Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Mom: Permission Granted to Take a Nap

     In less than twenty-four hours, I will undergo surgery to replace my right hip. I am actually looking forward to the procedure (talk to me again in about a week for a revised statement) because over the last year my mobility has become seriously limited. While I still consider myself a relatively young middle-aged woman (!), I apparently have the joint condition of someone much much older. I also have the lovely affliction of having a body that too readily processes calcium into bone. All of this means that my right hip bone has decorated itself with all of these lovely little protuberances called bone spurs. Spurs are what cowboys traditionally use to dig into their horses' flanks to make them go. I guess my cowboy hip has been digging into me with great gusto, but the end result is not that I move faster, rather it is that I can hardly move at all! So it is definitely time to rein in this wild buckaroo and get a handy-dandy finely crafted and honed steel and titanium replacement. It is the latest model available and is guaranteed (that's a stretch) to last between 20 to 30 years. Wow. It sounds a little like the industrial revolution has finally made it to the final frontier -- the human body.
   My suitcase is packed and sitting by the front door. I have assembled all of the equipment that will transform my house into a pseudo hospital/rehab facility, and I have read the 200 page notebook provided by my surgeon. My friends are coming over to pray for me at 3:30 and then I will eat my evening meal and drink my last glass of water at 11:59 p.m. tonight. I will faithfully brush my teeth in the morning without swallowing one tiny bit of Crest, and take the teeniest sip of water when I take my pre-op meds. I will then hop into the car with my honey and head to the hospital where all the fun begins.
   I have been pondering how I will handle the fact that I cannot drive for six weeks and the serious cramp in my style that the recovery process is sure to produce. The Daughter has set up something called a Care Calendar where friends and family have signed up to bring me meals and drive me to and from my physical therapy appointments. It is very humbling to recognize that simple tasks that you take for granted become impossible or difficult at times. But the bright lining in all of this, is that I have been continually challenged by those around me as well as by the Holy Spirit to embrace this time of rest. I had been corresponding with a cousin-by-marriage with whom I recently connected on a much deeper level when we were all together for our beloved Lou Lou's funeral. She is facing some health challenges of her own, but her faith is strong and sure. She sent me these words which have already ministered to me deeply. I am honored to share Mary's wisdom and insight with you:  
          When you are a doer it is so hard to wait on the Lord.  But 
          the Holy Spirit wants you to know that there is a lesson in
          the waiting and that your healing will be more than 
          It is interesting that when things happen to us personally it 
          changes how we pray for others. [It is] as if He is giving us a 
         window into what others may be dealing with. I just love to 
         watch God at work in and through my life and in the people 
         around me! Take this time to remove yourself from the 
         ugliness of this world and [allow the healing to come.] 
         When you have small kids you are always trying to get
         them to take a nap but they just don't want to stop 
         moving long enough to do that - well, some days I wish 
         someone would say, "Mary, go and take your nap and 
         I don't want to hear or see you for one hour!" Take a Nap 
        and know we are praying for rejuvenation for you so
        you can continue to be the strength of the Lord to
        those around you.
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the nuggets of wisdom contained within these words. I always feel guilty if I take a nap in the middle of the day. My naps are usually driven by sheer exhaustion,emotional upheaval, or physical illness. So I am giving myself permission to take a physical nap each and every day. Maybe even more than one nap each day. I am also going to take that metaphorical nap as well. I am going to try to be as still as I can allow myself to be, and ask the Lord to come in and do the rest. I want the physical healing for my hip, that's for sure, but I also want to become more sensitive in prayer, to hear the sound of His voice as He calls to me, and to receive all that He is willing to give me from His precious hand. I am taking Mary's advice to heart, for this Mary, just like Mary of old, knows how to choose the better portion. And hopefully, so will I. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Help for Haiti
Let us not forget the needs of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. If you are not able to attend this amazing concert in Nashville, Tennessee, this Saturday, February 27, 7:00 pm, at the Ryman Auditorium featuring some of my all-time faves Allison Krauss and Jars of Clay, you can still donate through the link. As time marches on and the faces of Haiti are no longer front and center in the news, it is a temptation to believe that the needs are lessening, when in truth the situation continues to be desperate for so many. We must not be fooled or lulled back into complacency, but must be ever vigilant to pray and to continue to open our hands as the Lord calls us to do so. May you be blessed as you endeavor to be a blessing to others. Haiti, we will not forget you.

Help Haiti Live - Feb 27

     On January 12th an earthquake shook Port-au-Prince leaving thousands dead and many more without food, water, or shelter. Now, more than a month later, Compassion International is still standing with the people of Haiti.Compassion has been meeting the physical and spiritual needs of Haitians for more than forty years and will continue to serve them in this time of extreme need. Already Compassion International has supplied more than 15,000 families with clean water, food, blankets, temporary shelter, medical supplies and counseling.
     Your donation will lay bricks, feed, educate, clothe, heal and rebuild Haiti in Jesus’ name for many months to come. Please give.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Modeling Debut

    I thought The Daughter was the cat's meow when she starred in a made-for-television movie when she was but three years of age. (A special note: starring is of course, my interpretation and sadly, not the opinion that the director or other actors would share.) I think The Daughter appeared in a grand total of three scenes in the movie and in one of them she actually fell asleep on camera. However, her enduring claim to fame was that the movie starred none other than Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. While I used to be somewhat embarrassed about the fact that the actors were not more tried and true Hollywood types, I have long since gotten over my angst as these particular country stars are now enjoying an almost iconic status these days. The Daughter and I also chuckled not too long ago to find a DVD of the movie on a sale table in Wal-Mart. I guess that's where old not-so-good B- movies go to die.
The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James
   Thus compared to her mother's short-lived career, I am sure that Little One is destined for certain fame. She is making her debut as a clothing model for a sweet friend's Etsy store: Oh my gosh! Etsy! Etsy puts even Wal-Mart to shame! Little One will have world-wide exposure on an unrivaled (at least by her mother's) scale.
   Seriously, you should check out the offering's on this friend's store. The first time I visited her home, I felt that I had gone to sleep and woken up inside a dream. If one of Tasha Tudor's fairytales came to life, it might look just like her house. This artist has the gift of creating vignette's and putting things together "just so." Her Etsy site bears witness to some of the whimsy, creativity, and charm that fill her home. Shop and enjoy! And take a gander at the world's most precious baby model to come down the pike in a while!
Little One in the precious hip designer monogrammed onesie 
and hip designer ruffled pants!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Survived, Thrived and Purpose

Happy Valentine's Day....

Now to my real post.
First week at work. Don't I look exhausted? Happy to be with my family.

Recently, I returned to work as you know from a previous post. Like most things, I imagined it to be much harder than it actually was. I am utterly exhausted but the good kind where you know this won't last forever but you know you have put in a lot of effort. I have put in my notice which is one of the most bittersweet things I have ever done.

Working at my job has been a blessing. A blessing that has allowed me to enter into other's suffering, other's pain, other's poverty and try to provide peace. There are times this means sitting and listening and other times it means taking action. I often get the statement, "I don't see how you do your job." That is why I am so thankful for the other women (yes it is all women) in my department.

These women give something of themselves so that others can have dignity, hope, and support. When I returned, I noticed so many of them seemed to be carrying burdens. They seemed weary. I feel that the Lord has allowed me to re-enter my job for a short time to listen and hopefully encourage.

I recently emailed a few of them these words that are true to me:

"I am so thankful to be around women that have similar passions and even similar burdens. This job is hard and at times too much yet we have a purpose. I have so many friends that do not understand why I do social work. You all understand!

I never question if I will miss you all. It makes me want to cry thinking about not having the day to day interaction with all of you. There are times that I think I will not miss this actual place but I know that I am wrong. There is something about giving of yourself to someone in need. There is something about comforting a crying mother, advocating for a child that has been harmed, and constantly re-educating our teams on how to think about families. It is exhausting but worth it.

I might step on some toes saying this but I have been praying this for each of you: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)"

I am so thankful for my job. I am so thankful to have returned to remember that being a mother does not mean the passions in me have died. Rather how I pursue these things might look different for a while.

**Warning, quick change in subject**

I realize that most of you read my posts in order to see Little One so here is a bit of that joy!

Little One in her chair from family. She loves it!

Little One did great with GiGi, Honey, YaY, Aunt K and our nanny (each took one day this past week). I continue to be overwhelmed with the support of my family.

She is changing so quickly: sucking her thumb on her own, making motorboat noises, and playing with her toys. She is not tall enough for her exersaucer so we put carpet underneath so she could stand. She loves it!

Little One in her exersaucer with carpet blocks underneath so she can be tall enough to enjoy her toys.

The Language of Love

   Our lives are bent and shaped by the desire for intimacy. This desire can lead us into places of great danger (also known as looking for love in all the wrong places) or conversely, this desire can lead us to places of redemption, restoration and ultimately fulfillment. I believe that this desire, this heart-cry for intimacy that unites mankind, is indeed heaven-sent. It is part and parcel of that God-shaped hole that the Lord created for Himself in the lives of His own. He has told us in no uncertain times that He is a jealous God and will have no other Gods before him, yet I continually stand amazed at the idols we assiduously substitute to assuage or diminish the emptiness that we feel.
   Yet while we wait for the new heavens and the new earth and for the kingdom of our God to be fully and completely established and apprehended as I believe it one day will be, I am thankful for the language of love that has, is, and will be, spoken into my life. Even though the gestures and words are usually rendered by mere mortals such as I, they carry within them the echoes of the Greater Love that has so captivated and captured my soul.

Here is a glimpse into some of the words, moments, or gestures that remind me of the deep deep love of the Father for His Beloved.
  • Do you want your name in the grits pot? My grandmother would go around each morning in the summer at the Big House before breakfast and ask us if we wanted our name in the grits pot. I never saw her write anything down so it was a marvel to me that she somehow made just the right amount so that each one of us could dip the ladle and enjoy a bowl of her never-lumpy and always-just-right grits. Is that not that the way love is? It sticks to your ribs and hits the spot of hunger that you did not even know you had. Having my name in her grits pot taught me this about the love of the Father in so many words:  I have remembered you, I have included you, I have not forgotten you, and I know just what you need before you even know it yourself.
  • A large white box of crushed sugar cookies and crumbled brownies surrounding a slightly dried out pound cake. When I was in college far away from home and suffering terribly from homesickness that appeared to have no end in sight and certainly seemed like a terminal illness at the time, a package would unexpectedly arrive from Zeb's Cakehouse in Opp, Alabama. There would be no card or note inside, but I immediately felt the touch of the time-worn hands that had packed that box for me. I would open the white flaps and hold it to my nose. It was the smell of love. It was the grandmother and grandfather who understood that a little remembrance of home would go a long way toward soothing a lonely heart. Their timing was always impeccable and was undoubtedly guided by a Master Hand. I remember also that the word would soon spread down the hall that I had received a package from Opp, and the friends would flock to my door to indulge themselves until every crumb had disappeared. So the box from Opp became not just a salve for my homesick heart, but also a gateway to building community in my dorm, my home away from home. 
  • A shared meal: twenty-eight years of ringing in the New Year with the same friends. The memory of these evenings strung together along the line of my life speaks volumes of the faithfulness of God, of continuity in the face of ever-changing lives and circumstances, of bonds that have, by the grace of God, stood, are standing, and will stand, the test of time. We have been witnesses together of the births of thirteen children, the celebration of nine marriages, and the welcoming of ten grandchildren into the world. We have grieved deeply together as one of us departed this life for the glory of heaven. Time is marching on. We have stood together on the mountain top and in the valley of the shadow. We have experienced triumph, disappointment, misunderstanding, success, and failure. We have laughed and we have cried. It has not always been easy, in fact, sometimes it has been downright hard. But community is one of the greatest gifts that is given to the Children of God. He did not leave us alone. He sent us the Comforter, and He calls us into relationship not just with Himself, but with one another. 
  • The words: Entreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go....I spoke these words to a handsome young dark-headed boy-man with a winsome smile nearly 36 years ago when I vowed before God and the witnesses gathered there to love, honor, cherish, and (gasp) obey this guy. I have faltered and failed miserably in loving this good man well, but we have been partners through thick and thin in this journey called life. No one on this earth can make me as mad more quickly than he, but there is no one on earth who understands my idiosyncrasies, forgives my failures, and makes me better like he does. Most days I would marry him all over again. He has been a faithful lover and companion and partner and friend. He is the father of our four children. Through the years (and probably even yesterday), we have had some royal battles and still carry the scars from them. Yet when the day is safely done and I am tucked up beside him in our antique double bed, I know that there is no where else on this earth that I would rather be...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Birthday Wish

     Today is my birthday. I was born in a hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, on this very day 56 years ago. I was my parents' firstborn and the first long anticipated grandchild on both sides of the family. It was certainly a fortunate position to occupy. There is little doubt that I was destined to be spoiled and doted upon by the immediate and extended family except for one auspicious event, an event that would be of great import in my life. When I was but three months old, my mother became pregnant again. And almost exactly two weeks after I celebrated my first birthday, I became the big sister. Three and a half years after that, another sister followed and my family of origin was complete. Thus it is that I simply cannot remember a time when I was not a sister to someone. Sadly in my younger years, I considered this to be a trial of monumental proportions (a slight exaggeration), and I spent a significant amount of idle time daydreaming and  fantasizing about what it might been to live in a world where I was the only child (all together true). In this perfect world where I was the object of my parents' undivided attention (what was I thinking), I was the Queen of Everything and my first decree as Regent Supreme would be that nothing of any consequence would have to be shared. I even envisioned my own sisters waiting on me hand and foot, with the slavish attention and devotion I imagined Pharaoh's daughter would have had. But thankfully, this foolish daydream was only ever just that.
     Simply put, my sisters have always been there for me, a gift I no longer take lightly. I have repented as a grown woman of the countless times when I was unkind (translate mean), unwilling to share (translate selfish) and insensitive (translate callous and hardened). My sisters were much kinder, much gentler than I for I, rather than they, have the intrinsic heart of a rebel. While perhaps I outwardly appeared to conform, inwardly I was usually seething or fomenting a rebellion against whatever authority prevailed at the time (my mother's no doubt). And yet somehow amidst this self-centered life of mine with all of its attendant sins, I was blessed with the gift of sisters who loved me. It is no small miracle. As a grown woman I cringe when I think of the times that I was unworthy of their love, their affection, their good humor, and their constancy. These sisters believed in me, hoped the best for me, perhaps wrung their hands over me on more than one occasion and certainly took the punishment or rap for me. In my youth I was not totally without conscience and certainly had my moments of appreciation for their faithfulness in things great and small, but I look back at those adolescent days and am ashamed at how often I overlooked or took for granted  these two great blessings of my life.
      Thankfully, my fifty-six years of living have taught me something. I no longer view myself as a rebel, but am thankful to have been given eyes to see the grave and unfortunate error of my ways! By grace and grace alone, I am the prodigal daughter who has returned to the loving arms of the Father and continue to discover the redemption, healing and balm He has prepared for my soul. I am so very thankful that my God did not abandon me nor did my sisters.
    We are close. We share more than the DNA or genes our parents contributed. I like to think of it as an irrevocable joining of three hearts. It is not simply that our voices have the same timbre (my husband will confuse me, his wife of 36 years, for one of my sisters when I am with them) and are marked by the same accent or drawl, or the fact that we share hand gestures and odd mannerisms and are uniformly opinionated, always right, and always unbearably loud in groups of people. It is the past, the present, and the future that we share. It is the unspoken promise to never let go, never forget, and to always be there for each other, no matter what life brings.
    So on this day that I always thought would be my "own," I want to celebrate and remember and honor two people who mean so very much to me: my precious and precocious sisters. You know who you are. If I turn around quickly I see us playing in the shallow water at Cinco Bayou or fishing on the dock at dawn's light. If I squint just so, I see us jumping in the leaves at Lou Lou's or getting our playhouse ready for our cousins to arrive. There in the waning shadows I see us walking back from the library in Opp with arms full of Nancy Drew books or running full bore into the bakery for some of Daddy Dewey's donuts. We are little girls, then young girls and finally women with families and children of our own. But if the phone rings, or the warning bell sounds, I'll come running. You know I'll ask the probing questions later and offer the well-intentioned advice, because that is what I do, excuse me, what we do....but if you need me, sisters, you know I'll be there. I have and I will as long as I am able because that's what sisters do. My birthday wish for me and for you is that on this day that I was born you would finally know without a doubt that I really was glad that each of you were born, I just didn't know it at the time! Much much love.....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

I had the joy of keeping Little One this week for an entire day! I don't know when I have had so much fun. We read books, played on her playtime mat, and sang and danced together. She had tummy time (even though I am the one who really needs tummy time); I watched her sit in her little pink chair, put her in the bumbo (a new invention from my day) and then laughed when she turned herself around in her exersaucer (the modern version of the walker). She is so tiny that Daughter and Son-in-Law have had to put carpet samples under her feet so that she can stand up! I even could not resist stealing into the room to watch her a bit while she slept. Here she is -- the Little One who has overtaken my heart. By the way, those are not curlers...they are supposed to be bows in her hair!
Little One at Three Months

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Big Snow!

   In years gone by we would average at least one good snowfall each year. It was something we all anticipated, some with dread and some with joy, but there was always some level of excitement that ran like a live wire through our community when the "big snow" was predicted. It has been a seven year drought. We have had our flurries here and there with perhaps some modicum of accumulation and even though the schools might have been closed (who am I kidding...they were all closed), there was really not enough snow to generate all of the excitement. But last week, God opened up the storehouse and the snow came drifting down. It was a beautiful snowfall and even though the temperatures were very cold, we had very little humidity which meant that you could actually go out and play in the stuff. And play we did. The best part of snow is that it allows you to channel your inner child. A couple of my sons had fun teaching their father the ins and outs of backyard snowboarding, but suffice it to say that he is definitely not ready for any slopes yet. I particularly love it when the younger ones get to teach the older or better yet, the younger ones get to teach the elderly! The snow is gone now, but definitely not forgotten.

A little backyard snowboarding
A trial run sitting down

There Pappy goes with Phoebe the Westie following close behind...

Phoebe is not so sure about Pappy's next attempt

Son #2 demonstrating the finer points of technique. Pappy assures him he has it under control.
Phoebe was right to be worried.
It is tough to teach old dogs new tricks.