Friday, February 3, 2017

Myrtle

The 2016 holiday season was filled with nostalgia. Okay, okay, I know...all of them have been that way since Dad died but this year was especially poignant for me because I lost another very dear loved one.

Cassie Tanner passed away on Thanksgiving morning. It was news I never wanted to hear about my beloved "Myrtle". She was 95 years old and remained fiercely independent until the very end.  I can't exactly recall when she officially grabbed this special place in my heart, I just know that I can't remember not knowing and loving her. Ours lives became intertwined through church work. I was a young(ish) first time staff member (director of youth and children) and she was the long time AA and bookkeeper. When I arrived in Hinesville, GA, Cassie was already in her 70s but you'd never have known it! She was sharp as a tack with a wit and charm to match! She was a southern lady in the truest sense of that term. I loved her immediately, although I think I had to grow on her but I did and she became one of my dearest and most trusted friends and THE most awesome roommate! We shared a very special bond.

Once we moved to the Atlanta area it was more difficult to visit in person but she was only a phone call away. She was always a night owl, which is one of the reason she and I were perfectly matched as roomies, so I would wait until the kids were in bed and the house was relatively quiet to call her. Often, she'd be watching David Letterman or the late news when I'd call. We'd talk for an hour sometimes two. Then, as we'd start to hang up...we'd both pause and one or the other of us would say, "I love you". I always loved how Cass told me she loved me...there was always a tone of intention. She meant for me to know that she loved me. Cassie was not a "gusher". She didn't throw words around all willy-nilly but when she said those three words to me...I knew she meant them.
I could go on and on about all the reason I treasure Cassie and the years spent knowing and loving her but I will save that for another time, perhaps. What I do want to say is that knowing her, loving her, being with her, having her trust me and confide in me and love my as if I was one of her very own forever changed the pattern of my life's tapestry. She made the colors of my life richer and deeper. She showed me the depth of true friendship...a shared bond that isn't diminished by time and space. I love Cassie...yes, LOVE in the present tense. Just because she is gone from my sight and removed from my reach doesn't change my love for her; that love reaches across the veil and will until we are together again in Heaven.

I miss her voice. I miss our talks. I miss knowing that she's rambling around at the Plantation. I miss my friend...immensely.

Hey Myrrrrrrtle...it's Les! I love you!




Monday, April 11, 2016

When life hands you lemons...

This journey called life is a beautiful broken journey. It's full of ups and downs, highs and lows and everything in between. When the journey is your own, it's often easier to deal with those peaks and dips but when it's happening around you to those you hold dear...well that's a totally different perspective.

The old adage, "when life hands you lemons make lemonade" comes to mind. It sounds so simple and yet so difficult. When life hands us lemons, the knee jerk reaction is to FIX IT! Fix that "thing", that situation or circumstance so that it goes the way WE see fit. GO RIGHT NOW AND FIIIIIIIIX IT! I've found that my attempts to "fix" usually just make things worse. Instead of rushing out to fix it the better thing to do is BE STILL. Just take a breath, be still and know that HE IS GOD! Nothing that happens in this life ever takes God by surprise! NOTHING!!! NO THING>>>EVER! He doesn't cause everything to happen but it all passes through His hands. He allows some things to teach us and help us grow. Other things happen because we try to control our own destiny instead of waiting and trusting...OH BOY, AM I EVER GUILTY OF THIS ONE!!! When you're in the middle of the "lemons" it's hard to see the way out so we just start stomping through those lemons all the while squirting that acidic juice in our wound/hurt/circumstance/situation, that only makes the hurt/circumstance/wound/situation worse! It only causes it to burn more...so did it help to stomp through the lemons? Nope, not one bit!

I struggle because, frankly, I'm a stomper and the older I get the more "stompy" I am! I know it and those close to me know it. If something is wrong I say confront and move on but that isn't always what God wants us to do. Yes, sometimes a little stomp through the lemons is what needs to happen. Confrontation isn't bad because it brings change but the confrontation doesn't have to be caustic - well timed confrontation brings about healthy and needed change. So when I feel the need to STOMP, that's the moment that I need to stop...take a breath...and BE STILL in His presence. Just wait and listen for His voice. Wait for His guidance; His Word...just be still and wait. If we wait for God's timing...the lemonade will be so much sweeter than if it was made by stomping through the lemons.

Lord, I know you're try to teach me to wait on You and to trust Your timing. It's so hard sometimes because what we see doesn't always match what we are claiming and believing. In those moments, we must simply be still and wait...and trust. I'm learning to trust You more, Lord Jesus but I still have a ways to go. Father, help me not to stomp through the lemons but wait on You because waiting on You makes the lemonade sooooo much sweeter.

So, Lord, when life hands us/ME lemons help us/ME just to step back and wait on You and not run ahead and make a sticky mess. In this life, there WILL BE LEMONS but oh what sweet lemonade YOU CAN MAKE if only we/I will BE STILL and WAIT, TRUSTING that You are already there!

Still learning to wait and trust,
Your beloved "stomper"


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dad chose Jesus

For the past 3 and half-ish years, I've been asking "why"... why did Dad die? How could Jesus take him away from us when He knew how much we loved him? Why didn't God intervene and raise Dad up and make him whole in this world? I've spent more time than I should have asking these questions and yes, at times, doubting God's love and goodness.  What I've come to realize is this; God didn't "take" Dad...

My mom shared a story with me and at the time I was like, "yeah, yeah, Dad chose Jesus...duh, that's why he's a preacher" but as that story has replayed in my mind over the last few years it finally sunk in...

My dad was always telling us how much he loved us - we never doubted his deep, abiding love for us. Mom was telling me about a conversation she and my dad had many years ago before I was born. She and Dad were talking about ministry and he expressed to her how much he loved her and what she meant to him then he came the "BUT"... "but if I ever have to choose between you and Jesus and what He's called me to do, I'll choose Jesus." At first thought, I was offended that Dad would say that to her but then I realized that's what God calls us to...to leave ALL earthly things/people/places and follow Him. Dad loved Mom and me with ALL of his heart...but his first love was Jesus...just as it should have been. I realize now, that my Dad didn't love the things of this world - he loved people and his desire was to lead them to Jesus...show them Jesus...be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to all he encountered.

As I reflect on those words, I am reminded again that Jesus didn't "take" Dad from us...Dad CHOSE to go be with Jesus when given the chance. I shared this thought during the service dedicating the library at Cornerstone Church in Dad's memory. I had never really thought of it nor did I plan to say it, but God gave me those words in that moment and my mom repeated my words back to me at a moment when I was again questioning, "you should listen to your own words sometimes." LOL  My Dad made the choice to go and be with Christ - face to face.  This Savior whom he'd preached and taught about, this Father whom he'd loved wholeheartedly and served so faithfully - when given the opportunity to choose between this life and the next...Dad chose Jesus. He had made that choice long before that November day when he stood on the cusp of eternity. He chose Jesus and he followed after Him with reckless abandon in life until the day the Father scooped him up and carried him to Glory.

My Dad left me more memories than I could ever write down or tell but the most important thing he left me and all who knew him, was a legacy of love and faith. I knew my entire life that my dad loved me more than anything in THIS world. It made me strong, courageous and confident. How much more strong, courageous and confident I am in the love of Jesus Christ!! My dad didn't just tell folks to "lay down their nets" and follow Jesus...he showed them how to do it and do so with joy!


In the words of "Kojak", "who loves ya,baby?" The answer to that question is God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! He chose to love us even while we were yet sinners...WHO WILL YOU CHOOSE? I CHOOSE JESUS!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Good Ol Days

I MISS THEM!!! Yep, I miss "the good ol days"! As much as I love the modern conveniences of life as we know it, I miss the days of my childhood.  I miss having one phone in a central location, "rabbit ears", the singing of the National Anthem at the end of the television broadcast day, no answering machines or cell phones. I miss that simpler time. The days before social media...ya know, when people thought you had money if you had an electric typewriter and that you were a millionaire if you had a computer at home! Yep, those days are the ones I miss!  Don't get me wrong...I LOVE reconnecting with friends and loved ones via Facebook and email but wasn't life just a little less harried "back in the day"? Sure, we were busy - out and about but if we were out and about we were untouchable to a degree. Anyone who needed us would have to wait until we got home to get us.  There wasn't a constant state of "connected-ness".

I'm forever watching "retro" television. It drives my tribe NUTS!!! My husband constantly ribs me about watching "old tv" and asking me why I want to watch those shows. I think it's because while I'm watching Match Game, The Carol Burnett Show, Gilligan's Island, All in the Family, et al I transported back to that simpler time...the good ol days. A time in my life when my biggest concern was passing an English test or wondering if my high school football team win that week. In reality, I think it mostly revolves around the fact that while I'm watching The Carol Burnett Show or Laverne and Shirley I'm transported (mentally at least) back to my childhood. Back to the days when my "original" family, my first family was intact and life was simple (for me at least)...a time when all three of us were all still on this big blue planet - present in the body. In my mind's eye, I can see my Dad standing at the stove shaking that big stock pot with oil, salt and kernels in the bottom to make popcorn. No microwave or air poppers back then. I can see my Mom laying on the floor in the den with her "husband" pillow; blanket thrown over the vent in the floor to capture all the heat blowing up from the oil furnace. I can see (and sometimes even smell) the live Christmas tree we had every Christmas with the big multi-colored bulbs and the silver tinsel topped with snow from a can. I can see it and smell it and it makes me smile and ache all that same time. It's weird because I'm so blessed and happy in the present...but sometimes I just long for a few moments of the "old days".

I hope that at some point my children, when they are grown and living on their own, they will look back at this time in their lives, their childhood, with the same fondness that I have when I look back on mine. I hope that they see their dad and me "doing" and "being" and I pray it makes them smile.

I think after you release a parent into eternity, the "old days" take on new meaning. As an adult, I've always cherished my childhood and the days at home with my folks. I didn't cherish them while they were happening...I was too busy growing up and too young to realize how absolutely magical those moments, days, weeks, months, years really were - how I wish I'd known!!! I'd have made a point to soak up every hug, smile, laugh, joke and yes even the moments of being disciplined (Yes, even I had to be corrected and sometimes it even required a spanking!! SHOCKING, I know! LOL)

I encourage my children to soak up every moment and to be present in every moment because moments only happen once. It's hard for kids to be present in the moment...but I continue to encourage them to do it. There are so many things that I can only vaguely recall from my childhood and young adulthood...I know there was so much FUN but I can't remember the details. I often have people ask me, "Hey, do you remember when we..." or "Do you remember the time we..." and it makes me sad that I can't always say yes.

I really can't explain the ache or longing that sometimes creeps in but I do know that it brings a beautiful mixture of laughter and tears. Laughter because it all happened and tears because I'll never pass that way again. Make the most of every moment and BE THERE...be ALL THERE!

Holidays past

NOTE: I started this post during the holidays this year but never published...so here it is.

I find myself a little more sentimental this year than last...it's interesting. Interesting because I keep thinking that it'll get better, that the tears won't be so close and the longing won't be so deep but it doesn't...get better. I had a very dear friend tell me it doesn't get better, it gets different...not better ` we get stronger but it's never better... just different. She's right! I do find that I'm stronger (most days) but that feeling never goes away...never gets better. As the days pass, it just feels different.

The last few weeks, I find myself remembering. Remembering holidays past and it makes me smile and it makes me cry but mostly for that moment the longing seems to ease if only for a moment. I hear an old Christmas tune and I remember Christmases spent at Fincastle in the parsonage. The smell of the real Christmas tree and the oil heat. I can hear my Dad popping popcorn in the metal pot that he had to shake back and forth over the eye of the electric stove.  I can see my mom in her spot on the floor - blanket thrown over the vent to catch the heat as it blows and inflates her blanket (that was a coveted spot, by the way.  I remember Christmas programs in the sanctuary at Fincastle. At the end, Santa would come down the center aisle and all the kids would go home with brown bags full of fruit and candies. I remember big coats, snowy nights and dinners at my grandparents. Nanny Ross' homemade chocolate pies and the coleslaw and ham and Nanny Bruce's. I remember the coal burning stove that heated Papaw and Nanny Ross' house and the buckstove at Papaw and Nanny Bruce's house.

I look back fondly at the holidays I spent with wonderful friends who were more like family while I was at Lee College (University) and at Disney and couldn't get home for the holidays or had to go a little later due to work. Those are still special times and bring a smile when I recall them.

There are so many memories and they are so vivid that most of the time I can smell all those smells. Occasionally, I'll get a whiff of a scent and I'm suddenly 7 years old all wide-eyed with Christmas wonder. It's not that I miss being 7 years old really but I miss that time. A time before smart phones, personal computers  and cable TV. It really was a kinder, simpler, "gentler" time. I miss the faces that sat around the table and those smells and that feeling of excitement. Most of all, I miss my Dad. I know that for the last 3 years, Dad has had a seat at the best banquet and he is surrounded by those faces that I miss. He is happier than he could ever be here in this world...but I miss him. I will miss him for as long as I'm in this earthly vessel but I know where he is and that he is happy and well and safe and I find comfort in knowing this truth.

When God is silent.

NOTE: Another started but unpublished until now post. I've come a bit further in the journey since I initially started writing this post.

Over the last 2 years I've heard a lot of things. I've heard my children laugh, cry and argue. I've heard my husband tell me he loves me and heard him cutting up with the kids. I've heard a lot of sermons, scripture, encouraging words but one thing I haven't heard the voice of God speak to me. He's been silent.

I can say that I've felt His presence, while not necessarily realizing until later that it was indeed His presence in the form of a friend hugging my neck, sending a note, or giving me a reassuring look...I know that it was the Heavenly Father working through folks to minister comfort to my broken spirit.
So, when God is silent is it because He really isn't talking or is it because I'm not listening or can't hear Him because of the chaos in my mind and heart? Let me tell ya, there's been A LOT of that in the last 2 years!!! I have struggled with trusting God and feeling like my prayers are effective. It has seemed to me that the things for which I've prayed have gone the opposite way.  Well, opposite of MY will...there's the rub. Why is God's will not my will and visa versa?  My will should be that God's will be done in my life and the lives of those I love...right?

Friday, December 18, 2015

'Tis the season...

This holiday season has been a season of reflection for me. As we make the journey to the manager during this season of Advent, I'm reminded of the great love of our Heavenly Father. I am aware of it on most days but this year, for some reason, I am made more keenly aware.

I LOVE the season of Advent!!! I love the lights, the food, the time away from work, but I mostly enjoy the time spent with loved ones. There are many loved ones who are no longer able to celebrate this season here on earth with us and that leaves a huge holes - gaps in our lives that can never be filled again in this first world. Life moves forward for us but in a very different way. That hole, that loss, that infinite missing and longing...it never really gets "better" it's just different. It's a wound that never really heals. As time passes, it forms a protective covering but it's very thin and can be ripped away by something as commonplace as a scent or a song. We laugh and celebrate but always with an ache...sometimes it takes our breath away and other times it causes our cheeks to glisten with tears for a time gone by but more often it brings a warm feeling way down deep knowing that we are so much richer for having loved those folks so deeply.

I miss my Dad. I make no excuses...I miss him every day and feel his absence in a very real ways every day. Sometimes that missing brings a flood of tears, sometimes a feeling of inconsolable longing but mixed with that is ALWAYS a warmth and love that is inexplicable...I can't describe it, it's something you have to experience.  People tire of hearing about the loss of our loved ones but I don't think I'll ever be ready to stop talking about my Dad. Giving him over to eternity has brought to the forefront the loss of my grandparents. I miss them more now then I did when the loss was fresh. I think it also has a great deal to do with the fact that my own children are growing up...entirely too quickly, might I add! I am beginning to realize that sooner than I'm really ready for it, things are going to change within my four walls. I think that only adds to my reflective state.

My Dad's passing has also made me more intentional with my Mom. My mom is not the type to gush and smooch and hug...I'm like that as well. However, I think since Dad's death we've both become more intentional with the expression of our love - showing it rather than it just being inferred. I'm not going to lie, it's difficult for me because by nature I'm just not that way. I can be that way and many of my treasured friends will tell you that they may randomly receive big mushy emails or messages from me during particularly nostalgic times (which probably annoy them...sorry). I've just come to realize that the people we love won't always be here with us. Many things can separate us from those we love...death, geography and change. So, I decided that those I love would never have to wonder - I'm going to tell them while I have them in their earthly vessels that I love them and that they are treasured by me. That's one regret I don't have with my Dad...I knew he loved me and he knew I loved him. The people who are precious to our hearts...they should know it! We should tell them! Don't say, "I'll tell them tomorrow"or "I'll see them again sometime"! If geography prevents a visit...send them a note! If you can see them...squeeze them tight and tell them you love them! If it's an old friend, tell them how treasured your time together is in your heart and that you love them. Tell your family...show the people around you that you love them! BE INTENTIONAL!

This season in my life is interesting...it's a melting pot of emotions from all directions. It's a blessing and curse - my heart wells up when I think of the many people who have touched and continue to touch my life, whether near or far. It also brings a sense of sadness that many of you are far away (separated by geography or circumstance) no matter the situation, I hold each of you close in my heart.

I miss my Dad but am so very grateful that my Mom is able to spend the holidays with us. We don't talk too much about Dad or memories when we're together...I think it's too hard and we haven't come far enough in the journey to do it without tears. It's odd that even as an adult I still don't know what to do with my Mother's tears.  But those moments from the past are shared with a knowing look or a random remark. We share the same memories, albeit from different perspectives.
I have a red berry & cedar candle that I burn every year at Christmas time...reminds me of Christmases when I was the preacher's daughter at Fincastle UMC. That simple candle brings back a flood of wonderful memories for me along with mixed emotions of happiness and longing. Sometimes I long for the days "up the valley" in house heated by an oil furnace, the only phone in the house hanging on the wall in the kitchen, rabbit ear antennas, TVs with no remote, a Christmas tree sprayed with canned snow and lit by multi-colored lights with GIANT bulbs and stockings full of fruit and candy canes. I miss the silver tree with the color wheel at my Nanny's house and the homemade chocolate pie but one thing that I don't have to miss...THE LOVE! I feel that love every time a memory comes to mind and while I can't hug those necks, their love crosses the veil of Heaven like a gentle breeze and sweeps over me and warms my heart, makes me smile and yes, brings a tear.

I am infinitely grateful for the blessing of my life and the life my husband and I have made with our children. Life is a journey and ours is full of twists and turns, ups and downs and everything in between but the one thing that is constant is LOVE! We love each other through it all.

I pray that this Christmas and every day beyond brings each of us the love of those we have in our lives and those who are loving us from the other shore and that we seize EVERY opportunity to LOVE!

Merry Christmas!
The Preacher's Daughter