30-some years ago, we were introduced to Jim and Debbie Reeves. As folks coming in new to Westwood Christian Church, our senior minister Don Boswell formed a group of young married couples to study Scripture and do life together. We met at Jim and Debbie’s house.
While we enjoyed all the couples in that group, a special bond formed between the Reeves’ and us. We found ourselves hanging out together outside of “church related functions.” I had our kids call Debbie “Grandma Debbie” (because she is a couple months older than me) from the get-go. People would ask if Debbie and Peggy were sisters, to which they would quickly answer, “YES!” We have a bond that goes far deeper than friendship. We are family.
We shared with each other in the ups and downs of raising our kids, and we share in the joys and heartaches of grandparenthood now. We can go months without communicating with one another, yet pick up like we just spoke earlier in the day. We are family.
Jim and Debbie come to Florida a couple times a year now. They have a “retirement home” about two hours away from us (long story that is not important to this blog), and while neither are retired yet, they are making plans along those lines for the “near future.”
We had the privilege of spending some time with them last weekend, while they were here in Florida. We ate (way too much). We watched KY basketball. The girls shopped. You see, Stein Mart was having this “huge sale” that they just could not resist.We ate. We cat-napped around the house. We had deep, meaningful, spiritual discussions. We talked about stuff that made us laugh and had no eternal significance at all. We ate. We just relished each others’ company. Oh yeah, and we ate.
We have established a few “local spots” where we like to eat, and the trick is trying to hit them all any time Jim and Debbie are here with us. We failed to hit them all, but it was not for a lack of trying!
While Debbie and Peggy are not biological sisters, we all are related by Blood. It is the Blood of Christ which binds us together. The common interests we have, the common sense of humor we share, the bonds that endear Jim and Debbie to us are all because of our shared love for Jesus. We are truly blessed to call Jim and Debbie family, and honored that they feel the same about us.
God created us all to crave community. We were not designed to follow Jesus on our own. We need people who share our values and faith, but who also share our likes, sense of humor, and goals in life.
Make no mistake about it. I love being a husband, a dad, a Pop Pop. I love my biological brothers and sister. I love Peggy’s sister. I love our biological family. Those are important roles I play in life. But I love being a brother to Jim and Debbie Reeves. They have made and continue to make this journey called life such a pleasure.
I pray that you have someone in your life like that. If not, you are missing out on one of the biggest blessings God could every bestow upon you. Our BFFs absolutely make our lives a more rich and rewarding experience.
How about you? I would love to hear about your BFFs and the impact on your life. Let’s continue the conversation in the comments section below.
I left off in my last post, with Donna estranged, homeless, and on her own. The crash of the co-dependent life had come about in the worst of ways. Or perhaps the best of ways. For the first time in her life, Donna had to depend on her – not Dad – to get her life turned around. I prayed that she would understand such a transformation would come only through the Grace of Jesus. I had long since released this all over to Him.
In the three years since then, Donna and I have watched our relationship ebb and flow. I truly believe much of that ebb and flow was because Donna wasn’t ready to receive the Grace that God had to offer, and that I had to offer. Satan’s greatest lie in this process is that “you are not worthy of receiving that grace.” He leaves off the part where Christ paid the price and in Christ are we made worthy. Grace absolutely is a journey. Both for the one giving and the one receiving it. We are in a good place in our relationship now. It has come because of much prayer and hard work. As Kyle puts it:
Grace is more than a decision we make, it’s a JOURNEY we take.
The journey does not end as long as we are walking the ice of this planet. There are ebb and flow moments still ahead. But I believe that Grace is Greater. There is NO SIN that is able to negate the power of Grace. Nothing we could ever do can wipe away the power of Grace. We can deny ourselves the Grace that God has to offer us, and sadly, many of us do. Kyle Idleman “puts it Blountly” when he writes:
Here’s my concern: often the church is know for its outrage toward people outside of our community who need grace rather than outrage for the people inside our community who refuse to give it.
I don’t ever want that to be said about me. I am the worst sinner I know. I am in need of Grace every day. How could I ever DARE to refuse to give Grace to ANYONE else?
How about you? How can you extend Grace today? To whom do you need to extend Grace? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.
Having read Kyle Idleman’s latest book, “Grace Is Greater,” I am moved to tell a story of grace, forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation from my own experience.
I have written in the past about the fact that my Dad lived with us for several years before having to place him in a skilled nursing facility where he passed away last May. The story of how he came to live with us has not be written before.
Dad and my sister Donna had a co-dependent relationship for decades. Donna played the role of addict well, and Dad was an enabler extraordinaire. This co-dependency kicked into high gear following the death of Mom in 1993.
While there were serious warning signs of things to come as early as 2005, Dad kept me at arms-length regarding the depth of the co-dependency. Oh, I knew it was there. I even told Dad in a letter that I would do anything I could to help, IF he would let me. If he wouldn’t, then I would simply stay out of the way. All this, after I was accused of trying to control Dad. He was hospitalized (for what I now know was the 1st time of being hospitalized for polypharmacy), and I wanted to get his car repaired. I backed off.
Fast forward three years, and I found out that Donna was in jail, Dad was home alone, his bank account beyond depleted, his car hidden in the garage because he was afraid the title pawn folks were going to take his car (and they would have), his phone disconnected, and his electric about to be disconnected (again). Oh yeah, and the house was in the early stages of foreclosure.
Donna’s addiction had taken her to the point where she had written tens of thousands of dollars of bad checks on Dad’s account (she and I were both listed on the account with Dad), she had maxed out all of his credit cards, and his bank account had been closed because it was in the red for more than three consecutive months. Dad was clueless about all of this, except for the fact that Donna was in jail, and some guys were looking for his car.
Donna did indeed spend quite some time in jail for her bad check writing deeds. During that time, she wrote to Dad demanding that he bring her money and toiletries. I told Dad that he could not do that because he didn’t have any money. I wrote Donna, telling her that I loved her, but she wouldn’t be getting any money from Dad since he was tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I was trying to save his house and his car, and establish a new checking account where he could get his pension, social security, etc. direct deposited. I know that Donna thought I was satan in the flesh. I will confess that I was very angry with what she had done to Dad. I was also angry with what Dad had done to enable Donna to get to that point.
Long story short, Donna is out of jail, making restitution payments to several counties where she wrote bad checks. I temporarily saved Dad’s house, but eventually had to give it up. I got thousands of dollars of debt taken care of (either paid off or forgiven) before Dad’s health demanded placing him in skilled nursing as a medicaid patient.
Like I said, I was angry about what was going on, but I did NOT want to play the role of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. I prayed and prayed. I prayed for Dad. I prayed for Donna. I prayed for me. I prayed to be a dispenser of grace. I did FINALLY come to the point where I truly released all of my anger, hurt, frustration, and resentment to God.
There are consequences to actions, and trust takes a LONG TIME to rebuild. I will simply tell you, that trust has been restored in my relationship with Donna. It has not been easy. Can’t find anywhere in Scripture where it says that life will be easy. I had to let go. I had to get to the point where I truly put all of this very painful situation in God’s hands. Again, I was as angry with Dad as I was with Donna. Yet, we took Dad into our home and cared for him as best we could for as long as we could without risking serious injury (Dad had balance issues…he fell NINE times in the last eight days he lived in our home). Donna, on the other hand, was still playing the co-dependent card with Dad all the way up until the point he was a medicaid patient and no longer had any money or assets she could use. She did another stint in jail about four years ago, and at about that time, I was giving the house back to the mortgage company. Now, Donna was literally alone and without a place to live, etc.
I will finish the story on Monday. And by finish, I mean I will bring you to the present day in this journey of Grace.
Peggy and I are empty nesters. Our three children are all grown, married, and we now also have four grandchildren (one of whom will be born in April). We LOVE this station of life. To see our kids thriving as married adults is a thrill reminding us that all of that hard work over the past three decades was more than worth it!
However, since our kids are all grown and married with families of their own, it means we do not always get to be with them over the holidays. Elliott and his family live in Jacksonville, FL, and Ian and his family live in Siloam Springs, AR. The deal is “supposed to be” that we have the family with us on Thanksgiving one year, and on Christmas the next year. 2016 was supposed to be our year to have everyone here for Thanksgiving.
We spoke with Ian and McKayla back in the summer and fully understood that Ian would not be able to get enough time off at Thanksgiving time for them to make the long journey to Vero Beach. We got to see them several times this year already, including a week that Peggy and I spent in Arkansas with them this summer. We were just resigned to the fact that we would NOT have them all with us for Thanksgiving.
Little did we know that our kids were all conspiring to throw a major surprise our way. It appears that everyone on the planet except Peggy and me, knew that Ian, McKayla, and Landon WERE coming for Thanksgiving after all!
Tuesday night, while we were waiting for Elliott, Abi, Micah, and Eden to arrive from Jacksonville, it happened. Emily came in the house to Taco’s usual greeting. Then, I looked up from my easy chair to see Landon walking in the house! The tears flooded my cheeks, and I jumped up to scoop that little guy in my arms. Ian and McKayla stood there grinning from ear-to-ear. Emily was smiling her biggest smile ever! Not only were all my kids and grandkids going to be here for Thanksgiving, but Emily had arranged with a friend to do a family photo shoot at Memorial Island on Wednesday.
This is the most precious gift my family could have given to Peggy and me. After Jesus, family is foremost in our books. My tears of thanksgiving continue as I type this on Saturday morning. Elliott’s crew is back in Jacksonville now. Ian’s crew will be here through tomorrow. The precious memories of the past few days will live with me forever.
Time and distance can cause families to drift apart. I pray that my kids, their spouses, and my grandkids will NOT allow drift to occur. I pray that they will always desire to spend time with each other. I pray that they will all know how very much GaGa and Pop Pop love them. I pray that each of them will be mighty warriors for the Kingdom of Christ. I am a most blessed man.
While my social media sabbatical ended a couple of weeks ago, I have hesitated to start blogging again just yet because I have so much to process.
A major ongoing life event for me is my Immersion Into Colossians. I am reading this four chapter book every single day, and just soaking in what God has to say to me. At the same time, I am watching/listening to the sermon series from The Creek Christian Church in Indy, as Dr. Gary Johnson and crew take that congregation through Colossians this year in a verse-by-verse pace that it very exciting to me. I have much to discuss regarding this study, and will save it for a future blog post.
A summer event that has literally turned my house upside down was a washing machine-induced flood. Let’s just say that the end result is and extreme makeover that is taking place in our house. Flooring throughout the house is being replaced, as are all bathroom vanities, all cabinets in the kitchen and laundry room, all baseboards, new toilets, as well as new kitchen appliances. When all is said and done, we will have invested around $31,000 including the part paid for by insurance. The flood took place on June 11th, and the contractor is supposed to start work in the house this week.
My mission trip to Colombia was indeed life changing in many ways. It was my first foreign mission trip (having done lots of domestic mission work throughout my years in ministry). My eyes were not only more appropriately opened to the church around the world, but to idolatrous teachings in the name of “Christianity” and the devastating impact those teachings have on entire cultures of people. I also got to sit at the feet of a humble servant of God, who truly lives out his dedication to the Great Commission. I have MUCH more to talk about regarding this trip in future blog posts.
Getting to travel to Arkansas to spend time with Ian, McKayla, and Landon was a highlight of the summer as well. I have spent many hours in prayer and in tears for our middle child and his family, and it is so gratifying to see how well they are thriving in Arkansas.
Ministry challenges and opportunities continue to abound, and again I come back to my time in the book of Colossians each day. The heart of the book is found in Col. 3:12-15, and as I process all that I have mentioned above, let me make sure to couch it all in that passage:
Colossians 3:12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
As promised/threatened, there is plenty more to discuss as I come off of my blog sabbatical. Thanks for putting up with me as I am putting it Blountly.
I realize that not everyone comes from a great family situation. I am blessed to be part of a family that truly loves one another. No, we don’t always agree with each other. Yes, there are times we may not even LIKE each other very much. However, through thick and thin, we are a family that LOVES each other dearly.
The family, in Appalachian culture, is the hub of society. It’s weird like that. Kind of like how God designed it to be…well, anyway, family is more than a Mom & Dad and their kids. It’s grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. Adopted, married into, or stays taken in, we are family.
We will fight fiercely among ourselves, and even more fiercely for each other. We laugh, we love, we get loud. We cry, we support, we lean on each other. We believe in Jesus the Christ as the glue to hold us all together, and we believe that together we are going to be just fine no matter what life may throw at us.
As the family continues to grow and spread around the country (literally), our times together are more rare and frankly usually revolve around a funeral. When Peggy’s Unce Tom passed a way recently, Peggy & I saw family members we hadn’t seen in several years. Our son Ian, his wife McKayla and our grandson Landon made the 13 hour drive from Arkansas just to be with family. Mind=blown. Heart=full.
Now, again, we are not perfect people. We fuss more than we should. We talk about each other in ways that we would not tolerate an “outsider” to do. Sometimes, we know that a “little dab will do you” in time spent with family members. However, when all is said and done, we are family, and we know that togetherness is great medicine for what ails you.
I am grateful to be part of this family. It is a privilege I do not take for granted. My only prayer is that my kids and grandkids will know the joy (and other stuff) that goes with being a close-knit bunch. So much more difficult to do with us living in different towns and states, but so important to me. I praise God for FaceTime, but I praise Him even more for Face-to-Face time. I pray for more of that. Please pray that with and for me. Please pray that for my family.
Do not take family for granted. We are not promised our next breath. Make the most of every opportunity. Let your family members know how much you love them always. Make Jesus the center of your family. He IS the glue that holds a family tougher. As such, family is how you survive the trials of this world. Family is how you learn to get along even when you cannot agree. Family is the group that has your back. Family is God’s design for people, because God knows that we are better together.
Just some random thoughts as I reflect on a weekend with extended family, and prepare to fly back “home.” I love and miss these guys and gals when we are separated by miles. I feel closer to them than ever when we are together, no matter the circumstances.
I have written about my Dad on a couple of earlier occasions (most recently, here ). Dad is 82, a full time resident of a nursing home. and his health is deteriorating. Yesterday, my phone alerted me to a call from the nursing home. Dad was being transported to the ER for assessment following a fall he had in his room. (He told me that he was trying t make up his bed – Dad is supposed to call for help transferring from the bed to his wheelchair, so making the bed is a big no-no).
Dad’s short term memory is Dory-sized (if you don’t know who Dory is, shame on you…Finding Nemo and soon, Finding Dory), so all other challenges are magnified. Dad “knows” he is not supposed to try to stand on his own. Dad “knows” that he is physically weak. Dad “knows” he is supposed to stop and think before taking any action. Dad “knows” he is supposed to call for help, but he doesn’t want to “be a bother.”
I understand that. It breaks my heart to have to talk with him about it, because I know he will forget the conversation before I leave the room. Oh yeah, that literally happens. I know that Dad doesn’t want to do anything that could cause him to fall. He doesn’t want to be a bother, and trust me, falling and then needing a trip to the ER qualifies as a “bother” in Dad’s book.
Spending Sunday afternoon/evening at the ER is certainly no fun. Watching my Dad struggle to put on his game face is heart-wrenching. Watching my Dad physically deteriorate is one of the hardest things I have had to do.
I will do whatever it takes for my Dad, because he has always done the same for me. I will do whatever it takes for my Dad because that is what Christian living is about. I will do whatever it takes for my Dad because I love him. I will do whatever it takes for my Dad, because I love Jesus.
Dad’s most recent fall, like all of his previous falls (too numerous to remember now), did not result in any broken bones. This time, he did not get a concussion, stitches, or even any bruises. The CT scan of his head and upper back came back fine. No UTI (he’s had two of them in the past month, but none at the moment).
Our time together in the ER yesterday (Feb. 21st) was lengthy (they were seriously busy…almost a “code black” kind of busy), but I got to spend it with my Dad. I watched him doze. We joked with each other. We talked seriously about Peggy and the kids & grandkids. Dad might not remember the conversation, but he always asks about them. At the end of our five hour ER visit, Dad thanked me for coming to be with him. That brought tears to my eyes. I simply responded with, “Dad, I love you.” To which he replied, “I love you, too.” My day was made. Of course, as I was leaving him to go home, he said (as always), “give my love to Peggy.” THAT, my friends makes me happier than you could ever know.
Whatever stage of life you are currently in, whatever the nature of your relationship with parents, etc., may I please urge you to make the most of the time you have with them. Do not take them for granted. Cherish the time you can spend with them. Even in the ER. Especially there.
P.S. After I wrote this, and obviously before I published it, I got another call regarding another fall Dad had this evening, meaning he had already long forgotten my admonition this afternoon to NOT try to stand on his own. No ER trip necessary this time. Sigh.
On Sunday, I will preach a message titled “Reset” as we kick off a new year. However, for purposes here, I will not preview the message, but discuss some practical application.
To say that 2015 was personally challenging would be an understatement. While I am not one to air family “dirty laundry” on the World Wide Web, let me just say I spent a LOT of time on my knees interceding for my family. My heart was torn into pieces more than once this past year. Some of the lowest lows came our way as a family. As a follower of Christ, I leaned on my Lord more than I have in many years. I spent much of the year not knowing if my family would survive this in tact. In fact, I was fairly certain that it would not. But, I continued praying, begging God to soften hearts and minds, especially mine.
God is faithful. I am deliriously happy to report that God answered those prayers with a resounding “YES!” As I chronicled in a previous post, I got to celebrate the Lord’s Day on December 27th with all of our kids and grandkids at church together for the first time since they all got married and starting having our grand babies.
Bridges that appeared to have been burned were rebuilt. Oh, some of those bridges may still be wobbly, but they are getting stronger every day. My prayers in this regard continue and will be a part of my daily quiet time with God.
Getting to ring in the New Year with this crew is one of the highlights of my year:
We don’t know when we will get to see our Arkansas Blount crew again next, but having them here for the past week is truly an answer to prayer!
Reset Practical Tip #1: Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer every day. Reading Scripture allows God to speak to you. Praying is a time for you to speak with God (and frankly, it is a time to listen as well). Make this time a priority.
Reset Practical Tip #2: Soften your heart. Ask for a forgiving spirit and put it into practice. You can’t change anyone else, but you can change you! I am a vastly changed man from where I was this time last year. Frankly, those changes are for the good, and for my good.
Reset Practical Tip #3: While interceding in prayer for those you love, do not be afraid to GENTLY intercede physically as well. A gentle word of encouragement can go a long way to help resolve issues.
Reset Practical Tip #4: Let go. God’s got this. Far from a cliché, this is jut TRUTH. As a Type A personality dude, control is an issue about which I must constantly pray, and constantly battle.
This past year, after one of our adult children announced a decision, they were amazed that I didn’t try to “fight” them over that decision. I simply answered that I had turned the situation in question over to God long ago, so why would I fight the answer God provided? Yeah, not something I would have done this time last year.
So, as we begin the New Year of 2016, may we reset our attitudes and live so that God is glorified in all areas of our lives. I’d love to continue the conversation with you. What are some New Year’s Resets you have put or will put into place? Comment below and share your wisdom.