Thursday, October 28, 2010

I am a Pomise

Most of you will look at the title and think I spelled it wrong. Technically, I did. But when I think of this old children's song, all I hear anymore is my friend's three-year-old little boy singing, "I am a Pomise. I am a possibility. I am a Pomise, with a tapital 'P.'" I love it!  It takes me back to myself singing it as a little girl. It may have just been me singing it in the mirror to my millions of adoring fans, alone in my room, into a hairbrush or barbie doll. But I know, even then, I knew it. My parents were wonderful about telling me that I could do anything I put my mind to and to my daddy, I would always be prettier than Miss USA.

Fast forward fifteen to twenty years, you would have found me feeling beaten down by the social pressures of college and what was deemed as "acceptable beauty." Somehow, some way, the cutest boy in school was interested in me. He was a little older and quietly mysterious. I just knew that I had "hit the jackpot." He was amazingly talented, had been a boxer and a bit of a bad boy and was now sold-out to God. How could I have found someone better? He asked me to marry him and of course I said, "YES!" Less than a month after we were engaged, our relationship fell apart. He had a nervous breakdown. He was admitted to a hospital and his admitting diagnosis, so I was told, was paranoid schizophrenia. I sat there dumbfounded, wondering what had just happened. Looking back it was a total whirlwind of emotions, hurtful accusations, pain, countless apologies on every side imaginable, questioning God and me feeling more beaten down than I had ever been in my life. I couldn't figure out what I had done to have caused this because naturally I must have contributed. It left me destroyed. I couldn't even remember the little girl singing "I am a Pomise" anymore. I left school mid-semester and cowered in my room at home because I couldn't face the world. I went to therapists who sometimes hurt as much as the helped. I had confrontations with people I felt had done the most wrong to me. I stopped driving because I would end up places and have been so engrossed in my head that I couldn't figure out how I got there. 

I read every book I could find that would encourage me. I read 2 that really did. The first one was by Sheila Walsh called "Honestly." In this book, she speaks very openly about her battle with depression. I can remember going through it and highlighting it every time I felt the same way. It seemed as if I highlighted most of the first half of the book. She described it by saying something to the effect of, it's like standing in front of a mountain that's crumbling and saying "don't do this" when you know there is nothing you can do to stop it. I remembering thinking, "Yes finally someone is saying how I feel." I can remember telling my mom, "If you want to know how I feel and what I'm going through in my head, read that book." I also remember the look on her face when she said, "I tried and I can't." It hurt her to know that I was so broken. I know that she and my dad had to be wondering how this could have happened because they worked so hard to be encouraging. A few people and a horrible situation had destroyed what they'd worked so hard to instill. I was a promise!

I then read a book, called "Water in the Wilderness" by T.D. Jakes. Based on Isaiah 35:6, he talks about how God is with you even in the wilderness. He talks about how the wilderness is a place of dying and a place where He can instruct us on what to do next. The wilderness is a place where all the things that cause you to stumble in your walk with God are killed. I knew that I was supposed to read this book. But I also knew I couldn't have read it and received what God was trying to tell me right away. This was probably a year after the initial, for lack of a better word, "drama" began. I kept praying and asking God, what is it that You are asking of me. FINALLY He spoke! "Elizabeth, you are dying to all things you thought you had to have to get through life. All you need is ME!" 

I'd love to tell you that things changed for me over night. That I woke up a stronger person, knowing once again that I was a promise. But the truth is, I didn't. Because this is a blog and not a novel, I will try to sum it up. I spent years destroyed, unsure of myself and incredibly lonely. I had moved to Nashville before I started to regain some sense of myself. I know I had my parents scared to death, living in a strange city with nobody but my brother (thank God for him). Eventually I started to remember that little girl in her room, singing to her millions of adoring fans in the mirror. Eventually I realized that I didn't need anybody but God to make me happy or complete. Eventually I even realized that I liked myself and thought I was, at least, a pretty cool person. 

Once I knew where my "complete-ness" was found, He gave me the other stuff. Not because I thought He had to, but because He wanted to. He knew my focus wouldn't shift from where it needed to be, on Him. I did get to marry another "cutest boy in school." Jimmy was the one that God designed just for me. God was preparing him differently than me. God knew when I was 31 that I was ready for him. Not the boy that I thought I was ready for when I was younger. God knew that I had to get the focus off of me. So He does what He has to do to get through to us, even though sometimes it hurts. Kind of sounds like a parent disciplining a child. I certainly don't mean to say that my life hasn't had its fair share of hardships. I know there will be some until the day I die, but that's what makes me want to go to Heaven. More than anything, I remember, "I am a Promise. I am a possibility..."

My "story" being out there now reminds me... I need to go clean. My mom will be here tomorrow. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

3 Years Later

That day has rolled around again and it's 3 years since my grandpa went to live with Jesus. Sometimes I feel like I should not let it still get to me like this and yet when I think about what I'd say if someone said that to me, I find myself thinking, "You must not have known him." I know my grandpa is with my Uncle Bob and the rest of his family. They are probably looking down at us singing, "Wait 'til you see me in my new home!" This was originally written October, 2008. I still miss him and I just don't think I could write it any better than I did then. 

    The little things that seemed so small, 
    are now like gold in a memory vault
    I cherish every one I have with you
    Now I can see and recognize the part you played to shape my life
    I often see you in the things I do...
    I sure miss you; life will never be the same with you not here
    Each passing day has brought much pain
    But with God's grace my strength remains
    I sure miss you, but heaven's sweeter with you there
           -- "I Sure Miss You" Crabb Family

Today is one year since my grandpa passed away. It doesn't seem possible that the time has gone that quickly. There are days when it's ok and there are days when it feels like it was yesterday. There are nights that I get up and sing "What Heaven Means to Me" and it seems like I can actually hear him standing next to me singing, "What will it be when we get over yonder…" It makes my heart ache.

The words to the song "I Sure Miss You" by the Crabb Family have become more poignant to me in the last year, specifically the second verse. "The little things that seemed so small are now gold in a memory vault. I cherish every one I have of you." My grandpa, every time I sang that he was there, would always tell me, "Honey you did a good job. I'm proud of ya." He always emphasized the word "good" in a very specific way as he shook his head. I am so grateful for those memories. He even said it when I had cried through a song more than I sang it. Nobody understood the calling on my life or what it actually means like he did. He did what I do… traveling, singing, ministering with the Blackwoods and then with the Toney Brothers. He was ALWAYS in my corner. He always knew what I was going to do because I believe he saw in me what he knew in himself. "Now I can see and recognize the part you played to shape my life. I often see you in the things I do." He would sit and tell me, and everybody who would listen, stories about when he was singing or just about his life in general; traveling with the Blackwoods in his suit, in a car, suitcases under their feet in the backseat (and we think we have it hard…) for hours to go sing; when he was little and living on the farm in Wilson’s Creek, West Virginia; how his mom died when he was only 18 and he had to come home from boot camp to go to her funeral; how he fought in the Battle of the Bulge; (watch Saving Private Ryan and you will see what he went through) how on a Father's Day when he was older, the Toney Brothers were singing in West Virginia and their dad got saved; how that same man was the one who taught them to sing shape notes. (He tried to teach me one time, I still don't know how)

There are so many things I could never forget. Being little and going over to their house in Michigan and climbing up on his lap because he had made cornbread and milk and I just knew he would give me a bite. "Interviewing" him when I was either in 5thor 6thgrade on a report I had to do on Veteran's Day. The day he walked into the kitchen at Durango Steakhouse because it was taking so long and saying to someone, "Uh what seems to be the problem back here?" Him completely making up a new verse to "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" one year at a Christmas concert and if you didn't know, you would've NEVER guessed! "I love you so bad…" (I know it originated with Lisa but he was the one that said it to me) That night in his hospital room… him telling all of us individually how much he loved us and saying to me over and over, "Thank you for singing with me."

I recently heard Pastor Willy Rice of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, FL in a sermon on grief say, "People always think they are saying the right thing when they say, 'You can't miss someone if you know where they are' but you can. Everyone's grief is different…. Just because it's been a year for someone and you think they should be over it, doesn't mean that they are. And it doesn't mean something is wrong if they aren't." Thanks for indulging me in my grief a little. It will get easier I know, but today… "I sure miss you; life will never be the same with you not here…"

Alden K. Toney – Dec. 1921-Oct. 2007

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Always something

So there we were, sailing smoothly up I 65 on Friday morning. We were headed to a date in Indianapolis. I don't know what would've possibly had all of our attention for that brief second, but the next thing we knew there were tail lights as bright and red as Rudolph's nose stringing out for miles in front of us. There was no sound except squealing tires and me praying that Jesus help us. Jimmy swerved our 36 foot motor home off to the shoulder and Jesus kept us from hitting anyone else or from rolling down the bank next to us. I don't think any of us even breathed for that entire sixty seconds. We finally got stopped what seemed like miles down the road. The reality is it was less than half a mile. Once we got stopped, Jimmy realized the power steering and the brakes weren't working at all. So we were a tad stuck on the side of the road, adding to the back up that was already there. Jimmy called Good Sam. (side note: if you have an RV of any kind, get Good Sam. It's so worth it!) Good Sam unfortunately let us know that since it was Friday, they couldn't find anyone that was an approved repair person to work on it until Wednesday. 

Wednesday??? Don't they know what we do? We work on the weekends. We were leaving on a 10-day trip. Wednesday? Oh Jesus please help us! This can't be right. 

Upon my return to reality from my brief breakdown, I remembered Romans 8:28 and knew there must be a reason for all this. Maybe He was sparing us from some horrible breakdown later. Maybe He was sparing us from some awful, discouraging thing we would have encountered if we continued as planned. Maybe He just wanted us to rest knowing He had it under control. Maybe someday we will know what He spared us from and maybe we never will. I still KNOW there was and is a reason.

We eventually got off the highway. We had dinner at a greasy diner where we were afraid they may try to steal our teeth.  The world’s biggest pass-the-buck tow truck driver towed us to the repair place. That's a separate story in and of itself. We missed our date in Indianapolis. But then we were thankful. We thanked God we were safe and so were the others in our damage path. We thanked God for friends like Jeff Duffield, who drove from Nashville to Bowling Green, KY to pick us up and take us back home to get a vehicle. We thanked God that Devin has a vehicle that is big enough to let us take everything we needed to do our dates on Sunday. We thanked Him for family that let us stay with them Saturday and Sunday so we didn't miss our dates for Sunday. 

We are anxious as to what the repair bill will cost. We are thankful for the so-called "glamorous life" that we have. We know that the devil fights the threats to him so we are grateful to be a threat. We are thankful for the ministry to which we have been called.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I think we are always learning. No matter how old you are or how much you think you already "know," there will always be someone or something with a different take on whatever is going on. Sometimes they may make you re-evaluate your position on said "going on" and sometimes they may make you mad. But there will always be something. I am always tickled by the "know-it-all" types. I know I was one in my younger, naturally more intelligent years. But it always tickles me (irks me a little too) when someone asks what you think or feel on a subject and then proceeds with a million opinions as to why you are wrong, wrong, WRONG. I have never been one that always agreed with everyone and sometimes I ask questions some may feel are invasive or whatever. But my motive has never been about an argument or a need to be right. Sometimes I am simply curious as to why you feel like you do. I may have another view point that may help you see it differently and vice versa. 

Jimmy and I have situations where people keep saying that they are "learning from their mistakes" and yet they continue to display that this is mere rhetoric. It makes me think of the commonly told definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. If someone can help you and you keep reliving the same drama over and over, why not listen to what someone else may have to say?

I was recently very inspired by an excerpt I read from Gloria Gaither's book Decisions. I just thought I'd share it.

"To learn, you must want to be taught...
I think it was Mark Twain, Grandma Moses, or someone equally perceptive who said, 'Learn from the mistakes of others: you can't live long enough to make all the mistakes yourself.' Anyway, that statement is one of the lessons life works hard at teaching us all.
No matter how efficient, smart, or independent we happen to think ourselves to be, sooner or later we run into a 'brick wall' that our intelligence or experience cannot handle for us. We can fake it, avoid it, or blunder through it. But a better solution would be to find someone who has walked that way before and has gained some wisdom from the experience."

Do you want to be taught or do you just want to be right and blunder through making the same mistakes over and over?