Friday, May 17, 2013

I Moved!

I have moved sites!

Find me at: www.theroadtoephraim.com

Thanks for visiting!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Just for Fun and Sparkley Green Earrings

I read the funniest book ever this weekend...otherwise known as the funniest book I've read in recent memory. The last "funniest book I ever read" had a title that had something to do with an Olive Tree, but I can't exactly remember what, and man I wish I could because you would LOVE it.

Hate that for you.

Anyway, the book I read this weekend was called Sparkley Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle...otherwise known as Big Mama from The Big Mama Blog.

I haven't had time to forget that!  Holla.

Anyway (again), I have heard of Big Mama in the past because she writes blog postings for The Pioneer Woman from time to time, and I basically read everything on The Pioneer Woman's blog.  I have never wanted to be a pioneer woman more.  Well, I have never wanted to be a pioneer woman, period, but she makes it look like a ton of fun and even a little glamorous which, considering she lives on a cattle ranch, takes considerable talent.  Now, I'm not saying that I am obsessed with The Pioneer Woman, aka Ree Drummond, but what I am saying is that if you asked Jason if I was obsessed with The Pioneer Woman, he might have a different answer.

Big Mama (and by the by there is nothing big about her) wrote this book, Sparkley Green Earrings, on motherhood...and, since I have no children nor immediate plans for children, it's safe to say that I knew nothing about the subject of said book when I bought it.  I just wanted to read Big Mama's book.  Although, now that I'm typing that out, the fact that she is called Big Mama at all probably should have clued me in to what the book was about.

I'm sad to say...it did not.

Fail.

Anyway (AGAIN), the fact that I have no children nor immediate plans for children did absolutely nothing to damper the delightfulness of this book.  It was LOL funny, people.  Laugh out loud.  I mean laugh out loud in such a way that your significant other might begin to give you dirty looks because he's getting sick of not being in on all the laughing out loud.  So whether you have kids, want kids, don't want kids, don't want kids but will probably have a slew of them, love kids, hate kids, feel altogether indifferent towards kids...read the book.  It's a winner.



Now, you may be thinking that this entry has absolutely nothing to do with Ephraim, but I beg to differ.  Laughter has everything to do with fruitfulness, and fruitfulness can be birthed right out of suffering according to Ephraim, so basic Algebra (be impressed. If a=b and b=c...well then a=c, folks) tells me that laughter and Ephraim go hand in hand.  And in the words of Truvey from Steel Magnolias (yes, I do in fact have a Steel Magnolias quote for every moment in life), "Laughter through tears in my favorite emotion." (please read with deep Southern twang for full effect.)

Yes, I passed Algebra.  Don't sound so surprised   It only took two times and I still say 8th grade is too young for letters in math.

Oh, your kid passed Algebra in the 6th grade?  Bully for you.

Actually, that is impressive.

And, yes, I do have a degree in Finance.  That actually is a little surprising...and  perhaps sad...and a little frightening...

You can judge me if you want, but my mom says I have personality for days...and wouldn't you rather be around a kinda slow person with tons of personality that a smart person who is sort of a jerk?

That's what I thought!  Game, set, match.

I was pretty bad at tennis, too.  But it did provide an opportunity for me to wear the skirt since I was NOT coordinated enough to be a cheerleader.  True confessions.

Ephraim, y'all.  Keep laughing!  Even through the tears if you have to...  ;)


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ephraim Keeps on Giving

One of my most favorite things happened this morning.

Someone found me.

Don't you love it when a blast from the past blows in?

I moved to Mayfield, KY just before I turned 5 years old...and I mean JUST before.  My mother has always told me that at my party, just after they sang to me and right before I dove into that chocolate on chocolate Duncan Hines cake tradition (help me, Rhonda), I looked around at my family and said to her, "But, where are all the children?"

Talk about breaking a momma's heart.  She's still not over it.

I, of course, made friends quickly as I was never lacking in the outgoing personality department.  My parents had us in church before the moving van left town, so my first friends came from First Baptist Church of Mayfield...where many many precious childhood memories were made.

Enter:  Sarah Lampkins

Sarah was a year older then me, which translates to ultra-cool when you're 5 years old.  She was also an only child, which was fascinating to me.  When I went to her house, it was so all about us and I was so all about that.  My mom was busy growing an 11 pound baby in her womb shortly after we moved and she was...well, let's just say she was happy to send me to the Lampkins' Home as that baby grew.  At Sarah's house, there was no big brother to antagonize and torture me, and no baby brother to tend to.  Don't get me wrong, I loved my family...but a break is nice even for a kid.  On the flip-side, Sarah loved my house.  She loved the noise and the people and even the mess (no offense to my mom, she loves a tidy house, but a mother of 3 has an uphill battle in regards to home-cleanliness).  She loved being tortured by the big brother and and wagging around the baby brother.  We had a friendship that worked for both of us.  We had mountains of fun and made mountains of drama..and we loved every second of it.  She was my favorite "play and pretend" friend, and I smile every time I think of us in that bathtub protecting our children/stuffed animals from the "impending doom of an F-5 tornado just outside our window."  The "storm" passed, and then we just hung out in there and ate Better Cheddars.

Those things were awesome.

Do they even make those things anymore?  They were delicious.  And my mom wouldn't buy them.  But Sarah's mom did...along with nacho cheese in a can and cinnamon rolls (of which Sarah always gave me the center portion because it is completely the best, and that right there should prove to you her precious and giving heart.)

We were kindred spirits in regards to food.  Meaning, we loved and lived for it.

I moved away when I was 11, and have been a Carolina girl ever since...that is, in regards to geography.
(Make no mistake about it, I will be a Kentucky Wildcat until the day I die.)  Sarah and I have done a pretty decent job of keeping up periodically through high school and college, and even some in our 20's.  She knew Chad was sick, prayed fervently, and kept up with us.  I even visited her family after he died and had such a great time.  The last 5 or so years though, we've been silent, lost touch.  But, I knew I was on her mind just as she was on mine, and that we would find one another eventually.  Friends like us don't die.

And find me she did...today.

Sarah had looked me up on a friend's FB account (she doesn't have FB, I'd long looked for her there), and she found me there...and she found Ephraim.  There, on the blog, she found out why God had laid me heavy on her heart these past several weeks, why she was compelled to pray for me and reach out to me...she learned about PJ.  What a beautiful thing, to know God honors those old friends in such a way.

Then, she found Ephraim. She read it, and she loved it.  I can't tell you in words what that means to me, how important it is to hear...and you know why?  Because Sarah Lampkins was there in my family's Wonder Years.  She was there.  She saw it.  She knows my loss as few of my friends do, and she celebrates Ephraim with me...

Welcome back, Sarah Lampkins Todd.  You've been missed, old friend.

Ephraim.  It keeps on giving.

Thank you, Lord...


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy, Happy, Happy Birfday, Bub...

This one is going to be quick, but you all know that I just don't have it in me to let a birthday of my bub pass without an acknowledgement of some kind.  Chad would be 39 years old today...and I can hardly believe that.  I've told you before, those years that Chad was sick and right after he passed, it's almost like my mind lost them...I just don't remember that much.  Consequently, I don't feel the 36 years of age that I am...and I can't believe my sweet baby brother will be 30 soon, or that Chad, if he was still here, would be embarking on his last year in his 30's.

How is this possible?

When did it happen?

We were JUST kids...



Oh that picture slays me...how sweet are they???

I love dem boys.

I asked the beau if we could go to dinner tonight at one of Chad and I's favorite spots.  I'm in the mood to celebrate.  You would think, after burying my PJ last week, that maybe I would be extra sad today, missing them both.  But, oddly, I am full of joy.  I'm all smiles... Crazy, cause I don't think anyone would blame me for being sad and, really, it would be okay if I was.  Maybe it's naive to think of it this way, but Chad and PJ have each other now...and that matters to me...because they both have Jesus and one day, we will all have each other again because we ALL have Jesus.

Oh, wow.  What a day that will be...

Yeah...this life is tough.  You have to fight every day to keep your head up...bitterness, sarcasm, frustration, anger, pity...there are days they can try and eat you alive.  But the thing about my Lord is this joy...it never fails to eventually well up inside of me and overflow this abundance of hope...


I remember my affliction and my wandering,

    the bitterness and the gall.

 I well remember them,

    and my soul is downcast within me.
 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

    therefore I will wait for him.”

 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

    to the one who seeks him…

-Lamentation 3:20-25


Ephraim.


How about that million dollar smile?

Happy Birfday, bub.  Looking forward to that day...that wonderful day...save me a hammock!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Whatever It Takes...

I haven't given up on blogging...as it may seem.  I love to write beyond most things but, unfortunately, my life at the moment doesn't lend many moments to it.  Many of the blogs that I love and are done well are by folks that actually do it for a living...and I think that says it all.  My writing takes a few hours and it has to be pretty concentrated time...not a little here and a little there.  That can be tough to come by for a full-time gal in a full-time world!  And it takes more emotional energy than I find myself wanting to expend these days, which could probably mean I need a dose of therapy...but I'm gonna settle for a 90-minute facial next weekend.  We'll see what that does.  ;)  Anyway...I'm gonna make the attempt today...

SOOOOOOO....

Happy Valentines Day!

Even though I do have a Valentine love and a date tonight and all dat today, I still am just not crazy about V-Day.  I've been single for a lotta lotta years, and it was always a tough day to swallow with grace.  So, my beau and I (much to his relief because he is so not the ooshy-gooshy romantic type), we keep it pretty simple.  Dinner and a card and I'm happy as a clam!

He's a lucky guy.

I tell him.

Lots.

Okay, okay, okay.  I'm a lucky gal, too!!!

So, enough of the Valentine nonsense.

The big news of late is that my sweet and precious Papa Jack...PJ...went home to be with Jesus.  PJ is my mom's father, who lived with my folks for the last 5 years.  To call him sweet and precious and kind is the understatement of the year.  He was quite simply the best granddaddy a girl could ask for, and every time I think about his lonely green chair and his many unsmoked pipes, all used to being well used for many, many years...well, the tears just flow.

It was the wish of my granddaddy to be buried with his wife, my Mimi who was lost 19 years ago to cancer, in the town they called home, Tompkinsville, KY.  They lived there until my Mimi was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 and soon after moved to North Carolina to be closer to us, and a medical center equipped to treat her.  After my Mimi died in 1994, PJ lived alone and we loved having ihm close.  He never missed a ballgame, birthday, weekend home, graduation...for as long as he was able.  Five years ago, my folks made the decision to make the move to Charleston, SC, and they packed PJ up and took him to the beach!  Since then, he has become a fixture at my mom and dad's house...in his green leather chair smoking one of his many pipes.  He loved to feed his clan and fill up gas tanks galore...if you came to see PJ, it was gonna be on his tab!  I can hear him now, as I walk back into his downstairs bedroom right down a small hall from the kitchen...

"Heeeeeeey, Martiii!!!"

All he wanted was a kiss and a hug, and to look in my eyes and get a reassuring word to see that I was happy.  It was all he required in the world from me.  From all of us.  He just wanted us to be happy, and to love the Lord...that was it.  "Whatever it takes!" he would always say.  I can still hear him...

But now, he is gone.  The best way I know how to say what I feel is to say that I am happy for him, but so sad for us.  He was ready to go, and for that I am so grateful.  He was a good man, who lived a good life.  He didn't suffer, and he went with strength and dignity, and he is in his eternal home.  With my Mimi, and my bub.  I am sure he and Chad are doing some mean fishing in Heaven, Chad showing all the best holes!

I am so very grateful.

We buried him last Saturday, at Oak Hill Cemetery in T-ville, KY, next to the one love of his life...Clara Alexander.  They were best friends and constant companions, and he missed her every day from the day he lost her til the day he went Home.  I wrote a tribute to PJ for his service, and I though I would share it on the blog.  One of the Scriptures that I reference at the end is the Scripture out of 1 Corinthians on love, so I thought it befitting for today.  Missing one more of my special Valentines today...





My Papa Jack

I heard my Pastor say years ago that the manner in which a person ages is, in many  ways, a measure of their faith and motive in life. Those folks who grow increasingly cantankerous and embittered with age perhaps, somewhere along the way, lost sight of their purpose in Christ.  Maybe someone had come along and stolen their success, a loved one had betrayed or disappointed them, or life just hadn’t gone as they had hoped or planned…as William Shakespeare writes, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”  

Then again, there are those folks who seem to become gentler and kinder with each passing birthday.  Their patience and joy increase as the years pass, and their loved ones are blessed by their presence.  They know well from experience that their purpose in life is centered on Christ, and through life’s highest mountains and deepest valleys…God is always faithful, and His Word is a lam unto their feet and a light unto their path.  Theses folks have kept their hearts focused on Christ, His light shines through them, and He continues to use them for His Kingdom year after year.  Folks like my Papa Jack, for instance…my PJ
For me, my grandfather…my PJ… will live forever not only in eternity, but in my heart as the embodiment of many things.  He taught me, by a life well-lived, so many lessons:  joy and faith in an everyday life, resilience in the face of defeat, provision and even abundance when there seemed not enough, grace and hope in moments of difficulty, generosity to the undeserving, and kindness and respect to all fellow men.  He was not a perfect man, but he was a good man who lived a good life.  And, above all, he exhibited the love of Christ wherever he went.  Even until his dying days, I saw God grant my sweet granddaddy opportunities to share the reason for his hope…what an awesome privilege, and testimony that we are meant to be used by God, even unto our last breath.  My PJ showed me that the true measure of the success of a man is not education, money, or business, but a life that pointed others to Christ, and strived to be more and more like His Savior every day.  The words of 1 Corinthians 13 describe him perfectly in my mind and heart…
PJ was patient, PJ was kind. He did not envy, he did not boast, he was not proud. He did not dishonor others, he was not self-seeking, nor easily angered, and he kept no record of wrongs. PJ did not delight in evil but rejoiced with the truth. He always protected, always trusted, always hoped, always persevered.
Thank you, PJ. The love and faithfulness of your life has indeed birthed the blessings of mine.  I’m not sure a better legacy could be left.

“…Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
-Matthew 25:23


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Road To Ephraim...Explained

As you probably have read in recent posts, I started writing an article for a bi-monthly magazine publication in middle Georgia.  It's been such an honor, really.  Usually, I post the article on the blog once it has been pubished, but did not do that this month, and last night received a sweet email from a sister in Christ in Macon, Terri Hamm, that asked me to do that.  So, Terri, here you go!!!  Ask and ye shall receive!  ;)

The article should have been up long ago, as it it a bit of an explanation on "my" Road to Ephraim.  I hope you enjoy it.  I will get another post or two written before Christmas...promise!

Merry Christmas, ya'll...


The Road to Ephraim

I grew up in one of those homes that you used to see on television…like the Cleavers, for instance.  There was a mom and a dad who loved and encouraged one another, and clearly respected and supported each other.  There was plenty of love to go around and a fair amount of discipline.  There were sibling rivalries and jealousies and the occasional drama of not-so-epic proportions, but at the end of the day we were a whole family that not only loved one another…we just plain liked each other.

I call them now the Wonder Years…those years of Sunday School on Sunday mornings  and Mission Friends on Wednesday nights.  The years of playing outside til dark, dinner every night around a family table, and Daddy coming home in time for dinner.  There were bedtime stories and homework, Daddy’s pipe and Mom’s diet cokes, and Alex in his footie pajamas and Chad coming in from a run.  My family…my beautiful family…in its Wonder Years.  The only problem was, we didn’t know it until they were gone.

I have sometimes lamented that everything I seem to write has the same theme.  It all revolves somehow around the day the door to the Wonders Years was slammed shut, and life as I now know it began to form.  It seems that every experience I may have or thought that I may process, somehow and some way, can all be traced back to that day.  They say that we all have a life-marker, some moment in our lives that we measure everything before and after.  For me, that day was February 26, 2004.  And on October 1, 2006…2 years, 7 months, and 1 week from the day we found out that he had melanoma...my older brother, Jonathan Chadwick Sullivan, “Chad,” went Home to be with Jesus. My life since then has had one theme.

Ephraim.

What is Ephraim?  This is likely your thought.  Take some time and set it aside to read the story of Joseph in the Bible.  You will find it in the book Genesis, which is the very first book of the Bible, chapters 37-50.  I’m telling you, you won’t be bored…the story of this man named Joseph is mini-series material.  It’s one of the most incredible and compelling stories in all the pages of the Bible, and the faith, strength, character, and wisdom that Joseph displayed throughout his life is a daily inspiration to me.

“Ephraim” was the second son of Joseph, and his name has a very important meaning…

The second son he (Joseph) named Ephraim, for God has made me 
fruitful in the land of my affliction.” –Genesis 41:52

In moments of affliction and suffering, in my moment, when my Wonder Years came to a sudden close and life was all the sudden a scary and dark place where it never ever had been before, there was a choice to make.  Am I going to focus on the situation, and find myself bitter and angry and resentful and scared all the time, or am I going to focus on and seek Christ in my turmoil, and trust the road He placed me on?

Which road will we choose?  One is easy, but leads to destruction.  The other road?  The other is far more difficult…but the journey and scenery and destination are without comparison, and rich beyond description.

In the last week, I have met with several women.  One is about to lose her husband because she can’t seem to stop herself from stepping outside her marriage to seek companionship, and the faith and trust her husband had in her is obliterated.  One of these women just found out her husband has had not just one, but several affairs, and she is making the decision herself to end the marriage and move forward without him.  The third woman is nearly fifty years old, and still hurting so profoundly from an abortion she had over 30 years ago.   These are real people, just like you and me, who are hurting.  Some are hurting for their own sin.  Some are hurting because they have been victimized over the sins of others that they placed their trust in, and others are hurting for decisions they made years and years before they became the women they are today.  What on earth do I say to these women?  What on earth do I say to speak to that hurt, and the desperate need for restoration and hope?

Ephraim.

I heard a Bible teacher say years ago that, if you listen, you will find the theme God has laid on your life.  It will be the subject He brings to your attention over and over, the common thread that you find in your day to day life, in your conversations, and in your heart.  You just can’t escape it.  It will be your perception of every situation that graces your days. 

Mine, without one single doubt, is Ephraim.  Allow God to take your pain, your sin, your disappointments and failures…everything ugly and shameful or sad and tragic that you wish you could erase…and ask Him to make it a thing of beauty.  Ask Him to bring the best parts of your life right out of it.  Ask Him…to redeem it.  Ask Him to make your land of affliction a fruitful one. 

My point here is not to sell you on my theme…my point is to inspire you to find your own, even, no, especially in your times of darkness.  I have found that anytime a woman comes to me seeking help or advice, it’s generally the message that Ephraim brings that she is needing to hear.  It’s the message He has given me.   We all, at some point, need to hear that our life isn’t blown.  We need to hear that there is a God that is powerful enough and loving enough and good enough and merciful enough to not just clean up our messes and tragedies, but gives us blessing upon blessing right out of them if we only look to Him.  Every now and again we all need to hear…our pain matters.  If it didn’t, He would never have allowed it, beloved.  

Believe that.

So what is your theme?  What message do you have? What road did you take, and what is the story of your journey?  What can you tell the world, what do you now know, what has He taught you, that you need to be sharing?  So often, it’s those treasures we brought out of those times in the darkness that others need to hear.  If you’re in the darkness, seek the Lord and find the treasures!  If you’re out of the darkness, share the bounty of the treasures you found!  If you have never let go of your darkness…maybe even after years and years of anger and bitterness over that darkness…and no treasure was found, then seek the Lord and ask Him to help you find the treasures.   It isn’t too late.

That’s worth repeating:  it isn’t too late.

Which road will you choose?

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, from The Road Not Taken

Ephraim.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Meet My Little Love, Mia...


Can you stand the cuteness?  
Ladies and Gentlemen...Mia Elizabeth Senter


Back in June, I posted about my sweet sister-friend, Brooke, having her first baby.  Brooke really is a friend that doubles as a sister after the road she and I have trod together, which means I am TOTALLY the above baby girl's Fabulous Aunt Marti.

That's what I'm gonna have her call me.

Too much?

Maybe.  

Anyway, the child really does slay me.  Her smile will stop your heart and those chubby little legs could be dipped in chocolate.  What can I say?  I'm totally hooked.  And you know what else?  The most exciting part?  This little baby...this precious baby girl...is Ephraim brought to life.  She is the beauty that sprang right up out of the ashes, and it makes me want to sing His eternal praises and scream and cry all at once.  That's the bittersweetness of wounded lives that have chosen to move forward and to live on...but ones that will never ever forget.

"I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  
He has made all things beautiful in their time..."  
-Ecc. 3:10-11a

Beautiful...and precious...and chubby...and smiley... and so so loved.  Beauty from ashes.  It just took some time...  ;)

And she was totally worth the wait.  ;)

Ephraim.