Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh Baby Baby

Photo of Little Two taken with my
daughter-in-law's iPhone, photographer's proofs to come later!
     What can I say? The love just keeps overflowing. Take a look at this precious babe. Her Momma and Daddy recently made the trip out to Burns, Tennessee, to have Little Two's pictures made at the inimitable Calvert's. This respected photography studio has been photographing Nashville's finest for more than a hundred years. In fact, before my daughter-in-law left I gave her the picture of Little Two's Grandfather (The Husband, also known as Pappy) in the exact same dress that Little Two is wearing in the photo above. It was lovingly handmade by Little Two's Great-Great-Grandmother, Lera Haley Philpot Moore, bless her soul. Every one of her grandchildren, every great-grandchild, and all of the great-great grandchildren born to date have worn the dress, male or female. Just so you know, in the South we dress our infant boys in heirloom day gowns and christening dresses and think nothing of it, but it looks especially lovely on the granddaughters. The dress has been caressed by generations of tiny hands who may not have appreciated its finer qualities: the Swiss batiste, the entredeaux, the tiny pintucks and the gorgeous French lace that adorn the gown. This family heirloom is carefully laundered, repaired, and made ready for the next baby after it is worn, but what sets this gown apart and makes it so very special are the babies who have worn it. They are the real treasure and the heritage of our family. Wouldn't you agree?!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another Way of Seeing

  Forty days of Lent. A communal grace offering to the One who has no need of gifts yet bids us come with all that we are and all that we have. This year more than ever I come seeking renewal. I have become all too aware that my vision of life and faith are so easily corrupted by the flawed level of consciousness I bring to each and every day. I humbly seek and desire the very mind of Christ.
Cross at sunset

   These are a few of my Lenten gifts I seek to lay at His feet:
          The gift of a letter. To write a note of acknowledgement to someone whom I have witnessed extending a particular kindness or gentleness when none was required.
          The gift of friendship. To reach out to embrace and encourage someone to whom I am not easily drawn. I have been the recipient of much in the way of friendship and love. How can I continue to remain within my own selfishly comfortable boundaries, to withhold myself when Christ calls me to pour myself out on His behalf?
          To surrender my secretly superior attitude whereby I judge and condemn the actions of others. May I renounce, confess, and let go of this secret sin and the others that so readily grow alongside it.
          To allow the wounds and suffering of others to pierce my heart. I find it easy to grow callused and hard-hearted, particularly when confronted with suffering on a global scale. I earnestly desire to be faithful in prayer for those whom the Lord would put on my heart.
          To seek out the way of unexpected service, however small or seemingly insignificant it might be. I would do well to remember that a cup of cold water offered in the name of Jesus can be a precious and life-giving gift.
          To daily seek Him and to offer up to Him the praise of my lips. To turn my conscious thoughts toward Him and to meditate upon His word, then to joyfully come into His presence with songs of thanksgiving.
          To laugh more with those I love. 
          To find joy in the ordinary and happiness in the simple.
          To desire less.
          To need less. 
          To buy less.
          To give away more.
          And then to give even more.
          To practice kindness to those who have wounded me.
          To seek to forgive quickly.
          To be willing to readily forgive everything from the slightest hurt to the gravest offense. 
          To let go of old wounds and to seek the grace of healing that only He can bring.
          To speak freedom.
          To renounce all lies and to fall in love with the truth.
          To be willing to speak the truth even when it is not easy or easily understood.
          To risk reputation for the way of Christ.
          To love the unlovely. 
          To listen more and to speak less.
          To quit interrupting.
          To value another's story more than my own.
          To be willing to walk to the end of the road with someone. With anyone.
          To be a better listener.
          To be a giver of joy.
          To rest in His presence.
          To celebrate His beauty I see in others.
          To celebrate His beauty in my surroundings.
          To greet each new day with anticipation.
          To end each day with heartfelt gratitude and prayer.
          To share the story of all that He has done for me, in me, and with me.
          To embrace the reality of Easter in a deeper way.

lily of valley

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Days of Wine and Roses

    You would think I would learn. Mark Twain wasn't kidding when he said long ago, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Try March. Duh. I spent most of the six days we were there in this glorious area shivering. It didn't help that three of the six days were rainy. Let me clarify that: it was not just raining, it was pouring. Envision sheets of water falling from the skies. Chicken Little wasn't happy and neither was I.  I wore my husband's sweaters. I wore his socks to bed. I even wore my own sweaters to bed. How romantic. And yet...and yet, it was probably one of the best vacations The Husband and I have ever taken. We spent the first night ensconced in relative luxury atop the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel at One Nob Hill in the heart of San Francisco. It sounds as impressive as it is. Never mind that I tried to walk down a hill that boasted a 85 degree angle in search of food, my I-sure-don't-want-to-roll-down-this-hill antics made The Husband nearly fall down with glee. I guess I am glad that I was good for some comic relief.
  From there we traveled to the delightful town of Napa and most notably to the Cedar Gables Inn. This home away from home was to be our base of operations for the next five days. We fell in love. Not just with Napa and the wine country, but with Cedar Gables Inn and our amazing hosts: Ken and Susie Pope. They have a great story, they have a lovely home, their hospitality is incomparable, and my, oh my, Susie's breakfasts and her homemade chocolate chip cookies are almost worth the three pounds I put on during the trip. We now proudly claim Ken and Susie as our new friends along with some other delightful folks with whom we spent the better part of a week. We forayed out to the surrounding countryside to visit wineries each day and then gathered each evening in Cedar Gables' tavern for a taste of Ken's wines of the day accompanied by Susie's impeccable cheese pairings. After that we forced ourselves to eat some of the finest cuisine the other side of the Mississippi river. Some of our favorite spots included Napa's Angele, Allegria and Celadon, where we enjoyed the best New England Clam Chowder I have EVER eaten. We also ventured into St. Helena one evening for a meal at the vaunted Mustards Grill which did not disappoint. All in all it was a fabulous trip and one that we will be remembering and savoring for a long time to come.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Year in the Life of Little One

   She's lived on this earth all of sixteen months now. I can hardly believe that the tiny sleepy wrinkled baby on the far left in the picture below has grown into the running, smiling, shrieking, doll-baby toddler who says, "No," "Pwease," "Dog Dog," and my favorite word (her version of my Grandmother name which was formerly Honey), "Nonna." Honestly, I don't care what she calls me -- just as long as she calls me! I will be there, you can bet on that. In the meantime, take a look at what a year hath wrought!
You can find the photographer who took these adorable photos at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Heartwarming Truth

   Yesterday was all about the mercies of God being new every morning. When I think about that precious scripture in Lamentations 3:22-24 from which these words come, I am immediately aware of the needful gift of "eyes to see, ears to hear, and mouths to speak." How could we ever understand the gift of God's mercy unless He transforms not only our souls and our heart, but also our eyes, our ears, and what comes forth from our mouths? I so want to "see" Him at work in my life and the lives of others; I earnestly desire to "hear" His Holy Spirit as He calls to me; and I long for my lips to offer up to Him the much deserved fruit of praise intended solely for His delight.
   In the end what He gifts us with is all about a transformation that begins on the inside and works itself outward. It is the miracle of a heart of stone becoming a heart of flesh. A forsworn enemy becoming an adopted child, a loving member of the family with all of the same benefits and privileges afforded the only Son. It is at once so wonderful and so difficult to understand. Our hearts continually cry out, "Can it be so?" And yes, it is. For behold what manner of love the Father has given us...that we, the fallen and sinful, should be called and become and are the very sons and daughters of God. The miracle of redemption is all about a transformed life coming alive and blossoming under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. And yes, being awakened daily to His mercies that are new every morning. This perpetual Easter of the heart and the soul that He affords us is very much like the blessed coming of spring.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 
The flowers appear on the earth 
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, 
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Oh, my dove, thou art hidden in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret places of the stairs,
let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice;
for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is lovely.
                         Song of Solomon 2:11-14

He makes all things new. The wonder is that He makes you and me new.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Every Morning

   I do not have many gloomy days, but yesterday was gloomy outside and there was some angst rolling around in my head and heart, as well. I have been working through Beth Moore's Breaking Free with my "Ish" Girls Bible Study and we are getting toward the end. Rather than lightening up, things are getting heavier. I know that I have been feeling the weight of confronting some of the "vain things that charm me most," and have actually been verbalizing some of these things that I am seeing with family and friends. It is never a pretty process to look inward at the places that have held you captive or to be willing to look at the devastating lies that you have somehow believed. Performance. Appearance. Possessions. Those are my big "three." Some days they are little foxes nipping at my heels and some days they are big bears who are chasing me down. And most thankfully, there are days these three are just words on a page with little or no power over me. As I walk forward to that place of freedom that I believe will be and is already mine, I am so thankful for a God who leads me beside the still waters to restore my soul, a God who goes before me in victory and makes me victorious as well, and a God who will present me pure and spotless and without blemish before the throne of grace and mercy. I am so thankful for His mercies that are new every every morning. The chorus is ringing through my head and heart. Great is His faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness...morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed His hand has provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Living Room Design

Living Room Design

Living Room Design by kswstoryteller on

By the way, is my new toy. Oh, that and One of the girls in my Bible Study (you can find this wordsmith here) has the most beautiful journals. She creates collages on various pages of her journals, and then I am guessing that she adds whatever has inspired her, touched her, or impacted her each day. I have not actually read any of her journals, but she has shown me the beautifully crafted pages. I absolutely love the idea. I used to cut pictures out of magazines. In fact, I recently discarded a huge box of files of random magazine and newspaper clippings, some of them even yellowing from heat (less likely) or age (more likely). There were ideas for a backyard fence for a house we lived in 25 years ago. Some of the clippings made me laugh. I wondered what kooky person had taken over my body during that time.

No matter how much I like the concept, I don't think I will ever getting around to creating collages in journals. I guess one of the best reasons is that I don't keep a written journal. I am now keeping a blog and letting you guys read many of my random thoughts and inspirations. Welcome to my world. I hope you enjoy it at least some of the time.

In the meantime, I have started putting together some boards at as a more condensed (no more large boxes taking up space on the floor of my closet, hallelujah!) and modern form of the old "clip and save" and the above attempt is my first creation at Polyvore. Maybe you tech savvy folks can tell me why I have the white-out on the black bookcase -- it does not look like that in the picture -- and why the couch looks shiny. I swear it isn't. I always leave shiny to Elvis since he does it so well.

Monday Messages

It's Monday.
It's still winter.
I am grumpy.
We got teased this past weekend with the promise of spring.
It was pitch black dark when I got up this morning.
Thank you very much, Mister Daylight Savings Time.
Did I already tell you I am grumpy?
I keep telling myself I will be happy when it is sunny and six o'clock in the evening.
I am not there yet.
It is gray today.
Can you tell I hate gray?
Guess what?
Gray makes me grumpy.
I so want spring to come.
I probably definitely need to preach the following messages to myself today.
Maybe you need them, too.
Hoping somewhere it is sunny and bright and cheery and definitely not so gray.
Signed Yours Very Truly,
The Grumpy Mom


Source: via Darby on Pinterest

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mom and Dad's is Just Like Home

     It's seven p.m. I am nearly comatose on the sofa, drifting in and out between pings from my electronic games of Scrabble, my newest iphone addiction, borne out of necessity since no one in my family will play me in my favorite board game anymore. So I console myself by playing total strangers, people identified only by their number. It's what 57-year old-women do for fun when they are home alone in the evening.
    The phone rings. No preface. "Mom, where do I turn?" Don't you just love being the personal navigator for your children, no matter where they are? 
    "Where are you?" I ask. I deem this to be pertinent question.
    "On the way to Mom and Dad's," comes the impertinent reply.
    I am not a mind reader, you know. Nonetheless, I am instantly transported. I immediately begin to salivate. I can smell the spaghetti a la bruzi as it wends its way to me. Oh and the tiramisu. I already dream about the tiramisu. It doesn't take much prodding here. My hips and belly are already expanding in anticipation.
    "I am already at the Twin Lakes Supermarket," she tells me.
     You are headed in the wrong direction," I tell her. "Turn around and go the other way."
    "But that is not the way to BaBa's," she has the audacity to tell me.
    "No," I patiently reply. "Mom and Dad's is NOT on the way to BaBa's."
    "Oh," she says. Noise in the background from the hubbub of various female voices. "I see the sign."
    We are 435 miles apart, but I know just where The Daughter is. I can see the humble sign and the gravel parking lot. I know that she is going to walk with her friends into the low-ceilinged entry and join the crowd of people waiting to be seated. She will give her name to Carolyn the owner and the odds are pretty good that she will have the other Carolyn, my favorite waitress, to help her and her friends decide just what to eat. I have already reminded them before I disconnect the phone to partake of a glass of the $3 house wine. I didn't tell her, but I hope she remembers how good the house dressing is on the house salad, and that she also must not forget to order a side of the crusty garlic bread.
     She somehow thinks she will go incognito. But before the meal is over, Carolyn will likely ask her who she is and where she is from and then the cat will be out of the bag.
     My family and I have been eating at Mom and Dad's in DeFuniak Springs for over forty years now. It is a humble place without a lot of glitz and glamour. They don't need it. Night after night they pack the folks in for superb Italian food. It has always been the nicest restaurant in my hometown. When I was dating in high school, it was the favored spot for dinner before the Prom or Homecoming. Now it's just part of my homecoming every time I make it down to DeFuniak. I have been known to arrange my trips so that I would not arrive or leave on Sunday or Monday, just because those are the days that Mom and Dad's is closed. There is a tiny airstrip across the street, and in the olden days it would not be unusual to see men in Air Force jumpsuits making an "unscheduled" landing so that they could dine at this well-known eatery. It was the best kept secret in that part of Florida. People recognize value and great food wherever they find it. All the food is made on the premises. Even the desserts. Or especially the desserts. Some folks in my family swear by the Italian Cream Cake. Others go for the homemade Spumoni. But I simply cannot live without Carolyn's tiramisu. I don't even wait until after my meal is over to order dessert. I ask the minute I sit down if the tiramisu is available tonight. Carolyn will sprint back to the kitchen and put me some aside. They don't make the tiramisu every night, and Carolyn knows that I will be grumpy if they are "out" when it comes time for our table to get dessert. So we always take care of that business the very first thing. She also knows that the odds are good that I will be getting my standard spaghetti a la bruzi, but I have been known in recent years to change it up a bit and order the homemade ravioli. I guess that's called getting adventurous in old age.
    I confess that I am more than a bit jealous that The Daughter and her friends are dining there tonight. I suppose I should be thankful that another generation is making its way down 331 and heeding the call of Mom and Dad's with it's homey atmosphere, waitresses who know what you are going to order as soon as you sit down, and food that any chef worth his salt would recognize as simply superb. Here's to Mom and Dad's the finest little Italian restaurant in the panhandle of Florida or just about anywhere for that matter. I'll be dreaming of you tonight!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

    My grandmother LouLou loved that old hymn, and she even convinced me to have it played as a benediction at my wedding long long ago. It kept coming to my mind over and over again this past weekend as I traveled to North Carolina for my Uncle Brother's memorial service. There were surely tears and lots of them, but there was so much laughter, downright good will, and genuine deep-seated joy that kept bubbling up and overflowing everywhere. I know that my uncle would have been proud, and I think he would have wanted to be at his own service and at the celebration of life afterward. It was that good.
     My uncle was all about family. He and his wife were happily married for fifty-three years, and he and my aunt believed each had found their soul mate in the other. How special is that? Together they raised four children and are grandparents to fourteen grandchildren. The grandchildren were the light of my Uncle Brother's life, and it was fitting that at the memorial service, they were front and center. Two of them played the musical prelude--a collection of hymns--on the piano; another played several lovely classical pieces on the cello; one read Sea Fever by John Masefield and yet another read scripture from The Song of Solomon along with a poem by Henry Van Dyke. However, the piece de resistance had to be the eulogy delivered by my uncle's son. He did his father proud. He captured the essence of the man without being too maudlin or overly sentimental. He kept it real. He struck the right chord. We laughed and we cried and we laughed some more. And when he finished we could not help but be comforted, encouraged, and so very thankful to have known such a good man.
   I treasure the time I was able to spend with my cousins and my aunt. The memories and the traditions run deep. But I added to them this weekend. A hundredfold. Here are a few pictures of my beloved Carolina family taken during our time together. Blessed be the tie that binds...yes, indeed!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Piece of My Heart

     I am a dog-lover. It's one of those things you either are or you aren't. And don't think the dogs don't know it. While dogs cannot claim to be the most articulate and intelligent species on earth, you would be deceiving yourself if you thought you could pull one over on them with regard to this. They can smell your fear. They can smell your disgust. They can even smell your indifference. And then doggone it, they just have to go and try their hardest to win you over somehow. Our West Highland Terrier was the best at this of any dog I have ever known or owned. She was downright flirtatious and often successful when it came to winning the heart of a recalcitrant, hesitant and on the fence dog lover. She would turn her button black eyes on you, get as close to you as you would possibly let her and then just camp out at your feet or beside you on the sofa until she softened you up a bit. She would do this by giving you attention, but not too much attention. And then when the bird was nearly in the hand she would perk up her ears and cock her head just so and give you that pleading look. "Like me, oh like me, oh please oh please like me," said her deep black eyes. And the tail would start to wag like a flag in surrender. Yours. Not hers. She had almost won. You had to be the most stonecold-hearted individual not to melt...and even the tiniest bit was enough for her to move in for the kill. She would then rest her head ever so gently and with great intentionality upon your leg or your foot or your arm. No licking. No crowding. Just the slightest touch. Then before you know it you would be eating out of her hand. Patting her head. Rubbing her belly. Smiling when she looked up at you. I have watched her do it time and time again. She wins converts better than most evangelical Christians. Give Phoebe a chance and she'll make a dog-lover out of the hardest case.
   This and more are some of the reasons that I am grieving the loss of this little dog. She had my heart. She had my back. She took care of me and I took care of her. The Husband gave her to me four years ago on my birthday. On the day itself, we drove out to the breeder and picked her out of the litter. The other puppies were mewling like little kittens but she was not making a sound, just steadily checking us out--sniffing the air and cocking her head. Curiosity should have been her middle name. She wasn't going to beg anybody for anything. From that moment she was destined to be my dog.
   We have a tradition in our family of naming our dogs for people that we know and love. That way when we call our dogs' names, we are always reminded of someone special. It makes everybody happy. Phoebe MacKenzie, my West Highland Terrier, was no exception. She was named for two older women who offered me their love and friendship and served as mentors to me at different stages in my life. Their influence upon my life was pervasive, and I could think of no higher honor than to name this delightful puppy after them!
   We would likely have lived together in relative bliss except for the fact that about 16 months ago a new love came into my life: a granddaughter. I was foolish to think that Phoebe would love and accept Little One as much as I had. Alas, it was not to be. I don't ordinarily think like a dog. If I had, I probably would have realized that Phoebe perceived Little One to be a threat and eventually she would seek to put Little One in her place.
    If not for the Westie Rescue of Tennessee organization I don't think I could have made it through these past few weeks. They were there from the day when we first realized that we were going to need to find another home for our dog. These folks are Westie lovers extraordinaire who understand the breed, and they quickly found a permanent home for my little dog where she will get to be the Queen Bee. It has been a difficult transition for me, but I am confident that my little friend is already living the high life.
     Here's to you Phoebe and all the love and joy you brought me in our four years together. You will always have a piece of my heart. And just perhaps, somewhere over the rainbow, we will meet up again someday!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Whatever She Wants

      ...she gets. That's pretty much the rule at my house. As long as it not deleterious, dangerous, unduly toxic, or destructive, then it might make the grade. But it's our big secret. Right now our indulgences with Little Two have included giving her the pacifier whenever she appears to want it, rocking her soundly to sleep instead of putting her down when she's wide awake, going for long walks both inside and outside the house because she seems to like the motion of the stroller and singing all manner of silly songs in order to get a smile. But I know that the day is coming when these little things will no longer satisfy. We'll move from these small indulgences on to culinary delights to be experienced exclusively at Nonnie's house. These include eating lots of cookie dough at cookie making time; choosing pizza or fruit popsicles for breakfast just because we want to, and devouring ice cream as our dairy product with every single meal. I always thought that I would not be one of those indulgent grandmothers who mercilessly spoiled their grandchildren, but all of those good intentions vanished once I looked into Little One and then Little Two's beautiful eyes. I knew that the last word on earth I wanted to utter repeatedly in their presence was the word, "No."  Pappy and I will leave the big parenting to the parents. We've long since paid our dues. Now it's time to play and to enjoy whatever Little One or Little Two bring our way.
   Thus, I am already planning our trips to London and Paris because one of the first words that I am going to teach both granddaughters is the word "Europe." That's two syllables..."you...rope." That's right. They have roped me in.  But oh, the places we'll go....cause I and they are along for the ride. Just you wait and see...we are already practicing our French!
     Little Two came for a visit this week. Her momma wanted to try out Nonnie's new sewing machine. Little Two is happy just about wherever she goes. She does not cry much and offers up for viewing pleasure the most delectable smiles. I just can't seem to get enough of her!

Little One is already proving to be a lover of the great outdoors. Toys are superfluous when confronted with all the goodies nature provides. From sticks to flowers, and bugs to berries, there is no end to the joy that can be found in exploring the great big wide wonderful world God made. All you need is an inquisitive Little One and a beautiful spring day and you have the perfect recipe for a memorable afternoon.