Saturday, January 26, 2013


Even though my cousin, Lisa, is only four months younger than me, it was my little brother, Kevin, who she ALWAYS got in trouble with. (That's them in this picture...plotting their next adventure...I'm sure of it.)

First off, I should tell you that Lisa is the youngest of four daughters born to my daddy's brother, John Walter Kelley, Jr., and his wife, Barbara. Like all great southern men, my Uncle Walter had many names--Junior, Chief, Shug, FudgeMan--am I forgetting any? But, most of his nieces and nephews called him NooNoon.

After serving in WWII, NooNoon came home and married his love, Barbara. He loved her 'til the day he died. (I'm sure he still does.)

Like almost everyone in Kimberly, NooNoon and Barbara struggled to make ends meet. He worked at the local brickyard, and together they ran "NooNoon's store."

Behind their house was a HUGE field. During most summers, this field was tilled and planted into a vegetable garden. It bordered NooNoon's backyard, my Uncle Sherill's backyard, my Uncle Paul's backyard, and the Kimberly First Baptist Church parking lot.

One particular year brought a monsoon-like Alabama spring. It rained. And rained. And rained some more. And turned that field into a football-field-sized lake.

Except for the Hoyt Kelleys and the Brady Kelleys, the rest of the Kelleys lived next door or back door to each other. (Oh, except for our Mimi..who lived in the coolest apartment EVER in downtown Birmingham--but that's another story for another time.)

Some adult was always nearby. But, because it was safe-and-sound-1960s-Kimberly, the grownups usually never had a clue where us kids were unless it was time for supper. Such was the case on the finally-sunny Saturday when Lisa (6) and Kevin (4) went "wading" in NooNoon's flooded field.

All of a sudden, from my Mama Kelley's front yard, I heard children screaming bloody murder! Mama Kelley heard them too, and came out holding her ever-present hickory. So, she and I and the hickory set off in the direction of the screams, taking a shortcut through Uncle Sherill's backyard. (FYI, for years, my Uncle Sherill kept a rooster leashed to a clothesline because he didn't like waking up to an alarm clock--but that's another story for another time.)

Well, we get to the edge of that flooded field and...standing way out in the far as they could go without being on their way to the other side...are Lisa and Kevin. And they are STUCK. And they are FREAKING OUT. They keep screaming, "Quicksand! It's quicksand! We're sinking!"

By this time, several cousins have appeared, and we're standing at the edge of the field trying to figure out if those two are worth saving. Finally, somebody (can't remember who) had the good sense to run to the store and get NooNoon (aka Lisa's daddy).

Then, from somewhere, mama shows up--in a skirt and nice shoes. Well...she heads straight out into that quagmire. And...about 20 steps guessed it...she gets stuck too. When Lisa and Kevin realize that mama is stuck...well...they just LOSE IT. (Seeing my mama get stuck is also all it takes to convince the rest of us that two fewer cousins might not be such a bad thing, after all.)

But, just when it looks to my 7-year-old eyes like I'm going to be an only-child-orphan, NooNoon arrives. I can still see him trudging into that muddy thick mud...grinning...and hear him keep trying to reassure Lisa and Kevin that they aren't gonna die.

He hollers to mama, "Hey, DoeDoe, you OK?" (Those Kelleys can sure come up with the nicknames.) His first stop is to get mama unstuck...which he does...except for her shoes. Well, mama gets tickled, then NooNoon gets tickled. Unfortunately, Lisa and Kevin do not get tickled. They are still FREAKING out!

Finally...hand-in-hand...laughing the whole way...NooNoon and mama make it out to the two little screamers. And, with a muddy, sucking sound, NooNoon pulls Kevin out and hands him to mama. Then, he grabs up Lisa and, together, the four of them head for dry ground.

In my mind, I can still see Lisa...the back of her little head...arms wrapped around her daddy's neck...holding on for dear life. And my little brother, desperately (but gratefully) hanging on to mama's hip. And NooNoon and mama...hand-in-hand...still laughing.

....Mama never did find those shoes.

There are times in this upside-down kingdom when feel like yelling, "Quicksand! It's quicksand! I'm sinking!" All my futile efforts to get myself (and others) unstuck only make things worse, and only make me freak out more. In those times, what I desperately need  to remember is to just keep calling out to "Daddy" (my Abba)...and to be still...and wait for Him to show up...And, when He does, to just lift my tired, little arms and receive His rescuing hug.

So, "Happy Birthday, Lisa!" Your earthly father's love for you and your sisters was such a mirror of your Heavenly Father's love. I hope this story brings you the same heart-felt laughter that NooNoon and DoeDoe found that day in the "quicksand."
"It seemed like a dream, too good to be true....
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn't believe our good fortune....
God was wonderful to us;
we (were) one happy people.
And now, God, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives,
so that those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
so that those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing."
(From Psalm 126 of "The Message")

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Little Lord Fauntleroy LIVES...

So in the last post, I introduced you to business-teacher-extraordinaire, Wynema Vogel, who tried to prepare us for this thing called 120 words per minute. And, as is often the case, something I wrote triggered another memory, one that mainly involves my cousin and friend, Donna. 

You see, Donna and I were members of a club headed up by Mortimer Jordan High School's business teachers--the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). (Isn't that just a hope-filled title for a high school club?)

As I mentioned in the last post, Mrs. Vogel was always pushing us toward excellence. That particular year, the competitions she took us to were held at the FBLA's State Convention at a hotel in Birmingham, which, for us small-town girls, was a BIG DEAL. One of my roommates for the weekend was my cousin-friend, Donna. Laughter was contagious when we were together; we had that "ease" which comes from playing hide-and-seek and laying in the living-room floor watching "Dark Shadows," while slurping dripping DreamSicles. 

But...back to the FBLA convention. That year, in addition to all the typing, filing, timed-writing, transcribing, spelling and talent contests (which, one year, Joy and I rocked by singing a duet of "Killing Me Softly.") Anyway...that addition to all the above, Mrs. Vogel's son (and Dawn's brother), Greg, was running for FBLA State President. And, the Mortimer Jordan FBLA Blue Devils were determined to secure his victory. Earlier in the week, we had gone to the Vogels' house and designed door-knob-hanging flyers that insisted "VOTE FOR GREG!

And, we had come up with a strategy to deliver our message to every FBLA voter in the hotel--the night before the BIG VOTE, we would disperse these victory-bringing flyers on every doorknob in that hotel. My partner in this campaign was Donna. 

So, with flyers in hand, we stepped off the elevator onto our designated floor. Donna went left; I went right. Because it was late, the plan was just to quietly hang "VOTE FOR GREG!" on each doorknob, then meet back at the elevator.

And...things were going as planned.


I was leaning down to hang a flyer...when...all of a sudden...the door swings open.

And...there....standing in the a FULL-GROWN man....

...wearing a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit. Here I'll just show you what I'm talking about:

....Did I mention this man was GROWN???

Because my eyes were already looking down at the doorknob, the first thing I noticed were his funny, pilgrim-like shoes. Then, my gaze moved upward. While trying to process what it is I'm looking first thought...kid you, "I thought Little Lord Fauntleroy was dead."

Then...after quickly making eye (and hat) brain suddenly remembers he's holding my eyes dart back down to that something. brain can't quite make sense of it....Well, here, I'll just show you:

That's's a gun...a Blunderbuss gun.

And...before my brain can kick into gear...and get the heck out of "Dodge," he fires that gun!

At me.... was in


As I'm standing there looking at him...thinking to myself--"so this is how I die"--Little Lord Fauntleroy just smiles at me and closes the door.

And...I start backing toward the wall on the other side of the hallway...holding my soon-to-be-mortal-wound...with so many thoughts swimming through my head that I can't sort them out. But, the one that keeps bobbing to the top is: "I have to find Donna. I don't want to die alone."

As I'm sliding down the wall, I look to the side of the hallway where I had last seen Donna... and, there she is...trying her best to climb the wall at the other end. When she heard that KABOOM, her flight instinct must have kicked in big-time. I'm watching only thought is, "Why is she trying to climb that wall?But what I yell instead is..."Donna, I've been shot."

Only then...when I say those I look down at by stomach...where that Blunderbuss was pointing...only then do I realize I'm not bleeding...that I wasn't shot after all.  That LOUD gun wasn't even real. Only then do I start connecting the dots and realize the man who had just "shot" me wasn't Fauntleroy. He was just some weirdo who wanted to scare the pee out of a girl whose only concern was "VOTE FOR GREG!"

Of those few seconds, Donna, had given up on climbing that wall and had come to help me. 

Honestly, I don't remember much that happened after that; after all, I had just been "shot." (Hopefully, Donna can fill in some of the gaps when she reads this.)

I do remember me and her sitting in that hallway...realizing we were both going to live...(and were going to need a change of underwear). And, as usual, the laughter started. 

Eventually, we stood up and ran to that that longer even caring if the people on that floor VOTED FOR GREG! 

After we dropped by our room for that change of underwear, we decided we better find Mrs. Vogel and tell her what had happened. I don't remember much about her response. But, I do remember that those big, blue eyes of hers got a little bigger, and that peaches-and-cream complexion lost a little peach. 

In the years since, I've sometimes wondered about Little Lord Fauntleroy...WHO WAS HE?...WHERE DID HE GET A FAKE BLUNDERBUSS?...AND WHY DID HE FEEL THE NEED TO SCARE THE PEE OUT OF ME (...and DONNA)? 

By now, he has to be pretty old. I sometimes imagine him sitting in his chair, thinking back to that night...when he "shot" a chubby girl with long brown hair who was just about to hang a "VOTE FOR GREG" flyer on his doorknob. And, I imagine him chuckling at the memory.

But that's OK...I do too. So does Donna.

I've come to believe it's our scary moments...our hard times...those days when we find ourselves wishing we could climb a wall...which create the very moments when--usually the "looking back"--God breaks through and whispers, "Psssttt...See! I was right there. And just look at the story it gave you....Look at the laughter it STILL brings. Just look at the richness and color it added to the book of your life." 

I've come to believe this is at least one meaning of His promise to "turn our mourning into dancing."

"I give you all the credit, God
you got me out of that mess....
God, my God, I yelled for help 
and you put me together....
All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
Thank him to his face!
He gets angry once in a while, 
but across a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out
give way to days of laughter.
I called out to you,God;
I laid my case before you:
...When I’m ‘dust to dust’ 
my songs and stories of you won’t sell.
So listen! and be kind.
Help me out of this!”
You did it: 
you changed (mourning) into whirling dance;
....I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God, I can’t thank you enough."
(From Psalm 30, The Message)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Life at 120 words per minute....

First of all, I LOVE Facebook...maybe a bit too much some days. I adore being able to "visit" with old friends I haven't seen in years--getting a little glimpse into their lives through pictures and words. Sure...I'm not crazy about everything in the Facebook universe, but I don't see any point in throwin' the baby out with the bathwater.

As a storyteller, one of my FAVORITE things about Facebook is when a friend's post or comment sparks a memory. And this happened the other day when my friend, Dawn, commented on my post about our friend, Joy. Her comment triggered a memory of Dawn's mama--Mrs. Wynema Vogel--who was mine and Joy's and Dawn's and Becca's...and countless other Mortimer-Jordan-High-School-wannabe-Future-Business-Leaders-of-America's ICON

We believed what she taught us in that class was our ticket a movie'-on-up, high-rise office life of fame and fortune as we rapidly took dictation in Gregg Shorthand, and then transformed those mysterious marks into clear, crisp correspondence (complete with carbon copy) at a lightning-fast-speed of 120 words-per-minute. 

SHE is the reason I can STILL type 80+ words per minute AND can still do this: 

She sat on this high perch-like chair at the front of the class...with a tall stand next to it for her papers and books. In fact, several years ago when I visited my friend, Becca, who had assumed Mrs. Vogel's iconic "throne" upon her retirement, I cannot express to you my disappointment when I walked into that room and found Becca seated behind a common, ordinary desk in a boring, ordinary chair!... The first words out of my mouth were, "Where's your perch?!?!?" 

She was (and still is) just lovely--auburn hair, peaches-and-cream complexion, blue eyes. She wore suits or dresses and high heels EVERYDAY...and her lipstick ALWAYS perfectly matched whatever she wore. Her hair and make-up were always "fixed." She was the epitome of that look I've come to think of as "put together."'ll just show you.

(....Don't you just LOVE old yearbooks?...)

Anyway, Joy and I sat in the back right corner of Mrs. Vogel's classroom. We were ALWAYS in trouble. ALWAYS. We would be typing or transcribing along...then one of us would get tickled at something...and that would be all she wrote...literally. Even when I tried not to get in trouble, I somehow found myself there. (I usually blamed it on Joy's giggle.)

For crisp, clear fall day, I had decided to kick it up a notch in the wardrobe department. Now ...keep in mind...for a chubby Pentecostal girl in the 1970s...kicking it up a notch usually meant experimenting with a new color of knee-length-double-knit culottes. 

But...not that day....THAT day I decided to break out the outfit I had bought with my hard-earned money from my stay-in-school-job at Secret Service. ( heard me right...THE Secret Service...which is DEFINITELY other stories for other times.)...Anyway, my outfit consisted of a full, calf-length floral skirt with a matching cape and a coordinating 'tam. And...I had bought brown Naugahyde boots to wear with it. In my opinion, I looked GOOOOOOOD. Especially with that cute 'tam bobby-pinned at a jaunty little angle on the top of my head. 

So, imagine my complete surprise when, as we're getting ready for the day's first "timed writing," Mrs. Vogel asks everyone to stop what they're doing and listen to an important announcement: 
"Class...I need to point out that headgear is never appropriate in an office setting."


And just guess who was the only person in the classroom wearing headgear?

Well...Joy turned and looked right at me and laughed OUT LOUD. Then I started laughing and...there we trouble...again.

We tried our best to get through that timed writing, but....quite literally...that was all she wrote.

But...don't let this little memory give you the wrong idea of Ms. Vogel. She LOVED her students. She wanted us to succeed--not just at typing and shorthand and filing and bookkeeping and sitting-up-tall-and-straight. She wanted us to succeed at this thing called LIFE. She was constantly encouraging us, taking us to competitions, inviting us to her home. And, Mrs. Vogel is the only reason I got that first job with the U.S. Secret Service.

Several years ago, when I heard from Becca that schools were no longer teaching Gregg Shorthand, I got a little sad. After all, it's what gave me old-school-rock-star-note-taking status with all those young guns in my "late-to-the-dance" college lectures. (FYI--while Mrs. Vogel was an encourager and did everything in her power to help you believe in yourself, our high school guidance counselor was NOT. Her guidance to me for what to do after high school? "Just get a job." For years, I thought college was just a dream for other people. The mean ol' Karen still wants to send her the picture of me receiving my college diploma.)

Well....with that little detour rant out of the way...what I was trying to say is that I still use shorthand all the time--for jotting down messages...and sermon lyrics...and recipes...reminders of all kinds. So...thank you, Mr. Gregg for creating a short-hand version of all these words I've grown to love. It's helped me in ways you never would have expected.

But...most of all, THANK YOU, Wynema! (...did I really just call her that?...) for teaching...for believing...for encouraging...for reminding us that "there is a time and place for everything"--even headgear...for being one of the first models of "excellence" in my life...for pushing us toward good posture... and excellence in everything...including 120 words per minute. 

Some words I once read--"To teach is to touch a life forever"--are never truer than when they are spoken about you. should probably know...I still love wearing headgear.

*Oh...and for you unfortunate souls who DON'T know shorthand, I'll transcribe the picture above: 
"Still take notes in shorthand". 

"So don't just do what you have to do to get by. 
Work heartily, as Christ's servants, 
doing what God wants you to do. 
And work with a smile on your face, 
always keeping in mind that 
no matter who happens to be giving the orders, 
you're really serving God...." 
(Ephesians 6:6-7)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

When there is no star.... the church marks Epiphany...the day we remember the Wise Men's discovery and adoration of Jesus. 

Of course, Mr. Webster includes the Magi's discovery in his definition of Epiphany. But, it's his next words that grab me: "a sudden insight into reality or the essential meaning of something, often initiated by some simple, commonplace occurrence." 

It's these words that grip me...that make me hope...long...for 2013 to be the year of Epiphany...for me...for you...for us. The year when we have sudden insight into True Reality...into the essential meaning of Someone...through the simple, commonplace occurrences of our day-to-day lives. 

As I read the story of these mysterious Magi on this Epiphany like God to give me an epiphany of my own. 

For, many years...I assumed the Wise Men always had "their"star to guide them. But... when you look a little more closely...they didn't. At least for part of their journey, "their" star disappeared...had quit shining in their night. 

Yet, they kept traveling...they kept relying on the memory of the light they had received...the excitement they had the few days when that brilliant star had captured their hearts...They kept believing those ancient writings which told them about a "star that would come out of Jacob" (Numbers 24:17).

But, everything in me knows they kept hoping to see that star...that brilliant, shining light ...the one that extinguished their darkness...their fear and doubts. Everything in them longed to see that king-announcing star again...just one more time. 

And...their risk...their willingness to take the keep up their pilgrimage through mountains and valleys...wind and not let their fear and doubt cause them to sit down or turn keep the dark, with no star to guide them...toward this prophesied "star of Jacob"....

Well...that takes them to their Epiphany!
"Then the star appeared again,
the same star they had seen in the eastern skies.
It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child.
They could hardly contain themselves:
They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother...."
(Matthew 2:9-11, The Message)

The right the right time....Isn't that what each of us wants? Isn't that the desire and longing that drives us?

But...what this Magi story teaches me is that Epiphany...this sudden insight into the essential meaning of something...ALWAYS involves risk...taking the next-oh-so-many-because-it's-the-right-thing-to-do-steps-in-the-dark...and not letting my fear and doubt cause me to sit down or turn around.

This Epiphany story teaches me that their risk...(our risk)...their days and nights spent traveling without their star...brings them (and us) to the Wisdom and Reality for which their minds and hearts have always been searching...but never quite found...until Epiphany. Their star-less...but persevering, un-quitting journey leads them to a treasure worth far more than the one they laid at His and Mary's feet. 

What we learn...what we see and hear and somehow even feel...with that at the end of their sometimes star-less journey, "they were overwhelmed with joy!" (Matthew 2:10, RSV)

What then can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet, what can I give Him?
--Give Him my heart.
("In the Bleak Midwinter," by Christina Rosetti)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Upside-Down Kingdom....

So...if you read my first 2013 post, you'll know that I've dusted off this blog and am writing again...after I let "life" detour me for a couple of years.

Back when I first started writing here, I explained why I gave this blog such an incredibly-long-hard-to-remember name. Honestly--true confession time--I don't remember which came first--my reading the following words from C.S. or my thinking of these words to describe to myself this journey of following Jesus through this kingdom that so, so often feels "upside down"...and then underlining, highlighting and circling those words...(many times)...when I found them in his writings.'ll just share his much more beautiful way of conveying this truth:
"It is only in our 'hours-off,' only in our moments of permitted festivity that we find an analogy (of Heaven). Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for "down here" is not their natural place. Here they are a moment's rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven." (C.S. Lewis, "Letters to Malcolm)

And...every time I read his word, "Joy is the serious business of heaven," I'm reminded of my dear, beautiful childhood friend with the name that fit her perfectly--Joy.

So, this morning, because I want those of you who haven't "met" her to be blessed my doing so, I decided to re-run parts and pieces of a couple of the first posts to this blog . The first story will tell you about a wedding we once sang at. (Joy and I had earned the reputation of being pretty good and definitely cheap "wedding singers.")

"....As I said earlier, "We could sing!" One wedding we sang at required that Jeff (pianist extraordinaire), Joy and I rehearse on a Wednesday night at an even smaller Pentecostal church than the one we called home. This little church had prayer meeting every Wednesday night, which...unfortunately...we weren't late enough to miss. As soon as we came through the doors, the pray-ers invited--make that insisted--that we come join the prayer circle.
Well, chicken that I am, I got right in the middle of Jeff and Joy and grabbed their hands, leaving them to grab the hands of praying strangers. (A prior experience at a nursing home had left me a reluctant hand-grabber. But that's another story for another time.)
So...Jeff reaches for the hand of the man standing next to him, only to jerk around and look at me with THE MOST SURPRISED, PERPLEXED LOOK"What do I do now?" So I look over and realize that man doesn't have a hand...or an arm, for that matter!
But before either of us could say a word, the man literally hollers to Jeff, "Just grab the nub, brother, just grab the nub!" can you pray after something like that? Unless you count under-our-breath-body-shaking-unable-to-stop-laughing as prayer.
Come to think of it...maybe God times, anyway. After all, I LOVE hearing my children...and nephews...and token beautiful niece...when they're really laughing....And, He's a much better parent than I feel sure He loves his children's laughter....Who knows, maybe He laughs with us every time we remember the night of the nub."

This next post tells about one summer when Joy had talked chubby me into going with her to Alabama Church of God Youth Camp (which seemed like a good idea at the time.)

"So, we get there, find our cabin, and start unpacking our culottes. And, I look over in Joy's suitcase, and its halfway-filled with toilet paper. Well...I panicked! I had not brought any toilet paper! So, I say, "Joy, were we supposed to bring our own toilet paper?!?" To which she replied, "The list said we were supposed to bring toiletries."
I doubled over laughing--mainly from relief that I wouldn't have to go around borrowing toilet paper all week. But I did have to wear the same maxi-length dress to church every night. (Who knew that "camp" involved nightly church services?)
Later that week, Joy had this great idea that we should take a canoe out on the camp "lake" (which was really just a small, muddy pond). I should probably point out that neither of us had ever held an oar.
As you might expect, our paddling only managed to make our little boat keep going around in circles. But, somehow, those circles took us out to the middle of the "lake"...just in time for a thunderstorm!
Lightning is popping down everywhere, and campers are headed for the hills. This man (who eventually ended up being our youth pastor) is standing on the dock shouting through a bullhorn, "Girls, come in NOW!"
Like we WANTED to be in the middle of a "lake" in a lightning storm. Well, Joy is crying. I'm crying. Counselors are gathering on the dock trying to decide if these chubby, sobbing, uncoordinated girls are worth getting struck by lightning.
And...just like that...Joy JUMPS OUT OF THE BOAT. I can't tell if she's swimming or walking on water. (Keep in mind she's doing all this while dressed in soaking-wet culottes.)
When she reaches the bank, she never looks back. She just kept running up that stupid, pine-straw-covered hill. And, the whole time (while still madly rowing) I'm screaming, "JOY, COME BACK HERE!!!"....(I AM SO MAD AT HER.)
So, now, I'm sitting ALONE in that stupid boat, trying to figure out how to use that stupid oar....I know how I wanted to use it....(By the way, Joy has taken her oar WITH HER.)
At this point, with all those stupid counselors staring at me, a lightning bolt was looking dadgum good.
But, the counselor who ended up becoming our youth pastor must have realized that lightning-fried campers don't look good on a ministry resume, so he paddles out and rescues me....which is no easy thing. Have you ever seen a chubby girl, with soaking-wet-down-to-her-hips-hair, in rain-streaked-COCOLA-bottle-thick-glasses, wearing wet-knee-length culottes TRY to go from one boat to another in the middle of a "lake" in a lighting storm?
When I FINALLY did get back to that dock, I had one single, solitary thought:
But...when I....finally...made our...stupid...cabin....Well, she's so pitiful sitting on that cot...I couldn't do it. She looks up at me with those blue, tear-filled eyes and says, "I'm sorry. I was just SO SCARED. I thought you'd jump out with me."
She had a point. I had always jumped when she jumped. Got into trouble when she got into trouble. Laughed when she laughed. Sought the Holy Ghost when she sought the Holy Ghost.
So, we hugged...and changed into dry culottes.
Joy died...more than 20 years ago now. She didn't realize a train was coming.
I still remember hearing those choked-up words from my Daddy. "Joy is dead, baby."
How could that be? I'd promised I would come see her and her beautiful baby girl the next time I was home....
So I went Joy's funeral...which was packed with all the students whose lives had been touched by her teaching and laughter....
After her funeral, I drove back to mine and Kev's dark little apartment in Knoxville. I remember walking in, laying on the couch, and just feeling so... empty... alone... miserable...when the words of a song that Joy and I had sung together in our little church came flooding in:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

So...when I read C. S. Lewis' words: "Joy is the serious business of heaven," of course they make me think of that ultimate, eternal Joy we are traveling toward through this upside-down Kingdom. But, they also make me think of my Joy...our Joy. Her bubbly laughter must certainly add to heaven's joy. I can't wait to hear it again.

"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing."
(Psalm 126:5, Amplified Bible)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from cryin'...

First should know that I love my mama. I've committed to myself...and to the Jesus I follow...that I will care for her to the best of my ability for as long as it is needed. writing of this post is in no way meant to dishonor or disrespect her.

Many years ago...before the overwhelming burdens of her life had turned her a little bit angry and a little bit bitter...I KNOW she would have laughed herself.

We used to laugh a lot...about the stupidest of us would get tickled at something the other one had said...or done...or we had seen or thing you know...we'd be cryin'-laughin'.

...I miss those moments...It's been a long time.

And..maybe...just maybe...someone out there in this cyberly-connected world NEEDS to read these words. Maybe...just maybe...someone out there is going through this same sort of thing...facing these same kinds of shoot-from-the-hip-and-do-the-best-you-can-with-what-you-have-kinds-of challenges..and needs to be reminded that you aren't alone...needs to be reminded...given permission...that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

My mom has Alzheimer's. And, as if that weren't enough...she no longer has the part of her brain that controls balance--it's been wiped a series of mini strokes.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal until you realize that the Alzheimer's causes her to forget she has no balance. The Alzheimer's causes her to forget she ABSOLUTELY HAS TO STAY in her wheelchair.

Before the Alzheimer's became THIS bad, I used to blame her NOT using her walker on the fact that she is just so DAD-BLAME STUBBORN!

For several months...the Alzheimer's and Stubbornness vied for FIRST PLACE. But...for the past few months....Alzheimer's has "won."

So...I've resigned myself to knowing that falls and broken bones and ER visits and hospital stays and surgeries and PT and long-term-skilled-nursing facilities and follow-up doctor visits will simply be her (and my...and our...) future.

Fortunately, this most recent fall, which resulted in a broken kneecap, didn't require surgery or a hospital stay...just an immobilizer...which she keeps trying to take off...because she forgets that her kneecap is broken. (I think you get the picture.)

Today was supposed to be a simple follow-up doctor visit.

If I say so myself...I've gotten this whole follow-up-doctor-appointment thing down to a science. I call Shannondale and make sure she's awake and dressed, and tell them what time I'm coming to get her. For the most part, she's waiting just outside the 5th floor elevator when I get there. Then, we elevator down to the lobby, where my Honda mini-van (aka "The Blueberry") is waiting right outside the electronic doors.

Anyway...things were off to a smooth start this morning for her appointment. We arrived with time to spare. After filling out yet another round of medical forms (REALLY???.... AGAIN??? ... And WHY does EVERYONE I ENCOUNTER ASK ME WHO HER FAMILY PHYSICIAN IS SINCE I'VE WRITTEN IT ON THE FORM....AGAIN...).

Yes...I know I digress. But, for the record, in case you aren't one of the lucky ones who frequently get to listen to me rant--OUR MEDICAL SYSTEM IS BROKEN!!! 

Anyway...after hearing the receptionist's announcement that the doc we are there to see is running 25 minutes behind, I had settled in for a short winter's announces to me and anyone within earshot, "I have to use the bathroom." To which I whisper-replied, "I think you can hold it." Well...for all of...oh...40 seconds, I managed to convince her. But...let's just say...she didn't stay convinced.

So...I asked the perky receptionist if I could take her into one of the office bathrooms. But, there must have been a note in the file about what happened at our LAST appointment (...another story for another time...), because the perky receptionist sweetly...but firmly...informed me that I would have to take her to the public restroom out in the entrance atrium hallway. With a perky, sugary smile, she assured me that it was "fully wheelchair accessible." we go.

Well...I get her "situated," and step out in the hallway to give her some privacy. About...oh...30 seconds later...she starts hollering (literally), "OH, LORD, SOMEBODY HELP ME...SOMEBODY HELP ME!" So...of course...I dash in thinking I'm going to find her on the floor...again...but this time....well...let's just say...she needed help of a completely different kind.

And I gave it...She's my mama....That's what daughters do.

For sake of moderation...and your gag reflex...I won't give you details. I'll just give you parts and pieces of mine and mom's dialogue:
Me: Mom, you have GOT to PUSH!
Mom: I can't.
Me: You've got to. We CANNOT leave this bathroom unless you do.
Mom: It hurts!
Me: I'm SO sorry, but you HAVE GOT TO PUSH...HARDER!

(I interrupt this dialogue to inform you that toilet tissue--especially the brand most commonly found in public restrooms--is sometimes USELESS.)

But, back to mine and mom's dialogue...which, for the most part, just kept repeating itself for about 15 more minutes.

Oh...I should probably mention that...about every 2-3 minutes...someone would knock on the which I loudly and pointedly replied, "I'm. doin'. the. best. I. can. We'll. be. out. when. we. can!"

(THANK the good Lord above that the motion-activated paper towel dispenser and foam-soap dispenser did not run out...and that the toilet did not clog from ALL the wet, soapy paper towels I kept flushing down it.)

FINALLY...I get her cleaned...the potty cleaned...the sink cleaned...the floor cleaned...I think you get the picture. I'm backing myself and mom out of the bathroom, I wheel around and...standing there in the hallway are FOUR...count 'em...FOUR...women...and, for some reason, a solitary man...all with deer-in-headlights looks...just staring at me.

So...I stop...look at each of them...and make the following announcement: "I'm sorry for your wait. You need to be careful because the floor is wet with soapy water. I cannot vouch for anything else you may find in there. Have a nice day."

And I wheeled my mama back to the waiting room...

We're supposed to go back in two weeks.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Saying Goodbye....Taking Mercy....

So...I lost my Bible. I mean I REALLY LOST MY Bible.

Not just any Bible...the Bible that Honey gave me...the Bible where he'd written some of the sweetest words he's ever written to me on the inside cover...the Bible I had used for 10+ years...the Bible that had seen me through 7 years of Bible Study Fellowship...and the first 3 years of this 5-year journey through the "Valley of Baca" (Psalm 84:6)...the Bible that had my "favorites" highlighted...underlined...and questions and notes in the margins...the Bible the Holy Spirit used to begin breaking me...unlearning me... remaking me. That Bible....

I don't know HOW I lost it. All I remember is that I had taken it to church...and was gone. I'm sure I left it on the pew or in the bathroom...but...

For two years now...every single Sunday...I've checked every "lost-and-found" location in our church. I've looked on every pew and in every bathroom...more than once.

And, I've prayed about it...A LOT. I even refused to buy a new Bible because it felt like admitting that MY Bible wasn't coming back to me.

Until this Christmas....

When I received THIS Bible from my boys....

Well...yes...they did get a couple of in...
(I learned a LONG TIME AGO that, when you live in a house filled with men, being subtle usually leads to disappointment...then pouting.)

You see...early this past December...after one less scouring of the church for MY Bible...I decided it was time. I had a long conversation with God about it. I confessed to Him that I really didn't understand WHY He hadn't seen fit to "help" MY Bible find its way back to me. But...I hope the reason is because it's found its way into the hands of someone who needed it more than me....And, I hope she (or he) will be encouraged by some of its highlightings and  underlinings and notes in the margins...and not think too harshly of me for some of my questions. (I always felt like God could handle my questions....)

So...I said, "Goodbye" to my Bible. 

And I cried. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend...a friend who had stuck with me during some of the hardest parts of my journey.

But it's time...time for "Goodbye"...time for "Hello"...about a lot of things.

You see...I'm beginning to realize that, in many ways, MY Bible had become an idol. And, I don't think that's what its Writer ever had in mind....

Here's my new ancient but brand-spankin'-new Bible...for a brand-spankin'-New Year. It's pages unmarked...pristine...just waiting....

And...did I mention that it's a C.S. Lewis study Bible?...Well, it's not your typical study Bible, with tons of footnotes and commentary. BUT, it does include some of Lewis' writings that relate to the chapter you're reading. Here are the words its editors chose to include for Genesis 1 (about God's creation of the cosmos). As usual, Brother Clive unlocks my imagination and helps me see...hear...feel God's Song of Creation. Enjoy!

"In the darkness something was happening at last. 
A voice had begun to sing. 
It was very far away, and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming.... 
There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. was so beautiful he could hardly bear it....
Then two wonders happened at the same moment....
One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices, more voices than you could possibly count....
The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, 
all at once, was blazing with stars....
The new stars and new voices 
began at exactly the same time. 
If you had seen and heard it...
you would have felt quite certain it was the stars themselves who were singing, 
and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, 
which had made them appear and made them sing....
And, as the beams shot across the land, 
the travelers could see for the first time 
what sort of place they were in....
The earth was of many colors...fresh, hot and vivid. 
They made you feel excited; 
until you saw the Singer himself, 
and then you forgot everything else." 
(from The Magician's Nephew)

God means what He says. What He says goes.
His powerful Word is as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel,
cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense,
laying us open to listen and obey.
Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word.
We can't get away from it--no matter what.
Now that we know what we have--Jesus 
(the Word who became flesh),
this great High Priest with ready access to God--
let's not let it slip through our fingers.
We don't have a priest out of touch with our reality.
He's been through weakness and testing,
He's experienced it all--all but the sin.
So let's walk right up to Him
and get what He is so ready to give.
Take the mercy, accept the help.
(Hebrews 4:12-16, The Message)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Back on the Wagon...'s back on the wagon on this second morning of a brand-spankin'-new-year.

I fell off HARD these past few weeks--too much sugar...fat...carbs...potatoes...butter...heavy whipping cream.

And...that's not a smart lifestyle when diabetes and heart disease swim rampant through my gene pool. When I was pregnant with Jackson, I got the first wake-up call. I still remember sitting on that naugahyde-covered exam table...7 months pregnant...feeling like poo-poo ...and my doctor announcing, "You have gestational diabetes. I'm sending you to our high-risk pregnancy clinic where they'll monitor you and the baby, and teach you how to check your blood sugar levels, and what and when to eat."

The good news...Jackson was (and still IS) just fine. The "bad news" the doctor gave the delivery room, no gestational diabetes means that, if you don't eat healthy, exercise, etc., etc., etc., then you will usually have full-blown diabetes about 5 years down the road. And...just the memory of sticking my finger all those times for the remaining 2 months of that pregnancy was enough to make me straighten up and (walk/jog) right. Not to mention the memory of watching my sweet daddy shoot himself up with insulin three times a day...everyday...for the last few years of his life. (By the way, I NEVER heard him complain.) lots of ways, that "bad news" the doctor gave me turned out to be good news. (Isn't that true about so many "bad" things that happen to us?)

All this to say that I'm back on the wagon this morning. Wanna join me? Here's what breakfast on the wagon  looks like:

Now, most people wouldn't use the word "connoisseur" to describe me. BUT...I consider myself one of those about two things--yogurt and coffee. And, for the money, I'm of the opinion that Voskos Greek Yogurt is the best on the market. It is non-fat, gluten-free, and the Greek Honey flavor has the LEAST carbs (17g) and MOST protein (14g) of any I've found. Here in Knoxville, I buy it at Kroger, where I often find it on sale for $1 each. (When that happens, I stock up.) I also throw in a few walnuts, for a bit more protein (which keeps me "full" longer) and for the good kind of fat. I've also found that it works best if I go ahead and take my multivitamin and fish oil first thing in the morning. (Thanks to my body-smart-brother-in-law, Shawn, I discovered CorOmega3 fish oil, which--I PROMISE--you will NOT feel like you're about to birth a salmon through your mouth. Two teaspoons of this oil gives you 3000mg of fish 2000IUs of that up-and-coming-rock-star-vitamin, "D." I buy it at Walgreen's.) I've also recently started taking "Alive! Once Daily Women's 50+ Ultra Potency," me...has so much good stuff you wouldn't want me to list it here. (For all you purists, I realize there are probably even better supplements out there, but...I'm a bit lazy, AND these are easy...AND don't hurt my tummy.)

Finally, I wash all this down with the elixir of the gods...COFFEE...(Confession--often, the last thought that runs through my brain before I go to sleep is, "I get to have coffee when I wake up.") Before you judge, you should know that my body-smartiac-brother-in-law and his honey have confessed that they do too! And... most current research indicates that coffee--in moderation--is GOOD for there...Anyway, after trying just about every single brand on the shelves--yes, even Starbucks (YUK!)--my coffee-loving clan agrees that Dunkin Donuts and Eight O'Clock far...the winners...with Dunkin Donuts slightly ahead. While Dunkin Donuts is a bit pricier, you can find BIG bags of it at Sam's or Costco, and Kroger often puts it on sale. (But, I do have to tell you that my friend, Dawn, gave us a can of "Trader Joe's Smooth & Mellow Blend" for Christmas, and it's pretty yummy.)

So that's breakfast on my on-the-wagon-low-carb-lifestyle. And, to be honest, it's the easiest meal to plan. It tastes good, and I don't get bored with it. (The years of keeping diabetes backed into its nasty little corner have given me the motivation to think of food as "fuel" instead of seeing it as some sort of reward, comfort, etc. And, when I "listen" to my body, it tells me that 30 minutes AFTER I eat that chocolate-chip muffin, I'm gonna feel like going back to bed.)

For the rest of the day, I try to make sure that I have high-protein, low-carb groceries on hand. My favorite lunch--which I typically eat 5 days a week--is 3 to 4 pieces of deli-sliced turkey wrapped around a slice of cheese, which is wrapped around 2-3 pieces of hot pickled okra. (YUM!) My favorite dinner--well, really it's my guys' favorite--is spaghetti; all I have to do is leave off the noodles and add a lettuce-tomato-cucumber salad with REGULAR ranch dressing (no croutons, of course) to make it low-carb. (FYI...most low-fat dressings are packed with sugars.)

If I HAVE to have a snack, I've acquired a taste for Almond Butter (which is WAY BETTER for you than peanut butter), and I try to make sure apples and oranges are always on the counter. (NO bananas....)

Oh...and I could not make it through the day without sparkling water--ALL the bubbles with NO aftertaste! I LOVE "White Rock Sparkling Seltzer Water," which I find at Ingles. But... truth be that I'm used to them...I've never met a seltzer water I didn't like.

I'll would be next to impossible to keep this up for the rest of my life IF I didn't let myself have one Carb Day every week. Saturday is my usual carb day, since my guys and I LOVE Saturdays. (Most Saturdays, I still start out with my yogurt-and-coffee regimen, just 'cause it makes me "feel" so good.) I've come to truly believe some words I first heard in early 2012, "It isn't fat that makes us fat; it's carbs that make us fat."

So...feel free to jump on this low-carb-lifestyle wagon with me. 

But...for now...I have to quit typing and go dust off that treadmill. 

Before I go, here are a few more words from one of my favorites to help me remember my "first job" each morning (even before coffee). One of my 2013 goals is to be more intentional about this "job":
"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning, when all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. 
And, the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice,...letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. 
Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But, from those moments, the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: are letting Him work at the right part of us. 
It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain that soaks through.
He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, 'Be perfect', He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is even harder--in fact, it is impossible. 
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book IV, Chapter 8)