Monday, May 31, 2010

Bear Ye One Another's Burdens...

 This week has probably been one of the most difficult weeks of a lifetime for a friend of mine. She is delivering the eulogy today at her brother's funeral. It is the final act of love that she will be able to offer him, and I am confident that she will be an agent of God's grace, mercy, compassion and love. This past week my friend's brother committed suicide as did his teenage son six years ago. He leaves behind a wife of one year and a daughter who is the twin of the teenage son who killed himself.  Contemplating these two suicides in one family is beyond the scope of human understanding, and forces me to confront again and affirm my belief in a shepherd who never abandons His sheep. Over and over again, I have said the words of John out loud as I have prayed for my friend and her niece and sister-in-law: "All that the Father has given me are mine...and no one can snatch them out of my hand."  My friend and her brother shared a unique and poignant life-time bond that was borne out of the survival of a most difficult childhood. Her brother took the role of protector, and she in turn kept him close and pursued him and loved him well even though 2000 miles separated their adult lives.
 I have read my friend's eulogy, and her words left me weeping. In all likelihood she is speaking this very moment as I write these words. Even as I type I am offering up my prayer for strength and for the peace that passeth all understanding to encompass her soul. I pray that the Lord will both heal her wounds and use her in her time of deep sorrowing to be a comfort to others. It is said that the Lord does not waste our sorrows, that in His providence He uses our grief to draw others who need the touch of comfort that we ourselves have received. My friend's grief is great, but so is her faith. I am thankful for her today, and for the fact that despite the suffering and fiery attacks of the enemy that she has faced her in her lifetime, she has been given the grace and the strength to stand. She is a witness to the fact that the Lord is her strength and her shield. I see in her a woman of great courage whose soul beauty has been forged in the fires of pain and sorrow. And yet she manages to laugh in the face of adversity, comfort others in their hour of need, and find joy in the small and great blessings of life. Today I am praying for the Lord to let me and all others who know her to shoulder her burden and to stand before the throne of grace and mercy on her behalf....Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ...and what is the law of Christ? To love the Lord our God with all our heart, strength, mind and soul, and to love others before ourselves. I love you, sweet friend.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Daughter's Birthday

 She likes sunshine on her shoulders, watching sappy movies that make her cry, and hanging out with the 'fam. She is thoughtful, determined, and opinionated, yet she is tender, compassionate and cares deeply for the poor, the disenfranchised, the lonely, and the hurting. She loves well -- her husband, her daughter, her family, her friends. She readily opens her heart and her home, and is a lover of community in its finest sense. She seeks to know God more deeply and is both an encourager and one who speaks truth to many. She is a natural born leader and a big picture person who often can step in, assess a situation and immediately see what needs to be done. She is unafraid to speak her heart and her mind. I have watched her develop the maturity, wisdom, and discernment to handle her marvelous gifts.

   As you might surmise, The Daughter is our only daughter and she is sandwiched between two older brothers and one younger. They adore her, taught her the value (their value) of competing for anything and everything, and nearly drove her crazy at times with their shenanigans. She just might have been a princess but for them. I also credit her brothers with helping to develop her sense of toughness and that sense of fairness that led her to become an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. Needless to say, she is a marvel to me.
     My husband and I were not as diligent and serious with our family planning as young couples seem to be today. We probably really only discussed at length the decision to have our first child, and the rest just seemed to happen according to God's perfect plan. To be honest, I was filled with more than a little trepidation when I learned that fall that I was expecting another child. My first two sons were only 16 months apart and life was busy, busy, busy chasing two active little boys. The oldest would not yet be four when baby number three would arrive, meaning that I would have three children under the age of four. Yet my husband and I wholeheartedly believe that children are a gift of the Lord and so while we waited a bit to tell our family and friends our news, we immediately began to pray for the child that I was carrying.

   After two sons, it was too much to hope that this baby would be a different sex; yet I secretly began to hope that baby number three might be a girl, even though my doctor, my husband, my pediatrician and everyone else who claimed to have the gift of prophecy told me that I was likely to have another boy. Back then there was not an option to discover the sex of one's child, so I had many months to gaze longingly at all of the pink in the department stores. But with so many prognosticators, I always passed by the tiny dresses. As the day approached, I unpacked all of my boy baby clothes, washed them one more time and carefully ironed the hand-sewn batiste day gown that each one of them had worn home from the hospital. Yet, when I packed my suitcase to go to the hospital, I tucked a tiny white bonnet with a ruffle around the edge in the very bottom of the suitcase where no one else could see it. It was my one secret. I had not even dared to show it to my husband. It was the physical representation of the secret longing that I carried close to my heart. I remember when my second child was born, I had wondered aloud to the Lord whether or not I could love another child the way that I loved the first...and proceeded to be amazed when the Lord opened the floodgates of love for my second I did not doubt that God would more than meet me with whatever He had planned. I knew that I could trust Him to give me all that I needed to be the mother of three sons. I was confident of God's grace and as ready as I thought I could be. I was prepared.

    Yet, after fourteen hours of labor, at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 30th, my husband and I could not have been more surprised and delighted to have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of The Daughter, who came crying loudly and lustily into the world. I don't think either one of us could believe our eyes! And yes, I dressed my little girl in the same gown that the boys had worn home from the hospital, now complete with a little white bonnet with the ruffle all around.
     Happy Birthday Daughter! You continue to bring joy and surprise into our lives. We are so thankful to the Lord for you!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Here is the End to the Beach Post and Much More!

***Let me start by saying that I LOVE the pictures featured in the last post. I am so thankful for my photographer ( and cannot wait to see the rest of the pictures.

After the beach trip in early May, we have been the good kind of busy ... not too much but just enough to keep you going. We have loved on friends at Eastland Cafe (Happy Hour of course), spent time in the front yard blowing bubbles, and had a surprise Mother's Day Brunch at Uncle Brother's house. It has been a good month. Oh, my birthday is coming up also, and I just LOVE eating cake, receiving gifts, and spending time with friends and family.

Three mommas (yes my sister-in-law is pregnant!!!) and Eloise

Enjoying the frontyard ...
soon will be enjoying the backyard as we have a new fence and grass!

Celebrating my dear friend @ Eastland

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Then and Now

Then Little One slept and ate, slept and ate, smiled occasionally and looked around with wonder at a very fuzzy world.

Now Little One is interested and curious about nearly everything. She is opinionated, very verbal (if you know  The Daughter you are not surprised about this!), happy most of the time, and is finally sleeping through the night. She has grown and changed immensely in six short months. But one thing hasn't changed: Honey and Pappy still think she is the cat's meow.

Photos are courtesy of the very gifted photographer:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Little One Goes to the Beach and much more ...

So everyone says that taking a trip with a child is very different, but I promise you do not understand until it is reality! Our family had the joy of joining my husband's family on a beach trip. We packed up the day the flood started (we did not know it would continue to rain non-stop for two more days) and headed to Northern Florida. We had 5 children ... yes 5 children 5 years and under staying in one house. It was chaotic but wonderful. The cousins loved on Little One so much and played like there was no tomorrow. There is something so precious about watching children play in the sand and dive in the water. Their happiness and shock at new things was contagious. They squealed with delight when catching crabs, spurted water out when staying under water too long, and zonked out after a day of swimming. All this to say, the beach trip was a success.

Little One loved her raft in the pool, enjoyed digging her toes in the sand, and enjoyed the waves crashing while being held by mom or dad.

We got to visit BaBa -- Little One's Great Grandmother.

Little One enjoying avocado with dad @ the Beach house.
Little One playing with Uncle J. and learning about baseball.
There is nothing like a kiss from GiGi!
Little One loves watching her cousins and cannot wait to join in on the fun.
Loving the beach ... or loving my toy frog with the beach in the background.
Dad saw this and said, "No one told me I was really white."
Mom is not sure that she wants to go home after sitting near the Gulf.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

RE: The Scent of Beauty

 Last Wednesday I left the mud covered roads of Nashville and the shells of houses that remained beside a river that had left its banks in a wanderlust of destruction to visit a magical city that is itself no stranger to floods, hurricanes, and tragedy. Yet just as Nashville has and will, this city has likewise risen from the ashes more times than anyone can count; and despite the havoc that men and nature have wreaked upon it, the city still shines like some sparkling gem in a queen's diadem. I am talking about none other than fair Charleston.

     The scent of the city captivated me as soon as we crossed the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River. The first whiff I caught was a moist humid boggy smell that estuary river cities know all too well but it was overlaid with the heady fragrance of lemony magnolias, the sweetness of Confederate Jasmine and the soft odor of the verbenas. I, who have the silvery sands of Walton County etched into my soul felt a bit like a traitor falling in love with the enemy. No matter how hard I tried to deny it, Charleston exerted her powerful charms on me. The history of our past is everywhere; there is no escaping it. I longed for the beautiful homes on the Battery to whisper their tales of loves won and lost; and I wished that the battlements of the long-since fought wars could tell me of the treachery, the honor, the pride, and the sacrifice that the sons of Charleston had known. Despite the fact that this city is firmly rooted in the South, historians say that she was the home for two civil wars: the War for Independence and the War Between the States. She was a city divided as brothers and neighbors lined up on opposite sides of the fence. Yet survive she did. I suppose if the South were to have an equivalent of that essential bastion of American freedom, Boston, Charleston would have to be the one. She slides gingerly into the present with two feet firmly planted in the past. She is ever-gracious and sometimes a bit shabby, but her elegance, refinement, and ability to endure are indisputable. She has a new!

     Justifiably noted for her fine cuisine, we dined all week in Charleston like kings and queens, and lay our heads to rest at night in a hotel that has had its doors open continuously since the early 1800's. We ate from the gifts of the sea 'till we could eat no more. Po' boys from Joseph's filled with shrimp and oysters, seafood from Shem Creek, and Shrimp Jambalaya over the ever-present creamy stone ground grits at the Rue de Jean. We were there in Charleston to celebrate a wedding, and it was a time of sweet joy among dear friends. My friendship with the groom's mother began in a history classroom at Vanderbilt over thirty-seven years ago and has more than stood the test of time. I was there when her youngest son, the groom, was born. I am honored to even know the two fine men for whom he is named. He and my daughter played together as babies and spent the night together until they figured out in first grade that they were not really a boy and a tom-boy, but members of the opposite sex.
     Our lives with this family are so woven and interconnected that I can scarcely imagine my life without them. We have walked together through good times and bad and sat through more than a 1000 baseball games (she has one son who is still playing as the ballpen catcher for a Major League team). We endlessly chewed Super Bubble bubble gum, kept up a running commentary on the ballgame while we kept an eye out for our other children who were not playing that day, wore out too many plastic chairs to count, and traveled together to places such as Gulfport, Mississippi, and Jamestown, New York, all in pursuit of a baseball crown. We also took vacations to Destin together for many years with two other families, and today all of our children are now grown yet remain friends, just like the parents, thus the saga continues.
    I look at these friends and can readily see what the body of Christ is all about: commitment, love, forgiveness, and fidelity. We are a living testament to the faithfulness of God. There have been weddings, births of children and grandchildren, a funeral of one who made the journey to heaven all too soon, and countless celebrations of every shape, size, and sort. There is a past, a present, and a future for us to treasure and embrace...together. Yet there is nothing sweeter than being there for the coming together of two beautiful joy-filled individuals who enter the sacrament of marriage with the understanding that they are pledging their lives not only to one another, but to the Lord as well. This is the hope of not just their future, but all of ours that we celebrated with great joy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

RE: We are Nashville

I don't usually get on my soapbox about issues, but I have been amazed that the immense flooding and devastation in Nashville appears to be but a blip on the rest of the nation's radar screen. Granted, there are important news making events taking place that are certainly worthy of significant investigative work and reporting -- among them the BP oil spill and its potential effect on coastal wildlife and the already struggling shoreline economies in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, along with the almost superhero-like speed of the identification and apprehension of the aptly named Times Square Wanna-Be Bomber.
   Yet what we have experienced here and are experiencing here in Middle Tennessee and the surrounding counties is staggering. And so many of those affected do not have a voice or a phone or the ability to make themselves heard. In natural disasters of this magnitude, it is always the poor and the low income strata who suffer the most -- primarily because they lack the ability or the access to the resources that many of us take for granted. Ironically, they have no rainy day fund. For example, I am thankful that I was able to call a roofer yesterday and get my name on the repair list. When the roofer gets finished, I know a good handy-man who can help repair my walls and ceilings and hopefully get rid of that dated 1970's popcorn stuff in my den that I have despised for years. I am also blessed that I do not live pay check to pay check like so many do. And I am not talking about people with inflated life-styles. I am talking about people who go to work every day and do an honest day's work in places like Opry Mills, Opryland Hotel or the Wendy's or McDonalds in Pennington Bend or Bellevue.
     When I arrived at the Ace Hardware today I thought they were having a party in the parking lot. It was a seemingly convivial group sharing stories. Most everybody looked tired and some downright exhausted, and they were certainly all somewhat disheveled in appearance, yet they were introducing themselves to one another and patting each other on the back like old friends. Inside they told me that the folks who had driven from near and far had been there for some time patiently waiting for a truck delivery of shop vacs, industrial fans, tarps, and dehumidifiers. They were only 8 of each item on the truck and the people outside were discussing amongst themselves who had the most pressing circumstance so that they could decide without argument who would get what. It did not matter who got there first. It was a decision to be based on the severity of the need. I watched them determine that the church guy would get an industrial fan and a dehumidifier for sure. He did not ask; he did not plead; he simply told them where he had been and what he was working on. After I made my own purchase, I got in my car and wanted to cry. I do not know why it is the worst of times that brings out the best in most of us. I wish I could be a Good Samaritan every day and not just when a natural disaster strikes, but I am thankful that I was a witness to a lot of downright goodness, kindness, and mercy in the Ace Hardware parking lot today.

I am attaching a few photographs to give you a glimpse of what we have been through. One is from the neighborhood adjacent to mine. Another is of the iconic symbol of Music City, the Grand Ole Opry. Despite the absolute carnage in some sections of the city, other areas appear virtually untouched and unfazed, yet everyone I know has a friend, a family member, or perhaps is himself the very one who is facing a tremendous uphill battle. We are a city in crisis, but we are also resilient, faith-filled, hopeful people.

     The final image I offer is one of a flooded cemetery in Franklin, Tennessee taken by a friend. It has an eerie haunting beauty. I am comforted to be able to find the beautiful in the midst of the tragic. But the most powerful beauty I have been blessed to observe is the sacramental giving of one person toward another with a greater need. It is the biblical truth that outweighs even a biblical flood.

Follow this link to read more: We Are Nashville