Author Archives: Emily Hubbert Webb

About Emily Hubbert Webb

Hello!! Welcome to my Blog!! I am super excited that you are here and I can't wait to share my story with you!! If you have chaos in your life...you will love mine!! From family mishaps to grocery store mayhem, I have stories that I hope will inspire you to keep going and rely on God's help for every step of the way. Join me for laughs, hurts, and fun as I travel this road we call life!!

The Lion in a Well-Aged Southern Woman’s Body

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So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. Isaiah 41:10

What is strength? How would you define a strong person? Most of us immediately think of physical strength, right? Pictures of men lifting weights in the gym. Women running marathons in the blazing heat. Football players suited up on Saturdays. You can picture all those different people in your head with ease, right?

Being an athlete most of my life made me physically strong. At least, I thought I was well acquainted with what it took to be strong. Little did I know that being physically strong would do very little to help me when I was tossed in the ring with grief.

This opponent that I suddenly found myself facing was massive. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to think. It was nearly impossible to move. I found out really quick like that this game was going to make me or break me.

One day during the height of this battle I was introduced to a sweet, Southern lady named Ann. “Mrs. Ann”, as I now fondly call her, was a widow too. Like me, she lost her beloved husband unexpectedly. I sat on her couch one day and listened to her tell me how she had dared anyone to touch or move Andy’s toothbrush from the bathroom counter for over two years. She just could not bring herself to move it, but she knew she would eventually. On her own time, and she was not going to let anyone make that decision for her.

I remember thinking how much I envied her strength in that moment. Mrs. Ann made such an impact on me that I wrote a blog about it later that night. You can read it here.

Mrs. Ann was determined to hang on to that one thing that she could control from the life she had before coming home to find her husband caught under the lawnmower in their garage. He had been changing the blades and the mower had fallen on top of him. She was too late to save him.

I was sitting on the pretty floral couch not twenty feet away from the sight where Mrs. Ann’s worst nightmare had come true. I remember looking at her beautiful face and hearing the steel in her voice. That moment gave me hope that I could make it too. As lost as I was in my own battle; hope was what I needed more than anything. I remember thinking how strong she was and I highly doubted that I would ever be as strong as her.

Fast forward three and a half years to today. I passed by Mrs. Ann’s house and I saw her mowing her yard! She sat proudly on top of that lawnmower as she moved across the grass. I was taken aback again as I watched her. This woman has more strength in her pinkie finger than I do in my whole entire body! Not only has she moved the toothbrush from the counter; she has also moved the lawnmower back out to the yard where it belongs.  

We live in the South where the grass grows nine months out of the year. It would have been so easy for Mrs. Ann to pack up her things and leave her house and yard for someone else to take care of every week. She could have called a lawn service and paid someone to come and mow for her while she left home for an hour or two so as not to hear it. She could had done so many things that would have been so much easier than what I was witnessing today.

Strength comes when we decide to do the hard stuff anyway. It comes from staring down giants and pushing forward when that is the last thing we want to be doing. It takes courage to face our biggest fears. I can’t imagine how hard climbing on that lawnmower must have been for her the first time she did it after pulling her husband’s body from beneath it. I can’t imagine how she chose to keep getting back on it week after week either. She is a lion in a well-aged Southern woman’s body.

The smile I saw on her face as she rode atop that loud machine today sent arrows straight through my heart. That’s strength. That’s being a strong woman. That’s facing down your giant and saying, “I’m the queen of this castle and there’s no room for you here!”

When I got home, I went back to that blog I wrote the first time we met. I was reminded again where Mrs. Ann’s strength comes from. It comes from the Lord. Faith like hers is unshakable! I remembered her telling me that she found out who SHE was supposed to be after her dear Andy died. I didn’t understand what she meant at the time. Today, I understand.

Let this bring you hope. Don’t run from the things that seem impossible. Face them down. Get back up when you get knocked down. Stay in the fight. That’s how you win. Mrs. Ann is winning. Strength like that is impossible to turn away from and never easily forgotten, but it must be built over time.

It’s been nearly six years since Mrs. Ann found Andy under that lawnmower. She has chosen to fill her life with fun, adventure, travel, grandchildren, and new people. I’m reasonably sure she’s happy. The smile I witnessed on her face as she sat on that lawnmower today proved she must be happy. I want to be just like her!

Stay strong my sisters! None of us fight alone, regardless of the battle. We always have a Father in Heaven helping us through every new opponent we have to face. He will not leave us alone in the battle. He stays and He sends people to help us! Our job is to realize that we have each other to lean on…learn from…and love.

Here’s a little Southern music video to remind you to keep Holdin’ On!

We Don’t Struggle Alone

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Finding the Only One who truly wants to Help when we are Hopeless.

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:16

Have you ever found yourself alone with no one to support you? Even when you were among people who claimed to love you? Did you get mad at them for deserting you when you needed them the most? I have and let me tell you it is not a fun place to be.

Over the past few months I have faced several situations in my life that quite honestly caught me off guard. I was sailing through life, just doing my thing and BAM! out of nowhere here came a wave of epic proportions that knocked me off track. When I stopped spinning, I looked around and saw a scene that literally broke my heart.

Have you been there?

I realized after I dusted myself off and surveyed the damage that several things in my life were not what I thought they were. People I thought were my friends were anything but my friends. People I thought were not interested in being involved in my daily life truly were interested. The strength I thought I had was crumbled under the weight of the struggles I was carrying.

Have you been there?  

In today’s world people don’t want to talk about serious things like depression, anxiety, or panic attacks. It is perfectly fine to talk about any number of physical illnesses such as the flu, broken limbs, cancer, or heart disease, but don’t you dare talk about life altering illnesses such as clinical depression or anxiety. That’s where we draw the line. Many of us pack up our toys and go home when someone we know faces some kind of “mental illness”. We literally desert the people who need us the most because “we can’t handle them or their issues”.

Why?

Because we are so much better than them?

Because we don’t have those struggles and why would we? I mean, our life is practically perfect in every way. Come on man, don’t you read social media?

I have spent a good bit of time asking myself the question of why we leave those who need us most a lot lately. It doesn’t make sense why we leave people when they are at their lowest. Yet, we always do.

It really should come as no surprise that I spent a great deal of time wondering, questioning, and getting plain old mad about the fact that at my lowest I had very, very few people to turn to for help. When I realized this new territory, that I unwillingly found myself in was so very, very lonely I almost gave up.

Have you been there, too?

Today’s society only wants to see the happy, positive, good things in life. No one wants to open their eyes to the bad things. So, day in and day out we force ourselves to go to work, church, and the various other places life insists that we go even though we are silently dying inside. We put on our best clothes, fix up our highlighted hair, and paste on the biggest, fake-est smiles we can muster and do what we “have” to do.

I know you’ve been there.

In March, I decided that I was done with fake happiness. I was done with putting on a show. I was done with playing nice. I was tired and I was done with everything in my life. I didn’t want to end my life, but I sure did want to walk away from it.

So, I quit being nice. I stopped doing more for other people than I did for myself. I stopped playing the part that I assumed needed to be played. I receded into a shell and tried my hardest to push everyone else OUT.

Have you been there?

The Lord has used this dark valley to teach me more about Him. When I was at the bottom, I looked to the only thing that has been a constant in my life: My Bible. Inside those pages I struggled to find what God wanted me to know about this horrible place I found myself so desperately stuck in. Little did I know; He would use this time of pushing people out to open my heart to greater things about HIM.

I dug deep into His word and I studied what He wanted me to study ALONE. Just me and God. I couldn’t let myself get around people. Being around people, even the sincerest, truly Godliest people I know was just too much to handle. So, I retreated even further into my shell.

Have you been there?

This journey has been fascinating. I’ve been able to watch from the outside and fully process what I see and don’t see from people in general. What God has shown me is truly liberating! People, no matter how sincere or willing to help will always fail at the very moment you expect them to rise above the rest.

Always.

Even Christians.

Most importantly, Christians.

No one is perfect. No one has all the answers. No one is smarter, more capable, more important than YOU are to God. He loves us all the same.

Let that sink in for just one teeny tiny moment.

God.

Loves.

Us.

All.

The.

Same.

Can someone please say, “Hallelujah?!”

There are quite a few of us who honestly believe we are “better than, smarter than, more important than” other people. I hate to break it to ya, there friend. Yous been lied to!

See, the devil loves fooling us into thinking we are above one another or better than someone else because we “are in church every time the doors are open” or “we tithe over the required ten percent” or “we can answer more bible questions than anyone else in the room”. He uses things like jealousy and selfishness to make you feel like less of a person when your paycheck doesn’t equal one hour of someone else’s. He loves to create chaos and scenarios about how “so and so is doing this or that and you pitiful thing are not”. I bought into some of those lies.

Have you?

Today, I am seeing life a lot more clearly. I can recognize how far I have come in my walk with the Lord. I look back over my shoulder and see that He carried me through a lot of dark places, and I am forever grateful! The lies that I bought into had the potential to ruin my life, but God refused to let me go that far.

During my quiet time with the Lord this morning, He led me to this scripture in 2nd Timothy and I realized God had truly led me out of the darkness! He let the pain of the past few months teach me some lessons I would never have learned otherwise. I wouldn’t have learned any of this if I had stayed in that same rut and routine that I was in. It took drastic measures for drastic change to happen.  

I can’t hold a grudge against another person for being a sinner just like me. I can’t let my feelings of disappointment, fear, anger, or brokenness define who I was meant to be. I can’t blame someone else for the turmoil I created in my own life. I can’t wish I had something someone else has when I’ve been so blessed with more than I could ever deserve. I also can’t run away from people forever, but I can take a break from them when it becomes necessary for my survival.

You can too.

Today I can say “I’m free!” and 100% believe it. I can choose to live in that truth, and I can let the chains that have held me down drop right here in the dirt. I am a new creation who has been set free.

Being set free doesn’t mean that those demons I’ve been fighting won’t rear their ugly heads again though. Being set free means that I am not alone in my fight. God has my back. He’s my shield and fortress. When I am under attack I can fight courageously because I wear the full armor of God. He’s my portion and my guide. I don’t have to rely on myself. I have a helper that will never leave or forsake me.

Look what the very next verse in 2 Timothy chapter 4 says:

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” 2 Timothy 4:17

 All this time that I thought I was alone in my fight, I wasn’t! The Lord stood at my side. He gave me strength. He was with me the whole time. Why?

So that you my dear friend might hear my story and see that God is good. He doesn’t just decide to help one person over another. He wants to help us all, but we have to ask for His help. Then, He can and will use all those things in life that try to kill us or defeat us for HIS good and the good of others. It’s not about you or me…its about HIM!!!

He doesn’t care what you’ve done or where you’ve been. He loves you just the same! He wants us to see that He is there and working for us no matter how bad the situation seems.

Today I learned that He doesn’t just want us to be thankful for what He has done. He wants us to tell others about the things HE has done so that they can find hope too!

Please don’t let people stop you from being the person God created you to be. He has a purpose for your life, and He wants you to complete the assignment the He has given you. The choice is yours though. Living life defeated is not fun. Living life scared, unsure, anxious, or doubtful is not really living. Stepping out of your comfort zone and making the choice to live a fun, happy, courageous life is easier than you may think right now.

Here’s the key to making it easy: realizing that you are never going to be strong enough to handle what life throws at you…but HE is!

Life is tough for all of us. At times it may seem like it’s easy for some people and excruciatingly hard for others when we are looking at their lives right now. We must all remind ourselves that seeing part of a person’s story is just that: part of the story. The only person who sees the whole story is the Lord.

So, keep pushing my friend. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Life may be hard right now. Some days it may even seem like you will never make it another minute and that’s OK. It is in those moments when you can hear that still, small voice inside your heart telling you to keep going, because God’s ways are not our ways. His mercies are new every morning!  

Choose happiness, love, and hope again today my friends. God is waiting to close that lion’s mouth just for you! None of us can do it alone, but we can do it with His help. If He will do it for me, I promise He will do it for you as well. We are all in this thing called life together.

If you see me out and about please say hello! I love hearing your stories too. He may not call you to write about your struggles, but He has called you to share them with others so that they can find hope in their struggles. God made that crystal clear in 2 Timothy 4:16-18 today. May He bless you as you set out to bless others along the way.

My Five Rules for a Road Trip

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I have heard people say that “they can’t afford” or “would not know where to start planning” for a road trip many times over the years. Today, I’m here to help you take the stress out of planning a life altering road trip of a lifetime!

Planning a road trip does not have to be expensive or overwhelming. The number of websites, blogs, apps, and books available to help you plan one of these trips is endless.

Use one of those free, handy dandy travel apps to find a hotel, motel, cabin, Bed & Breakfast (Airbnb), or vacation rental by owner (VRBO) near you for a night or two. You will be amazed at the savings you can find on those last-minute reservations! A nineteen-day road trip cost me less in accommodations than a condo at the beach for one week!

Do not let the fear of the unknown or the dread of not having a set plan stop you from planning your next summer vacation! Use my top 5 rules for planning an epic summer road trip and discover the joys of the open road and freedom!

Rule #1: Go Visit a National Park!

Researching the National Parks and the areas surrounding them literally takes up hours of my time each year. Did you know that there is a total of 419 U.S. National Historic Sites, National Monuments, National Seashores, National Recreation Areas, and other federally owned lands found throughout the continental U.S. and various locations around the world? Among those only 61 have the actual title of U.S. National Park.

All the National Parks have a multitude of programs, historical information, and geological wonders that grab your attention and provide memories that last a lifetime.  From animal identification programs to junior ranger programs; hiking into deep woods or canyons; discovering the milky way through the Dark Sky program; and many others. You won’t regret a visit to one of these natural wonders! Find a complete list here.

Oh! Before you go make sure to get your America the Beautiful Annual Access pass. This pass is available online and must be purchased prior to your trip. However, the benefits are numerous. Passholders receive free access to the park (huge savings!), half price camping rates, and other benefits. Go online to https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm.

Bonus: Every 4th grader in the United States gets one for FREE!

Rule #2: Use the World Wide Web (Internet!)

Trip planning is probably one of my absolute most favorite things to do. During the research phase of planning I love to use the internet as my first access point for a new location. The internet is a valuable resource, but it can almost overwhelm a potential traveler.

Use key words (such as actual park names for instance) to learn about an area you are interested in visiting. Learn as much as you can about the history, geography, and climate of the place you would like to visit before you get there. Then, you will be prepared for practical things such as clothing, shoes, food, lodging, and entertainment options available in the surrounding area.

Combing through web page after web page of basic information doesn’t really give you everything you need in order to have a successful trip though. Over the years I have found that I need much more insight than a website can provide. This leads me to step three.

Rule #3: Talk to the People You Know

Find people who have gone to your intended destination before you! This is where family connections, friend groups, and social media come in handy. Luckily, I have two aunts and an uncle that love traveling more than I do (gasp!) and they are always eager and willing to help me plan a trip at the drop of a hat. This happy crew has visited all the Continental United States, Canadian Provinces, and nearly every National Park inside those borders.

When the idea of a trip comes up, I always send them a text to get their opinion of the area. I gauge my determination to continue the research process by their excitement level of telling me about their experience. If I receive an avalanche of texts back to back; I know this is a trip I want to take!

Over the past couple of years each time I talk to them they always mention taking a trip out to Utah. In case you didn’t know, Utah is the National Park capital of the United States. It is home to the “Big Five” and a host of other Historical Sites, National Monuments, State Parks, and Recreational Lands. Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks are located within driving distance of one another and are the backbone of most Utah Road trips.

Last summer my family made the trip once again to Utah and upon their return I was reminded that this is a trip I absolutely MUST take one day. I have spent much of the past year researching Utah. In a couple of weeks, I will be making that trip myself and to tell you that I am wildly excited would be putting it mildly. I am ecstatic!

Rule #4: Seek Out the Locals

On a three-week road trip out west a couple of years ago (with those same aunts and uncle), I learned a valuable lesson about traveling. Always, always, always talk to the locals! In a world tailored towards tourism, it is sometimes hard to break free from the cycle of souvenir stores, big chain restaurants, interstate highways and iconic places. This is especially true if you are on a limited time frame during the trip.

However, if you will bust out of that cycle and allow yourself to get off the beaten path you will find treasures beyond belief! If you are like us me, where to eat is always on the top of the “what are we doing today” list no matter where you are on the map. My best advice? Eat where the locals eat! While you are there keep your ears open and listen to what they are saying and the places they are talking about in the area around you. Then, introduce yourself and ask them for the must-see places and/or things to do in the area. Many of those hidden gems will not be on your internet search engine websites!

While in town check out the local library and chamber of commerce. These jewels are loaded with information and real people who are familiar with the area and all the wonderful things it has to offer.

By following this plan, my family and I have found many, many places that we never would have found had we stayed on that same beaten path with the rest of the world. And, let me just tell you: We’ve stumbled onto some amazing places out there!

Cute little cafe we found in downtown Sundance in 2016
My girls had a ball going through this amazing little local museum!

Rule #5: Be Flexible!

One thing that can ruin a road trip faster than anything else is a strict schedule. In a world where lifestyles are based on strict schedules, being able to function without one is hard to do for the average American. I get it!

However, if you will allow yourself the opportunity to be flexible, spontaneous, and carefree for a short weekend or even a month (whichever you can spare!) you will find joy and happiness that you would never have believed possible! Being free to get off the hamster wheel and forge your own path is liberating!

There are a few things that you need to remember before you completely turn yourself lose in the wild blue open though!

You will need to eat at some point along the way. I suggest fixing a cooler to keep in the car filled with drinks, sandwich makings, and snacks. You never know when the perfect picnic spot will appear. Also, being out on the road (not the Interstate!) means that there may not be easily available restaurants or grocery stores nearby.

Next, make sure you have plenty of gas in your vehicle. There are tons of apps available to help you find the nearest gas station, travel conditions, and road construction. Use that tendency to over schedule in this area by paying attention to the gas needle and the area around you so that you are not caught on the side of the road with no gas in your tank.

Each morning (or night before) take a travel atlas out and decide what you would like to see the following day. Look up how many miles it takes to get there and ask yourself how far you are willing to travel to get there. Be prepared to stop along the way to see something neat, take restroom breaks (at least every two hours), and walk around.

Preventing urinary tract infections and blood clots is the key to your ability to enjoy and take more road trips in the future! If you are traveling with small children, it is vitally important to get them out of the car often and let them run around a bit to keep that blood flowing! Adults can travel for longer periods of time but need to get out of the car at least every 3 or 4 hours.

Tip: when you stop for fuel, everyone in the car should get out and walk around for a few minutes.

Also, it is a good idea to keep biodegradable wipes just in case you have a restroom emergency (with no restroom) or find yourself in a muddy mess due to an opportune hike down a wet trail. Take plenty of water with you and never leave trash behind. There are many reasons to use biodegradable products but being prepared is always best practice. See the 7 steps to the Leave No Trace policy here.

Lastly, make sure you share your approximate location and/or destination with family, friends, or local authorities in case you find yourself without cell phone service. In this high-tech world, there are still lots of places where cell service is spotty at best. Always be prepared.

The United States is filled with fascinating places, unbelievable history, and life altering experiences. The list of things to do and see is endless. I encourage you all to step out of your comfort zones, put those beach toys and umbrellas away for the summer, and hit the road less traveled for your next family vacation. Remember these five rules and be sure to check out your National Parks!

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Life is a great adventure…accept it in such a spirit.”

For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People

The North entrance of Yellowstone National Park has a huge stone archway that is inscribed: “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People”.  You, my dear fellow American are one of those people. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back from discovering your lands! You just might find a new addiction that you never would have believed existed down that long, open road!

Happy Travels!

Love Is

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Yesterday was Valentine’s Day or the “Day of Love”. It was the day that millions of Americans spent billions of dollars to prove their “love” for one another. People literally spent hundreds of dollars buying flowers, candy, stuffed animals, clothes, and balloons for the “ones they love the most”. Then, we paraded those things all over social media in an attempt to prove just how “loved” we were.

As I sit here, I can’t help but wonder how big of a show did most of us really put on yesterday? How many of us actually looked at the person who spent that small fortune and truly felt grateful for the “love” given to us?

How many of us were disappointed because we didn’t get what we thought we should have from the one we love? How many of us voiced our frustration? How many of us swallowed our hurt one more time? How many of us just want to give up altogether?

My favorite movie of all time is Hope Floats. It is full of truth about life. One quote sticks out in my mind:

“Do you think life goes on forever? That behind every chance is another and another one? It’s the worst kind of extravagance the way you spend your chances.”

I wonder how many of us wasted yet another chance to show the people in our lives how much we really loved them yesterday. How may of us went through the motions and bought the stuff so the people in our lives would feel loved instead of left out? How many of us then went home, ignored our spouse, and yelled at our kids? I wonder just how many of us flipped through social media wishing that someone on the screen was loving us instead of the ungrateful people we are currently living with and spending our money on?

Do any of us really know how blessed we are? Do we even realize the gift that we’ve already been given by just being alive? Why do we waste our time, money, and effort putting on a show? What are we gaining by ignoring the most precious gifts in life? I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

Today should be the best day of our life! And, so should the day after that if God chooses to let us have it. Why are we wasting our time putting on a show for the world and ignoring what really matters? Why are we choosing work, friends, or hobbies instead the people we profess to love?

Why?

My heart is sad, and it hurts for the ones who just want to be loved in return. My heart hurts for the ones who wish they had their families back together again. My heart hurts for the ones who would literally give anything they had for just one more minute in those old familiar shoes they wore for years beside a spouse who had to leave this world too soon. My heart hurts for the marriages that could be so much better if one or both of the spouses put as much effort into the relationship as they do their work or hobbies. My heart hurts for the single parents who would give anything to have a partner in life that they could trust and love with all their heart.

I see you…and my heart hurts for you.

Let this be a wake-up call to all of us. Let these words hit home. Stop pretending that you love people when the fact is you spend every day rejecting their love. We are all guilty of doing this from time to time. We don’t want to interact, so we escape to social media. We don’t want to deal with issues, so we ignore them. We don’t want to put in the time or effort just to get hurt (again), so we focus somewhere else.

Y’all, we have got to stop the madness! Stop choosing the easy way out and giving up because we don’t “feel loved”. Stop hurting the people who want and need us the most by ignoring them when they are in the same room with us. Stop putting on a show for the world and pretending to love with our whole heart when the truth is we don’t know how to really love anyone besides ourselves. Please stop!

We aren’t fooling anyone except ourselves. Life is hard and there is no easy way to get through it.We have to have a deep pit of determination, effort, and grit inside our souls to merely survive. That’s the truth!

At the end of our lives, I believe all any of us really want out of life is love. Real, deep, abiding love from the people we shared our lives with while we were here on Earth.

Why don’t we choose it over selfishness?

Why don’t we really live it everyday?

Why don’t we give it more freely?

The world is full of hate and misery. Life it short and fleeting. Why are we making ourselves miserable by rejecting the one thing we can never replace once its gone? It is high time we open our eyes to the ones around us and realize that we’ve got this whole love thing all wrong. Love is not how much money we spend on someone. Love is not how we “feel”.

Love is sacrifice and hard work. Love is time and attention given freely to a person without thought of gaining something in return. Love is talking when we don’t want to talk and sharing when we don’t want to share. Love is an action that requires us to do things for others; not take things for ourselves.

One thing I know without a doubt; when people are gone, they are gone for good.  We all have to live with the consequences of our actions towards that person for the rest of our lives. It is the worst kind of extravagance when we take their presence for granted.

Today, I’m asking all of us to stop walking blindly through life ignoring the ones we say we “love”.  Stop buying things and parading around like it matters. Stop rejecting people who want to share our time and attention. Stop being selfish and too busy with our own interests. How are we impacting their lives? Are they better because of our love?

Sadly, many of us can’t say we are better because of the people we love. It is time to stop being so selfish. But, what can we do you ask?

Well, we can start by calling or texting our spouses just because we miss them during the day. We can make it a habit to turn the computer and the cell phone off when we get home at night. We can focus on what really matters. We can put his/her needs before our own. We can say we are sorry when we realize we have hurt them. We can listen when they want to talk. We can put the kids to bed early or say no to another outside commitment.

We can quit being the victim in our own lives. We can say no to being angry, resentful, spoiled, and hateful. We can make a choice to see that the life we have right now is a gift.

We can cherish it.

Oh, and please stop believing that all the gifts we are buying and posting pictures of are the only way to know that we are loved. Those things are nice, but they are not the only way to express love. If someone loves you and they give you gifts (on more than one day of the year) say, “thank you”. That’s his/her way of expressing love. Gary Chapman calls this a persons “love language”. He says that there are five love languages that people tend to express. Giving gifts, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, and acts of service. He has an online tool that is helpful in determining which love language we speak. You can find it here.

Take the time to figure out what your love language is and then ask your spouse to do the same. There is also a quiz for your kids. We don’t have to stay stuck in a rut. We don’t have to give up on relationships that don’t make us “feel” good. We can choose to love the unlovable. We can choose to work harder on ourselves than anyone else. And, we can choose to love through the good times and the bad. Make the best of your life and live it to the fullest each and every day. You never know when this might be your last chance in life…please don’t waste it!

R.E.S.P.E.C.T Find out what it means to me

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Two amazing things happened today.

Both of them are the result of RESPECT.

Respect does not cost a thing. Yet, oddly enough it is the one and only thing that can determine if a person stays in his/her job…marriage…friend group…team…club…organization or not. Respect matters more than money, benefits, or time off. It is the single most important factor in everyone’s mind when you come down to the nitty gritty of what people truly want out of life.

The honest fact is: People leave perfectly good jobs (and marriages & friendships) with perfectly good benefits because of the lack of respect he or she receives for their efforts day in and day out. Many times these people reach a point of no return after putting in years and years worth of time, work, and effort.

Why?

Because a person is only going to be disrespected for so long. Eventually, every single person reaches a point where they realize that they must have respect. Don’t believe me? Be honest with yourself about why you left a job…a marriage…a family…a church…a friendship…a club or organization. Run that list through your mind and I am willing to bet that the core reason for why you gave up is because of a lack of respect.

It honestly blows my mind that people…all people employers…bosses….managers…team leaders…CEO’s…owners…people in the drivers seat of every company, industry, organization, and place of employment…pastors…husbands…wives…children…friends…partners of all kinds miss this simple truth.

Everything that involves staying…involves respect. It really is that simple.

Lately, I have struggled with staying at my job. I want to do something different. I am just so tired of problems and issues and never seeing progress. Like many of you guys, I have a nearly impossible job. Some days I just REALLY want to run out the back door screaming. Thankfully I have not done that (yet) and probably won’t for another 10 years or so; but today something remarkable happened that just might have the power to make me stay.

As I was walking with some of my students I glanced up and saw our new Superintendent at the top of the ramp. He was smiling and watching the students as they waddled along in a straight line (We were pretending to be penguins at that moment in time!). Anyway, when he saw me his expression changed. He asked me how today was going so I said, “It’s a pretty good day today”.

He looked directly at me and said words that none of my other three superintendents has ever said to my face, ” We prayed for you, your helpers, and your students in my office yesterday. I know your job is hard and I wish I could change that for you. Please know that no matter what, I and everyone else in my office is praying for you”.

That was the moment everything changed for me. That was the exact moment in time when I told myself, “Maybe you can do this for a few more years. Maybe this job isn’t so terrible after all. Maybe you are making a difference. Maybe it does matter that you show up every day and give it all you’ve got. Maybe, just maybe someone finally realizes how hard it is to just show up.”

I was, am, and forever will always be amazed that at that particular moment it hit me: the man in charge of our whole school system had stood in his office and prayed for me. He had actually stopped what he was doing; asked those who were with him at that moment to join him; and he humbled himself before God on my behalf. That was the only way he knew of that he could try to help make my job easier.

Guess what? Today, for the first time this school year it was easier. It wasn’t filled with compete chaos. It wasn’t filled with tantrums and tears. It wasn’t agony watching the clock drag by all day long.

It was pleasant…and easier than any day I have had thus far this school year. Before that moment on the ramp, I would have dismissed this day as a fluke. Just a lucky break ya might say. Just a day where the stars aligned and everything worked out without me going completely insane.

That moment on the ramp changed my perspective. I realized that today was a good day, because my boss went to God asking him to make it so. He is a man who truly believes that God cares about the unbelievable situations me, my helpers, and my students have been facing lately. His respect for us lead him to stop what he was doing and pray specifically for us to have a good day today.

And, The Lord answered his prayer.

About an hour after this amazing moment on the ramp, I got a call from Heath. Tomorrow was supposed to be his last day working at a job he has literally hated for the past few years. Respect has always been expected from the employees, but rarely earned by those in charge. Heath had reached the point where he was fed up and he was quitting his job after working his tail off for over twelve years.

Before turning in his notice, Heath and I decided that we would be okay with him taking a job where he was going to make less money; with less chance for advancement; work more hours; and have to re-learn a whole new set of skills in an industry that he has not worked in for a very long time. Why? Because he was DONE with the lack of respect he was being given at his current job.

When I answered the phone today he said, “What should I do?”

“Pray.” I said. So, we did.

It appears that after he turned in his notice his boss started to realize what an assesset Heath was to the company. He started to ask why he was leaving and what it would take to make him stay. This week his boss has actually been in total panic mode because he knows that finding someone with integrity who is honest and hardworking is not so easy in today’s job market. He told Heath that he had been praying…and fasting…and now he was demanding to know what he needed to change in order for Heath to stay. He also did what most employers do when they want people to stay in a job they hate: He offered him more money.

When bosses do that after an employee is fed up with a lack of respect it comes across as a complete insult. And, that is why Heath turned him down every single day for the past thirteen days when he offered him more money.

As I listened to my husband talk about the offer that he had received this morning, I realized that his boss was missing the point completely. The reason Heath was leaving his job wasn’t because of money. It was because of his boss’s and (others in the company) total lack of respect for the work he did everyday. It was the simple fact that nothing Heath did was ever good enough. No matter how many sales he had. No matter how many customers he had. It was never going to be enough.

I saw this coming a year ago. I tried to get Heath to stand up for himself when I realized that a lack of respect was the reason he was so unhappy with his job. But, for whatever reason it didn’t dawn on him until two weeks ago. Today, it dawned on his boss.

Guess who is not going to change jobs now? Guess why?

Yep. Respect.

God saw Heath’s struggle. He saw the way the company was treating him everyday. He heard our prayers when we asked him what he should do. He answered our prayers today. Heath’s boss has a new respect for him as an employee and as a person. I have a new respect for him as a man and my husband. Heath has a new respect for himself as well as a brand new outlook on life. All because of a little respect.

I am hoping that anyone who reads this will hear me when I say it does not matter how much money you pay someone. It does not matter how many bonuses or incentives or time off you give someone. If a person doesn’t feel valued or respected for what they are doing everyday there WILL come a day when they walk away.

It matters how you treat people. How you make them feel about the job they are doing will determine if you get good work or crappy work out of them. If you value everyone’s job and have respect for the person doing that job (no matter how insignificant it is to you as the boss) your employees will remain loyal. They will show up. They will do whatever it takes to get the job done. They will try harder when they need to and they will learn from their mistakes. They will give it all they’ve got and the company will prosper.

This same principle goes for marriages…and families…and friendships…and churches…and teams. Give God the respect He deserves. Put Him first and humble yourself before Him in prayer with every situation you face. He sees your struggle and He knows how it feels to be disrespected among men. (Do I even need to mention the evil that has taken over New York?) He wants to help us, but we must respect Him for who He is and what only He can do. He is more than a conqueror. He is the KING OF KINGS and the LORD OF LORDS. Nothing is impossible to Him.

Once we have that fact straight, we can try to be more like Him by giving regular ol’ people the respect they need to keep going when the going gets tough.

It really is that simple.

Lesson Learned

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Yesterday, I was invited to speak at a Delta Kappa Gamma meeting. My topic was “Surviving Life’s Ups and Downs”. I was extremely honored to be the invited speaker and I worked for several days on what I would say during my speech. I knew most of the ladies who would be in attendance and I was a little nervous because a couple of them had been my high school teachers.

As I entered the room I noticed several familiar faces. The tables were set with red table cloths and there were little paper trays filled with candy on each table. The president welcomed me and invited me to take an agenda and make myself at home. I quickly scanned the agenda and noticed that right after the welcome and fellowship time there would be a discussion on “Making Choices and Why”. Each lady was asked to take a slip of paper from a basket that had a choice to be made on it. We were told that we would not all like the two choices, but that we must choose one or the other regardless of how we felt about it; then we must tell why we made that choice.

Guess what my paper said….

“Read a Book or Watch TV”!! The whole room laughed because I was there to discuss my book, and everyone knew it!

Soon it was my turn to speak. As I talked about my passion for reading and writing and how my first book came into being, I was thinking about choices in my head and the huge one I had just made earlier that day.

 I have attempted to write fictional stories numerous times over the years and each time I have tried to write one I have failed. I did not realize until after Greg died that God did not call me to write fictional stories because He wanted me to write my own true story. That’s why He allowed me to write my whole first book in 48 hours. That’s why He allows me to write blogs in less than 30 minutes. That’s why He gives me so many crazy “Ups and Downs” to survive! There is not a story or word that I have written that I didn’t feel God calling me to write.

Writing and sharing my real life with the world does not come easily for me. I have been called “a narcissistic, judgmental, gossip that doesn’t fact check”, the “furthest from real”, “most attention seeking Jesus do-gooder”, and “fake” person on the planet.

People don’t hold back when they don’t like what you stand for and I guess in a world where anything goes…that’s ok.

Not one time have I ever pretended to be or acted like I was something that I was not. I just obeyed what God called me to do. Some people appreciate it for what it is, and some don’t. I could care less either way. I just care about God’s opinion. In today’s world, that’s tough. Doing what He asks me to do it tough. But, you know what…Him sending His son to die on the cross for my sins was TOUGHER and I can never praise or thank Him enough for it. So, even when it is hard I will do what He has asked me to do.

Looking back, I believe I have been somewhat even in sharing my successes and my failures in life. I take big risks and usually jump headlong into whatever new adventure comes my way. Being so eager to live life to the fullest doesn’t always have a story tale ending. Today, I am here to tell you about a risk I took that failed. And, it is a pretty big one. The lesson and the story!

Heath and I have debated for the past few weeks about our quick decision to move back into my old house. We love it and we love the fact that we were offered the chance to move back into this huge house with all the pretty features. We do love it. We just don’t want to keep paying a house payment when we don’t have to, I mean seriously…what were WE thinking?!

We both work hard for every penny we make and that’s the way it should be. We have also gotten to the point in our lives where we realize that a house does not make a home.

People do.

So, we sat down, and we asked ourselves if paying to live in this house was worth the price we are paying by making sacrifices in so many other areas of our lives. Why are we giving up so much of what we like to do when we have another great house right next door to this one that is paid for? We decided that no it is not worth it to give up so much for just a house and a two-acre piece of land.

I have put off having my “cabin” appraised because every time I even think about it I am overcome with anxiety. It makes me want to vomit just trying to imagine that hill without me or my children on it. Right now, my kids run freely all over this place because it is their land. If someone bought that hill it would no longer be their land. I am not ok with that at all.

I have even shown the cabin to three different couples who were interested in buying it and after each couple left I had the same sickening feeling inside. There is just no way I can let someone else have my “cabin”.

After much discussion, and number crunching we have decided that we are going back up the hill where we can breathe again. We are going back to the “little” house where all six of us are stacked on top of each other, but we all have fun. We are turning this ship around while we still can, and we are doing it because it is the right thing to do. We don’t need this big fancy house to be happy. We need each other and if that means saying, “We made a mistake” then so be it.

Life is full of mistakes.

Mistakes mean you had choices.

Some choices are good, and some are not so good.

I am just so thankful to be in a place where God allows me to make choices. He allows me to be the perfectly imperfect human He created me to be. He allows me to make big mistakes. You know why? Because that’s how He teaches us to listen to Him.

I know that I can never make a mistake too big for God to handle. He loves my every flaw…and He loves your every flaw as well. All He asks is that we humble ourselves before Him when we mess up. We ask Him to forgive us for messing up, we accept Him at His word that He has forgiven us, and we stand back up again.

That’s what Heath and I are doing now. We are saying, “Hey, God we messed up… please forgive us for making this mistake. Thank you for loving us enough to show us a better way and thank you for the blessings you have continually poured out on us even through the mistake itself.” And, we realize that He does forgive us!

That’s Grace y’all…and there’s nothing else like it.

Before too long Teresa Dobbs will once again place a FOR SALE sign in our yard. Heath and I will do our best to make the house look clean and presentable when people interested in buying it come to look at it. Please notice that I said, “Heath and I”. These four kids we have may or may not do their part of that deal so well.

If you know of anyone looking for a nice, big house on the edge of town…let me know. We are currently leasing to own, so it is move-in ready as soon as the ink dries!

And, I hear the neighbors are pretty good folks who live for adventure and tend to fall flat on their faces every once in a while…but they do try to always have fun no matter what!

Me and Mea

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In the fall of 1984 my Mama took me to school for the first time. I was six years old and my Kindergarten class was inside one of four classrooms located across the street from Millport High School home of the Millport Jr. Tide.

I lived in the deep South where segregation was normal and at that time in my life I was innocent and oblivious to the reasons why I had to drink out of the “WHITE” water fountain when some of my friends and classmates had to drink from the “BLACK” water fountain. It just was what it was, and I was too little to know the difference.

I spent most of my first-grade year sitting at my desk just outside of Mrs. Junkin’s classroom door in the breezeway. I’m still not sure what all I actually did to earn that spot outside her classroom door, but I learned to really like playing with the bugs and the butterflies that I found in the dirt out there by myself.

In second grade something really big happened. I moved to a brand-new school three miles up the road from this one. It was huge and on our first day, all the second graders had to sit on the floor because we didn’t have desks or chairs yet. I remember sitting on the floor in Mrs. Jackson’s second grade classroom next to a girl I didn’t know. She said her name was Mea and she was from Kennedy.

Since I was from Millport she told me that she couldn’t be my friend. See, Millport and Kennedy were rival schools located only six miles from one another. For years and years, the schools hated one another and battled it out on the football field, basketball court, and baseball fields like it was a blood match. If you came from “Kennerdy” you stuck with Kennedy folks. Same for Millport.

So, the fact that the two schools were combined into a new school didn’t sit well with some people in our area. It wasn’t really malice that kept the two towns apart…it was tradition. As a second grader (and the oldest child in my family) I didn’t have a clue about tradition. All I knew was that I was excited to be in a new school.

Mea was the baby in her family. Both of her older siblings had gone to Kennedy and being that they were several years older than her, had taught her that “we don’t make friends with folks from “Milllllllllport”.

Good thing Mea never listens to anybody; especially her siblings! Since we were seated next to each other on that floor for what seemed like a long time, we just naturally learned to be friends. We laughed and played everyday and before long we didn’t even remember why we were not supposed to be friends in the first place. Her siblings learned that lesson too!

Our teacher was Mrs. Daffron in the third-grade. She had a baby that year so Mrs. Carroll was her substitute. Both of those ladies learned pretty quickly that me and Mea did not need to sit next to each other. With our desks on opposite sides of the classroom we still managed to get into trouble for talking or laughing out loud during class every day!

I don’t remember if we were in the same class during our fourth-grade year or not. Probably not since I can’t remember. But, we still played together at P.E., I do know that!

In the fifth-grade we both got a paddling from Mrs. Abrams for fighting. We decided we hated each other that year and did our best to make sure the other knew just how much! After that paddling though something magical happened. We formed a bond that to this day remains unbroken.

Our families have accepted over the years that there is an additional sibling that must be considered when there are major family decisions to be made. They learned during our Jr. High and High School years that me and Mea would be together most of the time. She wore my clothes and I wore hers. She got us into trouble and I got us out. We truly are Thelma and Louise.

Mea has always thought since she is the oldest (by less than 24 hours!) that she should be the one in charge. I guess being the baby of her family and me being the oldest of my family it was ok with both of us. We got to be what we never would have been otherwise when we were together. Thankfully, our mothers became friends and had each other on speed dial!

When we were twelve we made a bajillion trips to Florence where our love for the UNA Lions was born. When we were fifteen we had a small little birthday party together at my house. Our parents kinda freaked out when two-hundred and fifty kids from all over the surrounding states and counties showed up!

We took our first airplane flight together during high school when we flew to Dallas, TX with our Home Ec teacher. Mea freaked out and begged my Mama to go in her place. She even offered my Mama her clothes to wear! Instead of freaking out, I found my first true love: traveling!

After we graduated together, we would take short trips to the beach when we had the chance. One time, we watched our crazy Iowan friends go swimming in the ocean when it was 28 degrees outside! We wore the roads out between Florence and home. We hated one another’s boyfriends and told each other so many, many times.

Later we got married three weeks apart. I was her Maid of Honor and she was mine. Our sisters understood.

She had a baby a year after we got married and Meagan became my first child too. It took us six years before we had another one. I will never forget my sister Tracy calling me on Friday to tell me she was pregnant. My sister Diana called me on Monday to tell me she was pregnant. And, I was standing in the mall in Tuscaloosa the next Friday when Mea called my cell phone to tell me she was (finally) pregnant again. It was five more months before I called the three of them to tell them I was pregnant too.

The following year, we all got pregnant together again.

For a lot of years, Mea and I went to church together, played in the pool together, planned parties together, and went crazy together. Our kids have grown up with two sets of siblings and two sets of grandparents on their Mama’s sides. We breeze in and out of each other’s homes like they are our own.

We have literally faced every one of life’s storms together. We both lost spouses: me to death and her to divorce. We walked the lonesome trail of infertility; the broken years where we had no money and too many bills to pay; the fake friends who did not understand that we are not merely just friends and tried their best to tear us apart; and our girls were even baptized on the same day! We’ve lost husbands and houses; worked the same jobs; traveled the same places; spent the same money; fed each other the same food; and cried the same tears for thirty-two years. Not too many people can say that they have had a friend for literally their whole life, but we can.

Today, we are facing a new hurdle. Macy Jewel…Mea’s second child…her clone…and Maggie’s best friend since birth…is facing a medical issue that came out of the blue. This past week she started having seizures. She has never had a seizure before and we don’t know what is causing them now. Please pray with us that the doctors will be able to find a reason for the seizures and be able to treat them easily. Seeing Macy lying there so sick with no explanation is beyond hard to bear. We know that our God is a good God and that even in our darkest hour He is there. We are confident that He is the ultimate healer, redeemer, and savior. Through HIM all things are possible.

One-day way down the road, when our kids have us committed to the crazy ward or the nursing home…we will be those old ladies you hear about who dance in their wheelchairs, flirt with the male nurses, and flat refuse to leave each other’s sides. Until then, we will continue to do this life together come what may.

Charlotte’s Story

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It’s a rainy, messy wintry day. I have the flu…and pneumonia! In case you were wondering…it stinks! Anyway, I decided that my mind needed a little break from reading other people’s stories, so I decided to write one of my own. Sometimes the only way to tell it is to just get on with the tellin’…so without further ado…I give you Charlotte’s story:

On January 11, 2015 I received a phone call from my mother in law. She asked me if “the girls” were home and I told her we would be soon. She said she was almost to my house and would be there waiting for us when we arrived. Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the driveway and the girls jumped out of the truck to go see what Momo was up to. When the van door opened, I heard squeals of delight coming from Maggie and Linnie. Greg and I approached the door to see what the squealing was about and to our GREAT surprise we saw a tiny, white, puppy.

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Yes. A puppy. No warning. No clue. No…hey do you want another puppy? Just, a puppy.

I guess I should tell you that this new puppy was number four for the girls. Momo was being sweet and thought that number four would be helpful. She was correct.

In August 2011 Greg and I went to the World’s Longest Yard sale. We had a great time and ended up coming home with a cute little Bassett Hound puppy we found along the way. He nor I had ever been “animal” people, but that puppy was so cute! Greg said it had to come home with us to live with the girls. We promptly named him Rosco and he became an instant member of our family.

It wasn’t long before we decided that Rosco needed another dog with him. We didn’t realize that Bassets were social dogs and they do not do well alone. Greg was adamant that we only have another Bassett.

So, after asking around we found one in Millport. We went to pick up this one on the way home from the farm one day. Bosco, formally known as Rosco, was a full-grown male who could be surly and mean if he felt so inclined. Thankfully, he was never mean to the girls.

At the time we lived in the trailer on top of the hill. We didn’t have a fence and the dogs pretty much just roamed wherever they wanted to go. We could always count on them being in the yard when we got home though.

One day on his way home, Greg saw a bloody heap lying in the road. He stopped and sure enough it was Bosco. Rosco was right beside him, but only Bosco had been hit. Greg ended his misery; came in the house got an old towel to wrap his mangled body in; and then lead our sad little party down to a spot under a tree beside the pond. That’s where we buried him.

Losing Bosco was also the girls’ first experience with death.

Greg and I decided that we needed to find another Bassett for Rosco. So, we called Momo and had her look for one. (She is the animal person in the family!) It wasn’t long before she called and said that some she knew was gonna have puppies. After they were born and ready to go, loaded the girls up into the minivan and set off for Hamilton with Momo in tow. We met the lady at Bevill State and put our claim on the runt of the litter. Her name was Rosie and she was adorable.

Rosco and Rosie were two happy peas in a pod for a couple of years. They played well together and seemed to love each other until the day we came home, and Rosie was alone. We looked and looked for Rosco, but he never appeared. The girls were so sad. It didn’t make sense why Rosie was home, but not Rosco.

I was on the way to the farm the day I found him. He was sitting on the side of the road just outside of Belk and I noticed him immediately. I pulled the car over and jumped out. When I called his name, Rosco ran over and jumped up on my leg. I think he was glad to see me! So, I loaded him up and took him home.

Rosco was home for about four months. Then, he disappeared again. He still hasn’t come home. Rosie was alone, and she did not do well alone! That dog was the most pitiful thing you have ever seen! She would whine and cry and crawl around begging you to pet her. She hated not having her partner to play with and would just sit and watch the girls play in the yard instead of joining them like she had always done. That’s when Momo decided that the girls (Rosie included!) needed another dog.

The day Charlotte came to live with us I declared for all the world to understand that IF anything were to happen to either one of those dogs we would NOT be getting another one. I was over the love ‘em and lose ‘em part of being a pet owner. Especially when I knew that there was an illegal dog ring being run in our area. Several people I knew had full-blooded dogs that had gone “missing” in recent months and the word on the street was that they were being taken to Mississippi and resold in an underground pet shop. (Insert my intense anger here.)

Anyway, now that Charlotte had joined our family we enjoyed playing with her and Rosie every day. They were nearly identical to one another (even though they came from completely different lines) and it was funny to watch them run around together. As much as they looked alike, they acted totally different. I have laughed many times over how human their attitudes were. Rosie was a pleaser and all she wanted was to be praised. Charlotte is a bit high and mighty. She would always spit out her medicines or eat the ham and leave the Heartgurard laying on the ground. She would literally gag if you tried to force her to eat anything. Greg and I laughed many times because Rosie was just like Maggie and Charlotte was just like Linnie.

It was the end of May or the first of June (I can’t really remember exactly) of 2015 when both Charlotte and Rosie went missing. We came home one afternoon, and they were gone. They didn’t come home that night or any of the next nights either. At the time, my grandmother was very sick. My great-aunt had moved in with her and she was also not doing well. It was the end of the school year and my whole family was doing what we could to try to help with Me-Maw and Aunt Martha. During that time Greg also started having more problems with his heart. With so much going on, the loss of our dogs was kind of put on the bottom of the list. I didn’t have time to focus on where they might be, and I was more than a little pissed to even have to be thinking about it to begin with, ya’ know?

About two weeks after the dogs “went missing” we lost Aunt Martha. Three weeks later we lost Me-Maw. Two months later we lost Greg.

A week after Greg died, I gave his turkeys and chickens away. There are really no words adequate enough to describe the level of grief we all reached. I guess I should admit that I was a little bit relieved to not have to take care of any animals; I did good to keep both of my children alive.

One day I was reading in my bible and I came across Jeremiah 33:10-12. It said:

 “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 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.

12 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks.”

That’s when I claimed those verses as my own. I decided that one day, God would restore my land. He would bring a man and animals back into my life. And, I believed it with my whole heart.

Fast forward to November 6, 2017.

Amazingly, I am now re-married…living in the house that Greg and I built…and I have two step-children. It was our weekend to have “the kids” and three of the four were not feeling well.  On Monday morning, I had to take Abigail to school while the other three stayed home.

We were driving up the county road we live on headed towards school that morning when I saw her lying on the side of the road. I looked at her and thought, “Nah, there’s no way”.  As I got closer I looked over at Abigail and said, “Abi, that’s our dog!”.

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If you know Abi, you already know she is not real perceptive. Like, most things just go right over her head. So, she was really, really confused by me saying that was our dog considering the fact that she didn’t even know we had a dog!

I pulled the car over to the side of the road and jumped out. I immediately recognized Charlotte. It is weird to me how I knew her as soon as I saw her. Dogs must be like kids. When you get them as a puppy, you don’t forget who they are! I leaned down and called Charlotte’s name and she perked her head up, sat up, then ran to me and jumped up on my leg! I rubbed her head and talked to her all the while in complete shock! This dog had been gone for two years and four months!! Honestly, it was like seeing a ghost!

It didn’t take me long to get her loaded up in my car. Abi was still in total disbelief and she asked again, “Whose dog is this? She STINKS!”

I laughed and said it was Maggie and Linnie’s dog…and now it was her dog too! Abi is kinda like me…she’s not really an animal person, but she put on a good front. Except for the stinking part. It was drizzling rain, but we rode the rest of the way to school (and back home) with the windows down! Of course, Charlotte throwing up on the ride home had a little something to do with the windows being down, but whatever. LOL

When I got home, I couldn’t wait to show the girls. I knew they would be just as shocked as I was…and I was correct! They were so excited, and Sam didn’t quite know what to think. I did manage to remember to call Heath and tell him that “our dog was home” to which he replied, “We don’t have a dog”. I assured him, that yes…yes sir we sure did have a dog and she was home!

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After I posted the video of the kids seeing Charlotte on Facebook it wasn’t long before my inbox starting dinging. A friend of mine named Emily (coincidence?) saw the video and said that Charlotte looked just like her dog “Maggie” (um, do you see where this is going?!).

After several minutes of texting back and forth and comparing pictures it became clear that Charlotte was Maggie…and Maggie was Charlotte. And both Emily’s were stunned!

In the meantime, another friend was texting me from the animal shelter. Apparently, Charlotte had been at the shelter off and on a couple of times. She had even been adopted by another family before my friend, Emily realized that she was at the shelter. When I asked where she had originally gotten “Maggie” she told me she had gotten her from someone in Berry the day of Johnny Nichols’ funeral.

**JAW DROP**

Why is that significant? Well, Johnny Nichols is the man who bought the store from us when we sold it. He was the fire chief at Lawrence Mill Fire Department and was one of Greg’s best friends. He had died suddenly from a heart attack (just like Greg) two days prior. The fact that Emily found this dog on the day of his funeral is just plain out weird.

It is also weird that Emily lived close to the store the whole time that we had owned it. (Like, when we got all four of our dogs!) Emily and her little family lived less than a mile from the store. Emily’s family had only recently moved to the county road where we now live on the opposite end! She had known Greg and Johnny most…if not all her life! She had also known the girls their whole life! We literally passed her old home place every time we went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights! So, I knew that she didn’t have “Maggie” while she lived at that other house. Considering we passed that house a lot over the course of two years it stands to reason that we would have seen “Maggie” at least once if she had been there. Knowing that Emily didn’t take our dog was a no-brainer.

It just seemed really weird that some of the pieces that fell together…fell together! Charlotte has had quite the journey!

From what I have been able to piece together she and Rosie were kidnapped on the same day. I don’t know who took them or where the next stop was for them, and I still do not know what happened to our sweet little Rosie. Emily found “Maggie” in Berry. We have no idea where she had been or who she had been with before that (the story that Emily got didn’t add up when we figured out that Maggie was Charlotte).

I do know that Charlotte spent a good deal of time in and out of the pound. She was picked up numerous times by my friend, Phil before she was adopted by a family who paid to have her “fixed”. When I was questioned about having her fixed before she went missing, I couldn’t remember. Then, I remembered that we had planned to have her “fixed” but she was not old enough to do so before she was taken. Thankfully, the animal shelter requires that animals be “fixed” before they are adopted. I asked Phil if I needed to pay for the vet bill, especially since someone else had already paid for it and they didn’t have “their” dog anymore. Phil assured me that everyone had been reimbursed and that I didn’t owe anyone anything. He was really glad that now Charlotte was HOME.

That night I just had to laugh at how amazingly CRAZY this whole story was! I don’t know how, why, or if there is even a reason that so many of the details are so intertwined. What I do know is that Charlotte is without a doubt, home. I am a huge skeptic about a lot of things…but when you see an animal recognize its home after not being there in two years and four months…you don’t easily let it pass from your memory!

Heath’s first text after seeing Charlotte’s homecoming video on Facebook was: “Out of the House”. That night he and the kids built a dog house for her out of the molding I had torn down in our kitchen. The molding Greg had put up in that same kitchen eleven years before when I was pregnant with Maggie. I sit here today (in my chair!) and just laugh. I mean really, does this blow anyone else’s mind as much as it does mine?

Oh, one more thing. Charlotte spent two months moping around because she is a Basset Hound…and Basset Hounds are social animals who hate being alone right? Right. So, now we have Gypsy who is not a Basset Hound and who…as far as I am concerned…is the caboose for this crazy train!

 

Now you know the whole story or at least as much as I can remember in my current dazed and confused condition!

The Widow’s Road

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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

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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!