It Takes a Village

I have never really put a lot of thought into the statement “it takes a village to raise a child” and that may be because I heard Hillary Clinton say it once and I some how associate that phrase with her.  But in the Christian community, in the church family, it does take the village to raise our children to be people who understand what God did for them, then to teach them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and to live a life that honors God.  That church family of precious believers are the family that pours truth into their lives.  The family that cheers them on, encourages them and often comes to their rescue.

This weekend I saw this village of believers came to rescue the wedding day of my youngest daughter.  My girl had been dreaming of this day at this perfect outdoor venue for well over a year.  Our area of Alabama is known for unpredictable weather.  It is said, if you don’t like the weather, hang around for about fifteen minutes and it will change.  Saturday morning, just as forecasted, was rainy.  Not torrential, downpour rain. But steady rain.  I stood inside the house of the Historic Malbis Nursery watching the puddles form outside, trying to devise a Plan B.  I could not fathom how we would get over 150 guests, the food and the ceremony inside the building.  We decided to wait it out and be flexible with some of the decorations.  Thankfully I had brought a stack of towels “just in case”.  We delayed putting linens and centerpieces on tables.   And we prayed.  Yes.  We asked God to make the rain stop for a wedding.  It seemed shameless and selfish to ask such a thing when people in other parts of the world were praying for food!  But we prayed.  We asked our friends to pray.  We asked social media to pray.  My husband and I went back to the hotel to get ready while our baby girl was in the bridal suite getting hair and make-up done.  We got a phone call right before we were leaving to return to the venue.  We were needed for a “first look” picture asap.  As we rode back to the venue we noticed that the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to shine.  We just smiled.  God in his sovereignty had chosen to answer our prayer.  As soon as we arrived we were wisked away to see our baby girl for the first time.  We were in awe at the young woman standing before us.  No longer a little girl.  No longer our baby.  But a beautiful young woman ready to marry the love of her life.

When we stepped inside the venue there was a beehive of activity.  Friends were everywhere blowing rain off the outside brick flooring, drying chairs, wiping down tables.  Linens were being put on tables and centerpieces arranged.  The caterer was busy organizing the banquet of food.  The one desire of my girl was to have chiffon draped at the ceremony site with a beautiful wooden cross draped in eucalyptus.  With the rain it didn’t seem an option because of the continued light dripping of rain off the greenery that covered the venue.  One of our friends told me to send him the picture of what she wanted and he would make it happen.  Within a short time I looked out and two wonderful men had intricately draped the chiffon exactly like the picture I had sent them.  I grabbed my daughter as she was headed back to the bridal suite and showed her the ceremony area.  Bit tears welled up in her eyes as she smiled.  She was so happy.

The events of the day progressed.  People kept coming.  Chairs were pulled from the reception area to accommodate the number of guests.  First the pastor, groom and groomsmen.  Then the bridesmaid along with my grandson wearing a sign “Uncle Zach, here comes your bride?”

Then the moment came, my sweet big guy escorting his last daughter down the aisle.  My memory raced back to a year ago as he escorted our second daughter down the aisle for her November wedding.  He had only been out of the hospital for a week from his last week long chemo treatment.  He was weak, bloated and hairless from five months of treatment, but he was there, walking her proudly down the aisle.  Here we were a year later and he looked amazing.  New suit, bowtie, goatee and a huge smile.  He proudly held her arm in his.

The ceremony began and then finished with our girl and her young man washing each other’s feet as their first act of love toward each other as they served each other just as our Savior did for His disciples in the last days before His return to heaven.  It was sweet, it was moving, it was precious.

The reception followed with lots of dancing, hugs and laughter.  They were surrounded by people who have poured into their lives.  People who love them and have watched them in their walk with Jesus.  People who willingly came and made this day perfect for them.

They departed in a flurry of confetti, bubbles and silly string. All appropriate for these to kids who fell in love in their church youth group, then dated for two more years before becoming engaged.  Then they went to their hotel, quickly changed clothes and went off to bowl with a group of friends until almost midnight.  I have to laugh at this last part.  It just speaks volumes about the relationship and personalities of these two kids.  Because in reality they are still kids at heart.  Two twenty year olds stepping into adulthood, filled with love and excitement for what the future has for them.  They have a wonderful support group around them.  A village.  A church family.  They love Jesus and desire to live for Him.  So here’s to a new life for Molly and Zach Johnson.  I have a feeling God has big plans for these two!

As a postscript….I received a text from my baby girl later that night, while they were hanging with friends and bowling.  It said “thank you for making my dream come true today, it was perfect.”

 

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Happy Fall Y’all

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!

Rocking Out With The Eagles…

Last night I rocked out to the Eagles.  Well.  Not the ACTUAL Eagles, but a really good band that sounded just like the Eagles.  I stepped outside my normal, humdrum, square life and went to a concert with my big guy.  He was so excited.  Our daughter and her husband dropped us off at the door.  Our friends, who met us there, gave us a hard time, saying “It used to be that our parents dropped us off at the door….now your kids are dropping you off at the door.”  He was right.   After finding our seats, which were perfect may I say, 3rd row in the balcony dead center.  I started people watching right away.  I quickly surmised that the average age in the room was again 50!  It’s really fun to watch a room full of 50 somethings rock out to a band that 35 years ago they were jumping up and down, screaming and singing at the top of their lungs.  These adults, now all sat in their seats, heads bobbing, and reminiscent smiles on their faces as they mouthed the words to Take It Easy and Desperado.  I felt pretty cool sitting next to my big guy, as he sang every song, word for word.  Truth is, 35 years ago we wouldn’t have been together at an Eagles concert.  He was too cool and I was about a million miles from cool.  After intermission, The Black Jacket Symphony returned to the stage to play the Eagles greatest hits.  I am happy to say I knew most of the songs….but not necessarily all the words.  Near the end of the concert, people were finally getting a little rowdy….maybe because they had had time to loosen up from drinking, and things were really getting cranked, when the band finally finished their last song.  I was again amused by the orderly and quick manner everyone exited the theatre at 10:30pm, possibly a late night for most!  Uber and Lyft vehicles were waiting outside, people laughed and swayed as they left, enjoying the moment of reliving their youth jamming at a rock concert.

Our daughter and her husband pulled up to the sidewalk and opened the doors for us to get in….”Did you crazy kids have fun?” they laughed.  “We did!” we quickly responded, just like two teenagers.

On the ride home we talked about the songs, the people and memories of certain songs.  Then I told my sweet man, “I’ve loved coming to the concerts with you.  I kind of felt like I was one of the cool people for a change.  But, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not coming to hear Led Zeppelin in January.”  He laughed and said, “I wasn’t even going to ask?”  He knows me.

 

 

Other Places….

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.

2:48 AM

2:48 AM.  The last time I looked at the clock this morning. Here I sit.  Awake. Miserable.  All because of a large unsweet tea from Foosacklys.  That’s right.  I’ve been robbed of blissful slumber because I can’t handle my caffeine.  I admit it.  What was I thinking?  That’s the problem, I wasn’t.  I just rode through that drive-thru with my daughter, chatting away, ordering dinner, and as bold as a twenty-something, I ordered a LARGE unsweet tea with my meal. I’m 58 years old and I know that I cannot consume anything caffeinated after 5:00pm!  I admire those people that can guzzle coffee or tea, or even devour chocolate at any given time of the day and not suffer from sleep deprivation!    The sad part of this saga, is I have lay in my bed for the last 4 hours straining to go to sleep, my eyes feeling like sandpaper, but my mind running in five different directions all at once!  I have redecorated soon to be vacated bedrooms, organized things to do for a ministry kick-off, planned rehearsals and costumes for student choir, sent out texts to people (and that should be interesting when they get up and read the time I sent them), reviewed details for a meeting I need to have on Thursday, planned out how to help two of my daughters get settled in their new houses over the next two weeks, hold on, I’m not done yet, made notes of editing I need to do on my childrens book, chided myself for not being more disciplined about dieting, planned Christmas gifts for family members, planned dinner for tomorrow, I mean today,  made a list on my phone of anything and everything I need to do in the coming days with neat little check off circles so I can feel good about myself when I check them off, and considered what kind of things we want to do on the Alaskan cruise we’re planning for next year.  I’m just going stop right here.  There are probably twenty more items I could add to that list.  Now you see why I just surrendered and got up, I mean I had already started writing this blog entry in my head, so why not just get up and go ahead and put it in black and white!  Why not, I’m awake, right?  Did I mention in that crazy, chaotic thinking, I was counting forward twenty years to 78 and wondering if I’d be still kicking!  I mean, who knew I’d get to 58 so fast, and still feel 38 in my head?  The last 20 years have flown by so fast, I’m sure I’ll wake up tomorrow, if I ever go to sleep, and be 78!  I won’t be drinking any tea after 5:00pm, you can bet on that!

So, as I get ready to post this and try to leave you with something spiritual to chew on, check out this verse I found during my sleeplessness:

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8

I think that’s a sweet promise.  A promise that if we will quit trying to plan, make lists, re-think our lives or even plan out the next twenty years, we can know a peace that passes all understanding, we CAN lie down and sleep, for in His arms we are safe, knowing He is our Lord, our Father, our Savior, our Provider, our Redeemer, our Healer, our Everything!  I think I’ll sign off now, and go lie down and sleep.  He is such a sweet and loving Father to give me this verse in my delirious, caffeine induced insomnia.  He is bigger than my sleeplessness!!!  Goodnight!

What Now?

I am in a weird place.  Not like an actual location or anything.  I haven’t taken a road trip that has gone awry.  I am not in a crowd of people that have an agenda I know nothing about.  But now that I read back over those last three sentences, I have to back track and say they all are pretty accurate, generally speaking.  I’ve been chugging along for the last twenty-eight years as a mother of three daughters.  Thirty years as a wife.  And here and there for periods of time as an employee.   I have been mothering, pushing, washing, feeding, nurturing, loving, disciplining, teaching, wife-ing, cooking, chauffeuring, guiding and loving three girls and a husband.  Mixed in with that, I have been teaching Sunday school to mostly 11th & 12th grade girls, serving in Women’s Ministry, singing in the choir, and many other ministries here and there. But today, I am sitting in a quiet house, wondering.  Wondering what now.

I’m not sure who I am now.  Before you become concerned that I am a writer with dementia, I know who I am, but I don’t know WHO I am.   I’m not despondent.  I’m not even downcast or depressed.  I’m trying not to measure myself to unrealistic expectations or compare myself to all the amazing women of God out there making a difference!

I know things I want to do.  Like have a clean house.  Don’t laugh.  It hasn’t been uber clean in months.  Our oldest daughter and her family have been living with us while they are looking for and buying a house.  So, keeping the house perfect has been low on the list and enjoying our grandson living in our house 24/7 has been at the top of that list!!!  I have to say he is the cutest baby you’ve ever seen and having him here has helped us acclimate to being Lolly and Pop, especially considering he’ll be getting a baby sister in four short months.  They are now about to close on their house and will be moving next week.  Our middle girl child has been living her new married life to her sweet man  in a downtown loft.  She is now realizing her dream of working from home and as we’ve always said, we’ll all be working for her one day!   The baby girl of the family is getting married in just over ninety days.  Ninety-four to be exact.  Our baby girl.  She was an unexpected blessing twenty years ago.  I know God has her here for a specific purpose because she was not in our plans, in fact we were done and moving on in life with the two beautiful girls we had!  I have both smiled at her boldness to get married so young and cried that she’ll be off doing her own life without me in ninety four days.  I keep saying she’s not old enough, that they don’t know what they’re doing, they aren’t ready.  But then God reminds me that He created her, He saved her, He has a plan for her life, not me.  She and her fiancé love Jesus and are gonna follow Him, not my plan.

Back to this weird place.  So I am soon to be out of the mothering job and I am not working a job outside our home any longer.  This happened last year while my sweet man was going through cancer treatment.  It was both a blessing and a difficulty at the same time.  But God has taken care of us, as always, and after much deliberation (mostly on my part), my man said he wanted me to stay home.  So this weird place has taken away the two things that have been consistent for some time in my life.  I don’t know why I’m so lost, because I have wanted to have the freedom to write and now I have it.  And yet.  And yet I don’t know what to write.  We write to inspire others.  We write to tell stories.  We write to unleash the words that fill our brains every minute of every day.  I am sure if we could look inside an average person’s brain and the brain of a writer we would see that the writer is constantly writing about life as it is observed.  Always adding to the story.  Always editing.  Always creating. The words never stop swirling.

So this weird place is me standing, no, sitting, in my chair, staring at a computer screen.  Me, looking around at the things that need to be done.  Me, longing to be some kind of spiritual giant that could inspire people to cling to Jesus in every area of their lives.  Me, longing to finally get a handle on losing weight and finally finding victory over the scale. Me, measuring myself up to the expectations in my head and failing miserably.  Me, crying and asking God to please help me be good at something.  Help me find success at something.  And ultimately, just giving in and finding a quiet, cool place in the house to take a nap, to think about these things another day.  I’m 58 years old.  I have no degree.  I’m an okay writer, but not a profoundly gifted writer.  I am not particularly disciplined.  I don’t look like Beth Moore or speak like Priscilla Shirer.  I never quite meet the expectations in my head.  I think I may have wasted this life that God gave me.

This weird place has locked doors right now.  I feel like I’m standing in the middle of this weird place, completely baffled at what I am to do next.  What door do I choose? I’m frozen.  Not sure what I’m supposed to do next.  I preach to my daughters and my Sunday school girls all the time that “God has a plan for your life, now go walk in it”.  But here I am, in this weird place, wondering if there really is a plan for me and, if so, what that plan for my life is!

 

One Year Ago

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