Sunday, December 25, 2011

And Love Came Down

 A Christmas Poem by Christina Rosetti (written 1872, later set to music)

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Treasured Nativity...Once Again

     For the first twenty-five years that my husband and I were married, I bought something reminiscent of the nativity as a part of our Christmas gift to one another. Thus it is that our home at Christmas is filled with creches. When Christmas is over, I don't even put them all away. Some of them remain in place throughout the year as a perpetual reminder of the "Gift" they represent. As you might surmise, these creches come in all shapes and sizes. Some are ornaments that hang upon the tree; others are fashioned of wood, ceramic, or clay, and one set is made entirely of is perfect for little hands to hold and to move and to place just so over and over again. The other day Little One ran immediately to this nativity set and alternately carried the cow, the camel and the wise men around for long periods of time. After she left, I continued to find the pieces hidden away in the most unusual places. 
Little One's favorite creche

    However, my favorite of all the creches is one that unless you know the story is unlikely to draw your attention. Despite is supposed lack of beauty, this particular creche takes center stage in our home and is there to greet you when you open the door to our house; it sits on the entry hall table. It has a base made by one of my children of unfired (basically dried) clay; three little figures made by another of my children (there were once four figures, but sadly, Joseph has completely disintegrated), a banner hand-lettered by yet another child, and finally, a tiny clay plaque made by yet another. In short, it represents the collective efforts of all four of our offspring, but it was not planned to be that way -- it simply happened. 
         The banner is twenty-three years old. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for the "Goly to God in the highest..." Goly was a first grader's way of writing "Glory," but I am sure that God understood exactly what this child of mine was trying to say. Another child lovingly crafted the base which originally was shaped more like a cave and had an overhanging top that has long since broken off. It holds the three figures (there were once four). There is  Mary; she is the figure on the right bending over the tiny figure resting on a bed of clay. It is Baby Jesus but his head is no longer attached to his body and must be carefully positioned or it will roll off on its own. To the left of Jesus and Mary is a lion. When the son who made the figures came home with this nativity with the lion, I had the audacity to ask him, "A lion?" You should learn early never to ask children questions like this, unless you want to immediately be put in your place. I will never forget that he looked at me with something akin to disdain as he said, "Of course, Mommy, the lion goes with the lamb." And so it does. I cried. He patted me. The Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God...they go together, do they not, and indeed, are they not one and the same? Yes, some of the most profound truths come out of the mouth of babes. 
     The final complement to this treasured creche is the little clay plaque in the back: you can barely read it, but in case you can't, I'll tell you: It says, "Jesus I Love You." It was originally supposed to be a cross, an Easter decoration, but when this child brought it home he told me,"I couldn't do the cross, Mommy, I wrote Jesus a letter instead. I thought He might like it better than the cross. I wanted to tell Him thank you." I cried again. He said, "I want it to go with the manger." It was springtime so I asked again, "Do you want me to put it with the Easter things?"  He shook his head firmly. "No, this cross is a letter, and it goes with the manger." 
       How could it be that a child understood something so deep, so powerful, so profound?  How could he grasp at the age of five, the very essence of the cross? How could he know that the cross, the terrible, wondrous cross, is also a letter, an I-love-you letter from a Holy God to His beloved, yet sinful people. 
       So you see perhaps why this tiny fragile nativity holds a place so dear to this mother's heart. Each child of mine made his or her contribution, unplanned unscripted over the course of many years to make it complete. There is a Banner of Love (Goly to God...). A little cave to cradle the Holy Family. A lion to stand guard and to lie down with the lamb.  And finally, a love letter that would and should have been a cross, except that a little boy wanted so much to write this letter to say thank you to Jesus for the cross. And the child knew intuitively that this was no ordinary baby, this was a baby born to die to save us from our sins. Christmas irrevocably linked to Easter. It is no accident that we must become as little children, is it? And once again, I cry, "Lord help my unbelief. Help each of us to believe with the wonder and the certain faith of a child."

    It is my Advent song this year...Merry Christmas!

from the archives

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

David's Daughter

We have gathered from near and far to pay final tribute to a much loved aunt. Ours is a family where the generations glide over one another in such a way that you cannot tell where one begins and another ends. It is hard to explain to strangers, but it feels very right to us. Once again the warp and woof of life have become integrated in such a way as to illuminate the tapestry of family in the midst of shared grief and celebration.

Out of necessity, weddings and funerals have become the means for our extended family to gather.  They serve to draw us close to one another. I rejoice to find that laughter and tears once again flow seamlessly in the sparkling gem of the house at 403 Park Avenue that my aunt lovingly restored and brought back to life. It has been the family home for more than seventy years, where it now faithfully bears witness to the passing of the generations.

Earlier, at the visitation I had taken my place in the receiving line alongside my eldest aunt.  I, who left home for college at 18 with a restless searching heart, have come home to roost in this place of honor at my aunt’s side. I am the oldest of three sisters. We stand in a row: Kathy, Cindy, Julie. Our names comprise a litany of remembrance in a small town that knows our history as well as we know it ourselves. In our lives away from this place we are wives, mothers, educators, volunteers, denizens of our communities and more.

But today we are David’s daughters. We shake hands, hug necks, and repeat the words over and over again.  I am known once again by my maiden name. We hear stories. At one point I turn to my sisters and say, “I am past middle age and I have never really thought of myself as simply David’s daughter. I have never said these words so many times before today.” My baby sister who was four when our father died marvels that she can never ever remember introducing herself this way. I start to cry. There is something treasured about being known as David’s daughter.

I look at the faces of my sisters and the soul hole gapes open for a second. Suddenly, I am bereft once again. This older woman is still a fatherless daughter even now. I wait for the old wave of pain. It eludes me and suddenly something deep inside shifts.  The carapace over my soul softens. The joy rises up unbidden in my heart and breaks forth over the wall of the dam to flood my soul. I can scarcely breathe. All is still inside of me, waiting.

I stretch forth my hand to take the hand of the elderly man standing in the line before me. I look him in the eye and say again, “I am David’s eldest daughter.” His eyes twinkle as they meet mine. “I know,” he whispers. “I see the Scofield in your face.”

I lie abed this morning in my Momma’s house and replay the hours of yesterday. I recall the words that were spoken at the funeral by those that I love. I smile at some of the things I learned about my aunt. I ponder the beautiful words of an old hymn, unfamiliar to me. 

I talk quietly to God. I marvel that as I whisper aloud the words, “David’s daughter,” the familiar ache is no longer patently obvious. Could it be that the death and the hole and the scar that have shaped my life are finally healed? Could it truly be? Until the tears slide down my face to wet the pillow, I am completely unaware that I am weeping.

God works in mysterious ways. I have traveled 400 miles to bury a loved one only to find that my soul has taken the longed-for journey of a lifetime. I look into the place of familiar sorrow and at long last find only a glorious peace rising up to meet me. The elongated shadow of the valley of death is no longer falling over me, holding me in its thrall.  

I question myself once more, “Could this be real?”

The scripture immediately leaps to mind: “He whom the Son has set free is free indeed.” Suddenly I am walking, no, running in this newfound freedom. 

Why today? Why now?

I close the door to my skeptical self and choose rest. I whisper, “Baruch Hashem Adonai.” There are no more words. The most profound sense of awe and gratitude holds me fast.

I know it to be the kiss of God's grace.

My father, David

Monday, December 12, 2011

Revisiting an Advent Prayer

 I have read the story hundreds of times. It never grows old. I have committed it to memory where it lingers and provides renewal and refreshment to my heart at the most opportune of times. Sometimes the words rise unbidden to the forefront of my mind where they replay like a poem or song that makes my heart want to sing...

       "And it came to pass in those days...that Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David..."

You know the rest of the story as well as I do. You know the cadence of the words and the inherent poetry and beauty of the language itself and the special way that the story tells us at once so very much and so very little of what really happened that night.

I learned something new about the story today. Our pastor was talking about the shepherds, and he likened their social status at that time to that of the gypsy, the migrant worker, the undocumented immigrant, or the homeless. The shepherds existed within Jewish society as a people without a voice. They had no legal status whatsoever and were considered so unreliable that they were forbidden by law to give testimony in court. They were never allowed to worship at the Temple because their occupation rendered them ceremonially unclean. In the pecking order of the Jews, they were the lowest of the low. In fact, they did not count, and they did not have to participate in the required census. They were quintessential nobodies.

Now here comes the irony.

The first witnesses, the first to receive the message, the first to come and worship, the first to spread the Good News, the first to "see" the Messiah were the very least of all in the kingdom of heaven.

Think about it.

Christ brought a revolutionary gospel, a revolutionary upheaval to the old order, and He taught us a revolutionary way to love and to live.

And he began with the nobodies. He did not begin with those in authority: the kings or the priests or the rulers. He did not seek out the rich and the powerful. He did not even seek the Wise Men. They sought Him.

I am just beginning to work all of this through in my head...and it is leading me to ask myself who and what do I worship when I am not engaging my head and my heart with the Lord? What draws my heart? What occupies my thinking? What else besides the gospel captivates me?

I am afraid it is not very pretty. I am afraid it is petty and selfish. I know the things that charm me most when my heart is not immersed in the gospel are things that are really of little value at all.

I so want to be a shepherd. I so want to be willing to leave it all in the field of my life and say to my family and those with whom I am in community ..."Let us now go even unto Bethlehem,and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us."

I want to kneel on that rough and filthy floor and offer to Him all that I am and all that I have. I want Christmas made new in my heart.

This is my Advent prayer.

from the archives

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Booklovers Haven

    We're Open for Business
   What? A city that calls itself the "Athens of the South" has no independent bookstore? You have got to be kidding! Thankfully, Parnassus has changed all that...
    With the demise of Davis-Kidd, Nashvillians had been woefully missing what I like to call a "browsing" bookstore, and we all know a city of our size simply must have one. Although we are not totally bereft (we do have the delightful purveyor of used books, Bookman/Bookwoman down in Hillsboro Village, Rhino Booksellers near Lipscomb and the warehouse-like McKay's off of Charlotte), most of the book addicts I know have been waiting with bated breath for the much anticipated opening of Parnassus. Local author Ann Patchett (Run, Bel Canto, Patron Saint of Liars, et al) has partnered with a friend, Karen Hayes, to open this smallish but just right little shop around the corner in the heart of Green Hills.
    Do yourself a favor and stop by. The collection is somewhat limited by the space, but Ann and Karen have done a superb job getting to the book-loving heart of Nashville. They have carefully done their homework and obviously understand our odd little quirks in taste as well as our eccentricities. If you are looking for a place that specializes in a plethora of cutting edge independent fiction, this is probably not it. Instead you will find Parnassus boasts a solid collection of classics, some lovely tried and true children's books along with some contemporary offerings, and a broad landscape of other lovelies from current fiction by up-and-coming authors to philosophy to music and travel. Simply put, you are bound to find something that just might call your name. As for me, I was happy just to walk through the doors and find that sense of kinship that I have been missing. Booklovers of all ages will be at home here.

    I am an old fogey when it comes to books and have been around long enough to remember and miss Bernie Mills from the tiny Mills Bookstore. It was there that I bought my children's first hardcover books. I only allowed myself the luxury of splurging on special must-have books for them; my own books gladly traveled back and forth from the Nashville Public Library. But Bernie never once led me astray. He understood that I would likely never be a big spender, but he welcomed my company as a lover of the written word. And I totally trusted his recommendations. The chain bookstores obviously fill a need as do the on-line monsters, but I still like to "talk" books with a live person who knows something about them. And the friendly folks at Parnassus certainly do.
    And besides, what would a bookstore in Nashville be without a little live music now and then? After all, we ARE Music City, are we not?!
   While Parnassus thankfully fills a much-needed void, the verdict is not yet in whether or not this will become an integral part of the literary hub and heartbeat of this city. It is totally up to us the customers to ensure that it does. So the next time you are in the neighborhood, stop by. You will be welcomed with open arms!
all photos from Parnassus

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Wonder of It All

   Except that ye become like little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. When we are young we wish to be old and when we are old, we wish for all of the wonder and the joy that was once ours. But come Christmastime even the most jaded and cynical among us find moments when we can catch a glimpse into the heart of the child we once were. Don't be afraid to let go of yourself this year, to shed the pretentiousness, the artifice, and the veneer with which we all too willingly cloak our lives. Come, take the journey with me.  Let's look long and hard at the heart of Christmas, the real Christmas, not the commercialized version that begs for more and more and more and is only fleetingly and temporarily satisfied. Let us willingly see the ugly ache of our selfish desires and our mindless propensity for endless consumption for what they are, and turn to consider instead the Christmas that is the essential celebration of the gift of Emmanuel, God With Us. If we dare to surrender to the truth of this life-shattering reality, then and only then will we find ourselves looking through the doorway of our own heart into the very soul of heaven. The true Christmas is what brings the mystery and joy of heaven as close as the beating of our hearts.
    I don't know about you, but I am keeping Christmas this year. Keeping. Not letting go. Holding fast and firm to the joy and the wonder and the glory of it all. And trusting the Holy Spirit to let me see, hear, and find fresh vision in each passing day. And resting in Emmanuel. God with us. God for us. God in us. The best gift. The everlasting gift. The only gift of any value and the one gift that restores to us, the fallen and the jaded, the softened wonder-filled heart we each of us are longing to have once again. The heart of a child.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Marriage and The Tree

A real tree. See how it leans slightly to the right?!
    I swore that I would nevah evah have a fake tree. I caved. The Husband and I were finding the Continental Divide was invading our marriage every December. It would start immediately after Thanksgiving. He would camp out on one side of the den, arms akimbo, glaring at me whenever I took a deep breath because he knew what was coming. "Honey, it's time..." No matter how sweetly I prefaced it, the response was always the same. You would think I was asking him to undergo a natural childbirth without any preparation. Really. There was just no palatable way to approach the topic of THE TREE, because with him it was THE DREADED HORRIBLE NO GOOD TERRIBLE TREE.
   Over the years I tried everything. I roped one of my adult children into accompanying me and let The Husband stay home. He still glared at us when we got home. I even went by myself. The Home Depot guys feel sorry for women shopping for 9 foot trees by themselves. They ask questions like "Will someone help you untie this from your car?" and "How are you going to get this inside? It's very heavy." Duh. But not one of them ever offered to accompany me home and put the tree up. I guess that was asking too much. After all, I was wearing a wedding ring.
   One year I even ordered a tree and had it delivered. That went over about as well as if I had robbed Fort Knox. Over the course of a thirty-seven year marriage I am embarrassed to say that I have groveled. I have whined. I have begged. I have pleaded. I have bribed. However, no matter what strategy I have employed, The Husband is always in a huff about THE TREE.
   I don't know what it is about THE TREE but it brings out the adolescent male in him. The adolescent male. In a nearly 60 year old man's body. Interesting.
   Two years ago, I bridged the divide. I went to the after Christmas sale and bought a very nice and fully lit FAKE Christmas tree. It just about killed me. But I had had one too many arguments about THE TREE. It was one of those places where you just know that you are gonna have to climb the hill to die.
   I surprised myself. I actually don't mind the tree. The clean-up is so much easier. I was definitely getting too old to climb a ladder to wrap a sheet around a dead molting tree so that I and I alone could drag it through the living room and out the front door of the house. I sound a bit like a martyr, don't I? I want him to remember those days. In fact I am hoping that he will read this post. I will email it to him just in case.
    So...with a FAKE tree, you would think all of the problems would be solved. No solo trips to Home Depot. No exorbitant delivery fees. No wrestling with that green thing with screws that is supposed to help a tree remain upright. No more arguments, whining, begging, pleading, et al. Problem solved. Right? Then you tell me why it is that here I sit with a grumpy husband who is now moaning and groaning about bringing the box inside and having to assemble (with my son's assistance) a very heavy and unwieldy FAKE tree. It seems I can't win. But then again, it's not about winning. Or so I tell myself.
   However, I am thinking The Husband is gonna have to climb that hill to die over this one. And I will be right there pushing him up that hill every step of the way. After all, the bigger sacrifice has been made. Now he just needs to make his. Tonight.
The fake tree. No leaning. No mess. No Fuss.
Except that it still requires help in assembly.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas on 18th

Catherine Clement


The outside of the house is certainly adorable, but it's when you peek inside the windows you begin to glimpse that something magical might be happening inside. The first time I stepped foot in Catherine Clement's house, I felt that I had come home to the house where dreams come true. Imagine the world of Mary Englebreit married to the whimsical illustrations of a Tasha Tudor and you begin to get an approximation of the charm that awaits within the walls of Catherine's home.  This creatively inspired little treasure on 18th Avenue (near Belmont University) is a place where not only dreams, but also your favorite Christmas fantasies can be fulfilled. Come to Christmas on 18th Avenue this Saturday, December 3rd, from 10-5 as Catherine opens her home for her annual Christmas shopping extravaganza. Some of my favorite artists and artisans will be there with all kinds of treasures for you to hide under the tree for those people you know and love.

   May the following pictures serve as an added enticement for you to come experience my favorite place to shop during the holiday season. Rest assured that I will be there when the doors open. The treasures are many and plentiful, but I always like to make sure that I don't miss out on anything! Is anyone surprised?!! Nonetheless, I hope to see you there!

By the way, I am still in love with my bottle brush wreath
I purchased last year and haven't taken it down yet.
Who said it had to be Christmas decor?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

    Yippee. We are having a "Favorite Things" party this year with my Ish Bible Study Girls instead of our annual ornament exchange. I totally highjacked the idea from Pinterest. And I love it. Each person (there are seven of us) brings six of their favorite things, but the caveat is that you can spend no more than $6.00 on the item. Then after we have brunch, we will go around the room and explain what the gift is and why it is our favorite thing. When it is all said and done, each person will get to give away one of her own favorite things, and will take home six of her friends' favorite things. How fun is that?!
    I have been having a delightful time dreaming up all of the things I would love to give my friends and pondering what it is about this good life that I love so much. I have decided that some of the best things in life are not those that can be wrapped with paper and string. They are intangibles connected with memory or experience or they are those things that remind us of times when we can transcend ourselves or forget ourselves or can be our best selves. Without further ado, here is my short list:

The smell of a well-loved old book.
The sound of rain falling on a tin roof.
Watching the rain as it sweeps across the bay.
A novel that keeps you entranced until the very end.
The milky smell of a newborn's breath.
The tail-wagging greeting from your favorite dog after a long day at work.
Exotic postage stamps on a letter addressed to you.
Picking and eating figs on a warm day.
The first daffodils of spring.
Jumping in a pile of leaves.
New snow boots.
The music of Yo Yo Ma.
Alison Krauss' voice singing hymns.
The look and the scent of peonies.
Seeing my children's faces for the very first time.
The moment when I first remember understanding what it meant to be a child of God.
Falling in love with my husband.
The clean scent of newly-mown grass.
The beloved faces of family and dear friends.
Lying on a blanket in the middle of the night watching the stars.
Remembering to appreciate the beauty of a particular sunset.
The familiar cadences of a well-loved scripture.
Going away from home and coming back again.
The perfect pillow.

Upon reflection I find that there are a preponderance of things I love...far too many to list. I struggled even to narrow it down to these few. Somehow that makes me incredibly happy. That there are too many to list. Lord willing, I hope it will always be so.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Iron Bowling

    Today is the Iron Bowl in the South. The rest of the world goes on, but down in the Deep South there is only one thing on people's minds, and it's not what they got at the mall yesterday. Alabama is playing Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. And just so you know, the sportscasters are correct when they pronounce it, "Jurrrdan-Hare" rather than "Jordan-Hare." These things are important to know. THE GAME is always historic. No matter where they play. No matter who wins. The old-timers can give you the scores and the quarterbacks for both teams for the past twenty years without blinking an eye.
   In our family, we are a house divided. One son went to the University of Alabama to play baseball and the two remaining sons went to...Auburn. Even the husband and I are on opposite sides of the fence on this one. His sisters went to Alabama...and my sisters and just about every other living relative of mine went to....Auburn. He gets totally obnoxious during the game, but I try not to unfairly denigrate or malign the opponent. He all too willingly lets me take the high road and does not seem to  lose any sleep over his attitude. But I make sure that he gets up and goes to early church the next day. Repentance is good for the soul.
   The one thing we are in total agreement about today is that our Alma Mater, Vanderbilt, is now certain to be bowl ready after turning Wake Forest on its ear. A bowl eligible Vanderbilt is something to be celebrated as it only happens every decade or so. But today that's about the only thing we have in common.
   It's truly a good thing that this rivalry or division does not extend much beyond the gridiron. Otherwise, we would be headed for more than church would probably be marriage counseling, as well.
   But since I have the computer and he is on the other side of the room, I'll just type my sentiment real loud: WAR DAMN EAGLE! Win or lose, the Auburn Tigers are my only Alabama team!

Source: via Tricia on Pinterest


Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

     I can close my eyes and see him sitting there. His elbows are on the table and his hands are folded. He is waiting for the hubbub to die down, for everyone to find their place at the table. There is one last shift and shuffle, chairs scraping across the linoleum floor as each finds his or her place. His beloved wife, my grandmother, wipes her hands against her apron and brings one last steaming dish to the table. She takes her seat at the other end, he nods, and we are ready. All heads bow as my grandfather begins to utter the words. The sibilant sounds rise and fall from his lips. He is thanking God for the bounty and suddenly I am sitting here so many years later thanking God once again for him. This humble gentle farmer who never raised his voice to me or anyone else that I can ever recall. He was the proverbial Rock of Gibraltar. He and my grandmother both. Faithful to the end. Lovers of family, friends, community and church, and deep deep lovers of God. They were certainly never wealthy as the world defines wealth. Yet they possessed riches untold, riches so deep that they are still being mined today. Riches remembered as my aunts and my cousins gathered in the kitchen of that house one last time yesterday.
   My cousin lifted the wheelchair out of the car. All week long they had wondered if my aunt would be able to leave the Hospice wing of the nursing home to make the trip to her home for one last meal. Thanksgiving. She did. Today I am giving thanks that strong backs, strong arms, the sacrificing love of her sisters, and a hospital who understood prevailed. That plus the indomitable spirit of this once adventurous aunt. It wasn't easy. In fact, it was downright hard. But it was what everyone wanted, most especially this aunt and her precious sisters. In a perfect world, I expect my father would have been there, too. He, who left this world too soon as a young, young man.He would have been there helping my cousin lift the chair. He would not be that young man forever frozen in time, gone at 34. He would be in his eighties, hair gray, but eyes still twinkling. There is little doubt that my aunt will be seeing him soon. The disease that is ravaging her body is robbing her of her ability to cope with daily life. She is withdrawing from this world. The ship is getting ready to sail.
   By God's grace, and the love of my aunts and cousins, she made it home yesterday to sit at that table once again. As has happened so many times over the years, heads were bowed. Thanks were given. A meal was blessed.  A family heritage of hope, faith, and love was celebrated. It was and is Thanksgiving at its best.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Party Time

   My Momma loves acorns. Word has it she even put them on her wedding invitation, and you can find them tucked in little places all over our house. Her china, Constance by Bernardaud, is green and gold and guess what? They tell me it has oak leaves and  little acorns all around the rim. I wouldn't know. I am still eating off the plastic plates from Ikea.
    Back to the acorn theme. It was no surprise when my Momma got around to planning my first birthday party that she had an invitation designed with a little acorn and the opening sentence, "We are nuts about"... well, me, of course!
    So acorns turned up everywhere at my birthday. First up front and center is my darling cake from The Painted Cupcake. But it couldn't hold a candle to me....just saying.
      Here I am with my Daddy giving the "Number One" sign! Too bad you can't really tell that I am all dressed up for my special day with an adorable shirt that boasts an acorn applique complete with my name, (not that I can read, yet!)
     And here I am trying to figure out what in the world is happening...I certainly think Daddy has lost his mind. He is always telling me that fire is hot and to avoid it at all costs...and here he is, shoving a candle in my face. Why is it that adults get to break all of the rules?

   What in the world is this thing, anyway?

Am I supposed to eat it?

    I am not too sure until Daddy offers me a taste of that pink fluffy stuff on top. My food groups have been rather limited at this point. I eat things like carrots and green beans. Definitely nothing pink...until now. But my culinary horizons have suddenly expanded. I am not too wild about the cake, but I really, really like strawberry icing. Will someone please make a note of that?

  My Birmingham family also made the trek to celebrate with me. Here are my cousins and my Momma's sister. Isn't she pretty? I think she looks like my Momma, don't you? And my cousins are sooo much fun! I want to grow up to be just like them.
     And here is one of the whole crew! I forgot to look at the camera. Oh well.
    And this is what I felt like at the end of the night....
Plum tuckered out and in my best friend's bed! 
As everyone knows, birthdays can be exhausting. 
 I don' t know about you, but I am headed to bed to get my beauty sleep. 
After all, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's a ONEderful day!

 One glimpse and our hearts were hers. That's all it took. Who would know that a little being could wield so much power? She is our second son's firstborn child, and she entered the world one year ago today.

     Little Two is joy in human form! Over the past year we have relished watching her grow and change. Her personality has emerged and we have discovered that Little Two is keenly observant, loves dogs, is mostly laid-back and easy going, can be shy at times, and loves to jump, swing, climb, and push things around. She has a hard time taking a nap if there is anything exciting happening. At her playcare, they have dubbed her the Class President. She likes to hang out by the door so that she can greet whomever is coming or going. She doesn't want to miss out on any of the fun! She is a whiz at finger painting and loves to give it her full concentration. Music also entrances her, and Little Two can boogie with the best of them!

    She looks like her Daddy except for the fact that he was blond as a little boy. She has dark blue eyes, chubby cheeks and her once wild hair has settled down into a beautiful cap of dark hair with soft curls in the back. And when she says my name, I melt.

     To say that I am thankful simply does not touch what my heart feels when I am with her. And when I watch my son and his precious wife caring for Little Two, I glimpse once again the greatness of God's love and the beauty of His incredible plan for each of us.

      "Behold what manner of love the Father has given us that we should be called the sons and daughters of God." This love that God has lavished upon us is a love beyond compare. It is a love that would sacrifice everything and did. It is a love everlasting. It is a love that loves without condemnation but with clarity. It is a love that sees, forgives, redeems, restores, and keeps on loving. It is a love that is not defined by expectation or performance. It is simply love, God's love.

      Being a grandparent has afforded me an understanding of the heart of God that escaped me when I was a parent. I think, perhaps it was because I felt the tremendous weight of responsibility coupled with an innate fear of failure. As a grandparent, I feel neither. I have the unbelievable freedom to be able to love without restraint, without fear, and without condemnation. When I look into Little Two's eyes, I see the reflection of the incomparable love of the Father and His goodness in giving all of us the gift of this little girl.

      I pray that as she grows into the woman God has called her to be that she will always know that His hand knitted her together in her mother's womb and that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. There will be times when she will experience self-doubt and angst, but I pray that God's tender mercy will always be near at hand, reminding her that she is both a treasure and a daughter of the Most High. For it was for her and for you and for me that His only son was given as a ransom. What love, what love indeed.

    May this love surround you and enfold you, Little Two, all the days of your life. And may you serve the Lord with gladness and enter His courts with thanksgiving. We see the faithfulness of the prayers we prayed for your Daddy whenever we look at you. We know that God is very good, very very good. We are so very thankful for you.
    Happy Birthday! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Lovely Quote to Share

      The weather has been weird. Here in Nashvegas we have been running about 20 degrees above the average. The leaves don't seem to know that it's time to come off the trees, and I don't blame them. I finally got my black linen pants back out of the back of the closet and started wearing them again. Then today we had rain, fog, and a sky that looked like snow could be in the offing. The temperature finally dropped about 35 degrees which puts us back into the normal range for this time of year. I am glad. I can eat my soup without sweating, think about having a cup of hot tea in the evenings, and put some cider on to simmer and not feel in the least bit ridiculous. It is, after all, fall, and despite my love for the warmth of the sun, it remains one of my favorite seasons.
      If you hop on over to Dear Lillie, you can download the lovely graphic below without charge. I read it aloud to myself and sighed.  Even after all this time, I am still a lover of the red-headed orphan girl from Prince Edward Island whom Lucy Maude Montgomery immortalized for generations of young women. No matter how old I grow, I always know that Anne of Green Gables and I will remain kindred spirits.

Monday, November 14, 2011

  I am so very thankful for the joy of being a grandmother to Little One and Little Two. Daily as I pray for them, I ask the Lord to shelter them in His loving arms and to whisper to them of His greatness as they wake and sleep. It is joy unspeakable to have lived to see my children's children and to be able to share with them in words, stories and songs of the great, great love that Jesus has for them and for each of us. I pray that His name will always be on their lips and His word hidden away in their heart.  Aren't they precious?!

 Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me! loves me still,
'tho I'm very weak and ill,
that I might from sin be free,
bled and died upon the tree.

Jesus loves me! He who died
heaven's gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
let His little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Momma Told Me It Was So

   Things I learned while I was at Momma's this week:
    Bonanza sasanqua
  1. A sasanqua bush is a member of the camellia family, but is not a camellia per se. The sasanqua may also appear to be similar to a japonica, but it is not to be confused with one. I don't know if this is horticulturally correct, but my grandmother told my Momma so that makes it so in our family. Sasanquas, japonicas and camellias thrive in Southern Alabama and Northwest Florida, but all three species apparently originated in China and Japan. According to my mother, my grandmother (my mother's mother), was known for her camellias. She even had a horticulturist who would come over to her house in Samson from Montgomery to graft and take rootstock from her camellias. She was very proud of these aristocratic beauties that had been grown from very old "family" stock. The Sasanquas are currently in proud display at my Momma's house. They have a beautiful luscious double pink bloom. Apparently these sasanquas are also well-loved by the bees who were having their own little pollinating party all over them this week, but I managed to find a few buds that had not yet fully opened.  I brought them into the house and put them in a vase for Momma to enjoy. I know they won't last long, but they are gorgeous in the meantime. 
  2. Momma and I both like Kettle corn. This is not necessarily a good thing. Between the two of us we just about demolished a whole bag in two days. Again, this is not the best thing to discover about your mother -- that you have a shared addiction to kettle corn.
  3. My grandfather had fat knees. That is apparently where I get my fat knees. Great. I think I could have lived another fifty years and been fine not knowing this. My grandfather also played the saxophone, the violin, and the piano. He was the musical one in the family. My mother must have inherited her ability to play by ear from him. Apparently, I got the fat knees, but I did not get any of the musical genes. Sigh. 
  4. My great-grandmother, Annie Frances Brooks (Momma Frankie) knew how to wring a chicken's neck. She had a housekeeper named Pearlie, but Pearlie was a bit squeamish and drew the line at wringing a chicken's neck. So my great-grandmother took over the task. Apparently she was very good at it. I am not sure why this was important for me to know.
  5. My mother is still using her dictionary to look up new words. She also likes to talk about the finer points of grammar. We spent some time discussing whether or not it is redundant to say "falling down" or if one should just say "falling." My mother is concerned that "falling down" is similar in redundancy to the expression "close proximity." I told her I would check it out and get back to her. 
  6. I am now in possession of the famous family recipe for cornbread dressing, i.e., dressing that is served with turkey. While I was cleaning out a cabinet at Momma's, I found a copy of the recipe in my aunt's handwriting with little notes about my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother and the particular way that each prepared the recipe. My sister has modified it and modernized it, but I wanted to print it in its original form. If I were as smart at Colonel Sanders with his 17 different spices for fried chicken, I would patent and copyright this tried and true family gem. It is moist, delicious and amazing. When my daughter and I get together to make it in a couple of weeks, we will represent the fifth and sixth generations of women in our family to make this dressing. Oh, and for you Non-Southerners, dressing is NEVER confused with stuffing. They are two totally different animals. Dressing is served with turkey and welcome at my table, stuffing is not. Here is the recipe in the original format:
Cook a 3-4 pound hen a few days early. Simmer the whole hen. Even if you like the white meat the best, be aware that the thighs, legs and back make the best stock, so use the whole hen. Separate your stock and put it aside. Good chicken stock is like gold and will serve as the basis of your dressing.

Prepare and cook a skillet of cornbread using about two cups of meal. Remove from skillet and crumble it up. Let the cornbread sit out, cool down, and dry out. You want your cornbread to be slightly stale. This step can also be completed several days in advance.

Make a dozen biscuits. After you eat a few, let the rest sit out and dry out. Like the cornbread, they work best in the dressing if they are slightly stale. This is yet another step that can be completed several days ahead.

Now you are ready to get started.
     Dice celery and sweet white onion until you have 3 cups of celery and 3 cups of each. Saute slightly in a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large deep skillet. (Momma said that we were not wild about celery, so she cut this back a bit.)
     Crumble and pack cornbread until you have 4 firm cups
     Crumble biscuits (or rolls) until you have 2 cups.
     Mix bread (cornbread and biscuits) with the onion and celery.
     Add four cups of chicken stock to the bread mixture. It will be soupy. Salt and pepper to taste.
     Let this set-up overnight in the refrigerator.
    The next morning, heat it back up and add more stock to the bread mixture as needed (usually about a cup).
     Beat 3 eggs and combine into mixture by hand.
     Butter your baking dishes. Cook at 325 degrees for one hour. Increase to 350 degrees or higher for 15 more minutes or until brown on the top.
     Note: If you are desperate, you can use canned stock.

Well, I am not going to be wringing any chicken's neck, but I will be making my own stock. I am not yet desperate enough to put canned stock in this recipe. But it's nice to have plan number two in case I run out of time.

Bon Appetit, ya'll.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Woo Hoo Little One Turns Two

    You would think we have all gone to the dogs. It was a dog-themed birthday party for Little One who recently turned two. Little One has a love affair with Clifford, the Big Red Dog, so it seemed apropos that he should take center stage on the table and the birthday cake.

   There were bone crayon favors for the kiddos.
      These were not to be outdone by the dog hats modeled by Uncle Bro Bro and Uncle Bear. Don't they look cute?!

  And as you might surmise, Little One had a ball. She donned her Minnie Mouse costume (compliments of Uncle Bro Bro and Betta) and paraded around as if she owned the day. She did.
Her own parents got into the spirit of things.

There were a few grandparents who would likely have been sent to the funny house if they had been seen anywhere other than Little One's Birthday Party. I am hoping you might not be able to recognize a few of these people. If you are not a grandparent, you should be forewarned that grandparents are likely to do all kinds of crazy things for love.
In case you can't tell, that's Little One and Little Two with an unnamed male relative wearing some sort of ratty wig.
Here he is again with The Daughter. I think he needs to find a new dentist.

Lots of family came to share in the fun! Grandmother GiGi actually looked pretty cool in her hippie costume!
Little Two enjoyed the party as well
Even a young Justin Bieber made an appearance.

But the Queen of the Day was undisputably Little One. Here she is opening one of her favorite gifts with glee. What little girl doesn't love a purple tutu?
That smile is worth a million dollars. I mean it better be, because there is really nothing too cute about an almost sixty year old dressed up as a luau princess. Like I said before...oh, the things we do for love.  And for a smile like that, I would probably do it again. And again. At least until the grass skirt wears out.

Happy Birthday, precious Little One. You have brought great joy to our lives. Our hearts are full...