It Matters. (Found this in some old files of things I had written a few years ago)

I stayed home from work today.  I felt somewhat achy, was it headache?  Was it a tummy ache? I wasn’t quite sure, but I stayed home.  The thought of sitting at my desk pushing papers to and fro, and answering the endless phone calls was all too much to face.  I gave into the aches and pains that usually disappear within moments of my fifty-three year old feet hitting the floor.

After the hustle and bustle of one daughter off to college and work for the day, another daughter starting her second week of her sophomore year and my sweet hubby heading off to work, the house was at last quiet.  I sat on the couch still in my nightgown and looked around my “lived in” house.  “Lived in” is my daughters favorite line to use when I am on a rampage about the house being messy.  “Mom, it doesn’t matter, it just looks lived in?”, they will say.  They don’t understand the inner pressure I struggle with to make my home look like a Better Homes & Garden magazine, or worse, Pinterest!  “It matters to me” I will tell them and then I set off on a mission to clean every nook and cranny.

I sat there on that couch for an hour, in the quiet, just thinking.  I thought about my life and the road I have been travelling for the last fifty-three years.  It isn’t playing out exactly as I had planned.  That sounds like I am unhappy, but I am not, though I am finding myself at a crossroads.  Many parts of my perfect plan have come to fruition.  I am happily married to a wonderful man who loves me more than I ever imagined being loved.  He makes me laugh, he understands me to the best of his ability as a man to understand a woman, and he supports me.  I have three amazing daughters.  The oldest is newly married, the middle daughter is in college and the youngest is in high school.  They are strong in their faith and they are living it out.  Nothing could make me more proud. I attend a wonderful church with many longtime friends.  I have been on mission trips and I have taught Sunday School  for high school girls long enough that I am now teaching the teenagers of the students I taught years ago.  Frightening!

We have experienced hardships just like everyone else.  God has blessed us time and time again.  He has met our needs even when we probably didn’t deserve to have those needs met.  We have learned so much as a married couple and as a family about God’s grace and mercy.  All this matters.

Five years ago I went to work full time after working five years part time.  Our daughters were getting older and more expensive.  My husband had experienced a lay-off from a job he had been at for nearly ten years and had started over at a new company.  Financially it seemed the right thing to do.  Up to that point I had only worked twenty hours a week to help out our finances.  The full time employment came at a time we were really struggling.    Now five years later I am still working full time, mostly because we have become accustomed to the extra money.

This full time employment had never been part of the plan.  I was supposed to have finished my first book, become published and obtained a lucrative book deal for additional sequels.  The plan also consisted of me becoming a women’s speaker and ministering to women through conferences and retreats.  This kind of work mattered.

I got up from my place of contemplation on the couch and decided to do something that matters.  I got to work cleaning up the house.  I made beds, I washed some clothes, I organized a cabinet and I even straightened up the girl’s bathroom.  I had forgotten what it was like to be home in the middle of the day.  The house was peaceful and I was getting so much done.  The last time I had been home during the day on a regular basis was when my youngest was four years old.

At 3:00pm my fifteen year old came in from school.  We sat and talked for an hour about school, friends, homework and anything else that came to her mind.  Things got quiet for a moment and she suddenly said, “I like you being home when I get home from school.”  Then she was off to her room to take a short nap.

I sat there a while longer thinking about that moment.  It won’t be long till she is graduating and then off to college.  This is what matters.  It matters that I am there for her when she comes home.  It doesn’t matter if we have lots of extra money to spend.  Being there for her is what matters.  Preparing my home is what matters.  Serving others is what matters.  Seeking God above all else is what matters.  This is not what the world preaches through every social and public media.  It is subtle.  It is constant.  But it ways in heavy on what really matters.  We become confused about what is important.  We strive to have it all and do it all.  We push our children to be involved in everything and to maintain great grades while forgetting that they sometimes just need to be kids.  We feel like failures when we haven’t achieved some kind of recognized symbol of an extraordinary woman who is perfect at parenting, leading and achieving, all while providing healthy meals, a spotless, well designed home and meaningful moments all chronicled on social media for all to admire.

I cannot compete with the ideal that floats around in my head of how I should be doing everything.  It’s too exhausting.  I will never live up to my expectations.  The realty of life is that my house is not always clean, I do not have a particular set of skills that allows me to have every room decorated and looking magazine worthy.  I am not a great cook!  There I said it.  I have go to meals that are no longer considered healthy or “Keto friendly” or any other kind of healthy friendly.  I don’t have a deep desire to be a chef.  I probably won’t be the granny cooking up amazing treats and creating lasting memories.  I will probably never be a published writer.  As of this writing, I have yet to have the children’s book I wrote achieve even one request for further chapters.

Loving, talking, laughing, hugging are things that matter.  Nurturing is what matters.  Encouraging faith in a God who loves unconditionally and who sacrificed His Son just so we could spend eternity with Him matters.  Cheering each other on matters.  Calling a friend matters.  Writing a note matters.  Listening matters.  Spending time with our sweet Savior matters.  Not measuring ourselves against the world’s standards matters.

Our family is FAR from perfect.  We are loud.  We laugh inappropriately sometimes.  We may be a little judgmental at times.  No one is brilliant.  No one is incredibly talented.  Not one of us will be famous.  We are not rich.  But what matters is we love each other.  We talk about everything.  Our girl’s poor fellas probably find the constant conversation overwhelming sometimes, but we all know what everyone else thinks about everything!  We share meals, we share vacations, we share last minute road trips.  We support their activities, we beam with pride at their accolades.  We go to church together.   I love how my youngest daughter once told us, “Not all families are like ours!  We are freakishly close.”  If freaky means we love each other and we are in constant communication with each other, that  we talk a lot, we laugh, we cry, we fight.  We hug and make-up.  Then yes we are freakishly close.

There is one thing that matters.  Love.

Rock and Roll, Baby!

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!

Cancer Part 2

We are waiting….yet again. Cancer is not only a life altering experience in the life of the patient and their loved ones, but it’s a game of waiting….always. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for tests to be done. Waiting for diagnosis. Waiting for a treatment plan. Waiting for results. Today we are waiting for yet another CT scan so the radiologist can them create a formula of treatment for radiation. In theory, we think this will be easier than the last eight months, but we are no longer hanging our hopes on unrealistic expectations. It will take a week for them to do their thing and program the monster radiation machine that will shoot pin pointed radiation into my big guys body. Then, according to the consultation…a month ago….he will take 20-23 treatments that last 15 minutes (I find this hard to believe) and will happen Monday through Friday until he reaches the prescribed number between twenty and twenty-three.

Sometimes it feels like this cancer journey started yesterday and other times it feels like it has been going on forever. I wonder if we’ll ever get past life with cancer. Will we be able to walk through each day without the “what if” of cancer imprinted on our subconscious? Will the affects of the last year of life’s storms ever slip away and return to normal? I hope so.

PET SCAN Day

Well. Today’s the day. We’ve come full circle in this cancer journey as we sit waiting, in a room full of other cancer victims, to have another PET SCAN. This one even more important than the last. This one will tell us the cancer is gone….or not. But our gut feeling is this cancer monster has been conquered! Our lives have revolved around that frightening “C” word for seven months. 2018 will be our year of woes that was filled with blessings. 2018 will be our year of victory over cancer. I am not as anxious or feel like a deer in headlights this time. I am not afraid. My big guy has faced this giant with courage, with determination, with soldier like strength and I believe he will walk away a conquerer. Some say they are cancer survivors, but i think they should call themselves cancer conquerors! Fighting this beast is an all out battle both physically and mentally! God has sustained us and will continue to sustain us. He is worthy to be trusted. He will hold you up when you feel you are crumbling. He will provide when you aren’t sure where it will come from. He will send one of His children to wrap loving arms around you or to hold your hand and let you cry. He will provide humor to get through difficult moments and He is faithful to walk every step with you. I knew this before….but I am absolutely certain of it now. I trust Him…..no matter the outcome of today.

I Cried Yesterday…..

I cried yesterday. If you know me, you know I don’t do that a lot. It came out of nowhere. Completely unexpected. I have fought back the tears for a month….trying to be positive, encouraging and strong. Strong for Lynn, strong for my girls and strong for me. One word from my friend, which I can’t even recall what that word was right now, and the tears welled up and spilled down my cheeks. She quickly closed the door to her office and pulled a chair up next to me and took my hand in hers. She let me cry and try to get out the words that I had been pushing back for some time. She listened and held my hand tightly in hers, then gently rubbing it between her hands, it was comforting and personal and needed. Then she began to softly speak truth to me. I felt the flood of emotion begin to relax and recede. I felt my spirit fill with peace and my heart stopped aching. I knew everything she said was truth and was whispered to me in love. I felt myself breathing normally and I knew I was going to be okay. I trust God, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have to deal with fear. I don’t have to be strong all the time. I believe in His sovereignty and I know that He walks with us through whatever is part of His plan for our lives. We are not alone. We might not “see” Him, but He is with us in the hug of a friend, He is in the sweet whispers of encouragement, He is in the contagious laughter of my girls when they are together, He is in the warm meal brought to my door, He is in the beautiful sunset that takes away your breath, He is in the smile of my precious man-cub, He is in the quiet as I sit with my sweet husband finally sleeping quietly in His recliner, He is in the kindness of a friend riding by to see if our grass needs cutting, He is in the warm laughter of dear friends as we share breakfast, He is in the words of a song at the right moment, He is in the profound words of Psalm 46 as it reminds me that He has already won the battle and He is with me.

Who am I? Who are you?

Who am I?  Or who do people think I am?  I ask myself that sometimes and ponder deeply who I am and what I am here for, or I wonder what people really think of me.  I wonder myself sometimes about other people.  Who are they really?  Have I just determined who I think they are because of their actions or their relationship to me or what they tell me?  Do I look beyond the chatter and actions and see the person behind the mask.  Because believe me, people wear masks!   I am beginning to believe that I do not really know anyone!  I only know the person they want me to see, the person they present to me. Which brings me back to my to my first two questions of who am I or who do people think I am.  Better yet, who is the person I let people think I am.  Complicated, huh!  We seem to present a different persona to different people, depending on the environment and situation.  It’s true!  We want people to like us.  We want people to respect us. There are those rare individuals who are the same, whether at work, home, church or at play.  But, I think they are rare.  I want to be that person.  And I think I am that person.  But I can’t be certain.

Among believers, the people who I worship with, the people who I see several times a week at church whether in worship or in service, the people who have been walking this walk of faith with me for years, these people are the people I seem to be most susceptible to believe they are who they say they are.  But, I am wrong.  It has a deeply disturbing effect on me when it turns out they aren’t who they say they are!  I chew on it for days!  I lay awake at night searching through memories trying to figure out how I could be so gullible!  I ponder on how they could go in a direction that is so contrary to the words I heard from their mouths over the years and I try to figure out a plan of action to bring them to their senses!  I waver between getting them alone and talking sense into them or throwing a bag over their heads, taking them to a secluded location and beating some sense into them!  But, sadly, that is not my job.  How do I know that, God told me so!  I can’t fix everything.  He can use me but I can’t make them change their path.  That stinkin’ free will thing always gets in the way!!!  But God knew what He was doing when He created us this way, and I don’t want to go second guessing the Creator!

But seriously brothers and sister in the faith, be who you really are!  Quit trying to fake people out!  Quit trying to play some stinking Shell Game where we have to pick the right shell to see the real you!!!  Life is hard enough in this world without having to be suspicious of every person calling themselves a Christian.  If you are a Christian, you should walk, talk, act and make decisions like a person who believes the ENTIRE Word of God, not just the parts that are convenient.

Who am I?  I hope when you answer that question you would say “Dana is a woman who believes every Word in the Bible.  She loves the Lord with all her heart.  And she tries as hard as she can to live a life that honors Him.  She is loyal.  She is compassionate.  She is merciful. (no snickers from anyone!).  She speaks her mind sometimes when she should be quiet and ponder. If you don’t want her real opinion, don’t ask her.  She is fierce when it comes to her family, her children, her friends and the students she teaches.  She tends to be self-condemning, but she knows it and is working on that.  She believes people can turn around and do great things for God.  She believes people can make a difference in other’s lives and in this dark world.  She tries to see the positive, but is sometimes anxious and overwhelmed by the ugliness of this world, but likes to reclaim the truth that GOD IS IN CONTROL!  She wants to make a difference in this world but is not always certain as to how that looks for her.  She is sometimes unrealistic. (but thanks to her loving husband of 23 yrs she has learned to overcome some of that) She believes in marriage between one man and one woman (it’s in the BOOK people, read it).  She believes there is a positive side to everything (except sin).  She loves family vacations with her hubby & 3 girls with no fussing!  She believes we are all called by God to do something specific.  She gets more frustrated with believers who know right and do wrong than she does with lost people who do wrong.  She struggles with wanting everyone to like her and believing that most people don’t.  She struggles with feeling like she is invisible.  She gets mad at herself when she does the right thing even when she doesn’t want to do the right thing. (what is that about!)  She hates being overweight, and hates that as hard as she tries she just can’t lose the weight.  She wants to be a published writer, but thinks it will never happen.  She does not struggle with “gray areas” contrary to some peoples opinion (because you guys, there aren’t really that many gray areas).  But I hope people would mostly say, she is not a fake.

So, friends, if you are still with me and still reading, ask yourself the same questions.  And if you are really brave, and want to know what other people think about you, ask me, I’ll probably tell you.

Life on The Hill – a series of short stories to be posted periodically – purely fiction ;)

“ARTY”
I sat listening to the ladies of The Hill yesterday as they sat around in comfortable chairs in the common area discussing the events of a funeral of a relative of one of the younger agents, a descendent of one of the well known families on The Hill. The laughed and discussed the unusual eulogies and awkwardness of ex-in-laws in attendance. I honestly would love to attend one of these normally somber events, for it seems that characters abound and strange situations always occur. Three eulogies were given, each one more peculiar than the previous according to young descendant of a very old family who had resided on The Hill for many generations. During the eulogy given by the only daughter of the deceased, a voice interrupted saying “We need a doctor over here!” Considering the attendees, six doctors of various ages responded simultaneously! The daughter hesitated for a moment, and in those uncomfortable moments, a voice of an elderly women in a beautiful silk suit near the front, obviously hard of hearing because of the loudness with which she asked those sitting next to her, “Who’s gone down? “ The eulogy continued as the doctors worked at stabilizing the older gentleman and 911 was called. Out of respect, the Ambulance refrained from flashing lights or sounding sirens as they left the graveside service. It was sketchy as to whether the old gentlemen who had died would be buried or not because of the endless rain that had been occurring for that last few weeks. The graveyard was a soggy mess and the ground was quite saturated. The refined southern women were having to remove their designer shoes and stomp, just like the rest of us, through the mud puddles to honor the dead!

But I digress, the ladies continued to laugh and talk about strangely named individuals and how they were distantly related to the young woman. Then Kay-baby (as she is affectionately called at 75 years of age), began to tell about another agent’s uncle who had died some ten or so years earlier. Art Townshire was a self-made millionaire in the lumber business. He had acquired his wealth through some questionable deals that involved southern handshake trading and the lives of several million trees. He lived in a sprawling mansion that hugged the bend of Dog River and had raised eight sons. They all were southern gentlemen who loved duck hunting, fishing, golfing and were prone to acting socially unacceptable when they had indulged themselves in the liquid spirits. Art died one Saturday afternoon unexpectedly. The sons quickly gathered and like any true southern gentlemen raised their glasses of brandy to their father. They promptly sat him in a chair in the main living room and proceeded to take pictures with him. As if that wasn’t eccentric enough, they decided to take him on one last ride. Their mother sat quietly on the front porch in a rocking chair, slowing waving a fan to calm her nerves. She knew these boys were truly grieving for their father and these antics were their attempt to honor the man who had raised them. They came out the screened door carrying Arty sitting stiffly in a wing back chair in a hunting jacket, a cigar in his mouth and a glass of brandy in his hand. I stopped the story for a moment and asked “How did they get the glass to stay in his hand?” “Duct tape, dear, duct tape!” was the response. I was mortified! I had lived in Marston a good portion of my life, but outside the social status of being a descendant of “The Hill”. My family was not wealthy and our idea of a good time was boiling the crabs we had caught off the pier, then sitting around the table laughing and cracking crab legs, while the children ran in and out of the screened door while playing in the sprinkler outside! I tried to imagine a wealthy social figure like Art Townshire, dead as a doornail, riding around in the back of a pick-up truck. I couldn’t understand the reasoning at all! Skeeter interrupted my thoughts, “You should have seen the gas station attendant’s face when they stopped for gas!” Laughter exploded. This was just strange to me! I asked “Did they ride him around The Hill?” “Oh no, honey, up and down the riv-a” she replied! These high society people from The Hill are quite strange, I thought to myself, but I love them! Then I laughed right along with them!