Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Widow’s Road


A few years ago, I decided to study good leaders. I was interested in what made a person someone whom others looked up to and aspired to be like. I was fortunate to be surrounded by amazing leaders at that time and they poured into the people around them daily (and still do!). Anyway, I read a lot of books about leadership. I started my study with Nehemiah and just kept going. I discovered a lot about myself during those days of reading and listening to people who gave selflessly of themselves in order to help other people live better lives. I found a new sense of awareness within myself of being the kind of leader that others wanted to follow.  I didn’t know that God was preparing me for being a leader alright…just not in the business world like I had originally thought.

In a lot of ways September 24th is lot harder than September 20th for me. Flipping through my memories this morning I was humbled and surprised yet again by the outpouring of love the girls and I received on the day of Greg’s funeral. Not only did our community reach out to us, they honored Greg’s life in a way that was awe inspiring. I will never forget how humbling it was to ride behind that firetruck as it carried his casket to the cemetery. The respect that was shown to him was a testament to the caliber of man he was at the end of his life.

I have had so many people approach me and tell me stories of how Greg’s example …in one situation or another was helpful for them as they faced different events in their own lives. Greg never thought of himself as a leader. He thought of himself as a worker. That is what he took the most pride in…working hard and having respect for everyone no matter what their station happened to be in life.

I watched a video this week of Mr. Rogers from ‘Mr. Rogers Neighborhood’ and he was talking about his mother. Mrs. Rogers said, “in any tough situation if you wanted to see the difference makers you should look for the helpers. The ones who show up and just do things without expecting anything in return. They just do what needs to be done and don’t question ‘if’ or ‘when’ they should do it…they just show up and get to work”.

Greg was a helper.

Living with a helper for almost seventeen years made an impact on me. I also grew up in a family of helpers and for that I could not be prouder. Hard work and digging in to help others is just a way of life. My parents do that, my grand-parents did that, and I am trying my hardest to raise my girls to do it as well.  I expect them to step in and notice when someone needs help…and I expect them to just do whatever needs to be done with no reward other than that feeling deep inside that they know they did the right thing. It just occurred to me this morning that teaching them to be helpers will also teach them to be leaders.

I woke up this morning and as usual I flipped on Facebook and scrolled through my memories. I love seeing my life in review sometimes. Don’t you?  I can’t always enjoy the memories, but most days I can. Anyway, I didn’t immediately realize that this was the day of Greg’s funeral until I saw my memories. Then it all came flooding back. I remembered exactly how it felt that day at the funeral home. I let myself think about all those feelings and emotions for about two seconds before a text popped up.

It was Miranda.

God works all things together for His good. All things. I know this to be true deep inside my soul. I know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I know it because I have lived it. Tonight, we had a fish fry at the church. If felt good to eat, talk, and laugh on this day instead of being overcome with sadness like we were two years ago. Just that fact by itself is a miracle. But, this story is about another miracle…the one Miranda and I share.

See, Miranda and me…we are sisters. Just like me and the Pam’s, the Cindy’s, the Janet’s, Michelle, Linda, Tasha, Mary Frances, Samantha, Tammy, Stacy, Brenda, Renee, Lisa, Teresa, Tippa, Melanie, Lenora, Sheila, Brandi, Rosalie, Peggy, Tandi, Marie, Kathy, Rebekah, Sue, Lorraine, Sheila, Paula, Debrah, Emily, Dotty, Patsy, Carla, Kristina, Becky, Patricia, Sue, Rhonda, Lori, Tina, and many, many others. We have all walked a journey together that is eerily similar, yet different.

However, Miranda and I are especially close. Our circumstances are unbelievably similar. We have argued about who had it worse…me because there was no time for goodbyes…or her because there was. We have talked, cried, laughed, prayed, and threatened to run away together a lot over the past two years. To say I am thankful for her would be putting it lightly.  She gets it in a way no one else close to me can most of the time. We communicate without words a lot…one look as we pass in the mornings says all we need it to say. The relationship we share is precious and I am so very thankful for it and her.

Miranda lost the love of her life to cancer on Labor Day weekend 2016. Eleven months after I lost Greg. Michael was a policeman and together he and Miranda have two beautiful daughters. Their family lives in the next town and just like Greg and I…everybody knows them. They are helpers too. Michael’s legacy is jam packed with the same kind of stories as Greg’s. They influenced lives everywhere they went and even in places they didn’t go. If you mention Michael’s name the first thing anyone says is, “He was a great guy”. Miranda and Michael were together almost as long as Greg and I were. They faced a lot of the same battles that we faced…and they had sendoffs to heaven that made lasting impacts on every person who witnessed them in person.

Michael’s visitation was the first one I allowed myself to go to after Greg’s. I feared going back to a funeral home or church visitation (still do). I hated facing the memories that flooded my mind at the very thought of walking into a crowd of people, much less a funeral home. But, I never hesitated to go to Miranda that night. I knew better than anyone else close to her how hard it was gonna be. I knew that she needed lots of water; time to sit down and take a break; and hugs of encouragement to know she did have the strength to keep greeting the people as they filed through to pay their respects.

My presence that night was to be a helper and it almost killed me to do it. It wasn’t until I got home that I fell apart. I cried and sobbed…I shook and got nauseous…I asked God why He would make me go through that again less than a year after I went through it myself. I didn’t understand what His plan was and I didn’t like it one little bit.

This past Wednesday, exactly two years to the day, one of Greg’s greatest friends had a heart attack and died. When I heard the news, I got sick to my stomach and began to shake all over. I could not get my kids delivered to our friends fast enough…I had to go to my friend’s home and hug her. All I could focus on was getting to her and hugging her close. No other thought could enter my mind. I had to send a message of apology to another sweet friend who hugged my neck as I dropped the girls off because I had no clue if I had even spoken to her. I just needed to get to my friend’s house…fast.

When I walked in the door, Heath was behind me. Bless him…he truly is an amazing man. God blessed me big time with him.

Anyway, as I walked in I scanned the room and saw familiar faces everywhere I looked. They all knew me. They all knew Greg. They all knew how intricately wound my family and this family were. I walked over to my friend and I hugged her with all the strength I had and I told her that she was not alone.

And, I meant it.

I looked up and met the eyes of her sister who has also walked this widow road. I prayed right then that God would use us to make her journey easier somehow. It wasn’t until I got home that I fell apart. The shaking, nausea, tears, and overwhelming sadness took over again. I knew what she was in for and I dearly wanted to take the pain away from her somehow, but in my heart, I knew there was nothing I could do except pray and just be there. So, that’s what I did.

The next morning, I woke up to find a message from a woman who was sitting in that room the night before. She was there and she knew how hard it was for me to put my pain aside on that specific day in order to help my friend. She thanked me for doing what I did and I immediately felt ashamed. In no way did I consider my presence that night as star in my own crown. I could only focus on the fact that my friend needed me and it didn’t matter what day it was for me…she needed to be loved on and hugged on because she was facing her own nightmare. Yes, it cost me dearly emotionally…but it blessed my heart to know that my friend was surrounded by people who understood where she was and that she was not alone. The fact that the other sweet lady noticed was mind blowing to me.

I have struggled with that situation all week. I have questioned God and why He asks me to do these hard things that have a huge emotional cost repeatedly. I have prayed that He would let others see Jesus in me for years. I have struggled with my temper, my attitude, my smart mouth, and my impatience with people in general. I have failed so many times it is pathetic and I didn’t see why God continued to ask me to essentially hurt myself emotionally over and over again in order to please Him.

It didn’t make sense…until Miranda texted me this morning:

            “I just want to say thank you. I knew (or I thought I knew) that it had to be hard                    for you to come to Michael’s visitation, but you were there. You were the example              that I am trying to be today….and I am struggling. I will take deep breaths and I                  will do exactly what you did for me. I will be there for his wife. Please pray for me              and his family. They are in the same boat as us”.

That’s when it hit me! God uses ALL things for HIS good! Every single emotional dollar I have paid was so that Miranda could be what she needed to be for this sweet woman and her two girls today. Every single emotional dollar Miranda is paying will be so that other women can find the strength they need to do for someone else what was done for them. This cycle did not begin with us…it began long before us on an old rugged cross upon a hill.

Jesus paid it all…so that we could all be saved. God worked ALL things together for HIS good on that cross…and He has not stopped using what was meant to destroy Him to make Us stronger. God is Good.

After I realized this, I was flipping through my pictures and this is what I saw:

leader quote

The story is starting to come together. God is asking the widows to be leaders for Him! By humbly being helpers, we are becoming leaders. I didn’t sign up for this…neither did Miranda…or any of the millions of other women who walk the widow road. Yet, God is still using our stories and experiences to help other people see that this is not our home. We are all passing through, but we have a choice in where our eternal home will be. Which way are you headed? Do you know? If not, please talk to someone today…now…. don’t wait! Jesus is coming back soon and we must all be ready.

One last note, please…please remember the widows when you pray. Once a widow becomes a member of this club she never gets out. No new relationship; no new life; no amount of time changes the fact that the rug was ripped out from under that woman and life as she knew it ended the day her spouse died. This is not a race that is ever finished…it costs us dearly to become lifetime members…and it takes a lot of prayer to ease the pain. Knowing we are never alone is a blessing none of ever realized we couldn’t live without. So, the next time you feel God asking you to do something that is hard…DO IT! The blessings you get in return are indescribable and can only be gotten through obedience to Him.

Full Circle

Full Circle

In the deep south, there are two kinds of people: Mountain People and Beach People. There is no in between. Either you love going to the mountains every time you get the opportunity or you book your condo at the beach a year in advance. Now, don’t get me wrong both groups will visit the other locations occasionally, but they remain true to one or the other in their heart for their whole life.

I am a mountain person and I have been blessed to have married two other mountain people in my lifetime. When Greg and I were newlyweds we would run off to the mountains every chance we got. Mostly it was around Christmas each year, but we did enjoy several trips at other times of the year as well. During those trips, we would ride around and look at houses and dream of one day owning our own log cabin. We bought magazines (because Pinterest had not yet been invented!) and cut pictures out of different things we wanted to include if we ever built our own log cabin. I kept them all in a three-ring binder.

Heath and I have only been married for two months and we have already been to the mountains twice. I have been five times this year alone. And, before you ask yes I have considered moving there MANY times and it still is not out of the question!

Anyway, back in 2005 I had just finished my bachelor’s degree at the University of Alabama and was teaching at Winfield. Greg was the Fire Chief in Fayette. We decided it was time to build our dream home and so that’s exactly what we did. The day Greg dug the footings for the foundation was the same day I found out that I was pregnant with Maggie.

Naturally, that house took on a whole new meaning for us when we found out a baby was gonna join our family after six years of infertility.

In May of 2006, just seven days before Maggie was born we moved into our dream home. Life for the most part was great! Little did we know what kind of storm was about to hit us.

I was induced with Maggie at 37 weeks. Since she was my first baby to deliver they let me labor for over 27 hours. My water was broken by the doctor and the three epidural attempts never worked. So, after pushing for three hours I was finally taken back for a C-section where they put me to sleep under general anesthesia. When I woke up I had a 105-degree temperature and no clue if I had a boy or a girl (Greg was the only person who knew what we were having). They didn’t tell me many details for the next three days because I was so sick. On the fourth day, my fever broke and I was finally able to see my baby for the first time. Together, she and I spent the next twenty-two days inside that hospital. Greg drove back and forth as much as he could, but he couldn’t afford to take off work that long. So, most of my time was spent inside the NICU or walking back and forth carrying milk from the room I was staying in at the hospital.

When Maggie and I finally came home with Greg it was wonderful. Life was good and we began settling in as a family. In September of 2006, we bought the store. Greg quit the fire department and we switched our focus to a family run business. In December 2006, I found out (against all odds) that I was pregnant with Linnie. Talk about shock! I was in deep shock for a while! So was Greg.

When I was five months pregnant with Linnie, Greg came home one day and announced that he wanted a divorce. During the following six years we went on to lose our business, our house, our vehicles, our respect for each other, and our pride. If it could be lost we lost it. Yet, we found a new life in the process.

God mended our marriage, He mended our hearts, and he mended our finances. It was not an easy thing to endure…especially when we thought about “our house”. One day on the way to see some friends in Atlanta the Miranda Lambert song, “The House that Built Me” came on the radio as we were passing the racetrack in Talladega. Greg started crying so hard that I told him to pull over. When he could talk again he said that “our house” was built with all the love he had for us. He wanted us to grow old there, he wanted our children to grow up and make memories there, he wanted them to have their pictures made on the front porch steps when they were headed to the prom. Every dream he had for our family was centered around that house and he was devastated to have built it himself and lost it.

old house last day

Greg took this picture a few minutes before we walked out of the door for the last time the day we moved out. Behind that smile was a very broken woman. I was sad to the bone and had no idea what was going to happen next. Maggie remembers this day, but Linnie does not. I, however will never forget it.

For three years I could not even drive by the house without crying. I honestly grieved losing that house as much as I had ever grieved in my life up to that point. I cried out to God to please let us have our house back. I wanted it back so bad that I could taste it. I almost let myself become bitter because He didn’t let it happen. How childish I was! I wanted my house and I could not understand why God took it away from us. Finally, after three years I gave the house back to God. I told him that I was OK with not living there and that I would be content wherever He lead me. I asked him to forgive me for my selfish desires and I asked Him to bless those who were fortunate enough to live there in all the days to come.  God was faithful and He heard my prayers. He sent someone to live in the house that would one day be the pillar I needed to survive.

After Greg died I spent three months sitting in a chair. I lost touch with reality and I lost touch with life. My world crashed and all I could do was sit around looking at the ashes that were left. Thankfully, I had a family and friends who didn’t give up on me. They loved me back into living and one of those people was the woman who bought “our house”.

She stepped in and helped me to find healing. She gave me the things I needed to survive. She told me to listen to my Mama. She told me to get up and start over. She cooked dinner…and gave me books…and warm cookies. She sat on my couch as I cried and wondered how to find my way out of the darkness. She took my girls and gave them things to learn and time to relax. She was the first person to read my book and she was my cheerleader throughout the whole publication process. She opened her doors to us and encouraged me to spend time in the house or on the porch soaking in the memories and feelings that Greg had left in that place. She even had our hand prints cut out of the driveway cement and delivered the piece of stone to us so that we would have it at the new house. She loved us unconditionally and to this day I could never repay her for all she did to help us live again.

Two weeks ago, she texted me and said she had some big news. She had been offered a job in another state and would be putting the house on the market. She didn’t want me to be upset about it. Little did she know that Heath had fallen in love with that house too.

After twenty minutes of texting and a late-night visit…we had worked out a deal. Before I left, she gave me this:


Every one of the sixty-six dimes inside this jar were found in the house during a three day time span. Do ya reckon Greg knows that on October 1st, 2017 Heath and I will have officially bought “our house” back? To say that all of us directly involved were shocked by these dimes would be an understatement!! And, it’s not just the dimes. I still cannot believe that we are really getting “our house” back! I still cannot believe that we are really moving back into the house that “built us”. I still cannot believe that all the dreams Greg had for his family will now come true.

God gave me the promise of Jeremiah 33:11-12 on or around January 9, 2016. That day is especially significant because that is the day Greg and I started dating in 1999 and it is also this amazing woman’s birthday! Coincidence? I think not!

Those verses in the book of Jeremiah say this: “There will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, ‘Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is Good, His love endures forever. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.”

You do not have to know me to see how amazing this story is! But, if you do know me or if you knew Greg you can clearly see that this is out of this world crazy! But, the story does not end there.

Heath, the man God prepared to become my husband long before I even knew I would want another one is also being restored. See, his story is wrought with love and loss as well. He has walked through a deep, deep valley and now he is being blessed with a home and family of his own again. His story is equally amazing and maybe one day he will want to share it, but for now he is content to just share this part of it.

Together he and I both want the world to see God in us. We cannot and will not take credit for what God has done. The mountains were too high, the valleys too low, the burdens too heavy. We would not be where we are today without the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood and sacrifice.

I hope our story inspires you to keep going. Keep trusting, keep believing in the One who can make all things possible. This world is not our home, we are all just passing through. My prayer is that everyone who reads this takes the time to know the King of King and Lord of Lords for His ways are true and His burdens are light. He’s coming back soon…are you ready?

September 20th is only ten days away. I honestly believe this second ‘Daddy Day’ will be filled with joy as we relish in the dream Greg had for his family coming full circle. I know a lot of you will have questions about what will happen next with the new house. The only thing I can tell you at this moment is “I don’t know”! I guess you will all have to stay tuned to find out! One thing I know for certain: God already has it worked out in full detail. I can’t wait to see what His plan is and how it connects to this one!