Happy Birthday PunkinDoodle

IMG_4906.jpgDear PunkinDoodle…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! You are 3 years old today (8/21). That’s unbelievable to me. Three years ago, Nanna and I came to Raleigh, NC and on the day you were born there was a total eclipse of the sun. I knew right then that you were going to be a special little girl. I WAS RIGHT! You light up the room just by walking in. You love to snuggle (and Poppo loves that), you love to read (and Poppo loves that), and you LOVE Rosie (and Poppo loves that)! We have a lot in common.

I don’t like that you live so far away and I don’t get to see you as often as I would like, BUT you love to call me and Nanna on Facetime and that makes the distance seem not quite so far away. I love how you always take the phone and show me all your toys. I love it when you put the phone on the table and I get to watch you eat your supper.

The bigger you get…the more like your momma you become. Your strong-willed personality is in full display and I giggle every time you try and assert your dominance with your parents. It reminds me of the days when your momma would do that to me and I would think to myself — “I sure hope you have a little girl JUST LIKE YOU one day.” I’m convinced that your personality is going to help you be a success in whatever you do.

2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. It has made me think a great deal about what is really important in life. People can’t go to work or church and children aren’t able to go to school right now. It’s been pretty depressing! So I thought about what I might say to a 3-year-old that would help you (and Poppo) feel better about this crummy year. So…here’s three things this almost 58-year-old would like you (the 3-year-old) to know.

  1. Enjoy being 3! Seriously…if you feel like dropping down and taking a nap — DO IT! If you want a waffle and peanut butter for supper — DO IT! Grownups think way too much about working long hours and having to eat certain foods so we don’t get “too fat.” We struggle with stress and headaches and worries. We spend too much time worrying about what other people think. I often wish I could just say, “Hey…I’m going to eat a half-gallon of Blue Bell and take a nap. The work will be here when I wake up!” At 3, you can do that — so DO IT!
  2. Get messy! You want to jump in the mud puddle? DO IT! Somebody else is going to wash your clothes anyway. You want to spend the afternoon finger-painting? DO IT! Make a mess. As an adult, I’m way to concerned about keeping things clean and tidy. Making a mess is fun and it helps relieve stress.
  3. Work on your hand-eye coordination. I wish somebody had told me that at 3. If I had spent more time on that, maybe I could have succeeded at sports. Work on it now so you can play hockey or soccer or baseball or whatever you want to play!

Here’s my point PunkinDoodle. I don’t want you to get to 58-years-old and look back and wish you had done things differently. Enjoy life — every day, every minute. Treat your time as a gift, because that’s exactly what it is — it’s a gift from God. He has created everything (waffles, peanut butter, ice cream, mud puddles and sports) — and He created it to bring JOY to your life. So enjoy it. Make it a habit now to enjoy life and then grow that habit as you grow older.

I know 2020 hasn’t been what we might have wanted it to be, but we aren’t going to concentrate on the past. We are going to look to the future! God is in charge. The Bible says that God knows everything and He is in charge of everything. That means you and I don’t need to worry about that. Let Him take care of those things and we will just enjoy life — snuggles, reading, Rosie and ice cream. I’m going to try and do a better job of doing that myself. I’m going to try and take lessons from you, Benny, Hudson and Harper. Let’s have FUN. Let’s enjoy life and most of all let’s thank God for the time He is giving us.

From a 58-year-old to a 3-year-old — life is shorter than you think so make the most of the time God gives to you.

Remember this…no matter what happens in your life — Poppo and Nanna will ALWAYS love you — unconditionally. I may not always agree with the choices you make, but I will NEVER EVER stop loving you.

Happy birthday PunkinDoodle. Let’s go get some birthday DONUTS! We can do that and get away with it because IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY and YOU ARE 3!!!!!

Encouragement in THIS HOPE

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:2-3)

In July 1986, Edna and I moved to the Bentonville Community of Johnston County where I began to serve as Pastor of the Pauline Baptist Church. I was a mere 24 years old — still in seminary and clueless as to what being a pastor meant or would mean to me over the next 30 years.

I had barely gotten started in this new ministry when I received a phone call one afternoon. The voice on the other end of the phone was one of my church members and he wanted to know if I would mind coming over to his house. I jumped in the car and made my way over to Terry and Sheila’s home. When I got there, I quickly realized this was not going to be a fun social call. Instead, Terry (who is my age by the way) explained that in a doctor’s visit that day, it was discovered that he had testicular cancer. Terry, Sheila and I stood in their living room that day and we cried and we prayed. We prayed that Terry would be healed and we prayed that God’s will would be accomplished in our lives.

That visit, just two weeks into my new ministry forever changed my life. Terry, Sheila, Edna and I became wonderful friends. Terry and Sheila had a son, Chase who was just a few months older than our daughter Danielle. Our families spent much time together. Terry literally became like a brother to me. As I walked with him through the journey of chemo and radiation, God bound our hearts together in a special way. Terry was told he and Sheila would probably never be able to have more children. Through all this, Terry and Sheila’s faith was strong and our faith grew as we saw God at work in Terry’s life. (Ultimately, they DID have another child…a beautiful daughter…a true gift from God.)

One year, Edna and I bought Danielle a new swing set for her birthday. Terry volunteered to come over to my house and help me put it together. He was sure it wouldn’t take more than a couple of hours and our kids would be outside playing and enjoying the new swing. We started the project about 10 AM on Friday morning. Sheila and Chase came over and spent the day with Edna and Danielle. Throughout the day, the kids would stand at the back door with eager anticipation wondering when they would be set free to swing and play on the new equipment. Our “couple of hours” project turned into more than Terry or I ever imagined. To make this long story short…at about 10:30 PM that night, the children and their mothers (all of whom were ill and sleepy) finally made it outside to swing on the swing set. Terry and I laughed (which didn’t go over that well with our wives) and for years we have relived that story and wondered how we ever made it through the night.

I was privileged to ordain Terry into the ministry of deacon while I was his pastor and after I left, Terry surrendered to the Gospel ministry and for years has been preaching the Gospel and serving God’s people. God anointed this young man to be an encouragement and inspiration to me even though the years and miles have separated us. We haven’t talked as often as we would have liked, but deep down we both have known there was a bond that was unbreakable between us — put there by God Himself.

Last week, I received news that Terry was critically ill. He has pulmonary fibrosis — a lung disease which was probably caused by the chemo and radiation he endured 30 years ago. My heart broke. I texted Terry to tell him I loved him and I was praying for him. Once again, God used my “brother” to inspire and encourage me. He wrote to me…

“You, Edna and your family have always been family to us. You are all very precious to us even though we don’t communicate a lot, we’re never far apart. We love you all and thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. My family and I are resting in Jesus and our goal is to please Him on my passing and not to allow one second of victory to death. Because of Jesus, I will suffer as one with hope. I will pass from this life into His eternal victory. Praise Jesus. I love you very much always.”

Very soon, Terry will pass from this life into the next. The Bible tells me that THE HOPE we have is that one day, Christ will be revealed to us and we shall be like Him. The older I get, the more I look forward to that day. I’m not a morbid person, and I’m not wishing to die. However, I’m not afraid of death. Like Terry, I rest in Jesus and my goal is to be pleasing to Him as long as He allows me to breathe. But I also know this…

“And then one day, I’ll cross that river; I’ll fight life’s final war with pain;
And then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He lives.” (Gloria Gaither)

In a few days or maybe a few weeks, my brother Terry will experience the reality of THE HOPE we have. In what may be my last words to my friend, I said… “Save me a seat at the table. I’ll see you soon and we will praise Jesus together for all eternity.”

To God be the glory.