Are You Living Life To Your Fullest Potential?

“And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” Matthew 8: 14,15*

Are you living life to your fullest potential? That’s a question we all need to ask ourselves from time to time. The woman in this verse got to live life to the fullest. Not only did she experience a miraculous healing but she also got to be a part of Jesus’s ministry while he was here on Earth.

Her family might’ve thought she was near death with the fever.  But Peter wasn’t ready to “throw in the towel” just yet. He went and got Jesus to come and touch her hand.

At some point we’re all going to “step into eternity.”  But, only God knows when that is going to happen. No one else does. Not even the doctors.

I got to hear a great example of this truth recently when I attended a high school get-together at a downtown park here in my hometown. I saw some of my former classmates sitting at our booth so I sat down with them and ate a sloppy BBQ sandwich that had a heap of coleslaw added to it and was spilling out of the bun.

We all were catching up with each other while waving to others who were milling around. We were having a great time listening to a band that was “rockin'” out some classic Rock-n-Roll tunes.

That’s when James “Jim” Raby sat down beside me.  We had graduated together quite a few decades back and have crossed paths in our small town a few times since then. So we were just catching up on family, Sylva news, and so on.

Then, Jim showed me a picture of himself on his phone that a family member had taken a year or so back. In the photo he was lying on a hospital bed looking “white as a sheet” while being on a ventilator.

Jim told the few of us that were gathered there the entire story of how he nearly died while visiting his daughter and her family.  I hope I’ve written all he told us and not left out anything. Here’s what he said as best as I remembered it:

He told us that while he was visiting his daughter in Alabama he had fallen ill. He had only gone there to visit her, but ended up staying longer than he had anticipated.

Since he has other health problems, his daughter admitted him to the hospital where he could get the care he needed. Well unfortunately, his health went from “bad to worse” quickly. Within a few brief days his children were called in to say their final goodbyes.

Jim’s a Christian and he apparently had some prayer warriors there in the hospital room, also. But even so, they felt that they had prayed all they could and were ready to accept what seemed as the inevitable.

Early, on the morning that his daughter was preparing to say her final “good byes” to her dad she had a woman she knew from her church to visit her. The women believed she had a prophetic message for Jim’s daughter.

This woman brought with her a vial of anointing oil. After the two women prayed together she poured the oil over Jim’s daughter’s head. Then told her to take her Bible, go pray for, and read the scripture over her dad in his hospital room one last time.

When his daughter walked into his room she asked that everyone else including the medical staff leave her alone with her dad. Jim told me that she began praying and reading the Bible as she had been directed to do by her early morning visitor.

Within that time frame he began improving. A day or two later he left the VA hospital. When he had fully recovered he drove himself all the back to Sylva, NC, which is about two hundred miles from his daughter’s house.

Of course, he was told all this by his daughter while recovering at her house. He was clearly out of it by the time that picture was taken that he had showed us.

We all need to ask ourselves “Am I living my life to the fullest?” I know that my friend Jim is, I am, my dad is, and all of my family is. My dad is blessed with good health, walks unaided, and has a clear mind. He’s a great example of living life to the fullest.

We just celebrated his 95th birthday at my daughter, Ruth and her boyfriend Dennis’ house. We had a big crowed of cousins and other relatives there. You can see some of the pictures of his birthday party on my Facebook page: Patricia Jordan, Sylva NC.

One of my hobbies is to explore my ancestral roots. And since I live about fifty miles from where my American ancestors lived most all their lives, sometimes I go looking for their headstones to gain the “when” information. But I only know of the “how” they lived by recalling and listening to all the family stories I’ve heard throughout my life. I hope their lives were as fulfilling as what I’ve heard they were.

Each and everyday you and I live is a day we are adding to our overall life’s story. Our individual actions, if used in positive ways can bring others as well as ourselves enrichment and fulfillment.

A great example of this is when my older sister Carol helped our brother Gene during his last year of life. It wasn’t easy and sometimes it didn’t go smoothly. He could be a cantankerous bachelor that was use to doing things for himself at times. But, she did a wonderful job of taking care of him full time while keeping up with her husband and his health issues at their house some fifty miles away.

Our brother Gene was dying of bone cancer, which had at first been misdiagnosed as muscle ache. He actually had lung cancer that went un-diagnosed, so that metastasized into bone cancer. By the time we all knew what his health status was we all got busy making his life as comfortable as was possible.

Our other brother, David mowed both yards. Dennis and Ruth came over and put a wilderness camera outside so we all could watch raccoons and opossums visiting his yard on a laptop. Our other sister Deena came over and changed his morphine patch at 5:00 am. Our mother is deceased. But, my stepmother Sue and our dad visited him. Jeff and I did what we could. We all did something or sometimes we simply visited with Gene.

Carol did the most though. She moved in and slept on his couch for about four out of seven days at first. But later, she stayed there full time. Carol drove him to all his appointments, got his medications, cooked their meals. She made sure that we had an occasional cookout at Gene’s house, helped him get his flower bed sowed with his favorite annuals, and they planted beans together. Gene lived long enough to set in the Sun, enjoy his flowers, and he even ate those beans too!

We’re all living our own life’s history every day we breathe. Are you happy with where you’re at, at this point and time in your life? If not, then what would make you happy?

I hope you’re not thinking “Oh, if only I had more money in my banking account, then my life would be perfect.” There is an old axiom that applies to that idea. It goes something like this: “The more you make, the more you spend.”

A better question to ask yourself is, “Am I content with how my life is turning out? How about my career choices? Are my talents, skills, and / or intellect being fully utilized in what I’m doing?” Not every job requires our talents. But all jobs require our intellect.

Ultimately, we need to occasionally ask ourselves, “Is my life fulfilling? Or am I missing something in the ‘big picture’ of it all.” I’ve spent most of my adult life not working outside the home. I’ve been mostly content with that decision. But, I had wanted to do finish college someday. And so I did when my children were teenagers.

I became a non-traditional college student and attended night school for two years while we lived in Sumter, SC. I graduated Coker College in Hartsville, SC in 2000. We had moved to Sumter from Turkey when my husband Jeff was still in the USAF in the early nineties. We stayed a few years more after his discharge so our girls could finish high school there. I got restless, so I decided to get my degree I had always wanted.

I thought I might become a Social Worker when I graduated. But, in the end that type of work exacerbated my dysthimic depression, so I’ve found other activities to do that have kept me involved and engaged. My volunteerism and my other activities have made me feel fulfilled and overall contented.

By now I’ve learned the truth of what the Apostle Paul wrote, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11b

Most of your life is up to you. Now there are some ideas that are just not going to work for you or I. But, I’m okay with accepting my limits.

My concern is how I’m living my life, starting today. And I hope you’re thinking about your life as well. Choosing to live a fulfilled satisfying life is better than chasing after things that become dated as soon as you get that shiny new thing. Or perhaps you’ve chased after a relationship that turned out to be toxic in the end. The list of us going after what we thought would make us happy is endless.

Some relationships may not be for us. Many tangible or intangible things you or I might want will not lead us into living a fulfilled life. What or who will then?

Start by having a relationship with Jesus. Ask Him to come into your heart and help you in making those tough decisions in life.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

Earthly relationships need to be as meaningful as possible. But, we need to remember that our relationships have their limits as to what you, or I and the other person can bring into the relationship.

Now let’s take a brief look at my intro verse. It says a lot in such a few words.

It’s about Peter’s mother-in-law receiving a miraculous healing. Just like my friend Jim did. Or like my dad who has survived two near fatal heart attacks. But, there’s more there than the obvious. Lets look deeper.

This verse is multilayered with lessons for life on each layer. Let’s look at what she did after her healing. Now, unfortunately, we don’t know her name, but countless people all over the World are still doing what she did and only a few are ever known by name.

After her healing she showed her appreciation to Jesus by promptly serving him. Now this act of service may have been expected of her. But still, Jesus didn’t heal everyone he walked by.  And this happens to this very day. He didn’t heal my brother Gene, even though we all prayed for him to be healed.

We can’t explain it, we just know that sometimes healing happens and sometimes it doesn’t. What I can say, though is that year of helping Gene every way we could brought us all closer together. That’s worth more to us than what any of us could describe.

Now, back to looking at this verse. Sometime prior to this healing and visit, Peter, his brother Andrew, along with John and James left their fishing business to follow Jesus (Mt 4:18-20, Mk 1:16-18, Lk 5:10,11, Jn 1:40-42).

We don’t know whether it was a year or more between the “calling of the disciples” and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law’s healing. What we do know is that a special bond had formed between Jesus, and three of his disciples: Peter, John, and James.

These three disciples are listed as being with Jesus the most often. They became his inner circle and is mentioned several times in the Gospels. The closeness between Jesus and these three is seen best at the transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8, Mk 9:2, Lk 9:28). Later, after traveling with Jesus for three years it was Jesus who forgave Peter when the disciple denied even knowing him (Mt 26:69-75, Mk 14:66-72, Lk 22:54-62, Jn 18:15-27).  Not long after that, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His flock (Jn 21:15-23).

So relationships that are patterned after the relationship that Jesus offers us are the best ones to seek after. It’s in those kind of relationships that we’re loved for who we are.  And where we’re not condemned by those who say they love us and that we love them. That is what makes life fulfilling. John’s Gospel says it best in these two short verses:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16, 17.

We only read about Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew. Her brief bio reveals to us how to live a fulfilled life, though.

We don’t know if she traveled with Jesus like many did, what we do know is that she attended to his needs and to all the others in the house. Gifts of service seems to be one of her talents. It’s part of a fulfilled life.

It’s clear to me that her role was not only to serve but to be served. She could’ve been the “center of attention” with the healing she experienced. But, she chose to be a servant instead. Jesus, himself, taught this very concept of service:

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

Part of any meaningful relationship is to receive as well as to give. And since she lived with her daughter and son-in-law her gifts of service would’ve been greatly appreciated by them.

In turn, she became an integral part of their family. Peter was so concerned about her health, that he believed she needed a touch by none other than Jesus, himself. And that’s just what happened.

This illness was preventing her from doing that which was within her abilities and gifts to do. But, Jesus cared about her health and her overall welfare more then her service to him. This shows that we can’t work our way into having a relationship with the Savior.

After he healed her he spent time with all that were gathered there. Most houses back then consisted of only one or two rooms so all there got to listen to Jesus.

Having meaningful relationships and being fully engaged in whatever our gifts and talents are is a main part to living our individual lives to the fullest. This is what brings satisfaction and fullness to our lives as well as to others around us.

*All Bible verses are from The English Standard Version (ESV).





Why Do Some Burn The Bridge To Relationships That Should Be Cherished?

“Are You playing me?” Is slang for a question that we consciously or subconsciously ask in relationships. Especially where there is a history of mistrust.

I want to say it another way so there is no misunderstanding. Why do some people subconsciously sabotage relationships that they depend on always being there for them? Yes, I’m primarily talking about the manipulators that easily move about in our inner circles of relationships.

The “pouters” that manipulate their loved ones in order to have things go their way. We parents, and grandparents would like to think this habit goes away in the teenage years of our children or grandchildren. And I want to include spouses here as well.

The habit of being a manipulator does not go away easily, though. In fact, it deepens, like a river, into a person’s pysche’s during the formative years that only a trail of failure and/or counseling can change the course there of. Which comes much later, if it happens at all.

(I’m forming some thoughts on this subject while I finish up with several other time-demanding tasks. I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the meanwhile though. So feel free to post your ideas below.)

You Will “Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death” If You Follow The Instruction Book

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;” Psalms 23:4

Psalms 23 is short, but very powerful in it’s promises. I know these promises are true. Because I’ve lived them. I have tested many of God’s promises throughout my life. But, believe me I didn’t plan on testing God’s patience and love for me. Sometimes it just happened that way.

Fortunately though, my right choices have outweighed my bad ones along life’s way. But, I have walked through the “valley of the shadow of death,” perhaps more than I want to confess to.

Let’s take an in-depth look at Psalm 23 and learn how to apply these truths to our own lives. This is where the “rubber meets the road” in any Bible study. And in doing so I will share a little about my story.

You might not be familiar with the Bible. The Psalms are about right in the middle of the Bible. Most are beautifully phrased praises to God. Some hold promises and insight into letting us know of God’s direct involvement in our lives. A few Psalms are prophetic in announcing the Savior’s coming.

Okay, now I want to jump right in to Psalms 23. Verses 1-3 are all about what God is doing on our behalf when we seek after Him.

Verse 1 tells us that God is like a Shepard to us.  A Shepard will lay down his life for his sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Verse 2 tells us that God provides us with our needs in plentiful ways. And promises to give us rest.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

Verse 3 states that God restores us and guides us. Restoring has two parts to it. First we receive then we give.

The first part is where God restores us as individuals when we cry out to Him in our desperation:

“Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old,” Lamentations 5:21.

The second part is when we continue the work of restoration that God has done in our lives:

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness;” Galatians 6:1

Verse three goes on to our letting God guide us throughout our daily lives.

Verse four is a turning point in this well loved Psalms. The new believer has gone through the exhilarating stages of a fresh or renewed walk with Christ. Now we’re being told that we will experience trials and our faith will be tested. Dark clouds are going to bring some storms of trouble into our lives. But there is an important promise within the warning. Let’s take a look at what it is:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms 23:4

God will not let fear overcome us if we abide in Him. And He will send us comfort during our times of fear, anxiety, stress, disappointments, and any other attacks by Satan.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4

Why I Wrote About Psalms 23

The “valley of death” can also be translated as the “valley of darkness.”  Depression is darkness. And sometimes it can lead to a loved one not making it through the “valley of the shadow of death” only to commit suicide midway through that valley.

I’ve made it my mission to tell others my story of how I’ve overcome depression in hope that it will prevent someone from doing something drastic.

In 2007 I was going through a bout of depression. I’d struggle with depression on and off for most of my life. And I’ve talked with therapists many times before this so I knew that it was time for me to get back into counseling. I checked into an out-patient mental health facility here in my hometown. In the interview process I was diagnosed with dysthymic depression by one of the Peer Support Specialists that worked there.

Having that diagnoses was the beginning of my freedom from depression. First because I was finally correctly diagnosed. Having a correct diagnoses helped me to know why many of my days had dark clouds in them, and having that knowledge put me on a path to healing.

Of course my life isn’t perfect now, but I am happier and can deal with stress and disappointment more wisely because I have mental health tools that keep me from reacting negatively when bad things happen or are spoken to me; or because of a short sighted decision I’ve made.

During my time at the facility I went through ten months of group counseling that overlapped three months of individual peer counseling I received as well. After that I took a long break from receiving counseling. I felt fine and had made the changes that I knew I needed to make.

In early part of 2017 I  began gradually becoming intensely stressed. By early Spring my daughter, Esther encouraged me to go back to counseling. It’s odd that she sensed it first, because Esther lives on the West Coast and her dad and I live in Western North Carolina. Our oldest daughter Ruth lives about 30 miles from us and our middle daughter Rachel lives in Eastern North Carolina. But, “Es” has always been intuitive. And it paid off for me to listen to her.

That Spring I began receiving Cognitive Behavior Therapy counseling by a trained therapist. We decided I needed to come in on a weekly basis. The cost was minimal because I chose a therapist that was “in network.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is sometimes called “talk therapy.” It’s usually a one-on-one session. But sometimes a spouse or other family members can join the sessions.

Later my husband, Jeff joined me for these sessions. Sometimes we went weekly and sometimes we went bi-monthly. The therapist suggested at the beginning that he take a prescription for his anxieties. That has helped so much in our flow of couple communication. And we are still going to our therapist.

For some reason I always thought family members just had to live with having an anxious family member in the home. Too many med’s were addictive, so we didn’t look into him taking any. And Jeff not taking an anti-anxiety prescription created a lot of unneeded stress when our girls were in their teen years.

But in recent years medications for anxieties has been produced that are not habit forming.  And that’s the type Jeff takes now. I’m proud of him for admitting he needed both counseling, and medication in order to keep his anxieties in check. And we are still going to counseling at least a few times a month.

The rest of this Psalms speak of God’s presence in our lives. And that he is continually working on our behalf.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You [have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalms 23: 5,6.

Verse five describes being in God’s will is like enjoying a banquet while our enemies can only look on. Unless they know God and seek His guidance than they can’t enjoy His banqueting table.

It’s really up to us believers to go find the “lost” and invite them in to also enjoy being in the presence of God. This, I believe, is our anointing and our calling.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19, 20.

Verse six brings this beautiful sermon to a close with God’s assurance that we, as individuals, are loved by our heavenly Father. And that we also are to be known by our loving kindness.

Too many in the church have confused condemnation with conviction. It’s difficult to bring someone to Christ by condemning them. We bring people to Christ by our loving kindness. Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Throughout my childhood and adult years I’ve put up with the condemning words of others. So, I know what I’m talking about here.

I’ll let the Apostle John have the last words on this subject:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17

*All Bible quotes are from the New American Standard Bible.









Are You Depressed?

Sometimes depression sneaks up on us. It slips in the unguarded back door of our psyche like a thief. Depression seeks to rob us of having good stable mental health. Don’t fight this enemy on your own. Seek professional help if you are struggling with depression.

How do you know if you’re struggling with depression? To an observant close family member or friend the answer seems self-evident. But the sufferer is often the last one to recognize or admit that she or he is struggling with depression.

My realization that I was struggling with dysthymic depression came about by my going to a community mental health clinic (mhc) in my small town. I was assigned a peer specialist.

My Peer Specialist had worked as “floor staff” in mental health institutions for more than twenty years. Through our weekly talks he had pin-pointed the type of depression I’ve had since my teen years. Even though he was limited to what type of therapy he could offer, he still recognized what I was experiencing, and gave it a name. And him doing that was the “key” that opened the door for me to receive the right kind of mental-emotional wellness therapy.

He suggested I attend some of the group therapy programs that the mhc offered. That sounded good to me so I started with WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). From there I went on to attend their other classes. My going there lasted about ten months. That was in 2007-2008. I felt great and had made several changes that I needed to make that came out of the one-on-one I was receiving and the weekly group therapy as well.

I’ve since gone back to therapy. Currently I’m seeing a licensed therapist. She uses Cognitive Therapy techniques, which have been very effective for me.

There are different types of depression, though. These are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That’s the “Bible” for finding out about personality disorders. This is a thick reference book that gets updated when new research information becomes available. Most of us don’t own a DSM-5, but any reputable website on mood disorders would reference this book along with experts in the field of cognitive development.

The DSM-5 does list depression as a mood disorder. The different types of depression are: Major, dysthymia (melancholy) depression, dysphoric (which includes PMS), and Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). These are the most common ones, at least.

If you think you might be suffering from long term sadness, then get a thorough checkup by your physician. Include a blood test. That test will reveal if you are low in Vitamin D or other essential vitamins. Also, a blood test will reveal any health problem or blood related diseases such as Hepatitis C. Fortunately, most of my adult life I’ve had a yearly physical.

Let your doctor know that you’re struggling with “dark moods.”  He or she might suggest a certain medication, such as an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake) to help lift your moods. There are multiple new ones available to help people overcome depression that are less or not addictive than the old meds.

I’ve found that “Talk Therapy”  (Cognitive Therapy) is best for me. So, I’ve been able to avoid taking medication for depression. But I do take certain supplements every day that help lift my moods. I’ll discuss supplements later. I’ll only say that supplements can get expensive. And you’ve got to know which ones work best for you. By all means, start by talking with your primary care physician.

Please consider going to a Behavioral Health Center like I did. They offer mental health counseling that includes the family if needed. Ask to see the therapist on staff there. Let him/her know that you’re feeling depressed even if it’s just some of the time.

The cost of going to these Mental Health Centers (aka: MHC) is often free. They have group counseling classes that are designed to inform and guide you into making wise choices. Also, like me, you’ll get to have a “peer support specialists” that will talk one-on-one with you.

If you need to detox from illegal drugs or over medicating then most of these mental health counseling centers are connected to a detox unit. If you can’t control your intake of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis, then please check into a detox unit. Most problems are fixable. It just takes you being a part of your solution, not a part of the problem.

Finally, be honest with yourself. Have you had thoughts about self-harm and/or had suicidal inclinations?

If you’re feeling suicidal or need to talk to someone immediately, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Don’t put your loved ones through the agony of you making a tragic decision.

There are often reasonable and successful solutions to our emotional health problems. It just takes us seeking those solutions in the right places.

Living The American Dream

Living The American Dream is a “rags-to-riches” story about my parents and how they became millionaires. It all started in about 1963 as we were traveling to my grandparents’ house in Murphy NC.

We (my parents with their five children) lived about 60 miles east of Murphy. So to get to their house for a day of fun and good eating, we had to pass through the Eastern Band of The Cherokee Indian Reservation. We rarely stopped in Cherokee, but in the summer of 1963 we did. It was a brief stop but a life-turning decision was made during that stop-over.

My dad wanted my mom to talk with one of the gift shop owners about how could they operate a gift shop also. I remember being told not to get out of the car for any reason. I was about 11 yrs old at the time and I and my siblings obeyed our parents.

By the next year we had moved to the outskirts of then “Old Cherokee” and opened up a gift shop. It was located on US19, across the river from Frontier Land. By 1967 dad realized that the “big money” he was hoping for was in whole-selling souvenirs. So my parents switched from running two retail businesses to strictly selling wholesale.

There wasn’t much to risk in them switching to becoming “middle man” sales people. My two oldest siblings had graduated high school and had left home. And all that my parents owned at the time was a single-wide trailer and two very used cars.

If you would like to know “the rest of the story” then please buy my book here. I’ll be glad to sign a copy of my parents rags-to-riches story for you. Reading this might inspire you to reach what seems like an impossible goal to reach, as well.

I’m asking $10.00 plus $3.00 shipping =$13.00 per book.


Closure is Elusive, Seek Healing Instead

At best, I’ve found that closure is often elusive. It may come for some, but I think it’s best not to count on it. Bad decisions made that involved you, doesn’t mean that you had any control over the situation. Don’t let other’s bad behavior control you and the way you feel. And don’t retaliate. That’s just more of them controlling you. Forgive, and find peace and contentment in healthy ways.

Perhaps you have made some bad decisions. Seek an inner healing from your past experiences. Better to cleanse your mind and soul from bad memories. Don’t let anger, bitterness, or an unforgiving attitude control you. Live for what God has planned for you in the future.

Why seek to reconcile with those who have rejected you? Seeking an apology and reconciliation with someone that has emotionally wounded you or me almost never happens. And if it ever does happen it won’t be on yours or my terms. The sooner we accept that the better off we are.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

Better Not Bitter

Below is a story of how my maternal grandfather became better, instead of bitter. He was born illegitimately and unwanted. But he grew up to become a caring and responsible husband, and father. He went from being a “Crop Sharer” to owning 15 acres of farmland. And it’s how he accomplished much more than all of that.  He left a legacy that’s lasted well into four generations by now.

I live within fifty miles of where my grandparents were born and raised. And so do many of my relatives. Therefore, I’ve left names out so as not to be in unnecessary conflict with my large extended family members.

My maternal grandfather was born in a very rural part of Western North Carolina, on April 5, 1898. His mother was sixteen and not married.  

After his birth, grandpa was handed over to be raised by other family members on both sides. That may have been the best decision since his mother had few resources to count on. His birth may not have even been welcomed news on her side of the family, because she was a middle child of fourteen children.

The 1900 Census shows his mother as a seventeen-year-old living over in Georgia with relatives. No baby or toddler was mentioned as living with her. (Census is collected the year before it’s published).

His dad had rejected his son, also.  But, apparently not everyone on his father’s side shared those feelings. My grandpa is listed in the 1910 Census as living with his paternal Grandmother in the community he was born in. Grandpa always went by his father’s surname

There must’ve been strong physical similarities between father and son. I’ve seen pictures of my grandfather’s half-brother and both share similar physical features.

Since his dad owned the only store in that community no doubt my grandpa crossed paths countless times in his early childhood with him. Human nature being what it is, I’m sure grandpa being rejected by his father was a difficult emotion for a young boy to bear.

His dad must’ve been a little hard to live with. I’ve found that he was married and divorced twice during his adult life. His head stone shows that he died in his fifties. And is buried in a single grave. No wife is listed on the headstone.  

In my childhood I remembered my grandpa as being stoic in nature.  Even so, he did seem to enjoy our family gatherings at his and granny’s farm. I’m sure us kids got on his nerves, constantly running in and out of their house, but he rarely showed it. He enjoyed sitting alone on his porch swing regardless of the weather. And did so when things got to be too much for him inside the house.

During grandpa’s early teenage years he was sent to live with an uncle just over the state line in GA. He owned a large apple orchard and needed his nephew’s help.

Grandpa didn’t stay long there, though. Within the year he was sent to Berry Boys Industrial School (the forerunner of Berry College). Their records have him listed as being taught carpentry. A skill he would use later in life.  He left Berry around a year later, never having graduated. His name and attendance record were found in their archives.

From there Grandpa joined the Navy and sailed to France. The year was 1917 and America was fighting WW1 on Europe’s Western Front. He’s listed as having served as a machinist on a frigate on his discharge papers.

After the war ended in 1918, my Grandpa found his way back to his birthplace. But why go back there? Grandpa had always been rejected by his father. I know this because I was told when his dad died in 1932, he left nothing but his last name to his illegitimate son.

About 1919, grandpa moved ten miles over to Murphy, NC. By then he was twenty-one, and looking to settle down. And Murphy proved to be just the right place to do that. This is where he met and married my granny. During the twenties, they had their four children. My mother was one of the two middle children.

During the Great Depression my grandparents became crop-sharers. Once, they got established than they became very frugal about all things.  Even so, it took years of “penny pinching,” for them to buy fifteen acres of farmland that included a small house.

In time Grandpa was able to add on to it and included indoor bathroom as well. It became a comfortable spacious one level home. They lived there for the rest of their lives.  

Life was hard for my grandparents. But I never knew them to be bitter about things, though. Instead they grew better about how life had turned out for them.

They never owned a vehicle of any type because grandpa had seizures. He never drove nor had a license. He did do house painting and carpentry when a ride was provided for him, though. Granny worked in mills or babysat children. Those jobs were their only income until they could collect Social Security. Plus, they farmed, raised chickens, and “bartered” whenever they could.

They were blessed in many ways all through their lives. I have many good memories of being at my grandparents’ house. Every family gathering at their house always included cousins, aunts and uncles, and lots of good farm fresh food. In the heat of summer afternoons, all of us kids would gather under a huge Weeping Willow tree at the edge of their yard. That’s where Grandpa would cut each of us a slice of cold juicy watermelon.

Grandpa and Granny were members of a small local church that they walked to on Sundays. They were the “salt of the Earth” kind of folks. They helped their large extended families however they could. All my childhood they seemed contented with what they had accomplished and how life had turned out for them.  

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

How I Stopped Stuttering

On the most part I was a quiet child growing up. Even my mother would often comment that it was hard to know whether I was in the house or out in the yard because I rarely spoke. That’s probably because I stuttered as a child and didn’t like to speak. Also, I’m the youngest of my parents five children so I always had my two older sisters to figure out what I was saying.

Both my parents worked so I was left in the care of my two older sisters during summers and after school. We three did all the housework and laundry. Plus, they took on the task of interpreting for me to our parents or just went ahead and got me whatever I needed.  That’s the way it worked for me up until I entered the third grade.

My teacher that year was Mrs. Allison, who had taught well beyond her retirement time. I remember her having a complete head of white hair and my parents wondering how she was going to keep up with us kids on the sprawling playground.  I don’t think they figured in her persona in their equation on that though.

Mrs. Allison truly was grandmotherly to us kids, which we seemed to love so we naturally obeyed her.  After recess she always read or told us a story while we wound down from play time, resting our heads on our desks.

I started school in 1958, so by this time it was the early sixties. Back then, teachers could give a random hug to a young child if they thought that would cheer the youngster up some. It was a different time back then.

Long story short, it took Mrs. Allison most all that year to get me to stop stuttering. She did this by getting me to slow my speech pattern down during class reading time. Standing beside me, she usually rested one of her large hands across my shoulders, while covering my designated sentence with her other hand until I could only pronounce one word at a time.  Which, I guess I hadn’t been doing prior to that year. Still today I’m a scan reader. I just want to know the basic facts of the story, issue or the situation at hand.

I’m certain that I never stuttered after that year. I remembered giving oral book reports and answering questions in class all through the rest of my formal education. That confidence I showed didn’t happen instantaneous, of course. But, over time I overcame my shyness and strengthened my public speaking skills enough to do as well as any other child in school.

Turning Rejection Around

I hope you’ve read the story of how my grandfather had been rejected by his father. My grandfather spent his formative years growing up in the same community that his father had owned the only store there.

Most likely my grandpa had been sent to his dad’s store in his childhood to buy essentials. I can only imagine the harsh statements that came out of the mouth of the small frame, blond, blue-eyed, fair-skin store owner to the young boy that mirrored his physical features.  

In the 1910 census my grandpa was living with his paternal grandmother. She was widowed by then. I’ve been to her and her husband’s gravesite and told her, “Thank you, for taking my grandpa in as a young boy.” I don’t know how long he lived there because I was told that, when he was a child, he was “tossed” from home to home.

We’ve all been rejected and have rejected by now. Some rejection in our lives is essential. We need to “filter” our influences and weed out the negative ones. Wise people reject bad influences by seeking advice from “seasoned” wise leaders. That’s often done through reading or following those leaders in a media format.

One of my uncles rejected being an alcoholic. He had been one for a few decades of his adult life. But, early in his fifties he mastered over his desire to drink. He stayed sober for the rest of his life, which was about ten more years.

Experiencing rejection is usually a painful experience though. And it most likely is going to happen multiple times in yours and my lives. It’s just the way human nature is. I’ve come to believe that the “wounded wound.”

When I met my mother-in-law for the first time is memory that’s still seared in my mind. In other words, it wasn’t a pleasant experience any which way you turn it. Jeff and I had been married about a year by then. We were both in the Air Force and stationed in Germany. We had met through the Chapel activities for the young airmen (and airwomen).

We met and married in the same year, which was 1978. My parents had come over in May of that year to visit me and for us to tour some of Germany. During that time, they had a chance to meet Jeff. They liked him from the start and encouraged me to not let him get away from me.

Not long after they went back to Western NC, Jeff and I set a date to be married. I was able to extend my stay in Germany by the last minute. And we were married by the time I had received my extension. That was in August.

The next August we moved back to the States. We both were stationed at Hill A. F. Base in Utah. Jeff is from near Athens GA, so we were able to see both sets of parents and extended family before our long drive out to Utah.

We had arrived at the Atlanta airport and Jeff’s parents, Al and Fran picked us up and took us on the long drive to their house. All seemed well to me. We chatted the whole way to Monroe, where they had a house out in the country.

Al had built a store on the front of their property and sold carpet there. They had done quite well at it, and even had Jeff work there in his teens through his early twenties. But, Jeff had gotten tired of the work and always “butting heads” with his dad on how best to seam or cut carpet. So he joined the Air Force in 1973 and was stationed in New Mexico before going to Germany where we met. 

Not long after unpacking I began to suspect that I was pregnant with our first child. It’s about two hundred miles between where his parents lived and where my parents lived. So, we were in the car a lot and I wasn’t feeling great. We held that news back though, until we got to Hill AFB, Utah.

Not long after meeting my new in-laws I realized that Jeff’s parents were two very opposite people. Al was relaxed and laid back by this time. He was forty when Jeff was born so by the time I met him he was in his senior years. He seemed pleased with all he had accomplished so far in his life.

Fran, on the other hand was temperamental and seemed to always be “set on edge.” I picked up on that right off, but I wouldn’t known to call it anxieties. But, much later I realized both she and Jeff suffered a lot with feelings of anxiety.

Fran (Francis) had been 36 when Jeff was born. There was four years between him and his next older sibling, who was a boy. Jeff’s brother, Danny had passed away in his teen years of a congenital heart defect. That left Jeff’s older sister Marilyn, as his only sibling. She was seventeen years older than Jeff, and had married when he was three years old.

By the time I met her and her family they were living on a few acres of the forty that Al had originally purchased when he and Fran established their carpet store. Marilyn and her family lived with in walking distance to Al and Fran’s house and store. Although, I noticed that no one walked the short distance. They all drove up to Al and Fran’s or back down a small slope to their house.

Well, that’s when I began to realize that Jeff was not only a “late baby” but the “replacement” baby, also. All of that made him extremely special to his possessive mother. She never wanted him to leave her sight. And told him that often during his teen years.

Jeff did have a first marriage before me. Al had let Jeff and his first wife live on the back of his parent’s property in a small basic house. Al had built it for him, Fran and teenage Jeff to live in until the store that also included two-bedroom living quarters could be built.

Jeff and that wife didn’t have any children. And their marriage was very troubled. But as Fran saw it she got her way by keeping her grown boy nearby, at least for a few years. Then it all blew up and fell apart.

By the time I met Fran, Jeff had made retiring from the Air Force his commitment. That was a huge disappointment to his overbearing mother.

I wanted him to stay in also. Well, I can’t be sure, but it seems that she saw me as taking her baby away from her. Who’s to say for sure. But, about the second full day we were there Fran had an explosive anxiety attack like I had never seen before. (My parents were not outwardly given to anxiety fits.) And most of her vitriolic anger was directed at me!

I was helping her with the dishes and was feeling exhausted. Marilyn’s adult kids with their families had all come for dinner, then got up and left. I was told that was their standard behavior. I’d been raised to help with the housework, so I naturally was in the kitchen helping.

Well, the long story short is that Fran had never accepted me. She always held a contentious attitude toward me. In other word’s she rejected me from the beginning and continued to do so all the years I knew her.

After about six years of being overseas between Germany, then Turkey we were sent to Shaw AFB, near Sumter, SC. By that time, we had all three of our girls, and we five settled down in a subdivision near the AFB. This was going to be Jeff’s last duty stationed, except for his six months in the Middle East during Desert Storm.

So, we started visiting all our relatives and were glad to be back in the USA. Life seemed great all the way around. At least it did for our family. Jeff’s dad had passed away by this time and he missed his dad funeral by just a few days.

So of course, when we visited Fran, Jeff wanted to see his dad’s grave site. Within a few days of our arrival we all got in her sedan and traveled up to Atlanta where Al had been buried, next to their son. They had chosen the plots early in the sixties, when they lived in the metro Atlanta area.

Then, on another day we went all the way to the old neighborhood, right outside of Atlanta, where Jeff had spent most of his school years. We never got out of the car, even though Fran still recognized a few people there. They had taken me there once before and all I ever saw was some shabby looking little wooden houses. I couldn’t figure out why we had to go back a second time. The neighborhood was still shabby only more so since the last time I had seen it.

Maybe that second trip was worth the effort, though because that’s the only time I ever heard Fran say she was glad that she didn’t have to live there anymore. It seems that she was finally grateful and at peace with all Al had accomplished even with his limited grade school education. Neither of them had gone beyond elementary school, but life had turned out well for them. I thought so from the first time I met them.

They did have a difficult marriage in many ways. Too many to mention. But, through their fifty-plus years of marriage they had experienced both harsh and wonderful events. All through it though, Fran did have a difficult possessive personality and was prone to high energy anxiety attacks.

During the second year that we were back in America, I decided I didn’t need to be the recipient of her verbal abuse anymore. It seemed to upset Jeff that I spoke out against his mother. So, to keep the peace and my sanity, our girls and I stayed at home and stopped visiting her.

I made sure Jeff visited his mother, though. But, I never saw my mother-in-law alive again that I can recall. When she passed away Jeff wanted me to go to her funeral. I wasn’t planning on it, but ended up going anyway. I stayed as briefly as possible though.

One way to turn around rejection is to recognize that’s what’s going on in a relationship. Reconcile if possible. If not, then, break the relationship off completely.  You’ll be better for it. Take positive action that benefits your mental-emotional wellness.

Don’t Burn The Bridge You’re Standing On!

But, Rehoboam refused the old men’s counsel and called in the young men with whom he had grown up.” 1 Kings 12:8 (TLB)

Don’t burn the bridge you’re standing on is, of course, a metaphor. It means don’t sabotage your support system. Of course, that’s sometimes easier said than done.

You might be struggling with an enormous problem or having difficulty over the day-to-day problems we all encounter. We all stumble many times throughout our lives with the routine problems. Don’t let making a bad decision “weigh you down” with guilt or a sense of hopelessness.

Seek to develop a good support system that you can rely on to give you advice in the areas that you’re having trouble with. Problems are best solved in the beginning, but that’s often when we ourselves don’t understand the full problem. That’s why we need someone(s) in our lives that can think outside our problem and see into solutions that will work for us.

Choose wisely the people that you can trust to confide in. Developing a strong support system of mentors, counselors, a supportive family, and good friends is essential to keeping yourself mentally strong. I would add having a personal relationship with Jesus is equally important. Even many self-help groups include having a relationship with a “higher power” as part of their plan.   

By now you know one or two people that you could confide in. But, don’t be like young King Rehoboam who only listened to his youthful pals. None had any good answers to help him in his newly acquired role of ruler of a large kingdom. If you only listen to people, your own age and/or near your own circumstance that you’re only going to get agreement of your type of thinking.

King Rehoboam had wealth and power, but because of bad advice lost most of it soon after he became king. Here is a brief look as to how this young ruler “burned the bridge” he was standing on.

King Solomon’s son Rehoboam had become King of Israel when he was yet an “untested” young man. When he became king he only wanted “yes men” to give him advice on how to rule his kingdom. So, he chose his pals from his youth. None of which gave him good advice.

 Rehoboam ignored the wise counsel the older men who had given his father good advice. The result was that the young king lost most of his kingdom in an uprising, he was not expecting nor had prepared for. He ended up ruling about a quarter of the kingdom that his grandfather King David had established. The larger story of Rehoboam is found in 1 Kings 12: 1-24.

 Seek someone you trust that will take time to listen with intentness of your problem(s). Then, be accountable to that person that you’re at least thinking things through and considering their advice.

Others on our support team can often be our family members. But sometimes it’s family that inadvertently help in creating the negative situation that you or I have found ourselves in.

  The next layer of support team members could be close friends. But they can become co-participates engaging in the same negative behavior that we’re trying to break free of.

If you’re married, or cohabiting, let your partner know that something in the routine of things is not working out for your good. You might want to go for coffee out somewhere to do this. I would suggest a marriage counselor office, though.

If you have children in your home, then let your loved ones know you’re in a mental health struggle of depression, anxiety, etc. and something has got to change. Call for a family meeting. And be as frank as is appropriate for your child(ren) in discussing what needs to change in their attitudes, their chores and/or their friends.

 If you’re a student, then seek a school counselor or school social worker. At work let your supervisor know that you’re struggling with a private matter, but you’re working on it.

A young mother and wife I knew through church took her own life a year or so back. Of course, we were all shocked and saddened by her wrongful decision. No one in her inner circle realized how deep she had sunk into her problems.

To meet and chat with her, you wouldn’t have thought there was any significant problem in her life. She was feeling good about some weight she had lost. We were both Facebook friends. I taught her children in Children’s Church. We crossed path’s often. I never had one thought that she was struggling with an inner demon of some type. Had I known I would’ve encouraged her to seek therapy.

I don’t know exactly what she was struggling with. But I do know from first-hand experience that when all you can think about is the problem then the problem eclipses the solution in your own thinking. Please go get help when you are thinking of your problems in a negative state of mind.  Seek advice, and/or counseling. Above all spend time in prayer.

“So, encourage each other to build each other up, just as you are already doing.Always keep on praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 17 (TLB)