What You Have to Know About Today


IMG_5847For God’s Message of Hope…

So what is it about the summer that makes the kids grow?

Clearly, there’s the sun, the sky, the gobs of fresh air. But there’s also the fact that summer was made for childhood, and inherently a child knows they must rise to the occasion. As they rise they have this way of growing like rows of emerald corn. Bright. Tall. Wholesome. Sweet. They stretch to the sky before our eyes.

This summer My Blessing grew into the pureness and fullness of seven. She grew into books and adventure and a love for testing the laws of nature.

God’s Promise grew into one. Leaving baby days behind a little more each day she embraced the wonders of a toddler’s world. She grew into words, and slides, and big attempts, despite her little size, to do just what her sisters do.

And Hope…oh, my Hope Girl As the heat of summer fades, Hope’s days of being four are dipping below the horizon like a shining sliver of orange sun.

Skin to SkinI don’t know what it is about the change from four to five but it gets me every time. It catches my breath and startles me, catching me off guard.

I remember this moment when My Blessing was about to turn five. How the hot arrow of realization struck me and singed my heart with knowing that My Blessing, age four, was about to be gone forever. Never to be seen or known again.

And now here I am with Hope savoring her fourness. Savoring her suckin’ fingers, and golden hair. Her faithful friend Froggy and twirling dresses. Her Barbies, and dolls, and princessy, glittery, has to be every-shade-of-PINK-under-the-sun-things.

Her tiny wisp of a voice.

Her heart that beats for Daddy.

Her half-pint size still not quite too heavy to pick up and squeeze and hold.

And I know these things won’t leave completely as she flutters her wings into five. But five brings us ever closer to that dreaded precipice. To that place and time when Barbies and dolls and dresses that twirl will lose the fight to friends, and make-up, and dresses that twirl boys’ heads.

Tenley HandLast night at bedtime I held her. I snuggled her so close she squeaked. I kissed her all over her face and looked long and deep into her sapphire blue eyes.

“Mommy, what are you doing to me?” She said with half a giggle and half a groan.

“I’m memorizing you,” I said. “I know I’m going to fall head over heels in love with Hope, age five, but boy am I going to miss, My Hope Girl, age four.”

To this she simply smiled, grabbed her Froggy, and rolled over, ready for the sweetest of dreams.

And, sure, she can roll her eyes and shake her head over her crazy mama. (Two gestures of appreciation, I am sure, have only just begun…) Of course she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand. But someday….

Someday God’s Message of Hope, age 34, will sit on the edge of a bed. She’ll look long and deep into eyes that look just like her own and she’ll know.

Mama wasn’t crazy. These days ARE fleeting and few.

 Each one a masterpiece, a summer sunset.

 Created, given, and meant to be savored.

A Love Story

Wedding DayOnce upon a time there was a young man from Maryland who met a young lady from Mississippi while she was visiting her family for one golden summer.

It was as close to love-at-first-sight as love-at-first-sight can be because when the young man laid eyes on the pretty young girl his gaze never really left.

The young girl, she fell hard and fast with a love that lasted the summer and all the seasons to follow. And sure, well meaning family and friends and older sisters would say, “Well what about him? Or him? Or him?” They’d say, “You’re too young, too naive, too optimistic to give your heart away.”

Martie SavageSappy LoveWendellBut the young girl didn’t care or mind because her cares and mind were fixed. This young man would be her first, her last, her only love.

It was an old-fashioned love from the start. Fashioned after the oldest love that fashioned the dawn of time.

The boy and the girl grew up together and loved one another with miles and states in between. They counted the days between visits that became more treasured than gold. They wrote letters so hot and juicy those letters had to be burned. They waited and plotted and planned for the day when they would be together at school.

College DaysThe boy went to college and the girl soon followed and at the end of four years they had dreams, degrees, and rings on their fingers. They gained jobs, and friends, and furniture. They moved here and there and hoped and prayed for God to give them a family.

Good times came.

Heartache came.

Together they laughed and cried.

They lost jobs and friends. They lost beloved old ones and precious new ones.

At times they lost their like for each other but they never lost their love. They never lost their faith or their commitment to God and each other.

In times of poured out tears, of heartache, hurt, and loss, they looked to the verse stitched into cloth that hung by a thread on the wall:

For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

And they remembered the One who hung by nails and poured out love for them.

It was here at the cross and the crossroads that they found love, and hope, and graceful grit that kept them right on going. Right on living with broken but still beating hearts.

And God, He didn’t leave them hanging. He came to the broken but still beating hearts and filled them with His glory.

He filled empty pockets, empty chairs, empty rooms. He filled their empty, aching arms with one baby girl, then two. Laughter, hope, and dreams were born pink, and fresh, and new.

Baby MelBaby MeDad's FavoriteThis boy from Maryland is now 72, and his Mississippi bride is an exquisite 70. And they’ve been wearing those rings on their fingers for 50 golden years.

Those two baby girls, who filled their arms, now fill their hearts, and days, and home with two sons acquired by law and six of the grandest children.

GrandbabiesAnd the girls and the grandkids and the son-in-laws, too, wish they could give this Maryland boy and this Mississippi girl the greatest gift in all the world to celebrate their golden day.

A journey to Europe! A pair of gold watches! A fabulous piece of art!

But the daughters, the grands, and the sons-in-law know the truth. The golden truth that seems unfair: The gift has already been given, not to the honored couple, but to them.

IMG_2760The gift of parents and grandparents who journeyed and struggled and fought through life but chose to stay together, to stay in love, to stay in the grip of His grace.

The golden legacy of vows made and vows kept.

The portrait of a marriage.

The gift of a mom and dad that would rather sleep in a bed too small than not sleep together at all.

The gift of parents who still kiss and touch and whisper secrets, who still laugh and hug and exchange I love you’s each and every day.

The gift of seeing Psalm 48:14 as more than a fancy cross-stitch on the wall but as truth, and testimony, and family tradition.

This is the gift and it is theirs and all they can really give in return are ten beating hearts full of thanks.

They can take the journey, the golden legacy, the portrait painted before them and fashion their own love stories after this love story, after the love story. After their parents, their grandparents, their God.

One love story molded from and by all the loves that went before, for all generations to follow.

Mom and Dad SappyRingsMom and Dad GoldenBecause this kind of love lasts forever. Rooted not in the soil of earth but the streets of golden eternity. Centered not on the love of man and wife but the love of a Savior and His beloved.

This is the gift of fifty years.

Forged in the Refiners fire, the gift more precious than gold.

~ Happy 50th Mom and Dad (Nannie and Papa)!

With Love From, Melanie, Jennifer, Landon, Chris, Conner, Madeline, Garrett, Aletheia, Tenley, and Cabellea ~

The Art of Motherhood (Or How to Make this Day a Best Day)

Sunshine SmilesTaylor Swift has a song she wrote about her mother and while it’s not one of her mega hits it is one of my favorites. The chorus of the song says,

“I don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away but I know I had the best day with you today.” (The Best Day by Taylor Swift)

When I was in the sixth grade I remember a typical Monday afternoon in which my mom did something that was simple in nature but has lasted in my memory. As she picked me up from school on that Monday afternoon I remember her saying, “I feel like going to see a movie. Want to go?”

Did I want to go? Of course I wanted to go. Did she really need to ask?

Together we headed to the mall where we caught a matinee of Sense and Sensibility. It was my first brush with Jane Austen and it was completely and utterly magical.

Being there with my mom, no homework, no rush, no worries. The only care on our minds was whether or not Edward and Eleanor would end up together by the end of the movie.

Whenever Mother’s Day rolls around I think of this memory and sometimes I wonder, why this one? Of all the special things my mom did for me growing up why does this memory stick so soundly, so seemingly above and beyond the others?

I’m not sure I know the answer but I think it has something to do with the unexpected. It wasn’t my birthday or a holiday when expectations run high. It was a Monday. It was a surprise. It was simple and fun.

I think there was also something in seeing my mom being nothing but her beautiful self. She wasn’t cooking, cleaning or transporting me around. She wasn’t busy being a wife or even a mom. It was one of the rare times I could witness my mom relax. She was just Martie. I was just Jen. For that space in time we were somehow free to be perfectly ourselves enjoying something we both loved.

There was probably any number of reasons why we could have chosen and maybe should have chosen not to go to the movies that day. But I’m so glad we went. I’m so glad my mom chose to follow her heart that day. And I’m glad she took me with her.

Now I’m a mom raising three girls of my own and I’m continually inspired by this memory and what it means to me. In the midst of homemaking, homeschooling, writing, being a wife and everyday mothering I hope I can be the kind of mom that builds memories like this one into the lives of my girls. 

Memories that stick for a lifetime. Memories of days spent enjoying a good movie, a good book, a good walk in the park or a trip to Barnes & Nobles. Memories of days spent enjoying each other.

Because somewhere deep in my mama’s heart I do know why that day with my mom was so special. I know it was one of hundreds of days in which my mom modeled the art of motherhood. The art of turning ordinary days, sometimes even bad days, into the best days. 

When I listen to Taylor sing about her mom I cry every time. My heart feels like it could burst wide open with how much I want my mom to know this is how I feel about her. It’s also what I want to be for my girls. I want to give them the best days.

On this Mother’s Day I pray that both may be true.

I pray that the best days of our lives will forever be the ones we spent together. 

To listen to Taylor’s song The Best Day please follow this link and treat yourself to some Mother’s Day goodness: https://youtu.be/l4_6eQm7RTQ

Martha, Martha (Or 70 Reasons Why…)

Mom & MeTwo years ago I wrote a post to honor and celebrate my dad on his 70th birthday. Time has flown by and now I have the joy and privilege of doing the same for my mom. On this, my mother’s 70th Birthday, I can’t think of a better way to show her (and all of you) just how much I love her.

Happy Birthday, Mama. So much of what I have and who I am is because of you. With all my heart, I love you and wish you the happiest of days…

70(ish) Reasons Why I Love You…

  •  The way you look in lavender
  • Your chicken and rice casserole
  • The day you picked me up from school and took me on a spur of the moment date to see Sense and Sensibility at the movie theater
  • Your perfect smile
  • Mom's Bridal PortraitThe way you magically keep getting more and more beautiful each and every year
  • The “Mom” you’ve been to all of my friends
  • Your southern accent and how it gets thicker whenever someone asks you where you’re from
  • Phrases like: “Pushing little ducks in the water” and “Poor little Angeline sucking her cup”
  • How as a kid (and a grown-up) I always felt homesick when you weren’t around
  • Your sweet tea
  • The chocolate cake you make every year for my birthday
  • IMG_0645The way you’ve always made our house so beautiful, comfortable, and warm
  • Everything you did to make my wedding day perfect
  • “It’s fine, but it could be finer.”
  • Decorating together for Christmas
  • Out of all the moms in the world I get to call you mine
  • The way you sound when you sing and how I can still hear your lull-la-byes
  • The fact that Martha Stewart has nothing on you
  • The way the house smells when you’re cooking in the kitchen
  • Countless loads of laundry you’ve done for me and my family
  • IMG_1686The way Tenley looks in your arms when you “rock & sing” or read books together
  • All the fun things you do with Aletheia
  • Your pumpkin-cream cheese muffins
  • The way you can fix anything or in another words…nothing is truly broken until Mom can’t fix it
  • All your down home Mississippi memories
  • The loyalty you have for your sisters
  • The way you love my dad, my sister, me, my children…and yes, even Chris
  • How you’ve taught me to make a house a home
  • Saturday nights watching Dallas when I was a kid
  • How the name Mary Martha suites you so well
  • Your love for books and reading
  • IMG_0748Counting gifts with you
  • All the graces you bring to my life
  • The sound of your laughter
  • Your ugly toes
  • How even when you don’t understand some of the things I do, you love me and support me no matter what
  • The way you’ve always made me feel safe, loved, secure, and happy
  • Your obsession with recipes and the curious way you never end up following them
  • The fact that you think “Rock n’ Roll” music is too “Razz-ma-tazz”
  • Watching you nurse and care for Nana and what that taught me as a young girl
  • IMG_1603The gingerbread houses you made when Melanie and I were children
  • The comfort you bring whenever I’m sick
  • Shopping together
  • How we’ll never agree on Aldi’s, bleach, expired food, and at what point a load of laundry is actually dry
  • Trips to Germany and all the traveling memories we’ve shared
  • The way the blue in my little girls’ eyes is just like the blue in yours
  • IMG_0713The way you drove me and Miranda to school every single morning so I wouldn’t have to ride the bus
  • How I can always count on you for sewing projects (From wedding dresses to curtains and everything in between)
  • How I always think of you when I watch Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music
  • Watching Carolina Basketball together and the way you’ve been known to cuss when the refs make a bad call
  • Your stubborn streak
  • Your southern grace
  • Your soft skin and rosy cheeks
  • IMG_0720Sharing my home with you
  • The way you have ALWAYS been there for me
  • The way you are ALWAYS there for everyone
  • The legacy of faith in God you have given to me, my sister, your grandchildren
  • Your mother’s heart and how you’ve made me the mom I am today
  • The way your perfume lingers in the air, in the car, in the house, and makes me miss you when you’re gone
  • IMG_2760Visits to Charlotte and Virginia and how it was always so fun to spend time with you, scrapbooking, shopping, cooking, decorating…
  • Sharing jewelry, scarves, and purses
  • Your golden touch with all things crafty and/or food related
  • How as a little girl I always, always wanted to be just like you when I grew up
  • Having a stay-at-home mom and the example you’ve set in so many ways
  • IMG_1026The way you used to braid my hair in one long French braid or George Washington curls on Sundays
  • Your likes (traveling, a clean, quiet house, gardening, flowers, time with friends and family, molasses on biscuits, Lizz Curtis Higgs, UNC basketball, the color yellow) and dislikes (swimming, Duke, exercise, loud music, spots on your carpet, pets, your “pug” nose)
  • The way you know the name of almost any flower
  • Watching you relax in the middle of the afternoon or at the end of the day
  • Do I really have to stop at 70??? This list could go on forever…
  • The love and care you have always given my girls and the peace I feel when I know you’re with them
  • The way you make ALL things beautiful

If you know and love my mom please feel free to leave a comment, memory, or birthday wish below and continue the love on her special day!

Remembering Nana

Ledger 3Twenty years ago this Thursday my grandmother, Nana, went home to be with Jesus. What better way to remember her than with this post…

Last Thursday my mom and I spent the day cleaning out closets, cabinets and a bit of our basement. As we worked we came across a drawer full of my grandmother’s belongings.

My grandma, Nana, died almost twenty years ago, but before she passed away she lived with my family and was nursed, in our home, by my mother after she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side.

While sorting through the crowded drawer of Nana’s old wooden hutch my mom discovered Nana’s banking ledger. Living with Nana, for as far back as I can remember, gave me the distinct privilege of knowing her well, but as my mom and I stopped our work and leafed through her ledger, I learned something new and precious about my grandmother: My Nana was a woman of grace.

Years ago, when my mom was still a child my grandma and grandpa ran a general store in rural Mississippi. For years, Nana kept their books by hand, and even after their store closed she continued to keep track of debts and transactions between her and a myriad of people throughout her lifetime.

Carefully my mom and I turned the ancient pages of her ledger. In her elegant handwriting I read the names and accounts of clients, friends and relatives. There must have been a thousand entries each recording the ways that Nana loaned money or gave aid to people in need.

Along with names, dates and figures, I noticed that each and every page of the ledger was covered with an “X.”

“In her will, Nana forgave every debt,” my mom said. “The “X’s” show that the debts were cancelled.”

My eyes filled with tears at the memory of my sweet Nana, of her generosity and goodness, and I said softly, “This is a ledger of grace.”

There on every page in the form of an inky blue “X”: Grace.

Mom and I went on with our work but as I worked I thought of Nana. Not only did Nana cancel the debts of many, she chose to leave an inheritance. Even when significant amounts of money were never repaid, Nana chose to leave monetary provisions for people she wanted to bless, for people who were in need.

Isn’t this what grace does? Grace doesn’t just cancel out debt, it gives beyond. Grace always comes as an undeserved gift and is always followed with love.

Nana’s ledger isn’t just a record of her banking transactions; it is a picture of Christ. Just as Nana covered each debt that filled the lines of her ledger with an “X,” Christ took the sin that filled the entire world and covered it with one wooden cross.

Imagine the pages of God’s ledger. Every page a person, owing the debt of sin. Every page covered with a blood stained “X,” that speaks one word: Forgiven. He gave us the gift of grace and loved us with the opportunity to live in relationship with him.

This is our cancelled debt, this is our inheritance.

Finding Nana’s ledger has helped me to remember her legacy of grace and has also challenged me to consider the ways in which I can give grace, the ways in which I can go beyond, the ways in which I can follow grace with love. Every time we model grace, we model the cross. Every time we give love, we give God.

If ever I need a reminder of grace I can turn to the pages of Nana’s ledger. I can read the debts, I can see the “X’s,” and I can remember, just as she did, the cross.

~ A message from the archives