We Were Together

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It was eleven years ago today, a country boy asked a southern belle to be his lady forever. We were in the most romantic and picturesque little setting; a small town, an extraordinarily sunny day, on the grounds of an old, historic landmark. I was dangling from the edge of the old covered bridge watching the crystal blue water rushing beneath me. I was deep in thought when I turned to exclaim something I have long since forgotten to see the love of my life on bended knee already in tears awaiting my attention.

And in the beautiful words of Walt Whitman…

“We were together; I forget the rest.”

It has since been the sweetest years of my life. Shawn and I have forgotten more good memories together in our years than most people have been blessed to even create in a lifetime.

Before the ring, before the dents and dings, before we realized perhaps it wouldn’t always be easy, there was a solid foundation of pure love. I believe the Lord prepared my heart for him long before I even knew him.

Somehow though, it is easy for us. I believe that is simply because we made that sweet commitment of forever to honor our sacred vows until the very end of time, from beginning to eternity. And that changed how we approach everything.

This week, as I have once again been reminded how precious and fragile life truly is, I break from the hustle and bustle to just breathe and examine my life. Not the surface, like the way the little laugh lines are beginning to show, or how often I need to cover the little silver strands in my hair or the way the boys now tower over us and through it all Shawn somehow still looks like a stone cold fox.

Not even examining in a way that recalls to my heart and mind the fact that we have countless memories and photos in front of that same old plastic shark on the same sunny beaches, but rather in a way that speaks volumes as to how I live every day. I may not get everything right; there is always work left on my desk at the end of the week. Sometimes I burn dinner, I am late without good reason, and often I am simply overcommitted and spread too thin. I disappoint someone daily for some reason or another. I do not call enough, visit enough or spend time with friends like I should.

But, I can honestly say, without hesitation or doubt, that I have loved one Benjamin Shawn Ritch with my whole body, soul and spirit. And I hope when my life is over, and his ends exactly one minute after mine, that he is absolutely exhausted from experiencing a lifetime of my love for him. There is no place I would rather be than resting on his shoulder; no sound I would rather hear than his heartbeat. And no giant hand I would rather have blow me butterfly kisses.

Shawn and I got married in the sand on our favorite beach that we still visit often. Diamonds may dull and gold may tarnish but I thank God for the man he is, the sweet life we have together and the pure, unblemished love we have that’s more precious today than it was then.

And will be even stronger for whatever storm we may or may not face tomorrow.

Love you Silver Fox.

We are together.

And I forget nothing.

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Forever I Will Pray

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Forever I will pray, Lord have your way.  That is how I begin every day in prayer.  Some days that is enough and for others those few words become the battle cry signaling a war to shake Heaven until He hears the anguish of my heart and soul. And although my Father in Heaven hears my heartache before I speak and He captures my tears in a bottle before they fall, He still longs to have me run to His arms for comfort when I hurt.

In all difficulties I may face, He is there.  He didn’t and wouldn’t cause momentary troubles, yet  this life is so very cruel and it cannot always be beautiful, although with my every breath I try to make it so.  In any time of brief uncertainty, I am so thankful I walk alongside Him always with a safe hand to hold. I cling to it in faith for security. I wonder what His children do when they turn from Him and refuse His guidance and struggle alone.

I could never survive.

I normally share the past storms I have traveled safely through that have a landing upon the sunny shoreline safely across the way.  Because in those life experiences I know the happy ending and can use those examples as God’s abundant grace and extraordinary love.

Today I share the faith in waiting.  Waiting for a difficult diagnosis perhaps?  I do not yet know.

I recently found something that needed medical attention and diagnostic imaging.  It was confirmed and needed further, more extensive testing for a more conclusive diagnosis.

While I wait for those tests, I pray.  And if you know me at all, you know I love the Lord with all my heart.  I love my family; I adore my husband, I cherish my work.

Every single breath is a gift to me.  I giggle with babies, I kiss puppies and I love people.  I dance when there is no music.  Every time I enter a room, a party or even a store I act like I know everyone.  If you are close enough, I will hug you and even if I do not know you I will likely say that I love you too. I never pass a flower that I do not bend to smell or hear the chirping of a bird that I do not stop to sing along with.

I simply love this life.

I do not want to lose it.

Even in my selfishness, I do not want to be altered, or lose any part of the femininity the Lord has given me.   In these moments of waiting and deep prayer, I wonder if I have gods before my God?  As much as I love to live, I do worship His creation, His people and all the beauty I am surrounded with in every sweet breath I take.  I wondered this ever so briefly and then I heard Him speak so sweetly.

It is impossible to worship without love and it is equally impossible to love without worship. 

From my redeemed heart, full of God’s extraordinary love flows the worship of the beauty that surrounds me and from that heart I only know Joy.  I know no fear, for there is no fear in love.

It is impossible to see the beauty around me and not know it comes from the heart of the Lord as a gift to you and to me.

It is my sincerest hope to update you next week with a resounding shout of praise for clear scans.

But in my waiting, perhaps in your waiting as well, let us remember the heart of worship and love.

True worship flows from the redeemed heart of one who is fully trusting in the power of God.  A heart who is operating in the trust that our sins have been forgiven.

True worship comes from a heart that desires the Lord alone.  He is our redeemer, comforter, protector.  He holds the answers to all our fears and worries.  He knows every outcome.

True worship of our God is a desire to continue to fill our hearts with knowledge of Him.  Aside from prayer and Bible study, He should always be on our minds and all we do be in honor of Him.

As you can see, rather than succumb to any fear or give in to worry and allow these days in waiting to overwhelm me, I choose worship.  I choose to purify my heart daily and not ask questions, although there are times when I am human and want to revert to flesh.  I must be honest, after all.

I have feared.  I have worried.  I have cried. I have wondered what I may have done to disappoint my Father whom I thought I had pleased.

I am human.

I just cannot dwell there.

I want to live.

I want to live in joy and freedom and abundance and extravagant grace.

And there is no fear in love.  There is no worry in worship.

So my prayer for you today is “…that your hearts be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He has called, His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.”  Ephesians 1:18

Because as long as I can pray, there is hope.  I am chosen.

And forever, I will pray.

Oh, and by the way…

I Love you.

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Hole In My Holiness

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I truly try. Every day that I awaken I ask the Lord  to use my life to touch the people I come in contact with in a mighty way and come evening it brings me abundant joy to know I am utterly exhausted because I gave all I had with a superhuman strength.

If I accomplish nothing in a day more extravagant than my love, at least I made His presence known.

And days will come where I am simply human.  I feel defeated in ways I am unaccustomed.  My joy and radiant smile dim.  I shed tears that flow like a raging river and I do not want to encourage myself let alone others. My heart hurts to the point of true physical pain. Maybe I know the origin of that pain and can put on the full armor of God and live to fight another day.  Yet other, more vicious days come along where the enemy attacks so hard and fast and I am knocked to the ground so quickly in shock, there is no getting up to get fully dressed. The battle is just to breathe in and out effectively.

It inevitably happens at the conclusion of one year and the beginning of another for me.  It is unexplainable at a time of shiny new beginnings; a time of everyone making resolutions and having revelations.  Everyone gets a do-over, all things are new; yet suddenly I am no longer good enough.

It triggered this time for me when I had to watch my beloved Christmas season happening all around me with the usual excitement and fervor and I couldn’t fully participate because I was sidelined due to a surgical procedure. I watched the happenings on the news and social media, spoke with friends and family daily and moment by moment grew more restless and sad.  I knew this time of healing and quiet was temporary and necessary, yet I felt the depression no less. I was missing out on creating the beauty of the season for my family we were accustomed to, shopping and wrapping presents, sensational meal preparations and decor, visits among family; it was a minor thing, really. But to me, it was everything.  I couldn’t even carry a glass of water from the kitchen to the living room by myself.

It is in these times I am so thankful I have a true and meaningful relationship with the Lord.  He is so faithful to whisper to me such sweet promises, such as “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18). In other words, “this too shall pass”.

I share this with you today, because the enemy loves it when we have a tiny hole in our holiness in which he comes right into our hearts and takes over.  My hole closes right up when I go into battle by first remembering I am a daughter of the risen King, holding my head up high so that my crown remains straight, lest it may fall. My crown is my most triumphant sword.  I must hold steadfast in prayer and worship and fight the battle with the enemy head-on otherwise he wins. There are no off days, those are otherwise known as weak-days.  On weak-days we fight harder, longer, stronger and faster.  He is already defeated; we must consistently and constantly remind our hearts when they are overwhelmed and delicate that our Father in Heaven has won on our behalf.

If you simply have no strength to fight your battle, you must close the hole in your holiness by thanking the Lord in worship. If you are breathing and have a whisper of hope remaining, then you can and should worship.  There is power in your hope and I promise your life will change if you connect the sweet and delicate places of your heart to the strength and power of the heart of your Father in Heaven.  Mountains will move and the earth will tremble.

You were never meant to rely on your own strength.  I cherish how delicate and sensitive and sweet I am as a woman. It doesn’t make me weak because I have the same power that raised Christ from the dead within me thanks to the beautiful relationship I am so careful to cultivate with the Father.

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realm.”  (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Isn’t that a beautiful, powerful promise when you have a hole in your own holiness to be closed?

Believe Him, believe in Him.  How much more power would you need, Princess?

What a beautiful gift we have in Jesus.

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She Was Only 17

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It was an overcast and cool Spring morning. I desperately wanted to put the top down and feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my face.  But the clouds were ever-present; a storm was imminent.  Yet nothing was going to dampen my soaring spirit.  It is Holy week and my anticipation of Good Friday and Easter Sunday was singing in my heart to the beat of my worship music. I passed several picturesque country churches on the way to my destination and I was again reminded of the death, burial and resurrection of my Savior.

Because He lives, I can freely live. I was smiling with love for Him, my life, my family, and my immeasurable blessings.

I was lost in those happy thoughts. This was a week of manicures, pedicures, shopping, last minute dress alterations and laughing.  Prom night is just a few heartbeats away now.  My sweet daughter is a senior and enjoying everything about the last year of high school as any teenager should.  There has been great joy in making memories and plans for the future.

I was so lost in my obvious delightful thoughts that I forgot where I was going. As I passed the last pretty church prior to turning into my destination, my heart slammed back into my chest with a fear and dread that I thought I had prepared myself for.  In the parking lot were the entire small town fire and police departments and rescue units waiting on high alert for the call from a St Clair County High School student with the report that three fellow students had been injured in a devastating car crash.

One of them was my daughter.

Every year, across the nation, high school students participate in a pledge called Prom Promise, a campaign begun long ago to encourage students to abstain from drinking and driving on prom night.

Prior to signing this pledge, they witness a mock motor vehicle crash in which their fellow classmates are devastatingly injured; at least one is fatally wounded. The narration takes bystanders through introductions of each student and the particulars of the actual crash.  Our senses are overloaded as we hear a detailed account of what happens second by second to the vehicle and the human body upon impact with any inanimate object at a high rate of speed.

The resulting rescue again assaulted my senses as I stood by helplessly watching my daughter being cut from the passenger side of the car, bloody and lifeless. As I watched frozen in fear, tears streaming down my cheeks, her injuries were being narrated over the loudspeaker and it was painfully obvious that the single moment she made a decision to enter that car with a drunk driver was now clearly defining the rest of her life; if she lived.

I could hardly breathe.

Prom Promise 16

Although I knew what I was watching wasn’t real, my heart could barely stand it. Nothing prepared me for her scene and the moment that she was strapped on the gurney, covered in blood, and taken away in an ambulance.  She was initially supposed to be flown off the scene in the Lifesaver, but due to the inclement weather she was taken away in an ambulance.  I think had the Lifesaver been dispatched as planned, a distraught and screaming mother running onto the scene would have added to the realistic effect of the drama significantly.  I was literally about to explode with helplessness and stone cold fear.

This isn’t real, this isn’t real, I chanted softly to myself through my silent sobs.

As I continued to watch, the final scenes played out and the cleanup was overwhelmingly real. The drama ended with the sound of the deceased student speaking softly, pleading for her life, her future, and clinging to sweet memories from inside a real body bag.  She had been zipped inside the darkness, covered in blood and loaded by the coroner into a sleek, silver hearse.

Surely this must be a dream.

She was only seventeen.

After witnessing this event first hand, I can honestly say there is no preparation for a parent’s heart to see your own child in this type of scenario; injured, bleeding, lifeless.

Sadly it happens all too frequently, the end result all too real.

Makes one wonder how the Father felt when he witnessed the crucifixion and resulting violent death of His only Son. He saw and heard everything and His heart must have been torn into.  The drama is certainly different, the time period spanning thousands of years, the characters and scenes not even close to being similar.

Yet the pain was real and it must have been overwhelming; all because the love behind it was pure, sacrificial and simply amazing.

How extraordinary is the Father’s love for us!

I couldn’t help but feel so intimately connected to the Lord after this dramatic experience.

I am so incredibly thankful for the beauty of the sacrificial love of a God who longs to have that intimate connection with us at such a high price to His own heart. There is no greater love.

As Easter Sunday approaches, I hope your heart is intimately connected to the heart of our Father who longs to be close to you; a Father who sacrificed His everything. I can think of no greater verse:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,

that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

 As for my daughter, her ambulance ride took her back to the fire department where her car was parked. She quickly hurried back to school just in time for an AP Stats exam covered in “blood”.

As for me, I hurried back home to capture the full measure of my feelings surrounding the morning hoping I could put into words what my heart was trying to convey.

As for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, He suffered significantly and died violently on a wooden cross on a hilltop on a day long ago. But His feelings for us are as strong today as they were then.

If He sacrificed so much and died for us, shouldn’t we be so kind as to live for HIM?

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Never See Forty

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And just like that, there is a chill in the air. Summer vacations have come to an end and the long awaited football season has finally begun. Labor Day weekend always seems to unofficially mark the end of summer and for me seems to ring in a new year of sorts. September is my birth month and I celebrate it for all it is worth. My heart begins to tingle with excitement because as much as I love and adore scorching summer Alabama days and sweet kisses on moonlit country nights, the cool crisp autumn brings its own hint of exceptional romance and a brand new beginning.

I am in love with many appealing things. Summer breezes and gentle rains, ice cold lemonade, frisky puppies, smiling until my face hurts and uncontrollable laughter, pumpkin spice lattes, football, fall fashion, cooking, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. Lying in the crystal white sand along the emerald shores coastline during the summers near where I grew up, while praying for my future.

I am in love with my remarkable friends. I am in love with my devastatingly handsome husband.

I am in love with this beautiful, simple, yet extraordinary, exquisitely treasurable and magnificent life the Lord has called me to live. Of course it isn’t special. But it is all mine, and it is indeed splendidly sweet.

This is the very last year of my fourth decade. I just turned a magical thirty-nine.

But what if it were my last year of all? What if I never turned forty next fall?

never see forty

I wonder sometimes if I would be missed should I suddenly cease to exist. What words of honor or reminisce would be spoken at my memorial service and would anyone actually attend? Who would speak on my behalf and would any tears be shed at all? Would it all be over in a flash and would everyone return to their own normal as if I had never even lived my dash?

This year has been one of tremendous love and even greater loss. It has been a year to remember and a year to forget. This year has re-shaped, molded and finely tuned the way I love and will live going forward.

You see, I do not have to ponder these morbid questions too long nor too hard for I know the answers all too well.

I alone control the responses by how I show my love for you.

It is how we LIVE that truly matters. Our lives and how much beauty within us determines our legacy.

I have little feet. But whether I am departing my earthly home for my heavenly home, or perhaps just moving from one job to another, one community, or even one church home to another- I want my footprints on the path I have walked to be so undeniably profound that the legacy of love I have left behind is unconditionally, unquestionably felt deeply for generations to come.

When I leave, I want to have turned everything completely inside out, upside down, and topsy turvy so that it was better than it has ever been before and ever will be again. I want to live in such a way that everything is more extraordinary with me than it ever could have been without me.

Shouldn’t we all want to be extraordinary? Our Father’s love for us is extraordinary.

I want my presence to have been known, the depths of my sincerest love to have been felt and for my faith to have filled your heart to the point of overflowing so that those I have known can continue that legacy in my honor.

Of course, I am not gone just yet. I have much work to do.

But if this year happened to be my last and I never see forty, I can promise you that I plan to be driving a big party bus to Heaven and it is going to be full of party goers. These little feet are not quite at the end of the path, but when the light grows dim and my Savior calls my sweet name, I’ll answer.

I’ll go home.

But you’ll know I have been here. You will know you were loved.

Because if I never see forty, it’s up to me to make sure thirty-nine was enough.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:35

 

 

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