I live in the south. No, wayyyy down south. Where the real, real southerners live. We’re the last city you see before you hit the warm gulf waters. Mobile is a beautiful city filled with true southern hospitality and charm. We boast yummy foods that most northerners do not understand. We love tradition. We love the coastal life and we love each other. However, we do not completely understand a life filled with distinct seasonal changes. Our landscape doesn’t change that much from one season to another, with the exception of spring when our cozy little spot at the most southern part of Alabama explodes with color….and allergies! As we stroll through our spring enjoying azaleas of every color, every imaginable shade of green in our foliage and relishing in the salt air floating in from the gulf, we find ourselves loving the world. It’s hypnotizing! A few days later, summer stomps in announcing a season of sunbathing, island living, hammock swinging, barbecue loving, horseshoe playing, baseball throwing, outdoor concert dancing, boat riding and every other warm weather, summer loving, activity you can think of. Did I mention we have very long summers? We are located on a bay, connected to an island by a small bridge, an hour drive to a sandy white beach and a quick thirty minutes to a small artsy town. Again, our summers are long. So long we find ourselves every year saying “Summer was never this hot and long when I was growing up!” Every year. We long for fall weather, pumpkins, sweaters and spiced lattes and yet, they are very slow in coming. We do our best to bring on cooler weather with our fancy fall door hangers and decorations. We sit in our air conditioned cars, warm lattes in hand, wishing for that pre-thanksgiving crisp air. We fear we will jump from summer straight into winter, completely skipping the cozy fall weather. We’ve even been known to have a late season hurricane, as if nature is making a last ditch effort to show us her skills. Thanksgiving is a toss up as to whether it will be cool or warm, we never know. We just hope. Today it is cold outside and rainy. Our hopes rise. Sweaters are jerked out of the bottom drawers and the lines at Starbucks are long. It’s fall y’all….at least for a few days! Winter will be upon us before we know it…..at least for 15 minutes! Then we will head back into spring and then summer. It’s been said about Mobile that if you don’t like the weather, hang around for about fifteen minutes and it will change. It is so true. I believe this has produced a culture that adapts quickly to any weather change. Well, except for that occasionally snow flurry that happens about every five to ten years and causes school and work shut downs because we have no clue how to drive on ice and snow. No worries, though, it will be gone tomorrow!!! But today it is fall. Like legit fall. Like in the mountains of Tennessee fall, except we still have green leaves on the trees. Enjoy it while you can, because we Mobilians know Thanksgiving is coming and we’ll probably be wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops while eating smoked turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, sweet potato soufflé, dumplins, carrot cake, pecan pie and sweet tea! Happy Fall Y’all!
Eighteen years ago at this moment, I was standing in my living room, my 2 year old was running around singing, carefree, and I was staring at the t.v. watching a plane fly into the 2ndtower of the World Trade Center, my phone was still in my hand and I could vaguely hear my husband’s voice calling my name. I remember the words I said to him “Is this real?”. It was real. Moments later I saw scenes from the Pentagon, a gaping hole in one side of it and people running in all directions. Then suddenly the scenes changed again and I watched first one, then the second tower collapse in a cloud of smoke and debris. People running from the billowing cloud chasing them, terror on their ash covered faces. They were in shock. Running for their lives. Then, yet again, breaking news of a plane crashing into a field in Pennsylvania. By this time, I’m sitting on the couch, no longer on the phone, holding my little girl who was begging me to read her a story. I couldn’t quite collect my thoughts. I had a sense of fear creeping up from somewhere inside me. What was happening? These things happened other places. Not in America. People bombed other places. Other places dealt with this kind of violence on a regular basis, not here. As I sat taking in scene after scene, I heard my two-year-old ask me with concern “Why you cryin’ Mamma?” I didn’t even realize that tears had slipped unnoticed down my cheeks. “I’m okay, sweet girl, let’s find you a fun movie to watch.” I took her hand and led her to her chair in her room, popped in the first video I came to and she promptly sat down to watch it.
I felt numb. In a matter of minutes, our world had changed. Violence and hate from other places had spilled over into our world and now fear was roaming free across our country.
This is the crazy part. I had made plans to go shopping with a friend and her little boy. For some reason, we decided to go ahead. Maybe it was our attempt to try to be normal. Maybe we thought it would make things normal. It did not. We drove to the outlet mall, our conversation strained as we talked about shopping, then about the events of the morning, then quiet. We walked around for forty-five minutes looking, but not really seeing what the stores had to offer. People were acting strangely. Awkward. I told my friend I thought we needed to go home, and so we loaded the little ones back up and headed back to the safety of our homes.
I was in line early to pick up my older two girls, so were many anxious parents. I formulated over and over what I would say to them, how I would explain that our country had been attacked by evil men who hated America. I watched as teachers lead students out, dazed looks on their faces as they watched carefully after their students. Children, kept unaware of the events of that morning, laughed and skipped and held their friend’s hands. “They have no idea.” I thought to myself.
As they got in the car, my oldest who was ten asked “What’s going on today, Mom, the teachers have been acting weird all day.” So there it was, the acknowledgement that things had changed and they sensed it. “Let’s talk about it when we get home.” I looked in the rearview mirror at their faces as they exchanged looks that said more than words.
At home I fixed them something to drink and we sat down. I slowly started to tell them about what had happened that morning. I chose my words carefully. I did not want to stir up fear in their hearts. My seven-year-old, in all her innocence asked “Are they gonna blow us up?” I looked at her and said “I don’t think so, I’m sure we are going to be fine. But we need to pray for all those people in New York and Washington DC who were hurt, and the families of those that were killed. I’m sure they are all in shock and afraid.” But were we really going to be fine? My ten-year-old, who was more serious about life, came and sat beside me. No words were necessary. I decided that the t.v. would stay off, it would not help them to see scene after scene of the carnage in the aftermath played over and over.
I teach 11th& 12thgrade girls in Sunday School, and I realized a few weeks ago that to them 9-11 is just a history lesson. Something they read about in school. Just like I did when I was in school when I read about Pearl Harbor or WWII. They don’t know that life was different before that day. This life they live now is normal for them. They live in a world that is a constant intake of news and media in the palm of their hands.
So today, we remember. We remember all the lives that were taken by people who have some twisted reasoning for causing so much death, so much damage, so much fear. We remember a day when bombings or shootings were not news worthy for a moment, until the next act of violence grabbed the media attention. We remember a day we didn’t look at people who were different than us with some trepidation. We remember the heroics of the police, the EMT’s, the firemen, the medical personnel, the average man or woman who ran to help others. We remember the victims on board those planes, who knew in an instant that this was the end for them, yet they still bravely fought back saving lives and losing their own. We remember a president who we didn’t always agree with, yet he stood on that mountain of what was left of the World Trade Center and shed tears and hugged average people who had done above average acts of bravery.
People in other parts of the world say we are indulged Americans who are self-centered and arrogant. Maybe so. But we average Americans love our country and we love helping people. We live in a world now where we are more aware than ever that violence and hate roams within our borders. We are more aware of the dangers. How could we forget because the media tries to keep a spirit of fear stirred up every day. But there is still goodness in this world. We Americans may not agree on a lot of things: politics, immigration, and global warming, all are topics that stir up heated discussions and anger. But one thing ties us together. We are Americans. We come to the rescue of the injured, the weak, the hungry. We send food and medical help to people who are suffering in disasters or war-torn countries. The world may say they hate us, but they come to us first when they need help. I believe, that if the need arose, we Americans, we would stand and defend our people, our country, and our borders, against a twisted religion that condones violent acts. We will stand up against a people who are invading our country under the guise of pursuing the American dream, only to try to force us to change our laws to their laws, or force us to accept their mindset. We won’t do it. We may make efforts to respect your beliefs. We may offer help if you need it. We may even try to call you friend. But we are not ignorant of your hidden agenda. We are not idiots. We see. We listen. We stand against the ugliness that has taken root in your mind and in your hearts. We were not defeated or disabled on September 11, 2001. We were awakened. We were educated. We will remember. We will teach our children to remember. We will remind each other of what is right and good. To all those families and friends who lost people they love on that day. We remember. We pray for you.
One year ago. One year ago we were being hit by one storm after another. But the ultimate storm of cancer came and stayed….and now, on the other side of that storm looking back, I am once again reminded of God’s faithfulness, His provision, His comfort, His healing power. I read back over the blogs of the past year and I see a woman clinging desperately to the Savior. I am reminded of the woman who reached out to touch the hem of His garment and I understand her in a new way. I know myself, that I have tightly gripped the hem of His garment in my clinched fists refusing to let go. We have walked through this cancer journey saying over and over “I trust you” aloud for ourselves mostly, but also to our God, declaring that while we don’t understand, and while we know His plan is perfect, and while we were even fearful at times, we would TRUST HIM, no matter the outcome. Our faith is stronger, our family is stronger, our love is stronger and our compassion is stronger. Today, after a year of diagnosis, biopsies, surgeries, chemo, radiation, doctor appointments, uncertainties, waiting, frustrations and sometimes fear, we got the official words of cancer free. I hesitated to even post this because we have friends and family still doing battle with this evil disease. But I want those reading this who are in the battle to be encouraged, optimistic and strengthened. God is with you and you can trust Him with whatever the outcome of your journey may be. People have stated over and over that “God is good” and it is so true. But if we had gotten different news, and the battle with cancer had continued, the truth is that God is still good. He is good even when things are seemingly bad in our lives and life’s storms are coming at us so fast they are tearing us apart. When we feel like we can’t catch our breath between storms and we are staring death in the face, God is good. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. So wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever battle you are in, trust Him. “Be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
God is faithful. He is. Really. Even when I am not. I am not faithful to remember all He has done for me when I am in the midst of an overwhelming circumstance. It’s easy for me to say those words to someone else who is crumbling beneath a difficult situation or an overwhelming state of mind. But then just moments later, it seems, I am sitting here, throat constricted, my mind chaotic with possible answers to a problem, instead of taking a deep breath and releasing my burdens into His capable outstretched arms.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”. Matthew 11:29-30
It’s interesting to me, that given this word from the Lord, we still take our burdens to the feet of Jesus, lament and cry and beg for answers or resolutions or even for Him to take them from us, but then we promptly get up, pick up the burden and walk away. I want to learn from Him, I want to lay my burden at His feet and trust His hand. But I am a control freak. I am a dweller. I hold the situation or issue in my hand, study it, dwell on it and try to figure the best way to resolve it. I’m not so good at releasing my burdens into His hands. The crazy part is this: after I’ve struggled over it, lost sleep over it, tried my ideas on it, I finally come to His feet and just fall in a puddle of tears with my hands still clinching the burden. And, just as He promised in these verses, He pries my sweaty hands from the burden, brushes my hair back from my tear stained face as I relax and release it into His capable hands. He comforts me and calms my spirit and I finally rest. I wish that I could say I do not repeat this process very often, but it isn’t true. I am stubborn and willful. I am a child of God still learning that I am not in control. He is. Still learning that life is easier when a burden comes into my life if I instantly snatch it up and race to the feet of Jesus and quickly place it in His hands.
What burden is weighing you down today? Release it dear friend into the Savior’s hands and then pick up His yoke which is about peace and rest, and the. watch Him do His thing in that situation!
Last night something was confirmed about me that may surprise many of you. I am not a rocker. I know you are shocked and surprised. I’m not even a poser. (I had to look that term up, fyi) It was evident by my lack of knowledge about the music or words to the signature songs of the band. I spent more time entertained by the people in attendance than the actual concert. My husband and I were given tickets by sweet friends to a concert by The Black Jacket Symphony: A Night at the Opera and The Best of Queen. My big guy was very excited about hearing favorite songs of his younger years. I confess that I wondered what kind of opera the symphony would play. I honestly expected an orchestra. I was wrong! I am not completely in the dark, I do know who Queen is, but I didn’t realize it would be a real deal rock and roll night! You may not believe this, but I’ve never been to a rock concert. It’s true! I know I’ve surprised you again.
Parking was the first step to getting to our night of rocking and rolling….obviously not an easy task in downtown Mobile when a rock concert is about to happen! We finally parked in a church parking lot with a sign that said “Private Parking for…(and I’ll leave the church name out here just in case someone wants to report two rebellious fifty somethings!): Violators will be ticketed or towed at owners expense. I was a little anxious as we got out of the car and proudly walked toward the theatre, impressed by our night of living on the wild side. I secretly asked God to forgive us and please allow the car to still be there when the night was over!
As we entered the door of the Saenger I was asked to open my purse for security. I looked at my big guy and asked, “Are these people famous?” The security guy asked him if he had any weapons. He confessed to a pocket knife and suddenly the guys hands went up and said “You can’t enter with a weapon, sir.” I looked around at the other security people standing ready to pounce, beginning to wonder if the real Queen was in the house. My sweet husband informed me later that the lead singer died in 1985. He handed over his knife, it was obvious to me that it was worth the sacrifice to hear the band! We then walked to another security checkpoint and were scanned with a wand for any other concealed weapons. This didn’t make me feel comfortable about the obvious possibilities of events that could happen if there was this much concern for what people would carry into the concert hall! We finally got to our seats and waited. We were in the balcony, third row, dead center. Perfect view of the stage. I noted the massive speakers hanging from the ceiling, both sides angled right at us. This wasn’t going to be good. There was an atmosphere of excitement all around me. As I watched people, which I love to do, I realized the average age in the room was somewhere in the mid fifties. But the energy was more like a crowd of twenty somethings! I noted the lights, the instruments and party like atmosphere. Suddenly the lights went down and the band ran out. The crowd went crazy. The lead singer belted out lyrics and people were screaming. I looked hard at the singer trying to recognize him. I did not. But then a familiar tune came, Bohemian Rhapsody. I looked at my big guy and said “I know this!”, but my words were lost somewhere in the midst of the screaming crowd and the blasting music. He leaned down and I got as close to his ear as possible and I repeated my words. He smiled and nodded. I still don’t think heard me….but I saw the smile on his face as he took in the loud music and I knew he was having a good time. I found myself watching people more than the concert as they got lost in the music, reliving the moments of the 70’s and 80’s when they first heard the songs. People were standing and dancing, hands in the air and singing at the top of their lungs. These people knew every word. Then I heard a familiar beat….the crowd began to stomp, stomp, clap, stomp, stomp, clap. I looked at my man with shock, it was my high school senior class song! I found myself following along and singing “We will, we will, rock you”. I was no longer a fish out of water. A square peg in a round hole. I was a rocker! They sang Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites the Dust. I suddenly felt cool because I knew these songs. I didn’t know all the words, but I knew the songs. At the end of the night, my ears were numb and I honestly was glad to be headed home. I observed something as I left. It was 10:15pm and the crowd that had just been jamming out for two hours were leaving in an orderly manner, laughing and chatting as we exited the nearly 100 year old Saenger Theatre. Forty years ago, these same people would have been jumping up and down demanding an encore still full of youthful energy, demanding to be blown away by the rock band, Queen. We made it back to the church parking lot (along with many other concert attendees) and our car was still there and no ticket on the windshield. Prayer works! We drove home and I listened to my sweet man talk about the band and how good they were and how fun it was to hear some of his favorite songs. I listened and thought how thankful I was for the gift of tickets for us to enjoy a non -typical night out for this “square” chick, and to sit next to my man who has had such a difficult year. All I can say is…..rock on!
Tomorrow I wake up to the 30th Valentine’s Day with the man God gave me. But this year it is different. This year I will be mushy. I will kiss him every chance I get. I will tell him I love him every hour of the day. I will give him his favorite peanut M & M’s and maybe go have a spur of the moment lunch somewhere. Things could be so different. This past year made the fragility of life so real to me. It gave me a reality check that we are getting older and we need to cherish every day, even the ones when he is driving me crazy and pushing my buttons. Because the truth is I love this man. I know the lengths God went to to orchestrate the events and people to have our paths cross. Even the back story to us meeting is an amazing logistical undertaking. His plan for us to meet was two years in the making! We knew from the beginning that what we had was special and we wasted no time in starting our life together. I love this man because he sees me. Not the fat girl I see in the mirror every morning. Not the failure I think I am. He thinks I am beautiful and smart, and he tells me often. He values my opinion on everything. He calls me friend. He is not perfect, but neither am I. He has held my hand through giving birth and through miscarriages. He has put up with my strong opinions. He has encouraged me in my writing. He has held me close and let me cry when my Mom died. He has told me many times that everything would be okay, when I was shaken over circumstances. He has worked hard to take care of me and his baby girls. He has taken care of me when I have been sick and when I have had surgery, and been so sweet when pain meds made me whiny and weepy. He has made me laugh so many times when I wanted to be mad at him. He has held me close when I needed the security of his arms around me. He held me up and gave me strength to walk through difficult family situations and then the death of my Daddy. This man loves God and has learned to trust His hand this past year. He is the spiritual leader of our family. I love him and I am so proud of the man he has become in the last thirty years. I could not have survived without him walking by my side. My daughters are so blessed to have grown up with a Daddy who was at every event, said yes a thousand times, helped pick out prom dresses and even knows what pantaloons are and all the other parts of a Trail dress. He can brush hair into a ponytail and can cook up some amazing potato gravy and biscuits when his baby girls come asking. He has taken them on motorcycle rides and played with them in the surf at the beach. He has laughed as hard as they have on every ride at Disney. He has given them an amazing example of what a father is supposed to be like. They are strong, opinionated young women who can hold their own with any boy because of him. I love this man and tomorrow I will kiss him and tell him that I am blessed because God gave him to me.
Today. Today was the last day of the last treatment for my big guy. Woohoo! He’s been a trooper through it all. He has endured eight weeks of five day stays in Springhill. He has had 114 bags of chemo pumped into his body. He has had optimistic days and grumpy days. I would probably have had a lot more grumpy days. We can honestly and wholeheartedly celebrate Thanksgiving next week! We are so excited. We are headed to the mountains. We planned this trip a year ago. Lynn has always wanted to go to Gatlinburg for Thanksgiving. We had no idea what the next year would hold when we gave the kids a year notice to plan for this Thanksgiving. God is so good! He knew. He knew every storm we would walk through. He knew we would desperately need time away as a family to breathe and be normal. So we are off to a cabin in the woods. We will sit around a long table eating turkey. We will laugh and yes, we will probably cry. But mostly we will enjoy time together away from the normal we’ve been living in for the last year. We’ve had good days and bad days. And He has been faithful. We have been afraid and confident. And He has been faithful. We have been optimistic and unsure. And…He has been faithful. Because that is who He is. He is faithful when we are faithless.
Deep breath. I am thankful for every storm this year. Every painful moment, every emotional roller coaster, every shaky moment has moved us to walk a little closer to Him, to hang on tighter to His hand, to acknowledge Him in our lives and to trust Him. He allowed us to experience the love of His people through texts, visits, emails, meals and hugs. He took away a job that allowed me to walk every step of the way with my big guy. He allowed a precious moment with my Daddy hours before he went to be with Jesus. He had his hand on my new grandson born 5 ½ weeks early without complication for him or my precious daughter. And I watched my big guy walk his beautiful middle daughter down the isle for her wedding. There are a few other storms that I won’t mention here, but in each one God was there, holding me up, brushing the hair out of my eyes and the tears from my cheeks. I have missed more church then I ever have and I have had to step back in a few ministries, but I feel I am walking closer with Him then I have in a long time, because the walk isn’t based on any “works” or “faithfulness” on my part. I am not sure if this will make sense to you as the reader, but I know what it means. It means that inner part of me that sometimes gets a little wrapped up in doing, that pride part of me that rears its ugly head concerning being faithful was taken down a notch or two in the midst of this stormy year. I cried out and He heard me. I cried out and He wrapped His powerful arms around me. I cried out and He loved me right where I am. Not because of anything I did or because I deserve it, but because He loves me.
God is amazing people. We have absolutely no idea what the future holds. And that’s okay. Because we know He will be walking with us through it. I trust Him.