Peace for the Precious

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Jen Hatmaker posted an article this week about the dangers of “precious” parenting, encouraging moms everywhere to take a page out of the 1970’s parenting manual and let go of the fabricated magic that we are all trying so desperately to create. You can read it by clicking here.

Oh, man. I completely get what she is saying.

Although I have worked through most of the madness by now, there have been birthday parties in years past where I was stressed to the max and antsy for the child I was supposedly celebrating to just get out of the way, already, so I COULD DECORATE AND PUT THE LITTLE CHALKBOARD SIGNS BY EACH PLATE OF FOOD TELLING EVERYONE WHAT THAT FOOD WAS!!!!

Because, honestly, how would my 4-year old guests KNOW that those were cupcakes on the cakestand unless there was a sign next to them that said “cupcakes”???!!!!

Obviously, there were days on the motherhood front when I was a freak whose priorities were totally out of whack. I needed an article like Jen’s to grab me by the shoulders and say “TONE IT DOWN A NOTCH, SISTER!”

Thus, I feel like her latest blog was very timely and needed, for scores of mothers who feel stressed and guilty by today’s parenting trends.

What I ALSO feel, however, is that there could be a lot of mamas out there who need a boost of another kind, and that’s what I am hoping to provide today.

You see, it didn’t take me too long, once I joined the blogosphere, to recognize that my family would most likely be categorized as what Jen calls “precious”.

We are, for better or worse, a family of “snowflakes” and if you HAD to categorize my parenting style as an automobile, it would probably, darn it, be a helicopter.

For instance, the birthday parties.

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The Halloween costumes.

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The earnestness of it all.

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And if I, as a precious mother, am not exceedingly careful in my study of these sorts of personal testimonies and opinions like Jen’s (and VERY exceedingly careful in the comments section!), what can easily happen is that I can take a simple blog post that was meant to encourage or enlighten or entertain and turn it into my own shame.

And that, my precious, is why I want to speak to you today.

Before I move on, I want to make it clear that I am in no way refuting Jen’s article. In fact, I LOVE her take on parenting.

Through her consistent warnings against helicoptering, I have learned to let my kids play in the front yard with me only hovering by the living room windows where they can’t see me instead of the front porch right next to them. I have been reminded to let them make mistakes and to teach them to clean up their own messes. I have been inspired to step back and let them do big things for God when the time comes.

These have been big lessons for me, and I am beyond grateful for the guidance and am ever hungry for more. We need to listen to other moms, moms who are different than us, moms who are the same as us, but most importantly, moms who have actually walked through motherhood. If motherhood is anything, it is a learning process, is it not?

But I am also very sympathetic to those who, with the best intentions, have found themselves feeling lonesome in their zeal.

As a precious mom, there have clearly been days when I needed a voice like Jen’s to help me “snap out of it” and to show me a different path, but then there have been other days when I simply needed someone to lift up my chin and tell me that I’m doing okay.

With the latter days in mind, I want to offer some relief to my fellow snowflakes, and I feel sure that Jen, who is a passionate advocate of sisterhood and who annually takes time out of her crazy life to talk with me about “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” on Facebook, would approve.

Let us begin.

Are you a Pinterest mom? Are you precious? Are you a snowflake?

Hi. I “get” you.

And while I “get” you, I can also see how the Pinterest circuit can be overwhelming to moms who aren’t wired in those ways and results in mom-guilt galore.

Not a mom on the planet is free from the temptation to compare our weaknesses to the strengths of others, and the strengths of the “precious” are displayed ALL OVER THE INTERNET.

If a non-Pinteresty mom is feeling down about herself and logs onto Facebook to see something like this….

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it would understandably come across as very showy and nauseating.

And who knows? A lot of this stuff might actually BE showy. I don’t know. Every mom is different, and even more complicated, every day is different. I’m sure there have been days where I was being showy, and the next day I wasn’t. I’m a sinner who just happens to have a good camera and a knack for color-coordinating. There are going to be issues.

So, even though it can wound the precious person’s enthusiasm, I understand the distaste.

Bunting? Scrapbooks? Shadow boxes and time capsules? To many, this stuff is TOO MUCH. It’s insanity.

But not necessarily to us, right?

Being “precious” is our wheelhouse. It’s not, on the pure days, something we pursue out of stress or one-upmanship, nor is it something we force ourselves to be. It’s just what we do, yo. It’s natural. It’s how we show love. It’s how we express creativity.

And while I am unfortunately not organized enough for a time capsule or crafty enough to sew or patient enough to make shapes out of food, there are traditions and practices and beliefs in my home that make other moms feel like total losers. I know this is true, because I have heard it o’er and o’er again, most usually after a birthday party.

Likewise, I have often allowed myself to feel like a loser compared to the incredible moms I know. Some can sew. Some make amazing meals for their family. Some are so beautifully health-conscious. Some are the epitome of FUN. Some can decorate cakes. Some are budget queens.

I might live big on birthday party days and catalog the fun for Pinterest, but what about all the days in between when I’m shuffling through the mess and buying chicken bits at the gas station for our supper?!

And I just can’t help but think that what all of us mamas have GOT to start recognizing in the midst of all this learning and growing and blogging and discussing, and what we HAVE to rest in at the end of the day, is this…

God has wired us all so very differently.

It may sound ridiculous, but for some of us weirdos the joy is actually found IN the magical details and the stress comes in feeling like we are alienating others with our decoupage. (I don’t actually know how to decoupage, but still. You know what I mean).

As a thoroughly precious person, I sincerely love making some extra magic for the world. I love whimsy. I LOVE CHILDHOOD. I am a Victorian, at heart, and even though I can learn from their chill vibe and use their strengths to help me be a better parent, I will never, ever be a 1970’s style mama whose kids roam around the neighborhood. I admire those types of moms. I love them. I kind of think they’re hilarious! But they are not me.

Do you know what?

We get excited about birds at our house. Like, we cluster around the living room windows and we count robins, for crying out loud.

We “fly” through the house listening to the score from the 2003 live-action “Peter Pan” movie.

We have special clothes just for the pumpkin patch.

We sing the soundtrack to “Les Miserables” AS A FAMILY, 3-year old included.

We discuss our family Halloween costumes all. year. long.

We even love photo shoot day! Well, most of us, anyway.

We are precious.

But here’s the thing that I have learned to hold onto after going through a very awkward and reclusive phase concerning my mothering skills, and I hope it will encourage you today, whether you are precious or not.

Get ready because, if you are a believer, this is the best news you’ll ever read (post gospel, of course)!…

God gave my kids to the exact type of mama they would need to grow up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

You see, there is a reason that Gideon, Rebekah, Betsie and Shepherd Gore have been placed under the wings of a precious mother. My influence, my heart, and my wiring is apparently a sovereign part of their story, and there is a great peace that comes with that knowledge.

If you poke me too hard, I will bleed. If you say mean things to me, I will cry. I’m not hard. I am a soft person and my heart aches just from opening my eyes in the morning.

And if you squeeze me, do you know what will happen? A birthday party is going to shoot out of my ears like confetti. It’s just who I am!

And because He is good, I fully believe that God will use all of these things to craft the adults that He intends my children to become.

I don’t want to lazily rest in my preciousness. There is a LOT of room for growth here, and through voices like Jen’s (and, okay, my husband’s), I have learned to not rush in and scoop up a crying child every single time they fall. (Even though I am dying to!). I have learned the difference between celebrating God for creating the child rather than making an idol out of the child. I have learned to very carefully toe the line between raising entitled, narcissistic kids and grateful, God-worshiping kids.

And so I will be the first to admit that, if a snowflake indulges completely in her snowflakiness, she can totally handicap her kids! THIS is the point Jen was making, and I have tucked it away to guide me. Listening to the un-precious ones has kept me from becoming a slave to my natural tendencies.

But there is a balance that keeps me from despair.

There is a place for my sort of oozy tenderness. There is a use for the sentimental creativity. There is maybe even an outlet for time capsules! We need more softness in this scary world, don’t you think?

And that’s where the precious ones can shine.

That was a lot of talking, but I share all of that to say this: if you, as a mama, are being true to the daily leading of the Spirit and are finding your parenting manual in the living and active Word of God, are your kids going to be okay?

Even if you have themed birthday parties?

Even if you still slather your 8-year old in baby lotion after his bath? (What? Did I just say that out loud?)

Even if you do photo shoots and start planning for holiday wardrobes months in advance?

You betcha.

It takes all sorts of mamas to make the world go round, and even if we never line up on the tertiary subjects, we can relax in our common anchor, the most important thing in the motherhood equation, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If we as precious moms have that, if our earnestness is based on a heart that adores children and this magical season of life, if our over-the-topness springs forth from a heart that finds the sanctify of human life something that starts at home, if we are humble enough to listen and grow and change, then we’ve got nothing to worry about.

Let’s listen closely to the wizened voices of the ones who have blazed the path for us and draw from their unique strengths and add their wisdom to our arsenals…

but let’s also never be ashamed to be the sort of precious that God created us to be.

Pinterest is counting on us.

~

Three cheers today for all moms, and I hope this brings relief to any readers who needed it. These motherhood topics can be so very sensitive, so please use extra discretion in your comments! I see all comments, but only those that lead to edification will be published. Thank you for visiting, and if you’d like to receive almost-daily updates and stories from Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook!

If you’ve never commented here and your comments are not going through, I am away from my computer. I’ll try to have everything moderated by tonight! Many thanks!

A Medieval Birthday Party

I don’t know what you did last weekend, but my son…

my firstborn…

my BABY!!!…

turned 8.

If you’ve been on the internet long, you know that it is a thing for moms to get on Facebook and bemoan the passing of another year of their child’s life and to say cliche things like “Where did the time go??” and “Time flies!!” but, do you know why this is so?

BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.

My baby was…a baby!…just yesterday and then I did ring-around-the-rosies with him three times and when I stood up from “we all fall down” and shook my head around a little bit (I dizzy very easily), he was EIGHT.

I can’t make sense of it, and so I do the only thing I can to help me process the phenomenon, and I throw a ridiculous party.

Birthday parties help my mind to stop for a week or two and memorialize what is passing by me so very quickly; in the blur of moments and days, I thrust my hand forward and I grab my child by the shirt collar and I plop them down at a party table with pictures and candles and all the love my heart can manage to serve up in one measly day.

My kids love their parties, but someday they are going to realize that these parties were actually for ME! 

And although this year’s theme wasn’t my first choice, it turned out to be really special and left me full of all kinds of warm and happy feelings.

You see, Gid has wanted a “knight” party for a couple of years now, and after my husband gave me a little bit of guidance on the subject (I was pulling for a different theme and Gideon was obviously trying to make me happy), I decided to go for it, regardless of the fact that the medieval wasn’t really calling to me.

But that’s okay, because moms are in the business of dying-to-themselves, and I eventually found GREAT JOY in giving Gid this party of his dreams.

Of course, it really helped that he and his cousin, Anna (who will turn 8 on April 2) requested to have this party together, adding a fun “princess” factor to the affair, and more importantly, ensuring that the most important element to ANY party would be by my side, and I speak, of course, of my sister-in-law, Amy.

In one of our many back-and-forth e-mails about this shared celebration, I declared to her that “I am never doing a party without you again” and I’m going to do my best to stand by that statement. Amy did her thing an hour away, I did mine and, as usual, it all merged together at my mom’s house in perfect unison.

And since my “thing” was to brainstorm, make the Pinterest board, and gather up decorations and food, I stopped in at Reasor’s the day before the party and let the grocery store tell me what I needed to buy.

“Speak to me, grocery store,” I said. “Present to me the medieval…”

This was a bad idea, because as we all know, grocery stores just want to make money – they don’t really care about you! – and spend money I did. Not a ton of money, mind you, but enough to make me start sweating just a little.

My list grew bigger and bigger as I shopped, but the GOOD thing about this is that, by the time I left Reasor’s, the majority of our party’s food AND decor had been procured, and it had only taken me about thirty minutes.

When you stick with the rustic side of party-throwing and stay away from birthday party companies where paper products and decorations abound, your party finds a way to come to life through the beauty of simple and timeless components.

Like pewter and radishes.

(Radishes were not initially on my list, but they sort of MADE the party. You’ll see for yourself soon).

Anyhow, I might have gotten a little carried away in the produce aisle, but HOW PRETTY are these colors?

Bam.

Medieval. IMG_3280 Now, before we move on, I feel like it is important for you to see the party site before the party. Which, sorry, leads me to a long story…

Our plan was to have our medieval celebration down at the pavilion by the creek where we have most of our parties. It’s in the woods, it’s beautiful, it makes the perfect backdrop to just about everything, and we all love it there.

But I have VERY BAD BREAKING NEWS.

It was pouring down rain from morning till night on the day of our party.

And it was chilly.

And here’s yet another reason I love Amy: rather than encouraging me to move the party indoors as common sense would dictate, she supported me in my determination to squeeze our big outdoor party onto the only outdoor space that wasn’t wet, which was my parent’s tiny front porch.

“There’s stone and rock in the background,” I told her over the phone, “and more importantly…”

“…good lighting,” Amy finished for me.

Good lighting is everything, especially if you are like us and like to “go” to your own parties well after you’ve hosted them, when children are tucked into bed and your captured memories are waiting to be viewed and edited on your computer.

So here’s the new party site, and you’ll laugh when you see how we had to squish our 9 children into this area. Our five-year-olds, wedged between the table and the rock wall, barely had room to exhale.

Thankfully, they think we’re normal, so they just play right along, even if rain is pouring just past the edge of the porch that shelters them. Rain is quite medieval, you know. Children would have been wet and cold in a real medieval village. We’re just being accurate.

ALLLLL that to say, this is the porch the kids saw when they came to Grandmother’s house earlier that afternoon. IMG_3290 And, presto chango…

bippety boppety boo…

after a couple of movies in Grandmother’s bedroom…

the next time they came outside…

this is what the porch looked like!!! IMG_3310 Squeal! I love parties! I love surprises!

And finally? After a couple of years or snubbing them? I LOVE KNIGHT PARTIES!!! I’ll break down the menu and details in a bit, but here are a few pictures of the set-up… IMG_3314 IMG_3342 IMG_3317 IMG_3312 Now how about some details?

For the main course of our meal, our plan was to have a giant, roasted turkey. My brother, Jerry, is a master at smoking foods on his Big Green Egg, and he agreed to contribute the bird.

HOWEVER.

On the morning of the party, his smoker BROKE.

BEFORE he could cook the turkey.

We didn’t know what to do, but Jerry had the genius idea to pick up some rotisserie chickens at Wal-Mart. I would never have thought of that, and even though it pains me, I have to thank my brother for saving the party.

Even though his smoker was the one that almost ruined it.

Now that I think of it, this might have been his plan all along. IMG_3300 We boiled some little golden potatoes for this dish (some pricey little boogers that called to me at Reasor’s) and, after laying down a bed of radish greens next to the chicken, we surrounded the chicken with potatoes and (raw) radishes, not because this is actually a recipe and not because we actually ate all of it together, but because it looked AWESOME.

If you ever throw a medieval party, please, do yourself a favor and let this be your main course. Too easy! IMG_3293 Did I say that I got carried away in the produce aisle at Reasor’s? Because I also got carried away in the bakery, coming home with two round loaves of pumpernickle, two round loaves of sourdough, a loaf of cranberry walnut bread and twelve, giant wheat rolls. IMG_3294 And pears! Glorious pears!

No one ate the brown pears, but…sigh…don’t they look so medieval? Love. IMG_3299 I also got carried away in the cheese section of the grocery store, but that’s okay, because it all tasted so very Gouda. IMG_3298 Grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. We STILL have grapes. This was just 1/4 of the grapes I bought. IMG_3301 Now, another reason our parties come together easily and for little cost is because my mom has some surprisingly random things on hand, like the red goblets and the silver serving pieces and, I don’t know, six little pewter bowls, perfect for holding grapes!!!

Do you have little, pewter bowls hidden away in some forgotten cabinet?

I don’t.

Mom does. IMG_3296 And this is an idea I got off of Pinterest, Pepperidge Farm’s Chessmen cookies. Brilliant! IMG_3302 For the flowers, I spent a goodly amount of time amongst the selection at Reasor’s, finding a mix of bouquets that would draw all of our colors together. Hot pink, red, lavender and purple did just the trick, and made Anna’s seat of honor especially lovely and fit for a queen. IMG_3305 This next idea was also gathered from Pinterest. If I’m the grocery store part of the party, Amy is the craft part, and she whipped these awesome chair-backers up from felt she already had at her house. IMG_3306 She also made the portcullis you see here, fashioned out of duct tape.

I hate messing with duct tape almost as much as I hate doing crafts. I LOVE Amy, for happily taking on these aspects of party life. (I also love her new baby, Jude). IMG_3515 And now…

NOW…

I present to you the highlight of our party, the pièce de résistance, the “sword in the stone” birthday cake that our friend, Tammy, made IN HER HOME KITCHEN.

Tammy graduated high school with me and lives right down the street in a normal house that does not, as far as I know, have a magical kitchen, and so I can’t fathom how she can do this when I can barely get the icing on a cupcake. She amazes me. Check out this cake!!! IMG_3334 Aside from a couple of bottles of sparkling grape juice (with the labels torn off) and a pewter pitcher of water, this was it!

Easy.

Possibly cost-effective (if you don’t buy enough fruit for a vegetarian army and enough cheese for a ship full of mice).

FUN.

Now let’s send in the clowns! We let Gideon and Anna come outside first. I’ll share more on their costumes later, but right now I just need you to understand that, to get these pictures, Amy and I had to be in the yard, in the rain, sloshing through mud from one side of the porch to the other. I couldn’t stop laughing about the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

But the kids LOVED it and they couldn’t believe the new and improved porch. It was like stepping back in time! IMG_3323 IMG_3324 IMG_3325 IMG_3338 IMG_3340 Now. We couldn’t let Gid and Anna dress up in costumes and have the rest of us in jeans and sneakers, amiright?

There was a time a couple of weeks before the party when I was dreaming big and searching at Amazon for medieval costumes for all of us, but when it came down to it, everything we wore to this party was something we already owned or something the kids decided to buy with their own money.

I was especially proud of the wizard costume my husband came up with when he was at his office on the day of the party. He borrowed a baptism robe from the baptistry, he made a staff out of a big stick and a creepy animal skull that Gid’s Granddaddy gave him one day, he painted streaks on his face with shoe black, and he wore jewels on every finger that he bought himself at Dollar General.

This Papa loves his son, for sure, and I love him all the more for it. IMG_3304 When it came to my outfit for the party, I didn’t know WHAT I was going to wear and kept leaving my closet empty-handed…

until, that is, Gideon requested that I dress as a witch.

Done. If you remember, I happened to have a Darth Vader robe in the attic, and my hair is very bushy, especially in the rain. I took a special spooky picture just for Gid. IMG_3588 My niece, Abigail, used her own money to buy this super-cute wizard costume. IMG_3361 When the party was over, we sneaked outside for a more “organic” wizard picture. This girl is growing up so fast. We’re nearing preteen years, so it thrills me that she still likes our kiddy parties. IMG_3603 My daughter, Rebekah, completely balked on the costume I dug out of dress-up our box for her, the “Brave” Merida costume she got two Christmases ago and a snowy, white cape.

She wanted to wear her very favorite “pink dress”, the one that she has worn to almost every party and holiday since 2013, but I stood firm, and when she saw the pictures, she gasped and said “I DO look like a true princess!”

“And what can you learn from that?” I asked her.

“What?” she asked, confused.

“You need to ALWAYS TRUST MOMMY with your wardrobe” I said.

She laughed.

I wasn’t joking. IMG_3347 IMG_3351 And Betsie.

I can’t even.

She wore her “Frozen” Anna-inspired dress from Little Adventures, plus a velvet cloak that was given to us by a friend, and topped it with my own metal flower headband from Anthropologie.

Looking at the pictures, Rebekah said of her little sister, “She looks just like a little meadow princess!” I agree. IMG_3358

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All the girls felt especially beautiful because their Grandmother gave them LIPSTICK. Oh the glamour! IMG_3356 We failed to get a good picture of my niece, Kate, outside in her princess costume (she spent most of the party squished against a wall), but here’s one from before the party. I’m jealous because I ALWAYS wanted a hat like that when I was a little girl.

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Young Abel made the cutest little knight, donning a tunic that his mommy made out of a pillowcase! He is also wearing a fun dragon cloak that captured the fancy of everyone at the party.

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And then there was the squishiest, cutest dragon in all the kingdom, Little Shep. His costume belonged to Gideon many moons ago, from the after-Halloween sale at Pottery Barn Kids. IMG_3372 Now, let the party begin! You don’t expect me to caption all of the following photos, do you? Good. I knew I liked you. IMG_3365 IMG_3390 IMG_3392 IMG_3396

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IMG_3406 IMG_3411 After everyone had received their drink, my husband came outside to bless the meal. There were some theatrics involved… IMG_3415 but what I especially loved was noticing the little princesses to the right with their hands clasped in prayer.

Mayhap they are praying for the conversion of all of the wizards and witches at the party, which most assuredly happened. ‘Twas the beginning of a great revival. IMG_3422 IMG_3426   IMG_3423 Moving on, would you like to know a little trick I have?

At some point in every party, I tell the kids to laugh so we can take a happy picture. It’s not a FAKE picture, because there HAS been laughter all throughout the party. I’m just making sure that we can prove it! IMG_3443 The next hour or so was dedicated to a leisurely supper outside, pretending to be medieval.

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The young king here was obsessed with blowing this candle out. His mother was obsessed with keeping it lit. IMG_3471 Standing room only on this side of the porch, but Betsie managed to steal a barstool.

If she had tipped back her weight at all, she would have fallen completely off the porch. But the lighting was good, so, there’s that. IMG_3481 Here’s the birthday girl, glowing with girlhood and joy. Methinks she takes my breath away. IMG_3493   Wanna hear something funny?

The day after the party, when I asked Gideon what his favorite thing about the day was, he said, “the radishes”.

I had lost count of how many he ate, but when he burped in my face, I realized that it was exactly twelve.

Kings can be so boorish. IMG_3507 IMG_3517 My nephew, Abel, liked the pears. (I like Abel). IMG_3522 At some point, I got a scary picture of Gid holding his Papa’s weird staff. He thought it was awesome, and I guess I can see his point. If you’re a boy. IMG_3536 Here’s something else funny. Amy told me to peek into the kitchen to see how my daddy was eating. Poor guy.

We took his table.

His chairs.

His peace and quiet.

He’s used to it, I think. :) IMG_3518 After playing around a bit…

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we took a few more staged pictures before moving into the warm house. Here is Gid with the magical cake… IMG_3542 And Anna and the cake… IMG_3551 And finally, the entire merry group. IMG_3576 When the house was fast asleep later that night and I was able to take the time to look at each face in the photo, my throbbing feet did a little happy dance… IMG_3582

I can’t imagine now why I ever had a problem with the idea of hosting a medieval party. Because they’re obviously the BEST.

Happy birthday, Anna and Gideon! I wish you both a future filled with joy and fellowship and feasting.

And lots and lots of radishes.

~

Stay tuned for Part Two, a blog post completely dedicated to the products and costumes featured in this party!

The Late-night Song of a Mother Sparrow

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“Everyone else is asleep,” Rebekah said, her long, golden ponytail draped over her right shoulder. “Can you come cover me up?”

It had been a special movie night upstairs and, after a long and tiresome day, Gideon and Betsie had fallen asleep early.

Rebekah’s cornflower blue eyes burned a hole in me, and I felt that familiar tug in my heart that I had better move, this time out of my cozy and warm chair, and take an opportunity to minister to one of my children.

How often is it that I have the luxury to love on one child without the others there to ask for reciprocation?

“Do that to me!” and “It’s my turn!” are, after all, some of the most-used phrases in our home.

And besides all that, it had been a rough day. My patience was down to the very last thread by the time my husband came home from work, and I was not proud of the fluctuations that had taken place in my actions throughout a day of testing on the homefront.

And so, ignoring the ache in my feet and the lazy in my bones, I resolutely set aside my computer, I took her by the hand and we walked upstairs together.

A “fresh start”, even though it was nearing ten o’ clock.

I had just remarked to her an hour before how tall she is becoming. She’ll be six in June, but it has been a trademark characteristic of this beloved second child to always seem much older than she is, both in build and manner. She looks seven, all of a sudden! And so it made me very happy, as we made our way upstairs, to note how small her hand still feels in mine.

We padded quietly on bare feet to her bed, being careful not to disrupt her snoozing siblings.

She laid noiselessly down on her pink, floral sheets, and I was picking up her old, threadbare quilt to cover her up when I felt that tug again.

She must have felt it, too, because the words were coming out of her mouth as my heart was already saying “yes”.

“Lay with me?” she asked. “I love it when you lay down with me.”

I smiled and nodded and, lifting the quilt higher, I slid in beside her before letting the blanket fall down over us both.

She immediately claimed my left arm and laid it across her chest.

“Why do I love this arm so much?” she laughed, holding it close like she always does.

I laughed with her, feeling more useful and important than I had the entire day over.

“Will you tell me some stories about when I was little?” she asked, blinking at me pleadingly.

It has become a favorite pasttime for all of our children, backing up the advice I have read in so many parenting and educating books. Children love to hear stories about their families and themselves, the books say, and I am forever racking my brain to come up with one that they haven’t yet heard.

I hesitated, trying to think of a really good one.

“Just talk,” she instructed me. “Tell me…anything! About when I was a baby!”

And so I started at the very beginning. How I felt when I found out she was a girl. How I picked her name one morning in Sunday School class. How she was weeks past her due date. How, from the very beginning, she has brought comfort and help to our family. How she spent her first six months of life, staring at me, waiting for my eyes to see her so she could convey her love through smiles and giggles. How she began to take command at a very young age, keeping everyone, including the grocery store, in order.

“Was I everything you wanted?” she asked, eyes gleaming.

“No,” I told her, honestly. “You were everything I didn’t even know I wanted. You were everything I needed.”

Her expression lit with satisfaction, and I knew she understood the sentiment I was trying to convey. But then…Rebekah has always understood. Before she could speak…before she was “old enough”…I knew that she knew and I knew what she was trying to tell me.

It is a gift of hers, I think, to understand, and one that reaches me in deep places. I think it might even keep me going sometimes.

I told her all the stories I could think of, some that made her smile contentedly, some that made her throw her head back and scrunch up her eyes with my favorite belly laugh.

And then our conversation eventually turned to Him.

“I just hope,” I whispered, “that you will always, always follow God through His Word, Rebekah. This world is so confusing and people have so many ideas about who God is and what is right and wrong, but even when life seems scary and you don’t know what to do or what to believe, you can trust Him.”

“And God always has a plan,” she murmured, gazing right through me with her powerful eyes.

And then the privacy and comfort of the nursery invited us into a sacred conversation.

Secret fears were shared, fears that I didn’t even know she had. I will keep them just for her, safe in my heart and in my prayers, but what had begun as a routine tucking-in was turning into something so beautifully holy and reverent, casting ridicule on my earlier reluctance to rise from my silly chair in front of a screen.

These are the moments worth living for, the ones where you are living for someone else.

Will I ever remember that up-front, without coercion? 

“God will take care of me, won’t He?” she finished, voice quavering.

The Spirit was kind to my speechless brain, and led me quickly to the simple food she needed…

“Do you see the lilies of the field?” I asked. “Does God take care of them?”

She nodded, lips pursed.

“The birds of the air?” I continued. “Does God care for them?”

She nodded again, a tiny smile playing at one corner of her mouth.

“Then how much more will He take care of you?” I smiled, feeling that same truth bringing comfort to my faithless heart. “You can believe that, Rebekah. God doesn’t promise that life will be easy. Sad things might happen, scary things might happen, but you must ALWAYS keep these two things close to your heart: God is in control and God is good.”

She nodded a final time, visibly comforted by the mantra her Papa taught me many years ago. I say it all the time: God is in control and God is good. It answers every question and assuages every fear.

Our arms were intertwined by now as we laid side by side, and I took her left hand in mine.

“I know a song that might help you remember what we talked about tonight,” I said. “Would you like to hear it?”

She nodded, and I began to sing the hymn, long forgotten, but divinely remembered on this special night with my young daughter, and as I sang, I praised my Father who fathers and mothers the ones I love better than I ever could.

With His voice in my ear and by His guidance and grace, I am confident that they will know Him and love Him…

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart feel lonely, and long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

I sing because I’m happy

I sing because I’m free

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.*

And just like that, before I could even make it to the second verse, her hand grew slack in mine and her heavy breathing told me she had fallen asleep, ushered into slumber by a voice that, forty-five minutes before, felt too tired to make a peep and too comfortable to go upstairs.

Ah, I am a broken mess of a woman.

So needy. So weak.

So straying. So self-interested.

But His eye is on the mother sparrow, too, and by His grace – and His grace ALONE – I sing.

Happy in Jesus.

Free from myself.

~

*His Eye is on the Sparrow by Civilla Martin

~

Thank you for visiting us today! If you would like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family on Facebook, click here.

Grandmother’s Valentine Tea Time…and Supper…and Sleepover…and Breakfast

Many of you know my mom by now.

Superhero.

Perpetual (voluntary) servant.

Holiday magician.

And what I love most about her ability to hostess with the mostess is the ease with which she shows hospitality.

Hospitality is her gift. It oozes from her fingertips. It wafts from the open windows of her living room.

And it doesn’t matter if the person she is serving is eighty-eight years old or a prince or a pauper or her 33-year old daughter or a one-year old who has no idea what is going on…

she loves and she serves and she gifts and she ministers and she parties.

How blessed are the children in her life who are growing up under her grandmotherly wings, and my prayer is that her gifts will live on and multiply in the lives of her grandchildren, bringing light and hope and comfort to a world that needs all of the above.

On Valentine Eve, I packed up the last of our things at the house, I threw my finally finished sugar cookie valentines into cellophane bags, and I gave her a quick call to see if we were still on schedule for this year’s “homeschool Valentine party”.

“Come on out anytime! But, now…don’t expect much…” she warned me. “I didn’t go ‘all out’ this year.”

I snorted, used to this sort of humility from her, knowing full-well that her party would be off the chain.

Which it totally was.

~

We happily left behind the Valentine catastrophe that was our own home…

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And we headed to the country where Grandmother and cousins and parties and rest and relaxation were waiting for us with anticipation

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The children were forbidden to enter the party place and had to wait on the porch, but I snuck in to get a few pictures before the chaos descended.

How did she describe this party, again?

“Not much”?

HA!

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I DO know what she was trying to say with the “not much” stuff, though. Rather than a big meal and desserts and party games like we’ve done in the past, this year we decided on a simple tea-time party, with cake and ice cream only and lots of free play-time for the kids. 

The decorations consisted mostly of things the kids could take home: a giftbag of fun candy for each child, a Valentine activity book under their plate, a small mason jar filled with roses and then a special wrapped gift from Grandmother. The girls received a silver necklace with a heart charm, the littlest children received various toys and whatnots and Gideon got his very own tortoise comb in a leather case that is embossed with the words “Hey, Slick!” (I die).

Moving on…

Party time!!!

The kids were instructed to line up on the porch and await further instructions.

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Heeeerrrre’s, Grandmother! Hi, Grandmother! You’re beautiful and amazing and we’d be lost without you!! Just in case you didn’t know that!!

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Time to come in!

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I love their happy faces. These kids word hard in school, and it is so fun to take a day off for some pampering and celebrating.

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Sigh. Is there anyplace more satisfying in the world than a familiar table with the ones you feel at ease with?

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I honestly don’t think there is.

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Not surprisingly, the kids tore into their presents first.

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Here, Betsie shows Abel how to work his new train whistle.

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and then the candy was tackled! There was some good stuff in those bags. (I know, because I stole some when the kids weren’t looking)…

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And then we dove in to the dessert. There was pink milk for drinking…

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ice cream hearts with sprinkles for eating…

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and enough chocolate cake to keep our tummies happy until suppertime.

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And one of my favorite things about these parties is that she never forgets the mamas!

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But the highlight of the party turned out to be, without a doubt, the activity books mom bought for each child. They worked on these books all evening long, from the 3-year old to the 10-year old. You never know what’s going to strike a chord with little people, do you? I’ll share a link to these books at the bottom of this post. If I remember.

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And then we were DONE!

As beautiful as the pre-party table was, I am training my eye to see the beauty in the aftermath, as well. Good things happened here, even though it looks like a disaster zone.

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After dessert, the kids ran around and exchanged the valentines they had made for each other. It was a mad-house! And so fun to watch! So fun that I forgot to take a picture! But here’s Abigail with her valentine from Gid.

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By the way, I told my friends that I should get a medal for making it through homemade valentines with Betsie this year. Hours. It took hours.

She had very particular things she wanted me to write on each card, most of which were very obvious, such as “Dear Gabbie, I am making you a valentine card. I am bringing it to you at church tomorrow. Valentine’s Day is this week…” and so on and so forth.

But this one was my very favorite.

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I don’t know why, but that just tickled me. “I am so happy for you”.

Anyway, after the great valentine exchange, we went outside for a few group pictures before everyone got changed for the next phase of the party. 

I could not love these people more if I tried. Not possible.

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(the next is my new favorite picture of Sheppy, haha!)

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So on to the “next phase of the party”…

this was my dad’s doing, and so typical of his idea of a fun time. The kids were directed to throw on some play clothes and work boots, and off they went to do some labor, loading up their Granddaddy’s backhoe with rocks. :)

 But I think they had as much fun doing this as they did partying. And so I love the way this Valentine celebration showcased the personalities and preferences of my mama and daddy so well.

By the way, we did not purposefully arrange the kids into a heart shape in the next picture. It just happened. Valentine’s Day is powerful like that.

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The kids were MOST thrilled when, returning back to the house after their “job”, their Granddaddy blessed them with a wage! They lined up, oldest to youngest, and closed their eyes while he rummaged through his wallet for their earnings.

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Betsie was so happy with her 3 dollars.

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And the rest of the evening was just spent relaxing outside…

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A couple of hours later, with the sun setting in the distance, we finally wandered back into the house.

The kids played with their valentines…

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and then there was a pretty epic game of hide-and-seek.

It did a little somethin’ to my heart to see this new generation hide in all the best spots my brothers and I used when we were little.

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We supped together and finally, to wrap up the evening, we gathered around in our pajamas to watch one of the best animated love stories of all time, “Beauty and the Beast.”

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Close to midnight, after lots of giggling and switching beds and getting situated, the last child fell asleep and I turned off the lamp.

Nestled up on one of the couches with my firstborn, I could hear the peaceful breathing (and a few light snores!) of seven beloved children, and I thought my heart was going to explode.

Valentine’s Day sure takes on a new spin when there are children in your midst, does it not?

FAR too early, morning came, and seven alarm clocks roused me from my sleep.

We had a pancake breakfast…

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and just like that, Amy and her kiddos were loaded up and headed back home.

And we were so very sad.

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It was the best “not much” party we’ve ever been treated to, and we can’t WAIT to see what Grandmother has up her sleeve come Easter. <3

~

Special thanks to my mama for another great party. You are an integral part of our homeschooling operation, and we are so, so grateful.

And if you are interested in the activity books for next year’s Valentine’s Day, you can find them by clicking on the picture below.

The Decision that Led Me Back to Them

We’ve all heard the advice, and many of us have shared it…

Know your limitations.

“No” is the most important word you’ll ever learn to use.

You can do anything but you can’t do everything.

I certainly have.

In fact, I’m really great at being lippy about all the things I will do and won’t do and how I will or won’t do them and how I will stand firm on my resolutions and such as and so forth.

But then, just recently, a real-life opportunity actually arose for me, and I was blinded. Stunned into forgetfulness. Stupefied by the option in front of me.

A wonderful church in my husband’s old stomping ground asked me to come and speak to them. Me! Silly ol’ Mrs. Gore, a stay-at-home nobody in tiny-town Oklahoma.

It was not my first request to speak to a group of women, but it was my first when I was not pregnant, nursing, hot flashing or insane.

In other words, this was one I could actually consider.

And, all of a sudden, in the face of this request, all of my lip service about maintaining my schedule and being content to devote my life to the homefront flew right out the window.

Granted, my immediate reaction was a resounding “NO WAY!”, but this was quickly followed by a nudge to at least pray about it.

And in the weeks that followed, my internal responses were all across the board….

I didn’t want to, not at all.

I wanted to, so much.

I didn’t want to for spiritual reasons.

I did want to for spiritual reasons.

I didn’t want to for sinful reasons.

I did want to for sinful reasons.

There were good things at play, for sure. I wanted to obey God in my decision, first and foremost. I wanted to help the Church, with a passion. I wanted to meet some of the precious readers who have so deeply encouraged me in my writing and in my personal life. I wanted to see some of the faces of sisters that I would be spending eternity with and know their names and hear their stories. Golly, I wanted to have a morning with grown-ups and free food!

But, as ever, in the nuanced heart of a sinful-but-God-loving woman, there were also intentions in motion that, even though I was feeling timid at the thought of public speaking after so many years away from the microphone, frightened me more than stage-fright ever could…

you, see, if I’m being honest, there is this deep and hidden part of me that still sometimes wants to see how far this ship will sail.

If I go, perhaps I can get more blog followers.

It will be good for my chances at publication if I have more “fans”.

And…they want to pay me??? I could make real money for my family without having to make granola??

Maybe I could make a career out of this. Who knows?! The sky’s the limit!

And the only thing that was clear in the face of all of these thoughts and questions is that I did not know what to do.

I so adore Augustine’s famous quotation: “Love God and do as you please”. But sometimes, our hearts are so complicated that we’re not even sure if we’re purely loving God, nor are we sure what would please us!

And so I prayed.

For weeks, I prayed.

And this very week, when I was still squirming from the indecisiveness of my decision, with one day left to give my answer, I used another great tool that God has given the Church and I sought advice from many trusted and God-fearing friends.

Well, God is faithful, and before the night was up, I had my answer.

This time? During this season in my life? I was going to need to decline.

There were many factors that contributed to my decision, but the words that truly sealed the deal actually came from an Ann Voskamp article that was sent to me by a dear friend (to read it, click here).

I clicked on the link, I began to read, and through the words and example of this far-away sister in the faith, all of the swirling and tumbling thoughts that I hadn’t even realized were captivating me began to subside, the fog of all of my hidden and unhidden motivations and desires cleared, and I was set free.

Not free from this church and the opportunity to speak to them – how I LONG, in the purest regions of my heart, to spend a morning with these sisters and talk to them about all the amazing things that God has done in my life!

But free from myself.

Free from my drive and ambition.

Free to be who God has made me to be during this season of my life.

Free to release the pressure of trying to build, trying to maintain, trying to fuel the machine of my own industry and creativity.

Free to rest in the sweet and joyful pursuit of the hearts that have been entrusted to me, for now…

him.

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And him.

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And her.

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And her.

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And him.

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And so I’ve learned something big this month: God is sovereign even over the possibilities. 

How He grew me this month! I found Him in every step of this decision, illuminating aspirations in my heart that I thought were long ago mortified, tweaking my love for the Church, wooing my heart into even considering doing something out of my area of expertise for His glory, using the body to teach and advise me, but most importantly…

before the clock struck midnight on my deadline…

gifting me with a renewed contentment in my personal calling and a fresh purpose concerning what my life needs to be about.

Sometimes you forget how happy you are until something seemingly bigger and better comes ’round the bend. You wrestle with your heart in the dark for a bit, the haze finally lifts and you are reminded that it’s okay to choose the small stuff…

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and you wake up the next morning feeling like you could fly.

~

Shout-out to First Baptist, Choctaw, for extending such a gracious invitation for me to come and speak (even after I told you I might be the worst public speaker ever), and for allowing God to work in my heart through this process. You have been an important part of my sanctification and there will always be a special place in my heart for you!  As I told Daina, should I ever pursue the public speaking realm, you guys are at the top of the list. <3

A Lesson From Bud and June

Their story gripped me from the very beginning.

The headline itself, describing their plight, was full of enough foreboding to leave a pit of sorrow in my stomach for the rest of the day: Elderly Georgia Couple Missing After Trip to Buy Craigslist Car“.

And the minute that click of my mouse took me from headline to news source and my eyes locked upon their picture, a sob escaped from my mouth.

“God, no!” I begged, tears spilling onto my cheeks.

I jumped away from my computer, burned by my heart’s reaction to the faces featured in the photograph.

There was just something about their picture. The way he peered into the camera like many of the men I know and love. The way they were dressed. The kindness in their eyes.

They looked like my sort of people.

They looked like family.

And now that I am better acquainted with their story and who they are and what they believe, I am realizing that “family” is exactly what they are.

Bud and June Runion were devout believers, my brother and my sister in the faith, and I think my heart recognized that from the very start.

But on that first day, I could not bear to even imagine what they were enduring and I quickly walked away from my computer, trying desperately to shut out the sick dread and worry that threatened to overwhelm me on their behalf.

It didn’t work.

Bud and June and their well-being had made an immediate home in my heart and I could not get them out of my mind. Thoughts turned to prayers, and the prayers became a vigil, of sorts, as the weekend dragged by with countless wishes for good news from Georgia.

Therefore, by the time Monday’s sobering story emerged that their bodies had been located, I, a girl who has never even met them, wept in anguish.

The injustice of their end threatened to suffocate me, the empathy was crippling and, judging by the number of people who have been outraged and saddened by this story, I was not alone in my grief.

We hear sad stories about people we don’t know every single day, stories that cause us to stop for a moment and say a prayer for a family far away, stories that remind us this world is not perfect, stories that receive a moment of silence in an otherwise hectic day before we move on and forget…

but Bud and June’s story was different, wasn’t it?

It certainly was for me.

Their story cut deep, inexplicably reaching me at the level where groans reside, so that I can say with certainty that I am a different woman today than I was before I had heard of Bud and June Runion.

Their death changed something in me, flipping a switch that awakened something new in my heart, something so big and so mysterious that I have never fully grasped before, and it is simply this:

We were not made for this world.

This is not a new concept, nor is it one I am unfamiliar with.

I feel the stings from this truth all the time, I KNOW in my brain and from the Word of God that it is so, but here’s the thing, and if you have been a reader here for long, you’ll recognize this as a familiar struggle: if I’m being honest, “not being made for this world” is a reality that I have tried and tried and tried and tried to suppress, for my entire life.

I say I believe it on Sundays and after Bible readings, but then I go out and fall in love with this present world all over again, I stick my fingers in my ears, I put on my rose-colored glasses and I play pretend that I will never die and that my loved ones will never die and that some sort of heaven is surely attainable on this earth if I can just keep us all clustered together, safe, and well, and having pretty birthday parties…

and in this oh-so-human understanding, I continually shut out the eternal aspects of my soul, along with my purpose for even being on this earth in the first place.

It is the worst kind of ignorance, because it is an ignorance that knows better.

But Bud and June’s story has been the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

These two were good people. Family people. Godly people. And that their life could end in a manner that so causes the sympathetic human heart to writhe in distress leaves me with only one conclusion, obliterating the lies that I have habitually told myself and making the truth so irrefutably clear that I can no longer deny it:

Any attempt I make to set up a kingdom on this passing earth, and any avenue that I pour my life into, and any purpose that I attach my hope to OTHER THAN THE PURE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST is nothing but a fool’s errand.

It will disappoint. It will shatter. It will wither.

And this heaven that I’ve been searching for, this satisfaction that evades, this safety that I crave like one parched and panting will ever and only be found when I line myself completely up in the Word of God and lose myself in a life lived for His glory.

The farce has been exhausting to uphold, and though this journey toward truth has been excruciating on my soul, I can sense that uncharted levels of joy and peace are finally on the horizon.

I believe with all of my heart that God was not missing on the day that Bud and June did not come home.

He is always working, telling stories that we, in our humanness, cannot begin to understand, and though we see through a mirror dimly, stories like Bud and June’s remind us to at least start asking questions and begging for sight.

I have been begging like never before for sight. And I am therefore convinced that if the surveyors of Bud and June’s story walk away from this sad newsweek simply striving to “be more careful” and to avoid entrapment…

or only with a fresh resolve to “cherish each moment” while our time on earth is at hand…

that we are completely missing the point.

The point is that we are dying.

Every single day, we are dying.

And the only hope for salvation is the truth that Bud and June were believing in well before their time on earth was done.

And so I want to ask you the questions today that I’ve been asking myself, questions that we should ask ourselves daily…

Where is your hope?

What are you believing in?

Are your actions and your practices matching meticulously up with your words?

It is time to stop trying to hold this present and seen life together by the flailing tips of our fingers and start asking the big questions, the ones that hurt to have answered, the ones that require hard things of us, the ones that result in a change of direction, a change of lordship.

It is time to look for truth.

I did not know Bud and June Runion on this earth, but I know their God. And as professing believers in Jesus Christ whose lives bore witness to their changed hearts, their faith has been made sight and they understand all things now. They have made it through the labor pains and have forgotten any of the sorrow or sadness that colored their life before (John 16). They realize now the things that are so difficult for us to grasp, that this life is a vapor and a shadow, that what we are experiencing now is a flicker compared to eternity, that the world to come is a million times better than the fallen world we inhabit now.

Knowing this, believing this, even though their story is heartbreakingly sad and incomprehensible, I sincerely don’t think Bud or June would want us to feel pity for them.

I don’t think they would use their last words to warn us about using Craigslist.

I don’t think they would say “live every day to its fullest because it could be your last.”

I don’t even think they would say “hug your family close tonight because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

I think they would say “repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

I am believing, with more fervency and resolve than ever before, and I am praying that my life will prove it.

~

To keep up with the family of Bud and June and to learn more about this amazing couple, visit their Facebook page. And if you would like to hear more about the gospel message of Jesus Christ, please click here.

Thank you for reading! With love and hope, Mrs. Gore

Dear Mama (an open letter to the woman who is considering abortion)

For the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this previously published blog post has been updated and revised.

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Dear Mama: an open letter to the woman who is considering abortion

I am not known as an earth-shaker.

I’m not a politician.

I’m not too terribly opinionated.

I’m certainly not argumentative.

Most of my words center around the things I see every day. I write about what I love. I write about the ordinary. The simple. The quiet.

But today…

I can’t stop thinking about you.

I don’t know you, but your story is heavy on my heart.

And since I don’t know who you are or where you live, I want to give you my words today and pray that they will find you, wherever you are.

I don’t know what has happened in your life that has brought you to this decision you’re trying to make.

Were you hurt?

Were you taken advantage of?

Were you simply not planning this?

Are you just not ready?

I have no idea, and I will not pretend that I can understand the pain or fear or panic that you are experiencing.

But there is one thing I do know.

Abortion is a lie.

It parades as this harmless act of grace, a helpful service that whispers “we can just pretend like this never happened”, but underneath the sterile facade is a grisly industry that ruthlessly preys on the most innocent and voiceless victims on the planet.

We can’t hear those baby’s cries as their lives are being snuffed out.

We can’t read their thoughts.

We can’t see their pain.

And under this seemingly enlightened guise of “women’s rights” we strip theirs completely away in the most epic display of bullying the world has ever known.

We, a great and liberated nation, who take so much pride in championing tolerance and in protecting freedom…

we throw our inconvenient children away.

I’m not going to share all the pro-life arguments with you in this letter. You’ve probably heard them already. And if you haven’t, you can read them all over the internet.

But here’s what it comes down to for me, today, and I hope it gives you courage…

This was my first baby, Gideon, when he was hidden in my womb…

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This is Gideon today.

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He is seven years old, with an imagination as big as the sky. He loves wearing costumes and drawing pencil sketches and playing tag. His eyes dance when he is happy and his soul is old and complex.

Gideon was real when he was in my tummy and he is real today.

This was Rebekah…

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This is Rebekah today.

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She is five, and the world has been a better place since the day of her birth. She cares about people, and she brings light and love to everything she touches. When she grows up she wants to be a nurse and an artist and a farmer.

Rebekah was real when she was in my tummy and she is real today.

This was Betsie…

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This is Betsie today.

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At the age of three, she is full of joy and energy, and when she laughs, your heart can’t help but smile. I feel like the luckiest person alive to watch her grow up, and I can’t imagine a day when she didn’t exist.

Betsie was real when she was in my tummy and she is real today.

This was Shepherd…

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This is Shepherd today.

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He is 16 months old, and is the sweetest boy I’ve ever known. And when he looks at me, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more loved in my entire life.

Shepherd was real when he was in my tummy and he is real today.

Before each of these children were born, they were just a fuzzy picture on a sonogram machine…

a “fetus”.

They were hidden in my stomach.

They were nameless and faceless.

They felt like a cramp.

And now, here they are, changing my life and changing the world.

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And the only difference between who they were then and who they are now is that they’ve grown older. Simple as that.

Oh, my. I know you’re scared…

I was scared to have a baby, too.

I know you don’t feel ready…

I honestly wasn’t ready, either.

You might be afraid of what you’re going to lose…

I was terrified to “lose myself”.

And you might simply be ambivalent.

But, regardless of what brought you to this point, you have a baby in your tummy.

A baby who is real. A baby who is alive.

A baby that will someday be a swaddled-up newborn, then a precious toddler, then an imaginative preschooler, then a beautiful big kid who is discovering the world…

a baby who will someday have the voice and the ability to show you that he or she has rights, too.

Until then, Mama, you are the only person on the planet who can protect your child.

Please, don’t believe the lie. There are so many options for you that do not include aborting your baby.

Choose life.

~

Because this is such a controversial and sensitive subject, comments will be tightly monitored.

Feel free to share, with gentleness, and if you are pregnant and need help, message me at my Facebook page. You are not alone, and that’s a promise.

Bath Poo. A True Story.

My baby had an “accident” in the bathtub yesterday, reminding me to finish this true life glimpse into the step-by-step process of recovering from bath poo. Proceed with caution, unless you have personally experienced the horror of bath poo, in which case, I offer you this piece of solidarity, with all my love.

~

When babies poop in the bathtub...

After missing your morning opportunity for a shower before your husband goes to work, you finally send the big kids upstairs to play at 10:00 a.m., you strip your rambunctious 1-year old down and start him a bath, and you quickly get in the walk-in shower right next to him.

During the first shampooing of your hair, right after your hair gets all sudsy and almost ready to rinse, you notice that the baby is being very still and that his face is slightly red.

Then you hear the grunting.

Oh, Lord,” you pray, “please let it be constipation. Just this one time? Just until later this afternoon, maybe? Pretty please??

Trusting that all will be well, you proceed with your sudsing, you begin to daydream a little about what needs to be done that day, and then you realize that your baby has stopped grunting and is playing in the water again.

Perfect,” you muse, happy that your constipation prayers have come true.

And that’s when you see the toy in his hands.

It’s brown.

Last time you checked, all of his bathtub toys were black-and-white penguins from McDonald’s Happy Meals.

“Ack!” you yell, throwing your hands up in panic, berating yourself for being so naively optimistic.

You venture closer to the bathtub and see that the little brown playtoy is one of many brown playtoys, some big, some small, some so exceedingly tiny that you know this is a code red situation. All bath-poops are bad, but some are REALLY bad.

You slick your shampoo-filled hair into a bun to give you a good headstart before the soap starts to drip into your eyes, you turn off your shower and you tiptoe as quickly-yet-carefully as you can to the side of the tub where you immediately grab the baby’s hands before surveying the nightmare.

Your attack plan presents itself without conscious thought and step one is definitely to get the baby out of the water. You grab him by the trunk and lift him out of the water…

now where are you supposed to put the little booger?

Standing right beside the tub will have to do.

“Stay here,” you say, pointing down at him like he is a puppy, knowing full well that he has no idea what you’re saying.

You berate yourself for only knowing how to say “more” and “milk” in baby sign language.

Step two is to go fishing. You grab the big, clear plastic cup that just happens to be nearby (thank you, Lord!) and start scooping the biggest pieces of poo out of the water so you can drain the tub, and the saddest thing, in your mind, is that you have done this before. Many, many times. With four children in your house, you’ve probably fished for poo at least twenty-five times in your life, which is funny because you didn’t know that poo fishing was a thing before you had kids.

Before long, the cup is getting too full of water to catch any more pieces. This is a real predicament.

Meanwhile, the baby has started wandering about on the tile floor behind you and you are so flustered by this and worried over his haphazard slipping and sliding that you just plunge into step three and start grabbing poo with your bare hands and tossing them quickly into the cup.

Now, with the added poo, the cup is really full of water and the only course of action is obviously to proceed to step four by quickly covering the top of the cup with one hand and draining all the excess water back into the tub, like you’re a human colander.

A bundle of poo is resting affectionately on your hand, which is just like you’d think it would be – SHOCKING AND SO GROSS – but soon the water is all gone and you can flip the cup back over.

The big cup of poo and nothing but poo.

(When you bought those pretty plastic cups at Target, you never dreamed they would be used for this purpose).

The shampoo has started to drip down onto your face now and is apparently running into your mouth because you can taste it. You sputter and spit into the tub and wipe the suds off of your forehead with your shoulder, all while holding a cup of poo.

The baby is still wobbling and falling and grinning his face off behind you. He hasn’t had this much fun since the day he emptied a giant bag of miniature M&M’s on the kitchen floor!

You finally get the last big piece of poo out of the water, and scrunching your nose, you plunge your arm into the littered water to pull the plug, sending any last tiny vestiges of ickiness down the drain.

Your baby has fallen on the tile now three times, but he’s still smiling, so you just go with it.

You dash to the cabinet above the bathroom toilet and grab the Lysol wipes.

You zip back to the tub, turn on the hand-held sprayer, and start washing down the sides and bottom of the tub before grabbing a huge wad of Lysol wipes and disinfecting the tub with the vigor of Rosie the Riveter.

During this cleaning frenzy, the baby has made his way to the toilet and is happily splashing in the water, but since you have one eye closed to block shampoo and you are freezing to death, and since you know he is about to receive the scrubbing of his life, and since you are SO close to being finished, you find this rather fortuitous as it is keeping him busy and he is no longer ice skating on the bathroom tile. But you still call out his name and tell him that “that is a no NO!“, just so he’ll know you heartily disapprove of his behavior.

You rinse off the disinfectant and you start a new bath for the baby.

While his bath fills up, you scrub his bottom with wet wipes and you vigorously wash his hands in the sink.

You return him to the bath before turning on the shower so you might rinse out the shampoo that has nearly dried into a meringue on top of your head.

Five seconds into your rinsing, however, the baby pulls the plug out of his bath and you have to hop over to put it back in place, scolding him while he blinks at you with his precious baby eyes.

This is clearly a fun game, and so he does it five more times, and your shower water gets less hot with every trip you make to the bathtub and back.

Finally, panting and frazzled, you finish your shower and while you are hurriedly drying off, you realize the big kids have wandered back downstairs and are hunting you down in the master bedroom.

Your oldest daughter is calling for you to tie the sash on her dress, your youngest daughter is jumping on your bed and you can hear your son’s voice drawing closer to the bathroom. You shriek at him not to come any closer because you’re drying off.

You frantically get dressed, and you realize there is still a big cup of poo sitting in the floor. You grab it, dump the offending contents in the potty, and flush it resolutely away.

Then, because the cup still looks rather disgusting, you rinse the cup in the toilet water to get the excess poo off so you can disinfect it in the sink and then put it in the dishwasher so you can throw it away and then burn it.

But first you have to get the baby out of the bathtub. He has drained the water again and keeps falling in the slippery tub and his lips are tinging blue from the cold. You set the cup down on the counter and turn to fetch him.

You wrap the little stinker in a towel, you take him to your bed, dry him, diaper him and dress him, all while chaos resumes in the master suite, with your entire litter present and talking and wiggling at one time.

And then, in the haze of the mayhem, you absentmindedly hear the sink water running, you hear one of your children say “ahhh…” in thirst-quenching relief, and you hear a plastic cup being set back down on the bathroom counter.

And…

scene. 

~

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Grey Photography

To keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook!

 

Kenneth and Virginia (Part Three).

Continued from Part Two

“When Virginia’s mind began to suffer and Alzheimer’s set in, I felt confused and hurt. ‘Why, God?’ I asked. ‘Why, after all this time and all their faithfulness to you and to each other, does it have to be like this for them in their last days?!’

It made no sense to me, and I was plagued by the questions that often assail me as a woman of weak faith…

Is God good?

Is God even real?

And, as such, are we completely wasting our lives here in this tiny church in this tiny town?

One Sunday afternoon with Kenneth would change everything.”

~

It was the visit of a lifetime.

Standing there in the guest bedroom of the home they had shared for over thirty years, I instinctively knew that I might never hear words like he was speaking again, I might never encourage a Christian brother in such an important way again, I might never be the recipient of such an enriching and humbling experience again…

Virginia had died just yesterday, his wife of 66 years.

In twelve short days, they would have celebrated their 67th.

And here we were in the sacred space where their lives had played out, cradling his heart and his memories with our ears.

The words just poured from his lips, and in every sentence, the love he had for her was palpable.

But then, it always had been.

Kenneth and Virginia.

For six-and-a-half decades, there had been no Virginia without Kenneth, and there had been no Kenneth without Virginia.

Married at a young age and never bearing any children, it had always just been him and her.

And “him and her” was such a beautiful thing to watch.

Approaching their driveway before that Sunday afternoon visit, I had taken a couple of deep breaths as I wondered how I could face one without the other. How long had I dreaded this day, spending many silly moments playing out the different scenarios of how their story on earth would end; as these daydreams always go, the only one that ever brought me any satisfaction was the one where they departed from this world at the exact same time.

But that hadn’t happened, and now, in the breadth of one second and in the rise and fall of one last breath, it was just Kenneth.

He greeted us into his home as cheerfully as he always had, hugging us, patting us on the back, asking about the kids…

but it didn’t take long to see that his world had shifted immeasurably.

Their entire home was a reflection of his devotion to her.

On the kitchen table, he had already neatly laid out everything he needed to take to the funeral home: a portrait of Virginia, the baby doll her mama and daddy had given her when she was two years old, and important papers and family histories.

On the counter nearby lay four notepads in a tidy row, scribbled upon with telephone numbers, dates and notes.

In the living room, her medical supplies were stacked in organized piles next to the wall, ready to return to the home health care nurses who had been stopping by every day for months.

“I’m sorry about this mess,” he apologized, gesturing to the notepads on the counter.

Discreetly, Mr. Gore and I looked at one another with amusement. If this was his idea of a mess, his skin would surely crawl upon entrance to our topsy-turvy house.

And then our conversation naturally turned to Virginia…

“God has just worked everything out perfect in our life,” Kenneth mused in his unique and peppy tone as we stood near the kitchen table. “It wasn’t always what we had planned, you know, but we shouldn’t have had those plans in the first place. Yes sir, He had it all perfect.”

His words, as usual, both put my heart at ease and pricked my ears to attention; the Spirit beckoned me to listen closely and to do whatever I could to follow in this man’s footsteps.

You see, as a wet-behind-the-ears minister’s wife who has spent more than four-fifths of her life petrified of death and all of its distant cousins, I was starving on that day to receive confirmation from my friend that life would go on.

I needed to hear him verify that God’s plan was good, even in his greatest sorrow.

My eyes, as they had been for these last fifteen years, were glued on him, and I was desperate to see that he meant the words he was saying.

And this is the very thing I received from Kenneth on the day after the love of his life departed.

As he recounted to us dear Virginia’s last moments, I was filled with a peace that can only be categorized as supernatural.

“I had her for a moment before she left,” he said, referring to her recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Though they had remained one of the most compatible and gentle married couples I have ever been around through her entire sickness, things had become very difficult near the end.

“She was looking at me and she couldn’t talk, you know, but her eyes were following me everywhere I went. I finally walked up close and touched her hair and said ‘Your hair looks real pretty today,’ and she just gave me this little smile. Right there at the corners of her mouth, you know, she smiled right at me. It was real cute”.

Her passing couldn’t have been easier, he said, and he was there beside her to the very end, holding her hand as she took her last breath.

“It was just so peaceful,” he kept saying, “it was perfect”.

“Perfect…” I mused.

That’s exactly what I had hoped to hear.

It was what I needed to hear.

And then we cried together.

God had been so good, but we were going to miss Virginia so very much.

~

And all of these moments and days, all of the sadness and the trials and the comings and the goings, and the church split, and the fallings out, and the hurt feelings, and the continual personal fight against bitterness, and the call to serve our home church, and the life we’ve built here since…

it all seemed to swirl together in a beautiful portrayal of meaning and purpose as I walked beside Kenneth to the front pew of the church we’ve attended together my entire life to lay sweet Virginia to rest.

“Have I been created for this moment?” I thought, my heart flooded with awe as my fingers grasped his arm. “Did God place me here, in this church, married to this pastor, so I might be a friend to this brother during his hour of greatest need?”

It was one of the most awe-inspiring, bowl-me-over instances of clarity I’ve ever experienced in my entire life as everything, finally, made sense. My love for senior citizens. My friendship with Ken and Virginia. My admiration for WWII vets. My obsession with yesteryear. My “old soul”. My marriage to Mr. Gore whom God would call to love the church I loved. My lifelong desire to be a part of this church. All those trips to Cracker Barrel. The parties. The love. The unity.

None of it was me.

None of it was just “my nature”.

None of it was a coincidence.

It had all been God, all along, and all for a beautiful purpose. And so I have seen it with my own eyes: God loves His Church and He takes care of it, even when it is flailing about and broken, even when it seems like a waste of time and effort, and even when it is so small it would never show up on a map.

And, oh! Our tiny, unimportant, unpopular church was abounding in beauty that day. Starting with a potluck lunch where the ladies truly outdid themselves, we feasted with this father of our congregation, filling up his belly with the best food in Oklahoma and filling up his soul with the tangible reminder that he would never be alone. There was laughter and there were memories and, most of all…

there was love.

And friends, it is without contestation that, anything I could have been in this life, any notoriety I might have achieved, any of my childish and fanciful dreams that could have possibly come true…

they paled in a ghostly comparison to my walk down the aisle with Kenneth.

Our brothers and sisters were seated and waiting for us as we stood at the back of the sanctuary with our arms intertwined.

“I hope I don’t fall down,” he confided.

“You’re going to do great,” I assured him.

He was nervous.

I was watchful and so sad and somehow joyful and my eyes were all his.

And then he returned my gaze.

“It’s an honor to have you here with me today. It’s what Virginia would have wanted,” he said. “We always thought of you as a daughter.”

“Believe me,” I quietly replied with a breaking voice, “I feel the exact same way”.

And then the music started to play, and we walked.

~

And here I am, several weeks later, still reeling from that moment.

Virginia’s loss is deeply felt.

While I am so happy to have Kenneth back among us every Sunday morning for worship, when I look at him, I see who is missing. My friend is now a widower, and the woman who defined half of him is no longer with us.

It’s like walking without legs.

Sitting without a chair.

He is handling his loss in his persistently chipper manner and has been a hero in my eyes, packing up his life, selling his house, moving to a retirement community and entering this uncharted chapter with all the pluck that you’d expect from a World War II veteran; in other words, I’ve seen with my own eyes that Kenneth is going to be okay.

But before the world moves on and Virginia’s memory fades like the pink carnations Kenneth gave me at her graveside service, I can’t help but feel compelled to send out a plea on behalf of my beloved friends.

For the churches that are floundering, for the congregations that are immersed in overwhelming conflict, for the members who feel restless and long to start somewhere fresh and new, please, before you take another step, stop for a minute and look around you.

I am by no means an expert on church polity, I am in no way blameless in my church’s messy past, and I would be a fool to pretend that these are simple matters that are easily resolved.

But none of that changes the fact that this body of believers is your life.

This is your family. The people in your pews, the Kenneths and the Virginias, they are as bound to you as your own flesh and blood and should be cherished as the infant who sleeps in the bed next to yours, the child who lives in the bedroom down the hall, the spouse who is curled up beside you, the mother who bore you, the father who raised you, and the brother and the sister who were your dearest and most lifelong companions.

Would we, the called-out ones, leave our flesh-and-blood children to find a family that suited us better?

Would we build a new house and take half of our kids with us and leave the other half with our spouse?

Would we allow tertiary matters of how we spend our free time and the type of music we prefer to rip our home in two, putting asunder what God has sacredly brought together?

Or would we battle it out? Would we compromise? Would we choose to love, even if we had to die in the process?

Would we find a way to make it work?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this: we have to start finding a way to make it work.

The American church is in peril and God cannot be amused by the way we have represented His gospel.

Looking back through the tangled maze of years in my home church, I see infinite beauty in our story and I see glorious hope rising out of the ashes, but those things only strengthen my resolve to share what I have had to learn the hard way: the world will know we belong to Christ not by our programs, not by our worship music, not by our doing all the things that we think must be done to be successful or doing away with all the things that we feel harbors our success…

but by our love for one another.

God used a little man and a little woman with snowy white hair to teach me that lesson, and it is my honor to pass it on to you today.

Learn from our mistakes. Weep with us. Pray for us, please. And then join us, in a Church where every life counts and where the family blood pulses through our veins so vibrantly that we would rather die than walk away from each other.

~

Grant Lord, that with Thy direction, “Love each other,” we comply 

Aiming with unfeigned affection thy love to exemplify

Let our mutual love be glowing, thus will all men plainly see,

That we, as on one stem growing, living branches are in Thee.

~

O that such may be our union, as Thine with the Father is,

And not one of our communion e’er forsake the path of bliss;

May our light shine forth with brightness, from Thy light reflected, shine;

Thus the world will bear us witness, That we, Lord are truly Thine.*

~

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Me and Kenneth, after Christmas Eve communion. It was his first Christmas without Virginia, but he was safely and joyously surrounded by family. <3

~

* “Christian Hearts, in Love United” by Nicolaus L. von Zinzendorf

~

Thank you to everyone who has given an ear to the story of Kenneth and Virginia! Your encouragement has blessed me this week, and I cannot thank God enough for the kind audience He has gifted me with at Mrs. Gore’s Diary. I honestly don’t think there is a sweeter readership on the internet!

If you are new here, my blog policy is that all comments are welcomed, but when it comes to sensitive subjects like today’s, extra discretion will be used when moderating. To send a private message, feel free to find me on Facebook! Although I cannot usually respond to messages at this point in my life, I am happy to offer a listening ear.

God bless us all as we strive together to build a Church that glorifies Him!

Kenneth and Virginia (Part Two).

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Continued from Part One

“And while this plea was on the behalf of our entire church, my eyes were still on Kenneth and Virginia.

They had no children?

God, let us be their children.

They had no family?

God, let your Church be their family.”

~

Through these initial prayers, born out of frustration and sadness, God has crafted a beautiful story.

The getting there would be far too long and complicated to tell in a blog setting, but here I am today, 33 years old, married to a pastor, and the longest I have been away from Ken and Virginia and the church that I love so deeply is the year-and-a-half that I spent in Kentucky as my new husband was finishing up his seminary education.

In a merciful and sovereign turn of events following Mr. Gore’s graduation from the masters program, God sent us back to the church body where our hearts had remained, and for nearly seven wonderful years we have had the joy of worshipping and fellowshipping alongside them with my husband serving as pastor.

And what was once a dream and a prayer soon became a blessed ritual.

Every Sunday morning when the weather permitted and she was feeling well, I would stop in to talk to Virginia where she still volunteered in the library. She’d welcome my children as she used to welcome me and she’d tell us all the story again of how I used to check out my books as a little girl.

Then, meeting many other friends along the way, I would resolutely make my way to the other side of the church where Kenneth would be sitting in his regular seat near the entry, greeting every brother and sister who walked through the doors of the fellowship hall.

I would sit next to him and we’d spend a good ten or fifteen minutes discussing the week and the weather; I don’t know what he was feeling when we talked, but not a week went by when I didn’t melt a little on the inside to have this sweet time with him.

And the years sweetly rolled by.

Kenneth played kickball in that room with my son, Gideon, when he was a toddler.

When my daughter, Rebekah, was a baby, she’s toddle up and sift through his shirt pockets, playing with his comb and his pen and his glasses.

And how he laughed last year when, after pointing out that he had forgotten to shine the dust off of his dress shoes, our little Betsie-girl ran and retrieved a wet wipe and started cleaning them until they sparkled!

There have been special occasions, when our church has had the opportunity to step in as Kenneth and Virginia’s children to commemorate and honor their milestones. I’ll never forget their 65th wedding anniversary, when we hosted a special surprise dinner just for them and gave them a big love offering and flowers and a memory-book of photographs. Neither of them could stop thanking us for the gesture for months.

And then there was Kenneth’s birthday party last summer. Leading up to his 90th, I had big plans, but in the fog of pregnancy and the hectic nature of our life with little children, time got away from me.

Late one Saturday night, I remembered in a panic that his birthday was the next day and I had completely forgotten to plan anything. Jumping out of bed, I tore through our house to see if anything festive could be procured.

The end result was meager in my party-loving eyes: three rolls of leftover crepe paper, a few mismathed candles, a giant cinnamon roll cake that my mother-in-law just happened to have dropped off that morning, a handmade card, and a book I had on my shelf that I thought he would enjoy, “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw.

But it would just have to do.

The next morning, before anyone else had arrived for church, Rebekah and I raced to Kenneth’s Sunday School classroom and, stringing up the crepe paper and writing “Happy Birthday” on the dry erase board, threw together the most unplanned and unscripted party I think I’ve ever orchestrated.

My stomach was a twisted mess of excitement for his surprise, along with regret that I couldn’t have done more, but when he came in and clapped his hands in shock and delight, I felt pleased as punch.

As the church began to arrive for the day, we clustered around our beloved friend to sing to him, but there was someone missing. “Wait, wait, wait!” he interrupted us. “Where’s Virginia? We can’t sing before she gets here!”

We ushered her in from her class down the hall and, with her hand intertwined with his and her smile beaming in his direction, we sang “Happy Birthday, dear Kenneth” before cutting up the cake, pouring some coffee and returning to our classes.

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Do you know what he told me later that day? 1. He couldn’t remember the last time he had blown out candles on a cake and, 2. That was the best birthday party he’d ever had.

He read the book I gave him that very week, and it warms my heart everytime I notice it propped up on their little shelf of knick-knacks when I go to their house.

But my most memorable moments with Ken and Virginia always seemed to take place on our breakfast trips to Cracker Barrel where I sat across from them and listened to their wonderful stories and gleaned as much precious advice as I could before the biscuits and gravy (Kenneth’s favorite) arrived.

It was there that I first heard the story of how they met, at a baseball game. Virginia, seeing Kenneth out on the field, determined that he was “the prettiest thing she ever saw”, and Kenneth, equally smitten with the petite redhead in the stands, was so flustered that he struck out three times. “We lost that game,” he told me, “but I won Virginia’s heart, and that’s all that really mattered.”

It was at Cracker Barrel that they first told me what they did on their honeymoon, going straight from their wedding ceremony to see a picture show. Fresh out of the military and low on funds, that was all the could afford, and though neither could remember what movie it was, they felt sure it was a western, most likely starring Gene Autry or Will Rogers.

It was there that they repeatedly told me the secret to their long and happy marriage: be friends and never go to bed mad.

And it was there that I decided for a fact that these two friends – who, by the way, had manned the guest table at my own wedding – were truly a city on a hill, and that I should pay very close attention to every word they spoke.

Early last year, however, I am so sad to report, our sweet and peaceful season together was met with an abrupt interruption: walking to her Sunday School class one church morning, Virginia fell and seriously injured herself.

I watched, eyes swimming with tears, as the church body that God had crafted for her in her final season gathered around to load her into a car, to hold her hand and to pray for her. And when an ambulance couldn’t arrive quickly enough to ease her pain, I watched my husband jump into the driver’s seat to race her and Kenneth to the hospital and I thought my heart would explode. He was my knight in shining armor that day, and I could not have been more proud or grateful.

Our church is so small now, and so very forgettable, but Virginia? She was seen that day. She was loved.

And I can’t help but think that God was honored.

Her health swiftly declined from there, and I watched in awe and heartache as Kenneth’s love for his “little lady” soared under severe testing and trials. He tended to her so faithfully, so tenderly and so tirelessly, bathing her, sitting up in a chair all night to sleep next to her in the living room, and spending every minute of every day seeing to her comfort and healing.

It was a truly difficult time for both of them, but their love continued to blossom through the storm.

Thus, when Virginia’s mind began to suffer and Alzheimer’s set in, I felt confused and hurt. “Why, God?” I asked. “Why, after all this time and all their faithfulness to you and to each other, does it have to be like this for them in their last days?!”

It made no sense to me, and I was plagued by the questions that often assail me as a woman of weak faith…

Is God good?

Is God even real?

And, as such, are we completely wasting our lives here in this tiny church in this tiny town?

One Sunday afternoon with Kenneth would change everything.

~

To be continued…

(Read Part Three here)