Untold numbers of people, with confused or broken hearts, from the homeless to the wealthy, have climbed the steps to a small, cream-colored house and knocked on the door.
Lula Mae has counseled and prayed people through, what has seemed like, hopeless situations. One of her favorite expression has always been, “But God...”
“I may not know what’s going to happen, but God knows and God can do anything. Never forget that. He is Lord.”
Lula Mae witnessed her mother’s unwavering reliance on a sovereign God when her father walked away from his family, a wife and four children. He took his lady friend, a bookkeeper from his meat market business.
Lula Mae’s mother gathered her children. “Your father was good to you and to me. I want you to always remember him like he was when he lived with us. If he were to walk in that door and say he was sorry for what he has done, I would welcome him home. We must pray for him no matter what happens.”
The years went by. Lula Mae often wondered where her father might be. Her mother thought he might be in California, but they had lost all contact. He never asked her mother for a divorce.
The family struggled. Lula Mae often wore skirts her mother fashioned from her brother’s worn-out jeans. An uncle provided them a house to live in and a job in his meat market for the oldest, a fourteen-year-old boy. Lula Mae clerked in the local five-and-dime.
Later, two children married and left home. Then the son, who had always been a father figure to the other children, succumbed to mental illness and had to be committed. Lula Mae grieved for her older brother.
One day she met Johnny Briggs, a young man, who not only loved her, but his future mother-in-law. When the couple married and moved to the small, cream-colored house, Lula Mae’s mother joined them.
Lula Mae continued to wonder about her father. She asked her boss’ daughter, a military wife whose husband was stationed in California, to do her a favor. “When you’re out there, look in the phone books for my father.” She wrote down his name.
One day the unthinkable happened. Lula Mae opened a letter containing her father’s phone number.
She said, “I’m going to call him right now.”
Her mother said, “Don’t think I’d do that. We’d better pray hard before you pick up that phone. What if he has another family? They may not know about us.”
“What difference does that make?”
“I’m not going to allow you to break up another home. Now that we know he is alive, I truly believe that he will come home some day. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but God knows.”
Lula Mae didn’t understand her mother’s reasoning, but she put her own deep-felt desire to contact her father on hold. After much prayer and reading her Bible, she found a verse in Habakkuk 1:5, a promise that she memorized.
“For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe, even if you were told.”
Six more years went by. Then Lula Mae’s aunt, her father’s favorite sister, died. Lula Mae and her mother agreed that he needed to know.
She dialed his number. Her mother whispered a prayer. When a man answered, Lula Mae gave her father’s full name and asked if she had the right person.
A gruff voice snapped, “What do you want? Who are you?”
“I’m Lula Mae, your daughter.”
Afraid he might hang up, she quickly told him about his sister. Then she added, “Why don’t you come home?”
He cleared his throat. “No one would want to see me. I’m the black sheep.”
“I would. My door’s open to you any time.”
He made no reply, but Lula Mae asked if she could write to him. He agreed. That night she composed forty pages to fill the thirty-year space between them. After that they corresponded back and forth.
One day another miracle happened. He invited Lula Mae and her family—she and her husband now had three boys—and her mother to visit him in California. The woman he left with had died years earlier.
The reunion was especially tender between Lula Mae’s mother and father. He told her that leaving her and the children had been a terrible mistake, and he was sorry he had done such a thing. After a couple of more visits, he asked if she would stay. She agreed, happy as a new bride.
One afternoon, many years later, an SUV screeched to a stop in the driveway of the cream-colored house.
A young woman ran up the steps and fell into Lula Mae’s arms. “He said he doesn’t love me any more,” she sobbed. “He wants her! What am I going to do?”
Lula Mae eased her friend inside to sit at her kitchen table. Through many a Kleenex the woman shared how her world was falling apart. She asked, “What’s going to happen to me?”
“I can’t really answer that,” Lula Mae said, “but God knows. Never forget that He is Lord.” Then she added, “Do you think you could ever forgive your husband?”
“What? Are you kidding?”
“Impossible? Maybe so, from our human efforts. But God can do the impossible. Have I told you the story of my mother and father?”
Have you ever prayed for what seems like to you a reasonable request, one that you think ought to be a part of God’s plan, only to witness your life falling apart like pieces of shattered glass?
You ask yourself what in the world happened? And why? I can become bitter when things don’t go my way. Or I can rest (abide) in the Lord and choose His peace and even joy.
Our pastor recently gave some examples of unanswered prayers.
Paul prayed he could travel to Spain with the Gospel message. Instead, he lived out the last years of his life in Rome under house arrest and tethered to a guard. Does that make any sense? If you examine the facts, it does.
Paul’s guards were changed every six hours, and they held high positions in the Roman government. Did Paul lament his situation and pine for Spain? No, he talked to these men about Jesus—for hours on end. And that became one reason Christianity spread to people from all walks of life.
Take a look in your Bible at the lives of Peter, Moses, Joseph, or David, just to name a few. God used them in mighty ways, but they didn’t exactly live on easy street in the process.
In Gates of Splendor you can read about Jim Elliot who didn’t get what he prayed for—to witness to the Auca Indians of Ecuador. Also read Living Like Lions by J.R. Duren to learn about twenty men, past and present, who gave up everything to God in complete submission. What became the most important thing in their lives? Not their own happiness or what might make them comfortable on this earth, but to live close to God. Duren included Jim Elliot as one of twenty men who lived like lions.
Another example comes from Haiti and Steve and Judy Revis, missionaries who have served there for over twenty-five years. In addition to his drilling wells for clean water, they ran a school for deaf children outside Port au Prince, a daunting task, but one they loved and bathed in prayers. Then one day they found themselves in the middle of a “takeover.”
Some of the teachers wanted the school for themselves and they enlisted some of the older students to join them. An ugly situation developed, threats ensued, and this missionary couple fled for their lives.
The school has since dissolved and is no more. But God had a plan. Now teachers, those who had no part in the uprising as well as new, godly teachers, go out to the surrounding villages to teach the deaf children. And because they do, the families are learning along with their children and there is far greater acceptance of the deaf ones by the community. This could have never happened if the school had continued to operate.
You or I may not always understand, but if we can trust our heavenly Father that is a huge step forward. He does have a plan, but delivering happiness to my doorstep may not be a part of that.
Thank you, Valerie!! You were a warm and gracious hostess on a bitter cold night in Hendersonville. Your store is a treasure on downtown Main Street.
A special thank-you to the folks who ventured out. I appreciate each one of you. What a delightful evening!
You're invited to a FB party!
I hope you can come!
Thursday, January 29, 2015
7-10 PM EST
These are two of the prizes you could win! Sign up on your FB page.
Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar
The launch of Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar has been delayed one week!
My first reaction: Really? Gee whiz!
Formatting issues that my publisher is correcting. I love the revised back cover!
Launch party now set for: Thursday, January 29, 2015.
I will post again soon about Launch Details.
Thank you for hanging in there with me.
I am thankful for you.
Who is Agnes Marie Hopper?
She is a spunky, out-spoken widow. Her husband, Charlie, died two years and three months ago, but she still asks his advice. Agnes lives on their small tobacco farm with her pet pig, Miss Margaret, until a kitchen fire forces her to live with her daughter, Betty Jo and her husband, Henry.
After mother and daughter agree they cannot live together, Agnes moves to a retirement home, Sweetbriar Manor. That's when the fun, the trouble, and the 'shake up,' begin.
Through the eyes of Agnes soon after coming to the Manor:
I walked to a window, where I pulled back one velvet drape, and stood looking out for a good long while. I'd acquired the habit on the farm. Before retiring, I'd rest my eyes on shadowed fields or the darkened tobacco barn or the cedars along the fence row. I listened for a hoot owl's call or a raccoon rummaging in the night. My heart grieved for all those things.
BOOK LAUNCH JANUARY 29, 2015!!!
A quote from Agnes:
It never crossed my mind I’d #seniorliving forgotten to sign out again http://tinyurl.com/jvlxd9v
Who is, or has been, an encourager or an inspiration in your life?
I have had many, especially along this writing journey that can feel like slogging through a swamp infested with alligators and snakes and pits of quicksand—in the dark and alone no less. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, but I’ve always had an overactive imagination.
I began writing twenty years or so ago and a writing instructor,Trish, became my Barnabas. She taught a class for seniors in the community at one of our local hospitals. I called to sign up and was told I didn’t qualify. I wasn’t old enough. Imagine that. But I kept calling until the lady on the other end relented and said, “I guess we can let you come.”
I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone that I was fifty-two years old. Trish taught two classes, one creative writing, the other autobiographical. I first began writing the family stories—and I had plenty of material. Daddy thought everything I wrote was wonderful while Mother was horrified. She often said, “We don’t have any secrets any more.” I think I get my exaggerating traits from her.
Trish told me to keep writing. She helped me get my first tiny article published about my daddy’s Appalachian humor. She believed in me.
I give thanks to the good Lord for her.
Everyone needs a Barnabas. Are you one? Am I? We can be.
Note: You can read about Joses in the New Testament who the apostles named Barnabas--which is translated "Son of Encouragement."
The paragraphs below have been copied from the back cover. I couldn't enlarge the book enough to read the words on the back without a magnifying glass. Sigh. Hope you enjoy! Thank you for your patience. I am thankful to the good Lord for this journey to publication. Carol
Summer's steamy haze coats North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, but feisty Agnes Marie Hopper discovers the heat isn't the only thing causing her blood to boil. After a kitchen fire destroys her home, Agnes moves in with her daughter, Betty Jo. Three months later they come to an understanding. Neither can tolerate living with the other. So on a sultry August morning Betty Jo drives Agnes and her few belongings to Sweetbriar Manor, a local retirement home and a former house of ill repute.
With no intention of staying, Agnes devises a scheme to sneak out of the Manor and find another place to live. Before she can make her exit, she runs into her best friend from high school, along with some other quirky characters. With a nose for trouble, Agnes learns some of the residents are being robbed, over-medicated, and denied basic cable and Internet access.
Armed with nothing more than seventy-one years of common sense and a knack for pushing people's buttons, Agnes sets out to expose the unscrupulous administrator, protect her new friends, and restore Sweetbriar Manor's reputation as a "rewarding and enriching lifestyle." But the real moment of truth comes when Agnes is forced to choose between her feisty self-reliance and the self-sacrifice that comes from caring for others.
Carol Heilman, a coal miner's daughter, married a farmer's son, her high school sweetheart over fifty years ago. She and her husband live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Their children and grandchildren live near the east and west coasts where they often visit. Carol enjoys traveling, reading, writing, hiking, and cooking for friends. She is a recipient of two Carrie McCray Awards for writing excellence.
This page is dedicated to my inspirations and those who have enriched my life along the way.