I Am Rich

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Sometimes I’ve wondered what it would be like to be rich– I mean, really rich, as in never-have-to- worry-about-money-again rich. There have been occasions, while exiting the highway at Memorial Drive, I’ve glanced up at the ginormous lottery sign announcing the mega payoff and I’ve thought, “What would I do with all that money? Would my life be better? Would I be happier?”  I probably will never know because I don’t plan on playing, but after thinking about it some more, I have determined something; I’m already rich.

I am rich because I am the daughter of two parents who loved and cherished me.  The time, energy and resources they poured into me helped me to know that I was important to them and that I mattered. One of my earliest memories is snuggling up with mother on the sofa, at the corner closest to the lamp, and listening to her read stories to me in the evenings. She encouraged my creativity and curiosity and answered my many questions, at least most of the time, and this set the stage for things to come. She helped me believe that I was destined for great things.  Even after my father died, my mother was faithful to finish what was started, and it was her tenacity and strength that carried me safely to the shores of adulthood.

I am rich because of the legacy of love given to me by others who are no longer with us– people like Auntie (That’s what we called our Aunt Dianna, my mother’s twin sister. We had other aunts, but there was only one Auntie.) She was the family historian and since she had no children of her own, she was always there to fill in the gap for me and my siblings while we were growing up. Now I’m the family historian and I am proud to be her namesake.

I am rich because I’m blessed to be married to a left brained-right brained kind of guy–you know the type, well learned, intelligent and creative, but practical and hands-on. I smile sometimes when I look at him standing at the podium on Sunday mornings delivering a word to the congregation, or I catch a glimpse of him on television interviewing an important politician because I know that the same man who prays those beautiful prayers and writes and edits the newspaper stories, is the same man who will come home and wash and fold a load of laundry. My point is, he’s not just talker, but a doer. He has a servant’s heart and he lives it out each day in our home and I am deeply satisfied because I know that, this time, I chose well.

I am rich every time I hold my granddaughter and her little brothers in my arms and they cover me with hugs and kisses and tell me that they love me. And when sweet, little Bryce prays his prayers at night, thanking God that we have chosen to be his grandma and grandpa too, my heart is full and my cup runneth over.

I am rich because I have finally reached a point where I am comfortable in my own skin and although I would prefer to be a size four instead of a fourteen I am happy, healthy and whole and grateful to be the me I am today.

I am rich because I’ve been blessed with the gift of children.  The love and the life lessons that I’ve learned as a result of motherhood far outweighed the duties and sacrifices.  Choosing to be a mother and to care for four other human beings has challenged me to give of myself in ways I never would have had I not chosen to become a parent, but the paradox is, that in giving, I received.  They helped me to grow up and I am a better person because of them.

I am rich because of the beautiful friendships I enjoy with the many women God has placed in my life over the years.  Some are older, some are younger and there are those who I’ve known longer, but I share a camaraderie them all.  I feel emotionally and spiritually nourished when I can talk with trusted women friends about the issues that matter most to me. Yes, there are those times when a little gossip is involved, but most of the time we’re exchanging words of encouragement and practical advice and I’m glad to be a part of such a wonderful sisterhood.

I am rich because I am a sibling and auntie to a host of brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, both biologically and by-law. Although we only see each other a few times a year, coming together to celebrate birthdays and holidays and other special occasions is a wonderful reminder that I am in relationships with people with whom I share common history. This helps me to feel rooted and grounded.

I am rich because I have been able to tap into my God-given gifts and I operate with a sense of purpose. Whether it’s writing stories for the paper, singing a solo for church service, using my marketing/PR skills to organize an event, homeschooling my daughter, or cooking a good meal for my family, I know that what I do makes a difference and that gives me fulfillment.

I am rich because I belong to a church family who loves and cares about me. When I first came to this Grace 20 years ago, I was on the brink of divorce and about to be a single mom with three children. I was hurting and I was scared, but they immediately embraced me and began to help me in practical ways. They invited me to eat in their homes, talk at their kitchen tables, and on occasion even sleep in their beds. Over time I began to realize that I was connected to large, diverse spiritual family. Because of their consistent love, I was able to grow and develop in my Christian walk and now I’m a part of the leadership of this church and I am able to give back and help others in the same way they helped me. The best part is, that when it’s all said and done, we’re going spend eternity together.

A Healed Heart: A Father’s Day Tribute

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By Deanna Cauthen

I lost my father to pancreatic cancer when I was 13 years old.  It was all very sudden–him getting very sick, the excruciating pain, my mother taking him to the hospital in the middle of the night, and then six weeks later, dying. Just like that, he was gone.

If you’ve never experienced it, the death of a parent, at such an early age, is one of the hardest things a child can endure.  It leaves a hole in your heart–an empty, lonely feeling like nothing else. At least, that was the way it felt for me.  Add to that the pain of not understanding why God would allow such a thing to happen and you can imagine the despair.

That was 37 years ago. Now, fast forward several years to January 13, 2001, the day I married Andrew Louis Cauthen, III. Like most people who enter into a marriage, I was in love and believed that Andrew would probably be a good husband and father, but in actuality, who really knows about these things. Only time would tell….

Well, time has told. We’ve been married, now, for almost 15 years and what did God do? He gave me a man with a great, big daddy’s heart.  I find it rather perplexing, but altogether wonderful that a God who would allow my father to exit my life at such an early age would, in turn, give me a husband who would play a part in healing the wounds of the past. But, then who can understand God?

I remember how my heart melted the first time I saw him look at Adrianna shortly after she was born.  I could clearly see that he was awestruck and he’s been that way ever since. Even at 13 years of age, he faithfully tucks her into bed at night and it blesses my heart as I watch him from the doorway of her bedroom.

But his love isn’t limited by biology. It’s been extended over and over again to his three stepchildren, the non-biological grandchildren that he’s helping to raise and to the hundreds of youths he’s mentored during his 23+ years of youth ministry. The devotion he has for them and the unwavering commitment to their well being is nothing short of God’s grace in action.

My biological dad has been gone for more than three decades, but the Lord has used the father’s love of my husband to heal my heart again and again. I am incredibly blessed to be married to a man who takes the ministry of fatherhood so seriously. God bless you, Andrew Cauthen!

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Deanna Cauthen, works as a contributing writer for the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown News Inc. and she has also been a staff writer for the Stone Mountain-Lithonia Patch, an online media outlet of AOL.com. As a freelance writer, she has written numerous articles for local and national publications including Christianity Today and Home Education magazines.  She is also the owner/operator of The ProWriter’s Studio, a public relations agency.

Don’t Miss Christmas

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By Deanna Cauthen

As I sit here, at the dining room table, in the quiet, early hours of a Wednesday morning, I look at the Christmas tree glowing in the darkness of the next room.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even want to put up a Christmas tree at this house.  I wanted to wait and put it up at the new house that we’re purchasing, but my husband insisted that we do it here. He was afraid that in the hustle and bustle of trying to move and with the craziness of everything else that we have going on with our lives that we would “miss Christmas”.

There’s nothing like being in the middle of move and having your house torn down, especially during the Christmas holidays. According to my perfect plan, we should have already been moved in, unpacked and sitting in the den of the new house roasting chestnuts over an open fire (well, maybe not over an open fire because we’d be using the fireplace and definitely not chestnuts since I’m allergic to them, but you know what I mean). Instead, we are doing Christmas amongst a mountain of boxes that tower over us while we sit in the den–the OLD den.

A last minute oversight by the loan officer set off a flurry of emails between us, the real estate agent, the sellers, and the bank underwriters. In the end, it meant coming up with more money and this resulted in a change in closing dates, which at times, has left me feeling frantic and frazzled. Nothing has gone according to plan and the whole experience has been very unsettling.

And then I thought about the first Christmas with Mary and Joseph and how unsettled things must have been for them.  Think about it for a minute, folks. Here was a young girl (I believe she was just a teenager at the time) pregnant with a child who was not her husband’s, traveling across several miles on a donkey, to another city to have a baby.  When they finally reach Bethlehem, because of all the people in town for the census, the inns and other places to stay were completely full and there she was ready to give birth. How unsettling is that!

We all know the rest of the story.  An innkeeper tells Joseph that they can use the nearby stable for lodging and it is there that Mary, amongst the animals, gives birth. There was no doctor, not even a midwife, to help Mary bring Jesus into the world. She had to lay down in the hay, where animals had been sleeping, and give birth to a baby on the ground. I dare say, that the sanitary conditions of a stable couldn’t have been the best, yet Mary and Joseph did what they had to do.

My point is this–sometimes the circumstances of a situation can make life more than a little hectic. The temptation, during these times, is to let our minds and hearts get caught up with all the bad stuff and forget the bigger picture.  Again, I look at Mary and think about what might have been going through her mind as she packed up her belongings and prepared for the long trip that she and Joseph were about to take.  She was leaving the comforts of her home and family to have a her baby in a far away city.  In the days and moments leading up to her departure, she obviously chose to focus on something greater than her discomfort and any fears that she might have been experiencing. Otherwise, why on earth would she have agreed to go? She could have easily said, “Joseph I ain’t goin’ nowhere ‘til I have this baby!”

Sometimes our current situation feels chaotic and it doesn’t seem to make sense, just like it didn’t on that first Christmas with Mary and Joseph, but remember that God has a much bigger plan and that my story and your story doesn’t end with our present set of circumstances. Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart, I have conquered the world.”

So the word for you and for me today is, FOCUS. Focus on Jesus, not the baby-in-the-manger Jesus, but the risen, victorious Savior, Jesus. Focus on his love, his care, and on the fact that he is Emmanuel--God with us. This is what I have to keep telling myself as I struggle to get through the coming days. God is with me and promised that he would never leave me or forsake me. Even during the craziest of times.

And the same goes for you, too.  I don’t know what you’re going through. Maybe it’s a move like us or maybe it’s a serious illness, a financial problem, or a painful divorce or some other kind of broken family relationship. I once heard a preacher say that Jesus doesn’t always calm the storm, but he will help us to get through it. So when the problems in your life are swirling around you like a mighty storm, and threatening to consume you, listen very carefully and you will be able to hear the voice of Jesus, saying, “Be still, and know that I am God”.

My prayer for myself and for you is that Jesus, The Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace would “guard our hearts and minds” even as we weather the storm to celebrate this Christmas season.

What I Learned as I Watched My Friend Die of Brain Cancer

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In light of the recent suicide of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year old woman who was diagnosed with brain cancer, I decided to re-post an article about a friend of mine who, just like Brittany, was diagnosed with brain cancer and died this past May.

In the months leading up to her suicide, Brittany became the face of the right-to-die movement. She and others believed that choosing to end her own life was somehow a noble and dignified cause.  I would like introduce you to another face–the face of Tracy Mathis, a wife, mother and friend who chose to live and give us the privilege of loving her in the pain and suffering of her disease.

I’ll admit it, watching someone die of a terminal illness is a very scary, hard thing.  I have seen it up-close and personal with my father who died of liver cancer, a most beloved aunt who died of pancreatic cancer, and most recently with Tracy.  To see disease ravage the body, mind and spirit of another human being that you love is excruciatingly painful, especially when you know there is nothing you can do make it better. But there is also something transforming in the experience.

Spending time with Tracy, interacting with her and listening to her share her struggles about the disease forced me to get outside of my superficial mode of living. Likewise, holding my aunt’s hand and wiping her brow, sitting with her as she writhed in pain, and listening to her last requests gave me a unique opportunity to learn how to love in a way that I could not have otherwise. I believe that Brittany’s decision to end her life came as a result of living in a very plastic, superficial society; where anything that looks less than perfect is unacceptable. We live in a part of the world where vulnerability and weakness is shunned and where pain and suffering is a disgrace not to be tolerated. Anything short of perfection and beauty has little worth and should be discarded.

As scary and as painful as it was, I’m grateful that my friend had the faith to stay the course and allowed us, her friends and family, to love her in her pain and suffering. She is my hero! Below, is a copy of the original piece that was published in DCHE Dispatch.

Thanks for reading.

Deanna

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A Letter to My Kids and a Little Bit of Inventory

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By Deanna Johnson Cauthen

Okay, here’s the deal.  I’m a mom. I’ve been a mom for more than 28 years and I worry. And what do I worry about the most? You kids. I know, I know. I’m not suppose to worry–Cast your cares on the Lord, etcetera, etcetera–but, I do worry and not just about you, but your friends, some of which I have known for almost as long as I’ve had you.

I see you struggling with self esteem and identity issues, with faith and finances, with love and loneliness.  A few of you are single parents and I see how you struggle with trying to balance being a young adult with your duties as mom or dad. Sometimes I lay awake at night thinking about it all and it’s too much.  Yes, I pray and I’ve talked with some of your parents and I know they pray too, but it’s still really hard for us to watch you go through this.

The fact is, next to God, you guys are the absolute, most important thing to us.  We’ve poured our lives into loving you, nurturing you, protecting you, teaching you, preparing you, and providing for you.  I think that it’s safe to say, that for many years, our world revolved around you and just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean all that love has stopped.

The problem is you ARE adults and, unlike when you were little, we can’t make all the bad stuff go away.  We don’t have that kind of control anymore (I’m not sure if we ever really did, but we thought we did) and it’s driving us crazy.

It kills us when you date guys who are losers, backslide from the faith or renounce it altogether (with a declaration to the world about it on Facebook), rack up ridiculous debt, live in homeless shelters or on the streets, get arrested for DUI’s and armed robbery, run off to foreign lands to get married to brides unknown, sleep around with Tom, Dick and Harry (pun intended), get pregnant and bring the little bundle of joy home to live with us until Jesus comes, mutilate yourself and change your sexual identity. These are the things that fuel our nightmares, give us hardening of the arteries, and literally cause us to pull our hair out (I’m not kidding about the hair, folks. The next time you see me, look at the back of my head). And let’s not talk about the excruciating, searing pain of a parent who has lost a child to suicide.

Please don’t think that we think you’re just a bunch of screw-ups and that you can’t do anything right. That couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s what makes us so frustrated.  We know how incredible you are. After all, we’re the ones who brought you into this world, remember?  You guys are our pride and joy.

At the end of the day, we still love you and we will always love you. We’re committed to helping you as much as we can, but we’d like for you to do something for us. We’d like for you to take some time out of your busy schedule and do an inventory of sorts.  I know that you have a million and one things to do, but this is important, guys.

As parents, we don’t want to see you living your lives in the default mode; getting caught up and carried along by the prevailing social order of the day. We want you to be authentic and whole; to live your lives on purpose and with passion for God and man. Some of you are doing that, but many of you are not.

If you’re really brave, after you finish answering these questions, give this questionnaire to a family member or to a close friend who has known you for several years and ask them to evaluate you.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this questionnaire is not to start an argument, but a conversation.  Hopefully, you will use this as a tool to help you get to the heart of what matters most.

Love you lots,

Mom

Your Faith

  1. Are you spending time with the Lord each day through prayer and scripture reading?
  2. Are you being quiet enough to hear him speak to you in the depth of your heart or are you busy being distracted?
  3. Have you developed a routine that helps you cultivate your relationship with the Lord
  4. Do you seek God first?
  5. Do you believe his promises? Do you even know his promises?
  6. Are you relying on God or are you relying on your own strength?
  7. Is your talk about the Lord consistent with your walk with the Lord?  Do you say one thing, but do another? (ex. Saying that you are chase and holy, but sleeping over at a young man’s house with his male roommates or dating a girl who is clearly not a believer and not being willing to break it off.)
  8. Are you loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength or is your allegiance to your own feelings, the world’s agenda and fulfilling personal goals?
  9. Are you a man/woman of strong faith? If so, how are you showing it? Do I have a consistent bold, witness?
  10. Are you walking in the Spirit or are you gratifying the cravings and desires of your flesh?
  11. Are you honoring God with your body and treating as the temple of the Holy Ghost? (This means that you are not defiling it with premarital sex, drugs, and other things that could damage it.)
  12. In what specific ways are you feeding yourself the truth of God’s Word about sex, intimacy, and holiness?
  13. Are you watching or listening to movies, TV shows, or music that fuels the fire of impure desires? Are you “feeding on” books, magazines, or websites that are polluting your mind and heart?

Your Finances

14. Have you developed a financial plan for your money? If not, are you willing to take a class or workshop or do financial counseling to help get a plan?

15. Do you pay your bills on time?

16. Do you balance your checkbook or bank statement each month? Do you regularly bounce checks or get overdrawn?

17. Do you have an emergency fund of at least $500?

18. Do you borrow money from people on a regular basis because you’ve been slack with managing your own finances?

19. Do you pawn items or get payday or title loans for money to pay for essentials?

20. Do you earn enough money to take care of yourself?


Your friendships (and other relationships)

21. Are you giving your friends of the opposite sex mixed messages? Are you saying one thing, but doing another?

22. Are you abusing your friendship with others? Are you violating boundaries? Are you considerate of your friends time, space, money? (This includes regularly borrowing money, cars, clothes, asking for favors, etc).

23. Are you influencing your significant other and drawing him/her closer to the kingdom of God or is he/she influencing you and drawing you away from God’s best for your life?

24. Are you living a life that points your friends to Jesus and the cross?  Is your behavior a stumbling block to others for salvation?

25. Are you looking for someone to do for you what you should be doing for yourself? Do you want someone to take care of you?

26. Are you in accountable relationships with Bible believing friends? Are you offended when they confront you with something they think is a problem in your life?

27. Are you being a stumbling block to your unbelieving friends? Is your inconsistent walk with the Lord getting in his way of knowing the Savior?

28. Are you allowing your actions to marginalize your witness and be a stumbling block to friends or others who might be watching you?

 Your future

29. What is your calling/passion? What are your God given gifts and what are you doing to develop them?

30. Do you need to go back to school to get more education? Are you pursuing those things diligently or are you wasting time being distracted with trivia?

31. Do you want to marry? If so, what are doing to develop yourself as potential wife or husband?

32. In Ephesians 5:28, Paul says that “husbands ought to love their wives” (NLT). The word ought stresses that this is a very strong obligation. That means through the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, a husband is commanded to love his wife regardless of how he feels.  Ask yourself, “If I yoke myself to someone who is an unbeliever, how can they do this?”.

33. Do you have a written plan to achieve your future goals?  Have you taken time to write down exactly how you plan to accomplish your dreams?