Monday, October 31, 2011

Saying Goodbye

  God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) I've read the words before, but they have assumed a special poignancy during this time. One of my daddy's sisters is literally staring death in the face. She has been told that she has days or weeks to live. It is a prognosis that was delivered with no lack of certainty, yet it is one that she is facing with grace and peace, dignity and strength. She told the doctors, "I am not ready to die, but I am willing because I know where I am going." She is standing firm in the face of the final enemy because she knows the One whom she has believed, and she knows that in the end He will stand upon the earth and she with Him. She will see Him soon. 
   This beloved aunt of mine is a mere 12 years older than I in age. She is someone whom I have always admired. Her influence upon me was solidified during the year that she lived with us (my mother and sisters) in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I was in fifth or sixth grade at the time, but I remember that she never spoke to me as if I were a child. She conversed with me on a wide range of subjects and expected me both to formulate and share my opinions and ideas with her. I was fascinated by her obvious passion for scholarly pursuits, and I watched her carefully to see what she read and how she acquired and assimilated information. She is probably one of the smartest people I have ever known. One of her gifts to me was that she made me feel as though it was okay to be intellectually curious and to embrace a passion for learning. 
   This aunt of mine is also an articulate, opinionated, well-read, and highly educated woman. She is fluent in multiple languages and has lived and traveled extensively throughout the world. She has made her home in the Far East, the British Isles, and the continent of Europe, but she has always called Opp, Alabama, her true home. When she returned to Opp after her retirement as an educator with the Department of Defense, she lovingly restored and refurbished our grandparents' home and made it a warm and inviting place for family and friends to gather. 
    This week I have cried with my cousin, my sisters, and my Momma. And we have laughed, too. We have felt the bitter taste of impending death co-mingling with the sweetness of memories laced with love, and through it all we have been strengthened by the knowledge of our aunt's enduring faith in the Savior. Lord willing, I will travel to Opp, Alabama, this next week to hug her neck one last time and say my own goodbyes. I am trusting God to hold her close as He prepares to bring one of His own to her permanent home. And of all the places that she has lived, I have no doubt her home in heaven will be the best one yet. 
My aunt is the one on the far right
(my grandmother and another of Daddy's sisters are also in the picture.)
This was taken at my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 1976.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Passing of A Spiritual Father

   I cannot believe that he is gone. I cannot help but picture the man, Cortez A. Cooper, Jr., "Corty" to his friends, as alive, vibrant, warm, and very confident of the Hope of the Gospel he so ardently believed and lived to the fullest. The streets of heaven are even now ringing with the sound of his warm chuckle and his eyes are sparkling with delight at the magnificent display of the Glory of God. He is home.
    I was a wayward child who had wandered from the fold of God. I had a dear friend who would come knocking on my dorm room each Sunday to coax a freshman girl at Vanderbilt out of bed to attend services at First Presbyterian Church on Franklin Road in Nashville. To a small town girl, this church, with its Cheek House mansion, stables, and school spread over beautifully manicured acres,  looked more like a country club than a house of worship. But I could not have been more wrong. Something amazing was happening in those church services.  
     A pastor was taking the church and the city by storm. God was also using the man to woo not just my heart, but many others back to the Truth. A revival that had begun in the early 70's was finding new growth and momentum in its movement toward maturity.  This revival would ultimately lead years later to the founding of a new church (Christ Presbyterian Church) pastored by Corty. As for me, at first I could not understand why Sunday after Sunday, I sat in the sanctuary at First Pres and wept. It did not matter whether the sermon was serious and sober in nature or more encouraging in tone and tenor, I always found myself overcome with emotion. Sometimes when the service was over, I could hardly speak...certainly a rarity for me.
    At this point in my life, I was a young woman who had always run from emotion and had spent some time also running from God. I was fine and I was strong, or so I thought. But something was happening to me as I sat under Cortez Cooper's solid, strong, and powerful Biblical teaching, my heart that had been frozen with regards to God, was undergoing a great change. God was waking me up, as if from a deep slumber, He was quickening my spirit, and I was coming alive. I resisted for a time, but the Holy Spirit was using Corty Cooper to draw me as inexorably to the Truth of the Gospel as a magnet is drawn to the North.
    The Husband and I soon found our spiritual home in that church. We were welcomed into Corty and Pat's home and introduced to church members and other families with whom we would labor and minister in the years to come. Shortly after The Husband and I married, we found ourselves drafted by Corty into the Youth Ministry of the Church. It was a sign of his influence in our lives. Week after week we sat under this man's teaching and enjoyed life in a vibrant and growing church community. Corty Cooper baptised three of our four children, affording us the privilege of incorporating each child's "life verse" into the baptism service. It was also he that I sought out for advice and counsel when my own grandmother languished in a coma for several years before she passed away. He tenderly took me to the scriptures and encouraged me to struggle and grieve what I could not seem to understand or embrace.
Dr. Cortez Cooper
Dr. Cortez A. Cooper, Jr.
    I did not grow up with a father. But I was blessed to learn much from a pastor who taught me the love, the kindness, the strength, and the faithfulness of The Father. My grief is immense today. I cannot help but think of Corty's beloved and lovely wife Pat and how much she must already miss this vital man who loved her so. I think of his family and his children and grandchildren and the sheep of the flock that he was tending in his later years. There are so many who have been tutored by his love for God, his passion for the Gospel and the wisdom of his solid grounding in the Word.

    For me, one of the great men of God of our generation has now gone to be with the Lord. I cannot help but cry just as I did those many years ago when I was a girl of 18 and being drawn back to the arms of the Father. Corty, thank you for teaching me of the great, great love of the Father. Thank you for being faithful in things great and small. I and many others will miss your smile, your grace, and your powerful love for God. Heaven is blessed tonight to have a precious son of the Father who is beholding the face of the One he loved in life, in death, and in life everlasting. May you find joy in the fullness of your inheritance in Christ until we meet again.

Monday, October 24, 2011

We Are Ao Happy That She Said Yes!

   They both live in East Nasty AKA East Nashville. They go to the same church. They are in the same fellowship group. They hang out with some of the same people. It seemed only natural that they would become friends. And so they did. The friendship deepened. We watched him begin to rely on her for advice, support and counsel. She made him laugh. And he was utterly and completely himself when he was with her. There was no pretense, no artifice. It all seemed so very natural. It was.
   Time passed. We all kept waiting with bated breath for him to see what was right there in front of him. He finally did. Thankfully. The beautiful friendship finally became a dating relationship. It seemed so very right. Wisely, they took things slowly. They gave their relationship time to evolve and change. But we all knew. I was praying from the first time that I met her. I had this little tickle in my heart. But I have been wrong before. So I kept praying. And I, like so many others, watched and waited.
   A friendship between a man and a woman can be a very special thing. And when it blossoms into a love that will last a lifetime, it is a very beautiful thing, an amazing thing, a holy thing.
    Our family is overjoyed that come spring we will be welcoming this incredibly lovely red-headed beauty into our family. She already feels like one of us. The fit seems almost seamless. Yet I tremble and quake at the thought of being a mother-in-law to another daughter-in-law. However, God has blessed me abundantly in this regard already. I truly love the women my sons have chosen. I could not have dreamed up anyone any more suited for either of them.  I am thankful for them. And I have prayed for them from the time that my sons were babes in arms. And I believed with all of my heart that God would be faithful. And He has.
    My own mother taught me well. "Raise your sons to love another woman best," she wisely told me when my boys were just toddlers. It was a hard truth, but it rang true even then. And by God's grace, I took her advice to heart. I have always wanted my sons to love, adore, and cherish their wives. I understand my role as their mother. I am no longer the woman that they love, the woman that they adore, the woman that they turn to to share the places of their hearts. But I derive some small consolation that I was the first woman that they loved, and so it is with joy that I more than willingly surrender my place in their hearts to the woman who truly deserves to be first in their lives...their wives.

    There she is. The-soon-to-be newest member of our family. Just as I consider my other daughter-in-law to be a treasure, I consider this young woman to be a treasure as well. I am thankful that my sons have heeded the word of the Lord, "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." Yes. Yes, indeed.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sleepless in Seattle and Exhausted in Nashville

   There are tired women everywhere. Women who pour themselves out like drink offerings for the sake of their families. Women who balance caring for children with work and household responsibilities. Some have husbands who stand beside them and some don't. I have been thinking a lot about those women. I am almost embarrassed when I consider their herculean efforts to admit that I am so tired. One thing I learned this past week, 57 year-old-women and toddlers have a limited shelf life. I think I found mine. I began the week helping the Daughter-in-Law with a very sick Little Two. Little Two is one happy, rambunctious, and gregarious baby, that is, until she gets a virus. This was one of those nasty ones that brings high fever and leaves blisters on mouths and noses and fingers and feet in its wake. Not fun. Little Two's sweet momma was juggling work and household responsibilities with a baby who was crying most of the night, and she was REALLY tired. So I filled in a bit. 
   On Tuesday afternoon I rushed home, grabbed a shower and scrubbed myself from head to toe because Little One was scheduled to arrive momentarily, and I had strict instructions from The Daughter not to bring any contagion or leftover virus germs anywhere near Little One. I agreed that it was a good plan. I also vacuumed up the dog hair, battened down the hatches, ran out for a quick dinner with a friend, and had The Husband on alert to await the arrival of Little One. She came bouncing in with a suitcase packed to the gills and all manner of toddler paraphernalia including a box of diapers, a diaper bag, a lunch bag, a school bag and instructions for this and that. 
   Little One wasted no time and immediately began to take control of our lives. We are not people who usually surrender easily, but being a grandparent has wrought great changes in our willpower. We suddenly find ourselves dancing, albeit willingly, to the tune of a two-year-old. We cave in. We roll over and play dead more often than not. You have never seen two older adults (The Husband along with the Mom) fall over themselves to keep a little person happy and satisfied. If Little Miss wants to read books, we read books. If she wants to play her piano, we play the piano. If she wants to dance, we dance. If she wants to color and draw, we color and draw until we are blue in the face. I think you get the idea.
   I never realize how slowly I move through life until Little One arrives and revolutionizes my world. I am used to waking up slowly. I like to pray in the mornings while I lie in my bed. That's my conversation time with the Lord. The husband is getting ready for work, and I am quietly talking to God about all manner of things. Praises, requests, and concerns. In retirement, what was once a luxury, has become the norm. I cannot complain. However, I confess I only prayed on the run when Little One stayed with us. There was no time for intercession. I was shooting my arrow prayers at God all the day long. I remembered all too quickly what those years had been like when my own children were underfoot. A contemplative prayer life seemed like some far-off dream.
   Little One is gone now. Her GiGi, (who has more stamina than I have) is keeping her until The Daughter and The Son-in-Law get back. I am recuperating. I am thankful for a night of sleep when I am not listening with one ear for a little voice crying out in the dark. I am thankful that I am not getting up to start my day before the sun is up each morning. I am thankful that I am not stumbling around my kitchen trying to pull breakfast together for a hungry toddler before I have had a cup of coffee. I am thankful that I am not sort-of potty training anymore or changing poopy diapers. I am thankful that my prayer life is back on track.
image photo : Sepia Prayer    Make no mistake, I am thankful to be the grandmother of precious Little One and precious Little Two. But I am also thankful that they have young mothers to care for them. I have been praying for them a lot more after this week. I am remembering that exhaustion that accompanies so much of parenting, and I am asking the God of all grace to grant them respite, rest, and peace. May He lead them beside the still waters and restore their souls. And I am praying that not just for these two, but for every young mother I know. And maybe some I don't know. I am so very glad that God's got that covered. He is a good and faithful God, is He not? That's why old women (with the exception of Sarah in the Bible), don't bear babies. Thank goodness. That's also why we just get to step in now and then. That's why we can pray, and pray, and pray some more. Can I hear an Amen?!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Future is Bright

   Little One is definitely a drama queen. No doubt this is intensified by the fact that she is days away from turning two, but aside from that, the girl definitely knows how to play to the audience. She runs a personal meet and greet service. "Hi, I am Eloise," she says to everyone who will willingly make eye contact with her, and that's a lot of folks. She also does the happy dance with happy feet whenever something pleases her (and that is quite often), and communicates her disatisfaction with equal ease and equanimity. The girl also has a sense of style; daily she insists on picking out her own clothes and her own accessories from head to toe. The Daughter had me howling when she told me that Little Miss insisted on wearing her new snow hat with the braids from H&M to school on a day when the temperature hovered near 85. It was the perfect accessory.
    Here are a few pics of the girl all dressed up for her trip to see "Disney on Ice." Of course, she loved Minnie and Mickey and has not stopped talking about them nonstop. And I do mean nonstop!

     Our other granddaughter, Little Two, is a budding Picasso. She is attracted to strong vibrant colors. The Husband and I are already among her collectors, and we are currently displaying a piece of her art in our home. Her teachers testify to the fact that she loves to finger paint and gets into it so much that they have to strip her down to her diaper on art days. I love it. She brings such intensity to everything she does. She is focused and determined and is not easily deterred. I am also loving the fact that she is learning to say my name and to mimic my standard greeting, a loud Yoo Hoo!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


   The Daughter's friend and immensely talented photographer, Holly Everett (, was in Nashvegas last weekend and had a session with The Daughter, Little One, and the Son-in-Law. I have kept my mouth shut about these pictures. They terrify me. But apparently I am the only one that feels this way. Little One, The Son-in-Law and The Daughter think that this is great fun. I am slightly mollified by the fact that the Son-in-Law ran track at Auburn University where he was a decathlete. He has great hand eye coordination and strong arms. I am glad, at least, for that.
    Little One is apparently fearless. I don't think that bodes well for the future. I guess that's what prayers of grandmothers are for.

photo taken by the incomparable

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanks for the Memories

    One of my North Carolina cousins recently posted some old family pictures on Facebook. If you look at me then and now, you will know just how old some of these pictures are. We are talking 29 years here. So that puts me under 30. Wow, I cannot even remember that far back. The hair cuts are horrendous as are the clothes, but who cares. I look at the pictures, and I am there. There are no mosquitoes or flies and the heat and humidity are not unbearable. That's what memory does for you. It makes everything look hazy and glorious. I probably didn't realize at the time just how glorious it was. But I do now. I hope that counts for something in God's economy. 
I think The Husband still has that shirt. I, on the other  hand, have no clue what 
that get-up is that I am wearing. Oh, and is anyone surprised that I am talking...
with both my mouth and my hands?!
      Three of my four children are in this picture. The fourth is missing because he is not yet born. 
My dear grandmother is holding The Daughter who is just a couple of months old, my sweet 
Momma is the twin on the far right and my two older sons are standing in front of her. Aren't they precious?! My mother's identical twin is to my her left and my beloved North Carolina aunt is holding my nephew. This picture was taken a whopping 29 years ago. 
           Does anyone remember Underoos? That's what the Oldest Son has on in
this picture. Trust me when I tell you that they were "the thing." The precious boys are now            men who are 33 and 32 years old respectively. Raising rambunctious sons who were
sixteen months apart was certainly not a picnic in the park. Then The Daughter came along and I had three children under four. Those days were was a lot about survival.
However, now I am totally reaping the rewards!!!
This picture nearly brought me to tears. I can get maudlin about memories.
Like I said before, you don't remember the itchy bathing suit, the flies or mosquitoes 
and the nearly unbearable heat. What I do remember is that this was
how we spent nearly every day of the summer. Out under the pin oak trees, catching
what little breeze was available and shooting the breeze ourselves. Endlessly.
There was always time for conversation, there was always a lap to hold
a baby, and there was always a good book to read and good food to eat. 
And the picture below was what we feasted our eyes on day and night.
This view, and the love of family, brought peace like a river to my soul.
It still does.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Betcha I can Make You Smile

   One of my high school friends that I reconnected with during the past year has also become intrigued with the delightful world of Pinterest! If you haven't joined the free club, you need to! I allot myself no more than 15 minutes per day, because it has proven to be addictive.  Pinterest is as much fun as looking through a design or idea magazine and a whole lot cheaper! Anyway, my friend Susan has two boards that have made me laugh out loud. One is called Joy and the other, Make Me Giggle. I am posting these pics and throwing down the gauntlet...I just betcha these will make you smile! Here goes a little happy!

The Changing Face of Little Two

  Little Two is almost eleven months and her delightful personality is rapidly emerging. She is curious, interested in everything going on around her, and is keenly observant. She loves to greet everyone who comes in the door, and they have dubbed her the class president at her day school. However, she can also be stubborn and every once in a while she breaks out in a roar, but she is still largely a happy baby and her smiles and chuckles are some of the best in the world (spoken by a true grandmother, of course). Her parents had a wedding to go to on Saturday night, so Little Two came to spend some time with us. It was pure delight. The only problem is that after her meal and bottle she was plum tuckered out and nearly went to sleep in Pappy's lap. Alas, she could not even make it to seven o'clock. Our time with her seemed all too short. Here's a look at this precious little gem of a granddaughter. Don't you just want to hug her and kiss her?! Trust me, we do just that!