It Was Perfect

It was love at first sight. I knew because my heart did that little thing where it leaped strangely before settling back into place. At my age one does not ignore such flutter. My husband picked up on the coveting when he glanced at my flushed face. “Do we need to go back and look at it?”

I paused and said no. I didn’t plan to get festive anytime soon. Besides… the tree we found at Big Lots for ten bucks about a hundred years ago worked fine. We approached the register with our wheel barrow. That should give you an indication as to how early it was in the Christmas season. However I continued to look backward, much like Lot’s wife longing for something behind.

My wise husband advised, “You realize we’re in Magic Mart. If you like it we’d better get it now. It won’t be here when we come back.”

I sighed at the thoughts of actually purchasing such a grand and glorious tree. He parked the wheel barrow near the register and took my hand. Unlike Lot he led me back to the land of extravagance. There before us stood a tall and stately artificial tree that looked so real I fully expected forest animals to scamper happily out to greet us. Instead a young man in a blue vest stepped from within its massive branches and plugged up the lights.

Angels sang… Or perhaps it was Brenda Lee. I couldn’t be certain. But we were all suddenly rockin’ around the Christmas tree. There were little pine cones tucked sweetly into the limbs. Long pine needles gave it a soft billowy look. Tiny lights were already worked into the branches. No longer would our holiday festivities include swearing while untangling last year’s illuminations.

And it was massive! The 1920’s craftsman style house that we lived in yearned for such a stately tree. The magnificent perfectly shaped pine would barely use one corner of our huge den. I yearned for it.

We purchased it and I did love it dearly for approximately three years. Then we moved from the home with the ginormous den. Since it was June when we moved, the stately tree was boxed and stacked in a building out back with many other treasures. That first Christmas in our cozy new digs [that’s code for teeny tiny] David dragged the tree, box and all from the building out back into the house. Sweat poured from his brow as he commented sweetly, “Feels like I’m dragging a body.”

I wondered how he knew.

We set up the tree in the dining room only to realize there was no longer a place to dine… or sit or stand or walk. I sighed that sigh that a woman sighs when she doesn’t like what her husband has done though it is exactly what she has asked him to do.

David sighed too. There wasn’t even room to sweat. He took it apart and hauled it to the porch. It pushed two platform rockers out of the way with its giant pretend branches. Forest animals giggled from deep within the massive hunk of Christmas delight. Tiny pine cones laughed and said, “How do ya like us now?” No one felt much like rockin’ around it. Besides… our rockers bowed shamefully face down in the yard.

We held festivities like that for about another seven years. Finally last Christmas either a very strong wind or a gang of angry squirrels wreaked havoc on our beautiful tree. The lights no longer lit, the branches fell all willy-nilly and did not reach out beckoning all to enjoy Christmas. Instead they dropped low in symbolic surrender.

“There shall be no rockin’!” They mocked us each time we tried to edge our way into the house. So once again David did the man job, only this time he hauled it to the curb. Again he commented on it being similar to dragging a body. Again I wondered if it seemed like a practice run for the day when I finally sigh one too many times.

I was glad when a lady in a mini-van screeched to a halt. The look in her eyes was familiar and I hoped she would not turn into a pillar of salt. She was wise and dared not leave expecting it to be there if she came back later. Her arms were strong and I delighted to see her hoist it into the back of her sensible vehicle. As it stretched forward pushing lunch boxes and toddlers out of the way she skipped happily around to the driver’s side. With piney branches rearranging her hair she smiled knowingly as she drove away.

It was perfect!

As I recall that scene from my rocking chair which rests contentedly on the porch, I have to wonder.

Where did I stash that little tiny tree from Big Lots?

Decorate for Christmas? Check! Call me festive.

Decorate for Christmas?
Check! Call me festive.


Libe is Goob

I’m hoping to grow into my lips soon. If you just imagined Sophia Loren with that beautiful come hither pouty, I’m terribly sorry. The image should be more akin to an old Steven Tyler. It’s not pretty. I’m apparently allergic to some unknown substance which turned my mouth a little wrong side outwards. Now all my shirts have a coffee dribble right down the center. Remember that Saturday morning cartoon with Fat Albert and the kid with the big lips? Remember how he mumbled out the words and used a lot of B’s? NOW you’re getting the picture.

“Cub to beckbass Dabid. I fwibe bakun.”

My beloved looked at me curiously, “Whaaat…” Though he was happy to discover bacon for breakfast he wondered silently if there was any coffee left. It seemed there had been a mishap upon my lovely morning attire.

“Whab bue doobin tobay?” I asked as I tried again to consume the sweet nectar of life from my favorite mug. It assured me that “Life is Good.” I began to question the validity of that statement.

He listed the things he hoped to accomplish then asked if I needed anything. “Want me to stop and get you some drinking straws… or a bib or something?” He glanced at my shirt.

“Nobe. Ibe fibe.”

He wondered aloud, “Want to go with me to visit Mrs. So-and-So at the hospital? I could pick you up on my way home from work.”


He tipped his head to gaze at my loveliness. “Sooo… no?”

I was ashamed and cleaned up my answer, “Nobe tanktube.”

He kissed my cheek trying to stay out of the way of my lips. I looked at him and consoled myself with the fact that his mom says he has a big head. Not as-in filled with pride… more like that of a German shepherd. For years she has warned, “Don’t get your hair cut too short son. You’ve got your Grandpa Peele’s head and you need a lot of hair to cover all that up.”

Once he left I checked the mirror again. I changed my mind and hoped that I DON’T grow into my lips. That would make the rest of me quite hefty.

Hefty Lynna would be even less pleasant than Large Lip Lynna. That reminded me that my namesake turned twenty five this week. When she was born my sister named her Lynna and I was thrilled… until everyone started calling her Little Lynna. So what did that make me?

Big Lynna was not pleasant either. For a while the family obliged and called me Tall Lynna. That stopped making sense when she hit fourth grade and began towering over me. Come to think of it… that never made sense.

A knock at the door sent me scrambling for a clean shirt and a hockey mask. It was our youngest daughter. She’d just been to get new contacts. They had to order them special because she has large eyeballs. She laughed, “Yep, me and the minions!”

I laughed too. It sounded like habhablahablablabbb…

We sat at the kitchen table and enjoyed another cup of coffee… her with her big eyeballs and me with my fat lips. Her three year old twins jumped on a bed and fished for sharks with yardsticks. We worried that they might poke someone’s eye out… but not enough to get up and check on them. Another clean shirt was soiled because she made me laugh.

When her daddy gets home I shall kiss his big head with my fat lips… because my coffee cup was right.

Our big ol’ fat happy life really is good! Besides, if you can’t trust your favorite coffee mug, who CAN you trust?

Breakfast of champions!

Breakfast of champions!

The church was packed and the climate was questionable. My pastor friend was approached by an elderly lady who expressed that it felt stuffy in the auditorium and that he may want to adjust the temperature before he started the service. He shook her hand and thanked her with a smile. A few minutes later he was again warmly greeted by a woman who faithfully served. “Pastor it’s a little cool in here. You may want to turn up the heat a bit before we begin.” He thanked her for her input. On his way to the front of the room before he began the message he stopped by the thermostat which was situated in plain view. There before God and everybody he looked at it closely as though pondering all things holy. He touched it but didn’t move it one way or the other. After church both ladies thanked him and expressed how much more comfortable they were.

True story.  I can’t share the kind pastor’s name lest I rat him out and ruin one of his most divine secrets. With the wisdom of Solomon he’s patiently shepherding his flock. I guess that’s why I am not a pastor. My solution would be to haul in a load of sweaters from the Goodwill and hang them in the vestibule. A sign above would read, “If you’re cold, take one. If you’re hot, don’t.”

One of our sweet daughters is a pastor’s wife. In times past she could never win at that game. However, currently they are in a church where they feel very cared for. She can tell that she is loved by the way people tease her. She sits near the front so that her husband can see at least one friendly face as he shares the heart of God. In case you didn’t know it, we Christians can be a tough crowd.

She picked up a bulletin one Sunday and fanned her lovely face which for some reason was a bit hotter than usual. She noticed that when she waved the bulletin to stir the air, all the ceiling fans would come on. When she’d stop, so would they. No pressure dear, but the comfort of the entire community rests on your sweaty shoulders. She had to laugh. It made her happy to know that the guys in the sound booth liked her well enough to do such a funny thing.

Can we talk? Imagine for a minute the heart of your pastor. Unlike crudmudgeons like me he actually has empathy… as in he cares. He’s grieved with the one who’s lost a child as though it were his own. He’s waited at the hospital for hours only to get bad news. He’s prayed for days which have turned into years and asked God hard questions. He’s spent precious time counseling couples who want to call it quits only to watch them give up. He feels the pain of his flock and likely wishes there were a thermostat he could touch to make everyone better… because he cares.

But mostly he feels the heart of the Savior, the One Who called him to lead on His behalf. Like the shepherd king David he “cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.” –Psalm 78:72

It’s official. October is Pastor Appreciation month. But it’s also National Window Covering Safety month. I may or may not check the curtains for hazards. But I do plan to at least cut my shepherd a little slack. With that in mind when I head to church I shall pack a sweater AND a fan. I may even uncross my arms or relax my frowning brow. I might get especially generous and smile, offering a little head nod at points of emphasis. Thank you Pastor Chris Shelton for caring for Life Church and for leading us so well. We sure do love you and Molly.

After all… it’s October! Church fan & scarf

Always Lost

If you are one of those people who gets into their vehicle and heads out all willy-nilly without first considering very deliberately which route you will be taking, this will make no sense at all to you. Stop reading here.

However if you tend to contemplate the desired destination and with great effort calculate every turn betwixt where you are and where you’re going, then you may understand when I admit the following. You see… I am directionally challenged. In fact my condition is quite severe.

Even around Salisbury where I grew up… I can’t find my way. Very few things look familiar as I travel. In fact it’s all new to me. Like Jake Alexander Boulevard where I have recently discovered that if I pass Life Church and the Goodwill and Harris Teeter and Aldi’s and keep traveling I shall eventually wind up near the mall. Who knew? When I expressed my excitement over this well-kept secret to my beloved David he nodded his head with great joy at my sudden understanding. “Yep,” he said sweetly. “And you could go bowling…”

The man has patiently given me directions to the hospital and the doctor’s office and the drugstore for years… every single time I leave without him.

“Sooo… will I pass the Dairy Queen?” I ask without a clue.

“Yep. It will be on your right. Keep going but slow down so you don’t miss the turn and our drugstore is on the right before Statesville Boulevard in the Ketner Center.”

“No wait wait wait… too much information. Okay I pass the Dairy Queen… will I see Sonic?”

“Yes… just keep going. You’ll pass Krispy Kreme. If the hot light is on you have to stop. It’s the law.”

“So then Innes Street Drug is next?”

“Soon after… but don’t get turned around when you stop for hot doughnuts. Keep Krispy Kreme on your right and keep going til you pass the barbecue joint with the pink pig. Turn on the right side of the median into the Ketner Center where the florist is. You’ll see our drugstore on the left.”

“Pink pig… hot doughnuts… flowers… drugs… good grief… Statesville Boulevard… got it. Have your phone handy. Hey if I keep going will I be at the mall?”

“Nooo….” He looked at me and cocked his head sideways. “Do you need to go to the mall or is this just a happy conversation we’re having for no apparent reason?” His eyes betrayed him as they shifted past my lovely face to the football game before him.


Once the disputed play was reviewed to our satisfaction I inquired again of my beloved, “Hey honey… is there still a Cato’s in the mall?”

“I don’t think so… but there’s one over by…” He stopped for fear that he was about to undo the drugstore directions thereby missing hot doughnuts as well as his ballgame. But because he’s a patient man who adores the wife of his youth he tried again. My heart did a little happy dance because he muted the commercial. If you thought I was going to say muted the ballgame sorry to disappoint. He’s a saint but he is not Jesus. He did however look at me with love and understanding.

“When you come out of the drugstore parking lot take a left. You will be on Innes Street.”

“Hey! That’s good because it eventually crosses the square, right?”

“Yep. Keep going and you’ll pass Romo’s where we got the pizza that was so good… remember where Uncle Buck’s used to be?”

“Don’t tell me about what used to be somewhere. That doesn’t help. Pizza… with the white sauce? Yes! On the right! Okay so… keep going. Then what?”

“You’ll come to a stoplight just before the interstate. Stay in the right lane and turn like you’re going to Walmart. Get into the left lane past Bojangles and turn left at the light. Go to the end where they’ve made that little circle thing that you always turn in front of the wrong way and go toward Cracker Barrel. Cato’s will be on the left. You’ll see it.”

“Cool! So all that stuff runs together? Awesome! I can do this!” As I headed out the door I was happy to spot a Kohl’s $10 coupon card beside my keys. “This is gonna work out great. While I’m there I’ll just run into Kohl’s too. Now how do I get to Jake Alexander from here?”

Gazing toward the wife of his youth once again with lovingkindness, he rose from his favorite Saturday spot, turned off the television, and walked toward me. “I’ll take you honey.”

“NO no noooo… I can totally do this!” I exclaimed with great bravery.

He kissed me sweetly then added, “Maybe you should bring the doughnuts back here before you try to find Kohl’s.”

“Good plan darlin’! Jake Alexander here I come!”

“Innes Street honey… the one that crosses Main Street but you can’t turn left at the square so…”

We sighed simultaneously. Bless his heart.

So if you happen to see an old chick pausing longer than you prefer at an intersection please don’t honk unless of course you are expressing your love for Jesus. I will as usual be invoking the Almighty for help as I navigate my way home with doughnuts which may be stale by the time I get there.

Well that's just pretty! I wonder when they had that done?

Well that’s just pretty! I wonder when they had that done?

We were headed to the beach for a vacation when the girls were approximately five, seven, and nine. They were in the back seat of a car whose air-conditioner was on its last leg. Our middle daughter, Amanda, began to complain, “I’m hot.” I assured her that she would be fine. Besides, we were only a half hour into a four hour trip. “Think happy thoughts sweetheart. What are we going to do when we get there? We’ll play in the ocean, and look for shells. Won’t we have a great time?!” She would not be comforted.

“I am so hot,” she moaned for about the tenth time. Her daddy, usually a very patient man, pulled the car over to the side of the road. He was also hot. He turned around and looked her in the eye and said, “You may NOT say, I AM HOT for the rest of this trip. We all know you are hot. But those words may not come out of your mouth again. Do you understand me?”

Wow. Very clear instructions hung in the air. He pulled the car back onto the road. It was obvious that he meant business. Playing the good cop, I pulled out little note pads and pencils and passed them to the girls. “Here you go. Draw a picture for me. You are such good artists!” The car was silent as they began their masterpieces.

“Oh how pretty! Look at these, honey! Didn’t they do a good job.” I was determined to lighten the mood, as steam was still coming off David’s head.

Amanda’s was especially well done. Besides the flowers and grass, the sunshine in one corner, and clouds in the sky, there was also a very good drawing of an Indian. He had a headband with a feather and fringe on his clothes, and a frown…and what I assumed to be a giant tear. “Why is he sad?” I asked. With great sympathy she replied, “Because he is SO HOT!”

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Even her daddy thought that was well played.

This beautiful strong-willed middle child and I bumped heads an awfully lot while we were growing up together. There could be only one Queen in the Clark Kingdom and I was determined that it was not her. She was not so sure.

She lost control of her bicycle one day and lay sprawled in the gravel driveway. Through much wailing and gnashing of teeth, she announced for the neighborhood to hear that she had broken her leg. I helped her into the house and explained to her that not only had I seen her fall, but that one does not break a leg simply by sliding sideways off a bike. It was not that hard of a fall! She mourned and whined from Wednesday til Saturday, at which time I proclaimed in my kindest and most nurturing tone, “I WILL TAKE YOU TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM FOR AN EX-RAY. IF YOUR LEG IS NOT BROKEN, WE WILL DEAL WITH THAT WHEN WE GET HOME!”

Notice parents: You never actually state what the punishment is going to be. You just leave it hanging in the air like fire about to rain down from heaven. Anyway, her leg was broken and I felt like the uncaring parent that I was often proclaimed to be. Please don’t report me to DSS. How was I to know that her mourning was valid this time?

This week she turned thirty seven and is currently reaping all the rewards of the mother’s curse. She has a very determined three year old son who pushes her buttons so fast that she lives exhausted. She finds herself saying things like, “Able, don’t write on the window with your banana.” I find it extremely fulfilling watching her do motherhood.

Sometimes I just have to laugh.Able & AmandaAmanda & Able

Hold My Hand

It was spring break and I had to get home. My boyfriend David drove me to North Carolina in his ’67 Camaro. I was in so much pain. When the prescribed dosage of medication didn’t immediately kick in I took a couple more, climbed in the backseat and basically passed out. It was at least a sixteen hour trip home from south Florida. Thankfully his buddy Barry Dyson was riding shotgun and helped him stay awake. My sweetheart would get me out of the car every time he stopped for gas, hold my hand and lead me to the ladies room. Being the perfect gentleman he waited outside then put me back in the car when I wandered out. At least that’s how he tells it.

I don’t remember a thing and didn’t wake up til we hit Charlotte. David, who is now my husband of forty one years, probably wishes more trips were like that. He could just stop for gas, push me into a bathroom and keep on trucking. No yammering from the little woman about the urgency of the situation and the importance of choosing “somewhere clean.” Sorry honey. I’m all out of drugs.

Once we got home my parents took me straight to the doctor. That idiot put me in the hospital… for ten stinkin’ days. I tried to relay to him that I needed to get back to school plus had a wedding to plan. He kept me there doing all kinds of tests, until it was too late to return and finish my freshman year. They found nothing; no slipped disc, no disease, no reason for the pain. David returned to school. The pain continued and I was mad. The cards poured in… so many sappy cards with happy words about all this crap working for my good. It was sickening.

My youth pastor came every day at lunch with a sack of burgers and fries. Now THAT was a spiritual experience. Occasionally a funny card would arrive at just the right time and make me laugh. That was kind of spiritual too for it gave a small measure of relief. One day however a pretty card caught my eye. On the front was a soaring eagle. The verse from Isaiah 40:30-31 which says even young people will grow weary got my attention. It went on to say that those who wait on the Lord would not only run and not get tired, but would walk and not faint.

Apparently God had been reading my bitter soul. If only I could walk and not keel over. If only I could dress myself and stroll down the hall for crying out loud. Who cares about flying and soaring and running? I would gladly take waddling without assistance.

Opening my Bible to the passage I wondered what would be the key to the strength promised there. Stink! If there’s anything I hate worse than being weak it’s waiting.

Apparently strength comes with the waiting. I didn’t much like it. I still don’t. Not many people do.

Chances are you’re waiting too; maybe for a spouse to change, for healing, for a prodigal to come home; maybe for financial deliverance. It is hard to wait. It’s in our framework to fix things. It is our culture to be self-reliant. We take pride in making things happen. God in His great wisdom however, gives us reason to look to Him and say, “I give up. I have no resources or power to make this better. I have only You.” He answers sweetly in Isaiah 41:10.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

The pain I experienced as a youth has grown worse through the years. But I believe by God’s grace, that I have grown stronger inside. At least now I don’t feel like cussing when someone tells me how all this is working for my good. Well… at least not as often. Waiting is still hard and I long to be well. But if it’s not time for me to soar just yet, I want to be content just holding His hand.

Even more comforting is the truth that it is He Who is holding mine.DSCI0183

A Little Messed Up

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head? Currently I have a Kenny Chesney tune repeating over and over in a loop. You know the one. We’re “a little messed up but we’re all alright!”

I hope he is correct. Otherwise I just admitted to you that I have voices in my head for no apparent reason.

Thanks to my pastor I also have a word stuck in my head. He used reciprocity during his message a couple times Sunday morning. Of course I know what it means…

Okay. So I looked it up. But only because I tend to write words thinking I’m saying one thing when actually I’m saying another. The wisdom of Inigo Montoya in the movie Princess Bride comes to mind. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The autocorrect on my laptop generally does a wonderful job underlining words with squiggly lines until I get it right. The sad truth is that I will never spell restaurant correctly without help. Green lines point out poor grammar choices while red ones point out misspelled words… I think. Sometimes I get so many colorful lines that it’s hard to tell. I’m writing a fictional book and I used a word for a narcotic but couldn’t get the spelling right. The suggested word looked pretty convincing so I changed it to that. Later I decided to make sure and whoa… never meant to indicate… ewww!

I didn’t know they made a drug for that sort of thing. Kinda glad I checked. As my friend Ann says, “Autocorrect can be your worst enema.”

I think I told you about my beloved son-in-law Shane who texted me that he’d be late for Sunday lunch. It seems church lasted longer than usual because they had several starvations. Apparently it WAS a long service. Yep. Autocorrect is wonderful.

Annyyywayyy… I’m writing a book. The characters keep me awake at night. They want so much to be put on a page that I’m having a hard time sleeping. Daddy says I should start killing some of them off. I feel sure he is correct.

The crazy thing about the storyline is that the stuff that’s most unbelievable has actually happened to us in real life. So if and when it gets published and you find yourself thinking, “That could not happen…” just know this: Truth is always stranger than fiction especially in the Clark house.

You might even see your name. If you’ve been a nice person your name will be attached to a good guy. If however you’ve been a rapscallion, rascal or scallywag [my program also has a Thesaurus] your name could be associated with a troublemaker.

It’s called reciprocity.

Right about now my poor pastor is shaking his head mumbling, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That’s okay. My other spiritual mentor continues to assure me of what I know to be true.

We’re a little messed up but we’re all alright!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,060 other followers