Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chaos or Tranquility

   I stayed up late last night. The dogs had even put themselves to bed when I finally climbed into that double bed my husband and I are still sharing after thirty-six years of marriage while the clock had already made its way into today. I am now tired, really tired, but last night I had put enough ornaments on the tree that I could turn off the other lights in the living room and just sit. So I did. I sat there and I thought about the paradox of Christmas. How we work ourselves to the bone sometimes to create something beautiful and then forget to enjoy it. How the glory of Christmas really has very little to do with the glittering trees and presents stacked under them. How a simple manger filled with hay in a humble stable with animals has somehow been corrupted by the wayward and sinful heart of man into something so commercial that it seems downright tawdry. And yet, and yet. I was talking to the Lord last night in front of my tree. Admiring the tree. Yes. Thankful for the beauty. Yes. Glad to be done with the work of setting it up. Yes. And then I heard the whisper. So soft. So still I almost missed it.
      I am here.
     "Here?" I asked. "Here in this mess that I have yet to clean  up and the beauty I am trying so hard to create? Here? This is more chaos than tranquility. Really."
      Yes, HERE.
   What could I say?  His words are for me both the mystery and the true beauty of Christmas. That He IS here. With me. Emmanuel. God with us. I could not help but get down off of the sofa and stretch myself out the floor before an awesome and Holy God who would come. And who would stay to make the way. And who though He departed, gave to us the gift of the Comforter, another treasured, complete, and perfect aspect of Himself.
     Emmanuel. The One who will never leave or forsake us. It is almost too much to believe. But that is the wonder of Christmas. That we believe. He understood that the wonder of Christmas would afford us the very opportunity to become like little children. Full of joy and giddy with the glory of it all. That the angels came to the shepherds. That the skies were filled with the sound of their magnificent singing. That Joseph stood watch over Mary with such tenderness in his heart. That Mary held in her arms the Babe who was the long expected One. That together she and Joseph watched the shepherds who had left their flocks, come one by one to kneel on the rough floor of that stable. To offer no gift but their worship. And there in the manger lay the King of Glory. This is not so hard to believe.  Suddenly I am five. I am twelve. I am forty. I am fifty-six. Yet  I am still the child. Desperately wanting to believe this and more and wanting and willing to go deeper still. I speak aloud my heart cry, "I need you to help me believe." And the whisper comes again.
     I am here.
     It is all and more than I need in this moment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Recap

   With a brand spanking new baby in the family, we decided to scale back our large extended family Thanksgiving celebration. At the final count we ended up with fourteen adults and four children, but that included Little One and Little Two and Little Two's first cousins from Birmingham. It was a joyful celebration that extended itself over two days. I love having a house full of people and for two days that's what we had. Here is a visual recap of our time together.
     This is a shot of the "big" table -- in the dining room. You can certainly tell that I am not shy about using color. I filled my mint julep cups with assorted mums in a range of fall colors; the leaves on the table are from Hobby Lobby, and thankfully, I did not drag out my china. I used my everyday dishes, Pomona by Portmeirion, and boy, am I glad I did. The clean-up was ten times easier. 
   From this angle you can see the other table in the living room. I tried to line them up for conversation purposes, and it worked fairly well. If you look closely, you will see that I have a mishmash of odd chairs. No apologies. You use what you have. Right?!
   I was inspired by some of my fellow bloggers to try something a little different on the other table. Off and on during the year, I searched for some vintage tins in which I could arrange some flowers. Sadly, I forgot to make sure that all of the tins were waterproof, and  I was unable to use my favorite purchase -- an ancient Lipton Tea tin. This venture did not turn out quite as expected, but I learned a lot. This old dog can learn new tricks.
   The day before Thanksgiving a friend dropped this adorable white pumpkin by my house. Of course, I had to use it on the serving table. If you look closely in the picture, you can tell that I have not finished cleaning up for the soon-to-be arriving company. That's one of those "As Seen on TV" BarkOff products on the table. I am a sucker for those kind of things. I guess I am doing my part to keep the economy afloat.
     This is my "keeping it real" shot. I make a huge mess when I cook or work on any project, for that matter. You think I would learn that it sometimes means I have to clean up twice. I also did not want you to think that I had one of those large fancy gourmet kitchens (I wish). This is the forty-plus year old kitchen that originally came with the house except for the granite countertop upgrade and a relatively new stainless steel hood. That's all the budget could handle. I am day-dreaming about Urban Grace and all of Erica's fabuloso design work, but somehow don't think it is in my immediate future.
      Now on to the best part -- the folks who graced our table this year. Picture on the left is our daughter-in-law's father and one of Little Two's first cousins. Isn't this little girl a doll in her mini Boden outfit?! And I just adore the grandpa name for this fabulous grandfather -- "Big." Big is short for "Big Daddy." And that cutie-patootie in the second shot is none other than Little Two. She is officially just shy of the one week mark. She was a dream baby on Thanksgiving Day, and despite the noise that surrounded her, we heard nary a peep from her.
       Below are the beautiful "B" women. Our daughter-in-law is the gorgeous girl on the far right, and the two precious little people belong to the beauty in the middle. Grandmother MiMi on the left is also a lovely lady inside and out. The Dad and I feel extraordinarily blessed to have this family connected to ours.

       This picture makes me melt inside. My Second Son holding his daughter, Little Two. Wow. It takes my breath away and reminds me afresh of the faithfulness of our God.
         And of course, no special occasion would be complete without the reminder that Little One was there. She loved the fact that Little Two's cousins were in attendance as she finally had a playmate her age. However, nothing could deter her from her usual search and destroy mission. Can you tell she was having fun?

  The aftermath...there is nothing more to be said. I am still 
working on it two days later.
 But that's also my style and my choice! No complaints here. Just a heart full of blessings
and a belly full of food! Hope yours was delightful as well!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to the Best Gift and the Best Giver!

    I learned a long time ago that I talk too much. It started with the report card in second grade that was marked with the telltale notation: Talks when she should be listening. In other years the report card had a little blank for the teacher to fill in that said  "Needs to work on:  fill-in-the-blank  and you guessed it, my blank usually said "talking." In fifth grade my teacher was Mrs. Mary Evelyn Clark whom I managed to adore despite the fact that she wrote on my grade report the words I could no longer ignore: Talks excessively. How embarrassing. And how true.
   It therefore stands to reason that my relationship with God has been governed, to a great degree, by the same struggle. I have never really had any problem talking to God. I have always been a pour out your heart and bore you with the details kind of girl. I figured that God could wade through the junk to get to the real issues a lot faster than I could, so prayer for me was a lot of prattling, some crying, some more prattling, accompanied by some more crying...I think you get the idea.
   And every year when Christmas or a friend or family member's birthday rolled around, I would get nervous. My budget was usually limited and my vision of what I would like to give was almost always limited as well. After years of purchasing things that left me feeling miserable and frustrated, I finally broke down and sent up a fully signed and endorsed (by me) petition to God regarding the whole gift-giving thing. It came in the form of a surrender. I raised the white flag, got down on my knees and said the big word, "H-E-L-P." And then I waited. That's really part of the miracle. That I waited. That I did not, once again, bombard the Holy One with details and instructions and requests. I waited. I know He heard me. He always did. The problem was that I  almost always did not take the time to hear Him. I waited some more. I remember exactly where I was when this lengthy quiet exchange occurred.  I was lying underneath the dining room table in our house in Temple Hills. It was my "prayer closet." Not a one of my four children ever thought to look for me there, so it was my private place where God and I worked a lot of things out (usually with me doing most of the talking).
    I waited a long time. I am sure (knowing me like I do) that I probably grew impatient. After what seemed like FOREVER, I heard these words spoken to my soul, "If you LISTEN, I will show you what and how to give." Wow. That doesn't sound like rocket science to some of you, but it was revelation pure and simple to me. "If you LISTEN....." What a novel idea. But I had no idea how to LISTEN to God. I had always been too busy talking.
    I could write not just a blogpost but a whole book about the process God took me through to teach me how to listen, but I have to work around to my point sooner rather than later. Thankfully, I did (despite my sin, my stubbornness, and my unquenchable desire to have my own way) learn to listen. And let me tell you, when I have actually listened and heard and obeyed (gosh, I hate that word), I can always...not sometimes, but ALWAYS tell by what happens that God was right on target. For the most part, gift-giving is so different now. Please don't think I am some holier-than-thou amazing gift-giver because God will surely humble me as soon as I write this post...and I will be the person who gives you the gift that makes you roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders in disgust, and scurry to the store to return it as soon as possible. However, I want to go on the record to say that when I listen, He is faithful. In things great and small. If I have learned anything in these fifty-six years, it is to give all the credit where credit is due.
   So Happy Thanksgiving God! You are the BEST gift and the best giver of all time! You really do give amazingly good gifts to your children. The list is so long I can't really do much except hit a few high points: You have given us the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of your Word, and the unbelievable gift of yourself. You are a giver through and through. I will unashamedly take all that you have offered. I thank you for giving me grace and mercy when I deserve the opposite. These gifts of yours are what get me through each day. Your grace is also what helps me to understand the price you had to pay to give me a life with you. A price so great I can scarcely comprehend it.  I know that you have told me that I will be your daughter forever. I am counting on it and am thankful for this incredible gift of adoption.  I also thank you for the grace, mercy, and love that were poured out on calvary. I have still got so much to learn from you. But I love listening to you almost as much as I love talking to you. And you and I know that is saying a lot. So I am here. Talking as usual. I need to go sit in your presence, not asking you for anything. Just rejoicing that I am your child and am always welcome. Just sitting. Just waiting. Exhaling. Inhaling. Thankful. Incredibly blessed. Yours. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Little Thanksgiving Secret

    When I married my husband I did not know how to cook. Yeah right, you are thinking. Women everywhere say they don't know how to cook, when what they really mean is that they are not gourmet cooks. However, although I am famous for my ability to exaggerate, I am not stretching the truth here. Scrambling eggs was beyond me. When I got home from my honeymoon my mother-in-law taught me how to cap strawberries and how to scramble and fry eggs; she gave up when we got to the omelet. To this day, regrettably, I still cannot make a decent omelet. From those humble beginnings with my mother-in-law, I sort of muddled through, and it was relatively easy in the early days. My husband ate only one vegetable (green beans), three meats (or at least at the time I thought they were three different meats) -- hamburger, steak, and pot roast, and he loved baked potatoes accompanied by iceberg lettuce wedges dripping with Thousand Island Dressing (this culinary delight of his is actually making a comeback in some fairly nice restaurants...including of all places, The Palm.)  I used my Betty Crocker Cookbook a lot along with my Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.
Somebody who really knew how to cook had given me a copy of Joy of Cooking when we married, but it was years before I mustered up the courage to open that tome (thankfully, later Irma and I became good friends!) And I usually called my mother when I got stuck. But I was always something of a rebel (that's what kept me out of the kitchen in the first place), so at some point I began to be one of those cooks who never really follows the recipe. There have been occasions when it has gotten me in some serious trouble, but most of the time I am happiest when experimenting with a recipe and making it my my own.
     Both my mother and my mother-in-law are the complete opposite. They follow the directions to the "T." Not me. A few years back when it was determined that I would begin to host my mother-in-law and my husband's family for Thanksgiving dinner, I started to sweat. And it was only August. I wasn't worried about the turkey despite the nightmare stories I had heard from my friends.I even solved the how-to-thaw-a-giant-frozen-turkey when you have one relatively small refrigerator by simply buying FRESH turkeys! Sure these fresh turkeys cost more, but they saved me a lot in headaches and freezer/refrigerator space. Again, I digress. So the turkey wasn't the issue. Neither were the green beans, the sweet potatoes, the shrimp appetizer, and the various and sundry sides that accompany our traditional Thanksgiving meal. What I was sweating was the GRAVY. I have never been able to make good gravy. And my mother-in-law, bless her soul, was a gravy pro. She would even brown her flour ahead of time so that the color of the gravy would be perfect. And it always was. My gravy on the other hand was never dark enough in color and no matter how gradually I added the flour, I always had some clumps of that yucky white stuff that I was trying to whisk out or spoon out at the last minute. So I knew that if something did not materialize in the gravy department, come November, I would have a potential disaster on my hands.
      Enter my Thanksgiving secret which became my Thanksgiving solution. No, I did not buy the McCormick package of gravy mix, or the jar of stuff that you sometimes see in the grocery store. I went the Cadillac route and broke down and bought the Williams-Sonoma Turkey Gravy Base. It was worth every penny.
 The stuff is not cheap. In fact two jars will set you back about twenty dollars. Twenty bucks for turkey gravy? You betcha. That first year I hosted, I held my breath when my mother-in-law sidled over to the stove, put a spoon of "my" gravy in her mouth, and took her first taste. I could hardly believe my eyes. She pursed her lady-like lips and pronounced it "perfect." That was high praise from one of the finest old-fashioned Southern cooks around. I grinned. The evidence of my crime was already disposed of and carefully hidden in the bottom of the garbage can. There was no one or nothing to give me away. I had even gussied up the base by adding rich cream, plenty of my own turkey drippings, and a tablespoon or two or three of sherry. Let me tell you, that gravy had depth. If only I could have kept my mouth shut, no one would have ever known. But I have never been any good at keeping secrets.
   So if you are worried about making the gravy or are just too lazy to stand there and stir and thicken and stir some more, all at the very last minute, I suggest you march right out and buy yourself some Willliams-Sonoma Turkey Gravy Base as soon as you can. It is a seasonal item. Don't ask me why, but they only stock it at Thanksgiving. I guess folks in other parts of the US don't eat turkey at Christmas which is why I have to buy four jars instead of two. I know. I know. Forty bucks on gravy. But trust me on this one, you cannot make it any better. Or at least I never could.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving Prayer

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
                                                         Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

These are a few of the things for which I am so very thankful today:
    My crazy family in their extra-terrestrial blue Snuggies from Christmas last year; it is a family tradition to receive some type of sleepwear on Christmas Eve so that Santa and his Elves can easily recognize to whom they are leaving the gifts. Obviously, I went over the top with this one. I could not believe how much they embraced it; oh, and please note the free booklights that came with the Snuggies illuminating some of the faces. Finally, don't tell anyone, but Little One is wearing a dog snuggie -- alas, they don't make them small enough for infants!
The newest family member...Little Two!
My husband of thirty-six years loving on Little One
My Momma (she's the one in the middle)
My sisters, my cousins, and my dear grandmother, LouLou,
who went to heaven one year ago today...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Shameless Promotion

   If you are looking for a wedding photographer, someone to do a tasteful maternity shoot, or want to record some of those special milestones for your child or family, you need look no further. Holly Everett aka is your answer. Her photographic work is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. If you don't believe me, check out her website and then click over to her blog. Here's some additional proof in case you need any:

     For those of you who have asked, the rocking chair in Little One's nursery is the very one in which I rocked all four of my babies. The Husband and I inherited it from an elderly aunt of his in the early years of our marriage, before we had any children. It has a wonderful, comforting old creak. I refinished it myself and had it reupholstered with a beautiful vintage inspired fabric that I found at the wonderful Textile Fabrics here in Nashvegas. If you live nearby and you sew, you know this store. The dress that Little One is wearing in this shoot is one that I smocked and put together for The Daughter twenty-eight years ago. It's officially a "hand-me-down!"
 All photos are from

Saturday, November 20, 2010

And She's Here

     Son Number Two and his beautiful wife (Isn't She Lovely) are the oh so proud parents of Little Two who made her debut at 12:30 am on November 19, 2010. It was love at first sight for all of us. She has her mother's big dark eyes and a head full of dark hair. From henceforth Little Two will be our "Thanksgiving" baby since her birth lies so close to this favorite holiday of mine. Our hearts are overflowing with joy and  gratitude for this special bundle of love. Once again I stand in awe of the faithfulness of God. To be able to hold the child of your child is to join yourself to the mystery of the ages. It brings to mind that scripture in Psalm 145: 4 "One generation shall praise your works to the next; they will tell of your mighty deeds."
    This son of mine has always wanted to be a Daddy. He is one of the most competitive individuals I know and does not shrink from a challenge of any sort on the athletic playing field. He is the smallest of the sons (the other two top 6'4" while Son Number Two is a commendable 6') but that has never stood in his way. His exploits in athletics are near legendary even in our family of athletes: All-State and All-City in football, All-Mid-State in Basketball where he held the scoring record for our school (48 pts) for a number of years, and All-State and All-City in Baseball. Tough used to be his middle name. But you put a baby or a child near this son and he turns into a puddle. He instantly becomes mush. He will even fight me, the Baby Whisperer, for the right to hold a baby. He can burp a recalcitrant infant with the best and can rock and soothe like a champion. He is the favorite "Unky" on the other side of the family where his niece continually begs him to drive to her house in another state for a playdate.
Little Two holding tightly to her Daddy's hand.
     As I watched him change his daughter's diaper in the hospital yesterday, I thought to myself that Little Two is one blessed child. She has two parents who will share the duties, who will love and encourage her, and who will take the time to teach her that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Her mommy and daddy are a team. I raised my own children in a more traditional era, but I was thankful to have a husband who did not shirk from many of the more mundane duties of child-rearing. It helped me keep my sanity during the survival years when I had three children under four years of age. I know that there are many wonderful parents who do not have this same benefit, this same blessing, and it makes childrearing doubly hard.
    The Number Two Son and the Lovely Daughter-in-Law are certainly in for their share of sleepless nights, some bone-wearying and heart-wearying challenges and some days when they will be so tired that they can barely put one foot in front of another. But when it is all said and done, there are few joys in life greater than the gift of parenthood. Being a parent is the event in my life that I credit with opening a door of understanding into the heart of God, and I am confident the same will happen for these two.
    Little Two, you have an incredible gift in the two parents God has chosen for you. Be patient with them as they learn how best to love you and trust that they mean well for you no matter how many mistakes they make. You will always be their first-born child, and from you they will learn the depth of the life-changing love that a child brings to the heart of a parent. Because of you, Little Two, life will never be the same. Instead of a couple, you have made your parents part of a wonderful thing...a family.
Day One in the life of Little Two

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Old Friend, Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, I told him, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again"
Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran)

Dear Davis Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, TN:
  I felt that the quote from Azar Nafisi was a particularly appropriate way to open my letter to you because I first caught a glimpse of Nafisi's book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, gracing your shelves on one of the run-through-quickly visits that I occasionally allow myself. But rest assured, I have also had lingering and prolonged visits with you. These were the times when I stopped to smell the proverbial roses. Times when the books wooed me and called to me with their beautiful haunting voices. One of my favorite pastimes has always been to peruse the staff picks. I even contributed a few comments of my own back in the day when they used to ask customers to write down on little white cards exactly what they thought about specific books. I fondly remember the lady who used to work at Mills Bookstore calling out hello because she remembered me from another life and another bookstore; when my children were small, it was she who introduced me to the Tomie dePaola books. I also used to visit the Customer Service Department just to find out what Roger Bishop was reading and whom he was recommending at the time. I had known him from my undergraduate days at Vanderbilt when he had been kind enough to help a newly married girl on a very limited budget find the best used books to buy.
    Count me among the faithful because I followed you from one home to the next, although I confess I grumbled about it. I still miss the old home with the grand staircase and the great smell of food that wafted down below from the cafe upstairs. I bet I am not the only one who misses that staircase. I think that every good bookstore should have a grand staircase, and an upstairs corner set aside just for little people. And there should always be a few dogeared books allowed in the children's section. Books that have already been loved a little too much; it's a surefire way way to spot a winner. I remember unashamedly crying upstairs on more than one occasion when I turned the pages of a lovely picture book like the ones that Thomas Locker had painted or Tasha Tudor had illustrated.
    Oh, and the cards. How could I forget? When my friends and I were raising our children and our limited budgets did not allow us to eat lunch out on our Mother's Day Out, we would meet at Davis-Kidd and read the funny cards aloud to one another after eating our sandwiches in the park or the car. It never failed to lift our spirits, and it was surely a cheap good time. I have also laughed so hard that I almost didn't make it to that small bathroom of yours in the old place.
   The Husband will agree that through the years I have parted with far too much of my money in support of you;  but I have never begrudged you the impulsive purchases that I have made under the heady influence of good literature. I am an inveterate follower of Desiderius Erasmus who supposedly said, "When I get a little money, I buy BOOKS; if any is left I buy food and clothes." I would give up almost anything save my children and my dogs for the sake of a great book. Literature has changed me. From the Good Book to my ever-evolving top 100 (see previous post here), books are like treasures to me. I can lose myself inside of them, and I can also find myself there as well. A good book is a great escape or a powerful herald of truth and reality. And the very best books are both.
   I thank you for introducing me to several folks who through the years have become my friends. People like Leif Enger (Peace Like a River), David Wroblewski (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle), Ernest Gaines, Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, and Ann Patchett. It was in your company that I also renewed old ties with former acquaintances who had gathered dust on the shelf of my mind: Dostoevsky, Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, and Ayn Rand, to name a few.
   To say that I am sorry that you will be leaving Nashville is an understatement. Somehow it seems terribly wrong. I am continuing to hope against hope that some alternative solution can be found. When I talked to the folks at your parent company, Joseph-Beth, they seemed almost as sad as I was. I asked the nice lady who talked through the issues with me, "What if I totally boycott Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders for the rest of my life? Would that work?" In the end she told me that the decision was in the hands of the court, and then she said an odd thing. She asked me if I would pray. Good Southern Christian girl that I am, I told her without hesitation, "Of course I will pray." Her voice caught with emotion, and so did mine. And so, I am praying. It seems kind of ironic or odd amidst everything else that is going on in the world to be praying for a bookstore not to close. But I happen to think that all prayers matter, just like all things matter to God. If the woman who doesn't know me from Adam asked a woman on the phone she has never met or talked to before to pray, you can betcha that I am gonna do just that. Who knows what might happen if we all pray. Why don't you join the hope of saving a place where readers and writers and musicians of all ages, shapes, and sizes, along with children and people of any age who are already lovers or are just learning to love books have found for themselves a safe and welcoming haven, a home of sorts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pleasantries on the Porch

     As I blew the leaves off the porch and began to get the fireplace ready for a cracklin' good fire, I thought about all of the meals we had enjoyed on the porch this summer. It's far too cold out there now to do much more than pull up your chair as close to the fire as you possibly can, wrap yourself warmly in a vintage quilt, and take careful sips of your steaming hot cocoa. Even then, you can only take it so long before you head back inside!
     But before the cold air blew in, we dined al fresco on more than a few occasions. I trust you don't too get bored with the sunflower theme because that was all I seemed to be able to do...over and over again!
I had my Bible Study girls over in June for a casual country supper
Another time I had this table tucked
in the corner for a younger guest!
      On this occasion, we had fourteen for dinner so I set up another table. Our chairs never match, and our glasses seldom do either. But there is always plenty of food and lots of laughter and love to go around.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


     A friend of mine, Marjie Aldom Smith, took this compelling photograph. I can't stop looking at it, and more importantly, I can't stop thinking about it.
     The Dad and I have been running a hospital around here. A particularly nasty stomach virus has been making the rounds. We even had to take The Daughter to the emergency room one night at 3am for IV fluids while her husband was out of town on a business trip. After I drove her and the Little One back home yesterday, I ran over to the Eldest Son's home, loaded him up on groceries (he has the virus, as well), cleaned his kitchen, fixed him some rice, and then headed to the pharmacy back on my side of town because Son Number Three was coming in from out of town earlier than expected guessed it, he, too, has come down with the virus. Rather than returning to his apartment, he is at our house for a little R&R. I am weary to the bone, but thankfully sleeping great when I manage to fall into a bed somewhere.
     I have been thinking about the meaning of sacrifice because that's what the picture above is all about. Sacrifice. There isn't a mother alive who doesn't understand putting the needs of her children above her own needs, and being a mother is a job from which we never retire. But who am I kidding. That is sacrifice with a little "s." While the picture above is Sacrifice. I am so thankful that words like selfishness or retirement or self-serving are simply not in God's lexicon. And to boot, He never sleeps, never slumbers. Never forsakes or abandons those He loves. Never turns a blind eye or a deaf ear. All of which I wanted to do the past few days.
    But the picture. The picture. It is in camping out in my head, and it brings me up short. The level of sacrifice it represents, while so very faithful to reveal my selfishness, my sin, and my inability in the end to do nothing but serve my own ends, also speaks volumes to me of the incomprehensible Love that compelled the One to take it up. Despite our unworthiness, Love for you and for me. So today I am especially thankful for the Sacrifice and for the Grace and the Mercy that accompany this Cross. Each and all were once and for all poured out for you and for me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Isn't She Lovely

    She is days away from giving birth, and there is usually not another time in a woman's life when she feels so un-lovely, so distorted, or so unfamiliar with the image of herself that she sees reflected in the mirror. But she is beautiful. I can remember the first time I met her just over 10 years ago. She was a freshman at Auburn and had just begun dating our son who was a junior at the time. The Dad and I had traveled to Auburn for a football weekend. This son had dated a number of girls in the same sorority, and we kidded him that this girl would probably hear word of this, and run for the nearest exit. But she didn't. She found something special in him, and he in her. They dated for six years before they married. I am grateful that she gave him time to grow up, time to settle down, and time to realize that she was a prize and the one with whom he wanted to spend a lifetime.
    She fits in our family like a glove. We can be ourselves with her, and that is a gift that I do not take lightly. I like to think that she has seen us at our best, 'cause there is absolutely no doubt she has seen us at our worst. She and our daughter share the same name so it seemed destined from the beginning that she would be part of us. She and The Second Son have made a beautiful home. They are involved in a great church and have solid friends and a loving and giving community. She is so many things that I am not. She has a fashion sense and style that are impeccable. She balances her career and her many interests with ease and aplomb and is the perfect blend of organized and creative. She will be a terrific mother. Little Two is expected to be here within a week, and soon we will all be gaga over this new little granddaughter. Before the newest little star rises on the horizon, I wanted to take the time to tell this daughter-in-law how very thankful I am for her. She is a Godly woman, a thoughtful and loving wife, a loyal and treasured friend, and a person The Dad and I are honored to have as an integral part of our family. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside...and that is no small thing! Just to prove it, take a look at these pictures of this breathtakingly beautiful girl.


Put Bond of Brothers on your Christmas List!

     Attached is the clip from Ann Curry's Today show interview with our friend, Wes Yoder, author of Bond of Brothers. An added treat is that you will get to see three pictures of Wes with his daughter Jenny at her wedding. Other than my daughter, Jenny was one of the most beautiful and radiant brides I have ever seen. Jenny and The Daughter were literally raised with one another and served as the Maid and the Matron of Honor at one another's weddings. We have shared a lifetime with the Yoder family, and I love them like I love my own family. Our sons are like a brother to their son, and their daughter is like a sister to The Daughter. When Jenny married, I could hardly get through the wedding ceremony -- I was joyfully crying as though I were the Mother-of-the-Bride!
    I cannot say enough how much I believe this to be an important book for men. I encourage you to buy the book as a gift for the men in your life as well as for the women you know who are in relationships with men.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming Out about Oprah

   I have a confession to make. I like Oprah. I know. I know. Trust me, I know. I gave up daytime television many many years ago because it took me a long time to recover from my high school addiction to Days aka Days of our Lives. When I finally quit watching that particular soap thirty-some years ago, it was stupefying how long I was able to keep up with it simply by reading the weekly summary in the Sunday newspaper. Thus, I was justifiably leery of becoming too fond of any television show. I didn't want anything to take over my life (and she didn't!)
  In fact during the eighteen years I worked full-time, I rarely got home in time to watch Oprah's show but summers were different. I would catch her here and there so I knew about her dogs, her relationship with Stedman, her best-friend Gayle, her love for Michael Jackson, and more. I actually think I was "there" when Tom Cruise had that insane sofa jumping fit over Katie. Whew! That one wore me out and permanently cured me of my "crush" on Tom. (Thank you, Oprah.)
   When my husband and I could finally get the cable package that allowed us to DVR Oprah's show, I was not as interested as I had once been. I had heard all of the talk that her ratings were sliding, and the previews of her daily shows made it seem that she had degenerated into one of those "sensational" tabloid headline-grabbing talkshow hosts I so despise. Thus, I largely ignored her and only tuned in occasionally. But then....then Oprah announced that she was retiring and the once blurry picture came into sharp focus.
   As one of my friends said today, "I did not know how much I liked Oprah until she decided to leave us." Can I hear an amen?! I guess I thought that she would always be there. Not. So suddenly, she is like a rare vintage wine that tastes so good because you know that you are not gonna get to taste it again. Ever.
   With apologies to another talk show host whom I would not be sorry to see go -- here are my Top Ten Reasons Why I Will Miss Oprah Winfrey.
     10. The woman has a serious shoe fetish. I have never seen so many different shoes on one woman in my life. I learned about shoes just trying to figure out what she had on her feet.
       9.  The woman has tried every diet under the sun...and so have I. In the end, I like to think that she is embracing herself as she is, 'cause I, for one, am happy that she is not one of those slinky svelte Hollywood types that are literally starving themselves to death. I think Oprah likes to eat and so do I. And it shows. On both of us.
      8.  She is loyal. I am from the town where she made her television debut and where her father lives. She does not dish on her family, and she and her friend Gayle have hung together for many many years. I would not want to mess with Oprah if I messed with one of her friends. I know who would win. And it wouldn't be me.
     7. She has shared the wealth. I really have no idea what she is like on a personal level, but I used to love to watch her give-away shows, and who out there won't confess to shopping for at least one of her favorites. I know that she probably doesn't do the legwork, but just consider how many individuals and companies have benefited from her generosity.
     6. She has helped launch a few careers. I first met Dr. Phil, then Dr. Oz, and even Rachael Ray on none other than Oprah's show.
     5. She got everybody reading again. Book snob that I am, I assiduously avoided buying Oprah's Book Club choices for a while because I didn't want to jump on another Oprah bandwagon (I had already been on a few), but when she put one of my all-time favorite books on the reading list, I broke my vow and started looking at her online list before I picked up a new book. I can thank her for steering me to some fine literature. I also like to count the people I see reading books in airports or public places that are adorned with that tell-tale Oprah Book Club sticker.
     4. She is not afraid of the race issue. She has earned my respect and admiration on this issue for

Oprah in the The Color Purple
numerous reasons, not the least of which is the support that she has lent to films, productions, actors, and authors who have had messages that needed to be heard.
     3.  She does not run from trouble, nor does she shrink from the difficult. I think her show last week with the 200 abused and molested men was one of the most powerful shows EVER SEEN on television. I also believe her series on female body image that included plastic surgery and women who were addicted to it should be required viewing material for every teenage girl in America.
     2. She is going out with style, and she knows when to leave. Think how many talkshow hosts have overstayed their welcome, and we have been witness to their embarrassing attempts to resurrect a sinking ship. Folks, I think that this is incredibly hard to do, and I admire Oprah for knowing when to take that final bow.
    1. She has overcame hardship, failed relationships, her own story of abuse and much more to become a woman of substance. I am not talking about money or power or political influence here, I am talking about a woman who made me think, made me feel, and made me uncomfortable with myself at times. In my book, that is what a woman of substance does...she rattles you from time to time and forces you to confront things about yourself and others that you would probably like to ignore.
   For these ten things and probably a few more, I say thanks Oprah. I'll be tuning in these next few months and wishing that I had had that chance to sit in your audience just once!
     All photos except the shoes are from Oprah's own website.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Posted by PicasaLittle One came to play one day last week, and she and the Granddog, Wilson, had a great time exploring the contents of her toy basket. Wilson had a hard time, however, understanding why Honey let Little One chew on the puzzle pieces, but would not let him. Such is life! When the grandchildren arrive, the four-footed creatures are once again forced to become dogs.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

     I am presently curled upon the sofa READING: Coast: A Photographic Tour of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The pictures are breathtaking. I so want to be there.

This beautiful treasure of a book is making me DAYDREAM about a specific place from my past. As a child, I lived on Highgate Road in a small village called Barnstaple in Devonshire. I would love to go back and see if that house exists. Here is a photo of my sister and me, dressed like proper little English girls, sitting on the front steps of that very house on Highgate Road. My sister's the one hamming it up for the camera, while I am assuming my best little prim and proper pose. In personality and in life, we actually are the opposite, I am always acting up, and she is usually doing the right thing.
I fondly remember that our neighborhood playmates were named Peter and Hilary, and our nanny was Millicent, a graduate of the vaunted St. Christopher's, how terribly British can you get?! Quite a stretch for two little Southern girls!

And even though I am tucked up nicely on my sofa in the den being very lazy, I am nonetheless
WEARING my Tom's. I do love them. So comfy. Almost like house shoes. I did make the mistake of wearing them to the Flea Market a couple of weeks ago, and I quickly found out that they do not make a suitable walking shoe. For someone of my age, there is simply not enough support. I paid for the pleasure the next day with tired and aching feet!
Burlap Toms
 My Tom's are ACCESSORIZED with  my Lee Skinny Jean pants. I possibly love these more than my Tom's, which is saying a lot. I would have never thought that I could find jeans that fit me, but The Daughter basically gave me an ultimatum. The old outdated jeans had to go. She carefully described exactly what I needed to buy, and when I saw someone wearing those very jeans, I accosted them to find out where they had purchased them. Imagine my surprise that they were not the cost-you-an-arm-and-a-leg jeans like some of my friends have, but had come from the neighborhood Kohl's. I ran there as fast as I could, and with my coupon in hand, these jeans set me back a whopping $19.95. Yep. That's right. Under twenty bucks, and I live in them -- just ask my kids!

I also found a way to EAT two of my comfort foods today: bacon and grits. The Husband had a tummy virus over the weekend so he was not up for gourmet fare, just something soothing like scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, slow-cooked grits, and toasted pumpkin bread. I skipped the eggs and ate a large bowl of those grits topped with a pat of butter (okay, two pats of butter) and crumbled bacon. Yum. Yum.

So there you have it. My day. Well sorta. Oh, and I decided just about 10:00 to start this BLOG post. Yawn. Yawn.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Giving Thanks

     Tonight I am giving thanks for an extra hour of sleep! The trade-off of course is that this is the time of year  when the days are growing shorter which means a little less daylight every day. Today was a sunny day, sunny but cold. After lots of gray days here in Nashvegas, I am having a sunshine celebration!
courtesy of adventuresofabettycrockerwannabe
Gosh I wish I could take pics like this, sure am glad
somebody else shared it on fotosearch!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hearing the Voice of the One

    I don't know if you are like me, but I walk outside in the explosion of color that is fall in Tennessee, and I am immediately filled with wonder. Sometimes I raise my hands in thanksgiving and give a hallelujah shout to the heavens to thank the Creator of such majesty. At other times, I find the tears slipping unbidden down my face when I linger in the twilight to watch the stars making their evening debut one by one until the whole sky is filled with the glory of them. Mostly though, I just long to hear His voice, and think of the day when I will have a face-to-face conversation with the One who set the stars in the heavens and who made those leaves turn red gold and golden and every hue in between. There is so much to ask Him, so much to understand. And He has all the time in the world.
   But in the in-between, which is where I live now, I look for the glimpses of Him, the intimations of immortality that lie all about us. I have two such whispers and glimpses to share with you. The first is a painting by an artist whose work I first encountered in another blog that I regularly read. When I visited the artist's website, I was struck by the emotion her work evoked in me. I can paint a picture with words, yet to pick up a brush and create a work of great beauty is a skill beyond comprehension.  Yet art, like music readily touches my soul. So here is the first of my gifts to you today:
The Burning Bush by Mary Padgelek
    The second offering is a dream that my cousin shared with me when someone I dearly love was walking through a very difficult time. I had requested prayer from this woman of God who also happens to be my cousin and sister-in-Christ, and the Lord was gracious to send her the dream. When she passed it along to me it felt as if I were having that longed-for conversation with the Lord. It brought peace to my heart and encouraged me in the journey.  I have shared this dream with several women, many of whom have asked me for a copy, and after prayer, I felt this was something so powerful, so beautiful, and so true that it begged to be made available to any who needed the encouragement and peace it might bring. So here is my second love offering:
In my dream, I saw a woman (I could not see her face) who was held captive in a dark room. She was naked and alone -- full of despair. In response to her cries for help, a team of women entered the room with flashlights, and the first priority was to find her clothing. It was actually buried in the dirt floor of the room, and when we pulled it out, we found it was the beautiful garment of royalty. We were astounded to realize, "She's not just anybody, she is royalty!" There were even brilliant jewels of great value with her clothes -- and she was transformed as we helped her get dressed.
Then we discussed the need to find the keys that would give access to all the things she needed - peace and restored health for starters. As we called upon Jesus for help in finding the keys, He walked into the room. He said "I AM the Master Key. I AM the Passkey to every door on earth. I have knowledge of what is behind every door and though I can give you access to all, all doors will not profit you. Look to me before requesting entrance to any door and I will advise you whether this door is for you."

  My cousin closed her note with these words: I woke up from this dream knowing I was to write it all out and send it to you. The one for whom we are praying is so beautiful, highly favored, and well-loved! I believe with all my heart that the plan of God is for her to be made every whit whole. Then she will help dress others in their proper clothing and lead them out of the darkness of despair.

 May your heart be encouraged this day...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Random Ruminations

     My family will attest to the fact that I have been on strike in the kitchen off and on for the past year. After thirty-five years of fairly consistent meal preparation, I decided to take some time off. The Dad was mostly on board so it has thankfully not been cause celebre for a mid-life marriage crisis. However, I did find time this week to make some homemade pumpkin bread, and I used my niece's recipe that she featured on her blog, WTFrills. You can find the easy but oh-so-good recipe here. It was so delicious that I had to hide two loaves so that I would be able to serve them to my Bible Study girls!

        And who doesn't need a little bit of life philosophy courtesy of the Rolling Stones!

      Finally, I close with a picture of four men who have been friends for thirty plus years: trust me when I say that they are truly a Bond of Brothers, especially when you consider what they have walked through with wives who have been friends even longer than they have. Boy, do they have some stories to tell, but thankfully nobody seems to be in the blackmailing business -- although one of them is a prankster extraordinaire (See if you can guess which one?! He's the one who is not looking at the camera, of course!) Together we have done life: the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly and the glorious!  I love all four of them, but must confess to having a special love, admiration, affection, and respect for number three from the left. He's been mine to have and to hold for these many years!