• I woke up this morning, and it was business as usual. I made Jeremiah’s breakfast, he left, and I sat down at our breakfast table to do my devotion. Pace was in her highchair beside me, eating a piece of cinnamon toast, and I found my eyes wandering out the window. There, a gigantic tree stands in a neighbors yard, its trunk and branches laden with deep green ivy. The sky radiated a bright blue, with lazy brush strokes of white, and the sun crept up the base of the tree, casting a golden glow through the branches and ivy. Such a beautiful morning, and standing in such stark contrast to the devastation of yesterday. What happened? How can we comprehend a God who demonstrates His mighty power through deadly winds, pelting rain, and frightful lightning one day but then demonstrates his serene beauty the very next morning. The answer is that we can’t comprehend Him.

    I tore my eyes away from that glowing tree out my window and prayed that God would give me wisdom about the deaths of those eight children in Enterprise yesterday. I wanted a word on why there are mothers still lying awake in bed this morning, praying that they could transport themselves back to yesterday morning, praying they had clung to their children and never allowed them to leave for school. Praying that they could wipe the image of their child being crushed to death by a brick wall, as they huddled in fear of a storm that would answer to His slightest whisper. Why?

    I read today’s lesson in Streams in the Dessert. It was a great lesson on giving the Lord your first moments of the day, but still He gave me no wisdom about yesterday. Then, I read my chapter in 1 Corinthians. It was Paul’s famous lesson on running our Christian race, with the same sort of discipline and devotion as an athlete training for the Olympics. Thanks God, that’s a nice reminder, but I am asking for wisdom. Don’t you always promise to provide wisdom if we ask for it? I was about to start doing the pray, open to a random passage and read technique, when Pace got fussy enough that she could no longer be ignored. It was time for her bottle, “Milk, milk!” she cried.

    So, I scooped her up, slightly frustrated, and went back to our bedroom for our little prayer ritual. As I climbed back into bed with her and handed her her bottle, I knew the Lord had been waiting for me there. We need to talk, he was whispering. I have different ways to speak, besides my written word, remember. As I went through my normal prayers, I started praying for the families of those children in Enterprise. I let myself realize that they were more than just a number, 8 children killed. Those 8 children have names, families, and lives that they left behind. Then, God finally gave me the wisdom I had been seeking all morning. Instead of a new revelation, it was an old truth. The same old truth He has been teaching me through all this mess with Mom. The truth of His Sovereignty. Yes, He is in control. Yes, He did allow that storm to take the lives of eight children, but He still hurts with those families just like He hurts with ours. He still doesn’t owe us an explanation but requires us to have faith in His ultimate goodness. Maybe there will be a spiritual awakening in Enterprise because of these deaths, and countless numbers will come to know Him through their questioning. Maybe, only one person, affected by losing their friend, will come to know Jesus. We can speculate, but all we really know is that His greater good and purpose will be served through this tragedy. In the meantime, all we can do is keep going to Him for the answers and rest in His sovereignty.

  • Last week Jeremiah and I went to Dothan for a couple of days during his recovery/week off. Pace was waiting for us there, because she took a little trip to her grandparent’s house while I took care of the family’s bigger baby 🙂 We decided to re-visit the land we’d been praying about and to go just the two of us this time. We called Mrs. Norma, and she very graciously agreed to allow us free reign over her land for the afternoon. On the way there, I asked Jeremiah if we could play pretend. Could we pretend, while we walked around, that the land really did belong to us? Jeremiah, who is used to my overactive imagination (and has succumbed more times than he would be willing to admit), agreed to DREAM about what we would do with the land one day but put his foot down on the idea of make-believe. I agreed, with a giggle, that it did sound silly but decided that it wouldn’t hurt anything if I played pretend on my own.

    We pulled up to the door of Mrs. Norma’s ranch-style home. She had made coffee and laid out a spread of doughnuts, cookies, candy, and her favorite tangerine juice. We talked and laughed for over an hour. She has led and is still living a fascinating life, filled with books, travel, men, and learning more about the internet than her teenage grand-daughter 🙂 When we finally pried ourselves away from her cozy kitchen, we began our adventure.

    We started in the open fields, where the soil still maintained that crunchy give beneath our feet, wrought from a lifetime of farming followed by many seasons of inactivity. As we sauntered from one field to the next, we found that each held its own beauty. One was open and expansive and seemed the perfect spot for a house with a huge yard. The next had a quiet pond, and seemed shielded from the road…maybe this would be the best spot for a house? THEN, we turned a corner and found ourselves in THE field. Closed in by thick trees on three sides, this spot called out, offering shelter and exclusiveness to the future home that dwells only in our minds at present. We quickly discovered that, by clearing the underbrush and smaller trees from one of the “walls” of our sanctuary, you would be able to see the Little Choctahatchee flowing right in front of our home. Investigation into another “wall” revealed a one-room hunters cabin, built on stilts. I asked Jeremiah if there was any greater boyhood dream that we could fulfill for our boys than offering them their own get-away cabin. He laughed and said we would make greater memories than that in that little cabin, since it would be the perfect place for our family to live while we built our house. I am still not sure if he was kidding about that, but I hope he was.

    We finally tore ourselves away from the homestead field, and began the adventurous part of our excursion through the woods. While there is a lot to be said for seeing land on horseback, there is also something to be said for seeing it on foot. On foot, you can squeeze through tight brush, that you could never ask your horse to push through. You can stop and enjoy your surroundings, without constantly pulling back on your horse, who is invariably ready for the next phase of the ride. So, we saw places that we didn’t experience on that first trip. A cedar and white oak swamp, that stood eerily still and whispered its mesmerizing beauty. An expanse of forest where the trees formed a close-knit canopy, and didn’t allow any undergrowth to crop up from the ground. Areas of the river, 150 ft wide, where age-old trees stretched their branches from either side of the bank until they kissed, merging together their two sides. At one spot, we found a fresh-water spring gurgling up from the ground and sending a quiet stream to the river. We each stuck our hand (I a bit more timidly than Jeremiah) into the dark depths and felt the autonomy of its power. I am sure Jeremiah was dreaming of one day, but I was pretending that I was an explorer, seeing these beautiful sights with a virgin eye. I was being allowed the first glimpse at their beauty, God and I were the only two witnesses of this perfect creation in my mind.

    Finally, our walk ended as the forest thinned out and we saw Mrs. Norma’s ranch-style home in the distance. My hair and sweater were full of leaves, my jeans had taken on a tear from the brambles, and my hands had not been spared from several stickers. My heart, however, was filled with excitement. It seemed that each step had revealed something even more beautiful along our journey, and I was constantly reminded of the way C.S. Lewis described heaven’s exponentially growing beauty in The Last Battle, “Farther up and farther in!” Jeremiah and I had spent an afternoon dreaming (or pretending :)) together, and I don’t think there is any exercise more healthy for a marriage than that. After all, that is one of the big differences between a marriage and other close friendships. In a marriage, you share a life and a future, and you get to dream your dreams together.

  • Since the beginning of our dating relationship, we have dreamed together of the land we would own one day. I remember one particular conversation, on the bus ride to his Sigma Nu formal, sharing our ideas about what made land beautiful. WATER, was one area where we were both in agreement. Whether it was a hot spring, a raging river, or a trickling creek, we both agreed that land was just not worth having if there was no water on it. These land dreams started, for me, as something that I would cherish more because it was Jeremiah’s ambition than my own. Then, a little over a year ago, we took a horseback ride on a sweet lady’s land (who is friends with Jeremiah’s family) and during that ride, owning land suddenly became MY dream too. That day we rode through open fields, picked our way through bramble-filled forests, and took in the quiet lakes, but most importantly we rode through the waters.

    Mossy Creek, with its shallow trickling waters and white sand bed, runs for a couple of miles through the heart of this expanse of land. We (Dr. Maddox, Tommy, Josh, Ashley, Alex, Jeremiah, and me) started at the property line in the creek and were able to enjoy her beautiful land by horseback. There was not a face on the ride that could hold in its smile. There was such an invigorating energy that came from the horses as they galloped through the water, splashing each other and us. There was so much beauty in the way the sunlight turned the water into liquid gold around us. There was so much freedom in experiencing nature from the strong back of nature itself.

    Then, we came to the point where Mossy Creek joins the Little Choctahatchee River. The white sand suddenly disappeared into the cool green current of the river. It seemed to be forever offering its humble contribution to the river’s mighty flow. A sort of deep swimming hole had formed at that point in the river, and we held the horses still and drank in the beauty of that spot. Through the fun and the beauty of that ride a year ago, a seed was planted in our (Jeremiah’s and mine) heats. A craving for a bit of land to call our own, and a flourish for that land in particular.

    So, we have prayed over that land for the past year. There have been times when I have been so anxious that the land would sell before Jeremiah finished residency, I’ve thought my heart would burst. It may seem like a dramatic comparison, but it has really reminded me of the earnest prayers I used to offer to God over finding a husband. I dated one guy who I thought hung the moon. I had him on such a pedestal, that I told my Dad that I knew, if I didn’t marry THAT guy, I would spend the rest of my life knowing I had just settled for someone else. Oh, the dramas of a lovesick teenage girl! I know now that God must have been chuckling at the turn He had in store for me, because He had someone planned who was SO much more perfect for me in Jeremiah. He took the traits that I valued in the guy, magnified the good, softened the rough edges, and gave him a love that spoke perfectly to my heart. So, that is what I have tried to remind myself of during my anxious times about this land. I know the Lord intimately understands the desires of our hearts, and if this land I’ve worked myself into a fervor over isn’t what He has in store, then whatever land He does have will be even more perfectly suited for us.

    This really isn’t the story I wanted to write about today, because Jeremiah and I re-visited that coveted land last week. However, this is getting long, so I think I’ll just name this Part 1 and tell the rest of the story later.