Marry Your Best Friend

My mom has always said that my smile is contagious. I never really give it much thought because I spend more time without a smile than I do with one. I mean smiling is okay, people seem to like them, but I’m a pretty serious, driven, self-critical, emotionally intense firstborn. Ever read The Firstborn Advantage by Keven Leman? You get me, then. Smiling isn’t my first priority in life. Tasks? Gettin’ stuff done? Now, that’s love language material. True, deep happiness.

But as it happened some years ago, out of the clear blue sky, the good LORD put a pretty atypical-for-me, fella in my path. I wasn’t looking for him and I feel very sure he wasn’t looking for me. We come from two very different worlds in a lot of ways. But, his quick wit was most certainly intriguing. I had never met anyone with such off-the-cuff comebacks so smoothly woven into the flow of conversation. He was interesting.  He made me laugh, and. . .  well, I needed to laugh. Perfect combination. We became friends. As fate would have it, we ended up at the same apartment complex. Eventually, we started dating but that was after I’d arranged dates for him and other girlfriends.

Today, nearly 30 years later, we discuss often what we’d like to impart to our adult children and the next generation – some how to stay married for the long haul wisdomWithout skipping a beat, Phillip will say: “Marry Your Best Friend!” It’s sort of his marriage catchphrase. Without hesitation, I always add: “We think neither deserves the other.” Think about it. When we live out married life with a heart of humility (“I don’t deserve you, it’s only by God’s amazing grace that I get the privilege to be married to you”) it changes the way you do life together. Still today, I am completely humbled to know that God, in His perfect sovereignty, saw fit to give me a gift that I didn’t even know I needed, and definitely didn’t want. But, heeeeerre we are! Going strong.

And my heart is smiling all the way!

 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

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July 2017

 

 

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A Hug in Your Heart

Ohmygoodness, y’all, this is why it’s important to record our days. It’s been seventeen years since my sweet boy said these words. As an old mom, now, I can assure you I would have never remembered this precious moment had it not been recorded. I’m so grateful this morning; as I flipped through my old journals, this piece of paper fell out onto the table. I heard his little voice immediately. I remember his mannerisms. I remember the specific way he would shake his head at the things he didn’t like. He still does this, today.

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It’s not often that I get to actually hear my Big Boy’s voice, these days, much less a hug. When I do get a hug, they’re big, he towers over me, now. His hugs are strong. And, college has him smellin’ good so they’re extra nice. He’s a man. He chats with his Dad nearly every single day, but he only needs Mom for specific moments like when he needs groceries, a new pot, or he’s injured or sick, or those rare moments of empathy. Life has taken him to new horizons, new adventures; he’s ‘adulting’ as they call it these days. I’m so proud of him. Life is hard. Adulting is hard. Maneuvering new experiences is hard. But, he’s doing it. He doesn’t quit. He makes me proud.

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As the old saying goes, the days are long but the years are short. Take the time it takes to record your days. Jot down all those little moments, even if it’s on a piece of scrap paper. A napkin. These precious moments are making your years. Don’t miss them. It’s the good stuff. It’s the only stuff that really matters. You’ll be so glad you did.

“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Psalm 39:4

Mother’s Memories

June 23, 1997 – journal entry

Douglas is five months old, today! 
He rolls over from tummy to back, makes lots of loud noises, and sits up with a little help. He is growing SO fast! He’ll be one of those babies who walks at 9 months. He and Sarah make noises together and laugh at one another. It melts my heart. Sarah still loves to kiss and hug him. Douglas reaches for everything! I love to watch him develop. 
Sarah can say cracker and juice, now!!! It’s almost like overnight, she started talking! I love to hear the cute things (jabber) she says. When I tell her to go get in her chair, she goes right to the high chair – she says “Mama” in such a sweet little voice. 

Phillip went to look for a house, this evening. It has a place for a garden in the back! 
I don’t know if it will be big enough but God knows where we will be, I’m leaving it up to Him.



As my now grown children have their own, I am blessed to relive their childhood as I listen, encourage, and journey alongside them, these days. There are truly no earthly words adequate to describe God’s handiwork in the tapestry of our lives.

“. . . he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Titus3:5

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Got Enemies?

Sure you do. We all do.

I’m in 2 Chronicles 20 where it seems that right out of the clear blue, Jehoshaphat gets a surprising word that “a great multitude” [read enemy] from across the sea is coming to destroy his kingdom. (vs. 1 &2) Jehoshaphat (I need a nickname for him – Jeho, J-hosh, J-phat…) was afraid, but he immediately turned to seek the LORD and proclaimed a fast throughout all of Judah. In vs. 13 it says: “ALL of Judah was standing before the LORD, with their infants, their wives and their children.” They assembled and all of Judah was seeking the LORD and fasting. (mm, powerful stuff, huh?) As they’re assembled, the Spirit of the LORD spoke through Jahaziel saying: “Do not be afraid or dismayed of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (vs. 15) God gave specific instructions: Go down and face them. Station yourselves. Stand. See the salvation of the LORD. So Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground and worshipped. All of Jerusalem followed suit.

The next day, they went out to meet their enemy. Jehoshaphat exhorted Judah and all of Jerusalem to put their trust in the LORD . (vs.20) He appointed holy singers (my term/paraphrase – without going into a long explanation) to lead out before the army saying, “Give thanks to the LORD , for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

As soon as they started singing. . . the LORD set ambushes against the “multitude” who had come against them and they were defeated. The scripture says they were “routed” which means to defeat and cause to retreat in disorder.

Anybody want to destroy you? Perhaps not in biblical terms when they fought with spear and sword and gathered plunder after it was all over, but I’m willing to bet there are modern-day enemies out to destroy – your character, your reputation, your dignity, your company, your family, your children, your marriage, your friendships. . . oh yeah, they’re out there. You know they are.

When enemies just show up out of the clear blue sky, where do we turn? When we are faced with situations out of our complete control, to whom do we trust?

Jehoshaphat was afraid but he turned to seek the LORD. He fasted. His fasting was an act of humility, counter-culture to our propensity to act swiftly, harshly, and with arrogant pride, which you know. . . always goes before a fall. Ouch. God’s specific instructions were to first not be afraid or dismayed. The Spirit of the LORD reminded them to whom the battle belonged – not them, but to God. They were to face the enemy. Stand firm. Station themselves and see the salvation of the LORD. All they had to do was watch! Well, and some of them were instructed to SING! No girding up the loins. No charging. Just stand, watch, and sing. What faith!

What are you facing that appears to be an impossible situation?
Perhaps your family is in a dire situation of which you have no control.
Perhaps an enemy has come against you – physical or spiritual – and you don’t know what to do.
Is a loved one facing a life threatening illness?
Are you facing financial disaster?
Are you enduring a crumbling marriage?
Has unemployment suddenly caught you off guard?

Friend, do not be afraid (God’s words, not mine)
Stand firm. Station yourself.
And, let faith be your armour.

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Intercession

My bible study these days is about biblical fasting. In Deuteronomy chapter 9, Moses fasted twice; once prior to receiving the tablets from the Lord God, and again after discovering that the Israelites had already turned from God and made a molten image for themselves, while Moses was away. (jeez, he can’t leave them alone for five seconds.)

In Angela-terms, let me break this down for you. The Lord God Almighty had just led His people, His beloved people, out of bondage in Egypt. You know – where they were slaves, remember? They were beaten. Oppressed. Remember, they were told to make bricks without straw and then Pharaoh called them lazy? Back in Chapter 8, they are even reminded how God delivered them providing for their every need – their clothes didn’t even wear out. God promised them good land, with streams and pools of water, springs flowing in the valleys and hills, a land with wheat and barley, vines, fig and pomegranate trees, olive oil and honey, a land where bread wouldn’t be scarce – they would lack nothing. (Deut.8) At the end of chapter 8, there is a stern warning about forgetting the Lord God and following other gods. Go read about it. By chapter 9, they had already forgotten all about God’s loving faithfulness and built for themselves an idol to worship.

Imagine Moses, here, fasting before God for forty days and forty nights. That’s a long time, y’all. He received the tablets, the first handbook of life for God’s people. But, the very next verse (v.12) God says, “Moses, you better get out of here, quickly, those people down there are up to no good, again.” [Angela’s paraphrase] So, Moses gets down the mountain to find the golden calf and what does he do? He throws the tablets, crushing them! That’s what I’d call a righteous anger. Can you imagine the frustration? I mean, Moses didn’t even really want the job, did he? (Exodus 3) But, He then fell prostrate before the Lord and fasted again for forty days and forty nights. AGAIN. That’s the scenario in a nutshell. And nutshells are how I roll.

So often the application leans toward “we stubborn people” and our deliberate rebellion.  For the seasoned Christian, that’s old news. I’m definitely not saying it’s irrelevant, but it’s typically the way the application goes. We need to get this, something a bit off the beaten path: Moses interceded for the Israelites by fasting. He mourned their sin by fasting. He knew of their impending destruction. God was ready to blot out their name from under Heaven. (vs.14) But, Moses took his frustration, probable humiliation, and righteous anger to the LORD and fasted.

Isn’t it easier to just throw up our hands and say “pfff…I’m done”, especially when the intercession involves wayward, stubborn people who continue in, what seems like, deliberate rebellion? And especially if that rebellion causes harm to those we love? And what about those who have hurt us, personally? Those who have promised something but didn’t deliver? Those who were seemingly “safe” yet turned out to be nothing of the sort? Those whom we expect to be “righteous” but entangled so tightly in sin they can’t see the way out? Or, perhaps don’t want a way out?

Are we drawing near to God’s heart by fasting on their behalf? Seeking repentance? Reminds me of when Jesus asked the Father to “forgive them” as He was dying on the cross. Are we seeking the Lord’s compassion by way of fasting for our family, our friends, our church, and even our nation?  I wonder what would happen if were willing to do so.

Plead mercy.

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Welcome. Again.

When we visit our darling Grandgirl, the front door opens to this gleeful, exuberant question: “MEMA, you want to see my room?!?!” Every.single.time. It is pure joy. So we say “OF COURSE!” and off we go to see her room, for the third time in a week. Once we grace her “front door” as she calls it, she says: “And, here we are!. . .” arms stretched wide, with a little dance spin. She goes on to explain where we play hopscotch, where she sleeps, her closet. . . If you’ve watched Sophia the First, you can track.

It’s the first thing that comes to mind as I re-introduce Lessons in Mercy.

And, heeeere we are! Welcome. ❤ Again. I’ll spare you the dance.

So many things about life has changed since I last wrote. If nothing else, I want to journal them here for our own memories: our trials, our victories, God’s amazing grace and liberating mercy, and His humbling faithfulness to sustain us through it all. As I’ve said many times before, it’s really not for you as much as it is for us; a record of all that God has done. The glory is His and His alone. I’m grateful He is more than capable of handling our mangled messy lives. He has done great things.
But, that’s not a big surprise, is it?

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Looking for Light

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Recently, one of my friends said: “I can tell when you’re not on Facebook!”
Really? I don’t know what to think about that, honestly. I think it means I’m on social media way too much.  

It’s been a hard week. It actually sucked and I don’t think older Christian ladies should say that word. It was as hard as “I ran over an armadillo” hard – bumpy, bruising, crashing, loud and yet the week charged on at lightening speed. It was the kind of week that rendered strength I didn’t know I had. Or, maybe I wasn’t strong at all, maybe this week is just life – the norm – and I just crumble under  [a lot of] pressure.  Whatever the case may be, my heart hurts; tears waiting just under the surface. My body hurts 100 times worse. My feelings have been trampled and my dignity lost for at least an afternoon. 

But, in the midst of the muck, I’m looking for the Light.

*All MRI scans – clear.
*A retest on pathology report – no evidence of atypia.
*I do not have breast cancer – today.
*Hubby’s strength when I’m falling apart at the seams.
*Sweet friendships.
*The fortitude to stand up for myself, this week.
*A good cry (or four) – healing.
*An afternoon with my sweet Sarah.
*Understanding mercy at a deeper level.
*A quiet Friday morning, the first this week.
*The privilege to read Silas Marner, today, with my Big Little.

I’m still looking. . . and finding.
Hallelujah.

Surrender

Mom & I were up early watching hurricane news. Having grown up in Galveston, she’s no stranger to storms. Hurricane Carla hit just two weeks before Mom’s 15th birthday. Still to this day, she remembers it vividly. Have I ever told you how blessed we’ve been to have a Mom who is a great story-teller? Years ago, I bought a little recorder for her to journal her life experiences. I don’t know what ever happened to that idea but it’s high time we bring it back!

She started by reminiscing about sneaking out of her school building-turned-storm shelter to walk the sea wall. The massive crashing waves were exhilarating, the height of the mist thrilling. She explained how she and her friends could lay their whole bodies into the wind, arms stretched wide, with only the strength of the storm holding them up. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this story but it makes my heart happy every time I hear it.

“It’s an experience you’ll never forget”, she says.

“Angela, I actually saw a house, great big ‘ol two story house, with every slat, every piece of siding torn off the house, yet the salt & pepper shakers and the bread were still sitting on the table; everything in every room was still in place. Storms are weird. Tornadoes are weird…”

“A piece of glass stuck in a telephone pole?? That’s a sight you don’t see every day.”

“Two years later, I was at Ball High when Kennedy was assassinated. I was in class.”

I can’t help but think about how I wish we all weathered storms face first, head on. So many times, I wrestle with God wondering why He didn’t consult me first on the plans HE chose for me. So many times, I try to ignore the storm warnings, proudly – falsely – thinking I’m way too important for the storm. Or, perhaps that my faith, my belief system, my “religion” could/should somehow inoculate me from the storms of life.

But, what if…

. . . what if we just stopped all the wrestling and humbly turned our whole entire bodies, arms stretched wide, toward the storm, bearing the brunt head on.

I don’t know about you, but I want to feel that Force holding me up. I want to know that surrender. I bet it would be exhilarating. I bet it would be a thrill of a lifetime.  #surrender

 

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