An Evergreen Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas…

and all I could think about was the gift I had waiting for him under the tree.

It had been in my possession for months, and I’d almost cheated and given it to him on a couple of those occasions when, as a doting wife, my sentiments were especially high.

But we had somehow arrived at Christmas with the intended surprise still intact, and I was so glad that I’d mustered up the self-control to wait. Our own gift exchange was tentatively scheduled for midnight, after the kids were asleep and the Christmas morning preparations were completed, and as the time drew nearer, my antsiness grew, this long-awaited surprise bubbling up inside of me like the coffee in my percolator.

And when I say “long-awaited”, I really mean it. The story of this gift actually began the previous year, in the summer of 2016…

and, well, you know the drill around here. I’m going to need to tell you the whole story.

It’s what I DO.

(And you are so sweet about listening!)

So my husband is an expository preacher, and the choosing of a book to preach through is quite a big deal to him; once he begins expositing a new book, he’s more or less committed to finishing it so that our congregation can understand the entirety of the message as it was written, in context.

We’ve been through the Psalms together…almost all of them!…we’ve been through Habakkuk, we’ve been through John, we’ve been through 1st and 2nd Corinthians…

and after much prayer and discussion with our other pastor, he had settled on our next book, which just so happened to be one of his favorite books, the book of Hosea.

After the practicality of Corinthians, rife with applicable instruction for how to live and how to treat one another, the book of Hosea was quite a departure. Hosea is a heavy book. It’s a grave book. But he insisted from the get-go that it is one of the most beautiful books in the Bible, and our congregation soon found this to be true. As we labored through the pages of that ancient text, studying the story of the prophet Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer, our understanding quickly grew of the gravity of our sin and the depravity that we would choose to live in were it not for the astounding grace of God.

For we all know it, don’t we? Without His keeping, “Gomer” we would most certainly be, not just prone to wander and leave the God we love, but prone to happily return to the filth and vomit from which we were rescued.

It’s sickening and sobering and sad.

But wait!…

then you get to the REALLY GOOD news.

After months and months and months of highlighting the despicable whoredom of the Israelites and the much-deserved consequences they were facing for their sin, we finally reached the beautiful and shocking climax of the book found in chapter 14, made all the more beautiful and shocking by all that time we’d spent walking through the gutter.

Rather than trying to explain this climax in my own words, I’m just going to pop over to my husband’s podcast, if you don’t mind, and type out the final words he shared with us from the pulpit that day:

“…And I love how (Hosea) ends.

‘I am like a evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.’

Listen, if there’s a section in Hosea that you can memorize to know what Hosea is about, it would be Hosea 2:14-23.

But if there was a verse to remember what Hosea teaches us about God in Hosea, it would be this one — ‘I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.’

God has remained ever faithful, ever green, to a people who have been faithless over and over.

He has been evergreen to a people that have been never green.

And what does this evergreen provide?

From me comes your fruit.’

Israel fell when they forgot where their fruit came from…but not anymore. They will know that from God alone comes their fruit.

So look again at the picture of what God is going to do as he fulfills what he said in Hosea 2: Israel is going to sit in a wasteland, sit in a desert, and yet, in the midst of that wilderness there will stand one tree, and it will still be green.

Imagine how shocking that would be…how stark…to be in a desert and find a tree, and not just any tree, but to find, like, a pine tree!…to find a tree that is always green! It’s like something out of the Chronicles of Narnia here! And what is even more shocking isn’t that this tree is green so that it survives. What’s shocking is that it is a tree that is so flourishing in the midst of the desert that it doesn’t just survive…it provides. ‘I am a tree that is evergreen and a tree that can still give you fruit.’

God is not just an evergreen tree, he is an evergreen tree for us.

And again, I can’t help but see how this would point us to Christ.

Our life is like that of Hosea 13 and 14: The weight of our sin dragging us to death, the wrath of God looming over us. Our lives are JUST like that desert…hopeless…empty…and in the desert of this world, what hope would a bunch of sinners like us have?

But in the midst of our desert, we hear this whisper.

Repent.

Return.

Return to me.

And when we lift up our eyes to that whisper, in the midst of our desert, we see there, on a hill shaped like a skull, such a tree.

A tree that will ever be green, a tree that is alive and that will give us life.

~

Yes!! Did you hear that, Gomers of the world? There is hope for you yet! There is hope for us.

Our church rejoiced that Sunday as we contemplated this incredible grace that would bring miraculous, undeserved LIFE to a people who had nothing but the shame they had heaped upon their own heads.

And our pastor…my husband…rejoiced alongside us.

He’d spent so many hours that year pouring over the words of Hosea, researching them, praying over them, and asking God to help him clearly exposite the text, and as he worked, that good news of the cypress tree rooted itself deeper into his heart than ever before; this beautiful portrait of God had reached him, and it had changed him, just like it was changing our church body.

In fact, it was all so very impactful that, somehow, both of us came to a rather surprising conclusion that day.

We needed a painting of this tree.

Which is sort of weird, right? I mean, we’ve heard a lot of touching sermons in our day, and never once have we both decided that we needed a painting of said sermon.

And yet that’s exactly what happened after this finale of Hosea.

“I’d like to have a painting done of that tree,” he mentioned out of the blue. “An evergreen tree that would be common to our area like the cypress tree was to those hearing Hosea’s message…”

“I’ve been thinking this exact same thing!” I gasped.

We looked at each other in a “curiouser and curiouser” sort of way, and then, probably because we live in a lively house where grown-up conversations are interrupted before they can even really get started, we didn’t speak of it again.

I didn’t forget it, though.

Occasionally, I would search through the seemingly endless annals of Etsy, looking for an artist or a graphic designer, even, who could bring this passage to life for us.

But it was a totally overwhelming quest. I didn’t even know where to start, really!

That’s perfectly okay, though, because I learned something important this year…

the God who creates artists (and we know He does that from the book of Exodus) is more than able to help you find the one you need.

~

Oh golly, I love Christmas surprises, don’t you? Thank you for reading today, and please come back tomorrow to hear the conclusion of this special story. Did we find an artist? Did we get a painting of that cypress tree? Will I show it to you??? Stay tuned…

 

(and until then, you can always find us at Facebook where I tell most of our stories!)

 

 

 

Mrs. Gore’s Tips for Not Making Your Pastor Wish He Was Anything But a Pastor

One aspect of my life that I don’t talk about very often is the fact that I am married to a pastor.

My shepherd at church is also my shepherd at home.

Not to be confused with my infant baby, Shepherd. You can tell him apart from my husband/pastor shepherd because he wears onesies and his name has a capital “s”.

Anyhow, this not only makes me the heralded “pastor’s wife”, it makes me an expert in all things pastorly.

And since I am both a full-time layperson/congregant and married to a full-time person of the cloth, I thought I would merge my two worlds today and give some pointers on how people like us (the congregation) can be a help and not a hindrance to people like us (the minister and his wife and family).

As usual, I can only talk about things like this because our church is the totes awesomest. I give you my word, there is no hidden agenda or lurking jabs in the words that I shall henceforth be sharing.

Or in the words that I heretofore shared.

Let us begin.

1. Obviously, don’t be a poo-poo head.

I’m glad we had this talk.

2. Guard your little words.

As your God-appointed leaders, your pastor spends his week praying and, if you’re lucky, maybe even fasting, with you in mind, expecting the Lord to do something great in your life; thus, imagine how it must deflate him when he sees you at church and says “Good morning! How are you?” and your response is “It’s cold in here” or “Your microphone is too loud.” Um, ouch. Try instead to tell him what you appreciate about him or how the Lord used the sermon to impact you. He truly wants to hear about it. Then you can tell him you’re cold. In a nice way, of course (see point #1).

3. Likewise, guard your big words.

Speaking of “um, ouch”, I’ve taken note over my lifetime in church of how folks tend to speak more bluntly to pastors than they do others. As a full-time SAHM/homeschooler, I can’t imagine what it would feel like if someone walked into my home and started picking apart my realm, not only finding fault with the things that make up my entire life, but sharing my faults openly with others, all before giving me pointers on how to do my job better. It would be heartbreaking. Guard your tongues, ye brutal and loose-tongued opiners, and, not to be redundant, but…see point #1.

4. Give your pastor plenty of family time.

Our church is the BEST at this. We are five years into our ministry here, and never once have I felt that I am competing with the church for my husband’s attention. Granted, he has set firm guidelines in this area, but our church has also done its part, giving him freedom to come home when he chooses, to keep flexible office hours, and to arrive and depart from church with his family rather than in separate vehicles (meaning, no late-night meetings, etc.).

A church that competes with, rather than nurtures, their pastor’s life at home fatally damages his potential for fulfilling his biblical call. Tsk, tsk, tsk. That’s worse than being a you-know-what  (see point #1).

5. Incline your ear and follow your leader.

My husband pour hours into preparing his sermons, every week. On top of that, he writes a daily Bible reading guide so we might better ingest the exposited text. He asks us to pray for specific things. He encourages us in specific areas. He gives us tasks that are unique to our situation…

that’s his job.

Now it is the job of the congregation, myself included, to follow. The most encouraging church members are the ones who really listen and do the things their pastor asks them to do (obviously, this includes neither sinning nor drinking any kind of poisoned fruit punch).

6. Think about your particular gifts and use them to minister to your minister.

It has been a joy for me to watch our congregation encourage our family, in all kinds of different ways. Their gifts literally keep us going. Whether it is the deacon who makes hospital visits to give our pastors plenty of study time, or the older women who tidy up my husband’s office, or the young mom who brings us food, or the widow who frequently sends us encouragement, or the couple who constantly prays for us, or the man who mows our yard, the love and generosity of our church family makes the way so much easier for us.

Do the same for your pastor, and I’m pretty sure you’ll get an in-ground swimming pool in heaven.

7. Work hard to keep your pastor safe.

You can do this in so many ways. Pray for him. Give him plenty of rest. Pray for him. Protect him from she-devils with wicked intentions. Pray for him. Be his visitation buddy. In other words, be his watchdog and his mother hen. Taking care of your pastor helps ensure he will be equipped to take care of you.

Oh and don’t forget to pray for him.

8. Give him time and room to grow.

Although it is imperative that he meets the requirements that scripture lays out for his eldership, your pastor is being sanctified just like you are. Remember, pastors are people, too. And people are poo-poo heads sinners.

9. Give him time and room to preach.

It has become a token joke in today’s church culture to make references to the length of the pastor’s sermon, and although this is usually in good fun, I can imagine that it could easily turn harmful.

Imagine, for a minute, the pressure of knowing that the God of the universe was watching to make sure you said everything you were supposed to say. And then imagine looking out across of sea (or a small pond) of people who were tapping their feet and checking their wristwatches, expecting you to accomplish that daunting task in twenty to thirty minutes per week.

Cherish the pastor who is more afraid of God than he is of you, and give him the freedom to do his job and do it thoroughly and “with joy” (see Hebrews 13 below).

10. View your pastor and his family as a team.

This advice is more practical than it is biblical, but I appreciate it so much that, when our church members pray aloud for my husband, they pray for me and our children, too. I also personally love it when women include me in messages they send to my husband or seek us both out for advice; it is in no way necessary (because I read all his messages anyway), but it is a very cool thing to do, and it strengthens our family unit, which, again, is only for the good of the church.

11. Pay him well.

Many dole out big bucks for their doctors, dentists, accountants and personal trainers without question, but then expect their pastor and his family to live like paupers.

You pastor has been assigned by God to watch over your soul and train you in righteousness, the single most important aspect of your life…

you can help by making sure he doesn’t have to worry during the week about how he is going to afford some cornbread to go with his beans.

(Kudos to our church family for our generous salary and for a yearly cost-of-living increase!).

12. Include him in your decision-making.

I’m guessing at the math here, but 9 times out of 10, congregants approach their pastor for advice on big decisions…

after their decision is made.

Contemplating a huge change? Tempted to join another church? Feeling like getting a divorce? Make haste to the preacher-man, seek his biblical advice and counseling, and, if he isn’t leading you in something that is unbiblical, do what he says to do. Which leads us to our next point…

13. Make the way easy for him by submitting and not grumbling.

This one is straight from the Bible. Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Your pastor will answer to God for how he led you. You will answer (also to God) for how you followed.

‘Tis a very freeing and simple arrangement, is it not? I wish I had realized that sooner.

14. Keep poo-poo heads accountable.

Lastly (but almost certainly not leastly), if you hear someone speaking ill of your shepherd, either gently rebuke them or change the route of the conversation. Their words will not only harm your pastor, they could harm your own ears, planting seeds of discord in your heart that could lead to a root of bitterness. Which could turn you into a…well, see point #1.

~

As with any list of advice or etiquette, I am sure these pointers are far from comprehensive, but I hope they provide some helpful insight. How I could have used this list when I was younger! If I could go back and be a better sheep for my former pastors, I most certainly would. Consider this my public apology, for when I typed these words and revisited old memories, I felt sheepish, indeed. Baaa.

I also deeply apologize for how many times I said or referenced “poo-poo” in this blog post. 

~

Mrs. Gore’s comment policy: all comments are read and appreciated, but only those that are edifying and do not lead to lengthy internet discussion are approved.

And, finally, because I love ya, a pin for your bookmarking and sharing convenience…

pastor tips

Della.

From Della to Mr. Gore, July 2007…

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If you had told me two weeks ago that my first outing with Baby Shepherd would be to Ms. Della’s funeral, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But such is the nature is death…

if we knew when it was coming, we would spend every waking moment in bedside vigils, hanging onto the ankles of those we knew would soon be departing.

As it was, they were so habitual and ordinary, I don’t even remember my last words to Della.

I know we were probably standing either in the dimly-lit church sanctuary or in the fellowship hall, where we crossed paths Sunday morning after Sunday morning after Sunday morning, for as long as I can remember.

I would have told her how beautiful she looked.

(She always looked beautiful).

She would have asked how I was feeling and might have exclaimed over how much Betsie has grown or how handsome Gideon looked in his dress clothes or how Rebekah’s hair is getting so long.

(She always took time to notice the kids and ask how I was doing).

We probably hugged, and I am positive that I felt happy on the inside just to see her for that brief moment before we moved on to our respective Sunday School classes.

(Della always made me happy).

But whatever greetings we swapped during our last meeting on this earth, one thing is certain: I had no idea they would be my last to a woman who meant so much more to me than a passing hug, and who I admired for so much more than her physical beauty.

If I had known…

I would have cradled her beautiful face in my hands and told her that she was dearly loved…

I would have thanked her for consistently exhibiting to me those Christian fruits that are most admirable in a woman of God…

I would have asked her to tell me all of her funny stories one last time so I could write them down for safekeeping…

I would have recorded her speaking voice so I could listen to her rich and indescribable tone anytime I wanted…

I would have asked if I could come over and learn how to make her to-die-for homemade rolls…

I would have told her that, during the toughest days we’ve had in the ministry, her unswerving faithfulness, gentle guidance and genuine words of encouragement helped keep us going…

I would have hugged her tighter, I would have memorized the lines of her face, and I would have sat beside her at worship…

I would have asked her to wait just one more week, so she could hold my new baby…

And I would have promised her that I would miss her every Sunday and at every women’s fellowship and everytime I drove past her tidy, yellow house for the rest of my life.

Della was not a relative of mine, and if it were not for our like faith, we never would have known each other…

but when the grace of God reached down and plucked her from the road that leads to destruction to place her on the path to life, and then did the same for me years later, all of that changed; by the world’s standards she wasn’t my grandmother or my great aunt or even a distant cousin — she was just a “little old lady” who went to the same church as me.

But my redeemed heart knows better…

she was my sister. My mother. A vibrant, intrinsic part of my family.

And though I know we will spend forever in the same place, my humanity weeps bitter tears at the thought of saying goodbye.

Tears that bring to mind a day, half a decade ago, when Mr. Gore and I were discussing our future and weighing the pros and cons of him applying to be senior pastor at the church I had grown up in; to say that things at the time were messy and complicated would be an understatement. And although my husband was inexperienced and fresh out of seminary, he was a brilliant man with accolades and references galore; he could most likely have found work anywhere…

but “anywhere” wasn’t the story God had written for us. He wanted us here, and He tuned our hearts and our passion to stay, no matter how difficult the road ahead seemed to be.

The church was in turmoil, the budget was limited, and due to an unfortunate church split five years prior, well over half of the remaining membership was over the age of 65. There was one baby in the nursery and he was ours…

But it didn’t matter. We were in love.

“I just can’t leave them…” Mr. Gore said, with conviction. “I want to be their pastor. I want to walk them through the rest of their life. I want to preach their funerals…”

My heart agreed, most vehemently.

But here we are so many years later, and my, those funerals are hard…

Each lifelong friend who leaves us for “Beulah Land” leaves a huge vacancy in our hearts, not to be filled until we meet once more in our forever home; God has only caused our love and tenderness for them to multiply, and while our initial dream of walking these dear saints through life has come true, it carries with it a pain that we couldn’t have imagined…

The day before Della’s funeral, Mr. Gore went to her viewing at the funeral home. Finding himself very much alone with the body our friend left behind, he sat and wept. Della had ministered to him in ways no one else ever saw, giving him godly advice, sending him encouraging notes and cards, praying for him

much like our sister Thelma and our brother Richard, the world might not have known the tiny little lady in the little yellow house, but she mattered, and her role in the Kingdom was vital and beautifully performed.

Since the day we pursued this ministry, God has been so faithful to us and to our church. The division we inherited has flown the coop. Old wounds are being healed. Our membership, though smaller, continues to grow purer and purer. Love abounds. And while our budget is still limited, God has met every single need.

If the thought ever crossed my mind that we would be giving something up to “lay down our lives” for a church that was tiny and troubled and, frankly, not-the-coolest, five years with Della (and so many like her) has proven me stupid…

we have gained the world, drinking in priceless wisdom and encouragement from some of God’s very best, and learning what it means to be the body of Christ.

We grieve over the precious and important member we lost this September…

even as we thank God for the gift of knowing her at all.

~

Della, holding Baby Rebekah at our women’s fellowship in 2009

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Want to know more about Della and the sweet people in our church? Read one of my favorite posts: The Early Birds

Mr. Titsworth

Our church family has many widows.

They bravely continue on in this world without their other halves, learning to work, to eat, to sleep, to relax, and to attend church alone where once there was a man beside them, some for many, many years.

They learn new skills that their husbands probably took care of, keeping their properties and their cars maintained, handling all of their finances, and filling in the gaping holes that their deceased beloveds left behind.

And in the midst of those many widows stands one widower…

His wife departed much too long ago, and in this great, big world without the love of his life, Mr. Titsworth learned to continue on.

Where I’m sure his wife used to handle most of the correspondence, Mr. Titsworth faithfully picked up, and everytime a special occasion arises, there, in the midst of the effiminently wrapped presents and gift bags is a single envelope from him, filled with a generous gift of cash. He lets the greeting cards do the talking and signs his name beneath the printed words, but the sentiment behind his kind gestures loudly proclaims “You are important to me.” I have received such a card on many occasions: high school graduation, my wedding day, the birth of Gideon, the birth of Rebekah, the birth of Betsie, Pastor Appreciation Day, Christmas…there is always a card from Mr. Titsworth.

Likewise, at all of our church potlucks and luncheons, where rows and rows of bubbling casseroles and beautiful salads line the table, there is one signature loaf of bread next to the utensils, faithfully purchased and delivered by Mr. Titsworth – his name stands out on our call list for funeral luncheons, the lone man in a long list of females. But he never, ever forgets, and that simple but faithful loaf of bread is a sweet reminder of who he is and what he contributes to our church family.

But on a sad Thursday in July, at a 12:00 funeral luncheon, that loaf of bread was very noticeably missing.

And the following Sunday, with heavy hearts, we “did church” for the first time without this man who was bound to our congregation like a grandfather, departed from his usual pew, and from this fleeting life, until we will meet again in glory.

Late on the Wednesday night before his funeral, as I sat alone in our home office and rehearsed the solo I would be singing at his service, tears filled my eyes as the weight of what we had lost…

If you’ve been a visitor to Mrs. Gore’s Diary for very long, you know what the senior adults in our church mean to both Mr. Gore and me. We came home from Kentucky with this group of people in mind, a small congregation left behind numerous times in a church that had gone through hell and then some for over a decade. We love them with as everlasting a love as sinful humans can possible contain, and I’ll never forget that day many years ago, when Mr. Gore and I were trying to decide whether or not it would be worth it to “take on” such a wounded church, my husband said these words: “I just can’t imagine someone who doesn’t know them doing their funerals. I want to walk them through their last years…”

I could not have possibly agreed more. This was the church I had been born to and a part of my entire life. It was where Mr. Gore and I met. Our hearts were here, no  matter where we went. In other words, this was our family...

Since he first accepted the call to become senior pastor at this church 4 years ago, however, we have been exceedingly blessed, and God graciously allowed us truly beautiful and peaceful years with the seniors citizens we adore. Their overall health has been wonderful, and the deaths have been few.

Then we unexpectedly lost Thelma.

And now, a few months later, Mr. Titsworth.

As I continued to attempt rehearsing my song on that Wednesday night – stopping to weep, trying again, stopping to sob, trying again – I thought of him…

His sweet cards.

His loaf of bread.

And a couple of stories I’ll never forget…

Mr. Gore and I were engaged to be married. He proposed in December 2004, and our wedding date was set for June 11, 2005. When he returned after Christmas break to Kentucky for another semester of seminary, I got to work planning the wedding of my dreams, and one of the biggest parts of that dream was to involve my sweet church family every step of the way. Thus was birthed the “Great Plate Search of 2005”. Giving me the microphone one Wednesday night, our pastor at the time allowed me to share what I needed help with: finding as many vintage floral-patterened plates as I could find. All the wedding books said that a bride needed to plan on about half of her invites attending the wedding, and with a wedding guest list of 400, we needed at least 200 plates. “Ready…set…go!” I announced to my little church family before our prayer meeting was adjourned for the night.

They were happy to help. I had ladies pulling boxes of antique plates out of their attics, some on loan, some for keeps, I had ladies calling me from junk stores or antique shops to announce a good price or a lovely pattern, and everytime we were at church, we were discussing plates, plates, and more plates.

But again, Mr. Titsworth was going to fill in where his wife would have probably thrived. One evening after our Sunday night service, he walked up to me and said in his friendly (and almost bashful) manner, “I pulled up to a garage sale yesterday to see if they might have any plates for your wedding…”

A delighted smile spread across my face. I couldn’t believe he would do such a thing for me.

“They had some plates…a lot of plates…” he continued, shyly, “but…I wasn’t sure if it was what you were looking for or not, so…here. Take this.”

There was a $5 bill in his hand.

As I accepted it, my heart absolutely melted within me. It was one of the highlight moments of my wedding preparations, and I beamed at him as he continued, “Now you can pick out something you would like.”

Now, 7  years later, I can’t really remember who else donated plates to the Great Plate Search, but…I will never, ever forget this moment with Mr. Titsworth.

But then he was always quietly watching and looking for ways to show his love. Only two weeks before he unexpectedly fell ill, I was with Gideon and Rebekah in the sanctuary before church. Gideon had on his cowboy boots and hat, and was running around the room spinning his poor excuse of a lasso, comprised of brightly colored lengths of string that came with our Melissa and Doug lacing cards. He had tied them all together and looped them near the end, and I was forever being called upon to fix this hodgey-podgey construction. Seeing him, Mr. Titsworth chuckled and said, “We need to get that cowboy a real lasso!”

I agreed, but soon forgot all about our conversation…

Until a week later. Walking into Mr. Gore’s church office, I looked down and noticed a large and sturdy rope coiled up on the floor, next to a shiny belt buckle with a horse on it.

“What’s this?!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, Mr. Titsworth dropped that off for Gideon…” he explained.

I shook my head in disbelief at Mr. Titsworth’s thoughtfulness and generosity, and my heart constricted once more as I basked in the joy of being a part of the family of God, where such love is common, but deeply appreciated.

I had no idea as I pondered my blessings that day that I would never see Mr. Titsworth again. We had come down with colds the week he was in the hospital and had to stay away, and Mr. Gore’s Grandma unexpectedly passed away the next week, calling us out-of-state to attend her funeral. We returned home on a Saturday with every intention of visiting Mr. Titsworth on Monday…but it was too late.

As our church family gathered with Mr. Titsworth’s blood relatives on that Thursday morning in July, the sadness and disbelief in the building was tangible. Although our church body was scattered all about the sanctuary during his funeral service, our eyes would meet, and I knew that what I was feeling as I sat on the stage waiting for my solo was what all of my brothers and sisters were feeling – not mourning like those who had no hope, but still, undeniably sad, for every single one of us knew that a truly great man had departed from our fellowship; our joy that he was Home was tempered by the grief of knowing that we would be spending many years without this hero by our side.

After the funeral, before leaving for the graveside service, I walked my beloved friend, Kenneth (who has been featured on this blog many times), to his car. He had been commanded by his doctor to stay out of the summer heat, but couldn’t bear to miss Mr. Titsworth’s funeral. I was so worried about him, not just for his body, but for his soul…for every Sunday, he and Mr. Titsworth, in their Sunday School class of three, would sit and study the Word together, come rain or shine. “How are you doing?” I asked him as we walked slowly through the parking lot.

“That man was the best friend I ever had.” he simply replied.

It is no small thing to have brothers and sisters in the faith, who, though small and insignificant in the scope of history and a booming world population, are big in our lives. Through the most seemingly mundane and routine actions, God uses them to bolster our faith, to bind our hearts into one, to sharpen us and inspire us and encourage us…

and therefore, it is no small thing to lose them.

Part of my Sunday morning routine these days is to pull up into our parking spot, look to my left where his blue pickup truck always sat and feel that familiar sadness wash over me. I still can’t believe I won’t be worshipping with him again on this side of heaven. But I hope I never stop missing him. I hope I will always tell Gideon about the man who gave him his very first lasso. I hope I will never forget that sweet $5 bill…

But mostly, I hope that I will be as vital a part of our church family as he was and that, by living and moving and breathing, I will point the church and the world around me to Jesus Christ.

That’s exactly what Mr. Titsworth did.

La Madeleine Musings

I DO love coming to you LIVE, today from my favorite country french cafe, La Madeleine…

Across from me is my beloved Mama (said in the French way today), and as she makes underlines in her Bible and plans out her grocery list, I wanted to take a moment to say “Good morning!” to all of you…my old friends, my new friends, and any potential friends who are still lurking about on the perimeter, undecided as to whether or not Mrs. Gore and all of her many words are welcome in their personal inboxes. It is certainly worth mulling over…I talk a LOT. On the internet. Not in real life. You should think long and hard before subscribing to Mrs. Blogs-a-lot.

Anyhow, what is on my heart this morning? I’m glad you asked.

Gratitude.

Last night at our Wednesday night prayer meeting, Mr. Gore (my pastor/husband) asked us to share a specific way God had blessed us.

As my brothers and sisters in the faith spoke of the very real and moving ways that God was working among us, personally and corporately, I reflected on my blessings.

Near the top of the very extensive list was…

you.

I’ve shared this before, but it is worth repeating: nearly 2 years ago, in the very same room we were meeting in last night, my husband was preaching and calling on the church to share the gospel with those we meet.

I bowed my head in utter frustration. Do you know who I was meeting with in those days?

Gideon.

Rebekah.

Baby-Betsie-in-my-tummy.

My Mom.

My Dad.

My husband.

My church.

The grocer at Wal-mart (who I couldn’t really speak to over the din my children were making after a long shopping trip).

I KNOW the importance of these preschool years, and I KNOW that I am “preaching” the gospel to my children every day in the way I speak to them, love them, discipline them, care for them…

but still. I was frustrated.

Sharing my frustrations with my husband that night, tears pouring down my face, I asked him “WHO am I supposed to be sharing the gospel with?!”

He spoke truth to me, reminding me of my very important role as stay-at-home Mom. But then he also instructed me to pray. To cast these cares on the Lord. To share my heart with my Maker.

I did.

And before long, I sat down one afternoon on a whim (after much encouragement from my brother, Pete, and others to do so), and opening a WordPress account, I wrote my first blog post.

The next day I wrote another one.

The next day I wrote another one.

And another and another and another and another.

And one day, sitting down at the computer, I felt compelled to write simply and solely about the gospel message, and how it has impacted my life.

I was thrilled when 316 people had read it by the end of that week.

316 people had heard the gospel message from my stay-at-home Mom, hermit, homebody voice, the one that had cried out to God for more people to share with that Wednesday night at church.

And with the surprising blog exposure I was met with last week over that silly Magic Mike guy, I have even better news: The gospel message I shared that day, because of your willingness to pass it on, has received 1,923 visitors this past week alone.

And so last night, as I shared that blessing aloud with my church family, my voice was shaking with daring-to-be-shed tears, not because I’m excited to have a “voice” and be heard, not because I have achieved a tiny piece of notoriety, not because I feel validated now that more people are listening to me besides my preschoolers…

I cry because God is real. God is good. God loves His children.

Thank you, dear friends (and yes, even you potential ones!), for being my blessing. As ever, I eat my French pastry in your honor and lift my coffee cup to you, and to the God who has brought us together.

And truly…I’d LOVE to hear how God has blessed you recently. Do share!