Sister to Sister: The Cake Was Blue!

10353129_10152015737521384_7578742885594338706_nThe cake was blue and my Baby G is a boy! In honor of Him, some thoughts about mothers and their boys. Originally written for Caleb, but, today, it’s for Baby G. Happy Mother’s Day!

God Bless my Baby

God, give him strength as he enters our lives.
Give us wisdom as parents as each of us strives
To make for him places in our world to grow.
Teach us Lord. We’re so small.  There’s so much we don’t know.

God bless him as he to your wonders awakes.
Bless him, dear Lord, when his first steps he takes.
He’s so small.  May his scratches and bruises be small.
May my kiss make it better each time he may fall.

Help him to learn, Lord, just what he should know
To take him in life where you want him to go.
But in all of this learning, nay he never forget.
The One who has made him and walks with Him yet.

Give him courage when Satan first gets in His way.
May he stay near your word. May he fall down and pray.
May he put on you Lord.  That’s my most fervent prayer;
And for all of his days cast on you every care.

When the time comes, Oh God, that he must go away,
Help us to let go; but still hear us pray.
God , Bless our baby.  Look down from your throne.
Watch over him gently, for still he’s our own.

Give him shelter, dear Lord, from this world’s raging storm,
In a place where your love shines; a place that is warm.
Give him people to help him keep you in his life.
Give him one of your daughters, oh God, for his wife.

And one day may they know the joy I now feel,
Of a life yet unborn, but so precious and real.
May something I give him while still he is mine,
Make him know that all life, even unborn, is thine.

So Father, my prayer is for a life you’re now giving;
And, yes, for a soul that will always be living.
My task is so great.  I’m so small.  Help me see
That through Christ I can do it, for He strengthens me.

CCSig

Sister to Sister: Soldier On!

women-holding-hands-in-support1(About the Third Annual Preacher’s Wives Retreat)

Tonight, I’m having a little trouble winding down. This weekend’s events were unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. Convening at Chickasaw State Park in West Tennessee were 80 wives of gospel preachers. I believe I can truthfully say that I’ve never spoken to such an attentive audience. Some of them drove in excess of eight hours to be there. The singing was surely a taste of heaven, itself and the topics for the lessons and discussions were tailored to the needs of women who are blessed to be helpers to those men with pretty feet (Isaiah 52:7).

Traveling to Chickasaw on Friday, I was looking forward to speaking again to sisters and that’s always a blessing held by many weekends. But driving home this afternoon, my mind raced with remembered conversations, challenges, questions answered and shared experiences. This was just a rich and rewarding week-end. But why was this retreat so special?

I believe there are several reasons:

  1. I have never spoken to an audience whose members had so much in common. Sometimes it is difficult to know if you are making a lesson applicable to the majority of the women present. Not so, in this case. Our greatest bond is always, of course, the one we share in Jesus. But this audience, of whom 100% were wives of preachers, had an extra bond within the bond of sisterhood.
  2. There was a more specific purpose for this retreat than any other I’ve ever attended. Of course, we wanted to grow in our love for the Lord, evangelism skills, and in our relationships. But more than anything else, this retreat was about helping each other to persevere and flourish in what is sometimes a very challenging, albeit rewarding journey as preacher’s wives. And the amazing thing about it was that you could see the encouragement happening and helping lives right before your very eyes. “I needed this,”  or “Okay, I think I can do this now,” or “Okay, I’m going home and try that,” were common comments. Those comments were not necessarily the results of lessons brought, but were often merely the conclusions of sister-to-sister conversations.
  3. I could not detect any elevated groups or cliques. It truly appeared to me that every single woman there was appreciated. Those who founded the annual event in 2012 were humble and working hard. Those who were new this year, myself included, were treated with honor and kindness. There were none of the sometimes-hard-to-avoid age or socio-economic barriers–none that I could see, anyway. I believe we just appreciated each other more than your average crowd because we understand each other’s lives on a whole new level.
  4. People came with empty cups. I cannot recall seeing one person fall asleep during the lessons. That’s pretty incredible given that many of  these sweet ladies had stayed up till 2 a.m. the evening before just taking advantage of rare time with other preacher’s wives. These women could not get enough! And during their free time they took advantage of classes about preserving food, cake decorating, knitting, or painting. And they laughed, a lot.

I did my regular retreat thing…and fell down in the street. I went five miles looking for an open gas station at 11pm in the middle of nowhere AFTER the gas meter said my gasoline range was zero miles. I shared this harrowing experience with one of my fellow preacher’s wives and she is, remarkably, still my friend. (I was hoping all that time that the park gate would still be open when we returned, since the sign said it closed at 10 pm.) I lost my keys a few times and my power point had a few glitches. All in all, I was about par for my efficiency course.

But it’s okay to be distracted if you just talked to a new friend who grew up in the Catholic church and has already converted her brother and sister-in-law and father to New Testament Christianity…and she is only 30 years old. It’s okay to be distracted if you just heard Mary Carole Jackson tell about spanking the wee preacher’s kid and having that three-year-old turn around, look straight at her mom, and say “Is that all you got?” It’s okay to be distracted if you just watched 80 preacher’s wives open surprise notes from their husbands, none of whom are within miles and miles of the camp (What kind of awesome retreat planning is that, anyway?). It is okay to be distracted if 80 kindred spirits have just given you a grandma shower! (Seriously now, who would have thought of such a wonderful idea! I now have everything I need for Baby G whenever he/she comes to visit and a whole bunch of items that are just for me, as well.)

So many thanks to Carrie Hooks Voss and her wonderful team of planners and workers.  Many thanks to Kristi Burleson, Dana Blackwelder, Lynne Hibbett and others for making the food happen without a kitchen. Thanks to a small army of volunteers who made a myriad of unique activities occur with hardly a hitch. Thanks to all of you for somehow knowing and thinking of everything I love, even down to what flowers are my favorites. You truly honored me as you just let me bask in blessings this weekend. But YOU are worthy women. Virtue is doing the right thing, doing it for the right reason, and doing it consistently as a matter of habit. You are virtuous women and I want to be like you when I grow up. Soldier on!

I need to grow up fast because…did I mention that  I am going to be a grandmother?

Here’s the poem from this retreat. I want to be sure you know that the tough things about  being a preacher’s wife are NOT things that happen at West Huntsville. I’m blessed beyond measure to be among women (and men) at WH who are far better to me than I deserve!

 

Married Life in the Fishbowl

Before I walked down the aisle that day
I really had a life;
But when they threw the rice at me
I was the preacher’s wife.

Oh…I was all set to be married.
I could cook and clean and sew.
I knew I wanted this husband.
It was this “preaching” stuff I didn’t know.

Suddenly it mattered—
With whom I went to the mall,
Who I phoned last Monday
And who I failed to call.

When I didn’t see or speak to you,
You thought that I was haughty.
And that red dress that I used to love
Suddenly seemed gaudy.

When I sit in the front
They say “ She loves to parade.”
In the back, I’m aloof.
“What a statement she made!”

So I sit in the middle
“She keeps moving around.
Where is that preacher’s wife?
She can never be found!”

Amazing how I morphed
In that chapel that short while!
Before, I was anonymous,
And now, my life is wild!

I figured out real quickly
That I had big shoes to fill.
And so I put on very thick socks,
But I got blisters still.

“She’s too strict on her children.
She won’t give them any space.”
Or “She’s way too permissive.”
Now which is the actual case?

My kids should be perfect
For now and for life.
Expectations are high
If your mom’s the preacher’s wife.

I just don’t compare
To the last wife of the preacher.
She could decorate, recreate
And, my, what a teacher!

In fact, in her shadow, I’m hidden
And my talents are so very small.
I am so busy now with my young children
That I barely have any time at all.

My marriage is needing attention
I’m  praying that  it will improve.
But could we dare go to anyone for counseling?
I think I’d be packing to move!

And another thing… I have no friends here.
I can’t tell a soul of my woe.
If I speak of church problems and issues.
The church hurts and then problems grow.

And everyone seems to be kin here
In this very old congregation.
That is, except for my husband and me.
Why, we’ve not a single relation!

Well, of course, there is my brother.
I mean the Christ of the cross.
You know, the brother who loved me enough
To give his life when I was lost.

Oh, and then there’s my Father.
As an orphan He took me in.
Fed me and clothed me…adopted me
And saved my soul from its sin.

And then He gave me this family;
Not perfect– just rescued, like me.
Just spiritual orphans whose lives, like my own,
Were longing from sin to be free.

And once in this family, he blessed me again
With this man…a Christian, a preacher.
Not perfect again, but He’s God’s man
A man of the Word, he’s a teacher.

And my father then told me to love Him…
Phileo—The love of a friend.
So when I’m in search of that good friend,
Maybe I should be looking within.

And just who am I to be scornful
Of this family God’s given me…
When without these spiritual relations
I’d be lost for all eternity?

Help me, Lord, just to get a perspective.
To stop whining and seeing the gloom.
To look at world through the cross, Lord
And in my heart, let me make room.

For opportunities you’ve put before me
For the person with needs in her life.
For the man who’s depending on me, Lord,
For gifts that only come from a wife.

Make challenges help me to grow, Lord,
And burdens to make me be strong.
When people are critical, Oh God,
Help me to correct what is wrong.

And then help me to let it go, Father,
Just doing the best that I can.
Just being what You think I should be…
The helper for this godly man.

Send me reasons to believe that this space is
The most blessed position for me.
Show me even in life’s darkest places
Chances to shine, Lord, for thee.

Let me never again say it’s hard, Lord
To be stuck in this work for my life.
I want to be stuck in this place Lord.
With this wonderful name “preacher’s wife”!

CCSig

Apron Strings

DSC_0008Apron Strings

Her apron was meant for protection
From a spatter, a splash or a stain
The things that could make her best Sunday dress
Unwearable…ever again.

But when they were on her old apron
She could give them a really good scrubbing
And that old apron was no worse for the wear,
No matter the washing and rubbing.

Aprons were also a blanket
For the baby she held at her breast.
When the apron was wrapped snug around him
Secure in her song. He could rest.

Its pockets were all about keeping.
A tissue, a receipt, a safety pin,
The Baby’s pacifier, a toggle toy tire,
A ribbon, the address of a friend.

And aprons were also for tugging.
For toddlers who wished she would hold them
She decided the clothes would just have to wait…
Till the holding was done. Then she’d fold them.

Aprons were also for wiping.
Noses, counter tops or damp platters.
Aprons were tied to the heart of her life
To each part of Grandmother that mattered.

That old apron hangs in my kitchen now
And it still teaches lessons I need:
The importance of being unspotted.
The security His children need.

The things that are really worth keeping,
The fondest and best things in life
Are still tied to the strings of the apron
In the jobs of a mother and wife.

CCSig

Sister to Sister: Friends to the End

friends-holding-hands

Friends to the End

We’d walk to the corner together,
Eat M&M’s and wait for the bus.
I remember she’d always stick up for me
When Tad Smith would make fun of us.

We played for the Rascals together.
She knew how to clean up the bases.
She pitched. I was catcher. We had secret signals.
I’d laugh when she made silly faces.

We’d share a shake in the food court
When her mom drove us to the mall.
We’d pretend not to notice the boys when they passed;
By now Tad was not bad at all.

I was better with numbers,
We’d painstakingly work each equation.
She grabbed me and hugged me, then straightened my cap
When we lined up for our graduation.

So many memories of glad times;
So warm was the laughter and fun.
Where did the years go when we left that place?
How could our lives here be done?

We went to the judgment together,
Once more we were standing in line.
I had one more chance to look into the face
Of this wonderful old friend of mine.

It spoke of the bus stop, the ball field, the school;
Of math class, the mall, and the show.
In all of these times I never had told her
Of this one final place we would go.

Just one more day at the bus stop,
Or shopping and sharing a shake;
Just one more test for eleventh grade trig;
One more, that’s all it would take.

I’d be sure this time not to miss them;
Those everyday chances to show
The Christ of the cross, His hope for the lost,
This time I would tell her I know.

But there’s no going back. It’s all over.
A whispered “goodbye,” and it’s severed;
A friendship so strong, yet it ended so wrong.
It’s all over forever and ever.

Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: When You are Crunching Acorns

Acorns_fallingIn the past few days, I have gone to a retreat without the required bedding, towels and soap, I have face-planted in front of an audience that was gathered around a campfire, I have discovered a double-booked Saturday just a few days before I was supposed to be speaking in two places, I have had a wicked stomach virus, and I’ve traveled several hundred miles alone and spent multiple hours in doctors offices and waiting rooms. I’ve canceled a couple of trips so that I could make different trips that were more urgent on that particular day. In short, my course–the regularity of planned events–has been altered many times.

Have you ever thought about the fact that God never says “Uh-oh!”? He never changes his plans because things aren’t working the way He wants them to. We serve a God Who always follows through. This time of year, when you find yourself crunching acorns beneath your shoes, driving through colorful foliage or running back into the house to get that coat you haven’t worn since last March, remember He is a God upon Whom you can count. He is faithful. He delivers. Nature obeys Him—the winds and the waves, the faithful ocean tides, the stars in their courses, gestational life, seedtime and harvest. The hosts of heavenly angels are situated even now at His command. All of life obeys God.

But you and I have a choice. Sometimes I wish I did not. After all, if I did not have the choice, I would be like the birds flying south or the squirrel gathering acorns. I would always be doing His Holy Will. But it’s only in the choice that He can find in me devotion, appreciation and submission. He has given me the freedom to love Him in return…or not. And, when I choose to love Him, my indestructible connection between heaven and earth takes its shape. I am the only one who can burn the bridge that spans the gulf between the Faithful God and the vulnerable woman I am.

I’m in verse 39 of Romans 8. Dark nights and storms and mean people and serpents and terrorists and surprise situations are there, too. But I am the inseparable. They are just the unable.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39).

Seasons of the Heart

When the crimson leaves have fallen
And cool winds breathe a sigh,
I stop beneath a barren oak
And wistfully think, “Why?”

Why must flowers lose their blooms?
Where goes the butterfly?
Why does autumn bear this chill?
Where do the birds go and why?

The squirrels don’t forget to find acorns.
The fields never fail to turn gold.
The mice find my barn for the winter,
And I’ve turned another year old.

Every appointment of nature
Is met with the greatest detail.
How can all heaven and earth do His will
And I, in His own image, fail?

If I could, like stars in their courses,
Or that gold harvest moon in the night,
Follow the course He has charted
And change when He thought it was right;

If I had no fear of tomorrow;
If I trusted in God’s wisdom more,
Like the squirrel I’d be ready for winter;
Like the bird flying south, I could soar.

The heavens and earth shout His glory.
The sky is the work of His hand
I, too, have a place in my God’s world.
I, too, must attend His command.

Seedtime and harvest, death before life;
In His good time may I take my place
As the whole world gives way and all nature obeys,
In the seasons, may I see His face.

CCSig

Sister to Sister: Polishing the Pulpit 2013

(Don’t forget the live stream from PTP. Tuesday at 2:30 EST)

Cups are overflowing in Sevierville, TN this week as Polishing the Pulpit is well underway. I sat on the front row of a ginormous auditorium tonight and sang “I am Resolved” after hearing a wonderful lesson entitled “Why I Love the Church of Christ.” It’s true. I am resolved. I am resolved to seek more holiness through my days, to win more souls for Him, to be closer to my sisters in Jesus and to be more like Him in my home. I am resolved. Being with over 3000 people who are strengthening their resolves to walk in His ways is the foretaste of heaven that makes the final destination more real and more motivating than it has ever been before. I really want to go there. Sitting there on the front row flanked by my children on each side, my son-in-law and nieces on down the row and listening to my husband preach, I felt like I was almost there. “Almost heaven” is really not West Virginia at all. It’s PTP!

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I really want to have the devil firmly and finally banished from my world on one glad morning. Spending some time with members of my family in the Lord who are suffering great pain, remorse, fear and sorrow this week has made my hatred for the devil increase. I just want to be done with Him. The excruciating and debilitating emotional pain that sin brings in the lives of people is a second great motivator for me to keep living and teaching His will every day and in every venue afforded.

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One lady I spoke with tonight is from Michigan. She expressed this: “I have never been in a place where there was so much needed teaching on such a variety of subjects. I feel kind of like my spirit is just in shock. I feel kind of spiritually overwhelmed in a good way. My emotions are just brimming!”

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On Tuesday at 2:30 EST/1:30 CST, the Digging Deep Podcast will be brought to you live from Polishing the Pulpit. I hope you can join us! We will congratulate those who are here live with us and have completed the Sanctification study in its entirety. We will introduce the new study for 2013-2014 and show you where to find it online, so that you may begin the new study with us in September. I am more than a little excited about this. I hope you can join us! His providence in this fellowship and study continues to bless so many. To Him be all the glory.

Here are the words on a bookmark that was distributed in our ladies session today. The session was called “Blockbuster Passages about Sanctification.”

Sometimes Sanctification Means…

Refusing popularity…
Choosing persecution…like Elijah.
Refusing peace…
Choosing confrontation…like Joshua.
Refusing riches…
Choosing less…like Moses.
Refusing rest…
Choosing struggle…like Caleb.
Refusing acclimation…
Choosing anonymity…like the woman of Shunem.
Refusing anonymity…
Choosing leadership…like the three Hebrews.
Refusing leadership…
Choosing submission…like Sarah.
Refusing exaltation…
Choosing humility…like Paul.
Refusing the best…
Choosing what’s left…like Abraham.
Refusing to fight…
Choosing to lie down…like Isaac.
Refusing to break…
Choosing to build…like Jochebed.
Refusing to obey…
Choosing to pray…like Daniel.
Refusing to remain…
Choosing to change…like Zaccheus.
Refusing the devil…
Choosing the Lord..like Job.
Refusing ruin…
Choosing restoration…like Ezra.
Refusing security…
Choosing risk…like Esther.
Refusing discouragement…
Choosing perseverance…like Nehemiah.
Refusing to stay silent
Choosing to speak…like Peter.
Refusing the easy way out…
Choosing the cross…like Jesus.
C. Colley