Soft Answers

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

It started just like every other Wednesday morning during the school year. I got up and got school-drop-off ready (mamas, you know what I mean), moved the 11-year-old through her morning and popped my head into the 16 year old’s room to make sure he was up. My girl & I headed out the door to drop her at school. Then I headed back home.

As I do every morning, after I pulled back into the garage, I launched my First5 devotional app. The car in the garage in the morning is the quietest place with the fewest distractions, so I sit there every morning and have my quiet time.

“If we control our reactions in the short-term, we don’t live with ‘reaction regret’ in the long-term”. Those were the first words I read.

It struck a chord. While I’ve worked hard, especially since becoming a parent, to control my reactions so that I don’t have ‘reaction regret’ later, sometimes I still react big. And over the top. And dramatic. So this devo spoke straight to that place that needs to calm down sometimes.

I had just closed the app and was about to open my car door when it happened. The text that every parent dreads once their kids start driving came in. “Yo I just rear ended a car. It’s not bad, I’m with the other driver right now…I went to stop and I didn’t hit the brakes soon enough…The police are coming to do a report.” (yes, he really started it with “yo” because 16)

I quickly told him I was on my way and backed out of the driveway. Y’all, I didn’t even ask him where he was. I just started driving. The 5 minutes it took for me to get to him felt like 30. He text a few more times before I got there apologizing. I pulled into the gas station where the two boys & police officer were parked and went straight to my boy. He told me it wasn’t bad and that no one was hurt, but I had to see it with my own eyes. He was right. No one hurt. The mama in me had to check over the other boy, too, once I found out he was also a high schooler. Very minor cosmetic damage. A quick and easy few minutes with the officer and other driver. Then it was just me & him.

He apologized again and I just told him it’s ok. I hugged him, prayed over him and off to school he went.

It wasn’t until I got home that the timing of the morning really hit me. See, I’ve tended to be a big reactor to little faults in his driving. Partly because riding with a 16-year-old is like taking your life in your own hands every time you get in the car and would cause even the staunchest advocate of prohibition to find a ridge runner for some moonshine. And partly because I REALLY want him to grasp how important safety is. (My first wreck was taking a guard rail off of I-10, bless my mom) But that Wednesday morning I didn’t. I controlled my reaction. I didn’t go on a rant about safe driving. I didn’t remind him that insurance is already almost a mortgage payment because he’s driving. I didn’t give him a lecture about not waiting until the last minute to leave the house in a rush. I just told him that it was ok. I just told him that no one was hurt and that’s all that mattered. I just told him that cars can be replaced, but he never could be. I gave soft answers.

I knew after getting home and replaying the morning that God placed that devotion in front of me that morning because my heart needed the soft words before my son needed them from me. The sweetness of the Father softening my heart because I need it every day, but my boy really needed it that day.

What if soft answers were our practice? Soft doesn’t mean not speaking truth. It doesn’t mean not correcting. It does mean pressing pause before we react. It does mean measuring our words and framing them in grace. It means controlling the reactions so that later we don’t regret the reactions and the words. Soft answers. Abundant grace. No regret.


Even if…It is well

Have you walked through a season where the only thing sustaining you is the head knowledge that God is there? Even though you can’t see Him or feel Him anywhere around you? You’ve stepped out in faith. You’ve done all the “right” things. You’ve prayed all the prayers. You’ve cried all the tears. You’ve read all of the verses. Yet you feel like God has led you to a wilderness place and left you there.

You beg for a change. For even just one sign that He’s still with you. And then it comes. Maybe not any change. Maybe not any movement from that wilderness place. But the reminder from Him that he’s there. For me, that usually comes in a song. A year ago this song met me in the wilderness. It didn’t move me, but it gave me the strength to push forward in that wilderness. And to say it is well…

First and last, beginning and end

It’s the first day of school in our hood. As someone who thrives on routine and schedules, I’m always eager for the first day of school to come around. I love summer. But by the end of it, I feel like my brain is just chaotic mush. Don’t get me wrong…I so enjoy the time I have home with the kids. I love that I work from home and can be here to enjoy summer with them. But the start of the school year is always a welcome thing.

This year has some bittersweet emotion tied to it. This is the first year that I haven’t driven Payne to school on his first day. Ever. He’s officially a licensed driver now. And while I absolutely will not miss having him to 6:15AM practices, not driving him to school got me a little in my feelings.

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This is also the last year that I drive Addi to Tally Elementary. A family we have been a part of for 762 years because when your kids are 5 1/2 years apart you feel like you’re part of the furniture of the elementary school. This is the last time I walk her into her class on day 1. We’ve loved every minute we’ve had at Tally since Payne was there. Knowing this is the end of this chapter is a tough one.

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As we’ve said too many goodbyes to college friends this last week or so, it’s made me very aware of time and how quickly it passes. We’re at stages with both kids where there are more lasts than firsts. More endings than beginnings. And it can get easy to get wrapped up in sadness for those things. It can be easy to realize the next first day for Payne is his last first day of high school. And get so consumed by that, that I miss the year we have right now. The time that will pass so quickly, whether I’m present in it or not.

It can be easy to realize the next first day for Addison will be her first first day not in elementary school. And get so consumed by that, that I miss all that 5th grade has for her.

It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the goodbyes with those going off to college, that I miss really seeing the amazing things that this new chapter has for them. The lasts, the endings…they’re hard. They’re bittersweet. Or sometimes just bitter. But they’re almost always followed by a first or a beginning that has so much beauty in it. So much opportunity for growth and new things.

Time is an interesting thing. I’ve heard people say that the days are long, but the years are short and I fully relate to that in this season of life. God has blessed me more than I could ever deserve with these people that I do life with. But am I’m really living presently in every day? Am I really allowing myself to soak up all of the firsts and lasts? Because they’re happening either way. Am I focusing so much on the endings, the lasts, the hard things, that I’m missing the beauty of the beginnings, the firsts?

My prayer this year for myself, and for you, is that I’m fully present in these days. School party? Count me in. Team dinner? I’m here for it. Road trips for games and meets? I’m all about it. Late nights doing homework, working through the struggles of the year, frustrations, disappointments…ALL OF IT…I’m all in. Present. A year from now looking back and knowing my people knew that I was here for it. For them. Not perfectly. But presently.

Happy first day, parents. Soak it in. It’ll be the last day before you know it!

Finals SZN

It’s the last day of school in our hood. I’m always glad when it’s the last day of school. I love having the kids home in the summer (most of the time!). This last day has some bitter mixed in with the sweet though.

This morning it dawned on me that today is that last time I’ll drive Payne to school. Before his Junior year starts in August (we’re not even going there, y’all), he’ll turn 16, get his license and start driving himself. I won’t miss being the driver for the 6:15AM cross country practices. But I will miss our one on one time in the car. It’s short, but most of the school year, it’s just him & I.

When the first day of school gets here, I won’t drive two kiddos to school. It’s a bittersweet final chapter to close. In a book that started 11 years ago.

This year also closes another chapter. An unexpected chapter. Tonight is graduation. Tonight 3 girls who mean the world to me walk the stage (or football field, because Texas) and close a final chapter in their lives. 9 months ago, only one of those 3 girls had a piece of my heart. Then they asked me to be their small group leader. I agreed, asking God to help me lead well and hoping I could make a mark on their lives.

God works in mysterious ways. Because those 3 seniors, plus the amazing juniors that I still have for another year (bless! because, Lord knows if they were all gone at once, you’d have to take me out on a stretcher), have been such a gift to me. Sometimes I think they’ve done more for me than I could ever do for them. In a year that’s had some amazing highs and some really hard lows, they’ve breathed life into my sometimes weary soul. And now all have a piece of my heart.

My seniors have become my concert companions, my coffee dates, the sharers of the funniest memes, the source of so much laughter, my prayer partners. My friends. They get their diplomas tonight. And leave in just a few short months. I’ve jokingly said for a while now that I’m not emotionally prepared for this. Y’all, I’M NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR THIS. I don’t even know if my waterproof mascara is strong enough. I just hope I don’t go into a full on ugly cry.

Finals are hard. Whether you’re a student wrapping your year, or anyone closing a chapter. Some finals you can study & prepare for. Some you just can’t prepare for. Truthfully, there’s not really a way to emotionally prepare for lasts with your first born, precious gifts moving away or many of the other hard finals life throws our way. But wow, writing these chapters has been amazing.


The Legacy

If you’ve known me long at all, you know that you’ll never convince me that my Grandpa was the greatest man God ever put on this earth. He just was.

As a kid, there were 3 times that he should have died, but didn’t. Once, I don’t remember at all because I was a baby. Once I have very vague memories of because I was 6 or 7 years old. But the third time. That one is etched in my memory and on my heart for life.

It was the early (maybe mid?) 90’s. My Grandpa was having his second multiple bypass heart surgery. It was a July, but I can’t tell you the exact year. That surgery, if everything goes perfectly, is risky. And unnerving if you’re in the waiting room knowing it’s your person on that table. Surgery was long. Longer than it should have been. Long enough that the family and friends gathered in that waiting room were questioning why we weren’t hearing from a nurse or doctor.

I may have the order of events off just a bit, but my mom can put them in the right order if I have. But…a member of the medical team came in the family waiting area and told us that it was bad. That my Grandpa may not make it out of that operating room. Our people did what we do. We prayed. I know many were in that room with us. But I distinctly remember Steve Caddell, a lifelong family friend, praying for him and over us. I also remember someone calling up to Family Camp (sorry if you don’t know what that is. Just know it was one of the best parts of every summer), to have folks pray. Because the evening service was about to start. And my grandparents never missed a Family Camp. And those people pray. Pray the kind of prayers that move heaven to action.

Howard Burroughs was our District Superintendent at the time. The Burroughs family has always been dear to me. Pastor Burroughs (or Poppi as I had come to call him because I was so close to his grandkids) took the stage and opened the evening service with a call to prayer for my Grandpa.

Fast forward just a bit and the cardiac surgeon has come out to finally talk with the family. After it got “bad” in that operating room, it got worse. My Grandpa died on the table. They had tried repeatedly to revive him with no success. As the doctor was coming out to tell us he was gone, his heart started beating again.

As we began to share what God had done and put timing of events together, we realized that the time when my Grandpa was gone was about the time word had reached Family Camp that prayer was urgently needed. And that the time that his heart began beating again was about the time that Poppi Burroughs lead a charge on heaven on my Grandpa’s behalf.

Lots of people prayed that day. Every one of those prayers reached heaven. But in my heart, for all these years, I’ve always believed it was Poppi Burroughs leading that charge on heaven that moved God to bring my Grandpa back. And we didn’t just get him back that day. He lived many more years. He saw me graduate high school. He held Payne in the hospital, was the first person to throw a ball with him and made 5 years of memories with him. He saw me get married. He held Addison. Things I don’t think I’d have to hold onto if Poppi Burroughs hadn’t stepped in and called heaven down. My Grandpa went to be with Jesus 10 years ago this month.

Today Poppi joined my Grandpa (and Grandma and many others who have gone before) in heaven. I know there was a line waiting to meet him, that included my grandparents. Because I know that there are countless people who have a story just like mine of how Howard Burroughs profoundly impacted their lives. His welcome line likely spans whatever the length of heaven is. And his reward couldn’t possibly be contained in just one heavenly mansion.

Today my heart grieves because this earth has lost one of God’s best. Today my heart grieves for his kids, grandkids and great grandkids who have to say goodbye. But we grieve with hope. Because that’s the example he set for us. And because we know that cancer is gone and defeated. And he is made new. And where he worked his whole life to be. Right there with Jesus. And we can share stories of the legacy that he’s left. Because when you live the kind of life he did, your legacy lives on for generations.