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.

~

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)

 

Kenneth and Virginia.

I wrote the following words many, many months ago and, compelled by the Spirit, have held onto them prayerfully. Content to share them for the good of the Church OR to take them to my grave, I asked the Lord to give me guidance as to which course I should take.

This week, after much prayer, I am feeling the inexplicable nudge to share them, with faith that God will use them for good and not pain. The following thoughts and stories come from the most sacred and vulnerable places of my heart, and I am entrusting them to you, dear readers, with humility and trembling. Please read in good faith of my intentions, as one who adores the Church and longs to see her purified.

~

It was a crowning moment, as far as moments go.

Heaven met earth, mysteries were revealed, and life, for just a little bit, made absolutely perfect sense.

And as I slipped my arm through his and walked down the aisle next to his side, our history flashed before me…

~

I was a teenager when I first began to really notice him.

He was a married man, but it was actually his relationship with his wife that caught my eye.

They were so alike, the two of them, with a gentleness, a friendliness, and a sweetness that was perfectly matched. They both wore polyester pants every Sunday. And their hair was the exact same shade of white.

Looking back, there was nothing spectacular about the day my heart chose them. There was no voice from the sky, there was no spotlight, there were no goosebumps or premonitions…

I just liked them and, in a rush of spontaneous affection, I wanted to know them better.

How could I know then that God had a specific plan for us?

How could I know that their story would one day intertwine so beautifully with mine?

And how could I, a young and clueless teen, have any idea that, though sad days lie ahead, God would use every sorrow we endured for the good of all of us and for the glory of His name?

Obviously, I could not.

Not even a little bit.

During that particular time in my life my heart was beginning to soften toward the elderly, in general; by His grace, God had been tuning my ears to appreciate their wisdom and tweaking my sensibilities to sympathize with their season; I couldn’t even enter a Braum’s during those days without being brought to tears by the elderly men who ate there alone. “Did that man’s wife die?” I would wonder. “Is he lonely?

But in a moment of supernatural sovereignty, God specifically trained my eyes upon Kenneth and Virginia.

They easily returned my affection, recounting stories of my childhood days when I was less aware of them, and fully embracing me with their encouraging words and faithful interest in my life.

Hardly a week went by that Virginia didn’t recall her memory of me, as a young girl, coming into the church library where she volunteered, setting a book down on the table and staring up at her with giant, solemn eyes. I was too shy to speak a word, but she, in her thoughtful manner, didn’t press me and went straight to stamping my library card so I could take a new treasure home with me.

She and Kenneth were as proud of me as my grandparents and I flourished under their friendship.

And week by week and month by month, my love for them grew as God continued to focus my eyes upon their well-being.

Before too long, however, that love would turn fierce.

Midway through my college years, the unthinkable happened. A tragedy, really.

For reasons too manifold to name and for faults on every possible side (including my own), the church that my parents had been a part of since the day my daddy became a believer, the church that had been my home since the day I was born, split right down the middle.

The building was still there and the foundation was still in place, but the real church, the body of Christ, was ripped violently in two.

It was the darkest day I’ve ever lived through, and the darkest I have experienced since.

Those of us left behind after this massive divorce were hit by wave after wave of aftershock, marking the beginning of a rather intense decade of consistent pruning and shifting of which the repurcussions continue to this day.

Aided by cultural transience, a widening gap between morality and church attendance, and an overabundance of rural churches, this initial and unprecedented uprooting began a new era in which it has become normal and, sadly, even expected to see person after person and family after family depart from our fellowship for any number of reasons.

And while I have naturally had personal hurts to work through from these heart-wrenching losses and doubt that I will ever completely get over the pain of what happened among us, at the end of the day, my sadness seemed to hover particularly over the senior citizens in our church.

Especially Ken and Virginia, who, without the body, would be utterly alone in this world.

Does anybody see them?” I finally found myself wondering in frustration as another brother or sister departed through our doors, never to return, “How many people are going to walk away from them and never look back?!…

And, before I move on, I want to be very clear here that it was not that I was good and others were not.

It’s not as if I had compassion while everyone else was heartless.

Church disagreements and splits are a complex and seemingly insurmountable beast, with a thousand nuances that cannot always be nailed down to a group of good people versus a group of bad people or a group of people who “get it” and a group of people who do not, and I say that to assure you of this: if I was strong in this one tiny area, I was hopelessly weak in a hundred others.

No, I was not good, but this was God’s will for me, to see and feel these things.

And from that time on, He sealed a longing firmly inside my heart, that I would never have to leave our congregation for another and that I could see these brothers and sisters through to the end.

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.

~

To be continued…

(Read Part Two here)

A New Wish

January the First, 2015

Before the children were whisked off to bed this New Year evening, we gathered around a chair at the kitchen table and opened the mason jar that had been sitting on our computer desk for 365 days.

The jar’s lid was lightly covered with a year’s worth of dust, and it is really a lucky happenstance that I had seen it hiding behind the computer last week, for its contents had been long forgotten by this addle-brained mama.

Had I really made a card for each person in our family (including my parents and grandmother) and jotted down their favorite part of 2013? And had I asked each person to share a wish for the year to come?? And had I then carefully folded up each card and placed it in the jar that was on our desk???…

Apparently, I had, and my handwriting on each card was enough to prove it.

(But I am in good company. My husband had also completely forgotten this New Year exercise. We’re compatible like that).

And it was like unlocking a short-term time capsule this evening, giving us a surprise glimpse into who we were and what we were thinking a year ago. Our children clustered around me, I screwed off the lid, popped the top, and began to pull out our words from the first day of 2014, one by one.

The children giggled as I read their cards. We had forgotten that Betsie had called my grandmother “Miss Granny Bear” last year and that her wish was to go visit her house in Texas. We couldn’t believe that our dog, Jake – and Gideon’s favorite thing about 2013 – had only been a part of our family for a year and a half. We were chagrined that we had never taken Rebekah ice-skating, her only wish for the year 2014, but assured her that we could make up for that…

and then I opened my card.

My one great wish for 2014?

“I want to have a book published.”

I smiled at my family.

“Well, I’ve almost finished writing my first book, so that’s a good start!” I laughed.

But, in my heart, I was communing silently with my Creator and thanking Him for the changes He has wrought within me since January the First, 2014.

A year ago, it had been a burning passion.

I wanted to see my name on a book. I wanted to accomplish something tangible. I wanted to succeed in the writing biz. I wanted to move from the blogging world to the publishing world.

And I wanted it bad.

But somewhere along the way, after pouring my heart and soul into the book that I have been writing since this summer, after hearing 52 incredible expository sermons from the Word of God, after being sanctified day by day by day by day by day, my desires have shifted in monumental ways so that, before I pulled that year-old wish out of the jar, I had completely lost touch with the woman who wrote those words at the beginning of the year.

I have changed, and until this evening, I didn’t realize how much.

And by the sweet grace of God, the thing I truly cherish the most about 2014 and the thing I long for the most in 2015 has nothing to do with what I will accomplish or how I will succeed or if I will ever be a published author…

but everything to do with how I have known and will know God better.

And with all these things in mind, I wanted to pop in here for a bit to offer up a word of encouragement to each of you for the year we are leaving behind and the one we face ahead…

Do you know what? It really doesn’t matter if you lost the ten pounds that you planned to lose in 2014. It doesn’t matter if you are killing it at your job. It doesn’t matter if you have managed to organize your house. I doesn’t matter if you’ve mastered the art of couponing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve found your way to a better you or gotten all your ducks in a row or have started to experience your “best life now”. It doesn’t even matter if you got your book published (or if you finished writing it!)…

but have you grown kinder?

Have you lost a bit of the zeal you had for your own name?

Have you learned to trust Him more?

Have you become more patient?

Have you learned to love your spouse better?

Have you grown bolder in your witness?

Have you developed a greater love for God’s word?

Have you persevered through difficult relationships within your church body?

Have you been conformed daily to the image of God?

Have you seen – in one or a hundred ways – His continued work in your life?

These.

These are the things that we should measure our years by. These are the things that should cause us to rejoice at the close of one year and inspire us to pray for the opening of another. These are the fruits that we should be pursuing and wishing for. And these are the things that should allow us to close our eyes in relief and to realize that, YES, this has been an enormously successful year!

I know Him better than I did last year. His Word makes more sense to me than it ever has before. I have grown in wisdom and understanding…

I am still His, and I am still loving the one who loved me first.

Oh, friends, what more can we ask for?!

And so there is no doubt. I may not have even finished the book that I was hoping to have published yet, but 2014 turned out to be one of the most successful years I have ever experienced, and my one wish for the year to come, the wish I folded up into our empty mason jar this evening before sending the children to bed, is this…

whether my name is on a book by year’s end, whether my words ever go beyond the space they now occupy, whether the world will ever tip their hat to my accomplishments, may I strive to be an encouragement to anyone who needs it in 2015 and to pour myself out for others.

I have to tell you, I am so excited to open our jar next year and see how God has answered my prayer and granted the wish of my heart.

If, indeed, I remember by that time what that jar is behind our computer.

~

And now I want to leave you with my favorite photos from 2014, which is a prayer in itself.

2014 is the year that I truly became content in my calling, and this captured moment, to me, represents all that I learned and all that I am resting in today. I never want to forget what it felt like to relax and begin freely living in the life He has crafted for me, and these pictures represent that time in a tangible way.

Here is me and Betsie, cuddled up under a blanket watching the rest of our family play in the yard. I’m not wearing make-up and no one knows who I am and my name is not in lights, but this is who I want to be, forever and always. A mama who has found her home, who is rejoicing in her Kingdom work and who is finally content to the tips of her toes.

God is good, to fix our hearts.

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~

Happy New Year from Mrs. Gore to the wonderful friends who have found a home here. You all have been a HUGE part of my sanctification and growth, and I thank God for the gift of this readership every single day. May we bring glory to our God in 2015!

And now I hope you feel free to share! How has He fixed your heart this year? What changes has He wrought? How are you hoping to live for him in the year to come?

My Sweet Home – Christmas 2014

Before 2015 arrives and the Christmas decorations go back to the attic for another year, I tidied up my house and took some photos of what our home has looked and felt like for the past month.

This year was our best Christmas yet, and the peace that permeated my soul this season seemed to spill over and encompass our home in a cozy and life-giving atmosphere.

It wasn’t always perfect, no, not a bit. There were boots and scarves and mittens scattered to high heaven. There were baking days where the kitchen was unrecognizable. There was the aftermath of Christmas morning…

but in between the Christmas merriment, our little home seemed to glow with a sweet holiday ambiance that just pleased and ministered to me so deeply, enough to inspire me to work hard all year long to present my family with such a back-drop, one that puts the soul at rest…

one that shelters and encourages…

one that embodies all of the meaning and emotion behind the word “home”…

Merry Christmas, from Mrs. Gore’s House!

 

 

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