My mother was the epitome of a southern lady. She was a GRITS-Girl Raised In The South. She could handle any situation with grace and wisdom—always calm, collected and with a smile. (Southern women never sweat….they glow.)
In the South, when people act in an ungodly fashion, we call that ‘acting ugly’. If you talked back to an adult, you were acting ugly. If you talked behind someone’s back, you were acting ugly. If you intentionally did something mean or thoughtless to someone else you were acting ugly.
Mom had this wonderful ability to walk right up to someone who was acting ugly and be unbelievably kind—calm, cool, collected, and kind. She didn’t cower, knowing they were in the room. She didn’t shy away hoping they wouldn’t speak to her. She didn’t try to be invisible. Instead, smiling genuinely, she would walk right up to them and strike up a conversation and somehow in the process they would melt, ashamed of their ugly behavior.
I don’t know how many times she verbally walked me through how to do this but I never was able to do this like Mom could. She would tell me, “Don’t be afraid of that person who has acted ugly to you! Walk right up them and start a conversation!” I trembled thinking of how they might return my effort with another dose of acidic behavior. I didn’t have faith in my ability to do it. Therein, was the problem…my faith was in myself.
Mom’s faith in God was deep, deep, deep. If the Bible said it, she believed it and lived by it. Mom believed in God, who has delivered your enemies into your hands. I think this was a great part of the reason Mom was not afraid to walk right up to people who had behaved poorly or were behaving in an ungodly manner—acting ugly. She believed that God had delivered her enemies into her hands and she was able to walk right up to them with God’s strength and with confidence in God to be who He promised He was.
Learning more about who the Bible says God is, and how that can infuse my behavior as His child, is changing me as I am molded into His image. Less Amy…more God.
“Blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” (Genesis 14:20)
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
Confidence is something with which I’ve struggled my whole life. In fact, I think most all of us struggle with it. For so many years I was a stage performer, either singing or acting. My training taught me to handle my nerves in such a way that I could still do what must be done no matter how I felt on the inside. When I worked in the secular world, I knew (as any actor or singer knows) that should something happen to me to prevent me from participating that night…a dozen others were standing in the wings waiting to take my place gladly and without a second thought.
When I transitioned to church work, that old saying, “You’re only as good as your last performance,” remained in my mind always and kept me on my toes trying to keep up with changing music styles. Lots of styles I did NOT do well but I was called upon to do them. It didn’t matter how I felt about how well I did (or not), it was about service and belonging to God. That was a definite change in thinking.
My kids are now all grown, or nearly so, with only one still at home. In many cultures my mother-job would have been done years ago. Now, I stand on the sidelines encouraging and praying for their ability to follow after the Lord and do His will. A definite change in my role as I am more hands-off and more on-my-knees-behind-the-scenes.
My parents are both gone now—I’m no longer an earthly daughter. I’m now part of the older generation that our children and grandchildren will look to as the matriarchs and patriarchs. I’m now Great Aunt Amy. That’s a definite change in family position.
Three years ago, I changed jobs. I changed from something I felt confident doing to something I had no confidence in myself at all. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what I should be doing. I was learning from the ground up. That was a change in what I did every day.
Identity…the face in the mirror…many of the things I had identified myself by had changed: daughter, mother, career. My confidence has wavered so many times over the years that I wondered where solid ground was. I’d look in the mirror as things changed and the reflected image was slowly disappearing as my identity changed.
My identity must be grounded in my relationship to Christ. THAT never changes. I am not defined by what I DO. I am not defined by my pecking order. I am not defined by what anyone thinks of me. I am a child of the KING. The reflection in the mirror comes from WHOSE I am. God is the strength of my heart. It is His reflection I want to see because my confidence comes from WHOSE I am and nothing else should define me.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
Suitcases are unpacked. Things are put away. Except, of course, the things that must be packed for the next trip in 2 days. The month of May is such a busy time. Lots of endings and beginnings juxtaposed. Each day is filled with lists and busyness. Many times, upon completion, there is not much to show for what all I have accomplished. And of course there is always tomorrow’s list looming just out of the corner of my eye.
Youngest Man-child is finishing up school with AP exams and concerts and finals. Girl-child is graduating from college and moving home for the summer. Oldest Man-child is job-hunting and seeking the Lord for direction. Hubby is traveling, and working to all hours of the night. And I…I am putting one foot in front of the other hoping my brain doesn’t explode.
We’ve all been there. Even good things in our lives can be pressurized. I cooked green beans in the pressure cooker last night and heard the familiar rattle of the steam pushing out and smelled the aroma of fresh goodness. My life right now is in the pressure cooker. Lots of decisions to make and things…good things…looming on the horizon. All these are amidst the piles of laundry, suitcases, groceries, dishes to wash, end-of-the-year activities, bills to be paid, meetings to go to….life.
Thankfully, God is the stability of our times. Isaiah 33:6 says, “and he (God) will be the stability of your times,abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;”
What a stabilizing promise! God has all the wisdom I need to make decisions. He has all the knowledge I need to figure things out. He has an abundance of salvation when I think I am sinking under my to-do lists. He keeps me stable when I don’t feel like I am.
Cling close, oh my heart, to Father God! Sit in the window of His strong tower and know that He is in charge and has all that is needed for this day–The stability of our times.
It is a luxury to travel with Hubby when he works. This particular trip is to France. I love to experience new things, meet new people, see a new place and learn a bit of a new language. Springtime in Paris is everything it is romanticized to be. It has been rainy since we arrived but yesterday…yesterday the rain lifted and the sun warmed its way through to an exquisite blue sky with not even a wisp of a cloud.
We worshipped with new friends in a church we had not attended previously. What a warm welcome we received! We lifted our voices to sing some of the same songs we sing at home in Houston but in French this time. Their voices joined and they sang with abandon. So lovely. Hugs and the European double-cheek kiss bound our hearts as we parted after the service.
In the afternoon, I laid my time-zone-confused body down for a nap. Dead asleep for two hours of rest–not moving a muscle–waking in the same position I had fallen asleep. I had the apartment to myself when I woke up. Surely it was time for a cup of coffee! I prepared a large cup (more like a bowl) of coffee, threw open the windows to feel the cool breeze, and curled up on the sofa by the window. Children played in the park across the street behind Saint Clothilde. Laughter and squeals and the carillon ringing occasionally. My sabbath-deprived heart, heavy laden from life, rested in the presence of the Lord in this quiet and still spot. It was much needed and much appreciated. A grateful heart bloomed. Spring sabbath!
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“Are we really going to have a baby this time?” I asked the OBGYN. After 1 hospital visit to rehydrate and 2 more false alarms, I had my doubts. It was still 2 weeks until my due date and I had been off my feet on bed rest for two weeks already. “I mean, when I call my parents this time, they are going to get in the car and start driving the 12-hour drive to get here. I don’t want them to start out for no reason.” He assured me that this time was a definite.
I had my bag with me so Hubby and I moved the car from one parking lot to the hospital parking lot next door. A quick call to Mom and Dad and they went into action. First baby for us and we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. We wanted a surprise. The nursery was ready and my swollen-in-the-September-heat body was more than ready! Seton Hospital in Austin, Texas.
We couldn’t have been more blessed with a labor and delivery nurse that was just about as excited as we were. She was in the right job—chirping away, encouraging, each birth like it were the first she had ever witnessed. 7 hours later he arrived. Yes, HE. Joseph Riley Sheehan, our first Man-child who would later become our Oldest Man-child.
Everything was new. I was a new mother. He was a new baby. I had no idea what to expect and every day was a surprise and continued to be for years to come. What JOY to see who he has become and is still becoming!!
Mother’s Day Out when he was 2 and would line up all the books on the bookshelf according to size and color. Pre-K at 4 when I realized that I was an overprotective parent and was ruining him. I had to bring him home and teach him how to get dirty and know that it was ok. That’s what washing machines were for. First day of kindergarten, smiling as we dropped him off and, before we could get 2 cars length away, bursting into tears that he had gotten so old so fast. 1st grade brought a laptop for him. He needed something to do that would challenge him. She brought a laptop from home and, as she taught others how to read and count, he wrote stories on her laptop. 3rd grade he became the computer wiz of the elementary school. When the district sent someone to teach the teachers, his 3rd grade teacher just sent him to the training and said he would teach the rest of them later on. She needed her class time to help the children. He could learn the computer stuff. 4th and 5th grade, he was pulled out of class regularly. The only student who had permission to go into the supply cabinet and gather cords to fix or reconfigure computers. “It takes too long to go through the district to get things done. We just put him in charge. He gets it done immediately.”
Middle School was challenging as it is for all young preteens. However, the teachers and staff I knew there told me that every time they saw him he had a smile on his face. He started playing the drums when he was 5 and played in Big Church when they needed a substitute while he was still in elementary school. You couldn’t see him over the drum set! The middle school band director gave all the percussion students tests each week. One week he said, “You’ve just passed what I give to my juniors and seniors at the high school.” He was the youngest to make the Symphonic band, having to wait a semester into 6th grade. It was during these years that he started writing music. An entrepreneur at heart, he formed a company, Blue Pineapple. Blue Jeans was one of his first hits. He burned it to CD’s and sold them at school. In 7th grade, one of the school counselors paid him to do the slide/music presentation for her daughter’s wedding rehearsal. Website development came next and film. He started shooting videos when he was in elementary school. He figured out how to edit and he was probably the only middle school kid that asked for a professional video/audio editing suite for his computer for his birthday. His room was a bone yard of computer equipment and musical instruments.
High school was marching band. Drumline the very first year. His teachers loved him and he made friends wherever he went. He had always been Hubby’s sidekick at church and had a full set of keys to the church. He was the “on-call” person for any audio needs at church. He also knew all about lighting. He had sat through many a Christmas café setup and stayed until 2 or 3 in the morning, learning and soaking it all in. He was a church rat from the time he was little. I think he may have had a cot somewhere in the church! He was gone most of the time and at the church when he was not in school. National Honor Society, The Guy (some will know what I am referring to), graduating with honors, he was set to attend the school of his choice, The University of Texas at Austin.
We moved him into Jester Dorm, memories flooding back for Hubby since he once lived there himself. I played for his vocal audition in the music school, several voice faculty members remaining from my years at UT, including my own voice teacher. He started out in audio engineering and wound up with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Business with a minor in Business. The head of the Music Business program read a proposal he had written for a job and said, “Did you write this yourself?” He answered ‘yes’. The professor said, “Just sit back and they’ll come to you. You’ve got what it takes.”
Four years of college and I really don’t know what all he did. He recorded 2 albums, one entirely done in his dorm room at Jester. His music available on Amazon and iTunes. That’s my son! Designing his own cover art and a website that looked like he was ready for Hollywood producing. Amazing. This past May, we watched him walk for graduation. I cried. I was so proud of him.
Do you want to know what I am most proud of? That church rat kid went off to college and got involved in a church. He dug in with both feet and both hands. As he served, he dug in with his heart and learned to love Jesus more and more. A call has been upon his life and God has been unfolding it for him, step by step. Serving as an intern his senior year taught him much about service and leadership, two gifts God blessed him with and intended to use long before he was ever born. What began as setting up chairs in the gym for the church service became an internship and leadership position. No matter how successful he could have been in Music Business, God had a plan and He intended to do with Oldest Man-child what He had purposed to do.
This year, the first year out of college, he is in a residency leadership training program at his church in Austin. He is serving as assistant to the college minister, a college minister who serves a school with over 50,000 students as well as other smaller colleges in the Austin area. Oldest Man-child is learning so many things and God is shaping his heart. He is growing him into the man He designed him to be. What more could a mother hope for? 23 years ago I gave birth to a surprise. Every year I’ve watched him grow into who God intends him to be is a surprise and delight. The fact I am his mother is a blessing beyond words.
Beyond words…I’ve certainly written a lot of words. But these words can never contain all the love that drives my fingers as I type. I love you, Riley Sheehan. I love your weird, wonderful, creative self! I love you so much and I am so proud of you. You are a blessing to my life. Happy birthday, Son!
“Isn’t nature wonderful? They go in on the left and lay their eggs and come out on the right. Then when they hatch…” The pest man was explaining to me about carpenter bees. ‘Wonderful’ was not quite the word I had for their newfound sawmill and soon-to-be-hatchery. We walked the perimeter of the house and I saw where they had taken up residence on 3 sides. It could be all 4 but the soffit is out of my sightline on the 4th side. Big bumble-bee sized blobs buzzed busily right at the roofline. Bore holes spotted the soffit in various places. “The good thing about them is that they go in a straight line. They’re not like termites or carpenter ants eating into your house. They just go in a straight line to lay their eggs.” Oh, that made me feel much better. (Actually it did.) “The bad news is that they are going to come back year after year. They’re really smart and they keep coming back to the same place.”
At that point I realized I had seen the splatter last year, sort of funny looking like some sort of spider web. My eyes aren’t all that good and I had pointed it out to Hubby. He nor I knew what it was and it was up so high we didn’t pay too much attention. I had noticed at one point what looked like granules right by the front door—sort of like ant killer had been sprinkled. The busyness of the moment took my mind elsewhere and I quickly dismissed it for more pressing things like getting the mail from the mailbox, or looking at weeds that had sprung up in the front beds, or the potted plants that needed water, or getting back to the kitchen where dinner was on the stove. Those granules were quickly dismissed and completely forgotten when the next rain washed them away. Evidence that these carpenter bees had indeed come back…and brought others with them!
Several years ago Hubby and I re-sided our house with hardiplank. That in itself is a whole story! It was a year-long project that occurred over every holiday until it was done. The soffit and fascia boards were in good shape so we opted not to replace them with hardiplank. (In case you don’t know, hardiplank is made from concrete not wood.) These carpenter bees had sought out the weakest spots on our house and happily bored away. The only pieces we had not replaced that were still real wood were vulnerable and these bees found them.
The pest man explained what he could do but his work was not guaranteed because of the difficulty to kill the ones that had not hatched. In addition, they would come back regardless so next year we’d be doing the same thing. Hubby and I talked it over and decided the best thing was to let them have at it this year and, in the cooler months, rip out the remaining soffits and fascia boards and replace them with hardiplank. THAT would stop them from coming back and the pest man agreed.
Needless to say, I thought about that a lot yesterday, irritated by their constant loud buzzing that I had not noticed before. Every once in awhile hearing a low flyer hit the window with a thump reminding me of their busyness. I thought about Romans 3:23—For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is not a single one of us who does not have a weak spot for sin. Some piece of us that is vulnerable and often neglected or overlooked due to the busyness of life. Satan is crafty and seeks out the spots that are weak, busily building out of sight, some trap for us to fall into. We may see evidence that there is a problem but sometimes we don’t recognize it for what it is or we quickly move on to things we think are more pressing at the moment. Then comes that day when we are faced with the destruction that has been done. What started as something small has grown to be a much bigger problem and it keeps coming back. We are not without hope though. Each day we can pray as David did in Psalm 139: 1-6, 23-24
1O LORD, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, LORD.
5You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NLT)
4 And he (God) said to me (Ezekiel), “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel- 6 not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8 Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. 9 Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” 10 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. 11 And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.” (Ezekiel 3:4-11, ESV)
In my Inbox each morning there is a daily Bible passage to which I subscribe. The portion above was part of today’s email. I read and reread this particular section, thinking about the visual picture described and the meaning behind it. A hard forehead and a stubborn heart. God was talking about His children, the Israelites, who were rebelling against Him. They were a hardheaded, stubborn people. He knows that His children will not be willing to listen to Him and yet He sends a messenger to say the same things to them that He has told them before. Why? Why would He continue to say the same things over and over even though He knows they won’t listen?
When my kids were growing up, I told them repeatedly not to speak to strangers, to pick up after themselves, to say yes ma’am or no ma’am when they answered me. Soon it became things like do not talk to strangers (still), look both ways when you cross the street, do your best, be willing to ask questions. Later it became reminders like do not talk to strangers (that one is never going away—especially with my daughter!), run if a car stops near you, do not give out your cell phone number, lock your car doors, always let me know where you are, guard what you watch on tv and the internet.
Loving parents feel a huge responsibility for their children. They feel the need to warn and remind again and again. Not because they enjoy nagging but because of the deep love and concern they have for their children. They want the best for them. My children are not always receptive. In fact, they tire of my reminders, even at times telling me they don’t need to hear it any more. I LOVE this passage of scripture! My kids are hardheaded and stubborn at times BUT they still need to hear reminders of love and truth….whether they want to hear them or not.
God as my Heavenly Parent knows when I am rebellious and hardheaded and don’t want to hear what He has to say. He continues to remind me, sometimes every day, multiple times a day! I see it repeated in His Word. I hear it come out of the mouths of people who speak to me. I see something in an email, a blog, on television, or a passing conversation that reminds me of the very same thing over and over. That is God talking to me….reminding me, His hardheaded kid, even though He knows that I may not want to hear it. He loves me THAT much to intersect my life repeatedly with His messages.
“I’m going to send you on over to the hospital and let’s get started,” the OBGYN said in response to the contractions I was having. “Are we really having a baby this time? I mean, my parents are going to hit the road and start driving 11 hours to get here and I don’t want another false alarm.” No, this was definite. I went downstairs to the lobby pay phone (this was before cell phones…ARGH!) and called my parents to let them know they needed to come. Hubby and I, with bag packed in the car, went to the hospital and settled in for however long it took for the baby to arrive.
We contacted friends and let them know. As we got closer to delivery, they gathered outside the room. Friends that we still know and love today were there to celebrate this first new life in our family. One even videotaped while driving to the hospital with a hilarious ongoing narration. Sooooo glad he didn’t wreck while driving!
After about 9 hours, Oldest Man-child arrived. It was a “he”. We decided for a surprise. This was before everyone just naturally had these fabulous 3D ultrasounds that capture gloriously clear photos. Oldest Man-child was named for both grandfathers and we loved him on sight. That was 23 years ago this September.
The first day of kindergarten, I smiled and encouraged and said what fun he was going to have and how much I loved him as he got out of the car in the car-rider line at the elementary school. As soon as the door shut and he walked away, I bawled. Over what….I don’t even know. Turning loose I guess.
The first few months of middle school I wondered what alien had invaded my precious son. This mild mannered complacent child had become irascible and mouthy. I wasn’t sure I liked him anymore. It eased up as he adjusted. High school brought another round of it as he experienced a feeling of freedom. Freedom with restrictions. Hubby and I learned a lot on this first child. Bless him, Oldest Man-child lived to tell about it. He started high school and I turned around and he was graduating and headed to The University of Texas at Austin, Hubby’s and my alma mater.
He entered the music school. We walked the halls, the look and smell of the building the exact same as when we were youngsters and walked the halls ourselves. I played for his vocal audition, some of the same vocal faculty (including my own teacher) sitting on the panel. I don’t know who was more nervous—him or me. We moved him into Jester Dormitory to live with a friend since childhood. What a blessing to know your roommate and know their background, their parents, and what kind of person they are!
Before I knew it, two years had passed and he was moving into an apartment. His trips home were infrequent, about like his calls. Typical male college student. What I knew the most about him was that he was being deeply impacted by his church. He started out volunteering to set up chairs for the services the church held in a high school. He moved into a missional community his second year, a way to develop deeper relationship with other students. He gained upperclassmen who spoke truth into his life in a way that we tried but were better heard from a peer.
He continued to gain friends and mentors at church. His roommate had moved to the apartment with him as well and both young men were tracking at church about the same. It was amazing to watch. We were no longer in a position to hands-on influence as much as pray and watch. His community at church strengthened and he was moving into leadership. Some trips home and discussions about what he felt God was calling him to do with his life. We prayed for discernment and wisdom as he entered his senior year. “Stay focused, Son, and graduate,” I said to him every time we talked. He was already thinking and living in the future, ready to ‘get on with it’.
And then it came. Four years so quickly gone just like that! He stood in cap and gown, the tower lit and music playing.
Didn’t we just drop him off at kindergarten? I wanted to cry again. So proud. So proud of this baby boy who had grown into a man. It all moved so fast graduation weekend. One celebration after another. And then he was gone. On to his summer position at Pine Cove Camp where he will pour into the lives of others for 11 weeks. Once the summer is over he will return to Austin and his church—this time as resident staff in college ministry. He will attend seminary classes while getting practical ministry experience. He called me on the road as we drove home to Houston and he drove to Pine Cove. I told him, “Son, you came out better than you went in,” and then I explained what I meant. “You came out a stronger man in your faith and your relationship with Jesus than when you went in. That’s what I prayed for. All the rest….I’m proud of your academics too. But mostly, I’m so grateful you are coming out better than you went in.”
We watch from afar, understanding how our parents must have felt on many levels. Grateful for every phone call and any information. Grateful for Facebook and Instagram and blogs and email that give us more information than our parents had access to when we were his age. We watch and pray. That’s what parents do. God has our child’s heart. He will complete what He has started.
I stood by his crib nearly 23 years ago after we brought him home and cried. I had never been a mother and really had no idea what to do or what would be required. I looked at his little self and thought how responsible I felt for him and how much I loved him. I look at him now and see how faithful God has been to take care of Oldest Man-child in spite of me. He has called him to Himself and taken charge of him. I am his mother, a steward, a caretaker, and teacher but God is in charge of him. My job hasn’t changed…I watch and pray. (And I burst with motherly pride over this precious little-one-grown-into-a-man!) Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayers.
From the first moment I met him, he plowed an impact. Students had gathered in the Opera Lab Theater at The University of Texas at Austin to get information about upcoming auditions. I was a new graduate student and I didn’t know a single soul. I had been told to find and introduce myself to a fellow singer who was also from Alabama. At least there would be something to talk about. I found him and took a seat next to him as we went through perfunctory introductions. And then HE sat down. My new acquaintance introduced us. “Well, that’s what we need around here—some good Southern Girls!” he exclaimed loudly as he leaned back in his seat and stacked one red cowboy booted foot on top of the other on the back of the theater seat in front of him. Red…cowboy…boots. Who wears RED cowboy boots?? He had to be THE most obnoxious human being I had ever met! That was how it started.
He was tall, dark, and handsome and enormously talented. Everyone thought so and the undergraduate girls followed him around like he was a Persian prince. I must admit, he had Southern gentleman mixed in with the obnoxiousness and his looks would turn any head. But when he opened his mouth to sing….well, even the hardest heart would puddle.
We grew to know each other as we worked together in class and in stage productions. I found him to be quite charming (although I never quite got over that first meeting and the red cowboy boots) and, with time, we became friends. We laughed and had fun and spent long hours together along with many others as we moved from one production to another. Opera and theater people always enjoy a cast party. After about a year of knowing one another, we attended the same cast party. I sat among a group of gals chatting about one thing or another. I was telling a story (imagine that) when he walked into the middle of the group saying, “Excuse me, ladies,” and bent to slather a very passionate kiss on me. Oh MY! “Thank you, ma’am,” he said as he walked away grinning. We were all shocked and speechless. Total quiet followed. THAT was the beginning of the romance.
We dated other people, never each other, but we thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company. My time at The University of Texas was nearing an end and I was auditioning for performing jobs. He had finished one degree and entered into the doctoral program with the Presidential Scholarship—the only one granted in the music school and HE got it. He deserved it. He was just that remarkably smart and talented.
We were in the middle of a 2-week run of Sweeney Todd and he was sitting in the wings waiting for his next entrance. I don’t really know what spurred it on….perhaps it was the recklessness of graduating and leaving soon. I decided to return the kiss he had unexpectedly bestowed on me the year before. I must have done a good job because it was electric and what started as a spark grew quickly to a forest fire. I had only weeks left before leaving for NY and a job. We saw each other every day. And then, I was gone. Long distance led to a break up during which God worked deeply in both of our hearts, purging out things that needed to be done with and replacing them with more of Himself and His character. Most relationships that break up like that are irreparable. But God….but God had a plan for the two of us and it was a forever plan.
We began a long-distance romance that included lots of dollars in phone calls and love letters and Bible studies through the mail. We both grew to be more of who we were called to be. And as we grew, we fell deeply in love. Although the depth of my feeling for him made me afraid….afraid that I would allow him to be more important than God (a problem I had had in past relationships)…I knew I didn’t want to live life without him…ever.
We vowed our forever to one another 27 years ago today. Now, 3 cities, 3 children, and innumerable gray hairs later, he is still my most favorite person in the whole world. I prefer his company to anyone else. I prefer his humor over all others. His wisdom and advice are the first I seek. He always points me to the Lord. I’d follow him to the end of the world and back. It’s a forever kind of love and I am blessed beyond the capabilities of language to express it. Thank you, Stuart Sheehan. Thank you for marrying me 27 years ago. YOU are the love of my life…my forever love.
It was a couple of months before Easter. As a lifetime musician who played keys and sang, I would sit at the piano, fumbling away at some tune or another, trying to write a song. I would come up with a phrase or two but the tune wouldn’t fit. I might have a section of music and a melody but no words. Now ask me to come up with a silly song for my kids…no problem! In a flash rhymes and tunes would adhere and a catchy kids’ song was birthed. Not so with what I considered a “real song”. I excelled at things like “Fit-pitching mama” and “How to set the table” and one of my personal faves, “There you have it.” (A story for another time.)
For years off and on I had asked God to let me write a song, a real song. Each time, nothing. I had let it go for awhile and then it was on my mind again. This time I begged God to let me write one. “Why would you allow me to have the musical ability and a love for words but somehow I cannot put them together?” Finally, I told God that this was a deep desire of my heart. I didn’t care if anyone ever heard it. I didn’t care if it were ever “performed” for anyone but Him. I just wanted to write one good song. Just one.
I know exactly where I was when He answered. I was driving through the parking lot in front of a strip center, running errands. It came like a fast-moving spring storm. Words tumbling over each other and a melody magnetically grasping onto the syllables. I couldn’t get home quickly enough. I dropped everything and sat at the piano picking it out. It was so easy. I knew I had not come up with this song. God has answered and had given it to me. I couldn’t take any credit for it. He had given it, like a gift from a loving parent to a longing child, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was from Him.
That afternoon while dinner was cooking, I sat at the piano playing and singing it over and over. Hubby came in from work and quietly sat down in the next room, listening. “That’s a really good song,” he said. “A really good song.” I knew it was good—because God had written it. My mind couldn’t come up with something so fast, so flowing, so completely whole out of thin air. “God gave it to me,” I answered quietly, feeling as if I had been given a rare and precious jewel, highly sought after by me and entrusted to me in love .
7Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11, ESV)
A God who gives…generously and without reproach. (James 1:5) Easter is a celebration of a God who gave and continues to give. 16For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV) In celebration and honor of my God who gave for me and to me, I share with you what He gave to me.
Smitten By Your Grace
Higher than the heavens and deeper than the sea—
No, no one can measure the love of Christ for me
And it was His pleasure to take my place.
I am smitten by His grace.
That a holy God would love a lowly man
I am smitten by His grace again.
He bore my crucifixion in meek humility.
Taking my conviction, He paid my penalty.
Nothing separates me from the love of Christ—
I am smitten by the price.
That a holy God would love a lowly man
I am smitten by His grace again.
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that has pardoned and cleansed within
Grace, grace, God’s grace
Grace that is greater than all my sin—
I am smitten by Your grace again!
Redeemer of the worthless and Savior of mankind
A Friend to give His life for me, oh, such a love is mine!
Mysteries unfathomed and the Truth revealed—
I am smitten still.
That a holy God would love a lowly man
I am smitten by His grace again.
I am smitten by Your grace again.
©2010 Amy B. Sheehan