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…

 

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?

The Best Thing I Have Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever Done with my Kids. Ever.

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Four children have graciously been entrusted to our care thus far, and my husband and I have nearly reached our 8th year of parenthood.

These years have been as full as our hands.

We’ve had themed birthday parties. We’ve started a homeschool. We hold to all the great holiday rituals. There have been “Daddy-Daughter dates” and “Father-and-Son outings” and shopping days for just the girls. There have been “Life Day” celebrations and Field Days and theatrical plays and countless moments of family togetherness.

But nothing we have done or hosted or accomplished or planned in our time as a mother and father has compared to what God has wrought in our midst in the last month.

It began as a stirring, a spontaneous tug, during a typical read-aloud session at school. The book was “Sarah Whitcher’s Story”, and as I read aloud to my two eldest children, my heart experienced a quick pang of yearning when the story highlighted the Whitcher family’s nightly ritual of reading the Bible together.

The children in this story were practically babies, just like ours, and the scene brought to mind all the stories I’ve read over the years of pioneers and Pilgrims, stories of families who had so much less than we do but who treasured the Word of God as their life and breath.

These forefathers and mothers had no picture Bibles. No daily devotional books. No storybook collections of biblical heroes.

Just the Bible.

The thought flitted across my mind as quickly as the turn of a page. “I want this…I NEED this…”

But before I knew it, the plot of the story thickened and I was following Sarah Whitcher through the woods on a big adventure, her family ritual forgotten, and along with it, my desire to follow suit.

And so how could I know possibly know that, later that evening, in an act of true love and kindness, God was going to bring my yearning to fulfillment and bring to pass a MOST surprising turn of events?

After tucking the children into their beds that night, I spontaneously plopped down nearby in my Granny’s old mauve upholstered rocker and opened up my son’s Bible to the first chapter of John.

It was as Spirit-led a moment as I’ve ever experienced, so sacred and poignant and perfectly-timed that it took my breath away, on the spot!

How well I remember the nights in years past when we attempted to have “family worship” in that very same nursery, children rolling all over the place, interruptions galore, tears and fighting and eyes that were glazed over in ambivalence. My husband and I would leave the upstairs nursery after “family worship” and I would feel more frazzled and frustrated than I had been during the children’s bathtime, which is saying quite a lot.

But this night was so very different.

The room was still. Calm. Beautiful. And by the light of the lamp on the corner dresser, I began to read.

The words of John’s witness rolled off of my tongue and landed straight upon my heart where unceasing prayers sprang up for our household. And the children listened, spellbound.

I finished the first chapter and moved to shut the Book, but to my great surprise, they asked for more.

I finished the second chapter and they asked for more. 

I finished the third chapter and they asked for still more.Occasionally, there would be an interruption so a question could be asked. Or one of the children would exclaim, “Hey! I know this story! We read this in our class!!”

By the end of the fourth chapter, two of the three children had fallen fast asleep. I shut the Bible and, after kissing the sleepy straggler goodnight, I tiptoed downstairs with my heart absolutely full of worshipful contentment, amazed beyond belief at what had just taken place on the second floor of our home.

The next night was very much the same.

Teeth brushed, final bathroom runs complete, pajamas on, the eldest children crawled into their beds, I turned on the lamp and, with my 3-year old nestled in my lap, I began to read, picking up from where we had left off the night before.

Once again, they were eager to listen, asking questions, making comments and proving without question that their hearts were ripe for this harvest.

The words of Life, coupled with the intoxicating ambiance of a nursery turned down for bedtime, seemed to calm them and feed them, simultaneously, and it is with this beyond-simple ritual that we now consistently end our day. My youngest daughter falls asleep in my lap, without fail, and most usually her big brother and sister eventually join her in slumber, dictating where we will end that night’s reading. Sometimes we cover four chapters, sometimes we read one, but every night of our Bible reading has been undeniably rich with meaning and satisfaction and familial affection.

And best of all, perhaps, is the nourishment that I, their mother, have received from this practice.

It is no secret to those who know me well that a “daily quiet time” of reading the Word has long evaded my grasp. To my great shame and distress, I have tried and failed for a good twenty years to sit down with my Bible on a faithfully consistent basis to draw strength and wisdom from its depths.

I have cried about this failure, I have heaped guilt upon my head because of this failure, and I have prayed about this failure, begging God to give me a love for His word that I would find irresistible.

And, oh my.

I never dreamed that He would choose to answer these prayers for help in such a perfect way, surrounded by my favorite little children aged 7 and under. As I read to my babies, the Spirit pricks my heart, illuminates mysteries, woos and comforts and convicts. To my children, I am just reading, but in my heart, I am being changed, and I have grown addicted to the daily rhythm of rocking my family to sleep under this spoken cadence of truth.

And as I make my way down the stairs every night, I can feel it from my head to my toes that, of all the things I have done for my children, this one is the most important, by miles.

The Bible was enough for Sarah Whitcher’s family and their counterparts because it was all they had.

And do you know what? It is still enough today.

~

I am passionate about helping young families. If God has used this post to encourage you, or if you know anyone who will benefit from it, I invite you to share! And if you’d like to stay in touch with Mrs. Gore and her family, find us on Facebook!

A Fairytale in the Flesh

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It has been a lifelong theme, for me.

A yearning for “good ol’ days”. An attraction to happy endings. A steady heartbeat of longing for things that cannot be found where we are, no matter where we go.

This world is a hauntingly beautiful song that is being played on a slightly off-tune instrument. One side of it is so lovely that it brings me to my knees in praise and amazement and the other side splits my eardrums in two, tempting me to claw at the dirt in a desperation for escape.

Relics from Eden abound. In love stories. In the laughter of children. In nature. In acts of kindness and self-sacrifice.

But the strains of discord ever threaten, and ruinous vines entangle what should have been perfect. Divorce and adultery shatter families. Children become victims. God’s handiwork is decimated and cluttered by our filth.

And isn’t this why we love good books, inspiring movies, and fairytales? Any story, really, that will carry us away from the reality we try so desperately to ignore?

Craving wells up and reverberates through shed tears as we survey all the tales that should have been fact, tales of redemption, of true love, of peace, of hope. In those pages and on those screens, our broken and searching hearts whisper that “yes! This is what life is supposed to be like! Shouldn’t love last forever? Shouldn’t men should choose to do good, even when it is hard? Cannot even the vilest offender be redeemed and spend his life in beauty??”

And, fueled by the ache within, we labor our lives away, attempting to craft fairytales with our own hands and by our own means.

We pursue love, dreaming with stars in our eyes of how that man or woman will fulfill us and make life the song that we’ve been trying to write since we could pick up a pen.

We pursue a life of comfort, with a couple of healthy kids and a cozy house with all the trimmings.

We pursue fame, attempting to fill up the burning of our hearts with more recognition, more ‘likes’, more followers.

The options for soul satiation are so shiny when they are still on the shelf.

And so we choose an available portion with glittering eyes, greedy with hope that this will be the solution that will finally tame our hunger.

We pick up a spoon, we dig in and we feast with passion…

but as we chew on life, the realization soon settles that every single dish we have chosen to fill up our soul was nothing more than a heap of dry ashes masquerading as fulfillment.

We begin to choke on them.

We can’t swallow.

We drown in a rush of bitterness and disappointment that life, once more, has let us miserably down.

Try as we might, there is just no dodging the truth that every single fairytale this world has to offer is a phony, an illusion that, once tasted, loses its luster and dissolves into dust.

Except, that is, for one.

A mother and father traveled far from their home, and in a borrowed stable, a baby boy was born. They bundled Him up like parents do, but contained in the flesh of His humanity beat the very heart of God.

He lived a perfect life, fully God, but in a body that was fully man. He loved. He had friends. He lost friends. He witnessed death, seeing and feeling the sting that haunts the human race. The wretched sting that haunts us today. And, like us, He wept, tasting the salt of human tears that sprang forth from a heart that felt real human pain.

He was Emmanuel, God in the flesh, and everything He touched was made beautiful. Lame were healed, blind were given sight, sinners were redeemed, and His perfect words of truth and wisdom sliced through the veil that had shrouded centuries.

Bur three years into His public ministry, the time arrived for Him to fulfill what He had come to earth to do. The fall of man needed to be paid for, and He, in the greatest act of love the world has ever known, was going to provide the sacrifice.

His body groaned the night before His crucifixion, and His spirit was violently tested as He submitted to the will of the Father. But still He marched, resolutely, surrendering himself to his enemies and to the cross of a criminal. He was nailed up and tortured, and in unspeakable pain and suffering, He willingly took every last trace of mankind’s punishment as His own…

even as mankind spat upon the gift.

And all those things that plague us? The tragedies, the disappointments, the addictions and the brokenness that leave us raw with pain and longing?

He defeated them on our behalf, annihilating each and every one with a passion that made the earth quake in reverence.

And then He was no more. The debt had been paid in full, His spirit was given up, and His dead, limp body was carried away as His mother and His friends mourned in despair that the Light of the World had been snuffed out.

They buried Him in a borrowed tomb and the next three days were filled with unimaginable darkness. Darkness of soul. Darkness of grief. Darkness of doubt. Yet another fairytale had been dangled before human eyes, only to end in utter disappointment and loss.

But just this one time…

a happy ending was coming…

and it was going to change the world.

Their world.

Our world.

The fairytale came true.

In the exact miracle that He and the prophets of old foretold, three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Hundreds of witnesses saw Him, talked with Him, touched Him, and a hunkered down and mournful Church rose up, bold and fearless, in belief. They had seen this man die, and now, He was in front of them, the wounds in His hands and side to prove it.

He remained among them for forty days, teaching and ministering, before ascending into heaven where He is preparing a place for all those who believe on His name, even those of us who have yet to see Him with our own eyes.

And in a day that is coming soon, oh glorious day…

He will return to this fallen and disappointing world and He will make all things new for those who put their trust in Him.

Love will become true and eternal, children will be safe, creation will shine in all of its intended glory, and all of those stories that we wish could be REAL, those glimpses of Eden that are so beautiful that they bring us pain…

They will be an every-day, every minute reality, as natural to us as our fears are today. The craving will be satiated. The ache will disappear. The emptiness will be filled up and forgotten.

And all the wrongs will be made right.

Our souls will finally rest.

My heart is irresistibly compelled to believe and to proclaim it, that Jesus Christ is the fairytale we’ve been hunting, the love that will remain, the comfort that is forever, the hope for today, tomorrow and eternity…

but He is no fairytale.

He is real.

I believe.

Do you?

~

All comments are welcome and read, but are only made public by my discretion. To hear more from Mrs. Gore, find me on Facebook or Instagram! Thank you for reading!

Help a Mother Out: the How-to

Biblical and practical tips for keeping the mom in your life from going INSANE

I hope that Saturday’s blog post about helping the moms in your life impacted you, and I’m excited today to move on to the more practical aspects of how to make that happen. But first, I have a tiny little story to tell…

My fourth child is about to have his first birthday, and just recently, I have found myself rising above the funk that I have been in since his birth. For ten long months, I’ve been in a haze, heavily sleep-deprived and unable to conquer the realm that I have been charged to keep. In fact, the only area of my life where I wasn’t failing was my ability to make egg-in-the-hole for our supper every. single. night.

Two months ago, however, I realized with a start that I had signed up to host our church’s monthly ladies fellowship at my house. Talk about kicking me into gear! For a concentrated week, I cleaned and polished and organized and before I knew it, I was on top of things again. My house was sparkling and so was my heart. It was perfect timing to match the clearing postpartum fog in my brain and, with this completely fresh slate, I have kept my house comfortably tidy for weeks, even managing to keep laundry cleaned and put away.

Until two weeks ago. A busy schedule interrupted my new mojo and, day by day, the house slipped, and with it, my attitude.

I was cranky.

I was frustrated.

I felt ten steps behind and I felt like a failure. And in the midst of all that gloom, I lost site once more of my purpose: to glorify God in my home and to share the gospel with my family.

 Until last Thursday.

When we were in the city for our kids’ music classes, my mom snuck in and cleaned my house for me.

Just like that, in the span of one afternoon, with clean floors under my feet and an uncluttered backdrop in my periphery, I am on top of the world again, and I tell you this story for this specific reason: in a couple of hours of unmerited and unsolicited service, my mom not only cleaned my house, she gave me freedom.

The next morning when the children came downstairs, I was able to greet them with a happier heart than I’ve had for days. I made my bed, I did a load of laundry, I started on the dishes and I made my family a good breakfast, simple things that, in my previously frustrated state, felt almost impossible to accomplish.

My point is this: when you give up your time and energy to “help a mother out”, you are not just giving her a good surprise or making her feel loved. You are not spoiling her. You are contributing to her ability to mother her children well, to love her husband well and to commune with God, and in so doing, you are helping your local church body and you are living the gospel message out for her family to see.

Helping the moms in your church is, without a doubt, powerful and life-saving Kingdom work and it spans generations.

 ~

 So, we’ve established that moms need help.

 How are we going to help them?

 #1. Love.

 Because it is obviously impossible to address every possible situation in one blog post, I want to start with this, the one act that will never fail and that will work for any mom: love. Love the fire out of the moms in your church. I assure you, they need every ounce of it they can get, regardless of how “together” they seem to have it. Pray for a heart that is full of love toward this group and see how the Spirit moves you.

#2. Compassion.

Many young moms are not just facing the most physically hectic and draining years of their life, they are learning to spiritually die to themselves for the first time. At least, that’s how it was for me. I needed practical help, but I also needed patience as I found my footing in a world that I was completely unacquainted with and slowly learned how to work hard and live for others. If you can manage to help the young Mrs. Gore’s in your life without being put off by their seeming lack of vision, purpose and get-up-and-go-ness, you’ll really be doing them a favor. Hang in there with them, teach them by example, instruct them gently and someday, they’ll be writing super-long blog posts about how you helped them through their metamorphosis.

 #3. Use your giftedness.

I am learning great things about how God crafts the church. Our gifts are chosen by Him to be used by Him for the benefit of the church He has placed in our life. So what are you good at? It is no mistake that you’re good at that thing you just thought of. It is also no mistake that you attend church with that frazzled mama two pews behind you. How might you turn your gift toward her?

#4. Use your season.

I remember when some of our friends were in a season of life where discontentment could have become an issue for them. They were ready to have kids, but circumstances were preventing it and so what did they do? They POURED themselves out for us and invested in our kids. This was just downright beautiful! I have also learned so much by watching my mama, at a time in her life when she could be traveling and doing whatever she wants to do, invest countless hours and funds into giving us the help that she remembers needing as a mom with young kids. This is how the body of Christ looks so different from the world, choosing to die, even when they don’t have to. God has you where He has you for a reason and that reason is to help me. ;) I kid. But, seriously. Bloom where you’ve been planted and watch as God unifies your church and causes it to flourish.

 #5. Service with a smile.

If you took a survey and asked moms where they most need help, I am almost 15% positive that their answers would fall in the category of housekeeping. There is just so much to do and, when the children are little, there is no one to help. I would daresay my life is easier with four children (aged 7, 5, 3 and 1) than it was when I had a 3- and 1-year old! And if it weren’t for the support of those around me, I don’t know that I would have graciously survived it. Here is a short list of things that have been done for me that knocked my threadbare socks right off my feet.

  • Laundry. Laundry is a great way to start helping moms out, because it is something you can pick up and take back to them. At least once a week, my own mom drops by and demands that I send a couple of loads home with her. The next day, she brings them back and, being very comfortable in my home, puts them away. Sometimes she helps me with the ironing. Sometimes she helps me fold the five loads I have stacked up in the laundry room. All of it is immeasurably helpful. Like, to the moon and back.
  • Cleaning. Being served in the area of cleaning has been life-giving. I’m talking, LIFE-GIVING. My husband, my mom, and my friend, Chrissy, have each routinely surprised me with a completely cleaned house while I was away, and I almost die of happiness, every time. It NEVER gets old. Also, as often as she can, my mom drops by and spends the day helping me clean my house. When you add a helper, a filthy house goes from completely overwhelming to totally doable. I don’t know how I’d make it without these boosts. I’m not exaggerating. I also once heard of a church member hiring a professional deep-clean for her pastor’s wife who had small children. I can’t think of a better or more useful gift!
  • Cooking. I’ve mentioned this before, but when we came home from the hospital with Baby Shep, our church ladies prepared healthy, delicious meals for us for an entire month. It was heavenly. And, occasionally, even if we don’t have a newborn in the house, a friend will drop off food for no reason at all. Sometimes it is a half a lasagna that their family couldn’t eat alone. Sometimes a basket of fruit. Sometimes garden-fresh produce. Sometimes a dessert, fresh out of the oven. ALL of it is a gift that deeply blesses me and lightens the load.
  • Miscellany. During particularly difficult seasons, we’ve had neighbors and friends drop by and mow our yard. We’ve had friends surprise us by cleaning out our van. And here’s something kind of awesome: I have loved observing one of our older church ladies who is gifted at gardening use her time and energy to plant a garden for a friend with young kids who showed interest in planting one. She faithfully checks in and helps them tend it, as well. Be creative and remember that there is probably no area of the mom’s life that couldn’t use some “tlc”. Personally, our life is chaotic from our cars, to our sidewalk, to our porch and to every last inch of our house. Pick a spot, any spot.
  • Childcare. I’ve come down on “me time” in past writings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it is important for young moms to have some time to themselves. Just today, my husband took all four kids for an hour so I could clean without interruptions. It was so nice and helped me to be refreshed for the second part of the day. There are so many options for helping in this area. Sometimes my mom and dad take all four kids overnight, giving us two whole days to rest and reorient our house and schedule. Sometimes they take one kid overnight or for the afternoon (don’t underestimate how taking even one child off a mom’s hands will help her!). You could get with some other ladies and offer to keep the kids from several families at the church for the afternoon. You could offer to baby-sit one evening. But if those ideas cause you to shiver, how about acting as a mother’s helper? It would be so helpful to have someone come to the house and play with the older kids in the yard while the babies were napping. Or come for an hour and read books to the little ones if mom is homeschooling older kids. I also know of a lady in our church who accompanies one of my friends to her doctor’s appointments, keeping the siblings in the waiting room. Whether your goal is to give mom some me-time or to help her juggle the chaos of her life, the possibilities are extensive.
  • Church nursery. Again, moms are first and foremost responsible for their own kids and should be happy and willing to help in the nursery at church; that said, I cannot express what a HUGE blessing it is to get to go to church and not go straight into a room to do what you’ve been doing 24/7 for the past week. Getting out the door with little ones in tow is a herculean effort, and some weeks, I am exhausted before we’ve even walked in the church doors. And remember, the more people who participate in a nursery rotation, the less any one person in particular will have to keep it. Spread the word, get people excited and do whatever you can to ensure no one is routinely stuck in the nursery (something we’ve all probably experienced!)

 #6. Teamwork.

This is for all the husbands out there. Your wife needs help! It took a lot of communication, a lot of trial-and-error, and a handful of years to get there, but my husband and I are getting into a routine that helps our marriage to thrive under the stress of this season of our life. For instance, here is our recent bedtime routine: he puts the big kids to bed upstairs while I put the baby to bed downstairs and tidy up the living room. We sit down and relax and watch a television show. We get up, clean the kitchen together and start the dishwasher. We go to bed. And then, in the morning before he leaves for work, he unloads the dishwasher and makes the coffee. This gives me such a headstart on the day! We also take turns keeping the kids so the other can go out with friends. We’re a team, and it makes all the difference in our home life and in our marriage – when everyone is working hard together, it makes resentment a true rarity. It takes time to learn these things, but if you’re new at all this and have ever harbored the notion that your wife “just stays home all day” while you’re at work, I humbly invite you to get a new worldview, and godspeed.

#7. Sisterhood.

We need to return to the world where it took “a village to raise a child”. Us moms are so busy being either paranoid or prideful that we try to do everything by ourselves. Posh! It is such a blessing to me when our church ladies grab one of my kids and help them fill up their plate at potlucks. It helps me when they tell my kids to slow down when they’re barreling down the aisles at church. It helps me to be in a room with my friends who also have little kids and tag-team holding babies and wiping noses and breaking up arguments over toys. We’re on the same team, you know, and today would be a good time to start acting like it.

#8. Encouragement.

And lastly, encourage the moms in your church. Every so often, someone will say something out of the blue that just knocks me over…

“Your children are really well behaved. You’re doing a great job.”

“You’re a natural mama.”

“The gospel is so evident in your home.”

Who? ME?! Are you talking about MY kids? It is always a shock to my unsure heart to hear that I’m doing okay. Kind words bring refreshing to the soul and do wonders to calm the inner storms that we try so very hard to keep quiet. Gifts of encouragement can be as varied as the giver, a hand-written note, a quick Facebook message, a token of love and appreciation, a short prayer in the hallways of the church, and you’d be surprised at how big of a boost a simple Facebook “like” or comment can give. You “like” the 25th picture I’ve posted of my kids this week? Lady, you just made my day.

It always pays to remember that every single person we pass – even on the internet – is fighting personal battles and could use a pat on the back.

~

And there you have it. In just under three thousand words, I’ve managed to write a book on the one thing I wanted to say today…

When you help a mama, you have helped the Church, both present and future.

~

And now I invite you to share. My original intent was to ask only those of you with moms in your life to share this on their behalf, but I also want to challenge YOU, little mama. Do you need help? Are you drowning? Tell your church family. Tell your pastor. Ask for help. Let people into your messy house and your disorganized life. Break down the walls of pride and perfection and begin a transparent conversation about your REAL life. Your help may not come overnight and it may not come ever – and if it doesn’t, you must not point fingers – but do your part and entrust the rest to God.

And thank you to ALL of you for hanging in there and reading this lengthy post. I am passionate about the church and long to see it strengthened and purified! I hope these thoughts help us along just a tiny bit.

As ever, you can follow Mrs. Gore’s Diary by signing up at the top of this page to receive e-mail notifications or by ‘liking’ us on Facebook.

Help a Mother Out: A Cry for Help. A Call to Arms.

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Over the past year, I have shared a couple of posts that directly relate to the heart of a mom; personal responsibility is a big deal to me, and if I’ve learned one thing in the last decade, it is that most of my problems begin and end with sweet little ol’ me.

I truly believe that the Spirit’s work, paired with a believer who is eager to mortify sin and grow in godliness, can overcome the most overwhelming odds.

(I speak, of course, of dishes).

In that regard, we moms are without excuse and should flee from entitlement and bitterness.

We’ve established these thoughts.

Been there.

Done that.

Roger, over and out.

Today, however, I humbly want to grab the ear of, well, basically everyone else.

The friend of a mom. The mom with bigger, more independent kids. The single. The newlywed. The grandmother. The widow. The married couple who haven’t had children. The aunt. The uncle. The neighbor.

I need to let you in on a little secret…

the mom in your life with young kids needs help.

It’s an emergency!!!

Because, as responsible as we each are for our own actions and territory, we were also created for community. We’re supposed to be there for each other. We’re supposed to bear one another’s burdens.

Er…not that little children are burdens.

That totally came out wrong.

Anyhow, to flesh out my point, I’ve been looking at it this way…

imagine that one of your church sisters is taking in her ailing mother.

Imagine that her mother needs round the clock care and can’t do anything for herself, that she frequently needs to be spoon-fed, to be cleaned up, and to be changed. Imagine that she cried uncontrollably for long periods of time as her daughter tried to find ways soothe her. Imagine that she woke her daughter up several times a night, night after night after night, sometimes for weeks or maybe even months in a row.

That would be enough, I suppose, but let’s keep going for a little bit.

Now imagine that the woman also had an ailing father, one that was a little easier to care for but that still needed constant care. He could pick up food and eat it, but all of his meals had to be prepared for him. He needed help getting dressed. He had to be bathed. He would have random meltdowns, especially when he was sleepy. He would make giant messes when his daughter was focused on taking care of her mother.

And then imagine that this woman had other typical responsibilities to shoulder. A house to clean. Classes to teach. A yard to care for. Groceries to buy. Laundry to wash. Relationships to nurture. Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

Now…

please.

Pretty, pretty please, tell me her church would rally behind her to help?

Would not a sister or a brother come alongside her and help her carry the load?

Or would they cross their arms and say “she made her bed, now she can lie in it.”

Would they roll their eyes at her when she grew weak and wonder why she’s being so dramatic?

Would they smirk and say “I paid my dues when I took care of my own parents. Now it’s her turn.”

Oh, dear. I sincerely hope not.

I think you know where this is going…

Our churches are full of such women who have found themselves in a season of life that is routinely exhausting and overwhelming, caring for one, sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes…FOUR!! (haha)…and sometimes even MORE little human beings who are wholly dependent upon them.

And, in many churches, I’m afraid this group of women are suffering alone. I think the reasons for this are manifold:

1. Many young mothers put on a brave face. Pride keeps them from asking for help because they don’t want to look weak or needy or imperfect. Thus, they show up to church, paste on a smile, and save their tears and honesty for the privacy of their homes. No one knows they need help because they never ask.

2. Motherhood is such a normal part of life. Sure, we’d rally behind the lady who was caring for her parents, because that just doesn’t happen everyday. But the lady with the toddler and the infant? That’s normal. Comical, even. It’s so cute to see her plop down in a heap of exhaustion while her two-year old climbs on her back and her baby crawls under the church pews (really…it IS cute).

3. We fail to recognize how drastically society has shifted. Where once local communities thrived and neighbors could be called upon to watch over the kids so mom could run down to the grocery store, or grandmothers were close at hand to help however they could, many moms now live on an island of sorts.

As a result, many of the young moms in our congregations are drowning in housework, fatigue and loneliness and feeling completely cut off and alone.

Now, before I move on, I know what you’re thinking…

“Presumptious, much?”

Should a lady who has little children REALLY be writing a blog post about how women with little children need help with their little children? Isn’t that like announcing your birthday on Facebook with a link to your Amazon wishlist?

You’d think. But what you may not know is that I have been approved to write this article, because of the following factoid alone: I have a LOT of help in my life. My husband works flexible hours right down the street, my mom lives 10 miles away and I have a church full of wonderful people I could call upon should the need arise.

In fact, the helpful and thoughtful people in my life are actually the ones who INSPIRED this blog post, giving me experience to draw from and a success story to tell of how moms can thrive under the care of a loving support system.

As such, I feel very comfortable today initiating this conversation and speaking on behalf of the demographic that I represent; for their sake, I will shout from the internet rooftops what they’ve been hiding. Listen closely and you can hear the cries of their heart…

HELP!!! I’m sinking, I’m drowning, I’m dying, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.

~

I hope I’ve caught your ear and your heart. Stay tuned for Part Two, full of practical ideas for helping the moms in your life. Coming up Monday!

The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read on Child Safety

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Sorry about that title.

This article probably won’t help you much when it comes to child safety.

Because, frankly, for the past seven years, I have learned one important lesson from the internet and the news: children die out there.

There are the obvious fears that we face as parents: cancer, drowning, strangulation, suffocation, choking, car accidents, being ran over, accidental shootings, targeted shootings…

but in case we weren’t scared enough already, there’s also all of the obscure stuff out there that makes the rounds on Facebook and 24-hour news channels like wildfire: secondary drowning, sandhole collapsesbrain-eating amoebas in pond water, etc., etc., etc.

Every possible way in which a child was harmed or has died is cataloged and published and shared and you’re sitting there zoned out in front of your computer reading about it like a slumped-over toad (because isn’t that what we all look like while we’re on the computer?), but on the inside this scream of hysteria is building in your throatal regions because your greatest fear – losing this little piece of you that you love so fiercely – is being described in another harrowing tale, and even worse, in a new horrible way that you never even dreamed of!!!

Seriously?

A sandhole collapse on the beach?

The water and the sharks weren’t scary enough?

Or the pedophiles?

Now we’re dealing with sand, too?!

Please, please, PLEASE don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of being prepared, and I am so grateful to the brave mothers who shared their stories to inform us of potential dangers that might threaten our children.

But you know what I don’t love?

Adding fear to my fear.

Adding worry to my worry.

Adding terrifying tableaux to my suitcase of worst-case scenarios.

I had so many of those already.

And now, I’m not only a wreck as I watch my kids swim, paranoid that I won’t see the nearly undetectable signs of drowning

now I’m watching them for hours afterward to make sure they are not secondarily drowning… 

and my mama-sized panic is compounding and I’m thinking crazy little somethings like this...

You know, Rebekah got some water in her nose and choked for a while. I read that the symptoms of secondary drowning are lethargy and sluggishness. But…my kids just swam for seven hours and now they’re all sacked out like corpses in the living room…what if she is drowning right now??? Should I wake her up? I know I’m being crazy. But…what if I’m wrong and its too late?!..

Sometimes, when I’m not panicking in the midst of all these potential dangers, toils and snares, I can’t help but reminisce about my carefree childhood in Oklahoma where my best friend and I could go meandering down our remote gravel road, sticking our feet in the creek, playing alone in the barn, going swimming in the pond…

you know what?

My kids don’t know that life.

Because, six years ago, two girls were shot and killed while meandering down an Oklahoma country road very similar to the one that I used to frequent.

Gravel roads haven’t looked safe since.

And there are snakes in the creek.

And there could be deadly amoebas in the pond.

And there could be sex offenders near the barn.

And that’s just the beginning.

They can’t drink out of the waterhose. That’s toxic.

If the baby falls asleep in his carseat, we should wake him up after we bring him inside because nine babies died from sleeping in carseats this year (by the way, why is this article all over Facebook right now when it was written in 2006?!).

Oh! And speaking of Baby Shepherd, OH MY GOSH, there is a balloon next to him and it must be popped and discarded of because if a baby even touches a balloon, they could inhale it and choke to death!!!

And sorry, this is off the subject a bit, but did you know that having a child blow out the candles on a birthday cake is a great carrier for germs?

(not to mention their hair could catch on fire).

God?

I’m freaking out here.

Again, I sincerely don’t want to be misunderstood: my point is not that it is bad to be informed.

Information is good.

Warnings are great.

Education is a gift.

And you’d better believe that if something tragic happened to my child that I could help others to avoid, I would do everything I could to get the word out.

My point has nothing to do with the information, really…

and everything to do with what we DO with the information.

How do we respond when we read these warnings?

Do they make us paranoid?

Do they chew up our bellies with fear?

Do they cause us to imagine the worst?

Do they make us feel helpless?

These kinds of responses are red flags, and they are scarier than pond water, because they belie a problem that is deeply rooted within us, a problem that is as old as time and feels impossible to shake…

We don’t trust God.

We want to BE God.

And, deep down, we hope that if we do this and avoid that and plan for this that nothing bad will happen to our children, ever.

All of which point to a most unbiblical conclusion…

we think that the only hope for our children is us.

And that is how the simple act of reading internet articles can be a diving board that catapults us into very dangerous waters; cataloging every possible death trap and fearing every single worst-case scenario, we subconsciously trample upon every word the Bible says about God’s sovereignty, about His goodness, about His will, and about His calling.

Through our fear and helplessness, we discard the scriptures that we so vocally uphold, saying aloud “Yes, Lord! You are so good and ‘I surrender all’ and ‘have thine own way’ and all those Christiany things I’m supposed to say” while our hearts are kind of screaming “YOU AREN’T BIG ENOUGH, GOD, AND YOU DON’T CARE ENOUGH”.

If you think that sounds like an exaggeration, consider how the article about secondary drowning receives our rapt attention while God-breathed texts like Romans 8 gather dust on our bedside table…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Did you hear that?

This is just one tiny excerpt from a book that is TEEMING with hope.

Hope for me.

Hope for my kids.

And while those ancient words may not contain step-by-step instructions for keeping my kids alive, they provide so much more, a bountiful feast of peace and truth for my fearful soul…

a wellspring of beautiful principles that my starving and terrified heart devours.

God is in control.

God is good.

God does everything for my good.

God created my kids.

God loves my kids more than I do.

God has a plan for me that will bring Him glory.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

I am in Christ, and my children can be trusted to Him.

There are greater things to fear than death.

Granted, the Bible makes no promise that all of my safety- and wellness-centered prayers for my children will be answered; in fact, most passages of comfort in the Word were written to a people who were enduring suffering like many of us have never seen.

It is inevitable: every person dies and no one is exempt from pain and sadness.

But when I read the Word, it helps me to breathe.

It realigns my heart with a truth that I cannot inwardly deny.

It stamps a purpose and a hope upon even my worst-case scenarios.

And it reminds me that this life isn’t even the one I’m supposed to be living for, anyway, and that, if God would be so gracious, I have eternity to spend with each of my most-beloved children.

Eternity!

So yes, let’s read and share all the articles and take the precautions as we slather on the suncreen and zip up the sleepsacks and fasten the safety helmets and cut up the grapes and mince the hot dogs and AVOID ALL WATER, PERIOD…

but let’s also stop living as if there is no God.

After all, there is really nothing more toxic, hazardous, poisonous or dangerous than that.

 ~

Want to keep up with Mrs. Gore’s Diary? Find us on facebook! I promise not to share scary articles there. :)

Letting Your Light Shine in the Little Places

Letting Your Light Shine in the Little Places: finding joy and rest in God's seemingly small assignment for your life

I’m so proud of him. He has given up so much to be here…” I said, for perhaps the 18th time in as little as a year.

And although it escapes my memory who I was talking to, I know exactly who I was talking about: my husband.

A hyperintelligent young man, he was accepted into Princeton University as a high schooler and had plans of graduating with a law degree, undoubtedly at the top of his class. And with his nearly perfect test scores, he could have accomplished it all without paying a cent.

But God had a different course for his life, and after several sleepless nights and the heaviest spiritual wrestling matches he has ever experienced, his plans were rerouted: he would become a minister. That acceptance letter to Princeton was discarded and to Oklahoma Baptist University he went, where he graduated with honors before continuing his education at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

I knew he was a smarty-pants all along, but it wasn’t until after we married and I joined him at SBTS that I realized exactly how brilliant he was. He excelled in all of his classes on the advanced track to a Masters of Divinity, and was a shoo-in for the prestigious P.h.D. program. On several occasions, I heard his friends make light-hearted predictions that he would be the next president of the seminary.

I was certainly in awe of him. Because not only was he as bright as a 200-watt, he was down-to-earth. Humble. Kind. A magnificent speaker. Wise. And one of the funniest people I knew, with a wit so sharp it could cut the blues right out of you. Everyone liked him. He always knew what to say. He never took a wrong step.

He could have done anything.

But one semester into his very exciting and beloved P.h.D. studies, God tapped him on the shoulder with another unmistakable call, and after seeking guidance from his professors, with bittersweet resolve, he walked away from his very bright future, for three reasons…

1. God was strongly compelling him.

2. I was pregnant and he wanted to give me and our baby more than his work load would allow.

3. Our tiny church back home needed help.

Fast forward seven years. He has been senior pastor of that church now for five years. Attendance: 100, on a good day.

Growing up, he probably expected that by the age of 33 he would be a well-established lawyer, and I have no doubt in my mind that we would be bathing in dollar bills by now.

And even after he surrendered his life to the ministry, I’m sure there were dreams. A big, thriving church with thousands of podcast subscribers. Magazine articles and book deals. Big-time speaker at SBC conferences and church camps. Board member at OBU and SBTS…

instead, he willingly and passionately oversees this tiny flock that God has bound to his heart.

He creates tissue-paper poofs for baby showers, he keeps nursery on some Sunday mornings when our other pastor is preaching, he drives elderly congregants to the hospital, and he unclogs church toilets.

The work is challenging, and the results are slow.

No one really cares what he could have been.

And the only writing he does these days is the daily Bible reading guide that he crafts specifically for our congregation to help us meditate on the exposited Sunday text.

There are no book deals. No interviews. No headshots. No board meetings.

And what I didn’t realize was that there were hidden parts of me that struggled with this until I heard those words come out of my mouth yet again: “He has given up so much…

the Spirit pricked me.

What, exactly, my dear, has he given up?

Money?

Prestige?

A name?

All passing fancies and possible traps that could lead to the ruination of Mr. Gore.

Ten thousand people instead of a hundred?

As if the one hundred were not worthy of a life laid down for them…

as if the one hundred deserved someone less smart, less wise, less qualified, less caring.

I would never have said it in so many words, but what God uncovered in my heart that day was the lingering (and toxic) idea that big gifts needed to be used in BIG places, and that anything less was sort of wasteful.

Silly me.

Indeed, from a worldy perspective, Mr. Gore has given up much to obey God’s call on his life, and I have watched him continually lay down his life to pursue difficult things and to crucify the parts of him that could have been used to build up a kingdom for himself.

It is never easy to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ.

There is great loss involved.

But how twisted was my underlying thought that there was any import in the number of people someone impacted, rather than in the impact itself?

As if success could be gauged by how many church members one had, or how many baptisms, or how many students, or how many awards, or how much money, or how much exposure, or how many Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest followers, or how many subscribers, or how many fans…

as if the unseen work of God could be measured and weighed and calculated.

It is important to note that this belief I was harboring in my heart was nearly undetectable. I LOVE our church (almost as much as my husband does). I love my life. I pursued these people and cried out to God to spend my life with them. You would have to move me from this place kicking and screaming, and there is nowhere on earth I would rather be than walking alongside the brothers and sisters God has placed on my path. But my constant acknowledgement of what Mr. Gore had given up was a red flag, and, once I examined my heart, I found a root of pride twisting its way through my belief system.

And, as we all know, roots of pride must be demolished.

As usual, God has been faithful to uproot and rebuild me, and it is for this reason that I am so eager to encourage you today.

To the mom who chases after toddlers. The blogger with fifteen subscribers. The pastor’s wife who disciples two young women. The pastor who never receives a plaque at the associational meetings. The church body whose building is outdated and embarrassing. The layman who sees the same two employees all day, every day. The photographer who has seven clients. The teacher in the small classroom in the small school in the small town. The musician who sings and plays on the smallest stage. The grandmother who invests in her handful of grandchildren. The prayer warrior in the tiny church. The homeschooler whose college diploma gathers cobwebs in a cardboard canister while she teaches her children how to read…

Never let the miracle escape you that, even though your light is shining in seemingly small places…you have a light.

Your work is no less important to the Kingdom and no less assigned by the God of the universe.

And if you lined up all of our rural towns and our private homes and our homeschools and our classes and our ministries and our prayer meetings and our blogs and our tiny churches where God is being made much of day by day, and you flew up into the clouds and you looked down at night, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate the big lights from the little lights…

you would just see one giant, beautiful remnant that reached all across the world and back again.

A light is a light is a light.

Don’t be ashamed that yours is shining in a place that no one else knows about.

Don’t feel like a failure because you’re not moving on to “bigger” and “better” things.

Don’t be afraid to live and die in a tiny church in a nameless town.

And don’t think that your gifts are wasted because the recipients are few.

Your light is a vibrant and necessary part of God’s story, whether you are shining on the biggest platforms in the world…

or the smallest.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may seen your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

 

Spirit-led Parenting

"The challenge isn't so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don't want to."

While it has obviously tied up my writing time, nursing a baby for the past 6 months has not only given me lots of time to play Candy Crush, it has given me lots of time to think, about lots and lots and LOTS of stuff.

But the thing I’ve been ruminating over the most has been so freeing and so life-changing, it sort of begged me to sit down for a bit this afternoon and share the wealth.

Spirit-led parenting.

It is changing everything for me.

Question: how many parenting blogs have you read in the last two months?

Me? Probably 15 or 20.

Make that 25.

At least.

Articles are great. They are easy to read, they address one specific topic, and they give these great daily boosts of encouragement and motivation. I love a good article.

But articles can also be dangerous.

Here’s why…

What you are essentially reading in most articles and blog posts is an author’s personal conviction. Something has come up in that person’s life that has bothered them, and they are turning over a new leaf. Or, like me, they’ve been ruminating on some “stuff” and they sit down to hash it out on their blog.

It is a gift to be let in on these glimpses of personal growth and conviction, and they can be greatly used by the Spirit to promote change and conviction in our own hearts.

But what we, as readers, can sometimes do, is stand up from our daily dose of internet consumption in a fog of guilt-by-comparison.

What?…This lady doesn’t spend time on the internet? I must be a bad mom for loving Facebook so much.

This lady doesn’t tell her kids to ‘hurry up’? I’ve said that at least five times this week! I’m the worst!!

This lady doesn’t buy paper plates anymore? I’m never going to use a paper plate again without feeling like a failure…

And in this rush to heap guilt upon our heads, we make a major mistake, failing to recognize that what we are reading is one snippet from one person’s life that is very specific to their situation.

Let me explain.

I threw in the part about the paper plates because, GASP, I am the lady who doesn’t buy them anymore. After deciding to give them up a couple of years ago, I haven’t bought one. single. package.

I know. I’m incredible.

Now. Imagine if I shared that information in a blog post highlighting tips for cutting down on waste or ideas for improving your monthly budget.

And then imagine that you got that guilty feeling in your stomach because you can’t imagine giving up paper plates. “How is she able to do that?” you ask yourself, “I’m such a loser!!”

But what you wouldn’t realize in that 1000-word blog post (what?! sometimes I keep it to 1000 words) is that, yes, I gave up paper plates, but there is no way in a hundred years that I could give up disposable diapers. Or wet wipes. Or paper towels. Or Hostess donut gems.

It didn’t hurt me much to give up paper plates.

And my real motivation for chucking them in the first place? I wanted extra spending money for fresh flowers.

Because fresh flowers make me happy, and in comparison, paper plates, in my opinion, are kind of…meh.

SO. Obviously, you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself when you read about my paper plate fast.

Now, that was just one example, and a silly one at that, of the misguided comparisons we can make as readers. But now let’s take it to the next level.

What do you do when you read blogs that focus on the very essence of who you are, a wife, a mama, a daughter of God?

Do you unobjectively compare yourself?

And even worse, do you immediately make unfair judgements about yourself followed by sweeping resolutions to make improvements, thinking that if you “do” or “don’t do” these things, you will be more pleasing to God?

The possibilities are clearly endless…

Give up screens for a month.

De-activate your Facebook account indefinitely.

Pull the plug on television. Forever!

Decide that Santa is the worst.

Decide that Santa is okay so long as he is portrayed as St. Nicolas.

Decide that Santa is the BEST.

Do Elf on the Shelf.

Don’t do Elf on the Shelf and think that people who do Elf on the Shelf are ridiculous.

Orchestrate precious birthday parties for your kids.

DON’T orchestrate precious birthday parties because parties are the stupidest, most indulgent thing ever.

I could go on forever, but if we are not careful in our blog perusal, we can tie man-made nooses around our necks, so that the only way we feel successful in the parenting department is if we adhere to this ever-growing list of goals, ideas, resolutions, wars, stances, boycotts, philosophies and even menus.

Our days are spent in guilt because we aren’t sitting in front of our kids, watching every minute of their growth, and because we said this one phrase to this child, and we didn’t throw the party like this one Mom did, and we don’t eat anything organic or we have too much stuff in our house or WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH STUFF or we….

whew. Can I stop now? I’m exhausted.

The internet (and even this blog!) is RICH in help and advice…

but sometimes our little tummies just can’t handle that level of decadence.

We are one person.

With one story.

And this is why I’ve been so encouraged lately, not only to be a better reader, but to realize that there is a huge difference between listening to another believer’s journey and gleaning wisdom from their story and unjustly comparing myself to them.

There are things that we, as parents, MUST do.

Bible things.

Deutoronomy 6:1-9, I Corinthians 13, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, 2 Timothy 3:15 (and many more).

And then…

well, then there are the other things.

The nonessentials.

The opinions.

The personal convictions.

The things that we’ll find alllllllll over the internet.

And while the advice and journaling from other believers might just change our life for the better, sometimes we are so busy trying to be 100 other people, we forget to listen to the most important voice in our lives…

the voice of the Spirit.

The Helper.

The Comforter.

And here’s what it all comes down to.

I know when I’ve been sitting at the computer too long with my back to the kids. I can feel it in my heart and I can see it on their faces.

(But then, if I’m being honest, I can also recognize those free moments when I can spend some time with my friends and family on Facebook).

I know when I need to put down Candy Crush and just watch my baby nurse and marvel at God’s miraculous provision.

(But then sometimes I feel perfectly allowed to zone out with some chocolate candy balls and stripy candies and exploding candies. Key word: candy. p.s. I will CRUSH you).

I know when I need to allow my daughter to bake with me and learn alongside me.

(But sometimes, after gauging the situation and her countenance, I can send her on her way because I need to hurry so we won’t be late to church).

The challenge isn’t so much in knowing the right and wrong things to do, but in learning to listen to the Spirit in my heart in each moment, and to obey the various pulls and tugs, even when I don’t want to.

All of the above was the most roundabout way ever to say this…

Let’s stop comparing ourselves to every mom and wife and lady on the internet. We don’t know their situations any better than we do Martha Stewart’s or Michelle Obama’s.

But then again, let’s also be very honest about our own situations and focus more on pleasing God with our innermost thoughts and motivations than we are on fulfilling this pipe dream of perfect parenting.

Are you spending too much time on the internet? Only you know that. (but you know you know it).

Do you need to give up something to be financially faithful? (may I suggest paper plates? Just kidding).

Have you assumed that by doing what everyone else is doing that all is well between you and God? You’ll know the answer to that if you simply ask, and it is a really important question.

Are you fulfilling lots of 10-step programs to better housekeeping and homeschooling and parenting but failing to live the gospel out for your kids to see?

It would just be really unnecessary to lose ourselves in a sea of helpful voices only to forget that God Himself is in our homes. Right here. Beside us. In us. Everywhere.

He knows what is best for our family.

He knows how to parent the quirky individuals He crafted for us to bring up.

He knows what we need to add, what we need to give up, where we are excelling and where we are lacking.

He knows our schedule. He knows our hearts.

And He even knows when we should have a big ol’ birthday party or scale things back a bit…

which leads me to my next post, “Mother Hen’s Seventh Birthday”, coming up next week!

~

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you snuffed out the voice of God in your preoccupation with looking like the perfect mom?

How is He teaching you and convicting you in your specific situation?

Do tell!