The Face of Faith

Four-year-old Hayden Emmanuel Hitchcock died in a tragic accident recently and more than one community is mourning the loss. Heartache and prayer for the Hitchcock and Parke families were the immediate responses, and then came also the questions.

Why, God? Help us to understand Your plan in this too-soon death.

Please, Lord, overwhelm this family with Your mercy and love. Help us to help them.

Tears filled my husband’s eyes as he read the newspaper report, which included a wonderful photo of the happy boy’s grinning face. The morning of the funeral, RJ told me, “I cannot get that child’s face out of my mind.”

Along with hundreds of others, I witnessed on January 8, 2014, how a close-knit and faith-filled family handles unimaginable grief with dignity, unity, and a composure that only a true trust in God can bring. And I heard a grandmother ask, “Will you ever forget that face?” Everyone in the sanctuary was challenged to contemplate their own relationship with the Jesus little Hayden knew and loved. And I doubt seriously most of us will ever again hear his favorite song, “Oceans (When My Feet Fail)” without remembering “that face” and a mighty-mite of a boy who could do one-arm pushups and cheer for LSU with all his might.


We receive some comfort in knowing our community’s littlest “Captain America” is now playing (and probably fishing) in heaven.

The steadfast faith, love and strength we watched that day will encourage those who attended forever.



Filed under Faith, Family

Pickle Prayers

Three-year-old Jesse Suits was not happy on one particular Sunday as he followed his pregnant mother and four siblings in through our church’s rear entrance doors. He cried, clinging to his mom’s skirt, and definitely did not want to go into his Sunday School classroom.

I had KidCheck Security duty that morning, so it was easy to offer a hand.

“Come with me, Jesse. Will you help me this morning? We need to check the other children into their classes.”

Those tear-filled eyes brightened just a little as he looked up and said, “Uh-huh, I’ll help you.”

As I lifted him onto the stool at the check-in station’s computer, I promised him a story. He wiped his cheeks and cracked a smile.

And the story began…”Once upon a time there was a huge bear in the woods who had lost his family. He’d searched and searched, but he couldn’t find them. Eventually he became very hungry, and his stomach GROWLED, so he stopped for a pathside snack of blackberries and a sip of water from the nearby stream…”

“Hey,” the little man interrupted. “Do bears like pickles?”

His question caught me off-guard, but since I was making up this story anyway, I followed Jesse’s line of questioning.

“Of course, bears like pickles. Do you like pickles?

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a child’s face light up quite the way Jesse’s did when he blurted out, “Oh, I love pickles. Do you have any pickles for me to eat now?”

And thus began our special new friendship centered on his love for pickles.

A few Wednesday nights later, when I substituted as teacher for his Sonbeams’ class, only he and four-year-old Logan were in attendance. So I thought, “Field trip time!” I asked their mothers’ permission to take them pickle shopping at the nearby Sweetbay Supermarket.

What fun we had, as the two boys selected a jar each of their favorite pickles, along with a soda and some chips. This field trip was one I’ll never forget.

Since that time, my husband RJ and I have created a “pickle stash” so Jesse will always have a jar of his favorites on hand.

Several Sundays ago, Jesse saw me in the hallway after church (Plant City Church of God). He stopped, put his hand on his hip, and grinned. “Did you bring my pickles today?”

“You bet I did, Jesse. Stay right there while I get them out of my office.”

By the time I’d returned, his family was gathered near the rear entrance. I bent down to show Jesse the new jar and asked, “Hey, will you do me a big favor? Will you say a prayer for me every time you eat a pickle?

His response and sweet smile were instant. “Pickle prayers!”

And he made my day and melted my heart as I thought, “Can you imagine how many prayers he might say for me?”

Pickle prayers from Jesse…I am counting on our listening God.

Jesse and his Suits family love pickles!

Jesse and his Suits family love pickles!


Filed under Family

Boundaries with Boys

This handsome young man could be her one.

His name is Garrett and he’s a gentleman, which is probably the reason she fell in love. He uses his manners and smiles at everyone he meets, and he wrote 100 promises when he gave his lady love a “waiting” ring.

Promise  Ring

And she’s a lady, through and through—Karaline— our kind and gentle “KareBear.”

Even though they’re only in high school, this grandmother can imagine them in a solid marriage one day.
Grandparents have that sense, you know.

After college would be my preference, but more than anything, I want God’s will for her life.

Thanks to their youth group at church, Karaline and Garrett are protecting their future with boundaries set today. They’re careful about spending too much time alone together and they are saving physical intimacy for marriage.

And his eyes reveal how he cherishes her. It’s so obvious. He can see her as his bride, walking toward him in white, to become his wife, his treasure, forever. He can imagine her bearing and mothering their children. He can picture himself growing old by her side.

These two youngsters are wise old souls, with their faith as their center.

Several times I’ve shared with her about my relationship regrets and a few mistakes I hope she can avoid. I’ve mentioned the importance of open and honest communication about everything that will one day become a part of married life and raising children. She listened and is still asking good questions. She wants to use caution and good judgment because she trusts her Garrett to do the same. And so do I.

Of her concerns, my advice is usually, “Ask God,” or “Wait on God.”

“But, I’m in love, Grandma, and I don’t want to lose Garrett. What if he is attracted to someone else or what if he wants to date other girls?”

True love waits, Daughter. God’s plan promises, “It’s worth the wait.”

And there’s a huge payoff in the here and now and the happily ever after—a beautiful union for life and life more abundantly, as two become one.

Trust God, the One who loves you both the most, to guide you and to be there when you wonder what your future holds.

Remember, Children, He only has your best in mind.

…so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:28 (NIV)

KH-GW Prom2014


KH-GW Boat


Filed under Family

Leading by Reading

Recently, the words on a poster captivated my thoughts.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

Children Readers

And as a schoolteacher, I‘ve witnessed the truth in this correlation. I can usually tell when a student has grown up with parents who read for themselves and spend time reading with their children.

Honestly, we can never underestimate the influence of good books and carefully chosen words.

At her request, my teenage granddaughter and I started a tradition this past year. We made a weekly date to study the Bible together, sometimes after a shared lunch at Fred’s Market and sometimes over our favorite frozen mocha frappe at Krazy Kup, the cool coffeehouse in our town.

With her very demanding high school schedule, several times she texted me to rearrange our date: “Hey, will Tuesday work for you this week?” or “Can you study today instead?”

Since our date was one of my weekly priorities, I made every effort to accommodate her timing.

“Thank you, Gaga,” she would always reply.

I suggested The Acts of the Apostles for our first study and we kept it simple. During the eight sessions we took to finish the book, we just alternated turns, reading the divisions in each chapter aloud to each other. Like girlfriends would do, we posed questions and wondered “what if” and “how,” and even discussed bits of information about Paul’s cultural history. Her teen Bible (True Images) had some interesting commentary sidebars she could read to me…and become the teacher in those moments.

We spoke often of the Holy Spirit and how He guides and directs our steps when we listen for His leading. We talked about the comfort, contentment, and peace that He gives when we relinquish our will to God.

As grandmother and granddaughter, we practiced and received the beautiful blessing promised in Revelation 1:3 (NIV)…Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

I doubt Karaline will ever fully understand how much the sound of her voice reading Scripture and her commitment of time has meant to me.

Perhaps one day, when she’s mothering her own children, she’ll remember and know.



Filed under Family

A Granddaughter’s Art

Since I wrote yesterday of the beautiful card my youngest granddaughter gave me for Christmas this year, I decided to also share a sweet gift her older sister (and my eldest granddaughter Haley Hayes) made for me on Mother’s Day 2014.

As I presume is true of most mothers and grandmothers, I love handcrafted gifts. They have a message all their own, as in “I invested extra time and thought into something I hoped would please you.”

That’s what Haley’s artwork meant to me. She painted a canvas and selected words for a Grandma acrostic. She painted Generous, Radiant cAring, Noble, Dedicated, aMicable, and Amazing.

And from my not quite 20-year-old Haley, I felt affirmed and appreciated.

Thank You, God, for this gift from a girl with so many. Blessed, I am indeed, to be her Grandma.


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Filed under Family