The day after doing the unthinkable

jbhphotoYesterday I did the unthinkable–I walked away from a job I really loved.

Yes, in today’s dismal job market, as a woman over 50 with a job making over $50K annually, I turned over the keys to the company car, turned in my company credit card, handed over the company phone, digital recorder and lap top (which I promptly bought), and signed off as an administrator on Facebook and Twitter.

Months ago I came to the conclusion that God was in this decision and it would be a good thing.

I still cry. Real tears. I am still passionate about that which I did. I loved to hear Florida Baptists tell their stories. I loved to orchestrate what each issue of the 130 year old publication would look like—how it could also appear online or in social media. I took pleasure in the pursuit of truth when it came to reporting public policy issues. I desired to give God glory in reporting about His Kingdom on earth.

This transition is not going to be easy for many reasons, but God is in control.

I think about what I would have told my children had they wanted to give up a “good job.” Would I ever encourage them to give notice, walk away, leave the keys on the counter, pick up their last check, cash in their unused vacation?

And then I rest in the thought, that yes, I have done just that. I have always urged them to think through their priorities, to never be so dependent on a job that they couldn’t give it up and start over. I taught them to work hard and trust God for the next step. I taught them that no one is irreplaceable and to work as unto the Lord and to guard their hearts.

My hope is in the Lord, He knows the desire of my heart is to serve Him. He knows that in my vanity I want to feel needed and desired, but that truly He needs me to trust Him.

Yesterday I had a job; today I am learning all over again to trust God—for every little thing.

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Saying bye, again

I waved and she leaned in close to give me a kiss. I could almost feel her breath on my face as her moist, little lips closed in.

When her plump face drew back in surprise at colliding with the screen of the iPhone, I was glad my 8-month old granddaughter was too small to notice the sudden reddening of my face or the quick tear that slid unhindered down my cheek.

Saying bye-bye is hard. And last week was bittersweet.

Nana and the three grands, Madelyn, 4, Ella, 8 mos, and Joey, 6, in Houston.

Nana and the three grands, Madelyn, 4, Ella, 8 mos, and Joey, 6, in Houston.

My husband and I spent nearly a week hard at work during the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston knowing our three grandchildren and son and daughter in law had just moved to the large city, just three miles from our hotel. When the majority of our work was over, we switched hotels and I continued to work, but spent some time catching up with the family (my oldest daughter joined us on her way from a business trip) and celebrating my husband’s birthday and then Father’s Day before we boarded a plane back to Jacksonville.

I’m so very proud of my son, partner in a wonderful Houston business which provides office furniture and consults for people. I know moving his family to Houston is the best thing for them. The family joined Houston’s First Baptist Church on their first Sunday there-when we were all together. Joey and Madelyn, 6 and 4, are already enrolled in school there, one of the best Christian schools in the nation. Houston is a great city with a lot to do and a huge mall!

Nonetheless, I’ll miss the family togetherness we have enjoyed these past few years–sitting in the family pew at First Baptist Jacksonville, swimming and snorkeling in the pool, cuddling in the living room, and eating at Nana’s favorite restaurant, Maggianos.

I’ll miss watching Joey skip to catch up to the Papa he adores and grab his hand before crossing a parking lot to be with the Daddy he loves to tease.

I’ll miss watching Ms. Maddy climb into Papa’s lap in the recliner and fall fast asleep and Aunt B helping herd everyone upstairs to the “kid’s room” to spend the night.

And I’ll miss Baby Elizabeth June giggle and laugh and find peace as Papa carts her around and tosses her in the air–even while searching with Melissa for a pacifier we both know Ella doesn’t really want!

I’ll miss the nursery rhymes and Narnia at bedtime, the prayers and reminders, reciting Psalm 23 and those cheeks pressed against mine, now separated by a layer of glass, an hour time-zone difference, and hundreds of miles.

And for sure I’ll miss knowing my family’s only an arm-length away after covering a tragedy, viewing horrific visuals, or reporting on disaster.

But the writer of Ecclesiastes said for everything there is a season and I know this is a season of change for us all. God in His providence has provided a clear path for John and his family.

I am at peace knowing that God is in control and it is Him Who I trust.

There are people who have said, “You must be devastated.” To them, I can honestly reply, “I am not.” Sure I am sad. I will weep. I will reach out and there will be no soft body to squeeze when I want it to be there. But there are iPhones, there are cameras, there are countless other grandpas and grandmas who have endured separations — and rejoiced in what God has done in the lives of their children and grandchildren. I am not alone.

God is in control. He has held me in the palm of His hand for more than 40 years. He has counted every hair on my head since I had hair, and knew me in my Mother’s womb more than 51 years ago. He knows my needs. He knows Papa John’s needs and Aunt Belinda’s needs. And He will take care.

He knows the needs of John and Melissa, Joey, Maddy and Ella June.

I trust Him.

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Finding comfort in transition

This is said to be the permanent and final image of Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of stone. I took the picture on a trip to Jordan in 2011. Lot's wife took her hand off the plow when she looked back.

This is said to be the permanent and final image of Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of stone. I took the picture on a trip to Jordan in 2011. Lot’s wife took her hand off the plow when she looked back.


In the midst of a difficult transition, I am struck by a passage I read this morning in God’s Word. It has brought great insight and comfort.

In Luke 9:46, “An argument breaks out amongst the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.”

Jesus takes them, and knowing their thought, tells them that those who would welcome the little child is the greatest.

Lord, thank You for that.

Jesus then proceeds to further tell them (vv 49-50) when one of them wants to get legalistic and nitpicky– to let it go, that “whomever is not against you is for you.”

A great Word at a time when we need healing Lord.

In the next passage Jesus demonstrates mature leadership.

When setting out to reach the place he needs to be, He is told the people in one village on the way don’t welcome Him (vv 51-56). A few disciples ask for drastic measures and He tells them no, just go to a different village instead.

Indeed. Such a simple solution to what could have led to an even more difficult scenario. They were told to redirect their energies. Perhaps spend a bit more time–in order to preserve that which God values–people.

Finally, in the final passage (vv. 57-62) one man tells Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replies with what has become one of my all-time favorite passages. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Two other men indicated they would follow Jesus–and one said first he needed to bury his father and the other say goodbye to his family.

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God,” was Jesus’ reply.

Jesus’ response strikes me today. His response strikes a chord about His call on my life and my response to that call–and participating in that call–than any words spoken in the past days.

Thank you God for the clarion call to serve. My hand is firmly on the plow.

(All verses from the New International Version of the Women’s Devotional Bible.)

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10 Confessions of a Mom

In advance of Mother’s Day, I said on Twitter I would post 10 “significant confessons” that would make young moms feel better. According to a few moms on Facebook, they helped. Here they are together.

#1 I cleaned my children’s bedrooms for them until they were in middle school. I’m much too impatient to have taught them. BAD me. (My daughter openly disputes this fact, however. She admits I may have helped, but that she cleaned her own room well before middle school 🙂 ).

Siblings, mostly rivals, but sometimes loving.

Siblings, mostly rivals, but sometimes loving.

#2 My children ate candy, cookies, and donuts. And they drank whole milk. (My daughter reminded me I absolutely was a monster and forbade them from drinking Kool-Aid).

#3 I didn’t start regularly making my bed until about 13 years ago. That was nearly 20 year after I got married.

#4 My quiet time is not always quiet. Sometimes I share heart-wrenching sobs with God. I gripe, He comforts.

#5 I am not very happy when others indicate how I should express my grief for my Mother. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200643959794406&set=a.1577738716368.75568.1022619344&type=1&theater

#6 I don’t cook from scratch for the most part. I use a lot of packages, cans and containers. #piecruststicks

#7 Married at 19 and a mom at 20, I have never wanted to go back. Nor have I ever wished my children gone.

#9 The sheets didn’t get changed every week, nor did the floors get mopped or carpets vacuumed. Yet, we live.

#10 I was a stern disciplinarian, but I have a big, soft heart & would do almost anything for my children.

And here’s a bonus:

#11 To me there is more of a struggle in being a mom to adult children and in being a grandparent and in developing healthy family ties with extended, blended families than there was in raising my nuclear family. I believe the church has been way behind in this area and has only begun to respond. With stay-at-home and working moms and grandmas, families living away from each other, broken and blended families and families that come from a variety of cultural and religious viewpoints, we still have much to learn. There are still way too many “mother-in-law” and “daughter-in-law” jokes out there–even in the church–that are not helpful. I confess I believe we have a long way to go.

Let’s keep the discussion going and work to encourage each other, build each other up and to bring Glory to God ladies.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Narnia’s truth & fantasy perfect after VBS & ‘Ice Age 4’

Last night after Creation Quest VBS and the Friday night opening of “Ice Age: Continental Drift”— my grandchildren instructed me to read them C.S. Lewis’, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Again.

And it wasn’t the pop-up “Narnia” they wanted either. No, Joey, 5, and Madelyn, 3, bypassed the colorful condensed summary of Lewis’ most enduring works, they eschewed my famous nursery rhyme re-enactments, they waved aside any notion of the re-telling of the “Three Little Pigs” or “The Story of the Three Bears” and even gave me a thumbs down when I suggested reading one of their specials from an illustrated collection of Bible stories for children.

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Instead, they chose the perfect combination of truth and fantasy that doesn’t contradict, doesn’t confuse. It complements, expands and explores.

And Joey suggested drowsily, after the first chapter, “Nana, maybe tomorrow we can watch the movie again.”

It was about this time three summers ago, after disregarding what most of the online commentaries advised, we first sat together and watched what has become our beloved Narnia. Once Lucy stepped from the cupboard into the forest, Joey was transfixed—Narnia has been our special place ever since.

After watching the movie I bought every version of the book I could find—and for a while read as much as I could whenever he would spend the night. Then after awhile Madelyn joined in.

Viewing one of the sequels in a movie theater with the family, Joey told Papa, “Aslan is God.” At age 3, our precocious little guy understood early that Aslan represents Christ.

And for those who are shocked, because, yes, Narnia can be very violent—that’s what fast forward buttons and Nana’s soft hands are for. Protecting little eyes. There’s a lot of violence in our world—and even nursery rhymes, the big bad wolf and Noah’s Ark can turn dangerous. It’s up to all of us to put this into perspective for the little ones.

Speaking of putting things into perspective. I think that’s what Joey and Maddy wanted last night. After a week of hand’s-on VBS at our church where they learned about all things related to creation—including a breakdown of the body, animals, the earth, and the solar system—they watched an animated movie that touched on some of these elements, but in such a distorted way their minds must have been on overload.

Children yearning for truth but craving for fantasy will no doubt adore C.S. Lewis. I have only to start telling the story of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy—and their great adventure that begins in a wooden wardrobe much like the one standing in my spare room: “And now there was no mistaking it and all four children stood blinking into the daylight of a winter day. Behind them were coats hanging on pegs. In front of them were snow-covered trees.”

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The five things that have most impacted the first 50 years of my life

1. The total transformation of my mother.
I was about 11 when my mother met a woman in a laundromat who read a booklet to her called “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Written by Bill Bright, it contained Bible verses and words to a prayer showing her how to ask Jesus Christ to be part of her personal belief system. I remember her sitting in a plastic chair surrounded by chaos and children—but with a look of peace and contentment on her face. Our lives were on a different trajectory afterwards. Though our single-mom led home was far from “ideal,” that day changed all of our lives. Shortly afterwards, I also invited Jesus into my life.

2. God’s wonderful intervention in John’s life
Days after I turned 19, I was at a friend’s birthday party at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, where I was in school for the Navy. It was there I met John, a soldier, five years my senior—a relentless suitor who won my heart in a few short weeks. The problem was that God did not yet have his heart. Finished with school, I left for Arizona to let my mother know I was going to marry John—only to hear my pastor preach on being “unequally yoked.” The sermon beat me to a pulp and I called John to tell him I wasn’t going to return to San Angelo to marry him after all. Instead, he had been trying to call me to let me know he had gone to a revival all week at the Baptist church in San Angelo—and I needed to hurry up and return to witness his baptism. It was one of the sweetest weeks of my life. We were married by the end of the week. That was nearly 31 years ago.

3. A different kind of Billy Graham Crusade
John was stationed at NSA at Fort Meade, Maryland, and I was at Naval Security Station in Washington, D.C., so we lived in Laurel, Maryland, when we were first married. We worked different shifts and had scant time together. So when we heard the Billy Graham Crusade was coming to the Greater Baltimore area—we were excited to be part of the co-labor corps and prepared ourselves to work the crusade—and took time off for it. Though the hours were long—I remember it as a time of really cementing our marriage. Being up close to Dr. Graham was a significant experience for both of us. More significant however, was that nine months later—our sweet, most adorable, blessing that would change our lives forever, Belinda June, was born. Perhaps God’s reminder of the priority of evangelism—and family!

4. An understanding of God’s grace
I remember cooking a meal in Augsburg, W. Germany, while my beautiful children were seated at the kitchen table coloring—and reflecting on God’s goodness and His grace in my life despite my failings. Years later as I sat in my son’s bedroom, brokenhearted and praying for him as he struggled through some major life issues—I asked God for a measure of that Grace for my son. That he would repent and be shown mercy. Years later it hurt when he told me it was the death of my mother, in part, that caused him to reflect on his actions and turn his life around. Last night, as my daughter-in-law soothed away a rare migraine with a neck massage—I told her she had gifted us with her hands, her heart and her mind—and how grateful I am that God brought her into my son’s life and ours. And God has blessed them with two beautiful children—my precious grandchildren Joey and Madelyn.

5. My desire to tell stories
In first or second grade I vividly recall the cover of a book about Harriett Tubman, a brave woman who was known for freeing about 300 slaves. The story captivated me for years—and I believe planted a storytelling seed nurtured sporadically throughout my life. My earliest writing ventures, though, took on the form of poems. In high school my only published story was a first person article about a backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon. In 1976 I finally got a break when I interviewed Josh McDowell for a youth conference newspaper. I was hooked. Although it took me more than another decade (and meeting up with mentors and encouragers James and Marti Hefley) to focus in on news and feature writing (and editing)—it became my passion. Telling stories about how God is working in people’s lives.

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Perspective

Occasionally I have the opportunity to cover a missionary appointment service for Southern Baptists. Typically held in large churches where hundreds of denominational workers and sister church members gather–the service is both celebratory and solemn. There is a parade of flags, hearty singing, and a challenging message.

And then there are the testimonies of the appointees themselves. Young and old, couples and single–and of every tribe nation and tongue–it seems, they come as they are going–to share the Good News of Christ’s love to the nations. It’s an emotional time for me as I listen to their brief stories, stare intently at their expressions, and note their devotion, piety, determination and calling.

This week was no exception and all that to which I am accustomed occurred. But there was more. On this special night, a youngster of about four caught my eye along with other children.

As the appointees walked in to the strains of an anthem–two young children seated close by shifted over their father’s knee to eyeball the missionaries as they took their seats. With rapt expressions that had me swinging my camera around, FAST, they were totally caught up in the moment and their dad was encouraging them. As I happily snapped the camera, further down the bench, where another group of children were sitting, one youngster, the four-year-old, abruptly stood on the seat frantically criss-crossing his arms atop an orange guitar-band t-shirt. His smile was eaten by the dimples below his twinkling brown eyes.

On the other side of the aisle, a tall, young, bearded man wearing a suit gave the boy an unembarrassed wave and sat down next to a dark haired beauty. My heart swelled. I had just witnessed a precious family moment. But there was more.

Later in the service, after the missionaries had given their testimonies, they were readying for another procession. I felt rather than saw an orange ball fly by before I realized it was the child, again, traversing the long pew, darting into the aisle, and finding the loving arms of his father. I had to hold my hand over my mouth this time–and judging from the gasp that went up around me and in pews across from us where I saw some initial reaction–others felt the same way.

When Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board reminded us to pray for the 4,911 missionaries worldwide AND their 4,000 children, you had better believe I will.

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