A Good Man

My father was a good man.

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Daddy and me, September 1972

But he wasn’t just a good man.

He was a good father.

But he wasn’t just a good father.

He was a good husband.

And he wasn’t just a good father and husband.

He was a good son, brother, and uncle, too

And he wasn’t only a good family member.

He was a good friend.

He was more than a good friend.

He was also a good teacher, principal, and real estate agent.

He wasn’t just a good, hard worker.

He was a good member of his church and community.

I could go on and on for my dad was strong and good in many, many ways.

Yet, as true as my words are and as proud as I am to be his daughter, my dad wasn’t perfect. He was just a regular man, complete with his own share of character flaws and personal failings.

And that’s important to know because last year, on this day, when my dad met Jesus face-to-face, it wasn’t all those good things about him that mattered.

The only thing that mattered was his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

You see, my father understood his sins could not be made up with good deeds. He believed the words of the Bible, which clearly tell that the wages of sin is death, and no amount of human effort can pay that fine in full.

But the Bible is also clear that the fine has been waived and a way has been made through Jesus Christ.  All that a person must do is admit their sinful state, repent and seek after God, allowing Him to be Lord of their life.

My father believed those words too, He accepted that free offer and developed a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer and Bible reading.

This is the only thing that mattered on the morning of September 17, 2014.

Today, marks one year since my father’s death. And even though I am away on a vacation with my husband, I will miss my father. I will think about him and thank the Lord that He blessed me with a really good father.

But mostly, I will be taking comfort in knowing that my dad is in heaven … not because my father was a good man, but because my father knew Jesus.

In Memory of James Malcolm Terry

November 9, 1947 ~ September 17, 2014

The righteous man will be remembered forever. ~Psalm 112:6

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Last year my brother Reid preached a sermon at my father’s funeral based on the thoughts presented in this blog post. While I am not quoting him directly, I have written based on my brother’s original ideas. I appreciated his thoughts then, as I do now, for they bring me a measure of comfort as I recall the man my father was in this life and who he is in the light of eternity.

My Grandmother’s Dishes

When my Aunt DeDe’s number came up on my caller ID, I was happily surprised.

Not only is she one of my favorite people in the world, but I hadn’t spoken with her personally since my dad died a year ago. Phone calls to Africa, where she was serving as a Southern Baptist missionary, weren’t something I made or received. My only contact with her for two and a half long years had been a blog and Facebook updates.

Late in the summer, Aunt DeDe had returned to the states. It seemed that everyone in the family had gotten to see her except for me.  And now she was calling me … and was about to make me an offer that would be just as pleasantly surprising as the phone call itself.

Paige, I don’t know if you were aware that when I moved back, I got Mama’s dishes. I’ve been unpacking them in my new house … and well, there are just too many of them for me and Curt. I just don’t need 16 place settings of china!” Aunt DeDe laughed, and for a moment she sounded just exactly like my grandmother. “Anyway, when I was thinking about what to do, you came to my mind. I wonder if you might like to have a portion of the dishes. I know it would have pleased Mama so to know that you had gotten some of them.

Tears sprang to my eyes. From the time I was a little girl, I had thought my grandmother’s Blue Danube china was the most beautiful set of dishes I had ever seen.

Blue Danube ... my grandmother's china pattern
Blue Danube … my grandmother’s china pattern

For as long as I could remember, my grandmother, whom I called Mammie, kept her china in a massive antique display cabinet that had once been part of an old drugstore. Back at the turn of the twentieth century, the old cabinet with sliding glass doors had neatly displayed ladies’ gloves and men’s handkerchiefs; now it overflowed with my grandmother’s trinkets and treasures … and all of that beautiful blue and white china.

There were dinner plates, salad plates, coffee cups and saucers. Each year, my grandfather bought her some new piece of her beloved china, accessories like platters of various sizes, vegetable bowls and covered casserole dishes. Perhaps most intriguing to me was the large soup tureen, with a matching china ladle. Though I never remember her using it, I always hoped someday she would. I suppose there were just far too many of us in the family to make it practical to serve soup out of that soup tureen.

Mammie didn’t use her china on a daily basis. Rather, it was reserved for special occasions and holidays … Christmas mainly. Oh, how I loved her Christmas table! Each seat had a perfectly arranged place setting directly in front of it.  One year, perhaps when I was 8 or 9, my grandmother invited me to come up and help her lay out the table a few days before Christmas. I remember the enormous weight of responsibility I felt as I gingerly carried the delicate dishes from the large cabinet to the long dining table. The last thing I wanted to do was break one of those beautiful plates!

One year, maybe when I was in high school or college, some of my aunts decided that it was too much work to pull out the china for our Christmas dinner. They claimed it was nothing more than a hassle to set the table only to have all those dishes to wash afterwards, and really no one wanted to be stuck in the kitchen, carefully hand washing all those china plates and cups, when they could be out enjoying the holiday with the rest of the family. I certainly understood the reasoning behind the decision to forego using the fancy china in favor of the large oval Chinet paper plates. Yet, after that, Christmas never felt quite as magical as it did when the table was so beautifully set with my grandmother’s best dishes.

Now, as I talked with my beloved aunt, flashes of all those moments popped into my head.  “What I have boxed up does not contain a full place setting of everything, Paige. I think you’ll have nearly eight pieces of almost everything, but not coffee cups and saucers. I can give you a few of the extra pieces to make up for that … and maybe you could buy a few replacement pieces if you wanted.”

I assured her that whatever she gave me would be more than fine.  After all, I never expected to have even the first piece of that china.

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That was early August. It wasn’t until the Saturday before Labor Day that I managed to go visit Aunt DeDe and pick up the boxes. And another week passed before I had a chance to unpack and sort through the contents. Seven china plates, eight salad plates, three coffee cups with saucers, one medium-sized platter, a vegetable bowl and a small casserole dish with a lid. Most surprising of all, the large soup tureen with the matching china ladle.

Where will you put it all?” Jon asked incredulously. This wasn’t the first time he had asked me where I intended to store all of my grandmother’s dishes.

“I don’t know.” The kitchen looked like it had exploded plastic shopping bags, the packing material my aunt had liberally used to cushion the dishes. Countertops were covered with dishes. My kitchen cabinets were already full, and I didn’t own a china cabinet.

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As I pulled the final pieces from the boxes, it occurred to me that I had space in the large floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets that were in our back entry way, next to our second refrigerator.

I’ll put them in there,” I finally said, answering my husband’s question. Then I added, “I probably won’t use these often …”

Just for special occasions and Christmas.

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This week marks a year since my father’s unexpected death. 

The last few weeks, my emotions have been all over the map. I probably have cried more in the past month than I did in the first month following his passing. In many ways, the pain feels heavier now than it did initially.

Part of me is surprised by that.

But, perhaps what startles me most about these delayed emotions is how much I find myself missing my grandmother, as well as my father.

Up until a day or two ago, I didn’t even realize how much I had been missing my grandmother. She’s been gone eight years now, nearly nine now … though Alzheimer’s took her long before that. I know it’s been longer than a dozen years since I heard her laugh. Perhaps it’s even been 15 years. I can no longer remember when she slipped away. All I know is that Alzheimer’s is the great stealer, taking a person away long before their death. By the time my grandmother actually stepped through the gates of splendor, all my tears had long been cried.

At least I thought there were no more tears left.

But this past weekend, as I put the last of her blue and white dishes in my hallway cabinet, I found myself wiping away tears.  Later, in the shower, I cried hot tears of grief … a grief so intense I wasn’t quite sure where it was coming from. Was I crying because I missed my dad? My grandmother? I couldn’t tell anymore. All I knew was the deep ache in my heart from a longing to see these people I had loved so dearly.

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When someone you love dies, people will tell you to give yourself a year. “The first year is the hardest. Once you get through all the firsts without your loved one, things will begin to get easier,” they say in hushed tones, as if somehow this is a comforting thought.

Maybe that’s true. I can’t exactly argue the point. But personally, I am more inclined to think that grief is much more unpredictable.

In my experience, waves of grief come and go, like tides moving in and out along the ocean’s shore. It doesn’t ever stop, though at times the tides of sorrow are lower and calmer while other days it feels like a wild hurricane threatening to drown everything in its path.

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Thursday marks one year since my father passed away.

I suppose, it makes sense that this week would be one of intense emotions. In fact, I’ve been anticipating the tide would shift and the waves of grief would begin to roll in higher as the year of firsts without my father drew to a close. And it’s proven to be true, as dreams of my father have been more frequent and tears have fallen from my eyes more freely during these last few weeks.

Thursday is also my 43rd birthday.

Last year, at my father’s funeral, someone commented to me, “My heart hurts for you especially, Paige. Not only did you lose your father, but now you will never again have another happy birthday!” Those words stung, like a slap in the face.  It’s wasn’t just the thought have living with such lifelong sadness , but also knowing that my father would have never wanted me to grieve over him like that either. After all, he is now more alive with the Lord in heaven than he ever was when he walked upon the earth.

Still in those first days and weeks following my dad’s death, as I mulled over how I would handle my future birthdays without succumbing to overwhelming feelings of sadness, the Holy Spirit gave me an answer that I never expect. And idea to solve my predicament that I certainly could never have come up with on my own.

From now on, my father and I will share a birthday …

My birthday on earth and his birthday into heaven. 

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In the past year, time and again God has proven the words of the psalmist are true:

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted. ~Psalm 34:18

From tangible blessings, like my grandmother’s dishes and a birthday vacation to Virginia to visit old friends, to comforting thoughts like sharing birthdays on earth with a loved one’s birthday in heave, my precious Jesus meets me in my grief and is my strong anchor whether the tides of emotion are high or low.

The reminder of this truth has been my greatest blessing during this past year.

A Missed Chance: Some Thoughts on Forgiving Myself

I don’t remember the last time I saw my Daddy.

Quite possibly it was the last weekend of June 2014. Jon and I had gone up with his girls to visit my parents for a weekend.

On Saturday morning, the little village where my parents lived was having a 4th of July children’s parade. That evening, the church I grew up attending (and where my father still served as a deacon) was hosting a 100th anniversary celebration, complete with a fish fry, outdoor carnival games for the kids, and a fireworks show. On Sunday morning, there was a special church service followed by the elaborate potluck lunch, the very sort that Baptists do best.

It was a really wonderful weekend, spent telling stories and laughing and just enjoying being together. But all good things come to an end. So, on Sunday afternoon, with our hearts (and stomachs) full, Jon and the kids and I all hugged my parents’ necks before we began the journey back our Cajun Country home.

Perhaps that was the last time I saw my father. But I’m not at all sure.

You see, my children were still in Germany visiting with their father during the month of June. So they weren’t able to go with us to visit my parents that weekend.  It seems likely that my parents would have wanted to visit with their world-traveling grandchildren upon their return to the states.

And that certainly could have easily happened. During the summer months, Mom and Dad often made trips to Texas to visit with my mother’s mother. Their habit was to swing through Lafayette for a short visit on their way home. As soon as their car pulled into our drive, I’d put on some coffee.  We would visit (and dad would nap in the recliner) until it was time for them to get back on the road. Everyone in our family looked forward to these short, but frequent, visits.

Some of my kids are convinced that KayTee and Poppa visited us on at least one afternoon during July. However, others members of our family, like me, have no memory of such a visit.

But perhaps they did come for an afternoon cup of coffee. If so, that would have definitely been the last time I gave my father a hug.

What I can remember is the last time I didn’t see my father.

During the late summer months of 2014, Jon and I were gearing up to become fully certified foster parents. One of the many things we needed to do was get a baby/toddler bedroom set up. I had a toddler bed, but needed a crib. So I started looking around for someone wanting to sell (cheap) or give away a used crib.

Thankfully, a friend from back home had a crib that she offered to give to me. Since she lived near my parents, she took the crib to their house. My father agreed to work out a time to get the crib to us.  However, he was busy and didn’t have time to bring the crib all the way to our house. So he asked us if we could meet him halfway, and exchange the crib on Labor Day. Jon and I agreed that this plan would work for us.

I don’t remember exactly how the details all played out now, but I do recall that only Jon and Joel went to meet my father and pick up the crib. For some reason, I stayed at home with the other kids.

What we did during on that lazy Monday, I can no longer remember.  It’s likely there were other things I needed to do around the house, perhaps continuing to clean out the bedroom where the crib would be set up or maybe write lesson plans for our five children for the upcoming school week. It could have been that I planned to grocery shop. Chances are that whatever I did, it was a chore I felt was somewhat pressing.

I only know that I could have gone, but I chose not to go. 

Of course, I had no way of knowing it would be my last opportunity to give my dad a hug, to see his happy smile, hear his cheerful laugh, or see his sparkly eyes.  I could not have guessed he only had a little more than two weeks left to live. Certainly, had I known, I would have made a different choice.

Unfortunately, I can’t go back and remake that decision. Oh, I would if I could, but in this world the past can not be undone. Somehow we have to learn to live with our mistakes and choices while moving forward in life. If we don’t, we will stay stuck in a rut of misery… one that is mostly of our own making.

Over the past twelve months, I’ve thought quite a bit about that final opportunity, the chance I didn’t take and missed. I’ve shed more than a few tears over it, and many nights I’ve dreamed dreams about it. Over and over, I’ve questioned the Good Lord as to why He let me miss out on that one last chance to see my Daddy.

If you can’t tell, forgiving myself for not seeing my dad last Labor Day hasn’t been easy. Perhaps the silliest part (even to me) is the fact that my father wasn’t upset with me for sending only Jon and Joel to meet him that day. Deep in  my heart, I know he wouldn’t be upset about that even today.

So why is it that am I so hard on myself?

Perhaps you have seen the movie Courageous. If so, you will recall the scene below:

Adam Mitchell dances with his daughter. Image from the movie
Adam Mitchell dances with his daughter. Image from the movie “Courageous.”

When Sheriff’s deputy Adam Mitchell’s nine year old daughter, Emily, hears a song on the radio, she asks her father to dance with her. But he refuses because he is too embarrassed to be seen dancing in public. Days later, Emily is killed tragically by a drunk driver. Later in the movie, Adam goes back to same location where his daughter had asked him to dance with her … and there, by himself, he dances for Emily.  It’s a tender moment as this father forgives himself for the missed moment to connect with his child.

In my grief, I long to know why my father died so suddenly, why he had to pass away on my birthday, why I missed the chance to see him one last time. The longing for answers to each of my why’s burns deep in my heart.

But the answers to those questions aren’t as important to God as other things. Over and over during the past year, God has gently reminded me that the mysteries of life are not always mine to know … not on this side of heaven and maybe not even on the other. Instead of knowing why, He just wants me to rest in the fact that He knows. The simple truth is that He is far more concerned about my complete trust in Him than He is in whether or not I understand all the reasons.

Today when I woke up, the first thing I thought about was the missed chance last Labor Day … and I felt in my soul the whisperings of the Holy Spirit saying softly, “It’s time, Paige … time to forgive yourself of the thing no one else holds against you.

This verse came to mind:

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:13-14

I can’t keep hanging on to the past,  beating myself up for a decision I now regret. What happened last year can’t be undone. All I can do is to look forward … and trust that God will take even the things I don’t understand and use them for my good. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So on this Labor Day, I’m choosing to finally forgive the daughter who didn’t know she was choosing to miss out on the very last chance.

How about you? Do you find it harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others? Do you have decisions or actions in your past that you need to forgive yourself? 

Framed Photographs

Yesterday, I went shopping in a department store. I only planned to quickly run in to pick up a gift for a young lady I know who is getting married this fall. Literally, within five minutes of walking into the store, I had the gift in my hands. I immediately headed back to the front of the store to pay and leave.

However, as I made my way to the register to check out, I passed by a large group of picture frames. Almost instantly, one of them caught my eye.

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I did a double take, blinked hard and stared. I might have even rubbed my eyes, trying to ensure I wasn’t seeing things. Reaching up to the top shelf, I gingerly picked up a frame, one that was obviously intended for Father’s Day gifting.

At the top of the frame were the words “Me & Papa.”  My father’s grandchildren all called him “Poppa” … we spelled it differently but pronounced it the same way. Still, it wasn’t the wording that had caught my attention. It was the sample photo that was displayed in the frame itself, a picture of a young boy and his grandfather.

The man in the photo looked remarkably like my own Dad.

In fact, it looked so much like him that it took me a minute to realize it wasn’t actually my father.  For several long minutes, I stood there debating with myself about whether or not I should include the frame with my purchases.

Seven dollars wasn’t that much money, yet I didn’t really have a picture I knew would be the perfect fit for the frame.  The wording wasn’t quite right with Poppa not being spelled the way our family always spelled it. I continued arguing with the more frugal side of myself, pointing out that though the man in the frame looked like my father, he wasn’t really my dad.

However, eventually emotions and sentimentality overruled frugality. I bought the frame. It’s sitting on my kitchen counter, still in the box with the price tag attached.

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I’ve never been a person to keep lots of framed photos around the house. 

There’s one of Jon and me at the top of Pike’s Peak sitting on the shelf above my kitchen sink.

I have framed photo of my parents, an old black and white photo from when they were in college and dating. That one sits on the top of my piano, along with a couple of photos of my parents when they were children.

And then there is the framed photo I pull out each Christmas, a snapshot of my dad holding me on my first Christmas. I’m barely 3 months old, and I’ve got a Santa hat on my head. I love that particular picture, and for years have always kept it displayed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s … although this past year I kept the photo out straight through Valentine’s Day. Somehow I couldn’t bear to pack it away again.

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Since Daddy died, photos of him mean a lot more to me. 

I don’t suppose that’s a unique feeling, as I imagine many people would say that photos become more cherished after a loved one passes. I’m grateful that I live in a day and age where we have photos to remind us of loved ones or special moments.

In a sense, photographs are like connectors bringing the past forward into the present, capable of evoking a flood of emotions. At least that’s the way it’s been for me these past nine months.

In fact, immediately following my father’s death, my emotions became extremely charged over photos … or rather, the lack of photos.

When my Daddy died suddenly last September, I hastily packed to go be with my family. In just over four hours, I managed to get our two dogs ready to be boarded, found respite care for two foster babies, as well as got them packed and delivered to the respite provider, supervised the packing of my five teens and tweens, and still managed to pack suitcases for me and my husband.

I never thought to bring along my box of childhood photos. Looking back, perhaps I should have though. It might have saved me some emotional pain.

The next day at my father’s visitation, a photo slideshow was running continuously in the background. It was played again prior to the beginning of the funeral. Initially, as I watched the slideshow, I appreciated the sentimentality of the photos. But soon, I noticed something was amiss.

There was not a single photo of me with my father.

I couldn’t understand why I was missing from the slide show. The day before, someone had asked me if I had any photos of Dad with me or the kids on among my Facebook photos or saved on my cell phone. I found a couple of the kids with their grandfather, but none with me. I didn’t think much of it at the time. After all, I had no reason to suspect that  no one else in the family would not have a single photo of me with my father?

I tried not to let it get to me, yet the longer I watched, the more upset I became. It seemed like everyone else in the world was represented in the slide show, except for me. I was nowhere to be seen.

There were photos of my father as a child, with both of his parents, and with all of his siblings. There were pictures of him doing a variety of activities from showing his 4-H lambs to posing with his basketball team to teaching school and coaching my brother’s baseball team. Naturally, there were many photographs of Daddy with my mother, from their dating days to their wedding day to a vacation they took to Hawaii before any of us children were born. The most recent photo was a picture of my parents taken just a week before his death. Both of my siblings were represented in the slide show, as were all of ten of the grandkids. There were photos of my dad with his nieces and nephews, several of his cousins, quite a few with church friends and even some of the students who had gone to the high school where he had been principal for many years.

But not a single photo of me with Daddy.

At the time, even though I felt forgotten, I knew the oversight wasn’t intentional. No one meant for me to be left out. But knowing that fact didn’t really take away the sting of being overlooked. Even now as I type this blog post, the memory of it causes tears to well up in the corners of my eyes and a lump to form in my throat.

There are plenty of photos of me and my father together. These days I often pull them out and sift through them, looking at them to recall my Dad’s smile or eyes. The photos remind me of stories, events that took place long ago that I thought I’d all but forgotten until a picture reminds me and suddenly I am transported back in time.

But I think perhaps there is more to my longing for photos than just wanting to see his face or remember the times we shared together. I think I want to recapture for myself what wasn’t honored at my father’s funeral. I want to remind myself that I was loved by my father, that I mattered to him, that I am not forgotten.

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I had a wonderful Daddy here on earth. He loved me, taught me, supported me, and encouraged me for 42 wonderful years. Even though he wasn’t perfect, I couldn’t have asked for a better father.

But how much more wonderful is my Heavenly Father? How much more amazing is His love for me?

Christian author and pastor Max Lucado once wrote:

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.

Whenever I am reminded of that quote,  I can’t help but smile. It’s something I definitely relate to as my own fridge is covered in photos and drawings made over the years by children I love. The faces held there by magnets are important to me, and whenever I pass by my refrigerator and see the smiles of the people I love, I am reminded to pray for them.

You know, even though the sentiment about my photo being on God’s fridge is really sweet, it’s not exactly a truth I can hang my heart on when I’m feeling overlooked, forgotten or unseen.  However, the Bible actually says something even better than God having my photo on his refrigerator.

 In Isaiah 49:16, you can find these words:

Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.

God has me pictured on his hands! Not just my name … but my likeness. Doesn’t the thought of that just blow your mind? Think about it. I might not be on a heavenly refrigerator, but my very face is permanently inscribed on the hands of God. He always remembers me because my face is ever before Him.

No photo in a frame or snapshot posted by magnet to the fridge or picture presented in a slide show of memories can begin to compare to that.

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About that frame I bought yesterday … 

I have been wondering if I should return it and get my money back. After all, what use to me is this frame?  The image of the man in the frame isn’t my dad, and his name is spelled wrong. Certainly I could find a better way to display a photo of me with my father.

But somehow, I think I’m going to keep this frame … as a reminder of my father’s love and that I am not forgotten.  Because God always remembers me.

My image in permanently imprinted on His Holy Hands.

Isaish4916

Too Much of a Good Thing

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to cook.

Now I’m not a chef by any stretch of the imagination. I just like to cook good home cooked food. My only culinary training was from my mother and grandmothers, all of whom were women who knew their way around a kitchen. There was no technique to creating their Southern cuisine … just a little bit of that and a dash of that.

My brother used to say that if you liked something our mother cooked you had better eat until you had your fill because you’d never get it exactly the same way again. She never followed a cook book, but rather threw together dishes by instinct. Like my mom, I rarely follow recipes. I just dump and stir and generally something tasty comes out. At least, no one I feed ever complains. (Of course, that could be because I’ve banned it, but seeing as that fact has nothing to do with this blog post I see no point in brining it up for further discussion.)

Anyway, it’s that time of the year when I start to avoid the kitchen.

You see, Louisiana summers are so hot that I can barely stand the thought of cooking dinner, standing around in a hot kitchen. I’d be totally fine with eating thick slices of tomatoes sprinkled with feta cheese all the way from mid-June straight through until late August. The rest of my crew does not share those feelings. Those growing teenage boys of mine want meat, and lots of it!

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That’s why I love my crockpot. I can start that lovely contraption in the morning and by supper time I’ve got a lovely pot roast or tender pork chops. It’s fantastic for summer cooking! Of course, I love it for winter stews and soups, for Sunday lunches ready to eat when we walk in the door from our church service, and for busy days when I literally have no time to prepare a hot supper. I’ve got lots of great kitchen gadgets, but by far that crock post is my most loved kitchen appliance.

However, crockpots do not like me.

Jon and I have been married for 4 1/2 years and I’ve had at least SIX crockpots during that time. One quit heating properly. The next two crockpots bit the dust when the stone insert cracked. The final three crockpots met their demise when the lids were systematically smashed by our foster toddlers.

The first time a lid broke, I just went out and bought a new crockpot and gave the base and insert away to Goodwill. (Looking back, I feel sort of guilty about that. What an awful solution, giving away a broken thing when I could have fixed the problem. But I’m all about honesty and that is the gospel truth … as terrible as it makes me feel.)

The second time the lid broke, I decided to circumvent the guilt and buy a replacement lid from an online supplier. But before I placed the order, I happened upon a large sized 7 quart crockpot on sale for just $8.  Naturally, I just had to buy it.

For the past couple of months, I’ve had two crockpots … but only one lid.  I have to admit, that there were some advantages. For example, I could cook an overnight meal to serve at lunch and still be able to put something else in the crockpot for dinner that night.

Yet, the situation made me a little bit sad as well. After all, how much easier it would be if I had two working crockpots?  I cook for a family of nine, and all but our two foster toddlers eat adult-sized portions. Let me be real for a moment and share a truth: One pot roast does not feed my family.  Having just one crockpot often puts a strain on me simply because I am limited in how much I can prepare.

For example, if I make chili in my extra-large 7 quart crockpot, I typically have one large or two small servings left over. There is nothing for an extra meal later in the week. Nothing to put back in my freezer. But imagine for a moment that I made two crockpots full of chili on the same day. The prep work wouldn’t be much different, but I would have two night’s worth of meals.

I spent the last couple of months toying around the idea of ordering an extra lid, but never go around to actually doing it. I just couldn’t fully justify the extra expense when there were so many other things we needed more than an extra fully-functioning crockpot.

Then two weeks ago it happened … a foster toddler managed to get a hold of my one crockpot lid and before I knew it glass was everywhere. Of course, our first reaction was to make sure the screaming baby wasn’t hurt. To our relief, there was not a single cut. Her tears were just a reaction to the loud crash of glass and metal on our kitchen’s stone floor.

You’d think I would have gotten on my computer immediately and ordered crockpot replacement lids … but I didn’t. Remember, I am mom to seven kids. Most of what I do all day long is cook, laundry and chase around toddlers. I barely check my email, much less order anything online. Days passed by with good intentions, but I just never got around to taking care of it.

Finally, Jon took pity on me. “Paige,” he said one night as we finished up dinner, “I’m going right now to my office where I will personally order you two crockpot lids. Are both crockpots the same make and model?”  As I beamed at my hero-husband with relief, I had no idea that my crockpot fiasco was only getting to its climax.

Ordering crockpot replacement lids should be a simple enough procedure. Jon sat down, found the lid to match my crockpot and placed an order for two lids. Immediately afterwards, a message box popped up stating the order could not be completed as there were not enough lids in stock. Boo!

Fortunately, or so we thought, lids came with two different handles. Red or black. So Jon just ordered two lids of the opposite color. After all, as long as the lid fit the crockpot base, who cared if the handle actually matched. Again, he placed the order for two crockpot lids only to have the same message box appear.

Sighing, Jon went back to searching for another website that carried replacement lids for my crockpot. Soon the order was complete for two crockpot lids and to our delight everything seemed to go through just fine.

That was a week ago.

Yesterday, I found this on our doorstep:

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Y’all, I now am the proud owner of six crockpot lids! Four with black handles and two with red. What’s a girl to do?!

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Last night as I was lying in bed, I kept thinking about those crockpot lids. Even with my terrible crockpot track record, keeping all six lids would be a bit excessive.

Yet, when I stop to really think about it, somehow my life often feels like one of excess. My closets are stuffed with clothes and shoes. My pantry is overflowing with good food. The children have more toys than they know what to do with. I never think of us as being wealthy, but by the world’s standards my American middle class home is among the top 1% of the richest people on earth.

I recently read the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker. The book chronicles her experiment with eliminating excess and drawing closer to God. For seven months, she tackles one area each month, limiting herself to just seven choices. The first month it was seven foods. The second month, seven articles of clothes. And so forth, until she covers the areas of possessions, media, waste, spending and stress.

My take away from this book can be found in this quote from the last chapter:

What we treasure reveals what we love.

I love God, so I want my life to reflect that … not some version of the American Dream. To be honest, now that I am at this point in writing this blog, I am not at all sure what any of this has to do with my excess of crockpot lids, but I do know this:

God doesn’t care about giving me a life of excess. He is still the same Holy God who only provided enough manna daily for the wandering Israelites. So if He promises to watch over the sparrows of the field, then I can trust Him to provide me with enough crockpot lids  … and whatever else I might need on this side of Heaven as well.

Give us today our daily bread. ~Matthew 6:11

And now, with that prayer ruminating in my heart, I’m off to the post office so that I can return four crockpot lids for a refund.

Rainbows and Marriage

June 26, 2007 is a day I will never forget.

It marked the beginning of the end for my first marriage. I discovered in the wee hours of the morning, long before light ever touched the ground, that the man I had vowed to love for the rest of my days said that he no longer loved me.

As morning dawned, I covered my head with a pillow and tried to close my eyes to the gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t successful. That ache stayed with me for many months, as the situation continued to deteriorate until finally in mid-October my husband asked me for a divorce.

In those months, as I battled the waves of nausea that were ever present, I wished I knew how to turn back the clock of time. All I wanted was to find a way to keep this from happening. But everything was out of my control.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2009 is a day I will never forget.

A large manila envelop was waiting in my mailbox, containing the final divorce papers. Two years to the day after my world turned upside down with that initial confession, my marriage was officially over.

But I didn’t feel relief or happiness, holding those papers in my hands. Instead, I realized the old familiar ache had returned, along with feelings of failure over the brokenness of my marriage.

“June 26th … how appropriate,” I thought. “Bookends on a chapter of my life. A chapter I wish I could delete.”  Of course, I couldn’t make it go away.

All I could do was give it to God.

June 26, 2015 is a day I’m sure I will never forget.

The Supreme Court of America redefined marriage for our nation.

Many are rejoicing. But I’ve got that same gnawing ache, a pain in the pit of my stomach that won’t go away. Our nation has the audacity to redefine something that they never originally defined in the first place, and the course of history has forever been changed.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do not hate homosexuals. I’ve never picketed; never will. Not once have I ever knowingly insulted or shunned anyone due to sexual orientation. I know and love friends who are gay, and as well as my many straight friends who are among those celebrating today’s ruling. And nothing that happened today will change that for me. I will love them just as I always have.

I’m not a theologian. I’m not a debater. I’m just a Jesus girl, who loves God with all of my heart. I don’t know much, but this one thing I stand on … God’s thoughts and ways are not like mine. His are infinitely holier and I must bow in submission to what I don’t understand.

Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  ~Isaiah 55:7-9

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Eight years ago today, my marriage unraveled. Six years ago, I found myself single. I knew what God’s word said about marriage. His design was for a man and a woman to be joined together for a lifetime. There was no pride in my divorce. I wanted to hide from God, to turn my head in shame.

But God met me in those dark places and whispered, “Come to me.”

Perhaps that is why I have always loved the old hymn Just As I Am … the words are a pictures of that coming to Jesus. It’s as if I in those lyrics I can hear the Father saying, “Come with your sins and failings and shortcomings. Come with all the dirty rags you have to offer. And I will take you in my arms.

So I came to Him … on my knees, dragging behind me the baggage of my broken marriage, accepting my guilt in that situation. I handed over the filthy rags of my life … the hurt, angry feelings along with the sneaky, lying, gluttonous girl who was more selfish than not.

I brought myself to kneel before Him, not so He would exalt me in my sinful state. Not so He would condone my poor behaviors. Not so He would put His stamp of approval on my secret sins. But rather so that He would change me.

God beckons humans to Himself because we are created in His image and it is His desire to teach us how to be more like Him. I know full-well I will never reach perfection this side of heaven. My mistakes and shortcomings will haunt me all of my days on this earth. But oh, how during this mortal life I pray that I will become more Christ-like, in attitude and in behavior.

While God loves me just as I am, His purpose has never been to make me happy on earth. Rather, He wants to make me holy, just as He is holy. His heart is to complete a good work in me. A work that He began before there was time. A work that He will finish in Heaven, where I will stand perfected before Him as I worship face-to-face.

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Today, humans took something God created and attempted to redefine it.

Though many will disagree with me (some even vehemently), I cannot personally delight or rejoice today. To take pride in today’s ruling would be to exalt man’s sinful state above God’s holiness.

No matter what the Supreme Court said today, God says homosexuality is wrong. In light of that, my feelings on the subject don’t really matter.

Yet, there is nothing I can do to change today’s decision.

Nothing except give it to God … and pray for my nation, my state, my community, my friends and family, and especially myself.

May we all return to God.

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So tell the people: This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Return to Me”–this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts– “and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Hosts. ~Zechariah 1:3

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IMPORTANT NOTE:  My blog is not open for debate.

I will certainly respect your right to have an opinion that differs from my own, but I expect that same respect from you as well. Any comments that are disrespectful of me, my writing or the homosexual community in any way will be deleted. It is possible to disagree and still be kind. Thanks and God Bless!

Father’s Day … without a Dad

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This past week, I made a trip up to my mother’s home. From the highway, before the I turned onto the driveway and pulled up the hillside, I saw my father’s white truck. It was parked up past the house, near the gate that leads into the pasture. He often parked his white Ford F150 there.

Before I know what was happening, I felt my heart skipped a beat, as a half-formed thought bounced around in my head.

Oh, good! Dad’s here …

And then, like a deflating balloon, I remembered. Dad’s not here. My father is gone. I won’t see him on this side of heaven again.

I suppose the tears have been building all month. June is the month for celebrating fathers. This year, I don’t have a dad to celebrate. I’m thankful we aren’t a TV watching family. I didn’t need any sentimental commercials to add to the emotions I’m already feeling.

The past few days I’ve had these traces of conversations in my head, as I imagined the two of us chatting in the living room of his home. There is so much to tell him, it would take several cups of coffee to catch him up on all that has happened in the past nine months!

Let’s see … I’d have to share about how Joel had major surgery and shocked us all with his miraculously quick recovery. Of course, there’s all the adventures of life with our foster kids (who we only had for five days when Dad passed away). I would also have to share the saga of the renter leaving my house in such a terrible state, and then how we managed to fix it all up. Of course, Dad would never believe how much Nathan has grown in a short period of time … going from a 140 lb, 5’4″ to 185 lbs, 5’8″.  The amount of clothes I’ve had to buy for him is ridiculous.

I’d talk to him about how parenting teens is harder than I ever imagined and apologize for every time I ever rolled my eyes at him. He would agree that teens are hard people to love, and that I indeed deserve ever eye roll or exasperated huff I get from my five teens.

I’d have to tell him what an amazing dad he truly was … how I loved having him for my father. He wasn’t perfect, but he had so very many things right. He loved God, my mother and his children in the right order. He lived his faith at home and work, not just at church on Sunday mornings.

My dad was so funny. I liked to send him puns and tell him silly jokes, just because I wanted to hear his laugh. He really did have a great laugh. If I had an hour to sit and talk with him, I’d want to tell him at least one joke just so I could hear him laugh again.

I could go on and on. Actually, for several days, I have had these running conversations with Dad going on in the back of my brain. (I’m sure admitting that makes me seem as if I have some sort of mental issue. Hopefully though, I don’t … at least not yet.)

Eventually, I came to the end of my chatter. To my surprise, I found I didn’t have anything left to say. But I didn’t want the conversation (as one-sided as it was) to come to an end. And there, in the quiet, my brain asked a question I wasn’t expecting:

So, Dad … what about you? Tell me everything from the past nine months.

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks. My dad’s been face-to-face with Jesus, worshipping at the feet of the King of Kings. What would he have to tell me???  Oh, I can only imagine!

What would he say? I’ve thought about that a little bit as well. I don’t know, but maybe he would tell me not to worry or to be afraid. After all, he knows I have a tendency to feel both worried and afraid quite a bit. Anxiety is definitely my typical mode of operation.

Perhaps he would remind me to be fully surrendered to the love and care of God, who watches over sparrows and clothes the lilies of the field. God has got whatever is going on in my life. All I need to do is simply trust that His plans for me are good.

And I know that my dad would tell me that I should hang onto my faith because in the end it’s all going to be worth it. Forever with God is amazing.

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It’s my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I’m missing him terribly … but I’m grateful that I am not fatherless. Not only was I given the blessing of being raised by an amazing earthly father, I am also a part of God’s family. I have a Heavenly Father who watches over me, guides me and is ever leading me closer to Him.

And someday, I’ll celebrate with my Daddy around the throne of the Heavenly Father. What a Father’s Day that will be!

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.   ~ 1 John 3:1

Longer Than I Can Remember

For as long as I can remember, there have been Tia, Cindi, & Ginger.

My three childhood friends. There were more of course, but only these three are a part of my life prior to where my memories begin. For as much as my brain and heart know, these three have always been around, moving in and out and about the circles of my existence.

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I am the little girl on the far-right, first row. Ginger sits directly to my left, with a precious pouty face. Tia stands behind us, curling her long blonde hair. We were all about 3 years old.

Tia was the beautiful ballerina, an artsy and free-range child. Life at her riverbank home was as wild and unpredictable as my own home was scheduled and sedate. Tia and I dipped our toes into the murky waters of the meandering river and danced in the rain and hosted tea parties for fairies with pecan shell cups on driftwood tables. With Tia, imagination trumped everything, coloring my world with vivid hues of possibilities I never could fathom anywhere else. When she moved on the eve of our transition into Jr. high, I felt like I had lost my left arm … left because she was left-handed while I was right.

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Time for 4th grade honor roll ribbons! I’m on the front row, goofy grin and eyes closed. Tia kneels next to me. Cindi stands directly behind me, while Ginger (wearing a blue skirt) stands behind Tia.

Cindi was my Sunday School friend, the only other girl my age at church.

She was only a few months my senior, yet next to Cindi, I always felt more like the little sister. While I was the oldest of three, she was the baby of her parents’ trio. Thanks to the influence of her older sisters, Cindi was always more aware of the bigger world around us, whether it was music, fashion or which teacher rumors were true and which ones were tales blown out of proportion. There was warmth in our friendship, a certain sort of safety that wrapped around me, almost like curling up in a cozy quilt on a cold winter’s night.

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5th grade Halloween Carnival Pageant. I am contestant #2, wearing a peachy-orange dress. Tia is contestant #3 in a lovely white dress. Ginger is contestant #4. I remember feeling insanely jealous of both Tia’s and Ginger’s dresses, and feeling completely oafish as I was so much taller and larger than the other girls.

And then there was Ginger.

As much as I loved Tia and Cindi, it was Ginger who fascinated me. She was everything I wasn’t.  Tiny and petite, with dark hair and eyes while I was always chubbier and taller than all the other girls, with my dingy blonde hair. Ginger’s personality was as big as she was little. A feisty fireball ready to take on the world. Daring and full of eagerness to try everything. In comparison, I felt intimated by the world at large, unsure and uncertain about anything untested or untried.

From the time I knew her, I wished I could be more like Ginger. I wanted just a little of her spunk …

Ginger decorates a cake at my 8th birthday party. It was a favorite party with all my friends as my mother gave each girl in attendance a cake to decorate.
Ginger decorates a cake at my 8th birthday party. It was a favorite party with all my friends as my mother gave each girl in attendance a cake to decorate.

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I spent my childhood among the cotton and soybean fields of north Louisiana, in a tiny village where the population barely topped 500 human souls. At the tiny elementary school there was only one classroom for pupils in each grade. Classmates, who were often related by blood anyway, grew as close as siblings as they marched year by year through the grades together.

My class was small, even by our town’s standards, hovering most years at about 18 students, give or take a child or two. We were also light on girls, just six or seven in the entire class. Perhaps this banded us together, though the girls in the grade ahead of us were just as close if not closer. We came from a tight-knit community and one thing we all learned was how to love each other in spite of our flaws.

Our formal education came to a close in the spring of 1990. We said goodbye, young and unaware of how life would take us all in a thousand different directions. That was twenty-five years ago, though it doesn’t seem like that many years have passed us by.

In the meantime, life goes on. 

Tia moved the summer before 6th grade. I still saw her from time to time during jr. high and high school, though my adolescent insecurities caused me to feel awkward around my old friend. But thanks to our small-town roots and the glories of social media, Tia and I have rekindled our old friendship, and enjoy exchanging Christmas cards every year.  When my father passed away last fall, I looked out into the sea of faces at his funeral and saw Tia’s in the crowd. Words cannot describe a friendship like that.

Cindi and I graduated as the top two in our high school class, not a tremendously hard feat considering how few of us there actually were wearing the caps and gowns. We followed each other to college, rooming together and serving as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. We even gave birth to our boys within a few months of each other. Though we don’t see each other face-to-face very often, we do enjoy visiting with each other anytime we both managed to get back to our small town on the same day. I spoke to her the day my dad died, knowing that she would speak words of comfort the way only a close friend can do.

And then there was Ginger.

I may have seen her half a dozen times since high school, a dozen at most. Our paths rarely crossed. The last time I saw Ginger, perhaps 4 or 5 years ago at a basketball game, she hugged me. Her smile as bright as ever. We chatted and caught up and hugged again as we parted ways. We never had been extremely close friends … and yet Ginger had always been there since before I could even remember. We were the sort of friends who had a connection with each other that would always be there no matter what happened in our lives.

Ginger died two days ago, unexpectedly and tragically. I’m reeling. She is the first of my friends to die. I might not have been as close to Ginger as I was to other friends … but I loved her. My heart hurts and feels so heavy over the death of my friend.

Not one of us has unlimited days to live. The Bible tells us that our days are numbered before we ever take our first breath. So while I wasn’t prepared to learn about Ginger’s death, God Himself was eager and ready to welcome my friend into Heaven’s gates.

I will miss sweet Ginger on this earth … but I am glad for her life, grateful for her impact on me, and thankful that she was one of three special friends I had the privilege of knowing longer than I can remember.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
~ Psalms 116:15

Another Rainy Day

It was raining yesterday when the white DCFS van pulled into the driveway. It all felt so strangely familiar as I took hold of two toddlers … only this time, instead of being met with scared, blank eyes, that sweet toddler boy saw me and a big smile lit up his face.

“GiGi!” He stretched out his arms to me, and as I pulled him close, he melted into my arms.

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It was also raining on September 12th. I remember because that was the day I first met the tiny duo that rocked my world.

I will never forget how the rain fell as if it would never stop as the white DCFS van pulled up in our my driveway. My sister-in-law held an umbrella over my head, as I reached in and pulled out a plump baby girl with big blue eyes. A social worker followed behind us, clutching her older brother tight to protect him against the rain.

For five months, those two kiddos were a part of our family. And then just as quickly as they arrived, our precious babies left.

That was three months ago.

All spring my phone has remained strangely quiet. I had only two calls from the DCFS, and neither placement worked out in our favor. Honestly, I was glad for the reprieve. My attention was needed elsewhere …  A rental property that I own (located several hours from my actual home) needed some extensive work, my grandfather passed away, and my son had major surgery.

Yet, it was also a season in which Jon and I often discussed our decision to be foster parents. Is this still what we felt called to do? Was it worth the cost to our family? We agreed that we felt called by God to do this work and that we should keep our home open to children who needed a loving home. And so we waited …

Yesterday about lunchtime the call came through. Two children in need of a home … two year old boy and his one year old sister. The same sibling set we took in last fall and loved on for five months.

Would we take them back?

Of course. How could we possibly say no?

Only this time Jon and I said yes to the call knowing the cost involved. We know the commitment will require more of us than we thing we possibly have to give, and yet somehow we always find we have enough.

We already know the bittersweetness of being foster parents. The is an immense blessing that comes from loving these tiny sweethearts, and yet the fact remains that these are someone else’s babies. The only reason we get to love them is because something horrid happened in their lives in the first place. It’s a reality we can’t escape.

Jon and I know that chances are great these babies won’t be with us forever.  It could be weeks or months, but probably we will have to give them back. And yet, until we do, we love them just as if they are our own children. To do anything less would be wrong, even though in our humanness we have a desire to cushion our own hearts from the possibility of pain associated with losing someone we love.

This time it would be different. This time we aren’t naive. This time we know exactly what saying yes means … and still it is the only answer we have.

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Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.      ~James 1:27

The King-Sized Bed of My Dreams

When Jon and I got married 4 1/2 years ago, we each brought with us a queen-sized bed.

Jon’s mattress was the newer of the two, as well as a pillow-top variety. It felt so soft and cushiony, sort of like sleeping on a cloud. I loved that bed, or at least I thought I did. Perhaps I loved it so much because of the bed I brought with me into our marriage.

My mattress set was old, and I never liked it from the start. It was a cheap mattress, much firmer and harder than I liked. But it was free. My parents had given it to me when I went through the divorce. I was grateful for it, and while I occasionally dreamt of buying something softer, I slept on it for three years. Once, I bought myself a cushiony mattress topper, which helped quite a bit, especially as I didn’t have the money to buy a brand-new mattress set.

However, I had one thing Jon didn’t have … a headboard and footboard. I loved my country-style bed stand, having picked it out as a gift to myself. I had several other matching pieces that went along with my bed, including a mirror-topped dresser and a bedside table. Oh, how I loved that everything matched. Even if I didn’t love the mattress, I adored the look of my bedroom with it’s coordinated furniture.

It didn’t take long for us to both agree that his mattress was the one we would use, adding my headboard and footboard to it to give our bedroom a brand-new look. It felt like the perfect compromise.

However a week later, Jon and I decided we had made a grievous error in judgement. You see, Jon’s mattress may have been newer and softer, but it also had a rather large “dent” in the mattress. At night, we found that had to cling to the sides of the mattress all night long in order to not find ourselves stuffed like sardines in the middle of the sagging bed. Fighting for much-needed personal space is not a good way to start a marriage.

“Why didn’t you ever turn or flip your mattress, Jon?” I asked him, probably with too much of a whiny tone in my voice.

“I just didn’t think about it,” he replied. “Sometimes a nagging wife can be a blessing.” He grinned sheepishly at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Seeing I wasn’t going to stay mad at him, Jon continued, “The good news is that we still have your mattress. It might be old, but that thing is hard as a board without a hint of sagging. We definitely won’t find ourselves rolling to the middle on it.”

Soon enough, we were sleeping on my old, hard mattress. As it turned out, Jon loved it. He claimed his back aches all but disappeared, a problem that had plagued him throughout his adulthood. But I hated it.  I had tasted what could have been. Now, going back felt painful. Oh, how I longed for a softer bed!

A couple of months ago, my much-loved bed frame broke. Jon tried, but it couldn’t be repaired. We needed a new bed frame for our mattress. So on the next Saturday morning, Jon and I went shopping … for bed frames. As much as I hoped, it was not part of our plan to buy a new mattress.

Yet shopping for beds is a lot like shopping for cars. When you find a deal on the car you want, you better pounce … it might not be there the next time you go car shopping. That’s sort of what happened on that Saturday morning.

As soon as Jon and I walked into the store, I had a feeling there were deals to be had. We had shopped this same store several months earlier when we had purchased new beds for our boys. At that time, the store had been stocked, wall-to-wall. But now, the inventory was low. One of two things was happening: this store was going out of business or they were reducing inventory before paying taxes. Either way, I knew we could get a bargain.

And we did! Jon and I got a sweet deal on a top-quality king-sized mattress set, a headboard and footboard, as well as free delivery and no taxes. It was a bargain we couldn’t pass up, and fortunately we could afford it.

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Our new bed is amazing … soft enough to please me and yet firm enough so as not to cause Jon backaches. Even though the bed frame no longer exactly matches the mirror-topped dresser, it doesn’t completely clash either. So many reasons to love this big new bed!

Last night, as I crawled into bed, I realized none of those reasons I listed are my favorite part about my new king-sized bed.

With Jon out-of-town on an overnight business trip, I crawled up into that big comfy bed all by myself, and felt the impact of the emptiness. What an incredibly lonely feeling! I wasn’t scared, and yet how very hard it was to fall asleep. Even with the dog cuddled up beside me, I felt tiny in our huge bed, swallowed up by the expanse of the space.

In that moment, I was reminded that the best thing about our new bed was the same thing I loved about the old, hard mattress. It’s the person I share it with every single night.

It’s been a little over four years since I took vows to love Jon in sickness and in health, in good times and bad time, for richer or poorer … and perhaps I should have added “whether we sleep on saggy mattresses or luxurious beds” to my promise.

I really do love that man, no matter what sort of bed we share.

But please, please, Lord Jesus… don’t test me on this one! 

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If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. ~Proverbs 3:24