gratitude

Back to reality

There are times when I beat myself up as a mom. Then there are little moments of reward. Moments when my daughter lauds my motherhood skills, my spirit soars, and I believe I’ve finally got this.

That’s just before my paper airplane wings bend, and I crash into the coffee-stained carpet in her bedroom floor.

pexels-photo-101523

Last night when I put Maggie to bed, I watched her falling asleep. I imagined myself as Grandma Moses, tracing the lines of my precious baby’s face, fingers, and hair as slowly as possible, an ant in the Sahara. I wanted to remember her beauty forever. I didn’t want to think about kindergarten in the fall. I didn’t want to see her size five pants turning into capris.

She opened her eyes suddenly and smiled at me. I prayed aloud and said, “Thank you, God, for the best baby in the world.”

“Thank you, God, for the best mama in the world.”

My heart soared.

“Thank you, poop. Poop. Butt juice.”

Ah. There it is. Back to reality.

The great thing about being a mom is the constant snap back to reality—back to humility. There is really no way to remain in the clouds as a parent unless you refuse to spend any real time with your child. Maybe I could carry a black and white photograph around, displaying it for my friends, and only spend five minutes per week with my daughter? That might help me believe she’s some perfect little creature. Maybe.

But the reality is, I live with her. I see it all–the beautiful, breathless moments when I’m enraptured by the miracle of her life. The poop, butt juice, and snot, too. Children keep us humble. They remind us of the most obnoxious, humiliating, disgusting, human aspects of our lives on a regular basis. They also push all our defective buttons daily. They give us a chance to work the positive opposites of our character defects. Children show us the best and worst of ourselves. They also allow us second chances, over and over again, as they extend forgiveness to us even when we fail them–every day.

Thank you, God, for keeping me humble and teachable through my relationship with my child.

gratitude

Being a mom: it’s hard, y’all

Today’s post is the first in what I hope to be a series of post by friends and guest contibutors on the topic of Mother’s Day and all things related. Big thanks to my guest writer today, blogger and former Arkansan Kambri Davidson, who now lives a more glamorous life with her husband Drew in New Orleans. Be sure to check out Kambri’s blog or follow her on Instagram @kambridavidson & @kambris_closet. 

NKL5I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I’ve always daydreamed about holding babies, having toddlers running through my house, and hearing tiny mouths call me “Mom.” Now that I’m old enough and am in a position where children are actually a possibility for my husband and me, I’m absolutely terrified of raising children. I think a lot of people think being a mom is a lot easier than it actually is. I know I used to. My mom makes it look easy, but man, sometimes I don’t know how she does it.

NKL1Between my sister and me, my mom has had her hands beyond full. I went through a period when I never wanted to be around my mom. I was rude to her, ignored her, and used her only when I needed money or wanted her to buy me something. I honestly cannot imagine how badly I must have hurt her. Kids are mean. I was mean. And yet she still wanted to be my friend. She still loved me and cared for me.

NKL8A couple of years ago, my sister was having a really rough time. She was in an abusive relationship, an alcoholic, a heavy smoker, doing drugs, and wanted nothing to do with my mom, my dad, or me. I can remember where I was every time I got a phone call from one of my parents telling me that my sister was back in the hospital for overdosing. My feelings, these wounds she was creating, would callous and callous until I wanted nothing to do with her. I loved her, yes, but I hated everything she was doing and didn’t want her to communicate with me at all. I built up so much anger against her. My parents didn’t. My parents loved her, were there for her, forgave her, welcomed her, and encouraged her to get better.

3328I’m not telling you any of this to scare you. I’m telling you so you know a few of the obstacles my mom has had to put up with over the past 26 years. Regardless of the situation in front of her, she asks God for help. She leans on Him. She is kind, even when people are unkind to her. She listens, even when you don’t want to talk. She supports whatever decisions my sister and I make. THAT is why we love celebrating Mother’s Day; to celebrate my mom, Karen Grace Campbell, for every moment she has been there for her daughters, for showing us what a mother should be like.

NKL3So, happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!

PS: My sister is now married to the love of her life and has been sober for over TWO YEARS! Jesus is good, y’all! Oh, also, I am no longer a jerk. My mom, my sister, and me are all BFF’s now!

gratitude

Day 28: Happy Thanksgiving!

*I’m thankful today for my pastor, Paul Seay, who wrote Day 28’s post for the Dear Gratitude project.*

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”—Philippians 4:6 NRSV

Dear Readers,

Pastor Paul at my daughter's christening, March 2013
Pastor Paul at my daughter’s christening, March 2013

I don’t know why I am a reluctant blog writer, but for whatever reason, it is difficult for me to take the time to write what’s on my mind.  I do have my own blog, “Circuit Writing,” but I write more for “Daily Dose of Gratitude” than I do my own.  I think it’s because Bethany gives me a deadline that I have to meet.

Since my assignment is for Thanksgiving Day, I have had the opportunity to read many of your ‘thank you’ letters here and have been reminded of things for which I am thankful.  So thank you, dear readers, for opening your hearts and sharing a little about your lives with us.

Paul Seay and his wife, Rebecca, at the River Jordan
Paul Seay and his wife, Rebecca, at the River Jordan

First of all, I want to thank my wife, Rebecca.  When we married she didn’t realize that being the wife of a United Methodist pastor was going to be in the cards, but she has supported my ministry in more ways than most people realize.  I certainly have not been the perfect husband, but I try to do better every day.  She has forgiven me more than seventy times (or seventy times seven as the King James Version reads), and I am grateful for that.  Earl Thomas Conley and Emmylou Harris sang a song, “We Believe in Happy Endings,” and I think that is how Becca and I believe about our marriage and our life together.  Our children, Ed and Jeff Seay and Allison and Jeff Chandler are special also.  I am proud of the success they have had in their lives and in the ways that they have helped others.

Most of all, I am thankful for God’s Grace.  Without His Grace it would have been impossible for me to be doing what I do today.  I was called to ministry as a teenager, but ran from my call for nearly 30 years before giving up on myself and allowing God to be God.  There were many times that He could have given up on me but our God is a loving and forgiving God who allows us to make mistakes, to fail, and to even turn our back on Him.  But as the Apostle Peter discovered as he was trying to walk on water and began to sink, all he had to do was cry out, “Lord, save me!” In our desperation, God is always there, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to reach out and pull us from the deep.

Harold Bales, a retired United Methodist pastor in North Carolina writes a “Daily Nugget” that I read on Facebook each day.  This past Sunday he wrote, “Every person is a preacher of one sort or another.  How we are observed living is the most genuine indicator of the gospel we embrace.  This isn’t only true of clergy.  It is true of everyone.  Our value systems are always on display.  And Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on these values, give thanks to God for our abundance, and push the reset button on our lifestyles.”

So, Dear Readers, on this Thanksgiving Day as you take a moment to be thankful for the ways you have been blessed.  Be thankful for those who God has put into your path for you to influence, and I pray that you influence them in a good way.

In Christ,

Pastor Paul

 

gratitude

Day 28–The best he could

I’m very thankful to the guest writers who participated in the “28 days of love” project this month. It’s been inspiring to read about the various ways love and gratitude coincide in so many very different people’s lives. I had guest writers lined up every day, but a few people weren’t able to write their posts, and it left me wondering what to do about today’s post, the last of the series.

I have a nice generic piece about gratitude sitting in front of me on my desk that I thought about posting. It’s very well-written , but when I sat down to post it, something gave me pause. It was that same nagging feeling I get when I know something isn’t right or when God is trying to get my attention in that mysterious, silent way of His. So I took my hands off the keyboard, folded them in my lap for a moment, and said a very short prayer.

“God, if there’s something else you want me to write about, let me know right now.”

He answered.

With my dad, probably taken the year my parents got divorced
With my dad, probably taken the year my parents got divorced

“Your dad.”

Then I wished I hadn’t asked.

It’s not easy to write about. It never has been.

Once I attended a poetry workshop at Lyon College by my former professor, Andrea Hollander Budy, and a visiting writer, Peter Abbs, whose beautiful, smooth recitations still echo in my ears when I read his poetry seven years later.

One of our assignments was to write a poem, in similar fashion to one of his, about gifts we’d received from someone significant in our lives. I wrote about my mom and all the ways she’d impacted me. I know the poem hides in the recesses of a maroon binder in the bottom of a storage box in our quilting house next door, but I don’t have the time to find it today. Each stanza begins, “From my mother” and then lists a gift I’ve received from her, namely lessons and principles she has passed on to me.

The last stanza, which has haunted me since writing it, is about my father.

“From my father,

nothing

worth having

or wanting.”

When I read the poem aloud after listening to beautiful odes to wonderful people by the other aspiring poets at the workshop, Peter Abbs had the reaction I always shoot for when writing last lines to poems.

“Hmmmm.”

What heavy words I’d written.

Sadly, they were true.

My father has nine biological children. He is currently raising one of them. The others were raised by their mothers or other generous people without financial support. He was consumed with other things. Drugs, namely.

Favorite softball season ever, with my dad as assistant coach
Favorite softball season ever, with my dad as assistant coach

My father is an addict. His addiction has led him to make countless poor decisions, hurtful decisions, which have cost him his relationships with almost all of his children and most of his grandchildren, not to mention the mothers of his children, his friends, and his other family members. During his periods of sobriety, he is brilliant, hilarious, animated, inspiring, loving, and thoughtful. During the periods when he is ravaged by addiction, he is not.

About five years ago, my father faced legal consequences for his addiction-related actions. He began attending 12-step meetings, and it changed his life. At the same time, I was working the steps in my own 12-step program for family members and loved ones of alcoholics. I reached the point of making a list of people I needed to make amends to. My father fell into the category of “maybe never,” meaning I knew I owed him an amends, but I was not ready yet, and I might never be.

God decided to move my dad up on the list, though. I began to feel that nagging feeling about making amends to my father. I called him on my way home from a meeting one night and managed to choke out the words.

“Dad, I need to make an amends to you. I have hated you my whole life for what you have done and haven’t done for me and my sisters. I hated you for the way you treated my mom. I want you to know I forgive you, and I know you have an addiction, and please let me know if there’s something I can do to make it up to you.”

Silence.

Then words wet with tears came through.

“You don’t need to do anything for me. I owe you an amends.”

So that day, in 2008, we made mutual amends to one another. For the first time in my life, I felt completely at peace with my father. Well into my late 20s, I had no desire to attempt to form some warm and fuzzy father-daughter bond with him. That seemed unrealistic. But I felt good knowing that we’d cleared the air between us, and we occasionally talked on the phone, and it wasn’t as awkward as it had been my whole life. When I said “I love you,” I meant it. I no longer felt forced to say “I love you” to someone who I felt had not demonstrated real love to me.

Things changed. My dad’s addiction got the best of him again. He served a prison sentence. He willingly placed his two youngest children in the care of other people. And the little girl in me felt her head drop in disappointment. It seemed the same old story just picked up where it had left off.

Today, I choose to refrain from contacting my father, and he knows why. But I see things a little differently today than I used to.

In my heart, thanks to my own spiritual growth and work in my recovery program, I’ve written a new closing stanza to that heavy poem.

“From my father,

four sisters and four brothers.

A shining memory of gifts

wrapped in aluminum foil

under a miniature Christmas tree.

A moment of complete

safety on the back of his Harley,

eyes closed, hugging him close

at five years old.

The most fun I’ve ever had

playing softball.

A dozen roses at 29,

the card reading, ‘Daddy loves you.’

From my father,

the best love

he could give

at the time

with what he had.”

The most meaningful bouquet I've ever received
The most meaningful bouquet I’ve ever received

 

gratitude

Day 22–Ur-ine love

*Thanks to my college buddy, Shannon Dickerson, for writing today’s post as part of the 28 days of love project. Check out her personal blog as well.*

little dogToday I had an appointment with the carpet cleaning people.  I came home from school and waited patiently on the representative to come in and provide an estimate and/or clean the carpet.  Finally, the door bell rang.  I looked through the glass and immediately thought, “This must be the owner’s son.  He can’t be more than 18 years old.”  Regardless of his youthful appearance, he came in and began to walk through the house and ask questions about my expectations and concerns with the carpet.  I kindly answered his questions.  He inquired about a “black light inspection”.  I kind of hesitated because of my knowledge of black lights and the fact that they reveal all of your dirty secrets…literally.  I agreed to the inspection after warning him about the reality of finding dog urine in the carpet.  Yes, I know it is gross, but several months ago I had a moment of temporary insanity that you can read about here.

Turning off the lights and walking through the house with his black light, he said, “Is all this from the same dog?”  I immediately wanted to lie and tell him I had no idea because I was really the neighbor instead of the owner.  Humbled, I decided that I should grow up and address the question.  Using my best teacher voice and attitude, I did answer his question with a question of my own. I said, “Why? Looking at the carpet, would you assume otherwise?”  He kindly responded, “Well, most of the urine spots are tiny.  But, over here I found a large spot.”  I cringed and said, “Most of the urine spots sounds like a lot.  Is it really that bad?”  He recognized my look of panic and explained that he didn’t find as many spots as he has seen in some homes.  However, the ones he found were all quarter size and then he found one spot that was more like basketball size.  Immediately putting the pieces of the puzzle together, I kind of grinned.  I and said, “Oh. Well. We, uh, do only have one tiny dog in the house, but we also potty trained a toddler last summer.”  I truly thought the poor kid was going to choke.  I later found out that he is old enough to be married and has a three month old baby girl.  I assume he hasn’t considered the fact that all the urine he has cleaned in houses might not belong to the four-legged animals.  Now he knows what he has to look forward to as well.

I’m sure by now you are wondering how this relates to gratitude.  It eventually does.

While the living area was drying and waiting for the furniture to be returned to the normal position, I was truly challenged as a mother.  All three girls thought it was incredibly awesome to have the couch in the middle of the kitchen/dining floor.  They actually squealed as they sat on the couch by the table and said, “We really get to eat on the couch today?”  They were into everything.  Blake was insistent that I paint her toenails purple and fingernails pink while Taylor was attempting to eat everything she could get into her mouth.  Kennedy was wandering around in a state of hormonal bliss, anticipating her “date” to church within the hour.  The phone rang about 1.4 million times while that sweet little dog barked and scratched at the back door because she was cold and wet.  If you have a child or have ever been within 10 square miles of one, you know the kind of day I was having.  Oh, and to make it all better, this Diet Coke addict was on hour number 48 without caffeine.  It was a conglomeration of unfortunate events.

Finally, it was bed time for the girls.  As Taylor was saying her prayers (after I yelled at her again for stopping in the kitchen for another bite of food), she prayed, “Dear God, thank you for today and all the things you have given me.  Please help me make better choices tomorrow.  I know I did not make good choices today so please, please help me tomorrow…amen.”

big famWow.  I felt like I had been picked up and shaken.  Although it’s not pleasant to think about, or broadcast online, I realized that my life, especially my mothering, is a lot like our nasty carpet.  On the surface it appears relatively clean, but careful scrutiny reveals some urine spots.  And, all of those spots didn’t necessarily come from the most obvious source.   I am impatient and quick to judge my children’s behavior.  I probably have unrealistic expectations.  I certainly get frustrated at times and say “those things” that only “those parents” might say.  And in typical mom fashion, after a day like today, I begin to doubt my ability to shape emotionally-healthy, responsible young ladies.

Tonight, Taylor’s precious prayer reminded me that just like the kid came in with a special light and saw the spots on our carpet, when I asked him to, he essentially erased them.  I am incredibly grateful that my God can look at me, see my spots, hear my words and erase my blemishes.  I have been a believer for a long time.  However, I’ve struggled with the reality of God erasing and forgetting my sin because I personally have such a hard time with “forgetting”.  Today, God opened my eyes and my heart.  Within minutes of getting the last child to sleep, I read Lysa TerKeurst’s Facebook status.  She said, “You have the exact qualities God knew your kids would need in a mother.  So, each day, hold up your willingness and ask God to make you the best version of you that you can possibly be.”

I never imagined that urine would be involved in my daily walk as a Christian.  I appreciate that my God can use the most unusual circumstances to get my attention.  I am working on feeling at peace with my shortcomings as a mother, and I do cherish those timely words by Lysa TerKeurst.  This daily walk with kids, dogs, jobs, expectations is certainly not always pretty; however, I can now say that I am grateful for what I learned from the stains left behind.

 

 

gratitude

Day 17–Restoration

*Today’s post as part of our “28 days of love” project is written by one of my best friends and my true soul sister. I’m thankful for her beautiful heart and willingness to share something very personal with all of us. Thank you, Amie!*

Amie and Chris
Amie and Chris

This afternoon, my husband and I were finishing up an overnight date by having lunch together at Cracker Barrel. My mom and stepmom wrangled our two younger children for the night so that Chris and I could celebrate our Valentine’s weekend together…. alone.  A rarity for sure.  As we were seated, my husband took my coat, pulled out my chair, and waited until I was seated to seat himself.  A few moments into our coffee as we scanned the breakfast menu, an older gentleman stopped by our table, leaned into my husband and shook his hand. “Son, I saw you take her coat and pull out her chair. Don’t ever stop doing that. It’s important to take care of her. My wife was suddenly taken Home 11 years ago. I’ve been a preacher for 57 years.  I’m just finishing up business here until I can join her.”

I smiled listening to him. We chatted a minute and then he left.  I gushed at the man’s words. But, I also knew something that man did not know.

Just a few years ago, our relationship was so incredibly different. My husband wasn’t the chivalrous man he is today, nor was I one to respect and honor him. We had both come from failed marriages. We had both come from broken homes as children. I was raised by a single hard-working mother. I never had a marriage modeled for me, let alone a Godly one. When we married on October 16, 2004, the odds were highly stacked against us and our children to succeed as a family (I had a five year old daughter, Joey, and he, a 10 year old son, Dylan). Although we had both committed to follow Christ as teens, and we were crazy about one another, we both carried much baggage from broken hearts, mistreatments and past disappointments into our marriage…. a recipe for disaster.

 

Family photo taken in the midst of this difficult time
Family photo taken in the midst of this difficult time

Two years into our marriage, we had a child together, a little girl, Hollyn. Although she brought much happiness to our lives, it was about this time that our marriage began to deteriorate. You see, we still had no idea what we were doing, coupled with the fact that life just happens. We began to gripe. We began to fight. He had a vasectomy without my consent. I sobbed in the waiting room during the procedure, because God had once promised me I’d give birth to a son. Chris didn’t want more kids, so he just decided on the procedure himself. He didn’t talk to me anymore. He didn’t touch me anymore.  I hurt.  I was disrespectful to him and not supportive or understanding of him needing to spend long hours tending to the business we had just started. I complained about hunting trips and him spending time with his guy friends that helped him unwind.  I didn’t compliment or encourage him.  He hurt. We both were so concerned with ourselves, how our needs weren’t being met by the other, and rightfully so…. Needs are needs, and we didn’t care about trying to actually meet the needs of each other. What we didn’t realize is that love is like a bank account. In order for withdrawals to be made, there first must be deposits. We all know that when we spend and spend our money without depositing now and then, that money will run smooth out. Our “bank accounts” were dry… and we were suffering. I was needy and lonely, and he was bitter and emotionally checked out.

It was the summer of 2007. I made friends with a man who was single, and he quickly attached himself to our family. But, I didn’t mind. My companionship needs were being met. This man and I talked for hours. We loved the same music. He helped me with my kids when my husband worked long hours. My husband didn’t mind, at first, because someone else was doing his job for him, and he didn’t have to put forth the energy. But, obviously, this wouldn’t work for long. God didn’t design marriage to function like this. A husband and wife are meant to function as a unit, bonded by Him. We were functioning separately, and now, there was a parasite, so to speak, draining us of any life that remained in our marriage. Although I was not unfaithful sexually, I was unfaithful in my heart. The relationship was still wrong, and I couldn’t see it at the time. I had friends warning me, as did Chris, saying there were red flags all over this situation. I just didn’t understand. I began to lose friends. I was hitting rock bottom fast. Then I decided to seek God.

I remember after a horrible fight with Chris one night, crying in the shower, sobbing in fact. I yelled aloud to God. “What do you want me to do?! I have no idea what I’m doing! I have no idea how to fix this! You are the ONLY ONE who can do this…please help me!”

Then slowly, very slowly in the days ahead, God began to peel away the blinders from my eyes. I began to see this other man for what he was. By this time, he had wrong intentions. I began to pry myself away from the toxic friendship.  I dug into God’s word and every Christian relationship book I could get my hands on.  He revealed to me one day that the reason I was so needy was because I had an absent father my whole life. It hurt me to realize this flaw about myself. But, ever so lovingly, He promised to walk me through the healing process. He promised to be my Daddy, meeting my needs in ways I’d never known. I was elated to know I could relieve my husband of the pressure of being the one to make me happy and meet all my needs. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had found himself in a place of sheer brokenness as well, and also began crying out to God. He wanted our marriage to be restored as well. I started noticing him making efforts he had long stopped making. He began to romance me again. I was hesitant at first. But, after some time, I saw his efforts were sincere, not perfect, but sincere. He was really trying, and for the first time in awhile, I was too.

Chris and Amie's gift from God, baby Sawyer
Chris and Amie’s gift from God, baby Sawyer

That was a two year process from beginning to end. Near the end of that dark time, when the extra friendship was over, when we could finally see bright light at the end of the tunnel, Chris came to me and revealed that God had been pressing him to reverse his vasectomy. I have to believe this was God because I do not believe any man would want to do this procedure of his own accord, without some sort of prodding. He did, and a few months later we conceived. And, yes, it was my son, Sawyer.  A beautiful gift we received from a loving Father who walked us through the hurt and turmoil. We were broken into separate piles of rubble. God picked up the pieces and began building us back up, but this time… together. He taught us what love really was…. serving one another above ourselves, no matter what. He is so faithful, and He loves us so much. I am eternally grateful for the miracle God worked in and through us, and how even now He still is leading and growing us.

Thank you, God, for the man I call husband and friend.

gratitude

Day 7–Amazing grace (and love)

*Thank you, Pastor Paul Seay, for serving as today’s guest writer. Paul is my very own pastor and also a pretty fun guy. Check out our church if you’re in the area.*

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now, I see.”—
John Newton (1725-1807)

 

My pastor, Paul Seay
My pastor, Paul Seay

When you wake up one morning and realize you’re on the other side of sixty years old and have been asked to write something about gratitude and love it can be a little frightening.  Beth had asked me to write a post for Daily Dose of Gratitude a few months back but I never found the time to put anything down on paper.  If I had written something earlier, Beth might have decided not to invite me. Since I work better with a deadline maybe this will be a little easier.  I will say that I am grateful to Beth and Jimmy–for their friendship and what they mean to Central Avenue UMC.

I think it’s important when we are talking about gratitude that we look to those folks who have influenced us over the years in such a way that we have arrived where we are today.  First of all I am grateful for my family. Several years ago I went through a very tumultuous time in my life.  I had made too many mistakes; I had allowed sin to take control.  In my testimony I say that I lost everything but my trust in God and my family, and I was fortunate that they didn’t turn their backs on me too.  But God doesn’t turn His back on you, and amazingly my family must be godly too because neither did they.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1: “My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.”—NRSV.

Actually, there were a lot of people, especially the Dardanelle First United Methodist Church, that lived Galatians 6:1 for me during that time.  I’ve often heard you find out who your true friends are when you fall on hard times, and I believe that’s true.  One thing I have learned is that it is easier to forgive others when you realize how much you have been forgiven.

 

I often mention that we need to be aware of how we influence people when we may not realize that anyone is paying attention.  I understand the importance of how we are influenced because I know how it has affected me over the years.  Unfortunately, I have not always been influenced in the way God would have wanted but today I want to remember those who influenced me properly.  There have been Sunday school teachers like Veda Dale and Mozelle Hays when I was a child at Simmons Chapel Methodist Church.  There have been pastors like Benny Harmon, Ed Matthews, and Steve Johnson.  Authors like Max Lucado and Adam Hamilton.

 

But I think the most important influential people are those common, everyday people who have done things that made me want to be a better person. One example is Joe Grimes of Dardanelle, Arkansas. Joe is an Air Force veteran who retired back home to Dardanelle and bought a neighborhood gas station/convenience store.  Although most people wouldn’t say that he was a particularly religious man, Joe is one of those men who is as honest as the day is long, has integrity, and believes in giving second chances.

 

I began this post by quoting the first verse of the great hymn, “Amazing Grace,” because the thing I am most grateful for is the grace of God.  I know that without His grace I would not have my family, my life as a pastor, or really my life at all.   I still remember kneeling beside my hospital bed in Little Rock and praying, “Please, God, let this be the bottom. I can’t survive if I fall any farther.” I know that although I had given my life to Christ at the age of 12, I had spent my life wandering around lost and blind.  I see now only because of God’s forgiving love and grace.