Sunday, December 13, 2015

Merry Christmas from The Etheridges



 (Click on Picture Above)


December 13, 2015

Water has been the main theme for the Etheridges these two-weeks-before-Christmas.  Floods of tears have been shed over losing our little man, Murphy this week.  And now, the flood waters from the lake are inching towards our back door from the heavy rains over the past 12 hours.

Peace on Earth.

And there is a peace within us right now as we have much to be grateful for....even in the midst of crisis and heartache.  And that's why we wanted to do a video Christmas card to YOU.....our family....our friends....who have journeyed with us throughout this year 2015.  Through the ups and the downs.....through new life...and yes, even death.

May you find the wonderful Peace of God living within your heart...and may you have a wonderfully blessed Christmas season.

Much love and gratefulness...
Chuck and Liz

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Gift of Fall


 Good Morning Father......I saw the beginnings of fall this week!  


I saw the leaves blowing off the trees yesterday while driving down FM 3122 headed home and thought, "Oh my...here we go....it's almost here!".....and the kid in me could hardly contain herself from sitting up straighter in the Jeep, grasping the steering wheel harder and looking up....up.....to see if the trees are changing from red to orange to yellow yet.

And sometimes, while driving down the road, I turn the Jeep around 
and drive through it again just to experience the leaves hitting my windshield.  


It's almost like You give me Fall as an early Christmas gift.....and I can even see You grinning from ear to ear as You watch me unwrap Fall...all the while I'm squealing "Ooh....and Aww".....as if my eyes were seeing it for the very first time.

Each year....it is with first-time eyes.  I never grow tired of this.


I'm on "GO" for the first signs of red, orange and yellow......camera batteries are charged....lenses are packed and ready......I'm just waiting on You.  I know You are close when I see the fog on the lake each morning.....and I know how much pleasure it brings You, Father, to see me downright ridiculously featherbrained over the thought of laying in the middle of a country road with my camera aimed skyward towards You and watching the leaves falling all around me, begging them to land on my lens. 

Yes.....I will never look at Fall the same again...never look at YOU the same again.


The years I wasted driving through these colors...these textures...and never seeing them.  My old eyes never seeing them as the gifts they are.  Like a child opening a gift and tossing it aside to get to the next gift, to reach that hopefully "better" gift, I never appreciated that You hand-crafted each of these colorful leaves just for my enjoyment....just to see my eyes open wider...my heart skip a little faster....and the crazy internal screams that sound very much like those I make on the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags.  What did I ever do to deserve this?


Fill my heart to capacity today Father......as I lay my tired old Summer eyes down, lift me up with brand new eyes that see everything You've made especially for my enjoyment.

There's truly no good reason for the leaves to turn red, orange and yellow....
there really isn't.....it was actually more work for You to do this.  


You could have just made them fall off the trees after Summer and go straight into Winter without ever passing through Fall, but You wanted us to experience the amazing colorful miracle of sending us through a Fall to prepare us for a Winter.


Like a parent who wants nothing but the best for their child....You created Fall to make us smile....to help us forget the ugliness in the world for a season....and oh how I love You for doing this for us!

In the midst of mass shootings.....hate crimes to Christians....stock market crashes....divorces....unspeakable crimes to children.....death, You gave us Fall to remind us You are still very present in this world full of ugliness.


So thank You, Father.  I am not going to darken this prayer with requests.....I am going to just sit on the floor of Your Throne Room thanking You for the gifts You have so lovingly given me.....as I unwrap each gift, each day of this Fall. 

I love You.

Amen.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Faith That Works.......

 Here in Mt. Vernon, we just finished our church's Vacation Bible School and have one more week left this summer of Lunches of Love.  It reminded me of a bulletin article I wrote for our church this day last year and thought I'd share it with you today.....Enjoy!


FAITH THAT WORKS  


As we look back on the past few weeks of Vacation Bible School and Lunches of Love, it becomes so evident that our church and the community of Mt. Vernon have just completed a full month of Faith by our Works.  Not Faith AND Works......but rather, Faith BY Works.   

James, brother of Jesus, pleads with us to understand the difference.  He didn't say, "I'll show you my faith AND works".  He said, "I'll show you my faith BY my works."  And I don't think its any accident that he included in the same chapter the Act of Favoritism.  

We all do it.  We all treat certain people of status differently than we would the person standing on the corner with a bucket that says "God Bless You"and their hand out.  We turn our heads, adjust the A/C in the car, change the radio station....all the while choosing to ignore the dirty clothes and filthy hair of the person staring at us through our drivers side window, wishing they would go away.  After all, what do they have to offer us?  How can they benefit us? 

The offer is......wait for it......Eternal Life.  

See, if we choose to have Faith and ignore those in need, my Faith means nothing.  Even the demons have Faith, James tells us.  In the same breath, if I go around helping the poor, serving in the Lunches of Love line, teaching Vacation Bible School and dropping coins into the church offering plate and don't have Faith in Jesus, all my works mean nothing.  All the money, baptisms, church attending and giving to charities cannot earn my Salvation if I don't have Faith and Works dove-tailed together as one.  Kinda like ketchup and french fries.  One without the other is no good.  

Are we treating the person of a different race as we expect to be treated?  Are we more kind to the young and good-looking and reject those who aren't?  Do we favor the rich over the poor? Do we discriminate against foreigners?  And above all, are we living as citizens of earth or citizens of our true home, heaven?  


"Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works." James 2:26

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Are You A Prayer Witness?



A few Saturdays ago, we grabbed our neighbors and did what has become a bit of a random tradition with the four of us, and headed to Huddle House for breakfast.  We dropped my Jeep off first at Gandy's Automotive to be looked at and then headed on in Chuck's van to eat some breakfast with our friends.

As we were walking in Huddle House that Saturday, an elderly man was walking out.  He and I made eye contact and when our eyes locked, it was like the positive and negative sides of two magnets, we couldn't pull our eyes off each other.  It was a slow motion moment....and as we passed each other, he reached out and touched my arm and said, "I doubt there's any food left in there dear, as I think I ate the last of it."

We both laughed as our paths continued moving on in opposite directions.

There was something about this man.  There was something about the touch of his hand on my arm.  Although I'd never seen him before, we had some kind of strange invisible connection I couldn't explain.

We finished our breakfast with our neighbors and then drove back to Gandy's to pick up my Jeep.  As I walked into their office, I heard a familiar voice behind me say "It's you", as I turned and looked straight into the face of the man I had run into at Huddle House just an hour earlier.  The very one I had this strange invisible connection with.....the one who had touched my heart by touching my arm.  He had felt it too.

We stood there and talked for over an hour.  We both know we were meant to cross paths that day.  I learned his heart had been broken three years earlier when his wife had passed away and left him to walk this life alone.  He went on to tell me about how when his food arrived earlier that morning at Huddle House, he had taken his cowboy hat off, bowed his head and prayed, just as he does every time he enjoys a meal.  When he looked up after ending his prayer, he saw a young couple staring at him from another table.  He smiled at them, tipped his hat, and started eating his breakfast alone.  When he went to pay his bill, it had already been taken care of.  The young couple, long gone by this time, had paid for his breakfast.

He looked me straight in the eyes that morning in the lobby of Gandy's and said, "I couldn't imagine why some young couple would want to pay for some old man's breakfast they didn't know.  But then I realized it was probably because I had bowed my head and prayed in front of them.  Can you believe that?" he said.  "They paid for my breakfast because I thanked God for my food." 

And like a light bulb going off in my soul, I understood.  I understood that our prayers are for more than the blessing of food.....they are for the blessing of people....strangers.....waitresses....those watching us we don't know are watching.

It's our quiet way of being a witness to others.....and living our love for God.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bubble of Protection




BUBBLE OF PROTECTION....



Four years ago, Chuck and I made our last summer journey in our RV.  It was bittersweet....actually, that's not true.  It was bitter...no sweet about it....cause neither of us were ready to stop traveling, but Chuck's health required that we do so.

From the moment we first began traveling in the summers, before we would ever leave the driveway, we would hold hands, and with the hum of the diesel engine in the background, pray for God's "bubble of protection" over us.  We would continue this prayer the next 2-3 months as we traveled to places unknown across the country. 

Our last summer journey took us to Colorado and Utah....up and down mountains....with steering-wheel-death-grips as we climbed up intense grades....and then jake-braked our way down those same scary grades.  Driving a 40' motorhome pulling a trailer was completely out of my comfort zone...it always caused anxiety before heading out on every new journey.  But something would always happen after our hands unclasped from praying our "bubble of protection" prayer.  I felt peace.  My nerves calmed.  My worry disappeared.



A couple days after we returned from our last summer journey, we took the RV up to be washed one final time to get it ready to sell.  It was a desperately sad drive to the truck wash that day as I knew a chapter was closing, but I also noticed the RV was driving odd as we headed up FM 115...it was like I didn't have control of it and when I would brake, it rocked from side to side in an intensely exaggerated way.  We drove it to Mt. Vernon Tire and had Randy check it out.  His words as he crawled out from under our RV that day were, "OH MY GOODNESS" ....the rear axle is broken in two."  A manufacturing defect he said.  He then stated, "If this break had occurred while you were going down a mountain or even on the straight roads of Amarillo, you most likely could not have kept control of it.  You would have rolled.  It could have easily killed you both." 


Friends, it broke in our driveway after we parked it for the last time.

As Chuck and I looked at each other that day four years ago, both realizing we had witnessed the reality that our many "Bubble of Protection" prayers had just been answered, we knew.....that we knew.....THAT WE KNEW.....that God had heard and answered these many prayers of ours.


DON'T PRAY....unless you are ready for God to show up.
 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers Day From A Non-Mother

It's still raining outside.....the leaves on the trees are blowing at a steady pace and the chimes outside are ringing strong.  The weatherman says rain the whole day long.....its Mothers Day.....and the heaven's are crying.

How appropriate for THIS year......

My sweet friend lost her ability to bear a child this Mothers Day weekend.....the irony in that hasn't moved past me.  I'm sure it hasn't on her either.

I remember Mothers Day growing up in church.  I remember the women who were mothers were given corsages as they walked into church and they always asked all the mothers to stand.  I thought this was a noble thing....never gave much thought to those still sitting....until I was old enough to stand but couldn't.

Since finding out I would never be one of those who could stand, I have screamed a number of times at God, using just one 3-letter word....."WHY"??

I heard silence.

And I'm sure my sweet friend has, and will, as well in the next few days...months...years ahead.

But what I've discovered.....having been able to walk this journey a ways....stop...and look back....is I truly believe God was doing me a favor.  He had my back.  There are a few of us women in this world that He places His hand gently on and says, "I have something far greater for You than a child".....and we scratch our heads....shed a few tears....scream a few "WHY's" and He patiently says "Just wait....you'll understand one day."

Now don't get me wrong.....I don't believe for a second that God was responsible for me not having children.  It was always His plan for us to multiply and to be blessed with children.  I believe SIN was responsible for me not having children....but I believe God saw a fix...a better plan....for me than having children.  He saw a better plan for my sweet friends Becky, and Cathy, and Georgia, and Sandee, and Kathy, and Jackie, and Ann, and the many many many other friends that never felt what it feels like to hold a tiny bundle of their own DNA in their arms and hear its first words say "Mom".

He saw an opportunity to turn bad into good and, as Romans 8:28 says, "And we KNOW that God CAUSES everything to work together for the GOOD to those who love God."  Did you get that?   

God....Causes....Everything....To....Work....Together....For....The....BEST. 

I can't see past today.....past this very second I'm living right now...but I know God does...and I know God loves me....and I know God is good for His word....and I know He has something much greater than a child in store for me.

This excites me.

And I love clinging to this promise.....I love knowing that the disappointment of not feeling a tiny little hand in mine that I helped create.....the heartbreak of knowing I will never witness a high school graduation of a child of my own.....the loss of never seeing a child of mine walk down the aisle and start a life of their own.....the empty arms of never holding my grandchild I helped make.....I love knowing that God has something even GREATER than all of this for me.

And after saying all of this, I read the words of Jesus speaking directly to me today, as He does most every day, through my Jesus Calling for May 10: "Do not resist or run, Liz, from the difficulties in your life.  These problems are not random mistakes; they are hand-tailored BLESSINGS designed for YOUR BENEFIT and GROWTH.  Embrace all the circumstances that I ALLOW in your life, Liz...Becky...Cathy....Sandee....Georgia....Kathy...Jackie....and all the other non-Mom's....trusting Me to bring GOOD OUT OF THEM. "

And as I help honor those women today who were given the blessing of having children of their own, I....and all the other non-Moms who were touched by God for a greater purpose.... am safe and secure in the fact that God has a plan for us.  He has a mighty plan for our lives that we couldn't accomplish had we had children. 

So, wipe those tears away and ENJOY THIS DAY......Enjoy knowing that He loved you enough to give you something even better....

He gifted you with GRACE.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What Is Your Greatest Fear?


So two Thursdays ago, we had the 12,000th storm this Spring blow through around 11:00 pm.  I was barely asleep when I first heard the wind chimes hanging in the tree outside the screen porch banging against each other.  That's my way of knowing how strong the night storms are.....by how loud the chimes are ringing.  I sat straight up in bed....they were ringing loud and hard.

I fear storms.

Many years ago, I lived in Highland Village, a town just outside of Dallas.  We hadn't lived in our new house long when a storm blew through one night and our roof was hit by one of the many bolts of lightening.  I was awakened to the house shaking, crashing glass and the smell of gas.  Our furnace vent on the roof had taken a direct hit and the lightening bolt literally lifted our roof and set it back down. Every electrical appliance in the house had been destroyed.  Every picture on every wall had fallen off.  Every light fixture had blown out its bulb.  And our furnace had now been disconnected from the gas line and the house was filling up with natural gas.

I lived in fear of storms from that moment on. 


As I got out of bed to keep my eye on the storm passing over us two Thursdays ago, I found myself engulfed in that same fear once again.  So much so, that I kneeled down in the middle of the living floor....begging God to stop the winds from blowing and the lightening from striking and to strengthen my faith in Him to protect us.  I repeated the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm over and over again...it was the only ones I could remember perfectly at that moment.....when I felt led to get up off the floor and open my Bible. 

It opened to Psalm 27.




And the first thing my eyes saw was a note I had written in the margin years before.... 


"In Case Of An Emergency, Read Me First".  

And I smiled in the midst of the wicked storm blowing outside.....knowing God had me write those words to myself years ago....for this very day.


"The Lord is my light and my salvation - so why should I be AFRAID? 
The Lord is my fortress, PROTECTING me from danger, so why should I tremble?"
Psalm 27


And in the words of one of my favorite authors, Ann VosKamp:


"The greatest fear can be that grace and God will run out and there won't be enough - 
WE won't be enough.
This fear is a fraud.
Let go of the lie."



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Today Is A Holiday.....

Today is a National holiday in our household.  
It's....


Yes....it's April 12...and its National Grilled Cheese Day. (I capitalize Grilled Cheese cause....well, it's just THAT important.)

If you know ANYTHING at all about me, you know I am a Grilled-Cheese-A-Holic.  Always have been....suspect I always will be.



No chicken enchilada's for me at the local mexican food restaurant....nope...I'm ordering off the kiddy menu my Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  Every-Single-Time.


Pancakes and hashbrowns at Ihop?  Nope.  A buttery Grilled Cheese Sandwich between white bread with cheese oozing out the sides is what I get.
Every-Single-Time.


When I was in high school, I lived in a dorm my Jr. and Sr. year.  We weren't allowed to have any cooking apparatuses, but we were allowed to have an iron.  I cooked my Grilled Cheese Sandwich on the bottom of my iron.

So GO.....show a little support for that comfort food that has made everything right in your world by celebrating this important day today by eating that Grilled Cheese Sandwich you know you want.....and don't forget to sprinkle a little pickle juice over the top of the bread before eating.


 You'll thank me later.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

No Eggs, No New Dress, No Bunnies....Just GRACE




 

Jesus said to his disciples - -
"Let's go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile"
Mark 6:31

I am writing this from a quiet place today.....a place in the center of Alabama called Verbena...you know, like the flower.....and its quiet.....except the running water of Blue Creek nearby...the very creek my Grandmother and Grandfather owned and panned for gold in when I was a kid.   I hear the leaves crunching from a nearby deer.....and I am alone here with the memories of my childhood....this place I hated desperately as a child.

Hated it because I was a city girl stuck in a place of outhouses, grasshoppers, dirt and QUIET.  I liked the noise of the city.  The noise kept me from thinking about my lack of self-confidence, insecurities and fears.

But standing here now....almost fifty years later, in that very same spot of quiet, somehow its all different...yet the same.  Now the quiet soothes me....I don't mind remembering those insecurities and fears as I can look back on the road I've traveled and see clearly why God chose that road for me to walk down.  How those very same insecurities became the tool that helped me grow and led me straight to Him.

And I see off in the distance my brother and my sister.....the ones who threw crickets on me and made me cry....who I now love with a love that only someone who has walked a long dirty road together can love.....and somehow this place that I hated becomes a wonderful memory.


I loved that one of the last things Jesus wanted to do with his disciples was to "Go off by ourselves to a quiet place..." cause isn't that what true friends do?

As we walk the woods, Uncle Kenny
talks about how the tops of the trees are called the "crown" and reminds us that the pine trees die if they can't reach the sun......yes....THAT Son....they die.  They have to be thinned out....to allow ROOM for the Son to reach their entire soul....the core of their being.

They DIE without the SON. 

And its not until we "Go off by ourselves with God to a quiet place" that we feel the Son beaming down into our cores....and adding nourishment that can only come from the Son.  By uncluttering our lives of stuff.....by thinning out our lives of things that don't include or matter to God....we are leaving room for the Son to heal us....to grow us....to strengthen us.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ash Wednesday.....The Beginning of Lent.....Remembering....

 ASH WEDNESDAY.......

The trees are bare.....the sky is gray....and the coldness that hits me in the face when I open the door causes me to feel numb.  So often this time of year, this Lenten season, life can sometimes feel hopeless deep in our very souls...


.....reLENTless, actually.

But last Wednesday, as I celebrated my third Ash Wednesday ever....in my whole.....entire....life; as Mark placed those ashes on my forehead in the form of a cross that differed from the way I was brought up, I felt Peace.  I felt Right.  I felt Honest....

I FELT THE PRESENCE OF GOD.

At that moment, the trees were green, the sky was blue and I felt the warmth of the Son upon my face.  Yes....right there on my face....right dab on my forehead was a cross between two major skin cancer scars....just like the two criminals sandwiched on either side of Jesus.  And I smiled.....

Because isn't that where Jesus should be?  In the middle of the muck, the dirt, the scars, the filth of our lives? 







And as I watched the line growing longer and longer up the aisle to the alter.....to receive and become a part of the dust to dust of ashes....to receive the wine and the bread that was broken and spilled for me, how could I not see the Amazing Grace in all of this?  And I watched, person after person, pass the pew I sat and waited my turn in, with a black cross stamped proudly on their foreheads and secure smiles on their faces, and suddenly, we all looked the same. 

Yes....Yes....I understand now.  We are all part of the same family.  We all have the same DNA. 


We are all "blood related".

And we hum Amazing Grace as we leave this place......we hum it from the deepest, darkest, places inside each of us and the sound is sweet....cause we all know we once were lost....but now we...


...Have Been Found.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Love Letter To My Girlfriends


So I have a girlfriend named "Liz" (there's an epidemic of Liz's in my life) who I received the following email from this morning:

This morning on the way to school Jane said, "I'll be a unicorn someday."

I nodded.  It's a solid plan for a three year old.

"But I'm going to have a lady face" she added.

Again, solid plan.  Who doesn't like a unicorn with a pretty face?

"And then I'll lose my tooths," she stated, poking her front teeth with her finger.

This is the part of the conversation where things started to go off the rails a bit.

"No, you won't lose your teeth for a long time," I tried to explain, but she wasn't having it.

"I will!" she insisted vehemently.  "I will lose my tooths, and then steal other little girls' tooths."

"I thought you were going to be a lady face unicorn," I asked.  I couldn't help it.

She considered this, and agreed, "Yes, I will.  And I will steal other unicorns' tooths."

"It's teeth.  It's plural," I said, because frankly, I was at a loss for how to respond anymore and it seemed safest to stick to immovable facts.

"Yes.  Teeth.  And I will steal them, and hide them in my stove, and cook them later." she nodded, apparently satisfied that we'd reached a mutual grammar agreement and an understanding about the fate of any future teeth that fall into her hands.

"Hey, look at those birds up there," I pointed to a really timely and convenient flock flying over the freeway.

She smiled silently and watched them.

SCORE.  I'd managed to stop the lady-face-unicorn-teeth-cooking conversation in its tracks with a simple diversionary "hey look at that over there" tactic.

She kept smiling sweetly, gazing up at the birds, and then I heard her whisper, "Hey little birds, I can see your tooths."

This was beautiful.  Beautiful because Jane is adorable....she is hilarious....she is a bit frightening.....just like all the other women in my life.  And I wouldn't trade a single one of them for nothing!  Nope....not nothing.


I long to be like Jane, the 3-year old above.  I long to be like her because she aimed high....she went for the unicorn and nothing....tooths....birds....MOM....was getting in her way of achieving that lofty goal.

I love strong, aim-for-the-sky-nothings-getting-in-my-way fearless women....and I love FUN women.....who don't take themselves too seriously....who will lay on the train tracks for a photo-op....who give me the hiccups laughing during lunch at Mi Cocita's with napkin art....who can jump in the Jeep, hanging on for dear life as I manage to make roads where they weren't any....and laugh till tears run down their face.  I love that God hand-picked each of these women to walk this journey with me....even during the not-so-fun times.  I am desperate to learn how to "play-well-with-others" that are different from me......and to love them BIG.  Yes Yes....I want to LOVE them BIG!


I'm rambling, I know......but I just wanted to write my girlfriends a love note (and the women girlfriends in my family are at the extreme top of this list) and tell them how much they are TREASURED.....how undeserving I am of their love for me....and how crazy unicorn-aiming-heaven-sent they are.  I love you.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

My Word For The Year........(HINT: It's FUN!)

January 10, 2015


 So over the past few years, every January 1 there has been a lot of chatter in certain women's groups about "Your Word For The Year"........and as I would roll my eyes and say out loud to no one, "Seriously, what does that mean anyway?"......and then promptly answer myself with, "Oh, its just a bunch of women making up some nice-sounding spiritual words to define themselves for the year.....or the month.....or the week until they soon forget about having a word." 

Yep, that's what I thought......UNTIL......

 I decided to have a "Word" this year.  Yep......I'm going to be one of "those women" who choose a word for 2015.  And it's not going to be the standard good Christian words that most of these women are picking like HOPE, FAITH, GIVE, THANKFUL, etc.  I'm actually "stealing" my word from Jenni Allen and my word is

"FUN". 


See, I used to be a lot of fun.....or at least, I thought I was.  I carried FUN in my pocket pretty much every where I went.....I threw caution to the wind and did bold and FUN things regularly.  I didn't take life too seriously and I laughed a spunky from-the-gut Ant Ellie laugh....most every day.  But somewhere along the journey of finding God and finding what I believed and finding my place with Him, I lost my fun.  Completely misplaced my friend, FUN.


Ant Ellie



Now I'm not blaming God for misplacing my FUN....nope....not His fault.  I feel quite sure He knows how to have fun and play practical jokes and do crazy cool things like turning water into wine and eating grain on the Sabbath with a little crooked smile on His face while everyone stood there in shock.  I think, for Him, that WAS fun.  



So over the past few years, I've been desperately missing this friend of mine called "FUN".  I've been baffled over why when I discovered a God I never knew before in my life, did FUN take a hike?  What I discovered is that I have been living a lot of my life FOR God instead of WITH God.  Let that soak in for a minute....or two....or ten.  




I want 2015 to be the year that God and I, TOGETHER, have fun roller skating down Eagle Cove or singing Proud Mary at the Pittsburg Pizza Inn Karaoke Night, laughing that bigger-than-life Ant Ellie laugh until we hiccup....never caring who hears us or the bruises we get, together, when we fall off our skates.  




2015 is going to be the year I find my FUN again.



So on this nasty, gray, wintry day in January,  I think I'm going to go bundle up Charlie.....hop on his lap and pop some wheelie's in his wheelchair down Eagle Cove.....blowing cold-air-smoke in the air with our laughs.....knowing all along.......Jesus is roller skating right behind us.