Some mothers leave their children a chest bursting with homemade quilts. Others pass down jewelry, or that famous recipe for fried chicken (or whatever). My mother has passed down a godly testimony, and it is worth more to me than all the quilts, jewels, or fried chicken that the world has to offer. She has consistently (no, not perfectly, but faithfully) turned to the Word of God for her strength. She has applied its principles and claimed its promises. She is also an award-winning educator who strives to make everything relatable. Thankfully, she has not just used her talents in the pubic school classroom, but also in our home.

When I had my first baby in 1999, my world was turned upside down. I thought I was prepared, but I wasn’t. Motherhood demanded more of me than I thought I could give. I didn’t know it then, but later I learned that I was also dealing with postpartum depression (PPD). Becoming a mom is amazing and wonderful, but also life changing, even without PPD. I felt like I was drowning. Terry got his first ministry job in a church in West Virginia, so we had moved 950 miles away when I was seven months pregnant. When my daughter was born, I dealt with fear and panic. I called my mom in Arkansas almost daily. She offered a sentence that I immediately clung to back then, and have continued to use as an anchor ever since. It was simply this, “Valerie, focus on getting through the first day, the first week, and the first month.” She said, “Look! You’ve made it through the first day! That’s one you can mark off now! It’s only two days till you can cross off the first week! By the end of the month, everything will look so much better.” Her perspective made my life manageable, and it has been priceless.

I’ve dealt with many changes since that “first day, first week, first month” in 1999. I had four more children, and with each one, my prayer, my “mantra,” was “God please help me get through the first day, first week, first month.” He always did. For each of our moves to new places, that sentence has been in forefront of my mind: first day, first week, first month. When I started college at age 42, I was completely overwhelmed, but I celebrated the first day, the first week, the first month.

Yesterday, I gave a condensed update on our lives now – we just moved 1,200 miles to Northern Michigan! We are in a temporary house while we await the closing of our home here, so another move is in my future. My current situation is that I don’t know where I am most of the time, or even where I put the scissors after I opened that last box. I can’t find the checkbook. I’m dreading the winter. And I sound like a hillbilly up here. My mind is filled with questions and insecurities, things that could easily cause me to fret and even panic. But I know that God is capable of seeing me through the first day, first week, first month – and beyond.

And guess what? Today, we have lived here an entire week! I feel better already.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Recently, my family and I just moved 1,200 miles! We left our home of eight years in a mid-sized city in southwest Oklahoma and moved to a small town in Northern Michigan. I would love to tell you the entire story from start to finish. A tale that began about two years ago in a seemingly insignificant way, when something small happened. Something I didn’t even think was a big deal. That issue festered and grew and became a full-blown problem last February. The situation was fraught with sorrow for me. I shed a lot of tears, including during a church service. As I sat in my pew, thinking of what great ruin that “little foxes” (as King Solomon put it in Song of Solomon 2:15) caused, the tears fell down my cheeks in sheets. I stared at my husband while he preached and mouthed to him, “I’m sorry” (for crying like baby in front of the church). Everyone was staring, including my kids. Thankfully, that only happened once in public. The private tears and private pleadings with God would continue as the situation only worsened in March, April, and May.

Then, God brought about great change in our lives when my husband began the interview process with a church in northern Michigan.

We put our house in Oklahoma on the market in June, but had no idea where God was moving us at that time. My prayer was literally, “Lord, we don’t know what to do. Your word says to acknowledge you in all our ways, and you will direct our paths (Prov. 3:6), so I’m asking you not to sell this house if we should stay, or to sell it if you want us to go. And if it sells, let it at least cover our mortgage and costs.” I remember signing the contract to sell the house at our kitchen table and thinking, “I hope we don’t go homeless.” and then, “That’s silly, God won’t leave me homeless. But does God promise to house stupid people? Because this could be the most stupid thing we’ve ever done.” But, sign the contract we did, and eleven days later, we had four offers on our house on the same day. We accepted one of the offers, still with no idea what we were doing or where we were going. Our closing date was set at August 19.

Terry began the interview process with Faith Baptist Church in northern Michigan in April. After a few weeks, that process petered out as they decided that Terry was not the man for them. Terry had not said much to me about this church, so when they said “no,” I wasn’t heartbroken. Later, I learned that Terry was very disappointed. But, like always, he takes the “hits” and soldiers on. In late June, we traveled to Wisconsin to meet some folks at a church there. (Our house is on the market, remember, so we had to go somewhere!) Almost immediately after Terry booked the tickets to fly to Wisconsin, Michigan called Terry and said they wanted us again! So we picked up the interview process with them. Terry did a Zoom interview, then the two of us flew up for an in-person interview, then finally, the whole family flew up when Terry preached for a vote from the people to be their new pastor. He got the vote and accepted the pastorate on August 1! Now, we at least had a job, but what about a home? During our five day visit to Michigan as a family, we looked at two houses on the market in our price range. One needed thousands of dollars in work, so that meant we would try to get the other one! After Terry got voted in, we made an offer. I’ll be honest – I fully expected the seller NOT to accept our offer, even though we offered more than the asking price. Homes here (and everywhere) are selling fast, and there are people with deeper pockets than we have. I told our realtor that if this isn’t the house, then God will provide something else. (And, to my own amazement, I believed myself.) On our last day in Michigan before we went home to pack, we got a text from our realtor while we were shopping at Mackinaw Outfitters that the seller accepted our offer! Terry and I hugged in the middle of the store and nearly shed tears of joy and praise to God. We flew home and began packing. The plan would be to move to Michigan around the time of our closing date, August 19, whether we had a home in Michigan or not. Now that we did have a home, the closing date was well past the time we’d have to be out of our Oklahoma home. We planned to just move into the two bedroom parsonage until God put us where we needed to be.

On August 8, 2021, Terry gave a touching resignation from the church we had given eight years of our lives. August 15 was his last Sunday there. Our Oklahoma church had walked with us through tremendous personal heartache, and we had walked with them through funerals, illness, a pandemic, and a plethora of other joys and sorrows. We had planned to be there forever, but God had other plans for all of us. So many things happened that I would have never expected in a million years. In the book of Job, God uses the Sabeans to attack Job’s family and property. God ordained this evil in Job’s life to fulfill a purpose. Joseph’s life is another example of God using evil for good. He still does this today. Any “evil” that may have happened in our lives was all for our good and God’s glory. That truth brings me peace as I try to unpack, find my way around, and adjust to a whole new life in a whole new part of the country. I find joy in knowing that God works through people, and I’m so grateful for the people in both Oklahoma and in Michigan.

I’m writing this from our temporary home in Michigan. We packed up our home in two trucks on August 17-18. A man from our new church flew into Oklahoma and drove one truck to Michigan. Terry drove the other truck which also pulled our second vehicle. I drove the myself and the kids in our Dodge van. We stopped in Tulsa to see our firstborn and have one last meal together before the move, then we visited Terry’s grandma in Mattoon, Illinois, and then made the last leg of the trip into Michigan. We didn’t have any help loading our trucks, but when we arrived in Michigan, there were around 12 or so smiling faces ready to help us unload! And they had already unloaded the first truck for us! Since then, people have brought food, flowers, eggs, and money for pizza. I am overwhelmed with fatigue and gratefulness! Thanks to their kindness, I’ve had time to recover from the physical strain of packing and driving eighteen hours, and to do other important things like ride my bike on the “rails to trails” and write this blog post. Thank you, Faith Baptist, for all you have done for me and my family.

We’ve been here almost a week and have accomplished a great deal. The kids are all enrolled in school, we have a bank account, and Leslie is on the volleyball team. Okay, maybe we haven’t gotten a lot done, but it’s a start.

Lord willing, we will do more, so stay tuned for more of our Michigan adventures. 🙂

With love,

I’ve been a born-again child of God for almost 28 years. I was saved when I was fifteen years old and since, then, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Therefore, in the intervening years, I’ve also had to make a lot of apologies to both fellow-Christians and non-Christians alike. Interestingly, I have had a 100% forgiveness rate from the non-Christian population. When I have done someone wrong at work or elsewhere, and I’ve apologized, they have said, “It’s ok,” and treated me with kindness.

In the church, or the Christian world, it’s another story. I have about a 90% success rate on receiving forgiveness there. Why is that? Shouldn’t Christians immediately forgive, since they are aware more than anyone of their own sin-riddled condition? They have experienced eternal salvation by the sinless Son of God! They should revel in that blessing and desire to shine that light to everyone, they should understand mercy, patience, self-control, the struggle between what one wants to do, and what one should do (Romans 7), yet, when I have apologized, they have stared at me and walked away. Or they have never replied to my written apologies. I do not know why this has been the case.

I do know that all I can do is apologize. I’m not perfect. I can’t live a perfect life. No one can.

I also know Christ has forgiven me, and He continues to be not just generous with His forgiveness, but philanthropic with it! He will never, ever stop forgiving me. God is the One I will face in Heaven someday, He is the only One who can judge me, and He has judged me as righteous because of His Son, Jesus.

I also know that I can forgive others. As far as I know, I have a 100% forgiveness rate myself. If anyone has ever come to me and apologized for hurting me, I have forgiven them. Granted, there have been times I have been hurt and that person has never said they are sorry about it. But I try not to remember those hurts and I strive to move forward in love and kindness regardless. If they ever do desire my forgiveness, I’m ready to give it.

I don’t understand why Christians don’t forgive. It’s a mystery! I just know that I don’t want to be that kind of Christian.

I’ve been thinking about Arkansas a lot lately, my home state. I really just want to go “home,” but then I thought, where would that be, exactly? I grew up in Hot Springs and Benton (not Bentonville, that’s where Walmart is, Benton is near Little Rock), but it’s been many years since I have had an actual address in either city. I have lived in Kansas, Texas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma, as well, and I like things about all of those places. And, though I do still call my parents’ house “home,” it’s not really home now. I know that if I could pack up my family and take over my mom’s house, it wouldn’t be the same. Dad is in Heaven, my siblings, Kevin and Melanie, don’t regularly visit, and my mom has redecorated the whole place in the intervening years. Not only that, if I do move “home” I will find problems exist there, too. I will still have bills and will still get sick. Maybe I want to just rewind time, and be twelve again? No. Scratch that. Those years were hard, too.

I guess the home I really long for is Heaven. Seeing my Savior face-to-face, singing His praises, being free from pain, tears, and the horrible, nasty word “goodbye.” I wonder if I will be able to hug the Lord when I get to Heaven? I know I will be able to worship at His feet. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to arriving at that home. Not that I have a death wish, but I am ready. I know I still have so much to do, but I am also genuinely tired. Like Paul, I can feel the constant warring of my carnal desires against what the Holy Spirit wants me to do and I feel like I’m always doing the wrong thing (Romans 7:18-19).

As you can imagine, this line of thinking led me into a depressed state. When I ponder how wrong I am, how wrong I will continue to be, and how futile this whole life feels sometimes, well it’s a drag. Then I thought again about home, in particular, Hot Springs, my birthplace. Hot Springs was the first national park, because the it was the first “federal government land reservation set aside for public use, a status achieved on April 20, 1832, when President Andrew Jackson signed the legislation to protect forty-seven hot springs on the slope of Hot Springs Mountain” (Encyclopedia of Arkansas). The water that flows from the springs is about 140°F, and it doesn’t matter whether the air temperature is 104°F or – 4°F, the water stays hot. In both summer and winter, you can see the steam rising. Anytime of year, it’s a sauna (pun intended, feel free to visit any number of spas on Bathhouse Row). No matter what the circumstances are around the springs, two things always happen: the water is always flowing, and it is always hot.

That is what God is for me. He is always faithful, always present through the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ is always interceding on my behalf. His salvation is complete, the work is done, and Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. It is permanent. If I continue to feel depressed, my salvation is secure. If I am happy, my salvation is secure. If I am lazy, my salvation is secure. No matter what, I cannot lose Christ.

One day, the hot springs and the entire world will be no more, but even then, my salvation is secure.

Mom was featured in the newspaper for winning Teacher of the Year in 1985.

When my dad suddenly lost his job at fifty-two years of age (his boss needed a place for his nephew), Dad just took it as part of God’s plan for his life. He wasn’t sure where the mortgage, college tuition for my sister, or car payments would come from, but with weak faith he humbly prayed, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” God heard and answered that prayer.

A few months after this loss, my mom received a call from her former boss, the elementary principal at her former school. He had just been hired as the new superintendent of the district, and wanted mom to be the elementary principal. However, Mom was not certified to take this position. “The state of Arkansas allows you two years to be on the job while you’re gaining your certification,” he said in his beautiful Arkansas accent. Mom was doubtful, nervous, but open to what God had for her. It seemed to be God’s will; He was opening a door. My dad had lost his job, and now my mom was about to receive a tremendous promotion. After prayer and discussion, she accepted the job and began working on her principal’s certification that summer at the University of Central Arkansas. I have fond memories of helping her study after dinner. I made it my goal to make her laugh at least once in each study session.

It didn’t take long for word to get out that the school board had hired a principal who hadn’t yet met the standards for the job. Sure, she was an award-winning teacher in that very district, was beloved by every student (and their parents) who had the tremendous blessing of finding their names on her roster, and obviously, the leadership trusted her – but so what? She didn’t have her principal’s certification. Sure, Arkansas’ law had spoken, my mom was completely legal, but this wasn’t enough for “Mrs. Donahue.” (Name changed to protect her privacy.) Mrs. Donahue was wealthy, and her children were brilliant. She demanded a better leader for the elementary school. She got her cronies involved, and they, too, demanded it. They bombarded the local newspaper with editorials expressing their outrage. (Mom purposely chose not to read a single one.) They protested her hiring at a special school board meeting. Mom attended, with a support group of her own, though I’m sure it seemed to dwarf the opposition’s. Her boss, the new superintendent, came to the table, opened his briefcase and pulled out his Bible, laying it in plain sight for all to see. Mom was scared. She had been scared in the days leading up to this, but she showed up, her faith firmly planted in the One who rules all things. She won. The school board voted to let her stay. Thus began nine of the toughest years of her life. She was principal, Title I coordinator, food services director, football game gate-keeper, and so. much. more. (Hats off to all school administrators!)

After she got the job, one of her first acts was to meet with Mrs. Donahue and show that she was there to serve all the students in the school, yes, even those who wrote angry editorials about her. Mom was practically shaking as she sat in her half-unpacked office, pen suspended over a blank notebook, ready to write down dozens of suggestions, complaints, and ideas from someone who was against her. But Mrs. Donahue wasn’t so bad, after all. Mom’s warmth, love for children (and the Lord), shone brightly, and Mrs. Donahue left mom’s office as a friend, not a foe. Mom leaned back, praised the Lord, and breathed a huge sigh of relief. When the meeting was over, she glanced at the notebook: she had written down nothing. Mrs. Donahue left, saying how she had never felt that an administrator had cared more for her than my mom.

What was the secret of this victory? It wasn’t that mom had prepared perfect remarks, or that she was smarter or wiser than anyone else. It was prayer and dependence on God’s Word.

I was about thirteen years old when these events occurred. I had no idea how God would use them in my life. I was an eye-witness to my mother’s agony, but also her faith. Behind the scenes, I heard her talk about this drama. I heard her pray about it at every meal in which we were together. I heard her say, “God has given me what I need! It’s Proverbs 16:7, ‘When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ I must concentrate on doing right, on striving to please the Lord, and not worry about the rest.” This passage was her song, her thought, and her prayer in the days leading up to the school board vote. It remained her go-to passage in the years to come. She completed her certification early, and served there for almost a decade. Her farewell party was epic, all themed around The Andy Griffith Show (Mom’s favorite!). Dad was there, her fellow teachers and retired ones, too, who were more than just faculty and staff, they were her friends, they were her inspiration to keep going. In her farewell speech, she honored them. “I came to work with a cold,” she said, “you came to work with cancer.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

You might think I want to credit my mom with this astounding turn-around, and I do insofar as to say that she simply did what all Christians should do when their back is against the wall: Ask yourself if you are doing what you can to please the Lord, trust the Lord to help you please Him, and take another step of faith. She did what the Psalmist did in Psalm 118:5, “I called upon the LORD in my distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.”

I’m not sure what enemy you’re facing today, but the Lord knows, and He is ready and able to see you through. Win or lose, I can promise you that it will be for your good and His glory.

When I was twelve years old, my dad lost the job he’d had for over twenty years. He was 52 years old. He was a nervous guy, and I inherited that trait from him. During those days, he worked on claiming the promises of scripture. He kept Isaiah 41:10 on a 3×5 card in his shirt pocket, from where he would regularly withdraw it, read it, and then try to say it without looking. He also kept that same verse taped to his bathroom mirror. I can still see his distinct scrawl as it stared back at me when I do the weekly cleaning:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

He died suddenly in 2004 when I was only 26, but he did not waste those years. He didn’t know it, but he was preparing me for a multitude of sunless days. His testimony of constant toil, enduring love, and endless dependence upon Scripture has carried me through my life. The memories of his laugh, his trumpet playing (“Reveille”, anyone?), and his boyish orneriness still bring a smile to my face.

I remember how he had to start over with a new career. He began selling life insurance at 52 years old. I saw him study for the tests that insurance people have to pass. I saw his nerves, and then I saw that 3×5 card. I saw him fail at finding success in that career, pivot from that disappointment, and begin school for small engine repair at age 60. I saw him achieve his dream of working with his hands, getting all greasy and grimy, smiling from ear to ear! He could have quit, he wanted to quit, but he didn’t quit.

In 1958, when my dad was only 21 years old, he lost his dad suddenly to a heart attack. My grandmother Courtney, who was 50 found herself without an income. She started college at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway to become a teacher. To supplement her income in college, she worked in the evenings at a school for mentally disabled children. Part of her job was to clean the very tall windows of the building. This was hard work. But my dad was there – he showed up after his own job and cleaned them for her.

But that’s not all. My mother’s family is just as tenacious. My grandmother had her sixth child when she was 42 – that’s how old I am! That youngest child, my Uncle Gary, fell sixteen feet from a scaffold while building a barn on the family farm. He lost the use of his legs from the fall when he was in his twenties. In the hospital, the nurses came to him to say that the occupational therapist would be coming by to explain what careers were available for a paraplegic. He looked at her incredulously and said, “I’m farming!” And that’s what he’s done for over forty years. He’s used his upper body strength to climb a rope to get into the combine. He’s been stranded for hours in the rain, heat or cold when his tractor broke down or got stuck in the mud – in the days before cell phones! He has overcome physical obstacles that I cannot comprehend.

If Dad, Grandmother Courtney, Grandmother Leonard, and Uncle Gary didn’t quit, how can I? God saw them through tremendous challenges and heartaches. And God has not changed.

I am about to embark on a new and difficult journey: I’m 42 years old, and I’m a college freshman. I just completed my first classes this summer.I am majoring in Social Studies Education and I hope to find a job teaching after graduation.

Before you offer your concerned words of warning, don’t worry, I know it will be difficult. I know that working in public schools can be frustrating. My own mother was an elementary education teacher, a special ed teacher, and an elementary principal for my entire upbringing. She was “Arkansas Young Educator of Year” in the beginning of her career, and only soared to greater heights from there in the world of education.  I watched her put in countless hours, write lesson plans (or IEPs), and deal with parents. As a principal, I watched her juggle schedules, plan school lunch menus, look for substitute teachers (that could take a long time some mornings!), attend school board meetings, discipline students, go to band concerts after a long day, and so much more. I have a lot to live up to when it comes to following in her footsteps. I have learned from her that the best way to teach is to view it as a ministry, not a job. Teaching was her ministry, and she glorified God in a magnificent way through her service. What a blessing to have her counsel and support as I start down this road. What a joy to have a mother standing on the sidelines, cheering me on!

I’m so thankful that in my darkest hours, I have been held up by these men and women, whose ordinary lives had an extraordinary impact upon my own. When I am ready to give up, I need only to look to these true heroes that I knew quite well: Grandmother Courtney, Grandmother Leonard, Uncle Gary, and Mom and Dad. I know I will feel alone on this journey – I already have! But I am not alone. I have the Lord, and I have these courageous individuals who have gone on before me and blazed the trail. They have left breadcrumbs of encouragement on that trail. Their words echo down through their lives, “Don’t quit.” In a voice that sounds just like my dad’s, I hear, “You can do it, partner.” And then I see him pull out that marvelous 3×5 card: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee…”

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