Not the Way You Planned

I just got an email that seeems to tell it all…  Christmas posts to come, but for now…

Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods.

They were discussing their hopes and dreams when
the first tree said, ‘Someday I hope to be a great
treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver
and precious gems. I could be decorated with an
intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty.’


Then the second tree said, ‘Someday I will be a

mighty ship. I will take Kings and Queens across the
waters and sail to the corners of the world. People
will feel safe in me because of the strength of my
Hull.’

Finally the third tree said, ‘I want to grow to be
the tallest and straightest Tree in the forest. People
will see me on top of the hill, look up to my branches,
and think of the heavens and God and how close to
them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all
time and people will always remember me.’

After a few years of praying that their dreams would
come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees.
When one came to the first tree he said, ‘This looks
like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the
wood to a carpenter, and he began cutting it down. The
tree was happy, because he knew the carpenter would
make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree the woodsman said, ‘This looks like
a strong tree. I will be able to sell it to the shipyard.’
The second tree was happy because he knew he was on
his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree
was frightened because he knew that if they cut him
down his dreams would not come true. One of the men
said,’I don’t need anything special from my tree, I’ll
take this one,’ and he cut it down.

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was
made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in
a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he
had prayed for.

The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing
boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying
Kings had come to an end.

The third tree was cut into large pieces, and left alone
in the dark.

The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave
birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box
that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he
could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would
have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event
and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from
the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep.
While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and
the tree didn’t think it was strong enough to keep the men
safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and he stood and said
‘Peace’ and the storm stopped. A t this time, the tree knew
that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree.
It was carried through the streets as the
people mocked the man who was carrying it.
When they came to a stop, the man was nailed
to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top
of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to
realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top
of the hill and be as close to God as was possible,
because Jesus had been crucified on it.

The moral of this story is that when things don’t seem
to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for
you. If you place your trust in Him, God will give you great gifts.

Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.

We don’t always know what God’s plans are for us. We just know that His Ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.

May your day be blessed. And until we meet again, may God cradle you in the palm of His hand.

The Absence of Blogging

So, in case anyone noticed, I’ve been a little behind on the blog lately.  Not for any particular reason, just behind.  So, here I was, trying to get my thoughts together to pick up where I left off, when it hit me- my idea to recount some of the things I’m thankful for was, and is, a good idea, but shouldn’t be something I think about in order to blog about.  Those things should radiate out of me anyway.  Do they?  Can you tell by seeing me that I’m grateful for the things I’ve already mentioned?  I surely do hope so!

My heart is literally racing as I think of the things I’m thankful for.  Little things.  Decorating the Christmas tree with my ever-so-chatty 2 year-old… “Mommy, an apple”.  “Mommy, a train”.  As we list out each and every ornament we’re putting on the tree.  So thankful.  Thankful for the precious voice that shouts “look, the sunshine” as my dad puts the star on the top of the tree.  (Our star has the wise men going to see Baby Jesus on it- I promise to put pictures on the site as soon as I figure out how- instructions, anyone?- I’m not the techie in our family).

I’m thankful for a husband that can fix anything.  The dimmer switch in the dining room is on the fritz, and he’s fixing it today.  Whew!  Thanks, honey!

I’m thankful for my grandparents and their influence on my life.  I’m grateful that they enjoy the loudness and chaos that sometimes abounds when Saralynn shows up for weekly visit on Fridays.  What they see as music to their ears is to some people chatter and clammer, but they love it.  I’m thankful Saralynn knows and loves her “Eemaw” (Memaw) and Papa and loves to go to their house.  She can give you directions- “go dis way Mimi”, pointing all the while.

I’m thankful to be a part of the most amazing church ever.  This past weekend we exprienced Jesus during our “Tonight, Heaven Touches Earth” musical.  I’m thankful that God calls talented people like Jay and Amy Rouse to use their gifts to advance the kingdom.  I’m grateful to be a part of the choir that helps lead people to the throneroom of the King of Kings!

I got to sing at our amazing 11:11 service, for which I am extremely grateful.  I sang “Breath of Heaven”, and even though that song is a staple at Christmas like “Amazing Grace” is every other day of the year, I messed up the words.  Oh, well.  God never asked for perfect gifts.  He asked for gifts of all kinds, that He perfects in His timing.  I’m just grateful for the opportunity to use my talent- to be able to take my gift and lay it at His feet.  Thanks, Chad and leadership team, for the opportunity.  I pray God listened and unwrapped the gift of my song with all the excitement with which I presented it to Him.

So many things for which to be thankful this season.  The list goes on and on and on…  Little things, big things, things in between.  (paying homage to the one-and-only Dr. Seuss). 

But, most of all, Jesus, I’m thankful for you- thankful that You find it worth Your time to listen to my rambling heart that often can’t articulate what I want to say.  Thankful that You can form my thoughts into words and actions that You can use. 

Friends, are you thankful?  If so, I’d love to know what you’re thankful for.  Comments welcome!

Christmas Songs…

This past Tuesday night, Saralynn’s day care put on their annual Christmas program.  What a fabulous time we all had, watching our angels sing songs they’ve been learning. 

Saralynn’s class sang “Jingle Bells” and “Where is Jesus?” (to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?”.  (Where is Jesus, where is Jesus? Here He is, Here He is, lying in a manger, lying in a manger, Shh, shh, shh, shh, shh, shh.)  Though she’s been singing at the top of her lungs the past few weeks, she didn’t sing that loudly that night.  She bobbed her head to the beat of the music and sang every few words or so, but was just precious either way!

This season, and always, I am so very thankful to the staff at the FBC Child Development Center.  Since I have to work and am not able to be with Saralynn on a daily basis, I am so thankful to know that her teachers take such wonderful care of her.  Thank you, Ms. Kathy, Miss Cara, and Miss Holly, for the care you provide to my daughter.  Your love and caring are true gifts that we cherish!  Mrs. LaGail and Mrs. Kim, thank you for your leadership to all of the teachers and all of our children.  We pray for you often and are grateful for you!

My Aunt Elsie

Thank you for your prayers for my Aunt Elsie.  She did indeed have a small stroke, but thanks to some quick thinking by the staff at Vernon Woods, she was able to be quickly transported to the hospital and treated. 

I’m so thankful for Aunt Elsie.  She will be 91 years young on New Year’s Day.  She is my grandfather’s younger sister.  Though I don’t have too many memories of Aunt Elsie and her husband, Uncle Vester, from my childhood, I’ve enjoyed reconnecting more with her in the past few years.  Saralynn loves picking her up every Sunday from Vernon Woods and taking her to church with us.  She loves to show Aunt Elsie that the water is wet (in the fountain on the square). 

Aunt Elsie lost her son, Robert, to a most courageous battle with cancer in August.  Robert was one of the heroes of the faith, and of life in general, and if he were here, I’m sure he’d agree that he got his good qualities from his mother.  So, during this thankful season, and this season of awaiting the coming, I’m thankful for Aunt Elsie and look forward to the coming of her 91st birthday, and many more birthdays to come!

Lookin’ at Lights

As previously mentioned, Garrett and I went to his company Christmas party.  We met up for dinner, catered by our church’s own chef extraordinaire, Jim Pendergraph, and then it was off to Callaway Gardens for Fantasy In Lights.  It was cold, but a good time was had by all!  Thank you, Jonathan and Shannon Lawson, for opening your home, and to Rob and Mandy Bowman for a great evening of fun and fellowship.

Garrett works for a great company in Chick-fil-A, and for a great boss in Rob.  I’m so very thankful to Rob for his friendship and support to Garrett.  Rob’s beautiful wife Mandy was my nurse when I had Saralynn, and their son Bo is a few weeks younger than Saralynn, so their family, complete with Sweet Ansley, is very special to ours.  Bowmans, may you be blessed tenfold for the way you give of yourselves and support those around you!

It’s been a long day, so a good night’s sleep is in order…  Until tomorrow…

Chili+Football= a ton of fun!

On the 6th day of December, I’m thinking thankfully…   hmmm… kinda has a ring to it…

Garrett and I went to Coach Kenny and Mrs. Teresa Moores’ house for our Sunday School Christmas social.  We had a chili cookoff and the guys watched the SEC championship football game between our beloved Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators.  Most of the girls stayed upstairs talking and catching up.  It’s funny how you can get so behind with such dear friends, but sometimes kids and life just get in the way.  We had a great time!

As I mentioned, we had a chili cookoff.  There were 6 different pots of really good, yet really different chili.  My Garrett’s chili brought home first place!  I have to say, it was very yummy!  We’re enjoying our Christmas Cookie candle prize already!

And, unfortunately, our Roll Tide gang’s undefeated season came to an end at the hand of the Gators.  That would be the only down portion of the evening.  

So, today, I’m thankful to the Moores for opening their home to us, and for our wonderful Sunday School class, who accepted us with open arms.  Garrett hasn’t missed a Sunday since we joined, and the only reason I missed one week was because I was teaching the singles’ class.  I’m grateful to God for allowing us to have such wonderful, supportive friends who are only a call away and willing to pray for any need that arises.  We moved to a new classroom today because we’ve grown so big!  WHAT A GREAT SIGN!

So, with a thankful heart, I close.  Garrett and I are going tonight to his company Christmas party.  Hmmm?  A glimpse into what I’m thankful for in my next post?  Could be…

Please Pray

Please pray for my great-aunt Elsie Whatley.  As she is lovingly known to our family, Eichie (pronounced Eye-chee), suffered a “baby stroke” this morning.  I was able to go to the hospital with her and stay while the doctors examined and diagnosed, and I was very privileged to do so.  Aunt Elsie will be 91 years young on New Year’s Day and is more lucid than I am.  She is a true hero in my life, one I’m grateful for, and one for whom I covet your prayers.  All signs point to the fact that she will be fine and that this was isolated and caught early, but we all appreciate very much your prayers!

My Mom…

So, I missed blogging on the 5th.  Today is the 6th and I’m playing catch-up.  But, with good reason.  The 5th was my mom’s birthday, and I was able to spend some good time with her.  My departmental Christmas party was during lunchtime, and afterwards, we were granted the afternoon off.  Mom already had the day off, so I came home and picked her up and we took a girls’ trip to the best place on Earth…  Wal-Mart.  (Collective groan here).  We then picked Saralynn up from day care and went to my grandparents’ house.  We enjoyed our time there, visiting and watching them smile at Saralynn’s antics.  Then, we enjoyed a spaghetti meal at home and a nice, quiet evening.

So, as you can imagine, on this, the 5th day of “who I’m thankful for”, I write to say how much I love my mom.  For people that didn’t or don’t have good relationships with their mothers, I’m so sorry.  I have the best relationship I could ever ask for with my mom.  She always has been such a source of support and love for me.  She cared for Matthew and I while my dad worked hard, long, and sometimes out of town hours in the car business.  She always knew just what we needed, and knew that a Ziploc baggie with ice that had been crushed with a hammer was the cure-all for any illness.  She lovingly (though maybe through tightly clinched teeth) stayed up most of the night reading a book that had to be read when I had procrastinated and had a test the next day, and stayed up well past midnight hand-coloring the Spanish flag for a project.  She very precisely applied make-up to the spots on my arms that had peeled from sunburn so I could attend my senior prom looking as normal as possible.  She was there every step of the way during the wedding planning process.  She so beautifully sang “Happy Birthday” to Saralynn while she was still in the nursery and made up the tune to a song that still to this day soothes Saralynn when Mimi sings it.  All these things and so many more describe my mom and the admiration I have for her.  But, above all, the thing that defines my mom best is her friendship to me.  We’ve laughed, cried, fought, made up, and through it all, enjoyed each other’s company all through the years.  I’ll never forget the look on her face as she read the poem I wrote for her birthday 3 years ago that told her she would be a grandmother.  Moments like that make me proud, not only to be her daughter, but to be her friend.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  Your love, your caring, your friendship, and your just being you are such gifts to me.  Thank you for your example to me.  Your never-give-up spirit taught me that anything you love is worth fighting for.  Your words of encouragement, in good times and bad, resonate in my heart every day.  Thank you for being the perfect example of what a woman of God is.  Thank you for praying for from the minute you found out I was coming.  Thank you for praying for my husband before you knew him, and my children before you knew them- though now there is just Saralynn, I hope God blesses us with more one day, and I know that you’re already praying for them.  Most of all, thank you for modeling Jesus to me.  I accepted Him because I was taught to want to meet Him and experience His love because I saw you love and experience Him. 

I owe you so much, but today, your birthday, all I can offer is “thank you”.  

With all my love and admiration,
Mary Beth

The Parade

Today, as strange as it may sound at first, I’m thankful for the workers of the City of LaGrange.  Mom, Dad, and I took Saralynn to the annual Christmas parade, and had a blast.  I left work early and got to LaGrange early to make sure we got good “seats”.  I was able to nab a place for all of us right on Church Street, right near the rope that warned “don’t go any further”.  We sat with Paul, Kristen, Michael, and Katie Barnes and Don, Dawn, Juliette, and Jonathan May.  The kids all chattered the entire parade about the Christmas trees, big trucks, dogs, horses, and many floats they saw.  Seeing the twinkle in my daughter’s eyes as she experienced the parade for the first time was magical for me, and  I have the City of LaGrange employees to thank for some of that.  When I got to the church, there were at least a dozen workers driving and walking up and down the road putting out cones and checking to make sure that everything was as it should be.  Yes, it’s their job, but they all did it seemingly willingly, and hopefully in the name of instilling the Christmas spirit in the hearts of a few youngsters along the way.  So, from this tired yet extremely happy Mommy, thank you COL workers, for doing your part to spread Christmas cheer to my family.  I wish each of you the Merriest of Christmas seasons!

As my child anticipated the sight of Santa tonight, I anticipate the sight of the Savior,
Mary Beth

Gert

Six years ago this past July, the 16th to be exact, I met the man of my dreams.  Location: Ormond Beach Youth Camp, Daytona Beach.  I was the Youth Minister at FBC Pine Mountain, which, though thought by many at camp that year, is not a town that only consists of a speed bump.  They have two or three traffic lights, thank you very much.  I took my group of 22 to camp and we had a blast!  It was awesome because the youth ministers didn’t have a specific “job” once we were there, meaning we didn’t have to lead a group or anything very detailed.  We had to have the right ratio of kids to adults to come, so the ministers got to enjoy the week hanging out and loving on our kids, leaving the “discipline” and in and outs to our chaperones.  So, on Tuesday morning of camp week, I was headed to the beach (in my perfectly legal tankini, of course).  On the way out the door, I hear one of the directors’ voices, “Hey, I need your help”.  I look down at my ghostly white legs, thinking “my legs need the sun’s help”, but opted instead to see what Cindy needed.

Unbeknownst to me at that point, the resort in which we were staying was vandalized, and much of the sound/audio visual stuff was stolen.  Enter Garrett.  He was, for lack of a better way to explain it, the techy geek for the week.  (He’ll read this, and probably respond with the technical term).  He was evaluating all that was missing and needed someone to follow along behind him, making a list for the police, who were on their way to file a report.  I followed, meticulously writing every detail he as he gave it to me.  This went on for the better part of the day, and even included viewing surveillance footage to see if any faces were recognized.  That night, some of the chaperones and other adults were asked to keep watch of the meeting room to assure the vandals would not return.  Sensing a pattern, I’m sure you can tell by now where this is headed- Garrett and I were paired up for “watch”.  Suffice it to say, you learn a lot about a person while constantly chatting all night long to keep yourself awake.  For the rest of the week, where one was, the other was not far behind. 

We parted ways on Friday with plans for me to meet him at West Point Lake for his family’s annual reunion that Sunday.  Let’s just say that from then on, we’ve not been apart much.  The next year was spent back and forth at one another’s homes each and every weekend.  He would mostly make the drive to LaGrange as I was still serving in Pine Mountain and couldn’t spend as much time in Jonesboro as he could in LaGrange, coming to church with me. 

Almost a year after our first meeting, on Sunday, June 22, 2003, he proposed to me at Pyne Road Park.  It was awesome!  He had just moved to LaGrange the day before, and we had gone to Jamin and Michelle’s house for dinner and games- a pretty regular past-time, pre children.  He had my ring with him and showed it off to them before giving it to me the next day.  To say I was shocked was an understatement, but I was thrilled.  The next year brought about wedding plans, showers, etc.

On June 19, 2004, I married my soul mate in a beautiful ceremony PACKED with music.  Yes, those that were there remember that the service was almost 45 minutes long.  To my wedding party, I’m glad you wore comfy shoes.  Paul Blair took over as mostly my brother sang/wept, through the song they sang together,  Jamin sang, Cindy Skipwroth sang, the Faithful Hearts sang, the handbells played, and yes, yours truly sang.  Rewind 18 years.  My dad and I went to a concert at our church a couple of days after my brother was born, and the lady there sang a song to her husband.  I looked at my dad and told him I’d sing that song at my wedding one day.  Back to the wedding.  I looked into my groom’s eyes after we’d recited our vows and sang “Only God Could Love You More”, which still rings true today.

Then, on July 24, 2006, a little earlier that we ourselves had planned, but obviously in line with God’s plan, we welcomed our little Saralynn into the world.  The day I’d taken the test to learn she was coming, Garrett had read the stick, seen the two lines, and stormed to our bedroom.  But, as Saralynn was handed to him over the surgical sheet after my C-section, the world was a better place.  The culmination of our love was crying hysterically back at him, pleading to be put back in her safe, warm environment.  Thinking he’d have something incredibly profound to say, I suddenly heard, “I think she just peed on me”.  Leave it to my Garrett to find humor in life’s most serious situations. 

Now, to present day.  Seven years later, packed full of many a laugh and tear, a very independent two year old mini-Garrett, and memories to last a lifetime, I still think so fondly back to the days of Ormond Beach.  God ordained our union long ago.  I often joke that God can take something as awful as a $10,000 vandalism at youth camp to bring about great things, and He did just that for me.  I don’t know who those teenagers were that felt they needed video cameras and computers, but, I feel that I owe them a little- they helped me meet the one for whom I’d lifted countless prayers for so long.  Sure, we would’ve met somehow, someway, but I still wonder about how it all came to be.  What forshadowing- Garrett and his techy stuff, me and my writing.  I was told yesterday that I should be writing somehow.  I would love to, but this is my outlet for now.  Oh, how ironic it really was…

On today, day three of my “important people in my life that are teaching me to anticipate and be thankful this Advent season” campaign, I am thankful for my wonderful husband that puts up with me, no matter what.  I don’t appreciate him enough, don’t tell him enough, and often take him for granted, but underneath all that, I am truly grateful to be his wife and love our life together.  Though it’s hectic, crazy, and often too crowded for much couple time, I relish the moments we’re able to spend as husband and wife, and not just Mommy and Daddy.  The weekend of weddings a few weeks back started the notion that I need to tell him more often what he means to me, and my devotion today focused on honoring my husband, so that’s what I’m attempting to do, though I haven’t been very good at it lately.

Garrett, I love you, and am committing to do better at showing you what you mean to me.  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your life.  Yes, the road has been long and difficult at times, but the potholes make me grateful for the lines and directional arrows that direct us back to each other when life presents distractions and detours.  I’m honored to co-pilot with you as we look forward to the journey ahead.  Together, with the map of God’s word and Jesus, who’s more trustworthy than the Garmin, leading the way, we’ll journey together.

To Infinity, and Beyond,
Mary Beth

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