore him.  I would get distracted by the business of life and forget where I was rooted.

3 – It will never reach perfection.

Over time, I’ve paid a little more attention to my poor plant. I’ve repotted it, started using Miracle-Gro and making sure it gets the water and sunlight it needs.  But, regardless of what I do for it, my plant will always have its flaws.  Eventually, no matter how good it looks, the tips of the leaves always turn brown.  Sometimes I can hide its imperfections by trimming some of the leaves back, but no matter what I do, this plant will never be perfect.

This has taught me to accept my own imperfections.  I can work on them.  I can ask God to remove them. The reality is: I will always have them.  The most important truth is that I am beautiful as a whole person.  If I allow the light of God to shine through me, most people see past my imperfections and appreciate my entire being.

4 – It needs the light to grow.

sunshine

It has become a reminder of the importance of spending regular time with God.  Whenever I am feeling depleted, I take some time to sit down with my plant.  I talk to it.  I nurture it.  And I am reminded of its purpose in my life.

My relationship with God requires the same.  In a distracted world, I have to be disciplined enough to take time out for him, talk with him, and nurture our relationship.  If I want to be my best self, I am required to go to him first.  If I start my day with him, take my needs to him and share my heart with him – I will be able to flourish throughout my day.

5 – Pruning will always be required.

This has been one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn.  No matter how far I’ve come, I’m not quite where I need to be.   God is continuously working things out in me.  He has to remove some of the dead leaves from my life so that I may bear additional fruit.pruningThis is true of many things in my life.  Friends, jobs, people, places, things; they all have a season.  The good news is: If I am willing to let go and experience the pain of pruning, I can enjoy the beauty of the next bloom.

I guess by now you are wondering what type of plant I found?

Looking back, I am reminded of the magic and wonder of it all.

During a time of desperate need… I found a Prayer Plant.

bloom

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Brooke Heffernon is a soon-to-be married, vivacious, life-loving southern woman. She is a Virginia native who has never met a recipe that a little Duke’s Mayonnaise couldn’t improve. She lives her life by a simple mantra, a quote from Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” She attempts to incorporate that same level of honesty and wisdom into her writing. She has a passion for food, faith, documentaries, and other people’s babies. In her free time, she can be found playing practical jokes on her fiance, Richard.

She is also my sweet friend from elementary school and has the honorary distinction of teaching me how to spell tomorrow (“it’s tom-OR-row, Kristin”).

Blah

usI have writer’s block! Get me out of the jail that is my brain.

I just banged out a political rant and it is so badly written and choppy that it got thrown in the incinerator.  Metaphorically. Possibly literally if this computer keeps annoying me.

So I have nothing in the form of entertainment or wit, but I do have this adorable picture of me and the man who lights all my fires and starts all my smiles. We took this on our recent vacation, which was lovely. I got to relax this vacation.

I got to relax.

RELAX.

And READ BOOKS.

My kids are old enough that they don’t need me every second of the day. And I got to LAY DOWN.

Also? I saw brown stuff smeared on my gym tag the other day and I wiped it off without thinking twice. It never occurred to me that it could be anything other than chocolate. Do you know what this means?

I HAVE REACHED THE PINNACLE OF MOTHERHOOD, Y’ALL. THIS IS THE PROMISED LAND. This is what I have spent 400 years in the desert for. My kids are five and twelve. The days of “poop or chocolate” are over. There is no poop. There is ONLY CHOCOLATE.

And I am loving it. Five is the best age ever anyway, and I am so enjoying seeing the young woman my twelve year old is becoming. I want to freeze frame this part of my life because it is my favorite of all time.

These are the days, y’all. And I am loving them.

I am sure.

Last summer, God spoke to me. It wasn’t really an answer so much as it was three simple words. Not even an actual sentence, although each word was a verb. “Love, learn, lead.” Those were the three words He dropped into my heart at a women’s Bible study I was part of. I wish I could say that when I heard them, or more accurately, felt them, I dropped what I was doing, ran to the coordinator and told her that I would lead the group. But I didn’t. I ruminated on them for the hour and a half of the gathering. I barely heard the teaching, but I was in the middle of a lesson. And Jesus was my teacher.

At the end of the gathering, I got up, palms sweating, went over to my friend who was leading the study and said, “God told me I have to lead something. I will start with a small group for this study.” She looked at me and sort of tilted her head and with kindness in her eyes said, “Are you sure?”

“Yes. I am sure.”

So I did. I led the group for 6 weeks. Questions. Insight. Answers. Leading. All the things that I have been terrified to do since I dedicated my life to Christ in 2006. For so long, I felt unworthy. Not enough in the church world. Not smart enough. Not spiritual enough. Not churchy enough. Not an anointed speaker. Not educated in Hebrew. Or Greek. Or Aramaic. Or King James English. I was simply me: A Jesus loving sinner who knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that grace existed and who desperately wanted to pour that grace into the lives of others. At all times. In all seasons. For all reasons. An over-abundant grace-giver you might say.

“Yes. I am sure.”

The love part of God’s command to me comes easy. The learn part of God’s command to me was a tad more challenging. I love to learn. Absolutely love to learn. I love to learn new ways of doing things. Old ways of doing things. I love to read other people’s thoughts. Of their experiences. Of their triumphs and failures. I love to learn how to make new things. I love to learn how to make old things. But here, God was asking me to learn more about Him. And that’s where the wrinkle was.

I had grown up in a religious environment. Not so legalistic that I never saw the light of Grace, but rules and regulations, traditions and ceremonies, were a very large part of my childhood. I suspect that it is due to that upbringing that my pendulum swung so far into the grace category. But what God was asking me to do was to learn about who He is, not who I thought He is. Or who other people have told me He is. And to do that, I had to tear down walls, ideals, and boxes around my God. I had to give Him freedom to give me freedom. I had to let go of what I thought was true and find out what really is true.

“Yes. I am sure.”

To do that, He connected me with a group of women who are not even close to being like me and who are so much like me that it’s as though we’ve known each other our entire lives. They are my heart sisters. They are my sisters in Christ. And it’s because of them and Dauntless Grace Ministries that I have learned even a little bit about who God is. I have learned from them because they model it every day in their forgiveness, their grace, their love, and their hearts.

“Yes. I am sure.”

When He dropped the final word into my heart, it both terrified and thrilled me simultaneously. Lead. My fears of not being enough from before kept springing to mind. “No one will listen to me.” “What do I have to offer?” “How can I do what you are asking me to do?” And as I wrestled with God in these questions, the same answer kept coming up: Not you, ME.em

When Dauntless Grace Ministries began the Home Groups, I kept pleading with the Lord to give me names of who I was to invite. 3 names. It didn’t seem that tough. He is God after all. The only thing He kept saying to me was: church. So of course my mind started racing. Women from church? Which women from church? What if I didn’t invite women from my church, but held it at my church? What if I invited them to church? He kept saying one word: church.

A few months after the Dauntless Grace Ministries groups idea came to life and I had committed to doing it but I had no one to do it with, I spoke with my friend, who is the pastor’s wife.  I asked her if there was already a women’s ministry that is active at our church. Can you guess what her answer was? No. Her answer was: No, we don’t have an active women’s ministry at our church. We have three women who organize and lead their own groups based on ages, but no active, all-inclusive group. Lead.

“Yes. I am sure.”

That same day, I went to visit my pastor, laid this whole thing out. I told him I had no plan, no outline, and no idea what I was doing and told him that he either needed to get on board or get out of the way because the Spirit was moving in our church. He was encouraging, supportive, and genuinely excited about it. His philosophy is that if the Spirit drops something into your heart, you go with it. There is no greater calling than that which is of the Spirit.

So I did. I prayed for God to lead me to the women who would cover this group in prayer. I needed to have dedicated prayer warriors for it. Women who would know that this was God’s group and not something that I was trying to do in my own strength. Women who would know what a spiritual battle we are in and how best to fight that battle. Women who would be able to stand around me as the fiery darts headed my way to knock me off course and not see those attacks as reason for quitting but more for reason to push forward.
Then, right before our first meeting, I then opened my hands and prayed. For months, I had been praying with closed hands and bent over. One night, the Father gently, but firmly pried each of my fingers open until my palms were splayed wide on my pillow. And He told me to pray. It was the most releasing, freeing, powerful prayer I had prayed over the group. It was a lesson I won’t soon forget: to be still and know that He is God is to release, especially in relation to the hands. Let go and know that He is God.

“Yes. I am sure.”

For more information about Dauntless Grace Ministries, visit their website!

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emilyEmily Spiers is a stay at home, homeschooling, homesteading mama of two. She enjoys reading, soap-making, chocolate, salted caramel coffee, spending time with her family making memories, gardening, caring for their animals, canning, cooking, baking, and pursuing Jesus. Join her as she lives happily, laughs a lot (usually at herself), loves everyone, makes mistakes and learns from them, and generally enjoys life so much it hurts. She loves to love people and is constantly in awe of the love that Jesus has for her. You can find her here!