I Taught Them That.

I am not a wonderful mom.  But I know a lot of wonderful moms.  My Facebook feed is filled with wonderful, perfect moms.  But I am not the greatest mom ever.  Once I saw a coffee cup w/ the words “World’s Okayest Mom” emblazoned on it.  I told my husband he should get it for me.

Sometimes, I think I was a better youth group leader and teacher than I am a mom now.  Sometimes, I feel like I used up all my reserves on other people’s kids, &, by the time it came time for my own kids, I was empty.   That’s an excuse though.

A lot of moms say they have no regrets.  I’ve been a mom for 17 years now, and I have tons of regrets.  There are so many things I wish I could do over.  There are so many things I’ve said that I wish I could take back now.  There are some things I didn’t say that I should have said.   I’ve yelled too much.  I’ve been too lazy and too selfish.  I’ve slammed some doors.   I’ve asked for the wrong things at the wrong times.  I’ve hovered too much, yet didn’t pay enough attention.

My kids have had a shy, nervous, introverted mom who was too anxious to schedule play dates and follow sports teams, a mom with migraines which have taken her out of the mom-business for a couple of days at a time for too many times, a too-impatient mom who hurried them along too fast and didn’t stop long enough to wonder with them, a too-worried mom who never let them run free on the playground…

I don’t deserve them.  I may not be a wonderful mom, but my 3 kids are wonderful.   And they’ve deserved better.  Sometimes, I think that’s where a lot of my anxiety comes from.  I know I don’t deserve them.  Trust me, I know I’ve been blessed beyond myself.  And there’s a part of me that’s always waiting for God to realize He made a mistake in allowing me to be their mother.

But God doesn’t make mistakes.   Which is both reassuring and terrifying.

Hopefully, they’ll know, even though I was only an okay mom, I have loved them… with all my heart.  And maybe they won’t need too much therapy.

But I know I haven’t done enough or been enough, and I wonder often if I’ve taught them enough.  One day, you wake up and your oldest child is 17, and you come to the awful, bittersweet realization that your time with your children is really only a small fraction of their whole lives.   And there are no do-overs.  There was so much more I meant to do and meant to be.

I imagine one day someone will ask my daughter, “What did you learn from your mother?”  And she will reply, “She taught me how to load a dishwasher to its maximum capacity.”

“Oh, and to always have the stuff for spaghetti on hand.  She taught me that too.”

I meant to do more than that.

But, then, every now and then, we have a moment where I realize that, perhaps, in between causing them to be too scared to cross the street and teaching them how to load a dishwasher, maybe there has been more.

Yesterday was the first day of spring, and we were in the car – my husband, our 3 kids, and myself.  We had ice cream, and it was sunny in the way that those first days of spring can be.  The windows were down, and the music was up.  And, from the back seat, I could hear them singing to a Zac Brown song.

And I thought to myself, I taught them that.

No, not the song itself, but the simple joy of singing in the car with the windows down while cruising along the road?

I taught them that. 

And I started thinking.  Maybe there have been some other things too along our journey… maybe I’ve taught them some other not-so-bad stuff, like…

  • How to always appreciate the lyrical beauty of an expertly written phrase,
  • Decorating for all the holidays is fun,
  • There is a difference between your/you’re and never say “I seen”
  • Celebrate days like National Ice Cream Day and the Olympic Opening Ceremonies
  • Tomorrow is another day, and His mercies are new every day,
  • Say yes to dessert sometimes,
  • Be gentle with animals and old people,
  • Gift-wrapping should be special – never underestimate the magic of cellophane wrap,
  • Sometimes, it’s okay to overdo things,
  • Always have a mason jar ready for lightning bugs,
  • Even when you procrastinate, you still have to get it done and get it done well,
  • Even when you’re shy, you need to try your best to include everyone
  • If you’re organized, you’re less stressed,
  • Be proud of your southern roots,
  • When you drive through a tunnel, close your eyes, hold your breath, put your finger on the roof, and make a wish,
  • Always take time to find seashells,
  • Quiet is not all bad,
  • When you see trash, pick it up – even if it’s not yours,
  • Special events require new outfits,
  • Isaiah 41:10,
  • It’s okay to go down rabbit trails,
  • Make it pretty,
  • Take time to remember and respect our American heroes
  • If it’s worth doing, it’s worth both overdoing and doing well,
  • Be kind, even to the person who is not kind to you,
  • Pajama days are sometimes necessary,
  • Don’t forget the hostess gift,
  • Research to the point of obsession anything that interests you,
  • Scattergories is the best board game and Nertz is the best card game,
  • Take the long way home – and avoid busy interstates,
  • Listen to music,
  • Hold the door for people,
  • When you can’t fall asleep, make up stories in your head,
  • Always pack 2 pair of underwear for each day of a trip and include at least one pair of socks – even in the summer,
  • Packing smart for a trip is a good skill to have – use lists,
  • Proper table manners are important – like the correct way to butter your bread,
  • When you get overly involved in a TV show or movie fandom, you’ll find yourself both gleeful and frustrated,
  • It’s not a Road Trip without our special Road Trip Snack Mix,
  • Leave a place better than you found it,
  • If it’s a really good book, it’s okay to read under the covers way past your bedtime,
  • You can never have too many books,
  • Birthdays require cakes – and the cakes need a candle for each year,
  • Put away your phone when you’re with people – especially during meals,
  • Around sunset, look at the sky and notice the colors,
  • Learn how to be okay with just yourself for company,
  • You should always have at least one Christmas tree with ornaments that tell your story,
  • Plant petunias in the spring,
  • If you’re going to eat candy, eat chocolate,
  • Let yourself be whimsical and romantic,
  • There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm and cheer,
  • There’s also nothing wrong with themed parties,
  • There’s especially nothing wrong with matching, coordinated outfits,
  • Laugh yourself silly and dance in the kitchen,
  • Choose the ocean over the mountains because the horizon goes on forever,
  • Binge-watching TV + ice cream = a good time,
  • Sand + salty air = perfection,
  • You don’t have to eat the peas – unless it’s blackeyed peas on New Year’s Day,
  • Upon entering a hotel, the first thing to do is wipe all the surfaces with Clorox wipes
  • There is nothing that a hot shower won’t make at least a little better,
  • Appreciate moments,
  • Be patient and wait for an almost perfect wave,
  • Take time to stand at the ocean’s edge and let your feet sink…

I know that I haven’t taught them well or enough of the really important stuff.  There are many things I wish I could go back and try again.  I’m not a wonderful mom.

But, one sunny day, after they’re grown and on their own, maybe they’ll be in their car and the windows will be down.  A song will come on the radio, and they’ll sing along.  And they’ll be reminded of me.

Our mom taught us this.

inside the car

 

 

 

 

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THE GOOD STUFF

Today, on my way home after walking at the track, “The Good Stuff” sung by Kenny Chesney came on my Pandora station.

I could say that I’d never heard it before, but that would be wrong because I’ve heard it many times.

I mean, I’ll listen to Chris Tomlin and Third Day, but, if I’m being honest… I like beach music, and I cannot lie.

Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley, Jack Johnson. And Kenny Chesney.

One of the only concerts I’ve ever been to was a Kenny Chesney concert. I still have the blue and green sandals that my sister helped me choose to go with my concert outfit. I call them my “Kenny Chesney” shoes.

Kenny Chesney gets me. He’s my songster soul mate. (And, yes, I’ve told Jason that, and he’s okay with it. He agrees. He likes Kenny Chesney too.)   Kenny just knows what it’s like to grow up in the south, in East Tennessee, and come to the realization that, as much as Tennessee is your home and in your blood, maybe so too is #saltlife.

With lyrics like “I can feel the sting of summer on my skin,” how can you not? I’m right there with him, “…holding my shoes in my hand because I like to feel the sand beneath my feet.”

And Kenny and I… we’ve had church together in my van too.

Not with songs like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” because, while catchy, no. But other songs… like “It’s That Time of Day” (my funeral song, by the way) or “Sing ‘Em Good, My Friend” which we heard for the first time driving home after my sister-in-law’s funeral and which will forever be my song for brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Anyway, there’ll be days where I’ll hear one of his songs played, and, right there, I’ll find myself in my own little moment with God

Which brings me to “The Good Stuff” which was written by Tim Collins and Craig Wiseman. For those of you who haven’t had heard it, the lyric are as follows:

Well, me and my lady had our first big fight,

So I drove around ’til I saw the neon light,

At a corner bar, and it just seemed right,

So I pulled up.

Not a soul around but the old barkeep,

Down at the end and looking half asleep,

But he walked up and said, “What’ll it be?”

I said, “The good stuff.”

He didn’t reach around for the whiskey;

He didn’t pour me a beer.

His blue eyes kinda went misty,

He said, “You can’t find that here.”

‘Cause it’s the first long kiss on a second date.

Momma’s all worried when you get home late,

And droppin’ the ring in the spaghetti plate,

‘Cause your hands are shakin’ so much.

And it’s the way that she looks with the rice in her hair,

Eatin’ burnt suppers the whole first year,

And askin’ for seconds to keep her from tearin’ up…

Yeah, man, that’s the good stuff.”

He grabbed a carton of milk and he poured a glass.

I smiled and said, “I’ll have some of that.”

We sat there and talked as an hour passed,

Like old friends.

I saw a black and white picture, and he caught my stare;

It was a pretty girl with bouffant hair.

He said, “That’s my Bonnie,

Taken ’bout a year after we wed.”

He said, “Spent five years in the bottle,

When the cancer took her from me.

But I’ve been sober three years now,

‘Cause the one thing stronger than the whiskey –”

“Was the sight of her holdin’ my baby girl,

The way she adored that string of pearls,

I gave her the day that our youngest boy, Earl,

Married his high school love.

And it’s a new tee-shirt saying, ‘I’m a Grandpa,’

Being right there as our time got small,

And holdin’ her hand, when the Good Lord called her up…

Yeah, man, that’s the good stuff.”

He said, “When you get home, she’ll start to cry.

When she says, ‘I’m sorry,’ say, ‘So am I.’

And look into those eyes, so deep in love, And drink it up…

‘Cause that’s the good stuff.”

That’s the good stuff.

And, no, this isn’t about drinking. Or an argument with my husband.   But, like any good country song, it is about a pickup truck. And moments. Just like Kenny Chesney’s song.

I’ve always associated “The Good Stuff” with my grandfather. My Paw Paw. Paw Paw was a simple, quiet man, but he lived life. Life isn’t always pretty or easy, but life is beautiful. Even in the small things. There are so many memories of Paw Paw that I cherish, and one thing I’ll always remember is how he took care of my grandmother after her “time got small,” the way he drove an hour each way every day to visit her in the nursing home, and how he was with her until the very end.

That’s the good stuff.

But, today, while the song played, I noticed there was a pickup truck in front of me. A young man was driving the truck, and sitting in the middle of the bench seat was a young woman.   And, as Kenny sang about “the first long kiss on a second date,” she tilted her face up to him, and he leaned down and kissed her. He smiled down at her. Then she put her head on his shoulder.

 That’s the good stuff.

And, just like the old barkeep in the song, my blue eyes got misty.

February 8, 1992, was mine and Jason’s first date. We were both in our freshman year of college, and, while we had gone out a couple of times in high school, we both count February 8th as our first official “date” or the date where we both realized this was Something.

As we were leaving the theater that evening and getting into his truck, he said to me, “You know, it’s proper etiquette for the girl to sit in the middle of the seat.”

Jason had a fire engine red 1979 Ford truck.

Among other things, Paw Paw instilled in me three things: Braves Baseball, watermelon on the 4th of July, and Chevrolet.  So I’m a born and raised Chevy girl.   But I was okay with Jason’s Ford. (And, so was Paw Paw probably.)

And, from that night forward, I sat in the middle of the seat…

I still remember the sound of the door creaking and squeaking when Jason would open it… the old gasoline smell… the way the radio sounded kinda static-y.

It was a loud truck, and, on date nights, my dad would sit in the living room while I was getting ready in my bedroom. As soon as Jason would make the turn onto our road, Dad would hear the rumble and say, “Are you ready? He’s almost here.”

And off we’d go, riding together down so many roads…

I’d sit in that old truck tucked in right beside Jason… he’d drive with one hand and the other arm would rest behind me on the back of the seat when he wasn’t shifting gears. I’d look up at him, and he’d grin back at me.

And I remember those first kisses and all the butterflies that would dance in my stomach.

On Father’s Day 1993, I had been out of town with my family for vacation, and I hadn’t seen Jason for entire week… Imagine! It felt like we were two long-lost loves.  That Sunday, he joined my family at my grandparents’ house. I can still recall what I was wearing that day – a long, straight flowery skirt with a slit (of which Jason was a fan), a pink knit top, and white sandals. I rushed out the door to meet him, and he picked me and whirled me round and round. Then we got in his truck and drove to visit my other grandfather who lived about 30 minutes away… Driving down the highway with the windows down and the radio up, my hair blowing all around and the two of us laughing freely into the wind… the whole long road stretching out before us.

That’s the good stuff.

We were married in April 1995. And, like the twisty roads we drove, there have been ups and downs… new jobs, new houses, new babies… hard times, easy times, sad times, happy times… and we’ve lived every moment… the laughter, the tears… every moment growing us… Together.

That’s the good stuff.

Just the other evening, we were in the grocery store, and, as we were walking down an aisle, I giggled and pointed at a box of Hamburger Helper.

Remember when we used to buy these?” I asked him.

And thought we were eating well!” he laughed in return.

One evening right after we were married, I made spaghetti and couldn’t figure out why it was so greasy. Turned out, I had neglected to drain the hamburger meat. But Jason just smiled and asked for seconds.

So many moments…

Like our first summer vacation together when we were so excited because if you leaned your head just so out the hotel room window you could see a little glimpse of the ocean.

Or the day I came home from work and found a hole in the bathroom wall through which I could see straight down into our garage and Jason standing in the bathtub with a sheepish grin on his face

Like the Father’s Day I surprised Jason with a “Father’s Day” card to tell him I was pregnant after a couple of years of thinking that maybe we couldn’t have children.

Or the time we decided to make empanadas for dinner, and we ended up using every single pot and pan we owned.

Like the time Jason picked up our younger son Who. Would. Not. Sleep. and held him up like baby Simba in “The Lion King” and proceeded to sing “It’s The Circle of Life” at two o’clock in the morning.

Or when we stopped at Sewanee State Park on our way home from Florida and, while our kids skipped in front of us, we walked hand-in-hand together under the Spanish Moss cascading off the Live Oaks.  We talked and talked and, there, beside the Sewanee River, made the decision to homeschool.

Like the evening we grilled hotdogs and roasted marshmallows on our back deck with our kids. We were laughing and telling jokes, and Jason caught my eye and winked because he knew exactly what I was feeling.

Staying up all night making matching t-shirts for a family vacation to Disney World… working together on school projects and VBS projects… holidays… game nights… rainy mornings… sunny pool afternoons… all night TV show marathons… road trips… picnics… birthday parties… impromptu dance parties in the kitchen… the “I love yous” and the “I love you mores”…

That’s the good stuff.

Yes, there’s been bad stuff too… We’ve held hands in hospital corridors, counted pennies only to still come up short, made mistakes, waited anxiously for test results, been unsure about the future, stood together by coffins of our loved ones… but we’ve shared each other’s tears, and we’ve held each other up. Our hearts have whispered prayers for which we didn’t have words. But, even in the bad, there’s been beauty.

It’s been real.

And, good or bad, real life is not lived in the big stand-out scenes. Real life is lived in all the thousand little every day moments that are here and gone before you know it.

So, today, I sat behind a young couple in a pickup truck.

I wanted to tell them, “Drink it up. That’s the good stuff.”

I wanted to tell them “One day, you’ll have traded in the truck for a mini-van. And you’ll cruise down the road together with your children. But it’ll still be good. Actually, it’ll be even better.”

And the years will fly by so fast you won’t even realize it until one day you’re sitting behind another young couple in a pickup truck…

But the thing is you won’t know where the years will take you. You can’t know all the twists and turns of life’s road.

When Jason and I were young and giddy with new love cruising down the road in his pickup truck, we didn’t know.

And, today, as I looked at the starry-eyed girl in the truck, I wanted to tell her, “You have no idea what’s coming.”

I was once her.

And I didn’t know. I couldn’t have known. I thought I knew exactly where my life was going. I thought I knew what love was. I thought then that life was good and that it couldn’t get any better. But I didn’t know… I didn’t know how beautiful life could get, how scary, how crazy, how lovely, how ugly, how wonderful… I didn’t know how high I would rise and how hard I could crash. I didn’t know who I’d be 20 years down the road, how I’d change… the ups and downs, the people and places… and how all these little moments would combine together to make up my life…

And, that, in all those little moments, I’d find the good stuff.

But God knew. And still knows. He knows my yesterdays, my todays, and my tomorrows.

He’s written my story. Every little moment.

As Jason and I drove down the road, carefree, in his truck, God knew exactly where we were going then. He knows where we’re going now.   Because He’s got us.

When the kids were little, at bedtime, we used to sing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” to them… “He’s got the momma and the daddy in His hands… He’s got the brother and the sister… He’s got the little bitty baby in His hands….”

He holds me in the palm of His hand. He holds Jason and me and our family. Together.

He’s written our story. Every little moment.

And He makes all things good and tells me, “Drink it up, Wendy.”

‘Cause that’s the good stuff.

“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord…” Jeremiah 29:11

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Look How Everything Came Together!

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Every year I buy new Christmas wrapping paper. Coordinating wrapping paper. Matching wrapping paper.

I stand in the wrapping paper aisle of whatever store (usually Hobby Lobby or Target) and go back and forth, comparing papers and trying to decide which two or three prints will go together better or best and look pretty and match-y underneath our tree. Then, once I’ve chosen my wrapping paper, I go find coordinating ribbons and tags and other package adornments.

This year, I didn’t buy new wrapping paper.

Every year, I always have wrapping paper left over, and, every year, after the last package has been wrapped and tied with its festive matching ribbon, I take all the leftover paper, ribbons, and tags and put them away in my craft closet. And, the next year, I buy a completely new stash of matching, coordinating paper and ribbons and tags.

Well, this year, I decided (quite sensibly and practically, I might add) that we didn’t need any more wrapping paper.   I decided that buying new wrapping paper when I had a whole bin full of leftover paper from previous Christmases made no sense and that I would make do with what I had. I surprised myself with my newfound sense of practicality. I also shocked my dear husband who is quite used to my “It’s all in the details, and every little detail matters” nonsense.

I did need ribbon and tags, however, so I bought tags and red, green, and white ribbon, figuring those three colors had to match my leftover paper. (Full confession: I also bought a couple rolls of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Christmas wrapping paper for our youngest’s presents.)

Then, once the shopping was done, in a 2-night wrapping presents marathon, I proceeded to wrap all the presents with the different papers that had been stored in my craft closet over the years.

And guess what, y’all?

All the wrapped presents under the tree coordinate and match! Using my different leftovers from the previous years, I was still able to coordinate and match to my little heart’s content. In the end, it all came together in another match-y festive fit.

Earlier today, I was admiring how all the presents under the tree looked so coordinated when I hadn’t even planned it.  I was thinking to myself, “Look how everything came together,” when the Holy Spirit interrupted my thoughts to whisper in my heart, “This, Wendy, is how God works.

Yes, I realize God doesn’t care about my match-y wrapping paper! But, oh, how He cares about the bits and pieces and leftovers!  And the thing is, the special thing is, to God, the bits and pieces and leftovers aren’t bits and pieces and leftovers.

He holds all the bits and pieces and leftovers in His mighty hands, like a Potter with His clay crafting a masterpiece… A masterpiece that He planned from the very beginning, and the bits and pieces and leftovers were always part of His design, from the very beginning!

Sometimes, we humans don’t understand or can’t see what He is doing. We’re looking at the bits and pieces and can’t figure out how it’s all going to come together.  To us, life often looks impossible, when, the whole time, God knows, and He makes the impossible quite possible.

He has a plan for our bits and pieces, and, yes, even our leftovers.

And, sometimes, He allows us to look back and see… “Aww… yes, I see it now. I can see now how He put it all together.”

Look how everything came together! He did that!

Like a promised son who was born to a couple in their old age… Like the brother who was betrayed and sold as a slave… Like the prostitute helping save a couple of Israelite spies… Like a man telling his workers to leave the leftovers of his field for the young widow who had followed her mother-in-law to a strange land… Like a youngest shepherd son becoming a king… like the virgin who whispered to the angel, “Let it be unto me”… like the carpenter who trusted when the angel told him his fiancé was having a baby…

A very special baby who would be the King.

All the bits and pieces and, yes, even the leftovers coming together in God’s grand and glorious design.

All those bits and pieces and leftovers coming together one special holy night when the Baby was born in an unassuming little town, in a forgotten cave, in a leftover manger.

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That Baby… that precious Child, the answer to a long ago prophesy… That Baby… Who one day would be called, “… Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

God’s perfect plan…

Look how everything came together!  He did that!

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Why I Chose to Participate (& Donate) in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

My grandfather passed away from ALS in January 2004.

Back then, I had never heard of ALS. In fact, we were originally told that he had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and it wasn’t until later that I found out that ALS and Lou Gehrig’s Disease were the same disease.

Paw Paw, my grandfather, was a wonderful and kind man. He was quiet, unassuming, a giver.

Like I said in our Ice Bucket Video, if Paw Paw were still here, he’d find the whole thing silly, I’m sure. But he’d also be in the front row cheering me on. He liked being a part of things. If we had needed a bucket, he would have given us one of his. If he found out we needed ice for the challenge, he’d try to talk us into using ice from his freezer instead of using up our ice.

Whenever there was a canned food drive, Paw Paw donated. When Paw Paw found out that the family who lived across from him weren’t going to have a very good Christmas, he bought toys for their children. After Jason and I were married, we’d often come home to find a bag of vegetables from his garden hanging on our front door.

He gave quietly. He gave generously. He gave cheerfully.

He liked to build things. When a new gym was constructed at our school, he built the bleachers. And the score table and the concession stand and the ticket table. He made benches and seats for our dolls. And jewelry boxes and little Scotty dogs out of wood. He made Jason an airplane out of Dr. Pepper cans.

Lou Gehrig’s Disease took that away from him.

There are little things I miss. Like eating watermelon with him on the Fourth of July. Or watching a Braves baseball game with him. Or the tomatoes from his garden. The way he’d tilt back in his recliner when he’d laugh. The flowers he planted each spring for Granny. Standing beside him in church and listening to him jingle the change in his pocket. The worn Bible that sat on the little table beside his chair.

But mostly I just miss him.

Everyone needs someone who supports unconditionally, who encourages unwaveringly, who loves unendingly.

I had Paw Paw, forever in the front row of my life cheering me on…

Paw Paw may not have always agreed with me or how I chose to do something, but I always knew that I had his support and his love. He taught me a lot. I’m still learning from his quiet, steady example. Love without judgment. Give without prejudice.

On December 25, 2003, Jason had to work, so I took the kids that Christmas morning and went to see Paw Paw in the nursing home. I hugged him. And we visited for just a short little bit.

He passed away on January 3, 2004.

Jason and I have given to an ALS foundation. We will continue to do so.

Would Paw Paw have thought the ice bucket challenge silly? Yes. (But he also would have gotten a kick out of it.)

Could we have just continued to donate quietly without dumping ice water on our heads? Yes.

Our world is filled with a lot of bad, a lot of doom and gloom. Sad things. Things that make you weep. There are riots and wars and terrorists and lots of different people arguing and fighting about lots of different things.

And, for just a short little bit, people, from all walks of life, are coming together. They are having fun. And they are giving. They are laughing. And they are making a difference.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that everyone who is dumping a bucket of ice water is also donating, but, you know what? That’s okay! Just having fun and being silly is okay. And, if someone doesn’t want to take part, that’s fine too!

No one has to dump a bucket of ice on his or her head. We chose to do so, and we did it as a family. And it was fun.

Even in the midst of ugly, life is beautiful.

And, as a Christian who feels that every life is precious and has purpose and who does not support abortion, do I feel conflicted about supporting a foundation that researches embryonic stem cells? Yes, of course. I also feel conflicted about visiting Disney World, shopping at Target, or buying coffee from Starbucks because these corporations also support issues that I don’t necessarily support. Where is the line? I don’t know. And any way I try to draw a line, I feel somewhat hypocritical. I’m sure the line is different for different people and for different reasons. And I’m encouraged that there are some ALS research organizations that do not utilize embryonic stem cells in their research.

I also feel quite sure that, if I or someone I loved was diagnosed with ALS, we would want the latest treatment that would give us the best quality of life for the longest time possible. I’m pretty sure that most people would. If the latest and best treatment involved embryonic stem cells, would I reject the treatment? Honestly, I don’t know.

However, I’m absolutely fine with and respect people for choosing not to take part in this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because they can’t support the main ALS foundation due to their research. What I don’t like is feeling judged for my choice to do so.

Why did I participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? I dumped a bucket of ice water on my head in memory of my Paw Paw. I jumped at the chance, and I’d do it again. I wasn’t even thinking about how the organization we support conducts its research. I guess this is both my defense and my mea culpa.

There was a large bird cage at the nursing home where Paw Paw was. Whenever we visited, he liked for us to go in the room with the bird cage so our kids could watch the blue and yellow parakeets. I remember sitting there with Paw Paw while those little birds twittered and flew about their cage.

I’m told that a person with ALS feels like he is trapped within the cage of his body.

Maybe I am a bandwagon person. I’ll own that about myself. Why did I take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? As silly as it is, I dumped ice water on my head in honor of my Paw Paw. And because it was fun.

Paw Paw would have laughed had he seen me.

I know, when I get to Heaven, I’m totally going to love everyone coming together to praise and sing and worship and, yes, laugh too.

My Paw Paw will be right there with me.

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Beauty in Letting Go

Happy rainy “Five-Minute Friday” with Lisa Jo Baker –

http://lisajobaker.com/

And, today, the word is…

TREE

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let dead things go.”

I have a love-hate relationship with autumn.

While I enjoy the gorgeous colors and the pumpkins and the leaves crunching under my feet and no longer stressing so much about a swimsuit-ready body, I’m always so sad to see my favorite season of summer go.

Everyone is all like, “Pumpkin Spice Lattes!” And I’m like, “Yeah, those are yummy, but…”

As an aside, has Starbucks changed their flavored coffee drinks this season or is it just me? A couple of weeks ago, I went to Starbucks and, with giddy anticipation, ordered my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season, and I ended up being so disappointed! The coffee had a chemical “fake flavoring” taste to it, and I decided I enjoyed our freshly brewed coffee with pumpkin spice creamer at home so much more. And another thing! Why don’t the grocery stores stock enough pumpkin spice creamer? You’d think they’d know by now to stock up on the Pumpkin Spice creamer!

Anyway, moving on…

I adore summer. As I’ve said before, I’m a summer girl. Flipflops, the beach, hot days and humid nights… these are a few of my favorite things!

And, every year, when autumn rolls around, I find myself feeling a little sad. Summer, the fun season, is passed. The days get shorter and shorter as fall brings us ever closer to the end of another year, and then, before we know it, the year is finished. Time and seasons march ever onward, and nothing can stay the same.

And, as the leaves fall off the trees, it feels like I’m losing something too. Something that I didn’t know I needed to hold on to until I had to let it go.

There’s a tree-lined street on the way to our home, and, in the autumn, the yellow and orange leaves will dance and float all around as you drive down the street. It’s gorgeous and enchanting and rather fairy-like. But, sometimes, as I drive down the road amid the falling leaves, I feel like saying to their trees, “No, no, no! Wait! You can’t let them fall yet. You need to hang on a little longer. You’re not ready to let go!”

I have a hard time with change. I have a hard time with letting go.

About a month ago, the five of us were together in our mini-van headed back from an apple orchard. Because that’s one of the things one does in the autumn. Apple orchards are on the Fall Bucket List along with Pumpkin Patches and Corn Mazes, you know.

And, on this particular sunny fall day, as we were winding down the mountain and admiring the pretty colors on the trees, my dear, wise husband commented, “Isn’t it cool how God uses the seasons to show us how beautiful life can be, even in death?”

Because I can be a little bah-humbug-ish when it comes to winter, I replied with a shrug, “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I agree that fall can be lovely, but I always dread it because I know that after fall comes ugly, boring, cold winter.”

“But you know,” my surprise philosopher continued. “Winter has to be a part of things too. And then, with spring, you get new life.”

“It’s the circle of life!” one of our older kids interjected.

And then we laughed and erupted in an impromptu, rousing rendition of “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”

But it’s true.

As Christ-followers, we know we have to die to selves to be made new in Him. And we recognize and praise the glorious beauty of this miracle.

However, like the trees, sometimes, we have to stop hanging on to other stuff as well and just let go. And there’s beauty in this too.

To just let go…

Past hurts, past mistakes, the wouldas, the couldas, and the shouldas, the regrets and, yes, too even some of the good things… we have to let go.

One of the movies we watched over and over and over and over again when our older two children were younger was “Finding Nemo.” (Seriously. We watched it so many times we wore the DVD out.) For those who have seen the movie, you know that Nemo’s daddy, Marlin, has a very hard time with letting go. And, for those of you who know me, you know I can identify! There’s one scene in the movie where Marlin is clinging for dear life to the tongue of the whale, and Dory, his friend, yells at him, “You have to let go!” And he yells back, “But I don’t know what will happen!” Yet he also realizes he has no choice but to let go… and trust. And so he lets go in one glorious, last-hurrah fall, only to be raised triumphantly back up. And I cry every time.

We have to let go to keep living. We have to let go and embrace the change. We have to let go of the past to live fully in the present.

To just finally let it all go and watch it flutter and dance and fall in one last lovely burst of gorgeous color… and even allow ourselves to fully recognize the beauty and the glory of letting go.

When I was a teenager writing angsty poetry, I once wrote, “Autumn is the quiet beauty before death.” But I was wrong… Autumn isn’t quiet. It’s noisy and bright and, yes, even joyful. It’s the after that’s quiet.

Maybe after we let go, we do then stand dormant for a while, waiting and still and silent as winter, because that has to be a part of it too… the waiting, the stillness… But, while we’re waiting, we know, we trust, that spring will come rushing back one day with new blooms and new promises and new mercies and new life.

Letting go, stillness, newness… the glorious circle of life and of our seasons.

And we serve a God who is so wonderful and so amazing that even the trees of the field praise Him in every season. We serve a God who tells the trees when it’s time for them to let go.

And there’s always beauty in letting go.

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The Truth Is…

Even though it’s late, Friday’s not over quite yet… so it’s still “Five Minute Friday” with Lisa-Jo Baker!!

And, tonight, the word is TRUTH. And the truth is, truth matters.

http://lisajobaker.com/

TRUTH

The truth is, we all want to be loved, to feel wanted, to be cared for, needed, supported. To be somebody. To be known.

Sometimes, I feel invisible. Unnoticed. Unneeded. Like an extra accessory that no one would miss and that doesn’t matter.

The truth is, I’ve kinda had that kinda week. The kinda day where you’re left saying, “But, wait a minute! What about me? I was there too.

And then I’m reminded… in little ways, in lovely ways, that I do matter, that I am important, and that there are people who know me and love me. My sister laughs with me, commiserates with me, and understands me. My momma gives a word of encouragement just when I need it and then steps in to help just when I need her. The truth is, they get me. They know me.

And then there’s him. Especially him.

He gets me too. All of me.

He makes me feel beautiful and needed and wanted. Loved. In forever ways.

He knows my truth.

My worries. My dreams. My ambitions. My secrets. My fears. My failures. My triumphs.

He cares about it all. And he loves me. Fiercely. Strongly. Tenderly. Passionately. Steadily.

Even with a tough love when I need it. Like when he makes a dentist appointment for me and takes me to the appointment when I’m scared to death to go. But he holds my hand the whole way. And wears a superhero t-shirt under his shirt on the day of the procedure because he knows. He’s my hero.

He’s there with me and for me and by me.

Teammates. Soulmates. Partners. Best friends. Lovers.

I could write a million and one meaningless words, and he would read every word like it was Pulitzer Prize worthy. Because he’s my greatest fan. He’s my cheerleader. I could cry a thousand tears. I could rant and rave and scream and stomp. And he would still be here. Because he’s staying. He’s not going anywhere. I could plan and scheme a hundred crazy different overdone ideas, and he would be right here, supporting me and helping make every single one of my dreams come true.

I am secure in him. I am loved by him. He touches me, and I know I am wanted.

Like a hot fire on a cold night. Like an umbrella in a storm. Like the string on a wind-tossed kite. He’s my lighthouse. He’s my anchor. He’s my safe place to land.

I matter to him. To other people I may be little, but to him I am big.

He listens, really listens. And he hears me. He asks for my input and thinks I’m smart and even a little witty. He even likes my crazy. Driving down the road, he reaches over and puts his hand on my leg because I am there. With him. And he turns the radio to my favorite song, and together we sing. At the end of a long day, he wraps his arms around me. I’m important to him. And he needs me.

A surprise of not one basket of mums for our front porch, but three, because he knows I like things in sets of three. Fuzzy socks for my cold feet. A full tank of gas in my van. He builds me shelves and tables and mantels. Cooks yummy things for me to eat. Brings me coffee in the morning. Paints my toenails. Holds my hair when I’m sick. Watches “Grey’s Anatomy” with me and pretends to be interested. Helps me search through used bookstores for hours for an obscure book. Plants tropical flowers that will die over the winter and that he’ll have to replant next spring just because the flowers remind me of Florida. Little things. Big things. Special things. Secret things. I am loved, and I am loved well.

The truth is, because he loves me, because he gets me, because he needs me, I can stand a little taller, a little braver, a little prouder. It’s okay if I’m invisible to some people. I am seen by him.

And I am never unnoticed by him. Across a room, our eyes meet, and I see the recognition reflected back in his. He knows me.

The truth is, to him, I am some one. I am known. And I am his. Forever.

Shared tears. Shared laughter. Shared trust. Shared forever.

Our shared truth.

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Amazing Grace

Happy November & Happy “5-Minute Friday” with Lisa Jo Baker!! (Or, rather, in my case, “5-Minute Very Early Saturday Morning”…)

http://lisajobaker.com/

And, today, our word is GRACE because we all need some.

Grace. Amazing Grace.

“Amazing Grace” was my grandmother’s favorite hymn. On the last Sunday night of the month, the choir director at our little church would take requests. My grandmother was a shy, soft-spoken lady and hardly ever said anything, so my grandfather would request “Amazing Grace” for her.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost but now am found.”

My sister and I used to stay at my grandparents’ house during the summer. And we always knew when we were getting a little too rambunctious for our grandmother. She’d retreat to the kitchen, and we’d be suitably chastened as she stood at the sink in front of the window and sang in her quiet, wavery voice.

“T’was Grace that taught
My heart to fear,
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.”

“Amazing Grace” is a song that I will always associate with my grandparents. When my grandfather passed away, my aunt arranged for a bagpipe player to play “Amazing Grace” at the burial site. On that chilly January afternoon, the sun was shining brightly, and the air was crisp, winter fresh. As we crested the hill, the bagpipes began to play.

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far,
and Grace will lead us home.”

Singing about the Grace that saves us is easy. And comforting like a sweet balm for our souls. We once were sinners, and, now, we’re saved by Grace. Our chains are gone, and we’ve been freed. Hallelujah!

And our voices lift up, and we sing and sing and sing of our Saving Grace.

“When we’ve been here ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
then when we’ve first begun.”

But there’s another kind of Grace too.

“But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness…” (II Corinthians 12:9)

Sufficient Grace… Just as amazing, but, many times, so much harder to accept.

He says His grace is sufficient. His strength is perfected in weakness.

But, sometimes, I’m too scared to let go and let His grace be my sufficient and let His strength cover my weakness.

I don’t want to be insufficient. I don’t want to be weak.

And I don’t want to need that kind of grace. I’m afraid of needing that kind of grace.

If I’m insufficient, I’m not enough. Being weak means I’m not strong enough.

And, sometimes, as hard as it is trying to stay strong and be enough, admitting I’m not and letting go is even harder. And, even after I come to that end of the rope place, there’s a part of me that still wants to hang on, afraid of letting go, afraid of falling.

Letting go of being in control. Letting go of being fine. Letting go of perfect. Letting go and falling.

But His Grace whispers in my heart, “Let go. Let Me.”

Let Grace.

Like a welcome breeze on a hot day, a quiet whisper in a crowd of voices, the lighthouse in the storm, Grace is there… to rescue, to be enough.

Trust His Grace.

And I’m learning to trust… to let go and fall into Grace. Because, if Hope is the thing that flies, Grace is the thing that carries. Grace holds and enfolds me.

Grace carries me to the cross, and Grace will catch me when I fall. Hallelujah!

I can’t, but He can. I really can’t, and He really can.

I am weak, but He is strong. I am never enough, but His grace is always sufficient.

And, perhaps, on those days when my sister and I got a little too rowdy and my grandmother sang in her kitchen, she knew it too. While she was singing about His Saving Grace, she was relying too on His Sufficient Grace.

Lost and found in His Saving, Sufficient Grace.

His Amazing Grace.

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